Archive for the ‘Sequel’ Category
Friday, September 11th, 2009
[TV reporter] “A white male apparently fell from the sky above downtown Los Angeles today, landed in the middle of a busy intersection, destroying one vehicle and hospitalising its elderly driver,and then was removed from the scene even before emergency personnel could respond. Without a body the police have yet to piece together the events of the day. It can only be described as implausible.“
Country: United States
Starring: Jason Statham, Efren Ramirez, Dwight Yoakam, Bai Ling, Clifton Collins Jr, Reno Wilson
Eye candy: Amy Smart, lots of girls with naked boobs, Geri Halliwell, Jenna Haze, Monique Alexander
Cameos: Corey Haim, Ron Jeremy, David Carradine, Maynard James Keenan, Jose Pablo Cantillo
Directors: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Where do you go after Crank? How can you possibly ratchet up the action? Well, it turns out you can’t. You can merely make a movie that is a reasonable approximation of the first, and without any real ideas in the second one, you just make a silly parody. It’s like one of those carbon copy papers. The first one is a reasonably close imprint, the second is a little more faded, and when you get to the fourth you can barely make out the words. Even though it is, ostensibly, exactly the same as the original.
And Crank 2 is, for all intents and purposes, exactly the same movie. It moves at 100 miles an hour. Now, thanks to some implausible medical chicanery, Jason Statham must now juice himself with electricity to stay alive, rather than cranking up his adrenaline as in the first one. All the main actors return. How is Efren Ramirez back, having died in the first one? He plays his own twin brother, of course. How is Ricky Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo) back, having died in the first movie? Well, he is now a floating head in water. Of course. And, the big question – having fallen thousands of feet from a helicopter in the sky at the end of Crank, how is Jason Statham still alive?
Well, it doesn’t really matter. The first movie was so devoted to bonkers implausibility that the plot of the second just continues the trend with idiotic reasoning behind just about everything. I’d explain how Statham lived, but it’s ridiculous and, ultimately, kind of irrelevant. But this is also the problem I have, more than anything, with Crank 2. It just doesn’t care. Not that the first was concerned with plot and character development and plausibility. But at least it paid lip service to those things. Now, all pretense of common sense has been abandoned, and we’re left to watch Jason Statham get electrocuted, over and over, while annoying characters do annoying things around him.
Vying for the title of Most Annoying Character In Crank 2 are Bail Ling and Efren Ramirez, who plays the twin brother of that guy who died in the first film. He has Full Body Tourettes. So he spazzes out, says strange things, and twitches. Just watching him twitch and spasm is (I assume) supposed to make me laugh. It makes me exasperated and bored. Bai Ling, who can be a fine actress, is terribly misused in the movie, as a girl who gets (incidentally) rescued from an abusive fat guy by Statham and chases him the rest of the movie thinking he’s her boyfriend. It’s a sad and depressing Asian stereotype character, and she is so shrill and ludicrous that every moment she’s on screen I want to cry. Or gouge out my eyes.
Oh, speaking of gouging out my eyes, sidebar – I have a pretty serious nipple-phobia. I can’t stand people touching my nipples, looking at nipple rings bothers me, and seeing nipples abused on screen is, for me, a lot like an arachnophobic person watching Arachnophobia. That means that I was not only disgusted by the nipple-slicing scene, but also scarred for a few hours. What angered me, more than anything else about the scene though, was how terribly unnecessary it was. I get it – it’s a sequel. Ramp up the cringe factor and the blood. But seriously? Was that funny to anyone? Or even close to reasonable? Excessive. That’s the word. Excessive. For both that scene and the entire movie.
It’s nice to revel in the excess of Crank. In fact, I really enjoyed the excess of Crank. I even enjoyed the ludicrous public sex scene. But the ludicrous public sex scene in Crank 2, (even though it features the ridiculously smoking hot Amy Smart), was kind of painful. It was also totally expected, I was just waiting for it, and when it came I fast-forwarded. I get it. You did it in the first movie. Let’s do it again, because it must have worked. The rest of the film is similar.
One thing that makes Crank 2 a little different is that the constant injections of electricity appear to make Jason Statham into a superhero. In Crank, the adrenaline made him crazy, gave him insane energy, and made him go off all half-cocked. Or, full-cocked, in one scene. In Crank 2, the constant electrocutions seem to be treated like spinach for Popeye. He flies through the air like he’s in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. He attacks people while he’s on fire, like he’s in The Fantastic Four. And he beats up scores of cops and bad guys and everyone else who’s around. Fine. But it’s way too much.
In the end, all I really got out of the film was a sense of accomplishment for pointing out the cameo appearances. Geri Halliwell and porn stars Ron Jeremy, Jenna Haze and Monique Alexander are instantly recognizeable. (Well, I got a friend to point out the “instantly recognizeable” porn stars for me…yeah…) But Corey Haim and David Carradine (R.I.P.) are terrifically disguised and it was only their voices that (just barely) gave them away. Then again, if that’s all I got from this movie, the movie was not very good.
Tuesday, August 4th, 2009
“I’m like you, Tom. I’m different.”
Country: United States
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, Jim Broadbent, Robbie Coltrane, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Warwick Davis, Bonnie Wright
Eye candy: Emma Watson
Director: David Yates
Run time: 153 minutes
I have a friend who, despite never having seen Die Hard, is an enormous Alan Rickman fan. She hates Bruce Willis, you see, and refuses to see Die Hard on that basis alone. I say that she believes she will never watch Die Hard because she hates Bruce Willis, but I believe she hates Bruce Willis because she has never watched Die Hard. And she should, if only because of the amazing Alan Rickman.
