Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Law Abiding Citizen

By the looks of the trailer and TV spots, when it was running theatrically, I didn’t think Law Abiding Citizen was going to be that good of a flick, so I never bothered to check it out at that time.  Maybe it was the lack of promotion or that the trailers didn’t highlight the heart of this film, but I just wasn’t interested in it at all.

But not too long after this movie was released onto DVD and Blu-Ray, I decided to place it on my Netflix queue, leaving it resting for quite some time before I finally watched it.  It finally reached the top of the list, probably because I had forgotten to reorganize it to put other movies in front of it, and showed up in my mailbox.  Even after that, all I did was place it in front of my television, letting it sit there, while I watched other films I had in my collection or just flipping through the boob tube.  However, the day came when nothing was on TV and I didn’t feel like watching any of my DVD and Blu-Ray collection, so I grabbed the rental and popped it into my PS3.

So, what did I think about it?

I loved it.

With the star power of the two actors who lead this movie, Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler, and a pretty gripping drama featuring just the right amount of action and acts of vengeance, you get this movie.

The movie starts with Clyde Shelton (Butler) at home with his wife and daughter, tinkering with some electronics and having some light banter with his little girl.  His wife calls to their daughter as someone knocks at the door.  Clyde goes to the door and as soon as he opens it, two guys come in knocking him to the floor and binding him arms behind his back.  The bigger of the two pins Clyde down as he slowly stabs him in the abdomen.  He does the same to the wife and is about to start raping her all in front of Clyde.  Suddenly, the daughter walks in and is horrified to see what’s going on.  The two men are taken a back by her appearance, but the bigger of the two gets up and takes the girl out of the room, killing her off-screen.

Turns out, Clyde survives the ordeal with the two men apprehended and going to trial for the murders.  This is where we meet Nick Rice, a prosecuting attorney working with Clyde to make sure the men pay for their crimes.  But Nick informs Clyde that Clarence Darby (the man who did the killing) is prepared to testify against Rupert Ames (the accomplice) in order to get a lesser sentence, making sure Ames gets the death penalty.

Clyde is not happy with this deal and wants Nick to go all out, to try and prosecute both men accordingly.  But, as Nick informs Clyde, if they go for the prosecution that strongly, they may lose the case and both men walk.  Clyde doesn’t care and is sure that they can win the case with his testimony and thinks that the jury will be in their favor.  Nick, however, points out the sad truth about our judicial system and how defense attorneys use any and all tricks of the trade to eat prosecution witnesses alive.  Before Clyde can argue further, Nick informs him that he’s already made the deal, much to Clyde’s disappointment.

The trial goes forth as Nick had indicated, with Clarence Darby getting off the murder rap by testifying against Rupert Ames.  Outside the courtroom, Nick Rice is stopped by reporters and answers some questions as Darby walks up with his attorney, extending his hand for a handshake.  Nick, reluctantly, shakes Darby’s hand, either because of the reporters witnessing the scene or as a simple reflex, and looks off across the street as he does.  Standing across the street, watching the scene that had just unfolded, is Clyde Shelton, looking mortified and wounded.

Cut to ten years later, Nick Rice has clearly moved up in the world.  He has much better digs, very busy in his career, has a daughter who is a young accomplished cellist…he seems pretty content with his life.

The time has come for Rupert Ames to be executed and Nick goes to the viewing to witness it.  What should have been a peaceful death by lethal injection turns out to be a terrible display of a man being killed in a very torturous and excruciating way.  We find out shortly that this is the first in many vengeful acts committed by Clyde Shelton against the broken judicial system that failed him and his family.

As I watched this flick, clearly the best revenge was acted out against Clarence Darby.  You may have to turn your head away from the screen if you’re a little squeamish because he clearly gets his just desserts in that scene (and make sure to watch the unrated version for that part).  There’s clearly some mystery in this story as you begin to wonder who’s helping Shelton out when he’s incapable of acting out the punishment to the people he believes are responsible.

From the beginning of the film until the end, you’re set into a roller coaster ride of emotions.  Because you may find that you’ll be asking yourself who’s side should you be on.

Anyway, this flick is entertaining the whole way through, keeping you on the edge of your seat, wondering what’s going to happen next.  Some of you may think you’d do the same thing if you were in his shoes, some of you may think he went too far.  It’s definitely a movie to think about long after it’s over.

My final “bit” on Law Abiding Citizen?

I love this movie from start to finish and it definitely has the potential to be re-watched over and over…for me anyway.  All I’ll say, to end this, is that my favorite scene in this film is when Clyde Shelton is in court, acting as his own attorney.  I’m sure many of us would love to say what he said to the judge in that scene.  Priceless!

Give it a look-see…you won’t be disappointed.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tucker and Dale vs Evil

Not to judge a book by its cover, but there are so many movies out there—especially the ones that go straight to DVD—which display titles that just tell you that you’re going to be watching a stupid movie. Most of the time I skip them because I’m not one to punish myself with something that’s such a waste of time, wishing I hadn’t squandered two hours of my life with it. I usually go with my instincts on some of these titles, but there are a few, such as Tucker and Dale vs Evil, where I trust the given star rating on IMDb or Netflix and decide to give it a try.

Before watching it, I had heard about the movie through various movie podcasts and even Leonard Maltin gave it a good review—a rarity for a horror movie—so I started thinking this might be a pretty entertaining film. Seeing it as a feature recommendation on Netflix about a week ago, I clicked on it and waited for its arrival.

The movie starts as your typical and clichéd horror movie fanfare of a group of kids setting off to the woods for a weekend of camping and partying, all piled into an SUV as they head to their destination.  Most of the kids are just forgettable characters, but the ones of note are Chad (the guy who thinks he’s just too cool and can get any girl he wants) and Allison (obvious as the survivor girl from the start).

As they continue their drive, they come up on some old pickup and go around it. Soon, that same pickup is gaining on them and it starts to pass the kids. As they look over at the passing truck, they notice the guys inside of the cab are a couple of hillbillies just glaring at them, looking like bad news. The kids shine it on (after appearing a little frightened), making a few disparaging comments about the men, but continue their conversation on their trip, when suddenly one of the girls exclaimed that they forgot to bring the beer. Oh, that’s comedy! (sarcasm)

Down the road, the kids stop at a beat-up-looking service station/convenience store, not really paying attention to the same pickup parked right outside. We—the audience—notice it, but not the characters in the film, which I thought must’ve been a minor flaw in the film or the filmmakers just showing us how dumb the kids are...either way, it's forgiven. As some of the kids enter the store, we see one of the hillbillies at the counter talking to the cashier, complete with overalls and an over-the-top country bumpkin accent. As Allison looks through the aisles, she comes face-to-face with the other hillbilly from the pickup, startling her to leave the store.

As the kids get their beer and are packing it in their coolers, we get our real first introduction to Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine)—the previously mentioned hillbillies. It turns out that Tucker and Dale are a couple of nice guys heading out to their newly purchased summer home that they’re going to renovate. Dale—the burly and bearded of the two—actually is attracted to Allison. There’s a pretty funny exchange between Dale and the kids that solidify in their minds that the hillbillies are people they should stay away from.

