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I will list the films in the order which I believe left me with the bleakest/most dreadful pit in my stomach, with #1 being the hardest to cope with and the last being the easiest to bare out of the lot.
Regardless of their intense thematic elements, these movies deserve to be seen at least once. You may find yourself completely repulsed at some of my suggestions, but you will ultimately have to admit that they definitely made you feel SOMETHING.
Year of the Dragon (1985)
Obscure Oliver Stone-scripted crime epic that sits in my top 5 crime movies of the 1980-1990 decade
Oliver Stone gives us another gritty, seedy underworld caper rich in culture and unfettered criminality. It's also one of the first films to acknowledge the true origins of organized crime and how it was the Chinese with the Heaven and Earth Society who essentially invented the paramilitary top-down pseudo-corporation format that modern organized crime groups structure their endeavors around. It's a deeply fascinating foray into a rarely-explored section of global crime syndicates despite the fact that Chinese organized crime is not only the wealthiest of all global criminal organizations but also the most prolific and also the least visible. And that's all by purposeful design on behalf of these syndicates--the smart hustlers will do everything in their power to remain obscured in the shadows while wielding all of the true power, authority and wealth that their businesses generate for them. Year of the Dragon creates a mesmerizing narrative that turns the Triads into a monolithic entity that one single headstrong, stubborn cop (Rourke) refuses to quit persecuting despite the entirety of the rest of all law enforcement in his region warning him and ultimately stopping him at all costs due to political graft and backroom deals where money trades hands and the gangs by protection. Year of the Dragon essentially becomes a David and Goliath criminal parable where Rourke is David and the Triads are the seemingly insurmountable Goliath.
Ignore all of the political correctness surrounding the film's 'offensive' dialogue and innuendo. It's authentic and accurate, and the fact that Stone seamlessly blends American English with mainland Cantonese/Mandarin enriches 'Year's' atmosphere and air of authenticity even more. It's near-flawless as far as 80's criminal epics go and even 35 years later in the year 2020 it stands the test of time on both of its feet with a strong stature that isn't going to wane anytime soon. If you liked Scarface, Year of the Dragon is your kind of flick.
my favorite 5 1980-1990 crime movies (no particular order):
1. year of the dragon (1985) 2. scarface (1983) 3. king of new york (1990) 4. to live and die in l.a. (1985) 5. manhunter (1986)
Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
Embodies Hollywood's rampant decay; highly indicative of American Mainstream Cinema's most glaring flaws
There's absolutely nothing memorable or satisfying in the latest Terminator offering; what we're given is a souless husk of a movie that is devoid of any real inspiration. The days of practical effects requiring make up artists and sfx producers to stay on their toes and invent new ways to blow an audience's mind have been replaced with computer users rendering low resolution CGI in Maya or Adobe with no concept of the laws of physics or cohesive/mellifluous film editing. It's an insult to the price paid for a ticket in this day and age when the special effects in the latest Terminator movie can't hold a candle to the effects from Judgement Day. In the days of near-supercomputing-capable PCs with processing power several hundred times stronger than the computers used to process Judgement Day's cgi, would make you believe that the effects we see on screen should look so cohesive and real that it would be impossible and imperceptible to the human eye to tell the difference between pseudo and actual. Instead, we are denched head-to-toe in low-rent CGI that's actually comically bad and palm-facingly phony/unconvincing, which breaks any possible immersion almost entirely. The only thing saving Dark Fate is a mind-blowing object-mapped ATMOS soundtrack..the audio is jaw-dropping. But as they often say: " no matter what, you can't spit shine a turd"
The Hunted (2003)
"The Most Dangerous Game," flipped on its axis
BDT and TLJ are both in top form here. Del Toro gives us prescient glimpses of 'Sicario,' while Jones serves us up a two-finger shot of his 'US Marshalls' character with a sort of 'Life Below Zero' twist added to the rim of the glass.
The Hunted is clearly inspired by the famous short story, "The Most Dangerous Game." However, Hunted manages to flip "The Most Dangerous Game" on its axis by giving us a primally brutal wolf fight between two alphas instead of TMDG's original novel of helpless souls wandering into a rich psychopath's well-placed bear trap. This time around, it's not an expert killer hunting down a fatigued cast-away with no combat experience but instead two special-operations-capable-veterans-turned-bushcraft-survivalists testing each other's capabilities and prowess to their absolute limits.
But there's also a little more complexity to The Hunted than just a life or death versus match between two hardened soloists in the bush. The movie also explores the horrors of war on the psyche, the way such unbridled brutality erodes even the soundest of minds when time progresses, and how PTSD can deconstruct a person at their very core.
This movie is harrowing at some points, particularly during the war crime flashbacks that are absolutely barbaric like the desecration of skeletons and mass Graves being filled with groups of living prisoners who are than obliterated at point blank with M249 SAWs weilded by laughing guerilla fighters.
There's a thick air of tension that runs through the entirety of the film's run time, something I would largely attribute to three things: it's realistic, intense violent subject matter; it's lack of a consistent music score flooding the speakers every five minutes and sparse dialogue; it's setting mostly taking place in the desolate bush. It's quiet, lethal and bloody--just like BDT's sadistic knife weilding character.
The Hunted is a unique action movie that deserves your time. Its pacing is slow and methodical, purposefully scripted as such to match the film's title no doubt. The slow burn of the story and the film's execution is almost reminiscent of a 70s film before massive explosions and ridiculous, cheesy one liners from steroided freaks took the genre over; back when movies were smarter and crafted with more earnest and inspiration. It's also a recommended watch if you're into Bushcraft survivalism or military drama--much of The Hunted feels like you're watching the first day of SERE school when you're being dropped into the forest.
7/10, one of BDT and TLJ's best.
Officer Downe (2016)
Orgasm Counter, 16 and Counting
Seeing the snob-jobs at Variety and AV Club rip this movie apart with their oblivious snark and condescension absolutely tickles the hair on my low-hanging cajones. These dolts went into this film and took it seriously for it's entire running time -- something that the film itself doesn't even bother to do (take itself seriously, that is). Officer Downe isn't supposed to make you exercise your mental faculties and explore your human condition with existentialist philosophy or nihilistic dialogue; it doesn't even pretend to be some symbolic, cinematic treatise on the nature and duality of good/evil and criminality. What it DOES do is embrace it's b-movie, grindhouse graphic novel roots with effortless hilarity as it inundates the viewer with some of the most ridiculous imagery and primal behavior imaginable in a mainstream release.
