Archive for the 'Film' Category

Review: Raiders of the Hidden Donald Trump Fetish Doll (2018 Short)

March 20, 2020

Image Copyright: Parousian Pictures

This is going to be an unorthodox review, and I say that with joy — generally speaking I wouldn’t dedicate the first two paragraphs to discussing what the creator of a film means to me personally, but in this moment it seems important. Angel Connell is a filmmaker focused on short films — and when I say filmmaker I mean he writes, directs, produces, and acts in his films. That level of passion commands respect, and speaking honestly Connell was my first big break, reaching out to me in 2011 to review his short film Beneath the Veneer of a Murder when my blog at the time — Picture This! Reviews — had maybe 100 views. The success and legitimacy I felt when I received that DVD screener in the mail is unforgettable. And it led to a wild ride for about a year.

With the exception of a random movie review here or there, I’ve been out of the movie reviews game for around eight years. One of the reasons I stopped reviewing films initially was because Connell had sent me work from a friend of his to review, I accepted it and just couldn’t produce the words for it. I was ashamed of myself, I was young and didn’t realize that letting people down wasn’t the end of the world, but I didn’t even apologize, I just went dark. I say all of that because second chances don’t happen all that often, and this man is extending an olive branch to me during the COVID-19 outbreak after going years without communication. If I mean what I say in my respect and appreciation for Angel Connell, there’s no way I’m not publishing this review. So without further ado, here’s my thoughts on Raiders of the Hidden Donald Trump Fetish Doll, a short political comedy created by and starring Connell himself.

As the story goes, an indie filmmaker crowdfunding his next movie has a fundraising perk that a lot of people are very interested in stealing by any means necessary: A Donald Trump fetish doll with scary sharp teeth! It’s a simple and silly yet complete story, and I think if I add even one more word about the story itself I’d be giving too much away. We’ve gotta have standards for spoilers on this site!

Angel Connell and his co-star. Photo Credit: Chris Esper

Short films are incredibly tricky to make because you have a very limited amount of time to tell a story, and you have to be able to do a lot with a little. For example, during the intro of Raiders of the Hidden Donald Trump Fetish Doll, Connell narrates as his character reacts to his own thoughts. In other words, the detailed facial expressions he is able to make to set the film up as a comedy for everyone (as opposed to a partisan few) couldn’t happen if his character was physically talking. It’s an effective way of communicating multiple concepts at one time, which is especially important for short films. These are the sorts of decisions short filmmakers have to make in order to maximize time, and I don’t think there is any time wasted here.

Politically-themed films can be risky to one’s brand, and I’ll say politically Raiders of the Hidden Donald Trump Fetish Doll is not my thing, but it doesn’t have to be to be in order to be funny. I’m a self-identified socialist, yet I found myself laughing or chuckling most of the way through because Connell put in the work that made it easy to laugh. We’re allowed to have differences of opinion, but we’re also allowed to laugh with each other, especially during bleaker times when it’s easy to judge and blame people. And frankly the political points that Connell does make with this film do deserve discussion, though it’s important to note it is a comedy first.

If you get the chance to support Angel Connell on his journey, spend nine minutes laughing at something you may or may not agree with, just because it’s funny. That’s what we need right now, and that’s what Raiders of the Hidden Donald Trump Fetish Doll offers. The film is currently making its way through the film festival circuit, and I sincerely wish it the best.

Review: Detective Pikachu (2019)

May 14, 2019

Where to start? For my first review in years, it’s appropriate that the movie I’m reviewing is one that takes me all the way back to my first memories at the movies, when I was 7 seeing Pokemon: The First Movie on the big screen. I’m going to come right out and say it, I love Detective Pikachu, directed by Rob Letterman, and I think I’m ready to call it my favorite film for all of 2019. Don’t misunderstand, though, one can love something that isn’t objectively great — for example, Detective Pikachu.

I really want to end this review on a high note, so I’m going to get the bad stuff out of the way first; Ryan Reynolds carried this movie by himself, virtually every other actor among the main cast phoned it in. It’s not that these actors are bad actors — they’re not — they just universally seemed disinterested in their roles. In addition, the plot wasn’t really smart or clever. Detective Pikachu talks a lot about feelings, but no one’s going to be crying from this movie, unlike the waterworks that Pokemon: The First Movie inspired.