Tucker and Dale get to their summer home and are excited to start renovating it, noticing that there’s not much to do, but clean and fix a few flaws here and there. It turns out that the kids are staying not too far from Tucker and Dale’s newly acquired summer home and shortly after nightfall, the fun begins.  As the kids are starting their weekend with a few beers by the fire, Chad tells them a story about a “Memorial Day Massacre” that happened some years back, about a group of hillbillies attacking some kids that were there for the weekend.  Of course, it unnerves the others, being in the dark woods in the middle of nowhere, so with that in their heads, it helps with what we have in store for a very entertaining movie.

Basically, this film is written well with some camp added to it, but it takes the typical horror movie formula and sort of turns it around. It’s lighthearted and funny—especially the exchanges between Tucker and Dale—but has a smattering of kills with gore effects throughout.

Essentially, the story is how Tucker and Dale are misunderstood to be a couple of evil-doers by the kids. One-by-one, the kids are accidentally killing themselves with the remaining peers thinking it’s Tucker and Dale who are doing the killing. It’s very funny at times with a lot of shocks and how damned unlucky those kids are.

Tucker and Dale vs Evil is on par with—and maybe a little more enjoyable than—Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead, probably because it really doesn’t deal with the supernatural or zombies but sort of parodies the slasher genre. I think one thing they did on purpose was to make you expect the film to feature nudity and not present it at all. I mean, come on! The one slutty girl, dressed in cut-off denim shorts and a low cut blouse, exposing her cleavage, and she never gets naked?! Some younger horror fans may be miffed about that.

Anyway, without further a do, here’s my final “bit” on Tucker and Dale vs Evil: Go rent this movie now. It is hilarious and entertaining and, in fact…you know what? Don’t bother renting it, just buy it. I’m going to look for it on Blu-Ray to add to my collection. It is a classic in the making!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Always feeling nostalgic, the other day I decided to go through Netflix to see if I could find some horror gems from the 1980s. Sometimes I get lucky and find something worth watching that contains some good acting with a nice evocative look of the decade in question. Like a few years back, when I decided to check out Chopping Mall for the first time, noticing a few familiar faces as well as seeing the famous Galleria Mall featured in famous movies like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Terminator 2. It was a campy and cheesy film, but it was fun to watch. If you decide to watch this treasure, a little warning…even though the title contains the word, “chopping,” it has no serial killer slicing or dicing the victims in this one.
Other times, I find a bomb that’s not even worth going 20 minutes into; I won’t even bother listing off the titles of those flicks.
With Alligator, however, I found quite an entertaining movie that never bored me throughout.

The story is simple enough, opening with a little girl watching a local stunt show, featuring some redneck messing with an alligator, never really doing anything but circling the critter. But as he circles one last time, he gets his foot stuck between a small log and some rock and falls in the water, having the alligator pounce on him. The gator bites him pretty good on the leg, but some fellow rednecks save him and pull him out of warm’s way. After the show, the little girl’s mom allows her to buy a baby alligator to take home and care for in a dry aquarium. The father gets angry when he finds out and flushes it down the toilet.

Years later, a shady pet store owner (played by the creepy Sydney Lassick) is selling dogs, including strays that he finds, to some genetic lab which is doing research on making cattle, and other types of animals used for food consumption, grow bigger. The “used” and deceased dogs are then disposed of, by the same shady pet store owner, in the city’s sewer system. After his latest disposal of some dogs, he becomes the victim of the alligator that was flushed years ago—now as big as a car.

Local police detective, David (played by Robert Forster), has been in charge of the latest discoveries of body parts found in the sewer system, thinking it’s the work of some serial killer. Later on, he takes a rookie cop to search around the sewers for any other evidence related to the body parts. The men see the gator emerge from the darkness and come after them, making them run for their lives. They find a passage way up to a manhole, but Detective David has trouble opening it, leaving the rookie’s legs exposed in the sewer tunnel, subsequently being attacked and torn apart by the giant alligator. Chief Clark (played by the great Michael V. Gazzo from The Godfather Part II), doesn’t believe him, thinking he must’ve been seeing things and advises him to take some time off. In fact, the whole department talks about him and makes light about it (leaving rubber alligators in his locker). He meets a reptile expert (Robin Riker), who happens to be the same girl that had the gator as a pet, ad they end up working together (with a romantic involvement—go figure), to find the creature and try to destroy it.

I had my reservations about seeing this flick, especially after seeing movies these days like Lake Placid, where CGI is used heavily yet accordingly, but I decided to give it a try after seeing a shot of the film in Terror in the Aisles (which was an extra on the recent Halloween II Blu-Ray release).

Being that Alligator was made in 1980, I knew we’d be seeing a lot of fake looking gator shots, moving mechanically and not realistically—either that or we wouldn’t see much of it at all. But although you do see some fake mechanical shots, it’s easily forgiven as a few scenes are shown of an alligator roaming through a miniature set looking very practical.

The whole story was taken seriously enough, with no campiness to it or anything that would make the whole premise seem ridiculous. It’s a straight forward tale of an alligator that was flushed down the toilet and lived in a sewer for years, living on the tested dogs that were full of genetic treatment, making it grow to the size of an automobile.

It’s implied, early on, that Detective David has a past that he relives day after day after losing a partner to which he feels responsible. Losing the rookie cop to the gator makes those feelings of guilt even stronger and he feels he needs to redeem himself by taking on the gator on his own.

The film is very entertaining and you’ll have a good time watching this and feeling some longing for the 1980s…I know I did.

My final “bit” on Alligator? The movie seemed like it was riding on the coattails of Jaws, but Jaws came out in 1975, so I thought they were a little late on that. But then I realized that Jaws 2 was released in 1979, so the filmmakers of this flick probably saw the potential with another “creature in the water” type of horror film and thought about another eating machine that lives in the water. The music composer of the film even went as far as to make a close copy of the impending doom music cue when the gator attacks its victims. Yes, this is a good film that’ll take you back to pre-CGI movies of yore, which used practical effects to scare you…and it still works.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Final Destination 5 – 3D

I’ve got to admit, I’ve never been a big fan of the Final Destination franchise throughout its run of films in the last eleven years. I saw the first one in theaters back in 2000, but the rest I’ve only seen on my television, renting them from Blockbuster or Netflix. Even the last one, touted as the last one in 3D, I saw two dimensionally on my TV. But I did regret not watching that one in the theater because the deaths seemed like it must’ve been awesome in 3D.

So, when Final Destination 5 was released, once again in 3D, I decided I’d take a chance to sit through some poor character development and superfluous plot just so I can get some overwhelming death scenes jumping out at me.

But this outing surprised me.

