Pet Sematary (2019): A Strange but Effective Adaptation

Pet Sematary (2019): A Strange but Effective Adaptation

Reviewed by Simon Johnston for TheHumbleHeckler.com. 

(Editor’s note: One day before attending the screening for this film, critic Simon Johnston was kicked in the head by a rogue mule during a family farm outing. Keep this in mind when reading the following review.)

Adaptation is a fickle art form; delicate in its intricacies, and merciless in its ability to expose the film’s every flaw. Most adaptations fail … miserably. Adaptations of beloved best-sellers have an even lower batting average. And Stephen King adaptations almost always suck. The problem with adapting any popular work is that there are no rules, no guidelines, no lifeguards on duty to warn screenwriters away from treacherous waters. Therefore, I tend to be as openminded as possible when reviewing adaptations, particularly when considering films that already occupy exalted status in the popular culture. And for Pet Sematary this is doubly true, as the ’80s have already gifted us with a popular and beloved novel and a film adaptation whose status among horror fans continues to not only endure but flourish. So this 2019 version of Pet Sematary has to slake the thirst of moviegoers as both an adaptation of classic novel and as remake of a classic horror film. Or is this actually a reboot? A soft reboot? Don’t know, don’t care. What I do know for sure is this is one of the strangest, most liberal interpretations of known material I’ve ever seen. These filmmakers really went out on a limb with this one.

As most of you know, Pet Sematary is based on the 1983 Stephen King classic novel Christine, only this time, instead of a 1958 Plymouth Fury, Christine is a big ole 18-wheeler with an appetite for human flesh. The story begins when the Creed family leaves the hustle and bustle of Boston for the fresh air, quiet, and low-stress environment of the Maine countryside. But things aren’t as bucolic as they seem. Christine, now a massive truck, regularly terrorizes the backroads of this quaint little New England town, looking for fresh victims to run over and then somehow bring back as zombies or something … I think in this version Christine is a Native American spirit that buries dead pets (and, unfortunately, people) somewhere spooky, then they come back as killer trucks, too. Something like that. Anyway, it’s nothing like the Stephen King novel or the original film directed by John Carpenter, which took a more traditional approach to adaptation, casting Christine as a killer car and leaving the Creed family out of the story altogether.

But, as weird as it may be, Pet Sematary is still a really strong movie in its own way. Jason Clarke does a fine job in a dual role as Louis Creed and as Christine. Amy Seimetz also makes a stellar impression in her dual role as Rachel Creed (Louis’s scaredy-cat wife) and as the woman who sold me a Coke. But it’s newcomer John Lithgow who steals the show, playing the nicotine-stained denim enthusiast Jud Crandall as well as giving life to the role of Winston Churchill, the family cat (a role he’d already played to perfection on the Netflix series The Crown). There’s also a little girl who does some stuff, but her character is ultimately unimportant to the overall plot. And then there’s a little boy who just wandered onto the set by accident and for some reason they made him the Creed’s son, Gage.

Speaking of the plot: it’s a hot mess. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some really good stuff here. I was enthralled with everything concerning Winston Churchill (they call him Church, for some reason) becoming a serial killer. Every scene that focuses on Church as he selects, stalks, tortures, and eventually kills his many victims (he kills 431 people and one big-ass rat in this film) is riveting. But these scenes are also absurdly gratuitous. For example, in one sequence Church decapitates a hitchhiker with a chainsaw, then we watch as he methodically skins his victim, filets his flesh, and meticulously prepares the corpse for his dinner—which we then watch him eat. In its entirety! None of this is necessary. There are also entirely too many fart jokes. In my humble opinion, horror and fart jokes are not compatible. There’s an actual scene in which Ellie (Louis and Rachel’s daughter) farts on Church, who in turn vomits on Gage, who in turn vomits on Jud, who already has diarrhea, so he poops his pants, which make louis sick, which makes Ellie laugh so hard she farts on Church again. Is this supposed to be scary? Funny? To be honest, at this point in the film I zoned out for a while and focused my attention on an order of concessions-stand nachos. I flat-out destroyed those bitches, then hit the bathroom for some sweet relief.

When I returned to the theater, the film had undergone a serious plot twist. Louis was now a man in a red suit with a lightning bolt on it who calls himself Shazooki or something. Gage was now a paraplegic teenager who regards his father more like a friend than a parent. The whole thing was so incredibly confusing I had to consider that I may have walked into the wrong theater after leaving the bathroom. Either way, there was still just way, way too much farting.

Pet Sematary may not be the scariest movie you see this year. That is all.

I give Pet Sematary 4.683 out of 10. I would’ve rated the film higher, but there’s just so much farting. I mean, really, people. Come on.

(Pet Sematary is rate R for adult language, graphic violence, graphic depiction of surgery, fish taunting, unsupervised tire swinging, threatening weather, superfluous gasoline usage, and one fart joke after another until you just want to smack someone.)

Five More Misleading Movie Titles That Will Ruin Movie Night

Five More Misleading Movie Titles That Will Ruin Movie Night

By Frank Wellspring for TheHumbleHeckler.com

In the spirit of honesty, I will begin this article by admitting that I sometimes make the mistake of taking movie titles a bit too literally. However, that does not excuse studios and filmmakers from doing a poor job of naming their films. Ambiguity is the enemy when selecting a movie title. I mean, consider a title like Slumber Party Massacre—nothing ambiguous about that. And guess what features prominently in films like The Mist, The Fog, and The Stuff. Luckily, you don’t have to guess. Do you think a movie called Gremlins might be a creature feature? If you do, you’d be right. The Birds is actually about killer birds; Peeping Tom tells the tale of a psychotic voyeur; and Silent Night, Deadly Night is precisely what you think it would be. So why in the name of all that’s holy and pure do so many movies have titles that seem to exist only to baffle, confuse, or mislead? It just makes no sense, but people continue to do it; therefore, people like me will continue to call them out when they do it. So, here are five more movies (shout-out to fellow critic Clark Savage, who penned the initial list of five) with titles so misleading they’re bound to ruin Movie Night.

