Day: March 17, 2019

Captain Marvel

by Brian Smith

Review time. I’m going to make this spoiler free short and not so sweet.
I wanted this movie to be good despite it’s annoying lead Brie Larson. She had a shit eating grin on her face though the whole movie and was very robotic. Samuel Jackson reprises his role as Nick Fury but more like his weak ass brother Mick Delight. This character seemed liked a completely different person for no good reason. It’s like if we take Freddy Kruger and make his younger self an award winning daycare teacher who loves children, it makes 0 sense. Then there is a part of this movie that isn’t explained and doesn’t try to, so just accept it. The soundtrack wasn’t as bad as Aquamans but there was one big fight scene with the song “I’m just a girl” by No doubt that left me scratching my head. I was really hoping this would have something to do with Avengers a little more and it fell flat with that too. With bad acting and basic storytelling its absolutely the weakest Marvel movie to date and (God bless his soul) they couldn’t even do a good Stan Lee Cameo in a movie dedicated to him. This movie was NOT the worst I’ve seen but extremely disappointing. A 4/10

The Punisher (Netflix Original Series)

by Adam M. Wilcox

I don’t review a lot of TV series. This will be my first, so I will take a shot at The Punisher! (See what I did there?)

I didn’t read a ton of comic books as a kid. I mean I had a lot of them. I didn’t collect them in sequence. People usually bought them for me, I would read them, and maybe forget about them. When I was 13, I hung out with a pair of twins that were very much into comic books. As a Friday ritual, they would walk to a local candy store that also sold comics, and let me tag along. It was pretty magical. The place smelled of fresh fudge, and the comics would smell like fresh candy also. My mom didn’t mind giving me a few bucks for comics, and candy, and she figured I was keeping out of trouble. My only known way to judge a comic book was to look at the art. In the mid 80s I was very much into action movies that stared Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Chuck Norris. That was the wave of 80s action, big muscles, big guns! The covers of The Punisher comics in the 80s totally reflected this. So I bought The Punisher volume 1. Had a big guy with a bazooka and a machine gun hiding outside of an apartment window wearing black and white spandex, with a giant white skull on his chest, decked out in belts of ammo, knives and grenades. This would be my comic book character I would follow. And that suck for years. I can’t say I collected every single issue of Punisher, but I still have a few that I am proud to own. My point of all of this boring nonsense is to tell you that I am an extremely biased Punisher fan. I know a lot about the character, so I have expectations.

Movies have not been especially kind to The Punisher. There have been 3 attempts. Funny thing, I don’t hate any of them. I like aspects of each, but none of them seem to be complete. 1989’s “The Punisher”, had a wisecracking Dolph Lundgren wearing grease paint which was supposed to pass for whiskers. It had a porno budget, and couldn’t even use the iconic skull because of some licensing snafu, and only got the green light because Tim Burton’s Batman movie was making furious money at the time. It was also made in during that late 80s early 90s time where all comic book movies had to have some sort of goofy vibe like it was actually mandated by Hollywood to not take comic book characters seriously. Like not ever. 2004’s “The Punisher” was a very decent attempt, but there were some tonal imbalances and some rather strange choices that kept it from being great. For one, the entire thing takes place in Tampa, rather than New York, but that is pretty minor…but bizarre. John Travolta, as money launderer/gangster villain was a poor choice by design. Also there are times when the movie switches from dark and dramatic to comedy slapstick so often, that it becomes exhausting by the third act. Tom Jane did a fantastic job in the role, but he seemed to be the only one in the movie that was committed to his role. The second act involves a series of goofy characters, and cartoonish attacks from assassins who’s names and costumes are too comic bookish for even the die hard of comic book fans. It’s still worth a look, and if you can manage to find a copy of the DVD only extended cut, which features a ton of scenes that were cut, and an opening sequence that was animated, it’s pretty awesome. 2008’s Punisher War Zone which is sort of a sequel/soft reboots starring Ray Stevenson in the title role, and Dominick West as Jigsaw. Now the opening of War Zone looks and feels like it was ripped right out of The Punisher Max series made popular by Garth Ennis and Tim Bradstreet. The second and third acts are where I have some serious problems with this movie. As much as I LOVE Dominick West in The Wire, and The 300, here he is playing Jigsaw with cringe inducing camp that feels like it belongs in a Tim Burton movie. Doug Hutchison as Loony Bin Jim ruins every scene he is in. The movie is violent, and rated R, but the goofy tone is even worse than the last Punisher movie.

So when Jon Bernthal was announced he would be playing The Punisher in the insanely popular Daredevil series on Netflix, I was very excited. I loved his role on the Walking Dead. He instantly became a fan favorite, and as I expected he stole every seen. In fact he nailed the character so well, that you could say he exceeded my expectations.

So now…if you are looking for The Punisher…AKA Frank Castle, to not be played like a goofy Tim Burton movie, then Netflix’s Punisher series is worth checking out. There is no goofy Burton stuff going on in this series. Bernthal’s Punisher is very much a combat veteran whose only source of stability is coming home to his family. See, killing does not seem to bother Frank Castle. He is good at it. Good at his job. What separates him from being a monster is his wife and kids. Now when Castle’s family is gunned down in front of him, and he is left for dead….only to survive and somehow come back, Frank decides to take the fight to the enemy with literally nothing or no one to stop him from completing his mission.

