Monday, June 10

Streamathon - June 2019 – Life’s A Beach & Now You’re Dead



By Emery Snyder @leeroy711



Preface: This is part of an ongoing blog series of curated movie marathons that are thematically or otherwise tied together. The other common factor tying these films together will be their availability to watch them all from the comfort of your own home on various streaming platforms. The goal is that writing this blog will somehow justify the excessive number of streaming platforms I subscribe to. The films will be found on some combination of NetflixHuluAmazon Prime VideoMubiShudder, The Criterion Channel and/or Fandor. These titles will be available for the month that the blog is published. All of these subscriptions offer free trials so feel free to dive in and follow along… Have fun. Just don’t message me for my login information.
June 2019
Spring is over and it’s hot outside again. And while everyone else is flocking to the beach, I’m turning my A/C to “kill” and getting settled in for some of my favorite Summer flicks. I specifically like to watch horror films in the Summer, especially if they scare and discourage me from leaving the couch. I watch JAWS every Summer religiously. I usually fit in one of the versions of PIRANHA (Dante or Aja). And I don’t even want to admit to how many heads I’ve seen on a single shark on the Sci-Fi channel on Saturday afternoons. And as if this wasn’t enough, Jordan Peele’s beach-themed doppelganger horror, US is due for Blu-Ray release later this month. I’m very excited to rewatch this one with the hopes that it will be added to my Summer routine.

So, with that in mind, here are some horror films available to stream right now that take place on or around a beach. 

The Stream




COLD SKIN (2017) 
Directed by Xavier Gens – Streaming on Shudder

So, this ‘beach’ is more of an Arctic coastline, but I play fast and loose with my own rules so I’m including it. It’s a Shudder Exclusive right now and I really think it’s worth the watch. The Lovecraftian creature design is fantastic, and the under-siege lighthouse scenes are exciting and well put together. The whole thing is shot beautifully.



COME OUT AND PLAY (2012)
Directed by Makinov – Streaming on Shudder

To be clear, this is a remake Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? (’76) a far superior film. But I still kind of appreciate what this film went for and what it accomplishes. This version trades in the slow burn and social commentary for adrenaline and gore. Which makes it easier fare for an 87-minute distraction.



GRABBERS (2012)
Directed by Jon Wright – Streaming on Hulu

This is just a very well-made horror/comedy from across the pond. A sleepy Irish island is overtaken by sea monsters and their only line of defense is an alcoholic police officer and his newly assigned partner. It is one of the most fun times you can have with movie monsters. The two main characters played by Richard Coyle and Ruth Bradley have a great chemistry together and the comedic dialog is exactly what I've come to expect from British writers.              



HOUR OF THE WOLF (1968)
Directed by Ingmar Bergman – Streaming on The Criterion Channel

Psychological torment is a common theme in Bergman’s work. But this is probably the only film that dives off into the deep end of horror. Artist, Johan (Max Von Sydow) and his wife, Alma (Liv Ullmann) are staying on a remote island in this surreal work. I’ve probably watched this one about a half-dozen times and I seem to come away with a slightly different interpretation every viewing. The Gothic imagery that occupies the screen will keep you guessing exactly how literally you’re supposed to be interpreting it.


I also find it interesting within the context of Bergman’s entire filmography. He has plenty of films depicting the fragility of the human psyche, the majority are about women’s mental state. Films like THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY (’61), CRIES AND WHISPERS (’72), THE SILENCE (’63) and of course PERSONA (’66) lead some (myself included) to question how Bergman felt about the opposite sex. And I think it’s fascinating that his lone exploration of a weak-minded man also turns out to be his only true horror.



LONG WEEKEND (1978)
Directed by Colin Eggleston – Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

If you only watch one movie from this list, make it this one. It recently showed up on Prime and you can never be too sure how long it’s going to stay. Traditionally, this one has been a bit more obscure and hard to get a hold of. Recently, Synapse released a beautiful Blu-ray and I believe that the Prime version is the same transfer.


