Here’s The Super Scandalous Red Band Trailer For The Happytime Murders!


So, at the start of this year, I thought that The Happytime Murders might be a one of those surprising, no-one-saw-it-coming Oscar nominees.  The film takes place in a world where both humans and puppets co-exist, though puppets are treated like second class citizens.  The film is a murder mystery but, obviously, the plot would seem to suggest that there’s a possibility that there could be a lot more going on underneath the surface.

Then I watched the trailer.

And … yeah, it’s probably not going to be an Oscar nominee.  The Academy has changed a lot of over the last few years but I still don’t know if they’re ready to embrace a film that features muppet jizz.  The trailer for this one so reminded me of Sausage Party that I was shocked to discover that Seth Rogen is not in the film.

However, Joel McHale is!  He’s so adorable.

Also, I noticed that the trailer bragged about being from the same people behind the recent Muppets TV show.  Uhmm … I’ll have to ask Leonard for sure, because I think he’s the only TSLer who regularly watched it, but didn’t everyone hate that show?

Anyway, here’s the red band trailer for The Happytime Murders!  If you have kids, be sure to take them.  You know how much kids love puppets…

 

A Few Thoughts On The X-Files 10.6 “My Struggle II”


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(WARNING: This review will contain spoilers.)

I have to admit that, after I finished watching the finale of The X-Files “revival,” I felt totally and completely confused.  I wasn’t really sure what I had just seen and I don’t mean that in a good way.  I wondered if maybe, as a relatively new viewer of The X-Files, I simply did not have the necessary background information to follow the episode’s plot.  And then I wondered if maybe I just had not been paying enough attention while I was watching.  Maybe I was too ADD to follow an episode of The X-Files…

So, I rewatched the episode.  I made sure to sit right in front of the TV and to turn on the closed captioning so that I would be able to understand what everyone was mumbling about.  During the second viewing, I came to understand just why exactly I had been so confused.  To say that the editing of My Struggle II was ragged would be an understatement.  It was often difficult to figure out how much time had passed between scenes or where the characters were in relation to one another.  The whole episode felt as if it had been haphazardly constructed, with scenes randomly tossed together.  But then again, that’s been true of the entire season.  Even the better episodes have shared that ragged quality.  The parts, as good as they have occasionally been, have rarely added up to a coherent whole.  I imagine that, if you were a fan of The X-Files before the revival, you might have enough of an emotional commitment, in Mulder and Scully as characters, that you can overlook the revival’s weaker moments.  But for a new viewer, like me, it can get frustrating.

This has been a very uneven season.  Season 10 was made up of 6 episodes, each of which seemed to have a totally different tone and outlook from the other.  There’s been one great episode (Mulder & Scully Meet The Weremonster), one terrible episode (My Struggle), one mediocre episode (Babylon), and two episodes that were above average but nothing special (Founder’s Mutation, Home Again).  For the first 40 minutes or so, I thought that My Struggle II would be another mediocre episode.  But, towards the very end, things started to get better.  After spending most of the episode separated from each other, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson finally got to share a scene.  (The only time that Duchovny and Anderson seem truly invested in their roles is when they’re playing off of each other.  Each brings out the best in the other.)  And the scene ended with a cliffhanger that was so batshit crazy that, almost despite my better instincts, I found myself saying, “Yes, give us a season 11 because I have to know what just happened!”

And really, thank God for that cliffhanger.  A good final scene can make up for so much.  My Struggle II opens with Mulder missing and, it’s a sign of that ragged editing that I mentioned earlier, that I wasn’t sure how long he had been missing or who exactly was aware that he was missing.  It turns out that Mulder’s missing because he’s busy driving to South Carolina so he can confront the Cigarette-Smoking Man (William B. Davis), the big villain from the show’s original run.  Apparently, the CSM is aware that humanity is about to be wiped out by an alien plague but he has a cure and he wants Mulder to join him and a few others that he has judged worthy of survival.

Meanwhile, Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale) is back!  When we last heard, Tad had vanished and his web site had been shut down.  And yet, at the start of this episode, Tad has suddenly returned and his web site is once again active.  No mention is made of where O’Malley has been and nobody — not even Scully — seems to be curious about the details.  Maybe O’Malley was never really missing in the first place.  It’s hard to tell with this show.

