Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  Trust me, kids, after school is over that's when life gets worse.

Middle School:  The Worst Years of My Life – 2 out of 5

I wouldn’t say that my middle school years were the worst years of my life—high school was far worse.  To be honest, I don’t remember much from those days because they feel like so long ago and this movie didn’t really do much to awaken me to those memories.  However, that really wasn’t the film’s intention, I think.  Anyway, Middle School:  The Worst Years of My Life may be a kid’s film but the trailer for it did make my chuckle and it has Andy Daly in it.  Since I love that guy and the since the trailer did make me giggle, I decided to check it out.  Sadly, it really wasn’t as fun as I hoped it would have been.

That room is the teacher's lounge.  Just imagine the number of balls required to
fill that room.  Are you imagining it?  No?  Okay, never mind then.

Meet Rafe, a wacky kid who likes to draw...
(Read that in a cheesy 80s movie trailer
announcer's voice)
Based on the 2011 novel of the same name, this movie focuses on Rafe (Griffin Gluck), a creative boy with a love of drawing that seems to dominate most of his focus, sometimes with negative results.  After being kicked out of his last school, Rafe finds himself at the Hills Village Middle School with his best friend Leo (Thomas Barbusca).  There he meets Principal Dwight (Andy Daly); an overbearing authority figure who runs the school with an insane amount of rules and with an iron fist.  To make matters worse, his mother (Lauren Graham) is seeing a jerky boyfriend (Rob Riggle) who constantly disrespects him.  After Principal Dwight destroys Rafe’s sketch book, he and Leo decide that they are systematically going to prank the principal and break every single one of his obnoxious rules.

I'm just going to say it, Andy Daly is a damn treasure!

Riggle is in this?!?  Sign me up!
Like I said, the trailer for this one was pretty amusing to me and I figured that this one might be one of those fun kid’s features.  Indeed I will admit that there are some very amusing moments and, for me, they were mostly delivered by Andy Daly, Rob Riggle and Adam Pally as Rafe’s teacher.  To be honest, the humor wasn’t really the bad part about the film because even the gags that are meant to appeal to people more than half my age were never outright awful (although they would get bad whenever the writer tried to sound young and ended up making the kids talk like how adults think kids talk).  The only thing that really kept me from being invested in the film and engaged in the story was some uneven writing and a plot that felt a tad unfocused.

This kid Barbusca seems to get a lot of work...and that's because he's pretty
talented and funny.

Look, this is the paragraph where I'm talking about the
bad things this movie has but I'm still giving it a
thumbs up for the good things it did.  Like this
boy in this screencap.
To be clear, the story isn’t a complete mess.  It’s coherent and it’s clear what it is trying to accomplish but I think the film is trying to do too many things and it might have benefited from a little narrower of a focus.  There are some parallels between the fact Rafe is dealing with both a jerk principal and the jerk his mom is dating but since one gets more development than the other, one of these dynamics feels tacked on needlessly.  Additionally, the film adds in a girl that Rafe has a crush on but when this is mixed in with his pranks against the principal and dealing with the family drama, she ends up feeling like much like the boyfriend entering into the family and feels a bit unnecessary.  To add to the dilemma, the film jumps focus on these matters very haphazardly and it made for a movie that kinda/sorta felt like it didn’t really know where it was truly going or if it really was in any real race to get there.  Finally, the film throws in a lot of great concepts that could, in theory, add to the drama and the development of Rafe’s character and situation but are too often underdeveloped or lazily thrown in.  For example, Rafe has a little bit of a tragic backstory that comes into play for his troublemaking and that needed some more attention.  Additionally, there are some moments where the film wants to make some commentary about the current state of education and our emphasis on testing and memorization rather than nurturing real learning and this came out of nowhere at times and that made it just feel awkward.  These elements made it a little difficult for me to really find myself engrossed in Rafe’s misadventures and it kinda took away from the overall pranking story.

This part of the underage school girl dancing while the sprinklers went off
felt wholly unnecessary and kinda inappropriate.

The cast, on the other hand, are all very good in their respective roles.  Andy Daly and Rob Riggle are pretty much perfect as Rafe’s antagonistic authority figures and Adam Pally is very amusing in his few scenes (although, he really did deserve more and his character should have had a bigger role).  Additionally, Thomas Barbusca was pretty entertaining as Leo but it was a little strange seeing him in a role where he’s not the hysterical sarcastic smart-mouth that I usually see him play (and completely nail, by the way.  He really is great in that type of role).  Finally, Griffin Gluck is doing a very good job as the lead and can pretty much nail the dramatic and comedic parts that his role requires.

