Posts Tagged ‘Good Movie’

Ocean’s Thirteen

April 18, 2017

I am not much of a gambler but there are not so many obvious reasons for that. I was raised as a Methodist by a family that came from the South. The extreme wings of the Church in the American south have always frowned on the gambling industry (and really any kind of fun). The churches we attended never gave sermons on gambling. Really, how can games of chance be thought of as sinful? Instead, I just thought gambling for money was dumb. There is a phrase that always holds true “The House Always Wins”. I have studied enough probability and statistics to know how unlikely it is to win. Everything is not in your favor and the risk/reward calculation will almost never come out right. So, when I was growing up I steadfastly refused to gamble for money. I was kind of a dick about it.

Lately, I have changed my mind about things a bit. While I still think that ambling into a casino and dropping big money or spending your paycheck on the library is ridiculous, I can see the fun in a little gambling. In past years, I have gone to the racetrack at Charlestown to watch the horses run and have dinner with family. That is when I got started on making a few dollar bets on races. Of course, you would think that an educated person would carefully pick the right horse and the right races to get the most out of a bet. Not so. I am a sucker for a horse with an interesting name. Since I am only betting one dollar, I find myself thinking less about numbers and more about the experience. A goofy name with bad odds wins me over every time. I would be embarrassed if it was less fun.

The Ocean’s Eleven series of movies are a throwback to the original movie and the unwritten codes that casino operators had to follow and keep in business. While I have never been to Las Vegas, I always like that old Frank Sinatra feeling of respect and honor. Casinos may have been run by criminals back then (or not what do I know?) but they were run under a code of proper conduct. The large cast of these movies makes a point of mixing older actors and younger actors to drive home the idea of respecting tradition. The bad guys do not respect it while the good guys do. Of course, traditions are only worth following if they are good ones and the movies drive that point home too.

The cast, as I said, is huge. This is the second movie I have reviewed this month starring George Clooney who is always super charming. I love the familiarity he now has with Brad Pitt and Matt Damon’s characters forming a core of characters who talk to each other like friends do. They bust each other’s chops and know each other’s minds. You can look up the whole list of awesome character actors on your own but once again this movie had a super impressive cast. This time, the guys are up against Al Pacino who is putting in a good performance. Recently he has been doing cartoony roles in Adam Sandler movies so it was nice to see him return to form.

Overall, I really liked this movie. It was a cool little popcorn movie to watch on a lazy afternoon as I put up my feet and relaxed. The values of honor, trust, and standing up for your friends are good messages to put out there even if the main characters are criminals. The world is full of shades of gray and I will always favor the lesser evil over the greater evil. Besides, the heroes never enrich themselves unjustly and there is a Robin Hood mentality. The bad guy falls because he bets against them and that is when the house finally loses.


The Host (2006)

October 21, 2016

The environment is becoming a bigger and bigger issue these days. As we explore more and more about it, we learn a little bit more and realize that there is still so much to figure out. Especially deep in the water, there are things that are incredibly alien to us. Some of them are as strange and terrifying to us as any extraterrestrial we might meet from space. These creatures do not know anything about direct human contact and it’s easy to see that they would not fear us. Of course, they should be angry at us at this point. Our species has caused untold devastation on the planet’s ecosystem with development and pollution. We have seen the impact we have had on the parts of the oceans we can explore. What have we done to the parts we can’t see? How would these strange alien creatures respond to our chemical compounds? Would we be prepared to deal with that? All of these are scary questions to consider.

One of the scariest things in our human society is the loss of a child or injury to a child. I do not even really like children but hurting a child is an affront to me. I do not forgive those who intentionally hurt children and I cannot abide by that behavior. Maybe it is part of our human instinct to protect the young in order to keep the species alive which is now rather pointless after population explosion. When a baby cries, you just automatically feel bad. Of course, you cannot help it so you get annoyed at the parents for not helping it quicker. It makes little sense but it always happens to me and I have heard similar accounts. We just do not accept bad things happening to children like we accept bad things happening to adults. We are much more likely to turn a blind eye to an adult in peril but a tragedy with a child will stop the world. Because of that, I get extra antsy when there are kids in a horror movie because I do not want anything to happen to them. They have their lives ahead of them and it is unfair for some demon or beast to change that.

