Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

It’s been a year and true to Disney’s word, we’d gotten our first taste of a movie-a-year after The Force Awakens.  Their claim to release a Star Wars movie each and every year into the foreseeable future has really started this year with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and I really can’t wait to get into what I had witnessed this past weekend. 

Now, I had been excited before and while watching The Force Awakens last year, wanting so badly to see what has transpired in the time since we’d seen our favorite characters in the original Star Wars trilogy.  Although there were many characters introduced into this continuing cinematic universe, we were still able to catch up with our favorites interspersed throughout that story and that’s what made that movie special.  Also, the special effects were so much better and not overbearing as how they had been in the prequels of Episodes I, II, and III.  I really hadn’t thought that any of these one-offs I’d heard about would do any better or would interest me, but I knew I’d see them nevertheless.

When word had gotten around about the story of how the group of Rebels was able to steal the Death Star plans and deliver them to Princess Leia, basically the one or two sentences from the opening crawl of Star Wars: A New Hope, I thought it was genius!  Yes!  That’s what they should do!  Tell the stories of what is mentioned in these opening crawls!  Right away, I knew they had a hit on their hands.  If done right, and without George Lucas’s need to overbear the audience’s senses with hordes and hordes of special effects, this film could be a great intro to the original 1977 film!

Were they able to accomplish that?  Well…let’s get into it with a plot breakdown…

A defected Imperial scientist, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), is brought back to The Empire after being in hiding to help engineer a weaponized space station called the Death Star—an intergalactic armament powerful enough to destroy a planet.  Imperial death troopers led by Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), force Galen to come back after his wife, Lyra (Valene Kane) is killed by them.  With Galen’s daughter, Jyn (Beau Gadsdon), hiding, then left to be raised by Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), he ends up with The Empire and is forced to work on their dreaded weapon.  Years later, with the help of an adult Jyn (Felicity Jones), a rogue team from the Rebel Alliance—Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) with his reprogrammed Imperial droid, K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk), the blind combatant Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) and his comrade Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang), along with others—fight to find and steal the plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow.

Right from the start, I’ve heard and read mixed reviews about this story, although most of them have been positive, and I’ll say that this review will be on the upper end of the positive spectrum.  What director Gareth Edwards did here was brilliant and meticulously done, giving us something on the level of the original trilogy.  Yet, Rogue One was not designed to gel seamlessly with the other movies much like The Force Awakens had done, but something Edwards can boast as creating something very standalone-ish. 

What was different than your typical Star Wars movie?  Well, just like The Force Awakens you’ll notice that there is no 20th Century Fox fanfare that plays and shows before we see the text, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” but that’s just because of the ownership switching from that studio to Disney Studios.  Actually, that wasn’t very noticeable.  What was very obvious here was that after that text shows up, we don’t hear the John Williams score we’re so used to hearing in the beginning of every episodic film we’ve seen so far.  No, in Rogue One, we go from that simple blue text into the movie—no trumpet-blasting heroic music, not even an opening crawl to explain what has happened since Episode III.  Since John Williams was not involved with this film, it’s understandable and I can commend Edwards and the actual composer of this film, Michael Giacchino, for going against the predictable way of just reusing the themes from Williams (although there are a few cues here and there) and composing his own motifs throughout.  The music is very fitting and exciting at times; I can almost say that I’m glad they decided to go with a different composer on this film.

With The Force Awakens, the one complaint I’d heard many people make was that the story was just a retread of A New Hope and I can see the points that some people had made.  I can also side with J.J. Abrams on how they’d played it safe to get the franchise back on track, having faith that they’ll give us something great when they continue the saga with Episode VIII.  Here, however, the story is very original (although already given to us in a few lines of text in A New Hope’s opening crawl) and energetic, giving us a story we can follow along and see where it’s going.  If you’re a big Star Wars fan, you may be able to guess how it’ll all end, but it’s epically told and brings you to the edge of your seat, wondering how it’ll all come together.

