Creepshow, S1 Ep 1, “Gray Matter” “The House of the Head” Review by Case Wright


Creepshow

Happy Horrorthon! We are in the thick of it and it is AWESOME! Yes, I got another streaming subscription service, but I draw the line at Disney and CBS because they’re boring.  In 1982, Creepshow was a film written, produced, and directed by horror masters, including Stephen King.  The stories were an homage to the EC Horror Comics from the 1950s and 1960s.  The show has become reincarnated on the Shudder streaming service and I will review all of the episodes as they are released.

What’s great about these shows (except for Two Sentence Horror, which is a steaming pile of garbage) is that they give talented people a chance to direct or write when they haven’t had the opportunity prior. Also, because Greg Nicotero (Executive Producer Of The Walking Dead and friend to everyone in horror) is helming it, the show has tremendous access to great stories by Stephen King and actors like Tobin Bell (Saw) and Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad).

The two stories in the premiere were Gray Matter – a Stephen King short story from Night Shift, Directed by Greg Nicotero and The House of the Head was the second story and was Directed by John Harrison, written by Josh Malerman.  The two stories and direction were completely different.

Gray Matter was what I expected: an over the top story with lots of gore that would have been totally at home in a Tales From the Crypt episode.  The House of the Head, on the other hand was genuinely TERRIFYING! I had trouble watching this story because it was so intense that I really worried about the characters and the figurines- I’ll explain later.

Gray Matter is about a son who’s trying to live with his alcoholic single dad.  Everyday the Dad promises to stop drinking and everyday it ends with both of them disappointed.

One day, the father drinks some tainted beer and turns into a slime monster with a craving for beer and people.  The son who enabled his father’s drinking now enables his father’s thirst for human flesh.

This enabling dooms mankind. In essence, the disease of alcoholism consumed the alcoholic and destroyed everyone around him. Sounds about right.

At this time in the 1980s, Stephen King was in the worst period of his cocaine and alcohol addiction and many of his stories revolve around the enabling and tragedy that followed his disease.  In an interview, he described how he put cotton balls up his nose from the frequent bleeds and he kept a sugar bowl filled with cocaine next to him while he wrote.

The symbolism in the episode was not that obvious; it was much into dramatic performances and gore. The monster was a classic Tom Savini art work.

The House of the Head was amazingly unexpected.  It was tense, subtle, and had you on the edge of your seat for the entire episode.  Evie, the central protagonist in The House of the Head, is a nine year old girl whose father got her a dollhouse. Screenshot (98).png

The dollhouse is adorable with cute figurine parents and a child.

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Unfortunately, the dollhouse is also haunted by a severed head!!!! Yikes!

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The writing and direction ramps up the tension as we see that reality is being blurred by this supernatural entity.  The figurines in the dollhouse get terrorized and murdered by the severed head.  It’s real nightmare fuel.

The suspense/thriller writing and directing was also unexpected.  I thought it was going to be a Tales From the Crypt style story; instead John Harrison (Dir) and Josh Malerman (Writer) relentlessly pull the viewer into the haunted dollhouse where every shot is filled with uncertainty and terror.

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The dollhouse itself becomes a character and the viewer is forced to wonder if our protagonist and her parents are in fact figurines themselves with shots like this.

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The parents are laying in an doll-like manner and the furniture also looks like a dollhouse’s accessories. Is the Head pulling them into a dollhouse world? Is it pushing its way into our reality? Much like the episode itself, you never really know. Every time Evie looks from one room to another, the camera pans back and the figurines have changed and it’s rarely good.

This show was a lot of fun and it’s great to see a horror anthology story done well!

It’s not really enough to recommend this show without recommending Shudder itself. It’s not a lot of money per month and has a lot of original programming.

What If Lisa Had All The Power: 2019 Emmy Nominations Edition


In a few hours, the 2019 Emmy nominations will be announced!

Since I love awards and I love making lists, it’s an annual tradition that I list who and what would be nominated if I had all the power.  Keep in mind that what you’re seeing below are not necessarily my predictions of what or who will actually be nominated.  Many of the shows listed below will probably be ignored tomorrow morning.  Instead, this is a list of the nominees and winners if I was the one who was solely responsible for picking them.

