is it a horror movie

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: It is a horror movie, even if the internet insists otherwise.) 

You’d think that when a horror movie – in this case Andy Muschietti’s It – shatters box office records (to the tune of a $123 million), it’d be a joyous occasion. To be clear, it is. Yet, as horror fans know, this kind of event does not bring praise and congratulations from onlookers, but instead one of cinema’s nastiest trends – the “X isn’t a horror movie” stans who refuse to let horror fans have even the slightest moment in the sun.

Nah, I’m not going to let this slide this time. Let’s have a chat, internet.

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Why the Goon Movies Are Perfect Underdog Stories

When sports and cinema collide, there’s no more exhausted formula than an underdog story. Some no-luck team or player who’s either too green (inexperienced) or too gray (past prime); a journey through workout montages and tremendous sacrifice to become the film’s inevitable MVP. Winners born from humble rearguard and backbreaking work – whatever makes our own proverbial mountains seem more scalable, or ambitions less unreachable. If a poverty-stricken boy from India can become an MLB ace starting pitcher, I, a daytime desk jockey, can surely secure that next promotion! Perspective is everything.

The problem is, most of these films are geared towards children. For every Major League there’s a Bad News Bears and Little Giants not far behind. It makes sense, too. Children need more thematic reinforcement and lesson-teaching as maturation develops. They need to see that anything can be possible, instilling hope for the future. But adults? We define redemption differently than wide-eyed, innocent youngsters who’ve yet to feel life’s brutal, sometimes unforgiving clutches. It’s a different kind of hope we look for – and that’s why Goon and its new sequel, Goon: Last of the Enforcers, are so important.

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dead silence 1

(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or TV show, or sets their sights on something seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: Dead Silence is the first true James Wan movie and an unfairly maligned gem.)

It’s impossible to ignore James Wan’s impact on the horror genre over the last decade and change. Saw put both Wan and “torture porn” on the map, Insidious revamped haunted house architectures, The Conjuring scared up record-breaking box office numbers – and that’s to start. Tack on successful sequels (Insidious: Chapter 2 and The Conjuring 2), a respectful entry in the Fast and Furious saga (sending off Paul Walker), and him being handed the reins to a DC property in Aquaman. Wan is, undeniably, a Hollywood juggernaut who went from indie darling to household name by riding a wave of deserved praise for doing the impossible. Igniting franchises. Building cinematic universes. Redefining our nightmares. He is so very…wanderful Pulitzer, please.

Alas, some of his movies have been forgotten along the way. Travel back in time with me, won’t you? Let’s jump back a decade. Back to when James Wan was still trying to emerge from under the shadow of Saw. Back to when he made one of his best movies. Back when no one gave the terrific Dead Silence the time of day.

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guardians of the galaxy vol. 2

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: why Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is so great…and how it exposes problems in other superhero movies.)

Here we are, celebrating today’s Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2’s Blu-ray release, and I’m still asking myself the same question. How did James Gunn’s lovable superhero squad go from space-cowboy-nobodies to (some of) the world’s favorite comic movie heroes?

Star-Lord sauntered into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with minimal mainstream presence, flanked by a ragtag posse of oddballs. A gun-nut raccoon who talks? His walking, single catchphrase tree friend? Gunn had to establish singular origins, unite an Avengers-like alliance, and rock a grandiose space opera in Guardians Of The Galaxy. Then Vol. 2 needed to advance team-building, introduce even more characters and calcify the same emotional backbone. Frankly, none of this should have worked. Like how Suicide Squad attempted the same big-team buildup with half/a quarter/none of the same results.

Yet here stands James Gunn, with two of the most famous, successful, recognizable Marvel entries to his name. His success is even more impressive when you compare it directly to one of Marvel Studios’ “bigger” and more central movies: Avengers: Age of Ultron.

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Dead Shack Review

For fans of chuckle-happy zombie schlock, I present to you Peter Ricq’s Dead Shack, a scrappy Sam-Raimi-esque vision birthed from cabin-in-the-woods campfire stories. Laughs are bloody and sentiments family-driven, but one of the more impressive aspects is a low-budget production that masks shoestring restraints (“shoestring” being relative). Gore effects are squeamish and pulpy, unblemished by budgetary shortcomings – and there’s certainly no shortage of flesh-snacking examples to choose from.

