12 Films of Christmas 2019 (Final Part)

We’re finally at the last part of this silly series of mine. It’s been fun for me to contrive reasons for non-christmas movies being christmas movies. And since we started this series with “Star Wars”, we might as well end it with “Star Wars”. *Checks title*. Oh god.

*Deep fucking sigh*. The “Star Wars Holiday Special” is a 1978 CBS tv movie somehow following on from George Lucas’ 1977 smash hit. It’s about the family of Chewbacca, and how they’re waiting for him to come celebrate the holidays with them. And as the creators try to fill out a 90 minute runtime, before that happens, we experience a whole bunch of different skits and music videos supposedly set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. That’s right, it’s a variety show, including people like Art Carney, Bea Arthur, and Jefferson fucking Starship. So let’s get contriving.

Now, right off the bat I imagine you calling humbug on this, since it’s called “Holiday Special”. But let me clear something up, this isn’t about christmas… or hanukkah… or kwanzaa. It’s about Life Day. What’s Life Day? Fuck if I know, it’s some weird wookie holiday made up for this fever dream. But it’s not any actual holiday, so it goes. So what’s my contrivance then? Well, I could use the excuse of it being about a family get-together, which would be the easy way out so I could get this done quickly. But I’m gonna use something else.
So as mentioned earlier, this “Star Wars” thing is inexplicably a variety show, which is contextualized as things that Chewie’s family puts on through various monitors. And none of it is interesting or makes much sense… just like tv programming around the holidays. Sure, on occasion you might catch a decent flick (or in this Special’s case, a Jefferson Starship number), but for the most part it’s just a weird hodgepodge of stuff.

As you probably gathered from this post, I was not a fan. Christmas eve should usually be all about joy and love, but I guess I felt like a bit of misery was in order too.

Happy holidays.

Series Review: A Christmas Carol (2019)

I guess we gotta cover something christmas-related since the holidays are upon us. And lucky for me, we just got a new christmas mini-series to talk about. Yay.

Ladies and gentlemen… “A Christmas Carol”.

Ebenezer Scrooge (Guy Pearce) is an anti-social, greedy businessman who’s made his success on the misery of others for years. But one night right before christmas day, three spirits come to visit him to try to make him realize the fault of his ways. Everybody knows the setup for this story, question with each adaptation tends to instead come down to execution. And the execution in this series is not great. It’s a really dark, bleak, and edgy take on the classic story that is honestly stretched way too long. Sure, three episodes don’t sound like much. But when each episode is just under 60 minutes long and tries to then stretch a 110 page book out to that runtime, it just feels like it drags its ass. Plus, while the darker take sounds interesting on paper, it just doesn’t work, often taking me out of it. Even the supposedly heartwarming bits leave me feeling cold. The story’s just off for me.

The characters in this you know the basic dynamics of. But they also get given a somewhat darker edge to them that just makes things feel a little off at times. Guy Pearce of course plays the ultimate douchebag that is Ebenezer Scrooge. Anti-social, greedy, douchey… he’s just the worst. And Pearce is great in the role. You get Stephen Graham as Jacob Marley, and he’s of course great. Joe Alwyn does an admirable job as Bob Cratchit. Lenny Rush who plays Tiny Tim does a really good job. Andy Serkis as the ghost of christmas past rides the line between intimidating and hammy wonderfully. Really, all actors here brought their A-game, even if the material isn’t always up to snuff.

The score for the series was composed by Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O’Halloran. It was okay. Nothing too memorable, nothing that ruined the series, but also didn’t improve it. It’s just kinda there. Moving on.

Based on the classic book by Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol” was brought to us by Steven Knight, with Nick Murphy serving as director. And while the show felt a bit lackluster in the story and character departments, it excels in the production parts. The sets are immaculate, the costumes neat, and the cinematography by Si Bell was gorgeous. You can tell that so much love and care was put into how the world was crafted.

This show hasn’t been too well received so far. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 60% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 39/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,0/10.

