Stranger Things, S03,Ep4, Review By Case Wright


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Episode 4 had a lot going on.  It’s like the show doesn’t know how to maintain suspense from one episode to the next.  The previous episode had nothin goin on and this one was like 10 pound sausage in a 5 pound bag.  This is actually a pretty good season and the creators know that they peaked in the first season because of the incessant flashback clips to season 1.

We open with Heather and Mullet-Renfield setting up her parents to be disgustingly consumed/converted by the Monster Vampire- It’s Gross!  Of course, after following the NXIVM case, maybe we should let the Vampire Monster win?  Are we really that great that ya know we DESERVE to live.

This season is all about breaking up, reuniting, and moving on.  Dustin is breaking away and making older friends.  I’m pretty sure that Will is about to come out- Good for Him and good for the show!

Speaking of Dustin, he, Robin, and Steve are trying really hard to infiltrate the Russian mall area and they recruit Erica (Sister of Lucas) to do it.  I gotta write that she was a scene stealer.  It’s clear to me that she could be a huge star.  Erica fits through the air vents, which are actually normal sized- Good work set department.  When they enter the secret room, they hit a BAD button and they accidentally go DEEP underground.

Hop and Joyce are on the hunt for information and they get it by beating the snot out of a very smarmy Mayor (Carey Elwes) we learn that he was on the take with the Russians, the Russians own the mall, and they are buying up most of the town.  Evil Mall, Evil Russians, Evil Food Court!

The kids get back together to do battle with Mullet-Renfield.  They surmise that because the creature likes cold, they will lock Mullet-Renfield in the pool sauna.  And…. it kinda works?  They manage to activate Mullet-Guy into a vampire drone, but El, unlike previous seasons, gets her ass beat.  It’s brutal.  She does throw Mullet-guy through a wall, but why do this anyway?  Did they really need to prove his guilt?  They could’ve just followed him back to his evil lair and he wouldn’t have known they were on them.  The problem they all took their stupid pills off camera. Kids yesterday?

It would seem that we have reached a major Arc Spin-around.  It would make sense for all the heroes to lose a lot soon.  Hop will probably lose his job, Mullet-Renfield has amassed an army for the Sticky Vampire Monster, The Russians are evilling, and Dustin, Robin, Erica and Steve are going down a mineshaft.

Side plot: Creeper and Nancy get fired from the paper by the converted Editor, but she will keep pursuing the story …. for some reason.  Nancy, why not just go to community college? What are wasting your time for?  Is this Barb guilt?

It’s looking grim, BUT this is a good thing.  This season is actually keeping my interest and has real suspense even if the episodes themselves are uneven.  I’m not sure the series deserves another season yet; so, I’m hoping they give some closure this season.

 

“Going All Kanye On You”: New Year’s Eve (dir by Garry Marshall)


“New Year’s Eve is the worst, people who don’t drink or party all year suddenly going all Kanye on you.”

That line was delivered by Ashton Kutcher in the 2011 film, New Year’s Eve.  Seven years ago, when the film was first released, I thought it was an awkward line, partially because Ashton Kutcher sounded like he was drowning in self-loathing when he said it and partially because the sudden reference to Kanye West felt like something that would be considered clever by 60-something screenwriter who had just spent a few hours scanning twitter to see “what the kids are into nowadays.”

(Of course, hearing the line in 2018 was an even stranger experience.  People who don’t drink or party all year suddenly going all Kanye on you?  So, they’re putting on red MAGA caps and spending New Year’s Eve tweeting about prison reform?  True, that’s the way a lot of people celebrated in my part of the world but I’m not sure how exactly that would play out in Times Square.)

In New Year’s Eve, Kutcher plays a character named Randy.  Randy is a comic book artist, which means that he’s snarky and cynical and doesn’t really see the point of celebrating anything.  Fortunately, he gets trapped in an elevator with Elise (Lea Michele) and, with her help, he comes to learn that New Year’s Eve is not the worst.  Instead, it’s the most important holiday ever created and, if you don’t think so, you’re worse than the devil.

Fortunately, Hillary Swank is present to make sure that we all get the point.  Swank plays Claire Morgan, who is in charge of making sure that the ball drops at exactly the right moment at Times Square and who gets a monologue where she explains that the purpose of the ball is to make you think about both the past and the future.  As she explains it, the world comes together one night a year, all so everyone can watch that ball drop.  Apparently, if the ball doesn’t drop, the new year doesn’t actually start and everyone is trapped in a timeless limbo, kind of like Iron Man at the end of Avengers: Infinity War.

