The RetroLight Awards | Bradley Cooper

If you have spent any time in theaters lately, you have noticed a certain man — or voice — every big movie going season. That man — or raccoon — has been Bradley Cooper.

He stormed onto the red carpet scene making people snort-laugh out loud to the point soda was bubbling out their noses in the theater. Immediately refusing to be typecast, his latest effort is making us cry right there in our seats with the undeniable remake of A Star is Born. Cinephiles, film aficionados, and others who just can’t get enough of his piercing blue peepers (we’re confident…we can say it) all agree on one thing.

Bradley Cooper is one of those most versatile actors to come out of Hollywood in quite some time.

And to think, it all began with him on Inside the Actors Studio questioning one of the former “most versatile actors to come out of Hollywood in quite some time,” Sean Penn. This month’s RetroLight Awards goes to… 

Mr. Bradley Cooper

 

The Hangover

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Back in 2009, audiences all over the world fell in love with “The Wolf Pack.” A surprise hit for sure, The Hangover stormed into theaters and is now considered arguably one of the greatest comedy films of all time.

Cooper portrayed Wolf Pack member — the narcissistic and egotistical Phil Wenneck. Phil is the kind of guy who has many insecurities and feels the need to belittle others to make himself feel better. Yet, when push comes to shove, he would put his life on the line for his friends.

(As it turns out in the movie, he almost did.)

Cooper himself even said after completing filming of The Hangover 2, that Wenneck is his favorite character he’s ever played and regards Phil as the “coolest role ever.”

By in large, this is a character the audience should root against. Instead, the audience can’t help but to love him. Without a doubt, that role reversal is because of Cooper playing Phil with an almost effortless likeability and turning him into one of the numerous bright spots of the film.

Cooper has great comedic flair and terrific timing with every joke he delivers. His confidence in this role showcases his natural charm and charisma. It’s impossible to hate him, even when he delivers the crudest of insults towards his friends. Through all the insults and cockiness, Cooper does a great job in changing gears to show the audience that Phil truly does care deeply for his friends and the insults are just to cover up his own insecurities.

Cooper is fantastic in this role. He delivers a multi-layered performance for a character that could have been very predictable. And thanks to Bradley, Phil will always be memorable. 

Review by: Chad Hirsch

 

American Hustle

bradley cooper american hustle

In American Hustle, Cooper portrays FBI Agent Richie DiMaso (with easily the best hairdo to his the big screen since Samuel L. Jackson’s righteous Jheri-Curl in Pulp Fiction).

DiMaso’s FBI career when we meet has been unremarkable, to say the least. To make matters worse, he lives in a small NYC apartment with his demanding mother and his nagging fiancée. Yet, despite his circumstances, he’s determined to make a name for himself no matter what.

DiMaso gets more and more confident as we go along on this journey with him. He takes the lead on a big investigation that could result in the arrests of high-ranking mafia members, as well as some corrupt U.S. congressmen. When not focusing on his career as an FBI agent, DiMaso is only concerned with his appearance.

Back to that do, DiMaso curls his hair into a tight perm and spends a considerable amount of time in front of the mirror making sure his appearance is just right. Determined and self-absorbed are the best ways to describe Richie. He feels such an intense desire to be respected and adored that it borders on the side of pathological at times. He’s also very obsessive over things he deems his, such as, his investigations and the women with whom he is smitten.

The role of DiMaso was a terrific fit for Cooper, even earning him an Oscar nod for best supporting actor. Cooper has shown a knack for portraying these self-absorbed, overly confident guys who are so insecure they over compensate in other aspects of their lives to hide those insecurities. DiMaso is no exception.

Cooper portrays DiMaso with an intense determination. You can really get a feel for just how badly DiMaso wants to be adored and respected, even if that means taking on challenges that are too big for him to handle. On the same side of that coin, Cooper is able to also let the audience know that DiMaso is one bad break away from a massive emotional breakdown.

While Cooper portrays him with this sense of arrogance and overconfidence, the audience can always tell that DiMaso really isn’t in control and he feels suffocate by the probability of failure. This is thanks to Cooper’s extreme versatility as an actor. He’s able to showcase various emotions all at once. The thought of failure, the tiny apartment he lives in with his mother, and his engagement to a woman he’s not too happy about all weigh on his mind and through Cooper’s brilliant performance. 

The audience tends to sympathize with DiMaso despite his extreme self-absorbance. This is just another example of how Cooper is able to get the audience on his side despite his character having a lot of unattractive qualities. A true testament to Cooper’s acting ability.

Review by: Chad Hirsch

 

Silver Linings Playbook

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Funny, harsh, charming, romantic, dramatic — this has it all, so does Bradley Cooper in David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook. He plays Patrizio “Pat” Solitano, Jr. and instantly appears comfortable with the other big guns in the film, Robert DeNiro & Jennifer Lawrence.

The damn movie was nominated in all four Academy Award acting categories, with Jennifer Lawrence winning her golden statue, so yeah, it was a very good movie.

