Monday, October 11, 2021

Muppets Haunted Mansion Provides Delightful Halloween Fun

 I have loved the Muppets for pretty much my entire life.  I grew up watching Sesame Street and The Muppet Show.  I have seen all the Muppet movies - the ones made for tv and all the ones that were released in theaters.  I have watched all the tv shows.  Even though I was interested in some of the things that were exclusive to Disney +, I only signed up once Muppets Now was being released.  The Dark Crystal Age of Resistance is what got me to finally sign up for Netflix.  If the Muppets are involved, I will watch it.  I have enjoyed all of the Muppet movies and shows, though some have been better than others.  I have been looking forward to Muppets Haunted Mansion since I first heard about it earlier this year and it did not disappoint me.  I have already watched it twice and I’m sure I’ll be watching it more.

Muppets Haunted Mansion is a Halloween special that is only available on Disney +.  It became available to view on October 8, 2021.  It is short at only 49 minutes long, but it is very entertaining and well worth watching.  I would not have minded if it had been a bit longer.  The story is resolved by the end without things feeling rushed.  The special features Muppet characters and elements from the Disney attraction The Haunted Mansion.  It is the first Halloween special featuring the Muppets.

Gonzo has been invited to an event at a haunted house with ties to his favorite magician, The Great MacGuffin, on the same night that the Muppets are having their Halloween party.  Pepe the King Prawn is going with Gonzo and thinks they are going to a party full of famous people.  Once they arrive and receive a few warnings about the house being haunted, they start to realize that something else is going on.  The Host shares that Gonzo was invited to see if he could survive a night in the mansion with the ghosts.  If he can’t, he and Pepe will be trapped there forever.  Gonzo encountered several ghosts, some of which resemble their friends.  One ghost, Constance Hatchaway, sets her sights on one of them.

There are no extra scenes in the credits, but a version of Dancing in the Moonlight performed by Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem plays over the credits while little bits showing the human cast singing and dancing with the Muppets is shown.  It is just fun and joyful that it had me smiling as soon as it started.  It is just delightful and makes me so happy.  It really looks like the human actors were having fun with this part. The part with the song is on YouTube and I don’t even know how many times I have watched it.  It truly fills me with joy and makes me happy.  I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt this happy watching something.

Gonzo and Pepe are the main Muppet characters in Muppets Haunted Mansion.  It is not the first time for Gonzo to be in this position in one of the Muppet projects.  That started with A Muppet Christmas Carol, though he was paired with Rizzo then and in other projects after that.  It was a little odd to me for Rizzo to not be with Gonzo.  From what I have been able to find out, Rizzo was retired after Steve Whitmire was fired in 2018 instead of another performer taking over the character.  Rizzo was originally created by Whitmire and no one else has ever performed the character.  Pepe is fine, but I did miss Rizzo being with Gonzo.  The two characters have worked together well previously, so it is a bit different but it still works.

The story for Muppets Haunted Mansion is straightforward without any major surprises.  That didn’t make it any less fun or entertaining for me.  There are a few more heartfelt moments that I hadn’t expected before I started to watch.  Those bits do fit in with what is going on well and they fit with the Muppets overall as well since there is usually something like that in most Muppet projects.  It has a spooky feeling without being really scary.  There is one or two small jump scare like moments that do work with what is going on.  Those things could scare children more, but I do think this is very family friendly.  It is a fun Halloween special that is well worth watching.  There is humor throughout as well.  Some of it is a little corny, but that works too.  It is the same type of humor that turns up in most Muppet projects.  .  

Music has always been a part of every Muppet project and Muppets Haunted Mansion is no different.  A little bit of the cover of Dancing in the Moonlight plays at the very beginning.  I was a little disappointed when the whole song didn’t play at that point.  I was very happy when it played through the credits and the inclusion of the footage of the actors singing and dancing with the Muppets made it perfect.  There is also a cover of Grim Grinning Ghosts from the Haunted Mansion attraction.  There are three new original songs, Rest in Peace, Life Hereafter, and Tie the Knot Tango.  The songs fit in well and help to move the story along.

