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The Best Recent Horror Movie Prequels

Speaking in general terms, prequels get a bad rap and that seems to go double for horror prequels. This weekend sees the release of Annabelle: Creation, the prequel to Annabelle, which itself is a prequel to The Conjuring. If social media is any indication, it seems many have prematurely dismissed the forthcoming origin despite its official release still two days out.

It’s tough, though, to blame potential moviegoers for a lack of enthusiasm on their part regarding a second Annabelle movie. Sure the original scared up huge box office success, but the film was critically panned and nobody since has been clamoring for another go-around with the world’s creepiest doll.

Thankfully, recent history is on our side. No longer does a horror movie prequel automatically mean a horrible film. In fact, some have gone on to be better films than the original. Here are five recent examples of great prequels to horror films.

5. Insidious: Chapter 3

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Horror Master James Wan is a household name. After establishing two mega-popular tent poles (Saw and The Conjuring) and refueling another (Furious 7), he should be. But not every swing is a hit, even for great filmmakers. Insidious: Chapter 2 is a critical stain on Wan’s otherwise beloved resume. It left such a sour taste in audiences’ mouths that the third chapter shares so few ties with the first two installments, with of course the exception of Lin Shaye, who is an absolute delight as the series’ psychic. By stepping away from recognizable names and faces of Insidious and focusing on a new family while keeping a tight leash on tension, this prequel has breathed new life into these movies. Bring on Chapter Four!

4. Final Destination 5

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Where is a franchise to go following a fourth film called The Final Destination? Back to the beginning, of course! As it turns out, not such a bad call for the Final Destination franchise. While Final Destination 5 doesn’t do anything to win over new audiences, hardcore horror heads will no doubt revel in the prequel’s tongue-in-cheek sense of mischief and its effectively silly application of 3D technology. What’s more, ‘FD5′ features some of the series’ most ludicrous and memorable deaths (see: acupuncture Buddha and gymnastics splat-tastics).

3. Prometheus

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Prometheus is undoubtedly one of the most polarizing films to come out of the last decade. Many moviegoers praised Director Ridley Scott for imaginatively exploring new possibilities within the Alien universe and an equal number of people criticize the filmmaker for unnecessarily squatting over his cherished property (hence Ridley “Squat”). By its inclusion on this list, I’m sure you’ve already surmised that I tend to hang my hat on the former. That wasn’t always the case, though. Prior to Alien: Covenant, I thought Prometheus was a pretentious cash grab that promised answers but ultimately left me with more questions. After seeing where Ridley Scott plans to take the series, I’ve since changed my tune and see this film as the first act of a larger story featuring Michael Fassbender’s David, who is slowly becoming one of modern cinema’s greatest villains.

2. Paranormal Activity 3

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The original Paranormal Activity reinvigorated the found footage horror fad that lasted the better part of a decade. Paranormal Activity 2 was just more of the same. Instead of giving the same ol’ situation one more try, the third installment straight up jumps back to the eighties to explore the haunting of its lead heroines as young material girls living in a material world. The lack of contemporary tech forced Directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost to roll with it and craft once in a lifetime scares. The result was a truly terrifying thriller.

1. Ouija: Origin of Evil

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Prequels are the life support systems of the horror genre. They’re a studio’s attempt to keep a lucrative franchise alive. Typically, that involves upping the ante on whatever the gruesome gimmick of that particular series is at the expense of coherent, compelling storytelling. Director Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Hush) managed to achieve both with his prequel to the dumpster fire that is Ouija. Through the course of a deliberately paced slow burn, Flanagan simultaneously builds his characters and his scares. Consequently, ‘Origin of Evil’ is as tender as it is frightening and a decided improvement over the first film.

There you have it. Good horror movie prequels do exist and we’ve been fortunate to get as many as we’ve had the past few years. Speaking for Annabell: Creation, David F. Sandberg showed us he knows original horror when he put out last year’s Lights Out. Plus he recently landed the Shazam! gig, so James Wan isn’t the only visionary who thinks Sandberg’s capable of creatively spinning existing material.

Let us know what you all thought about our list in the comments section below and be sure to include your list of best horror movie prequels.

Atomic Blonde– Video Review

Charlize Theron + comic book movies= Atomic Blonde and we’ve got our review!