The only problem I have with this series is pacing. There is a great story, that I feel could be summed up in fewer episodes. There are many characters that are boring, or just dull because of sub par acting. Two in particular is antagonist Billy Russo played by Ben Barnes, and Dinah Madani played by Amber Rose Rivah. I do with a lot less from these two, but both seasons of Punisher will bore you to death with these characters, and that is unfortunate. What I really want is to see more Frank. There are other interesting characters along the way. David Lieberman/Micro was played by Even Moss Bacharach. An analyst that has seen some things he shouldn’t, and is now on the run becomes a reluctant ally to Frank. Curtis Hoyle (Jason R. Moore), amputee, veteran counselor and pretty much only living friend left to Frank. There is also one interesting villain in Season 2. John Pilgrim, a former white supremacist turned Christian zealot, makes for a compelling villain, but he seems to take a back seat to another character who I don’t want to reveal because of possible spoilers. Giorgia Whigham’s character Amy is annoying as hell, and even though she ultimately won me over in the end, I could have used less of her in the series. Also I feel like season 2 would have been better at 10 episodes rather than 13. That is the main problem of The Punisher series. The action is absolutely FANTASTIC but then it slows down again, and crawls so slowly that at times it feels like time is going so slow it might be actually going backwards. I also have a minor gripe: actors, and actresses…I am not a professional actor, but I studied enough drama in high school to know that if you are going to use a coffee cup prop, at least pretend like it has hot coffee in it. If you are going to talk with your hands and make insane gestures with that coffee cup in your hands not even five seconds after taking the cup from a barista, you are telling your audience that the cup is empty, because if it was full, coffee would probably spill out on your hands and it would burn, just saying.

Otherwise the story is actually pretty good in the first season. Not quite as good in the second season, but not bad either. The interesting thing about the show is how in spite of multiple murders, Frank seems to wind up the anti-hero who has multiple people defending and protecting him from various forms of law enforcement. Bernthal has an animalistic approach to this role. When enraged, he can be just as affective with a sharp stick and rock, or his bare fists, as he is with a Heckler and Koch G36C.

Sadly, there will no longer be anymore Punisher shows on Netflix due the Disney licensing fiasco, but I honestly think that Bernthal has more than deserved a fair shot at a movie attempt with a budget that doesn’t play up the goofy Tim Burton cartoon aspect of comic book movies. This series despite all of its flaws has earned the respect of veterans and comic book fans. That alone might be just enough to sell it to a wider audience, just please don’t make it PG-13. The Punisher wins four out of five cheese curds from yours truly.

Iron Sky: The Coming Race

by Arnór Hermannsson Wikström

This movie is what happens when a creator has no faith in their art. My main problem with the first Iron sky movie was that it didn’t take itself seriously. I didn’t mind it being a comedy, even though the teasers had promised a much more serious tone, but it seemed to me as if the creators of the film had so little faith in their subject matter that they buried the film under a layer of silliness, just so they could vindicate themselves by saying ”I know it’s dumb! It’s supposed to be dumb!”

However, Iron Sky did gather a cult following, and a sequel was very much in demand by its fan base, so the crowdfunding began anew, and with a bigger budget and more reason to believe in themselves, Iron Sky: The coming Race was grinded out.

This film took five years to make. The first teasers dropped in 2014. I went in to the theater hoping to see that the creators had used this time wisely, smoothing out the crinkles and making a solid story.

Not only does Iron Sky: The Coming Race not believe in itself, it seems positively ashamed of its own existence. The scenes are played out with such camp and tomfoolery it sometimes feels like you’re watching a children’s show with gore. No scene is played straight, they all feel like they’re desperately winking at the camera to remind us that they know they’re making a stupid film, and a problem with the film having taken so long to make is that the reference humor is so dated it’s gone sour. The film opens with a scene of an american president who is clearly modelled on Sarah Palin, and that just feels weird, since it’s been eleven years since she ran for vice president alongside John Mccain, a race that they famously lost, which makes you ask the question ”Why are you reminding us of a person we haven’t given a shit about for over a decade?”

The film’s scenes seem to fluctuate in budget. Some scenes look like they’re from a low budget kids’ show, others look positively stunning, look out for a great scene with lizard Hitler riding a T-Rex named Blondi (which was the actual name of Hitler’s german shepherd).

There’s a scene in a cockpit, when the heroes are crashing to earth, where the two main characters play off of each other nicely, but where the filmmakers seem to have completely forgotten that there are actually supposed to be four other people on board.

Anyway… the film also suffers from the wooden acting of its leads, especially since it’s trying to pass itself off as a screwball comedy, and none of the lead actors have any comedic talent. Main protagonist Obi, played by Lara Rossi, is a straight-faced no-nonsense action movie type that sadly feels out pf place in a film where she should’ve been perfect, had it been handled correctly.

The great Udo Kier does his best, and his returning Moon-Führer narrowly saves most of the scenes he’s in, but sadly that’s not his only part in this film.

He also plays a lizard Hitler, and seems to lose his mind completely in that getup, as if the concept itself is so weird that he desperately needs to overreact to keep up with all the silliness going on around him.

One of the best characters in the film is a stone-faced cult leader played by Tom Green, who surprisingly gives the most serious performance of the entire film. Green plays every scene with real presence and gravitas, being remarkably funny with his deadpan delivery.

What takes you out of the film the most is not the acting, or the dated references, silly humor, or sometimes pathetic CGI. It’s the script. Especially the back story.

The only thing Iron Sky: The Coming Race has to stand on is a pretty weak previous film that still works if you’re willing to look past its most glaring faults, but the sequel adds background details that pretty much retcon the entire story of the first film, making the connection between the two movies nonsensical and fragile, so much so that it comes off as a completely stand-alone film that just so happens to star some of the same characters.

It’s almost as if the creators of this film decided to throw so much stuff into the mix that you would be too confused to see that they had made a bad film.

But that is ultimately what Iron Sky: The Coming Race is. A bad film. In almost every sense of the word.

Sure, there are some funny jokes, some memorable scenes, and at least two very hard working actors doing their best to carry the whole mess, but it’s just not worth watching the rest of the film to get those things.

One of the funniest scenes in the film is the sequel tease at the end. Expertly executed and exciting, but since it arrives at the end of a complete disaster of a film, you really just hope they leave it at that, that don’t ruin any more potentially great subjects.

This film being made relied heavily on the crowd-funding by fans of the first film, and it would have been nice if it appeared to take its fans seriously. Instead it comes off as a virtual slap in the face of those who donated to it. Why would you want to give any more money to artists who are not going to take your donation seriously?

