Throwback Thursday: Spider-Man and Wolverine teamup in “Perceptions” (1991)

These were the first comics featuring Wolverine that I ever owned — the 1991 Spider-Man “Perceptions” storyline in which he guest-starred.  This had gorgeous, unique art by Todd McFarlane.  (I think he scripted it too.)

This would have been when I was a sophomore in college, and it was even before McFarlane would go on to form Image Comics and launch his most famous character, Spawn.

 

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A very short review of “Don’t Hang Up” (2017)

“Don’t Hang Up” (2017) is an absolutely derivative horror movie that nevertheless manages to be halfway decent.  I’d rate it a 7 out of 10.

We follow a handful of older teenage boys whose favorite avocation is perpetrating cruel prank phone calls and then posting them on the Internet.  The horror genre’s penchant for vengeance should make their comeuppance predictable.  “Don’t Hang Up” seems to borrow in equal (large) measure from the “Saw” and “Scream” film franchises, with touches of “Unfriended” (2014) and even “Silence of the Lambs” (1991).

Still, this was a halfway serviceable scary movie.  There were nice moments of tension, and it held my interest.

This doesn’t belong on anyone’s must-see list, but it’s a fun enough time-waster if you can’t find a better movie.

 

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A quick review of “Wolf Creek 2” (2013)

Is “Wolf  Creek 2” (2013) a well made film?  Yes.  It’s exceptionally well made.  Would  I recommend it?  I’m not sure.

I’d rate it a perfect 10.  Its technical expertise in undeniable.  The cast is roundly excellent.  John Jarratt is absolutely perfect in the role he seems born for.  He’s so effectively menacing as this film’s serial killer that I think I’d find it unnerving even meeting the actor in real life.  The only other actor I think I can say that about is Ted Levine, who so indelibly portrayed Buffalo Bill in “Silence of the Lambs” (1991).

Ryan Corr is damn perfect, as are the actors in smaller roles.  I think Shannon Ashlyn portrays terror better than any other actress I’ve seen.  She isn’t just a horror movie “scream queen;” her performance was so skilled that she rises above such a trite label.  (And I’ve seen a lot of horror movies, people.)

It’s extremely well directed.  The conclusion of an action sequence involving a truck must have looked downright stupid on the page, but damn if Greg McLean doesn’t make it plausible and shocking.

The entire movie is gorgeously shot.  It was enough to make me want to visit Australia … if the story didn’t make want to stay the hell away from Australia.

I just get the impression that some movie studio planned to produce a generic, derivative slasher movie … but just inexplicably employed the best creative talent available for all aspects of its creation.

Now, about my reluctance to recommend this …  Please understand that this film is incredibly dark, even by horror movie standards.  At times it was just too much for me.  I actually stopped playing this on Netflix several times to “take a break with something lighter” by watching “The Walking Dead.”  Yes, you read that right.

The story depicted is just brutal.  There are very few movies that are too dark for me … I think I could count them on one hand.  (And one was 2005’s original “Wolf Creek.”)  And this film is just so masterfully made that its victims seem like real people suffering — something at which the “Saw” films and various other slasher movies rarely succeeded.

I honestly think it might have been so “good” that it went past the point of entertaining me.  Can I honestly recommend a movie that I felt the need to switch off?

You make your own call.  Again — this is exceedingly dark material, even by horror movie standards.  But if you think you’re up to it, watch it.

 

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Throwback Thursday: PRESIDENT LEN!!!

Anyone who’s listened even briefly to blog correspondent Len Ornstein knows he’s a man with deep-seated opinions about politics and statesmanship.  What few may know is that he was once quite a distinguished statesman himself.

This September 1991 article in the Mary Washington College Bullet covers Len’s rise to becoming Student Council President.  He was quite the dark horse candidate — the article indeed notes that he went from “pariah to president.”  Len was a bit of a provocateur in the old days, rattling the political order by criticizing the existing council for being too little engaged with the student body.  He handily won the election, though, after a spirited grassroots campaign in which he simply met and introduced himself to voters on Campus Walk.  (I still remember him doing this, and it was something the other candidates were not doing.)

Note also that the newly elected Vice President was a one Pete Bucellato — another good friend of mine and another eccentric Long Islander.  It’s a wonder the kids at the Virginia state school didn’t dub them “Grant and Sherman.”

We fared well under your stewardship, Len!!

