Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

31 May 2008

Psycho IV: The Beginning, dir. Mick Garris (1990)

NIKKI says:
And then it all just goes so horribly lame. CCH Pounder sitting in a radio booth, smoking, acting all high and mighty, spouting nonsense about matricide and boys gone wild. This is a Psycho sequel? Apparently.

The main gimmick here is the flashback to Young Norman, played awesomely by Henry Thomas, to detail just how Norman went a little mad. It's all so standard, though. Think of the absolute to-the-letter textbook case for someone of Norman's particular issue and you'll no doubt pick the problems outlined here. Let's just say, at one point, Norman gets an erection while hugging his mother in bed. And, at another point, she makes him wear a dress. Really? Could you make it any more obvious?

BORING. Were there no creative people in the room when discussing the plot for this movie? But wait, it's written by Joe Stefano, who scripted the first one. Dude, what happened in 30 years that you became so unimaginative, boring, and by-the-numbers? Oh wait -- they gave this to Mick Garris to direct. That makes me think Stefano wrote a masterpiece. Give Garris a script, you know, and it's like in The Simpsons when the tractor keeps falling on Homer. He fiddles with it, it falls on him. He walks by it, it falls on him. He does nothing at all, the tractor still falls on him.

Give Mick Garris a screenplay and a tractor will fall on him.

This is just terrible. Badly acted, badly directed (Garris tries to be Jonathan Demme and fails), with a script so hopelessly stupid and banal that even Anthony Perkins and his giggly weirdness can't save it.

Top 5 Reasons To Make Me Think 'Joe Stefano' is a pseudonym for 'Mick Garris':
1. "You've got a tongue like an elephant's memory."
2. "You see Norman, it's not polite to be naked around a lady unless you're having sex with her."
3. "You will stay locked in there until you learn not to say "no" to your mother when she tells you you're a girl!"
4. "Just me and my trusty umbrella. "
5. "They're closing down the highway and building a new one. They couldn't build it closer to the motel because then the world could still see us! Oh, what am I going to do! How am I going to live! You! Just like my father -- never a drop of sympathy! It's because of you that I can't hold my water!"

1/5

The Dead Zone, dir. David Cronenberg (1983)

The Rachel Papers, dir. Damian Harris (1989)



30 May 2008

Psycho III, dir. Anthony Perkins (1986)

NIKKI says:
I had it in my mind that this, too, was a decent Psycho sequel. It's really not. I like the whole thing at the end with his "finally free" of mother, having stabbed her skeleton to pieces. But the rest of the movie suffers from the same over-plotting as the previous sequel. There's just too much going on. Norman often gets lost in these movies as they build plot around him. I don't know, it just didn't work for me.

It starts with the nun, Maureen, leaving the church after accidentally killing another nun. (I'm convinced Diana Scarwid is playing her character from Rumble Fish -- cleaned up, into the nunnery, and then... oops). She wanders away, meets smarmy dolt Jeff Fahey (his Nikki's-Older-Man-Eye-Candy appeal drops a bit here because his character is such a wanker), he sexually assaults her by way of a come on and all goes downhill from there.

Norman takes her in, and lets Jeff work at the motel even though he appears as trustworthy as a talking mouse wearing peak-cap and an eye-patch. He turns the motel into his own little party-brothel and picks up skanks that end up dead. Blah, blah. Maureen falls in love with Norman, who is still haunted by his mother, whose body is now that of the dead Mrs. Spool from the first sequel. But she's not really his mother, but that's okay.

And there's reporter in there working on a story about recidivism, and killers back on the street, and she gets involved, and I believe there's even an allusion to the fact that she might be behind the murders to prove her point that Norman can't be trusted. I don't know, the nunnery, Fahey, the reporter, the Mrs Spool thing... life is never simple for Norman.

I didn't hate this, but I didn't much care for it. I must have felt that last time we watched it back in 2003, because I have no recollection of having seen it so recently.

2/5

29 May 2008

Psycho II, dir. Richard Franklin (1983)

NIKKI says:
Apparently we did a Psycho-thon back in 2003, but I can't remember it. Bits and pieces of this one float around in my memory -- Dennis Franz, the new mother at the end, the draining of the swamp -- but much of it I have no recollection of. Especially the return of Vera Miles. Maybe I just blocked it...?

It's not a bad film, by any means. Anthony Perkins is far too enjoyable for that to happen. And it's directed by Richard Franklin of Road Games, so there's a few bonus points right there. The film's issue has to do with one plot element that just shouldn't be there. Remove everything associated with that plot element and you have a taught, interesting little film about rehabilitation and fear, paranoia and delusion.

So, I choose to look at the movie without the New Mother, and her killing spree. It's a bit tragic the makers didn't see the issue and fix it all up. They just didn't need the murders, and the red herrings, and the guessing game. The story about a reformed Norman and what makes him mad again, and these people trying to drive him made but realising that perhaps he's not. Now, that's a good Psycho story.

Still, this one has some great moments. Anthony Perkins and Meg Tilly are great together, and there are lots of references to the original film. Of course, Norman becomes a bit of a Horror Hero at the end, and I feel like we are supposed to applaud his return to violence. I don't know if I like that too much, but it was the '80s I guess.

On to #3...

2.5/5

28 May 2008

Psycho, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1960)

NIKKI says:
What can you say, really? It's a classic. It's still as good now as it ever was. Still superbly written and directed, and Anthony Perkins is still the most frightening killer in film history. And, that bit in the show scene, when she reaches her arm out and pulls the curtains off the railing then just thunks on the ground is still one of the most disturbing thing ever on film. I don't care so much for the "reep! reep! reep!" knife part -- the end of that scene is the shocking bit.

The first time I watched this movie was in my living room, back in the days of one TV and one VCR per household. The Dark Ages. I remember mum and dad were wandering in and out, and I felt a bit cool that I was watching a classic, and a black and white one at that. Mum told me about when she first saw the movie in the cinema, and how she was convinced the blood in the shower scene was red. Dad told me about seeing it, and as usual, remembered the details surprisingly well after about 40 years. Probably not the best atmosphere for the movie, but I remember that day really vividly. It was good.

The movie holds up, anyway. I could watch it more often than we do.

5/5

27 May 2008

Rogue, dir. Greg McLean (2007)

STEVE says:
Kind of a Gilligan's Island meets Lake Placid thing going on here in Greg McLean's follow-up to the surprisingly good Wolf Creek.

Don't get me wrong: Rogue wasn't bad. It wasn't anywhere near as good as Wolf Creek, but it wasn't bad. It was much more of a popcorn flick than the other film, so it's already being graded on a curve. I liked it because it managed to take a pretty standard Man vs. Beast premise and had the characters deal with it in ways that didn't go along with convention. Nine times out of ten, at least.

The effects weren't bad, either. We rewound and watched frame-by-frame when one fellow got chomped by the croc, and could barely spot the CGI. Later, of course, it became more evident, but in all it was a mix of CGI and practical effects that didn't have me rolling my eyes every fifteen seconds. It receives an extra point for that alone.

3/5

NIKKI says:
I expected more -- more chomping, more slashing, more blood, more suspense. I expected Wolf Creek crocodile-style. Instead, director Greg McLean gave me a steadily-paced human drama with a big croc in it.

Well-played Greg McLean.

As Steve mentioned, this one took all our expectations and twisted them slightly. Like the scene where they suspend a rope across a river between two trees for the trapped tourists to shuffle across by hand and feet... Steve said -- so how many people will get across before one dies? I made a guess, he made a guess, and we were both so wrong it was embarrassing.