Anyway, the main reason that Tad shows up is so that he can announce, during his podcast, that humanity’s DNA has been corrupted with alien DNA and, as a result, everyone is essentially a walking time bomb.  This, of course, leads to rioting in the streets which is … odd.  I mean, let’s be honest.  He may look like Joel McHale and his show may be surprisingly well-produced but, ultimately, Tad is just a guy with a podcast.  As I watched the original world react to Tad’s podcast, it occurred to me that Season 10 may be airing in 2016 but it still has a 2002 sensibility.

Working with Agent Einstein (Lauren Ambrose), Scully is able to use her DNA to create a cure for the virus.  I’m not sure how that works but, in all fairness to The X-Files, this may be one of those plot points that would make more sense to me if I had watched more of the previous seasons of the show.  By this point, Mulder has returned from confronting the CSM and is on the verge of dying from the virus.  Scully announces that, in order to cure Mulder, they have to get DNA from their son William but she’s not sure where he is and…

AND THAT’S WHEN A BIG OLD FLYING SAUCER APPEARS IN THE SKY ABOVE!

And, as frustrated as I had been with My Struggle II, I cheered a little when that UFO showed up.  Ever since this revival started, I have been predicting that William would return.  Now, I don’t know for sure who is in that flying saucer but seriously, it has to be William, doesn’t it?  I mean, who else would it be?  As frustrated as I have often been with The X-Files, I ended My Struggle II wanting a season 11 because I want to know who is in that flying saucer.

And, ultimately, I guess that has to be counted as a point in the show’s favor.  When a show can be as flawed as The X-Files has been this season and still leave the viewer hoping for more, that has to be considered a success of some sort.

So, my final verdict on My Struggle II: Uneven but intriguing when it mattered.  I think the same can be said of Season 10 as a whole.

Will The X-Files return for an 11th season?  Well, if it doesn’t, there will be a lot of disappointed people on twitter.  Assuming the show does return and that William is on that flying saucer, can we all start calling him “Sculder?”

Seriously, I’ve been trying to make Sculder a thing for a while now…

A Few Thoughts On … The X-Files 1.1 (“My Struggle”)


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Tonight, after a football game that apparently everyone but me was super excited about, the first episode of The X-Files revival premiered on Fox.  The episode was called My Struggle, I watched it, and now I’m going to offer up just a few thoughts on it.

Why just a few?

Well, first off, it’s just the first of six episodes.  As I watched tonight, I had to keep reminding myself that My Struggle was just the first episode and you really can’t say much about a show based on just the first episode.  My Struggle felt rushed but then again, it had a lot to do.  It had to reintroduce Mulder and Scully, it had to lay the foundation for the rest of the series, it had to introduce a few new characters, and it had to leave the audience intrigued enough to actually watch the 2nd episode.  It was a balancing act that My Struggle often struggled to maintain but I’ve also been told, by people who have claimed to have seen it, that tomorrow’s episode is going to be a lot better.

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So, I am going to try to put off passing judgment on The X-Files until I at least see that second episode.  When you’re a critic, putting off judgment goes against your every natural instinct but that’s what I am going to try to do.

I should also admit that, unlike apparently everyone else in the world, I am hardly an expert on The X-Files.  I’ve seen reruns but I didn’t watch the show regularly when it originally aired.  When I think of The X-Files, my first thought will always be laughing at the opening of the first movie, which featured a kid falling into an underground cave in North Texas.  (As a resident of North Texas, I can assure you that we don’t have caves and the last thing you’re going to see in Dallas is a mountain on the horizon.)

My Struggle started out well.  I enjoyed the pre-credits scene, where David Duchovny explained everything that had happened in the past.  Along with telling us about the previous series, he also talked about the history of UFO sightings and Duchovny’s hypnotic delivery was perfect.

I was a bit less impressed with what immediately followed the credits.  The early scenes, of Mulder and Scully meeting talk show host Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale), felt extremely forced.  I found myself wondering how long I was going to have to listen to Mulder and O’Malley debate gun control.  The attempt at political satire was predictable and tedious.  But I stuck with it because … well, it’s Joel McHale.  Who doesn’t love Joel McHale?

For the first half of the episode, I was bored out of my mind.  It was too talky and all the mumbling was getting on my nerves.  Gillian Anderson — who was so brilliant in The Fall — seemed totally bored and I was not feeling any of that famous chemistry between her and Duchovny.

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But then, things started to get better.  O’Malley showed Mulder a flying saucer that had been made from alien technology and not only did Mulder get excited but the previously stone-faced David Duchovny finally started to show some emotion.  He got excited and his excitement was fun to watch.

