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John’s Horror Corner: The Alien Dead (1980), if you like zombie movies, skip this one.

November 27, 2021

MY CALL:  For real, this is an awful zombie movie with absolute zero value even for the time of its release. This is purely for trash cinema connoisseurs.  MORE MOVIES LIKE The Alien Dead: Well, for more films of “equal quality” continue through Fred Olen Ray’s early (and ultra-classy) filmography with Scalps (1983), Biohazard (1985), Evil Spawn (1987) and Deep Space (1988).

WTF did I just watch? Dear Lord, this is dreadful. There are few so poorly written movies that actually try so hard to tell an empty story—and it’s the “trying” that makes it even worse. Watching this is painful.

The first zombie that has more than a moment’s screen time is a guy in what is clearly a rubber Halloween mask like a veiny-faced alien (I guess). These zombies bite their victims, draw extremely little blood, and then carry or drag their victims away. Thankfully, subsequent zombies have better monster make-up (i.e., not just rubber masks), but that doesn’t necessarily make the movie hurt any less. Honestly, the rubber masks at least offered a “this is so incredibly bad” charm.

But if the zombies look bad, the zombie attacks are even worse utter garbage. Just a bunch of people stumbling like drunks and mouthing at necks and forearms of people. Sure there were some more gory scenes, but those few scenes clearly swallowed the hundred-dollar FX budget. My Instagram feed was far more entertaining, and I caught myself on it frequently trying to survive this Florida swamp zombie (micro-)apocalypse.

In general, the scenes are completely empty and nothing ever builds to anything. I can barely even recall what this was about and scenes in the end seem no more likely to be at the end of a movie than the beginning. Apparently, some meteor landed in a swamp and infected people with a sort of zombiism. Only these zombies strangle and drag their victims away and turn to flesh-eating when it’s more convenient like a scavenging hyena. Yeah, dumb.

From what I’ve read this was originally scripted with giant swamp leech people as the monsters. Probably would have fit better and been more enjoyably campy, but such costuming was evidently beyond the scope of the budget. But have no fear, director and co-writer Fred Olen Ray (Scalps, Biohazard, Evil Spawn, Deep Space) went on to do many more raunchy cheesy horror movies! Not only that, but I suffered through and reviewed those as well! Lucky you!

MFF Theory – A Closer Look at the Final Fight in Bloodsport

November 23, 2021

Quick Note – This theory is meant to be fun, and is based on observations and statistics. I’m not saying “see, what I would do is deliver a quadruple spin kick, then land a quintuplet elbow on JCVD.”  I fully realize that Dux and Chong-Li (heck, any of the Kumite fighters would hurt me) would obliterate every bone/joint/blood vessel in my body. 

While researching Bloodsport for a data article, the seed of an idea was planted in my mind. The added scrutiny and analysis made me wonder if Chong-Li, the ultimate badass, lost the championship fight on purpose. Think about it, in his first eight fights in the tournament, he proved himself to be a tactician, who despite a few rough spots, showed everyone that he understands angles, utilizes footwork well, and knows how to take down his opponents with strategic strikes. Watch this GIF, and remember it when I break down the final fight. 

Watch the eight fights again (link here, or find timestamps in breakdown of fights below), then watch the final. Chong-Li completely falls apart. There’s a reason for this, as the championship brawl was choreographed and filmed to showcase the many skills of JCVD. The problem is, by showcasing these skills, the final fight plays completely false. In the context of the movie, it seems like Chong-Li either completely forgot how to fight, or was forced to lose after killing his opponent and losing favor with the Triads who were allowing the tournament to be fought in Hong Kong, and the Black Dragon Society (who have a rich and powerful heritage – 00:35:25), and their co-sponsor the International Fighting Arts Association (IFAA) – who clearly didn’t like that Chong-Li snapped a semifinalists neck. Or, he could’ve been threatened after his semi-final match by the Royal Hong Kong Police who were working with the American military to keep the US asset (Frank Dux – the US military spent a lot of time and money training him) alive and healthy. Either way, Chong-Li was a different fighter in the finals, and in the context of the film, there has to be a reason.

Here’s the first of many examples. During the film, there are many shots of Chong-Li watching Frank Dux fight. He’s clearly examining Dux’s style, and learning what makes him dangerous (for instance, 86% of his strikes come from his right kicks or punches). He’s already seen Dux land a rick kick immediately in his fight against Joao Gomez (00:56:35), so, why does he let Dux do the same exact thing again (01:17:58)? In his prior fights, he avoided 21 strikes via blocking, footwork, or jumping. The best fighter in the world wouldn’t let this happen. 