Sometimes, I watch things because they are popular. I see it as atoning for my teenage days when I hated everything that was popular out of spite. This movie was number 41 out of 100 of the best horror movies on and it got a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, the movie comes out of South Korea so I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had not seen any other Korean films (North or South). The acting is very good. For the most part, everybody acts pretty much how people do in real life. I have to give a special shout out to Song Kang-ho who plays the father. He is such a relatable and likable buffoon. His daughter is played by Go Ah-sung and she is such a sweet girl that you want to protect her. There is definitely a comedic spin on the proceedings in places but there is also terror, sadness and desperation as well. A good horror movie makes you laugh here and there so it can scare the bejeezus out of you right when you have let your guard down. This movie does that in spades.

The effects are very good in this one. It has the same CGI team as The Day After Tomorrow which had great special effects even though it was a ludicrously bad film. Of course, the monster effects were done by Weta Workshop so we made it all of two days without mentioning them. At the same time, the monster looks like a lot of things we have seen before but also something interestingly unique. Jon Cox powered the creature with beautiful animatronics on par with any movie monster I have ever seen. When it moves, I really believe that it is a danger and an intelligent creature. The government response was believable as well. In a crisis like the one we see, the government would be mostly clueless but would be quick to do something even if it was the wrong thing. I really liked that element as an additional obstacle for the main characters.

Overall, this was a great horror/science fiction movie. There was plenty of comedy but there was even more tragedy and horror involved which ended up being a very compelling blend. There was also a bit of an adventure quality to the movie as a family sets out to save one of their own. There is definitely some anti-American sentiment in the movie but it is balanced well and not without merit. The US military did dump a lot of formaldehyde down the drain in Seoul. Our country is portrayed as butting in just as we probably would in real life. The South Korean government is also portrayed in a negative light so it is impossible for me to get bent out of shape about it. I definitely recommend this movie, especially to any foreign film buffs.

Zoolander 2

April 30, 2016

So the first Zoolander kind of meant a lot to me. I completely understand how weird that might sound but I have several reasons for really liking that movie. First, it was made by Ben Stiller during one of his good periods. I really like Ben Stiller comedies as long as he is writing or directing them although. There are a few exceptions like Mystery Men but he can be really great sometimes. Second, this was the first comedy movie release after 9/11 and it was really refreshing to have a silly but secretly clever comedy to embrace. Third, everybody in the movie is on their game especially Ben Stiller. The characters all do exactly what they’re supposed to and the humor is just silly enough without being stupid. Besides, there are cameos from David Bowie, Billy Zane and David Duchovny, how can you hate that?

Anyway, I recently watched the original again and realized why I really liked it. I saw the ads for the new movie and I was wondering why they were making a new one sixteen years later. The first movie was good but it had a horrible box office due to being released so soon after 9/11. I never really understood releasing a sequel so far after the first movie unless your Kevin Smith. Still, I can’t really fault Stiller or anybody else because I think the movie found a lot of life on DVD and VHS well after the fact. I have heard some of the movie quoted by people through the years so I know that people saw it. Part of the appeal of the first one is that it was poking lighthearted fun at the modeling industry at a time when supermodels were still a thing. The original feels less relevant and more nostalgic now but that does not mean this one would be bad,

Right from the start I realize that Stiller has learned a lot since 2001. The movie feels a lot like the love child of Tropic Thunder and Zoolander. The first movie was pretty silly and weird with some darkness thrown into the mix. This one starts darker and that’s saying something if you consider this scene was in the first one. Just like the first one, there are a ton of celebrities from start to finish. Like a lot of the first movie, there are a lot of moments that were equal parts weird and funny. The great playfulness between Stiller and his real-life wife Christine Taylor is out which is a shame. Instead, we get Stiller’s Zoolander hanging out with my favorite version of Owen Wilson. There are a whole bunch of fun new characters to interact with the two dumbest human beings ever as they engage in espionage once again.

