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Super Troopers 2: A Worthy Sequel That is Loaded With Laughs

April 20, 2018

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What I love most about Super Troopers 2 is how it embraces the best bits of its 2001 predecessor and still manages to come off as fresh and fun. I was a bit worried when the movie was announced because delayed sequels to cult classics rarely work and several movies like Zoolander 2, Joe Dirt 2, Dumb & Dumber To and Blues Brothers 2000 are proof. It is really hard to capture lightning in a bottle twice because trying to replicate the charm and personality of a beloved movie can result in a shallow and unfunny experience that mimics instead of forging new ground.  My fears were alleviated almost immediately as it became clear that the guys from Broken Lizard were able to slide back into their iconic characters with ease. It felt like no time had passed and I loved how the movie jumped straight into the plot without wasting any time.

Super Troopers 2 revolves around the former (thank Fred Savage) Vermont Highway Patrol members reuniting to help with the transition of a small Canadian town into America. Before they are called back into service we learn that Mac (Steve Lemme), Rabbit (Erik Stolhanske) and Farva (Kevin Heffernan) are working together as construction workers while Thorny (Jay Chandrasekhar) is chopping down trees as a lumberjack/arborist. Foster (Paul Soter) has married the now Chief of Police Ursula (Marisa Coughlan ) and they all seem pretty happy with their current state of affairs. They are brought back to law enforcement under the guise of a weekend fishing trip with their old captain O’Hagan (Brian Cox) who has been tasked with absorbing a small Canadian town into Vermont.

The shenanigans start almost immediately as the Vermont boys have to deal with rowdy Canadians, annoyed Mounties and a large smuggling operation that is happening in the town. Their initial introduction finds them pelted with hockey pucks and ending up on the wrong side of a beat down inside a brothel that is owned by the friendly local mayor Guy Le Franc (Rob Lowe – loving life) who isn’t a fan of becoming an uncool “American mayor.” The crew isn’t helped by the local Mounties (Will Sasso, Tyler Labine, Hayes MacArthur) who instigate a massive prank war when they coax a bear into the highway patrol office with large slabs of meat. Their introduction to the town is disastrous, but their misadventures with the locals lead them to find mysterious stashes of pills, guns and illegal contraband in which they will undoubtedly use (five types of pills for five cops) to clear their names and keep their jobs.

Rob Lowe is the best.

If you are a fan of Super Troopers you will love the callbacks to the meow, liter of cola and bear f**king jokes. I know the callbacks are straight-up fan service but since this movie was crowd-funded I see no problem with appeasing the masses with familiar bits that work. The good news is there is enough new material involving chicanery, electrocution and Mounties discussing Danny DeVito to keep the proceedings fresh and fun. I can’t think of the last time I laughed more, and even though many people describe the Broken Lizard movies as “bro film” I’ve always felt they know how to enhance a great joke and there is more nuance than it seems to their shenanigans.

If you are a fan of Super Troopers and the Broken Lizard crew you will enjoy Super Troopers 2. I totally recommend you watch it this weekend in a packed theater.

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MFF Special: Making the Perfect Kevin Smith ‘View Askew’ Movie

April 17, 2018

View Askew

Photo credit – Decider

Kevin Smith is one of my favorite filmmakers and I’ve followed his career ever since I was lucky enough to get my hands on a Clerks VHS tape (Thanks Blockbuster) when I was 13. I’ve watched all his movies (even Yoga Hosers), read his books and listened to his podcast before podcasts were a thing. I appreciate how he made his own way in the film industry and his exploits have been very influential and motivating for my writing career.

If you’ve been reading MFF for some time you know that I love writing about weird cinematic moments and doing way too much research in order to figure out how many times Michael Myers used his blinker while driving in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later.  I enjoy figuring out things that should never be found out, and after Smith’s recent heart attack I started rewatching his View Askew Cinematic Universe movies and I began thinking about the ideal Kevin Smith film. Is there an ideal amount of f-bombs or Star Wars references? What should Silent Bob talk about? What is the perfect budget?  So, I broke down his View Askew (Featuring Jay and Silent Bob) films and brought in Rotten Tomatoes critic scores, audience score, and domestic box office numbers to make a case for the perfect Smith movie.

Here are the movies with their Tomatometer scores (RT)

  1. Clerks  –  88% RT
  2. Mallrats – 55% RT
  3. Chasing Amy – 88% RT
  4. Dogma – 67% RT
  5. Clerks 2 – 63% RT
  6. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back – 53% RT
  • I excluded Jersey Girl because of its PG-13 rating and Zack & Miri Make a Porno because it isn’t in the View Askew universe. Don’t ask about Cop Out.

How many F-bombs?