Kim Coates is a cunnilingus master who spends as much time between his trophy girlfriends legs as he does playing Highlander on the streets of LA, racking up bad guys' bodies and absorbing bullets due to his immortality. The fact that critics couldn't catch on to the inherent action-movie satire dripping from every frame in this movie--especially after seeing It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia waxing criminality in an Australian accent with a pornstar nun--further proves that there's merit to the saying, 'too smart for your own good.'
If you liked Happy! With Christopher Meloni, you'll love Officer Downe (and vice versa, if you liked Officer Downe, you'll love Happy! With Christopher Meloni). I also recommend catching the single-season one-hit wonder of a show 'Blood Drive' from SyFy Network if you liked Officer Downe.
This is mindless blood, boobage and barbarism, and oh boy is it just delicious. Check it out on Netflix today if you are capable of removing the stick from your supine orifice and embrace the pandering toxic masculinity and mindless self-indulgence Officer Downe serves up on a golden platter.
The 'professional' critics have NO clue ... Snatch is one of the Crime genre's greatest films ever produced
The 55 metacritic score is an affront to the truth: Snatch is cinematic greatness, and it deserves a spot on the top shelf of any individual who considered themselves to be a genuine cinephile.
The editing and camera work really elevate Snatch above Richie's other popular comedy-crime movies like Lock, Stock and Rocknrolla. But it's also the satirical spirit of Snatch that propels the narrative along at a pace and execution that turns the typical 'diamond-heist-gone-fubar' story into an unforgettable 100 minute black-comedy dive into London's criminal underworld.
The intersecting story lines and screwball characters in serious situations gives Snatch an almost Tarantonian quality to the whole thing. Every character is memorable, from Pitt's indecipherable Mickey the Pikey lead down to the Gypsy dog who swallowed his chew toy whole and squeaks constantly when barking. Of particular note is Brick Top, who does a fantastic job at being a greasy, mean, nasty villainous S.O.B. that enjoys chopping up and feeding his competition to his pig farm swine--he makes it easy to hate him, and he does it perfectly.
Snatch is one of the most rewatchable movies around. I've seen it a good 70 or so times since I bought it on DVD nearly 2 decades ago.
If you like Tarantino movies, enjoyed Lock, Stock, or dig british/foreign crime film in general, you're going to be charmed by Guy Ritchie's masterpiece. See it now, if you haven't already.
The Thing (2011)
Supremely disappointing; you'll leave feeling cheated once the credits roll.
Not a prequel. Not a sequel. Just an extremely bad, near shot-for-shot remake of Carpenter's penultimate, mainstream masterpiece (his ultimate masterpiece being the lesser-known cult classic 'Prince of Darkness,' IMO).
What made the original Thing so effective was the bone-chilling practical effects and their precision marriage to animatronic + stop-motion techniques. The original's ability to bring real brick-and-mortar makeup effects to the screen with zero help from computers, and have them look incredibly real, is what makes the original Thing such an exquisite piece of science-fiction horror (ala Scott's 'Alien').
With this self-proclaimed sequel, we are inundated with smarmy CGI pablum and gross repetition of visuals. In the original Thing, we see different degrees of the alien's shapeshifting abilities. In this sorry excuse for a prequel, we're constantly forced to endure the same multi-limbed fleshy mass with none of the shapeshifting terror that allowed the tension in the original to feel so palpable. What we're ultimately left with is a bunch of not-so-pretty visuals that do absolutely nothing to build any tension, because once you see Thing for the first time in this movie, you've essentially seen Thing for the last time in this movie.
It's nothing like the original, where we're left to fearfully wonder just who or what could possibly be the Thing after one form of it is killed. Where the original had indelible sequences like the dog's head splitting open and revealing an extraterrestrial maw with hellish tentacle-appendages, we instead are repetitiously forcefed some half-man-half-melted-candle hybrid that squeals like the alien during the Area 51 autopsy scene from ID4 Independence Day.
The only thing this 'prequel' has going for it are the familiar faces bringing in some solid lead and supporting roles as the destitute survivors trying to live to see another day. There's also more time spent on the part of the movie where the group is trying to figure out who is the Thing and how they can test everyone to make sure. There's a lot more duplicity in the narrative than the original film, and it's about the only point in the film that we see any halfway decent character development. We also get to explore Thing's vessel submerged in the permafrost and are given some clues as to its extraterrestrial origins and technology which leads to a man-vs-beast confrontation with Thing. These two parts of the movie are about the only things that really set it apart from Carpenter's original because everything else is either a shot-for-shot reproduction of the Carpenter film or it's a very poor CGI replication of what the first movie did so exquisitely with practical effects.
As stated in so many reviews before mine, there's just nothing scary, bleak, or pulse-pounding about this unnecessary cash-grab of a remake when comparing it to the original. It will ultimately leave you feeling cheated if you're a fan of the original, but if you're new to Thing and haven't seen Carpenter's film than you may enjoy this. It's about 96 minutes long minus credits so the upside is, you won't waste much time watching it regardless if you end up liking it or not.
Do yourself a favor and watch the original instead, and then after you finish the original Thing, watch the rest of Carpenter's Trilogy (1. The Thing, 2. Prince of Darkness, 3. Mouth of Madness) for one of the most unsettling experiences the horror genre has to offer us.
Pales in comparison in every conceivable way to Coppola's 1992 vision; Gary Oldman will forever be the true avatar of the Dracul
This new miniseries is extremely 'hard to absorb' 👹😉 if you've seen Coppola's interpretation of Stoker's novel.
Gary Oldman will always be immortalizdd as the one true Dracula, I am certain of this. BBC's Dracula is not in any way even half as remotely terrifying as Oldman's Dracula. Where Oldman is slow, methodical, calculating and hauntingly emphatic with his Romanian diction, the BBC's Dracula is a quick talking, high-pitched helium Huffer who sounds like he's trying to squeeze a fart through his mouth whenever he speaks. It's an almost comical portrayal of what is normally one of the most creepy stories ever told.
