Greetings! Have you ever wondered if a movie's worth blowing the money on to see at the theater or what to add next to your NetFlix queue? Then you've come to the right place! Enjoy!

"Bedazzled" Blu-ray Review

 As the back half of our Brendan Fraser double-feature after Encino Man we popped in the barebones Blu-ray of Bedazzled, the 2000 remake of a 1967 Peter Cook-Dudley Moore film which comedy snobs swear by, but I (along with most people) haven't seen. But, hoo boy, I've seen the heck out of this version for two reasons: Elizabeth Hurley.

 Fraser plays Elliot, a walking advertisement for why some dorks deserve to be alone and miserable (and I say this as a lifelong dork). Absolutely inept and a desperate try-hard, his co-workers can't stand him and his attempts to glom onto their activities. He pines for Alison (Frances O'Connor) who works at his San Francisco tech company, but doesn't know he exists even after he makes a sad attempt to strike up a conversation at a bar.  

After striking out, he mutters to himself, "I'd give anything to have that girl in my life," and that is the cue for the Devil (Hurley) to make her presence known to Elliot and to offer him a simple bargain: Seven wishes in exchange for his soul. Elliot is initially reluctant, but with little going for him in his life and desperate to be with his dream girl, he signs and wishes that he be married to Alison and to be a very rich and powerful man.

 The Devil grants his wish, but as with all subsequent wishes, Elliot discovers that the Devil has used any vagaries in the wish to insert whammies which make the wish meaningless beginning with Elliot discovering Alison hates him, is cheating on him, and he is a Colombian drug kingpin that competitors want to kill. Whoopsie! Hijnks ensue!

 What Bedazzled does best is give Fraser plenty of room to play as he transforms into each of his wish personnas while giving Elliot an arc as he matures from the loser he was to the better-balanced man he becomes. It also works by giving Hurley a great showcase to.....hang on, a quick side note.....

Hey, Hugh Grant. Yeah, you, Hugh. One question as asked my Jay Leno: WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?!?!?!?? Dude, really?

OK, where was I? Oh yeah, for some reason Hurley has made over 25 movies and for 99% of movie watchers, the only two they could name are Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and Bedazzled which is odd considering how good she is at combining a knowing plummy English elegance packed into an absolute smoke show of a bod which gets showcased quite well in various sexy outfits here. This Devil is having a ball being bad.

All of which makes Elliot's obsession with Alison kind of odd to me as she's reasonably attractive, but nothing you'd stay up all night trying to Google every detail or photo you could find over. Now Hurley, ow chihuaua! If I was Elliot, I'd say, "Keep the other six wishes. I just need the one where I am your personal love slave forever." (That she looks just as hot now at 57 years old, constantly posting thirst trap bikini photos on Instagram implies either a picture in an attic somewhere or her own deal with the Devil.)

While Fraser is fun and Hurley gets the nethers a'tingling, the letdown on why this isn't one for the ages is due to a somewhat bland script by director Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters, Analyze This), Peter Tolan (Rescue Me, The Larry Sanders Show), and Larry Gelbart (M*A*S*H, Tootsie) which doesn't really reach for the laughs and relies on Fraser and Hurley - have I mentioned how hawt she is? - to bring it to life.

 On the Blu-ray technical front, the transfer is clean if somewhat lacking in contrast (maybe I'm too used to 4K HDR content these days) and the audio is serviceable, but nothing special. Surprisingly, there are absolutely zero extras on the disc, not even a trailer. The DVD release had two commentary tracks and a handful of featurettes, so bad form, Anchor Bay!

Pleasantly amusing with a versatile performance from Brendan Fraser and muy caliente hotness and sass from Elizabeth Hurley, Bedazzled is worth a watch, but this Blu-ray doesn't rate a buy.

Score: 7/10. Catch it on cable.

"Encino Man" Review

In honor of Brendan Fraser's triumphant career comeback, winning the Best Actor for The Whale last night, we decided a double-feature of Fraser's earlier hits was needed. So ahead of Bedazzled came his 2nd movie role ever, Encino Man, which was designed to be a star vehicle for Pauly Shore (riding on his MTV show Totally Pauly "Weasel" schtick), but in reality and in retrospect was a first glimpse at what Fraser's thespian chops were.

 We meet best friends Dave (Sean Astin, pre-Rudy, but post-Goonies) and Stoney (Shore) as Dave single-handedly is digging a swimming pool in his Encino home's backyard. He feels like a loser as the girl he's sweet on, Robyn (Megan Ward), is going with a brutish jock, Matt (Michael DeLuise), and wants to know how he can get the girl and get known in his school.

