Monday, January 20, 2020

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood

***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.  Once upon a time in a Hollywood far, far away...



Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood – 4 out of 5

My first experience with filmmaker Quentin Tarantino was Pulp Fiction.  I found it to be a very impressive and unique film.  Over the years I’ve consumed his products and found them to be very engaging (well, mostly) but I’ve also learned over the years that he is kind of a dickhead.  I’ve also started to see the underlying racism and misogyny that often is layered into his products.  I still think he’s an impressive writer with a way with dialogue and a very unique eye but I’ve grown tired of him as a person.  For example, if he follows through with his plan to retire after 10 movies, I wouldn't be screaming for his return.  I think that’s why when Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood came out, despite how interesting it looked to me, I didn’t have the drive to see it—there’s also the reality that I didn’t want to spend 20 bucks on a ticket to see it in the theater.  Well, it hit the home market and, I gotta say, I really enjoyed this one…mostly.

I think this was one of a million movies Brad Pitt did in 2019.

As the 60s come to a close, actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) struggles to remain relevant as his career starts to fizzle out.  Meanwhile, his former stuntman and current personal assistant Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) is feeling the effects of this struggle as he has been ostracized from the industry due to rumors of him killing his wife.  Meanwhile, actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) move in next door and Dalton hopes that befriending them could revitalize his career but little does he know about the plans that Charles Manson (Damon Herriman) has for Tate’s home and all those that dwell in it.

In all honesty, with DiCaprio, Pitt, Margot Robbie and all of the other cast members--
that include Timothy Olyphant, Bruce Dern, Kurt Russell and more--there is a
shitload of talent in this film.

As a whole, I enjoyed Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood.  The performances are awesome and, for the most part, I really enjoyed this nostalgic look at Hollywood in the 60s.  One thing that really impressed me was the casting of the real life individuals in the film.  Performers who not only look like but really capture the essence of who they were portraying were loaded in this film and it really help create the reality that I was seeing Hollywood during this era.  This is also seen vividly in the sets, wardrobe and overall look of the film.  Tarantino and his production did a great job of bringing the era to life.

Not going to lie, this look works for DiCaprio.

While I found the film to be visually stunning and containing great music (something Tarantino almost always succeeds with), the story was a bit of a mixed bag for me.  The struggles of Dalton and Booth were fun, interesting and captivating but the film faltered for me whenever the story moved to Sharon Tate.  The writing concerning her felt flat and motionless.  It seemed like Tarantino just didn’t care to do anything with her nor feel the need to write any dialogue for her.  Her presence in the story felt almost superfluous—that is, if it wasn’t for her connection to Manson and how his followers end up making a very shocking final act at Rick Dalton’s house.  This also gives the feature a sort of meandering feeling when it concerns the story.

Yep, we get it, QT.  You like feet.

The thing about the film that did make me cringe was, not surprisingly, was some underlying sexism and racism.  I already mentioned how the character of Sharon Tate felt like she wasn’t really given any attention to concerning writing (Margot Robbie’s performance, however, was terrific despite how little she had to work with in the script) but there was also some very disturbing violence towards women.  The violence subject to them got so over-the-top, so graphic, and so unevenly handled when compared to the violence towards a man in the same scene that it almost felt like Tarantino was getting off at the sight of these women just being decimated.  I grant that these women were essentially some antagonists but it started to feel like torture porn.  It got uncomfortable quick.

Once a flamethrower enters the mix, you might be enjoying your "violence on
women" scene too much.

While the 60s were a time when white men pretty much ruled all in Hollywood (that really hasn’t changed much), it seems like Tarantino was reveling in this and even going as far to alter real-life people and their personalities to make sure the white man is standing tall.  I’m speaking, of course, about the Bruce Lee/Cliff Booth sequence.  While I found it cool to see just how much Mike Moh looked like the legend, I was a little put off by how Tarantino portrayed the Lee as a cocky braggart.  Then to have Booth come in and basically “put him in his place” with a fight felt like Tarantino was deliberately disrespecting Bruce Lee and making the argument that white is always right.  I won’t argue that Tarantino is intentionally being racist because the sequence is Booth remembering an incident between the two on set so it is perfectly reasonable to say that the memory is false and it is Booth just protecting his ego by making himself look better than he was in his memory.  Sadly, the scene is a bit ambiguous and doesn’t really feel like a hazy memory but rather a concrete flashback so the whole ordeal left me a little sour about seeing Tarantino make Bruce Lee look like a shitty person deserving of a beatdown.