As you may have heard, you’re going to see a lot of very familiar faces—some blended into the story perfectly, one or two forced in just for the nostalgia—and that’s what makes this a Star Wars movie and one that sets a feeling of familiarity once it starts.  Although the Episode I through III trilogy had familiar characters that were known in the Star Wars canon, it was set a bit too far back in time, leaving you guessing if the characters you were seeing were actually the ones you were familiar with.  In Rogue One, you know who you were seeing, whether you knew the names or not, because this story literally takes place right before A New Hope and characters you see here will be the exact same ones you’ll see in the 1977 film.  Some of them—or one in particular—was brought in painstakingly and it works so well (not going to spoil it).

Let’s be honest, the acting in this film will not gain any attention from the Academy, but it’s all believable enough that you’ll really feel like you’re going through the turmoil they’re all facing.  You’ll feel their adventure as they travel throughout these different worlds and be pleased or saddened by what ensues in their journey.  Identifying with their characters felt straightforward because each one has their own persona and identities, both in their ways and their looks.  The main group of our heroes is very diverse and it helps us recognize them when they’re on screen.

Here, in this film and out of all the Star Wars films, you’ll see the most realistic action out of all the films in the cinematic franchise.  Unlike the other films, where there are some storm troopers that get shot up quickly and the heroes move on, the battles here take time but are action-filled.  You really get a sense that the heroes are having a hard time with their quest and you may even feel some doubt that they’re going to succeed.  For the first time, you really get a true sense of the Death Star’s power, up close and personal, seeing it from the victims’ perspective.  Instead of seeing the space station sending a large laser blast to blow up a planet, you actually see what everyone on the planet is seeing or even an overhead close-up of the destruction.  All in all, this film may be a little more violent with a lot of lives lost and devastation seen all around.

I can’t help but go over this as a big Star Wars fan, but I can see how this would play out to the casual viewer if they watch Rogue One as a standalone movie.  It definitely can work that way as well as a way to introduce anyone who hasn’t seen the original trilogy (though, I can’t believe no one has ever seen them). 

Now, I’d mentioned a bit about what we see with the Death Star’s capability for destruction, but that’s not where the awesome visuals stop.  All throughout this film, you’re going to see giant spectacles, great use of motion capture technology (Tudyk’s K-2SO was magnificent) , X-wing and tie-fighter battles like never before…there is so much digital eye candy in this film, you’ll have to see it a second time just to take it all in.  We’re also introduced to a few new worlds, as well as some familiar ones, and it’s just a great sight to see.  Where George Lucas failed—forcing in the obvious CGI-laden worlds that ended up looking so distracting—Disney, with the help of Gareth Edwards, prevailed. 

One semi-spoiler—but if you’ve seen the trailers, you’re aware of this already—is that the inclusion of Darth Vader was amazing and really made up for his weak appearance in Revenge of the Sith.  Oh, he’s evil here…bad ass and scary, making you fear for the fate of anyone who goes up against him. 

I can go on and on about this film, but let me just give you my final “bit” on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

As a preface to my whole opinion—it is a must for you to watch this film before viewing A New Hope.  After watching this film, I believe the episodes should be renumbered—this movie being Episode IV, A New Hope as V, Empire Strikes Back as VI, Return of the Jedi as VII and The Force Awakens as Episode VIII…that’s how well Rogue One fits into the whole series.  All the characters are likable and create such great chemistry together; it’s hard to believe, especially seeing as how they don’t have much time in the story to connect.  Overall, I was amazed and enthralled, and I can’t wait to see this again.  I highly recommend that you all see this, Star Wars fan or not.

Thanks for reading!

Cinema Bits is on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Coming Attractions of 2017

Coming Attractions of 2017

As we near the end of 2016, per tradition, I usually check out the exquisite internet web site of IMDb.com to peruse the upcoming films that are slated for the forthcoming year.  So, going down the list, I’d noticed that we’ve got some exciting titles that have many people chomping at the bit, others that I personally want to see, and further films that will leave you impartial in your feelings.

To clarify, some of these movies on the list are surprising to me and leave me doubtful that they’re actually going to be released on the date listed, just for the fact that we haven’t seen a trailer or any news regarding its production or release.  But I’ll make sure to indicate those films when I get to them.

