Saturday, May 10, 2014


 Well, summer's just around the corner, just a mere month or so away, and during this warmer time of year, I like to throw on a movie that showcases this particular season.  Being that there's not too many films out there-especially horror films-that highlight this hot time of year, I try to wait until we're in June or July before I insert my summer discs into my PS3 (no, I'm not upgrading to PS4 no matter what types of bells and whistles it has).  I'm already chomping at the bit to throw on my summer titles, but the one I usually go to first is Steven Spielberg's 1975 classic, Jaws.

Proclaimed to be the very first summer blockbuster, Jaws definitely delivers, to this day, the story and excitement a movie of that caliber should display.  Not only that, but the film is a nostalgic trip back to the days when people flocked to the beach for a day in the sun without worrying about high UV levels or having the constant need to be on a cell phone or on social media sites-those reservations wouldn't come up until the 90s.

Also, back then, real men were cast as the stars of films, not like today where all the stars of movies look to be in their prepubescent years.  You had men with scruff, full beards, deep voices, and hair on their chest...real men.  Okay, before you get the wrong idea of where I'm going with that, I'll switch gears and synopsize the film.

The film centers on the new Chief of Police of Amity Island, Martin Brody (the late great Roy Scheider) and how he moved his family to the small town life, away from the crime of the big city.  After a missing local girl, Chrissie Watkins (Susan Backlinie), turns up dead, washed ashore as an apparent Great White shark attack victim, Brody wants to close the beaches until further notice.  When Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) receives word of this, he quickly talks to Brody about it, telling him he's being hasty, trying to convince him that it may have been anything that killed the girl as he cites that she might've swam out too far and was hit by a boat's propeller.  He also mentions that the town relies on the tourists that come to visit the island and how closing the beaches would be detrimental to the town's businesses' expected summer income.  Brody warily agrees to keep the beaches open, but more shark attacks occur, resulting in Brody to do something about it.  With the help of a marine biologist, Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and led by a local shark hunter, Quint (Robert Shaw), Brody sets out to the ocean to capture and kill the shark.

Where should I start?  I guess the very first shark attack is what really hooks you in, setting the movie up for a very scary ride and automatically makes you never want to swim in the ocean ever again.  After seeing what the girl goes through in the beginning of Jaws, swimming in the dark, with no one sets up the mood perfectly.  And there's never any feeling of being ripped off, not seeing the shark throughout most of this movie, because that's exactly what we'd go through if we were put in that place-we'd never see the shark as well.  In my opinion, that's what's terrifying about this opening.

From beginning to end it's definitely a slow-burn, hinting at the threat through music cues and point-of-view underwater filming, the movie giving us a great dramatic piece during the first two acts while laying it on us throughout the third.  Spielberg may have wanted to give us more, but due to the special effects constraints and the notorious problems he had with the mechanical shark, it definitely was a blessing in disguise that it turned out the way it had.  The film as a whole certainly goes with the less-is-more approach, but it makes me wonder if the film would be as good as it is if they were able to get the shark to work perfectly.  Would we have had a Deep Blue Sea where it was too-much-shark and not-enough-story?  Probably not, but it's fun to speculate.

Now the performances throughout are stellar, each individual character gives their all and they never hold back.

Scheider, as the police chief was perfect and I can't see anybody ever playing this role but him.  The dramatic moments feel genuine when his character deals with the shark attacks and helps with the excitement of this movie.  Add to that, the touching moments between him and his family-especially the little mimicking scene with his little boy, Sean (Jay Mello)-develop his character perfectly.

I love Dreyfuss in this movie.  His Hooper character is beneficial to the film, providing a sense of credibility with having a marine biologist involved, giving the audience information about what's happening without really throwing it in our faces.  Yet, Dreyfuss offers the character human emotion, showing us he's not perfect with
a side of apprehensiveness that comes out when he's around the character of Quint.  And hearing that the two actors didn't get along with each other during the shoot makes the film that much more interesting.  Which brings me to Robert Shaw...

Shaw was brilliant as Quint and even though he plays him as an asshole in this story, he's so likeable and charismatic that you can't help but love the guy.  Of course, we all know the story of the account that Quint tells Brody and Hooper regarding his time on the USS Indianapolis.  It's a brilliantly acted out scene that gives the character such depth and a window to his past, letting us see that there's a sort of vendetta Quint wants to carry out.  Out of all the times I've seen this film throughout the years, I've never gotten tired of seeing and listening to that scene.