Which is a long, roundabout way of saying that Alan Rickman is the best part of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. As professor Severus Snape, Rickman has been a key component of the Harry Potter series up until this point, but never has he had such an important role as the one he carries out here. I really can’t say any more, because I don’t want to include any spoilers in this review, but Snape appears to maybe not be all he seems when the movie ends. I’ll leave it there.
It’s very tough to review The Half-Blood Prince without spoiling the movie. This movie had the biggest opening weekend of all time, so I could go ahead and assume that everyone in the world has already seen it. But I won’t. Because if anyone is sitting on the fence about this film, still, stop doing it. Go see the film. It is the second best in the series after the superior Prisoner of Azkaban, the third installment in the series.
On the way home from the theatre, my wife and I were arguing about the titles of the three previous Harry Potter movies. When we got home, I looked them up and discovered that we were both way off. There have been five previous Harry Potter movies. This is Harry Potter 6. And it turns characters into new characters, it shows depths from supporting characters we have never seen, and it moves the story along further than any previous installment of the series.
Also, it kills off one very major character in a surprisingly moving scene that made my wife cry, and it features a few scenes that are scary enough to really terrify the kids who make up the bulk of the audience for the film. There is also a lot of adolescent “I like him but he likes her” sort of nonsense, which really slows the movie down. It’s irritating, because like so many other movies, one word in the appropriate place could avoid all the heartbreak and intrigue.
But then, they are still teenagers, and teenagers really do behave this way. But I don’t care whether Harry Potter will end up with Weasley’s sister, or whether Hermione and Ron will ever hook up. Not interested. I want to know who IS the Half-Blood Prince, who left that note, why the new professor is so important, and how is the whole thing going to end?
The Half-Blood Prince is the Empire Strikes Back of the Harry Potter series, in that it is darker than normal, better than normal, and sets up a final act that promises to be epic and exhausting and ultimately satisfying. When it ended, I couldn’t wait for the next volume in the series, which looks to be coming out in 2010. In two volumes. I will be holding my breath until then, filling my time with other Alan Rickman movies.
Sunday, August 2nd, 2009
“We’ve got a psychotic serial killer in the family. Likes to butcher people on Hallowe’en.”
Halloween H2O (*******7/10)
Country: United States
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Josh Hartnett, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Adam Arkin, LL Cool J, Janet Leigh
Eye candy: Michelle Williams, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe
Director: Steve Miner
Run time: 86 minutes
DVD distributor: Alliance Films
You know how Kevin Bacon appeared in that first Friday the 13th movie, and Johnny Depp was in Nightmare on Elm Street? How about Jennifer Aniston in the first Leprechaun? Making each of them the most talented, best known actor ever killed in any of those series? After fifty or sixty sequels in the three series combined, the most well known people I can think of to die at the hands of Freddy, Jason or the Leprechaun are Kelly Rowland in Freddy vs. Jason and Sticky Fingaz in Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood. As the series move along, the quality of actors gets lower and lower and lower until they’re down to porn stars and rappers and members of Destiny’s Child.
The Halloween series is different. It always has been different, in that it started off with an all-time classic. I know Nightmare on Elm Street did too. Both series got progressively worse as time went on, and as the actors got worse and worse, so did the movies. Eventually, by about the sixth episode, directors were phoning it in worse than the nubile young terrible actors. Then came Halloween H2O. Now, I would never suggest that this is an all-time classic. I wouldn’t even say it’s a great movie. But it’s certainly the best in the series after the original. The young cast is impressive, and there are more name actors in this film than in any sequel I can remember.
What is really remarkable about this is that the greatest actors ever killed by Michael Myers were killed in Halloween H2O, the seventh installment in the series. It’s a toss-up for me as to who is the better actor – Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Michelle Williams. Williams has been remarkable in many movies, perhaps most notably Brokeback Mountain. But I’m going with Gordon-Levitt (perhaps best known for the TV show Third Rock From The Sun), who is, I believe, one of the best young actors working today. His performance in The Lookout was fantastic, and he was the best thing about Stop-Loss.
Sidebar – Ironically, I just looked up several of the actors in Halloween H2O, and discovered that Adam Arkin, Jamie Lee Curtis and Janet Leigh were all on the Season Two, Volume One DVD of The Love Boat. Creepy, eh?
It’s certainly a nice touch to have Janet Leigh appearing in a horror-slasher movie, since she is famous for appearing in the ultimate one, Psycho. And Jamie Lee Curtis, despite having carved out a respectable career outside the horror-slasher genre, is still primarily remembered as the scream queen from the original Halloween. Then again, in Halloween H2O, she does very little screaming. Instead, she is that requisite movie-sequel badass who attacks, with gusto, the bad guy. No running for her, she is going to face her problems head-on. And of course, Michael Myers is her biggest problem.
Her son, Josh Hartnett, is also a problem though. It’s been 20 years since Michael Myers attacked Jamie Lee, and he thinks that maybe it’s time she stop being frightened by this crazy brother of hers. Let me be free! he cries, and so the two of them clash and have one of those mother-son fights that are so very familiar to all of us. Even those of us who don’t have a crazed serial killer somewhere in our family tree. But we, the audience, know that her fears are grounded in reality. Because we saw Michael Myers slaughter three people (one of them Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in the opening scene. He’s coming, and these folks are blissfully ignorant!
