Movie Review- Wonder Woman

Most obviously, Wonder Woman was the reason Batman Vs Superman was even watchable. As soon as her theme hit the audience knew she was there to save Batman, Superman and all of us from banality. Gal Gadot filling Wonder Woman’s boots and bringing the Princess of Themyscira to life in her own major motion picture filled many fans with excitement. But still many were cautious… or even critical of her armpits.

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The movie begins first in the present day with a gift from Bruce. But we are quickly treated to Diana’s origin story. A young Diana, running through the roads of Themyscira. The only child on the island, she’s impatient to start her training to be an Amazon warrior. Destined to protect the world from Aries’s corruption. She grows up on a diverse island of bad bitches, everything is going so well. Until Nazis show up. (Okay, not really, just Germans.)

To be fair. First it’s Chris Pine. Who is a British Spy with no sign of an accent. He’s taken with her and the other Amazons (and their bioluminescent springs), but he is on a mission. Diana quickly decides to join him as she is discovering her true strength. Compared to even the other Amazons she is strong, she is trained 10 times harder (they say trained, not that she is naturally more powerful) but she doesn’t know what waits across the ocean.

People have been right to draw parallels between the behavior of Diana and Thor. Smart, although somewhat bewildered because of being raised without the industrial revolution. Honorable. Hyper capable. Muscular. Armor clad.

People also have some interesting ideas about how her upbringing affects to her ability to consent. The blogger, Christina Cauterucci states that there’s a love story “shoehorned in” is positioned as a “no homo” to Diana’s “inherently queer backstory”. I would argue that it’s not. The love story develops quickly and expectedly, yes. But why the upbringing is “inherently queer” when the other main characters on Themyscira are Diana’s mother and aunt and Diana is a generation younger than everyone else… I’m not sure. Cauterucci quotes Diana as saying that she learned about sex from books and knew men were necessary for reproduction but not pleasure. So maybe Diana did get some. It’s not implied any further than that whether she has or hasn’t had sexual contact. How this leads Cauterucci to the assertion that Diana’s ability to consent is blurry, I am unclear. Diana has never met a man, but that does not mean she has a child’s mind, and she barely had a sip of beer before they went to dance.

Steve Trevor doesn’t doubt her, he does talk down to her a bit because she doesn’t understand social conventions which could be annoying, if it wasn’t under the context of Steve urgently trying to stop WW1. Although they did have time for a clothes shopping montage in the midst of it which I did find obnoxious.

There are a couple other women central to the plot, one is Steve’s secretary, Etta. Etta didn’t ask for more responsibility but she handled it competently enough and she even got a brief moment of heroics. And then there is Dr. Poison. I was actually surprised there wasn’t more conflict between the two women, because usually there can be only ONE powerful woman. And they seek to destroy each other above all else. But that’s not the case here. Although Dr. Poison does get jealous over a distracting Diana in a blue dress after Steve accidentally wavers his attention. Dr. Poison is never fully fleshed out but her motives are her own and she takes great pride in her work… there’s something to be said for that… right?

Diana appreciates everyone for their efforts, whether its flying, sailing, fighting or singing, but she stays focused on her own quest. She is truly a Wonder Woman.

5 Stars

Alright, so leave me a comment if you want to debate consent, pit hair, how men control the whole world but don’t even know to take the eggs from the back when they go to the grocery store, if you think Wonder Woman could lift Mjolnir, if Steve Trevor is average or if you think I should have boycotted because Gal Gadot is a Zionist.

Movie Review- Horns (2014)

I enjoyed this movie thoroughly, more than I was prepared to, in fact. The trailers had looked amusing, but it’s short theatrical release and mixed reviews prevented me from giving this one a fair shake. It turned out to be a bizarre, twisted whodunit. Very stylish, sort of Brick meets “Supernatural”.

Iggy Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe) is suspected of murder after the love of his life is found murdered. The town and even his own family turn against him. He loses faith in God, and after a drunken bender that sets him pissing on religious artifacts, he sprouts horns. Far from just head gear, those around him start confessing to their deepest -and sometimes darkest- thoughts to him, and caving into their desires at his mere suggestion. Ig uses this to his advantage to punish those who seek to exploit Merrin’s death, and to seek out her true killer.

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This film is based on a novel by Joe Hill who wrote the graphic novel series “Locke and Key” and enough short stories to rival his father, Stephen King.