There's no slow tracking shots of the castle exterior and no soul-wrenching string symphonies in the musical score that build the near-palpable Gothic dread so prevalent in the Copolla film. For lack of better phrasingz the entire production just feels flat and largely uninspired compared to the 28 year old movie. Even the makeup is abysmal in comparison--Dracula looks like a crackhead who spends his day diving into buckets of old paint and bathing in them, whereas Oldman's Dracula looked so old that he looked like a walking rotted revenant that encapsulated the facade of decrepitude and death with a ghoulishly fiendish detail.
When all is said in donez you really won't be missing anything by skipping over the BBC offering. And that's a flippin' shame because this was probably my most anticipated new Netflix show of the new year. I was extremely let down in every regard.
5/10. Watch Copolla's movie in the new 4K/Atmos remastering with a beefy Soundsystem instead. It's a far more memorable and indelible experience you won't soon forget, unlike this poor paltry pablum passing itself off as Dracula.
From Hell (2001)
A fascinating transition for the Hughes Bros.
Known for their hard-hitting, well crafted cult-classic 'hood' films Menace II Society and Dead Presidents, From Hell represents an exciting transition for a familial duo of directors known usually for their street-savy tales of karma and retribution.
From Hell is visually stunning; Whitechapel District is immaculately recreated thanks to the backbreaking sweat of 140 Craftsmen and crew members working relentlessly over a twelve week period on a 20 acre plot to construct one of the finest sets ever seen in a period piece of the Victorian era.
Superb writing and the immersive acting from the movie's forerunners resurrects the nightlife of 19th century London for the big screen and the careful attention to detail borne of what is obviously rigorously-researched history really showcases some of the film's most fascinating scenes. Opium dens and sanitariums and morgues are seedy, gritty and absolutely thriving with an electric sense of tantalizing dread and morbidity. Icepick lobotomies and vivisection make some onscreen cameos, so if you're the squeamish type than From Hell will be a difficult watch for you.
Regardless of any sort of revisionism or dramatic licensing, From Hell is a riveting watch from the first minute to last. The trademark Hughes Brothers nihilism is peppered throughout the film, however their signature 'come uppance' climax seen in Menace/Presidents is absent here, marking another transition for the brotherly team as well as showcasing their capacity for artistic growth.
The Hughes Bros. know damn well how to make an addictive and stylish crime thriller, and From Hell is no different. They've created a masterful piece of cinema here and anyone jonesing for a fantastic murder mystery would do well to give From Hell a late-night, lights-out viewing. Johnny Depp and Ian Holm are of particular note here for their outstanding performances. Plus, it's one of the few times you get to hear Depp speak in a British accent.
8/10, a definite must see.
The Day of the Jackal (1973)
A near perfect thriller ruined by its last scene
The movie was a magnificent thriller until the final scene with the assassination attempt. Everything about this film is brilliantly original, and then the conclusion ends in such a pathetic cliche when the French president just happens to bend over at the same exact time Jackal takes his shot, allowing the French president to survive as his security service kills Jackal before Jackal can finish the job. It was such an abrupt and cheap ending and I felt utterly cheated after spending 140 minutes of my life watching one of the most bad-ass anti-hero assassin movies ever made. It made me irate that it ended this way, because it feels incredibly anti-climactic and utterly cheap when the entirety of the rest of the script was so nail-bitingly well written, especially when the film is centered around a ruthless anti-hero character but the anti-hero goes out like some wimpy milksop who somehow forgets to reload a rifle under pressure even though he's supposedly the best contract killer to ever live. He had no problems navigating France under the intense pressure of a martial law-style Nationwide manhunt, changing disguises and aliases and documents and killing others to keep his mission going, but then somehow can't handle the same pressure to reload a single bullet when it matters the most. It ultimately felt nonsensical because it was entirely out of character. The only way I tried to make this failure in writing feel coherent to the rest of the story was giving Jackal the excuse that he couldn't load his rifle because of the effects of the chemical he used to give himself his grayish sickly appearance when disguise d as an amputee veteran (earlier in the movie, his document forger claimed they used this chemical trick to a avoid duty but it would leave you sick and nauseous for an hour after, hence the placid appearance). But even then, I'm sure a masterclass contract killer responsible for the deaths of 4 world leaders behind enemy lines would be able to pull through a stomach ache to be able to reload his bolt action.
It's an excellent film, just don't be surprised if you feel as cheated as I did in its final moments when the script seems to take a massive nosedive.
7/10, loses 3 points for the ending that made me feel robbed
One of the most overrated films of all time
Yeah, I said it, and yeah, I know I'm going to get a new orifice ripped because of it.
I used to love this movie as a young teenager when it first came out. I thought it was just as bad-a$$ as The Matrix and thought it to be a philosophically 'deep' exploration of the human condition (LOL don't spit ur milk out through ur nose). It wasn't until I gained some salt in my beard and some wisdom after two decades of watching practically every film under the sun that I came to realize just how bad Equilibrium is when I watched it for the first time in nearly 10 years last night.
The film itself doesn't even try to hide the fact that it's a complete rip off of INGSOC and 1984. From the way Libria is designed and portrayed (gray formlessness, muted blues and dark matted colors), to the sheer laziness of the plagiarism in the narrative device of 'Sense Offense'/'Sense Offenders' (ripped straight from 1984's 'Thought Crime'/'Thought Criminals' plot mechanism), down to the freakin' citizenry's dresscode (Libria's denizens just happen to look less homeless than Eastasia's allies). Even certain scenes are copied to a near-T, like when Winston is brought to an emotional reckoning at the image of a snowglobe, just like John Preston in Equilibrium collapsing in tears when he hears Beethoven for the first time whilst simultaneously chancing upon a snowglobe.
Even the climactic moments are entirely unoriginal, like the reveal of who Libria's Father truly is and what Brandt has done out of unfettered servitude to the State -- 1984's Winston suffers an identical betrayal when he learns the truth about O'Brien and the innkeeper who was hiding him and Julia from prying eyes.
Unfortunately, blatant shoddy plagiarism isn't Equilibrium's most glaring fault.
