4.30.2008

Carrie (1976)


DIRECTED BY
Brian De Palma

STARRING
Sissy Spacek - Carrie White
Piper Laurie - Margaret White
Amy Irving - Sue Snell
William Katt - Tommy Ross
Nancy Allen - Chris Hargensen

Year - 1976

Score - 3.5 Howls Outta 4

I'm just glad I didn't take this chick to the Prom. Not because she could kill me, but because it's hard to take pig's blood off of a tuxedo. It's a rental, dammit!
PLOT
Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is a social outcast at Bates High School. She has the ability to move things with her mind [telekinesis]. Her fellow female classmates, led by Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen), humiliate her every chance they get. The boys think she's weird. It also doesn't help that her mother (Piper Laurie) is a psycho religious fanatic who believes that everything is a sin.

The trouble really begins when Carrie showers in the girl's locker room. She develops her first period, which freaks her out due to not being taught about the birds and the bees. The girls throw tampons at her until gym teacher/assistant principal Miss Collins (Betty Buckley) stops them. The girls are eventually punished for their actions on Carrie, but Chris rebels [losing her chance to go to Prom], determined to get revenge on Carrie. Chris seduces her boyfriend, Billy Nolan (John Travolta), into helping her. Billy decides that pouring pig's blood on Carrie at the Prom would be funny. It would be deadly also.

Meanwhile, one of the girls who made fun of Carrie, Sue Snell (Amy Irving), feels bad about the Carrie incident. To make it up to Carrie, Sue convinces her extremely popular boyfriend Tommy Ross (William Katt) to take Carrie to the prom instead of her. After much coaxing, Carrie agrees to be Tommy's date, setting up that night's chain of events.

Of course, Carrie's mother forbids Carrie to have anything to do with Tommy or the Prom, feeling she'll get corrupted and something horrible will happen to her. Carrie doesn't listen and uses her telekinesis on her mother to go with Tommy to the Prom. Carrie and Tommy are rigged into becoming Prom King & Queen, leading to probably one of the most famous sequences in not just horror film history, but film history period.

REVIEW
Carrie was horror writer extraordinare Stephen King's first novel to be translated into film. It's also still one of his best adaptations to this day. The novel is somewhat different from the film in many aspects [Carrie being fat and ugly, Carrie's telekenesis being more powerful, having more survivors from the Prom, completely different ending]. And while most films seem to ruin the essence of what made the novel so great to begin with, I believe this is one of those rare times where the film is BETTER than the book it's based on. The book is really boring, slow, and confusing at times. The film is interesting, very well-paced, and just brilliant from start to finish.

Out of all the Film School Generation of directors [Martin Scorcese, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg], Brian De Palma seems to be the least known and least credited. Even with such classics as Scarface and The Untouchables, he doesn't get much recognition for his work. I don't get why he doesn't. His direction is really well done, and Carrie is definitely no exception. From the beginning dream-like shower scene, the shots of the beautiful exterior of the White house that leads to the dark and dismal interior [very metaphorical], the shake effect of Carrie's telekenesis, to the Prom sequence itself [split-screen, tracking shots, close-ups & long shots all over the place], De Palma brings all the goods and creates a really in-your-face creepy ass film. De Palma is known for wanting to show his audience EVERYTHING from every character's point of view. That's no more evident during Carrie's "revenge scene", where the split-screen effect is used to show Carrie's POV on one side and her victims on the other. You don't miss any of Carrie's murder spree and it's extremely well done. I also loved the usage of religious symbolism throughout the film as well. The painting of the Last Supper behind Carrie and her mother's last supper is used perfectly. And who can forget that crucifix with the glowing eyes? It's fitting that a certain person dies the very same way towards the end of the film. And the nods to Psycho [De Palma's favorite horror film] are effective somewhat as well. Carrie is one of De Palma's best directed films and he deserves some credit for it.

The acting is really great in this film as well. Sissy Spacek really nails the role of Carrie White. Normally, a girl with telekenetic powers who murders almost the entire student body at Prom would be classified as a despicable villain. But Spacek lets you inside of the character - at how tortured she is by her insane mother and by her peers - at how she just wants to be respected and be accepted into the real world. Carrie is a very three-dimensional character and Spacek has no problem showing the audience that. We feel sorry for her and we sympathize with her even when she gets her revenge. Spacek received an Academy Award nomination for the role [it's really rare for horror films to get noticed by the Academy Awards] and would be the start of great things for her, eventually letting her get her Oscar for Coal Miner's Daughter a few years later. The other standout role is Piper Laurie as Margaret White. Laurie, while reading the script, thought the film was a campy comedy. This proves true as Laurie really hams it up and is very over-the-top with her protrayal as a religious fantatic. But it works brilliantly in the context of the film, giving the audience someone to despise and a perfect foil to the very introverted Carrie. I especially loved Laurie once Margaret learned about Carrie's powers. She played it so overdramatically, with self-hair pulling and really out there monologues. I love every scene she's in. Spacek and Laurie really had great chemistry together as well, which really made the relationship between the two work believably. Laurie also received an Academy Award nomination for the role that was well deserved.

The other actors were very good too. Amy Irving was probably the most human of the teenage girls as Sue Snell, trying to do the right thing not knowing it would lead to bad things. The very end of the film [that jump scare tortured me for days as a child] shows the audience the consequences of Sue's actions of having Tommy Ross taking Carrie to the Prom. Irving plays it very well. William Katt as Tommy Ross was okay. His hair & smile did most of the talking and he was the token pretty/popular boy of the school. He had some nice scenes with Spacek during the Prom scene and can take a bucket to the head well. Nancy Allen as Chris Hargensen was fantastic as the bitch who set up the whole pig's blood scheme on Carrie. Allen reveled in being the bad girl, playing off John Travolta really well as a comical, yet dysfunctional, couple of villains. The part where Travolta's Billy Nolan murders the pig so well that Chris begins to have an orgasmic experience watching the act is great, showing how sick and how low Chris would go just to get revenge on a girl she blames costed her a chance to go to the Prom. Plus she was hot [it's official: bitches = hot stuff] and I was turned on by her. No wonder Robocop wanted to bang her a few years later in that series of films. John Travolta did well with what he was given. You knew he would be a big star from this film [his second]. Very charismatic performance. And P.J Soles as Norma was cute in her red hat. Thankfully, she would take the hat off [and her clothes] in Halloween 2 years later. Now THAT'S acting! And did I mention she played a bitch in both...and was hot?

I also love the score before the blood gets dumped on Carrie. Sounds like a clock ticking faster and faster as it gets closer and closer to Carrie's ultimate humiliation in front of her peers. As the music quickens, you know something bad is about to drop. And boy...does it ever! Great build up of suspense there.

The only beef I have with this film is that it's really dated. It's so 1976, it's not even funny. The big fros, the ruffled tuxedos, and the music just say seventies. Doesn't really affect the film too much, but it's pretty obvious as you watch. And some of the flying objects via telekenesis were visibly seen using wires. We wouldn't really get good CGI until Star Wars a year later, but it's kinda funny to see that hose move due to a string being pulled.

SO WHAT DID I LEARN FROM THIS FILM?

1) Never tell others that you're bleeding and in need of assistance. They'll just end up throwing tampons on you and yelling at you to "PLUG IT UP!"

2) Just give money to those preachy religious people if you want them to leave you alone. Because that's why Jesus sacrificed himself for...the ca$h.

3) Eve was weak. I'm sure that sent the feminist movement back a few centuries.

4) Afros make you very popular - especially if they're blonde and curly. No wonder I wasn't...I could never grow one!

5) Blowjobs are a man's weakness. We'll do anything for head, even if it'll eventually get us killed.

6) A girl with powers of the mind is a dangerous and scary thing. That explains why most people still give a shit about Paris Hilton...she's fucking us in the head.

7) Killing pigs gets girls off. If you wanna get laid men, just fry bacon around a hot chick. And be careful...if she's hot, she's probably a bitch.

8) Girls have dirty pillows. No wonder I like to rest my head in between them. And drool.

9) Don't dump blood on quiet girls. It just gives them an excuse to use the insanity plea when they're charged for mass murder. Or crucify a family member. Whichever comes first.

10) Don't visit people's graves. The dead will just want to take you with them. Remember, misery loves company.

