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BWN Nerds’ Movie Review: Malignant (2021)

The Nerds tackle some topical horror! James Wan’s new thriller Malignant! Do they love it? Do they hate it? Is Patrick losing his German Judge powers?

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The Nerds tackle some topical horror! James Wan’s new thriller Malignant! Do they love it? Do they hate it? Is Patrick losing his German Judge powers?

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Nerd Review!  Every week the Nerds give you their take on a different movie from the Nerd-o-sphere.  This week, Patrick and Dave review James Wan’s return to horror with Malignant!

  • The Flick:  Malignant
  • What’s it About: Young Madison is having vivid nightmares of people in her life being murdered.  Even more horrifying, Madison discovers her dreams are becoming reality, perpetrated by an unknown entity.
  • Metacritic Score: 50

The Nerds’ Take on Malignant (2021):

Patrick: Ok, everyone, I need to do something out of the gate.  I need apologize to Dave for putting this movie up for the Nerd Review.  I’m not sure what prompted me to suggest Malignant for this week’s movie.  Maybe it was seeing Aquaman and Saw director James Wan’s name attached as writer/director.  Maybe it was the hype train of advertising bombarding me every time I signed into Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Regardless, Malignant is a tropey, sometimes silly and overall bad movie that left me laughing out loud instead of shaking in terror.  I have a feeling this may be one of the shorter reviews I write, and that, my friends, is not a good thing.

Malignant tells the story of Maddison Mitchell, who is plagued by horrifying dreams where she watches various people being brutally murdered.  Before we get there though we get a prologue taking place in some sort of hospital where a patient named Gabriel has been murdering people.  The doctor in charge declares she hoped Gabriel could be saved, but with no hope she must “remove the tumor.”  The film jumps forward to present day where we see a pregnant Maddie complaining to her Husband/Boyfriend/It doesn’t matter he’s dead anyway guy that the baby has been moving and making her uncomfortable.  The conversation with her partner devolves into and argument as we learn Maddies has miscarried before and that the guy has a violent streak.  The argument culminates in the Boyfriend(husband?) violently shoving Maddie into a wall and cracking her head open.  That night, Maddie dreams of her husband(boyfriend?) being brutally murdered by a figure in a trench coat.  Maddie awakens to find that her dream wasn’t a dream at all and that her man is dead and the figure is still in the house.  After a brief chase, Maddie is knocked unconscious.

I won’t divulge more plot specifics.  The rest of the film follows the formula of the first death.  Maddie has a dream of a murder by this mysterious figure only to find that it happened in real life.  Naturally, all the victims are in some way connected to Maddie’s past, specifically her childhood.  This connection leads the police to consider Maddie a suspect, so we have a mystery of sorts on our hands.  Since this is a horror movie and a mystery to boot, there is a twist.  I won’t ruin it here, but it was not challenging to figure out.  All in all, Malignant isn’t the worst horror movie out there, but it is nothing special.  In fact the movie is downright tropey.  Wan really didn’t give the audience anything they haven’t seen before in any number of other horror flicks.  To complicate matters the last 30 minutes aren’t just bad, they’re straight up comical.  There is a big reveal late in the movie that caused me to pause the film, rewind it and bring the Mrs. O’Dowd in to the room to see the scene too and get a laugh.  It’s bad.

There are couple of filmmaking elements I did appreciate even if I found Malignant’s plot to be lacking.  First, Wan does some pretty slick camera work early in the film.  Specifically there is a scene early on where Maddie is running through her home and Wan uses a top down camera angle to follow her as she runs.  It’s as if you are hanging from the ceiling watching her below.  The scene makes for a terrific visual.  The other highlight for me was Marina Mazepa.  Mazepa does the physical acting for the entity in Maddie’s dream.  The physical work done by Mazepa is nothing short of jaw dropping.  It is truly amazing stuff.

In his day, James Wan has given us some truly unique horror movies.  Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring are all terrific, and better, films worth the watch.  I just can’t recommend Malignant.  The film was predictable, tropey and the last 30 to 45 minutes are just plain goofy.  If you’re a fan of Wan’s work and a completest, sure, check this one out.  Otherwise, spend your time watching one of his old classics to give yourself a good fright.

Patrick’s Rating: 1.68/5.0

Dave:  If you are fan of horror movies, you have to be able to suspend your disbelief. Many horror movies deal with topics and issues that, on some level, seem patently absurd and ridiculous. And, most of the time, that is OK. A serial killer invading our dreams to kill us is crazy, but it is grounded in such a supernatural element that practically all horror fans not only accepted it, but exalted in it. The same can be said for a hockey mask wearing undead man-child, or a doll possessed with the soul of a serial killer, or saying the name of a mythical killer five time while staring in the mirror. It is all craziness and ridiculous but it works because of how the story is told and how the horror is presented to the audience. Then there is the utter ridiculosity of our review topic this week, the latest film from Aquaman director James Wan, an utterly absurd movie called Malignant.

