SON OF KAIJU DAY MARATHON: Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is gorgeous, with fully-realized and realistic versions of the monsters I grew up loving so much. However, the truth is, I was always more than happy with their look even when they were played by men in suits.

Also, whenever I hear studios say things like how this movie “brings together Godzilla and King Kong in an ecosystem of other giant super-species, both classic and new” I throw up a little in my mouth.

Imagine my surprise when I didn’t hate this. And for once, my wife, who consistently looks at kaiju movies and says, “I don’t get it” was into one of them. I blame her young age and not growing up on a steady diet of Gamera, Rodan and Ultraman.

This movie also reimagines Godzilla and the other kaiju as almost Lovecraftian elder gods that owned the Earth before we did. I’m fine with that as well. And I’ll sit through human drama as long as I get the payoff of sweet, sweet lizard on dragon violence and thankfully, this film delivers.

Michael Dougherty, who wrote Superman Returns — a movie I despise on a level that I will legitimately fistfight people over — and Trick ‘r Treat directed this movie.

I really don’t need a pushed shared universe to enjoy a movie. As it is, Godzilla fans kind of built their own continuity in the Toho films. But that’s what people want in a post-Marvel Cinematic Universe and here, they get it, leading into the next film’s battle with Kong.

That said, the scene where all the various kaiju bow to Godzilla? Yeah, that was awesome.

The Tangle (2019)

Written, directed by and starring Christopher Soren Kelly, The Tangle is the story of what happens beyond the internet. The film is all about a secret government agency that watches over the Tangle, which is packed with nanobots and microdrones that make up the air, the water and the blood of human beings. Now, there is no way to keep a secret, as every thought is made up by the S.O.L. (Secure OnTangle Line), made up of quantum encrypted hard drives implanted in the brains of its users, which is everyone.

A secret government agency called the A.S.P. (Army of Simply Purity) watches over the Tangle from within technology safe rooms, safe from being, well, entangled inside the internet reality that has taken over the world. When a field agent is murdered in one of those rooms — the first murder in three years — the Tangle may be compromised.

The main suspect is Carter Carmine, a private detective who was one of the people who helped to create the Tangle. He’s had the hard drive removed from his brain, but he already somehow figured out how to keep hidden from the Tangle. So what is he hiding?

It turns out that the tools that can fix the Tangle and solve the murder are ones that existed before technology took over. Can reality be saved?

This is Kelly’s first full-length film and it’s already a winner. I’m looking forward to what comes next, because this film is filled with unexpected moments and ideas. You can learn more at the Facebook fan page.

The Tangle is available on demand.

The Wrong Cheerleader (2019)

More power to David DeCoteau for making movies still after decades of directing. Most of his latest output has been a series of The Wrong… movies starring Vivica Fox like The Wrong ValentineThe Wrong Mr. RightThe Wrong Real Estate AgantThe Wrong StepfatherThe Wrong Teacher and so many more.

In this installment, Vivica is Coach Flynn, but the main story is all about one of her cheerleaders named Becky (Cristine Prosperi, who is also in Bring It On: Worldwide and The Wrong Neighbor and The Wrong Prince Charming), who falls for a boy named Rob who ends up trying to possess every moment of her existence.

How did I know that this, of all the movies on the set came from DeCoteau? Because for all the cheerleading girls, the majority of the action is focused on male abs. Hey — the dude knows what he likes and keeps making movies. More power to him.

Want more cheerleader movies? Then grab Lifetime’s new Cheer! Rally! Kill! 5-Film Collection, which features this movie and four others on DVD.

Undercover Cheerleader (2019)

Autumn is a new student in a new school that…yes, has daddy issues and yes…is somehow talented enough to become a top cheerleader with little to no effort. However, she’s also working undercover, as the cheer team needs taken down a peg and the high school newspaper feels like the folk to do the job.

It turns out that all of the cheerleaders take laxatives to stay skinny and then there’s also a mystery maniac stalking all of them. So while the nod to the slasher made me happy, I really wanted more out of this. But hey — it’s a cheerleader movie made in 2019, not something playing a drive-in in 1975.

