Posts Tagged ‘Comedy’

Prevenge (2016)

October 18, 2017

88 minutes – Unrated but I would rate it R for some gore, grownup concepts, darkness and a deep sense of forboding.

Babies can be scary but usually in an entirely different kind of scary from what you might experience on Halloween. We fear our lives changing outside of our control. We fear failing to provide for a tiny, dependent human being and that it may come to harm through our action or inaction. The other day I held a month old baby boy and it was nerve-racking. He slept the whole time, secure that I was doing the best I could. I was pins and needles for the first moments because I was afraid of hurting this new little friend. There is no real need to worry so much but it helps us heighten our care with someone far more fragile than we are. Society is also wary to hurt or inconvenience a pregnant woman. The reverence we give for somebody literally and physically carrying a life into the world is justified. It also apparently can be a weak point because anytime we give somebody an inch, they could take a mile. Do not underestimate anybody for too long. We are all capable of anything.

Revenge is a fairly common horror movie trope. A lot of killers kill for the Hell of it like Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Sometimes, it is just what they were created to do like Krampus or Hellraiser. Freddy Krueger kills to take revenge on the parents who murdered him by taking their kids away from them. Jason Voorhees’ mother and Jason himself kill to avenge his death caused by the inattentive child care that indirectly caused Jason’s drowning death and conversion into an undead monster. Chucky is huge on revenge. In the first movie, he wastes a lot of time killing people who have crossed him rather than get about his supernatural business. In subsequent movies, he kills anyone who even slightly irks him. I Spit On Your Grave and Last House On The Left are classic examples of brutal revenge from a serious wrong. They are often grouped in the horror genre because it is scary how quickly the person taking vengeance can become scarier than the original transgressor. Wrong or right, revenge can make for a very compelling story.

I was expecting this movie, a movie about a pregnant woman on a killing spree, to be more of a comedy somehow. It is such a weird concept that I thought it might be played for laughs. I was wrong. This is a slow burn of a horror movie. The concept is simple but the execution is anything but simple. For example, the movie plays around a lot with the concept of human sadness. Not just the sadness when something bad happens but the soul-sucking depression that we can fall into. It is a feeling I am all too familiar with. As the title suggests, it deals heavily with the concept of revenge. However, we do not immediately know what wrong has been done that cries for vengeance. Instead, the movie unravels that story slowly. It unveils elements of the story slowly so that I was left wondering what exactly was going on. Not that I was confused, but in the way that when you follow an unreliable source, you are not sure which parts to believe and which parts to discard. Maybe, in the end, it does not matter but it definitely matters during the journey because why you are doing something is sometimes more important than what you are doing.

The acting is really, really good. I had not realized when I selected this film that it was made in England but that just adds to the international flavor of this year’s selections. So, we get a lot of different British accents because we meet the lower class, the upper class and people obviously from various parts of the country. I find the accent (and others from that region) very pleasing. It is strange to watch a horror movie while such pleasing sounds are constantly going on. In the spotlight of this movie is Alice Lowe who plays the pregnant star of the film. She also wrote and directed the movie and it shows that this was a labor of love. There are so many interesting emotions in her performance. From bitterness to depression, to pity, to joy and even that emotionless stillness a person gets before a murder. She was fascinating to watch because she is on a journey and while her trajectory is tragic, I had no idea where it might lead. It helps that Ms. Lowe was actually pregnant and wrote and acted from an experience she was currently having at the time. Her performance really leaves some doubt as to whether or not the baby is actually guiding her actions.

Overall, I thought this was a great movie. Obviously, the actual professional critics agree as the movie has a 95 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie gave me a knot in my stomach as I watched it and it was not just because of the horror elements. The overall dark despair of the film often ran a chill down my spine. I was unprepared for this movie to deal so heavily with life itself while watching a woman deal with death while killing people.  Still, it was an interesting and fun ride.

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The Raven (1963)

October 7, 2016

I am from Baltimore, Maryland. I am pretty sure I have mentioned this over and over at this point but it always bears repeating because I am proud to call the city my home. I was born, raised and currently reside in the city after an extended stay in New Jersey. So there are certain things that happen when you grow up in Baltimore. A lot of people watch Orioles games, watch Ravens games or go to the Senator Theater. What you definitely do as a kid in Baltimore is you hear the name Edgar Allen Poe a lot and you read and listen to The Raven a lot. The man was inescapable in Baltimore since he was a fixture there in the years before his death. He is buried in the downtown area and there was a long, mysterious tradition surrounding his gravesite that captivated our imaginations. In fact, my senior prom was held in the church that is attached to the small graveyard where his grave rests. And yet, it took reviewing The Raven (2012) to realize that today 10/7/2016 is the anniversary of his death.