While workshopping this theory, several people brought up legitimate concerns (or told me I was insane) such as the blinding salt, and the fact that he didn’t seem to care that the fighting community turned their backs on him. However, you saw the reaction to everyone in the tournament when he killed Chuan IP Mang. Yes, he had killed someone in the Kumite tournament five years ago, but, it sounds like he landed a throat strike during the fight, and that killed his foe. However, in the tournament featured in the film, he blatantly snapped a guy’s neck after winning the fight. This is a really bad look considering the recent sponsorship by a major martial arts association, and the fact that he’s fighting an AWOL American (who the army spent a lot of money on) who has the American Military, Hong Kong police, and well funded journalists on his tail. 

Here are some examples of the added scrutiny and pressure that Janice (a reporter), and the American/Hong Kong police placed on the Kumite

  • Janice goes to the Hong Kong Police, and says”I have a friend fighting in it, and I don’t want him to get hurt.” (01:04:46). She’s a reporter. Imagine if Frank is killed, and she writes about how she warned authorities. It’s game over for the Kumite, who have been working deals with the Triad, and allowing people to be killed. 
  • Frank is told “Look Frank, the government has invested a lot of time and money in you. Uncle Sam can’t afford to let you get hurt.” (00:45:28:00) – Frank then says “I won’t get hurt.” The response is “That’s why we’re here, to make sure of that.” – I know they are trying to stop him from fighting, but when that doesn’t work, they work other angles
  • Rawlins says “Now what? How are we going to stop him? – Helmer says “Follow me.” (01:09:25). Rawlins clearly has a plan, and with Chen with him, they have enough power to get a seat at the tournament. 

After the neck snap, the Black Dragon Society (and their hundreds of years of tradition) and the entire fighting community literally turned their backs on him. Which is saying something considering nobody turned their backs when Paco dropped three face destroying knees to an opponent’s face (00:43:30:00 – he would have killed the guy), Frank Dux hit a man so hard in the testicles, he passed out (00:59:31), Pumula was clearly trying to break backs (00:44:00), and Chong-Li head stomped Ray Jackson’s head (01:01:35). The death was excessive, and opened doors for outsiders to put pressure on Chong-Li

I don’t think it was a coincidence that Chong-Li forgot how to fight during the final. During the final, he had several chances to “break” Dux, and he didn’t. After he blinded Dux, he let 70+ seconds of screen time pass before he threw a telegraphed punch. To hide being forced to take a fall, Chong-Li added the blinding salt element to disguise any trace of him throwing the fight. Think about it, after the fight, everyone is going to be talking about how a momentarily blinded Frank Dux landed pinpoint strikes on the prior champion. Yes, it destroys Chong-Li’s honor, but, after snapping a dude’s neck, he didn’t have any left. Also, he can hide behind the fact that he lost to someone trained by the famous Shinzo Tanaka, who has quite the reputation at the tournament, and his ninjutsu teachings (blindfold fighting) must be known around the world. 

To build my theory, here’s a stats breakdown of Chong-Li and Frank Dux. I also included highlights from each fight (and their timestamps), to show that Chong-Li  lost the final fight on purpose. 

Quick note – I’ve based the theory on an assumption. But, to build this theory, I’ve made sure to include boatloads of stats to hopefully make you consider it for a minute or two. 

Chong-Li Stats 

Take a look at this collage. He is ducking, blocking, jumping, exploding, and catching in his first eight fights. It’s worth mentioning the way he handled Chuan Ip Mung (01:13:05), who is a legit fighter (fights at 00:43:10  – 00:44:06 – 00:56:30) and capable of knocking people out with his hands and feet. Chong-Li does get tagged a few times, but he absorbs the strikes, adapts to the style, then blocks everything thrown at him. Chong-Li is legit

Here’s a breakdown of the final fight. I’ve included timestamps so you can see how he lost the fight on purpose. 