Despite having some things strewn throughout, 2019’s “A Christmas Carol” is ultimately not a great adaptation. The story isn’t very good, the characters are meh, the performances are great, the music is meh, and the directing, cinematography, and sets are great. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “A Christmas Carol” is a 4,65/10. So despite some good stuff, I’d still recommend skipping it.

My review of “A Christmas Carol” is now completed.

If someone disagrees with me, they better use “humbug”.

Movie Review: Wonder Woman: Bloodlines (2019)

Sorry for the lack of posts so far this month. Been hit with a weird case of apathy. But hopefully will get back on track soon enough. So to try to get things back into gear, let’s go into one of my most talked about subjects here on the blog: DC animated movies.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Wonder Woman: Bloodlines”.

Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson) has to face her toughest challenge yet when several of her villains team up to pull off an evil, potentially world-threatening scheme. All the while a young woman she saw grow up (Marie Avgeropoulos) starts turning towards the dark side. So now we have our big, sweeping tale of heroism and family drama and I’m being totally facetious, this plot holds together like wet cardboard and paper glue. There are decent ideas here that could make for a solid superhero plot… but the way it’s stitched together doesn’t quite work. Allegedly emotional moments get a disinterested/sarcastic “Oh no, not that person” from me. So yeah, unfortunately I didn’t find the plot that engaging, which is sad, because there are decent ideas presented throughout.

The characters in this, like with the plot, have good ideas to them, but in execution just end up… meh. The one that I probably cared about most was the titular princess of Themyscira. She’s kind, she’s tough, she’s… Wonder Woman. And Rosario Dawson gives it her all in voicing her. Then we have Jeffrey Donovan playing Steve Trevor, sidekick and love interest. He’s all quips, all the time. I like quips… but it doesn’t quite work here, because there’s nothing else there, no other trait than “Spew quip”. Which means Donovan doesn’t have much to work with. The other actors in the movie, including Marie Avgeropoulos, Kimberly Brooks, Michael Dorn, Courtenay Taylor, Adrienne C. Moore, and a bunch of other people, they all give good performances… even if the writing leaves a bit to be desired.

As with a lot of other DC animated movies, the score for “Wonder Woman: Bloodlines” was composed by Frederik Wiedmann, and as per usual, it is great. Big and epic, somber and emotional, mysterious and intriguing, his score captures all the emotions and such one would require from a big superhero adventure… however, a great score does not a great movie make.

Based on the iconic DC Comics character created by William Moulton Marston, “Wonder Woman: Bloodlines” was directed by Sam Liu and Justin Copeland. And this teamup isn’t great. Look, the animation itself is really frickin’ good, highly detailed and really fluid. But as with the plot and characters, something feels a bit off. The action isn’t as well crafted as some other DC animated efforts, and there’s something weirdly bland about shot composition in most scenes. Such a mixed bag in this department.

This movie has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5,8/10.

I wanted to love this… but unfortunately I didn’t. It has a not good plot, meh characters, good performances, great music, and meh direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Wonder Woman: Bloodlines” is a 4,50/10. So unfortunately I have to say that I’d recommend skipping this.

My review of “Wonder Woman: Bloodlines” is now completed.

When I envisioned my return to the blog, I thought it’d be something grand and joyous… but now I’m just sad.

Movie Review: Case 39 (2009)

Can you believe that tomorrow is the final day of the Month of Spooks? Time sure flies when you’re having fun. Oh well, it’s not over yet. We still got some shit to talk about. Some shit indeed.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Case 39”.

Social worker Emily Jenkins (Renée Zellweger) saves a young girl (Jodelle Ferland) from getting killed by her own parents. And after she starts looking out for the girl, she soon starts to realize that there’s more to this situation than meets the eye. And no, that isn’t code for the girl being a Transformer, though that would’ve been fucking rad. No, there’s some… spooky stuff going on. Look, I do admit that there’s some decent ideas throughout, and even one or two moments that I thought were decently clever. But for the most part this is a bland, poorly written, and worst of all, boring story that neither thrills nor chills.

