Blackboard Jungle Review

Public School has always had a reputation for getting rather tough depending on what schools you go to. You see bullies in all kinds of media that take place at school but the extent to which the bullies attack will certainly vary from place to place. Blackboard Jungle takes you to one of the more intense classes and certainly means trouble for the main guy. You do feel like the bullies get away with a whole lot here though and everyone turns a blind eye which can get annoying.

So the film starts with Richard finally getting his first teaching job. It’s something he’s been looking forward to for a long time since this is the career he wants to follow. Joshua and Lois will also be starting their tenures at the same time. Why so many open spots? Well, nobody wants to teach at this school because it has a reputation for housing the worst students possible. You’ll likely leave in an ambulance and so the vacancies keep piling on. Richard figures he can handle this but is he really ready for this school?

Within a week of teaching Lois gets assaulted, Richard gets severely beaten, and Joshua’s priceless record collection gets utterly smashed. Yeah this school lives up to its reputation for sure. Richard figures out that Gregory seems to be the class leader to an extent and figures that if he can win him over, the rest will follow. It’ll be difficult though since Richard isn’t exactly the most subtle guy around and if Gregory does a 180 just like that things are going to get dangerous. With both of them on different sides there are no easy paths.

My main issues with the film definitely come from the faculty though. All right so first off lets touch on the scene where Richard gets completely beaten up in the alley. He’s jumped by around 7 kids so he and Joshua are quickly taken down for the count. The next day when the police arrive Richard doesn’t want to cooperate. Now he figures that getting sent to jail or reform school will do a lot of harm to these kids…but these kids are doing a lot of harm to others right now.

I can’t get behind the lead’s decision to act as though nothing happened. We later see a few of these kids jump a pair of deliverymen who hopefully live through the ordeal but at the very least their truck was taken away. Those are injuries and possible deaths that are now directly on Richard’s shoulders. In effect he’s enabling this behavior to continue by not helping.

Then you have Joshua who at this point knows a lot about how dangerous the class is. Yet…he’s going to bring his priceless record collection into work? Why?…that makes no sense. He must have known how this was going to go. Instead he’s man handled by the kids as they break all of his records and he can’t do a thing about it. It’s the kids’ fault of course but I also have to shake my head at Joshua having such an idea in the first place. Common Sense alone would tell you that this is a really bad idea.

Next up one of the kids also attacks Lois and things could have really gotten ugly if Richard hadn’t noticed in time. Bear in mind that the kids attacked Richard later on as revenge for getting this kid into prison. If the kids are sticking up for this guy then they’re just as bad so even more reason for Richard not to look the other way. This scene is especially dark even for this film also. The school looks pretty bad for allowing this situation to even come into play.

Lois is a rather shady character throughout the film with how she goes after Richard but still didn’t deserve this kind of scare. The worst part is that one of the other teachers foreshadowed that this might happen and yet evidently nobody took any steps to help out. This is where I bring in the principal in my blame game. The guy seems to be completely oblivious to everything going on in his school. It’s like he doesn’t even realize the reputation his classes have or that none of the teachers take their jobs seriously. That means the principal isn’t doing his job well either to be so out of the loop.

He needs to get in some safety features and actually take an active role. Otherwise it’s all just talk on his part. While most of the kids here are pretty awful Artie is shown to be one of the worst ones. That buy is constantly trying to get the kids to go in as bad a direction as possible. Unfortunately pretty much all of the kids are ready to follow his lead. The only kid shown to even be somewhat decent is Gregory.

That’s considering that Gregory is on board with most of this the whole time but at least he tries to help Richard out when possible. It’s clear that he has more heart than the others. Finally you have Richard’s wife Anne who is trying to have a baby but it’s tough with all the constant stress. Naturally the kids go after her with some incriminating notes to get after Richard. It’s a shame that she didn’t reach out to Richard about it right away since it would have helped at least remove one trouble but it’s also too bad nobody noticed the kids heading to the mailbox each day.

At the end of the day I was on Anne’s side in terms of telling Richard to just get another job. This one’s clearly too dangerous and at times Richard was lucky to get away with his life. These weren’t just teen delinquents like in an old comedy film or something. These guys were straight up assaulting people in broad daylight and carried knives/were willing to murder. That’s a little far beyond the pale for a teacher to deal with.

I would where Blackboard Jungle falters is that it’s so dark it starts to get a little unrealistic. The rest of the town seems so nice but with crimes being committed on the regular it feels like the place would be quite a bit different. If you’re the cops why don’t you have someone around the school if things like this are happening every day? I guess if the teachers all act like Richard with refusing help then it’s easy to see why that would happen though.

Overall, Blackboard Jungle has the characters making horror movie type decisions which always put them in the worst spot possible. Working at the most dangerous school in the city? All right, time to get drunk out of your mind and then take a shortcut through an abandoned dark alley. First days on the job in a school of delinquents? Time to stay at school after class and seduce the main guy while nobody’s around. Receiving threatening calls and letters from someone? Don’t tell the cops and instead head to the crazy school all by yourself….the decisions just keep on coming right after the other. I would definitely say to just give this one a pass. If you want to watch a film about Teachers vs Rebellious students, watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off instead.

Overall 3/10

Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? Review

This film is certainly trippy that’s for sure but unfortunately it’s not in a good way. Sure, some scenes can be really good to be sure, but on the whole the film feels pointless a lot of the time and the ending doesn’t exactly help matters either. From start to finish you’re wondering if the film is leading up to something. Some kind of big twist that will change the way you look at the whole picture but it just never comes.

The movie starts out with Georgie jumping off a building but instead of exploding on the ground he wakes up at his therapist’s office. It turns out that it was just another delusion of his. Georgie has a tendency to imagine his own death quite a lot so you’ll see other kinds of scenes like that as the film goes on. He also has a wild imagination as he pictures the therapist breaking into song at one point as he tells Georgie to stop bothering him with his problems.

Georgie’s main issue is that he has completely lost his grip on reality prior to the film even beginning. Due to that, you really can’t trust him at all. Part of the main plot which you can guess from the title is that someone named Harry keeps telling everyone that Georgie’s a really bad guy. Most of them are even believing the guy which isn’t hard since Georgie hasn’t done well for himself.