It is not much of a spoiler since they showed it on the trailer, but pretty much the whole cast is back for this one. I was not expecting for certain characters to make their return but I was very pleasantly surprised. The espionage plot is over-the-top silly but it makes a weird bit of sense. There is a melodramatic subplot that follows from the first movie that was actually kind of touching but there was not much comedy material there. They also gave Owen Wilson a lot more to do which is good because in the first movie he was just kind of inserted into the second half. This movie felt a little more fluid and coherent than the first movie. It could have done without one of the subplots but it still worked pretty well.

Overall, the movie was good. I think the movie shows some evolution from the first one and makes me think that Ben Stiller (and co-writer Justin Theroux) have a lot of good work ahead of them. There is a lot of the same quality comedy dialogue that was in Zoolander and Tropic Thunder. The visuals are on par with Tropic Thunder and sometimes better. The movie was not the greatest but it definitely was way better than the 23 percent it got on Rotten Tomatoes. I think maybe you needed to be a fan of the first movie to enjoy it fully but as long as you go in with the right attitude, it is a fun movie.

Victor Frankenstein (2015)

April 26, 2016

I went to Friends School of Baltimore from first grade until the end of high school. Every summer up until high school, we were assigned summer reading. This was never a problem because I love stories and I always loved to read. Early on it was easy reading like Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and so many young adult books. Unfortunately, the young adult horror series like Fear Street were not on the approved lists so I read those after finishing the approved books. I was a quiet, nerdy kid who did not really go on normal kid adventures so I was happy to have a stack of books. One summer, I decided that it was high time that I delve into classic horror. I gobbled up The Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, Dracula and a ton of Edgar Allen Poe. I enjoyed it all but the final book in that vein that I read resonated with me most of all.

Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus (which is its full title) was a really interesting book to finally read. I felt I needed to read it after seeing all of the Frankenstein images and watching all of the Frankenstein movies (including Young Frankenstein). It was the same experience I had with Dracula. I had to go back and see the source for myself. I wanted to read the original story and see how it held up after more than 175 years. I read it quickly because I found that I could not put the book down once I picked it up. The original story is the tale of a man’s hubris in trying to create a man. The biggest shock was how philosophical the book is. There is a lot of thought and fearful reflection from one of the main characters (Dr. Frankenstein). Also, the other main character (Frankenstein) is extremely intelligent and very tragic. It was a great book for a pre-teen to read.

The movie introduces Daniel Radcliffe as Igor which is a character purely invented for the movies in the 1930’s. This is not automatically a problem for me as I have stated before that I do not mind adaptations making changes as long as those changes are to serve the story. Otherwise, we could never take the racist elements out of Lovecraft or have a rapping Puerto Rican Alexander Hamilton. Besides, Igor has become a beloved stock character over the years. The way Igor is used here is pleasantly how Watson is used in the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movies. He is not just an interesting looking prop to do the doctor’s bidding. He is intelligent in his own right and is actually a somewhat nuanced character with a backstory and emotions. This was a good sign early on in the movie as it was an indicator that they were going for something a little different.

I want to take a break and warn you right now that there are a lot of scenes that are not for the faint of heart. A lot of these scenes are either very graphic or highly suggestive of pretty horrific things. Mary Shelley’s original book went into a lot of gory detail about building the titular monster and this movie does not pull any punches there. Kudos to the props department for creating a lot of spectacular visuals. The CGI work is equally great as I found it really hard to figure out where certain things stopped being practical and started being computer generated. The direction is also very good. Paul McGuigan directed this one and there were some reasons to be wary as he directed the truly awful Wicker Park but later redeemed himself by directing half of the present BBC Sherlock series. Like that show, he is working with two main characters who have a close but extremely complicated personal and professional relationship. He pulls this project off almost as well as Sherlock.

