Monday, September 30, 2019

The Bay

***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! Sitting on the dock of the bay, watching the horror come out an play.

 


The Bay – 3 out of 5

The “found footage” subgenre of horror films has always been a bit hit-or-miss for me—with more misses than hits.  The whole foundation of the subgenre has been less than stable with most of the films and when they feel lazily thrown together they are easy for me to tune out of and start to question why the hell the characters are filming the whole thing when it no longer makes any logical sense.  When the story is strong it is easy to ignore and not pay attention to the subgenre’s inherent short comings but so few accomplish this.  The Bay came out in 2012 and I kinda ignored it due to, most likely, fatigue from the shaky POV style story telling.  However, the film was directed by a man who has never done a horror film before so that naturally makes it kinda interesting.  Recently, I decided to give it a shot and, for the film being made by the same guy who gave us Rain Man and Good Morning, Vietnam it’s not a bad feature…but it’s still not a great horror film or an amazing achievement for “found footage” features.

Now, if I was in her place, I wouldn't stop screaming due to the growths on
my skin.

"Alright gang, let's try the 'sitting still so they think
the video chat is frozen' method of getting out of helping
this town."
In a small Chesapeake Bay town, a sudden and very deadly sickness hits the residents.  Two researchers found evidence of a possible toxic outbreak but the mayor ignored the warnings for fear it would cause a mass panic but now nearly the entire population of the town is sick with mysterious boils and rashes all over their bodies.  A young local news reporter and her cameraman are attempting to document what is occurring while the ER’s doctor attempts to figure out what is going on and tries to get the CDC involved.  However, they soon learn that it isn’t a virus striking the town but rather a mutated parasite that is eating its victims from the inside out…

"Ewwww gross!  Set the fish, the boat and myself on fire to kill this thing!"

She's incredibly calm for one who is being approached
by a dozen doctors in that gear.
The Bay suffers a lot of the usual problems that all “found footage” films suffer from.  Essentially, the story is unfolded through several characters and, sadly, most of them make no sense to why they are filming their trials and tribulations so much.  In the cases of the researchers and the young journalist, their documentations and their reasons for filming everything were something you don’t think twice about but when it concerns, for example, a young family taking a boat to meet loved ones in the town there were a lot of times where I found myself wondering why the hell are they filming this.  Especially when they arrive and everything seems out of place.  This caused the film to have a reality that simultaneously felt authentic but inauthentic as well.  It sorta jumped back and forth from a great suspension of disbelief to complete and utter disbelief.

Well, that contest was obviously rigged.  She's clearly a human and not a
crustacean.

The cast in the film are pretty decent and all are capable of legitimizing the “reality” the story is trying to create.  They all feel like real people in the real world but the strongest aspect this film has working for it is the buildup and establishment of its center conflict.  Watching the town get sick and seeing the people trying to figure out what is happening is very suspenseful and, at times, very unsettling and frightening.  Most importantly, however, it is extremely engaging and sucked me in immediately.  Sadly, this level of griping entertainment isn’t held for the entire running length and after the whole ordeal is understood and as the film reaches its final act, the story starts to reach its limits and the whole thing becomes repetitive—there are multiple scenes in a matter of just a few minutes where a character sees a body, says, “What the hell?” and then is scared that they just found a dead person.  

"The Human Torch was denied a bank loan."

The Bay starts strong and has a great cast.  The story might have some of the usual “found footage” shortcomings but it’s definitely unnerving and suspenseful and does a tremendous job at setting up the terror.  It sadly unravels and loses steam towards the end but considering this was made by a director who has never done horror it’s not a bad jumping off point.  I respect when creators challenge themselves to something new and while director Barry Levinson may not have made something that will be forever remembered in the world of horror, he showed off something pretty damn good and something that never felt like a lazy excuse to use the “found footage” subgenre.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Brightburn

***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 won't lie, if I had Superman's powers I might end up being pretty bad--actually, I'd mostly just want the power to fly so I don't have to drive ever again.



Brightburn – 4 out of 5

I’m an obsessive superhero guy.  You can tell by my glowing reviews of the MCU films and if you’ve seen my house you would see comic books in every room and various Marvel and DC paraphernalia everywhere.  In the world of comics, superheroes entering genres they aren’t specifically known for isn’t unusual but in the world of cinema it is.  I will grant that the superhero story has skirted the edges of the horror genre in the past but Brightburn promised a true comic book style feature that is all about the scary stuff.  And it was very successful at it…

Usually heroes wear masks to protect their identity and protect their loved ones.
This bad guy is wearing a mask to secure his identity so he can continue
to eff things up.

