Cemetery of Splendor

I won’t try to overstep my grasp of this film. I figure readers like to read something by a guy who knows what he is talking about and at the very least comprehends what is happening. I can’t say I do 100% in this film. BUT, I will take this review opportunity to tell you exactly how I took this film and the hedonic components as they revealed themselves to me. I call this sort of film impressionistic hedonism and let me tell you, it’s not for everyone. Note this partial genre: fantasy. Available From $2.99 (SD) on Prime Video.

Cemetery of Splendor (2015)
Rak ti Khon Kaen (original title)
Unrated | 2h 2min | Drama, Fantasy | 2 September 2015 (France)

From $2.99 (SD) on Prime Video
A group of soldiers in a small town on the Mekong River in northern Thailand are struck with a bizarre sleeping illness.
Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Writer: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Stars: Jenjira Pongpas, Banlop Lomnoi, Jarinpattra Rueangram

I love Thai food. I also love Buddhist temples. There’s one close to us here in Southern California that I have gone to many times “when I was confused” (quote from the film and also my life). What was I confused about you might ask? As in the film, the answer would be “love.”

In the last 1/4 of the film there is this contraption that propels water and yet doesn’t move. Actually it’s impossible to tell if it is propelling or being propelled. It make the sound of a free shooting sprinkler and it’s magnificent. There were many times in this film I got that relaxed feeling you get after a good meditation or even a massage. Thailand appears to be so beautiful. There are numerous scenes that appear chosen in color and framing as if to hang in a temple. The only thing missing is a padded stool and lovely incense. Is there a story here? Oh yes but it’s a lot like the hedonic imagery, you better not make a judgment, better to just relax and accept that everyone around us is dead. Not sad, dead.

Shall we pretend that we’re dead? Like the water propellers, there are a dozen or more deeply fascinating and ethereal objects & images. I collect these types of images in my mind. If you don’t, you won’t get it.

There are a few women, one in particular, who take care of men in a comatose state. We find out why they will never wake up at some point. Then we learn more about the living women and what their life is all about. Or is it life? This film was great for breathing exercises and armchair traveling in my lazy boy. For those who would like that and “get that” I recommend to you 8/10.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

“The devil comes from the sky.” -Lex Luthor

Apart from misleading marketing, even down to the very title of the film, “Batman v Superman” is an amazing film that audiences are sure to continue enjoying. The critics at large have dismissed its genius but time will take care of that.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Cast
Ben Affleck

as Batman

Henry Cavill

as Superman

Amy Adams

as Lois

Directed by
Zach Snyder
Written by
Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer
Other Info

Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Rated PG-13
151 min

I’ve gone around and around with it in my head and decided I just can’t take points from a movie because it was named and marketed poorly. Honestly though, that’s the only thing wrong with this film. It shines. My nearly eighteen year old son said it dragged at the beginning and was laboriously long but we both agree the mid to end portion is spectacular I thought the whole movie was stellar.

Without giving any spoilers, let me just say the title should have been something like: “Superman 2: Luthor rises.” This is really a Superman film with the usual nemesis Lex Luthor who uses rhetoric to persuade Batman to kill Superman. Does he succeed? Yes and no. You’ll have to see the film. There is some other stuff in the plot I’d love to talk about. It’s a grand scale monster we hear nothing about in the trailers. In my opinion, the monster and Lex are really what this movie is all about.

Ben Affleck plays a great Batman, which many of us felt he would. There is also the debut of the DC character Wonder Woman in the latter part of the film. This was briefly explained. In fact, the intro to her coming on screen was so miniscule, I have to go back and watch it again to get where she came from etc. It was a long and involved film so please forgive me. I didn’t bring my notepad, a mistake that will not happen again.

