Here’s The Trailer for Rim of the World


So, apparently, the plot of this Netflix film is that the aliens have invaded and only a group of children can save us.

In other words, humanity is screwed.

Anyway, I guess this is kind of like Stranger Things meets Independence Day.  It was directed by McG and you can tell the audience that this film has been made for by the fact that the trailer describes McG as being the director of The Babysitter instead of the director of Terminator: Salvation.

I have to admit that I’m always kind of amused by the fact that people actually call the director “McG.”  I know, I know …. it’s a childhood nickname, like Beto.  Still, it’s always a little hard for me not to smile whenever I hear anyone casually talk about “McG” in an interview.  I remember listening to that infamous Christian Bale rant from the Terminator set and thinking that Bale sounded like a rather unpleasant person to work with.  But then Bale said something like, “McG, are you going to say something?” and I just started laughing.

Anyway, here’s the trailer.  It’s a Netflix film so I guess it will be streaming sometime in May.  Have you noticed recently that Netflix seems to be kind of obsessed with the end of the world?  I guess they’re hoping to reinfect us with some of that Bird Box fever.

I Watched The Phenom


The Phenom is a movie that really took me by surprise.

It’s about a pitcher named Hopper Gibson (Johnny Simmons), a kid just out of high school who has a 100 mile fastball and a big future in major league baseball.  However, after a promising start, Hopper is struggling.  He has control issues.  He’s throwing wild pitches.  He’s losing games.  The team finally sends Hopper to see Dr. Mobley (Paul Giamatti), a sports psychologist who say that he can help Hopper regain his focus.

Hopper has a lot to deal with.  He’s still just a teenager but he feels like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders.  He promised his mom that he’d buy her a new house and, at the same time, the press is constantly hounding him and demanding that he give them a good quote every time that he loses a game.  Meanwhile, Hopper’s father (Ethan Hawke), who has always put tremendous pressure on his son, is failed ball player himself and a drug dealer.  Hopper finds himself torn between two philosophies, his father’s belief that winning is the only thing that matter and Dr. Mobley’s more gentle approach to the game.  The problem is that, with everyone wanting someone from him, Hopper doesn’t know who he can trust.

The Phenom is a baseball movie and the main character is a pitcher but hardly any of the action takes place on the mound.  Instead, most of the movie takes place in either Dr. Mobley’s office or in Hopper’s head.  The Phenom does a good job of showing the type of daily pressure that Hopper is living under.  All of his life, everyone has told Hopper that he has a special gift and now, he’s so scared of not living up to his potential that he can’t get the ball across the plate.  At the same time, the film is also critical about the the emphasis that society puts on celebrities and professional athletes.  While Hopper goes into the major leagues straight out of high school, his valedictorian girlfriend struggles to pay for college.  Because Hopper can throw a fastball, no one has ever cared about whether or not he actually got an education.  But what’s going to become of Hopper and all the professional athletes like him when they can no longer play the game?  Hopper is a kid who was always told that he would never have to grow up and now, he’s expected to make adult decisions about the rest of his life.

Johnny Simmons does a really good job playing Hopper and the film really makes you think about the pressure that society puts on professional athletes to constantly win.  Most people can get away with having a bad day but, if a pitcher or a quarterback does it, the whole world wants their head.  The next time I want to yell at whoever’s pitching for the Rangers, I’m going to remember Hopper and this movie.

The Phenom was directed and written by Noah Buschel and it is currently streaming on Netflix.

Film Review: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile (dir by Joe Berlinger)


Early on in the new Netflix film, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile, there’s a scene in which Liz Kendall (Lily Collins) and her sister, Joanna (Angela Sarafyan) go to a bar.  Through some rather heavy-handed dialogue, we learn that Liz has just broken up with her boyfriend, that she has next to zero self-confidence, and that she’s a single mother.  She doesn’t think that there’s a man anywhere who would be interested in her.  Joanna responds by pointing out that there’s one man who appears to be very interested.  In fact, he hasn’t taken his eyes off of Liz since they entered the bar.

That man’s name is Ted (Zac Efron) and, at first, he seems like he’s too good to be true.  He’s charming.  He’s a law student.  He appears to love spending time with Liz’s daughter.  He looks like Zac Efron.  Perfect, right?

