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Camp Cucamonga (1990)
Oh Dear Lord...
First off, if you are looking for that movie that you saw on TV in the early 90's that had a slew of TV stars of the time, including Jaleel White not playing a nerd, then you have found that movie. Secondly, it's not as good as you remember it.
This movie can best be described as a can of goofy spray cheese. There are several moments of historically incredible embarrassment, including Candace Cameron giving a speech on coming to terms with the fact that her love flame from last summer is now just giving off sparks, a goofy Brian Robbins trying to be cool, and Chad Allen as the "hunk". But it all comes to orgasmic cheese fruition in one of the most spectacular dumps TV has ever taken on us viewers. I am, of course, referring to the ending when the campers come up with a way to save the camp by making a music video as an advertisement. The song will haunt you for years. I haven't seen this movie since 1997 and it still echoes in my thoughts.
Anyway, with all that said, this movie is a fun little time capsule to the years of trapper keepers, acid wash jeans, and snap bracelets...let alone all the sitcoms that festered in the TV airwaves at the time. If you want to have a good time making fun of a movie, or if you like fluff along the lines of Hannah Montana and The Suite Life, this should be a real treat for you. If not, you're in for a very long hour and a half.
"Tonight is your night Bro!"
I'm a fan of Ivan Reitman comedies, and Twins is no different. Arnold and Devito make a great on screen pair, and the movie makes good use of the obvious physical differences comedically I think.
I always remember Twins as the first movie that displayed the softer side of Arnold. To the date, his movies were mostly action flicks of the sci-fi, fantasy, and crime ilk. Twins would be the first of three Reitman comedies that Arnold would star in showing a kinder, gentler, and funnier side that I think worked well. Devito was a great support beam for this new experiment, and the two created some memorable moments together.
The premise isn't as far fetched as it might seem on the surface. Arnold is artificially created in a lab using the DNA of several men who excel in different fields. This DNA is used to artificially inseminate a volunteer woman. The idea is to create a perfect man and it works splendidly for Julius (Arnold). Unfortuanely, the unexpected twin brother, Vincent (Devito), is born soon after with none of the genes of his multiple fathers, as they were all used up on Arnold.
The two are separated at birth from each other and their mother, who was told that they both died during labor. Arnold stays with the experiment on a remote island and lives a wonderful life while Devito is sent to an orphanage on the mainland as basically the left over garbage, neither of them knowing the other exists. In adulthood, Arnold is told of his twin brother and he seeks to find him, and their mother, and become a real family.
If you enjoyed the other Reitman/Arnold films, Kindergarten Cop & Junior, than you will surely enjoy this one too. The comedy is light hearted with a touch of sentiment and makes for a good family film.
The Last House on the Left (2009)
The Middle of the Road Remake Streak Continues...
The remake of Last House is neither great or horrible. In my opinion, it sits comfortably in the middle somewhere.
I preface by saying that I am not a huge fan of the 1972 Wes Craven film, even though I consider myself a fan of his other works. Much like the remake of Amityville Horror, a remake of this film could not do much worse as far as I'm concerned. So I wasn't planning on having too many complaints relating to the differences with original source material (and since I haven't seen the Bergman film, by original I mean the '72 film). I wasn't expecting much, and I was given more than I expected.
The story remains very similar in that two girls find themselves in an unfortunate situation buying the dreaded weed! One of the girls, our heroine Mari, is a good virginal, family girl. The other, is a little more daring and promiscuous. The original developed this relationship better and seemed to look closer at the characters personalities. To me, this made the next set of events more effective.
While buying the drugs, the girls and their suitor are interrupted by the remaining members of the suitor's gang, who have recently done something illegal and are running from the law. In mere moments, the girls find themselves the prisoners of the gang for fear of alarming the authorities, or maybe because the gang is sexually attracted to the girls and has other uses for them. By any means, the gang and the girls take to the road to escape. While en route, Mari sees that they are traveling near her house, and tries to make an escape which results in the crash of the car they're riding in and some injuries to the passengers. Her attempt ultimately fails and she and her friend are punished for it.
