Jason Vs. Leatherface (1995) [Comic Books]

Sometime between Friday the 13th VII and VIII, Jason gets unexpectedly freed from his watery resting place, wanders onto a freight train, then kills a hobo and his dog. From there he hitches a ride to Texas and—wouldn’t you know it?—he stumbles across Leatherface and his family of dimwitted cannibals. Talk about coincidence!

Before going any further, maybe it’s time to confess my shameful secret: I loved (and still love) comic books from the 90s. Yeah, modern fans live to shit on the era of impossibly posed women and gun-wielding anti-heroes, but if it weren’t for the likes of graphically explicit horror titles (and Spawn… let’s not forget Spawn), I might not have read many rags outside of Mad Magazine and EC reprints.

Speaking of EC horror, I was sure the evil businessmen responsible for draining Camp Crystal Lake (and subsequently freeing Jason) were going to get their just deserves in true Tales from the Crypt fashion. Nope. Just as in real life, these corrupt businessmen skate right by any undesirable consequences for their amoral actions. Maybe there was a follow-up planned that would address the lake’s draining, but as is it seems like an extremely convoluted excuse to get Jason up and killing again.

Which begs the question: How did the lake get refilled? And how does Jason find himself at the bottom of it again in time to take Manhattan? Those questions are not entirely explained. JvL feels more like an alternate timeline, sprouting from a fork in the road before Part VIII and Jason Goes to Hell, even though the comics’ editorials are adamant this is all canon.

The title, too, is misleading: if you’re expecting a colossal battle between the horror icons, you’ve come to the wrong place. At their first meeting, Jason and Leatherface get into a scuffle, but Leatherface loses his chainsaw within a couple of panels. At this point Jason could easily kill Leatherface, but he doesn’t because, for the first time since he was a child, he found somewhere he fits in.

And that’s where Jason Vs. Leatherface unexpectedly shines: the character development. I didn’t ask for it and I didn’t think I wanted it, but getting inside Jason’s head isn’t just a gimmick to fluff out three issues. I’m always annoyed when sequels and spin-offs attempt to rob a character’s mystique by explaining too much of their backstory, but it works here. Apparently Jason is a character who could use some fleshing out, which might explain why so many of the sequels grew stale.

You can tell writer Nancy A. Collins (a horror novelist) has a soft side for Jason, choosing to see him as a human being who doesn’t know why he kills. This version of Jason actually reminds me of Man-Thing and a little bit of Swamp Thing (the latter of which Collins also worked on). Nobody can blame Frankenstein’s monster for killing the little girl in the 1931 film… Jason Vs. Leatherface is a lot more gruesome than that, but hey, it was the 90s. What did you expect?

So Jason and Leatherface finally square off, which isn’t the story’s high point, but most of the stuff leading up to that point (and coming after it) is organic and endearing, particularly when Jason sympathizes with Leatherface’s situation. You expect a versus story to answer the “Who would win?” question, but Collins isn’t the least bit interested, which is a brave choice considering that’s how most buyers were sold on it. I would even say this mini-series is actually better than many of the movies which inspired it.

You’re going to like Jason here even though he is a ruthless serial killer.

Come on, Suicide Squad isn’t THAT bad

So I saw Suicide Squad last Friday with a group of four. I was the one who liked it. Sort of.
Look, I hear the criticisms loud and clear, I really do. The RLM guys make an excellent case that the film’s shoddy pacing and patchwork tone is the result of executive meddling. In retrospect, I think they’re right. I just didn’t think it was nearly as apparent as it was in the theatrical version of Batman v. Superman Dawn of Justice. (Yes, I saw the extended cut of Dawn. I agree it’s a much better picture than what we saw in theaters, but its everything-but-the-kitchen-sink ending remained irredeemable in my opinion.)
Suicide Squad is getting almost as much shit as Dawn of Justice. I have no idea why some people seem to think it’s as bad as Dawn. It’s not. Like, at all. I wanted to punch the projector when I saw Dawn. I had a reasonably good time when I saw Squad.

