My Favorite Blockbuster “Discoveries” Of 2017

Happy New Year everyone. I decided to celebrate by compiling a series of lists celebrating my favorite films and shows of 2017. Sounds like pretty standard stuff, right? Yup, totally. However, these lists will include not just new films from last year, but new-to-me ones that I enjoyed. This one celebrates the glory of big screen blockbusters, most of which I saw on the small screen because, you know, kids.

First off, I’d just like to reiterate how much I enjoyed Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (2014) and San Andreas (2015) from director Gary Peyton.  I had a great time watching both of those movies earlier this year and highly recommend checking them out if you’re looking for big budget disaster fare. I also had a silly amount of fun watching Vin Diesel in 2015’s The Last Witch Hunter helmed by Breck Eisner. I think this will make a great weekend movie tune-in type of movie.

Continue reading My Favorite Blockbuster “Discoveries” Of 2017

Everyone’s Right, Guardians Of The Galaxy Is Awesome

guardians of the galaxyI was a huge fan of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s Guardians Of The Galaxy series which came out of the Annihilation events, though apparently I never wrote about it here on UM (though I did review a trade collecting the first issues of the original series). The mix of comedy, action and cosmic threats made for a thoroughly entertaining series that seemed perfect for the big screen, even if characters like Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Drax, Gamora, Mantis and Cosmo were completely unknown to a larger audience.

When the actual film version was announced, I was shocked, but excited. I got even more jazzed when Slither director James Gunn was revealed as the captain of this ship. Throw in a stellar cast including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, John C. Reilly, Benicio del Toro, Glenn Close, Lee Pace, Djimon Hounsou, Karen Gillan, Josh Brolin and Michael Rooker. Of course, I rarely see movies in the theaters anymore, so it took until last weekend for me to see the film which everyone loved. I almost never say this — just look at my initial review of Cabin in the Woods — but this is a movie that lived up to the hype.

I won’t bother going into the film’s plot, because I assume you’ve all seen it, are waiting to see it or have no plans to see it. I will say that I was shocked at how little of the film was spoiled for me going in. I realized as we put the film on — yes, I watched this with my wife and 3-year-old daughter who also both loved it — that I knew very little about the actual story. Sure, I knew about the dancing, the team-up element, the adorable mid-credit sequence and the cheer-worthy post-credits sequence (from my daughter and I, at least), but as far as the actual story went? I was in the dark and that was delightful.

 A lot of people credit this film for being funny as well as action packed and that’s a dead-on assessment. Even after watching the flick three times in four days (like I said, the kid fell in love), I still found myself laughing at Groot, Drax and Rocket. But this isn’t just a fun adventure. There’s also a lot of heart. That opening scene is ROUGH, especially if you’ve lost someone close to you. And if Rocket’s drunken monolog doesn’t hit you hard, there’s something wrong with you. On top of all that, the film is packed with clever ideas. Introducing the adult version of your hero with a dance number on an alien planet? Awesome. Rocket’s plan for getting out of the prison? Genius. The way these wildly unique characters fight on their own and together? Fantastic.

I do have three complaints about the film, though, but only two of them are valid. First, I really disliked that moment in the beginning where Quill says he forgot about the alien woman. I also don’t like how Drax called Gamora a whore towards the end, which makes very little sense. I was primed to see both of these flaws because of the people I follow on Twitter, but I agree that they didn’t need to be there and could have easily been changed. The third complaint is that it took me a while to get used to the different versions of these characters, specifically Gamora. In the comics I’ve read Gamora is a ruthless warrior with little compassion. In this version she’s a lot more human which works perfectly for this story, but took me some time to get used to.

We had such a fun time watching this film that I feel compelled to buy it and add it to my collection. That hasn’t happened with a new film since…Man Of Steel I think. Going even further, this movie got me excited for what’s going on in the Marvel Studios films leading into both Avengers: Infinity War. The Guardians have to be involved right? They’ve just gotta be!

Halloween Scene: Slither (2006)

One of the reasons watching Zombie Holocaust made me so mad was because I was focusing on it instead of watching the excellent Slither which I had seen years ago when I lived with my pal Rickey Purdin (of DC Comics and VHS Notebook fame). But, aside from the basic plot, a few key scenes and the inclusion of Jenna Fischer, I had forgotten almost everything about this movie, including the fact that faves Elizabeth Banks, Nathan Fillion and Michael Rooker starred.

