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John’s Horror Corner presents: Critically comparing the Poltergeist (2015) remake to the original Poltergeist (1982)

May 28, 2015

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Poltergeist (1982) changed the face of horror and paved the way for new horror tropes.  The horror genre already had its share of great haunting movies (e.g., Ghost Story, The Amityville Horror), but Poltergeist changed the game when it yanked little Carol Ann into the spirit world and called in the paranormal researchers for help instead of the police (who surely would get the wrong idea) or a priest (for some sort of exorcism).  The concept of “the other side” had not been approached so effectively before nor in such a direct manner.  And the use of paranormal researchers had never been so brilliantly portrayed.  In many ways I consider the original to be a perfect film even today.

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Both Poltergeist (1982) and Poltergeist II (1986) stand as excellent proof that the best horror came from the 80s and even today I enjoy these films for reasons beyond simple nostalgia.  However Poltergeist III (1988), while watchable and not a “bad” horror movie, suffered a drop in quality so noticeable that many Amazon shoppers prefer to buy the Poltergeist/Poltergeist 2 DVD combo pack in lieu of the “trilogy pack.”  Now why is that?  I’d suggest that by part III the novelty had worn off and the “new tropes” pioneered by the franchise had already become that overplayed song on the radio you once loved but now can’t stand even though you can’t help but to sing along because you know all the words.  Similarly, I loved Paranormal Activity (2007) and Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)—actually very Poltergeist­-esque films.  But sadly, just as with the Poltergeist franchise, things started to fall apart with PA 3 (2011), and PA 4 (2012) really just upset me.  To that effect, I’ll say that I never felt a remake was necessary for Poltergeist, but I was admittedly excited to see what they’d do with it after the success (and my enjoyment) of the recent Carrie (2013) and Evil Dead (2013) remakes.

The following is an article (not so much of a review) comparing the approaches, strengths and weaknesses of the recent remake to Tobe Hooper’s 1982 predecessor.  But before we proceed…

SPOILERS!!!   If you have not yet seen this remake then DO NOT READ THIS.  SPOILERS abound!  Instead I’d suggest you visit my older article:
John’s Horror Corner presents Strong Opinions: on remaking Poltergeist (2015)

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A great tagline and a great poster for the 1982 original.  2015…the exact same tagline with a less effective poster.

The Parents. As the remake begins, we are introduced to our family.  The only element that made me like them was Sam Rockwell as the sarcastic, out-of-work and somewhat irresponsible father.  Rockwell steals the show right away with his snippy commentary, his support of his wife and his interactions with his kids.  The problem here is that he—or more so his one-liners—is the keystone to me giving a damn about the entire family…and I didn’t care all that much.  Despite his great one-liners, he pretty much phoned it in and DeWitt was (and I’m so sorry to say this) awful as the mother.  In the original, Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams were perfect.  Every time you saw their faces you felt whatever they felt and feared what they feared.  They were just normal people with normal hopes, but these characters “felt” like people you wanted to succeed, or at least you wanted them protected from restless spirits.

The original casting in 1982’s Poltergeist felt perfect. But this portrait of an American family is, in fact, reproducible.  Shame they failed to do it again in 2015.

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The Kids. The teenaged daughter went from a typically self-interested teen to someone devoid of appropriate human emotion.  When Maddee is taken to the other side, she doesn’t seem traumatized or sad or scared.  But once the TV medium shows up she is excited to meet him and nothing but smiles…as if her kid sister’s soul wasn’t in jeopardy…as if the worst thing that would EVER happen to her family wasn’t happening right now.  I guess this is no major drop-off from the original.  The character just seemed “off.”

The young boy is likable but he pulls a totally unwarranted 180.  He goes from being afraid of everything (including the dark) to behaving like a first class hero at the drop of a dime.  Worse yet, this scaredy-cat should be traumatized to the point of catatonia!  He has attacked by an evil clown doll and attacked by a possessed evil tree monster!  Yet he somehow musters the courage to plunge himself into the deep end of the CGI swimming pool of other side and is completely unphased by the zombie-like twisted souls that form the corridors of the netherworld?  Who is this kid?  Constantine!?!?!  I’m sorry, but there was nothing credible about this and instead of feeling inspired by this brave little boy I just felt annoyed by the stupidity behind penning that scene.  The boy in the original was a traumatized mess and he dealt with a much scarier evil tree and at LEAST an equally evil clown doll!  Just because your kid sister needs help it doesn’t justify emerging from a Marvel chrysalis as a superhero.

