Aisle of the Damned: 08/11/17- Because Lionsgate, That’s Why

More like Dork Tower, amIright?

Bryan and Kent saw the big-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower and both were confused by the experience, though not as much by the film. Kent, meanwhile, has seen the artiest of arthouse fare, A Ghost Story. Does the experience haunt him?

Meanwhile, the boys take advantage of a slow news week to review the Spider-Man that could have been, had Sony not handed him over to Marvel, and he takes a severe turn towards the Herbert West.

All this and less on Aisle of the Damned!

Music:
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
Viva Voce- The Center of the Universe

Aisle of the Damned: 08/04/17- Tammy and the T-Rex 2 on USA Up All Night

Tick Tick Boom

It’s one of the biggest films of the year (literally) as Kent and Bryan take a look at Christopher Nolan’s 70mm war film, Dunkirk. They also find Germans in the 80s set spy thriller, Atomic Blonde. Does Charlize Theron provide enough heat to melt the Cold War? Bryan, meanwhile, finally got to see Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Does he agree with Kent’s take, or is it Fifth Elementary, my dear Watson? Kent, meanwhile, gives us his takes on indie romantic comedy wundkerkind, The Big Sick.

Additionally, the Damned boys talk about some news that should make Batffleck fans stop worrying.

All this and less on Aisle of the Damned!

Music:
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
Goldfinger- 99 Red Balloons

Aisle of the Damned: 07/21/17- Matthew McConaughey, Giant Dwarf

Monkeying Around

Get yer Kong on with the Damned boys as Kent and Bryan wage War for the Planet of the Apes. How does the end of what is kind of a trilogy in an eight (or is it nine?) movie series fare? And how far did Bryan have to go to see it? Plus, Kent takes a quick look at Sophia Coppola’s new film, The Beguiled.

In addition, we have some silly news that we make fun of and a buttload of trailers for everything from The Disaster Artist to Goon: Last of the Enforcers!

All this and less on Aisle of the Damned!

Music:
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
The Vandals- Ape Shall Never Kill Ape

Aisle of the Damned: 07/14/17- With Steve Urkel as Electro

Up next: Sadie Hawkins DanceHe’s doins’t whatever a spider can, but can Spider-Man: Homecoming save the wallcrawler from the evil clutches of the Sony executives? We discuss it in this episode. Kent also takes a look at the Sam Elliott character piece The Hero.

In addition, we have some various DCEU and Quentin Tarantino news, and a look at the trailer for another Child’s Play sequel for your earholes.

All this and less on Aisle of the Damned!

Music:
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
Michael Giacchino- Spider-Man Theme Song
The Ramones- Spider-Man

Aisle of the Damned: 07/07/17- Boss Baby Driver’s Day Out

Simon and Garfunkel, not KISS

Baby Driver, auteur Edgar Wright’s latest lean, mean, high-octane comedic thriller, is finally here, and boy, does it live up to the promise of the Cornetto trilogy. Let us tell you why.

Plus, we have a look at Despicable Me 3! After suffering overload from the Minions movie, does it still have the same punch?

Meanwhile, we have the usual news and a slew of trailers to look at, including a new Jumanji and, yes, My Little Pony: The Movie.

All this and less on Aisle of the Damned!

Music:
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
April March- La Fille À La Moto

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Keanu

And here I thought it was a Doggy Dogg world.

Sketch comics/stand-ups taking the lead in their first movie is in some ways a right of passage. Steve Martin’s The Jerk probably stands as the high water-mark,* but most have some sort of value in terms of being a look at a performer’s comedic worldview while they’re still hungry. Take Billy Madison as an example. It may not be regarded as a great film by a lot of people but, in the words of Undeclared, there’s something a bit “punk rock” about it. Something that diminished until Adam Sandler turned into a dead-eyed, haunted-looking shell of a human being.

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have been around a while, individually working on projects and appearing in films and TV shows, but Keanu is their first film following the break-out success of their sketch show on Comedy Central. Personally I haven’t watched much of their stuff. Just a few bits here and there which have virally wafted my way courtesy of Facebook. Of course I loved their Gremlins 2 bit, being a huge fan of that film. But my limited TV viewing hasn’t drifted that way. That said, this film seems very much an extension of what I’ve seen from them, so I’m going to make the not-so-wild assume that it is very much tapped into that same vein of “firsts.”

The plot itself makes some less than subtle allusions to being a goof of the Liam Neeson Taken trilogy as the pair attempt to get back the kitten of the title when he’s stolen. It turns out this particular cat’s cuteness is a bit infectious because it becomes a running gag that everyone he comes in contact with becomes so enamored with him that they lose all common sense. However, apart from that basic framework there really isn’t that much to tie the film thematically to the ongoing saga of the man the internet has dubbed “John Taken.”