There are some cool scenes involving a gate surrounding the upscale private school where Curtis is the headmistress and Hartnett is a student and LL Cool J is a particularly slow-witted gate-guard. However, Michael Myers has the ability to drive a truck. In fact, he seems to be able to drive a truck from Illinois to South Carolina in about 21 hours. With powers like that, you would think he could climb a fence, and wouldn’t have to wait until the fence-guard had his back turned to slip in silently. But, there are fewer silly moments like that one in H2O than in most Halloween sequels.
After the killing of the three people in the opening scene, we have to wait a full hour for killing #4. Unlike most brainless slasher sequels, the body count isn’t crazy high here, and there is not a wall-to-wall rampage where characters are introduced simply to be murdered moments later. Instead, we get to know Curtis, now a mother of a 17-year-old, and her boyfriend (Adam Arkin), the school psychiatrist (how a-propos), and we learn slowly how this woman still, years later, has a very injured psyche. Crazy serial killer brothers on a rampage will do that to a person.
Curtis is quite good, reprising her role of 20 years ago and playing it pretty straight. Hartnett, Williams, Jodi Ly O’Keefe and LL Cool J have clearly been chosen because they are young ingenue eye candy, but they form a much better cast than most similar movies. And the direction works. The movie is tight, there is adequate tension in the right moments, and although it feels a little too slick, it works. And the end of the movie is perfect. This is how you end a series, definitively. As a final act in the series, this one really works. If only it actually was a final act.
“Trick or treat, moth******er.”
Halloween Resurrection (**2/10)
Country: United States
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Busta Rhymes
Eye candy: Tyra Banks, Bianca Kajlich, Daisy McCrackin, Katee Sackhoff
Director: Rick Rosenthal
Run time: 89 minutes
DVD distributor: Alliance Films
Oh, why? Why did they have to do this. Halloween H2O was no classic, but it was effective and decent and closed out the series nicely. How could they create another movie after the ending of the last one? Well, they create a new character. This Michael Myers, although ostensibly the same Michael Myers as in the last episode, is now Hannibal Lecter clever. Resurrection completely destroys the credibility that had returned to the series with H2O, because it creates a movie so far outside the realm of Halloween that it’s laughable. This, really, is a Friday The 13th film. At best.
The idea is that Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks run an online reality show where they plan to put cameras throughout the childhood home of Michael Myers, and film some hot young people spending the night there on Hallowe’en. That’s right. Busta Rhymes. And Tyra Banks. Everything nice I said about the cast of H2O goes out the window and is turned on its ear in Resurrection. Thankfully, Busta Rhymes lives through the film, leaving Tyra Banks as the definitive champion in the contest of Worst Actor Ever Killed By Michael Myers. Had ol’ Busta bitten it at the hands of the maniac, it would have been a really, really tough call.
So in Resurrection, although there are a couple of recognizeable names, we have the worst cast of any Halloween film. Busta Rhymes makes LL Cool J look like Laurence Olivier. Mercifully, Jamie Lee Curtis finally dies at the hands of Michael Myers, effectively ending her involvement in this series, and not a moment too soon. Her death, early on in the movie, is merciful. One of the most staggeringly painful and unoriginal movie openings ever comes to a merciful end at the same time.
You see, Curtis is now locked up in an insane asylum, convinced that Michael Myers is still coming to get her. She is pretending to be more crazy than she is – faking a catatonic state – and spitting out her medication after the nurses leave. She is preparing to face off against her brother, plotting her escape, and training for the Big Showdown. No one believes her that he is on his way, or that he is real, until they see him on the security camera entering the building and killing people on his way to her room. Sound familiar? Think a moment…yes. Jamie Lee Curtis has now become Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2. Only, she loses the battle and dies. Thankfully.
Now all we get is a creepy Michael Myers house (where he still, of course, lives), and some inane and idiotic speeches from Busta Rhymes about Dangertainment and the entertainment value of real terror, and how this is how true entertainment will be in the future, and blah blah blah. The movie seems to be trying to make a statement about human nature and vicarious thrills and so forth, but it is way too stupid to do so. There are broken steps and creepy high chairs and musical stings and underground lairs where Michael Myers apparently eats rats for sustenance until people come into his house for killing.
“She really is a very talented actress.”
No she isn’t. Oh, and considering the plot of this movie surrounds an internet reality show, you would think that the cameras in the house and attached to the “stars” would be used to create new and interesting angles and scare shots. But no. When Michael Myers kills someone, the cameras switch back to regular movie cameras, and the cameras inside the house and on the characters are ignored completely. So…the premise is completely irrelevant. Good.
This really is a Friday the 13th movie – Michael Myers crushes a guy’s head with his hands. Like Jason. He lives in a creepy place by himself and only kills the young hotties who come into his area. Like Jason. And the movie really, really sucks. Like Friday movies. The whole thing ends with an incredibly stupid, self-absorbed and utterly nonsensical dissertation by Busta Rhymes, refuting every other thing he has said during the entire movie. And so ends Resurrection, a follow-up so bad that it undoes absolutely everything that H2O did right.
At least the two movies come on one, bargain-priced DVD, so Resurrection is really like a bonus feature for H2O. A long, involved, and terrible bonus feature, but there it is. The single-disc set comes out August 4th from Alliance Films.
