Shady’s back – tell a friend! *dance break* Oops, sorry, got a little excited there for a minute…Anyway, I’m back (for today at least. and later this week. then hopefully forever and ever and ever like that creepy clowndoll you can’t get rid of but being ill makes life rarely go as planned, so we’ll see. right? 😉 ) WHY am I here? To let y’all know that the Portland Film Fest is back!!
Remember AIMY IN A CAGE from last year? The mind-blowingly, amazingly, freakishly, insanely beautiful love child of John Waters and Marc Caro/Jean-Pierre Jeunet (that is currently on Amazon Prime – hint, hint, nudge, nudge)? It was one of the AMAZING pieces from last year’s festival and this year’s line-up promises to be just as interesting! I’ll be covering the festival and reviewing films from it for the next couple of weeks, and there’s just so much diversity going on here – there are films on pinball wizards; accountants dying to be stand-up comedians; Ovarian Psycos; pot growers; guys with allergies to the sun; haunted Mediterranean islands; politically-conscious indie musicals (YES!!!); family dramas; goat farming; gang life vs. street fashion; superstar role models; and MORE…*deep breath* Whew, that’s a lot of film! Obviously, I can’t get to them all, but I’ll be getting to as many films as I can. If you’re IN Portland, however, I HIGHLY suggest you go watch these beauts for yourself!
The fourth annual Portland Film Festival will take place August 29 – September 5, 2016, at Portland’s iconic Laurelhurst Theater, and will include over 20 educational panels & forums, 12 archival presentations, and many parties, events, and industry networking opportunities throughout the week. Established in 2013, the Portland Film Festival is one of Oregon’s largest film festivals, and was named “one of the coolest film festivals in the world,” by MovieMaker Magazine. This year, the festival has programmed a near equal balance of films from men and women, furthering the festival’s commitment to supporting diverse voices and visions.
“This year’s screenings, panels, and programs are an exciting cross-section of icons of classic cinema, engaging new filmmakers, and the best of modern indie film. We’re truly proud to bring this year’s eclectic program to local audiences. We’re also thrilled that, for the first time, all of our films will screen at Portland’s historic Laurelhurst Theatre. This year’s festival will be a not-to- be-missed event,” said Josh Leake, Portland Film Festival Founder and Executive Director.
The festival will present two opening and closing night films (a documentary and a narrative film on each night) and feature films in the following sections: Narrative Competition Feature, Documentary Competition Feature, Narrative Spotlight, Stranger Than Fiction, Tribute: Visionaries, and Milestones. New this year, the festival has created a section to screen classic films from the 70’s and 80’s, and will also be honoring two iconic writers, Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club, Choke) and William F. Nolan (Logan’s Run).
Visit their site for full deets and list of films!
We’ve already seen some clunkers at the theaters in 2016. From “London Has Fallen” to “Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice,” it’s basically been an onslaught of soulless action sequels designed to fill the gap between the winter awards season and the spring and summer blockbusters. But beginning in April we’ll really start to get into the coming year in film – and there are sure to be more disasters on the way.
Keeping that in mind, here are my predictions for the five worst movies still to come in 2016.
Alice Through The Looking Glass
It’s amazing how infrequently Through The Looking Glass is mentioned, given the fame of Alice In Wonderland. Lewis Carroll’s sequel was as quirky and wondrous as the original, and probably deserves a similarly high place in the literary canon. That said, it probably doesn’t really need a film sequel, does it?
2010’s “Alice In Wonderland” wasn’t actually bad, but it’s been another six years, and I’m just not sure the public is ready for more Tim Burton/Johnny Depp eccentricity (though Burton is only producing this time around). The trailer looks like a combination of “The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus” and a bunch of Disney ideas that were locked away in a vault (not a good combo), and the cast is a who’s who of actors who are strange for the sake of being strange: Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Michael Sheen, Andrew Scott, Rhys Ifans, Stephen Fry…. They’re all very capable, but thrown together in a project like this they just sound annoying.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows
Where was I when we decided we needed a sequel to the blasphemous garbage that was Jonathan Liebesman’s 2014 “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles CGI Festival” (not the official title). The movie got 21% on Rotten Tomatoes and prompted one reviewer to make the claim that it made Transformers movies look subtle. But hey, it made almost $500 million, so full speed ahead.
I don’t feel I have to get into this one too much, so here goes. Spoiler alert: it’s going to be horrible.
