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Movies Reviews

Holiday Film Review: Lethal Weapon (1987)

Lethal Weapon. Released in 1987. Directed by Richard Donner. Starring Danny Glover and Mel Gibson

It is Christmas in Los Angeles in 1987, and Mel Gibson has lost his mind. To be more exact Mel Gibson’s character, Martin Riggs is losing his mind; Mel Gibson would lose his much later. Reviewing Lethal Weapon seems futile; everyone knows the story and understands the tropes; it is a classic buddy cop movie that designed most of the ideas that are familiar to the audience and genre. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover both do tremendous jobs in their respective roles as Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh, but the real star is behind the scenes, and that is screenwriter Shane Black. Richard Donner does a great job directing the movie, but Shane Black’s screenplay is excellent and helps make the movie a classic.

Lethal Weapon is a quintessential buddy cop action film, and on this rewatch, I discovered that there is a lot more to the story than just gunfights and thrills. Interestingly, this movie deals with the ramifications of the Vietnam war and how it affected the two main characters; the antagonists of the movie are also Vietnam vets who use their knowledge of the drug trade to exploit and make money. There is an aspect of the movie that seems to be analyzing masculinity as well, and we see this primarily through the character of Martin Riggs. He has shut himself off from people, and up until he becomes panthers with Murtaugh, he is looking for a reason not to kill himself. Shane Black uses his films to parody and deconstruct masculine concepts, and he is not afraid to let his characters become close with one another and show their emotions.

I also find it interesting that the setting of the movie is on Christmas. Shane Black likes setting his films around the holidays. I assume it is because he enjoys the aesthetic of Christmas trees and Christmas lights, but there is also a thematic idea of the year coming to an end and the beginning of the new year. Both characters, Riggs and Murtaugh, are at turning points in their lives. Riggs has lost a wife and wants a reason to keep going, and Murtaugh has just turned fifty and is reevaluating his identity because of his age. The Christmastime adds a unique aesthetic to the film and uses the period to explore change and renewal.

Lethal Weapon is a classic. It has amazing performances, great direction, and an immaculate script. It is a perfect action movie to view around the holiday season because of the Christmas setting, but Lethal Weapon is perfect no matter the time or date.

Rating 5/5

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Movies Reviews

Ho Ho Horror: Blood Beat (1983)

Blood Beat. Released in 1983. Directed by Fabrice A Zaphiratos. Starring Helen Benton, Terry Brown, Dana Day, James Fitzgibbons, and Claudia Peyton

I don’t know how to adequately describe or review a film like Blood Beat; released in 1983, nearing the end of the slasher movie craze, Blood Beat is about a samurai spirit that begins killing residents in a Wisconsin town. That may sound like a typical supernatural slasher, but the movie is so much more than that. It is a confusing mess of a film: bad acting, bizarre musical cues and choices, strange shots, and camera perspectives, and features a scene where a samurai spirit manifests because of a girl’s orgasm. The girl in question is Sarah. Ted, who is dating Sarah, and his sister Dolly are visiting their mother, Cathy, and her boyfriend, Gary, for Christmas. Right from the start, Cathy notices something odd about Sarah, Cathy is an artist and a psychic whose power tips her off to Sarah’s dangers.

I am trying to think of themes or subtext that underlines the movie, but as I run the film back through my head trying to review it, I can’t seem to find an underlying message that the movie is trying to send. Like most slashers, there is a sexual link between death and violence. Sarah’s orgasms summon this spectral samurai slasher, but we spend so little time with her character that I don’t fully understand the link between sex and the samurai. Sarah seems to be a reincarnated spirit angry about the destruction of Japan during World War 2, which is vaguely alluded to through a brief flashback. The dialogue may have offered more hints but is unintelligible and drowned out by the bizarre score. Cathy, the mother, seems to have some connection with this spirit but spends most of the movie painting and shoving people out of her studio.

Even though the acting is terrible, the plot is messy, and the dialogue is hard to hear, I still thoroughly enjoyed watching this movie. There are plenty of unintentional laughs, and the film is incredibly amateur, but I admired the insanity. It feels like the director was going for a surreal, psychosexual euro horror tone, and I feel like he achieves some of that well. It is a movie with an identity all its own, and I can appreciate that, and that’s why I’m going to recommend this movie. Please, everyone, watch this movie about a samurai spirit summoned by orgasm; I implore you, it will bring you nothing but Holiday cheer.

Rating 3.5/5*

*My enjoyment rating, I would fully understand someone who has watched the movie being confused by my scoring.

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Movies Reviews

Holiday Film Review: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Eyes Wide Shut. Released in 1999. Directed by Stanley Kubrick and Starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.

Eyes Wide Shut was legendary director Stanley Kubrick’s final film it is an erotic and partially surreal mystery that explores hidden desire and fantasy, as well as looking at how the upper class views people as commodities and products. Tom Crusie and Nicole Kidman star in the film they play husband and wife William and Alice Hartford. William is a doctor, and Alice is a stay at home mom who used to work as a director for an art gallery. The movie opens with them attending a party at a man named Victor Ziegel’s, played by director Sydney Pollack, lavish mansion in New York. During the party, William reunites with an old medical school friend Nick Nightingale, played by Todd Field, helps Ziegler out of a sketchy predicament with an overdosing woman, flirts with two gorgeous models, and spots his wife flirting and dancing with a strange man. These events all seem trivial, but perfectionist Stanley Kubrick uses these to build character and advance the narrative. William and Alice eventually have an argument about their almost infidelities, which leads Alice to confess her desires for a naval officer who she spotted eying during their vacation the year before. William then leaves their apartment seeking to commit infidelities and stumbles upon a secret that gets him in over his head.