(1) Monster-in-Law (2005): As a lover of horror films, particularly creature features, this movie ranks among the most disappointing ever, based on the title alone, anyway. The story of a possessive mother trying to sabotage her son’s burgeoning relationship could’ve provided a fantastic springboard to cinematic thrills and chills. Unfortunately, Monster-in-Law isn’t scary at all—not even accidentally. Sure, the make-up effects are terrifying. Jennifer Lopez’s turn as a soulless, demonic, life-sucking she-creature is the stuff of nightmares. And Jane Fonda will make your skin crawl as an ancient bony-faced hag whose stare rivals Medusa’s in its power to turn those who gaze upon it to stone. But the presence of two scary monster-women ultimately isn’t enough to generate the requisite terror to give modern horror fans the heebie-jeebies.

(2) Saturday Night Fever (1977): This is a confusing film, thanks in no small part to its unfortunate title. The film focuses on the outbreak of a deadly virus—a virus that inevitably leads the poor souls who become infected to suffer from a condition known as Saturday night fever. According to the film, the virus spreads almost exclusively among young people. The most obvious symptoms of Saturday night fever are: the inability to speak in grammatically correct sentences and rhythmic spasmodic flailing of the limbs whenever an infected person is exposed to disco music. It is also arguable that Saturday night fever impacts the region of the brain responsible for fashion choices. Do not watch this film if you are expecting an engrossing medical thriller concerning the outbreak of an infectious disease thrust upon an unknowing population. The basic suspense/thriller plot points are all present, but the film’s execution is woefully inept, leaving the viewer with too many questions for the film to succeed at creating a significant measure of suspense. For example, the narrative never even bothers to explain the source of the virus, the Patient Zero, if you will. Although, to be fair, there are noticeable hints sprinkled throughout the film that subtly suggest this particular virus began with The Bee Gees.

(3) Juice (1992): This film is a bit of a mixed bag. Mostly, the film succeeds as an urban crime drama depicting the harsh realities of life for a group of young men growing up in a tough neighborhood, where life and death decisions are made on a daily basis, and the specter of Death is ever present. But then again, the film completely fails as a biography of O.J. Simpson, which is what the title would have you believe is the film’s true subject. Is it possible that this title was chosen to purposely trick Simpson’s fans into theaters? Possibly. It certainly isn’t beneath the Hollywood marketing machine to intentionally deceive the public. I mean, what’s next? Am I going to find out that the TV series Chuck isn’t about legendary rocker Chuck Berry?

(4) Rain Man (1988): I take no pleasure in saying this, but Rain Man is, without hesitation or hyperbole, the worst superhero film ever made. Dustin Hoffman stars as Raymond Babbitt, a man whose alter ego, Rain Man, does not—I repeat does NOT—have the ability to make it rain whenever he wants. But that’s just the beginning. Other than the ability to instantly count matchsticks that have fallen to the floor and to cheat at blackjack, there really isn’t anything all that impressive about this guy. And get this: There isn’t a villain anywhere to be seen in the entire movie. Rain Man just goes about his life, without any supervillains threatening to reveal his true identity or anything. Not one car chase. Not one explosion. Not one gun fight. What the hell, man?

(5) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958): This is an emotionally effective film that, in my opinion, eventually buckles under the weight of too much metaphor. Based on the title, you’d expect the film to work as a treatise on the mistreatment of animals, and that’s exactly what it is; however, this message is buried beneath layers and layers of muddled symbolism. While on the surface the story appears to be about alcoholism, a marriage under strain, and generations of family pride and secrets bubbling to the surface with disastrous results, in reality this is all just a thinly veiled metaphor about how leaving a kitty on a tin roof in extreme heat could be bad for the kitty’s little paws. Sure, the film can be heavy-handed at times, but that doesn’t make the message any less important. Cats really shouldn’t be left on hot tin roofs for any reason whatsoever. And yet, I just wonder if we really needed to go to such dramatic lengths to make such an obvious point.

 

Five Things You Couldn’t Possibly Know About Star Wars (1977)

 

Five Things You Couldn’t Possibly Know About Star Wars (1977)

By Henry Bernice for TheHumbleHeckler.com   

(Editor’s note: Film critic/historian Henry Bernice has been struck by lightning seven times. Keep this in mind when reading the following article.)

Star Wars (1977) is arguably the most important movie in the history of the American film industry. That’s not to say that it is the best or most important work of cinema ever created (after all, it is a relatively simple fantasy/adventure tale that luxuriates in rather well-worn tropes concerning good versus evil); however, one could reasonably contend that no other film has had a greater impact on the way movies are made and marketed. Star Wars is, and will always remain, a touchstone in blockbuster filmmaking and an indelible pop culture hallmark. No film has ever inflamed so much passion in so many movie lovers. For decades the most rabid of all fan bases has continuously picked through the minutia of the Star Wars series, finding relevance in even the most trivial of facts. And yet even the most hardcore believers in the Force don’t know absolutely everything. So, without further ado, here are five things you couldn’t possibly know about Star Wars (1977).