No more Iron Skies, please. You just can’t pull it off.

1.5 lizard Hitlers out of five possible. Not even the music of Slovenian art music group Laibach could save this flailing mess.


by Adam M. Wilcox

1984 was a scary time for people. It wasn’t because of some Orwellian nightmare, it was future shock. The microchip was the latest and greatest thing in town. Computers were becoming a household reality. Even my Grandpa once showed me a picture of a microchip on the cover of National Geographic, and told me that it was going to change everything. He was right of course.

Like any good science fiction, the latest and greatest tech must be presented in its worst form in order to scare us of things that could happen, if not regulated properly by mankind. Written and Directed by Michael Crichton, Runaway tells the story of a not so distant future where robots are a part of everyday life through the eyes of Jack Ramsey (Tom Sellek), a police sergeant who runs a small police unit that specializes in robots that malfunction. Ramsey has a job that nobody wants, but Ramsey pursued this career path, as a means to avoid his overwhelming fear of heights. To put it simple, he is the local expert, because he happens to know more about the field than anyone in the department. His chief thinks he’s an asshole, his chief is an asshole, and Ramsey is basically surrounded by assholes most of his day, so robots are a means to and end.

Most of the days, Ramsey is called upon to do meaningless tasks like chase farm robots, and gets scolded and scoffed at by anyone he comes in contact with. He’s less of a cop, and more of a high tech exterminator, or dog catcher depending on the situation. Every once in a great while, a robot goes really bad, and deaths are involved. It is during one of these encounters where Ramsey picks up the trail of a freelance high tech genius turned arms dealer named Dr. Charles Luthor played by a scenery chewing Gene Simmons in his cinematic debut. Luthor is trying to track down the templates for making bullets that track its prey using similar technology as a heat seeking missile. Luthor is also a futuristic James Bond type villain who also has deadly microchips that turn normal robots into lethal killers, and dispenses a small army of robotic spiders that inject people with acid, and explode upon completion.

Remember when drones first came out in the 80s? Every kid had one right? RIGHT?!?! What year is it?

The plot of this movie sounds pretty basic because it is. The acting in this movie is pretty stiff, and I am not sure if that is intentional, but it doesn’t bother me, in fact it kind of makes this movie work. The true star of this movie is the special affects and the technology in this movie that will blow your mind. Keep in mind this movie was made in 1984 yet police officers communicate with Blu-tooth headsets, use tablets with facial recognition software, use surveillance drones, remember drones in the early 1980s? They didn’t exist! It’s creepy and awesome. If somebody told me Michael Crichton went to the future, or had some friend working on next level technology I would buy it. In fact most of the technology in this movie actually looks quite believable. Of course there are some scenes that involve maybe a laser or two, but most of it is pretty practical stuff. Even the heat seeking bullet is in development. The steady cam view from the bullet itself as it tracks its prey around corners, circles back, and flies back towards its victim is some really fun stuff. The plot may be disposable, but the day to day life of a cop who handles malfunctioning robots could be a fantastic television series, if done properly. Does this maybe sound like I, Robot to you? This is in some ways a better movie. Oh, and of course that fear of heights thing, will play back into the plot again at some point, don’t worry.

I remember seeing Runaway as a kid on cable TV back in the 80’s. This film was abandoned in time, and forgot about, and since this movie came out the same year as The Terminator, it is not hard to understand why, but I think this movie does hold up well on its own. This is perhaps one of many lost flicks that may be finding its audience now. It might not have a lot going for it from the acting, but the special effects and world building technology are more than enough to carry it over the finish line. I give this one a 3 out of 5 cheese curds, its fun and worth a look. Runaway is currently available on Amazon Prime in wide screen HDX.

Blair Witch (2016)

by Adam M. Wilcox

In the 1995 film Mallrats, Ethan Suplee plays a character named William, an overweight person who spends most of his day at the mall staring at magic eye poster trying to see the image. The joke is that everyone in the film can see that there is a sailboat in the image, but William never sees it. The aggravation of it all drives him slowly insane. That is essentially The Blair Witch Project phenomenon for me. There are several of my good friends that maintains that this movie is piss your pant’s scary, however I never bought it. Not even once. Essentially I am William in Mallrats.

When I tell people that I hate The Blair Witch Project, I mean it. To this day I use it as a litmus test to judge how bad a movie is. See The Blair Witch Project is not a so bad its fun to watch movie. It is just bad. It is downright painful. In spite of the movie tripping on it’s own established facts, its single biggest sin, is that it showed so much potential, but instead is a proving ground about generating enough hype surrounding your film can make it actually seem good in the eyes a general audience. In 1999, it was all the talk as to just how real this horror film was supposed to be. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist. For two filmmakers in 1999 they pulled that off like gangbusters. The legendary viral marketing, and old fashioned word of mouth, is a significant land mark in pop culture. The film itself however, is divisive as to how good it really is. I decided to do some further research on this movie, because now I have unlimited access to internet, which was not readily available to me in 1999. I discovered that this year marks the 20th anniversary so I decided to watch the movie again, and give it the fairest review I can, that you are more than welcome to read on this website. I spent a great deal of time arguing with friends of mine last week about the points that didn’t work for me in the original film. One of the things that kept coming up outside of Wikipedia or any of the outside resources was this 2016 film that allegedly explains some of the ambiguity of the original source material. Out of respect for those people and they’re passion about this movie, I reluctantly decided to give this a go.

I actually enjoy some of the films in this genre that we now called “found footage”; I think it can be clever when done properly. My favorites would probably be some of the Paranormal Activity movies, Cloverfield, Troll Hunter, and the V/H/S series. It’s just another form of storytelling now. Back in 1999, it was not a genre, and The Blair Witch Project influenced enough film makers to pursue this genre to the point where it has become a rather saturated market that is now showing signs of stagnation among film goers. The point of the original Blair Witch Project was to present itself as a historic event, rather than just a simple movie. Twenty years later, unless you have been in a coma, everyone knows that it was mostly a publicity stunt designed for entertainment. So it seems rather curious to me now that we would do a sequel or soft reboot of the original now. It is kind of like trying to open a hamburger stand between a Burger King, and a McDonald’s. Sure there is a market there, but you better make sure you bring something extremely new to separate your brand from the others right?