This is where the original and remake separate a little. The original featured a much more sadistic turn of events, where as the remake lets us as the audience off a little easy. The only cruel and disturbing element that the remake was able to recreate in my opinion was the
brutal rape of Mari by the gang's leader. To me this scene was very unsettling and was the only part of the film to capture how evil the gang of criminals are, save for the opening scene where they force a dying police officer to bleed to death on a picture of his kids, all the while telling him that he'll never see them again. Back to Mari: after she is assaulted, Mari makes another attempt to escape. She runs to the lake to swim away from her captors and although she manages to dodge the majority of the bullets that they fire at her from the shore, one gets her in the back and she is left for dead in the water. Here is another example of how the original differs. In the original, there is no doubt that Mari is shot dead. The remake leaves open the possibility that she was merely injured and thus sets up a more uplifting ending.
Because the escape attempt rendered the gang's transportation useless, they approach a nearby residence for aid. In an ironic twist of fate, the residence is that of Mari's parents who have no knowledge of the unfortunate events that have just unfolded. Here the film settles into it's third act, where the parents discover the deeds of the gang and carry out their revenge on them. The remake has Mari arrive back home barely alive, where her parents are able to save her and ultimately leave with her, along with the unfortunate son of the gang's leader who helped the parents exact their revenge.
The attacks on the gang by the parents in both films felt over the top to me, and this is really where I move away emotionally. It seems that in both cases, the violence is only present to appease the audience. I feel that if the attacks would have been more organic to the parents plight, they would have been much more cruel and disturbing instead of satisfying. Take for example the brutal attack on the assumed rapist at the beginning of the film "Irreversible". This is the kind of violence that I think would have benefited the overall feel of the Last House remake. Instead we are treated to an odd "head in the broken microwave" sequence that is never properly explained.
Oh well, if the majority of the audiences are anything like my screening, this film will get a pretty good reaction. At least on the first viewing anyway. However, this is one film that will definitely not stand the test of time. But, neither does the original, so who cares.
James Cameron's "Titanic"
I have waited several years to attempt to review this film for several reasons. I wanted to have my thoughts completely in order. I didn't want to join either side of the debate here. One side feels as though this film is the greatest of all time, the other comes with a force of backlash the size of the tidal wave in "The Abyss." Well now, nearly a decade later, I write my thoughts.
I, like many males my age, am a huge James Cameron fan. I absolutely love Aliens, The Abyss, and the Terminator films. I feel as though he has an amazing eye for how the action in the scene needs to be conveyed on the screen. He has a very unique and complete imagination. And an unbelievable work ethic to boot. Nothing, in regards to these points, changes in Titanic. He is on his game. And he deserved everything he got back.
This film is truly one of the greatest risks in all of film. Just take The Postman for example. The Postman was released this same year and went down in history as one of the biggest box office flops of all time and is regarded by a harsh majority as one of the worst movies of all time as well. Yet Kevin Costner worked hard and a lot of money was spent in order to create the film. So why did Cameron's film fare so much better?
James Cameron involved more viewers with this source material than his other projects had. He still integrated amazing visuals and top notch effects into his film to please the male 18 to 30 crowd, yet the inclusion of a grand and harrowing love story caught the interest of female and older viewers as well. This is not a sell out. If you listen to James Cameron speak about this film, his interest was completely emotional from the beginning. I can't imagine how he must've felt observing the remains of the great ship laying silently at the bottom of the sea, knowing how many died and how many lives were changed when it sank. I feel as though he achieved his ultimate goal when he made Titanic. The action scenes here were a necessary tool in order to tell his human story to maximum effect, not the human story being necessary in order to tell his action story as is usually the case with his films. I feel as though he did a very good job with this change.
