Open House Pt 5 (House: the Collection)

For a long time, it was hard to come by the films in this set, outside of the first two which were more well known. Until Arrow came along, a complete blu-ray set seemed an unlikely scenario.

House_Box_set

Each disc comes in its own case with reversible art, one side newly created artwork for the Arrow Releases and the other side the original poster or VHS art. I admit, my preference is to the original art.  The paintings are really nice, but the disembodied hand ring the doorbell is iconic.

The Box itself is sturdy, allowing for safe storage.

Each disc is loaded with extras, including bonus interviews, audio commentaries and all new documentaries for three of the films. I wish they had one for the third film. However, the Horror Show includes the American and European cuts in HD.

This is a good set, full of really good extras to let you immerse yourself in the history of each movie.

Open House pt 4 (House IV: The Repossession, 1992)

House_4_posterAfter the massive departure with the Horror Show (including abandoning the “House III”) Sean S. Cunningham worked with a new team to bring out House 4.

This film is an attempt to return to something closer to the first two films.  This film features the “return” of Roger Cobb, again played by William Katt. Cobb and his wife are being pressured by his step-brother to sell their old house.

Roger is killed an accident that also leaves his daughter wheelchair bound.  Roger’s wife Kelly wants to keep the house, but also senses a presence and sees visions.  Roger’s Step Brother is in league with a sleazy business man who is looking for a place to unload his toxic waste and they want the land on which the house sits.

The odd thing with this film is that it really does not connect to the original film at all.  In that film he was divorced and had a son. This film has a wife and daughter and it appears they have been happily married for over a decade.  There is really nothing that indicates there is any connections between the Roger Cobb of the first House and this film.

This one has an uneven feel.  There are a few instances where they aim for humor, but it still stays closer to a serious tone for most of the film.  And it moves at a slow pace. Having William Katt return as Cobb is just kind of confusing.

Overall, this film has a very early Fox TV movie feel (lie, the early days of Fox when they were trying anything to make it work…like the Omen IV). This never matches up to the heights of fun absurdity of the first two films, nor the gory seriousness of the third film, and it is just a bit lackluster.

Open House Pt 2 (House II: the Second Story, 1986)

House_2_PosterJesse has inherited his ancestral home and finds himself drawn to the history of the structure.  His girlfriend works for a sleazy music executive and so his friend Charlie arrives with his girlfriend, the singer in a band to try and get her career a boost.

Jesse discovers that his great great grandfather (for whom he is named) may have been buried with a great treasure…he and Charlie decide to go to the graveyard nearby and exhume his grandfather.  When they find the  treasure, it is a crystal skull…but that is not all… great great grand dad is still alive. They bring him back, and it turns out that the elder Jesse is a kindly old cowboy who explains that the house is a unique nexus of time and space.  But they must protect the skull as evil seeks it out for evil’s own gain.

Each room can lead to another time and place, fraught with excitement and danger. And it is this premise that makes House II stand apart from the first film.

Rather than follow Cobb on another tale in the house, they opted to tell a stand alone tale in an all new house. The tagline was “It’s Getting Weirder” and boy how… the premise is really more of a sci-fi fantasy adventure with little horror elements. Heck the film features Jesse and Charlie acquiring a weird but cute Caterpuppy and a prehistoric baby bird.

The cast of characters are a lot of fun, especially Royal Dano as Gramps (who even gets an emotional moment when he realizes he looks more corpse than living man) and a real highlight in John Ratzenberger as Bill Tanner. The second Cheers alum in the franchise was a coincidence…but frankly it would have been a hilarious conceit to continue the trend.

The film did not do very well upon release, but found new life on TV as it was PG-13 and could actually be played virtually uncut.  And the fact is, this movie is just a lot of fun. It may not be much of a horror movie, but it is funny and exciting.

Open House pt 1 (House, 1985)

House_1986_PosterSo, in the early 80’s Sean S. Cunningham was working on expanding on his success with the Friday the 13th franchise. Teaming up with Fred Dekker (screenwriter and director of Night of the Creeps and the Monster Squad) and Ethan Wiley to make a haunted house film directed by Steve Miner (Director of Friday the 13th pt 2 and Halloween H20).

