Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Retro Movie Review: Dracula 2000 (R - 99 minutes – 2000)

For the second of my four recommended horror movies, I remembered another gem from 2000 that I really enjoyed.  Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with the exceptional performance from Gary Oldman was released in 1992.  In 2000, the aptly named Dracula 2000 was released, nowhere near as good, but certainly entertaining. 

A descendant of Abraham Van Helsing owns and is working in an antique shop in London.  One night, his secretary allows her boyfriend and his hoodlum friends into the shop to steal things. Oddly, they find a high security vault and inside, a sealed silver coffin.  Due to the security around the item, and because they are stupid, the thieves assume it’s very valuable, so they take it and head to New Orleans, because when you steal coffins, that’s what you do. Van Helsing follows them to get it back, requesting that his apprentice, Simon, stays in London.  Simon goes to New Orleans, because that will advance the plot.

The thieves continue to be stupid and so open the coffin on the plane, revealing Count Dracula.  Free, he attacks the thieves, and causes the plane to crash in the swamp.  He heads to downtown New Orleans and encounters college students Mary Heller and Lucy Westerman.  Coincidentally, Mary has been having dreams of a man – Dracula.
Van Helsing and Simon get to New Orleans and start wiping through the newly turned vampires that Dracula has been leaving around.  Van Helsing tells Simon he’s the original Abraham Van Helsing, and after defeating Dracula in 1897, has been keeping him prisoner, watching over his body to ensure he will not get free.  He’s been prolonging his own life with injections of Dracula blood, attempting to learn a way to kill Dracula dead permanently.

Van Helsing tells Simon that Mary is his daughter, which is of course why she and Dracula are drawn to one another.  He and Simon try to reach Mary before Dracula, but he has already turned her roommate Lucy into a vampire, and made her one of his three new brides.  The brides are able to kill Van Helsing while Dracula captures Simon and Mary.  Transforming Mary, he reveals that he was Judas Iscariot, and because he betrayed Jesus, he was condemned to live forever as a vampire – which also explains the crucifix issue and the silver issue. Mary, able to keep her wits about her, works with Simon to overtake and kill the brides, then together they hang him, and he burns when the sun rises.  Together, they put him back in his coffin and return him to the high security vault to keep watch over, until the next sequel.

And yes, there were two direct to video sequels, Dracula II and Dracula III.  I can’t speak to the lack of quality of either of those, as I did not see them.  This one is questionable in terms of quality - Directed by Patrick Lussier (My Bloody Valentine, Drive Angry), It’s fast paced and sufficiently cheesy.  The reason I like it is the surprisingly good cast. 

  • Gerard Butler – back when he was Gerry – plays Dracula as angry, sexy, and cursed.  He’s always watchable, but if you want a little of him in something a little better, check out Reign of Fire.

  • Christopher Plummer plays Abraham Van Helsing, and really, chews the scenery in the best way, as an old man who is ready for this situation, but also upset by it.

  • Jonny Lee Miller plays Simon Sheppard, and is action packed and British.

  • Justine Waddell plays Mary Heller-Van Helsing, who gets to be mostly taken in by Dracula.

  • Vitamin C (remember when she was a thing?) plays Lucy, Jennifer Esposito plays Solina, and Jeri Ryan plays Valerie who get to slink around in white dresses as the three brides.

  • Omar Epps plays Marcus; Sean Patrick Thomas plays Trick; Danny Masterson plays Nightshade; Lochlyn Munro (who is that guy you’ve seen in everything) plays Eddie; and Shane West plays JT.

  • Nathan Fillion plays Father David

Overall, the movie is perfectly silly with a cast that you know, just that you didn’t know were in this.  Check it out again this Halloween season, because of all the Dracula movies out there, why not check out one you totally forgot about?

6 out of 10, it’s not great, but it’s fun!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049 (R – 164 minutes)

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, a movie based on the Philip K. Dick novel “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” was released in 1982.  It was long, dark, slow, dystopian, and considered by many to be epic.  Scott, not happy with the first cut, released a director’s cut, and then there was another cut released after that – and possibly several others.  I’ve seen it, but never all the way through in one sitting.  The story is set in 2019 and revolves around former police officer Rick Deckard, a ‘Blade Runner’, who tracks down and ‘retires’ (kills) escaped bioengineered beings called replicants.  They’re not quite robots, and a step above androids, and some of them think they are human on account of implanted memories. While Deckard hunts down and works to eliminate Roy the replicant and others, he falls for a replicant from the Tyrell corporation named Rachel. He and Rachel end the movie together, even though as a replicant, she will have a shortened life span.