So without further ado, let’s get right into this long list.

1. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Release date: 01/27/2017)

Now, this franchise has seemed to be an unrelenting series of films and I don’t know if I can take the title of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter seriously.  Is it going to be just like the earlier Friday the 13th franchise or the more recent Saw series, where they announce a finality only to continue at a later date?  Time will tell, but I’ll tell you right here and now that I’ll probably skip this one and wait for it to show up on DVD.  I really haven’t been impressed with any of the sequels that followed the excellent first film and I think this will just fall in line with what we’ve seen already.

2. Rings (Release date: 02/03/2017)

I still can’t get the bad taste out of my mouth that had been the sequel to the original The Ring movie.  That film should’ve been the death of the franchise, yet here we are a few months away from Rings.  A reboot…? Sequel…?  Prequel…?  The trailer didn’t thrill me, the idea isn’t exciting, and I really have no desire to see this when it arrives in theaters come February of 2017.  But we’ll see…maybe it’ll reap some rave reviews and I’ll give it a looksee.

3. John Wick: Chapter 2 (Release date: 02/10/2017)

Okay, so here we are with the first film on this list that I’m excited to see—John Wick: Chapter 2.  John Wick was a pretty impressive movie that through me for a loop, due to the title and the star of the film not rousing any interest from me.  After seeing it on home media, I’d really wished I had witnessed this in a movie theater with loud sounds and a huge screen to catch all the action.  I’m looking forward to seeing Keanu Reeves kick some ass in this next chapter.

4. Logan (03/03/2017)

Well, this is going to be a record set where I don’t think any other actor will break any time soon.  Hugh Jackman will play the character of Wolverine for a ninth and final time (so he says—but I’m thinking he’d love to go toe-to-toe with Deadpool if asked to do so).  A lot of comic book geeks (such as myself) were waiting for a Wolverine film such as this one—an R-rated no-holds-barred depiction of the comic book character based on a successful comic book run.  If done right, this could be Jackman’s swan song of the Wolverine character, having him go out perfectly and retiring him for good.  The trailer shown and the production photos posted by the director (James Mangold) are great works of art…let’s hope the film will be as awesome as it’s boasted to become.

5. Kong: Skull Island (03/10/2017)

Continuing the rebooting trend we’ve been witnessing for years, Kong: Skull Island is just around the corner and is another film I’m patiently waiting for its release.  A couple of years back it was announced that we are going to see the pitting of two monumental monsters on screen—Godzilla and King Kong.  After the success of 2014’s Godzilla, proclamation of a versus-type film came to be and it was exciting at first.  But then many fans began asking the question whether this would be a fair fight.  Godzilla, in the 2014 American film, is approximately 350 feet tall; the last depiction of King Kong had him at around 50 feet tall.  Knowing that was going to be problematic for the upcoming versus film, this film was made to show him as a taller—yet still smaller than Godzilla—incarnation of the King Kong legend.  The trailer, to me, seems like a modern telling of the story, much like the 1976 film, but I think we’re going to get something pretty terrific here.  I’m stoked for this one.

6. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (05/05/2017)

The surprise hit of all the Marvel Studios movies was one that I hadn’t thought much about until I finally saw it in 2014.  I wasn’t familiar with the source material and had thought it was a weird choice to continue on with the universe that had been going on with the run of superhero movies that led to The Avengers.  Someone knew what they were doing—maybe Joss Whedon displaying some of his pull with the studio execs—but that movie was a major hit and I’d agreed wholeheartedly.  I’m looking forward to seeing what other adventures these misfits find themselves in and how it might fit into the whole string of films we’ve seen so far.  Nevertheless, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is looking to be a big hit for the blockbuster season of 2017.

7. Alien: Covenant (05/19/2017)

Though I wasn’t too thrilled with 2012’s Prometheus, I’ll give the sequel, Alien: Covenant, a chance.  Whereas Prometheus seemed to be a standalone movie by Ridley Scott (up until the end anyway), the sequel looks to welcome the tie into the Alien world.  I’m very curious to see what had happened after the events of the last movie and where it goes from here.

