‘Mandy’ Movie Review: Nic Cage Battles Crazy Jesus Freaks & Biker Demons!

Wow, my mind has officially been blown by Panos Cosmatos’ second feature film ‘Mandy’! I was lucky enough to catch it this crazy ass flick last Sunday evening at Cinema 21 here in Portland with a rowdy packed theater. I’m damn glad I decided to make a run to the cinema rather than renting this online ‘cuz in my opinion that’s the absolute best way to see this one for the first time. After watching the steaming pile of crap that was ‘The Predator’ at a matinee Friday, a movie like Mandy was a complete and total breath of fresh air. I guess the best thing to say here is this movie may not be for everyone, but if you’re ready to take one of the craziest mind bending cinematic journeys of the last couple decades then you’re gonna fucking love it. Hell even the poster is awesome!

Mandy is a completely insane revenge flick set in the early 80’s and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed before. I’m so used to seeing big crappy Hollywood blockbusters in the theater, so this was a bit of of a welcome shock to my noggin. The whole movie plays out like an uncomfortable fever dream, with Nicholas Cage as a logger named “Red” who lives out in the Pacific Northwest with his beautiful but eerily mesmerizing girlfriend Mandy. They live a quiet, serene life in an incredibly strange home in the middle of the woods, with large glass walls that bring to mind elements of a real life fairy tale. Everything’s dark yet overly drenched in vibrant hues of reds, purples & thick lush colors creating a surreal landscape that feels like a dream put right on the screen in front of you. It’s a spectacle to behold and it’s clear from the start that Red & Mandy have been through a lot together, sharing a truly special bond in their secluded life. Mandy works at a nearby convenience store, wears cool heavy metal tees and loses herself in fantasy novels while Red spends his time chopping down trees with his chainsaw. The two of them are pictured intently watching 80’s horror flicks together (NIGHTBEAST!), chatting about what their favorite planets are, showing they’re living a rather sweet, simple and innocent life together at this point.

Well shit majorly hits the fan when a crazy van full of uber religious cult members roll into the area and their leader spots the oddly beautiful Mandy walking on the road one day. The cult leader is seemingly hypnotized by her and quickly declares that he must have her for his own. The first hour of the movie is pretty slow moving but in the best way possible, though we don’t get much backstory, we do get a clear picture of the love Mandy & Red share for each other, which makes what follows all that more intensely heartbreaking. I don’t want to spoil anything here, but let’s just say this cult goes the full distance to send Nicholas Cage into a fully batshit crazy journey that’s part Evil Dead, part Hellraiser and part LSD drenched revenge fantasy. I know people have a sort of ironic love for Nicholas Cage these days but seriously Cage fully shines here in easily one of his best performances of his career. He’s awesome and not in some ridiculous sort of way. The movie goes to some truly bizarre places, the violence plentiful and there are a ton of oddball surprises all along the way.

The movie even has a sense of humor as well, though it feels like an unsettling waking nightmare most of it’s run time, there’s something truly comforting about having Nic Cage there with you as your guide through the mayhem of it all. It gives you a sense of hope that just maybe you’ll make it out of it all alive somehow. There’s also a strong heavy metal vibe to film, not just in it’s imagery but also in the score, which is completely breathtaking in it’s thunderous doom metal delivery through the hellish otherworldly landscapes. The music here is incredible and liley half of the charm of why Mandy works so damn well honestly.

There’s also cool hand drawn animated interludes that bring to mind the 1981 cult classic “Heavy Metal” in the best ways possible. Add in amazing practical fx work, crazy gore, epic weapon crafting, chainsaws, Goblin Mac & Cheese (just wait and see), drugs galore, demonic cenobite like bikers and a sweet ass cameo from Predator’s Bill Duke and you’ve got yourself one truly freaky epic horror masterpiece unlike anything you’ve like ever seen before. I can’t say enuff good things about this movie, it’s still floating around in my head four days after viewing it. I can though easily say that Mandy thus far is my favorite movie of 2018!

