Friday, February 26, 2016


"SKumm's Thoughts"

There have been a few defining moments in the superhero movie industry that have reinvigorated the genre, starting with the genius casting of Robert Downey Jr as Marvel’s IRON MAN.

Since then, we have seen an exponential growth in a market that used to thrive only on television—unless it had the word “Batman” in the title, of course. But since Downey’s debut as the smartass Tony Stark waaaaay back in 2008, we have seen no less than thirty eight superhero-based films come out of Hollywood (and beyond).

THIRTY EIGHT. That, kids, is an average of almost five per year. 2016 will be no exception; DEADPOOL has already been released, and there are seven more slated for release this year. While the fanboy in me rejoices at the thought of more super-powered mayhem, there is also a piece of me, deep down inside, that misses the Marvel days of “one property per year”—going two years between each IRON MAN film was a blessing, as you were able to appreciate each individual character more fully.

Unlike the last few years, which saw Marvel shove multiple titles in our faces to not only justify “The Avengers” mega-blockbuster plans, but also to expand the universe which became so large, so suddenly. And the upcoming BATMAN VS SUPERMAN promises to do within a few short years what it took Marvel several to accomplish; DC Comic’s “Justice League” will shortly be Hollywood’s next attempt at the mega-blockbuster gambit. Not only are they introducing Wonder Woman in the film, but they will also set up every other main character for that team up. In one film.

Zack Snyder (300, MAN OF STEEL) really needs to take a time out. At least Marvel gave us some breathing room, and was able to flesh out the storyline by taking things at a normal, controlled pace. BVS is way too ambitious, way too early.

Thank the Sweet Baby Hey-Zeus for DEADPOOL.

Here is the dangerous and horrible reality of DEADPOOL: it will undoubtedly spell trouble for any other superhero film that comes out this year. It has a hard “R” rating, with enough bad language and boobies to make you forget that you are watching an actual Marvel film. And that isn’t even the dangerous part; the thing that could spell trouble for every single one of the other Marvel, DC, and even the off-brands is the money side of it, the business side.

The following is a breakdown of the previously released films which all have a sequel coming out this year—what they cost to make (this figure is estimated, because few studios want you to know EXACTLY how much they spent on those special effects), and what they grossed:

Budget: $170,000,000
Total Gross: $714,766,572 (Worldwide)

Budget: $225,000,000
Total Gross: $668,045,518 (Worldwide)

Budget: $200,000,000
Total Gross: $748,121,534 (Worldwide)

All impressive figures, but do you see a trend there? Between the three, the average budget was $198,333,333. Wanna know how much it cost to make DEADPOOL?


You read that right. LESS THAN A THIRD of the other films’ costs. Couldn’t really tell though, could you? (See, therein lies more of the danger—you don’t have to spend hundreds of millions on special effects if you have a good story with great humor and an awesome cast…)

Now, for a film to start making money, it typically needs to gross twice its production cost. Most studios spend at least the same amount as the budget on marketing. With that in mind, let us now take another look at those figures (I know you’re bored, but stick with me, I’m making a freaking point, and I’m DOING MATH), but this time, the number I’m giving you is MY estimation of their profit:

CAPTAIN: $374,766,572
MAN OF STEEL: $218,045,518
X-MEN: $348,121,534

The scary part:

DEADPOOL: $491,700,000.

DEADPOOL has been in theatres for two weeks as of yesterday. It is already more profitable than the others based on percentages alone (don’t ask—I said I was “doing math”, not quantum physics and crap that comes with a freaking “%” –symbol after it), and has not even been released in every country worldwide yet.

And yes, the studio is already working on a sequel, which if we are still looking at the business side of things, was so obviously expected that it was announced before the opening weekend was even over. Hell yes, they should make a sequel.