Set in modern 2016, we are given the same opening credits where we are told this footage has been found, and all of these people went missing. So we know shenanigans will inevitably occur. We open up with James looking at YouTube footage that appears to be taken in the same house as found in the original movie. He pauses on an image that appears to be his sister, Heather who went missing from the original documentary. So this takes place in the universe where the assumption is that the movie was real, and that none of those people were ever found. And I am ok with this. James is a paramedic, so I guess he has a pretty disposable income, because now he enlists the aid of his friends Peter, Ashley, and Lisa who all have high tech cameras that are attached to a Blu-Tooth headphone. They also have a surveillance drone which appears to be a plot point, but we will get into that later. His contact is the YouTuber Darkwebb666 who happens to live just outside Burkettsville MD, the location of the woods where the original 3 people went missing. Once they meet, the film gets somewhat interesting, and the Darkweb aka Lane, and his girlfriend Talia insist on going into the woods with them to show where they found the film they used in the YouTube video.

As you can see, despite the twist of having some strangers join the crew at the last minute the set up here is pretty much identical to the first movie. Where it goes completely different though, is that THIS particular movie wastes no time telling you that there is a definite supernatural element. The original film left most of this ambiguous and open to interpretation. Where this one falls apart however is very early on. James is watching the ending of The Original Blair Witch project which SPOILERS reveals Mike standing in a corner just before the camera hits the ground. In THIS movie, even though he is supposed to be watching the same video, a loud supernatural howl is added, which you have to admit, feels kind of cheap. And that brings me to my next point. Every time the movie is trying to build tension, there is a loud audible hum that signals that something supernatural is about to occur. It’s almost an assault on my intelligence. The best scares are when you least expect it. This film goes a bit too out of its way to set them up. The other problem I have is that overuse of jump scares ruin this movie right off the opening credits. There are so many jump scares even in scenes where jump scares are not even necessary, and they are so frequent, that by the time they matter, you can see them coming a mile away. My third problem is that this movie is using conventional special affects to show you that there IS something supernatural going on, and that is where this movie goes way off the rails. In this universe the Blair Witch can manipulate time. Some of our gang wakes up late in the afternoon, thinking it is morning. Some wake up in the morning and there is no sunlight. At one point the two YouTubers separate from the group, and when we see them again, Lane has a beard and says it’s been weeks since he saw them the last time. I liked this idea actually. In fact this might be the only aspect I liked. However, there is another factor that is briefly introduced, but seems to go absolutely nowhere. Early in the film, these kids foolishly cross a stream BAREFOOT, and Ashley apparently scrapes her ankle. It slowly gets more infected and starts moving by it self. Eventually some creature is pulled out of her ankle. Thought they were going to pick up that part of the plot and go somewhere with it. Never happens. A lot of things never happen. The drone goes up enough just to show us, that the highway cannot be seen, and conveniently crashes. The drone is found later in a tree. When Ashley tries to climb the tree with an infected ankle, she falls out of the tree, and is apparently dragged away.

As you might expect, things go from bad to worse for these kids, until they finally wind up the mysterious house from the first film that literally appears out of nowhere. Once they get into the house there is an interesting sequence that takes place, but like many of the events in the film, not all of them pay off. They even show us The Blair Witch herself/itself, who may or may not be a witch at all. The house might even be a spaceship. Yes I typed that. Also, the movie tries to be clever by telling you that if you look at the witch or whatever it is, it will get you, so they use the view screen of Lane’s original camera to watch for the witch. Ultimately though, it ends pretty much the way you think it would.

This movie had a couple of good ideas that work, but when framed around the Blair Witch lore, it kind of just doesn’t work at all. The over use of sound cues, jump scares, and visuals diffuses the tension and removes the believability of it being found footage. I think the director tried here. He was obviously a fan of the original, and wanted to present his version of that movie, but it just comes off as a cynical reboot of a movie style that has long been lost in a sea of white noise. Ultimately I found that if you are fan of the original, you will most likely love this one too…I think it respects those fans. If you were not a film of the original, unfortunately this one will not win you over, or convince you the original was better than it is. Unfortunately I am biased, so take my score with a grain of salt. I give it 1 out of 5 cheese curds, 1 cheese curd for the awesome chase sequence at the end.

The Blair Witch Project

by Adam M. Wilcox, and Groovinator, The Cynical Cyborg

It would be wholly unfair of me to review a movie that I consider to be the worst movie of all time now that 20 years has lapsed since its release. Especially considering how dillutted it’s become since found footage films flooded the market over the years. I remember seeing this movie with my mom, who we have both bonded over horror movies since as far back as I can remember. We had been following articles in the newspaper about this crazy scary movie called The Blair Witch Project. I remember standing in the parking lot talking to my mom after the movie, before went back to our separate homes in 1999. As a matter of fact, I sent Groovinator, The Cynical Cyborg to use his time travel shit to interview myself 20 years ago in that same parking lot after my mom left, and the parking lot was basically empty. Here is a transcript of that interview:

Groovinator: Adam Wilcox? Wow, your so…thin… kind of good looking too! Are you REALLY Adam Wilcox?

1999 Adam: Uh…who the fuck are you?

Groovinator: I am Groovinator, a cynical cyborg from the future. I been sent back in time by you to ask you about the movie you just saw.

1999 Adam: Oh yeah? Seems like a waste of good resources, what do time machines run on regular gas in the future or what? *lights a cigarette*

Groovinator: The movie dude…

1999 Adam: Fuckin sucked!

Groovinator: …….Care to elaborate?

1999 Adam: For like weeks, the fucker paper, the news, the tv, and literally every asshole I work with, won’t shut up about this fuckin movie. You say your from the future, you seen it?