Thursday, July 9th, 2009
“Don’t thank me – thank tequila!”
So, I once knew this guy that I disliked. I wanted to bang his girlfriend, but she was with him, and that made things difficult. So I tricked him into eating his own spit and smearing dog crap on his face. Then, I made sure that his girlfriend caught him in the act of having peanut butter licked off his junk by a bulldog. And then I got the girl, and got everyone around me drunk, and I saw some boobies. And because of all these cool manouevers, I managed to acquire a sidekick who was a fairly offensive Asian stereotype, and I made the DEAN very angry. Oh, also I stole his golf cart, and did some other stuff.
Hilarious, no? Boy, am I ever a crazy guy. Now, admittedly, reading this list of silliness is not quite the same as watching it. Usually. In the case of Van Wilder: Freshman Year, however, it’s pretty much the same. Gross for the sake of gross, boobs for the sake of boobs, and stupidity for the sake of…not really caring at all about the script. The thing is, Freshman Year is almost a carbon copy of the original Van Wilder. Canine bodily functions played for laughs. Without the laughs. The One Girl who has the mean, bad at sex jerk of a boyfriend. The sports-themed bet with the One Girl that leads to the First Moment. The fights with the dean. The threatened expulsion. The misunderstanding with the One Girl that gets easily resolved. The opportune appearances of Wilder’s father. And so on and so forth.
There is also the vaguely offensive ethnic stereotype sidekick, the drug-smoking roommate, the constant quest for beer and sex, and all that business. But then, that isn’t a carbon copy of the original Van Wilder so much as it is a carbon copy of Every College ”Comedy” Ever Made. Even phoning something like this in, even a totally half-assed effort, will result in some laughs. Which means that Van Wilder: Freshman Year must be a no-assed movie. Lots of boobs, no ass. Absolutely no effort was put into this pile of garbage, and it shows.
The only actor in the film who appears to be putting in even an inkling of effort is Kristin Cavallari (reality TV star of Laguna Beach), who as the One Girl Van Wilder Wants is friendly, smoking hot and fairly charming. The fact that she is even willing to consider dating, kissing, or sleeping with this douchebag is ludicrous. Jonathan Bennett (Mean Girls) may be trying in the lead role. Maybe. But all he’s really doing is a pale, lame imitation of Reynolds in the original film. Write that down. Instead of coming off as the coolest guy in the world, he really does come off as a douchebag. He has nowhere near the comedic timing, charming facial expressions, or slightly roguish demeanour that made Reynolds a success.
The thing is, I am a big fan of the original Van Wilder, which was a pretty dreadful movie. With anyone except Reynolds, the movie would have been absolute garbage. However, Reynolds was SO funny, and SO cool, that he single-handedly made the movie good when it should have sucked terribly. This Van Wilder is the exact same movie without Reynolds. All that is left is the suck. And there is a LOT of suck to go around. Waterboarding, a fake-Jamaican roommate, a blowjob during a valedictorian speech filled with “head” jokes, and more idiotic, brainless double-entendres than one might hear during a year in a third-grade classroom.
For example: A sign that advertises a party, saying Freshman Dick Wanted, BYOB, actually turns out to mean something completely different. DICK means Daughters In Christ’s Kingdom, and BYOB means Bring Your Own Bible. Funny, eh? This is maybe the best double-talk moment in the entire movie. Which is pretty darn sad. There are two things I liked in Freshman Year. A Top Gun flight-suit non-sequitor moment, and the fact that the bad guys in the movie are not the football players, but rather the military maniacs. Usually it’s the football players. And that’s it.
“Messing with me is one thing. But nobody screws my pooch.”
There are two versions of the movie coming out on DVD July 14th from Paramount Home Entertainment. One is the regular, rated version of the film, which clocks in at 98 minutes. The other is the “Unrated” version of the film, at 100 minutes. Since the original version is already rated “R”, I can only assume that the reason the “Unrated” version had to be released seperately, and not rated, is that it is too risque for an “R” rating. So I expected penetration, at the very least. Nope. Where did those other two minutes go? Well, there are about six extra seconds of nudity in the cheerleader scene, and four seconds of extra partying at the end. And one minute and fifty seconds of Kristin Cavallari talking to her father.
So why the “Unrated” tag? I guess that talk with her father was considered so risque that the movie would have been slapped with an NC-17 rating. After all, Cavallari does almost have nip-ons that you can almost see in that scene…Whatever. It doesn’t matter anyway, does it? This movie is awful, and all you get with the “Unrated” version is two more minutes of suck.
Sunday, June 14th, 2009
“I went to go cremate Jason but I f***ed up!”
And….that’s how Jason Voorhees comes back to life in this further installment of the Friday The 13th film series. Tommy Jarvis, initially played by Corey Feldman in Part IV: The Final Chapter, is still having nightmares about the evil maniac Jason, so he does what any reasonable person who needs closure would do – he decides to dig up Jason’s body and cremate him, just to be sure. At this point, that is unnecessary. Because at this point, Jason has just been a very resilient killer who heals easily and doesn’t know that he should be dead. But after Feldman’s maniac knife-wielding expression of fury at the end of Part IV, Jason was most assuredly dead.