And if Marvel was smart, the nimrods at Disney and Sony will figure out a way to get the Deadpool character into their franchises, as well. At this point, it may take an “R” rating to save what’s left of the SPIDER-MAN mess at Sony…

Now, I’m not saying that every other superhero film that comes out this year will suck. Unless the word “Thor” is in the title, studios tend to shy away from spending hundreds of millions on sucky movies. But no other film will be as profitable this year as DEADPOOL. (You can quote me on that one, kids.) And it isn’t so much that Ryan Reynolds & Co. raised the bar, so much as it is that they greased that sucker with generous amounts of Crisco and laid it over a pit filled with barbed wire and pissed off weasels. So good luck Hollywood, because your profit-margin asses now belong to a lunatic in spandex. (Not me, although it could describe my last weekend…)

-- T. S. Kummelman

(The monetary figures are from IMDB, so if anyone wants to fact-check me, you have the internet movie Gods to answer to...)(and the calculator on my phone...)(and my editor, who is a ninja, he will fight you.)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: THE WITCH

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: 
on THE WITCH (2015, 92 minutes, R)


The Quick of It -
Ok, so the word on the 'street' was this film showed promise.  Well, don't listen to the street.  
A period piece set in colonial America has the groundwork for a great film.  The setting and premise are solid, keeping to a rustic and 'truth in film' atmosphere.   You may get put off by the language as your ear has to adjust for the first 30 minutes, but you also spend that time waiting... and waiting.  Director Robert Eggers shows you he can make something out of nothing, just this was not the strongest story development he could have gone with.  By keeping too close to the formula, where it seems a documentary made into a live-action film, the story losses the flair needed to impress.  There are the bits of tension, the clever use of past references, and imagery that could haunt you... but the culmination leads to so little. 

Grade: D+

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

'Blu-ray or Bust' - BRIDGE OF SPIES

'Blu-ray or Bust'

Steven Spielberg likes taking his viewers on a journey; he does it so well that he honestly has become one of the most prolific storytellers of my generation.

With BRIDGE OF SPIES, he takes you back in time to the late 1950’s. And like most of his prior attempts to recreate history, he offers you something that isn’t just another Spielberg film: he transports you for a few hours. Occasionally, I wish he would return to crafting those days of wonder, similar to his earlier works, when he would leave me with my eyes wide and staring, my mind blown. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, E.T., RAIDERS—all films that had that clearly recognizable Spielberg stamp on it. They were wonderful road movies of self-discovery and surprise and awesome set pieces. And the stories…oh, the fantastic stories!

Somewhere along the way, Spielberg grew up. Not a bad thing, necessarily.  His way of storytelling has changed, has become more mature. With 1993’s SCHINDLER’S LIST, there was still a bit of that flair of his early days resounding in the work. Yes, it was a bleak and dreary film; but tell me that, by the end of that long, gut-wrenching journey, with the victorious end, you didn’t get that same feeling of satisfaction you got from watching one of his prior films. Maybe not as happy a feeling, but you know you had just witnessed a damn good story.

Twelve years later, and he laid MUNICH on us. Powerful, emotionally draining, dark, and freaking violent. It felt nothing at all like a Spielberg film. He has been changing things subtly over the years, but, until 2005, you didn’t get to see all of it come into play at once. It was kind of a shock to the system.

Now, teaming with Tom Hanks once again, he tells the story of American attorney James Donovan, who was recruited by the CIA to negotiate an exchange of spies in East Germany at the height of the cold war. The story, written by wunderkind brothers Joel and Ethan Cohen, is tight, effective, and poignant when it needs to be. And Spielberg’s direction…one minute you are watching a courtroom drama, the next a spy thriller. He shifts between the two styles effortlessly, and Hanks’ acting is better than ever. You can see the look in his eyes when he gets to East Berlin; he is totally out of his depth, until he isn’t anymore. Donovan is an interesting character, and in anyone else’s hands, he might have come off as self-righteous or over exuberant. Not so with Hanks, this generation’s Jimmy Stewart. He brings a level of clarity to every character he plays, and this one is no exception.

