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MFF Special: A Closer Look at Movies That Feature Pencils Used as Weapons

February 15, 2017


I love random statistics that have zero correlation or causation. Whether they be about jet ski action scenesexplosions on movie posters or Nicholas Sparks movies I can’t help compiling data that means little in the long run. The following post examines the data of films that feature pencils used as weapons. I just watched John Wick: Chapter Two and was very impressed with the violence that John was able to inflict on his foes with a pencil. The film influenced me to gather the Rotten Tomatoes critic scores, IMDb user scores and domestic box office/budgets of pencil weapon movies in order to see how they add up. The films Gremlins 2: The New Batch, The Faculty, Evil Dead, The Dark Knight, RocknRolla, From Dusk Till Dawn, Sleeperwalkers, Fright Night and Stoker all feature some fantastic pencil work and the results were surprising.

Sidenote: If you are looking for “pen action scene” data you are gonna have to go somewhere else. Sorry Casino, The Bourne Identity and The Running Man. Also, the films Tormented and Pencil do not have enough data to be included in the post. I didn’t include the box office of John Wick: Chapter Two because it just came out.

The Average Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score is 69.8%

I was really impressed with the “fresh” 69.8% average. My best guess as to why they are fresh is because they thought outside the box and went creative with the violence. Nobody expects pencils and the results are always surprising and cringeworthy. The fresh average was buoyed by The Dark Knight, (94) John Wick 2 (90), Evil Dead (95) and Fright Night (91). These four films carried Sleepwalkers (15), The Faculty (54), and RocknRolla (59) on their backs and gave cinematic pencil violence a good name.

The Average Budget is $47 Million

$47 million is relatively low nowadays for movies that get theatrical releases. The budgets were kept low via the horror films on the list. The Faculty, Evil Dead, Fright Night, Stoker and From Dusk Till Dawn all have budgets below $30 million. The Dark Knight and its $205 million budget are what kept the budgets in the 40s. The biggest surprise was the $92 million (with inflation) budget of Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Key and Peele were right, G2 is a crazy film.


The Average Inflated Domestic Box Office is $98,927,434

$98,927,434 is nothing to sneeze at. I was very impressed with the tally and it made jet ski action scene movies look bad in comparison ($49 million). The Dark Knight jacked up the average with its $593 million, but Gremlins 2, The Faculty, Fright Night and Sleepwalkers all collected over $50 million at the box office (with inflation) and helped out as well. The only film that super tanked was the very good Stoker ($1.7 million).


Watch Stoker now.

The Average IMDb User Score is 7.14

The 7.14 average proves that IMDb users like pencil violence more than critics (I can’t back this up). I was surprised to see the 7.14 average because it is really quite high. The Dark Knight (9) and John Wick 2 (8.5) boosted the scores while Evil Dead (7.6), RocknRolla (7.3) and The Faculty (7.3) helped combat the lower ratings.

Conclusion: These averages prove nothing of importance. However, movies that feature pencil violence easily defeated movies that feature jet ski actions scenes and that makes me happy.



The MFF Podcast #91: Everybody Wants Some More John Wick!

February 14, 2017


Download the pod on iTunes,  PodBean, or LISTEN TO THE POD ON BLOG TALK RADIO.
If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!


Summary:  We discuss two films so outstanding that, immediately after they ended, we already wanted to watch them AGAIN: John Wick 2 (2017, starring Keanu Reeves) and Everybody Wants Some!! (2016).  Despite being incredibly dissimilar films, both apply fine attention to memorable minor characters, stylish walking, persistence in the face of adversity, and unique wardrobes.

"EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!": Blake Jenner plays Jake, Glen Powell plays Finnegan, Temple Baker plays Plummer and Forrest Vickery plays Coma. (Photo: Van Redin / Paramount Pictures)

We answer the tough questions in this podcast!  For example…

“Do any villains have valid motives anymore?”

“Is that Morpheus…and is he the leader of the underground again?”

“Is it a good thing to get Caviezeled or Pescied?”

“What were the best and most painful depictions of pencils in film?”

