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DEATH WISH (2018) Film Review

DEATH WISH (2018)
3.5 STARS (out of 5)
 
A bold remake of the 1974 classic film which originally starred Charles Bronson and led to a successful series of 4 films.
 
In this update, Bruce Willis stars as Dr. Paul Kersey, an E/R trauma surgeon in modern-day Chicago, where treating gunshot wounds is as common as ordering pepperoni on a deep-dish pizza. As the opening credits roll, a talk radio montage reveals the community’s exasperation with all of the violence.
 
Lucy (Elisabeth Shue) is Kersey’s upper middle class wife who is finally completing her PhD after 15 years of being a mom and home-maker. Camila Morrone plays Jordan, the Kerseys’ daughter, a high school senior bound for NYU in the Fall. Vincent D’Onofrio is Kersey’s ne’er do well brother Frank, for whom Paul cares unreservedly.
One evening while at work, Lucy and Jordan are brutally savaged by home invaders. Wife Lucy does not survive the event and their daughter Jordan is now in a coma.
 
After Lucy’s funeral, Kersey’s father-in-law introduces the concept of guns for self-protection. A notion previously uncomfortable to Paul.
 
Days and weeks pass and the good doctor becomes unsatisfied with the slow pace his wife’s murder investigation.
 
One evening, while treating a bullet-riddled criminal patient, Paul finds, and confiscates, the patient’s handgun–a Glock–which he brings home. Paul teaches himself to use the Glock and decides to roam the city at night with the purpose of finding trouble. On that first night, he interrupts a random act of violence.
 
This situation, a car-jacking, requires rapid reaction and Paul’s instincts take over. He thwarts the heist and both criminals are killed. One of them expires from his initial wounds. But the other requires additional kill shots…which Paul obliges.
 
Unbeknownst to Paul, the episode is captured on a cell phone video and he becomes an instant social media sensation dubbed “The Grim Reaper”. The only thing protecting Paul’s identity is that his face was obscured by the hood of his sweat jacket. Later on, while reviewing the video of his exploits Paul seems quite self-satisfied, almost amused.
 
The remainder of the film has Paul gunning down other bad guys while always remaining one step ahead of the police and throwing Chicago social media into a deeper frenzy over the meaning, purpose and justification of being a vigilante killer.
 
Eli Roth (God Bless him) offers a nod to conservatism when he has a fellow NYU-bound girlfriend of the comatose Jordan reading Milton Friedman aloud for Jordan at her hospital bedside. Which is to signal that capitalism, crime-fighting and cowboying-up are all back en vogue. Touche!

TERMINAL (2018) Film Review

“TERMINAL” (2018)
4 STARS (out of 5)
Watching this movie is like taking a trip to an Adult Disneyland where Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride includes neon-lit malt-shops, Go-Go bars and blood-splattered surgical theaters.
It is a highly-stylized, pop-art, film noir whose archetype can be traced back to Frank Miller’s “Sin City” (2005) and Alan Rudolph’s “Choose Me” (1984).
A creepy mix of 5 plots all intersecting through a shabby railroad terminus and all featuring an omnipresent femme fatale who’s always several stiletto-heeled steps ahead of the other players.
Margot Robbie as the enigmatic, platinum-blonde anti-heroine was born for this role. Her character wears many hats: waitress, stripper, assassin, nurse…and each of them involves costumes that fit the art-deco-noir motif. Her Lana Turner-esque seduction of Alfred (Max Irons) is terribly smooth. He’s so over-matched (Life can be so unfair!) but we eagerly endure his erotic pain.

Mike Myers impressive as the Terminal’s idiosyncratic Night Manager. Limping to-and-fro pushing his garbage cart, he’s decades removed from SNL, Shrek and Austin Powers…but he may have found a terrific new career in horror films. I’d love to see more.

