Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Stepfather (2009)

"The Stepfather" is actually OK.  It's nothing special though.  It was a fun time at the theater and there was a good amount of tension.  

The stepfather, played by Dylan Walsh, was very good.  He was a very convincing killer, changing from lovable to crazy to deadly.  If his performance wasn't done well, the movie would not work.

Amber Heard played the girlfriend of the eldest son.  She is pretty popular these days.  I don't really like her though.  She was kind of boring and just seemed kind of slutty.  

My biggest problem with the movie is that we know the stepfather is a killer right from the get go.  I feel it would have been much more thrilling if the film began with what seemed like a nice, loving family and the stepfather slowly becomes evil.  It would have been much more effective.

I have never seen the original version of "The Stepfather", so I can not compare the two.  This version ended up being pretty good, but it had its problems.  The film reminded me of "The Amityville Horror", but without the ghosts.

B-  I recommend it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Fall (2006)

This is a very good film that reminded me of films like "Cinema Paradiso" and "Pan's Labyrinth".

An injured stuntman tells stories to a little girl with a broken arm.  They are in a hospital together and they become good friends through their story time.

I really liked how the stories paralleled the lives of the characters.  The best thing about the stories were the wonderful locations used.  The director found all of these amazing places and planned a movie around them.  It truly is one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen.

All of the acting was top notch, but the big breakout performance is from the little girl played by Catinca Untaru.  She didn't speak English before  this film.  She learned during the filming and she did a great job.  She has a natural talent about her.

"The Fall" needs to be seen by everyone.  It is a great story with amazing cinematography, locations, actors, and music.  I was really impressed.

A-  I recommend it.

Saw VI (2009)

Here we go again with another "Saw" film.  I am not a big fan of the series.  They are not terrible movies, but they're not great.  They are just average horror movies with nothing special about them.

"Saw VI" felt the same way.  It has your usual torture situations with a lot of blood and guts.  This film tries to be somewhat political dealing with health care issues.  I like that message, but I sort of felt it was too in your face.  It could have been more subtile about its message, but then again, we are talking about "Saw VI".  

My biggest problem with the film was all of the flashbacks.  So many times, we are looking at flashbacks from other "Saw" films.  I think it is a mistake to connect each "Saw" film with a story line.  I have seen all of the films, but I forgot what had happened.  I don't care about the characters.  I think each film should stand on its own.

"Saw VI" has a lot of problems, but I wouldn't say I was bored.  It kept my interest and it was tolerable, which is a lot more I can say about many other films in their 5th sequel.


Lady and the Tramp (1955)

"Lady and the Tramp" is a beautiful film.  It has some of the best animation in a motion picture.  My favorite thing about the animation are the wonderful backgrounds.  It really is a marvel to look at.

But even though "Lady and the Tramp" has wonderful animation, it feels a little slow.  It is not a big adventure story like some of Walt's other films.  It does have some really great scenes like the Bella Note scene and the siamese cats scene, however.  

Even though "Lady and the Tramp" is not one of my favorite Disney films, it is still very enjoyable to watch.  It has perfect animation and wonderful songs.  There is something in the film that everyone can enjoy.

B  I recommend it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tales of Terror (1962)

"Tales of Terror" is a very good horror compilation film directed by Roger Corman.  

The first story is based off of Edgar Allan Poe's Morella.  This is a good creepy little story and Vincent Price is very good in it.  When you see the body of Price's wife on the bed, it is a real fright.  It has a good ending too.

The second story is based off of Poe's "The Black Cat".  This one stars Vincent Price with Peter Lorre.  There is a good amount of comedy in this one.  Price is very funny, especially when showing off his wine tasting skills.  This story has a nice creepy ending of Loree being haunted by Price and his wife (who Price was having an affair with.) 

The third story is based off of Poe's "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar".  Vincent Price and Basil Rathbone star in this one.  This one is quite scary, especially when Price comes back to life to get revenge of Rathbone.  Rathbone was keeping Price's mind alive and not letting him cross over.  When Price comes to life and attacks Rathbone, his body melts away.  I used to call him the milkshake man when I was a kid because of the melting effect.

