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Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018)

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I discovered the Black Mirror television series due to an episode of The Orville that had been similar in theme to one of its episodes.  They were obviously not copies of either, but largely a reflection of fears of social media and modern American life.  It was the first time I had found an anthology series in years that did what The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Dark Side did so well: take modern societal concerns and take them to extremes to great effect.

Like most fans I have been waiting for the newest season, and so far what we got is a movie event.  Not only that, but it takes it a step further, making the movie interactive.  As predicted with modern media criticism, the fact that it does not reach some sort of pinnacle of perfection has made it an immediate target for hate and derision from a number of critics, which I hate to say is largely because most of them really got so involved in the gimmick that they didn't realize what the movie itself was trying to say.

Stef…

Gremlins (1984)

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What defines a Christmas movie?  Unfortunately, it's usually sickeningly maudlin, saccharine displays of family and holiday cheer, often times riffing on the same old themes of A Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Life.  That may be why so many people are more than happy to include Die Hardalongside Miracle on 34th Street for their holiday viewing.

Despite what some may think, Die Hard, with all its violent themes and satire of '80s movies cliches, is also at heart a movie about a man who just wants to get together with his family (perhaps for the last time) on Christmas.  It has some dark themes, but so do current modern standards like A Christmas Story and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  The best scenes out of both recall not just the happiness of the season (which is largely marketing anyway), but the real stress that families are under, both emotionally and financially, to make this a good time of year for the children.

Gremlins takes many of those dark u…

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

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Kick-Ass, though flawed in a number of ways, was still quite interesting in the way that it tried to be different.  The heroes were motivated in some ways to do good, but Big Daddy had no problem embracing what he would have to become to achieve his goals.  He knew what he had done to his daughter but, unlike his former partner Marcus, had no regrets about the choices he made.  He had a single purpose: bring down Frank D'Amico's underworld empire. 

In the end, though Big Daddy died violently on a live broadcast, his goal was met when Dave Lizewsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), aka Kick-Ass, killed D'Amico by shooting him out a window with a bazooka.  Kick-Ass the superhero came into his own and, in truth, really reached the end of his ark.  Mindy McCready (Chloe Grace-Moretz), otherwise known as Hit Girl, reached hers as well, avenging the deaths of both her mom and her dad at D'Amico's hand.

There was one factor left unfulfilled: Frank's son Chris (Christopher Mintz…

Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)

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Resident Evilends with Alice (Milla Jovovich) and her potential love interest Matt (Eric Mabius) being dragged away by the Umbrella Corporation for experiments.  He is mutating, so he is thrown into something called the Nemesis program, while Alice wakes up alone in a laboratory, escaping only to find Raccoon City virtually abandoned and left to the dead.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse picks up during the time that Alice is under, with a devastating heat wave hitting the city in addition to a wave of people succumbing to the T-Virus, changing into zombies and attacking their loved ones.  In response, Umbrella has a number of scientists evacuated, including the originator of the virus, the wheelchair-bound scientist Charles Ashford (Jared Harris).  While evacuating, his daughter Angie's (Sophie Vavasseur) transport is involved in an accident, leaving her trapped in the city after Major Cain (Thomas Kretschmann) walls the urban center in and prepares to cleanse it with a nuclear weapon.

T…

From Russia with Love (1963)

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Though low-budget and a bit controversial, Dr. Nohad been a bit o a box office success.  In the 1960s, as now, that meant a sequel was assured.  It wasn't that much of a surprise as producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman intended Dr. No to be the first in a franchise, and it turned out their plan worked out well.  With director Terence Young back on board and twice the budget, it was time to to film one of Ian Fleming's most popular James Bond novels.

SPECTRE is back, this time wanting to kill two birds with one stone: steal a coding machine from the Russians and get revenge on James Bond (Sean Connery).  Even though we don't see his face, we meat Ernst Stavro Blofeld (and his white cat) for the first time as he plots with defected Soviet intelligence agent Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) and chess champion Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal).  The idea is to convince a low-level agent at the Soviet consulate in Istanbul name Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) to pretend to fall in…

Halloween II (1981)

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Although the recent Halloweenhas has given us a more worthwhile sequel to the original movie, the first attempt at a sequel was both an attempt to earn John Carpenter a paycheck (he didn't see much of a return early on from his 1978 film) and to get rid of the chance of him being asked to right another script with Michael Meyers in it.  He once again wrote the script with Debra Hill and, according to interviews, some help from his old Buddy Weiser.

Halloween II begins immediately after the end of Halloween.  Michael (Dick Warlock) has been shot six times by Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance), but got up and walked away.  Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), severely injured in her encounter with Michael, is rushed to a hospital while Loomis and Shriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers) search for Myers.  The killer is first thought possibly dead after someone wearing a similar costume is killed in an accident, but it turns out Myers has tracked Laurie down to the almost deserted local hospital.  …

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

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There are not a lot of modern filmmakers that will be presented in film classes other than a case of what not to do.  In many ways the auteur director has given way to little more than spectacle, even with many independents.  I believe it is because too many don't get to build their independent credentials before being swept up into the various expanded universes that exist today, and that whatever style they have is compromised in order to make their latest film fit in with the bigger picture.

