Wednesday, January 10, 2018

First Time Watches: October 2017

There are many things in life that are unchanging.  You wake up.  You eat, poop, pee, and go to bed.  Your mom walks into your bedroom and finds you stuffing a sock full of presents while watching Fred Claus.  These are definite things in life that will never change.  What does change is your knowledge of movies as you watch one after another and broaden how many you’ve seen.  I’ve done as much, which is how I write a monthly post about my first time watches.

October was the month of spooky stories and horror tales.  I saw a bunch of horror for the first time that I’d been meaning to watch.  There were a few exceptions, but I stuck mostly to horror.  There were cannibals, repeated days, and a murderous doll or three.  There was a woman who had to help herself out of a sticky situation.  And outside of horror, a Dutch boy saved the world, a police officer found a miracle, and a singer fell in love.  It happened in October, and I’m about to tell you all about it.
Suburban Sasquatch
One of the mysteries that always seems to pop up with no definite solution is the question of whether or not Bigfoot is Michael Shannon in a furry suit.  Actually, no.  The question is whether or not Bigfoot is real.  People have been debating the existence of Bigfoot for years.  Suburban Sasquatch made Bigfoot into a magical monster terrorizing the suburbs.  A news reporter and a mystical archer teamed up to stop the creature.  It wasn’t the greatest horror movie.  There was bad acting and the effects were weird.  If you’re into extremely low budget movies that, though not necessarily well made, have the heart to let you know the people making it were having a good time, then this might be the movie for you.
Gerald’s Game
A good Stephen King movie is tough to find.  More times than not, something gets lost in translation and what was good on the page fails to be good on the screen.  Gerald’s Game is one of the examples of a great movie that came from Stephen King’s writing.  It was all thanks to the direction and writing.  Mike Flanagan made what was primarily a one room story feel suspenseful and important.  The isolation permeated through each scene.  Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood gave some of the best performances of their careers.  All around, this was one of the best horror movies of the year and one of the best Stephen King adaptations in a while.
Cult of Chucky
The Child’s Play franchise has never been one of my favourites of horror, but I have an appreciation for it as a whole.  The first three were solid enough slashers.  Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky tried something different for the series that didn’t quite work for me, but was interesting all the same.  Curse of Chucky got back to the slasher roots.  Cult of Chucky expanded on Curse by following the same storyline.  The main character of Curse of Chucky was now in an asylum after the events that had unfolded.  She ended up going against multiple Good Guy dolls that were possessed by Chucky.  There’s something inherently creepy about asylums that helped elevate this movie.  All in all, it was a solid slasher with some good performances.  Not the best of the franchise, but still good.
Day of the Dead
This was like a George Romero zombie movie (which it was) told through the lens of Lord of the Flies or the however many Stephen King stories that have featured isolated people splitting into warring factions (The Mist, The Stand, etc.).  It featured the military in an underground facility being dicks to everyone else, and the struggle that happened when their disagreements came to a head. It’s not the most socially important of the Dead movies, but Day of the Dead is definitely one of the more fun entries.  I’ll be happy to revisit it in the future.
The Green Inferno
Cannibal movies aren’t really my thing.  I still wanted to check out Eli Roth’s contribution to the horror subgenre.  Most of the movie was fairly derivative of Roth’s other horror, with over the top gore and shocking imagery.  He did land a few moments that I know will haunt me for a long time.  A group of protesters went to South America to stop a company from destroying the rainforest.  On the return trip, their plane crashed and they were attacked by cannibalistic natives.  The few that were held captive struggled to find a way out before they were selected for dinner.  What a great choice as I, a Canadian, was headed into Thanksgiving and the dinner that comes with it.  Even though I’ll likely never feel like watching The Green Inferno again, there was enough in it for me to say that any horror fan should check it out.  Between the gore and one moment of mental anguish that struck me deep down, it deserves to exist.
The Lair of the White Worm