Of course, there’s more going on in New Year’s Eve than just Randy taking Kanye’s name in vain and Claire refusing the accept that Times Square is not the center of the universe.  There’s also an old man (Robert De Niro) who wants to time his death so he passes right at the start of the new year.  Sarah Jessica Parker plays the mother of frustrated teenager Abigail Breslin and gets to make a “girls gone wild” joke.  (A Kanye reference and a girls gone wild joke in the same film?  It’s like a pop culture tsunami!)  Michelle Pfeiffer tries to accomplish all of her new year’s resolutions with the help of Zac Efron.  Halle Berry worries about her husband (Common) , who is serving overseas.  Josh Duhamel searches for a woman who once told him that his heart was more important than his business.  Seth Meyers and Jessica Biel compete with Til Schweiger and Sarah Paulson to see who can be the family of the first child born in the new year.  Jon Bon Jovi thinks about the woman that he nearly married and Katherine Heigl wonders if she’s ever going to have a career again.  In other words, New Year’s Eve is an ensemble piece, one in which a bunch of slumming Oscar winners and overachieving TV actors step into small roles.  It leads to some odd pairings.  De Niro, for instance, shares scenes with Alyssa Milano while Sofia Vergara and Ludacris are both relegated to playing sidekicks.  Michael Bloomberg, New York’s then-mayor and general threat to civil liberties everywhere, also shows up, playing himself with the type of smarminess that already has many people dreading the prospect of his 2020 presidential campaign.  This is one of those films where everyone has a familiar face but no one makes much of an impression.

New Year’s Eve was directed by the late Garry Marshall and it’s the second film in his so-called holiday trilogy, sitting right between Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.  By most accounts, Garry Marshall was a nice guy and popular in the industry, which perhaps explains why so many familiar faces were willing to sign up to appear in New Year’s Eve.  Though the film is ruthlessly mediocre, it’s actually the best of the holiday trilogy.  For all the schmaltz and forced sentiment, one gets the feeling that the film actually is sincere in its belief in the importance of that ball dropping in Times Square.

I remember that, when New Year’s Eve was first released, a lot of people joked that Marshall was going to make an ensemble romantic comedy about every single holiday, all with the hope that at least one of them would eventually become a television perennial in the style of It’s A Wonderful Life or The Ten Commandments.  Interestingly, that’s exactly what happened with New Year’s Eve.  Yesterday, E! aired New Year’s Eve three times, back-to-back!  For better or worse, this film is probably going to outlive us all, ensuring that, in the far future, viewers will spend New Year’s Eve asking themselves, “What’s a kanye?”

Film Review: Billionaire Boys Club (dir by James Cox)


Have patience.  This is kind of a long story.

Billionaire Boys Club, a fact-based film about two murders that occurred back in the greed and cocaine-filled 80s, was first announced in 2010.  After five years of pre-production, the film started shooting in 2015.  It featured up-and-coming stars Ansel Elgort and Taron Egerton in the lead roles and Emma Roberts in a key supporting role.  It also featured a certain two-time Oscar-winning actor, who we will talk about shortly.  There was speculation that Billionaire Boys Club could be an Oscar contender.  At the very least, that two-time Oscar-winning actor might pick up another supporting nomination.  Shooting started in December of 2015 and wrapped in January of 2016.

And then …. nothing.

What happened?

Kevin Spacey happened.  On October 29th, 2017, Anthony Rapp told how, when he was 14, an intoxicated Kevin Spacey made a sexual advance towards him.  Subsequently, 15 other people came forward with stories about Spacey making similar advances towards them.  At the time, the Oscar-wining actor had key supporting roles in two upcoming films: All The Money In The World and Billionaire Boys Club.  The producers of All The Money In The World replaced Spacey with Christopher Plummer and hastily refilmed all of his scenes.

Unfortunately, that really wasn’t an option for the producers of Billionaire Boys Club.  Whereas Spacey’s role in All The Money In The World was basically an extended cameo, he was a key part of Billionare Boys Club.  Spacey had been cast as Ron Levin, a flamboyant con man whose murder led to the collapse of an 80s investment firm.  There was really no feasible way to replace Spacey without reshooting the majority of the film.  As a result, Billionaire Boys Club sat a while in limbo before finally getting an extremely limited release back in July.  On opening day, the film made a total of $126.  (The final weekend gross was $618.)

