Horror Film Review: Escape Room (dir by Adam Robitel)


Does everyone here remember Escape Room?

Though it may be hard to believe now, Escape Room was actually the first surprise hit of 2019.  When the film was first released on January 4th, nobody expected much from it.  January, of course, is when the year’s worst movies are usually released.  The studios figure that they can get rid of their disasters while everyone’s busy trying to predict the Oscar nominees and usually, the studios are correct.  The ad campaign for Escape Room made it look like just another slasher movie, the mainstream reviewers were, as they tend to be with January horror movies, unimpressed and I don’t think anyone expected the film to make a dent in the box office.

And yet, in the end, Escape Room did pretty well for itself at the box office.  Not only did it open stronger than expected but it remained fairly strong (at least by the standards set by previous January horror films) during its second week of release.  The film managed to hold its own opposite Aquaman, which had pretty much drowned every other competitor.  A sequel was quickly greenlit.

What drew people to Escape Room?  I think it was the title.  For a while, people were genuinely obsessed with the idea of escape rooms.  For those who have a life outside of the internet, an escape room is a game in which a group of people are locked in a room and have to figure out how to get the door unlocked.  This usually involves searching the room, gathering clues, and figuring out a password or something similar.  Personally, I’ve never done the whole escape room thing and, being that I’m rather claustrophobic, I doubt that I ever will.  Add to that, I absolutely suck at solving puzzles so I imagine that I would be trapped in that room for a long time!  However, there are other people who absolutely love escape rooms and I imagine that every single one of them went to see this movie.

Escape Room is about a group of people who all receive a mysterious imitation, inviting them to an escape room and promising $10,000 to whomever wins.  Among those involved, there’s Zoey (Taylor Russell), who is a college student.  She’s studying physics so we automatically know that she’s going to be our hero.  Ben (Logan Miller) is a stockboy and is just bland enough to be a potential romantic interest for Zoey.  Mike (Tyler Labine) drives a truck.  Jason (Jay Ellis) is rich and, therefore, evil.  Danny (Nik Dodani) is the geeky escape room expert.  And Amanda (special guest Deborah Ann Woll) is the Iraq war veteran.  They’re a group of smart people but it apparently didn’t occur to anyone to just stay home for the weekend.  I mean, $10,000 is not that much.

Anyway, it turns out that the escape room isn’t just one room.  Instead, it’s several rooms and each room requires the group to solve a different puzzle.  Each room is also designed to potentially kill.  One heats up like an oven.  Another features a frozen pond, specifically designed to allow a player to fall through the ice.  Another room looks like an operating room from Hell.  My favorite room was the upside down pool hall with the floor/ceiling that started to break up as soon as the group entered.  That was fun.

Of course, it turns out that everyone playing the game has a secret in their past and each room has been designed to force them to confront those secrets.  Eventually, it’s revealed who is behind all of this and it’s not a shock at all.  In fact, Escape Room‘s final scenes are probably the film’s worst because the movie doesn’t really have a conclusion.  Instead, the filmmakers might as have just slapped a big “To Be Continued” across the screen.

Oh well!  Flaws and predictability aside, Escape Room is actually kind of fun.  The characters are all pretty much disposable but the actors all do their best with the material that they’ve been given.  Of course, the film’s main attraction is the chance to see all the various rooms and discovering how they’ve been booby trapped.  Fortunately, each room is fascinating in its own individual way and the puzzles are genuinely challenging.  (I would have totally died if I was in this movie.)

Escape Room is a decent enough way to spend 100 minutes.

Trailer: The Punisher – Season 2


the punisher

The first season of The Punisher on Netflix ended up being better than what had been advertised. The series and it’s ultraviolent tone became a divisive factor in how the show was scene.

Some saw it as the true adaptation of the titular character and his anti-hero status within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Others saw it as poor taste considering the rash of mass shootings and gun violence that’s plagued the country the last couple of years.

