Friday, August 25, 2017

Worth Mentioning - A New Terror Is Breeding

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Edgar Wright moves on, Wesley Snipes fights aliens, Martin Starr plays against type, and werewolves continue to howl.


After being attached to write and direct Marvel's Ant-Man for several years, Edgar Wright dropped out of the project over creative differences right before the film finally went into production. While Wright still received a writing credit on the finished film (which ended up being directed by Peyton Reed) and he was responsible for some of the casting, like Paul Rudd as Ant-Man himself, the Ant-Man we got still wasn't quite the Ant-Man Wright would have given us. The director has said he hasn't seen the movie and doesn't intend to, it would be too tough to watch it after being so close to it, but I think it turned out for everyone just fine in the end. Ant-Man was an entertaining entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Wright was able to move on from it to an original project. Baby Driver.

When you first hear the title Baby Driver, you probably imagine a toddler taking the wheel of a car, but that's not what the movie is. The title comes from a Simon & Garfunkel song that was about a fellow, born "with music coming in my ears", who hits the road. Ansel Elgort stars as a young man called Baby, who keeps music pumping into his ears through his iPod collection because he has been stricken with tinnitus ever since the car accident that killed his parents when he was a child.

Music keeps Baby dancing and mouthing along with songs for a good portion of his day, which takes some getting used to because Elgort looks like one of cinema's greatest dorks during these moments. I saw Baby Driver in a drive-in and I could still hear the driver in the car next to me expressing his uncertainty about this "weird" movie because "the guy keeps singing and dancing every few minutes".

Baby turned to a life of juvenile crime after becoming an orphan, which got him wrapped up in the business of criminal kingpin Doc (Kevin Spacey), who forced him to serve as a getaway driver after the kid stole his car. When we catch up with Baby and Doc, they're living out the old cliché: Baby has one last job to do, then he'll be free of the criminal lifestyle. He feels so good about this that he even allows himself to start to fall in love with local waitress Debora (Lily James).

Of course, nothing about Baby's final days in crime goes as smoothly as he would have liked. Not at all.

For the most part, Baby Driver is just a remix of things you've seen before - in fact, at times it feels a lot like Wright's attempt to emulate his pal Quentin Tarantino, from the crime situation to the soundtrack, but it's how that soundtrack plays its role in the film that makes the film stand apart from others of its sub-genre. Packed with more than two dozen songs, it's basically a needle drop musical that just happens to involve thieves, violence, and some very cool car chases.

I like most of Wright's movies, to one degree or another, but I'm not as enamored with his overall career as many are, and I wasn't as blown away by Baby Driver as many were. That said, I respect Wright's work and he directs the hell out of his films - and Baby Driver is no different. It's a very visually impressive film, extremely well shot, with action, laughs, good music, and characters you enjoy spending time with. Elgort and James are very likeable as the love interest leads, Spacey is reliably solid in his role, and there are great supporting turns from CJ Jones, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Eiza González, Flea, Lanny Joon, and Jon Bernthal - who exits the film with the perfect line. Plus Paul Williams shows up along the way, and it's always awesome to see him.


Director Mauro Borrelli's sci-fi thriller The Recall has four credited writers, but it starts out in a way we've all seen countless times before. Aside from a prologue featuring astronauts in space, the opening twenty minutes or so of this film consist of the typical "cabin in the woods" horror movie set-up. A group of college-age kids hit the road for an outdoorsy vacation, there's the horny couple and the couple who are just starting to get to know each other, and when they reach their destination there's the weird-ass local. The only positive thing about any of this is the fact that said local is played by Wesley Snipes, chewing the scenery as an antagonistic hunter.

While the characters get up to the usual business of having sex and snooping around strange locations they don't belong in, we start to get hints that there's something a little more interesting going on around them. That scene with the astronauts tipped it off; this isn't a slasher or a demonic possession story, it's going to become an alien invasion story. Mysterious cloud formations appear around the world, massive space ships emerge, alien creatures are dropped down to the surface, we cut away to government officials trying to figure out how to deal with the problem, the presence of the aliens starts to have an effect on the minds of some of the characters... And there's this unshakable feeling that The Recall is going to fumble the pay-off to this suddenly intriguing build-up.

There is an effectively creepy moment when one of the cabin kids sees an alien for the first time. He steps in some kind of slime, goes to take a closer look at what he stepped in, and spots an alien lurking beneath the floorboards. That is truly the moment when the movie reaches its peak. Nothing that follows is as good as that moment, not even when characters are taken on board an alien ship for a sequence that's like Fire in the Sky crossed with The Matrix.

Unfortunately, the comparison to The Matrix has nothing to do with that film's action sequences. If you loved watching Wesley Snipes fight vampires in the Blade films back in the day, I regret to inform you that The Recall does not deliver on the potential of having him fight aliens in a similar fashion. Although the hunter is well aware of the alien threat and is prepared to take them on, setting up booby-traps and toting a shotgun, this film doesn't have much to offer in the way of Snipes vs. alien action, or action in general.

Even though he doesn't beat the hell out of any aliens like I would like him to, Snipes is still the highlight of the film, elevating every scene he's in with his presence and attitude while dropping lines that I have to assume were improv, like "Keep yappin', see what happen" and asking an injured kid he has no sympathy for where the cheese is to go with his whine.