8. Wonder Woman (06/02/2017)

Let’s be honest, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was sort of a disappointment, right?  All the hype that we’d heard and seen from Zack Snyder—the leaked photos especially—made all the fanboys drool in anticipation only for it to be sort of a downer (with or without the extended edition cut of the film).  But there were some winning aspects of the film—two to be exact—and that was Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne/Batman and the inclusion of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman.  She seemed to have a lot of fun with the character and it was nice to see the character finally making it to the big screen, but it’ll be even better to see her in the standalone film, Wonder Woman.  I’m just wondering if anyone will refer to her by that moniker.

9. The Mummy (06/09/2017)

As I write this, the world has already been treated to a teaser trailer of The Mummy just a couple of weeks ago.  I can’t help but think of how the last franchise went, sadly ending with the terrible The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, so seeing another film being made doesn’t really float my boat.  Even with the presence of Tom Cruise in this film, I don’t think it helps much.  The trailer actually feels more like a Mission: Impossible film than a classic horror remake, with Cruise inexplicitly surviving a plane crash waking up in a morgue…weird.  But Cruise usually can’t do wrong in the parts that he chooses to play, so I’ll probably take a chance on this.

10. World War Z 2 (06/09/2017)

Now we haven’t heard much about this film and, at this point, I’m not sure if this is a solid date for World War Z 2.  No doubt, they’re going to make this film as the first one was quite successful and left open for a sequel (as most zombie films are apt to do), but I’m just a little leery as to the date posted in IMDb.com.  With only Brad Pitt listed in the cast and seeing that there hasn’t been a teaser trailer or production news posted about this film, I’m thinking we’re going to be waiting a little longer for this sequel.

11. Spider-Man: Homecoming (07/07/2017)

Without hesitation, I can say that this is the film I’m most pumped about!  Being a lifelong fan of all things Spidey, I’ll always slap down my money to see a live-action movie based on my favorite comic book hero.  Although I’d hated the two Andrew Garfield turns as the wall crawler, Sony made things right by making a deal with Marvel Studios to share the character in upcoming films.  Now, the trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming was pretty cool, giving us some awesome moments and heroic imagery, but it doesn’t give too much detail on what the plot is going to be about—but that’s okay, I want to have some surprises given to me when I go see this.  Already teasing that they’re going to be doing some special tweaks to the character (the webbing that attaches from his arms to his sides), I’m just hoping we’ll get an entertaining film this summer.

12. War for the Planet of the Apes (07/14/2017)

I’ve always been somewhat of a fan of the whole Planet of the Apes franchise.  I love the first film—even as it’s reaching 50 years old—as well as its sequels, and even enjoyed the critically panned Tim Burton film.  I had my doubts when they’d announced (sometime in ’08 or ’09) that they were going to start up the franchise again but would only be using CGI apes rendered with motion capture technology.  However, the final product in 2011 that was given to us was superb, the sequel released in 2014 was exciting, and now I’m looking forward to the continuation of the series with War for the Planet of the Apes!  The trailer, just released not long ago, shows us just enough to get excited and the ape rendering is even more detailed than before.  This film is definitely on the top of my list of films I am going to see in 2017.

13. The Dark Tower (07/28/2017)

Since high school, I have been an avid reader of Stephen King books, buying every paperback and hardcover I can get my hands on.  Even before that, I’d been aware of—and had seen—many films based on King’s works.  Myself, I have a large collection of films adapted from his books on DVD and Blu-Ray and will always watch anything new in theaters, television, or straight-to-home-media.  One journey I had taken a few years ago was reading “The Dark Tower” series of books which had five books published when I started and had two more published while I was into it.  There has been an eighth book published since then and I’ve yet to crack open that one…but I will.  I’ve always thought the story would be tough to get on screen as a movie since it’s such a long story, but it looks like it’s going to finally happen next summer with The Dark Tower.  With the interesting casting choice of Idris Elba to play “The Gunslinger” and Matthew McConaughey as “The Man in Black,” I’ll be right there ready to take that journey all over again.