The answers come when an earthquake uncovers a huge block of ice in the pool with a frozen caveman inside (Fraser) who eventually thaws out and runs amok in Dave's home. Needing to explain this new arrival to his parents, they clean him up, dress him like a surf bum, name him Link (as in missing), and present Link as an exchange student from Estonia that they must've forgotten they'd agreed to take in. They register him in school and the hijinks begin with Link becoming more popular than Dave which leads to friction, breakup, makeup, and a triumphant group dance at the prom at the end.

 What's fascinating to notice in what most people put down as one of those dumb Pauly Shore movies like Son-in-Law and Bio-Dome which wore out his welcome even faster is that - after realizing that Robin Tunney and Rose McGowan have bit parts as classmates and Astin's Goonies castmate Ke Huy Quan as the Computer Club leader would have his career going into a deep freeze for 20 years only thawing in time to also win an Oscar last night for Everything Everywhere All At Once - is how unnecessarily nuanced and subtle Fraser's performance was.

As an unfrozen caveman thawed into the modern world which was meant to be a dumb Pauly Shore teen comedy (like a discount Wayne's World), it would've been easy for the rookie actor, making his leading role debut, to play Link as a cartoon, especially when one of the gags (as shown in the trailer) is that Stoney teaches Link his catchphrases. But Fraser instead imbues Link with the necessary bewilderment while underpinning the goofy slapstick with genuine pathos as a man alone in a strange world. This really gets illustrated when a field trip to a natural history museum with exhibits of extinct beasts and how cavemen lived hits Link hard at just how displaced he's become. (Don't worry though, in the end it works out for him.)

 While Encino Man is a passable teen comedy for which one's enjoyment may be predicated on how much of Shore's noise one can tolerate, it's definitely worth a watch to see how perhaps you can tell who might be Oscar-caliber talent in the most unlikely forum.

Score: 6/10. Catch it on cable. (Not on any services at this writing.)

"Hunted" Review

 The whole "Evil Rich People Hunting Noble Poor People For Sport" genre is beyond played out. Originating as a 1924 short story "The Most Dangerous Game" it has been adapted into at least 20 movies according to Wikipedia including the Rutger Hauer hunts Ice-T version, Surviving the Game (1994), to the unfairly lost in the world-ending beginning of the Hot Fad Plague plannedemic in 2020, The Hunt, starring Betty Gilpin as a badass redneck woman fighting evil rich liberals hunting her and others, it's as stock tropey as it gets.

Which is why I'm not going to expend much effort in reviewing the generically-named Hunted, which sets the story in England with a cast almost completely foreign (no pun) to American audiences with the exception perhaps of Samantha Bond - who was a regular on Downton Abbey and was Moneypenny in the Pierce Brosnan James Bond films - and portrays the matriarch conducting the hunt of four young people who were robbing her estate. Lessons need to be taught, order must be maintained, blah-blah-woof-woof, let the hunt begin. Place your bets as to who will survive and whether there will be any gnarly kills. 

 The only real differentiating factors in this telling is that the group was stealing to put one of them through college debt-free and were tasked by a crooked art broker to procure specific items and they don't just randomly steal or loot and the ending which isn't quite what you'd expect though it's not that big a deal.

 With characters that barely fill two dimensions and a too familiar plot that still drags for a 94-minute runtime, you are better off skipping Hunted (viewed on Amazon Prime) and hunting down The Hunt (currently free with ads on Amazon's Freevee service). 

Score: 4/10. Skip it.

"Tár" 4K Review

Despite sounding like a sequel to the homicidal-tire-on-a-rampage cult horror flick Rubber, Tár is the latest example of what I call an Emperor's New Movie; a film which garners overwhelming critical acclaim and multiple Oscar nominations despite being generally terrible. There's a reason so many normal people say they don't listen to critics and movies like Tár are why. 

It's also why my annual Oscars Death March - where I try to catch as many of the top nominees so as to better judge the collective malpractice of the Academy Awards - is less and less enjoyable as the Academy races further away from representing actual excellence, much less popular tastes. It doesn't matter that token nominations get handed out to box office monsters like Top Gun: Maverick or Avatar: The Way of Water when the Academy fully intends to fete dreck like Tár.