He cheated on his first wife and was quick to have more affairs later on so you can’t trust him. He stole a magazine from a street vendor for no real reason and his best friend seems to have absolutely 0 morals. So right now Georgie isn’t exactly batting 1000, in fact you could say he is striking out repeatedly. So his reputation isn’t already all that good but why would it be when he calls his accountant to read him the books at 4:30AM and calls his friend at 3:30?

At least some of Georgie’s fantasies are pretty fun. The crazier they are the more it works. Towards the end of the film we get a serious revelation and then another intense scene that seems like it could be a dream. Due to what we have seen earlier you can make a lot of theories here. Did the dream start in the final cutaway or was the earlier bit part of the dream as well? See, personally I think it was a dream for the entirety of the climax. It fits in with his other self destructive dreams but with this guy you just never know. For all we know the whole film is something he’s imagining while falling off of the building from the opening scene.

Now, a film about constant delusions could be fun if handled right but this one isn’t quite going the distance there. The film likes to jump from the present to the past a lot and while Georgie is a little more sane there, he still doesn’t seem totally rational. Just look at his conversation with his wife when they both admit that they’ve been cheating on the other. The whole conversation is incredibly stilted and you’re just wondering what you’re watching.

In general the writing just isn’t good. The Psychiatrist is the only character who has a lot of good lines and continues to make his presence known. The scene of him bursting into song has to be the best moment of the film without a doubt. Beyond that the dialogue just won’t really capture your interest, especially when you factor in how the characters that are talking just aren’t likable. You’ve got the rebound characters for Georgie, his friend who basically dates everyone, and Harry but that guy never even appears. Part of the mystery is about finding out who Harry is but I think you’ll have that one solved by about halfway in.

Somewhere in this movie is probably a cool concept but it’s just buried far too deep underneath everything else for it to shine through. There’s one easy way to fix the film and that’s to make Georgie a likable character. That’s really it, if you do that then the whole film will end up being quite good or at the very least it improves in every area.

Think about it, the reason why we aren’t invested is because there’s no reason to really like Georgie. He’s an immoral cheat who doesn’t regret anything. Now, if he was a nice guy whose life was being wrecked by someone trying to tarnish his reputation, then I think we would have something here. It’s more of a relatable issue and one where you can feel how serious it is because a lot of times people will believe what they hear without even trying to hear your side of the story. So that would up the stakes of trying to find Harry.

Here, you don’t quite feel that. Additionally, it may be a big part of the plot but when does Georgie even try to find the guy? The problem is he really has no leads so almost 100% of the film he isn’t even trying to find the guy. He talks tough about wanting to get him but it’s all tough talk and bluster. None of it feels all that real which is an issue. There is no sense of urgency because Georgie isn’t urgent. He’s too busy thinking about having more one night stands than thinking about the mystery.

Overall, While the intent of the film is to be aimless as we sift through Georgie’s delusions, the movie doesn’t capitalize on this. To pull off such a plot the execution has to be flawless and I wouldn’t say this one nailed any of the core concepts. The characters were pretty bad, the story was shaky, and there isn’t really any concrete area that I can point to and say that the film did well. At best, I would give the film some props for the dream sequences. Those were good like the Skiing, falling off a building (twice when you consider the moment with the other heroine) and the sing along, but that’s about it. It can’t save the movie when the main story is this bad. Maybe it should have just made the whole film a dream, now that could have been a lot more interesting as the world keeps on forming different parts of his consciousness so we have to figure out what is going on in the real world. Maybe next time.

Overall 3/10

Slender Man Review

The Slender Man was definitely a character who got pretty big for a while. Perhaps not as big as Freddy Fazbear but since Slender Man was involved in court proceedings and such he may have gotten more screen time for a while. Naturally the movie came out very late once most of this was already done. It’s not a very impressive horror film though. Slender Man himself doesn’t even get to do anything for the longest time and the film is more about setting up the atmosphere than doing anything with it. Slender Man just doesn’t stick out.

The movie starts with the 4 main girls Katie, Wren, Hallie, and Chloe deciding to have a girls night out to summon Slender Man after hearing that the guys were going to do it. Little did they know the guys decided not to summon him in the end. So the girls watch the tape that summons him and immediately they all feel the fear. Usually after something like that you would expect the characters to just laugh it off or something but they take it deadly serious. You can already tell that the film is going to be rather dramatic the whole time. They figure they will go about their lives as normal except then Katie goes missing a few days later. Can they possibly rescue her from Slender Man or is it already too late?

You feel like it probably is too late at this point since usually you aren’t able to do much against these supernatural creatures but at the same time since a lot of focus is put on trying to bring her back then maybe there is a slight shot. Mainly Wren is the one trying her hardest as she does a lot of research to the point where she basically goes insane and manic over a lack of sleep. She does well in learning about him but also takes far more chances then you would want.

For example, she goes to the message boards that Katie was posting in about Slender Man. The main user there quickly lets her know that Katie is gone and the only way to try and bring her back is to make a deal with Slender Man. As part of this deal she needs to go into the wilderness and blindfold herself in the dead of night along with her friends. Here’s the problem, based on the videos that Katie sent in the chat, this user knows roughly where she lives.

The user would also then know where the forest is so saying that you will go there at night blindfolded is not a great plan. Even if Slender Man isn’t real, the alternative is that this user may have had something to do with her disappearance. If that is the case then you’re pretty much throwing your life away by following his advice. It’s also a shame to see the characters throwing away their prized possessions. Of course if you actually think this could be real then it’s admirable to take these risks to try and save your friend.

Wren is definitely the best character in the movie. She easily takes the most chances and puts in a lot of work to save Katie. Without her the other characters probably wouldn’t have done much of anything. After all, they were doing their best to avoid even thinking about the video. Even when Wren was being up front with them about the nightmares and such they kept trying to act as if it wasn’t happening. They weren’t too convincing about it either.

Slender Man throws in a bunch of jump scares of course but nothing too noteworthy. You have people looking distorted or Katie’s drunk father breaking into the house but for the most part it’s all rather standard like that. You figure Slender Man himself won’t try anything for a while. One scene that was at least visually interesting was when Slender Man started rewriting reality so the library started looking off. He would extend the distance to go anywhere which sort of locks you in a bad spot.

