Pet Sematary (1989) Movie Review

The other day, scrolling through the channels, my eye caught on Pet Sematary. I’ve been looking forward to the new film set to release in April, and had never seen the original and so decided to watch it. I have never read a Stephen King novel, though I have enjoyed several movies based on his works but I wouldn’t really say I’m a fan, and most of the time the films are entirely hit or miss.

This was a big miss. This movie is just not very good. The acting is terrible, especially from the lead, Dale Midkiff who taps out at a monotone early in the film. The pacing of the film is off as well with the opening of the film moving very slowly but with no tension building. Then there’s the plot, which feels clunky. The characters are really quick to believe things that are rather fantastical and are even quicker to take action based on those beliefs. There are also a lot of things in the film that just don’t age well. Some of the camera angles and editing choices, along with the music feel very dated. Though, the Ramones theme song provides some much needed humor as the credits roll at the end of the film.

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The two good things from this film are the special effects makeup, which looks pretty gruesome, and the ghost/zombie Victor Pascow played very tongue-in-cheek by Brad Greenquist. His performance lightens the mood and his delivery of some pretty fun dialogue from a rather disturbing appearance is a nice combination of corny and creepy.

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Movie Review: Venom

My sister doesn’t go to the movies very often, and it is near impossible trying to predict what she might end up liking. So, of course, when she told me that not only had she gone to the theater to see Venom (more than once mind you) but that she actually liked it, I was surprised. I know that she has always been a fan of the Spider-Man universe and that she had a particular fondness for Venom but I had heard so many terrible things about this film, I just couldn’t believe that’s what she decided to spend her time on.

Time went by and after receiving the DVD for Christmas, an opportunity came up for her to share her appreciation of the film with me. We started the day off with a viewing of Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (which was quite a lot of fun), and then went back home to sit down and watch Venom.

I have to say, the film isn’t as bad as people say it is. It isn’t very good either but it’s not that bad. There are a lot of story issues, such as plot holes, messy exposition, and an expedited climax. The acting also isn’t the best, though I think Tom Hardy was having a lot of fun with the role, and of all the things I’ve seen him in, this is the film where I enjoyed watching him the most. At least he wasn’t just grunting or squinting his way through his scenes. The special effects look unfinished in a lot of areas but the Venom face effects look decent enough.

The best thing though that this film has going for it is its small scale storyline. I’ve mentioned in previous reviews how tiring some of the superhero movies can get because there is just so much destruction and so many lives lost that it becomes depressing to watch after a certain point. Venom takes place in one central location (San Francisco), involves one main bad guy and a couple of cronies, and the climax of the film doesn’t involve a whole city’s decimation. The consequences of the characters’ actions could have bigger implications but the battle at the end doesn’t.

I can see why my sister likes this movie so much. Despite its weaknesses, Venom was kind of a fun viewing experience, and it is an interesting character to base a movie around. I don’t see myself revisiting this the way my sister is eager to but I’m also not upset that I sat through it this first time.

Movie Review: The Babysitter

I forget where I first heard about this but it sounded right up my alley. A young boy stays up late one night to discover what his babysitter does once he is asleep. He soon learns that she is actually part of a cult that believes in human sacrifice. He then spends the rest of the evening trying to stay alive and out run all of the deranged, overly sexualized teenagers tearing apart his house and trying to use him for their ritual.

I’ll be honest, this isn’t a great film but it is a lot of fun. It is completely over the top and it is very stylized. It has a glossy look to it and plays with some of the usual horror tropes, and even throws in a few 70s style captions. The kid is actually pretty good, and everyone in it seems to be having fun. These kinds of films only really work when the people in them know the kind of thing they are making.

It won’t end up being a classic for sure but it is only an hour and a half, and some of the visual gags make it really worth it. There is definitely some gore, and you know the filmmakers had to have been laughing when they thought up some of these deaths.

Movie Review: Dumplin’

I heard about Dumplin’ thanks to the BookTube community on YouTube. Apparently the novel is supposed to be quite good. I do have an eBook copy of it but have not yet sat down to read it so I wasn’t able to compare the book to the movie. I was mostly interested in the film because I had heard that Jennifer Aniston had been involved with it from the very first stages, and the premise of the story sounded like something that could be fun. An overweight teenager, Willow Dean, joins a beauty pageant run by her former Beauty Queen mother to make a statement about pageants and the expectations put on young girls because of them, as well as to take a stand against her mother’s expectations for her. It is set in Texas and involves a lot of Dolly Parton.