Simon Pegg as an emaciated, terminally-ill, English scholar. We’ve never seen him look this old, frail and mature. Gone is the jovial round-faced zombie fighter from “Shaun of the Dead” or the effusive Scotty from “Star Trek”. He articulates quite reservedly, like any erudite dialectician would. This is a more restrained role for Mr. Pegg and we hope he tries this again. I can almost see him taking on Rex Harrison roles like p Captain Gregg (“Ghost and Mrs. Muir”) and Professor Henry Higgins (“My Fair Lady”). Bravo, Simon. You are growing by leaps and bounds.
The sub-plot involving Dexter Fletcher and Max Irons as bumbling hitmen is yet another literal allograft from Harold Pinter’s “The Dumbwaiter” (also poorly concealed and uncredited in John Favreau’s “Made” and Martin McDonagh’s “In Bruges”). These two gents are stuck in Pinter’s hitman quandary and grate on each other as expected. Fletcher is the more seasoned actor and you’ll recognize him from many character roles throughout his career, the best of which was as Tony the Concierge in BBC’s “Hotel Babylon” series from 2006-2009.
Max Irons is a relative newcomer but has a strong family pedigree with Jeremy Irons as his father. He’s over-matched by both Robbie and Fletcher, but he doesn’t cave in, so we root for his survival.
GENRE: Mystery, Horror, Noir, Crime, Comedy
DIRECTOR: Vaughn Stein
WRITER: Vaughn Stein
CAST: Margot Robbie, Simon Pegg, Mike Myers, Dexter Fletcher.
RUNTIME: 95 Minutes

Film Review: “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)

I finally re-watched Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) last night for the first time in 45 years.

It was too long and lofty for me as an 10 year old back in the early 1970s to actually understand it–and I almost felt that way again this time around again.
But with the modern technology of FF and REW i was able to really see it in full detail and each scene several times over.

The entire film is actually 5 movies rolled in one. And only the middle section had any real drama to speak of.
It took Kubrick a full hour to finally introduce Dave and HAL, our protagonist and nemesis, respectively.
And their story-line only lasted 50 minutes. I really wished it was longer here.
The film is too long in 2 of the 5 sections: Parts 2 and 4.

Here are the 5 sections:

1) Prologue: Prehistoric man’s encounter with a strange, inert obelisk. Rectangular, slender, tall, ebony and shiny. While inanimate, it exudes an aura that fascinates the cave men. They see value in it. Is it Beauty? Power? Safety? What do those concepts even mean to a cave man? One thing’s for certain: Early man’s curiosity is awakened and this prompts the innovation of his first crude tool.

2) PanAm TV Commercial: Dr. Haywood’s trip to the moon is a visual masterpiece, albeit lengthy. It seems more about bragging rights for conceptual designs of future space travel than a movie sequence. Very little drama to speak of. Uneventful and existential. But in the end we arrive at the reappearance of the obelisk.

3) Dave and Frank travel to Jupiter. HAL9000 goes haywire.Bad things happen. Lots of tension and excellent storytelling.

4) Dave’s voyage unexpectedly jettisons past Jupiter to the far reaches of the universe. Very psychedelic and trippy. Way too lengthy.

5) Epilogue: Dave’s arrival at the end of his trip. The end of life (his life?) yet also a (or “the”) beginning. Did he discover life’s meaning?
This is the most fascinating sequence. I’ve had it memorized for over 40 years and seeing it again gave me the old familiar chills.

Kubrick had an agenda to demonstrate what our future would look like on an existential level…so he was stingy with compelling, forward-moving plot points. But it was realism, if only hypothetical. And it made its point loud and clear. It still does. You can count me as one person who is thankful to not be a space traveller because it looks DAMNED boring!

The accuracy in predicting how space travel and technology would look was uncanny. Including the introduction of iPad-like tablets, almost mimicking to their current size in 2018.