Characters in the View Askew Universe drop an average of 127.8 F-bombs in each movie, which isn’t terrible considering it’s only about an average of 1.1 f-bombs dropped every minute which leaves a lot of room for other Smith musings. After looking at each movie and their Tomatometer scores it appears the ideal amount of F-bombs dropped is 105. How did I come up with this number? Clerks, Chasing Amy and Dogma are Smith’s highest rated films so I averaged the number of f-bombs between them and came up with the answer. I agree with the final tally because Mallrats (54) and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (248) went too high and too low with their usage of f*ck, so, it seems only fair that 105 F-bombs would be the perfect fit because they wouldn’t drown out all the other creative swear words.

Answer: 105 F-bombs

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How many Star Wars references?

The View Askew Universe is littered with Star Wars references that range from one-off comments to naming a movie Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. After sorting through all the references I noticed something very important, Kevin Smith’s Star Wars references are best when they riff on something new and fresh about the famous fantasy world. For instance, both Clerks and Chasing Amy had discussions/monologues that brought up some pretty great observations about Death Star contractors and racism. So, it seems safe to say that if another View Askew movie gets made it needs to riff on Star Wars instead of going full nerd and having Silent Bob attempting to channel the force (which I still love. Viva la Mallrats).

Answer: A unique Star Wars riff and several cheeky references.

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What should Silent Bob talk about?

Silent Bob is at his best when he is giving relationship advice. His two most iconic moments happen in Clerks and Chasing Amy when he drops either a few words of advice or unleashes a full-on monologue about a past relationship. I know Smith couldn’t have Silent Bob always dropping relationship advice, but it’s been 20-years since Chasing Amy so I think it’s time to return to the well. I’m always down for Silent Bob yelling at Jay or discussing “intellectual properties” but my favorite Silent Bob bit is in Clerks when he succinctly lets Dante know he is being an idiot (without saying it). I know it is the first time he ever talked (which makes it fresh and unexpected), but it was a very welcome comment and proved the dude was more sensitive than he acted.

Answer: Let Silent Bob give relationship advice.

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Should hockey be played?

Hockey plays a big part in Kevin Smith’s real life and cinematic universe so it naturally has to be featured in his next film. The two best moments involving hockey in the View Askew universe are featured in Clerks and Chasing Amy. The impromptu roof hockey match in Clerks was inspired and fun and ‘cross-examination’ moment in Chasing Amy worked really well because it was inter-cut with a hockey brawl that was going on in front of the characters. Most importantly,  they featured actual hockey being played as opposed to Mallrats (video game hockey) and Dogma (evil hockey kids getting beat up) that feature no actual hockey sticks hitting a puck. Thus, there needs to some variation of actual hockey being played onscreen.

Answer: Yep. Hockey needs to be actually played.

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What should the budget be?

I know I keep going back to Clerks and Chasing Amy but they represent Kevin Smith at his best and have proven themselves to perfect examples of independent filmmaking. I’m thinking nowadays the best budget for a View Askew movie would be $5,000,000 because Smith can easily make the money back via VOD, Netflix, selling distributing rights overseas, or a touring roadshow (think Red State). When looking at his three View Askew movies that cost under five million at the time of release, (Clerks, Chasing Amy, Clerks 2) they all made money and were solid returns on investment. He couldn’t possibly keep the budgets as low as Clerks or Chasing Amy ($25,00, $230,000) but could totally rock a Jay and Silent Bob movie for five million.

I love how Clerks II kept it simple and used its $5 million budget well.

Answer: Somewhere around $5 million.

There you have it! We all want another View Askew movie and this unreliable data will undoubtedly inspire Smith to make Mallrats 2, Clerks 3 and Jay and Silent Bob Get Old back-to-back. You are welcome world.

The MFF Podcast #125: The Art of Creature Features

April 14, 2018

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherPodbean, 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 talking about 80 years worth of creature features. I recently wrote an article about creature features for Rotten Tomatoes and I took on the Herculean task (it was awesome) of rewatching 36 movies to figure out if the amount of screen time a creature receives affects the Tomatometer score. After watching so many movies and researching the genre I learned a lot about monster movies and realized that showing the monster less isn’t always better. If you are into movie monsters you will love every second of this podcast because we talk about a lot of creatures.

You need to watch A Quiet Place in a theater (don’t buy popcorn).

As always, we answer random listener questions and discuss how the creature from The Relic was able to fit into a bathroom stall. If you are 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 pod!

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherPodbean, 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!

A Quiet Place: A Solid Horror Film That Gets Creative With Its Monsters

April 10, 2018

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What I love about A Quiet Place is how director John Krasinski and writers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck desperately wanted to make something new and refreshing within the horror genre. There are familiar elements (when are there not?), but there is so much new material that it felt like a true original brought forth by people who wanted to blend three-dimensional characters with deadly monsters. The 97% Tomatometer score is warranted and so is the massive $50 million it pulled in on its opening weekend. A Quiet Place will hopefully be a trendsetter that inspires talented filmmakers and A-list talent (E.G. Emily Blunt) to create some new monsters.

