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!

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

Aisle of the Damned: 03/22/17- Logan’s Heroes

This is the worst photoshop you will ever see.

We’re back after a medical hiatus to discuss the latest that Hollywood has dumped on us! Just kidding; March apparently doesn’t suck anymore as we have some pretty damn good movies to geek out about, including X-Men outlier Logan, giant monster movie Kong: Skull Island, indie horror wunderkind Get Out and the latest in the Matt Damon series, Matt Damon Goes to China.

We also discuss some new trailers, like Wonder Woman and Baby Driver, finally crap on the Oscars, talk about Joe Carnahan’s good decisions and Sony’s stupid-ass decisions and talk about Disney’s battle with their own history.

All this and less on Aisle of the Damned!

The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
Big T. Tyler– King Kong

Aisle of the Damned: 8/11/16- Suicide is Aimless

Mom, my crayons melted

Bryan and Kent take on a mission with little chance of survival; they’re bringing you their thoughts on Warner Bros.’ latest DC offerings, the controversial-for-all-of-five-minutes-because-of-an-R-rating Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (The Ultimate Cut) and David Ayer’s Suicide Squad.

After discussing the showy failures of Squad, they also discuss the tempered rewards of the 13th film in the Star Trek franchise, Star Trek Beyond.

Plus, Kent talks about Jason Bourne and Lights Out and the fellas give their recommendations for the week, one DC related and one decidedly not.

All this and less on Aisle of the Damned!


The Aquabats– Stuck in a Movie
Death Hymn Number 9– I Reckon You Gonna Die

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


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

Better Living Through Filmography Episode 1.5- Cat People



In Better Living Through Filmography, co-host Kent views classic films for the first time and discusses them through a lens of movies, pop culture and life. Episodes of the first season post every other Wednesday.

In Episode 5, Kent talks about the black and white horror film Cat People and goes off on a big rant about streaming versus blu ray when it comes to how he likes his movies. He also recorded it at 9:00 am, so he’s even froggier than usual.

Laurie Johnson– Happy-Go-Lively
Woolf Phillips and his Orchestra– Cocktails in Bermuda

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Oculus

I'll be your mirror...

Oculus is, to put it bluntly, a few interesting ideas weighed down by mediocrity.

The main complaint is that the film feels far more interested in its structure than its plot. The idea of a haunted mirror is not necessarily a bad one and it could be done very well by the right people. However, there is neither enough style to save the film, nor enough good performances. Maybe it’s a case of too many cooks considering there were four production company openings at the beginning of the film (including, for some reason, WWE Entertainment.) It’s pretty rare in my experience to see that many of them outside of Japan.

Let’s go ahead and give credit where it is due, however. One of the two leads of the film, Karen Gillan of Doctor Who fame, is excellent. While in some of the moments (especially the quieter ones), you can catch her accidentally lilting back into her Scottish accent, once the movie picks up, she displays what made her a good companion on the perennial British favorite: she seems intelligent, somewhat snarky and able to show good intensity. Her character is interesting because she is wanting to confront the supernatural head-on and beat it. In some ways she reminds me of the lead in You’re Next, a film that subverted the idea of a damsel in distress running from a killer. The idea of a person going through something traumatic and seeking revenge against evil is definitely a unique one compared to the usual supernatural thriller. (She’s not to the level of one of the Winchesters from Supernatural, but it’s a start.) It is often more compelling when a protagonist makes things happen instead of having things happen to them. Also good, unlike the usual paranormal investigators that populate movie ghost stories (even good ones, like Poltergeist or The Conjuring), she is not an outside observer coming into a situation. She has a personal stake. It’s a good twist, but sadly it is squandered on a film that is making up rules as it goes.

One of the most important parts of setting up a story like this is establishing the rules of the game and having the hero and the villain have to confront each other within those established parameters. (Even if the villain is essentially an inanimate object.) Some of the best moments traditionally in these films are when a loophole is found in these rules that allow one side to gain an unexpected advantage, but there still has to be an internal logic to the proceedings. However, in an effort to create a rigid narrative structure that jumps back and forth from flashbacks to 2003 to a night in present day, all hell breaks loose and it loses all sense of that logic. By the time the two timelines begin seeming to interact with each other, nothing seems to really matter on its race to deliver an ending that, if I were to make a bet, I’d say was the first thing written with everything else built onto to it.

It’s not what I would call a terrible movie. Gillan’s performance keeps that from happening, as well as a turn from Katee Sackhoff as the mother of the family in flashbacks, which is fairly different from most of what I’ve seen from her. But Gillan’s co-star Brenton Thwaites, her younger brother in the film who is coming out of a mental ward, delivers a pretty wooden performance, even by horror film standards. His character seems to exist to be the cliche annoying guy that offers condescending psychological platitudes far beyond any reasonable human being in an extreme situation. Of little note is the sister’s fiance who looks like Nathan Fillion’s metrosexual little brother and their father who displays a disappointing amount of menace in a character which should inspire some pretty genuine fear. Rory Cochrane who plays him has been in better stuff, so maybe it’s a case of not finding the right tone.

Also wooden is the direction of Mike Flanagan and his cinematographer, Michael Fimognari. The duo make it feel more like a fairly generic TV movie than a personal statement. It’s passable, but nothing more. I realize not every filmmaker manages to get the artistic control needed to express their individuality, but this was needing something more energetic. The set-ups seem mostly clinical and I wonder if they weren’t set up specifically to try to get the film a PG-13 rating as there are only a couple of shots in the whole thing that would really push it beyond into R. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I praised The Conjuring for managing to be as scary as it was, while containing almost nothing to justify its R-rating. Oculus has sold itself as a horror film, but it seems much more content to be a supernatural thriller/mind-screw.

It also features a score that reminded me of the type of “moody” interstitial music that Jason Segal’s character would create for a CSI-style detective series in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. It sounds like it comes from a gothed-up white noise machine. Black noise machine? No, that description indicates something more interesting. Wholly unremarkable are words that come to mind.

While I can’t completely dismiss Oculus entirely because of Gillan and the fact that some of the film has stuck with me, I also can’t really recommend it as anything other than a rental.

(Two and a half damns given out of five)

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: You’re Next

They used the right "You're!"

Can the last half hour of a film make it good?

For the majority of it’s running time, the “new” film You’re Next is your run of the mill home invasion thriller of which we’ve gotten several lately. The previous one to see release this summer, The Purge, used a twist of being in the future. (The future, Conan?) And everyone gets to rape, murder and pillage for twelve hours a year. Kinda like Wal-Mart on Black Friday.

You’re Next, which set on the shelf for a couple of years before finally seeing release, also has it’s own “twist,” if you want to call it that. And I don’t want to belie its originality for those that want to walk in cold. The studio obviously is trying to keep it from the audience since the trailers did not indicate what it is. So I’ll give those of you who want to see it that way the opportunity to turn away now. Obviously I won’t go deep into spoiler territory. I never do. But it’s a courtesy for the super-anxious.  Just know that it is not a great film, but it is above average for the genre. If nothing else, it’s well made.

As I was saying, for the first hour or so, You’re Next is a pretty average horror thriller with lots of deaths, some convincing gore and a not too original premise. There are some narrative twists to be found, but none of them are all too unpredictable. Full disclosure, I am not typically the biggest fan of these kind of films, or the slasher films that they spawn from unless there’s something special about them. If they’re funny, original or somehow just plain well-made enough to separate themselves from the crowd. And You’re Next wasn’t it. Until the last half hour, when it turns into “Home Alone: The Reckoning.” Most of the characters are your typical spoiled, rich fops that filmmakers love to hate. Director Adam Wingard seems to delight in seeing them taken down and they are given every ounce of stupidity that can be wrung from them. But then there’s Erin.

With her Mary Elizabeth Winstead looks and her Crocodile Dundee accent (which is to say real and obvious), Sharni Vinson takes control of the film for it’s last third and that’s when it becomes interesting.

See, her character Erin didn’t grow up in a posh setting. She was raised in a survivalist camp in the Australian outback. And she knows how to rain down carnage just as well as the animal-masked assailants trying to force their way into the home of her boyfriend’s family. About the same time that her Carpenter-esque theme kicks in is when the film starts to make it’s impact. At that point it leaves the old jump scares behind and starts to truly be fun and encourages audience participation as she sets traps for the creeps trying to do her harm.

This is also when most of the film’s humor kicks in. It’s never hugely funny, but it does have a jet-black streak of humor that permeates here and there. It also takes advantage of the family acting like prats, especially indie director Joe Swanberg. Most of the characters are so dislikable that you almost cheer their demise. Not sure if this was on purpose. If they actually made you care about someone besides the protagonist, it might have been a more engaging film.

(Three and a half damns given out of five)

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Evil Dead

I'll swalla ya soul!

It may come as a shock to people, but I feel it necessary to open up with this confession; I’m not a fan of The Evil Dead.

I’ll give you a moment to compose yourselves. See, I think Evil Dead 2 is an unmitigated masterpiece and I’ve seen Army of Darkness a few dozen times thanks to the Oscar-worthy performance of Bruce Campbell. But I have always found the first Evil Dead to have a tone that I couldn’t get into. It was too silly to be scary, but it wasn’t silly enough to be funny. Sure, there’s a lot of the inventive camera work and energy that would put Sam Raimi on the road to becoming the captain of blockbusters he is today, but for the most part I’ve always seen it as a pretty run of the mill, low-budget 80s horror film. And of those films, it has never struck me as the rip-roaring, tree-raping, scream-inducing good time that a lot of cult cinema fans have found it to be. I’ve always found it to be one of the rare instances in which the sequels are unquestionably better than the original film. Understandably so, given it was Raimi’s first film.

Perhaps that’s why, while I was not particularly enthused when it was announced that there would be a remake, my head did not fully rotate 360 degrees from my outrage while steam poured from my ears. Besides, Evil Dead 2 is basically a remake of the first film. The first twenty minutes or so of it, anyway. I just kind of figured it would be another case of a 70s/80s horror film being remade, maybe managing to spit out a sequel, and then slowly migrating into the dollar DVD bin at Wal-Mart while the original continues to be the one that people think of when the name is brought up. (Looking at you, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Friday the 13th, My Bloody Valentine, Texas Chainsaw Massacre…)

One thing that does seem to initially cause a seismic shift in that way of thinking is that Raimi, along with his old cohorts Campbell and Rob Tapert, are producers of this particular installment in what apparently is taking a calculated move from “cult favorite that died off when Army of Darkness didn’t make money” to “franchise.” Since Raimi is busy making mediocre movies with James Franco, we are instead being led by first time director Fede Alvarez. Honestly, I’m still trying to decide how good a job he did. There are definitely scares in the movie, mostly of the “jump” variety, but the tension never ratchets up to the levels it could under the hands of a more seasoned director. Also some of the performances are stiff and wooden, especially Shiloh Fernandez as the male lead, David. Doing much better (though with some questionable moments kept in that I can’t quite blame her for) is Jane Levy as his sister Mia, a heroin addict taken to the cabin in the woods by David, his girlfriend, and a couple of old friends: a stubborn nurse and a dick high school teacher. They’re finally getting her sober and making her stick to it. What follows is a film that never quite seems like a straight remake, but is never original enough to not be a remake. Shots and plot devices are stolen directly from the first two films in the original trilogy, which acted as a double edged sword; part of me thought the references were fun, while part of me was taken out of the movie by them. Not to mention, there are a couple of things in the film that point to it being a direct sequel to the original series, which makes little sense under any kind of continuity. (But which Raimi’s subsequent comments on how the story is planned to move forward, and a tiny stinger after the end credits, seems to substantiate.)

In some ways, it’s hard to watch this kind of film in a post-Cabin in the Woods world. That film did such a good job skewering this exact kind of film, while also elevating it, that I almost expected Richard Jenkins to suddenly show up after a jump cut. Perhaps this is another reason that the film seems to purposefully shy away from any self-referential humor, though I think it was in production before Cabin finally was released. It’s odd, but the clumsily obvious metaphor of the demons of drug addiction is one of the things that seems to work well in differentiating it from the original series and, thanks to Levy’s performance, ultimately helps the film, grounding it before the supernatural shenanigans start, thanks to the dick teacher reading from the Naturom Demonto, a generic brand version of the original Book of the Dead, seemingly designed by a metal album cover artist and defaced by a kid in study hall.

One thing that is not in short supply is gore. A lot of the movie just plain hurts to watch. There is a balancing act that is mostly pulled off, in which gore goes from gooey and weird to ultra realistic. Once again, it creates a bit of a tonal issue for me, like the original film does. But when it is just going for squirm-inducing moments, the lack of CGI absolutely helps sell the pain. It is not a film for the easily queasy. There were a couple of moments that had me thinking about covering my eyes and I’m even a bit surprised it managed to get an R-rating.

By the ending, the film does go very over the top. It is obvious the tone is still not intended to be overly comedic, but without daring reveal anything about it, the finale is crazy enough that it is exciting and fun. It was here that things seemed to really gel for me and the film ultimately won me over. I’m not sure exactly what it was that got me over the hump, but things just finally merged into a whole that made me curious to see what is to come from the already announced sequel.

(Three damns out of five)

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: John Dies at the End

Spoiler alert!

Having never taken psychotropic and/or psychedelic drugs, I can only imagine what it is like to dose myself so heavily in mind-bending pharmaceuticals as to make Timothy Leary look like a tea-totaler, but I am of the firm belief that the end result would essentially be John Dies at the End.

The new film from Bubba Ho-Tep and Phantasm mastermind Don Coscarelli,  it exudes the same kind of imaginationgasms, seeking to belie its rather obvious low budget through sheer force of will and velocity.

We meet Dave in a poorly-named Chinese restaurant, seeking to tell his impossible story to Paul Giamatti, a scribe from an unnamed publication. He explains how through the use of a designer drug called ‘Soy Sauce’ (seemingly named for it’s inky black color), he has overloaded sensory perception. It contains within it the ability to see what others can not see, do what others can not do, esp, precognition, wind, fire, all that kind of thing. No, sorry, some of those were from Egg Shen’s Six Demon Bag in Big Trouble in Little China. Regardless, he explains how he managed to accidentally expose himself and of his friendship and partnership with the title’s John, a buddy of his that draws him into the line of interdimensional fire, jumping around in his narrative like Quentin Tarantino writing a screenplay after snorting a mountain of cocaine.

His ingestion of soy sauce puts them in a position to stop an invasion from a neighbor dimension, but with so much coming at them from all directions, it won’t be a simple delineation from point A to point B.

In much the same way as last year’s Detention, this film is more concerned with ideas and energy than with making sure the narrative is completely coherent. But, also like Detention, those ideas and energy are strong enough to carry the film. It’s hard to explain how a movie like John Dies at the End can go so right where an equally incomprehensible flick like Sucker Punch gets it so wrong, but I do believe a lot of it comes down to the fact that John is, while optioning horror elements, a comedy. Along with the funny, there’s something very punk rock in it’s construction and execution, sort of like the Frighteners filtered through Repo Man.

Alongside Giamatti, the main players are Chase Williamson as Dave and Rob Mayes as John. Williamson makes a great lead for the film, somehow managing to put forth the calmest freakouts I’ve ever seen. His Dave spends a good portion of the film trying to come to grips with the bizarre things in front of him and is perfect in his portrayal of a man barely keeping it together, on the verge of screaming and running headlong into traffic. And at a certain point, there’s a fantastic visual shift as he completely changes from this normal guy in a frightening circumstance to saying “eff it” with every portion of his being and simply accepting everything that comes at him, meeting it headlong with a gun and his three-day stubble.

Mayes is more excitable as John, clearly more interested in being a part of the world-saving business. Meanwhile, an excellent supporting cast including Clancy “Lex Luthor” Brown as an infomercial guru, Glynn Turman as a detective, Fabianne Therese as Dave’s lone-handed quasi-love interest and Doug Jones (still not sure exactly what he is) round things out, each bringing their own unique brand of oddness.

Coscarelli does his best with the obviously shaky CGI work, and even some mediocre flash animation. (One would guess for the purpose of both saving money on what would be a crazy horror sequence and managing to get the film an R-rating like the anime sequence in Kill Bill.) He still manages to make things pretty visually impressive strictly from a filmic point of view.

Basically, if you’re like me and have enjoyed Coscarelli’s work in the past or if you just want to spend an evening being beaten over the head with fifteen pounds of lunacy in a ten pound sledge hammer, this one’s for you.

(Four damns out of five)