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Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Blood-splattered slasher flick brutality at it's (almost) finest
Freddy vs. Jason only stumbles on a couple of platforms. Otherwise, we have an excellent, fast-paced, smoothly executed crossover that should have appeased not only fans of the two classic series, but slasher fans in general.
Let me add that of the classic slashers, Jason Voorhees is not among my favorites. I like a few Friday the 13th films. But Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers are on a platform above Jason, if you ask me. Jason was a little too low-rent overall. However, for the sake of such a crossover, I think they put together a perfect pairing.
Why did it work? It was FUN. Like the Friday the 13th films, it sacrifices class for brutality. But it does an outstanding job at it. I wasn't getting bored with any lull, I wasn't rolling my eyes in disgust. Freddy vs. Jason really was just about what I expected. It can get away without having any class.
So of course, the reason for admission: The fight scene. Outstanding, outlandish brutality. I honestly didn't expect to enjoy the fight scene as much as I did, but it was awesome. They definitely didn't short-change us on Freddy and Jason's showdown.
My only complaints are that as a Freddy fan, I wanted a different ending, and a higher body count for the man. However, the latter is focal to the story, and it's made clear that Freddy is generally the more terrorizing one. They still gave him his due in the ending as well. So it's not as if I was outright disappointed.
Another big complaint is the dialog. It's as if the writers really thought they were speaking to a bunch of rocks with how Freddy needed to reaffirm the entire premise throughout the movie. Not only was the premise inferred after the opening monologue, better writing would have forgone the need for such point blank "this is what's going on" dialog. Clarification is just fine, but they're breaking it down barney-style here. It's as if they didn't have enough faith in their writing to think that the audience would have understood. Better writing would have fixed that. It's pretty lazy, and honestly, how stupid do they need to treat us?
Friday the 13th gurus are also disappointed with Kane Hodder not being re-cast as a role that he's played well in four Friday films. For me, that doesn't matter. It's not the same as having a different man playing Freddy. But perhaps this is someone who's not the biggest fan of the Friday series speaking. So I get the discontent that said fans had with that decision.
What's the verdict overall? It's not perfect by any means. Flimsy dialog hurting it the most for me. But otherwise, I can't recommend this film highly enough for anyone who wants a solid 97 minutes of action. Whether a fan of either series, or just looking for some simple slasher fun, this move is it.
Slow-paced, uneven execution hampers what would have been a solid sequel
I can deal with the premise. I can even deal with the homoerotic undertones. What I can't deal with is the fact that we wade through about 40 minutes of this film before Freddy even gets his first victim. And the action didn't even get intense until the last half-hour or so.
I thought this film was better the first few times I saw it. Watching it again, I've re-evaluated my position on it. They could have had a hit here. The formula for a stellar sequel is right in the plot. But it's so unevenly distributed and short-changed that it's hard to get excited.
The character development is just fine. That is, Jesse morphing in to Freddy to bring him in to the real world. The problem is that they didn't present enough payoff throughout this particular plot point to really make the buildup worth it. Hell, the uneven pacing could have been forgiven had there really been a payoff towards the climax. We could write off a slow start had the latter half of the movie really wowed us. It too fell short.
Also, when I say "uneven pacing", I'm not just referring to the events of the plot. I'm referring to the fact that some of the scenes themselves have too much idle time in between character interaction. There needs to be a little less staring. If they were attempting to build suspense, it didn't really work. I just got that they slowed the scene down and made it harder to suspend disbelief.
It could have been saved too, had it a great ending. But this is easily one of my least favorite endings to any of the Nightmare films. Now, the absolute final ending is okay. But Freddy's demise simply seemed to weak for me, not particularly believable.
Nightmare 2 has some great points, too. The pool scene was, for the most part, excellent. A few bones to pick, again with the execution. But overall, it's excellent. And the cinematography when Freddy delivers his immortal line "You are all my children now" was also terrific. The problem was, it was over too soon. Not enough action, and not enough payoff when we finally received it.
I have to also say that I like that they were ambitious, and strove to move in a different direction. That didn't bother me. It was still only the second movie in to the franchise. I also like that Freddy is still dark in this film, as opposed to wisecracking and campy (which he became in later films). But it all came down to how it was executed, and Nightmare 2 just falls short in that regard.