Of course, we know something that Liz doesn’t.  We know that Ted is Ted Bundy and that, eventually, he’s going to become one of America’s notorious serial killers, a symbol of evil so potent that, more than 30 years after he was executed by the state of Florida, he continues to get movies made about him.

Because we know who and what Ted is, we spend the first fourth of the movie cringing at everything that makes Liz happy.  For instance, Liz is shocked to discover that Ted apparently loves her daughter but we’re just like, “Oh my God, that’s Ted Bundy!  GET YOUR DAUGHTER AWAY FROM TED BUNDY!”  Liz thinks it’s romantic when Ted makes breakfast for her but we’re just staring at the big kitchen knife in his hand.  When Liz and Ted make love, only we notice the blank look on Ted’s face as he looks down at Liz and we find ourselves wondering what’s happening in his mind.

The film is told largely through Liz’s eyes and, with one exception, we never see Bundy actually committing any of his crimes.  (That’s a good thing, by the way.  We already know who Ted Bundy was and what he did.  There’s no need to sensationalize the very real pain that he caused.)  Like Liz, we find out about Bundy’s crimes through news reports and arrest records.  For instance, when Bundy is arrested for attempted kidnapping in Utah, Liz doesn’t find out about it until a story appears in the local Seattle newspaper.  When Liz demands to know why he didn’t tell her what was happening, Bundy gives her a bullshit story about how he’s being framed and how his lawyer is going to get the case thrown out.  We know that Ted’s lying but Liz believes him because …. what else is she going to do?  Is she going to believe that this perfect man who seems to love both her and her daughter is actually a sociopathic monster?

The film follows Bundy from one trial to another, as he’s charged with crimes across country.  It shows how this superficially charming law student became something of a media celebrity.  (When a reporter asks him if he’s guilty, Bundy grins and asks if the reporter is referring to a comic book that he stole when he was in the fifth grade.)  Bundy escapes.  Bundy is arrested.  Bundy escapes again.  Bundy eventually ends up being tried in Florida, where he revels in the attention.  When Liz loses faith in him, Bundy replaces her with an unstable woman named Carole Ann (Kayla Scodelario).  However, even while Carole Ann is dutifully delivering statements from Bundy to the press, Bundy is still calling Liz and begging her to believe that he’s innocent and he’ll soon be freed from prison.

Why is it so important to Bundy that Liz believe in him?  Is he just entertaining himself by manipulating her or, in his relationship with her, does he see the type of normalcy that he desires but knows he’s incapable of ever achieving?  Towards the end of the film, Liz comes close to asking Bundy if he was planning on killing her the first night that they met.  She doesn’t and it’s doubtful that Bundy would have given an honest answer but it’s still a question that hangs over every minute of this film (as does Liz’s physical resemblance to the majority of Bundy’s victims).

Though the film may be told from Liz’s point of view, she’s often comes across as just being a meek bystander, watching as the darkness of Ted Bundy envelops her world.  The film itself seems to be far more interested in Ted Bundy and his twisted celebrity.  Zac Efron plays Bundy as someone who knows how to be charming and who is good enough at imitating human emotions that he’s managed to keep the world from noticing that he’s essentially hollow on the inside.  Bundy has gotten so used to acting out a role that, even when he’s on trial for his life, he can’t resist the temptation to turn the courtroom into his own stage.  He demands to defend himself and, though he initially proves himself to be a good lawyer, his demands and his questions become progressively more flamboyant and self-destructive.  It’s as if he’s gotten so caught up in playing his role that he’s incapable of recognizing the reality of his situation.  He performs for the jury, the judge, and the television audience, treating the whole thing as if he’s just a character in a movie.  It’s only when he has no choice but to accept that he’s been caught and he’s never going to escape that Bundy finally shows some human emotion.  He cries but his tears are only for himself.  It’s a chilling performance and Zac Efron deserves every bit of praise that he’s received.

