Premise: A young couple looking for the perfect home find themselves trapped in a mysterious labyrinth-like neighborhood of identical houses.
In concept, Vivarium (Latin for “place for life”) has all the makings of a mind-bending sci-fi thriller that should be rich with character development and social commentary. The film features an ominous set design showcasing an empty and endless housing development in which the film’s protagonists become trapped. It’s an idyllic, yet monstrous prison of suburbia and the only inkling of hope they have toward being released is to raise a bizarre alien child that appears in a box on the street. Continue reading →
Premise: Clancy, a spacecaster with a malfunctioning multiverse simulator who leaves the comfort of his home to interview beings living in dying worlds.
It’s hard to imagine what TV’s cartoon landscape (outside of Fox’s primetime lineup) would look like today without Cartoon Network’s already-classic Adventure Time. The show may not have been the first cartoon aimed at children that adults could appreciate, but was one of the longest-running and most unique offerings, thanks in no small part to the vision of its creator, Pendleton Ward. Ward left the critically acclaimed show after the fifth season and has now returned on Netflix with The Midnight Gospel, a nuttier, decidedly more adult-friendly version of what he started at Adventure Time. While the two shows share nothing in common beyond a colorful aesthetic, it wouldn’t be a stretch to consider them in the same universe, so to speak. Continue reading →
In the midst of a global pandemic and stay at home orders all over the country, I am coping by watching movies and podcasting about them as if they were part of a Film Festival. Here is my coverage of cOVid-19 Film Festival Days 20-38: Sci-fi Showcase (April 6-24, 2020). For the spotlight review, frequent guest ad contributor Ben calls in to talk about Alex Garland’s Devs with me in a non-spoiler and spoiler review.
Premise: One of the sons of Frankenstein finds his father’s monster in a coma and revives him, only to find out he is controlled by Ygor who is bent on revenge.
Son of Frankenstein finds Baron Wolf Von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone) traveling to the village in which his father’s monster wreaked havoc many years after the tragic events transpired. The young baron brings his bride Elsa (Josephine Hutchinson) and son Peter (Donnie Dunagan) to the Frankenstein castle where Wolf is set to collect his inheritance. In the village, the Frankensteins are met with hostility while, in the castle, the Frankenstein patriarch faces off with the heavy shadow of his father’s legacy. Continue reading →
Premise: Hungarian countess Marya Zaleska seeks the aid of a noted psychiatrist, hoping to free herself of a mysterious evil influence.
The Universal Monsters’ second direct sequel, 1936’s Dracula’s Daughter, takes a different approach than Bride of Frankenstein before it. Like Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula’s Daughter begins immediately after the events of its predecessor. However, there is no retconning to be found here. Dracula is dead. Long live Dracula. This sequel examines the fallout of the events of the first film through Van Helsing’s (Edward Van Sloan) interactions with the law and the introduction of Hungarian countess Marya Zaleska (Gloria Holden), who is seemingly possessed by the re-deceased Dracula. Continue reading →
Premise: The juice of a rare Tibetan flower is the only thing that keeps Dr. Glendon from turning into a werewolf during a full moon.
Though it underperformed commercially compared to the success of The Wolf Man six years later, 1935’s Werewolf of London has the distinction of helping to create much of the mythology that is still associated with werewolves today. Prior to the film, transforming into a werewolf involved witchcraft, did not involve a full moon, and bites were not transformative to humans. Thus the legacy of Werewolf of London is indelible even if the film itself is slightly uneven and muddled with too many protagonists. Continue reading →
Premise: Poppy and Branch discover that they are but one of six different Troll tribes scattered over six different lands devoted to six different kinds of music: Funk, Country, Techno, Classical, Pop and Rock. Their world is about to get a lot bigger and a whole lot louder.
Dreamworks Animation made history by adapting to the rapidly changing circumstances of the novel coronavirus and, instead of postponing its release of Trolls World Tour, the studio gambled by making the film the first to forego any kind of theatrical release by dropping it for home viewing on the same day it was scheduled to hit the cinemas. The strategy honestly makes perfect sense for a family-friendly film like this: rather than wrangling the kids, finding a babysitter for the siblings that are too young, shelling out major dollars for marked-up snacks, and all the other hassles associated with taking kids to a movie, families can sit down and watch the film at their own leisure, even having the luxury of pausing for a bathroom break. Just make sure your home internet connection is more reliable than that of yours truly.
As with most animated franchises aimed at a younger audience, the sequel is generally used as an opportunity for world building, and director Walt Dohrn literally makes it his primary objective from the opening minutes. Throughout the film, we’ll meet all manner of trolls, every size, shape, and color of the rainbow (including their signature hair). All trolls are united by their love of music, but separated by their respective genre tastes. The original cast has thankfully all returned here: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, James Corden, and Ron Funches (Dohrn actually steps in and replaces Jeffrey Tambor as the voice of King Peppy, and brings some unexpected energy to his performance). Rachel Bloom makes a meal out of her character, the queen of the rock-n-roll trolls, whose mission is to eliminate all other forms of music and turn every other troll into guitar-shredding, leather-clad rock zombies.