“Just how many people work for The Company?”

EWS posterjohn-wick-chapter-2-poster

or head over PodBean or  iTunes, and if you get a chance please SUBSCRIBE, REVIEW, RATE and SHARE the pod!

John Wick: Chapter 2: An Exhilarating and Monumental Achievement in Action Filmmaking.

February 13, 2017


Review by Zach Beckler (Film Professor, Director, Great dude. Check out his award-winning film Interior)

John Wick: Chapter 2 is first and foremost an exhilarating and monumental achievement in action filmmaking. That is where I think it will succeed for most people who watch it. In the day since it screened, I haven’t been able to shake what is, on its surface at least, a stylish movie about hitmen navigating through an underworld. By the end, the film becomes one of the most politically rebellious genre films since They Live. Maybe even The French Connection.

You need to watch The French Connection. 

Carpenter’s film shares many traits with John Wick 2, not the least being a fist fight so long it blossoms into out of body abstraction. All three films are about men caught in the gears of powerful and possibly ancient systems. Among the first of John Wick’s strengths is the fascinating world building, taking a standard revenge narrative to a place of underground mythology. John Wick 2 expands on this in ways both expected and unexpected. It adds more elements without sacrificing the mystery.

The story is light and efficient. Wick, retired for good, is brought back by an old acquaintance who, according to the tradition, has a kind of “unbreakable vow” over him. Wick is forced by these underworld customs to kill a high ranking member. When he is expectedly betrayed, a price is put on his head throughout the entire worldwide syndicate. This is where the film truly finds its voice.

In the first John Wick, this underworld is presumed to be just that. Here, we see the terrifying reach of it all, where anyone at anytime can pull a weapon and engage, including a wonderful moment in which Wick and another hitman have a secret gunfight in a crowd of people. John Wick is a man who went through unspeakable hell to get himself out, and through a series of unfortunate events, finds himself unable to escape it again. The film cannot end with him simply taking up the mantle of unstoppable killer again, as that would be the most unchallenging way to tell this story. Thankfully, the film is far too smart for that. Throughout, Wick makes a conscious effort not to kill unless engaged, shown explicitly in the opening action sequence in which Wick uses everything BUT his guns to get his car back. Do not get me wrong, the carnage on display is palpable, but there is a clear design and purpose to all of it, while not shying away from the physicality and brutality of murder (there is one scene involving a pencil…)

John Wick 2 wears its influences on its sleeve, from Sherlock Jr projected large on the side of a building in the opening shot, to the casting of Laurence Fishburne as the leader of an underground society of homeless that work adjacent to the main crime syndicate (a matrix within a matrix!). The films fascination with the mechanics of this world and the seclusion with which it works brought to mind William Friedkin’s The French Connection. There was never a police procedural that looked like it before, focused on the intricacies and details of police work within the sheltered worldview of Popeye Doyle. It also contains the definitive car chase, though it was not the first of its kind. Borrowing heavily from Bullitt, it amped up the intensity and, for the first time, took Doyle outside of his world in terrifying ways. John Wick has a sequence that great toward the end, escalating the room of mirrors scene from Enter The Dragon and putting Wick face to face with multiple versions of himself as he shoots into countless henchmen and abstractions of his own image. It is the film in microcosm and leads a powerful act of rebellion.


You’ve been warned 
Wick follows our main bad guy into the bar of the Continental, a safe haven for all criminals. In this bar, against all established rules of conduct, John Wick shoots him point blank in the head. In a film with countless head shots, this is the most shocking act of violence. It is an affront to the social order. This act assures his excommunication from this world. All of his currency is void, all services offered no longer available, all safe havens closed. This leads to the most terrifying scene in the film, in which Ian McShane’s Winston shows Wick just how vast the empire is. This is no underworld. This is our world. We are all cogs in the wheels of enterprise. And we are participants in every criminal act.

