Movie Review: Death Note (2017)

(Ho-wdy, Ho-rror Ho-mies…Apologies for dropping the ball a bit around here for the last little bit. I had some personal matters to attend to, butt now I’m back in action and ready to make the spookening happen. 🙂 First up, a review of something near and dear to my cold, black heart…Death Note. This take on the new NetfliXXX adaptation presented by Mr. Anton Phibes…Thanks for the interesting input, Kinky Kolleague! 🙂 xoxo)

It’s a tired cliche to say that the pen is mightier than the sword, but that old chestnut is given new gravity in Adam Wingard’s Death Note, an American incarnation of the popular Japanese franchise. In the film, a few strokes of a pen etched within a most peculiar notebook are all it takes to kill anyone at anytime. Imbued with the abilities of a literal death god, the titular “Death Note” is the murder weapon to end all murder weapons: elegant, efficient, and damn-near impossible to trace. The notebook’s current owner uses its awesome power to purge the world of those he deems evil, resulting in an epic battle of wits between the wielder of the book and those who seek to stop him.

Since 2003, Death Note has been adapted many times over. Starting with the anime adaptation of the original manga, each interpretation retains the primary characters and certain scenes, but always tells its own version of the tale, with new twists and wrinkles. However, despite the many variations on the same story, it seems most adapters agree that the material is simply too much to tell one outing. The manga spawned 12 volumes, the anime series has 37 episodes, the Japanese live-action films gave its take in two films, and the live-action mini-series had 11 episodes. Regardless of the changes made, Death Note is still a massive story.
And that is where the problems begin. A story as sprawling as Death Note shouldn’t be confined to a little over 90 mins.  The picture feels rushed and overloaded, losing much of the power previous tellings had. What’s worse is that precious screen time is spent on paltry teen drama that exists in no other version. Instead of building up the rivalry between the murderous Light and the detective L that’s so central to the franchise, it places emphasis on a boring girlfriend character who would not be out of place in a Disney Channel movie. Much of the suspense is replaced with teen angst, questions on the nature of justice are tossed out for bland romance,  and the Light depicted here is more of an awkward teenager than a diabolical vigilante. The entire affair has the unfortunate quality of feeling like a man in an iron maiden: cramped and bloodless.

Despite these considerable flaws, I actually did find quite a bit to love here. Adam Wingard’s direction is superbly stylishly, with extraordinary color usage, some fun death scenes, and some truly moody moments. Light’s character is significantly neutered compared to previous takes, but Nate Wolff does an admirable job as this version of the character.  The other performances range from pretty good to downright excellent, with Lakeith Stanfield’s L and Willem Dafoe as the death god Ryuk emerging on top. Speaking of Ryuk, the effects used to bring him to life(?) are simply marvelous, giving him a Satanic grace and a perfectly demonic appearance.

Death Note is likely to disappoint fans of the source material, but may be of interest to those who love teen horror. There are moments that evoke the black magic of the franchise, but it’s best taken as on its own.  Wingard’s film is deeply flawed, but not without flashes of greatness. Perhaps if he makes that rumored sequel, Wingard will deliver a film that lives up to the both his own potential and that of the material. There’s still time to make us see the Light.

Goon Review: To Live and Die in L.A.

(First official movie review of the New Year…complete with a hearty helping of #DafoeDong to get this 2017 party started off on a bitchin’ start! Big thanks to Mr. Andrew Peters for giving me more-than-ample reason to delve deep into my Dafoe Fantasies… 😉 xoxo)

If any genre has had its cliches more abused than the horror genre, it’s the action genre. That might be mostly due to the fact that most films, especially now, don’t use just one cliche. They use them all. Now, stop me if you’ve heard this one… a cop is killed by his nemesis that he was tracking down, so the cop’s rogue, doesn’t-play-by-the-rules partner is after the old nemesis with his new play-by-the-books partner and they will do whatever it takes to bring that scumbag down which they do by getting into fights with the chief and getting thrown off the case. Sounds like every buddy cop movie ever, right? Of course it does, but have you ever wondered where it all started? Now, I don’t know for sure if this is exactly where it started, but it’s the first movie I think did all those things correctly and that would be 1985’s To Live and Die in L.A. directed by William Friedkin, who also directed The Exorcist. The guy made one of the scariest movies of all time, so now he’s gonna try to make one of the best action/cop/dramas of all time.