House tells the story of a popular horror writer who struggles with his post traumatic stress from his time in Vietnam. In addition, since the death of his son, his marriage has fallen apart. He decides to tackle his demons by writing a book about his time as a soldier. He inherits a house from his aunt who hung herself.

As he sets forth making the house his new home, he starts to deal with bizarre phenomenon…like monsters coming out of closets and a monster version of his ex-wife and visions of his dead son.

House is one of the more unique horror films of the mid-80’s. It is very intentionally meant to be fun.  The monsters are fun old school practical, but the film never is all that scary. William Katt plays Roger Cobb serious, but with just a hint of a man wondering if he is caving in to absurdity. George Wendt (Norm from Cheers) is his neighbor Harold.  Wendt is pretty open that back in 1985, his Cheers success kind of fed his ego to feel he was better than appearing in a horror film (Wendt looks back on this as foolishness on his part and feels the movie held up). This may have benefited his performance though, because he is really entertaining.

house_newspaper_adAs noted, in spite of there being plenty of monsters, this film is tonally light.  But it benefits the film. House is a lot of fun to watch, and overcomes any limitations of it’s budget to be a memorable time.

Wild Girls (Booksmart, 2019)

Booksmart_PosterRaunchy teen comedies with heart are the genre people love, but often, the genre falls kind of flat, especially when they start leaning into being shocking over a soul.

Molly and Amy are studious best friends who stayed focused on their studies so they could go off to a prestigious college and get high paying jobs.  But when Molly discovers that all the slacker kids who made fun of them got into the same school or other Ivy League schools, she snaps.  She convinces Amy they must attend the big pre-graduation party. There is one hiccup though, they do not know the address of the party.

The film follows the girls as they keep ending up at the wrong parties and dealing with crazy situations.

The film does something clever early on.  At the start, we are really led to see the girls as outcasts whose lives were ruined by the mean kids.  But as the story unravels, Molly and Amy start to question their friendship, with Molly being forced to question a lot about herself.  And the mean kids? Don’t turn out to be that mean.  Like, Amy and Molly could have been friends with these kids if they had not actually kind of looked down on them as dumb kids going nowhere.

When they get to the party, I kept waiting on a cliche that never came. I kept waiting for the scene where the mean kids humiliate them…and instead, the story flips it on it’s head. The heart of their friendship and self discovery takes over, rather than worrying about being outrageous.

Beanie Feldstein manages to really come close to the line of being obnoxious without actually crossing it, so Molly is flawed but still sympathetic. Kaitlyn Dever has the role that gives her an extra edge for being likable, as she is the straight man much of this film. But together, they really connect.

I really enjoyed Booksmart and am looking forward to Olivia Wilde’s upcoming career as a director.

The Family That Wrestles Together (Fighting With My Family, 2019)

Fighting_With_My_Family_PosterFighting With My Family is the story of wrestler Paige.  Coming from a lower class family obsessed with wrestling, Zayara and Zak dream of the big time wrestling.  When they try out for WWE, only Zayara is selected, crushing her brother.  But when she tells him she won’t go, he lets her know he cannot take this away from her.

And so, Fighting With My Family takes us on Zayara’s journey to becoming the WWE Diva Paige.

As someone who has little knowledge of Wrestling beyond knowing who the Rock is, I cannot verify the accuracy of the film.  What I can confirm is that this is a fun film with a lot of heart.  Florence Pugh is incredibly sympathetic and lovable. The film does not make her pure of heart, she learns some hard lessons, like not seeing the other women as enemies.  As she grows, she pulls others with her.

The relationship that becomes most strained is Paige and her brother Zak.  He struggles with the idea that he cannot be where she is at.  And it drives him away from everything good in his life for a time. The Rock is charming as usual.

This is a good little inspirational sports film worth a watch.

