Thursday, September 28, 2017

QUEEN OF THE DAMNED

Queen of the Damned Movie Review

So after watching Interview With The Vampire for the first time, my girlfriend was reading about it online and said aloud "Hey, there's this other movie with Lestat called Queen of the Damned. Have you ever heard of it?" and instinctively I shuddered--I, in fact, HAD heard of Queen of the Damned, and even paid a dollar to see it in theatres way back in 2002--I recalled wanting my buck back as I walked out to my car. Some years later I found it on VHS for a quarter at a yard sale and thought to myself "Maybe it's not as bad as I remember", bought it, and never watched it. I warned my girlfriend my recollection of this film was not pleasant, but she insisted, so I dusted it off, we watched it, and good grief, it is even worse than I remembered. Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and pretty much everybody involved with Interview With The Vampire wanted nothing to do with this film, and when you watch it, you see why. Lestat is now played by Stuart Townsend, who actually did a pretty good job as Dorian Gray in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but is nothing short of dreadful here. Oh yeah, and Lestat is now a rock star--not just a rock star, but the lead singer in a nu-metal band, with vocals provided by Jonathan Davis of Korn. So now we have a grade C Lestat with the voice of Jonathan Davis and nu-metal played throughout the entire film--and somehow, it gets even worse. The ""Queen" is Egyptian Akasha, played by late singer Aaliyah, of Brooklyn, New York--she sort of walks like a snake slithering around and turns in a performance even worse than that of Townsend. The special effects are what you would expect from a college project. The dialogue is laughable. The directing is beyond bad. The story is dull, the ending is even worse, and did I mention you are subjected to nu-metal the entire time? Anne Rice, the author of the books this film and Interview were based on, disowned this movie, and watching it, you will wonder how this ever made it to the big screen.

The movie sucks even more than this guy does

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 2


Queen of the Damned Movie Trailer

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE: THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES

Interview With The Vampire Movie Review

In modern day San Francisco (or modern day when the film came out in 1994 anyway), Vampire Louis (Brad Pitt, World War Z) tells a young reporter (Christian Slater, Heathers, Pump Up The Volume) the story of how he became a vampire, and all the hell and loneliness that came with it. This film, based on the novel from Anne Rice, approaches the vampire genre in ways we may not have seen at the time. We see a character, Louis, who has chosen to become a vampire, but very soon regrets his decision, and we are presented with the many reasons why. We see Louis learn from the vampire who transformed him, Lestat (Tom Cruise, The Mummy), a vampire much more comfortable in his own skin, and their friendship borders closely on the romantic side, something else considered groundbreaking at the time. What I remember most about the time leading up to the release of this film, however, is the doubt practically everybody had when Cruise was cast as Lestat--for the younger crowd, recall the backlash when it was announced Heath Ledger would be playing The Joker and amplify that even more--but Cruise not only silenced the critics, he turned in arguably the performance of a lifetime.

"Doubt me, will you?"

The story here is a very interesting one, and it presents thoughts about the life of an immortal that people may have never considered before. You feel for Louis, and for the "daughter" (Kirsten Dunst, Spider-Man) Louis and Lestat bring on board, and you even feel for Lestat himself--the scene near the end when Louis finds Lestat alone in the modern world is absolutely tragic. The cinematography and music are both outstanding in this movie, and while Pitt may be not have been the best choice for the role of Louis, the cast is impressive, with Dunst stealing the scenes she's in. The vampires are a nice combination of the "attractive" vampires we were seeing emerge around this time...

"Lestat, how's my hair?"

...and the frightening vampires we were more accustomed to.

"Yeah, I ate alligators...at least they weren't rats!"

At just over two hours, the film runs a bit long, and it certainly loses steam when Lestat disappears for a while, but overall,  Interview With The Vampire still stands as one of the better vampire films. 