Thankfully, Nightmare 3 was a much better movie. It also involved the Nancy Thompson storyline (which is only referenced in Nightmare 2). Thus, it's unaffected by this movie. This is a film only for the hardcore Nightmare fans (like me) who just have to see every movie. Otherwise, feel free to skip it. It's not the worst in the series (Freddy's Dead takes that by a long mile). In fact, I still prefer it over the more action-packed Nightmare 4. But it's one that lukewarm fans of the series could do without.
Solid premise that's mutilated by a horrible plot
Siskel & Ebert really tore this film up top to bottom. Largely, they're absolutely right. But they also have at it in regards to the premise, and I would disagree with that. I actually think this is a pretty good concept for a family film. The writing is where this movie falls flat on it's face.
There's nothing wrong with a fantasy-comedy film about a boy who sets out on an world trip to find the "perfect" parents. Nothing at all, unless it's this movie.
North has got to be one of the most culturally insensitive, factually inaccurate, and stereotypical films I've ever seen. The entire problem with how the different cultures are depicted is that they're written as if this is a parody film. No, this is a FAMILY COMEDY (we'll use the word "comedy" pretty loosely here). Not a parody film. Big difference. This movie in no way purports to be a parody, nor does it attempt to draw that type of audience. That Rob Reiner would have released such a film really shocks me.
These are the biggest problems, the inaccuracies and cultural insensitivity. Not for this type of film, not for it's intended audience. It's actually pretty appalling. Sure, I get what the writers were trying to do, the direction they were trying to go in. But that's not enough. Not when the end product is a cold-hearted insult to several different cultures. It's as misguided and stereotypical as a minstrel show.
On top of that, this movie simply isn't very funny. Again, you get how they were TRYING to be funny. But you see it fall absolutely short.
I have no beef with the concept at all. Had this movie been written in an entirely different manner, they'd have had a solid film here. It even has some solid star power. Nothing holds this back from being good more than the absolutely atrocious script. A script which seems to think that it's an entirely different film for an entirely different audience. And that leaves this movie with very little to make it worthwhile.
The Amityville Horror (2005)
Definitely has it's problems, but it's a solid film overall
One thing I need to make clear before I go any further is this: I don't believe that the Amityville Horror is a true story. I'm just as much of a paranormal guru as the next guy. But that doesn't mean that I will believe any story that comes down the pike. There's simply been too much legitimate criticism of the story for me to believe that it happened. This, coupled with subsequent owners claiming no paranormal activity in the house, lead me to believe that it was a very fascinating, but fictional story. And it's a damn good one.
So with that, I think it's imperative to understand that what's wrong with this film is just what's wrong with previous Amityville media: That it purports to be based on a true story. Since I believe this to be a lie, I judge this solely as a work of fiction.
So what exactly is so much different from the book, or even the first film? George Lutz turning in to John from "The Shining" was largely invented for this version. And Jodie (the invisible ghostly friend of the daughter) being revamped in to the ghost of a DeFeo family member, and trying to trick Chelsea (her name in this film) to kill herself on separate occasions. And the dog dying. So three things that change, one of them working with the source material considerably. Read the synopsis' for either of the former media, and tell me what else is so much different.
Now, are these big differences? Well, some of them do drive the plot, and that turns it in to a different film in a lot of aspects. I can understand the criticism. It can be enough to leave a bad taste in the mouths of the purists, sure. For instance, read my review of Rob Zombie's Halloween. Otherwise, they included a lot of the elements of the previous Amityville stories in this film. The red eyes, green slime, flies, sullen attitudes, 3:15, Native American deaths, etc.
Escaping that, how does the rest of this movie fare? Honestly, pretty well. The execution, writing, acting, visuals, I think they're all pretty solid. I think Ryan Renolds played his character particularly well, and it's the standout of the entire film. I don't feel like there was anything that left me shaking my head. Well perhaps, that there was more to the story that they could have utilized. But it's not as if there already wasn't a lot of meat to it.
So it all comes down to a few plot changes, ranging from significant to insignificant, all depending on how you personally view it. That's all perfectly understandable. For me, it wasn't particularly bothersome. This is a pretty good movie. But you won't like it if you're looking for a more accurate re-telling of the original story. Just a few changes that can irritate you.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Unique, Intriguing, Suspenseful
Maybe I don't get the critics of this movie. I think we can all agree that by the late 1980's, the horror genre was beaten to death. Scream eventually came along in the mid-90's and gave it the shot in the arm that it needed. However, soon after the genre was flooded again with much lesser films cashing in on Scream's success.
So what was the Blair Witch Project? A very different horror film indeed. While not the first of the found footage genre, it made a much larger impact than previous movies of the sub-genre had. And like Scream before it, it gave something fresh and original to the horror film scene.
