What If Lisa Picked The Oscar Nominees: 2017 Edition


With the Oscar nominations due to be announced tomorrow, now is the time that the Shattered Lens indulges in a little something called, “What if Lisa had all the power.” Listed below are my personal Oscar nominations. Please note that these are not the films that I necessarily think will be nominated. The fact of the matter is that the many of them will not. Instead, these are the films that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for deciding the nominees this year. Winners are starred and listed in bold.

(You’ll also note that I’ve added four categories, all of which I believe the Academy should adopt — Best Voice-Over Performance, Best Casting, Best Stunt Work, and Best Overall Use Of Music In A Film.)

(Click on the links to see my nominations for 201620152014201320122011, and 2010!)

Best Picture

Baby Driver

The Big Sick

The Disaster Artist

*A Ghost Story*

It

Kedi

Lady Bird

The Meyerowitz Stories

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Wonder Woman

Best Director

Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird

Patty Jenkins for Wonder Woman

*David Lowery for A Ghost Story*

Martin McDonagh for Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Andy Muschietti for It

Edgar Wright for Baby Driver

Best Actor

*Sam Elliott in The Hero*

James Franco in The Disaster Artist

Jake Gyllenhaal in Stronger

Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out

James McAvoy in Split

Robert Pattinson in Good Time

Best Actress

Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman

Sally Hawkins in Maudie

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Cynthia Nixon in A Quiet Passion

Aubrey Plaza in Ingrid Goes West

*Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird*

Best Supporting Actor

Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Adam Sandler in The Meyerowitz Stories

Bill Skarsgard in It

*Patrick Stewart in Logan*

Jason Sudekis in Colossal

Best Supporting Actress

Holly Hunter in The Big Sick

Catherine Keener in Get Out

Sophia Lillis in It

*Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird*

Carey Mulligan in Mudbound

Ella Rumpf in Raw

Best Voice-Over or Stop Motion Performance

Will Arnett in The LEGO Batman Movie

Gael Garcia Bernal in Coco

Bradley Cooper in Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2

Doug Jones in The Shape of Water

*Andy Serkis in War for the Planet of the Apes*

Dan Stevens in Beauty and the Beast

Best Original Screenplay

The Big Sick

Get Out

A Ghost Story

*Lady Bird*

The Meyerowitz Stories

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Adapted Screenplay

Before I Fall

*The Disaster Artist*

It

Logan

Their Finest

Wonder Woman

Best Animated Film

Cars 3

Coco

*The Lego Batman Movie*

Leap!