Now You See Me 2
“Now You See Me” wasn’t an awful movie… it just wasn’t very clever. Billed as a sort of “Ocean’s 11”-but-with-magic, it was expected to be a mind-blowing heist thriller complete with intelligent twists and intricate plot puzzles. Instead, it was kind of just a heist movie that used only partially explained magic tricks as explanations for thievery. There was something there, but whether via poor direction, uninventive writing, or perhaps even shoddy editing, it didn’t quite come to the surface.
Maybe round two will be better. The cast, at least, has been loaded up for a major summer blockbuster. Returners Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco, and Mark Ruffalo are all bigger deals now than they were when the first film came out; established pros Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Woody Harrelson are all back; and this time around we’ll also be treated to appearances by Daniel Radcliffe and Lizzy Caplan. The ingredients are there. But frankly, the first movie didn’t inspire much confidence, and given that sequels are usually dumber and less inventive (see: “Ocean’s 12”), it feels more likely that this movie doubles down on the shortcomings of its predecessor.
Independence Day: Resurgence
It might be about time for an alien invasion movie. This particular sort of fiction is always popular, but it’s actually been a while since a big budget movie tackled invasion. Aliens in general have remained popular subjects for entertainment of late. There was actually a little-known 2015 movie about our history of alien fascination, called “Area 51,” and Gala’s bingo platform even played into the same history with the introduction of an “Area 75” video game. It’s one of several themed bingo games to embrace fiction or pop culture, and brings up topics and imagery related to Area 51 and UFO sightings.
But a big budget, Hollywood thrill ride about a large-scale alien invasion? It really has been a while. But does our next foray into this popular topic really have to be a shameless cash grab? This is a 20-years-later sequel that’s lacking its biggest star, and while the trailer looks intriguing, I have my doubts. Continuing Independence Day without Will Smith is like if “The Force Awakens” had been made without any of the old timers on board. Sure, it would have made limitless money anyway, but would it have been nearly as interesting? This has flop written all over it.
Oh, Hollywood…. We just can’t drop the sword-and-sandals epics, can we? There really hasn’t been a good one in years, let alone anything close to the impact we saw in films like “Gladiator,” “Troy,” and “300” earlier this century. However, at least the majority of failed sword-and-sandals movies simply fade away into obscurity, or drift to Netflix to be buried beneath better movies. This one might be different.
The 1959 “Ben-Hur” starring Charlton Heston has a certain iconic place in Hollywood history, and messing with it now just seems kind of careless. Not to mention it’s being remade with a relative unknown in Heston’s shoes (Jack Huston, who most recently starred in “Pride And Prejudice And Zombies”), and written by a guy who has a single film credit since penning 1994’s “In Search Of Dr. Seuss.” This really feels like a half-assed effort trying to capitalize on a famous name.
Predicting the worst films of any summer is always a difficult exercise, because there are always a few clunkers nobody sees coming. Furthermore, it’s always possible that something that looks truly awful winds up exceeding expectations! But specifically where sequels and remakes are concerned – and really, those categories make up most of the summer blockbuster season these days – these five look like pretty safe bets to elicit groans from critics.
James Morey is a freelance writer and blog contributor.
TW: Talk of Suicide
I love this film. I love everything about it. It’s an absolutely brilliant story about suicide (although as stated above definite trigger warnings if you’re currently depressed or feeling suicidal). Not everyone’s been there but a lot of us have – that point where you just want to give up on everything. It’s a scary point. But then, if you’re lucky, you’re able to pull yourself out of that deep, dark hole with the help of friends, family, therapy, meds, and mostly yourself. What happens when you can’t leave that place? What’s it like to have an addiction to suicide & death?
“Suicidal ideation: unusual preoccupation with suicide.” In Here Lies Joe, we meet two individuals at a Suicide Anonymous group – a group for individuals dealing with suicidal ideation. Joe is the new guy while Z is the manic-pixie dream girl of the group. Z writes her suicide notes in iambic pentameter instead of trying to NOT want to die; Joe just seems out of place and unsure of why he’s there or anywhere. The two seem to sense kindred souls in one another and Z manages to finagle a ride from the meeting with Joe. Instead of taking him to her home, she takes him to the cemetery instead, where they spend the afternoon. And later that night they spend hours on the phone together, bonding, each lost in their own way. What will morning bring?