This helps to offset that his design doesn’t look very intimidating. Not only has he skipped leg day for decades but he doesn’t have any real muscle either. He does have one moment where he causes someone’s face to be empty like his which certainly seems like a tough trick to get around since you can’t talk at that point. His actual screen time is so small though. For a film called Slender Man you would expect to see him a little more right? It’s not like we’re ever meant to think he’s not real. It’s clear from the start that he is actually around.

By the end of the film there really isn’t much of a happy ending considering the body count. At the same time, there was never any way the heroes could have defeated him which makes this an exercise in futility. It’s something that particularly happens in horror films a lot that can be annoying. If you write a villain out to be absolutely untouchable then what is even the point? Slender Man has no weaknesses. You can barter with him but that’s about it.

When you remove any chance of even damaging the guy then it’s like the heroes are fighting against an abstract force. At least with films like Friday the 13th and Scream you can see the heroes putting up a fight. You figure they’ll lose in the end anyway but at least it’s close. Although supernatural forces are more interesting to battle with, it’s nullified if the whole journey is pointless.

I’ll give Slender Man the slimmest of credits for at least being fairly tame though. It’s not throwing out gratuitous violence or super gritty deaths at you. There isn’t a lot of crazy language which is usually the norm for these films. All in all it’s a lot tamer than you may think although it’s still quite dark. Slender Man seems to always be going after kids and teens after all which may also mean that he’s nervous about getting adults. That’s pure head canon though since his abilities would suggest that this would be easy as well.

Overall, Slender Man set the tone early when the characters got super disturbed after watching a low quality video about Slender Man. It was just a few images looping at high speeds so it’s hard to see why they were so affected. Apparently they all felt something as Wren would later state but that’s when you knew that the characters were doomed. They were terrified long before they met Slender Man. Katie also seemed to have made a rather iffy choice once we learn more details about what happened with her. She could have at least left the other characters a note or something right? It’s certainly nice that Slender Man got a film I suppose but it’s really just a standard horror film about a group of teens trying to survive for as long as they can against an utterly invincible foe. The characters aren’t particularly likable and there’s just nothing to hook you on the film.

Overall 3/10

A Kiss Before Dying Review

Whenever you have a film trying to cross over some romance and horror you know that it’s a tricky mix to pull off. Both genres are already tough enough as it is and this movie definitely couldn’t defy the odds. You’re just waiting for the characters to solve the mystery and end things already but clearly it won’t be quite so easy.

The movie starts off by introducing us to Bud and Dorothy. They’re a couple who are seemingly getting along well but one day Dorothy finds out that she is pregnant. Naturally this was not exactly planned and Bud is now worried about his future prospects. He decides that he’s going to need to bump her off to get himself out of this. He’ll have to do it subtly though or people will suspect that something’s up. He ends up throwing her off a building. While the police believe this may have been a suicide, Dorothy’s sister Ellen isn’t convinced. She gets a local police assistant named Gordon to help her out with this. Can they reach the truth?

I hesitate to even put in the part about Bud taking out Dorothy but that is really the main plot even if it takes a rather long time for that plot to end. There’s a ton of build up to it first as the film milks each scene. I guess the intent is so you can think that maybe Dorothy has a shot at escaping but that never seemed very likely so I don’t know about that one. It does mean that the first half feels really long though and tends to drag on.

Perhaps if there was some reason the film gave us on why Dorothy might escape then you would be able to enjoy this as a rather thrilling moment. Thing is, we know Bud will be able to take her out so then instead of tension you’re just waiting for the film to get on with it and go to the next scene already.

Bud’s definitely one of those guys you’re not meant to sympathize with or even find interesting as a villain. He’s always running around scared and hoping that he’s in the right place at the right time. The film really makes sure to double down on this as he’s even extremely rude to his mother the whole time. Nobody notices what a guy he is though so unfortunately he lasts for quite a while as everyone cheers him on for being a rather intelligent guy who is very studious.

As for Dorothy, she was a good character but definitely not quick on the uptake. Bud wasn’t exactly subtle at his displeasure of her getting pregnant. By the time he would put on his happy face it should have been way too late. She somehow didn’t notice when he pushed her down a flight of stairs as well. The guy’s just way too suspicious throughout the movie but I suppose in a way she just wanted everything to work out. You can sympathize with her a lot to be sure though. You really wanted her to have some kind of happy ending.

Then you have Ellen who is a very proactive character. It is cool to see her do some detective work of her own. Her first adventure almost backfired but at least she is trying to find clues and everything which is a big step up from doing nothing. Now, she does start to slip a whole lot towards the end of the film though. Refusing to listen to new developments and such is a bad look. I can understand if it was only Mr. Kingship but when the cops show up with this info as well you should probably listen.

It was a little disappointed that she then drove up with Bud to a rather abandoned area without bringing a handgun or something. It’s why you certainly can’t let romance blind you or that’ll put you in some sticky situations for sure. It’s part of why Gordon was good since he clearly liked Ellen but at the end of the day his job came first. Even if it meant she wouldn’t be his friend anymore, he had to pursue the case. He also managed to pursue it rather well. He isn’t a full fledged cop yet but you can tell that he will have the skills to make it.

Certainly more skills than the DJ. The problem with that guy is one I have with many characters in a hold up situation. Okay, put it this way, Bud has already said he’s going to murder the guy. It’s quite clear that the DJ isn’t leaving the room alive. In light of that, why not at least make a try for the gun or something? This guy is trying to play this up as a suicide which only works if the DJ sits on the chair real quiet like and allows himself to be shot in a way that is easy to fake.

If he struggles, wrestles with Bud or gets shot as he runs, it’ll be very obvious that it is not a suicide. Effectively you’re calling the killer’s bluff. Still, there is a good chance you’ll die but isn’t it better to take a chance then go for the 0% survival rate of just sitting there and taking it? The DJ was massively disappointing there. I’ll never understand why a characters just accepts his death in such a situation.

Finally, Mr. Kingship was a good character as well. There’s a lot of tension between him and Ellen. From what we see of him in the film he’s definitely a nice enough character but clearly prior to the film’s start he could be a little controlling. We can only really judge on what’s going on now though so I thought he was fairly supportive and did his best.

Overall, I wasn’t really a fan of this film. It certainly comes off as quite a bit mean spirited with almost a third of the film being devoted to scenes building up the main heroine’s death when we know she has no chance of escaping. Bud managing to hook up with her own sister was also quite sketchy and just kept the drama going. It’s rather convenient that Bud got away with so much or that nobody knew he had been going out with her. It’s a small town so I don’t care how secret they were about it, it should have come out during the initial investigation. As Bud’s such an unlikable character having him as the main protagonist for so long also didn’t help matters. You’re just waiting for him to eventually go down which ultimately makes the pacing feel slow as well. If you want to check out a thriller, this definitely isn’t the one to pick.