Equilibrium's behemoth SNAFU is in the utter incoherence of the movie's primary plot device: feeling is illegal and punishable only by summary execution. If you actually remotely think about this idea, it becomes impossible to ignore the glaring absurdity of it. Characters, Grammaton Cleric or not, are all driven by emotion constantly throughout the film, utterly undermining the central idea that Prozia keeps Librians in a zombie-like, emotionless state. Several times we catch Brandt with a Cheshire smile as he relentlessly attempts to catch John Preston in an act of Sense Offense. Well, the idea that Brandt would even be preoccupied with the thought of catching John in an illegal act to further his rank in the Grammaton Clergy is in itself a Sense Offense crime, because it clearly displays a selfish desire for egotistical approval and ambitious reinforcement. To avoid drifting into some incoherent, philosophical rambling tangent, I'll encapsulate my idea thusly: it is impossible to NOT be driven by emotion as a human being. Every action is driven by some form of feeling: a selfish desire or a selfless desire. By Equilibrium's standards, all humans would be executed the day they become cognizant or self-aware. It's pseudo-intellectual garbage masquerading as anything but.
I'm also going to gripe about most of the action scenes. When I was younger, I thought the Grammaton Cleric was one of the coolest cinematic characters ever made. After rewatching these fight scenes, it's comically idiotic how bad most of these fight sequences are: guys literally STAND AND DO NOTHING in a circle while letting Preston wail on their heads/helmets in slow motion with almost no resistance. If you don't believe me, go to the part of the movie when he tries to help the group of men escape from Brandt's raid and then uses the butt of his pistols to clobber an encircling group of enemy combatants. It's utterly cringeworthy.
But all the action isn't so horrible. If I'm being honest, the only saving grace for Equilibrium is the movie's final act. The action in the final act is actually worthy of its praise because we get real fighting and genuine martial arts, not some guy standing in the middle of 20 men swinging a rubber dildo at their padded helmets as they stand still, drool, and take their beatdown in proud stride.
Despite Equilibrium's crippling idiocy, it still remains a very entertaining movie to watch. I know you probably wouldn't get that sense about the movie after reading my condescending rant about the movie, but I can't knock it for its entertainment value. It's highly watchable even though you have to practically suspend all plausible belief to watch it, and I think this is largely due to the great casting decisions of Bale, Diggs and Bean as Grammaton Clerics battling over their own humanity. The kid who plays John Preston's son also does a great job as an undercover sense offender.
Equilibrium deserves to be seen at least once, and chances are you'll more than likely really enjoy the film (i mean, a quarter million votes at 7.6 stars proves as much). But after seeing 1984, the movie was forever ruined for me when I came to the epiphany of what a blatant piece of plagiarism this movie is.
American Psycho (2000)
Excellent Self Indulgence that isn't so mindless
I love American Psycho. It's excessive in every way: from the violence to the sexual situations and fantasies, to its blatant dialogue exchanges, to its senseless murderous rampaging violence, but mostly it's excessive in its malignant consumeristic narcissism. And one can't help but feel that the excessive narcissism is exactly the point of the entire film. It's almost as if the movie itself is an actual cinematic-embodiment of the personality disorder that Patrick Bateman so heavily suffers from. American Psycho also does an amazing job at encapsulating all the base desires of the male psyche, and then amplifying them in an almost poetic way to paint the perfect picture of who exactly Bateman is and just how insane he can truly be. And what makes the entire thing so effective is how easily possible the movie makes one realize that any man could be driven to be such an egotistical jacka$$ if given the right circumstances in life.
There's also a lot of subtle but perfect dark humor in the film. Especially the contest that is the Business Card Show and Tell that the men engage in periodically. You'll notice how everyone is a "Vice President" -- an obvious jab at the crony corporate nepotism on Wall Street/big business and how the 'higher ups' are really just useless drones who do nothing. Case in point: Patrick telling his secretary to hold all his calls for the day because he'll be too swamped with work, but then immediately kicking his feet up on the desk and turning Jeopardy on on the television as soon as his secretary leaves the office and closes his door.
What surprises me the most about American Psycho is that it was directed and written by women. It's not that I think women are incapable of creating good movies, but more that the subject content of the film/script is drenched in testosterone and misogyny, so it ultimately feels like it was crafted by men. Then again, in retrospect it probably took a woman's touch to really show the absurdity of Bateman's extremely toxic masculinity and malignant narcissism in its absurdist and repugnant light. A male director/writer team probably would have made Bateman a more sympathetic egoist, and I'm sure that defeats the entire point of what the movie is really trying to say in the first place.
My only gripe with the film is with the casting of Bateman. Don't get me wrong, Christian Bale did an incredible job but its not without warranted criticism. Bateman's tangents into the ridiculous by way of prolific verbal dissertations on Huey Lewis and The News or Phil Collins, while freakin' hilarious, feel a little too forced. And that forced feeling is a consistent issue throughout the movie--Bateman's excessive egotism doesn't always feel natural, and it ultimately mars the film's immersion/continuity. I read a review that suggest Charlie Sheen as Patrick Bateman, and honestly I couldn't imagine a more perfect real-life egotistical maniac to portray Bateman. Charlie Sheen from Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" with Patrick Bateman's book personality would have been excellent here.
Ultimately, the movie doesn't really spoonfeed you a conclusion (although it gives you hints throughout the entire film) and so its ambiguity gives it a more intellectual bent to its portrayal of insane cathartic self indulgence. I'm of the mind that everything was in Bateman's head and he truly is crazy, but both sides of the argument have valid reasons for why they either do or do not believe Bateman really did what we saw on the screen. This and the fact that the movie clocks in at just a hair over 100 minutes and you've got a highly rewatchable piece of entertainment. 9/10 Solid A rating
Perfect quirky dark comedy / sci fi / mystery / thriller / drama hybrid
This show is great. It's like a sci-fi West Wing comedy mix. Ridiculously easy to watch too. Saw like 8 episodes before I realized I had binged so many (lol it's been one of those days). Really addictive although it does get a little absurd somewhere around beginning-middle of episode 8.