There was no disagreement in that Jon Bernthal owned and seemed born to play the role of vengeance-fueled and grief-stricken Marine veteran Frank Castle. His portrayal not just of Frank Castle but his vigilante alter-ego, The Punisher, was like watching a force of nature on screen.

It was a no-brainer that a second season of the series would be set into production and Netflix didn’t hesitate. It’s a bit bittersweet knowing that no matter how good season 2 turns out there’s a high probability that this will be the final season of The Punisher on Netflix as every Netflix-produced Marvel show has been cancelled the past year with only the upcoming seasons of The Punisher and Jessica Jones left.

Season 2 is set of a January 18, 2019 release date on Netflix worldwide.

Daredevil Has No Need For Iron Suits or Magic Hammers


daredevil

“I accept your conviction. The lone man who thinks he can make a difference.” — Wilson Fisk

Today we saw the release of the official trailer for Netflix and Marvel Television’s first of five series based on characters from the Marvel Universe. Daredevil will be the first out of the gate and it looks to darken things a bit in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by bringing to the small screen one of it’s street-level heroes.

Daredevil (aka Matt Murdock) will soon be joined by Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist in their own web series on Netflix before teaming up for the Defenders series.

Under the guiding hands of showrunner (and Whedon alum) Stephen S. DeKnight, Daredevil will soon be available for bingewatchers everywhere on April 10, 2015.

Trailer: Daredevil


daredevil“Bless me father for I have sinned.” — Matt Murdock

Marvel has pretty much been dominating the big-screen with it’s yearly event offerings. 2015 will not be an exception with Avengers: Age of Ultron set for a summer release expected to rake in the box-office by the money bins. Now, Marvel has set it’s site on the small-screen with it’s first Netflix Original Series that will be the first link in a five series set that will culminate in a team-up series called the Defenders.

This first link will be a new, and hopefully better take, on the street-level superhero Daredevil aka the Man With No Fear. The blind lawyer by day and vigilante by night whose blindness since childhood has helped him developed the rest of his senses beyond human levels. We shall not speak of the film adaptation starring Ben Affleck over ten years ago.

Marvel’s Daredevil will release all 10-episodes on Netflix this April 10, 2015.

Review: True Blood 7.1 “Jesus Gonna Be Here”


Sookie

I have to start out this review of the 7th season premiere of True Blood with an explanation and an apology.

I always like to think that I can write a good review regardless of what else might be going on in my life.  If I took a break from writing every time that I felt less than great, I certainly would not have ever reviewed Black Swan or The Perfect Teacher.  Sometimes, you just have to take your medicine and get things done.  That said, I should let you know that summer has just begun down here in Texas.  Pollen is everywhere and I have spent today battling my allergies.  I am definitely under the weather as I write this review and I apologize if that has effected my ability to properly consider tonight’s episode.

However, for the season premiere of a show that’s known for its complex storylines and huge cast, it doesn’t really seem like there’s much to analyze about what happened tonight.

Don’t get me wrong.  True Blood has always been an uneven show.  For every great episode of True Blood, there’s also a mediocre one.  For every brilliantly drawn and acted character (like Kristin Bauer van Straten’s Pam), there’s been characters who have never quite reached their potential but yet remain in the cast.  For every storyline that worked, there will be memories of Bill getting possessed by Lillith.

In the past, mediocre episodes or creative misfires did not worry me.  I accepted them as being just a part of what happens with all long-running television shows.  I accepted the occasional bad because I knew that the good would be great and I always knew that there was a chance that any creative miscalculations would be corrected in a future season.

However, we’ve now reached a point where there are no more future seasons.  This is it!  Season seven has ten episodes and then True Blood — as a television series — is over.  Rumor has it that there will be a Broadway musical and I’m certainly looking forward to it eventually showing up on the community theater circuit because I really do think that I’d be a natural for it.  But, until then, these final 10 episodes are all that we have left and True Blood — being True Blood — has a lot of storylines that it needs to somehow resolve so that viewers like me don’t feel like we’ve spent the last 7 seasons being set up for an anticlimax.