Jaws was the second collaboration between Steven Spielberg and John Williams (the first being Spielberg's first feature directorial debut, Sugarland Express), but this was the first memorable theme that really made the movie what it was and still is.  The simple two-note beginning is what most people from my generation think of when swimming in or around the ocean.  It's so well known for its basic motif that most people can-and love-to mimic it when swimming out in the water.  But besides the shark's iniquitous music cues, the rest of the score fits perfectly in whatever scene we see.  When we're watching the scenes where the residents and tourists are enjoying the first days of summer out on the beach, we hear happy melodies, giving us the Superman?  Or who can say with conviction that they didn't come close to tears when Elliot says goodbye to E.T. in E.T.: The Extraterrestrial?  Much like Halloween wouldn't be scary without John Carpenter's well known theme, Jaws wouldn't be what it is without John Williams score.
effect that it's a bright sunny day where all is pleasurable.  Williams is so good at giving us that feeling and we continue to hear that in all of his Spielberg collaborations.  Though it doesn't happen in this film, many of his scores evoke wide ranges of emotions out of me that I sometimes get a lump in my throat or have my eyes start to water when I hear them.  I mean, who doesn't feel a charge when Christopher Reeve dons the red & blues for the first time and we hear that famous theme song in

My final "bit" on Jaws?

Spielberg's 1975 film is and will always be a classic.  Though most kids today might find the shark a little fake-looking, being used to having everything CGI'd, you still can't escape the tension and terror one feels when watching this movie.  The actors have such great chemistry and work well together, whether they all had gotten along or not, and you'll really go through a rollercoaster ride with Jaws.  It's a must to watch, especially during the summer.  It's just a shame what the franchise turned into after part two.  Believe don't want to watch anything after part two.

Well, guess I better get another Friday the 13th post ready...I want to make sure I get them all done by June 13th...which is on a Friday.  See where I'm going with this?

Thanks for reading and I welcome any comments that you may have.

Be sure the check out my Facebook page, Cinema Bits, and you can tweet at me on Twitter (@CinemaBits).

Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI

Dammit!  I told myself I wouldn't do another franchise retrospective again!  But here I am, going over Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI, and having a lot on my mind to put down in words.  You'd think after my look into films based on Stephen King's works, I'd be burned out by doing posts like this.  But seeing that this franchise is probably my favorite horror movie franchise-actually, it is-I guess it's worth it to put myself through such hell again.  At least this time I'm not committing myself to release each post, one by one.

So, right off the bat and after looking at all the titles in the whole franchise, you might see there's no consistency to the naming conventions.  The first sequel has "2" in the title, the third film goes with roman numeral "III," the fourth film has no number at all, the fifth one sometimes has a roman numeral "V" and sometimes it doesn't, and this one goes with having the subtitle first...didn't each filmmaker check what was there before?

All that aside, yes, the title says it all: Jason Lives!  It was exactly what everybody wanted, much like how everybody wanted Michael Myers back after he was absent from Halloween III, Jason comes back for this film and if it started anything, it was the debate whether Jason was a zombie or not.  Well, that's a discussion that I won't get into and my opinion on the matter will be kept to myself.  Some call this the conclusion of a Tommy Jarvis trilogy and I can agree with that: In part four Tommy is psychologically affected by Jason when he has to kill him, in part five he overcomes his trauma, and in this one he finishes what he'd started and puts Jason down for good.  Or does he...?

Well, the film starts with Tommy (Thom Mathews), seeming to be a little better-he's talking a lot more, that's for sure.  Along with his institute friend, Allen (the late, great Ron Palillo of "Welcome Back Kotter" fame), they head to the gravesite of Jason Voorhees with shovels and containers of gasoline.  Although Allen tries to talk Tommy out of doing what he's about to do, as he's clearly freaked out about being in a graveyard late at night, he helps him dig up the grave and open up the coffin.  In a moment of grief-stricken anger, as he
remembers what happened long ago, Tommy pulls out a part of the wrought iron fence and begins to stab the corpse of Jason, leaving the piece of metal pierced into the dead body as a storm approaches.  Tommy throws the hockey mask he brought with him into the coffin and says, "yeah, fuck you, Jason," and begins to get the gasoline ready, apparently to burn up Jason's body for good.  Suddenly, lightning strikes and hits the metal piece twice, bringing Jason to life.  He gets out of his coffin, kills Allen and goes for Tommy.  After splashing the fuel on Jason, Tommy can't light a match to burn Jason-especially with the rain starting to come down-and decides to flee.  Jason dons the hockey mask once more to continue his carnage in the community of Forest Green, formally known as...Crystal Lake.