The follow-up, set in 2049, follows replicant Blade Runner K who is a newer, more obedient model.  He doesn’t even mind when his co-workers call him a ‘skin job’.  He’s doing just fine with his job, his tough-as-nails boss, his tiny apartment and his holographic girlfriend.  He is hunting down and retiring older model replicants, which leads him to investigate a growing replicant freedom movement.  K encounters Sapper Morton (an old Nexus Model 8 replicant) on a farm, Sapper is disappointed a replicant is hunting other replicants, and claims that it is because K has “never seen a miracle.” K retires Sapper, and learns there is a box buried in the yard, sends word to his boss, who sends back a digging team.  They find bones in the box, and learn they are from a woman who died in childbirth, but is also a replicant, which should not be possible.

We’re also introduced to Niander Wallace, who has gotten the Tyrell Corporation back up and running with the new, more obedient, replicants.  He’s disappointed that he can’t make them reproduce, because he’s all about a slave race of manual laborers. He’s so disappointed he slashes a new one through the abdomen despite being blind. I really did not understand the point of this sequence other than just to prove this guy is the heavy. He sends his assistant, Luv (a replicant) to track down K and the ‘child’ that K is searching for.  Meanwhile, K is starting to lose control of his emotions, failing a base line test, going on the run, and following the lead he gets from a tiny wooden horse to an orphanage, to a memory builder, and back.

Eventually, while being pursued by Luv and her crew, K heads out to the remains of future Las Vegas, to find Deckard, who is now living basically in exile with what may or may not be a real dog.  K has figured out that the child was the product of Deckard and Rachel, and is now looking to find the child, having been commanded to ‘retire’ it.  Luv needs to take it back to Wallace so that he can dissect and analyze it to make all his other replicants capable of reproducing. K and Deckard have a fist fight through the remains of a casino which includes flickering Elvis holograms. Deckard is less than helpful, since he does not know where the child is, but that doesn’t stop Luv from overpowering K and snatching Deckard so K has to rescue him and attempt to get control of his slowly deteriorating calm demeanor.

I won’t say much else, because there is a bit of twisty-turny surprise/non-surprise stuff that happens, and if you’re going to see it, it’s worth not knowing what is coming next.  I’m not sure I was surprised, but I was interested. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, the movie has an ugly beauty to it, similar to Villeneuve’s Arrival.  The city is harsh and ugly, but the shots moving through it are wonderful.  The scenes out in the desert are equally hauntingly beautiful. The score is very interesting – at times crazy loud and booming, and in other places, quiet and creepy.  In terms of the performances, everyone does a really good job with some interesting characters:

  • Ryan Gosling plays K, and I was actually very impressed with his slow deterioration from calm and cool to obsessed and beginning to lose control.  He very much has to carry the movie, and he does a great job.

  • Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard again, and his old, grumpy persona works perfectly here.  Deckard is living out his days alone, not thrilled with the choice he made, but confident he made the right choice for his child. He is not in a lot of the movie, but the scenes he does have are chilling.

  • Ana de Armas plays K’s holographic girlfriend, Joi.  She seems to have a great deal of self-awareness, caring deeply for K, or at least is programed to care deeply for him. She helps guide him on his way, offering advice, and high level holographic companionship – to the point of hiring a hooker and ‘syncing’ with her so that she can physically be with K.

  • Dave Bautista continues to expand his skill set as Sapper Morton.  He’s very briefly in the movie, but he is the one who starts K on his investigation. Dave plays Sapper as old, tired, and very sad, while still being physically imposing. I hope he continues to get interesting roles like this.

  • Robin Wright plays K’s boss Lieutenant Joshi, who depends on K and trusts him enough to give him a head start when he fails his baseline test before other officers come after him.

  • David Dastmalchian has a very brief role as Coco the medical examiner. He has almost nothing to do, but I always find him interesting, so I wanted to mention him.

  • Sylvia Hoeks plays Luv – and I found her to be one of the most interesting characters.  She’s basically just Wallace’s henchwoman, but she really elevated that to be more interesting – does she think she’s human?  She certainly thinks she’s better than any other replicant.