In the small town of Brightburn, Kyle (David Denman) and Tori Breyer (Elizabeth Banks) discover a crashed spaceship containing a baby boy.  The two hide the spaceship in their barn and take the boy in to raise as their own and decide to keep his origin into their lives secret.  Years pass and the boy, named Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn), starts to discover that he’s more than human and begins to hear cryptic voices in his head.  As he learns more of his powers and the voices get louder, Brandon starts to become scary and violent and his father Kyle becomes increasingly worried.  However, nothing can prepare them or the world as Brendan soon learns his past and comes to understand that he was sent to take the planet and there isn’t a single person that can stand in his way.

"We're a happy family.  What could possibly go wrong with adopting an
alien child that crash landed here on a spaceship?"

Essentially, Brightburn is Superman’s origin story but ponders the question of “What if he went bad?”  It’s a simple and obvious question but one primed for a great story because Superman is, when you think about it from a realistic point-of-view, a frightening figure.  He’s incredibly fast, insanely strong, can shoot laser beams from his eyes (that also can see through walls) and can freeze you with his breath.  Add in his inhuman senses and this being can find you in a matter of seconds from anywhere in the world and end your life in less time.  It’s only for the sake of the character’s upbringing that he became this beacon of what it means to be a good person and the undeniable hero.  Taking that formula and tweaking it so it is essentially doing the opposite is what makes Brightburn interesting and extremely unsettling.  Granted, Brandon still has great adopted parents and is basically a walking evil sleeper agent awaiting to be activated so having abusive parents to complete subvert Supes' origin might have been a touch too dark--which is saying something because this movie gets super dark!

Sticking my hand into a running lawn mower blade probably wouldn't be myfirst decision when checking the potential of being invulnerable.

The end credits has a fun cameo from Michael Rooker.
If you don't love Michael Rooker, what horrible thing
happened to you that keeps you from loving
awesome things?
Brightburn has a cool concept behind it but it won’t make for a good horror film if it doesn’t have atmosphere and chills to it.  While this feature isn’t something that is outright terrifying it still succeeds in being incredibly creepy.  The unpredictable nature of Brandon as he was raised to believe he was human but is starting to learn he is alien and starting to discover his abilities gets super tense and there are plenty of scenes that are very unsettling.  These little moments are very satisfying from a scary perspective but this film does the violent terror and gore moments incredibly well.  The violent acts Brandon commits are scary all by themselves and when they are combine with intense gore that comes from him harming squishy and delicate humans it makes for a horror film that can make your skin crawl.  I won’t lie, there was a scene that involved trauma to an eye that made me do the whole “I don’t want to watch but I can’t turn away” thing…and I literally yelled out in sympathy pain.

I won't show you the eye trauma.  Instead, enjoy a creepy screenshot of Brandon.

Right now she's thinking about why she couldn't
have had found a baby alien from the movie Signs.
If they go bad you just gotta use a watergun to
stop them.
One element that really makes this film effective is the performance of Jackson A. Dunn.  He is so great at not only developing the character from an innocent child to a murderous super-powered alien but he’s amazingly convincing as an individual who is complete uncertain and even a little terrified of what is happening to him.  Then add in how scary he can be and it really made for a terrific performance.  The rest of the cast are all doing a fantastic job of being a part of the horror.  Whether it is those who are sure Brandon is a threat or, in the case of Elizabeth Banks, believes there is still good in him, they all do their parts excellently and help make Brandon’s story very rich but also feel like it belongs both in the world of horror and superheroes.

The moment you realize that you could have avoided this dangerous situation
if you only treated Pam better.

Brightburn definitely has the scare factor, the wow factor and the entertainment factor.  It takes a great concept and really makes it work and made you feel unsettled, scared and grossed out.  The performances in it are fantastic and it has an ending that does a great job of playing off of expectations.  Overall, I really dug this film!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Rocketman

***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! And all these reviews, I don't understand.  It's just my job 5 days a week.