A Quiet Place revolves around a family doing their best to survive in the months after a massive alien attack ravaged the earth. We learn early on that the creatures hate noise and it leads to an opening scene that expertly breaks down the families daily life and leads to the death of a child that is heavily foreshadowed (and shown in the trailer). The four remaining family members are the parents Lee (John Krasinski), and Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and their kids Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Noah (Marcus Abbot). They live in a secluded farmhouse that has been retrofitted to protect against sound with painted footprints to avoid creaky wooden floors and white lines on top of soft earth to avoid leaf crunches and snapped twigs. Being that A Quiet Place is a horror film Krasinski added some extra layers to make sure terror will be unavoidable in the future. The extra elements are wise additions as the mother Evelyn is at least eight months pregnant, and the daughter Regan is deaf which helps because it means the family knows sign-language but hurts because she can’t hear any approaching monsters.

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Between the blind monsters, pregnant wife, and a deaf child the tension is raised to insane lengths which leads to Signs-esque jumps and Spielberg’s War of the Worlds alien mayhem (on a much smaller scale). The cool thing is none of the tension-bait feels gratuitous because of the performances and well-staged set pieces that feature deadly corn,  strategic nails, and flooded safe rooms. It also helps that the actors are top-notch and lead by a stellar Emily Blunt who pulls off a virtuoso moment of acting when she has to simultaneously pretend to give birth AND be scared out of her mind because of a looming alien. Also, I loved that Krasinski cast deaf-actress Millicent Simmonds to play the daughter because there is an authenticity to her performance that wouldn’t have felt genuine in another person’s performance.

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Between A Quiet Place, Hush and Don’t Breathe there have been some solid “don’t speak” horror movies that have risen above the genre via good scripts, inventive (and nasty) set pieces and committed performances. I think the art of “silence” in horror isn’t explored enough and I love how A Quiet Place flourishes in its silence.

Watch A Quiet Place and embrace the new monsters.

 

 

 

John’s Horror Corner: The Shape of Water (2017), the romantic, contemporized retelling of Revenge of the Creature (from the Black Lagoon) that won Best Picture.

April 9, 2018

MY CALL: Guillermo del Toro’s heartwarming, Oscar-sweeping film depicting a relationship between a mute woman and a fish man captured in the Amazon. If that sentence doesn’t win you over, I’m not sure what will. MOVIES LIKE The Shape of Water: Above all, I’d say Hellboy (2004) and Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), followed by Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) for more of del Toro’s dark fantasy and The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) to return to the unofficial root of it all.

Richard Jenkins gently narrates an overview of this unlikely love story as our senses are dazzled by surreal aquatic dreamscapes surrounding Elisa (Sally Hawkins; Godzilla, Never Let Me Go). Very kind, mute and meek, Elisa tends to her friendly neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins; The Cabin in the Woods, Let Me In, Bone Tomahawk) and works nights cleaning in a research facility with Zelda (Octavia Spencer; Halloween II, Drag Me to Hell). Their respective character dynamics are outstanding.

The set design is almost drably paletted, but so enriched by aquatic blues and greens that disperse themselves across the walls and wardrobes to the lighting itself. And beautifully complementing this dark modern fairy tale is a twinkling score that spurs curiosity and fantasy. Elegant it is, but sexuality veils this tale, along with imagery of water and Elisa’s own desires. Everything remains tactful and necessary with the nudity, for example, never feeling dirty… just human, vulnerable, sensual.

Our villain is Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon; Take Shelter, Bug), the man who brought the creature from the Amazon—making this something of a contemporized retelling of Revenge of the Creature (1955), which chronicles the capture, study and escape of the amphibious Creature from the Black Lagoon. But written (in part) and directed by contemporary horror visionary Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy 1-2, Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak, Pacific Rim, Mimic) and with the creature-characterizing skill of Doug Jones (Ouija: Origin of Evil, Hellboy 1-2) combining Hellboy’s (2004) Abe Sapien and The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), it is a swallowable stretch recrafting it into a love story. Speaking of which, watch out for the paralleled use of eggs and classical music to broker friendship and then wonder if this isn’t simultaneously presenting the warm-hearted Abe Sapien’s origin story.

Our creature’s design is interesting, and his abilities aren’t fully explained. He’s clearly more monstrous (at least, not yet civilized or educated) than Abe, a tad more fantastic (rather than sci-fi in nature), and occasional animalistic (e.g., the cat-eating scene). We have just enough blood to feel dire, but nothing skirting the boundaries we’d expect from an R-rated creature flick. Like the nudity and sexuality, the blood and violence are executed appropriately for this genre-crossing theme.