Plot wise, Malignant focuses in on Madison, a woman who has had a terrible history of miscarriages over the past few years. Pregnant yet again, her douchebag of a husband slams her into a wall and she bashes the back of her head. Bleeding badly from the back of her head, she locks herself in the bathroom. Shortly thereafter, a shadowy figure enters her home and brutally kills her husband. This then sets off some utterly crazy, and mostly nonsensical, scenes for the rest of the movie. We learn that the killer is an entity named Gabriel. At first, we think he is Madison’s imaginary friend. Then we learn that he might not be so imaginary after all. Then it is revealed that Gabriel is actually a teratoma, a very extreme version of a parasitic twin. Madison’s real name is Emily and she was in a mental ward for many years with Gabriel existing as a horribly deformed head, face, and appendages extending out of the back of Emily’s head and body. When it is learned that Gabriel is highly dangerous and borderline homicidal, doctors at the mental hospital decide to surgically remove Gabriel. But they cannot get all of him because he is sharing Emily’s spine and brain. So, they remove as much of him as possible, shove what is left into Emily’s skull, and sew her up. He lies dormant for many years but is awakened when Emily’s husband slammed the back of her head into a wall. When Gabriel takes over, his half-developed face protrudes from the back of Emily’s head, she falls into a trance-like state, and Gabriel uses her body in reverse. That’s right…. he/she/it runs backwards and is able to fight like Shang-Chi using his/her/its arms and legs in a virtual upside-down manner.

Beyond ridiculous, right? More like insipidly stupid. The plot is a train wreck in the grandest of fashion. But there is more. Never mind that none of it makes a damn bit of sense and is pretty much a medical impossibility, but it forces you to perform mental gymnastics just to come remotely close to being able to suspend your disbelief. How exactly did Gabriel learn to fight like Bruce Lee? How does he end up with the strength of, say, Black Panther, even though he is still using Emily’s body, and using it in reverse no less? This is where this movie utterly fails. It tries to create a supernatural element and actually does a good job of it for the first half of the movie. But then it completely shits the bed by trying to come up with a quasi-real-world explanation for what is happening that is so beyond insane that it is impossible to suspend your disbelief and, by the end, you just want it to be over. The final scenes of the movie are particularly hard to accept, or really watch, without getting moderately nauseous.

As if all that is not bad enough, and as I am sure Patrick will mention, there are way too many tropey moments for my liking. The movie badly accentuates played out horror movie stereotypes and moments. For instance, Emily/Madison’s sister, Sydney sets out to find out the truth about her sister and so she decides to go to the mental hospital where everything went down involving Emily and Gabriel. Naturally, the hospital is this magnificent structure sitting abandoned on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Even more ridiculous is the fact that not only is Sydney able to break into this abandoned hospital, but the hospital (with no security of any sort) still has all the patient records on site, in the basement, available to be stolen, retrieved, and looked at by anybody. HIPPA violations notwithstanding, anyone who knows anything about how mental institutions handle patient records knows the complete idiocy of this scene. This goes beyond tropey and just becomes completely asinine.

It is not all bad though. As I said, the first half of the movie was pretty good. There were some genuinely tense scenes early on and I was enjoying it…right up until they started to try and explain Gabriel in terms of anything other than a supernatural entity. After that, it went downhill faster than the Swiss Bobsled team in Cool Runnings. There are some really good action sequences and the chase scene through the Seattle Underground was quite excellent….at least until you try and wrap yourself around how Gabriel could have done what he did when he was really just using Emily’s body in reverse. And the scene where Gabriel annihilates a police precinct full of cops and prisoners was quite cool…until, again, you realize that this is all being done by someone essentially operating a human body in reverse.

Uugghhh. I cannot recommend this movie on any level and if I am saying that, you know this has to be pretty bad. The cool action sequences and the largely enjoyable first half of the movie are not enough to overcome the back half of sheer stupidity and daft, idiotic, deranged, and insane insults to our intelligence. There just is no salvaging this disaster of a film. Yes, you can watch it for free if you have HBO Max, but that is 2 hours of your life you will never get back. Your IQ will likely go down if you watch it. Avoid this one at all costs.

Dave’s Rating:  1.25/5.0

 

Overall Nerds’ Rating for Malignant (2021): 1.46/5.0


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Bandwagon Nerds #101: DC Fandome 2021

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Bandwagon Nerds #101: DC Fandome 2021

DC takes over the Bandwagon as Patrick, Dave, Rey and PC Tunney break down the day that was DC Fandome 2021!   Listen as the guys geek out over the biggest trailers and their favorite announcements from the DC Universe.  Plus, the Nerds discuss the Dave Chappelle controversy surrounding Netflix as well as possible labor strike in Hollywood.  Finally, the Bandwagon continues its review of Doom Patrol season 3.