The 10 Little Indians plot device is discarded here, this is not a typical slice-and-dice. No one is here purely for the kill-factor. These characters are developed, their descents into fear are honest and compelling, and while the movie is not afraid to throw a curve-ball or two about, it doesn't rely on its twists to keep us interested.

And Michael Vartan was a good hero. That was the movie's biggest surprise for me.

I also enjoyed seeing John Jarratt, the horrible vicious killer freak from Wolf Creek as a grieving widower. The scene in which he and a small girl share a brief look of understanding is far too special for a Deadly Croc flick. But, of course, this isn't that flick.

3.5/5

26 May 2008

April Fool's Day, dir. The Butcher Brothers (2008)

NIKKI says:
What can I say? I thought it would be fun. I thought there was no way it could be worse than the Prom Night remake. I thought we could have a few laughs at its expense.

Turns out, it was the one doing the laughing that we had wasted our limited time giving it the time of day. Oh well. I can not stop thinking that this is our job -- to watch any and all horror that crosses out paths. We are, I've decided, the International Horror Police. You think you've made a horror film? Not until we deem it so! I can no longer chide us for watching shit movies. We have to finally realise, accept and enjoy that it's JUST WHAT WE DO.

(Steve, stop shaking your head -- you know it's true and MUST ACCEPT IT!!)

I'll keep watching them, because one day -- one day -- I will be impressed. In fact, we've been impressed too much by potentially shit horror movies to stop giving them a go. We had the opportunity to turn this off at 27 minutes and we kept going. So, either we know our place in this world, or we're just gluttons for punishment.

I hate you April Fool's Day remake, and everything you stand for.

.5/5

STEVE says:
You see what happens? After watching one-too-many shitty horror flicks, we decide to swear them off, only to get sucked back in again. And again. And again.

This is another one of those modern remakes that bares only the slightest resemblance to the original, in that they share a plot element or two, and manages to suck in new and less exciting ways, a la Prom Night. The thing about April Fool's Day is, you already know the plot twist - it's all going to be a big trick in the end - so why are we bothering to sit through it? Can't we just fast-forward to that bit?

There was no excuse for watching this. (Or for making it, but that's not my watch.) No excuse. I refuse to allow my time to be wasted in this manner yet again. See, my argument isn't against watching shitty horror movies; it's against watching movies that we know are going to be shitty horror movies before we even bring them home. There's a subtle difference.

We've been surprised by a few of these low-rent horror flicks. The Dead Hate the Living, for example, was one we thought we'd just take home and make fun of for an hour and a half. Turned out to be a very funny movie that knew it wasn't high art and let the viewer know that it knew. April Fool's Day was never going to be that.

Nikki's argument that we had the opportunity to turn this off at 27 minutes holds no water with me. We had the opportunity not to watch it all.

.5/5

Awake, dir. Joby Harold (2007)

NIKKI says:
Man, how I love big-budget trash. A movie about a guy who remains awake during a heart transplant and hears chatter in the operating room about a plot to have him killed? How is that not going to rule? But why does it star such big names as Hayden Christensen, Terrence Howard, and Jessica Alba? This is the kind of movie that would have starred Jeff Fahey, Leo Rossi, and Sherilyn Fenn back in the day. And how I would have loved that version, too.

This was schlocky, but it worked. It kept the twists coming thick and fast and, though I have to admit, I guess practically every freaking one of them (I was having a good night), I still liked them. They kept me interested.

The scares were good, too, whether or not they were meant, in fact, to be scares. I don't think I've seen much lately that rivals the "oh my god!" factor of doctors drilling into Hayden's sternum WHILE HE'S AWAKE AND CAN TELL NO-ONE!! Oh, that was horrible.

But, yeah, I liked the concept. It was well-directed. It was reasonably well-written in that the idiot references were far from all over the place as you might expect in this kind of movie. It was cerebral trash, let's say -- the best kind.

3/5

25 May 2008

Valerie on the Stairs, dir. Mick Garris (2006)

NIKKI says:
I find Mick Garris quite an endearing person. Whenever I see him interviewed, he appears to me rather free of ego, just a former editor made good, responsible now for some major movies and TV miniseries'. Along the way, too, he has just stumbled into becoming the old-school horror genre fan's resident flag-waver. Lord knows we need one.

It sucks then to have to say it, but Mick Garris is a terrible filmmaker. His scripts are almost always boring and corny, his direction is unsurprising and unoriginal. His style reeks of film-school technique, and he can barely build a scare with even the most horrifying of material. While the remake of The Shining was impressive, Garris's resume also contains Riding the Bullet, Quicksilver Highway, Desperation, and Sleepwalkers -- some of the worst horror films and Stephen King adaptations ever produced.

How does the man keep getting work? How has become so revered? The stature of the names he draws to his Masters of Horror series is beyond comprehension. Horror directors past and present appear to be lining up to work for him. How has the man blinded people so? Am I missing something? Didn't Stephen King himself grow up loving the Universal Monsters, Vincent Price movies, and Alfred Hitchcock? How does the master of literary horror not see the flaws in Garris's super-corny, over-the-top, under-developed work?

It's boggles our fucking minds.

Valerie on the Stairs, based on a story by Clive Barker, is among the worst Masters of Horror films. It's about a guy who takes up residence at a writer's retreat in order to concentrate on his work. Minutes inside the place, and he's disturbed by banging walls and busybody neighbours, all of whom are mysterious and creepy. The banging stops and the writer (Rob) encounters Valerie (on the stairs) who begs him to save her from an unseen force. Valerie is just a chick lit from above, so she's not really all that scary. Blah, blah, blah, Rob discovers that Valerie and the unseen force (which we eventually see in the form of Tony Todd in a ridiculous devil costume) were created by other residents of the retreat. They are in a story and Rob may just be a part of it.

I have to spoil it -- in the end, after so much blood and gore (a guy gets his spine ripped out through his mouth), we learn that Rob is actually a part of the story and at the end his body turns to typewritten paper and his floats away.

Oh my god, Mick Garris -- are you trying to kill me with your ineptitude and lameness? Or do we blame Clive Barker? Something, perhaps those previously mentioned movies, makes me think Barker isn't the problem.

Nothing here is scary. The story is poorly developed. It makes sense, but only a contrived kind of sense. The horror is boring, the script stupid, the point indiscernible. Another so-called Master reveals his failings.

.5/5

24 May 2008

Word Wars: Tiles and Tribulations on the Scrabble Circuit, dir. Eric Chaikin & Julian Petrillo (2004)

NIKKI says:
Competitive Scrabble might not be as nail-biting as competitive Donkey Kong and crosswording, but it's still fascinating, especially when viewed from the perspectives of the four unlikely challengers as depicted here.

The players are reigning champion Joe Edley, down on his luck comedian Matt Graham, Marlon Hill from the projects, and phlegm-laden "GI" Joel Sherman. The film follows the guys in the lead up to the 2001 Scrabble championship in San Diego. It chronicles the bizarre friendships between Matt, Joel, and Marlon, and their competitive dislike for Edley.

We watch as each of these men secures his place at the championship and we see how they fare as the event takes place. It's a surprise to see who gets where, and how they deal with their wins and losses. The film is funny and sad, and details the strange havoc Scrabble wreaks on these mens' lives. A majority of them don't work in any sort of full-time capacity, instead living on the bare bones they take home from Scrabble comps. They also seem to have trouble connecting to people, and often live in cluttered homes, filled with word books. Only Edley is different from the other guys, with his Tai-Chi and trumped-up opinion of himself as more a metaphysical Scrabbler than your average word-freak using the circuit as a means of survival.