  • 01:17:58 – Chong-Li has watched all of Frank’s fights, and knows that of his 50 landed  punches/kicks during the tournament, 43 of them come from Frank’s right hand or leg (86%). What does Chong-Li do? He immediately gets kicked in the face by the same right high kick that Frank used in his fifth fight. 
  • 01:18:35 – When they get back into the center of the mat, Franks lifts his leg, and just unloads on Chong-Li. 
  • 01:18:39 – Chong-Li’s first major strike of the fight sends Dux flying onto the mat. Chong-Li does not capitalize, and he looks a bit worried that Frank might be done..
  • 01:18:57 – When Frank is hurt, Chong-Li throws him back towards the center of the mat. He could’ve kicked him out, instead he lets him recover
  • 01:19:17 – Chong-Li walks directly into a kick. 
  • 01:19:34 – Chong-Li runs at Frank, stops, and gets kicked in the head. Also, Frank jumps over him, Chong-Li has seen him do this before. 
  • 01:19:47 – Chong-Li throws the worst waymaker in the history of the Kumitae
  • 01:20:12 – He lets everyone know that he is cheating. Seriously, the ref, the crowd, and everyone in the building sees him blind Frank. 
  • 01:21:05 – After knocking Frank down, he takes a page from Jackson’s playbook, and starts jumping around like a big dummy. He also could’ve stomped Frank’s head into nothingness and won. 
  • 01:21:37 – Chong-Li lets Frank regain his bearings for 71 seconds of screen time. 
  • Theory – It’s 100% possible that Chong-Li knew about Frank’s Ninjutsu training, and that Senzo Tanaka (of the Tanaka Clan) trained him. Sp, the blinding attack, would only make Frank look better in hindsight
  • 01:22:52 – Chong-Li completely falls apart and throws telegraphed punches, and does nothing to avoid any strikes. Dude lost on purpose. 
  • 01:24:06 – Chong-Li rolls under Frank. Why?
  • Take a look at this punch – 01:24:12:00 – It looks like Chong-Li wants to slap Frank. Instead, he leaves himself completely open to get kicked. 
  • 01:24:21  -Chong-Li stands there and gets leveled by four spinning kicks..Nah

Take a look at this collage. Dude wasn’t trying. 

It’s interesting that in a tournament that allows strikes to the back of the head (Chong-Li does it in an earlier brawl), he avoids this proven technique, and instead throws a telegraphed punch that is blocked easily, followed with a Dux kick from his right leg.

It’s interesting that when he first blinded Frank, he found success on his left side (01:20:48:00). Then, he delivers these strikes on his right side. 

Many questions arise when you realize that it took 71 seconds of screen time for Chong-Li to attack a blind(ish) Dux. Slow motion was clearly used, but there is still a good chunk of time that went by. 

Conclusion – Yes, the final fight makes JCVD look awesome. However, Chong-Li,  a world class martial artist, who has been practicing martial arts his entire life, completely forgets how to fight, and loses to a temporarily blinded opponent, whom he would have destroyed with ease. I’m thinking either the Black Dragon Society, Hong Kong Royal Police, or the Triads forced him to lose because they didn’t want an international incident. Also, with Janice being a journalist, if Frank was seriously injured, she would’ve written a piece that highlights the violence, secrecy, and criminal connections of the Kumite. It would’ve been game over. Chong-Li most likely lost on purpose. 

Here is a breakdown of Frank and Chong-li’s fights, to prove that I analyzed them closely, and looked for strategy, footwork, usage of angles, and all around fight IQ.

Breakdown of Chong-Li and Frank’s fights for reference

First Fight – Vs. – Budiman Prang – 00:39:52:00 

  • Blocks Right High Kick
  • Telegraphs straight right hand – Lands body kick with right leg
  • Submission 
  • What we learned – He can block high hicks, and telegraphs a straight right. He also works nice angles to land a kick

Second Fight – Vs. Mouthguard Guy –  00:43:56:00

  • He catches right hand
  • Knocks him out with one punch
  • What we learned – He sees punches coming, and can catch them

Third Fight – No name guy –  00:44:13:00

  • He right sidekicks a guy out of the ring
  • What we learned – He is cool kicking people off the mat, he doesn’t need to destroy them

Fourth Fight – Vs. Suan Paredes – 00:54:09:00

  • He gets caught with several lefts – This is where things get neat. He makes an adjustment, moves away from the left, telegraphs the right, and lands a left leg kick, on his opponent’s lead leg (smart, if it’s hurt, he can’t plant for punches). The leg is immediately done. 
  • Chong-Li backs away from the left jabs, and once again catches a right and lands a right kick. 
  • He catches a gut punch, and once again kicks his lead leg. 
  • He breaks his leg. 
  • What we learned – He adjusted, took out lead leg, and won