Best Documentary Feature

Karl Marx City

*Kedi*

Risk

Step

Strong Island

32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide

Best Foreign Language Film

First They Killed My Father

Frantz

*Kedi*

Raw

Best Casting

The Big Sick

Detroit

Dunkirk

Get Out

Lady Bird

*The Meyerowitz Stories*

Best Cinematography

Blade Runner 2049

Dunkirk

*A Ghost Story*

It

Lost City of Z

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Costume Design

Beauty and the Beast

The Beguiled

Free Fire

Thor: Ragnarok

Victoria & Abdul

*Wonder Woman*

Best Editing

*Baby Driver*

Before I Fall

Dunkirk

A Ghost Story

It

Wonder Woman

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

The Disaster Artist

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

Lady MacBeth

Logan Lucky

My Cousin Rachel

*Thor: Ragnarok*

Best Original Score

Blade Runner 2049

A Ghost Story

*Good Time*

Dunkirk

The Shape of Water

Wind River

Best Original Song

“Buddy’s Business” from Brawl In Cell Block 99

“Evermore” from Beauty and the Beast

“Friends are Family” from The Lego Batman Movie

“How Does A Moment Last Forever” from Beauty and the Beast

“Myron/Byron” from The Meyerowitz Stories

*”The Pure and the Damned” from Good Time*

Best Overall Use Of Music

Atomic Blonde

*Baby Driver*

The Disaster Artist

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

Thor: Ragnarok

T2: Trainspotting

Best Production Design

*Beauty and the Beast*

The Beguiled

Blade Runner 2049

It Comes At Night

Logan

Thor: Ragnarok

Best Sound Editing

Baby Driver

*Dunkirk*

Kong: Skull Island

Spider-Man: Homecoming

War For The Planet of the Apes

Wonder Woman

Best Sound Mixing

Baby Driver

*Dunkirk*

Kong: Skull Island

Spider-Man: Homecoming

War For The Planet of the Apes

Wonder Woman

Best Stuntwork

Baby Driver

Dunkirk

Logan

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Thor: Ragnarok 

*Wonder Woman*

Best Visual Effects

Blade Runner 2049

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Thor: Ragnarok

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

*War For The Planet of the Apes*

Films Listed By Number of Nominations

9 Nominations — Wonder Woman

7 Nominations — Baby Driver, Dunkirk, It, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

6 Nominations — A Ghost Story, Lady Bird, Thor: Ragnarok

5 Nominations — Beauty and the Beast, The Disaster Artist, The Meyerowitz Stories

4 Nominations — The Big Sick, Blade Runner 2049, Get Out, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Logan, Spider-Man: Homecoming, War For The Planet Of The Apes

3 Nominations — Good Time, Kedi, The LEGO Batman Movie

2 Nominations — Before I Fall, The Beguiled, Coco, Kong: Skull Island, Raw, Shape of Water

1 Nominations — Atomic Blonde, Brawl in Cell Block 99, Cars 3, Colossal, Detroit, First They Killed My Father, Frantz, Free Fire, The Hero, Ingrid Goes West, It Comes At Night, Karl Marx City, Lady MacBeth, Leap!, Logan Lucky, Lost City of Z, Maudie, Mudbound, My Cousin Rachel, A Quiet Passion, Risk, Split, Step, Strong Island, Stronger, T2: Trainspotting, Their Finest, 32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Victoria & Abdul, Wind River

Films Listed By Number of Wins

3 Oscars — A Ghost Story, Lady Bird

2 Oscars — Baby Driver, Dunkirk, Good Time, Kedi, War For the Planet of the Apes, Wonder Woman

1 Oscar — Beauty and the Beast, The Disaster Artist, The Hero, The LEGO Batman Movie, Logan, The Meyerowitz Stories, Thor: Ragnarok

Will the Academy be smart enough to agree with me?  Probably not.  We’ll see what happens tomorrow!

 

Finally, Here Are The Winners From The Indiana Film Journalists Association!


Okay, one final precursor to share with everyone today.  The Indiana Film Journalists Association announced their picks for the best of 2017 on Monday.  They really liked Lady Bird and The Shape of Water.  They also liked Harry Dean Stanton for his final film role.

Best Film

Winner: “Lady Bird”
Runner-up: “The Shape of Water”

Other Finalists (listed alphabetically):

“Blade Runner 2049”
“Brigsby Bear”
“Dunkirk”
“The Florida Project”
“Get Out”
“The Post”
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Best Animated Feature

Winner: “Coco”
Runner-Up: “Loving Vincent”

Best Foreign Language Film

Winner: “Faces Places”
Runner-Up: “BPM (Beats Per Minute)”

Best Documentary

Winner: “Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992”
Runner-Up: “Liyana”

Best Original Screenplay

Winner: Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”
Runner-up: Jordan Peele, “Get Out”

Best Adapted Screenplay

Winner: Scott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green, “Logan”
Runner-up: Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, “Blade Runner 2049”

Best Director

Winner: Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”
Runner-up: Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”

Best Actress

Winner: Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Runner-up: Sally Hawkins, “Maudie”

Best Supporting Actress

Winner: Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Runner-up: Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”

Best Actor

Winner: Harry Dean Stanton, “Lucky”
Runner-up: Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”

Best Supporting Actor

Winner: Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”
Runner-up: Doug Jones, “The Shape of Water”

Best Vocal/Motion Capture Performance

Runner-up: Sean Gunn & Bradley Cooper, “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2”

Best Ensemble Acting

Winner: “The Florida Project”
Runner-up: “The Post”

Best Musical Score

Winner: Alexandre Desplat, “The Shape of Water”
Runner-up: Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, “Blade Runner 2049”

Breakout of the Year

Winner: Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name” and “Lady Bird”
Runner-up: Kogonada, “Columbus”

Original Vision Award

Winner: “Loving Vincent”
Runner-up: “Brigsby Bear

The Hoosier Award

Winner: “Columbus”
(As a special award, no runner-up is declared in this category.)