Last year I reviewed The Abominable Doctor Phibes and I briefly talked about Vincent Price. Vincent Price is a legend. He has an instantly recognizable voice that has been imitated but never truly replicated. A lot of people go deep and rich when they are trying to be scary. Sometimes actors will make their voice raspy and full of hisses and grating sounds to be scary. Price had a slightly high pitched voice that normally would be innocuous without the acting talent behind him. The force of his personality can be felt in every word and the importance of his words is clear in every single tone. Horror is difficult because the smallest thing can make things seem silly and it sucks the fear right out of you. Older horror movies can suffer from this. However, a lot of the earlier horror movies drew power from using the principle of less is more. A lot of their performances were more subtle because they knew that the ideas themselves could be scary enough. It is not the only way to go about it and it is not necessarily better but it is different from a lot of the big budget films that come out now.

Vincent Price begins the movie by reciting part of the famous poem and, admittedly, the movie could have ended right after he was finished. Few people can recite horror monologues like Mr. Price did. My mind goes back to the terrifying monologue he did as a cold open on The Muppet Show. He has a way of building tension out of nothing and creating an urgency in my gut. Of course, the original poem is about a student longing for his deceased love while falling into madness while talking to a raven. In this, the protagonist is a former sorcerer who is tasked with turning the Raven back to human form. The title character is played by the legendary Peter Lorre who was probably most famous for messing with Humphrey Bogart characters. The two are joined by another horror legend in Boris Karloff who was in a ton of stuff but most famously he played Frankenstein. (Both the Monster and the Doctor in different movies). Karloff is always super creepy. His looks alone are enough to be menacing but his voice just adds to the feeling. Of all people, Jack Nicholson shows up as well. Rounding out the cast are actresses Hazel Court and Olive Sturgess.

The movie is certainly a long way from the dark and romantic poem full of longing and madness. There are plenty of horror elements to the movie. There is a little body horror, mind control and the living dead and these moments have more weight because they are surrounded by lighter stuff. The 1960s saw a peculiar movement that inverted the usual values of what made something “good” or “art”. This was the camp movement which used a certain kind of comic acting to parody more serious ventures. This movie came out shortly before the Addams Family and The Munsters premiered which utilized traditional horror elements in more comic subplots. Of course, this is not strange since Abbot and Costello did it fifteen years earlier. I am more than willing to see the funny side of Halloween since laughing at Death is the only way we can get by sometimes. The movie did a great job mixing a few horror elements in with heavy fantasy elements and plenty of comedy. While the jokes are funny, there is an undercurrent of spookiness that definitely gives me a good Halloween feeling.

Overall, this was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. While it was not a very scary movie, it was definitely suffused with the same spirit that lives in Halloween. I really had no idea what to expect from this movie since I knew the poem was not an hour and a half long. There is only so much you can stretch that original but brilliant poem and I am glad they did not attempt it. Instead, they introduced an original fantasy story that also homages the original poem just enough to be respectful. The ladies are mostly used as props but when they get a chance to act, you can see that they gave it all they had with few opportunities. Peter Lorre provides a lot of funny lines which I understand were mostly improvised. Nicholson was not great but he definitely got better with age. Boris Karloff is manipulative and politely creepy and I really liked his character. Vincent Price is very likable in this and he has unmistakeable charm. The thing was put together by legendary Roger Corman who definitely embraced camp and Richard Matheson who has had a prolific career. I definitely recommend this if you are in the mood for something a little less scary this year.

Deathgasm (2015)

October 5, 2016

I feel that horror has always had an association with Heavy Metal music. Most of the sub-genres of heavy metal are loud, aggressive and often very dark. There is a whole laundry list of heavy metal songs that mention satan, hell and other scary and forbidden imagery. None of that really bothers me like it did when I was a kid and I thought that words held literal magic instead of the figurative magic they actually hold. So after a certain age, heavy metal was never scary. Heavy metal was enticing, energizing and exciting. It gets my motor running in the morning and can bring me to that second wind in the evening. Still, I understand the connection between horror and heavy metal. Especially the album covers of heavy metal paint a horrific picture which is now as familiar to me as Bela Lugosi in Dracula or the puppets in Puppet Master.