The characters themselves are wonderful, the truth is revealed in bits and pieces. But as always in media, certain tropes are prevalent. The male characters exist in many shades of gray. Radcliffe’s Ig is a mess following the death of his one true love Merrin (Juno Temple), he’s drunk and dirty and hanging by a thread. All understandable, but even in flashbacks, we see that he was never the most capable of his friends -Lee fixes Merrin’s cross necklace that Ig then returns for he appreciation, he nearly drowns on a dare. As an adult, he doesn’t seem to have much going on outside of Merrin. Ig’s brother, Terry (Joe Anderson) is a drug addicted musician, he lies to his brother and he didn’t even try to save Ig when he nearly drowned as a kid. Terry is somewhat of a coward. Lee was always the good friend, the attorney who vows to protect Ig, the friend who saved him from drowning, who stayed friends even after Ig gave him a defective cherry bomb that disfigured his hand. But Lee always coveted Merrin.

The women, however, fit another pattern all together. Glenna is promiscuous and viewed by the town as “trash” -she’s also the only person who truly reaches out to Ig, but this is somewhat overlooked. She could have played a more central role, but instead, Iggy encourages her to but the town in her rearviews and start over. Veronica (Heather Graham) lies about seeing Iggy chasing down Merrin and threatening her on the night she was killed so that she can get attention and see herself on magazine covers. She’s vain and vile. A liar. She has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. But Merrin? Merrin is pure, Merrin flirts via morse code and always wears a cross, she’s shown in beautiful dresses, sunlight radiating off her skin. Even in flashback, Lee points out that “Merrin is different from other girls” and he mentions how trashy Glenna is, and that the older boys only keep Glenna around because she’ll give them handjobs. And like all “perfect” women? Merrin dies. And worse? She dies for it.

And that’s why the whole town is angry, why Ig’s mother wishes he wasn’t her son, why his father thinks that Merrin was the best thing about Iggy. Because she was so pure.

Merrin, the mythical “perfect” woman is missed by everyone in a way that causes unending venom to be spewed at Iggy Perrish while Glenna does a Courtney Love impersonation and vain Veronica has seemingly no morals whatsoever.

But after all that, this is a very good flick.

Iggy brings out the worst in people. They delvolve, their deepest, darkest thoughts are acted upon before his eyes once he turns his back on God and grows horns. But he’s not a personification of evil. That’s hard to understand at first. He claims his innocence while turning into a devil. But he’s presented as a fallen angel and Merrin as an angel. Once he realizes how “persuasive” he is, he starts following leads and interrogating townspeople to find the truth. While the audience discovers that Merrin had a secret of her own. And Iggy must decide who is to blame and if his humanity can be saved.

Great effects, solid plot, consistent rules, unique storyline.

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Movie Review- Zodiac: Signs of the Apocalypse

Starring Joel Gretsch and Reilly Dolman (who?) as a father and son team that are forced into solving the cause of global disasters. Neil and Colin Martin are nearly killed by a freak meteor strike (while the dialogue plays up that both men are lonely and bad with women) and soon after are contacted by Kathryn Keen (Emily Holmes) who works for a private company with an interest in an artifact that she believes is causing the disasters. Neil is a professor and archaeologist who is illogically broke and jumps at the chance to help after Colin negotiates the fee up to $100,000.

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Neil and Colin make a series of preposterous Indiana Jones Lite finds, including rescuing Sophie (Andrea Brooks, star of the upcoming CW series “iZombie”) before Katherine reveals some questionable motives. The the Department Of Defense gets involved (one of the Agents is played by “Hemlock Grove” actor Aaron Douglas) and tries to shut down their science experiment/quest for adventure and salvation.

Neil discovers that the disasters all present themselves as Zodiac signs and they try to narrow down the upcoming dangers. The special effects are worse than Sharknado. Christopher Lloyd makes a cameo for no good reason. He doesn’t even say “Great Scott!”

There’s nothing remarkable about this film. There are pacing issues, fake science, bad effects, worse plot and an obvious ending. It’s like an Indiana Jones knock off for fans of Sharknado. There’s not much else to say about that. Andrea Brooks’ portrayal was the only highlight.

Couldn’t save this flop for me.