You kinda have to get this one on Blu-ray. Spielberg’s favorite cinematographer Janusz Kaminski makes your brain linger on the harsh differences between the two countries that see each other as the bad guy. His reality is sharp and consistent. And the score by Thomas Newman (SKYFALL, WALL-E) is a nice complement to Spielberg and Kaminski’s visual style.

There are three special feature docs, which give you a little back-story on the actual events this film is based on. The best moments are the archival footage of the actual events, which shed new light on a filmmaker’s attempt at accuracy. Spielberg’s commitment to the story and the facts is unquestionable.

As of this writing, the iconic director’s next film is in post-production, and looks to be a return to his earlier muses: THE BFG is about a girl that befriends an outcast giant. And, he’ll be headed back into the science fiction realm soon with his adaptation of the (rather fantastic) book READY PLAYER ONE. And…the next Indiana Jones film. Wait…what was I complaining about earlier...?

Grade: A
Special Features: B+
Blu-ray Necessary: Most Definitely

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: DEADPOOL

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: 
on DEADPOOL (2016, 108 minutes, R)

After the long wait, the moment of truth came... and it went.

The hype has been strong for DEADPOOL, and for good reason.  After the first debacle with his failed introduction to the Marvel Universe (MU) in X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, the character seemed doomed to sit in limbo.  I, on the one hand, enjoyed the movie and understood why they did what they did, but no excuses.  I cannot condone their actions and choices, and I wasn't quick to be the bus driver either.

So, when the test footage was 'leaked', you knew that they were taking this project VERY serious.  Well, as serious as Deadpool can be.  But the question still remained as to whether Ryan Reynolds could pull it off.  Again, another failed introduction of a popular superhero.  This time in the DCU with Green Lantern, with Reynolds at the forefront.  Can DEADPOOL live up to the hype with all these hurdles? 

After seeing it and talking to all the fans in my circles of friends, there were varied responses, but most giving high marks.  I found the film, the onslaught of references, and crass humor to be the perfect dosage.  I have not laughed in a film as much as that in a very long time, if ever that much.  I'm afraid I may have missed a few references from the stream of jokes because I was too busy laughing.  If someone were to not like it, that would be because they did not understand a majority of the references... and there are a ton.

So, for the main elements of the film.  The story was solid and they kept it simple.  Bravo.  The filming was around the appropriate settings, so no grandiose places or scenery.  Not needed.  The dialogue and humor were well above expected levels.  In my opinion, DEADPOOL was better than GUARDIANS in comedic value.  The box office records prove that the film, even while rated R (keeping the tykes at home is a must), can make bank.  Only four other Marvel films opened higher - both AVENGERS movies, IRON MAN 3, and SPIDER-MAN 3.

There will be many debates, some you will be dragged into whether you like or not, as to where this film ranks as a superhero film.  I say, "Who cares.  He doesn't even qualify as a superhero.  Not even an anti-hero.  He is the ULTIMATE anti-villain."  

Grade: A+

PS.  What's my name?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

“Blu-ray or Bust” - SPECTRE

“Blu-ray or Bust”
SPECTRE (2015, PG-13, 148 minutes, COLUMBIA PICTURES/MGM)

It has been interesting to watch Daniel Craig’s James Bond simmer and punch his way into our hearts. Of course, at first, he was more like a punk with a license to kill, barreling through walls and bad guys like a mechanical bull with legs.

With SPECTRE, his fourth turn at the character, we get to see how smooth and refined that transition has made him. The Bond we see now isn’t the ruffian from CASINO ROYALE. But even back then, we knew he would, one day, grow up. Now is that time.

The latest installment of the Bond franchise may not be the best of the bunch, but it is at least as good as SKYFALL was, if not better. Not only do we witness the culmination of all of that hard work and training, we also get what could be the best executed Bond film in years. Sam Mendes (SKYFALL, ROAD TO PERDITION) has written a two-and-a-half hour love letter to the Bond films of yore. The opening sequence itself is worth the price of the disc; how he managed to execute a five minute continuous take in the middle of Mexico’s Day of the Dead is mesmerizing. From the ground, which is covered in parade revelers decked out in costumes of the dead, up through a building, and onto a rooftop…again, a mesmerizing shot. And that’s just the first five minutes; I haven’t even told you about how you should never, and I mean NEVER, trust a freaking helicopter.