There were things I hated about Suicide Squad, too. Minor spoiler: when Batman shows up to capture Deadshot at the beginning of the movie, Batman hides behind his daughter like a coward so Deadshot won’t shoot. (Never mind it’s already been established that Deadshot can ricochet bullets into his targets’ heads.) I get that this is supposed to be a more reckless Batman than we saw in Nolan’s films, but come on. Would a guy who’s haunted by the fact he saw his parents murdered in an alley show up to potentially murder a guy in front of his daughter in an alley?
Then there’s (another minor spoiler) the way they bring Joker and Harley Quinn together, only to concoct one of the dumbest ways to split them up again mere seconds later. And don’t get me started on the Joker. I liked him more than I thought I would, but, uh… yeah. Jared Leto isn’t one of my favorite people and the reports of his behavior on set make me dislike him as a person more. Why are method actors always such douche bags?
So my least favorite thing about the movie? The studio billed it as this irreverent, Dirty Dozen-esque film about bad guys, but the characters aren’t all that bad. Sure, you don’t want to invite these guys to a dinner party or anything, but Batman probably caused more property damage and murdered more people in Dawn than the entire squad combined. The film plays it way too safe for the bad-to-the-bone image it wishes to project.
Despite everything I didn’t like (such as Diablo’s fiery emoticons or the average Hollywood “humor”) there were aspects I did like. I’m just having a harder time putting them into words. Let’s put it this way: I really liked Swamp Thing movies when I was a kid and something about the hokey monsters in Suicide Squad reminds me of the cheese in those movies. So yeah, a lot of what I liked probably wasn’t intentional, but it was there nonetheless.
Although Harley Quinn and Joker are trying way too hard—way, way too hard—the performances aren’t terrible. Will Smith is effortless at playing Will Smith, which isn’t a complaint because that’s the entire point of Will Smith, and I was surprised to find Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flagg had a much more substantial role than the trailers would have us believe. In fact, he’s probably my favorite part of the entire movie because instead of being an expendable military stooge, he’s actually the one grounding the group in reality. Katana is another comic book character who makes the transition to the screen surprisingly well. Although I want to see a lot more of her, I’m afraid her own movie would probably sap all the mystique out of her.
Color correction and lighting issues aside, I liked the look of the movie as it’s colorful without going full Shumacher. Joker’s crazed henchmen are awesome, but underused. It’s in all these little superficial moments you catch brief glimpses of the auteur before the corporate side of things fucked everything up.
At this point we should probably consider the theatrical versions as extended trailers of the DCU movies we’ll get on video a few months later. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie David Ayer made. It looks pretty good.

X-Men Apocalypse

I’ve never really loved the X-Men movies, but I kind of enjoyed The Last Stand. I tell you this now so you know to take my opinion with a grain of salt.

Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), the world’s first mutant, was worshiped as a god by ancient Egyptians. The power he was born with was the ability to transfer his consciousness from one body to the next, rejuvenating himself whenever his current body neared death. As an added bonus he retains the superpowers of all the people he possesses. While performing his latest ritual of transference, which will place him in the body of a mutant who possesses healing powers like Wolverine’s, his enemies manage to bury him deep below the ground.

Fast forward to 1983 and Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) stumbles upon a group of dumb asses who revive Apocalypse. Once the big blue cheese-ball is free he decides to “cleanse” the world of non-mutants. This guy can kill ya just by glancing in your direction (unless you’re a leading character, naturally). Despite his limitless powers he decides he needs four guardians—or “horsemen,” if you will.

It’s immediately clear this movie wants to cram in every first- and second-rate mutant from the source material it can. Angel is probably the lamest of them. He simply isn’t a character who translates well to the screen, which is just as apparent today as it was ten years ago (yes, it really has been ten years since The Last Stand). And I know a lot of fans were excited about Psylocke’s authentic look in this film, but because Bryan Singer has already established his “superheroes must wear black” rule she sticks out like a sore thumb in a movie that’s all thumbs from the get-go.

So Magneto has been lying low since the events of Days of Future Past. He has a wife and child now. I’m sure you already know how that’s going to turn out. Long story short: Magneto, Storm, Psylocke, and Angel form Apocalypse’s modern horsemen and they have absolutely no problem with his genocidal tendencies. It’s an idea that probably sounded cool in the writing room, but requires all kinds of logic-deflecting to make it work. A Holocaust survivor probably isn’t going to jump on board with a villain whose plan feels so Final Solution-y, but it’s not the first time Magneto has shown signs of cognitive dissonance.

I haven’t even gotten to the good guys yet. Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique is one of those bored action heroes who’s too cool to react to anything with any kind of human emotion. Sophie Turner’s Jean Gray is already being nudged toward Dark Phoenix territory. Once again the best part is the Quicksilver scene, but we’ve been there, done that. Meanwhile James McAvoy’s Professor Xavier is a snore and it feels too late to salvage the romantic subplot between him and MacTaggart, but they try anyway.