14. Annabelle 2 (08/11/2017)

All these haunted horror movies that seem to blend all into each other (this film with the Insidious and The Conjuring franchises) don’t really thrill me.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some entertainment value to them and a few scares here and there, but for the most part…eh.  I’d just finished The Conjuring 2 a few weeks ago and it left me blank, not really moving me or scaring me.  Usually a movie based on true events might freak me out a bit, but from what I’d read about the real story, sounds like it was a proven hoax.  Hollywood, however, will film it anyway, adding crazy special effects and insane situations that’ll earn the film some high ratings and garner quite a bankroll.  So it’s no surprise that we’re getting the sequel, Annabelle 2, next August.  Though I probably won’t see this in theaters, I’m sure this film will bring in the teens to see it to try and get a good fright.

15. It (09/08/2017)

The other Stephen King adaptation is actually a remake of sorts.  With the original film being a 1990 TV movie that cut back on gore and violence, only leaving it implied as the film cut away from it, was still a creepy showing that earned Tim Curry horror movie fame as Pennywise the Clown.  The new reboot, It, is looking good however, already posting the first image of the new Pennywise as a gangly creepy clown.  Though we’ve yet to see a trailer as I write this, the movie’s already looking to be scary…man, I hope so.

16. Friday the 13th (10/13/2017)

I can easily say that the Friday the 13th franchise is my favorite horror movie series of films.  At the commencement of every summer season, I watch every single film in the series as a way to celebrate the warming weather.  Seeing as that the films take place around a summer camp or vacation spot, I find they’re the perfect films to watch on a warm night.  So here they are again, looking to reboot the franchise once more.  I’m hoping they get it right…even if they don’t, I’ll be right there trying to enjoy it.

17. Insidious: Chapter 4 (10/20/2017)

I won’t say much about the release of Insidious: Chapter 4 except to say that my views of Annabelle 2 are just about the same as this one.  The first, second and third one didn’t do anything for me so I don’t see myself heading out to the theater for this one.  Eventually I’ll see it…but in the comfort of my own home.

18. Saw: Legacy (10/27/2017)

Well, this is not surprising at all…the only thing surprising about Saw: Legacy is that it took this long to get right back into another movie.  If horror movie history has taught us anything is that any movie that has “the final chapter” in the title will definitely continue in sequels sooner or later.  It’s hard to believe that nearly seven years have passed since we’ve seen a Saw film.  Not much has been said about this upcoming flick—no plot synopsis, no confirmed cast list, no poster art…nothing.  But guess what?  I’ll venture out for this one…I’m sure there’s more story to tell.

19. Thor: Ragnarok (11/03/2017)

Thor: Ragnarok is a movie I’m exciting about.  But…I’ll admit I wasn’t thrilled with the two Thor films we’d gotten before this one.  I’m not a fan of the mythical aspect of the character and his world, nor had I been a collector of the comic books that the franchise is based upon.  The one aspect of this upcoming movie is the fact that it’s going to be a team-up of Thor and Hulk.  To add to that, there may be some elements of “Planet Hulk” within this film, so that’s an exciting possibility if you’re a comic book geek like me.  Yes, this is a big one, folks, so make sure you’re all caught up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe before going out to see this one.

20. Justice League (11/17/2017)

Finally, we have Justice League slated to be released in mid-November.  Though an official trailer hasn’t been released, from what I see—only a small sizzle reel that was put together for the San Diego Comic Con—I’m not impressed with it.  Ben Affleck’s interaction with Jason Mamoa seems dumb, even the little jokey scenes with Gal Gadot seems forced, the only saving grace is the part we see when Affleck’s character of Bruce Wayne meets Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) for the first time.  All of it, however, seems silly and I’ll have to reserve my judgment to when I finally see the finished product on screen.  But I’m not impressed.