‘Man vs. wild’ has always been a favorite sub-genre of mine. Stories about people getting lost in the wilderness and braving the elements are a good way for me to experience the worst of nature without having to leave my couch. This one is not your typical fare though. It’s far more unnerving, without ever introducing a supernatural element. It plays out like an environmentalist’s moral tale. A couple of suburbanite weekend warriors pick a fight with nature without even knowing it. Soon their lack of respect and dignity reap the wrath of their surroundings. But the story is far less straightforward than I’m alluding to. The horrors play out over a slow burn in night sounds and disturbing imagery. 



THE LURE (2015)
Directed by Agnieszka Smoczyńska – Streaming on The Criterion Channel

And you didn’t even know that you needed a Polish musical comedy horror about a couple of cabaret mermaids. Spoiler Alert: You do. It’s a spectacular modern times Eurotrash retooling of the Hans Christian Anderson story. Watch this for the color palette alone. In fact, invite your Mom and sister over for a MAMMA MIA! Marathon and then put this on instead. They’ll thank you. I promise.

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Friday, June 7

Dark Phoenix Review



Dark Phoenix

Dir: Simon Kinberg

Starring: Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Evan Peters, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Jessica Chastain


Before “The Avengers”, before “The Justice League”, before “Spider-Man”, the foundation for the modern era model for comic book movie franchises was started with a 2000 film called “X-Men”. Nineteen years later and the X-Men have gone from wrapping up one storyline to rebooting the entire series of characters altogether, the twelfth installment of the long-standing franchise concludes once again with the film “Dark Phoenix”.


Director Simon Kinberg, who has produced a wealth of action and comic book films, helms his first feature with “Dark Phoenix”. Unfortunately the results aren’t terrific but there are moments of potential with certain characters and with some of the moments of spectacle. For a franchise that has seen its progression roller coaster from fantastic heights to disappointing depths, “Dark Phoenix”, though not the worst in series, deserved a better sendoff for its characters and storyline. 





Professor Xavier’s (James McAvoy) School for Gifted Youngsters has grown into a veritable superhero training academy and, for some, a safe place for young mutants to educate themselves and hone their powers for inclusion into the “normal” world. Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Professor X’s prized pupil, continues to develop at staggering pace along with the rest of the young team which features Ororo “Storm” Munroe (Alexandra Shipp), Scott “Cyclops” Summers (Tye Sheridan), and the team leaders Raven “Mystique” (Jennifer Lawrence) and Hank “Beast” McCoy (Nicholas Hoult). During a mission into space the X-Men team encounter a powerful force that embeds itself into Jean Grey, turning her into an unstoppable force consumed by anger and rage. 


The character of Jean Grey is a fascinating and intriguing villain, a force of dominance amongst the X-Men world but also a character with a rich backstory who is directly connected to all the core characters in this world. There are narrative themes associated with trauma that shape the story early in “Dark Phoenix”; Jean has a past steeped in pain and sorrow, her newly achieved power opens up these memories that Professor Xavier has been trying to hide, unknowingly adding to the traumatic elements that Jean has already experienced in her life.  The story does a nice job initially of displaying the turmoil Jean has been through but also proposing that Professor Xavier’s best intentions for the mutant world may be more self-serving than helpful. It’s a nice element introduced for these characters.


Unfortunately, these interesting insights and intriguing narrative themes dissipate as Jean grows into a force that is being hunted by the X-Men, the Government, and an old foe named Magneto (Michael Fassbender). The film quickly introduces another villain, a rogue group of alien beings led by a determined and stoic Jessica Chastain, and all the work to establish “Dark Phoenix” like a Jean Grey focused film disappears into the same familiar formula we’ve seen before in the X-Men Universe before. While this narrative formula isn’t necessarily bad, there are some nicely composed battles and some interesting references for fans, after twelve films it just feels overly familiar. 




Sophie Turner, unfortunately, isn’t provided the proper character to develop here, any nuance of emotion is replaced with big bursts of raw anger and sadness that never feels necessary or provides the scenes with the kind of power they are shooting for. Ms. Turner is a talented actress capable of so much more. Even Jennifer Lawrence and James McAvoy aren’t provided the character structure to build upon. Michael Fassbender’s Magneto character doesn’t change much throughout these films, so the actor does a decent job of being brooding and filled with rage, hellbent for revenge. 


