Crawl: Florida Man’s Jaws

This will be a nice short review because let’s face it this was a nice short movie. There is very little to this movie so there is not to much to say. It centers on the story of a father and daughter trapped in a house inexplicably filled with alligators. The house was empty, but the neighborhood wasn’t so the premise is flimsy, but hey, suspension of disbelief people. So let’s go along for the ride and have fun right. Eh, maybe.

There are some good jump scares, some touching scenes, a few tense moments. None of the deaths are particularly gruesome. Bucking the recent movie trend, SPOILER, the dog might actually make it. Over all I felt like this movie just did not push it. At the end I kind of wanted the alligators to win. This was just a blah movie that I will forget about by the time I drive home.

Crawl (US Release Date 7/11/2019)

Director Alexander Aja

Writer Michael and Shawn Rasmussen

Cast Kaya Suadelsnio, Barry Peper, Ami Metcalf, Colin Mcfarlane, Anson Boon

Trailer https://youtu.be/H6MLJG0RdDE

Brigthburn: Nature vs Nurture – what if Superman were bad?

Biologically speaking life is driven by the acquisition of resources with the least expenditure of energy and passing our DNA on to the next generation. We see this the most in parasitic creatures. They use others to do the work for them, even having other creatures parent for them while expending zero energy to get the resources their young will need to survive. It is a fantastic if harsh system for them if you are simply looking at the numbers. Cow birds sneak their eggs into the nest of other birds. Then their young are fostered, usually at the expense of their own children. This is because they usually hatch first and grow larger faster demanding more food and time earlier than the foster birds own children. Sucks, but at least mom didn’t out right kill anyone right.

Then there is the of world of the parasitic wasp. One parasitic wasp , H. argyraphaga, lays its eggs in a spiders abdomen where it will have lots to eat when it hatches. But not before controlling the spider from inside and forcing it to build a web of protection from the torrential monsoon rains it will sleep trough during its metamorphosis. When done with the web, the larva finish its meal, chucks out the spiders husk and spins its own pupa. Thanks mom!

Some parasitoids go inside ant nest and attach their eggs to the ant larva. Then they chemically disguise their eggs so they are accepted as ants. Even when it becomes an adult wasp the ants still treat it as an ant, feeding and grooming it until the chemical wears off and the adult leaves the nest to mate. Talk about lazy deadbeat.

Oh but It gets worse, There are even hyperparasitoids that parasitize the parasitic wasp! One wasp tracks the chemicals emitted by caterpillars infected by wasp larva and then lay their eggs on the larva already eating the caterpillar. These parasites are not the heroes however. They simply eat the existing parasites and leave then eat their way out of the caterpillar, emerging covered in viscera in their full adult glory! You see it is not just in their nature to kill, it is in their nature to take everything they need to survive and then destroy what raise them. Their life cycle cannot be completed with out the death of what raised them. It is with this glorious knowledge in mind that I watched Brightburn last night. (Yes I Studied bugs in college and I am complete nerd).

What does all this have to do with a superhero/horror movie you ask? Well slight spoilers follow:

The writers of Bright burn asked the question what if Superman was not a beneficial relationship with humanity (a symbiote) but instead a parasite? What if he did not start out with his powers, but instead was bullied in school? What if instead of getting advice from loving alien parents, his pod whispered dark thoughts? What if superman was a 12 year old kid? we’d be totally fucked right, or would loving foster parents be enough to save us in the end? The only hint we get to Brandon’s actual origin is a scene in school where the kids are asked about the difference between bees and wasp. Brandon offers that bees are pollinators and wasp are predators. Some are even parasites. This and some strange chanting are the only insights into what may be driving Brandon’s behavior. Is this nature, because nurture was very normal.