 Cate Blanchett stars as the titular Lydia Tár, an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner, protege of Leonard Bernstein, first female chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, plus a zillion more accomplishments we are bombarded with during a Basil Exposition infodump in the guise of a staged New Yorker interview. She's married to her concertmaster, Sharon (Nina Hoss), and self-described father of Petra (Mila Bogojevic), who they adopted. She is for sure an Ur-Girlboss.

For two excruciatingly tedious hours we see her prattle on endlessly about stuff and whatnot while those around her wince at her soft thoughtlessness. Blink-or-miss-it hints of a story involving a young woman Tár mentored who committed suicide appear as often as her being awakened by mysterious sounds in the night which go away when she opens the refrigerator. (I'm not making this up.) 

Finally, a semblance of a plot erupts as a baldly decontextualized video of comments she made during a Julliard masterclass appears and she is sued for prompting the woman's suicide, her personal life and professional career implodes and she ends up in a humiliating gig. The end. Wait, what?

 Imagine going to a symphony performance expecting a program of several pieces. The orchestra spends the first half-hour tuning up, just droning on that A note while little snatches of something that sounds like the program flit by. Then the conductor proceeds to rush the orchestra through a medley of the entire program in about 10 minutes, never completing a movement or giving a chance for the audience to grasp what's happening. Then the orchestra stands and bows while the critics who didn't have to pay for their tickets leap to their feet, howling their approval while dropping their pants and jerking off in appreciation. That's what Tár is like.

I haven't seen writer-director Todd Field's other Academy Award-nominated films, In The Bedroom and Little Children, both of which garnered Best Picture and acting nominations, but he's got the number of the awards and critical establishments who were drooling for 16 years for this movie. Terrance Malick is like Takashi Miike (who has made as many as five feature films in one year) in comparison. But the wild overpraise is like hearing a starving man say that the Taco Bell you gave him was the finest meal ever cooked. 

Just as with Infinity Pool the night before, I was questioning whether I was utterly incapable of grasping the meaning of the film or whether there was nothing to grasp and everyone else was just pretending to "get it" like with The Emperor's New Clothes or the belief in 2001 that The Strokes were going to save rock & roll, another thing that didn't exist. 

As I perused the rambling proclamations of the critics, all I could see were the drugs talking or the need to cram their personal ideologies or the collective wokeism into their verdicts. Some said it was about power; others that it was a commentary on sexism and the patriarchy which is weird because Lydia rejects those premises.

 I can't recall what the last movie I saw that took so long to tell so little story and to botch the telling of it. After finishing slogging through it - I took a couple of lengthy breaks to work on my computer - I went to see what the herd animal critics had to say and they must hand out some pretty awesome hallucinogens to the critics to spawn such collective shared delusions of depth and grandeur to such an sterile and devoid plot. "If this would have had a male protagonist, it would've been a cliche, but because it's a woman..." is not the insight they think it is; it's confirmation of its vacuity. 

With the exception of one scene, Tár is a 2h 37m exhibition of how to not tell a compelling story, how not to convey emotions, how not to make a point. There's a difference between being subtle and being obtuse and Fields gets it wrong every time. He sets up Lydia as this amazeballs person - an icon in her field - and then proceeds to demolish her life without ever showing the moments where she's laid low. Why did the cancel her? Don't know. 

Was it the fabricated smear video (more on this in a moment) or the suicide of the mentee? Both? Neither? It's never made clear. Why does her marriage collapse in the end when she's never shown doing anything to violate what seemed distant and chilly already? /shrug emoji Is Lydia a deliberate monster or merely aloof and callous in her interpersonal relationships? Pomegranate. And if that answer makes no sense to you, it's just me keeping in line with the way Fields expects us to fill in all the blanks he felt unnecessary to fill in himself as if he was crunched for time after wasting the majority of the runtime doing nothing.

For example, we're told Lydia has all the big awards, but none of them are every shown. She has a cabinet filled with pencils for her scoring, but no shelf or mantle for her Oscar? Her main apartment is an icy concrete bunker which would be mistaken for a parking structure if not for all the expensive furniture and the nine-foot grand piano. Relationships all feel distant, but we're never shown why. A late sequence where she returns to her childhood home and encounters a relative (brother?) gives a taste at how much she reinvented herself, but all it does is make one wish Fields had cared enough to actually tell the story of who Lydia Tar (screw the accent) really is.