Sure, we get the same outline for a Final Destination movie: big giant-scaled premonition of a death scene, a small group of characters saved from said scene, one-by-one said characters are killed in elaborately styled demises, main character figures out how to cheat death, and the movie ends with a stinger. But Final Destination 5 seemed a tad more interesting and smarter than that.

First off, the movie begins with a remarkable credits sequence with 3D extravagance, getting the audience ready for what’s to come. It kind of slows down a bit to introduce us to some of the characters, as the film opens with a paper manufacturing company getting ready for an employee retreat. Every character is two-dimensional (pardon the pun), but they’re easy to remember as each one has a specific trait that differentiates them from the rest.

The main character, Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto), is a temp for this paper company, but his main job is an apprentice chef at some local restaurant. His girlfriend, Molly (Emma Bell), also a temp at the company, announces to him that morning of the retreat that things aren’t working out with them, that they should call it quits. There’s Nathan (Arlen Escarpeta), the young black manager of the production side of the company who is having trouble with one of the employees under him—probably angry that a young kid is his boss. Peter (Miles Fisher), the Tom Cruise look-a-like, is another employee on the office side of production. Candice (Ellen Wroe)—Peter’s girlfriend—is another temp with aspirations to become a gymnast. Olivia (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood) is the looker of the bunch, although her one flaw is that she wears prescription glasses. Dennis (David Koechner), the boss of the office, is the typical employer who can’t remember his employees’ names. Finally, there’s Isaac (P.J. Byrne), the womanizer who doesn’t look like a womanizer, but a nerd who you’d think wouldn’t be sure of himself and is put here for the comedy relief.

Okay, with all that said, here’s the synopsis…

Final Destination 5 opens with the employees of Presage Paper getting ready for their employee retreat. Traveling by bus, they come to a suspension bridge that’s under construction with crews cutting into the asphalt and jack hammering away. The wind picks up and along with all the cutting and hammering on the floor of the bridge, things start to go horribly wrong. Everyone tries to get out and off the bridge but, one by one, the main characters are seen falling to their demise or getting impaled or exploded or sheared…you get the point. Of course, Sam wakes up back in his bus seat and things look all too familiar. He exclaims that the bridge is going to collapse and is able to get some of his co-workers off the bridge and to safety.

Throughout the rest of the film, we see some incredible death scenes, a little over-the-top and kind of silly (most of these people explode into a bloody mess when they fall), but cringing nonetheless. But a new concept is brought to the table as the few remaining characters find out that if they kill someone when it’s their time to die, the person they kill takes their place and they’re skipped.

Without giving too much away, there’s actually a twist to this story. You may be able to figure it out if you watch the movie carefully, but you really need to pay attention and remember the story of the first film. Although I noticed the strange items and had the first movie in mind, I didn’t see the ending coming.

Overall, the film was fun and the 3D was pretty vivid, making me duck and wince at times as I reacted to what was going on in the film. It was good to see Tony Todd reprising his character of William Bludworth, but he didn’t do much and only had a few minutes of screen time. I can’t say enough of how intricately detailed the deaths come to be, making you think the characters were going to die one way, but bit it in a whole different way. I feel that the filmmakers really made up for how silly the franchise was getting, bringing it back to the level of the first film, making it believable and squirm-inducing.

My final “bit” on Final Destination 5? Definitely see this if you’re a fan of the genre, but don’t wait until it’s released on Blu-Ray and DVD. Although I’m not a big fan of 3D, this movie will lose a lot if seen in 2D. The film’s writing was pretty good, but genius when it comes to the ending—it makes part 2, 3 and 4 obsolete...sort of.

See it in 3D now…before it leaves the theaters! You’ll thank me for it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fright Night

Many films from the 1980s hold a special place in my heart—most of them horror movies—and I usually take great offense when they’re said to be remade or rebooted. And although I’m never happy when I hear these announcements, I still go to the local cinema to check them out. Sometimes they succeed (Friday the 13th)—sometimes they don’t (A Nightmare on Elm Street). But I still give them a chance.

Such is the case with Fright Night, starring Anton Yelchin as Charlie Brewster and Colin Farrell as the vampire next door, Jerry Dandrige. When I first heard that they were going into production with this film, I actually told myself that I would not go see this movie, that it was an insult to the awesome and campy 1985 original. But who am I kidding? I knew I’d go see it…I just knew I wouldn’t be happy about it.

I’ve been wrong before and I’ll admit I was wrong this time as well, because I really enjoyed this flick.

The film opens in some small suburb, seemingly isolated as we see the overhead shot of the whole neighborhood only consists of a few blocks surrounded by acres of open land. Throughout the streets we see that many of the houses are for sale, giving us a sense that this neighborhood is becoming abandoned and deserted.

Like the original film, Charlie lives with his mom (the beautiful Toni Collette), has his girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots), and his estranged friend Evil Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). The house next door to them has a new neighbor that has been doing a lot of work on the house, dumping a lot of broken concrete chunks in the dumpster out front, leaving Mrs. Brewster wondering what kind of work’s being done inside. Meanwhile, in school, kids have been missing during roll call.

The switch in this 2011 version is that Evil Ed is the one who voices his paranoia about the new neighbor, while Charlie thinks he’s crazy. He explains his suspicion to Charlie, telling him about the news reports of people missing and the kids that haven’t been showing up to school. He tells Charlie right out that he thinks his neighbor is a vampire. Of course, Charlie thinks Ed’s delusional, reading too much “Twilight,” and that the idea is ridiculous. Ed tells Charlie to make sure he doesn’t invite Jerry in the house, that a vampire can’t enter unless invited.

Later, Charlie gets home and is bringing in the garbage when Jerry suddenly shows up, startling him. He tells Charlie that he has a hot blonde coming over and had forgotten to replenish the beer in his fridge, asking if they had any. Charlie’s somewhat taken a back, seeing how insistent Jerry’s acting, and walks to his back door to go into the kitchen. As he’s at the refrigerator and getting a few beers together, he notices Jerry followed him to the back door but would not come inside. Charlie takes note that Jerry makes small talk about how nice the kitchen looks, seemingly wanting to come in to check it out, but doesn’t cross the threshold. Even as he hands the 6-pack of beer to him, he sees that Jerry won’t even let his fingers go past the door jamb.

Later, after Charlie realizes that Ed was right and taking pictures of some items in one of the rooms in Jerry’s house, he seeks out help from a local Las Vegas performer, and self-proclaimed vampire slayer, by the name of Peter Vincent. Charlie poses as a reporter for the local newspaper to get an interview with Vincent and asks him to help him kill Jerry. Of course, it doesn’t go well, as security kicks Charlie out. But he leaves his photos and Vincent finally looks at them later, recognizing a picture of an insignia that he had his own drawing of. He calls Charlie back to explain that he knows Jerry’s a vampire—one that killed his own parents—and tells him how to go about slaying the vampire.

First off, Colin Farrell was great as the smooth, good-looking neighbor, effortlessly winning over Charlie’s mom and his girlfriend. He had that likability to make you believe girls would easily fall for him, yet you can see his immorality lurking underneath his charming façade.