Overall 3/10

Inside Daisy Clover Review

This film I technically saw almost a month ago but it’s time to finally look at one of those films that tries to tell you not to become a famous actress. At the very least it reminds you not to trust random people who may not have your best interests at heart. Inside Daisy Clover is an annoying film where the main character makes every mistake possible so there’s a rather depressing atmosphere around at all times. The film never really gets any better either…so you can tell this is not one I would recommend.

The movie starts by showing us that Daisy’s got a pretty rough life at the moment. Her father ran off a long time ago and her sister quickly escaped as well. Her mother lives in a broken down trailer but doesn’t really want to change her lifestyle. As a result Daisy works at a little record company where she is constantly harassed by one of her supposed friends. When she is able to potentially get work as an actress she quickly ditches this place as fast as possible. Raymond will be her boss now and he only has 3 rules, 1. Nobody must ever find out about Daisy’s past, 2. No affairs with local actor Wade, and 3. She must do whatever he says in order to make the films a masterpiece. Can Daisy do this?

Well, right away Daisy begins to have an affair with Wade who convinces her to go visit her mother at the asylum and then they skip a conference so the rules are out the window. Part of the problem with Daisy is she is portrayed as a little naïve most of the time. She is very quick to believe that Wade actually cares for her despite the guy’s rep as a flirt who has an affair with everyone. Here’s my problem, why would you think that you’re different? If someone’s already betrayed 6-10 people, why not mess with one more?

He pulls this off more than once and each time Daisy thinks that things might be different. Deciding to get married was also one of those scenes where you just shake your head. Then she rebounds into a romance with Raymond who we find out is definitely not a good guy. He even starts to get violent when she is sick in bed with some trauma over the whole thing. The end of the film is in theory trying to put Daisy in a happier spot after hitting rock bottom but things are definitely not going to be easy for her considering all of the burned bridges everywhere.

The issue is that Daisy just isn’t likable right from the start. She didn’t have the best upbringing so you’re not surprised to see her acting out but you kind of hopes that during the film she would have been able to change herself. Unfortunately that just wasn’t to be. It goes without saying that all of the other characters are bad though. Yes, you won’t find a single good character here which is really unfortunate.

Her childhood friend basically just wants to fool around with her and can’t keep his mind on anything else. Wade is much the same way as he goes around the country having affairs. Raymond is completely focused on making a lot of money and will use anyone to get it such as poor Daisy. His wife is a drunk who knows what is going on but can’t do anything about it so she just keeps on drinking. Daisy’s mother burns her house down and always acts irresponsibly. I guess you could say Daisy’s sister was reasonable but even for her the film hinted she was only around for the money.

A film can only be as good as its cast and this cast as abysmal. The writing is also not that impressive as the film just tries to make things as depressing as possible throughout. Daisy never manages to catch a break or she just keeps on digging a deeper hole for herself. Even the film bits aren’t particularly interesting. The only scene that I thought was at least a little effective was when she was in the studio and had to keep on doing a retake for the same song over and over again.

Raymond didn’t look very smart here since he should have known that she was close to a breakdown but decided to continue anyway. Well, that’s why he ended up with this result. We kept changing camera perspectives from inside the recording booth to outside where it is completely sound proof so it was an interesting parallel. It’s almost directed like a bit of a horror scene which was pretty cool. Not the kind of scene that can save a film of course but at least it’s one that I certainly remembered.

One of the general morals here seems to be that being an actress is never worth it. You’ll inevitably end up in a bad setting with people trying to trick you and the money drying up right away. That seems to be how all of these films end at least although you hope if Daisy had at least not fallen for Wade then maybe she would have been able to succeed on her own. It’s unlikely but you never know.

Overall, Inside Daisy Clover was a pretty bad film. The movie is going for a rather gritty vibe from the start with how her town seems rather town down and even the glitzy world of Hollywood seems rather darker than usual. Just take a look at the place she auditions when you watch the movie. It’s a dark hole in the wall with only one functioning light. Everything seems shady and run down in this world so good luck finding any place that looks okay except for Raymond’s mansion which is spooky in itself. I think doing a film about how horrible a career acting is will always be a difficult task because you have to make everything seem as dark and unpleasant as possible but then that means you probably won’t have any likable characters or you would have to bump them off. I’m sure some would do a better job than Inside Daisy Clover though so definitely pass this one by and look for something better. Maybe check out Singing in the Rain for how this should be done but in a more positive light.

Overall 3/10

Upgrade Review

This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative

When you think of getting an upgrade you’re probably thinking of going from cheese fries to loaded at Checkers or maybe trading in your PS2 for a PS5. Well, here we take a more violent approach to the upgrade. The film tries a little too hard with making this as edgy as possible so while it’s a pretty good premise, it’s definitely not a film that will have you singing its praises by the end. Not every film can hit the winning home run though.

The movie starts with Grey finishing a car he had been fixing and Asha returning home from work. He wants her to see the eccentric house of the guy whose car he had fixed. It’s definitely an interesting one but on the way home her electronic car malfunctions and both of them crash. Asha ends up being murdered by a group of bandits while they sever Grey’s ability to move his arms or legs. Fortunately, the guy whose car Grey fixed allows Grey to try a piece of experimental new tech. This allows him full control of his arms and legs again except that it is through the program STEM which even talks to him now. Is Grey really in control or is STEM pulling the strings? Grey doesn’t have time to think about it though because while the cops have been unable to find the guys who murdered his wife, STEM has some ideas.

The film clearly takes place in the future with all of the crazy gadgets that are everywhere. You have automatic cars that are incredibly advanced and even the buildings look high-end. Technology is moving pretty fast and Grey resents that a bit because all of the practical hands on kind of tasks have been removed. A.I. control everything now so there is really no escape. However, as Grey notes, criminals still get away with everything so it’s like the extra surveillance doesn’t even matter.