Can we get Mike Moh to play Lee in a different movie?  One that doesn't turn the legend
into a dick?

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood is an impressive film that really does a great job of painting a picture of a 1960s Hollywood that is grounded but is also over-the-top and a caricature at the same time.  There were story elements that I wasn’t a fan of and found very cringe-y but visually it is impressive, the cast is stellar, and the story, overall, is engaging and an interesting play on history.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Doom: Annihilation

***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.  Ever wondered what Doom would look like if it aired on basic cable?



Doom:  Annihilation – 1 out of 5

Video game adaptations still reside in a realm that isn’t the best.  Most of them are not good.  The biggest reason is video games are really hard to adapt because they are an active media where the people consuming them have influence over the action in some form and capturing the game’s essence into a form of media that is passive is incredibly difficult.  The next reason is Uwe Boll did a lot of damage to this concept by being an incredibly shitty filmmaker—I’m mostly kidding on this part (but definitely not entirely kidding).  Doom is a fairly popular first-person shooter franchise that has its fanbase but I never really got into it.  I watched the first adaptation with The Rock and found it to be “meh” (but I will grant the first-person sequence is pretty damn impressive from a technical standpoint) so when it was announced they were going to do it again, I didn’t think much of it.  Well, recently I sat down with Doom:  Annihilation and, I gotta say, it really isn’t helping the case for video game adaptations.

Well, at least this isn't Super Mario Bros.

Sure, the gate looks totally safe to walk into.  What's the
worst that could happen?
In a base on Phobos, one of the satellites of Mars, Dr. Betruger (Dominic Mafham) is experimenting with teleportation technology.  However, after one of these teleportation gates is used to transfer a man from Nevada to Phobos, something goes wrong and the subject comes out of the gate deformed.  Betruger decides to teleport himself to Nevada in order to prove the experiment is safe but something goes wrong and monsters start emerging out of the gate.  Meanwhile, a group of Marines are on their way to Phobos but they soon learn that something has gone wrong and everyone on Phobos has turned into vicious monsters out for blood.  Now Lt. Joan Dark (Amy Manson) must figure out what happened and escape from the living hell that has become the base.

To top it off, the gate also gave him an extra butthole.

The thing that struck me immediately about Doom:  Annihilation is how cheap it looks and feels.  I fully realize that this is a Direct-to-DVD release but this feature looks like it was a Syfy original.  The sets are generic, the costumes even more generic, the creature makeup is “meh” at best, and the big bad monsters aren’t even trying to hide that their costumes are rubbery as hell—you can literally see the long fingers wobbling all the time.  The film has no atmosphere due to a “point and shoot” mentality of the production and there is no ambiance due to an uninspired use of lighting.  And the special effects shots are barely serviceable.  To put it bluntly, this was a weak-sauce movie.

With that exhausted look, you'd think Lt. Dark has dealt with invading demons before.

Yeah, that looks like a guy who would accidentally open
a portal to hell.
From a story perspective, I won’t give too much guff to the film because, let’s be real, the story was very barebones in the original game.  Basically, a portal to hell was opened on Mars and you have to kill some demons.  It didn’t really get any deeper than that.  Annihilation is basically mirroring that but kinda/sorta having some more in-depth characters along the way.  I won’t make the argument that I’m watching rich, highly defined characters because most of them are just cardboard cutouts from other space action films (like Aliens) and are given a defining trait or two to work with.  This kind of just works in concert with the overall phoned-in vibe the movie is delivering.

"HOW DO I EAT?!?"

Complete with Heads-up Display!
From a superficial standpoint, the movie captures the essence of the game but never really feels completely like Doom.  Due to the very cheap overall feel of this film, the feature ends up feeling like a generic sci-fi action film rather than an adaptation of a popular game franchise.  Even with the core story remaining intact and even inserting the popular BFG and other game references, this product never really felt like a Doom movie but rather a small studio trying to do their own Doom rip-off.

The Big Fucking Gun, son!

I didn’t go into Doom: Annihilation with high expectations so I wasn’t completely disappointed when it failed to deliver even a rudimentary entertaining film.  In fact, its presentation is so generic feeling and the overall product feels so boring that it’s not even a product that entertained me in ways that a great bad movie could.  This one isn’t a fun bad movie.  I just found it to be a bad bad movie.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Memento

***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.  .ekoj sdrawkcab sseltnioP



Memento – 4 out of 5

I really like Christopher Nolan’s films (well, mostly) and I think he is an incredibly talented and unique filmmaker and storyteller.  However, I wasn’t the biggest fan of his first movie I saw by him that he wrote and directed; the 2000 thriller Memento.  I might have been too cool or jaded for it at the time or maybe I wasn’t in the best of moods when I watched but I felt the film came off more like a gimmick than a movie.  After the trailer was released for his, as I write this, upcoming film Tenet, I decided to revisit this film and see if my opinion changed.  It did…a lot.

"Okay, so I can just pay my debt to the IRS in Target giftcards?"

Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) has anterograde amnesia and is unable to hold onto recent memories.  This is the result of an attack where two men invaded his hope and raped and murdered his wife.  Now, armed with a Polaroid camera and a bunch of tattoos he got with possible clues, Leonard is on the hunt to find the one culprit who escaped.  Two individuals, a bartender named Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss) and a contact named Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) who might not be the most trustworthy—if Leonard’s note on his Polaroid of him is any indication—could be out to help or hinder Leonard’s investigation.

"I gotta hurry this investigation up.  My punk band has a gig tonight."

 In case you were unaware, the predominant element to Memento is the fact the film is played back in two ways:  Black and white sequences that play out in chronological order and color sequences that are playing in reverse-chronological order.  When I first saw the film, I saw this as a gimmick in order to make up for a story that is, admittedly, very barebones and formulaic.  Granted, if the film is presented in a linear fashion it might be serviceable but not memorable—plot twist and all.  Portraying the film as two narratives that are running in two different directions ends up making the story far more engaging.  The first time I watched Memento this element just didn’t resonate with me and it didn’t get its hooks in me.  Revisiting it, I found I connected with it more and was captivated by Leonard’s journey and how Nolan unfolded the tale.

Everyone just take a second and admire Joey Pant's mustache.

One thing, however, I still didn’t like about the film is how it transitions from sequence to sequence.  The film basically just does a simple fade but there is a TV show sitcom or multi-cam quality to it.  Basically, every time the film fades out to go to the other sequence it felt like the film was cutting to commercial.  This route also harms the films pacing as it feels like the brakes are put on the momentum and you are quickly shifted to the alternate sequence.  This isn’t an entertainment killer but it does make the film feel a touch on the weaker side from a technical standpoint.

His "Die Bart Die" tattoo is on his back.

Even when I first watched this film, I couldn’t deny the performances were great.  Guy Pearce does a tremendous job at leading the charge and I appreciated the approach that was taken and the choices he made for playing a man in this amnesic condition.  He never went overboard with it and made it feel very grounded and authentic.  Pearce is backed up by Joey Pants and Carrie-Anne Moss and both of them are doing a tremendous job in their own rights.  Their performances only enhance the “What the hell is going on here?” vibe and keeps the mystery of the story flowing as they never give away too much with what they are doing but aren’t holding their cards too close to their chest either.

"Sorry I'm late.  I came from the Matrix."

Watching Memento the second time around shows me that I probably judged this one too harshly.  I viewed it entirely on a superficial level and entirely on its surface.  Granted, there are plenty of films that lean too hard on a gimmick in order to distract from the otherwise weak feature and I think I convinced myself that Nolan was doing this with the film.  Now I can see that this wasn’t the case but rather a way for him to uniquely tell this story.  I still admit that the transitions were “meh” for me but I definitely found this film infinitely better this time around and can now appreciate what Nolan created.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Girls Just Want to Have Fun

***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! If this movie came out today an incel would complain about how sexist it is because guys also want to have fun.