I made an effort to try and include more foreign horror movies this year. In that vein, this movie comes from New Zealand. I have never seen a kiwi horror film but the inclusion of heavy metal definitely drew me in. By the time that I found out it was from New Zealand, I was already on the hook and had slotted it in to watch. I mean, it also has demons and demons are one of my all-time favorite monsters. Like faeries, demons have no rules and can be just about anything when they appear in stories. That makes them dangerous and unpredictable and exciting horror villains. You do not often hear this but demons are awesome. So let us sit back for a story of heavy metal and demons.

To start, I loved the feel of this movie from the start. Not only is it into Heavy Metal but it uses comic book transitions and animation to add to its irreverent spirit. My youth was spent listening to Heavy Metal, having long hair, reading comics and watching cartoons which are all things done in this movie. Of course, except for the long hair, they are all things I still do. The whole movie has a great heavy metal spirit to it. The great thing about heavy metal is that it is not afraid to be goofy as hell while desperately trying to sound serious and cool. Stuff like Brutal Legend and bands like Steel Panther have gone even farther toward mixing comedy with metal and now this movie has also mixed in some horror. This is also a high school comedy and our heroes are guys I could have hung out with in school. I was a total geek and hanging out with metalheads, dungeon masters and stoners would not have been a stretch.

I was impressed with the special effects in the movie. They did not have the best gore effects in the business but they were clearly practical and looked really good on screen. Starting off with humor, animation and comic book style stuff makes even the cheesiest effect acceptable. Over the top blood is one of my favorite things in horror movies because it is a combination of gross, awesome and funny. It’s also done with a lot of nonchalance which makes it both scarier and funnier somehow. Speaking of nonchalance, there is a lot of boobage and some very graphic sexual material that appears but if you have seen enough metal album covers you should expect that. The movie had no actors in it that were known to me but all of them were great. In particular, Milo Cawthorne was great in the lead role and I could really empathize with him the whole way.

Overall, I loved the movie. The kiwi accents, the comedy and the horror all blended together really nicely. It almost goes without saying that the soundtrack to the movie is completely awesome but I will go ahead and say it. The movie never dragged and was always awesome, funny, scary, strangely touching or some mixture of all of the above. It is kind of the high school movie that I needed to see while I was actually in high school but it means a lot more now. Also, kudos for having an action girl main character who is pretty fun and cool even if she is kind of a cliche. I definitely recommend this one.

Media Update 9/22/2016

September 22, 2016


Clone High

I have heard over and over that this show was awesome and iconic for its time but I never saw it when it came out. I was in college at the time so this came out a couple years after I stopped watching MTV animation. Until recently I also had nowhere to watch it either. It was driving me crazy to hear people like Kate Leth rave about the show and make inside jokes about it when I had missed out. Finally, I get to check it out and see what all the fuss is about. This show would have been right up my alley. The show is a parody of teen dramas like 90210 and Saved by the Bell. Every episode is a “special episode” that deals with some teen issue and parodies how horribly most shows dealt with real issues. Honestly, they could have stopped there and it would have been a really entertaining show. What they add is that all of the teenagers in the school are clones of famous people from history. The main cast includes clones of Abe Lincoln, Gandhi, Joan of Arc, John F. Kennedy and Cleopatra. Abe Lincoln is a weak-willed guy who is just trying to be popular. Gandhi is an ADHD hardcore partier. Joan of Arc is a goth. John F. Kennedy is a womanizing idiot. Cleopatra is obsessed with popularity and getting it no matter what. Seeing our heroes bent into twisted reflections of their real-life counterparts is really weird but strangely funny too. I definitely recommend you seek this out as it is only one season long.


Camp WWE

I was going to pass this up but then I heard that Seth Green had creative control on it. I was a big fan of Robot Chicken which made me smile at its worst and made me laugh until I was breathless at its best. I wanted to see his take on the WWE roster. I was also intrigued because the show is a hard R while the animation looks incredibly childlike. The show is about all of the WWE stars as children at a sleepover summer camp. The camp is run by Vince McMahon who voices this caricature of himself. He comes across as somewhere between Daffy Duck and Yosemite Sam. He’s insane and money hungry and it is really funny what they get away with. The counselors are made up of Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and various legends. The show is really adult but it never goes too far at least not in the first five episodes. Obviously, the show is funnier if you know the performers in question. It gets even funnier with every scrap of backstage knowledge you know as well. It is definitely a love letter from fans to something they love but obviously they know it’s not perfect. Obviously, those stars cannot be expected to voice their child counterparts so the voice actors they got are really good and add to the cartoonishness of the show. It features performers from now all the way back in the eighties and there are plenty more used as gags in the background. Every episode so far is on the WWE Network but that is as it should be because nobody but a WWE fan is going to want to watch it.


