Indie Horror Spotlight: Chuck Conry's MORBID (2013)

Chuck Conry

Genre - Horror/Slasher

Running Time - 71 Minutes

It's been a while since I've written a post for an "Indie Horror Spotlight". But thanks to MORBID, an independent film directed and written by Chuck Conry, this section has returned. Some of you may know Mr. Conry, who runs a very popular horror review website called ZombiesDon'tRun.net. Being friends, Chuck allowed me the privilege to see an online screener for his first film. And having watched it, I have a few things to say about MORBID.

MORBID is a throwback to slasher films. There's a killer on the loose in some Midwestern town where football players breaking records mean more than two people getting murdered. After some big football game, the star quarterback named Sky Walker throws a party that only seems to attract the killer. As the killer begins to have bloody fun at this party, some cop is on his trail to stop the massacre once and for all.

For a very low budget film [I read the cost was about $500], MORBID is a lot better than one would probably expect. For a newbie, Chuck Conry does a pretty good job in somewhat capturing that 1980s' feel of the slasher movie, giving fans what they would normally expect.

I think what helps MORBID greatly is Conry's witty and pretty humorous script, in which characters have pop culture debates that tend to make the film somewhat self-aware. In particular, I loved the opening sequence in which two friends debate about John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN, and how it may-or-may-not be overrated. They discuss films that came before or after HALLOWEEN, such as FRIDAY THE 13TH, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and BLACK CHRISTMAS - arguing whether HALLOWEEN was really all that original or as good as those other classic horror films to gain the notoriety it has received since. The funny part is that the things that HALLOWEEN is being criticized for - pretty much the first person POV shots that BLACK CHRISTMAS led the way for HALLOWEEN to use [although I'm sure other horror films did this before BLACK CHRISTMAS] - are also used by Conry as he reveals the killer for the first time. So in a way, Conry is poking fun at himself for being influenced by these films as to use their templates for MORBID. There are also conversations involving G.I. Joe, Thundercats, comparing the status of a relationship with Rob Thomas' relationship with Matchbox Twenty, Ric Flair, Mortal Kombat, and other pop culture items. Those who are not really into this information may not love the screenplay here. But I'm a pop culture nut, so it suited me just fine. I laughed more than once during MORBID, so it's all good from that standpoint.

The characters are pretty stereotypical. You have the Final Girl. You have the Douchey Jock. You have the Nerd. You have the Cop who is hunting down the Killer. None of them are given any real character development, but slasher films weren't really known for that anyway. I wish I cared about the characters more than I did, which hurts MORBID quite a bit. But I thought the Killer looked pretty cool, especially the smiley face on the mask. And the gag at the end with the Killer and the Final Girl came out of nowhere and had me dying. But yeah, don't expect to get too attached to these characters at all.

If I had any major issue with the screenplay, it's that most of the scenes are WAY too long. It's something that usually occurs with us screenwriters - we write really long scenes because we want people to get the joke, or because we're so dialogue heavy that anything on our minds gets put on paper. In reality, we can get what we want to say in a much shorter time span, making the film much shorter and the story a lot tighter. MORBID has this issue and it's too bad. I liked the dialogue and I would speak to my friends like these characters do. But it just goes on and on, when it could have been edited down and gotten the same point across. Plus, it kind of hurts that the whole Kevin Smith/self-aware geek approach in these kind of films feels old hat by 2013. While people act this way, it doesn't mean it's original and/or people want to watch others behave this way. There were so many scenes that I had wished Conry would have cut down, especially those Grundy TV scenes that never seemed to end. I admire the 70 minute runtime on a short budget, but MORBID probably would have been a stronger film if it were maybe 20-25 minutes shorter. Just sayin'.

MORBID has blood and gore, although it's fairly cheap looking. But for a low budget flick, it's actually better than I would have believed prior to watching MORBID. We get eyeballs being popped out of sockets. We get a head crushed by a moving car. We get decapitations. We get sliced throats. We get an armed sawed off. We get a penis being chopped in half. There's other stuff as well that you'll have to see for yourself. The way things were edited and presented make these effects work for the most part. While I don't think every horror film needs to have gore to make it enjoyable, it does enhance MORBID. So I appreciated the attempt and didn't think it looked all that bad.

The direction by Chuck Conry is quite good. While the film does have its share of editing issues, lighting issues, and even sound effect timing issues, Conry manages to visual his screenplay pretty well. Some of the shots look quite nice and framed beautifully. The pacing was good, although the long scenes tended to ruin the film's flow at times. MORBID looked like a low budget slasher film, which I'm sure was Conry's intention. Plus I could tell he, and the cast and crew, were having fun making this, which is always a plus in my book.

The acting is pretty amateur, but no one is really THAT bad. Even so, the lesser actors had me laughing at their delivery at times. The actor who played the killer was very good though. And Chuck Conry even plays a character in the film, in what I thought was a funny scene. This is a film probably composed of Conry's friends, so I didn't mind that it wasn't "professional" enough.

All in all, MORBID isn't a perfect movie. It has its share of issues that can't be overlooked. But hey, I respect anyone who takes the time to write a movie and actually gets the opportunity to visualize it to entertain himself and others. I've seen other indie filmmakers do the same and pretty much bomb. But Chuck Conry definitely has something here and I think if he continues to make films, he'll grow more confident and get a lot better. Honestly, with more tension and better flow and editing, MORBID could have been pretty great. Instead, it's just pretty good and definitely above average. But hey, we all have to start somewhere and I'm sure Conry will get better in his next ventures. It's not easy making a full length movie like this [I know from personal experience], so kudos for Conry for managing to make MORBID happen to begin with. There's potential here. Let's hope it blossoms in the next one.


When Wrestlers Act: Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

Justin Lin

Vin Diesel - Dominic Toretto
Paul Walker - Brian O'Conner
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson - Luke Hobbs
Michelle Rodriguez - Letty Ortiz
Jordana Brewster - Mia Toretto
Tyrese Gibson - Roman Pearce
Chris "Ludacris" Bridges - Tej Parker
Sung Kang - Han Seoul-Oh
Luke Evans - Owen Shaw
Gina Carano - Riley
Gal Gadot - Gisele Yashar
Elsa Pataky - Elena Neves

Genre - Action/Crime

Running Time - 130 Minutes

After achieving their goal of stealing $100 million during a heist in Rio de Janeiro, wanted fugitives Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), former cop Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker), Dom's sister/Brian's girlfriend Mia (Jordana Brewster), and Dom's new girlfriend Elena (Elsa Pataky) are living in the Canary Islands in Spain to help raise Brian's and Mia's newborn son. Since they can't be arrested in the Canary Islands for their past crimes, the new family have nothing to really worry about.

However, things change when FBI agent Luke Hobbs (
Dwayne Johnson) finds them. Not coming there to arrest anyone, Hobbs wants and needs Dom's and Brian's help in capturing some international criminal and a former Special Ops soldier named Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). Hobbs wants Dom and Brian to gather up their crew - including Han (Sung Kang), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges), and Gisele (Gal Gadot) - to use their car driving abilities to stop Shaw and his own crew from building a bomb worth billions. While Dom isn't interested, Hobbs reveals that Dom's former girlfriend, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), is still alive and working for Shaw. Dom and Brian agree to help, as long as they receive pardons and able to go home as free people once the job is over.



- The best story in the franchise so far. I think after reviewing all these films within the past few weeks, I've clearly established that these films are normally more style than any sort of substance. The plots are usually thin, but it's compensated by the action and the fun factor that comes along with the action. It wasn't until FAST & FURIOUS when the stories started to gain a bit of depth, as the characters stopped trying to be cool and actually grew up - making them more sympathetic and giving them slight development within the race culture and action sequences that surrounded the plot. FAST FIVE advanced that as it attempted to tie in all the installments in the franchise into one film, adding a new character in Luke Hobbs that gave not only the characters, but the series a new dimension to feed off of and play with. The franchise wasn't just about racing cars for glory anymore to tell a weak story. The action become more elaborate. The characters started to flesh out a bit. And the screenplay gave audiences a reason as to why these films exist other than for money. The first three films were something of adolescence. The last three films allowed the franchise to grow up in a sense, while forming a clear identity and proving why THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS deserved its franchise to begin with.

FAST AND FURIOUS 6, believe it or not, has the best story and screenplay in the entire franchise. The fact that a fifth sequel and sixth installment in any franchise being the strongest is something that just doesn't happen in any film series. Usually, each installment gets weaker as they go. But THE FAST AND FURIOUS series has only gotten better as its gotten more confident with the stories they tell. There's a purpose to these films now for audiences, which is why the last three films [including this one] have been so damn successful. FURIOUS 6 may have the story with the most substance going for it. It brings the series full circle finally, and really shows us how far each of these characters have grown as people, rather than stereotypes like they were in the beginning. We care about Dom, Brian, Letty, Mia, and all the others now due to the storytelling and how each character is presented to us. It's really amazing to see how much this series has grown, and it puts a smile on my face because I really enjoy these movies on many levels.