Now, the idea of digging up his corpse and burning it is a good one. But it also leads to the resurrection of Jason, and then of course thirty-one further installments in this interminable series. Of course Tommy and his buddy (one of the ensigns from Star Trek) are going to screw up the exhumation and cremation thing. They somehow manage to leave a metal pole in the chest of Jason’s exhumed (and not very decomposed) body. When Tommy was played by Feldman, he killed Jason. And Tommy was about eight years old. Now, Tommy is played by Thom Matthews, who looks to be about 25. In the intervening 17 years, the worms have not done a very good job consuming this body.
Anyway, of course they are grave-robbing during a lightning storm, and of course lightning hits the metal pole protruding from Jason’s chest, and of course that brings him shockingly, suddenly back to life. This introduces Jason as the slasher movie equivalent of a superhero who gets bitten by a radioactive spider and suddenly gains superpowers. From here on in, part of the fun of Friday The 13th movies is determining just how, and why, Jason the now-zombie killer will be resurrected in order to continue wreaking vengeful havoc on scantily clad and naked teens in the forest. Thanks Tommy. Couldn’t have just left well enough alone, huh?
I think the reason the Tommy character has been around for three movies now is that he was initially played by Corey Feldman, one of the few recognizeable names in the series. In Part V: A New Beginning, he was played by John Shepherd, I assumed because the Friday folks could no longer afford Feldman, who was by then something of a star. Why John Shepherd wasn’t brought back to Part VI to reprise his role, I have no idea. Instead, his shoes are filled by Thom Matthews, who looks nothing like Shepherd. I think I’m on to something here – check out this hypothesis:
Simply appearing in a Friday The 13th movie can’t make someone a star. Those “stars” who have passed through the Friday series are there by coincidence, and no one would suggest that Kevin Bacon or Feldman or Crispin Glover owe any portion of their careers to their participation in these silly films. However, I am guessing that even one appearance in a Friday film would give an actor a little bit of cachet, like say someone who showed up as an ensign in Star Trek just to be killed. There are conventions for this sort of stuff, and these conventions elevate even the bit players to a level beyond the one they would otherwise attain. So here’s my theory – just appearing in one Friday movie gives an actor just enough cachet that he or she can command a slightly bigger salary. And that actor or actress then becomes too expensive for the next volume in the Jason saga. So we get Thom Matthews. Anyway, just a theory.
Where was I? Oh yeah – metal pole in the chest, lightning bolt, Jason Lives, he kills that Star Trek ensign buddy of Tommy’s, he chases Tommy who gets away, then Tommy goes to the cops who don’t believe him (which is understandable. Jason has clearly been dead and buried for almost 20 years.) But one girl might just believe Tommy. Plus, she’s a wild child and she thinks he’s cute! And they try to get to the killer before he slaughters a camp full of six-year-olds. Spoiler alert! Spolier: Jason does not kill a camp full of six-year-olds. In fact, although he clearly wants to do so, he kills zero six-year-olds. Which is very disappointing.
Somehow Tommy knows that the only way to get rid of Jason is to return him to the place from whence he came – the bottom of Crystal Lake. How Tommy knows this, I have no idea. Or, why he thinks this, I don’t know. Because in the end, he loops a big old chain around Jason’s neck and sends him to the bottom of the lake. And from what I can tell, the big chain and the big weight that keep Jason under water are merely restraining him under the surface, and he has in no way found his final resting place. So he’s basically in a straight-jacket, underwater, just waiting for someone to come along with a canoe paddle at the right time to set him free.
Maybe by the time Jason is set free for the seventh installment in the Friday series, those six year olds will be twenty, and Jason can finally kill some of them. I’ll have to wait until Paramount Home Entertainment comes out with the Deluxe Edition of that one to find out. Paramount releases Friday The 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives Deluxe Edition DVD June 16th.
Saturday, June 13th, 2009
“Either you’ve got the car started, or you’re a dead man.”
OK, so the last Friday the 13th movie was called The Final Chapter, and Jason certainly appeared to die toward the end of the last instalment. The last, terribly named instalment. The big mystery in Friday The 13th Part V is whether or not Jason is, in fact, dead. Corey Feldman, who appeared to kill the hockey-mask-wearing psycho at the end of the last one, appears in a dream sequence toward the beginning of the film, and then some other kid leaps up from the dream. That kid is apparently the Corey Feldman character, several years later. He still has nightmares about Jason. Obviously. He still makes his masks. Again, the masks appear to be something that could be used later in the movie. But again, no.
So is this kid crazy enough to now believe he IS Jason? Or has Jason risen from the dead in order to wreak more havoc and pile up more bodies? Or is something else going on? It’s a neat premise for about nine seconds, and then it’s done. The rest of the movie is the same as every other movie. Kids having sex, bodies thrown through the window, machetes and so forth. The final, dramatic, “unmasking” of the killer is about the most disappointing and silly moment in the entire Friday The 13th cannon. And that’s a tall task – there is a lot of competition for the distinction of the Silliest Moment. (Perhaps only the moment in Part VIII where Jason punches off the boxer’s head can compete.)
We are supposed to believe, because of the savagery with which Corey Feldman dispatched Jason in the previous instalment, that he could be the killer. But that quickly goes nowhere. We are supposed to believe that the Tommy character has aged about ten years since the previous movie. But the filming and the music and the cars and the decor seem to indicate that only about nine minutes have passed. Maybe they just couldn’t afford Feldman at this point, except in a cameo. And every character who gets introduced in the movie is introduced only for the purposes of being killed off. Or being maybe the killer.