Since this spotlight is on the performance by Mr. Cooper, let’s discuss Pat, who when we find him, has a bipolar disorder, recently released from a psych ward, and in with his parents, played by Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver.

He’s desperately trying to reignite the fire with his estranged wife, but a decent distraction pops into his life. Tiffany Maxwell (JLaw) is a recent widow and comes off as bat-shit crazy as Cooper (which is a compliment), but when you mix their effed-up personalities, lives, and drugs all together, their chemistry becomes pure cinema gold!

Long story short, Tiffany convinces Pat she can help him win his wife back. One catch though: he has to partner with her in an upcoming dance competition … of which, he agrees. Cut to training montage … but, oh what a montage, the romance, humor, harshness, realism, and most of all, they convince the audience, something is really brewin’ between the Pat and Tiff.

Bottom line: The casting in this film produced magic. Bradley was better for being with Jen, and vice versa. They seemed to play both characters with such charisma, passion, angst, but also, seemed so easy for them, that folks, is simply great acting! In the end, you can’t help but fall in love with both of them, but do they indeed fall for each other? Gotta watch it to find out!

Review by: Todd Proctor

 

American Sniper

American Sniper Bradley Cooper

This Clint Eastwood product is the work of a hero — not necessarily Eastwood (although a cinematic one he is definitely). U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is one of most decorated and revered war heroes in modern military history. His dedication to his team. His determination to serve his country. And his diligence to be the lone gunslinger in a sea of many. These are the things of legend we have read and heard via third-party accounts.

The one thing before American Sniper we never knew is what mattered most to Kyle — his moral direction to serve his family. That’s why this becomes less war movie, more a relational one, skewing slightly western with one man versus the world, only we see his soul instead of shootouts.

Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle bears all, in ways we never expected to see of this American Sniper. And as we travel through the dogs of war in this film, we witness all those tugs on Kyle’s heart become an amalgam of who the soldier is throughout his after-military work with soldiers fighting a battle on the homefront — PTSD. As we learn, Kyle’s work is never done, which ultimately leads to why he is no longer defending us at all.

Cooper is convincing in matters of war and matters of the heart. In an interesting Eastwoodian twist (it’s a word), we learn Kyle’s pinpoint accuracy is the reason many soldier’s lives were saved while at the same time, Cooper’s brilliant accuracy in this script saves us all from having to question what really motivates the best of the best.

Through four harrowing and horrifying tours of military duty, Kyle lives the SEAL credo: Leave No Man Behind. And while Cooper dazzlingly portrays that creed with every fiber of his being, we learn vividly that Kyle left no family member behind either as we are mesmerized with his earnest personal creed found in his favorite book, the Bible.

Cooper says in the film, “I’d carried a Bible with me. I hadn’t read it all that much, but it had always been with me [since SEAL training].” As we later learned, he didn’t need the book with him because the verses were written on his heart, just as the ideas of his family and the memories of his fallen brothers and sisters in war lived there. This was a man of faith and fear, a man of power and painstaking delicacy, a man of love and hate. And only a man as diverse and versatile as Cooper could have balanced it all.

Review by: Shawn Paul Wood

 

Limitless

limitless bradley cooper

In LimitlessBradley plays the disheveled Eddie Morra, a struggling author with a bad case of writer’s block and a whole set of life’s challenges facing him head on. He’s lost his girlfriend, his apartment, and his social life is in tatters. Dude is as down-and-out as they come, but Eddie’s life takes a drastic and dramatic turn after crossing paths with his former brother-in-law, Vernon.

The aforementioned in-law offers Eddie a miracle drug, NZT-48, the latest super-smart drug for which everybody yearns that unlocks the other 98 percent of our thinking power. We soon are faced with the question if the benefits are worth the shitty side-effects and constant push to get more. Plus, what’s with forgetting 18 hours at a time and being linked to murder?

Well, Bradley does an admirable and convincing job playing Eddie the loser and all-around douche guy with some serious psychological and behavior issues, but that all turns around with the little clear pill, right?

After Eddie gains a large supply of the wonder drug, he instantly becomes the super heightened, intelligent, and charismatic jerk he always was, but this time, he’s cleaned up, kicking ass with the stock market and even impressing Carl Van Loon (Robert DeNiro) as a genius whiz man-child that passed his initial test from Van Loon, but now has to proves himself under pressure and jonesin’ off the miracle pill at the same time?

Does Bradley pull off the transition from loser to lover to lucrative business man and eventually even running for political office. Is he still on NZT or is he truly off it? That’s the decision you need to make for yourself. Bradley Cooper is the ultimate man’s man, women want to be with him and so do some men, but sometimes lost among his machismo are Cooper’s immense acting chops and dedication to the duality of Eddie’s rise from zero to hero to whatever.

Cooper’s performance dangles on the insane and absurd to refined and classy — some actors can pull this feat off, Bradley does it in spades in ‘Limitless.’