The screenplay in FURIOUS 6 mainly focuses on the reappearance of Letty Ortiz, who was believed murdered in FAST & FURIOUS, but confirmed to be alive during the end credits of FAST FIVE. I was pretty worried about how this would play out since it was pretty established that Letty was killed. Was this the real Letty? Was this someone who looked liked her? But I liked the way the story played with her return. With Letty having amnesia, it didn't make her a villain - a person who betrayed Dom by going with the enemy. Her reasons for being with Shaw's crew are connected to events in FAST & FURIOUS, bringing back certain characters from that film to explain what was up. The film could have just ignored this, just going the easy route that Letty felt abandoned by her "family", deciding to join a new one. But they make Letty somewhat sympathetic, especially when she learns that she was once part of Dom's crew and starts sensing that she belongs with Dom rather than Shaw. In fact, Letty seems to be the only one in Shaw's crew that has a conscience, making it more obvious she's on the wrong side. Letty's interactions with Shaw, Dom, and even Brian [who blames himself for Letty's "death"] towards the end really flesh out her character more than THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS and FAST & FURIOUS did combined. In fact, Letty also fleshes out Dom and Brian in a lot of ways as well, as they both deal with her return a bit differently. It's nice to see an installment that has a reason for existing for something more than superficial. Letty's return creates a bit of drama, which I found quite welcoming.

I also liked that Owen Shaw, the film's villain, was actually written well. He's pretty much the opposite of Dom. While both are criminals and have their respective crews, they both see their "families" differently. Dom cares about the people he works with, seeing them as brothers and sisters rather than people who just work for him. Each character in Dom's crew is treated almost equally, and used accordingly to their skill set and their respective role within the team. Dom's crew are like a puzzle - they're parts required to come together to make something complete. Shaw's crew is different though. Shaw is obviously the leader and has the final say. He doesn't really care about what happens to his crew, as long as he gets what he wants. He finds emotions to be a weakness, which he uses against Dom towards the end. While Dom is warm, Shaw is cold and only cares about one person: himself. Shaw, in a lot of ways, is the best villain in the franchise so far. He's always two steps ahead of Dom and Hobbs due to the fact that he's focused on his goal and won't let anything or anyone distract him. There's a real sense of danger with this character that I never found with other antagonists in this franchise. This guy means business, but shows it in a real subtle, confident way. I liked the Shaw character and am excited as to what his fate will lead to in the seventh installment.

Other than that, I thought the characters were much better here. They all get their share of the spotlight, have great interaction and banter amongst themselves, and even make the Hobbs team up with Dom's crew feel logical and not forced. Is it a perfect screenplay? No. But it's come a long way since the first film. There's actual depth here and a sense of things coming together and going full circle. I was busy having too much fun trying to see the plot holes or moments that would be implausible in real life. That's the sign of a good action story that gives the audience everything they're looking for.

- The cast. Once again, the actors of FAST AND FURIOUS 6 show how far they've come in terms of becoming their characters, and understanding their roles and their motivations. Vin Diesel is pretty much Dominic Toretto at this point. He still has that presence and that charisma that allows him to have great chemistry with anyone he's on screen with. I liked the scenes he shares with Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, and The Rock especially. Diesel has grown into the role and seems to "get it". He's having fun and we have fun watching him. Paul Walker is at his best here as Brian O'Conner. For once, I saw a guy who can somewhat act and be convincing in an action role. Maybe it's because he's older and stopped trying to be the pretty boy. But I've been liking Walker during the past few years in films. I think if there's anyone who's "Most Improved", it has to go to this guy. And Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is a total bad ass as Luke Hobbs. He kicks ass, has presence and charisma, and even brings the funny when he's interacting with Ludacris [some of the best scenes in the film]. I think The Rock did a lot for this franchise. In a way, he made this series legit to a lot of eyes. I hear he's getting a possible spin off, which I would be in total support for. And I hope he does return for part 7 because I hate to see the franchise end without him being a part of that finale.

The rest of the cast is just as good. Luke Evans plays a great villain as Owen Shaw. He also has a lot of presence and seems to be having fun playing the bad guy. He took a one-note character and fleshed him out a bit - enough for him to feel like a true threat. Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris bring the funny. Sung Kang brings his dry humor as Han, also kicking ass and getting his ass kicked. Sad that we already know what happens to his character because I really like the dude. Gal Gadot has more to do as Gisele, and I liked her in this film. Jordana Brewster doesn't get to do much as Mia, but it's understandable due to her role in the film. But she's fine. Gina Carano is okay as Hobb's sidekick. She's kind of stiff until she performs the action sequences. Her fights with Michelle Rodriguez are pretty bad ass, in my opinion. Speaking of Rodriguez, I really liked her here as Letty. She gave the character some depth and made her sympathetic. Plus, she's pretty bad ass too. I thought the cast was one of the film's highlights for sure.

- The pacing and direction. While I still felt FAST AND FURIOUS 6 was too long [it's the same length as FAST FIVE], I felt the flow and pacing was much improved in this installment. There's no real filler in this film, as things constantly move and happen, never making you feel bored. In fact, I kept getting more and more invested as the film went on. Things escalated from beginning to end, and for a two-hour-plus film, it felt much shorter. I think Justin Lin, who has been directing this series since TOKYO DRIFT and makes his final impression with FAST AND FURIOUS 6, has done a really commendable job turning this franchise around. It's still fluff - but not it's fluff we actually care about and look forward to seeing more of. Lin actually helped make the franchise BETTER, which is rare in itself.

As for Lin's direction of the action, it's on par with FAST FIVE. However, the sequences here are a lot more elaborate and almost borderline silly and impossible - but in a good way. The car chases are thrilling. I loved the new flip cars that Shaw's crew used. We get a cool explosion that was pretty tense. The tank scene, probably the best action scene in the film, was pretty wild. And the airplane final act, which I thought ran a bit too long, still impressed by how grand a scale it was to pull this off. I also thought the hand-to-hand combat stuff and gunplay were great as well. FAST AND FURIOUS 6 was the most exciting installment. I also thought the cinematography was great and the use of location was well done. It's sad Lin is leaving the franchise [due to Universal wanting to film the next sequel within a year's span, now with SAW director James Wan], but I admire and respect his ambition. He gets my complete respect for taking this franchise to new heights. He went out with a bang and he should be proud of himself.

- The after credits scene. I won't spoil it if you haven't seen it. But let's just say that it finally ties in the tragic events of TOKYO DRIFT to the main franchise. We also get the villain for the next film, which has already been revealed prior to the film's release. And I am so excited for this actor to join the franchise. I think he's gonna be a great villain and really add something new. And it's great to finally have a FAST AND FURIOUS film that takes place after TOKYO DRIFT for a change now. I do think this next installment should be the last one, because I don't think there's much story left to tell. But if it is or isn't, I'll definitely be watching next year. The theater crowd went nuts for the reveal, myself included.

- Some small things. FAST AND FURIOUS isn't a perfect film. Like I mentioned already, it's still a bit too long. But at least it's well paced enough where you don't really notice. However, there were plot points that I felt lacked within the screenplay.

One of these major issues involved Shaw's plan. Apparently he was trying to steal components to make some huge bomb to blow something up, or something. I wasn't really sure what Shaw was planning or where it was going. I forgot all about his plan until it was mentioned again at the end, which isn't a good thing. I think more focus could have gone to the villain's purpose in the sequel. I remember the bomb being brought up, and me going "Oh, that's what Shaw was doing?" It felt like an afterthough for much of the film, which is unfortunate.

I also didn't like how the whole Letty-Dominic-Elena love triangle was resolved. It was way too easy and there was no drama at all. You clearly have a soap opera here to play with, yet it's pretty much brushed off until it's needed to make itself known again. Elena played a pretty important role in FAST FIVE, yet she's barely a presence here. It's obvious that Dom loves Letty more than he would Elena, but the resolution could have been stronger. Instead, it felt pointless.

I really enjoyed the hell out of FAST AND FURIOUS 6. It has everything you want in an action film - a great cast, a story that has some depth, awesome action sequences, and a cool lead in towards its next sequel. It does have some issues in terms of certain subplots, but overall it's an entertaining and fun film that breezes right by and makes you want to see more. A definite summer movie blockbuster that deserves all the money its gets at the box office. Probably my favorite film of the summer so far and definitely my favorite FAST AND FURIOUS film.

3.5 Howls Outta 4


When Wrestlers Act: Fast Five (2011)

Justin Lin

Vin Diesel - Dominic Toretto
Paul Walker - Brian O'Conner
Jordana Brewster - Mia Toretto
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson - Luke Hobbs
Tyrese Gibson - Roman Pearce
Chris "Ludacris" Bridges - Tej Parker
Matt Schulze - Vince
Sung Kang - Han Seoul-Oh
Gal Gadot - Gisele Yashar
Joaquim de Almeida - Hernan Reyes
Elsa Pataky - Elena Neves
Tego Calderon - Leo Tego
Don Omar - Omar Santos
Michael Irby - Zizi

Genre - Action/Crime

Running Time - 132 Minutes

The film picks up during the final moments of 2009's FAST & FURIOUS. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is on a prison bus, as he's been sentenced to serve 20 years in prison for his crimes. However, former FBI agent Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) and Dom's sister [and Brian's girlfriend] Mia (Jordana Brewster) manage to stop the bus and make it crash. All the criminals in the bus are accounted for, except for Dom. This makes Dom, Brian, and Mia wanted fugitives.

The trio decide to hide out in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, looking for ways to make money to buy their freedom. Reuniting with Vince (
Matt Schulze from THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS), the trio decide to help Vince and some local criminals steal three very valuable cars from a moving train, which also seems to be carrying DEA agents as passengers. When Dom realizes that the local criminals seem to be using his crew and that things aren't on the up and up, he tells his gang to steal the most valuable car - leading to violent conflict between the gang and the local criminal world.