Some of the Muppets are shown briefly as themselves as the Halloween party that is briefly shown when Gonzo talks to Kermit on the phone at the beginning of Muppets Haunted Mansion.  The Muppets are wearing costumes for Halloween.  Kermit is dressed as Miss Piggy and Miss Piggy is dressed as Kermit.  That was not something I had expected and while it was a tad different, I am ok with it.  Once Gonzo and Pepe are inside the mansion, several of the various ghosts look like their friends.  The ghosts have a transparent, glowy look.  I have no idea how that was done, but I’m sure some sort of special effects were used.  The human ghosts have the same sort of look, though I think they did seem to glow a little more than the Muppet ghosts.   

There are references to previous Muppet projects, the Haunted Mansion attraction, and even a few other scary movies throughout Muppets Haunted Mansion.  The wallpaper in the mansion looks like what is in the attraction, though it is a Muppet version.  Miss Piggy shows up as Madam Pigota, a version of a character from the attraction.  There are other ghosts that are versions of ghosts from the attraction.  At one point, Muppet ghosts are dancing and telling each other bad jokes, which is like the At the Dance sketch from The Muppet Show.  Wayne and Wanda, two Muppet characters that have been rarely seen since the first season of The Muppet Show turn up.  I also spotted Johnny Fiama, Sal Minella, Lew Zealand, Nigel, Crazy Harry, and Marvin Suggs and a version of his Muppaphone briefly.  Some people who haven’t been watching the Muppets as long may not recognize all of the Muppet characters that make some kind of appearance.  It made me very happy to see so many of the characters again.

Matt Vogel now performs as Kermit.  He took over the part after Steve Whitmire was fired.  Vogel has been working with The Jim Henson Company since the 1990s, taking over several characters, including some on Sesame Street, as the original performers retired or passed away.  Vogel performed as multiple Muppets in Muppets Haunted Mansion.  His Kermit still sounds different to me, though I haven’t seen that much of his as Kermit yet.  Whitmire was Kermit for just over twenty years, so I had a lot of time to get use to his version of the character.  I thought Kermit didn’t sound right when Whitmire first took over the part as well.  I think Vogel’s Kermit sounds closer to Henson’s Kermit than Whitmire’s did.  I did watch The Muppet Movie again after watching this special, and Vogel’s Kermit doesn’t sound as different to me after doing that.  Several Muppet characters appear at least briefly.  It would have been nice if some of the characters had more to do, but it makes sense given the time limits of the special.  

Will Arnett as the Host has the biggest part of the human cast.  The other human actors just show up briefly, usually as a ghost of some kind.  Many of them are just on screen for a minute or two.  That has happened in all of the previous Muppet movies and specials as well.  There would be one or two main human characters, and the others would be in short cameos.  

Muppets Haunted Mansion is a little silly at times, but it is very fun and entertaining.  I think it is the best thing with the Muppets in many years While I enjoyed the 2015 series The Muppets overall, I didn’t like the changes to the personalities of some characters, especially Kermit.  Those changes seem to be forgotten with this special, which I think is a good thing.  It is delightful and gave me so much joy to watch.  It really reminds me of the Muppets of my childhood and that makes me so happy.  It also makes me hopeful for more good Muppet projects in the future. 

Friday, October 1, 2021

Reminiscence is a Unique Thriller

I have enjoyed most of the movies I have seen Hugh Jackman in over the years and I am usually interested in seeing his new movies.  I saw one commercial for his newest movie, Reminiscence, shortly before the release date.  That was the only promotion I saw for the movie.  I wasn’t exactly sure what it was about, but I was interested in watching it.

Reminiscence was released to theaters on August 20, 2021.  It was also available on HBO Max for a month.  I did watch the movie on HBO Max shortly before that month was up.  I think the movie will be available there again in the future, but I don’t know when at this point.  

I really didn’t know what Reminiscence was about when I watched it.  I am only going to briefly discuss the plot of the movie.

** Minor Plot Discussion**

In the not to distant future, climate changes have caused major issues.  Miami has flooded and the heat is too extreme for people to do much of anything during the day hours, so most people now live at night.  Nick Bannister has a business that allows people to relive memories.  He and his business partner Watts also sometimes work for the local prosecutor to help in questioning people.  Something happens with a client that makes Nick start to spiral out of control.

