Friday, July 28, 2017

Chopping Mall

***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!   Really, how can you lose when it's called Chopping Mall?



Chopping Mall – 3 out of 5

I’ve been watching low budget horror movies for a long time.  My dad and I would watch the Chicago horror host Svengoolie every Saturday and laugh like crazy at the B-movies he played.  We’d watch every VHS feature we could get our hands on in hoping to see epics of cheese.  Sure, we’d watch great horror films too but the ones that made the best memories are the ones that made me laugh.  Those were the ones I wanted to watch the most.  As I get older, I find it harder and harder to find legitimately scary movies out there but there’s never a shortage of bad ones.  Thanks to How Did This Get Made? recently featuring this one, I finally decided to check the cult classic of B-movie goodness that is Chopping Mall.

Since this was from the 80s, the film was kind enough to include a small
role for iconic character actor Dick Miller.
 
Apparently, the Park Plaza Mall has problems with theft and their answer for better security is to use three advanced robots.  The head honchos state the robots are designed to subdue, not kill, their targets but after a severe lightning storm strikes the central computer controlling the robots, their programming changes and they become a tad more lethal.  Unbeknownst of this fact, eight friends gather in the mall’s furniture store to have a party and, of course, naughty time!  The good times don’t last when they suddenly find themselves the targets of these new homicidal machinations. 

The Daleks ain't got shit on these guys!


80s character actor Gerrit Graham is in the film.
In this scene, you can watch him literally chew on
a donut for 5 freakin' minutes.
Advance technology rebelling against the creators—whether it be because it grew self-aware or just a freak accident makes it go haywire—is nothing new in the word of thrillers, horror, and sci-fi.  However, the 80s has a special place in my heart for this trope because it always came in the most ridiculous fashion on certain occasions.  Chopping Mall does this by having the destructive technology take place in a mall—a very 80s locale.  Just the idea alone that a mall requires having robot security because their risk of a break-in is so high is hilarious enough and it translate to a stupidly ridiculous movie with all kinds of cult appeal and a very amusing viewing experience.

The thing just wants a hug.

"We're here to shop and kill robots...and the mall is now
closed so we are reverting to our second item on
our 'To Do' list."
This movie kinda reminded me of another How Did This Get Made? film I watched in 2015 and that is Death Spa—a movie that was about a state-of-the-art spa that ran on a computer system that decided to go lethal after a lightning strike.  For some reason, screenwriters like to think that electrical surges will result in a complete reprogramming of software and not utter destruction when it concerns electrical equipment and computers but that’s what makes this nonsense fun.  There’s no depth to this film, it’s just a “wizard did it” mentality and then the film just focuses on getting all the tropes crammed in.  There’s the sex equals death equation, gratuitous nudity, gore, and a soundtrack that feels like they are actively trying to rip-off John Carpenter.  This movie combines all that with some really cheesy dialogue and this usually is a formula for a hard movie to sit through but Chopping Mall has all of this in the right amounts in order to make it entertaining.

This character is fun.  Why?  Because he obnoxiously chews gum the entire time
he's in the film.  Wait, did I say "fun?"  Because I meant his chewing is disgusting
to listen to.

It was the 80s guys.  This was how we all dressed.
Part of the charm that this movie has is the fact it never takes itself too serious but never lets itself come off as a mindless goof.  The hard balance to strike with low budget, silly horror movies is finding the sweet spot and part of that involves the mirror it holds up to itself.  Sometimes the reflection is too strong and these movies become too tongue-in-cheek and feel like the creators are literally leaning into frame and winking at the audience—this is why I find every Sharknado sequel to be harder and harder to sit through—and other times these films take themselves too serious and have their heads so far up their own backsides that they don’t acknowledge the absurdity of what they are making (and there’s the ones that are so apathetic and just don’t care and those ones might be my favorite of them all).

I'm fairly certain that the guy in the middle is shoplifting something from that
store in his pants.
  
Road flares:  The perfect impulse buy, right next
to the Snickers bars.
Chopping Mall never feels pretentious (it feels creepy and gross at points because the filmmakers were pervy creepers) and it delivers its action just silly enough where it doesn’t cross the line into satire or slapstick.  The film isn’t really intended to be a complete send up of thriller tropes but there’s an accidental presentation where it comes off looking that way and there it creates the charm.  Sure, there are the nod-and-wink moments and gags that poke fun at the thriller/horror genre but even when this film is trying to be as serious as it is possibly capable of getting, it still comes off like a friendly teasing of what these films are meant to be.

This mall has women in bikinis advertising stuff.  That's normal, right?