Once they're in the clear, they take the car apart - finding a memory chip that has important information on a local business named Hernan Reyes (
Joaquim de Almeida). The information includes all the cash Reyes has saved up [about $100 million] and where the money is located. Wanting this money, Dom and Brian gather up their respective buddies from previous installments to create a super group of criminals ready to perform a huge heist. What they don't realize is that a DSS agent named Luke Hobbs (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) is also hunting them down, wanting all of them to pay for their crimes.


A much more mature cast. FAST FIVE is considered the best film in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise, and I definitely agree. While the scenerios are still preposterous and unrealistic, at least this sequel executes them in a way that you can suspend your disbelief and just enjoy the ride without a care. This is helped by a game cast who has matured quite a deal since the previous installments.

Vin Diesel is still great as Dom. He shows more emotion than he did in the previous film, and gets to do cool stunts with Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson. In fact, Dom's fight with Johnson is one of the film's highlights. Diesel carries a presence that makes him stand out amongst a huge cast, letting his charisma shine through easily. Paul Walker is much improved here as Brian O'Conner. He has chemistry with everyone around him, and seems more capable in carrying scenes on his own. He also handles the hand-to-hand combat scenes pretty well, making FAST FIVE his best film in the franchise. Jordana Brewster is very good as Mia, and gets to do more here than she has done in the other films. She's the eyes of the operation, making her more than just the sister and girlfriend stereotype.

Returning to the franchise are Tyrese Gibson, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Matt Schultz, Tego Calderon, and Don Omar - bringing every installment of THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS into one giant action movie. They all play their roles well, but there are some standouts. It's great to see Schultz again, as I liked him a lot in the first film. His story comes full circle here, and Schultz does a good job replaying his angst against Brian over "taking his spot" in more ways than one. Gibson and Ludacris are the comic relief of the crew. Gibson, while still a bit over-the-top, is more subtle than he was in 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS. And Ludacris is more quiet in his humor, making the two balance each other quite well with the comedy. Kang and Gadot have cute chemistry as Han and Gisele. And Calderon and Omar bring some hijinks in their roles.

Joaquim de Almeida and Michael Irby are pretty decent as the villains. They're probably the most fleshed out villains in the franchise so far, next to Takashi from TOKYO DRIFT. We also get a cool cameo from Eva Mendes, which helps lead the film into FAST AND FURIOUS 6.

But the highlight has to go to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Luke Hobbs. Just a total bad ass and ass kicker from beginning to end. Not only does he bring the funny, but he's extremely charismatic and a huge presence. His scenes with Diesel are great and it makes you want to see more interaction between the two. Johnson's addition added something really great to the franchise. Honestly, he should be a distraction amongst a large group of actors. But he makes the franchise feel new again with his role, and gives the other actors a new vigor as Johnson is someone great to play off.

I really enjoy this cast and I'm glad most have returned for FAST AND FURIOUS 6. You can tell they really enjoy doing these films together, which makes it fun for us to watch. They're all in on the joke, yet take the material seriously. You gotta respect actors who are proud to be starring in action fluff.

- A more adult, and tighter, screenplay. Normally in fifth installments, the story goes to crap. The fifth film in a series usually plays out as a shadow of everything that had come before it, making us wish they would put the franchise out of its misery. But surprisingly, FAST FIVE actually gives the franchise a new life and a fresher perspective than ever thought possible. Who would have thought that this franchise would actually IMPROVE as it continued?

FAST FIVE is a heist film, so it's OCEAN'S ELEVEN with cars. But it works more than it should, as it gives the film a focus that it never really had before. The film isn't deep, but it doesn't need to be. There's so much going on in terms of the characters interacting with each other, that you're never bored. You understand their motivations for doing this and root them on as they plan out their strategy and their escape once they complete their goal. In fact, I think FAST FIVE has the best characterization out of all the films. You never question why these people have collected themselves into performing this heist. Sure, they'll share $100 million if they achieve their goal. But it's because they genuinely enjoy each other's company, feeling like a family for once. I felt this aspect of the story in the previous films felt kind of forced or coincidental. But it truly feels natural here, and it puts a smile on your face as they banter and do really cool things together for a common goal. Each person gets the spotlight within the story, proving their place on the team. They agree. They argue. They share laughs. They share teams. And none of it feels like a plot device. Maybe we needed cheesy films before this one to get to this point in the franchise. I'm just glad these characters are presented as normal people rather than wannabes trying to be cool.

And for once in the franchise, I actually felt that these main characters were fugitives from the law. With the addition of Luke Hobbs and more elaborate action sequences set up in the script, FAST FIVE feels like a chase movie [something I think the other films tried to accomplished, but never took the time to focus on]. No one's lying to each other. No one's trying to be someone they're not. Everything that happens in this film is very crystal clear. The local bad guys want to kill Dom and his gang. Luke Hobbs and his crew want to capture Dom and his gang. And Dom and his gang know this and still plan out their mission. And the way the heist is added into the chase aspect of the film is pretty nicely done as well, as both themes get enough time to resonate to the audience.

It's amazing that I can actually compliment the storytelling in a FAST AND FURIOUS film. But FAST FIVE deserves it, as things always happen and each act never feels dull or out of place. I liked the dialogue. I liked how the characters behaved and spoke with different voices that made each one stand out from the other. And I liked that the chase theme and the heist theme were pretty evenly given focus, merging together to create quite an enjoyable film to watch. Sure things were pretty implausible and there were mega plot holes for sure. And it's a film that still doesn't focus on too much substance. But FAST FIVE doesn't need to be because those things would only clutter up the enjoyment and fun factor of this awesome sequel.

- The epic action and direction. Justin Lin does an amazing job visualizing this film. The cinematography is just beautiful, as the film was shot in multiple locations [mainly Puerto Rico]. The editing was great. The use of style with slow motion, close ups, framing, and composition were very good and very inspired. You can tell this is a big budget film and looks like they spent every cent on the right things.

And then there is the action. Holy crap. The action here is unbelievable, in more ways than one. Never in a FAST AND FURIOUS film has the action reached an epic scale until this installment. Watching a prison bus get turned over by fast cars and roll down a dusty road is pretty laughable, but cool to look at. The scene with the car steal from a moving train is just incredible. I was thrilled, on the edge of my seat, and just loving how well choreographed the entire sequence was. The best action moment has to be Dom and Brian dragging this huge vault through the streets of Rio [really Puerto Rico] during the film's final act. The property damage alone would make the Power Rangers' home of Angel Grove feel bad enough to give money to help out. Just an amazing sequence that's just truly exciting to watch. Add in a cool Vin Diesel vs. The Rock fist fight, Paul Walker kicking some ass with his own fists and guns, as well as thrilling character moments as each member of the crew helps complete the plan, and you got yourself a great action movie. FAST FIVE is truly the first film in the franchise that deserves its "action movie" status BIG TIME. Over-the-top, yet glorious to watch. It may not have been FAST, but the film definitely proves that it's still pretty FURIOUS.

- A non-focus on car racing. THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS was based on this idea of the characters racing fast cars to move the story along. But FAST FIVE barely has any racing scenes, instead focusing on chase scenes. And I'm glad about this fact. I think by this point, the race scenes were getting a bit old and tired. I'm not saying the franchise is done with this aspect. In fact, we get one race scene with Diesel, Walker, Gibson, and Kang that actually leads to something and happens to be fun to watch. We also get a race that's built up pretty well, but we never see it, instead seeing its aftermath. And I'm more than fine with that. I do think there should be a race or two in each installment, as long as it's not the focus anymore. It doesn't need to be, as the characters and the stories are more adult and deeper than that now. So I'm glad we barely got any race scenes. Watching the actors get chased in cars is more than enough.

- It's a tad too long for its own good. The runtime is really the only issue I have with the film. I think action films shouldn't be longer than two hours. And some of the action scenes could have been cut shorter and still had the same effect. The final action scene, in particular, could have been shorter to watch, although I did enjoy it quite immensely. It's not a terrible flaw, but I feel a shorter runtime would have made the film much better as a viewing experience.

FAST FIVE is the best FAST AND FURIOUS film to date. It has incredible action sequences. The cast is solid and more mature. The story actually kicks ass. There's just a nice focus in this installment that the other films didn't have for whatever reason. FAST FIVE is not only a great sequel, but it's also a great action film that sets it apart from anything else in the franchise. A fifth installment in a franchise should not be this good, or better than the films that led up to it. But FAST FIVE is one of the few exceptions, as it's fun, fun, fun. Now I'm really excited for FAST AND FURIOUS 6.

3.5 Howls Outta 4


Fast & Furious (2009)

Justin Lin

Vin Diesel - Dominic Toretto
Paul Walker - Brian O'Conner
Jordana Brewster - Mia Toretto
Michelle Rodriguez - Leticia "Letty" Ortiz
John Ortiz - Arturo Braga
Laz Alonso - Fenix Calderon
Gal Gadot - Gisele Yashar
Sung Kang - Han Seoul-Oh
Don Omar - Omar Santos
Tego Calderon - Leo Tego

Genre - Action/Crime

Running Time - 107 Minutes

Taking place between 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS and THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT, FAST & FURIOUS brings back the original cast members of THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, bringing them together 5 years [story time] after the events of the first film. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are hiding in the Dominican Republic along with two new crew members, Omar Santos (Don Omar) and Leo Tego (Tego Calderon). As the citizens in D.R. are suffering due to rising oil prices, Dom and his crew decide to stop and steal a gas truck. While it's rough, they complete the mission. However, Dom realizes that the feds are on to him and that his time is running out. Even though Letty wants to help him, Dom leaves her while she's sleeping to protect her.

