Thursday Movie Picks - TV Edition: Horror

Happy Halloween! Our final festive theme at Wandering Through The Shelves is horror on the small screen. The only rule I gave myself is that I wouldn't use the TV shows I picked last year and thankfully there's still some great things out there.

1) The Haunting of Hill House

This was an excellent mini series last year that I binged quite quickly. It even managed to get me with a jump scare. 

2) Stranger Things

While season 3 moved away from it's normal Halloween setting and instead happened during the 4th of July, it only made it slightly less creepy.

3) Black Mirror

While this show as a whole isn't specifically horror themed. You can't argue with the fact that most of the episodes are literal horror movies. Whether you're being chased by robots, put in a scary video game simulator, or being blacked mailed into fucking a pig on national television. 

Review: Dolemite Is My Name

And this is the motherfucking game.

Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) is a comedian trying to make it big. He creates the character Dolemite - a very vulgar, kung fu fighting alter ego that catches on and becomes a huge hit in the comedy album scene. Moore decides he wants to move to the big screen and sets out to make a Dolemite movie.

When I started this film, I didn't think I knew much about Rudy Ray Moore, then as it went on I started recognizing several things, and it dawned on me I've had one of this films - The Human Tornado - in my Netflix Queue for over a year. But you don't need to know anything about Moore or Dolemite to enjoy this. It's such an easy film to love.

What I liked the most about this film was its structure. Many biopics put a lot of focus on the hardships, and Moore faced plenty, but I liked that they didn't dwell on his set backs. Watching him do stand up is fun, making the movie is outrageous, and whenever they hit a bump, it's brief. They spend more time with Rudy working hard and enjoying his craft. It keeps us upbeat with him.

The cast is absolutely amazing. I missed seeing Eddie Murphy like this. He hasn't done anything that's jumped out at me since he was robbed of his Oscar in Dreamgirls. He's perfect in this role and the supporting cast is amazing. Craig Robinson (I forgot how much I adore his singing voice), Mike Epps, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Keegan Michael Key Tittuss Burgess and Wesley Snipes - another whom I haven't seen like this in what feels like forever are all wonderful. I really hope they get a SAG ensemble award. I hope Murphy, Snipes, and Randolph get Oscar nominations. I want this to get as much awards love as possible.

I was not expecting to love this as much as I did, it just worked on every level and is easily one of the funniest films of the year. And thankfully for most of us, it's right there on Netflix to watch. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "I just want people to know I exist." - Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy)

Review: Tell Me Who I Am

The "gift" of a different life. 

When Alex Lewis was 18, he was in a motorcycle accident. He sustained a head injury that left him in a coma, and when he woke up, the only person he recognized was his twin brother Marcus. He didn't recognize his parents, had no memory of anything that happened before the moment he woke up, and had to re-learn nearly everything. Since Alex had no reason at all not to trust Marcus, he decides to ignore their traumatic past and fill his brother's head with more hopeful and normal stories of their childhood. After their parents die, Alex finally begins to ask Marcus more hard hitting questions.

What happened to Alex after his accident is extraordinary in itself. How do you lose everything except your knowledge of your twin? The brothers clearly have a strong bond and Alex speaks very fondly of Marcus. There's no hint of contempt for the deception. They wrote an autobiography together about this story back in 2013 that I have not read, but I feel they've summed up everything well here. Alex tells us stories about not knowing what dogs were and being thrilled with his mother brought a few home, but then the stories get darker. Like how he thought it was normal that the brothers were forced to live in a shed at one point and were not allowed upstairs or to have a key to their own house. The film gets flat out uncomfortable when Marcus finally breaks down to us what really went on in their household.

There's nothing flashy about this doc, it's a very straightforward interview with the Lewis brothers and I think that works best. There is a lot to unpack here. What happened to them is horrible and it's hard to listen to them relive it. On the other hand there's also a very inspiring story of brotherly love. While Marcus didn't get the luxury of forgetting this trauma and explaining it to Alex was hard, he got through it and he knows he's not defined by it. 