Rocketman – 5 out of 5

I’m a big, big fan of Elton John.  I listen to his music all the time (my favorite song, hands down, is “All the Young Girls Love Alice”) and I think he is one of the greatest performers to ever exist in the history of the world.  There will never be another like him so when I heard he was getting the biopic treatment I was very excited.  I wanted to see Rocketman in the theater but never found the time but the second it hit the home media market I was all over it…and absolutely loved it!

Taron Egerton is effin' amazing!

As a young man, Reginald Dwight grew up in a household with an emotionally distant mother, and a father who doesn’t care for him and eventually abandons the family.  Reginald starts taking music lessons and as he grows he learns he has a gift for music and eventually changes his name to Elton John (Taron Egerton) in order to make it as a rock star.  He teams with song writer Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and the two start creating timeless classics.  Eventually he comes in contact with a manager named John Reid (Richard Madden) and Elton sees fame grow.  However, with this success comes a lifestyle of drugs and alcohol, only to have it all mixed with depression and the reality that he is a gay man in a time where his sexual preference is looked down upon.

There will never be another Elton John and there will never be another biopic
as amazing as this one!

I think Rocketman might be the best biopic I’ve ever seen in my life.  While that is partially because I’m such a fan of Elton’s music and his larger than life persona, it is also due to how the entire story is constructed.  Essentially, the film begins with Elton leaving a performance to tell his story to a substance abuse support group and that’s a fine way to tell the tale but what is really amazing about the whole thing is the film is one part biopic and one part musical.  Elton’s hits are incorporated with his journey and there are entire sequences that feel like a Broadway music.  Add in the fact that Egerton is just killing it singing Elton’s songs and the whole product just sucked me in and I was belting out the songs along with them while I was alone in my place watching the film.

"What the hell?  I thought we were all dressing up?"

At face value, this method of including his music is just flippin’ fun but it also has an emotional resonance with the story as the tracks are perfectly utilize to provide emphasis on what is occurring at the time in Elton’s life.   Elton and John Reid are singing “Honky Cat” as Elton fully embraces the lavish lifestyle his fame can bring, “Pinball Wizard” is the bed used to showcase the whirlwind his life has become, Bernie and Elton duet on “Goodbye Yellowbrick Road” when Elton’s destructive lifestyle comes in conflict with their working life and, probably the most emotional part, “Rocketman” is the song he sings when he nearly dies as he attempts suicide.  I said I sang along to all the songs but at this point I was singing and crying at the same time.  This performance aspect not only helps propel Elton’s story but it enhances the drama, heart and emotion.

It's difficult to make things haunting, beautiful and heartbreaking at the same
time but this moment did it.  This sequence to "Rocketman" is enough
to make the film a 5 out of 5 all by itself.

You can’t have a biopic about Elton John and not deliver something that matches his colorful and glamorous persona.  Rocketman doesn’t fail at this and is an absolutely gorgeous film to watch.  The sets, costumes, and visuals all scream Elton John.  The unique compositions of sequences to create the musical numbers are just amazing to behold but one thing I really dug was how they were able to show how his whole career was just a riotous blur from a visual standpoint.  Using montage sequences or him walking from set to set or the world changing around him as Elton sat still help illustrate in a tremendous way how wild and fast pace his whole ordeal was and also helped illuminate the darker sides of his stardom.

It's not all this lavish and exquisite.

Finally, the cast in this film is just outstanding.  Bryce Dallas Howard and Steven Mackintosh were terrific as Elton’s parents.  Richard Madden really did a great job of being a toxic lover to Elton and a manipulative manager.  Jamie Bell had great chemistry with Egerton and really made the writer/performer partnership of Elton and Bernie feel authentic and, most importantly, Taron Egerton was out-of-this-world as Elton John.  He felt so much like the superstar that it became so easy to get sucked into his performance and believe the reality that he was Elton.  The reality alone of an actor trying to somehow fit into the enormous platform shoes of this one-of-a-kind man feels overwhelming and almost impossible but Egerton did it and did it astoundingly.

And they sure as hell made him look like Elton, too.

Rocketman is an amazing experience and probably the best biopic I’ve ever seen.  The cast is tremendous and the story is terrifically creative and doesn’t shy away from exploring the darker corners and hardships of this stellar performer’s life.  It’s visually stunning and the use of Elton’s songs is fantastic and performed perfectly.  From my perspective, it is a flawless feature that had no downsides that I found.