A genre film that knows how to have fun while splattering a few heads in the process? You have my attention.

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another wolfcop review

Another WolfCop? Yes. “Another” means that director Lowell Dean’s howlin’ mad midnighter is indeed a sequel, and a ravenous one at that. Back again is Leo Fafard, playing Canada’s favorite donut-scarfing Lycan lawman; a fluffy beast whose moonlight methods are animalistic to the max. Criminals find themselves torn limb from limb with WolfCop once again the prowl, except this second “adventure” plays with double the obscurity. Somehow. “How does one expound upon the very premise of WolfCop,” you ask? Puppetry. Decapitations. Strippers. Moondust. Chicken Milk. Astron 6 cameos. Smacks of Alien…and maybe Mac And Me.

Did the first WolfCop leave you with a nasty genre hangover (we all have a little too much fun sometimes)? Another WolfCop is that hair o’ the dog remedy you’re looking for.

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replace review

What’s intriguing about Norbert Keil’s Replace isn’t just the Richard Stanley co-writing credit. It’s more than the “Barbara Crampton Effect.” Sinful style hypnotizes like a tractor beam that entraps voyeuristic eyes, like someone spliced the cinematic DNA of Nicolas Winding Refn and Vincenzo Natali. Vanity becomes an obsession that leads to sci-fi experimentation, not to downplay the Cronenbergian body horror elements at play. Music pulsates, skin is flayed, beautification is achieved through vile means. Yes, motivations stink of The Neon Demon. But there’s more than shallow LA scuzziness here, evocative of man’s inherent fear of deteriorating with age.

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jojo's bizarre adventure review

I rarely start reviews with first-person prose, but for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, an exception must be made. Why? Because I’ve attended midnight screenings of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room with tamer audiences. Welcome to the Fantasia International Film Festival, where a Japanese manga adaptation can pack an auditorium full of French Canadian superfans.

When JoJo first struts into focus, pompadour-on-steroids cut and all, audience members lost their collective cool, like The Beatles just touched down on American soil for the first time. Diehard “JOficionados” (Copyright) spiked an energy that can be neither bottled nor explained, as they were harder than any diamond for glam-rock JoJo. And his mousy new friend. And white hat Michael Jackson impersonator. And Water Golem (whose actual name is Aqua Necklace).

Now imagine myself – an outsider to the manga’s cult fame – who dashed from airport to theater after a three-hour-plus flight delay. Was it all just a malnourished exhaustion hallucination? That’s how it felt, and even as you read these words, I struggle to grasp what entered my eyeballs that night.

But I’m going to try.

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spider-man villains ranked

When I first pitched my idea to rank all the villains in the Spider-Man movies thus far, I was thinking small – I’d pound out a feature about the biggest bads in Peter Parker’s life and have a little fun. “Sure thing!” said /Film managing editor Jacob Hall. But then he added: “In addition to the major villains, make this stupidly comprehensive.”

Oh no. Please deceive me, eyes. “Every street criminal, every minor bad guy, and every single character who even hinders Peter Parker should be on this list.” So now I had to watch five two-hour-plus Spider-Man movies. And note every villain. And somehow make sense of a ranking that ranges from natural forces to Bruce Campbell. And find time to sleep.

I accomplished three of those objectives. My poor, neglected bed.

Enjoy the ramblings of a broken man who renewed his love of Sam Raimi’s Tobey-Man series and reaffirmed his disinterest in Marc Webb’s super-effing-dark trilogy that never was.

Note: This list does not include the villains from Spider-Man: Homecoming, mainly because this list requires the ability to press pause. Perhaps we’ll revisit it someday…

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Cool Posts From Around the Web:

Baby Driver Trailer Remix

As a die-hard action junkie, I constantly find myself pondering how this genre fights creative staleness. After decades of pulverized bodies and eviscerated landscapes, you’d assume filmmakers would be spinning the same bloody chainsaw blades by now. Can Hollywood forever recycle an “Expendables” formula by plugging in different renegades, a new villain, and loads more henchman deaths? At what point do franchises like Fast and Furious push too far and become ridiculous farces? How do you sustain a genre founded on punches, kicks, guns and explosions, without sleepwalking through the same motions?

These are all valid questions that can be answered with a single word: adaptation.

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