As someone who has a mental illness of which suicidal ideation is a key symptom, this film really touched a chord. It was incredibly honest and open. The characters were real and tangible, relatable. Z says she wants to kill herself because she’s “an ugly thing in a beautiful world”, a statement which is so honest and heartrendingly easy to understand. This film is utterly beautiful. And while it is a film with dark elements and themes, they explore them with humor and pathos to arrive at the film’s ultimate message: hope.
While Dean Temple as “Joe” gives a wonderful and sturdy performance, it’s Andi Morrow as “Z” who steals the show (and your breath) away. Her performance is raw and something magical to behold.
I can’t recommend Here Lies Joe highly enough. Visit the film’s website to find out where you can catch it. And remember that there’s ALWAYS hope.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
After last week’s spot of “teamwork”, can the boys handle a bit of creativity?
What’s this? The webseries I co-wrote is FINALLY here? It premiered TODAY?? Indeed it is and indeed it did!
COUNSELING tells the tale of Matt and Tom, who seek the assistance of counselor, Dr. Robbins, in order to become more upstanding members of society. Does it go well? Does it go poorly? Do they become the most upstanding of upstandingest people ever? Well…as I say in my interview:
I really wanted to write two really awful people and make people really like them.
Take that as you will. 😉
So head on over and check out my interview, then watch the premiere episode of COUNSELING below! (RATED R for language and crass humor – aka E., I think you will like)
Thank you, Kim, for letting me participate in the 80s blogathon (missed it? head on over!)! It was awesome revisiting the land of Oz! 😉
Our last guest to join us for the Ultimate 80s Blogathon is none other that the lovely Misty from Cinema Schminema. Misty is possibly one of my earliest blogging friends after I started jumping into the movie reviews world. She posts creative and fun reviews on a lot of low budget movies and a lot of B-horror. I’d be lying if she didn’t introduce me to what Asylum is and found the joy and tolerance in watching some of those features. Remember to head on over and check her site out. 🙂
Let’s pass it over to her with her choice, Return to Oz!
Return to Oz (1985)
The year was 1987 and I was but a wee slip of a thing who had a thing for dark fantasy films (at least those in the kids’ section of the video store – do you guys remember video stores??). I…
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Remember Volumes of Blood? Remember how much I loved it? Well, P.j. and the gang are back for Round 2 and if you’re so willing, they’d love your help. They have an Indiegogo campaign up right now full of fun perks so if you have a couple of extra dollars and love indie horror, head on over and give ’em a hand!
So the cool thing about The Second Coming: Brought To You In Low Definition is that it was filmed on VHS, resulting in an interesting vintage look and feel to the film (like do you remember the quality of VHS?? So spotty!). Unfortunately, that’s really the only good thing I can say about this one. I have absolutely no idea what the point of this film was.
I mean, the tagline reads: “Two 20 some-things, Halibar & Peggy, meet and bond trying to find the owner of a lost cat.”, and this is true…I guess…They DO meet when Halibar finds a lost stuffed animal in the shape of the kitten that he spends some time talking with and whom Peggy helps him return to it’s owner. Whether this stuffed animal is supposed to be a “live actual cat”, I don’t know. They certainly treat it as such. After returning the stuffed animal to it’s owner though, nothing happens except a whole lot of boredom and really uncomfortably strange bits that go on too long. You know what, let’s go back to the beginning…
When a film opens with two people pissing on each other in a non-erotic way whilst taking a bath together, it’s probably a good sign that the film you’re about to watch is not going to be up there in the best of the best category. When the same film continues on so that one of your main characters gets constipated, decides his “poos are like his babies” and then talks to them while on the toilet, it’s definitely a sign that you’re in iffy territory. When said film has no plot and is absolutely non-linear, just random moments, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s on the “not so wonderful” end of the spectrum…except in this case where it does. Random moments are awesome. Random moments where a grown man hugs a child he doesn’t know for 5 minutes straight in silence; decides he’s Jesus and dances in his underwear to remixed gospel music for 5+ minutes (including pole dancing whilst wearing socks and sandals); decides he’s the next Hitler and pens a second Mein Kampf; and is obsessed with his bowels? Really, really not so awesome.
