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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Film Review: 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: Indiscretion (dir by John Stewart Muller)


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Indiscretion is a strange one.

(And by strange, I mean dull and kind of pointless.)

This film premiered on Lifetime last Saturday but, as I watched it, it quickly became obvious that it wasn’t originally produced for Lifetime.

For one thing, the film was shot on location in Louisiana.  Instead of letting Montreal or Toronto stand in for a generic American city, this film was actually shot on the streets of New Orleans.  (Unfortunately, the film also made New Orleans seem kind of boring.)

Secondly, Indiscretion turned out to be one of those films where the soundtrack would suddenly go silent whenever a character said anything stronger than “damn.”  It was odd because you would see a character very obviously saying something like, “Fuck you,” but you wouldn’t be able to hear the voice.  I guess that was to protect the gentle sensibilities of the viewer but what about people who read lips?

And finally, Indiscretion didn’t feature any of the usual Lifetime actors.  Instead, it starred Mira Sorvino as a frustrated wife and Cary Elwes as her politician husband.  Sorvino’s real-life husband, Christoper Backus, played the troubled sculptor who has an affair with Sorvino and then ends up stalking her family.

So, no, Indiscretion was clearly made to, at the very least, be released straight to video.  It was not meant for commercial television.  And yet, somehow, it ended up making a somewhat awkward premiere on Lifetime.

Anyway, Indiscretion starts out well enough.  It doesn’t waste any time arranging for Sorvino and Backus to meet at a fund raiser and for them to end up having a passionate affair.  Sorvino, of course, claims that it was just a weekend fling and that she loves her husband.  Backus refuses to believe her and soon, he’s worming his way into her family.  He befriends her husband and even gets to go on a hunting trip with the governor of Louisiana.  He also ends up having an affair with Sorvino’s teenage daughter.

(Or, at the very least, he takes some pictures of her, which Sorvino later discovers.  It’s a sign of how haphazardly constructed this film is that you’re never quite sure what’s going on with Backus and Sorvino’s daughter.  Backus also uses one of those old Polaroid cameras to take pictures.  Apparently, troubled artists don’t use digital cameras.)

The problem is that, after the first, artfully-shot sex scene, the film itself slows down to an interminable crawl.  It’s as if the film’s director, editor, screenwriter, and producers all forgot that the audience has already seen a hundred movies just like this one.  Nothing surprising happens and, unlike the best Lifetime films, Indiscretion never winks at the audience or indirectly acknowledges the clichéd nature of its narrative.  The whole thing is just painfully dull and no amount of mood lighting is going to change that.  There is a little twist at the end but most viewers will probably be so bored with it all that they probably won’t even notice.  That’s just the type of film this is.

If you want to see an entertainingly over-the-top and pulpy film about people having sex in New Orleans, I would suggest checking to see if Zandalee is still available on YouTube.

Children’s Horror: R.L. Stine’s Monsterville: The Cabinet Of Souls (2015, dir. Peter DeLuise)


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The movie begins and we see a girl walking down the street on Halloween. She smashes a pumpkin and Billy Corgan takes revenge on her because her eyes turn creepy. She runs into the forest and becomes a monster. Then the movie reminds me that if I don’t like it, it’s not director Peter DeLuise’s fault cause it’s called R.L. Stine’s Monsterville: Cabinet Of Souls. The missing “the” had to be donated to the band The The who lost one of their the’s in a tragic accident.

Now it’s one year later and the kids are putting on a high school production of Something Wicked This Way Comes. We are introduced to two guys and two girls. Seeing as I got over my Disney Channel addiction a few years ago, I only recognize Dove Cameron seen here in Liv makeup…unfortunately.

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This is a horror movie that wastes no time in killing off people.

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He is never heard from again after being killed by that candy apple. Just kidding.

Anyways, we now cut to Nora’s Dance & Ballet Academy Halloween Spooky Dance Contest. Cue the Suspiria (1977) footage!

It’s bad enough the High School Musical movies made Disney think we want dancing and singing kids again, but then Nora says this.