Fifth Fight – Vs. Black Belt who gets taken down easily – 00:55:48:00

  • Blocks a right punch
  • Lands right kick and a right punch
  • Lands a takedown, and punches in back of head 
  • What we learned – He can block punches

Sixth Fight – Vs. Guy with baggy pants –  00:58:00:00

  • Elbow in back
  • Two gut punches
  • Grabs left arm, and knocks him out with a right jump kick
  • What we learned – He can land jumping kicks, and knows to work the body

Seventh Fight – Vs. Ray Jackson  – 01:00:55:00

  • Jackson runs at him and gets kicked in the gut – Right leg – Angles!
  • Backhand – Creative 
  • Right leg – Goes again caught 
  • He underestimated Jackson
  • He gets double-handed punched and clubbed
  • He starts to cheer early
  • He clearly isn’t out
  • Flying right kick
  • Takes out lead leg
  • Right kick to head
  • Kicks leg again
  • He legit tries to kill him via headstomp
  • Taunting happens
  • Dux tries to help him by shaking his neck….
  • What we learned – He clearly underestimated Jackson and got caught with a solid spinning backfist. Before that, he worked nice lateral movement, and later on he went back to his leg kicks against punch heavy opponents. 

Eighth Fight – Chuan Ip Mung – 01:13:05:00

  • He immediately is in a defensive position and backs up
  • Two right land immediately – Blocks left – Grabs right – non reacts to left punches
  • Lands a right
  • Catches a gnarly body blow and leg kick
  • Left Kick 
  • Lands a beautiful front kick
  • Lands right
  • Another block and a headbutt
  • Ducks right kick
  • Lands a body blow before a right – Punch hits his shoulder
  • Nut shot
  • Punch hand
  • The ref should’ve stepped in
  • REF and Judges turn back – THEY ARE VERY MAD AT HIM 
  • The ref looks at the judges like “this is bad.”
  • What we learned – He can block and move away from strikes. He also is on the defensive immediately, and avoids several strikes

Frank Dux – I included these fights because Chong-Li scouted them, and would know what Frank is all about. He knows he can lands expert elbows without looking at opponent, mainly throws strikes form his right side, and capitalizes on fighter mistakes.

First Fight – 00:41:002:00 – 12.2 seconds

  • Lands four rights 
  • The guy sneaks up behind him – Dux realizes this (he stops), and lands a perfect right elbow. 

Second Fight – 00:44:07:00

  • Lands four right kicks
  • Finishes him with a left wheel kick

Third Fight – 00:53:45:00

  • Two left kicks
  • Six right kicks

Fourth Fight – 00:55:24:00

  • Dux jumps over a kick – This is important later
  • The guy runs at him and catches a spinning right kick to the back of the head – This is important later
  • Four right hand strokes
  • Right knee knockout

Fifth Fight – 00:56:35:00

  • He immediately lands right kick
  • He does a roll and kicks guy out of ring with a left kick

Sixth Fight – 00:58:18:00

  • Four right kicks
  • One left kick
  • One right hand haymaker
  • One left hand haymaker
  • Three headbutts
  • Right gut punch
  • NUT PUNCH – Bad things happen whenever people run straight at him

Seventh Fight – 01:11:00:00

  • Paco lands a right leg kick and elbow – Almost KO’s him – Weak chin
  • Right leg kick – Take out knee – Smart
  • 15 right kicks
  • one left

House of Gucci (2021) – Review: Skip House of Gucci, and Watch The Last Duel Instead

November 23, 2021

Quick Note – Grade – C+ – House of Gucci has a lot to offer, but the movie becomes too muddled and eventually loses focus.  Lady Gaga’s performance is the highlight of the film, and she proves herself to be a magnetic screen presence.

When early promotional photos of House of Gucci were released, hype for the biopic/crime story shot through the roof as the world76 got to see Lady Gaga and Adam Driver looking fabulous while wearing lavish ski gear. Seeing two of the most interesting and electric performers on the planet wearing fluffy hats, and turtlenecks caught the attention of the world, and made us all hope we’d be getting something truly different. The biggest problem with House of Gucci is that it follows the trends of movies like Goodfellas, American Made, and Blow, which feature people rising to riches, then collapsing in spectacular fashion. Yes, it’s based on a true story which means it needs to stay close to the actual events, but, after an energetic and likable start, it falls back onto familiar tropes, and loses focus on its characters. 