Groovinator: Unfortunately…

1999 Adam: So then you know that I just spent $8.50 a piece on me and my mom to see some sticks and stones. Fucking nothing happens. You see nothing. All the people are stupid. The camera shakes so bad you can’t see shit, and I almost got dizzy a couple of times. They shoulda handed out like puke bags or some shit. It was so bad that nobody said nothing but this big dude down front chucked his soda at the screen when the house lights went up, and nobody even said shit, not even a blink. Not even the ushers! Sticks and stones dude! The guys that made this film are geniuses because they tricked the audience into paying to see sticks and stones. They deserve like the fucking Nobel peace prize or something!

That moment in 1999 when you realized that you paid $8.50 to see sticks and stones.

Groovinator: Do you think it is real?

1999 Adam: Now you are starting to sound like my room mate. He went and saw it, and told me it was scary shit too. He even went to Barnes and Noble and bought the fucking book. I’ve seen the book, and it’s got some really cool shit in it, but fuckin none of that cool shit is in this movie. I guess they got this website you can go to, but I can’t afford a fucking computer man, I don’t even know anyone that has one. These kids interview some locals…that part was cool, but then they go into the woods, they hear some noises, they get lost. Then one of them goes missing, so they go chasing after him yelling JOSH JOSH JOSH for like a fuckin half a fuckin hour, then one of them is standing in a corner, and the camera hits the floor. That’s it. This movie is only 80 mins, but it’s still too fuckin long. I would ask for my money back, but I fuckin deserve this I guess…

Groovinator: Would you recommend this to a friend?

1999 Adam: Funny you should mention that, because everyone I know for 2 weeks is like, yeah go see this fucking movie. I think they just want me to go so that they don’t have to feel stupid. It’s like some kind of heard mentality or something. Everyone drank the cool-aid and thinks they saw some really scary thing. I mean it’s scary if your into campfire stories…ghost in the graveyard…shit like that. You know…holding a flashlight under your face and going “oooooooh spoooooooky noises….woooohoooo”. Know what I mean haha?

Groovinator: I’m familiar.

1999 Adam: In fact there was this one scene where the main girl holds a flashlight under her face and starts crying into the camera, and snot rockets are coming down her face…I wanted to laugh man, but I don’t like being a dick head in movie theaters.

Groovinator: There are a vocal minority of people that will appreciate that kind of theater etiquette in the future. Hang on to that. Also, maybe lay off the Taco Bell, beer, and smokes.

1999 Adam: Whatever dude…lol

Groovinator: So what are you going to tell all of your friends that made you go see this tomorrow?

1999 Adam: Pffft, that they are full of shit! I mean I know they are going to rag on me and waste all of this time trying to convince me that it was good, and they will probably hate me when I tell them it was a shit movie. In fact, I think this is the worst movie I have ever seen. Not ever changing my mind about that.

Groovinator: Why is it the worst?

1999 Adam: It’s the worst because it was built up so much, with almost a nothing payoff. Like, I was kind of buying into it. I got really excited, because I love spooky stories, paranormal shit, I’ve even seen things myself that I can’t explain. So I was like really excited going into this. It’s just so much nothing. I mean it’s a good set up, but it’s like having a half hour of foreplay, and then leaving with fuckin blue balls. I think that is the worst, when it builds you up, and delivers you nothing.

Groovinator: When was the moment you decided you hated it.

1999 Adam: Not long after they go into the woods, they wake up and the main girl Heather can’t find the map, and then nobody has it, and they start accusing each other, and I’m, thinking oh wow…now it’s getting good! Maybe the witch is turning them against each other, and this is slowly how it will end! Then like maybe ten minutes later, the sound guy…I think his name was Mike, he tells Heather he kicked the map in the river, and he was laughing about it. I’m like…omg why?! So after fighting about it for a while, they just decide to keep heading in the same direction, only after a day of walking, they wind up in the same spot they started, which happens to be a river. At this point, If it were me, realizing my compass wasn’t working, I would have just followed the river, but they don’t! They just keep walking, and crying about it. I mean these are supposed to be college kids, I don’t have any outdoor survival training, but I have SOME college…at least enough to think of it. I mean WTF?! It’s like they have no sense of self preservation. If this were supposed to be real…don’t you think they would at least TRY to survive? They don’t so when they get killed….it’s like I don’t fuckin care! I mean even in Halloween, you WANT to see Laurie Strode, get away, because she seems smart, determined, and while her friends are all out getting drunk and screwing around, she is the voice of common sense. She is the one the audience WANTS to identify with. In this Blair Witch Project movie, Heather is a bitch, who gets all of her friends in this predicament and then she just breaks down even more.

Groovinator: Wouldn’t you say that makes her more believable though as a character. I mean would a real life person be as smart as Laurie Strode.

1999 Adam: Maybe, I mean the kids were scared, and there were some spots where there were some spooky noises that I appreciated. Those moments made the hairs on my arm stand up. But that’s the thing man, I mean this movie tells us at the beginning, that all of these people went missing, bodies were never found, only the tapes. So you already KNOW they are going to fuck up, so you are just waiting for the foolishness to occur. So when it does your thinking….what a dumb ass. And that is something else that bugged me. Who found the tape? Where did they find the tape? Did the witch conveniently deliver it? This is why I can’t buy into the supernatural part of this movie. But the fact that these three kids have an overall lack of self preservation doesn’t make me believe this movie could be real. It’s like one big fucking con job.

Groovinator: Interesting. So if you could give this movie a score out of say 5 cheese curds, what would you give it?

1999 Adam: Why cheese curds? What’s wrong with stars?

Groovinator: It’s just a thing that your dumb ass came up with, don’t ask.

1999 Adam: Haha. Fair enough! I would give this movie 1 out of 5 cheese curds, for having a super brilliant marketing campaign. It kind of reminds me of what Orson Wells did with War of the Worlds. That mass hysteria thing still seems to work.

Groovinator: What if I told you that this movie will have a significant impact on pop culture and start an entire subgenre within horror itself known as “found footage films”?