Anton Yelchin is just an incredible young actor and has done magnificent roles over the years. He embodied Michael Biehn’s Kyle Reese in Terminator Salvation and definitely stood out as Chekov in 2009’s Star Trek. He has a great future in film and I look forward to seeing him grow further as an actor.

Christopher Mintz-Plasse was basically playing the same character as he did in Superbad and Role Models and Kick-Ass…in other words, he was just being himself.

Toni Collette was wasted as Charlie’s mom, not lending any help to the movie except during one scene where she helps her son out of a confrontation with the vampire. She’s conveniently placed in the hospital for the third act of the movie and makes a little cameo at the end.

Now, the stand out of the movie—but at the same time, the one who didn’t get much screen time—was David Tennant as Peter Vincent. Instead of the late night “creature features” host, which was a popular shtick during the 70s and 80s, but may be lost to younger audiences today, the filmmakers went with a more modern approach and made Peter Vincent a Goth magician in Vegas. Tennant was definitely the life of the movie when he was present, but that was the problem…he wasn't present very often.

Overall, the film was enjoyable with some scares and feeling of dread (like when Charlie broke into Jerry’s house), a lot of lighthearted moments, and just an interesting flick to sit through.

My final “bit” on Fright Night? The story was more or less the same one we’d gotten 26 years ago with some modern spins on it and not too much added after that. As a fan of the original, I didn’t feel that there were many surprises and that it played out as it ended the way I thought it would. Aside from that, it was well acted by all, the dialogue and conversations between the characters were believable, never over-the-top. I opted for the 12:45 pm 3D showing in my town which left me by myself in the theater to watch this flick completely alone. Not much was added to make the 3D viewing worthwhile, so I’d advise you all to just go with the less expensive 2D option. I can’t say it enough that 3D is a gimmick and it really has over-stayed its welcome. Like Harold said in the A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas trailer, it has already jumped the shark. But, anyway, Fright Night is worth a look and I think most of today’s younger audience will enjoy this.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Blob (1988)

In my opinion, every horror movie needs four things to make it memorable as well as give it a cult status:

One, the story should always be set in the fall, between the months of September and November. That way, it gives it the feel that it’s set on or near Halloween, especially when you see the characters wearing clothing adequate for the fall.
Two, around 75% of the film should contain scenes at night. The dark is always foreboding and spooky, so to have settings filmed during the day is just a way to take the audience out of the movie, as well as the scare out of it. Everyone, at some level, is afraid of the dark.

Three, the setting must be a small town where everybody knows each other. It always helps when the fictional town features local farmers or cowboy types, or any type of character who’d seem to be not from the big city. Throw in a bunch of kids with letterman jackets and you have yourself a great start.

And four, there must be a well-known main character—someone who’s either very well-liked or looked down upon like some dreg of society. The latter character always makes for a better and entertaining part of the story.

With those points made, I’ve got to say that 1988’s The Blob has all those details I’ve noted: it’s mentioned during the film that it’s October; most of the movie was filmed at night; it’s an obvious small town; and everybody knows the main bad boy character.

The Blob was one of the 80s’ more quiet and lesser-known horror movies, which was a remake of 1958’s film of the same name. The original had a clean-cut Steve McQueen (as Steven McQueen in the credits) and was a pretty cool flick of the 50s’ creature features.

Here, in the 1988 version, it opens with the local high school football game, introducing us to the football star, Paul Taylor (Donovan Leitch), and the popular cheerleader, Meg Penny (Shawnee Smith). Paul gets tackled at the refreshment table and Meg runs over to see if he’s okay. Right before he passes out, he asks Meg out on a date that night.

We’re then introduced to bad boy, Brian Flagg (played by Kevin Dillon—Matt’s younger brother), as he has some motorcycle trouble while trying to jump a ruined bridge in the nearby woods. It’s clear from the start, as he ventures into town to borrow some tools to fix his bike, that he’s not very well-liked within the town, especially by the law.

The story follows the same path as the 1958 version as a homeless man who lives in the woods witnesses a meteorite that falls to Earth that night. He goes to investigate, finding the meteorite as some substance moves around inside of it, grabs a stick and pokes at the goop. It sticks to the end of it but the slime suddenly moves and covers the old man’s hand, leaving him screaming in pain.

The way these characters come together is that the man runs into Flagg in the woods, trying to cut his hand off with a hatchet, but Flagg stops him from doing further damage. The man runs off as Flagg gives chase, trying to help him. Cut to Paul and Meg driving on their date, the old man runs into the road, getting hit by the car. Paul helps him into the car to take him to the hospital and demands Flagg to come with. From there, that’s when all hell breaks loose as they inadvertently bring the blob into town.

Like I mentioned, this film, as minutely known as it was back then, has the necessary canon needed for a great horror movie. Seeing that this was filmed during the 80s—and it shows—makes it very nostalgic for me to watch. There’s even a touch of Hitchcock’s Psycho in the story as a character you expect to be a hero throughout the film dies within the first act.

As much as I’m against remakes nowadays, I feel that this one was justified, as the first one was made 30 years prior. But, really, when thought about, the film is just about the same as the 1958 version, just modernized and given a twist toward the end that I found rather interesting. Still, I have a love for the horror movies of the 1980s that I really can’t explain. So watching this movie the other day brought back great memories of going to the local video rental store to rent VHS tapes to bring home.

If you can get over Kevin Dillon’s super-mullet and Shawnee Smith’s densely hair sprayed ‘do, then you’ll love this flick. For a B-movie, the acting is pretty good and believable, minus the kids who sneak out to watch the latest slasher movie and the dude that sits behind them, but everybody else moves the story along well enough.

The special effects were good for its time, seemingly using miniatures and rear projection quite a bit. Quite a few kill scenes were scary and suspenseful, never giving you the feeling that it was goofy or implausible. Two scenes that stood out were the hospital scene and the phone booth scene—those were fantastic and cringing.

The pace of the movie was great with no down time. We get to know the main characters, the blob comes down in the meteor, and the shit hits the fan.

One thing to note, and without giving away the ending, it was plain to see that the filmmakers’ intention was to set up a sequel for this film. The end is purposely left open for a sequel, there’s no doubt about it. I’m guessing the less-than-stellar box office returns and the critical panning at the time quashed that idea. Too bad, though, because there could’ve been some potential stories writers might’ve come up with.

I don’t know if this will ever get a Blu-Ray release, but the DVD I own looks pretty good and it is in widescreen. But it’d be nice if we could get a behind-the-scenes featurette or some interviews, maybe a commentary track.

My final “bit” about The Blob is that you should go look for this DVD in your local rental shop or Netflix and rent it. Better yet, if you’re a fan of 1980s’ horror films, this is a must to own.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Incredible Hulk


Growing up, my childhood superhero was, and still is, Marvel Comic’s Spider-Man. But a close second was always the Hulk.