I enjoyed it a lot -- especially Marlon, who I really wanted to take home the big prize. I think, though, that it lacked the emotional depth of like films, Wordplay, Spellbound, and King of Kong. It didn't hit me on the same level as those films, didn't glue me to my seat, and have me questioning everything about the obsessions in my life. It was a bit more of a surface look than those other films, but certainly worth watching.

3/5

Outpost, dir. Steve Barker (2007)

NIKKI says: We only got because it was rumoured to contain zombies. The Australian DVD cover art makes it look like a war film, so I'd love to know what renters are thinking when the Nazi soldiers start coming back to life...

We weren't expecting too much, so were pleasantly surprised when it turned into a suspenseful, really scary movie. The pacing, the imagery, every beat right on target -- this was a classy experience.

A group of mercenaries head into a war-torn area of Eastern Europe to investigate a long-forgotten WWII bunker. In it, they find well-preserved bodies stacked knee-high, one of which is still breathing. The "breather" is catatonic and doesn't appear to need urgent medical attention, so they take turns watching him while they go about their investigating. The guy sits there, with his head on his chest for much of the film, and is pretty much the scariest thing I've seen since the natives in Welcome to the Jungle.

So, eventually the mercenaries discover that this is a Nazi bunker where SS bigwigs experimented with troops to create unstoppable killing machines -- soldiers who couldn't die. Not all went as the Nazis planned, it now appears -- they may just still be out there. The mercenaries, then, must come up with a way to stop the undead Nazi soldiers in order to escape the bunker.

The breather ends up playing a much more important role here and becomes pretty much the most horrendously scary horror hero you're ever likely to see. Never speaks a word, either.
The rest of the zombies are evil, too, and do some pretty awful things to complete their mission.

I loved this one. Just a freaky, scary good time.

3.5/5

STEVE says: I'll say it now and stand by it in the future: There's nothing cooler than Nazi Zombies.

It's a sub-genre that's not often visited - and hasn't been, in any significant way, since Ken Weiderhorn's Shockwaves in 1977, so the mere existence of Outpost came as something of a surprise. That it was actually good was a bonus. Using Einstein's Unified Field Theory to bring Nazi soldiers back to life as unstoppable Zombie killing machines was a stroke of pure genius, making Outpost a high-water mark for the Nazi Zombie ouvre.

This one's definitely going in our collection.

3.5/5

22 May 2008

Michael Jackson's Thriller, dir. John Landis (1983)

NIKKI says: We got to this because I got the idea to watch concert videos on the big screen and pretend I was actually there. How awesome it was. First I watched my new James Reyne DVD, which is very cool -- just James and his band playing the Espy with no crowd. Then I watched Kenny Loggins belt out "Peace of Mind", which is just shiveringly brilliant. And then... Michael Jackson. Steve wanted "Thriller", so "Thriller" it was. Music, turns out, is just as great to watch on the screen as movies and Moonlighting.

How great is "Thriller"? You really can't fault it. It's funny, spooky, and really well put together. It's hard to believe it came out 25 years ago. Wow, that's shocking. I just love young Michael, with his crazy sense of humour, and his love of horror and sci-fi stuff. He just smiles all the way through this (except when he's a zombie), and he looks to be having so much fun. I miss the fun-having MJ.

Anyway... so this was cool to revisit. The zombies look great, the dancing is the best, and I love how it's all about blending artforms and using them to their fullest effects.

5/5

STEVE says: When MTV started running Thriller in December of 1983, my brother Mike was only a little over two years old. He would watch it religiously, every hour-on the hour, kneeling in front of the TV, fascinated by the dancing undead.

Nearly a year later, when all the Thriller hype had died down, MTV ran the video (a short film, really, hence its inclusion here) on Halloween. Twenty-five years later, I can't remember if it was Michael Jackson turning into the Wolf Man, or whether it was the Zombies pulling themselves out of the damp earth, but my brother promptly forget that he'd already seen this clip about 72 times with no adverse reaction, because he started crying, bolted up the stairs and hid under my desk.

He'll kill me for telling you that.

Later, of course, when he was closer to five, he'd be watching Re-animator with me and asking how the effects worked, so this Thriller thing appeared to be a one-time-only episode. It's a great little, flick, though - due largely in part to John Landis.

It was Landis' American Werewolf in London that started this whole thing. Jackson, being a huge American Werewolf fan, asked Landis on board for this clip, and he brought his own style and sense of humour along. Once the Wolf Man part of the story is revealed to be a movie, we can hear one of the actors on-screen reciting Landis' famous in-joke, "See You Next Wednesday", and there's even a poster for Landis' first film, Schlock, hanging outside the theatre. And the disclaimer "Any similarity to actual events or persons, living, dead, or undead, is purely coincidental" is a nod to American Werewolf itself.

Credit must be given, too, to Rick Baker and his crew for their Zombie make-up. Only four years earlier, George Romero's Dawn of the Dead opened unrated in theatres because he wouldn't cut it for an R rating. Baker and his crew pulled off some pretty nasty looking Zombies here, some certainly scarier than the legion of undead in Romero's film - and Thriller ran on television... where it could scare the pants off of unsuspecting two-year olds.

4/5

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, dir. Steven Spielberg (2008)

NIKKI says:
Well, this was a surprise. I did not think I'd like it as much as I did. Truth be told, I didn't think I'd get it. I was expecting much talk about arks and covenants and I envisioned myself just missing the point and just waiting for the climax.

How wrong I was. I was with the movie all the way through, and I loved how it was all about aliens and Area 51. There were a few things I didn't get, like why Oxley took the head in the first place, but I'm sure Google can answer that for me. Otherwise, I followed things quite well.

The action scenes were good. I loved the dual car fighting, when Shia and Cate Blanchett were back-and-forthing over two jeeps, and she has the head, then he has the head, then she lands on another car altogether, and then Shia is swinging through the jungle with the monkeys. Somehow, I never questioned the realism of that -- see, I finally got what it was like to be wrapped up in an Indiana Jones adventure. Very cool.

And the ants! The other thing I worried about with this was that it would play too much to the kiddie crowd, but it really doesn't. The ants were the main evidence of that. Gory!

Overall, I enjoyed it. It's currently my favourite of the series.

4/5

STEVE says:
George Lucas has spent the last few weeks promoting Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull by telling all and sundry, basically, "Don't get your hopes up." He reckons that high expectations, not his own mediocre script and tepid direction, are what killed The Phantom Menace, and wants to make damn sure that doesn't happen here.

The difference, of course, is that Crystal Skull has the double advantage of having a good writer in David Koepp, and a great director in Spielberg, so there's no way, really, that expectations could possibly kill it. Right?

Right...?

Well, it's like this. I liked Crystal Skull. I didn't love it, but I liked it, and I don't think that has anything to do with the altitude of my expectations (which were both high and exceeded, by the way, Mr. Lucas). There is simply no way that this movie was going to be better than Raiders - apologies to Nikki - but it certainly had every chance in the world of being better than the previous two sequels. My expectations were based solely on how it compared to the original adventure, and not how it fit into the series, or whether it "beat" the last one, which is how these things are usually judged. Each sequel has to be "better, stronger, faster" than the one that came before it, raising not only the expectations of the audience, but the responsibility of the filmmakers to the point of absurdity, so that after ten movies Jason somehow ends up in space.

David Koepp seems to understand this, and has written not just "another movie" in the Indiana Jones franchise, but a direct sequel (or at least a companion) to Raiders. And in this way, it was better than Temple of Doom and Last Crusade. It beat them without trying to beat them, but by ignoring them completely.

Hats off to you, Mr. Koepp.