The French Connection ends famously with Doyle, having accidentally shot a cop, running selfishly into the darkness, leaving behind any reason he ever may have had for donning the badge. It was made in an era that was attempting to inject explicit realism into every genre form. John Wick is not based in any recognizable reality, and is all the better for it. It reflects the culture it was released in. This film ends with Wick literally on the run. Unlike Doyle, Wick has broken free. A man and his dog, moving through a world that is no longer there for them. They cannot be allowed to live. Rebellion must be suppressed. Order must be restored. Industry must thrive. But if they come for John Wick… he will kill them all. But only if they engage.

The MFF 2017 Valentine’s Day Viewing Guide

February 12, 2017

beginners roller blading

I had to begin this post with a picture from Beginners.

Life is short and Valentine’s Day is speeding towards us like one of Cupid’s arrows. You probably don’t have time to spend researching romantic films that you can watch after you’ve spent too much money on dinner. So, I scoured the streaming sites and found some films that won’t disappoint and offer something for everyone. Hopefully, this post will prevent you from spending time scrolling through Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime and checking the corresponding Rotten Tomatoes scores while your date sits patiently next to you.

The following posts features 10 categories that have a main option and a backup in case you don’t like the first recommendation. Hopefully you can find something you will enjoy.

If you are in the mood for…..

A Fantasy Film That Will Put a Smile on Your Face

Stardust (Netflix)is a wonderful little movie that is equals parts fantasy and romance. If you don’t like the charms of Stardust you might be dead inside (or simply in a bad mood or tired).

  • If you aren’t interested – Kate & Leopold (Netflix)- First and foremost I’m not saying K&L is a classic. However, it is a nice little thing that foreshadowed Hugh Jackman’s career as Wolverine.


Great Music and First Loves

Sing Street (Netflix) combines music with first love and the results will make you love the movie and the music. Director John Carney (Once) does a fine job of leaving a smile on your face and making you immediately buy the soundtrack after the film has ended.

  • If you are interested – Begin Again (Netflix) – John Carney’s follow up to Once is a charming little thing that features solid music and Mark Ruffalo turning in another stellar performance.


A French Masterpiece

Blue is the Warmest Color (Netflix) is legitimate cinema and totally absorbing. It might break your heart but it will leave you feeling like you just watched something special.

  • If you aren’t interested – Upstream Color (Netflix)- The two movies have nothing in common aside from the word “color.” However, Upstream Color and Blue is the Warmest Color are both very good films that lit up the indie world.


A Thriller Stuffed With Romance

To Catch a Thief (Netflix) is a breezy caper that was directed to perfection by Alfred Hitchcock. I recommend you watch it because it is a nice gateway to Hitchcock and will introduce you to Grace Kelly and Cary Grant.

  • If you aren’t interested – Grosse Pointe Blank (Netflix) tells the story a hitman going to his 10-year high school reunion and reconnecting with his first love. John Cusack and Minnie Driver have fantastic chemistry and I guarantee you will appreciate every moment this Romantic Comedy Action Thriller (AKA RCAT).


A Familiar Classic That Never Gets Old

If you haven’t watched The Princess Bride (Netflix) do it now. If you’ve watched The Princes Bride, watch it again.

  • If you aren’t interested – If you haven’t watched Grease (Netflix) do it now. You might as well scratch it off your list.


Hipsters Learning Life Lessons and a Whole Lot More

I like Beginners (Netflix) because it does something different in the romance genre. It tells the story of people who finally make a massive decision that will change their lives. However, their beginning comes when they hunker down and stay in a “meet cute” relationship when things get hard.

  • If you aren’t interested – Y Tu Mama Tambien (Hulu) is a sexy little thing that plays like a road-trip comedy met a melancholy coming of age film. Alfonso Cuar0n made a name for himself with Y Tu Mama Tambien and I still think it is his best film.


A Charming and Cheeky Romantic Comedy

Amelie (Netflix) is an absolute delight. It will put a smile on your face and make you fall in love with everything around you (I’m not sure what that means but you will understand).

  • If you aren’t interested – Clueless (Netflix) and Amelie are totally different but they both leave you smiling. Alicia Silverstone and Paul Rudd are great together and you will be surprised by how well Clueless holds up.