**End of Minor Plot Discussion**

Reminiscence is just under two hours long.  It is rated PG-13.  There is some violence in a few scenes without it being a violent movie overall.  There are elements of a noir movie and mystery to what is going on, as well as some science fiction elements connected to the memory stuff.  I think that works for the movie.  The story is somewhat complicated, but I don’t think it is difficult to follow.  I wasn’t able to figure everything out.  The movie is definitely different.  Some people may not like that.  I did.  It is one of the more unique movies I have seen in a long time.  The movie is the directorial debut of Lisa Joy, one of the creators of the HBO series Westworld.  I have seen that the movie didn’t do well at the box office.  I think part of the reason why could be that there was not much promotion for it before it was released.  The fact that the pandemic is still going on probably had something to do with that as well.  

Memories play a big part in Reminiscence and several are shared throughout the movie.  A new type of technology has been developed that allows people to more fully visit specific memories.  It was originally developed for interrogations, but a use in the private sector was also discovered.  Nick is not the only person to have a business like his, though it seems like his may be considered a bit more run down.  His location definitely isn’t fancy and it is just him and Watts working there.  I believe there are other more high class types of businesses, though Nick is the one that the prosecutor turns to for help.  He did start doing it for interrogation purposes while he was still in the military.  Watts was in the military with him.  Neither of them talk about that time much, but things from that time do come up once or twice.  Watts has some of her own issues in her past that she hasn’t fully dealt with as well.  Most of the times when a memory is shared, it is clear that it is a memory.  There are times when it isn’t clear at first if what is happening is a memory or not, and some people may not like that aspect of the movie. There was once or twice during a memory that something is shown that the person having the memory shouldn’t have known, like something that happened when they weren’t in the room.   

The movie is mostly focused on Nick and what he is going through.  He is somewhat complicated and he makes questionable choices at times.  He is an interesting character.  Hugh Jackman is good in the part.  Watts is the woman who works with Nick.  They were in the military together.  She has some issues of her own that come up a few times.  She and Nick do work well together for the most part, but they don’t always agree on things.  Thandiwe Newton is really good in the part.  Rebecca Ferguson does a good job as Mae, a somewhat mysterious client that Nick becomes obsessed with.  A few of Nick’s other clients turn up as well as some people that are part of some of the memories.  Some of the characters aren’t developed that much, but that works for the game.

Reminiscence is a bit different, but I think it is an entertaining movie that is worth watching.  I keep hearing people say they want original movies instead of the same types of stories over and over or more remakes/reboots.  Reminiscence is definitely original and it deserves to be seen.  

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Cruella - A Villain is Born

 Disney has been making live action versions of some of their more popular animated movies for years now.  Some of them I have liked and others I wasn’t interested in.  The studio has also started to make live action movies focused on villain characters.  Cruella is the latest of those movies.

Cruella was released to theaters and through Disney + with Premiere Access on May 18, 2021.   The movie became available to view without Premiere Access on August 27, 2021.  That is when I watched it.  Since I would be the only person watching it, the extra fee for Premiere Access is a bit high, though depending on the movie, I’m not saying I would never do it.  I just haven’t so far.  I do think it makes sense if multiple people will be watching.  I do like that there are other options for people, though I know that may change in the future.  

I’m only going to briefly discuss the plot of Cruella.  Really the only thing I knew about the movie before watching it was that it would show a younger Cruella before the events of 101 Dalmatians.  

**Minor Plot Discussion**  

Child Estella Miller is very creative where fashion is concerned.  She is picked on at school because of her unique hair.  She is rebellious and can be a bit cruel at times.  Her mother comes up with the name Cruella for that side of her.  Estella ends up on her own in London after a tragedy.  As a young adult, Estella still has her love of fashion and dream of somehow becoming a designer.  She starts doing things as Cruella, gaining attention for her unique fashion and antics while also working toward her ultimate goal.

**End of Minor Plot Discussion**

There is a short scene during the credits that helps to further connect the movie to 101 Dalmatians.

Cruella is rated PG-13.  There is some mild swearing - the word that rhymes with luck is never used.  There are a few intense scenes that may be upsetting to younger children.  There is mild violence, but nothing excessive or explicit.  Parents should just watch the movie themselves to make the determination on if their children could handle it.  