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And our brunette Carol Anne, Maddee?  She was a cute kid and did an appropriately passable job.  But she was no Carol Anne!  Both Maddee and Carol Ann were cute, you wanted to save them, and when things got creepy so did they.  But Carol Ann seemed to have more personality than Maddee, thus seemingly reducing Maddee to a storytelling device rather than a character.

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The Paranormal Researchers. In the original the academics were great and Tangina was amazing.  Their highly different approaches, background and personalities somehow found excellent synergy in the story and added extra character dimensions without adding confusion.

Tangina was perfectly weird.  She is NOT reproducible!  I’m glad they didn’t try.  Any medium can be a weird character, but if they go super short then they’re just trying too hard.

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In the remake the academics are okay and Jared Harris is at times good as a modern ghost hunter medium with legit skills.  As excited as I was to see him in this after his role in The Quiet Ones (2014), I didn’t feel that Harris added any suspense or legitimacy to the story.  Adding Harris’ character was not an improvement; it was just adding “more.”  I wish his role was better written and more integral.  Meanwhile the academics came off as a less interesting, less credible, and less well-acted version of the 1982 troupe.  Also, for better or worse, they didn’t remake the crawling steak scene or the bathroom mirror scene of 1982, both of which involved the paranormal researchers.  I’m half glad they didn’t.

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I’ll admit this looks fake.  But the 1982 clay-faced fakeness of this actually made it seem more surreal and off-putting. This was really hard to watch as he tore his own face apart!  This scene may have stood the test of time…and the test of gross-outs.  Really hard to watch!  I thought they might try to recreate this iconic and gory moment.  Instead we got a weird closet scene involving a young researcher and a power drill.  It was highly predictable and dumb; although I was mildly entertained by its tropiness.

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Jenga!  The original boasted a startling scene in which the haunters stack things in the kitchen.  It sounds overly simple, but it was very effective and was delivered cleverly masked beneath Carol Ann’s playful connection to the spirits early in the story.  Rather than reproduce this, the remake decided to impossibly stack comic books to barricade the young boy from escape.  I can offer no more elaborate opinion than to simply say: it was dumb.

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2015 tried to get needlessly clever with this scene.  I’d say it backfired.  This image has no place in this or any movie.

1982…perfect.  It made an unscary scene startling while demonstrating Carol Ann’s sensitivity to the spirits.

It was copycatted much better by Dark Skies (2013).

The Evil Tree.  In both films we find the young boy placed in a room with a view of an ancient, almost sinister-looking tree.  The buildup was effective in both with the child appearing noticeably troubled by the tree’s appearance, but somehow the CGI-ness of it all made the 2015 remake vastly inferior to me.  We see the tree swiftly reaching around corners and whipping the boy down the hall like he was on a rollercoaster.  While visually dynamic, the remake’s take on this scene just lost its creepiness once the tree’s effects came into play.  What’s more is that the original evil tree tried to EAT the boy, leaving him covered in filth.  The remake’s tree simply menacingly held him in the air like Harry Potter’s womping willow playing a game of keep-away.  This 2015 tree felt like a not-so-scary scene from an adventure movie rather than something of horror.

194tqzn4jl5jojpgPoltergeist-tree-attackpoltergeist-tree So what’s scarier?  Having the tree from Hell try to eat you in 1982?  Or being hung upside down in 2015?

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Attack of the Graveyard.  The 1982 original boasted an elaborately intense scene as coffins erupted from the back yard during a storm and terrified the mother (JoBeth Williams).  This was the scene that properly revealed the anger of the poltergeist and justified the story while also delivering one of the most memorable scenes of 80s horror.  The remake squandered this notion entirely by reducing it to a CGI muck-covered arm reaching for the selfish teenage daughter (who nobody likes anyway) through a hole in the floor in the garage.  I’m not a CGI-hater…I just hated this CGI scene.

Calling Carol Ann.  The scene is simple and integral.  The paranormal researchers just arrived at the house and the parents need to provide some evidence that their daughter is still there even though she “isn’t there.”  In the original this was a very powerful scene.  The parents had just given a tour of the house including Carol Anne’s telekinetically disturbed bedroom and we see Craig T. Nelson’s sleep-deprived and exhausted demeanor as he almost comically calmly explains the situation with an inexpressively deadpan face.  Their desperation is palpable and they need these researchers’ help.  So they stand near the TV, which serves as sort of a White Noise (2005) conduit, and call out her name awaiting a response.  JoBeth’s calls for Carol Ann are followed by a plaguing silence.  But when Carol Ann responds with her sweet tone and the uplifting score, we are moved with hope.  Calling  The tone and the score were intense and even scary, and then so uplifting once Carol Ann responded, then so “off” when she was scared thinking she saw her parents.  for Maddee (our brunette Carol Anne reincarnate) on the other hand, was done with no tension, urgency or hope.  This remake squandered that touching scene…and by the same means screwed up the recovery of Maddee from the other side.  The parents’ disposition after losing Madde, meeting the paranormal researchers and “calling” for Maddee from the other side simply never felt like they were “all in” when any other parents would be, nor did they appear as disheveled (at least emotionally) as they should have.  To call 2015’s remade scene bland would be polite.  It was boring and reproduced without life; like a cupcake devoid of sprinkles or icing or a cake made without sugar.

The Other Side.  In the original the other side is something mysterious and abstract, and consequently scary in its unknown nature.  Carol Ann (and her SOUL) was trapped in this alternate dimension and JoBeth Williams simultaneously wore shades of vulnerability and mama bear bravery as she dove in to save her, emerging from the otherworldly portal with Carol Ann in arms and covered in gelatinous ectoplasmic afterbirth.  Neither of them breathing after this perhaps unsurvivable experience, the father (Craig T. Nelson) scrambles to clean the slime from their noses and mouths desperately repeating “breathe, baby, breathe…breathe.”  Deep down we all knew we’d get a happy ending—but that made the scene no less intense nor any less satisfying when Carol Ann awakens and most adorably and in her itty bitty voice mumbles “hi, daddy.”  My heart about sunk and my eyes nearly watered as a relieved smile traversed my face.  That scene was perfect.  Flash forward to 2015 and the young boy out of nowhere steals the role of netherworld spelunker.  He wanders corridors of flailing zombie arms and spirit whispers without a fear in the world (but not coming off as credibly brave either) and emerges from the portal with his sister by plopping on the living room floor like a trout dumped from a fisherman’s net on a boat deck.  Then they wake up and that’s it.  Basically there’s no sense of tension in the decision to venture to the other side, no urgency while waiting, and no concern about their welfare upon their return; just a weakly rehashed scene from the original.  And while we’re at it, “showing” us the other side was not a good decision.  Just because Insidious (2011) borrowed it from the original and decided to show it to us doesn’t mean you need to show it here!  If you ask me, both films failed to produce a credible depiction of 1982’s other side.

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Why weren’t the scary guardians of the other side enough?  Why did we have to go in, 2015?

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SUMMARY.  The pacing didn’t feel right at all.  I felt like we were rushed from recreated scene to recreated scene so quickly and forcefully that there was no time (nor the writing) for the characters to develop or for us to decide to give a damn about them.  The characters more than anything are what made the original work so well, and the ball was dropped for the remake.  The original had synthesis.  I feel like if I hadn’t already seen the original, I’d be off put by the pacing even more.

The original is still a great film but I no longer consider it an effective “scary” movie to an adult audience.  To kids, yes, very scary.  To adults…?  Nope.  Not horror fans anyway.  The upcoming remake was criticized on Cinema Blend and other horror forums as being a horror movie for kids.  But that’s actually what the original would serve to be today!  I still love the original as it remains emotionally powerful today and intense, even if not scary.  The 33 year old effects were better, too.