Review by: Todd Proctor

 

Guardians of the Galaxy

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Guardians of the Galaxy still stands as Marvel’s biggest gamble to date: Can a superhero film succeed with a team of unknowns? Since the audience will have no preconceived notions, the actor’s performance will define the character.

Bradley Cooper’s voice work for Rocket Raccoon can be credited with turning a robotic, neurotic, violent mammal into a household name. Rocket’s sordid backstory is sold in a drunken monologue delivered atop a casino table. In many ways, he is Wolverine, but with much more hair and much less adamantium. He is; however, a victim of experimentation so he drinks to forget.

Rocket holds no loyalty to the team, continuously undercutting everyone with the funniest lines in the movie. His only attachment is to Groot, the gigantic and remarkably alive tree, who reminds him of forest life before his abduction. That relationship allows Rocket to be Groot’s translator and, thanks to Cooper’s introspection of this role, this character provides the only tearjerker scene in the movie as Groot dies. Guardians of the Galaxy’s gamble paid off in dividends and probably made a profit on Rocket Raccoon toy sales alone.

Screaming in film is an artform we rarely appreciate until an actor can’t do it effectively. Cooper spends a good part of the film screaming whenever the raccoon into his endless bag of guns. His performance merits consideration for best male scream queen.

Surprisingly, Cooper was not used for the motion capture of Rocket Raccoon; that duty was held by the director’s brother, Sean Gunn. This was most likely a relief to Bradley Cooper as Zoe Saldana (Gamora) was his ex-girlfriend. Really. This fun fact adds a different layer to the Rocket’s spark, much like when fans found out Fisher and Ford had a tumultuous affair on the set of Star Wars. 

The impact of Bradley Cooper’s performance in the MCU cannot be understated. Four years later, when the Avengers gathered for Infinity War, this new and absurd character was given the same screen time as any of the more iconic characters.

Cooper might be used more in the future as Rocket is the only Guardian still alive. And what was will he most likely be doing? Screaming. But to him, it’s an art.

Review by: Gunnar Radel

Marketing or Malevolent: ‘Antrum’ Said to be “Deadliest Movie Ever Made”

There are slasher movies, where the bad guy must have visited a rest stop in Hades because that dude has some serious anger issues. Some movies involving the occult make you seriously consider looking under your bed or in the closet. And then there’s those films that are so eerie, rumors are bound to leak that the director or producer are angling in literal hell for inspiration.

As we approach Halloween, many movie blogs — present company included — will have its lists of the “best slashers,” “most evil,” “goriest horror,” or “deadliest villains.” That said, have you considered what movie is “cursed.”

You may not have to research because Else Films may have done the work for us regarding its latest production Antrum. Its trailer and even on the official movie website, there is a disclaimer reading the movie is, in fact, cursed.

Warning: Be advised some images and material on this website are believed to be cursed. While the notion of a curse may be debated, this content has a history of triggering emotional duress and provoking physical or psychological danger. By entering this site you agree that you are releasing Else Films of all liability associated with any event following your viewing. it is recommended not to view this content alone.

So, there’s that.

Essentially, Michael Laicini and David Amito‘s indie is being marketed with this family-friendly note: “Every time this movie has attempted to be released, people have died.”

As the fable / marketing ploy / general warning of death goes it took 18 years just to make it to a theater. Then, in 1988, the unthinkable happened — a theater in Budapest showed it and inexplicably burned to the ground, killing 56 people.

Antrum is set to the show at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, and if this “curse” keeps form, about 1,500 people won’t reach Christmas. Is this marketing or is there something more malevolent going on? Watch the trailer (if you dare) and see for yourself.

But, you have been warned. Maybe.

CULT CORNER | ‘Ravenous’ is the Cannibal Movie You Didn’t Know You Needed

EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to our newest series, “Cult Corner.” The premise is to offer reviews, bylines, and discussions about movies forgotten by the masses but always remembered by the select cinephile. In the Matrix, that’s most of you. So, enjoy and if you would like to see a Cult Classic discussed, holler at Porgy. He’s taking messages.

Surgeon General’s Warning: This article revisits Ravenous (1999), not the new zombie movie on Netflix.

America is eating itself alive, so why not celebrate Halloween with a movie about our forefathers doing the same thing? Well, kinda, as we will discover.

Ravenous is a loose account of the Donner party — an unlucky group of settlers that ate each other. Set to the most beautiful soundtrack in horror history (seriously… the soundtrack was written by award-winning composer Michael Nyman with Damon Albarn, the lead singer of Blur and Gorillaz), it’s introspective, cheeky macabre; yet, refreshingly upbeat.

In a way, Ravenous is the feel-good cannibal movie this country needs.

Captain John Boyd (Guy Pearce) just wants to survive. Branded a traitor in the Mexican–American War, Boyd is reassigned to the remote Fort Spencer, where supplies (and rations) are low and tensions are high. A mysterious stranger, played by Robert Carlyle, introduces them to a new diet, and the isolated military outpost dissolves into chaos.