Could Autumn’s new boyfriend be a killer? Why are girls so mean to one another? And how does dance translate so well to cheering? I have so many questions, which means that I have to keep watching movies like this to increase my knowledge base.

Want more cheerleader movies? Then grab Lifetime’s new Cheer! Rally! Kill! 5-Film Collection, which features this movie and four others on DVD.

The Cheerleader Escort (2019)

This is closer to what I wanted out of a cheerleader movie from this set. Again, a new girl, a new school, an instant admission to a cheerleading team and then, the new girl can no longer afford to go to college, so she gets into a prostitution ring that’s run by her coach and a bunch of alumni who she trusts until its too late.

I kind of love that this movie is shot in around three locations with a minimal budget to the point that the basketball game looks like the least athletic sporting event you’ve ever seen. Big points for the giallo like scene and killing off one of the cheerleaders by shooting her up with drugs, as well as the main girl deluding herself into thinking that the scummiest man you’ve ever seen could possibly love her and even the other guy more age appropriate to her also has a girlfriend and she still keeps giving him signals like she wants him. Everyone in this movie is either a moron or a horrible person except for the roommate who never ever leaves her room and seemingly only exists to be a sounding board and the only sign of ethnicity in this entire movie.

This movie also has more Canadian accents than an 80’s slasher. 

You can get this as part of Lifetime’s new Cheer! Rally! Kill! 5-Film Collection, which features four other cheerleader movies on DVD.

Kingdom of Var (2019)

I kind of love that this movie takes a page out of Driller Killer and demands that “This movie should be played loud.”

The spiraling narrative is all about Sonja, a college student who somehow has found a movie that is five hundred years old that contains the spirit of the demonic sorcerer Var, after which all hell breaks loose.

This was written and directed by Nicholas Kleban, who made several shorts before this movie. I kind of want to talk to Nicholas, because he somehow made a movie that has everything I hate about streaming movies and everything I love about low budget weirdness all in the same film.

I hate scenes that go nowhere. I love when drugs are done in every scene of a movie. I hate when people take scenes from old movies. Yet I kind of love that this film’s Bloodsucking Freaks/Blood Feast theater was basically located in a two or three-seat dinner theater. I hate found footage movies. I love that this movie has found footage from a half-millennium old VHS player.

I mean, it has a reference to Inferno and this astounding explanation for a plot: “After doing some research, she discovers it is allegedly a film from the year 1594, made by the time-traveling sorcerer Var who harvested film equipment from the future and imprinted his spirit onto a roll of celluloid, and watching the film will release him. After dismissing this as nonsense, the seemingly invincible Var appears before Sonja and begins relentlessly attacking her.” Who would come up with this?

I don’t think I can be relied upon to rate this movie on any scale other than to say that you should watch it and try to make sense of the plot along with me. Any movie that leaves you with this many questions has to be doing something right on some level.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

The Secret Lives of Cheerleaders (2019)

Every cheerleader movie I’ve watched so far has this set-up: trouble young girl with daddy issues moves to a new school, decides to be a cheerleader despite never doing it before yet because she’s a dancer, she’s amazing at it, then someone who should be her new best friend screws her life up and someone either dies or comes real close to it. Resolve and credits.

This is coming from the guy who has watched 542 slashers.

Ava lost her dad, got into trouble — she did Adderall! — and then went to a new school and her mom Denise Richards is convinced that she’s going to go back to being a bad girl. Homecoming queen and cheer captain Katrina doesn’t want any new girl getting in her way and she has an arsenal of evil tricks and initiations to take out our heroine.

Director Peter Sullivan’s IMDB page goes between horror, Lifetime movies and Christmas films, which is pretty much the only movies that make money. This one is decent, but I was really hoping for even more insanity. Then again, the majority of my watching is devoted to giallo and regional films, so I’m pretty desensitized.

It’s part of Lifetime’s new Cheer! Rally! Kill! 5-Film Collection, which features four other movies with cheerleaders in trouble that’s now available on DVD.

Identity Theft of a Cheerleader (2019)

During her senior year of high school, Vicky (Maiara Walsh, Zombieland) had to drop out and over the next decade, she’s worked her way to rock bottom. Now, she wants to make her mother proud by stealing a teenager’s identity and having the best senior year of her life, even if she has to take out anyone who gets in her way.

