Happy Death Day 2U – DeaconsDen Reaction

It’s Monday the 18th again and again and again. Happy Death Day 2U is the sequel to the 2017 hit about a young woman trapped in a time loop. Jessica Rothe returns as Tree Gelbman in this follow up that throws in new ways to keep the concept fresh.

I loved the original film because of its playing around with the familiar slasher movie while having the sci-fi twist of a time loop (See my prior review). In the middle of it all, you had the story of the growth of a woman who had taken on a cynical approach to life. The sequel continues with that concept while providing some explanation for what’s happening to Tree, while allowing her continual growth as well.

I’m sure when it was announced there would be a sequel to Happy Death Day, people might have considered it to be a case of Die Hard 2 (How can the same thing happen to the same girl twice)? Director-writer Christopher Landon decides that rather than repeating what came prior (pun intended), why not do that and expand on the concept and how we got to this point? You learn at the start of the film why Tree is caught in the loop and what got her there in the prior film. Yet it’s not just to simply tell more story, it’s also used as a part of Tree’s continuing development as one of modern movies coolest heroines. Once we reach the final act, you see Tree take another leap forward in characterization. Jessica Rothe just keeps showing her chops as a lead actress with charm and snark and charisma. Just like I said in 2017, I want to see more of her, she deserves that chance.

I’m happy the supporting cast gets to play around this time. The prior film has Tree mostly with Israel Broussard’s Carter Davis, but we get to see Phi Vu as Carter’s friend Ryan who plays a more essential role. Also, Rachel Matthews as Danielle is the perfect foil to Tree.

The sci-fi concepts are expanded here and that may or may not work for you. I know for myself, I love stories that play with time, and I feel the move here worked in the film’s favor. You still have the slasher aspect, but there’s more comedic aspects this time around. There certainly was comedy in the original, but it’s a little more obvious here. A highlight is a funny montage of deaths for Tree that also gets a little macabre as well. Yet I felt it juggled thrills, humor and sci-fi pretty equally.

Happy Death Day 2U is not a leaps and bound type of sequel, yet like its predecessor, it merges genres in a way that’s fun to watch. Now that this is a series, it really becoming a favorite of mine. Also there is a scene during the end credits that point to where things can go from here. I want to see that happen because I’m loving everything about these movies.

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Escape Room – DeaconsDen Quick Reaction

I know we’re into February now and I hadn’t posted any reactions this year at all. I’ve been deep in a new job and back in school as well so I’m finally getting back in the swing of writing so right now I’m playing catch up with some quick pieces.

Escape Room is a psychological thriller directed by Adam Robitel. The film follows a group of people who all receive invitations to participate in a high tech escape room for a pretty hefty reward. Yet as events unfold it turns out there’s more to this than expected and the participants must really work together to not only escape but to survive.

With escape rooms now being a popular outing for people (I myself have never done one), taking this idea into the film world was an interesting concept that intrigued me enough to see this. The first thing you’ll notice about Escape Room is it appears to clearly be inspired by the “Saw” franchise. However this is a PG-13 film so you don’t have the violence and gore that goes along with it. There is another horror franchise I noticed in its DNA as well, but to mention it here might would spoil a later development in the story. Even with its toned down content, Escape Room was still a mostly enjoyable thriller. There are some decent thrills and some of the ways the creators play with the concept are fun. There’s one room in particular that is probably the highlight of the entire film.

Escape Room does not break new ground for thrillers at all. It’s pretty derivative, but it does elicit some suspenseful moments and plays with a current concept, even if it’s final package is something we’ve all seen before.

Revealing The Inaugural Deacon Awards – Nominations

I was planning to write a top 10 movies of 2018 post. I felt very comfortable in my choices of my favorites of the films released this year. Then I thought, “try something different.” So I decided to create the Deacon Awards which will cover my whole year cinematically. This isn’t an original idea by any stretch, I follow many other writers who are much better at this thing than me who have done this. So this is a project purely inspired by others.

Considering that we are now full into awards season, it’s time to get my own show started

According to my Letterboxd profile, I’ve watched over 200 films this year and only about 30 of them were released in 2018. With the Deacon Awards, I get to have some fun and hopefully you all will too. Just like real awards, some movies will have multiple nominations. There will be 8 categories and they are:

  1. Favorite Current Picture
  2. Favorite Older Picture
  3. Favorite Director
  4. Favorite Acting Performance
  5. Favorite First Time Watch
  6. Favorite Rewatch
  7. Favorite Movie I had no Idea about how to React
  8. Favorite Music in Movies
  9. Favorite Movie I Feel Made Me Smarter
  10. Favorite Movie I Gave More Credit Than I probably should but I’m gonna give it anyway.

Let’s reveal our nominees!