In fact, much of the film seems to settle into a much better (and certainly funnier) version of the central conceit of the maligned Will Farrell/Kevin Hart vehicle Get Hard, as the duo attempts to bluff their way through the criminal underground. Or at least the Hollywood version of ‘gangsta culture,’ though it seems more authentic than some depictions, despite the comedic aspects.

The main issue with the film is uneven pacing. There is an extended sequence in the middle of the film which I think best exemplifies this; it features a pretty good cameo, but drags on and on as it spends its time divided between the inside and outside of a Hollywood estate. Unfortunately, things are much funnier in the car and, at least in my case, I found myself regretting every return to the interior; up until a fantastic gag caps the scene. (One which is ultimately negated in the wrap-up, but I’m trying not to focus on that.)

It’s great that Key and Peele take things in a different direction than what one may expect by abandoning the idea of a strict parody of their inspiration for the story (though I could see a very different, equally funny movie coming from sticking to that concept) but they still seem to have a hard time filling the 90 minutes of the film. They come close enough that one can’t deny their success though, at crafting an overall entertaining experience that captures their spirit.

(Three and a half damns given out of five)

*Mostly because Monty Python’s initial offering was their recycled sketch film, …And Now for Something Completely Different.

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Sad Batman is Sad

I’ve been a defender of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. Despite the issues I have with it (the terrible color correction, the insane death of Jonathan Kent, etc.), I thought it made the best of some source material that I always found questionable, aka forcing a Xerox of Batman’s spirit quest around the world into his mythology. I guess I was so relieved to finally have a Superman movie without an awful, over-the-top bumbling Clark Kent performance, a nonsense Luthor scheme, fluctuating powers that defy the movie’s internal logic, bastard kids or a thoroughly dislikable Lois Lane that I could overlook the flaws. After all, despite the bleakness, there’s promise in the film. Clark has finished a costly first battle and is in a position to use that sacrifice to learn and be the hero he should be. He can take his actions from Man of Steel and build on them, vowing to never take another life. Though unlike all the people who apparently have forgotten both the comics and the ending of their beloved Superman II, I had no problem with Clark killing Zod, seeing as how he’s the one character Superman has ever knowingly offed.

The question was, would the sequel build on that promise, or would it double down on the unique problems this take brought to the franchise? All of the marketing material seemed to indicate this would not so much be a Superman sequel as either a proto-Justice League movie or a jumping off point to a Frank Miller Batman franchise, none of which sounded particularly appealing. Unfortunately, this is largely correct. Superman seems like an also-ran in his own film for the most part.

After a strangely gripping prologue that gives a street level view of the devastation wrought by the battle between Clark and Zod in Man of Steel, the film settles in for an hour or so, spending a lot of time introducing us to this version of Batman, who follows the natural through line from Burton to Nolan to Snyder, finally adopting a fully-functional Dark Knight Returns-style Batman who is equal parts psychotic and broken. An impotent man who takes out his fury by torturing criminals and not especially caring if people die in his pursuit of self-serving justice. It’s certainly not my favorite style of Batman (I skew much farther towards the Denny O’Neil-style well-rounded version) but much as certain fanboys may deny it, this version of Batman is what many of them have been angling for.  Be careful what you wish for.

Meanwhile, we see Superman performing many acts of heroism, saving people around the world from disasters, intercut with footage of a world who doesn’t know how to react to him or trust him. It’s not so much a bad portrayal of Kal-El, but it certainly does create a morose environment surrounding him. After much sturm and drang, this overall paranoia leads to the confrontation of the title. To reveal much more would be to give away the mechanics of the plot, but it is fair to point out the much touted appearances by other Justice League members don’t just feel distracting, but actually lower the excitement over Warners’ plans for their characters.

The good news is that while the film is full of bad ideas, the ideas are filmed and acted competently. The bad news is that competence doesn’t fix bad ideas, it simply makes them go down easier. Make no mistake; there are some things to enjoy in the film which make it still worth seeing. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman does great things with her limited screentime. Gadot herself, apart from seeming to have trouble getting her Israeli accent around some of the overinflated dialogue, is a wonderful physical actress. Jeremy Irons’ Alfred manages to be an absolutely necessary source of humor in an otherwise dour affair. The majority of the acting is fine, even Ben Affleck’s, though he comes up short selling Batman’s character arc and revelation moment. The major exception is Jessie Eisenberg who seems to be edited in from a completely different film. While I’ve never been a fan of the way Luthor has been used in the Superman films, it’s quite a shock to go from the intelligent menace of Kevin Spacey’s portrayal to Eisenberg’s collection of tics and vocal contortions masquerading as a performance. He plays Lex Luthor as some kind of bizarre Joker variation, his motivation either making him pathetic or a puppet. Sometimes he is effectively creepy, but mostly he comes off as annoying.

The plot grabs famous storylines from the two characters at random like Scrabble tiles from a bag. In the end, what we have is a mess. A mess that is interesting, but overly long and needlessly complicated. It has a fourth act tacked on because there was never a scenario where the Superman/Batman fight could be dramatically satisfying as a conclusion.

Worse, in their misguided race to force a rivalry with Marvel Studios, Warner Bros. attempts to cram huge amounts of set-up into the film and none of that set-up feels earned. Watching it feels like we missed a few movies that were released between Man of Steel and now. Many audience members may even be completely lost as to what a lot of what is going on. When your entire movie is based on laying a foundation for future installments, that should be rather disconcerting. As of this moment, I’m not particularly looking forward to Justice League. Or Suicide Squad with its copy and paste characters who look like they stepped out of a 90s pitch meeting when “edgy” was still a buzzword. Wonder Woman and the Lego Batman Movie are they only DC film projects which continue to pique my interest. As I am a person who was a big DC fan until fairly recently, that kind of reaction should have Warner Bros. concerned. Somehow, I don’t think they’ll care.

(Two and a half damns given out of five)

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Deadpool

Somehow, the highlight of Ryan Reynolds' career

Let’s take a moment to let this sink in: Rob Liefeld’s golden boy has a movie. Robbie has got to be the richest comic artist ever who won’t draw feet. Was getting this movie worth handing him enough of a wad to keep him hip-deep in Levis and hookers?

Yes.

While sure to be a divisive film, I spent the drive home reminiscing with my viewing companion about the best moments. I can’t recall the last time that happened. (Though to be honest the crushing solidarity of my usual trips to the movies could account for that.) For the majority of its runtime, it is a kick to the fun sack, with only some tonal issues and questionable character moments getting in the way. But it’s understandable. While there may be some of Matthew Vaughn’s Kick Ass in its recessive DNA, it’s largely a type of film that’s never been made before: a mid-level budget that all of the X-movies since the original would wipe their asses with, a fairly hard R-rating, a comedic overtone, a character who has only been around for a couple of decades, a tangential relationship to a major franchise and an anti-hero main character. We’ve seen some of these together here and there. But certainly not all at once. So to juggle this all successfully is actually pretty impressive and it doesn’t take the coward’s way out as it also plays with structure, mixing one broken up set piece with flashbacks for the majority of the runtime.

Here’s where the film falters: it’s great that the structure is fractured, but it still manages to sag in the middle as we go through the one tradition that the movie refuses to break with: the origin story.

And yet, their attempts to brighten up that part of the film isn’t deftly directed enough to present a really meaningful before and after for Deadpool himself, Wade Wilson. At least not personality-wise. Is it enough to derail the film? Not even close. But it is noticeable enough to make a dent that you won’t find in the slicker, mainstream Marvel factory. Should we be lucky enough to get the unprecedented Deadpool 2 (suggested tag-line: Dead Pooler), this most likely wouldn’t be an issue. It’s still pretty impressive for a first-time feature director and one gets the feeling he embraced the budgetary challenges presented due to his effects background.

The important thing is that I had an absolute blast with the majority of the movie from the very first moment. As in, it features possibly the best opening credits sequence in history. Then you have Ryan Reynolds showing that it was worth his remorseless guerilla campaign to acquire the role. On the flip side, Morena Baccarin somehow manages to meet his over the top performance head on and provide a great counterpoint to him. What is it about dudes from Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place that bring out the best in her?

Admittedly, I’m tuned to this film’s frequency. I was getting every in-joke about Reynolds’ career, superhero movie conventions and studio politics that it lobbed at the audience. While at times, there’s an almost This is the End level of self-scrutiny involved that will reward fans, its neither in your face enough or so reliant upon inside baseball to require knowing the troubled history of the film to enjoy it. Like a Zucker film, when the comedy is flowing, there’s often multiple gags being set up at once. Sometimes what seems like gratuitous violence actually sets up great payoffs further down the line.

Maximum effort, Fox.

(Three and a half damns given out of five)

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Down with PPZ? Yeah, you know me.

Much like Iron Sky and the upcoming Deadpool, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a movie that I appreciate at one level for the sheer fact that it shouldn’t exist. But like the first of those films, almost the entirety of it is an exercise in middling.

It starts out promisingly enough. There’s some titillation. We catch some surprisingly sexy flashes of stocking as the Bennett sisters arrange their weapons. There’s some gore. We get a splash of brains here and there. There’s some period drama. Pride and Prejudice is, after all, in the name.

But the true entertainment value of this type of a film would seemingly come in truly smashing the two opposites together in an extreme way either as a film shot entirely as a gauzy Austen centerpiece that happens to have zombies in it or, conversely, as an over-the-top horror film. Or at least a film that decides to play whiplash with tone. Instead it’s a film that doesn’t quite know what it wants to be and ends up being a PG-13 flick as limp-wristed as Matt Smith’s Parson. (That said, Smith’s dandy fop is the highlight of the proceedings.) In its attempts to appeal to a mass audience that was likely never there to begin with, it manages to lose it’s appeal to its true potiential audiences.

Not to say there aren’t some interesting ideas at play. However, they are never truly explored. Such as the fact that, with exception, a great many of the women are trained as warriors while the men are largely worthless, yet the time period’s ideals of marriage to a man for the sake of bettering one’s station and female subservience are largely intact.

So in the end we have what feels like a fun idea without commitment. A film that tries to be both and succeeds at neither, though there’s a part of me that could see enjoying it on the level of some of the tamer Hammer films if it were more visually impressive beyond a fun opening credits sequence that doles out the necessary exposition.

And just like a truly middling film, it is neither terrible nor great. I won’t say I didn’t laugh at the absurdity of the film at times. But it’s safe to say it simply settles for being a reasonably diverting couple of hours that likely will not call for repeat viewings.

Two and a half damns given out of five.

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Goosebumps

ER MAH GERR!

One has to give Goosebumps credit for not taking the easy way out.

I’m not saying it’s a great film, but compared to the lazy cash-in on 90s nostalgia it could be, it’s a somewhat novel film that takes a new direction on the material at hand.

Now I’m definitively not the audience for this film. Like Jurassic World, it seems to have been thought up as a way to get late twenty-something parents who came of age in the 90s down to the theater with their kids. I, however, am probably what one would consider an 80s kid. I was too old for the series when it came about. Like a lot of things that feature teenagers, the Goosebumps books were actually for ‘tweens and younger. This means I’ve never read one of the books. I also never saw the TV show of the same name. Honestly, I thought R.L. Stine was like the “author” of the Nancy Drew books, Carolyn Keene in that he was someone Scholastic made up to give continuity to an impossibly long book series. It’s hard to blame me seeing as how there’s somewhere around 10,000 of them. Now, seeing that nearly every monster and villain featured in the film is a take-off of an existing monster from a famous horror film, I guess I understand how it may not have been that difficult to push them out so fast.

One would expect a push to turn the series into a franchise with an adaptation of some of the more beloved individual stories or a Creepshow-style anthology film for the little ones, but that’s not what we get.

While the film isn’t terribly original (I found myself referring to it as “Spoop-manji,” as it’s impossible to escape thinking of it as a horror-themed remake of the Robin Williams vehicle), it’s certainly more than one would expect from a kiddie-lit franchise. It’s jumps into the same meta-flavored Kool-Aid that The Lego Movie occupied in terms of trying to be something better than it could be. And the result is enjoyable, slickly made and not insulting.

In fact, I could see it becoming like the Monster Squad was to a cult audience of my generation; something beloved to a gaggle of horror-loving youth as they get older, while those who see it over a certain age will view it as a not-unwelcome curiosity, but not get what all the fuss is about.

The basic premise is that a fictional version of Stine, played by a barely restrained Jack Black bring more ham to the screen than a movie about a Hawaiian pizza, has to keep his creations locked in their books, else they’ll come to life and terrorize the populace. The premise is as paper-thin as his typing paper as to the “why.” When a new kid moves next door for his brush with the supernatural, a la Joe Dante’s The Hole, he befriend’s Stine’s daughter and through a short series of mishaps, unleashes the author’s imagination on their unsuspecting ‘burg.

It’s all in the name of throwing the entirety of the series’ creatures at the audience at once and it has something of a “burn-the-house-down” feeling to it. Sure, one can’t completely dismiss a sequel being made of pretty much any film but Passion of the Christ these days, but it doesn’t feel like an attempt to jumpstart a franchise. In fact, it feels like just the opposite and it’s refreshing.

There are points where the film threatens to go off the rails as Black competes with Super 8’s Ryan Lee to see who can be the bigger weirdo, but fortunately it trucks along at a commendable pace and there are enough welcome character actors (Amy Ryan, Ken Marino…) and jokes for the grown-up horror aficionado to keep things from ever capsizing. (Yes, I realize I just mixed a train and a boat metaphor.)

The bottom line is, if you’re the afore-mentioned audience this film was made for, you should enjoy it, especially as Halloween draws near. If you’re not, you may still have fun, but you’ll be missing out on the inherent charm for fans and young ‘uns.

Three damns given out of five