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The MFF Podcast #14: All things James Bond

May 27, 2015

Hello all. George Lazenby (AKA Mark) here.

The Audible sponsored MFF pod is back! We want to thank everyone for pushing us to the “What’s Hot” section on Itunes and we promise to keep bringing the educated randomness, Kurt Russell facts and Salacious Crumb impersonations.

This week we bring in Sharkdropper’s Robert Lamb for a spirited discussion of all things James Bond. We talk gadgets, Bond women and George Lazenby’s puffy shirts. In honor of the Bond pod we stole a submarine car and recorded from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean (not true). Strap yourself in for a stellar pod that will thrill, excite and talk a lot about Sean Connery’s fear of spiders.

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You can download the pod on Itunes or you can head to the Sharkdropper website to stream the pod.

Enjoy. Rate. Share. Review. Share. Thanks!

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Repopulating The Hateful Eight With Kurt Russell Characters

May 22, 2015

Hello all. Mark here.

If you’ve been reading MFF or listening to the podcast for some time you know we are big fans of Kurt Russell. The guy is an underrated badass who has a great filmography and wears sleeveless shirts like non-other. 

I’ve decided to populate Tarantino’s new film The Hateful Eight with all Kurt Russell characters. I dug through his films and picked eight antiheroes, criminals, killers and lawmen. These eight men together will undoubtedly make for a weird movie but I think the world is ready for eight Kurt Russell characters reciting Tarantino dialogue.

Sidenote: I have no clue how they end up in the same place at the same time. My best guess is they found a Stargate.

Here is a synopsis for Hateful to give you some background.

In post-Civil War Wyoming, bounty hunters try to find shelter during a blizzard but get involved in a plot of betrayal and deception. Will they survive?

Who do you think would be the sole survivor of this dangerous Wyoming night?

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John Ruth – Hateful Eight

I haven’t watched the film yet but judging by Russell’s mustache it will win the award for “Greatest Film EVER!!!!!” From what I’ve read he plays a hangman that is a mean sonuvabitch. I’d love to see how he would deal with Russell’s dirty cop character from Dark Blue. Would he be jealous of Wyatt Earp’s mustache?

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Stuntman Mike – Death Proof

The dude loves talking in bars, killing people via car crashes and already fits in the Tarantino world. He will blend in perfectly among the shifty Hateful Eight characters and is the evil version of Crunch Calhoun.

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Crunch Calhoun – The Art of the Steal

Crunch Calhoun is a stuntman who always hurts himself and comes back stronger. I want a moment in the Hateful Eight where Stuntman Mike and Crunch Calhoun engage in a snowy sled chase culminating in something incredibly bloody.

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Snake Plissken – Escape From New York

The guy is a seasoned criminal who mutters one-liners and always finds himself in bad situations.  If anybody survives a cavalcade of violence it is Snake.

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I imagine he gets lost after a robbery and ends up in the haberdashery in full Elvis gear. I would lose my mind watching Elvis talk to Snake Plissken. What I like about Michael is people keep thinking he is dead but he always pops up again. He has perfected the art of wearing a bullet proof vest and it would be a fun gag to have him constantly coming back from the dead.

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Eldon PerryDark Blue

Eldon is a dirty cop who finds himself in a dirty bar. I’d love to see him play both sides and end up pulling off a fabled quadruple double cross.

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Wyatt EarpTombstone

The guy is an unstoppable killing machine who delivers justified justice. Now, imagine him in a vipers nest of terrible people. It will be fun watching him deal with a plethora of Kurt Russells while being slightly jealous of Ruth’s sweet stache.

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Gabriel CashTango and Cash

The Hateful Eight has a dangerous lady in the mix. So, I decided to add an undercover Gabriel Cash in drag. The facade won’t last long but just imagine a world where this happens. Stuntman Mike talking to Cash would guarantee Hateful $700 million worldwide.

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What Russell characters would you add?

 

5 Reasons that Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) is the best thing ever!

May 21, 2015

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If you like action movies then this is for you.  PERIOD.  Do not wait to see this at home.  See it on the biggest screen possible…it’s GORGEOUS and INTENSE.

