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- 03/29/12--12:13: _Second Installment ...
- 03/30/12--16:35: _Labour Councillor A...
- 03/31/12--09:16: _"Reminds Me Why I'm...
- 04/03/12--16:58: _Cabin In The Woods ...
- 04/06/12--14:13: _Lindy West Re-Watch...
- 04/07/12--10:13: _Andrew Copson (BHA)...
- 04/09/12--12:52: _3 Videogame-Related...
- 04/10/12--15:14: _Third Installment o...
- 04/14/12--05:55: _"In Time", "The Hed...
- 04/15/12--06:57: _22 Movies To Look F...
- 04/17/12--06:45: _Four Science Fictio...
- 04/20/12--04:44: _Twilight: Breaking ...
- 04/21/12--18:22: _Next Series To Revi...
- 04/23/12--15:27: _Star Trek - Starrin...
- 04/27/12--01:13: _Review of EVERY "A ...
- 04/27/12--05:01: _GEL Strikes Back - ...
- 04/30/12--09:01: _Second Installment ...
- 05/02/12--16:37: _Third Installment o...
- 05/06/12--09:04: _Results of the Movi...
- 05/13/12--05:02: _Reviews of "Tyranno...
- 03/30/12--16:35: Labour Councillor Announces That He Is An Alien From Outer Space
- 03/31/12--09:16: "Reminds Me Why I'm In School To Become A Psychologist..."
- 04/03/12--16:58: Cabin In The Woods Review....
- 04/06/12--14:13: Lindy West Re-Watches Titanic...
- 04/07/12--10:13: Andrew Copson (BHA) Discussing Crosses in the Workplace
- 04/09/12--12:52: 3 Videogame-Related Videos
- 04/14/12--05:55: "In Time", "The Hedgehog" and "50/50": Movie Reviews!
- 04/15/12--06:57: 22 Movies To Look Forward To In 2012
- 04/17/12--06:45: Four Science Fiction Movie Reviews...
- 04/21/12--18:22: Next Series To Review? EVERY VOTE COUNTS!
- 04/23/12--15:27: Star Trek - Starring Cats!
- 04/27/12--01:13: Review of EVERY "A Nightmare On Elm Street" Movie: First Installment
- 04/27/12--05:01: GEL Strikes Back - The-Gel exposes fail on Kinect Star Wars.
- 05/06/12--09:04: Results of the Movie Franchise Poll
- 05/13/12--05:02: Reviews of "Tyrannosaur" and "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"
To read the first entry click here (for Parts I, II, III and IV)
It seems that the poster designers were really big fans of glowy effects for these three movies. And it actually looks kinda cool.
So you may remember me expressing my puzzlement on the end of Part IV "The Final Chapter" where, to put it nice and vaguely, Jason appears to be defeated by a haircut. I'm still in need of some explanation on that one.
So, on with the reviews!
Friday The 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)
The opening of the film was actually pretty neat. The killer of Jason in "The Final Chapter" is clearly haunted by his encounter with Jason. He is haunted by the spirit of Jason and worries that he might even become Jason himself. The first killing clearly isn't him because it happens in plain daylight and we see exactly who does it. However, when later killings are done by a figure wearing a mask, we have more reason to suspect our central character. There's reason to suppose that even the main character is questioning whether he is responsible and this could have been a really interesting theme. At the very beginning of the film where we see our central character as a strong silent type, tormented by his past, we have no trouble imagining him picking up the machete and the mask and going on a rampage, but at the same time we feel worried for him.
I found a rather neat promotional poster for this film which draws on the promising premise:
The good will we feel at the beginning is carried on with the introduction of a kid called Reggie. He's a smart-talking and likeable figure who serves to give our protagonist an opportunity to slowly reveal his backstory while the two of them build up a relationship. Reggie's grandfather works at the psychiatric institution where our protagonist is being kept, but he's not a patient there himself
Rather odder however, is the idea that this psychiatric institution allows its patients to wander pretty much wherever they want and to do whatever they want. So we have two who have gone out into the town to have sex in the woods, leading to complaints from a stereotypical comic relief redneck lady and her stereotypical comic relief aggressive idiot son. We also have a scenario where a stereotypical overweight nervous chocolate bar chomping patient ends up annoying the aggressive muscle-bound wood-chopping patient (and I'll let you guess for yourself what happens there). If a film is going to start inserting comic relief characters it would be nice if they were actually funny.
Still, the aforementioned boy Reggie is not afraid of our protagonist when he first turns up, so presumably the patients aren't supposed to be dangerous (though it looks pretty clear that they need supervision). However, another reason why it's hard to believe that is because we see our protagonist in plain sight doing what looks like some rather brutal kick-boxing at one stage.
Part V does at least bring back some of the mystery. The "Jason" murderer could be the undead Jason, it could be Jason's killer/our protagonist, or perhaps it could even be a copycat killer. We are left some clues to work it out, but in the end the pieces don't really seem to fit together that well.
What definitely doesn't return on this outing is the sense that the killer is stalking victims. In the first film we had some long continuous shots and these continued in the second and third films. In the fourth they didn't seem to be used so much and now in "A New Beginning" we barely even know the killer is there before the victim is quickly slaughtered (admittedly often somewhat inventively) and we move onto an entirely different scene. Without a decent build-up to each death we have a similar problem to many action films. If you don't build up the character and their scenario then we don't care when they are under threat. If we don't see a build-up of a threat, then we don't feel concerned when the threat becomes a reality. The attacks by the killer in "A New Beginning" generally miss out at least one if not both of these prerequisites for keeping the audience's attention. Perhaps the only case where both of these aspects are built up sufficiently takes place on a toilet.
Anything good about this film is quickly betrayed and it saddens me to have to call this the worst entry in the series so far.
Jason Lives: Friday The 13th Part VI (1986)
What a title eh?
Once again Jason rises from the dead, but you've never seen it happen like this before. We have Fulci-esque effects whereby Jason's body is rotting and he has maggots crawling all over him and inside him. The opening of the film oddly has a James Bond-esque intro, not with all the dancing girl silouettes, but with him walking into the sight of an eye and turning around quickly to slash with his machete. It comes as a surprise (though I guess it won't now - whoops), but it really helps to get the audience in the right mood.
What is there to say about "Jason Lives"? It's got a far better sense of fun than previous entries, coming off a bit like a "Terminator" movie. Jason is by now less of a mass-murdering killer with a machete and more the unstoppable zombified killing machine which, by now surely he ought to be? Coming just a couple of years after the first Terminator movie, I cannot help but imagine that there is some inspiration coming from that direction.
There are some self-referential elements, some deliberately misleading elements and some blooming awesome elements. The acting isn't always perfect, but by the franchise's standards it's pretty great. Tony Goldwyn (who I recognised as the bad guy from "The 6th Day") has a relatively small role and asides from that I didn't recognise any of the other actors. Still, the film does a great job of building up each scene properly and making us really care.
The final method of dispatching Jason seems to come a bit out of nowhere, but it has a sort of logic to it and I felt I could give it a pass for that. Certainly this is one of the more engaging movies and, in spite of some criticising it for injecting humour, it's regularly genuinely creepy. (And heck, the only reason why Part V wasn't humourous was because all the humour fell flat.) In terms of filming style this felt like a massive leap forward. The director apparently had a background in mime, but after this film he doesn't appear to have returned for more directorial work and, to be quite frank, that's really sad to hear.
Check out this neat artwork:
Sadly this awesome entry in the franchise came at a time when fans were quickly losing faith and it ended up being the lowest grossing movie in the series so far.
Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
The first change from "Jason Lives" is to make sure that the words "Friday the 13th" are firmly at the start of the title and the second change is introducing the telekinesis (and the third change is bringing in extremely cheap and talentless actors? - or is that just mean?). I have no idea what the title "the new blood" is supposed to mean, but I can't deny that it made me feel suitably interested in putting the DVD in (though to be honest part VI was enough motivation).
So oddly enough on top of at least two camp sites around Crystal Lake there is now apparently a summer house. In the opening scene (after a long series of clips from the previous six films - yes, they are back to doing that again now too) we see a young girl running out of the house because her father is drunk and being abusive to her mother. The father rushes out to persuade her to come back in and apologises for his behaviour (oddly not actually seeming that drunk) only for his daughter to shout out "I hate you" and kill him with telekinetic powers that destroy the small boardwalk he is standing on, forcing him under the lake.
Jump forward in time and the telekinetic/psychic girl is now growing up and has gone from a "Firestarter" (well apparently, so I really must see that. Poltergeist too) sort of figure to a "Carrie" sort of figure. I think it's important not to forget that the first Friday the 13th film borrowed somewhat from Carrie towards the end. I think that this telekinetic plotline could have worked really well, but like with Part V (only less of a disaster this time) the film doesn't really fulfil it's promises. A lack of direction in the script, a lot of poor acting and some extremely cheesy dialogue all serve to impede the film.
Still, one thing that is done quite well (though not really well enough) is tying the girl's story to Jason's story. The resurrection of Jason is tied in with her story. Also by far the best part of the film is where towards the end we finally get to see her use powers to fight Jason. Unfortunately, the plotline of the local campers who want to throw a surprise party for their friend doesn't feel like it fits in very well at all with either the telelkinesis story or the Jason story.
Overall the plot of this film was a mess. It's especially sad to see this as a follow-up to "Jason Lives". One positive element is the decision to show Jason's ribcage as he walks around. I was rather less impressed, however, with the design of Jason's face once he is unmasked.
Another cool fan image!:
(click on image to see full size version)
Finally, my score for this film is...
Ranking for the first seven films are as follows:
1. Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986)
2. Friday the 13th: Part II (1981)
3. Friday the 13th (1980)
4. Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984)
5=. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
5=. Friday the 13th: Part III (2D version) (1982)
6. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)
(X-posted to Halloween Candy)
Next up... Jason goes to New York, hell and finally outer space!
Town councillor Simon Parkes: My mum was a 9ft green alien
Town councillor Simon Parkes has claimed his mother is a green alien and extra-terrestrials abducted him as a child.
If you are interested in hearing more about Simon Parkes' bizarre delusions there's a video here where, according to the video notes:
Simon Parkes discusses his highly detailed and complex contacts with Extra & Interdimensional beings called Mantis, and the Greys and Reptilians.
As you can see, above there is a brief point where he is questioning whether there is anything more strange about his beliefs and any religious belief. Okay, fair point, but we'd actually be pretty concerned if a politician in the UK started getting public about Rapture beliefs too.
X-posted to Atheism
X-posted to ONTD_P
UPDATE: Apparently this is fake. This news actually comes as something of a relief, since while I decided to share it because it was so random, part of me was feeling a bit bad about posting information on someone's private tragedy. Posting someone's private internet prank feels rather more acceptable...
Fairly old news. Someone had a tattoo of their boyfriend's face put on her arm. The entire exchange between her and friends about it (including the boyfriend quickly breaking up with her) ended up getting leaked across the internet. It's kinda entertaining, but mostly tragic. Not a great advert for Facebook as a supportive place for social networking either....
I discovered this through Dave Schneider's blog, but he appears to have taken it down. (Presumably because he recognises that it's in kinda poor taste to spread this around. Oh well!)
If you haven't seen this already, most of the internet has. So in order not to feel left out, click on the image below for the full story:
(Click to enlarge)
The title of this post is one of the quotes from her "friends" on Facebook (not me). Not sure how much this really has to offer psychologists, though perhaps if they are following that up with a career in one-to-one therapy....
The Cabin In The Woods (2012)
Okay, so I've got to be pretty careful because...
Yeah, okay so Joss Whedon threatening to make a personal appearance at my house isn't exactly the worst threat I've ever heard. Even if it is to make fun of me and berate me for revealing plot spoilers. Still, I think the message is pretty clear and given in a very respectful and reasonable way, so as a fan of Buffy and Firefly, I probably ought to follow it as best I can.
Thankfully my reviews are generally spoiler free anyway. Probably makes my reviews 25% less interesting. (The other 25% is lack of time I spend on the reviews.... and the final 50% is my lack of writing talent.) Still, I know I appreciate getting a good picture of what a film has in store for me without the plot being spoilt and that's what I try to offer. Now, I knew before even entering the cinema that I'd most likely be including words along the lines of "the plot of this film makes it hard to avoid spoilers" (simply by virtue of seeing the Joss Whedon message above), but I didn't realise how quickly I'd reach points which I probably shouldn't reveal. Seriously, the opening credits of this film features elements not in the trailer that give huge hints as to what this film is really about.
So what can I reveal? Let's set that out clearly before I go on:
1) The plot to the extent revealed by the trailer. (Seriously, don't watch the trailer. I'm going to limit how much I reveal even from that.)
2) The actors involved and the standard of their performance.
3) Some general gist of the type of film this is i.e. pacing, levels of action and dialogue, reactions from the audience
4) Some tiny insignificant hints tied in with general squeeing. (Seriously, no spoilers. I promise.)
5) A score, like in all my reviews.
1) Well naturally there's a cabin and some woods. There's a group of friends travelling to said cabin in said woods. Then randomly (and until seeing the film I wasn't sure how exactly this wasn't the spoiler) there's sci-fi elements. When I saw the trailer I made the comparison with Resident Evil (as in the game) whereby it starts off looking like a haunted house scenario and then turns out to be the result of a scientific research facility underneath the house. As someone who's been a science fiction fan long before being a horror fan, this really appeals to me.
2) YAY! Even more stuff that you can find out without ever entering the cinema!
The most obvious name on the promotional material was Chris Hemsworth who is, of course, the guy who played "Thor" (and the guy who gave possibly the best performance in the Star Trek reboot, playing James Kirk's dad). He's pretty great in this too. Seriously, this guy used to be on "Home and Away"?
Okay I was going for images that show his range of emotion and ended up just getting two pics of him with his mouth slightly open and a furrowed brow, but seriously, he's a really good actor.
I was pretty sure I must have seen Fran Kranz before in all sorts of stuff, but it turns out that asides from possibly a very brief appearance in the movie "Orange County" (as the guy whose transcript gets mixed up with that of the protagonist and is all like "Dude I got into Stanford!" - awesome comedy movie), the only thing I really know him from is Joss Whedon's own "Dollhouse". He plays the guy in charge of the technical programming side. One thing I probably can reasonably reveal, since I think it's clear from the trailer and in any case it's obvious from the very start of the film, is that this is a character who smokes a lot of pot.
Left: Fran Kranz in Dollhouse Right: Franz Kranz in Orange County
Okay, so I don't want to completely picspam you. The other college kids going to the cabin in the woods weren't in anything I was previously familiar with at all really, so I'm not giving them images each time. So obviously Chris Hemsworth and Fran Kranz are the only two survivors? *wink wink nudge nudge*
Anyway, the remaining college kids are played by:
- Anna Hutchison. A New Zealand actress whose most interesting prior credit was a version of The Power Rangers called "Jungle Fury" where she played the yellow power ranger.
- Kristen Connolly. She had a small part in Revolutionary Road as "Mrs. Brace" (who appears to be in one of many couples who simply hears gossip about the central protagonists and their shocking decision that perhaps they'll move to France and make the woman in the marriage the breadwinner for the family *gasp*). I don't know that this character even had any lines, but it at least means she was a named character in a Sam Mendes movie. She seems to be more well-known for featuring prominently in a web-series called ichannel as the character "igirl" (most characters appear to be unnamed in this kind of way) and her online presence would probably be taken rather more seriously by Whedon than by the studios. So that's cool.
- Jesse Williams. His most well known role (I guess) is Dr. Jackson Avery from Grey's Anatomy (yeah, I've never watched that show). A rather more interesting credit was "Dirty Dancing 3" which was especially interesting when I realised it's actually an awesome parody video. Check it out! (Embedding disabled unfortunately, otherwise I'd totally be displaying it here.)
Anyway, yeah they are all great in "Cabin In the Woods". The acting is great, but yeah I'd probably say the two more prominent actors I dealt with first give the best performances out of those five.
Two other major actors end up featuring prominently in the film as a bit of a kind of comedy duo. They play off of each other really well. They are Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford.
Richard Jenkins has been in a variety of Coen brothers movies:
Left: Richard Jenkins in Intolerable Cruelty Right: Richard Jenkins in Burn After Reading.
Bradley Whitford is mainly known for his role in The West Wing, but it turns out he was also one of the better elements in Robocop 3 (oh yeah!):
Left: Bradley Whitford in The West Wing (Pah!) Right: Bradley Whitford in Robocop 3 (Booyah!)
Also some other figures from the Whedonverse:
Fred (Amy Acker) and Andrew (Tom Lenk)!