Isn't that what we wanted all along? By 1990, slasher flicks were a dime a dozen. Same in 1999 with the films that followed Scream. Blair Witch went in to an entirely different direction. Sure, it was proposed before Scream (and filmed the following year of it's release), however, it came at a great time. Just as horror movies were yet again becoming tired parodies of themselves.
I don't even know why we need to put spoilers, seeing as just about everyone whose heard of the film knows how it ends. But know this: If you're expecting a bogeyman to jump out at you, then you'll be disappointed. If that's what you must have in a horror film, then keep going. Blair Witch operates largely on the elements of intrigue and suspense. Suspense, intrigue, both important elements to any great horror film (like Halloween). But unlike many of these films, there is no bogeyman on screen. Everything is left open to interpretation, with the general idea being the same. You clearly see these things happen in Blair Witch, but you have no real idea why they're happening, or who's responsible. You're not given an answer, you're not given violence and gore, you're not given big, on-screen effects, you never even see the antagonist's face. But you are given clues, ways to connect the dots.
But THAT is just what made this film great. It was a solid, original idea that was executed remarkably. It didn't follow a typical formula, but why should that matter? If this film couldn't be enjoyed for what it was, then it's not the fault of the film. Because it's simply not a bad movie. To dislike it because it wasn't well-written, executed, or interesting, I can understand. But if that's what you think, then are we even talking about the same film here?
It doesn't have the typical ending, or the typical "bad guy jumps out at you" moment. But it's a sure horror thriller, and the rhyme and reason is all made obvious if you've paid attention throughout.
The Blair Witch Project is a classic. A movie that laid the groundwork for mainstream acceptance of it's sub-genre, and became a masterpiece of it's main genre in it's own right. This is a must-see for any horror fan.
Father Hood (1993)
Identity crisis says it best
Whoever marketed this film must have never seen it. It's hardly a comedy-drama, nor is it "hilarious" or "action packed". I don't recall any part of the movie that would suggest it. It's straight-up drama. And a dark one at that.
I don't know if it was meant to be a more family-oriented movie or not. I know that it's one of the tapes my mom brought home from Gibraltar Trade Center for us kids to watch, so it certainly appeared that way. And again being branded with the "comedy-drama" bit. But it's just a dark film. Much darker than I would expect of a family-oriented film. Like the obviously implied sexual abuse taking place at the hands of the group home administrators. Or the pregnant girl being forcefully removed from her grandmother's house by the group home goons. And then another goon being shot to death in his car. Not that family films can't contain death or drama. But this was a film that likely would have been granted a TV-14 rating had it been an episode of a drama series. Maybe even TV-M.
All in all, is it a bad movie? I don't particularly think so. It's not wretched by any means. It's mediocre, but watchable. It's kind of an interesting display of youths that are forced to grow up fast amid shattered families and corruption, I'll say that much. Probably one thing that I do happen to like about this film, which is supposedly based on a true story. Just don't go in to it expecting comedy in any capacity. It's simply not there.
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)
Make no mistake about it, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation is an awful movie. But it's found its way in to my guilty pleasures collection. In spite of the terrible acting and dialog, it still has it's enjoyable parts. Perhaps it's awfulness contributes to that.
The problem with MK:A is that it both tries too hard, and doesn't try hard enough. It doesn't try hard enough in regards to it's acting, dialog, or even character utilization. When I say the acting and dialog are bad, I mean it. To the point where I felt like Sindel's antagonistic dialog was ripped straight from a bad 1970's children's cartoon. I kind of felt embarrassed for the actors for having taken part in it.
But it also tries too hard in regards to bringing every character from the Mortal Kombat series in to the film. When this film came out, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 was the most current video game, and there were just under 20 characters or so that could be utilized. Well, this film decided to try its best to include almost all of them. Leaving out only Shang Tsung (due to the plot line of the first film), and two other characters whose off-screen deaths are addressed on-screen for closure. Because of this, a good deal of the characters are hardly utilized, some disappearing just as soon as they appear. Both Baraka and Noob Saibot literally have about 30 seconds of screen time each. Mileena and Smoke get a WHOPPING minute longer. Rain and Nightwolf don't have fights. What's the point? The focus of this film could have been much better had they sacrificed a good handful of characters for the greater good. Sure, I expect there to be more, but don't try to "stay faithful" to the game if it means sacrificing good character utilization.