Back in the late 70s, the television show was a big hit, starring Bill Bixby as David Banner (why they changed the name to David instead of Bruce, I’ll never understand) and Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk. It was pretty true to the comics on how Banner was inundated with gamma rays, causing him to turn into the Hulk when angered. I even bought into how they cast a body builder to be painted green and have him run around roaring at everybody in slow motion. Looking back at it now, it does look a little ridiculous, especially the TV films (Trial and Death) they televised in the early 80s.

In 2003, I was very excited when Hulk came out. It was probably the last time I went to a late night showing of a movie (I think I went to a 10 pm showing) and I really liked the film. Ang Lee gave the film an artsy feel to it, but I thought it was very well done. To me, the ending left you wanting more, even though the film went on ten minutes too long. I waited a few years for a sequel, but was disappointed when I heard another film would be made, but as a reboot.

Reboot (sigh).

Yes, the keyword around Hollywood that almost guarantees a studio’s greenlight of a production is “reboot.”

But this was different as the new film would be tied into the new Marvel Studios universe of films to intersect each other, starting with Iron Man. So, I accepted this reboot of my second favorite superhero as The Incredible Hulk started production.

The film opens with a quick montage of how it all happens, so right away everything was erased from the first film as it’s solely gamma rays that made Bruce Banner what he is. It’s a pretty cool introduction as it follows the old 70s television show more than the comics. Throughout the opening assortment of scenes, we see newspaper articles and schematics which establish Stark Industries as being involved somehow.

After the opening credits, we see that Banner is in hiding down in Brazil and working in a soda bottling factory as he's working with a "Mr. Blue" via computer to try and find a cure for his Hulk-ness. Of course, we have the typical co-worker thugs that give him a hard time, which they’ll come into play a little later in the film. Also, they’re some funny moments as Banner tries to speak Portuguese.

Before you know it, the military finds out where he’s at and makes plans to move in to try to capture Banner. Before heading out, General Ross recruits a military bad-ass named Emil Blonsky (played by Tim Roth) to lead the team into Banner’s hideout.

As expected, Banner turns into the Hulk and takes off leaving Blonsky to ask what the heck was that thing, to which Ross explains everything to him. Blonsky wants another try at Banner and Ross introduces him to a program that has been closed since World War II: the Super Soldier Program—pretty exciting for us comic book buffs who know this is a direct correlation to Captain America. Blonsky takes part and gets injected with the Super Soldier serum and waits for his chance to get another shot at the Hulk.

I don’t want to give too much away, but all this leads to a pretty awesome showdown between the Hulk and Abomination in, what appears to be, New York. The scene was actually filmed in Toronto, Canada, but facades were built to make it look like New York.

As much as I liked the first film, I felt that Eric Bana (as Banner) played the part a little dry and boring. So casting Edward Norton, I thought, was a good choice. We all know the Hulk isn’t going to be on screen the whole time, so his alter ego needs to be an interesting character and Norton gives the movie that extra appeal that the first movie lacked.
Once again, in my opinion, the love story part of the film didn’t work. As with the first film, there didn’t seem to be good chemistry between Liv Tyler (as Betty Ross) and Norton—maybe a smidge more than what we saw between Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly, but not much. Tyler and Norton seemed a little mismatched and it showed in the film.

William Hurt as General Ross was a good choice, because he seemed more like a villain in this rendition than Sam Elliot did in the first film. Hurt showed the desperation he had to capture the Hulk a lot more and how he was solely responsible for his actions, bad and worse.

Tim Roth did fine as Blonsky, as I’ve always felt he is always on top of his game when he plays a villain.

Now, the look of the Hulk was great, a little more realistic than the last version we saw on the big screen. But the problem I have with the look of him was that it didn’t match Edward Norton’s features. In the first movie, you could recognize a little of Eric Bana in the appearance of the Hulk (as a matter of fact, it was said in an interview with the computer animators that they mixed Bana's features with Jennifer Connelly's as well as Ang Lee's to make the Hulk's face). In this one, the Hulk and Norton look nothing alike. That can be considered nitpicking, but I think it brings a little believability to the movie. For instance, Norton’s hair is kept pretty short and doesn’t move around too much; the Hulk’s hair is sort of moppy and a little longer. And let’s face it, Norton’s nose is kind of big, yet the Hulk’s nose is a little smaller. It just seems like the filmmakers and studio had the Hulk designed before they cast Norton in the part.

But anyway, don’t get me wrong, this movie is pretty awesome and I think most Hulk fans will be impressed and blown away. Instead of the TV show and previous movie where all we hear are grunts and roars from the monster, in The Incredible Hulk, we hear him speak a few lines here and there.

A cool piece of trivia: the pizzeria’s owner, Stanley, is Paul Soles. You may not recognize him or his now-gruff voice, but he has done a few famous cartoon voices over the years. He was Hermey the Elf from “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” Bruce Banner from the 1966 cartoon run of “Hulk,” Happy Hogan of the 1966 “Iron Man” cartoon, and none other than Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the 1967 cartoon series. I thought that was a nice cameo they gave him as respect for his legacy. Let’s not forget Stan Lee in his usual cameo, this time chugging the soda that was tainted with Banner’s blood.

Anyway, my final “bit”?

Overall, the film works, regardless of my minor criticisms, and it was smart of the filmmakers to give Hulk a worthy adversary straight out of the comic book pages instead of just have him constantly running from General Ross and the military. The movie is enjoyable and you can’t help but find yourself rooting for the Hulk each and every time he appears. A very nice touch was including the musical cues from the TV show...a very haunting melody that fits in the film. I can not wait for Hulk's manifestation in the Avengers movie with Mark Ruffalo taking over as Banner. With the major accomplishments in CGI and motion-capture technology, it should be a major improvement after what we saw in Avatar (as terrible as it was) and the awesome spectacle of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. We’ve got less than a year to go and I hope it lives up to the hype we’re hearing. The Incredible Hulk is a SMASHing movie.  Yes...I said it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Apes will rise!

You know, when this film first made news, with the announcement of it being produced, I thought it was kind of strange. There hadn’t been any talk of it, so the announcement caught me off guard. I’m probably one of the very few who enjoyed Tim Burton’s film, the remake of the 1968 film, and I thought they should’ve made a sequel to it. I mean, come on, how did the apes take over Earth? How did Thade get out of that control room and get to Earth in the 1800s? Did he figure out how to open the door and hijack a jet-pod? I hoped for a while, but that hope died down when it was clear that no sequel, from Burton or any other director, would be made.

So, I was pretty excited when they announced the production of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. With the exception of James Franco, each cast addition made me more and more excited.

No offense to Franco, but when they proclaimed that he was going to play a scientist who is working on a cure for Alzheimer’s disease…basically, they lost me at ‘scientist.’ At that point, I just saw him as Harry Osborn from the Spider-Man films or Saul from Pineapple Express. So ‘scientist’ kind of scared me. However, after seeing his performance in 127 Hours, I had hope.