The characters are cliches. They try to give the main character some depth, but they barely reach what they’re grasping for. Renée Zellweger, she tries, god does she try, she tries so much that I’d be willing to call her performance… fine. But she doesn’t get any good material to work with, and I’m not sure about her direction either. Ian McShane isn’t bad in this movie, because it isn’t possible for him to be bad in something… but god damn, he’s drab in this. They somehow made Ian McShane boring. Jodelle Ferland as the kid, she’s okay, even if her direction is a bit… eclectic, at best. Bradley Cooper’s in this, he’s okay. Callum Keith Rennie is fine. Adrian Lester is… fine. Good cast, less than stellar material.

The score by Michl Britsch (great name) isn’t very good. At moments it sound okay actually, but then it takes a turn into somewhat obnoxious. It thinks itself emotional and suspenseful, but just ends up being… not particularly good. I can usually find nice enough things to say about a score, but in this case I am sad to say that I really can’t.

“Case 39” was written by Ray Wright, and directed by Christian Alvart. And I have mixed feelings here (writing is obvious, if you’ve read the previous sections). But in terms of directing, I don’t have one clear opinion. There’s some good camera movements, and you can tell that Alvart isn’t incompetent. But he somehow fails to build suspense, which is, you know, kind of important in a horror movie. What’s worse is that lighting/color correction in this isn’t great, which makes otherwise decent shots come off as a bit.. not great. And any supposedly scary moments, not really that scary.

This movie hasn’t been that well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 21% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 25/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,2/10.

I think it’s clear by now that I thought “Case 39” was quite bad. It has a plot, bad characters, okay performances, not very good music, bad writing, and meh directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Case 39” is a 2,91/10. So yeah… I’d definitely recommend skipping it.

My review of “Case 39” is now completed.

HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO MAKE IAN MCSHANE BORING?

Movie Review: Mulberry Street (2006)

And the spooks continue. So what’s on today’s menu? Well, it’s a movie from a creative team whose other works I’ve enjoyed. And this was their first collaboration, so I thought I’d finally get around to it.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Mulberry Street”.

Mulberry Street, Manhattan. It’s a hot day. A group of people go about their day. But soon that will be turned on its head when an infection that turns people into rat monsters starts spreading. It’s basically a zombie siege movie, but with a unique spin on the infection. I can respect that, and it’s clear that the writers really wanted the story to feel more fleshed out and engaging, but in the end I just didn’t find the overall execution very interesting.

The characters, like the story, are written to seem more fleshed out, but again, I just didn’t really give a shit. Maybe I could care a little bit about Nick Damici’s character at times, but that’s mainly because he’s played by the awesome Nick Damici. The cast try, and the performances for the most part are alright. But man, in the end it doesn’t do much to help me care about the people who might become a rat monster’s lunch.

The score for the movie was composed by Andreas Kapsalis, and it isn’t great. I’ve enjoyed this kind of more minimal synth-esque score before, but the way it was executed here wasn’t that great. It somehow managed to feel like it wasn’t enough, while also being slightly overbearing.

This movie was written by Nick Damici and Jim Mickle, with Mickle handling direction. Like I said at the beginning of the review, I love this team, I’ve reviewed multiple things of theirs before, all getting recommendations from me. And I get that they were working with a lot of limitations (most of them budgetary) on this. But man, I am not a fan of the presentation in this movie. It’s a shaky, handheld, early 2000s digital camera, which is a combo I don’t like. The look it creates honestly hurts my head. Moments that should be scary and intense end up becoming a little annoying.

This movie has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 70% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5,6/10.

I love these guys, I really do. So it kinda hurts when I say that “Mulberry Street” isn’t really that good. The plot is uninteresting, I didn’t care for any of the characters, the performances are okay, the music isn’t great, and the directing/cinematography is kinda painful. Time for my final score. *Sad ahem*. My final score for “Mulberry Street” is a 4,76/10, so I’d recommend skipping it.

My review of “Mulberry Street” is now completed.