After all, we don’t want True Blood to end up like Dexter.

That’s why I can’t simply laugh off a mediocre or uneventful episode now.  As I sat through tonight’s premiere, a part of me was thinking that things were moving slowly because the show is setting up the foundation for a proper and satisfying finale.  However, another part of me wanted to scream, “HELLO — WE’VE ONLY GOT 10 EPISODES LEFT!  THESE HAVE TO COUNT!”

And I will admit — though this may have been the headache talking — I did end up hissing at the screen, “Where.  The.  Hell.  Is.  Erik!?”  As we all remember from last season’s finale, Erik was last seen naked on a mountain, bursting into flame as the sun shined down on him.  The important thing, however, is that we never saw Erik explode into red goo.  I chose to believe that Erik is still alive and, apparently, Pam agrees with me because tonight’s episode found Pam in Morocco searching for Erik.  There really weren’t enough scenes featuring Pam but I was happy for what we got of her.  Pam’s snarkiness always brings True Blood to life.  Hopefully, Erik will show up next week.

As for everyone else:

Tonight’s premiere began where season 6 ended.  A group of infected vampires attacked a human-vampire mixer at Bellfluer’s.  During the attack (which was well-filmed but still a bit too chaotic for its own good), vampire Tara is apparently killed and Holly and Arlene are kidnapped by the infected vampires.  Sam, who is now the mayor, orders that all the humans go home with an uninfected vampire, the idea being that the human will feed his vampire in return for protection.  Nobody is really happy with the arrangement and, as quickly becomes apparent, everyone blames Sookie.  What people don’t consider is that Sookie can hear their accusatory thoughts.  At the end of the episode, she goes to church and tells everyone off.  So, it looks like Sookie is once again frustrated with living in Bon Temps and thinking about saying goodbye to all of the drama and going off on her own.  Then again, that’s pretty much what always happens to Sookie.

(Sookie, incidentally, is now in a relationship with Alcide and good for her!  I still have a feeling that she’ll end the show with Sam but when you’ve been through everything that Sookie has, you’ve earned the right to spend a few nights with Alcide.)

Meanwhile, Sheriff Andy and Bill spent the episode looking for the kidnapped humans and I have to say that Andy has actually turned into a badass, even getting to save Bill from a group of human vigilantes.  However, Andy assures Bill that, even if there are temporarily allies, Andy still hates Bill and every other vampire.

Jessica, meanwhile, is stuck outside of Andy’s house, protecting Adelyn.  Despite the fact that Andy ordered his daughter not to invite Jessica inside, Adelyn does allow Jessica to enter to escape both the rising sun and to thank her for protecting her from a random vampire who wanted to drink Adelyn’s blood.  Once inside the house, Jessica nearly attacks Adelyn but manages to stop herself.

And finally, Jason has sex with his vampire girlfriend.  It’s not an episode of True Blood unless Jason is having sex with his vampire girlfriend.

I always enjoy watching True Blood and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season but I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with tonight’s premiere, which seemed to move slowly and, oddly for True Blood, didn’t really seem to be too concerned with moving any of the show’s dozen or so storylines forward.  Hopefully, future episodes will pick up the pace because, after all, we’ve only got nine more left and they have to count!

And, hopefully, Erik will return.

Soon.

Review: True Blood 6.10 “Radioactive”


True Blood

Eric better not be dead!

A lot happened on tonight’s sixth season finale of True Blood.  Along with wrapping up Warlow and Billith’s storylines, it also set up what’s presumably going to be season 7’s major storyline.  A lot of strange things have happened over the past two seasons of True Blood and tonight’s finale promised both a return to normalcy and a new beginning.

And with all that in mind, my number one reaction to tonight’s finale was this:

ERIC BETTER NOT BE FREAKING DEAD!

Admittedly, when we last saw Eric, things did not look good.

