A Mind on Fire https://www.amindonfire.com Books, Movies, TV and Whatever Sat, 10 Feb 2018 04:34:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.4 https://www.amindonfire.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/favicon-150x150.png A Mind on Fire https://www.amindonfire.com 32 32 The Paradox Of The Cloverfield Paradox https://www.amindonfire.com/the-paradox-of-the-cloverfield-paradox/ Sat, 10 Feb 2018 04:34:58 +0000 http://www.amindonfire.com/?p=8821 Critics are slamming The Cloverfield Paradox, but what do those clowns really know?

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(DANGER, WILL ROBINSON. SPOILERS AHEAD) What is a paradox? A paradox is a statement that seems to contradict itself, but seems to be true. The statement, “This is statement is false” is a classic example of a paradox. If the statement is true then it’s not false. However, if the statement is false than the statement is true. A famous paradox in science is the paradox of the twin brothers. One travels through space at a high rate of speed while the other stays on earth. The paradox is would one be older than the other? The answer lies within a bunch of science, physics, and other things we don’t have time nor the education to go into (but it has a lot to do with Einstein and Special Relativity). There are a lot of paradoxes to be found in science.

The Large Hadron Collider

Will this high end piece of tech end the world in a bang or a whimper?

The paradox in The Cloverfield Paradox is that it belongs in the Cloverfield universe at the same time it doesn’t belong in the Cloverfield universe. What do we mean by this most perplexing of perplexing questions? It’s simple really.

Daniel Bruhl yells at an airlock in The Cloverfield Paradox

If there’s an airlock on the ship it’s going to be used to blow something out into space. This cheap ploy is used twice in The Cloverfield Paradox

The Cloverfield Paradox is a standard science-fiction movie complete with standard science-fiction tropes. An international crew of brainiacs are recruited by an unnamed international NASA like body to save planet earth. In a movie like Danny Boyle’s Sunshine the international crew’s job was to reignite the dying sun. In Julius Onah’s Cloverfield Paradox the international crew’s mission is to spin up a particle accelerator called The Shepard. The Shepard is earth’s only hope to solve earth’s energy crisis.

It should be no surprise that nothing goes right once the accelerator is up and running. There wouldn’t be too much of a movie if nothing went wrong, but more importantly stick-in-the-mud Mark Stambler, played by Donal Logue (Gotham), explains exactly what’s going to happen once the Shepard is turned on. Stambler basically rips off the same list of potential hazardous conspiracy theorists said would happen when the Large Hadron Collider was fired up– Black holes being created, tears in the fabric of the universe, or another Big Bang ending life in the entire universe. What happens is the space station and crew are flung into an alternate universe.

Donal Logue's cameo in The Cloverfield Paradox

In one easy cameo Donal breaks down everything that will happen in the movie.

The only reason we’re all talking about The Cloverfield Paradox is the one word in front of Paradox, “Cloverfield.” If JJ Abrams hadn’t moved in and slapped a Cloverfield on the  property it would have been just another trouble in space movie. Whatever this earlier incarnation would have been called it would still have been a good movie. It may not have been a blockbuster hit and with the relatively unknown cast it would be surprising if it wasn’t a direct to streaming/dvd release.

However, there is enough crazy going on in the movie it would have been just as much fun without the Cloverfield tag. A crew member, Mundy (Chris O’Dowd), loses an arm that starts to crawl around the hallways of the station. Volkov, (played by Aksel Hennie, check him out in the awesome Headhunters) vomits up worms only after the things have traveled and dug through his innards. Jensen, one of the crew members of the current earth’s space station, is found fused inside a wall. Even if it all sounds familiar, like Commander Kiel (David Oyelowo, Selma) sacrificing himself for the crew or Hamilton (Guga Mbatha-Raw, Belle) learning her dead children are still alive on the alternate earth, The Cloverfield Paradox is still fun and entertaining to watch.

The crew in The Cloverfield Paradox stare at.....something

It’s a rule anytime something weird happens in a sci-fi movie the crew must look directly at the camera.

With the Cloverfield tag on the movie Abrams has opened new possibilities and the chance to do something different with a franchise. Most franchises crank one movie out after another following the same formula. Some franchises, like the Insidious franchise, try to carry the same story from sequel to sequel and then into a prequel. Ultimately, as in the case of the Saw, the franchise fizzles out. Rarely does a franchise prove to be as smart and successful as a Planet of the Apes or a James Bond.

Space slug from Empire Strikes Back cast in The Cloverfield Paradox

This may not be the last monster in movie, but dang if it doesn’t look like it.

As Phil Hornshaw and Phil Owen of the Wrap explain, Abrams has created a movie franchise unlike any other movie franchise we’ve seen. The malfunctioning Shepard in The Cloverfield Paradox created the alternate realities where each of the three Cloverfield movies occur. This would explain why Cloverfield doesn’t mention anything about an energy crisis or space stations or space stations falling from orbit. It would also explain why in The Cloverfield Paradox we see Howard’s (John Goodman) fallout shelter from 10 Cloverfield Lane, but no Howard. Furthermore, a rip in reality that also affects time would explain the upcoming Cloverfield movie being set during World War II. The possibilities would seem endless as to what Abrams could do with the Cloverfield franchise.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw in The Cloverfield Paradox

Gugu Mbatha-Raw, the most Star Wars of names outside or inside of the Star Wars frnachise.

Some people have complained Abrams is simply buying completed movies and then adding Cloverfield connections. This may be true, but in the case of both 10 Cloverfield Lane and The Cloverfield Paradox those added connections are brilliantly executed. Hamilton’s husband, Michael, guides us through an alternate London being destroyed by unseen monsters. All we hear are the screams and roars of the monsters. Unlike the shaky camera nightmare of Cloverfield the unseen monsters actually work for the betterment of the movie.  He’s also the one that leads us to the very familiar fallout shelter.

Michael looks at the rubble that was once his hospital in The Cloverfield Paradox

The coolest, moodiest shot in the entire movie.

Other critics have shot down The Cloverfield Paradox. The reasons range from the movie being silly to shoddy. These critics completley miss the point of the movie. We’re not watching because it was ever going to be nominated for an award or for the amazing acting. We watch a movie like The Cloverfield Paradox because it’s a fun movie and because a lot of people out there like to make connections to the previous Cloverfield movies when the connection is weak at best. We watch movies like The Cloverfield Paradox because sometimes, even when the movie borrows from every other trouble in space movie, we want to turn our brains off. The “critics” miss the point that it’s a movie in the Cloverfield franchise, a franchise that started the shaky, found footage movies being cranked out on a daily basis and anything is better than the countless cases of nausea Cloverfield has caused.

Cast and crew of The Cloverfield Paradox

Science fiction rule #202: There must be a slow shot revealing a picture of the crew so everyone is reminded who died during the movie.



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Criterion Collection Releases The Breakfast Club https://www.amindonfire.com/criterion-collection-breakfast-club/ Mon, 22 Jan 2018 03:17:34 +0000 http://www.amindonfire.com/?p=8790 The 80's teenage drama classic gets a 4K face lift thanks to The Criterion Collection

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You know the story. It’s the story about a Brain, an Athlete, a Princess, a Basket Case, and a Criminal. It’s the story of how one Saturday during school detention five kids from completely different backgrounds bonded over It’s the story of The Breakfast Club.

Michael Anthony Hall as Brian in The Breakfast Club

The Brain

Released more than 33 years ago, John Hughes’s The Breakfast Club has become not only an 80s classic, but the template other teen dramas try to be like but more often than not fail. These other movies fail because they forget the simplicity of The Breakfast Club‘s narrative. The wannabes try to be more complicated than they have to be and most don’t remember what it was like to be a teenager and forget the problems that come with being a teenager. Ultimately, these movies fail because the characters aren’t believable and neither are their stories.

Emilio Estevez as Andrew in The Breakfast Club

The Athlete

The brilliance of Hughes’s script is the timelessness of the characters. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Gen Xer, Generation Y (aka Millennials), or Gen Zer, there will always be princesses, brains, criminals, and athletes in every school across the country. These may be generic terms, but they’re appropriate for the movie’s theme that we are more than just labels someone else has placed on us.

Judd Nelson as John Bender in The Breakfast Club

The Criminal

Not only does The Breakfast Club perfectly capture what being a teenager is like it’s also one of the few movies Hollywood can’t remake. Yes, Universal could hire a screenwriter to slap together a script and hire the current hot teen stars fresh from a CW series to fill out the cast, but what could they do to improve on the original? There’s very little Universal could do to set a remake apart from the original. At most, they could introduce cellphones, Facebook, or other social media platforms. Hopefully, Hollywood leaves The Breakfast Club alone.

Molly Ringwald as Claire in The Breakfast Club

The Princess

Fortunately, fans of the movie have another reason to rejoice. The Criterion Collection recently released a 4K restoration of the iconic movie. Fans of the movie who wore out their VHS copies or suffered through the poor dvd and blu-ray transfers will love the 4K transfer. The picture is crisp as one would expect from a Criterion release. The sound also benefits from the transfer. In addition to a beautifully restored movie Criterion has also included more than 50-minutes of deleted footage and more than enough commentaries to make the biggest Breakfast Club fan happy.

Ally Sheedy as the Basket Case in The Breakfast CLub

The Basket Case




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Netflix Time Travels To A Boring Future In Travelers https://www.amindonfire.com/travelers/ Mon, 15 Jan 2018 04:57:17 +0000 http://www.amindonfire.com/?p=8755 You don't need a time machine to know Netflix's Travelers isn't going to end well.

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Travelers was never going to be one of those Netflix series blowing up the internet. It’s not about women in prison or cute kids fighting evil and it doesn’t have the backing of interconnected big-screen, comic-book movies. Travelers is a science fiction series. Science fiction series haven’t traditionally taken off with general audiences. One would be hard pressed to count the number of successful science fiction series on two hands. Even the series fans of the genre would think of (Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Fringe) had to fight and scrape to stay on the air. X-Files, now going on its 12th season, had a long road to travel before it came back to FOX. Even Dr. Who had a long hiatus before it returned. 

It's not Travelers, but he went back in time to set things right.

Why has Quantum Leap not been remade for the the 21st? This needs to happen NOW!

Travelers isn’t just a science fiction series; Travelers is a science fiction series about time travelers. If your list of successful science fiction series was short before it’s been cut at least in half with the time traveler aspect included. Time travel and science fiction are often a combination for early cancellation and non-renewal.

Season one of Travelers will be right up your alley if you’re into science-fiction with a time traveling element. The setup is pretty ingenious. When travelers are sent back into time they take over the bodies and lives of people who are moments from death. It’s a clever way to avoid the pitfalls and traps other series have found themselves in. The writers don’t have to rely on story tropes like “time loops” and not interfering with the “timeline” to move the story along.

Trevor and Philip enjoy their first fast food in the 21st on Netfilx's Travelers

Fast food never tasted so good…when you’re from a post apocalyptic earth.

The first season has a strong 12 Monkeys feel about it. At some point in our future a cataclysmic event occurs sending the surviving population under ground. Travelers, unlike 12 Monkeys, doesn’t show us what the future looks like. We can only infer what it is like from what the characters tell us or show us like when they eat foods no longer available in the future. The travelers are sent back to the 21st Century, or simply the “21st” as travelers call our century, by the Director. 

The Director, we learn, is actually a super computer. It decides who to send back and why. Once in the 21st, the Director sends missions to the teams that have been sent back. Sometimes it even plays judge, jury and executioner. It’s the Director Grant MacLaren (Eric McCormack of Will and Grace fame) and his team have pledged allegiance. A super computer used to dictate time travel isn’t a new concept (See 12 Monkeys again, Primer), but in Travelers The Director is more of a character we never meet.

Time traveler puts a thingamajig in a whatchamacallit in Netflix's Travelers.

When you are time traveler it’s super easy to break into top secret military facilities.

Near the end of the first season, Travelers introduces a faction among the travelers who are fighting the Director and anyone who supports it. MacLaren and his team find themselves at odds with many people they knew in the future. In season one, the faction is responsible for a divergent timeline being created in the future. It’s one of the few time travel tropes to be found in the series.

Overall, the first season of Travelers is a smart, entertaining science fiction series. The characters are believable enough. As much as the series focuses on the saving earth aspect it dedicates enough time to develop the travelers’ new lives with the friends and families of their “hosts,” the bodies they inhabit. 

MacLaren's Wife finds out he's from the future in Netflix's Travelers

If the first season is solid science-fiction storytelling the second season is the complete opposite. We can forgive the nanobots the travelers use to save everybody when the story line call for it. We can even forgive the fact that after being betrayed by Faction members posing as friends MacLaren and company keep accepting new faces as allies. What we can’t forgive is the introduction of super character Vincent Ingram.

There’s no argument that Enrico Colantoni (Galaxy Quest) is one of the best character actors working today. In Travelers he plays Vincent Ingram. We learn late in the second season Ingram is the first traveler sent to the 21st. He was part of an experiment to see if time travel was possible. Ingram was meant to die in the 9/11 attacks. Instead, he walked out of the Towers and continued life in the 21st avoiding any digital record the Director could use to find him.

Vincent Ingram has a morning cup of Joe on Netflix's Travelers.

“Now that’s good coffee.”

The Ingram character presents some interesting problems for the Director. However, characters like Ingram, Colantoni’s Carl Elias on Person of Interest, and even The Walking Dead‘s Negan are walking talking deus ex machinas. Ingram is the”unknown” enemy for much the second season, but even after MacLaren learns Igram’s identity he’s unbeatable. He knows what the team is thinking, he knows what the team is going to do even before they know what they’re going to do. It’s a storytelling trope we’ve seen a lot in television over the past couple of years. It gets old, stale, and is played out.

To make matters worse, season two ends with the travelers being exposed to the world. First we’re suppose to believe Ingram is soooo smart and can do anything that he’s basically Superman. Then we’re meant to believe the world would actually believe time travel is real. Why? Because some people uploaded confession videos to Youtube? There are more than 200,000 videos on Youtube claiming Bigfoot is real. So why aren’t news outlets reporting Bigfoot running around a forest somewhere? Because no one believes Youtube videos.

Ingram meets MacLaren for the first time on Netflix's Travelers.

Ingram meets MacLaren on a forced premise.

It’s always a shame when a series starts off strong and ends on a forced premise shoved down the audiences’ throat. Usually it takes more than two seasons before a series falls apart. It took Travelers one and half seasons. Maybe season three, if there is a season three, it can redeem itself by returning to the science-fiction, characters, and solid story telling.

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Is The Walking Dead a Dead Series Walking? https://www.amindonfire.com/walking-dead-dead-series-walking/ Tue, 02 Jan 2018 02:39:10 +0000 http://www.amindonfire.com/?p=8728 The Walking Dead is starting to stink and rot like the zombies populating the series.