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“Terminator Genisys” Terminated My Boredom!

There.  You see that truly sucky play on words that I employed in the headline for this blog post?  That should give you a sense of the quality of this film’s script.  I’m serious.  When one character expresses their desire to rule the world, another character shouts “Rule THIS!” before blasting the former with a laser.  Because the future is a long, looooong way from Tennessee Williams, Baby.

But hold up.  Believe it or not, this will actually be a positive review of “Terminator Genisys” (2015).  I’d reluctantly give it an 8 out of 10, because it was a fun summer popcorn movie, despite its flaws.

And there are flaws.  It isn’t high art, and it can’t even approach the pathos, drama, characters, rich themes and great old fashioned movie thrills of the true terminator classics: the 1984 original and James Cameron’s astonishingly superior sequel in 1991.

The dialogue for “Terminator Genisys” is terrible in many places.  The story’s most important character, Sarah Connor, falls flat.  She’s scripted as a chipper, upbeat, 20’ish “It Girl” who utterly fails to win viewer loyalty, as Linda Hamilton’s traumatized crusader did so beautifully in 1991.  I also humbly opine that Emilia Clarke did poorly with the role.  This is the first time I’ve ever seen her perform — I’ve heard that she’s actually considered a very good actress playing a queen on … that TV show.  “Game of Bones?”  “Crones?”  Or something?  People like that show, right?

A lackluster Sarah Connor might be a serious transgression in the fan community.  For a kid who learned to love science fiction movies in the 80’s and 90’s, Ellen Ripley will always be the paradigmatic heroine, but Sarah Connor was second.  No, no one can equal Hamilton’s performance, but others can still perform the role quite well when it is competently scripted.  Just see Lena Heady’s inspired turn in television’s “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” (2008).

The “timey-wimey” stuff lost me early on.  Seriously — the time travel story elements confused and annoyed me as soon as Kyle Reese (Jesus, I almost wrote Corporal Hicks) entered the time machine and began having inexplicable memories of another timestream.

Who is sending multiple terminators on multiple missions?  Are they from various timelines and various iterations of Skynet, or are they from a single future?  Our heroes have an unknown benefactor with access to time machines?  A T-1000 attacks people on a rowboat?  Does it … float, then?  Walk on water?  It seems to me that hopping on a boat would be a rather ingenius way of escaping an unstoppable robot, unless he commandeers his own vehicle …  Hell, it’s something I’d never thought of, and I am precisely the sort of weirdo who thinks about things like that.  (Is it any worse than when other people have zombie contingency plans?)

I’m not even sure I understand the motives of the story’s antagonist who we see the most.  Is this character on nobody’s side, exactly?  If this character is a superior model composed of nanobots, shouldn’t Skynet be manufacturing and deploying dozens, instead of just one?  For that matter … why do individual terminators each have an individual consciousness and point of view?  Can Skynet simply download its own single collective consciousness to every unit?

I felt a little embarrassed at first, but the Internet reassures me that most, if not all viewers, are puzzled about these things.  The wonderful io9.com, for example, has an excellent tongue-in-cheek “FAQ” pointing out this movie’s surprising multitude of unanswered questions.  Warning: SPOILERS.

http://io9.com/terminator-genisys-the-spoilyr-faq-1716548070

Also … I really disliked this movie’s central plot twist.

Still, I have to give this movie a free pass.  I simply can’t give a negative review to a film during which I laughed and smiled throughout.  This is a fun summer event-movie.  It’s a fast-paced, sci-fi actioner with fantastic special effects, the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and tons of fan service and Easter eggs.  (Recreating the 1984 film’s sequences shot-for-shot?  C’mon!  That was just cool and fun.)

We’ve got nanobaddies, liquid metal terminators (made of mimetic polyalloy, to those of us in the know), aging T-800’s with stiff joints, time machines, terminators arriving in multiple decades, Bot-on-Bot violence, a schoolbus flipping over on the Golden Gate Bridge and … somebody does something totally sweet with an oxygen tank.  They really threw in everything but the kitchen sink for this movie.  The result is only kid stuff, but it’s still a good time.  If you see this movie, and you don’t smile when a T-1000 emerges from a police car windshield, then you have never been a 10-year-old boy.

This year’s “Jurassic World” had none of the earmarks of a great film, but it still entertained.  I gave that a positive review, so I’m going to go head and recommend this as well.

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