Directed by: Jon Watts
Run time: 100 minutes
The Lowdown: Spider-Man is in good hands, people.
Marvel made the right choice.
Writer-director Jon Watts’ first film, Clown, released a year after his second film, “Cop Car,” is a straight-up, hard-charging allegory about the horrors of parenthood cloaked in a brisk, pitch-black and bloody monster movie.
This is also the first film produced by Eli Roth to really justify his participation.
Watts, of course, to those in the MCU know, was tapped last year to direct the upcoming “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” the first film featuring the friendly neighborhood web-slinger to involve Marvel’s stewardship.
He’s a perfect choice based on his first two films. “Cop Car,” a nifty ode to childhood rebellion and resourcefulness, was a crackerjack genre thriller. And Clown – well, Clown is just unnerving and unsettling, a childhood nightmare smeared with dirty greasepaint and a rotten red nose.
Watts isn’t afraid to go all-in, either, with his malevolent core creation, which also gives me great hope to see what tricks he might unveil with Spidey’s rogue’s gallery of villains, namely The Vulture.
What starts as a father’s best attempt to make sure his young son’s birthday party isn’t ruined devolves quickly into a waking nightmare steeped in gruesome mythology. The first clown, it turns out, was actually a child-eating demon whose skin was meticulously removed and turned into a costume. Anyone who slips it on is doomed to slowly metastasize into a clown-demon incarnate, needing to devour tasty kid flesh to ensure its survival.
The transformation is terrifying and exhilarating. Even better, Watts doesn’t shy away from having his clown greedily snack on innocent tykes, which results in the film’s most inspired sequence, a gory, taunt clown and mouse chase through the ball pits and tunnels of a Chuck E. Cheese.
You wouldn’t want this guy at your birthday party, but you damn sure need to watch this great flick. It’s seriously good.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – No.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Oh yes.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – Duh. Take a guess.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
Ash vs. Evil Dead: The Complete First Season (Starz/Anchor Bay, 294 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): Groovy, baby.
Finally, 23 years after “Army of Darkness,” Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and the indelible Bruce Campbell return to their roots and deliver the further adventures of Ashley J. Williams that fans have dreamed about, debated and detailed in their minds for more than two decades.
Ash is back, and we are better for it.
I will admit, when “The Evil Dead” world was rocked with the revelation that a new, half-hour serialized TV show about Deadites, the Necronomicon and Ash and his trusty chainsaw hand was about to enter production, I was a little nervous.
After all, this is my favorite film franchise of all time. My favorite horror series of all time. My favorite character of all time.
So much could go wrong. What if it didn’t live up to expectations? Worse, what if it just sucked?
Thankfully, by the end of the first episode – in fact, at the exact moment that Campbell’s body launched across the screen, his stub arm hungry to be reunited with its proper prosthetic, and that signature chainsaw whir roared to life – I knew.
A lot of sequels get made just to make money, to take advantage of rabid fans willing to happily support any new iteration, no matter how lackluster or uninspired. A lot of actors will return to a familiar role just to escape a long drought of unemployment and second-rate convention appearances.
But Raimi, Tapert and Campbell truly love what they created. Maybe more so than the fans, whose number is legion. They care about what they deliver, and what they delivered with Ash vs. Evil Dead is pure, unadulterated, quintessential canon.
Every severed limb, fountain geyser of blood to the face and corny quip feels legitimate.
Best of all, they wisely returned to the cabin where it all began for the final story arc of the first season.
What likely began as a swan song, a chance to finally give fans the proper closure they long clamored for, is now about to launch its second season. It’s an unexpected gift, and a wisely deserved one, based on the first.
The Evil Dead live. Long may they not rest in peace.
The Nice Guys (Warner Bros., 116 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): The beauty of a Shane Black movie is its fearless willingness to be ugly. Black’s best films – “The Last Boy Scout,” “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” “Lethal Weapon” – burrowed down into the darkest parts of the human psyche to find redemptive arcs.
The Nice Guys may not troll the same waters, but that doesn’t mean Black’s trademark snark and rapid-fire quips aren’t on proud display. As two dime-store gumshoes trying to run down a missing femme fatale in 1970’s Los Angeles, Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling revel in Black’s blistering banter. To his credit, Black reserves some of the best lines for the youngest actor, Angourie Rice, who plays Gosling’s 12-year-old daughter.
The Nice Guys is clearly a passion project. Black gleefully mashes together classic film noir tropes with the goofy slapstick of a Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis buddy caper. There’s even one inspired dream sequence that comes out of left field like a script page written by Hunter S. Thompson.
Is it Black’s best film? No. But it’s fun, it’s funny and it zips along quickly enough to hold your interest and keep you chuckling throughout.
Midnight Run: Collector’s Edition (Shout! Factory, 126 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Here’s a fun drinking game. Get a buddy, buy a case of beer each, and sit down to watch this 1988 classic – one of the best movies of its kind ever made. Every time Robert DeNiro, or any other character, for that matter, drops an F bomb, take a drink. I guarantee you will be sloshed well before the film ends. Trust me. I tried this once in college, only then my buddy and I just bought a 12-pack each and we had to stop the VCR long enough to stumble over to the store to replenish our supply.
Hell Town (Gravitas, Ventures, 89 minutes, Unrated, VOD): Soap operas have never shied away from depicting the horrors of everyday, mundane life – the failures, the pitfalls, the daily betrayals that even our closest friends and relatives can perpetrate. Some serialized soaps like “Passions” fully embraced the literal horror, offering an ancient witch and a demonic puppet as central characters. But now, the directing duo of Steve Balderson and Elizabeth Spear, have crafted something that straddles the best of both worlds. The three-episode Hell Town, currently available on most streaming and video-on-demand platforms, imagines a picturesque community more in line with “Pleasantville” where truly terrible things happen on a frequent basis. It’s funny, campy, violent and bloody, and well worth your time.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War (Universal, 120 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): Well, this much is clear. If “The Huntsman” is a franchise, it only exists to showcase its lavish set designs and the rapturous, digitized costumes of its wicked leading ladies. Neither “Winter’s War,” nor its predecessor, 2012’s “Snow White and The Huntsman,” are good movies. As fantasy spectacles, they fall far below even the most middling of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth saga. As coherent narratives, they lack the cohesiveness of the worst video game adaptations. It’s all about Charlize Theron, which I’m OK with, but I do wish someone, somewhere would try to encourage Universal to make a better movie to wrap around her Evil Queen’s fetish fashions.
The Bloodstained Butterfly
Ratchet & Clank
Psycho IV: The Beginning
Elementary: The Fourth Season
Narcos: Season One
NCIS: The Thirteenth Season
NCIS – The Thirteenth Season
Castle: The Complete Eighth and Final Season
Superstore: Season One
New on Video-on-Demand:
Blood in the Water (Level 33 Entertainment, 91 minutes, Unrated, VOD): Thea Queen alert! “Arrow’s” Willa Holland stars in this erotic thriller about friends, lovers and betrayal, now available on demand.