Clocking in at a swift 1hr25 minutes, this is definitely a documentary you should check out if you have a Netflix subscription

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "He just said yes." - Alex

Five Underrated Horror Films

October always brings wonderful horror recommendations from my fellow bloggers but today I wanted to talk about a few that don't get a lot of mentions - from myself included. I always have a few that I champion but the ones below I don't believe I've mentioned in a while. I'll also link to my old reviews of each film. Apologies for how terrible my writing used to be. (Not that it's good now, but it was once worse)

1) Red White & Blue

No, not the prestigious Three Colors trilogy. Calling this film unsettling is an understatement. It shows the ugly side of human nature by showing us three individuals we want to sympathize with at first until they give us every reason not to. Full review.

2) Home Movie

Found footage films aren't as much as a thing as they were a few years ago but one that consistently sticks in my mind as one of the better ones is Home Movie. It's not perfect, but it's different. It's about a couple whose 10 year old twins start acting very sinister. Full review.

3) Starry Eyes

If body horror is what you're into, Starry Eyes is here for you. An aspiring actress finds her auditions getting weirder, and weirder, but she continues to go because she wants to live her dream. When The Neon Demon came out, I saw a bit of an up kick in people talking about this film as they are slightly similar, but for me this is the better of the two. Full review.

4) Clown

I couldn't make this list without bringing in some camp. A man puts on a clown costume for his son's birthday that eventually starts possessing him. At one point, the killer clown gets into a ball pit at a Chuck E Cheez and starts going after children. It's wild. Full review.

5) Backcountry

This might be a bit of a niche, but I'm terrified of bears, y'all. The Edge scared the crap out of me as a child. This film is frightening for a couple of reasons. Bears, camping, and stupid boyfriends. Full review.

Thursday Movie Picks: Rituals

This week's Halloween Theme from Wandering Through Our Selves is something you hope you're never a part of...a ritual. There are a ton of horror movies involving rituals out there and lucky for us, one of the best ones ever made came out this year. Here are a few I enjoy for varying reasons

1) Midsommar

This is still one of my favorite films I've seen this year, and it's the prettiest horror movie you'll ever see. Even when those horrifying rituals show up.

2) The Ritual

This one you can watch on Netflix about a group of men who get lost camping and stumble upon something sinister. It's pretty good, especially for how Netflix horror films tend to go.

3)The Wicker Man

Now for something stupid! You can't not laugh during the Wicker Man remake. It's one of the funniest movies ever made. I suppose if you're a huge fan of the original you might be offended by this movies' presence but it's one of the best bad movies out there. 

My Favorite Women in Horror Films

I thought it would be fun to showcase some of my favorite women in horror films. Whether they're final girls, scene stealers, scream queens, may queens, or even a prom queen, here's a quick list of some women I love. Let me know some recommendations you have as well. 

Justine - Raw
Oh Justine, I want you to figure it out too.

Dana - Cabin in the Woods
One of my favorite movies of all time.

Laurie Strode - Halloween
The ultimate final girl.

Maddie - Hush
The scariest home invasion movie I've seen.

Suzy - Suspira
I love this candy colored nightmare.

Ellen Ripley - Alien
This badass.

Lizzie - The Perfection
She was my favorite part of this. 

May - May
So creepy, and one I need to revist.

Amelia - The Babadook
One of the deepest horror films in recent memory.

Selena - 28 Days Later
For being so tough and protective of young Hannah.

Carrie - Carrie
The most memorable prom queen.

Sidney Prescott - Scream
My favorite scream queen.

Lorraine Warren - The Conjuring
Because she holds it together during all the uncomfortable creepiness.

Soo-an - Train To Busan
This little one was everything in this film.

Sarah - Starry Eyes
What a price for fame.

Dani - Midsommar
The May Queen.

Melanie - The Girl With All The Gifts
Because she's so sweet in a world that is so cruel.

Jesse - The Neon Demon
I'm actually just high key obsessed with the makeup and costumes in this film.

