A Better Man

When David Zaragoza, a recovering alcoholic, fails to convince those he hurt in his past life that his attempts to become a better man are sincere, he finds himself at the mercy of both his personal demons and a strange woman with an even stranger scar.


This screenplay is currently in-progress. Follow me on Twitter to stay up-to-date as the project develops.

Read the original rough draft/treatment of here.


Fight the Dawn is (currently) an unofficial series of short films written live on Twitch. If you would like to help bring this screenplay to life, please consider becoming a patron.


FADE IN

NOTE: The opening sequence set at location “HOUSE” is initially presented in the style of a 1950s, three-camera sitcom--black and white, “stage” acting, canned laughter.

EXT. HOUSE – DAY

A beautiful little house with a white picket fence in a beautiful little suburb. The lawn is pristine. The rose bushes lining the property award-winning. It’s all like something out of “Leave it to Beaver.”

INT. HOUSE/LIVING ROOM – DAY

The inside is as immaculate as the exterior. The decor simple, warm and inviting. It’s as if it were designed with a TV audience in mind.

A man dressed in a tailored three-piece suit and fedora enters. This is DAVID ZARAGOZA, man of the house.

DAVID

Honey, I’m home!

CHERYL, David’s wife, appears from the kitchen. She looks like Mrs. June Cleaver in her lovely little house dress with apron combo. She’s the sweetest little house wife ever. Almost too perfect to be real.

CHERYL

Welcome home, Dear!

She greets him with an embrace and a kiss. And then, she pulls away. She’s just realized something.

CHERYL (CONT’D)

Oh, but you’re so early! Did something happen at the office?

David laughs playfully at this.

DAVID

No, I just missed you is all.

She smiles and kisses him a second time. This is the sweetest thing she’s ever heard.

CHERYL

Oh, David, I’ve missed you too.

DAVID

(sniffing at the air)

Something smells wonderful.

CHERYL

That would be dinner.

(pouting)

But it won’t be ready for at least another hour. I’m sorry, Dear.

He rubs and pats his own belly.

DAVID

I’m sure I can manage the wait.

Cheryl smiles at this.

CHERYL

You must be exhausted. Let’s get you nice and comfortable.

She helps David get comfortable. She takes his hat, coat, and briefcase before guiding him to his favorite chair. David pretends to not find any of this appealing.

CHERYL (CONT’D)

Now, you wait right there.

She quickly disappears into the kitchen only to reappear just as quickly. She now has a beer in one hand and a newspaper in the other.

David takes these without thinking.

DAVID

Thank you, Honey.

NOTE: For the remaining duration of the sequence, things take on the style of American horror movies of the 1930s.

And then...

David trembles at the mere sight of the beer in his hand. His breath shortens. He sweats bullets. He’s terrified of the beer can in his hand, but he has no earthly idea why.

Cheryl is nowhere near as concerned as David.

CHERYL

David? David-dear, are you all right?

David doesn’t hear this. He’s a million miles away right now.

CHERYL

I didn’t buy the wrong brand again, did I?

And then, he snaps out of his daze.

DAVID

No. No, I, uh...just--

He stops, looks at Cheryl, sees the disappointment in her eyes, and then thinks better of it.

DAVID (CONT’D)

It’s perfect, Honey. Thank you.

She relaxes and smiles.

CHERYL

Oh, thank goodness.

She kisses him once more.

CHERYL

Now, you relax and enjoy yourself. I’ll be right back. I’ve got to run to the neighbors and borrow a few things.

She turns to leave.

DAVID

Cheryl?

She stops and turns to David.

CHERYL

Yes, Dear?

DAVID

I love you.

She smiles a big smile at this sweet husband of hers.

CHERYL

I love you too.

And then, she leaves.

David looks longingly at the beer.

The BEER looks back.

And then...

David opens the beer, and drinks.

A pleasant silence.

And then...

David TRANSFORMS into something inhuman. The change is painful and violent. His body twists and turns, bends and snaps its new monstrous form. His SCREAMS fill the house.

Cheryl returns. She’s clearly heard David’s screams.

CHERYL

David? Dear, is everything all right?

She reaches for her husband.

A horrifying BEAST-MAN snaps around and SNARLS and DROOLS.

Cheryl YELPS in fear. And then, she’s utterly consumed by silent, abject horror.

The Beast-Man, covered in the tattered remnants of a three-piece suit, rises to its feet. It stares at and looms over Cheryl like an angry bear or gorilla.

A silence.

CHERYL

David?

And then...

The Beast-Man strikes.

EXT. HOUSE – DAY

Cheryl’s screams echo up and down the street and all across the suburb.

INT. HOUSE/LIVING ROOM – DAY

The house is silent and dark.

Blood stains the walls, broken furniture, and everything in-between.

Cheryl’s tattered remains rest at the feet of the Beast-Man.

The Beast-Man stands victorious over his prey. He huffs and puffs through gore-clogged teeth. His claws drip with goo. Large, dead eyes stare off into the abyss.

RANDY (V.O.)

David?

INT. MEETING ROOM – DAY

A group therapy session in some small backroom. Modern Day. The really-real world.

THE GROUP

A collection of characters, big and small, men and women and other. They sit in an intimate circle. And all eyes are on

DAVID

No suit, hat, or jacket. Just a modern day mess of a man. He sits silently in his chair. His mind is somewhere else.

RANDY (O.S.)

Earth to David.

David snaps out of his daze. He looks up and across to

RANDY

a middle-aged hippie with a heart of gold and eyes that have seen some serious shit in his younger days.

RANDY

You still with us, amigo?

DAVID

Yeah. Yeah, sorry.

RANDY

Cool. Okay.

(beat)

Thank you for sharing with us, David. I know that couldn’t have been easy.

An uncomfortable silence.

RANDY

So, how about a break?

EXT. PARKING LOT – DAY

The Group is scattered about the lot. They talk and smoke and play on their phones.

David stands alone, holding something up to the light.

A COIN

A six-month sobriety chip. It shines in the light.

David’s not very impressed.

RANDY (O.S.)

You should be proud of yourself.

David turns to

RANDY

The old hippie stands beside David, puffing away on a vape pen. It’s as if he appeared out of thin air.

RANDY (CONT’D)

I know six months might not seem like much. But change is fuckin’ hard, man. For some of us, it’s damn near impossible. That right there...

He gestures to the COIN in David’s hand.

RANDY (CONT’D)

That’s proof you’re up to the challenge.

David laughs at this.

DAVID

Doesn’t really feel like it. I’ve hurt a lot of people, Randy.

Randy processes this.

RANDY

Yeah. Yeah, maybe you did. But you ain’t some monster. If you were, I don’t think you’d be here worrying so much about it. Those dreams of yours? That’s just all the guilt and regret and pain and doubt trying to drag you down. Don’t get me wrong--those feelings are really real. But you ain’t a monster unless you let yourself be one.

DAVID

What if other people still see me like that? The people I hurt.

RANDY

Then maybe it’s time you show them something different.

David and Randy share a moment there in the chaos of the parking lot.

DAVID

Thanks, Randy.

RANDY

No problemo, amigo. No problemo at all.

EXT. TOWN – DAY

A bustling little college town. Traveling into and through it is like a trip back in time. The main street is lined with small dress and antique and coffee shops. At the center of it all is the town square where old couples sit on benches and watch the children play.

David makes his way through this on foot. He comes to a stop at

A BAR

A small, local dive. The music and merriment and chaos pours out into the street from its always-open front doors.

DAVID

stands outside the bar’s doors. He watches as people enter and leave. The sounds of the bar call to him like a siren song.

DAVID’S HAND

nervously fidgets with the COIN.

David takes a deep breath, holds it, and then enters the bar.

INT. BAR – NIGHT

A “hipster-chic“ version of an old-town college dive joint with a luxurious speakeasy vibe.

David makes a beeline for

THE BAR

A bartender keeps himself busy with small tasks. This is MILES WARREN, and he’s not happy to see David.

MILES

Didn’t think we’d be seeing much of you anymore.

David saddles up.

DAVID

What can I say? I’m a man who defies expectations.

David sets the COIN on the bar.

MILES

The shit is this?

DAVID

Defying expectations.

Miles takes the CHIP and inspects it.

MILES

You’re on the fuckin’ wagon?

DAVID

That’s right.

Miles sets the COIN back down with authority, sliding it back across to David.

MILES

I’m happy for you, David. Really, I am. But you’ve got to leave before Cheryl catches you in here.

David returns the COIN to his pocket.

DAVID

Well, I hope she does. I wanted to talk with her too.

MILES

No. No chance.

DAVID

I’m just asking for five minutes.

MILES

That right? Cuz I sorta remember the last time you two “talked” ended with one of you needing stitches and the other dragged away in cuffs.

David winces. He doesn’t notice he’s rubbing at his own wrists at the thought of this.

DAVID

Yeah, that’s the way I remember it too.

MILES

Do you? Good. Then get to steppin’ before you’re escorted out.

(beat)

Besides, you know the rules. This place is for customers only. No loitering.

DAVID

Yeah, so gimme something.

MILES

Seriously? What about all this shit just now about defying expectations?

DAVID

I’m not askin’ for a fuckin’ beer, Miles. Okay? Just gimme something without a lot of sugar.

An uncomfortable silence.

MILES

Fuck off. I have real customers.

Miles turns to leave.

David pulls a slip of paper from his pocket and tosses it on the bar.

DAVID

Check that out.

Miles ignores this, pours several drinks, turns to David, eyes the slip of paper, and then reads it.

MILES

My name’s on here. The shit is this?

DAVID

That, my friend, is a list of everyone I have ever hurt with my drinking.

MILES

And?

DAVID

(reciting from memory)

“Step 9: Make direct amends to such people wherever possible.”

MILES

David...

DAVID

Five minutes. That’s all I’m asking for.

MILES

And if she don’t want to see you?

DAVID

Then, I’ll fuck off--peacefully, quietly. You’ll never see me here again. But if she does? Then I can at least try to do right by her.

Another silence.

Miles returns to the list to David.

MILES

One drink. Five minutes.

DAVID

Deal.

MILES

Cheryl’s on her lunch. I’ll let her know you’re here when she gets back in.

DAVID

Thanks, Miles. And I swear, you don’t have anything to worry about.

MILES

Yeah, it ain’t me I’m worried about.

Miles walks off.

David eyes the crowd and plays it cool. He watches the other patrons talk and laugh and cheer on their favorite team on the TV.

And then...

His attention seizes on the drinks in their hands, and then to the assorted bottles behind the bar.

The bottles stare right back.

David fishes the COIN from his pocket again and clutches at it like a rosary.

EXT. BAR/PATIO – NIGHT

A CROWD OF BAR PATRONS gather and huddle close, drawn to the warmth of the deck torches. Cigarettes in one hand, drinks in the other. The flames dance and flicker on the stainless steel, washing everything in a soft glow.

TARZAN, an alpha male-type dressed in khakis and a polo shirt two sizes too small, approaches JANE, a pretty young thing.

Tarzan not so good with words. Tarzan let muscles speak for him.

Jane likes what Tarzan’s muscles have to say. She feels the veiny masses that are Tarzan’s arms and laughs in that way young ladies are want to do when they’re trying to flatter young men.

DAVID

watches this from a distant table as he nurses a can of Red Bull. His attention split between Tarzan, Jane, and the bar’s PATIO DOOR.

And then...

