Review Bites Video Vices

Review Bites: Terror Train, Candyman, The Rock, aliens, Chris Pratt and more

Think the Bay of Pigs invasion was bad? Check out this ridiculous game plan. Earth 30 years in the future is being invaded by aliens so soldiers are conscripted from our present and sent to the future to save the world. The only problem is they enlist everyone from soccer moms to math teachers to your grandpa Fernando to fight the good fight with literally a few seconds of military training. To make matters worse the time portals have the accuracy of near-sighted snipers so our valiant G.I. Schmoes are dropped off wherever. One such case ends up being 40 stories in the air so many of the soldiers fell screaming to their untimely deaths without firing a single shot or killing a single alien. It is up to Time Lord, I mean Dan Forester (Chris Pratt) to lead a ragtag group of coffee break warriors to victory. It is just as exciting as it sounds as the real enemy to Earth turns out to be…global warming! DUN DUN DUNNNNN!! Even the aliens are tired of being in this movie and in the end allow themselves to be killed off by a toxin. A toxin which was suggested by Forester’s wife, making him pretty much useless and stupid as she is the one who saved the world.

Warner Brothers Animation makes a few changes to the classic comic book story written by Jeph Loeb but overall it maintains the same mystery and intrigue. Bats, District Attorney Harvey Dent and Captain Gordon put their heads together to stop Holiday, a serial killer who is rubbing out members of the Falcone crime family one by one on Halloween, Christmas…you get the idea. This is Batman at the start of his career so he is missing some of the essentials like bullet proof glass in his Batmobile and the nifty gadgets he usually carries around. The Joker, Catwoman, Solomon Grundy and Poison Ivy all figure into this brilliant whodunit.

Seventies horror kingpin Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows, The Night Strangler, Trilogy of Terror) shot this supernatural tale which has been met with mixed reviews. Some consider it a classic while others think it is a tad bit hokey. It is a bit of both, to be honest. The Rolf family consisting of horror and thriller greats  Karen Black, Oliver Reed and Bette Davis rent an old mansion for the summer and just like in Stephen King’s The Shining, they discover that the house is a living, breathing thing that is manipulating and corrupting them. Well, everyone except the young son Davey (Lee H. Montgomery) who is either always in danger, getting into trouble or being as irritating as possible until he gathers up the gumption to whack his dad in the face with his diving mask for trying to drown him. The late great Burgess Meredith and Eileen Heckart are the creepy brother and sister act who are gleefully happy that they have found new short-term occupants. The twists and turns are very predictable but the final death and what leads up to it will probably still shock viewers today.

They should have made and released this movie years and years ago. They also shouldn’t have killed off her character but that’s modern Marvel’s self-destructive business plan. Instead of adding to, enhancing the past like the creators before them did, they try to erase and replace. Endgame is proving to be more than a movie title. Decent spy/action story centered around the most dysfunctional family, perhaps ever. The fight scenes reminded me of Captain America: Civil War and The Bourne Identity, the humour is really cutting and terse, David Harbour and Florence Pugh are exceptional to the point of burying Scarlett Johansson. The only thing that pissed me off was what they did with Taskmaster, typical modern Marvel, see above.

One of the films that turned Jamie Lee Curtis into a bonafied scream queen. This often forgotten and clever Canadian slasher film was directed by Roger Spottiswoode who would go on to lens such big Hollywood films such as 007 in Tomorrow Never Dies, Air America and Turner & Hooch. Much like the film Curtis shot right before this one – the Canadian slasher film Prom Night – a tragic event from the past comes back to haunt the witnesses, perpetrators years later. This time the unique setting is a party aboard a moving train. That aspect did cause a lot of headaches for the filmmakers though. There aren’t a whole lot of grisly kills or gory special effects but the slasher whodunit mystery and the twist at the end make up for that. A great little horror gem.

Ain’t it sad that there are so many unimaginative reboots that we now have to put a year after the title of so many movies to make that distinction? Candyman is another example of American creators putting “The More You Know” idealism before good characters and stories. Nia DaCosta does a fantastic job creating an eerie, really creepy atmosphere and really has a style all her own, which is amazing for a newbie director but no matter how hard she tries though her focus on messaging takes away from what a horror movie should be and that is something this is unnerving or scary. The way she reworks the Candyman mythos is also very disappointing. Think of the infamous death of Tina Gray in the first Nightmare on Elm Street film (the 1984 classic not the crappy 2010 remake) and if that is all we saw of Freddy Krueger and you will understand what I am getting at here. Seeing Tony Todd for like five seconds is a travesty and a waste of his talent. The film had so much promise but stumbles because of its mission to message its audience with such a heavy hand. Stick to the original movie and especially the short story (The Forbidden) by Clive Barker for a more balanced and actually frightening story in Volume Five of his iconic Books of Blood series.

Jungle Cruise is a mash-up of the best parts of Raiders of the Lost Ark and all of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean films. Emily Blunt and Jack Whitehall star as a brother and sister team obsessed with locating an ancient treasure which could be a miracle find for all humankind and The Rock (as Frank Wolff) is their skipper, guide as they navigate the Amazon River. Blunt is Indiana Jones, Lara Croft while Whitehall is effectively Short Round. Blunt really steals the show though as she is as charismatic as The Rock…and that is no small achievement in itself, outshining The Rock in any film. Like Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider some of the scenes may be a little too hardcore for some youngsters. Blunt and The Rock play so well off each other and the snappy, witty dialogue throughout Jungle Cruise bolsters that relationship. Director Jaume Collet-Serra’s work on Orphan, House of Wax and The Shallows comes in handy here not only in the more scarier scenes and fantasy elements but in the overall look of this film. If Disney were smart they would be roping The Rock, Blunt and Whitehall in for sequels turning this into another Mummy-like franchise.

Although Superhost does a solid job of mocking and criticizing YouTube culture, it is a one joke and ultimately disappointing film. Travel bloggers Teddy (Osric Chau) and Claire (Sara Canning) are bleeding subscribers. To make matters worse, an obsessed and bitter superhost (the always incredible Barbara Crampton) they featured in the past is stalking them while they are filming their latest episode for which they are renting a magnificent vacation home from the off-kilter Rebecca (Gracie Gillam). We know Rebecca is not playing with a full deck from the very start so we aren’t surprised when the story follows its calculated and anticipated path. Everyone in the film is top notch, Gilliam is the standout as the manic, creepy Rebbeca, but with a cast of only four people you just know there won’t be much of a body count. No suspense. No solid body count. What’s left? Not much, to be honest.

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