  • Edward James Olmos has basically a cameo to reprise his role as Gaff, Deckard’s old partner. He helps K begin to track him down, while getting more origami in.

  • Jared Leto expands his repertoire of creepy with Wallace.  He is blind but seems to be using little hovering robots to assist in his vision when Luv pops a little electrical device behind his ear.  He also has very few scenes, and I still do not understand why we needed the scene of him killing his own brand new replicant. In a movie that’s almost three hours long, you do start to think about what could have been cut – and while it was some creepy character development, I’m not sure it was necessary.

  • Lennie James seems to have another cameo as Mister Cotton – a man who runs an ‘orphanage’ or, more accurately, a work camp for kinds who pull metals out of rubbish.  It is another really long sequence that was a bit unnecessary, aside from proving the reality of K’s implanted memories.

  • Barkhad Abdi from Captain Phillips (“I’m the captain now!”) plays Doc Badger, basically another cameo as he analyzes the wooden horse for K.
  • Carla Juri plays Dr. Ana Stelline – a doctor who has immune deficiencies and lives in isolation, but helps create the memories that are implanted into replicants.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie, but I didn’t love the movie.  It is way too long.  It really could have benefited from being edited.  Yes, it looks amazing, and I was impressed by the story and the performances.  The settings, landscapes, and locations were amazing, as well as the costumes, makeup, and effects.  Keep this one in mind for all the technical categories for your office Oscar pool.

7 out of 10 – Visually stunning with an interesting story, but way too long, a bit draggy in parts, and while the characters were interesting, I wasn't overly invested in any of them. 

Bonus: Cast Interviews!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Retro Movie Review: Tales from the Crypt, Demon Knight (R – 92 minutes - 1995)

We’ve rolled into October, and tis the season for horror flicks.  Honestly, I’m not much for horror movies, but I thought it would be fun to go back and review one a week that I actually did like.  

Horror has really become a wide-ranging genre with all sorts of sub-genres.  The first one I’m picking is a throwback to silly, slimy, gore and was a spin-off of the anthology series Tales From the Crypt that used to air on HBO – hosted by the Cryptkeeper, a corpse who made terrible puns, and I mean terrible puns.

Demon Knight starts in New Mexico where scuzzy drifter Frank Brayker is trying to outrun the handsome and elegant 'Collector'.  After a car crash, Brayker flees and ends up at a decommissioned church that has been converted into a boarding house and is currently filled with a fairly standard horror movie random group of characters: drunk Uncle Willy, owner Irene, prostitute Cordelia, postal clerk Wally, and a convict on work release – Jeryline.  Another local, ‘Roach’, shows up and tells the occupants that someone has tried to steal his boss’s car, and Irene calls the sheriff.  The sheriff and his deputy have encountered the Collector at the crash site – and he’s so charming that they immediately agree to help him out, as he was chasing a thief who has an important artifact.  The three of them arrive at the boarding house, where the sheriff decides to arrest both Brayker and the Collector, based on Brayker's reaction to the Collector.  The Collector is less than thrilled with this information and punches right through the sheriff’s head.

Brayker uses the artifact, a key-like item with a liquid inside, to force the Collector outside, then uses the slightly glowy red liquid inside to seal the entrances to the building against the Collector and the demon hordes he swiftly raises by flinging his blood around - eww.

 Brayker tells the group they will have to wait out the night and that the Collector will try to get inside the building by approaching each of them.  Sure enough, one by one, the Collector attempts to ‘seduce’ each person by offering them what they want.  He psychically seduces Cordelia, who then kills Wally and removes Irene’s arm before Brayker can kill her.  Just as the group is thinking they can escape through some old mine tunnels, they encounter Danny – a local kid, who is on the run from the other townspeople who are all now demon possessed and whatnot.  They demand the full story from Brayker, and he tells them what the artifact is.

After God created the earth, demons used seven keys to focus the power of the cosmos – God stopped them by creating light, which of course, scattered the demons and the keys.  They key that Brayker has is the last one they have not found, and God had a thief named Sirach fill it with the blood of Jesus during the Crucifixion.  The key has been passed down through time, rendering the bearer ageless while they have it, and refilling it with their blood when they are mortally wounded, before passing it on to the next person.  Brayker received it during World War I.  

