Movie Review: The Invisible Man

Remaking horror classics is a hit or a miss, and often the latter. The Invisible Man takes a twist similar to Hollow Man, except this is actually good. It has familiar strides as other films in the modern era of the genre but executes those aspects in ways that only a master can do, so bravo to director/writer Leigh Whannell along with his cast and crew.

After living with her abusive boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) in his fancy fortress on the water that I desperately want for myself, Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) escapes. Two weeks later, the news arrives that he died by apparent suicide, but things seem funky. Once she finds out, the survivor must figure out how her evil ex became invisible. It sounds absurd on paper and tiptoes into that realm, but this thriller full of spine-chilling breaths and a look at the terrifying truth about abuse packs a punch.

The plot does have its hiccups of convolution, while still keeping its footing without falling on its ass. What holds everything together comes from the core cast. The relationship Cecilia has with her friend James (Aldis Hodge), his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid), and her sister Emily (Harriet Dryer) feels as real as her connection to that invisible monster. Everyone is on their A-game, and it goes above those stellar levels when they work together on screen.

I do think everyone did an outstanding job, but Moss demolishes every scene, outshining anyone who shares a second of screentime with her. Her portrayal of experiencing that level of psychological and physical trauma radiates to making me choke up throughout these two hours of horror. Her paranoia and pain became mine, which the pacing accompanied by the writing and directing of Whannell compliments kindly.

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Putting the pieces of the puzzle together

Cohen had little to do as he, or the stuntman, were invisible and trying not to give away this twisted attack on Cecilia. The little time he did have, he laid out the personality that I have seen before of these assholes who think they are on top of the world and can outsmart everyone. Great job on nailing the douchey performance to counter the lead’s lure to take her side.

What often kills the boogeymen hiding under the bed, or a smug genius wanting to torment a poor woman, comes from the pacing. I see it too many times where the story gets overly convoluted, or the climax falls apart. Whannell holds it together despite some wobbly moments that quickly get made up. The tension is held with spikes of action for an experience that kept me on the edge of my seat, unaware of what’s to come.

Having an invisible antagonist opens up many possibilities to torture characters and the audience or will leave the filmmakers falling over themselves, trying to scare people. The subtle use of Adrian’s manipulation of the world around kept me scanning the background and second-guessing my own sanity. It builds up anxiety while creating extra empathy towards Cecilia that is not even needed, as I already wanted to reach through the screen to protect her within seconds.

The sound design and editing are masterfully done. The department delivers uniquely interesting sound cues to heighten my senses for a scene. On the flip side, the use of deafening the volume would quickly change the atmosphere for me while everything seemed dandy for Cecilia.

Stefan Duscio is a monster with the cinematography by playing constant tricks. Panning the camera, one way to make me think where the invisible mad man was in the room to mess with Cecilia. Sometimes that nothingness was true, creating me insane like the heroine herself.

The score composed by Benjamin Wallfisch matches the amount of anxiety I was feeling. Ominous booms and shrill strings elevate every ounce of emotion I felt, from the pain to the heart-pounding intensity.

Using optic technology was a great way to modernize the film. Though the technology was hard to buy, I decided to roll my eyes and go with it as the film did too with its lack of explanation. Just have fun and ignore dumb fake science.

Whannell’s remake of The Invisible Man follows a similar formula as many but excels in nearly every element. It has its jump scares, but those are thrown in strategically and sparingly. The psychological warfare with the adrenaline-pumping action to beef up the unnerving tension makes for tough competition for any other horror remakes to outmatch this beast.

Score: 9/10

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Album Review: Intronaut – Fluid Existential Inversions

I had no prior experience with Intronaut outside of hearing about them from a buddy. Mear seconds into the progressive band’s latest album. Fluid Existential Inversions, I was sold by their complicated song structures and various influences. I may need more listens to gather every morsel of inspiration this group gathered to create this vast soundscape.

Setting the tone in less than a minute comes Procurement of the Victuals. It delivers itself as an appetizer to foreshadow the coming tracks, at least for the instrumentation with its progressive guitar tones and mix of styles.

Cubensis offers frantic pacing with every element. Flows well with variety in tempo and tones. It keeps me on my toes for what’s to come. Melding melody with grittiness with the rock and metal influences come together delightfully.

The Cull has more control over its speed while keeping with the variations. Harsher screams that touch into more hardcore and metal vibes. Bolder performance while keeping subdued moments for room to breathe in-between parts to take the time needed.

Going into more hard-driving and relentless territory while not tapping into screams and their metal influences as much come from Contrapasso. Gets more modern hard rock with its rhymic direction.

Time to settle down a bit with Speaking of Orbs. Its chill and funky behavior meld together with a stonery atmosphere. Transitions into a heavier underworld with gritty cleans, mid-range screams, and thrashy instrumentation. That aggression plays well with the relaxed rest stops.

Not as heavy as Cubensis, but Tripolar offers mid-tempo aggression with relentless instrumentation that strays from overwhelming. Picks up speed with a longer breakdown that dies off into an eerie bridge. Flows between various stages that fit together.

Besides the intro, Check Your Misfortune is the shortest track on the album. Heavily violent instrumentation that blends well with the screams. The subdued vocals sit awkwardly against the background of fast drums and cut-throat riffs. Switches weirdly for a funkier turn that was not properly executed but makes up for it in a melodic instrumental section where clean vocals work. It eventually caps off on a beautiful atmospheric note that makes amends for some of its flaws.

Pangloss starts off with an intimidating introduction with grittier styled cleans that weave together with the hardcore screams. Powerful vocal work matches the nearly thrashy soundscape. Slowly builds into a chaotic breakdown before knowing when to sit back for a chill break and reverting back to a destructive conclusion.

The finale, Sour Everythings, holds a steady start that slithers between hard rocky and groovy. It goes in for attacks with its riffs, meaty bass, and neverending percussive power. Right when it goes for too long, it dives back on defensive positions before going back in for heavier sections. A layered, intricate finale that highlights their instrumental skill.

A sweet bonus that has become a bit of a loss art comes from the band’s album cover. An artsy, stonery look that fits well with their image.

Fluid Existential Inversions holds surprises but nothing too big to keep its smaller scope. Some transitions fall flat between segments in songs, making it feel out of place between serene soundscapes and headbanging hellscapes. Strongest with its instrumentation and song structure while the vocals tend to sound inconsistent. Long songs with intricate song structures make up for the lack of amount of tracks throughout the record, proving less is better than more.

Score: 8/10

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Album Review: Reflections – Willow

Deathcore is a hard genre that has a stigma attached due to so many generic bands that saturate the scene. Reflections’ latest release, Willow, exemplifies this issue as it does nothing special with its positive aspects or its sins. It will make for good background music if you want something heavy without any musical substance.

Synthetics opens up the record with a spotlight on Jake Wolf’s vocals while having a distorted background. The vocals set the tone for what’s to come, but I thought throughout Willow, Wolf’s voice from his death metal-inspired screams to more metalcore sound mixes well and gives much-needed variety. The instrumentation comes in spurts with equal amounts of distortion and a load of nastiness, giving me a false positive impression before I get smacked with underwhelming followups.

Coming straight into my face with its unapologetic violence comes From Nothing. The instrumentation is more pronounced, making an even landscape between the other members and their vocalist. A prominent bass compliments the distorted guitars in the neverending breakdowns and changing tempos. The vocals continue to shine with terrifying screams and haunting moments of talking.

Things seem to keep going relatively strong with the pounding percussive power of Psychosis. Relentlessly shifts gears with its messy structure that is heard throughout. It kept me on my toes without delivering on too much depth, a running theme that’s to come.

Ominous start with quiet bass and drumming before everything jumps in for the attack. The intro goes on for a while before vocals come in with brutally low screams that initially match the bass in tone. The cord gets cut off for an eerie break for room to breath before an even heavier second act. That eeriness lurks in the background then goes back into the shadows only to come back in other parts, keeping an unpredictability to the predictability of Isolation.

Going into a more hard-driving mindset, Marionette has a nice presentation that soon runs short. The relentless speed quickly gets boring and goes dry as this track loses anything else to say.

Dismal is the official point I realized this review will be rough as I had the rest of this record to digest. Despite changes in tempo and demonic vocals, it blends together with the methods executed in all of the previous songs so far.

The highlight of the record, and arguably the only good song comes from Samsara. Distant clean vocals with guitar work looming even further along with beats that pop in and out. The cleans and screams weave together as the drums keep up, leaving the guitars and bass behind. The contrast I needed to give me a breath of fresh air I needed to take in. The melody adds beauty to the hellish landscape, along with additional emotion that started to flatten out in the last few songs.

Empathy does not keep up with that level of experimentation. Like a drug addict out of rehab, it goes straight back into the dumpster to find a dirty needle. Has some melody thrown in the backseat, gets drowned out by the rest of the generic breakdowns. This is beyond boring right here.

Seven Stages keeps together a rhythm to the breakdown that makes for a satisfying flow. The lead guitar takes ahold of the song by not following the path that has been paved across the eight other tracks. Not enough to keep my attention throughout.

Illusionist at first leaves plenty of space with breakdowns for pockets of oxygen in the suffocating environment. Gets to a point where no breathing room is left between neverending riffs that go impossibly fast or the relentless drummer.

Some more areas of emptiness between the heaviness come in with Help. It ends up going in the same direction as other tracks without any distinctive characteristics. At this point, please send me some help.

Matching its name, Ghost has an atmospheric eeriness that has the right mood for a concluding track. Goes into some of the heaviest breakdowns accompanied by gruesome vocal work. It does not transition well, but it is a much-needed turn as the introduction went on for too long. The finale slowly dies off with a beating drum replicating a heart that I want to stop to end this record.

The only positive takeaway comes from the vocals matching the emotion to the songs. Even then, a negative immediately comes due to the lack of care I have for anything here, eliminating the soul that could flourish and does not in the end.

When done right, progressive metal can have so much depth to offer with its sound and variety. Reflections do not deliver the subgenre justice as the stigma against both deathcore, metalcore, and djent all come together in this mess. Willow does not commit any crimes too severe but enough to warrant an arrest.

Score: 4/10

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Album Review: Suicide Silence – Become the Hunter

I have an unpopular opinion, I don’t care for Suicide Silence. Before you take your pitchforks, let me say that I highly respect what they have accomplished, and it takes great strength to continue to pursue a career in the same group when your lead vocalist dies. Sadly, Become the Hunter does not go too well as it jogs itself through each track with not much personality.

Meltdown, an instrumental introduction, slowly dips its feet in the water with an eerie beginning before diving in. Classic low tuned riffs with heavy breakdowns make for a good time to headbang. Even with that, it feels rather generic and does not set any recognizable tone for what’s to happen other than the fact that I am about to go through a lot of the same sounding riffs and breakdowns. Thankfully that ominous mood stays in the background for some flavor.

The short verses and choruses make Two Steps feel weird with its pacing on the vocal delivery, which is excellent from Eddie Hermida, who completely abandons his clean style that awkwardly occurred on the last release.  The instrumentation follows the same bland path as Meltdown with the addition of a few highlights. The bridge adds a much needed dark atmosphere while the solo that comes afterward delivers a whiny screech that gives some 80s metal vibes.

The intricacy of Feel Alive does bring this record alive to some degree. The members start to play with more complexity rather than beating me to death with overly simplified breakdowns. It mixes catchiness and brutality that has a drive, unlike the previous track.

I feel lead guitarist Mark Heylmun taking this in a different direction with Love Me to Death before everyone else jumps in to take the wheel to go back where I was in the first place. When I get back to that point, I realize that the deathcore veterans will drag me through an array of generic songs that I have heard from them before.

Some hints of rhythm creep into In Hiding, but as the shortest song next to the introduction, things quickly revert back into hammer a nail on the head without a single thought. Sprinkling in some variety from the instrumentation adds a little more depth that does not entirely save things here. Another whiny solo comes in to give me the oxygen I need to survive.

Death’s Anxiety grabs my attention with its youthful energy. Quickly I lose interest as it blends together with the last few songs. Everything is coming together more and more I get deeper into the band’s sixth release.

The screams stay while the mood changes with Skin Tight. I was shocked hearing the subtly guitar and light drum work to make for an intimate face to face with the vocalist in this weirdly intense song. It goes back and forth between heaviness and somber brutality to create the most dynamic piece across all 11 songs.

Although the members have not saved themselves yet, things start to move in a better direction as they bounce off onto The Scythe. An intense build-up with an unbelievably relentless tight riff with some percussive power booming in and out. The vocals coming in with some hardcore vibes make this song a standout hit as it dives into carnage. This is the deathcore that they should have delivered back on track one, not eight.

The acoustic introduction of Serence Obscene caught me off guard before getting smacked with a violent breakdown. The transition does go smoothly or make much sense in its context, it does weave mayhem and rhythm together in a fairly intriguing way. No clean vocals feature unlike the last record, but a monotoned monologue changes up the scenery before a melodic shift heads to the conclusion of this surprisingly good entry on the final section of the band’s latest release.

Disaster Valley plows through the walls while its punching with percussive power and slashes with its unremarkable riffs. It goes with the trend that has been set with everything else here, breakdown first, think later. After underutilizing the bass, some drops come in that make me actually happy, something I did not expect. Then the best solo comes in with intense melodies and its ear-piercing sound that top it all off.

Oh no, the title track ends up being one of the worst, and it is the closer, big yikes. It throws away all the progress the last few songs made with me by throwing in all the same generic sounds I heard before. To make it worse, the guitar solo is short and has no outstanding qualities.

Not even guest vocalist, Darius Tehrani of Spite could help save the finale to this bland album.

Become the Hunter is unseasoned, flavorless extreme music that shows the band has gone backward since its controversial self titled record. I don’t miss Eddie’s terrible clean vocals that weirdly tried to sound like Chino Moreno from Deftones, but I do wish they tried to fix those issues into something special. Going back to their roots shows how much they gave in into hateful fans rather than sticking to their guns for music that has substance, even if it still sucks.

Score: 4/10

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Movie Review: Birds of Prey

DC trying to catch up to Marvel’s universe, has been sad on a blockbuster scale. Some changes have steered things in a better direction, like Birds of Prey. Margot Robbie’s second outing as Harley Quinn has some rough edges that don’t slow its flashy personality around as it tops the rest in this poorly executed world of cape-wearing crime fighters and makeup obsessed criminals.

Harley Quinn has broken up with her scene, kid boyfriend Joker (Jared Leto, who is not seen at all, we will get to that later), so she must cope with heartbreak and do some searching to figure herself out. This leads to alcohol and violence and pissing off Obi-Wan – I mean Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) – who wants her, and others dead for a precious diamond. Eventually, it all boils down to him vs. Harley and other ladies who have either wronged or been wronged by Obi-Sionis in a fun breakup comic book adventure.

The ride of Harley’s post-breakup world has a few potholes that make for a bumpy journey. Most of it gets explained or commented on through her monologue, which helps people who haven’t seen Suicide Squad and adds to her bubbly yet deadly personality. It makes things choppy and tends to over-explain rather than letting the narrative breathe with its own pacing.

Robbie, like many talented folks, has been royally fucked by DC with movies like Suicide Squad. Her second chance shines as she inhabits the iconic clown villain, who tries to somewhat redeems herself morally with some failure and success. My experience with Arleen Sorkin as Joker’s twisted toy did give me conflicting feelings with Robbie as the character since I did not go on a suicide mission to watch her 2016 debut. She may not rise above performances by Sorkin across games and shows but a worthy casting choice to represent the character on the big screen.

Speaking of one of the worst received DCEU entries, Jared Leto is nowhere to be seen. Get a dude dressed as a Blood on the Dance Floor fan, then turn his back to the camera then boom, you have a replacement to fill in the introduction. I have no issues with the man, but that savage move of cutting him out is hilarious.

The birds – Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), Dinah Lance / Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), and Helena Bertinelli / The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) – get proper development to feel like fleshed-out characters despite this running shorter than the average superhero and villain flick. They get the love they rightfully deserve by being likable characters who kick so much ass with my personal favorite being The Huntress, I did not know this is the badass woman I needed in my life.

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Harley Quinn

McGregor was handed a generic, greedy baddie, with that said, I enjoyed every second of his screentime. His performance takes control of each scene in a terrifyingly charismatic way, elevating an average antagonist to a level of quality that Roman does not deserve, good job Jedi Master McGregor.

The police officer who ties much of the girls together, Renee, is meant to be a cheesy one line deliverer with a thick New York accent, but it took me time to get adjusted to her. Her personality got laid on too thick at times, but by the end, I loved her like the rest of the cast.

The action floods itself through the streets of Gotham without taking time away from the story and the people that drive this vehicle. Stylish choreography with creative props to bolster the combat. I wish for more blood and gore, but the brutal sound effects, along with other methods, satisfy my thirst to see graphic violence.

The visuals start off so strong with neon colors in the environment and costumes along with comic booky choices to brighten up the scenery. Despite this beautiful beginning, the climax is at night with no lights for a classic DC environment full of bad guys wearing dark clothing. Dear future filmmakers who may read this, never do this as American films (DC especially) love setting up action sequences like this. Stick to your guns on artistic decisions.

Director Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs) and writer Christina Hodson (Bumblebee) crafted a film that does not radically change the genre but put in their own twist on familiar ingredients with kick-ass women. I do have questions on some odd decisions that took me out of the moment, but those were only a few brief issues I found. I do hope for more from Yan, and I am excited to see what Hodson cooks up for the Batgirl and The Flash movies.

While DC still cannot unlearn some qualities, Harley Quinn and her crew land in the top tier range of the universe. I do wish more time with the group united rather than a scattered narrative that links itself together by the end, despite being incredibly well executed. I may hate birds, but Birds of Prey knocks it out of the park with nonstop fun, and with a sequel, it can improve itself to sit next to some of the best comic book movies of all time.

Score: 8/10

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Images via Warner Bros. Pictures/DC

Trailer Impressions: Sprial: From the Book of Saw

Oh, boy, we got another Saw movie coming. Admittedly, I love the first four, maybe five entries, and you cannot shame me for that. Then things left the initial story and became a convoluted mess, more so than it already turned into. Now we get something a little different from the rumored spinoff featuring Samuel L. Jackson, but despite trying something new, this looks laughably terrible.

I have to see it.

Starting off with weird 90s buddy cop vibes with Det. Zeke Banks (Chris Rock, who happens to write and produce the film because this world is cruel and unusual) and Det. Marv Boswick (Dan Petronijevic). A new series of crimes come along targetting police officers, so now they are on the case to solve it. Who could it possibly be?

That right there is almost the entire trailer until we get the introduction of Marcus (Samuel L. Jackson), who I have no idea who he is supposed to be but it is Jackson, so I am happy enough to see him hopefully save as much of this shit show as he can.

Chris Rock goofily rolls his chair in the police station to see a commotion over a package. A little tease to show either a message or trap being prepared for him because Saw loves its surprises, even if it doesn’t land with the audience.

We do get a weird glimpse into what looks like a heist with men wearing ski masks and boiler suits. Why not, we got this far?

It isn’t until towards the end we get a reminder that this is Saw with Jackson asking, “You want to play games, mother fucker,” and yes, we get him saying his famous two words. Then we get to see two traps, some contraption that has someone’s arms getting pulled by a machine and Officer Chris Rock handcuffed with a saw in one hand. Ooo, fanfare, so exciting!

I have no hope for this to succeed, but Jigsaw made a good profit, so Lionsgate will continue to chuck these out at us for some extra cash. I hope for enough of Nick Fury Jackson to elevate this experience to make it at least enjoyably bad rather than a miserable mess.

Spiral: From the Book of Saw releases May 15.

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Song Impressions: The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous

I would fight anyone who hates on The Black Dahlia Murder, they are my favorite death metal band on this wretched planet. After nearly two decades worth of experience, they continue to plant seeds of terror across the world. The first song off of the upcoming album, the title track Verminous lends itself as the perfect introduction to another sick creation from these veteran musicians.

Echoes of squeaks and drippings of water and other possible fluids, the first few seconds immerses me into the album art, which as always, is beautifully haunting with a simple color scheme.

Next thing I know, I get thrust into blast beat city with methodically melodic guitar riffs and ominous bass sounds lurking behind. Complexity is The Black Dahlia’s forte, especially in guitar work. Slides, pull-offs, and string bends come in left and right for a slick sound from Brandon Ellis and Brian Eschbach, who are on top of their game before any vocals enter the mix.

Right before vocalist Trevor Strnad comes in, the rest of the band smacks in punches in unison for an explosive entrance for their wicked screamer. The speed of the instrumentation is a constant high but does not overwhelm the story-driven lyrics that Strnad is known to write. Even he does not overdo it as in between lines, a brief pause lets everything breathe.

The structure in this genre can follow the basic formula of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, with sometimes a pre-chorus and bridge to mix things up. With some repetition coming in, much of Verminous keeps moving forward without looking back. A disturbing narrative with rats and other creatures that will make you squirm crawl all over this classic TBDM song.

A must in anything that these metalheads create is a solo that bangs and thrashes while having a sophisticated manner despite all of the chaos surrounding it. Ellis nailed it on the last record, Nightbringers, and continues to do so in a short session.

Sure, they have a formula, and the first single released since 2017 follows their established sound. Some bands do this, and it gets boring, but The Black Dahlia Murder are masters at what they do, and Verminous is a prime example of how to continue one thing, and do it right. Supposedly some experimentation will get thrown in, so I am ready to hear what they have cooking in that vile cauldron on theirs.

What do you think of the new song? Let me know in the comments.

Verminous releases on April 17.

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