Anyway, after finishing that crapfest, I turned the Xbox on and finished Slither. Holy crap, you guys, this is such a great movie. I put it up there with Trick ‘r Treat as one of my favorite horror movies from the last 1o years. The beauty of this film is that it includes so many different horror elements and does them all well. You’ve got the Invasion of the Body Snatchers thing, the small town thing, the “this could spread to the whole world” thing, the zombie thing, the gore thing, the pretty-good-CGI thing, the funny thing, it has ALL THE THINGS.

If you haven’t seen the movie — and you really should, it’s fan-effing-tastic — these alien creatures wind up in a small town and start taking over the population. Because they take over Rooker first and he loves Banks, everyone who gets infected and becomes part of the hive mind, they all love her and bring her to Rooker who has turned into…something else. It’s just such a cool idea that feels familiar enough that doens’t need a ton of info to get into, but also feels fresh. That’s pretty much the way this whole movie feels. Meanwhile, Fillion plays the sheriff who’s doing his best to stop the invasion and just survive this ordeal.

Unfortunately, I had to watch this movie mostly with subtitles — which I didn’t even know you could do on Netflix Instant until the other day. This worked out so I could continue to understand the movie while I watched it either at night or while Lu took naps. The problem though is that I really missed hearing Banks and Fillion give their dialog. Those two are such good, funny actors and bring both elements to this film which might seem funny, but is definitely taken seriously. We need more movies like this, dammit!

Halloween Scene: Dawn Of The Dead (2004)

George Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead is one of my all time favorite horror movies of all time. I’ll go one further and say it’s one of my favorite movies period. There’s so much greatness in there from drama to horror and really everything in between. It’s a great film. I don’t feel the same way about Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake, but I still like it. I get why fellow fans of the original would dislike this movie which just takes the basic concept of the original–people take shelter in a mall during a zombie apocalypse–and dumped most other things aside from a few other basics (pregnancy, cops in the mall) and made a whole new movie. But, if you just came out with a mall zombie movie, the outcries about it being a Dawn remake would have been deafening. So, I’m okay with it. The basic idea is cool enough that I would be okay with a new remake every few years as long as whoever worked on it moved enough pieces around to make it interesting.

And that’s why I like this remake, the basics might be the same, but the specifics are so different that I get drawn in. Both flicks have female entry points, but the difference between the two movies and characters is pretty huge. Unlike the original we start off in the woman’s house and really get personal with her, even seeing her last love making session with her husband. Then BANG zombie apocalypse is full on. She’s on the run and winds up catching up with other survivors. I like that Snyder kept the idea of a woman getting pregnant in all this mess, but I’m also glad that he transferred that to another character in order to give Sarah Polley’s Ana the opportunity to do lots of other things in the movie like fall for a fellow survivor and really get into the action. Speaking of which, the whole pregnancy thing gets insane in such an amazing and creepy way that I’m still surprised it’s in a pretty big budget studio horror movie. I just shook a bit thinking about it again. Bleh. But in a good way.

Another change I liked about the film is how it opens up a bit. The wide open claustrophobia of the first film is pretty amazing and complex, but there’s also something to be said about these people being proactive and looking to get the heck out of there. The building up of the trucks might be just a little goofy, but it made enough sense and seemed likely, so I was in. And the chainsaw thing is a GREAT idea, though not for a couple of the characters. Snyder seemed to have a good handle on mixing the “have fun with it” mentality with the “this is serious business” one in a way that really hits for me.

So, yeah, I like this movie and I’m glad I picked it up for a buck at a used book store in New Hampshire a month or so back. It’s cool to have different takes on both the zombie genre and a specific story idea like that of the original Dawn Of The Dead. I will say that I’m surprised exactly how much of this movie was borrowed or straight-up swiped for Dead Rising and its sequel–two video games I wished I loved but really wound up disliking. It might seem strange calling this out for a remake of another movie, but it felt at times like whole scenes from the movie were digitized and dropped into those games. Speaking of video games, I actually played Left 4 Dead 2 with my dad on Xbox Live, and I think the intense feeling of that game has helped put me into zombie movies a little bit better. There are scenes that felt exactly like the game with zombies coming on, the character blasting away and trying to push them away without dying. It’s kind of an interesting way that one medium can alter the way you experience another one. Fun stuff.