31 Days of Halloween: Review: Zombie drama ‘Maggie’ more dead than living

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Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin are father and daughter in “Maggie.” (Lionsgate)

Arnold Schwarzenegger built his acting career around blowing stuff up and nailing hammy one-liners. To that end, the notion of him starring in a zombie apocalypse movie conjures up some pretty thrilling images. Alas, whatever movie might be playing in your head (perhaps one where Arnie mows down legions of the undead with a military-grade turret mounted atop an armored truck with a half-smoked cigar hanging from his mouth) is still better than Maggie.

The first few minutes of Maggie cleverly establishes via a mattering of disembodied news reports (because those’ve never been done before) that a clearly made-up virus has broken out across the country and is slowly transforming those infected into decaying cannibals. Abigail Breslin’s Maggie is one of those unfortunate souls and Wade (Schwarzenegger) is her father, a lifelong farmer who’d rather kill a friendly cop just doing his job than turn his necrotizing teenage daughter over to quarantine.

Director Henry Hobson has an ambitious, zombie-lite vision for his film. He wants to tell a personal, character-driven story about a daughter living her last days alongside her father, step-mom (Joely Richardson), and closest friends, all of them well aware that the end is near for the young lady. The aspiration is admirable and Hobson fittingly constructs a consistent, meditative air of gloom.

Unfortunately, the narrative often wanders from the beaten country path and into the indiscernible wilderness (both figuratively and literally) with little explanation as to why. In one short scene Wade sets a nearby field ablaze seemingly just so he can watch it burn. Another time he drives over to his neighbor Bonnie’s (Rachel Whitman Groves) house (even though it’d already been established that the two live close enough to walk) to investigate the room where she kept her zombified husband and son. It’s a touching moment but one that admittedly had me puzzled as to Wade’s motivation.

It should also be noted that, despite the draw of her aging co-star, it’s Breslin who carries Maggie. Schwarzenegger is still an actor of limited range. The behind the scenes artists have done a nice job making him appear haggard and beaten down, but it’s still up to Schwarzenegger to sell me on his character’s emotional journey and here Mr. Universe just isn’t up to the task.

🎃🎃 (out of 4)


Director: Henry Hobson

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson, Rachel Whitman Groves

Rated: PG-13

Year: 2015

What did you all get a chance to check out Maggie? What did you think? Was it your cup of tea or would you rather see Arnie take on zombies in good, ole fashioned Arnie style? Hit me up in the comments below, I wanna hear from you!

 

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31 Days of Halloween: All 7 Chucky Movies Ranked Worst to Best

You’ve noticed by now Hollywood’s proclivity for remaking and rebooting any and all franchises with any sort of brand recognition, including those featuring cherished slasher icons. Jason, Freddy, Michael, and Leatherface have all been revived within the last fourteen years (much to the chagrin of horror fanatics).

One maniacal mainstay of the genre, however, has managed to elude the reboot bug since his debut back in 1988. Enter Charles Lee Ray, aka The Lakeshore Strangler, aka Chucky. Though there was once upon a time talk of rebooting the original Child’s Play, America’s favorite killer doll has lived on through a slew of sanguinary sequels.

This week marks the release of the highly-anticipated seventh installment (sixth sequel) in the series, Cult of Chucky. Does the latest outing rank towards the top of the toy chest? Find out for yourself as I rank all seven Chucky films from worst to best:

7.) Seed of Chucky (2004)

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One thing about the Chucky movies and their progenitor Don Mancini is that they are not afraid to take risks and try something different. Each installment takes the character to bold new places. Obviously that doesn’t always guarantee success, which is something both fans and filmmakers found out the hard way with Seed of Chucky. This film desperately tries to recapture the tongue-in-cheek humor of its predecessor by introducing Chucky and Tiffany’s transsexual son/daughter Glen/Glenda. Ultimately, ‘Seed’ was such a mess that it killed the franchise for nearly a decade. The once-terrifying toy had become the punch-line of his own joke.

