When I say Francis Ford Coppola, what do you think of? The most common answer is The Godfather movies. They are considered to be one of the, if not, the greatest movies ever created with its violence, dialogue and plot. He is synonymous with those films as well as other gems throughout his illustrious directing career. Roger Corman is also a legend in his own way. The man, according to IMDB, has produced almost 400 movies and directed over 50 films.
The man also gave us, to this date of writing, the only decent Fantastic Four movie ever created in Hollywood. The man is known for low budget exploitation and “indie” movies with low budgets and some questionable acting in some retrospect. However, when the man had a good script and a good cast, he was able to turn low budget schlock into some hidden gems that have appreciated and have gained cult status over time.
So, what do these greats have to do with each other? Well, Coppola worked with Corman on some films early in his career. With them finishing a movie, Corman had a small budget of $22,000 dollars left over and wanted Coppola to write and direct a movie with the remaining budget. Coppola complied and the movie is Dementia 13. Why is it called Dementia 13? I don’t know. However, this movie is quite fascinating. You have a small budget, a location from your previous movie in Ireland and a script written in only a couple of days. Does this movie have any lasting appeal that has long been forgotten or is this a film that is lost to the viewer for a reason? We’ll judge this movie based on story, acting and the violence factor involved in this film. Let’s sit back and delve into the psyche of a messed up family and review Dementia 13.
The story of Dementia 13 focuses on the Haloran family in their castle in Ireland. We learn that there are three brothers and two wives in the family. The mother has written her will and is leaving all of her inheritance and money to charity in name of Kathleen (who is the deceased sister of the brothers who tragically died years ago). The first woman we meet is Louisa, who is the wife of the eldest son. She is vindictive and very manipulative. When learning of a deceased sister, Louise gets an idea of tricking the mother into believing that Kathleen is channeling from the afterlife through her. The main goal? She wants all the money.
However, things become more complicated and when we introduce an ax wielding murderer to the scenario and a lifeless looking body in the fold, the family starts to unravel more secrets and our wonder who is the murderer. Without giving away spoilers and events to the review, this story is a little complicated just because of the dialogue and scene and character choices. I can understand that this script was written very quickly because some of the dialogue and false flags throughout the movie doesn’t really make any sense and when we see it on screen, it just leaves me scratching my head and making me rewind the movie thinking I might have missed a key element in the plot. Overall, if this movie had maybe a couple more weeks of flushing out the imperfections in the story and gave a better red herring in the story, I think the movie would have been treated better than it is currently perceived as.
The main characters in the movie are the mother, Billy (the youngest), Richard (the middle), Louisa (wife of the oldest), Kane (Richard’s fiance/wife), and the family doctor. The mother acts like a shrew. She is cold toward her sons’ wives and doesn’t want anything to do with them. She is very superstitious and goes through some dementia when it comes to the coping of her lost daughter. Richard is the main brother that gets most of the screen time. He gets these violent outbursts and tends to just want to be by himself when he gets stressed or frustrated with the family. Billy is the quiet one who keeps having flashbacks playing with his deceased sister. He doesn’t seem out of the ordinary and blends in with the background.
Louisa acts like a gold digger who is stubborn and wants inheritance money from the mother. She is cutthroat and is extremely manipulative and strategic. Kane is the sweet lady who loves her fiance and is trying to understand the families backstory and wants her fiance to leave the castle and its haunted backstory and legend. The family doctor is very straightforward, persistent and also very no-nonsense. When dealing with the legend of the fallen daughter, he immediately results to finding out who is behind the trickery of messing with the mother. Each character has their own flaw and their own motivation. However, we’re being introduced to each of them and we want to get to know who each of them are and it feels like it all fell short. I like each character is unique but with creating suspense in the movie and introducing an ax murderer, I wanted to know more about these characters and plant seeds for potentially being the killer and fleshing out the idea of inheritance and an endless supply of financial gains. Overall, the characters were easy to differentiate but I didn’t really get to a point where I actually cared whether one of them lived or died and if they were the killer. We needed a little more character depth and maybe less random acts of murder.
The violence in the movie, for the time period, is actually pretty decent. They show beheading with seeing the heads rolling down, drownings, some splatter from the ax murderer’s swings and debris from an old building collapsing on the mother. I like some of the angled the camera gets with some of the killing as well as some underwater scenes in the pond. The suspense is the main thing that kept my interest in the movie. The black and white contrast and the eerie music as well as dark shadows all play for the effect of something foul is afoot. Coppola does a great job with the suspense using his location and set to his advantage. If the suspense and the eerie feel fell short and didn’t keep me invested, I would’ve just stopped watching and try and find another movie to watch instead. With all the flaws of the movie, this is the shiny spot in the rough. For a movie made back in the 1960s, this movie effects and camera shots were done with precision and a good amount of effort. For that, it made the movie bearable to watch.