As well, they didn't really try to stay all that faithful to the game in regards to the plot anyhow. Having been a fan of the games for years, I don't ever recall Raiden, Shao Kahn, Mileena, and Shinnok all being related. I even checked online prior to this review (just to make sure that it wasn't retconned in to the story) and couldn't find it. This is just one problem with the entire plot, let alone the fact that Liu Kang's "three tests" turn out only to be two (maybe they were hoping we'd forget that there was supposed to be a third one). Sure, they got the main concept down. But unlike the first movie, they also veered a little too far off course.
Is the plot itself terrible? It's average. About what I would expect for a generic action flick. Pretty flimsy in certain areas, that's for sure. But that's not even the worst of the problems of the movie. The execution is by far.
It's such a noticeable dip from the first movie. Mortal Kombat was a solid outing. Not terrific, but pretty good. This movie made some attempts, but missed the mark greatly.
MK: is an absolutely wretched movie. But it has some pretty entertaining (albeit cheesy) action. And perhaps it's B and C-rate elements make it entertaining as well. I can't recommend it without acknowledging that you will most likely be disappointed by it, regardless if you're an MK fan or not. It truly is a terrible film. I just can't help but find it entertaining in some regards.
Mortal Kombat (1995)
Decent action flick, gets more flak than it deserves
I don't think the critics were fair with this movie. In all honesty, it's a solid action flick, and stays focused on its source material. Perhaps it's boosted by the sea of terrible video game-to-film adaptations that were coming out around the same time. I mean, when you compare it to the live-action Street Fighter*, Double Dragon, and Super Mario Bros. films that came out in the mid-90's, it easily accomplishes what they failed to do (and failed badly at that).
The Good: coherent story, keeps you entertained, great actions scenes, stays faithful to the material, kick ass soundtrack.
The bad: Not the strongest dialog, some characters not utilized properly.
My only major complaint with Mortal Kombat is that certain fight sequences could have definitely been better, and could have shown off the characters better as well. Sub-Zero and Goro don't really get strong fights, Rayden doesn't get a fight at all, and they're all MK favorites. However, Scorpion, Johnny Cage, Lui Kang, Reptile, and Shang Tsung all have solid outings. I think they're worth the price of admission alone.
If you're a fan of the series, it's definitely worth a viewing.
*If you're looking for a good Street Fighter film, check out the anime Street Fighter II.
That Night (1992)
Overall, it's a pretty good film
I first saw That Night in sixth or seventh grade, as I recall. Two terrible, terrible years in my life. This movie though, it really stuck out to me. Maybe it was solely because of the time period in which it was set in. I imagine had it taken place in contemporary times, I wouldn't have been quite as interested. Nonetheless, I thought this was a pretty good movie. Not the strongest writing. But it's good in some areas, and makes up for the rest with how it handles such confusion and emotions that we can all relate to.
The protagonist is Alice, a 10-year old girl who narrates the story of the summer of 1961. It was one of the most influential summers of her life. Alice is awestruck by her across the street neighbor Sheryl, a 17-year old girl who could best be defined as a free spirit. Alice adores everything about Sheryl, she's totally mesmerized by her. Enter Rick, a local troubled youth who Alice would turn to in hard times. Rick and Sheryl would begin a romance, and Alice would become friends with both of them. However, the neighborhood parents disapprove of Rick, and problems arise when Sheryl refuses to stop seeing him. Alice, perhaps out of her admiration of the two of them, actively pursues keeping the couple in tact. No matter what it takes.
That Night is a pretty solid coming-of-age film. Alice is torn between two worlds. That of the tumultuous relationship between her own friends (typical discussions about sex, body issues, etc) and that of the world of Sheryl and Rick. Alice, who can't understand her friends (or how young boys and girls treat each other on the verge of their sexual awakenings), romanticizes Sheryl and Rick's situation. However, she may not understand that world as well as she thinks either.
Alice is a very relateable character. But not just for women. I think most of us can understand how it was when we were younger, and we thought that we had simple solutions to complicated problems. At whatever point that it was when we decided that we were "grown-ups" trapped in children's bodies. And let's not forget of course, how we always wanted to preserve the fairy tale. I think this film captures all of these points very well.
However, this film does have it's problems. The biggest is that there are certain sub-plots which aren't covered enough. Another is that the dialog is lacking in certain areas as well. This is capped off with the frustration that this movie is only about 90 minutes long. Had they granted us an additional 30 minutes at least (to round out two full hours), we could have had better dialog between Alice and her father, and had a better understanding of the frustration she felt with him. We could have had more time spent on Alice and her school-age friends, and the confusion and disenchantment she felt with them. And perhaps we also could have been given more time with Sheryl and her mother, and had a stronger understanding for her mother's disliking of Rick. The plot can feel rather contrived at times, because the whole film feels rushed. To my understanding, the book was more detailed. So I don't understand why they would make a film that was a little too short to really give us stronger writing.