Part of my disdain may be that now when I here “apocalypse” that I expect ZOMBIES

1/5

Movie Review- Found (2014)

Based on Tom Rigney’s 2004 novel of the same title, Found has won big on the film festival circuit. 40 Official Selection awards, 15 best picture awards and 8 best actor awards. It’s a dark coming of age story that follows Marty (Gavin Brown), a bullied young boy who spend his free time watching horror flicks and creating graphic novels… and sneaking peeks at the decapitated heads inside of his older brother’s bowling ball bag.

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He knows his brother Steve (Ethan Philbeck) is a serial killer but he still wishes that they were closer like the old days. Their mother is clueless, or at least seems to be from Marty’s point of view, and their father is a racist and an asshole.

I can tell without looking that the Best Actor awards went only to Gavin Brown, because no one else there was doing any good acting. Ethan Philbeck delivers his lines in a bizarre manner, and audio quality and editing seem to make the other’s seem jerky and unsure. Everyone else looks like they are acting.

This film really could have gone places for me. It’s doing something really rare in horror, focussing on the emotion not of the tortured but on that of someone just on the outside. Following a family living in suburban paradise, a family who has secrets. Marty has an all too common real world problem, he’s bullied by classmates until his own friends turn on him. And a dysfunctional older brother who loves him. He thinks his parents are out of touch and he doesn’t understand what is happening around him. Steve takes revenge on Marty’s bully and Marty threatens a friend who turns on him that Steve will kill him… a stunt that he wonders if Steve will turn on him for.

And it would all be so perfect. So perfect.

Except that there is a movie within the movie, called “Headless” (which you can watch in full on the DVD) which involves a serial killer who hacks women to bits and then fucks the decapitated heads. Not to mention that Steve’s killings are racially motivated. Why? We were going along so well without racism, And needless skullfucking. And uncomfortable to watch scene of eyeballs being eaten and regurgitated (although that one by itself isn’t a deal breaker). But after following horror nerd Marty around and people thinking he’s weird for liking pretty much all the shit that I like and having him misunderstood by peers -it seems thrown away to have Steve motivated by a horror VHS that he stole from the video store.

And I hate everything where there is rape or incest portrayed just to have it there. Because the heads in the bowling bags didn’t indicate that Steve was a bad guy or anything by themselves… right?

So it starts out rather poetic and then gets too weird at the end for me to have loved it the way that I would have without those troubling elements. Sadly, I feel like the purpose or moral of this story is thrown out nearly entirely by the break down of Steve’s character. It could have been so much more. But sadly, 2/5 stars.

Movie Review: ABC’s of Death 2 (2014)

The follow up to the original film makes you rethink your fragile existence with 26 more interesting short films of bizarre deaths. Not all of these are horror (though many are). The plots range from sadistic killers to vacations gone bad to children’s fantasies gone awry. Most are live action, but some are claymation or animated. Some send chills down your spine while others are quite poignant, and another references The Three Stooges.

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Some of Radio Of Horror’s favorites: A is for Amatuer gets the ball rolling with an action packed romp about a beginner level assassin. The most bizarre short was D for Deloused directed by Robert Morgan who is known for directing Tool music videos which are also bafflingly creepy. Believe that this stop motion animated freakshow of beheadings and bugs will make your skin crawl. E is for Equilibrium  switches the tone to something completely different with castaways fighting over a woman who washes up on shore. Then F is for Falling tugs on my heartstrings with the story of a female Israeli soldier whose parachute gets tangled in a tree is found by an armed Palestinian young man, in just a few short minutes Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado tell a modern story more gorgeous and heartbreaking than “Romeo and Juliet” that ties into current affairs that seem intangible and far away to much of the West and instantly it’s relatable, it’s just fascinating.

H is for Honorable Mention: H is for Headgames is an interesting concept: a man and a woman kiss and it turns into a surreal power struggle. I am a huge fan of Bill Plympton and I really wanted to like this one a bit more than I did. It was good, and instantly recognizable. I’ve been a geek for Bill Plympton since I Married a Strange Person came out in 1997 (just kidding, I was 12. I probably watched that for the first time in 2003).

