Friday, March 24, 2023

Worth Mentioning - It's Insane, Right?

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. 

Cody watches a rampaging bear and killer doll.


Cocaine Bear is a film I was sold on as soon as I saw its title, and thankfully the movie delivers exactly what you would hope for from something with that title (if you have my film-watching sensibilities, anyway): it is indeed about a bear consuming cocaine and going on a bloodthirsty rampage. Scripted by Jimmy Warden, Cocaine Bear is actually based on a true story. Back in 1985, a Kentucky narcotics officer turned drug smuggler picked up millions of dollars worth of cocaine in Columbia dumped the cargo while flying over Tennessee, then ditched his plane. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to open his parachute because he hit his head on the plane and was knocked unconscious. A few months later, the corpse of a bear who had consumed and overdosed on the smuggler’s cocaine was located in Georgia. But there’s nothing fun about a bear eating cocaine and falling over dead, and there’s no story there unless they make a biopic about that ill-fated cop-turned-criminal. So what Warden did was, he used the idea of a bear consuming cocaine as the basis for a fun, comedy-laced “nature run amok” horror movie.

Cocaine Bear begins with the drug smuggler dumping his payload from the plane and then falling to his death... and then we see the bear that has consumed some of the cocaine claim its first victim. As the bear continues to rampage through a Georgia forest (taking any chance it has to consume more cocaine along the way), we’re introduced to several more characters who will be crossing paths with it:  nurse Sari (Keri Russell), her young daughter Dee Dee (Brooklynn Prince), Dee Dee’s buddy Henry (Christian Convery), drug kingpin Syd (Ray Liotta), Syd’s heartbroken son Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich), drug dealer Daveed (O'Shea Jackson Jr.), police officer Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), forest ranger Liz (Margo Martindale), a trio of young thugs, and various other people who will end up getting torn apart.

The film was directed by Elizabeth Banks, and I have to say, I was impressed and surprised by the way Banks approached this movie. She’s known for her comedic roles and previously directed the singing competition comedy Pitch Perfect 2 and a poorly received updated of Charlie’s Angels... and I thought her sensibilities might be too safe and mainstream to really lean into the gory horror Cocaine Bear needed to deliver. As it turns out, Banks is quite aware of just how much fun gore can be when presented in the right way. People get mauled in this movie. They lose limbs. Their guts are ripped out. And for the most part, these moments of bloody death are quite amusing. As they should be.

The title and the concept did set me up to expect a movie that is even more wild and over-the-top than Cocaine Bear actually is – there is more downtime for character work than I had in mind, but I suppose you can’t fault a movie for trying to let you get to know some of the people in it. As it is, it’s still a good time and I am very glad a movie like this exists.

M3GAN (2022)

From the tricycle riding puppet in the Saw franchise to the ventriloquist dolls in Dead Silence and the Annabelle doll from The Conjuring and the ensuing Annabelle franchise, James Wan is known for feature creepy dolls in the films he directs and/or produces. His even uses “CreepyPuppet” as his social media handle. But he had never actually made a killer doll movie. Not even Annabelle is a killer doll, she’s just a doll that has a demon lingering around it. So Wan decided it was about time for him to make a movie about a doll that kills. Directed by Gerard Johnstone from a screenplay by Wan’s Malignant collaborator Akeela Cooper, who crafted the story with Wan, M3GAN is the result of this “killer doll movie” endeavor.

The killer doll in this movie is much more advanced that the ones seen in the likes of Dolls or Puppet Master. M3GAN is actually a robot doll that’s powered by artificial intelligence, created by roboticist Gemma (Allison Williams) and her pals. When the parents of Gemma’s nine-year-old niece Cady (Violet McGraw) are killed in a car accident, the kid is sent to live with Gemma... and Gemma quickly realizes she doesn’t have what it takes to properly raise a child. So she decides to get some help from her robot creation. She brings M3GAN home as Cady’s new best friend, who will also help raise her right. Cady bonds with the doll, since she’s able to interact with it just like she’s another child. But M3GAN’s AI brain doesn’t work quite like it should. The doll has been programmed to take care of Cady, to protect her from both physical and emotional harm, but that objective becomes a twisted obsession... and when the doll perceives that someone has wronged Cady, she takes violent action against them. Soon enough, M3GAN is racking up a body count.

As far as killer doll movies, M3GAN didn’t pass the aforementioned Dolls or Puppet Master or the Chucky franchise in my esteem, but it delivered what I was hoping to see: a fun movie about a doll killing people. Wan and his collaborators took on the assignment and turned in a movie that I would give a strong B, if not a B+. How could I not give a high score to a killer doll movie that culminates in a rock 'em sock 'em robot fight?

M3GAN was a financial hit, so we’ll be getting a sequel in a couple years, and I will definitely be watching M3GAN 2.0. I look forward to seeing where the story is going to go next.

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