You'll also end up having to suspend a lot of belief to make it through the court scenario, not because the story sucks but because the way it is called and ultimately the way it proceeds is very unrealistic(no cross examination of witnesses by other party's staff/counsel would ever go live unless the witnesses had either been depositioned or subpoenaed or their testimony heard first in a closed door emergency session.
Except for a few cheesy moments, the characters do pretty well at reacting believably to most situations and the story is always a satisfying journey worth sitting through. The positives of BrainDead are what give it its very well deserved 8-stars-plus rating and it's one of the best shows you've never seen (remember the first time you discovered The Expanse back when it was still on syfy and you binged all available episodes in one-two days?). It's almost like an American version of a British comedy, or like a David Cronenberg body horror film with more dark humor and a massive plot revolving around outer space :P.
If you're a proponent of the theory of panspermia then I believe you'll find BrainDead an exceptional and memorable watch. I guarantee this 1-season wonder of a show will be a cult classic in the future. A+
Predictable Finale Wraps up a Half-Decent 1st Season
If you've been watching since the first episode, you're probably already 100% aware of how this season ends. There's nothing revelatory or twisty enough to really be considered unexpected; people die that you've been expecting to die and there's no real major plot development except for the relationship between Bumpy and the 5 families. It was a predictable but solid finale for the show's freshman season and now we'll have to wait a year before we get anymore Bumpy in our lives.
All in all, Godfather of Harlem was an addictive, binge worthy romp through '60s Harlem despite all of its hackneyed and cliched dialogue, plot twists and character development. If you're a fan of the gangster genre you'll enjoy GOH, just don't expect a flawless masterpice like The Sopranos or The Wire.
Altered States (1980)
It scared the hell out of me.
I'm a huge horror and science fiction fan and I've seen just about everything under the sun. Altered States is a unique amalgam of these genres that really takes the viewer to some uncomfortably dark places--a journey that is marshalled along by an unbelievable use of visual effects that really makes me believe this film was one of French director's Gaspar Noe's heavy early influences (as seen in Enter the Void and Climax, two beautifully mindwarping pieces of cinema). It also utilizes a soundtrack comprised of seemingly discordant noises (like in the Native ritual scene) that really creates an atmosphere of terrifying, unknown tension.
What really sets the film apart is William Hurt's performance. He is immortalized on film here. He plays a madman slowly rising to a crescendo of total and utter deliriousness that I couldn't imagine being acted by any other person. One scene that really stands out in particular is when Hurt is in a bar with his friends and girlfriend, drunkenly rambling about the true nature of self. The camera never deters from its methodical tracking of Hurt as he meanders around the table like a self-realized Socrates, dissecting the very nature of being with a mindblowingly cogent speech that teeters on the batsh** insane. He sits down in a chair and looks at the sky with the most arrogant grin on his face, as if challenging whatever god may exist in the heavens above him to try and keep him from learning what ultimate truth is. The first time I saw this madman monologue from William Hurt made me feel it is one of the greatest movie scenes of all time. That still holds true today in 2019.
True to the title of the film, this movie is like Natural Born Killers (or as mentioned earlier, Enter the Void/Climax) and is best viewed in an altered state (specifically a heavy dose of cannabis or mushroom tea or electric koolaid). The imagery is absolutely powerful in 'Altered States' and honestly it makes the viewer just as uncomfortable today in 2019 as it first did almost 40 years ago.
If you're looking for a religious horror experience that, in my personal opinion, is one of the greatest religious horror films ever created and will disturb you on many levels (especially the first half of the film, which is incredibly cerebral until the body horror starts)--look no further than Altered States. Patricia Arquette's 'Stigmata' looks like baby food compared to this masterpiece.
Incredible series that's woefully--no, criminally--underrated/unknown
Best show about an intelligence officer and spycraft I think I've ever seen, and I've seen a LOT.
It's not the romanticized cinematic universe of spycraft that the Bond films popularized nor is it the whiteknuckle, high velocity barrage of sex, death and subterfuge that The Americans (also an excellent, entertaining series) brought to our screens. It's a dark comedy about the ins and outs of field work for one man, John Lakemann/Tavner.
If you're the kind of audience member that likes nonstop action, special effects or easily digestible narratives like Bourne/Treadstone/Bond, then Patriot will probably bore you. The show is largely a slow-burn with an emphasis on the characters and their interactions. We watch the dangers of how John navigates the realities of his true career under the guise of non-official cover as a member of the brass of a piping company in Milwaukee. We also are privy to a lot of narrative about how John's intelligence work places undue stress on his marriage, and how this undue stress affects his wife's life as she tries to understand the reality of what her husband does while being completely shut out and trapped under the blanket of secrecy that John's job requires. These plot points are also tied in with the interesting fact that his wife's father is also John's handler/case officer for his intelligence work. The family dynamic creates a new and refreshingly original perspective into the nature of intelligence work.
If you have access to Amazon Prime you would definitely do well to give Patriot a good viewing. One of my favorite aspects of the enter show is the way in which it is filmed--it's not exactly cinema verite, but it has a fantastic photographic direction that feels like a genuine indie film production than a high budget Hollywood tv show. There's a lot of very deliberate, slow, off angle panning shots with very few cutaways or scene edits (like the scene when John goes to the apartment at 77 de Champlaine and is standing on the fire escape trying to enter). Everything about 'Patriot' is unique and original, and the writing is just perfect--especially the actors who really bring the quirky, awkward nature of the show's dark comedy and gallows humor to life.
Negative reviews are ridiculous.
"See" has quite possibly one of the best cinematic universe aesthetics I've ever seen in a show. It's like taking Game of Thrones and blending it with Apocalypto and Sword of Truth. There's a high fantasy element robed in a tribal mythos and the end result is stunning. It's very gritty and the dystopian future looks like what I would imagine the world would look like if Albert Einstein's famous "World War 3 / Sticks and stones" quote would look like come to life.
I call the negative reviews ridiculous because they are. It's like they find it impossible to believe that humans couldn't possibly fight or survive if they were blind. What nonsense. Humans have a total of six senses, with proprioception being more important than sight itself. The idea that people who've had centuries, if not millenia, of evolution to compensate for the lack of a sense by intensely enhancing the remaining five isn't far fetched at all. There are species on our planet who have been essentially blind since they evolved into existence. To think that being blind somehow prevents you from being able to fight or dress yourself or find your way around is just as laughably bad as the reviews claiming such things are true.