The best things about this film is Mendes’s need to take you back to the sophisticated take on the character that was the smooth Sean Connery, the debonair Roger Moore, all rolled up into an aging but still very capable Craig. This grown up Bond gets to travel to exotic locations; he races cars through the nighttime streets of Rome, turns an airplane into a multi-purpose vehicle in the Alps, and…those damn helicopters…

I refuse, as always, to give you any spoilers. Rest assured that the other bright spots in the film is every other stinkin’ cast member; Christoph Waltz is the bad guy, his muscle is Drax (also known as “Dave Bautsista”), and Bond’s women are the still stunning Monica Bellucci and the lovely Léa Seydoux, who has grown up a bit from her days in BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR and THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. But I do have one teensy little complaint: can the writers find nothing better to do than to put the hero’s job and department on the line? It is an over-used plot device, most commonly used in every freaking MISSION IMPOSSIBLE film, and a few times in these new Bond films. Find a better plot line, people. That one is getting used more than my favorite pair of man-panties.

This is a must on Blu-ray; buy it for the familiar twangs and booms of the soundtrack, or buy it for The Largest Explosion Captured on Film. Just buy it. The special features are comprised of what the studio calls “video blogs”, which are nothing of the sort (two minute commercials, really), and one twenty minute doc dedicated mostly to that opening sequence. Kind of a must see.

While there has been no confirmation that Craig will return as Bond for a fifth time, it will be interesting to see what level the next film is taken to. As grandness goes, this one beats the other Craig vehicles. And while the story may feel a bit bloated at times, this is classic Bond, modernized. It’s almost enough to make you miss that time he killed the other guy with a bathroom…

Film Grade: A-
Special Features: B
Blu-ray Necessary: Absolutely

-- T. S. Kummelman

Thursday, February 11, 2016


The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: 

The Quick of It -
Watching military flicks from the standpoint of someone who spent time in the service makes it hard to offer an opinion without having some bias, and I don’t mean in the good way.  Just like the CSI shows, if you talk to someone who has done that line of work, they will tell you with a cringe that it is often very fake.  13 HOURS was a good film but, even though based on true events, was a little too over-dramatized for my taste.  The action was intense, the bureaucracy is very real, and the sense of living in a foreign country was palpable.  The team of actors they assembled was a work of genius in casting, to include the required Max Martini (‘The Unit’, PACIFIC RIM, and many others) as a legitimate sense of quality trained soldiers.  My problem with the film is that, by the end, it comes off as a subtle propaganda piece with the not-so-classy dramatization of story elements.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a great action movie, but don’t fall for the hype and believe that someone would appreciate the dangers they faced put in such a light.

Grade: B

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: GOOSEBUMPS

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: 

The Quick of It -
Jack is back, and it’s one you might not want to miss.  He stars as R. L. Stine in director’s Rob Letterman’s GOOSEBUMPS.  This clever tale has all the monsters of Stine’s past stories sealed in the books in his library, just waiting for someone to come along and ‘accidentally’ release them on the world.  Letterman has worked with Black twice before, SHARK TALE and GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, and the pairing still works.  Black plays the neurotic writer with flare and fun, cementing this kids tale as one of the best feel-good movies in a while.  Dylan Minnette (of PRISONERS, LET ME IN, and ALEXANDER AND THE BLAH.. BLAH… BLAH… (that damn long title…)) is still pushing up in the rookie ranks of Hollywood with Odeya Rush (of THE GIVER and THE OFF LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN) close on his heels.  And if you still question my opinion, just know that Black voices the sinister puppet ‘Slappy’, sounding just like Mark Hamill’s Joker voicework.  You can’t go wrong.