Because I got off to a late start this year, I’m only listing the major categories below.  I may go back and do a full, 100-category list sometime tomorrow.  Who knows?  I do love making lists.

Anyway, here’s what would be nominated and what would win if I had all the power!  (Winners are listed in bold.)

(Want to see who and what was nominated for Emmy consideration this year?  Click here!)

(Want to see my picks for last year?  Click here!)

(Want to see my picks for 2012?  I know, that’s kinda random.  Anyway, click here!)

Programming

Outstanding Comedy Series

Barry

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

GLOW

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

One Day At A Time

Veep

Vida

Outstanding Drama Series

Better Call Saul

Dynasty

Flack

Game of Thrones

The Magicians

My Brilliant Friend

Ozark

You

Outstanding Limited Series

Chernobyl

Fosse/Verdon

The Haunting of Hill House

I Am The Night

Maniac

Sharp Objects

True Detective

A Very English Scandal

Outstanding Television Movie

The Bad Seed

Bandersnatch (Black Mirror)

Brexit

Deadwood

King Lear

Native Son

No One Would Tell

O.G.

Performer

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Iain Armitage in Young Sheldon

Ted Danson in The Good Place

Bill Hader in Barry

Pete Holmes in Crashing

Glenn Howerton in A.P. Bio

Andy Samberg in Brooklyn Nine Nine

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Penn Badgley in You

Jason Bateman in Ozark

James Franco in The Deuce

John Krasinski in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan

Bob Odenkirk in Better Call Saul

Dominic West in The Affair

Outstanding Lead Actor In a Limited Series

Hugh Grant in A Very English Scandal

Jared Harris in Chernobyl

Jonah Hill in Maniac

Chris Pine in I Am The Night

Sam Rockwell in Fosse/Verdon

Henry Thomas in The Haunting of Hill House

Outstanding Lead Actor In An Original Movie

Benedict Cumberbatch in Brexit

Anthony Hopkins in King Lear

Rob Lowe in The Bad Seed

Ian McShane in Deadwood

Timothy Olyphant in Deadwood

Jeffrey Wright in O.G.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series

Melissa Barrera in Vida

Kristen Bell in The Good Place

Alison Brie in GLOW

Rachel Brosnahan in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep

Zoe Perry in Young Sheldon

Outstanding Lead Actress in A Drama Series

Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones

Gaia Girace in My Brilliant Friend

Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Deuce

Laura Linney in Ozark

Margherita Mazzucco in My Brilliant Friend

Anna Paquin in Flack

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series

Amy Adams in Sharp Objects

India Eisley in I Am The Night

Carla Gugino in The Haunting of Hill House

Charlotte Hope in The Spanish Princess

Emma Stone in Maniac

Michelle Williams in Fosse/Verdon

Outstanding Lead Actress in an Original Movie

Shannen Doherty in No One Would Tell

Chelsea Frei in Victoria Gotti: My Father’s Daughter

McKenna Grace in The Bad Seed

Paula Malcolmson in Deadwood

Molly Parker in Deadwood

Christina Ricci in Escaping The Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series

Fred Armisen in Documentary Now!

Andre Braugher in Brooklyn Nine Nine

Anthony Carrigan in Barry

Tony Hale in Veep

Sam Richardson in Veep

Stephen Root in Barry

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series

Jonathan Banks in Better Call Saul

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in Game of Thrones

Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones

Giancarlo Esposito in Better Call Saul

Peter Mullan in Ozark

Luca Padovan in You

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Limited Series

Stephen Dorff in True Detective

Timothy Hutton in The Haunting of Hill House

Chris Messina in Sharp Objects

Stellan Skarsgard in Chernobyl

Justin Thereoux in Maniac

Ben Whishaw in A Very English Scandal

Outstanding Supporting Actor In An Original Movie

Jim Broadbent in King Lear

Bill Camp in Native Son

Theothus Carter in O.G.