6.) Child’s Play 3 (1991)

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Regarded by many (including series creator Don Mancini himself) as the worst entry in the franchise, Child’s Play 3 was released a mere nine months after Child’s play 2. Though military academy seems like the next logical step for the young and unlucky Andy Barclay, the resulting film feels rushed and often uninterested in fully exploring its new playground. That’s a shame too because ‘CP3′ features one of the series’ spookiest set pieces (a carnival ride from Hell) as well as some of its most brutal kills (anybody up for some paintball?).

5.) Bride of Chucky (1998)

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Following Scream in the mid 90s, it seemed as if the slasher genre as a whole suddenly became self-aware. Sadistic serial killers started cracking jokes at their own tropes as spine-tingling scares gave way to knee-slapping wisecracks. Luckily, Chucky always possessed a sense of humor so the tonal shift wasn’t too jarring. On the contrary, a more whimsical and wed Chucky seemed to be just what the series needed after the dismal misfire that was Child’s Play 3. Jennifer Tilly gives 100% of herself to the role of Tiffany, Chucky’s blushing, psychotic bride who is every bit as stubborn and dangerous as her husband. The couple’s chemistry is insanely infectious.

4.) Child’s Play  (1988)

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The film that started it all. Child’s Play introduced the world to the Good Guys dolls and their infamous homicidal icon. The film also introduced audiences to Chucky’s long-time nemesis, Andy Barclay (who at least makes a cameo appearance in five of the seven films), as well as to the serial killer’s crucial voodoo practices. While Child’s Play serves as the bedrock for crazier, future installments, it definitely takes the fewest risks. Still, it’s a solid, frequently scary slasher flick that earns its spot on this ranking for making me scared of a child’s toy.

3.) Curse of Chucky (2013)

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After Seed of Chucky nearly killed the franchise nine years prior, Curse of Chucky reinvigorated the redheaded icon by returning him to his horror roots. The film introduced us to Nika (Fiona Dourif) as Chucky’s latest recurring adversary with some intriguing ties to Charles Lee Ray. Obviously ‘Curse’ returns the series to a darker place but it also expands upon the established history of its titular butcher. Though he was steering his ship in a slightly new direction, creator/director Don Mancini managed to maintain the essence of what makes the series so special.

2.) Cult of Chucky (2017)

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Cult of Chucky is the boldest Chucky film yet. It takes the most significant stride forward for the series in terms of narrative while introducing some disturbing and unique twists. Following the bloodbath that was Curse of Chucky, Nika (Fiona Dourif) has come to believe that it was truly her and not the Chucky doll who murdered her family, resulting in her commitment to an asylum for the criminally insane. ‘Cult’ takes advantage of its apt, new setting in some diabolically fun ways without completely caving into those comedic tendencies. ‘Cult’ is also the prettiest film in the franchise, providing some of the most frightening and haunting imagery to date.

1.) Child’s Play 2 (1990)

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When debating the entries of a long-running franchise such as the Chucky movies, inevitably the discussion turns to the original when siting which is “the best.” And when you’re talking about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, or A Nightmare on Elm Street, it’s tough to argue against that. However, narrative speaking, Child’s Play 2 builds off the original in interesting ways. With Andy’s mom committed to a psychiatric hospital, Andy is placed in foster care where we meet Christine Elise’s charming Kyle. We also get a peak inside the company responsible for the Good Guys dolls as they try to rebuild their damaged brand. Director John Lafia displays a tighter grip on the film’s scares and truly ups the anty from the original film. Plus he gets some credit for the improved performances by the cast, including star Alex Vincent.


Well there you have it! That’s my ranking of the seven Chucky movies so far. What’s your ranking look like? Hit me up in the comments below and let the discussion begin!

‘Blade Runner 2049’ (2017)– Video Review

Blade Runner finally gets a sequel in Blade Runner 2049. Is it worth the 35 year wait?

What did you think of Blade Runner 2049? Do you absolutely love it or do you think these films are boring? I want to know so hit me up in the comments!

31 Days of Halloween: ‘Chucky: Complete 7-Movie Collection’ (Unboxing)

The brand-new Chucky film Cult of Chucky drops today. To celebrate the occasion, I unbox the 7-movie collection! Wanna play?

What do you all think about this collection? Interested in picking it up? Or would you rather save your pennies? Let me know in the comments below!