Chopping Mall does suffer from a silly premise, bland characters, and some weak gore effects but—wait, I’m not so sure if “suffer” is the right word here because, although these elements are bad, they’re part of the reason the film works.  The premise is dumb but primed for accidental thriller humor, the characters are bland but bland enough where they’re amusing, and, if the gore effects were good, it wouldn’t have been a product of the Corman gang.  That being said, Chopping Mall works for what it is:  A low budget sci-fi thriller with elements of horror and comedy tossed in.  While the robots look dumb and the story makes no logical sense, the acting is surprisingly decent and the overall experience is pretty dang entertaining.  There’s a reason why this film reached cult status.

Dammit, Short.  This was all your fault.  You had to go and make Killbots, didn't you?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Star Trek Beyond

***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!   The Enterprise doesn't even bother with infinity, they just go to the beyond part.



Star Trek Beyond – 4 out of 5

I’m going to preface this review by saying I’m a Star Wars guy and not really a Star Trek fan.  I find it odd that, within geek culture, we have to divide ourselves into camps and endlessly debate which one is better.  I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong with Trek, I’m just not a fan of it because it doesn’t capture my imagination the way it does its fans.  I don’t hate it, I don’t think people that like it are “wrong,” and I don’t obnoxiously think that my opinion of it is the “right” one.  That being said, I am a fan of this movie's timeline that has been established.  I find them to be great sci-fi fun mixed with some excellent popcorn action.  How does Star Trek Beyond, the third in this series, compare to the others?  Fairly well, actually!

Look at that thing, all boldly going and stuff.

To think, I used to not like this guy.  What a fool I was.
After finding his mission on the USS Enterprise to be unfulfilling, Capt. James T. Kirk (Chris Pines) puts in for a promotion and to have Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) take his place.  However, after the crew decides to answer a distress call, the ship is attacked and crippled by a man named Krall (Idris Elba) and the crew is left alone on a derelict planet.  Kirk soon learns that Krall is in possession of a dangerous weapon and the man plans on using it against the Federation.  Now, with the help of the alien fighter; Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), (who has also been marooned on the same planet as the crew) Kirk must find a way to escape and stop the madman.

Sofia Boutella always plays the coolest characters...and may that continue!

One thing about this latest adventure of the crew of the Enterprise is it never really feels like a movie quality mission but rather something you’d see on the show over the course of a several episode arc.  Now, that sounds like a bad thing but it’s far from it.  The thing I really enjoyed about it is that this story feels like it was just part of their mission.  It begins with Kirk getting bored with the things he is doing and maybe wanting to move on and then they go on what is believed to be just another part of this mundane journey and they are slammed headlong into saving the day.  The whole film feels like you are just thrown into the daily mix of routines that goes on for the crew and were lucky enough to witness them at their best.  The story never inflates itself with delusions of grandeur or tries to come off like overly cinematic.  It comes off like a filler film but it’s a fun one that delivers on a solid adventure with a very threatening antagonist.

"We're fine, this will buff right out!"

Oh yeah, and this movie mentions that this timeline's
Sulu is gay.  The fanboy reactions was exactly as
you would predict them to take that.
Another segment of the story this film does very well is character development.  Alongside the mission to stop Krall, we get to learn a little more about our characters and it's delivered in a very organic feeling way and not in a forced "let's stop the flow for development purposes" way.  We get to see Kirk learn his devotion to the mission all over again, we watch as the relationship between Lieutenant Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Spock grows and has some rockiness, and much more.  There’s even a fantastic arc for the villain Krall as we learn about his mysterious past and why he is so desperate for revenge.  Finally, I really liked how cool Jaylah was.  All of this really makes the characters even more endearing and that much more fun to watch.  And speaking of fun, I swear Karl Urban gets more and more amusing as Doctor McCoy with every movie.

I'll be honest, out of context, this image looks like Bones is crawling out of
an alien toilet.

Other elements, such as the action and performances, are top notch.  All the actors in the film are continuing to provide charm with the characters they are portraying and making the whole crew an enjoyable band.  Additionally, with its great special effects, the film really delivers on some exciting action scenes.  For example, when the Enterprise is being ripped to shreds by Krall’s fleet of ships, it looks absolutely stunning!  Even the final conflict with Krall is very engaging and very satisfying.  One thing that is worth nothing about the action is the film uses Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” in order to solve one of its main conflicts.  I know that sounds weird and that’s because it is.  When it first began, I found myself chuckling at the idea of it because it comes off super silly and kinda forced but, as the action unfolds, I found myself being sucked into the madness of it and kinda enjoying it.

Idris Elba, a man seemingly incapable of not being completely awesome
at all times.

