Friday, September 15, 2017

Worth Mentioning - The Devil's Bumhole

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.

Trapped sisters, two actions films with Charlize Theron, and a duo's swan song.

12 FEET DEEP (2016)

Shot under the title The Deep End, director Matt Eskandari's film about two sisters who get trapped beneath a fiberglass pool cover was been retitled 12 Feet Deep, given the subtitle Trapped Sisters in its marketing, and released on VOD just in time to coincide with the theatrical release of a different film about sisters stuck in a horrific aquatic situation, 47 Meters Down. This retitling and subtitling was somewhat unfortunate, because it makes Eskandari's film come off as a mockbustery joke when it's actually a well-crafted, entertaining thriller.

The "trapped sisters" referenced in that silly subtitle are Alexandra Park as troubled black sheep Jonna and The Descent's Nora-Jane Noone as Bree, who is putting their nightmarish childhood behind her and starting a new life. The sisters get together for a swim in the Olympic-sized public pool at the Ketea Aquatic Center, which is about to close down for an extended weekend holiday. Jonna and Bree are the last two people to get out of the pool as the center's manager (Tobin Bell, making a cameo) rushes everybody out so he can get home. The manager is in such a hurry to close things down, he doesn't notice when the sisters get back into the pool to retrieve Bree's dropped engagement ring from the filter grate at the bottom. When he sets the fiberglass pool cover in motion, he doesn't realize there are still two people in the water.

Jonna and Bree now find themselves stuck beneath a cover that is too solid to break and too heavy to lift, but at least there's enough room between the surface and the cover that they can still breathe. Some viewers might think that this is an easy predicament to get through - the sisters just have to wait out the weekend. It would be rough without food and you can't drink that chlorinated and still filthy public pool water, but some might believe they could push through it just fine. So Eskandari and his co-writer Michael Hultquist throw in some more problems, starting with the fact that Bree is diabetic and will need an insulin shot for her low blood sugar. If she doesn't get that shot, she could slip into a coma.

And there's also an external threat. No, it's not Tobin Bell's character playing some kind of sick game. It's Diane Farr as the pool custodian Clara, a parolee who has slipped back into criminal ways. Realizing that she has two desperate people at her mercy, Clara sees this as a way to make some quick cash...

When I first heard the basic concept of 12 Feet Deep, the idea of a story about two people trapped beneath a pool cover, I was intrigued to see how that situation could sustain a feature running time. At first, I was resistant to these added elements of Bree's low blood sugar and a human antagonist, but they were actually effective at making the sisters' struggle more intense to watch, they add urgency and make the situation more emotionally involving. They probably couldn't have just made a movie all about trying to bust through a pool cover or lift a filter grate, so these things work.

Eskandari and Hultquist also filled out the time by making the sisters complicated characters with a rocky relationship. These two have issues to work out that go all the way back to their dark and tragic childhood.

Farr's Clara isn't just a cardboard cut-out villain, either. She has depth, emotions, a hint of a conscience. She has her reasons for doing what she does, as terrible as her actions are. That doesn't stop her from coming off as despicable from time to time, and I don't mean any disrespect to the actress when I say this, but Clara's voice was quite annoying to me, which added to the character's exasperating antics.

Eskandari really got me with this one, and all of the actors did a fantastic job bringing their characters to life. This creative team got me invested in watching the scenario play out, I was fully engaged for the duration and rooting for the sisters to find a way to escape from the pool and from Clara.

Marketing aside, 12 Feet Deep is a very solid little thriller, and I found watching it to be a great way to spend 85 minutes.

The 12 Feet Deep review originally appeared on


The best thing about the eighth film in the Fast and Furious franchise is really its title. Not that it's a great title in itself, but in the way that it represents how ridiculous the titles are in this series. The silliness started with the first sequel to The Fast and the Furious, when the filmmakers made the wonderfully absurd decision to call it 2 Fast 2 Furious. Then the fourth movie got its title just by taking the title of the first one and dropping the "the"s. Fast and Furious. That was followed by Fast Five. Furious 6. Furious 7. When we reached the eighth movie, it was noted that it could just be called F8, to be pronounced either "eff eight" or "fate". Your call. F8 would have been silly enough to fit right in with the other titles, but then the dopiness was enhanced by blowing it out to The Fate of the Furious.