Two People Being Charming

Serendipity (Netflix) is a nice little movie that I love. John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale have great chemistry and their performances elevate standard tropes and make your hope their good looking characters will fall in love.

  • If you aren’t interested – Love & Friendship (Amazon Prime) proves that Kate Beckinsale is an amazing  actress and her talents have been wasted in the Underworld films. Love and Freindship was one of my favorite 2016 films and you will be amazed by her performance. 


A Bona Fide Classic

Sabrina (Netflix)  – Audrey Hepburn + Humphrey Bogart = Awesomeness. You need them in your life.

  • If you aren’t interested – Sabrina (Amazon Prime) – You should watch Sabrina but if you don’t want to watch Sabrina you should watch Sabrina. The best thing about the remake is watching Harrison Ford look like he is actually enjoying himself in a film.


A Friendship That Becomes a Romance

When Harry Met Sally (Hulu) is a romantic comedy classic that never ages and still charms. It you want to laugh, cry and laugh more you will love When Harry Met Sally.

  • If you aren’t interested: Man Up (Netflix) tells the story of a blind date gone awry that eventually leads to love. Simon Pegg and Lake Bell are very likable and their shtick owes a lot to When Harry Met Sally.


The Number 10

10 things I Hate About You (Netflix)- I love a good modernized Shakespeare adaptation that features a solid cast. 10 Things I Hate About You is wildly charming and features Heath Ledger being very charming.

  • If you aren’t interested – How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (Netflix) works because Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey have legit chemistry. iI is pure romantic comedy nonsense that works because it is aware of all the stock tropes.


John’s Horror Corner: Warlock 2: The Armageddon (1993), yet another gooey horror sequel that pays no mind to its predecessor.

February 10, 2017

MY CALL:  Much more hokey and corny than part 1, this senselessly discontinuous sequel remains a gory, gooey B-movie pleasure.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Warlock 2Well, of course, Warlock (1989). Some other “part 2s” that are decidedly zanier and gooier than their predecessors include Wishmaster 2 (1999), Gremlins 2 (1990), Leprechaun 2 (1994) and Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988).

Director Anthony Hickox (Waxwork, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth) opens this sequel with some on-screen text providing the exposition that the writing and direction evidently could not.  Allow me to paraphrase: “Druids have protected us from evil forever…blah, blah, blah…and once every thousand years they perform some magic ritual to prevent the birth of the son of Satan.”  In the subsequent scene these druids align their rune stones or whatever and—don’t panic…relax!  They stopped evil from overtaking the world.

But now, with another thousand years behind us, the threat resurges.  The moon eclipses as a young woman puts on a rune stone necklace preparing for a date.  Gazing at the dwindling moonlight, she is overtaken by a spectral force (as in the entirely non-consensual The Entity), her abdomen erupts in instantaneous pregnancy, and a brain-like creature is messily birthed.  The mass of slime-covered organs pulsates, kills the woman’s Pomeranian, and from it—as if from a cocoon—emerges a naked newborn witch (Julian Sands; Warlock, Gothic) fully grown, exposing his man bits, and covered in goo.  The effects remind me a bit of Wishmaster 2 (1999) or when all the gremlins are melting in Gremlins 2 (1990)—it’s awesomely gross and the most memorable part of the movie.


The medieval action scenes were so not good; boring, in fact.  But it’s just here to set the stage for present day, when things get appropriately gory.  The birth scene was pretty cool if you like sloppy gory messes—which I do!  Our male witch also inserts his hand into a woman’s head, cooks a map onto his unwilling mother’s flesh and peels it from her stomach, tears the entire scalp off a hooker, and causes some gory death scenes.  Unfortunately, most effects-driven scenes fall flat except for the birth scene.  Brief cameos by Zach Galligan (Gremlins 1-2, Waxwork 1-2) and Joanna Pacula (The Kiss, Virus) add some entertaining turns to this ride, perhaps asking some forgiveness for the weak kills.

