I don't think it'd be an understatement to say I set my bar of expectations very low for Venom. The 2018 superhero film is based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, but is from a production company that is still very much estranged from the Marvel Cinematic Universe that has thus far built a reputation for entertaining, well-produced superhero adventures. They aren't all classics, with some very so-so films on their resume, but, for the most part, I'd say I've enjoyed what the MCU has brought to the table, accomplishing the unprecedented feat of creating story-arches that have unfolded across around twenty films now. I think it's appropriate to say Sony might not be learning the best lesson from all of this in-terms of what will make the best films, however.
Nostalgia is very powerful in the entertainment-industry, as film companies try to appeal to the youth, they simultaneously try to appeal to adults in-search of that child-like wonder they felt in their youth. In 2015, a big-screen feature-film for the Goosebumps was released, and I was on-board. I enjoyed the R. L. Stine novels when I was a kid. A lot of them were derivative and hastily rushed onto book shelves, but, I did have an appreciation and respect for the way R.L. Stine brought old-school monster stories and made them relevant and engaging to a younger audience. It was for that reason a Goosebumps film made a lot sense to me, like the television series that also adapted Stine’s work. I wrote a review of the film on Out of Frame when it was released, and I more-or-less said it was everything it needed to be and would be fun for its core audience, eventually rating it a score of “Decent” or a “5 out of 10”. I was hopeful they would create a sequel, but I didn’t know the likelihood of that. The first film made 150 million worldwide with a production budget estimated of around 60 to 80 million dollars, and when you factor in the amount of the profit that’s divvied up to the theater-chains, then, calculate the amount also invested into marketing the film, there’s no way Goosebumps could’ve broken even on theater sales alone. That said, it seems the film must’ve found a second-life on the home-market and through streaming services, as, the new film Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween did get greenlit and released, this time with a production budget of about half its first film. Does the film flounder the potential of a Goosebumps franchise or does it rise to the occasion to deliver something that can be fun for a new era of fans?
The Purge first arrived in 2013, bolstering the brilliant premise of an event in time where all crime would be considered as legal. In-general, I think we can all admit that a lot of horror franchises tend to milk themselves for all their worth or overstay their welcome, but every now and again, a concept like The Purge arrives that makes sense for the long-haul. The possibilities and angles you could take The Purge are virtually limitless. It could implement elements of a home-invasion horror, which is something we saw in the original film, or incorporate traits of a slasher flick, something seen on some level in the fourth film. It has a lot of ways you could tackle it, but one way, from what we’ve seen so far, it can’t be tackled, is very well. When the first film arrived, it squandered the potential its concept had, and, as I wrote in my review on Mishmashers at the time of its release, it amounted to a Below-Average film. In 2014, I believe they righted their wrongs on a lot of levels. Although The Purge: Anarchy opted for a more action-oriented approach, it at least was able to capture a liveliness and did attempt to realize its concept. My favorite scene from that film involved a swinging pendulum that nearly kills the main-character, and when it doesn’t, it’s met with disappointed reactions from the perpetrators. The reason I liked it is because that’s what I wanted from Purge as a series, a depraved world that doesn’t understand the extent of its misdeeds and allows for a day of uncontrolled chaos. Not only that, but I believed the aesthetic and the amount of people involved would have made fodder for some intense and inspired horror. Imagine a scene where the main-protagonist is being chased around by a madman, and the camera pans out far enough to show several people are experiencing the same thing at the same time. Or escaping one madman only to find another.
The Conjuring series arrived unexpectedly in 2013, although, in-retrospect, it seemed like we should have anticipated it. James Wan had already flourished and found success with the SAW franchise, the Insidious series, and had more than a handful of horror productions on his resume, it was only a matter-of-time before he had such a financially and critically lucrative break-through. In the 2000s, very few horror films have managed to cross the 300 million thresholds. Even less if you omit series’ that only share strands of the genre’s DNA like The Meg or World War Z. It only leaves The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2, the more-recent adaptation of Stephen Kings’ IT, Annabelle: Creation, and now, The Nun. A film series managing to outdo itself in the horror genre so many times is unheard-of, and while the series may have peaked with the original film from a critical standpoint, although, my favorite of the series remains The Conjuring 2, The Conjuring Universe really is the first time we’ve ever seen an established horror world since the loose-threads that connected the Universal Monster films of yesteryear.
Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich looked like a film capable of ushering in a new wave of interest in the nearly three-decade old interest, and, at long-last, it looked like it had individuals a little more equipped with the tools needed to project Charles Bands’ ambitions on the screen. Directed by Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund, it was more the writer of this film that piqued my interest, S. Craig Zahler, whose other credentials include the overlooked gem of Bonesaw Tomahawk, a film released around the same time as The Hateful Eight, also involving Kurt Russell, that I prefer over the Tarantino film.