Meanwhile, Brian O'Connor (
Paul Walker) has now become an FBI agent. His target? Some drug trafficker named Arturo Braga (John Ortiz). As he attempts to find clues that could lead him to Braga, Dom learns through his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) that Letty was murdered by Braga and his number one guy, Fenix Calderon (Laz Alonso). Because of this, Dom and Brian end up reuniting by accident - both trying to infiltrate Braga's crew as drug runners in order to achieve their respective goals. Can the two put the past behind them and work together? And if they do, who will manage to achieve their goal?



 - Reuniting the original cast from THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS. It's pretty obvious that FAST & FURIOUS probably would have never happened if TOKYO DRIFT didn't disappoint Universal Studios at the box office. Executives realized that the first film had the best box office receipts and critical reception. And hoping that lightning would strike twice, Universal offered Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, and Jordana Brewster a ton of cash to return to the roles that made them superstars to begin with [along with giving Diesel executive producer credit as well]. Honestly, this reunion is the best thing to happen to this film and to this franchise, as it's gotten better and been more financially beneficial to the studio since this sequel.

Even after eight years since THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, the cast still maintain that wonderful chemistry that made the first film so popular. The acting may not have improved all that much, but then again, this franchise has never been about the quality of the actors. But it's great to see Diesel and Walker banter and displaying that fun, respectful chemistry we saw back in 2001. The best scenes involving Walker actually happen when he's onscreen with Diesel, as Diesel seems to bring out Walker's personality. I will say that Walker is slightly improved as an actor in this film, but he's best when he's with Diesel.

As for Diesel, he's good in the role. But there's something off with his performance in terms of the material he needs to work with. At points, it feels like he's holding back, not really giving the role the emotional turmoil it needs. I guess Diesel felt that Dom would act more subtle than one would expect in this kind of situation, but I wish he would emote more and really show how much Letty's death means to him. There are a few moments where Diesel shows his vulnerability, but it's not really enough. Still, Diesel has charisma and presence in spades, making his performance not a total failure.

In fact, Diesel seems to have great chemistry with all of his co-stars, including Rodriguez, who make the affection they have for each other mean something through their body language and line delivery. It's sad Rodriguez is not in the film more than she is, since she's actually quite good here, but it works for the story the film needs to tell. And Jordana Brewster doesn't get much to do, but she's always nice to look at. Plus, it wouldn't be a reunion without her.

The newer cast fill their roles as much as needed. Reggaeton artists Tego Calderon and Don Omar are fine as Leo and Santos. They get to do more in the short film, LOS BANDOLEROS [the short film that precedes FAST & FURIOUS], but they're okay. Gal Gadot is a pretty face as Gisele. Sang Kung is great again as Han, adding humor. And the villains, John Ortiz and Laz Alonso, are stereotypical. But at least they're kind of fun to watch, especially Alonso. Not a bad cast, but the original players are the reason to watch.

- A story with more substance going for it. While these FAST AND FURIOUS films don't have the deepest stories or the best written screenplays, at least FAST & FURIOUS attempts at adding meat to the franchise's canon. I think the best thing the screenplay does is focus more on Dom rather than Brian this time around. Like I said in my THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS review, Dom was the more interesting character of the two. While Brian's story had to be told in order for the first film to work, especially since it pretty much ripped off POINT BREAK, Dom was the one with the real story to follow. And FAST & FURIOUS lets Dom be the focus of the film, with Brian being more of a supporting player that elevates Dom's story somewhat.

FAST & FURIOUS mainly focuses on a theme of revenge. Dom leaves Letty on her own, thinking it would be the best thing for her to be away from him since he's a wanted man. Instead, Letty ends up getting killed and Dom feels guilty about it. Through his knowledge of cars and tires, Dom figures out who's behind it, and tries to be part of his crew in order to kill him. However, Brian's return makes Dom question his motives, especially when Brian reveals information about Letty's last days that make him think differently about the situation.

Revenge is a very simple and classic theme that's easy to relate to and understand. We feel sympathy for Dom and want him to get this bad guy. And while coincidental and convienient, at least it allows Dom and Brian to reunite in a "natural" way and rebuild their friendship for a common goal - since Brian wants revenge as well since he also cared about Letty. And while it doesn't go as far as it could have, or is executed in a more plausible way, at least the story doesn't feel as shallow as the previous films felt. Sure, there's eye candy, and cool races and car chases here. But there's also a human element that was missing in the previous films that adds a lot to the viewing experience.

I also think it helps that the story is fairly basic as well, not wanting to complicate the film more than it needs to. The last two films had too much going on, which didn't allow any of the newer characters to resonate all that much once the film was over. In FAST & FURIOUS, we're allowed to watch Dom, Brian, and Mia deal with Letty's death, their forced reunion after years, and the aftermath of Dom's and Brian's plans for Arturo. I think of the four films up to this point in the franchise, FAST & FURIOUS seems like the most quiet and more mature. THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS was a teenager in terms of films. This sequel reaches adulthood, while keeping the characters we've already come to know fairly consistent. It's not a great script or anything, but for this franchise, it's a vast improvement and feels like a new beginning of sorts.

- Justin Lin. In my review for TOKYO DRIFT, I credited Justin Lin for keeping the franchise relevant through his camera work and direction. Lin is a fairly straightforward director, not having to use jump cuts, bad CGI, or flashy colors to make the visuals pop. He lets the drama unfold without many distractions, while making sure the action is decent enough to keep audiences visually stimulated.

While in TOKYO DRIFT, I did think the action wasn't all that exciting. The way these scenes were shot were okay, but not as thrilling as in the first two films. However, Lin must have studied up on creating better action sequences, since his direction with action is much better here. In particular, the opening sequences with Dom's crew versus the gas truck. The hijacking scene is pretty damn awesome, as it's almost a nod to a similar scene in the original THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS. What I liked most about it is that it doesn't use shaky cam or quick edits to make the scene exciting. He just shoots it pretty honestly, allowing the audience to witness the action as it would unfold, letting it stimulate and sink in. Sure, there's CGI in the scene towards the end, but it's not terrible. In fact, you can tell FAST & FURIOUS has a much bigger budget compared to the other films. I also thought the car chases [with the GPS stuff] were pretty cool too, especially the scenes involving the underground tunnel. I do think Lin's action direction improves with FAST FIVE, as the sequences are more elaborate. But you can tell Lin is improving as he goes, as the film is more thrilling than TOKYO DRIFT.

I also want to make mention to the cinematography. FAST & FURIOUS is a beautiful looking film from beginning to end. It's a much darker film compared to the others, which works with the film's tone. While there are colorful moments here and there, I liked the darker moments more. Like I said, it's a more mature film than the rest - and the visual presentation represents that pretty well.

- LOS BANDOLEROS. This 20-minute short film isn't part of the actual film, so to speak. But it is a prelude to the film that introduces the newer characters and gives us reason as to why Dom and Letty were in the Dominican Republic to begin with. Written and directed by Vin Diesel, I really enjoyed this short as it focuses on the newer characters, Leo and Santos. The actual film itself gives the two the short straw, making us wonder how they hooked up with Dom, Letty, and Han to begin with. But this prologue gives us some insight as to who these two are and why they're willing to contribute to Dom's cause. The short also introduces Han to the main franchise [this takes place before TOKYO DRIFT obviously], as well as shows us what Dom has been up to since Brian let him escape at the end of the first film. I kind of wish this short had been included with the actual film, as it really explains the opening sequence and gives more of an effect to Dom's and Letty's relationship - which in turn would strengthen the revenge angle. But if you're a fan, definitely check out this short. It's pretty damn good.

- Good story, but poor execution. Just like all the previous installments, the execution with the story is heavily flawed. I think what bugs me the most is how the "revenge" plot is carried out. For me, not enough is done with this aspect of the film. Without LOS BANDOLEROS being placed before the film, the Dom and Letty relationship is pretty one-note. Diesel and Rodriguez have a ton of chemistry with each other, so more scenes with them would have been nice. That way when Letty is killed, we would feel more for Dom, and be gung ho about his vengeance. I do feel the way Dom goes about it is pretty silly. I loved it when Dom threatened people about who killed Letty by trying to crush their heads or throwing them out of windows. But once he wanted to race to infiltrate the villain's crew to kill him, it just feels a bit too much. I get that you have to have fast cars in this franchise, but it just felt too easy and too convienient. Also, I felt Vin Diesel didn't really emote enough during these scenes, although I'm sure that was intentional on his part. Brooding can work, but you'd think he'd be more upset and angry when the love of his life is violently taken away from him. But he wouldn't be a bad ass if he did that, would he?

I also felt the reunion between Dom and Brian could have been stronger as well. It was almost as if Dom wasn't too upset about Brian lying to him about being a cop all those years ago, bantering with him like old times. There should have been more conflict and more mistrust between the two men. I get the two characters respect each other a great deal for different reasons. But there should have been more to it than just Dom and Brian joking on each other and then easily becoming buds again. I honestly felt more conflict between Brian and Mia, although there should have been more there as well. I think more drama was needed here. I wasn't really convinced by it.

There are also a lot of plot holes that really stretch out that suspension of disbelief. The biggest one is how in the hell did Brian become an FBI agent after all the crap he pulled in the earlier films? He was a wanted man, drag racing and helping wanted criminals while banging their sisters. In five years, he's already FBI? And you're actually letting him go undercover to street race with criminals - the thing that got Brian in trouble in the first place? Really?? Not buying it and just seemed forced. Also, is Mia a nurse or something? She sure seemed to know how to heal people and perform surgery. But that wasn't explained either. Gisele joining Dom's crew seemed to easy as well, as if they needed to replace Letty with another female who had feelings for Dom. But hey, she's hot to look at so I can't complain too much.

