Saturday, September 27, 2008
For years I stayed away from the sequels to HALLOWEEN. I did this because I love the original film and knew that the series had to deteriorate from that amazing high point. I finally watched HALLOWEEN 2 a while back and really enjoyed it. It’s a big step down from the first and has a few stupid moments but overall I liked the way it stayed with that fateful night and drew the story to a satisfying end. That is where the series should have stopped and clearly Carpenter and his collaborators agreed as the next film was a completely different (and generally loathed) attempt to change the subject. But Michael Meyers was fated by box office returns to rise again so they made three more sequels and I have subjected myself to them out of my sad need to see every damned horror film ever made.
So what have I learned from HALLOWEENs 4 through 6? I’ve learned that these asinine movies should never have been made! And I suspect I’m not alone in this opinion since when they lured Jamie Lee Curtis back to reprise her role in H2O they ignored these three misbegotten films. They are absolutely terrible one and all. I would say that they got worse with each one but all three are so bad that trying to graph their awfulness is an exercise in futility. Suffice to say they suck and are not worth your time. They lack every fine quality that made the first film good and are burdened with some of the dumbest ideas for stories I have ever seen. By the time in 5 that they introduce the wrist rune tattoo with its attendant ‘Curse of Thorn’ crap I knew they were so far off the rails that there was no way to recover.
Now for the real question-Are these three sequels as bad as Zombie’s remake of HALLOWEEN? No. Even as bad as these three awful wastes of 90 minutes are, they are less insulting than last year’s celluloid bowel movement masquerading as a movie.
The only good movie with HALLOWEEN in the title is the first one. The second is acceptable but quite flawed and 3 is a fun creepy tale that has nothing to do with the previous movies. Everything after that is not worth worrying with.
I’m still looking forward to watching a lot of scary movies in October. Just not these!
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
This is a surprisingly good little movie. For some reason I find myself returning to it more often than better movies of the same type. I love the fact that the heroic central character isn't a very handsome fellow.
Maybe that's why I like it? Huuuummmmm...
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Wow! Even if I have to admit that THE HELLBENDERS is not Corbucci’s finest western it is still a damned good one. Neither as entertaining as COMPANEROS nor as sharp as THE MERCENARY nor as bleak as THE GREAT SILENCE it has elements of all of them. And I didn’t even mention the coffin filled with something other than a dead body- DJANGO be praised! Corbucci’s superior visual style is all over the movie with some wonderful camera movements and gorgeous framing of shots showcasing the beautiful locations. He also manages to pull off some creepy graveyard stuff in the nighttime raid to recover the buried coffin. During this sequence the most detestable of the siblings pushes a cross grave marker out of his way and I have to wonder if the director specifically asked for that moment. If the rest of the film was less well shot I’d have doubts but here Corbucci obviously put real thought into things.
One of the things I like about so many spaghetti westerns is that they often feature some flat out great performances. It’s as if the location shooting and somewhat ‘mythic’ setting coupled with broad story themes tended to bring out gritty, believable acting that hits home even if the dubbing is sometimes less than grand. Or maybe being uncomfortably hot and sweaty just forces an actor to dig a little deeper. Whatever the case, this film is certainly an example of good performances from nearly everyone involved. From solid workhorse thespian Joseph Cotton down through his onscreen sons and especially from Norma Bengell as Claire there isn’t a slacker in the lot. Bengell has the thankless role of being alternatively an assertive, strong woman and a helpless victim trying to get herself out of a bad situation before it gets worse. She is very good here playing vulnerable & strong and is well matched by the three actors playing the brothers.
Also, I really like the story. I’m not sure how many westerns were made with the plot of the Confederate soldier who won’t accept the end of the war but this is one of the better that I can remember. The only other one I can remember liking much was the Errol Flynn oater ROCKY MOUNTAIN and this film is much better.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Friday, September 12, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
The first time I saw PHANTASM 3: LORD OF THE DEAD I did not like it. Indeed, I felt so incredibly let down that I have refused to see the fourth film made a few years afterwards. The reason I was so upset by this film was that the second one had been so absolutely excellent. I felt (and still do) that PHANTASM 2 was one of the best sequels the horror genre had ever produced and in some ways might have surpassed the original. So 3’s limping story and the introduction of an irritating kid character just pissed me off. I wondered if the fact that I was watching this one on video instead of in the theater might have hindered my enjoyment but in the end I hated the sucker and was just angry.
