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Cherry: A Super Stylish Drama Featuring A Solid Performance From Tom Holland

February 25, 2021
Poster courtesy of Apple TV

Quick Thoughts: – B- – Based on the 2018 novel by Nico Walker, Cherry is a stylish vision of a man’s descent into crime and drugs. While the performances are solid, and the cinematography inspired, the Russo Brothers directed film never hits a believable rock-bottom, as it’s more glossy than harrowing.

Cherry focuses on the downward spiral of a listless teenager named Cherry (Tom Holland), who in a moment of heartbreak, enters the military and becomes an Army medic. The film starts off in Cleveland, Ohio, where Cherry is living a boring post-high school life that involves college, occasional drug use, and doing nothing with his friends. He eventually meets Emily, a beacon of light in his boring world, and the two hit it off and eventually fall in love. However, after she decides to move to Canada to go to college, Cherry enlists in the military, and after a Full Metal Jacket-esque bootcamp, is shipped off to the “Triangle of Death,” located 30 miles outside of Baghdad. When he gets back home as a decorated veteran, he quickly finds his life unraveling as his crippling PTSD pushes him towards drug addiction, bank robberies and dependency on a seedy drug dealer named Pills & Coke (Jack Reynor) .

The film is propelled by Cherry’s ongoing narration, which navigates us through his various ordeals involving the death of his friends and coming into the crosshairs of a drug dealer with serious demon vibes. One of the most interesting aspects of the movie is how it’s broken up into six distinct and visually different chapters that showcase the various stages of his life. It’s a unique narrative tool that feels a bit disruptive to the overall fluidity of the story. The script by Angela Russo-Ostot (The Shield, V) and Jessica Goldberg (Parenthood, Away) is solid, and it allows Holland to showcase acting chops that don’t involve being a superhero. Also, the cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel (Drive, Three Kings, Da 5 Bloods) looks excellent, and it must’ve taken a lot of planning to get the six visual styles to blend together and be visually distinctive.

The biggest issue with Cherry is how it goes all-in on being visually appealing when it should be exploring darker territories. That’s not to say that it should be Trainspotting or Requiem for a Dream, it’s just that by breaking it up into six distinct looking chapters, and focusing on the visual aesthetic, the attention is drawn away from the ugliness that addiction does to people’s lives. It’s a smart move to tone down the Requiem for a Dream-nastiness, so the film can become more mainstream and accessible, it just won’t have the lasting effect of the more hard-hitting films. On the plus side, having Tom Holland star in the film will bring more eyes towards the opioid crisis, which is a good thing, and it would be unrealistic to expect Holland to go-for-broke when he anchors blockbuster films. I just wish that the Russo’s would’ve taken a more meat-and-potatoes (AKA simple) approach to the adaptation, and focused more attention towards the effects of addiction and PTSD.

Conclusion: Cherry looks great, and Tom Holland is solid, I just wanted more from this film.

The Movies, Films and Flix Podcast #348: Raising Arizona, Yoda Pajamas, and Foot Chases

February 25, 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!

The MFF podcast is back, and this week we’re discussing the 1987 comedy Raising Arizona. Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen, and starring Holly Hunter and Nicolas Cage, this comedy classic focuses on what happens when a desperate couple steal a baby from a wealthy Arizona businessman (lots of fun shenanigans). I love this film, and think it’s the Coen brothers most watchable movie as it’s loaded with likable characters, fun set pieces, and motorcycle henchmen exploding. In this episode, we discuss trailer fights, grenades, and the excellence of Holly Hunter. Enjoy!

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 episode!

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

John’s Horror Corner: Demons 2 (1986; aka, Dèmoni 2… l’incubo ritorna), another deliciously cheesy Italian outbreak of chunky gore.

February 22, 2021

MY CALL: I’d rank this sequel below the epic schlocky Italian treasure that part 1 was. But this sequel remains a cheesy blast of gory fun and, in fact, there are many who favor it over the original. MORE MOVIES LIKE Demons 2: Well I hope you’ve already seen Demons (1985), because they connect the two films well. The Return of the Living Dead (1985) and Night of the Demons 1-2 (1988, 1994) offer comparably cheesy fun with similar but more clearly told demon contagion stories. Fans of wacky Italian cheesy gorefests would likely enjoy 80s Fulcian gore in the form of City of the Living Dead (1980; aka Paura nella città dei morti viventi, The Gates of Hell), The Beyond (1981) and The House by the Cemetery (1981), which form Fulci’s Gates of Hell trilogy; and then Zombie (1979).

