Tag Archive for 'Supernatural'

Odd Thomas

Odd Thomas (8/29/15) Netflix (2013 ***) Written and directed by Stephen Sommers, based on the novel by Dean R. Koontz, starring Anton Yelchin, Addison Timlin and Willem Dafoe. A psychic short-order cook knows something really bad is going to happen in his small town, just not quite what. I have no real explanation for it, but I’ve been meaning to read Dean Koontz’ novel of the same name for several years now, but had never gotten around to it. I’m sure that’s based almost entirely on reading the back of the paperback in an airport book store at some time far in the past. Based on that interest, when I saw Odd Thomas listed on Netflix I decided to give it a shot, not knowing much about it. According to Wikipedia, the film got a theatrical release, but everything about it screams: “made-for-TV-movie-intended-as-a-series-pilot.” It is very strange tonally. I know I tend to write in my reviews about tone a great deal, but I was surprised by not only how light its tone was, but also the choices made in its premise. Some examples: The main character is a generally well-adjusted young man who not only has a girlfriend but also a good working relationship with the local police. While I don’t think I can give it a strong recommendation, and I found it predictable at times, it was still a mildly entertaining watch.

Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World (5/1/15) Starz (2013 ***1/4) Directed by Alan Taylor, starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins and Christopher Eccleston. When his “girlfriend” Jane Foster’s body becomes the new host for a powerful blobby crimson artifact, the Norse God of thunder must team up with his brother Loki to protect Earth and the rest of the nine realms from an army of Dark Elves. Or something to that effect. With the release of Age of Ultron (2015), I found myself craving Marvel Universe fare like Homer Simpson craves donuts. Thankfully, the premium cable gods anticipated my needs and aired many of the recent (and not so recent) films. Watching The Dark World for the second time, my opinion didn’t change much. I enjoyed it, but not as much as Thor’s first outing in 2011. Then again, I think origin films always have a bit of a competitive advantage.

American Horror Story, Season 2: Asylum

American Horror Story, Season 2: Asylum (1/13/15) Netflix (2012-13 ***1/4) Created by Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy, starring Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Zachary Quinto and Joseph Fiennes. 13 episodes, originally aired 10/17/12 – 1/23/13. When intrepid investigative reporter Sarah Paulson seeks an interview with Briarcliff Manor’s newest serial killing resident, she gets far more than she ever expected. I took advantage of my wife’s absence (she was on a cruise with her Mom) to watch the second season of this FX original horror show. In a way, the show is an anthology, as many of the actors were back, playing different roles for the season. There’s something about that I find very, very cool, and I imagine that if Orson Welles were alive today and producing TV shows it’s an approach he might use. While the premise of the show was interesting, I didn’t find the second season nearly as scary (or even disturbing) as the first. Maybe it was the absence of ghosts, or maybe some people find different things frightening. There was a lot I liked about the season, but its overall narrative structure seemed “off.” One example of this is that there were a number of episodes toward the end that had me asking myself “was that the end of the season?” The story did take a number of surprising turns and (without giving too much away), there were presumably main characters who departed well before the final episode. Ultimately, I think the problem was that the season had so many barely-connected storylines running, with many characters playing roles in multiple stories. Unfortunately, sometimes those stories seemed to be competing for attention, not unlike the inmates at Briarcliff.

BeetleJuice

BeetleJuice (12/12/14) IFC (1988 ***1/2) Directed by Tim Burton, starring Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder. When an adorable couple dies, their home is invaded by assholes, and they must enlist the aid of a “bio-exorcist” with a strange name who turns out to be an even bigger asshole. I can’t honestly say when the last time is I watched this film, which I’m certain I’ve seen at least a couple of times on video since seeing it in the theater. Why watch it now? Well, there’s been recent internet chatter about Tim Burton directing a sequel, and I was also more than a little curious to see young Alec Baldwin’s performance again. Also, it had been long enough that while I remembered the film’s more memorable moments, I didn’t remember much else, so I was able to watch it with somewhat fresh eyes. Having done so, I believe it’s one of Tim Burton’s best films, actually, mainly because the story holds up fairly well, with clearly-delineated goals and character arcs and whatnot. I know I’ve been fairly critical in the past about his storytelling skills. I wonder what the delta has been…

American Horror Story, Season 1

American Horror Story, Season 1 (11/29/14) Netflix (2011 ***1/4) Created by Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy, starring Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Taissa Farmiga, Evan Peters, Denis O’Hare and Jessica Lange as Constance Langdon. 12 episodes, originally aired 10/5/11 – 12/21/11. A therapist and his family buy the notorious Los Angeles “Murder House” and discover they’re far from its only residents. When this series was first promoted, the big question in my mind (and apparently on the minds of others in the media) was whether it was even possible to do an ongoing, non-anthology, TV series in the horror genre. Well, it was possible, and as this show began I was surprised by how many different ways its creators intended to frighten me. Obviously I didn’t watch the show as it was originally broadcast, so I had some awareness of a “reveal” of sorts that when the first bloody, bone-chilling season was over, so was the story for all the characters involved. Though I imagine it had been done sometime before, this episodic show / miniseries hybrid was (to me, at least) a fresh approach to TV storytelling, one that fit in nicely with the manner in which we’re now consuming media content, often in binge-sized gulps. (MILD SPOILER AHEAD) One of the particularly enjoyable parts of Season 1 of AHS was learning over the course of twelve episodes which characters were, shall we say, not among the living. And the cherries on top of the frightful sundae were watching the show’s characters make the same discoveries!