Grade: B+

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

"Dirty Obscurities and Abject Poking: The Sexiness You’re Missing on NETFLIX"

"Dirty Obscurities and Abject Poking: The Sexiness You’re Missing on NETFLIX"

Not-So-Soft-Core Valentines

So, someone apparently coined a phrase that totally does not mean what I thought it did. If someone asks you if you would like to “watch Netflix and chill”, it really means “come over and we’ll bump uglies on my couch”. Therefore, in the spirit of that most sacred of bones-jumping day, I present to you this month’s challenge: movies to watch on Netflix and “chill” by. I’ve broken it down for all types of lovers, so break out your full-body condoms and let’s keep it safe out there, folks. This list also comes complete with incredibly winning Seal-the-Deal Lines. America (or at least the twelve people that still read my crap), you’re welcome.




This documentary about the website is all about people that like to be tied up, and the people that like to tie them. This isn’t so much of a hetero or homosexual topic—both are on display here, but the sex, as the players will tell you, is not the most important part. It’s the release of control…until you get to the lady that has two-thousand and fifty-three Big O’s. I don’t care what your sexual preference is—that scene is a doozy.

Seal-the-Deal Line I: “Hey, maybe we should try that?”

SDL II: “Wanna see what I can do with a candle?”

Last Resort SDL: “Hey, you think I’d look better in leather chaps or without leather chaps?” (At which point you jump up and rip off your pants because, let’s face it, if you are forced to go with the Last Resort line, you may wind up chilling yourself at the end of the night…)

(2015, NR, 135 minutes, CANAL+)

This is one of those “artistic porn” films. It is a realistic love(ish) story about the world’s biggest douche-tard, a guy named “Murphy”. Murphy is in love with “Electra”, but winds up impregnating the girl they have a threesome with. If your chillbuddy asks you what the film is about, just say that it is about a complete jackass who gets a lot of sex. Oh, and unless you want your partner to be shocked into uncomfortableness, explain, before the movie even starts, that the people in this film ARE ACTUALLY DOING THE DEED. Do not put this on with the kids in the house/same town as you, and, do not under ANY FREAKING CIRCUMSTANCES recommend this to one of your parents. This film deftly covers twosome’s, threesome’s, sex clubs, and transsexuals. Not to mention several other scenarios. Hence the run-time… (In all fairness, this is a pretty good film, which would have been better if half of the sex scenes would have been left on the editing room floor—but this isn’t about artistry, folks; it’s all about that base, ‘bout that base.)

Seal-the-Deal Line I: “It may look like he’s good at that, but check THIS out!”

SDL II: “Uh, can you tell I’m happy to see you? Nope, that’s not a penlight in my pocket.”

Last Resort SDLIII: (If you make it past the thirty-four minute mark - ) First, point at the TV and say: “You want to finish this later?” Then, point at an inappropriate part of your chillbuddy’s anatomy and say: “‘Cause I think I should finish THAT now!”



This James Franco production plays like a filmmaking documentary, but is so much (BAD PUN ALERT) DEEPER than that. The sex is real, and you are pretty sure the reactions are real. But is this really a documentary about Franco and writer/director Travis Matthews trying to recreate the controversial gay bar footage cut from William Friedkin’s 1980 classic CRUISIN’? Or is it, as Franco preaches at the thirty-five minute mark, an exercise in sexual diplomacy? Several good (BAD PUN ALERT II) POINTS are made during this hour long exploration of Straight Vs. Gay cinematic norms, not the least of which is the whole mainstream argument. Yet, I digress. This is supposed to be about The Chill Factor, no? I’ll say this: these dudes get their freak on. And, this one successfully (OH DEAR GOD, ANOTHER PUN ALERT) PULLS OFF the “porn as art” bit. There’s sex in them thar clubs, people!

Seal-the-Deal Line I: “Okay, but watch how I do that!”

SDL II: “Ooo, look, I have a paddle, too!”