Here Are The Nominations of the Los Angeles Online Film Critics!


On December 4th, because there weren’t already enough critics group to keep track of, the Los Angeles Online Film Critics (founded 2016) announced the nominees for their inagural awards!  The winners will be named on January 3rd, 2018.

Here are the nominees.  There’s a lot of them.

BEST PICTURE 

“The Big Sick”
“Colossal”
“Call Me By Your Name”
“Get Out”
“I, Tonya”
“Lady Bird”
“Molly’s Game”
“The Post”
“The Shape of Water”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST FEMALE DIRECTOR

Dee Rees, “Mudbound
Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”
Kathryn Bigelow, “Detroit”
Patty Jenkins, “Wonder Woman
Sofia Coppola, “The Beguiled”

BEST MALE DIRECTOR

Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk”
Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”
Jordan Peele, “Get Out”
Luca Guadagnino, “Call Me By Your Name”
Steven Spielberg, “The Post”

BEST ANIMATED / VISUAL EFFECT PERFORMANCE

Andy Serkis, “War for the Planet of the Apes
Doug Jones, “The Shape of Water”
Dan Stevens, “Beauty and the Beast

BEST EDITING

Baby Driver
“Dunkirk”
“I, Tonya”
“The Post”
“The Shape of Water”

BEST SCORE

Blade Runner 2049
“Dunkirk”
“Phantom Thread”
“The Shape of Water”
War for the Planet of the Apes

BEST STUNT WORK

“Atomic Blonde”
Baby Driver
“Dunkirk”
“John Wick: Chapter 2”
Wonder Woman

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR OR ACTRESS UNDER 23 YEARS OLD

Brooklynn Prince, “The Florida Project”
Dafne Keen, “Logan
Jacob Tremblay, “Wonder”
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me By Your Name”

BEST SCI-FI/ HORROR

Blade Runner 2049
“Get Out”
It
It Comes at Night
“The Shape of Water”

BEST ACTION/WAR

Baby Driver
“Dunkirk”
Logan
War for the Planet of the Apes
Wonder Woman

BEST COMEDY/MUSICAL

“The Big Sick”
“The Disaster Artist”
“Girls Trip”
“I, Tonya”
“Lady Bird”

BEST FIRST FEATURE

Aaron Sorkin, “Molly’s Game”
Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”
Kogonada, “Columbus”
Jeremy Gasper, “Patti Cake$”
Jordan Peele, “Get Out”

BEST INDEPENDENT FILM

“The Big Sick”
“Colossal”
A Ghost Story
“I, Tonya”
“Lady Bird”

BEST BLOCKBUSTER

Beauty and the Beast”
“Dunkirk”
Logan
War for the Planet of the Apes
Wonder Woman”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Bruno Delbonnel, “Darkest Hour”
Dan Laustsen, “The Shape of Water”
Hoyte van Hoytema, “Dunkirk”
Rachel Morrison, “Mudbound
Roger Deakins, “Blade Runner 2049”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

“Blade Runner 2049”
“Dunkirk”
“The Shape of Water”
“War for the Planet of the Apes”
“Wonder Woman”

BEST DOCUMENTARY

“An Inconvenient Sequel”
“Jane”
“Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond”
“Step”
“Whose Streets?”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

“BPM,” France
“First They Killed My Father,” Cambodia
“In the Fade,” Germany
“The Square,” Sweden
“Thelma,” Norway

BEST ANIMATED FILM

“The Breadwinner”
“Coco”
“Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie”
The LEGO Batman Movie”
“Loving Vincent”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani, “The Big Sick”
Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”
Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor, “The Shape of Water”
Jordan Peele, “Get Out”
Martin McDonagh, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Aaron Sorkin, “Molly’s Game”
Luca Guadagnino, James Ivory, & Walter Fasano, “Call Me by Your Name”
Michael H. Weber & Scott Neustadter, “The Disaster Artist”
Scott Frank, James Mangold, & Michael Green, “Logan
Virgil Williams & Dee Rees, “Mudbound

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”
Holly Hunter, “The Big Sick”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”
Tiffany Haddish, “Girls Trip”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Idris Elba, “Molly’s Game”
Michael Stuhlbarg, “Call Me By Your Name”
Patrick Stewart, “Logan
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Williem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”

BEST ACTRESS

Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Jessica Chastain, “Molly’s Game”
Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”

BEST ACTOR

Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”
James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”
Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me By Your Name”
Tom Hanks, “The Post”

Horror Film Review: Crimson Peak (dir by Guillermo Del Toro)


CrimsonPeak

The fact that Crimson Peak, Guillermo Del Toro’s wonderful new film, is only getting mixed or grudgingly positive reviews tells you everything that you need to know about the sorry state of modern film criticism.

