Ready or Not, Review by Case Wright (Dirs. Matt Bettinelli and Tyler Gillett)


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The will to survive is a strange thing. Why do some people give up their wallet or purse to a mugger freely and others snap and fight to the death? Back in the days when I could jog, I was in Central Park early on a Sunday and a mugger tried to take my little POS MP3 player.  I could’ve done the smart thing and given it up, but something just clicked and I started punching and punching.  His face was total shock and he wandered off.  He wasn’t threatening my life, but it didn’t matter if he were, I would’ve acted the same. And Yes, my 93 tracks ranging from Springsteen to Modest Mouse remain safe to this day.  Ready or Not tests whether Grace (Samara Weaving) has the will to survive and she didn’t even have an ipod to protect.

The people hunting people is almost a sub-genre, but this movie had style.  It’s got horrible and quasi-incompetent murderers, a tough but vulnerable heroine, and lots and lots of BLOOD!

Grace is set to marry into a family of rich asshats who treat her like garbage.  Well, except for Daniel (Adam Brody) the brother of Alex – the groom to be.  Daniel thinks she should leave because she’s too good for his worthless family.  Daniel has a point.  The aunt is a mean spirited jerk and all of the people who enter the family are pretty desperate in one way or the other, making them agreeable to participate in their lethal affairs.

Grace decides to marry Alex anyway even though the family’s shitty personalities are on full-display.  The honeymoon begins and Grace must choose a card because she is entering the family.  A creepy box has a playing card and determines which card; sometimes the game is Chess, Checkers, or Hide and Seek.  If Hide and Seek is chosen, the family will hunt the new entrant to the family and sacrifice him or her to Satan- In-Laws … Am I Right?!!!

Grace picks hide and seek and the game is a foot….dun dun dun! This kicks off a lot of suspense and humor as Grace fights her in-laws to the death.  Grace asks her new husband Daniel why he didn’t warn her that his family is a bunch psycho killers?  His response: You would’ve left me.  Daniel, you suck! We all hate you Daniel…A LOT!

The family hunts Grace all over the estate and she gets hurt and screams….and Screams…AND SCREAMS! Samara Weaving’s screams are THE BEST EVER.  They are a mixture of gutteral staccato and high pitched terror and they are legit real.  All other scream queens before her must hail the new Queen.   Here is an example of Samara’s amazing scream queen skills:

RIGHT?!!!! She’s is legit awesome – a throwback and beyond to the glory days of horror. She’s a mix of vulnerable and badass, cunning and funny, basically she rocks this entire movie! Everyone should go see this movie tonight!

Yes, this review is a little brief, but I don’t want to spoil too much.  Enjoy!

 

“Titans” S1 Ep 10 & 11; “Koriand’r” & “Dick Grayson” Review by Case Wright *Spoilers*


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Do you know the exact moment when you sold your soul?  Or when your soul is forfeit are you so far gone that you don’t notice?

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Dick Grayson started as the damaged hero and ended with nothing.  He’s a tragic hero whose pride destroyed him.  He became seduced to believe that his pain allowed him to decide life and death, causing him to commit the paragon of sins: Patricide.  As you look at the 11 episode arc, you see Dick losing his identity as Robin, and in doing so, he loses his moral compass and his soul.

I reviewed these last two episodes together because they flow as one episode.  It could’ve been titled The Last Temptation of Dick Grayson.  Unfortunately, he made the wrong the decision and we see his soul die. Not only was the story brilliantly written, but these two episodes had a creepy factor that was palpable.  In fact, the story began and ended in a haunted house.

In the previous episode, Starfire starts choking Rachel.  Dick and Donna burst in and Starfire stops, but the damage has been done and Rachel’s mom insists that Starfire leave.  Starfire does and Dick and Donna follow.  Rachel’s mom has successfully separated the group.  We learn that Starfire is an Alien and needs to stop Rachel from unleashing her father Trigon who is basically the Devil.