So the most striking aspect of X-Men Apocalypse is its absurdity. If Roger Corman had been known for excessively expensive films he could have made movies which felt a lot like it. It’s a good thing he didn’t because the overproduced slickness of Apocalypse works against its B-movie charm. Otherwise it’s one of the best dumb movies I’ve seen a long time. So much of this stuff feels exactly like the kind of mindless storytelling I would have concocted with my action figures when I was eight.

I’m okay with that. I just can’t believe something so goofy could be made in this age of Brooding Superman and Dark Fantastic Four. It turns out it’s as refreshing as a cold drink on a summer day even though it can’t hold a candle to Captain America’s most recent outing. Bryan Singer has just confirmed what I’ve long suspected: he is a massive dork. There’s just something extremely satisfying about seeing legitimate movie stars act so serious in a ridiculous action movie. Outside of the Quicksilver stuff the intentional jokes are terrible, but you’re going to laugh a lot anyway.

Good show, Singer, but making fun of The Last Stand was a low blow. You either die a hero or live long enough to become Brett Ratner.

Captain America Civil War

Captain America Civil War Review [Spoiler Free]

It takes all of twenty seconds to realize this is the best version of Peter Parker we’ve ever had. I loved the last two actors, but this one is awesome in the truest sense of the word. I thought Marisa Tomei would be distracting as Aunt May, and I’m still a little pissed Hollywood seems to think she and Winona Ryder and Diane Lane are old enough for these kinds of roles, but all my doubts are gone now that I’ve actually seen it. Throughout a lot of the movie they’re trying things differently, which is rare for a comic book movie, and even rarer: it works.

This is the movie we all wanted to see when we went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Despite Disney’s best efforts to show us too much in the trailers (I’m officially done with official trailers from here on out) there are a lot of surprises left, particularly how the plot unfolds. Scenes I thought would take place later in the film take place early on and vice versa. Even if I were to tell you what splits the team in the opening act I would be spoiling a pretty big surprise. Just know it’s every bit as believable as the gritty political-thriller stuff from The Winter Soldier.

And that airport scene in the trailers? That’s probably the most exciting thing you’ll see in a movie all year. It’s an actual comic book battle on the big screen. I really want to tell you more about it, but you just have to see it yourself.

So many comic book movies have dropped the ball by trying to cram too many characters into the story, but this one skates right by the expected problems. This despite the fact it has about a gazillion characters in it. The original Avengers gave us what we always wanted when we were children. Civil War goes for that same level of excitement and knocks it out of the park.

As for the mid- and post-credits sequence? Skip it. They’re just going through the motions now and manage to reveal pretty much nothing about the future films. That’s probably the most disappointing thing in the entire movie, other than Ant-Man’s new helmet.

I wouldn’t say Civil War is better than The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier, but when was the last time you saw a third entry that could even hold a candle as well as this one does? I rest my case.

Get incepted by the Doctor Strange trailer

This is the one MCU trailer I’ve been dying to see. Hell, its announcement is probably the biggest reason I began paying serious attention to the rest of the movies. I won’t say the trailer exceeded my expectations, mostly because it sidestepped them entirely, but I’m not disappointed. (I was only hoping for a little more color and maybe a little bit of that Ant-Man and Guardians humor.) Putting aside the obvious similarities with Christopher Nolan films, this looks like a sufficiently fresh take on an origin story. 
I know, I know: us sophisticated adults are supposed to be bitching about the current saturation of comic book films, but you know what? They’ve grown on me. There have been much worse things the box office has been saturated with and, frankly, crossovers are awesome. Besides, it’s not like this trend is going to last forever. Soak it up while it lasts. I have a feeling the next big Hollywood trend will be at least a little less enjoyable.
(Yes, this is all to say I think Doctor Strange is fucking awesome. I can’t wait for the movie.)
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I’m writing a movie review for Chuck Norris vs. Communism. If you know nothing about this movie, it’s probably not what you think. Come back at midnight CT to read it.

Batman v Superman marks the return of the lazy superhero film

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

When I reviewed Man of Steel a few years ago, I felt it necessary to get all of my complaints out of the way first because there was a decent movie beneath the generous helping of crap. This time around I want to switch it up and get all the good stuff out of the way.