Of course the main plot of the film is about Grey trying to find the murderers and then take them down. Grey isn’t much of a fighter but that’s why STEM is here. STEM is able to temporarily take control of Grey’s body and then allow him to fight at full power. Basically Grey can go on auto pilot mode and let STEM do everything. It’s pretty handy but of course then Grey is actively surrendering his body to something else so is the price too high for this success? That’s the kind of question he has to ask himself.

STEM makes for a pretty interesting A.I. He sounds a whole lot like Hal 9000 so I think from the start everyone is meant to be wary of him. He can certainly fight well though I’ll give him that. He has absolutely no mercy for anyone who is in his way. STEM is the kind of character who figures that straight up murdering the opponents is most efficient so that’s never particularly surprising. These kind of A.I. villains are always interesting so I was on board with this.

As for Grey, he’s not quite as likable a main character. I can see why he wants to avenge his wife so going on the quest to stop these guys is a good start. He does have a habit of throwing up a whole lot though. The film has several scenes of this which is always pretty gross. While STEM does all of the hard work, Grey effectively signs off on most of it by not telling him to stop. Even when he does tell STEM to back off, it’s usually once it’s too late to do much of anything either. So he’s either all in and willing to help STEM murder the opponents or he’s not but the character can be a bit wishy washy about the whole thing.

The character cast is fairly small here as you’ve got the scientist, Grey, STEM, and the murderers. That’s pretty much it. For supporting characters you do have Grey’s mother though and the police agent Cortez. Cortez means well but she is definitely messing with forces that are a little too powerful for her at the moment. Grey is effectively a super soldier with STEM active after all and she would have died instantly upon entering if Grey wasn’t fighting back. Her options are rather limited though since how do you even know if you should take a guy down when he is being controlled?

Where Upgrade falters though is in how unrelentlessly violent the film is. We get a rather long scene of STEM torturing someone to death and all of the fights are pretty brutal as he snaps limbs and destroys everyone he comes across. Get ready for a lot of headshots and other such moments. Even the vomiting all over the place is probably another way to be rather gritty as Grey represents the audience reacting to this level of violence. The fight scene between Grey and another one of the upgraded humans was definitely good though. At least that had a lot of good choreography the whole time and made for a good back and forth battle.

It was like a comic book fight which is good. Whenever you leave that part though and get back to the murders then the film dials it up once again. That aspect definitely should have been toned down. As for the ending, I can see that one being rather mixed. It’s definitely a pretty bold way to end though and could lead the way for some sequels. After the initial shock value is over though, you may have some questions on exactly how this plays out. I think all of the questions can be answered though as you just realize that everything was a lie. With that knowledge in place, then everything does even out. After all, it just comes down to acting.

Overall, Upgrade has a pretty interesting plot. It’s a classic revenge story with Grey being willing to loosen his morals a great deal in order to secure a decisive victory. That being said, the film goes too far into edgy territory. This film could have absolutely been executed well without going so far over the top. In particular I’m never on board with the main character torturing someone to get what he wants. Grey allowing that to happen at all was definitely a shame. The film has its share of funny scenes as well although for the most part it is quite serious. If you want a film with a better blend of the two genres…then go watch Venom. You can see similarities between the two of them but Venom just handled all of this better.

Overall 3/10

Gone Girl Review

This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative

Time to look at a pretty ambitious murder mystery film that certainly takes you through quite the roller coaster. At around 2 and a half hours you can imagine that a lot is going to happen here. It’s the kind of film where there will be a lot of debate on what part of the story would be considered a spoiler. Where should you stop the summary if you want people to get the full experience? Typically for convenience I’d just say anything in any of the main trailers is not a spoiler and anything beyond that is. That said, I haven’t seen the trailers for this film so lets see how this goes.

My spoiler free summary would be: Nick heads home on his 5th anniversary to celebrate with his wife Amy. Unfortunately she isn’t there and there are several signs of a struggle in the house. He calls in the cops who do an investigation but they quickly begin to suspect that Nick is the one who bumped off his wife. The setup just doesn’t look right and he keeps on missing details or giving them incorrect information about his wife. Either he didn’t know her very well or he is hiding something. Can Nick prove his innocence and find out who really attacked his wife? He will have to hurry before his life is effectively over.

It’s definitely a pretty intense premise partially because you don’t know if you can trust Nick or not. The very first scene is him thinking about murdering Amy after all so the film is immediately giving you reason not to trust him. He keeps on saying that Amy had no friends and basically no life outside of being at home all the time so that sounds a bit shady on its face as well. There are just a lot of angles to tackle this at so you’re left to your devices as the film keeps things rolling.

Gradually we learn more and more to the point where the film’s plot completely changes from how it started. This wouldn’t be a proper mystery film if you could easily guess the ending right? The main cast is fairly small so each player is able to do a lot. Nick doesn’t make for a likable main character though and in general you may find it hard to find anyone to root for. The two best characters in the film were easily the main cop Rhonda and Nick’s lawyer Tanner. Both of them were always ready for whatever the next step was and how to get ready for it.

There’s more to say on this but I think it’s time to jump into the spoiler part of the review so if you haven’t seen the film yet you can skip the next _ paragraphs as we dive into the nitty gritty details here. So you have enough time to escape as you speed read this I am putting this empty sentence of nothingness/filler that I am typing up as I type this, but then it’s time to dash because we’re going right into this. Are you ready?

So what I wrote so far is what I would consider the spoiler free version of the story. You should really not have any idea that this is something beyond a classic murder mystery film when you’re going into the film and see if you can figure it out for yourself or if not, be surprised with the characters. It turns out that Amy faked her death so that Nick would take the blame and ultimately be put in jail. She’ll then destroy herself which will lead to Nick being destroyed. It’s her ultimate end game plan. The reason she did this is because Nick was cheating on her with one of his students so she figured this would make things even.

Naturally it’s quite the diabolical plan but as we learn about her past, it’s not exactly out of character. She framed another guy for rape, sabotaged various careers, and was extremely unstable throughout her life. Amy is very quick to try and ruin lives whenever she can. So even if Nick hadn’t cheated I don’t doubt that she would have come for him at some point although it’s still important to note that he is the one who made the first move. He began acting distant and messing around with someone on the side before Amy went this far. She also tried to talk with him a few times but he declined each time so she took her drastic measures.