Well, that’s the twenty upcoming films of 2017 I’ve decided to comment and give my views on, based on their trailers and/or hype.  I'm sure there are some I'd missed, namely the newest trailer for Bladerunner 2049 which looks pretty awesome.  I’ll be sure to return here to give my views when I finally see the official releases in theaters or on home media.

Thanks for reading!

Cinema Bits is on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, December 5, 2016


A while back, in 2014, when I stumbled on this title within the Netflix site, I’d noticed that it had earned an average of more than three stars and a bunch of positive reviews.  Seeing that I now go by the rule-of-thumb as to only place titles on my queue that have been rated three stars or higher, this one was placed on my waiting list right away, especially having the added bonus of it acquiring so many positive reviews.  Even as I’d taken a glance on IMDb.com, I took note of its average rating of 6.3 out of 10.

Still, as I took a look at the cast and saw no one I’d recognized, I was a bit indifferent on whether or not I should take a chance with it.  So many times I’ve decided to gamble on a positive-rated DVD only to receive it and not like it at all.  To add to this, it seemed a bit odd that the two main cast members of the movie were also pulling double-duty as the directors.  After all that, however, I had it shipped to me and decided to take a look at…Afflicted.

Two best friends, Clif (Clif Prowse) and Derek (Derek Lee), see their trip of a lifetime take a dark turn when Derek is suddenly struck by a mysterious affliction.  Now, in a foreign land, they race to uncover the source before it consumes him completely.

I’ve got to admit, the film, at the outset, had me feeling a bit fidgety and a bit anxious for something to happen.  It’s not that the film was boring or lackluster, but it just seemed that I’d been duped in seeing something else entirely.  See, the film chronicles Derek—as he’s been diagnosed with a rare type of aneurysm that could kill him at any time—and his best friend Clif, documenting their friendship and how they decide to travel around the world.  As I’m watching this, I’d just started thinking that I was watching something in line with a reality show.  If that’s what it was and I’d been told that ahead of time, I wouldn’t have minded and probably would’ve enjoyed the biopic thoroughly. However, I’d been under the impression—with the description of the story and the cover art—that I was about to embark on a horror movie, so that’s what I’d wanted to be presented to me from the get-go.

One positive note about the beginning of this film, it helps give the audience a sense of realism when the bizarre part of the story finally takes place.  Witnessing the clips of real home movies Lee and Prowse intersperse as they’re going on with their narrative makes you believe this is really happening before your very own eyes.  If this went the route of a big Hollywood movie, we’d get some flashback scenes with two very different actors, making the story less of what it is, and having the whole movie braking to an abrupt halt.  With Lee and Prowse letting the audience in on their very personal life through showing their history together over the years, suspending disbelief is never in the forefront until we see some really far-out shit.

Not long into the film is when the excitement begins and that’s when Derek meets a girl at a club, hooking up with her for the night as Clif and a few other friends who’d met up with the guys are happy for him.  It’s when they check up on him the next morning, thinking he had a wild night with the girl, that they see him bleeding from a few places on his body and looking a bit worse for wear.  Being worrisome at first, it’s finally forgotten as Derek and Clif chalk it up to the girl being some weirdo as they continue their trek to Italy, making the best of their remaining journey.  But it’s there that things start to go strange.

The found footage types of films have run its course in most genres, but there are a few that still get away with it.  With Afflicted, it’s completely normal as most of the footage is something you’d find on someone’s GoPro—minus, of course, the gory scenes of violence or the metamorphosis of a person turning into some sort of creature.  Yes, it definitely works here and helps the film attain the realism it needs to make the film believable when it gets nuts.  From the scenes where Derek is breaking rocks and jumping off buildings for a perfect landing to seeing him try to kill himself with a shotgun blast in his mouth and through his head, there are some scenes that are quite disturbing as it’s presented as this found footage.

Besides choosing to have Netflix send this disc to me, another decision that I had selected was to not look too much further into the plot of the film.  I’d known the main premise that I’d described to you above in the synopsis, but I wasn’t sure if the main character was just going to die or turn into a zombie or be afflicted with some weird disease.  Maybe you all are a bit sharper than I am and can tell just by reading the small summary that Derek was going to turn into a vampire.  Sorry if you feel that I’ve spoiled it for you with that sentence, but not to worry because there’s much more to the film than just that.  The surprises come little by little until they become crazy discoveries, all documented to make you feel like you’re right there and discovering them with Derek.