Everyone is hungry. Everyone wants to survive. Everyone is a potential killer … and victim. Here in the boondocks, a diet for survival progresses into a diet of indulgence. This gives the moments of gore a narrative context, as well as a terrifying historical one.

The film’s low budget only adds to the impoverished look of the story, filmed in gorgeous mountain terrain of the Tatra Mountains, Slovakia and Durango, Mexico. Those vistas and authentic appeal gives Ravenous a distinct vibe reminiscent of The Revenant. The beauty of the scenery and music serve as a stark contrast with the violence.

The acting is brilliant across the board with Robert Carlyle especially feeding upon our fears. It’s no wonder 28 Weeks Later cast him to eat people again.

There’s a film trope called “Man is the Monster,” but is Ravenous just another example of humanity repeating a truth? True cannibal stories require us all to reflect on their own morality: what lines would we cross to survive?

Historical cannibal stories like Ravenous make us fear our forefathers. Would we have survived this era of America? Depends on how fast you can run.

 

Netflix is Doubling its Content Kingdom by 2023

Maybe you haven’t heard but paid TV isn’t what it used to be. Typically, it was arguing over the weather to determine if you settled on cable or satellite. These days, choices allow you to avoid paid TV altogether.

According to eMarketer, more than 33 million American “cut the cord” from paid TV in 2018 so far, which is 42% higher than the exodus from TV in 2017.

emarketer-us-pay-tv-ott-july-2018Comcast (cable) and AT&T (satellite) not really giving two turds about customers or their wallets is one large reason. The other is what Internet TV can offer. Amazon, Hulu, HBO Now, and the televised kingpin, Netflix all offer premium original content.

And while these money-grubbing neanderthals are sweating OTT offerings (“over the top”) to replace their cords and dishes — Sling, Sony PSVue, YouTube TV — there’s nothing they can do to compete with a higher quality of broadcasting. 

This is where Netflix is truly king of the content wars, and they have recently announced the kingdom is expanding. In fact, it is doubling in five years per a report from Ampere Analytics via The Hollywood Reporter.

The study shows that Netflix still leads the SVOD [subscription video-on-demand] pack by a large margin, with more than 250 new commissions planned, a figure that will more than double the 229 originals currently in Netflix’s catalog.

Amazon is a distant second on the original content list with 105 originals and a similar number of new commissions.

“All the major players have been expanding the number of original commissions in the face of an increasingly competitive market,” said Richard Cooper, an analyst at Ampere. “What’s interesting is the different audience profile that each of the [services] appear to be targeting with their originals content, suggesting they’re aiming at different niches within the SVOD market.”

With Emmy-winning series on its roster and Academy-winning actors signed up for past and future work, it seems Netflix is after all the niches.

Long live the king!

DC Comics and ‘Suicide Squad’ Go for the Smoking Gunn of Directors

About that headline — sorry, not sorry.

When the damaging stories and the questionable tweets went viral, everyone knew it wouldn’t be long before regaled brainchild and director Guardians of the Galaxy 1 andJames Gunn would be filing for unemployment.

(If you need a full review, we have a lengthy one with pictures here.)

Most people just doesn’t come back from jokey jokes on Twitter that skew on the lines of child love interest and things slightly darker involving white vans with black tinted windows.

That notwithstanding, James Gunn is not most people.

Of course, Disney — ever aware of its image and reputation — gave Gunn his walking papers before he could get pen to his own paper and write GOTG 3 (and much to Dave Bautista’s chagrin — see aforementioned link above). And despite Gunn’s questionable choices in bringing the funny on Twitter, the guy is a gifted nerd writer and director meaning it also wouldn’t be long before he had another gig.

That time has come.

See, there’s this other movie house making waves with an upcoming film in Aquaman and was in need of a big splash to keep mojo swimming in its direction (okay, okay, that time for all that, I am sorry). And far be it from DC Comics and Warner Bros. not learning from its fart-and-fall-down moments, they needed help for headlines and rekindled excitement.

So, James Gunn got that new job — writing and directing Suicide Squad 2And guess who wants to ride shotgun to the box office with his man-crush?

Surprising? Yeah, not so much. So let’s help ol’ Dave “sign up.”

FANCAST IDEA:

Put Drax into the clothing of KGBeast. Hey James, the muscles without a pulse is made for this yet-to-be-featured-in-the-squad character. G’head. Prove me wrong. I’ll wait…

kgbeast

And if not, there’s always Solomon Grundy. One of the two will have to happen…

grundy

The Golden Age of Horror Movies is Getting a Serious Polish Today

Hollywood’s “Golden Age” was several decades ago. The 1930s, to be exact.

Long gone are the days of those Pollyanna scripts, analog screenings, and a pool of A-list actors and actresses who stay true to whom they are and what they do.

An important moment in cinematic history occurred in Hollywood when it was thought that a movie can flourish without a leading person, but rather a thing.

This was the glorious inception of monstersDracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, Wolfman, The Mummy, King Kong, and even The Night of the Living Dead. 