The one cast addition that had me locked into this film was the announcement of Andy Serkis. You may know him as the man who brought Gollum to life in the Lord of the Rings trilogy or for bringing the giant ape to life in King Kong. Serkis has actually played bit parts in some movies like The Prestige and a little known horror flick called The Cottage, but it’s clear that he’ll be forever known as the motion-capture go-to-guy. With already a bunch of trailers and clips on-line regarding this film, there was a marvelous featurette that showed how they filmed the motion-capture scenes involving the apes. Many people have mentioned in the past, and are already talking about it for this film, that Serkis should win an Oscar for his performances. I agree.

So, without further ado, let’s get into Rise of the Planet of the Apes, shall we?

The film opens with poachers on the hunt to trap chimpanzees in their habitat. A sad sight to see, but it shows us the realistic side to how these chimps come to be in experimental labs for testing. The film, then, moves to Gen-Sys, the facility where Will Rodman (James Franco) is working on the latest cure for Alzheimer’s disease called the ALZ-112. As he’s setting up a presentation with the board, the handlers try to get a chimpanzee—treated with the new cure and showing increased high intelligence—ready for the demonstration. The chimp, however, shows signs of aggression and attacks the handlers when they try to get her out of her quarters. She goes on a rampage and is shot dead by security right when she jumps into the boardroom and in front of all the members.

The ALZ-112 appears to be a failure as the CEO of Gen-Sys orders the handlers to destroy all the test chimps, citing their exposure to the ALZ-112 has them contaminated. As it turns out, after all the test chimps have been put down, the reason the female chimp went on her rampage was because she had given birth and was protecting her young.

Rodman decides to take the baby chimp home and take care of it temporarily. As Will comes home, we see his father is really stricken by Alzheimer’s as he, an accomplished musician (we see the many certificates framed on the wall), has a tough time playing a simple song on the piano. When Will shows the baby chimp to his father, he sees that the chimp brings something out, seemingly helping his spirits. The chimp, named by Will’s father as Caesar, ends up staying with them and even gets his own room up in the attic. But, without giving too much away, things go bad as Caesar is court ordered to be placed in an ape sanctuary where an ape upheaval will soon start.

There were so many things that I loved about this movie. The movements of the apes—especially Caesar’s—were just enough to show us what they were thinking and feeling. At times, it was very heartfelt as we saw how much Caesar loves Will and Charles Rodman. Other times, you felt Caesar’s pain, like when he’s left at the ape sanctuary. The messages were loud and clear regarding the testing of animals and how cruel they can be treated at these labs.

One thing that hit home for me about the story is the subplot about how Will Rodman is driven to find the Alzheimer’s cure. As I watched John Lithgow play his ill father, suffering from the disease, it reminded me of what I went through with my mother. I can definitely relate to Franco’s character throughout this movie and it really moved me.

Again, I’m surprised that a movie of this caliber wasn’t forced to be filmed in 3D by the studio. Although I’m not a fan of 3D and feel it’s just a gimmick running its course (getting old, if you ask me), the visuals that you see in this film would’ve been perfect for it: Caesar climbing the giant trees in the Muir Woods, the apes swinging above and below the Golden Gate Bridge, the make-shift spears and manhole covers thrown…this seemed like total 3D fodder to me. But I guess Rupert Wyatt didn’t want to go the James Cameron route and wanted to get people in the theater to see the movie’s story and not the movie’s 3D.

Even though the acting is good from the cast, it’s the performances from the apes that you’ll be paying attention to—especially Andy Serkis’s Caesar.

Throughout the whole film, I had nothing negative to say or think about. The whole flick is believable and made me think about it long after leaving the theater. But if there’s one thing that I can nitpick about is at the very end. I don’t want to say or give away too much, but I felt myself about to say, out loud, “Oh, come on.” However, later on, it made me think a bit more, so I’m still pondering on it. Your thoughts?

Anyway…my final bit?

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in my opinion, is the best film of 2011. Unless Fright Night kicks ass, Final Destination 5 pulls out an Oscar-worthy performance, The Thing prequel or Real Steel blows me away, my money’s on Apes as my favorite of 2011.

See it!

CaptainAmerica: The First Avenger

The title says it all, the one movie leading up to what can possibly be the single most greatest comic book movie ever! There’s a lot riding on Josh Whedon’s superhero assembly next year, what with all the great origin movies coming out to lead up to The Avengers. And there’s no turning back now!  Captain America: The First Avenger’s title character is the leader and heart of The Avengers, so to bring him in now is the final step in setting up the ultimate movie next year.
But, again, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Captain America is a comic book character I didn’t follow, but was always interested in when they tried to bring him to life on screen. He was first brought to the screen in the 40s in serials, then they tried in the late 70s when they cast Reb Brown running around in a motorcycle helmet and doing nothing with the shield. But in 1990, they almost had it right with a good-looking costume and a nice make-up job to depict Scott Paulin as the Red Skull. However, the movie was kind of boring and had the typical dialogue you hear in 1990s movies that will make you laugh today.

Yes, we knew it was coming, since we caught a glimpse of the shield in the first Iron Man film and a deleted scene from The Incredible Hulk supposedly showed a body frozen in the ice that may have been Mr. Steve Rogers himself. So all us comic book geek brethren waited with baited breath as the release date drew near.

The only news I was concerned with when keeping track of the production news was when they announced Joe Johnston was directing it and that Chris Evans was cast as Steve Rogers, aka Captain America.

Johnston was a worry because he had some downers, in my opinion, under his belt. He directed Jurassic Park III and, most recently, The Wolfman. I enjoyed both of those movies, but for the upcoming Avengers film, all these inaugural films have to be stellar in the box office to be sure of the beginning ensemble extravaganza. However, he did direct The Rockateer a while back, which captured the feel of the era, so I felt there was some hope.

Evans concerned me because of how he constantly made quips and jokes in every movie I’d seen him in thus far. But I held faith and heard in an interview that he was going to take the character in a serious path, so I thought it might work with him in the lead.

So a few weeks ago, I went to the local cinema complex and sat down to watch Captain America: The First Avenger.

I loved it.

The origin truly showed how much love this individual had for his country and his drive to join the military as he went to every recruitment office he could venture to, seeing if there was one that would accept his weak, frail body.

It wasn’t until he went with his friend, Bucky—already in the army and about to head off to fight the Nazis—at the Stark Expo (where we see where Tony Stark gets his eccentric personality as Dominic Cooper portrays Howard Stark, Tony’s father, perfectly) and Steve decides to try to enlist again at the recruitment station inside the expo. Bucky tells him it won’t work and tries to get Steve to come with him with a couple of girls to go dancing and forget about joining. Steve tells him how important it is for him to join, that he wants to be over in Germany to fight along with all the other soldiers who are giving their lives for him and his country. He tells Bucky that he feels he owes that much and wants to do his part. This is where we first see Stanley Tucci as Dr. Erskine, overhearing the conversation intently. Bucky doesn’t talk Steve out of trying to enlist and says goodbye to Steve as he has to deploy the following day. Next, Steve is going through his rigmarole of trying to enlist and Erskine intervenes, gettingRogers accepted. He gets Steve to take part in an experiment and a Super Soldier is born.