1999 Adam: So it IS a movie right? Haha!

Groovinator: Yeah, I think we are past that already.

1999 Adam: Well it that case, I would give it 2 out of 5 cheese curds for having such a lasting impact on pop culture, especially over a stupid fuckin movie like this one. God the future must be fucking sad. I won’t change my mind about how much I hate this movie though…ever. Worst movie ever!

Groovinator: Don’t worry, you won’t.

The Snowman

by Dionisio “Don” Traverso Jr.

It seemed like a slam dunk. A film based on one of a great series of detective novels. Starring a favorite actor, Michael Fassbender. Co-starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, another favorite. With J.K. Simmons? And Toby Jones? AND Val Kilmer??? Directed by Tomas Alfredson, director of one of my favorite vampire movies, Let the Right One In??? How can it go wrong?

And yet….

My brain is still trying to parse what it was I’d spent two hours watching. I think I understand what this movie was about. Hell, I solved the mystery in the first 35 minutes. But I’m still shaking my head, asking, “what the fuck….?” Much of the film seemed like a random series of events, which usually isn’t good for a mystery.

The movie opens on a cabin in snowy Norway. A boy announces the arrival of Uncle Jonas to his mother. He isn’t expected. Jonas drives up in a police car. Mom seems nervous about this unexpected visit. Next, they are sitting at the kitchen table as Jonas quizzes the boy about Norwegian history. When the boy gets a question wrong, Jonas smacks Mom across the face. When he gets it wrong again, Jonas hits Mom hard enough to knock her off her chair. “You have to help him more,” Jonas calmly tells her, and boy goes outside and builds a snowman. Later, the boy returns to the house and spies Jonas and Mom post coitus. She sees him, and tells Jonas that she is telling his wife that the boy is his son. Jonas angrily leaves, saying she won’t see him again. Mom and son get in her car to chase down Jonas’s police car. She loses him, and in despair lets go of the steering wheel. The boy sees this and pulls the emergency brake. The car skids out onto a frozen lake and the ice begins to crack underneath. The boy escapes the car, but Mom doesn’t, seemingly staring at him and having given up.

That’s when we meet Harry Hole (shut up – I can hear you snickering in the back there), an alcoholic police detective prone to passing out while on a bender in public places. His life is shit. His girlfriend, who he still loves, has left him and shacked up with a plastic surgeon. He’s forgotten her son’s birthday in a week-long drunk, and feels guilty because the boy idolizes him (among other things). His boss struggles to cover for his drunken disappearances, but he’s close to being terminated. And now, someone has sent him a cryptic letter, about his penchant for passing out in public places, about watching mommy while he was sleeping, and building her a snowman.

Then a single mother of a young girl disappears from her home, door left wide open. Harry and his new partner, a new recruit named Katrine Bratt, go to investigate, where Harry notices a snowman on the front lawn. Actually, before this, Harry pokes around Katrine’s bag while she is interviewing a witness, find a cold case file, and the movie does its first abrupt flashback to another case involving another detective played by a very unhealthy looking Val Kilmer.

Abrupt seems to be the style with the narrative shifts in this movie. It makes the movie seem like something is missing all throughout, which, if you believe director Alfredson, there is. But it goes further than that. There are moments where scenes are wonderfully edited. They are followed up with (many) scenes that have so many cuts in the editing they make any Transformer movie look soporific. One scene at a hockey game, where the emphasis is in characters talking in the stands, has so many edits it can cause epilepsy. It’s a shame, because for the most part the film is beautifully shot. There’s real talent in front and behind the camera. Alfredson directed Let The Right One In and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, both of which earned many awards and award nominations for direction and cinematography. He knows how to make a great looking film. This movie spoils lots of great shots with Cuisinart editing.

This could have been a good movie. Fassbender acts the hell out of his role as Hole. The script fails him. Harry Hole comes off as one of the most idiotic detectives next to Will Ferrell in Holmes & Watson. He figures out Batt’s hidden agenda faster than he connects the letter with the growing number of disappearances and murders. He misses so many obvious clues you want to club him upside his head. He’s touted to be a brilliant detective – Bratt tells him she studied his cases in the police academy – but you’d be hard pressed to believe that, seeing how he proceeds with the investigation. When Bratt calls him about another disappearance while he’s at a show with his girlfriend’s son, he doesn’t want to go. She insists they go to the crime scene immediately because the missing woman’s husband asked for him specifically. He leaves the concert early, take the boy home, then tells Bratt they will go the next morning. “Another missing person? And the husband asked for me? Fuck it. It can wait.”

Speaking of which, that particular disappearance has the interesting twist that the woman turns out not missing after all, but after Harry and Katrine question her and leave, they get a call about her disappearance again from her husband, again asking for Harry to look into it. Where does it lead? Nowhere. Harry figures that the killer made the phone calls and was watching them. Knowing this, is Harry careful about his movements from then on? Is Katrine? Nope. Then what’s the point of this twist?

Then there’s Val Kilmer. I can’t honestly evaluate his acting here, because it’s as incomplete as most everything in this fucking movie. When he spoke in the aforementioned first flashback, my immediate reaction, taken together with his almost unrecognizable face, was “That’s not Val Kilmer!” Worse, when he speaks, the camera is behind him, so you don’t actually see him speak. A later flashback, with him going to a crime scene on a mountain, has no dialogue outside of awkward police radio conversations about the crime and the fact he is heading there. It’s so very strange and badly done, but damn, it was beautifully shot. Kilmer has one other scene with dialogue that you do see him say words, but the voice isn’t his. It’s disconcerting and took me out of this already perturbing film. I understand from subsequent research that Kilmer had serious health issues with his mouth, but then why wasn’t his role recast? This voice issue is way worse than Superman’s upper lip in Justice League.