Amy’s an intense antagonist to watch since she has everything so carefully planned. She’s certainly not a likable character in the slightest though and it’s easy to see why people didn’t get along with her. She has a huge superiority complex where she is always insulting someone and has the grossest scene in the film when she spits into someone’s drink. That’s always just super nasty to even think about, much less see. The film makes it clear that she is not exactly going to get redeemed anytime soon and will keep up her antics to the end.

The scene where she flat out murders someone is quite intense. Gone Girl isn’t afraid to really go all out with being rather explicit about her plans and how she accomplishes things. To pull off her claims she does let the guys actually have their way for a bit like Desi who got used from start to finish. You know from the jump that she is going to murder him, the only question is how. That scene certainly got violent fast.

The writing is good with the characters explaining each step of their logic and how it went down. Again, it can be a bit too detailed/explicit if you ask me on explaining how you fool people with these tricks and such. I don’t need all the gritty details and you can put the dots together yourself. One of the themes in the film is pretty much that both Nick and Amy are such corrupt characters that you may wonder who you should be rooting for. Nick’s is clearly the lesser of two evils though so if we’re being honest I would say Amy is clearly the antagonist.

Ultimately it’s the extra details in the writing and the grittiness of the film that holds this one back from being a winner. There are quite a few bits of fanservice here along with one night stands that show more detail than you would expect in the average film. While this is intentional, most of the characters are not likable either so you aren’t exactly left with anyone to root for. These various elements quickly add up to strike points away from the film. It’s got a very interesting plot but it should have focused more on that with the TV commercials and getting the characters debating back and forth and less on making sure each character was thoroughly corrupted. I could also due with two of the more gross scenes in particular.

Meanwhile Nick’s more like an annoyance who talks a lot to say the right things but he clearly doesn’t mean any of it. To finish up with Amy before I move on though, she does occasionally overestimate herself though. Her plans are really well thought out but she doesn’t think as well under duress as seen when she was mugged by her neighbors. It was a pretty bad mistake that she dropped the money the way that she did. They probably would have attacked her eventually but it certainly sped things up.

Now for Nick, so he was cheating on Amy so right off the bat he’s a pretty terrible main character. It gets worse when you see the depths he went through to hide this and that he was going to confess on their anniversary. It’s just a bad way to do things. Then you have to consider that he didn’t know Amy was so psychotic initially so it just seems like he is being mean to her for no real reason. He just fell out of love for her out of the blue. He also hides clues from the cops which just puts him in even more trouble. It may not have gone super well for him but getting in their way wasn’t helping either.

Rhonda is very good at her job and she really thinks about each piece of evidence. She isn’t as quick to condemn Nick the way everyone else is but eventually the evidence is a bit much to ignore. Especially when you consider how unstable Nick is the whole time. Her partner was a lot of fun though, I liked how he was constantly taking shots at Nick the whole time. Clearly he wasn’t having any of this.

Nick’s sister Margo is pretty supportive of him the whole time although she gets rightfully upset when she finds out about the cheating. He wasn’t exactly careful doing all of that while she was right there in the house. The odds of her finding him were pretty high. Finally we have Tanner and his role may not have been large but he was definitely a lot of fun. The guy was good at his job and even though Nick kept sabotaging himself, Tanner did a good job of keeping him in the race.

The movie ends on a rather ambitious note. It’s not quite the ending I would have expected that’s for sure. With this ending there are any number of ways that this could play out. In most cases I would say Amy probably takes the final win but I suppose Nick would have a shot. I think a sequel could take this in some interesting ways by introducing new villains but it still makes sense as a stand alone ending as well. I was pretty satisfied with the ending overall.

Overall, Gone Girl is a pretty intense murder mystery. It’s the kind of film that has its story change so dynamically that it’s hard to really look at in depth without mentioning some spoilers. That said, the less you know about it, the more effectively you will be able to watch it. With all that said, it can get a little too graphic and gritty with setting the stage here. As you do learn more and more about what is happening in the film, you see that the manipulations can go quite far and at high cost to get someone to do what they want. I think you could cut some things out and easily raise the score here but as it stands I would advise checking out Sherlock Holmes or some of those classic mystery films instead which also have a lot of solid twists.

Overall 3/10

The Night of the Hunter Review

Whenever you watch a film where the kids are the main characters then you already know that the movie will be walking a tight rope. It can’t have the kids be too annoying but at the same time you know they aren’t tough enough to fight their way out of a situation so it means that you have to expect them to be sub par. Unfortunately the kids aren’t all that good although one of them is noticeably worse than the other. At the end of the day they hold the film back but there’s also a ton of plot conveniences around with all the characters making the worst decisions possible.

The movie starts with John’s father showing up and telling the kid where he hid a bunch of money. John is not supposed to ever tell anyone where it is including his mother. The cops then take this guy to jail. There he meets a villain named Harry who is really concerned with where the money is. The father is completely oblivious to life itself so even when Harry takes out his switchblade and makes obvious threats the guy decides to literally gag himself and close his eyes. Lets just say he doesn’t make it out of the cell alive. Harry manages to escape prison and heads over to John’s place.

Now I realize the film has barely begun but I do have some questions here. For starters I would say it is heavily implied that Harry at the very least tried using more extensive measures to make the Dad reveal where the money is. Apparently he didn’t crack since Harry doesn’t know but how would he get off for good behavior if there were signs of a struggle or if Harry flat out murdered the guy? Next I would assume he just escaped jail I guess but that’s iffy as well. I guess the easiest thing to accept is that he didn’t actually attack the father even though that is hard to buy.

So Harry goes into town and decides to quickly marry John’s mother Willa. Considering that her husband just died that rebound happened awfully fast. She quickly decides to believe everything he says even over her own kids. Now he’s in the catbird’s seat in terms of trying to get at the money. Can John really keep the secret of hwere the money is hidden? He’s a tough kid but the main problem is that his younger sister Pearl also knows where the money is and lets just say that she isn’t quite as subtle as he is. She has no real qualms with talking and spilling the beans.

Pearl definitely ends up being one of the most annoying characters in the film. She is constantly trying to break her promise to the father and threatening to say the secret just to spite John. Her worst scene though has to be in the climax after she knows for a fact that Harry is one of the villains. She still runs over to him and acts like he is the father. That was almost game over for John since Harry could have easily snatched them away. Pearl is young which is her main reason for being like this but that can only go so far.