And then, there are the villains. So stereotypical. So one-note. So predictable. Supposedly, there's a mystery as to who Arturo Braga is. But once you see the actor's portrayal prior to the reveal, it's easy to guess who it is. And he's not much of a threat anyway, so he comes across as pretty weak. His henchman, Fenix, is more intimidating and is actually a fun character to watch. Too bad he wasn't the lead villain, although the stuff between him and Dom in the final act are pretty good. But yeah, not the tightest script. Still better than 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS and TOKYO DRIFT though.

If you're a fan of THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS series, or you've seen any of the films, you know exactly what you're getting with FAST & FURIOUS. This isn't a movie trying to win Academy Awards or please critics. It's a total popcorn film with enough visual stimulation to make the 107 minutes go pretty quickly. While not as good as THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, surprisingly FAST & FURIOUS is a step up from the two sequels before it. I think it's mainly due to a more human story that's helped by the return of characters we've cared about since the first film. So while it's not the best FAST film out there [I'll get to that one in the next review], it's a decent start to what would become the peak of the franchise. Who knew that these films would get BETTER as more and more sequels rolled out? Definitely not me. I guess, like people, this franchise is a late bloomer.

2.5 Howls Outta 4


The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

Justin Lin

Lucas Black - Sean Boswell
Bow Wow - Twinkie
Nathalie Kelley - Neela
Brian Tee - Takashi [DK]
Sung Kang - Han Seoul-Oh
Brian Goodman - Lieutenant Boswell

Genre - Action/Crime

Running Time - 104 Minutes

When he's arrested for vandalizing property during a street race with a rival (Zachery Ty Bryan), Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) is sent to Japan to live with his father (Brian Goodman). The culture shock and living with his estranged dad take a toll on Sean. However, he meets an American army brat named Twinkie (Bow Wow) at school, who sells things for income and has a love for cars. This love for cars helps the two connect as friends, as Twinkie introduces Sean to an underground world of street racing. In particular, Japan focuses on a special type of driving known as drifting.

As Sean adjusts to this new way of living, he meets an Australian army brat named Neela (
Nathalie Kelley). The two begin to flirt, but Neela is the girlfriend of Takashi (Brian Tee) - known as DK, or "Drift King" - who may have ties to the Yakuza. Sean and Takashi race each other in order to impress Neela, but Takashi smokes Sean when it comes to drifting. Even though he's lost, he impresses Takashi's business partner, Han (Sung Kang). Han sees something in Sean and wants to teach him how to drift.

Sean and Han's relationship puts a strain between Han and Takashi. Also, Neela has been developing strong feelings for Sean, which makes Sean a bigger target for Takashi and his gang. When things get really personal, Sean challenges Takashi to one more race. The stipulation: the loser must leave Tokyo for good.



- It feels fresh. While THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT isn't a great movie, at least it attempts to differentiate itself from the two films that came before it. While the first THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS took its story from POINT BREAK, TOKYO DRIFT decides that THE KARATE KID is the way to go. You know how the story goes: Teenager moves to a new place, has trouble fitting in, falls in love with a girl, has issues with the girl's (ex)boyfriend, gets trained by someone more wise to defend himself against the girl's (ex)boyfriend, and gets the girl and the respect he wanted at the end. Sean is Daniel. Han is Mr. Miyagi. Ali is Neela. Johnny is Takashi. And instead of martial arts, it's cars. And while I could criticize this sequel for taking a well-known template and using it as its own, at least it allows the franchise to feel somewhat new and different.

TOKYO DRIFT is really the teenage version of THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS. Instead of dealing with cops and crime lords, it's more focused on teenage rebellion and finding oneself in order to feel accepted within a new world. While the first two films lacked any sort of substantial plot lines that could grab an audience, this installment actually does. I'm not saying they're executed well [which I'll get into later], but at least there's an attempt to make us care for the characters and the situations they're in. The main character, Sean, has the most development in the film - even if it could be deeper than what's presented. Sean is a troubled teen, but has a good heart and is loyal to people who return the same. It's obvious that his troubles stem from a broken home. His father is stationed in Japan [he's a Naval officer] and his mother [from what I can tell] would rather be a woman than raise a kid on her own. Because of the lack of parenting his life, Sean constantly had to move until he officially is forced to live with his father, who was never really there for him either. He's treated like an outcast at school for being a gaijin [outsider]. His love for racing with cars gets him into a ton of trouble with his father and with Takashi, whose girlfriend has a thing for Sean. And when his mentor, Han, gets into really serious trouble, Sean defends his honor and walks away accepted and a hero. In a strange way, TOKYO DRIFT is a coming-of-age story. Yes, it was done better in THE KARATE KID and in countless other films. But at least it makes this installment stand out for more than just not having most of the original cast involved.

I also like that the film focuses on the art of "drifting". I'm sure the game got inspired by a lot of racing video games at the time, in particular the Burnout series which made drifting mandatory to complete races and other challenges. It gives the film a "reason" to exist, in my opinion. The main chunk of the story is Han teaching Sean how to drift in order to contend with Takashi and change the status quo. We get a bunch of scenes in the middle act in which Sean gets better and better as he practices, feeling more at home with Han and their friends than with his own father, who doesn't really try to understand and bond with his son. In the other films, the characters already know how to use the NOS and street race. Here, the main character is starting from scratch. And strange enough, learning how to drift is sort of a metaphor of a boy finally becoming the man he's meant to be. While it's not the best execution in the world, at least it tries to get the audience invested. And because of that, I can respect the existence for TOKYO DRIFT. It doesn't feel like a standard sequel. It feels new, even if audiences didn't want it at the time.

- The cast. Like every other THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS film, the acting is never the highlight of the film - at least intentionally. But I do like the cast here for the most part. And honestly, the acting here isn't all that terrible. Is it inspiring? Not even close. But given what the script allows the actors to do, the actors do fine in their respective roles.

Lucas Black, best known for the films SLING BLADE and FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, isn't the most charismatic actor as Sean. He's not the right guy to carry a film like this. But his Southern accent and the way he carries himself makes him somewhat interesting. Bow Wow isn't all that annoying here as one would expect. He doesn't really do a whole lot but be the token black guy. But unlike Tyrese in 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS, Bow Wow isn't overdoing trying to be cool. So it's an improvement. Nathalie Kelley is cute and pretty good as Neela. Her and Black don't really have that much chemistry really, but she's one of the better actors here. Brian Tee is quite good as Takashi. He's very charismatic and has a bad boy quality that comes across as authentic. Compared to the more bland Black, Tee is a highlight as the film's main antagonist. And Sung Kang is very good as Han. There's a mystery and an edge about him that makes the role work, extending somewhat to Black whenever the two share the same scene. It's not surprising that Han would come back to the original franchise with the original cast. He's a welcome addition to the series. And of course, we get a short cameo at the end from Vin Diesel. It doesn't do a whole much for the film besides connect it to the rest of the franchise. But it's nice to see Diesel regardless. Not a bad cast.

- Justin Lin. The producers hired Justin Lin after seeing his film, BETTER LUCK TOMORROW, thinking Lin would be able to freshen up the franchise a bit. Lin is definitely a more grounded, straightforward director than Rob Cohen and John Singleton. Rather than relying on cool colors, ridiculous CGI effects, and MTV style editing, Lin directs the film with confidence and with more realism [well as realistic as possible]. Lin does inject style in the form of montages, slow motion, and even fast motion. And some scenes feel like a music video at times, which is fine since these scenes have a soundtrack behind them. The cinematography is good. The editing is also pretty good as well. Some camera movements are quite cool at times. I just like the guy's style. It's not as flashy as previous directors, yet still feels like a FAST AND FURIOUS film. Lin would get better as he filmed more sequels, but it's a pretty good start.

- Not exciting enough. The downside to Justin Lin's direction is that the action scenes don't seem as good as in previous versions. Maybe it's because the way Lin shoots scenes in this film tend to be more subtle than Cohen or Singleton. But the race and chase scenes don't seem to amp you up as they would in previous versions. While the slower versions are directed pretty decently, the action sequences lack a certain something. I'm not sure if it's because of the editing, or the framing, or just the choreography of these sequences. But they just seem pedestrian. The last race, in particular, should feel thrilling and dramatic. Instead, you don't feel much for it at all. It's weird because the race actually has the best reason for even happening here than in the previous two, yet the buildup isn't enough to make the final sequences mean more than they should. Instead, it just feels like been there, done that.

- Underdeveloped plot lines and characters. Not a surprise by this point. It's something we should be used to when it comes to this franchise. However, it bugged me more here than it did in the others. Why? Because there was a real chance to make the subplots feel more meaningful than they actually are. Sean's struggle with his parents, especially his father, would have meant more if we actually knew more about their relationship and why it's strained to begin with. There was more of a story there than what was actually told.

The love triangle aspect also felt half-assed as well. For me, this hurt the film because this was the catalyst for the drama between Sean and Takashi - which led to everyone else getting involved. Sean and Neela barely share any scenes together, and when they do, it's pretty cliche. There was no sense of chemistry between the three characters, which made that love story fall flat.

As for the mafia stuff, it felt like a last minute addition to make Takashi more of a villain and a way for Sean to get revenge on him. I doubt any serious Yakuza [or whoever they were] leader would let some outsider demand a deal to get one of their own kicked out of the group over someone's death. It just seemed too easy and too convenient. And doing so through a race? It's hilarious. But maybe that's the point.

The characters all deserved more development than they actually receive. You know enough through their stereotypical personae, but this sequel seemed more focused on the teen drama rather than the action. In that case, the story and the characters should have had more substance to compensate for lack of eye candy and action with cars. The slower, quieter moments tended to drag a bit because you didn't really care about who you're watching. At least the other films distracted you with pretty things on screen. If the story is going to be as shallow as this one turned out to be, then TOKYO DRIFT should have had more action. The balance was pretty off here.

I used to really dislike this sequel back when I watched it in 2006. But after watching it again, I actually didn't mind it too much. TOKYO DRIFT is not a great film, but it's not a bad one either. It does have some things going for it, like a decent cast, a fresh director, and a newer feel from the first two films. But there isn't enough action to distract from a shallow screenplay. And what's even worse, the action isn't all that exciting or that fun to watch. Still, it's a decent flick and time waster. And since it supposedly takes place after the events of the current sequels, you don't really need to watch it to catch up with the current timeline. Still, TOKYO DRIFT is probably better than it has any right to be.

2 Howls Outta 4


The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

Part of The Moon is a Dead World's MAYOWEEN event.

Charles B. Pierce

Ben Johnson - Captain J.D. Morales
Andrew Prine - Deputy Norman Ramsey
Dawn Wells - Helen Reed
Jimmy Clem - Sgt. Mal Griffin
Jim Citty - Police Chief R.J. Sullivan
Charles B. Pierce - Patrolman A.C. Benson
Robert Aquino - Sheriff Barker

Genre - Horror/Slasher

Running Time - 86 Minutes

On March 3rd, 1946, a man wearing a sack over his head violently assaults two lovebirds in their car in a small town called Texarkana in the state of Arkansas. The police force, including Deputy Ramsey (Andrew Prine), Police Chief Sullivan (Jim Citty), and Sheriff Barker (Robert Aquino), try to calm down the townspeople by appointing curfews after sundown. However, any clues leading to this assailant don't seem to exist, frustrating the entire town.

Several weeks later, Deputy Ramsey finds an abandoned car, as well as another attacked couple who were shot to death. The killer is now called "The Phantom Killer", since no one has seen him or can figure out what kind of motive he has with these crimes. The state hires Texas Ranger Captain Morales (
Ben Johnson) to help out with the case, hoping his expertise will help in capturing this very dangerous man.


- The Phantom Killer. Loosely based on true events, THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN is considered one of the earliest slasher films in the horror genre. It's, without a doubt, due to the presentation and the violent actions of The Phantom Killer.

Let's begin with the look of this dude: He wears casual clothes, plus a sack over his head to cover his face. While some may think the sack may look silly and plain, I think it looks pretty damn creepy. I mean, a blank sack with just two peepholes for eyes staring at you? I'd be running away in a flash from this guy! I also love how the Phantom Killer breathes underneath it, almost as if he's huffing and puffing with anger and frustration. This dude is pretty intimidating. And yes, it's very obvious that the Phantom Killer was the basis for the look of a famous horror icon later on. Without this character, who knows what Jason Voorhees would have looked like in FRIDAY THE 13TH: PART 2.

I also liked The Phantom Killer's actions when it came to stalking and taking out his victims. I think it's because you know he's just a normal human being with a few screws loose, instead of some supernatural being who can't be stopped or killed. He hides behind trees and bushes in quiet areas, waiting for couples to arrive. He enjoys destroying cars just to get his target. He loves to bash people's brains in. He enjoys tying women face-first around trees. He has a trusty revolver to shoot victims. And in one of the more memorable moments, he ties a knife to a trombone and stabs a female victim while attempting to play the instrument. That not only takes talent, but that also shows a ton of personality. And the killer never says a word in the film at all.

I think the best part about the Phantom Killer is that he's just a normal [well, less sane than others] man who easily blends into the town. While he does creep out certain women on occasion out of costume, no one seems to suspect that this man could be a killer. One of my favorite moments in the film is when the police are discussing the Phantom Killer in a restaurant and how they suspect he's a regular citizen during the day, able to conceal his identity by looking and behaving normal. Then the camera pans, revealing a familar pair of shoes and slacks, implying that the killer was inside with the police listening to their conversation. It's seriously creepy and frightening to know that serial killers are walking and doing normal things in our neighborhood without us suspecting a thing. And the fact that The Phantom Killer was never caught makes the story even scarier. THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN succeeds with its mysterious and creepy antagonist big time.

- The docu-drama style of storytelling. I really enjoyed the way the story for THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN was told. It felt like an extended Unsolved Mysteries episode, in which a narrator discusses the facts of the case in order - giving the audience insight on the situation and the backstories on all the players in the story so we can identify with them better. It can a bit distracting for some, as they would prefer to just let the story unfold naturally without any form of voiceover leading us through the attacks. But I enjoyed it and it reminded me of one of those shows on the Investigation Discovery channel - and I'm a fan of those shows.

- The sense of dread. While Charles B. Pierce screws it up somewhat with his attempts of levity that don't work at all, THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN is pretty much a bleak story without any form of an uplifting ending. In fact, there's no real hope in the film, except for a sequence during the final act where the police are closing in on The Phantom Killer in a tense shootout. But the fact that he's never caught, and the police being pretty much clueless in who he really is and how to protect their citizens, makes THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN a pretty dark film.

And anytime the film plays it straight and serious, the film really works on all cylinders. The stalking scenes are tense. The shots of the killer's feet and pants really build on this mystery. The way the killer breathes while he's on the hunt is intimidating and quite powerful. When it clicks, it clicks. It's just unfortunate that the movie doesn't allow that to completely happen from beginning to end.

- The cast. There are no real standouts in terms of acting, but I do enjoy the cast in this film. The great Ben Johnson is very good as Captain Morales. He comes across as very tough, intelligent, and attempts to make the "funny" moments somewhat tolerable. I think a lot of critics felt that this kind of film was beneath Johnson [since he was an Academy Award winner a few years before the release of this film], but I think his presence makes THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN more credible than it already is.

The supporting players are pretty good as well. Andrew Prine is good as Deputy Ramsey, really providing a charismatic performance. He also makes his character deeper than the script allows. Dawn Wells, best known as Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island, is probably the best victim of The Phantom Killer. Her fear translates very well and she would have made a decent Scream Queen if her character had gone in that direction. And while I thought his character was ridiculously silly, Charles B. Pierce at least makes the most of playing "Spark Plug" Benson. I just wish he didn't put himself in the film as much as he did.

And special mention goes to stuntman Bud Davis for his creepy portrayal as The Phantom Killer. Through the use of body language and the telling in his eyes, the villain of the film is extremely memorable through his menace and craziness. Whoever cast this man deserves huge kudos.

- The "funny" sections. Yeah, THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN definitely needed slapstick comedy and a bumbling cop nicknamed "Spark Plug". Every slasher film needs Gomer Pyle type comedy to really emphasize the scare factor!

...Really? Charles B. Pierce thought physical comedy was a great addition to a serious story?

Here I am, sitting on my couch watching this film, getting really caught up in all the stalking and serious stuff. Then all of a sudden, I get a character who acts so much like an idiot that it affects the other characters around him. "Spark Plug" does not belong in a film like this. I don't want to see him being a driver because he's a terrible driver. BECAUSE TERRIBLE DRIVERS ARE HILARIOUS, GET IT?? I don't want to see him acting as bait by dressing up as an ugly woman. BECAUSE MEN DRESSED IN DRAG ARE FUNNY, GET IT??? There's just too much of this guy and it felt I was watching a Dukes of Hazzard episode within a horror film. Sure, comedy can definitely work in a horror film, as it allows the audience to breathe a bit. But not when it ruins the flow and takes me out of what the film is really trying to tell.

In a lot of ways, it reminded me of the original 1972 THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. You had so much violence, grit, and exploitation that made the film excelled. Then all of a sudden, you had a duo of bumbling cops ruining everything by trying to be funny. It just ruined the film for me. Thankfully, the remake fixed that. But until a more serious remake is released, we have to settle with this mish-mash of styles that don't go together at all. I felt like I was watching two movies - a great horror film and a lousy comedy. It's a shame Pierce went this route because he really had something going until he put himself in the film to be "funny. It obviously didn't work.


- The Phantom Killer cut some car wires so a couple of lovebirds couldn't escape his attempted murder spree. Although he sucks as a mechanic, he gets a AAA for effort.

- A doctor confirmed that a female victim had her breasts bitten and chewed by The Phantom Killer. It's obvious he's a baby and he just started teething. Wait until those Terrible Twos!

- One of the victims was found dead, hugging a tree. It's obvious the killer hates hippies some 20 years before it became cool to do so.

- Back in 1946, a haircut cost 40 cents. The gum that got caught in my hair that'll make me get a haircut doesn't even cost 40 cents. Damn economy...

- The Phantom Killer seemed obsessed with a playing a certain instrument for a female victim, using it to stab her with a knife attached to it. I guess he just wanted to slide his trombone in her brass section.

- The Phantom Killer targeted Dawn Wells, shooting her multiple times inside her home. It's obvious the killer is Gilligan, still pissed she chose the Professor over him during that three hour tour.

THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN is a cult classic when it comes to the slasher sub-genre. It inspired other films - more popular films - that were released a few years after it. It also has a great villain, a bleak atmosphere, great serious moments, and a cast who takes the story seriously and makes it work. Unfortunately, we have to deal with moments that try to be funny, but just fall flat. THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN is a good film that had a ton of potential to be better. This is one film I wouldn't mind a remake for. But until then, the original is definitely worth a look and a buy when Scream Factory finally releases it on DVD and Blu-Ray.


3 Howls Outta 4


Superman: The Movie (1978)

Richard Donner

Marlon Brando – Jor-El
Gene Hackman – Lex Luthor
Christopher Reeve – Superman/Clark Kent
Ned Beatty – Otis
Jackie Cooper – Perry White
Glenn Ford – Pa Kent
Margot Kidder – Lois Lane
Valerie Perrine – Eve Teschmacher

GenreAction/Adventure/Fantasy/Comic Books/Superheroes

Running Time143 Minutes

If anyone were asked about naming a comic book character, I’m pretty sure Superman would be the first thing answered. Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Superman and his alter-ego, Clark Kent, have been pop culture icons since the character’s comic book inception in 1938. Merchandise, product placement, and the video game market have all jumped on the bandwagon, admiring the character’s appeal due to what he represents – “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

Superman is considered the first major superhero, which not surprisingly led to the character being adapted for television and radio. In 1940, The Adventures of Superman radio serial premiered, lasting 11 years. Animated shorts premiered on television between 1941 and 1943. But it wasn’t until 1952 that Superman truly became iconic due to George Reeves starring in Adventures of Superman, which lasted 6 seasons. More animated series premiered, such as 1966’s The New Adventures of Superman, 1973’s Super Friends, and 1996’s Superman: The Animated Series. As for television, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, starring Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher, debuted in 1993. And 2001’s Smallville, starring Tom Welling, lasted ten seasons.

But the idea for Superman was always conceived for the big screen. While live-action serials premiered in 1948, it wasn’t until SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE in 1978 that the character really took to an entirely new level. Ilya and Alexander Salkind didn’t conceive the idea for the film until late 1973, which interested a lot of actors and directors in being part of the project. Steven Spielberg, at one time, was attached to direct it. However, Spielberg had a higher asking price than most, and Alexander Salkind wasn’t willing to hire him until he knew how JAWS would do. By the time JAWS was a blockbuster, Spielberg had moved on to CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. Many actors, like Sylvester Stallone, Warren Beatty, James Caan, James Brolin, and countless others were approached for Superman. Marlon Brando was hired to play Jar-El, Superman’s birth father, making $3.9 million and 11.75% of the box office gross profits. Brando also had control of the casting of the film, which caused Brando to fall out of favor with some actors, including Stallone who never got over Brando not wanting him to play Superman. Eventually, Richard Donner was hired to direct, while Gene Hackman was chosen to play Lex Luthor, Margot Kidder as Lois Lane, and an unknown Christopher Reeve as Superman.

The film, which was shot back-to-back with SUPERMAN II [we'll get to that controversial film in our next SUPERMAN review] was released on December 10, 1978. And since it was highly anticipated, it was no surprise that the film made over $300 million worldwide on a $55 million budget. It proved that comic book adaptations could make big money for studios, which is something modern audiences have quickly become accustomed to. What’s even more impressive is how well SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE still works after 35 years. Sure, some of the film is dated and it’s not perfect technically or story wise. But damn if it still doesn’t make me feel like a kid again. With the highly awaited MAN OF STEEL reboot out next month, it’s definitely time to look back at the SUPERMAN franchise and see why they worked so well – and why most of them failed to live up to expectations.

On a far-away planet called Krypton, there is trouble afoot. Due to his warnings of Krypton being destroyed falling on deaf ears to his peers, Jar-El (Marlon Brando) and his wife Lara (Susannah York) send their only child [an infant named Kal-El] off of their planet towards Earth. Kal-El survives, while the rest of Krypton implodes and ceases to be.

After a few years, Kal-El lands in Smallville, Kansas. He’s discovered by Jonathan (Glenn Ford) and Martha Kent (Phyllis Thaxter), who raise Kal-El as their own child – fully aware he is not an Earthling. Renaming him Clark (Jeff East), the Kents provide Clark with values and morals when it comes to humanity. Although Clark is frustrated that he can’t brag about his powers, or use them in any way due to fear of how others would react, the Kents instill in Clark that he must be careful and only use his powers when it’s truly time. Unfortunately, Jonathan passes away. Feeling guilty that his powers couldn’t save his dad, Clark leaves Smallville, realizing that he has a greater journey to experience. This journey leads him to the Arctic, where a green crystal from his spaceship reveals a Fortress of Solitude, left to him by his birth father, Jar-El. Jar-El trains Clark in their Kryptonian ways, giving Clark full control of his powers and shows him his mission on Earth.

Now an adult, Clark moves to Metropolis to be a reporter for the Daily Planet. Acting like a shy, bumbling, awkward journalist, he falls head over heels for tough-as-nails reporter, Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), who pays him no real mind beyond as a colleague. During a horrible helicopter accident that Lois needs saving from, Clark uses his powers to save her and the citizens from Metropolis from eventual tragedy. While stopping other crimes and saving Air Force One from crashing, Clark becomes a celebrity that everyone wants to know more of. During an interview with Lois and having her fly along with him, she dubs Clark “Superman”, not realizing that Clark and Superman are the same person.

Unfortunately due to this interview, criminal mastermind Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) becomes interested in Superman and his origins, trying to figure out a way to stop this new hero before Superman can ruin his plans. Luthor wants to make a fortune on real estate by sending part of California, he doesn’t own, into the sea by sending a missile to create a huge earthquake. However, Luthor is sending a second missile to New Jersey to distract Superman from his actual goal. Will evil triumph? Or can Superman overcome the odds?


- Mario Puzo’s screenplay [with the help of some rewrites and doctoring]. While not a perfect screenplay, Mario Puzo [writer of THE GODFATHER] crafts the first true origin story for a live-action superhero movie. And while modern superhero films have an easier time with their origin stories [since they know the template by now], Puzo had to come up with a script that would not only detail how Superman came to be, but give him an actual threat that would allow him to truly be heroic. Puzo’s original screenplay was claimed to have been extremely long [400 pages or so], which required Donner to have people [especially an uncredited Tom Mankiewicz] come in to rewrite it for more of a focus. Also, the script was a lot campier than it appears in the final film, which Donner was against. And while SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE is not totally a serious film, it’s probably the best script for this kind of film for its time and for its budget.

SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE is really two parts. The first part is the early years. We learn about the fate of Krypton, how the Kents found Kal-El, and Kal-El’s young adulthood as Clark Kent. The scenes involving Krypton are quite good, giving us a quick history as to how they conducted their trials [involving General Zod, Non, and Ursa being sent to the Phantom Zone, setting up SUPERMAN II], as well the Kryptonians ignoring Jar-El’s pleas that Krypton was about to die. There’s no filler in these scenes at all. They’re pretty straightforward, moving the story along well and showing us why Kal-El was sent to Earth in the first place. The dialogue and the way things transpire for this doomed planet are written perfectly.

I do have issues with a young Kal-El on Earth prior to moving to Metropolis. I don’t think enough time is used to really elaborate Kal-El’s struggles to fit in as Clark Kent, knowing he has gifts his parents are afraid he’ll use in front of others. Things progress way too fast. We don’t get enough time with The Kents really and a teenage Clark quickly decides to leave after a psychic call tells him it’s time. Even the scenes at The Fortress of Solitude go by too fast, as we don’t really see Clark train into Superman. I know the film would probably have to be longer to accommodate these plot points, but they don’t resonate that much for casual viewers. Only fans of the character would be perfectly okay with how these scenes progress, as they already know the history anyway. Origin stories have it tough really, so the lack of development doesn’t bother me all that much. You can do so much in 143 minutes. You can’t have all pre-hero scenes without sacrificing the heroic adventure. You can’t have the heroic adventure without giving us a background to the character and their motives for becoming a hero. It’s a slippery slope. But at least what needs to be told is told, so I can’t complain too much.

The second half of the film is really Superman coming into his own and becoming the hero we all know him to be. While the first half is fairly serious, the second half is a bit more humorous in tone, making SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE feel like two movies in one in a sense. And while two tones usually lead to disaster for a film, it somehow works in this film’s favor. In fact, the humorous moments add a lovable charm to the movie, bringing us closer rather than turning us off.

Clark Kent, as Daily Planet’s reporter, is a buffoon – but a likeable one. He’s socially awkward, clumsy, and extremely geeky. No one really respects him a whole lot, or even paid attention to his presence. This works because Superman is the total opposite. He’s smooth, charming, noble, and very appealing to both men and women. While I think the whole “glasses cover up” is ridiculous [do glasses really hide a person’s secret identity?], at least the personality shifts make both Clark and Superman seem like different individuals that never share the same space. And the script plays around with that fact, and it does very well.

It also helps make the love triangle with Lois Lane more plausible than it has any right to be. Clark is in love with Lois. Superman is in love with Lois. And Lois is only in love with Superman, not realizing that he’s also Clark. It makes the scenes quite comical, but also allows the love story to develop between the “three” of them. In a very clever way, Lois also seems to be two people as well. When she’s with Clark, she’s tough and spunky. When she’s with Superman, she’s like a lovesick school girl. It makes their relationship quite complex, yet simple all at once. It’s not the best romantic development between two characters [this aspect of the story was pretty much saved for SUPERMAN II], but it’s a good start and it’s cute to watch.

The screenplay also has some good, memorable dialogue. And the characters are all great. Lex Luthor is comedic, but there’s something menacing about him. Perry White is headstrong and blustery. Jimmy Olsen is the upbeat, young guy. Otis is the dimwitted evil sidekick. Miss Teschmacher is sassy, yet also has a heart. Both Jar-El and Jonathan Kent are noble and wise, but in different ways. All the characters are colorful and represent their comic book counterparts pretty closely during that time.

