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Kate (2021) – Review: A Decent Action Film That Lacks a Personality

September 19, 2021

Quick Thoughts – Grade C – Kate is an entertaining action film that lacks a personality. It’s cool seeing Mary Elizabeth Winstead wipe people out (there’s a lot of gore), but everything feels too familiar, and the tone pinballs all over as the movie bounces between serious and wildly stylish.

Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan (The Huntsman: Winter War), Kate tells the story an assassin named Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who is recruited by a handler named Varrick (Woody Harrelson), and trained to murder high-level targets with a massive sniper rifle. During a routine mission, she murders a yakuza syndicate member in front of a child, and this pushes her to retire after one more job. During her final job, she’s poisoned, and only has 24 hours to kill all the people who were dumb enough to poison her. Her night/day of mayhem brings her across Yakuza killers, crime bosses who enjoy fish pedicures, and a kid named Ani (Miku Martineau) who she uses to lure out Yakuza boss Kijima (Jun Kunimura). Through the course of her bloody rampage, she bonds with Ani, and she goes from using her as bait, to being her protector as they travel further through the violent Japanese underground loaded with neon lights and J-Pop,

What keeps Kate from being special is that it feels like Crank, 24 Hours to Live, Gunpowder Milkshake, The Professional and John Wick got together, and blended themselves into a movie that features an assassin/thief finding trouble during their last job. There’s nothing wrong with paying homage to other films, and films have been borrowing from each other since movies existed, however, the most successful copiers have been confident in their tone, and played like a singular film. There are highly stylized moments (slow motion walking while wearing cheeky white sunglasses) that stick out like a sore thumb, and don’t feel organic to the movie because the movie’s tone isn’t stylish. It’s not like Gunpowder Milkshake, Netflix’s much better 2021 action film, which takes place in a highly-stylized world full of pink cardigans, bowling jackets and brutal murder. Gunpowder Milkshake gets away with its creative violence because it takes place in an alternate reality where the stylish violence makes sense.

As a Netflix action film, Kate is fine, but if you are looking for a singular vision that feels unique and new, stay away from Kate. There is no joy in the violence, and the film wastes an interesting performance from Winstead, who plays Kate like an old version of the T-800 (she’s called the Terminator in the movie), that is falling apart as her ultraviolent sprees cause her to lose teeth, get stabbed, and puke a lot. Let’s hope that another director sees this movie, and puts Winstead in an action film that is less clunky and serious.

Final thoughts Kate is worth watching for the central performance, and the insane amount of gore, but it will most likely remind you of much better movies.

Deep Blue Sea – The Podcast – Episode 63: Cutthroat Island, Renny Harlin, and Lots of Explosions

September 18, 2021

You can listen to Deep Blue Sea – The Podcast on Apple Podcasts, SpreakerSpotify, Tunein, Podcast Addict, Amazon, Google Podcasts, and everywhere else you listen to podcasts. Also, make sure to like our Facebook page!

Please make sure to rate, review, share, and subscribe!

Jay and Mark are joined by Jeanette Ward (@jeanette_y_ward) to discuss the 1995 action film Cutthroat Island. Directed Renny Harlin, and starring Geena Davis, Matthew Modine, and Frank Langella, the movie focuses on a group of pirates who blow stuff up, and hunt for treasure. In this episode, they discuss torture eels, sword dancing, and badass sleeveless leather pirates. Enjoy!

Please make sure to rate, review and subscribe to the DBS podcast.

John’s Horror Corner: The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), an occult adventure movie starring Bill Pullman versus Voodoo.

September 17, 2021

MY CALL:  This was way less exciting than I recall, but every bit as interesting as I remembered; more like an occult adventure movie like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984). Cool movie still, but much more about story than gore or shock or scares.  MORE MOVIES LIKE The Serpent and the RainbowFor more thoughtful movies investigating the occult, try Angel Heart (1987) or Lord of Illusions (1995). If it’s voodoo/Hudu you seek, try The Kiss (1988), The Skeleton Key (2005) and Spell (2020).

Specializing in exploring indigenous mysticism, anthropologist Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman; Brain Dead, The Grudge) is hired by a biotech company to investigate the phenomenon of zombification in Haiti. More specifically, Dennis must find out how a man verified to have been dead and buried seven years ago is walking the streets today.

Collaborating with a local doctor Marielle (Cathy Tyson), Dennis is introduced to disturbed individuals who have allegedly died and been discovered alive (but not so well) years after, as well as the more influential members of the mystic community. And whereas he is warned of the black magician Dargent (Zakes Mokae; Dust Devil, Vampire in Brooklyn), really it is the entire voodoo community that has him watching his back during his investigation.