I believe Cruella is a prequel to 101 Dalmatians, both the animated and live action versions.  The movie ends before the events of the other movies.  I’m not completely sure how much before 101 Dalmatians Cruella ends.  I’m honestly not sure if this movie is supposed to be considered a reboot or not.  There are differences to the character of Cruella in this movie from how she has been previously depicted, but there are also a lot of similarities.  Some things do give some sympathy to the character, though I don’t think she was changed so much that she wouldn’t end up as she was in the other movies.  Certain things that happen can be why the character is the way she is in 101 Dalmatians.  Little things here and there can definitely tie into the events of the other movies.   I did recently read that there are now plans for a sequel.

Cruella does cover a long time frame, from Estella’s childhood to when she is an adult and becomes Cruella.  Most of the movie is focused on a period of time when she is in London as a young adult.  I’m not sure exactly how much time passes during that part of the movie.  It covers at least several months.  Estella/Cruella goes though a lot over the course of the movie.  I did think a few things were predictable, but the movie is still entertaining.  There is a little bit of action in a few scenes without making the movie action packed.  The movie takes place in the 60s and 70s and a lot of music from then is used throughout the movie.  I did recognize most of the music and I think it worked with what was going on.  Fashion does play a huge part in the movie and a lot of it is amazing looking.  

A few important moments from Estella’s childhood are shown.  Those moments do have a lasting impact on her and influence decisions she makes as an adult.  She definitely had a rebellious side as a child that got her into trouble, though she wasn’t evil.  Once she is an adult, she is trying to be good and responsible, but she does turn more and more to her darker side as she becomes Cruella.  She does act and even speak differently as Cruella, something her friends notice and they are not as happy with the change to Cruella at times.  Emma Stone is wonderful in the part.  

Baroness von Hellman, almost always referred to as the Baroness, is a well known, successful designer in charge of a fashion house.  She a self-absorbed narcissist who treats everyone horribly.  She is willing to do anything to get what she wants.  She is a very unpleasant woman.  Emma Thompson is great in the part.  Mark Strong is in a few scenes as John, the Baroness’s valet who has worked for her for a very long time.  

Horace and Jasper are thieves who befriended Estella when they were all still children.  They worked together for years and formed a sort of surrogate family.  They do things for Cruella, though they are not happy about several things once Estella is Cruella more often.  In the previous movies, Horace and Jasper seemed to just be bumbling idiots hired to do Cruella’s dirty work.  There was no indication of a longer or different relationship between them and Cruella like there is in this movie.  They are criminals, but they really aren’t evil.  They are nicer than there have been in the previous movies.  Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser are good in the parts. Roger and Anita, the main characters in 101 Dalmatians, do show up in a few scenes each.  Artie, played by John McCrea, owns a vintage fashion shop that Estella discovers and the two become friends.   

Cruella is an entertaining movie that is worth watching.  There are a few moments that are slightly disturbing and could upset children, but the movie is still good and worth watching.  It is interesting to see a somewhat different version of the character. 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Masters of the Universe: Revelations - Return to Eternia

When I was a child, for a few years, there were some cartoons that I watched after school most days.  He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was one of those cartoons.  I always enjoyed it, but I don’t remember a lot of things since it has been years since I’ve seen it.  I’ve also seen the live action movie several times.  I heard something about another Masters of the Universe, but I didn’t know much about it.  The first part of Masters of the Universe: Revelations was released on Netflix on July 23, 2021.

Masters of the Universe: Revelations is an animated series developed by Kevin Smith.  It is connected to the original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon and features many of the same characters.  The series is being released in two parts.  The first part has five episodes.  I’m not sure when the second part will be released or how many episodes it will have, but I will definitely watch it.    All five episodes were released at the same time and I did binge all of them at once.  Each of the five episodes was about twenty-five minutes long, give or take a few minutes.    

I am only going to briefly discuss the plot of Masters of the Universe: Revelations.  Several things happen in these five episodes and I don’t want to spoil things for people.  I really didn’t know anything specific about the plot when I watched the series.  

**Minor Plot Discussion**

While a ceremony is going for Teela receiving the mantle of Man-At-Arms, Skeletor and Evil-Lyn start an attack on Castle Grayskull. He-Man, Teela, Man-At-Arms and the rest of the Royal Guard go to deal with the situation.  Things do not go well and all of Eternia is damaged because most of the magic is lost.  Teela ends up going on a journey to ultimately try to deal with the new problems.  She is accompanied by some old friends, some new, and even an enemy or two.