One choice about this movie that was a nice supplement was to have this production filmed in these European countries—Italy, Spain and France.  One scene that stood out from the rest was the restaurant at which the two main leads decide to stop and dine.  It’s a beautiful restaurant near the water and it’s breathtaking to see, but I need to watch it again to see if they actually drop its name.  Besides being such a stunning sight within the film, the scene featured here is very pivotal and definitely sets the story into a higher gear.

I was mildly surprised with the acting from these two main stars—as well as the supporting cast members that show up here and there—I’d really felt the crisis Derek was going through earlier on in the film about the aneurysm and even after getting the disease from the girl at the club.  The exchanges between his family members really brought it home and I’d felt sorry for the guy and what he was going through. 

Of course, this is a horror movie first and foremost, so you’re probably wondering if this flick gives the scares—and it does…during quite a few intense scenes.  Being that Derek is turning into a vampire, you all have to understand that we’re not dealing with the Twilight vampires here, that this is the common creature that burns when in sunlight and needs to feed on blood.  Craving blood is what really turns things up for Derek as the longer he goes without it, the more he metamorphoses into the monster that he’s becoming.  It’s during these times that we’re treated to some really intense scenes where we don’t know how far he’ll go to get blood.  Putting yourself in Clif’s shoes during these moments is pretty terrifying.

I won’t go any further because there are quite a few surprises that make this a fun film to watch and, of course, you’re going to want to find out how it ends.  I don’t know if these guys are planning a sequel, because there’s definitely room for them to explore that possibility, but the movie was pretty solid when looking back at it and I certainly made it a point to add the Blu-Ray to my collection.

My final “bit” on Afflicted?

As I’d mentioned, a slow start, but needed to establish the deep-rooted friendship between Derek and Clif as they begin this trip.  The moment it’s discovered that Derek becomes infected is when the crux of the movie is established and we all get to have a wild ride until the ending.  The story goes certain places where your normal vampire flick doesn’t go and it’s fun to see how these two playfully experiment the affliction at first until they realize how deadly it becomes.  Overall, it’s a fun trip that you’ll be taking with them and you’ll be glued to the screen to see how all this will end.  A very high recommendation!

Thanks for reading!

Cinema Bits is on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)

Quite a few of you may or may not know that back in the 70s—1976 to be exact—a horror movie with the same title was released and became a cult classic not too long afterwards.  To be frank, I’ve never seen that film nor do I think I ever will.  So to hear that a remake was in the works back in 2013, I thought that was perfect and looked forward to seeing it.

Now, if you’ve all heard of this film, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, you probably know that it was based on a real life masked serial killer who’d terrorized the town of Texarkana (which straddles the border of Arkansas and Texas—sorry for the geography lesson) back in 1946.  To add an even more frightening detail to this fact, the killer was never captured and the case remains a mystery to this day.  I’ve watched documentaries and read up on this subject, hearing and reading quotes on how the small town went from a place where you didn’t have to worry about locking your door to people barricading themselves in their house after sunset.  It’s a frightening thought to live in a tiny area that felt so safe and yet turned upside-down with the onset of a killer on the loose.  Though the town has moved on from this terror, it had taken them decades to do so.

With all that said, this new film sort of has something to do with that real life portion of the documentary side of the narrative, yet it is not a remake of the original film.  Discovering that fact was a nice surprise because that’s where I’m always suspecting studios to go full force, heading to the rebooting zone and having original movies go to the wayside of Hollywood.  Instead, they’d created a clever way to make this a sequel and one that doesn’t need the required watching of the 1976 film.

Before going any further with my views on the movie, let me go over the synopsis of The Town That Dreaded Sundown here.

Sixty-five years after a masked serial killer terrorized the small town of Texarkana, the so-called ‘Moonlight Murders’ begin again.  Is it a copycat or something even more sinister?  A lonely high school girl, Jami (Addison Timlin), with dark secrets of her own, may be the key to catching him.