Seriously, Adam Pally is very funny and deserved more screen time but his
character really felt like he too should have had a bigger and more influential

Thriller references will never go out of style.
I’m not going to say that I went into Middle School:  The Worst Years of My Life expecting something that would split my sides open with laughter.  Honestly, I just went in thinking that this has the potential to be a quirky and fun film.  For the most part, it is.  I liked the cast, I enjoyed the animated sequences that come into play every so often in order to illustrate Rafe's drawings and imagination, and there are some moments that I definitely found to be very humorous.  Sadly, however, the film is harmed a little bit by a story that felt very sloppy.  This kept it from being just an average, mildly amusing film and turned it into something that has a lot of flaws but still has some things working in its favor.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Rev. Ron's Realities: Signs

Hello, everyone!  It’s been awhile since I’ve done an installment of Rev. Ron’s Realities but I’m here with a new one.  I gotta be honest, inspiration hasn’t struck me in some time as I haven’t really noticed anything in recent movies that was worth crafting an entire short story around.  But first, I think I need to back up for a second—for those who just stumbled upon my blog and are wondering what exactly  “Rev. Ron Realities” are, these are short stories I craft from movies I watch.  Sometimes a background extra captures my attention or minor plot details exist that I think needs elaboration so I write a short story to further develop these attention-getting background characters or moments.  In the past I’ve wrote stories on Ghost Shark, San Andreas, and Jurassic World but today I’m digging into a hole that I started a long time ago and making my way to a story that’s always been kicking around in the back of my mind; one that was inspired by M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs.

In case you aren’t aware, Signs was Shyamalan’s follow up to Unbreakable and told the tale of Joaquin Phoenix and Mel Gibson being tormented by visitors from space.  The film definitely has some great performances, an amazing build-up, and some genuinely creepy moments but it’s harmed greatly by the director’s trademark desire for a twist ending.  If you haven’t seen this 2002 film yet, here’s your warning for Spoilers—this movie ends with the discovery that the aliens’ weakness is water.  It literally burns their flesh.  That means these space travelers flew across the cosmos and came to terrorize a world that is mostly water.  Needless to say, it was a dumb twist and one that is still mocked today.  Anyway, I always had an idea in my head that revolved around a single alien that tries to warn the rest of them that they are heading to a planet that is covered in the liquid that can kill them…

Here we go!

(For the sake of clarity, the aliens’ language will be translated.)

The mothership came to a resting orbit on the dark side of the moon as collectives of the tall, dark-green skinned beings milled about as they were getting their smaller transports ready.  Some made adjustments to the mechanisms that made the circles in the corn and others tweaked the projection field that tormented small animals and made them angry.  Two prominent beings made final adjustments on the cloaking device on their craft so that the primitive creatures on the surface of the planet they just arrived at wouldn’t see them.  They were nearly finished when an exasperated third being came galloping up to them.

That's no moon--oh wait, yes it is.

“Xenos,” the being said out of breath, “Calixfartugnargarle—”

“Please, Zan,” one of the two interrupted, “call me Diane.”

Zan flipped his fingers to show acknowledgment, “Apologies, Diane, but I have to tell you both that we are making a huge mistake.”

Xenos made a burping sound to show his irritation, “This again?  You’ve been hassling us ever since we arrived in this galaxy, lamenting us with your insane conspiracies.”

“But it’s not insane, Xenos,” Zan explained as he projected a holographic display of the planet.  “This place—the one those pink, squishy things call E-air-th—is covered in this strange liquid.  My readouts from the probe devices that went and tested the planet states that this place is covered with stuff that—”

Wait a minute, according to idiots this thing is flat!

“Will burn us if it touches our skin,” Diane said, completing Zan’s sentence.  “Sell your quarlex oil somewhere else, asteroid brains.  There’s no such thing as a murderous liquid naturally occurring in nature.”

An endless plain of death for these guys.

“Yeah,” Xenos agreed, “next you’ll tell us that this stuff literally falls from the sky.”

Zan’s dark eyes widened, “This stuff does literally fall from the sky!”

Raining death from above.

“Zan,” Diane said as he put his lanky arm around the being’s shoulder, “I think you’ve been spending too much time on the flarf-net and reading those crazy conspiracy sites.  Your findings mean nothing to us.”

“But Diane, 97% of all the other researchers agree that this thing is real!”

“So that says that 3% don’t, right?” Xenos explained.

Zan looked confused, “Well, that’s technically correct.”

“And there ya have it,” Diane exclaimed excitedly.  “So, Operation:  Make Circles in Agricultural Locations, Show Up at a Child’s Celebration of Their Birth and Remain Unseen until It’s Important to the Plot will begin.”