(1) In George Lucas’s original screenplay (called The Star Wars) the character of Darth Vader was originally called Darth Kenny. It wasn’t until Gary Kurtz (one of the film’s producers) saw the final script that the idea of a name change was considered. “I just didn’t think Darth Kenny was the kind of name that would strike fear in the hearts of moviegoers,” Kurtz told Sci-Fi Celluloid Magazine in an interview conducted in 1980. “At the time I was really interested in what was happening in the world of video games. A friend of mine in Japan named Tomohiro Nishikado was developing a new game called Space Invaders,” Kurtz said, “so when George asked me to suggest a new name, I thought the choice was obvious: I suggested we call our villain Darth Space. George loved it, but John Williams (composer of the film’s score), who just happened to be in the elevator with us at the time said, ‘That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. I mean, why don’t we call him Darth Elevator since right now we’re in an elevator.’ Strangely enough, George (whose ability to sniff out sarcasm was severely lacking) loved the idea—until he met a waitress at Denny’s whose last name was Vader.”

(2) Harrison Ford originally auditioned for the role of Princess Leia. Ford was looking for something a little different after playing more masculine roles in films like American Graffiti and TV shows like Gunsmoke. “I don’t know, Han Solo just seemed like a bit of a dick,” Ford told The Cleveland Alfalfa Journal in 1981. “I’d done the whole tough, macho, charismatic thing to death. I really wanted to spread my wings as actor and play a gutsy broad.” Ford actually screen tested for the role and won unanimous praise from Lucas and a number of producers. “It was amazing,” said Lucas to Starfire Magazine in late 1979. “That dude really looked like a chick. Sounded like one, too. No kidding, I was this close to asking him out for a drink before I remembered it was actually Harrison under all that hair and makeup.” When Ford was officially offered the part he was ecstatic, but his enthusiasm waned when he attended his first costume fitting. “It was the hair, man. I just couldn’t get past the hair. For some reason George was married to that style, but it made my head look like my ears exploded or some shit, so I was like, screw it. I guess I’ll be charming … again.”

(3) The infamous Mos Eisley Cantina scene was shot illegally, guerrilla-style, without permits or formal permission at an actual bar called The Landing Strip, located just down the road from Newark Liberty International Airport. Therefore, the wacky cast of outrageous monsters and space creatures were actually just a congregation of Newark regulars mixed with a smattering of air travelers who decided to have a drink while waiting for their flights. Lucas snuck in his actors along with a small crew and just started filming everything. “We really hit the jackpot with that place,” Lucas said in a 1982 interview with Spandex World. “The place was so bizarre and everyone in the joint looked so tired and haggard that we didn’t need to use one drop of paint to dress the set or one drop of makeup on any of the extras. We just stole a crap-ton of footage and booked it outta there.” Lucas may be content with the footage, but a number of the extras are not. Not one of the bar patrons was paid for the film’s use of their image. There is still a lawsuit pending in the state of New Jersey.

(4) R2D2 was originally voiced by James Earl Jones. It’s hard to believe but those now-famous metallic-y blips and blops were initially delivered in a much deeper, much more stentorian register. The great James Earl Jones dove into his R2D2 voice recording sessions with an impressive amount of gusto. “I really loved being that little guy,” Jones told High Fashion Weekly in 1991. “When I heard that I’d been replaced I was really upset. That role meant a lot to me.” Eventually the role would go to legendary R&B/soul singer Barry White, who, for reasons unknown decided to remain uncredited for his performance.

(5) When the film was released in Japan the title had been changed from Star Wars to Happy Space Monster Ray Gun Vader Joy Joy Hour America Yes! As a result, this particular Japanese movie poster has become the holy grail for Star Wars collectors the world over. First printings of the poster are said to sell for as much as 4 million dollars. In 2016 a first printing sold at a Sotheby’s auction for more than 9 million dollars to a collector named Byron Toodles, an investment banker who loves movie paraphernalia. “It’s so stupid looking,” Mr. Toodles said in an impromptu press gathering outside of Sotheby’s auction house. “It’s such a freakout to look at this thing, man. It’s gonna make my cat york up his Meow Mix.”

So, there you have it, Star Wars aficionados. There’s five more things you can use to impress people at sci-fi conventions. You’re Welcome.

Star Wars 8 is a Real Knee-Slapper

Star Wars 8: The Last Jedi is a Real Knee-Slapper

Reviewed by Cooter Jenkins-Dixon for TheHumbleHeckler.com.

(Editor’s note: This is film critic Cooter Jenkins-Dixon’s first review for TheHumbleHeckler.com since being recruited from the Arts & Leisure section of The Shadypork Hollow Gazette. The following review contains words and phrases that some readers may find offensive or baffling.)

Let’s just start by sayin’ that Star Wars 8 is one entertainin’ sumbitch. Hell, I was laughin’ and jumpin’ and clappin’ and squawkin’ so much I dern near split my denims—and I was wearin’ my good Duluth denims, so I weren’t spectin’ there’d be any concern for splittin’. Anyhoo, this here flick was directed by Rian Johnson, and let me tell ya’, that sumbitch surely earned whatever them Hollywood people done paid him for this one. The action sequences were slicker than a polecat’s corn hole after a mud bath. Hell, some of them scenes were so excitin’ I didn’t even realize my mouth was hangin’ as wide open as a BBQ pit before ya’ add the hickory chips. There was even a coupla times when I was white-knucklin’ it so hard my chew slipped out my mouth and hit the floor. At one point my buddy Clem refused to take a run to the bathroom cuz he didn’t want to miss anything, and the crazy bastard ended up gettin’ a surprise visit from his pork-and-bean lunch in the form of an unwanted mud pickle in his denims. Sad thing is, Ida done the same thing.