As for any clichés. Honestly, I don't see any. There of course is the usual story devices used to get characters into conflict, but let's be honest people, this film has no more a Hollywood cliché as say a movie like...Good Will Hunting. So let's put that backlash theory to rest. Also, I've heard quite a bit of talk about historical inaccuracies in this film. I'm sure that there are quite a few, so I won't even attempt to argue. I will however point out that other historic epics have made great films with this same problem, and haven't seen nearly half the backlash that Titanic did. Take Gladiator, Braveheart, or even a more intimate movie like Cinderella Man. All great, all historical, all inaccurate. So who really cares. Is it a well made movie? That's all that really matters. Titanic is a well made movie.
Titanic is by no means perfect. It is not the greatest film of all time in my opinion. But no one can argue that this film will go down in history as a great achievement. A very rare diamond in the rough that achieves box office glory, critic applause, and a large trophy cabinet. For new viewers of this film, watch only on the merits that are presented to you on the screen. Forget what the pro and con people have to say, forget how much it made, how many awards it won, and how historically accurate it is. Just let it in. My guess is that you will enjoy yourself. Afterall, this is nearly required viewing anyway.
P.S. After almost ten years, I still feel as though the music in this movie is as good as it can get. James Horner does an amazing job creating a timeless back drop of music that will help carry this film through the ages.
Hoop Dreams (1994)
I love this movie. Back in 98 I had the unexpected pleasure of catching it on PBS. At first I casually watched it, having heard of it upon its release a few years earlier. Not too far into the three hour running time, I found myself going from casual onlooker to absolutely hooked.
The story is amazing in its scope. Four years of high school and some brief college material are documented here. We hop on board the lives of two high school basketball stars from Chicago, all but consumed with the desire to play in the NBA. Both boys are similar in some ways, and yet very different.
As their story unfolds, you become very aware at how real this story is for many young athletes. All Hollywood clichés are left in the dust and the truth only a documentary can muster pulls us along for what seems like a film that is strangely too short. Three hours have never gone by so quick.
Your heart will cheer, break, and then cheer again for these two great kids as they struggle with their dreams of reaching the ultimate level, as well as their struggle to just find a way through their daily lives. I won't do you the disservice of giving away anything. Just sit down and watch a great movie, and find out for yourself. Good Stuff!
Harry at age 13
First off, I'm a fan of the books. I have read this particular chapter, or should I say year, several times. My feelings on the film are as follows:
There are many new things to talk about this time out. First, Dumbledore's replacement. For those not in the know, Richard Harris passed shortly after the second film was finished. To me, he was the perfect Dumbledore right from the beginning and I had a hard time seeing a new face in the role. Michael Gambon was satisfactory but too many key elements from the character are missing. Instead of playing Dumbledore as a wise, kind and somewhat tired old wizard as Harris did, Gambon seems more energetic and detached from the main characters. I felt as though he and Harry's relationship took a step backwards from the previous movies. I felt as though Harris' performance was closer to Dumbledore as written in the books.
Second, we have a new director. Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron steps in and to my delight has given the series a fresh and interesting approach. He approaches the darker tones found in the book with vigor and panache. I was very happy with his visual style. It was very bold and edgy, yet full of emotion. Yeah "Y Tu Mama Tambien" dude. Way to step up. Great job with the dementors and Sirius Black.
This is what I consider the turning point towards maturity for the characters in the books. I was very happy to see that this transition was also made in the film version.
Also, I would like it to be known that this is one of John Williams' very best film scores, and that's saying a lot. He was robbed at the Oscars. Oh well. He has 5 already.
A gem from the Fantasy Boom of the 80's
This has always been one of my favorite movies for some reason. That doesn't necessarily mean that it's good; just that I like watching it.
I highly recommend this movie to anyone searching for a good fantasy title from the 80's. I would put "Krull" right up there with Ladyhawke, both Conan's, Willow, and the Dark Crystal.
What separates this fantasy film from the others is a plot involving a more science fiction- type element. Visitors from somewhere in space have landed on a planet named Krull to wreak havoc. After they snag up our hero, Prince Colwyn's bride-to-be, he goes on a quest to save her with the help of a star-shaped boomerang with knives called the Glaive and a band of strange characters including a cyclops and a goofy guy who can change into animals.