Jane YELPS.

Tarzan stands there with his meaty paw wrapped around Jane’s willowy arm. Jane desperately tries to free herself. And everyone but David seems to be doing their damnedest to ignore this.

JANE

Step-off, will ya? Jesus, just step the fuck off!

TARZAN

Cut the bullshit. Flaunting your tits like that, feeling up my guns the way you are? There’s no need to be such a fucking tease.

CHERYL (O.S.)

Look familiar?

David turns to find a stunning but exhausted woman beside him. This is the real CHERYL, a woman who embodies the old adage, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.”

Cheryl seats herself. Close, but only close enough.

DAVID

Was I really that bad?

CHERYL

Not always.

DAVID

But often enough.

CHERYL

We all have our demons.

DAVID

Yeah? And what was yours?

CHERYL

What can I say? I liked the bad boys.

(wistfully)

Something about the way a man just took whatever he wanted from me...

(back to reality)

Stupid me, though. Took a few visits to the ER to learn when enough was enough.

DAVID

Cheryl--

CHERYL

That’s my name. So, what’s your game? Miles says you’ve found Jesus, or some shit. You want to make it right between me, you, and the Lord. That about it?

David nods.

DAVID

Yeah, something like that.

CHERYL

You moving back to town?

DAVID

No. Got myself a room at The Castaway Inn. But only for one night. Just long enough to talk about us.

CHERYL

Okay, us--you and me? That’s long over with. Let’s make that very clear right now.

CHERYL

Look, I’m going to be straight with you. Maybe God and Jesus forgive you, but I don’t think I can. Maybe that’s a little fucked up, or whatever. I dunno. It’s not like I want to feel this way. I just do.

DAVID

Cheryl, you have every right to hate me.

CHERYL

I don’t hate you, David. Not anymore.

She sighs.

CHERYL (CONT’D)

Look, I had a lot of time to think about you and me and all the messed up shit we did to each other when I was laid up in a hospital bed. Honestly? Between all the booze and pain killers, I don’t remember too much of that night. But I do still kinda remember my sister yelling at me, calling me a stupid piece of pussy for sticking with you for so long. All while the nurse stapled my head shut.

DAVID

I’m sorry.

CHERYL

Me too.

David reaches for her hand. Cheryl reflexively pulls it back, as if burned by fire.

An uncomfortable silence.

DAVID

I know there’s nothing that I can do or say to make up for all the awful shit I’ve done. Not to you, or anyone else. I don’t like the man that I was when I was still drinking. I don’t think I really like the man I am now. Not yet. But I am sorry. And I am trying to be a better man. I guess I just wanted you to know that.

CHERYL

That’s beautiful, David. I mean it. Did you stand in the mirror when you practiced that?

DAVID

Cheryl--

CHERYL

We’re done here, David.

DAVID

Cheryl, please.

CHERYL

That shit might go over a bit better with some of the other people on that little list of yours. But it don’t do much for me. I know you, David. I know it wasn’t the fucking drinking that made you act like such a piece of shit. Okay? That was all you. It always was.

She shows the scar on her head, a pale zig-zag void of hair.

CHERYL (CONT’D)

You see this? You did this, David. The staples, the scar, the cracked rib. It wasn’t the drinking of the drugs. This shit was all you. So, you want to come in here and give me a little speech to help you sleep better at night? That’s fine. I hope you can one of these days. But if you think that you can make things right between us? That ship fucking sailed off into the sunset a very long time ago.

He reaches for her.

DAVID

I didn’t mean--

She swats his hand away. Hard. Loud.

CHERYL

(panicked)

Don’t fucking touch me!

The whole place goes silent. All eyes are on David and Cheryl. Even Tarzan and Jane are left in stunned silence.

CHERYL

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to blow up like that. How’s about I get back to work, and you crawl back to whatever urine-soaked hellhole you came out of, okay?

DAVID

Yeah. Okay.

David stands and walks away, leaving the COIN behind on the table.

CHERYL

Take some fuckin’ responsibility for once, David..

Cheryl watches David hop the patio fence and disappear into the night.

And then...

She looks at the COIN atop the table. She takes it, looks at it, and then sighs a frustrated sigh.

CHERYL

Why do you have to be such an asshole?

She heads back into the bar.

EXT. LIQUOR STORE – NIGHT

A corner liquor store just around the corner from THE BAR.

INT. LIQUOR STORE – NIGHT

A not entirely empty corner store. The CLERK does his best to not look too bored between customers.

David stares at the BEER cooler.

The WALL OF BEER stares back.

And then...

David gets the feeling someone is watching him. He turns to

A WOMAN

stares at David. Her skin is deathly pale. She wears a long jacket and a scarf wrapped tight around her face. Her dark, unkempt hair flows over her.

David stares back, then behind himself, and then back at the Woman.

She’s still there. Still staring.

DAVID

Yeah, okay. Fuck this.

He reaches into the cooler, picks his poison, and then heads for

THE REGISTER

The Clerk rings David up.

David stands there, staring at the BEER.

The BEER stares back.

The CLERK stares at David.

CLERK

Hey, uh, cash, debit, or credit?

David snaps out of it.

DAVID

Yeah. Just, uh--just forget about it.

David walks away, stops, then turns to the Clerk.

DAVID

Oh, you might want to keep an eye on the chick with the scarf back there.

(gesturing)

Back by the cooler.

The Clerk looks BACK THERE.

DAVID (O.S.)

She’s not lookin’ so good.

There’s nobody BACK THERE.

The Clerk looks back to

David is already out the door.

EXT. TOWN -- NIGHT

The town is a sea of bodies and rivers of cars flowing here and there. COUPLES walk arm in arm to and from their favorite restaurants and bars. GROUPS of friends and family flock together.

David walks aimlessly among this, alone, sober, and empty handed. The WOMAN from the LIQUOR STORE lingers close by. Close, but never too close. A shape in David’s peripheral. Always present, but never seen.

EXT. TOWN/OUTSKIRTS

The edge of town, far from the bustling chaos of the shops and bars. Here, the shops are closed. Streets are darker. Traffic is nonexistent.

David walks through the still darkness. The Woman follows close behind.

INTERSECTION

Green lights turn red.

David stops at the corner, and waits.

And then...

A NOISE.

David turns back and sees how absolutely alone he is. Not a soul in sight in every direction.

And then, he turns back to the

INTERSECTION

Red lights turn green. “DON’T WALK” turns to “WALK.”

David steps forward.

And then...

The same NOISE.

David turns to see

THE WOMAN

stands beneath a street light, staring at David. Her body is a twisted, broken mess. Half her face masked in shadow. The other half covered in a CRIMSON MASK, blood running down and dripping from her chin.

An uncomfortable silence.

DAVID

Hey. You need help, or somethin’, Lady?

The Woman says nothing. She only stumbles and shuffles awkwardly toward David.

David takes a step back.

DAVID

Hey. Hey, are you okay?

Again, the Woman says nothing. She only stutter steps and stumbles closer and closer.

David steps back, again and again.

She takes a step, he takes a step back.

David reaches the curb, nearly stumbles off, and catches himself.

The Woman pushes forward.

David stands on the curb like a man on the edge of a cliff, unsure if he should stand his ground or jump.

She gets close. Too close.

And then...

She stops.

David looks at the Woman.

The Woman looks back at him with dead eyes.

WOMAN

Home...

He thinks about this, and then gestures down the way.

DAVID

That way?

And then...

She goes THAT WAY.

Green lights turn red.

The Woman stops at the corner, waiting.

David watches this.

Red lights turn green.

The Woman stutter-steps and stumbles her way across the street and down THAT WAY.

David watches her disappear down THAT WAY.

Green lights turn red.

David stands alone in still silence, waiting.

Red lights turn green.

David steps forward into the intersection.

SHRIEKING. Distant, but growing closer way too fast.

David stops dead in his tracks and turns to

THE WOMAN

is coming right for him. A shape in the distance getting closer and closer. A walk turns into a sprint. The sprint turns into an animal-like dash.

David can’t even process what he’s seeing.

And then, the Woman leaps through the INTERSECTION and pounces on David.

And then...

A BUS pulls up. It’s doors open with a WHOOSH. The BUS DRIVER, a hefty man too old for this shit, looks out at

DAVID AND THE WOMAN

The two are wrapped around each other, on top of one another. Are they drunk and at each other’s throats, or in desperate need of a room?

DRIVER

Getting on?

David looks at the Bus Driver, then to the Woman, and then back to the Bus Driver.

DAVID

No. Just catching our breath. Thanks, though.

A silence.

And then...

The Bus Driver closes the doors and rolls out.

David watches the Bus disappear down the road.

WOMAN

(muttering)

Beautiful...

DAVID

I bet you say that to all the boys.

He tries to move, but can’t. She’s got him pinned down. And she’s dead weight.

DAVID

Shit. Sorry. Okay, I can’t--hold up a sec.

David struggles free. He helps the Woman up and over to a

BUS STOP BENCH

They sit together. She struggles to stay upright. He holds her up and in place.

DAVID

A’ight. So what were you saying?

She mutters again.

DAVID

You gotta speak up, lady. I don’t hear too good anymore on account of my tinnitus. Too many late nights at the bars standing by the jukebox. Ya feel me?

The Woman goes limps.

DAVID

Jesus--!

David catches her and holds her upright.

She looks up to him. Her dark hair and scarf obscure everything but her eyes.

WOMAN

(clearer)

Beautiful.

He pretends to take in the night sky.

DAVID

It is a nice night, ain’t it?

David turns back to the Woman.

The Woman’s clothes are fashionable but stained. Her skin is covered in thick scars. She bleeds from a nasty-looking wound along her hairline.

DAVID

So, uh, I’d love to soak up the ambiance a little more--really, I would. But I--

She touches his face with an outreached hand. He instantly goes calm.

They share a moment.

And then...

The Woman lurches forward and vomits.

DAVID

Fucking--you’re pretty fucked up, aren’t you, Lady?

The Woman looks up at David. Fresh vomit and drool runs thick down and through her scarf. Chunks of something are caught in her hair.

WOMAN

Am I beautiful?

David looks at the hot mess in front of him.

DAVID

Yeah, sure.

He helps her upright again.

DAVID (CONT’D)

So you got yourself a name, beautiful?

A drunken beat.

WOMAN

Tien.

David processes everything. And then...

DAVID

Can I buy you a drink, Tien?

TO BE CONTINUED...

Bright

Bright is a strange movie in that it presents a great basic concept but has absolutely no interest in presenting any of its ideas or themes in a convincing manner. It’s a deadly serious movie that constantly trips over itself with terrible attempts at jokes that it thinks are witty. It’s a movie that flashes its racial themes from the very start only to abandon such things almost entirely about halfway through. And despite the ever-present fantasy elements of orcs, faeries, and elves, the movie never really does much with them.

BY-THE-NUMBERS

Directed by David Ayer and based on a screenplay by Max Landis, Bright feels as unoriginal as it is. Because despite the genre mash-up, the movie itself is little more than a by-the-numbers cop drama.

Nick Jakoby, played here by Joel Edgerton, is rookie police officer and a Tolkien-styled Orc treated by humans and elves as nothing more than some poor, violent creature despite his efforts to rise above the stereotypes applied to his entire race for two-thousand years. He’s acclimated to whatever passes for general human culture. He does not act or talk like a stereotypical Orc. He doesn’t even partake in deep-rooted cultural traditions in the hopes of being better accepted by humans. But the police force, including his partner Daryl Ward (Will Smith), want him gone. Not for anything he’s done wrong, of course. Jakoby being an orc is simply bad enough.