So here’s what I liked about Batman v Superman:

Wonder Woman is awesome
Gal Gadot absolutely nails it as Wonder Woman. I know the internet can bitch and moan about anything, but I don’t foresee many people getting upset about this casting decision. I was convinced her character wouldn’t translate well to a movie like this, but now I can’t wait to see her standalone picture. She is, hands down, the most believable hero in the entire movie.
Lex Luther
The internet is probably going to hate his performance, but I think Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luther is surprisingly good at times. His theme music is even better. Unfortunately, this version of Luther is better suited for a campier Superman film. It draws heavily on what Hackman and Spacey did with the part in better movies (much, much better movies), but I’m okay with that.
The music
I loved Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack from the first movie. This is more of the same, but very enjoyable.
Jeremy Irons and Diane Lane
The movie doesn’t put its supporting characters to very good use, but Irons is solid and Lane brings exactly what you want from her in the little amount of time the movie’s short attention span allows her.
That’s it. That’s all I liked about the movie. I hated every mind-numbing second of everything else. The pacing stinks, the acting sucks, the action is routine, and I’m embarrassed I ever suggested Ben Affleck would make an okay Batman. Oh, and a lot of that cool shit you saw in the trailer is just a dream sequence, by the way.

Batman v. Superman is slightly better than Fantastic Four and much worse than Amazing Spider-Man 2. Even if the trailers hadn’t spoiled everything—and let me emphasize everything—this movie isn’t even worth the price of a rental. The title bout is so brief you’ll wonder why they even bothered to film the scene in IMAX format.
I was disappointed in Man of Steel, but it’s leagues above Batman v Superman. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if there’s a reboot in the foreseeable future. It takes unspeakable incompetence to get together three of the greatest superheroes and make such a stinker.
Look, I purposely forgot everything I know about Superman and my preconceptions of what a Superman movie “ought to be,” but even that couldn’t save this turd. I’m still looking forward to Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman, but holy shit, what a disappointing night at the movies.

Best movies of 2015

So here it is, from least to best, my favorite movies (that I saw) from 2015. Just in time for the bullshit Oscars. I still need to see a few movies like The Big Short and Bridge of Spies, so I will adjust this list over the next few weeks.

23. Creed I liked Creed, but didn’t love it. I liked it a lot better than Rocky’s last movie, though. I don’t know. I guess I just want to see Stallone do something different before his star fades. I probably would have liked the movie more had he not been in it.

22. Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation This is the same movie as Ghost Protocol. If you’re a fan of the franchise, that’s not really a complaint. I liked this one better than the first two. I find it insane that Tom Cruise still hasn’t run out of box office steam when even Willis and Schwarzenegger are going straight to VOD. Cruise is probably the last 80s megastar who’s still a megastar. Enjoy it while it lasts.

21. Sisters I loved James Brolin and Dianne Wiest as the parents, but they were underused. There are a lot of good gags here, but the “heart” of the film is phony. These comedies work best when they use Animal House as their moral template as opposed to trying to make their characters grow up by the end.

20. The Visit M. Night Shyamalan made a decent little horror movie out of The Visit, which made me laugh here and there (though not strictly when it was trying to). Definitely includes one of the grossest things I’ve ever seen in a PG-13 movie, so it gets points for that.

19. San Andreas I’m surprised this made my list, but the tsunami sequence (it was like something out of Return of the Jedi with boats instead of spaceships) was exciting enough to forgive the generic first half of the movie. It also showcases top notch CGI destruction—some of the best special effects of the year. Still, I wish Dwayne Johnson would get offered better roles. He’s much better than this.

18. The Revenant I expected The Revenant to make my top ten. As far as technical achievements and acting go, the film kicked all kinds of ass. Yet the more I think about it, the more I think that’s all there is to it. It never hit me on a purely emotional level after that breathtaking opening. Nothing wrong with that, but some of the films on this list did hit me on that level and that’s often the deciding factor behind their placement. Full Review.

17. Ant-Man I think Ant-Man is one of the best MCU films, almost as good as Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. The fight scene in the briefcase made the movie for me. I hope Michael Douglas returns in the inevitable sequel. Full Review.

16. Crimson Peak The “typical” Guillermo del Toro movie would fare a lot better on this list. While I don’t think anything in this gothic horror film reaches the imaginative standards he set with Pan’s Labyrinth or the Hellboy films, it’s still one of the year’s best genre movies.

15. Jurassic World I’m really surprised this one made my top twenty because I hated everything about the trailer. Jurassic World is easily the best of the sequels, but that’s not really saying much. I never feared for the characters’ lives at any point during the movie, but it’s otherwise a solid adventure film. I do have to point out that the kind of kid who can get a twenty year old jeep running (with twenty year old batteries, no less) is not the kind of kid who fails his driving test.