What did you all think of Atomic Blonde? Hit us up in the comments below and let us know!

Port of Dorks Podcast Ep. 16: The Dark Tower & Atomic Blonde

The Port of Dorks Podcast is back! In episode 16, the dorks discuss the roller coaster movie that is The Dark Tower and the new Charlize Theron spy thriller Atomic Blonde!

What do ya’ll think about these films? Did you like or dislike one more than the other? And who is more brooding: Charlize or Idris? Let us know in the comments below!

False advertising & ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ review

War for the Planet of the Apes rounds out one of the greatest trilogies of the 21st century. It also featured a blatantly false marketing campaign. We talk about both in our video review!

 

What do you all think? Does the new ‘Apes’ franchise belong in the discussion of one of the all-time best trilogies and did you feel lied to by the marketing campaign at all? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

The 5 Best, Most Complex Villains in the MCU

Thus far, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a super-sized success, both financially and critically. Still, that hasn’t deterred the passionate online community from ragging on Kevin Feige and company for the undercooked depictions of their big screen baddies (collectively dubbing the issue “Marvel’s Villain Problem”).

While evil-doing duds like Dormammu and Malekith (you’re looking him up, aren’t you?) leave much to be desired, Marvel Studios doesn’t get enough credit. It’s true Marvel’s villains mostly service the stories of their heroes, but by combining multilayered writing with charismatic performances, they’ve brought to life a noteworthy number of threatening, complex cads who possess just enough humanity to identify with.

With the recent release of Spider-Man: Homecoming and Michael Keaton’s apparent inauguration into the elite ranks of Marvel’s rank, now is the perfect time to shine the spotlight on the best villains that the MCU has had to offer.


*CAUTION: THE FOLLOWING LIST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR ALL DISCUSSED MOVIES.

5. Adrian Toomes/ Vulture (Spider-Man: Homecoming)

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The opening scene in Spider-Man: Homecoming is special. Not only are we introduced to Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes right off the bat, but we get a glimpse into the life of a MCU villain pre-feather jacket. Toomes was a working class hero who found himself unfairly bent over by the system. Despite his misfortune, he found a way to thrive and for the betterment of his family. It’s the MCU’s most honest origin story and one that unfortunately speaks to a desperation that’s too real for too many people.

Toomes succeeds once he embraces his inner Vulture. He channels his anger for Tony Stark and wealthy industrialists like him into becoming endlessly organized and tactful. From that, Toomes builds and runs an underground criminal organization that specializes in the obviously illegal retail of extraterrestrial WMD’s under the nose of Stark Tower for nearly a decade without so much as a word from any authority or Avenger.

Now all grown up and desperate to impress Mr. Stark in the hopes of officially becoming a member of the Avengers, fifteen-year-old Peter Parker/Spider-Man tries to put an end to Toomes’s long-running scheme. What the naïve Wall Crawler underestimates is Vulture’s loyalty. Like the fatherly fowl he is, Toomes will do whatever it takes to provide for his families.

It’s a lesson Peter learns in the hardest of ways. In a third act shocker (haha), Peter goes to the house of his biggest crush to pick her up for the school homecoming dance and who should answer the door but Toomes himself. No, he isn’t holding Liz (that’s the girl’s name) hostage. He’s her father.

Peter is suddenly hit by the realization that he and the supposed bad guy he’s been trying to stop share a common love. Here Toomes becomes an even more integral part of this Peter Parker’s origin story and all the more menacing. Michael Keaton is chilling and his performance is particularly effective in one scene just before the dance where he literally scares the color from Peter’s face.

Throughout all of this, Vulture’s Chitauri tech poses a real threat to the Web Head, who’s dealing with a reality he’d only previously read about in school. Now he’s experience the devastation of these alien devices for himself and at the near risk of countless lives, including those of the people he holds dear.

Other than his writing, Keaton’s performance, his important to Peter as a character, and the greater threat he poses, there is one more thing that makes Vulture such a great villain. Spider-Man, the hero of this story, isn’t even the one who stops Vulture in the end. It’s his own ignorance about the combustibility of his own cargo. After it explodes and takes Vulture down, Spidey just webs him up.