3) "Cabin In the Woods" is relatively short (an hour and 35 minutes) and the whole thing is cram packed full of action. There are very few points in the film where someone is not speaking and any of those gaps are normally because you are supposed to be scared, uncomfortable or because there's a lot of action going on. The moment you stop paying attention is the point where you are guaranteed to notice important lines passing you by. Now I'm not saying this is some kind of Aaron Sorkin script where everyone talks quickly and verbosely in a way that is supposed to impress you. I just mean that this differed greatly from the Friday the 13th movies I've been watching because in spite of the similar scenario this is an intelligent script with a some real of depth on offer.
4) Top Tips when watching "Cabin In The Woods":
1. Stay alert (particularly in the more sci-fi-ey bits). It's easy for an important line to pass you by and there are plenty of background details to look at. (This isn't a 3D movie so feel free to let your eyes wander. This is a movie that'll probably work well on multiple watches.)
2. Have your horror tropes in mind. Somehow, don't worry about how, this is going to reference a LOT of horror tropes. Some of them seemingly having nothing to do with the Cabin In The Woods scenario. Think about what horror movies you know and be on the look out for aspects of all of them.
3. Don't be afraid to laugh! This is definitely a horror-comedy, but I'm not sure my audience was clear on this. It's possible to take it all very seriously and feel ultra-sorry for the college kids in the cabin (and I was certainly able to sympathise a great deal with these characters), but there are clear ways in which the film is poking fun and you are better off loosening up early. (I wonder whether a lot of people in the audience were familiar with any Whedonverse shows, since this definitely had a similar sort of feeling to it.)
4. Make guesses about what happens next. Yeah, I'm running out of tips, but yeah this is a movie playing with the tropes and sometimes it'll follow things in a pretty typical fashion, other times it'll mix things up a bit. Some things you'll find yourself considering are what could have happened differently. Yeah, intriguing eh?
5. Have Fun! This is a great film, I loved it and it's by far the best film I've seen this year (never mind released this year).
5. Last year I really enjoyed "Tucker And Dale Vs Evil". This looks on the face of it to be a similar sort of premise. Certainly both of them are horror comedies that play on horror tropes. However, this film is by far the better of the two. I think "Tucker and Dale Vs Evil" is your more typical comedy, but I'd say that while "Tucker And Dale Vs Evil" was a comedy with horror elements, this was more of a proper horror comedy with regular doses of both. So yeah, the big non-spoiler is that if you like a good horror comedy you should leave the cinema feeling really satisfied with this film.
I recently came across the hilarious Lindy West when she spoke on the Filmdrunk Frostcast. (She's actually been a relatively regular feature, appearing on and off for a while now.) At the time she'd been called a c*** by Penn Jillette (her big crime apparently being making fun of adverts. Penn's libertarianism couldn't bear the thought of costly advertising being mocked so he proudly did his part to fend off communism by calling her names. According to Penn's fans it's unfair to criticise him for this... because 'free speech'. *scratches head*)
Left: Lindy West (Awesome!) Right: In case you didn't already know, Penn Jillette is a big arsehole.
Lindy West has sadly stopped writing movie reviews for The Stranger, but she has articles all over the place and is regularly writing for Jezebel where she recently published this little gem...
....An old lady recognizes her boob-doodle on the news and goes to visit Bill Paxton on his rock and roll treasure boat, where they make her watch a graphic CGI reenactment of the Titanic sinking (I believe the working title is Hey Granny, Fuck Your PTSD)....
Lindy West re-watches Titanic so you don't have to. Click here or on the image above for the article.
This time Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the representative of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland decides to come out with the same BS that we've seen in the past. He says that Christians are being persecuted for wearing crosses in public.
0:31 Beginning of relevant report.
2:24 Interview with Andrew Copson on the issue.
Andrew Copson from the British Humanist Association strikes again. Once again he explains very clearly and diplomatically why the latest "Christians are being marginalised" story is BS. (His phrasing: "their claims have very little basis in fact" rather than "they are making s**t up".)
Also liking the new beard. :)
Cardinal O'Brien has previously claimed that when the New Labour government were in power there was "a systematic and unrelenting attack on family values". Why's this? The introduction of civil partnerships, allowing adoption by same-sex couples, allowing embryo research and not passing a law to lower the legal time limit in which an abortion may be carried out. He also referred to the Equality Bill as "legislation which would completely and permanently undermine religious freedom". And now he has the audacity to push the lie that Christians' rights to wear crosses are under attack. Ugh!
(cross posted to atheism )
Parody of Lana Del Rey's depressing song "Video Games" altered so that it's actually about videogames. What happens when a woman marries the wrong brother?
Next up, the Cracked "After Hours" discussion also consider who Princess Peach should choose, only this time between Mario and Bowser. You may be surprised by their decision....
Also somewhat vaguely related is the funniest SMBC video for quite a while now. Not about Super Mario this time, but it is about videogames... and "pie-cake".
Jason goes to New York, Jason goes to Hell, Jason goes to Outer Space and finally Jason gets rebooted. What's missing? Well, the battle between Jason and Freddy. It's on the list, but I haven't got hold of it yet. However, I have been able to borrow all 8 Nightmare On Elm Street movies, so by the time I finish those hopefully I'll have got a chance to see the crossover between these two colossal horror franchises.
Friday The Thirteenth Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
The poster above gives the impression that the whole film takes place in New York, but actually most of the runtime is spent on a cruise liner. Some teenagers are celebrating their graduation with a cruise which finishes up in New York. Even once they get to New York, Jason doesn't seem to be interested in massacreing the population there, but seems mainly concerned with the teenagers he was terrorising during the cruise.
That thing he's holding is an electric guitar. Oh yeah!
This installment has a clear step up in budget. It looks a lot better than previous installments did. There's even an arty side to it with the regular visions of Jason as a child received by the main protagonist: a nerdy girl who is afraid of boats due to a, later revealed, childhood incident. I'm not sure the visions work terribly well, but at least the movie is trying something different. The deciding factor would be whether these visions led to an interesting payoff at the end and I don't think there was. The aforementioned childhood incident that might have explained the visions (but doesn't really) is ridiculously badly placed straight after one of the teenagers has been accidentally killed (i.e. not by Jason), but instead of mourning the death or running for their lives, our protagonist starts ranting about some event she's just remembered in her childhood.
Also, while the film might look good, it doesn't have the sense of timing that we found in Part VI so while I can point to a number of cool moments in the film, not only are they few and far between, but they aren't generally done in a way that pulled me in. For example, one character is shown to be a good boxer (due to a random boxing match on the ship), so he decides he's going to defeat Jason with boxing. He punches Jason twenty or so times in a row and we watch as Jason does nothing but stumble back a step every now and then. This scene is great when recounted afterwards, but within the movie itself it was rather boring. Still, it ends with Jason finally taking his own shot, and boxing his opponents head clean off their body and into a skip. This is the sort of thing I could imagine being really impressed by in Part VI, but in Part VIII the execution (no pun intended) seemed to be lacking.
It practically screams 80s, doesn't it?
The beginning and the ending are both a problem. (Don't worry, I'll be reasonably vague on the ending.) The beginning shows us scenes from Manhatten with VERY 80s music playing in the background. I found myself reminded of Crocodile Dundee 2 (and no, that isn't me making random connections. Cheesy pop music with saxophones = New York during the 80s.). It's a very odd beginning for a Friday The 13th movie. If that was the only problem with the beginning though, I could probably have forgiven it. After all, this movie will inevitably be a product of its time. However, the next scene is of an enormous yacht in Crystal Lake. It drops anchor (seriously, how big is Crystal Lake?) and the anchor hits a massive power line running under the lake (what... the... hell?) and the electricity reanimates Jason (um... yeah so there's precident for that, though I hope no one skinny dippers are being electrocuted while this is happening). We are also informed that this yacht is intended to sail to meet up with other teenagers who are getting onto a much larger cruise liner, so that presumably means that this lake is supposed to have some kind of access to the sea (but in the previous movies we've seen people walk all the way around the lake!). Jason, presumably sails the boat to where the cruise liner is setting off, but how the hell does he know where to go?
Okay, so, the ending. As if the beginning wasn't ludicrous enough, it turns out that New York is littered with barrells of toxic waste and the local authorities flood the sewers with toxic waste every night. Was this supposed to be a joke? It's certainly not true and it's a bizarre bit of poetic license to say the least. Naturally this point can't become relevant until they actually get to New York, which doesn't occur until towards the end, but it was clearly the biggest wtf element in that final section of the film.
Yeah sure there were cheesy stereotypical characters, but I could live with that. Heck, I wanted this film to be fun and lot of elements really were. It wasn't always done very well, but it was clearly trying to make things fun. But then when they go to New York there was one element that wasn't fun at all. I don't know why they thought this was a good idea, but "Jason Takes Manhattan" has a rape scene. Sure, Jason isn't doing the raping (and the rapists are possibly the only New Yorkers that Jason seems to feel worthy of machete-death), but it's a clear example of how the filmmakers aren't taking consideration of the mood of the audience. Nothing pulls the laughter out of the room like a woman being held down, crying and being forcibly injected with drugs to keep her docile. And yet it's pretty soon after this that we have the aforementioned "boxing" gag.
Jason Takes Manhattan is a very flawed movie, which showed some real promise but, in the end, doesn't deliver. In spite of all its flaws it's still not as awful as Part V.
Jason Goes To Hell - The Final Friday (1993)
This is the second movie in the series to claim to be the last. Interestingly this film is the first since the original to give Sean Cunningham (the director of the first movie) "producer" credits. In fact, I've heard some try to claim that the drastic changes to the franchise this film introduced were Cunningham's way of burying the franchise for good. In fact, far from ending the franchise, this film is clearly preparing for a match-up with Freddy Kreuger. While this might sound odd, the last Nightmare on Elm Street movie had also claimed to be the final one in that series, meaning that the symmetry between the two would actually lead quite neatly into the crossover. Unfortunately those plans were delayed by Wes Craven's decision to make the movie "New Nightmare".
In actual fact, "Jason Goes To Hell" ties in yet another franchise, since within the Voorhees house it turns out there is a copy of the Necronomicon from the "Evil Dead" series. Though I haven't read the comic, I understand that within it Jason is a deadite (one of the undead monsters that possess the dead and feed on their souls).
I was expecting "Jason Goes To Hell" to take place in hell, but actually it refers to Jason's final destination. We've known for several movies at this stage that Jason cannot simply 'die', so this entry in the franchise serves to answer the question of how he could possibly survive if completely destroyed. In this movie it is revealed that Jason is not simply a man, but is actually a demon. We discover how, when utterly destroyed, Jason can continue to live, and a mysterious bounty hunter named Creighton Duke claims to have the solution as to how he can be killed forever (which turns out to be rather reminicent of "The Omen").
"She's only your girl 'cause she ain't had a taste of the Duke yet."
A major criticism of this movie is that it isn't a Friday the 13th movie. I beg to differ. This movie still takes place at Crystal Lake, Jason still wanders around in his mask and no previous elements in the series have to be ret-conned for the plot to work. It seems to me that the only argument against this as a Friday the 13th movie is if you think that the new additions to Jason's mythology are daft or betray the spirit of the franchise. Personally, I'm not convinced that they do.
I think it helps that this movie has a sense of humour. In fact, it seems clear to me that the best entries in the series always have a sense of fun to them and that includes part II and even (when bodies start falling out of trees) part I. So when things get a bit silly in this movie, I see it as a very worthwhile attempt to keep things interesting. When the series starts producing new rules and upping the stakes, I also think this is not only a good but wholly necessary way to make sure things don't get stale. By my reckoning Part IV was too by-the-numbers and Part VII introduced a new idea but took too long building it up. Part IX gets straight to business and never lets up the pace.
For me, this might not be better than Part VI, but this ninth entry, "Jason Goes To Hell", seems similarly engaging, entertaining along with a genuine urgency and drama to it. One of the deaths in particular seemed particularly impressive since the effects budget is unlikely to have been that big. One of the most entertaining entries in the series. Loved it!
Jason X (2001)
Nearly every poster seems to reveal a particularly cool revelation towards the end of the movie, so I've picked a fan-made poster without it featured. (Not that you'll have much chance of renting this movie without seeing that spoiler at some stage.) Jason X is the tenth movie in the series, but the name is generally said as Jason ecks, rather than Jason ten. This is because this is the sci-fi entry.
In the beginning, we are told that, like in the Alien franchise and also Frankenstein, Jason needs to be studied by greedy scientists who don't understand what they are dealing with. Meanwhile our protagonist wants him cryogenically frozen so that he can't cause any damage. Through a series of events, our protagonist ends up with Jason in the future.
This is fairly cheesy horror/sci-fi comedy without really quite as many jokes as there ought to be. Still, the sense of fun is definitely there and Jason is still a badass. The plot is consistent, the dialogue is engaging and the characters are generally distinguishable from one another. Sure, the central protagonist fits into the future far too easily (and it seems like she was probably a fair way into our future during the opening sequence of the film too, since she apparently has no problem using futuristic guns) and sure, the characters are all pretty 2 dimensional stock characters. Still the pacing of the plot is good, even if the gags don't come quick enough and tension is almost entirely lacking.
Jason X is very enjoyable, though I wonder whether my fondness for the sci-fi genre explains why I seem to like it more than typical Friday the 13th fans. It's not brilliant, but it's a solid film and it stands up to a second watch. I had a good time with this film and found that it kept Jason relevant to the actions of the characters a lot better than Part IV or Part VII. In Part IV the campers barely seemed to notice Jason was there while they fought over who got to pair off with which girl and in Part VII there's barely any sense that the campers are being stalked at all. In Jason X the college students in space are very much aware of the threat Jason poses to them and are being stalked by this monster. Through the wonders of the holodeck, the film even manages to tie things back to the old Camp by the lake setting.
Good fun and a nice little piece of entertainment.
Friday The 13th (2009)
Friday the 13th gets a reboot and, were it not for the poster, we'd all be wondering whether it will actually include Jason. So how do they get Jason in here? Well, basically we start the movie with the end of the first movie. Now admittedly I said that the only bit of the first movie I liked was the finale, but I need rather more than this.
We get a very short scene with Jason's mother gone mad and punishing a camp councillor. Mrs. Voorhees is beheaded by the last surviving camp councillor (though actually the audience has to work out very quickly that lots of other councillors were killed first) and then Jason turns up in the background and is told by the echoey voice of Mrs. Voorhees that he needs to survive on his own and kill them.
Confused? I was pretty confused and I've already watched ten movies in this series. This just seems to make the origin of Jason even more confusing than ever. We have no time to get introduced to Mrs. Voorhees. We have the dead Voorhees seemingly talking from beyond the grave or inside Jason's head, seemingly to a boy is supposed to be dead. Is the idea that Jason never died? But how does he survive for another however many years in the woods exactly?
The thing is that in the original movies there's something supernatural about Jason. Even in Part 2 we are introduced to a character who ought to be dead. In this movie, he's just a psycho and I don't think that works very well. Not only that but his motives are completely changed. The university-age kids camping nearby to Crystal Lake towards the beginning are camping there because they've heard that there is marijuana growing in the woods and they want to make a lot of money selling it. They aren't camp councillors who could be accused of being neglectful, so it's not obvious why Jason is targeting them. In fact the first death is right next to the marijuana plants, almost as if it belongs to Jason. Also some of the early deaths involve Jason strategically setting up a bear trap and using a rope to dangle a sleeping bag over a fire (while occupied). This is very different from the Jason who shares his mother's modus operandi and whose killings are brutal and instinctive.
What we have in this reboot is a mad psycho in the woods situation, plain and simple. Now I'll admit there are fans out there who wanted this to return to a super-strong psychopathic killer story rather than a supernatural monster story. I'm not amongst them though.
Still, in hating this movie, I don't think I am being closed-minded. Another problem is that the characters are boring. The minority characters are by far the most interesting and unfortunately they get some of the least screentime, particularly on the run from Jason. Arlen Escarpeta gets a chance to be a bit funny about black stereotypes messing with people ("I'm setting up a record label" "Oooh is it rap?" "What? A brother can't listen to Green Day?" "Oh sorry, what kind of music is it?" "... Rap :P" - Yeah sorry, I just spoiled the best joke in the film.) He has since appeared in Final Destination 5. Meanwhile Aaron Yoo is clearly the most talented actor in the cast, has great chemistry with Escarpeta and even manages to be entertaining when he is on his own in a dark toolshed. Unsurprisingly, he has a lot of other credits, mostly for stuff I haven't seen (21, Disturbia, Gamer).
The main protagonist in the film however is Jared Padalecki who is the younger brother in "Supernatural". I haven't seen much Supernatural, but I've always thought he was by far the less talented of the two central characters. He's certainly pretty wooden here. However, as always it's important not to rule out blaming the director if you have bad performances. Marcus Nispel's other directing credits include "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remake and the recent widely-panned "Conan The Barbarian" remake. (He also did "Pathfinder" which I thought was fantastically laugh out stupid in a kinda fun way, albeit a little boring towards the end.) This is not a guy with a great track record.