Existing in a parallel universe to the original Puppet Master series, the film makes minor tweaks and modifications to the series’ lore and thematic approach. Some have compared this film and its arguably more callous attitude as closer to a Troma production than a Full Moon Feature, which I think is grasping at straws for a comparison’s sake. Unlike the original series, which featured the dolls conceive by Toulon, an individual who greatly opposed The Third Reich, this film follows Andre Toulon as a Nazi who animated the puppets as weaponry for The Third Reach, sternly affirming Toulon and the Puppets as antagonists, whereas, in the original series, they were more flexible. The film follows the main-character played by Thomas Lennon, an actor I’m surprised to say I recognized, who moves back in with his parents after divorcing his wife, and attends a convention, looking to sell a puppet he uncovers in his deceased brother’s bedroom. He, alongside his best-friend and recently acquainted girlfriend, soon find themselves caught off-guard when their puppet, as well as the many puppets at the convention, come alive and look to start back where they left off.
When I left the theater after watching Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I had a giddy excitement from the whole affair. Although I enjoyed Rise of the Planet of the Apes, when I watched Dawn, I felt it checked all the boxes, delivering an ambitious epic and one of the best science-fiction films I’d ever seen. As excited as I was for the film, I will admit I left War for the Planet of the Apes with a certain pensive misalignment of emotion. I enjoyed what I watched, but I didn’t boast about the film with the same enthusiasm as its predecessor. Directed by Matt Reeves (same as Dawn), the third installment in the Planet of the Apes reboot series, War for the Planet of the Apes bolsters a grandeur narrative and capable cast, ones from the previous movies, as well as trading Gary Oldman for Woody Harrelson, but does the film cap-off the series firing at all cylinders? Did my heightened, perhaps unrealistic, expectations for the film unfairly detriment my initial response? In my second-watch of the film, this time on Blu-Ray, I attempt to answer that.
Mad Max: Fury Road was released in 2015, an action film co-written, produced, and directed by George Miller, alongside the assists with Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris for the screenplay, the film acts as the fourth installment in the Mad Max franchise and a reboot of the series overall. A post-apocalyptic adventure bolstered by chaos-driven trailers, I was excited for the film without having seen its predecessors, which starred Mel Gibson in the titular role. The film received critical acclaim from critics, but was, at best, a modest success at the box-office, unable to fully recoup its marketing and production budget through movie tickets alone. Winning six Academy Awards, the Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron fronted film has undoubtedly left an impression on moviegoers and critics alike, but is the film worth all the enthusiasm from those who’ve seen it, or is the box-office returns a sign of its limited, niche appeal?
When Ant-Man arrived in 2015, I couldn’t help but find myself disappointed in the finished product. In truth, it was an average-fare that would have left me satiated had it come in the initial phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Unfortunately, as Marvel’s series of films encumbered the theaters at a more rampant, abundant rate, and began reaching new heights, it was definite to me that Ant-Man simply couldn’t tread water to the best of them, providing a light-weight, disposable film that found itself more toward the bottom of the Marvel catalogue, while films like Captain America: The Winter Solider and Guardians of the Galaxy stood out with home-runs for the series in Phase Two. Thankfully, with that said, I feel comfortable saying that Marvel’s twentieth film in their series Ant-Man and the Wasp is a noticeable uptick from its predecessor. But, how much of an actual improvement is it?
Hotel Transylvania is a film-franchise I’ve never really enjoyed a whole lot, which begs the question of why I even bothered to buy a movie-ticket to Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation at all, if I intended to be sour-puss and gripe about it. I wouldn’t say I despise them, rather, I think they go down easier than the average Adam Sandler fare, benefited by the visual gags and zany animation. The issue, really, is I’ve always considered them very light-weight. If Disney (and thereby, Pixar) bolster the best animation in-terms of production-value and storytelling (at least in mainstream United States cinema), next, would be DreamWorks, and then, after that, Warner Bros. Animation, and then, battling for their own spot, Illumination and Sony Pictures Animation would meet. Obviously, Illumination is much more successful, but they’re both cut from the same cloth. They’re films certainly stand taller than animations like Norm of the North or The Nut Job, but they have a certain lack of polish and an approach more attuned to the interests of the younger crowd, whereas other companies like Pixar and so on, feel like their films are accessible to children without feeling abhorrent to adults. The Hotel Transylvania series has always carried a zany but contrived execution, more about providing a basic vehicle for Adam Sandler gang related gags and humor than about a substantial film. They’re casual, they’re junk-food. Be that as it may, I think Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation stands as the best in the series yet.
What is Mishmashers (dot) com?
Started in late-2017, Mishmashers.com is a website by brothers Scott Moore and McConnaughay as a way to share their opinion on an array of different topics, as well as shine a light on their written works. Both brothers are passionate about their work and have dedicated a significant amount of time and resources to their respected works.
- Perfect (10 outta 10)
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- Good (7 outta 10)
- Above Average (6 outta 10)
- Decent (5 outta 10)
- Below Average (4 outta 10)
- Bad (3 outta 10)
- Very Bad (2 outta 10)
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