Hi-Rise Horror SIDEBAR: Shivers (1975), Poltergeist III (1988), The Dark Tower (1989) and Shakma (1990) also brought horror to tall buildings.

As we meet our cast of victims at a birthday party in Sally’s condo, a movie on TV muses the possibility of “another” demon outbreak, thus acknowledging the recent events of Demons (1985) directly such that we now know that “this world” understands this supernatural event actually happened. Meanwhile, several other tenants in the building are watching the movie within our movie about a group of people searching the remains of the demon outbreak of the first movie. Like part 1, the events in the movie parallel events transpiring in the condo building. After accidently being exposed to drops of human blood, a movie demon corpse reconstitutes into a gummy, gnarly-mawed demon via reverse time lapse footage and some stop-motion work. When this demon sees Sally watching the movie through the TV, it passes through the screen like in The Ring (2002) to begin hunting its fleshy fare.

Our cast of characters include: Hank (Bobby Rhodes; Demons, Screamers), Sally (Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni; Mother of Tears, Opera), Ingrid (Asia Argento; The Church, Mother of Tears, Land of the Dead, Trauma) and her father (Antonio Cantafora; Baron Blood), and Mary (Virginia Bryant; Demons 3), among others. Though playing an entirely different character, Bobby Rhodes is our “heavy” again.

Director Lamberto Bava (Shock, Demons 1-3) and co-writer Dario Argento (Demons, Suspiria, Inferno, The Mother of Tears, The Church) are experts in gory Italian fare. The demon transformations are just as gnarly as part 1, with talons tearing through fingertips and fangs uprooting human teeth. These mangled mouths simply MUST be the influence of Night of the Demons 1-2 (1988, 1994) and Dagon (2001) and the like. And though not a great kill, I wonder if this movie featured the first tanning bed death scene. The effects might just be a step up from Demons (1985), but the original had better execution in my opinion.

The dog demon is a nice addition, and so is the kid demon! And like part 1, a demon will erupt from inside of another demon. In this case a sort of fiendish Muppet-Ghoulie tears out from the kid demon’s stomach. And when Sally’s pregnant neighbor drops by, you know we’re in for a treat.

Somehow this sequel just feels a bit crass to me. Still very fun to watch, but it somehow doesn’t cultivate the same degree of bonkers mania. There doesn’t seem to be a big change in effects quality—although the zombies are less unique, with many appearing yet more zombie-ish than before. Still I simply find it decidedly less exciting, even if still fun. This movie essentially starts out just as good as part 1, but gets weaker by comparison with each subsequent act. Truth be told, MANY reviewers online strongly disagree with me and favor this sequel to the original. So don’t let me sway you from it!

The ending may not have anything amounting to the katana-dirt bike extravaganza of 1985. But it does stay in theme with its predecessor in the meta-movie solution to the demonic infestation: destroy the screens, destroy the movie, stop the demons.

I’d rank it below the epic schlocky Italian treasure that part 1 was. But this sequel remains a cheesy blast of gory fun.

MFF Random Data: Who Does More On-Screen Walking? Jesse and Céline from the “Before” Trilogy, or Frodo and Sam From the “Lord of the Rings” Trilogy

February 22, 2021

I’ve always wanted to know if famous cinematic strollers Jesse and Céline From the Before Trilogy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight) covered more on-screen distance than Sam and Frodo, the main protagonist walkers from the Lord of the Rings trilogy (Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King). To do this, I tasked myself with the most excellent job of watching the trilogies again, and timing the amount of time they walked or ran, then figured out how much screen time they have, so I could get a percentage of time spent walking.

It was a very enjoyable quest, that led to some life-changing discoveries (not really…but sort of). In the end, I was able to figure out which duo covered more on-screen distance, and which duo spent a larger percentage of their screen time walking. 

If you haven’t watched these trilogies, here’s a brief synopsis for each.