With that said, there were a few things that really made this movie stand out–in addition to the size of the budget and explosions.  Here are 5 things I noticed that contribute to making Mad Max: Fury Road the best thing ever.

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Folks, let’s just start by stating the obvious.  When in your life will you again have the chance to see a $150 million budgeted R-rated action movie?  Probably never.  So go see this in theaters while you still can.

1. BREEDERS.  Immortan Joe lives in a post-apocalyptic future and he has a harem of enslaved “breeders” he uses to produce children.  These young, fertile breeders comprise all of the women under Joe’s rule that do not appear malformed, scarred or ugly.  Funny, since Joe is one of the ugliest and oldest people in his entire Citadel.  Not only does he have a harem, but he protects their “you-know-whats” from other men with toothed chastity belts!  Good luck cracking that safe unscathed…unless, of course, you brought bolt cutters on your date.

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By the way, the fact that Joe has this harem basically provides the entire plot!  No joke.  Charlize Theron decides to try and free Joe’s imprisoned reproductive sex slaves, flees with them, Joe gets every minion and every war machine he has to chase them down…and Max just kind of ends up in the middle of it.

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At one point the girls even gang up on Max and try to kick his butt.

2. THE CULT OF VALHALLA’S STEERING WHEEL.  Our tyrant promises an afterlife in the paradise of Valhalla to convince his fanatical cultist-like tribal followers to become suicidal warriors.  At one point he promises to carry one of his “war boys” into Valhalla with his own two hands–and his war boy minion goes nuts!

Fury Road is an intensely action-gasmic spectacle.  The first 30 minutes bombarded the audience with an unmatched extreme action sequence (and an equally magnificent battle score) beginning with a post-apocalyptic high speed car chase, Max is captured by the tribal cultish goons and then escapes giving chase through a subterranean quasi-steampunk lair while still fettered and gagged while battling dozens of these minions while climbing and hanging from things and trudging through water, and then we get another tremendous mass vehicle chase/battle scene littered with explosions and speeding dilapidated car wrecking cartwheels and minions climbing all over these vehicles like ticks on mechanized apocalypse cattle…and then it all continues in a sandstorm with more bodies being flung from or even into the paths of raging war machines in the maelstrom.  This extended action sequence demonstrates the fanaticism of Immortan Joe’s war boys.

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Let’s try to explain this fanatical chaos, shall we?  Look at what these war boys will do for their leader…
STEP #1: Get a crazy guy with a death wish to leap onto an enemy vehicle while holding spears with explosive heads.

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Step #2: Land on target vehicle.

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Step #3: Explode, along with target vehicle.

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Step #4: “Wash, Rinse and Repeat” with an army of fanatics until all are dead or enemy is dispatched.

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To prevent the war boys from valuing their lives too much, create a false idol–perhaps an altar made of steering wheels–and have them literally pray for a good death and a one-way ticket to Valhalla.

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3. THE BANE FACTOR.  Okay, try to stay with me here…just kidding, this is actually a really simple, quick observation. Tom Hardy played Bane in The Dark Knight Rises (2012).  Back when that movie came out I was complaining that they didn’t get someone physically bigger to play Bane like the gigantic Nathan Jones (6’11” 390lbs; Troy).  Rictus (Nathan Jones) is the son of Joe, who is basically wearing a Bane mask…making him the Bane Father of the Apocalypse.  That’s a “triple bane.”  On an unrelated note, there was a crippled dwarf in the Citadel by the telescope…was this (in combination with Rictus) an indirect hint at Master Blaster?

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4. CHARLIZE THERON HAS A MECHANICAL ARM!  Need I say more?  SIDEBAR: Max is not the hero!  As Max, Tom Hardy (Warrior, The Dark Knight Rises) is perhaps perfect, but his character is quite unexpectedly understated.  His lines are few (think Kurt Russell from Soldier) and he isn’t really the hero of this story.  Rather he is a reluctant sort-of nomad-turned-antihero who trusts no one and remains nameless through the majority of the film.  The real hero is Imperator Furiosa (daringly performed by Charlize Theron; Prometheus, Snow White and the Huntsman), a once-loyal servant with a mechanical arm who is defying Immortan Joe by fleeing his citadel with his enslaved harem of “breeders” (a group of young attractive women Joe uses to produce children).