Meanwhile John tries his best at least. I can’t say I’m a big fan of his either though. It’s hard to say exactly what he could have done differently for part of the film though. For the most part he made the right decision, it’s just that the villain is a lot more powerful than him. He does completely crack at the end of the film which is unfortunate though. just holding strong for a few more minutes would have been good. The imagery played up on his past traumas which is why he cracked.

So as much as I didn’t like the kids…they were kids so they have an excuse. Willa has no such excuses though. So this guy shows up at the town and she is ready to marry him in a day? She knows absolutely nothing about him so this is really suspicious. The guy mentions knowing her husband in jail so wouldn’t that be an even bigger red flag since everyone knows something happened to the money. Additionally John doesn’t like him from the start but Willa doesn’t pay him any heed and goes through with the whole thing anyway. That was pretty bad.

Her final scene has to be her worst moment though. I mean, there’s lots to choose from like Harry immediately treating her coldly and like a child during their honey moon. In this scene though she saw him yelling/threatening her kids and decides to dismiss this. She realizes now that for sure he is looking for money but she decides to close her eyes and tie herself up with the bed anyway. She talks about how she is sure he will help her get past this and naturally he has a lethal solution to the problem. The problem with Willa is you feel like nobody would actually act like this. She may as well have been wearing a sign that said to bump her off. She made the whole thing incredibly easy for Harry.

The rest of the town also act foolishly. So this random guy comes through and immediately he is able to radicalize all of them? Willa’s own parents are quick to believe him about Willa running off as if she was always betraying her responsibilities. Everyone trusts Harry immediately. It takes the whole concept of a naive town to a whole new level. They eat up everything he says without any kind of hesitation. It’s definitely unfortunate. Not a single character stays strong. Even the local fisherman who was John’s only hope ends up getting drunk.

Then you have Rachel who is the only good character in the film. While Harry is twisting the Bible and its meanings around to suit his purposes as a serial killer, Rachel is busy teaching her kids about true values. When Harry shows up at her place it does lead to an eventual confrontation. Rachel can handle herself at least and also has a gun which is incredibly handy here. Without it then things might have gotten a little difficult. Ultimately she held her own and defended the house. You can’t ask for anything more than that and she did it even with the kids making things more difficult.

The worst character there was definitely Ruby. Not only did she fall for his charms immediately but when Rachel was starting to take the lead in the fight Ruby quickly blinded her with a candle light. Really? Why would she even do that from the start. It was a terrible moment and made her sink even lower down the ranks. That’s just a core problem with most of the characters in this film. None of them seem particularly intelligent aside from Rachel. She really has to hold all of the heroes up on her own because nobody really gives her any real backup.

As for Harry, he’s not exactly a villain that I can get behind. He runs scared after a single gunshot and is only good at taking on opponents who can’t fight back. There’s nothing particularly impressive about him as well. I don’t get how his act was able to fool anyone, much less the whole village. Somehow everyone bought into him which I find pretty scary. Either way it’s good that John and Pearl escaped that town.

Overall, I would not recommend this film. Harry is only able to get so far because none of the characters show any real intelligence. They are all here just to get in the way. Pearl especially makes things as hard as possible on John. If she would at least not keep on offering so much extra information things might have been a little easier on them. Just a little bit since Harry would have been closing ground either way but why make things any easier on him right? As Harry is hunting defenseless children who can’t fight back I wouldn’t exactly call it a thrilling film. If you want a true thriller I recommend watching something like Independence Day instead. This one we can leave to the past.

Overall 3/10

A Delicate Balance Review

Some films are about a big action story with lots of combat, others involve an adventure to other realms, and others still are just about locking the characters together and just having the debate each other. This one falls into the final category but unfortunately the writing is really weak which makes for a deadly combination. See, when you have a film that is all about the writing then at the end of the day your mission is really going to be to make it so engaging that you are at the edge of your seat from start to finish. I mean, that’s the idea at least right? Unfortunately that doesn’t work quite so well here.

The movie starts by introducing us to Agnes and Tobias. They’ve been married many years and banter quite a bit. It is at a point where they both hurl rather personal insults at each other although Agnes does most of the hurling with Tobias just taking it. You wonder if they will be able to make it another day but since this is a regular occurrence for them they’re probably okay. That’s when Claire shows up and she never gets along with Agnes at all. So they insult each other a bunch as well until Harry and Edna show up. They are Julia and Tobias’ “best friends” so of course the heroes have to pretend to be happy to see them. Unfortunately this isn’t a social visit. The friends want to stay over at their house permanently since they are now too scared to go back home. They quickly run to their rooms and that’s when the main couple’s daughter Julia shows up. She has been divorced a 4th time and wants to live here again. Can these 6 characters get along or will they finally reach the breaking point?

I guess my main problem with the film would be that none of the characters are even remotely likable. They all exist just to get in each other’s way and make the worst possible decisions just so that the film will continue a little longer. If the characters acted with any real sense then they would have been okay. This also means that most of the time in the film the dialogue feels rather forced as if the characters need to dig up another hole for themselves when they would have been just fine otherwise. You have completely nonsensical stories like Tobias talking about his cat which only serves to hurt his character more. Claire spends the whole film being drunk so as she is slurring her next sentence along you’re just hoping she will hurry it up at some point.

Lets go point by point though. Agnes is the main character of the film or at least I would make that case. She doesn’t get along with everyone and likes to play the victim while insulting everyone else. She talks tough but when it comes time for a big decision to be made she makes herself scarce. There’s really nothing to like about her character although I will acknowledge that if I had to choose, she probably has the best dialogue among the various characters here.

Then you have Tobias. He’s always very soft spoken and lets everyone walk all over him so you already know what his character arc is. He’ll finally man up at the end of the film and talk everyone down but you’ll be rolling your eyes by this point. If the whole story about the cat didn’t already alienate you, then his final decisions will. From the start he is overly dramatic about the friends coming over. So he’s known this guy for over 30 years and let he completely panics when the guy stays over for a single night? I don’t care if they have been fake friends for that period of time, 30 years is enough to give the benefit of the doubt. If you don’t want him to stay over then saying that flat out from the start.

The one thing not to do is to just be quiet about it and then later on say it’s not right. Tobias has a super long speech at the end where he basically says that Harry should stay here because he’s earned it but Tobias doesn’t want him to. Tobias basically renounces their friendship right at the start but his speech drags on and on. He was just way too dramatic about the whole thing and doesn’t accomplish anything at the end either. I won’t say he is the worst character in the film (That would be Claire) but he may just be the most annoying.