Unfortunately, the film itself doesn’t really tell us anything that we didn’t already know.  Director Joe Berlinger is best-known as a documentarian and he talks a “just the facts” approach to the story.  We don’t really get any insight into how a monster like Ted Bundy could come to exist.  Outside of Efron’s revelatory performance, there’s not much here that couldn’t be found in any of the other films that have been made about Ted Bundy.

(Interestingly enough, as I watched the film, it occurred to me that Ted Bundy was a monster who could have only thrived in a pre-Internet age.  For all the books and movies that portray him as being some sort of cunning genius, Bundy actually wasn’t that smart.  He approached two of early his victims in a public place and introduce himself as being “Ted,” usually within earshot of a handful of witnesses.  He was so brazen that the police even ended up with a sketch that pretty much looked exactly like him.  In all probability, the only way that Ted Bundy avoided getting arrested in Seattle was that he moved to Utah, where his crimes were unknown and the sketch wasn’t readily available.  Today, of course, that sketch and Ted’s name would be on Twitter and Facebook as soon as they were released by the police.  My friend Holly would probably retweet the sketch and say, “Do your thing, twitter!”  He would have been identified and arrested in just a matter of time.  Instead, Bundy committed his crimes at a time when news traveled slower and law enforcement agencies were not in constant communication with each other.)

The good news is that Extremely Wicked is not, as some feared, a glorification of Ted Bundy.  He’s a monster throughout the entire film.  Zac Efron proves himself to be a far better actor than anyone’s ever really given him credit for being.  It’s a flawed film but, at the very least, it’s also a disturbing reminder that sometimes, darkness hides behind the greatest charm.

 

 

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S2, Ep6, The Missionaries, Review by Case Wright


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This is the first time in a long time where I rooted for the “villains” to kill off every character.  It’s a hard thing to watch a show you love slowly fail.  It’s like a bad relationship that slouches on from inertia and the inconvenience of setting up a separate bank account.  This is how I feel about CAOS.  I was really hoping that this episode would be the last one, but….not so much.

I would normally describe the director’s technique, but it’s Alex Pillai again and…man it has all the subtlety of a Lifetime MOW.  Not to say that I don’t REALLY like a good guilty pleasure lifetime live tweet, BUT that’s a different animal.  Lifetime movies are supposed to be campy and over the top ridiculous, but CAOS is supposed to bridge comics and realism and instead it’s just giggle-inducing borefest.

The episode opens with Nick being tortured by a guy who looks like a Mormon missionary who is about to chop his hands off.  Oh well, Nick kinda got on my nerves; maybe they’ll have to write a soupy episode featuring Nick titled: Who needs the clap?  Ambrose is still locked up without a shirt doing pull-ups.  This show has more gratuitous beefcake than Arrow season 1 and that is saying A LOT!  I do give Chance Perdomo credit on his abs.  I’m developing my abs and it is a process.  Chance, tip of the hat to committing to the shred!

The “Missionaries”of the episode aren’t really missionaries per se, but they ARE gorgeous blonde angels named Jerathmiel and Mehitable (Spencer Treat Clark and Bayley Corman)! I guess it makes sense that angels would be pretty, but WHOA!  It turns out these angels are avenging angels armed with the latest in …..Ancient Weaponry… wait, what?!  Why?!  Really, why are they armed with crossbows?  Most states just require a driver’s license to purchase any gun you want; let alone what you can get on craigslist.  This just seemed unnecessarily antiquated and dumb like really dumb….really!  Crossbows are heavy, awkward, take a long time load, hard to aim, and are ridiculous.  Bleh.

Jerathmiel and Mehitable spent most of the episode blundering through town trying to kill all of the witches of Greendale.  Why bother?  We already learned in previous episodes that the teenagers are unvaccinated and catch the Chicken Pox.  Just send in Jenny MacArthy’s measles carrying minions into town and you’ll have the whole town on its knees in matter of hours!

Jerathmiel and Mehitable catch most of the witches and start purifying the town.  I guess this says a lot about how the show has degraded because I really rooted for the Angels.  I thought to myself…Self, maybe they could just go full-on Hamlet?!!!!

This main plot is interwoven with the more compelling love story between Wardwell and Adam.  He wants to take her to Tibet.  She is about to accept when the Devil finds out about their escape plan, so the Devil turns Adam in Wardwell’s diner.  REALLY.  It’s really sad, but sets up a great revenge arc for Wardwell that looks MUCH more interesting than the primary storyline.