In their language it reads "Xenos was here."

“READY THE SHIPS!” Xenos yelled and all the beings started to gear up and prep their vehicles.

“Wait,” Zan called out and all the beings stopped in their tracks.  “At the very least can we wear some sort of protective suit in case of unknown pathogens in the air or just put on some daffin clothes for Gorp’s sake?  I mean, you realize we’re all naked, right?”

With that, the hanger in the mothership echoed with odd grunting as all the beings laughed.  “You knew this was a nudist exposition when you signed on, Zan,” Diane said where he caught his breath.  “Now let’s go harass some of the hoo-mans and make some of them question their faith!”

“Don’t forget, guys,” Xenos added, “make sure you’ve had plenty of sustenance.  We might have to spray some of these creatures with our defensive spray that we shoot out of the things that are definitely are our anuses.”

Yes, I made a fart joke.

And you know the rest of the story—the aliens leave once they realize their weakness but one stays behind in our protagonists’ home and is defeated through the deadly combination of a baseball bat and glasses of water that have been left behind by the apparently future-seeing daughter.  Hope you enjoyed this playful jab at an otherwise very good movie (seriously, though, I really do like Signs) and keep checking back here for future Rev. Ron Realities and, of course, more of my reviews.  Thanks!

Body Parts

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  This ad space available.

Body Parts – 2 out of 5

I never heard of this 90s thriller until it was featured on How Did This Get Made?  In fairness though, I’m not surprised I haven’t heard of it because there are tons and tons of movies out there in existence so I can’t be expected to have even a passing familiarity with all of them.  Anyway, being a fan of campy and bad films (and hearing the ridiculous joy that Jason Mantzoukas got from the film), I figured I had to check out Body Parts.

It needs to be noted that Brad Dourif is in the film and that dude is fantastic!

Oh no!  That dummy killed himself!
After psychologist Bill Chrushanks (Jeff Fahey) ends up in a car accident on his way to work and loses his arm.  He ends up becoming a test subject on an experimental surgery from  Dr. Agatha Webb (Lindsay Duncan) and she convinces Bill’s wife Karen (Kim Delaney) to sign off on the procedure but little did any of them realize is that the arm belongs to convicted serial killer.  Bill starts to dig and finds out that other appendages have been used on other patients in the experiment and he soon starts to wonder if evil is capable of being transferred from one person to the next.

The Black Knight from Monty Python seems to come to mind here...

The idea that the evilness of a person can somehow transfer from one person to the next via appendages or organs and stuff isn’t anything really new in the horror/thriller genre.  There are a ton of examples that play on this horror trope and, to be honest, it’s not a bad concept—albeit, it’s a very silly one.  However, it does toy with the idea that a person’s moral standing can somehow permeate and actually infect their body and that’s one thing Body Parts actually does kinda well.

It's also really good at showcasing outdated technology.

While the thoughts and ideas that Body Parts is proposing isn’t really dived into that deeply, it’s still an interesting thought process that is lying dormant in any horror fiction of this kind.  Sadly, this philosophical argument of a person’s darkness soaking into their very skin is kinda undercut by the film’s many issues.  Mainly, the plot moves very unpredictably and the final climax and twist it reveals feels a bit cheesy and kind of a horror cliché.  

In today's America, guns in a hospital seem normal!  Ha ha, topical!

"Another crazy experiment I have an idea for is
giving people a second butt!  I'm mad with power!"
Never does Body Parts unfold or have its story develop at a consistent rate and its flow jumps wildly from the methodical to the unpredictable and rapid.  Often the film would transition from scene to scene at such a way that I would question if I missed something because this film has a bad habit of feeling like minor, transitional moments were left on the cutting room floor.  Finally, the film completely undoes its mystery and suspense by going for the quick, visceral and gory ending.  This jarring shift in tone is only compounded after a reveal is made that is never really that development or gets the build-up it needed.

"Whoo, I got a serial killer's leg and that means I can dunk now!"

I may not have felt Fahey was strong casting but
look at that smoldering glance he has.
Body Parts isn’t an outright terrible film and it actually has some interesting ideas at play.  Even from a performance standpoint the film isn’t too shabby.  Sure, I think that Jeff Fahey might not have been the best choice for the lead and some of the supporting players can be a tad forgettable but Lindsay Duncan is great as Dr. Webb and the film also features Brad Dourif and that dude never gives a bad performance.  Yes, there was some potential to this one but it still ended up like so many other lower budget thrillers and was a little cheesy and more accidentally silly than interesting or even creepy.