But by becoming a cop, he’s also seen as a race-traitor by other Orcs, specifically those who live down to the same generic stereotypes usually associated with black and Latino gangs in Los Angeles

This all eventually leads to a confrontation with some corrupt cops who will do anything to see Jakoby removed from his position on the force, including having his partner kill and frame him for a crime he didn’t commit.

But when Ward puts honor and pride above deep-rooted racism, he finds a target on his own back. And now he and Jakoby must evade capture while also trying to figure a way to clear their names.

There’s also something about a cult, an ancient prophecy, and a magic wand. But none of this really matters or amounts to much outside of two key scenes.

DIM

And this really does summarize everything wrong with Bright: it’s formulaic and uninterested in being interesting.

The first half of the film is all about racism in American society by way of Los Angeles. But then the movie decides it’d rather focus on police corruption by way of cliche 80s action movies. And then, in a few places, it instead becomes about some pointless ancient prophecy and other fantasy nonsense.

In the end, the movie isn’t about anything. There’s no story. The characters are little more than placeholders playing out a generic plot with a fantasy twist. And its serious, weighty themes are just an excuse to provide a thin, pretentious veneer on a shallow cliche with nothing of value to say.

But worst of all, the movie doesn’t care.

At best, the racism simply reinforces old fantasy tropes of Elves being beautiful and good, Orcs ugly and evil, and humans being somewhere in-between. At worst, it’s a lazy plot device. There’s no attempt at commentary or playing with expectations. In fact, Jakoby and his struggle is hardly the focus here. Will Smith is front and center as a racist police officer who reluctantly becomes a little less racist as the movie drags on.

The drama of two police officers struggling to survive in Los Angeles with gangs, a cult, and the entire police department after them lacks any degree of tension. It never feels like our leads are in real danger. Every scene feels like its impatiently trying to rush to the next. And Jakoby and Ward never feel like they’re bonding through any of it.

And the movie’s few action sequences are just as formulaic and unexciting. There’s a bland car chase. A bland shootout at a nightclub. And a couple of brief, bland magical showdowns that exist just to remind us that we’re watching a genre mash-up.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

The movie isn’t hard to watch. And it’s far from the being the worst movie of 2017. It’s not even the worst movie carrying the “Netflix Original” branding this year.

That said, Bright is an underwhelming, disappointing mess of a movie that completely squanders every idea (and dollar) it attempts to juggle. There is no nuance. No subtlety. And despite marketing to the contrary, this is not a blockbuster-caliber experience. In fact, the movie doesn’t even attempt to reach mock-buster levels of spectacle.

I’m sure there will be some misguided audience that will find enjoyment in the fact that this movie exists. But unless you’re desperate for a lazy attempt to blend Training Day with Lord of the Rings, your time will be better spent elsewhere. (Oddly enough, I think it’s worth noting that had Ayer used movies like Lethal Weapon or Beverly Hills Cop as reference rather than more serious fare, Bright might have actually stood a chance. Maybe.)

Bright is easily a NO CHILL.

Ruling the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Now I’m just havin’ fun. Here’s another little stinger for another debut into the #Marvel Cinematic Universe. #Avengers4? #AvengersInfinityWar?


EXT. HELL

Like it says on the tin. Fire. Brimstone. And a large, demonic entity sits atop a throne of damned souls. It swallows the souls by the handful, like they’re candy. This Demon King doesn’t have a care in the world--any world, really. This is MEPHISTO.

It speaks to a SHAPE somewhere OFF-CAMERA.

MEPHISTO

Look, I’m going to shoot straight with you. You’re not the first person to come crying to me about their mommy, okay? And despite what you might have heard, or read, or seen in your stupid little movies--honestly, you guys never do manage to capture my unique charm. It’s always so cartoonish or...whatever it was Pacino was thinking. There’s no nuance. I don’t want your soul. That’s not yours to give. And I’ll have it soon enough anyway. No, I want that one thing--that one small, little thing--that means everything to you. And, well, I already do have your sweet, dear ol’ mother, don’t I? So, I’ll ask this instead. Just one itsy-bitsy thing.

It leans in close, menacingly. And it smiles. However It can possibly smiles, it does that.

MEPHISTO

Kneel.

The Shape speaks. His voice is strong, proud. It echoes across Hell itself.

SHAPE

No.

Mephisto CHOKES. He seriously can’t believe this. This NEVER happens.

MEPHISTO

What? No, this isn’t how it works. Look, it’s very simple. You cry, beg, and kneel. Okay? And then, maybe--just maybe--I will reward your humble offering by giving you back what you wish for most. Got it?

Silence.

And then...

SHAPE

I kneel before none.

Mephisto EXPLODES. His KINGDOM explodes around him.

The Shape stands his ground, unwavering.

MEPHISTO

How dare you?! Who are you to speak to Mephisto with such an insolent tone?

The Shape steps forward. His cloak flaps wildly in the heated winds of Mephisto’s rage. His armor, which covers his body from head-to-toe, glistens in the light of the blazes of Hell. This is no mere man. This is an invading KING. This is VICTOR VON DOOM.

DOOM

So speaks DOOM.

THE END.

Evolving the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Lot of people throwing in their two-cents on the perfect stinger for Avengers 4. Here’s mine.


EXT. PARADISE – DAY

We fade in on a beautiful lake surrounded by wilderness, strange beautiful flora and fauna, small, large, and monstrous. On the land, in the water, in the trees, and flying through the air. This is a SAVAGE LAND.

A little TOADIE of a man grovels at the mercy of...

A MAN

This is his MASTER, bathing in this beautiful paradise.

TOAD

Master.

MASTER

Toad, I’m clearly busy.

TOAD

But...but you asked me to let you know when it was over.

MASTER

And?

TOAD

It’s--it’s over, Sir. The humans are vulnerable without their...

He chokes on his next word. It disgusts him to phrase it in such a way.

TOAD (CONT’D)

...heroes.

Silence. And then...

TOAD

Shall I, uh...shall I gather your finest robe, Sir?

MASTER

That won’t be necessary.

The Master RISES, like a GOD born from the water. His wet, SILVER HAIR shimmers in the sun.

Toad looks on in awe at the majesty of it all.

TOAD

This is it, then. Your moment has finally come, Sir.

MASTER

No.

TOAD

No?

MASTER

This is not my moment, Toad. It never was.

He dries himself by guiding every drop, every molecule away from his bod with a thought. He dresses himself in royal garb with a gesture.

MASTER (CONT’D)

Our people.

A HELMET, simple but with some intrinsic design to it, gently travels through the air with only a thought. It settles atop the Master’s silver hair with ease. It was built just for him.

MASTER (CONT’D)

It has all been for the sake of our people.

Ah, now Toad understands. Sorta.

MASTER (CONT’D)

Every moment. Every hour. All for our people.

His master turns, displayed in full regalia. A leader. A king. MAGNETO is ready for his world debut.

MASTER (CONT’D)

Always.

THE END

The Disaster Artist


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at James Franco’s The Disaster Artist!


The Disaster Artist is a strange movie about some strange people making one of the world’s strangest movies–Tommy Wiseau’s so-bad-it’s-fascinating 2003 feature film, The Room.


A MOVIE ABOUT A MOVIE

At time’s the movie is uncomfortable. Other times it’s laugh-out-loud funny. But, most impressively, The Disaster Artist is consistently a sincere look at two men whose friendship allowed them both to live out their dream of being actors and making a movie that people love.

Based on the book of the same name, The Disaster Artist not only sees James Franco in the director seat but also features him as the perpetually mysterious actor/writer/director Tommy Wiseau. His brother Dave Franco, meanwhile, features as Greg Sestero, the writer of the aforementioned book and Wiseau’s best friend and co-star in The Room.

And while it might be easy to find yourself entertained by just the sheer amount of comedic talent present in the movie–a roster of notable actors that could easily rival that of 2013’s This is the End. While that alone might sell a lot of tickets, the movie’s greatest strength isn’t in the comedy but in the care Franco takes to present a sincere tale about friendship.

A MOVIE ABOUT PEOPLE

Despite being based on true events, Wiseau’s very real, very odd personality can easily be mistaken as a farce. He could have easily been presented as this over-the-top eccentric. And it would have worked just as well. The movie in fact, may have made for a more hilarious, slapstick experience in line with the sort of projects one usually associates with talent like Franco and Seth Rogen.

But this isn’t a movie aimed at having a laugh at Wiseau’s expense. The intentional grounding of everything results in a movie that, while comedic, is equally dramatic and touching.

Franco never makes light of Wiseau’s eccentric personality. At times, the intent is clearly to get audience’s to laugh at Wiseau–such as Wiseau’s super-melodramatic approach to acting. But at the same time, even scenes like this, are an insight into the man’s personality. He never does anything half-assed, or what he at least perceives as such. And, as a result, there are time where you will–by design–feel guilty for having laughed at all.

And as we see throughout the film–through the general playing out of scenes, but primarily through Franco’s eerily on-point portrayal of Wiseau–Wiseau’s behavior is not coming from a place of comedic arrogance and hubris. It’s that of a man who is strange, yes, but fiercely dedicated to his passions.

He loves his new friend Greg, to the point that he invites Greg to live with him the moment Greg earnestly displays his passion for acting. Tommy moves them both to Los Angeles so that they can both live out their dreams. And, ultimately, he doesn’t hesitate to foot the massive bill–rumored to be in excess of $6 million–to produce The Room–a labor of love intended to catapult both their careers.

A MOVIE ABOUT BROTHERS

Logical questions that should arise from watching the movie, such as who Tommy really is and how he can afford such things, are touched upon in the movie just as they were in real life–it simply doesn’t matter.

The mystery of who Tommy Wiseau is or might be isn’t the story here. Instead, it’s about a deep friendship between two very different men. Tommy is a man who is unintentionally abusive and cold when all he ever wants to do is make those around him happy. Greg, meanwhile, is a young man whisked away from home at the young age of 19 who does all he can to mitigate the damage Tommy unintentionally causes around him.

The Disaster Artist, on the surface, is a great comedy about the making of a bad drama. But beyond that, it’s a touching drama about two brothers struggling to live out their dream. One doesn’t need to have seen Wiseau’s The Room to fully appreciate The Disaster Artist, but it certainly helps. And as a companion piece to The Room, it highlights precisely why that movie transcends it’s own numerous shortcomings–shortcomings that would have been a death sentence to any other film and those involved with it.

Funny, heartwarming, introspective, weird, and inspiring. All words that easily describe nearly every frame of this movie as well as the two men at the center of it all.

The Disaster Artist–even more so than the cult favorite movie that inspired it–is a definite CHILL.

And Scene.

The following is a one-scene, two-person play reflecting our current political climate. Enjoy.


INT. FBI HQ/OFFICE – DAY

A tired, annoyed, overworked, and nearly broken AGENT sits at her desk.

Her telephone RINGS.

She sighs, rolls her eyes, and then answers it.

AGENT

Hello, this is Agent--

A VOICE speaks to her on the other line--an all-too familiar one.

VOICE

Yeah, not important. This is Donald J.-- I mean, this is Donnie. Donnie...nevermind.

AGENT

Okay... what’s this about, “Donnie”?