Review: Zombieland: Double Tap

The rules are still in place

It's been approximately seven years since we last checked in with our gang and now Tallahasse, (Woody Harrelson) Columbus, (Jesse Eisenberg) Wichita, (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigal Breslin) have crossed the country yet again and are now living at the White House. Little Rock however is getting stir crazy since she's never around people her own age. At first, Wichita understands, and they leave the boys in the middle of the night. But when they do pick up a hitcher Little Rock's age, she ditches her sister to be with him, and now she has to go back to ask for help.

One thing hasn't changed, and it's the wonderful chemistry between the leads. They play off each other wonderfully. Breslin doesn't spend a lot of time with the main group, but the other three bounce off one another like no time has passed. There's several laugh out loud moments and many call backs to the original. Some funny (like getting "Murray'd") some far too on the nose ("That's so 2009!") 

As for the new characters,they're mostly pretty awful. Rosario Dawson as the Elvis loving Nevada is the only good addition. Zoey Deutch's Madison is extremely annoying and serves no purpose but to add unneeded tension between Columbus and Wichita. Deutch is good, don't get me wrong, but that gag grows old almost immediately.

It's a bit strange that after all these years they're still calling each other by their fake names, but that's how we know them I suppose, and it's good to see them back. This film in no way captures the original magic, but it's still a decent watch that I would definitely recommend if you enjoyed the first one.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "Time to kick some dicks." - Tallahasse (Woody Harrelson)

Review: The Laundromat

The Small Short.

When Ellen Martin's (Meryl Streep) husband dies in a boating accident, she expects a big pay out from the boat company's insurance policy. Only she finds out it's fraudulent and linked to a law firm in Panama ran by our narrators -  Jürgen Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Ramón Fonseca. (Antonio Banderas) 

Stephen Soderbergh apparently really liked The Big Short, because that's exactly what he's attempting to do here structure wise. Instead of the housing crisis,we have an insurance scam. It is well directed but the characters are not nearly as compelling as The Big Short, or most recently Hustlers to pull this type of film off. 

Before I watched this I had read some negative reviews that all talked about Streep, but it was Oldman and Banderas who I thought were completely insufferable. Oldman's accent is atrocious, he sounds like he's just trying to mimic Banderas so I was quite confused when his character mentions being from Germany. So we're stuck with annoying narrator who stay with us throughout, while all the interesting characters show up for 10 minutes, than disappear. They show how far and wide this scam goes. Taking us to Nevis, Panama, China, Los Angeles and introduce us to other characters that they promptly leave. 

Jeffrey Wright shows up to dodge a phone call, dodge a question, then get arrested. The biggest waste involves Nonso Anozie, Jessica Allain, Miracle Washington and Nikki Amuka-Bird.  Anozie plays Charles, a man who cheats on his wife (Amuka-Bird) with his daughter Simone's (Allian) friend Astrid. (Washington) Simone threatens to tell her mom, so Charles tries to bribe her with shares. It's the most engaging part of the movie, they get about 15-20 minutes of time, then we never see them again.  Nearly all the side stories are more interesting than the man one with Ellen.

I had low expectations going in, and this film was better than I expected, but it's nowhere near good.

Recommended: No

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "How does he fucking do it?" - Simone (Jessica Allain)

2019 Blind Spot Series: Eraserhead

What I knew going in: That it was weird.

Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) is a factory worker in a world that apparently barely survived a nuclear holocaust. He is forced into marrying a girl he had sex with, Mary X (Charlotte Stewart) after she gives birth to a mutant baby out of wedlock. Parenthood is not for these two.

I knew this was going to be weird, but holy shit. I always assumed Rubber would continue to reign supreme as the strangest thing I've ever watched but I think this actually takes the cake. Eraserhead definitely wants you to decide what this film means to you. After I sat there incredulous for a while after the fact, I pulled up this films' IMDb page, read the synopsis and some of the reviews and there are people who put a lot more thought into this then I did. 

I'll be the first to admit, I'm not in the best place to watch this. A film like this is probably best seen at a midnight movie. Not when you're depressed and lonely, like I am at the moment. That's not the film's fault, but it requires a certain head space and I'm just not there at the moment. Which is a shame because this movie is truly director David Lynch's start. You get a glimpse of the interesting figure he was about to become.