**End of Minor Plot Discussion**

I had not been expecting Teela to end up the main character of  Masters of the Universe: Revelations.  I wasn’t upset by it.  I just hadn’t expected it.  I guess I just figured since He-Man had been the focus of the original cartoon that would be going on in this one too even though his name is not part of the title this time.  I’m fine with Teela being the focus of the series, or at least, of these five episodes.  It was just a little different at first.  Some people may be bothered by that.  I think it works for these episodes.  There were a few things that happened that I didn’t really like, though they did fit with the story.  Some things are resolved by the end of the fifth episode, while there are still other things to be handled in the episodes that haven’t been released yet.  I didn’t think the episodes were predictable.

It has been years and years since I last saw He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, so I really don’t remember much from it.  There are some characters that I don’t remember at all even though I’m pretty sure they were in the original cartoon.  There were some characters that I believe were new for this series.  I was still able to enjoy Masters of the Universe: Revelations.  I think people who haven’t seen the original will be able to enjoy this one.  I also think fans of it who remember more than I do will be able to enjoy it too.  Some fans of the original may not like the direction this series goes in.  There is action and violence throughout the five episodes, though it really isn’t that bad.  The series has the TV-PG rating in the United States.  A few things that happen may be upsetting to younger children.  It may be a good idea for parents to watch the series first to decide if it is ok for their children even though it is animated.  The animation is very well done by Powerhouse Animation Studios.  Dark Horse Comics is releasing a four issue miniseries comic of the same name that is a prequel to the series.  The first issue was released on July 7, 2021.

Masters of the Universe: Revelations has a really good voice cast.  Somehow I had not known ahead of time that Mark Hamill was doing the voice of Skeletor, but as soon as I heard the character, I was convinced it was him.  The voice of Teela sounded familiar to me right away, though I couldn’t figure who it was while I was watching it.  Sarah Michelle Gellar did a good job with the voice.  Evil-Lyn ends up with a decent amount to do in the episodes and Lena Headey’s voice fit the character.  I did recognize Dedrich Bader’s voice for a few characters and Dennis Haysbert.  I really didn’t recognize any of the other voices.  Chris Wood as Adam/He-Man sounded different from how I remembered, which does make sense since it is a different voice actor.  I wasn’t really bothered by that.  It was just different.  

Masters of the Universe: Revelations wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but it was very entertaining and I think it is worth watching.  I will definitely watch the second half of the series once it is released.  I don’t know if there are any plans for another season of the series or not.  

Monday, August 9, 2021

The Suicide Squad (2021) is Ridiculously Bonkers and That’s a Good Thing

I like superhero movies and movies based on comic book characters, so over the years, I have seen just about all of them at least once.  Some have been better than others.  I don’t always know much background about the characters before I see a movie.  In 2016, I did see Suicide Squad (2016) without really knowing anything about the comic books it was based on.  Harley Quinn was the only character I knew anything about.  The movie was alright overall - I have definitely seen much worse - but it isn’t one of my favorite movies.  When I heard about another one being made, I figured I would see it at some point.  Then I found out that James Gunn would be writing and directing it, making my interest in it go up.  I very much enjoyed The Suicide Squad (2021) and think it is definitely worth watching.

The Suicide Squad (2021) was released to theaters and on HBO Max in the United States on August 5, 2021.  The movie will be available on HBO Max for a month.  I’m guessing it will be back on HBO Max a few months after that like the other movies that have had same day streaming releases earlier this year.  I don’t know if the movie is available legally on any streaming services in other countries or not.  I watched the movie with HBO Max.  There was a bit of buffering later in the movie that did get on my nerves.  That has happened when I’ve watched some of the other same day release movies too.  I don’t know if it was some kind of issue with HBO Max or my Wifi.  I have also had a few other issues watching other things on HBO Max at times.

I am not sharing any spoilers for The Suicide Squad (2021).  I went into watching this movie really knowing nothing about what would be happening.

**Minor Plot Discussion**

Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is still using Task Force X for certain highly classified missions.  The terms remain the same for the Belle Reve inmates.  They will get a reduced sentence if they survive and the mission is a success.  Harley Quinn (Margo Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), and Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) are joined by several new teammates for a mission that has them traveling to the island of Corto Maltese.  The government there was recently overthrown by a regime that is anti American.  The team is to deal with a lab that holds something that could be used as a weapon against the United States and the rest of the world.  Unfortunately, things don’t go as originally planned and the team has to deal with new complications.  