DONNIE

Yeah, I’m calling about the million dollar reward for any evidence that leads to the capture of any Russian colluders. I’ve got evidence. Tons of it. Not that there is any collusion. But if there were--not that there is, but if there were--I’ve got all ya need.

AGENT

Uh, thank you? But we don’t have any sort of reward--

DONNIE

Look, don’t screw with me, Sweet Cheeks. I know stuff. Lots of stuff. You wouldn’t believe the sort of stuff I know. I watch a lot of TV, okay? You guys always have rewards for this sort of thing. I know it. Lots of people know it, okay?

AGENT

Okay...

DONNIE

Okay.

An uncomfortable silence.

AGENT

So...?

DONNIE

What’s that? Oh, right the collusion thing. Yeah, well, I know Michael Flynn lied to the FBI about colluding with Russia.

AGENT

And you know this how?

DONNIE

I was there. Right there. Saw him do it with my own eyes.

AGENT

You saw him do it.

DONNIE

That’s right.

Another silence.

DONNIE (CONT’D)

Hello? Sweetie, are you there?

The Agent is gobsmacked by the sheer stupidity of it all.

DONNIE

(to someone else off the phone)

No. No, I don’t think the line disconnected. She’s probably double-checking on the amount of that reward. Must be a lot. No, I’m telling you, she’s still gotta be on the line.

(beat)

What? Self-incrimi-what-now? No, this is an anonymous tip line.

(beat)

Uh-huh. How are they gonna send me a reward if I didn’t tell them--look, I gave them my first name, of course. I’m not a complete idiot. Okay? Look, I’m the goddamn President of the United--

AGENT

Donnie?

DONNIE

(still to someone else)

See? That’s her right now.

(to Agent)

Yes, Sweetie? You got that sweet, sweet cash from the F.B.I. for good ol’ D.J.T.?

AGENT

Sir, with all due respect, you’re a fucking idiot.

DONNIE

Yeah, I get that a lot. So, what about the money?

THE END.

Justice League (2017)


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at Warner Bros. and DC Comics’ surprisingly fun Justice League!


An ancient evil from beyond the stars has come to Earth to reclaim an ancient cube with the power to reshape and destroy worlds. And the only thing standing in the way of the death and destruction of everything, is a Caped Crusader, a Goddess, an Atlantean, the Fastest Man Alive, and a Cyborg…in Warner Bros. and DC Comics’ Justice League.


Originally helmed by Zack Synder and completed by Joss Whedon, Justice League brings together some of the greatest pop culture icons in modern American history for a movie that is, unfortunately, not very good. On a technical level, on a structural level, on just about every basic, fundamental filmmaking level, Justice League is, at best, subpar.

Visually speaking, the movie is all over the place. The color palette doesn’t match the production in any way, and is likely the result of Whedon’s drastic reshoots and alterations to the work already completed by Synder.

The saturation and brightness levels were clearly adjusted in post-production to move away from Snyder’s usual desatured, dark visuals. And in and of itself, these changes are likely going to be a welcomed change for many. Mature dramatics is one thing to want in a superhero movie. But drab, lifeless worlds and characters with no sense of enjoyment to any of it is a whole other thing.

However, these adjustments make every set, prop, costume, and clearly green-screen backdrops stand out in the worst way possible. The movie never looks like a cohesive, believable production. Ever. It’s always obvious that what we are seeing was done in a studio and on a computer.

In fact, this is only made worse by CGI reminiscent of the work seen in movies from the early 2000s. At times the movie actually dives right to “Scorpion King” levels of bad, as in the CGI monstrosity featured in Universal’s The Mummy 2, which infamously featured a monster that was the fusion Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and a giant scorpion.

And to further compound this visual mess, the compositing work is somehow worse than the CGI itself. The effects never blend seamlessly with physical reality. This ranges from issues like shots of the island of Themyscira looking like it was ripped right out of a decade-old video game to the movie’s CGI baddies–the bug-like Parademons and the big, bad Steppenwolf–interacting less believably with the movie’s flesh-and-blood cast than the toons featured in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

In a world where giant alien robots from the planet Cybertron and a humanoid raccoon and tree can believably stand-by-side with living, breathing people, there is no excuse for this level of bad CGI from a major studio and a massive budget.

MINOR LEAGUE

Of course, none of this even begins to touch upon the issues with everything else.

The plot of Justice League is little more a single thread that rationalizes everything on screen. There’s not much actually happening. Nor does what little we get actually ever mean anything. There’s no story. No heart. No character arcs. No emotional depth or dramatic weight anywhere for anything, even when certain scenes actually demand it.

And given how much material this movie lifts from actual stories featured in the pages of the comics, where such moments and images and stories are actually pulled off with some respective degree of emotional relevance, it’s shocking how hollow everything in Justice League really is.

One of the most glaring example–but certainly not the biggest offender–is when the team finally do overcome Steppenwolf and his army. This moment is a given. This is a Hollywood blockbuster after all. We expect the heroes to win. But in a good movie, that moment would come across as the single greatest thing we’ve ever witnessed…even if only for that singular instant in history.

We feel it when The Nazis die a ghastly death at the end of Raiders of the Lost Arc. We feel it when The Avengers defeat Loki and his own alien army–specifically when Hulk finally gives Loki the beating he deserves.

But we don’t feel that here. There’s a big fight, and that final giant action set piece really is fun if not exceptionally creative or well-presented. But then it just kind of ends. Not unceremoniously. It’s certainly shown in such a way where the movie wants you to feel the same thing you might feel when the Luke blows up the Death Star. But that’s not what it will make you feel.

Instead, it’s just a sign that the movie is about to wrap things up.

Part of this has to do with the way everything is presented visually. It’s just not that exciting to watch. Fun, yes. Entertaining, yes. We get a good sense of everything that’s happening. We get the idea of what’s being given to us. This is a big fight where colorful and stupidly powered cartoon characters are fighting other stupidly powerful cartoon characters. Batman does this. Superman does that. And Wonder Woman is mixed in there too. And then it just sort of ends.

But this isn’t a cartoon. It shouldn’t have to meet the dramatic depth requirements of an old Saturday morning cartoon. It needs to be able to resonate with a general audience. It needs to make use of its massive budget and all the Hollywood magic that it can buy.

And in that same vein, the characters in the very big Hollywood blockbuster shouldn’t speak as if they’ve been pulled out of an old cartoon. Unless it’s one of the movie’s many wonderful small character moments–such as the bizarre, alpha-male bromance between Aquaman and Bruce Wayne of all things–the majority of the dialog is utterly insipid and heavily reliant on exposition.

This exposition, however, is required to explain the simple yet somehow purposely convoluted plot thread. Unlike the one glowing cube in The Avengers, this movie has three glowing cubes. And an unbelievable amount of time is spent on just trying to rationalize the existence of three cubes instead of one.

This means that rather than getting this emotionally powerful moment where Victor Stone confronts his father about his fears of being this inhuman fusion of flesh and alien technology. Rather than getting this, we get the two talking vaguely at each other about the stupid glowing cube. This scene between father and physically and mentally scarred son is instead just about a box. Hide the box. Steal the box. Take the box back.

Because these three Mother Boxes are the central focus of the movie rather than the actual, very straightforward danger that they represent, the movie has to constantly reinforce their existence at all times. This isn’t just a movie about the end of the world. No, it’s a movie about why these three boxes are so important.

A LITTLE FLAT

Now, that all having been said.

It still doesn’t yet begin to cover why the action is about as exciting as the various cartoons featuring these same characters. It doesn’t feel like a comic panel brought to three dimensions. Instead, it feels like it’s being replicated in yet another 2D plane. Again, it’s actually fun to watch. That’s very true. But it never feels like there’s any depth to it. There’s nothing there that you haven’t seen before in some fashion. It’s all paint-by-numbers, generic, uninteresting action by and large. All made worse by bad framing, questionable editing, and lackluster choreography. And that ever-present bad CGI and green screen.

A LEAGUE OF ITS OWN

Now all of that having been said. In spite of all that I’ve previously stated. In spite of all of that, Justice League is shockingly easy to watch. It’s much more often than not–again, almost shockingly so–fun to watch.

The movie was clearly a salvage job. And as bad as the movie is, it clearly could have been much worse. And the clumsy, quick pace doesn’t allow the bad and boring moments to linger. The movie–forced as it may have been–benefits from the hatchet job that resulted in a final cut that’s well-under two hours. The fun stuff is constantly coming at you, making you almost forget entirely about the rest.

More so, the movie is elevated by the performances of its cast. Nobody drops the balls. Everyone is at the top of their game, even when they’re reciting dialog that sounds as if it were written by a middle-school student. As bad as the stuff that comes out of their mouth might sound to the human ear, every actor brings out the best in their respective Leaguer. They live up to the iconic imagery of their characters. And they deserve all the credit in the world for even attempting to make up for the terrible presentation of it all.

A MOVIE OUT OF TIME

Had this exact movie been released 10 or 15 years ago, it would have easily been an impressive, respectable feat.

Unfortunately, Justice League is incredibly late to the party. And it shows. The bar has been raised time and again–not just in superhero movies, but in blockbusters in general. And the movie we get doesn’t hold up in any notable way in 2017.

Making a Justice League movie should not be hard after such things have been done elsewhere better and with none of the issues Warner Bros. has continued to have. It shouldn’t be hard when DC Comics itself has managed to do it very well in animation, especially with projects like Justice League: The New Frontier (a much watch if you’ve been curious how DC should be handling their properties in live-action).

Justice League has more in common with the Transformers film franchise (especially the sequels) than it does anything from Marvel. The look, the immaturity (poorly) masquerading as something mature, the suspect storytelling, the generally bad dialog and character work.

But despite being very stupid, despite being bad on a basic fundamental filmmaking level…Justice League is still fun and entertaining. Not good, but not terrible either.
You certainly won’t feel like you wasted your time by watching it. And, after the shortfalls we’ve seen with Warner and DC’s previous movies, I guess this is a good thing. Justice League, like Wonder Woman–another deeply flawed but watchable movie–is a step in the right direction.

Let’s just hope a competent filmmaker is leading things when the next step is taken.

Surprisingly and happily, I suggest you CHILL with Justice League.

The Measure of a Man

Ya know, Spider-Man will always be the superhero that I feel speaks the best to us as a people. The self-sacrificing hero, idealistic, flawed, guilt-ridden and self-doubting, but always ready and willing to fight the good fight.
 
Superman is a beautiful symbol, but a horrific failure as a character. He’s so perfect that he’s unbearably flawed. He has to be twisted in some fashion or presented in some cynical fashion for people to care.
 
Batman is a childish power fantasy. The one who always wins. The one plagued by the least tragedy, the least faults. He’s the smartest, the richest, the coolest, the darkest, the most varied in his presentation. He’s said to be human, but he’s more a superman than, well, Superman.
 
I think Iron Man, especially more modern interpretations–the movies and the comics, since at least the “Extremis” storyline from about a decade ago–is a more nuanced take on the rich genius dressing up and playing hero. He has an arc. He grows and falters and has to learn from his tragic mistakes and failures. He’s an ideal for how those with true great power–money, influence–must also act responsibly, namely for the betterment of others.
 
But I don’t think any character has been as frequently well-written, well-tested, and well-examined as Daredevil.
 
Matt Murdock isn’t a man haunted and motivated solely by some childhood trauma, though he certainly has plenty of that under his belt. He wasn’t even set on his path to be a hero until he was a grown man in law school. He wasn’t a child sent off into the wild to be a symbol of hope.
 