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Keeping that in mind, it’s not shot like a conventional movie or what you would expect someone like William Friedkin to direct, who did in such a way that makes the film falsely appear to be amateurish. There are almost no insert shots throughout the film, maybe a few or whenever a character is talking, the camera is focused on the person that they are talking to rather than whoever is talking. Not all the time, but most of the time and it adds something to the film. Not only do you pick up on the reactions of the character being spoken to, but this faux inexperienced filmmaker style adds to the raw grittiness the film punches into your face and – this part is just a hunch on my behalf – the inexperience of one of the characters and also how hazardly the main character may be viewing things as he spins out of control. Friedkin also had an amazing cast to help back up his incredible script, with the likes of William Peterson, John Pankow and Willem Dafoe in your leads, but you also had talents like John Turturro, Debra Feuer, Dean Stockwell, Robert Downey Sr. and Michael Greene in your supporting to cast to help flesh out this seedy version of L.A. I know it sounds ridiculous, L.A. being seedy? This must be a movie…

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William Peterson – best known to some of you as Gil Grissom in CSI – plays the out of control, doesn’t play by the rules secret service man in question, Richard Chance. His performance is very arrogant and brash, but he’s full of anger as master counterfeiter and art weirdo Rick Masters (played by the always creepy Willem Dafoe) just offed his partner Jimmy Hart, who only had two more days until he was retired! Talk about bad luck and being at the wrong place at the wrong time as Jimmy is shot in the face with a shotgun and thrown in a dumpster. Jimmy was Chance’s amigo and Chance will do whatever it takes to nail Rick Masters by the balls, however this proves to be a little more difficult as his new partner, John Vukovich, does play by the rules. Oh man, can you believe it? Two guys, one’s a rebel with a leather jacket and the other one wears slacks and does it by the book. What are the odds? Of course, this doesn’t stop Chance from pushing his Vukovich further and further to the edge, since he knows his new partner won’t rat him out. Kinda feels like he’s using him.

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You could argue that he is, since Chance seems selfish and doesn’t seem to care about anyone or anything other than what he wants, I mean, he still uses his old informant Ruth for dirt and sex… and dirty sex and if she doesn’t, why, he’ll just have her sent back to jail. This is your good guy, ladies and gentlemen. The only thing making him one is a badge. Chance and Vukovich track down any lead they can to get close to Masters, like tackling Masters’ mule Carl Cody (John Turturro before he disgraced himself by constantly being in Adam Sandler flicks), but even he won’t talk. This doesn’t stop Masters from trying to have Cody killed in prison, worried that he may snitch. Masters even has to waste people he feels are trying to screw him over, so although he comes off as a calm, cool dude, he’s pretty vicious and not someone you would want to double cross.

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Eventually Chance and Vukovich go undercover to get close to Masters and they need him to print money to catch him red handed, but in order to do so, they’re gonna need some front money. Too bad the Secret Service are a bunch of tightwads, because now the two need to find another means. Ruth lets it slip that someone is coming in from Hong Kong with $50,000 to buy some diamonds, so that gives Chance the idea to rob the poor sucker, even if Vukovich is kicking and screaming about it the whole time. Wouldn’t you know it, things go wrong and the two agents, who are trying not to get busted illegally robbing someone, find themselves in a really intense and chest gripping car chase, but who are these guys and where did they come from? It’s a quickly revealed little twist, but it’s to show you how far Chance has really fallen and his partner needs to decide if he should roll over on him or keep going along with his plans to get Masters and the are close. Real close, but things are about to get really ugly in one of the most shocking, holy-shit-I didn’t-see-that-coming ending of possibly all time.