House of Gucci revolves around the spectacular rise, and just as spectacular fall of Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga), who after marrying Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), finds herself wildly healthy, and dangerously ambitious as she becomes part of the Gucci empire which is controlled by brothers Aldo (Al Pacino) and Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons). Since millions of dollars are involved, the family inevitably begins to splinter, and it leads to prison sentences, estrangements, poverty, and murder. If you’re familiar with the story, the film loses most of its tension, but it still maintains an entertaining dose of wonky Italian accents, and Jared Leto wearing lots of prosthetics to play Paolo Gucci, the blacksheep of the family who provides welcome doses of oddball humor via his love of colorful outfits and pigeons,

Since it’s directed by Ridley Scott, House of Gucci is technically polished and loaded with excellent actors fully committing to their roles. The production design by Arthur Max (Gladiator, Prometheus, The Martian) is suitably luxurious, and the Italian locations add a level of authenticity and beauty to the proceedings. The costume design by Janty Yates (Gladiator, The Martian) is the MVP as the actors look lavish and perfect in tailored suits, form-fitting dresses and everyday wear that’s more expensive than most people’s entire wardrobes. The cinematography by Dariusz Wolski (The Martian, Prometheus) is at its most confident when it’s following Patrizia as she dances through a swanky club, or she’s planning something devious with her spiritual guide Giuseppina Auriemma (Salma Hayek – having a blast). The camera clearly loves Lady Gaga, and it’s a bit of a shame seeing her character being sidelined as the film progresses. It would’ve been nice to see the film stay closer to Patrizia because seeing her go from kind and ambitious, to murderous and ambitious would’ve been enough to fuel a narrative. However, it’s still enjoyable watching Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, and Jack Houston angling for power and control. 

 It would be neat to work on a Ridley Scott set to see how he and his trusted crew members work together. There must be trust and shorthand communication, because since 2015, he and his crew have released The Martian, All the Money in the World, House of Gucci, The Last Duel, and Alien: Covenant. All of these films look excellent and feature standout performances, gigantic sets and lavish design. It’s not like he’s churning out Roger Corman style dreck, he and his team are making quality cinema at breakneck speeds. 
Final thoughts: House of Gucci is worth a watch, but it does lose steam as it moves towards it’s violent conclusion.

The Movies, Films and Flix Podcast – Episode 398: Predators (2010), Yautja Scouts, and Walton Goggins

November 21, 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 Nathan discuss the 2010 film Predators. Directed by Nimród Antal, and starring Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, and several large alien hunters, the movie focuses on what happens when a group of violent people are hunted by a group of violent aliens. In this episode, they talk about Yautja scouts, John Wick, and Adrien Brody’s gravelly voice.

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.

The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star (2021) – Review: A Christmas Film That isn’t Afraid to Have Fun, Get Weird, and Go Big

November 21, 2021

Quick Note – Grade – B The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star knows exactly what it is, and isn’t afraid to have fun. During a season loaded with stock Christmas films that follow the same template, the Christmas Switch franchise has gone another direction and embraced the weird. Producer and star Vanessa Hudgens deserves a lot of credit for her performances, as she balances three different characters and is clearly having a blast.

Since 2018, The Christmas Switch franchise has been one of the best Christmas/holiday viewing options around. Why? The answer is, Vanessa Hudgens. What started as a switcheroo Christmas comedy involving a baker and a princess, has now morphed into a Christmas caper comedy involving three women who look exactly like each other, but, somehow, aren’t closely related. For the non-initiated, The Princess Switch films may seem like fluff, but if you’ve watched a lot of Hallmark/Lifetime/Netflix Christmas movies, you’ll know that this franchise is one of the best. Which is quite the compliment as the holiday film industry is absolutely booming, and every streaming service or television network knows that these movies get millions of views, and are needed to stay competitive in the battle for viewers. 

The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star focuses on the retrieval of a priceless artifact called the “Star of Peace,” which was loaned to, and then stolen from Princess Stacy Wyndham of Belgravia and Lady Margaret Delacourt, Queen of Montenaro (both Hudegens). This is bad business as the artifact came from the Vatican, and is said to have been owned by Saint Nicholas himself. When the investigation can’t find any leads, Stacy and Margaret recruit Lady Fiona Pembroke (also Hudgens), who is serving thousands of hours of community service after attempting to steal the Montenaro throne in The Princess Switch: Switched Again. From there, the entire gang from the prior films reunite, and hatch a plan to steal the artifact back from the billionaire scuzzbucket Hunter Cunard. What follows is a whole lot of wholesome shenanigans that involves identity swaps, Entrapment-esque theft, and dancing sequences. 