J.K. Simmons and Toby Jones are wasted in this, especially Simmons. His character, a wealthy man both campaigning to bring the Olympics to Oslo and running a prostitution ring, is rife with possibilities, none of them realized. Everyone in the script is woefully underwritten. Things happen, decision are made, with the expressed purpose to lead to the somewhat anticlimactic ending, with no regard to logic or sense. And there is no reason for this. The producer (Martin Scorsese!), the screenwriters, and the director chose to deviate from the original book, which is not unfilmable. They could’ve done the book straight, with a little streamlining, and it would’ve made more sense than this baffling mess. Instead, we have a killer with a very shaky motive you can’t buy, an unsatisfying denouement, and a movie that doesn’t end so much as just stop.

So much potential. So much talent. This movie is like having Gordon Ramsey serve you raw chicken, the plot and script are so undercooked. “It’s RAW! IT’S FUCKING RAW!!!” If I had the DVD of this, I’d fling it against the wall. It’s infuriating and sad.

1 ½ cheese curds out of 5, only for Michael Fassbender and the beautiful cinematography.

The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)

by Adam M. Wilcox

As Jewels described in Pulp Fiction, Mia Wallace was in a pilot, and a pilot is what they make when they want to show shows. Some become shows, and some become nothing. Some movies become nothing too, and some movies never even get made. See Jodorowsky’s Dune documentary and you will know what I am talking about. Well my interest was in Richard Stanley who has a fantastic documentary of his own called: Lost Souls: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau and you will see about a movie that was made, but still became nothing. You should definitely check out the documentary, but for this review, let’s just talk about the movie I saw in a theater in 1996.

I had no prior knowledge that Richard Stanley was ever attached to this movie. Back then I didn’t really pay that close of attention to opening credits in movies. I mostly just focused on the actual movies. I was always a fan of H.G. Wells’ story, and the last one I had seen was the 1977 film with Burt Lancaster, and Michael York, which I always felt was kind of just mediocre. I had seen a trailer for this film, and saw Marlon Brando in a ridiculous outfit surrounded by animals, and I immediately got a sort of Apocalypse Now kind of vibe. I saw it, and for the life of me, immediately forgot about it. Well, after watching the Richard Stanley documentary, naturally I wanted to see this movie again, and now I remember why I had forgotten so much. It’s because there is not much going on at all.

Richard Stanley was a huge fan of the story, and wanted to do a dark R rated movie about man playing god on an island, and use a lot of his dark poetry and dystopian visions. Surprisingly his script was green lit, and he was fast tracked to make the movie, but his budget had doubled, and the producers started tinkering with the cast. Eventually he was settled with Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, and Fairuza Balk. Between harsh weather, and the enormous egos of Brando and Kilmer, Stanley was on the verge of a nervous break down, and was eventually fired, and bullied off of his own movie. Then they brought in loud mouth old school megaphone barking John Frankenheimer to clean up the mess. He did so by basically re-writing the script. Sound familiar? That’s what recently happened with the movie Solo: A Star Wars Story.

What happens when you get too many Hollywood cooks in the kitchen? A big old plate of nothing!

The plot is really pretty stupid, and I intend to spoil the shit out of it. An English guy is found floating in a raft in the middle of the ocean. He is picked up by Val Kilmer. Val Kilmer injects him with a syringe full of god knows what. Then they show up on an island, get off the boat. The island is full of animals that have been genetically altered to look like humans. Some are more grotesque than others. Marlon Brando shows up with this goofy faux British accent and looking like a cross between the Pope and the flying nun. He reveals that he is trying to make a perfect human being by splicing the likes of animal DNA with human DNA. He controls his animals with imbedded microchips that cause pain. Eventually the animals overthrow the island, and kill Brando. Kilmer, who has been phoning in his “performance” since the opening credits and spends the last two, acts doing an absurd impression of Brando. He gets killed too and nobody even cares. Fairuza Balk slowly begins to turn into a cat, and she gets killed too, because…reasons. There is a showdown between the first animal that removed his chip and English guy. Then the first animal sets himself on fire. Then English dude builds a raft and leaves the island. That’s. Fucking. It. This movie has no build up of suspense things are introduced and never resolved later. There is barely enough plot to have a beginning, and middle and an end, and more important, this movie has nothing to say. I can give it one star for the amazing make up that Stan Winston and his crew of geniuses did for the animals, but they are featured so briefly in the film that it kind of doesn’t matter. Acting is border line between daytime soap opera, and high school drama club. Frankenheimer also in his infinite wisdom committed another Hollywood sin, by removing a large chunk of content to allow for a PG-13 rating. So what you ended with is a film so far removed from Stanley’s original horrific vision, that now you have a movie that will appeal to no audience what so ever. The make up is fine, but this was 3 years after 1996, that was not enough. A message or some kind of good performance would have helped. Ron Perlman showed up as a character called “Sayer of the Law”, but his character like most of the characters in this film, is just never fleshed out like the rest of this bland boring incoherent mess of a film that deserves to be a lost flick forever. I give this movie 1 out of 5 possible cheese curds for the poor cast and crew, and original director who all suffered from this farce. Even if you’re a fan of Richard Stanley like I am, and curiosity will get the best of you, don’t watch this film. It barely has any of Richard Stanley’s finger prints even left on it. Sadly this movie ruined his career too. Watching this is more of an insult than anything. But if you still want to see how bad it is, you can check it out free with ads on Vudu right now if you dare.


by Adam M. Wilcox

Sometimes you review a movie you love so much, that you find it hard to talk about, because you are afraid that you will not give the movie enough justice. A lot of work was put into this masterpiece, that holds up surprisingly well on a low budget. It doubled its budget and put director Richard Stanley on the map as more of a serious filmmaker rather than just a music video director.

Cyberpunk is quite often taboo in science fiction, or even independent movies. Nobody wants to deal with the harsh cynical and dystopian outlook of a society that has bastardized technology, consumed every natural resource, and even compassion has become an outmoded concept. Then there are some lunatics out there that love the art style that surrounds it like yours truly.