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Whether you’re holding a gun or raising your arms in peace/surrender, doing so with a mechanical arm always looks cooler.  And, by the way, it looks like a mechanical Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle hand!

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5. THE CRAZY FLAMING GUITAR GUY. George Miller (Mad Max, Road Warrior, Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome) hasn’t done very much recently—really only making children’s movies like two Happy Feet films and Babe: Pig in the Big City in the last 20 years. But after making happy-go-lucky bright-eyed, bushy-tailed kids flicks he has returned to Mad Max with a most fierce yet equally welcome assault on the senses. We have not 2 minutes of calm as we meet Max, his two-headed gecko snack, and his dusty Ford Falcon XB GT.  If that, along with $150 million in explosions wasn’t enough, he also gave us the Doof Warrior.  Doof is a blind guitarist wearing a red onesie who plays the battle hymn of Joe’s war boy army of the Citadel…and his double-necked guitar occasionally shoots flames.  Even better, his war machine has a stage made entirely out of speakers!!!!  This is totally nuts amaze-balls-tastic.

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We go from this [ABOVE]…
to this [BELOW]….nice transition in turning the level of insanity from an 8 to an 11. LMAO

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 I’m sure there’s an explanation out there for this guy with his flamethrowing guitar…I just haven’t a clue what it would be other than BECAUSE THAT WAS AWESOME!!!

JUST ONE MORE REASON…FAN THEORY:  There is a fan theory out there that the Max of this film is in fact a grown up Feral Kid, 30 years later.  This is absolutely not my idea.  I found it on Nerdist: https://nerdist.com/mad-max-fan-theory-will-make-you-want-to-see-fury-road-again/.  But some interesting points are made.  The argument is far from bulletproof, but since even George Miller claims that each movie is a stand alone story that takes place in no particular order, it makes it slightly more plausible.  The observations about his grunting, age and hesitation in revealing his own name are all at least a little convincing.

So who is this movie for? Anyone who likes action movies. Really, ANYONE who likes action movies.

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Pulp Reviews: The Mirror (2014), Extracted (2012), Exorcismus (2010)

May 20, 2015

PULP REVIEW: noun//A review devoid of a thorough or complete synopsis, but including snarky snippets of ideas and overall opinions/recommendations.
Alt. def. A review of a movie that was not worth my time to write a full review.

If I’m writing a review this short, then I probably wouldn’t recommend it.  That said, here are three movies I don’t recommend.

The Mirror (2014) started off with a bit of promise.  In this found footage film we are quickly introduced to our young British protagonists and I found them to be instantly likable.  They have bought an allegedly haunted mirror and set up cameras in hopes of capturing evidence of the paranormal so that they can win some contest.  It’s clearly a very low budget film, but I’d blame this film’s eventual degeneration on poor writing.  Once weird things start to happen, the likability of the characters is squandered, I stopped supporting them, and I found myself just waiting for something interesting to happen…but to no avail.  The best part of this film was meeting the characters in Act 1.  Act 2 simply set up some interest that never found a satisfying conclusion in the 3rd.  Most disappointing was how components of the final act were blatant bastardized rip-offs of Oculus (2013)…not that this is surprising.  I’m always glad to give any film a shot, but this turned out to be wholly dissatisfying.  I’d recommend avoiding future projects by writer/director Edward Boase.  I saw this with my girlfriend (also a general cinephile and horror fan) and she was even less impressed than I was, expressing that she didn’t even find the characters likable.  We don’t recommend this.