Taking place at the turn of the 19th Century, Crimson Peak tells the story of Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska).  The daughter of industrialist Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver), Edith is haunted by a childhood memory, in which her mother’s ghost appeared to her and told her to never go to Crimson Peak.  Edith grows up to be an aspiring writer.  She writes stories about ghosts, though she is always quick to point out that the ghosts are just meant to be a “metaphor for the past.”  Her publishers tell her that no one wants to read a ghost story written by a woman and they recommend that she concentrate on writing a nice romance.

Following the violent death of her father, Edith marries the charming inventor Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and moves to his family home in England.  Still in shock over the death of her father, Edith struggles to make things work in England.  Tom is nearly penniless and seems to be more interested in his inventions than with her.  (Not only did they not consummate the marriage during the honeymoon but Tom sleeps in a separate bedroom.)  Meanwhile, Tom’s older sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain), does little to hide the disdain that she feels towards her new sister-in-law.

As for the house itself, it is on the verge of collapsing.  At one point, Tom mentions that, because of the red clay that sits underneath the mansion, their new home is sometimes called Crimson Peak.  If that wasn’t enough to panic Edith, she keeps seeing mysterious figures wandering through the halls.  Edith swears that she is seeing ghosts and that they are trying to tell her something.  Tom and Lucille tells her that she’s imagining things and continue to insist that she drink a special tea.  Could that tea be the reason why Edith finds herself coughing up blood?

(Actually, there’s a lot of blood spilled over the course of Crimson Peak.  It’s not just the clay that makes the ground red.  If Edith Wharton had written a horror movie, the end result would probably be a lot like Crimson Peak.)

And let’s just get this out of the way right now — Crimson Peak is an absolutely brilliant movie.  Those critics who have complained that Crimson Peak doesn’t have any of the expected “shock” scares are totally missing the point.  Crimson Peak is not about cheap scares.  Del Toro is not looking to make you jump by having a cat jump out of a closet.  Instead, Crimson Peak is all about atmosphere.  Del Toro maintains an atmosphere of consistent unease throughout the entire film.  The scares come less from what is shown and more from what is implied.  In that way, Crimson Peak pays homage to the great gothic horror films of the past.

And remember when I complained about how terrible Jessica Chastain was in The Martian?  Well, she absolutely brilliant in Crimson Peak.  The role of Lucille is not one that demands a lot of subtlety and Chastain appears to be having a great time getting to play such a menacing character.  If anything, this is one of Chastain’s best performances.  (One need only consider how overly mannered Meryl Streep would have been in the role to realize just how great an actress Jessica Chastain truly is.)  Mia Wasikowska is the epitome of fragile loveliness as Edith and Tom Hiddleston is perfectly cast as a handsome, slightly decadent aristocrat with a secret.  In fact, all three of them are perfectly cast.  Taking their roles too seriously would have been a mistake but so would have not taking the movie seriously enough.  The entire cast strikes a perfect balance, embracing the melodrama without going too far over the top.

So, why are so many film critics having such a hard time embracing Crimson Peak?  It’s pretty much for the same reason that a lot of them had a hard time with Pacific Rim.  Guillermo Del Toro’s films are masterpieces of the pulp imagination.  As such, he exposes the condescending attitude that most contemporary critics take towards “genre” films.  When mainstream critics dismiss Crimson Peak as just being “a horror film that isn’t scary enough,” all they’re really doing is revealing how ignorant they are of the horror genre.

So, in other words, don’t listen to those mainstream critics.  They are not worth your trouble.  Crimson Peak is a wonderfully acted and visually gorgeous gothic romance and it needs to be seen on the big screen.

Reportedly, Crimson Peak struggled at the box office this weekend.

Well, you know what?

If you haven’t seen Crimson Peak, you need to go out and see it this week.  It’s a great film and what good are we if we let the great ones go unseen?