And then we got a lengthy monologue from Tad O’Malley, one that basically explained how the military-industrial complex uses alien technology to secretly (and not-so-secretly) rule America and being the lover of history and conspiracy theories that I am, I was absolutely enthralled.  (Though, if the show really had guts, it would have featured a clip of Barack Obama during the conspiracy montage, to go along with the clip of George W. Bush.)  That monologue really saved the episode for me.

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In fact, as I watched, I realized that I may by a skeptic about many things but I am definitely pro-paranoia.  Paranoia makes for a better and more thrilling story and, hopefully, that’s what this new version of The X-Files will continue to focus on.

So, overall, this was a very uneven hour of television.  But I’m still definitely going to set the DVR to record the next episode.

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Film Review: Deliver Us From Evil (dir by Scott Derrickson)


Deliver_Us_from_Evil_(2014_film)_posterI had high hopes for Deliver Us From Evil, largely because it was directed by Scott Derrickson who, in 2012, gave us the wonderfully atmospheric and disturbing Sinister.  Unfortunately, having now seen Deliver Us From Evil, I can only call it the anti-Sinister.  Whereas Sinister took the viewers by surprise, Deliver Us From Evil is predictable.  Whereas Sinister was full of genuinely disturbing moments, Deliver Us From Evil is full of jump scenes that are scary for a few seconds but then swiftly vanish from the memory.  Whereas Sinister was fascinating for featuring a morally ambiguous hero, Deliver Us From Evil features a hero who is so mundanely heroic that you find yourself hoping that he’ll fail just as punishment for his smug hubris.

Perhaps the only way that Deliver Us From Evil tops Sinisteris that it features none other than the King of Television Snark, Joel McHale.  As someone who loves both The Soup and Community, I’m always happy to see Joel but he’s oddly cast here, playing a muscle-bound, adrenaline junkie cop.  It’s not that Joel does a bad job.  In fact, he’s probably the most likable and compelling character in the entire film.  It’s just that you can’t look at him on screen without asking, “Joel, why are you here!?”

Anyway, Deliver Us From Evil is pretty much your standard demonic possession/cop thriller hybrid.  Mysterious murders are being committed.  The murderers speak in a weird language and, it soon turns out, all of them are linked both to the discovery of ancient tomb in Iraq and to a painting company that was started by a group of returning veterans.  It’s up to cops Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) and Parker (Joel McHale – why, Joel, why!?) to solve the crime.  Helping them along the way is a former drug addict priest named Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez).  If you’re guessing that the whole thing leads to a violent exorcism on a stormy night – well, you’re definitely on the right track.

Scott Derrickson does the best that he can with the material but he’s hampered by the fact that the film is based on a book that was written by the real-life Ralph Sarchie.  Perhaps as a result, the film’s Ralph is such an upright and moral hero (though he does yell at his daughter in one unpleasant moment but even that is excused as simply being evidence of how personally Ralph takes his job) that he’s also not that interesting of a character.  Eric Bana, who is actually a pretty good comedic actor, struggles to find some sort of depth to Ralph but ultimately, it’s just not there.  And since 90% of horror is psychological, Deliver Us From Evil cannot recover from revolving around such a flat protagonist.

As a result, Derrickson has little option but to fill the film with standard horror movie scenes.  The scenes, as themselves, work well enough but the story is so predictable that they don’t make much of an impact.  The end result is a film that you’ve seen a hundred times before.

The only difference, of course, is that this version features Joel McHale dancing around with a knife.

Horror On The Lens: Suburban Sasquatch (dir by Dave Wascavage)


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Today’s horror movie on the Shattered Lens is 2004’s Suburban Sasquatch.

Suburban Sasquatch (and, it must be admitted, that is a great freaking title) tells the story of a sasquatch who invades the suburbs.  Well, we assume he’s a sasquatch.  To be honest, the creature actually looks like some guy wandering around in a bear suit but no matter.  Once the so-called sasquatch reaches the suburbs, he goes on a killing spree and … well, that’s pretty much it.

Okay, so obviously, Suburban Sasquatch isn’t a very good movie.  In fact, it’s probably one of the worst movies ever made.  The monster looks ridiculous, the acting is terrible, and the special effects … well, it’s debatable whether or not there are any special effects.  However, Suburban Sasquatch is one of those movies — much like Manos, the Hands of Fate — that is watchable precisely because it is so unbelievably bad.

Also, Joel McHale once said that Suburban Sasquatch was his favorite movie of all time.