-Nick P

Labyrinth from Eighth Tower Records

Labyrinth from Eighth Tower Records

Labyrinth is the latest compilation from Eighth Tower Records, purveyors of fine ultraterrestrial dark ambient, drone, and electronic music. With a total of twenty two tracks there’s enough darkness here to swallow the Earth whole.
The compilation starts off with “When the Shadows Come” from Psionic Asylum, a deep, dark ambient track that starts you down the path to the Labyrinth. Some of the standouts are track 3, “Luft” by Monocube, which wades into static like you are waste deep in murky waters of the mind. A train whistle is used expertly to disconcert the listener, sounding much like a plane crashing.
Track 6 brings “The Labyrinth” by Warpness with helicopter sound effects that increase the tension. Track 17 is “Hostile to the Past” by Soliloqua which uses creepy organ music that plants the seed in your mind that perhaps coming here was a mistake.
Track 18 is from Traansmutt, entitled “HehBethKathDaleth” and its packed with plenty of disturbing sounds like you’ve accidentally intruded on some kind of ritual in an old Hammer horror film. Other tracks include “Tre” from Necrophorus, “Verminephrobacter eiseniae” from Stigmate, and “We’ll Return to Our Departed Selves” by IOK-1.
Finally, the compilation contains an interesting passage about the nature of the labyrinth itself:
Mazes must be solved, a left brain activity that involves choices and an active mind and logical, sequential, linear thinking. A maze is multicursal, with many paths. If you don’t pay attention, you can get lost in one. Not so with a labyrinth. It is unicursal – one way in, one way out. There are no decisions, no choices, no thinking required. The only choice is to enter. To walk one is a right brain activity involving intuition, creativity, and imagination, and it requires a receptive mindset. You must trust the path, surrender to it.

      A labyrinth is not a puzzle; it is a mystery. Theologian Diogenes Allen illuminates the difference: “When a problem is solved, it is over and done with. We go on to other problems. But a mystery, once recognized, is something we are never finished with. Instead, we return to it again and again and it unfolds new levels to us. Mysteries, to be known, must be entered into. We do not solve mysteries. The deeper we enter into them, the more illumination we get.”

Track Listing:

1 Psionic Asylum “When the Shadows Come”

2 Sysselman “Submarine” (featuring Radio Feskslog)

3 Monocube “Luft”

4 Necrophorus “Tre”

5 Sonologyst “System: Maze of Control”

6 Warpness “The Labyrinth”

7 Xerxes the Dark “The Omen”

8 Damballah “Syel Lannwit”

9 Alphaxone “Awakeness”

10 SiJ “Few Sounds From the House Near the Sea”

11 Taphephobia “Twisting Journey”

12 Ashtoreth “Uncertain Path”

13 Globoscuro “Dedalo’s Architectural Liver”

14 Stigmate “Verminephrobacter eiseniae”

15 Silent Chaos “Daedalus of Possibilities”

16 IOK-1 “We’ll Return to Our Departed Selves”

17 Soliloqua “Hostile to the Past”

18 Traansmutt “HehBethKathDaleth”

19 Knobstat – Dirac

20 Monica Vlad – Distant

21 vAaristyma – ei muistiinpanoja alkuliemi

22 SKR Project – Death in Nibiru

https://eighthtowerrecords.bandcamp.com/album/labyrinth

Blu-ray Review: The X-Files – The Event Series

The X-Files The Event Series Blue-Ray disc The truth is still out there and maybe, just maybe we’ll get some answers with the release of The X-Files six episode Event Series.  Airing earlier this year on Fox to disturbingly little fan fair – this 6 hours of The X-Files might just be some of the best hours of the entire series run.

I have to say – watching this Event Series on Blu-ray is by far the better method by which to catch up with Mulder, Scully, and the gang.  It really plays more cohesive – more film like not having the constant commercial interruptions that network TV brings.  It really makes me consider if perhaps a third stand alone film might have been a better platform for telling the tale we get and the quick – short answer is no – there’s not enough information revealed to support a feature and also – we would be unable to get the fun little “go for it” episodes we get.  Season X is broken down into six episodes – three of them play to the X-Files mythos and three of them are little, stand-alone episodes – all of them are pretty damn good.