Tom Cruise encounters an underground society of decadence and perversion

Stanley Kubrick weaves a complex narrative about sexual desire, mystery, and wealth in a unique, surreal, and sometimes disturbing manner. The movie branches into multiple genres, being inspired by the erotic, mystery, film noir, and even horror. Kubrick’s pacing is excellent, and the movie’s three-hour runtime goes by rather quickly due to the intrigue he builds throughout the story. The cinematography is outstanding as well. Kubrick and cinematographer Larry Smith uses bright neon lighting, as well as lighting from Christmas trees around the set to create gorgeous mood lighting that is visually striking. The cinematography of the film adds to the film’s surrealist and dreamlike tone.

Tom Cruise’s William initially goes out in search of sex because of jealousy after hearing about his wife’s fantasy and dreams, but during his journey, he discovers a secret world that lives beneath our own. William’s journey through New York on that night feels like it is out of a dream or a nightmare. William consistently imagines his wife with that naval officer, which may appear to the audience as less of a jealous delusion and more of a sexual fantasy. Through William’s travels, Kubrick uses him to show how people use sex as a means of coping and gaining control. We see this in the wealthy secret society that William stumbles upon they use people, primarily women, for their selfish desires and power. William discovers this society out of morbid and lustful curiosity and realizes he is in over his head.

An example of some of the gorgeous cinematography featured in the film.

Kubrick gives the audience a lot to dissect with his final film, and it is a triumphant swan song. He spins an erotic tale of jealousy, secrecy, wealth, power, and even dreams. It is a gorgeous film, filled with gorgeous lighting and great performances from its two leads, although I think Nicole Kidman is the standout. Kubrick never disappoints.

Rating 4.5/5

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Movies Reviews

Ho Ho Horror: Christmas Evil (1980)

Christmas Evil. Directed by Lewis Jackson, Released in 1980, and starring Brandon Maggart and Jeffery DeMunn

Christmas Evil, directed by Lewis Jackson and released in 1980, felt misleading, but that is not a bad thing. I was fully expecting a cheesy Christmas slasher in the same vein as Silent Night, Deadly Night, but instead, it is more reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. It’s not anywhere near as good as Scorsese’s neo-noir classic, but it made for a unique watch and separated it from the cliche holiday slasher that I was anticipating. Brandon Maggart stars as Harry Stadling, who witnessed the lie that is Santa Claus at an early age after he saw his father, who was dressed as Santa Claus to fool the kids, being intimate with his mother. This yuletide fuckery screwed with young Harry, and years later, he lives alone, works in a toy factory, keeps a good and bad list of local children, and dresses as Santa. He is belittled at work and picked on by his co-workers even though he has recently received a promotion.

Typically, I would expect a movie such as this to dive into the gore and violence immediately; however, this movie pulls back and paints a picture of a mentally disturbed man who is plagued by loneliness. Even his brother, played by The Walking Dead’s Jeffery DeMunn, doesn’t seem to care for Harry. He is more frustrated by his brother than anything. The movie makes you feel sympathy for Harry before he explodes into chaotic violence. It makes sense that this doesn’t feature all the slasher tropes since it came out in 1980, not long after the slasher genre took hold of horror, but I wasn’t expecting a character study that dived deep into the psyche of a lonely and insane man.

Harry descends into complete madness.

I don’t know if I buy the whole concept of seeing Mommy kissing Santa Daddy breaking Harry to the point of derangement, but Brandon Maggart does an excellent job portraying a broken man. The scene when Harry glues the beard on his face and starts weeping, both tears of joy and sadness, is magnificently performed, and moments like these make me wonder why I haven’t seen Brandon Maggart in more movies. The ending of the film is also spectacular and weird, which I immensely enjoyed.

Christmas Evil is an interesting Christmas horror film that ended up being more in-depth than I was expecting. If you go into this movie expecting a Christmas slasher, you may end up disappointed. Instead, this is a character study on loneliness that owes more to a film like Taxi Driver than it does the slasher movie cliches of Halloween.

Rating 3/5

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Movies

Ho Ho Horror: Better Watch Out (2016)

Better Watch Out, Released in 2016, Directed by Chris Peckover, Starring Olivia DeJonge, Levi Miller, and Ed Oxenbould

One of the activities mentioned in the classic Christmas song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams includes “scary ghost stories;” so, for the Holiday season I will occasionally be reviewing and talking about Christmas movies with a horror twist. I will be calling these reviews HO HO HORROR (I’m sure someone else was clever enough to come up with this before, and if someone else has used this title before be sure to let me know).

There is not much that one can say about 2016’s Better Watch Out, so I will keep my review short and sweet. Better Watch Out is a subversive and unique take on the home invasion genre. It offers so much more for the audience, who are expecting something much different than they get. It reminded me of a much darker version of Christmas classic Home Alone, directed by Chris Columbus and released in 1990. Unlike that movie, Better Watch Out is much darker, sadistic, and brutal in execution. The film starts pretty simple with a babysitter, Ashley (Olivia DeJonge), going to take care of 12-year-old Luke, played excellently by Levi Miller–honestly one of the best performances I’ve seen from a young actor in a while. Luke is infatuated with the older Ashley, who has taken care of him before, and he and his best friend Garret (Ed Oxenbould) talk about how they can woo a woman with fear. He soon gets his chance to prove this theory after someone appears to break into the house after his parents, played by Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton, leave for their Christmas party; it is from this point on that things get strange, demented, and twisted.

I won’t say too much more to preserve the twist and turns. This movie features a clever script that is reminiscent of both Chris Columbus’ Home Alone and Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. The performances from everyone are incredible, especially from Levi Miller and Ed Oxenbould, and Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton give fun performances with the little screen time they have. If you want a twisted, and subversive take on the home invasion genre with a holiday twist, I would highly recommend Better Watch Out.

Rating 4/5