Overall, this movie could have been great or a classic if it just had more time. It needed some proofreading, some tweaks on the dialogue and more suspense with unraveling more of the backstory of the family and who could be the murderer. This movie feels incomplete and maybe like some scenes might have gone missing from the movie even if it’s just 15 minutes of script. The suspense elements were the bright spot and helped make the movie watchable. The dialogue was almost unrealistic, the characters needs more flushing out, and we need a more concise backstory and more information with inheritance. The movie is view-able but would go well with watching with a group of people with some riffing in the background.
Midnight Mass: The Blood of Life
The isolated island community of Crockett receives a mysterious new head priest, full of secrets and a brand new testament under a very unusual Messenger of God.
Meet poor Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford), freshly released from prison and wracked with guilt over what got him there, a stupid drinking accident that caused the death of his ex-girlfriend. The last thing he wants to do is go back to Crockett and the judgment of the mostly religious community there, his disappointed family, and the nightmares of his ex’s death that plague him. But where else would have him? Resignedly on the ferry, he goes.
Riley’s dad Ed (Henry Thomas) isn’t the kind of man who talks very much at all, much less about his feelings, or his very real disappointment in his elder son. Riley’s teen brother Warren (Igby Rigney) has no idea what to say to him either, and just generally keeps mum. Riley’s mom Annie (Kristin Lehman) is accepting and loving, hesitant in how to help her eldest son but never wavering in her faith in the help of our lord Jesus. Mom seems to think a good heaping dose of the Church would set Riley right but is surprised to learn that the old priest of the Parish, Pruitt, has taken an extended leave of absence from the island, and his newcomer replacement Father Paul (Hamish Linklater) is young, charismatic, and bursting at the seams to tell the whole island about the gifts he brought them, most especially what he claims as a new testament under a messenger of God.
We’ll get back to that whole ball of issues in a moment, the other interesting characters of Crockett Island. Bev Keane (Samantha Sloyan) is the nightmarish overly polite and gently, almost lovingly condescending neighbor Christian woman you’ve ever loathed, the kind of person who explains away every last thing her Church may do wrong or contradictory because, after all, God works in mysterious ways. Pfft. Of course, Bev immediately ingratiates herself as the second to the new Father Paul in their services and is the first to start covering up his transgressions as they become more rampant.
Newcomers to Crockett Sheriff Hassan (Rahul Kohli) and his son Ali (Rahul Abburi) present a burgeoning problem to the plans of Father Paul and his shadowy companion, for they are both practicing Muslims. The practical side of investigating these so-called ‘miracles’ and strange happenings falls on Hassan’s shoulders, as he already struggles with barely-concealed racism and suspicion from his fellow islanders, and of course his son is being wooed away from him by the promise of actual, tangible miracles, but from a different whole faith and God. Father Paul definitely does not practice a traditional Christian faith and relies far too much on making use of the eucharist, the ceremony of the blood and flesh of Jesus Christ turning into bread and wine and, well, consumed.
Wade (Michael Trucco) and his wife Dolly (Crystal Balint) are lifers of the island and both in general interested in one thing, the advancement of their own family, specifically their daughter Leeza (Annarah Cymone), who happens to be in a wheelchair. And that happens to be the canny Father Paul’s first real miracle-with-a-cost that he demonstrates to the astonishment of the parishioners, after a heartfelt and rousing sermon, Father Paul commands Leeza to rise, to stand, and to walk. And lo, she does. What parents wouldn’t wholly dedicate themselves to a cause after seeing this happen to their beloved precious daughter? The fringe benefits of healing, and power, the ones that come at a mighty, currently unnamed, cost, are simply a nice bonus.
Joe Collie (Robert Longstreet) is the town drunk, and while his reasons for drowning his sorrows in the sauce might be understandable, absolution wears a very different face when it comes from Father Paul. While Leeza might be willing to forgive Joe, and even as Joe begins attending the newly-formed Al-Anon meetings on the island of course hosted by Father Paul, redemption might’ve been better sought from medical professionals, and not this newfound method of religious worship.
Dr. Sarah Gunning (Annabeth Gish) is the islands’ kind of all-around medic, and this is how she and Riley’s old friend Erin (Kate Siegel), also newly returned to the island, a few months pregnant but traveling quietly alone, met when Erin comes to the Doc for obstetrics. Sarah’s older mother Mildred Gunning (Alexandra Essoe) has many medical and mental issues, and Sarah struggles in their shared home, to take care of her addled mom and balance her own life. Then Father Paul takes it upon himself to visit one of his oldest parishioners, bringing the sacred host and wine with him to give directly to Mildred, who starts looking and acting so much better under his loving care.
The show is very much a slow slow burn, with a lot of the actual action taking place in the last two episodes. Much of the beginning and middle episodes feature two people just sitting alone, having quiet and seriously in-depth conversations about heavy subjects – grief and repentance, what happens when we die, the disasters that come as a result of addictions, how our actions’ consequences reverberate to those we love around us, faith and the foibles of man, and of course, the giving of oneself over to a higher power, for strength, and guidance, and love.