The Before Trilogy – The Richard Linklater directed trilogy centers around two people doing a lot of walking and talking

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – The Peter Jackson directed trilogy centers around two brave friends walking a very long distance, so they can toss an evil ring into some lava. 

Rules and Data Collection

  1. I watched each film and recorded the time each duo spent walking or running. I only counted the steps they take when they are on-screen. We all know Sam and Frodo covered more distance overall, but, since we don’t see 99% of those steps, I didn’t count them.
  2. I figured out the amount of time spent walking in each film by using a stopwatch. Every time the characters started walking I timed it. I tried to be as exact as possible. It was wonderful, but not 100% accurate. 
  3. I also recorded the amount of screen time that each character has. Why? Jesse and Céline are the main characters (and pretty much only characters) in the Before Trilogy, and they’re on-screen for almost every second of the trilogy. Whereas, Sam and Frodo are part of a large ensemble piece, and their storyline is intertwined with about 40 other characters. 
  4. I based my math off of a 20-minute mile (1.6 kilometer). I feel safe with the 20-minute mile estimate. Why? Sam and Frodo spend a decent amount of time running AND grudging slowly. So, it evens out. Also, the Before duo mostly saunters during their walks. After doing some research, I learned that a 20-minute mile is the norm, so, I feel safe with the estimate. 
  5. I did not watch the Extended editions of the LoTR trilogy.

Jesse and Céline Stats

  • Before Sunrise – 17:30 minutes of walking
  • Before Sunset – 23:01 minutes of walking 
  • Before Midnight – 20:05 minutes of walking 
  • Overall time spent Walking – 60:36 minutes
  • Amount of screen time in the trilogy – 261 minutes 
  • Percentage of Screen time spent walking – 23.1% – This might seem like a low number, but remember the amount of scenes taking place on or near trains, cars, bars, benches, boats, restaurants, cafes, houses and hotels
  • Estimated Distance Traveled – 3.05 miles covered
  • Numbers of times they walked for over 20 seconds with no stopping – 27
  • Most epic walk? – The epic 12+ minute walk in Before Midnight is a marvel of actors remembering their dialogue, and the steadicam operator not falling on their face. 

Sam and Frodo Stats

Conclusion 

Since Céline and Jesse are the main characters of the Before trilogy, I assumed that they would cover more distance – and they did. Their epic walks saw them cover an estimated 3.05 miles. The most surprising aspect of the data is that they only spent 23.1% of their screen time walking. But, after watching the trilogy again, I remembered the train, car, boat, restaurant and bars scenes that had them staying stationary for long periods of time. 

After watching Clerks 2, you’d think Sam and Frodo were in perpetual motion as they walked nonstop towards Mount Doom. However, the majority of their scenes see them slowly climbing, standing around, or laid in bed (or in a spider web).

In the end, Jesse and Celine covered more distance, and spent more of their screen time walking.

John’s Horror Corner: Zombies: The Beginning (2007; aka, Zombi: La creazione), yet another blatant Aliens rip-off applied to a terrible zombie movie.

February 19, 2021

MY CALL: This movie is a dumpster fire… but it’s not without some amusement for those who enjoy a dash of immoral, disgusting exploitation in their low budget classic Sci-Fi rip-off cinema. But even as a lower budget B-Alien rip, you could do much better. MORE MOVIES LIKE Zombies: The Beginning: For more low budget Alien/Aliens (1979/1986) rip-offs, check out Contamination (1980; aka Alien Contamination), Alien 2: On Earth (1980), Scared to Death (1980; aka Syngenor), Galaxy of Terror (1981), Forbidden World (1982; aka Mutant), Inseminoid (1982; aka Horror Planet), Parasite (1982), Biohazard (1985), Creature (1985; aka Titan Find), Star Crystal (1986), Creepazoids (1987), Blue Monkey (1987), Evil Spawn (1987), Nightflyers (1987), Deep Space (1988), Transformations (1988; aka Alien Transformations), The Terror Within (1989), Shocking Dark (1989; aka Terminator 2, aka Aliennators), The Rift (1990), Syngenor (1990) and Xtro 2: The Second Encounter (1991).

This movie is a terrible slog… that’s kind of deliciously bad. Clearly this is only to be enjoyed in the company of friends who intend to share in ridiculing it with you. Director Bruno Mattei (Shocking Dark) is no maestro filmmaker, but he occasionally strikes B-movie gold.