There is one fascinating scene about a half-hour in which felt like it could've really mattered except Fields had a million other absolutely nothings he wanted to focus on instead. Lydia is teaching a masterclass at Julliard and gets into a discussion with a student conductor in front of the class about connecting with music and asks the student about his views on Bach. His reply that as a BIPOC pansexual something or other that he feels a white cisgendered male who fathered 20 children wasn't worthy of considering rightfully infuriates Lydia. She tries to reason with the snowflake and poses the question how would he like his music to be judged solely on his pigmentation or humping partner preferences (I'm paraphrasing) and he simply picks up his coat and bag and stalks off, pronouncing her "a [eff]ing bitch."

Shot in a single 10-1/2 minute-long Steadicam shot, it's one of those One Good Scenes that pop up in otherwise terrible movies. There is a sizable herd of fans for No Country For Old Men, but that was also Oscar-winning trash except for the coin toss scene at the gas station which comes down to one great line about how the quarter has been traveling for many years to arrive at this point for its role in determining a man's life or death. Great stuff, but you don't give a freaking Oscar to a bad movie because of a clever line, dammit! 

And you don't kid yourself into believing Tár is good because one scene wasn't completely empty, especially when it doesn't really matter in the end. Also, we can see the whole auditorium in the scene and no one was filming this conflict, so when the video arrives 90 minutes later, it's truly from out of nowhere.

Cate Blanchett's performance is supposedly highly favored to earn her a third Oscar and if there's any factor in the bamboozling of the critics that's not the drugs it's that she manages to spew the endless monologues Fields shoves into her mouth in a manner which almost hints this is a real person. But to say Blanchett is good is as redundant as saying LeBron James is a whiny little bitch who can't speak out against Communist China's human rights abuses, including the use of child slave labor to make his $200 kicks, because there's too much money to be made in being complicit. She's very good, but it means nothing. (Give the Oscar to Michelle Yeoh. She's worthy and needs the boost more.)

What's ultimately most frustrating about Tár is not the overwhelming undeserved hype it has received, but the fact that in the rushed last half-hour, there are plenty of seeds of what could've been a fascinating character study about the tragedy of hubris and the corrosive effects that wokeism and the need to burn witches for hurting the po' widdle feewings of emotional hemophiliacs like Mx. Bipoc teh Pansexual. 

But Fields had no stomach to tackle such a powder keg topic. So we're left with the lengthy cinematic equivalent of one of those big expensive coffee table art books that has to be dusted, but no one ever wants to pick up and look through.

Score: 3/10. Skip it.

When you watch this trailer, note how it's nothing but impressionistic mood moments and critical hosannas and that you have no idea what it's actually about. That's because there's not much story to put into a trailer, is there?

"Monster Party" Blu-ray Review

 While poking around Dollar Tree (which is now $1.25 Tree thanks to Bidenflation) I came across a Blu-ray for Monster Party (not to be confused with Party Monster, Monsters Inc. or The Spy Who Loved Me) which had an above-average cast of name actors and a decent hook of a logline, so I decided to gamble the buck (and a quarter). I should've bought something else.

The plot is simple: A trio of young burglars - lovers Casper (Sam Strike) and Iris (Virginia Gardener, Fall), and their friend Dodge (Brandon Michael Hall) - decide to rob a Malibu mansion in hopes of scoring enough money for Iris's impending baby and to help free Casper's father from a brutal strip club owner/loan shark. 

They pose as cater waiters for a dinner party hosted by the the Dawson family - father Patrick (Julian McMahon), mother Roxanne (Robin Tunney), daughter Alexis (Erin Moriarty, The Boys), and son Elliot (Kian Lawley) - and their guests, a bunch of obnoxious dudebros and Milo (Lance Reddick), a distinguished gentleman who seems to hold great stature with the group. 

As dinner begins, Roxanne and the others begin to give testimonials about how they are addicts, but that they've been sober for years. If you've read the back of the case you know what their addiction is: MURDER! (Dun-dun-DUHN!!!) What happens when hapless burglars try to rip off a house full of psycho killers? 

While the premise and cast sounded promising the execution is dull and lacking. To say the characters, such as they are, are two-dimensional would be an insult to cartoon characters. Everyone either looks bored or bored as they don't have anything interesting to play or say and the direction is rudimentary and beyond the rented mansion, it looks cheap. 

It's a shame because the setup could've been mined for some killer kills and clever conversations, but writer-director Chris von Hoffmann simply has no idea how to execute the Sam Raimi-esque comedic Grand Guignol splatterfest he imagined he was making. This movie came out in 2018 and neither I or my horror fan girlfriend had ever heard of it. This is why and why the Blu-ray was selling for a dollar (and a quarter). 