Now- a confession. When I rented and watched PHANTASM 3 all those years ago I was on drugs. Serious drugs. And by that I mean painkillers given to me by a doctor. A real doctor. I had been struck down by my first (and so far only) kidney stone for three days. I spent those hazy days doped up on a wonderful prescription whose name is lost to the mists of my ever failing memory waiting to pass that damned chunk of calcium. Unable to go to work or do much more than lay around and hope it would soon be over I mostly distracted myself with morbid self pity and horror movies. Luckily the stone passed before I ran out of the happy pills or my idea about self surgery went from occasional thought to structured plan. Eventually everything was good again. Until, of course, the remaining pills were stolen from my car- but that’s another story entirely (to be filed under 'Christmastime Car Theft Tales'). Because of the wonderful drugs (Just say no, kids!) I have said for years that PHANTASM 3 was so bad that even drugs couldn’t make it good.
But……..as my memory of the film faded over the last decade or so I’ve wondered if maybe I was being too harsh at the time. After all- I love the first two movies. Maybe I should give it another try.
Boy, am I glad I did! I really liked it this time. It is clearly weaker than the previous two movies but it’s actually good. Yes, it has its flaws with the foremost being the irritating, gun toting kid character played by an actor with less talent than was needed for the role. And I could have done without the trio of zombiefied looters Reggie runs afoul of more than once. But overall this movie moves very well and entertains in the classic PHANTASM style. Nice location shooting, fun action scenes, an unexpected returning character and some more hints about the Tall Man’s origin make it a fun trip indeed. And credit must be given to writer/director Don Coscarelli for both handling the low budget very well and fashioning another great ending.
So now it is time to finally see the fourth and probably final film of the series which even die-hard fans say isn’t very good. But who knows? I’ve said for years 3 stank to high heaven and I’m doing a public 180 right here. Maybe PHANTASM 4 will prove better than I’ve heard.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
I've been a fan of this Tobe Hooper film since I caught it on VHS back when it limped to video in the mid-80s. That cut of the film was a mess but I still was captivated by the sprawling science fiction story and the sheer craziness of the last 20 minutes. I returned to LIFEFORCE repeatedly over the years and although many would say its for the amazing nudity of the gorgeous Matilda May the truth is stranger. I just really like the pulp style tale being told.
When the longer and much better cut of the film came out on Laser Disc in the 90s it was like an awakening. What I had always thought of as a guilty pleasure was now actually a pretty damned good (though still crazed) film. It will always be very flawed but I could now laud the movie without making quite so many caveats. These days the shorter US theatrical cut of LIFEFORCE is a thing of the past. The longer, better version is what was released on DVD by MGM and over the past decade I've watched as a strong cult following has gathered around it. I would love to see a lengthy Video Watchdog type breakdown of the differences between the two cuts one day. Hell! I'd love a documentary about the making of the film including interviews with the surviving cast and crew! If EVENT HORIZON can get a special edition surely this film can.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
THE PERFECT CRIME (2004)- 8 (hilarious Spanish comedy/crime film)
HANCOCK (2008)- 7 (changes into something most people will NOT like but I did)
DRILLBIT TAYLOR (2008)- 3 (just terrible-poor Owen Wilson)
SAMSON AND THE SEVEN MIRACLES OF THE WORLD (1961)- 6
THE BANK JOB (2008)- 8 (excellent fact based heist film)
CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN (1955)- 4 (terrible but fun/bad)
THE DEADLY BEES (1967)- 6 (maybe my expectations were low but I had fun)
DARK CITY (1998) – 9 (viewing of the director’s cut- fantastic)