Rachel has been trying to keep from using her powers because she can’t control them and they seem inherently evil because … well … they are.  Rachel’s mom as it turns out is still all about Trigon AKA Satan and she really wants her some Satan.  In order to do it, she needs to get Rachel to use her evil mojo and pull her dad out of a mirror.  Rachel’s mom accomplishes this by infecting Gar through a haunted mirror.  Rachel’s mom tricks Rachel into pulling her dad out of Hell because only he can save Gar.  Well, she does and Gar is healed by Trigon, but evil is now unleashed upon us.  How did this work?  Rachel was manipulated and seduced.  She knew that her father was likely pretty pretty bad, but she was willing risk us all to help her friend, making the act selfish, but disguised as altruistic.

Dick Grayson enters and he is in his idealized reality, but not all is well.  First of all, he’s in Southern California, which is almost a hell dimension all on its own.  Dawn is his wife and he’s got another baby on the way AND they both have left the hero business behind to pursue a life of….well let’s just assume real estate? They probably have some really cool pictures of themselves on local benches.  In fact, Minka Kelly should really be on ALL advertisements at all times.   

Jason Todd arrives in a wheel chair and informs Dick that Batman has run a muck, killing the villains instead of beating them to near death, which is …. better?   Dick returns to Gotham and is continually manipulated by Satan that Bruce can’t be stopped without killing him.  Dick fights his way through the mansion and upon seeing that Starfire was killed by Batman, he gives into his wrath and commits patricide.  By giving into this final act of evil, Dick becomes Trigon’s minion.  Dick even gets evil eyes, but I didn’t not to use a screen cap of that because it might spoil visually.

These episodes and the season as whole take a deep dive into PTSD and human weakness.  Dick was filled with bitterness and pain and when he burned his Robin suit he also burned the last vestige of his hero identity.  When he kills Bruce, he wasn’t in costume; he was just angry Dick Grayson who wanted to get back at his Dad.  Dick answers the question for us posed at the beginning:  we don’t know when our soul is forfeit because we left all our scruples behind getting to that point, therefore, we become a husk of a human being capable of anything.

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“Titans” S1 Ep 9, “Hawk and Dawn”, Dir Akiva Goldsman


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Anger turned inward is suicidal, but anger turned outward is homicidal.  This episode (Dir Akiva Goldsman) was a story of rage and revenge.  Where do you put all of your anger when self-help groups, drinking, and drugs no longer satisfies the grief?  Revenge.  Revenge is as seductive as heroin and it does not have to be directly done to the individual that wronged you.  Revenge is an idea of retribution distilled into a violent id.

Titans once again challenges us to support primitive justice.  In the not too distant past, blood had to be answered with blood.  In Titans, blood still calls and must be answered.  There is no lawyering up to satiate the desperate pang for revenge.  It is pure.  It is violent.  Honestly, maybe it’s healthier?  Civilized society gives us Justice – the impartial review of the facts to determine legal guilt and reasonable punishment. Vengeance is instant punishment by the aggrieved for the likely guilty.  Vengeance is not civilized, but it is satisfying.  This episode answers the question what does it take for a civilized person to close the door on society’s civilized justice and enter the world of primitive vengeance?

The episode begins with Hank and his brother in football pads filming their first adventure as superheroes.  They are about to beat up a pedophile so that he will plead guilty to his crimes.  Why do they opt for this life?  Hank was sexually abused by his football coach in middle school.  Later, he becomes a football star at his college, but he and his brother get kicked out for fighting.  Without anything, they decide to go after pedophiles and mete out justice in their neighborhood.

Then, we meet Dawn. She is a ballet dancer, daughter to a sophisticated Londoner, BUT her mother is married to an abuser and she keeps going back.  Despite her family’s dirty secret, they remain within the boundaries of the law and society.  We see all of the characters meet moments later.  Hank and his brother and Dawn and her mother all run into each other on the street.  Just as we’re about see the guys become superheroes, a car kills the mom and the brother.

This sends both Dawn and Hank down a spiral of depression and drinking.  In this haze, they find each other, but their anger is just under the surface- Waiting. The loss and the drinking doesn’t send Dawn outside of society. It takes something more for to turn away from society- Intimacy.  No, I don’t mean sex.  I mean real intimacy.  Dawn gets Hank to tell her about the sex abuse he suffered.  She is there for him.  He has undressed himself by sharing his trauma, she can relate to his pain because of her abusive father. Through this shared pain and intimacy, Dawn leaves society and decides to mete out her own justice.  She enters the world of vengeance.