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 8


Interview With The Vampire Movie Trailer

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

IT (aka It: Chapter One) (2017) (From The Theatre)

It Movie Review

A group of teenagers must face their deepest fears in the form of Pennywise, a demented dancing clown who can project himself into the image of what most frightens the children. The kids must find a way to battle the clown, who, by the way, enjoys eating children and/or bringing them into his underground lair. This 2017 movie is based on the classic 1986 Stephen King novel, and is the second visual take on the book, the first being the 1990 television mini-series of the same name. I won't spend a ton of time comparing this film to either the novel (which I haven't read in forever) or the mini-series other than to say two things: the 2017 film can get away with a lot more than the television version could (it's rated R) and, whereas the mini-series jumped back and forth over the 27 year period that the novel spans, the 2017 film focuses exclusively on the Losers' Club as children, with a second film to come to cover 27 years later (due out in 2019).

Oh yeah, and Pennywise looks like this now

So you know how sometimes you see the news that Hollywood is remaking a horror favorite and you sigh, then you see the trailer and think "Okay, that doesn't look TOO bad", then the film shocks the world by getting rave reviews and smashing box office records and you think "Okay, maybe I will give this one a chance" and you walk into the theatre thinking "No way this is as good as everybody says" but then you watch it and as you walk out you say to yourself "Oh my God, it really IS as good as everybody says"? Yeah, that happened here. First and foremost, if you have not seen this movie, and it is still playing in the theatre as you are reading this, hurry to your local megaplex and see check it out...wait, finish reading this first, then go--this is a wonderful film to see on the big screen. Anyway, on to the movie--the scares are absolutely terrifying, the comedy is actually funny, the tension is strong, and, most surprising, the kids all do a fantastic job.

Losers' Club

To a person, every child actor in this movie nails their part, making the foul-mouthed characters likable and bringing believability to their friendship. Jaeden Lieberher is wonderful as Bill, the lead character, Sophia Lillis does a great job as Bev, and Jack Dylan Grazer (Brian's nephew) steals the show as Eddie, the hypochondriac who looks like me as a child and acts like my girlfriend as an adult. The movie makers are spot-on with the 1980s look and feel in this film, and the music matches it nicely as well--keep your eye on the walls in the kids' rooms for posters that scream 1980s. The cinematography is excellent, and though there is a bit too much CGI and a few too many jump scares for my taste, they are certainly not enough to ruin the film. I would not have imagined it when I first read this movie was being made, but It truly is one of the better horror movies to come out in quite some time.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 9


It Movie Trailer

Friday, September 15, 2017

SCREAM 4

Scream 4 Movie Review

After an eleven-year hiatus, the Scream franchise returned in 2011 with the appropriately titled Scream 4. Sidney (Neve Campbell) is now an author who has moved on with her life, but when she returns to her hometown of Woodboro, another Ghostface copycat killer begins to terrorize the small town once more. So after the original, the characters of Scream 2 gave us the rules of the sequel, while the characters of Scream 3 laid out the rules of the final film of the trilogy--Scream 4 gives us the rules of a remake, and this movie certainly feels a lot more like a remake of the original 1996 film than it does a continuation of the franchise. The movie begins with a few false starts that are both hilarious and terrifying, showing the Stab franchise is still going strong. Gale and Dewey are back again, and while they are not as prominent as they are in the third film, they are still in this movie way too much. We are introduced to a whole new group of teenagers, each essentially mirroring a character from the original film. This one also brings back a lot of the violence missing from the third film, and may be the goriest of the series.