These are the movies that uncovered a darker side of directors and opened an eerie door of opportunity (which, of course, no one wants to answer because monsters may be knocking).

A Nod to the Past

the omenFor a little more than 40 years, horror consisted of things you would consider to only be in comic books or in the wild. Then, around the mid-70s, we entered the Occult Era of film.

This was true horror’s heyday with films like Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, Salem’s Lot, The Amityville Horror, and cinema’s preeminent The Exorcist. 

Things never conceived before on screen are happening before your very eyes and making you wish you never knew what you now know.

The 70s also brought us the beginning of an entirely different genre in horror — slasher films. We met Leatherface (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Pluto (The Hills Have Eyes), and Michael Myers (Halloween). 

We also got our first peek at what a zombie movie would look like with Dawn of the Dead, led by the great and grotesque visionary George Romero. And so, it happened. The stage was set for a new, illustrious age for horror films, and right into the 1980s we carefully tiptoed to the cult classics section of any library.

jasonWe met some of the most encompassing creatures to ever hit the screen during this time of horror sequels, slashers gone mainstream, and all those damn zombies.

From Jason to Freddy, to Ash and Pinhead, these mononymous individuals made Hollywood darker, stranger, and much more enjoyable to the average flick aficionado.

Take Stephen King’s books. They became screenplays-in-waiting — Pet Cemetery, Cujo, The Shining, Children of the Corn, Christine, Creepshow, and Firestarter. The 1980s was also a decade for new pioneers, like John Carpenter whose murky vantage point of life gave us The Fog, Halloween, Prince of Darkness, and his triumph in horror, The Thing. 

evil-deadAnd the dead never died during this dreaded decade with numerous zombie productions, such as Evil Dead, Day of the Dead, Re-Animator, The Return of the Living Dead, and C.H.U.D. (look it up).

These two decades were the inspirational times of jump scares, terrorizing scores, and night lights in every room of your house.

It was also a time for production houses to make a quick coin because most horror films were done on tight budgets reaping big dividends.

The problem with that point is everyone wanted in on spending less, earning more, which liquefied the recipe of what makes a good horror film into this morbid stew of bad plots, doltish characters, and forgettable franchises. The idea was sound but the curation was crap.

Horror movies lost its way and it would a plethora of abysmal flicks for Hollywood to get a clue of what to do outside of the summer blockbusters and winter award entries.

And Then There Was One

Initially, let’s agree that while some classic movies in the ’90s stuck with us and tantalized us — The Silence of the Lambs, Flatliners, and The Sixth Sense — they were not “horror” films. The slashers were on hospice. The scares were laughable. And the sequels — all those pathetic, inept sequels.

Wes Craven gave up Freddy’s ghost (more than once). A third Exorcist?! How many Aliens do we need to see again? About as many as stupid, ginger killer dolls, I guess. And for the last time, no one cares what you did last summer. They never did!

Sure, Mr. Craven attempted his comeback tour to reinvigorate the slasher flick. Scream was good in that it attracted people back to the theater during the doldrum months of January through May. The mask was great for marketing, but that’s about it.

blair witchAnd then, off in the faint distance was a sound. It was a familiar sound — one that hadn’t been heard by horror movie producers in quite some time. It was… a cash register.

In 1999, for the price of $60,000 and one magical camcorder, we got The Blair Witch Project. A story of three aspiring filmmakers who hiked the Black Hills in Burkittsville, Maryland to film a documentary about this “real-life” entity known as “The Blair Witch.”

This movie took the nation by storm and created an entire new, inexpensive genre of horror filmmaking — the “recovered footage” era. 

This movie debunked three very popular and longstanding theories among the higher echelon of horror types in movie making: 1.) You need a big budget. 2.) Without a big marketing campaign, you won’t get big results. And 3.) You need big names.

No. Again, the movie was only a $60,000 expense that yielded a modest 416,566% return ($250 million)! The movie starred, well… no one you ever heard of before. And the marketing campaign went “viral” because it was smart. One website, leading posters, and leave the rest up to imagination. It was a recipe that has only been matched once — and will never happen again.

The “once” was ironically, another independent “recovered footage” film called Paranormal Activity, which became the most profitable movie of all time with its paltry budget of $15,000 bringing in $200 million — that’s 1,333,233% math fans! 

A Glimpse Into the Future

Did America want another slasher franchise? What would make horror fans unite under one bloody banner again? When have true lovers of gore, suspense, and hair-standing moments brought in the big bucks?

Like Michael J. Fox, go back to the future.

Hollywood was on a mission — make money during the dead months of cinema. Great, but how do we get them there? They needed to combine aspects of the Golden Age and bring them into today. A slasher but with a novel, sardonic twist. A bewitching but no split pea soup thrown on a priest. A dark motive that has to stick with you after to leave the theater.

james wan jigsawAnd then it happened. We met Jigsaw and James Wan.