The script was written by Max Landis who seems to be quickly becoming known as a mad genius in Hollywood. I think that one day he will be a really brilliant screenwriter. He is good right now, but like American Ultra, this movie felt like it rambled a little and could have used a little tightening up. He is definitely doing a lot of innovative work as he was able to really bring the characters to life in a new way. Of course, some of that credit goes to Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy who are pretty great together. MacAvoy is great as a mad genius, a sort of sociopath with great vision. Andrew Scott is arguably the villain of the movie although, like the book, the movie is a sea of gray areas. The shining star, at least for me, was still Radcliffe who is the emotional center of the movie. He has come a long way since Harry Potter (which I liked) and if this and Horns are any indication, he is going to be remembered well at the end.

Overall, I thought it was a good movie. It could have been a great movie but its pacing felt a little off and some of the characterization was just a little bit muddled. There is also a secondary villain and an anti-hero which starts to mess with the morality messages. It stayed true to the heart of the original story as a tale of Man vs. Nature and the ethical problems that surround the creation of life. There is also a great message about the measure of a man and what exactly makes something or someone a monster. The movie is pretty clever and ambitious and worth a look if only to encourage this kind of film from being made in the future.

Pee Wee’s Big Holiday

April 19, 2016

So I have Attention Deficit Disorder. I was diagnosed very early in first grade when I was about five or six years old. It can make it difficult to focus on certain tasks but it also makes multi-tasking so much easier. In my experience, being ADD is different from being ADHD which is Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. ADHD is similar but also includes a hyperactivity component that I do not have. Why am I going on about this right now? You obviously already read the title of today’s post and the letter A was on April 1st. Well, one of my favorite shows growing up was Pee Wee’s Playhouse and it was the most ADHD thing I can think of. Paul Reubens created a character during his time with the Groundlings named Pee Wee Herman. Pee Wee is a boy who grew up to be a man but still enjoys doing a lot of stuff that kids do and didn’t exactly mature with age. Some people may have found this to be annoying but I found him to be pretty funny and the highly kinetic nature of his show was exciting. He eventually got to do some movies which captured a lot of the child-like whimsy and offbeat humor that the show had.

Unfortunately, all of that came to an end when Paul Reubens was arrested in 1991 for masturbating in an adult theater. The whole event became a media circus mostly because the media can sometimes blow things out of proportion for the sake of selling papers and getting ratings. His reputation was tarnished for doing something in public that he should not have done but was sort of understandable. He never hurt anybody but he was unfairly tried in the court of public opinion and cast aside. However, he eventually started to make his comeback as an actor. He revived his stage show in 2010 (on which his television show and movies were based) and is now finally making another movie over twenty years after Pee Wee’s Playhouse went off the air. As I got older, I became even more fascinated with the show and movies. The character still resonates with me because he represents that child-like energy and wonder that I strive to hold onto in my life. Paul Reubens is also a great comedic mind and I am always interested to see what he has going on next.

First, the movie is not connected to any previous incarnation of the character. That means it is not connected to the Pee Wee Herman Show, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure or Big Top Pee Wee. All of those were excellent but this movie was made nearly thirty years after Big Top Pee Wee so it’s actually the perfect time to throw out continuity. Besides, the character never was incredibly consistent within its story. However, the movie does have one actress from Pee Wee’s Playhouse and four actors from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure in it playing different roles as a nice easter egg for fans. In fact, the feel of the movie is kind of similar to Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. It is a road picture where the main character takes a journey and must overcome a lot of obstacles to reach his destination. The overall arc is that it’s ok to leave your comfort zone and challenge yourself with new places and experiences. If you don’t take chances, you could miss out on what makes life worth living.

Even though all of his history was erased, it really felt like the character of Pee Wee had matured somewhat. While he did use all of his famous catchphrases and mannerisms, he also used a lot more subtle humor and commentary. The timing on certain things felt a little tighter than his previous movies and the movie felt like it flowed better. Pee Wee has a certain selfless selfishness to his character making him react certain ways in different conditions. At first, it was a strange concept but then I realized that most human beings are willing to act selflessly until they hit a limit and then they turn 180 degrees to protect their interests. I love the character of Pee Wee and the cartoon-like reality that follows him around as well. It also does not hurt that I do not find his voice annoying even though I can imagine some do.

While Paul Reubens is great in this movie, he’s joined by a lot of other very funny actors. The big one is Joe Manganiello who I was not really familiar with since I have not watched True Blood or Magic Mike yet. Manganiello is really funny as a fictionalized version of himself. By the end of the movie I was really impressed with his comedy skills and he ended up working really well with Reubens. Of course, most of the charm of this movie comes from watching Pee Wee interacting with a whole crowd of characters throughout the movie. They were all really well-written characters, mostly akin to improv comedy characters. I have to say though that my favorite were Stephanie Beatriz, Alia Shawkat and Jessica Pohly who played a parody of characters from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie. I found myself smiling a lot as I watched it but it wasn’t exactly a laugh out loud kind of comedy for me but Pee Wee never was. I enjoyed just about every minute and I would probably watch it again if I did not have so many other things I want to watch. I recommend you check it out, it is not just a nostalgic cash-in, it stands alone. Also, if you are a Pee Wee fan then it definitely compares well with his previous work.

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

April 5, 2016

When I was sitting down to plan all of my entries for the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I tried to think about what happened last year that worked. Last year, I reviewed a movie named City Under Siege for the third day of the challenge and he letter C. I picked the title at random because it was available on Netflix and fit a letter that I had no other plans for. I went into the movie blind and ended up loving it and highly recommending it. I scrolled through my Netflix list and tried to think of movies that would be fun to review this month. I never want my blog to be a chore and I never want to post anything that was not genuine. I ended up picking today’s movie because I was intrigued by the title and, like City Under Siege, it is an Asian film. I am always looking to expand my horizons so how about we see how that worked out?

I usually go for dubbed versions of these movies if I can help it but this was not an option this time. I am totally alright with that though because I have watched a lot of subtitled movies in various languages as well. This is Chinese which has rules that automatically make it a short of musical language with a particular staccato rhythm. I like it, I just do not speak it. It is sort of a period piece which I am not as experienced in beside movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It looks like we’re looking at maybe the early 1800’s but I really don’t know Chinese history very well. Add on to that the fact that this is a stylized movie much in the way of the Sherlock Holmes movies or the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Time period means less than the general look of the movie.

The movie stars Andy Lau who you may know from movies I still want to see like House of Flying Daggers and Infernal Affairs and an upcoming Matt Damon movie. He plays a disgraced dissident who must solve why important people are suddenly spontaneously combusting. He has a comic but serious air to him that is pretty charismatic. I am surprised that he has not been scooped up by Hollywood before recent events. His Co-star is Bingbing Li who actually has been in some minor Hollywood films. She plays the Empress’ right-hand woman, Jing’er, who is responsible for Detective Dee and also the Empress’ safety. Her face and voice depict even more than her lines do and she’s a great match for Lau. They are joined by a lot of good side characters like the Empress, Donglai, Wang and many more.

As expected, there’s a lot of martial arts in the movie. It is a Hong Kong film so it is not surprising that there is brilliant fight scenes with weapons, wire stunts and a lot of choreographed chaos. My favorite thing about Hong Kong movies is the fluidity of motion and the elaborate movements that people use sometimes to accomplish simple tasks. It makes every moment seem important. I also expected there to be mystery elements in the movie since the word is in the title and the main character is a detective. I did not expect the mystery to be so intricate and well written. It reminds me of Sherlock Holmes, Poirot or other similar logic-based mystery stories. There is even rudimentary forensics without getting too outlandish. What I was not prepared for was the politics. There are some interesting political motivations going on that underly everything. Some of them even have parallels to early 2016 US politics but it’s all really well done.