Much as how our spellcaster sought the pages of the Grand Grimoire spread across the country in Warlock (1989), in this sequel the Devil tasks him with finding the six rune stones in six days.  Naturally we’ll need some protagonists, so Samantha (Paula Marshall; Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, Nip/Tuck) and her boyfriend Kenny are destined to save the world.

Kenny’s father Will (Steve Kahan; Lethal Weapon 1-4, Predator 2, Demolition Man) senses that something is amiss after witnessing an omen, and gathers his local buddies (R. G. Armstrong; Children of the Corn, Predator; and Charles Hallahan; The Thing, The Twilight Zone: The Movie) who are all apparently part of some modern druid society that expected the Warlock’s arrival and has the magical cockroach-powered compass (from part 1) to hunt him.

Quite self-aware, the movie playfully mentions Merlin and Faust. But these cheeky moments, not even in combination with the aforementioned cameos, in no way compensate for all the bad that was jammed into this hokey sequel.  At times this movie is trying so hard to be serious, but more often than not it fails.  But please be reminded, as a “bad horror movie” I rather enjoyed it.


The rushed pacing diminishes the effect of many death scenes and gore.  They may draw grins, but they won’t impress (except for the opening and closing gore scenes).  Many of the kills were totally phoned in, and with no real build-up or sense of consequence.  After all, this witch intends to bring about the Armageddon.  I feel like the movie forgets this apocalyptic ambition after the first few scenes.  Warlock (1989) had a story to tell, but this sequel seems to add far more silliness than substance.  It has its gory victories, but overall this not a good film (I’d go so far as to call it a B-movie).  Quite bad actually, and more so towards the end.


Ultimately the warlock, the Armageddon and the Devil himself were thwarted with a Jeep’s floodlights (yes, I’m totally serious and it’s easily as boring as it sounds), followed by an unspeakably bad magical duel involving a CGI dagger (not exactly the most exciting way to prevent Armageddon). Lame! But at least we close on a gooey gory note as the Warlock rots and melts away.


SIDEBAR about Franchise Continuity: Did this movie completely ignore that the events of part 1 even happened!?!?!?!  They seem 100% unrelated.  The first Warlock (1989) was sent to the future to assemble a book that would provide access to Earth for Satan.  So where did this new Warlock come from?  Also another time?  Was this just a second time travel attempt from 1800s Salem that went unmentioned?  And if so, why now crystals and druids instead of the pages of the Grand Grimoire?  Or is this more like the Leprechaun franchise theory that each movie featured a completely different Leprechaun (despite being played with the same personality and by the same actor)?  Perhaps, and if so, then there are numerous different prophecies which can bring Hell on Earth and for each prophecy a Julian Sands look-alike to expedite it.  Seems farfetched.


John’s Horror Corner: Resident Evil: Extinction (2007), Milla Jovovich evolves with the T-virus in this entertaining Zombiegeddon franchise.

February 9, 2017


MY CALL:  Better written than part 2 and just as fun as both its predecessors, Extinction offers a fun thrill-ride of mutant zombie action for Millaphiles as the franchise story continues to evolve with the T-virus.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Resident EvilResident Evil (2002), Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), Doom (2005), the Silent Hill movies (2006, 2012) and the Underworld franchise (2003-2017) come to mind.  For a fine ratings vs earnings comparison of the Resident Evil and Underworld franchises check this feisty article out.


So, as we enter the third installment in Alice’s (Milla Jovovich; The Fifth Element, Resident Evil 1-2, Ultraviolet) virus-geddon apocalypse saga, she strangely wakes up EXACTLY as she did in part 1, in the same shower, puts on the same dress, encounters the same death-laser hallway and some other high-tech boobie-traps…but wait…then…she dies!?!?!?!  And then Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen; Game of Thrones, Darkness, Resident Evil: Apocalypse), in a routine tone, gives an order to dispose of the body…?