People were inspired by his creativity and storytelling. Horror got smarter and created a plot around jump scares, like The Others. Yes, in the oughts, we had to rummage through a Final Destination, try to see through The Mist, and deal with the over-the-top Rob Zombie concoctions, but there were gems to be found in all that crap.

Guillermo del Toro brought us to The Orphange. Neil Marshall took us to the depths of the earth and our soul in The Descent. The Indie stalwart Ti West created The House of the Devil. And storybook sequence magic was created with The Babadook. 

Oh yeah, we also discovered these streaming networks were a thing, which only prolonged the shelf life of any new horror flick (see the aforementioned Babadook).

But we also got James Wan (did I mention that already)? He was busy creating two of the most successful horror franchises in history with Conjuring and Saw. All the sequels that came from those were thought-provoking, evocative, and customized to create a new feeling of terror in each of us.

More importantly, they were novel and breathed a stank odor of novelty into the lungs of Hollywood’s corpse. There was hope for horror, and timing could never be better for terror than it was in the late 2000s.

What we came to know as “mainstream horror” flicks were no longer scary; they were comical. There was no jump scares, only people jumping out of their seats and darting for the exit. Movies were no longer given multi-million dollar budgets, just enough to get that script to go straight to DVD.

But when indie directors and streaming TV got introduced to horror’s new-found potential, it was like someone took (insert your favorite horror writer, producer, actor here)’s Etch-a-Sketch and shook it like it was a twerking booty at the club.

Hereditary. The VVitch. A Quiet Place. The Visit (Yes, the M. Night movie). And, most significantly, Get Out. These latest films, along with mostly anything A24 and Blumhouse puts out, has resurrected the horror film for today’s audience.

Long live the Golden Age of Hollywood. It truly paved the way for today’s film — the mystery, the intrigue, the plot development, the characterization. It all stems from those monster movies back in the day. It seems that time is finally growing on us all again, and movie goers are all better for it.

How Aquaman and James Wan Already Saved the D.C. Extended Universe

Since 2013, there has been a loud puttering sound heard haranguing in movie theaters across the nation. It’s that sound you hear when your car is skipping a beat, coughing to get up a hill, or fades into misery at a stop light.

If you have seen three of the five collaborations between D.C. Comics and Warner Bros., you know that sound has been the panting and guzzling of air from those two desperately — and woefully — trying to keep up with Marvel Studios’ domination of the CBM multiverse.

They’re out of oxygen, and it shows.

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When Zack Snyder brought us Man of Steel, a large gasp of relief hushed nerds everywhere. This was the origin Superman deserved — tracing his roots from Krypton all the way to Earth, struggling to find meaning in his convoluted, extraterrestrial experience. They couldn’t have found a better man to portray Clark Kent in Henry Cavill.

But, that was when we all had faith in Warner Bros. to do the right thing with the DCEU.

Then, we see Zack Snyder’s vision get bastardized with Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. It seemed hurried and almost apoplectic as the characters force the uniting of what was to come.

We needed origins. We wanted understanding. What we got was an amalgamation of bureaucracy, suits defining what fans deserved, and oh yeah… Zack Snyder eventually shown the door in the most unceremonious fashion in what was supposed to be his crowning achievement.

But first, Wonder Woman was a box-office smash and showed the kids in the other room (that’s Marvel) that a woman could both feature and direct a comic book movie. What they did in four movies took Marvel 20 to figure out.

And as we just meander around the pothole known as Suicide Squad (because both it and we deserved much better from that ensemble), came the moment when all of that aforementioned sound came to a crashing thud. We got Justice League.

justice-league

Yes, it was obviously hurried beyond a pace that should have been permitted. The knuckle-headed duo of DC and WB were stressed to compete with The Avengers, so they did what most people do when they are under the gun to complete a test: they answered “C” all the way down the scantron.

While Justice League was better than most people admit, there was the whole Zack Snyder / Joss Whedon thing looming over our heads reminding everyone of the colossal fart-and-fall-down moment we were about to experience in theaters placing us into a comic book coma. You know, until the DVD came out and most of the militant geeks out there realized WB actually did not — and will not — #ReleaseTheSnyderCut

You could almost hear the dimwitted executives shouting at the movie makers — the guys who actually know something about the comics and TV shows — to make Flash funny, make Aquaman sarcastic, amp up the sexual tension between Wonder Woman and Batfleck, and we’ll get to Superman later.

Oy vey! We quit. It’s like we never knew you, D.C. and WB.

Nothing was Stirring, Not Even a Mouse

At this point, Disney and Marvel were fine disseminating the box-office collections plate every single time they made a movie. Think about the run they’ve had: from Iron Man and Captain America: The First Avenger to Avengers: Infinity War.

The unveiling of each character and building of the universal theme — Thanos is coming — was masterful. No wonder Disney paid $4 billion for Marvel. It’s a machine, producing great film after another (you know, with the exception of Thor: The Dark World and Ant Man and the Wasp).

Disney doesn’t interfere with Marvel’s process. Ever.