Jason Mamoa brings an unbelievable energy to Baba Voss that screams with a ferocious, Maori-like rage. The psyco-sexual religion practiced by the Payan and their Queen is an intriguing and fresh amalgam of concepts prolific in high/dark fantasy that reminds me of the Mord'sith from Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. The supporting cast do an excellent job at being the glue that keeps the entire narrative together with excellent/believable acting that really brings the possibility of a sightless, dystopian Earth to life. And the action sequences are truly a sight to behold, especially the war sequence in the first episode (with a blood pumping, adrenaline rushing War Chant/Rap being played by Jason Mamoa and the other Alkenny(SP?) before engaging the Witchhunter and the rest of the queen's army) and the fight between Baba Voss and the slavers that shows Jason Mamoa flying around the screen in a style of fighting that can only be described as a sort of blend of Brazilian Caporeia(SP?) and blade dancing. He even shows us an interesting new way to decapitate your enemies by making a 360 degree garotting tool with his blade and sheathe. It's truly one of the coolest fight scenes you'll ever see on screen.
See has a LOT going for it in terms of potential and narrative. I can't wait to see more and I pray to anything that will listen that Apple gives us at least a good 4-5 seasons minimum before pulling the plug. The cinematic universe created her has a ton to offer and it's even got me hoping there are some books out there about Baba Voss and the Alkenmy that I can read..
Head of State (2003)
Yeah it's full of comedic cliches, but honestly Rock's timing is in full effect and he makes even the most overused punchline land with a genuine chuckle. I mean, evedn the contrived 'old white people dancing to rap and speaking ebonics' gimmick works well enough to make one crack atleast a single smile (but most likely, several).
If you like politics and like Chris Rock (a more suppressed version anyway, the PG-13 rating definitely curtails Rock's trademark profanity/racism and makes Head of State one of his few family-friendly films alongside Bevery Hills Ninja)
It's an easy 90 minutes to sit through. It's also got one of the best opening credit sequences in a political movie I've ever seen. ("... NONE of whom are in this film" rofl)
6/10, sits on a pretty high shelf alongside other early-millennium low-budget comedies of the post-Y2K age.
The Mandalorian (2019)
Surprisingly, "The Mandalorian" looks incredibly promising.
Given the kid-friendly orientation of Disney+ (which is a huge gripe that I have; I wasn't going to pay the 7$ to subscribe but decided to get the free trial an opportunity), I was ready to write "The Mandalorian" off as nothing more than a cash-grab 'Star Wars-lite' fluff piece that would be filled with terrible CGI, a contrived cinematic universe, and stale dialogue (a.k.a. a series that would resemble the prequel trilogy). I can't believe how -mostly- wrong my preconceived notions about what my viewing experience of The Mandalorian would be like after watching only the first 40 minutes of the series.
Star Wars fans are going to love this.
In reality, Mandalorian absolutely feels like it's part of the original Star Wars canon--as if Favreau himself were involved in the production of the original trilogy from 40 years ago.
The first episode of Mandalorian contains several nods to bits of the rich lore scattered throughout cinematic universe we know from the films (and even a good chunk from the many books and other entertainment mediums available): the Cantina where we first meet Han Solo and learn about how many parsecs the M.Falcon rates under; the Carbonite slabs used to entrap wanted criminals by preserving them in a cryogenic-like state giving bounty hunters a worry-free way of safely transporting the galaxy's most dangerous ruffians; the various types of Vibro equipment/blasters/carbines that any seasoned Star Wars Galaxies veterans (especially combat medics, teras kasi masters and creature handlers/bio engineers) will nostalgically recognize; a spectrum of species interaction ranging from the near-domesticated, horse-sized Vols to the rocket-sized Krayts capable of destroying anything the size of an office building in two quick bites. There's even a scene showing what exactly happened to some of Hutt Jabba's creepy little minions during a sequence where we see our main character walk past one trapped in a cage as he's traipsing through a Starport bazaar. I was pleased by the world-building in the first episode more than anything else because I felt that it would, apart from the CGI, be the thing that suffered most due to a lack of attention to detail. I couldn't have been more wrong. Jon Favreau loves Star Wars dearly and the essence of the saga's quintessential being shines through in practically every scene we see on screen. Everything you see has a purpose or a point to it. Nothing feels forced, artifical or bloated -- something that I thought the prequel trilogy was rife with and ultimately suffered heavily from alongside its other massively disappointing flaws (like the painfully abysmal dialogue, scatterbrained timeline and woeful miscasting of a human stone as Anikin, and a type-cast action movie star for Obi).
The other big surprise was the CGI/Animation. Whoever's doing the animation for The Mandalorian deserves some kind of recognition for creating such a mellifluous sequence of effects that look far more genuine than much of the CGI plaguing cinema for the past decade or so. Everything that's animated in this show has a 'weight' and 'impact' to it, which tells me they have an animator who's very knowledgeable about physics/fluid dynamics and adept at translating that knowledge into 3D rendering--rendering that ends up looking genuine enough to never question if it's actually fake. Most of the time, our senses are accosted by 3D rendering where the objects being rendered look like floating, elastic toys with rounded/smooth features (ie. devoid of edges or angles that would give them a realistic definition/appearance). A great example is the sequence where we see two Vols being ridden on horseback. The attention to the shape of the shadows being cast by the rider/animal relative to the source of sunlight, the dust being kicked up as the Vols feet hit the ground, the fact that we can actually see the elbows and knees and other angles of the riders/animals, etc. all make for just one of the many CGI sequences that look like they came from a triple-A Hollywood movie. I probably sound like a cinema snob picking the dumbest of nits by elaborating so verbosely on something as trivial as the way pixels are animated on my screen, but for me this lack of authenticity in CGI is one of the primary/#1 continuity and immersion killers for me when watching any kind of fantasy film like Star Wars. Even The Mandalorian's upgraded armor looks like an actual piece of armor (hint: it's not, you can see this in various scenes throughout the show when we only catch small glimpses/pieces of it on screen, as the modified bump mapping reverts to its default state and shows the drab piece of armor the actor actually has equipped for his costume--oops! maybe they'll pay closer attention to this when editing future episodes)
Anyways, enough of my meandering and rambling word-stew. I was pleasantly surprised by The Mando and I'm looking excitedly forward to the rest of the episodes now without having to cross my fingers or bate my breath. Favreau has shown us with this pilot episode that the series is in very good hands. Given Favreau's history of predominately for-adults-only scriptwriting/directing of slapstick sex comedies like 'Slackers' with his buddy Vince Vaughn (whom he is in a bunch of movies with), his ability to elevate The Mandalorian onto its proper pedestal is nothing short of a shocking surprise.