4. Ego the Living Planet (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2)

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The biggest question coming out of the first Guardians of the Galaxy was “Who is Star-Lord’s father?” Thankfully, the main through line of ‘Vol. 2’ offers up answers and then some (thanks, Drax). For starters, we learned that not since Darth Vader has a father been such a pain in his son’s ass.

In this case, Peter’s ass pain goes by the name Ego. He’s the smoothest sailor this side of Andromeda with a smile that could charm the stripes off an alien Zebra. He’s also a Celestial, which is a fancy name given to immortal cosmic beings in the Marvel universe. Essentially, he’s a god with a god complex who decides he wants to cover the universe in his gooey life force (not a euphemism) because nothing could ever possibly be as awesome as he is. Ever.

Unfortunately, one Celestial isn’t enough to get the job done. He needs another. So, like a self-loathing teenager with daddy issues, Ego decides to procreate a solution into existence. He hops planet to planet, knocking up exotic women only to kill his darlings (literally) once they fail to demonstrate signs of his superior genetics.

Along the way, Ego stops by Earth for some Earth poontang. Instead, he fatefully falls head over heels for a Colorado hippie chick. From their impassioned union comes Star-Lord and Ego’s realization that gals cannot come before goals. Logically, Ego ends his lover’s life to eliminate that temptation and returns home.

After years of fruitless endeavor, Ego finally finds his demigod son and invites him back to his planetary pad. Here Ego charismatically charms Peter into a trance-like submission before revealing to him the tragic truth of his lineage; however, it’s not the evil, mustache-twirling reveal you might expect from an egotistical divinity.

Instead, Kurt Russell’s rockstar persona falls away to reveal a moment of genuine vulnerability. Ego feels guilty about murdering Meredith (Pete’s mom) but at the same time insists Star-Lord not let his emotional attachments get in the way of the bigger picture (they do, after all, have a universe to perfect).

But like all great villains, Ego’s unwavering commitment to his cause ultimately leads to his downfall. While he may have felt certain feelings for Meredith Quill, he underestimated human compassion. Thus it is up to the son to atone for the sins of his father by setting off a nuclear bomb inside his celestial skull.

Ego is a villain of mythic proportions whose story resembles both the rise and fall of similar divine characters from ancient myths. He is all-powerful and endlessly in love with himself because of it. His sense of entitlement poetically drives him to destruction at the hands of his jaded brood and Kurt Russell tragically portrays this downward spiral with one of his best performances in years.

3. Ultron (The Avengers: Age of Ultron)

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Perhaps no MCU villain is more motivated by his daddy issues than Ultron. Developed by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner to help achieve “piece in our time,” Ultron ultimately decides that peace can only be achieved at the cost of organic life on Earth. “Once the dust settles, the only thing living in this world will be metal,” the mad machine exclaims as he raises an entire city into the sky.

Ultron originally claims it’s the Avengers who are standing in the way of peace, calling them “killers” and accusing them of disrupting the natural order. It’s their obsession with power that drives this and what fuels Ultron’s hate for Stark, whom he refers to as “a sickness” during his temper tantrum after Ulysses Klaue compares Ultron to one of Stark’s robots.

If Ultron’s unsound leap in logic and emotional outbursts remind you of a child, that’s because he is one. Let’s not forget, Ultron is only a few days old during the course of this movie. He just happens to have access to all the world’s recorded knowledge and history. That makes him the world’s most dangerous newborn.

It’s an interesting concept for a mecha-villain. Typically, evil movie robots are depicted as being cold and calculated, like HAL 9000 or the Terminator. Ultron is special because, while he bears similar ideologies about his supposed superiority to humans, he is as emotionally compromised as the best of them. Moreover, Ultron seemingly inherited his short fuse from assuredly the angriest being in the Marvel Universe, Bruce Banner, a.k.a. the Incredible Hulk.

These are shortcomings that Ultron strives to live above earlier on in the film. After his initial confrontation with the Avengers, he forms a sympathetic partnership with the twins Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver based on their common hatred for Stark. Ultron typically apologies for his outbursts or stops mid-sentence to keep himself in check, especially while dealing with the twins.

Of course Ultron ultimately suffers the sin of his fathers. At its core processing unit, that’s what Ultron’s story is all about. However, instead of loving himself securely as his own autonomous being, Ultron tries to get rid of everybody until he’s the last man, er, robot standing.