Another thing that maybe could have taken a star from my 5 star rating of this behemoth, beautiful film is the insertion of histories, mostly on Batman. Now we all know Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed in front of him as a child. Scenes like this and others are plentiful in the early part of the film. I would have rather they not be, they aren’t relevant. Still, this film picks up and gets you on a ride that all you’re thinking is “I can’t wait to tell my friends about this.” Don’t believe the critics on this one. I found it much preferable to the critical darling “Deadpool.” I highly recommend it.

Candyman (1992)

Here we have a cult favorite with underpinnings of a low budget cheap thrill horror movie. Centered around an urban legend where if you say “Candyman” 5 times in the mirror, the characters are killed one by one. Not too cerebral but with a lot of jump scares.

Candyman

Candyman

“The Candyman, a murderous soul with a hook for a hand, is accidentally summoned to reality by a skeptic grad student researching the monster’s myth.” -IMDB

Cast

Virginia Madsen Helen Lyle
Xander Berkeley Trevor Lyle
Tony Todd The Candyman/Daniel Robitaille
Kasi Lemmons Bernadette ‘Bernie’ Walsh

Directed by

Bernard Rose

Written by

Clive Barker, Bernard Rose

Other Info

Fantasy, Horror, Thriller
R
Fri 16 Oct 1992 UTC
99min
IMDB Rating: 6.6

Kids freak out over urban legends. The idea that a chant in a mirror can summon a killer or a demon or even a product of ones imagination scares the crap out of them, Some people say we are all kids inside no matter our ages. Perhaps that is why this film has become such a cult classic.

Where I get off the bus is when Virginia Madsen’s character start researching this killer as a supernatural entity. Throughout the 90’s we had slasher films that centered on legend, I Know What You Did Last Summer comes to mind. Perhaps this film tried a bit to hard to weave a scientific basis into it. I think we’ve learned as viewers that the legend need not be explained. Of course, there is always the twist that works well.

Final Thought:
Candyman is a gore-filled jump fest that may appeal to pajama party teens. For those of us seeking to see the elements of horror, it grows tiresome wading through the cheap thrills to get to the real stuff that scares us. It’s all there though, I can’t deny that. Don’t expect a dark sense of foreboding but then again not much n the 1990’s produced that good stuff.

3/5
3 Stars

Nine Lives

Nine Lives is a Disney-like film that reminded me a bit of Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Since I review movies quite a bit, I pay attention to the critics. Since they were not kind to this film, I let it leave theaters. My 9-year-old daughter asked me to watch it with her tonight and I was amazed at how funny and well-made it was. This is another reminder to not trust the critics.

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The cat they got to play in this film is great. He’s very fluffy which makes you want to hug him. Unfortunately, I could never have a cat that hairy because it sheds and makes my nose itch. But this cat does great on the screen. I had feared there wouldn’t be enough cat stuff for my daughter after reading the premise of the film. I’m happy to say there is enough cat-on-screen time to satisfy the kids’ curiosity.

Christopher Walken is great in this, though he plays nearly the same role as he plays in Adam Sandler’s Click. There are a couple of scenes where he says things that are downright spooky. They aren’t spooky like a horror movie but rather like Goosebumps spooky. Jennifer Gardner is beautiful and does a great job as the wife and mom. Kevin Spacey is hilarious as a “Trump-like” business mogul who doesn’t spend enough time with his family.

After demonstrating to the audience he is an egomaniacal workaholic, Kevin Spacey’s character stops by a creepy cat store in a last-ditch effort to buy his daughter a cat for her birthday. The shop owner, Walken, puts a mystical spell on Spacey that later switches him into the cat’s body and vice versa. Through a course of events, the family and Spacey learn about themselves and it’s a hilarious ride as they go.

This is not a perfect film by any means. The jokes are all canned and it needs cat jokes and cat images often to keep it palatable. My 9-year-old laughed all the way through so that says a lot for its appeal to young kids. I thought it was cute and it gave me a chance to laugh with my daughter and enjoy some funny cat scenes. They indeed are the best part of the film. I recommend this one for parents to see with their 5-12 year olds as a light bonding movie where everyone can relax and have a laugh. I think the critics were way too hard on this one.