Girls Just Want to Have Fun – 3 out of 5

I grew up with three sisters.  There was no way I wasn’t going to see this 1985 film a million times.  I don’t mean that in a sexist, outdated gender normative way because when I was a kid in the 80s if the product didn’t involve robots that were more than meets the eye or mutated turtles that were pizza loving teenage ninjas there was a good chance I’d have to be forced to sit through it.  And sit through it I did.  I’m not sure why it recently popped up in my memory but I decided to revisit Girls Just Want to Have Fun and, I gotta be honest, it’s a bit of a cheesy, silly thing but kind of fun in its cheesy silliness.

Look at them.  All they wanna do is have some fun.

"Hi!  I'm the handsome guy who will be your partner in dance
and then your partner in love!"
Janey Glenn (Sarah Jessica Parker) loves to dance and dreams she can one day be a regular on the dance show Dance TV.  The problem is that her father (Ed Lauter) is a military man who runs a very strict household but her best friend Lynn (Helen Hunt) convinces her to sneak off for the audition.  She is teamed with another local named Jeff (Lee Montgomery) and they end up moving to the finals.  Now she must find a way to sneak away from her father so her and Jeff can practice and make it to the finals but spoiled rich girl Natalie Sands (Holly Gangier)—who also made it to the finals—will stop at nothing to break them apart and get on Dance TV.

Well, it's no Janet Reno's Dance Party, I can tell you that.

There is an undeniable cheesiness to this movie and it permeates from beginning to end.  It’s not that the film is bad, per se, but there is this goofy quality to the entire thing and it’s kinda hard to really start listing off all the silly things.  From a performance standpoint, the film is great and the story is as solid as a story about a high school girl trying to get on a dance television show can get.  Granted, the film is a tad cliché and it hits all the very obvious notes it is going to hit.  For example, yes, the father very easily comes around on her daughter going through with this endeavor, the bad rich kid gets her comeuppance, and the two attractive teens win the day and are now celebrity dancers and totes in love.  However, the obvious story structure and narrative is part of the feature’s charm.

I can see you, Father to the Rich Girl!

So the story is very silly and offers no real surprises or twists and the humor is very cheesy; however, this is also part of its charm.  I kinda enjoyed the silliness, cheesy humor, and the formulaic story but one of the things I found most amusing about the film is the soundtrack.  Besides the fact you get to hear a rendition of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” that isn’t by Cyndi Lauper (due to licensing restrictions) but there’s tons of very generic 80s sounding tracks that play.  That’s expected but what is amusing about the songs is the fact that the product definitely feels like it wants to make sure you heard the songs as every single song heard in the film will be played in sample form or small chunks during the credits.  It’s almost like the director is popping in every minute and a half in the credits to say, “Remember when this song played less than an hour ago?  Well, here it is again!”

Even this film wasn't free of the casual sexism/sexual assaults of the 80s.

There were always little moments and songs from Girls Just Want to Have Fun that stuck with me from my times seeing it as a child.  Revisiting it as an adult, I gotta say it was pretty fun.  It has some very amusing moments—some of them built off of the inherent cheesiness or from the overall silly factor but, regardless, the film is very amusing and actually pretty fun.  The performances match the overall tone of the feature and the soundtrack does compliment the production incredibly well.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

SpaceCamp

***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! It's a bummer that there wasn't a Jock Camp across the lake for the Space Camp kids to battle and defeat after being shamed by the athletic jocks.



SpaceCamp – 2 out of 5

SpaceCamp was a film I saw in my youth and I only remember some bits and pieces of it.  Mainly, I remember a weird looking robot and a scene where one character is sent flying away from the shuttle and potentially being lost in the endless void of space—which unnerved me greatly as a child.  I haven’t watched it since those days and, for some reason, I was reminded of it and decided to give it a shot now that I am older.  I really didn’t care for it.

In space...no one can hear you scream...for ice cream.