4 Shots From 4 Films: Guillermo del Toro Edition


Happy Birthday to the Master of Dark Fantasy.

Guillermo del Toro ranks high in my eyes as one of the best filmmakers working today. His films have ranged from an inventive take on the vampire genre, the mutant monster film, an evocative ghost story and right up to a dark fable. Guillermo del Toro has worked on both smaller, personal projects and the big, blockbuster action. He’s comfortable in living in both worlds.

No matter which side he happens to land at any particular time he always brings his own brand of visual style and storytelling to each and every film that tells the world that they’re watching a Guillermo del Toro production.

4 Shot From 4 Films

Cronos (dir. by Guillermo del Toro)

Cronos (dir. by Guillermo del Toro)

Mimic (dir. by Guillermo del Toro)

Mimic (dir. by Guillermo del Toro)

The Devil's Backbone (dir. by Guillermo del Toro)

The Devil’s Backbone (dir. by Guillermo del Toro)

Pan's Labyrinth (dir. by Guillermo del Toro)

Pan’s Labyrinth (dir. by Guillermo del Toro)

Crimson Peak’s Visually Stunning Gothic Horror


CrimsonPeak

Guillermo Del Toro has become the one filmmaker who seems to excite both the elitist cinephiles and the geek community whenever he comes out with a new film. He’s done both pop-friendly extravaganzas (Pacific Rim, Hellboy) to critically-acllaimed arthouse fares (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone). His name has been attached to so many projects of all stripe that one wonders if he ever gets time to rest.

Most of these projects never get past the concept stage, but when one does and he goes all out in directing such projects we get something that excites the fanbase like his upcoming gothic horror film Crimson Peak. It looks to be Del Toro’s love letter to gothic horror of the past with his own visual flair for the morbid and the beautiful in one package.

The film stars a who’s who of powerful performers from Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddleston to Mia Wasikowska and Charlie Hunnam.

Crimson Peak is set to haunt the public this coming October 16, 2015

Trailer: Crimson Peak


crimson-peak-poster

When will studios finally smarten up and realize that Guillermo Del Toro is one of the preeminent fantasists of our time. Just give him the money and talent to finally make his dream project for the bigscreen: At the Mountains of Madness.

Until that happens we shall have to wait with anticipation for every new project he does see through to completion. This time around he leaves the world of Jaegers and Kaiju and takes us into the world of gothic horror with his upcoming film Crimson Peak.

The most talented cast he has work with to date, Crimson Peak is Del Toro’s take on the classic gothic ghost story but with more than just a tad and smidgen of his own narrative and visual style when it comes to horror. It stars Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Charlie Hunnam and Jim Beaver.

Crimson Peak is set for an October 16, 2015 release date. Just in time for Halloween.

Film Review: Raze (dir by Josh C. Waller)


I have always had trouble working in a group with other women.

I wish that wasn’t true because it really is such a cliché, this idea that a group of women can’t get along for more than a few days or that we’re all always in some sort of passive aggressive competition with each other.  And I still don’t think that’s true for all women but it’s certainly been true for me.  For whatever reason, I seem to bring out the cattiness in certain people and, being the Irish lass that I am, it’s next to impossible for me to truly let anything go.  I remember every smirk, every eye roll, and every piece of innuendo that I’ve ever suspected was whispered behind my back.  It probably doesn’t help that I tend to be ultra-competitive about — well, about everything.  That’s why I’m sometimes jealous of the way that men can apparently compete each other without taking any of it personally or even that seriously.  Men can compete and remain friends with no hard feelings and I have to admit that I’ve never quite understood how they manage to do that.  Again, I wish that wasn’t true because it really does play into the stereotypes and clichés that men have used to keep us “in our place” for centuries.

I found myself thinking a lot about my competitive nature as I watched Raze, the debut film of director Josh C. Waller.

In Raze, a centuries-old secret society has kidnapped 50 women and imprisoned them in an underground prison.  As the leaders of the organization — the cadaverous Joseph (Doug Jones) and the deceptively maternal Elizabeth (Sherilyn Fenn) — explain, the women will spend the next two weeks fighting each other.  Each fight will be to the death until only one is left alive.  If the women refuse to fight, their loves ones will be murdered.  If one of the women loses her fight, her loves ones will be murdered.  The only way for the women to save their loves ones is to be the lone survivor.