Marvel-Movie-Universe

Why would they? There’s nothing to mess with because every movie fits its space in a master plan. Why can’t D.C. and Warner Bros. do that? Oh yeah, they don’t trust each other to do what they are each supposed to do.

Fans started to give up a little on these two dimwits. Then, off in the distance, a glimmer of light shined upon the horizon. We call it bope.

Those two began planning too, because prior to this point, it was evident there was absolutely no direction at all. They hired Ava DuVernay for Jack Kirby’s Fourth World The New Gods. Batwoman is coming (whether the trolls like it or not). Gotham City Sirens, Birds of Prey, and Harley Quinn will take center stage soon. Matt Reeves’ The Batman and Todd Phillips’ Joker are certainly getting everyone’s attention with “leaked” footage, plenty of cryptic headlines, and that hype train is chugging along.

You can almost detect a cadence, a reason for these announcements.

The Mouse may not be doing anything about it for the time being, but if this plan amounts to anything that remotely smells like profit, Marvel may actually have a fight on its hands.

The Splash Seen ‘Round the World

Then this happened…

That earned more than 2 million views in a little over 12 hours. It’s not a trailer. It’s a fan reel! We have been clamoring for something to come out of this production from horror ingenue James Wan, and much as he exhibited with the Conjuring series, his marketing and messages were done strategically and purposefully.

And, it doesn’t even begin to convey what Aquaman is going to show us. Take it from Wan himself.

We have two months to go. Venom is in theaters now, so D.C. has no competition for the rest of the year. This is the time for that tumultuous team to reclaim the ball they lost in the sewer somewhere after some errant kick or throw. This is the time to reach out to the fans and show them that you two are indeed serious about what you do and how you can stick to canon.

And man, did they ever. James Wan’s vision of Atlantis is majestic. It’s what you would expect a king of a netherworld to be. It captures the essence of who Arthur is on land and in water. His struggle is there. His fight is there. His character is there. And so are we, believing every word.

The trailer is captivating in its imagery. Underwater monsters. Wars between enemies. We understand relationships, hear humor, and detect a sense of belief in what DC and WB are doing again. This is what Wan does best — he draws you in with what could be. Take Saw, Conjuring, or even his work with Fast & Furious. You want to watch it, even if you had no intention to do so.

aquaman poster

Mainstream viewers will appreciate the action. The most self-righteous nerd will see the details in canon (and he’s in the original Aquaman garb). This movie looks like it will appeal to everyone. It’s almost as if someone in D.C. or WB learned from getting their hides handed to them for the past 10 years.

This is what a plan looks like, and in December, they’ll know what it sounds like. They call that sound a cash register. We needed, actually demanded, much more than a superhero movie. We wanted a good movie.

By the look of that trailer, we got much more than expected.

Even before Aquaman hits theaters in its glorious splendor, James Wan has already saved the DC Extended Universe because he gave them the one thing they lost, the one thing that began this whole debacle in the first place, the thing that is emblazoned upon Superman’s coat of arms in the very first film.

The thing is hope. And thanks to James Wan, we have some. Finally.

NYCC: McFarlane Talks ‘Spawn’ and Making 10-Year-Olds Cry?!

Like with most years, New York Comic Con was a smashing success of cosplay supreme and panels that only compete with its progenitor to the West Coast.

Among the star attractions was the acclaimed artist from the dark side and founder of Image Comics, Todd McFarlane, who was at NYCC to discuss Spawn (creator and artist) and even got a few plugs in for his toy collection.

As we all know, dude has a certain panache for the macabre, which is why many geeks and freaks alike has been biding time patiently for his next offering to print or the silver screen.

spawn

McFarlane is writing, producing, and directing the reboot of his most notable work, the demonically oppressed and possessed anti-hero Spawn. The 1997 original starring Michael Jai White was promising for the time it was developed, but since technology — such as VFX and CGI — have come so far, we all want to see what McFarlane can do with his new project.

The reboot, slated for 2019, is set to not only feature McFarlane behind the camera, but also carry some more star power with no other than Jamie Foxx as Al SImmons / Spawn and Jeremy Renner as Twitch Williams.

Sure, the cast creates some intrigue, but the production house makes fans even happier. Blumhouse Films, as in the makers of The Purge and Paranormal Activity franchises, will be behind this version setting up a potential truer visage of what Spawn should be.

Just ask McFarlane. That’s what IGN did

“Here’s what I’m trying to get Hollywood to understand because they still don’t quite get it is I want to do a dead serious, scary movie that happens to be a superhero, right? And so they keep tripping into this superhero part and I wish I could almost take that piece out of it,” McFarlane said.

So, how anti-Marvel does he believe his primary anti-hero should be portrayed?

He continued, “Their dark is here’s PG-13, here’s R, they go over a little bit. We’re talking over here. We’re talking that it would make your kids cry. If you’re going to do dark R, make the children cry who are under 10. That’s the movie. Do I think that The Joker is gonna make 10-year-olds cry? Nope. Would I make them cry? Sure, I would because I’d be doing a movie for adults.”