This R-rated romantic dark fantasy is nothing less than enchanting. Relationships throughout the film are flawed but oh so real, and seeing Elisa communicate with the creature is warming.

If you aren’t convinced and need a second opinion, check out Mark’s review.

John’s Horror Corner: The Creature Below (2016, aka The Dark Below), a British tentacle monster movie that makes an effort.

April 8, 2018

MY CALL: A perfectly serviceable bad movie that really tries to be good, and fails. Nothing special here. You won’t miss anything if you just move on. (also released as The Dark Below). MOVIES LIKE The Creature Below: For more tentacle monster movies, please consider The Boogens (1981), The Strangeness (1985), The Kindred (1987), Wicked City (1987), Deep Rising (1998), Dagon (2001), Hellboy (2004), Slither (2006), BioSlime (2010), Grabbers (2012), Night of the Tentacles (2013), Harbinger Down (2015), The Void (2016) and Life (2017).

During a deep-sea dive in a prototype diving suit, a young scientist (Anna Dawson; 1921) encounters a strange new species. But what will stand out most to viewers has nothing to do with the premise, but the ScyFy Channel movie-of-the-week CGI that predominates the opening scenes. It was so cheap I was tempted to simply stop watching. But I persisted…

After blacking out during the dive, Olive recovers an egg that was—unbeknownst to her—hidden in her suit. Of course, this cephalopod hatches and is a mix of somewhat monstrous and somewhat cute. It spews ink and smoky clouds, looks like a Boogen octopus, and… wait for it… has a taste for human blood. What’s more, Olive seems to have some sort of empathic link to the creature, and has adopted some of its traits (e.g., aversion to bright light). Sadly, this doesn’t lead us where I expected (i.e., Bite).

Olive recoils from her normal life and tends to her creature like her own baby—or, obsession. Things take a predictable turn as Olive needs to feed her monstrous dependent, and much as in Little Shop of Horrors (1988), Let the Right One In (2002) or Hellraiser (1987), victims are lured in to feed the beast.

The non-CGI effects are weak, but make an effort towards gory fare. The rubber monster’s tentacles bend as no natural creature’s limbs would (i.e., like a rubber toy monster) and its movement is realized as tentacles being dragged across the floor. But it’s honestly better than it sounds. Still, not good either.

I feel like everyone involved tried hard to take this seriously and make this film the best it could be… which isn’t awesome. But that’s okay. I really didn’t think it was awful, certainly not unwatchable, but the trailer was much more promising than the actual product. The acting was fine, the writing wasn’t bad (except for the very incorrect view that new species result in fame or riches LOL), and the fledgling director did well enough that I’d be interested in the next project.

All in all, this was a serviceable bad movie with a premise and conclusion that skirt’s Lovecraftian notions of Cthulhu.

John’s Horror Corner: The Strangeness (1985), a bad tentacle monster movie with some redeeming Claymation monster effects.

April 8, 2018

MY CALL: A very, very, very boring tentacle monster movie. MOVIES LIKE The Strangeness: For more tentacle monster movies, please consider The Boogens (1981), The Kindred (1987), Wicked City (1987), Deep Rising (1998), Dagon (2001), Slither (2006), BioSlime (2010), Grabbers (2012), Night of the Tentacles (2013), Harbinger Down (2015), The Void (2016), The Creature Below (2016) and Life (2017).

I need to start by warning all you readers of how boring this film was. Very, very, very boring—with the first hour being nigh unforgivable. After 30 minutes, you see a tentacle for a few seconds; after 45 minutes, you momentarily see the monster’s face; and after 60 minutes you see most of its body for a moment. And with all these sightings, there aren’t even any off-screen kills worth mentioning! All the exposition feels needless, it takes its toll on our patience, and nothing that happens seems to serve any purpose. No funny characters, no good gore, no gratuitous nudity, no silly tropes. Why am I even here?

Now, yes, I know what you’re thinking. That’s how most early 80s monster movies were. And you’d be right. They were slow for an hour and then had 20-30 minutes of fun. This film follows that model, it’s just that those first 60 minutes were extra stale.

An industry-hired team of spelunking investigators survey an abandoned gold mine, get trapped, and are hunted by a slimy tentacle monster—a vagina-mouthed tentacle Claymation monster, at that! And for this perversely designed creature with some fun effects, we finally get to actually see one (but just one) cool on-screen death scene as it swallows whole a greedy schmuck. Yes, that was fun. But definitely not worth the wait in my opinion.

This film seems to get a lot of positive commentary on social media. I can’t help but to wonder if this film’s reputation survives by that one death scene alone or the monster itself. It really has no other redeeming aspects.

As such, I don’t recommend this. It wasn’t very entertaining.

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