It’s this inconsistent worldview that makes Ultron so dangerous. He is a ticking time bomb with access to anything connected to the internet and in the modern world that’s just about everything. James Spader perfectly embodies the raw insanity of Ultron and his thunderous tones terrify even when he’s in his weakest forms.

2. Loki (The Avengers)

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Tom Hiddleston’s Loki truly earns his title God of Mischief during his many appearances in the MCU. He’s proven to be a ceaseless schemer who’s always thinking three steps ahead of everyone else and willing to do whatever it takes to whoever he must in order to get what he wants. Not even Odin, his own father, and Thor, his brother, are safe from Loki’s treachery.

Tom Hiddleston personifies the snake that Loki is. He’s handsome, charming, and charismatic. These are qualities that Loki fully embraces for himself in to lower the guards of any unsuspecting victims. And if that doesn’t work, the jerk can shape shift.

Like all memorable foils, Loki is more than just the bad guy. Like Ultron, he is wrought with fragile emotions. Unlike Ultron, however, there is a complex history to Loki that has shaped the character we know and love to hate in the Marvel movies.

For starters, Loki has always been physically inferior to his brother Thor. Despite the fact that Loki consistently demonstrated a higher intelligence than his beefy bro, Odin still looked favorably upon Thor as the next king of Asgard.

Loki was unable to reconcile his own idea of leadership with his father’s and this dilemma eventually spawned a deep hatred. This hatred only worsened when Loki discovered he was adopted from the Ice Giants, a race of beings whom the Asgardians are socialized from birth to despise. Having been lied to by those closest to him his entire life, Loki completely turns on his family.

Obviously, Loki’s thirst for having things his way comes from a deep-rooted insecurity. He’s felt lied to and never in control of his own life. This drives Loki in The Avengers to pull back the curtain on the illusion of choice to humanity. He is upfront with them and says their existence can be made much simpler by submitting to his control.

Loki’s self-assurance that he knows what’s best for everyone and his willingness to prove it is what makes him such a compelling and dangerous antagonist.

1. Helmut Zemo (Captain America: Civil War)

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At number one, this is surely a divisive pick. There seems to be just as much praise on the interwebs for Daniel Bruhl’s Zemo as there is protest. And the idea of placing him atop Loki as the best developed villain in the MCU seems ludicrous, doesn’t it? After all, Loki’s been in way more movies.

True. But Zemo has the advantage in a big, bad way. He defeated the Avengers. That’s right. Unlike any villain before him, Helmut Zemo actually accomplishes what he sets out to do: fracture the Avengers from the inside. In almost every case, the heroes topple the bad guy in the end. Here, however, even though he winds up behind bars, Zemo takes the day.

Another thing to keep in mind when talking about Zemo as the best, most complex villain in the MCU is that he is only human. He does not possess any superpowers nor a high-tech super suit. He’s not in peak physical form and he’s not specialized in combat. He’s just a dude whose world came crumbling down literally and metaphorically when Ultron dropped Sokovia from the sky.

Daniel Bruhl portrays Zemo as cold and calculated after this, which makes sense seeing is how he’s lost his family. Bruhl’s performance is realistically chilling and unexpressive. It may not be as bombastic a turn as Spader with Ultron or Hiddleston with Loki, but it’s engrossing on a more human level.

Since ‘Age of Ultron’, Zemo blames the Avengers and seeks to spare anyone else the pain of their collateral damage by riding the world of them. This is where Zemo demonstrates maniacal brilliance. Like the movie going audience, Zemo is aware that nobody has every topped the Avengers before. He thus concludes that only the Avengers can best the Avengers.

So what does Zemo do? He brings to light the fact that it was none other than Bucky who murdered Tony Stark’s parents. By planting that seed, the human side of these superhumans does the rest and consequently arises the titular Civil War.

Captain America: Civil War is not just another movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s a point of no return. It made such a splash that we have yet to see the long term effects. To this day no villain has scarred the MCU the way Zemo has.

There you have it! That’s our pick for the five best, most complex villains in the MCU. What did you think? Do you agree or disagree with our ranking? What’s yours look like? Let us know in the comments section!