What’s nice about the three Princess Switch films is that they know the formula, and have fun with it. Hudgens and director Mike Rohl (who directed all three films and also directed lots of  Eureka, Smallville and Supernatural episodes) aren’t trying to reinvent the Christmas movie wheel. Instead, they mostly stick to the tried-and-true formula, and focus on having fun. The majority of these types of movies play it wildly safe, and don’t let the actors go big, or have fun. They seem programmed by an AI algorithm that knows what is safe. The Princess Switch films aren’t afraid to adopt wonky accents, get silly, or embrace going big, and that’s what makes them enjoyable. I’d love to see Hudgens and crew come back and provide the world with more switcheroo insanity.

The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021) – Review: A Wicked Good Adaptation

November 19, 2021

Quick thoughts: Grade – A- – The Tragedy of Macbeth is a beautifully filmed adaptation of William Shakespeare’s classic play. The black and white cinematography, combined with the sparse and modernistic production design, create a dreamy world of death and consequences. 

When news broke that Joel Coen would be directing an adaptation of Macbeth featuring Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington as Lady and Lord Macbeth, one couldn’t help but be thrilled about the final product. Historically, the Coen brothers, have successfully tackled adaptations of No Country for Old Men, True Grit, and The Odyssey (O’ Brother Where Art Thou), so, taking on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and its iambic pentameter and trochaic tetrameter rhythm seemed like a natural fit. The Coen brothers’ dialogue has always had its own rhythm, so to see them working with Shakespeare’s prose, and have their characters deliver all-timer lines like “Double, Double Toil and Trouble” and “Something wicked this way comes” was an exciting prospect.

The end product doesn’t disappoint as Joel Coen has delivered a sparse, dangerous, and beautiful looking film. He and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (Inside Llewyn Davis, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) and production designer Stefan Dechant (True Grit, Sucker Punch), have created a world full of shadows, hard edges, sparsely decorated rooms, and a wild amount of fake fog, that fills the studios they filmed in.The simplicity of the sets (which definitely weren’t easy to design), which sometimes appears as nothing more than outlines in the distance, combine well with the moody, stage production-esque production design to make the world seem dangerous and bleak from the beginning. Also, the abundance of fog creates a world in which characters can’t see what’s in front of them, and it’s a fun reminder that Macbeth has no clue what his actions will bring forth. 

At only 105-minutes, it’s one of the shortest adaptations of Macbeth ever, but it’s filled to the brim with solid performances. Washington and McDormand are excellent as always, and their pairing is an inspired way to get two Academy Award winners in one room. The MVPs of the film are Alex Hassel (Ross), Corey Hawkins (MacDuff) and Kathryn Hunter, who plays the three witches, and steals every scene she’s in with her physicality and expert line delivery. Hawkins adds needed heart, energy, and overall goodness (he’s also really good in In the Heights), and it’s cool seeing him getting some huge moments to shine. The camera seems to love Hassel, who costume designer Mary Zophres (Hail, Caesar!,True Grit) dresses in slim-fitting costumes with thin floating strips of cloth that fit his messenger character well as he flows from room to room delivering news. The Tragedy of Macbeth has a deep bench of reliable performers, and you can see why they signed up for the film, because it gave them a chance to act alongside some of the best in the business. 

In the end, it’s a stripped down, and streamlined take on Macbeth that is truly a sight to behold. 

The Movies, Films and Flix Podcast – Episode 397: Underwater, Kristen Stewart, and Cthulhu

November 16, 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 monster movie Underwater. Directed by William Eubank, and starrring Kristen Stewart, Jessica Henwick, Vincent Cassel, and Cthulhu, the movie focuses on what happens when deadly monsters snack on the crew of an underwater drilling rig. In this episode, they discuss monster movies, stuffed bunnies, and implosions. 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: Outcast (2010), this Irish occult horror weaves dark urban mysticism without sensationalized magical effects, and somehow gets away with it splendidly.

November 13, 2021

MY CALL:  This is a film I somehow hadn’t heard of until this year (11 years after its release), and truth be told it’s nothing wowing in the conventional sense—yet I find it outstanding. It doesn’t have the coolest monster or the wildest effects or the most clever twist. But its depiction of dark urban mysticism and occult rituals with essentially zero special effects (really just one “holy crap” monster in a couple scenes) is an unexpected enchanting delight, even if woefully grim in atmosphere. The acting is great, the writing is simple yet sound, and I was constantly shocked at how well-executed everything was. Please see this!

