Friday, January 4, 2019
The sub-genre of dark horror comedies is small enough that it gets little notice but when done right can yield some truly inventive movies. EVIL DEAD and KRAMPUS are two movies that got it perfectly correct. Now with MONSTER PARTY we have another movie that comes close.
Casper (Sam Strike), Iris (Virginia Gardner) and Dodge (Brandon Michael Hall) are three friends who make a living pulling off small breaking and entering gigs. With Casper the third wheel and Iris and Dodge the couple, they live a carefree life for the most part. That changes when Casper’s father, an addictive gambler, finds himself in deep debt to one of the nastiest of loan sharks. He gives Casper until the next day to come up with the cash.
The three discuss how they can come up with the money when Iris suggests that they accompany her to a party she’s working as a waitress. Having worked the house before she knows there must be some heavy cash on hand. They agree and off they go to work as help for the party with the intent of finding a home safe to crack when time permits.
The party is hosted by Roxanne (Robin Tunney) and Patrick (Julian McMahon) Dawson. Living in a gated mansion they meet the two new helpers and set about preparing for the party. The guests begin arriving, each in an expensive car and dressed well. The party goes along fine and it isn’t long before we learn that the man in charge is Milo (Lance Reddick). The gathering is a celebration and each member in the group is actually an addict. Along with the couple there is their children Elliot and Alexis, two of Elliot’s friends Cameron and Jeremy and Ollie.
It isn’t until later that we learn what their addiction is. As Casper and Dodge attempt the break in Elliott finds Dodge in the wrong room. Escorting him to the bathroom he claimed to be looking for he instead kills Dodge with a cleaver. The addiction becomes evident and was dropped in the trailer for the film. The gathering is for a group of serial killers who have remained clean. With Elliot falling off the wagon the urge once more creeps over the entire group. Will they satisfy their urge or will they find another solution that allows Iris and Casper a chance to escape?
Most horror movies begin with a bit of gore tossed out for the fans of that to be satisfied. While the beating of Casper’s father is brutal it won’t be what satisfies that type of fan. But trust me when I say that there is still plenty of gore infused humor that will keep them happy once things begin moving along.
This is not to say that the film doesn’t have a story to it. In fact it presents more story than most movies of this type. The entire concept is actually a pretty good one with small time thieves caught up in a bigger problem. While they technically are bad guys you still feel for them and want the best for them. You have an emotional interest in them. And the bad guys are so elite and smarmy that you want the worst to happen to them.
But the movie isn’t about class distinction or class warfare. It’s about insane murderers and young people just trying to get way. On that level it works very well. It takes a while to get rolling but that’s okay because the set up gives those with no clue of what to come a chance to soak in the characters. And the more you know them the more you love/hate them depending on which side you’re rooting for.
Well made, well written with a tad few clichéd items involved the movie still comes off as more original than most horror films made these days. And the acting ranges from okay to well done. On the whole the movie is fun for horror fans and for those who enjoy a bit of a thriller now and then. It was nice to see Tunney acting again since she’s done very little since the show THE MENTALIST was canceled. This one is worth a watch unless you’re squeamish.
It’s a new year so why not ring it in with an old movie? Criterion, a company that specializes in both foreign and classic films, has just released their edition of what is considered one of the funniest movies ever made. Thank goodness that the film lives up to that title. The movie was a box office smash, helped propel the career of Jack Lemmon, solidified that of Tony Curtis and ranks among the best known films of Marilyn Monroe. The movie is the 1959 film SOME LIKE IT HOT.
If for some reason you’ve never seen the film it tells the story of two musicians, saxophone playing Joe (Curtis) and stand-up bass player Jerry (Lemmon) working in prohibition Chicago in February, 1929. Looking for work they go to borrow a friend’s car only to witness a group of mobsters gunned down by another gang led by “Spats” Colombo (George Raft). Escaping with their lives and looking for a way out of town they take the only job possible.
Unfortunately for them that means performing in an all-girl band. To do so the pair dress up in drag and change their names to Josephine and Daphne. Both of them are immediately drawn to the singer in the band, Sugar Kane Kowalczyk (Monroe). But impersonating women leaves them no way of acting on their impulses.
The band is on the way to Florida to perform there at a resort getting the boys far from Chicago. Sugar has her mind made up and shares her hopes with Josephine/Joe. She wants to steer clear of sex players she’s fallen for in the past and find a rich young man who wears glasses and reads The Wall Street Journal. Josephine tells her she should have no problem.
The band arrives at the resort and Daphne/Jerry catches the eye of a millionaire named Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown). She/he tells him to buzz off but he doesn’t take no for an answer. He continues to pursue her…er…him…er…her like a dog attracted to a bone. While this is going on, Joe ends up dawning a pair of glasses and a yachtsman’s outfit with newspaper in hand as he hits the beach and gets Sugar’s attention. Okay you can see where this is going, right?