Right away, you know this film is going to be a bit goofy, particularly when you see the beginning credits.  You see, when Jason puts on the mask, the camera zooms in on one of the darkened eyeholes until we get a little "James Bond" type of scene with Jason walking and turning to slash toward the camera.  It's kind of cool, but silly.

Although I thought Thom Mathews put on a good performance, the casting of him to play Tommy Jarvis didn't appear seamless in comparison to the actor who played him in part five (John Shepherd)-he goes from being nearly mute in part five to never shutting up in part six.  Also, the chemistry between his character and Megan (Jennifer Cooke) seemed out of place.  Not forced or bad, just not supposed to be in this movie and between those characters.

So, okay, let's talk about the good...

• I like how they went with this resurrection scene to get Jason back up and moving around again.  The franchise needed to get him going again and this not only helped him back in the picture, but also explained why he wasn't in the previous film-he was dead.  It was actually a pretty cool part, how Tommy was suddenly filled with anger and decided to vent it out by stabbing him over and over with the piece of fence, which gave the lightning a perfect conduit to strike and jumpstart Jason again, à la Frankenstein's Monster.

• The aftermath of the RV kill scene, when the Winnebago flips to its side and sits there burning.  The image of Jason bursting through the door and climbing on top of the smoldering RV, standing, was monumental.

• Although silly up to the point, when the drunk graveyard caretaker throws his empty bottle and expecting it to break in the distance and he turns around to see Jason has caught it in mid-air, was a phenomenal kill scene (even though it cuts away and we don't actually see the death of the caretaker).

Okay, let's talk about the bad...

• Right away, I had a bad feeling about the cemetery caretaker.  The actor really overdid it with the constant drinking, breaking the fourth wall, and just using the cheesiest lines.  The "farthead" line still makes me cringe when I see and hear it today.

• The deputy's "ya bang" line was ridiculous.

• The paint gun scene was silly and tried to bring comedy where it shouldn't be.

• The stupid "Camp Blood" card game that Sissy (Renée Jones) explains was ludicrous and seemed like a boring game anyway.

• The two boys from camp who the filmmakers tried to feature as a little comedy team fell flat each time they were on the screen.

• Above all else, the most annoying character in the film was Cort (Tom Fridley).  His clothes, attempt at being charming, the camp tale he tried telling the kids, the RV scene...every time I saw him on the screen, it made me feel like turning off the movie.

Yes, the movie was definitely not one of my favorites from the franchise; however, I sit through it because I'm a completist.  Not only that, but there are some validating qualities here and there.  It's just that the interjecting of comedy-not to mention illogical actions by some of the characters-was too much for a film like this and I really think it ruined it, giving it too much of a surreal feel to it.

I really didn't think I was going to get that deep into this film, but I guess I let my feelings show a little too much.  It's just that this franchise is my favorite of the horror genre and, over the years, Paramount let it go to the wayside until they just sold the rights away.  Remembering these films as a staple of the 80s and my teenage years, it saddens me that the franchise was treated disrespectfully.

Anyway, my final "bit" on Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI?

Fun fact: This is the first of the franchise not to have a nude scene featured in the film, even though two characters have sex before the RV kill (it was fully clothed).  Regardless of that fun fact, it's not too fun of a movie.  Besides the beginning, there's really not much more to it.  Really, all you'll have to do is see the beginning and then fast forward to the climax on the lake.  I was never really a big fan of the gloved Jason
with the utility belt and I don't know why they went with this design of his look-at least they didn't get rid of the hockey mask.  But he's still the unstoppable force that can't be put down so easily and there are still some scares and good times scattered throughout this outing.  See this only if you're a die hard aficionado of the franchise.  If you are, you know I didn't need to tell you this.

Thanks for reading and I welcome any comments!

You can also tweet to me on Twitter: @CinemaBits or check out my Facebook page here.