*sigh*

Movie Review: Hellboy (2019)

It should come as no surprise that I’m a huge fan of Guillermo Del Toro’s two “Hellboy” movies from the mid to late 2000s. They’re fun, character-driven, action movies filled with solid performances. So when a reboot was announced, I got scared. Then set pics came out, and I got less scared. And now I finally watched it. So let’s talk about it.

Ladies and gents… “Hellboy”… the rebootification.

When an evil blood witch (Milla Jovovich) is about to return, it’s up to Hellboy (David Harbour) and his allies to try to stop her. So now we have our plot. And it’s quite a mixed bag. On one hand, it’s an apocalyptic horror-fantasy, and on the other it’s a lighthearted monster romp, and it just clashes. Now, movies can switch between different tones and still work, we’ve seen it so many times. But “Hellboy” doesn’t have the flow to hold it up. Every tonal shift feels so sudden and unwarranted. And even if you take the scenes in on their own, they’re often so blandly written that I just didn’t give much of a shit. And that’s not how I want it. I want to give a shit, I wanted this to be a great story. But as it stands, it’s not great.

The characters in this are, like the story, a bit of a mixed bag. I see the potential in them, but they flip-flop around a bit much. Are they goofy comic action movie characters or are they broody soap opera ones? Both apparently. David Harbour plays the titular horned hero, a demon summoned from the depths of hell, raised to stop evil. He’s a bit of a jerk, but he’s also sometimes a decent enough dude. Seeing him learn more about himself is interesting, even if, as said before, he flip-flops a little bit. But I do think Harbour is good in the role, doing his best with the material he’s given. Next we have Ian McShane as Al Sweareng- I mean Professor Broom, Hellboy’s adoptive father. The reason I made that little joke was because in terms of writing, he feels like a watered down version of Al Swearengen from “Deadwood”.  I love “Deadwood”, but you can’t make everything “Deadwood” just because Ian McShane’s in it. Oh well, at least it’s an enjoyable performance. And Milla Jovovich plays Nimue, the Blood Queen, the movie’s main antagonist of the movie, and she’s fine in the role. Again, subpar material. We also get supporting work from people like Daniel Dae Kim, Sasha Lane, Stephen Graham, Thomas Haden Church, and more, all doing either okay or very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Benjamin Wallfisch, and it was alright. It’s not exactly memorable, but it’s overall well composed. A lot of BWOOOOOM, some emotional strings, and some electronic enhancements, making a decently passable score. Then there are also a whole bunch of licensed tracks used throughout, and I swear, it feels like they went through several of my spotify playlists to pick out some of those tracks. Some of the tracks work fine in their respective scenes, and some are… meh.

Based on the critically acclaimed comics by Mike Mignola, this movie was directed by Neil Marshall, and I think he did an alright job with it. You can tell that he put a lot of work into shot composition and making sure scenes could flow decently well, making for occasionally fun action beats. But then the shit hits the fan again. The editing is really weird, making for some awkward cuts and moments. And let’s talk effects. Most of them are pretty good, both the practical and CG. But then we get to the blood and gore. I don’t mind that shit in a movie, it can be kinda fun or intense. But here it looks like someone tried rendering raspberry jam on a Windows 98, which really took me out of it when I started enjoying parts of the action scenes.

This movie has not been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 17% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 31/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5,2/10.

I really wanted to like this movie, and it does admittedly have its moments. But in the end “Hellboy” (The Rebootification) is not really a good movie. It has a janky plot, meh characters, good performances, okay music, okay direction, and bad editing/blood effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Hellboy” (The Rebootification) is a 4,87/10. So I’d recommend skipping it.

My review of “Hellboy” (The Rebootification) is now completed.

You make me sad, movie.

12 Films of Christmas 2018 (Part 10)

Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh. Why am I doing this to myself?