The only survivor of a team stranded on an island of zombies, Doctor Dimao (Yvette Yzon; Island of the Living Dead) is recruited as a Ripley character to accompany a military team to this uncharted island as a consultant. The team is composed of soldier contracted by the Tyler Corporation (a la Weyland Yutani) and, like with Ripley and her colonial marines, the soldiers don’t believe her about what lies in store on this uncharted, zombie-infested island in the south Pacific.

Visuals of zombies are not impressive—more comparable to a Halloween Haunted House. Some chalky skin and veins, some vomitous green slime, and mangled Demons (1985) teeth. They are really cheaply done. Showcasing the craptastic budget, we see the exact same footage of some writhing zombies in a cave three times. Thankfully the flesh wounds and latex work are better than the zombies biting them.

Our team discovers that strange, macabre experiments were being conducted on people. And speaking of strange, we see a lot of dead babies in this weird movie. They come across many a bloody dead mutant fetus and apparently dead mutilated naked women on operating tables. But when they witness a horrendously gross monster baby birth scene with the bursting zest of a chestburster, they realize they’re in over their heads. The soldiers are attacked by a monstrous mutant dwarf zombie, crusty naked zombies, and (for no reason I can explain) even giant gorilla-bigfoot monster that rips someone in half.

As we lumber from one scene to another, I’m increasingly bored. This is a slog. Even when the action amps up, it’s still boring. Crass and antiquated, the zombies are ill-acted with rigid arms held forward as they walk. There’s a lot of blood, headshots with exit wounds, some exploding heads and the like. But even this isn’t very entertaining as far as mowing down a zombie horde can go. But I’d be lying if I denied that I had a few giggles.

Numerous scenes of Doctor Dimao and the military team replay Ripley and the colonial marines’ action in Aliens (1986). Some of the lines and character interactions seem nearly verbatim, even if poorly aped. The Berger character is a clear reflection of Burke (Aliens); as Taylor (Alvin Anson; Island of the Living Dead) is to Hudson, etcetera. From the doctor’s rescue in the very beginning (Ripley’s cryopod), it’s like Mattei was going scene by scene recreating his own hideous Frankenstein copy of the Sci-Horror classic. Someone even dissects a dead baby as in the facehugger autopsy scene. So, yeah, you’ll have a few laughs at this.

The visuals in the last 10 minutes get yet weirder—and just might have made it worth watching this movie. There are naked kid zombies who move like wobbling dancers. But is there a Queen Zombie awaiting our Ripley at the end? Well, some analogous concepts are to be found. There are writhing pregnant female zombies with tubes going into their abdomens and they’re encrusted into the wall with bloody flaps of flesh. The tubes rip unborn babies from their wombs! I said it before and I’ll say it again: we see a lot of dead babies in this movie! Really gross. It turns out an alien creature shaped like a brain and brain stem was behind it all. Thinking it can talk some reason into her, the brain talks and taunts our Ripley, then gets burned. The ending even reminded me a bit of Alien Contamination (1980).

So, in summary, this movie is a dumpster fire… but it’s not without amusement for those who enjoy a dash of immoral, disgusting exploitation in their classic Sci-Fi rip-off cinema.

The Movies, Films and Flix Podcast – Episode 347: As Above, So Below, Discovered Footage, and Treasure Hunts

February 19, 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!

The MFF podcast is back, and this week we were joined by Clayton Thompson (the director of The Nothing, check it out on Amazon Prime), to discuss the 2014 film As Above, So Below. Directed by John Erick Dowdle (Devil, Quarantine), and starring Perdita Weeks and Ben Feldman, this fun horror film focuses on what happens when a treasure hunt literally leads to hell. As Above, So Below, is an underappreciated horror film, and we felt the need to discuss it on the podcast because we wanted to promote how layered and fun it is. In this episode, we discuss likable protagonists, hidden details, and clock fixing. Enjoy!

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 episode!