Favorite Current Picture (2018 Releases)

A Simple Favor

Mission: Impossible Fallout

Tomb Raider

Teen Titans Go to the Movies

Black Panther

Favorite Older Picture

Vampyr

The Third Man

His Girl Friday

The Hidden Fortress

Favorite Director

Christopher McQuarrie (M:I Fallout and Jack Reacher)

Howard Hawks (His Girl Friday, Bringing Up Baby)

Andy Sidaris (Malibu Express, Hard Ticket to Hawaii, Savage Beach, Picasso Trigger)

Favorite Acting Performance

Blake Lively & Anna Kendrick (A Simple Favor)

Rosalind Russell (His Girl Friday)

Katherine Hepburn (Bringing Up Baby)

Cary Grant (My Favorite Wife & Bringing Up Baby)

Greta Garbo (Ninotchka)

Favorite First Time Watch

His Girl Friday

Jack Reacher

Hard Ticket To Hawaii

The Evil Dead

Vampyr

Favorite Rewatch

Apocalypto

The Man from UNCLE

Minority Report

The Dark Knight Rises

Favorite Movie I Had No Idea About How to React

I really have no idea how to think about these which is why I have nothing on them at the moment.

…And God Created Woman

Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song

Favorite Movie Music

Black Panther- Score by Ludwig Goransson

Bohemian Rhapsody- Songs by Queen

Aquaman – Score by Rupert Gregson-Williams

Solo: A Star Wars Story – Score by John Powell

These next two category are akin to Lifetime Achievement Awards so there’s just 1 winner so they will be announced right now before revealing the rest of the winners later on.

Favorite Movie So Dumb I Felt It Made Me Smarter

Twister (1989)Not the tornado. It’s amazing what the power of the live tweet can do. You will expend brain power watching this thing. It makes no sense. It’s a movie version of Shameless, and you don’t know why anyone does anything. It has Harry Dean Stanton playing a patriarch who wonders where did he go wrong. It has music by Has Zimmer so there’s a point. How am I smarter? I can comment on this film now, which I couldn’t say before.

Favorite Movie I’m Gonna Die on the Hill Defending

Jurassic Park III – Sorry, but 2 Jurassic World films later and you’ll never convince me that either Jurassic World or Fallen Kingdom do anything better or are no less silly that this entry. Everything else chases Spielberg’s ghost. Joe Johnston made a B-movie monster flick that knows it’s place.

Aquaman – DeaconsDen Reactions

The King of the Seven Seas arrives in his first full fledged motion picture. Aquaman is the sixth film in DC’s cinematic universe, taking place after 2017’s Justice League. Jason Momoa reprises his role as Arthur Curry and what we receive as viewers is a visually ambitious story of a man simply wanting to understand his place amongst his people.

From the jump, Aquaman, probably more than any recent comic book film I’ve seen (at the of this writing, I have not seen Spider-Man: Into the SpiderVerse) embraces the overall feel of a comic book. To me it felt like a silver age story. Really basic, easy to follow. I did not see that as a negative. I know people are familiar with Aquaman, but he is not a character on the level of popularity as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman or even The Flash. I think director James Wan made a smart choice in the way he chose to adapt the character.

Visually, as I mentioned earlier, Aquaman is very much ambitious. I don’t know how else to imagine Atlantis looking like, but I did not expect it to look like that. Atlantis is vibrant and bold yet detailed. It reminds me of the digital world in Tron: Legacy. To me it’s the most visually impressive film since James Cameron’s Avatar. This is further highlighted by Rupert Gregson-Williams score that really gives the feeing if both being underwater and techno driven.

One of the biggest questions about Aquaman might be, how are the performances? Momoa in particular?I felt everyone involved do their best to bring this world to life. Amber Heard bring steely determination to Mera as she knows what she wants for her home, as does swollen Dafoe as Vulko, who trains Arthur as a child and teen. Also we get to see a screen legend in Nicole Kidman get her badass moment and it is certainly badass. The best overall acting I believe belong to Patrick Wilson and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Arthur’s brother Orm and Black Manta respectively. Two of Aquaman’s greatest adversaries and I believe both actors channel different forms of rage that define their characters. I hope there is a sequel and I want both to return.

This bring me to Momoa himself. He’s not a particularly good actor, but more of a strong presence. This works strongly in his favor as some of the material can be a little hammy at times, it works for him because hammy appears to be a strong area for him. However, I feel this works in the context of the film as well. We get multiple flashbacks of young Arthur with Vulko and he asks about his mother and Atlantis. He’s constantly told to be patient and the years pass with no resolution. This makes his attitude and the beginning of Aquaman even in Justice League more understandable. James Wan knows his lead actor doesn’t quite have the chops as his supporting cast, so he simply lets Momoa be Momoa. This isn’t his take on a particular iteration of the character, this is if Jason Momoa has superpowers. For this reason, it works for me.

Aquaman plays like a mashup of 80s sword/sorcery/adventure films. From its plotting, to its style and music. I had a blast from start to finish and I can not wait to go back to Atlantis with Arthur and Mera.

Getting on the Same Page: His Girl Friday and How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Comedy

Getting on the Same Page: His Girl Friday and How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Comedy

https://cinemashame.wordpress.com/2018/11/03/getting-on-the-same-page-his-girl-friday-and-how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-comedy/
— Read on cinemashame.wordpress.com/2018/11/03/getting-on-the-same-page-his-girl-friday-and-how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-comedy/

This is my piece on His Girl Friday for the November 2018 prompt for Cinema Shame.