Okay, now for some of the biggest problems with the film. Jason has built tunnels all around underneath the ground. Why? Well it turns out that he kidnaps people. Well, one person, though he might have done so in the past. Naturally he couldn't keep her in his run-down cabin. He needs to hide her in tunnels underground. (Wait a moment, if he can safely set up underground tunnels, why is his cabin run-down? Couldn't he fix it up?) Apparently he thinks she looks like his mother. (She doesn't, but she finds a locket-necklace with a picture of Jason's mother on it and another character tells her it looks like her, so it does.) She's kept in an underground cell for over a month and presumably she's fed (we never see Jason, her or anyone for that matter eating anything). But she doesn't seem to be malnourished and in fact she seems perfectly groomed as if she's been changing clothes each day and getting regular showers. It was annoying enough wondering why Jason is kidnapping people without having to wonder why they look impeccably dressed after a month of captivity by a mute psychopath.
Towards the end of Part II, Jason is stopped in his tracks by someone convincing her she's his mother. It works very well and is a very tense scene. Here Jason is shown the locket-necklace by someone he's just been chasing and there doesn't seem to be any good reason why he's stopped in his tracks. It just doesn't work in the same way.
My original thoughts were that this is nearly as bad as Part V. It doesn't look as cheap, sure, but then I remembered that I liked some aspects of Part V. The toilet scene in Part V, as stupid as the set-up was, is actually genuinely scary. There's plenty of gore in this reboot, but there's never really any tension. Though there is a jump-scare. Jason keeps his mother's head in a hole in the wall. When the head is revealed, the scare doesn't come from the head but rather from a loud annoying jump-scare noise. In Part V the sex scene is an annoying halt in the film. In the reboot it was possibly the only thing worth paying any attention to. Now sure, Julianna Guill is very attractive. However, when there's NOTHING more interesting than actresses getting nude, that's a REALLY bad sign.
So yeah, in conclusion I think this is actually the worst film in the entire franchise. Certainly while I was watching I was nostalgic for "Jason Takes Manhattan" (I'm not kidding). "Jason Takes Manhattan" had some annoying characters, some holes in logic, poor timing and a lack of tension, but it was clearly trying to do something interesting and it had a sense of fun. This reboot is a completely joyless experience, it's not particularly tense but its gory and horrible anyway. I would have loved to see someone getting killed by an electric guitar or taking on Jason with boxing. Instead, there's a real lack of inventiveness. Jason kills one character with a bow and arrow and then never uses the bow and arrow again. Why? Because that's this movie's approach to inventiveness. The methods of killing happen randomly in order to have something on screen. There's no reason behind any of it, there's no tension and, in the end, its extremely dull.
Final Rankings of the Friday the 13th Series
1=. Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
1=. Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986)
3=. Jason X (2001)
3=. Friday the 13th: Part II (1981)
5. Friday the 13th (1980)
6. Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984)
7=. Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
7=. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
7=. Friday the 13th: Part III (2D version) (1982)
10. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)
11. Friday the 13th (2009)
Jason's ends (mild spoilers)
Part 1 - Appears out of nowhere. Probably a nightmare.
Part 2 - Randomly disappears.
Part 3 - Happily wandering around and waving at the end.
Part 4 - Defeated by a haircut.
Part 5 - Randomly possesses someone?
Part 6 - Defeated by large chains and a rock.
Part 7 - Defeated by a reanimated zombie.
Part 8 - Defeated by scandalous New York sewage system treatment policies.
Part 9 - Defeated by giant muppet hands.
Part 10 - Defeated by being pulled into outer space.
Reboot - Defeated by a locket-necklace.
X-posted to Halloween Candy
Three features to review today:
- The latest sci-fi movie from Andrew Niccol (whose next project is to try to adapt Stephanie Meyer's sci-fi novel into something worth our time).
- A sweet little French film that is sort of a romantic comedy, introduced by a young girl contemplating suicide.
- Finally "50/50", a light-hearted indie drama starring Joseph Gordon Levitt about an ordinary person whose life turns upside down when he is diagnosed with cancer.
In Time (2011)
I thought I had given this it's own "too good to be true" entry, but it seems that I considered it alongside other films, but I was certainly hopeful that this would be one of the better films of the year. I absolutely loved the trailer and thought the idea of a futuristic Robin Hood was really clever. Then the reviews came in an said that it was rubbish. About half way through finally watching the film I strongly felt that the reviews had been unfair. The premise was set up really well and there was a lot of scope to explore. I was genuinely expecting to be giving this an "A". And that's where things started to go really wrong.
The basic premise is that Justin Timberlake (who, yes, is a pretty reasonable actor, even in a lead role) is an ordinary guy in the future slums. In the future "time is money" is no longer a metaphor. Everyone has a green digital counter glowing on their arm counting down to their own death, but on the plus-side no one ages above 25 (the age when the clock starts counting down). You pay for things in time on your "life clock" (they don't call it that) and in turn you are paid in time too. For our protagonist, the aim is to wake up with more hours than there are in the day.
Then suddenly someone turns up freely showing off a life clock with over a hundred years on the counter and paying for everyone's drinks in the bar he's sitting in. It's pretty much inevitable that he's going to be mugged (i.e. have all his years forcibly removed from him until he's dead). Our protagonist saves him, but the guy with a hundred years explains that he's actually extremely old and semi-suicidal. He reveals that there's something screwed up with the system because it encourages everyone to think that they have a chance at living forever when actually it is only ever going to be possible for a select few. He decides to give our protagonist his hundred years to all but the last five minutes and sits on a bridge until his timer runs out.
The protagonist then makes his way to the area where rich people live in order to see how the other half lives...
So our protagonist is a mysterious figure who knows the injustices in the system and is in a position where he is wealthy enough to do something about it. We also know from the trailer that he is going to start robbing banks. Now the scene the trailer gives us a glimpse of if particularly annoying in the film because it seems to be suggested that robbing a bank is easy in this world.
Let me put the problem like this. We have a hypothetical world where money isn't simply what you use in order to live, but is your life itself. What's more, people surrounding this bank are in danger of running out of time on that day, every day. Yet for some reason we are supposed to believe that no one has ever had the idea of ram-raiding a bank and stealing hundreds and thousands of years from its vault before?
Essentially instead of focussing on a Robin Hood-esque sci-fi action story which builds on the ideas set up at the beginning. Now certainly a few ideas are set up and then followed through later, but a lot of the ideas don't quite work as well as the initial ideas which set up this future world in the first place. One particularly important idea relates to the question of how the "time keepers" (i.e. law enforcers) avoid being set upon by the desperate poor whose time is quickly running out. Cillian Murphy plays a time keeper with a mysterious past (which sadly only gets lip service in terms of the plot). It turns out that the "time keepers" don't carry much time around with them and have to occasionally top-up from their cars. However, when it turns out that anyone could get into a police car and use it to top up their time, I felt that rather messed up the logic on this point.
As the films goes on the ideas and references get slowly more desperate. There's even a line: "I'd say 'your money or your life' but for you its both." ... Um, yes, but that's true for EVERY SINGLE PERSON that you have EVER MET in your ENTIRE LIFE!!! Heck, how would anyone in this world ever have even heard the phrase "your money or your life" considering the clear logical inconsistency it poses for them?
I suppose, like with Andrew Niccol's other sci-fi movie "Gattaca", we are supposed to worry less about the background premise as we become more interested in the central romance. Sadly, while the romantic interest in Gattaca was Uma Thurman, here it is Amanda Seyfried who cannot act for toffee.
What makes things worse is that I think Amanda Seyfried may originally have been meant to have played an even more central role than this. While the first half features him learning how the rich live, the second half involves him introducing the poorer side of things to Seyfried's character. She just never looks terribly affected by anything she's told, seeming more like an opportunity for Timberlake to reveal ideas to the audience rather than someone who is geniuinely caught up in the situation around her.
Now I'll admit that the performances aren't that great from anyone and a lot of the time people seem to be struggling just to come across naturally when every other line is a pun. However, I felt that Amanda Seyfried came across as exceptionally wooden and when she is essentially the co-star with Timberlake, that's not a good sign at all.
This started off with some great ideas, but lost its way horribly at the halfway point. It's still enjoyable enough, but it's not a very good film at all.
The Hedgehog (2009)
I've got a real mixture of feelings on this one. The film starts by suggesting that the film is going to be about one ultra-smart introverted girl who is contemplating suicide in a very cold rational way. She's put a time limit on it. Quite a dramatic beginning.
However, in the end the film isn't really about her. It's about the janitor of the appartment complex, herself an introverted and complex woman, and her relationship with a charming Japanese widower who arrives in the building. The relationship between the janitor (played brilliantly by Josiane Balasko) and the Japanese widower (also played brilliantly, by Togo Igawa who has been in absolutely everything, even a few episodes of IT Crowd).
The girl's connection with this is that she somehow has a good relationship with both of these two people. Some kind of special charm, I guess.... Not convinced by that to be honest. Oh and (apparently) she's randomly taking Japanese lessons (as you do).
I wasn't keen on the ending, not simply because of what happens but because of how the movie wants me to feel about it. (Always awkward discussing endings without spoilers.)
So yes, if this was just about the janitor and the Japanese widower I'd probably be giving this at least an A-. And if the way the film tries to share the protagonist spotlight between the little girl and the janitor hadn't caused me problems with the ending, this might have got a B+. However, the way the film struggles to pretend to be about this little girl when she eventually seems to become an annoying distraction from the main characters just annoyed me too much. Not only that, but this little girl just seems to know too much (like knowing about a secret library that she's never seen).
This is worth watching. It's a good little film. But it could have been one of my favourites and I'm a little disappointed that instead it's just 'a good little film'.
You know how weird it seemed to hear this was going to be a laugh-out-loud comedy about someone suffering from terminal cancer? Well you were absolutely right to be sceptical. This isn't anything of the sort.
I believe this is the first film I've seen starring Seth Rogen asides from "Paul". I think perhaps we are supposed to find him funny, but I just found him irritating. He plays a particularly obnoxious and selfish figure and I'm guessing the idea was supposed to be that he would dominate in each scene. Unfortunately he is not that great at acting and he's just massively out-classed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Now don't get me wrong, I though Seth Rogen was pretty good as Paul in "Paul", so I won't be turned off by him doing voice work in the future. However as an on-screen actor? Forget it...
The scriptwriters clearly know that this is a character who is going to make us angry, so they try (badly) to get us back on his side in a number of ways. Firstly, they have him reveal to JGL the infidelity of his girlfriend and have him humiliate her. Unfortunately it's so obvious that he's more interested in humiliating the girlfriend that he doesn't like rather than helping his clearly depressed cancer-suffering "friend" that it just comes across as selfish and douchey.
Secondly, he helps JGL use his cancer to get girls. This is probably the best bit of the film and it would have been good if they hadn't wasted so much time getting to this stage because much of film beforehand (and to be honest, a fair bit afterwards too) is INSUFFERABLE. Still, it's clear that Seth Rogen's character is using the sympathy appeal of his friend's cancer to get himself a girl while he takes advantage of his friend's proscribed medicinal marijuana. So yeah, still douchey, selfish and unsympathetic.
Finally the point where we are really supposed to suddenly change our minds about this obnoxious S.O.B. is when JGL discovers that the guy has a copy of a book about helping a friend with cancer that has underlined bits and little notes written in the margins. When the "wow, how wrong was I" expression comes on to JGL's face and the sentimental music kicks in, that really DID make me laugh out loud. It reminded me of the bit in Family Guy where a big gruff discourteous figure acts rather mean and Peter Griffin grumbles "what a badass" (meaning that in a bad way). Another co-worker responds by saying "Well that 'bad-ass' just gave half his wages to orphans. Orphans with diseases!" Cue sentimental music while showing the same gruff mean figure looking just as mean as he did before. - The point is that one good thing someone does privately doesn't counteract them acting like a douche publically. So he read a book? Great, but he's still a dickhead.
It's a pity that Seth Rogen plays such a big part since there are some other actors who do a pretty good job. Naturally JGL is great in the starring role. Anjelica Huston (Morticia Addams from the "Addams Family" movies) is equally fantastic as the mother. We get some genuinely brilliant moments between the two of them.
Anna Kendrick is also pretty good, though I prefer her in her more expressive roles than her wet blanket roles and this was definitely a wet blanket character.
50/50 has its moments, but overall its a naff indie movie with a cheesy rom-com side to it, which is doing that "wow what a weird and wonderful place the world is" thing that seriously bugs me. But heck, let's put it this way... I didn't like "Juno" and I couldn't stand "Up In The Air" so if you enjoyed either of those, there's a possibility that this style of movie just appeals to you more. If you disliked either of those, however, I'd steer clear of this one.
I'll be following this up with a whole list of movies I'm looking forward to over 2013 and 2014, but first of all let's start with the ones that are being released first. Here are the movies I'm currently looking forward to most coming out this year.
7 Movies in 2012 (technically already released)
A couple are building a killer car and hoping for a Mad Max style apocalypse? Whatever this film is about it sounds utterly crazy and I am extremely intrigued.
Sound Of My Voice
Journalists investigate a cult. It sounds like it's equal parts terrifying and awesome. Hearing a lot of good things about this film and I'm very excited. So far only shown at film festivals I think, but they are releasing weird new cryptic posters for it (though the one below is the original Sundance poster) so clearly they'll release it in cinemas eventually.
The director of "Timecrimes" comes out with a new small sci-fi film this time, presumably, covering aliens. Timecrimes wasn't perfect (not least because the initial event which leads to everything else is a man with binoculars perving on a girl and then deciding to go up and get a better look when she goes out of view. I mean seriously?). However, Timecrtimes did do some very interesting things with the time travel genre. I'm quite interested to see what Nacho Vigalondo does this time around.
REC 3: Genesis
The Third "REC" movie, only this time a prequel. I really enjoyed the first two REC films and this is shaping up to be one of the most interesting horror franchises of recent years.
An invasion from flying saucers turns out to actually be an invasion by a colony of Nazis who have been hiding on the dark side of the moon. From the director of the very low budget but quite entertaining "Star Wreck: In The Pirkinning". The trailer looks very promising.
Guy Pearce becomes an action hero in this futuristic actioner with a similar premise to Carpenter's "Escape From New York". Only this time instead of a prison island, we have a prison space station. So that would make it "Escape From... Outer Space"?? Anyway, in the trailer Guy Pearce seems to be on top form.
There've been screenings of this one already. This could finally be Joss Whedon's big break into making lots of movies and not having to negotiate hideously-compromised tv series' with Fox. (And yes, the clip of Scarlett Johannson kicking the living **** out of her interrogators is awesome.) YAY!
15 Movies Still To Come In 2012
Ridley Scott sort of does a prequel to Alien only not really.... only blatantly it is. *scratches head* Here's hoping that some cinemas near me are prepared to release this in 2D because otherwise I'll have to wait til the DVD release (hmmph!).
Snow White and the Huntsman
Okay, so this is probably awful, but we've got Chris Hemsworth, the Thor man himself, playing a pretty major role and the awesome Charlize Theron looking pretty badass in the trailer too. So I'm going to hope for the best... even if the leading role has been given to someone who seems to easily mistake biting her lip for acting.
The Amazing Spider-Man
Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone star in what looks likely to be a Spider-Man movie that finally stays true to the spirit of the comics. Clips so far look pretty awesome, showing a Spider-Man who has a sense of humour and a dark side, sometimes both at the same time.
The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan's final movement in his trilogy appears to have taken on board the various comments made after The Dark Knight. It quickly became a cliche to note that Batman is a rich over-priveleged figure, so hearing Catwoman mock him for it is very promising. Hopefully they'll tidy up the CG on that collapsing football field scene before the film is released.
Yeah, so the trailers haven't looked especially promising so far. However, this is Pixar. I've doubted them before and been wrong, so I'm not giving up on them this far in advance of the release. We'll just have to wait and see...
It looks like it's the Coraline team working on this. I'd feel more confident if Henry Selick was working on it, but it looks pretty awesome all the same...
Director Pete Travis seems like a pretty accomplished director with his made-for-TV "Endgame" starring William Hurt and Chiwetel Ejiofor about the end of apartheid standing out for me. Judge Dredd marked the beginnings for Garth Ennis, my favourite comicbook writer. His story "Goodnight Kiss" showed me just how much potential the Dredd universe had. I'm really interested to see what a real director can bring to this.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars alongside Bruce Willis in a sci-fi movie. Oh yeah! The director has worked with JGL previously on the movie "Brick". I'm pretty hopeful that this is going to be good.