I don't want to end this review on a bad note, so I want to point out the one thing this film does really well - it's creepy as fuck. The mutant baby, if you want to call it that is so unsettling to look at. Especially with the way the camera lingers. There's barely any dialogue in this movie and often you're just left with the score and this baby's cries, and boy is that effective.

Recommended: Today, no. Another day, probably yes.

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "Oh, you really are sick." - Henry Spencer (Jack Nance)

Indie Gems: The Wind

I think we're alone now. 

Lizzy (Caitlin Gerard) lives isolated on the plains with her husband, Isaac. (Ashley Zukerman) He's gone for many days at a time, leaving her isolated save for an occasional visit from neighbors Emma and Gideon. (Julia Goldani Telles and Dylan McTee) But Lizzy is plagued by evil spirits...or is she? Maybe it's just her mind playing tricks on her.

If you've been here for awhile you know I struggle with Westerns. It's a genre that never fails to bore me. Thankfully at a brisk 1 hour 26 minutes, The Wind never has time to be boring, even though it is what you could call a "slow burn" in a sense. Dread plagues Lizzy. You get an uneasy feeling watching this throughout. She's also somewhat of an unreliable narrator in a way. The film constantly asks you to question what's happening to her. Is the isolation affecting her head space? Is there really a demon out there? Both? 

I loved how Gerard plays this part. She doesn't always do sympathetic things but I never once stopped caring about her and you can tell director Emma Tammi cares about her deeply too. They could've gone a completely different route with this. Her husband and neighbors could've been antagonists, but they're not. They could've had her be over the top crazy, but she isn't. It reminded me a bit of The Babadok in a sense that this was a story about mental illness as well as a horror film.

There are a few cheap jump scares, and the film sometimes suffers from not being told in a linear fashion, but if you're looking for something quiet and creepy, this one is for you.

Grade: B

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "You have been such a strong person, I would not have survived without you." - Emma

Thursday Movie Picks: Jump Scares That Got You

This week's Halloween theme from Wandering Through The Shelves was one that I suggested. Jump Scares...that actually do their job. I think sometimes horror fans are immune to jump scares because we see so many. Or the film is predictable and you can see them coming a mile away. But sometimes..they're effective. Here are a few that had me flying out of my seat.

1) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Yes, I chose the remake. This is honestly probably the dumbest thing I've ever jumped at...the scene where Sheriff Hoyt comes up to the teenager's car window out of nowhere. It's such a cheap move but for some reason or another I did not see this coming at all.

2) It

This film was effectively creepy without relying on jump scares but when Giant Pennywise came out of the projector the Losers were watching, that had me out of my seat. 

3) The Descent

I'm sure you can guess what got me in this film before I even say it. Yes, that car crash/fake out ending. Honestly this is just a brilliantly done film all around, and there's nothing quite like thinking your final girl made it, only to get scared out of your seat, then slapped in the face with reality. 

Bonus: Gothika. Not because I flew out of my seat, but because a woman in another row did and dumped her entire popcorn bucket all over me. I actually love this movie, it's a weird guilty pleasure, but I always think of popcorn lady when I watch it. 

Review: El Camino

Yeah bitch, escape!

Following being set free from his captors, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) looks to leave Albuquerque and start a new life, but nearly every obstacle possible gets in his way. 

I've you've been reading here, you know how much I love Breaking Bad. I think it's one of the best - if not THE best show on television and the ending was perfect and fulfilling. But Vince Gilligan always has surprises for us. I didn't think I needed more backstop on Saul Goodman, but Better Call Saul has been a great show. Now he offers us a chance to see what happens to Jesse after he and Walt part ways. In my head, I gave Jesse a happy ending. Now we get to see if he actually gets one. 

I loved El Camino. It works perfectly as an extended epilogue to Breaking Bad. I had almost expected them not to revisit anyone else from the series, but they incorporate familiar faces seamlessly. Nothing about it is cringy or forced.