I never knew that I wanted a buddy movie about Peter Capaldi and Hugh Grant fighting off a snake woman.  Well, here we are.  It exists.  They fought off a snake woman trying to perform a ritual to bring back a giant worm monster.  The Lair of the White Worm was filled with puns and sight gags related to snakes and worms.  It had crazy visuals brought to life by director Ken Russell.  Going into it, I wasn’t expecting much.  I got one of the weirdest and dumbest, yet most fun, experiences that I’ve had watching a movie in a while.  I’m looking forward to revisiting it at some point.
The Monster Squad
Nostalgia met nostalgia in this story about a group of friends fighting monsters.  There’s a certain tone to many 1980s horror movies that hasn’t been matched since.  The Monster Squad hit right in the middle of it.  The only thing that wasn’t 1980s about it was what the kids were fighting.  They were going up against the Universal monsters of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.  It was the 1980s horror style meeting the classic horror style.  Something unique was birthed from that meeting of eras.  It kicked ass, took names, and may have solidified itself as a spooky season classic.
Two brothers travelled through the post-apocalypse in this visually stunning film.  Eventually, they wound up finding trouble.  It wasn’t the kind of trouble you get in when you’re in a fancy restaurant and decide to shove breadsticks in your nose.  It was a seemingly abandoned town where the only inhabitants were a cannibalistic “family.”  The movie was driven by some great visuals and entertainingly over-the-top performances, but there wasn’t much more to it than that.
The Wicker Man
Foreign films are something that I haven’t gotten too far into.  I don’t mean foreign language only.  I mean movies made outside of the United States of America.  I’ve seen some, but not enough to feel like I have a true depth of knowledge.  The Wicker Man was a British horror movie I had been meaning to watch for years.  I had seen the remake, but never the original.  It was a solid movie, perhaps the best horror I’ve seen from the country.  It was also a musical, which I didn’t expect.  There were a lot of folksy songs in there to spice up what was happening.  And that ending.  The Wicker Man ends on one of the most haunting notes of any horror movie.  Well worth checking out if you haven’t already.
Blade Runner 2049
It was about 35 years ago that Blade Runner came out in theaters.  We finally got the sequel that people were waiting for.  Harrison Ford came back to the franchise, but the majority of what happened fell on Ryan Gosling’s new character, a replicant blade runner working for the LAPD.  The visuals were top notch and the themes worked just as well.  It’s not my favourite of the year, but it was a great theatrical experience that won’t soon be forgotten.
Happy Death Day
For some reason, there have been a few movies lately that have tried the whole “person keeps repeating the same day” thing.  This might be one of the better entries in that story structure, with a sorority sister trying to find out who is killing her on her birthday.  My one major issue with it was within one of the red herrings that felt like, if it were true, it would be a waste of a reveal, and if it weren’t, would be a pointless sidetrack.  Outside of that, it was a fun horror movie that used a semi-stale plot contrivance in a new an interesting way.
What is there to say about Geostorm?  Gerard Butler used a space station to save the world from catastrophic storms.  He tried a British accent and failed miserably, as did Jim Sturgess, who played his brother.  It was goofy and over the top.  In the end, though, it was a whole lot of fun.  Who wouldn’t want to see an ice storm rolling into Brazil and knocking a plane out of the air?  This was entertainment at its purest and most mindless.
Spawn of the Slithis
Environmental horror films are a thing.  I’ve seen a few of them.  They’re movies where the overall message is to take care of the environment around you, or else you’ll feel the consequences.  The Slithis was a monster created by poor treatment of the environment.  It wasn’t a scary movie, though the monster was scary to look at.  The suit was poorly designed, so it looked more laughable than frightening.  The acting was subpar.  The movie also suffered from the poor lighting that many low budget movies have.  Sometimes you couldn’t see a thing.  Not a great experience and not a movie I’m planning on seeing again any time soon.
James McAvoy had a great 2017 in terms of movies.  He was in Atomic Blonde, the best action film of the year, and Split, one of the best horror flicks.  He gave possibly the best performance of the year as a man with split personalities.  He managed to go seamlessly from one to the next, making them all feel fully formed, separate, and fleshed out.  Even the ones that got very little screen time felt like full personalities.  Not many actors are versatile enough to be great throughout an entire set of performances, but McAvoy pulled it off.  He made the movie as great as it was.  Check this one out.