And that’s really all the bad stuff. And while that may seem like some really bad stuff, the movie knocked it out of the park in every other area, to the point where my above criticisms are minor at best.

The team behind the design of the Pokemon nailed it. If you were to talk to me when I was 7, this is how I would’ve imagined Pokemon on real life. Maybe not down to the detail, but everything generally about how the Pokemon look and act, and how they fit into our world. It’s clear that they spent a significant amount of time (and probably a significant amount of resources) translating those cartoons into something that looks real and believable to anyone who grew up with Pokemon. It’s really impressive.

Ryan Reynolds really deserves a lot of credit; I mentioned above that he carried this movie by himself, but it’s more accurate to say that he saved the movie. His performance as the Detective Pikachu is fantastic, it’s funny, it’s hyper, it’s sweet, it’s everything you would expect and want out of Ryan Reynolds. And in this case, it’s clear that he was having a lot of fun, which goes a long way towards helping the audience have a lot of fun.

I’ve mentioned Pokemon: The First Movie a couple times now, and Detective Pikachu actually references events from that movie. Detective Pikachu and Pokemon: The First Movie are canon with each other! That’s crazy and awesome and makes me love the movie so much more.

I don’t believe that movies have to be objectively great to be praised. Sometimes getting psyched to see characters you’ve loved for more than two decades visualized in a realistic and entertaining way is enough. There’s a lot of value in things that can take you back to moments of your past that you treasure. It’s an experience that, in my view, is more inspiring than an Oscar-worthy performance.

There’s a lot of millennials out there who, like me, have fond childhood memories of Pokemon. If you’re one of those, I don’t think it’s a question — YES you should see Detective Pikachu! If you’re not one of those millennials, I’d bet you’ll still find yourself entertained, but perhaps not with the glee that I have.

Detective Pikachu is in theatres now, go check it out!

9.3: Apps for Directors

January 2, 2013

If you’re a movie director — large or small or aspiring — and you have an iPhone or iPad, you should check out this list of apps to download put together by Neptune Salad. These apps will genuinely help you on your quest as a filmmaker.

via Twitter user @horrorgeek

4.9: Jack Reacher Not Postponed

December 21, 2012

Two days ago I said that Jack Reacher was being pushed back for massacre-related reasons. That was mostly wrong. It’s the premiere that was postponed, and I had interpreted “premiere” as “release”. I’m sorry.

Read, re-read, and read again (or at least skim) should be my new motto. To be fair this is one of the first times I’ve tackled “news”, and I’m still learning, but misreading stories and reporting misreads is something that can’t happen again.

3.2: Is Jackie Chan Expendable?

December 19, 2012

Total Film is reporting that Jackie Chan has confirmed that he will star in The Expendables 3. Chan is also apparently thinking about working on Rush Hour 4, so hopefully that will be fun.

I’m not going to lie, I haven’t seen either of The Expendables flicks, as I don’t care for Sylvester Stallone. At all. I am, however, a Chan fan and even have gone as far as to shamelessly watch his entire cartoon series as 21 year old adult.

I will have no problem catching The Expendables 3 if Jackie Chan is indeed involved.

2.1: Ricky Gervais In The Muppets?

December 18, 2012

Total Film is reporting that Ricky Gervais is “in talks” to star in the next Muppets movie.

As a Muppets fan and a Gervais fan, I welcome this news and hope it turns out to be true. It sounds like a risky mix, as Gervais and Kermit and co. have entirely different brands of humor, but they’re each dynamic enough where the pairing could be great.

2.8: The Terrorists Won

December 18, 2012

The LA Times is reporting that the movie Jack Reacher is being postponed because it features gun violence, and something of that nature might offend people because of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

I understand that national tragedies pull at people’s heart strings, but the fact that we’re affected to the point that movie releases are postponed should be more offensive than the content of any given movie.

2.9: Merchandise Unchained

December 18, 2012

ScreenCrave is reporting that Quentin Tarantino’s Spaghetti Western Django Unchained is being adapted into a comic book.

My first thought after reading the headline was Come on Tarantino, you’re better than this… Upon further reading, however, it’s clear that this isn’t just cash grab merchandising; a whole lot of content that Tarantino wrote couldn’t be added to the movie because of the already long runtime.