Wes Anderson has managed to remain independent and be successful.  Bottle Rocket may have owed quite a bit to the Cohen Brothers, but even as early as Rushmore he was exploring his own personal muse - something that came to bloom in full with The Royal Tenenbaums.

Not knowing much about The Grand Budapest Hotel, it struck me at first that it was going to be something quite similar.  I expect quirky characters and a bit of a detachment from reality in his films, but it had been awhile since…

Kick-Ass (2010)

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After years of superhero films stuck in in PG-13 epic sameness, Deadpoolmanaged to change things up.  It was violent, irreverent and proved that audiences were ready to accept a superhero that wasn't anywhere near perfect.  Iron Man had introduced that into the standard Marvel universe, but it was about time that a movie understood that those who went to see these movies were not just the comic book fans - something Bryan Singer had understood with his X-Men films.

Of course, this was not the first time this was attempted.  Watchmen managed to adapt Alan Moore's comic of the same name.  In many ways it was successful, but not at the box office.  Neither was Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, despite it's eventual cult status. 

Still, there was one movie that still proved that it could bridge that gap, and it was Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of Mark Millar's comic book Kick-Ass.  In many ways the movie version is a bit of a strange amalgam of all three movies I mentioned …

Resident Evil (2002)

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Video games have tried, more and more over the years, to break free from just being escapist entertainment to being interactive art.  Often inspired by, and containing many homages to movies themselves, it's no surprise that there have been a number of attempts to translate the more successful video game franchises into movies themselves. 

The problem has been that in most cases not much thought went into making the game beyond using its name to put butts in the seats.  Even if they were able to get a major star at the peak of popularity like Angelina Jolie for the Tomb Raider films, there was still nothing really there to recommend them.  It didn't help that when it came to video game adaptations that an overwhelming number went to Uwe Boll, who famously used the movies as a scheme to make money from a German tax loophole.

The only series that has been successful, both at bringing in money and managing to somewhat be entertaining is the Resident Evil series of films, largely…

Dr. No (1962)

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James Bond has become a genre all in itself, separate from (though influential on) other types of spy movies.  Ian Fleming created the character as a deadly, but dashing member of British Intelligence in the 1950s, and it was only a matter of time before Bond made it to the big screen.

Uniquely, though, it wasn't his first adventure, Casino Royale, that made it.  There was an American version of the story produced for television, but a movie version wouldn't show up until to the 2000s, and much of what the story was about had ceased to exist at that time.

Dr. No was the sixth book in the series, and the movie was produced and released during one of the tensest points of the Cold War.  Unintentional comparisons to the Cuban Missile Crisis aside (which was not anticipated when Dr. No went into production), the novel was chosen largely because it was the most cost-effective to film.  Keep in mind that this was the first Bond adventure; Sean Connery was not a major star, the Briti…

Halloween (2007)

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The 2000s were not a good time for horror.  Well, I should clarify; in the United States, they were not a good time for horror.  It was filled with self-aware movies trying to be the next Scream as well as never-ending reboots and remakes.  The best horror was coming out of Asia, and Hollywood was doing its best to ruin those for American audiences as well.

The problem with many of the movies of this time is that, for every Leigh Whannell or Eli Roth that came on the scene you had a bunch of anonymous people working for Michael Bay just trying to squeeze a few more dollars out of tired franchises.  So, with The House of 1000 Corpses and a truly standout horror film in The Devil's Rejects, one would expect that at least Rob Zombie would be able to do what others couldn't and bring new life to an old franchise. 

In truth, most of the sequels to Halloweenhad been pretty awful.  The best one wasn't even a sequel at all, but tried to put the series back on track as being an an…

It's Alive (1974)

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In 1973 Larry Cohen was enjoying the success of Black Caesar, one of the key blaxploitation films, and was working on its sequel, Hell Up in Harlem.  While making that movie Cohen also decided to make a horror film.  Featuring a couple dealing with a killer baby, It's Alive resulted in Cohen becoming primarily known as a horror director.

Frank (John P. Ryan) and Lenore Davis (Sharon Farrell) are expecting a second child.  It was kind of a surprise baby as they are approaching later life, but they decide to keep it.  They ship their child Chris (Daniel Holzman) over to his uncle Charley (William Wellman Jr.) for a few days while Lenore heads to the hospital.

During labor, she becomes concerned.  When she was in labor with Chris, at least according to Frank, it was only 45 minutes.  This time it seems to be taking longer, and the baby is a lot bigger.  Still, the doctor goes for a live birth.

While Frank is waiting, he sees one of the doctors stumble out of the maternity ward and c…

Carnival of Souls (1962)

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Recently on the website Quora there was a question about how a film becomes a cult classic.  My general answer, beyond the fact that trying to make a cult movie often fails miserably, is that there has to be some sort of vision behind it.  Anyone can make a terrible movie on purpose.  Few people can attempt to make a great movie and fall right in that area where they technically failed, but their talent still shines through.

The other thing that typically makes a cult film is that it could have been much more in the mainstream if budget constraints weren't an issue.  However, once again, the talent and vision of the people behind it often overcome that to put something unique on the screen.  Director Herk Harvey certainly accomplished that with Carnival of Souls.

Mary (Candace Hilligoss) is with her girlfriends when some boys challenge her to a drag race.  It ends badly, with her car going off a bridge and into a river.  Attempt to retrieve the vehicle and the bodies seem futile,…