I love Joel McHale.

6 Films That Are Not The Dark Knight Rises: The Girl From Naked Eye, Magic Mike, Rock of Ages, Ted, 21 Jump Street, and Underworld: Awakening


Right now, everyone seems to be heading out to see The Dark Knight Rises for the first, second, or hundredth time.  By my own personal count, the  various writers here at The Shattered Lens have seen the film a combined total of 12 times since it opened on Friday.  (Myself, I’ll be seeing it on Tuesday.)

But what if you don’t want to see The Dark Knight Rises this week?  What if you just don’t want to deal with the big crowds?  Maybe you want to wait a few months so that you can see it for a dollar.  Or maybe,  you showed up at the theater and discovered that the showing was sold out or perhaps you’re just not into the whole Batman thing.  What then?  Well, believe it or not, there are other movies out there and below, you can find 6 reviews of films that came out this year but are not The Dark Knight Rises.  Some of them are worth seeing and some of them definitely are not.  But all six of them are alternatives for those of you who want to see a movie but, for whatever reason, don’t want to see The Dark Knight Rises.

(Even better, they’re six films that I saw earlier this year but, until now, still hadn’t gotten around to reviewing.)

1) The Girl From Naked Eye (dir by David Ren)

Jake (Jason Yee) is the driver for a sleazy escort service that’s headquartered out of a strip club called Naked Face.  Jake ends up falling in love with Sandy (Samantha Streets), an escort who writes poetry in her spare time.  (Yes, one of those…)  When Sandy is murdered, Jake goes on a violent search for her murderer.

The Girl From Naked Eye is a pretty uneven and rather predictable film but I actually enjoyed it.  It’s obvious that director David Ren is a fan of the same old film noirs that I love and, at its best, Girl From Naked Eye is a loving tribute to those films.  Streets is likable as the ill-fated Sandy and Gary Stretch brings some unexpected depth to his villainous role.  Perhaps best of all, Girl From Naked Eye is only 80 minutes long.  Sometimes, you just don’t need that extra 30 minutes to tell your story.

The Girl From Naked Eye is very much an independent film so it might be playing near you or it might not.

2) Magic Mike (dir. by Stephen Soderbergh)

After me and my BFF Evelyn saw Magic Mike, I hopped on twitter and I tweeted, “Memo to single guys.  Go hang out around the theater when Magic Mike gets out.  You will get laid!”  Yes, Magic Mike is that type of film…

“Magic” Mike (played by Channing Tatum) is the most popular attraction at Xquisite, a male strip club that’s run by Dallas (a wonderfully sleazy performance from Matthew McConaughey).  Mike ends up serving as a mentor for Adam (Alex Pettyfer) while pursuing Adam’s disapproving sister (Cody Horn) and saving up his money so that he can start his own business.  However, the life proves a lot more difficult for him to leave then he originally thought…

There’s actually a lot of plot in Magic Mike but, ultimately, it doesn’t matter.  The film knows that we’re all here to watch Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, and Joe Manganiello shake everything that they’ve got and the film does not disappoint.  Director Steven Soderbergh’s directs in such a way that the film’s dance numbers are both exciting and, at the same time, distancing.  By taking a rather documentary approach to otherwise salacious material, Soderbergh reminds us that, ultimately, Tatum is just doing a job and fulfilling the requirements of fantasy as opposed to reality.

When Christy Lemire of the Associates Press gave a less than positive review to The Dark Knight Rises, all of the fanboys on Rotten Tomatoes became obsessed with the fact that she had previously given a positive review to Magic Mike.  Many of them left comments complaining that the only reason Lemire enjoyed Magic Mike was because it featured naked men.  While all one has to do is read Lemire’s review to see that’s not the case, so what if it was?  Films have been objectifying women for over a century.  What’s wrong with a little fair play?

Magic Mike is still in theaters.