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‘The Predator’ Movie Review: Bad Comedy & Not Much Else…

So Friday afternoon I checked out ‘The Predator’, the latest comedy from director Shane Black, the 5th installment to the movie franchise if you include those AVP films. I’d been pumped for this thing to drop as a big fan of the original, which back in 1987 was the first R-rated movie I saw in the theaters. It was also the first movie I’d ever snuck into. I can still remember my friend and I’s reaction to witnessing ‘Predator’ on the big screen after sneaking in, which itself was pretty exciting actually, it was a truly epic cinematic event I’ll never forget and one of those moments growing up that shaped my obsession of movies to current day. I love Predator and the best thing about the movie is that it STILL holds up as one of the best action/horror/scifi flicks of all time. So yeah, naturally when I’d heard Shane Black, who’d actually starred in the original film and Fred Dekker (Monster Squad, Night of the Creeps) was writing it, my hopes for a truly iconic return to form for the Predator franchise was indeed very high.

Well the verdict is in folks, and as a longtime fan, I’m sorry to say the movie blows. After seeing the trailers, I was certainly cautious going into this one, but still was quite certain if anyone was going to deliver the goddamn goods this time around it’d have be Shane Black. That however was certainly not the case. ‘The Predator’ is a full blown comedy and not a good one, in fact it was a bit awkward in the theater as their attempts at jokes fell quite flat most of the time to a rather quiet and unenthusiastic audience. I guess the best way to describe it is it’s attempting to be a Marvel movie version of the Predator. This seems to be the trend these days in these bloated blockbusters, interrupting any potentially serious moments in a movie with some sort of “witty” Marvel-esque attempt at a joke. I’ve gotta say I’m over it. Long gone is the horror/slasher, suspense of the original films instead we’ve got utterly bland characters entrenched in one truly moronic adventure.

I could care less about this movie’s characters, in fact at one point I was hoping for the Predator to destroy them all just so they’d stop cracking unfunny jokes. All of them are totally generic, even the little kid is just a total bore and probably had no place even being in a Predator movie, especially this one which I found out has some weird ass controversy surrounding it. I’m not going to give a play by play either, as so many people out there have already reviewed this stinker. I’ll get down to the real meat and potatoes here, the Predator at least looked good, that is until the bigger CGI Predator and his lame ass CG dogs shows up to take a big dump on that aspect of things as well. Let’s not even discuss how dumb the Predator dog subplot is here, it’s just not worth the time, lets just say it’s another example of The Predator’s piss poor writing. There’s also tons of “call back” joke lines thrown around here from previous movies in the franchise, apparently Shane thinks that shit is still really a big treat for the fans, as a fan I can truly say it’s not.

The movie is just one big dumb, poorly edited, poorly paced, boring mess of a movie. For the longest time I was hoping that Arnold would return in this film as Dutch from the 1987 classic. I wanted it so bad. After seeing 2018’s ‘The Predator’ I’m actually fully relieved that he declined the cameo Shane Black had offered him. This movie didn’t deserve to have Dutch to make an appearance. As far as ranking the films, this one just might be the worst of the batch, I actually would rather watch the two AVP movies before trudging through this thing again. I’d say after this it just might be time to retire the franchise for good. I’m still amazed Shane Black and Fred Dekker could drop the ball this badly, but alas they served us all a bonafide shit sandwich. Good riddance Predator, I’m sad to say it but I’m not gonna miss you…. 

VHS Verdict: A Wild Ride On The ‘Night Train to Terror’!

I recently checked out a pretty sweet little horror anthology from 1985 called ‘Night Train to Terror’ on VHS and it did indeed deliver the goods, especially in that oh so ridiculously sweet 80’s way. It’s not always easy to find a decent horror anthology but this one had a certain charm about it especially with it’s rather ambitious special fx & visuals that really made it such a damn good time.

The movie certainly kicks off with a total bang as we’re thrust into a full blown dance party on a train, with crazy 80’s fashion, a super cheezed out band rockin’ performing a totally “rad” third rate pop song. Now that’s a train I want to reserve a seat on! Anyway, soon we realize that God and Satan are also on a train that’s flying through outer space and trying to determine who will live on the party train as it’s going to crash. This is where we see the frightening tales of evil materialize on screen as it sets the stage for the stories involving some of the more questionable passengers.