Not that any of this matters. The fact is, the story is as awful as ever, the setting of a group home is nothing new – and provides the requisite hot young naked horny folks – the hillbilly neighbours are supposed to be funny but aren’t, (and they’re just going to die anyway), and the introduction of a Prince-like rockstar kinda guy is painful and equally useless. The one moment, quickly dismissed and ultimately almost irrelevant, that actually steps outside the Friday The 13th formula, is a savage and out-of-nowhere murder committed by someone other than Jason. Or the guy pretending to be Jason. It’s not enough to save this movie. Nothing is.
Saturday, June 13th, 2009
To read the full review of Friday The 13th, Part 2, click here. Paramount Home Entertainment releases Friday The 13th Part 2 and Friday The 13th Part 3 on Blu-Ray June 16th. And yes, they are both a (little bit) better in Blu-Ray. Part 2 is still not a good movie. None of the Friday movies will ever be good. But because it was so dark the first time around, the clarity provided by Blu-Ray allows us to see the creepy Jason stalking his victims a little more clearly. Not that this makes him any scarier. And the scenes where people get thrown through windows or run screaming into the woods are no better. But it’s a little less confusing. And that’s good.
The Blu-Ray copy of the movie features the same special features that were in Paramount’s Deluxe Edition of the same movie a few months ago. Those are available in HD here – Friday’s Legacy: Horror Conventions is the best of the special features, and Inside Crystal Lake Memories is pretty decent. There is also a short film called Lost Tales From Camp Blood Part 2 which is kind of neat and apparently doesn’t really require the viewing of Part One.
Tuesday, May 12th, 2009
“So, would you like to have dinner one night?”
“Oh, I like to have dinner every night.”
To hear the review
To hear the review
Country: United States
Starring: Christopher Walken, Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Chris Farley, Charlton Heston, Harry Shearer, Jay Leno, Steven Tyler, Kevin Pollak
Eye candy: Tia Carrere, Heather Locklear, Kim Basinger, Drew Barrymore
Director: Stephen Surjik
Run time: 94 minutes
Wayne’s World 2, as so many sequels do, amps up everything that made the first one great – more celebrity cameos, (Drew Barrymore, Jay Leno, Charlton Heston), more silly dialogue, more hot babes (Heather Locklear, Kim Basinger, Tia Carrere), more music (Aerosmith and a huge benefit concert), bigger stars (Christopher Walken). But, like so many other sequels, more is not necessarily better. And Wayne’s World 2 is no exception. It is vastly inferior to the original movie, mostly because there is so much going on that the thing that really made the first one excellent (no pun intended) is dulled. That being the comedic timing and banter between Dana Carvey (Garth) and Mike Myers (Wayne).
When they are on the screen together, they are still as funny as ever, but they spend far too little time together in the film. We see more of Christopher Walken, Tia Carrere, and the litany of guest stars than we do of the two people who made the first Wayne’s World movie worth watching. It still has hilarious moments, and it’s still worthwhile, but Wayne’s World 2 pales in comparison to Wayne’s World. Both movies come out on Blu-Ray May 12th from Paramount Home Entertainment, and both have a behind-the-scenes feature that plays in a tiny box in the top left hand corner of the screen called “Extreme Close-Up”. Neither one is really worthwhile, and Wayne’s World 2 doesn’t even have the trailer in the special features. Not that a trailer is useful in any way.
Tuesday, March 24th, 2009
“How long have I got?”
“That doesn’t give us a lot of time.”
Country: United States
Starring: Daniel Craig, Jesper Christensen, David Harbour, Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, Joaquin Cosio, Judi Dench
Eye candy: Olga Kurylenko, Gemma Arterton
Director: Marc Forster
Run time: 105 minutes
Wrack my brain as I might, I can’t for the life of me remember what the title Quantum of Solace means. Or what scenes in the movie were relevant to this title. I’m at a loss. I really can’t understand where this title came from. It doesn’t, really, even sound very cool, or very James-Bondy. It could just as easily be the title of one of those sci-fi movies about cute children and magical bunnies.
The word “quantum” means only “a specified amount”. Quantum physics refers to the smallest discrete amount of some physical property that a system can possess. And the word “solace” means “comfort or consolation”. So, really, this movie could have been called A Specified Amount of Consolation. Or, A Modicum of Revenge. Or A Certain Amount of Vengeance. Because I suppose, the idea behind the film is that James Bond is getting revenge upon those who caused the death of his girlfriend Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Perhaps that’s what it means.
But just because I don’t understand the title does not mean that Quantum of Solace isn’t cool. Because it is. It’s very, very cool. Just like in Casino Royale, Daniel Craig is the most badass Bond of them all, with less charm and more hardcore skills-of-a-badass. I remember saying when I watched that first film that he reminded me, (and I mean this) more of George Lazenby than of any other Bond, in that he puts more emphasis on being tough and mean than on being clever and charming and slick. And I like that. But now, having watched this second Daniel Craig installment in the Bond series, he no longer reminds me of George Lazenby. And even though he ends the movie bloody, beaten up, and exhasuted, he doesn’t remind me of Bruce Willis either. He reminds me of Daniel Craig. And that is a terrific thing. I said it in the last movie, and I will say it again about this one – Daniel Craig is the best actor to play James Bond. Ever.