“Dark Phoenix” has a few moments when the action takes over, director Simon Kinberg seems most comfortable during these big scenes, nicely composing effects with crisp clarity and utilizing the best abilities from the characters to showcase some great fight moments. It’s a shame that more attention wasn’t provided towards the story or characters interacting throughout. The film is trying hard to rise above the other films in this franchise, though it’s far from terrible, “Dark Phoenix” gets lost along the way.


Monte’s Rating

2.75 out of 5.00


Friday, May 31

Rocketman Review



Rocketman

Dir: Dexter Fletcher

Starring: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard, Gemma Jones, Matthew Illesley, Kit Conner, Tom Bennett, and Steven Mackintosh


Arizona State University, during my freshman year of college, was a great place to go to school if you were music fan because of a little slice of heaven called Hoodlums Record Store. This music shop was on campus, always had a great selection of music, and had a staff recommendation wall where you could find brand new musical adventures to explore. It was on this wall where a choice selection from one of my favorite record store clerks was on display, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” from Elton John. 


Up to this point Sir Elton was an overlooked artist in my music catalog, I knew the all the hits but never explored an Elton John album completely. By the time you get to the third track on “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, “Benny and the Jets”, it’s undeniable that you are listening to something special, something classic. 


Director Dexter Fletcher, who stepped in to fill the shoes vacated by Bryan Singer on “Bohemian Rhapsody”, brings the story and music of Reginald Dwight to fantastical and heartfelt life in “Rocketman”. This is a musical, from start to finish; one that feeds on the fan fascination of Elton John’s musical prowess with touches found in direct song and dance numbers to simple composition moments tinged with familiar elements from the artist’s catalog of songs. It’s also a story about therapy and rehabilitation, about a broken family structure and a newfound relationship found through friendship, and it’s also a story about that magical process of making music and the magic that happens when music touches the heart. 





The film begins in a room with a support group where Elton John (Taron Egerton) is telling his story, from the beginning, as a young boy (Matthew Illesley) called Reggie by his mother (Bryce Dallas Howard) and ignored by his stern father (Steven Mackintosh). Reginald is a prodigy, playing music by simply listening to the tune, composing original melodies by simply feeling which keys sound good together. It doesn’t take long for Reg to gain notoriety in London, soon leaving home to compose music for Liberty Records, and quickly skyrocketing to an American showcase with songwriter Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) at the West Hollywood venue The Troubadour. It’s at this concert where the legend of Elton John takes form.


Director Dexter Fletcher and writer Lee Hall apply some interesting elements throughout “Rocketman” which is trying to be more than just a standard music biopic. The film implements a good narrative structure which starts in a support group room and moves back in time to tell the story. While this causes a few occasions where the timeline may be hard to identify, it allows some freedom in crafting the design of the film elements. Throughout the movie characters move from dialog to song, from walking to dancing, and the world changes from reality to fantasy to match the personal themes Elton is experiencing at each specific moment in time. It allows the film to have a fairytale like quality in some moments but also some poignant imagery when it comes to the relationship Elton had with being loved and the harmful indulgences that consumed part of his life.




Taron Egerton is great in the lead role, singing all the songs with familiar inflections and displaying performance scenes with all the swagger and confidence Elton is known for. Egerton also does an impressive job with the emotional aspects, specifically in scenes where Elton is craving simple moments of love from his father and his partner/manager John Reid played by Richard Madden. Jamie Bell is also good throughout film playing the calm and quiet songwriter Bernie Taupin. You can feel the unbreakable kinship that Elton and Bernie have for one another, Jamie Bell and Taron Egerton handle the changing identify of the characters with ease. 


“Rocketman” struggles in moments, specifically in terms of scope in addressing the reach Elton John had during his career which transcended mere album sales and extended into another definition of what a “rockstar” could be. Also, some of the indulgences in the design take over too aggressively, with forced dance numbers or music cues that don’t fit into the narrative composition of the character. 


Still, “Rocketman” is having a great time showcasing the joy of making music while also characterizing a musician who struggled to find happiness and love outside of the tunes he crafted so beautifully. While some elements struggle to hit the mark they are aiming for, the vast majority of the film does a great job of making people remember why the music of Elton John will never go out of style. 


Monte’s Rating

3.50 out of 5.00