As for the disc itself, while the DTS-MA: HD audio track was active and booming, the video quality was subpar. Colors were off, whether by some misguided color grading strategy or not knowing how to properly light and shoot a film, and fine detail was seriously lacking to the point I actually brought up my player's info screen to verify I didn't get a DVD in a Blu-ray case.

As for extras, there aren't any. Not even the trailer, which actually makes it look like a promising film, thus proving what I've always said that film trailers are the most evolved form of false advertising possible. 

Looking around I'm surprised to see how many horror fans actually enjoyed this mess, presumably because horror fans are cheap dates (FWIW, my g/f liked it more than I did, but she isn't writing this), though there is one approximately 20-second-long bit that is absolutely BONKERS, but that doesn't absolve the rest of Monster Party's failings.

Score: 3/10. Skip it.

"Sick" Review

 It's rare in the horror genre for a screenwriter to attain marquee status. Usually it's directors like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Tobe Hoober, or James Wan who get top dog attention as no one really gives much thought to who typed up the scripts for these maniac-killing-teenager flicks. 

The exception is Kevin Williamson who wrote Scream, Scream 2, Scream 4, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty and also created The Vampire Diaries, The Following and Dawson's Creek, which made a horror icon of James Van Der Beek. (I mean, you've seen that cryface meme of him, right? Nightmare fuel!) So when the Peacock Original horror movie Sick popped up advertising Williamson's script, it was worth taking a peek.

Set in April 2020, Sick occurs in the world of the Hot Fad Plague when panic was at its initial peak with empty store shelves and freakouts about face diapers and arbitrary social distancing. We meet Tyler (Joel Courtney), a young man at a supermarket. While waiting in line, he receives texts messages and photos from someone clearly stalking him. When he gets home, a black-clad killer kills him and we go to the title card. Not exactly Drew Barrymore being quizzed on scary movies before the title card, but OK.

Then we meet college girls Parker (Gideon Adlon) and Miri (Bethlehem Million) as they're loading Parker's Range Rover to head to her family's cabin by the lake to ride out quarantine as school is shut down. And by cabin I mean massive mansion-sized log cabin which apparently is used once a year by her father and his friends, but otherwise is passing up on a ton of AirB&B money. The nearest neighbors are miles away, so what could possibly go wrong with two girls alone in the country with a killer on the loose?

The red herring comes in the form of DJ (Dylan Sprayberry), Parker's sorta boyfriend, though she had made it clear they weren't exclusive. He knew she'd be up at the lake because she'd posted it on Instagram which means anyone would be able to find her if they followed her and that's exactly what happens when the killer arrives. Why is he there and who will survive and be the Final Girl?

While movies have been made about the Hot Fad Plague lockdowns, either explicitly (the awful 2021 romantic heist flick Locked Down) or tangentially (the awful 2022 non-mystery caper flick Glass Onion), Sick may be the first movie where the Wuhan virus is literally the motive for murder. It's interesting - considering how while many sane people who follow REAL science have moved on from the Hot Fad Plague, there is still a massive cult of people who live in abject terror of a bad flu bug, wearing face diapers while walking outdoors or driving alone in their cars, terrorized by a media who went all in with the agenda and has never let up - that a movie probably written in 2021 and filmed in early 2022 would openly mock the paranoia of those early days when people wiped down their groceries with bleach wipes and would leave a bleeding screaming girl begging for help standing outside a car because she lacks a face diaper.

Sick is the epitome of a low-budget, lean and mean, slasher flick with a small cast of barely-knowns, basically one location, and an emphasis on dialog and cat-and-mouse game tactics over elaborate kills, not that it doesn't deliver some here. While the ultimate rationale of of why these girls are being hunted is irrational, that's kind of the point I think Williamson is making. And at a fairly taut 83 minutes (which could've been trimmed a little more in my opinion), it doesn't overstay its welcome.

As for audio-visuals, the Dolby Vision contributes little as the budget cinematography is dim and surround effects are limited to an echoey wood block on the score in my left ear. No home theater demo material here.

Score: 6/10. Catch it on Peacock.

DirkFlix. Copyright 2010-2015 Dirk Omnimedia Inc. All rights reserved.
Free WordPress Themes Presented by EZwpthemes.
Bloggerized by Miss Dothy