Rory Kinnear in Brexit

Gerald McRaney in Deadwood

Will Poulter in Bandersnatch (Black Mirror)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in A Comedy Series

Caroline Aaron in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Alex Borstein in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Anna Chlumsky in Veep

Sarah Goldberg in Barry

Rita Moreno in One Day At A Time

Sarah Sutherland in Veep

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series

Summer Bishil in The Magicians

Elisa Del Genio in My Brilliant Friend

Julia Garner in Ozark

Lena Headey in Game of Thrones

Elizabeth Lail in You

Shay Mitchell in You

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Limited Series

Jessie Buckley in Chernobyl

Patricia Clarkson in Sharp Objects

Sally Field in Maniac

Patricia Hodge in A Very English Scandal

Connie Nielsen in I Am The Night

Emily Watson in Chernobyl

Outstanding Supporting Actress In An Original Movie

Kim Dickens in Deadwood

Florence Pugh in King Lear

Margaret Qualley in Favorite Son

Emma Thompson in King Lear

Emily Watson in King Lear

Robin Weigert in Deadwood

 

Film Review: Maze Runner: The Death Cure (dir by Wes Ball)


Here are a few good things about Maze Runner: The Death Cure.

First off, and most importantly, Dylan O’Brien is still alive.  When The Death Cure first went into production way back in 2016, O’Brien was seriously injured on the set.  While it’s never really been disclosed just how serious the injuries were, they were bad enough that it took O’Brien several months to recover.  There was even some speculation that his career might be over.  Fortunately, that wasn’t the case.  Last year, O’Brien returned to the screen and gave a superior performance as the lead in American Assassin.  In The Death Cure, O’Brien returns as Thomas and even if the character is still a bit of cipher, O’Brien does a good job playing him.

Secondly, Gally lives!  In the first Maze Runner, Gally was a villain but, because he was played by Will Poulter, he was also strangely likable.  Maze Runner was the first film in which I ever noticed Will Poulter and I have to admit that I’ve always felt that both the actor and the character deserved better than to be casually killed off at the end of the first movie.  Since Maze Runner, Poulter has given great performances in both The Revenant and Detroit.  (He was also briefly cast as Pennywise in It, though the role was ultimately played by Bill Skarsgard.)  In The Death Cure, it is not only revealed that Gally is still alive but he also finally gets to be one of the good guys.

Third, the Death Cure confirms what I felt when I first saw The Maze Runner.  Wes Ball is a talented director.  Despite whatever narrative flaws that the Maze Runner films may have, they’re always watchable.  Death Cure opens with a genuinely exciting action sequence and there are more than a few visually striking shots.

Fourth, Death Cure actually ends the Maze Runner saga.  That may sound like a strange or back-handed compliment but it’s not.  Death Cure resists the temptation to try to milk more money out of the franchise by unnecessarily splitting the finale in two.  I’ve always felt that The Hunger Games made a huge mistake with its two-part finale.  (The first part was good but the second part dragged.)  Divergent appears to be destined to be forever unfinished because the first part of it’s two-part finale bombed at the box office.  Death Cure refuses to indulge in any of that nonsense.  Unfortunately, this also means that Death Cure ends up lasting an unwieldy 142 minutes but still, that’s better than forcing the film into two parts.  With the current YA dysptopia cycle winding down, now is the right time to end things.

Finally, I appreciated the fact that the bad guys in Death Cure were named WCKD.  There’s nothing subtle about that but this isn’t a movie the demands subtlety.  As opposed to many other films based on dystopian YA fiction, The Maze Runner films have always been aware of just how ludicrous they often are.  Unlike the Divergent films or The Fifth Wave, the Maze Runner films have always been smart enough not to take themselves too seriously.

Anyway, as for Death Cure itself, it’s big and noisy and your enjoyment will largely depend on how much you remember about the first two films.  It’s been nearly three years since The Scorch Trials came out, which is an eternity when it comes to a franchise like Maze Runner.  Death Cure pretty much jumps right into the action and if you don’t remember all of the details from the first two films … well, good luck getting caught up!  (Unfortunately, it doesn’t help that, while the first movie was fun, Scorch Trials was a lot easier to forget.)  It’s pretty much a typical tale of YA dystopia, complete with tragic deaths, shocking betrayal, and a chosen one.  If you’re a fan of the previous two films or the books, you’ll probably enjoy Death Cure.  For the rest of us, it’s a bit of a confusing ride but at least there’s a lot of up-and-coming talent on display.