The beginning of the film is quite an origin story, taking a while to get to Captain America getting in to fight in the war, but quite awe-inspiring as the story gets there. The introduction of Howard Stark, Colonel Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and other familiar characters from CaptainAmerica’s universe keeps the film interesting. We’re also introduced to Johann Schmidt (the Red Skull) and how Thor’s world is intertwined there, which is pretty awesome. The start of the movie will leave you wondering how the heck they were able to make Chris Evans look like a little runt, but you forget about it quickly as the story progresses. The cinematography captures the feel of the era just like The Rockateer did and you really feel like this took place in the 40s. Overall, Joe Johnston did a great job in the director’s

And, of course, the shield was pretty awesome and used perfectly. It wasn’t something that Cap carried around to shield him from weapons, but used as a weapon itself as he sliced it through the air boomeranging and ricocheting off walls—and villains—back into Cap’s hands.

Ofcourse, no spoilers here, but stick around after the credits for an added scene, which leads to a nice surprise afterwards.

My final “bit” on Captain America: The First Avenger? Chris Evans did a wonderful job, putting on the straight face and showcasing his talent to become a leading man who was believable in every scene. He made me wish I’d joined the military when I was younger and made me love my country even more than I already had. The film was a great patriotic film and it’s a shame they didn’t release it during the Fourth of July weekend. It would’ve been a perfect film for that time. Along with the two Iron Man films and Thor, this film will definitely take a high space in my DVD and Blu-Ray collection.

Monday, August 8, 2011


Marvel Studios, once again, marches on triumphantly, getting closer to the awesomeness that will be The Avengers (coming out in the summer of 2012) as they released Thor last May.
Marvel sure has surpassed DC Comics in the last decade with great comic book adaptations, but it’s this new trek that we take towards the ultimate superhero movie, The Avengers, that is going to take the genre above and beyond anything ever filmed.  Unless the super ensemble totally flops, we’re probably going to see DC Comics follow, with Warner Bros., finally bringing their own counterparts in The Justice League come to life.

But enough about the upcoming and possible films of the future, let’s talk about Thor.

Chris Hemsworth plays the title character, the God of Thunder, Thor, Anthony Hopkins plays his father, Odin, and Tom Hiddleston plays his brother, Loki. After seeing Thor on Earth, as Jane Foster (played by Natalie Portman) and two other scientists find him during a strange storm episode, the story flashes back to see Thor and Loki as children and how their father, Odin, seemingly favored Thor over Loki. The story goes forward as we see Thor, as an adult, about to be crowned king to take over Asgard from his father, Odin, the current king. Thor appears very arrogant and pompous, almost with a celebrity status as he smiles and winks to the crowd while walking up to accept the crown. Alarms go off and interrupt the ceremony as intruders have broke into the kingdom to try and steal a power relic. It’s found out that the intruders were Frost Giants and Thor becomes furious, wanting to retaliate. Odin, however, forbids Thor’s desired revenge and wants to keep the peace. But the warrior in Thor does not accept that and goes against his father’s ruling as he takes his warrior companions, along with Loki, to the Frost Giants planet to seek out revenge. Odin finds out, intervenes during the battle and brings Thor back to deal out his punishment, which is to be banished to Earth. He takes Thor’s mighty hammer, his Mjollnir, and casts it away through an open portal. Thor is stripped of his armor and is cast away through it as well.

The story picks up back on Earth, as we see what follows when Jane Foster ran into Thor at the beginning of the film.

The story is no great epic, but has an awesome feel to it as we see Thor learn to leave his arrogance behind and stand for something. Because, as Odin speaks before casting out Thor’s Mjollnir, only one who is worthy can wield the mighty weapon. And, as we saw at the end of the credits in Iron Man 2, that weapon landed and was lodged in the middle of the desert, no one being able to lift it from its place in the sand.

In Thor, we start off seeing a self-aware god and see how he becomes a noble hero.
Hemsworth definitely plays the part well, as does Hiddleston playing Loki. But Anthony Hopkins commands the screen with his portrayal of Odin. It takes me back to the rumor a few years back of how he was approached to play Jor-El in Superman Returns.  If he brought out this type of performance as Superman's birth father, it might've saved that film.  And although there was a spark of romance between Hemsworth and Portman, for me the chemistry wasn’t there between them; but they had some good scenes together.  The special effects were awesome and the spectacular landscapes and buildings of Asgard were stunning.
I was never really a fan of the comic book character, so I went in not expecting too much. The correlation to The Avengers kind of boggles me and I’m wondering how they’re going to bring a god into this group of human heroes.  But I guess we’ll have to wait until next summer to see how that goes. I’m really looking forward to see the Hulk on the big screen again and think that Mark Ruffalo will make a great Bruce Banner.  It’s such a shame that other characters can’t be added in to the mix as well, like Spidey or the X-Men, or maybe the Fantastic Four…

Anyway, my final “bit” on Thor is go watch it if it’s still in theaters…otherwise, rent it or buy it when it comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Scream 4

Well, well, well…Scream 4, huh?  Or is it SCRE4M?  Anyway…I never thought it would happen.  As ridiculous as the original trilogy was (and when I say ridiculous, I’m referring to parts 2 and 3), I thought it went full circle and concluded as a three-part tale back when Scream 3 finished it in 2000.

However, when it was first talked about, publicly, that another sequel (actually, another trilogy) was in the works, I was skeptical and didn’t think much of it.  I thought that’s all it was—talk.  But when it was announced that some of the original cast members were signed on for it, including Wes Craven, it pricked up my ears.  When a release date was announced, I paid full attention.  Finally, when trailers started popping up, I became very interested.

With some of the original cast coming back—the ones whose characters were still alive and not killed off (there was a rumor that Jamie Kennedy's character of Randy was going to make a cameo)—I figured the magic would appear and the cast would come back to their characters like slipping into a comfortable pair of sneakers.  And that’s what gave the original movie, in 1996, the magic it had: the cast.  Neve Campbell, Rose McGowan, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Jamie Kennedy, Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard, and many more, all had great chemistry together.

But, of course, with my optimism came my skepticism.
Suddenly, the cast announcements kept coming, stating that a lot of newcomers were joining the troupe—newcomers to the franchise, but well known faces in other teeny bopper flicks, making me think that this new Scream movie was turning into a Twilight-esque nightmare.  Even more cringing, was the thought that the only reason Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courteney Cox were coming back was just to be killed off to make room for all these newbies.
All that aside, the weekend finally showed up and Scream 4 arrived at my local theater.  I waited a few days, of course—since there are always idiots who show up opening day to ruin the movie with incessant talking and remarks—until Sunday and took a drive to watch the flick.

Without giving too much away (and definitely no spoilers here), the opening movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie gimmick seemed like a bad omen on what was to come.  But I remained optimistic and watched, nevertheless.