4/5

21 May 2008

The Evil Dead, dir. Sam Raimi (1981)

NIKKI says:
It's about time. I don't think I've seen this movie since I lived with Steve back in America. And watching bits and pieces of the musical over the last few weeks, I've really been wanting to revisit it. It was pretty much exactly as I remembered it -- just crazy and weird. But, watching this time, I noticed sam Raimi's style developing big-time. The camera moves and the tension-building, the stuff that comes to great use in his more mainstream, leter films like A Simple Plan and The Gift.

I still hate the effects, though. Which is to say, the zombie make-up. I know they only had a small budget, and the latex stuff is the best they could afford, but it's not really that. It's more the sheer gruesomeness of the goo dripping from mouths (the oozing white stuff, remember that?), and the blood and the gore. Eew. I don't know, perhaps I like my zombies streamlined? In a George Romero way?

Still, the thing is just nuts. And so funny, and Bruce Campbell is just great. The tree scene, though, remains far too graphic! Nobody needs to see that!

3.5/5

STEVE says:
I had an opportunity to see The Evil Dead in the theatre back in New Jersey in 2001. I was working on Midnight Mass at the time and went with the director, Tony Mandile, and the script supervisor, a Russian girl named Gloria, to an all night horror movie marathon: Return of the Living Dead, Re-animator, a "surprise" third film (which turned out to be Romero's Day of the Dead), and The Evil Dead.

Sadly, we didn't get to see The Evil Dead. We had to leave at 4am, right after Day of the Dead, in order to get back to Point Pleasant to catch two, maybe three hours of sleep before getting up for our 8am call time. Watching it now, on our little-big screen here at home, I'm kind of glad it turned out the way it did.

My friend Vince and I watched The Evil Dead for the first time, probably around 1985, and I remember thinking it was one of the worst horror movies I'd ever seen. It took forever to get started, and once it did, it had only lame-ass make-up and special effects that would ultimately degenerate into some silly Claymation puppetry by the climax. This was, after all, the age of Savini, and shit like this just wasn't going to cut it.

Never have these limitations been more obvious than on our big screen. I can't imagine what it would have looked like in a theatre.

Having said this, I've come to see beyond the effects since watching it with Vince (hey, we were 14 - effects were all we cared about in our horror movies back then; effects and boobies), and can appreciate the movie now for the story and for Raimi's directorial style, so maybe it wouldn't have been so bad had we stayed to see it in Jersey. It's one of my favorite horror films, and I still argue, after watching the 2nd and 3rd movies devolving into comedy and using the horror as a punchline, that it's the best of the lot.

4/5

20 May 2008

Flashdance, dir. Adrian Lyne (1983)

STEVE says:
Once again Pop Culture has led me down a dark alley, tempting me with promises of pretty things, only to beat the shit out of me and take my wallet.

2/5

NIKKI says:
I still have my wallet, but I'm starting to doubt my memory.

Flashdance has never been one of those dance films I revisit constantly. It's not a Footloose or a Dirty Dancing, or even a Fame. This, I thought, wasn't because I didn't like it, but because I didn't have it. It was never on TV late at night for me to tape and watch until the tape could take it no more. (I was so afraid my Dirty Dancing tape was broken that I recorded the movie onto cassette tape and transcribed the screenplay -- the hard copy of which I recently stumbled across in a box of LPs).

Still, I've always held the movie in relatively high regard. I bought it the first chance I got, and was more than thrilled to do so. And then we watched it...

My god, has it been that long? If I really think about it, I probably haven't seen the movie in 16 years. I remember watching it with two friends I only hung out with until Year 8. I have no real memory of it after that. My Year 8 self thought it was great. Now, though, the Adrian Lyne veil of smut and misogyny drips all over every frame and I just want to kick everyone in the Special Features who refer to the movie as a girl's empowerment piece.

It's not a girl power movie if a girl has a man's job and wants to dance. It's not a girl power movie if she sleeps with her boss (she's 18 and he's pushing 40) and acts like a child every time the relationship becomes too adult for her. It's not a girl power movie when the boss has to save her all the time. It's certainly no girl power message when she only decides to go back to the ballet school not out of a desire to take her passion and make it happen, but because her old friend who was in the Follies and told her to follow her dream finally kicks the bucket.

Alex doesn't dance her way to success here, she stumbles and falls and is guided towards her goals by everyone around her. And don't even get me started on the outrageous stereotyping going on with the friends and bit-players here. Check this out: Alex and her friends are working out in a gym that's got all white walls and looks like Olivia's Physical video (lots of crotch close-ups). They're all bitching and moaning about guys who won't call (because that's what girls do). The black girl, with a name I don't think we ever heard, says in response to all the bitching: "Man, am I glad I'm not a honkey".

Right.

So, you see where we are. The film's other major issue is its structure, which is terribly off. The first half is just a bunch of stuff that happens intercut with dancing scenes. I'm really shocked, too, that the famous running-in-place work-out scene to "Maniac" came so early (and, weirdly, abruptly stops, so much so that Michael Sembello is mid-lyric and Alex mid-hop when the film jumps to Alex on her bike). In dance movies, the big dance scene is supposed to break tension, reveal to us the main character's true self through dance (a la Ren's punch-dancing moment of zen when he decides to take on the Bomont anti-pop establishment). Come on, do these people know nothing?

And then there's the sex. Oh my god. Now, I love Adrian Lyne for one reason: Foxes. One of my all-time favourite films, and one of the most inspirational as far my formative years go. (I tried so hard to be Annie, felt more like Madge, ended up just like Jeanie -- but, strangely, didn't end up kissing Scott Baio at the disco as obviously planned.) But, oh the sleaze. "Ain't you two a couple of cunts," one character says. And there's just so many crutch-shots that I'm starting to get the significance of the word "flash" in the title.

When did this movie become so adult?

Anyway... the music is still great, and the dancing is awesome. But though it claims to the movie that inspired a generation, it really isn't inspirational at all. Make things happen? Alex only really does that when her boyfriend tells her to and everyone else around her dies or fails miserably at their own dream. You go, girl!

2/5

19 May 2008

Raiders of the Lost Ark, dir. Steven Spielberg (1981)

NIKKI says:
Another great pic for the big screen. This is the kind of movie that was made to be seen in cinemas -- noisy, action-packed, lots going on in any given scene. The movie was so awesomely big, I was noticing the bugs buzzing around on set. Just perfect.

I'm glad we watched this, really, as we're going to see the new movie this week sometime. I've only ever seen this movie once before, so now I'm caught up on most of what I'm sure will be referenced in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Even with all its good points, I'm still not really drawn to this kind of movie. I don't know what it is, but adventure and swashbuckling and all that stuff just doesn't really grab me. I found, during bits of this film, that I was zoning off a bit. I know the action scenes are great, but they just don't do for me what I know they are supposed to. I feel this way about Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, National Treasure and all those big sort-of movies that are about the effects and caves and ships, and, I don't know.

Steve said to me when I brought this up that he couldn't understand how I could give Fame 4.5 stars when it has no plot and is just about a bunch of people dancing. That's a hard one. It's just a matter of interest, I guess. I don't relate to a movie like this the same way I'd relate to a movie like Fame. And, plus, I don't have the history with a movie like this one. I was 21 the first time I saw it, 20 years after its release. The same year I saw Star Wars for the first time.

At the risk of going on about it, I know it's not a bad movie. It's a fun, adventurous, rip-roaring ride -- exactly what it is supposed to be. Isn't it weird, though -- I feel like there's something wrong with me because I'm not into Indiana Jones! I can't explain it. I used to tell Steve that space movies just leave me cold, but I've since rethought that as I love Alien and I loved 2001. I think it's more to do with adventurous missions -- I can't think of one movie featuring such a mission that I am hugely into. I don't know. Will ponder more and see how the new movie goes later this week...