Dawn confronts Hank’s football coach and demands that he turn himself in.  He refuses and a very good fight ensues.  This is what makes this show great.  It’s honest in terms of the physics.  Yes, she lands some solid kicks and punches, BUT he is a large grown man and he makes contact and delivers some ass kicking as well.  In Arrow, we would have to believe that a 100 pound 5’0 lady could beat up four men at the same time.  It always took me out of it.  The fights in Titans are brutal and honest.  To get the upper-hand in this fight, she has to stab the coach in the leg.

Just as the Coach is about to win the fight and kill Dawn, Hank arrives and beats the snot of the Coach.  This is the shared intimacy.  Hank offers to let her leave- that she was never there.  There’s a beat. Then, NO. Right then, she has fully crossed over.  She closes the door of the Coach’s home so they can finish beating him possibly to death.  We watch from a distance as she fully closes the door on us.  The reason is that we are on the outside looking in; Dawn has left our society.  We as the viewer in the comfort of our home and safety and permanently separated from her new life.

When they arrive home, they complete the intimacy by removing all of their clothing and consummating their relationship. They are now both changed.  The story ends with her being roused from coma by Rachel inserting herself into Dawn’s dream.

Greg, you love spin-offs – this is a great one.  Ritchson and Kelly have perfect chemistry; you feel their pain.  The characters and their story is wonderfully dark.  It would be a great addition to the DC Universe as its own series!

 

 

Capsized:Blood in the Water, Review by Case Wright, Dir: Roel Reine’


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Capsized: Blood in the Water- It’s Lifetime with Sharks! I’ve watched Shark Week since I was a wee lad and in all of my years this is the first MOW for Shark Week that didn’t have any narration explaining/teaching about sharks. This was a movie that could’ve just been on Lifetime and it would’ve fit right in if they threw in a creepy babysitter or doctor.

The characters were a crew of five VERY stupid people.  I don’t just mean kinda dumb. I mean they should’ve been monitored in daily life on sea and on land.  Mark (Josh Duhamel) is the captain who makes nothing but bad decisions.  Mark (Joshua Close) is the first mate who is a self-centered alcoholic. Meg (Rebekah Graf) – the captain’s girlfriend who spends most of the film not doing much.  Brad and Deborah who don’t really do much either.

The director does try to build suspense, but all of the character’s decisions are so dumb that it makes you really lose sympathy.  The death scenes are also a little light on the gore.  I know this is a true story and all, but Shark Week- you root for the sharks (at least, I do).

They set sail, which I gotta say is a little weird to me.  I never understood the allure of sailing when wind powered vessels became obsolete since the steam age.  Once at sea, we learn that Mark is a stubborn, alcoholic, and incompetent first mate.  He drinks himself into a stupor so they miss the storm warning.  Meg is supposed to go to safe place down below during the storm, but she ignores everyone and gets injured.  Eventually, this injury is both life threatening and attract LOTS of sharks. Then, they get the storm warning, but John ignores the Coast Guard’s instructions to stay put, causing them to get capsized.

They manage to get a raft, but don’t go into it and attract lots of sharks with Meg’s open wound.  Why don’t they go inside the raft? Who knows?  John tries to apply a tourniquet to Meg’s wound, but Mark tells everyone that Meg gonna die anyway and starts fighting everyone.  John goes nuts and starts swimming for a mirage and gets eaten.  Mark gets the great idea to drink the ocean.  I say, Let Mark Be Mark! Drink That Water! Fly Mark Fly! Live Your Saltwater Drinking Truth!

Of course, the saltwater makes Mark go crazier and he tries to knock the boat over.  Mark falls out of the boat and we watch him slowly get eaten, but not enough really.  This is just too light on the gore for me. I want some Giallo levels of gore, but nope. I gotta wonder if IRL Mark really fell out of the boat.  Hmmmm.

They remain adrift for a long long long time more and Meg succumbs to her wound and the last two survivors toss her out of the raft as we see a shark coming up to I guess her remains… we don’t know for sure because they don’t show it.  UGHHH.

The Coast Guard stops looking for them and the last two survivors decide to flip the raft over because there’s water in the boat, which is making them cold, but they were adrift for over a week- how didn’t it dry out? A Russian freighter finds them, but as they swim for the boat Deb gets tire and Brad’s like – Sucks to be you! He eventually decides to help her, but that was coooold blooded.