31 Days of Halloween: Review: ‘Gerald’s Game’ another excellent Stephen King adaptation

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Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood star in Netflix’s adaptation of Stephen King’s “Gerald’s Game.”

Leave it to Stephen King to find a way to make handcuffs in the bedroom not sexy.

That’s the case with his smaller known tale of matrimonial terror, Gerald’s Game. Obviously the 1992 novel has been around a while, but for most of its existence many have considered it unfilmable. Well thanks to Netflix, that’s now a concern of the past.

As of September 29th, the fearless streaming service has released their adaptation of King’s novel. Now King isn’t known for grounded storytelling; rather, he’s adored for his disturbed characters and darkly twisted imagination. On those fronts, Gerald’s Game is a true winner.

The setup is simple yet unsettling. Jessie (Carla Gugino) and her husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) attempt to save their troubled marriage with a weekend getaway at a reclusive lake house. That’s where Gerald handcuffs his wife to the bed as a freaky approach to spicing up their limp romance.

In vintage King methodology, Gerald suffers a heart attack and dies before un-cuffing Jessie from the headboard (of course he couldn’t use fuzzy cuffs because those break too easy). It’s a nightmarish scenario that immediately had me contemplating what I’d do in the same situation, heaven forbid.

Almost immediately (and often in eye-rolling fashion) the odds start building against Jessie. A starving, feral dog wanders into the lake house via a door the couple inexplicably leaves open and begins feasting on her husband’s corpse. She’s also frequented by a tall, gangly vision of a man who may or may not be a hallucination brought on by Jessie’s intensifying dehydration and mania.

Most of Gerald’s Game centers around Jessie speaking to herself in the bed. To be more accurate, she’s speaking to aspects of herself represented by ghostly manifestations of herself and Gerald.

With so few characters populating its story, Gerald’s Game rides or dies with its lead performances and thankfully Gugino and Greenwood came to play (see what I did there?). Both commit to the various versions of their characters and the way the two volley philosophies of life and death back and forth is so hypnotic that it alone sustains most of the film’s near-two hour runtime.

Gerald’s Game is at its most disturbing when it’s exploring Jessie’s traumatizing past via artsy flashbacks. This is also when the film is at its most compelling as Jessie is forced to finally acknowledge and confront her deepest, darkest secrets. At times Mike Flanagan’s (Oculus, Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil) film feels more like a brooding coming of age movie than a straight horror thriller.

🎃🎃🎃 1/2 (out of four)


Director: Mike Flanagan

Starring: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greendwood

Rated: TV-MA

Year: 2017

Did you all get a chance to check out Gerald’s Game on Netflix? If so, what did you think? Is it worth the hype? Let me know in the comments below!

31 Days of Halloween: 13 Horror Movies That Will Definitely Leave a Scar

October is finally upon us which means it’s officially horror movie season! What better way to kick off a month-long celebration of fear than to recount some of the most traumatizing horror films ever made? I can’t think of any! Enjoy!

13.) Don’t Breathe

Stephen Lang stars in Screen Gems' horror-thriller DON'T BREATHE.

Among other things (which I won’t delve into for fear of spoilers), this film plays with our fear of disabled folks. What begins as a tense reverse-home invasion thriller quickly devolves into something much more sinister. What is the Blind Man capable of? Initially you’ll find yourself thinking “Those kids broke into the guy’s home. They deserve this.” However, once the Blind Man’s secrets are uncovered and the now-infamous scene hits, you may find yourself shouting “Holy crap! Nobody deserves this!”

12.) The Hills Have Eyes

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In these circumstances, I typically include the year of release to distinguish an original film from a potential remake. I’m not doing that here. Both Wes Craven’s 1977 original and Alexandre Aja’s 2006 remake push the envelope of unrelenting gore and uncomfortable social commentary. Shocking hyper-violence, mutant inbreeding and baby-napping highlight these savage and unpleasant pulp outings. There’s nothing worse than an interrupted vacation.