Since the movie opens with the tournament in progress, we only get to meet a handful of the women who are literally fighting for their lives.  Jamie (Rachel Nichols) was kidnapped from a bar after she made the mistake of telling a handsome stranger that she wanted to be a kickboxer.  Teresa (Tracie Thomas) is fighting to save her husband’s life.  Cody (Bailey Anne Borders) spends all of her time in her cell crying but still turns out to be a surprisingly efficient killer.  Pheobe (Rachel Marshall) is a sociopath who, alone of all the women, is actually enjoying the tournament.  And then there’s Sabrina (Zoe Bell), a former soldier and POW who is fighting to protect the daughter that she’s never met.

Probably the first thing that I should tell you about Raze is that it’s a violent film.  It’s not just that there’s a lot of fights in the film.  It’s the fact that those fights are so well-choreographed and the film’s cast so throws themselves into both their characters and the action on-screen that the violence feels real in a way that most film violence does not.  I don’t think I’ve ever winced as much and as often as I did while watching the fights in Raze because I found myself feeling each blow and each kick.  There are a lot of fights in Raze but they never feel repetitive because the viewers has an emotional stake in each and every one of them.

Thematically, Raze makes an attempt to turn the tournament into a metaphor for the battles that women have to fight every single day.  Elizabeth and Joseph both assure the women that the tournament’s champion will come out of the ordeal as a stronger and more independent woman.  It’s an idea that the film doesn’t explore as thoroughly as I would have liked but it’s still an interesting concept that made Raze a bit more thought-provoking than the usual genre piece.

Personally, I like films where women get to kick ass.  That’s why I’ve been always been willing to watch the Underworld and Resident Evil films, despite the fact that most of them kinda sorta suck.  That said, I prefer films where women get to beat up men and zombies to films where women beat each other to death.  On the surface, Raze has a lot in common the “women in prison” films that Roger Corman produced back in the 70s.  The main difference is that, in the Corman films, characters like Sabrina and Cody would never have consented to killing another woman.  Instead, they would have teamed up with Pam Grier and taken down the Man.

Raze is a lot better than you might expect but it still definitely could have used Pam Grier.

Quickie Review: Hellboy: Blood and Iron


Guillermo Del Toro will forever be one of the heroes of comic book fans everywhere due to his bringing Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comic book franchise from the printed page to the silver screen. He first brought the Big Red Guy with the 2004 film adaptation of the same name. The film was a modest success and brought the titular character to a whole new group of fans. In 2008, Del Toro came out with the bigger and more epic sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army. What some fans of the character sometimes forget or didn’t even realize was that in-between these two films were two direct-to-dvd releases of the animated variety. The first to come out was Hellboy: Sword of Storms in 2006. While I enjoyed that animated film it would be the follow-up dvd release, Hellboy: Blood and Iron which truly captured the essence of the comic books even moreso than the two live-action films.

Hellboy: Blood and Iron would combine parallel storylines about Hellboy and his surrogate father’s, Trevor Bruttenholm, encounter with one Erzsebet Ondrushko also known in occult circles as Elizabeth Bathory the Blood Countess. According to the film, Erzsebet would bathe in the blood of innocent, young girls. The film also makes Erzsebet a follower and disciple of the Mediterranean goddess of witchcraft and sorcery, Hecate.

One storyline would play out in reverse chronological order and take place in 1939 as a much younger Trevor Bruttenholm travels to Eastern Europe to investigate a series of murders that locals have attributed to the return of the Blood Countess. The other storyline moves to the present as Hellboy and his teammates from the B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) investigate the supposed hauntings of the estate of a wealthy businessman. This would be an estate that would be the center piece of a sort of haunted amusement park with the Blood Countess and the legends surrounding her as the main attraction.

Hellboy: Blood and Iron does a great job of mixing action, horror and the occult without one or the other overshadowing the rest. The film takes some of it’s ideas from Mike Mignola’s (creator of the Hellboy franchise) Hellboy graphic novel, Wake the Devil, and screenwriter Kevin Hopps does a good job of taking those ideas and creating something new yet similar as well. The film also benefited from the return of the cast of the live-action Hellboy films to voice their respective characters in this animated film. There’s Ron Perlman in his gruff and sardonic best as the title character. Selma Blair returns to voice Hellboy’s closest friend in the redheaded pyrokine Liz Sherman with Doug Jones and John Hurt rounding it out as Abe Sapien and Trevor Bruttenholm.