Star Trek Beyond is a mighty fine continuation of the previous two films and delivers on a great premise and entertaining and exciting action.  It’s sad that, because of his passing, this is the final film for Anton Yelchin as Chekov (he was so fun as him) and we won’t get to see him portray the character again but it’s still a very fun film.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Big Sick

***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!   The big sick is what you're going to get after the big chill.



The Big Sick – 5 out of 5

I really enjoy Kumail Nanjiani.  I think the guy is funny in everything he is in.  Whether it’s his role in Silicon Valley or the small roles where he shows up for a short period of time in various comedies, the guy can deliver and he is very memorable.  Hell, he was one of the only funny parts about Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, in my opinion.  When I heard that he and his wife; Emily V. Gordon, had co-written a movie about how they met and how their relationship evolved, I was instantly sold on the idea and wanted to see it.  Even after it was produced, sold to a distributor, and was ready to get its theatrical release I was ready to watch it and I didn’t even bother to watch a trailer.  I’m just such a fan of the guy that I didn’t need anything beyond the concept and his involvement to sell me on The Big Sick.

                                                                                           Amazon Studios/Lionsgate
She's a cute, bubbly girl and he's an Uber driver...what a cliche!

Chicago stand-up comedian Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is just going through his life trying to make it in the world of comedy while his parents try to get him into an arranged marriage, per their culture and against what he wants.  One day, while performing at a show, he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan) and the two hit it off and find themselves falling for one another.  However, after Kumail refuses to come clean about his parents arranged marriage setups and the fact he hasn’t told them about her, Emily leaves.  Soon after, she finds herself in a coma and Kumail stumbles his way in to be with her every day and, along the way, forms a bond with her parents; Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano).

                                                                                           Amazon Studios/Lionsgate
I'll just take a second here to state that Hunter and Romano were divine
in this film.

Romcoms can be kinda…dumb.  I don’t begrudge anyone who enjoys them but when you look at them through a fine enough lens, they all look very silly.  This is totally true of all genres of films but the romantic comedy never really showcases love or relationships in any real sense.  They are to love as what porn is to sex.  Sometimes, a film comes a long that shows love and the hardships of a relationship in a very realistic light (usually this comes in the form of an indie film) and that’s one of the things The Big Sick does better than a majority of the other films in this genre.  The entire film feels like you are watching a real couple, a real family, and, most of all, real people dealing with the hardships and the ups and downs of love and what it can do to two people when one is lying and one is dying.  (Yes, that rhyme was intentional and I will gladly sell it so it ends up on the Blu-Ray packaging.)

                                                                                           Amazon Studios/Lionsgate
Also put on the packaging, "I liked his sweater."

                                                                Amazon Studios/Lionsgate
This film is so sweet that I gushed just watching them
grocery shop together.
What made this film so captivating is how real everything about it felt.  Granted, this film is essentially an adaptation of the real life events that Nanjiani and Gordon went through but what transpired across the screen never felt emphasized or enhanced, it just felt genuine.  Add in realistic dialogue, natural chemistry between the entire cast and down-to-earth acting and it made for a feature that felt warm and inviting as well as charming, dramatic, emotional, and fun.  I will admit there were some times that had trouble nailing the grounded feel of it, however.  For example, as much as I love Nanjiani, there were times were he couldn’t quite narrow down the performance during some minor dramatic scenes (but these moments were very rare) and there were times that the interactions between the comedians felt too “Judd Apatow-ish.”  They didn’t feel like real comedians cracking wise at each other but, instead, were just doing the never ending insult gags that is basically 50% of all Apatow’s films (which kinda makes sense since he had a hand in this).  Ultimately, however, these drawbacks were incredibly minor and didn’t really destroy the entertainment value or take me out of the flow of the story or heart of it.

                                                                                           Amazon Studios/Lionsgate
There were a lot of very amusing moments with Anupam Kher and
Zenobia Shroff as Kumail's parents.  This film presents parents quite
excellently.

There really are no drawbacks to The Big Sick.  The cast is fantastic and really creates charming and interesting characters, the story is fantastic as it develops these two main characters and we watch as conflict exists between their personalities and cultures, and the film is capable of being both heart-warmingly dramatic, and emotional and charmingly funny.  Never does the plot slow down or drag as we watch Kumail and Emily’s parents deal with the situation they find themselves in and everything builds at such a great pace.  Then, when the final moments of the film arrive, you are treated to an absolutely beautiful and genuinely sweet ending that would make the most mainstream romantic comedies kick a nearby stone at their feet out of jealousy.  Nanjiani and Gordon adapted their story so well and director Michael Showalter presented it absolutely perfectly.  Overall, this movie is as close to perfection as a romcom can get.