Britney Ever After
A made-for-television movie about Britney Spears doesn’t feel right when it doesn’t feature any of her music.  It featured her singing, but none of the songs were hers.  Nearly every performance was bad and the movie was overwrought with love melodrama.  Yet, the biggest problem was the pacing.  Too much seemed to be packed into the second half of the movie.  It was based on the real life of Britney Spears, with obvious liberties taken because it was a movie, but it felt like they may have stayed too close to her love life to the point of hurting the story they were telling.  This was a disaster of a drama.
The Snowman
I was sold when I heard that Michael Fassbender would be playing a detective named Harry Hole.  How could I pass up the chance to see a movie with a character named Harry Hole?  That’s a sexual innuendo just waiting to be witnessed.  I went to see it and it wasn’t great.  It also wasn’t nearly as terrible as people had been making it out to be.  Sure, the Val Kilmer stuff was really weird.  Yes, the ending was kind of abrupt and anti-climactic.  But the idea was solid and there was a great use of the song Popcorn.  It was still entertaining.  That’s all it takes for me to like a movie.  If I have a good time with it, which I did with The Snowman, I’m willing to let the faults slide.  I let them slide with this one.
A Tricky Treat
There was a day in October where I went on a bit of a short film binge.  The first of the short films was A Tricky Treat, which was about a family carving a jack-o-lantern, only the pumpkin had been replaced by a human head.  It was a well-conceived short with a nice twist at the end.  It could become an annual Halloween staple.  The quick, under five minute runtime made it even better.  It didn’t overstay its welcome.
Night of the Living Bread
Spoofs are a style of comedy that I’m always willing to check out.  Most of the time, they fall flat.  Particularly, Friedberg/Seltzer have made way too many spoofs that go for referencing everything popular at the time rather than making fun of a single popular movie or show.  They go more for people simply recognizing than making something they recognize funny.  Night of the Living Bread knew how to spoof the zombie classic.  It told the same story, replacing the zombies with bread.  The humour came from that.  It wasn’t “Hey! I know that!” jokes.  It was actual comedy stemming from the situation and the characters.  I laughed throughout the whole thing.
The Last Halloween
Halloween is a time of spooky stories.  This one, set on Halloween, was a story of a post-apocalyptic city where kids still went trick-or-treating.  One man refused to give them anything because he wanted to protect what he had in his house.  It was about the bad things that could happen if you close off the world.  I didn’t quite like this one.  It was alright for the ten minutes that it lasted, but it wasn’t memorable enough to make me want to go back to it.  There’s something there.  It just didn’t come through in the execution.
This picture has absolutely nothing to do with The ATM.
This animated short film was complete garbage.  There was a monster living inside an ATM feeding on blood.  That was the entire short.  The animation was bad.  It wasn’t scary, though it was trying to be.  It was a terrible way to end off the month.

As I said at the beginning of this month in review, there were a bunch of spooky stories scattered throughout October.  There were a few other things tossed in there as well, thanks to the theatrical releases and blog stuff that I wanted to watch before the end of the month.  All in all, it was fun, even with some duds.  There were some great movies in there.  I don’t regret a moment of it.

November was another month that I didn’t regret.  That post should be coming soon after this one.  Sorry for the delay of a month.  School got busy and these fell by the side.  November had some interesting first time watches that included movies like Ghost Rider, A Hard Day’s Night, Becoming Bond, and the two Team Thor short films.  We’ll get into those in the next post, though.  Until then, watch some movies.

I almost forgot to add some plugs in here.  You can check out some of my other writing at Sunday “Bad” Movies, or stick to this blog and check out my Mighty Morphin Power Rangers posts.  As for writing that’s not by me, Talk FilmSociety is pretty great.  They have a lot of great writers and a lot of great content.  Recently, Alex Miller put up a piece on the site about snowy films.  Check it out.  Or you could always check out my friend Jaime Burchardt, who wrote a piece for Cinepunx in December about Mudbound.  Take your pick or read them all.  And watch some movies, okay?

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