To do this review proper justice, I have to take you back to where this movie first impacted me, and gave me a feeling that still has not gone away. James Cameron’s movie The Terminator had a HUGE impact on me. I was maybe 10 or 11 when I first saw it. I had never seen something so dark, brutal and awesome as that movie before. I wanted more, and there were plenty of nock offs but I didn’t see them until much later. I also was HUGELY influenced by John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, and the first 3 Mad Max movies. Hardware is similar in comparison to these films, but operated on a lower budget, yet managed to evoke a visual style, that is unlike all of the others I have mentioned.

This looks like a Yankee Doodle nightmare, but those colors were originally supposed to represent something else. The stars were supposed to represent night. The red and white was supposed to be the Japanese rising sun. When Richard Stanley is asked about the comparisons to the American flag, he smiles and says he subscribes to that meaning as well!

When I first saw Hardware, I was a freshman, or sophomore in High School, and I suffered from chronic insomnia. Often I would flip on the TV at night until I would drift off to sleep. TVs in the early 90s had boxes, and we had HBO, and Cinemax, but they didn’t have scrolling menus. We had no internet at this time. We didn’t bother with TV guide. Sometimes we would have maybe a cut out from the newspaper, but it didn’t print much past 1am. So if you wanted to know what was on, you had to catch the very beginning of the movie, or maybe catch the “coming up next” screen that showed in between films on HBO. For years, I would catch this movie on super late at night, always inconveniently after the movie already started, and it became a mission in my life to figure out the name of this movie. I was so totally blown away by it. The visuals took my breath away. The music was incredible. I was already a Ministry fan in the early 90s, but I thought it was weird that they would play it over a GWAR video, and then Lemmy from Motörhead shows up? This movie is incredible. Now anybody who grew up in the 90s would have to remember the PAINFUL process of trying to describe a song to a music store clerk by either humming the song. So if you would say: “I don’t know the song name or artist, but there are a lot of synthesizers, bass, a steady cadence of a drum beat, and some guy keeps saying “this is what you want this is what you get” over and over and over again, they would look at you like you were tripping balls, and make an excuse to not help you. No person ever found that song for me, and funny it wouldn’t be later until I would finally find and purchase the song “The Order of Death” by Public Image LTD, which doesn’t sound much like the band’s other stuff at all really. I had to use the internet to find a song from the 90s. Eventually I figured out the name of the movie by finally catching it on TV before it showed, and the description perfectly outlined the plot. I recorded it, and for years, that was my only copy. It wasn’t until around 1996 when I found a really beat up VHS copy of this movie in a pawn shop that looks like it may have belonged to a video rental place at one point. Somewhere around October of 2009, I finally saw a Blu-ray copy of this movie for sale at Best Buy or something, and didn’t even bother to look at the price. As of the time of this writing, it is my only copy of Hardware. I never had it on DVD, and my VHS player ate the tape beyond repair. The Blu-ray copy is perfect. It also introduced me to the wonderful and weird Richard Stanley himself, as well as how he got into film, and made this movie.

If you find this copy, buy it!

Hardware is visually stunning but it is based on a relatively simple story originally published in the European comic series 2000AD. A scavenger; Nomad finds a robotic skull in the desert wasteland, sells it to soldier Mo Baxter, who gives it to his girlfriend for Christmas who happens to make her sculptures out of old tech. The skull turns itself on, and uses appliances in the house to rebuild itself along with recalling all the other missing parts. The skull, now turned robot with a strangely painted head, and poison syringes that resemble fangs, goes on a killing spree that takes place entirely inside an apartment building. That is basically it! There are a series of several unfortunate circumstances that happen along the way that make it visually awesome, but that is basically the movie. You could say this movie has some similarities to Alien, or Terminator, but it really is its own thing. It has some very gory moments, and maybe a little bit of sex and nudity, but if you have read this review this far, none of that is going to turn you off, at all, in fact that might be a selling point. In fact, the shower scene with Dylan McDermott, and Stacey Travis might be one of the hottest sexiest love scenes I have ever seen in my entire life, even better than porn. Ironically, the shower scene becomes a stage for some iconic action and imagery that happens later in the film.

While this movie now has a very distinguished cult following now, I still don’t feel like this movie gets mentioned enough. When you talk about Cyberpunk, you always hear about Terminator, Robocop, Blade Runner, all fine films, but also films with much larger marketing and budgets. The fact that this movie is able to do so much on such a low budget, with an extremely talented visual director, is almost kind of depressing. The world right now, needs more movies like Hardware. Not just this story, but proof that all movie budgets don’t have to be made with enough money to fund a small country. In fact, it might kind of piss you off. I never tire of this movie, and every time I watch it, it feels like the first time. 5 out of 5 possible cheese curds. Buy this movie on Blu-ray, but at the very least, rent it, or see it next time it pops up in a streaming service, or cable channel. Make it your life’s mission to see this movie!

So if dark gothic dystopian violent science fiction is what you want, this is what you get!

Ninja Vengeance

by Shae Konnit

Ninja Vengeance is almost like a fever dream of a film, helped in no small part by the incredibly poor lighting.
This weird tale of an amateur ninja, on his way to a ninja convention, saving a small town from corruption and the KKK, has featured on Red Letter Media’s Best of the Worst, but I saw it years ago when Bravo was still a channel.
The most memorable scene was a battle round a bonfire, with our ninja hero rolling around and tripping up klansmen as they shout “Come on, come on, let’s get him! Aww, shhhhit!” over and over.
I watched it again last year when it appeared on Netflix, and I was struck by a revelation which suddenly changes the tone of the whole film and makes it that much better…
This was from a whole range of martial arts movies where they cut production costs by having no proper fight choreographers and the bare minimum of training for the actors; if you can do a roundhouse kick then that’s all you need; so our “ninja” looks like a flailing idiot.
But… What if that’s really all he is? What if his sensei was a scam artist who’s been taking his money all this time, and just teaching him some garbage he saw on TV?
What if our hero is not a ninja at all – he’s just *convinced* that he is?
With that in mind, I say it’s worth another look.