**End of Minor Plot Discussion**

There are two short scenes in the credits, one of which seems to be setting up a new series that will start airing on HBO Max in 2022.  James Gunn is also involved in that series, writing the episodes and directing most of them.

The Suicide Squad (2021) is over the top, ridiculous, and bonkers.  All of those are good things and made the movie fun and entertaining.  It probably is too ridiculous and bonkers for some people. Even the ultimate Big Bad of the movie is ridiculous, while also somehow terrifying.  After watching the movie, I did do a little research to discover that yes that villain was in DC comic books and even some DC cartoons.  I really don’t remember seeing or hearing anything about that villain before.  I can’t think of any other movies to compare it to because I’ve never seen any quite like it before.  It shares a few characters with the previous movie, Suicide Squad (2016),  has almost the same name, and has the same basic idea for the plot of a group of super villains being sent out on secret missions in exchange for reductions to their prison sentences, but it is a very different movie.  It did seem like the first one was trying to be too serious, which didn’t work overall for me.  This movie, while it does have a few moments that are more serious or even a bit poignant, does not try to be serious.  It is full out over the top ridiculous and bonkers, and that is what makes it so good.  I still haven’t seen or read any of the comics, so I don’t know if that is more true to them or not.  I just know it works in this movie.  There were a times when I was thinking “Did that really just happen?” while watching the movie.  I had similar reactions to a few things the first time I watched Slither, the first James Gunn movie I saw.  Gunn wrote and directed this movie and he is a very good fit for it.  It does have a similar feel at times to some of his other movies without being carbon copies of those earlier movies.  

The violence is just as over the top as everything else in the movie, so it definitely deserves the R rating.  This is not a movie for everyone and absolutely not a movie for children.  Several characters die (no I’m not saying who) over the course of the movie in a variety of graphically violent ways, with blood splatters galore.  Since it is so exaggerated and over the top, it isn’t realistic in anyway, which works for this movie.  Even with the extreme violence, there are absolutely beautiful visuals throughout the movie.  It starts with the amazing opening shot and continues though the entire movie.  It does seem a tad odd to say a movie this violent is beautiful, but it truly is a beautiful movie.  I haven’t seen a movie this visually beautiful in a long time.  There are some scenes and shots that I’m sure are amazing in the theater.  James Gunn is an amazing director to have created this movie.  I have heard that Warner Brothers did not interfere with this movie like they have with some others in the past.  It really does work better when the studio lets the directors make the decisions.  There is a lot of swearing in the movie, including the word that rhymes with luck.  It does said that the movie includes brief graphic nudity.  At one point, kind of in the background of a scene, there is frontal male nudity very briefly.  

I still don’t know much about the characters in The Suicide Squad (2021).  They are all from DC comic books, some more obscure than others.  I probably know the most about Harley from other movies and shows, starting with Batman The Animated Series, one of the best versions of Batman ever.  She has evolved some since the first movie and that makes her more interesting here, though she still has lingering issues. She also gets a bit of a different look that I liked.  Margot Robbie is great in the part.  Joker does not turn up at all during this movie and I’m fine with that.  I don’t really like Jared Leto’s version of Joker, so I kind like that he isn’t around this time.  I honestly don’t think Leto’s version of the character would fit in this movie very well.  There are one or two small references to him without him being identified by name.  Harley has moved on from that extremely toxic relationship and she does seem slightly less psychotic while still being violently unpredictable.  There has definitely been some changes and growth with her character, but she is still clearly Harley.

Originally, Deadshot, the character Will Smith played in the first movie, was supposed to be in this one as well.  When Smith could not do this movie because of a schedule conflict, Eldris Elba was cast and then the decision was made to change the character to Bloodsport so Smith could return in a later movie.  Bloodsport does fit in well with the story.  

Viola Davis does a good job with the role of Amanda, a character I may dislike more than any other in the DC universe.  She goes to even more extreme measures to get someone on the team.  The movie has a large cast and they all do great with their parts, even the ones that have smaller parts.  Some of them, like Michael Rooker,  I didn’t realize they were in the movie until I was watching it and say them or saw their name in the credits.   I should have expected Rooker to turn up since he is in just about everything Gunn does.  Sean Gunn, Gunn’s brother who also turns up in all of his brothers movies, also makes an appearance.  Nathan Fillion, Pete Davidson, Sylvester Stallone, Peter Capaldi, and John Cena also appear in the movie.   I had multiple moments of wondering if a character had actually been in the DC Comics while watching the movie and the answer was yes every time.  Gunn picked some very obscure characters that end up working for the movie.