Aaron Paul is still fantastic as ever, and Jesse Plemmons wonderfully returns as Todd for flashbacks and a stark reminder of just how messed up his character was. The film doesn't sugarcoat Jesse's PTSD from being imprisoned. We see how every little thing weighs on him, and it makes us root for him more.

If I had to critique anything, my main gripe is Andrea. I've always felt like the show chose to focus more on Jane because a well known actress played her, but Andrea also made a huge impression on Jesse, and I would've liked a better flashback of the two of them together.

If you're a fan of Breaking Bad, you obviously need to see this. Hopefully you have already by the time I post this.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "You were standing on stage when they handed it to me, dick." - Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul)

Indie Gems: The Perfection

You can play it.

Charlotte (Allison Willams) used to be a cello prodigy before she had to quit taking lessons at a prestigious school to go care for her ailing mother. Now she travels to Shanghai to meet the other gifted student who took her place, Lizzie. (Logan Browning) They hit it off immediately, then things go way downhill. 

I've read a lot of positive, but extremely vague reviews of The Perfection before hitting play on Netflix, and for good reason. The less you know about this movie, the better. The only warning I'll give you is not to eat anything while watching it, especially if you have issues with seeing people vomit on screen. Because a part of this film has a lot of that. 

I'm pretty blown away by this if I'm honest. The film makes you question nearly every person that is on screen eventually and there are parts of this film I found downright scary. Not in the jump scare way, but in a very sinister, uncomfortable fashion.

Logan Browning is the star for me. Lizzie is easy to like and she shows a lot of range. Allison Williams is fine. This is probably her best performance but I still don't feel like she ever loses herself in a role. She just tries to. 

This Netflix original definitely deserves your attention.

Grade: B

Watched on: Netflix Instant

Memorable Quote: "It's what's expected of us." - Lizzie (Logan Browning)

Review: Judy

Promise you won't forget me.

Show business has not been kind to one of its biggest stars and Judy Garland (Renee Zellweger)is forced to move to London to do a string of shows in 1968 in order to earn enough money to give her children a stable home. 

Everyone knows who Judy Garland is but just how deeply? I can admit that I don't know everything about her. Sure, I knew about her life in broad strokes, I've seen a handful of her movies and listened to her music, but I've never read a biography or watched a documentary on her. So in that aspect, I didn't have any expectations for how they told Judy's story. That worked in my favor as the film follows a very standard biopic formula.

The one thing I was worried about going in was Zellweger. With the way the trailer was cut, it gave me the impression that she was going to be pulling a face the entire movie to try to make herself look like Garland, and that wasn't the case. The makeup and her acting were not distracting at all. In fact, she was wonderful. I love that she did her own singing too. She's not as strong as Judy. How many people are? But she tried. Anyone could've lip synced, but she went for it.

Where the film lacks is the context around Garland's life. We know it's specifically about her time in London, but the flashbacks they chose are also very specific to the Wizard of Oz, and I felt like they should've chosen to show more of her life besides that. It would've painted a better picture just how far Judy fell. It certainly hints at it, but seeing her on sets of her other films would've been a nice touch.

The supporting acts are slightly uneven. There's a beautiful story with a gay couple that comes to see Judy's shows that is the highlight of the film, but then there's her relationship with her stage manager that I felt could've been explored more. I kept expecting a heart to heart conversation to happen and it never did. It was just kind of there.

Ultimately, this was pretty good. If you are a hardcore Judy fan, you may find it a bit lacking but if you're somewhere in the middle, it should work for you.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "Do you have kids? Don't. It's like living with a piece of your heart outside of your body." - Judy (Renee Zellweger)

My Favorite Snowy Scenes

I'm a sucker for scenes with falling snow. Since it's starting to snow outside now, I figured I'd share a few of my favorite snowy scenes from films I enjoy.

Brooklyn (2015)

Kill Bill vol 1 (2003)

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Crimson Peak (2015)

The Chronicles of Narnia (2005)

TV Bonus: Jon Snow himself - Game of Thrones (2010-2019)

What are some of your favorites?