11.) Paranormal Activity

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Paranormal Activity is a simple film about a newlywed couple moving into a haunted house. The husband happens to be a videophile so the whole film is shot like a homemade movie. As is usually the case with demons, it’s what the couple doesn’t see that frightens them (and us). The manipulation of sound to illicit disembodied footsteps or growling in the blinding dark is paralyzing and the supernatural bedlam only builds from there. Good luck getting some shuteye after this one.

10.) HellraiserHR

Is too much of a good thing a bad thing? That’s the question horror novelist Clive Barker explores in his evocative directorial debut. A man seeking unearthly pleasures solves a mysterious Chinese puzzle box only to discover he’s opened a portal to Hell. Appropriately, every frame is dominated by an unsavory sense of foreboding. Grotesquely detailed production design and sadistic torture sequences will have your stomach churning. This film has such sights to show you.

9.) Hostel

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Horror fanatic Eli Roth has never been one to shy away from a little blood and guts. Or a lot of it. That’s exactly what he has in store for you with this terrifying tale of a band of American college students who’re lured to a human chop shop whilst backpacking across Eastern Europe. Believe it or not, the grisly dismemberment that ensues isn’t what will stick with you. It’s the idea that, for the right price, ordinary citizens can and will pay for the privilege (I guess?) of committing unspeakable acts on strangers. It’s a horror that, unfortunately, seems less and less ridiculous every day.

8.) Teeth

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If more schools showed Teeth in sex ed class, I guarantee there’d be less teenage promiscuity. Based on the folk tale of the vagina dentata, this quirky horror film follows the sexual awakening of one very special teenage girl. It works a fascinating feminist spin on the typical genre motifs while serving as a grave and bloody reminder that one can never be too careful when it comes to intimacy.

7.) The Last House on the Left (1972)

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Before he revitalized the horror genre with Scream or haunted our sleep in A Nightmare On Elm Street, Master of Horror Wes Craven shocked the world with The Last House On the Left. Unlike his more iconic work, the antagonists in this film are (for lack of a better word) ordinary people. Its infamous brutality against its teenage protagonists is raw and realistic. This film is the reason parents tell their kids not to talk to strangers.

6.) The Exorcist

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The Exorcist speaks to our timeless fear of the unknown and our inability to protect ourselves from that which we do not fully understand. One’s heart can’t help but ache for Chris while she’s helplessly sidelined as her daughter’s body and spirit are ravaged by an otherworldly evil. Levitation, deformation, evacuation, and masturbation á la crucifix make for some strong imagery that you’ll need an exorcist to unsee. This film earns its reputation as one of the scariest movies ever made.

5.) The Descent

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The Descent is actually two taut horror flicks in one centered around a gaggle of girlfriends who get lost while spelunking in an unmarked cave system. The first half works as a psychologically distressing exploitation of claustrophobia, which could have worked as its own film. Then, out of nowhere, things take a bloody turn for the worse as the girls collide with a vicious pack of devolved humanoids. The resulting splatterfest will surely satisfy those audience members looking for an edgier, more physical fright. This film’s got something for everybody!

4.) Raw

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Raw isn’t a gory bloodbath. Like Teeth, this is a dark coming of age film about a vegan who develops a taste for her fellow classmates during her first year of veterinarian school. As sickening as cannibalism is on its own terms, what’s tragic about Raw is how it slowly it sneaks into this girl’s everyday life and devours (literally) her closest relationships. She can’t help herself. She has the need to feed and those urges manifest in raw and unsettling ways, including that revolting finger scene. For those fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about. Yuckie!

3.) Goodnight Mommy

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There is no closer a bond than that between a mother and her children. That’s where the horror of Goodnight Mommy lies. A luxurious house surrounded by cornfields is where nine-year-old twin brothers await their mother’s return from reconstructive surgery. Upon her return, the brothers notice mommy isn’t quite herself. That sets the stage for the mounting, unforgettable horror that ensues. Goodnight Mommy examines miscommunication as well as the dark underbelly of imagination and never lets up on its slow build. Looks like mommy won’t be getting any sleep tonight!

2.) The Mist

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With television shows like 11/22/63 or feature films like It or Gerald’s Game, 2017 has been a strong year for Stephen King adaptations. However, they’re hardly the first successful translations of the famous author’s works to screen. Frank Darabont is the filmmaker behind some of the most praised examples, including The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and, of course, The Mist. The latter works as a frightening creature feature and a powerful commentary on desperation. Then, of course, there’s that ending, which will hover over you like a dark cloud for the rest of your moviegoing days.