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Extracted (2012) features sci-fantasy fan favorite Sasha Roiz (Grimm, Warehouse 13, Caprica) as a scientist who has engineered a method of “seeing” people’s memories.  He ends up in a dangerous situation after he is trapped in the mind of a felon–not unlike the concept behind The Cell (2000), but without all the cool stuff and suspense.  Somehow the story remained interesting while the movie itself felt completely uninspired and unexciting.  Sadly good premises are often lost in subpar movies, and this is sort of the case here.  I was expecting something of a thriller mystery that would have me at the edge of my seat for a fun movie night with the girlfriend.  What I got was a ho-hum mystery that I’d watch while laying on the couch alone and half-asleep with a cold on a Tuesday afternoon after calling in sick from work.  My girlfriend summarized that this movie felt like Inception, Awake, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Ghost, Groundhog Day and Sublime…but clearly not in the best way, nor as effective as any of the aforementioned.  This could have been an awesome film, instead it was merely a serviceable direct-to-DVD flick.  It wasn’t bad per se, but I wouldn’t recommend it either.

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Exorcismus (2010) was shockingly helmed by the director of The Returned (2013).  I say “shockingly” because I thought The Returned was fantastic, yet this film felt stale.  I’ll start by pointing out that I was drawn to this movie because of Doug Bradley (Pinhead of the first several Hellraiser movies).  As it turns out, his role was very small.  Not making up for that at all was the hardly passable “possession acting.”  By this I refer to the lead role (a possessed teenage girl) when she is acting under the influence of an otherworldly force.  They tried to spice things up with a clever twist to the story, but the only way I was moved was by the rolling of my eyes.  Ultimately this may have been one of the least impressive possession movies I’ve seen.  The Rite (2011), The Devil Inside (2012) and even The Possession (2012; which I had called the “the Diet Coke of Possession movies”) were all more effective–but likewise, I wouldn’t recommend any of them either. :/

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Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), mechanical arms, Valhallan cults, flamethrowing guitars and the best action movie of the decade!

May 19, 2015

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MY CALL:  If you like action movies then this is for you.  PERIOD.  Do not wait to see this at home.  See it on the biggest screen possible…it’s GORGEOUS and INTENSE.  MOVIES LIKE Mad Max: Fury Road: While the grandiose action is scaled way down, I think of Waterworld (1995) and The Postman (1997).  Both feature a quiet, reluctant hero in a post-apocalyptic setting.

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Folks, let’s just start by stating the obvious.  When in your life will you again have the chance to see a $150 million budgeted R-rated action movie?  Probably never.  So go see this in theaters while you still can.

Fury Road is an intensely action-gasmic spectacle.  The first 30 minutes bombarded the audience with an unmatched extreme action sequence (and an equally magnificent battle score) beginning with a post-apocalyptic high speed car chase, Max is captured by tribal cultish goons and then escapes giving chase through a subterranean quasi-steampunk lair while still fettered and gagged while battling dozens of these minions while climbing and hanging from things and trudging through water, and then we get another tremendous mass vehicle chase/battle scene littered with explosions and speeding dilapidated car wrecking cartwheels and minions climbing all over these vehicles like ticks on mechanized apocalypse cattle…and then it all continues in a sandstorm with more bodies being flung from or even into the paths of raging war machines in the maelstrom.

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Let’s try to explain this chaos, shall we?
STEP #1: Get a crazy guy with a death wish to leap onto an enemy vehicle while holding spears with explosive heads.

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Step #2: Land on target vehicle.

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Step #3: Explode, along with target vehicle.

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Step #4: “Wash, Rinse and Repeat” with an army of fanatics until all are dead or enemy is dispatched.

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There may be LOADS of CGI, but the budget shines as brightly as the rich orange explosions and the electric yellow sand.  The cinematography bestows grandiose scale to our vastly empty wasteland populated by chaotically raging traffic.  The action was truly flawless throughout, ever-tense and utterly thrilling, and often catches you off guard with the sheer brutality.

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George Miller (Mad Max, Road Warrior, Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome) hasn’t done very much recently—really only making children’s movies like two Happy Feet films and Babe: Pig in the Big City in the last 20 years. But after making happy-go-lucky bright-eyed, bushy-tailed kids flicks he has returned to Mad Max with a most fierce yet equally welcome assault on the senses. We have not 2 minutes of calm as we meet Max, his two-headed gecko snack, and his dusty Ford Falcon XB GT. From that moment on we are graced with a score that matches the scale of the scenery, the explosions and the budget. It’s grandiose in the best of ways; I truly lost myself in it. By the way, the acting was also great!