For a long while Genndy Tartatovsky was supposedly working on a sequel to "The Dark Crystal": a film which he, as an animator hugely respected. Tartatovsky is the creator of cartoons Dexter's Laboratory and Samurai Jack. He was also heavily involved in The Powerpuff Girls, directing the animation for their full feature movie. More recently he directed the "Clone Wars" cartoons which bridged the gap between the second and third prequels and which completely out-did the movies themselves. (Not to be confused with the ongoing computer-animated series "The Clone Wars".) For whatever reason, he's no longer working on "Power of the Dark Crystal" but it looks like "Hotel Transylvania" is going to be great fun. The trailer starts off looking like a typical example of the cheesier Dreamworks films, but by the end I was completely on board with it. It's always promising when just the trailer for a supposed "comedy" animated movie is able to make you laugh on its own. (For the record, that's why I haven't seen "Megamind" or "Despicable Me".)
Here's the awesome trailer for Hotel Transylvania:
Sam Mendes directs a James Bond movie? Yeah sure, there've been money problems with the studio, but no one could say that they aren't taking their time on this one. I didn't really like "Away We Go", but overall I was fairly pleased with "Revolutionary Road" which, if nothing else, showed that Sam Mendes still has awesome skills when it comes to impactful cinematic visuals.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Confession time. I didn't like the Lord Of The Rings movies. While really enjoying the first one in the cinema (though feeling quite baffled as to why they didn't use the brilliant cliffhanger ending from the books), I found the second one and the third one were pretty dull. (I wonder whether I'd have felt differently if I hadn't read the books first.) The second one missed out the major cliffhangers again, but decided to insert a random scene where Aragorn falls into a river, passes out and then has a magical vision (a scene which actually makes sense in the extended version btw). The third one not only decided to show practically nothing but a battle scene, but took half an hour of the running time to end. (This was particularly obvious to me since I sort of needed the toilet at the point where things looked like they might be winding down after the ring was destroyed and I was then glancing at my watch for the next half an hour when a series of fade outs and fade ins kept taunting me with the idea that it might be finishing soon. When Sam Gamgee started a relationship, got married AND had children during this section of the film, I really felt it was taking the mick.) I've now seen the extended cut and I think the extended cuts of those second and third films are a big improvement, but the original edited-to-hell versions I saw in the cinema just felt like massive spoilers.
On the one hand The Hobbit doesn't feel like a film they really need to split in two, but hopefully that means they won't have done such brutal editing this time around. But on the other hand, the awesome stuff involving Smaug doesn't even come in until the next film. I also strongly remember the dwarves playing very much like comic relief in "The Hobbit" (unlike Gilmli in Lord Of The Rings who shouldn't have been anything like the comedian they made him), so a trailer showing them singing carefully harmonised (i.e. auto-tuned) and foreboding songs makes me wonder what they are doing with this property.
But yeah, EVERYONE is going to be going nuts for this film, so I'm probably going to end up seeing it again. Let's just say it's not my biggest priority in this list though. I'll be happy to leave it until DVD (preferably the "extended cut" DVD).
(Ang Lee doing an adaptation of the book "Life of Pi? Um yeah, not sure why I put that on the list. Anyone else interested by that? I'll just leave this little note here in case anyone's interested. imdb link)
It's Quentin Tarantino so clearly I'm going to see it. Still, he's been going downhill a bit recently. His brother-in-arms Robert Rodriguez clearly out-did him when they teamed up for Grindhouse. Also, Tarantino did himself absolutely no favours by making his half, "Death Proof", into a stand-alone extended cut over here in the UK. Then Inglourious Basterds didn't have a clue what it was doing and was a bit of a mess overall. I'll say this for Tarantino. When he makes a mess of a film, it's still very enjoyable. However, I'm really hoping this one will be a bit more consistent. It's another revenge flick, only this time it's a freed black slave in the central role. Looks pretty cool.
The fourth and (presumably) final movie in the REC series, carrying on from the nail-biting ending to REC 2. I really cannot wait.
John Dies At The End
Seriously, STILL no release date for this? Paul Giamatti features fairly prominently in the trailer and the director also did "Bubba Ho-Tep". I posted the absolutely crazy trailer in the "too good to be true" section a while back. This just looks absolutely incredible and I can't wait for them to finally release it.
When Worlds Collide
A remake of an old 50s sci-fi movie by the director Stephen Sommers. I must say I'm intrigued. The original sci-fi movie was BEYOND preposterous, so I'm not even sure how they'd begin to remake it. Stephen Sommers doesn't have the best reputation, but I really enjoyed "The Mummy Returns" (I found his first "The Mummy" movie boring though) and even the ridiculous "Van Helsing" was quite fun. Still, part way through 2012 and with seemingly no cast yet assembled, this probably isn't going to happen anytime soon. Still, I've got it on my radar all the same.
(Entire Movie List for 2012 here)
I'm a big science fiction fan, so it was good to see some more movies from this genre. I recently rewatched "Flight Of The Navigator" which is an absolutely awesome movie about alien contact which, to my mind, absolutely eclipses Spielberg's rather more famous efforts (though admittedly the 80s soundtrack is VERY dated, albeit still kinda catchy). Did these four films meet the same level of quality?
Repo Man (1984)
This really surprised me, not least because I thought the more recent "Repo Men" (about men who repossess people's organs when they fail to pay medical bills) had some kind of connection to it. In actual fact, "Repo Man" has more in common with "The Big Lebowski".
I wasn't aware of this, but a 'repo man' is something in real life. If someone is in debt they repossess their cars. Sometimes they take them from outside the front porch. Other times the cars have been missing and they locate them by the road somewhere. They have a bad reputation because on the face of it what they do looks like stealing cars, but even once recognised as repo men, their job involves exploiting those with money difficulties. Unlike a bailiff, they don't even speak to the owner of the car face-to-face.
The sci-fi is actually quite subtle for most of the film and is often an opportunity to make things a little more bizzare. For example in the off-licence there are packs of plain white cans that just say "drink" on them in neat blue letters. After our protagonist buys some alcohol from the off-license, we see as he leaves that three people with guns were hiding under the counter the whole time. The transaction had taken place in the middle of an armed robbery and the armed robbers had been patiently waiting for them to leave. There are lots of darkly comic scenarios like this throughout the film.
Other examples of dark humour are when the comedy relates to torture with electricity or radiation poisoning. The way these elements are introduced is just so bizarre that you cannot help but laugh.
Our protagonist seems pretty unsympathetic from the start, but all the more reason why he becomes attracted to the nihilistic philosophy of the repo men. He finds himself with two eccentric repo men mentors who show him the ropes and get him into some extreme scenarios. Meanwhile his old friends, fellow school dropouts, are mainly involved in violent crime.
In the background of all this is a mysterious driver who has something strange in the trunk of his car....
Emilio Estevez seemed pretty good in the central role, but the real stars are his mentors played by Sy Richardson and Harry Dean Stanton. Considering that Harry Dean Stanton (probably best known as one of two engineers in Alien) is made out to be the main mentor of the two, Sy Richardson spends a remarkably large amount of time with the lead and both of them give fantastic eccentric comic performances.
The film is not without its problems. Perhaps the smallest problem is that the film doesn't really end. The bigger problem for me was that throughout the film I wasn't really sure what the overriding theme was behind all the randomness (though that may be my own personal issue) and finally something that annoyed me a fair bit was how the film would cut from scene to scene. The aforementioned "comedy electric torture" scene seemed to come out of nowhere, with no clear explanation of how our protagonist came to be there. Also one character ends up in the hospital, but I have absolutely no idea how that happens either.
In the end though, Repo Man is a film filled to the brim with creativity and stylistic flair. For me personally it was rather overly random, without the clear central theme to keep me on board. There are plenty of parts which are genuinely very funny and while I was a bit puzzled when it ended, I couldn't deny that the whole thing was a wild ride that I was very pleased to have seen. A good solid movie.
The Last Starfighter (1984)
This is one I never finished watching when I was younger, though the premise always struck me as quite intriguing. I don't remember paying much attention to start with, when I did start paying attention to it two particular special effects freaked me out completely and I decided I wasn't interested in continuing with it.
Watching the film all this time later, I think my intincts when I was younger were right.
The reason I wasn't paying much attention at the start is because the opening scenes are dull. We are gradually introduced to a bunch of flat characters and we have a general cliched set-up whereby the clean-cut central protagonist doesn't feel like he fits in and desperately wants to leave the trailer park where they live. It's especially hard to sympathise with him when the trailer park is depicted as a very pretty place with wonderful surrounding scenery. It feels very much like the whiney teenager scenario.
However, everything changes when he comes to gain the top score on an arcade machine. In a scene that felt utterly daft, everyone in the trailer park seems to rush over to gather round him while he gains this top score as if it was something which everyone in the trailer park would desperately care about.
The next evening a car turns up containing a mysterious figure calling himself "Centauri". The car then flies them into outer space. At one stage we have a point where Centauri takes off his face in order to clean it. While doing this he turns round and we see a blank face with glowing red eyes. That's the first effect that freaked me out as a child. Later on we see weird figure breathing heavily in our whiney teenage (though actually 25) protagonist's bed (when we know he is not there). The covers come off to reveal an unformed blank pulsing face. That was the final straw and I decided to give up at that point. Good timing too, since those were probably the most interesting shots in the entire film and it didn't get any more interesting after that.
As you might imagine, the reason our protagonist is flying into space is because that 3 dimensional space invaders arcade game was actually a simulation for recruiting new "starfighters" (hence the title). Upon hearing that he's being recruited to fight in a war, our protagonist decides he's going back home. But while he's gone all the other starfighters are simultaneously killed in a sneak attack.
While the film sounds pretty good on paper and a few practical effects were enough to freak me out a bit as a child, the film is fairly lacking in excitement once the central premise is set up. The bad guy is never terribly intimidating and there's very little suggestion that the protagonist is in danger for most of them film. Much of the excitement is supposed to come from the computer generated shoot-outs with space ships, but while Tron was able to be very creative with its CG effects, "The Last Starfighter" has no such inventiveness.
Some have suggested that this would be worthwhile remaking, but to be honest I'd much rather they made a film of Terry Pratchett's "Only You Can Save Mankind". If you want a film about ordinary people being randomly recruited by aliens to fight in a space battle, we already have "Galaxy Quest" now. (In fact the 'bad guy' in "The Last Starfighter" reminds me of the 'geeky good aliens' in "Galaxy Quest". That's how lacking in menace the guy is.)
While I was expecting this film to fill me with childhood nostalgia, it just bored me.
The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
This seemed like a wonderful film that I was sure I'd probably be giving an 'A'. And then we reached the last five minutes...
"Adjustment Bureau" is about some odd figures in suits and hats who we discover control the entire destiny of mankind. They influence events in small subtle ways all the time in order to ensure that everything fits a (divine) plan. We are even told towards the beginning that they are known to some as 'angels'.
But these guys are clearly terrible. We are told that for centuries they have prevented humans from making their own decisions and within the context of the film they are keeping Matt Damon and Emily Blunt apart. They are extremely bureaucratic and there's even a cynicism in the way they do their work. They are clear antagonists.
There are some very clever ideas connected to the way these "angels" manipulate events. Sometimes they have a remote control in their hand and when they press the button a particular element in the world changes. A step raises, a paper cup crumples, or a traffic light changes. Always small changes which can have major repurcussions.
They also have a power to allow them to move around the city quickly. The film is set in New York and the "angels" can open one door in a underground parking lot and make it instantly lead them into a top-floor office. It's a very clever little trick used creatively so that it always manages to impress.
Throughout the film the stakes are continuously upped. Thanks to Matt Damon and Emily Blunt we buy into their chemistry and are able to fully get behind the idea that they must not be kept apart, even when Emily Blunt's character doesn't know about the manipulative forces at work. The performances in the movie, particularly from those two, had to be very good to keep us invested in this film and, thankfully they are.
I never give out spoilers, so let's just think about the various possibilities of how you finish a film like this.
1) The Downer Ending - The bad guys win. We leave the cinema feeling sad for them, but realising that the antagonists were just too tough to beat.
2) The Battle Cry - The bad guys aren't defeated yet, but we have hope that they will be defeated in the long run.
3) The New Hope - An unlikely change in loyalties or circumstances means that the bad guys are more likely to be defeated than previously.
4) Revelation - Some new information about the antagonist proves that they aren't really as bad as they've been made out to be and/or opens up a new solution.
5) Give Peace A Chance - The bad guys are still basically the same, but it is suggested that peace between them and the protagonists is still possible.
Now, I'm not going to say which of those was the case here, but let's just say that it wasn't the sort of ending you could convincingly put forward just five minutes before the end without completely ruining everything that had come before.
This film had so much potential prior to those last five minutes, but everything had been building up to that ending. When the final ending came it made the whole thing generic, cliched and a big disappointment. I won't say that it wasn't enjoyable, but the ending is highly groan-worthy.
Where was all the praise for this film? I mean, sure it wasn't widely panned, but it didn't seem to get particularly highly praised either. The performances are great, the ideas are explored in an interesting way, the tension mounts up consistently and the new directions are often a surprise. I was consistently gripped from beginning to end.
I suppose not everyone liked "Traffic" and if you are one of those people you'll probably dislike this for similar reasons. Oddly one of the possible negatives is actually kind of a positive point for me. Like with "Traffic" everything is kept pretty safe for the most part. We know what the drug trade is like because there are tons of films out there about it and "Traffic" didn't really go too far into the darker side of that world. Similarly, though "Contagion" often hints at just how bad things could get, and in many cases probably are, it doesn't ever let things get TOO horrible. This was relief as I was worried this was going to be a much bigger downer.
One example of how it hints at how things could be worse can be demonstrated through a scene of someone dropping flowers into a grave with a dead body of one of our many key characters in the film. Straight afterwards the same character dropping in the flowers is asked "when did they run out of body bags?" From that we realise that this tender moment could have been much colder and more impersonal and actually, with the horrific situation caused by the risk of contagion, probably SHOULD have been more cold and impersonal for the safety of those as yet unaffected. The film is full of subtle revelations of how much worse things could get and of the affects of a viral outbreak on ordinary people.
The most unrealistic thing in the film? Towards the end someone is listening to U2 (I think it was one of their more recent songs). Come on! No one listens to U2 anymore....
While the film doesn't always show the worst case scenario it always makes pretty clear how much worse things could get. It never stops being engaging and the performances are fantastic from the whole star-studded cast. This film showing what would happen in the case of a widespread viral outbreak was absolutely brilliant. Oh, and Jude Law's choice of accent wasn't anything like as annoying as the trailers made out (though if he was supposed to be from New Zealand I wasn't in the least bit convinced).
Twilight: Breaking Dawn - Part One (2011)
"Why do you keep watching this ****?"
I'm sure that there are plenty of people asking this question, either to other people who watch the Twilight movies or to themselves. Thinking about the question myself, I think the most likely reason is the batshit insanity of the series.
This latest movie is probably the main reason why I ever started watching the Twilight movies. The main one I've been building up to. This is because the first impetus for watching the films was the following article mocking the sheer bizarreness of the fourth book and insisting that the body horror elements would fit perfectly in a David Cronenberg movie. Count me in, I thought.
So did this entry meet the high standards of a Cronenberg horror? Well, not exactly.
Before I start talking about Breaking Dawn Part One, I think it's necessary to recap my thoughts on the earlier entries.
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
Expect spoilers for these movies. If you are worried about spoilers for any of the Twilight films released so far (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn Part 1) do not read any further.
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
It's pretty dull for the most part. The relationship between Bella Swan (Kristen Biting-My-Lips-Means-I'm-Acting Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) is mainly shown by the two of them staring at one another or sitting next to each other not talking. Neither of them seem to be together because they have anything in common. This is actually something that doesn't matter so much in later movies where we can just presume they have a history together. Here they are supposed to be building a relationship and they just don't.
The Cullen family look pretty conspicuous. They are coated in white makeup and the dad in particular looks more like an android than a vampire. (His hair looks particularly weird and this was thankfully improved in later movies.)
Why does Edward Cullen have apple-levitating powers and why is a vampire have to use his VOLVO to intimidate people?
Billy Burke plays Bella's dad and whenever the two of them interact it suddenly looks like Kristen Stewart can act. The two of them have more on-screen chemistry than the central romance. Team Dad! (Oh wait that's creepy isn't it?)