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About Bandwagon Nerds

Join Patrick O’Dowd, David Ungar, PC Tunney and Rey Cash as they keep everyone up on all things nerd, and maybe add some new nerds along the way. It’s the Bandwagon Nerds Podcast!

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BWN Nerds’ Movie Review: Free Guy (2021)

The Nerds tackle the new Ryan Reynolds movie Free Guy! It did surprisingly well at box offices and has been quite a topic for the last few months. Does it live up to the hype?

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This week the Nerds decide to tackle another new movie! Free Guy opened with one of the stronger pandemic numbers and maintained number 1 status for two straight weeks. Smaller scale, not a large budget, but it plays in that space that seems to be fairly popular unless it’s Pixels with Adam Sandler.

Does it live up to the hype?

*SPOILER WARNING*

  • Metacritic: 62
  • IMDB: 7.3/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: Critic – 80% / Audience – 94%

Nerd’s Take on: Free Guy (2021)

Dave

If you are one of BWN’s loyal listeners (you 22 know who you are), then you know that we just wrapped up our review of Marvel’s What If…? The topic of the Nerd Review this week is kind of like asking, “What If Ready Player One was merged with Wreck It Ralph, The Truman Show, and The Matrix? I am not entirely sure…. but I think it would look and feel a lot like Free Guy. And that, my friends, is a very good thing indeed.

Free Guy focuses on Guy. Guy is what is known in gaming circles as an NPC, which stands for Non-Player Character. Anyone who has played just about any video game since the dawn of time knows what a NPC is, even if they did not know the technical term for it. Well, Guy is an NPC in a MMORPG known as Free City. Every day, Guy wakes up, says hello to his goldfish, grabs a coffee, and heads to the bank where he and his best friend, Buddy, a Security Guard, work. Everyday the bank is robbed, multiple times. It is all good though as it gives Guy & Buddy a chance to talk as they lie on the ground waiting for the heist to be over. Guy, Buddy, and all the other NPCs in Free City have no idea they are not real…. that is until Guy sees the girl of his dreams walking around on the streets of Free City. This leads to Guy getting a hold of sunglasses, which are what the human controlled characters wear. If you ever saw They Live, when Guy puts on the glasses, he sees things the other NPC’s cant, such as med-packs, high scores, and objects that are only visible to human controlled characters as in-game items. Guy has no clue what is going on but he follows his dream girl, known as Molotov Girl, and he is desperate to impress her. She tells him he needs to level up first. This leads to Guy breaking out of the routine of his programming and rapidly evolving into the first true case of AI in existence. Everyone who works at Soonami, the developer of Free City, thinks that Guy is a human controlled character using an NPC skin. Whatever the case, Guy comes to be known as Blue Shirt Guy and he develops a huge following.

Then we have what is going on in the real world. We get to meet Keys & Mouse, who are coders at Soonami and who have been working on the code for Free City 2. But prior to coming to Soonami, Keys developed the code for a somewhat similar game with Millie. Millie is the human controlling Molotov Girl and she is trying to come up with evidence that Soonami’s head honcho, Antwan, stole the source code from the game that Keys & Millie developed and inserted it into Free City to help make the game infinitely better. At first, Antwan loves all the attention Blue Shirt Guy is drawing to the game. But Guy’s antics soon become more problematic. Guy rescues Molotov Girl as she faces insurmountable odds in trying to retrieve a key piece of video evidence from the game. It is during this rescue that Keys comes the realize that Guy is not a human controlled character, but an NPC that has evolved and become sentient. Guy falls in love with Molotov Girl and she reciprocates, at least on some level. Antwan learns that Guy is an actual AI based being but all he can see is the threat to his empire that Guy might pose. He does everything he can to stop him, including rebooting the system and destroying servers. But Molotov Girl is able to restore Guy’s memory and Guy knows exactly where they need to go to obtain the proof that Antwan is a thief. This leads to the climactic scenes of the movie which, like a hidden level of a great video game, slowly reveals a heart-warming love story hiding in plain sight the whole time.

Let me get this out of the way:  I loved this movie. From a nerd’s standpoint, it is loaded with all sorts of nerdy stuff to make you smile. Anyone who has ever played a video game, especially a MMORPG, is going to be able to relate to so many aspects of this movie. There are multiplayer lounges, repetitive missions, just over the top violence for the sake of violence and, yes, there is tea-bagging and flossing going on (and, no, if you don’t know what that means, I am not going to explain it here). It is very clever what director Shawn Levy did here. We have all done things to the NPCs in our favorite video games that we would probably rather not mention publicly. It just goes with the territory. Free Guy, much like Wreck It Ralph did, brings you into the actual lives of the NPCs and gives them personality and purpose, even if it is all a loop and programming. Once Guy learns of the reality of his situation, and of Antwan’s ultimate plan to wipe out any possible existence of the source code from Millie and Key’s original game, he becomes a hero as he defies the odds to help his friends out. There is plenty of action and adventure here for fans of those genres, along with a lot of really funny moments.