3.5/5

STEVE says:
"We are simply passing through history. This, this is history."
Which pretty much sums up the way I feel about this movie.

This pick was kind of a cheat, as I have seen Raiders in the theatre at least twice - once in its original run and once in re-release - but with the new movie coming out, I wanted to watch the other three as a lead-in, and now that we have this screen, why the hell not?

4.5/5

18 May 2008

Fame, dir. Alan Parker (1980)

NIKKI says:
My first choice in "Awesome Movies on the Big Screen Week". I haven't watched Fame in a while, so it was good to have a revisit. I still love it. I still think it's first-class filmmaking. I still think Alan Parker is a God. And, you know what? For something so totally steeped in '80s-ness, its '80s-ness is really not that distracting. We found ourselves picking on the fashions and phrases more when we watched the pilot episode of the TV show (which we did directly after this, because -- why not?).

Fame is about kids starting their lives, deciding what they want to do, and finding out who they are. The movie follows them through their four years at the performing arts high school and along the way they learn about themselves and each other through good times and bad hair days. Every single one of these kids is likable, and easy to relate to. Everyone is just trying to figure their shit out, and they make mistakes and they fix those mistakes, and eventually they graduate, prepared (mostly).

One thing I noticed, though, when watching this was that every time a new character was introduced, I felt my heart break a bit. As soon as you see Doris on the stage trying to sing "The Way We Were", oh God, all the memories just come flooding back. I feel so strongly for everyone in this movie. It's like they're real people you've known and hung out with. It's weird. I was so glad that even Steve appreciated just how good the kids were, as actors and characters.

And the music is awesome. It was so easy to tell which Mega-God songwriter (*cough* Dean Pitchford) was not involved in the TV show as soon as New Coco opened her mouth to sing the tragic "Take Me" song, or whatever it was. Ugh. The songs in Fame -- "Red Light", "I Sing the Body Electric", "Fame" -- are just so great. And Irene Cara on the piano doing "Out Here on My Own" (which I believe was written by Lesley Gore) is just soul-melting. I'm shocked Irene Cara isn't up on a Whitney-height cloud of reverence in the Pop World. She's just got the most pure, beautiful voice.

Anyway... so Fame. It loses a half-point for its structure, which I find leaves some unanswered questions. But it's still a classic, still a great dance movie, even better when largified on the screen.

4.5/5

STEVE says:
They should have called it Lame.

No, I'm kidding, but that pun was just too deliciously bad to pass up.

Actually, no, really, Fame wasn't that great a movie. The songs were great, the acting was phenomenal (for people, 90% of whom weren't actors), and the dancing was... interesting, but as a movie it was sorely lacking something.

Plot, maybe?

I'm sitting there watching people come in and out of auditions, waiting for an inciting incident, when suddenly it's 20 minutes in, auditions are over, and we've hit the turning point. The hell? So maybe the audition sequence was the inciting incident, kids getting accepted, that sort of thing. But 20 minutes of it?

The rest of the script is no better, giving all the other plot points - pinches and the ever-important midpoint - completely a miss and just plowing through the four years of high school. We're given snapshots instead of development, and it's annoying. Leroy and Coco are apparently an item, but when Leroy is stolen away by rich-bitch Hilary, Coco hardly seems to notice. Suddenly we're in Junior Year, Leroy and Hilary are headed up to her place to do "homework", and that's the last we see of them until Senior Year when Hilary is getting an abortion. Does Leroy know? Does Leroy care? Moreover, why should I?

3/5

17 May 2008

Jaws, dir. Steven Spielberg (1975)

STEVE says:
So we got offered this LCD projector. Nikki's friend Trish who works at a local kindergarten says they've got one they're looking to get rid of but can't find a buyer. Meanwhile, I'm getting light-headed. I've wanted one of these for years but haven't been able to put the $1300 together to pick one up. Turns out the kindergarten only wants $350 for it.

Light-headedness turns to outright dizziness, and I'm starting to sway back and forth. Nikki grabs my arm to steady me. That's about 26% of what we'd pay for one new.

And a new one wouldn't come with a big-ass 6X6 screen.

I was thinking we'd just project the movies onto the wall, or a sheet, something. But the screen is part of the package. Yeah, that sealed the deal.

So we brought it home and have been watching the occasional movie on the screen, only taking it out on special occasions, but those occasions came more and more frequently until finally we just hooked our TV up to the computer and are now using the screen exclusively.

This week is dedicated to Movies We Wish We'd Seen In The Theatre. My first pick was Jaws.

If you haven't seen it by now, chances are you're not going to. And if you have, there's no need to recap. You already know it's awesome. I'll say only that, getting to experience it finally on a big screen (not 40 feet tall, but still mighty impressive) was like seeing Star Wars or Blade Runner again in widescreen instead of the crappy VHS pan and scan version I'd been subjected to for years. Very nearly a religious experience.

4.5/5

NIKKI says:

Lovecraft Week is over and Steve and I have moved into a week of "Movies We Want to Watch on the New Awesome Screen". Steve picked some big sci-fi and horror pics -- all among his favourites, while I've gone for something a bit, let's say, dance-ier (which involved a trip to the video store with eight dollars in silver coins to buy Xanadu... more on that during the week).

We flipped a coin to see who started, and ended up with a night of huge sharks! It was so great. Steve up on the couch with Fulci, me down on the floor resting on some huge pillows, looking up at the wall consumed by beaches and boats. It was great. It really felt like the cinema.

And a great opening movie. I'd forgotten just what a brilliant movie Jaws is. It's the quintessential movie when it comes to pacing and structure. There's not a superfluous or redundant moment -- every word, every action is necessary to develop and further the motion. It's just superb on that level. And it's still scary. I still jump and squeal when the shark pops his head out. As well, I still laugh at the jokes, I still get freaked out when Quint acts mental, and I still feel the frustration Brody and Hooper go through when faced with Amity's Mayoral roadblocks. It all holds up magnificently.

I really love, too, that the final action takes place in the daytime. I never really thought about it before, but Quint's demise and Brody's eventual blowing up of the shark are all in broad daylight, which really subverts the standard notion of horror or terror. It's bright as Quint is swallowed, so instead of creeping that up in darkness, we're watching it take place in morning light, no Hitchcock-y shadows, no crazy camera moves -- and it's way more horrifying.

So, great experience, heaps of scary fun. A brilliant movie that gets better with age.

4.5/5

16 May 2008

The Unnamable II: The Statement of Randolph Carter, dir. Jean-Paul Oullette (1993)

NIKKI says:
Pony-Woman is back! Only she's slightly grosser because the beautiful woman inside her is now outside of her and she's just a raging demon.

Again, I found myself liking this one. Again, it's got much to do with the characters, who return (complete with original actors) to sort out,once and for all, this problem with the "unnamable" creature.

Here, Carter finds a way to free Alyda Winthrop from the clutches of the creature, thus offering her a chance to spend her last days as a regular person. This means, for her, running about nude until age catches up and she shrivels to a skeleton. It means, for Carter, that he can harness the evil and rescue mankind.

There is much running and chasing, and lots of scenes with Howard looking confused. But it's not so bad. I liked Lovecraft Week, even with The Curse. Makes me want to read the stories a bit more, and seek out some other adaptations.