Let’s talk a bit about the actin’. Overall, I’d say the performances was believable, mostly because they was subtle as a breeze on a moonless August night in Georgia. I was pleased as punch to see that good ole’ boy Mark Hamill back as Luke Skywalker. Damn, that boy can swing a saber! To be fair, all the actors was real good, especially the little fella they got to play BB-8. I don’t know his name, but any flesh-and-blood human that can be that believable as a robot deserves to have an Oscar named after him and a lifetime supply of free root beer.

Now, I ain’t supposed to say nothin’ about the story or the characters or the endin’ or anything like that, so I guess I’ll just go on ahead and put a bow on this here review by sayin’ that Star Wars 8 might not be the prettiest Star Wars movie at the barn dance, but she’s still worth a twirl. I’d say Star Wars 8 is the movie version of a fried chicken dinner with plenty of gravy on the taters, because it tastes as good as it looks, you walk away from it feelin’ warm and satisfied, and you’ll find yourself thinkin’ about it for the next few days every time you have to squat and fire—that’s right, your turds will smell like Star Wars.

I give Star Wars 8 my highest ratin’ yet: A whole pen full of healthy hogs and one more Christmas with Maw-Maw Jean.

(Star Wars 8 is rated PG-13 for a few rough patches of violence involvin’ spaceships and ray guns and whatnot. I don’t think there was any cussin’, but I don’t remember for sure. It’s hard to remember much of anything since Maw-Maw Jean’s donkey, Bo, done kicked me in my head. Also, no one was naked and no one performed any lewd acts or nothin’. I thought I seen that big ole’ Wookie snort coke off a switchblade, but now that I really think on it, it don’t really seem in keepin’ with the whole Star Wars philosophy, so maybe I can blame that one on Bo. Did I mention that sumbitch done kicked me in my head?)

Kingsman: The Golden Circle: The End is Nigh

Kingsman: The Golden Circle: The End is Nigh

Reviewed by Mick Gastineau for TheHumbleHeckler.com.     

(Editor’s note: Film critic Mick Gastineau is known to lapse into prolonged periods of extreme despair and anxiety. Keep this in mind when reading the following review.)

Well … it was bound to happen eventually. Director Matthew Vaughn has screwed us again.

Remember back in 2014, when the obnoxiously loud, aggressively stupid bloodbath known as Kingsman: The Secret Service was unleashed upon an unsuspecting public? I know I can’t forget it. Remember the clichéd characters, the preposterous-yet-predictable story, and the relentlessly superfluous violence? I’ve tried everything from hypnotherapy to smacking myself in the head with a ball peen hammer to forget. Remember the cheap anal sex jokes and the objectification of women for even cheaper laughs? I’m sure my sisters do. Remember the incessant product placement and how insulted you were by it? Like, for example, the dinner scene in which Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Firth have McDonald’s food served to them on a gleaming platter, and then the different sandwiches are actually pointed out and named on camera. (I was surprised that Ronald McDonald himself didn’t have a cameo in this scene.) Remember that crap? Huh? Do ya? Well, unfortunately, those were the good old days, because, believe it or not, Vaughn and company are back with a sequel that manages to sink to even greater levels of crapitude.

This time the Kingsman spread their particular brand of idiocy in America, because, you see, in a narrative innovation worthy of Joyce or Thackeray, the Kingsman’s base of operations is blasted to bits by a criminal organization called—you guessed it—The Golden Circle. Once in the Land of Liberty, this band of morons with big guns joins forces with the American version of the Kingsman, an organization called—get ready—the Statesman. Isn’t that clever? But wait, that’s nothing. Check this out: the Americans have amazingly clever names. Halle Berry plays a character called Ginger Ale, Channing Tatum is Tequila, and Jeff Bridges is Champagne. I’m not kidding. Be on the lookout for Elijah Wood as Sex on the Beach, John Goodman as Bud Weiser, and Charlie Hunnam as Jack Daniels With a Splash of Coke and a Wedge of Lime in the upcoming product placement bonanza/sequel Kingsman 3: The Golden Arches.

After sitting through this marathon of good-looking people in expensive clothing slaughtering hordes of other people in a CG orgy of balletic stunt work featuring buckets and buckets of gore and copious amounts of product placement less subtle than a Super Bowl commercial, I wasn’t sure how exactly to go on with my life. I mean, what’s the point? If Kingsman: The Golden Circle exists, then surely God does not. Why did I bother going to college or exercising regularly or watching what I eat if, at any time, I could end up in a movie theater watching something like this? Is this some kind of punishment? Did I die in my sleep and this movie is now my personal hell? Was I Hitler in a previous life or something? I just don’t get it. After watching this movie, the only thought I have is: Why? Why is this happening to me? To movie audiences? To the world? What have we done to deserve this? And what in the name of all that’s Holy and Good can we do to stop this from ever happening again?

The terrifying truth is … I don’t know. But I do know this: This movie broke me. I haven’t eaten in three days. I’m wearing adult diapers—or diaper, I haven’t changed the first one yet. I can’t think of a reason why I should. To be clear, I’m not the only person who feels this way. The guy sitting next to me pulled out almost all of his hair. The woman sitting directly behind me tried to slit her wrists with her movie ticket and cried herself to sleep when she failed. I overheard another woman say, “How do I explain this to my children?” Sadly, her question went unanswered. The Catholic church down the block from the theater was deluged with scared, confused visitors from my screening within minutes of the film’s end. As for me, for the first time since I was a child, I wept. I wept openly in public until my ribcage ached and my eyes turned as red as Satan’s sack.

And now, somehow, I must find the strength to go on.