Now, the story itself seemed good.  As they showcased in the trailers, there are updated rules—not really new ones, but changed a bit.  But these rules were stated by the new faces of the cast, not the originals.  Also, I really liked the message about how Hollywood is just regurgitating stories with remakes and reboots constantly.  Overall, you’re kept in your seat, waiting, to find out who the killer is.  But that’s about it.

What’s bad about this movie is the size of the “new” cast, because it was a little too much.  It wasn’t that you couldn’t keep track of all of them, but there were just too many.  Maybe it was a way to keep everybody guessing who the killer was.  Maybe it was a message about how off-putting it is to see new faces in a rebooted franchise.  Because it seemed like they did it deliberately: Sidney’s cousin (Sidney), the suspicious-looking boyfriend (Billy), the talkative friend (Tatum), the film geeks (Randy), a couple of inapt deputies (Dewey), and so on.  I don’t know if it was a bad thing or a good thing, or if it was a message from Wes Craven—especially since he had one of his previous masterpieces terribly remade last year (A Nightmare on Elm Street), but it was there.

I’ll just end this with saying that, like most other reviewers, the last ten to fifteen minutes of the film are the most critical and satisfying to watch.  But that’s not saying much.  The reveal is a little predictable, but the motives for the killer are ridiculous.  After watching My Soul to Take a while back, I was hoping that Craven would’ve made up for it with Scream 4.  He did…a little…but not much.

My final “bit” on Scream 4?  I’d wait for it to come out on DVD/Blu-Ray to rent it.  A die hard Scream fan, like me, may buy it to add to their movie collection, but I’m a completist and I can’t help it.  One other thing…I’m surprised as hell that they didn’t release this in 3-D.  With the latest craze (that’s sure to die down, leaving everybody with expensive TVs and glasses that’ll end up in the Beta, 8-track, laser disc and HD DVD wayside), I’m shocked that the studio didn’t insist on it.  But, maybe the Weinsteins are realizing that you need to put story ahead of visual gimmicks and know that there are quite a few film fans who are smarter than wanting to sit down and watch crap like Avatar.  I'm sure Craven and the studio learned their lesson with My Soul to Take.

Monday, February 14, 2011

I Spit on Your Grave

A little over thirty years ago in 1978, a little known movie, I Spit on Your Grave, was made and received cult status over the years as a feminist revenge movie. Growing up, as I started loving horror movies, I had always seen this film in the shelves of local video rental shops. I never bothered renting it, not because I had no intention, but because I simply overlooked it.

Five or six years ago, I finally placed it in my Netflix queue and moved it to the top to have it shipped to me a few days later.

I popped it in and watched it…horrified.

Firstly, the movie played out like some old pornography show, especially seeing how the actors spoke and the way they dressed gave it that air. But seeing that this was a 70s movie, I understood.

I’ll explain the movie like Roger Ebert put it: a writer rents a cabin so that she can write her new novel in peace, but as she’s sunbathing one day, four local men take her away to rape and beat her multiple times. She’s left alone at her cabin afterwards to recuperate and goes back to the men to take her revenge.

Watching that old film was tough, I couldn’t believe some of the things that went on and how stupid some of the things played out, like how she brought one of the men back to the cabin to seduce him. Did he really think she was into him after he beat ad raped her days before? Better yet, how could she bring herself to seduce him?

Yet, it was the 1970s and only a few years before, Wes Craven directed the catchy-titled The Last House on the Left, which had a similar theme as I Spit on Your Grave. So plot holes such as those would go unnoticed.

When I heard that I Spit on Your Grave was being remade, I couldn’t help but remember the 1978 version I had watched a few years prior, thinking that it wouldn’t work. But then I got to thinking that if they would rewrite it intelligently, making it more realistic and modern, then maybe it can work and be something worth watching.

I actually entered the date on my calendar for when it was to be released in theaters, but it was a limited release and didn’t show up anywhere near my city. It’s probably a good thing anyway, because I think this movie would’ve been uncomfortable to watch in public, especially since I usually travel to the theaters alone (my wife does not enjoy the movies I like to watch). I remembered squirming during quite a few scenes of The Devil’s Rejects, even as a few women left the theater because of those scenes.

So when I Spit on Your Grave was released on DVD, I entered it into my Netflix queue, scooted it up to the top and awaited the delivery shortly after, which happened to be this past weekend.

Now, it was still an uncomfortable film to watch, especially having to pause the movie every time my wife walked into the room; but if the remake was anything like the original, I knew there’d be a point to all of it.

In this one, we have a young woman, Jennifer (played by Sarah Butler), who’s an author working on her next novel. She’s a beautiful girl, looking in her twenties, and she’s traveling alone to a cabin in the woods. Jennifer receives the keys from the caretaker, as well as directions via his scribbled map, and heads off to the cabin. She stops for gas and is greeted by the creepy stares of a couple of guys (one playing a harmonica) just sitting behind the station and creepily staring at Jennifer. The station attendant, Johnny (played by Jeff Branson), appears and Jennifer asks him for directions to the road leading to the cabin. He asks if she’s staying at the well-known cabin and Jennifer unwisely says that she is. After she leaves, Johnny’s upset that the “city girl” didn’t accept his advances. Later on, Johnny and his friends decide to pay Jennifer a visit.

The remake pretty much plays on like the original and it’s no secret what happens in the beginning and at the end. However, the script here is smarter and doesn’t include unrealistic plots or subplots. Everything you see is frightfully believable and makes you cringe. The new film adds a new element to the story which makes it a bit more frightening, if you can believe that, because the original, I’m sure, will make any woman cringe and any man want to jump through the screen to kill these guys.

Of course, as you’re watching Jennifer get her revenge, you kind of set aside the wonderment of how she was able to plan all this out and how she was able to execute each revenge without a hitch. You’re just involved in it and silently cheering for her that you forget about that. But we do get a bit of foreshadowing of each plan. For example, we see the camera pan through the shed and pause at the container of lye.
As unpleasant a subject matter this movie is, I thoroughly liked it and would definitely see this again. Even though you have to sit through the cruel humiliating scenes Jennifer goes through, as well as the beating and raping she receives, it’s needed in this film to warrant the revenge in the third act.

A nice piece of trivia: one of Johnny’s creepy friends, Andy, is played by Rodney Eastman. Rodney is known for playing Joey, the teenager who doesn’t speak until the end, in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3.

My final “bit” on I Spit on Your Grave? Aside from it seeming like an exploitive movie, I think it was a disturbing movie that may serve some purpose. For one, a twenty-five year-old woman (or man, for that matter) should not travel to some remote cabin by herself. Like I said, the rape scenes were a bit much and will make the average audience feel very uncomfortable, but the plotted out revenge will make anyone cheer after seeing what our heroine went through. Bottom line, however, is that this woman will not live happily ever after because she went through some shit that will fuck up her life for good. It’s definitely re-watchable and I’d say add this to your movie collection. Just watch it alone...for it's not a movie you can watch with a bunch of your friends.