The animation is not the highest level but for a direct-to-dvd affair it more than holds up and really captures the look and feel of the comic books it was based on. Yet, while an animated film this one wouldn’t be appropriate for little kids to watch. For a “cartoon” it’s quite violent with themes of witchcraft, vampirism and blood sacrifice prevalent from beginning to end. It’s actually quite scary in certain sections especially whenever the resurrected Erzsebet appeared. I don’t think most animated films ever involved a sequence of a tub full of fresh, hot blood waiting to be used as bathwater.

For those willing to learn more and understand the appeal of the Hellboy comic books to legions of fans this animated film was a good example. Hellboy: Blood and Iron was great from beginning to end especially how it interwove not just the vampiric and pagan legends surrounding Erzebet Ondrushko, but also little tidbits of information and character development which added to the backstory of not just Hellboy but those closest to him. Plus, this animated film had two character’s whose names were variants of the name Lisa.

Quickie Review: Legion (dir. by Scott Stewart)


Scott Stewart’s film about the Biblical Apocalypse was one film that I was very hyped to see in the first weeks of 2010. I had heard some very good buzz about it when a red band sizzle reel was shown in at 2009 San Diego Comic-Con. This was Stewart’s first major work (he had made a smaller film in 2000 called What We Talk About When We Talk About Love) and with his background in the special effects industry I thought that this film of his would at least be a feast for the eyes. I knew going in what to expect from something about God, Angels, the Apocalypse and uneding amounts of guns and ammo. So, it was with a profound disappointment when I finally saw Legion and, despite my low expectations, was roundly disappointed with everything about it.

Legion is about God deciding that he’s had enough of humanity’s bullshit and shenanigans (a term I would put on this film) and turned his angelic hosts loose upon the world to start things new. This was God’s version of shaking the Etch-a-Sketch that is the world. He has his two favorite Archangels in Michael and Gabriel leading the vanguard of this Apocalypse with Michael tasked with making sure a baby doesn’t get born before the divine enema has been completed. Well, Michael being the introspective sone decides that he still has faith in humanity and refuses to do God’s bidding. We see Michael go through removing his wings (which also unlocks the very BDSM God collar all the angels wear) then find a huge cache of weapons inside a toy company warehouse. Seems removing the wings makes him human and minus all the cool angelic powers. He says something about the Apocalypse having started then makes off towards Bethle…I mean the diner out in the Nevada desert to protect the prophesized baby who will save humanity.

Yeah, the premise for Legion sounds awesome on paper. Militant angels led by badass Archangels like Gabriel about to go “Terminator” on mankind. The story itself was like a mish-mash of some of the best cult fantasy/horror of the past. There’s some of the cool Christopher Walken film Prophecy in the plot and, of course, one cannot but see some parallels with Cameron’s Terminator. Plus, we have a humanized Archangel Michael with guns and guns and guns to battle his former brethren with his coterie of human sidekicks to help out. The trailer for this was very cool and full of action. A trailer which pretty much had all the cool parts in this film. One can watch the trailer and actually enjoy Legion more than when they watch the film itself.

For a filmmaker with a special effects background the film looked pretty lifeless with action sequences that lacked any sort of memorable action. The dialogue wasn’t awful, but everyone’s performance made it sound worse than it really was. Even Bettany in the lead role of Michael looked tired and bored with his role (a sign the film was going downhill and downhill fast). The possessed humans who made up the bulk of the opposing force against the good  guys were uninteresting with the exception of Doug Jones’ “Ice Cream Man” character shown in the trailer. A scene the trailer pretty much showed almost in its entirety. That character was on the screen for less than two minutes then gone.

I actually think that people should just watch the trailer for Legion then pop into their dvd player Prophecy and Terminator. Doing that will pretty much give them the whole story of Legion and have a kick-ass time doing so. This was a film that looked good to great on paper, but once they actually started writing the script and started filming went down the septic tank. It’s films like these that makes one shout “shenanigans” at all those involved in its making. I think Kyle Broflowski would agree with me.