MORE MOVIES LIKE Outcast: For more Irish horror movies check out Leprechaun Origins (2014), Leprechaun 2 (1994), Leprechaun (1993), Rawhead Rex (1986), Isolation (2005), Grabbers (2012), Cherry Tree (2015), Holidays (2016; St. Patrick’s Day segment), The Hallow (2015), Hole in the Ground (2019) and Boys from County Hell (2020).

Very early this film casts its dark spell and invokes a grim atmosphere of mysticism as we witness a man Cathal (James Nesbitt; The Hobbit trilogy) receiving elaborate occult tattoos to imbue him with magic, and a woman Mary (Kate Dickie; Game of Thrones, The Witch, Prometheus) performing focused work in bloodletting and blood-painting rituals. The man is being empowered so he may kill a “dangerous” boy; the woman practices her spellcraft to protect her teenage son. There is nudity, but the occult practices involved are paid serious respect in that the nudity is never gratuitous. I’ve gotta’ be honest, this was a wonderful experience for me seeing this film open in the way that it did, with such understated execution in visual style.

What follows is a hunt; Cathal the hunter, Mary and her son Fergal the hunted. Both use magical rituals to seek and evade one another. Cathal, in some ways the side of “good” in this story but also the monster antagonist, is explained to have become a powerful entity. But we’re not told so early on just “how” that is, and we know that his magical gifts are not necessarily permanent unless he completes his charge. Fergal has been deemed “dangerous” by occult elders, but we haven’t any clue as to why or how. Truly, either side could be equally considered the good or bad. So rather than rooting for one or the other, I found myself captivated by the eventual (hopeful) revelation.

I’m normally much more revealing in my reviews, but this is just one of those films where almost any explanation will spoil and, thankfully, the trailer didn’t reveal much. If anything, the trailer presents a less impressive movie than that I had the pleasure of viewing. My one submission (and it’s clearly hinted on the movie poster): there is a shiny-skinned hulking troll of a creature with an appetite for flesh and a gigantic dangling… yup. But like the aforementioned nudity, this visual honestly makes sense, receives little focus or time in frame, and rather fits the monstrosity in question. Also, watch out for a young Karen Gillan (Oculus, The Big Short, Gunpowder Milkshake).

This film is much more thoughtfully written and crafted than I would have expected considering I hadn’t heard of it until basically now (2021; thanks to a recent article on Director Colm McCarthy (who went on to helm The Girl with All the Gifts) weaves a sort of dark urban mysticism presented with all the occult gravity but none of the sensationalized magical effects, and he somehow gets away with it splendidly. I mean, it was almost a relief to enjoy something about “magic” without ever really seeing any visual depictions of thereof. It’s surprisingly grounded given the themes involved, and I think it should be celebrated. So please heed my recommendation and try this sleeper hidden gem out for yourself.

John’s Horror Corner: Boys from County Hell (2020), this Irish horror-comedy is a stylish vampire movie that hocks “Piss Off” to Dracula.

November 12, 2021

MY CALL:  Providing a feisty Irish play on the vampire genre, this odd little film is one I’d readily recommend (even if only for a one-time viewing). While not in league with Grabbers (2012) or Shaun of the Dead (2004), this horror comedy delivers as much charm as it does bloody fun along with some dire death.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Boys from County Hell: For more Irish horror movies check out Leprechaun Origins (2014), Leprechaun 2 (1994), Leprechaun (1993), Rawhead Rex (1986), Isolation (2005), Outcast (2010), Grabbers (2012), Cherry Tree (2015), Holidays (2016; St. Patrick’s Day segment), The Hallow (2015) and Hole in the Ground (2019).

Contestably the oldest story on record about a blood drinking creature, our ne’er-do-well protagonists Eugene (Jack Rowan; Peaky Blinders), William (Fra Fee; Hawkeye) and SP (Michael Houg; Chapelwaite, Grabbers) find shenanigans in preaching about their local folklore’s vampire that predated Bram Stoker’s rip-off. The legendary blood drinker Abhartach (Robert Strange; Howl, Penny Dreadful) was told to rise every time he was killed, and his grave is marked by a pile of stones about to be leveled for new road construction in the Irish countryside.