The movie is silly in places and some things do not make sense but I chalk that up to cultural differences. There are probably references that I am not catching which is fine. I really liked this movie quite a bit. There were a lot of surprises that I just cannot get into here for fear of spoiling the movie. The movie also had a lot of interesting innovations for old devices that I really enjoyed a lot. The characters were complicated and difficult to predict. I really, really liked that. This movie has been on Netflix for forever so I hope it’s there when you go looking for it.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

April 1, 2016

My family has a personal connection to Abraham Lincoln. My brother owes his middle name to the sixteenth President of the United States. It makes a lot of sense. He was a very presidential president and accomplished a lot before he was laid low by an assassin’s bullet. Also, he was a lawyer and both of my parents are lawyers. Most of Abraham Lincoln’s life is hardly a secret. He grew up very poor but he was self-educated and frontier life made him pretty hardy. He became a lawyer and then joined the Illinois legislature before finally becoming President of the United States. He commanded the US during the Civil War, saw its conclusion and abolished slavery near the end. Finally, his life was taken by John Wilkes Boothe in Ford’s Theater in DC.

All of this forms the framework for the book that Seth Grahame-Smith wrote called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. He took the real history and added in a secret vampire hunting quest that Honest Abe was engaged in. While he was making history in his day job, he was also declaring a private war against the vampires of our great nation. I expected the book to be silly and kind of lame but it wasn’t. The characters were well written and the author takes great pains to match actual events to fictional events. The plot was compelling and it was a hard book to put down. I rarely watch a movie after reading a book and vice versa but I thought I’d make an exception.

While I said that the book wasn’t silly, it was pretty hammy and heavy-handed. Vampire movies and books are often light and dark, good and evil as it makes things way easier. The movie skips a bit of the book and Lincoln’s history and zooms through his childhood. That’s fine, I didn’t come to see the story of a frontier child. I came to see one of the father’s of our country whoop some ass. We are given a fair background of the general time period and it already feels like we’re not getting the detail from the book. This movie feels like it’s going to be more about Abe’s story and not about matching fictional dates with historical dates. This is immensely acceptable because I’ve studied history. I want a good story.

We dive right into the supernatural and it’s not only the vampires who are magical, it’s the honest one himself as well. Also, the movie is built like a lot of epic/vaguely artsy blockbusters that came before it. While I could make a few 300 and Gangs of New York comparisons, the film felt more like a revenge movie (Kill Bill) mixed with a war film (Gettysburg). The movie knows that it is silly and also knows not to take itself seriously while appearing to take itself deadly seriously. The vampire effect is actually really fun, like Buffy and Angel, it instantly turns human-looking creatures into absolute scary monsters. Vampires are feral beasts when cornered but gentlemanly when going about their normal business.

The movie is full of some great performances although obviously not a single one of them is Oscar quality. I really like a good weaselly performance from Jimmi Simpson, a television actor who does not often get his due. I was surprised to see Alan Tudyk who is one of my all-time favorite television actors and he plays Stephen Douglas, Abe’s historic political rival. Also, there’s a solid pre-Falcon Anthony Mackie which is awesome. Abraham Lincoln himself is played really well by Benjamin Walker even if he looks more like a young Liam Neeson than I imagine Lincoln looked. There are two main villains and both of them are pretty charismatic and sufficiently evil. In the end, the movie was a really fun sit that didn’t take too long and was interesting enough to keep my attention.

Maniac Cop

October 31, 2015

When I was in college, my brother took a trip to Thailand. When he returned to the United States he presented everyone with gifts and the gift he gave me was Maniac Cop 2. Unfortunately, the movie was in Region 3 since it was bought in Asia and I couldn’t play it on anything I could get my hands on. I always regretted that. My brother had no idea that the DVD wouldn’t work and somewhere in my travels I lost it. It’s probably a lot easier to watch it now, Region 3 or not. Still, the movie intrigued me and he bought it for me because it had Bruce Campbell in it and he knew I was a huge fan of the Evil Dead series.