So what we’ve got here are a few cool tales of terror, what’s really interesting is these stories here are all apparently edited versions of different horror films: Death Wish Club, Cataclysm and an unfinished movie project with Richard Moll (of Night Court fame) called Scream Your Head Off. Yeah and if you’re for some reason a big Richard Moll fan you’ll be pleased to know he stars in two of the segments! Also while we’re on the hot topic of Richard Moll flicks, you’ve got to check out ‘The Dungeonmaster’ from 1984, which is easily one of the most ridiculously fun horror/Sci fi flicks of the 80s. So back to the Night Train, it would seem one reason why these segments work so well is that they’ve likely trimmed out all of the excess fat from these movies and got to get straight to the damn point. So many obscure 80’s horror flicks would be bonafide cult classics if they’d trim 20 or so minutes from their run times. That’s a fact!

Yep, Night Train has got a lot to offer in it’s spooky entries, but don’t expect shit to make a heckuva lot of sense. The stories are actually kinda confusing, probably because they’ve been majorly butchered to pieces. That being said, there’s some cool shit going on, there’s one about a dude who drugs women, then kills them only to collect their organs. There’s a ton of nudity and some gore and of course Richard Moll shows up. The next segment’s about a freaky ass death club, whose members are obsessed with near death experiences, not the “out of body” stuff but like putting themselves into elaborate death traps to see if they can survive it. This one’s also pretty damn confusing, but there’s some cool ass traps and a rad killer insect that they let out of a bottle to fly around them at a dinner table..oh yeah and then some killer big hungry monster bugs! Lastly the third one was fucking fantastic, It had some weird ass Nazi guy who never ages, you guessed it…more Richard Moll, monsters a plenty and a totally excellent stop-motion animation creature sequence.  This one’s story is super confusing as well, or maybe i’m just stupid, but it doesn’t really matter because it’s all 80’s gory goodness. I’d say just drink some booze and smoke a joint before watching, as it’s not there to wow anyone with a well crafted story that’s for sure!

So check this one out if you’re in the mood for a sweet 1980’s horror party flick, it delivers on all levels and you really don’t have to pay much attention to what’s going on, just sit back and enjoy the goofy ambition of it all…

‘The Last Jedi’ Gets a Second Chance: First Look at The Ultimate Fan Edit Trailer!!

I’ve been following the Last Jedi drama since the movie dropped back at the end of last year, it’s been a wild ride that’s for sure. As for The Last Jedi, no, I wasn’t a fan of it. At all. And it wasn’t because I dislike strong female leads either, I saw The Force Awakens 4 times in theaters. The Last Jedi to me was just unfulfilling on so many different levels as an old Star Wars fan who is over 40 years old, but it wasn’t just because they didn’t utilize the the classic characters in Episode 8 for one last adventure together. That was indeed a total bummer for sure. However, most of all for me it was because it didn’t feel like a cohesive sequel, it actually felt like one director (Rian Johnson) fighting actively against everything that came before it. Then serve up truly some subpar storytelling, with plot points that consistently go nowhere, dodgy “comedy” and wrap it all up into one dare I say rather boring mish mash of a feature film and you’re sure to have a ton of totally pissed off fans out there. Well, as we all know now, it indeed did piss of a legion of die hard Star Wars fans and one of them decided to take matters into his own hands. Enter a true Star Wars fan and professional editor Ivan Ortega!

Now I know there’s a lot of people out there that try stuff like this, but Ivan Ortega has real experience editing movies and tv shows under his belt. It’s clear with his Youtube channel’s content that he himself was indeed severely disappointed with the movie and has decided to use his skills to entirely re-edit it, actually changing many of it’s major plot points, trimming out the fat and even attempting to add in entirely new scenes altogether. At first I had my doubts about the execution of exactly what he wanted to accomplish and wondered how cheesy it might end up looking, but after watching a ton of his videos about the progress he’s made on the project, I’m really counting down the days to seeing his full cut of the movie. You wanted a real Luke Skywalker/Kylo Ren lightsaber duel? You didn’t like the Cantobite casino planet sub plot? Perhaps you were disappointed in the way Admiral Ackbar was killed off screen like it was no big deal? Totally bummed they killed of Luke? Hey maybe you thought Holdo was acting a like a prick when she could’ve revealed that she had a real plan to Poe? Well then I think you’re really gonna wanna check it out. Today the trailer has dropped for the new cut!I gotta say I’m fully impressed, this new trailer is a new hope indeed- Check it out!!!