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Bringing the horror: The contest winner (chosen from 541 submissions); M is for Masticate takes a turn for true crime and reminds us all about bath salts (did everyone just smarten up real quick about those or what?) and it was great, both humorous and terrifying. Hajime Ohata’s O is for Ochlocracy a mother protecting her child from zombies finds herself not in a struggle for survival but a legal battle when zombies are “cured” and coexist. S is for Split sees an ill fate for one half an unfaithful couple. In Jen and Sylvia Soska (The Demon Twins of Berlin in American Mary)’s T is for Torture Porn a woman harassed at an audition gets her hentai on. U is for Utopia gets sci-fi, big brother meets cosmetic culture when an unattractive man is targeted in a crowd of the fit and well groomed. V is for Vacation gets gritty and real with killer prostitutes. French actress Beatrice Dalle appears as a creepy and unstable babysitter in X is for Xylophone. Z is for Zygote creeped me out …mostly because the idea of being pregnant for 13 years is terrifying.

This film has many high points, although it is up for debate which ones are king. With bites from various genres, demographics, weapons of destruction, style and sentiments there is something for everyone. And it’s worth watching for that alone. Most of the actors are unknown and so the only thing to judge on is the direction, which is something so rare in the typical reboot and sequel cinescape, that’s what really makes this unique (even if it is the second time). The showcasing of new or relatively unknown directors with cult favorite directors made for innovative and enticing bites of film.

Worth the watch -just put down the popcorn during D for Deloused.

4/5

Produced by Ant Timpson and Tim League, distributed by Magnet Releasing.

Have you watched? What were your favorites?

Movie Review: 13 Sins (2014)

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Elliot Brindle (Mark Webber Scott Pilgrim vs The World) is a down on his luck salesman who always bore the brunt of his family’s needs. He pays for his special needs brother’s care, he puts up with a father who is unpleasant and ornery, he’s not respected at work. He does have a loving fiancee, Shelby (Rutina Wesley, “True Blood”) and a baby on the way. But Elliot’s already bad luck takes a turn for the even worse when what should be an interview for a promotion turns into a firing; with scathing comments from his superiors. He’ll lose his insurance and his brother’s program won’t be covered and his father (played by Tom Bower, Thr3e, Hills Have Eyes) is in failing health and has to move in with him.

Certain elements make me feel for Elliot. He went to college but studied a foolish major, he’s a Type B with a Type A job. He never could take risks because he had responsibility beyond his years already caring for his brother while his father acted like a self centered asshole following their mother’s death when Elliot was nine.

But when he lets his father move in… his father -a vehement racist, sexist and all around asshole.. Elliot lets that shitbag move in with his black bride to be. A man who asks Shelby to zip his pants for him. I lost all sympathy for Elliot there. Worse yet, it was just thrown in to give another reason why Elliot’s life was so shitty… but in a twist of somewhat bad writing it’s also made out that Elliot wants to impress his father. It was just pointless really, just to show that Elliot was wishy washy -understandably as a way to show how quickly Elliot evolves (and devolves) in the film.

Elliot is having his worst day ever when he receives a phone call. The voice on the other end instructs Elliot to kill a fly, and then eat it for a reasonable sum of money. He is then told that he has the chance to win a life changing sum of money All he h) as to do is complete 13 challenges …and hey, he’s already done 2! On the list? Destroying a nativity scene, desecrating a corpse, amputating a childhood bully’s arm, making a small child cry …and killing someone.

The police respond to the crimes and get descriptions from eyewitnesses. They realizes that there is one perpetrator for all these crimes. Detective Chilcoat (Ron Perlman, Hellboy, “Sons of Anarchy”) starts to investigate and meets a conspiracy theorist who tells him about “The Game.”

This game has a few rules. The player can’t tell anyone about the game, for example. So Elliot spends much time ducking his wife on his quest. Once Chilcoat gets involved it reaches pandemonium. Then Elliot realizes that there are other players and the carnage ramps up again.

Only one problem. No one acts like this. Rutina Wesley’s Shelby is the only characters who acts like a human being.

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Everyone else acts like a caricature. The plot is good (and also ripped off from a Thai film called 13:Game of Death which makes more sense as a title since killing a fly and eating it is not a sin at all). But the character development is terrible. Especially towards the end. Chilcoat’s actions are random and make no sense. The movie seems to want us to root for Elliot over Chilcoat from the get go (even though Chilcoat is doing his job an Elliot’s actions are reprehensible) so they throw in this foolish twist to make Chilcoat corrupt. But Elliot has devolved into a frantic fiend at that point.