2.5/5

STEVE says:
This was an unsuccessful sequel to a not-so-successful-in-the-first-place Lovecraft adaptation, but at least the first one bore some resemblance to the story that inspired it. Unnamable II: The Statement of Randolph Carter has the unenviable task of not only measuring up to the original film, but also being an adaptation of another story altogether, one that has nothing to do with The Unnamable.

The story is meant to pick up where the last one left off, with Tanya being helped into the back of a police cruiser, Damon being loaded into an ambulance, and Carter trying to get the police to believe his mad story of The Unnamable. Nevermind that that's not how the first one ended at all. The Unnamable ended with Damon, Carter and Tanya practically skipping back to town, Necronomicon snuggled tightly under Carter's arm. Here, Tanya is nearly catatonic - and never seen again after the opening sequence - and Howard (which is now the character's surname, as the movie insists he is Eliot Damon Howard instead of Howard Damon, as in the first film) having been mauled by the Unnamable beast in the house. This is a plot device, apparently, to get Howard to the hospital where he's visited by a ghost in a very Lovecraft-cum-Dickens twist.

Silliness abounds for the next hour and a half plus, and John Rhys-Davies and David Warner pick up their paychecks. It wasn't as bad as The Curse, but - to borrow a line from Huey Lewis & The News' much overlooked third track on their breakout album Sports - Bad is Bad.

15 May 2008

Dawn of the Dead, dir. George A. Romero (1978)

Return of the Living Dead, dir. Dan O'Bannon (1985)

Dreams in the Witch-House, dir. Stuart Gordon (2005)

NIKKI says:
Is it wrong to be shocked that a Masters of Horror could be so good? I think what separated this from most of the bad films is the class of filmmaker -- Stuart Gordon may actually be a Master of Horror. I don't think he's had anything as pointless and stupid as this series' Chocolate on his resume. There's just a level of class to this one, from script to production value, that places it well above its contemporaries.

We continue here with Lovecraft Week, this film based on the story of the same name. A young man rents a room near his college campus (Miskatonic U, of course), and ends up going mad. It's the getting there, obviously, that provides much of the fun here. Basically, there's some evil residing in the place, and sacrifices are afoot.

Gordon builds tension well. He gives us a likable main character and some suitably bizarre background folks. He places them all in a creepy old house and lets ancient witchcraft do its thing. We get rats with human faces, dreams of naked witches, and flesh-tearing so grossly real you'll think this was a documentary.

The success of this one probably has to do with Gordon's clear reverence for Lovecraft and his stories. Gordon made Re-Animator, From Beyond, and Dagon -- all good Lovecraft-inspired movies.

3/5

STEVE says:
This was the first of the Masters of Horror series that I'd seen, and the reason my expectations were so high for the rest. As it happens, Stuart Gordon and co-writer Dennis Paoli set me up for a fall: I would wait a long time until another episode reached the high-water mark set by Dreams.

Watching it for a second time tonight, I've decided it's some of the most disturbing work Gordon's done. Re-animator and From Beyond had a sense of humour about them, whereas Dagon was more of a straight horror piece. Dreams falls into the latter category, with very little in it to elicit the slightest chuckle (although I did find the human-faced rat-thing kind of silly).

Enough of this Masters of Horror crap. I want to see Gordon get his own show where he does all the Lovecraft stories. This one-hour format seems perfect for that sort of thing. I'd love to see his take on Pickman's Model, The Dunwich Horror or The Lurking Fear.

3.5/5

14 May 2008

The Unnamable, dir. Jean-Paul Ouellette (1988)

NIKKI says:
Here's one I remember from way back. When I first started getting into movies, I found I had sort of an uncanny recall talent for names, dates, images. This is one I remember intimately, from the name above the title right down to the design of the creature's teeth (not unlike Murnau's Nosferatu character). From then on I heard the name "Lovecraft" and I remembered this movie and the horrible beast on the video packet.

I can't remember, though, if I actually saw the whole film back then. I know I rented Basket Case 2 and Body Parts, but I can't specifically remember taking this one home. I wonder if that's because I didn't, because I found the creature just too scary?

I do remember watching this with Steve back in America. I enjoyed it then and I still do now. It's campy, cheesy fun, and it succeeds because its characters are so endearing. Specifically, of course, Randolph Carter and his timid pal, Howard. They're so fun to watch that you forget the '90s cheesiness and just run with the craziness (that eventually involves a freakish pony-woman biting people in the face).

So Carter tells his friends the story of the woman in the 1800s who gave birth to the frightening and "unnamable" thing. He tells them it was locked away only to escape one day and slaughter the family. One of the friends decides he wants to spend the night in the house for laughs and winds up on the wrong side of the legend -- ie. face-bitten by scary pony-thing. Others go in for the same reasons, and similar things happen to them. Carter lets Howard save the day and seek out their friend.

It's quite slow moving at times, but the frights are good. And the characters are really fun to watch. I'm giving this one a good mark for visuals, writing, and reminding me of the days when I read the Magnum Video new releases book like it was an instruction manual for life.

3/5

STEVE says:
After Re-animator, I watched pretty much any movie with the name H.P. Lovecraft attached to it. There would be some successes (From Beyond, The Resurrected, a couple episodes of Night Gallery - Pickman's Model and Cool Air) and there would be some tragedies (The Curse, Cthulhu Mansion, the Re-animator sequels). The Unnamable falls into the former category.

It's not a great movie, nor a great adaptation - but the story it's taken from is no bell-ringer, either. In fact, the entire story takes place in the scene following the credits, where Randolph Carter and his friend Joel Manton are discussing the concept of "the unnamable". It's one of those Lovecraft stories where the narrator reflects on a conversation,briefly glossing over the details, then throws a monster at us in the end.

Like From Beyond before it, The Unnamable uses the story as a springboard and speculates what may have happened afterwards. It borrows bits here and there from the Cthulhu Mythos, and of course the Necronomicon makes an appearance, so we're always well-aware that we're in Lovecraft territory.

There are some really gruesome effects, and the Unnamable creature of the title (which happens, quite contrarily, to be named Alyda Winthrop) is quite good. But it's Mark Kinsey Stephenson's Randolph Carter that makes this one worth watching, even through the somewhat plodding direction and typical haunted house storyline that comprises most of the film's running time. His dry delivery of "That's to be expected," when informed of the deaths of several of his friends at the hands of the Unnamable beast is at once both shocking and hilarious.

As adaptations go, The Unnamable would score pretty low marks, but the effects and Carter - not to mention his erstwhile sidekick Howard Damon - are reason enough to bump it up a bit.

3/5

Out of the Past, dir. Jacques Tourneur (1947)

13 May 2008

The Curse, dir. David Keith (1987)

NIKKI says:
I knew it was going to be bad, I had no idea it was going to be as horrendously awful as it was. Wow, it was bad on a new level. Not only was the acting bad, the script terrible, the direction imperceptible -- it simply didn't make much sense. Characters were introduced and then they disappeared, those that stuck around suffered from terrible stereotyping. and -- worst of all -- the movie opened with Bo Duke getting led of screaming in a cop car, sort of like Kevin McCarthy in invasion of the Body Snatchers -- yet the movie ends with Wil Wheaton watching his house get swallowed up by the curse, Bo Duke beside him. So, how did we get from this to Bo Duke with the cops?

Oh man.

The premise, likely thanks to H.P. Lovecraft, is actually quite interesting: A meteor lands on an old man's farm and starts turning the family members how live there insane. The old farmer is all super-religious and he refuses to get help for the family, choosing to solve the problems on his own. Obviously, he fails, and it's all about the pride of the farmer on dying land, and all that. But, the movie doesn't embrace these themes, and instead becomes just silly.

I am sure everyone involved thought they were doing something really brilliant. Oh, poor deluded souls. It's just sad and tragic, and I feel bad for them all.