Things kick off with the episode titled My Struggle and we are re-introduced into Mulder’s motivation – the search for his sister – the search for the truth.  The conspiracy is explained in more depth as is the personal relationship between Mulder and Scully.  Don’t want to say more as the fun of uncovering the secrets for yourself is part of the joy of this little exercise.

The second part of the two-night premiere titled Founder’s Mutation plays heavily into the government conspiracy aspect that the series has used so well throughout its run.  Ultimately, though – this segment kind of goes nowhere and while at the time entertaining,  once you watch the entire season it turns out to be a rather unneeded exercise.  It’s a mythos building episode that doesn’t seem to build the mythos.

Once we get through the two-night premiere episode we veer away from the mythos of the show and head full bore into what for me was always the meat and potatoes of The X-Files – the monster episodes.  We get a couple really well done – fun as hell exercises in the strange.

Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster is unadulterated fun – it’s what makes the genre fun to watch – it makes The X-Files fun to watch.  Again – don’t want to spoil the view but we get a Carl Kolchak homage, we get a great monster that squirts blood out of its eyes and we get some really hilarious tongue in cheek humor.  It’s a wonderful break from the drama and at the end of the day, they take this episode in a direction that I didn’t see coming – that has to stand for something.  The disc is worth buying for this episode alone – it’s one of the best of the entire series run.

Equally fun is Home Again where we once again get another original X-Files monsters, Band Aid Nose Man and he is pure nightmare fuel.  Tim Armstrong of Rancid fame nails his role as Trashman.  While in this episode we do dip our toe just a bit into the show mythos when Scully finds herself having to deal with a personal tragedy that ultimately leads to some personal growth that gets explored more fully in the final two segments. fifth episode

The fifth episode – Babylon – is an important episode on many levels.  The subject matter, which centers around terrorism is timely and scary and at the same time we are also introduced to a duo of new characters – Agents Einstein and Miller who are introduced as another version but not a replacement for our beloved Scully and Mulder.  It certainly sets the series up for a new road that can be traveled.  But even given the heaviness of the subject matter this time around there is still some light-hearted fun as we get Mulder tripping on some mushrooms and going on a little adventure that leads to many firsts for the series. Also in this episode, we herald the return of The Lone Gunman and while they are not key players in this tale – it’s great fun to see them.

Ultimately this all leads to the sixth and last episode in this little reunion and is aptly titled My Struggle II and in many ways answers a ton of fans questions about the future of the show and ties up tons of loose story ends while at the same time leaving things totally open ended while also bringing the series full circle.  Confused?  Good – that’s just how I want you.  You’re going to have to watch if you want to see where they take things but for this X-Phile – I was content with where they have taken things – I like Einstein and Miller and their interaction with Scully and Mulder – I’m sold and I think they have set the stage to continue with the X-Files as long as the fanbase supports them.

The Blu-ray itself comes as a duel disc with three episodes on each disc.  Special feature-wise, we are treated to a slew of amazing content:

The X-Files” – The Event Series Blu-ray & DVD Special Features
Deleted & Extended Scenes
Gag Reel
The Makings of a Struggle
Season X: An In-Depth Behind-the-Scenes Look at “The Event Series”
Monsters of the Week: A Recap from the Wildest and Scariest from the Original Series
“The X-Files” – Green Production PSA
Short Film – Grace by Karen Nielsen
Commentary on “Founder’s Mutation” with Chris Carter and James Wong
Commentary on “Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster” with David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Kumail Nanjiani and Darin Morgan
Commentary on “My Struggle II” with Chris Carter and Gabe Rotter

The feature titled Season X is well worth your time and chock full of great behind the scenes info.  I enjoyed it almost as much as the season itself.  Overall this release is a must-own for fans and a must see for anyone who has ever enjoyed even one episode of the series.

TheX-Files – The Event Series is out now and if you’ve yet to pick it up – go now and make it happen.

 

by Dave Dreher