 3) Rock of Ages (dir. by Adam Shankman)

In this adaptation of the hit Broadway show, Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) is an innocent girl from Oklahoma who dreams of finding super stardom in Los Angeles.  She gets a job working as a waitress at an incredibly filthy-looking club run by Alec Baldwin and she also gets a boyfriend (played by Diego Boneta) who is an aspiring musician himself.  Everything’s great except for the fact that the mayor’s puritanical wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) hates rock and roll and wants to close the club down.  Luckily, alcoholic rock star Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) is willing to help out.  Did I mention that Russell Brand is in this film as well?  Because, he like totally is…

Rock of Ages gives you a chance to watch your favorite actors and actresses shake it to some of the least danceable music ever written and it’s just about as bad you might expect.  Between the vanilla performances of Hough and Boneta and the film’s rampant sexism (every female in the film is either a shrew or a whore and apparently, the only thing that can redeem them is allowing Tom Cruise to drunkenly cop a feel), Rock of Ages is a combination of the forgettable and stuff that you wish you could forget.  For a director who specializes in musicals, Shankman seems strangely lost here and the majority of the big numbers feel lifeless.  The one bright spot is Mary J. Blige who shows up in a minor role and quickly reminds everyone what singing is all about.

Rock of Ages opened with a lot of hype but that hype didn’t translate into box office success.  You can probably still catch it at the dollar theater but you might want your money back afterward.

4) Ted (directed by Seth MacFarlane)

Ted tells the story of a lonely 8 year-old boy who, one night, wishes that his beloved teddy bear Ted might come to life.  Well, Ted does come to life and ends up proving to the world that magic does exist.  Briefly, Ted and his owner are celebrities but soon, Ted’s fame fades and, 28 years later, Ted (voiced by director Seth MacFarlane) and his owner (now played by Mark Wahlberg) are slackers who spend their time smoking weed, watching TV, and obsessing over pop culture. (At times, it almost felt as if the film was a documentary about life here at the TSL Bunker.)  However, Wahlberg’s girlfriend (Mila Kunis) feels that Ted is holding him back and eventually, Wahlberg is forced to make a choice between childhood friendship and adult love.

I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of Seth MacFarlane’s.  I hate the Family Guy and I’ve never gotten through more than 2 minutes of The Cleveland Show.  However, I also have to admit that I enjoyed Ted for what it was.  It’s a massively uneven film that pretty much tells the same joke over and over again but that joke (i.e. a cute toy saying or doing something incredibly crude) turns out to be surprisingly resilient.  For their part, Wahlberg and Kunis are a likable couple and Kunis does a good job generating some much-needed sympathy for her thinly drawn character.  Add to that, Joel McHale is in this film and how can I not enjoy a film that features Joel McHale?

Ted is still playing at a theater near you.

5) 21 Jump Street (dir. by Phil Lord and Chris Miller)

Morton (Jonah Hill) and Greg (Channing Tatum) have been unlikely friends since high school.  Greg was a jock and bully while Morton was a guy who looked and acted a lot like Jonah Hill.  When Greg and Morton graduate high school, they both enter the police academy together and, upon getting out of the academy, they find themselves assigned to hazardous duty like patrolling the local park.  However, it turns out that there’s a new designer drug out there and Hill and Tatum are both sent back to high school.  Only now, they’re working under cover…

21 Jump Street was a real surprise when it came out earlier this year, a laugh-out-loud comedy that managed to both satirize and celebrate the conventions of the American cop film.  Hill and Tatum had a lot of chemistry together and there was something oddly touching about watching Hill return to high school and discover that he was now considered the cool guy while Tatum was now the outsider.  21 Jump Street has kinda gotten forgotten in all the hype surrounding The Avengers and the Dark Knight Rises but ultimately, 21 Jump Street can stand with those two films as proof that occasionally a big-budget studio production can turn out to actually be a good film.

(Plus, James Franco’s look-alike brother, Dave Franco, is in it!)

21 Jump Street is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray but it’s also still playing at a few dollar theaters across the country.

6) Underworld: Awakening (dir by Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein)

Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is back and this time, she’s searching for Michael, who has gone missing.  The plot doesn’t make much sense and the film has one of the most disappointing endings ever but it does provide the viewers with everything that they’ve come to expect from an Underworld film (with the exception of Scott Speedman, who does not return to the role of Michael in this film).

Underworld: Awakening opened at the beginning of the year, got terrible reviews, and made a decent enough amount of money that there will probably be yet another installment in the series come 2014.  That said, Underworld: Awakening is probably the most vapid of all of the Underworld films (and that’s saying something) and, following the releases of both The Avengers and the Dark Knight Rises, it looks like even more of an empty exercise in CGI and action than it did when it was originally released.  That said, this film does star my girl crush, Kate Beckinsale, and, after watching her in this film, I spent a few hours looking for monsters to fight.  I will always recommend any film that features a women kicking ass and that’s about the only reason I have to recommend Underworld: Awakening.

Underworld: Awakening is currently available on both DVD and Blu-Ray.