This comic book will be an adaptation of everything that Tarantino wrote, including the unused content. This is breathing life into material that would otherwise be dead, and that’s something which every creative person should respect.

There are few things in creative industries as sad as the Cemetery of Unused Ideas, and Tarantino is setting an example which we should all try to follow.

Movie Night

November 5, 2012

Every Saturday night, Twitter user Kevin Carr hosts The Late Night Live Tweet where Twitter users watch a movie in their own homes — at the exact same time as everyone else — and tweet about/laugh at the movie together. Think of it like watching a movie with a group of friends where it’s with beers and for fun (“shushing” forbidden) — only on the Internet.

As an example, a couple of Saturdays ago the movie was The Burning, which is a cheesy 80s throwaway slasher. Being a horrible movie, it features plenty of things to mock and laugh at, which is exactly what us live tweeters on Twitter did. Unfortunately mocking a movie by yourself doesn’t tend to be great, but being able to with a nice selection of movie geeks for 90 minutes is fun, regardless of individuals’ locations.

It might be a bit of a foreign concept to people who think that interpersonal relationships can’t extend beyond a physical bubble, but they’re just plain wrong. This whole “live tweet” thing proves it; multiple people in multiple locations enjoying the same movie at the same time discussing it with each other with everyone having a blast.

It’s actually an interesting idea, that actions can transcend from physical to digital, and vice versa. Tron fracking predicted it in its own way! Be it playing video games with a group or watching movies with some pals, people have found ways to create digital lives, at least partially; I find that fascinating. And I’m reminded of how fascinating it is every Saturday night that I’m not sick or busy.

What’s more fascinating, however, is thinking of how things will advance; will we ever be able to upload our minds and exist in a virtual world? That would be fun. I would totally dig “living” in a Nintendo-created Pokemon world, as a crazy, far out and maybe forever impossible example.

But in 2012, I’m perfectly happy with a movie night on Twitter.

(On the subject of movies, look forward to a movie review tomorrow.)

As an aside, I cannot believe that I still can’t figure out how to use — and ; properly. You’d think after years of college and writing that I’d have impeccable grammar. I’m going to work on that this weekend.

Guest Post: Magic Empire (Bernardo Villela)

October 31, 2012

Editor’s Note: I was a combination of sick and moving last night, and I wasn’t able to get a piece out. Bernardo did get this one to me, although I was passed out when I received it. So to be clear, this is the entry for 10/30/2012. Enjoy! And thanks to Bernardo for saving the day again!

So, here I am again, subbing in for Tanner (or another preferred version of your name) on what turns out to be a very fortuitous day because as we may have heard Disney has bought Lucasfilm. Now, as much as I like the products both offer it’s not an easy piece to write at the same time; I run the risk of either coming off as a sycophantical apologist or a defensive douche. I will do my darndest to avoid both, and to explain why I think this is an amazing on so many levels.

As Disney has admitted, and most of us freely acknowledge, the big coup in the deal is the rights to the Star Wars franchise. Everything else is a bonus, but the bonuses are plentiful too.

Why does Disney taking on Star Wars, not only the ones that already exist, but developing a new trilogy makes sense?

My first example would be to point you towards Marvel. It was only in 2009 when that deal took place. As I have indicated on my blog, I’m kind of a born-again comic fan, but also somewhat limited in scope. I can’t go full boar like I do with films but I’ve gotten back into it, and that has coincided with the rise of the Marvel product on screen. For the most part, the films that lead up to The Avengers and The Avengers itself have won praise both from diehard fans and have brought new fans into the fold. What’s the one glaring thing that’s missing from the series of films? Disney.

I get that the character combinations are jokes, and here’s the potentially defensive douche portion of this piece, but if there’s one thing Disney does well it is respect its brands as I’ve seen many allude to, including Kevin Carr. Where Disney has struggled in recent years is in developing live-action tentpoles for Disney Pictures, which was underscored but the departure of Rich Ross after John Carter flopped epically.

However, in spite of mixed reviews Brave was another Pixar hit, the Animation Studios are still kicking; ESPN may be more entertainment than journalism now, the 30 for 30 series not withstanding, but it’s still a ratings leader; and from what I can tell ABC is doing OK, at least they’re not killing off all their pilots early (:::Cough:: NBC:::Cough::).