Instead, Matt Murdock wanted to be a beneficial, caring member of society by becoming a lawyer who helped those in need. He was a man who was once a boy who wanted to grow up to be a real hero, no different than those who grow up wanting to be a cop or a doctor or a firefighter.
 
Oddball powers aside, Matt is, at his core, a blind martial artist who fights all sorts of realistic and superpowered villains in a homemade Halloween costume–literally, as he stitched his costume together from pieces of his father’s old boxing gear.
 
He deals frequently with real-world issues. He gets hurt and scared. His relationships deal with his lies and lifestyle in realistic ways–they get scared and hurt and leave and die. People learn to *hate* Matt Murdock as a person. There are consequences to his actions (he was even disbarred in New York in a fairly recent story, once his identity was made fully public).
 
How often do you see–specifically in a mainstream, in-continuity superhero comic–the hero dealing with serious personal issues like depression?
 
Yeah, like Batman, Daredevil always wins. The villains always get what’s coming to them, at least for a time. But unlike such characters as Batman, Matt Murdock’s stories carry with them the weight of years and years of writer’s testing the character. The character himself has scars.
 
More importantly, the character doesn’t simply win “because he’s Daredevil.” He’s not going to win because he’s always the smartest man in the room, or has all the money in the world to have the most asinine amount of toys, gear, tech, and even a personal army of highly-trained, super savvy children. Even his victories often come at a cost, personal or otherwise.
 
Superman is an ideal. Batman is a fantasy. Spider-Man is the best of us. Iron Man is wish fulfillment.
 
But Daredevil is, at his core, just a man.
 
Yeah, he can fight. But he’s not the best in the world.
 
Yeah, he has some super powers. But he’s more an acrobatic detective as a result.
 
But he’s still a man. Selfish, guilt-ridden, worn and broken by the world. He has a day job that he actually needs to do. He has relationships that are unhealthy for a variety of reasons. He suffers from things like depression.
 
His heroics, his actions and behavior are elevated even more than his “peers” because of how human and flawed he is constantly shown to be.
 
He’s given up, given in. But he always finds it in him to fight again. It’s never just a given. It’s never shown to be easy.
 
He’s not truly a man without fear, or even a guy who has some vague ability or personality trait to overcome such things. He’s just a man who won’t let himself stay down, even when by all rights he’d be forgiven for doing so. He fights and earns the title of “The Man Without Fear” by acting even when he is completely and utterly afraid.
 
That’s beautiful writing. That’s phenomenal character work.
 
“The measure of a man is not in how he gets knocked to the mat, it is in how he gets up.”
 
Sometimes I feel that I act and go about my day because I think it’s the only thing there is to do. I’m tired, hurt, afraid all the time. I feel like I just carry that with me because there’s only one other option, which is to just lay down and die. But I don’t do that…because, “I don’t know.” I wish I did. But I don’t. At best, maybe it’s just more fear that keeps me from doing it. Sometimes it’s just pure resentment or rage, like I’m sticking it to the universe. Like it’s some stupid act of defiance by not just giving up.
 
I wish it was because I had the attitude that I won’t and can’t give up. At the very least, I wish I could see myself as a man who can get knocked down and get back up no matter what. That maybe I do live up to that notion.
 
I just see myself as a stubborn coward. But I want to be a man without fear.
 
Sometimes I think wanting that for myself is good enough. And maybe it is. It’s a comforting thought, at least.
 
I mean, I haven’t thrown in the towel just yet. Right?
Marvel’s “Daredevil” (Vol. 4, Issue #10)

Thor: Ragnarok


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at the most colorful, campiest Marvel movie to date, Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok!


When they discover their long-lost sister is also the Goddess of Death, Thor and Loki will have to work together to save the Nine Realms from total destruction in Thor: Ragnarok.

RISK AND REWARD

Director Taika Waititi presents us with what is arguably Marvel’s most ambitious production yet.

And it’s rather fitting, really. Thor’s first cinematic outing was also the riskiest of Marvel’s first phase of movies. That movie took audiences away from the relatively grounded world of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and even Captain America. It exposed audiences to Marvel’s larger, stranger concepts of magic, super-science, gods, and the greater cosmic landscape.

Now, those first two entries in the Thor series of films may not have been the most successful for Marvel Studios. Nor were they the best received, especially Thor: The Dark World.

Both movies were criticized by many for a variety of reasons. The first was too focused on an expected but not entirely welcomed romantic subplot and lacked the sort of scope fans were expecting, with little of the mystical realm of Asgard being shown. And in the case of The Dark World, the movie was plagued by an incredibly underwhelming villain and under-cooked story.

RISK AND REWARD

That said, both movies have their fair share of fans. And even if The Dark World is largely considered to be the closest thing Marvel Studios has made to a cinematic misfire, it’s still a watchable and enjoyable movie. It simply pales in comparison to its abundant sister films.

More so, both films were and still are some of Marvel’s most ambitious, riskiest movies. Even long after fans have been exposed to the colorful cast and many worlds seen in Gunn’s pair of Guardians of the Galaxy movies.

Because while many fans might be turned off by Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster and the love story between her and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, it remained a welcome change of pace to the usual mix of overtly macho stories presented in Marvel’s other movies. They were the closest thing the studio had made to a traditional Rom-Com.

And Thor: Ragnarok is no different in that regard. But rather than being a romantic-comedy that also happens to feature colorful superheroes and villains, Ragnarok is the closest thing Marvel has made to a traditional buddy comedy.

No matter what is happening on screen, the movie is constantly cracking jokes. Whether it’s a callback to previous movies, some shenanigans between Thor and Loki, or Jeff Goldblum stealing the show with his scene-chewing as Grandmaster, the not-so benevolent ruler of a planet inhabited by the castoffs of the universe and gamemaster of the gladitorial-like Contest of Champions.

And while Thor: Ragnarok obviously lifts some visual cues from James Gunn’s work on Guardians of the Galaxy, the movie also maintains its own personal style. Of course, that style is very close to those seen in movies like Flash Gordon and Heavy Metal, with this emphasis on camp, humor, and the strangest, coolest art and music design seen and heard in a major Hollywood blockbuster.

WHAT IN THE HELA?

That said, failing to be wholly original might be the only thing Thor: Ragnarok fails at.
Because compared to its sister films, Waititi infuses the black sheep of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with some much needed structure, character work, and fun.

There is no romantic subplot. There is no moment where the jokes and action fail to shine. The main villain, Hela, is not only developed just enough but also brought to life by Cate Blanchett’s insane desire to be the MCU’s most dangerous and alluring foe to date. She even manages to give Goldblum a run for his money when it comes to chewing the scenery–and I do mean that in the best way possible.

And Karl Urban’s sympathetic not-quite a villain, Scourge–Hela’s hand-picked lackey looking for a chance to prove his worth to somebody, anybody–is proof that even smaller roles are better fleshed out than anything seen in the previous two movies.

RAGNAROK & ROLL

More so, it also opens up Marvel’s approach to movies in a way it has yet to do.

The humor isn’t new. Nor is the color palette. But Thor: Ragnarok does show that Marvel is now opening itself up to the idea that these movies don’t need some major crossover event to bring in other notable characters, even if only for a few brief scenes.

More than ever, you don’t need to have seen either The Incredible Hulk or Doctor Strange to understand who they are or why they appear in this movie. Knowing they exist at all certainly helps, but it’s not necessary to enjoy their scenes or contributions to the rest of the movie.

Now, could Thor: Ragnarok have done without Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange? Yes, and easily so. But his appearance also doesn’t feel forced. Instead, it’s a nice way to show that these characters do know each other, that they and their worlds do collide–that such a thing can happen at any time for any reason. And, more importantly, this can be done without derailing the film.

A major complaint by even the biggest fans of Marvel’s movies (and their comics) has often been the logical issue of this world of interconnected superheroes who never show up to help or even fight their friends outside of The Avengers or Captain America: Civil War.

Sure, characters like Tony Stark have appeared in movies like Spider-Man: Homecoming. But he also served a major, recurring role within the context of that film. He was important to the development of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker.

But in Thor: Ragnarok, Dr. Strange pops up to help drive the plot forward, and then just as quickly takes his leave. He’s treated like any other ancillary role might be in any other movie. But because we do know the character–because the character has had his own movie at some point–what might have been an unimportant, forgettable role is instead greatly improved. And on the same note, fans no longer have to wonder why these characters fail to cross paths more frequently.

IF HE BE WORTHY…

Now, the movie isn’t without its faults. The most glaring of which is how its apocalyptic scenario is undercut by the movie’s emphasis on humor over dramatics.

There are, of course, some deadly serious moments to be found in the movie, but they feel less impactful–even if intentionally so–than they could have been. “Ragnarok” should conjure up images of death and destruction on a cosmic scale, and the movie does give us as much. But it will likely ring a bit hollow for some.

The movie, in a way, does make light of things like dictators, violent fights to the death, and, yes, the end of the world itself. All these things are present in this film. But they’re presented in a comedic light. Again, Thor: Ragnarok is a comedy first and anything else a distant second.

For some, this might prove to be a disconnect that is difficult or even impossible to overcome. It might taint any fun that might be had with the movie.

But for those looking to escape the world for two hours and go on a colorful, hilarious ride across the cosmos that also features some great visuals and action scenes, Thor: Ragnarok is more than worthy of your time.

I definitely suggest you CHILL with Thor: Ragnarok.

Self-Inflicted Failure


The most fascinating bit of human behavior I observe on a regular basis is this:

People mistaking their current failings or lot in life as anything other than the inevitable result of their refusal to both make use of their talents and to grow as individuals.

Refusing to change. Refusing to grow. And these people are either somehow surprised that they’re in the same place they were five, ten years ago or quick to blame it on the world somehow being wrong.

Worse is when they deny they’ve also squandered privileges that others lack. Just because you’re both stupid *and* lazy doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. Much like your life, you’ve let it go to waste instead of capitalizing on it.

I mean, if these sort of moments were actually some sort of epiphany that would be great. It would have meaning. There would be the chance for change and growth.

But that’s not who these people are. They’re failed hacks who would rather bitch about being failed hacks than reflect on who and what they are and try to make things better.

And they’re failed hacks because they *choose* to be. Their failure isn’t from an utter dearth of talent or skill, or some lack of opportunity. It’s entirely due to them not making use of their talents, by not improving themselves and creating and earning new opportunities.

They have the arrogance to think it should just come to them and then complain about how the world doesn’t work that way.

And, really, if that isn’t some entitled, privileged bullshit right there, then what is?


Download the latest bits and pieces from Steve on SoundCloud. Or stream the latest compilations of LtPA over on MixCloud!

Found Footage 3D


*31 Nights of Horror (#15) | 2017*

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of the Video Store With No Name, aka The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at the found-footage horror flick about the making of a found-footage horror flick, Found Footage 3D!


Carter Roy and Alena von Storheim are Derek and Amy, a married couple on the outs producing a found-footage horror movie about a married couple on the outs producing a found-footage horror movie.

What we see, however, is all told from the perspective of Chris O’Brien’s Mark, who also happens to be Derek’s brother in charge of documenting the making of the movie-within-a-movie…and who also happens to be very much in love with his brother’s would-be ex-wife.

And what plays out is exactly what you might expect in the umpteenth Blair Witch Project knockoff that is Found Footage 3D.