Probably the highlight of the movie is when Dude shows up. Dude is a heavily muscled version of Guy whose code has not been completed. Guy’s battle against him is complete with a Captain America shield, a Star Wars lightsaber, and a Portal gun from the Portal video game. The way this is all integrated into the fight is more than a nod to these great movies and games; they actually shift the tide of the fight. There are lots of little things like that in the movie, just subtle nods to Nerdom and pop culture. It is nowhere near the level of nerd-nostalgia that we saw in Ready Player One, but it is tremendously fun all the same. If there is one problem, it is that the movie is not likely going to appeal to non-gamers. Yes, there is a great love-story that finally reveals itself at the end that anyone can enjoy. But the movie is steeped heavily in video game jargon, images, lexicon, and terminology that non-gamers will likely find pretty absurd. Therefore, if you are a non-gamer, this might not be your movie.

The cast is excellent, but that should come as no surprise as Ryan Reynolds, who plays Guy and Dude (except for Dude’s body) is in another zone entirely right now. His performance here is honestly one of his best. It is like he was channeling an insanely good-natured version of Deadpool. Shockingly, there was no mention of Deadpool at all in this movie and that was a good thing. Jodie Comer absolutely kills it as Molotov Girl/ Millie and is the perfect foil for Guy as their relationship evolves. Joe Keery and his immaculate hair is excellent as Keys and there is a lot of his portrayal of Steve Harrington from Stranger Things present here, which really works to his advantage. The possible MVP of them all though is Taika Waititi whose portrayal of Antwan is the perfect blend of evil villain and just total douchebag. There are cameos from Chris Evans and the late Alex Trebek and voice cameos from Hugh Jackman (of course), Tina Fey, Duane Johnson, and John Krasinski. With a cast like that, how could the movie fail?

The short answer is it didn’t. Free Guy is quite possibly the most surprisingly good movie I have seen in 2021. I knew it would be good; I did not know it would be special. It is funny, it is clever, it has just the right amount of nerd-based goodness mixed in with a surprisingly heart-warming conclusion, and it is just very entertaining from start to finish. It is as much a movie about friendship and what it means to be alive as it is about the inner workings of video games. I paid $20 to watch the movie and it was worth every penny. This is one I cannot recommend enough.

Rating: 4.5/5


Rey

Movies like Free Guy make me massively jealous.  I consider myself a creative person, one who has a ton of interesting ideas.  I could NEVER have come up with the premise for such a cleverly written and acted movie.  And that was the appeal of this movie, and then I had the pleasure of watching it.  My goodness, what a movie it was.

Normally, I like to give a bit more suspense in these articles before I give my opinion on a film.  Not this time.  This movie is a 5 out of 5 in every way.  This movie deserves to be in the time capsule.  This movie will be remembered as one of the finest achievements of cinema in this generation.  Kind of crazy for a Ryan Reynolds flick, right?

What makes this movie so genius is simply the way it flips something we know so well – video games – and flips it in a way that only someone highly inebriated and under the influence could come up with – what happens in a video game outside of the first-person viewpoint.  Ryan Reynolds brilliantly plays Guy, a Non-Player Character, who turns out to be a sentient AI created by Millie and Keys (Jodie Corner and Joe Keery), who created a game stolen by Soonami Games and their CEO, Antwan (Taika Waititi).  Both Keys and Millie decided to sell the game to Antwan and Soonami, while Millie feels that Antwan stole their code for the game.  This code turns out to be Reynold’s Guy, a banker in Free City.

Guy’s life is simple.  He wakes up, drinks coffee, looks out of his window, plays with his fish, hangs out with his best friend Buddy (a bank security guard played by Lil Rel Howery), and gets robbed repeatedly.  He carries on with his created purpose until he sees Millie’s Free City avatar Molotov Girl, in which he falls instantly in love.  The rest of the movie is Guy learning more and more about himself, eventually finding out that he’s in a game and that Antwan is trying to destroy it because Millie and Keys figured out that he stole their code.  The journey is hilarious, heartfelt, and ingenious.

There’s no need to go super in depth.  There’s no need to write a long love letter to this movie.  You just need to watch it.  It is legitimately one of my favorite movies I’ve ever watched, and I’m inspired by the ingenuity that led to the idea that became Free Guy.  So I appreciate you guys reading this article, but stop.  Go buy or rent Free Guy.  Then come back and tell me how right I was.

Rating: 5/5

 

Overall Nerds Rating for Free Guy (2021): 4.75/5


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