As everyone knows, Paul Walker, who had been in every Fast and Furious movie except the third one, passed away in the middle of filming Furious 7. With the use of CGI, dialogue samples, and stand-ins, the movie was completed with Walker's performance intact and it gave closure to his character. It was a great tribute to Walker that the film was finished, and a lot of fans thought that the movie would have been a perfect ending point for the series. But the plan is to get to at least part 10, so the rest of the cast continued on, with the absence of Walker hanging over this entire sequel.

Written by Chris Morgan, who has been writing every Fast/Furious movie since part 3, Fate doesn't have a great story to tell, but it does tell its story in a way that's decently entertaining. Here we find out that the mastermind behind the villainous criminal activities in the last two films was actually a hacker called Cipher (Charlize Theron), who was manipulating the big bads of parts 6 and 7 (Luke Evans as Owen Shaw, Jason Statham as his brother Deckard Shaw) and now finds a way to manipulate our hero Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel). Although Dom is very loyal to his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and their gearhead pals, who are now doing special missions for a government organizations and are played by the likes of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Tyrese Gibson, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, and Nathalie Emmanuel, Cipher finds a way to make Dom go rogue and turn against them.

Cipher proceeds to send Dom on a globe-trotting mission to acquire a nuclear weapon for her, while his friends do their best to stop him at every point, with action taking place in Berlin, New York City, and a frozen section of Russia (the film also starts with a race in Cuba).

Dom being separate from the team of good guys allows Johnson's character to step into a leadership role there, and it's always a good thing when The Rock has a good amount of screen time in these films. He really steals the show this time around, and is aided in this theft by the returning Statham. In fact, the highlight of the movie isn't even any instance of vehicular action, but a prison riot where Johnson and Statham bash their way through the prisoners and guards, striking blows that have superhero-level impacts, sending people flying through the air.

Statham's presence is also problematic, though, because he ends up joining the heroes, despite the fact that he spent the entire previous movie trying to kill them, and was actually successful at killing one of their friends. This murdered friend is never mentioned during Statham's interactions with the others, and the idea that the group would work with him at all was a tough pill to swallow.

Regardless, The Fate of the Furious delivered the sort of fun I expect to see from a Fast and Furious movie. At least up until that action sequence in Russia, which just seemed to go on and on. It lost me there.

The Fast and the Furious franchise has been going on for sixteen years now, and I had seen every movie in the series on the big screen with someone. The first six movies I saw with my mom, and I have memories from several of those. I remember seeing the first movie and loving it, mainly because it reminded me so much of Point Break. I remember when we went to see 2 Fast 2 Furious even though I was nursing a major head cold, with snot pouring out of my face. There's a vague memory of the day I saw Fast Five, then came home and wrote about it. Mom and I saw Furious 6 at a drive-in. We didn't see Furious 7 together because I was in Brazil at the time, so I went to see it with my Remake Comparison collaborator Priscilla, who is also a longtime fan of the series. I intended to watch the movie at home with mom at some point. When The Fate of the Furious came out, I was in Brazil again. Priscilla and I were planning to go see it, but then I had to make an emergency trip home when my mom unexpectedly passed away. So I didn't get to see The Fate of the Furious on the big screen with my mom or with Priscilla. I wish I had watched Furious 7 with mom when I had the chance. I own the DVD/Blu-ray, all I had to do it was put it on, but I didn't get to it in time. I expected more time. If there was still more time, I would also watch The Fate of the Furious on DVD/Blu-ray with her, like I eventually did with Priscilla.


In 1968, Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon teamed up to star in a cinematic adaptation of Neil Simon's Broadway play The Odd Couple, about two friends who decide to share an apartment while one of them goes through a divorce. This arrangement quickly falls apart; their personalities clash and they find each other impossible to live with.

The Odd Couple was the second film Watthau and Lemmon did together, and over the next thirty years they shared the screen many more times. During that time, the play and its concept endured not only through frequent stage performances but also a television series that ran from 1970 to 1975, a short-lived cartoon (which turned the characters into a cat and a dog), and a short-lived attempt at another TV series in 1982.