Quantum of Solace kicks off right where the last one left off. We see a car chase through the mountains, and before Bond destroys the opposition with some fancy driving and some gunfire, we know what’s going to happen when he opens the trunk. Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) is going to be in there. Possibly still alive, more likely dead, what with all the crashing and bullet holes. This is one of those car chases where a bunch of stuff is happening all the time, and the camera leaps from the road to the car to the hand on the gearshift and then back to the road. Bond’s car appears to be headed toward an impossible gap between say, two dump trucks, where not even a bicycle could fit, then we flash to his gearshift and then back to the road, where his car comes out of some mess of traffic where it had clearly not been split seconds before.
This must be one amazing gearshift. In Quantum of Solace, we don’t see a single one of those fancy James Bond gadgets that are a staple in this series, and I think it is safe to assume that this gearshift is one of them. There is no Q to explain how it works, but it appears to be able to teleport Bond’s car from one side of a snarl-up to the other. This would be an extremely useful gadget for the average commuter, but until it hits the mass market it’s best that such a prototype would be used to save the life of James Bond. Now, I have no idea how the henchmen chasing him manage to execute similar manouevers, perhaps they have stolen this same amazing technology and they are chasing Bond to get his copy of the instruction manual.
There are other chases in this movie, some that make more sense (editing-wise) than others. There is a terrifically intense rooftop-chase scene on foot, and while it doesn’t compare to the one in Casino Royale where Bond chases that guy with the mad monkey skills, it is pretty cool nonetheless. There is a plane chase, where Bond is able to make a fighter plane crash through a combination of smoke from his engine and…turning left…I think. Either way, there is a fireball and the other pilot loses and Bond made it happen somehow. Then there is a boat chase. It flows rather nicely but is based on a rather questionable premise.
You see, a woman named Camille (the smoking hot Olga Kurylenko) has just mistaken Bond for an assassin. And she has tried to shoot him. He divines that she is in league with the bad guys he is chasing, so after she attempts to kill him he follows her. So far so good. She is one of the bad guys, she will lead him to the other bad guys, and he will exact his bloody revenge for the death of the Woman He Loved in the first movie. He watches Camille interact with the bad guys on a pier, and then watches her get onto a boat with some other bad guys. He manages, telepathically I suppose, to figure out that the bad guys on the boat are going to kill her. She is still one of the bad guys, as far as he knows, and she has already tried to kill him. Yet he decides, in a situation that must be against his better judgement, to rescue her by stealing a boat and ramming a yacht and then kidnapping her.
Perhaps the twenty seconds he spent with her in her car before she decided to kill him were enough to convince him that she was alright, basically a nice person, with a warm heart and a purity of purpose. And that her decision to murder him with a gun was really just an unfortunate but understandable misunderstanding and he holds no grudge. He clearly doesn’t need her for anything. She gets knocked out during the boat chase. Now, she IS in league with these bad guys, and must know something that could help Bond get his men. But he didn’t save her to find out what she knows. He merely hands her unconscious body to a perplexed bystander and continues on his way. So…why did he save her life? What was that all about? Perhaps he knew (because she is obviously the hottest chick he’s met and it’s a James Bond movie) that she will resurface later and feel kindly toward him for all that life-saving boat-chasing action.
So, the boat chase is gratuitous. But it is cool, and John Woo himself might even be impressed with that one. The chase on foot makes sense, the chase in the plane makes sense, and it is easy to understand how the car chase could have come about. All that was missing in Quantum of Solace was a submarine chase and a space-shuttle dogfight. Next movie, perhaps. Actually, that wasn’t all that was missing in the film. There are no gadgets. There is no Q, although there is an M. He only sleeps with one woman, and it isn’t the one we expect. There are no duplicitous women. Not once did I hear him say “Bond. James Bond.” Nor did he mention a martini, shaken, stirred or otherwise. He is drinking something that looks suspiciously like a martini on a plane at one point. And he makes quite a point of letting us all know that he has no idea what the name of this silly, fruity drink might be. Which is far cooler than actually ordering one.
Because this Bond has no need for fruity drinks or charming cleverness or slick lines. He is not Pierce Brosnan, after all. He is Daniel Craig, and he’s a bull in a china shop compared to Brosnan, who was more like fine china at a rodeo. Does that make sense? Maybe not. Who cares. Brosnan was all hair gel and arched eyebrows, Craig is all guns and fists and scowling. Which is far more badass, makes for a far more badass movie, and enhances my enjoyment considerably.
I was worried a few times near the beginning of the movie. For a while, it looked like it was going to be one chase after another without a break for explaining the story. When those concerns were alleviated, it appeared as though Quantum of Solace might fall into that middle-years-Bond trap of having too many characters and too much intrigue and a story that was difficult to follow. Like, who’s that bad guy? How does he relate to that other bad guy? What exactly is the plan here, and how does Bond even know these people are evil?
But fortunately, that is not the case either. Soon, we learn exactly what is going on. The American spies (including Felix, played by Jeffrey Wright, who was also in Casino Royale) are doing business with the Bad Guy Boss, Dominic Greene (played by Mathieu Amalric). Greene is a rich, shadowy businessman who runs some kind of bizarre clandestine organization, apparently the same one responsible for the death of Bond’s girl Vesper in Casino Royale. He is setting up a deal with a deposed Bolivian dictator, which would return that dictator to power in return for some abandoned desert in the middle of the country. Greene has managed to convince the Americans that there is oil in that desert, and that is why the Americans are willing to look the other way during this Bolivian coup d’etat. However, he is deceiving them. His real target is water.