So I give this movie about a 7. Maybe that's being generous. However, the movie really shines in the areas in which it's good. It's worth a viewing if you're up for a coming-of-age or romantic drama set in the golden age of contemporary American society.
People liked this movie?
There isn't one single character in this movie that I didn't want to kick in the face. All I saw for the duration of this film were a bunch of self-absorbed a-holes walking around and whining. We're meant to feel that this is somehow a coming-of-age for these youths who feel completely disaffected with reality crashing down on them. However, not one lesson was actually learned. No one, at any point in this movie, could manage to look outside of themselves and acknowledge anything outside of their microcosm of existence.
Not every film needs a stated lesson, that's true. "Kids" got away with not having one for a couple of reasons:
1) The lesson was implied. We actually KNEW what was going on, and how to feel about it. This movie didn't for one minute arise any emotion in me other than "Good God, these kids are all dip****s". As we drifted from one confusing scene to the next, I tried to figure out what they were building up to. Ultimately, it was simply that every character in this movie deserved to be hated. It's the only thing I actually learned.
2) "Kids" actually had enough real drama to speak to it's audience without needing a well-defined lesson. A scene which is powerful enough will speak for itself. We know that it's simply a representation of art imitating life, and we come away understanding the realistic horrors that it exemplifies. All that SubUrbia had was a bunch of laughable melodrama. A bunch of arrogant, disrespectful little dillweeds who despite their whining and wishing for change, never come away with the fact that THEY are the biggest reason that they're being held back.
It's not that I "don't get it". It's not that I didn't grow up in the 1990's (I did). It's not that I don't understand the slacker/Generation X cultures of the era (It was slightly before my time, but I still understand it). It's not that I didn't feel just as confused, angry, and depressed as any one of these kids at that point in my life (or for that matter, before and after). I understand (on some level) how these characters felt and acted. However, when I was expecting a "coming-of-age" film to actually come of age, this one didn't. It went nowhere. It showed no development in character. Most characters are just as one-dimensional at the end of the film as they were from the start. Sure, they can identify their flaws. However, they can't seem to come to terms with them. All the while, I'm expecting for these kids to learn something. Instead, I'm shown that they're devoid of decency, and seem perfectly content with being so.
The only emotion I could feel was anger. Anger that I spent two hours watching a bunch of snots with no regard for anyone but themselves act out some lousy melodrama. The fact that afterwards, it's not shown or implied that they will suffer any consequences for their stupidity or selfishness. At least in "Kids", it was understood that many of the characters would have dire consequences for their actions. "Thirteen" as well. Provided, both movies were more dark than this one. But SubUrbia certainly tried to be heavy. It failed. Sure, some of the characters (despite the fact that virtually all of them are despicable, shallow, self-centered a-holes) are relatable to anyone who was ever a teenager. But that doesn't make them good, nor does it make the film in which they appear in good either. I'm not arguing against this film like some crusty old man who forgot what it was like to be young. I hate this film when I was 17, and I hate it now. SubUrbia seemed to think that relatable characters would be enough to carry the rest of the film. It wasn't.
It's like when I watched "Clerks" for the first time. Throughout the movie, I tended to sympathize with one of the seemingly luckless main characters. But then when another character gets sick of his b.s, he laid it all out to him as to why he was being a yutz. Then I thought to myself about that exchange just as much as the characters on-screen were meant to. See, that's why Clerks worked, despite the fact that the entire thing was mostly comedic melodrama. Because the film moved from one emotional platform to the next in the context of growing up and understanding life. That is, it CAME OF AGE.
I hated SubUrbia. It's is obnoxious and shallow. It may have attempted to be obnoxious, but I know full and well it wanted to be anything but shallow. I kept expecting either a lesson to be learned, a character to have sympathy for, or a powerful enough segment that spoke to me above the level of simple young adult disaffection. This film accomplished none of that. It was melodrama without any real resolution. There was no one to feel sorry for. Nothing to think about. It's a coming-of-age film that failed to do so.
For more on absolutely terrible films that attempt to show despicably shallow, arrogant, and ignorant disaffected youth in a protagonistic light, see "Reality Bites".