14. It Follows The music, the tone, the set design, the believable teenagers—It Follows proves horror is a lot more effective when it takes every aspect of the production as seriously as the scares. This is one of the directors to keep an eye on. I can only hope he does more horror. Full Review.

13. We Are Still Here This one came out of nowhere for me. I had no idea it existed until my girlfriend rented it one night. It remains chilling from the beginning to end. It’s yet another reason I think 2015 was the most exciting year for horror in over a decade.

12. Straight Outta Compton Most people who produce a film about themselves take pains to cast their fictional counterparts in a positive light. Thankfully, there’s no self-adulation here. Asking whether or not the rest of the film is historically accurate is missing the point—Straight Outta Compton is one of the most authentic, honest films of the year.

11. Spectre I’m hardwired to like James Bond films, especially when they’re as proper as this one, which really seemed to balance the old theatrics and the new seriousness well in my opinion. While audiences and critics didn’t seem as thrilled about this outing as the last, the showrunners should be commended for sticking to basics after Pierce Brosnon’s run smoothed out edges which were better left rough. Even the product placement isn’t as annoying as it’s been in past films.

The top ten is after the jump…

10. The Hateful Eight Earlier this year I said I may have liked The Revenant more than The Hateful Eight, but when it came to ordering this list, it just didn’t feel right until I arranged it this way. The music, the entertainment value, and Kurt Russell’s all-or-nothing involvement added up to something I think The Revenant was lacking. This one grew on me the more I thought about it. It was, however, the first time I felt Tarantino was getting dangerously close to repeating himself. Don’t get me wrong: I want him to do another western, but he needs to step outside his comfort zone, at least a little. Full Review.

9. Deathgasm The weird kids who wore out their video cassettes of the Evil Dead series are all grown up and they’re making their own movies now. The world is all the better for it. Deathgasm is one of those movies and it’s among the best throwbacks ever made. The cast of newcomers were sufficient and the laughs were genuine. Plain and simple: this movie kicks ass and doesn’t apologize for a thing. Full Review.

8. What We Do in the Shadows I haven’t met anyone who didn’t like this one. It’s short, not too sweet, and extremely funny. There’s talk of a sequel focusing on the werewolves. Unlike a lot of the movies on this list, I like it the more I think about it.

7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens It’s probably as good as a modern Star Wars movie can be. The more I think about it, the more I like Kylo Ren. He’ll never be as iconic as Vader, but holy shit did they get it right. The film walked a fine line between fan service and new, and although it dropped the ball by the end, J.J. Abrams has conquered a unique challenge. Full Review.

6. The Martian The Martian absolves Hollywood of all the terrible science fiction we’ve had to endure in the past. Why can’t more science fiction movies be as plausible as they are fun? Matt Damon is in top form and extremely likable as the marooned lead. To illustrate just how good 2015 was for movies: The Martian probably would’ve been #1 on my list had it come out in any of the last five years or so. Full Review.

5. Bone Tomahawk I know this one divided a lot of people, but I love westerns, I love horror, and Bone Tomahawk does both well. It’s a no-brainer for me. The controversial killing toward the end of the movie is something I’ll never forget. It blows Scarface’s chainsaw scene out of the water. Can’t wait to see what the director does next. Full Review.

4. Sicario I’m beginning to love Emily Blunt. Here’s a big reason why. Sicario has a lot to say, but isn’t willing to beat its audience over the head with it. Serious entertainment, strong performances, and you actually feel everything can go terribly wrong at any second. If this is really the guy who’s directing Blade Runner 2, then I feel a lot better about that movie being made.

3. Room Room is about abduction—a subject that’s rarely handled tastefully in movies—and skips the tired bullshit of conventional movies in order to give us a believable story that’s so good it hurts. I loved every second of this emotional roller coaster. I’ll probably watch it many more times before I die. I’m especially glad I managed to miss all the promotional material, which seemed a little more spoilery than normal.

2. Fury Road When the credits rolled, I considered staying in my seat for the next showing. It’s easily the best throwback I’ve ever seen, not to mention the most exciting film in years. The most amazing thing about it was how every action scene felt different despite using the same setting and elements throughout. Full Review.

1. Ex Machina Above, I said The Revenant never really hit me on a purely emotional level. This one did and with all the force of a sucker punch to the gut. Beautifully filmed and perfectly acted, I haven’t seen such a landmark science fiction film in years. Ex Machina thoroughly rinsed away the awful taste left by the terribly miscast and ultimately mediocre Terminator Genysis, which I somehow managed to see the same day. Like other great science fiction stories, Ex Machina will seem a lot more important several years from now.