Over the years I continued to be a fan of the Evil Dead but also a fan of Bruce himself. He seems to love all of the fans of schlocky horror and is really good at poking fun at himself. He finally achieved more mainstream success when he got a main role in Burn Notice. So, yes, Bruce Campbell attracted me to finally checking this movie out. However, it also includes three other notable actors in it as well. Tom Atkins is arguably the lead protagonist of the movie and you may know him from my favorite movie from the Halloween franchise (Halloween 3: Season of the Witch). Richard Roundtree makes a prominent appearance, an interesting break from all of his Shaft movies. Finally we have Robert Z’Dar whose strange bone structure is easily recognizable especially in movies like Soultaker (easily one of my favorite MST3K episodes).

I should probably mention the elephant in the room. This movie is about a man dressed as a police officer murdering people. Lately this has become a frighteningly commonplace news item to see an officer of the law killing a suspect or innocent person with excessive force. Of course, this isn’t a new thing. All of us alive at the time remember the Rodney King beating and the riots that ensued. Before that there was the excessive force employed against the civil rights movement in the sixties. There have been many other instances of a person with a badge overstepping the boundaries and injuring or murdering somebody. Obviously, this movie draws on that fear we feel when we see a cop car or a police officer in public even though we have done nothing wrong. I’m glad that the protagonists are also cops which helps remind us that their are good guys out there too.

The movie is actually far from a cheap eighties afair that I thought it would be. They actually poured quite a bit of money into it and the effects and cinematography are top notch for a horror film. The movie has a similar feel to movies like Death Wish and Wolfen. A lot of movies back then had a dark, grainy quality that worked with horror movies like this. One year later Batman would be released but this movie feels like it’s from the late seventies instead. New York is shown as indifferent, paranoid and angry especially when it comes to police officers. It’s not an optimistic film nor does it have any sunny characters. Even Bruce Campbell is without his trademark quips.

This was a movie about a police officer, back from the dead to kill the innocent and those who wronged him. Easy comparisons could be made to Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers but this killer is far more intelligent. By keeping the villain silent and shooting him beautifully, they were able to keep him mysterious and menacing until the end of the movie. I definitely recommend checking this one out as it has a lot of good, suspenseful fun.

(Check back here at noon for the next movie!)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors

October 19, 2015

This past year, we lost a legendary horror writer, producer and director in Wes Craven. Craven created several horror franchises that are still well known today. He created The Hills Have Eyes (a movie I almost reviewed in this spot) about mutated killers that has been slightly ripped off over the years. He created the Scream franchise which isn’t really my cup of tea but it helped to revitalize horror in the nineties. He also created a list of creepy but interesting horror films, most of which are being remade these days. The greatest thing he accomplished, at least in my opinion, is the Nightmare on Elm Street series of films.

Freddy Krueger is an interesting character. Sure, none of the movies have an intricate character study of the guy but he’s always there and he’s always a very clear character. He was a school janitor who preyed on children in life. The parents of Elm Street rose up against him and ended up burning him to death. Of course, there’s more backstory than that but the end result turned him into a dream demon. He seeks to punish the descendants of the people who killed him and then after that it seems he seeks to conquer the world. Robert Englund always performed the roll with a sarcastic, punny wit wrapped around a bitter, angry core. He really likes killing teenagers but it’s also now part of what he is. They keep expanding on the mythology while keeping it fairly loose for the next writer.

I honestly thought I had seen Dream Warriors, afterall I had heard the Dokken song enough times. When Wes Craven died I knew that I had to review one of his films for Halloween and I started to look through his filmography. I thought of doing something recent like Red Eye and I thought of doing something more obscure like Shocker. The longer I looked at the poster for Nightmare on Elm Street 3, the more I was sure that there were gaps in my knowledge of the series. This was great news. I quickly tracked down the movie and decided to watch it for me and for this Halloween review series.