Then you have Julia. From all of the characters she probably adds the least to the film. So she got divorced and is here to make everyone else’s lives miserable. All right…but we already have 5 characters for that. She really doesn’t contribute and I would make the case that removing her from the film wouldn’t actually change anything. See, while I don’t like Claire, it’s easy to see why she’s here. She helps to stir the pot before the neighbors even get here to put everyone in a bad mood. She gets drunk a lot and messes with Tobias a lot. Claire absolutely can’t be trusted and yet she is always around so the main characters can’t get away from her. It’s a sticky situation for them.

Finally we have the neighbors Harry and Edna. From the start the fact that they say they got scared of nothing and can’t go home was pretty odd. Unfortunately there are no sensible characters here to actually ask them for more details or anything. Instead they just have the neighbors go upstairs. I’m thinking this is some kind of midlife crisis where they feel they are all alone and that’s why they want to stay the night. That would be my best guess at least but even then there are so many better ways to handle this then to just go to the main characters’ homes.

The neighbors also come across as petty since they admit that if the situations were reversed they would have thrown Agnes and Tobias out. So much for these “friends” right? Forget 30+ years, I know people who would let someone crash at their place if they’ve only been friends for a year. Not to mention that these characters are fairly well off and have big houses so it’s not like they’re on top of each other. Certainly fair game to kick the friends out of course or to put a stop to it before it happens but in their position there isn’t much reason to bring this up.

Overall, All of the characters in this film come off as eccentric if you want to put it in a nice way. They’re really all just pretty crazy though. The entire film is really just the characters insulting each other or spinning a 3 minute yarn just to say something that could have been compiled in 2 sentences. The characters speak their mind when it comes to minor stuff but once the going gets tough they all begin talking cryptically or flat out lying to save face for a while. The movie is definitely going for an odd kind of atmosphere intentionally which could work if the script is fantastic but the movie just couldn’t pull it off. The dialogue is as weak as can be and ultimately that hurt the movie quite a lot.

Overall 3/10

The Gate Review

Whenever you find a portal to the demon world in your backyard you know that something’s just not right. Well, that’s definitely the case here as the characters tamper with forces well beyond their comprehension. There are some fun ideas in this one but the film is ultimately held way back by the main characters. I’ll give the film some credit for having very unique visuals though.

The movie starts with Glen having some nightmares but at least the tree is finally taken down. Unfortunately there is now a huge hole there which leads to the demon world thanks to Glen’s friend Terry reciting an ancient chant. See, it turns out that some old records/music tapes actually contain real chants and summons for demons. Wouldn’t have expected that eh? Well, turns out that the battle against the demons has been going on for centuries. With the demons at the ready that means Glen and Terry will have to seal the portal but getting near it without dying will be tough. Also, Glen’s parents aren’t home so his older sister Alexandra will have to do.

In a way this film is sort of mixing Poltergeist with Home Alone. The parents leaving early on ensures that the kids are going to have to solve this on their own with no real backup. It makes sense as having parents around would likely have meant there would be a lot less tension the whole time. Most of the demons may have had some trouble there.

Going into the visuals though, the film goes all out with how the demons can appear. If you try to squash them then they can appear as tons of tiny little rodents. They can possess people, shape shift, and do all kinds of things. It’s pretty crazy. While the film is fairly tame for the most part, it can also get rather violent randomly at times. One such appearance is when Terry gets taken in or even when the parents show up in their deformed states.

The movie goes all in on being a true horror during these moments. The kids being fairly isolated also helps to up the danger feeling. Where the film really falters is with the characters. Kids have a hard time holding up their own film and this one is no exception. Glen tends to be fairly annoying a lot of the time. I’m also not sure why he got so emotional from levitating. It didn’t seem so scary and now at least he got to see some supernatural elements at work.

Glen spends a lot of time saying he wants to call his folks. I don’t blame him to an extent since Alexandra was shredding the rules instantly but it doesn’t help their case of not needing a babysitter. Then you have Terry who is always acting rather edgy. He hasn’t gotten over his mother’s death which is understandable but he definitely is not coping very well. Getting into all of this demon lore definitely cannot be good for him. He also has the weakest scene in the film when he throws the dog while being afraid. A very poor scene to be sure.

The film didn’t need any animal deaths for shock value here. I was like c’mon least it didn’t get murdered by the demons or anything like that. Then you have Alexandra who is supposed to be the reasonable member of the group and yet she was quick to host a party and just be very immature about the whole thing. She was even willing to leave Glen by himself even though her whole job was to watch over him. It’s not like it would have helped her out in the long run either since Glen would be sure to have said something. Ultimately Alexandra made the right decision and didn’t leave but this was not her best appearance. At least she did tell the friends to go away later on.

The friends in this film were pretty annoying the whole time. They definitely weren’t trying to help in the slightest and were just getting in the way. They didn’t really contribute anything to the story. You’d think that since one of the characters here is actually able to move things with her mind that maybe she would show up to really help out here. Well, I’m afraid that isn’t quite the case. In the end she still vanishes with most of the other characters while only 2 friends stay to act as comic relief and panic whenever the demons get close. The writing is decent although not the most engaging I’ve seen. Again, that’s mainly due to the main cast just being the kids. I think it would have worked out a lot better if the parents were there to keep them in line.

While some of the visuals are pretty inventive like the minis running around, others could just get pretty grotesque and violent like the eye appearing in someone’s fist and then having to be slashed away. Definitely pretty intense stuff to be sure. I definitely wouldn’t be able to give that one a thumbs up. In general while the plot is reasonably interesting, I don’t think there is anything that will really keep you tied to the film. Ultimately it still gets beat by many other films. I’d say to make this film better just age up the characters a bunch and cut away the dog from being part of the summoning ritual. While the ending helps to keep the movie from really going down, there are just too many things limiting it.

Overall, The Gate has some interesting ideas here. It’s certainly a title that you won’t be forgetting anytime soon. It also does give you a nice sense of danger here as the demons are quite powerful and can take many different forms. That helps set them apart from your average supernatural villain. The characters just aren’t good enough to really support this premise and some of the horror visuals can be a bit more shock value than needed. It would definitely get quite out there at times. If you want to check out a horror film involving other dimensions then you can do better than this one.

Overall 3/10