The stars of the '70s series, Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, reunited for a TV movie follow-up in 1993. Five years later, Matthau and Lemmon reprised the roles of Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar themselves, for their tenth and final film together.

The Odd Couple II had exactly the right writer - Neil Simon, the man who first created Oscar and Felix with the stage play (and also wrote the screenplay for the '68 film) wrote this all-new story about the characters coming back in contact thirty years after the events of the original movie and seventeen years after they last time they spoke to each other. The occasion: Oscar's son is getting married to Felix's daughter.

What's disappointing about this sequel is the fact that it's a road trip comedy, probably the most over-done type of comedy there is. For the original story, Simon got laughs out of epic dialogue sequences, and while they talk a lot this time, too, a lot of the comedy comes the sort of things you'd expect to see in any movie of this sort. Flying in from Florida and New York, respectively, Oscar and Felix meet up at the airport in Los Angeles and then decide to share a car to get to the California town their kids are in. Whatever town that is. They can't remember what it's called. While their old quirks continue to annoy each other, they also lose their map, lose luggage, get lost themselves, meet oddball fellow travelers, and get stranded in the desert when their car gets totaled. I didn't expect to see an exploding car in a sequel to The Odd Couple, but there is one.

Oscar and Felix are on the road for most of the movie, which seems like a wasted opportunity. But, judging The Odd Couple II on the merits of what it is rather than what it could have been, this is an entertaining comedy, and it's always a joy to watch Matthau and Lemmon bounce off of each other. There's a reason these guys were put in ten movies together. It's also a movie that has a lot of heart, which becomes most apparent once the travels have come to an end.


A few years ago, directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch gifted us with the incredible action film John Wick, and while Stahelski went on to helm this year's John Wick: Chapter 2, Leitch branched off to direct Atomic Blonde, which was essentially marketed as "John Wick with Charlize Theron instead of Keanu Reeves".

My favorite sequence in John Wick was when the title character's mission of revenge took him through a neon-drenched nightclub. To the delight of my eyeballs, Leitch and Wick 1 cinematographer Jonathan Sela made most of Atomic Blonde look a lot like that sequence. This is often a gorgeous movie to look at, and when you add in the fact that it's set in 1989, and thus features a soundtrack packed with '80s songs (and covers of '80s songs) - we're talking David Bowie, Queen, A Flock of Seagulls, George Michael, Depeche Mode, Siouxsie and the Banshees, New Order, Nena, and more - you can see how the film was warming my heart even when the story was losing me.

Written by Kurt Johnstad and based on a graphic novel called The Coldest City that was written by Antony Johnston and illustrated by Sam Hart, Atomic Blonde tells its story in a more convoluted way than necessary, with things playing out in flashback as Theron is debriefed by Toby Jones and John Goodman as higher-ups. At its core, it's extremely simplistic, and it's a story we've seen before. The MacGuffin is straight out of Mission: Impossible and Skyfall. On the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, a KGB agent has killed an MI6 agent in Berlin and stolen "The List", which contains the names of every undercover agent in the field and every bit of information available on them. MI6 sends in Lorraine Broughton (Theron) to retrieve The List. That's really all there is to it. Things are complicated by talk of double crosses, shady deals conducted by Broughton's contact David Percival (James McAvoy), who has been in the field a bit too long, the arrival of a French agent played by The Mummy's Sofia Boutella, and the defection of "Spyglass" (Eddie Marsan), the man who stole The List in the first place... but if all starts to feel jumbled to you, just sit back and enjoy the cinematography, the soundtrack, and the action.

As displayed in John Wick, Leitch can shoot the hell out of action, and while Atomic Blonde attempts to deliver more meat beyond the spectacle of Theron punching and kicking her way through adversaries, bullets flying through the air, and vehicles getting smashed up, that's the stuff we're really there to see, and the action here is very cool. Theron trained hard for these sequences, and it paid off. She proves to be a very impressive ass-kicker.

Bogged down by the storytelling, Atomic Blonde is no John Wick and I was slightly disappointed by it, but overall I had a good time watching it and will certainly be watching it again. The visuals, the music, and the fight scenes have guaranteed that.

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