Yes, the theme of Trolls World Tour becomes fairly evident early on, preaching the virtues of individuality and diversity over the drabness of hegemony. I think there was an episode of Doug that had the same message when it was on Nickelodeon. Easily the weakest aspect of this Trolls entry is its script, which takes the path of least resistance at nearly every turn. For instance, you have Timberlake’s Branch, whose character arc here is essentially the same as Poe from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (only here, the director at least remembers his character exists by the end of the film). The climax is literally recycled, beat for beat, from the first film when all color goes out and all hope is lost until the heroes discover the music within.
Dohrn at least deserves some credit, though, for wisely expanding the role of Ron Funches’ Cooper – the only troll that looks less like a person and more like a giraffe. Once his eyes are opened to the wider troll world, he sets out to find out if there are more out there like him. His arc has the most personal stakes, despite the character being a little thinly sketched, though it unfortunately gets cut short to make more room for the main plot.
It may be tired by now to praise a children’s movie as “fun for kids AND adults”, but such a feat is harder to pull of than just throwing in a few jokes – and maybe a visual Mad Max Fury Road reference – specifically targeted at the grown-ups and calling it a day. But with World Tour, you’ll probably find yourself digging a little deeper to find something to hold onto. The original film sneakily turned itself into a fun jukebox musical, mashing together hits both old and new. Here, the musical numbers are so overwhelming, you begin to wonder if more were added to pad out the already thin plot. Yes, the sequences are all animated spectacularly, and the singing is all top-notch, but how many of us were really itching for another cover of “Barracuda”?
It should be mentioned that all of World Tour looks great. The gloomy world of the Bergen’s from the first film is replaced with even more Technicolor vibrancy, as each troll world is given its own distinctive style. Not to mention the character designs of each musical region: the country trolls have gaudy, bouffant-style hair, while the techno trolls are glow-in-the-dark neon. The hilarious “Smooth Jazz Troll” sequence in particular is a visual highlight, bringing to mind a drug trip in a Lisa Frank factory.
Nobody at Dreamworks could have predicted the circumstances surrounding the release of Trolls World Tour. Who knows – maybe a year from now, we’ll hail them as pioneering geniuses. The quarantine has undoubtedly made me hungry for new content aside from the doldrums of Netflix’s typical winter and spring releases. 2016’s Trolls mostly worked because it wasn’t beholden to any particular mythology. With World Tour, it’s fun to explore the wider world, but it needs a better story to justify its existence.
FINAL TAKE: The cast list here is truly insane, but Ozzy Osbourne’s cameo was a personal favorite. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say that he was definitely not cast against type.
About the Writer: Ben Sears is a life-long Indianapolis resident, husband, and father of two boys, as well as a contributing writer on ObsessiveViewer.com. Aside from watching movies and television, Ben enjoys photography (bensearsphotography.com) and running marathons, but never at the same time. That would be difficult.
In the midst of a global pandemic and stay at home orders all over the country, I am coping by watching movies and podcasting about them as if they were part of a Film Festival. Here is my coverage of cOVid-19 Film Festival Day 16: Netflix Spotlight (April 2, 2020). For the spotlight review, Tiny calls in to talk about Tiger King with me in a spoiler review.
Premise: Mary Beth and Priscilla Connolly attempt to cover up a gruesome run-in with a dangerous man. To conceal their crime, the sisters must go deep into the criminal underbelly of their hometown, uncovering the town’s darkest secrets..Continue reading →
In the midst of a global pandemic and stay at home orders all over the country, I am coping by watching movies and podcasting about them as if they were part of a Film Festival. Here is my coverage of cOVid-19 Film Festival day 6: Programmed by Mike White. For the spotlight review, Mike calls in to talk about Freaks with me in a mostly non-spoiler review.
Premise: Mary Shelley reveals the main characters of her novel survived: Dr. Frankenstein, goaded by an even madder scientist, builds his monster a mate.
The first direct sequel in the Universal Classic Monsters chronology is also the final one to be helmed by James Whale (after Frankenstein and The Invisible Man). Bride of Frankenstein is replete with themes of creation and destruction amidst subtext involving identity politics, nature vs nurture, and a healthy of dose of homosexual undercurrents thrown in for good measure. The film builds upon what was previously established in Frankenstein by introducing a more menacing mad scientist character and further humanizing Boris Karloff’s monster. It also pays homage to the woman who created the monster and brings some light religious commentary to the forefront as well. Continue reading →
The lack of a conventional summer movie season (and the overall disappointing crop of movies this year has offered) has me clamoring for awards season. The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a solid start to awards season. It hits the marks you expect it to hit. Sorkin's choice to hold back on showing the riots until the trial is well underway is a gamble that p […]
Powerful showcase of the wide variety of emergency department nursing. It's very effective in showing the strength and knowledge that goes into this line of work. Freaking heroes.Screening virtually at the 29th Heartland Film Festival from Oct. 8-18. Will also screen at Tibbs Drive-In on Oct. 15.
One of the most visually striking black and white movies I've ever seen. Incredible cinematography. The surreal dreamlike world is so gripping and flows so fluidly that you can't help be mesmerized. Incredible.
So The Dark Knight Rises isn't without its issues and it isn't as tightly told a story as The Dark Knight. But damn it if I don't love this movie. The occupied Gotham storyline is so different in presentation from the chaotic Joker story from TDK, but also has the heart of Gotham City at its core. As does Batman Begins. Sure, the theme of savi […]