"Tales of Terror" is a fun time.  It might not be the best made film, but it does a good job combing scares with laughs.

B  I recommend it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Duel Reviews - "The Wolf Man" (1941)

Robby: For our next duel review, Bryce and I will be reviewing one of my favorite films: "The Wolf Man". 

"The Wolf Man" is a "fang"tastic horror film with characters you really care about. Just look at the cast list! Claude Rains, Patrick Knowles, Ralph Bellamy, Warren William, Bela Lugosi, Maria Ouspenskya, Evelyn Ankers, and of course Lon Chaney, Jr. How could you not like these characters? Besides Lon Chaney, Jr.'s role in "Of Mice and Men", this is his finest acting performance. You really sympathize with Chaney as Talbot. The film begins with Chaney as a happy go lucky guy, as he tries to win the love of Evelyn Ankers. After Chaney is bit by the werewolf, he falls into a deep depression. His eyes say it all. By the end of the film, you really feel bad for Chaney. Even though he is a monster, he is also the hero of the film. Lon Chaney's lycanthropy in the film is actually a very realistic and personal parallel to the life of the troubled actor himself. Lon Chaney suffered from alcoholism. When sober, Chaney was the nicest man. When under the influence, Chaney could be a horror to be around. 

Bryce: I was actually really looking forward to revisiting this one. From a young age I was a huge horror buff, but I also had fairly protective parents so the ratio of horror movies I was actually able to see rather then fantasize about was quite low. For whatever reason the original Wolf Man was one of the few that was deemed suitable, and so the VHS copy the library had got worn out thanks to my dozens of repeat watches (For some reason the cover of this copy was dominated by a picture of Gene Shallit which was infinitely more terrifying then anything in the movie). Still once I got my own damn Video store account and started to branch out a bit, I stopped revisiting The Wolfman, and it’s probably been over ten years since I’ve seen it. So I was primed. 

It’s great revisiting a film you’ve forgotten about (I didn’t even know Lugosi was in this) and The Wolfman didn’t disappoint, a great example of old school craft. Still out of the big three of universal monsters I have to judge this movie the weakest. While George Waggner does a fine job directing the film, he’s just not the borderline insane visionary genius that James Whale and Tod Browning where. Same goes for the leading man, Lon Chaney Jr. does a decent job, but compared to Lugosi and Karloff, he just doesn’t match up. Still when judged on it’s own merits, The Wolf Man’s a great slice of universal horror, who could ask for anything more? 

Robby: I disagree with your point that "The Wolf Man" is the weakest out of the big three monsters. True it is no "Frankenstein", but I think it is much better than "Dracula". "Dracula" is great and one of the most important horror films, but it has its problems. The film takes a huge downward spiral after the first 15 minutes. I'll review "Dracula" more another time. 

I do agree with you on Lon Chaney, Jr.'s acting. He is great in this role, but he is no Karloff or Lugosi. He can't compete. 

Another thing I want to mention about "The Wolf Man" is the great musical score my Hans Salter. It has a very distinctive three note theme that is very memorable. Hans Salter did nearly all the Universal Monster films in the 1940s, but "The Wolf Man" is by far his best. 

But what made "The Wolf Man" a success was the incredible make of Jack Pierce. Pierce's first attempt at a werewolf make-up was in "Werewolf of London", which came out six years before "The Wolf Man". Pierce originally had plans to do a make-up much more like the Wolf Man's, but Henry Hull, who played the werewolf, could not stand that much make-up. Fortunately Lon Chaney, Jr. did not mind it. The make-up is one of Pierce's best. Pierce did an even better job with the make-up in the sequel: "Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man". 

Bryce: Pierces’ designs are great. I’ve heard that the film was originally supposed to be more of a Val Lewton like movie, where you never saw knew for sure whether or not Chaney was really changing. Do you know? Salter’s score is also top notch, reminds me of Danny Elfman’s Batman theme in some places (Dun dun dun duuhhhh dun) 

I still really like Chaney I just can’t help but imagine his father in the roll. The whole film is really cast perfectly. Claude Rains is great playing every scene with just a hint of an aristocratic sneer. What Chaney lacks in his father’s subtlety and grace he makes up for with his size. Even before he’s cursed he’s a huge beast of a man towing over his father in a way that’s almost comical. He LOOKS like the kind of guy who could club a wolf’s brains in. You bring up an interesting point with his alcholism, he plays the morning after his first transformation, like a man waking up after a black out drunk. Lugosi makes the most of his cameo role as the original Wolfman. He’s only on screen for about a minute, but manages to invest his character with a real sense of tragedy. 