The Suicide Squad (2021) is ridiculous, bonkers, and wonderfully entertaining.  It is definitely worth seeing, though it isn’t a movie for everyone.  It would be a good choice to see in the theater for people that feel comfortable doing that now.


 It has been much longer than I realized since I last posted here.  I have missed writing about movies and have intended to start again, but the last few years - even before 2020 - have been challenging in different ways that contributed to me not writing like I kept wanting to.  I also think that Epinions shutting down the way did really messed with my motivation to keep posting.

I continued going to movies in the theater, until 2020 and the arrival of Covid.  I think my local theater is open now, but I’m not comfortable going to the theater again yet for a few reasons.  I will go to the movie theater again someday.  I just don’t know when right now.

I did finally get Netflix a few years ago and I have been watching a lot of different things on there.  I did get Disney + last year because of the new Muppet show that started there.  I still love the Muppets.  I was extremely happy once all the seasons of The Muppet Show were added to Disney +.  I also have HBO Max and I have watched some of the movies on there that were streaming the same day they were released in theaters.  

Right now, I’m planning to write about movies again somewhat regularly.  There will be times when I won’t be able to be as active posting - when work gets crazy for a few months - but I hope to get back to posting regularly.  I really have missed it.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Nightcrawler - Take a Walk on the Creepy Side With Jake Gyllenhaal (Spoiler Free)

It was several months ago when I first heard something about Nightcrawler and about how good Jake Gyllenhaal was in it.  I’ve liked him in other movies, so that did get my attention even though I had no clue what the movie was about.  Even once I started to see previews, I wasn’t completely sure of the plot, but I wanted to see the movie. 

I am only going to briefly discuss the plot of Nightcrawler and I will not be sharing any major spoilers.

**Minor Plot Discussion**

Louis Bloom is doing somewhat questionable work in Los Angeles while being on the look out for something that could become a career.  By chance, he sees someone, Joe Loder, show up at the scene of an accident and start filming.  Lou learns that Joe goes to the scenes of accidents or crimes, films footage, and then sells the footage to whichever local news station will pay him the most.  Lou decides to try that type of work, gets an older video camera and scanner, and starts filming.  He gets footage his first night that Nina Romina, the night news director of a local television station likes and buys.  She says that Lou has a good eye, tells him to bring her anything else he gets, and suggests that he gets a better camera.

It isn’t long before Lou gets himself an assistant, Rick.  Lou continues to provide footage to Nina and he makes enough money to get better equipment and a new flashy, fast car.  Lou learns more about the news business in general and uses that knowledge to his advantage in his relationship with Nina.  Lou does have a talent for the work, but he starts to do questionable things to get footage at times, and that eventually lands him on the radar of the police.

**End of Minor Plot Discussion**

Nightcrawler is an entertaining, though somewhat disturbing, thriller that is well worth watching.  Things do start off a little slow as Lou is introduced and the situation is set up.   The slower pace at that point works for the story, showing how Lou begins his new career.  Things do pick up in certain scenes, like when Lou is driving like a maniac through Los Angeles to try to be the first at a scene while Rick freaks out in the passenger seat.  The plot is interesting and it is entertaining even though there are disturbing elements to it.  There are some graphic things shown at times, mostly connected to the stuff that Lou records and some swearing.  The movie does deserve the R rating and it is not a movie for children.

I have no idea how accurate the work that Lou got into is depicted in the movie.  I know large cities have more crime and more accidents.  I don’t live in a big city, though I do get local stations from one and there are stories about local crime and accidents.  I honestly don’t know if those stations send their own crews to those different locations or if they get footage from a freelance journalist like Lou.  It seems believable, and I know that the paparazzi sort of does the same thing, just by following celebrities instead of crimes.  Several scenes do take place at the station where Lou sells his videos.  Nina is a bit manipulative with the stories she edits and she is willing to use stories and footage that are questionable if she thinks it will get the station better ratings.  Later in the movie, she does talk to someone else at the station about what they can legally air, but even then, she talks about being willing to get fines for airing the footage.  Some of the news broadcasts are shown.  Early in the movie, Lou is captivated by seeing his footage on the news at home.  There are at least a few real broadcasters from Los Angeles in a few scenes here and there.  It does seem like Nina is willing to show stuff that is more graphic than what can actually air, though I know some stations keep trying to push that line. 