She spilled her guts to him

It was nice to have a Scream film actually feel like a Scream film again, but the characters very much pale in comparison to the ones they are mirroring--Emma Roberts (Nerve) does a fine job as Jill, Sid's cousin, but the remaining actors playing the group of teens turn in very forgettable performances--you get what you expect from the rest of the cast. While this film lacks the cleverness of the original, it is still well-written, albeit somewhat TOO self-aware. Still, Scream 4 is a very good horror movie, a wonderful final film from legendary horror director Wes Craven, and a fitting finale to the franchise.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 7


Scream 4 Movie Trailer

SCREAM 3

Scream 3 Movie Review

Set three years after the events of Scream 2, in this outing, we find that Sidney has done all she can to isolate herself from the world--meanwhile, the film franchise within the film franchise, Stab 3, has begun production, which is where Gale (Courteney Cox) finds Dewey (David Arquette), now hanging around Jennifer Jolie (Parker Posey of Dazed and Confused), the actress playing Gale in the latest Stab film. It doesn't take long for another Ghostface killer to begin hacking people to death, this time mainly on the set of Stab 3. This movie came out in 2000, and this was a weird time to be sure--Friends, which starred Cox, was a top 5 show on television, and Arquettte was the WCW World Champion in the world of professional wrestling.

I'm not making this up

I can only guess this popularity of the real-life couple is why the writer and director of this film decided to make this film "The Gale and Dewey Show", but my God, is it every annoying. The two characters become full-blown unbearable in this outing, and it takes away from the film more than I could ever properly explain. The film is very much more comedy and less horror than the two previous outings--aside from Gale and Dewey hamming it up, we see Jenny McCarthy show up to...actually, I don't know WHY she is here other than to play into one of the stereotypes the previous movies made fun of. If that wasn't ridiculous enough, we also get...wait for it...

Jay and Silent Bob...IN A SCREAM MOVIE!!

Detective Mark Kincaid (Patrick Dempsey, Enchanted) warns us that all bets are off in the final outing of a movie trilogy, and that certainly seems to be the case here, but not in any good way. While the intertextuality of seeing the movie within the movie is expanded and actually somewhat cool here, it also helps to illustrate that Scream 3 has come full circle from the first film in the franchise and is...gasp...precisely the dumbed-down kind of movie the original mocked. 

She realizes it too

Patrick Warburton (our Soarin' Chief Flight Attendant) and veteran horror actor Lance Henriksen both turn in good performances, but it is Posey who steals the show in this one--I shudder to think how much less bearable this movie would have been had she not been a part of it. The reveal at the end could have saved this movie, but unfortunately, it is so absurd it is almost laughable. Scream was meant to be a three and out franchise--thankfully, Wes Craven had one more left in him, though we'd have to wait a while for it.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 5



Scream 3 Movie Trailer

SCREAM 2

Scream 2 Movie Trailer

Released just a year after the successful movie Scream, Scream 2 finds Sidney, now a college student, trying to escape the horrors she had just gone through in the first film--this is made all the more difficult because the story has inspired a film titled Stab, and now a copycat killer is on the loose at her university. Following the success of the first film we knew this one was coming, because--let's face it, baby--these days, you gotta have a sequel! Just as in the first film, the characters acknowledge the horror genre, discuss sequels, and, in a film class, struggle to come up with a sequel that was better than the original--Scream 2 certainly is not one of them, but that's not to say all is bad here.

Dr. Foreman won't be around for part 3

Unfortunately, the all the best characters in Scream were killed off, so we are left with the rest--returning from the first film to join Sidney are Randy (Jamie Kennedy), not-the-killer Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber), Deputy Dewey (David Arquette), and reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox)--they are joined by a whole crop of young people you will likely recognize, including Sarah Michelle Gellar (The Grudge), Jerry O'Connell (Stand By Me, Piranha 3-D), Timothy Olyphant (The Crazies), Rebecca Gayheart (Urban Legend), heavy metal legend Jada Pinkett Smith, Luke Wilson (Soul Survivors), Heather Graham (License To Drive), Joshua Jackson (Shutter), and even Portia de Rossi of Arrested Development fame, so saying "Hey, look who it is!" will be something you will do more than a few times as you watch this one. This film is where we begin to see the story shift a bit from Sidney to Dewey and Gale, which is unfortunate in that neither character gives you much reason to care about them--or their on again, off again relationship--and whereas Dewey was funny and quirky in the first film, he begins to get a bit more irritating in this one; Gale, already irritating in the first film, is even more so here. The movie progresses at a good pace, and the death scenes are interesting. The reveal is a bit of a stretch, but certainly not something inconceivable, and is a bit more obvious than that of the first movie. While the humor from Scream is still there, and still effective, the scares are less, the story less impressive, and the twists not nearly as interesting as in the first film--still, as sequels go, this one isn't too bad.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 7