Robby: Yes all of the acting is excellent and lets not forget about Maria Ouspenskya as Maleva the old gypsy woman. She was perfect and this became her signature role. 

"The Wolf Man" remains a classic of horror and for good reason. Universal will be releasing a remake soon with Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins. I'm a little suspicious about that one, however... 

If you have not seen "The Wolf Man" do yourself a favor and watch it. Watch it at night under the full of the moon. And remember: 

Even a man who is pure in heart 
And says his prayers by night, 
May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms 
And the autumn moon is bright. 

Bryce: Yeah I was excited about that one until it became a synonym with disastrous production. Let's face it good Werewolf movies are few and far between, and The Wolf Man deserves its classic status.

Visit Bryce's blog at: Things That Don't Suck.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Paranormal Activity (2009)

"Paranormal Activity" is getting some great reviews claiming to be the scariest film to come out in years.  I was quite excited to see it.

I waited and waited for something to happen.  Besides a door closing or a sheet moving, nothing did happen.  I was bored out of my mind watching two characters record themselves sleeping.  In fact, I was so bored, I walked out on the film before it ended.  This was the first time I had done this in years.  When I got home from the theater, I looked up a bootleg version of the ending on youtube.  Guess what?  Something happened.  But that something was not worth the first hour and a half of torture.  

"Paranormal Activity" is one of the worst movies I have ever seen.  I don't understand why people are enjoying it.  It is beyond boring.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Duel Reviews - "Night of the Creeps" (1986)

Duel Reviews:  Two Friends Two HUGELY Different opinions.  I’m doing this review of "Night Of The Creeps" with my good friend Bryce Wilson.  Bryce has his own review blog called "Things That Don't Suck".  We both love horror movies but seldom agree on what makes a good one. So we’ve decided to take each other through a couple of our old favorites. Bryce has been going through 31 horror films in 31 days for Halloween.  For our first set of reviews, we will be picking some of our favorite horror films.  First up is Bryce's pick: "Night of the Creeps".

Bryce: So this years of 31 Days Of Horror has apparently turned into a Tom Atkins tribute. Not that I’m complaining. There are few people as entertaining to watch as Atkins and no movie showcases that better then Night Of The Creeps. The thing that makes Night Of The Creeps special to me is the way it so effortlessly molds the innocence of the old school fifties AIP films, with the anarchy of the eighties splatter punk films. It sets this up with the great transition from the bizarre scifi opening, to the glorious black and white prolouge. Anything can happen. Despite some pretty grisly gore shots, but the movie keeps a feeling of innocence and fun throughout the whole runtime. I kept expecting Nick Adams or Elisha Cooke Jr. to show up. I’ve got to give most of the credit to Fred Dekker here, remember this guy directed The Monster Squad, he knows old school horror. It really is too bad that Robocop 3 seems to have permanently killed his career. Then again since Robocop 3 caused several murder suicides (FACT!) I’m pretty sure the punishment fit the crime. Still I’d love to see him make another movie, because Night Of The Creeps is genuinely fun, after the past ten years of Nu Horror it’s like a breath of fresh air. It THRILLS ME!

Robby: Let's start out with Fred Dekker, the director of Night of the Creeps. The movie of his that I know best is "The Monster Squad", which I love. I was worried that "Night of the Creeps" would be a big disappointment, especially when comparing it to "The Monster Squad", but as it turns out, "Night of the Creeps" is not bad at all. It is still no "Monster Squad" however...