House of Dark Shadows

House of Dark Shadows (11/8/14) TCM (1970 **1/2) Directed by Dan Curtis, starring Jonathan Frid, Grayson Hall, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Roger Davis, Nancy Barrett and John Karlen. The sleepy seaport town of Collinsport, Maine gets a new resident: A 200-year-old vampire who comes across as tragically sympathetic in spite of his bloodthirsty habits. First, a confession: I’m a definite fan of the original Dark Shadows (1966-1971) soap opera, and am even old enough to have caught a couple of (literally) nightmare-inducing episodes during its original run. This feature-length re-telling of Barnabas Collins’ story, directed by the soap opera’s creator, is an odd film, and very much a product of the era in which it was produced. Sadly, it’s not a particularly good film. Unlike the TV show, which was largely shot on sets in a Manhattan TV studio, the film was mostly set on location. I can’t help but wish the production values had been better. Then again, it was a film undoubtedly produced on a budget and aimed at the teenage drive-in crowd.

The Shining

The Shining (11/8/14) MAX (1980 ****) Directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on the novel by Stephen King, starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd and Scatman Crothers. A writer takes a job as the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, but the isolation proves the old adage that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” After watching the documentary Room 237 (2012), I felt inspired to watch its subject, a film I hadn’t seen in a long time. The Shining truly is a masterpiece, regardless of what Stephen King thought of it and whether or not Kubrick really had a secret agenda. As is the case with many great films, I’m hard-pressed to think of anything to write about it that hasn’t been written far better by others far more articulate than I. But I will offer this: There is something about the film that is so atmospheric. I wonder: Has anyone considered setting a video game in The Overlook Hotel? Perhaps it would make for a wonderful setting for an immersive experience….

R.I.P.D.

R.I.P.D. (6/9/14) HBO (2013 ***) Directed by Robert Schwentke, based on the comic by Peter M. Lenkov, starring Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon and Mary-Louise Parker. A dead cop travels to the other side, where he’s assigned to the “Rest In Peace Department” and partnered with a grizzled gunslinger straight out of the wild west. I was a little surprised, given the low-brow source of this film, that they were able to score the Oscar-winning Jeff Bridges for the part of the rootin’ tootin’ Roy. But then I had to remember that Bridges had also played the big bad in the first Iron Man movie and I got over it. He certainly embraced the role, playing to the rafters and doing the best he could with the material he had. Ultimately, the film was a fun but borderline forgettable variation on Men In Black (1997). While I can’t recommend it wholeheartedly, it contained enough entertaining set pieces to provide entertainment on a day when your brain might happen to be too tired to watch anything more challenging, as was the case for me.

I Married a Witch

I Married a Witch (1/20/14) TCM (1942 **1/2) Directed by Rene Clair, based on the story by Thorne Smith, starring Fredric March, Veronica Lake, Cecil Kellaway, Robert Benchley and Susan Hayward. A politician falls in love with (and marries) a 17th century witch with a proclivity for seductive attire. On the surface, this film was an obvious precursor to TV’s Bewitched, though it differs in one important respect: Gorgeous witch Jennifer (Lake) and her father Daniel never distance themselves from the dark side of their chosen beliefs and witchcraft, and, presumably, the out-and-out worship of evil in general and Satan in particular. In fact, their first act after being freed by an errant lightning bolt is to set fire to a hotel filled with sleeping guests. Committing arson is something Samantha Stevens never would have done, though her mother Endora might have been tempted to from time to time. Overall, I Married a Witch was a mildly enjoyable film, though there was a sense throughout that it could have been better written. Still, I sure didn’t hate watching Veronica Lake wearing sexy (and clingy) bedclothes for half the film.

The Haunted Mansion

The Haunted Mansion (1/3/14) ENC (2003 **) Directed by Rob Minkoff, written by David Berenbaum, starring Eddie Murphy, Marsha Thomason, Terence Stamp, Nathaniel Parker and Jennifer Tilly. Real estate agent Jim Evers and his family become unwilling overnight guests in a spooky old house populated by ghosts. As an 8-year-old child, visiting Disneyland for the first time, the two E-ticket rides that made the biggest impression on me were (in this order) The Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion. Of course, by now, everyone knows what became of Disney’s Pirates. When The Haunted Mansion (the film) was released ten years ago, I was initially intrigued, but then heard the reviews weren’t exactly great (13% on RottenTomatoes.com), yet somewhere in the back of my head I filed it away to watch someday. Well, someday finallycame and I half-watched the filmwhile working on an art project. I had zero expectations, so it didn’t seem terrible. In fact, I actually liked the idea of a family visiting a house occupied by ghosts. I found it an odd choice to hang a major plot point on America’s history of racism in a film that was definitely aimed at kids. As of this writing, I understand that Disney may be developing a new Haunted Mansion reboot based on a screenplay written by Guillermo del Toro. It will be interesting to see if that version ever comes to fruition.