Warlow, having revealed himself to be just as evil as we all knew he was and refusing to allow Sookie to back out of their arranged marriage, was finally killed by Sookie’s grandfather (Rutger Hauer), who, in this best tradition of dues ex machina, managed to pop out of his little prison dimension and drive a stake through Warlow’s heart.  Warlow dissolved into red goo and, with the death of Warlow, all of the vampires who had drank his blood lost their ability to walk in the daylight.

The majority of the show’s vampires were safely inside when this happened.  However, Eric was sunbathing naked in the Swiss Alps and, as he lost his special Warlow powers, he burst into flames.

A collective cry went up on twitter as thousands of Eric fans (present company included) tweeted out a massive: “NOOOOOOOO!  NOT ERIC!”

However, there is hope.  The scene cut away from Eric before we actually saw him explode.  So, maybe Eric managed to bury himself in the show.  Maybe he ran into a nearby cave.  Maybe Lillith reached out and saved Eric’s life.

As far as I’m concerned, until I see definite proof of his true death, Eric lives!

Warlow’s demise occurred about halfway through tonight’s finale.  At that point, season 6 officially ended.  Warlow’s gone.  The vampires can no longer walk in the day.  Bill, having refused to go off with Lillith’s sirens, is finally starting to act like Bill again.  And hopefully, Eric’s not dead.

The second half of the episode felt like a preview for season 7.  We jumped ahead 6 months into the future and we discover the following:

Sookie is living with Alicide.  (You go, girl!)

Sam is now married to annoying Nicole and is mayor of Bon Temps.

Andy is still very protective of his last remaining daughter.

Bill Compton is now a published author.  He’s written a book about his experiences as a God.  In the book, he writes about ripping the Governor’s head off of his body.  He also reveals that Hep V was a creation of the government.

Hep V, meanwhile, has become an epidemic.  Although only vampires are killed by it, the virus can live in humans as well.  Mayor Sam arranges for a human/vampire mixer so that the citizens of Bon Temps can pair up — one human to a vampire.

And while everyone in town gets acquainted, an army of infected vampires shambles towards the gathering like zombies from a George Romero film…

And that’s how season 6 ends.

So, what did everyone think of season 6?  I thought it was one of the better seasons of True Blood and a definite improvement on season 5.  That said, I was definitely happy to see Bill acting like Bill again at the end of tonight’s episode.

Hopefully, Season 7 will start with Eric showing up on Bill’s front porch and saying, “The weirdest thing happened in Switzerland…”

Random Thoughts and Observations:

  • Unofficial scene count: 45
  • As fun as it was to see all the daywalking vampires happy at the start of tonight’s episode, I’m kinda glad that they lost that power.  I’m not sure how many more scenes of vampires playing volleyball I could take.
  • My first tweet after the end of this episode: “Fuck you, #Newsroom!  I’m too concerned about Eric on #TrueBlood to care about some maniacal news anchor!”
  • Alcide was wearing the word’s worst wig at the start of tonight’s episode.
  • I had forgotten all about that whiny scientist until he showed back up tonight.
  • Again, we never saw Eric explode into red goo.  That’s the important thing.
  • “You don’t want a vampire bride!  You want a faerie vampire bride!”
  • I’ve had a lot of fun reviewing True Blood this season.  I look forward to doing it again next season.  Thanks for reading!

Review: True Blood 6.9 “Life Matters”


True Blood

When the history of True Blood is eventually written, Life Matters will be remembered as the best episode of season 6 and perhaps as one of the best episodes of the entire series.

For a show that has occasionally been a tad too complicated and a bit too dependent on easy snark as opposed to genuine sentiment, tonight’s episode was both focused and sincerely emotional.  If an episode of True Blood could ever make you cry while still making you laugh and occasionally jump, Life Matters is that episode.

Tonight, True Blood was all about death.  While the citizens of Bon Temps gathered to say a final goodbye to Terry, the vampires got their revenge on the humans at Vamp Camp.  The Rev. Newlin finally met his well-deserved demise at the hands of Eric and the sun while Jason came close to murdering Sarah Newlin before finally relenting.