I loved the details put into the costuming, Brigthburn (he is called this because this is the town in which he first emerges) does not have a perfect costume like superman, but instead has manipulated his own blanket. What I like about it is the insect like face. It elongated his head and over time, because it was knit, stretched so the eye holes became rounder (like a bugs or wasp) and the shoe lace mouth he used to sew the front becomes very mandible like completing the look. They also furthered his otherworldlyness by altering Superman’s smooth flying movements and speeding up the framework. This made him harder to follow, he seemed to zip around and jerk from place to place much like and insect. They also added insect sounds to the foley work adding to his alien nature. All in all Brightburn is creepy as fuck

There is gore to his kills leaving no doubt that he is no superhero. Jackson A. Dunn does a fantastic job flipping from a smiling sweet young child to a disturbed boy with a major superiority complex. His coldness borders on the spectrum and I loved it. Matt L. Jones confrontation scene with Brandon was hands down my favorite in the whole movie, just the right amount of humor. David Denman did an amazing job playing a conflicted father with a horrible discussion to make and I felt awful for Jenifer Holland. Script choices aside, I believed her performance. I felt there could have been some tweaks to make the script better, but overall my audience was pleased. A few people even cheered and guffawed out right at the end. This movie balanced out the horror well with some great comedic moments and the general audience will have fun. Billy Eilish comes in strong at the end with “Bad Guy” giving the movie the perfect send off. Overall director David Yarovesky did an excellent job and I would go see this in the theater.

Brightburn (US release Date 5/23/2019)
Director: David Yarovesky
Writers Brian Gunn, Mark Gunn
Starring:Jacks A Dunn, Jennifer Holland, David Denmar, Matt A Jones, Meredith Hagner, Becky Wahlstrom, Gergory Alan Williams
Distribution Company: Sony Pictures
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0391pRUFIY

The Curse of La Lorona: Ruined by a crappy audience!

This was the weekend of tears. We could choose between Breakthrough a drama about a teen who falls through the ice and ends up in a coma (tear jerker in the extreme) or La Llorona about a crying specter who preys on children. Yeah!

The Curse of La Llorona is in The Conjuring universe, but takes place outside of the main characters stories. This is a story line that highlights Hispanic history and traditions. Though slightly changed in for the film, as with every traditional story portrayed in pop culture, the story of the weeping woman is found in Mexican folklore and has played an important roll in Hispanic culture. This is not her first appearance in American culture, she has been popping up more and more lately in mainstream culture. The Curse of La Llorona also shows US audiences Curandera faith healers and some of their traditions. In a some what controversial step they invited Curanderas to perform limpias, spiritual cleansing before the screening of the film. Some Curandera who were invited attended the screening and others protested.

My screening of the film was on a Saturday night at 6:30 pm because I unfortunately had to work late Friday. The theater was half full and lets just say the audience was very enthusiastic. They yelled at the screen to warn the characters and tell them when they were doing something stupid. Every jump scene was accompanied by several loud screams. The first few times it was funny but it quickly got annoying. It took a suspenseful movie and made it a comedy. Some of the audience really enjoyed this, a few of us eventually just ignored it. When La Lorona revealed her non-spectral form during the climatic ending, a tone deaf audience member yelled out, she’s not even pretty. I guess they would have been more happy with a blonde chick. I thought Mariosl Ramirez is a very beautiful actor and when made up to look like a ghost she was pretty gross. Special effects did a good job making her creepy.

As a mother I found the movie uncomfortable. I love the horror genre, but since I have had my child I do find there are some boundaries I do like being crossed. Kids are to be protected not hunted. As La Llorona got more aggressive I became more stressed and wanted the movie to end faster. The first mother to loose her kids, driven mad with grief, even tells Anna (played by Linda Cardellini) she prayed to La Llorona to take Anna’s kids and bring her kids back. F’ed up and crazy! I can’t believe she didn’t smack her. I mean I know grief makes us crazy, but that is heartless.