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Robert Kirkman has said in more than one interview The Walking Dead comic book, and by extension the AMC series, is a what if the zombie movies we liked so much never ended? Seven years ago it was a good question. After seven and half seasons we know what happens when the zombie movie never ends-it drags on and on, gets stale, repetitive, and boring.

The season eight mid-season finale finds Rick and the gang on the run. Again. On the run from another super bad guy and another sanctuary being razed to the ground. We’ve seen the same thing happen more than once in The Walking Dead and we’ll probably see it again before the series ends. One would think safe shelters would be rare in a post apocalyptic zombie America, but we find ourselves in the SAME spot every two seasons.

A street in Alexandria from the Walking Dead

Are you having a difficult time finding a home in a nice area with good schools? Wait for the zombie apocalypse because there will be an abundance of good homes.

Who was responsible for the farm…I mean the prison…shoot, I mean the town being leveled? Season seven introduced Negan, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Supernatural), as the new bad guy. If the internet was on fire when AMC announced Morgan would be the baseball bat wielding bad guy it couldn’t shut up over speculations of which characters he killed in the season six finale. Full disclosure: Negan really didn’t kill anyone in season six. It was actually season seven, but showrunners did one of their tried, true, and played out rewinds to a few moments before cons so they could keep the kills for season seven.

Season Seven promo poster for the Walking Dead

If Negan was ever “cool” he wore his welcome out episodes ago.

From the moment the series introduced Negan he was set up as a superman, a Walking Dead god. There’s nothing he can’t do, can’t escape, and nothing Rick can think of that Negan hasn’t thought of already. It’s like he’s always one step ahead of Rick (insert evil cackle here). A Negan character gets old after more than a season. We don’t have to watch week to week to know Negan is still in the series and still in charge. A Negan character lacks imagination because we know he’s always going to win or find his way out of any situation. The character creates no tension because any outcome is a forgone conclusion.

Negan slams his phallic symbol in the Walking Dead

Negan looks like a caricature from a 50’s motorcycle gang movie like The Wild One. If it weren’t so sad it would be funny.

We could argue if Negan were the first superman badass character in The Walking Dead that it was a fresh, original character for the series. Except, he’s not the first superman badass character The Walking Dead has inflicted upon us. It was only a couple of seasons ago the Governor was hacking off Hershel’s head.

The Governor rallies his troops in the Walking Dead

The Governor, Negan…samsies!

Negan and the Governor are basically the same character. They both have practically the same back story. Both lost their wives to the infection and turned into psychopaths. Negan, like the Governor, leads a brain washed band of survivors who have been convinced Rick and company are the real bad guys. Sure, a lot of loved ones would be lost during a zombie apocalypse. However, the surviving loved ones aren’t going to all turn into mini dictators. The first time may have been original, but the second time is just lazy.

The only real distinction between the two pyschopaths is Negan’s love of cussing. Yeah, coming out of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s mouth some it sounds pretty funny. After the third or fourth episode though it starts getting old. How many more cute little quips like “I hope you got your shittin’ pants on because you’re about to shit your pants” are we going to have to hear? After a groundbreaking first couple of seasons cussing is the only thing Kirkman and company have to prove the series is still “cutting edge.”

Negan and Rick face off in The Walking Dead

Hey, kids, we’re on basic cable so we can say things like “ass”, “shit”, and “dick.”

Let’s say for the sake of argument Negan and the rest of his stock characters are defeated by the end of season eight, what next? The only thing the series can do is introduce yet another bad guy who will be around for another two seasons. It will be another bad guy who threatens everything Rick and his Merry Men have worked so hard to build.

Fear the Walking dead cast

Oooops…sorry. This is another zombie series coasting on fumes.

A series like The Walking Dead can’t survive if it were about a group of farmers in a post apocalyptic America. As bad as the series is becoming a series about a bunch of hippie farmers would be even worse. When Negan is gone there will be the brief interlude of the gang trying to find a new home, but eventually another baddie will come along to overturn the apple cart. It’s the only option, short of ending the series (Hahahahaha! That’s not going to happen any time soon), The Walking Dead has to continue to seasons nine, ten, and beyond.

The Walking Dead has survived more on the characters it has killed off than actual story or plot. Viewers tuned in just as much to see who died as to know what was going to happen in an episode. Now we’re at the point most of the main characters that can be killed off have been killed off.

Ethan Embry as short lived character on the Walking Dead

Remember when Ethan Embry was on The Walking Dead? Neither do we, but his character is dead so it doesn’t matter.

The show doesn’t have enough balls to kill off a main character. Without Rick there is no Walking Dead series. Daryl, a character who was created for the series, is so popular ratings would plummet to cancellation numbers if he were to be written out of the series.

If Daryl dies on the Walking Dead we riot

Daryl dies we riot. Like Daryl is ever going to die.

Real candidates for the chopping block would be characters like Morgan, Aaron, or Tara. Characters close enough to the core group their death may mean something, but would not fundamentally change the nature of the series. More importantly for the series killing off a minor character would preserve the illusion that the series is willing to take chances.

Remember when the series took a lot of flack for its lack of diversity? Yeah, they’re not going to kill off Michonne.

We’ve entered what I like to call the Ensign Red Shirt Zone. For those of you who don’t remember the old Star Trek series any ensign wearing a red shirt was killed in the first few minutes of the episode. Where they came from and who they were was never really an issue. It’s where we are now in The Walking Dead. There’s a lot of random people showing up out of nowhere so the series can kill them off.

Maggie drives back to the Hilltop in the Walking Dead

Who cares who is sitting behind Maggie? No one does, not even the writers.

This is the part where fanboys chime in about Carl’s bite. Let me ask you this, “When did Carl get bit in the season eight mid-season finale?”  No one saw it happen, but we’re expected to believe a zombie bit him on the stomach. Let me ask you this, “When have we ever seen a character get a simple bite?” Compared to the other bites we’ve seen over the last seven and half seasons the bite mark shown is barely a flesh wound.

A bite on Carl's stomach in The Walking Dead

Zombie bite or love nibble? You decide.

Is it really a zombie bite? Remember when the showrunners lead audiences to believe Glenn was dead? It was the biggest “fuck you” moment when we found out Glenn was hiding under a trash bin the entire time. I could be wrong, but I think the showunners are having another fuck you moment at the fan’s expense. When season eight starts back we’ll learn a human or an animal bit him.

Glenn surrounded by zombies in the Walking Dead

He’s not screaming. It’s the showrunners giving a giant middle finger to the fans.

The Walking Dead had a lot of potential in the early seasons. Big questions about humanity, a lack of humanity, and where society goes after everything ends could have been asked. Any pretense of meaningful storytelling was cast aside for explosions and cussing.

The Walking Dead showrunners have decided to repeat and regurgitate the same story and the same characters season after season. Then they get on The Talking Dead, the reach around show for The Walking Dead, and tell the audience what a great job they’re doing and how we should all count ourselves lucky we live in a time when The Walking Dead is on the air.

Zombies in Walking Dead look just like zombies in Game of Thrones

Ooops…sorry. This is another show about zombies. And it’s doing a much better job than the Walking Dead.

How many voice overs, how many flashbacks, and how many Super Negan’s are we going to have to endure? How many character are going to say “I don’t want to kill anymore” or “ Why are we fighting if we are going to end up like (insert bad guy of the season).” When are people going to wake up and realize Rick is a shitty leader? How many more plans are going to go bad because one of the characters think they have a better idea? 

After seven and half seasons, I say no more.

Ezekiel and Shiva pose for the Walking Dead

You know you got problems when the most touching scene in the series is the death of a CGI tiger.


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Bright: Netflix’s First Blockbuster Movie Is Not The Worst Movie Of 2017 https://www.amindonfire.com/bright/ Mon, 25 Dec 2017 05:47:49 +0000 http://www.amindonfire.com/?p=8707 Bright may not light up your Christmas, but it's a nice two hour break from the stress of the holidays.

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There was a time David Ayer was a serious director, but somewhere along the way, he gave up any pretense of doing a serious film. And that’s a shame. Harsh Times and Street Kings put Ayer’s name on the map. End of Watch made him a go-to director for grit and realism. Ayer followed End of Watch with the much-maligned Sabotage (which is not as bad as the critics would have you believe) and the gritty World War II movie Fury (Starring a mohawked Brad Pitt). Unfortunately, none of the grit made it into the sub-par Suicide Squad. Following on the heels of Suicide Squad, Netflix has brought Ayer’s latest offering, Bright, to the small screen.

Do you remember the movie Alien Nation? Maybe you remember the short lived television series. The really condensed backstory of both the movie and the series is this- aliens, called Newcomers, crashed their spaceship in America and become assimilated into society at varying degrees. One of the aliens, Sam Francisco (Mandy Patinkin, The Princess Bride) is the first alien to be in the Los Angeles Police Department. Sam faces ridicule, taunts, and racism. His partner, Matthew Sykes (James Caan, The Godfather), doesn’t want to be partnered with a Newcomer.

Why are we asking you if you have seen Alien Nation and giving you an edited version of the story? Because it’s the exact same theme as Bright. Bright, like Alien Nation, uses mythical creatures as stand-ins for minorities and the issues they face in the United States. Bright removes the aliens and adds orcs and elves. Daryl Ward (Will Smith) is partnered with the LAPD’s first orc police officer, Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton, It Comes at Night). Ward doesn’t want to be partnered with an orc and the other officers in the police department don’t want an orc on the force.

Ayer attempts to bring some grit and realism to Bright. It may be difficult to see through the magic, the orcs,  and the elves. It’s there, you just have to look for it. It begins when Ward and Jakoby save an elf, Tikka, and a magic wand meant to be used to summon the Dark Lord. Ward, Jakoby, and Tikka race through the city, End of Watch style, trying to get to federal agents of the Magic Department. The entire time they’re hunted by gang members, police, and one pissed off elf named Leilah (Noomi Rapace, Prometheus) who needs the wand to summon the Dark Lord.

Will Smith as an LAPD officer in Netflix's Bright

Fantasy stories love cliches. Bright’s cliche is Smith is the 1 in a million human who can use a wand to save the day.

Like a lot of fantasy books (The Hobbit, anything by Terry Brooks or Robert Jordan), Bright is packed with silly and almost unpronounceable names you forget as soon as you hear them. There’s a convoluted prophecy of the Dark Lord coming back to earth and the wands it takes to bring him back. No fantasy story would be complete without magic spells and made up languages that require subtitles. Bright has it all in spades. It’s enough to turn anyone off who’s not into the sword and sorcery genre.

Is Bright the worst movie of 2017? Some would have you believe it is the worst movie of 2017. These people forgot Daddy’s Home 2, The Dark Tower, Monster Trucks, Sleepless, and remakes of both Flatliners and Going in Style came out in 2017. There are more movies that came out in 2017 far more deserving of the title Worst Movie of 2017 than Bright.

Edgar Ramirez as wand hunting Kandomere in Netflix's Bright

Underutilized Edgar Ramirez is more cardboard than substance in Bright and he’s dressed like an Elf dandy.

Bright isn’t the best movie of 2017 either. Like Lethal Weapon, Rush Hour, Bad Boys, and a million other police movies, Bright is basically a buddy cop movie. Because it’s a buddy cop movie in the tradition of buddy cop movies it’s a foregone conclusion Ward and Jakoby will become friends and save the city by the end of the movie. Bright doesn’t break the mold when it comes to the buddy cop genre. In fact, it follows every cliche to be found in the genre. 

In today’s day and age of comic book movies with underdeveloped characters and stories that are more special effects than substance, it’s not fair to heap unwarranted criticism on one movie that follows the same formula. Those movies rake in billions and no one bats an eye. Fanboys and critics heap praises on movies like Captain America: Winter Solider with one plot hole after, but find offense in Bright. Bright follows the same formula as those movies- underdeveloped characters, explosions and property destruction, more special effects than exposition, and crazy fight scenes.

Noomi Rapace in Netflix's Bright

Bright, like comic book movies, is a fun turn your brain off two-hour movie. At the very least, it’s ten times better than Suicide Squad.

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Better Watch Out for a Red Christmas Horror https://www.amindonfire.com/better-watch-out-red-christmas/ Thu, 21 Dec 2017 08:23:19 +0000 http://www.amindonfire.com/?p=8684 A quick review of two new Christmas horror movies- Red Christmas and Better Watch Out

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We really like the Christmas horror movies at the Mind on Fire offices. Why? Maybe because it’s a break from the bright flashing lights, the carols, and the movies about families solving all their problems in one night. Maybe it’s because there’s really no season off limits to scares and frights. This year we introduce two newer movies into the Christmas horror catalog. One is decent, the other one crashed and burned on take off. (Spoilers ahead)

Better Watch Out begins by introducing us to Luke (Levi Miller, Pan) and his babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge, The Visit). The first thing you’ll notice is that Ashley isn’t really any older than her charge. In fact, the two could be the same age. Is it enough to stop watching? Maybe not, but you can’t stop asking yourself “Why does Luke need a babysitter who’s the same age as he is?”

Luke tried to make the moves on Ashley in Better Watch Out

Better Watch Out starts out with potential. It could have been a movie about an awkward kid trying to make the moves on the girl he has had a crush on for years. The movie did attempt this, but then it went into home invasion territory. Home invasion movies are fine too, but it’s revealed rather quickly the home invasion is a ruse Luke set up with the help of his friend Garrett (Ed Oxenbould, The Visit). From there the movie does

Luke’s plan the entire time was to kill Ashley and her boyfriends and therein lies the one big problem with the movie. The movie hinges on Luke’s parents, Robert (Patrick Warburton, The Tick) and Deandra Lerner (Virginia Madsen, Sideways), staying away from the house long enough for Luke to carry out his plan. How long is any party, Christmas or otherwise, that would allow a murder to be committed and a crime scene cleaned of evidence? Perhaps there would have been enough time to kill Ashley’s boyfriends and clean up all the evidence if everything had gone according to Luke’s original plan. However, nothing goes according to Luke’s plan.

Garrett gets caught up in Better Watch Out

At least he didn’t rap in this one. Could anyone handle another rap by the kid from The Visit? I think not.

Ashley fights back more than once and freeing herself from her duct tape bonds. When she’s not trying to break free we’re treated to Ashley telling Luke and Garrett the same thing over and over- Let me go, it’s not too late. When she does break free the chase is boring. Nothing beats a good killer-victim chase in horror movie, but it takes away from the precious time Luke needs to complete his plan. Ashley’s boyfriend, Ricky, also fights back which adds more time Luke has to make up somewhere. Don’t forget the totally unplanned murder of Garrett.

Let’s just say for a moment a teenage boy, even one as psychotic as Luke, could plan, stage, and execute a murder in one night there are still problems with the plan. There’s all the evidence Luke left in the house for investigators to find. For starters, Luke climbing into his window from the roof would have left footprints, foot prints the same size of Luke’s feet. Even if he managed to cover his footprints well enough to fool police the carpet leading into his bedroom is going to be wet.