I’ve decided to move to Montana. Maybe I’ll find a little cabin somewhere quiet and remote, somewhere where Matthew Vaughn can never hurt me again, somewhere where clunky expositional dialogue and lazy product placement doesn’t exist. Ah, heck, maybe I won’t find what I’m looking for, but, dammit, you can’t hit homeruns if you never swing for the fences. I’ll spend my days in quiet solitude, just me and Mother Nature and my new dog, Old Blue. It’ll be tough for a while. But nothing worth doin’ isn’t tough at the outset. As for the rest of you … well … I wish I had something more positive to pass along to ya’. Guess you’re all just gonna have to get up each morning, put one foot in front of the other, and do your best to forget and to move forward. Always remember that Matthew Vaughn only has power over you if you let him have it. So don’t let him. You hear me! Don’t You Dare Let Him!

I give Kingsman: The Golden Circle a dejected shake of the head, and I mourn the death of the world I knew before this abomination let loose its wrath.

(Kingsman: The Golden Circle is rated R for adult language, sexual situations, graphic violence, and for making me try to kill myself by shoving popcorn up my nose while questioning the necessity of my existence.)

Five Misleading Movie Titles That Will Ruin Movie Night

Five Misleading Movie Titles That Will Ruin Movie Night

By Clark Savage for TheHumbleHeckler.com

(Editor’s note: Film critic Clark Savage is currently pursuing a rigorous 12-step program in an effort to treat his ongoing issues with anger management.)

Naming a movie is not rocket science, people. Simplicity is the key. No need to get cutesy. No cause for pretense. Just keep it simple. There’s no such thing as oversimplifying a movie title. Psycho, Ghostbusters, The Jerk, The 40-Year-Old-Virgin, Black Christmas, Jaws, Alien—see how easy that is. But for some people, keeping it simple just isn’t an option, and the result is always an exasperating, rage-inducing experience that reminds me of why I enjoy headbutting things. Here, in no particular order, are five of the more egregious examples of criminally misleading movie titles and the cinematic turds that must forever bear the burden their uninspired monikers.

(1) The Man Without a Face (1993). What a wasted opportunity. I’m pretty sure  I’m not the only guy who showed up at the theater expecting to see a wacked-out sci-fi thriller or some kind of ultra-bizarre gore-fest of a horror film about some poor schlub whose face is missing. Instead, I sat through a touchy-feely movie about a teacher and a student and their … feelings. Give me a break. This movie should’ve been called The Movie Whose Story is Boring as Balls. What a disappointment. The title just flat-out lies. The main character survived an accident that left half of his face horribly disfigured. So … not only does this guy have a face, his face is by far the most interesting thing about him. It’s also the only interesting thing about this cheesy, melodramatic-to-a-fault snore bomb. Screw this movie!

(2) Seabiscuit (2003). So, get this … Seabiscuit is a freakin’ horse. A horse! Back in  2003, when I heard that I’d be reviewing a movie called Seabiscuit, I was psyched. How could I not be psyched? I mean, what in the holy hell is a Seabiscuit? I certainly had no idea. But I’ll tell what I didn’t think it was—a freakin’ horse. And not only is Seabiscuit a horse, it’s a horse that has no business being a champion racehorse because it’s not big enough, not strong enough, not blah blah blah. Pick any sports movie cliché and you’ll find it in abundance in Seabiscuit. So we’re left with a crappy title and a boring, predictable story. To make things worse, the good folks at Universal Pictures want us to believe this steaming pile of jockey chow is based on a true story. Like anyone would ever name a horse Seabiscuit. Anyway, this movie, like its titular star, should be turned into glue and used to seal the eyelids of anyone who even thinks about watching this cinematic crime against nature.

(3) Working Girl (1988). Let’s begin by saying that director Mike Nichols’s  definition of a “working girl” differs greatly from mine. To be clear, anyone who grew up speaking English as their first language knows that “working girl” means prostitute—plain and simple. So, what the hell, man? Nichols completely squanders his opportunity to create an erotic thriller or a super-sexy comedy in order to drum up the same old pot-boiled crap about women in the workplace. Forget the glass ceiling, this film needs to be shattered—then it needs to be buried in hallowed ground, blessed by a holy man, and forever entombed in as many tons of concrete as possible.

(4) Chariots of Fire (1981). Where do I even begin with this one? Let’s start with  the story: Two dudes who love running—that’s right, running—spend an absurd amount of time, well … running, and eventually they end up—you guessed it—running in the 1924 Paris Olympics. And it gets worse. Unless you’re one of the few unfortunate souls out there who just can’t get enough synthesizer, the score by Vangelis will make you want to beat yourself to death with a frying pan. A friend of mine used to play this soundtrack in his house until he came home from work one day to find all the cats in his neighborhood had committed mass suicide on his front lawn. The poor things just couldn’t take it anymore. And, finally, let’s not forget that there is not one single shot of a chariot engulfed in flames. Not one. In fact, there aren’t any chariots at all. Avoid this rotting corpse of a film as if your chariot were on fire.

(5) To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). I hate mockingbirds, so try to see this from my  perspective. Yeah, yeah, I know … the film works as a masterful portrait of poverty and racism in American society; and sure, it even evolves into a devastating criticism of ignorance and intolerance. But there is not a single tip concerning the extermination of mockingbirds. And I really need help with mockingbird eradication. You should see my car. It looks like these A-hole mockingbirds ate a Jackson Pollock painting, followed it with the contents of a Taco Bell dumpster for dessert, then decided to park themselves in the oak tree that shades my driveway. I don’t even remember my car’s original color. So, thanks for nothin’, To Kill a Mockingbird. Way to leave a brother hangin’.

Five Things You Couldn’t Possibly Know About Alien (1979)

Five Things You Couldn’t Possibly Know About Alien (1979)

By Henry Bernice for TheHumbleHeckler.com

(Editor’s note: Film critic/historian Henry Bernice has been struck by lightning seven times. Keep this in mind when reading the following article.)