Daria

This show came out right in the middle of the Grunge movement and various other similar movements surrounding the rise of the unpopular kids. It stars an low key, annoyed teen girl who does not buy into what is popular. She alternately uses sarcasm and unbridled honesty as her weapons against those who would try to put her down. Normally I would see her as horribly anti-social and she should just try to get along. However, everybody around her is either corrupt or horribly incompetent including her family. The only person who seems nice is her best friend Jane who is just as bitingly sarcastic and disaffected. This was in the nineties when our ideas on mental health were even worse than they are now. Nobody realizes that being depressed or being different is natural especially for hormonal teens. The animation is actually not great and is pretty ugly and rough. Beavis and Butthead didn’t have the best animation either at least compared to other Liquid Television shows and what other studios were doing. The strength of the show is the voice acting and the offbeat writing. Like Clone High it is very exaggerated but it somehow feels pretty true to my experience in high school. However, the do not really depict us nerds and geeks in the best light from the get go. I liked it but it did not live up to all the hype that surrounds it. I guess I just had to be there. I recommend it because it is pretty funny.

Music of the Week:
Extol – Inferno

Up For Nothing – Sink

Genya Ravan – Love Is a Fire

StarVation- Wolf Pack

The Knocks – Love Me Like That (Feat. Carly Rae Jepsen)

Weekly Update:
– I finished Person of Interest Season 4 and I am hungry for more
– I also finished Once Upon a Time Season 5 and it was really good
– I watched more Charmed I had missed
– Started listening to The Worst Idea of All Time podcast again
– I picked up The Following season 2 again
– I am almost finished with Dark Matter season 1
– I am excited for The Magnificent Seven
– This week’s theme is “Parodies of Childhood – Animated”

Media Update 5/19/16

May 19, 2016


Conan

This was another television show that I was mystified I had never talked about on here before. Conan O’Brien is an awesome performer who obviously puts his all into everything he does. It is very clear in his work that he loves what he does and lives and breathes show business. I first discovered Conan O’Brien over ten years ago when he was on and I was hooked pretty much immediately. Late Night with Conan O’Brien was a great show because it was on late and it was often absolutely crazy. Watching Conan was like being part of a fan club, a feeling he made more official lately by labeling a lot of what he does under the Team Coco label. When he succeeded Leno on the Tonight Show I was overjoyed. Finally, the geeks had taken the castle and the bully Leno was out. Of course, that situation did not work out but Conan soldiered on and gained even more of my respect. Now he has had his own TBS show for a while now and I feel that’s a better fit for him. He gets fewer notes and is able to do a lot of fun stuff on his own. His humor is very self-deprecating and he is very loyal to his staff and they are extremely loyal to them. Lately, I have been watching episodes again and they are great but that’s not all. I have started to watch Team Coco’s weekly video game stream which is an online feature that complements Conan’s own Clueless Gamer segments.


Patton Oswalt: Talking for Clapping

I love Patton Oswalt. He is one of those hand full of performers who will immediately make me trust that what I’m watching is at least worth a try. He is consistently in my top three favorite stand-up comedians because he is an extraordinarily talented comedian. Patton has a voice and facial expressions that make me start smiling as soon as he starts a joke. His performance in Ratatouille was touching and funny and he saved what could have been a lackluster Pixar movie and he played several hilarious roles on Bojack Horseman. It is not that rare for me to watch something and go “Hey, it’s Patton Oswalt!” excitedly. He has a very recognizable voice and his comic timing is always on target. In the new special on Netflix, you get the benefit of years of honing his craft and learning to develop material. Patton really resonates with me. He suffers from bouts of depression like I do. He obsesses over a lot of the nerdy stuff like I do and, I now find out, he has the same pop culture sponge brain that I do. Unfortunately, this special came out about a day before his wife died and I hope he and his daughter come out alright though it sounds like they should be fine. He is a great guy and a brilliant mind and I really suggest you check out the special if you can. In fact, one of his bits is about the same impulse that made me create Media Update and Why I Love Pro-Wrestling.