Writer Barbara Kymlicka was behind plenty of David DeCoteau films. This movie fits right into his made for TV look and it’s directed by Christie Will Wolf.

It’s part of Lifetime’s new Cheer! Rally! Kill! 5-Film Collection, which features four other movies with cheerleaders in trouble that we’ll be watching all this week. It’s now available on DVD. This one doesn’t follow the format of the other movies on this set. It doesn’t have a young dancer in a new school with an old trauma and geeky friends who must make a hero’s journey. But nearly all the other ones totally have those tropes in force.

Pinocchio (2019)

If you saw this and thought, “Didn’t Academy Award winner Roberto Benigni already make a Pinocchio movie back in 2002?*” Well, yes, you would be correct. That version, written, directed and starring Benigni was nominated for six Razzies, including Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Actor (Benigni, who was dubbed by Breckin Meyer, Worst Remake or Sequel and Worst Screen Couple (Benigni and his wife Nicoletta Braschi, who played the Blue Fairy).

Seventeen years later, Benigni is in another adaption of Carlo Collodi’s book The Adventures of Pinocchio, but now he’s playing the wooden boy’s father Geppetto. Is the second time the charm for this timeless tale?

When a magical piece of wood falls into his hands, Geppetto does what he does best, carves it. What emerges is his greatest creation, Pinocchio, a puppet wondrously bestowed with life. However, Pinocchio dreams of becoming a real boy and that quest takes him into a series of misadventures with a fox and a cat, as well as a hundred-year-old cricket that continually attempts to be the conscience that our hero needs.

This film looks gorgeous, as it has a practical effects heart instead of trying to be a CGI film. It looks darker and scarier than the Disney approach that we know in this country, but don’t let that put you off. There’s something great here.

That said, it’s still pretty dark in places. After several adaptations to make the story more family-friendly, director Matteo Garrone took this movie back to its origins, the grim atmosphere and satirical tone of Collodi’s original novel. Garrone claimed that “much of the criticisms of the film’s violent content came from adults, while children in the test audience were quite relaxed about that aspect.”

Garrone is known for films like Dogman and Gomorrah, which are more adult fare. This is his first film that families can watch. He also believed in the project so much that he put his own money into the dubbing, using Italian actors who would know the emotions and would be able to convey it to a worldwide audience.

Pinocchio is now available on demand from Lionsgate, who were kind enough to send us a review copy.

*Rocco Papaleo (who plays the Cat) was the voice of Mangiafoco in the 2012 animated adaption.

Climate of the Hunter (2019)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally reviewed this movie on December 31 of last year, but it’s finally coming out on streaming, so we wanted to remind you to check it out. It’s pretty awesome.

Mickey Reece — who co-wrote this film with John Selvidge, has made two movies a year since 2008 and I haven’t seen a single one of them. After watching Climate of the Hunter, that will definitely change. It’s all about two older sisters awaiting the return of a childhood friend named Wes, one they both have romantic feelings for. He’s definitely a writer, but he may also be a vampire.

Alma (Ginger Gilmartin) and Elizabeth (Mary Buss) can barely be in the same room with one another, but now they’re staying at their family’s cabin together, right next to the aforementioned — and very mysterious — Wesley (Ben Hall). His strange behavior has led one of the locals — the wonderfully named BJ Beavers (Jacob Snovel) — to determine that this man of letters is really a count of blood, so to speak. And as for Alma, well, she can barely stay attuned to this reality, much less be able to deal with a bloodsucker.

Of course, even vampires have families today, which include a son (Sheridan McMichael) who spikes dinner with garlic and a wife (Laurie Cummings) who must rely upon facelifts to appear as youthful as her vampiric paramour when she isn’t in an institution.

Further complicating matters is the short visit from Alma’s daughter Rose (Danielle Evon Ploeger), whose youth and beauty take Wesley’s attention away from our protagonists.

This is a film that sparkles with modern dialogue while calling to mind the cinema of the 70’s,  particularly ones that set up dark spaces where female characters slowly lose their minds. Most strikingly, one scene borrows liberally from Daughters of Darkness.

You can learn more about this film on its official Twitter page.