Everything about The Mandalorian has me intrigued and hopeful. This is good stuff. And not only is it good stuff, it's the nerf-herdin' Star Wars that us fans actually NEED. My only real complaint here is that I hate Disney+ for their ridiculous scheduling of their programming. You don't start a premium content streaming service and give us epic programming but then keep that programming on made-for-tv-and-advertising-profits schedule. The episode(s) are only 39-40 minutes long (no i'm not joking) and we don't even get the season released all at once (like every other premium content streaming platform does with their shows). Apple+ is guilty of this nonsense too (like the amazing show See with Jason Mamoa). It's a dirt-poor and painfully-obvious tactic at keeping you subscribed to the service in perpetuity so that you don't get all episodes at once, and then cancel your sub after binging the episodes until next year when you resub to catch season 2 all at once. That isn't good business, it's just a huge pet peeve that makes me want to torrent every episode once the season is complete instead of going through the nonsense of spending 7$ on a platform that only has animated movies (which itself is ridiculous considering Disney owns FX and could easily put titles like Sons of Anarchy/Tyrant/The Shield/Taboo/American Horror Story/Mayans MC/etc. up for streaming if they really wanted).
OK I'll really stop rambling now. I promise. Do yourself a huge favor if you're a SW junkie and give The Mando a shot! :D
Evil Dead (2013)
What a glorious remake.
There's primarily one reason to see this film: the violence. When you think it's reached its most sadistic peak, the movie pushes the envelope further until you're completely desensitized to what's happening on screen. The crescendo of the splatter comes in the finale with a chainsaw--you won't be disappointed.
Evil Dead is an amazing homage to the slasher genre. If you took "Night of the Demons" and bred it with "Cabin Fever," you would get this amazing Evil Dead remake that is so fun and enjoyable to watch, you forget you're watching a bunch of sexy idiots get hacked up and chewed on to death.
For gore hounds, Evil Dead (2013) is almost impossible to beat in mainstream cinema except for maybe the I Spit On Your Grave unrated remakes. In terms of sadistic and gratuitous vilence, this version of Evil Dead is like watching a two hour extended version of the last 20 minutes of the original French film "Martyrs (2008)."
What a delicious experience. 8/10
Godfather of Harlem (2019)
Fantastic cast and production marred by mediocre and cliche'd writing
Crime drama genre aficionados will dig Godfather of Harlem's groove with Forest Whitaker at the helm as Bumpy Johnson, a convict recently released from Alcatraz penitentiary off an 11 year beef into a strange new Harlem that he doesn't recognize: Italian's dominate what used to be African American-owned territory and the police are more intolerable, violent, and complicit in the drug trade than ever before.
The cast for Godfather of Harlem is spectacular. Forest Whitaker as Bumpy Johnson is flawless, while Vincent D'nofrio as his rival Italian capo conjures up imagery of Tony Soprano in a past life. Both men are titans on the screen.
Unfortunately, that's where the best things about Godfather of Harlem end. The story, while based on real people and places, is incredibly cliche. There's nothing in Godfather of Harlem that you haven't seen, heard or thought of before -- from the stale bigoted vocabulary that nearly every character employs in their dialogue , to the tried-and-true racist tropes that litter the story ... Godfather of Harlem ultimately feels like a caricature parody of a crime drama than an actual serious entry into the genre.
It's definitely worth watching, just don't expect your mind to be blown in the same way that shows like The Wire or The Shield captivated us. If you're looking for an excellent black-centric crime saga to start watching, give FX's "Snowfall" a shot instead. Godfather of Harlem feels too infantile in its development right now to be taken seriously as a contender -- give it a season or two to flesh itself out before engaging yourself with Bumpy Johnson's world. The makings of greatness are there screaming at us loud and clear, let's just hope the people writing the script step it up with more mellifluous and less-cliched dialogue and give us entertainment worthy of the Epic moniker the show's home network is named after.
Definitely keep your eye on this cinematic universe though. Whitaker and D'nofrio are just too amazing to ignore.
Pili Fantasy: War of Dragons (1988)
One of the most unique and interesting action shows I've ever seen
Where to start? PILI is a magnificent divergence from the norm of the action genre. Forsaking all cookie cutter formulas and utilizing a fascinating animation style--the total manipulation of action figures in real time--PILI: War of Dragons crafts an entirely new approach to story telling and special effects.
The plot is essentially about a turf war between two heavenly/celestial Dragon Kings and each of their 8 Dragon Generals. The story itself feels as if it was woven from the atypical threads of a metaphysics course in school and ancient South East Asian mythological lore. I've seen hardly any kind of foreign Asian programming on TV/Netflix (PILI is available on Netflix, fyi) apart from Anime and other Japanese programming, so the story was a very refreshing alternative to the more stale Western genres I usually watch. Plus I'm a big fan of foreign languages so overall, a very enjoyable new cinematic experience.
What really blew my mind about PILI was the special effects (ps. I'd approach PILI with caution if things like strobing/blinking lights affect you adversely). Every scene is highly frenetic and has a whole multitude of different colors dancing on screen to increase the 'feeling' of action/movement. What's especially cool is the way CGI is integrated with the movement of the action figures. The editing on PILI is quite excellent considering the medium being used to portray the story. Some of these doll fights are really quite incredibly, and the more intense scenes where the Dragon Generals teleport at rapid speed to land punches looks like something straight out of your favorite Dragon Ball Z fight scene.
If you're looking for something extremely different and are willing to open your mind, give PILI a good ol' college try if you have Netflix. If you like action, anime, or Asian storytelling you're going to find PILI nothing less than intriguing.