Scream 2 Movie Trailer

SCREAM

Scream Movie Review

A masked maniac begins killing students of Woodsboro High School, specifically targeting Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell, The Craft), a girl who previously helped convict the alleged killer of her mother. This 1996 horror film is largely credited with bringing new life to the slasher genre, and really to the horror genre in general--the late 80's and early 90's were filled with cookie-cutter horror films that ranged from bad to awful, and, before the release of Scream, many people had considered the genre dead. Writer Kevin Williamson and legendary director Wes Craven combined to bring Scream to life, and the world was given a horror film the likes of which it had not seen before--this film was scary, bloody, funny, and extremely clever. The movie points out the cliches and short-comings of many horror films before it, while also paying homage to horror classics such as A Nightmare On Elm Street, Halloween, and Psycho, and, in something that was rare at the time, the characters in the film acknowledge the existence of horror films--many of the lead characters are even fans of the genre. The movie also went against the grain of the horror genre by casting some big name stars, including the top-billed Drew Barrymore, and proceeded to shock the audience with the opening scene.

"My popcorn is burning!"

Scream has a ton going for it--the dialogue is smart, the story is multi-leveled and interesting on every one, the acting is very good, the scares are actually scary and the comedy is funny, and the reveal at the end is as shocking as the opening scene. The characters are very likable as well, and Matthew Lillard (SLC Punk!, Thir13en Ghosts) steals the show as Stu. The only real complaint I have with this film is the Gale Weathers character, though, compared to the films to come, she's not TOO terrible here. Over twenty years after its release, Scream stands as one of the more influential horror films ever made, and is considered on of the all-time greats, a title I myself don't mind giving it.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 9

 
Scream Movie Trailer

Saturday, September 9, 2017

THE CROW

The Crow Movie Review

One year after he and his fiancee are murdered, rocker Eric Draven, accompanied by a crow, returns from the grave to seek revenge on the group of miscreants responsible for their deaths. This 1994 film, unfortunately, is probably best known for the on-set death of star Brandon Lee, a tragedy I will not address here--not only was his death unfortunate for the obvious reasons, but it also overshadows what turned out to be a pretty incredible film. Visually, the movie holds true to the 1989 comic series it was based on, and the characters--particularly the villains--are over-the-top in the greatest of ways.

Fire it up!

As good as all those actors are in their portrayals, they all pale in comparison to Lee as Draven, turning in a performance for the ages, struggling with the reality that the woman he loved died such a brutal death as he teeters on madness in his quest for revenge. 

You got a lot of spirit son

The movie blends a good bit of violence and combines action, sci-fi, superhero, and horror nicely, but ultimately--and I have made this argument since I first saw it back in 1995--this is a love story. If you are fortunate enough (as am I) to have somebody you love as much as Eric loves Shelly, you can relate to how Draven feels and reacts in this movie. The Crow is probably secondarily known for its soundtrack--the music of Stone Temple Pilots, The Cure, Machines of Loving Grace, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Nine Inch Nails, and more add a tremendous amount to the overall mood of the film and is, in my opinion, one of the all-time great movie soundtracks. Speaking of the mood--don't look for much uplifting stuff in this one--this is one of those movies that could put you into a sadness that will stick with you for a while. The Crow stands as a cult-like film--a little ahead of its time, a bit flawed, very influential, and grossly underappreciated. 

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 9


The Crow Movie Trailer