Virginia Madsen in Better Watch Out

Better Watch Out is what happens when spoiled, entitled brats are left home alone.

So Luke’s whole plan is hogwash. He would have been caught even if Ashley hadn’t survived by duct taping her wound (really?). But what about the acting? Levi Miller can’t pull off the crazy the movie wanted you to feel. He does pull off the entitled brat thing pretty well. Entitled brat not getting his way is pretty much what this movie is about. He can’t the girl so he goes psycho. Millennials.

As horror movies go Better Watch Out fails to deliver any real jumps or scares. It’s really a horror movie set at Christmas. Better Watch Out is a reminder why faceless killers, monsters, Santa demons, and disfigured murders make the best killers in horror movies. Speaking of disfigured…

Cletus from Red Christmas

Sure it’s an obvious rubber mask the actor can’t even talk out of, but it’s soooooo cute!

We wanted to like Red Christmas because of Dee Wallace. Wallace has some serious horror movie creds under her belt so we were excited to see her in a new horror movie. We wanted to like Red Christmas because the main baddy is named Cletus. Cletus! However, we can’t like Red Christmas because there is very little to like in Red Christmas.

Red Christmas starts with a flashback at an abortion clinic in Australia. A bomb goes off in the abortion clinic before the opening credits are finished. It’s revealed later in the movie after the blood and mayhem have commenced, Dianne (Dee Wallace) was having an abortion as the bomb exploded. Flash forward to the present and Diane is with her family ready to open Christmas day.

Dee Wallace in Red Christmas

Wasn’t she the mother in E.T.? Couldn’t she act at one point in time?

Red Christmas is a low budget horror movie. There’s nothing wrong with a low budget or independent horror movies. Some of our favorite horror movies have been from independent filmmakers. However, low budget and independent means you have to work a little harder making your movie. It doesn’t feel like anyone worked very hard on this movie.

The acting is cardboard at best. Wallace’s whole performance feels forced. The rest of the cast doesn’t help either. Is anyone even scared a maniac is picking off their family one by one? If they are it doesn’t come across on the screen. The effects are particularly bad and not in a goof Evil Dead kind of way. In one particular scene, pregnant Ginny’s stomach moves at an angle that gives it away as being a prop. Sure, we know the actress was probably not pregnant during filming, but at least attach the stomach more secure so we can at least keep our suspension of disbelief intact.

Red Christmas house under invasion

Red Christmas is set in Australia. We think. A quarter of the cast is American and nothing else even remotely looks like Australia.

Red Christmas‘s one saving grace is Cletus kills. Like a lot of horror movies, the kills are over the top and bloody. There’ a death by blender scene that’s quite unique (Was that a Ninja blender or a Vitamix). Except it makes the movie more confusing. The movie is supposed to be serious, it was never set up as corny, but the fake gore and blood tell us the movie is supposed to be goofball fun. Which one is it?

This Christmas season didn’t bring the horrors and thrills like last year. Both movies missed the mark by a long shot. If you can only watch one go with Better Watch Out. At least in Better Watch Out you can see a reenactment of the paint can scene from Home Alone.

Sheriff being killed by a bear trap

Because we couldn’t find a good still of the blender scene here’s the local sheriff being cut in half by a bear trap. The blood sprayed out like the Christmas spirit.


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Christmas with the Family https://www.amindonfire.com/christmas-with-the-family/ Mon, 18 Dec 2017 03:13:45 +0000 http://www.amindonfire.com/?p=8654 Nothing goes together like Christmas and family. We come together to eat, drink, and be merry. Gifts are exchanged. Wrapping paper is discarded without a thought except for what’s inside bright, shiny boxes. Feasts are devoured and everyone gets along. Right? Well, not exactly. Sometimes families and Christmas often mix together like oil and water. […]

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Nothing goes together like Christmas and family. We come together to eat, drink, and be merry. Gifts are exchanged. Wrapping paper is discarded without a thought except for what’s inside bright, shiny boxes. Feasts are devoured and everyone gets along. Right? Well, not exactly. Sometimes families and Christmas often mix together like oil and water. We bitch and squabble. The smallest thing can set off a not so joyous noise.

Most of the family Christmas movies, by “family” we don’t mean family friendly, follow the same patterns and themes. In family Christmas movies people are either dying or dead. Usually there’s a conflict between family members that is either resolved before the death of a character or after the death. It’s familiar territory the four Christmas films in this review all share.

In Nothing Like the Holidays, Edy Rodriguez (Alfred Molina, Spider-man 2) has been diagnosed with cancer. In The Family Stone, Sybil Stone (Diane Keaton, The Godfather) has also been diagnosed with cancer. Both parents decide not tell their perspective families of their condition so they may have one last happy holiday. The difference between the two is Edy’s decision to conceal his condition drives his family apart.

Eating Christmas Dinner in Nothing Like the Holidays

Silence may be golden, but in Edy’s case it’s devastating. Edy’s wife, played by the late Elizabeth Pena (Rush Hour), announces to her children at dinner she’s divorcing their father. After her announcement old, buried sibling rivalries and grudges boil to the surface and overflow. It’s bad enough Edy’s son, Jesse (Freddy Rodriguez, Lady in the Water), decides to reenlist with the Army so he can return to Afghanistan. Yes, divorce at Christmas makes a happy time for the whole family. No, it doesn’t and why Edy kept up the charade is a mystery the script doesn’t answer.

Alfred Molina and Elizabeth Pena in Nothing Like the Holidays

Christmas conquers all, including lies,deception, and cancer

Sybil’s family wasn’t necessarily falling apart before or after she revealed to her family of her cancer diagnosis. In fact, the Stone family seems to have their holiday shit together. It’s actually Meredith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker in a rare non-annoying performance) who causes the anarchy at the Stone’s family Christmas. To be fair, it’s not all Meredith’s fault. Although the Stone family seems to be free loving, tolerant hippie liberals they do everything to stop their brother and son, Everett (Dermot Mulroney, s) from marrying Meredith. 

The Family Stone plays games at Christmas

Of all the characters in The Family Stone, Susannah is a cardboard cut out used for prop purposes.

Edy is dying in the Nothing Like the Holidays, Sybil dies before the end of The Family Stone and Almost Christmas opens ten months after the death of Walter’s (Danny Glover, Lethal Weapon) wife. A time like this should be a time for reflection and celebrating the life of loved one. However, it turns into one family squabble after another starting with sisters played by Gabrielle Union (Being Mary Jane) and Kimberly Elise (For Colored Girls).

Most families know why there is tension between members. The viewer doesn’t learn until late in the movie why the sisters don’t get along with each other. It’s the job of a movie to let the viewer in on why the sisters are at each other’s throats. This is only one of the problems in a movie that had started out about a family coming together after the death of their mother.

The Family Stone eats Christmas dinner

Another Christmas movie, another Christmas movie dinner.

The other problem with Almost the Holidays are the characters in the family. Other than the sisters, the family of characters seem too perfect. One of Walter’s sons, Christian (Romany Malco, Weeds) is running a successful bid for Congress. Another son is set to make it big in the NFL. Even Aunt May (Mo’Nigue, Precious) is a super star who has backed the likes of Chaka Khan and Tina Turner. These perfect characters require the script writer to create conflict that comes as forced and not genuine.

Christian, in an attempt to secure big backers, promises to tear down a row of city buildings. One of these buildings is the soup kitchen Walter and Grace volunteered at for years. However, it’s not until Christian decides to go along with the redevelopment that we learn of the Walrer/Grace connection. The audience should have been in on how important the soup kitchen was to Walter from the very beginning of the movie.

Promo poster for Almost Christmas

Fun Fact 1: the movie budget didn’t include a budget for Photoshop.

Love the Coopers is another movie about family dysfunction exposed at the holidays. This time the family in question is, of course, the Coopers. Their story doesn’t start over the death of someone, but over the end of Sam (John Goodman) and Charlotte’s (Diane Keaton) marriage. The death, or near death, doesn’t come until near the end of the movie. 

The Coopers, for the most part, are like many families you may know. There’s no super star upcoming football player or congressman. No one in the Coopers has any kind of career in Hollywood like Roxanna in Nothing Like the Holidays and no one is exchanging love interests like in The Family Stone. No, the Coopers are just like any average family you would find on any neighborhood street in America.

The Coopers eat Christmas dinner

Sometimes I think Christmas movies are nothing but an excuse to show people eating dinner.

Average families have their problems too. Like the sisters in Almost Christmas, Charlotte and Emma (Marisa Tomei, Spider-Man: Homecoming) haven’t gotten along in years. There’s also a lot of love problems within the Cooper clan. Sam wants to keep his love, their grandson Charlie doesn’t know how to approach his love interest, and their daughter Eleanor doesn’t think she deserves love. However, all these problems are solved over the almost death of the grandfather and father Bucky (Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine).

The Coopers may be an average family, but their problems are solved just like Walter’s family’s problems, the Stones’s issues, and the Rodriguezes’s problems are solved. What sets Love the Coopers apart from these other movies is the story is narrated by the family dog, Rags (voiced by an almost unrecognizable Steve Martin). It’s a cute little device that let’s us know not only is Christmas a magical time, but our pets know more than they let on. 

The cast of Love the Coopers

Fun Fact 2: Another attempt at Photoshop gone bad. Why not take a picture of the cast when they’re all on set.

All of these types of movies at times feel hollow and fake. We’re lead to believe one day, even a special day like Christmas, can heal a life time of mistakes. But maybe we want our family Christmas movies to be a little cheesy and safe. Christmas, after all, is a magical time. So, why can’t it heal a lifetime of divide?

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A Merry Friggin Christmas https://www.amindonfire.com/merry-friggin-christmas/ Tue, 12 Dec 2017 01:07:49 +0000 http://www.amindonfire.com/?p=8643 One of Robin Williams's last roles was A Merry Friggin Christmas. If it's not on your holiday rotation of movies it should be.

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A Merry Friggin Christmas doesn’t even sound like it’s pretending to be holly or jolly. Indeed, it’s not. Boyd Mitchler (Joel Mchale, Community) and Virgil Mitchler (Robin Williams) are a son and father who haven’t spoken to each other in years. Why? Because Virgil is an alcoholic Scrooge who ruined Christmas for a young Boyd. Of course, they’re thrown back into each other’s lives at Christmas.

The set up is somewhat original. Boyd’s family returns home for the baptism of his brother’s baby. As horrible as Boyd’s Christmases were he is bound and determined to give his own son one last Christmas before he stops believing in Santa Claus. However, the poor guy’s presents are left at the Mitchler house in Chicago. Boyd, being father of the year, and Virgil jump in Virgil’s truck and head to Chicago for Project: Gift Retrieval. 

Robin Williams and Joel McHale drive to Chicago

Is A Merry Friggin Christmas a Christmas classic? Well, not quite. Friggin is a little darker than most of your holiday fare. Scattered throughout the laughs are references to Virgil’s alcoholic past. Donna, played by an underutilized Candice Bergen, tells Luann (Lauren Graham, Gilmore Girls) that when things got bad she would leave Virgil, but would come back to him later. She never says what “bad” was, however, we can infer from the expression on her face  that it was probably violent.

Even the funny scenes are tinged with a hint of darkness. Nelson Mitchler (Clark Duke, Hot Tub Time Machine) finds himself in the middle of Virgil and Boyd’s road trip because he locked himself in a port-a-potty during a PTSD meltdown. His baby isn’t his baby at all. It’s actually an ex-girlfriend’s baby who abandoned it with Nelson. Boyd’s sister is married to a registered sex offender.

Heading home with gifts for Boyd's kid

Christmas movies always have the one pivotal scene, after the scene where the family apologizes for years of being crappy to each other, that bonds the family together. Boyd, Virgil, and Nelson bond over how they’re going to dispose of a homeless Santa Claus they hit with Virgil’s truck. They decide on dismemberment. Yes, the Yuletide tradition of dismembering a body and hiding the body parts in different locations.

Normally at the end of a Christmas movie the whole family comes together and the audience is to assume life will be great for everyone. The end of Friggin leaves it up in the air.There are no apologies, no hugs between father and son, and no tears. Virgil is still drinking, but Boyd and Virgil seem to have buried the hatchet or at least they’ll be able to move on from a childhood ruined by alcoholism.

Dinner time at A Merry Friggin Christmas

A Merry Friggin Christmas may not find its way into the Christmas Movie Hall of Fame. At times, the comedy is typical and forced. Other times, the comedy is dark. However, the scenes with Joel McHale and Robin Williams bouncing jabs at each other make up for the lulls in the movie. It’s also worth watching Friggin to see Robin Williams in one of his last roles. Even at his worst, and A Merry Friggin Christmas is not his worst role, Williams is funnier than most other comedians on the big screen. Watch A Merry Friggin Christmas at least once and decide if it should be on your annual holiday rotation of movies.

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Stephen King and the Horrors of Marriage https://www.amindonfire.com/stephen-king-horror-marriage/ Sun, 29 Oct 2017 23:48:46 +0000 http://www.amindonfire.com/?p=8589 Marriage isn't for everyone. Gerald's Game and 1922 show viewers some marriages can be deadly.

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Frank Sinatra sang love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. Some folks have said marriage is an institution to which Mae West added, “I’m not ready for an institution yet.” Even though more marriages will end in divorce than will succeed people still take the “plunge.” Stephen King’s recent renaissance continues with two adaptions about horrible marriages going from bad to worse.


Marriage depicted in Gerald's Game is about control

Gerald’s Game isn’t a rape fantasy. It’s not even a horror movie.

Gerald’s Game was built up as movie about a kinky-sex game gone bad. The book the movie was based may have had sick, twisted games between the covers, but the movie lacks a lot between the opening and closing credits.  A game implies a series of events, but Netflix’s Gerald’s Game is far more tame than even the promotional posters would have us believe. What we get in Gerald’s Game is not a game, but another mediocre King adaptation.

Jessie Burlingame (Carla Gugino, Watchmen) and Gerald Burlingame (Bruce Greenwood, Star Trek) go to their summer cabin with the hope of saving their failing marriage. Like a lot of couples in the same situation, the Burlingames think they can solve their marital problems by solving things in the bedroom.

Jessie Burlingame is handvuffed to the bed in Gerald;s Game

If you take out the first half of their last name you’re left with “game.” Cute.

The “game” implied in Gerald’s Game consists of Gerald handcuffing Jessie to their bed. Nothing even remotely sexual happens.We do get a conversation about their failing marriage and how most of the responsibility falls on Gerald’s shoulders. After too much time is spent on Gerald’s shortcomings he dies from a heart attack. Twenty minutes later Jessie has a complete break from reality.

The prospect of being found dead, handcuffed to a bed, may cause fear and anxiety in a lot of people. We’re supposed to believe this break in reality results in Jessie talking to a tougher, stronger version of herself and to a version of her husband her mind has created. We’re also supposed to believe Jessie’s break from reality brings back long dormant memories of being molested by her father. Director Mike Flanagan (Hush) wants us to believe these things, but we’re never convinced because the script and performances aren’t believable.

