• Ready Player One (2018)

    I was first introduced to the book Ready Player One on the site known as Reddit. Many people raved about how it was a fun, nostalgic romp through pop culture of the 80s. The story follows a nerdy outcast named Wade who escapes the real world inside of a virtual world known as the OASIS. When he’s not in a virtual school, he spends all of his time searching for clues to uncover an Easter egg hidden in the virtual world by the OASIS’ creator before his death.

    When I heard the book was being made into a movie by none other than Steven Spielberg himself, I nearly crapped my pants. Not only did the book have great potential for a visual medium, Steven Spielberg is the kind of directing power house that could get it done.

    While there are many enjoyable moments and the movie has similar sensibilities to the book, it’s vastly different and a bit too safe at times. There were unnecessary plot changes and too many holes. Some of the dialog and character connections were completely cringe-inducing. For example, millions of people around the globe use the OASIS, but you are really going to have me believe that the 5 characters who connect inside the virtual world also happen to live in the same city in the real world? Gimme a break.

    Even though I would have preferred a purified book experience, I was OK with some of the changes as they added some mystery and unknown territory. What really fell flat was the pacing. It was too fast and there was never any chance for anything to breathe. The story elements were condensed. Much of the character building was absent.

    If you like 80s pop culture and an adventure-filled Easter egg hunt, you’ll enjoy this movie. If you’re a fan of the book, you might just want to re-read the book or listen to the Wil Wheaton narrated audiobook.


  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

    Sometimes, a movie will come out of nowhere and no one knows anything about it. Then a buzz starts up and then some Golden Globe awards are won and it seems like maybe there is something good there.

    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is that kind of movie and it appears to be a top contender for the Best Picture Oscar. The story follows a grieving mother who purchases three billboards on a road no one travels to advertise the local police chief’s inability to catch her daughter’s murderer.

    The writing and delivery of the material works very well and keeps the viewer engaged, even though it seems like an unconventional and potentially boring story. The characters are wonderful and develop in ways you don’t totally anticipate. There are plenty of subtle intricacies that once you catch them, make you smirk. Things like dialog that seems rather mundane only to find a story element later on referring directly back to what was said.

    The performances are also top notch. Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson deliver the goods and Sam Rockwell’s roller coaster of a character arc definitely deserved that Golden Globe, and possibly an Oscar.

    My only gripe is that I felt there were a few too many coincidences. These things can bring the story momentum down a bit, because it seems rather forced, contrived, or outright impossible. What this movie had going for it was that it was set in a small town, so there are just going to be coincidences when everyone knows each other and the landscape is pretty compacted.

    Rating:


  • Top Tens: Best Christmas Movies To Watch Every Year

    1. Home Alone (1990)

    Kevin! It's one of the all time greats where the kid is left behind at Christmas and must save his home from two bumbling burglars.

    2. A Christmas Story (1983)

    Ralphie just wants a BB gun for Christmas and everyone says he'll shoot his eye out.

    3. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

    Clark W. Griswold is back and this time the family stays home for some good old Christmas fun.

    4. Die Hard (1988)

    He's a tough cop from New York and he's about to have a really bad day when some terrorists take over a skyscraper.

    5. Jingle All The Way (1997)

    Arnold embarks on a wild adventure to track down the hottest toy of the season for his son.

    6. Elf (2003)

    Will Ferrell plays Buddy the innocent elf who is on a mission to find his real dad at Christmas.

    7. Scrooged (1988)

    Bill Murray plays the humbugger who needs an awakening of the Christmas spirit.

    8. Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1967)

    The original classic tells the story of a green creature who finds Christmas cheer.

    9. The Santa Clause (1994)

    Tim Allen plays a regular guy who assumes the role of Santa Claus after an unfortunate accident.

    10. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)

    Kevin flies to New York instead of Florida and spends the holiday in the Big Apple by himself.


  • Top Tens: Early 90s Comedies That Nobody Cared About

    The 1990s were a transitional period when the bombast of the 80s hit the dawn of the technology age full blast. I went to see a lot of movies in the theater and I watched even more on home video. Here is my list of ten forgotten comedy gems of the early 90s.

    1. Bill Murray plays Bob, the extremely phobic mental patient who tracks down his vacationing doctor to continue his therapy.
    2. Dana Carvey is a con man who assumes the identity of a house sitter to steal some money to pay off a gangster.
    3. Martin Short plays a precocious boy whose only goal is to go to the Dinosaur World theme park.
    4. Chris Elliot plays a “fancy lad” who accidentally boards the wrong boat.
    5. Martin Short takes his family on a crappy sailboat adventure with Kurt Russell as their eccentric captain.
    6. Mike Myers wonders if his new wife is actually a serial axe murderer.
    7. Frank Whaley is an idiot overnight janitor at a Target and encounters a love interest and two thieves in one crazy shift.
    8. Dana Carvey plays a private investigator with amnesia that prevents him from remembering what happened the previous day.
    9. Chevy Chase and Demi Moore are a couple who take a wrong turn on a road trip and find themselves in deep hillbilly doo-doo.
    10. Martin Short is the world’s second most unlucky person. Danny Glover enlists his help to find the world’s most unlucky person.