THE FINAL HOWL
Carrie is a very rare type of horror movie. It perfectly balances our fears and teen angst with phenomenal acting and directing at the same time. I think the reason why Carrie is still so fresh even today [besides some of the dated stuff I mentioned] is because we all have a little bit of Carrie in all of us. All of us at one point in our lives have been teased, beaten up, or felt like you didn't belong. We all know exactly how Carrie feels when people laugh at her at the prom, or the excitement she feels when the most popular person in school asks her to the prom. We have all experienced these feelings throughout our teen years. Carrie just brings them to the forefront, giving us a chilling reminder as to what might happen if we push a certain someone a bit too far. In today's society, that couldn't be any more true.

Prom Night (1980)

Director - Paul Lynch

Starring -
Leslie Nielsen - Mr. Raymond Hammond
Jamie Lee Curtis - Kim Hammond
Casey Stevens - Nick McBride
Anne-Marie Martin - Wendy Richards (as Eddie Benton)
Antoinette Bower - Mrs. 'Vi' Hammond
Michael Tough - Alex Hammond

Year - 1980

Score - 2.5 Howls Outta 4


Prom night - a magical time for any teenager. The limos, the music, the corsages, the tuxedoes and dresses, the spiked punch, the anticipation of getting laid after the night's over - prom holds a special place in many a teenager's heart. It's a night you'll never forget...unless some killer was out for blood by making threatening phone calls and hunting your ass down at prom itself. Then maybe, you'd like to forget prom night. Fortunately, I never had that problem. Can't say the same for the characters in this film though.

PLOT

In 1974, young Robin Hammond is accidentally murdered after four children (Wendy, Nick, Kelly, and Jude) corner and scare her during a game of KILLER (tag mixed with hide-and-seek) and she ends up falling to her death out of a two-story window. The kids, scared that they'll be in trouble if someone finds out, decide to keep it to themselves. They run away from the scene, but someone watches from a distance, witnessing the entire act.

We move 6 years later, where the kids [having moved on with their lives like nothing happened - those bastards] are getting ready for their prom. Apparently, the kids are in the clear as a pedophile was convicted of Robin's murder years ago. But like I wrote before, someone knows the truth and begins calling the four players, threatening them. They pay no mind to it and continue on with their prom activities. Robin's older sister Kim (Jamie Lee Curtis) is dating Nick to Wendy's jealousy. Wendy, the bitch of the school [and a hot bitch at that] begins dating the school bully Lou [who looks like he was leftback a few times] to get revenge on Kim and Nick. Kelly is questioning losing her virginity to her boyfriend, while Jude loves nerdy obese guys [that wasn't sarcasm]. With the main story, we also have another side-story with a police detective who's hunting down the man thought to be responsible for Robin's murder years ago. Could he be the caller? Or is it a red herring? You decide.

Anyway on the night of prom, the caller's intentions are made clear when he arrives and starts picking people off one by one slasher style. Who lives? Who dies? Do you even care? Why is the killer so obvious within 30 minutes of the film? How come I find bitches hot as hell? Did that ski mask have glitter on it? And what's up with that disco sequence!?

REVIEW

I don't know why I like this film. I really don't. But I do for some perverse reason. Released during the beginning of the slasher era, Prom Night is a cheesy 80s horror film that hasn't really stood the test of time. Maybe that's why I find it so appealling. With its disco score [and dance sequence!], clumsy ass killer [motherfucker was tripping all over himself - amateur], and the oldest looking teenagers on film, Prom Night is one of those horror films that needs to be seen to be appreciated.

I thought the direction of the film was pretty decent. I liked the flashback sequences and moments of subjective views [robbed from Black Christmas & Halloween]. The beginning sequence when Robin dies is shot in a way that creates tension and suspense. When the kids gather around Robin before her death, you get a sense of clustrophobia as the shots of the kids take up more of the screen each time you see them. I thought the best shots were during the last half hour of the film [where the film actually picks up and feels like a slasher film] with the low-key lighting and chase sequences that were done flawlessly - so flawlessly that you're caught up in the killer's murder spree without missing a beat. Very suspenseful and satisfying scenes. Job well done.

The acting is also pretty decent for a slasher film. Jamie Lee Curtis is great here as usual, bringing her charisma and attitude onto the screen. She's beautiful, she's tough, she can scream, and she's a great disco dancer lol. Prom Night was Curtis' third or fourth film, but it's like she's been acting for years. She a pro and I admire her for it. Leslie Nielsen is okay as patriarch of the Hammond family and school principal of the high school. He doesn't really get much to do and it's odd watching him not do slapstick comedy. He's barely a presence actually. Casey Stevens as Nick is decent, though his 'fro seems to have more charisma than he does. He had a moment where he showed signs of torture over dating the sister of the girl he had a part in killing years earlier. But that was pretty much it. He was the token boyfriend role, but he played it well. The rest of the cast was okay as well [meaning no one annoyed me to the point of wishing they would die], but my favorite actress was definitely Anne-Marie Martin as Wendy. What a bitch she was, and boy did I love her for it. She and Curtis had some scenes where they'd fight over Nick's affections, making me wish they would have a catfight that would result in their clothes being ripped off. I wanted to slap her and have sex with this woman at the same time. Yes, I may be sick and perverted, but dammit if I'm not honest about it! Plus, she had the best chase scene with the killer in the entire film. Almost 10 minutes long, it just got better and better as it went on. And no one was worthy of the stupid bitch award - a rarity in a horror film!

There were some things that bugged me though. The pedophile/detective interludes weren't really needed. I know they were meant to add another suspect to the killer's identity, but they kinda slowed down the movie and didn't really interest me at all. If these scenes were edited out, I wouldn't miss them and they wouldn't really affect the film. And that janitor dude...he was also thrown in to be a suspect but I found him pretty much useless. They already had a pervert in the film - that 28-year-old high school student Lou [who makes fat John Travolta look like he's on Jenny Craig - he took the 'sweat' part of sweathog a bit too seriously]. And then...the pacing of the film. After that awesome beginning, it really slowed down until the end. I like character development as much as everyone else, but even after an hour, I still didn't really get a sense of who they were. I mean, some things didn't make sense. Why were Kelly and Jude friends with Kim? They must have been truly evil for befriending the sister of the girl they killed. At least Nick felt bad about it and Wendy didn't give a shit about the whole thing. But the other two girls had no hearts or souls. Talk about sociopaths. And the killer...so obvious with this small cast. Was not surprised by the reveal [even when I was younger], but at least it works for me. Just wish I was thrown off from the truth a bit more.

And I can't continue without mentioning that dance sequence again. It's just such a cheesy moment of horror history that I can't help but smile at the whole 3-minute scene. It's so bad, it's great.

THE FINAL HOWL

Prom Night is a treat for those who want a good laugh. It's not a very good mystery and it's not at all scary. Don't expect blood or nudity either - there's barely any of both. But something about the film is charming enough to be watched every once in a while. Everyone deserves to laugh at the disco scene. Worth the price of a rental alone.

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Director - Sam Raimi

Starring -
Tobey Maguire -
Peter Parker/Spider-ManKirsten Dunst - Mary Jane Watson
James Franco - Harry Osborn/New Goblin
Thomas Haden Church - Flint Marko/Sandman
Topher Grace - Eddie Brock/Venom
Rosemary Harris -
May ParkerJ.K. Simmons - J. Jonah JamesonBryce Dallas Howard - Gwen Stacy

Year - 2007

Score - 2 Howls Outta 4


Three is not a lucky number in the movie biz. Batman Forever. Jaws 3-D. Godfather Part III. Halloween III [ugh]. Superman III [double ugh]. X-Men: The Last Stand. I'm sure there are others. Add Spider-Man 3 to the list, because the third time was certainly not the charm. It's a shame because I really was hoping it'd be at least on the same level as Spider-Man 2, which in my opinion is the best superhero film ever made. But I knew that with three villains and a time of about 2 and a half hours, I was gonna be disappointed. Thankfully it was more X-Men: The Last Stand disappointed than Superman III disappointed.
I saw this film before it was released everywhere in a special screening [I love the perks of being a film major] and was very upset at what I had just watched. I was about to rate the movie a 2 outta 4 and just go off on the mistakes Sam Raimi and company put on film. But after watching it a second time with my cousins this weekend, I actually liked it more for some reason. I noticed a lot of things that I didn't see before and kinda enjoyed the quirky humor and camp with most of the scenes. Even with that though, the negatives still bug me and I can't give this film more than a 2.5.
PLOT
Let's see if I can make the film's bloated plot as simple as possible. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is enjoying his career as Spider-Man, since the people of NYC love him. He grows a bit of an ego and his overconfidence blinds him to the fact that his girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), is suffering from losing her acting job on broadway and Peter can't seem to understand her misery. This ruins his plans of proposing to Mary Jane, as Spider-Man [again] comes in between their relationship. Not to mention the fact that a black goo from a fallen meteorite [oh, how original] takes a liking to Peter, possessing him [giving him a black suit], and augmenting his powers and evil feelings.

Meanwhile, Peter is confronted by his former best friend, Harry Osborn (James Franco), who's taken over for his late father as The New Goblin. They do battle and Peter knocks Harry unconsciousness, leading to Harry's short-term memory and a renewed friendship with Peter. This doesn't last, as Harry is haunted by his father Norman (Willem Dafoe), who reminds him of his mission to kill Peter.
Then, we have Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), who escapes from prison to see his sick daughter. He runs from the cops and gets stuck in some kind of molecular experiment where he turns into the Sandman, giving him the ability to turn himself into forms of sand. Peter finds out that The Sandman was the one responsible for his Uncle Ben's death, so Peter decides to get revenge on him as Spider-Man.
Plus we have Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), who is competing with Peter for lead photographer at the Daily Bugle. Eddie's girlfriend and Peter's lab partner, Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard), takes a liking to Peter, leading to jealousy on Mary Jane's part, which sends MJ into the arms of Harry. Plus, when Peter costs Eddie his job, Eddie gets possessed by the black symbiote as Peter rips his suit apart in a bell tower. This possession transforms Eddie into Venom, an evil doppelganger of Spider-Man.
Did you get all that? Whew...
REVIEW
I can do a normal review about this movie, but it'll take me forever. So I'm just gonna list what I liked and what I didn't like.

POSITIVES1) Direction - Sam Raimi doesn't disappoint as his filmmaking genius gives us fantastic glimpses of Spider-Man swinging, fighting bad guys, and saving people. I honestly believed that this was the first film where Spider-Man actually FELT and LOOKED like Spider-Man - just very heroic looking and a lot of the postures were dead-on. And even with all the many storylines going on, he somehow managed to make the film less of a mess than it really was. Though many things were happening all at once, Raimi's direction kept the pace going where I didn't feel bored. Plus, I liked the darker tone of the film - which was such a contrast to Spider-Man 2. So for me, the direction was a highlight.
2) Acting - Most of it was very good, though 2 people were borderline excellent in my opinion. Tobey Maguire did his thing as Peter and as Spider-Man. He made me laugh, he made me feel for him, he made me glad to know that he cared about his role and seemed to enjoy himself when he was playing against type as a "bad guy". Plus the dude can cry on cue. Topher Grace was a better Eddie Brock than I expected. He doesn't look at all like the comic book Eddie [that version was a middle-aged bodybuilder], but I thought Grace brought an evil [finally, a villain I can HATE], sarcastic kind of energy to the film, which I enjoyed. There was a lot of Eric Foreman in his performance, but it didn't bother me. Too bad I can't say the same when he became Venom. Oy. Rosemary Harris did good as Aunt May again, though it seemed forced that she would appear whenever Peter needed advice or guidance. J.K. Simmons rocked as J. Jonah Jameson again. His medication bit at the Daily Bugle was hilarious. Wish there was more of him though. Bryce Dallas Howard also did good with what she was given as Gwen Stacy, which wasn't much. She seemed real and sympathetic and I actually liked her more than Mary Jane. Why Peter didn't dump MJ for Gwen, I don't know. She was bangin'! I also have to give credit to Bruce Campbell for his cameo as a French maitre d'. He was absolutely hilarious and it was his best cameo of all three films. LOVED it.
Then there are the two performances that save this film from being a disaster. Thomas Haden Church did a great job as The Sandman. I'll be honest: I wish The Sandman wasn't in this film [not a big fan of him - would have preferred The Lizard, Vulture, or Mysterio if they had to add in another villain] but Church's acting made me feel for the guy. He only did what he did to save his daughter, and you can do nothing but admire that. Too bad most of his scenes were CGI, but I dug Church's humanistic performance in such a fictional background.
And last but not least, James Franco stole the film as Harry Osborn. He played a great villain [I love pie too] and when he lost his memory, he played an even better good guy. I've been reading alot of reviews criticizing the guy and the storyline he was given. I don't understand the hate for Mr. Franco. Maybe it's jealousy that he's a good looking guy or something, but I think this was his best performance on film since at least City By The Sea in 2002. He perfectly displayed the internal conflict he had when it came to his friendship with Peter. His scenes with Maguire and Kirsten Dunst were the best scenes in the entire film. And I have to believe it was because he was totally into the role and seemed to be having fun with it. And because of that, his co-stars were having fun as well. As for the amnesia storyline, there should be no complaints. In the comics, the same thing happens to him, where he forgets about Peter's secret until something triggers his memory back. And at the end [in both versions], he sides with Peter. I don't care what anyone has to say - James Franco made this film for me. His biggest role in the trilogy, he knocked it out of the park. It's a shame too, since his fate was sealed the moment he appeared in the first part [every comic book Spidey fan knew what was gonna eventually happen with Harry]. But what a great ride it was. Hopefully he'll be back in part 4 in some capacity.
3) CGI & Action - I think it was on par with Spider-Man 2: nicely done and not too cartoony most of the time. I dug the Sandman scenes, though it felt like I was watching The Mummy. And Venom looked good for the most part. And the action was well choregraphed, especially the first and last sequences. Definitely felt more like a comic book movie than the previous two, and that's not really a bad thing. I was highly entertained by what I saw.

NEGATIVES
1) Kirsten Dunst - Replace her. I don't care if the old cast comes back for Part 4 or not. She needs to go. What a dull and boring performance for a lead actress. She was so likeable in the first one and so mature in the second. But h
ere? I just wanted her to go away. Dunst just didn't seem to be enjoying herself at all as Mary Jane. I was feeling that she's bored and tired of the character. Now that I really blame her really. All she does is cry and get kidnapped in every single film. Doesn't excuse her performance, however. If you're being paid $10 million to play a role, earn the damn check. I think they need to put MJ on the backburner in the next one. Have Peter do something with Gwen Stacy, or bring Black Cat in and do something with that. I was so disappointed with Kirsten Dunst here.
2) Pointless Characters & Other Things In General - What was the point of The Sandman in this film? Or Gwen Stacy? Or her father? And why have Venom appear for only the LAST TWENTY MINUTES OF THE FILM!!?? Hell, the black suit didn't make an appearance until the MIDDLE of the movie! The whole Sandman/Uncle Ben thing was a cop-out and so unfaithful to the comics that it hurt. Wasn't necessary and the character could have been edited out and wouldn't have really affected the movie. And we have a beautiful blonde Gwen, who was only used as a PROP to make MJ jealous. Gwen used to be [and still kinda is] an integral part of the Spider-Man mythos. I wouldn't have cared if she and Peter never got together. But at least develop the girl and give us a reason to care about her. And I'm not gonna even talk about Venom talking with Topher Grace's voice instead of a demon one, or his use of singular pronouns instead of plural ones. If I were writing and directing this film, I would have just focused on Peter, MJ, and Harry. That was the only storyline I really gave a damn about. And if another villain had to be added, it should have been someone more interesting than The Sandman. I would have also saved Venom for part 4, because he deserved to spotlight in a film. That still might happen, but using one of the better and more interesting Spider-villains for a 20 minute cameo is sacrilege.
3) The Script - I'm looking at you, Sam Raimi. I understand Raimi loves his stories, but this movie wasted too much time on the love story between Peter and MJ. I think by now, we understand the relationship is gonna be tough with Peter's gig as Spider-Man. I didn't need to see them whine and cry about it. And what was up with Peter's transformation!? THAT'S supposed to be EVIL!? Dancing like a fool in the streets? Ordering a neighbor for cookies and milk!? Playing a piano and playing Fred Astaire in a jazz club to make your girlfriend jealous!? I laughed at all of that! Maybe that was the intention, I dunno, but the emo look doesn't give me an impression of evil. And if Raimi didn't like Venom, why put him in the movie? Because the fans wanted it? If you're not passionate about writing for someone you're not a fan of, then don't write him in! Venom should not be used as a prop to move a story along. He deserves his own film because he's the total opposite of Spider-Man - which would actually make an interesting and much darker film. But what I saw was a wasted opportunity. Fortunately, it could have been Batman & Robin bad, and it was light years better than that. I just wish the script was more cohesive. There was a great movie here underneath the mess. I know there was.
THE FINAL HOWL
I'm on the fence with this film. As a comic book fan, I was disappointed in the ways Sam Raimi used some of the characters that have been such an important part in Spider-Man's history. As a movie goer, I was definitely entertained [for all the wrong reasons]. Just an average flick in my opinion. There was just too much content being thrown on the screen at once, where there should have been just the conclusion of the Osborn saga and maybe the set-up for Venom in the next sequel. If you want to have a good time at the movies, I recommend the film whether you're a Spidey fan or not. Plus, I got the DVD just for James Franco and Thomas Haden Church alone [as well to complete my collection]. They carried this film for me, which is sad since that was Maguire's and Dunst's job. I'm praying things get back on track for Spider-Man 4, but this time, I'm not gonna get too excited about it.

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Director - Sam Raimi

Starring -
Tobey Maguire - Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Kirsten Dunst - Mary Jane Watson
James Franco - Harry Osborn
Alfred Molina - Dr. Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus
J.K. Simmons - J. Jonah Jameson
Rosemary Harris - May Parker
Daniel Gillies - John Jameson
Dylan Baker - Dr. Curt Connors

Year - 2004

Score - 4 Howls Outta 4

After the worldwide success of the first Spider-Man film, you knew a sequel was inevitable. Not that I (or anyone else) complained since Spider-Man was one of the best superhero movies ever put to film. The hype became greater when Doctor Octopus was named the villain of the film, as well as rumors of Harry Osborn learning about his father's role as the Green Goblin in the previous film, eventually leading to his try as the Goblin [probably what I was most excited about]. The film was done in short notice [a little under 2 years] and the dates for released kept being moved time and time again. Massive hype and expectations were on hand. Was Spidey 2 going to continue the greatness of the original? Not only did it continue it, it topped it.

PLOT
Two years after the first film, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) struggles with his decision to sacrifice his love for Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) to take on the responsibility to be Spider-Man. He's getting fired from jobs, lives in a crappy one room apartment, fails to do his homework or make it to class on time -- it also doesn't help when he finds out that MJ is engaged to J. Jonah Jameson's (J.K. Simmons) son, astronaut John (Daniel Gilles)...as well as his best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) taking out his bitterness and anger out on him because Peter's allegiance to Spider-Man, the man Harry believes murdered his father. All of this begins to take its toll on Peter, as the stress of these burdens affects negatively on his powers. Wanting to live a normal life again, Peter decides to hang up his Spider-Man duds and quits the superhero game.

While this is happening, one of Peter's idols, scientist Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), has a science experiment go awry that fuses his 4 artificial metal arms to his mind and body. This creates Peter's new nemesis, Doctor Octopus, who wants to create a bigger version of the past experiment to satisfy his hunger for power. Peter becomes Spider-Man again to save the lives of his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and MJ from Doc Ock, not realizing that Ock and Harry have formed a loose partnership to destroy Spider-Man.

REVIEW

Spider-Man 2 is to Spider-Man what The Empire Strikes Back is to Star Wars - a sequel that surpasses the original in ways one could never deem possible. Everything's bigger, badder, and more intense in Spider-Man 2. The characters from the first one begin to evolve as they struggle with living double lives, while Spidey has a doppelganger in Doc Ock, who doesn't seem to understand that "Great Power Comes With Great Responsibility" until it's too late. Plus the love story is on full display here, as Peter and MJ make big decisions about their relationship as their secrets soon come to the surface. Sam Raimi directs Spider-Man 2 in a way that makes the movie seem epic and majestic, while mixing it with his unique style of visual storytelling. The direction of Spider-Man's web-slinging, the bigger action sequences, and the interaction between all the major players is more impressive than it was in the first film. I loved how some scenes seemed to come out of The Evil Dead so to speak, like the hospital scene with Doc Ock murdering the operating staff [was that a chainsaw I saw? Ash, we miss you!] and random women screaming at the camera like they're in a horror film. And who can forget that "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" montage after Peter stops being Spider-Man? Funny stuff. Raimi is definitely more comfortable in his abilities than he was in the last film, moving the story along with suspense, drama, and his own humor as well. I personally believe this is Sam Raimi's finest directorial work, and he's done alot of fantastic stuff over the years. Can't give enough kudos to the man.

The acting is also better here than it was in the original, as the principal cast seem more comfortable in their roles. Tobey Maguire was made to play Peter Parker/Spider-Man. He continues to give the character a sympathetic feel to the audience, making us care when he struggles with the life he has no choice but to lead. His chemistry with Kirsten Dunst and Rosemary Harris is wonderful here, as you get a great sense of the love and family they share with each other. Maguire also has great chemistry with James Franco too, as you believe the strain of their friendship over Peter's secret as Spider-Man. And when Harry does find out, you feel a sense of betrayal that makes you wanna know what's gonna happen next. Maguire carries this film gracefully and is the heart and soul of the movie. Kirsten Dunst plays a great MJ here [wish I could say the same for part 3 but I'll get to that in the next review] and you sympathize with her as well when she struggles over her feelings for Peter. Every scene with the two together is magical and you want nothing but to see the two together. Plus I love her face at the end of the film when she decides to be with Peter, knowing he's Spider-Man. You get a sense of unsureness from her that comes across well on screen. Alfred Molina was a pleasure as Doc Ock. He didn't play the egotistical and evil Doc Ock from the comics, but for the film, a more human Doc Ock was necessary to show the opposite of what Peter was dealing with as Spider-Man. Peter didn't want the power, but Octopus did - and it showed the consequences of both. Molina is a fine actor and was a great Doctor Octopus. He wasn't in the film much unfortunately but when he was, he was fantastic. I'm sure we'll see him again [I refuse to believe his ending was final - it's assumed]. James Franco gets more to do in this film and does it well. He can brood with the best of them and his bitterness towards Peter is believable. I also think he had great reaction shots when he discovers Spider-Man's identity, as well as his father's Green Goblin stash. He definitely deserved a bigger role in part 3 [where I think he was the best actor of the bunch]. Rosemary Harris is the perfect Aunt May, being overprotective yet motherly at the same time. Every film needs someone to play the conscience, and she does it well. And J.K. Simmons still cracks me up as Jameson. The man was made to play the role and I'm very happy he got a bigger role compared to the original.

The CGI was also a lot more believable here compared to the original. Yes, there were some cartoonish parts somewhat, but I think it fit the feel of the film because it didn't really take itself seriously most of the time. Spider-Man swinging over New York City never looked better and his fights with Doc Ock [especially that train sequence] were amazing to watch. I also loved the tentacles of Doc Ock, as they each had a mind of their own. Great special effects work there and pretty much all around.

THE FINAL HOWL

Here's a sequel that is better than the original. Everyone seems to have stepped up their game and provide the audience with a story we can all relate to and love. Great plot, great villain, great set-up for part 3, great CGI and action - Spider-Man 2 is the perfect comic book sequel and, in my opinion, the best superhero film ever made. This one has a lot of heart. Definitely recommended if you haven't seen it for whatever reason if you like Spider-Man or just a great film in general. Spider-Man 2 is definitely hard to top, as part 3 would show...

Spider-Man (2002)

Director - Sam Raimi

Starring -
Tobey Maguire - Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Kirsten Dunst - Mary Jane Watson
Willem Dafoe - Norman Osborn/Green Goblin
James Franco - Harry Osborn
Cliff Robertson - Ben Parker
Rosemary Harris - May Parker
J.K. Simmons - J. Jonah Jameson
Joe Manganiello - Flash Thompson

Year - 2002

Score - 3.5 Howls

Let me start off by saying this: I HATE SPIDERS. Where that stems from, I have no idea. I just don't like to look at them. I don't like them near me or around me. They just give me the heebie geebies. But there is one spider I can tolerate and have been a fan of for years. That spider is Peter Parker.

Even though the first comic book I ever read was an X-Men comic [one of the old Jim Lee ones back in the day], Spider-Man was the comic that got me hooked. I just loved the adventures of Peter Parker and his web-swinging ways, beating up the baddies and cracking jokes at the same time. His rogues gallery is impressive and the cast that supports Peter are just as important as Peter/Spider-Man himself. He wasn't like Superman where he was born with powers and his secret identity didn't really interfere with his life all too much [plus, he was made to be too perfect for my tastes]. Peter was and still is haunted by that radioactive spider and the life it gave to him. It's ruined his relationships with his girlfriends/wife time and time again. It interfered with his school and work. His friends and family would be in jeopardy whenever a villain found out his secret identity. Peter struggles with being Spider-Man and vice-versa...which makes the character so sympathetic and so loved at the same time.

Spider-Man has been a pop culture icon for years. Multiple cartoons have seen the light. A TV show was created about him [the less said about that debacle, the better]. And when James Cameron was attached to the Spider-Man film project in the 1990s, the fans salivated for it. Unfortunately that was ruined when Cameron wanted Leonardo DiCaprio to play Peter Parker [thank God that didn't happen, though I do admire Leo's work]. Thankfully, nothing came out of that and Sam Raimi, a lifelong Spider-Man fan and brilliant director, was given the project. The cast was set with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst playing Peter/Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson respectively. Willem Dafoe and James Franco were cast as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin & Harry Osborn. The casting was questionable, but people still wanted to see the darn thing anyway. After the success of X-Men in 2000, a lot was expected out of the first ever Spider-Man film. Was it worth the hype back in 2002? Sure was and it pretty much still is.

PLOT

In case you lived under a rock and have no idea what Spider-Man is about, here it is: Peter Parker is a puny nerd from Queens, New York who gets heckled by his classmates all the time. He also lives with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, who pretty much baby him out of love. He goes on a class trip where a discussion on super-spiders is taking place, where Peter is to take photos for the school paper.There, he's bitten by an escaped radioactive spider. It eventually gives him powers of that of a spider, where Peter can climb walls and shoot organic webs from his wrists. His crush on his next-door neighbor, Mary Jane Watson, leads Peter to fight a wrestling match to win cash to buy a car as the newly labeled Spider-Man. He's cheated out of his money, of course, and when a burgular steals from the wrestling promoter, Peter lets the burgular escape out of spite. It comes full circle, however, when the burgular murders his Uncle Ben, learning that "Great power comes with great responsibility". Due to this guilt, Peter embarks on saving New York City as crime-fighting Spider-Man.

Meanwhile. scientist Norman Osborn has created a serum to create a super-soldier for the military that's pretty flawed. When Norman does the experiment on himself, he becomes the insanely powerful Green Goblin. He gets revenge on the military and his fellow stock-holders who didn't believe in him while setting his sights on Spider-Man. As Spidey fights Gobby, he soon realizes that his villain is the father of his bestest friend, Harry Osborn, who is happening to date Mary Jane. And I thought I had issues...

REVIEW
Some movies are so hyped up before its release that when you actually watch it, you become so disappointed by the result. Spider-Man is NOT one of those films. I remember going to the theater to watch this six years ago and was amazed at how close to perfect the film was to the comics. The action is amazing [no pun intended], the story is great [omg...this is a chick flick disguised as an action movie!], and the CGI was pretty good [it got a lot better in the sequels]. I even clapped once the end credits rolled. Spider-Man does so many things right - why can't all comic book movies be like this!?

Let me start with Sam Raimi and his direction. I am so HAPPY he directed this film. Only a true fan would get Peter Parker's struggle between his personal life and his heroic life and create such an imbalance between the two that it actually flows beautifully together. There's a lot of heart in the story, especially when it concerns Peter's relationships with Mary Jane, Harry, his parents, and even Norman Osborn. It's not like Peter wanted to become Spider-Man. He pretty much fell into it and you can see how hard it is for him to balance the two to create some sort of normalcy for himself. James Cameron, while a great director, would have Spider-Man more of a summer blockbuster with big explosions and one-lines than Raimi's story of love, friendship, and taking responsibility for actions made. And that's what Spider-Man is really about.

And as a huge fan of Raimi's ever since The Evil Dead series [probably the best horror trilogy ever created], I knew he would hit this film out of the park and I was not disappointed. The direction of action is graceful, almost like watching a dance, and his scenes of humanity between the principal characters are sincere and extremely well-done. He shows us things when we're needed to see them and surprises us at certain moments to create suspense and drama. I really can't explain it. It's just great directing and Raimi actually improves with Spider-Man 2 & parts of 3. Just a great show for Sam Raimi that gave the man the recognition he deserved from the mainstream audience.

The acting is also well-done here [great acting in an action movie/summer blockbuster - what a novelty!]. Tobey Maguire was made to play Peter Parker, as he plays a convincing nerd to a tee. He's very convincing with his hardship to maintain a normal life when he has the shadow of Spider-Man hovering over him. He has great chemistry with everyone he shares scenes with, especially Kirsten Dunst, making their eventual romance very believable. He also does well as Spider-Man, though it's probably mostly a stunt double or CGI when he's in the red-and-blue scrubs. But I probably couldn't think of a better actor to play Spider-Man in this first installment. Kirsten Dunst wouldn't have been my first choice to play the beautiful Mary Jane Watson, but she works for me here. She's definitely cute and gives a very vulnerable performance a lot of the time. She has great chemistry with Maguire in all of their scenes together, bringing the love of Peter & MJ to life. Plus she's a bit fiesty in this film, which I liked [she's pretty tough in the comics]. What happened to that in the sequels? Plus she has great nipples. LOVED that rain scene. Willem Dafoe is probably the best actor here as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin. Another vulnerable character as Norman, who gets rejected by his colleagues left and right. But when he turns evil, he really goes a bit over-the-top [not Jack Nicholson's Joker over-the-top but close] and it fits the Green Goblin character. I loved any scene where Norman and the Goblin spoke to each other at the same time. Great acting from Dafoe there. James Franco knows how to brood, which makes him the perfect Harry Osborn. Another vulnerable and sympathetic character due to his wanting of acceptance from his father, Franco does a good job setting up his story arc in the future sequels [he's honestly the best actor in part 3]. He's barely in the film, but it's a good performance nonetheless. And the resemblence between Franco and Dafoe is scary. You could actually believe they were father and son. And a special mention must go to J.K. Simmons, who plays Daily Bugle's asshole-ish news editor, J. Jonah Jameson. He IS JJJ. From the flat-top, to the voice, to the attitude, Simmons was born to play this role. Thank God he got a larger part in part 2.

While Spider-Man is a great film, it has its flaws. First, I completely dislike the Green Goblin costume. He looked like a fuckin' Power Ranger. I was waiting for him to pull out his Dragon Dagger and play a tune to awaken the DragonZord or something. The Green Goblin is supposed to be scary. The costume is laughable at best. I understand that the suit probably wouldn't have translated to well on screen but they could have at least tried. But everything else about the character was pretty spot-on [the glider, the pumpkin bombs], especially his final scene [perfectly faithful to the comics].

Also, the CGI was hit-and-miss with me. I understand no normal human being can do the things Spider-Man does [web-slinging and doing all these acrobatic moves in mid-air], but alot of time, you could tell what was fake and what wasn't. Especially during that festival scene where Spider-Man is jumping from one float to another. I thought I was watching an outtake from Shrek for a second. A bit too cartoonish for my tastes but thankfully the CGI was improved in the sequels.

Also, Spider-Man is an origin story to set up the characters for the future chapters of the franchise. So the story was pretty limited in what it had to tell. But what a great origin story it is to base the sequels off of. Sam Raimi and the screenwriters did a really good job setting up the franchise with a great start.

THE FINAL HOWL

Spider-Man was my favorite comic book film until the sequel came out 2 years later. Raimi and the rest of the cast and crew took the soul and spirit of the comics and wonderfully placed them on screen. Finally, a comic book movie that focuses on the HERO and HIS problems, not just on the villain [yes, I'm looking at you DC]. If you're one of the two people who hasn't seen this film, I highly recommend it. It may be a bit dated after the hundred of other comic book films that have been released since this one, but it's still one of the best films of the genre to ever be put on film and rightfully deserves the praise it got and still gets.