Now, after reading that, you may think that this is a sequel to the original movie, but you’d be wrong.  In fact, in this fictional account, the 1976 film exists and is blatantly featured or mentioned throughout this film.  As this film opens, we see the main character of Jami driving to the local park with her boyfriend, Corey (Spencer Treat Clark), to see the annual showing of the original movie at the local town park.  So this is neither a remake nor a sequel…just a stand-alone modern horror movie.

If you’re like me, seeing that description—modern horror movie—usually goes ignored because all I can think about is kids at a high school while talking in strange dialect and using social media to communicate.  But The Town That Dreaded Sundown is only modern by its quality of filming and practical effects.  In all other facets of this movie, the filmmakers developed a perfect mood and atmosphere that it almost feels like a horror film of the 1980s.

The film features a few well-known actors playing some meager parts throughout the story.  Anthony Anderson plays the U.S. Marshall, Lone Wolf Morales, brought back into the cold case of the ‘Moonlight Murders’ due to the recent copycat killings, but he’s borderline comic-relief in this flick and really can’t be taken seriously in this movie—I mean, come on…”Lone Wolf”?  Veronica Cartwright plays Jami’s grandmother and is reduced to a simple background character.  Gary Cole plays the sleazy local Chief Deputy and gets his just desserts within the story.  Peppered throughout the movie, you’ll probably catch a bunch of other faces that are familiar and this all helps the movie in an interesting way.

One main feature of the original movie that made me want to venture out to rent the movie (although I never had) was the look of the killer—which is prominently featured on the movie poster.  The look was simply a man wearing a burlap-looking sack over his head with eyeholes cut out and it immediately reminded me of Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th Part 2 even though that movie was released about five years later.  While I admit never seeing the 1976 film, I had ventured to YouTube not too long after hearing of the new movie’s release and was able to find quite a few clips from the original film.  What I’d seen didn’t impress me and never thought about sitting down to see the whole movie.  However, in this new take, the killer retains the same look and it’s as ominous as I’d imagined. 

Keeping that same look gives the whole story an interesting subplot on the mystery of the killer’s identity—whether he’s a copycat or the same person who’d committed the crimes back in 1946 (though he’d be pretty old if that was the case).  The townspeople characters in this film relay their feeling believably enough as the concern begins to show when the killings start happening once again.  I could imagine how Bay Area folks would react if murders were occurring that pointed to the possibility of the Zodiac Killer resurfacing after all these years.  Heck, even when the BTK killer—Dennis Rader—resumed his work in 2004 after disappearing fourteen years prior sent the whole Wichita area in a panic.  So the tension of Texarkana shows in this film and gives the whole story credibility.

By all means, this is not an Oscar-worthy film, but only a clever little horror film that uses the cult status of the 1976 movie to earn a place in the chronicles of notoriety it had garnered.  It’s definitely a companion piece that surpasses the older movie and proves to be an earnest production that should be up there with the likes of Friday the 13th or Halloween.

So…what’s my final “bit” on The Town That Dreaded Sundown?

I’d really liked how the film opened, primarily the creepy part where we see Jami and Corey stalked by the killer while they park at the local make-out spot, giving just the right hook and presenting the audience something to keep them interested.  However, the story drags just a little as the story follows Jami and how the incident had changed her disposition and outlook, but the scenes where the killer is featured ups the ante to make up for the down time.  Overall, the pacing and structure of the film feels a bit like the horror movies I’d enjoyed as a teen in the 1980s and it kept my attention the whole time.  The ending of the film was a bit of a letdown as when the mystery is revealed it will probably incite a groan or two to come out of you when it happens.  I won’t spoil it for you, but my thought about the choice to end the film this way probably should’ve been reconsidered.  The film could’ve ended in a mystery with the case unresolved, making it a possibility to spawn a sequel from this—although the possibility is still there—and create a nice franchise for the future.  But I thoroughly enjoyed this one-off and I think you will as well.

Thanks for reading!

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