Having your feet licked by a giant with glowing eyes isn’t nearly as scary as one would think.

Carla Gugino has excelled in other movies and television series like Sin City, Roadies, and Watchmen. However, in Gerald’s Game she never convinces us that she’s in any real danger. We see the tears and we see her cut open her own hand to free her herself from the handcuffs, but none of it seems genuine. Gugino doesn’t even show fear when a death like figure appears in her bedroom. It’s a cheat when we learn the death like figure was real and was arrested later for other crimes.

She’s not showing fear because she has transformed herself into a strong willed woman. Quite the contrary. She still has to be reminded by her phantom husband that death is near. Gugino’s not showing fear because her performance, like the material, is flat. We never know why Jessie thinks confronting the man in court will heal her mental and physical wounds.

The dog eats parts of Gerald in Gerald's Game

How does the dog get in the house and other things in Gerald’s Game that don’t make sense.

Gerald’s Game represents everything that could go wrong when adapting a Stephen King novel into a movie. First, the movie is loosely based on the source material. Second, the writers didn’t know what to keep, what to add, and what to flesh out. Gerald’s Game  isn’t scary and it’s not suspenseful, It barely makes the point that some people’s future choices are determined by the events in their childhood. At best, Gerald’s Game is a 2-hour time filler.

Jessie faces the Moonlight Man in Gerald's Game

Why does confronting a giant you didn’t know existed cure Jessie of her mental scars? The movies doesn’t bother to explain.


Shortly after the release of Gerald’s Game Netflix released another King adaptation. 1922, based on the novella in Full Dark, No Stars, is also about a marriage gone bad. Unlike Gerald’s Game the consequences in 1922 can’t be solved by facing a giant in a courtroom. 

Thomas Jane stand in a corn field with blood on his hands for 1922

It’s not just metaphorical blood on his hands.

As the title implies, 1922 is set in a day and age when women didn’t have as many freedoms as they have today. It was only two years before women were given the right to vote. Men controlled many aspects of a woman’s life. Women had even less rights once they were married. Although by the 20s women legally had property rights it wasn’t always as simple as doing what you wanted. This “gray area” is where Arlette James (Molly Parker, House of Cards) finds herself in at the beginning of 1922.

When Arlette goes to her husband Wilfred James (Thomas Jane, The Punisher) to tell him she wants to sell the farm her father left her after his death she isn’t looking for permission. However, if he agrees it would make selling the farm a lot easier. To compound matters, Arlette also wants a divorce.

Molly Parker as Arlette James in 1922

More modern woman than Wilfred could take.

Wilfred isn’t presented as a wife beater or someone who is cruel to his wife. If anything, Arlette’s problem with her husband is the fact that he’s happier in the country and on the farm and Arlette wants to live in the city. Wilfred is also stubborn, very stubborn. Arlette isn’t a shrinking violet. She openly argues with Wilfred about selling the farm and who their son, Henry, will live with after they divorce. She even flaunts her affairs in front of his face. The combination has volatile results.

Wilfred does the only thing he thinks he can do-he decides to murder his wife. Even worse, he convinces Henry to help him commit the act. Wilfred may not have been a wife beater, but he manipulated his son into thinking murder was the only thing they could do to keep the farm and stay together. Wilfred also successfully convinces the authorities and neighbors that Arlette left him and Henry. However, Wilfred learns later that everything comes with a price.

Rats follow Wilfred as he walks up stairs in 1922

The rats never leave Wilfred alone.

If there’s a message at the heart of 1922 it’s that karma is a bitch. Everything that happens to Wilfred is a direct result of murdering his wife. Thomas Jane, no stranger to staring in King projects, plays Wilfred not as a maniac, but a man slowly losing his grip on his sanity. He realizes just a bit too late it would have been easier to agree with Arlette than send him and his son down paths with bad endings.

The supporting cast in 1922 is just as important as Thomas Janes’ main role. Molly Parker created a character that maybe a little to intimidating for an early 20th century man. Her presences is felt through the entire movie. It’s  also nice to see Neal McDonough play against type. McDonough plays fellow farmer Harlan Cotterie who’s life is forever changed by Wilfred’s actions.

Thomas Jane sits in church during 1922

Does Wilfred ever really ask for forgiveness for a crime he got away with?

1922 may not be a horror movie in the way that most of think of horror movies. 1922 is more of psychological study than a horror movie. Wilfred’s actions may be horrific, but it’s the slow burn to the end of the movie that will disturb most viewers. We can see how one bad action leads to another which leads to another. Unlike Gerald’s Game, 1922 will stick with you and have you thinking about what the movie is trying to do and say.

If you can only watch one of these movies make it 1922. Both are streaming on Netflix so you can decided for yourself which is the stand out King adaptation. Let us know what you think.

End title card for Netflix's original 1922, based on a novella by Stephen King

Stephen King’s 1922


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It Comes At Night https://www.amindonfire.com/it-comes-at-night/ Sat, 21 Oct 2017 01:41:07 +0000 http://www.amindonfire.com/?p=8552 One of the best movies of 2017 you didn't see.

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We live in a BuzzFeed, slide show world. We live in a culture with a short attention span, a society that wants everything explained and spoon fed to us. We’re happier with a two-hour spandex filled commercial pimping the next CGI, explosion filled movie than a movie with substance.

Director Trey Edward Shults isn’t a parent with a spoon making plane noises so the audience will eat It Comes at NightIt Comes at Night reveals very little through the course of the movie. It wants to keep its secrets. At the same time, Shults challenges us to pull those secrets from the movie.

We know some time has passed since a virus devastated the country. Paul (Joel Edgerton) and his family have secluded themselves from the rest of the world, but not safe from the virus. In the opening scenes Bud (David Pendleton) is dying from the virus. Before the opening credits have finished, Paul is placing a pillow over Bud’s head and shooting him, a mercy killing.

Joel Edgerton protects himself from an unknown virus

Pneumonic plague was airborne, spread when the infected coughed or sneezed.

What killed Bud? The camera pans across a room in the house Travis, his wife Sarah, and their son Travis call home. It doesn’t settle on the painting, but Travis stares at it for a moment. It’s no accident the painting is in the movie. The painting is The Triumph of Death. It’s a brutal painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525-1569). Skeletons are depicted attacking and killing people from every walk of life. The landscape is a wasteland. Bruegel lived during a period of history that saw a thousands, if not more, people die from the plague. The meaning behind Bruegel’s painting is simple-death comes for us all.

Has the Black Plague returned? Bud shows the classic symptoms of the diesase. First, we’re told he had flu-like symptoms. Buboes, puss filled swellings, are shown on his arms, legs, and chest. Some are broken with puss coming out. Travis has nightmares of Bud vomiting blood. Although vomiting blood isn’t a symptom of the plague he would have coughed some up if it got into his lungs. In his nightmare Travis’s brain may have translated that coughing into projectile vomiting.

A nightmare grandpa bleeds from his mouth showing symptoms of the plague.

Nightmares can be real as anything else in our lives.

But what is “it?” What comes at night? Is “it” Travis and his family’s self-imposed isolation or is “it” fear,paranoia and panic? Humans have never really truly felt safe at night. We invented fire to escape the darkness. We invented electricity when fire didn’t do the trick. We light up our homes, our neighborhoods, and our cities. However, deep down inside we are still afraid of the dark and the things that go bump in the night.

The night in It Comes at Night holds terrors for Travis’s family. They religiously lock an outside door every night to keep the terrors out. Opening the door at night lets the terror inside. After Will (Christopher Abbott) breaks into their house he inadvertently lets those terrors not only into the house but into the family’s psyche. Bringing Will’s family into an already established household doesn’t help matters. The bumps in the night are built up in both the family’s minds.

Shults has created a tense, dark movie where the smallest details becomes bigger later in the movie. Travis thinks he catches Will in a lie when they’re talking about their families. Was Will lying about his brother-in-law? Did he even have a brother? Travis’s dog, who had run away earlier in the movie, returns to the house. He’s sick and dying from the plague. However, it’s the question of how the dog got into the house that weighs on Travis’s mind. Who left the door unlocked and  who let the dog inside? No one is sure, but everyone has their suspicions.

Travis has nightmares about his dead grandfather visiting him in his bedroom. As the movie gets closer to the end the nightmares get worse. Travis even starts having nightmares about Kim, Will’s wife. The nightmares are trying to tell us something. Is Travis’s fear of the plague manifested in the nightmares or are the nightmares clues to let us know Travis has the plague. Shults lets the viewer decide, but one thing for certain is that the nightmares influence the events at the end of the movie.

Kim spits blood in Travis's mouth

The ending may leave some people feeling cheated and wondering what happens next. The ending is reminiscent of the Coen Brothers’s No Country For Old Men, it just ends. No explanations, nothing is wrapped up in nice tidy bow. We’re forced to put the pieces together and form our own conclusions.

Shult’s movie is more psychological in nature than most horror movies that have come out in the past few years. Shults  has managed to create an atmosphere of terror without stooping to traditional horror movie tropes. Slasher movies and movies about serial killers can be scarier, however, nothing is scarier than the things we build up in our own minds. Despite the grades at Cinemascore and Rotten Tomatoes, It Comes at Night is hand down one the best movies of 2017.

The red door in It Comes at Night

The only color in rhe house is the red door.


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The Inhumans Are Acting Inhumanely Against Audiences https://www.amindonfire.com/the-inhumans-are-acting-inhumanely-against-audiences/ Tue, 17 Oct 2017 01:52:48 +0000 http://www.amindonfire.com/?p=8540 The Inhumans may be from the moon, but the series is not out of this world.

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Is The Inhumans as bad as the reviews of the IMAX premiere made it out to be?

Let’s count the many crimes The Inhumans is guilty of committing against audiencekind.

  • NASA  has sent six manned missions to the moon, 12 Americans have walked on its surface, and countless probes and satellites have scoured the surface. Yet, no one has ever noticed an invisible wall cutting off a large portion of the surface.
Gorgon talks to surfer dude in The Inhumans

Conveniently met surfer dudes are also soldiers. Convenient.

  • Too many hoof jokes after a scientists see a hoof crushing their moon rover.
  • Maximus only needed one speech to turn the population of Attilan against the royal family. Was the royal family treating the population so horribly it took one bad speech to stage a coupe?
  • Unpronounceable names and just plain bad names. Attilan? I didn’t know this series was set in Narnia.
Black Bolt talks to Maximus

Black Bolt can only speak through nipple manipulation.

  • In his coupe, Maximus didn’t take out the teleporting dog first. The dog he says he’s known all his life. Let me state this again: Teleporting dog.
  • Queen Medusa’s head is partially shaved in one scene. In the next scene she’s Sinead O’Connor clean.

Every one forgets about the teleporting dog, Lock Jaw.

  • The Inhumans come from a technological advanced society, a society that has been monitoring Earth for decades. Yet, Black Bolt is visibly surprised about seeing his first smart phone.
  • Medusa knows how to use a gun, knows about cars, and tracking systems, but she doesn’t know what an ATM is or how to use one. Yes, we get several seconds of her yelling at a machine.
  • How many clothing stores, high end or not, have armed guards dressed like federal agents?
Triton running through the jungle

A kingdom was overthrown in the first five minutes, but we still don’t know what happened to these two.

  • I’ve never been to Oahu, but I’ve been to other big cities and there’s not a downtown empty during the day.
  • Police manage to block off several city streets in the matter of moments. Bravo for the police, but in what world does shoplifting call for closing down streets in a busy tourist city? It makes you wonder what’s the penalty for littering?
  • Police brutality
  • Marijuana  farmers call their crop cute names used by college frat boys.
Karnak tied up

Once he was an Inhuman now he’s grows pot on Green Acres.

  • Special FX are anything but special. It’s obvious actors are talking to nothing and Lockjaw was added in later.
  • Wasting the talents of Anson Mount and Ken Leung. It also seems Iwan Rheon and Isabelle Cornish forgot how to act.
  • Too many storylines going on at the same time.

This list doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of how insulting The Inhumans is to the audience. Do you remember the series The Neighbors? Everything was a joke about how the aliens didn’t know what Earth things were or how to use them. It’s the same shtick used in the Coneheads movie. It’s old, it’s tired, and it’s not good television.

Some critics have compared The Inhumans to Game of Thrones simply because Iwan Rheon was on Thrones. The Inhumans is in no way comparable to Game of Thrones. It’s not Game of Thrones set in space. Game of Thrones built its betrayals and subterfuge up gradually over episodes and seasons. Everything is in question from one episode to the next.

Once and usurper always a usurper

The Inhumans on the other hand is as subtle as rock through a window. Everything is easily done. The Genetic Counsel is manipulated into the same room together by the old “I invited you? I thought you invited me” ploy. A needless ploy because only a few scenes before Maximus ordered them all together. We never know exactly how Maximus turned so many of the Inhumans against the royal family. One scene Maximus is only a “human”, the next scene he’s sending Inhumans to kill Black Bolt. Every one accepts him as the new king. There is no skill and no depth to the series. Marvel has had some stinkers, but The Inhumans takes the cake. It is simply one of the worst series on television. It can only be a television miracle The Inhumans is still on the air.

There are a couple bright spots to series. First, Lockjaw is pretty cool. Second, the Hawaiian scenery is awesome.

Lock Jaw, Crystal, and Karnak make a run for it

Because we can never have enough Lock Jaw

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The Gifted is No Gift to the X-Men Universe https://www.amindonfire.com/gifted-xmen-universe/ Mon, 16 Oct 2017 03:10:03 +0000 http://www.amindonfire.com/?p=8521 The Gifted, Marvel and Fox's, attempt at creating a television X-Men universe is new this season, but the ideas in the series are nothing new.

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Fox’s new X-Men universe connected series The Gifted premiered two weeks ago. Going into the third episode it’s everything one could expect from a Bryan Singer produced and directed television series set somewhere in the X-Men universe. Dear Readers, that is no compliment. (Insert Spoiler Warning here)

The Gifted is Bryan Singer and Fox’s attempt at connecting an X-Men television world within the larger cinematic X-Men universe. It’s the same thing Marvel has successfully done with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and its Netflix series and, to a lesser degree, The CW has done with the Arrowverse. The only difference is the latter two have succeeded where Singer’s first attempt is failing right out of the gates.

Lauren Strucker in The Gifted

Discount Claire Bennet is discount

When in the X-Men universe is The Gifted set? Is it set before Wolverine changed the past? Is it set in the future Wolverine created after Days of Future Past? Why are the X-Men and the Brotherhood missing? Is it connected to the July 15th event mentioned briefly in episode two? The bigger question is, “Why should we care?” Frankly, The Gifted hasn’t given us any reason to care.