During the story, Danny disappears, and in the confusion of looking for him, Roach takes the key from Brayker. While searching the place, Irene and Bob discover a stockpile of weapons that Wally was going to use to attack the post office (this is back when that was a thing).  The Collector possesses Uncle Willy, and while battling him – Roach attempts to trade the key for his life.  That goes how you would expect it to (hey, don't try to bargain with demons or collectors that work with demons - it never works, and they will always betray you) – and while the Collector kills Roach, Brayker gets the key back as Irene and the deputy sacrifice themselves so that Brayker, Jeryline and Danny can make it to the attic. 
The Collector manages to possess Danny (I mean, what kid can withstand demon possession?) who mortally wounds Brayker before Jeryline kills him. Brayker passes the key to Jeryline, leaving her to battle the Collector and continue on.  She does manage to defeat him, and refills the key with Brayker’s blood before heading out, sealing the door of a bus as she gets on – ensuring that a new Collector at the next stop cannot get on the bus. 

Directed by Ernest R. Dickerson (Juice, Bulletproof, The Wire, Dexter, Treme, Walking Dead, Bosch), the movie is more fun than it should be, and actually has a much better story than it should as well.  The set of the boarding house was completely built in one sound stage allowing for great movement through the sets.  I love the practical makeup on the demons and possessed folks, which are yes – horrifically and unnecessarily gory.  As much as I liked the story, and thought it was interesting and well done, it’s really the cast that sucked me into this movie.
  • The star is definitely Billy Zane as the Collector – completely free to be completely zany (see what I did there?) he spends the movie harassing the occupants of the boarding house in various ways, including a nonsensical hoedown dance for no reason.  He seems to be genuinely having a great time. He’s perfect as the agent of darkness sent to collect the key by whatever means necessary.  Watch it again to see that part where he kisses the slimy demon on the forehead.

  • William Sadler is very Sadler-y as Brayker, a man who has been running from the Collector for a long time. He’s beaten and tired, and I think relieved that he has found Jeryline to pass on the key and the responsibility that comes with it.

  • Jada was still just Jada Pinkett at this point, not yet Jada Pinkett Smith.  She’s perfect as the convict who is just working out her sentence and tries to act like she doesn’t care about anyone or anything in this house, but is revealed to be the true hero of the story.

  • Thomas Haden Church plays Roach, scummy, creepy, and slimy.  He gets what’s coming to him, but not without getting a few laughs first.

  • John Schuck plays the Sheriff and Gary Farmer plays Deputy Bob, who steps up to help save everyone near the end.

  • CCH Pounder (my favorite Amanda Waller) plays Irene, and has easily one of the best moments in the movie. After losing her arm – the Collector attempts to offer it back to her if she will assist him in getting the key.  She lifts her stump up to him, and he asks if that’s her agreeing, and she replies that it’s actually her giving him the finger. Classic.

  • Brenda Bakke plays Cordelia, and Charles Fleischer plays Wally – which was interesting to see because previous to this I had only known him as the voice of Roger Rabbit.

  • Dick Miller plays Uncle Willy – a dude who loves his bottles, and gets seduced by the Collector when offered drink and women – and yes, here’s the PTS in the movie.

Overall, it’s cheesy, it’s silly, it’s fun, and it has an interesting story.  Plus, Billy Zane.  Come on.  If you’re looking for some flashback entertainment this Halloween season, give this one a shot.  Then you could follow it up with Tales From The Crypt’s Bordello of Blood – but I personally prefer this one.

8 out of 10 – there’s no accounting for taste, I suppose!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Movie Review: Kingsman: The Golden Circle (R – 141 minutes)

I was surprised by how much I liked Kingsman: the Secret Service in 2014, despite having been a fan of several Matthew Vaughn movies including Layer Cake and Stardust. It was almost a James Bond spoof, with lots of campy violence and action as Eggsy, a street-wise tough, was indoctrinated into the Kingsman, an independent intelligence agency based out of a tailor shop in London.  With the assistance of his mentor, Harry (who was killed in the process), he successfully saved the world from Richmond Valentine’s plan to cull the human population of the world by releasing a free sim card that sent out radio frequency waves that made everyone homicidal maniacs and only those who Valentine chose would survive thanks to a little chip implanted in their heads.  Eggsy and the Kingsman saved the day by reversing the signal, and everyone with the chip had their head exploded.  It was absolute crazy fun. Check out the Honest Trailer from Screen Junkies below:

This time around, things are just as crazy, but less fun.  Eggsy is doing just fine as a spy, working with the Kingsman, Roxy, and Merlin (their version of Q) while wooing his girlfriend, the crown Princess of Sweden, Tilde.  This movie starts with Eggsy tussling with an ex-Kingman recruit, Charlie, who lost an arm during the last movie.  Well, now he has a prosthetic, which pops off during the fight, and manages to hack the Kingsman system. This leads to all Kingsman headquarters everywhere being wiped out while Eggsy is at dinner with Tilde and her parents. He finds that Merlin is fine, but Roxy and his dog, and his friend who was dogsitting, are dead.  He and Merlin follow a ‘doomsday protocol’ that leads them to a whiskey distillery in Kentucky run by ‘Statesman’, which they swiftly learn is their counterpart organization.  Not only that, but Statesman has Harry, who they apparently rescued after he was shot in the first movie.  This is not a spoiler, as it has been in every trailer (the marketing for this movie was omnipresent and gave away far too much).  Harry has amnesia, and is totally useless, until Eggsy reminds him who he was by threatening to shoot a puppy, a callback to the puppy-shooting fake-out bit from the first movie (which I hated there, and continue to hate here – surely there was another way to demonstrate loyalty?).

They learn that the person behind the attack is Poppy Adams, a drug kingpin who runs the largest drug cartel in the world, and has laced all her recreational drugs with poison, and will only release the antidote once the President of the U.S. legalizes all recreational drugs, so that she can be a legitimate businesswoman, and recognized for her greatness.  No, seriously, that’s her plan. The remaining Kingsman have to work together with their newly found Statesman allies to find the antidote and stop Poppy. 

Matthew Vaughn’s signature slow-mo crazed action sequences are still on display here, and yes, the hand to hand combat scenes are fantastic.  The issue is that while the first movie had just the right amount of camp and silly mixed with over-the-top action and performances, this movie seems to turn all of that up another notch – which goes too far and makes the movie disjointed and almost uncomfortable to watch.  There is little to no logic in anyone’s plan (there are several parties each with their own plans), Harry’s reintroduction feels forced, there are too many characters, and too many side missions.

  • Taron Egerton once again plays Eggsy and he is very good in that role, but in a strange way for the lead of the movie, has very little growth character-wise.  He is game with the material, but the material is odd.

  • Edward Holcroft returns as Charlie, and was certainly a good choice for the main henchman for Poppy.  The hand to hand battles between he and Eggsy were exciting and well done.

  • Colin Firth returns as Harry, who has amnesia for a bit, then spends the rest of the movie trying to get back in the swing of things while hallucinating butterflies.  I think the movie would have been stronger without him – not his fault, just no real reason for the character to be back, and lessened the impact of one of the most shocking moments in the first movie.

  • Julianne Moore plays Poppy Adams, the drug mogul who lives in a recreated 50’s town in the middle of the Cambodian jungle.  Her performance was great, but her plan is ridiculous.  

  • Mark Strong returns as Merlin, and does a wonderful job of supporting Eggsy and trying to keep everyone on task.

  • Hanna Alstrom returns as Tilde, I’m not sure this side-storyline was necessary either, but without it, Eggsy would literally have no character arc whatsoever.
  • In terms of the Statesman crew, they are led by Jeff Bridges, who is doing the same character he has been playing since True Grit except for a change here, he has no mustache.  He has very little to do but promise to help the Kingsman and tell his agents where to go while spouting odd southern metaphors.

  • Pedro Pascal plays agent Whiskey, and he was wonderful with what he was given, but again, what he was given was nonsense.  His plan doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I did enjoy his lasso work.

  • Channing Tatum has a glorified cameo as Agent Tequila.  This is a little confusing, because all the marketing features Tatum heavily, when really – it’s more of a Pedro Pascal vehicle.

  • Halle Berry plays Ginger Ale, their tech person, so she gets some paired scenes with Merlin that are charming and fun.

  • Elton John plays Elton John, and may have been the best part of the movie.

Vaughn has stated he would do another one with the Rock as the villain.  There’s also the possibility of a Statesman spin-off with Tatum actually in it.  Who knows what will come next.  This one did have some fun moments, some great action – but was way too long, and just over did it.  Here’s hoping if they do another one, it is shorter and a little tighter story-wise.
6 out of 10.  Loved the action, wasn’t thrilled with the story.

Bonus - Seventh Son is a particularly terrible movie with both Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore in it - be sure to check that out;