UNORIGINAL, BUT…

The debut feature film by writer-director Steven DeGennaro, Found Footage 3D is incredibly impressive for someone with far more experience on the audio side of productions. And it’s a much better movie than one with such an uncreative premise and name has any right to be.

Aside from some solid audio work, the visuals are spot on, the film is well paced, and the characters are fairly layered if not all equally interesting.

In fact, a few questionable moments not withstanding, the performances are all spot-on. Scott Allen Perry in particular, as audio-guy Carl, steals the show with both his performance and a number of great lines.

(The audio-guy writing the movie gives the audio-guy all the best lines and small scenes. Isn’t that neat?)

PREDICTABLY PREDICTABLE

Now, that having been said…

Found Footage 3D suffers greatly from being utterly predictable in regards to its story and plot. Because if you’ve seen the Blair Witch or any of its many other blatant knock-offs, you’ll know exactly how this all plays out, from start to finish.

DeGennaro presents some great characters, pulls out great performances from his actors, and has written some solid dialog for them. But the movie they’re in isn’t as smart or clever as it thinks it is. And it’s almost cynical levels of self-awareness–as funny as some of the jokes are–can’t compensate for or mask just how boring and predictable everything else is. The characters and humor are the best aspect of the material, and it all deserves to be in a much more inspired, original movie.

PARADOX

Now, that having been said…

Found Footage 3D is still a surprisingly fun, enjoyable watch. It’s a bit predictable to the point of annoyance at times. And the meta-humor is simultaneously unnecessary and a saving grace of what could have otherwise been a very well produced but otherwise insipid found-footage horror movie. But it’s not hard to sit through and enjoy on some level, even if you are going to figure out how everything plays out far ahead of schedule.

The movie is boring only because it’s so unoriginal. But the overall quality of everything else–the directing, the acting–really does make up for a lot. Not everything, but just enough.

If you’re a fan of found-footage horror movies or if something more fun than it is fresh is fine with you, then Found Footage 3D is certainly worth CHILLING with.

The House by the Cemetery


*31 Nights of Horror (#14) | 2017*

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at the third and final entry in Lucio Fulci’s “Gates of Hell” Trilogy, The House by the Cemetery!


When the Boyle family moves to a quaint New England town, the last thing they expected to find were graves in the basement of the new house. But just when they thought that was the only dark secret haunting their home, a series of mysterious, grisly murders begin in The House by the Cemetery.

INTIMATE, BUT…

The House by the Cemetery, by horror icon Lucio Fulci, is the third and final movie in his unofficial “Gates of Hell” trilogy.

And the short of it is that The House by the Cemetery is not much more than a typical haunted house movie. There is some dark, sinister force haunting the new home of an unsuspecting family. A number of people die grisly deaths. And instead of running at the first sign of trouble, the family sticks around until the bitter, confusing end.

The House by the Cemetery is the most intimate yet least stylized movie in Fulci’s unofficial trilogy of films. There’s little in the way of that Italian horror flair present in Fulci’s other movies. The music is loud and omnipresent, but is easily forgettable. There’s not much in the way of special effects or interesting lighting and framing. The story is easily the most straightforward and functional from start to finish. But it’s also the least interesting. Whereas City of the Living Dead and The Beyond played with big, wild ideas, The Last House on the Cemetery really is a by-the-numbers haunted house movie.

This isn’t to say that the movie is necessarily bad or unenjoyable. Or that it’s forgettable. Instead, it’s simply and plainly uninspired. In fact, the only thing that could have possibly made this movie even more cliche and unoriginal would be if it started on a dark and stormy night.

STRANGE, BUT…

The movie is certainly strange enough. It’s certainly a decent viewing in and of itself. And the focus on a small family of three rather than an entire town or multiple groups of people is a welcomed change of pace.

But, in the end, The House by the Cemetery feels incredibly safe, especially in comparison to Fulci’s own filmography. And while safe isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s never a good thing either. Especially when fans have so many more options available to them.

So if for no other reason than there are far too many better, creative movies you can choose to watch in it’s place (even if they’re not quite as well-made), The House by the Cemetery is, unfortunately, a NO CHILL.

The Working Depression

People often seem a bit…curious as to why I have frequent struggles with anxiety and depression. I mean, aside from the fact that I’m naturally prone to such things.

And a notable part of it is the constant intentional and unintentional downplaying of how much work I actually do.

It’s incredibly disheartening when you receive so very little in the way of compliments or positive feedback on your work (or any feedback at all, really). It’s a constant head game where I’m questioning if what I’m doing is any good, if my efforts–despite having proven in various ways (including through monetary rewards) that I indeed have quality, notable skills and abilities. But I am constantly questioning if all my efforts are anything other than wasted energy and the production of garbage. Even worse, I constantly question those rare instances when I do receive a compliment. In my head, it translates to a well-meaning but otherwise hollow pleasantry. People just being polite rather than honest.

I already don’t like me. I don’t have much more than a vague sense that I’m a burden or an annoyance to those around me. That what I put into the world is noise. The incredibly rare compliment, like, share, or, yes, monetary reward of my work gives me hope that, somehow, someway, I’m at least entertaining people. That for some brief period of time whatever I’m doing is making people feel something they want to feel rather than all the bullshit they have to feel. And, as a result, maybe I’m not so benign or, more likely, unwanted.

As a general rule, I’m never outright happy. I don’t feel happiness the way I imagine some people do–perhaps as this lingering, pleasant feeling people can carry around with them (even if they don’t actively notice it until it’s suddenly not there).

When I do feel what I think is happiness, it’s fleeting. It’s an occasional sense of ease. It feels almost like that incredibly brief sensation someone might normally have when they get into a hot bath after a long day or a hard workout. That brief, almost instant feeling of relief as your muscles relax and all the tension and pain subsides. It’s not the actual alleviation of it, not for me. It’s just that singular instance of something washing over you. And then, it’s gone.

Sometimes I get that after a good movie, or reading a good story. Sometimes I even get it after I finish whatever bit of nonsense I’m working on at the moment–a post, a tweet, a movie review, a set.

But it’s always that brief, instant moment that washes over and away.

And, so, I work. A lot. I don’t really stop. I don’t sleep well, even with assistance. My mind doesn’t calm down enough often enough. My dreams are vivid, lucid. It can be a draining, exhausting experience for me to sleep on my worst days. Working helps. Talking, writing, whatever. So I do it constantly. I tweet. I post to Facebook. I constantly put down notes into a memo on my phone or tablet or laptop. I don’t just relax with video games, I stream. Everything has to be “work” for me.

And I have to do it every chance I get, otherwise I feel useless. This heavy, overpowering sense of guilt just piles up on me if I’m not working on something. At times, it’s like I’m standing at the bottom of a hill, watching this little snowball just barrel towards me as it increases in mass and speed until it inevitably just plows me right the fuck over. And, in my head, I think I deserve it.

Well, maybe if you were busy working you wouldn’t have been standing around and getting hit, dipshit.

So when all you do is work and guilt-trip yourself for somehow not working enough, it’s, at the very least, disheartening to see so little for it. Eventually you can’t help but get even deeper into your own head and drown in negative thoughts.

But it’s a whole other thing when, for whatever reason, you receive way more judgement. Not criticism, because I can do something with criticism. I can work with criticism. No, in this case I mean “judgment.”

Like when friends and family tell you, “You don’t even have a job.”

In the past two weeks alone–from October 1st through October 14th–I have written, produced, and published 14 video-based movie reviews in as many days. Each review requires that I spend an average of two hours watching and critiquing a feature film. Each video for each review then requires several hours of writing a review, compressing it into a two-to-five minute long script, recording that script, editing the audio from that recording, and then animating and editing it all together for a final video that I then have to upload, catalog, and promote across different platforms. And all without any assistance.

That’s been me–all day, every day–for just the past two weeks.

Now, in addition to all of that, I’ve also not only rewritten two-thirds of a thirty-page screenplay but also converted it into a script for an audio drama. I’ve written the first, rough draft of the first act of a screenplay for a feature (that’s roughly another twenty or so pages). I’ve performed several times. I’ve helped out a buddy at another show. I’ve been lucky to get more bookings during that time for shows that are coming up in the next two weeks. I’ve written more jokes and posts and more ideas. I’ve woken up–or cut myself off from falling into a deep sleep–just to write down notes for future stories and jokes and whatever. I’ve even managed to half-assedly produce and upload some nonsense for a completely experimental podcast/vlogcast/tubecast…thing I’ve been calling Laugh the Pain Away.

Yeah, a lot of my time is spent looking at a screen or wallowing in and actively exploring a murky swamp of thoughts nobody should ever be so unfortunate to find themselves in. I spend a lot of my time typing away at a keyboard or on a touchscreen. I spend a lot of my time watching and thinking and talking.

Yeah, I do that instead of working in an office for a steady paycheck that covers the rent on a lovely little apartment just down the street from a lovely Southern California beach.

Now, I used to do that. I used to have the office and the apartment and the steady paycheck. I used to do that sort of work. I used to be able to afford things. I used to be able to say that the frequent stress and adverse toll such a thing took on my physical and mental health were worth it.

And then it got to a point where I couldn’t say that. It got to the point where it nearly cost me my life.

So, I don’t do that no mo’. I don’t want to.

Thankfully I have a wife who doesn’t want that for me either. She wants me to have something better, something more.

(She also insists I relax more and just have fun with shit like video games instead of trying to turn it all into some sort of “work” for myself. She hasn’t been entirely successful on that front just yet.)

But I still have people in my life who, for whatever reason (intentionally and unintentionally) like to downplay the sheer amount of work I do. Because it doesn’t generate enough money for me. Because it’s not as steady as a job flipping burgers or tossing pizza. Because I don’t go to an office or some other place of business and have set shifts and a time-sheet to fill out (anymore). Because it’s not within a more professional part of this or that industry. Because I’m not taking center stage on the biggest stages.

I’m a lunatic attempting to make a little spot for himself on the outskirts of it all while I also desperately claw my way up and through a wall to be inside, even on the very edge of it all. Just to have more people to reach. More work to do. Just a few more of the very brief moments washing over me. Those moments where, for even a short while, I get to help other people to not feel the way I do almost ceaselessly. A few more paydays and some of those fleeting moments where I don’t feel like killing myself.

Other people often have the pleasure of going somewhere else, away from their personal problems. But I’ve turned my personal problems into work–my anxiety, depression, my fears, my nightmares. I don’t get to walk away from those things from 9-to-5. Instead, I’m the sick fuck running towards it–all day, every day.

I’m the sick fuck who, for him, this is the healthier alternative.

And I’m judged for it. My work and contributions are stripped of any value they might have.

You don’t have a job.

He’s a third wheel.

If every last one of my subscribers or followers on the various platforms where I published my bullshit contributed $1 to my Patreon (the only tier I even have, and intentionally so. Because I don’t want people to think I’d withhold my work from them because they’re not constantly shoving enough coins and bills into my little cup.) If they did that, I’d have enough money for a car payment. I could cover some serious bills. I couldn’t pay rent for that apartment near the beach–not even half. But that’s still around $300-$400 based off my current numbers across various, unrelated platforms and projects.

And I built that on my own, organically. I haven’t paid for a single ad. I haven’t boosted my posts or videos. I don’t have a bankable name or brand to leech off of. And it isn’t just family and friends and peers who casually follow me and my work. These are, by and large, total and utter strangers to me–strangers who have actively enjoyed my work, for whatever reason. My work has done that for me, just like how it once used to pay for that apartment. I did that.