And that’s what made me enjoy this movie most of all. The bad guy. Sure, Bond is a badass. And yes, Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Arterton are ridiculously hot in the Bond-girl tradition. But this bad guy is a little more layered than the standard Bond villain. He is similar to the other villains in the series, in that he commands a cartel of bad-news international players who can make things like coups take place. But he is different in that he doesn’t have a crazed plan for world domination. He isn’t after uranium or plutonium or even oil. He is after water.
The idea here is that he will control, from his “useless” patch of desert, Bolivia’s water supply. And he will make the people of that country pay him for their own water. And he will get richer. That’s about it. Not only is it a rather small-scale evil plan for a Bond villain, but it is also plausible. Sure, it is the kind of evil plan that shows a complete disregard for human life, but it could really happen, in this world. In fact, it often does. We all know there are corporations who buy up water rights in poor countries. So Dominic Greene, in Quantum of Solace, is not only the most realistic evil villain in a Bond movie, but he is also an amazingly plausible villain for any movie.
Then again, there are still the implausible James Bond touches. Like the final showdown in the five-star hotel in the middle of the desert. This just wouldn’t work. It may be an amazing place, but if it’s hundreds of miles away from everything else, then who would ever go there? Even the richest people on earth, who want the solitude that comes from such complete isolation, would much rather have that solitude in the mountains near lakes and rivers than in the middle of the open desert. I assume.
Not only is this hotel fiscally unrealistic, but it also contains far more tanks of hydrogen than one would anticipate. This is a pretty poor architectural plan if this building will be your evil-guy hideout. After all, if one wayward truck say, backs into the garage and explodes, this could (conceivably) lead to a chain reaction of hydrogen-tank explosions that would destroy the entire place. Perhaps. I can’t complain too much, if that (hypothetical) giant explosion ending came after both the leading man and the leading lady got their respective sweet revenge on the people who had done them wrong in the past, and had a badass walk off into the sun. And also if that leading lady was the ridiculously hot Olga Kurylenko, and that leading man was the totally badass Daniel Craig. That would be OK. If it happened like that.
Tuesday, March 17th, 2009
I must admit that, although I have slammed both Mission: Impossible and especially Mission: Impossible 2 many times, seeing them on Blu-Ray has caused me to give both of them an extra star. Blu-Ray really is the ideal format for slick, visual action movies with no soul, and these two flicks certainly qualify. The two films come out together, as a package, on Blu-Ray for the first time March 17th, from Paramount Home Entertainment. Really, this set is for people who already enjoyed the movies, and want to see them kick ass in high-def. The way I watched them, they merely sucked a little less in high-def. But that is something.
Mission: Impossible (*******7/10)
“This is the Mount Everest of hacks.”
A phrase used, in the film, to describe the task of hacking into the CIA computer. But one that could also apply to the direction of Brian De Palma, a terrific director of such films as Scarface and The Untouchables. De Palma has always been fairly good, but with movies like those two he was really working above his level. De Palma is, really, the absolute top of the heap of hack directors in movies. He is the best, but he’s just a very, very good hack. And Mission: Impossible is the Mount Everest of movies made almost entirely by hacks.
That does not extend to the cast – Jon Voight is by no means a hack, nor is Emmanuelle Beart or Henry Czerny or Jean Reno. Even Tom Cruise is not a hack. I might give you Ving Rhames. But he is at least a very, very good hack, and the perfect actor for roles such as the one he plays in this film. But the script is weak, the direction able at best, and the special effects are pretty good. But the story is basically nonsense, the special effects are gratuitous, and there is a ton of unnecessary gadgetry and computer hacking and manufactured tense moments. The opening scene is the first and best example of this – they’re trying to catch a guy after he steals a thing, but rather than just sit there and wait for him and then catch him, they have to use fifty computers and wires and fake faces and sneaking around. Why? No reason. It just looks cool and they have all this crap to use.
Then Emilio Estevez dies, real early on, and the conspiracy that is setting up Tom Cruise gets (sort of) explained, and the movie is under way. Fortunately for those of us watching this in HD on Blu-Ray, much of the time Cruise is accompanied by Emmanuelle Beart, one of the hottest women ever to grace a film screen. (For those of you who might watch this movie just for her, I might recommend a different film – La Belle Noiseuse, a French art film where Beart plays a nude model who inspires an artist and spends the entire movie pretty much naked. Not only that, but the film is absolutely brilliant. Far more so than Mission: Impossible. It’s available on DVD, but not Blu-Ray.)
“Ethan, you’re not making any sense.”
Ethan Hunt, played by Tom Cruise, really doesn’t make a lot of sense if you really sit and pick apart this movie. But of course, that is not the idea here. The idea is to sit back and let wave after wave of mindless entertainment wash over us as Mission: Impossible draws to it’s obvious conclusion, after an unnecessary break-in to CIA headquarters, and several scenes where no character asks the obvious questions that would lead to a faster resolution or questions the obvious flaws in the plans. If you’re not willing to shut off your brain, ignore this film. If you are willing to do so, you could do a lot worse than Mission: Impossible. It is an awful lot of fun in Blu-Ray.
Mission: Impossible 2 (****4/10):
“This is not Mission Difficult, Mr. Hunt, it’s Mission Impossible.”
Good thing Anthony Hopkins put Tom Cruise in his place like that early on in this film. Otherwise, we might be confused into thinking this was a James Bond movie, or a Hong Kong Chow Yun-Fat action flick. Or both. Thank goodness we keep being reminded that it’s Mission: Impossible 2!