Okay, I actually LIKE the sparkling thing (wait while I clarify). The way it is set up is actually quite a clever idea. Unfortunately it is not followed up properly in the later story. I even think the ties with the author's religion work pretty well here. Bella's reaction to the sparkle is "oh my goodness it's beautiful" which is where all the hate seems to come in, but let's not ignore Edward Cullen's response. He says it's camouflage. If you want to entice your prey towards you, dressing up like a monster isn't going to do the trick. In the original vampire stories it seems to be suggested that vampires have hypnotic powers. In the 1979 Dracula movie, Dracula pretends to be using typical hypnotism when he's actually using his vampiric influence. But switching a kind of hypnotism/ultra-charm into a warm enticing glow is an interesting change, not least because it makes the vampires look angelic. What this idea suggests is that vampires are demons that look like angels. What would have been really cool is another vampire, perhaps even another member of Edward's family, using his sparkling to entice someone in and then drinking their blood or changing them against their will when he'd gained their trust. If the sparkle is a way to lure people in, someone ought to have used it that way. It's bizarre that no one ever does....
(As for the criticism that vampires shouldn't survive sunlight. The silent movie Nosferatu is the main reason that idea is so embedded. A inverted black and white effect was used to excellent effect to show the death by sunlight and it had such a strong influence that now death by sunlight is viewed as an essential part of the vampire's identity. Oddly enough, in the original novel Dracula crumbles into dust after being stabbed in the heart with a bowie knife.)
Of course, one rather awesome element in this first movie (which thankfully isn't brought up time and time again like the Twilight version of Quidditch) is vampire baseball. A game which has to be played during a thunderstorm because otherwise the noise of the vampires hitting the baseballs would attract attention.
Asides from that the sweet side of the movie is mainly that it is very easy to take the mick.
Twilight: New Moon (D-)
While New Moon isn't any better than the original Twilight movie, it's bad for different reasons. That means that some elements are actually better. Still, one aspect that doesn't seem too bad in this movie but is severely shown up by its follow-up is the werewolf effects. Werewolf effects aren't easy to do, but werewolves certainly shouldn't look like cartoon characters and these ones kinda do.
While sitting in silence with her boyfriend was pretty dull in the original movie, I'm not sure if whining over him in the second one is much of an improvement.
The ending of the movie is supposed to be the bit where things get exciting. Michael Sheen doesn't really have the time to make an impression, so we don't get to see him chew the scenery like he did in Tron Legacy. Dakota Fanning gets to make a bigger impact as the child vampire elder. However, the whole set-up of this finale is ridiculously stupid
Having decided in the last movie that sparkling is camouflage, in this movie suddenly it's instant proof that you are a vampire. The vampire elders are extremely harsh on anyone who reveals that they are a vampire in this way because they don't want evidence of their existence revealed to humans. Edward Cullen decides to reveal his identity in the middle of a town parade related to the town's history with vampires, which is also the same town where the vampire elders have their centre of operations.... Let's recap that.
The elders don't want the existence of vampires to be revealed. Their HQ is in the middle of a place where there are parades which acknowledge the existence of vampires. Also (unlike anyone in real life) they know to associate a man glittering in sunlight with these evil blood-sucking monsters. Is it me or are the elders the most imcompetent secret monster society there ever was. GUYS! MOVE SOMEWHERE WHERE PEOPLE DON'T ALREADY KNOW ALL ABOUT YOU! IT'LL MAKE STAYING HIDDEN A LOT LESS RISKY!
So the idea I liked in the first movie is completely ruined at the end of this sequel. And the new idea introduced is the werewolf mythology. The werewolf human actors barely feel like real people, which I reckon is most likely an issue with the director. Needless to say, there's something quite racist about the way all the werewolves are Native Indians. If there was some explanation about the history between vampires and werewolves perhaps this could work. But in the end, it feels more like a "mystical minority group" scenario.
On the whole "Team Edward"/"Team Jacob" thing, apparently it's more obvious that you should side with Edward in the book (because pretty much everything you get is Bella's inner thoughts, which is mainly abject worship of Edward), but in this movie Edward is barely even there, making it much more sensible to side with Jacob as the more appropriate choice.
In the end, I'm mainly watching these films for snark and nothing was more snarkable than Bella's shift to borderline-suicidal thrill-seeking. She decides that she absolutely loves riding on motorcycles. And actually I think there's a religious element here too. In the Biblical story of The Temptation, Jesus is tempted by Satan to throw himself off a tall building so God will jump in and save him with a miracle. Bella is tempted to put herself at risk so Edward will rush in to save her life.
There are also points where I'm laughing WITH the movie. As part of Bella's thrill-seeking, she decides she wants to go and see an action movie. The action movie is called "Facepunch". Clearly the film is aimed at more the rom-com crowd.
The link between the werewolves seemed to be done pretty well. The way they act together as humans did seem evocative of the way a wolf pack might act and worked a lot better than the West Side Story style snarling standoff between the vampires in the first movie.
One part which might easily be dismissed as daft in this movie involves Bella sitting in her room and the seasons rushing past outside. The thing is that the section of the book they are adapting in this way is represented in the book by four blank pages. That's pretty awkward source material to adapt and I think they did a pretty good job.
Anna Kendrick seemed a lot better in this movie and she gets to be a little more snarky this time around. She's the one who gets to say: "So, you're an adrenaline junkie now?" Meanwhile Billy Burke gets to tell Bella that she's grounded for the rest of her life. (In a joking way.)
Overall this one wasn't so slow-paced, but the werewolves were a bit daft and Bella Swan was wetter than ever as she pined over her lost love.
Twilight Eclipse (C-)
While for the first time we have Edward and Jacob's behaviour being fully recognised as dickish, that doesn't make it any less irritating. Also Jacob doesn't get nearly enough criticism when he very nearly rapes Bella on the spot.
Also, the film is just so LONG. You could easily cut out all the boring relationship BS and leave the film as a pretty damn cool violent vampires and werewolves story.
The werewolf effects are REALLY GOOD in this one. Like seriously, the effects people deserve a massive pat on the back.
As I've said before, there's way more violence in Twilight Eclipse than there is in Captain America. Sure the vampires don't actually bleed but they do have their arms ripped off. In line with them being called "Cold Ones" in the first movie they shatter when hit hard enough.
The mythology is pretty damn awesome too. It turns out that some of the members of the Cullen family are utter badasses. I wouldn't have minded hearing more about Rosalie and her backstory which is essentially the equivalent of "I Spit On Your Grave" only if the protagonist becomes a vampire before doing the vengeance stuff.
Meanwhile the major element in the plot ties back to Jasper's past when he was in the Confederate army. During the civil war there were vampires taking advantage of the bloodshed and chaos. One female vampire turned Jasper and then used him to recruit an army of "newborns". Newborns are recently-turned vampires. Contrary to the normal accepted mythology, in Twilight the vampires are the strongest when they first change. Jaspers previous experience as a recruiter of newborns gives us a warning of the coming danger as well as an insight into the relationship between the evil reheaded vampire woman Victoria and the man working for her whom she turns in the opening scene.
The vampire elders have a fairly minimal role this time around, but that doesn't stop Dakota Fanning from using her psychic vampire powers to telekinetically snap a subordinate vampire's neck.
Lots of cool stuff in this entry and if only they'd just left out all the stupid relationship stuff (with the now quite overtly sexist male love interests) I think I'd actually prefer this to the director's prior "30 Days of Night".
Billy Burke quotation for this movie (his character is called Charlie):
Charlie Swan: ...alright, so, you guys are taking precautions?
Bella Swan: Okay, dad, please just don't worry about... that. Edward is... old school.
Charlie Swan: Old school, great. What's that, like a code for something?
Bella Swan: Oh my God, dad, I'm a virgin!
Charlie Swan: Ah, di-di-di-di, okay... glad we covered that.
Soooo.... Breaking Dawn: Part One(2011) then....
Well, we start with the build-up to the wedding. Bella and Edward seem to have a much better relationship because unlike in the first movie where they didn't seem to do anything to build up their relationship and seemed to have absolutely nothing in common, here we can just take it for granted that they have a full and interesting history together. Or perhaps the two of them are better at acting now. (I guess it's possible.) Anyway they finally seem to have some chemistry together. About time too. We're four movies in now.
Billy Burke has the obligatory awesome line. He's seen the bride in her wedding dress for the first time and Bella has seen him and things are feeling a teensy bit awkward because Bella is having nightmares where she and Edward kill everyone at the wedding. Anyway, Billy Burke breaks up all the tension by saying: "Yeah I know.... I'm hot." (And seriously, suggesting that the real reason everyone is stuck for words is because the FATHER of the bride looks stunning might not seem like a great gag, but Billy Burke just delivers his lines so perfectly. Seriously this guy should be in some GOOD movies for a change...)
On the walk up to the altar with Bella and her dad, Kirsten Stewart finally seems like she might be able to act. She's really worried because getting married essentially means she's agreeing to become a vampire. On the way up she's almost paralysed with fear and Kirsten Stewart is visibly shaking. I did think that this was some proper acting for a change. Then I saw that women standing in the rows with bare arms were clutching them in a way that clearly suggested they were cold. In her backless wedding dress Kirsten Stewart wasn't really acting scared. She was acting cold. *sighs*
At the wedding some of the words said (and they have EVERYBODY do some public speaking) are pretty cheesy. But Billy Burke and Anna Kendrick snag the best lines.
In the audience before the actual wedding Anna Kendrick (whose character is called Jessica) says the following:
Jessica: So, you think Bella's gonna be showing?
Angela: Jess, she is not pregnant!
Jessica: [sarcastically] Okay. Who else gets married at 18?
Meanwhile Billy Burke's wedding speech goes like this:
"Edward will be a good husband. I know this because I'm a cop. I know things. Like how to hunt somebody to the ends of the earth. And I know how to use a gun."
At the wedding (on the outskirts of the venue, but as a surprise to Bella from Edward to show there's no hard feelings), Jacob ends up flipping his lid when he hears that Bella will be having sex with Edward on the honeymoon - while still a human! Instead of calmly informing Bella that this will most likely kill her and asking whether she's really thought it through, he goes into a bit of a fit and has to be restrained by his fellow werewolf pack-members.
After the wedding things slow down dramatically. The whole thing with Edward Cullen insisting on not having sex with Bella because he doesn't want to hurt her gets dull pretty quickly. Things liven up a litle bit though when the magical pregnancy is revealed.
When the werewolves hear about the vampire baby, they decide they are going to end the peace with the Cullen vampires and kill all of them. The werewolf effects have gone back downhill again btw. The scene where they make this decision in werewolf form involves the psychic words being dubbed while the particular wolf who is psychically speaking is on screen. Essentially it ends up looking like those old adaptations of books with talking animals where the animals' mouth-movements didn't match up with what they were saying. Like it or not, this scene announcing the intention to mass-murder a family gives the film a bit of a Disney feel. It's a bit bizarre, but kind of funny too. There simply wasn't enough to snark at in Eclipse, so it's a bit of a relief to see things are back to being unintentionally stupid again.
While I'm sure the director is trying to express the horror of the killer vampire fetus that magically cannot be aborted, the real horror for me was when Edward Cullen tells us that the baby is psychically talking to him. That was the point where I was the most creeped out, yet oddly the mood of the film seemed to expect us to take this contact from the unborn as reassuring (even though there was still every possibility that this was going to end in Bella's horrible death).
The scene where Jacob the teenage werewolf falls in love with a newborn baby was done remarkably well. It really shouldn't work. The whole idea is simply daft, but somehow the director pulls it off. He seems to see lots of scenes of the baby girl's future, so they make it a matter of falling in love with the woman she is going to become rather than falling in love with the baby as it is. *phew!*
When Bella finally comes to term with her baby it seems like the vampires are ripping open Bella's stomach to get the baby out. (Apparently a scalpel won't work for some unknown reason.) It seems that showing the ripped up stomach afterwards would be too much gore for the 12A rating, but it seems like its not even acknowledged that Bella has a stomach that has just been ripped to pieces while everyone's worrying about whether she can recover.
Anyway the final cliffhanger is very well done and the new trailer has me thinking that, having seen the prior four, I might as well see this fifth and final installment that is coming up. Blooming eck though, this has been a pretty ridiculous series.
x-posted to Halloween Candy
I've already finished my reviews for the Friday The 13th series and on Halloween Candy I'm most of the way through the A Nightmare on Elm Street series. (On Halloween Candy you can already check out the first and second installments of my reviews for that series.) I haven't yet got hold of "Freddy Vs Jason", but perhaps I'll have it before I close the following poll in a week's time.
What I want from you is a suggestion as to which franchise I should review next. If you actually find my opinions on movies useful you could pick a franchise which you haven't checked out. Alternatively if you aren't too concerned about the scores I give then you could pick one that you think I would enjoy. In either case you can choose a maximum of two out of the following seven options provided in alphabetical order:
A murderer escapes the law by using voodoo to transfer his soul into a children's doll.
I've already seen the first and fourth film in this series, but with news of a new film on the way (and Brad Dourif coming back again regardless of whether it's a reboot or a sequel) it seems like a good idea to get up to speed. I thought the first film was okay, but I haven't watched it in a long while, while "Bride of Chucky" made it into my list of favourite horror-comedies. I must admit that the fifth and latest entry, "Seed of Chucky", is the one I'm really excited to watch, but I'm pretty keen to check out some more genuine horror titles featuring Chucky too.
Furry alien monsters like to eat, a lot, and get bigger as they do so.
Critters basically seemed to be a rip-off of Gremlins. Still, I loved Gremlins and there's twice as many Critters movies to enjoy. I've only previously made a half-hearted stab at watching Critters 3 while it was on the telly, so I don't think that was terribly fair of me. I can't imagine finding this series particularly dull.
A guy in a white mask is not only a knife-wielding murderer, but is barely even human.
I've now seen the first two out of this series. Certainly I haven't provided a review for the second movie yet but I'm sure that I'll get around to reviewing this series of films eventually. Still, I'm a little concerned that the franchise may be all downhill from here. The first film seemed notably more impressive having become more familiar with the slasher genre now. Also I understand that, somehow, Dr. Loomis carries on making an appearance in later films. My consideration of the series will include the Rob Zombie remakes, making this a series of ten films (including the two I've seen so far).
An evil leprechaun is, um, looking for his missing gold?
This series pretty much entirely passed me by. The whole idea of it just sounds ludicrous. However, having seen the trailers I am now quite excited about it. It doesn't even seem like the one set in space is the most ludicrous out of the six films.
(Video featuring all six trailer here!)
The anti-christ is adopted by a rich couple.
I've seen the first of the Omen films, but I didn't realise until recently that the third movie in the series stars Sam Neill. I'm very keen on Sam Neill as an actor, particularly in his more creepy roles. I've already seen the remake too. Including the remake there are five films in this series.
Stuff happens involving aliens, zombies, flying silvery metal balls of doom and a big creepy balding man.
I've only seen the first one and while I didn't find it to be one of the best horror films, I did find it suitably bonkers. While I'm not sure what comes next in the following three sequels, I understand that the budget rises in the second film and there seems to be plenty of scope for the plot to progress. (Heck, absolutely anything could happen in the first movie, so what CAN'T they do in a sequel?)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
A family of um... redneck cannibals (?) like to kill people, sometimes with chainsaws.
Now this is probably the only franchise listed here where I have seen absolutely none of the films at all. I have, however, seen some pretty heavy praise (on the basis of it's pure ridiculousness) for "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation" starring Renee Zellwegger and Matthew Mconaughey on My Geek Blasphemy. I might include the remake, but I'm not going to include the remake prequel that followed it, so that makes this a series of five movies.
Click Here To Vote For Your Choices...!
As promised, here's my series of reviews of the "A Nightmare On Elm Street" franchise. This follows on from my Friday the 13th Franchise reviews which can be found in the following three parts: (installment one, installment two, installment three). Unfortunately I still haven't got a copy of "Freddy Vs Jason".
I'm following the films in a bit of an odd order. I'd already seen the first film and gave a short review here, but I decided to make Part 3 my first sequel and I've also checked out the remake early to get it out of the way. As with the Friday the 13th series, I'm often quite surprised by my reaction to these films. I never seem to be quite in line with the general critics consensus...
A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
I reviewed this a while back. I have to say, one thing that made it difficult to rate it on first watch was that firstly other Wes Craven movies like "Scream" and "The People Under The Stairs" had made me disinclined to believe that I was going to like it. But perhaps more importantly, after actually watching it I wasn't all that impressed. I eventually decided that the imagery and creativity made it worthy of a "B+" but now I'm inclined to think I overrated it.
Sure, Freddy making his infamous glove at the beginning was interesting, but the girl wandering around in a nightmare was not so impressive to me. As the teenage characters are introduced we have a combination of rather poor acting and pointless unengaging dialogue. The young Johnny Depp, now so well respected as an actor, doesn't appear much better than anyone else in this film (making me suspect bad direction is responsible).