A big part of the problem here was that each of these bits went on for WAY too long – like that dying sketch on SNL that just won’t end. You think you’re “sexy Jesus”? Fabulous. I don’t need to watch you dance in your underwear for more than 5+ minutes though especially when there’s no point to it. Which is the main problem I have with this film – there’s no point. Nothing happens. No one evolves. Two people get together but it’s not an actual relationship, more of someone taking care of a child. Nothing moves forward (or sideways or anyways). It’s just two people (but mainly one guy) acting like a very annoying, whiny man-child with delusions of grandeur. It’s not experimental. It’s not avant-garde. It’s not artsy. It’s not ANYTHING. And therein lies the problem.
While very cool with the filming on the VHS, there were still issues with the cinematography – long shots that didn’t match with close-ups, too many uncreative camera angles – it was stagnant. I wish I could say more about this film, better things about this film, but I really can’t. I love that someone had the passion to create a film in the first place; it’s hard work, I know. I think the writer/director here would benefit greatly from a bit more mentoring and learning, and I think it would be interesting to see what he brings in the future.
“For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” Romeo & Juliet, Act 5, scene iii
What would’ve happened had Romeo & Juliet NOT died at the end of Romeo + Juliet? That’s the question upcoming film, The Enemy tries to answer. In this world, Romeo and Juliet are alive. For eighteen years and nine months, less a day, the star-crossed lovers have lived in exile far from Verona. Now their hiding place is known, and their epic warring families are out for blood. The safe life Romeo and Juliet have built belongs to the past, and the greatest love story ever told is about to be reborn. OUR question then, is does The Enemy successfully take one of the greatest love stories ever told and expand upon it, making it better? The answer, unfortunately, is not necessarily so.
We open upon Romeo & Juliet bitterly fighting and being interviewed by the cops about causing a domestic disturbance. R&J continue to fight and argue throughout the film – getting married at 13 and 14 definitely has it’s drawbacks, it seems…However, this night they’re also celebrating the 18th birthday of their daughter., Kate Yep, R&J had a kid (pretty much immediately too). Kate shows up for dinner with a man in tow, Theo, which Juliet is none too pleased about. In fact, Kate and Juliet really don’t get along that well. Like, AT ALL. The rest of the evening becomes Romeo & Juliet retelling their love story, one Kate truly never knew, while Kate tries to build HER love story, all while everyone from their past in Verona decides to descend upon the house in one night (Paris, Balthazar, and more).
Every actor in this film is absolutely wonderful. From Paris and his sing-song narration to Juliet’s vitriol, they are fucking fabulous. My problem here is a matter of choice of casting, I guess, in that several characters do NOT look age appropriate. Kate is supposed to be 18 but looks MUCH older. Paris had a line about them all being children back when R&J ran away (and we already know R&J were 13 and 14) but he looks like he’s in his late 40s. Just, everyone in this film looks to be in the 30s to 40s age range, and it doesn’t work. ESPECIALLY Kate. Her not looking anywhere near 18 took me out of the film so much.
I enjoyed the sense of being a fly on the wall in the way the movie was filmed. It was fun and intriguing and I really felt like I was watching these people in their every day lives. Unfortunately, over a quarter of the film involved night or dark scenes that were TOO dark and I couldn’t see what was happening. I didn’t even see Paris’ face until the very, very end and he was in the movie from the very beginning. So, the lit scenes are great; the dark scenes could really use a bit more light.
The dialogue was a lot of fun in places because they kept to the use of iambic pentameter a lot, particularly in Paris’ narration (yay!!), and there were lots of plays upon words (I’m a language nerd. Totes). If you’re anything like me in that regard or if you just love Shakespeare as much as I do (and I carry his complete works in my car at all times), then you’ll definitely dig that. Things did get a bit boring, however. It felt like the film was aimed at people who’d never seen or read Romeo & Juliet before because they seriously did go through that story. It wasn’t just a matter of – “oh, this is how I met your mother!” – it was a long drawn out flowery murderous tale (you know, basically the play but in conversation form). It didn’t leave much room for The Enemy to have it’s own story and what story it did have was almost a re-telling. So they retold the story via R&J, then they retold the story AGAIN via characters & action.
The Enemy started out strong but it lost its way. The idea of Romeo & Juliet having escaped with their lives and building a life elsewhere is truly fascinating and I REALLY love it. I just didn’t really love THIS version of it. While it wasn’t really for me, if you do love Shakespeare or language, or a bunch of Italians yelling at each other (made me miss Jersey! *sighs*), then this just might be the film for you. The acting really is excellent; you really do feel like you’re there; it just needs a bit of tightening up perhaps?