You Don’t Know Jack

I love video games. As a kid, I was always a console gamer but some of my friends were PC gamers. I can’t remember which friend introduced me to the You Don’t Know Jack series of games. The game series is popular even today as they just released a new party pack which let’s players and streamers are having a field day with. The game is a pretty fast-paced trivia game that uses a lot of puns and humor to test your wits. The game is tricky but it is fair and when it comes down to it not that hard as long as you are knowledgeable about pop culture and the world. Unknown to me, ABC created a show in 2000 based on the computer game series. I had no idea this show existed but that makes sense as there were only six episodes broadcast and I have now seen them all on YouTube. The episodes are a little dated now but are very fun. The show is hosted by Troy Stevens (played by Paul Reubens) a guy who only cares about himself and enjoys tormenting the contestants. A lot of the fun of the show relies on Reubens’ charm and wit as he really drives the show. The episodes I saw were well-written and had some fun contestants as well. It’s a shame that the show had to be canceled but I am glad to have found a little gem online. Check it out if you like irreverent, crazy humor.

Links of the Week:
Introducing WikiBear, the Wikipedia-powered Teddy Bear
Prince – Partyman
The Black Keys – Sister
Dragonforce – Operation Ground And Pound
The Veronicas – Cruel

Weekly Updates:
– Happy Anniversary to my nerd rants!
– This week’s theme is Nerdy Comedy because Comedy was too broad
– They canceled The Muppets! Noooo!
– Also Agent Carter! Nooooo!
– Also Castle! …. Meh.
– Nice Guys opens this week. Looks noice.
– Alice Through the Looking Glass still looks as bad as the first movie.

House (1986)

October 31, 2015

We have little to no control over where and when horror finds us. The horror in our past is hard to overcome. Sometimes I think back to the scariest moments of my life and I can hardly imagine how I got through them and I’m just an ordinary guy. There are people who go through hell on Earth just to live another day and they have that burned into their memory forever. I can’t imagine being a soldier in a war where I was in real danger. I never saw a dead person outside of a funeral. Still, I can understand the true horror of trying to live today with the memories of true horror. The emotional baggage we carry around can be more terrifying than any ghost story. Of course, this movie is a ghost story too.

Thankfully, even with the heavy subject matter, there’s a lot of humor in this movie. It’s an interesting style of humor too. It’s quirky and light sometimes when the mood should be heavy or scary. Sometimes it actually makes the moment scarier in a very surreal way. The people in the story don’t act exactly as they should and while it’s sort of funny, it gave me sort of an alien feeling as well. Of course, there were was plenty of funny stuff too. I was reminded of a mix of movies like Airplane and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. It’s a strange kind of humor that mixes reality with unreality almost seamlessly.

The movie gradually gets weirder as it goes on. It starts off quirky with a side of strange but slowly the horror elements start to take over. We’re dealing with ghosts in this one but they’re some of the most crafty ghosts I’ve ever seen. Like the ghosts in the Shining, the house knows about every single moment of the main character’s life. Also, the ghosts actively mess with the character’s mind, a mind of a vietnam vet. He’s also a writer and I know from experience how much a vivid imagination can mess with your mind all on its own. The movie spends much of its time bouncing between vivid flashbacks and hauntings in the present. The sometimes jarring transitions help you get into the head of somebody who’s not quite well but seems oddly at ease with being in that condition.

William Katt stars as Roger Cobb, a horror writer in a horror movie a cliche that Stephen King practically invented. He has just the right energy to pull the character off without getting too corny or too heavy. He’s joined by George Wendt who plays Roger’s pushy next door neighbor Harold who seems to have forgotten a lot about human tact. Cobb is haunted by his past and strange creatures who are hard to explain. It becomes clear that Cobb is a man with issues. Issues that go beyond being haunted by ghosts and he goes against obstacles that are hard to explain without spoiling the movie.

I don’t want to spoil the movie. It’s a weird little thing as the director, Steve Miner, was fresh off of Friday the 13th parts II and III. The idea for it came from Fred Dekker who wrote Monster Squad but it was fleshed out by first time screenwriter Ethan Wiley. Apparently all three of them were best friends inspired by Twilight Zone: The Movie and it definitely shows. The movie paces out similar to horror anthology segments like Twilight Zone or Tales from the Crypt. I would suggest you check this movie out if you’re into an offbeat horror movie that’s as funny as it is weird.


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