Grindhouse (2007)

Director - Robert Rodriguez (Planet Terror) & Quentin Tarantino (Death Proof)

Starring -
(Planet Terror)
Rose McGowan - Cherry Darling
Freddy Rodriguez - El Wray
Josh Brolin - Dr. William Block
Marley Shelton - Dr. Dakota Block
Rebel Rodriguez - Tony Block
Jeff Fahey - J.T. Hague
Michael Biehn - Sheriff Hague
Stacy Ferguson - Tammy Visan
Naveen Andrews - Abby
Bruce Willis - Lt. Muldoon

(Death Proof)
Kurt Russell - Stuntman Mike
Rosario Dawson - Abernathy
Vanessa Ferlito - Arlene/"Butterfly"
Jordan Ladd - Shanna
Rose McGowan - Pam
Sydney Poitier - Jungle Julia Lucai
Tracie Thoms - Kim
Mary Elizabeth Winstead - Lee Montgomery
Zoë Bell - Zoë

Year - 2007

Score -
Planet Terror: 4 Howls Outta 4
Death Proof: 3 Howls Outta 4

For those who don't know, grindhouse movies were B-level movies that were underground, low-budgeted, and full of exploitation of sex and violence with an anything-goes attitude made back in the 1970s. As fans of that genre, Rodriguez and Tarantino decided to pay homage to the good-ol-days by bringing the exploitation to modern-day times. At over 3 hours long and comprised of two films plus faux-trailers, is GRINDHOUSE worth the money and the time? Do the two directors do grindhouse films justice? Yes and yes.

Since there are two films in GRINDHOUSE, I'll be reviewing both films [and the faux trailers] individually [without trying to spoil anything]. Then at the end, I will review the entire film as a whole. So let's start with the first film directed by Robert Rodriguez: PLANET TERROR.

PLOT
As in all of your typical zombie movies, a biochemical weapon is accidentally released into the air on a Texas town by the military. The gas infects unsuspecting humans -- once contaminated, their skin starts to bubble and decompose. These mutated humans hunger for human flesh. If they bite another human being, then the victim becomes infected and it continues to spread. While this mess goes down, several characters become intertwined into this whole mess, leaving them alone to deal with these mutated freaks for survival. From the local hospital, to a BBQ shack, and also a military base, these things are everywhere. The survivors only hope is the leadership of a guy named El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez) and his ex-girlfriend Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan), who after an incident with these "zombies", gains a machine gun leg that gives the army of freaks a rude awakening.

REVIEW
I really really like PLANET TERROR. Robert Rodriguez, who always has added a 70s-style type of filmmaking to his films, really goes balls out here. Everything is over-the-top: the acting, the gore, the action...Rodriguez exploits everything in his sight here and enjoys every second of it. The movie feels like a 70s film [due to the scratches on the film, the great throwback musical score, and the badly-lit shots to create a ghoulish atmosphere], though it's obviously set in modern day. Plus you have the missing reel spot during the sex scene "due to the lack of budget to film the scene" [making the film both ironic and funny at the same time]. And the gore...geez, Rodriguez doesn't let up on it. Everything is slimy and rubbery and the blood gushes out like Jell-O goodness. Rodriguez was obviously inspired by the Italian zombie films of the 1970s [the ZOMBI series definitely comes to mind here] and it works extremely well here. The blood splatters on the camera, the editing is all over the place, the synth score and bubbling skin effects come out of nowhere most of the time - nothing is held back to make this movie look cheap and bad. And that's what I love about Rodriguez's work here: it's intentionally supposed to look this way and it never takes itself seriously. It's all about fun in PLANET TERROR and what else can you ask for from a film and a director?

As for the story/plot, it apparently involves Osama Bin Laden and his connection to the toxic gas that caused the infection. I think this is Rodriguez's message about the corruption of people and how it's destroying our current society as a whole [i.e. terrorism, war, greed]. But really, this movie isn't about a plot. It's about action and seeing ugly ass things get mutilated.

The acting, all of it, worked for me. Rose McGowan, as go-go dancer Cherry Darling, is the main protagonist and she does more than fine here. You lust for her when she pole dances in the opening credits, you feel bad for her when awful things happen to her leg, and you root for her when she gets that crazy machine gun and starts poppin' caps into those ugly bitches. Freddy Rodriguez from Six Feet Under, who plays El Wray here, is awesome. I would have never thought of him as an action hero, but he surprised me when he started kicking everyone's asses in front of him. You don't fuck with Puerto Ricans! He gets some nice one-liners in and his relationship with McGowan's character is really well done. The two definitely had some chemistry. The other actors (such as Marley Shelton, Josh Brolin, Michael Biehn, Naveen Andrews, and Jeff Fahey as the hilarious owner of the BBQ shack) were really good as well. There are even some cameos from other actors and a singer in this film and you should check out for those as well. All-in-all, everyone was on the same groove and seemed to be really enjoying themselves in their roles [something you don't really see from many actors in film]. I think the fact that the actors were enjoying their roles made me enjoy watching them work.

PLANET TERROR is a welcome addition to the horror genre. It's a fun splatterfest that will leave you wanting more. If you love blood, hot chicks with machine-gun legs, witty dialogue, or just plain ol' action without having to think too much...PLANET TERROR is right up your alley. Definitely my favorite of the two films in GRINDHOUSE. Now to DEATH PROOF:

PLOT
The Quentin Tarantino part of GRINDHOUSE revolves around the insane Stuntman Mike Mikki (Kurt Russell in his best role in years). Apparently, the charmingly psychopathic Stuntman Mike has a thing for the ladies...actually let me correct that...has a thing for scaring the ladies with his "death proof" stunt car. In a bar in Austin, Texas, Mike targets a group of girls led by Jungle Julia (Sydney Poiter), a local DJ. The girls are unsure about Stuntman Mike and pretty much go on their own away after a few drinks and heavy drug use. Stuntman Mike, seeking a thrill as always, uses his car to target the girls with some gory results. After some time from that incident, Mike heads to Tennessee where he targets a whole new set of girls (Rosario Dawson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Zoe Bell, and Tracie Thoms) who are in the entertainment business. The girls try out their own stunt car for thrills, leading Stuntman Mike to strike with his own. The results surprise Mike, however, when he's proven that he's not the only one who may be "death proof".

REVIEW
Let me just start out by saying that I LOVE Quentin Tarantino's work. He's very original and he never disappoints me as a film viewer. DEATH PROOF, while a good film, almost disappointed me until the end. Tarantino finely directs this film and lets us in on all of the characters, giving us reasons on who to focus on and why. The camera moves naturally from one character to another, especially during the conversation scenes with are very fluid and keep us interested in what the characters have to say to each other. The directing brings the viewer into the film, as if we're there watching these friends discuss normal life with each other. We're never visually bored, and that's a great thing.

However...I wish there was less dialogue and more action honestly. I understand the purpose for the movie to be dialogue-heavy - Tarantino wants us to get to know the characters so we can find sympathy for them. Hell, I even found sympathy for Stuntman Mike, even if he was a fuckin' lunatic. But there was TOO MUCH talking among the characters, to the point where I almost got bored and felt like yelling, "OKAY, WE GET IT! GET ON WITH THE DAMN STORY!" Especially with the second group of girls. After the first action sequence, the 20 minutes of talking and nothing but talking seemed to make the film almost disjointed to me. Didn't flow or feel right. If the dialogue sucked, I would really have a problem with it. But Tarantino always writes a great script, so I didn't really complain too much about it. Some people in the theatre left during the dialogue scenes though probably out of boredom and waiting for something exciting to happen. I don't really blame them, but I did enjoy the conversation scenes somewhat and I'm glad Tarantino took the time out to create strong female characters for us to root for. But he could have done it in a shorter amount of time, that's all I'm saying.

Now the action scenes...bra-fuckin'-vo. Tarantino really did his homework when it came to chase scenes. No CGI, all real stunt work by the actors involved in the scene [especially Zoe Bell, who as Uma Thurman's stunt double in both KILL BILL movies, showed she can act as well as survive insane stunts like riding a car hood while Kurt Russell slams his car into hers]. No FAST AND THE FURIOUS shit here. This was some old-fashioned cars beating the shit out of each other and I enjoyed every single minute of it. Especially the final car scene I mentioned earlier. It lasted like 15 minutes and it never got boring. As the collisions between the two cars intensified, so did your attention on the scene. It was crazy, while never being over-the-top, and I probably could have watched that scene all day if it were extended. Tarantino really worked his ass off here and I appreciated it [so did my wallet]. Even the audience clapped at the end of this one [me included].

As for the acting, it was better here than in PLANET TERROR. What can I say about Kurt Russell? His best role since Snake Plissken from ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK [though he's done some great work in between], Russell really becomes Stuntman Mike. He charms the ladies and then scares them to death - my kind of dude. While he's been in some good roles recently, I don't think I've seen Russell enjoy himself on screen as he does here. And he did his own stunts too with the car. He needs to be in more movies. I love Kurt Russell. The women in the cast all hold up their own as well. Especially Zoe Bell, Tracie Thoms, and Rosario Dawson. I'd let those women slam their car into mine anytime. I like me some strong women, and strong these women are. Plus there are some cameos in the film as well, so check those out too.

DEATH PROOF is a very good film, but it's too uneven for it to be perfect [going from a quiet conversation sequence to a high-adrenaline car chase, back to a conversation sequence out of nowhere that doesn't want to end seems a bit too much on the eye, ears, and brain]. It was like watching Golden Girls to it suddenly being interrupted into an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It didn't really click. But this was a Tarantino trademarked film with strong female characters, great dialogue, intentionally bad editing, great direction, and some wild car chases. But it didn't really feel like an old grindhouse film like PLANET TERROR did. It was just another Tarantino film for me. I wished this would have started the film instead of PLANET TERROR, but I did it enjoy and appreciate DEATH PROOF.


FAUX TRAILERS

There were 4 fake trailers in GRINDHOUSE that really excited me to the point where I hope they're made into real movies someday. The first trailer shows up right at the beginning. Directed by Robert Rodriguez, we have MACHETE starring Danny Trejo as a machete-wielding assassin out to send some payback to those who set him up. This trailer is turning into a real full-length film and I can't wait to see it. The audience I sat with loved it too. Then we have the trailers in between the two films. The first one was WEREWOLF WOMEN OF THE SS, directed by Rob Zombie. It had to do with Nazis and a werewolf shooting a gun. Yeah...and Nicolas Cage was Fu Manchu. I'm not making this up. Then we have Edgar Wright's (Shaun of the Dead) DON'T, about murders in a mansion like THE HAUNTING and HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL. The trailer was all over the place with random things happening, but the narrator saying "Don't do this! Don't do that!" every 2 seconds cracked me up. I couldn't stop laughing at how ridiculous the trailer was. And then comes my absolute favorite, Eli Roth's (Hostel, Cabin Fever) THANKSGIVING. Based on the holiday-riffic slasher films of the 80s, it involves a murderous pilgrim who murders on Thanksgiving. Want to see a dude in a turkey outfit get decapitated? What about a cheerleader who gets plowed by a knife as she does a split on a trampoline? Or how about watching the Pilgrim rape one of his victims that he shaped into a Butterball turkey? You can see it in THANKSGIVING. Man, I would die if this became a film. I'd be the first in line for that one. Sigh...they don't make horror like they used to.

THE FINAL HOWL

GRINDHOUSE was quite the 3-hour experience. I loved PLANET TERROR, but only very liked DEATH PROOF. However, the trailers and the cute "Coming Attractions" and "Feature Presentations" with the cartoons, kittens, and puppies, really bring you into a grindhouse mood and make up for what I didn't like. Plus the films were badly edited and spliced together, sound was muffled at times, film was scratched, and reels were missing at the most inappropriate times - purposely creating a great grindhouse feel in a time where they don't even exist anymore. It's not the greatest movie ever made, but it's definitely one of the most original. Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino are not your ordinary directors and thank God for it. They create an experience that is unrivaled by anyone else in Hollywood and that's why GRINDHOUSE is a must-see. Don't wait for this on DVD. Watch it in a movie theater and really enjoy the true movie experience. I really hope they continue with another GRINDHOUSE because I'm anxious to see what they have up their sleeves next. I loved GRINDHOUSE as much as the directors loved making it. There's hope for the movie industry yet.

4.26.2008

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

Director - George Mihalka

Starring -
Paul Kelman - Jessie 'T.J.' Hanniger
Lori Hallier - Sarah
Neil Affleck - Axel Palmer
Keith Knight - Hollis
Alf Humphreys - Howard Landers
Cynthia Dale - Patty
Helene Udy - Sylvia
Rob Stein - John

Year - 1981

Score - 1.5 Howls Outta 4

**This was written on 2/14/07**


I know I haven't done one of these movie reviews in quite a while, but since it's Valentine's Day [psh], I decided to come out of hiding and grace you with my bitter and single presence. So I had a choice to review two Valentine themed movies. One is the pretty popular 2001 movie, Valentine, starring David Boreanaz and Denise Richards - but I really wasn't in the mood to review that film. So I decided to go for the second and probably hardly-viewed 1981 horror movie, My Bloody Valentine. So shove that arrow up your ass, Cupid...Da Wolf is gonna show you what St. Valentine's Day is really about.

PLOT
In Valentine's Bluff in 1960, some men in charge of coal mines left early to attend a Valentine's party, leaving their workers down in the mines without checking the level of methane gas in the air. The levels of gas get a bit high and it causes an explosion, leaving the mines partially collapsed. Only one man named Harry Warden survives the explosion, driving him crazy enough to escape the mines and murder the people who left for the party. He was admitted into a mental institution, not before warning the townspeople that if they ever celebrated Valentine's Day again, he would return to kill them all.

For 20 years, the town doesn't celebrate Valentine's Day. Out of nowhere, decorations are being set up all over town by the town's teenagers [aka 20-something actors] who plan on having a huge V-Day dance. Coincidentally, people start getting killed, worrying the sheriff and the townspeople. The sheriff calls off the party, but the teenagers will have none of it, decided to have a secret party in the mines beneath town [tsk tsk]. Only wanting to celebrate love and get laid, the teens are oblivious that the killer is also in the mines, making sure Valentine's Day is a night to dismember.

REVIEW
1981, the time in horror movie history where slasher films based their plot around holidays. Black Christmas did it in 1974. Halloween did it in 1978. Friday The 13th did it in 1980. Why not a Valentine's Day slasher flick in 1981? Fortunately for this semi-seen Canadian film, it's not that bad. But it's not great either.


Let me start with the acting, or lack there-of. I would like to know who the casting agent was for this film and bash him or her over the head because this has to be one of the worst acted movies I have ever had the "pleasure" of watching. You think Paris Hilton can't act? Or half the cast of Passions? Wait until you see these "actors" work their craft. It's like watching the Real World, but less entertaining. The lack of acting wouldn't have been bad if the actors were at least decent-looking. But none of them are!! They're all sorry looking, and GOD what horrible fashion these kids were into! They all try to be token characters, but it's hard to care when none of them are nice to look at. Some even annoyed me to the point where I wanted them dead. The fat guy, while not a BAD actor, had really fucked up hair and dressed as if his mother picked his clothes out for him. ANNOYING. And then there's the ditzy broad who kept whining and crying in the mine because she was fuckin' scared. I couldn't wait for the killer to shut that bitch up. Yes...she gets the STUPID BITCH IN A HORROR MOVIE award - what a waste of celluoid. I used to sometimes complain that actors were chosen for their looks over their work. Here's a good example why I'm sometimes wrong. I apologize, Hollywood.

And the soundtrack...hahahahaha! I don't mind country music but Jesus Christ was this music horrific. I heard burps and farts more in tune than the crap I was listening to. These teens were so into the music and were actually getting down to it. Were they all tone deaf? Apparently this town is not only ugly, but musically-challenged. The mute button never looked or felt so good.

The directing was okay at best. Nothing horrible but nothing special. The director basically pointed and shot the script he was given. Can't complain.

I also disliked the fact that no girl in this film exposed herself. At least it would have distracted me from their bad acting and ugly mugs. And gore? None. What kind of slasher film has NO gore!? Would have made the film a whole lot better if there was some blood. But nope...no crimson at all. When I see a pick axe rammed into someone's body, I expect red splatter. Is that too much to ask for?

Was there anything I liked? The locale was pretty spooky and the killer wasn't half-bad. I liked the pick axe as a weapon and the flashlight helmet used to blind his victims. Pretty inventive for a generic serial killer. I also appreciated the decent level of mystery as to the identity of the killer. Rare in horror movies these days. I also liked the great opening sequence [who knew fucking in a miner suit would be so kinky and bloody] and the final chase scene wasn't bad, though the ending was kinda lame [won't spoil what it is but I wasn't too impressed]. Some of the kills were actually well-done [especially the nail gun kill...sweet stuff - too bad there was NO BLOOD!]. I also LOVED the human hearts in the candy heart boxes. That's what Valentine's Day should be about - real hearts served to your lover as a reminder as to what will happen to them if they betray you and break your heart! I mean, isn't that what love is all about?