1.) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

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The 1970’s gave us some of the most brutal horror films ever made; perhaps none more so than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Tobe Hooper’s low-budget exercise in unrestrained ferocity is as transgressive as it is nauseating. Furniture made from bones, masks made of human flesh, and a family of cannibalistic hillbillies are just a few  of the mortifying secrets hidden within the walls of the Hewitts house. ‘Texas Chainsaw’ inspired decades of uncompromising exploitation flicks and still stands as the golden standard to this day.


Those are my thirteen horror films that will definitely leave a scar. What do you think of my list? And which horror films have emotionally shattered through the years? Let me know in the comments below!

Review: Energized ‘American Made’ glides on Cruise control

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Tom Cruise plays the drug smuggling pilot Barry Seal in “American Made.” (Universal Pictures)

It’s good to see Tom Cruise acting again!

Not to put down Cruise’s work as a supremely entertaining action hero, but Ethan Hunt’s character arc wrapped up with Mission: Impossible III. Cruise has been playing a variation on the super spy melody ever since (what ‘Mummy’ remake?).

Cruise gets a chance to fully embrace his more boisterous inner-thespian in this ludicrous, quick-paced crime comedy based off the real-life exploits of Louisiana-born TWA pilot Barry Seal. Seal, to earn a little extra cash on the side of his commercial career, made a habit out of sneaking cigars back into the states during flights to Cuba. This, of course, does not go unnoticed.

In the late 70s, the giddy pilot is approached by a mysterious, redheaded CIA clerk named Schaffer (Domhnall Gleeson) who offers him a job as a CIA operative. The name of the game? Flying over and nabbing pictures of secret Soviet military installations down in Central America. Giggling, Seal accepts. For a bored pilot who’d resorted to deliberate nosedives of commercial airliners for the sake of spicing up his monotonous routine, the offer (much like this movie) is too thrilling to pass up.

Eventually, Barry gets so good at his new job (as he puts it in the film) that the feds increased his shady workload. Seal began working as an intel courier for the Panamanian dictator (also a CIA-informant) as well as smuggling weapons to the U.S.-backed Contra in Nicaragua. Sometimes Seal even snuck young Nicaraguan troops into and out of the states who needed to be trained to combat Commies back home.

Seal’s dubious relationship with the CIA is carefully groomed by Schaffer. And though he doesn’t get much screen time here, Gleeson steals the scenes he’s in with an appropriately awkward performance.

In exchange for his services, the CIA agrees to look the other way once Seal gets involved with Pablo Escobar (Alberto Ospino) and starts running cocaine for the Medellin cartel. Before he knows it, Seal is literally drowning in riches (there’s a funny sequence wherein Barry, struggling to find a place to stash his dirty money, opens a closet door only to have a huge pile of cash spill out all over him).

It’s more money than he and his family can spend or bury in the yard. It’s more even than they can launder, though that’s not for a lack of trying. The Seals set up several fronted businesses that help transform Mena, Arkansas into a pseudo-boom town.

Director Doug Liman (whose previous works include the Matt Damon-led ‘Bourne’ films as well as the Cruise-helmed Edge of Tomorrow) takes a cavalier approach to the story at hand. American Made never pauses to acknowledge the destructive repercussions of Seal’s crimes or their ensuing insanity. Nor does it delve into the cruel inner workings of cartel business. Instead, Liman keeps flying from one crazy episode to the next.

That same momentum which keeps American Made airborne also keeps it from soaring to greater heights. We never learn much about anybody, including Barry Seal. In fact, he’s made out to be a greedy, Reagan-era caricature.

Ultimately, American Made floats on Cruise’s charm and charisma. It’s the actor’s most enthusiastic performance in a long time and it’s impossible to resist that superstar smile of his. We know Barry Seal is a one of the bad guys, but it feels right rooting for him to come out on top of all the insanity.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ (Out of 4)


Director: Doug Liman

Starring: Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright

Rated: R (for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity)

Year: 2017