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

Deep Blue Sea – The Podcast – Episode 33: Deepest Bluest, Haunted Oceans, and Wolfman Scenarios

February 19, 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 Robert Zerbe (@Zerbert on Twitter) to discuss “End Credits,” The 33rd and final chapter on the Deep Blue Sea DVD. We love this chapter because it features the wonderful LL Cool J song Deepest Bluest (Shark’s Fin), and showcases the amount of talented people who made Deep Blue Sea so great. In this episode, they discuss Deepest Bluest – Shark’s Fin (AKA an amazing song), haunted oceans, and Wolfman scenarios. Enjoy!

We will be moving on to Deep Blue Sea 2 & 3, so make sure to keep listening! Thank you for all of the support! Please rate, review, share and subscribe!

Flora And Ulysses: A Fun Film About Nice People Dealing With a Superhero Squirrel

February 18, 2021
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Quick thoughts: Adapted from the 2013 children’s novel written by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by K.G. Campbell, Flora & Ulysses is a super nice film about a superhero squirrel who helps a family come back together, and realize their dreams.

The latest Disney+ release Flora & Ulysses will most certainly be a pleasant distraction for families and individuals looking for something optimistic and fun. The story revolves around a 10-year old self-proclaimed cynic named Flora Buckman (a very likable Matilda Lawler), bringing a squirrel back to life after it was sucked up in a runaway vacuum cleaner (AKA a super Roomba). As the squirrel comes back to life, it acquires superpowers, and it’s up to the comic book loving 10-year old to protect Ulysses before it can be killed by her mother Phyliss (Alyson Hannigan) or caught (and killed) by a deranged animal control officer named Miller (Dani Pudi). On top of keeping the squirrel safe, she also has to deal with her sad-sack father George (Ben Schwartz) who has split from Phyliss, and given up on his dreams of writing comic books. Throw in a visiting kid named William (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth), who suffers from hysterical blindness, and is very good at absorbing short falls, and you have a cheeky comedy filled with likable and offbeat characters.

What makes Flora & Ulysses work so well are the offbeat performances from Lawler, Hannigan, Schwartz and Pudi. They know exactly what movie they are in, and they seem to have a great time playing super nice people going through PG-rated dilemmas. There’s a relaxed vibe to the film, and that’s a compliment to director Lena Khan (The Tiger Hunter), and writer Brad Copeland (Ferdinand, Spied in Disguise), who know exactly what the material is, and give the viewer copious shots of cute squirrel shenanigans (that’s pretty much what sold the movie for me). It’s true that the plot is kiddie-pool deep, and the reason why Phyliss and George split is a bit fuzzy, but despite these shortcomings, the film still works really well. The visual effects by VFX company Framestore, and Visual Effects Supervisor Nicolas Chevallier are excellent, as they’ve given Ulysses a fun personality and believable movements.

Flora & Ulysses is a charming and relaxed family film that will most certainly give people what they want for 95 minutes. If you’re looking for a cute squirrel, easily resolved familial issues, and a kid who jokes about being able to withstand small falls with zero injuries, you will love Flora & Ulysses.

The Movies, Films and Flix Podcast – Episode 346: Willy’s Wonderland, Nicolas Cage, and Evil Animatronic Puppets

February 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!

The MFF podcast is back, and this week we were joined by David Cross (of the Award Wieners Movie Review Podcast) to discuss the 2021 film Willy’s Wonderland. Directed by Kevin Lewis, and staring Nicolas Cage, Willy’s Wonderland focuses on what happens when evil animatronic puppets get beat up by a Janitor. I’m a big fan of this film (review here) and appreciate the committed performance from Nicolas Cage, and the inspired story that keeps things simple. In this episode, we discuss pinball, cleaning and headbutts. Enjoy!

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 episode!

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

Deep Blue Sea – The Podcast – Episode 32: Massive Explosions, Sushi, and Captain Ron

February 14, 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 Niall Browne (@moviesinfocus on Twitter) to discuss “Are You Sure?” the 32nd chapter on the Deep Blue Sea DVD. This is the chapter in which the Generation Two shark explodes in an incredibly over-the-top fashion (and it’s kind of sad). Also, in this episode, stories are shared about how the hosts found their Captain Ron DVDs (it involves gas stations and second-hand stores in France) In this episode, they discuss large explosions, Captain Ron, and Renny Harlin’s website. Enjoy!

Please make sure to read Niall’s movie reviews at Movies in Focus (www.moviesinfocus.com), and follow him on Twitter!

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