Elliot could have been a badass anti-hero. This film could have explored the human condition, what capitalism and desperation will bring out of a mild mannered person. But the character development is just not there.

Interestingly, Mark Webber grew up homeless living in cars and eating scraps and doing anything for money before he broke into the biz. He and his mother participate in activism to raise awareness about homelessness, attend protests and they volunteer time in shelters. …And he’s playing a man who becomes a murderous asshole in a matter of hours after losing his job. Done well, it would have been great. A man pushed to the brink because he’s in poverty, he’s unable to “be a man” in the eyes of society and he is driven insane on this quest to get rich quick and provide the American Dream for his family, like an able bodied man “should”. But instead, Elliot’s actions become so reprehensible that the only conclusion on his character is that poor people would kill you for a dollar. And fuck that.

Chilcoat’s actions also make no sense. He’s painted as the “bad guy”, the antagonist that’s going to stop Elliot. But he should! Elliot is causing wanton destruction and injury. But then Chilcoat joins up with the game runners and it makes no sense. Why? Money? So is the moral of the story that ALL people would sell their soul and toss aside their beliefs for a payout? What the…

Not only that, the game runners are everywhere and can see everything. It’s been happening for decades but no one knows because the police all sell out and cover it up. There are multiple people playing at once who run into each other all the time. Elliot has a bank app on his flip phone. It’s just not believable.

SO close, but so far.

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For the final challenge: Elliot has to kill a family member. His father who is a fucking racist is an excellent choice, especially after it is revealed that their father killed their mom to win the game. And I watched it screaming at the screen: “Just do it together, Elliot and Michael kill dad together and they both win!” but they DONT DO THAT. Elliot spends too much time yapping after dismissing Michael …why? To keep Michael innocent? Can’t be. Michael has already killed people. So Elliot is that greedy. Or ableist. Maybe both. anyway, dad slits his throat rather than let Elliot win. That leaves Elliot and Michael to face off. There’s also this weird connotation that Michael doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong which also seems ableist and gross.

And even more baffling: after Elliot kills Michael, Elliot kills Chilcoat and forfeits his prize.

It makes no sense.

It makes no sense and it was awful.
I could have suspended disbelief for the see all gamerunners but the ending was so terrible and the character development was heavy handed as all hell. The pranks were somewhat creative and there was plenty of gore and mayhem. Just didn’t hit the mark, even the badass cast couldn’t save this shitshow of classism and ableism.

2/5

Movie Review: Houses October Built (2014)

real documentary about 5 friends who set out to uncover the culture of underground haunted houses. Brandy Schaefer, Mikey Roe, Bobby Roe, Zack Andrews and Jeff Larsen are longtime friends who set out in an RV to 9 different haunts. Interviews are not scripted or manipulated in anyway, and the truth is more horrifying than the lie in this flick. People running haunted horror events notoriously don’t run background checks… some of the things participants say are down right deviant and terrifying. There are multiple actual news reports related about people dying in haunted houses while pranking their friends and no one knows until long after the night’s over.

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The crew travels across Texas in search of the most frightening events October has to offer. Along the way, they hit up all types of attractions (including zombie paintball) …and then they go in search of the Holy Grail of underground haunts but get more than they bargained for from locals.

Interestingly enough, this film was fascinating on it’s own. It won FearNET’s Shocker Award in 2011. Sadly, this project fell by the wayside for a while. The producers behind the Insidious films and Paranormal Activity decided that what it needed was a little mockumentary flair.

…and it works.

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I don’t know that it needed it; but it is well acted enough that the scripted portions fit well with the various interviews, news reports and first person filmings in dingy fake blood coated halls. It adds another dimension to the film that I hadn’t seen coming. I’m also not totally clear when it started. Brandy, the lone female, has an altercation with male hillbillies in a public bathroom. Mikey has an argument with locals that gets them run out of town. They pick up a bizarre hitch hiker. These brief elements break up the chatty drives in the sun on the long trek from destination to destination. So when things get more serious… it’s difficult to know what to believe. Is this a practical joke? Have they found the haunt they are looking for? Or are they facing deranged lunatics?

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A great look at extreme haunted houses and intense and escalating subculture surrounding haunted events …with a little Hollywood panache.

5/5

This film is out in select theaters and on itunes on Friday 10/10.

Brandy Schaefer will be on WCUW’s Radio Of Horror on Sunday.

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