But I don’t work. I don’t know what I’m saying or doing because I haven’t been doing it as much as others (and never will, because I’ll always be younger and less experienced than someone still living and active in this or that field). I’m just a tag-along. I’m not punching a clock and working in a cubicle or behind a register.

I’m just some jackass who watches movies, writes and publishes stupid shit online, and says silly shit in public. I’m always wrong because other people think they’re right, unless they happen to agree with me (and even then, it’s “tl;dr”). I’m always just off the mark unless it’s someone else making use of my work. I’m just a lazy, worthless piece of shit who isn’t good enough for…whatever, I guess.

And people genuinely seem confused by my anxiety, depression, and lack of self-worth.

Maybe they have a point.

Blood Harvest


*31 Nights of Horror (#13) | 2017*

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of the Video Store With No Name, aka The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at the uncomfortably bad slasher movie featuring Tiny Tim, Blood Harvest (aka Nightmare).

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.


Itonia Salchek stars as Jill, a young woman returning to her small, rural hometown only to discover her family missing, their house in ruins, and their once sleepy little town at the mercy of a serial killer in Blood Harvest.


Blood Harvest, from Bill Rebane, is a movie most notable for featuring Tiny Tim as Mervo the Clown. There is nothing else worth noting about Blood Harvest. Not really. It is so frustratingly benign. It’s bad for sure. But there is nothing to be mad about, even after having wasted 90 minutes of my life with it.

This is a movie that doesn’t hide how bad it is. The director doesn’t care to direct. The actors never act. Tiny Tim is the only sign of human life on camera.

Even the most uncomfortable to watch rape scene–a very matter-of-fact, entirely nonjudgmental rape scene with no attempt to artsy-it-up or sexualize it. None if seemed to register any sort of emotion. The actors simply looked bored. It’s uncomfortable in how uncomfortable it isn’t.

I just don’t care. The movie starts showcasing how much it just doesn’t care. It signals you to turn it off and ask for a refund.

To speak ill of the movie outright would be as if to proclaim a school play as some no-budget, unprofessional tripe. It’s acute, harmless little thing that’s meant to be enjoyed as a testament to how anyone can get a film made, no matter how talentless everyone involved in the production truly were. You watch it in support of those involved, but you’re not going to ruin their evening by criticizing. It’s their night, not yours.

I suspect there’s some small minority of horror fans out there, perhaps even some deranged completionist who wants to watch this movie from beginning to end. And in that case, please, by all means please do.

But for anyone looking for anything more than background noise–or that lone wolf hardcore Tiny Tim fan–Blood Harvest is a NO CHILL.

The Beyond


*31 Nights of Horror (#12) | 2017*

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of the Video Store With No Name, aka The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at Italian horror classic, The Beyond (the second entry in the unofficial “Gates of Hell” trilogy)!

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.


Catriona MacColl is Liza, a young woman who has recently inherited an old hotel in the heart of New Orleans. But as she attempts to restore the hotel and carry on its legacy, a frightening series of events soon reveals that the hotel was built atop the gates of Hell. And the gate, of course, is now wide open in The Beyond.


MIDDLE-CHILD

The Beyond, from iconic horror director Lucio Fulci, is the second movie in the unofficial “Gates of Hell” trilogy. And, as might be expected, it suffers greatly from middle-child syndrome.

City of the Living Dead dealt with the dead rising from the grave, starting as a small-scale series of events and turning into a large-scale uprising. The House by the Cemetery is, at its core, an intimate tale of a family living in a haunted house.

The Beyond, meanwhile, is a series of loosely connected stories. Each story follows one of several group of characters who all have some connection to a hotel that rests above a literal gate of hell.

STUCK IN THE MIDDLE

Unfortunately, none of the many different roads the movie follows feels grand nor intimate. They all just sort of drift about in the middle.

We never spend enough time with the woman who owns the hotel nor the family of the man who initially dies at it. Nor do we get to see the sheer scale of the chaos surrounding any of this. And as result, aside from some key special effects shots, nothing about The Beyond is all that interesting. The story and the characters are just sort of there. There’s never enough tension or drama. Things just sort of happen but hardly ever build to anything.

And the strange thing is that everything that plays out is fascinating in concept. I just never felt like I cared about any of it. 87 minutes is just not enough time to show us everything that plays out in the movie and make us care.

A two hour movie might have been able to pull that off, it might have been able to flesh out everything just enough to give some sort of meaning to it all. Or it might have been squandered on simply following even more characters and even more half-hearted stories.

But all we have is this 87-minute movie that overwhelms and underwhelms in almost equal measure.

YEAH, BUT…

This is one of those rare instances where I want to somehow defend my loving of the movie strictly for the concept alone. The actual movie itself isn’t very good because it feels half
there. But what’s there is still an enjoyable if not necessarily fun watch.

And as a result The Beyond is certainly worth CHILLING with. Just don’t be so sure you’ll feel that way immediately after having done so.

Contamination


*31 Nights of Horror (#11) | 2017*

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of the Video Store With No Name, aka The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at Italian sci-fi horror flick, Contamination!

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.


When a transport ship carrying otherworldly cargo arrives in New York–its crew somehow mysteriously dead–it’ll take a government agent and a local police officer to get to the heart of this deadly mystery in Contamination.


Contamination, from writer-director Luigi Cozzi, is a fairly odd bit of sci-fi horror. The movie itself is fairly innocuous. In fact, it’s largely forgettable.

It’s a sci-fi movie that isn’t all that interested in delivering a science-fiction narrative. It’s a horror movie that isn’t all that interested in delivering on scares or even a general sense of dread or uneasiness. And unlike many other Italian horror films of the era, it’s not very stylish outside a few key shots.

Though like many Italian horror movies, Contamination doesn’t have so much a story as it does a paper-thin plot that rationalizes a series of loosely connected scenes that play out in a longer, slower fashion than necessary.

MYSTERI-WHAT?

That said, Cozzi’s slow-burn mystery that actually unfolds in its entirety is a much welcome change of pace from the non-mysteries that plague Italian horror films.

The mystery of the alien cargo–which is incredibly ridiculous in presentation, danger, and purpose–is at the heart of the movie. The movie opens with it, the main characters focus on it, and it keeps the movie trotting slowly but steadily forward until the main characters–and us, the audience–get the answers we’ve been searching and waiting for.

Now, stating that a movie has a respectable purpose and direction seems like faint praise–and in most cases, it would be. But in the style and genre that Contamination belongs to, such things are a rarity. And, as a result, such a clear, well-developed framework is much appreciated.

The movie does, unfortunately, steer into territory worn-out even by 1980, reducing even its few redeeming factors to token alterations to a tired formula.

There’s the one man, one woman pair of leads forced to solve a mysterious threat that sort of unfolds and solves itself. The rare use of special effects is highlighted with odd, questionable stylistic choices, such as extended slow-motion shots. And, of course, the barely there story abruptly concludes with little sense of closure.

But if Contamination‘s real issues can be boiled down to just one glaring fault, it’d be that the movie is simply not that interesting. The premise it sets up–this deadly alien threat that literally just appears seemingly out of nowhere and casually makes its way into one of the most densely populated cities in the world–is incredibly interesting. There’s a lot of dread and paranoia to cultivate. There’s plenty of mileage to get out of this–either in the small scale or the large.

But Cozzi didn’t seem to have much left in the tank after he got through with the premise and inciting incident. Because no one in this movie seems concerned or scared, even in the face of death. There’s no tension. There’s no real emotion to find in the movie whatsoever.

Bad acting, bad dialog, and suspect direction are a prolific aspect of Italian horror. It often provides a lot of the charm in such movies. But, in the case of Contamination, it’s simply flat across the board. It’s as if no one, Cozzi included, cared about the final results.

It really feels as if everyone involved with the movie were satisfied with phoning in a day’s work–all day, every day. And it’s a shame, because there’s a good core to be found at the heart of Contamination. But unless you’re running low on options, you’d be fine skipping this one.

Contamination is a NO CHILL

YouTube and You


In which I welcome YouTubers to the entertainment industry, though with a friendly warning.

Patreon: www.patreon.com/amoralcrackpot
Twitter: www.twitter.com/amoralcrackpot
Website: amoralcrackpot.com


Download the latest bits and pieces from Steve on SoundCloud. Or stream the latest compilations of LtPA over on MixCloud!


I generally hate “YouTubers“. I don’t trust them. I don’t like them. I think far too many of the more notable ones are liars, manipulators, and thieves who have trained their fans to believe them at all costs. It’s a cult of personality, for sure.

But the most aggravating and prolific issue I’ve found with them is how they’ve convinced *each other* that they’re somehow special. That YouTube is some new world order of entertainment (brother!). How it’s them, the creators–these YouTubers–against YouTube itself, advertisers, and “traditional” media.
 
These idiots cry foul when their tired, hacky shit doesn’t earn them enough money. They sick their fans on YouTube until they get what they want. And their fans have a skewed and wholly incorrect idea of how marketing, sponsorships, and the entertainment industry work. And these YouTubers *want* it that way. They want ignorant fans who they can manipulate because that’s less competition and steady, loyal followers to keep their tired, hacky shit going another month when it’d never have made money otherwise.
 
So I’ve been trying to do my part to educate and inform those on /r/youtube who are confused and hold a lot of misplaced anger and frustration. They need to understand that what they think they’re attempting to do is no different than any other entertainer. And that they might not be up for this shit, because they expect fame and money to just appear–that they’re *entitled* to money just for producing and distributing even the laziest bullshit. And they buy into it because that’s what their favorite YouTubers imply or outright say.
 
And this is my recent response to one such person on reddit. And surprisingly enough, it’s been received in a fairly positive manner. No hate just yet (we’ll see if that changes).

Platforms like YouTube are only what you make of it.
 
Sponsors pay the bills. They provide the revenue stream to keep the lights on–not me, not you, and not Philip DeFranco. The sponsors are needed for the platform to exist at all. It’s why there are no real YouTube alternatives–it’s just way too expensive and way too easy to fail. If YouTube can barely make it work, why would Coke or any other major company invest sinking money into a guaranteed to fail venture?
 
The Adpocalypse was the inevitable result of YouTubers being given too much rope for too long. Eventually, they hung themselves (and the platform) with them. It wasn’t YouTube or the sponsors to blame. It was YouTubers with questionable content and their “communities” who brought this down on all of us.
 
People think cord cutting is this massive thing that’s happening and that YouTube is somehow the future–it isn’t. YouTube (and similar platforms) is the latest version of public access television. Only instead of a tiny local audience, we’re dealing with a potentially global one.
 
But that isn’t a bad thing. If anything, it’s a good thing. It’s easy enough to predict. You can figure out where and how you can grow an audience. You can manage generating revenue without the long, drawn-out process of drudging up your own sponsors to pay you to produce your shitty TV show.
 
You also have things like SEO and major search engines that fit you into algorithms that you can exploit to reach even more people, thus increasing your value in the eyes of sponsors. YouTube does all the heavy lifting on that side of the equation, thus leaving you free to focus specifically on programming and marketing.
 