Jerathmiel and Mehitable have all the witches cornered and even put a few arrow bolts into Sabrina, but the Devil resurrects Sabrina and gets the Angels to renounce God and envelopes the angels in flames.  Honestly, I thought this scene was just plain terrible.  The angels spent the whole episode being intrepid crusaders, but they were easily cowed by a floating Sabrina?!  Really?! It came across as contrived.  The angels were so brave for the entire episode and then… nope.  It was just awful in an awful way, not like Lifetime which is bad in an AWESOME way.

I’m not sure what the show should do or where it should go, but it needs artistic honesty because without it, the suspense withers away like a dried out orange.

 

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S2 E5, “Blackwood” (Dir: Alex Pillai) Review By Case Wright


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First of all, it’s always so fun to read Lisa’s reviews.   I hope she wants to review another one of these episodes.  She always sees things that I don’t like HERE!!!! and HERE!!!!.  It has been a true pleasure working with/for her over these years.  This series is making me already plan for my October reviews!!!  Weren’t they awesome last October?! Yes…Yes…They were.

Is this season getting better? Yes, but that’s mostly because the first episode of the second season was so very unsatisfying and disappointing. The series seems to be evolving into a Tales From The Crypt over the top fest.  I loved TFTC, but that’s not what I expected Sabrina to become.  I saw this series as a scary in your face we’re mad as hell at the patriarchy and we’re not gonna take it anymore!  The feminism is still there, but it really hits you over the head with its agenda ….every….single…episode; It comes across as a PSA sometimes.  When done right, like last season, you root for the agenda, but now I’m lectured by it.  It’s kind of annoying when you already agree.

This episode was directed by Alex Pillai (Riverdale) and he did a fine paint by numbers job with the episode.  It got the job done….fine, not great, but definitely fine like the Chicago Cubs in the 2000s or Two Buck Chuck (Charles Shaw).  The episode was all about marriage, the loss of feminine identity, and misogyny…lots and lots of misogyny.  Really, this Church of Night is a bunch of knuckle dragging dirtbags.  I get the whole- we’re evil bit, but it doesn’t really work all the time.  The characters are mostly strong women and the constant subjugation that the Church imposes seems kinda silly that anyone would put up with it let alone these powerful heroines.   Also, the constant “for Hell’s Sake” “Your Unholiness” “Your Dishonor” just makes me laugh;  I look like loon when I’m on the elliptical watching this.

In the episode, Aunt Z is getting married and she’s all jittery and worried about being exposed for stealing one of the Blackwood babies.  Also, Father Blackwood is going full-on misogynist pig. He wants the church of night to go back to its old ways of chauvinism.  His plan is to write up the basic philosophy and give it to the Anti-Pope (Ray Wise). (Side Note: God, I love Ray Wise.  He’s awesome in everything he does and was the best devil ever in Reaper. Unfortunately, he’s only in the show for a couple of minutes.) Sabrina catches wind of Blackwood’s Misogynist plan because Ambrose tells her .

The Solution: Sabrina gets her Dad’s manifesto that’s all women and men are equal, witches should marry mortals, and powertrain warranties are bullshit.  Sabrina has Nick retrieve it from the bottom of the sea.  Just as the Anti-Pope will read it, Father Blackwood has him murdered and frames Ambrose for it!!! DUN DUN DUN!!!!  Basically, all of Sabrina’s plans fail: Aunt Z and Blackwood marry, Blackwood has Aunt Z walk behind him (bleh), Ambrose is jailed, Sabrina and Nick are expelled, and Aunt Hilda becomes lactose intolerant.  Bad all the way around.

I normally don’t get into subplots, but spring is in the air.  Ms Wardwell and Adam are falling in love. It’s really sweet.  She explains that marriage is a complete destruction of a woman’s identity. Wardwell looks at Adam expecting a fight, but instead he accepts her, her values, and just wants to be with her. It’s …well….sweet.  I was a bit moved.  Satan gets jealous and wants her to kill him, but instead she makes him a ring of protection.  I hope these crazy kids make it work.

The show is moving in the right direction, but the show seems to collapse under its own weight sometimes.  It has these big themes and plots, but can’t quite deliver them this season because of the campiness, clunky dialogue, and endless subplots that grind the suspense and gravitas to dust.  Maybe this is the way Riverdale is?  I never wanted to watch that show and now I really don’t want to.  My guess is that season 1 was Ruth Chris Steakhouse and season 2 is Red Robin and yes I did get food poisoning from them once.

 

Here’s The Trailer For See You Yesterday!


The trailer for See You Yesterday dropped earlier on Monday.  Originally, there was some confusion on twitter because someone said that this was Spike Lee’s newest movie, which led to others assuming that Lee had directed the film.  Actually, Lee served as the film’s producer while Stefon Bristol is making his feature directing debut.  (According to the imdb, Bristol previously directed a handful of short films.  In fact, See You Yesterday appears to be an expansion on a short film that Bristol wrote and directed in 2017.)

Judging from the trailer, See You Yesterday appears to combine science fiction with social commentary.  Two African-American teens discover the secret of time travel and attempt to save the life of their brother, who was previously gunned down by a member of the NYPD.  However, it appears that changing the past is just as difficult as changing the present.  It also appears that there’s only a limited number of times that they can travel through time.  I’m intrigued by the concept.  If Bristol manages to strike the right balance between entertainment and commentary, this has the potential to be a powerful film.

See You Yesterday will be released on May 17th.  Here’s the trailer:

Remembering Avicii: Avicii: True Stories (dir by Levan Tsikurishvili)


It was a year ago today that we learned of the passing of Tim Bergling, who was better known as Avicii.  For those of us who loved Avicii’s music and who followed him throughout not only his career but also through his multiple health issues and his widely publicized retirement from touring, the loss of Avicii is one that we have yet to recover from.

On this sad anniversary, I’m thinking about the first time that I watched Avicii: True Stories on Netflix.  This documentary, which covered the majority of Avicii’s career — from his rise to his eventual retirement, was released in Europe six months before his death.  In the U.S., it was released on Netflix on December 14th, 2018.  It’s not always an easy documentary to watch but I recommend it to anyone who loved Avicii’s music or to anyone who is just curious about the pressures that go with being a star.

Featuring interviews with not only Avicii but also his collaborators, the film follows Avicii as he quickly goes from being just being one of the many people posting remixes on online forums to being one of the top and most important DJs in the world.  We watch as Avicii maintains a hectic schedule of nonstop touring, often sacrificing both his physical and mental health in the process.  Avicii ends up in the hospital, suffering from acute pancreatitis.  Later, he again ends up in the hospital, this time to have both his appendix and his gall bladder removed.  The film makes no attempt to hide the decadence that goes along with touring but, in its best moments, it also highlights the conflict that arises from having to be both Tim Bergling, an anxious young man who finds a much-needed escape in music, and Avicii, the superstar who has to be on every night.

When we first meet Tim, he seems young and hopeful and enthusiastic.  Halfway through the film, an exhaustion starts to creep into his voice and, by the end of the film, he’s become far more world-weary.  As we watch Tim struggle with the weight of being Avicii, we’re also aware of the people around him, whose careers and finances are pretty much dependent on making sure that Tim never stops being Avicii, regardless of how much damage it does to him mentally and physically.  Throughout it all, one thing remains consistent and that is Tim’s love of music.  It’s only when creating and talking about music that Tim seems to be truly happy.  It’s his escape from a world that often seems like it’s conspiring to swallow him whole.

The film ends on what should have been a happy note.  Tim announces his retirement from touring and the film ends with him, in good spirits, on a beautiful beach.  Tim seems like he’s finally found some happiness and a chance at the inner peace that stardom often denied him.  Beyond a title card (which was added for the film’s U.S. release), Avicii: True Stories does not deal with Tim’s death but it still haunts every minute of the film.  Watching this documentary, it’s impossible not to mourn what the world lost when it lost Tim Bergling.  The film stands as both a tribute to his talent and a portrait of a good and likable man struggling to escape his demons.

Tim “Avicii” Bergling, rest in peace.