Raymond Cruz plays the Curandera they must turn to because the church, with all of the bureaucracy would take to long to help. He is stiff and plays the roll with dry humor. I was on the fence as to weather or not I like him this time. I have enjoyed his work so much in breaking bad, the closer, nip/tuck and even Alien : Resurrection (Not a great movie, but he had fun in it.) I think the problem here was less his acting and more the movie. It was just OK. Some of the scares were legitimately good as were some of the chuckles. I appreciated the fact that it was a Hispanic movie with Hispanic actors. But in the long run this was not a five out of five. It had some drag and in the end is just a scary ghost story. There is nothing wrong with that though. It worked for what it was, it scared people.

As the audience was leaving one girl said “That was a great movie.” another audience member stood up and said “That ain’t true. That was not a movie you bring your grandmother to. Your children to either.” then she turned around and left with her family. In the bathroom I listened to a group from the audience discuss their experiences with haunting. The movie started discussion and they had a fun evening. So I get a big boisterous group and go have fun with the movie.

The Curse of La Lorona released 04/19/2019
Director: Michael Chaves
Staring: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Marisol Ramirez, Patricia Velasquez
Distribution Company: Atomic Monster and Warner Brothers Media
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOV-xMYQ7sk

Pet Sematary: One of my favorite Steven King novels.

I really wanted to like this movie, after all when the first version of this movie came out in 1989 it scared me so bad I almost walked out of the theater. That creepy little kid freaked me and my best friend out and I had watched Texas chain saw massacre with no problem. There was just something about this story that was unsettling. So when I first saw the trailer for the remake I was syked! Here was a chance to fix the flaws in the first movie. Zelda’s bad makeup, Pascal’s strangely designed character (he can appear to Louis, talk to the daughter in dreams, but only suggest things to Rachael?) and the greatly improved special effects (No more tiny doll) this movie is going to rock, right?

Oh man was I wrong. First thing to go in this movie was the father figure relationship between Jud and Louis Creed. While in the first movie there was chemistry between Fred Gwynne and Dale Midkiff I missed that connection in John Lithgow and Jason Clarke. Don’t get me wrong. John Lithgow is an amazing actor, but this was not his movie. I wanted that Maine drawl, that country gravitas that Fred Gwynne brought to the role and it was just lacking in this film. Jason Clarke Did a great job of playing a father slowly driven mad by grief and loss, but the final scenes, where he has lost everything, I simply did not see a man driven beyond his limits. When Fred Gwynne kills church and delivers the line, “go on, lie down, play dead, BE DEAD!!!!” it is over the top and not subtle but it is also clear he has been pushed. When Jason Clarke lays down with his child returned from the dead, the look in the eye is fantastic, the trickle of a tear says it all. ‘I’ve made a terrible mistake and I don’t know what to do.’ The story was cut to much and they were not give time to develop a meaningful relationship. Too much of Jud’s story was cut out or cut to snip-its of print story’s Louis searched on the internet to save time. Rachel’s back story was treated the same way. So now none of the characters actions were given gravitas. Was story sacrificed for special effect budget or was this simply poor editing?

I wasn’t scared by this movie. I wasn’t sitting on the edge of my seat, in fact I was a little bored. I will say that both kids gave excellent performances. In the ‘89 version Miko Hughes was one creepy little bastard. His voice over the phone, “First I played with Jud, then I played with Mommy and now I want to play with you.” I loved it. And in this updated version Jeté Laurence gave a truly macabre performance. With the aide of impressive makeup and eerie body control, she was able to project an preternatural, ghoulish shell of a person who has clearly lost something. She is unsettling. Gladly they kept the famed achilles heal cut scene but all the other death scenes felt slightly cheapened. The mother felt even weaker than the 1989 version of the film and in the original film and she was not that much of a strong character to begin with. In this version it felt like all she did was cry. I think I hated her character the most. My second least favorite part would be the new ending to the movie which I will not spoil, but suffice it to say is not surprising, just cliche and a joke.