THE FINAL HOWL

I wasn't expecting too much and that's pretty much what I got in return. It's an okay, if not a little boring, slasher film that doesn't break any new ground but might entertain those who may be interested in a coal miner killing people left and right - or just hate Valentine's Day period like I do. Thin plot involving a pissed off murderer who kills ugly teens - what more can you ask for an early 80s horror flick? So rent the movie, watch it with your girlfriend or boyfriend, and laugh at how mediocre My Bloody Valentine is.

Jason X (2002)

Director - Jim Issac

Starring -
Kane Hodder - Jason Voorhees
Lexa Doig - Rowan
Peter Mensah - Sergeant Brodski
Lisa Ryder - Kay Em 14
Jonathan Potts - Professor Lowe
Chuck Campbell - Tsunaron
Melyssa Ade - Janessa

Year - 2002

Score - 2.5 Howls Outta 4




When I was a little boy, I wanted to be a lot of things when I grew up. One of those things was to be an astronaut. Yeah, I wanted to fly in a shuttle and visit space. I wanted to see the planets, moons, and stars up close. I wanted to meet extra-terrestrial lifeforms. I wanted to get chopped into pieces by a deranged hockey-mask wearing serial killer. Ya know...every boy's dream? But that dream didn't come true, as life had something else planned for me. After watching Jason X, I'm glad it did.


PLOT
It's 2010 [someone's ahead of themselves] and Jason's (played by Kane Hodder again for the final time) under custody since 2008 by the government. They sentenced him to death, but they're unable to kill him, as they realize that Jason has regenerative powers that keep him in the land of the living [I guess he isn't a zombie anymore?]. A group at the Crystal Lake Cryogenics Facility, lead by the beautiful Rowan (Lexa Doig), wants to freeze his ass and shelve him away for the rest of existance. The government, always protrayed in the nicest of ways, wants to examine Jason for his regenerative capabilities. The government wins out of course, but Jason escapes, slaughtering everyone but Rowan. She leads Jason into a hibernation chamber and traps him to be frozen. Jason, however, uses his superstrength to shove his machete through the steel door, wounding Rowan and leaking the freezing process to the entire room, freezing both himself and Rowan.

We move to 2455, where the Earth is pretty much dead. An archeology professor and his students explore what's called Earth 1 [there's an Earth 2] and discover Jason and Rowan. They bring them back to their ship, using technology to revive Rowan. As she tries to get a grip on what just happened to her for the past few hundred years, the professor wants Jason for his monetary value. Rowan warns him of how dangerous he is, but the professor doesn't listen. Of course, Jason wakes up on his own and does what he does best: kill innocent, stupid people. The entire spaceship is at risk with Jason on board, especially when something happens and he's turned into the Terminator of all Serial Killers, Uber-Jason. Will Rowan help these people from the future survive Jason's onslaught? Will Jason take them all out by using one-liners like "Hasta La Vista, Baby," or "I'll be back"? Can I get my own android woman for s...um, nevermind.

REVIEW
I may get hazed for this, but I really liked this film. Is it a good movie? No, not at all. But it's one of those movies that it's so bad that it actually turns out good as you watch. It's not meant to be taken seriously. As a matter of fact, Jason X seems to be spoofing the past nine films, as well as the movie Alien with its sci-fi backdrop. If you're gonna rip off a sci-fi classic, Alien is probably the best choice. I thought the whole "space" thing was actually a neat and interesting approach for the series. Where were these characters gonna go? They were stuck on the spaceship. Okay, the whole spaceship thing is pretty corny, but at least it's a change from the damn woods, or that damn toxic waste crap. I mean, it can't get any worse after Jason Takes Manhattan, can it?

I thought the direction was very well done. James Issac, who was a special FX man for David Cronenberg [who directed the excellent The Fly remake in 1986 - he dies in the beginning of this film too], does well creating atmosphere and action sequences. It's very stylish and the colors appear to be more than they are, giving a freshness and a liveliness that has been missing in the past F13 sequels. He doesn't bother building tension as much because this isn't a horror movie anymore, except at the end [last good 10 minutes by the way]. It's a psuedo-comedy and it worked for me.

The special effects aren't so bad here either. The biggest budget for any Friday The 13th movie and it shows. From androids fighting each other, to space ships exploding and crashing into things, it's not too shabby. Some of it does look cheesy, like those bug thingys that regenerate tissue and skin, but it doesn't hurt the film too much. If you like the special effects in those Sci-Fi shows like Andromeda, Mutant X, and Battlestar Gallactica [which you should be watching!], you'll like the effects here. I personally loved the Uber-Jason upgrade, with the steel armor and the red eyes...that was badass. And they used him just for the end, which was the best thing to do - showing him as little as possible made him more effective - thumbs up. Plus the whole VR scene where they trick Jason into thinking he's back on Crystal Lake in the early 80s...impressive and funny stuff. Good use of the budget overall.

The acting...well these movies are not known for fine acting, are they? It's pretty bad here, but it's laughable bad, where it doesn't annoy you because you can't take any of these people seriously. I wonder if they were told to act badly or they're just really bad...I guess I'll never know. There are a few standouts, like Lexa Doig as Rowan. She was a rip-off of Ripley from the Alien quadrilogy [no where near Sigorney Weaver's caliber of course], but she didn't do a bad job. I actually liked her alot, with her take charge attitude, bravery, and brains. Finally a heroine who fits all of the qualifications! Plus she was hot, and that always helps. I also liked Lisa Ryder as Kay-Em 14, the smartass and fighting machine cyborg who kicked Jason's sorry ass. Once she was upgraded to a fighting machine, she was decked out like Trinity from The Matrix, and starting spouting these ridiculous one-liners with a snarky tone to them. It was so ridiculous to watch and hear, but I couldn't help but laugh at it all. Melyssa Ade as Janessa was cute, though she wasn't a great actress. But she played the slutty airhead role pretty well, and had some cute one-liners as well that made me chuckle. Loved the hoochie outfit too. Didn't know Britney Spears was still in style 400 years from now. Peter Mensah as Sgt. Brodski, the man in charge of the military on the spaceship, was pretty awesome. He's the badass of the cast and pretty much the only dude who's a worthy foe for Jason here. Plus he knows how to make an exit, as he rides with Uber-Jason out of the spaceship through the solar flare on the way to Earth 2. I was convinced by this dude. And then there's Jason himself, Kane Hodder, who probably did the most as Jason here and did it really well. He looked more human [what was up with that?], but he still slaughtered with the best of them and looked pretty intimidating as Uber-Jason [yeah he looked cheesy on film but if you were in front of him in real life, you'd be shitting in your pants]. Loved the shots of his eyes too. Probably showed more of Jason's emotional state [usually anger] in this film than in any other and I liked it.

And it's nice that it took them three movies to finally figure out a logical way to explain why Jason can't die. None of this teleportation or demon crap I've been fed for 2 movies. He simply regenerates tissue. Was that so hard to come up with? It's plausible and makes more sense than any other theory or bullshit story they tried to pass on to us in the previous films. I wish they would explained more of how he came to have that ability, but when you're dealing with a poorly written script, you're not gonna get an Einstein answer. Maybe next time.

Kills and gore...28 people get killed in this film. That's a record for any Jason film. Hell, he kills like 7 people within the first 10 minutes of the film [good times]. Plus we get some interesting kills here, like freezing a girl's head and then smashing it against the table to shatter her skull. Or what about the screw kill, where a soldier literally screws himself to death? Plus the indirect kill, the Janessa sucked into a fan/vacuum scene. Man, that must've sucked. And during the VR scene, we get a re-enactment of the sleeping bag kill. Always funny no matter when it's done. We never have to wait for people to get killed either, which speeds up the film a bit. Jason can't be reasoned with or bribed. He just wants to kill without any remorse...that's the Jason we love and missed since The New Blood.

THE FINAL HOWL
Jason X is not meant to be scary. It's a hybrid of horror, comedy, sci-fi, action...a film aware of its own cheese. That's why it works better than it should. It's not a great film or anything, but it's not a film I hate or even dislike. It's a fun movie that really has nothing to do with the other movies and it's definitely worth a rental. A genuinely entertaining movie - the perfect guilty pleasure.
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