For a long time, debates have raged in the art world about what can be considered creating a property and who can be credited as a true creator of a creative property. For decades, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko were feuding over who were the rightful mind behind Spider-Man, as Lee insisted Spider-Man was his idea, while Ditko insisted he conceptualized Spider-Man, thus making him the creator. What “Batman & Bill” seeks to do is boldly putting an end to the debate that’s been raging in the comic book medium for almost a century. Directors Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce simultaneously tells the tragic and often heartbreaking story of Bill Finger, the long uncredited creator of Batman, and how a man named Bob Kane stole everything Finger ever had from the credit, and the massive profits, right down to the very essence of his self-respect.
Despite what Disney and Lucasfilm have been doing lately with the “Star Wars” cinematic universe and promising “Star Wars” films until the foreseeable future, that doesn’t stop fans from contributing their own stories. “The Force and the Fury” is a great and simple short fan film that is beautifully directed and works on the fundamentals of “Star Wars”: The narrative is simple, straight to the point, and about family and how the Sith and Jedi affect those within its realm.
Much like a classic mix tape, “Vol. 2” of “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a movie that’s similar in theme to its predecessor but feels fresh and original. Director James Gunn delivered a truly remarkable adaptation in 2014, and now he offers up a sequel that’s just as good, with a hefty narrative that thankfully has so much going on, but never loses sight of its central themes of family, love, and how music is the soundtrack of our lives. With “Guardians” the group of Starlord, Gamorra, Groot, Rocket, and Drax are back committing to a difficult job for a race of aliens called the Sovereign. They’re tasked with killing a vicious monster called the Abilisk and protecting priceless batteries. In exchange, they give Gamorra her sister Nebula back, who has been held prisoner.
Written and directed by Laura Lee Bahr, this film has a little bit of everything. The characters she creates here feel like maybe exaggerated versions of real people one would meet in Hollywood, people looking for their shining moment, their 15 minutes of fame. They sometimes feel like exaggerated versions or stereotypes, but most of the time, they feel like actual people. The film takes these people and puts them in crazy situations where they have no options but to do things most people wouldn’t even think of doing. At the same time, outside of the dognapping and a few other events, the film is filled with regular, normal moments which anchor the story in reality and create a counter-balance the WTF moments. Laura Lee Bahr weaves a story that should not make any sense (a dominatrix, goth kids, dog sitters, botox parties, …) yet it does. She manages to take a few crazy ideas along with some odd characters and makes them entertaining and engaging.
I first saw “Phantasm” thirteen years ago and it’s one of the more mind blowing horror films I’ve ever seen. It surely holds up better than the sequels, all of which I’d seen way before ever watching the original film. While “Phantasm” is still a bit of a goofy horror film in some instances, it’s also an entertaining one with some great moments of atmosphere and eeriness. Director Coscarelli is never afraid to stretch the limits of his premise, making “Phantasm” feel like some surreal nightmare that our characters are stuck in. There’s the demonic fly, the dwarf drones, and of course one of the best scenes involving character Mike watching the Tall Man stomp through his small town.
Once called “Stake Lander,” the follow up to the fantastic 2011 apocalyptic vampire film may be just a TV movie, but it’s thankfully a pretty excellent follow up to the original vampire thriller. “Stake Land 2” reunites just about everyone from the original film to extend the mythology of the original film and continue the epic journey of the enigmatic Mister and his young sidekick Martin. Except now, Martin is an experienced apocalyptic hunter who has managed to settle in to a life he loves, even in the midst of the end of the world. Despite Mister venturing out on his own, Martin has established a farm as well as married and had a son.
It’s a shame that this is the only movie that patient fans of “Phantasm” will be getting since “Ravager,” the apparent final film in the series, isn’t that much of a horror film. Despite David Hartman’s best efforts, “Ravager” feels more like a fan film for the “Phantasm” movie series than anything else. I went in to the movie expecting pretty awesome and big things and sadly only got the bare minimum. When the movie ended, I literally muttered “That’s it?” to myself. Even Angus Scrimm in his final role appears for a few minutes here and there, and is mostly seen in the prologue through flashbacks.
It feels like Director Phillip Stainsby has a large premise ahead of him that’s just way too big for a twenty minute movie. “Vision Room” has a short time to unfold its story and a large narrative that only has so much space to breathe. Thus what we’re left with is a movie that’s mostly captions and subtitles that establish the mythos, the concept, and the world, and only visits the actual characters sporadically. The movie feels almost like nothing but captions most of the time, and I wanted to see so much more characters doing things and moving the film forward rather than having director Stainsby explain everything to us.