Wait for this version to come out for free if you decide to see it at all. If you want to see Pet Sematary I suggest watching the 1989 version. While not perfect its the best we have. And if your a purest, read the book.

Pet Sematary: US Release Date 4/5/2019
Director: Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer
Starring: John Litgow, Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, Jete Laurence and Obssa Ahmed
Released By :Paramount Pictures

Captive State: A Political Thriller Disguised as an Alien Invasion Movie

On its face, Captive State is an alien invasion movie with very few aliens. It takes place in occupied Chicago nine years after Earth surrendered to an invading species of aliens we call The Legislators. Rather than be annihilated, we accepted their rule and they brought world wide peace, increased economic disparity and a world wide drain on natural resources. The movie focuses on Collaborators who help The Legislators maintain control over the population, and dissidents who are trying to fight back without weapons, world wide communications and a world wide monitoring system that would make any authoritarian government and modern day spy green with envy. Forget satellites, every citizen is tagged with tracking systems, we have world wide CCTV and birds are now monitoring people. Those of you looking for alien battles and  special effects blitzes will be disappointed, but captive state is a brilliant political thriller that just happens to be set in a science fiction setting. Its commentary on conspiracy theories, fake news, overreaching government, economic disparity and the responsibility of citizenship was fantastic. Will everyone get it? NO! In fact in the theater I heard two couples leave the theater saying, and I quote, “I don’t get it, you mean he was ______?”

The comparison to today’s political arena was not picked up on by these viewers. If they could not follow the plot the rest of the movie was probpably lost on them. I wanted to weep. I do not think this film is for everyone, but it was an intelligent script with something to say. The actors gave an excellent performance and it was not a whitewashed cast! There was just enough alien action to qualify the movie as a science fiction film and enough drama to keep the mind active. The twist at the end,will suprise some people. It’s well done and it’s message, “you have to choose a side” is on point. “Long as we fight back we got a chance,” sit back and just complain and we deserve what we get.

John Goodman as always does an excellent job playing a weary investigator torn between helping his partners son and hunting down the disidents before they go after The Legislators again.  Jonathan Majors and Ashton Sanders play two brothers with diametric personalities. Rafe the older brother, played by Majors, believes everyone must fight for the good of all. Gabriel plays Ashton who is in it for himself and believes in taking care of your own first! As these three try to negotiate the turmoils which arise as the dissidents plan gets closer and closer to implementation, tensions rise and loyalties are questioned.

SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON!

OK, so here is what I loved about this movie. Just as Zombie movies are used today in college courses to teach about political and cultural movements, this movie can be used to teach multiple subjects. The Legislators political power was a classic example of big government. A fear many people have today in this country. How far is the government impinging into our daily lives, how much control do they have. What do they have the right to monitor? The Legislators used methods we do not have, actual real bugs embedded in our throats that allowed the government to monitor where every citizen went and what they did. But many people worry about the government “bugging” our electronic devices and tracking our movements and activities. The first thing The Legislator did was to shut down the world wide web, cutting of global communication except through them. This cut us off and isolated the world into small pocket communities, except by dial-up. They also monitored all old social media accounts and gathered up all of our visual media to review. Why would they do this do you ask. Imagine what you learn by looking at the thousands of pictures and videos a person puts on their media accounts. You learn what they like, who they know and who they associate with. In this way you can figure out what groups of people may be working together. Intelligence gather at its finest. Paranoid yet? The Legislators also got rid off all weapons, making sure they were the most power full beings on the planet. An argument many NRA and gun rights advocates make against gun control. Oddly, without guns the dissidents are able to take down an entire alien facility. Perfect set up for arguing weather or not gun control legislation works. All of this was in the movie but I did not sit their thinking about it while I watched it, I just enjoyed it.It was not until after I saw the movie that I started thinking about everything. For days comparisons between this movie and our current state of affairs would just pop into my head. Am I thinking to deep into this film. Probably! But that’s the fun of it. Sometimes a movie just gets into you system and makes you think about more than the needle alien or the sound weapon they used. It has an impact.