THEREMIN: AN ELECTRONIC ODYSSEY (1993)- 6
ACCION MUTANTE (1993)- 8 (amazing sci-fi comedy from Spain)
DIARY OF THE DEAD (2008)- 7 (the weakest of Romero’s dead films but nowhere near the disaster I’d been lead to believe)
HELL RIDE (2008)- 6 (mildly ridiculous wallow in biker sleaze)
WORLD WITHOUT END (1956)- 5 (silly and misogynistic- but I love 50s sci-fi)
THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETARY (1981)- 8 (rewatch)
THE GIANT CLAW (1957)- 3 (silly, silly, silly)
CREEPSHOW (1982)- 8 (rewatch)
DAY OF THE DEAD (1984)- 8 (rewatch)
THE VAMPIRE (1957)- 5
ROBOT JOX (1990)- 7 (surprisingly fun low budget sci-fi)
MIRRORS (2008)- 4 (Aja muddles this one and the ending is INSANE- but the first 60 minutes are OK and I like the kicker)
FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM (1987)- 4 (Interesting Tennessee set anthology horror film that can’t quite overcome its low budget)
NAKED YOU DIE (1968)- 7 (fine, fun early giallo from Margheritti)
TROPIC THUNDER (2008)- 9 (hysterical)
CONFESSIONS OF A POLICE CAPTAIN (1971)- 8 (excellent Italian cop film)
In any given month I'll usually watch films from many different genres but August was bizarre. Everything from kids movies to documentaries to Spanish comedies and classic horror. Fun stuff!
I gotta get back on the peplum kick.
Monday, September 01, 2008
Well, its finally happened. Jason Statham has finally made an action film that I could not like. After chuckling my way through the TRANSPORTER and its even more crazed sequel as well as the completely over the top insane CRANK I thought that maybe he could just not screw these things up. When I learned of his starring role and the basic plot of this update/remake of the excellent Paul Bartel movie I was excited. This had the makings of one hell of a fun ride. But than I learned that it was being made by hack-for-hire Paul W. S. Anderson and my expectations fell. This is the guy who made the atrocious ALIEN VS. PREDATOR the embarrassing MORTAL KOMBAT, and great-idea-destroyed-in-execution EVENT HORIZON. Even the one directorial effort of his that I like (RESIDENT EVIL) has been vomited on by two terrible sequels.
But- I went to check it out. It might be fun, right?
Sadly, no. Shot by Anderson as if he couldn't find the right lens its an action film in which all the cool (I guess) stunt driving and car crashes are rendered incomprehensible because we NEVER get the time to focus on what's actually happening. Once again we are subjected to an editing style best described as 'gnat's eye blink theater' where just as you begin to be able to figure out what you're looking at there's a cut to a closeup of something else. This kind of thing has become the standard in the cutting of movies and only rarely is it done well enough to be called a good idea. A good example would be similar types of edits in THE DARK KNIGHT but there we were given establishing shots so we would know where things were before crap blew up. In DEATH RACE I could almost never get an idea of what was going on and so I was quickly bored and pissed off. That is a bad combination.
The director can't even film the movie's several fistfights well enough to see what the hell is going on. If there is one thing that Jason Statham can do onscreen its stage a convincing fight but the ones here are just awful. How can you screw this up? Just back the camera up and let the actor and stuntmen do their thing. Simple. But not in this movie. When are director's going to learn that the audience IS NOT IN THE FIGHT! We want to SEE the fight! That's why we're in the theater! Back the hell up and show us the fist fight from a distance so we can tell who is hitting who and how. Ugh! Why am I having to explain this? Don't they teach this in cinema classes?
It really is a shame. Anderson blew one of the best ideas his sad little brain has ever puked up and he also wasted a truly dream cast. Everyone gives their all to this thin, poorly written mistake but when I can say that a film couldn't get anything out of a slumming Joan Allen or the usually fantastic Ian McShane you know you are in turdville.
I've said it before and I'll say it again- Paul W.S. Anderson must stop making movies. Now!