Film Review: Money Monster (dir by Jodie Foster)


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In a perfect world, the new film Money Monster would feature a monster that was literally made out of money.  Its name would be Monblar and it would shamble down Wall Street and breathe coins made of fire.

Or, if not featuring a literal Money Monster, the film would at least open with the angry spirit of Andrew Jackson springing out of a twenty and seeking vengeance over being replaced by Harriet Tubman.  In order to defeat the bitter old president, it would be necessary to summon the spirits of both Tubman and currency hottie Alexander Hamilton.  Seriously, that would be a great movie!

Unfortunately, Money Monster is just another boring recession thriller.  I’ve lost track of how many bad movies have been released since 2008, all featuring saintly blue collar workers who are forced to resort to extreme measures as a result of losing all of their money due to corporate greed.  While they seek revenge by either pulling off a tower heist or an assault on wall street, villainous CEOs sit in their offices, smoke cigars, and laugh at the evil of it all.  In between the inevitable gunshots and the collapsing families and the evictions, there’s always time for a didactic speech or two.  And don’t get me wrong.  I’m not fan of Wall Street but I’m also not a fan of preachy movies.

George Clooney plays Lee Gates, who has a show called Money Monster where he tells people where they should invest their money.  Lee is charming.  Lee is glib.  Lee’s show features backup dancers, clips from old movies, and a rap theme song that is just so 2002.  At the start of the show, Lee even dances as Money Monster tries to convince us that Lee’s a hyperactive showman despite the fact that he’s being played one of the most laid back actors of all time.  Lee is totally unaware and/or unconcerned about the people who have occasionally lost their life savings due to his advice.

One of those people is a deliveryman named Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) and we know he’s a good, honest guy because his name is Kyle Budwell as opposed to Kyle Evilguy.  Kyle follows Lee’s advice to invest his family’s savings in IBIS Global Capital.  (At first, I thought that the company was called ISIS Global Capital and I was like, “Hey, you betray your country, you pay the consequences…”)  One week later, the IBIS stock crashes, Kyle is suddenly dead broke, The Big Short only manages to win one Oscar, and Hillary Clinton defeats Bernie Sanders in the New York primary.  What other choice does Kyle have other than to go on Lee’s show, force Lee to wear a bomb vest, and demand answers!

Yawn.

There’s not a single surprising moment in Money Monster.  I was going to say that you immediately know that IBIS’s CEO is evil because he’s played by Dominic West but actually, you know he’s evil because he’s a CEO and he’s appearing in a movie called Money Monster.  Meanwhile, you know that Kyle isn’t really a bad guy because he looks like likable, clean-cut, and handsome Jack O’Connell.  If Money Monster had any guts, it would have cast some fat 60 year-old slob with bad teeth in the role of Kyle Budwell.  Money Monster ends with a twist that you’ll guess within the first few minutes of film.  It’s an annoying twist, if just because it seems to assume that the audiences can’t handle moral ambiguity.

(Then again, there’s really no reason to assume that audiences can handle moral ambiguity so maybe Money Monster has a point…)

I suppose I should mention that Julia Roberts is also in the movie but there’s really no reason for her to be there.  She plays Lee’s producer, Patty, and there’s nothing about the role that demands it be played by a star.  There is a subplot about how, up until the Kyle takes Lee hostage, Patty had been planning on quitting her job but … well, who cares?  Whenever Patty and Lee talked, I found myself cringing and thinking, “Do we really have to sit through this conversation?”

(In all fairness to Money Monster, that’s actually my reaction to most conversations…)

Money Monster was directed by Jodie Foster.  It’s funny how we always assume that just because someone is a good actor that they’ll also be a good director.  For instance, Angelina Jolie has directed three mediocre films and yet, with the announcement of each new Jolie-directed movie, we still continue to assume that she’s eventually going to win an Oscar for her work behind the camera.  (Remember when Unbroken and By The Sea were being touted as guaranteed Oscar nominees?)  George Clooney has directed five films and none of them are really that good.  (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind only works because of Sam Rockwell’s performance.  Goodnight and Good Luck is overrated.  Leatherheads is boring.  The Ides of March is tedious and The Monuments Men is one of the worst movies that I’ve ever seen.)  Money Monster is Foster’s fourth film as a director and it’s almost as much of a tonal mess as The Beaver.  Then again, The Beaver was at least weird.  Money Monster was just boring.  Foster is an incredibly compelling actress and an incredibly blah director.