This is probably director Wes Craven’s (The Hills Have EyesScreamCursedDeadly FriendDeadly Blessing, A Nightmare on Elm Street) most plotty horror film. The story is rich and feels as much like an occult adventure like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) as it does a horror movie. Likewise, the monsters in this horror film are the humans, not those risen from the dead with clops of putrefied flesh sloughing from their bodies. So if you came for a fright-filled gorefest, you might have come to the wrong place. This film is more concerned with the integrity of its narrative and the horrors of man than it is with fitting the typical horror mold. Still, there is no shortage of creepy horrific scenes. That is, until the final scenes when things get a bit more crazy (like bonkerstastic crazy).

The finale feels like a completely different movie in terms of content. A man tears off his own head and throws it at someone! Sure we’ve already seen severed heads and visions of a corpse bride, but things are more amped-up now. A hallway of oddly long zombie arms reaching for you, a body bursting into flames, a spiritually hammered nail to the groin… it gets zany.

Overall, this classic remains an interesting watch. It may lack the body count or death scenes we expect from 80s horror. But this is a more thoughtful, storytelling film. Great for a rainy Sunday afternoon viewing.

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway (2021) – Review: A Delightfully Odd Sequel That Features Domhnall Gleeson Rolling Down a Hill

September 17, 2021

Quick thoughts: Grade – B+ – Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway is a delightfully weird sequel that features offbeat humor, committed performances, and Domhnall Gleeson rolling down a hill. 

If you’re looking for a film that features dried fruit heists, jogging foxes, and a rabbit getting totally blasted on Jelly Beans, it doesn’t get any better than Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway. What’s beautiful about the sequel is that it sticks to the madcap vibe of its 2018 predecessor, and doesn’t lose track of why the first movie was such a success (boths films are insane). People watching the original in 2018 were treated to a gonzo PG-rated film that featured a subplot about a rabbit delightfully breaking its ribs, while still managing to feature character development and a wild amount of comical violence done to poor Domhnall Gleeson. The sequel essentially turns everything up to 11, but it still doesn’t leave behind the character moments that make these movies unique. The credit goes to returning director/writer Will Gluck, who expands the world, and managed to bring back the majority of the voice and acting talent who made the first film so fun (Daisy Ridley is missed this time around though). 

Peter Rabbit 2 focuses on two separate subplots involving the success of Bea’s (Rose Byrne) Peter Rabbit books, and Peter (James Corden) dealing with being labeled a “bad seed” because of them. The success of the books puts Bea and Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson) in the sites of book publisher (and pugilist) Nigel Basil-Jones (David Oyelowo), who wants to put a modern spin the characters, which will guarantee massive sales, but will eliminate the souls of the characters. The problem with the popularity of the books is that they paint Peter in a negative light, which leads him to meeting an unscrupulous rabbit named Barnabas (Lennie James), who convinces Peter, Flopsy (Margot Robbie), Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki), Cotton-tail (Aimee Horne) and Benjamin (Colin Moody) to rob a farmer’s market loaded with dried fruit and expensive bath bombs. Eventually, the two stories intertwine, and it leads to a cheeky rescue mission that features a deer and a parachute. 

What makes the franchise so endearing is how it embraces odd humor and self-awareness. Whether it’s Gleeson rolling down a hill, or a lovable rabbit almost becoming stew, the movies aren’t afraid to polarize with offbeat humor that allows Corden to wonder if his voice really is annoying (WHAAAAAAATTT!!!). This is what sets the franchise apart from other PG-rated properties, because it rarely plays it totally safe, and it’s never afraid to be silly. 

Final thoughts – Make sure to listen to the epic podcast episode we recorded about the 2018 film. Stay tuned for another epic episode about Peter Rabbit 2.

The Movies, Films and Flix Podcast – Episode 387: Freaky, Mystical Daggers, and Christopher Landon

September 15, 2021

You can download or stream the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker (or wherever you listen to podcasts…..we’re almost everywhere).

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

Mark and Zanandi (@ZaNandi on Twitter) discuss the 2020 horror comedy Freaky. Directed by Christopher Landon, and starring Kathryn Newton and Vince Vaughn, the movie focuses on what happens when a burly serial killer swaps bodies with a high school student. In this episode, they discuss tennis racket kills, mystical daggers, and kitchen fights. Enjoy!

If you are a fan of the podcast, make sure to send in some random listener questions (we love random questions). We thank you for listening, and hope you enjoy the episode!

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

Malignant (2021) – Review: A Fun Horror Film That Should Be Embraced

September 13, 2021

Quick thoughts – Grade B+ – Malignant is insane. James Wan has created one of the oddest horror films I’ve ever seen, and I love it.