"Hi, welcome to Space Camp.  Yes, my shorts are
ridiculous but they are the fashion norm of this time."
Four nerds (ha ha, I’m kidding.  I’m also a nerd) travel to Cape Canaveral in Florida for the time of their lives!  A three week Space Camp program where they get to learn all about NASA and get to see what it is like to be an astronaut under the tutelage of trained astronaut Andie Bergstrom (Kate Capshaw).  Kathryn (Lea Thompson) is training to be a pilot, Kevin (Tate Donovan) is destined to become a commander of a space operation, Rudy (Larry B. Scott) digs science but isn’t the best at it, Tish (Kelly Preston) is the Valley Girl of the group but the Valley Girl who is a genius and has a perfect memory, and Max is the super smart and super eager 12 year old who finally convinces Andie to be a part of the main camp rather than the Junior Camp.  While they train, Max befriends the advanced sentient robot of NASA named Jinx (voiced by Frank Welker).  While the group is learning about how a shuttle would launch, Jinx arranged for the ship to actually have a booster ignite and Launch Control is forced to launch the shuttle so it doesn’t cause a catastrophic accident.  Now Andie, the teens, and Max are trapped in space with very little oxygen and now must use what little training they experienced in order to get themselves back to the surface of the planet.

Stop staring towards the sky like a doofus.  Tom Skerritt is standing right next to you!

"I'm off to see if there's life on Mars!"
"That's the moon, you idiot!"
Re-watching SpaceCamp now (which is timely because Disney just announce they are going to reboot it), I honestly wasn’t too impressed with it.  It isn’t an overtly bad movie but it wasn’t one I could really get invested in.  The cast is decent and the concept is fine but it just didn’t have that extra “umph” to really grab my attention.  Ultimately, I think a big reason for this is due to how fast the pacing feels.  The story comes across like the kids arrive at camp, spend a very short amount of time doing Space Camp stuff, and then they are off into space.  Then, almost as fast as they got there, they are brought back to Earth and then the credits roll.  I really never got a sense that they were ever in any real danger nor did I really get a sense of who the characters were beyond some superficial attributes that are established during their introductions.  The pacing definitely feels like it is not only robbing the product of a sense of danger but also a sense of who these characters are in a real deep and meaningful way.

And one day this young child would go on to be the idol of millions of incels and
his abusive ways of "method acting" will be considered brilliant by snobs.

It would be a little too easy and a tad unfair to go after the film’s effects and scientific accuracy.  For the most part, the special effects of the time hold up but this mostly concerns the shuttle in space.  The “weightlessness” shown in the film is a little silly because a lot of it looks like the characters are just standing on their toes and lightly dipping themselves up and down for a weightless appearance.  This is almost as silly as the fact the two characters who go out on a spacewalk suddenly talk in slow motion due to, I guess, the vacuum of space.  Also, there is the sentient robot NASA made and the fact it can convince their computer AI to alter safety protocols in order to force a launch is a bit goofy—but that is a tad nitpicky.  Other movies have set up their central point of conflict in far more ridiculous ways.

I hope in the reboot Disney is making Jinx is sending them to space to die.
That'll be some real stakes!

SpaceCamp is fairly harmless fluff (one that, sadly, had the ill-timed release date a few months after the Challenger disaster) but it is harmless fluff that just didn’t entertain me.  With flat characters and pacing that felt too fast, I just couldn’t get into this one and it made me realize why I remember so little about this film from when I watched it as a child.

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Sand

***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! Anakin Skywalker's most hated film.



The Sand – 1 out of 5

I heard about The Sand a couple of years ago but never took the time to seek it out to watch it.  I’m not sure why because the inherent cheesiness of its concept should have had me pushing people over in order to find it but, instead, it just sat on my Watch List.  Well, I finally decided to seek it out and it is an absolutely terrible movie…but a damn fun one to watch.

I thought this was The Sand but I guess this works too.

It's truly astonishing that no one was curious what this was
or worried in any way.
It’s beach party time for a bunch of young folks!  There’s drinking and debauchery and apparently a couple of them find a strange gooey ball/egg and no one really questions it!  And then the morning hits but there’s no time for hangovers as Marsha (Nikki Leigh) sets out to find out who took her top.  As she gets up, finds the sand has “grabbed” her foot and she can’t move.  As she’s being sucked in, Vance (Hector David Jr.) tries to help but trips and falls.  The rest of the group looks on in horror as the sand consumes Marsha and rips Vance’s skin off and pulls his body under.  Now Kaylee (Brooke Butler), Ronnie (Cynthia Murell), Gilbert (Cleo Berry), Jonah (Dean Geyer), Chanda (Meagan Holder) and Mitch (Mitchel Musso) need to find a way off the beach as the ball/egg thingy they found last night seemed to have hatched, buried itself under the sand, ate most of their friends in the night while they were passed out and will eat them too if their skin touches the sand.