1/5

STEVE says:
Oh, man - where are Mike and the 'bots when you need them?

I knew The Curse was bad going in, that's the thing. I watched it with my friend Vince back in 1987, and even then I knew it was shite. Now I didn't expect it to get any better with age, but I thought it might be more fun to watch, you know, in the post-MST3K era.

It wasn't.

I'm not sure whether to blame David Keith's direction or David Chaskin's script. The direction was just plain sad, but the script wasn't genius either. Chaskin plucked many elements from the story, but arranged them in such a way as to leave out the plot. However, since the original title of the script was The Well (a major plot point in Lovecraft's story), I'm not sure how much of the blame he deserves.

Perhaps it was just studio interference, or a combination of all of the above. Either way, The Curse is the hands-down worst of the Lovecraft films.

.5/5

12 May 2008

The Call of Cthulhu, dir. Andrew Leman (2005)

NIKKI says:
Lovecraft Week is going well. This one was especially successful. I don't think I've seen anything like it. It's an experimental-type film, based on a Lovecraft story, that pretends to be a silent film from 1925. It comes complete with stark b/w lighting, stage make-up, and old-timey stop-motion effects. I worried I might not get into it, but it was absolutely gripping.

The movie is about an old professor who leaves his box of Cthulhu stuff to his nephew. The nephew becomes obsessed as the professor was, and heads out to find the truth behind the cult. The call of the beast sends him mad...

Somebody wrote on the Database:
"The story embodies HPL's nihilistic world view, his cosmic perspective, and his sense that mankind is doomed by its own insignificance."

Great way of putting it. I'm fairly new the Lovecraft oeuvre, but that's a worldview I can get behind. These old stories are just amazing -- the author writing a hundred years ago with this sad future for the world that's coming true. The beat might not be a big octopus with tentacles and scary eyes, but it's something... I love the subtext, the metaphors. All in all, loving Lovecraft Week.

4/5

STEVE says:
The Call of Cthulhu may be the best, most faithful Lovecraft adaptation ever. Director Andrew Leman and screenwriter Sean Branney have crafted the film in a way so faithful to Lovecraft's story that it maintains the flashback within a flashback within a flashback structure - and pulls it off.

Clocking in at 45 minutes, it manages to tell the complete story without reworking it (Re-animator), using it as a springboard (From Beyond and The Unnamable), or embellishing an already workable story to create some awful hybrid (The Lurking Fear).

I guess I shouldn't expect anything less from the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society.

They're working on a second film, The Whisperer in Darkness. Though it won't be silent, I expect it to be every bit as faithful to both Lovecraft and the film making techniques from the time-period. The Call of Cthulhu is really an amazing accomplishment.

4/5

11 May 2008

The Resurrected, dir. Dan O'Bannon (1992)

STEVE says:
Thus begins our week of HP Lovecraft adaptations. I haven't seen The Resurrected in over 10 years, but I remember liking it. Turns out, as it often does, that it's not as great in reality as in memory, but it wasn't a bad one to start off with.

Based on The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, it probably sticks closer to the original story than any of the other, more famous adaptations of Lovecraft's work (Re-animator leaps to mind, as does From Beyond, nothing against Stuart Gordon), but I don't know whether that's good or bad. Lovecraft is so hard to film because he was maddeningly vague with description, and somewhat circular in his writing (at one point in the movie there's a flashback within a flashback within a flashback - no mean feat - and that's pretty much the way Lovecraft would have written the story).

The acting - while earnest - was more wooden that I remember, the effects - though nice and gory - were reminiscent of low-rent Rob Bottin, and the script - always interesting - could have used another pass. But O'Bannon and his crew still did a fairly good job. I was never bored during the film, and the pseudo-noir framework certainly helped in that regard.

Maybe not one of the best Lovecraft movies out there, but definitely not the worst.*

2.5/5

*Tune in later this week for The Curse, based on The Colour out of Space.

NIKKI says:
I think I enjoyed this a little bit more than Steve. Could be because what I got was exactly what I expected and nothing more -- dodgy, early '90s horror. An added bonus for me was the inclusion in the cast of Robert Romanus, who I had a mad crush on back in the day. I don't exactly know why my crush was as great as it was as he's not exactly a Jeff Fahey-type hunk-o-rama. So great was my crush, though, that I watched some of the worst movies ever simply because he was in them -- Dangerous Curves and Bad Medicine to name just two. He was probably one of the better features of this movie. Still, dodgy though it was, it was an okay start to Lovecraft Week.

Romanus's character works for a private detective who has been hired by a woman to find out just what her husband is up to in their garage at all hours of the night. He receives deliveries in body-shaped boxes, and there's a smell emanating from the building that keeps the birds well clear of the skies above. As the detective and his crew dig deeper, we discover that the guy in question -- Charles Dexter Ward -- is experimenting with the dead. Oooh -- not a hard guess.

The reason to see this film, really, is the special effects. This pretty much is one of the most outrageously gruesome films I've seen. Get this -- the experiments here involve human beings resurrected from the dead, but not quite all the way. When this happens, Ward simply discards the almost-remains. Ugh, are they horrid, but just about perfect when you think of Lovecraft's famous "too horrible to describe!" writing technique.

Not great, but not a total loss either.

2/5

10 May 2008

Tremors, dir. Ron Underwood (1990)

NIKKI says:
We just wanted something fun this afternoon. We tossed around a few titles -- I was up for Wayne's World or something like that. Just something to kick back to, with our fish and chips, in the hours before I had to go to work.

Tremors turned out to be a good choice. We both hadn't seen it in ages, and it was still as funny and cool as it always was. We basically sat through it pointing out all the reasons why we like it, from the music right up to the decent non-digital effects. I, of course, love it for Kevin Bacon's hair, but who doesn't?

The movie just reminds of the simple days, when movies were fun, Fred Ward got leads, and the Jacoby brothers were go-to-guys whenever a movie needed a teenage brat.

I do think we should pick up the three sequels -- all of which my video store has. Steven Keaton takes over as the lead worm rustler in the fourth one, and you know that has to be good.

3.5/5

STEVE says:
I always kinda dug this movie. Must have watched it 50 times with my brother, quoting lines from it all the time. Our favorite came from Kevin Bacon: "See, we plan ahead, that way we don't do anything right now. Earl explained it to me."

I didn't realize at the time that it was a throwback to 50s monster movies, largely because I hadn't seen many at the time. In the 80s and early 90s I was stuck on slasher flicks and Universal horrors from the 40s. I'd yet to be acquainted with the likes of Them!, It Came from Outer Space or The Monolith Monsters.

Tremors works as more than just an homage to those movies; it's a good movie on its own. Well-written by S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock, with characters that you don't want to see killed and eaten straight out the gate (except for Bobby Jacoby), it's the rarest of animals in the horror genre - the horror-comedy done well.

But that still doesn't make me want to rush out and see the sequels. Or the TV show. Sometimes you just have to quit while you're ahead.

3.5/5

09 May 2008

Iron Man, dir. Jon Favreau (2008)

STEVE says:
Hey, Fantastic 4, Punisher, Daredevil! See? That's how you do that.

I went into Iron Man knowing nothing at all about it: I've never read an Iron Man comic, and know nothing about the character, his origins, his nemeses, none of it, so I had no preconceived notions about what the movie should be, and could judge it only on what it was.

And what it was was absolutely fucking awesome.

4/5

NIKKI says:
Is it better if you go in with no idea what you're looking at? I have no knowledge whatsoever of Iron Man, the comic, its history, the villains, and heroes, and whatnot. I'm like Deb -- I hear the words "iron man", I think of the Nutri-Grain cereal: "Iron man food!"