Movies like Malignant don’t come around very often, and they should be embraced. After directing Aquman, Furious 7, and The Conjuring 1 & 2, James Wan seems to have been given free reign to create whatever he wanted. The end product is something that is almost impossible to explain, because it’s nuts. It belongs with The Happening and Jupiter Ascending (I love both of them) as movies that swung big and created experiences that people will talk about for a long time. If you are looking for a truly original film, watch Malignant now. 

Directed by James Wan, and starring Annabelle Wallis (Annabelle, The Mummy), Maddie Hasson (check out We Summon the Darkness), George Young, and Michole Briana White, Malignant tells the story of a woman named Madison (Wallis), who starts seeing visions of a mysterious supernatural creature, who is killing people in Seattle. Her visions put her on the radar of Detectives Kekoa Shaw (Young), and Regina Moss (Briana White), who are investigating a series of wildly bloody murders. Together, they team up to solve the mystery, and engage in some fun cat-and-mouse games with the mysterious murderer. 

What’s great about Malignant is how insane it is. There hasn’t been a more strange wide release horror film in years. It would be a shame to spoil anything because it’s best to know nothing about the twists and turns before, just be prepared for an incredible amount of insanity and gore. Also, the cinematography by Michel Burgess (The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, Annabelle Comes Home) is beautiful, and loaded with wide shots, roaming steadicam work, and overhead shots that are a sight to behold. The camera is a character in Malignant, and it’s great seeing a horror film with wildly ambitious camerawork. The production design by Desma Murphy (Art Director on Aquaman, Furious 7 and The Suicide Squad) is also excellent, as the interiors are suitably gloomy, and the Seattle underground looks like a nightmare factory. 

Other highlights are Maddie Hasson who was also a lot of fun in We Summon the Darkness. Her character defies many tropes, and also gets herself involved in some bonkers moments that will leave you cringing (in a good way). Finally, make sure to keep your eye out for the greatest chair throw since The Wolfman (2010)

Final thoughtsMalignant is insane, and I love every second of it.

John’s Horror Corner: Evolution (2015), an enigmatic, slow burn, mix of medical thriller, mild French body horror and folk horror.

September 12, 2021

MY CALL: This is the kind of film where I struggle to even classify what it is. It’s a slow burn medical thriller, it’s sort of a body horror movie, it’s got some intriguing cultish folk horror vibes… but none of these components come to the expected fruition. This film has its own unique agenda which culminates in largely going unexplained. Probably best left for fans of slowburns and A24-style horror. MORE MOVIES LIKE Evolution: For more slow burn medical mystery horror that takes you in a strange direction, try A Cure for Wellness (2016) or Sputnik (2020).

With the curious oddity of a very patient contemporary folk horror, we find an enclave of young women raising a group of young boys in a rather primitively furnished seaside compound. Their lives seem simple. But something strange is afoot as young Nicholas takes his medicine, told it is because he is weak like a crab after a shell molting; and when he is routinely served what I can only describe as ‘worm porridge’ every day as his maternal keeper vigilantly chaperones his meal; or when she methodically bathes him on the shore after his daily swim. Nicholas is overseen as much like a pet or a patient as he is tended as one’s child, however a maternal oversight remains evident.

Despite an atmosphere where things just don’t seem right, abnormal things are presented in a veil of normalcy. This film isn’t weird like The Lighthouse (2019) or The Apostle (2018)… but more like A Cure for Wellness (2016) with just a cultish dash of Midsommar (2019). Nicholas receives much medical attention of sorts. Something very strange is clearly going on, and it’s right in front of us. We just don’t know what it is.

I feel a strong sense of invasiveness as I witness Nicholas’ treatment, and I mean this both in terms of how he is parented and how he is treated medically. Elixirs, stitches, blood drawing, injections, constant supervision… things get weirder. Like really weird. We wander into something of a medical horror-mystery. What gore we encounter is very medical—e.g., medical procedures or the bloody biproducts thereof.

This slow burn will get you nowhere fast. Yet I felt perpetually intrigued and curious, and I enjoy this kind of film. There aren’t death scenes or monsters; this is a different animal altogether and it does not care to attempt to “excite” you by typical horror movie means.

The ending may provide mere glimpses into the answers we wanted, but won’t truly satisfy. Director Lucile Hadzihalilovic (Earwig, Innocence) doesn’t rely or thrive or revel in her ending. The ending is simply where it ends. I won’t fault it for that. But most of my questions remain very much unanswered, and I had many.