Come on, don't pull the "I'm not touching you" nonsense with the monster.

"The sand doesn't have me.  I just tripped and landed
on my keys!"
To put it bluntly, The Sand isn’t a very good monster movie.  It’s bogged down heavily by some really bad special effects and a premise that feels like it was stolen from the Roger Corman idea file.  The acting is serviceable at best but never truly remarkable—with the exception of Jamie Kennedy who plays a beach patrol agent and he is chewing the scenery like tomorrow isn’t a guarantee.  Additionally, the story wastes no time getting started and setting up the conflict but then immediately puts on the brakes and pads out as many scenes and sequences as it can because it doesn’t have the meat to make it to a feature running length.  Finally, the closing moments feels very unsatisfying as it farts out an ending.  Sure, it attempts to do a typical monster movie ending to show you that the horror has only been temporarily suspended and that bigger threats are on the horizon but even this feels like a weak-sauce attempt at a monster movie cliché.  All of this culminates into a film that, on the surface, isn’t great and doesn’t hold up on its own merits as entertaining but this also works to make the film a wondrous piece of accidental comedy and one of those low budget horror features that are fun to watch and riff on.

Jamie Kennedy's role is awful and he is just grating in his performance.
And then the movie doesn't bother to deliver a decent death for him thanks
to the shitty special effects.  What a ripoff!

The bad special effects come off like some cheap Adobe After Effects you’d see on an absurdist comedy piece, like something from Tim & Eric.  The characters are never actually pulled into the sand but rather kinda phase through them like a ghost or like they are Kitty Pryde on the X-Men.  The absolutely cheesy blood effects almost look like they were animated with MS Paint and when you combine these elements it stops the film from being a legit monster movie and makes it a legit B-movie comedy.  One element, however, that really embodies the strange dichotomy of this whole “what makes this movie bad also makes it strangely good” is the cast and the characters.

In the dark, it's easier to hide bad special effects.  That's why the creature didn't pull
out its big tentacles when the sun was out.

Like too many horror/slasher/monster movies, the film is filled with completely unlikeable characters.  Since this film is all about college aged kids, the attitude from all of them is ramped up to 11 (because writers all see anyone younger than them as shitheads with condescending attitudes).  Having such jerk characters made me openly wonder why any of them would party together because most of them didn’t seem too concerned with each other’s wellbeing as the story progressed and it made me wonder why I should cheer for their survival.  For example, the character of Gilbert wakes up in the morning to find out that, after he passed out, he was put into a trashcan as a prank—admittedly, a shitty prank that really doesn’t make much sense.  After the threat that the group is under is identified, anytime someone asks him how he is, he responds with one of two things (or a combination of both).  He either tells that person to “fuck off” or inform them that he’s “dying over here.”  

"Um, guys!  What do I do if I have to poop?  Actually, never mind."

Then there is the character of Chanda.  Chanda sleeps with Kaylee’s boyfriend Jonah.  Chanda is portrayed through much of the movie as a terrible person for this but Kaylee seems to give Jonah a pass for being a part of the whole thing.  It seems unfair to put the entire blame on one member of the duo and to have this blame being cast by one of the few characters that is supposed to be the “pure” and “kind” one sorta throws a wrench into the whole character element of the film.  This also created a bit of headcanon for me that Jonah cheats on Kaylee a lot and gaslights her about it so she projects her frustrations about him on the women that Jonah cheats with.  Of course, that is me projecting more in-depth character dynamics than a film like The Sand actually has.  Honestly, the film didn’t even seem like it was trying to give these characters any sense of depth beyond the idea that people will immediately resort to be antagonistic dicks to each other if they are in any sense of danger.

"I can't take out my frustrations on a boyfriend who takes me for granted because
our relationship is abusive so I am taking this out on you!"

