Ash Vs Evil Dead - S01E01 'El Jefe' (2015) ***1/2

I rarely write about or review television on my blog, but felt that I should make an exception with AvED. This first episode was directed by Sam Raimi and it certainly shows, though I wonder to what degree the future episodes/directors will emulate his style.

The episode has everything you'd expect from the EVIL DEAD franchise: shotguns, chainsaws, hammy dialogue, blood splatters, deadites, and of course the one and only Bruce Campbell as Ash. ARMY OF DARKNESS is treated as if it doesn't exist in this series, even though the Ash portrayed here is most like the AOD Ash. The action and tone is most akin to EVIL DEAD II - a strong balance of horror and comedy. I do feel that this first episode was a bit of a retread in some regards but not enough to detract from the overall experience. I like Ray Santiago as Pablo; he finds a good balance of nerdy and trying-to-be-cool. Less than stellar is Dana DeLorenzo's Kelly, who is given a "sassy" (and humorous) moment early on but is later reduced to uselessness.

So I ended up about where I thought I'd be: not willing to glaze over the faults and join the hive-mind, but also still excited and willing to have fun with the best parts. Here's hoping the rest of the series is decent.

  • Bruce! (He's still great and obviously the highlight)
  • Those trademark Raimi shots
  • A few choice one-liners
  • Ash's recreation of his AOD intro speech was fun

  • Dodgy CGI (some really bad, some not so bad)
  • The cellphone scene (just dumb)
  • I wasn't crazy about the method used to bring the dead back (also WHY does Ash have The Necronomicon??)
  • The supporting actors are solid, but overall could be better


The Fly (1958) **** [The Fly Double Feature Pt. 1]

Focus On Film: Episode 34 – January 2016 Criterion Titles

Focus On Film Episode 34 is up!

In this episode:

"Focus On Film Theme" & commercial music: Daniel Sardella

Steve Jobs (2015) ****

Danny Boyle is a director that I'm largely hot and cold about - I love SHALLOW GRAVE, very much enjoy TRAINSPOTTING, hated SUNSHINE, was lukewarm for SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, I used to really like 28 DAYS LATER and now I'm lukewarm for that as well. I wasn't dying to see STEVE JOBS but ended up enjoying it much more than expected.

The dialogue by Aaron Sorkin is what shines and we've come to expect that. Boyle does some interesting things with the camera and his images and that's expected as well, though I don't feel that every choice works. All the actors inhabit their roles well, particularly Fassbender, who was inspired casting, portraying a man who truly was an innovator, yet was a flawed human being, as we all are. The film is very humorous and largely avoids falling into "feel-good" territory. Definitely recommended.

Zombi 'Shape Shift' (2015) ****


Bridge Of Spies (2015) ****

An excellent blend of courtroom drama and humor, BRIDGE finds Hanks inhabiting the same territory as James Stewart and Gregory Peck before him. Spielberg creates a superb mashup of his previous films such as CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, MUNICH, LINCOLN and SCHINDLER'S LIST, with touches of John le Carré and Jean-Pierre Melville. Overall, the Coens' screenplay doesn't bear their typical stamp but is fully engaging throughout. 

Of note: this is one of the very few films that John Williams did not score for Spielberg. Thomas Newman takes his place and does a great job, evoking ROAD TO PERDITION (which Newman also scored, Hanks also starred in, and which some scenes in BRIDGE reminded me of).

If you're in the mood for some Spielberg-speak, check out the episode of Movie Matters Podcast that I guested on recently here.


Crimson Peak (2015) ***1/2

Absolutely gorgeous cinematography, lighting, costumes, and production design. del Toro goes full-on gothic and I'm quite pleased. Solid acting all around. An appropriate but undistracting score. The CGI wasn't the best but didn't bother me enough to detract too much. Not a perfect film by any means, but extremely entertaining. This one reminded me a lot of DRACULA (1992) (though nowhere near as good).


Movie Matters #34 - Steven Spielberg Special

Once again I had the distinct pleasure of being a guest co-host on the Movie Matters Podcast. Download the episode at the link below and please follow Movie Matters on Facebook and iTunes!

Love him or loathe him, Steven Spielberg is arguably the most influential filmmaker working today. Who else commands such clout in Tinseltown, and what other director’s very name serves as a guaranteed box office draw, even among non-cinephiles? We’re proud to finally turn our attention to this most esteemed of filmmakers, subjecting three of what are arguably his most unfairly overlooked films of the previous decade to the traditional Movie Matters treatment: MINORITY REPORT and CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, both from 2002, and 2005’s MUNICH.
Joining regular hosts Lee Howard and Michael Mackenzie is Focus On Film co-host Daniel Sardella, along with a specially recorded appreciation of DUEL by Black Hole Cinema’s Tony Black.
The music in this episode is sampled from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARKMINORITY REPORTCATCH ME IF YOU CANMUNICHJAWS and E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, all composed by John Williams.
Links for reference:

Versus - Ultimate Edition (Dubbed) (2000) ***