The Gifted has managed to cram in almost every tv drama and comic book cliche possible in two episodes. First, there’s the father, Reed Strucker (played by True Blood’s Stephen Moyer). Reed works for the government as a prosecutor who sends mutants to jail. Of course, he learns his children are mutants. It’s then he decides to fight the good fight because ”My family means everything to me.” Not cliched or over done? Heroes was doing it long before The Gifted.

Stephen Moyer as Reed Strucker in The Gifted

Concerned father is concerned. Just look at the expression on his face.

How did Reed get put into a situation where he has to declare his family means everything to him? Reed’s son, Andy, is a mutant. In fact, both his children are mutants. Again, Heroes‘s Jack Coleman also had a child with super powers. The similarities between The Gifted and Heroes can’t be ignored. What also can’t be ignored is when Andy manifests his power. Andy’s powers manifests themselves when he’s being tormented by bullies in a bathroom. Sounds just like Scott Summers in X-Men: Apocalypse. Like Scott Summers, Andy manages to destroy a lot of school property. What’s Bryan Singer’s deal with characters being bullied in bathrooms anyway? 

Andy Strucker blows up the bathroom

Another Bryan Singer character learns his powers in the bathroom

Of course, the Strucker family goes on the run after police knock on their front door. What else is a family hunted by the government to do but run? It’s also a perfect excuse to throw another cliche at us. Reed and Andy, who has been crying on and off since the series started, have to comfort their mother and sister in the most manly of manner possible. Why? Because we know women are fragile creatures who need comforting in times of crisis (That’s sarcasm, Dear Readers). Or, in some underdeveloped reasoning, Singer was attempting to show how in the matter of hours mother and daughter have toughened up enough to fight the battles that are sure to follow.

Going on the run also serves the purpose of bringing the Strucker family and the Mutant Underground (No, the writers could not think of a better name) together and to put Sentinel Services on both their tracks. First, Reed has to get sensitive documents only his briefly introduced co-worker can get for him. Of course, the co-worker retrieves the only documents that lead to the Mutant Underground’s whereabouts. Her reasoning behind what can only be called Marvel Comics treason is,“I owe you my career.” Bad dialog abounds in The Gifted

Coby Bell as Jace Turner in The Gifted

Stereotypical secret agent is stereotypical.

Reed and family manage to contact the Mutant Underground. Of course, Sentinel Services corners them in a dead end building. Why? Because in covert meetings you always meet in a location with no way out. That’s how these things work, Dear Reader. Don’t worry, everyone makes it out. Well, except, for Reed, because someone has to be left behind to further the story line.

In order to learn where the Mutant Underground is hiding (Because Reed has the only documents that pinpoints their location and they can’t possibly interrogate the mutant arrested in the opening minutes of episode one) Sentinel Services, a cute way to introduce a new division of the Secret Service and at the same time reminding people Sentinels hunt mutants, brings in Agent Jace Turner. In one interrogation, Turner (Burn Notice’s Coby Bell) throws in every I-can-do-anything-because-of-the-Patriot-Act cliche imaginable. He even throws in the my-child-was-killed-in-a-mutant-attack-so-now-I-hate-mutants cliched used in Singer’s X-Men 2 (Check out William Stryker in X-Men 2). In the history of television there have been a million police interrogations on a thousand police shows and each one was better than the exchange between Turner and Reed.

Fill in Oscar Issac looks amazingly like Oscar Issac

The Gifted also introduced and re-introduced new mutants. There’s Eclipse, who does things with light and heat, and Polaris, who has the same powers as Magento. There’s the Native American mutant tracker who can hear things really well called Thunderbird. Yes, Marvel gave a Native American a name most people associate with alcohol. It’s only slightly less offensive than giving the only Native American the mutant powers of tracking people. Overall, it lacks imagination. The first episode re-introduces Blink, played by Bingbing Fan in X-Men: Days of Future Past. There’s also a lot of background mutants who serve only as proof that the Mutant Underground has helped mutants at some time in the past.

Blair Redford as Thunderbird in The Gifted

Why Thunderbird? Because Mad Dog 20/20 doesn’t roll off the tongue

So how do the Struckers ultimately meet the Mutant Underground? In the opening scene of episode one, Polaris is captured by law enforcement when the Mutant Underground is saving Blink. Reed, as mutant prosecutor, is sent to question Polaris in a glass prison cell. We’re not  sure why she’s in a glass jail cell. Perhaps it’s because bouncing a cop off a dumpster does not immediately let the viewer know what mutant power Polaris possess. It’s still not obvious until she manipulates the metal in Reed’s knee. Viewers need and want to know right away what kind of superpowers a character has, but The Gifted took a long time to establish Polaris’s abilities. Comic book readers may know Polaris has the same powers as Megneto, but the viewers who will make or break the series want to know these things a lot sooner.

At some point in time, Polaris is moved from the glass jail cell to a prison. The prison cliche is also in fullforce in The Gifted. The prison is filled with the roughest, baddest, toughest women one could imagine. Yet the sight of Polaris washing out her hair dye revealing she has green hair is enough to scare them. Is there anyone today shocked or scared to see green hair? Maybe some people are still shocked and scared at the sight of a green-haired woman, but they’re not in  a prison with a bald, albino woman, with weird eyes, and veins running throughout her body.

The cast of The Gifted

The Strucker family inaction

The first two episodes aren’t finished with the cliches and overused tropes. There’s the Mandatory Stan Lee Cameo, because no Marvel movie/television series is complete without a Stan Lee cameo. It was cute the first couple of times. Audiences would look for Lee’s cameos. Where would it be, what would he be doing in his cameo? Now? It’s just played out. The Gifted is also packed with location cards. Singer is constantly reminding the viewer where the characters are at all time because actually letting the location speak for itself (It’s hotel room. We don’t need to know it’s on the outskirts of any city) is just too much work for the series.

Stan Lee in The Gifted

Mandatory Stan Lee cameo warning!

The Gifted is also constantly reminding us that mutants are people too and deserve the same rights as other people. Equality was the over all theme running though Singer’s first two X-Men movies after the fights and CGI are stripped away. Bobby Drake’s mother in X-Men 2 even asks Bobby if he can “just stop being a mutant.” It’s the 21st Century. Racism, homophobia, and intolerance are all alive and well. We need to be reminded of this fact, but The Gifted rams it down our throats whenever possible. There are better ways, even more subtler ways, to get your message across to the masses. For starters, don’t name your Native American character after cheap liquor.

Protective mother cliche is protective

It may be unfair to judge The Gifted on two episodes. The season is just starting so there’s plenty of room for improvement. The series will need to improve in a lot of areas to make the series watchable and to distinguish itself from Heroes. If the series doesn’t improve it won’t live to see a second season. The Gifted doesn’t have the luxury of Disney saving it from cancellation like it did with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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The Directors: M. Night Shyamalan, The Lighter Side of Horror https://www.amindonfire.com/m-night-shyamalan-the-lighter-side-of-horror/ Wed, 11 Oct 2017 01:49:26 +0000 http://www.amindonfire.com/?p=8444 M. Night Shyamalan has always been on the light side of the horror genre. With Split he has crossed over into new territory, but keeping his feet well within Hitchcock's realm of influence.

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There’s a fine line between horror and suspense. More often than not the line is crossed and becomes blurry. Alfred Hitchcock masterfully blurred the line in Psycho and The Birds. Wide Awake, Shyamalan’s first studio movie, went largely ignored by the public. Shyamalan didn’t remain in obscurity for long. Upon the release of his second movie critics hailed Shyamalan as the second coming of Hitchcock. For awhile Shyamalan managed to blur the line too. As they say, “What goes up must come down.”

You should be warned from this point forward there are SPOILERS.

Cole Sear admits to seeing dead people in The Sixth Sense

“I see dead people”

The Sixth Sense was Shyamalan’s first box office hit. Bugeted at around forty million dollars the movie would end up grossing more than six hundred million dollars. The studio smartly marketed the movie. People were asked not to give away the ending. The studio knew ticket sales would dwindle once the secret was out. In a pre-social media world the marketing worked. People were shocked and surprised at the ending even after the movie had been out for weeks.

The Sixth Sense was a well crafted, well acted movie. Shyamalan built a story of a troubled boy, Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), who bonds with a troubled child psychologist,  Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) over Cole’s unique ability to see dead people. The two share the journey of Cole coming to grips with his ability and Malcolm accepting his fate.

Bruce Willis as Malcolm Crowe in The Sixth Sense

Is it a horror movie? Yes. Cole is tormented, or so it seems to him, by dead people. Malcolm is well…you know. Is it a drama? There’s definitely dramatic elements in the movie. The divide between Malcolm and his wife, Anna, is explored in some very touching moments. Toni Collette was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Cole’s mother who struggles to understand her son. Is it a suspense movie? There are plenty of suspenseful moments in the movie to qualify.

Shyamalan brilliantly blended horror, drama, and suspense elements in such a way we were distracted from what was staring us right in the face. Unfortunately, once the twist ending is revealed there’s little reason to watch the movie a second time. Some people will go back to try and pick up the clues they missed the first time. The clues are there, you just have to look.

Cole and Malcolm in The Sixth Sense

A boy and his ghost

Shyamalan followed up The Sixth Sense with Unbreakable. Unbreakable was released well before the explosion of comic book movies. It’s a comic book movie only in the fact that David Dunn, played by Bruce Willis, has exceptional strength, he has never been sick or hurt in his life, and can see someone’s future simply by touching them. There’s no flashy costumes. No over the top specially FX. No connected movie universe.

Unbreakable not only explores David’s powers, but the dysfunction within the Dunn family. That dysfunction is further exaborated when Dunn meets Elijah Price. Price, aka Mr. Glass, convinces Dunn he’s more than just a security guard. Dunn’s son is on board the moment he hears Price’s story. What kid wouldn’t be excited their father is a bonafide super hero?

Bruce Willis as David Dunn in Unbreakable

Unbreakable isn’t a horror movie. However, it’s darker in tone than most of the comic book movies that would follow. It’s also a slow movie and at times seems to drag. When it doesn’t seem like it can drag on any more the movie abruptly ends. The movie leaves us with an ending that feels more like an ending from an episode of Law and Order than a Shyamalan ending.

Samuel L Jackson as Mr.Glass in Unbreakable

Shyamalan’s films are often studies of broken families. Signs is no exception. Mel Gibson plays Graham Hess, a reverend who lost his faith after the death of wife. Hess lives on a farm with his brother, son, and daughter. Strange things start happening at the start of the movie and they continue until the end.

Signs has more horror and suspense elements than Unbreakable. It’s also an alien invasion movie. More importantly, Signs was the movie that most divided fans and sent Shyamalan’s  stock plummeting. People were tiring of Shaymalan’s twist endings. It reflected in both fans’s and critics’s reviews of the movie.

Mel Gibson, as Reverend Graham, confronts his family in Signs

Shyamalan’s next three films were the last three he would both write and direct for quite some time. The Village, a Wicker Man style horror movie with a creepy atmosphere that runs throughout the movie, was the only one to make its money back. People didn’t buy into Shyamaln’s fairy tale, Lady in the Water, and The Happening, a pro-environment movie about as subtle as a fart in church, fell flat from the start. The Village, Lady in The Water, and The Happening were all considered failures at the box office.

Shyamalan’s next two movies were clearly not in his wheelhouse. Both Avatar: The Last Airbender and After Earth were big budget flops. It wouldn’t fair to place all the blame of After Earth‘s failure at Shyamalan’s feet. The story was conceived by Will Smith and produced by Smith and his wife, Jada Pinket-Smith, as a vehicle for their son. Jaden Smith wasn’t enough to carry the film by himself and Will Smith seemed bored by the movie from the start.

Mark Wahlberg is wondering what's happening in The Happening

Wahlberg’s one expression perfectly sums up The Happening.

Somewhere along the line Shyamalan decided to return to his low budget horror roots. The Visit is a pseudo found footage movie. Becca and Tyler are sent to visit their grandparents. A visit to the grandparents house isn’t odd. Most of us have done it. What’s odd is that there mother never wants to talk to her parents. We’re told at the start of the movie she just started talking to her parents after not having contact with them for years. Sure, this happens. Families fall apart, families reunite. However, she was never interested in talking to her parents to see if her children were behaving? What mother does this? A mother in a horror movie where the hook is that maybe these aren’t her parents. That’s who.

The entire movie is told through Becca and Tyler’s recorded videos. Like other found footage movies everything has to be recorded. The scares are few and far between. It’s too late to introduce the scares after we learn the grandparents are actually escaped mental patients. The false jump scares and shaky cams made the ending less scary then it should have been. In addition to Tyler’s numerous raps, we also get to see a lot of dirty diapers. One is even smeared in Tyler’s face.

Grandma in The Visit eats with her mouth full

Because everyone wants to see someone chew with their mouth full.

It’s unfortunate Shyamalan felt the need to join the found footage wagon. There’s no atmosphere of fear Shyamalan masterfully created in The Village. Even the solid character building of Unbreakable is absent. Audiences didn’t seem to mind. The movie more than made back its five million dollar budget. The Blumhouse produced The Visit was the shot in the arm Shyamalan’s career needed. The success of The Visit was more than enough reason to greenlight Shyamalan’s latest horror movie Split.

The terror in Split starts the moment Dennis, played by James McAvoy, abducts Casey, Marcia, and Claire. Split wouldn’t be a good if it was simply an abduction movie. There are plenty of movies out there revolving around an abduction. What makes Split different is Dennis. Dennis is actually one of 23 different personalities manifested by Kevin Wendell Crumb.

Anya Taylor-Joy in Split

Split is hands down one of McAvoy’s best roles. Roles is the operative word. McAvoy plays Crumb and roughly eight other personalities we meet during the course of the movie. McAvoy makes each performance distinctly different from each other. Patricia is the nice, if somewhat weird, English woman. Hedwig is a nine year old boy who loves Kanye West. Barry is a want-to-be fashion designer with OCD. The odds of McAvoy being nominated, let along winning, for an Oscar are exactly zero.

The other element that sets Split apart from other horror movies are the three girls Dennis abducts. These aren’t the typical female characters in a typical horror movie. They don’t crumble, they don’t cry, and they don’t give up. They all fight in some fashion until the very end. We learn through flashbacks Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch) is just as damaged as Kevin.

James McAvoy as Hedwig, one of 24 different personalities in Split

Split is the smart kind of horror movie we don’t see a lot of today. Shyamalan doesn’t tease us with false jump scares. A false jump scare is when someone, say the gardener, sneaks up behind the babysitter. Creepy, sinister music is playing which signals to us the babysitter is about to meet a bad end. She turns around and….oh, it’s the gardener. These false happen more than once in some movies so by the time the real scare happens we’re not scared. There are no jump scares in Split. It’s a subtle kind of scary and it’s deceptive.