After we've spent a reasonable amount of time with the characters we get the bit where Johnny Depp is listening to the sex noises in the neighbouring room. This is where I found myself reminded of the episode of "Spaced" where Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson decide to pretend to have sex for the benefit of their upstairs landlady who thinks they are a couple.
Okay, so straight after that there's the first kill and, while the acting didn't get any better, the effects are great. And that's where I have to give the movie credit. Whenever the movie starts irritating me, something interesting does happen to get me involved. I must say though that while this might be considered a classic, it doesn't feel that way to me. In the light of watching the third film in the series (which a quick gander on RT and IMDB revealed was one of the higher rated of the sequels) I'm certainly not convinced that this first movie is the best in the series.
I'm going to have to downgrade my score for "A Nightmare On Elm Street" to....
Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
I decided to move straight to this sequel because it appeared to have the best score and I heard that you didn't need to see the second movie in order to understand it. I was keen to check out what appears to be seen as the high point of the sequels before diving in and I have to say, I was not disappointed.
The effects side of things has been stepped up. The performances still aren't great, but they are definitely not as bad as in the first movie. The returning character (who I won't name to avoid spoilers) is definitely a better actor here than in the first movie. That character proves to have learnt a few tricks since the first film, leading to some interesting developments in the story.
The title "Dream Warriors" comes from the discovery by the children that they have unique abilities when they dream. The rather more contrived skill by one of them to draw other people into their dreams has the upside of allowing the dreamers to team up against Freddy.
We get some more explanation of Freddy's backstory from a mysterious nun who appears and disappears out of nowhere (in the real world, not in dreams). We also get some rather bonkers "Jason And The Argonauts" style effects (also in the real world, not in dreams). So admittedly there are some parts of this film which are a little daft (though arguably not substantially more daft than the original entry).
Another problem I had with this film was the lack of rules. Now admittedly the ending of the first film seemed to throw any rules into the air (apparently because Craven originally wanted to finish with a "the whole thing was one big dream" ending), but the problem here seems to be a more consistent case of "ghost story logic". Whether someone is doing well against Freddy or losing to Freddy seems to just depend on what Freddy feels like at the time. In the first movie, I was inclined to presume that Freddy must just be sadistically toying with the kids the whole time, but this time around he seems to skip liberally from doing whatever he wants to having trouble stopping the children with no obvious logic between the two. If I were Freddy and I noticed the dreamers were getting quirky little powers I'd choose THAT moment to start making scalding hot walls close in on them.
Towards the beginning of the film, Freddy seems to be genuinely creepy, particularly in a scene where one of the teenagers dreams he's being used like a puppet. The point where Freddy laughs and cuts the strings is extremely effective and haunting. As the film goes on, the film becomes more and more quirky and less and less scary, but it's good solid fun right to the end.
This isn't a fantastic movie, but it's still really good fun and I'm inclined to say it's better than the first entry. The effects are creative, the acting has improved, the shifts in the story are inventive and I don't think overall it is really much less scary than the original (though it is definitely less gory). I'd give this a more-than-solid:
A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)
Yes, I decided to check out the reboot already, but my reason for this is actually because I was expecting it to be awful. Quite a few users on the Friday the 13th remake's IMDB board seemed to have loved the remake with many even ranking it as the best of the Friday the 13th films. There was no such ambiguity about the "A Nightmare On Elm Street" remake on the IMDB boards for that. Some people said it wasn't that bad, while a large number were actively panning it. Finishing with the remake left such a bad taste in my mouth when I was doing the Friday the 13th marathon, so if this was going to be even worse I was inclined to get it out of the way early.
Now I feel like I'm in a really awkward position. I've already explained that I was somewhat under-impressed with the original, but I actually quite like the remake. Now, on the one hand I went in with massively lowered expectations for this film and that definitely made its good points catch me by surprise. On the other hand, I'm not about to pretend that this was a bad movie just because that's the more popular option.
Let's start with the bad points. In the remake everyone looks 25 when they are supposed to be still in high school. Still this isn't unique for horror films. In Halloween, while Jamie Lee Curtis was 20 her two female "high school" co-stars were 28 and 29! Even in the original "A Nightmare On Elm Street" the girl who plays Tina was 24. All the same, while in this new remake the cast are all between 23 and 25, the even bigger problem is they always look like they've just had an expensive makeover. Everyone has perfect hair even when they are running for their life. So there you go, that's the first problem.
The second problem is that at one point it's suggested that Freddy might be innocent. One of the teenagers seems remarkably insistent on it. Even in the moment, this whole idea seems silly and the film fails to openly recognise that the audience simply is not going to buy into the idea that a man who is sadistically killing teenagers in their dreams with knives on specially made glove is innocent. There's a possible explanation for this which I'll go into later.
The third problem is probably the least of a concern to me. The dream world seems rather overly concrete. Freddy has to walk over to people and there's clear distances. However, the film sees no problem with breaking the rules every now and then in order to insert some dream-like turns. I preferred the idea that Freddy has to be a little more consistent, so this really didn't matter to me.
Now, here's where I reveal the big positive. The plot makes sense....
Didn't the plot make sense before? Well quite frankly, no. If Freddy has been killed by the parents, why isn't he killing THEM in THEIR dreams? Because the sins of the parents are visited on the children? Oh give me a break!
It's never explained in the original movie why the children are dreaming about a murderer who they never met. It's never explained why Freddy has power over the children in this way. But in the remake there's a very clear reason and one that also rather neatly makes the doubts of the parents more believable too. In this remake, Freddy wasn't a child murderer, he was a child molester. The parents murdered Freddy and wanted their children to forget what happened to them and when the children start remembering, the most obvious explanation is that it is the effects of repressed childhood trauma. In the light of this, the issue I mentioned earlier can be explained away by the tendency of victims to blame themselves (though it would have been nice if the film had made that more explicit).
Another improvement is that the mechanics of dreams is explained properly. While the supposed dream "experts" in the first movie could tell us nothing about dreams other than that they are a mystery (which seemed pretty blooming unscientific) here one of the teenagers has done some proper research into the effects of sleep deprivation. It's explained that as the brain tries to compensate for the sleep deprivation, the line blurs between reality and dreaming. This really ups the ante on the threat Freddy poses in the second half of the film. The way ideas tie together in this film is actually quite satisfying. The story is far from random and the storytelling actually seems a lot more economical than the other films I've seen in the series so far.
So does Jackie Earle Haley match up to Robert Englund? Well yes and no. JEH's Freddy rather oddly seems to be missing a nose and doesn't have the same kind of look to him as a result. However, he's a great deal scarier and when he attacks he doesn't just look like he's having fun, but like he's actively sadistic. The first point where Freddy comes onto screen all we see is the glove and he rubs the blades on his gloves together in a way that suggests that he's gleefully looking forward to using them, that also attracts the attention of the dreamer, but which easily blends in with his surroundings in the dream (a kitchen full of clicking pots, pans and plates).
The "A Nightmare On Elm Street" remake is by far the scariest film of the ones I've seen so far. Remarkably the large number of lines Freddy speaks during the film do not take away from the fear factor since every line is full of sadistic evil spitefulness and only serve to make it clearer that this is a figure without any kind of pity or mercy. The changes to the plot are an improvement and the explanation for why Freddy seems to be able to attack while you are awake (see the tongue in the phone scene in the original movie) is really good too.
These supposed child-abuse victims are far too clean-cut and tidy. Heck, they are too clean-cut and tidy for real life. Also the acting isn't always brilliant (though it's no worse than in any of the other films in the series I've seen). The biggest problem for me though is the one chink in the otherwise extremely interesting re-imagining of the background of Freddy where one of the traumatised teenagers tries to suggest that Freddy is probably innocent. The whole idea is ridiculous. Thankfully I think that plays a small enough part in the overall film and can be explained as desperation and, while not handled so well here, I think this aspect is actually reminiscent of some aspects of the "Ringu" storyline (see spoiler for "Ringu" below).
(*POSSIBLE SPOILER FOR "RINGU"*
where the central characters try to stop Sadako by taking her remains out of the well
*END OF POSSIBLE SPOILER FOR "RINGU")
Overall, this film was far from perfect, but to my mind it improved on the original.
(Cross-posted to Halloween Candy)
Reminder: The poll for which movie series I tackle next is open until the end of the day on Sunday.
The choices are:
- Child's Play
- The Omen
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
(More details on each of the options here.)
You can choose a maximum of TWO out of the seven options.
(Click here to vote on your choices.)
A long while back the_gel made this loltastic video of him playing "Kinect Joy Ride" without moving his arms. (He comes third. Check it out here.) So when GEL decides to do a video looking into the new Kinect Star Wars game, what's he going to find when he tries out Pod Racing?
4:50 - You know what time it is!
7.10 - Race finally begins
Update: Turns out in the second video that the game is automatically set to auto-steer. Though I still think it's pretty strange that a Kinect game would have the "you are not able to lose" mode as the default setting.
Second installment of my reviews of the "A Nightmare On Elm Street" series. If you want to see my first entry you can find it here. I'm afraid I have as yet to get hold of "Freddy Vs Jason", but you can expect this to be followed up with reviews for Parts 6 and 7 fairly shortly.
A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)
Having decided to watch Part 3 first, naturally I already knew this wasn't expected to be as good and I'd heard that there weren't vital plot elements carrying through the series in this one too. What surprised me was finding just how much this film veers off the normal formula.
This time, it turns out, Freddy isn't just attacking in dreams. In fact, the film messes with you towards the beginning, making you think you are watching a dream when actually something is happening in real life. Essentially though, there is only one actual "dreamer" and that's the protagonist Jesse.
One thing that this film did add to the series is the importance of Nancy's house on Elm Street with bars on the windows. While in the first film Nancy was just one of the victims, in the second film the suggestion appears to be that Freddy's previous defeat means that he is confined to the house.
Through Jesse, Freddy is attempting to pull his powers into the real world, which is a little odd seeing as it was previously suggested that if you pulled Freddy out of the dream he would lose his powers. However, I guess that this is Freddy escaping on his own terms.
Freddy is actually scary this time around. Not quite as scary as in the 2010 remake, but scarier than in the first movie and definitely scarier than in "Dream Warriors" (the third film). There's one line where he's looking at a whole bunch of teenagers and calmly but gleefully says: "You are all my children now!" That was seriously creepy.
The main reason to watch this film however is the transformation scene. Jesse has a (literal? metaphorical?) transformation INTO Freddy Kreuger. In the trailer you can see the blades of Freddy's glove coming out of his fingernails. I wouldn't say that it was as good as the transformation in "An American Werewolf In London" but I think I could say it is in the same league.
Sadly the film as a whole is very campy and, most importantly, the boy playing Jesse is a horrendous actor. I don't know whether the lines were awful or whether they only seemed particularly bad because of their delivery, but Jesse annoyed the hell out of me in this film. His girlfriend is also a little unbelieveable, particularly when she's still trying to tell Jesse he might just be imagining things when he comes to her with his hands literally covered in blood. That said, one of the most interesting elements of this film is wondering which parts are real and which are imagined. The problem is that the distinction is never terribly clear (asides from towards the end of the film, where the blurring of dream and reality makes for a pretty cool final act).
The two most confusing things about "Freddy's Revenge" are, first of all, why it's called that. There's no characters from the original film and Nancy has left the house (hence why Jesse is living there), so in what sense is this revenge? "Freddy's Resurrection" might be a more fitting title since that is what Freddy is essentially hoping for here. Secondly, why is there a homoerotic subtext? Jesse has a girlfriend, yet all through the film there are suggestions that he is actually gay. The idea that Freddy represents suppressed sexual tendencies is a little worrying particularly considering that the girlfriend is the main figure involved in saving him from Freddy.
This film is a bit wacky and of the Nightmare films I've seen so far, it's definitely the least impressive. It's really not a very good film at all. However, in spite of that there are elements that are worth checking out for completions sake.
A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
I went into this one not expecting too much, mainly because of a joke from the tv show "Roseanne". The family get a VCR and Darlene says "we can rent Lethal Weapon 2, Jaws 3 and Nightmare On Elm Street 4". The joke is partly that this is a sequence of sequels that have nothing to do with one another, partly that there were plenty of series with ridiculous numbers of sequels, but I also thought it meant that these were judged as poor sequels too (having never personally liked Lethal Weapon 2).
Since watching the film, I've listened to a few podcasts about it and I do actually get the impression that this film is looked down on, but I'm not entirely sure why.
The opening certainly doesn't set things up well. There's some cheesy eighties music on a black background before showing the heroine from the previous film wandering through "the Elm Street house". (Once again, you can blame Part 2 for the focus on the house since there was no reason to think it was terribly important for Freddy in the first film.) The scene is particularly jarring because the girl wandering through the house isn't played by Patricia Arquette anymore, however when she pulls the other survivors from the last film (who ARE still played by the same actors) into her dream, it becomes pretty clear who she is supposed to be.
The problem is essentially that Patricia Arquette is still frightened and having nightmares. Even though Freddy is defeated, she's still appearing in the same setting only to discover that he's not turning up to terrorise her.
Naturally this wasn't going to last. Freddy's return doesn't make an awful lot of sense, but it certainly looks impressive. From that point on, in fact, this becomes a major theme of Part 4: Everything looks absolutely brilliant. After the fairly plain and disappointing first scene, every other dream sequence feels like a real step up from the sequences in Dream Warriors. The effects guys presumably have a bigger budget to play with and they are using it to full effect.
I wonder whether the main criticisms of this might be a similar issue to the problem some people have with "Alien 3": The decision to kill off the previous survivors. When in Alien 3 Ripley's co-survivors were killed in the opening sequence many people were horrified. They asked why you would kill off those characters that were so carefully built up in the previous film. Seemingly having forgotten that the two characters were a whiney little child and a fairly two-dimensional Action Man.
I've said before how I wasn't impressed by the acting in "Dream Warriors" and the actors haven't got any better since then. However, replacing them is a whole new cast. The new characters are much better defined and I quickly found myself endeared to all of them and, unlike with the survivors from the last film, found myself really upset when some of them were picked off.
The girl who can pull people into her dreams accidentally pulls a new person who wasn't part of the original set of Elm Street children in when she feels threatened. She passes her power on in the hope that it will help her defeat Freddy for good this time, however the power turns out to be more of a curse than a blessing. The only way Freddy can get new victims is if someone new is pulled into the dream - and who wouldn't want someone there to support them when things get frightening?
I found this was by far the most interesting plotline in the films so far with by far the most interesting characters. Sure Freddy's powers are now completely over the top, but Freddy's limits were never very clearly defined from the start. This definitely doesn't feel like a horror movie anymore, but it does feel like things are at stake and had me rather more invested in the action than before. The dream sequences seem to play out properly this time rather than having Freddy losing in a fight at one moment and being able to fight back easily with syringe fingers the next. It generally feels like Freddy's powers are at least somewhat related to the willpower of the figure he's attacking.
The final act has some Deus Ex Machina elements, but considering the methods used in previous films (including a pretty literal Deus Ex Machina in Dream Warriors) this is probably still the best finale to a Nightmare on Elm Street film. While I said that the return of Freddy here didn't make much sense, it tackles the problem I had with the last film where it didn't really feel like Freddy had been defeated within the actual dream world.
I think this makes for a neat little ending to a trilogy of Nightmare On Elm Street movies. It follows on nicely from the previous entry and builds on the existing ideas really well. Starting with the first movie, then watching "Dream Warriors" and finally this "Dream Master" movie makes for a series of films which properly follow each other and gradually increase in quality.
Oh yeah, and no ghost nuns this time.
A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)
A new set of friends have to be brought into this movie because so many of cast were killed off last time around and none of these new people feel like real people. We don't have the well-defined characterisation of the last movie and the attempt to show the children all casually talking to each other just comes across as overly scripted and even somewhat confusing. The parents are particularly dreadful one-dimensional caricatures.
Our protagonist has another nightmare and this time she finds that she's a nun in a hospital for the criminally insane. Alarm bells started ringing and I must admit I was really freaked out, but not at all for the right reasons. I wasn't worried because it was setting up a scary scene. I was worried because I knew the background to the series and was desperately hoping they weren't going to do what I thought they were going to do.
As the scene progresses we see a room full of grimy prisoners crowding in a room and we see some wards of the hospital barely bothering to count the prisoners before leaving them to attack the nun (which they do by crowding around her until we can't really see her anymore). The whole scene feels very cartoonish which, while not unusual for the series particularly by this stage, is really unsuitable for a scene about implied rape.
The nun is seen to have a baby Freddy which is an odd sort of special effects gadget that looks like a cross between Freddy as an adult and the creepy foetus from "Eraserhead". Finally lo and behold Freddy's back. It's a bit of an anti-climax to be honest.
For the first time Freddy's mother becomes a presence within the dream world and there's some suggestion that she might be able to fight Freddy. Freddy then points out that first people would need to find her remains in the real world and this whole idea is neatly forgotten about until near the climax of the film.
Our protagonist wakes up at one stage to discover not only that Freddy has killed her boyfriend, but that she is pregnant. On the one hand we have a doctor claiming that her irrational ranting is likely to be due to her pregnancy and on the other hand we have no sign that anyone even bothers discussing whether she actually wants the baby.
I'm kinda peeved at this stage. She and her boyfriend were planning on travelling the world over the holidays and that's not something you are likely to do while pregnant. It's pretty clear that this is an unplanned pregnancy. Someone should be discussing her options with her. Only very late on in the film does anyone even suggest the possibility of abortion.
I'm also really surprised that she wants the baby. As with the psychic baby scene in Twilight, the filmmakers seem to think this should be a cause for joy while I'm really freaked out that a still developing foetus can communicate better than a 6 month old baby. The same problem occurs here where the baby is present in the dream world as a child who looks to be about 12 years old and is fully proficient in English. I would be seriously freaking out if I knew this was supposed to be my own unborn child.
While I would have thought the budget just went up and up and up on these films, it seems to have gone downhill since the previous entry. The dream sequence effects do not look very good at all. For example, Freddy is painted black and white to appear as if he is in a comic strip, but the comic book world is just a big white room with some scaffolding in it.
The acting is bad, the new characters are flat, the plot involving the nun mother is poorly developed, the whole element involving the unborn baby is just REALLY badly handled and just generally this film is no fun.
This is by far the worst entry in the Nightmare On Elm Street series that I've seen so far.
Okay, so the "A Nightmare on Elm Street" series reviews are finally complete. Or at least, as complete as my reviews for "Friday the 13th" were. "Freddy Vs Jason" still remains and I'll get around to that one as soon as I can (trust me!). However, asides from that here are reviews for the last two "A Nightmare On Elm Street" movies prior to the aforementioned team-up and the 2010 remake.
Part 1 here
Part 2 here
Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)
I suppose this was the logical next step for the series. From the very first film there were a few somewhat jokey elements to Freddy Kreuger. While it was toned down a lot in the second one, we still had the "I've got the brains" line. From the third film onwards the amount of cheesy Freddy lines has only gone up and so with the sixth film we finally have an out-and-out comedy. The question is: Is it a GOOD comedy movie?
A lot of the comedy comes from slapstick and visual gags. When I heard that Roseanne Barr was going to be making an appearance, I was a little concerned. Turns out I was absolutely right to feel that way since it's pretty much the point where everything goes seriously downhill. Roseanne's pointless cameo is very short, over-played and simply isn't funny. And it's a pity that things went downhill after that, because I really enjoyed the earlier scenes.
We start the film with the last surviving teenager in Springwood. Freddy kept succeeding in all the previous films and the upshot is that there is only one left. He keeps on having recurring dreams of being in a house that is falling. As the house is falling we even having Freddy turning up on a broomstick, clearly referencing The Wizard of Oz. It's pretty crazy, but actually rather entertaining.
Unfortunately, eventually we need a story and following a Freddy story inevitably reminds us that we are dealing with a child murderer. Through a turn of events the last teenager in Springwood finds himself bringing fresh meat to Freddy from out of town.
The adults of Springwood have gone mad, sometimes desperate to take on a child as if it were one of their own (see Roseanne's cameo), sometimes claiming to be surrounded by imaginary children, and even going through the trouble of setting up a fair when there are no children left to take to it. (Just generally a seriously dodgy depiction of mental illness) All of this could actually have been done pretty well, but here it just isn't.
Oddly, while in Part 5 my big problem was that the teenagers didn't feel like real people, here they actually feel like rather more solid characters. I don't know if it's the writing or the acting, but they work somehow. Possibly the most ridiculous scene in the movie (and in the entire franchise) starts out with a cameo from Johnny Depp, before pulling the victim into a videogame. The scene involves the victim being controlled with a game controller within the nightmare and actively bouncing up and down like a videogame character in the real world. Yet this scene stars Breckin Meyer, an actor who has been pretty decent in a number of films starting with some smaller roles in Clueless and The Craft, before moving on to a bigger part in Road Trip and even playing Jon in the Garfield movies. Okay so he's not going to win any awards, but he does have a long-term career.
To be honest, though Breckin Meyer is not giving a stand-out performance here, though the good news is that this means the other actors are doing a pretty good job. Lezlie Dean was actually the most fun character, though that's probably more because she gets to use some fighting powers than because of acting talent.
Out-acting absolutely everybody in the movie is Yaphet Kotto (who played one of the two engineers in "Alien"). He's randomly a dream expert and randomly happens to have a picture on his wall tied to some mythology directly related to Freddy's powers. On top of that he's a therapist for the newly-introduced teenagers. Essentially this is the "magical black man" trope, only marginally avoiding the magic. While he's not a small part in the film, it never seems to be suggested that his experience might allow him to finish off Freddy by himself.
Big inconsistency with the last film comes with the ability to all enter the same dream. There's no good reason why they should be able to do this, but it seems to be just presumed that they can because it happened in other movies. (The maguffin allowing them to do so has been completely ignored here.)
There's some attempts in the film to explore Freddy's backstory. We see that he had a wife who finds out about the child murdering. We discover that he had tendencies to self-harm, recognising that you can overcome pain (a discovery he tells to his step-father, played by Alice Cooper). We also have him being taunted at school, which was especially dodgy since (in reference to the point raised in parts 3 and 5) they mock him by saying "son of thousand maniacs". (How would his classmates even know that???) If this is supposed to be funny then it's a more twisted sense of humour than I'm able to buy into.
Overall, the biggest problem with this movie is that, while there are humourous elements, the film isn't actually funny. Unlike in the other films where it seemed like the main focus was the drama (if not actually "horror") and the humour was a bonus extra, in this film it just feels like an unconsistent and poor comedy. What's more, the comedy completely undermines the drama.
In the Friday the 13th series, "Jason X" did something similar. It became very much a comedy rather than a horror movie with comedic elements (such as "Jason Lives"). It also suffered from inconsistent jokes, but the difference is that the points in between gags in "Jason X" were used to introduce some genuine tension and drama. What's more "Jason X" did not suffer from so many dud gags as this does.
Another "Friday the 13th" movie which has some similarities is "Jason Goes To Hell". In fact, this may not be coincidence. Sean Cunningham was really keen on setting up a "Freddy Vs Jason" movie, but when Wes Craven decided to make "New Nightmare" he had no choice but to make another Friday the 13th movie to make sure no one forgot about Jason. No surprise then that he would take some of his cues from the last Nightmare On Elm Street movie, to tie the two franchises closer together.
The main similarities between "The Final Nightmare" and "The Final Friday" (asides from these secondary titles for each of them) is the decision firstly to tie the evil of the main character to some kind of demon and secondly to make their main weakness ultimately tied to some member of their family. I like the idea of tying the end of a franchise to its beginnings and the demonic origins of Freddy are actually done quite well, but overall there are a lot of other big flaws in the film to worry about.
One last important point: When Freddy is finally defeated it's not obvious why it should work any better than towards the end of the first film. I still think the most final of all the deaths was the one in Part 4. The death in this film would be a lot easier to ignore than in previous cases (yet Freddy mocks the attempt to kill him with holy water in a prior film). In the end, the best reason to presume this is the end of the franchise is the title.
There are some fun elements in this film and I can't say it was an awful experience to watch, but it really doesn't work very well overall and the videogame sequence is absolutely daft. Still, perhaps the intention to end on this film wasn't really so bad. The series in general has been more about visual delights with tongue firmly in cheek rather than about horror and while not all the gags work, this is still pretty fun to watch. As groan-worthy as this was and as bad as it was, there's still some limited appeal for fans of the series.
Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)
After part 6 had made Freddy into a goofy comedian and the horror was seemingly entirely lost from the series, Wes Craven comes along and promises a totally fresh approach. While Craven had been involved in writing Part 3 a lot of his ideas had been ignored and much of the writing can be credited to Frank Darabont (who also had writing credits for the eighties remake of "The Blob" and "The Fly II", as well as later writing and directing "The Shawshank Redemption", "The Mist" and the tv series "The Walking Dead"). So really this was the first time Wes Craven had proper creative control on the series since part one. Fans were very excited.
The opening scene is pretty great. We have a brand new version of the opening scene where Freddy is working on his glove, though oddly this time around Freddy isn't working on a glove, but a mechanical hand. Soon enough in the movie we have a pretty violent attack and it looked like this was set to be a pretty exciting film with effects being used to produce some real threat and tension rather than just to look pretty.
As we are introduced to our characters it turns out that this time we are following Heather Lagenkamp, the actress who played Nancy in the first movie. Based on real life she has a husband who works on special effects and a young son. Not so based on real life it is suggested in the movie that Wes Craven gave up making horror movies after the first "A Nightmare On Elm Street", apparently because nightmares fuel his movie ideas and he hadn't had one in a while. (In actual fact, Wes Craven had released five horror movies in between his two Nightmare on Elm Steet movies, just counting the ones that went to cinemas.)
Heather gets nightmares about Freddy (well, his glove at least) and her son keeps getting nightmares about him too. It seems that in real life Heather only ever hangs around with cast from the Nightmare On Elm Street movies. She's apparently quite close with Robert Englund, who kisses her on the cheek when he says goodbye. Also, when she needs parenting help who else would she contact other than John Saxon who played her father in the movies? (What?) It seems almost like Heather has no normal friends. We do have one important character who is neither an actor or family in the form of Julie, the babysitter. She doesn't get much more characterisation than anyone else.
In fact, a lack of characterisation is a BIG problem for this film. If you are introducing us to Robert Englund as an actor, we in the audience don't know him. We need some understanding of the persona he has in this film and all we really get is that he's a nice supportive guy. We can say the exact same thing about John Saxon and, when he turns up, Wes Craven.
The most time for character building is given to Heather and her son Dylan. The child actor playing Dylan is Miko Hughes and in this film he is AWFUL. Child actors are often a problem for movies, I know, but they aren't normally as bad as this. What's more, apparently (and I haven't seen this one yet), Miko Hughes was previously pretty good in "Pet Semetery". As always when an actor doesn't seem to be giving the performance we'd expect, my first instinct is to blame the direction. In the case of Wes Craven, I don't feel that reaction is lacking justification.
The first point in the movie where I realised things weren't going well was when Dylan is randomly found watching the first "Nightmare On Elm Street" film on television. Heather is shocked to see this happening and switches off the television only to see Dylan react by screaming. It's never really explained why he does this, though later it is suggested that he may have symptoms of schizophrenia. Another regular odd thing Dylan does it to put on a silly voice and say "one, two Freddy's coming for you". Dylan using the silly child-doing-a-gravelly-voice voice and wandering around downstairs (presumably sleep walking) where the TV is becomes extremely repetitive and it doesn't really add anything to the story.
There's also an inconsistency in the story too. One moment Heather is worried because Dylan "sounds like Freddy" (um... really?), the next she's worried about the effects of the media on Dylan, but it's not long before she's worried by her nightmares again.
A really confusing scene has her discussing her nightmares (which we don't appear to have seen because Freddy is pretty much NOWHERE TO BE SEEN for most of the movie) with Robert Englund. Robert says "so you've seen me in your dreams" and Heather replies "no, not like you" in a voice that shows she's clearly shaken up by it. The most clear and obvious reaction is that she must be dreaming about something scarier than in the movies, but yet when Robert Englund says, "No, not like me. Darker. More evil," Heather genuinely responds by asking "How did you know?" (Because you just clearly implied it Heather. It's not ominous or like mind-reading when you've pretty much already said it out loud to everyone. You might as well say "I'm thinking of the number '552'" and proclaim Robert to be psychic when he tells the number back to you. Derren Brown would have a field day with you.)
Now admittedly Freddy does turn up through the movie, but not AS Freddy. Instead we only ever see the glove, generally seemingly disembodied from Freddy himself. If you could a disembodied hand as Freddy then yeah, I suppose he turns up quite often. But unfortunately when your bad guy simply IS a disembodied hand and you keep showing the whole disembodied hand then for that particular threat you've already done the big reveal. With Dylan's horrendous acting and the repetitiveness of the scenes, there's very little tension being built up for most of the film.
When Freddy is FINALLY revealed it's not even the darker Freddy we've been promised. The new make-up job is the least facially concealing ever. Never before has it been so obvious that it's Robert Englund under the mask. It isn't even because Robert Englund has been a character during a few points in the film already. Robert Englund's face has been seen before in parts 5 and 6, but the "burned face" mask has always made him unrecognisable. This time, Freddy isn't burnt. Instead he's somewhat like Freddy but he's a demon instead. Not only that, but the first thing he does is a cheesy line of "Every played 'skin the cat'?" that isn't delivered with anything like the venom that Jackie Earle Haley would deliver his lines with in the later remake. We then have pretty much an exact repeat of Tina's death in the first Nightmare movie, yet it's against someone who isn't asleep.
In the final scenes of the movie Freddy is more goofy than ever with cartoon style stretchy arms and a lasso for a tongue. What's more I am never once worried that Freddy is going to kill off either Heather or Dylan and, to be quite frank, I'm having difficulty caring whether they are killed off anyway.
There are plenty of daft moments in this film including the oh-my-goodness-something-bad-will-happen music while Dylan is on some climbing frames in a Park playground. Nancy being seemingly unaffected after running into motorway traffic and being hit by a car. One death involving the Freddy hand scratching at someone's crotch. Dylan being put into an oxygen tent (yes, because of schizophrenia, that's right, why do you ask?). But perhaps the most ridiculous element in the film (and this ties in with the dodgy hospital treatment) is any scene with the character of Dr. Christine Heffner. It doesn't seem to matter whether Dylan's character is suffering from schizophrenia or sleep deprivation, Dr. Heffner thinks it is to do with him watching scary movies. She also thinks that is a good enough reason to get the police involved and have Dylan put into foster care. Dr. Heffner is such a ridiculous caricature with absolutely no clear logic to anything she says that all pretense that anything the movie shows us is real life entirely evaporates.
I watched the remake early on because I wanted to get the worst film out of the way before I carried on with the series. In the Friday the 13th series I was so sad when I got to the end and found that I was finishing off the franchise with the worst film of the lot. Sadly, I'm in exactly that position all over again.
This is by far the worst film in the entire franchise. I can't recommend anyone watch more than the first 5 or 10 minutes before switching off because things simply don't get any better than that. The nearest thing we seem to have to plot development is on the one hand the attempts to connect Freddy's furnace with the oven in Hansel and Gretel. This actually involves lying to the audience about the ending of the fairytale, pretending that the children use the breadcrumbs to get home. In the fairytale the breadcrumbs are eaten by crows and it is up to another adult to find Hansel and Gretel in the woods. The rest of the plot development is pretty much one scene where Wes Craven tells us exactly what the plot is all in one go. Sure it's an intriguing idea but the rest of the film does little to expand on it. Revealing it all at once in a lecture from the director isn't exactly good filmmaking either.
"Freddy's Dead" would have been a better ending to the franchise than this. Perhaps the worst thing about this movie is the bits where it mocks the franchise. Wes Craven's premise for the movie that Freddy is a demon who is kept at bay when people remember the story is nice enough, but when Craven explains it he makes it all about his own career with the previous sequels being part of the problem. When Craven says to Heather that sometimes a story is "too watered down by people trying to make it easier to sell" that's a pretty clear attack on the franchise as a whole. Let's not forget that the idea of Freddy escaping the movie and entering the real world was one of Wes Craven's ideas that were rejected during the making of "Dream Warriors" and thank goodness for that.
Wes Craven's New Nightmare is not only a travesty, but a middle finger to the fans. Through this movie it is pretty clear that the success of this franchise is not down to Craven.
Ranking the franchise
I'm putting part 4 and the remake both in the top spot because while I felt the Remake worked best as a horror film, Part 4 was the one of the fun Freddy movies that appealed to me most.
1= - A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) (B+)
1= - A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010) (B+)
3 - A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) (B+)
4 - A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) (B-)
5 - A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) (D+)
6 - Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) (D-)
7 - A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989) (E+)
8 - Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994) (E-)
Briefly comparing the two franchises...
I'm still looking forward to "Freddy Vs Jason" where the two figures get to face each other head-to-head, however it's not the characters competing here but the franchises as a whole. There's an odd sort of balance between the two here since out of the seven Freddy movies I've seen I have enjoyed four of them, while out of the eleven Jason movies I've seen I have enjoyed just four and a half. (I count the first Friday the 13th film as just a half-like because it was only the final act that I really enjoyed.)
However, while I thought several Freddy movies were very good and felt the quality of the franchise was more consistent, I didn't really enjoy any of them as much as "Jason Lives" or "Jason Goes To Hell". These choices from the Friday the 13th franchise perhaps betray my fondness for horror comedy, but considering that Freddy is accused of being "funny Freddy" in most sequels you'd expect some of them to have a similar impact on me.
I'd also note, however, that while I might not think the Nightmare on Elm Street movies hit the same heights as a few of the Friday the 13th films, I don't think it hits such lows either. While I gave "New Nightmare" and the "Friday the 13th" remake similarly low scores and consider both to be very personal insults to their respective franchises, I still think that "Friday the 13th" is the more offensively awful of the two.
Friday the 13th has a wider spectrum of quality, including some absolute personal favourites, but A Nightmare On Elm Street has a more consistent level of quality. Overall that seems to put the two franchises on a similar level for me and I can see how the two figures ended up being matched up as a result. I just hope this final elusive entry in both series ends up living up to the hype!
Heya! Thanks to everyone who voted. With a total of 28 votes (with the opportunity for each person to vote twice) that means that at least 14 people voted on this poll. Finally, here are the results....
Seventh Place: Critters
With just a single vote, the movie series featuring the cuddly ravenous monsters from outer space take the lowest place in this poll.
Sixth Place: Leprechaun
The horror comedy series starring Warwick David of "Willow" (and various other stuff) fame scraped a total of three votes.
Fourth Place (Equal): Halloween + Phantasm
Halloween was a major populariser for the slasher genre with the initial movie in the series being recognised as one of John Carpenter's bigger hits. (A far bigger hit than "The Thing" which was originally panned upon its cinema release.) Phantasm is a bizarre mixture of zombies, aliens and a mysterious undertaker. Both these series slotted equally into fourth place with four votes each.
Second Place (Equal): The Omen + Child's Play
With just one more vote each, at five votes, these two movie series came equally into second place: The "Omen" series about the anti-christ being born on Earth to begin Armageddon. The "Child's Play" series about a doll inhabited by the soul of a viscious murderer.
But despite how close the running was, in the end first place featured a clear winner:
First Place: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre!
With just over a fifth of the total votes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was clearly the most popular choice. A glance at the imdb page for the director of the first two movies makes clear that this is a director of some great horror classics, yet I've not seen ANY of them. The ghost movie "Poltergeist", the vampire movie "Salem's Lot", the video nasty "Eaten Alive", and in terms of sci-fi there are two major titles with both the infamously daft "Lifeforce" (with Patrick Stewart) and a remake of the 50s alien invasion movie "Invaders From Mars". Also a number of Tobe Hooper's films star the legendary Robert Englund from the "Nightmare On Elm Street" series. As such, I'm going to make an effort to go through Tobe Hooper's films as well as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
If you look on Youtube for a documentary on "Masters of Horror" you'll see that the one about Tobe Hooper features John Landis (of "American Werewolf in London" fame) referring to "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" as "very funny". I tried to watch it that way, being very much a horror comedy fan, and certainly there is an over-the-top element running throughout the whole thing. However, this definitely isn't a horror comedy. The comment tells us more about John Landis' own twisted sense of humour than it does about the original "Texas Chain Saw Massacre" film. (The film very definitely spells "chain saw" as two words in the opening credits.)
I was pretty surprised by how much of the film I seemed to have seen already. The story is fairly simple and pretty major parts of the story have become iconic moments. As such, I'd seen fairly major points in the simple plot in clips along with hearing about some other rather major moments when people recounted horror movie elements that had a big impact on them.
As a bunch of college-age people sit in a van, featuring two couples and a relative in a wheelchair, we can see how this would have inspired the Friday the 13th films. In fact, the whiney geeky figure in the third Friday movie seems like he might possibly be somewhat basing his performance on that of the wheelchair-bound figure in this horror classic. However, as with pretty much all the actors, the wheelchair-bound character is performed very well and feels very believable. When he's feeling sorry for himself we can completely relate to him, partially because of a great performance and partially because of the way his part is written and portrayed. I wonder whether the decision to use a wheelchair-bound character in Friday the 13th Part II was also with this film in mind.
Having female characters who wear ridiculously little clothing so the camera can leer at them is another element featured here. I understand that this is a staple of low budget exploitation flicks in general. Still, the leering could easily have been worse. We don't get as much leering as in "Friday the 13th Part II" and certainly not the horrific levels of gratuitous misogyny found in "Friday the 13th The Final Chapter".
When things get really crazy, there's quite a bit of screaming in this film. In the "Friday the 13th" films there were occasions where screaming would get annoying or even boring and I was absolutely prepared for that to happen here. However, even though screaming sometimes occurs far more than seems entirely sensible, it always makes sense and the level of terror seems appropriate. A scene where a character is tied to a chair had a similar feel to the movie "The Loved Ones" (which I feel I really ought to try to finish some time), but Texas Chainsaw Massacre always works by building up the horror rather than simply making things explicit. A close-up on a victim's eyeball is one way that the director shows particular flair in showing the build-up of terror rather than going straight into the gore.
The Texas Chain Saw Masscre is not an easy film to watch, but it is made remarkably bearable for a squeamish viewer like myself by starting out fairly slowly, giving us a reasonable number of relateable characters surrounded by people who seem pretty genuine, making a decent build up to the horror rather than just bombarding the audience with it from the beginning, and by making things appropriately over-the-top that the audience can put some distance between themselves and the events on screen. I love it when horror uses over-the-top crazy concepts and perhaps John Landis isn't so off the mark if he means that you can laugh afterwards. However, this is a proper horror film and the atmosphere while you are watching is genuinely terrifying in a way that gets under your skin. Even as you recognise the sheer ridiculousness of a few elements, you are liable to be empathising with the protagonists too much to laugh.
Perhaps it's because of the age of the film, but there's something that seems almost arty about the film. There's not exactly a terribly complex plot, but the ideas are set up well, there's some great shots and the film is surprisingly imaginative. I don't know what all the imagery means, if it means anything at all, but I know that every part of this film was extremely effective. Looking at the year this was made, not only was this a very entertaining, engaging and imaginative film, as well as a very successful experiment in encouraging revulsion from the audience, but it was way ahead of its time in the way it approached the genre.
The rest of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series is as follows.
Apparently the second movie is funnier than the first, so as a horror comedy fan I'm interested to see what Tobe Hooper does with that. I'm a little apprehensive about the third film in the series, but am very interested in checking out this appropriately ridiculous early film from Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellwegger. I've seen a little bit from the remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and wasn't too impressed, but I feel I should give it a second chance for completions sake.
Full breakdown of the results:
1 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 21.43%
2= Child's Play 17.86%
2= The Omen 17.86%
4= Halloween 14.29%
4= Phantasm 14.29%
6 Leprechaun 10.71%
7 Critters 3.57%
I had been pretty excited to see this, but on the other hand I was a little worried by it. On the one hand it stars Eddie Marsan who I think is a brilliant and wonderfully versatile actor as well as Olivia Colman who I mainly know for comedy, but who had always seemed like a capable actress and had received accolades for her performance here. On the other hand, this is a film about domestic violence. In order to treat that subject properly it HAS to be harrowing and I don't really like my movies to be harrowing. I mainly look to movies for entertainment, albeit thought-provoking entertainment.
The solution to how to make a movie about domestic violence without making the whole thing a complete misery-fest is to bring in an outside character around which the plot will revolve. A technique is often to give us an outsider who we as the audience can follow, but in this film Peter Mullan plays a character who is similarly hard to relate to. The first thing we see this main character do is get angry and respond to that anger by kicking his dog to death. He clearly cares a great deal about the dog and he feels extremely sad at what he has done, but it's still pretty shocking and makes us realise this is someone we are going to have trouble empathising with. However, it also makes clear that this is a man who has a great deal of regret and the killing of his dog is just one more entry in the list.
He eventually ends up meeting Olivia Colman in the charity shop where she works. Colman is playing a woman who is very religious, but unbeknownst to Peter Mullan's character, is in an abusive relationship. As we'd expect from Peter Mullan's protagonist at this point, his reaction to Colman's religious charity worker is to find excuses to resent her. He accuses her of having a cushy life and of using religion as a crutch. There seems to be no reason why these two characters should come together, so the way the film gets them together is remarkably natural and real testament to Paddy Considine's directing skills (especially in his directorial debut).
Overall this is more of a character piece than anything else and the interactions of the main characters in pretty impressive. However, Peter Mullan's interactions with his neighbours puzzled me a little bit and there are a few slow moments when the film gets started. While the film is very gritty and grimy with grey being the most prominent colour for most of the film, the decision to base the film around an outsider to the domestic violence rather than making the domestic violence the centrepoint was highly appreciated. The way the topic is explored doesn't leave everything on the surface and I can say that there were some genuine surprises. However, in the end I didn't feel that the ending was as satisfying as it might have been - though I'm not sure that any ending was really going to be "satisfying" in a film like this, so with that in mind I think they made a pretty impressive effort.
I'd previously seen Gary Oldman's movie about his childhood experiences of domestic violence: "Nil By Mouth". I couldn't stand that film. It was extremely slow-paced, it seemed to revel in how grimy and horrible everything was and in the end it even seemed to expect us to forgive the abuser. Admittedly though, that forgiveness element wasn't as bad as in "East Is East" where we seemed to be expected to think domestic abuse was perfectly normal. :S
"Tyrannosaur" tackles domestic abuse in a way that makes it very clear just how awful it is, makes very clear the ways people in that scenario think, and by contrasting it with the past of a somewhat mysterious outsider figure we are able to see a wider picture rather than finding the horror of it all gets too claustrophobic. The acting is fantastic, the dialogue is brilliant, there's a real soul to this film and in the end I'm holding this back slightly from the "A+" score for a very simple and predictable reason.... the topic was too harrowing for me. I think if I gave this the highest score I'd be expressing some wish to watch it again and I simply don't want to do that. I'm really glad I saw it once and it was a great cinematic experience, but in the end this is not one that I'd recommend as a "must-see" to people even though I would wish to highly praise those who made it and would make it my first choice for those actively seeking a film with this subject-matter.
P.S. No it doesn't feature a Tyrannosaurus Rex and if you are still intrigued enough to find out why that is the title I suggest you watch the film.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Let me start this review by pointing out that I LOVED the books. I know plenty of people think they are overrated and heck I might not even deny that. I'm not exactly a big reader so there could be much better material out there of which I am unaware, but I absolutely loved the way that the books built up this protagonist who is both a victim and a hero. She is both simulataneously for the simple reason that she has learnt that the only person she can rely on to end her victimisation is herself. The storyline isn't even about her learning to trust others, but rather about the truth coming out and her needing to make use of those who'd consider themselves friends when things come to a head. Lisbeth Salander does not trust authority, so she uses her powerful intellect to find ways to do without it and sometimes that involves using brute force.
Of course, here I'm talking generally about the entire trilogy and this movie is just based on the first book. While I haven't liked recent David Fincher films like "The Social Network" or "Zodiac", I felt that this might turn out to be a return to form. I'd been warned off the Swedish version of this film because apparently the ending wasn't very well handled. The biggest challenge of this film was going to be presenting the inner life of the main character because she is someone who is always underestimated because she doesn't express herself, yet who is extremely intelligent and analytical. I felt that a visionary director would find ways to depict the inner life that we couldn't see. Turns out I was wrong.
There are many points in this film where I felt that Lisbeth Salander (played here by Rooney Mara) was not acting anything like she would in the book. Also the way the film displays these events gives us an extremely misleading view of her character. Lisbeth Salander is under the care of the state and has a guardian who is entrusted with managing her affairs, such as her money. The first we see of her guardian he collapses on the floor in a heart attack and the first clue in the movie as to who he was is when his replacement turns up. He tells Salander that he will be handling her money because that is what the role of the Guardian should be and points to a series of crimes that Salander has been convicted of as his justification. While the music during this scene is ominous the audience simply doesn't have the background knowledge to understand why this Guardian is a bad guy yet, nor why Salander has any right to challenge him. As such, when the next scene shows Salander going into a lift and screaming as the elevator doors close, she just seems like a spoilt brat who's had tv privileges taken away. The audience simply doesn't know that the main reason for her guardianship is because she refuses to speak or react when any figures try to do a pscyhological appraisal on her. In the book, the Guardian sees her in the meeting as being somewhat anti-social and uncooperative and takes that as a justification for his presumptions about her from the paperwork, as well as a sign that it will be easy to assert his power over her. As obnoxious as he is, he genuinely believes that Salander is mentally deficient and irrational and that her guardianship is fully justified. In the film, her guardianship seems more bizarre than ever since Salander comes off as highly intelligent and sensible in her responses and the guardian just comes off as a stubborn bureaucrat more than anything else.
I am now wondering whether Rooney Mara is actually a terribly good actress. She didn't have a big enough role in "The Social Network" for us to judge and I certainly didn't think her performance stood out in that. I've now seen "A Nightmare On Elm Street" where she is a little bit wooden and seems to be mostly carried along by her co-star Kyle Gallner (who was also quite impressive in "Red State"). Here she is playing a character who is mostly withdrawn and she's pretty good at doing the whole withdrawn thing. However, there just doesn't seem to be the level of subtlety that this role demands. Perhaps it's Fincher not directing this character the right way or even being realistic about the extent to which you can portray a character who doesn't make any of her feelings known, but I can't help but feel that her protrayal is SO flat that it might be due to her limitations as an actress.
I must note at this point that the books are a lot of fun and that this film is bleak and miserable from start to finish. The problem here, I feel, is that the most likeable characters aren't important enough to the plot. The book is pretty big and it takes about 200 pages before the plot really gets started. Before that time we are introduced to a number of important characters who won't have a lot to do until the next two books. Salander's boss Armansky who employs her as a private researcher digging up dirt for reports on people has an interesting relationship with her and in the book we told exactly how she came to be employed there. Unfortunately there's no opportunity to tell us this story and it wouldn't tie into the main plot easily so this important piece of background as well as this exploration of a good side-character is left out. Then there's Salander's guardian who was sensible enough to know that her guardianship was nonsense and just let her run her own affairs. He took a long time to get that kind of relationship with her and remains the only authority figure she respects. She only got the job with Armansky due to her old guardian's recommendation. So what representation does he get in the film? He has a heart attack. I think we also see Salander play chess with him as a desperate way to pull him into the story before the sequels, but we don't have any background as to who he is or why Salander trusts him. Basically any nice character seems to be removed from the script and as such the miserableness of the story becomes interminable. But there is one other clearly good character which the film spends a lot of time on: Blomkvist, played by Daniel Craig.
A lot of people have criticised the way that the lead male in the stories, the journalist Blomkvist, seems to be extremely appealing to women, however with Daniel Craig in the role this issue seems harder to justify. Daniel Craig is definitely not a spry figure in his twenties, but there's no doubting that plenty of women would find him sexually attractive. The criticism of the character has generally been that he represents the fantasies of the writer, but I always felt there was another reason. Blomkvist is involved in a consensual extra-marital relationship with his editor, which the husband knows about. He is also reasonably promiscuous to the extent that he has relationships outside of that affair which never really last. None of these elements are portrayed as character flaws, yet they could easily have been portrayed that way if looked at from a different perspective. Blomkvist's love life is a counter-point to the misogyny around him. He is not a womanizer any more than a woman who acted like him would be a slut - and he is consistent enough not to hold women to a different standard. In a story about misogyny, Blomkvist's perspective is vital.
Unfortunately Daniel Craig's first introduction to Salander in the film is extremely poorly-judged. In yet another way that the film misrepresents Salander's character, we see her go to a nightclub and pick up a girlfriend as a one night stand. Salander does have a lesbian relationship in the second book, but it is with a friend who she has known for a long time. Salander has trouble trusting people, so the idea that she would just sleep with someone who she had never met before seems highly unrealistic. The next morning after picking up a one night stand, Daniel Craig turns up at her apartment having received her address from Armansky. he barges in and, seeing that Salander has a girlfriend there, insists that she toss her out. Now, don't get me wrong. Blomkvist barges into her flat in the book too. He is a pushy journalist and he is reasonably angry with her for reasons I won't go into. However, when he insists that she chuck out her girlfriend, he has ceased to be the character from the book. He is now someone who disrespects women.
I understand that "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" was going to be tough film to make, but if you can't do it, don't do it. I'm not giving bonus points for ineffectual effort. This film is shot well, but overall it is not entertaining and it completely messes up both the characters and the themes of the original books on which it is based. If it did something different from the books that I could enjoy, that'd be okay. If it did something that was miserable, but was true to the books, that would be great. However, since this film fails on both counts, I'm really not impressed at all.