Good time fun worth the rental price. What else do you need here?
For film buffs, check out early performances by Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane.
War of the Worlds (2005)
Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds"
I am a huge Steven Spielberg fan. To me, this film was never about special FX, how well it would do against Episode III, or Tom Cruise. I was just eager to see my idol's next project. He seemed excited to be doing it. All involved seemed excited too.
And then something happened.
Tom Cruise was jumping all over couches and spouting lessons of Scientology, people who loved Episode III became haters inadvertently, and audience members left the theaters disappointed at the abrupt ending, somehow forgetful of how the original literary material ends. And the attention to Spielberg's "War of the Worlds" detoured from a critique on the craftsmanship involved, to the silly circus of people around it.
By all accounts, this film is excellent on many levels. The pacing is right on, the special FX are indeed superb, John Williams' score is a great parallel to the action on screen, and Spielberg again shows his knack for creating unforgettable images laden with emotion, horror, and pulse-pounding adrenaline.
Although I personally feel that this film could've been so much more plot wise, I also feel that it redeems its' faults with its' plethora of virtues.
Spielberg makes movies with his heart. It seems that some audience members are surprised at this. Some people may not like this film. Some may like it. But the fact of the matter is that one of the great director's of our era has composed a great summer blockbuster and more went right than wrong.
If anyone should doubt Spielberg's elite place in the annals of the world of film, show me another filmmaker who has managed to stay on top for 30 years.
The Island (2005)
Bay at his Best
I will get right to the point. Michael Bay has proved two things to me with "The Island":
1. Now that the Star Wars saga has closed its' doors, true science fiction, i.e. Soylent Green, Planet of the Apes, has made a return to the film world.
2. Bay has finally reached the next level in his directorial career.
This is arguably Bay's best film. Although it does still have his signature brutal action sequences, character based comic relief, and mass vehicle destruction, it seems that he has found and held onto the deeper meaning in the source material here.
Slick direction, beautiful cinematography, and fresh performances by the talented cast make this one of the summer's most underrated and hopefully appreciated screen gems.
For Fellow Friday Fans
Judging by this movies rating and a seemingly never-ending supply of bad reviews gracing the front page, I felt it was time for me to speak up.
First of all, in my personal opinion, this is one of the best Friday's. The purpose of this film was to bring back the Jason character from his one year hiatus with a new flair. He was to be an undead zombie (an attempt at advancing his scare factor) that could no longer be killed conventionally (not that he ever could, but still). He would be stronger and he would no longer need weapons to kill his prey. Many a death in this movie are the labor of bare hands. And, for the first time, Jason wouldn't be hiding out or lurking in the shadows. Jason is shown in more shots from above the waist than he ever had been. The filmmakers didn't save full shots of him until the end of the movie like the other Friday's had done. Jason is very much a full character in this movie, rather than the usual stalker in the dark that is only shown as a pair of legs or a hand with a weapon. This is a trend that would be followed in every Friday film after this one.
This is the first Friday film to play to the fans. It becomes obvious in the early stages of the film, that the goal isn't to scare the viewer as much as it is to impress them with Jason's new found strength and weapon arsenal. This is also a trend that later Friday's would follow. Basically, this movie reinvents the series. The character of Jason is now a vehicle to get from one death to the next, and the audience spends more time following his tail lights than we have before. In my personal opinion, this is not a bad change.
This movie still offers up some good scares, although a seasoned horror film watcher won't really catch them. One of my favorite scenes has a stranded Tommy Jarvis (the hero) calling from a boat floating in the lake to Jason on shore. Jason is within seconds of killing Tommy's love interest, but drops the task in favor of pursuing the hopeless Tommy. Jason marches into the lake and soon becomes hidden by the deepening water line. Tommy now knows that Jason is underneath him, and could pop out at any moment.
Really people, this movie isn't that bad. If you care enough to search the site for this movie, than it is only fair that you get treated to at least one good review. And for Kane Hodder Fans, C.J. Graham did a good job too don't you think? Bonus points for the songs by Alice Cooper.