And while there may be cross-promotion on occasion on the Disney family of entertainment brands, you don’t see Mickey splashed all over everything all the time. Star Wars is Star Wars. Disney knows that and knows that’s why it’s popular. If the Marvel films are an indicator, they will bring in people who can continue the series in a way that’s generally agreeable to most. So just because you can get a shirt with Huey, Lewey and Dewey fighting Vader in Orlando, does not mean you’ll see them in Episode 7. Merchandise and films are different things.

If that doesn’t convince you, did you like The Muppets? Was the new film not what virtually anyone who had any level of affection for them wanted to see? I grant that the tough Muppet film is the next one. They can’t play the nostalgia card anymore, but what a titanically awesome comeback.

Let us also not forget that a lot of the complaints that many of us may have (I have fewer than most as I illustrate here) are about the prequels, the handling of the the franchise in general and on video usually go right back to Lucas. These decisions are all in Disney’s court now.

The analogy I like to use to illustrate my Disney fandom is that of being a sports fan. If you’re a fan of a team (you can transport this to any institution you want if you bear with me) you love what the team is, stands for and does. That does not, however, prevent the passionate and honest fan from pointing out mistakes or things we disagree with.

Disney’s practice of vaulting classics is just good business. It’s annoying to me as a consumer, but I get it. It increases demand. If you think it annoying to have to buy a film you love in a limited time, try dealing with Disney resellers on Amazon when it’s OOP – it hurts your bottom line a lot more. Not to mention that I, and many other fans, join groups, follow twitter accounts and sign petitions to get certain titles, which have never seen the light of day since VHS, released.Those are two quick, easy ways to indicate how Disney can perturb even the most devoted fan.

However, when you look at the home video marketing of the Marvel films, they have yet to institute vaulting, and they created a box set for The Avengers. What does that mean for Star Wars? My guess is original theatrical cuts on Blu-Ray as opposed to the Lucas-ified edits I didn’t want to touch.

This would be a huge deal for me as my Star Wars journey is a different one; having only really started with the prequels and then watching the originals for the first time in 2005.

So now there’s a new trilogy on the horizon; one that has been rumored for years, but the predictably mixed reactions, a great many of those who felt mysteriously violated in some way, made it feel natural that Lucas to be reticent to return to the director’s chair. So now that goes ahead, and as someone who fell in love with in the latter trilogy, that is something I hoped for an never thought I’d see.

With a new trilogy of Star Wars when you consider merchandise, global box office and home video should make the deal worth it by itself. However, that’s not the only property involved you also have ILM, an effects company that was not only a pioneer but continues to be one of the best in the game; Skywalker Sound, a state-of-the-art post production sound studio used by many films; Lucasarts, Lucas’ gaming division, and the Indiana Jones series.

Speaking in unscientific terms about a kajillion people go to Disney Theme Parks annually where there are Star Wars themed rides. So this should’ve been a no-brainer and foreseen. George Lucas’ deals for rights and merchandising were historic and unprecedented. He had the means to retire long ago, but only recently has it started to seem like a real possibility. Now it can happen. The torch has been passed.

The technical end is a huge bonus for Disney and makes the deal work even better. The only uncertainty is Indiana Jones, again this is an oft-licensed character so that helps in terms of revenue, but my reservations are about the state of the series. Part four was a long way in coming there were disagreements about plot points and script drafts that were apparent. I was getting the sense tangibly and intangibly that Spielberg wasn’t going to prioritize a 5th film. He has, as always, so many options, keeps himself busy with so many projects that he needn’t go back there yet again. Lucas seemed to need to go there more, but if he’s out of the game maybe, just maybe Spielberg isn’t as interested in either continuing it or rebooting it. So a lot of that has to do with the precarious state the franchise was in to start with. Do I expect Disney to do something with Jones? Is water wet?

In conclusion, it’s obviously a windfall for both sides financially. Disney’s investment, I suspect will net it similar returns to the Marvel deal. I think that was fairly obvious to most. Aesthetics are the only sticking point and I would really love to see what else happens a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…


Bernardo is the writer/editor of The Movie Rat. Most recently, Bernardo formed a new production company (Miller-Villela Productions, LLC) where they have many projects in the works, and is currently in pre-production on the original horror feature All Hallows’ Eve. You can read a more verbose version of his bio there if you’re so inclined.

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