Without this screenplay, not only would SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE not be memorable, but we wouldn’t have all the other comic book adaptations we see now. Like I said, the screenplay isn’t perfect. But when it works, it flies.

- Richard Donner’s direction. While not the producers’ first choice for director, Richard Donner is one of the reasons why SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE continues to be a favorite amongst movie watchers. While Steven Spielberg and GOLDFINGER director Guy Hamilton were the first choices, Donner got the job after 1976’s THE OMEN was a huge horror hit. He was also one of the few directors willing to take on two films and film them back-to-back at the time. And while SUPERMAN II had issues in terms of direction [and we’ll get to that very soon in another review], Donner’s work on SUPERMAN pretty much went well with producers – and audiences as well.

In fact, Donner is the reason why SUPERMAN flew to new heights at the time. Using a lot of creative control, he had Tom Mankiewicz doctor Mario Puzo’s long and campy screenplay, giving it more of a focus and a more grounded approach that matched Donner’s vision for the story. Donner didn’t want the film to be seen as a joke. He wanted the film to represent the title character as closely as possible. He wanted it to inspire people and make them feel good about the world.

Donner, in fact, does a great job in making SUPERMAN feel like an epic motion picture. Right from the start with those iconic opening credits, you know this film is going to be something special. Donner makes the film feel larger than life, creating a reality that’s comic book influenced – yet since things feel real for the characters, they feel real to us. The set pieces are huge and used to their full potential, especially when Krypton collides with their sun, as well as the earthquake in the final act. The action scenes are done well, with great composition, pacing, and editing done to make them seem grandiose. In fact, Donner handles all the visual effects very well, making us believe that a man can fly. As simple as this scene is, I really enjoy Superman and Lois Lane flying over Metropolis. Through the visual storytelling, especially the editing and framing, you feel the romance between the two characters through their eye contact and body language rather than through dialogue.

The pacing is off at times, due to different sections of the film having different tones. In fact, the first half of the film [the drama portion] feels much slower than the last half of the film [the action portion]. But it doesn’t hurt the film too much because you can feel that Donner is building momentum towards the final act of the film.

I also enjoy Geoffrey Unsworth cinematography as well. The picture looks great and colorful, like a live-action comic book would. The way things are set up to be shot a certain way, and just the grand scale of it all, really make SUPERMAN visually memorable. I believe Donner and company were way ahead of their time when it came to making a film as epic as SUPERMAN is. It’s a shame Donner wasn’t allow to finish what he had intended with this franchise. But SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE is all his vision, and it’s a lot of fun to watch.

- The visual effects for the time. While they do look dated now, I’m sure people were absolutely amazed by the special effects of SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE at the time. I mean, watching Christopher Reeve fly across the screen like a superhero must have made audiences watch in awe as to how it was done. Obviously, it was done through wire work in front of a green screen. But for its time, this truly was some advanced technology at work.

And watching Krypton get destroyed is still as impressive today as it probably was 35 years ago. No CGI used here. While some of it does look like a set, at least it looks real enough that you can actually buy it happening. By the way, I love that the Kyrptonian uniforms tend to glow. It’s such a nice touch, making these characters seem otherworldly and separates them from the later characters on Earth.

And the destruction of California looks great as well. The cracks on the ground due to the earthquake are realistic. The Golden Gate Bridge losing its suspension is tense and realistic. And Lois Lane getting buried alive is a suspenseful moment, and done visually well.

I admire what the visual effect crew did here. Using models and wire work, there’s a great use of imagination that completely satisfies the audience. There’s a reason why I prefer practical effects over CGI, although CGI can be great if used correctly. SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE is a product of its time, but still manages to look visually cool and fantastical.

- The cast. The story wouldn’t work in SUPERMAN if the cast didn’t take their roles seriously. Marlon Brando got first billing, although he’s only in the film for about 15 minutes. Brando doesn’t give the most dynamic performance as Jar-El, as there’s really no range in his acting. But Brando carries a presence that matches the epic scale of the film. And while that may not be worth the money he received for the role, Brando does add something during those opening scenes. Gene Hackman, who received second billing, is great as Lex Luthor. Hackman plays the role for laughs, but there’s something really dark and serious underneath the comedy. Hackman definitely plays a villain, but he’s pretty charming and very overdramatic in a likeable way.

As for then unknown Christopher Reeve, he’s still considered to be Superman to many, even to this day. I believe Reeve may have done a soap opera prior to getting the role, but he truly makes it his own and really captures the essence of the character during this era. He’s great as the socially awkward Clark Kent, doing great slapstick and acting really convincingly like a total nerd. And then as Superman, he’s a totally different character – smooth, confident, heroic, and absolutely charming. Reeve shows a lot of range in the role and really carries the film well. No matter how well Henry Cavill may be in the role in the upcoming MAN OF STEEL, Reeve was the actor I grew up with. For me, he’ll always be Superman. And it’s not just because he looks the part. It’s because of his excellent performance here. Even in the worst sequels, he was always the highlight. It’s a shame he got typecast in the role and later passed away due to complications from his paralysis after a horse accident. He’s a really great actor and is truly the reason why this story works as well as it does.

As for the supporting actors, they all play their parts well. Margot Kidder is great as Lois Lane. She’s tough, spunky, and ballsy. She’s also vulnerable and charming as well. Kidder and Reeve really have explosive chemistry, in my opinion. Their blossoming relationship is very convincing and make the love story believable. Jackie Cooper is blustery as Perry White, doing well in his limited role. Ned Beatty plays the idiot well as Otis. He has great banter with Hackman that’s pretty funny. Valerie Perrine works as Eve Teschmacher. She has this ditzy quality about her, but Perrine actually plays the character kind of smart. Richard Donner really gathered some great actors in this film, helping the film’s success undoubtedly.

- John Williams’ score. Coming right off of STAR WARS, composer John Williams probably creates one of the more iconic scores for any film. Once you hear the first notes of SUPERMAN’s theme, you know you’re watching something big. It just feels heroic, epic, and makes you want to rip open your shirt and reveal a giant “S” symbol. The other themes are more subtle, yet work for their respective scenes. But Williams created a classic score that everyone knows, and it’s probably a reason why fans continue to go back and watch this film from time to time.

- The ending. SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE starts off really strong and continues that way until the film’s last final minutes. I’m not talking about the whole “Superman spinning around the Earth so it can rotate backwards to go back and time” deal. That aspect of the film used to bug me, but I’m okay with it since having Superman choose Jonathan Kent’s teachings over Jar-El’s is a pivotal moment for the character. I’m talking about what occurs after that.

I understand that Superman has to stop the villains and save the day, since this is a comic book film. But it happens way too quickly, and just feels way too easy, leaving me pretty unsatisfied as a viewer. What Superman does with the changing of time has no consequences, at least in this film. He saves Lois’ life, yet their status quo never really changes – although it is implied that she’s figuring out the relationship between Clark and Superman. But the whole sending Lex Luthor and Otis to prison just feels like an afterthought really. There’s no real struggle or drama with the capture. Superman flies away from Lois and Jimmy, and then in the next scene, Superman brings Lex and Otis to the prison. It feels like something is really missing here.

I’m glad the film ends on a happy note, leading into the more dramatic SUPERMAN II. But at least end the first film with a bang. Instead, it kind of ends with a whimper.

- Needed a stronger villain. I think many reasons why a majority of fans, including myself, prefer SUPERMAN II over SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE is due to the villains in each respective film. SUPERMAN II has Superman battling Zod, Ursa, and Non – three Kryptonians who have his powers, making the fight tough. In SUPERMAN, he deals with Lex Luthor, who isn’t portrayed as much of a threat really. Sure, he sends two missiles to destroy both coasts of the United States. And before Superman turns back time, Lex does manage to hurt Superman personally. But it sort of seems like a lucky coincidence rather than something Lex actually intended. At least in this film, Lex Luthor and his crew aren’t a real match against Superman. And I think it hurts the drama and tension of the film a bit.

- Zod, Ursa, and Non were sentenced for their crimes, having to spend eternity inside the Phantom Zone. It’s probably easier than living in The Twilight Zone. Once that little kid thinks you’re bad, you’re being sent as a jack-in-the-box to the cornfield for sure!

- Clark Kent’s favorite cereal is Cheerios. Sure, because Clark’s biggest weakness will be high levels of cholesterol…

- Perry White told Lois Lane that there’s only one “P” in rapist. Ironically, it takes two “P’s” to do that terrible action.

- A cop failed to follow Otis to help him locate Lex Luthor. I’m sure the train that crushed the cop made him squeal like a pig as it flattened him.

- Lois Lane had to be saved by Superman after her helicopter malfunctioned. Match.com is probably a much easier way to get a respectable date with an alien superhero…

- Lois asked Superman about how big he was. I don’t think it really matters, since I hear he’s faster than a speeding bullet.

- Superman’s weakness is kryptonite. My weakness is SUPERMAN III. I think I win.

SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE is a film ahead of its time. It proved to studios and to comic book fans that it was very possible to make successful adaptations of their favorite superheroes at the time. Richard Donner directs the film with focus, giving us a good origin story with a game cast that took their roles seriously to create something memorable for years to come. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s the one that got the ball rolling, so to speak. After 35 years, SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE still flies above many of the modern superhero films. It has heart and charm, making us all wish we could put on a red cape and save the day.

3.5 Howls Outta 4

Related Posts with Thumbnails