At the beginning of the film we are introduced to a variety of interesting themes. There is of course the concept of fallen beauty queens (what has happened to Willow Dean’s mother after her pageant win?), and the issue of self-esteem and how low self-confidence can impact the way others see you (but is it really how they see you, or just how you think they see you?). Unfortunately neither of these themes is well developed throughout the rest of the film. Willow Dean has low self-esteem, despite putting on a good face and she actually judges others quite a bit the way she feels they judge her. We see some of those feelings come to actual conflict but there is never any real resolution, and the issue of Willow Dean’s judging others never is addressed. The only follow up to the “fallen beauty queens” theme is a punchline Willow Dean delivers to a fellow pageant participant for no reason other than she takes an instant dislike to her.

On top of these thematic issues, the relationship between Willow Dean and her mother is very underdeveloped. We are told over and over again how awful her mother can be about the weight and the pageantry expectations but the only thing we actually see is a working mother, who very clearly loves her daughter, that sometimes fails to adequately communicate that feeling. Again, there is no meaningful resolution here. There is also the relationship with Willow Dean’s aunt, which is shown briefly at the beginning of the story to be loving and supportive. Willow Dean has clearly idolized her aunt but we don’t get much beyond their shared love of Dolly Parton, and donuts.

The major problem with this film is that it is fueled by teenage angst, and the worst kind at that, the unjustified kind. Willow Dean has a loving mother, supportive friends, and a really nice guy who is into her, yet she pushes them all away because of her own insecurities. Then, she spends the majority of the film on a revenge plot against her mother for no real reason. She sort of comes to a conclusion about her lack of confidence and how she has been projecting that onto others at the end of the film but the path laid out for that realization is so small and weak that it feels like her epiphany comes out of nowhere.

This film could have been about so much more than its poster premise of an overweight girl in a beauty pageant but every time it had the chance to dive into some deeper themes, it cut away from them quickly to focus back on all of that teenage angst. Suffice it to say it was a disappointment and not very much of an endorsement for me to pick up the book.

Best Movies of 2018

In 2018 I saw seventy-two films in theaters, fifty-six of which were new releases. Below is a video in which I discuss my favorite films of the last year but first, a couple of honorable mentions.

 

Chappaquiddick

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This was a very straight forward, pared down film. It tells the story of the events leading up to and following the night that Senator Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge on Chappaqquidick Island. The filmmakers did their best to use only verified information to tell the story and I thought the result was very effective.

 

Avengers: Infinity War

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Of course I loved Infinity War. I did a whole review project leading up to its release, that’s how excited I was. I worried a little that it wouldn’t be able to live up to all that had been built up but it did. Each of the characters got a good amount of screen/story time, and it still impresses me that they were able to get all of those people into one film and not have it feel overstuffed. As an added bonus I saw the film in Hollywood at a late screening Thursday (release) night and Kevin Feige and Joe Russo surprised the audience beforehand just to say thanks for being fans. That was an awesome, totally “Hollywood” experience, and it amped me up right before the movie started.

 

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

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Here Ethan Hunt is dealing with the “fallout” of the events of Rogue Nation, and bringing together a team to yet again fight against a disaster of epic proportions. The Mission Impossible films have become kind of like the James Bond films in that they follow a typical formula and have recurring elements, which I think actually adds a lot to them, and makes the characters and storylines more meaningful. I enjoyed looking forward to this film, and prepared by rewatching and reviewing all of the previous films. In the end, I was impressed with the film’s ability to still surprise me with its incredible stunts, and unexpected heartfelt story.

 

The Old Man and the Gun

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This was a nice surprise. Based on a true story, Robert Redford plays Forrest Tucker, a bank robber and prison escape artist. It is a slow moving story that really shines thanks to some solid, and understated performances. I wasn’t expecting anything from the film when I went into it and I thought the whole thing was rather charming. There is an especially great scene between Redford and Casey Affleck, who plays the detective investigating Tucker’s string of robberies.

 

Green Book

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I was a little wary of yet another indie film with a social message simply because there have been so many lately, and they’ve followed the same basic story structure. While Green Book does take on a more traditional format, and does have a social message at its heart, it stands apart thanks to the moving performances from its two leads. It is a story of two people from different worlds coming together that moves at a leisurely pace but really works thanks to Mahershala Ali, and especially Viggo Mortensen.

 

And now for my Top Ten Favorite Films of 2018: