Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
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Well, they finally figured out how to make a very good Descendants film. As far as the newcomers go, Cheyenne Jackson is the clear stand-out as a rock-n-roll David Tenant-lite version of Hades. The film is also helped by a good villain in the form of Ben's (Beast's son) ex-flame Audrey (Sleeping Beauty's daughter). Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and Audrey is the embodiment of that phrase.The film is still silly and doesn't always work (There's a subplot about Mal making a selfless adult decision, but her choice is treated like a bad idea instead of focusing on that it shows her character's development and maturation...weird), but more often than not it's fun and entertaining. I can't imagine that Disney wouldn't want to keep churning out Descendants films considering each installment has been a hit with its target demographic, but I can't see how they could explain Carlos' absence after Cameron Boyce's untimely and tragic passing. Either way, if this is the last Descendants film, at least they went out on a high note. More than just a guilty pleasure, Descendants 3 is actually a pretty good film with some good messages thrown in at the very end.
The film plunges us into a fascinating world where a viral outbreak has turned most of the world's population into vampires. With less than 5% of humans left on Earth, the supply of fresh blood has started to dwindle, and without human blood vampires are starting to go crazy and turn into feral vampires called Subsiders. Ethan Hawke plays a vampire scientist who is desperate to either create a suitable synthetic blood substitute or find a cure for vampirism. As usual, he is superb. Willem Dafoe is memorable, wacky and cool as Elvis (so named after The King), the leader of the remaining humans. Sam Neil plays the villainous CEO of the company Hawk's character works for. The first two acts are pretty good, but the two big twists/reveals in the film require a good deal of suspension of disbelief and are pretty silly, plus there is not a whole lot of plot here. Doesn't help that the film is ugly to look at, utilizing a color palette that consists mostly of greys (Though I will say that the designs for the Subsiders are pretty good). In the end, I'd recommend this one purely for the cool world it's set in and the great performances within.
Surprisingly, this is actually a pretty cool flick. It's set in 1968 on Halloween and the days immediately following said holiday. The characters we follow have minimal development, but the focus here is on the scares, the creatures, and a surprising mystery involving a long-dead supposed witch who is responsible for penning the titular book, as well as a rash of child murders. Our leads are all likable enough (with my favorite being Austin Zajur as Chuck), the atmosphere is rich at times, the creature designs are super-cool and freaky, and the film manages to be very creepy (My favorite portion was the one with Harold the Scarecrow). It's certainly odd that the flick wasn't released closer to the haunting season, as Scary Stories makes for a perfectly acceptable Halloween-time watch. There's also a last minute message that feels shoe-horned in but is still timely and appreciated. Scary Stories in the dark is definitely one of the better PG-13 horror films. It's guaranteed to freak out it's teen demographic and will undoubtedly get them talking (I foresee many late night spooky story sessions inspired by the film). Scary Stories will also likely get kids to grab copies of the titular Scary Stories book series the film was adapted from and inspired by. I know if I saw this when I was a teen, it would have easily become one of my new jams. Yes, that's a recommendation.