In the almost four decades since its release, Ridley Scott’s Alien has become an indispensable classic for movie lovers around the globe. The film’s seamless melding of classic science fiction and horror narratives set a new standard for genre filmmaking and made virtually every monster movie that existed before it look silly by comparison. But, of course, film fans already know that. So, here are five things even the most ardent cineaste couldn’t possibly know about Alien.

(1) Though the role of Dallas, captain of the Nostromo, would eventually be played to perfection by Tom Skerritt, the part was initially offered to (and accepted by) legendary character actor William Bookshank. In fact, Bookshank worked for approximately six weeks on the film before his untimely death sent the production into a tailspin. Director Ridley Scott was so desperate to stay on schedule that he initially decided not to recast the role and continued on with Bookshank’s corpse. “For the first day or so, it actually seemed to be working,” Scott said in a 1980 interview for FilmMag. “Even in death, Bookshank brought a certain gravitas to the role that most living actors couldn’t accomplish on their best day.” Scott soldiered on with Bookshank’s rapidly deteriorating corpse for the next six weeks. “But eventually,” Scott said, “the dialogue scenes proved to be a bit too much of a challenge, even for the corpse of a great actor.” The production shut down for a week while casting sessions resumed. Soon Skerritt was brought on board and Bookshank’s scenes were reshot. (For the record, the cause of Bookshank’s demise was officially documented as an “accidental death by falling anvil,” but years of rumors suggesting that Bookshank had hidden a bizarre, possibly even sexual affinity for anvils has created serious doubt as to just how accidental this accident really was.)

(2) In the original script, the now-iconic “chestburster” scene, in which the alien (or Xenomorph) tears through John Hurt’s torso and emerges amid a tangle of bloody T-shirt and torn flesh before dashing away to the darkest corners of the Nostromo, was significantly different. As strange as it may seem now, the story initially called for the alien to be an executive officer on the Nostromo crew, and for John Hurt’s Kane character to burst out of the alien creature’s chest. Years later in an interview for Good Morning, Galveston, Sigourney Weaver would say: “We shot the scene several times with Kane bursting out of the alien’s chest and then running out of sight, screaming. But it just wasn’t working. It just wasn’t scary. We could all feel that something was just off.” After sharing her concerns with an equally troubled Scott, the film was promptly rewritten, allowing for Hurt and the alien to switch roles. “Thank God we made those changes,” said Scott. “I just don’t think the film would’ve been as scary had we stayed with the idea of John Hurt stalking and killing the Nostromo crew. Don’t get me wrong, John’s a great actor, but … come on!”

(3) Jerry Goldsmith’s haunting score was initially recorded by an orchestra consisting almost entirely of kazoos and slide whistles. “I felt the tone of the film should reflect a carnival-style atmosphere,” Goldsmith said at a Knights of Columbus Wacky Waffle Wednesday in 1982. “That’s why I decided to load the orchestra with 135 kazoo players, 21 slide whistle players, and a single tambourine. The sole tambourine was meant to represent the loneliness one experiences in the vastness of space, and the kazoos and slide whistles were meant to conjure images of circus clowns and shit. I’m really proud of that version of the score, but the so-called ‘producers’ didn’t appreciate what I was going for and decided to play it safe.” Oddly, Ridley Scott agreed completely with Goldsmith’s concept. “I totally dug the whole carnival theme,” Scott said in a Pork Futures Today article. “Carnivals remind me of clowns, and clowns are scary as balls.” Scott recently announced plans to release a new blu-ray version of Alien with the original carnival-themed score. “I think the hardcore fans will buy just about anything we slap together at this point, so why not make some more money on this bee-otch,” he said.

(4) Mercifully, a terribly ill-conceived product placement sequence was cut from the final edit of the film. “We shot a scene where the characters take a lunch break at McDonald’s after stumbling upon the space jockey,” Scott told a Furniture Times reporter. “We thought it might make a nice commentary on the long-reaching tentacles of commercialism to suggest that even on the remote planetoid of LV-426 you couldn’t escape the golden arches of McDonald’s. What the hell—it was the age of movie marketing run amok. Just look at the way Star Wars was selling merch, like action figures and all that crap. They had ties to McDonald’s, too, ya’ know. So don’t look at me like I just pooped in your ice cream. The idea wasn’t that crazy.”

(5) An early test screening of the film proved disastrous for the PR department of 20th Century Fox when a sizable collection of Xenomorphic Americans picketed outside the theater. “They were a real pain in the butt,” said Sigourney Weaver after six Michelob Ultras at a tractor pull outside of Waco, Texas in 1981. “I explained to them that the film wasn’t trying to suggest that all Xenomorphs are psychotic killers, just this one particular Xenomorph. But the protest leader just wasn’t willing to hear our side of the story. I know that things got ugly after I walked the red carpet. A few people were cocooned, a few more were forcibly implanted by facehuggers … but, hey, nothing ever goes as smoothly as you’d like. And nothing happened to anyone inside the theater that night, thank God. So, you know, overall it was mostly good stuff.”

So, there you have it, Alien fans. I hope you all learned something. See ya’ next time.

Annabelle: Creation is Really … um … Good?

Annabelle: Creation is Really … um … Good?

Reviewed by Adam Trolley Bing for TheHumbleHeckler.com

(Editor’s note: Film critic Adam Trolley Bing has admitted to not actually seeing Annabelle: Creation before posting the following review.)

Annabelle: Creation … Wow. I mean, where do I even begin? This is one of those movies where I really don’t want to say too much and give away anything important. That would be irresponsible criticism.

I will say that this movie is nothing if not professionally made. For example, the cinematography is extraordinary. The film was obviously shot with professional-grade cameras, the kind only true pros would bother to use. And boy does it pay off, because the movie is almost always in focus and every frame makes visual sense. Like, when the camera is pointing at a person or something really scary or a piece of furniture or something, you totally believe what you’re seeing on the screen. You just don’t see that kind of technical wizardry every day in Hollywood films.

And don’t even get me started on the sound design. This film is just jam-packed with all sorts of sounds. I consider myself a bit of a “sound aficionado,” so believe me when I say that the scope, diversity, and quality of sounds in this movie is absolutely mind blowing. Trust me, you’ll be black and blue from pinching yourself in disbelief at how realistic some of these sounds are. I can’t even remember how many times I said to myself “Oh yeah, I recognize that sound.” And if it’s realism you crave, wait until you see the costume design.

The women’s costumes in the film are astounding. They really look like the kind of stuff these particular characters would have in their closets. The same can pretty much be said for all the male characters as well. There is one male character in particular whose choice of pants really speaks volumes about who he is as a person, where he’s been, and where he wants to go. All of his hopes and dreams are right there on display in the face of his belt buckle, and the way in which the fabric fades a little near his pockets suggests an unfulfilled longing that hits me right in my gut even now, long after seeing the film. But let’s not forget that these amazing costumes are just empty vessels without talented actors to inhabit them and allow them to realize their full potential.

Luckily, this movie is defined by great performances. According to Wikipedia—I mean according to the credits, which I sat and watched in their entirety, the movie stars Stephanie Sigman as Sister Charlotte. And, oh, man, does she ever give a whopper of a performance. I’m sure nuns are going to see this and say “She totally nailed us.” And then there’s Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto as a married couple. Let me tell ya’, there isn’t one second of film where you don’t believe that these two are married. They play a married couple so well that I’d be shocked if their real-life spouses didn’t crap their pants out of sheer jealousy. Years from now, people will look back on these performances in history classes to study the way married people used to behave.

So … is Annabelle: Creation scary? I would have to say … uh … yeah, pretty much, sure. I mean, if you like atmospheric ghost stories with great acting, professional camera work, seamless editing, a believable sound design, and character-defining costumes, all set to a score that just really utilizes the perfect number of musical instruments, then Annabelle: Creation is probably for you. But what’s really fun about a movie like this is the debate that I’m sure people will be having in the days and weeks to come over the film’s various uses of all kinds of really interesting themes, motifs, and metaphors and whatnot.

For the record, I hope my analysis hasn’t gone too deep, and that I haven’t ruined the film for anyone. Any spoilers present in this review are completely accidental, I promise.

I give Annabelle: Creation 5 question marks (?????) out of a possible 5.

(Annabelle: Creation is rated R for any number of vague, adult-type things and situations that are not easily described but that people under 17 really shouldn’t see. I mean, the MPAA has a tough job, so who am I to question their criteria for rating a movie like this. Now, I can’t say for sure that I would have given this film an R, but my opinion doesn’t matter. Although, now that I think about it, I probably wouldn’t take my children to see this film. Of course, I don’t have children, but that’s hardly the fault of Annabelle: Creation or the MPAA.)

The Dark Tower is a Real Buzzer Beater

The Dark Tower is a Real Buzzer Beater

Reviewed by Annie Poppler for TheHumbleHeckler.com

(Editor’s note: Film critic Annie Poppler is a sports novice who has recently begun dating a sport’s writer. Keep this in mind when reading the following review, which is for entertainment purposes only.)

The latest Stephen King adaptation to totally body-slam multiplexes around the globe, The Dark Tower, is a stunning achievement, combining the majesty and power of a LaBron James slam dunk, the silky smoothness of a Steph Curry 3-bomb, and the looming terror of Dennis Rodman doing just about anything. The film, which seamlessly combines genre elements of horror, westerns, action, and fantasy, is directed with a sense of confidence and surehandedness of something akin to Bill Belichick leading his New England Patriots onto the field of battle in pursuit of yet another Super Bowl victory.

The film stars Idris Elba as Roland, a gunslinger on a mission to save his world from extinction while being pursued by a ruthless horde of creatures hell-bent on stopping him. These villains are headlined by Matthew McConaughey as Walter o’Dim (a.k.a. The Man in Black, a.k.a a few other names I don’t remember). Both Elba and McConaughey are perfectly cast. Elba’s gunslinger reminds me of Joe Montana, the legendary 49ers QB who earned the nickname “Joe Cool” due to his ability to never be rattled in the face of adversity. (By the way, Montana also boasts a career touchdown to interception ratio that is absolutely ridonkulous. This may not be relevant to my review, but it’s just one of those things that we sports fanatics can’t help but notice whenever we think about Joe Montana—which is, like, a million times every day. Am I right?) And McConaughey plays The Man in Black with the ticking-time-bomb intensity of a young John Daly in the tee box in that critical moment just after one final puff on his cigarette before he totally punishes the poor golf ball with a 5 wood. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if McConaughey were to publicly acknowledge drawing inspiration from Daly’s legendary tee shots—it’s just so obvious in the performance.

So anyway, the Gunslinger and The Man in Black begin this whole Magic Johnson-Larry Bird-style rivalry that can best be described as the cinematic version of a Conor McGregor back kick to the balls. It’s just that powerful. The chase scenes bring to mind the best of the storied history of the Daytona 500. The fight sequences are every bit as harrowing as Ali-Frazier 3. Watching Elba do his thing as the Gunslinger is like watching Mario Lemieux terrorize St. Louis Blues goaltender Rick Wamsley on his way to a hat trick (he actually scored 4 goals; one more than necessary for a hat trick) on New Year’s Eve in 1985. This is one of those movies that is best enjoyed with a Dodger Dog (mustard only) and a cold one … and maybe some nachos. The action is just that awesome. Of course, to be completely honest, I missed a good bit of this film because I was busy checking the day’s baseball scores on my phone. No need to worry; the Dodgers won.

About an hour into the film I settled back in my seat, tore open a pouch of Red Man Chew (I prefer the Golden Blend), and basked in the brilliant glow of men shooting at each other while I occasionally scratched my groin area and spat into a half-empty cup of Diet Dr. Pepper.

Now that’s a great time at the movies!

I give The Dark Tower three gold medals and half a bronze out of a possible 4.

(The Dark Tower is rated PG-13 for some kick-ass stunt work by some amazing athletes who are totally ripped, graphic locker room talk, sporadic taunting, and extended depiction of untended wounds.)

The Emoji Movie: Animated Poop Gets the Star Treatment–Finally!

The Emoji Movie: Animated Poop Gets the Star Treatment—Finally!

Reviewed by Thurston Chatwell for TheHumbleHeckler.com

(Editor’s note: Film critic Thurston Chatwell is a self-proclaimed pop culture expert concerning farts and poop. Keep this in mind when reading the following review.)

As a connoisseur of cinematic gastrointestinal distress, I can’t help but view Hollywood as a bit of a tease. Sure, there was that great campfire scene in Blazing Saddles in which a congregation of hirsute cowpokes, windblown and trail-worn from a long day on the range, relieve their bean-heavy bellies in a blistering symphony of shaky-legged bliss, as a sky of brilliant prairie stars twinkles above and a crackling campfire illuminates these pioneers of cinema in all their twisty-faced glory. Blazing Saddles set a pretty high bar, and let’s face it, the overwhelming majority of attempts by film and TV producers to recreate the magic of Mel Brooks’s legendary campfire crop dusting sequence have failed miserably. Memo to Hollywood Fat Cats: flatulent cowboys don’t happen every day.

Clearly the industry has underestimated the difficulty in bringing realistic flatulence and poopy to the screen. They seem to have no understanding of how delicate the process of depicting characters expelling carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane from their butts really is. Capturing the perfect facial expressions in the play of light and shadow as an actor recreates the farting experience is every cinematographer’s worst nightmare. And it’s also really, really difficult to perform. It’s common knowledge in Hollywood circles that many of the legends of acting have been known to avoid this particular challenge. There’s a reason why you’ve never seen Meryl Streep hunched over, sweating profusely, white-knuckling the back of a sofa, moaning in sweet agony to Jesus above as she spasmodically power blasts the poor lunchtime decisions she made at Taco Bell out of her backside while her skirt flaps violently in the chili-scented breeze. I mean, come on. She may be good, but she’s not that good.

At least Hollywood hasn’t completely given up. There’s that explosive-diarrhea-in-the-trashcan scene in Van Wilder, and, yeah, okay, there’s that pretty-girls-destroy-the-restroom scene in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. Oh, and let’s not forget the lightning-quick glimpse we get in Sin City of that bowling-pin shaped floater in the toilet (the same toilet that Clive Owen’s Dwight character uses to give Benicio del Toro’s Jackie Boy character what is arguably the gnarliest swirlie in movie history). But these examples, like most modern fart/poop scenes, are really more gross than great. We haven’t really seen anything noteworthy since South Park treated us a few heapin’ helpins of Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo. But other than the rare Mr. Hankey appearance, the world of screen farts/poops has become a putrid, stinking, peanut -and corn-infused shell of its former self. I mean, where’s the passion? The artistry? The humanity?

Believe it or not, the answer lies in The Emoji Movie.

The film propounds to be a metaphor for being yourself and following your own path, regardless of what the world thinks about blah, blah, blah … None of that garbage really plays very well, and nobody cares to see a cinematic lecture about the importance of individuality in a time when critical thought is under attack. Come on, Hollywood. Get real. Movie tickets cost money. Let’s get to the poop, already.

The Poop emoji in The Emoji Movie is voiced by—get this—Sir Patrick Stewart, who is the perfect actor with the perfect voice to bring dignity and class back to the world of movie poopy. For true connoisseurs like yours truly, Stewart represents hope—that’s right HOPE. Casting this icon of the stage and screen to play Poop signifies with absolute clarity that the Powers That Be in Hollywood are taking poopy seriously, and that from this day forward the voice of the great Sir Patrick will reign supreme over all of Poopydom. Trust me, this performance is one for the ages. Sir Patrick achieves the seemingly impossible, as his voice imbues Poop with a sense of regality and majesty while simultaneously (and magically) keeping Poop grounded in the real world. Poop’s story is the human story. Poop seeks love and wants to be loved in return. Poop makes mistakes (God knows Poop can make a mess), but Poop also has the capacity to learn from his mistakes. His triumphs are our triumphs; his failures are our failures. Simply put, Poop IS all of us. And we humans are most assuredly Poop. Especially the people who made this movie.

I give The Emoji Movie two pizza slices, four winky faces, a few of those cupcakes with eyes and stuff.

(The Emoji Movie is rated PG for undermining thousands of years of human communication through the popularization of simplistic cartoon iconography that will likely stunt the intellectual growth of generations to come, creating an unbridgeable void between humans and their humanity that will slowly erode the fabric of decent society, turning people into drooling savages who engage in terrible acts of violence for sport, rendering the planet an uninhabitable hellscape and damning us all to an unknowable, terrifying future that can only end in the obliteration of our species. There are also a few fart jokes stuff like that.)