Sometimes you watch good movies. Sometimes you watch bad movies. And sometimes, you might find a “Holy Mess”. Released in 2015, this holiday dramedy is about a gay couple (Anastasios Soulis and Anton Lundqvist) who invite a bunch of their relatives over to celebrate christmas. Cue the dysfunctional family crap, involving homophobia, familial inadequacy, and poor writing. The ideas here aren’t inherently bad, I am 100% sure that they could be used to make a truly compelling piece of cinema. But the writing here isn’t exactly what you’d call… good. When it tries to be funny, it’s groan-worthy. Then when it switches to the drama side of things it expects one to care… but I really didn’t, because like I said… the writing is a holy mess (see what I did there?). But let’s be generous and look at some of the positives. Most of the performances here are good, with Robert Gustafsson (mostly known for comedy) being a real standout with a really good dramatic performance. And the cinematography here is pretty good too, there are some solid enough shots and camera movements throughout. But in the end it all comes down to the writing, and as we’ve discussed, it’s more lutfisk than christmas ham. As the title suggests, this film is indeed a “Holy Mess”.

On the tenth day of christmas, Markus must confess, that he’s not a fan of Holy Mess.

12 Films of Christmas 2018 (Part 2)

I didn’t say that all the movies featured here would be unique and interesting… or even good for that matter. Yikes.

So the entry for the 12 Films of Christmas is a 2016 made for tv romantic comedy called “A Cinderella Christmas”. It’s basically “Cinderella”… but shit. An event-planner (Emma Rigby) sneaks into a christmas-themed masquerade in which she meets a wealthy dude (Peter Porte) and they fall in love. When she then runs out of the party he will do anything to find his mysterious princess charming. Some days I wonder why other people are so stupid. Some days I wonder why I am so stupid. While watching this movie I asked myself both those things. The characters in this are either dumber than a bag of bricks or duller than beach ball. I know that you are given some leeway when crafting characters, you are allowed to divert somewhat from realistic human behavior… but the writing here doesn’t so much bend their characteristics as much as break it in half and tell you “Merry fucking christmas, our reality is better than yours”. What else? The actors are passable at best, the cinematography is as “just turn on the camera” as it gets, the attempts at humor aren’t really that funny, and nothing in this is even remotely engaging. I don’t like talking smack about movies, I like liking movies… but sometimes that’s hard, as “A Cinderella Christmas” has proven today.

On the second day of christmas, Markus brings to you, a movie with characters dumber than poo.

Movie Review: The Brothers Grimm (2005)

Before we get into the review itself, I want to apologize for my absence for almost two weeks. First I was busy, and then I got really sick. But now I’m back! Woo!

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Brothers Grimm”.

Jake (Heath Ledger, R.I.P) and Will (Matt Damon) are a pair of brothers who travel from town to town, defeating demons for the people. And by defeating demons I mean that they set up a fake demon based on local folklore, “defeat it”, and then get paid by the people of those towns. But these dirty rotten scoundrels are about to come face to face with something they never thought they’d run into… a forest filled with actual magical creatures. So now we have our dark fairy tail. And is this plot any good? There’s a lot of good ideas here, but in the end it’s a fucking mess. At times it’s a comedy, at times it’s a horror movie, at times it’s a whimsical fantasy, at times a family drama. It creates an inconsistent and messy blend that doesn’t work.

The characters in this I can see the potential of, but we only ever skim the surface of them. Heath Ledger (May he rest in peace) plays Jake, one of the two titular brothers. He has a love of fairy tales, and often shows signs of believing in them (at least more than his brother). He’s also a little bit of an idiot and a coward. He’s probably the closest we have here to a compelling character. Though that could also be because Heath Ledger is really good in the role. Matt Damon plays Will, the second Grimm brother. He’s more or less the leader of the two, and can be a bit of a jerk at times. And his character is… meh. Damon’s good though. Then we have Peter Stormare as an Italian soldier that the brothers travel with through the movie. He’s a bit of an idiot and chews all the scenery. And yes, Stormare is glorious in the role. Then we have Lena Headey as Angelika, a young hunter that the brothers run into during their quest and eventually join forces with. She’s a no-nonsense badass with a mysterious past, and while that sounds interesting, it’s only surface-level. But Headey is really good in the role. And we get some okay supporting turns from people like Jonathan Pryce, Mackenzie Crook, Monica Bellucci, Richard Ridings, and more.