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William Peterson as Richard Chance is one of my favorite performances of all time. Even though he can be over the top, he’s completely relatable. We all know that guy who acts like a total hotshot. He’s kind of an asshole, but you can sense that he cares and does have a heart, but it’s broken when his partner is killed and he’s going about it the only way he knows will work since he believes the law is broken. He knows the only way to catch someone like Rick Masters is to play at his level, even if it means bringing his honest partner down to their level. Speaking of, John Pankow’s supporting role as John Vukovich is frighteningly realistic. He’s more than worried that they will get caught, he’s panicked about it in such a realistic fashion, especially during the car chase when he’s laughing from nerves that they escaped, to almost crying in panic when he’s almost shot, to nearly getting sick when he’s realizing what they had just done. This car chase, by the way, is in my top three car chases of all time. It goes on for several minutes and never becomes dull or never lets up on the intensity. William Friedkin had previously directed The French Connection which also featured a balls out car chase and I believe he may have outdone himself here. To tie together this wonderfully directed and incredibly stylized film is the soundtrack. Gotta talk about the soundtrack by freaking Wang Chung. Yeah, I know, I was shocked too. You’ll be absolutely floored by how perfect Wang Chung captures the mood and style of the film and accompanies it perfectly. I love this soundtrack so much, I had to track it down on vinyl.

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To Live and Die in L.A. is more than just a bundle of cliches that are thrown together really well, mind you. The film itself is masterfully directed by William Friedkin, performed to a perfection by the actors, not to mention it’s completely ‘80s stylish and cool, dripping with mood and style as well as well as a really interesting story. Shout Factory has released the film on Blu-ray under their recently new Shout Select brand and has given it a 4K scan from the original negative supervised by Friedkin himself and gave it some new features as well, including featurettes that look at the stunts, the score and interviews with the cast and crew. There’s also some pre-existing extras, like an audio commentary with the director, an intensive making of featurette and a deleted scene along with the dreaded alternate ending that almost was. There’s a lot here to give you your money’s worth, but me the movie is worth the price alone. To Live and Die in L.A. is one of the best movies of the ‘80s that still holds up today and none of the imitators today can even come close to representing the time period and events that this film does.

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I didn’t want to talk about every little part of the film, because not only would that take forever (as there is a lot going on, but it never feel convoluted), but because it would spoil it. I know it seems silly worrying about spoiling a movie that’s over thirty years old, but I love this movie so much, I want people to go out and experience it and feel the way I did when they first watch it. The characters are so sympathetic, even the bad ones, it makes them relatable and the look is something that feels it’s right out of a Michael Mann production with some killer music to boot. To Live and Die in L.A. is not a cliched movie, but I can see how people nowadays would see it as one, but look past those and watch this movie.

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Ho-stess’s PS– Willem Dafoe is fucking hot. #ThatIsAll 😉 xoxo
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#MasturbationMonday: The “Sex with Someone I Love” Edition

Happy Ho-rrorday, Ho-mies!! (Well, to some of my Ho-rror Ho-mies, at least… :)) Whether you’re off work today or not, I figured we could all use a moment to *ahem* “unwind”, so I (with the help of Eric, my konsistently kinky komrade), I presenteth thee with a lil’ #MondayMotivation… ;)) Happy Labor Day (some) Ho-mies!! 🙂 xoxo

#MasturbationMonday: The “Sex with Someone I Love” Edition , Part 1 of 2 (or 3 ;))

Madonna in Body of Evidence (1993)

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(Ho-stess’s Fun Fact: There was about about a three year window in my early teens when I thought Willem Dafoe was THE hottest guy on the planet, so this movie made me very, VERY happy… #ifyouknowwhatimean ;))

Kimberly Kane in Alice (2010)

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Monique Parent in Carnal Cravings (2006)

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Misty Stone in Men in Black XXX: A Hardcore Parody (2012)

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Jennifer Jason Leigh in Single White Female (1992)

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Ho-stess’s PS– We gotz to rep the dudez here, too, so here’s quite possibly THE Ho-ttest masturbatory scene in all of cinema. 😉 xoxo