Comic Analysis – Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia by Greg Rucka

I’ve read a great deal of comics in my life. And with the many I have read, I’ve come across many iconic stories for some of my favorite characters. For Batman there’s classics like The Long Halloween, Year One, The Killing Joke. Superman you have Birthright, Kingdom Come and The Death of Superman. Yet for Wonder Woman, stories that automatically come to mind are not easy to think of. I can recall the many writers who have penned stories for Diana, but nothing on the line of must read stories. Well I have finally read one and it’s the best Wonder Woman story I have ever read.

Greg Rucka became the regular writer on Wonder Woman in 2003, but he first wrote her in 2002 with this graphic novel that was meant to present the perception of Wonder Woman, her impact on those around her. It gives readers a common scenario for characters. What do you do when you are caught in a no-win situation?

If you are looking to read this story, the graphic novel is out of print by itself, but you can read it in the first collected volume of Wonder Woman by Greg Rucka as seen here.

Now onto the story. I will try to to spoiler beyond general plot points.

Hiketeia, is a ritual where an individual submits themselves to another for safety and protection. The ritual is enforced by the Erinyes, or Furies who make sure the oath is not broken. This ritual is taken very seriously. As the person who is responsible for the supplicant must allow no harm to come to them and they can not exit the arrangement. Only the supplicant can break Hiketeia. One day a young woman named Danielle arrives at Diana’s door. Danielle is on the run from Gotham with Batman in pursuit. Danielle submits herself to Diana’s protection and Diana accepts. Once Wonder Woman discovers the reason for Danielle’s flight, she is placed in opposition with Batman who wants to bring the woman to justice.

This places Diana in an untenable situation. She is the ambassador to Themyscira and has made this world her her home and that includes the rules and laws that go with it. However, she obviously has connections to her homeland and its culture. She also knows that the Furies are right there to ensure that the contract is upheld. Then there is Batman, whose only purpose is to see Danielle brought to justice for her crimes. The situation becomes even more dicey when Diana learns why Danielle did what she did. This places her in conflict with Batman that leads to this killer moment.

I’m used to reading stories where Wonder Woman has to exercise patience in Man’s World due to where she came from. Yet for this story, it’s the conflict that makes it far more exciting and entertaining. She isn’t faced with a question of what’s right? Once she learns of what Danielle did, she knows what should happen, but she’s bound by ritual that is strictly enforced by an entity that takes vengeance for breaking oath.

It’s the most conflicted I’ve ever read Wonder Woman. In this story she is forced to be many things at once. Friend, ally, protector, combatant, harboring a criminal (I’m sorry I can’t think of a better word than antagonist, but Batman is mostly the antagonist of this story). I found it fascinating and the conclusion was satisfying because it’s the only way a story like this would end. It’s the first story featuring the character that I’ve read that really captured Diana the individual, not the superhero, not the goddess, not the princess, but the person.

I’m genuinely excited to read more of Greg Rucka’s first run on Wonder Woman. I’ve read his work during the Rebirth initiative and loved every page. I strongly recommend The Hiketeia to be read by everyone. And please DC, make this an animated film!

The Predator- DeaconsDen Reaction

The Predator is the fourth entry in the sci-fi/action series. This installment is directed and co-written by Shane Black who returns to the franchise after a having a supporting role as Hawkins in the 1987 original. How did I feel about it?

I was hopeful that with Black at the helm, there would some bit of the original film in its DNA (pun intended, you’ll understand if and when you see it). I’m not familiar with Black as a director, his only directorial work I’ve seen prior to this was Iron Man 3. I’m more used to seeing films Black has written (Lethal Weapon, Long KISS Goodnight, The Last Boy Scout). The thing about The Predator is that Black has picked 20 lanes to drive the series mythology into new directions, but it doesn’t ride in any lane well. So many paths come out of the main story. It’s a bit scattershot. I do know that Black does incorporate comedy elements into his work and The Predator is no exception. It is the most comedic Predator film, but most of the time the humor comes across like his character Hawkins in the original. It’s funny, but it’s not funny.

A positive about the film is that once the Predator is on the loose, it’s a ton of fun. There’s a b-movie charm to The Predator that invokes gory sci-fi of the 1980s. It’s nowhere as smart as it’s 3 predecessors (yes I said 3! Predator 2 is a fine movie) and it doesn’t really want to be, which is fine, but it needed to be somewhat more focused. It’s fine for being this type of movie, but for a film in the Predator series which has quite a bit of respect behind it, it’s lacking.

The Predator is a mixed bag that does warrant its mixed reception. As someone who grew up on 80s era cheaply made films, this does try to mimic that aesthetic, but between the humor that doesn’t always stick the landing and the unfocused plotlines, if Shane Black is to continue with the franchise, he needs a bit more work to successfully merge his stylings to the concept. I have no problem watching this again, but to me it does exonerate all the complaints about Predator 2 and cement that as a fine sequel to a great film. The Predator is still entertaining. Not top tier popcorn fun, but fun nevertheless.