 

A Solo Yoda Movie: Star Wars Meets The Dark Crystal!

So for a while there was a lot of talk about the anthology “A Star Wars Story” movies that were potentially in the works, that was until ‘SOLO’ bombed at the box office. An Obi Wan movie, a Boba Fett and even talk of a Lando solo adventure. However the one that interested me the most was the idea of a Yoda movie, where we follow the adventures of a younger Yoda. This for a while seemed like an actual possibility but besides Solo’s failure in theaters, Frank Oz had stated a Yoda movie would simply be too difficult to articulate the puppet for a feature length movie and would likely need to be fully CGI. I think it could be done, utilizing both old school puppetry blended with CGI. The more I’ve thought about it all the better the idea seems to me, that Yoda should indeed get his own movie though.

So in response to Frank Oz, I think doing incredible puppetry in 2018 with the Disney budget doesn’t seem all that impossible, especially with green screens, CGI being able to erase wires, strings & actors who’re controlling it’s actions. I think utilizing CGI as well to bring Yoda to life in full body shots / lightsaber duels is indeed a must but using puppetry for close ups is also a must. It would be the perfect mixture of both to make everyone’s green Jedi really come to life in an epic full length adventure. Doing it the way they did back in 70’s though? Yeah, I’m certain that’d be quite a headache, though in the 80’s they pulled it off beautifully in the ambitious Dark Crystal.

Which leads me to the next point, imagine a Yoda movie that was more of a modern mix of The Dark Crystal and Star Wars. A spin-off Star Wars Story that maximized the use of real Puppets, exotic locations/sets and a stronger blend of old school fx blended with todays modern tech. It’d definitely be something different for a Star Wars movie especially in this day and age of total overuse of CG in blockbusters. I imagine someone like Guillermo del Toro at the helm, or at least someone who truly loves practical fx work, epic fantasy and incredible monsters. Just the hype of the movie featuring heavy puppetry alone I think would bring something truly unique to the table for today’s young and old fans of the franchise. They could even add some animatronic modifications to the Yoda puppet, giving him more complex facial expressions & get help from The Jim Henson Company to bring it all to life. I bet you’d have a hit on your hands at the box office. Continue reading

Should John Carpenter Direct The ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ SEQUEL Movie?!

I’ve just read some interesting news that the currently upcoming ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ movie which was rumored for a long time to be a remake of the classic John Carpenter flick is actually a damn sequel! That’s some VERY interesting news indeed. Especially since so many were under the impression that Duane “The Rock” Johnson might be recast as the legendary cult hero Jack Burton. It turns out that’s not the case at all, this is what Collider had to report about all things ‘Little China’:

“There’s a lot of things going on with ‘Big Trouble in Little China’. We are in the process of developing that, and let me tell you, the idea is not to actually remake Big Trouble in Little China,” producer Hiram Garcia tells the site. “You can’t remake a classic like that, so what we’re planning to do is we’re going to continue the story. We’re going to continue the universe of Big Trouble in Little China. Everything that happened in the original exists and is standalone and I think there’s only one person that could ever play Jack Burton, so Dwayne would never try and play that character. So we are just having a lot of fun. We’re actually in a really great space with the story that we’ve cracked. But yeah, no remake. It is a continuation, and we are deep into development on that as well, and I think you’ll start hearing some things about that probably soon.”

So this sounds like it just might be a step in the right direction, however, there’s two big ass elephants in the room. The first of course is will Kurt Russell then return as ‘Jack Burton’? That actually sounds like a damn ridiculous question, because no shit Russell SHOULD return!! Why the hell not? The guy has proven time and time again recently that he’s indeed still got it as a total bad ass. Bone Tomahawk anyone?! The guy still looks awesome as well and the article explains that it could be a tricky one to film as Duane Johnson’s movie schedule is pretty tight these days filming movies like Disney’s ‘Jungle Cruise’ and some Fast & Furious spin off movie. It strikes me as pretty funny because my question here is why the fuck do we need to wait for Duane Johnson for BTILC2, just cast Kurt Russell and let’s get this shit moving! There’s gonna be some blowback IF they don’t put Russell in the movie and that’s a damn fact folks. Continue reading

VHS Verdict: Total Cheez 80’s Horror Roundup!!