Director Russell Mulcahy (Razorback, Highlander 1-2) swings for the fences, accelerating our zombie apocalypse into the desolate wasteland phase.  Alice narrates a brief flashback introduction to catch us up with the story, which picks up a bit after where it left off in 2004—with Alice wandering the apocoscape of the now Walking Dead­-ified world in which people will do anything to survive.  Moreover, the zombie-action feels more like a zombie movie at the times when it should (i.e., the zombie aspect doesn’t suck like it did in than parts 1-2)—even the zombie “setting” felt more zombie-appropriate.  This is the first of the series to get zombies right and the swarming murder of zombie crows was a nice touch that yielded high impact.


The Resident Evil films—regardless of their lack of critical claim—consistently deliver creative shots.  Here, the grand sweeping scale of the futuristic sandy Hellscape speckled with plague-swarms of undead birds crisply contrasting the sky compounds this measure powerfully.  Watch this in HD or 4K if you can.  As our survivors combat winged pestilence with flame-throwers the beautiful crispness smacks of a less refined Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), even if only for a minute. It is a spectacle, that fire against the sky.  Comparable scenes include brilliant lighting in the laser-trap hallway (2002) and the closing scenes during Alice’s escape (2004).


New to the Zompocalypse crew, Claire (Ali Larter; House on Haunted Hill, Final Destination 1-2, Heroes) joins Carlos (Oded Fehr; The Mummy, Resident Evil: Apocalypse) and others from part 2 as a team of nomadic Zombiegeddon survivalists.  And in this third installment, the Zombiegeddon world-building is in full force. We get a solid feel for the scavenging, odd skill sets, and limiting resources very quickly.

I feel like the stunts in this sequel eclipse those of parts 1-2 (in which they felt totally phoned in). I also remain grateful for the zombie dogs which are consistently done with practical effects in parts 1-3.  The zombie dog gore was simple, but worked very well. And the superhuman jumps were less Crouching Tiger (as in slower) and more Blade II (i.e., more dynamic).

Alice has become something different than before.  We have watched he evolve from highly trained (2002) to a virus-fueled superhuman (2004), and now develop telekinetic psychic powers worthy of the X-Men.  But despite this, from her demeanor to her fight choreography, I find Alice a more credible heroine now than ever.  Perhaps helping her credibility is that in this third installment she may be naked, but she affords eager viewers no nudity this time around.  Although she does continue to wear thin shirts and no bra.  You know, just keepin’ it classy. LOL.


Our final boss bad guy in this installment is easily the most satisfying of these first three movies.  The CGI still clearly appears dated, but this creature looks far more interesting and twisted and the final fight doesn’t suck for a change. When our favorite mad scientist becomes infected and mutates, he becomes a fungus-like tentacle monster.  It’s fun.  In fact, the whole movie is.  I’m quite surprised this one gets so much flack.  I loved it.  I’ve loved rewatching the series so far and I think their entertainment value holds up quite well.


Just as each movie began where the last ended and clearly indicated that a sequel was on the way, so does Alice here announce her intentions to murderously climb up the corporate ladder for the higher-up Umbrella execs who seek her blood which is apparently the key; the next evolution of the T-virus.  Stay tuned to see how part 4 (Afterlife) holds up…


The MFF Podcast #90: The Perfect Bookshelf Movie Collection

February 8, 2017

Hello all. Mark here.


You can download the pod on Itunes or LISTEN TO THE POD ON BLOG TALK RADIO.

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

The MFF podcast is back and we are building the perfect bookshelf collection. Las, Leavengood and I each picked four films  in an effort to create the most eclectic collection of movies on a bookshelf. We decided to create the “MFF Podcast Bookshelf” after I unleashed a post about my perfect 10 film collection of randomness and pretentiousness. It was a lot of fun to put together and sparked a whole lot of conversations in which people either went with the obvious or went so far into left field they included Deep Blue Sea.


My list is awesome!

As always we answer random listener questions and ponder how Michael Myers became immortal. If you a fan of the podcast make sure to send in some random listener questions so we can do our best to not answer them correctly. We thank you for listening and hope you enjoy the MFF bookshelf!

You can download the pod on Itunes or LISTEN TO THE POD ON BLOG TALK RADIO.

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

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