  • Get Out (2017)

    Jordan Peele of Key & Peele makes his directorial debut with this unconventional horror story that puts a creepy, psychological twist onGuess Who’s Coming To Dinner.

    Chris (Danial Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams) travel to the country to visit Rose’s parents for a weekend getaway. Things get cringey and awkward as more people arrive for some sort of gathering and treat Chris in unusual ways. Things keep building as this feeling of dread develops. You feel like there is no way this can end well.

    The writing is great and the characters are all superb. There are plenty of tense moments and the pacing escalates as the movie progresses. It’s the kind of movie that restores faith in modern horror. Not everything needs to be sequels or boring dumb stuff.

    Rating:


  • Odd Thomas (2013)

    Based on a crappy Dean Koontz novel, Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) is a likable guy who can see dead people and other ghastly creatures. He uses his special skills to fight the forces of evil and avenge the dead. Things start to spiral out of control as Odd starts to piece together a plot by some crooked cops to carry out a massacre at a mall.

    Aside from an OK story, Anton Yelchin is the reason to watch this. He was a true master of his craft and brings so much enjoyment to an otherwise bland role.

    Willem Dafoe has a minor part, but also manages to deliver the goods.

    Ultimately, the movie could have been better, but thanks to Anton, it was definitely worth watching.

    Rating:


  • Zombeavers (2014)

    The new era of horror comedy is under way. With the success of movies like Piranha 3D and Sharknado,the floodgates opened to allow for a wide range of crazy ideas, many involving some sort of animal.

    The movie starts with a canister of bio hazard waste falling off of a truck, which makes its way downstream to a beaver dam and breaks open. The story shifts to three sorority sisters on their way to a secluded cabin to get some rest and relaxation away from their boyfriends and college stress. So far, none of this is exactly new territory. The boyfriends show up and the fun starts as the zombeavers attack.

    The writers understood what they were making and they did it well. It’s less about building suspense and more about playing with the established trends in the genre. At one point, one of the girls tries to call the police and the line is dead. Cut to the phone box and it’s clear the zombeavers chewed through the phone line.

    As things progress further out of control, there are some interesting developments that keep the momentum going. By the time it’s over, I’m left hoping they will make a sequel.

    Rating:


  • Saw III (2006)

    Part 3 is where things go a little bit nutso. The movie picks up roughly where the last one left off, but quickly side-steps into new territory. Jigsaw/John Kramer is bed-ridden with the full effects of his cancer taking over. His lady accomplice kidnaps a surgeon to perform a cranial surgery to relieve pressure from his brain. Meanwhile, a grieving father is playing the Jigsaw game specifically designed to prey on the emotions surrounding the death of his son.

    The difficulty with this movie is that it’s all over the place. The mystery of the previous two is gone. Everything is out in the open and the pacing is very uneven. There are some twists, but you’d have to care to really feel their impact.

    The best word to describe this movie would be “torturous” because not only is it a chore to get through, it goes way too far to the extreme of movie killings. They dub these types of movies “torture porn” for a reason. The gore is off the charts, but totally done for the sake of topping what has already come before. There is almost no suspense. It’s just: “here’s something new and sick to witness.” I liked these movies better when it was like watching an escape room play out and the audience joined the characters trying to decipher the mystery of what was going on.

    Rating:


  • The Legend of Hell House (1973)

    Based on the novel Hell House by Richard Matheson, this haunted house flick finds a physicist named Dr. Barrett and a few other people commissioned to investigate a house with a history of paranormal activity.

    Dr. Barrett brings a huge machine that is supposed to rid the house of bad energy and his wife. There are also a couple of psychics to help with the spirit hunting. Will they be able to leave the house with the lives and their sanity?

    It definitely feels like 1973. Every electronic device is huge and boxy. It was a time when suspense and danger had to be conveyed in subtle ways. I’m sure it was all very effective back then, but aside from an eerie tone, there isn’t much in the way of fear-inducing imagery. Some of the possession scenes with pitch-lowered voices were kind of cool, though.

    I wouldn’t call this a classic, but it’s OK for the time period.

    Rating:


  • Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (2009)

    Following the events of the first movie, the flesh-eating infection that took out most of the cast at the cabin is back to take out some of the new cast. Rider Strong’s character starts things off with a bang and the tainted nearby water supply is picked up for bottling at a local plant.

    The new characters are a couple of high school kids who have to deal with the infectious disease during their prom. Then you got Deputy Winston from the first movie and his cousin for some comic relief. No one is safe as the CDC converges on the area to stop the spread of the disease.

    There is a lot of blood and gore, but none of it is tied together in any meaningful way. I don’t really care about the characters and the story is basically just some scenes strung together. There are some funny parts and it’s nice that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it also doesn’t give any good reasons to enjoy what I’m watching.

    Rating: