I've seen hundreds of horror and thriller movies at this point and none have filled me with fear and dread more than The Hurt Locker. What this film does best is build each scene with so much tension that I'm almost recoiling from the screen because I have legitimate concerns for every character in every scene. Of the roughly two hours of this film, I spent at least an hour and forty-five minutes of it bracing myself for someone to die. You watch Halloween, Friday the 13th, Mission Impossible, Fast and the Furious, and all of those movies have many scenes where you feel safe, where you know nothing is going to happen or at least nothing is going to happen to these couple of characters. Every time Jeremy Renner is on the screen, I'm bracing myself because I just know he's going to die, this is going to be the scene. His first scene, I'm thinking "These bastards put him in the trailers and movie posters to mess with me; they're going to kill him off right now and it hasn't even been fifteen minutes!" Every scene is incredibly tense and just seconds from boiling over. It helps that the acting is prefect from everyone except a few child extras who didn't seem to understand what emotion there were supposed to be expressing. Really, I have exactly one issue with this film and it's one that really bothers me. I hate the cinematography. We get some neat shots and the tone is set just fine, but we, seemingly randomly, switch between unnecessary shaky cam, handheld held by someone who can't stand still, scenes that are shot like a documentary, and professional looking shots. Within the same scene, we'll have the camera sway left and right, jump around as if we are walking/running alongside the characters, switch to a stationary shot, aerial shot, and the something straight out of The Office including the zoom into a character's reaction. I get why action movies do the shaky cam thing, but the camera is so inconsistent that it gets really distracting. It's not like every time our characters run we get the shaky cam or every establishing shot looks like the Planet Earth crew shot it. It's ridiculously inconsistent. The characters are so deep that I want to focus on them and analyze what must be going through their heads, not wondering why this scene is shot like we're watching a squirrel bury his nuts on a Discovery Channel show. The movie does get a little repetitive because there really isn't a plot, but more of a "we follow these characters for a while and these are some things that happen" movie, but I was still fully immersed in the movie until we get another stupid camera switch and now some drunk guy is holding the camera while he tries no to fall down. All I needed was Kathryn Bigelow to calm down and just stick with the same shot for a little bit.
Play Misty for Me does a lot of things right; a lot of important things right. Play Misty for Me also gives hints that this is Eastwood's directorial debut and that he wasn't quite in his groove yet. Easily, Jessica Walter is the best part of this movie (had I not looked her up, I'd have had no idea that it's Lucille Bluth) without question. Her character has some creative flaws, but every line of hers is spot on. We kind of unravel from there. The core story is a lot of fun and it takes a few turns that I wasn't ready for (it was probably even more novel in 1971), but the pacing is pretty terrible in a few places. Eastwood and Walter's relationship makes no sense. I understand the obsessed fan angle. but we go from zero to sixty way too fast for it to be logical. The movie seems to think we have a background for these characters, but we really don't. Eastwood has a former love return and the entire time I feel like I'm missing thirty minutes of exposition explaining who she is and who she is to Eastwood; why should I care about her? Her importance to the plot is clear, but I hesitate to even call her a character, as she has no real personality and we learn nothing about her. Walter's character has almost the opposite issue, with her coming on way too fast and too hard. It's not a spoiler to say that the obsessed fan is going to go crazy; that is right there in the trailer. I was just hoping for something more subtle and gradual. There is never a point where we are getting hints that something isn't quite right with her or little bits of foreshadowing that something is wrong here. Play Misty for Me just skips from the meet cute into crazy woman with no foreplay, no slow burn, no ramping up. This part of the story really needed more room to breathe. While that plays out too fast, we get a very long sequence of Eastwood and his old love traipsing through the forest, skinny dipping, and such that feels so out of place. It just goes on and on and there is no reason for these scenes to even exist. It's like fifteen minutes of fluff, of filler, and it really drags the movie down. Although the movie is kind of repetitive, I felt like it was flowing pretty nicely in every scene that doesn't involve Eastwood's old love. We're rushing the stuff that I want to see and spending an inordinate amount of time just watching Eastwood and her be together with no character or relationship development, no drama, and no story purpose for even existing. It doesn't help that these are two of the weakest acting performances in the film. Clint Eastwood is a great actor, but he doesn't have a huge range. While his directing was capable, he just was not a good fit for his role as the lead here. He's still doing his tough guy gravel whisper voice and it doesn't work for this character. The only emotion I'm ever reading from him is anger and the role needed an actor more suited for a dramatic role and not an action one. Clint Eastwood is great in the right roles, but this was not one of them. He is trying at least, which is more than I can say for Donna Mills. There also is an extended sequence filmed at the real life 1970 Monterey Jazz Festival that, again, really has no place in the film and goes on way too long. Story wise, there is no real reason for them to be there and certainly no reason spend so much time focusing on the festival instead of the characters. Both sequences I mentioned came off like someone had too much creative control and really wanted a sex scene and really wanted to show off some extra Jazz. Even though I hate Jazz, if you would have plugged anything else in there it would still be a waste of time for this film. You could replace it with my favorite band performing my favorite song and it still wouldn't validate it's spot in the runtime; this is a story about Eastwood and Walters, Jazz is the soundtrack but it doesn't need to be a character. As a whole film, Play Misty for Me was enjoyable and exciting most of the time, but Eastwood's inexperience as a director shows and the screenplay needed retooling.
It's a goofy teen movie about Beatlemania. It's not clever or particularly unique or well made, but it is a lot of fun. Each character has their own arc and while none are fleshed out or well-written, there is a character here for anyone to relate to. This is not a movie to think about, it's just a fun 90 minute movie that does offer a bit of history to those who missed Beatlemania but requires no actual knowledge of it.
I was all ready for Neon Las Vegas Heist Zombie Movie, some of my favorite things. Army of the Dead doesn't really deliver on any of theses things. The color palette is generic gritty zombie movie (minus the like two short scenes that take place on the casino floor. The heist is very under-developed and lacks all of the important heist movie. The zombies are incredibly inconsistent, with their movement, strength, abilities, goals, etc. The fact that this is Las Vegas is barely relevant and it could easily have taken place at any casino anywhere. The plot has potential, but the potential is all related to it being a Neon Las Vegas Heist Zombie Movie. It's just a dull movie that drags along occasionally hitting plot points, but mostly just meandering along. They introduce a weird zombie culture that they don't really use and what we do get is kind of stupid. Apparently, there is a zombie hierarchy and there are "Alpha" zombies that are (allegedly) intelligent, but there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to who becomes an "Alpha"; why is a random show girl a zombie? This isn't a person who was any kind of special, so why did is she not just another brain dead zombie? We have a few zombie animals that act exactly the same as regular animals. Zombie horse is just a regular horse with some CGI added. There is a countdown element that doesn't math out, which is ridiculous because they are the ones telling us how much time is left. The acting is mostly bad. Matthias Schweighöfer, Garret Dillahunt , and Omari Hardwick are great, but the rest are terrible. Dave Bautista is a phenomenal actor in the right role, but this was not one of those. I'm just not buying it any time he has to have an emotion. Guardians of the Galaxy? Perfect as Drax. Blade Runner 2049? A small role, but an impressive outing. Leading man with stereotypical estranged daughter plot? Just doesn't work. I do have to credit Tig Notaro for doing her best. She's a great comedian, but not an amazing actor and having her do her scenes out of context with green screens and CGI is a very rough job. I couldn't have expected any more from her given the scenario, but it's just bad. It definitely feels like her scenes don't belong and that she really needed someone to work off of. Still, as bad as all this is, the effects are easily the worst part. There is a zombie animal that we are introduced to pretty early that looks great (it's in the trailer, so I don't really think it's a spoiler, but I won't ruin it for you if you haven't) and the insertion of Tig Notaro looked seamless to me, but every single time there is blood, gore, or an explosion is maddeningly bad considering that this is a $90 Million movie. I've seen YouTubers do better CGI is stupid little skits; these guys have actual money and (I assume) professional effect artists and it looks like crap. Two and a half hours of poorly paced, poorly written cliche. All I needed was for it to deliver on one part of the Neon Las Vegas Heist Zombie Movie. Hotel Artemis wasn't great, but that neon color palette was beautiful, so I was hooked. Ocean's 8 had none of the charm or X-factor of Ocean's Twelve, but the heist was enticing, so I kept watching. Army of the Dead is just kind of boring; I hated most of the characters (especially the daughter) and the plot just wasn't interesting. To each their own, but I don't think Army of the Dead does anything positive for the zombie genre and I wouldn't even qualify it as a heist film.
I love Chad Michael Murray; all I ever see is Lucas Scott no matter what the context and it makes me happy. Even in this by-the-book awful horror movie about the crew of a ghost show given one last chance to make a great episode or they get cancelled and they find ghosts, too many ghosts in fact, and they are mean (this does seem to be oddly specific for a movie trope, but trust me, there are hundreds of these movies with the same basic plot). The only reason I watched this particular horror movie that gives no indication that I should expect good things from it was because it's been too long since I saw my favorite Scott brother. To his credit, CMM does the best he can here, really the whole cast is at least decent (even Sinjin fro VicTORIous is okay) and they are trying their very best to make something out of the pile of crap they signed on for. The effects are terrible (the worst CGI smoke I have ever seen), they do this annoying thing in a scene where there is a jarring transition between the regular camera and "selfie" that they do only in that scene and never again, the score is unwelcome and overpowering (to the point where CMM says "I know you guys heard that" and the only thing I heard was the BONG BONG from the score) and often implying things that aren't happening (often the score is telling us that we are supposed to be seeing a ghost or whatever and nothing is happening). All of that is pretty standard for a movie of this caliber. I'm used to these movies being D+ technical showcases, but where a movie like this can shine is with the story. I know I complained about the main plot being a trope, but I love "Ghost Show finds real ghosts" and I love abandoned anything (although for a camp that has been abandoned since the early 90's, the lack of graffiti or, at the very least, broken windows is suspicious) so I was already on board; it didn't last long though. The movie is 90 minutes (including credits. It takes 30 minutes to get to the camp. I get it, you want to establish the characters and give CMM a sympathetic background, but a third of your movie? Really? Just get to the ghosts and stuff, I don't care about his wife or his children that definitely have two different mothers because they looks nothing alike. I don't need to know that this is their last chance to keep their show on the air; just go, just go do it. We have roughly an hour for all of the Camp Cold Brook stuff and what we get is very disappointing. Firstly, the story is very confusing, both the story of the camp and the actual plot of the movie. I feel like there was supposed to be half an hour of world building that they just threw away. The ghost's motives are very suspect and how they work in this universe makes even less sense. If a ghost wants someone to help them, why is murder the first thing they can think of to convince them. If I am a ghost and I want CMM to help me, I'm not going to poison his canteen and light him on fire; if he is dead, he can't help me (unless I'm trying to make him a ghost as well, but I'm not sure how much one ghost can aid another ghost). Regardless, it's all pretty boilerplate and uninteresting, there is nothing you haven't seen a thousand times before. What is kind of unique is the revelation that they save for the last 15 minutes of the movie. If it was better executed (and not relegated to the final 15 fucking minutes) it could have been interesting, but here it just sets up one of the worst endings I've ever sat through. The ending is incredibly unsatisfying, confusing, and stupid. Hell, I'd even advocate for using the standard movie ending that 85% of horror movies use and become even more of a cliche than use the one they wrote. Again, the acting is perfectly fine and I know these actors are doing the best they can with this garbage script, but no one is saving this; you could spend millions casting Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, and the reanimated body of Philip Seymour Hoffman and not even they could rescue this shipwreck. It's awful.
The Midnight Gospel is literally just re-spliced podcasts with a few lines of newly recorded dialog that play while an entirely unrelated lazy animation plays. They tell you the premise is something similar to the Interdementional Cable episodes of Rick & Morty, where our main character picks a different world simulation to join. I love the idea, but as soon as we join the new world, they start a "data-cast" and start talking about pseudo-intellectual crap that has absolutely nothing to do with what we are seeing going on. The first episode has the main character talking to Dr. Drew about drugs and meditation while fighting of a zombie apocalypse. You almost have to review the visual and audio elements separately. The audio is taken from Duncan Trussell's podcast and the add in a few lines to mention what is happening in the episode, but 98% is the most pretentious and inane conversations I've ever heard. It's two people who know nothing stroking each other's egos about stuff they heard in a Psych 101 class and didn't entirely understand. Do you want to listen to potheads talk about how cool drugs are, magic, Buddhism, and transcendentalism? I sure don't. The actual visuals often look like beautiful black light posters you'd find in the back of a Spencer's store, but they aren't animated properly. The animation is so rough and jumpy that it feels like they need three or four times as many frames to smooth it out. The Midnight Gospels thinks that it is a super deep philosophy discussion, but it's really just a #Deep rant between two stoned High School Freshmen in their mom's basement. I wanted Interdemensional Cable animated by the Adventure Time guy and this is none of those things.
The Haunting of Hill House is hard for me to rate. On one hand, we have really great performances from almost the entire cast; even the kids did very well and I was never reminded that these are all actors ad none of this is real. The sets were really good too, whether it was the funeral home, the rehab center, or the titular Hill House, everything has well designed and as realistically creepy and unsettling. On the other hand I essentially finished only because of the whole sunk cost fallacy and the blind hope that maybe they can right the ship. Every paranormal movie essentially gets to create its own rules for how ghosts and such work, so I can't really complain about the realism of how they chose to write their rules. I will say, however, that their rule book is bullshit and the stupidest fucking mess I've ever read. I won't spoil anything, because the incredibly slow and arduous unrevealing of the mystery is really the only the story has going for it, but I found it to be purposefully obtuse and cheap. They are trying so hard to create a mind-fuck story with the constant flashbacks and (maybe) dream sequences and we never really know if people are really seeing things, if it's just stories they are replaying in their head, if it's hallucinations or if it is just that the writers are trying to give us a visual while someone is being told a story. 85% of the story is just a family drama. It's a compelling drama and the characters are great, but we were pitched and promised a horror and we barely get that. the other 15% is easily the worst part. They do a fair job creating a sense of unease, but literally every unveiling garnered a response of "Really? Fucking really? That's their explanation?" One of the last one makes sense, but one particular one really made me physically angry; it's just so nonsensical, stupid, and unrealistic even for a movie about ghosts. This did not need to be a 10+ hour series and they certainly didn't deliver on the impression of horror. If we cut out all the bullshit, we could have a solid four episode mini-series about a family dealing with loss. I really wanted to love Hill House and they have all of the pieces to make a great show, but they fucked it all up. The cast was outstanding and aside from child actor with a very minor role, everyone gave Oscar worthy performances. The ghosts and ghouls or whatever they actually were looked pretty bad, but the Hill House set looked great. If they gave the pieces to a different writer and director, Hill House could be a classic, but I hate what Mike Flanagan did with them.