Same Old Story (Long Shot, 2019)

Long_Shot_PosterHave you heard about this movie where the schlubby guy hooks up with a hot chick out of his league? You know…the plot of, like, 77% of rom-coms? I mean…Seth Rogan? He is a type…

Rogan is Fred Flarsky, a lefty journalist who finds himself out of a job when his paper is bought by Parker Wembly (an unrecognizable Andy Serkis as a Rupert Murdoch type media mogul). At a party, he runs into his old baby sitter Charlotte Field, about to enter the ring as a presidential candidate.

Charlotte hires him to punch up her speeches and slowly, the pair find themselves falling for each other, in spite of the fact that her staff think this is a very bad idea, mainly because… well, Fred is a potential liability. He is a casual drug user, he has no filter and well…there is more.

And really? In the hands of less talented a less talented creative team and cast?  This might have been an embarrassment of cliches.  I mean, this film certainly follows all the tropes, right to the end.  And yet, I never found myself caring.  The film is funny, the characters endearing…I rooted for them to succeed. Theron and Rogan are great and I did not find myself questioning what she could see in him.

Long Shot is a terrific comedy that shows that you can actually follow the Rom Com template and make a very entertaining film.

Quicktime (Sonic the Hedgehog, 2020)

Sonic_the_Hedgehog_PosterSonic popularity came about at a time when I had no access to video games. So I watched a lot of the discourse around the film lacking any real skin in the game.  There are two things that stood out.  One was the initial trailer that drew outrage over the look of the Sonic.  This led to the studio rushing back to the drawing board and aggressively redesigning and animating an all new Sonic model. Since the movie was released, it seems pretty universal that the altered model is a big improvement.

The second issue seemed to revolve around how relevant this would be for young kids. One example is that on Fandom’s Charting with Dan, Dan Murrell and Lon Harris asked if kids really cared about Sonic. But honestly, at the time, the only reason I expected to see the movie, it was because my nephews liked Sonic and wanted to see the movie.

We are introduced to young Sonic, who lives on a magical island in another universe and is looked after by an Owl.  She warns Sonic that he has special abilities that people will always want to exploit, and so he must always keep himself a secret. She gives him special rings of gold and explains to him that if trouble ever happens, he must escape to another universe using the rings.  When they are attacked, Sonic is forced to leave on his own. He ends up in our world, where he spends the next ten years living in hiding.

He lives his life alone, pretending to have friendships with all the locals, with a special attachment to the local Sheriff, who he has named Donut Lord. Meanwhile, Donut Lo-uh Tom lives with his wife and is trying to chase a life of excitement by joining a larger police force. When Sonic accidentally causes a massive power outage with his powers, the U.S. Government sends out eccentric scientist Doctor Robotnik to find Sonic.

Tom finds himself road tripping with Sonic to San Francisco to locate his lost rings, bonding and trying to escape the grasp of Robotnik.

And you know…the movie is actually a lot of fun. Ben Schwartz voices Sonic with an excited child like quality.  James Marsden is always a solid Every Man (in spite of his leading man good looks). And Jim Carrey is clearly having a blast here.

The CGI works pretty well, and successfully bridges the cartoonish and real.

I am not a huge fan of the whole “You can Never Share Your Secret” narratives, as it often feels kind of an easy setup. But for the most part, once the movie kicks into gear, you kind of forget about it until the end.  Some of the humor falls flat (like the running jokes about Olive Garden).

But I was far more entertained by this film than I expected to be.  Sonic is one of the more fun video game adaptions and makes for nice light entertainment.

 

Sally Forth! (Onward, 2020)

Onward_PosterIt is Ian Lightfoot’s 16th birthday. Shy and reserved, he really has no friends and has always felt like his life was missing something very specific.  His dad.  When his mother was pregnant, Ian’s father died.  Sixteen years later the family has rebuilt itself with his big brother Barley and mother and his centaur stepfather.

Oh, yeah, by the way, Onward is set in a universe where the world is populated by elves, centaurs, ogres, mermaids, goblins and unicorns. Years ago there was magic, but as it was not something everyone could do, technology developed, starting with electricity…eventually, magic was largely forgotten.