At the end of last week’s episode, Bill and Sookie were standing over Warlow’s drained body.  Well, it turns out that Warlow is not dead.  He’s just weakened.  After Sookie allows him to feed on her, she leaves for Terry’s funeral while Bill heads to Vamp Camp.

The rest of the episode very skillfully cuts back and forth from the powerful emotion of Terry’s funeral and Bill and Eric’s bloody rampage at Vamp Camp.  While those at the funeral speak of the value of celebrating life, Bill, Eric, and the vampires are literally killing every human that they can find.  While Andy and Sam talk about (and we see flashbacks of) the first time they ever met Terry, Bill is killing a human scientist by stomping his face in.  While Sookie gives her eulogy and also outs herself as being a telepath, Eric is releasing all of the female vampires and announcing, “Go forth and kill all the humans!”

Sarah Newlin, realizing that she’s literally one of only two humans left alive at Vamp Camp, climbs up to the top of the roof of the sun room and turns a wheel that opens up the ceiling.  The sun shines down on the vampires below but all of the vampires have now fed on Bill’s blood and are now immune to the sun.

Every vampire except for the Rev. Newlin, of course.

Newlin begs to be allowed to feed on Bill’s blood but none of the other vampires are willing to allow Newlin to get near him.  Finally, Eric grabs Newlin by the throat and holds him in place as the sun shines down on him.  As Sarah watches from above, her ex-husband starts to burn and then explodes into a mess of red goo.  Newlin’s last words are to declare his love for Jason Stackhouse.

As for Jason, he catches Sarah as she tried to flee Vamp Camp and, in a rather uncomfortable scene, holds a gun to Sarah’s face while she begs for her life.  Jason finally allows her to escape, saying that he doesn’t want her blood on his hands.  As hateful a character as Sarah is, I’m glad that Jason didn’t kill her.  Jason may be many things but he’s not a cold-blooded murderer.  That’s one reason why we all love him.

Bill, weakened after having been drained, lies on the floor of the sun room and has a vision of Lillith’s sirens approaching him.  They tell him that it’s time for him to come with Lillith.  Bill says that he’s not ready to go.  Fortunately, Jessica and James find him and James feeds him.

Meanwhile, Terry’s funeral ends with Arlene accepting an American flag from the Marine honor guard and Big John singing “Life Matters.”  A random old lady wonders why there’s so many black people at Terry’s funeral.  That’s just life in Bon Temps.

As the episode ends, Bill and the other vampires are celebrating in the daylight.  However, Pam sees Eric standing some distance away.  Pam tells Eric that he better not leave her.  Eric responds by doing just that, shooting off into the sky and leaving Pam by herself.

Tonight’s episode of True Blood felt almost like a series finale.  As I watched it, I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t watching the end of the show or even the end of the season.  Instead, I was watching the 9th episode of a 10-episode season.  There’s one more episode and at least one more season to go before True Blood concludes.

I just hope that Eric comes back.

Random Observations:

  • Considering just how marginal his character often seemed to be in the grand scheme of things, I was a bit surprised at how touching Terry’s funeral truly turned out to be.
  • Still, as a friend of mine pointed out on twitter, dead Terry got more screen time during tonight’s episode than he ever did while he was alive.
  • If an episode of True Blood ever deserved an Emmy for editing, this is the one.
  • How is Season 6 going to end?  Is there more to the Lillith story or will next week’s episode just be about setting things up for season 7?  Your guess is as good as mine.
  • I’m sure that those of you who got this review in your e-mail might be wondering if I really did accidentally type Big Brother instead of True Blood in my initial draft of this post.  Yes, I did.  Whoops.  I also write a daily blog over at the Big Brother Blog.  My mistake was the result of me trying to write reviews of two very different shows at the same time.
  • “I love you, Jason Stackhouse!”