That said, what people are realizing now is that much of the content they’ve been creating is, unfortunately, worthless. It’s not worth the servers they’re stored on. There’s only so much money and way too many people creating identical content that competes for a fairly limited audience–an audience with viewing habits and tastes that are changing at a much faster rate than ever before. These viewers chase the next big thing, and there’s a new one almost daily for them to turn to. It’s an incredibly competitive market.
 
Think about the usual content on YouTube, like all the vlogs, pop-culture news, and drama. None of that is evergreen. It lives and dies in hours, maybe days depending on how hot the topic is. These videos burn bright but then instantly go out. They generate a lot of revenue real quick before they’re making nothing ever again. Everyday these channels have to generate content that meet certain expectations simply to continue existing. Their audience can literally dry up overnight should a better alternative appear, one with a better schedule or personality or whatever. For any reason, at any time, everything can go away.
 
And it makes sense. The algorithms feed this behavior. It’s more profitable in the short term to chase after this sort of audience.
 
But it also blinds people to their need to expand beyond a singular project and platform. TV series get canceled all the time. Some don’t even make it a full season. Some last several seasons before they’re abruptly canceled. YouTube is no different. The money can and does dry up without warning. That’s how entertainment works. You’re supposed to be prepared for that. You’re supposed to line up new projects. You’re supposed to grow and expand and look towards other opportunities that the initial popularity and fame and money affords you.
 
A few questions every content creator has to ask themselves include (and listed here in no particular order):
 
1. Who is my target audience, and how large is it?
 
2. How can I compete for their attention and retain a notable number of these potential viewers?
 
3. What are the risks involved with this sort of audience and programming? (Is the audience finicky? Is there a lot of competition?)
 
4. What sort of merchandise options are there to generate additional revenue?
 
5. How long will anything I produce be of value to my audience, both new and old?
 
6. What will I do once I see diminishing returns?
 
Entertainment is not an easy business. It’s not the most lucrative business across the board. But it can be a manageable one that provides a decent living for the many who figure out how things work and can make it work for them.
 
People really need to have an honest conversation with themselves about whether or not their content is actually viable, both in the short and long term. Because most are going to realize that they don’t have much to offer. And that sucks. But that’s the reality of the world, not just entertainment. Not everyone is cut out to be a leading man or a producer. Entertainment isn’t a business for everyone.
 
And if you do stick around but don’t like being beholden to corporate sponsors for all your income, then you need to figure out a way to turn every viewer into a potential revenue stream–merch, a patreon, whatever. Ad revenue should never, ever be your singular source of income. Actors at least know how much they’re making per episode or movie. At least some of their money is guaranteed thanks to contracts. But as an independent entertainer, you’re going to get stiffed every now and again. Your pay is going to be shit for a long time before it gets better (if it ever does). And even then, it can go right back to bad or even nonexistent should gigs dry up (and they often do)
 
You’ve got to pay your dues and build an audience that will support you for the long haul. Not everyone can do that. And a lot of YouTubers are finding that out the hard way because they’ve had it way too easy for way too long and weren’t prepared for reality to bite them in the ass. They’re not used to working in “entertainment”.
 
The entertainment industry loves rebels and flashes in the pan just as much as it loves predictable, safe investments. It’s a matter of what you’re willing to do for that job, for that paycheck. Will you play nice with sponsors and their expectations? Or will you go full punk rock, tell the sponsors to fuck off, and then do things your way with only your fledgling (likely nonexistent) fan base to lean on? Either one works. But in either case, you’ve got a lot of work to do to make it work.
 
Because whatever corner of arts, crafts, and entertainment you fall into–a comic, a pro wrestler, an actor, a painter, a writer, a YouTuber, whatever–you are not guaranteed anything for all your work. That’s the risk you take. You’re risking the steady pay of a 9-to-5 job against the opportunities in the field you would rather be in. And a lot of the time it simply does not pan out. And a lot of the times that happens, it’s because those people weren’t equipped for the struggles and pains of the business.
 
Comedian Marc Maron just did an AMA today on Reddit. Someone asked him about the opportunities for a college graduate with a desire to not work a typical 9-to-5.
 
“What unique advice would you have for a recent college grad English major who wants to avoid the mundane 9-5 day to day week at all costs?”
 
His answer was as simple as it was insightful:
 
“How do you feel about homelessness?”
 
I’ve been in one corner of the arts and entertainment industries for over a decade at this point. If not for my loving wife and some great friends I’ve made along the way, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities or the mental and emotional and spiritual willpower necessary to keep at it. I’ve made very good money with my writing. I’ve signed autographs. I’ve been paid to travel the country and work. I’ve been mentored by a literal billionaire business man. I’ve been praised by actors with real movie and TV and video game credits for my writing and vocal work. But I’ve also performed for almost no one. I do stand up in bars. I’ve had several concussions simply training for the chance to perform for an audience. I currently make just under a dollar a day for the work I publish on YouTube, though my audience is steadily growing. I write a lot of stuff that people apparently like but doesn’t get a lot of traction (and certainly makes me little to no money right now).
 
But I’ve seen over the years–through all of my twenties and now in my early 30s–that I can’t live doing anything else. I’ve tried it. Me and “work” don’t mix well. My wife doesn’t want to see me doing anything else. My friends–the few I’ve kept–want to see me excel at what I do, they’re there to guide me and help me (just as I am for them). But it’s real fucking hard. There’s a lot more painful moments than there are good ones. Certainly a lot more weeks without much in the way of a paycheck than with. But I know that. I’ve long accepted it as gospel. And because of that, I keep going and going until I earn that paycheck. Until my work pays off, even if it takes weeks or months.
 
But I’ve also proven–not just to myself but to others–that I have developed marketable enough talent to make it happen. I’m just lacking the audience right now to make a stable living. So, I have to keep at it. I have to grind and grind until I level up, one day, some day.
 
YouTube is a platform to jump off of. It’s a tool for you to use, not the end goal. Always stay a step ahead of the game. Develop your talents, exploit them to the cultivate a loyal audience. Do all you can think of to create as many opportunities to grow and generate income from your work and talents. But, above all else, do not fall into being a “YouTuber”. You’re just a talented mofo using YouTube to further build your brand, same as you would something like Facebook or Twitter.

Night of the Creeps


31 Nights of Horror (#10) | 2017

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at 80s teen comedy turned retro monster movie, Night of the Creeps!

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.


When slug-like alien parasites are accidentally unleashed on small-town America, it’ll be up to some plucky college kids and a heroic cop to save the world in Night of the Creeps.

NEW RETRO

Night of the Creeps is brought to us by writer-director Fred Dekker–who many might know better for his work on yet another cult-classic, The Monster Squad.

And much like The Monster Squad, Night of the Creeps takes classic horror staples like aliens and zombies and sets them loose in small-town America with a more light-hearted twist. The movie never takes itself too seriously. This is very much an 80s version of matinee sci-fi b-films from the 1950s. In fact, the movie initially opens in the 1950s before quickly jumping ahead thirty years. The college kids are very much the sort of bright, stereotypical go-getters found in those earlier movies. The police officer is an unfaltering hero of the people. And the monsters are never, ever intended to seriously disturb so much as they’re intend to illicit a cheap, but fun scare. The slug-like creatures are very unsettling and will be sure to cause many to squirm in their seats as they wriggle about, in and out of their victims.

Simply put, Night of the Creeps is likely what we would have got if John Hughes had written and directed a horror movie. It’s Weird Science meets Them!

MAYBE TOO DIFFERENT

But, despite being a well-written, well-directed, and well-acted bit of comedy and horror, the movie’s light-hearted tone and material is likely to leave some fans rather disappointed.

Because if you want something much more scary than it is funny, Night of the Creeps is not the movie for you. There’s some certainly great effects on display and some creatively violent moments to be found. But it is not looking to give anyone nightmares so much as it is eager to offer you a fun time.

Horror is an incredibly flexible approach to material more so than it is an easily defined genre. There are key elements and twists that can be added to any story to turn even a teen comedy into a horror movie.

And it’s this variety found in horror stories that provide us–and especially those who might not normally like horror movies– such fun experiences as Night of the Creeps. Because for every scare the movie sacrifices, it more than makes up for it in jokes, gags, and simply playing about with a classic style and staple of American cinema.

And it never passes up an opportunity to do either. Because while many similar movies might do different, Night of the Creeps paces itself like few others. It’s never too long before there’s another joke or monster popping about on screen. The characters constantly have something to stay and do. There’s no wasted time or effort.

FLAWED DELIGHT

This isn’t to say the movie is somehow flawless, because it’s not. As fun as the movie is, it’s not nearly as memorable as many other comedic horror films of that era. Its jokes are about as cutting or as clever as its scares are intense. The overall experience is fairly mild, fairly safe.

But for a movie that’s very much taking up the legacy of horror movies that were intended to be fairly mild, fairly safe, isn’t that sort of the point? And in that case, doesn’t that make it a great continuation of that legacy?

Now, whether you answer yes or no to these questions will determine the mileage you’ll get from Night of the Creeps.

But in either case: if you are looking for a good time with a bit of a morbid twist, be sure to CHILL with Night of the Creeps.

House


31 Nights of Horror (#9) | 2017

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at underappreciated 80s comedy horror flick, House!

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.


Haunted by the disappearance of his son and his memories of Vietnam, a struggling writer moves into his childhood home following the untimely death of his aunt. But as he attempts to use this as an opportunity to work on his latest novel, this would-be Stephen King will also have to face some very real personal demons in House.

FUNNY UH-OH?

House, from director Steve Miner, is–despite the rather bleak and grim subject matter–actually more comedy than it is horror.

Not too much time ever goes by without some visual gag or joke being thrown at an unsuspecting audience. But, at the same time, not too many minutes pass without some eerie
ghoul looking to give William Katt’s Roger (or the audience) a good scare.

Quite frankly, given the the subject matter on display, it’s likely that House benefits by leaning on comedy more than anything else. If Miner had taken a more straightforward approach to the script, the final result might have been unbearably depressing.

Because despite the movie’s more often than not lighthearted tone, House covers things like suicide, child abduction, divorce, and even war-induced PTSD. It never makes light of any of this, fortunately. Instead, Miner chooses to use both comedy and horror as a way to present
such serious material in a more digestible manner.

Just when it seems the movie is going to get too serious– with Katt’s soldier-turned-horror novelist left to stew in his isolation, depression, and seemingly endless amount of guilt–Miner inserts some much needed levity. Sometimes this comes in the form of TV’s George Wendt popping over for an awkward bit of neighborly snooping. Other times it comes in the form of some incredible monster designs.

SCREAMING OR LAUGHING?

And it’s because the movie is a comedy that the monsters and other bits of horror manage to work so well. In a more straight-faced horror movie, the special effects in House–as well done as they might be–might not have worked. Their use is minimal. And the budget was clearly tight.

But, most of all, it would have been lost on an audience watching a Vietnam vet slowly fall apart as everything good in his life is taken away from him. The very real, grounded horror story playing out on screen would have totally overshadowed what amounts to some creepy looking foam rubber.

Overall, Miner manages a beautiful balancing act. The comedy makes the very real horror digestible and allows the fictional stuff flourish. The real horror adds some much needed gravitas to a genre that is often far allowed to be shallow. And the fun horror stuff helps visualize the internal struggle going on in our lead character.

Half the time you’ll likely be laughing. The rest of the time you’ll be fidgeting uncomfortably in your seat. But the entire time you’ll be cheering on our beaten-but-not-broken hero.

And, in the end, you’ll be glad you chose to CHILL with House.