The score for the movie was composed by Dario Marianelli, and I think he did a good job with it. His score is bombastic, emotional, quirky, and even has a bit of a fairy tale feel to it. It somehow elevates the movie above it’s mediocrity. It’s almost too good for whatever the hell is on screen at any given time.

This movie was directed by Terry Gilliam and I have mixed feelings. On one hand, his direction really helps sell the fairy tale style and even builds a lot of atmosphere. But it is devoid of any real tension, despite being part horror flick. And the CGI in this movie, good fucking god… it’s awful. I can usually excuse a little bit of bad CGI, but when you have so many awesome practical sets/costumes/props, the bad CG gets quite distracting, especially when it’s as prominent as it is here.

This movie hasn’t been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 38% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 51/100. Roger Ebert gave it 2/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5,9/10.

While “The Brothers Grimm” has some good things going for it, I’d say it’s a bit too messy to recommend. It has a very messy plot, meh characters, good performances, good music, okay directing, and awful effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Brothers Grimm” is a 4,98/10. So I’d recommend skipping it.

My review of “The Brothers Grimm” is now completed.

Feels good to be back.

Movie Review: The Hollow Point (2016)

Guns. Terrifying devices of death. In movies, tv, and video games I guess they’re fine, but in real life they’re some of the scariest things ever… at least they seem like it. I’d prefer to keep my distance.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Hollow Point”.

Wallace (Patrick Wilson) is the newly appointed Sheriff of a small US border town. After a drug cartel deal goes horribly wrong, he has to investigate what happened. And as his investigation moves forward, he runs into all kinds of danger. So now we have our crime drama. And I was admittedly into the plot early on. I sat there thinking “Okay, this could be fun”, and it was kind of fun in a gritty crime drama kind of way, but soon it turned into a messy, overly serious, generically written, and boring plot about death and morality. It showed good promise at first, but soon it failed me.

The characters in this are kind of bland and uninteresting, even if the script would like to think that they’re deep and complex. Patrick Wilson plays Wallace, the newly appointed Sheriff of this small border town. He’s kind of a jerk, but there is a bit of heart somewhere behind there. And the only reason why I even remotely cared about him is because Patrick Wilson is a great actor, and he gave a really good performance here. Ian McShane plays Leland, an old, morally bankrupt cop that Wallace kind of works with throughout the movie. And you know what you get when it’s Ian McShane playing an asshole. The character isn’t as interesting as some of his other, similar roles, but at least McShane’s performance is damn good. Then we have Lynn Collins as Marla, a good friend of Wallace. She cares about her closest ones, and occasionally can show a tough side to her, but she’s not that interesting a character. And Collins is… fine in the role. Then we get some decent supporting performances from people like Jim Belushi and John Leguizamo. Characters, not that great. Acting, good.

The score for the movie was composed by Juan Navazo, and it was a mixed bag. There were a few tracks here that I thought actually sounded pretty good and somehow made their scenes/moments a bit more interesting. But then there are tracks here that think they are really cool, but don’t really work within the movie. There were a few licensed tracks used throughout a well, and they worked… fine.

This movie was directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego, and I think he did an okay-ish job here. It’s decently shot, and his direction never feels fully bad. The action scenes in this too, while not very complex or even great, are decently enjoyable. One problem I do have in terms of this more technical stuff is that there’s some weird editing in places throughout, making cuts that gave it a weird flow and such.

This movie hasn’t been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 31% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 41/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5,4/10.

Despite a (mostly) talented cast, “The Hollow Point” isn’t a particularly good movie. The plot is messy and boring and generic, the characters are uninteresting, the music is a mixed bag, and there’s some weird editing here. But the performances are solid, and the direction is okay. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Hollow Point” is a 5,12/10. So despite a few good things, I’d recommend skipping it.

My review of “The Hollow Point” is now completed.

Meh.