Deep Blue Sea – The Podcast – Episode 62: The Abyss, James Cameron, and Mustaches

September 11, 2021

You can listen to Deep Blue Sea – The Podcast on Apple Podcasts, SpreakerSpotify, Tunein, Podcast Addict, Amazon, Google Podcasts, and everywhere else you listen to podcasts. Also, make sure to like our Facebook page!

Please make sure to rate, review, share, and subscribe!

Jay and Mark are joined by Heather “Roger Ramjet” Baxendale-Walsh (@Heather_Kenobi on Twitter) to discuss the 1989 film The Abyss. Directed by James Cameron, and starring Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michael Beach, Michael Biehn, and several wonderful mustaches, the movie is a visually impressive experience that features groundbreaking visual effects, and inspired knife fights. In this episode, they discuss chase scenes, keg caddys, and James Cameron. Enjoy!

Please make sure to rate, review and subscribe to the DBS podcast.

The Movies, Films and Flix Podcast – Episode 386: Howard the Duck, George Lucas, and Diner Scenes

September 10, 2021

You can download or stream the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker (or wherever you listen to podcasts…..we’re almost everywhere).

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

Mark and Norbert discuss the 1986 comic book adaptation Howard the Duck. Directed by Willard Huyck, and starring Lea Thompson and Tim Robbins, the movie focuses on what happens when a sassy duck is transported to earth, and has to battle a dark overlord. In this episode, they discuss Duckworld, George Lucas and practical stunts. Enjoy!

If you are a fan of the podcast, make sure to send in some random listener questions (we love random questions). We thank you for listening, and hope you enjoy the episode!

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

John’s Horror Corner: The Swarm (2020; aka, La Nuee), a mostly subtle French eco-horror about killer insects.

September 10, 2021

MY CALL: Not to be confused with the killer bee movie The Swarm (1978), this movie isn’t what you think it is. And it’s probably not the horror movie you’re looking for. But what it is, is something I appreciate for its more subtle oddity. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Swarm: For more insectoid, arachnid and invertebrate horror try The Fly (1986), The Nest (1988), Slugs (1988), The Bay (2012), Arachnophobia (1990), Ticks (1993), Mosquito (1994) and Mimic (1997). The Mist (2007) and The Thing (1982) get a bit more tentacular but have some buggy appeal, and The Thaw (2009), Blue Monkey (1987) and Things (1989) use totally made up arthropod-like creatures. And of course, one shouldn’t overlook the sci-fi action Starship Troopers (1997).

A struggling widow and single mother of two, Virginie (Suliane Brahim; Black Spot) farms grasshoppers for high-protein livestock meal. The opening scenes are completely genre-innocuous such that you’d not expect this to be building to anything horrific. Even when Virginie’s son has a grasshopper crawling on his hand and stopping to patiently chew the wart off his finger, the boy just watches in amusement and it passes as quirky kid behavior.

After an accident leaves Virginie bleeding and unconscious in her rearing tent, she awakens to swat numerous grasshoppers from her bloody wound. Even stranger, her rearing house is now abuzz with active, freshly molted grasshoppers… and they’re hungry. So like a more grounded version of Larry and Julia’s toxic relationship in Hellraiser (1987), Virginie continues to give her swarm blood so they may thrive, reproduce, and bring her family financial security. But things seem under control; and it’s pigs’ blood she turns to when her own blood just isn’t enough. Or so, it slowly begins with pigs’ blood.

As Virginie pours more of her blood and soul into her work, it becomes her primary concern; an obsession. The development of her business results in what seems to be the diminishment of her conscience and motherhood.

I’ve come to realize that after 50 minutes there is still no reason to expect this to be a horror a movie if you somehow didn’t already know going into this. And while it’s not Oscar contender, I find myself not minding the long-delayed appearance of horror. Yes, there is eventually some gore, a good bit actually. But it’s heavily biased to the very end of the film, at which point it feels like a very different kind of movie entirely… though not in a bad way nor a good way. Just in an odd way. It’s like you were watching a sitcom or a drama, and all of a sudden everyone explodes into a gory bloody mess.

For most of its running time, director Just Philippot’s first feature film is to “killer insect” movies what Raw (2016) is to werewolf movies, only far more slow about it and eventually being more ostentatious about its true nature. The entirety of this movie could be the “opening scenes” of a killer insect movie. It takes a subtle approach to the genre, but then pushes that approach hard upon the viewers driving its point to a crescendo. To be fair, this mystique is wiped away in the final scenes, when this movie finally becomes exactly the movie we expected it to be (even if only briefly). Truly, I wish it just picked one style and stuck with it; subtle, or not. But this remains a solid off-the-beaten path film choice within the horror genre.

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