Well, that's one way to show that people with handicaps can be quite capable: Don't Breathe is a suspense movie where the presumed-helpless man turns out to be as dangerous and twisted as just about any horror killer.

In Detroit, Michigan, a trio of young people make their living by robbing homes.  Rocky (Jane Levy) wants to make enough money for her, her daughter, and her boyfriend Money (Daniel Zovatto) to move to California.  Alex (Dylan Minnette) plans the robberies by getting the alarm codes for homes from his security-working father; he's also cautious about what they steal (to avoid potentially longer jail times) and has a crush on Rocky.  And Money fences the stolen goods, which doesn't pay as much as he'd like.

Money gets a seemingly perfect tip: Rob the Blind Man (Stephen Lang).  He's a former Gulf War vet who got a six-figure settlement when his daughter was killed.  The robbers hope some or all of his money is kept in his house.  The house is almost the only occupied home in the neighborhood, which means no police patrols.  And since he's blind, they can walk around the house with impunity.
Naturally, the plan goes south pretty quickly.  While things start off well -- they drug the Blind Man's rottweiler and set off a chloroform bomb in his room -- the Blind Man quickly disarms one of the crooks (getting a gun) and barricading the robbers inside the home.  He's a hulking, well-trained soldier who knows the layout of the house perfectly and seems to hear every squeak and movement the robbers make.  And he has several surprises in his home...
Don't Breathe is a solid horror movie.  While there are times where the Blind Man sometimes seems as indestructible as Jason or Michael Meyers (and seems to pop up places almost at will), there's a pervasive feeling of claustrophobia as the robbers quickly find an "easy" score has them trapped with a killer.  There are several surprises and gross moments and very little character development (mostly Jane Levy screaming or trying not to scream), but there is plenty of tension and numerous scares (especially when the lights go out and everyone's blind -- but the Blind Man knows the layout and his victims don't).  Don't Breathe isn't the start of a horror franchise, but is does have plenty of scares on its own.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch



Japanese kaiju movies, featuring giant (and fake-looking) monsters, are ripe for both joking and mockery.   So it's natural that the Rifftrax folks (Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett) would take on this genre.  They joked about Godzilla and Gamera back on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and they take on what should be the least-threatening giant monster in Rifftrax Live: Mothra.

After the opening fake humorous slides ("Please.  Call me Larry." -- Lawrence of Arabia) and riffing on the short "Soapy the Germ Fighter," the host trio tackle Mothra.  And this movie has plenty of kaiju elements that make good fodder for jokes: a radioactive island, tiny singing women, a bumbling reporter, and the destruction of obviously fake sets an towns.  ("If you're a matchbox collector, this is like a snuff film.")  It also doesn't help that moths aren't inherently scary, the title monster doesn't appear until after 1/3 of the film is done, and when she finally appears she's a giant grub.
While there were a few slight lulls of joking during the movie, Rifftrax Live: Mothra was a lot of fun.   There were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, and anyone who thought moths were scary would be hard pressed to defend that position after seeing this.  I'm not a fan of kaiju, but I remain a strong fan of Rifftrax!
 Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch



"There's something out there..."  This line from Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn may be one of horror cinema's biggest understatements.  This movie -- possibly the greatest B-movie of all time -- throws everything it can imagine into the setting of the abandoned cabin deep in the woods.

At the start of the movie, Ashley "Ash" Williams (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) crash a seemingly abandoned cabin deep in the woods for a romantic weekend.  Unfortunately, Ash finds a tape recorder that has a professor reading from the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis (the Book of the Dead).  The words summon an unseen creature, Linda gets possessed, and Ash's nightmare (sometimes literal) begins.
On the outskirts of the forest, Annie (Sarah Berry) has just arrived with her -- research partner?  boyfriend?  fiancee? -- Ed (Richard Dormeier) and several pages from the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis to translate.  With the help of redneck couple Jake (Dan Hicks) and Bobby Joe (Kassie Wesley DePaiva), they all make their way to the cabin.

Writer-director Sam Raimi throws everything he has into Evil Dead 2,   There are Deadites, Candarian demons, assorted characters getting possessed, an animated hand, something in the fruit cellar, one of the most fun arming sequences around, and so, so much blood and fluids spewing all over the place.  In the middle of this is also plenty of comedy: It's not hard to see the influence of the Three Stooges throughout the movie, and there are numerous quotable lines spread through the movie.  There's also the transformation of Ash from egotistical Romeo to somewhat insane action hero.
There are some flaws in the movie -- shooting inconsistencies, the stop-motion animation -- but they wind up adding to the feel that this could be a fun-but-flawed movie that could have been enjoyed at a drive-in movie theater.  Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn is a tremendously fun roller coaster ride of a horror movie.  (Extras on this DVD include a making-of feature ("The Gore the Merrier"), commentaries by Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, movie stills, and a few assorted other items.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch



With several decades of superhero shows, movies, and novelty songs, The Music of DC Comics: 75th Anniversary Edition barely scratched the surface of what's out there.  So now there's The Music of DC Comics: Volume 2, a 29-track collection that both covers new material not on the first volume and sometimes feels like it's going for secondary choices.

The Music of DC Comics: Volume 2 has music from a wide variety of times.  There are samples from new live shows (Gotham, Supergirl, The Flash), cartoons (the Superman and Batman cartoons, DC Comics Supergirls), movies (Man of Steel, Batman V Superman) and even video games.  There are funky novelty songs from the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.  And yes, the theme from Challenge of the Superfriends made it onto this collection.  Several of the songs are quite silly (The Adventures of Superpup, The Theme of the Justice League of America) but even they represent a more bombastic, often groovy time.  And the instrumentals are almost all pretty exciting and very effective.
The weakness of Volume 2 comes from the times when it tries to follow the "good" stuff on Volume 1.  Since Volume 1 has John Williams' iconic theme from Superman, Volume 2 settles for "The Flying Sequence" and "Lex Luthor's Lair" from the movie.  Volume 1 has the theme from the Batman TV show; Volume 2 has a cover of the theme.  Volume 1 got the original theme song from Wonder Woman; Volume 2 had the theme song from its last season.

Even with the limits from following the first collection, The Music of DC Comics: Volume 2 is still pretty good.  The songs here are a nice mix through the decades, and several songs will be new to even the most devoted superhero fan.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch


H.P. Lovecraft's story "The Call of Cthulhu" begins with an accidental discovery and ends with a monstrous entity and inevitable doom.  Lost in R'lyeh from Atlas Games puts the players into this story, working to get rid of all their cards so everyone but one person can win -- or, as the rules put it, "You cannot win in Lost in R'lyeh.  But one player will lose -- the last player remaining when all the others have gotten rid of their cards and made good their escape."

At the start of the game, each player gets a face-down hand of cards, then five face-up cards (called Escape cards).  The player then picks a card from their hand and puts it face down next to the Escape card; this is the Ultimate Escape card and will be the last card played.
On each player's turn they can play either Horror cards or an Event card to a stack at the center of play.  Horror cards are numbered 1-10 and can only be played if their number if equal to or greater than the top Horror card on the stack.  (The exception is ark Cult's Voodoo Rite, which requires the next Horror card be lower than a certain number.)  A player can play multiple copies of the same numbered card at once, and they can have special effects (like taking another turn or Banishing (removing from the game) the stack).  Event cards are played one at a time and can always be played.  After a player plays their cards, they draw back up from the Draw Pile of cards to the starting hand size.  If a player can't play any cards, they have to take all the cards from the stack into their hand.  While this seems bad (giving a player more cards to get rid of), it can be beneficial by giving a player numerous multiple copies of Horror cards.

When the Draw pile is empty, players try to play all the cards from their hand.  When those cards are gone, a player takes one face-up Escape card into their hand and plays it.  And when those are all gone, the player puts their Ultimate Escape card in their hand -- and if they can play it and not get more cards, they've escaped and won (or at least not lost).  And the last player with cards is the game's loser.

Lost in R'lyeh is fairly simple and pretty enjoyable.  The gameplay is both simple and complex, as players try to jettison their cards while sometimes grabbing the stack to get a lot more cards and a lot more options.  The card names and art reflect "The Call of Cthulhu" well -- you get a good feel for the story if you read the Horror cards from 1-10 -- and the game plays pretty quickly, as cards are played and removed from the game.  And the metal tin is a nice touch!  There's a lot to like when getting Lost in R'lyeh.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch



If you go by the movie Sausage Party, eating meat is murder, eating vegetables is murder, and sometimes using objects is murder -- so I suppose there's not much for humans to do.  In any event, this raunchy comedy takes the animation trope of inanimate objects coming to life and has a bizarre, sometimes cruel, and often stereotypical take on it.

At Shopwell's Supermarket, all the food (and many of the other products) are alive, talking (usually cursing) and moving when no humans are around.  The food stays in its packaging, hoping the Gods (humans) will purchase the food, taking it to the Great Beyond (outside the store) for an eternity of bliss.  A sausage named Frank (Seth Rogen) and his hot dog bun girlfriend Brenda Bunson (Kristen Wiig) look forward to when they can be together out of their wrapping, with some not-so-subtle sexual suggestions.
A cart crash (and Saving Private Ryan parody) leaves Frank and Brenda stranded in the store.  They try to make their way with the help of: Teresa del Taco (Salma Hayek), who has more than a passing interest in Brenda; Sammy Bagel Jr. (Edward Norton), who sounds and acts like Woody Allen; and Kareem Abdul Lavash (David Krumholtz), who sounds and acts like a stereotypical Arab.  For a villain, there's a literal Douche (Nick Kroll) out to get Frank and Brenda -- and who compensated for a leak by cannibalizing liquids from other products in the store.  Frank learns what happens to food from an Indian bottle of liquor named Firewater (Bill Hader), while Frank's slightly shorter sausage friend Barry (Michael Cera) finds out the hard way the torture and brutality of cooking.
It's... kind of hard to know what to think about Sausage Party.  There are a lot of funny voices in the cast, especially Nick Kroll's obnoxious villain.  ("Come at me, bro!")  The movie also has some fun with animation tropes, whether how food and Gods/humans can communicate or the final showdown.  And this is one movie that isn't afraid to go offensive.  (If you think a sex scene between a sausage and a bun is wild, that's nothing compared to what happens at the end of the movie.)  But the movie also goes for a lot of easy food puns, and it's very hard to ignore that virtually every foodstuff is an ethnic caricature: the potato is Irish, tequila is Mexican, the Jewish and Arabic foods argue and fight about control of their aisle, and so on.  And the end of the movie tries to be meta but pretty much fizzles out.  I laughed and chuckled during Sausage Party, but it feels like it's trying too hard to be crude and politically incorrect, which sometimes feels like it's trying to shock more than entertain.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch



Well, that was a hot mess.  Suicide Squad is DC Comics' latest attempt to create their cinematic universe -- plus tap into the antihero trend -- but it winds up as a grim, unfocused disaster.

Following the events of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, government officials are worried about both the absence of Superman and the possibility a powerful metahuman may not be as good-willed as the Man of Steel.  Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has an... unusual plan.  She wants to take some convicted criminals -- both skilled and metahuman -- and make them Task Force X, a group who'll be forced to carry out government assignments, with blackmail and/or death the penalty for refusing to follow orders.  This group would be led on the ground by Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), who's backed up by Katana (Karen Fukuhara).
 For those keeping track, Task Force X is composed of: Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), the Enchantress (Cara Delevigne), and Slipknot (Adam Beach).  But if the idea of letting homicidal folks loose seems like a bad idea, it's quickly proven to be a bad idea: The Enchantress escapes and starts a world-ending plan with her mystical brother Incubus (Alain Chanoine), the group is given the assignment to extract one person from Midway City.  And the Joker (Jared Leto) has decided he wants Harley Quinn back.
There is so, so much wrong with Suicide Squad.  The movie takes far too long introducing the characters and is fairly fuzzy on their missions through the film.  As with many group movies, the characters have minimal personalities and more abilities/powers.  While the movie tries to make its cast likable and friends, they're still mostly selfish, homicidal, and sometimes sociopaths; the movie tries to make Will Smith's character sympathetic because he has a daughter -- which apparently makes up for his killing people for money.  The direction is disjointed and hyperactive, the action is muddled, and the result is a huge disappointment.  Skip Suicide Squad.

Overall grade: D-
Reviewed by James Lynch