Turns out the real monster was humanity and their
polluting ways.
The Sand is a pretty silly film that almost feels like it fully realizes how silly it is and tries to legitimize itself as a serious monster film from the very beginning.  Right off the bat when the characters wake up from the party, the film delivers one of its goriest moments and delivers the gratuitous topless scene.  Granted, the boobs were completely needless and the gore was laughably bad thanks to the weak special effects but there was no denying that it felt like the film was overcompensating for the ensuing weaknesses the film has over the horizon.  However, as stupid as this film can be, it is really fun to watch.  All of its problems are either delivered or showcase to that certain degree that it becomes a silly feature to watch that is good for a chuckle and to riff on.

Unicorn Store

***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! I think the world would be a better place if unicorn stores were real...and also if unicorns were real so that the stores could stock them.



Unicorn Store – 4 out of 5

I really like Brie Larson.  I think she is a tremendously talented actress, she’s goddamn Captain Marvel, and she’s a huge Star Wars nerd.  What I’m saying is she speaks to me!  I also find unicorns to be badass.  They’re basically narwhal horses and that’s damn cool.  That being said, I’m not the biggest fan of Netflix original films because too often they all feel too long or they feel like they are trying to be too many things in an effort to appeal to a wide array of viewers.  The long and short of it is their films feel like they are written by an algorithm in order to cast a wide net.  Of course, there are always exceptions, like Dolemite Is My Name.  With that being said, I dragged my feet on Unicorn Store and didn’t watch it when it came out.  Well, I finally decided to check it out and I really liked it!

I feel like there's a metaphor here...

After Kit (Larson) fails out of art school, she moves back in with her parents (Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford) and faces depression.  Determined to give up her live as a creative type, she takes a temp job with a PR agency but, not long after she starts, she begins to receive mysterious invitations for a place called “The Store.”  Eventually, curiosity gets the better of her and she heads to “The Store” and meets a mysterious but interesting man called The Salesman (Samuel L. Jackson) and he promises her a chance to fulfill her childhood dream of owning a unicorn.  Is this real or is Kit being played?

Welcome to the Corporate World.  A home where you will die a slow, agonizing death.

Unicorn Store is Larson’s feature film directorial debut and she shows she has some chops.  The pacing is practically perfect and I loved how fluidly the film is edited together.  The movie has a great use of color, the locations used are practically perfect for the story and the whole product contains a very genuine and honest exploration of human emotion.  Never does the story become too overdramatic and it never takes the feelings of the characters for granted.  There’s just this simple honesty to the characters and how they feel that made both them and the story they were involved with very engrossing.

Whitford's character looks like he's going to say how he would have voted for
Obama a third time.

Honestly, if Sam Jackson is selling something, I'm buying!
Not surprisingly, Larson is doing a tremendous job as Kit.  You understand the frustrations she is going through and the hope she has when the opportunity is presented for a childhood dream to come true and you feel it so damn easily.  Larson is backed up with a great supporting cast.  Samuel L. Jackson is fun as the eccentric character of The Salesman, Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford are tremendous as Kit’s parents and they both capture that “doing their best” mentality, and Hamish Linklater is creepy but amusing as Kit’s boss at the PR firm (I know, that's a weird combo).  However, I really enjoyed Mamoudou Athie as Virgil, a hardware store employee who ends up helping and then befriending Kit when she goes to make a stable for her potential unicorn.  He’s doing a fantastic job of being the straight man to Larson’s artsy/whimsical side.  There was also a great chemistry between the two so their evolving relationship feels real and palpable.

Props to a guy who never calls the woman who asks him to build a stable for
her incoming unicorn "crazy."

Finally, the one thing I really want to bring up is the wardrobe for Kit.  Every single outfit she wears (excluding the office attire) is colorful and fun.  Sure, this helps speak to the whimsical, creative, and originality of the character as she stands out from the crowd but the outfits were also just super cool.  I can’t get away with wearing cool, colorful and eccentric outfits like she did but I sure did appreciate what it brought to the character.

Look at that outfit!  It's awesome!

Unicorn Store is a funny and endearing film.  The cast is great, the pacing is fantastic and the story has heart and humor.  Brie Larson’s performance is terrific and her work behind the camera show she has the skills to direct and guide a story.  This is definitely one of the better Netflix originals I’ve seen and that’s definitely because it never hits any of the usual snags that befall these originals…also, it is a really entertaining film at its core.  So that helps.