The Wailing

A small village is the setting for this terrifying horror movie from South Korea.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2 are borderline spoof films based on the Karate, Kung Fu, and Samurai films of the 50’s, 60’s. and 70’s. If you’ve seen these two films, you ay enjoy listening along as I give my reactions. If you haven’t seen them, I don’t reveal too man spoilers but I encourage my listeners to see the films I cover and then tune in after to compare notes with me.

In my next episode (68), I am watching and commenting on the film “American Splendor” with Paul Giamatti. I hope you can watch this along with me before the next show and tune in to compare notes. It has an 81/100 score on Metacritic. Enjoy your day.

At well over two hours, it plays with its viewers and weaves clues to a mystery revealed brilliantly in the final scenes.

Not Rated | 2h 36min | Fantasy, Horror, Mystery | 3 June 2016 (USA)
A stranger arrives in a little village and soon after a mysterious sickness starts spreading. A policeman is drawn into the incident and is forced to solve the mystery in order to save his daughter.
Director: Hong-jin Na
Writer: Hong-jin Na
Stars: Jun Kunimura, Jung-min Hwang, Do-won Kwak

Another Korean film from the same year, Train to Busan, offered us a father/daughter relationship that touched our hearts. Both are slightly different in their journeys and plot but it is a powerful force of fatherly love that bonds these men together with their little sweethearts. The evil force that threatens the policeman’s daughter here is shifty and hard to understand. It takes the father on a quest of love that promises to harm his physical body and perhaps his soul. Will his daughter be saved? That’s the question that keeps coming up.

The policeman is the star of this film. There are a few scenes with his that are definitely Oscar worthy. In a horror film you sometimes need a voice of reason to identify with. But what about when that voice you’re following starts losing touch with reality? That can be a scary thing.

Then, there is this evil force. Who is it? A ghost as the shaman says? This film is not just horror but also a mystery to be guessed at which, if you like mysteries as I do, makes it a lot of fun. This mysterious, sleepy horror mystery tale should not be spoiled. If you have not seen it and these themes interest you, I encourage you to watch it. If you have seen it, I think you’ll agree it is one of the more powerful horrors of its year (2016). I hope to connect further through a podcast outlining my thoughts on this film. Stay tuned.

10/10

X-Men: Apocalypse

A handful of elements are here that I could mention to promote this film. It works well on so many levels. The only question I really had while watching was: “Is it too long?” After the energetic applause at the end in the sleepy town theater I watch movies in, I’d say they got this length just right.

x-men-apocalypse

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Cast

James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence

Directed by

Bryan Singer

Written by

Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg

Other Info

Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Rated PG-13
144 min

First, the Spolier Free Zone!
James McAvoy as Professor X (Charles Xavier) and Michael Fassenbender as Magneto are back in what is sure to be one of the most highly expensive and possibly the greatest earning film of the X-Men franchise yet. Of course, that’s an opinion which is fitting in an op/ed review by a largely unpaid blogger. It is however, my strong feeling.

These movies have so much going on. For the “X-Laymen” like myself, it can be difficult to follow all the little innuendos and stories going on simultaneously. I put that there as a disclaimer to assuage the more rabid fans of X-Men. I do my best here.

The story is about an early campus that looks more like a house where the X-Men mutants are in a school run by Charles Xavier. Now, speeding through time way back to the Egyptian pyramid times, we have the opening shot. Sabah Nur is a worshipped king (of sorts) who, through the help of a mutant, is able to become immortal.

He’s evil, never a question about it. Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year) plays this role in a quite hate-able manner which fits in well with other roles he’s played. To make a short summary stop here, he awakens in the time aforementioned and tries to take down the whole world with the help of the X-Men. Yep, that’s the bare bones of it. I could say so many good things about this movie. I loved the characters in this I haven’t seen before (or at least not much). Olivia Munn is one of Apocalypse’s “henchman.” She does a fantastic job and I really hope she turns good so we can see her in new movies. For effects and multiple characters doing exciting things onscreen, I highly recommend this film. It is a tad long at 2hr 24min so bring caffeine. Having said that, what a ride! I can’t wait to see it again.