From the beginning to almost the end, Split is a solid horror movie. Shyamalan has smartly set up the premise of the movie through the character of Dr. Karen Fletcher. Fletcher is a specialist in the area of multiple personalities who is also treating Barry and all the other personalities Keven manifests. It’s through her we learn that each personality has its own traits, abilities, and even genetics. We’re not shocked nor do we feel cheated when the Beast arrives to take the girls as “sacred food.”

Abducted but not giving up in Split

Split had the almost perfect ending. Casey is freed from her prison. We’re lead to believe she will confront her abusive uncle. We’re also lead to believe the Beast is hiding inside Kevin ready to come out again at some point. It would have been the perfect lead in to a sequel.

The ending we got was forced and felt fake. In a diner, patrons are eating lunch and watching the news unfold about Casey’s survival and the death of her friends. Out of the blue, and to no one in particular, a lady at the counter blurts out that someone almost seventeen years before was arrested and given a nickname. Who remembers a random event from more then seventeen years ago? Were the events in Unbreakable so remarkable people remembered them seventeen years later?

James McAvoy has become the Beast in Split

It’s setup only to have Bruce Willis appear to tell her the name of the other person was “Mr. Glass.” It was cheap ploy to let viewers know a sequel is coming somewhere down the line. A simple camera pan down the restaurant’s counter stopping on Bruce Willis would have done the trick. Anyone who had seen Unbreakable would know Willis was reprising his role as David Dunn. There’s the interent for anyone else who hadn’t seen Unbreakable to search for Bruce Willis and Dunn, the name on the name tag he’s wearing.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where some directors can’t leave well enough alone. Instead of simply doing a sequel Shyamalan is doing a Split/Unbreakable sequel. Yes, Shyamalan is creating an interconnected universe along the lines of Marvel, Star Wars, and the forth coming Castle Rock series from Amazon set in the Stephen King universe. We’ll wait to hold off and further judgment.

In the meantime, let us know your favorite M. Night Shyamalan movie.

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Independent Horror Goes Beyond the Gates https://www.amindonfire.com/beyondthegatesindependenthorror/ Tue, 03 Oct 2017 23:45:06 +0000 http://www.amindonfire.com/?p=8424 Celebrating independent movie making during our 31 Days of Horror fun.

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Martin Scorsese. Darren Aronofsky. Christopher Nolan. Jon Favreau. Kathryn Bigelow. What do all these directors have in common? They all made their bones in independent movies before becoming household names. Making an independent movie has become easier since Scorsese or even Nolan started making movies. Kickstarter and other crowd sourcing sites have made it easier to raise funds for movies. Digital technology and streaming has made it easier to get the movie to the masses. Easier, but there’s still a lot of hard work involved in making an independent movie.

Independent movies and horror have gone hand to hand for decades. George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is arguably the definition of independent horror movie. In 1981, a young Sam Raimi and a group of friends traveled to Morristown, TN to make the movie that would change most of their lives forever. Independent horror movies are still going strong today.

Beyond the Gates

Remember when VCR/VHS board games were all the rage? Neither do I. The concept behind these games is pretty straightforward. Players role dice to move their pieces across the board. The player is prompted to play the included video tape when he or she lands on the right space. The pre-recorded scene is played and the player is instructed to do whatever the actor(s) tells them to do.

John, Gordon, and Margot play Beyond the Gates

Beyond the Gates takes its name from such a board game discovered by Gordon and John Hardesty, two brothers, while cleaning out their father’s video store. It’s a mom and pops store, the kind jammed with every kind of movie imaginable. It’s the kind of small independently owned video store Blockbuster put out of business across the nation. It seemed like every town had one. Cinema fans knew these were the stores to go to because the employees really knew their movies.

It doesn’t take too long for Gordon, John, and Gordon’s girlfriend, Margot, to put the pieces together that their father’s disappearance is linked to the game. In order to save  their father the trio have to play the game. It’s easier said than done. When the game is started it wants to be finished. In order to finish the game lots of bad things happen.

The host of Beyond the Gates

Filmed for an estimated $300,000 Beyond the Gates is as independent of a movie as it gets. Director Jackson Stewart and crew have created a movie beyond the budget. Not only has Stewart created a horror movie with atmosphere, but he’s managed to capture an 80’s feel without being overt about it. The 80’s inspired synthesizer brings back memories of 80’s horror movies that are sure to be found on the shelves of the Hardesty’s video store. Although there is no Crypt Keeper and not an anthology, Beyond the Gates still has a Tales from the Crypt vibe. Anyone who likes or grew up with 80’s horror movies will enjoy Beyond the Gates‘s nostalgic feel and old school gore.

Beyond the Gates is streaming on Netflix and other streaming services. Watch it and don’t forget to support independent cinema. While you’re here check out these other reviews of independent horror movies: Love in the Time of Monsters and Black Mountain Side.

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Thirty One Days of Horror Starts with a Laugh or Two https://www.amindonfire.com/october-horror-movies/ Sun, 01 Oct 2017 19:41:28 +0000 http://www.amindonfire.com/?p=8402 Do all horror movies have to be about serial killers slashing through co-eds at a summer camp? Do horror movies have to be about ghosts or poltergeists possessing little girls or haunting houses? What does a ghost do in an empty house to occupy its time? We’re going to do things a little different for 31 […]

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Do all horror movies have to be about serial killers slashing through co-eds at a summer camp? Do horror movies have to be about ghosts or poltergeists possessing little girls or haunting houses? What does a ghost do in an empty house to occupy its time?

We’re going to do things a little different for 31 Days of Horror 2017. We’re going to be looking at horror movies from across the spectrum of the genre. Some may be a little goofy, others may be weird, a few may be gross, and some may just be plain scary as…hell. Ready? Let’s do this, Faithful Readers.

Hell Baby

Proud parents to be about to move into the most haunted house in New Orleans, Hell baby style

Starting off on a the lighter side of horror…Hell Baby, baby! Take some members of The State, mix well with Rob Corddry, Keegan-Michael Key, Leslie Bibb, Riki Lindhome, add in some supernatural shenanigans and you’ve got Hell Baby.

Hell Baby pokes good-natured fun at a lot of horror movie tropes- married couple buys house only to find out later house is haunted, pregnant wife will give birth to  demon, devil dog, priests come to help combat evil. It sounds like a lot to manage, but Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon (writers and directors) roll all the ingredients into a tasty treat.

Father Sebastian and Padrigo fight evil in the classiest ways imaginable

Jack (Rob Corddry, Ballers) and Vanessa (Leslie Bibb, The League) are the married couple in question. The comedy chemistry between the two of them can not be denied. Keegan-Michael Key and Riki Lindhome round out the family being tormented by the demonic baby. Technically, F’resnel (Key) isn’t family, but someone manages to insert himself into the family dynamic. It’s funnier than it sounds.

You can’t really exercise demons without priests. Right? Father Sebastian (Robert Ben Garant, The State) and Father Padrigo (Thomas Lennon, The State) step in to fight the evil. To be fair, the duo don’t really exercise the demon as much as beat the tar out the baby. Yes, beating a baby and tossing it around a room isn’t cool, but it’s a demon baby. It’s not how we usually see priests exorcise demons.

Leslie Bibb as hot possessed mother to be

The movie isn’t scary and you won’t find any “jump” scares, but you will laugh at the ridiculousness and silliness of Hell Baby. What better way to start 31 Days of Horror than with some laughs before the real terror starts?

Little Evil

Little Evil, big movieNetflix has been cranking out the original movies. Some have been better than others and some have been shot down based only on trailers. Little Evil has been lost somewhere among the chatter of other bigger, better promoted movies. Let’s change that now.

Gary (Adam Scott, Parks and Recreation) is a new stepdad just trying to bond with his stepson. There’s just a couple of problems preventing solid bonding time between the two. His stepson, Lucas, is the Antichrist and he’s constantly attempting to kill Gary. It’s all fun and games until Lucas buries Gary in the backyard. Alive.

Gary talks about his demon stepson

Little Evil is a play on, an homage, The Omen (Now that is a truly scary movie). Lucas even dresses like young Damien. The movie is well aware of The Omen comparison. Not only is it aware of it, but it embraces the comparisons like a badge. There’s even a birthday scene for good measure.

Like Hell Baby, Little Evil isn’t scary. There are moments when the movie tries to reach into true horror territory, but these moments are tempered with gags and a corny supporting cast. At times, Little Evil reaches a little hard for the laughs. In the end, Little Evil is a fun movie about coming together, fighting the devil, and coming together as family. Isn’t that what Halloween is all about?

The Antichrist goes to a birthday party

Tucker and Dale vs Evil

Poor Tucker and Dale. All they wanted to do was get away to their cabin in the woods for a little rest and relaxation. Things could have gone according to plan if it weren’t for the meddling kids out to party in the same woods as Tucker and Dale.

Tucker and Dale wonder what all the commotion is about

Tucker and Dale vs Evil is basically a horror movie of mistaken identity, preconceived notions, and a continuous case of wrong place wrong time. In lesser comedic hands, TDvE may have come off as one hokey joke after another. However, Alan Tudyk (Firefly, Serenity) and Tyler Labine (Reaper, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) play the roles of Dale and Tucker as honestly as possible without turning into redneck caricatures.

In some circles, Tucker and Dale vs Evil has become a pop culture classic. For some fans it has become the Christmas Story of horror movies; it’s a must watch every Halloween. I don’t make the rules, folks. If you haven’t seen Tucker and Dale vs Evil drop what you’re doing now and watch. It’s streaming on pretty much every service available.

The college kids are the root of Tucker and Dale's problems

October is just beginning and we’re just getting started. Check out all the frights, scares, and horrors here, on our Facebook page, and on Twitter.


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The Directors: The Films of David Fincher Part 2 https://www.amindonfire.com/directors-david-fincher-part-2/ Thu, 28 Sep 2017 01:42:27 +0000 http://www.amindonfire.com/?p=8192 David Fincher's Mindhunter is set to stream in a few weeks. Our look at the films of David Fincher continues with three more movies.

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(Spoilers ahead) Mindhunter is only a few weeks away. We’re moving on to part two of our look at the films of David Fincher.

The Game (1997)

Michael Douglas reads documents before the game begins

The Game is about to begin.

Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas), a wealthy investment banker, is the king of an empire left to him by his father. Van Orton runs his company and his life like a king. He’s strict, reserved, and cut off from everyone including his brother Conrad (Sean Penn). Van Orton lives in a modern day castle literally sitting on top of hill looking down on a city famous for its hills, San Francisco. Like a king from a Shakespearean play, Van Orton is prime for a fall.

Fincher’s movies are famous for their opening credits. Seven‘s pastiche of notebook scribbles, the giant titles of Panic Room and the falling buttons of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Many cinephiles dissect the font, type, and style of the credits more than the movie itself. Fincher chucked the opening credits for The Game. Fincher replaced the opening credits sequence with a home movie of Nicholas Van Orten’s childhood birthday. When the film opens Van Orton is turning 48, the same age has his father when he committed suicide. The home movie serves not so much as flash backs but memories of his father who has haunted him his entire life but especially on his birthday.

Michael Douglas rides in elevator during the Game

A bad day is getting worse

The reality tv genre has been a staple on networks for so long viewers don’t take for granted that these shows aren’t “real.” There have been plenty of stories on how contestants were manipulated into different situations to boost ratings, scenes edited for affect, and in some cases re-shot to make scenes appear more authentic. The Game, like these reality tv shows, isn’t reality but hyper reality. Van Orton isn’t sure what’s real and neither is the viewer. The Game is a smart movie that keeps us guessing at every turn.

The Game is a rabbit hole (Hence Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit”) Van Orton starts down the moment he decides to play The Game, a birthday gift from his brother. It’s a rabbit hole we all willingly went down with Nicholas Van Orton the moment we decided to watch The Game. Once on the other side of the hole, Van Orton is never the same.

Sean Penn gives Michael Douglas a t-shirt

He’ll never be the same after the Game is finished.

The Social Network (2010)

Love Facebook? Hate Facebook? Indifferent to Facebook? It doesn’t matter. Facebook has an average of 2 billion active users. Hundreds of thousands of posts, comments, and shares are uploaded every second. Billions of pieces of information are shared daily. Odds are good your grandmother has made a post or two. Facebook isn’t going anywhere. It’s ingrained in our daily lives.  Hell, when I’m finished with this article I’m going to post it on our Facebook page.

Jesse Eisenberg in the Social Network codes for Facebook

The birth of Facebook or theft in motion?

The Social Network, told mainly in flash backs, starts at a frantic pace. The lulls, if they can be fairly called lulls, occur during depositions between Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin and Zuckerberh and the Winklevoss brothers. It’s a tool used to slow the movie down so we can take in and process what happened in the previous scene. The result is a movie with a two hour run time that feels compact with not a wasted scene between opening and closing credits.

Jesse Eisenberg has made a career out of playing the whiny, dumped upon guy, the guy who seems to have been born in the friendzone. It’s what we have come to expect from him. When he acts against type (Now You See Me, Batman Vs. Superman) it comes off as a forced performance and unbelievable. Did anyone believe Eisenberg as Lex Luthor?

Jesse Eisenberg leans back in the Social Network

Is he an asshole?

In The Social Network, Fincher got the best performance of Eisenberg’s career. Zuckerberg comes off as the kid who was picked on in school and never got over the taunts and jabs. Now that he’s rich and famous he’s getting back at everyone who he imagined has slighted him. His portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg as an egotistical, narcissistic asshole was so believable it earned him an Oscar nomination. Ultimately, Zuckerberg, as he keeps refreshing ex-girlfirnd Erica Albright’s Facebook page to see if she has accepted his friend request, is shown as someone who can not accept the fact that someone is not his friend.

Marylin Deply tells him,”You’re not an asshole, Mark. You’re just trying so hard to be.” It’s a great line expertly delivered by Rashida Jones. Except Deply didn’t have the advantage of seeing what we saw. If she had been watching The Social Network with us she would know he is an asshole. Is this the real Zuckerberg? Zuckerberg did try to prevent the release of the movie. Who knows? The one thing we can tell you is true: Follow us on Facebook.

Rashida Jones in the Social Network

Yes, he is an asshole

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

The grit and grime of Seven put Fincher on the map. The deconstructive narrative of Fight Club cemented Fincher’s reputation as a visionary director. Fincher’s films are filled with damaged people (a wife framing her husband for murder, a narcissistic tech-entrepreneur)  and dark themes ( a serial killer showing exposing the true face of humanity, a family coming to grips with its horrific past). The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is the complete opposite of every Fincher film to date.

Brad Pitt and Taraji P Henson go to church in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

“I don’t think I have worms. This is just how I am.”

Benjamin is indeed damaged. His insides age correctly, but outwardly he ages backwards. It would be enough to drive anyone a little crazy or bitter at the world. While other characters in Fincher’s canon, with lesser reasons, choose a destructive path in life Benjamin chooses a more positive path in life. He accepts his lot in life, challenges, and at the end of his life chooses to leave the one woman he has ever loved instead of burdening her with the responsibility of raising two children. Benjamin maybe the purest character in any of Fincher’s films to date.