I love a good zombie movie and this is one of the better ones. I much prefer slow, stupid zombies compared to the fast, clever ones which the remake of "Dawn of the Dead" made popular of late. The thing I did not like about these "Night of the Creeps" zombies was the whole alien aspect. I like not knowing exactly what is going on in the world to make the dead come to life. Personally, zombies scare me and alien creatures do not. Maybe that is the reason I was not keen on the idea of alien creatures creating these zombies. But on the plus side, as Bryce said, I like how it pays homage to the classic films of AIP. It is a true 50's sci-fi/horror film set in the 1980s.

Bryce: Yeah the whole alien aspect is a little funny. The first five minutes of the movie play like someone mixed up the reels with another film in a projection booth. But I think it ultimately fits, as the film becomes more of a tribute to fifties filmmaking. Plus I like the way the alien slugs make a secondary threat. Just cause you kill the zombie doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. That’s something I haven’t seen before, and I love it when the movies are able to give a genre I’ve seen before that little something extra. 

Aside from Dekker though, this movie belongs to the man Tom Atkins, who sells his role with a smart ass and a righteous stash. He’s funny as hell in this thing, playing it on just the right side of campy, though serious enough to blast a zombie with his 12 gauge like he really means it. The main characters are good. It’s obvious that Dekker cares about them as characters and not just zombie chow. The main characters progression from wimp to worthwhile human being is believable, the love interest is appealing (I always get a kick out of the how she looks in her party dress wielding a flame thrower) and let’s all take a moment to pour one on the curb for poor old JC proving Zombieland’s axiom about Zombies and toilets true. But still this is Atkin’s show, making him one of my all time favorite horror movie leads. 

Robby: I agree! Tom Atkins steals the entire film. His character was just right. He had the right amount of seriousness with a bit of charming goofiness. He is the character I really cared about. Even when Atkins gives exposition for past events, I was drawn in and truly interested in what has happened to his character over the years.

The other characters were written well enough, but they really were bad actors. True, it is good to see the main character of Chris progress from nerd to hero, but the actor portraying him (Jason Lively) was just plain bad. Even so, the writing of the character was done well enough where a bad actor doesn't hurt it too much.

Another good character was Cynthia's ex-boyfriend Brad, played by Allan Kayser. He was Chris' personal villain for being in his way of his true love with Cynthia. He was the kind of great 80s teenage villain that was made popular by the "Karate Kid" series. He is the type of person that you hate for every reason and you are just waiting for that scene where the hero gets to confront him. The confrontation in this film: Chris gets to shoot Brad in the head after he had become a zombie. That is good stuff!

Bryce: God Brad was such a douche. Like Spader level bad. I miss those old school 80’s WASP villains with their perfectly coiffed hair and sense of entitlement. Anyway, I’m glad you liked this one. It might not be the scariest movie ever made, but it’s a great slice of retro fun.

Robby: A slice of retro fun for sure. One other scene I did like was when Tom Atkins says to other police officers: "29 year old dead guys don't just get up and walk away!" The film then cuts to the dead guy walking. "The Monster Squad" did the exact same thing. The father in "The Monster Squad" says: "3,000 year old dead guys don't just get up and walk away!" Cut to the Mummy walking down the street. I love seeing hints of a director's previous work in films.

"Night of the Creeps" is a fun movie. It started out slow, but give it a chance. By the end of the film, you will be entertained like only an 80s film can do.

B  I recommend it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Zombieland (2009)

This is one terrific horror comedy.  It is funnier than most comedies I see and there are some great action sequences.  

All of the acting is good in the film and like most comedies I like, there is some emotional attachment to these characters.  You really feel bad for some of them and you want them to have a happy ending.  Woody Harrelson was the funniest in the picture.  He is the best zombie killer in the world and he has one mission in life: to find a twinkie.  Good stuff.

I cared about the main character played by Jesse Eisenberg.  I really wanted him to get the girl in the end.  He was good, even though he was a poor man's Michael Cera.

The best sequence of the film is when the group goes to Los Angeles and they go to seek shelter in a big celebrity's house.  That celebrity makes a great cameo.  I won't spoil who it is.  You gotta see it.  

"Zombieland" may not be the best zombie comedy (Shaun of the Dead), but it is up there.  It is very fun and it is a great time in the theater.

A-  I recommend it.