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No! Don’t do it kids! That’s how we ended up with the movie Nudist Colony Of The Dead (1991)!

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Then these two show up. That’s Dr. Hysteria (Andrew Kavadas) and Lilith (Katherine McNamara). Dr. Hysteria then invites the children to visit his Hall of Horrors which is a journey “into the wretched black heart of pure evil itself.” He’s exaggerating though since it’s just a haunted house. He’s not holding screenings of God’s Not Dead (2014), Let’s Be Cops (2014), and Frenemies (2012).

All jokes aside, both of those actors do good jobs in this movie. They manage to actually be creepy and evil right up till the end. He even kills a kid. No joke.

Because the local news station actually had a story with enough information for the first time in days, they air that the girl from the beginning of the movie is still missing. Now we meet a guy who is probably interchangeable with an actor from Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (1990). I’ll find out when I get to it.

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He goes on to brag that he once surfed in a monsoon and outran an avalanche with a broken snowboard so he doesn’t scare easily. I sat through the god awful Extreme Ops (2002) knowing that a guy actually died scouting locations for that studio cash-grab on the extreme sports craze, so this guy didn’t scare me.

Oh, and this movie has kids rapping, so if you are a child, you might not want to show this to your parents because they will probably want you dead. But let’s get to the haunted house.

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And I put this screenshot here just so everyone knows that it’s okay to start submitting to IMDb that an alternate title of this movie is Troll 4.

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There are scary things in this haunted house such as what Calculus II would have looked like in the sequel to Freshman Father called Sophomore Father: Revenge of the Derivative! There is also a guy making inappropriate references to penises by pretending to sell “brains on a stick”. But nothing is as scary as that ginormous pink scarf they have Cameron wear in these scenes. Seriously, why? She looks like someone is going to throw a saddle on her and start riding her. Also, I played The Walking Dead and know that you don’t want something a zombie can easily grab on to. Of course she stumbles into a backroom during this sequence to to find that maybe some of these monsters are real.

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After Cameron figures out that the missing girl has something to do with the Hall of Horrors from a site with a malformed URL that it shows a close up of for no good reason. We see Lilith insist on having this guy wrap his arms around her as they ride her bike before she whispers in his ear that her favorite movie is Joe D’Amato’s Porno Holocaust (1981). The kid is naturally scared by this seeing as his favorite movie with Mark Shannon is Italian Batman (1982).

Now the really creepy stuff starts happening. Dr. Hysteria takes kids in to the backroom and shows them their dreams through a portal he opens up in front of them. Their eyes flash and the kids are now his. We don’t know what that means exactly at this point, but we soon find out.

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Inside The Cabinet Of Souls are kids standing around while a fog machine fills the room. It’s a little unclear, but I believe these are the kids souls while their bodies exist in the real world as monsters. It’s all a little unclear. We see some of the monsters walk into the kids bodies. And we see Dr. Hysteria feed off their souls. He does this to one kid who apparently only had one more shot to give cause she dies. I like children’s movies that don’t soft pedal the danger. Harry Potter may have been a bit much, but you get my point. Oh, and before I jump to the end. Just in case the kids aren’t already afraid of clowns.

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I love the way this kid acts too. It’s like they gave him a copy of Beetlejuice, told him to watch it, and just do that. Oh, and here’s the kid dying.

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He says she’s almost empty, then sucks that last bit of lifeforce from her body. She dissolves to the ground and he says “you were a good worker.” Again, kudos to the actors and the people involved with this production for making this movie genuinely creepy even while making it geared toward a younger audience.

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The creepy stuff keeps getting more and more frequent until it finally comes down to whether Cameron is going to join the family or not. Notice two members of the family are rocking the Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th, Part 2 look. Of course Cameron fights back and saves the kids, leaving Lilith, extreme sports guy, and Dr. Hysteria to go into a red oblivion.

I enjoyed this movie. Yeah, I’m sucker for kids movies cause I basically missed out on my childhood by being sick and at home through middle school and high school, but this was well made. I recommend it. Serious points to Andrew Kavadas for the character of Dr. Hysteria.

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