On his sixteenth birthday, his mother hands him a gift from his father.  What they find is a wizard staff, a jewel and a spell that will bring their father back for one day so he can see who his sons have become.  Things go wrong and they bring him back from the waist down…this sets Ian and Barley on a quest to find a new jewel to complete the spell before sundown robs them of their time.

Onward keeps its world building deceptively simple.  The opening couple minutes set up exactly why we basically see a world a lot like our own, just with mythical creatures.  They have a lot of fun with a concept where technology has caused natural things to the different creatures to atrophy, so when Barley tries to tell people how things used to be, they laugh at him (why would a centaur need to run up to 70 miles when they have a car?) or become angry (are you telling pixies they are lazy for not flying?). And Barley seems easy to write off, all his knowledge is based in a Dungeons and Dragons style game that he claims is historically accurate.

I really found the characters endearing.  The side plots are also engaging, especially the boys’ mom who teams up with the Manticore (Octavia is delightfully manic) to secure a sword that can end a curse the boys are on track to unknowingly release.

The character designs are solid, though not groundbreaking for Pixar.  But they are fun to watch and the voice cast gives them a vivid life.  I also love how colorful the film it.  Even when they are contrasting the world without magic with a more grimy look, it is really nice looking.

I had a great time watching Onward and think people of all ages will really enjoy it.

Reboot, Restart (Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, 2020)

Jay_And_Silent_Bob_Reboot_PosterKevin Smith created a splash with Clerks in the early 90’s.  He had a string of hits, but somewhere around 2001 he started to fall out of favor.  Now, I actually like Smith’s general work and some cringe takes over the years, he comes off as a well meaning guy who wants to entertain through stories. He started doing national tours where he pretty much just chatted and told stories about his career (this has resulted in some rather entertaining DVD sets). His movies have not fared as well among critics and general audiences (though I liked Red State and Tusk).

I like Smith and feel like people are a little too hard on him. Maybe I have missed something unforgivable. But anyways… 2001 was the year that Smith put out Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.  Unlike previous works, there was no real “message” or exploration of ideas about relationships and the like. The film was just a wacky hijinks filled raunchy comedy.

Jay and Silent Bob find out that Banky sold the film rights to a major studio to create a Bluntman and Chronic (the comic Holden and Banky created in Chasing Amy). Angry that they are not seeing any of the profits, they set out to sabotage the film.

I worked at a video store when it came out on DVD.  Every night when we closed up shop, we threw in that DVD and laughed our asses off as we did our closing duties. Jay and Silent Bob Reboot feels, well, inevitable.

Picking up around seventeen years later, Jay and Silent Bob discover that Bluntman and Chronic is getting rebooted and they are not being compensated.  So they set off to sabotage the film by going to Comic Con.  The hiccup is the discovery that Jay’s beloved from Strike Back- Justice- had a daughter with Jay that she never told him about named Millenium, or Milly. Justice is now married to a woman named Reggie Faulken. Yes, Smith is geeking out hard here.

After meeting, Milly forces Jay and Silent Bob to take her and her friends to Comic Con with them (without knowing who Jay is, as Justice makes him promise to not reveal he is her father). Hijinks ensue.

There are some good laughs, mainly falling into cute references, rather than joke based hilarity.  The cameos are ranging from fun to “because they could get them”…but what really stands out with the film?

Smith wanted to say something here.  Like, his desire to communicate overwhelms the film.  And not in a terrible way, I actually like what he is saying…it feels far more personal than some of his other attempts at sentimentality.  Family seems to have been the spirit here, and I truthfully like that.  Even when we revisit characters like Holden and Alyssa from Chasing Amy, it is to show them both at a better place in their lives and their relationship.  Smith pushes the notions that family is bigger than traditional ideas of a nuclear family. Family is what you make of it, don’t fear parenthood, no matter how scary it may seem.

This is not to say the film is not goofy, it is…and while some humor feels repetitive or just fell flat for me early on, by the end of the film, Smith won me over.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