The other cast members do what they can with what they're given. Jedidiah Goodacre, Laura Bilgeri, RJ Mitte, Hannah Rose May, and Niko Pepaj all brought the vacationing characters to life in the best way possible, the writing just doesn't hold up. When things should be really kicking into gear, the filmmakers start making odd, frustrating choices. For example, having the girl who seems to be developing a connection to the aliens get killed off first, and having Goodacre's character decide to reveal the tragic back story he's been keeping secret at a point in the film when something more exciting should be happening. There are aliens stalking the woods and yet it's not thrilling or suspenseful, the characters are just stumbling around and having conversations.

There are some interesting ideas at the core The Recall, ideas involving aliens and human evolution, and these come into play heavily in the film's final scenes. That ends the film on a more positive note, but doesn't make up for the fact that the movie let me down when it really counted: it put aliens and Wesley Snipes in a dark forest together and made the situation really dull to sit through.

The review of The Recall originally appeared on


There is a staggering amount of films that are titled either Intruder or Intruders, and while the best of them all is Scott Spiegel's 1989 slasher Intruder, another of this legion of films that is totally worth seeing is director Adam Schindler's Intruders, which was going by the title Shut In until it came time for marketing and distribution.

While screenwriters T.J. Cimfel and David White crafted an intriguing thriller for Schindler to bring to life, the most captivating aspect of it is is a revelation that comes through the casting - this movie shows that when Martin Starr grows a thick beard and bulks up a bit he can be utterly convincing as a douchy, dangerous, physically imposing villain. I never expected to see Starr play a role like he does in this film. I know him as a skinny, gangly, nerdy dude - he got his start on the TV show Freaks & Geeks, and has played multiple cinematic geeks in the years since. But in Intruders he plays the wild card among a group of home invading thieves, and he is captivating and convincing as this character.

The home owner that Starr's character and his cohorts torment is Anna Rook (Beth Riesgraf), the shut-in of the former title, an enigmatic woman who suffers from agoraphobia - she hasn't left her house in a decade. When the thieves bust into her house, she attempts to make a run for it, but the agoraphobia proves to be too strong. She can't move beyond the front porch... so she's stuck in the house with the thieves.

But this isn't the story of a woman being victimized by a group of men. Anna is hiding some very dark secrets that lead to some unexpected twists and turns that will have viewers wondering what exactly is going on in this scenario.

I don't want to give anything away, I recommend that you watch Shut In/Intruders to take the ride it offers and to marvel at Starr's performance as he shatters perceptions and breaks through the walls of typecasting.


After sitting out Howling VI: The Freaks, Howling IV: The Original Nightmare and Howling V: The Rebirth writer/producer Clive Turner made his "triumphant" return to the franchise with The Howling: New Moon Rising, a movie that would kill the series for over a decade and which is considered by many to be one of the worst movies ever made.

In addition to writing and producing, Turner also directed and edited this one, earning his only credits in those departments, and stars as Ted Smith, an Australian motorcycle enthusiast who is wheeling his way around the United States. Turner had made a cameo in Howling IV and played the best character in Howling V (who was killed off too early), but this time around he is the male lead. If you liked Turner's screen presence in part 5, you'll like him here. That's not one of the movie's many problems.

The story, such as it is, makes an attempt to tie together the movies of the second half of the series, an attempt that the makers of Howling VI are in on, since video tape footage in this one reveals that the Mary Lou character from Howling V (played by Elizabeth Shé) had made a cameo appearance in part 6 as a spectator at the carnival freakshow. A detective is on the trail of this werewolf, and he seeks information from a priest, who proceeds to tell him the story of part 5, complete with stock footage. Judging by the scenes their conversation is intercut with, their chat stretches on for a couple days before they take their first break. Part 4 gets similar stock footage treatment later in the film.

The scenes that indicate the passage of time concern Ted riding into a desert community called Pioneertown, where he gets a job at a honky-tonk saloon called Pappy & Harriet's Pioneertown Palace. Judging by his habit of talking into a tape recorder during his downtime, Ted has ulterior motives for being in this town, but what he mostly does is hang out in Pappy & Harriet's, listening to country music and bantering with the locals, telling some of the corniest damn jokes that could ever invade your ears.

The day-to-day life in Pioneertown Palace takes up the majority of Howling 7's 90 minutes, to the point where the werewolf stuff simply seems shoehorned in to draw more attention to the film, while Turner just wanted to make a promotional video for Pioneertown, showing off how much fun you can have there.

There are some werewolf attacks, but Turner holds off on showing the werewolf, instead presenting the attacks through the red-tinted P.O.V. of the beast. When we do get to see a werewolf transformation, the movie presents us with a low-rent 1995 CGI morph effect. Special effects sure had changed since the original The Howling.

Eventually we'll learn that Ted is in league with Marie Adams from Howling IV, with Romy Windsor reprising the role. So it seems we have IV's heroine and V's werewolf, with Ted stuck in the middle at Pioneertown. You will not be thrilled, not even when all of the secrets and twists are revealed.

The Howling: New Moon Rising has no merit as a werewolf movie and is only worth watching if you think you would enjoy the atmosphere of Pioneertown and the bad jokes told by its residents. It seems like a pleasant place, but this is not what I wanted to see when I put on a Howling movie. More than twenty years beyond the initial disappointment of seeing the movie, I can get more entertainment out of the Pioneertown stuff... but this is still awful. Its brand of awful does appeal to some viewers, though.

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