I’ve been flying through a ton of VHS tapes lately which can be a ton of fun and also a total drag sometimes! A lot of these old 80’s horror movies have pretty impressive VHS cover art, they look like they’re gonna be a lost fucking gem, however you truly just can’t judge a book by it’s cover, or in these particular cases, a movie. Anyway it’s always a gamble and sometimes you do indeed end up with a hidden gem or at least something that’s so damn stupid that it’s a thoroughly entertaining shiny cinematic terd. So here’s the verdict on some VHS tapes I’ve scored recently! CHECK IT!!

Nightmare at Bitter Creek (1988):

Here’s a little movie that turned out to be a ton of fun, we get a psycho killer/survival flick with instead of annoying teenagers, we’re treated to a group of middle age ladies on a camping excursion with a middle aged Tom Skerritt as their hard drinkin’ tuff guy guide. Oh and he also has this rad dog named “Buster” that everyone seems to be a bit too obsessed with. Anyway, they all head of into the woods of the Sierra Mountains, sounds like fun huh? Well there’s also a crazed group of Neo-nazi killers who’re hellbent on shooting everyone in sight roaming around the woods. This one’s got some pretty decent characters (Buster included), super breathtaking locations, creepy atmosphere and for a PG-13 flick a good amount of action & violence especially in it’s final act. Not entirely a horror movie, it’s still got enough going for it to please fans of the genre, I dug it for sure! Here’s the whole damn movie via Youtube:

 

Iced (1988):

Here’s another one that was a pretty fun time as well, especially if you like cheezy 80’s ski movies and also idiotic horror. I know I do! So yeah, this one is 80’s as hell, totally over the top fashion, big hair, bad ski moves on the slopes, bad editing, idiotic characters and even a wannabe “mystery” at it’s core. It’s also basically one quarter soft core porno as well, there’s a bunch of “steamy” sex scenes strewn about Iced’s messy story. It’s all in all a really stupidly entertaining watch, directed by Jeff Kwitney who also directed “Amok Train” aka “Beyond the Door III” from 1989 which I love. ‘Iced’ turned out to be a good ridiculous party movie filled to the brim with stupid shit and an opening credits scene that looks like it was put together by a high school AV club. In this case though instead of being a total bore this one delivered enough schlocky fun to make it a fully worth while view. If you like dumb movies, this one surely delivers – and that final scene is a total treat!

 

Specters (1987):

I was pretty excited to check this “horror” flick out when I ran across it, basically it’s about some mysterious tombs that are discovered in the catacombs beneath Rome that release an evil force and also stars Donald Pleasance! Sounds like a damn good time huh? Unfortunately this one is a total bore, lots of character development and bland dialogue for uninteresting characters and lots of roaming around in dim caverns. Like lots of it. At one point I decided to watch the movie on fast forward until FINALLY something happened at the end that seemed somewhat interesting, however I’ve already forgotten what it was. This ones a real winner, if you’re having a hard time falling asleep it’ll bore you into a serious slumber. Here’s the trailer, trust me it’s not as cool as they make it out to be..

 

Invader (1992):

Here’s a sweet little movie that’s a ton of fun if you’re not expecting a heck of a lot! Invader features a dude who works at an over the top tabloid paper reporting on weird stories who gets involved in a ‘wicked’ mysterious Alien conspiracy. The dude sneaks onto an air force base and witnesses some ultra secret super powered jet being tested and ends up paired with a bad ass military Captain when he’s caught there snoopin’ around. From this point on the movie features a pretty rad “buddy style” team up with the two and really from the start it’s totally entertaining albeit dumb sci-fi romp full of pretty ridiculous action sequences as well as some pretty surprising well timed comedy. I had zero expectations so perhaps that’s why this one seemed like such a fun time? Still there totally were some impressive yet cheezy fx work at hand and the “final boss” battle features some radical old school stop motion animation to look forward to as well! Gotta love it, check this out sometime if you’re looking for a entertaining cheez-filled early 90’s sci fi adventure!