As for the film itself, the behind the scenes drama is far more interesting than anything that actually happens on screen.  Elgort and Egerton play Joe Hunt and Dean Karny, two middle-class guys who want to be rich in the 80s.  They do this by starting an investment firm called Billionaire Boys Club and, for a few months, everything seems to be perfect.  They appear to be making money.  They drive nice cars and live in big mansions and throw big parties.  There’s all the usual stuff that you expect to see in films about rich twentysomethings: cocaine, swimming pools, black lingerie, and fast cars.  In fact, that’s kind of the problem with the film.  There’s nothing surprising about what happens to Joe and Dean.  If you’ve seen Wolf of Wall Street, you’ve seen it all before.  In fact, if anything, the film’s recreation of greed-fueled decadence is almost too tame.  I mean, sure — we get the shot of the lines of cocaine getting snorted off a counter top but it’s hardly the mountain of coke that usually shows up in a movie like this.  If anything, this movie needed more cocaine.

Of course, everything eventually falls apart.  It turns out that Ron Levin, their main financial backer, was actually a con man who had managed to trick everyone into thinking that he was a millionaire.  In the end, it all leads to two murders, one prison sentence, and one new life in the witness protection program.

The film tries to critique the culture of greed but it fails because it never seems to understand why that culture would be so attractive to two guys like Joe and Dean in the first place.  Despite the efforts of Elgort and Egerton, Joe and Dean just come across as being two ciphers who maybe watched Wall Street one too many times.  It’s never clear what made these two click or why they were able to trick so many people into believing in them.  Unlike something like The Wolf of Wall Street, Billionaire Boys Club is so busy scolding everyone for being greedy that it never acknowledges that being rich can also be a lot of fun.  (It doesn’t help that Billionaire Boys Club features first person narration, which often leads to the film telling us what it should be showing us.)

As for Kevin Spacey, he gave the same performance that he gave in any number of similar films.  He’s arch and sarcastic and sometimes ambiguously flamboyant.  He gets upset whenever anyone says anything against his dog.  When he announces that he’s a “hustler” and brags about how he can get away with anything because he’s convinced people that he’s something that he’s not, it’s hard not to cringe.  It’s not really a bad performance, as much as it just kind of a predictable one.  It feels destined to be remembered only for being Spacey’s final appearance in a feature film.

Billionaire Boys Club will be making its Showtime premiere later tonight.  It’s not a terrible film but it’s not a particularly memorable one either.

Elwes Unbound: American Crime (2004, directed by Dan Mintz)


Smalltown reporter Jessie St. Clair (Rachael Leigh Cook) has stumbled across the story of her career.  A stripper and a prostitute have been murdered.  Before committing the murders, the killer sent each victim a video tape of him stalking her.  With the help of her producer, Jane (Annabella Sciorra), and her cameraman, Rob (Kip Pardue), Jessie sets out to try to solve the case but when she receives a videotape that indicates that she might be the next victim, she quits her job and vanishes.

Then, Albert Bodine (Cary Elwes) shows up in town.  Albert says that he’s the anchor of the UK’s top true crime show, American Crime, and that he wants to investigate not only the two murders but also Jessie’s disappearance.  When both Rob and Jane are suddenly fired by their station, they reluctantly agree to work with Albert.  Albert soon proves himself to be so incompetent that his new colleagues start to wonder if he’s actually who he says he is.  Meanwhile, another videotape turns up, this one starring Jane.

The tone of American Crime is all over the place and it never seems to be sure if it wants to scare us or if it wants to make us laugh but there are some tense scenes and a good twist ending.  American Crime tries to strike a balance between being a horror/thriller and a satire of media sensationalism.  It doesn’t always succeed but you really haven’t lived until you’ve seen Cary Elwes play a sleazy tabloid reporter.  Imagine an even more hyperactive version of Robert Downey, Jr’s performance in Natural Born Killers and you’ll have some idea of what Cary Elwes does in this movie.  Elwes sweats profusely, bulges his eyes, speaks with an extremely affected English accent, and plays with his hair every time he passes a mirror.  Everything sets him off, from his camera falling off of its tripod to people questioning his journalistic credibility.  Though the movie does feature good roles for underappreciated actresses like Rachael Leigh Cooke and Annabella Sciorra, Elwes is definitely the best thing about and the main reason to watch American Crime.

Here’s The First Teaser for Stranger Things Season 3!


Here’s the first teaser for the third season of Stranger Things!

Don’t expect to learn anything about what’s actually going to happen during season 3 from this teaser.  In fact, the main message of this trailer seems to be, “We’re in production.  Get off our freaking back.”  The teaser, however, does make sure to remind us that Cary Elwes and Jake Busey will be joining the cast in season 3.

So, all of you Jake Busey fans — rejoice!

(And really, who isn’t a Jake Busey fan?)

Interestingly enough, at one point, I wanted to write a movie specifically for Cary Elwes and Jake Busey, one in which they played tabloid journalists who ended up stranded in a town controlled by a Wurdulak.  I really should get back to work on that…

Anyway, enjoy the teaser!  The third season of Stranger Things come to Netflix in 2019!  Will we once again convince Case Wright to watch and review it for us?  Keep visiting the site to find out!

A Movie A Day #350: The Chase (1994, directed by Adam Rifkin)


Why so serious?

Jack Hammond (Charlie Sheen) was just an innocent clown who worked birthday parties.  Then he was mistaken for an outlaw clown and was accused of a crime that he did not commit.  When police incompetence led to the only piece of evidence that could exonerate him being tossed out of court, Jack had no choice but to go on the run.  Now, he’s in a stolen car, being pursued by not just the cops but also the tabloid media, and he’s got a hostage.  Natalie Voss (Kristy Swanson) turns out to be a willing hostage, though.  She is the daughter of Dalton Voss (Ray Wise, playing a character who is literally described as being “the Donald Trump of California) and what better way to act out against her father than to fall in love with her kidnapper and help him as he tries to reach the Mexican border?

What’s this?

A good Charlie Sheen movie that was not directed by Oliver Stone or John Milius?

It’s a Christmas miracle!

Actually, it may be misleading to say that The Chase is good..  By most of the standards used to judge whether or not a film qualifies as being good, The Chase fails.  There’s no real character development.  The plot is as simplistic as a plot can be.  A good deal of the movie could be correctly described as stupid.  But The Chase has got to be one of the most entertainingly stupid movies ever made.  It is about as basic an action comedy as has ever been made.  Almost the entire movie takes place on highway, with jokes mixed in with spectacular car crashes and only-in-the-90s cameos from Flea, Anthony Kiedis, and Ron Jeremy.  The pace never lets up, Kristy Swanson again shows that she deserved a better film career than she got, and Henry Rollins plays a cop.  As for Charlie Sheen, he basically plays the same character that he always plays but at least, when The Chase was made, he was still putting a little effort into it.  Maybe because they had already previously worked together in Hot Shots!, Sheen and Swanson have an easy rapport and make even the worse jokes sound passably funny.

The Chase may not be great and it really would have been improved by cameos from Burt Reynolds and Judd Nelson but it’s still damn entertaining.

A Movie A Day #292: The Bride (1985, directed by Franc Roddam)


The Bride opens where most films about Frankenstein and his monster end.

The Baron (played by fucking Sting, of all people) has agreed to create a bride for his creation, who in this movie is named Viktor and played by Clancy Brown.  Jennifer Beals plays the Bride, who is named Eva.  Eva looks like a normal, beautiful wielder-turned-dancer so when she first sees Viktor, she screams.  Viktor gets upset and starts to trash the laboratory.  “Don’t be impertinent!’ snaps the Baron’s assistant (Quentin Crisp).  A fire breaks out.  Quentin Crisp dies and so does another assistant played by Timothy Spall.  The monster escapes.  The Baron takes Eva into his household.  The Baron is obsessed with controlling Eva, who wants her independence and who has fallen in love with Cary Elwes.  When Eva sees a cat, she screams.  “You never told me about cats,” she tells the Baron, “I thought it was a tiny lion!”

The rest of the movie is a bewildering collection of cameos from respected thespians forced to recite some of the worst dialogue in film history.  Viktor befriends Rinaldo the dwarf (David Rappaport), who tells Viktor about how much he dreams of one day seeing Venice.  After Rinaldo is murdered by Alexei Sayle, Viktor swears that he will go to Venice and he will take Eva with him.

(Timothy Spall,  Quentin Crisp, and Alexei Sayle are not the only British performers to be strangely miscast in The Bride.  Keep an eye out for Phil Daniels, Ken Campbell, and Tony Haygarth, all wasted in small roles.)

The Bride attempts to put a revisionist, feminist spin on the story of Frankenstein but it ultimately just looks like a two hour Duran Duran video, with a guest vocals provided by Sting.  The scenes with Clancy Brown and David Rappaport work but otherwise, every important role is miscast.  Jennifer Beals is monotonous as the Bride and Sting never comes close to suggesting that he is capable of the type of mad genius that would be necessary to create life.  When it comes to the Bride of Frankenstein, stick with the original.

One final note: Both Sting and Phil Daniels also appeared in a much better film from Franc Roddam, Quadrophenia.  I recommend seeing Quadrophenia almost as much as I recommend forgetting about The Bride.