I enjoyed this.  It was Lifetime on the waves.

 

Titans, S1 Ep7 & 8, Asylum, Donna Troy Review By Case Wright,


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The asylum episode really didn’t have a lot going on.  Rachel’s mother is in an asylum and they rescue her. Rachel thought her mom was dead. Nope, just held hostage at the Evil Well-funded Psyche unit?  Sidenote: this psyche unit looks better funded than anything we have goin on in Seattle and we have a terrible homelessness problem.

Maybe, The Evil Group could franchise or just run our city for a couple of years?  The Evil Group catches Dick and mind messes with him and he burns his Robin suit.  That’s about it.  Nothing great.   Basically, it was a filler episode.

Donna Troy on the other hand is a fun episode.  Donna Troy was Wonder Woman’s sidekick and we dig deeper into that history.  It’s a lot more fun and goes deep into the inevitable PTSD heroes would have after years of violence.

The show opens back in Toronto…I mean Chicago.  Rachel and her mom have bonded overnight.  Really?! You haven’t seen her in…your whole life AND thought she was dead and you’re besties?! Word?

Dick’s “quit” … well kinda.  He can’t figure out what to do with himself.  So, he and Starfire break up and he heads to…..Vancouver..I guess.  Anywho, Donna Troi AKA Wonder Girl AKA Darkstar AKA My Canadian Girlfriend…I swear! She hasn’t quit, but she is a photographer.  I really didn’t know that was a photographer was a thing anymore.  I figured that it was de-professionalized like journalism by the internet and the iPhone.

Meanwhile, Starfire and the rest of the group are traveling to Rachel’s mom’s farmhouse in the middle of nowhere.  They get on a train and are nearly captured by the feds.

Dick is at Wonder Girl’s photography artshow and everything is normal.  Just kidding, she’s made a Faustian deal to get hard edged photos of warlords for a fee.  As you do.  She goes to meet some evil guys for a photo shoot, but Dick follows her and he sees the evil dudes and beats the crap out of them.  Donna is also quite the linguist and translates the pictures of an ancient language on Dick’s phone that will explain Rachel and her origin.  FUN!!!

She gets through to him that Dick not done with being a hero, but he is done with Robin.  Soon, he’ll be …. Nightwing!!!! Can’t wait!!!  Dick and Troi do some research on the texts and decide to head to the farmhouse.  Somehow they know the address and start heading on down.

Dick and Troi are still enroute and don’t think to give Rachel a ring.  At the farmhouse, Rachel does a mindmeld on Starfire.  BAD IDEA! She uncovers Starfire’s mission and identity to her.  Unfortunately for Rachel, Starfire’s mission is to kill Rachel and stop her from bringing about the gotterdammerung. Starfire wakes and starts choking Rachel!!!  SO EXCITING!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jungle Boogie: Ed Wood’s THE BRIDE AND THE BEAST (Allied Artists 1958)


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Reincarnation and past lives were popular themes in the 1950’s, mainly because of the success of THE SEARCH FOR BRIDEY MURPHY, which spawned a host of imitators. One of these was THE BRIDE AND THE BEAST, a bizarre take on the theme written by the legendary (for all the wrong reasons!) Edward D. Wood, Jr. In this incarnation of the reincarnation subject, we find a pretty young bride who improbably discovers she was once a fierce jungle gorilla!

Big Game Hunter Lance Fuller and his new wife Charlotte Austin are honeymooning at his stately manor. She finds out he’s keeping a gorilla named Spanky in the basement to be shipped to a zoo, and gets a ‘sinister urge’ (sorry!) to see it. Charlotte goes ape over Spanky, and he obviously digs her, too. But worried Lance warns her to keep her paws off the big ape because he’s dangerous.

Later that…

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Stranger Things, S3, Ep 5,6,7,8, Spoiler Review by Case Wright


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I am reviewing these four episodes as a block because only 25 minutes mattered combined.  In fact, the show rapidly devolved into gross out scenes, cartoonish hijinks, cartoonish Russians, and a terrible song and dance number duo….really.  The only way this season could get rave reviews is if the reviewer binged the show and was too tired to analyze it.  I get it- you’re around your friend(s), your girlfriend is virtual, and you can barely afford your Brooklyn apartment on your blogger salary; however, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be critical of a show that really should just go away.