Get that, Hollywood.

The creator wants a hard R-rating for a horror movie involving an anti-hero, not the other way around. Hmmm… the benefits of not being attached to a more mousey, kid-friendlish multiverse.

Can’t wait.

The DR Is In | Venom (2018) Review

Tom Hardy and His Symbiotic Buddy Save This Clunky Comic Book Film

Venom is the most critically destroyed comic book film since Warner Bros’ Suicide Squad in 2016, and I honestly don’t know why. Sony’s first “Spider-Man-less” universe film is an absolute blast from beginning to end.

The story follows a “down-on-his-luck” reporter, Eddie Brock, whose selfish tendencies put him out of work and engagement. Sound familiar? That’s because it is basically the Peter Parker storyline in Spider-Man 3, but I digress.

A couple nosey, desperate decisions later, Eddie Brock is possessed by Venom and now … eating live lobsters and frozen tater tots. Sound dumb? That’s because it is, ON PURPOSE.

This film has a tone reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s Darkman and Evil Dead 2. The trailers did the film a disservice by teasing a dark, gritty film. Venom is merely an action comedy with some horror elements.

My chief source of blame with the faulty story lies with the “LIFE Foundation” led by Riz Ahmed’s villainous Carlton Drake.

Venom-Riz-Ahmed

Nothing about this chunk of the story works in the slightest. Full of comic-book scientific mumbo-jumbo, the film makes little effort to help the audience find a logical reason to believe an industry like this would ever exist. It comes off as incredibly rushed and terribly stupid. I didn’t buy it for a second.

Let’s talk about the cast.

Long story short, everyone phones it in except for Tom Hardy, who gives one of the most zany, entertaining performances of the year. Hardy sells the Eddie Brock and Venom relationship perfectly, creating a lovable, and sometimes laugh-out-loud, connection between the two. The movie wouldn’t work without that key dynamic.

Riz Ahmed is a laughably horrible villain. He isn’t menacing in the slightest and has some truly cringe-inducing dialogue. However, his transformation into Riot, the symbiote antagonist, is visually captivating. Michelle Williams and Jenny Slate are fine. They do the best with what they are given and play hilariously straight against Hardy’s insane performance.

It takes around 40 minutes to (finally) get to the action, but when it happens, the movie is the Venom film we’ve always wanted. Venom’s computer-generated appearance is incredibly comic book accurate and stunningly photo-realistic (for the most part). The best thing aspect of Venom is his hilarious banter with Eddie, with some lines having any audience in stitches. Hardy does a spectacular job capturing Venom’s terrifying voice and dark sense of humor.

The action is another huge highlight of the film. It’s extremely well shot, paced, and edited to thrilling results. Without spoiling anything, some surprising moments had my jaw on the floor. Great stuff.

For those who don’t know, the film had two post-credits scenes. (Spoilers ahead…)

The mid-credits is about a two minute scene that alludes to a crazy sequel, and the final scene is a four minute sequence from Sony Animation’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Both, I feel, are worth your time.

In conclusion, the story is generic and bland as can be, but the film as a whole is entertaining as hell. Tom Hardy sells the Eddie Brock/Venom relationship perfectly — to hilarious effect — in and out of the fantastic action sequences. Everyone other than Hardy completely phones it in, especially Riz Ahmed. It’s a great time at the movies and worth the price of admission.

DR Diagnosis: 65%

THE METRIX | ‘Venom’ Breaks October Thursday Night Record

Sony’s kickoff to their oddball “Spider Man-less” Spider-Verse, Venom, ate up a boffo, record-breaking $10 million on Thursday night, blowing away previous tracking.

That fantastic number compares heavily to Captain America: Winter Soldier ($10.4M, $95M weekend), Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($8.7M, $91M weekend) and even Wonder Woman ($11M, $103M weekend).

After looking at those numbers, it seems like an $80 million-plus weekend is a lock, but that isn’t the case. The reviews have been quite negative, but, surprisingly, the audience reactions are extremely positive (88% audience user score on RT, 7.3 on IMDb). The word-of-mouth is what will drive Venom to those big numbers.

It will be interesting to see if Venom overcomes those sour reviews from critics. If we were to guess, an October record is all but guaranteed, and the Tom Hardy film hits at least $65 million. As for our opinion? We really enjoyed it! 

In equally big news, albeit on a smaller scale, A Star is Born thrilled audiences last night and boasted a huge $4.55 million Thursday night take. This is ginormous for a drama of this size.

In comparison to other hit October dramas, The Martian did $2.5 million in previews ($54M weekend), Gone Girl did $1.2 million ($37M weekend), and Gravity, the current October weekend record holder, did $1.4 million ($55M weekend). It is safe to say that Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut (and arguably, one of the best films of the year) is looking at a phenomenal weekend in the $40-50 million range.

Stay tuned for more box office at Movies Matrix…