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 Meet Max, his Ford Falcon, and his post-apocalyptic Hannibal Lector mask.

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As Max, Tom Hardy (Warrior, The Dark Knight Rises) is perhaps perfect, but his character is quite unexpectedly understated.  His lines are few and he isn’t really the hero of this story.  Rather he is a reluctant sort-of nomad-turned-antihero who trusts no one and remains nameless through the majority of the film.  The real hero is Imperator Furiosa (daringly performed by Charlize Theron; Prometheus, Snow White and the Huntsman), a once-loyal servant with a mechanical arm who is defying Immortan Joe by fleeing his citadel with his enslaved harem of “breeders” (a group of young attractive women Joe uses to produce children).  They find unlikely help in a turned minion Nux (Nicholas Hoult; Warm Bodies, Jack the Giant Slayer) and a clan of strong, elderly warrior women deep in the desert.

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Our antagonist is the tyrant Immortan Joe, played by the very same actor (Hugh Keays-Byrne) who played the villain “Toecutter” from Mad Max (1979). Joe rules by controlling the water supply and motivates his gullible and devoted minions called “war boys”—covered with almost tribal body modifications like body paint, piercings, ritual scarrings and brandings–with promises of an afterlife in the paradise of Valhalla, and as such they are ready (even excited) to die in battle serving their warlord.

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It’s very cultish and fanatical. The war boys claim their steering wheels at an altar, pray to Valhalla, and spray paint their teeth silver to prepare for death.

Look for the guy playing the double-necked flamethrower guitar and the gigantic Nathan Jones (6’11” 390lbs; Troy) at Joe’s side as son Rictus who, along with an army of war boys and heavily modified vehicles, aid Joe in recovering his property (i.e., his breeders). That, in essence, is the plot. Max just ends up in the middle of it all. It may sound overly simple, but it works gloriously.

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 I’m sure there’s an explanation out there for this guy with his flamethrowing guitar…I just haven’t a clue what it would be other than BECAUSE THAT WAS AWESOME!!!

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So who is this movie for? Anyone who likes action movies. Really, ANYONE who likes action movies. Also, anyone who appreciates strong female roles. Feminine strength and freedom is what drives this movie and the rather simple plot. Despite the fact that there isn’t much to the story, the film is overall AMAZING.

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The MFF Podcast #13: Planes, Trains and Chris Evans

May 17, 2015

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Proudly sponsored by the audiobook company Audible, your new MFF podcast episode is here!

We hope you enjoyed our previous episode on What If scenarios including Kurt Russell movies, combining Forgetting Sarah Marshall and I Know What You Did Last Summer, and recasting Predator.

SUMMARY:  This week the MFF crew analyzes the strange correlations between fire, ice and train wreck catastrophes across Chris Evans’ filmography and the chamber thriller Ex Machina is reviewed.  As always, there will some be spoilers.  You have been warned.  ;)

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We also answer such important questions as…

“What Martin Scorsese film would most benefit from recasting the lead role with Billy Zane?”
“How would Billy Zane fit into a Clive Barker novel?”
“What was the best/worst movie-turned-TV show?”

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This week’s podcast is based on the following MFF reviews and articles:

Planes, Trains and Chris Evans: Analyzing the similarities of Snowpiercer, Sunshine and Captain America

Snowpiercer: Controlled Chaos at its Finest

Sunshine: An Underrated Science Fiction Classic

Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Ex Machina (2015), playing on your sympathies as powerfully as your suspicions, this is a sci-fi artificial intelligence thriller told in a manner you have not seen before.

Sit back, relax and learn about everything you missed.
If you haven’t seen some of these movies, be comforted that we will geekily inform you as to why you should watch them.

You can stream the pod at the Sharkdropper website, listen to us on with your mobile app OneCast, or download the podcast on Itunes.
If you get a chance please REVIEW, RATE and SHARE the pod!

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