When The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was originally released it was unfairly compared to Forrest Gump. The two movies could not be more different. Forrest Gump puts the titular character at the center of historical events. Forrest was in Vietnam, he met president after president, and he even broke Watergate. Whatever Gump touched, whether it was on accident or not, turned to gold. It’s only because the time the movie is set in that Benjamin is involved in historical events. However, he’s never at the center of events like Forrest. Benjamin has as much involvement in history as anyone else living during the same period.

Daisy rocks old baby Benjamin Button in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

“You can’t raise the both of us.”

Fincher’s Benjamin Button plays out more like a fable than the realism of Robert Zemeckis’s movie. We never know why Benjamin ages backwards. Maybe it has something to do with the clock Monsieur Gateau designed to run backwards in the hopes the dead soldiers of WWI would return. The clock stopped working around the same time Benjamin would have been an old man and it only started running backwards again after Benjamin dies.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button earned thirteen Oscar nominations. It took home well-deserved statues for Art Direction, Make Up, and Visual Effects. It was the first time Fincher was nominated for Best Director, the second nomination was for The Social Network. Beyond the statues The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is simply a powerful and heartfelt movie the likes of which Fincher may never make again.

Benjamin Button as an old baby in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

“There are no rules to this thing.”


Keep glued to our page. The films of David Fincher continues in part three of our review of the best Fincher films to date. (Be sure to check out Part 1)


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The Tick is Giving Evil the Wedgie it Deserves! https://www.amindonfire.com/tick-amazon-original-series/ Sun, 10 Sep 2017 22:22:00 +0000 http://www.amindonfire.com/?p=8328 The Big Blue Bug of Justice is back in Amazon''s new original series The Tick.

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Greeting, fellow bastions of justice and goodness! If you weren’t aware the Wild Blue Yonder, the Tick, has returned to television! Seriously, have you not seen all the commercials telling us The Tick is back and streaming on Amazon? Has there been another Amazon original with as many commercials? Regardless, read on….

Many, many moons ago the Tick was just a simple mascot for New England Comics, a comic book store in New England (which has nothing really to do with Old England. I think). Eighteen year-old Ben Edlund turned the Tick into a comic book for the store. The comic book was hugley popular. So more issues were created and more were created after those issues. It didn’t take too long for the Tick to blow up and enter…Saturday morning cartoon land!

The Tick and Arthur lounge around their apartment in Fox's animated Tick series

The Tick and Arthur in Fox’s animated series.

The Tick animated series ran for three seasons, which is two more than Fox’s first live action version. It was a fun little series with a cast of the craziest characters ever seen on a Saturday morning cartoon. There was Chairface Chippendale, Uncle Creamy, American Maid, and….Arthur? Yes, Arthur.

The voice over talent was beyond really good. Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond), Jim Cummings (The voice of Winnie the Pooh none the less), and Dan Castellaneta (The voice of Homer Simpson and like 1000 other voices on The Simpsons) did some voices. Mark Hamill, who’s done a voice over or two in his time, was the voice of Julius Pendecker. Roddy McDowall who made his name playing an ape (Playing with an ape? Whaaaa?) was the Breadmaster. Even Cathy Moriarty, who was in a little film called Raging Bull, provided some voice talent for the animated series.

Alas, the series ended.

The Tick and Arthur go shopping

Superheroes are just like us. They go shopping!

Fox didn’t give up on The Tick and neither did the fans. In 2001, Fox debuted the live action Tick to an unsuspecting American audience. Okay, America wasn’t unsuspecting. Fox advertised the series like it did its other television series. Live action meant actors, flesh and blood people. Patrick Warburton (Seinfeld) took on the mantle of the Tick.  

Fox’s live action series had the same charm and crazy characters as the animated series. New characters like Batmanuel (Nestor Carbonell, The Dark Knight) and Captain Liberty (Liz Vassey, Two and Half Men) were introduced to help Tick and Arthur clean up the City.

“Clean up” may not be absolutely totally correct. Tick and the gang really didn’t fight too many super villains, if any. The Tick was the greatest superhero series about nothing. It was the Seinfeld of superhero series. The gang even had a hang out spot like the Seinfeld crew, the Lonely Panda.

The Tick, Arthur, Batmanuel, and Captain Liberty decide a course of action

It’s like Seinfeld but with capes

The Tick may have seemed like it was about nothing, but there was something in every episode that made you think, laugh, and sometimes even cry (Nah, not really. Maybe tears of laughter). Arthur came out to his mom and sister, Dot, as a superhero. Yes, they committed him to an insane asylum, but by the end of the episode mom and Dot learned to accept Arthur for who he was and not to judge him. The gang even faced down sexism when Captain Liberty wasn’t allowed in the League of Superheroes because she was a woman. Sexism, we learned, isn’t cool and standing with your friends is very cool.

The Tick lasted eight episodes before Fox gave it the hatchet of cancellation.

Ron Perlman as Fiery Brand in Fox's live action Tick series

The Tick hangs out with Fiery Brand.

The Tick was gone, but not forgotten. Amazon debuted the pilot during its 2016 pilot season. Amazon doesn’t green light a series lightly. No, Amazon uses only the most scientific methods available to someone as rich as Jeff Bezos. Amazon relies on customer reviews to decide which pilots will get a full season. Customers really liked The Tick. Amazon ordered six full episodes.

The Tick premiered a couple of weeks ago on Amazon and it’s…*cue screeching noise*…serious?

I had a little fun writing about the past two incarnations of The Tick because The Tick was funny. It was silly (Dave Foley dacing around in Arthur’s costume?). At times it was even ridiculous. We were never sure if Tick was crazy or just naive. Warburton played the character as a gently child who had a childlike wonderment of the world.

The new Arthur in Amazon's new TIck series

Watching a ship crash on your dad will scar you for life.

Neither the cartoon or Fox’s live action version took itself seriously. It’s pretty difficult to take anything serious when the main character is in a life or death struggle with a toilet. Can we honestly take The Tick seriously when The Immortal dies after having sex with Captain Liberty? Can we take Nestor Carbonell’s Batmanuel seriously when his only purpose on the series was trying to have sex with Captain Liberty?  No, we can’t and were never meant to take the show seriously.

The Tick premiered a year before Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and years before Marvel Studios created a commercialy successful interconnected “universe.” Since its cancellation comic book based television series have dominated both the netowrks and streaming services. Every one of these more recent series, from The Walking Dead to Arrow to Netflix’s Daredevil, is a serious take on something. On The Walking Dead, Rick and company are constantly being kicked out of their homes . The Arrow’s Seattle stand in city is attacked on an almost weekly basis and the Daredevil is now a Defender.

The Tick walks out of an explosion

Bigger budget doesn’t mean better series

Amazon’s The Tick tries to fit somewhere between comedy series and serious comic book series. Peter Serafinowicz, who played Shaun’s uptight roommate in Shaun of the Dead, took over the role of the Tick. Serafinowicz captures the kookiness, almost insane quality of the character. The Tick character isn’t the problem with The Tick. The problem is everything else in the series.

Arthur, The Tick’s reluctant sidekcik, saw his father killed in a rocket shop crash. Moments later he witnesses the Terror kill his favorite superheroes. The event traumatized young Arthur for life. Arthur’s sister, Dot, moonlights as a “crime doctor” whose only patients are criminals. Overkill, an aptly named Punisher styled vigilante, lives up to his name in his first scene by killing thugs in the most brutal manner. Ms. Lint, the right hand woman of the Terror, electrocutes people to death. It’s all very un-Tick like.

The Terror scares little children

More scary then funny.

The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley, Watchmen) isn’t anything like the previous incarnations of the character. Before he was mildly amusing. Now he’s just another super villain out for world domination. When he tells Ms. Lint “You don’t kill people because they call you names. You kill people because it’s fun” it comes off as creepy and doesn’t get the laughs it was intended to get. Ms. Lint constantly attracting lint and the jokes made about it aren’t funny and get old after the second or third joke.

Some people may call The Tick a reboot. Some people will call it a remake. Others may even say it was “inspired” by the cartoon and the 2001 series. Whatever you want to call The Tick ask yourself, “Do we really need another super hero series?” The answer is, “No, not if it’s like every other comic book series.” Unfortunately, the laughs never come in the series. What we have left absent laughs is an average comic book series.



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The Directors: The Films of David Fincher Part 1 https://www.amindonfire.com/directors-films-of-david-fincher/ Thu, 07 Sep 2017 20:17:15 +0000 http://www.amindonfire.com/?p=8036 David Fincher's Mindhuner is ready to stream on October 13th. There's no better time to look at the movies that brought him to this point.

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David Fincher started his career working for Industrial Lights and Magic (ILM). He went on to direct music videos. Thankfully for us he made the jump into feature films with Alien 3. Since Alien 3‘s 1992 release Fincher has gone onto to cement his name as a modern day auteur. Fincher made the dive into television with the highly rated Netflix original House of Cards.

Netflix is also releasing Fincher’s next television series, MindhunterMindhunter is based on the non-fiction book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by Mark Olshaker and John Douglas. It’s about serial killers and the agents tasked with getting inside their heads. Serial killers, dark thoughts, and agents chasing killers are all in Fincher’s wheelhouse. We’ll have to wait until October 13th to see if the series lives up to the bar already set high by Fincher’s other projects. We have to wait for Mindhunter, but we can rank all of Fincher’s movies right now.

Gone Girl (2014)

Fincher’s most recent film, Gone Girl, is also his weakest film to date. The movie revolves around Amy Dunne’s (Rosamund Pike) plot to frame her husband, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), for a murder he didn’t commit. The premise sounds interesting. Unfortunately, the story never gets interesting.

Most women who become disillusioned about their marriage get a divorce. Some, unfortunately,swallow their pride and live a life unfulfilled. Some women have even turned to murder. There’s a number of truTV, Discovery ID, and Oxygen series on women who kill. The women in those series were caught and Amy Dunne should have been caught before the opening credits were over.

The entire premise relies on two things. First, Nick has to immediately call the police because he thinks his wife is missing or worse. If for any reason he waits until the next day (Remember, later in the movie he tells his sister he and Amy had a fight and left the house) to call the police Amy’s elaborate time line is blown. Second, the right police detective has to be assigned Nick’s call. It would be non-starter if Detective Rhonda Boney ( Fear the Walking Dead‘s Kim Dickens) didn’t see a crime scene the moment she walked into the Dunne’s house. It’s these two small details that lead Boney to find the smallest speck of a blood above the stove in the Dunne’s kitchen. The small speck of blood is all Boney needs to call the house a crime scene. How she got from a broken table to a dress that hadn’t been ironed  to a crime scene is only one of many leaps in logic the movie contains.

However, having a dogged police detective being assigned to the case is also one of the biggest mistakes in the movie. Boney, being set up as a super observant cop, could also have picked apart Amy’s elaborate ploy. It’s a biological fact that blood clots outside the body. Putting it in a refrigerator won’t help preserve blood. The only thing that will keep blood from clotting is an anticoagulant. Anticoagulants would have been detected in the blood. Credit card statements have dates of purchase. Unless Amy’s purchases were stretched over long period of time it should have at least raised some flags to super cop Boney that something wasn’t quite right. Later in Gone Girl, Boney yells to Nick fire won’t destroy blood. Fire can destroy blood, it’s DNA fire has a hard time destroying.

The other flaw in the movie is the Amy Dunne character. Dunne is clearly 100% completely psychotic. The movie initially tries to set up Amy as a sympathetic character. She tells us she’s a battered woman who is so afraid of her husband she needs to by a gun for protection. Who wouldn’t we be sympathetic to the character? Even after we learn the depths she has gone to get revenge on the men she has perceived as wronging her the movie still strives to make her sympathetic. The theme of the movie is basically that it’s okay to frame men for rape and murder. A strong woman would find a way to do get revenge. Gone Girl is the worst kind of feminist movie.

The final sins occur in Gone Girl’s ending. We have to get through a scene of Amy being interviewed by a group of unnamed police detectives about how she was “kidnapped” and “escaped” from Desi Collings (Neil Patrick Harris). She controls the interview. Boney is the only officer who tries to question her story. However, the unnamed police officers shut her up at every question asked. The same detective who wouldn’t take no for an answer and connected a dress left on an ironing board to murder is silent. Boney’s silence and the lack of an investigation into Collings’s death is the only way the ending works.

Finally, Nick decides to stay with Amy at the end of the movie. There is absolutely zero reason why he would or should stay. The reasons are, like the rest of the movie, weak. Amy says she owes him. Owes him for what? Amy says Nick destroyed her life, but other than moving to Nick’s home town we’re never told or shown how he destroyed her life. He stays because she’s pregnant. The movie leaves some doubt that she may be pregnant, but even if she is pregnant it wouldn’t be a strong enough reason to stay with a woman who was trying to frame you for murder in a state with a death penalty (Side note: Not every state with the death penalty will automatically give a person convicted of murder the death penalty). On average, fifty percent of marriages in the United States ends in divorce. People get divorced every single day. It’s sad, but some of those divorces involve pregnant women.

Stylistically, Gone Girl is a Fincher film. The lighting, use of shadows, and the flip between Nick’s side of the story and Amy’s side of the story is very Fincher. Gone Girl also reminded us that Ben Affleck can act and Tyler Perry can do more than countless Madea movies. It’s not Fincher’s fault the movie ultimately fails. The fault of the movie is the story itself. It was doomed to fail the moment it started.

Panic Room (2002)

Panic Room could have been like every other home invasion movie in a long, long line of home invasion movies. It has all the trappings of your run-of-the-mill home invasion movie. It has a family- Meg Altman (Jodie Foster), a newly divorced mother, and her daughter, Sarah (a pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart), move into a swank New York home thinking their new lives can start.

Hidden in a bedroom, where only the the keen eyed Meg can tell is smaller than other bedrooms, is a panic room. It may be a New York City thing, but having all the bedrooms in a house the same size makes no real estate sense. However, it gives Fincher the opportunity to establish Meg as an observant person.

It’s also an excuse for the realtor to give Meg and the audience a tour of all the panic room’s special features. The room features an outside phone line, separate ventilation system, a really thick door, monitors, and an intercom. If you didn’t think the panic room would be central to the movie then you weren’t paying attention to the title of the movie.

What’s a home invasion movie without home invaders a reason for the home to be invaded? Junior (Jared Leto, Fight Club ) convinces a broke Burnham (Forest Whitaker) and a somewhat mentally unhinged Raoul (an excellent performance by Dwight Yoakam) to break into the house and retrieve 3 million dollars from a safe located in…the panic room.

Yes, Panic Room has all the trappings of other home invasion movies with one exception, David Fincher. Fincher sets Panic Room apart from other home invasion movies from the moment opening credits start. For many of us who do not live in New Your City we associate the city with hustle and bustle. It’s a city where people are walking on top of each other. The opening sequence flips that notion on its head and shows a sprawling city, a vast city with wide open spaces. It’s the perfect contrast to the cramped claustrophobic confines of the panic room Fincher sets up later in the movie.