Next, Spoilers may follow!
My word to the wise: Charles Xavier’s love affair with Moira McTaggert is hovered and hovered over until finally they delve into it fully. Because I am a romantic at heart, I loved this story. Some will find it overly sentimental. The evil folks make evil look really good in this film. They do a lot of destruction. There is a scene when a bomb hits the X-Men school that is a work to make Lucasfilm jealous.

The history of Magneto AKA Erik Lehnsheerr (Michael Fassenbender) is quite elaborately explained. I did wonder, because it was rather long) why they didn’t have an “Origins” film on him the way they did on Wolverine. Perhaps they don’t want us to get too close to him. Nightcrawler (Kodi Scott McPhee) is absolutely hilarious. He strikes me as a secondary character in a movie but I almost could see him having his own movie. He’s a lot funnier than Captain America ever was. So there you go!

Things to Ponder:
Does a franchise as successful as this merit ticket-buyers or does it have to earn people’s money again, every installment?

Why are we shown that “good” is better in this film. The evil mutants seem to be having a LOT of fun? How could they have shown that good is a better choice in this film?

Who is more fun to watch in film: Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) or Professor X (Patrick Stewart)

Feel free to leave a reaction to one or more of these questions, or about the film.

Seventh Son

“Seventh Son” is a masterpiece replete with witches, dragons, shape shifters, “spooks,” creatures, and other engaging remnants from medieval mythology.

Seventh_Son_Poster

Seventh Son (2014)
Cast

Jeff Bridges as Master Gregory
Ben Barnes as Tom Ward
Julianne Moore as Mother Malkin

Directed by

Sergei Bodrov

Written by

Charles Leavitt, Steven Knight

Other Info

Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Rated PG-13
1h 24min

Can witches save the day? I suppose in “Seventh Son” they can try. Our age-old fascination with witches is shown on the big screen here. There is a new concept I hadn’t heard of called the “spook” profession. These are basically witch hunters. They are endowed and recruited through generations to destroy bad witches. Jeff Bridges is a powerful one. Ironically we find he once had a romance with a witch but he is evermore hateful of witches and his occupation is to burn them so they don’t cause cataclysmic trouble.

And so we have the backdrop for this epic tale. It’s more sorcery than good and evil. We learn that sometimes good witches watch over the land as other times, evil humans do more hard than any evil witch could ever do. This story line requires your full attention so if you’re a “multitasker” as you watch films, you’ll need to set your phone down and take in the foundation of the story which are very interesting indeed.

Like so many movies these days, it is based on a book. I can’t imagine a book being as visually stunning as this film is. I felt like I was on a swashbuckling roller coaster most the time. The effects didn’t come cheap, the film cost almost 100 million dollars to make. The good news for them is that it did well at the box office earning well above and beyond its costs. I gave this quasi-medieval action, adventure, fantasy a perfect 5 stars. I recommend it!

The Love Bug

There are formulas that work in movies. Walt Disney was always looking for the next hit. “The Love Bug” is a family film that carries its own weight off the race track!
Title: The Love Bug
Number of times I’ve seen it: Probably a dozen
Genre: Comedy, Family, Fantasy
MPAA Rating: G
Year: 1969
Director: George A. Romero
Top Billed Cast: Dean Jones, Michele Lee, David Tomlinson
Brief Synopsis: A washed up race car driver returns with the help of a supernatural VW.

I remember the warm feeling I had seeing this in the theater around 1977. It is a 1969 release that played over and over for years in theaters, always selling plentiful tickets. Who can resist when Herbie honks his horn and saves the scene. The actors are top notch as well. It’s no wonder there were so many sequels. “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo” is another one I enjoyed in my youth. The cliche “They don’t make them like they used to” comes to mind. I had fun watching this most recently at age 46: the same age of the movie!

Krampus

“You better watch out.”

A lot of kids beg their parents to watch horror. You can’t protect your kids from everything. I’d say let your guard down with this one. It received a pg-13 rating but I think kids 10 and up (who are over the Santa Claus thing, otherwise there may be all sorts of confusion) will have a rock and rolling time.

Krampus (2015)
Cast
Adam Scott

as Tony Engel

Toni Collette

as Sarah Engel

David Koechner

as Howard

Directed by
Michael Dougherty
Written by
Todd Casey, Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields
Other Info

Comedy, Fantasy, Horror
Rated PG-13
1h 38min

There are some really scary scenes but if you talk about it with your kids, they should get a kick out of it. “Krampus” is also a film for grownups. Fans of straight up horror may be put off by the juxtaposition of comedy, but for those wanting something sarcastic and quite different in horror, this is a good one to see.

Rotten Tomatoes didn’t like this film much. What that means s, a compendium of critics’ ratings averaged out below 67%. That almost kept me away from this film. I’m glad I persisted and saw it, despite the critics. It was a lot of fun!

I wouldn’t call this film horror. It could better be described as a Christmas comedy like “Home Alone” with horror conventions. If that sounds good to you, you have to go see this film. It starts out with all the trappings of a John Hughes film and then busts out with amoral killing, blood, guts, and even a doll that resemble sthe one from “Saw.”

The Krampus christmas devil is not new. From what I can gather, the mythology has been around for centuries. Apparently the Christmas devil will come visit you if you renounce Christmas and good will toward men. I think it’s hilarious how they took this story and made it into an instant Christmas classic. I’m a teacher of 28 ten year olds and I asked for a show of hands yesterday of how many kids had seen “Krampus.” The tally was: 28/28. Sometime old fogies on Rotten Tomatoes measure a film by tradition values and trends. One shouldn’t do that with Krampus. It will be on my Christmas viewing list for sure along with “A Christmas Story,” “Nacho Libre,” “A Miracle of 34th Street,” and “A Christmas Carol.”

As an aside, I’ll be pulling back from using Rotten Tomatoes as a first line impression of movies I am curious about. I think what’s happening is a lot of movies are not me seen by yours truly due to a low score with the critics. Sure, you take a chance not reading a rating for a movie but at the same time, that rating can act as a sort of brainwashing, a muddying of the waters that are your views about the movies. I’ve loved RT for years and I still do in a way but my usage is now going to be far less. Now, go rent Krampus and have some scary laughs >:) I gave it 5/5 stars because it is exactly what it advertises to be and I love movies that are true to themselves that way.

A Cure for Wellness (2016)

I’ve shared before how much I am drawn in to asylum films. There is just something patently creepy about them. I think we all wonder what’s going on with the patients in strait-jackets and more importantly, do they know something we don’t? This film deals in those questions and fears.

A Cure for Wellness (2016)
R | 2h 26min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror | 17 February 2017 (USA)

An ambitious young executive is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from an idyllic but mysterious “wellness center” at a remote location in the Swiss Alps, but soon suspects that the spa’s treatments are not what they seem.
Director: Gore Verbinski
Writers: Justin Haythe (screenplay), Justin Haythe (story by) | 1 more credit »
Stars: Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth

If there was a place where all the great people of the world went when they reached their mental end, it would be in this film. Einstein, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and the like would all be living out their long final chapters in this asylum. But it isn’t a bad deal really. There are baths, exercising, healthy food deliveries, and serpents. Well okay, I know the serpents are non-sequitirs. I will say there is some excellent acting in this film and the writing up until the last act is pretty good too. I have some issues with the end that make me question how much I should recommend it to you. Because the majority of it is so great. I will go with 7/10 and leave it at that. The way it was all wrapped up sort of weakened it’s ability to captivate me.

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