Monday, August 10, 2020

Three More Horrors


Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019): Based on a popular series of children's books compiled by Alvin Schwartz, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark often shows its origins in an unconnected compilation of traditional ghost stories, anecdotes, Hallowe'en games, and the occasional plot synopsis of a work of fiction. 

Things drag occasionally over the first hour but pick up over the last 40 minutes with a terrific sequence in a hospital and another running from the police station to the haunted mansion to close the film. Produced by Guillermo del Toro, who also  co-wrote the screen story. Nixon's 1968 presidential victory and the Viet Nam war run as real-world horrors in counterpoint to the supernatural ones plaguing the teenagers in the movie. Lightly recommended.

Host (2020): In this Shudder original, several socially distancing friends decide to hold a seance over Zoom. Hilarity ensues. One of the first Covid-19 horror movies released, Host is short (less than an hour) and to the point. 15 years ago, it was difficult to believe that people would continue to hold cameras on themselves and others while crazy shit went on. Now, it's entirely plausible, thanks in part to the smartphone and to a general uptick in our camera-obsessed culture. A very enjoyable horror movie. Recommended.

Constantine (2005): Very, very loosely based on the DC Comics supernatural investigator/mage created by Steve Bissette, John Totleben, Alan Moore, and Rick Veitch and developed by Jamie Delano and John Ridgway. 

Constantine is now an American based in LA rather than a Liverpudlian based mainly in London. A few character names remain. The supernatural stuff is almost entirely reworked. Somehow it's still enjoyable for all that, with some surprisingly weird CGI used to depict the world of demons, angels, and the supernatural. Because the Matrix series had already been a big hit, Constantine now uses supernatural shotguns and flamethrowers when he battles demons as well as the more traditional spells and sigils. 

Keanu Reeves is fine as John Constantine, as written, and Rachel Weisz manages an OK American accent as a somewhat improbable LA cop. The real showstoppers are Tilda Swinton as the Archangel Gabriel and Peter Stormare as Satan. But they could have just called this movie pretty much anything -- well, except for the fact that Time Warner owned the rights to the characters. At one point, Nicolas Cage was attached to play Constantine, which would have been a whole other level of weird. Recommended.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Godzilla, Godzilla, Dean Martin

Godzilla vs. Mecha-Godzilla (1974): The penultimate Godzillaverse movie in the original Toho Studios run demonstrates that old adage about history beginning as tragedy, returning as comedy, and ending in farce. 

Aliens send a giant robot Godzilla to conquer the Earth. Godzilla teams up with kaiju King Caesar, some scientists, and Interpol to save the world. King Caesar is easily the worst kaiju Toho ever created, a sort of cross between a lizard, a Muppet, and a team mascot. Godzilla demonstrates another new power, generating a massive magnetic field. Well, why not? Lightly recommended.

Terror of Mecha-Godzilla (1975): Original Godzilla director Ishiro Honda returns for this final entry in the original Toho series. That makes for a decent finalĂ©, with Godzilla even strolling off into the sunset at the end, sort of. There's a bit too much Interpol vs. the Space Aliens action in this one which may have contributed to its series-ending low box office. 

Along with a resurrected Mecha-Godzilla, the undersea-dwelling Titanosaurus also battles Godzilla under the control of the aliens and a misanthropic human scientist and his alien-resurrected cyborg daughter. This last leads to a scientist-hero telling the woman, "I don't care if you're a cyborg, I still love you." Shakespeare, eat your heart out! Lightly recommended.

The Wrecking Crew (Matt Helm 4) (1968): Sharon Tate is pretty much the only reason to watch this unfunny, boring yet fascinating mess -- fascinating mainly because Mike Myers drew a lot of inspiration for the Austin Powers movies from the Matt Helm series, including Dean Martin's cover job as a fashion photographer. When someone says movies today are bad and overly parts of serials, make them watch this. And it's purportedly better than Matt Helms 2, 3, 5, and the TV series!!! Not recommended.