That said, you would think that Foster would at least be able to get good performances out of the cast.  As good as they often are, both George Clooney and Julia Roberts have actorly tics that they tend to fall back on whenever they’re working in the absence of a strong directorial vision and let’s just say that this is a very tic-filled film.  Meanwhile, poor Jack O’Connell is running the risk of turning into Taylor Kitsch.

Amazingly enough, Money Monster was this week’s “big” release.  Personally, I would recommend seeing Captain America: Civil War for a second or third time.  Now that was a good movie!

Money Monster

Quick Review: Disney’s The Jungle Book (dir. by Jon Favreau)


THE JUNGLE BOOK

Without giving away the film, I haven’t much to say about Disney’s The Jungle Book other than I enjoyed it. Granted, it’s one that’s been done a number of times. 

When the trailer for Disney’s The Jungle Book was released, I was happy for it. It was good to see Jon Favreau back to directing bigger productions. After the misstep of Cowboys & Aliens and the success of Chef , it seems like he’s really back on track in a big way. That was my reason for seeing the film this past weekend.

Note that I’ve never seen the Disney Animated Version of The Jungle Book. I can’t really make any comparisons, other than the music, having listened to songs as a kid.

The Jungle Book is the story of Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi), a young boy who lives in the jungle and is raised by both a pack of wolves (lead by Lupita Nyong’o and Giancarlo Esposito) & a Panther named Bagheera (Sir Ben Kingsley). Evil rears its ugly head in the form of a Tiger named Shere Khan (Idris Elba), who wishes to have Mowgli killed because he knows how dangerous he can become once grown. Can the pack protect him, or will have have to find a way to save himself? That is pretty much what you need to know about the plot. I felt the movie had a number of comparisons to the Lion King (and even one reference to Return of the Jedi). Still, it manages to move at a good pace. Unlike Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, I didn’t find myself rolling my eyes or counting the minutes until a bathroom break appeared. 

Casting in the Jungle Book is pretty good. There’s hardly a cast member out of place, though not everyone is given a great deal of screen time. It is Mowgli’s story, after all. Idris Elba is menacing as Shere Khan. Scarlett Johannson (Chef, Iron Man 2)  plays Kaa the Snake and has a song on the score. Bill Murray’s Baloo is cute and cuddly, but the biggest casting surprise has to be Christopher Walken as Big Louie. The film even manages to contain a few musical numbers, though I don’t know if it could be classified as a musical. Those moments are few and far between.

Visually, The Jungle Book is downright beautiful. The animals are rendered so well (in some cases) that one might suspect they had actual animals on hand for a reference or at least some on set. It’s still early, but this is a movie I’d tuck away until the next awards season, at least where the Visual Effects are concerned. The 3-D version of the film has some great moments, but I wouldn’t consider it a requirement to actually see it in this format.

Some elements early in the film may be frightening for the youngest of viewers. Tigers are meant to be scary, so Shere Khan definitely worked for me. The same goes with Kaa and with Louie. Overall, The Jungle Book is set to be a major hit and it’s nice to see Favreau with a directorial win.

The Jungle Book Super Bowl Trailer


The Jungle Book

A month before we marvel at Captain America: Civil War we shall be treated to the latest film adaptation of Disney’s animated film The Jungle Book which itself is an adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling of the same name.

This film has such an impressive pedigree. In the director’s chair is Jon Favreau who is the man who help begin the massive Marvel Cinematic Universe with Iron Man. The cast is a who’s who of some of the most recognizable actors working today: Idris Elba, Ben Kingsley, Scarlett Johansson, Lupito Nyong’o, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Esposito and Bill Murray.

The Jungle Book is being touted as the next step in visual effects in filmmaking with everything except the young Mowgli being computer-generated. The film’s sizzle reel trailer wowed everyone at this past summer San Diego Comic-Con and this Super Bowl trailer does everything to help make that sizzle turn into a full-blown firestorm of hype.

The Jungle Book is set to come out on April 15, 2016.