The film was filled with sexual innuendo and snappy dialogue that adds to the physical comedy on display. So much so that the film was produced without the approval of the Motion Picture Production Code. While it seems tame today it still garner’s a snicker or two from younger viewers. When released in 1959 it was a huge hit and is considered one of the films that helped end the Hays Code that was the basis for censorship in films.
But does the movie hold up today? Absolutely. All due to that unique combination of items that rarely come together to create comedy genius. First was the script as composed by the famed pair of Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond. The two had a stream of hits together and this one was just another and also won critical praise. Then you have the fact that Wilder was directing. Finding a director in Hollywood who made as many famed films as Wilder is nearly impossible. A look at the films he made online is like reading half the list of the top 50 recommended films of all time.
But that’s behind the scenes. What about onscreen? Curtis was on a roll at the time having just had hits with SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS and THE DEFIANT ONES. Monroe was still gorgeous but on the outs having just played out her personal life in public issues in her marriage and in need of a good film. Unfortunately only two more films followed this one before her untimely death. And Lemmon’s career was just on the cusp having had several fantastic supporting roles. This movie would move him to star status. All of these three worked so well together onscreen that it made the movie work. It has to be seen to understand just how wonderful it is.
I could go on about the special items about the film but Criterion has done one better. They’ve included extras with this release that make it special and describe it in better detail. They include a making of featurette, Billy Wilder on THE DICK CAVETT SHOW, interviews with Lemmon and Curtis, a radio interview with Monroe, a short on the costumes for the movie and more. Best of all they’ve restored the movie in 4k from the original 35mm negative for a perfect picture.
Now is your chance to see this classic comedy in the best way possible. It’s not one you will want to rent but one to add to your collection to be enjoyed over and over. And for those who’ve never seen it now is your chance to see why it’s rated as highly as it is. I know I’ll be watching it again.
Believe it or not it’s been 30 years since PREDATOR hit movie screens featuring a new action hero named Arnold Schwarzenegger. Since that time we’ve had a direct sequel, the Predators facing off against the aliens from that franchise and then another direct sequel. Now we get a new update. THE PREDATOR isn’t a reboot so much as following the timeline established by the first film.
Army Ranger sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is on a mission to retrieve a hostage when an alien spacecraft crash lands in the area. Belonging to one of the Predators it isn’t long before McKenna’s entire team is wiped out. With the help of tech the Predator dropped McKenna takes him out as an extraction team arrives to take him home.
Rather than a hero’s welcome he is interrogated by special agent Will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown). When it’s clear that McKenna has seen an actual alien he is shipped off to a military psych unit. On the bus he meets several others on their way to the same location, each with their own problems but still full on military men.
As this unfolds evolutionary biologist Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) is whisked away to the secret base run by Traeger. They have captured the Predator that McKenna thought he killed and have brought her here to study it. References are made to the first film here as we discover the government has been aware of the Predators coming to our planet to hunt. But something else is afoot as well.
McKenna made a tactical decision before he was captured on his mission. Taking some of the tech he found at the crash site he mailed it home. Rather than go to the P.O. Box it was supposed to it’s delivered to his ex-wife’s house where their son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) has opened it thinking it was a gift. A young man with Asperger’s syndrome his gifted mind deciphers the workings of the equipment his father sent home.
All three story lines combine when the Predator awakes, escapes and both Traeger’s team and the unit McKenna has found himself mixed in attempt to hunt down the Predator. With her usefulness at an end Traeger was about to have his team kill Bracket but she ends up with McKenna’s men instead. Now the hunt is on for the Predator and the secrets he holds. But at the same time another Predator has arrived with different plans.
So what does the movie hold for the average viewer? Lots of explosions, lots of bloodshed, lots of action and a few dabs of humor along the way. Much of this is due to the combined efforts of director/co-writer Shane Black and co-writer Fred Dekker. Dekker is the man behind such movies as THE MONSTER SQUAD and NIGHT OF THE CREEPS while Black has written movies like LETHAL WEAPON and LAST ACTION HERO and directed movies like IRON MAN 3, KISS KISS BANG BANG and THE NICE GUYS. Working together they’ve made a fun movie that references the past as well as a few in jokes for movie geeks. It works on a number of levels.
The film received plenty of backlash when it was released and I can’t understand why. With some of the lesser movies in the past this one surpasses many of those. And almost all of it works here. The two team’s tracking the alien, the secret government operation and the Predator itself are all well played and mixed together like a fine batch of spices in a cake.
The performances here are exceptional from the steady cool professional killer in Holbrook that has a softer side when it comes to family to the believable scientists who can handle action as well displayed by Munn. The rest of the cast also turn in performances that make the movie successful as a team effort.
Ignore the naysayers who cried foul when this film was released and give it a shot. With some language and some excessive bloodshed it might not be something for the youngest family members but everyone else will have a fun filled night with this one.