Whereas most home invasion movies concern themselves with kills and a body count, Fincher’s home invasion concerns itself more with psychological drama. Panic Room has more in common with a Hitchcock film than You’re Next or The Strangers. Before the movie is over you’ll be questioning which room is the actual panic room. Is it the room the trio of home invaders find themselves in with both time and options running out or is it the room Meg and Sarah have locked themselves in waiting for help to arrive?

Alien 3 (1992)

Alien 3 was, and even with the release of Prometheus may still be, universally hated by fans of the Alien franchise. Fans were outraged over the deaths of Newt, Bishop, and Hicks. Adding salt on the wound was Ripley’s triple lindy dive into molten steel at the end of the movie. Fans simply did not like the direction of the movie. But does this make Alien 3 a bad movie?

In Alien 3 we can see Fincher’s style developing into what we see today. The long shot of Murphy looking down the hole the alien made in the ventilation tunnels and the spinning fan blade dissecting light is very reminiscent of what we would see in movies like Seven. Alien 3‘s odd camera angles and close ups would be revisited time and time again.

Ripley and Dillon get ready to face the dog alien in Alien 3

The other problem fans had with the movie was the lack of the rifles, guns, and explosions. Aliens is a great movie, a classic, however it dispensed with a lot of the horror elements of Ridley Scott’s original. Alien 3 was a return to the horror roots of the original. The movie relies more on the horror elements of “what’s around the next corner” and people disappearing than machine gun fire down hallways. Fans though wanted more Aliens in the sequel than horror.

Alien 3 is one of Fincher’s more dark movies not only in tone but in its theme. The themes of religion and death often intersect and that intersection is very apparent in Alien 3.  The prayer Dillon (Charles S. Dutton) says over the bodies of Newt and Hicks is also a baptism for the birth of the “dog” alien; the alien is death for Ripley and company. The planet Ripley crashes on looks apocalyptic. Even the name  Fiorina “Fury” 161 sounds like a hellish place to be stranded. Even Ripley’s death conjures up religious images. Spread armed and legs together, Ripley’s death invokes images of Jesus dying on the cross.

Ripley looks for the android Bishop in Alien 3

The problem with Alien 3 isn’t completely Fincher’s fault. There were four scripts written for the movie and twice as many rewrites. At one point, Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley wasn’t slated to be in the movie. The production was plagued with problem and studio interference. The interference from studio executives has become legendary. Alien 3 also met resistance from “test audiences.” The studio caved and made changes to the movies. Fortunately for us some of the footage was restored for the Alien Quadrilogy box set.

Ripley dives into a pool of molten lead in Alien 3

Ripley died for the sins of Alien 3


We’re not done yet. There’s more Fincher films to review. Check out Parts two and three of our Fincher review.

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Netflix Brings Life to Death Note https://www.amindonfire.com/netflix-brings-life-death-note/ Tue, 05 Sep 2017 21:38:53 +0000 http://www.amindonfire.com/?p=8242 A review of Netflix's live action Death Note for those of us who have never seen or heard of its anime counterpart.

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Apparently not many fans of the original anime Death Note were thrilled when Netflix released its live action version. Some critics accused the live action version of white-washing the anime version. Some critics ruled it out as anything watchable based simply on the main characters laugh! Most of these critics based their reviews on the misguided assumption the only viewers of Netflix’s Death Note would be fans of the anime version. Anime/Manga is huge in Japan. In the United States it has a cult following, but like its comic book counterpart if only established fans watched Death Note it would be a resounding failure. What about the rest of us, the non-anime/manga fan? Is Death Note worth our time and data usage?

The “Death Note” is actually a notebook. However, it’s not a normal notebook. Write a name on a page, manner of death, and *POOF* the person dies. There’s really no substitute if you’re looking for some good old fashioned revenge and want to get away with murder. The notebook, as we learn later, has been around for a long time with a lot of owners.

Mia Sutton talks to Light Turner about adding names to the Death Note

Oh, sure, she’s hot. But she’s crazy as a shit house rat too.

Light Turner is the latest “owner” of the Death Note. He takes to the notebook without hesitation. Before the week is out Light adds two names to the notebook. Shortly after he finds the Death Note he strikes up a relationship with Mia Sutton. Light’s quick with the information on the Death Note. The two of them take on the name Kira and go on a crusade  of ridding the world of criminals and all sorts of nasty people.

Mia, as it turns out, probably is not the best person to have access to a death dealing notebook. She gets turned on by adding names to the Death Note. When it looks like the police and FBI are closing in on Light she kills a dozen agents by making them jump off a building. She even wants to add Light’s father after he challenges Kira on live television. Mia is,unscientifically speaking, a psycho who’s willing to put Light’s name in the notebook if it means she can keep the Death Note.

Attached to the  Death Note is one crazy looking demon who resembles a porcupine more than a death god. Its name is Ryuk. Ryuk is the one who makes all the nasty stuff happen after a name is jotted down. Willem Dafoe provides the voice for Ryuk. He’s basically doing his Green Goblin voice from Spider-Man. The evil voice and cackle through a metal mask was corny, but it works in Death Note. Dafoe’s voice over brings life to an already realistic looking CGI demon.

Ryuk hides in the shadows while talking to Light Turner

Porcupine? Demon? Apple lover!

Death Note is aimed more at a younger audience, the same audience comic book movies are geared towards, than some of Netflix’s more recent options (Other than the obvious children’s productions and Marvel series). The main characters are in the demographic range of these types of movies. Even the super detective, L, is younger than the police and FBI agents who work for him. Comic book movies will often cast the younger characters as the only heroes who can save the day. In the case of Death Note, the younger characters are also the cause of the all the troubles going on in the movie.

Death Note is also much darker than some of the other Netflix offerings. It’s also bloodier than anything we’ve seen in the Marvel series. The first to get their name in the book isn’t so much decapitated as the top of his head is sheared off. The second name is the criminal who killed Light’s mother. He meets his end by accidentally being stabbed in the throat by utensils. A spray of blood from his mouth covers his dinner table. Overall, Light and Mia are responsible for the deaths of four hundred people.

Most movies aimed at teenagers have somewhat more happier endings than Death Note. Movies like Twilight and Hunger Games work to bring the male and female leads together. Death Note isn’t like those movies. It’s more interested in asking “What would you do if you had the power of life and death in your hands?” At the end of the movie we get a somewhat decent answer to the question. It’s the same question L asks himself as the movie ends.

Shea Whigham as James Turner in Netflix's Death Note

Overall, Death Note is not a bad movie. It’s entertaining without talking down the audience. Nor does it try alienate older audiences by only catering to the millennial crowd. The twist ending may seem like a cheat, but it’s pulled off in such a way that justifies the reasoning for some of Light’s choices. Fans of the original Death Note may not like the Netflix version without the benefit of watching it. If they gave it a chance and watched the movie without the burden of the original they may find it just as entertaining as the other comic book movies flooding movie theaters.


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Predictions and Thoughts on Game of Thrones Season Eight https://www.amindonfire.com/game-of-thrones-season-eight/ Wed, 30 Aug 2017 00:28:34 +0000 http://www.amindonfire.com/?p=8229 There are going to be millions of disappointed fans when the last episode of Game of Thrones fades takes the black and the final credits roll. Some fans will be happy they were a part of the Game of Thrones phenomenon. Other fans will be disappointed because no ending could live up to the hype HBO […]

The post Predictions and Thoughts on Game of Thrones Season Eight appeared first on A Mind on Fire.

There are going to be millions of disappointed fans when the last episode of Game of Thrones fades takes the black and the final credits roll. Some fans will be happy they were a part of the Game of Thrones phenomenon. Other fans will be disappointed because no ending could live up to the hype HBO is bound to unleash. Whether it’s next year or 2019,  season eight has a lot of ground to cover. Her’s a few helpful ideas and theories for showrunners to mull over before Game of Thrones is history.

Arya Stark’s Hit List

Arya Stark was on her way out of the realm of sanity when she started reciting her hit list like a mantra. Somewhere along her travels and training with the Faceless Men (Yes, Arya, no matter what you told Brienne you’ve had training) Arya left sanity behind and became Arya “Psycho” Stark.

A close up of Arya Stark

Arya sees everything

Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr made it on the list because they sold Gendry Waters to Melisandre. Thoros is dead and Gendry is still alive. Will it be enough to remove his name for her list? In Beyond the Walls, Beric tells Jon the two of them were resurrected for a reason and then points to the Night King. Beric, whether he lives or dies, fighting in the final battle with the Night King would be more satisfying then a death at Arya’s hands.

The Hound, who Arya thinks is dead, can easily be added back onto her hit list. She handled herself against Brienne and Brienne defeated the Hound. Odds are she could handle herself against the Hound, but then we’re deprived of the battle between the Hound and the Mountain, who is also on Arya’s list. The battle between brothers will make a much better tv than Arya killing another person.

Arya scans Winterfell's surroundings

Arya found her way back to Winterfell, but where will she land in season eight?

In terms of distance and good storytelling, Cersei is way beyond Arya’s reach. Melisandre, who we assume is hanging around to die in “this strange country,” could still be a possibility. Of course, this means they have to meet and then only after Melisandre brings Beric back from the dead.

(We haven’t forgotten Ser Ilyn Payne, the executioner, but he’s not a player in the story. It would take a lot of wordsmithing to work him back into the story)

It would be nice, in a demented kind of way, to see Arya’s list completed. Try as she might, some folks are simply out of the range of possibility and there’s no time to dedicate to revenge fulfillment. Skip the kill list.

Theon Saves Yara

Theon and Yara stand before their father

Theon and Yara

Figuratively, Theon grew a pair in “The Dragon and the Wolf.” There’s every reason to believe he’ll take his reclaimed manhood and bring the fight to Euron. However, it has to be quick battle. Showrunners have sped things up quite a bit in the past two seasons. It took the Unsullied all of two minutes of screen time to capture Highgarden, It’s won’t be wasted time if Theon and Yara rest control of the Iron Fleet from Euron. Daenerys would have the fleet she needs to fight Cersei and the undead. At the very least, Euron will be dead.

Jamie Kills Cersei

We would all like to see Daenerys and Cersei face off in battle or even hand-to-hand combat. How Daenerys on a dragon and Cersei, who knows nothing about actual fighting, would “face off” is another question. What actually needs to happen is Jamie killing Cersei. It sounds brutal, but that’s what needs to happen.

Cersei orders Jamie to break the truce

Cersei orders Jamie to break the truce, but Jamie isn’t having any part of it.

The Jamie Lannister character has been and still is the best written character on the series. We’ve seen the character evolve since his time as Rob Stark’s captive and traveling with Brienne. The other characters have’t evolved  and some haven’t needed to evolve. Jon “Christlike” Snow will never not be the guy who does the right thing. Daenerys’s holier than though attitude is a part of who she is as a character. Tyrion, who was never a “bad guy,” has gone from drunken whoremonger to the Right Hand of the Queen. The Tyrion character has gone as far as it can go. At this late stage there’s zero reason to change Cersei. The Hound is the only other character on Game of Thrones who has evolved as a character.

Jamie, however, is still an evolving character with plenty of room to grow. Cersei’s last act of betrayal sent Jamie running to the North presumably to warn Jon and Daenerys. There’s going to be plenty of time in season eight dedicated to Cersei. Cersei has already proved herself to viewers that she’s the “Mad Queen.” After the season seven finale, Jamie knows it too. Killing Cersei would complete the character’s journey.

Jamie Lannister in Game of Thrones season one

Remember when Jamie looked like a live action Disney Prince?

Sansa Becomes Queen of Winterfell

Jon’s credit with the people of the North was seriously stretched when he left Winterfell. Sansa stayed behind and proved herself a capable leader. There won’t be any goodwill to extend when the people learn he accepted Daenerys as Queen. There’ll be even less when, and if, they find out he’s a Targaryen. Bran may be the next in line to assume the mantle of King of Winterfell, but he won’t accept the title. Three Eyed Ravens don’t do the king thing. Sansa is the likeliest choice to assume leadership. And it never hurts to have a psycho little sister ready to cut anyone who looks at her the wrong way.

Sansa Stark after the Battle of the Bastards

Queen of the North

Jon Snow Fights the Night King

If there is an amount of time allotted to each character’s story arch or to individual plots most of the time needs to be focused on the Night King and his army of the dead moving South. The dead were moving quick at the end of “The Dragon and the Wolf.” The dead could easily be at Winterfell’s doorstep by the time the season eight opening credits end.

There will be a big to do about the amount of dragon glass being mined from Dragonstone. Of course, most of it will be lost before it can be made into weapons. The battles should be big and brutal. Jon will be armed with dragon glass and fire, the two things that can kill the undead.

Jon Snow during the Battle of the Bastards

Taking bets and laying odds Jon Snow doesn’t make it out alive.

When Jon kills the Night King the other zombies will die. We say it when Jon killed the White Walker in “Beyond the Wall.” Remember the giant crossbow Bronn used in the “Spoils of War?” Now imagine it with a giant bolt made of dragon glass and fired by someone with better aim (Tormund Giantsbane?). The zombie dragon has to die somehow.

Of course the Night King won’t die before thousands have died and Jon succumbs to mortal wounds. This time Melisandre won’t save him.

The Night King give Jon Snow the evil eye

The Night King falls in season eight

No More “Game” For the Iron Throne 

Even if the rumors are true and season eight’s six episodes are 120 minutes long (average time running time for a feature movie) there’s a lot of story still to be told. Showrunners have wasted an incredible amount of time on things that aren’t relevant to the story. Does anyone care let alone remember Ellaria Sand is still Cersei’s prisoner? Does more time need to be wasted on Sam Tarly? He’s a cute character, even killed a White Walker, but he brings nothing to the table.

Daenerys yells

The last butt to warm the Iron Throne

The “game” that we came to love in earlier seasons came to an end when season seven came to an end. Too much time was invested in who was doing what to seize control of the Iron Throne. Showrunners need to realize the game is now about who survives the army of the dead. All of the plots and plans have amounted to nothing and were basically a long side bar to the Night King’s invasion. Who ever survives the dead will be on the Iron Throne.

Finally, the only real choice for the last ass on the Iron Throne is Daenerys. It would be too cheesy to have Jon survive to sit on the throne. Cersei will be dead and Jamie will have become tired of everything. No other character alive will have claim to the throne.

Personally, I’d be happy if the last scene was the camera slowly pulling back to show a landscape littered with bodies, thousands of dead bodies laying in a field. Only a few remain alive moving among the corpses. One of those figures who’s still alive is a battered and bruised Tyrion, leaning on an equally battered and bruised Bronn. Both of them realize a little too late that everything they had done was for nothing. (I can dream)

Tyrion accepts the position of Hand of the Queen

The last man standing in Westeros


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