Except, for the higher power that Father Paul brought back with him, to share with his beloved flock of Crockett Island, while it may be extremely powerful and full of what could be considered miraculous magic, everything comes at some kind of a cost. And when the Messenger of God is finally revealed to the shocked denizens of Crockett at Easter Mass, with Father Paul rapturing on about rebirth as the bloody massacre begins in earnest, it’s faith, not in any kind of God or religion, but faith in each other, that may save a few hardy souls.
Question the wisdom of your religious leaders along with the rest of us in a fine slow-burn addition to the Flanaverse, Midnight Mass is on Netflix now!
Saw X: It ain’t brain surgery!
Legendary executioner Jigsaw returns to exact revenge on a cadre of scam artists who promised him a bogus cure for his cancer!
First off, be aware, that this is what I call an interleaved sequel, a movie set between previous films in the franchise. In this case, Saw X occurs after the events of the very first Saw film, and before Saw II. Everybody got where we are? Good! Into the madness, we dive!
So, as we all know, John Kramer’s been diagnosed with cancer, very aggressive brain cancer, and likely doesn’t have much time left. And he’s tried everything under the sun, doing a ton of meticulous research, we’d expect nothing less from our master of the art of murder, and not one thing has worked. Yet one man from the support group for cancer sufferers, Henry (Michael Beach), offers an off-the-books supposed miracle cure, and John jumps at the chance.
Why does this nonsense always sound too good to be true? Because it is. Deleted scenes from the first Deadpool movie already told us why traveling to Mexico for any kind of medical cure is a sublimely stupid move, but Kramer is desperate. And while he might be sick and dying, John Kramer has never been what anyone could call stupid. So the villa out in the Mexican countryside, the affable cab driver Diego (Joshua Okamoto) professes surprise at Kramer being highjacked for his good, the nervous muttering from assistant Valentina (Paulette Hernandez), the side-eyeing from little housekeep Gabriela (Renata Vaca) and her tequila, and most especially the smooth and smarming reassurances of head “doctor” Cecilia Pederson (Synnove Macody Lund), all leave a kind of sour taste in John’s mouth.
The whole cluex4 scene is done in the style that the Saw films are known for, where we the audience are treated to cut-together explanatory scenes in a flip-flash fashion of usually about two minutes, for poor John when he realizes he’s been hoodwinked and just how badly, seems a little contrived. But then it’s entirely possible that we the audience truly expected our genius mastermind of the infamous Jigsaw murders to have realized what was happening sooner, and got enraged along with Kramer. And cheered as he prepared to take his bloody and ultra-violent revenge!
First up in our grand guignol of executions is the return of Jigsaw’s first protégé, Amanda (Shawnee Smith). And despite her avowed reverence for Jigsaw and his proven “therapy”, Amanda does waver a bit when the scammers are put through the paces of their specially-made Saw traps, and they shriek and blubber and bleed out. The appearance of the ringer of the bunch, Parker (Steven Brand), doesn’t even slow our beloved engineer of the damned down, because we knew Jigsaw would have his other apprentice waiting just off stage, the deliciously vicious Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). Even the monkeywrench of involving little-boy soccer fan Carlos (Jorge Briseno) in the traps, is just another cog in the machine that is the brilliantly plotting mind of John Kramer.
A fine addition to the Saw legends, showcasing a return to the beloved style and panache of the original Tobin Bell-starring Jigsaw films, Saw X is splashing gore and gallons of blood in theaters now!
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off,” Netflix’s latest series, is a rollicking journey through the world of video game culture, blending nostalgic references with a fresh narrative twist. Centered around Scott Pilgrim, portrayed with magnetic charisma by Michael Cera, the show skillfully integrates gaming elements into its storytelling, creating a delightful homage to the video game subculture.
The series cleverly employs pixelated graphics, power-up animations, and game-like sound effects to bring the virtual world to life. These visual cues, reminiscent of classic video games, enhance the storytelling and resonate with audiences familiar with the gaming landscape. The attention to detail in recreating iconic gaming moments is commendable, creating a visual and auditory treat for enthusiasts.
The exploration of video game culture goes beyond mere aesthetics; it becomes an integral part of the characters’ identities and interactions. The script intelligently weaves gaming terminology and tropes into the dialogue, effectively blending the real and virtual worlds. The series navigates the challenges and triumphs of the characters through the lens of gaming, making it a unique and engaging experience for both gamers and general audiences.
The ensemble cast, including standout performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, and Chris Evans embraces the gaming theme with infectious enthusiasm. The chemistry between the characters is palpable, adding emotional depth to the series.
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” successfully taps into the zeitgeist of video game culture, offering a nostalgic yet contemporary take on the gaming phenomenon. It’s a must-watch for those who cherish the pixelated roots of the gaming world while providing an accessible and entertaining narrative for a broader audience. The series takes off not only in its title but also in its ability to soar within the ever-expanding realm of Netflix originals.