When a freak farm accident kills William with his blood soaking into the ground by the old stone pile, Abhartach is awakened and death befalls the nearby farm.

Advertised as a horror comedy, the comedy is somewhat infrequent once the killing starts. But it certainly has its humorous moments. Much in the vein of Shaun of the Dead (2004), the monster attacks are dire and visceral, yet sometimes killing a monster comes with a laughably cheeky gory spin. The key word here is “sometimes.” Overall this film is more serious than Shaun, but every now and then it reminds you of its probable influence.

The Abhartach monster is a black-skinned, blood-hungry, emaciated ghoul that looks good and moves well on-screen. I honestly expected cheaper or less-revealing effects, so this was a lovely surprise. Likewise, the horror action is good, packing a lot of blood along with some shocking moments including broken bone protruding through the skin and a brutal “pulling” dismemberment. Yikes!

An interesting play on the vampire subgenre is Abhartach’s power to pull blood towards him (as if by “blood telekinesis” or… haemokinesis?), even at great distance and from a living body! It’s no Magneto smoke show, but it’s a very cool, well-executed concept that brings gravity to the creature’s menace.

This film is entertaining, rather fun, pretty good, really well-made, and very easy to watch. The acting, writing, and general filmmaking are all refreshingly capable considering I didn’t recognize any of the cast or director (Chris Baugh; Bad Day for the Cut). One mild warning I’d issue is that the Irish accents are thick, and some viewers may want the subtitles on for this one. But those accents are part of the charm for this odd little movie that I’d strongly recommend, even if only for a one-time viewing.

Home Sweet Home Alone (2021) – Review: A Glossy and Uninspired Attempt at Making a New Holiday Classic

November 11, 2021

Quick thoughts: Grade – D+ – Home Sweet Home Alone is a failed attempt at recreating the magic of Home Alone. There are some fun elements, but the core conflict doesn’t justify its existence.

When it was announced that Archie Yates would be starring alongside Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney in a sequel to Home Alone, optimism was high, as Yates proved himself to be extremely likable in the Taika Waititi directed Jojo Rabbit. However, director Dan Mazer (I Give it a Year, Dirty Grandpa) and writers Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell decided to take a simple and effective concept (kid battles dumb robbers), and muddy it up with mortgage problems, misunderstandings, and montages that feature an 11-year old named Max (Archie Yates) recreating scenes from Scarface with M&Ms and whipped cream.

It’s understandable why the creators avoided murderous thieves like Harry and Lloyd from the original franchise, because in 2021, watching two grown men threaten a child with mutilation isn’t ideal. Instead, they have a married couple (who have children themselves), played by Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney, infiltrating the house so they can get back an ugly doll worth $200,000, that they think Max stole from them. They need the doll because Jeff (Delaney) is unemployed, and they might have to sell their home because they’ve had some lean months, and will need to downsize. So, instead of waiting for Max’s mom Carol Mercer (Aisling Bea) and other family members (who left Max behind) to return home from Japan, they break into the house multiple times, step on Legos, and are almost killed by an icicle trap, that if successful, would’ve left them impaled on a sidewalk.

By having the main conflict be centered around a thievery misunderstanding, and attempting to make the criminals sympathetic, the movie loses its edge, and makes everyone unlikable. It’s a pointless exercise that takes solid actors, and zaps anything human about them. Also, the simplicity of the first film was its biggest strength, as Kevin had to battle two criminals who were trying to rob his home. This iteration gets too convoluted, and takes away from focusing on Max, whom the audience is supposed to like and support. Yates proved himself to be extremely likeable in Jojo Rabbit, but in this film, due to uninspired direction (or studio notes), he mainly reacts to things, quotes one-liners, and never gets himself into trouble like Macaulay Culkin did in his two films. Home Sweet Home Alone lacks bite, and sadly feels like a direct-to-streaming option that is nothing more than content. It’s wild to think that Mazer, a contributor with Sacha Baron Cohen, who wrote (or co-wrote) the scripts for Da Ali G Show, Brüno, Office Christmas Party, and Ali G Indahouse, directed this film.

This may sound like more dogpiling, but the set design never plays believably, and it’s always obvious that the shenanigans are taking place inside a soundstage. Shooting on location isn’t an ideal option for movies like this, as houses don’t have movable walls or lighting grids that can attach to ceilings, but it would’ve been nice to watch something that didn’t play totally fake.

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