I’m adding on to my review here to discuss what makes Stranger Things so terrible now.  This series was heavily influenced by Stephen King and likely Salem’s Lot because of the repeated Vampire monsters.  More importantly, season 1 was great for the same reason that Stephen King’s stories are great- It’s not about the monster in the house; it’s about how the people are living in house with a monster.  These are your neighbors and now have to deal with something beyond reality and that was exactly what Stranger Things Season 1 was about.  There is one other theme that make Stephen King’s stories terrifying: it’s not Randall Flagg, the Werewolves, The Clowns; it’s about people who are supposed to be caring for you, but in fact do not.  This theme is in nearly every Stephen King book and it was present in Stranger Things Season 1.  El called Evil Modine “Papa” even though he was an abusive kidnapper who didn’t think anything more about El than a piece of lab equipment.  The series now has left all those themes behind to become a husk.

The last four episodes broke discretely into three distinct and equally boring and poorly executed quests: 1) Joyce, Hop, Alexi, and Weirdo try to destroy the machine opening the gate. 2) Dustin, Erica, Steve, and Robin try to escape the bunker and annoy everyone. 3) The original gang drag El around so she can get her ass beat.

Episodes 4 – 7:  Joyce and Hop go through town looking for answers and end up kidnapping a Russian engineer – Alexi.  They take him to the creepy weird guy from last season and without any story arc Alexi is all in to help.  He gives them schematics to infiltrate the Starcourt Mall underground bunker and how to destroy the machine.  Why does Alexi do all this? Who knows?  It’s a good thing Alexi is so detailed because he dies later and it doesn’t matter.  But, we do get A LOT of corny banter and goofy car scenes:

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Hop steals this car in the most corny and unrealistic way possible.  It’s corny, but it makes up for it by being cartoonish and boring.  There are A LOT of scenes where they are driving around and mostly Joyce yells a lot at Hop and Hop yells at Joyce for roughly 38 times.  It’s really dull.  They manage to infiltrate the base eventually try to destroy the machine.  Do they make it?  We have to get through many many pratfalls to find out .. wakka wakka wakka.

Dustin, Erica, Steve, and Robin infiltrate the base…..and Steve and Robin get caught right away.  This could have been a great suspenseful plot point, but instead we get hijinks!!! A goofy Russian General who makes this face a lot:

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This “torture” sequence goes on for a long long long while and really goes nowhere, which is especially disappointing because there were a couple of episodes that had real suspense.  Instead now, we get this comic book torture guy:

It’s really goofy.  It’s like the Duffer Brothers couldn’t figure out if this show was horror, comedy, or just paint by numbers garbage.  Dustin manages to bust Robin and Steve out because that’s super believable after making Dustin the LEAST physical of the bunch for 2.8 seasons.

El and the gang start to battle with the least effective monster ever.  For a Big Bad Vampire monster, it can’t see very well, it has a vague agenda, and it’s unclear what can actually kill it until the penultimate episode, which sets up Hop’s likely death.  Yes, it looks gross:

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BUT it’s REALLY REALLY bad at finding and killing things that matter.

They, of course, manage to kill off the big bad, but that was never really in doubt.  What was amazing is how the writers derailed the story in favor of WACKINESS!

The “scary” general goofs around A LOT:

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So funny how it derails the suspense. Sigh.

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Above: a not funny joke was made. They laughed for a very long time.  The person on the right is Alexis.  He dies and it doesn’t matter.

The big fight with the big bad where Hop gets sacrificed: the show ruined itself.  It didn’t just go for wackiness; it stalled the epic last monster fight scene where everyone is about to die for a no kidding Song and Dance sequence- REALLY!

I remember when this song sequence started because I was young man with two newborns.  When it ended, I was sending my girls off to college.  The third picture? Yep, that’s a split screen singing moment.  It …. just….kept… going.  I was really rooting for the Monster.

Did the first four episodes give me hope? Yes, but that hope and good will was squandered by plain old corny scenes and cartoonish sequences.  Maybe, we all entered  the upside down because there is no way a third season like this should have made it to daylight without all laws of physics and reason being reversed.

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