8/10, tempted to give 10/10 just for the ingenuity of the special effects and doll manipulation.
Another dumpsterfire in the "Harry Potter Clone" genre.
Take Hogwarts and imagine Snape was its headmaster, not Dumbledore. Take Hermione Granger and make her the lead protagonist while putting Harry Potter into the sidekick role. Then change the name to Legacies, and there you have it.
Legacies couldn't be anymore cookie cutter if it tried. This is CW's version of SyFy's "Magicians." Unfortunately, CW never got the memo that the "kid-screwed-by-society-discovers-unknown-preternatural-talent-and-subsequently-joins-esoteric-academy-for-mythos-and-magic" genre has been hacked to death, brought back to life by the world's greatest necromancer(Hollywood), and then hacked to death again. Legacies is the conjured up darling corpse of said necromancer, and painfully so.
You can't advance two minutes in any direction of this plot and script without slamming your face into a brick wall of cliches and pandering tripe. It's just a replica of everything you've seen in your favorite fantasy novel: werewolves, vampires, sorcerers, telepaths, superstrengthers, and every other genre mainstay. The problem is that the replica is a poor one, made bland by the cascade of problems that plague CW's other programs, like ridiculously awful dialogue married with poor acting and stiff delivery, or hokey special effects and laughably goofy make up and set designs.
Legacies just was not enjoyable in any aspect for me, and after eight episodes I finally decided that I couldn't take anymore. I found no redeeming qualities whatsoever, nor did I ever get the inclination that "it'll get better, just stick with it" at any point during my attempted binge on Netflix. It was, in no better terms, an epic waste of time.
If you're looking for anything new to watch that resembles the Potter universe, take a trip to Filion and check out The Magicians. Everything about Magicians eclipses Legacies, from the writing to the acting to the effects/editing and world-building. Plus, it's available on the same streaming platform as Legacies (Netflix). The new Sabrina series on Netflix is another good option is as well.
If you are a CW viewer and enjoy their other shows, than it's possible you'll enjoy Legacies. It has identical production values as everything else in CW's lineup and fits well into the channel's overall portfolio. It just wasn't for me. At all.
Also, as an aside, it's time to put this entire "secret school" genre to rest. The best, and last, entry into said genre is "Deadly Class" on SyFy. If you're looking for an extremely dark fantasy twist on the "secret school" genre, Deadly Class is your best bet. Give Legacies a (hall)pass and treat your brain and eyes to something with more heart and smarter writing; you'll be glad you did.
I give it a 3.5/10, 'cuz I liked the school's headmaster/caretaker.
AFK: The Webseries (2015)
Decent genre piece
AFK is great for those who like "The Guild," ".// hack," or even the lamestream anime, "Sword Art Online."
The acting is kind of hokey and the cinematography looks more like the series was shot on a handheld DVR than an actual quality camera. However, the set pieces are actually quite good and evoke a sort of low-budget Game of Thrones charm, and the editing itself isn't horrible. Most of the characters are likable with some notable exceptions, like Brendon the Wizard who always sounds like a quivering, shivering nagging banshee. The plots are also interesting, with each episode revolving itself around the various slanguage MMO gamers use (ie. mob, phat lewtz, inc, ganker, etc.); I was pleasantly surprised at how decent the actual writing was, despite the spattering of cliche dialogue throughout. The show itself has heart and I think could have honestly been a series contender if only it had a bigger production/distribution company behind it. AFK on a Netflix-type budget would kick some serious booty (think Legend of the Seeker).
The show itself is pretty short, spanning 16 episodes in totality with each episode running at a mere 20ish minutes. Short and sweet would probably be the best way to describe AFK.
Anyway, like I said, if you enjoyed the webseries "The Guild," it's almost a given certainty that you'll enjoy "AFK" too.
No Good Nick (2019)
Astin and Joan Hart can't save this average sitcom fare with sub-par writing
No Good Nick is your typical multi-cam sitcom with terrible one liners and scripted/canned laughter, and unfortunately the A-list talent of Astin and former superstar Joan Hart just can't salvage this dumpsterfire.
No Good Nick is about a young woman who cons her way into a family's life by pretending to be a distant relative. Think of Prime's "Sneaky Pete" with less heart and even less smarts. There's "literally" nothing of value in this forced sitcom that you haven't seen a thousand times over if you've ever watched television in the past 20 years. The plot is as predictable as it gets, and every genre cliche is rehashed a hundred times over.
The show itself would be much better if it didn't stick with the live studio format. Canned laughter really just sucks the spirit out of No Good Nick by taking away the potential comedic atmosphere of the show -- nothing really sticks out as being funny because the audience laughs at every little phrase.
No Good Nick is cringe-bingeing at its worst, and at thirty-plus minutes per episode, the sitcom format feels incredibly dragged out. If you're a fan of mindless sitcoms, you might enjoy No Good Nick. If you like Astin or Joan Hart as actors, I'd also recommend avoiding this dungheap unless you want to have your perception of their careers altered. They used to be two of the biggest names in Hollywood, and now they're seemingly clawing for air by being a part of this mess.
4/10, and that's being generous.
Black Summer (2019)
Excellent Apocalyptic Drama
Interesting zombie drama with a Tarantinonian twist (the show is divided into segments, chronological or not). "Black Summer" focuses on the beginning of the end, following different people from different backgrounds as they try and navigate the final days of civilization.
Fans of The Walking Dead's very first season will find resonance with Black Summer. The emphasis is less on toe tagging walkers and more on the way the end times impact those struggling to survive in them. "Good guys" struggle with morality choices that would effectively make them "bad guys," and therein lies one of the show's running narratives: where do the lines between good and bad actually blur? Moral relativism abounds in Black Summer.
The show itself is somewhat of a slow burn, do not expect heaps of intense action and gore. There is plenty of blood spilled in Black Summer, but not in gratuity. The violence depicted is more personal in nature as it stems directly from the choices each character in the show makes. We're not watching Rick Grimes take out a pile of zeds Red Dead Redemption style, we're watching life and death struggles between husbands, wives, siblings and friends.
One of the better apocalypse series out there, Black Summer is definitely worth your time if you're any kind of genre buff.