Last Resort SDL: “I swear I’m a kick-ass boot-licker!!”


(2010, NR, 109 minutes, MORENA FILMS/CANAL+)

This poignant, tender, sexy, and ultimately heart wrenching film about a Russian woman and a Spanish woman going back to a hotel room for sex is a better choice than BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR. While the actresses here are just as beautiful as those in BLUE, these are adults on a road to discovery. And the fact that this is a love story that takes place in one night makes it that much more meaningful (to heck with your preconceived notions of one night stands!). And, since this is supposed to be a column about Chill Factor, it helps that the two main characters are naked for about eight-nine percent of the film. The best scene is when they are speaking to each other in their native (oh, hell, is the warning even necessary any more?...) tongues, neither understanding what the other is saying.

Seal-the-Deal Line I: “Honestly, who needs clothes anyways?”

SDL II: “Shower? Bath? Showerbath?”

Last Resort SDL: “All that Spanish talk is making me hungry… FOR TACOS, BABY!”

Why are you still reading this? GO WATCH A MOVIE! (or “chill”, or whatever you crazy kids do!!!!)

Time to start coming up with suggestions, kids. It’s simple, really; Netflix comes up with weird queues all the time (“Foreign Lesbian Crime Thrillers” and “Quirky Horror” have both come up in my queue before…). It is your job (all twelve of my readers) to try and stump me. Stop being lazy! Otherwise, you let me win!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

'Blu-ray or Bust' - GOODNIGHT MOMMY

'Blu-ray or Bust'
GOODNIGHT MOMMY (2015, R, 100 minutes, RADIUS)

After watching GOODNIGHT MOMMY, I have come to the conclusion that you should never, under any circumstances, raise your children in Austria.

Seriously. Oh, sure, the countryside is beautiful; lovely forests, scenic lakes, winding country roads. Not to mention the dark tunnels and creepy graveyard crypts . . . which, apparently, are the least of your worries.

Written and directed by the team of Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, this creepy film is arguably the most unsettling horror film of 2015. When I reviewed IT FOLLOWS early last year, I believe I mentioned that it was going to be a tough film to beat. MOMMY comes close, but for entirely different reasons. Where IT portrayed a relentless (if not eventual) evil, this film strikes on several different chords.

Twin brothers Lukas and Elias (portrayed by the effective Lukas and Elias Schwartz) seem to be living a care-free life in a remote home. Playing in the surrounding woods, swimming in the lake, investigating the local cemetery . . . really, what could possibly go wrong? Well, for starters, their mother returns after a surgery that has left her face bandaged and unrecognizable. The procedure has also seemed to have changed something fundamental within her. It is the distrust the boys feel with her that sets this tale on an irreversible and damnable course. To say anything else would give too much away, however…

You might figure this one out early on. You may think you know the wicked twist, and you probably do. I figured it out early on, but was still unprepared for the course the story would take. Remember, I mentioned that this is, hands down, the most unsettling genre film of last year. Stick with it and see why.

While not entirely necessary on Blu-ray, I would suggest you go that route. No, no giant explosions or booming soundtrack. But the cinematographic eye of Martin Gschlacht (his was the brilliant vision on display in 2012’s THE WALL, which captured the Austrian countryside with seamless finesse and majesty) is best appreciated in the format. There are several cinematic techniques used that sets this apart from your standard horror fare. And while the Schwartz brothers both help create an atmosphere of mystery, it is Gschlacht’s haunting photography that solidifies the tension. What at first seems an idyllic setting quickly becomes gloomy and claustrophobic.

There is only one special feature, and it is the writer/directors speaking to each other and an off-screen interviewer. Not as good as your usual docs, but insightful—if not a tad bit boorish.

So if you are thinking of rearing your kids in Austria, DON’T. Save your money for Octoberfest. Or an extra schnitzel.

Film Grade: A
Special Features: C-
Blu-ray Necessary: Recommended

-- T.S.Kummelman