The Legislators have set themselves apart from humans and limit access to only a chosen few. The only chance the disidents have now is to strike from within. Frontal assault on their facilities in the past has failed miserably. So by spreading conspiracy theories among the collaborators, using false leads and outright fake news they put one of their own into a position of power. A Trojan horse if you will. Their hope is a strike in Chicago will set off a world wide effort against The Legislators around the world. I won’t spoil anymore of the movie, you will just have to watch it.

Go see it now, bring a friend and prepare to discuss what you watched.

Captive State, PG 13
Directed by: Rupert Wyatt
Starring: John Goodman, Ashton Sanders, Jonathan Majors and Vera Farmiga
Release Date: March 15, 2019
Production Company: Participant Media, Amblin Partners
Trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i68xCzI406A

Glass, An M. Night Sleeper.

M. Night Shyamalan is a writer and director who became most famous for the move The Sixth Sense (1999). His highly stylized sensibility, slow building dramatic style and ever present twist are for some a crutch used to make his movies seem better than they are. I however like the fact that he takes the time to develop true characters in his films. Most of his films, not everyone, are great (we will forget the last air-bender ever existed), have kept me engaged and made we want to keep watching the screen. They never rely heavily on special effects or gross out scares but instead engage my brain and ask me to care about the characters themselves. How refreshing.

This trend continues with Glass. We are reintroduced to the characters we met in Unbreakable and Split. Mr. Dunn and his son, from unbreakable are hunting the Horde from split. Dunn and his son have formed a team, working together to hunt small time thugs and muggers on the streets after the death of Davids wife. When news of The Hordes killings hit the news Dunn, known  in the News as The Overseer, he began hunting him. Meanwhile The Horde has kidnapped another group of girls, this time four cheerleaders.

Eventually Dunn finds him just as the Horde unleashes the Beast and a fight between these two adversaries ensues. During this seemingly evenly matched battle, they are caught by the police and a mysterious doctor with a strange strobe light machine takes The Beast down. Our two battling super-humans end up in a psychiatric hospital (filmed in Allentown State Hospital, Pennsylvania) under the care of Dr. Elle Staple. Also returning to the cast are Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke, the Hordes only surviving victim from Split, Mr Glass’s Mother (Mrs. Price)  played by Charlayne Woodward and of course the esteemed Elijah Price, Mr. Glass played by Samuel L. Jackson who has been in the hospital for the past nineteen years awaiting this very moment. McAvoy displays an amazing range as he brings out glimpses of all twenty four personalities The Horde is purported to have while interacting with both the staff at the Hospital and during sessions with Dr. Staple. Willis gives another understated performance as he begins to doubt himself and question his reality. Sadly Jackson remains comatose for most of the film.

As the final confrontation comes to a head it is not flashy but tense. The end has an inevitable twist that leaves you with more questions than answers. I will admit to a slight drag in the middle of the film and a disconnect in the message. The mysterious society is ill defined, are they government, uber rich, a secret group of highly placed individuals? We are never given answers. Are super-humans bad or good, we must decide ourselves I guess. We, like those at the end of the movie, are just left with the evidence of their existence.

So the true question is, should you see this movie in the theaters? Well? There are some excellent performances and the film is styled to perfection. Each character has a color scheme and is blocked out beautifully. If you love film than yes shell out the money and go enjoy. If you are looking for something that will transport you out of your world for a few hours, than no, pick something else. Do not get me wrong I loved this movie! But many patrons walked out of this theater to take calls. They were distracted, not transported. They were bored in the middle, waiting for something to happen.  This is a movie you can cozy up with in the digital media format. Wait for cable!

Glass US release date 1/8/2019
Director: M.Night Shyamalan
Staring: James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Spencer Treat
Production Company: Universal Studios