While I think that Nightcrawler is a thriller, there really isn’t any mystery to what is going on.  Lou’s background is a complete mystery since really nothing about his past is shared.  He does mention at one point that he didn’t go to college, but he took at least one class online.  Lou does several unexpected things throughout the movie which does keep things interesting.  The movie is definitely not predictable.  I don’t think the movie is action packed, though action does turn up in some scenes, usually when Lou is driving like a bat out of you know where to get somewhere in a hurry.  Later in the movie there is definitely building tension to what is going on.  At one point, Lou is chasing other vehicles involved in a high speed chase.  That sequence is very well done.  There is a little bit of humor here and there that briefly lightens the mood, but the movie is far from being a comedy.

Most of the movie takes place during the night when Lou is working.  He is shown filming several things, though he spends more time in his car, driving around while listening to the scanner.  That may sound boring, but it truly isn't.  Just about all the interactions between Lou and Rick happen in the car.  Even the scenes that take place at the television studio take place during the night, and there is dark lighting there as well, almost as if the station can’t afford to use lights at night.  That does cause some interesting lighting to be used throughout the movie.  At times the lighting does intensify Lou’s creepy look.  I did recognize some of the street names mentioned, though I have no idea if scenes were actually filmed in those places. 

Nightcrawler revolves around Lou and he is probably the most unique character I’ve seen in a movie in a long time.  He is ambitious and willing to do just about anything to reach his goals.  He is smart and he learns things quickly, which does help him in his new career.  It also helps him to do some of the more questionable things he does as well.  He can talk the talk, and while not everyone buys his line, he does convince several people to do what he wants.  This guy could probably sell igloos to Eskimos.  Lou does have a talent for getting the type of footage that Nina wants.  He wants to be the best at his work, and when something doesn’t go his way, he can get unpleasant.  Lou remains calm and seems to be polite with people he is upset with, but that doesn’t stop him from issuing threats while still talking in a calm tone with a pleasant - for him anyway - expression on his face.  He is twisted and creepy in a whole different way because of that.  He really isn’t a likable character at all, but he is fascinating.

Jake Gyllenhaal is absolutely amazing as Lou and he makes the movie.  He has a somewhat different look for the character, with hair that is an odd length - too long to really be short, but not long enough to really be long - and a gaunt look to his face from losing twenty pounds.  The weight loss make his eyes look slightly sunken, which adds to the creepy look.  Even when he smiles, he still looks creepy.  In some ways, he is even creepier when smiling.  At times, as things happen, this sort of crazed look comes into his eyes, making him look borderline psychotic, extremely creepy, and borderline crazy.  I have no idea how he did that, but it is very effective.  I will be surprised if Gyllenhaal doesn’t get award nominations for this performance.

Nina is the news director that first buys Lou’s footage.  She likes his work, including that he gets graphic, bloody, images at times.  She seems willing to put just about anything on air if it will get ratings.  Nina does try to establish some boundaries with Lou, but that ultimately doesn’t work.  At times she seems just about as crazed as Lou.  Renee Russo is really good in the part, though I wasn’t fond of the dark eye makeup she always wears.  A few other people around the station turn up every so often, but none of them receive as much attention as Nina. 

Rick is desperate for a job when Lou hires him.  Rick is in charge of navigation to get them to the different scenes while Lou drives like a maniac.  Rick buys into what Lou tells him during the interview, though he starts to have concerns about certain things tied to the way Lou does things.  He seems nice enough, though he doesn’t get much development.  Riz Ahmed handles the part well.  Joe Loder is the freelance video journalist that ends up getting Lou interested in the work to begin with.  Joe has been doing the work for a long time.  At one point he shares plans for expanding his business.  Joe does seem to feel threatened as Lou gets better at the work.  Bill Paxton is only in a few scenes, but he handles the part well. 

Nightcrawler is a very well done, somewhat disturbing thriller.  It probably won’t appeal to everyone, but it is definitely worth checking out, especially for fans of Gyllenhaal.  I do think it is worth checking out in theaters.