Still, the previews for this looked really good. I felt after so many lame movies of this type (the Spiderman sequels, X-Men 3, Fantastic Four), we were finally looking at something ready to turn that around. It appeared smart, funny, and slightly subversive with Jon Favreau at the helm and Robert Downey Jnr in the lead. Those two guys are as far from comic book movie guys as one can get.

Turns out the previews didn't lie. This is probably the best superhero movie since the original Superman. It's fast, it's clever, it's got its adult audience firmly in mind, and it doesn't waste time on stupid romantic subplots or windbag on about the state of the world. It gets in there, does its thing, and we come out knowing who iron man loves, and how he feels about his country.

It's good storytelling, good direction, and filled with a cast of real actors. Oh, wasn't that just the best? Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow -- real actors and not just hotties ripped from hip TV shows or newbies I have no chance of relating to. Everything came together to make for a really cool experience. It had cute robots, good computer effects (for once), and Ralphie was in it, from A Christmas Story. I'll see it again, for sure.

4.5/5

08 May 2008

The Blob, dir. Chuck Russell (1988)

NIKKI says:
I haven't watched this movie since I was about 12, and thought Kevin Dillon was cool, but felt bad for him that he had so much to live up to as another brother of a big star. Lots of them popped up in the '80s: Don Swayze, Chad Lowe, Billy Baldwin, Chris Penn, Charlie Sheen... some faring better than others in the fame department, of course. I love them all... obviously.

Kevin does well, though, to pull off the tough guy with the heart of gold. He's all rough and ready, smoking, wearing a leather jacket, rocking the hugest mullet ever. But when people start getting swallowed by a big giant pink slimy blob, he's ready to be the hero.

What a great movie this is. I had no idea is was such a good time. It's actually really effective, horror-wise, and the writing is good, which means the characters and story are engaging. I expected to sit and make fun of it, but I got so into it. By the end, the only thing I wished had been different was Kevin's hair.


Actually, I take that back. Man, the '80s were awesome.

My most favourite bits in the movie mostly had to do with the blob swallowing things. The effect was just really good. The blob would grab someone, squish him or her about in it's blubber, and invariably, the person would try to escape by running through the blob. It never worked. We just ended up seeing a strained, icky version of the person as the acidic blob walls shredded their skin. Eeew. The effects were just great.

So, a great horror adventure, a decent remake, and proof that computer effects are for lame-os.

3.5/5


STEVE says:

The remake of The Blob is neither as bad as it's supposed to be, nor as good as it could have been.

But more on this later...

3/5

07 May 2008

The Attic, dir. Mary Lambert (2008)

NIKKI says:
It looked like it could have been a nice little gothic thriller. A girl moves into a new house with her parents and think she has a twin sister living in the attic. It's all very M.R. James. But instead of offering creeps and ghost-y scares, this one provides only boredom.

There's really nothing to say about it. You'll guess the ending before you get there and it won't mean much that you do. I also felt, from the very start, that this one was off-key -- as in, you know how there's a beat to a scare? Set it up, give us a fake scare (cat jumping, window slamming, tree rustling), let us calm down, then... one, two, three, REAL SCARE. This tried to scare us like that, but seemed about three beats off where it needed to be.

So without good thrills, without a decent script, and with actors who should fucking not need to pay rent this bad (John Savage?!?!?), it makes for a gigantic mess.

.5/5

06 May 2008

The Ex, dir. Jesse Peretz (2006)

NIKKI says:
This one has been on my highly anticipated list ever since we saw the trailer back at the old place. Reason? Jason Bateman is just so funny. While that remains an obvious and indisputable, the movie wasn't as drop-dead funny as I had assumed it would be. The old colleague sabotage gag, turns out, was too old and crusty for even Bateman to breathe life into it.

Zach Braff and Amanda Peet have themselves a new baby, and decide to move to the suburbs. Zach takes a job at Amanda's dad's ad company, where he is forced to work under Bateman, a wheelchair-bound former cheerleading partner of Amanda's. They compete at work, and we find out that Bateman is deliberately sabotaging Zach at every turn in the hopes that he will win over Amanda. Zach is on to him early, and goes about trying to catch him out.

And, at 78 minutes, that's about it. I liked Bateman more when I thought his character was a dick, but he actually becomes quite evil in this. That wasn't really fun. The movie took on a really mean spirit towards the end, and really lost its zing.

So, lots of funny bits with Bateman, Charles Grodin says "Ah, fuck!" at one hilarious moment, and that's about it. Enjoyable, but no classic.

2.5/5

05 May 2008

Fade to Black, dir. Vernon Zimmerman (1980)

NIKKI says:
I expected a lot from this and got just chump change, really. It's all about a guy obsessed with movies who begins to take on the personae of his favourite movie characters. He haunts cinemas as Dracula, a fairground as Hopalong Cassidy, and when he wants to get tough, he all but becomes James Cagney in White Heat.

He does all this not out of love for the movies, really, but because he is actually quite mental and he can't otherwise correctly control his emotions. Great premise, right? Well, it doesn't really work, because the writing is really quite poor. There's Eric, the mental guy in question, and he's running about pissing everyone off with his smarmy attitude, which has taken over his actual personality as well as his fake ones. Then there's a doctor on his trail, that reackons society has ruined him with it's film imagery of violence and whatnot. Then there are the cops that (rightfully) want him out of the way -- he is murdering people, after all. Then there's the Marilyn Monroe lookalike who gets caught in his weird web, not once, but twice (and once in the shower).

All of these elements jumble about to create a confused, convoluted film. What should have been a story about a kid gone mad after confusing movies with real life due an horrendous upbringing (his mother/aunt is a beast), becomes more like a guy obsessed with film trivia just being weird. Dennis Christopher's performance gets stranger and stranger as the film progresses. He lacked the heart I think his character needed in order for me to sympathise with him as much as the doctor was. I don't know, therefore, who the hero was. Eric was annoying, killing people, and generally not inviting of my compassion at all.

It was fun, though, to look back on a movie like this. It's from 1980 and really tries to say something about life imitating art. It just needed a more skilled writer to pull it all together.

2/5

STEVE says:
Wow, what a massive let-down this was. I'd seen it before, something like 17 years ago. Doug brought it over and I remember thinking it was pretty cool at the time. Whether I actually thought it was cool is something else, but my memory is that it was a tight, clever thriller.

Not so.

The script is just bad, there's no way around it. Eric Binford's introduction consists of a few minutes of impossibly expository dialog delivered by his crazy, Norma Desmond-like wheelchair-bound aunt as she rails on about how his "poor mother" died in childbirth and it's his fault that she's in a wheelchair now, and blah blah blah. Backstory database type stuff that could actually have been introduced later - through the art of storytelling - rather than thrust upon us in the first few minutes.

A bit later, we meet two women jogging on the beach. The leggy, Marilyn Monroe look-alike has come over from Australia to be an actress. Her friend, the shorter Linda Blair look-alike is only there to give Marilyn someone to talk to. So they decide to grab something to eat, which is when they meet Eric. He's sitting at the counter leering at Marilyn and, after insulting her friend, asks Marilyn on a date that night. Marilyn agrees, but stands him up for Peter Horton and is out of the movie for the next half-hour or so. Fair enough 'cos it's not her story - so why'd we need the introduction on the beach?

Tim Thomerson receives the same treatment: introduction, standard background via expository dialog, disappear until convenient. It was all rather embarrassing. Makes me cautious about watching anything I vaguely remember liking from more than 15 years ago.

2/5