Review: ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ is (mostly) the reboot Spidey needs right now

Director: Jon Watts

Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, and Donald Glover 

Synopsis: Several months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens, New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man as a new threat, the Vulture, emerges. 

Rating: PG-13

Years: 2017

Like their iconic heroes, there seems to be no limit to what Marvel Studios can accomplish. They’ve defied one expectation after another to craft the hottest success streak in Hollywood, including their latest, Spider-Man: Homecoming, with which they’ve largely perfected a formula for the notorious reboot. Take note, studio execs.

There are a few things that help make this new Spidey stand out from previous incarnations. The first and most obvious is his age. Tom Holland is significantly younger now than both Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield were when they filmed their outings. It was a tactical decision. Casting a teenage actor to portray a high school Peter Parker opens the door to unexplored creative territory and is a big reason why ‘Homecoming’ feels fresh despite it being the series’ third manifestation in only fifteen years.

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Of course a tactic’s merits is based on its execution and in terms of casting said teenage actor, Sony and Marvel nailed it. Holland perfectly embodies the kind-hearted, sharp witted, flamboyant adolescence of young Spider-Man/Peter Parker. It’s uncanny. If you weren’t sold on the young actor in this role in Captain America: Civil War, then ‘Homecoming’ will make you a believer.

As good as Holland is here, the film would collapse if it weren’t for his strong supporting cast (as Peter’s best friend Ned points out in the film, even Spider-Man needs help sometimes). Robert Downey Jr. again highlights every scene he’s in, tutoring the young Parker; however, despite an Iron-heavy marketing campaign, he doesn’t see much screen time. Peter actually spends most of the movie hysterically pestering Tony’s head of security, Happy Hogan, once again played by original Iron Man director Jon Favreau.

Other notable standouts include Jacob Batalon as the adorkable Ned, a scene stealing Donald Glover, and Zendaya, who makes particularly effective use of her sparse appearances as a loaner artist.

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When talk about performances in a Spider-Man movie arises, so too will discussion of the villain. Since the wall crawler has built up one of the most memorable rogues galleries, heavy scrutiny always follows the live-action iterations of his big bads. especially when its’ Michael Keaton in the role. Here he plays Adrian Toomes, a.k.a. Vulture, a blue-collar scrap yard dealer contracted to help clean up New York following the events of The Avengers before he and his crew are replaced by the Stark Industries-sanctioned Damage Control.

Now bitter with a hatred for Stark, Toomes takes what alien technology he’s managed to salvage and begins life anew as an extraterrestrial arms dealer. It’s a compelling origin story but his regression into villainy woefully occurs off screen so the contrast is a bit jarring. It’s unfortunate too that Vulture’s relationships are never as realized as they could be, especially considering what they do with him towards the third act and during the mid-credits scene. I also couldn’t shake the feeling that he’s a more natural fit for another Iron Man movie than a Spider-Man one.

That said, Keaton does his best with what he’s given. If the idea alone of Batman on screen with Spider-Man doesn’t given you chills, Keaton’s menacing performance certainty will.

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The Iron Man influences go beyond the occasional cameo and villain. Marvel Studios has upgraded Spidey’s suit to be more in line with Iron Man’s, including countless gizmos and gadgets, different types of webbing, and even built-in A.I. (á la Jarvis). It’s an unnecessary overhaul that serves less the character and his first solo adventure and mostly serves to tie him in with the existing MCU.

Perhaps the most unfortunate comparison to Iron Man is that, through a slew of disappointingly forgettable action sequences, Spidey proves to be a bumbling menace. Yes, he’s a kid just coming into his super-self, but it’s tough to root for a supposed hero who puts just as many lives at risk as he saves, if not more.

Thankfully, Tom Holland is endlessly charming as Peter Parker and equally charismatic as the Spider. Likewise, it’s near impossible to resist the infectious performances from the rest of the cast. Together they’ve built a foundation for a special franchise that hopefully sticks to its own business down the line.

Grade: A-

What did you all think of Spider-Man: Homecoming? We want to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

‘Cult of Chucky’ Trailer #1 Reaction

Everyone’s favorite psychotic, homicidal doll is back! Watch along as we react to the first trailer for Cult of Chucky!

What do you all think of this first trailer? Are you in or are you out? Let us know in the comments below!