The movie is pretty great. After the first Nightmare, Wes Craven took a hike from the franchise because he didn’t really believe it was strong enough to be a franchise. He was right. The first film was fun and interesting but it was pretty basic. It created the concept we all know and love but they didn’t go far enough with it. Dreams are weird, scary, sad and silly and sometimes they are a huge vat filled with emotions. It feels like this is the movie where they finally decided to make things surreal as hell. A lot of the effects are filmed in reverse or with stop motion blended surprisingly well with live action. Where possible they used ridiculous practical effects that are straight out of somebody’s dream journal.

It feels like Freddy really ramps it up in this one. He seems to take a lot of his kills and tortures from the things his victims loves or yearns for. He tries to turn whatever is in their heart into their biggest fear or often their doom. It actually ends up being way more creepy than the usual route of turning someone’s fears against them. He could fill the movie with spiders, clowns, rats and all sorts of horrors but he creates horrors out of a lot of innocent things. He attacks children while Nancy (Heather Lankenkamp), the heroine from the original film, sits by helplessly for most of the film. The real, creepy concepts of lucid dreaming and sleep paralysis play heavily into why this movie is so creepy but also why it’s so creative and innovative especially at the time.

I definitely recommend this movie and most of the Freddy movies. It’s got all the great familiar elements and they even threw in a young Lawrence Fishburne who does a great job.  I haven’t seen a couple of the sequels and I definitely haven’t seen the recent remake. I’m glad Wes Craven returned to this series when he did and he will definitely be remembered fondly.

All Cheerleaders Die

October 7, 2015

I honestly don’t know how to classify this movie. When I was making a list of movies that looked good for Halloween, I saw that All Cheerleaders Die was a comedy/horror movie. I wouldn’t say that this is an accurate description. Comedy is something that makes you laugh or at least smile and at no point did that happen. While it’s true the movie is kind of quirky at times, I can’t call it a comedy. The horror part is definitely accurate as the movie has a dark mood throughout even during the sunniest, happiest scenes. There is also a lot of horribly disturbing things that happen. In a period where a lot of horror movies are filled with jump scares, a movie where there is true horror is rare. This movie has dread, weirdness and a dark feeling that really resonates.

It feels like cheerleaders have a long tradition in horror. Usually they’re the victims in slasher movies, flailing helplessly as they’re gutted by some psycho. Of course, people probably did this because cheerleading is seen as very feminine and it’s scary to see that destroyed. There may be deeper issues there. Cheerleading, despite my belief that it’s not quite a sport, is very athletic and your average cheerleader could probably endure a lot physically and mentally. I mean, Joss Whedon knew that. So this movie gives cheerleaders a little credit as they become tougher than nails and creepy as hell.

The movie starts slow and at first I thought I had accidentally chosen a found footage film. Thankfully it’s just a little bit of footage to set up some of the interpersonal relationships that will drive the film. The mistake I made was thinking that the characters would be shallow, two-dimensional characters that would be lead to the slaughter. By the time I was well into the movie, I started to see that there were a lot of gray areas and deeper issues on display. The movie is not for the faint of heart and definitely has some fairly graphic sexual issues but I think it’s done in a fairly reasonable way (although it’s still disturbing). It’s mostly about what happens when supernatural forces intervene in everyday high school life, a time when we’re already weird and emotional.

I wasn’t going to suggest people see this movie but as it went on, I got more and more intrigued as I got pulled into the story and the characters. The movie became scarier as it got weirder and, I can’t really explain what was going on but I embraced it and I was rewarded. The movie eventually picked up just about the time I was invested in the story and characters and drove hard toward its conclusion. Then the credits hit and the words “All Cheerleaders Die: Part One” came on the screen and I’m all for Part Two if it ever comes out. I change my initial impression and suggest you check this one out because it must be seen to be believed.

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