Monday, August 20, 2018

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich

As horror fans, we all have series that are our favorites. For me, Halloween comes first. Then there's Romero's Dead series. After that, it has to be Puppet Master. I don't know what drew me to the series at first. Maybe it was an article in Fangoria or Gorezone. Maybe it was the VHS covers that featured puppets and promised mayhem. Maybe it was just because I was a sucker for Full Moon films. While they first two films had the puppets as the antagonists and murdering those who came to stay at the Bodega Bay Inn with stop motion goodness, the latter films turned them into heroes and used them to fight off Nazis. It was an interesting change and resulted in the best film of the series, Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge. But something for me was lost. While I enjoyed the new direction, I missed the puppets being the little bastards that they were built to be.

Fortunately, it seems that someone else felt the same way and graced us with a reboot to the series in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich. Ditching the bogged down continuity the films had created until now, the movie finds us in America, where Toulon (now a Nazi) is hiding out and using his puppets to continue the horrible work he had started in Germany of killing those who do not fit into the master race and also to keep himself alive. He runs afoul of the law after they catch wind of the murders he is committing and dies in the ensuing gunfight. Fast forward to thirty years later where Edgar (Thomas Lennon), his new girlfriend Ashley (Jenny Pellicer) and friend Markowitz (Nelson Franklin) attend a convention celebrating the anniversary of Toulon's death in the hopes of selling a Blade puppet Edgar found in his late brother's possessions. Things are going swimmingly until the puppets are reanimated by a mysterious force and all hell breaks loose.

Working from a script by S. Craig Zahler, director's Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund give us a fun ride that gives us some great character performances and some room to breathe and get to know then before bringing the bloody good fun of puppets vs. people. They don't shy away from showing the puppets doing what they do best, and while there isn't as much stop motion as in previous entries, they look good and believable. The new designs for the puppets are great, too. Blade has has a complete overhaul, with his trademark albino face now a more skull-like sculpt and shines as the leader off the puppets.

Lennon shines in the part and I don't understand why he doesn't get more lead roles as he is often the best part of the movies he is in, and this is no exception. He plays a man who is broken and with a tragic past, trying to find happiness again while dealing with a story so ludicrous it could be in one of the comic books that he writes. His co-stars are equally impressive and the trio form a tight knit group that forms the heart of the film. As if that wasn't enough, we have Udo Kier in a flashback as Toulon, Barbara Crampton as cop and Michael Pare as a detective showing up to breathe even more life into the film. There's also a character played by an actor I'm not familiar with who really steals the show. You'll know who I'm talking about when you see it.

Did I mention that Fabio Frizzi (The Beyond, Zombie 2, City of the Living Dead) did the score for the film? His work is as good as ever and his new theme for the series is fantastic and I hope to hear more of it in the inevitable sequels as it is never overpowering and complements the action on screen nicely.

It's a fun flick that hits you fast and furious. There are a few missteps here and there, namely some plot questions that go unanswered, but it's a solid entry that has breathed new life into a series that has grown slightly stale over the years. If you're a fan of the OG puppets, fear not, as Charles Band is still making new movies featuring the old favorites. But with this reboot we have a new world to play in and the promise of a sequel is great and I'm looking forward to seeing where they go with it.

Check it out.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Review: How to Talk to Girls at Parties

Sometimes on the weekends when I'm trying to find something to watch and relax to, I end up finding something horrid or a piece of fried gold. How to Talk to Girls at Parties definitely falls into the latter category and is a transcendent slice of the 70's punk scene in England cross-pollinated with the goofiest aliens I've seen since Dude, Where's My Car?

The story, which is based on the story of the same name by Neil Gaiman, follows a young punk named Enn who just wants to go to shows and hang out with his friends. It is on this quest to have fun that they stumble upon a strange group living in a house, of which the lovely Zan is a member. What they don't realize that these people aren't just odd--they're out of this world! That doesn't stop Enn and Zan from falling in love, but can they make it work or will their story burn up on reentry?

The visual language in this film is amazing. From the opening scene, shot with a frame-rate that staggers and stutters, imbuing the whole proceedings with the "fuck it" attitude of the punks, to meeting the dizzying and colorful and bizarre aliens, I was hooked. It's a weird movie, but it's a movie with something to say that just wants you to watch and listen and enjoy the ride. The closest analogue that I can think of would be a cross between SLC Punk and Dude, Where's My Car? but even that falls short in the world John Cameron Mitchell has presented us with.

The cast is great too, and own their roles completely. A standout for me is Nicole Kidman as a queen of the punks looking to promote her son as the next big thing. She rules every scene that she is in and kicks so much ass it hurts. But Alex Sharp and Elle Fanning have a great chemistry that rivals any romance that I’ve seen on screen lately. Their characters ache with a longing that springs off the screen whenever they are near each other. Despite their differences as human and alien, they find a way to connect in a mad world, and isn’t that what we all want at times?

If you’re a fan of punk rock, aliens and romance and don’t mind a little quirkiness, this flick is for you.

Check it out.