Archive for May, 2011


Posted in 2011, Comedies, LL Soares Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2011 by knifefighter

Movie Review by L.L. Soares

Since we reviewed the new comedy THE HANGOVER PART II yesterday, I thought I might as well review the other big comedy that came out over the past few weeks, since it’s just as good (maybe even better).

I have to admit, I didn’t think I’d like this one. I don’t care about weddings or bridesmaids and this seemed totally geared to a younger, female audience. But I was wrong. BRIDESMAIDS is actually a pretty funny movie. Starring  Kristen Wiig (who also co-wrote the script), an alum of Saturday Night Live who has been appearing in lots of movies lately in smaller roles, BRIDESMAIDS is one of those rare things: a comedy with heart and real characters.

Wiig plays Annie, a single woman whose only relationship with a guy these days is providing booty calls for obnoxious businessman Ted (Jon Hamm from the TV series Mad Men), and who wants something more out of  her life. Her last real relationship ended in heartbreak, her cake business went belly up due to the bad economy, and she has a hard time trusting anyone except for her closest friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph). But even that gets taken away from her when Lillian announces she’s getting married to her long-time boyfriend. While you’d think this would be a big deal for Lillian, it turns out to be an even bigger deal for Annie, whose life is suddenly turned upside down.

When Lillian asks Annie to be her Maid of Honor, things just get more insane. Annie suddenly finds herself with a lot of responsibility. Not only does she want everything to be perfect for Lillian’s wedding, but the preparations just emphasize in Annie’s mind everything that is going wrong in her own life. It doesn’t help that Lillian’s “new best friend,” is Helen (Rose Byrne) a super-rich perfectionist (she’s the wife of Lillian’s fiancée’s boss), who not only butts in on the Maid of Honor duties, but also is in constant competition for Lillian’s affections. Even though Lillian and Annie have been friends since childhood, they live in different cities now and don’t see each other as much as they used to. So, obviously, life goes on, and Lillian spends a lot of her time with Helen. Most of us have been in these situations, where friends from childhood drift apart a little more than we’d like, and new friendships are formed. It’s just the way life works. But Annie hasn’t moved on, and Lillian is one of the only things she’s got left. So she is devastated that Lillian’s life has changed so much.

The bridesmaids who Annie has to get together with and make arrangements (for fittings, a shower, a bachelorette party, etc.) include: the previously mentioned Helen; Becca (Ellie Kemper) a recent newlywed; Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), a dissatisfied mother of two; and Megan (Melissa McCarthy), the sister of the groom, who is a bit aggressive, coarse, and…um…”butch.”

In trying to do everything she can to make Lillian’s wedding perfect, Annie just makes things horrible, as things build up toward a showdown with Helen, and in turn, Lillian. At one point, Lillian even kicks Annie out of her wedding party.

While the bridesmaids storyline does get a lot of laughs—there’s a dress fitting at a fancy boutique that turns ugly due to a rash of food poisoning (can you say “projectile vomiting?”); a flight to Vegas for a bachelorette party that lands prematurely after Annie causes a commotion after downing some pills Helen gives her to relax; and a Paris-themed shower that eventually turns ugly—and while the movie itself is called BRIDESMAIDS, I found that the movie was really all about Annie and her emotional crisis in the face of her best friend’s happiness.

We’ve seen a lot of Kristen Wiig lately, she’s appeared in everything from  SNL to movies like WHIP IT and ADVENTURELAND (both 2009), McGRUBER and DATE NIGHT (both 2010) and this year’s extraterrestrial comedy, PAUL. She always stands out, she always gets a laugh, and she’s proven herself to be a go-to character actress for a lot of directors. It’s about time someone gave this woman a leading role. And she’s brilliant in it. You care about this character, and she can be very funny. I would go so far as to say Wiig is the number one reason to see BRIDESMAIDS.

For people who like raunchy humor, there’s plenty of that, too. This is an R-rated comedy for a reason, and the movie’s sensibility reminded me a lot of movies like THE HANGOVER and a multitude of Judd Apatow productions.

Aside from Wiig, other stand-out performances include Melissa McCarthy as the extremely vulgar Megan. She steals just about every scene she’s in with her gross antics, and yet she’s got a lot of heart as well. It’s funny to see this woman who played such a sweet character as Sookie from the TV show The Gilmore Girls, now playing such a gross-out character as Megan. Rose Byrne is point perfect as the snooty Helen, who also turns out to be very sympathetic as we get to know her, and Wendi McLendon-Covey has several very funny lines as the unhappy mother of teenagers. Jon Hamm is suitably shallow and a complete jerk as Ted. And Chris O’Dowd has one of the best roles in the movie as Officer Nathan Rhodes, a cop who pulls Annie over for a broken break light and who eventually gets involved with her. Rhodes is a totally sweet guy – the exact opposite of womanizer Ted – and the scenes between Wiig and O’Dowd are very well done, as Annie slowly comes to realize not all men are jerks.

Director Paul Feig’s past work has mostly been on television (shows like Arrested Development, Weeds and Nurse Jackie), and he does a fine job here. Of course the great script by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo must have made his job a helluva lot easier.

BRIDESMAIDS is the kind of movie a lot of guys would go see as a date movie and unexpectedly find themselves laughing out loud to.

I am predicting that BRIDESMAIDS will be the movie to make Kristen Wiig a star, and rightly so. I hope to see a lot more of this terrific actress and comedian. I give this one three knives.


© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives BRIDESMAIDS three knives!



Posted in 2011, Cinema Knife Fights, Comedies, Sequels with tags , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2011 by knifefighter

By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: A filthy hotel room in the middle of Bangkok. LL SOARES wakes up in the bathtub, dressed in a torn Pee Wee Herman outfit, and stares up at the cracked and leaking ceiling)

LS: Where the hell am I?

(Strange circus music is coming from a closet. LS approaches a closet door and opens it. Tigers and monkeys come pouring out. He scratches his head. When they’re all out, LS hears a loud groan. He turns and sees MICHAEL ARRUDA roll off the top of a bunk bed and crash to the floor. MA sits up quickly.)

MA: What just happened? Why are you dressed like Pee-Wee Herman? (looks at himself) And why am I wearing STAR TREK pajamas?

LS: You packed those yourself.

MA: I did not. (sees himself in mirror and screams). What happened to my face?

LS: You have a tattoo. It’s about time.

MA: What the hell kind of a tattoo is this? It looks like a dinner roll with a crack in it.

LS: Hmmm, now that I really look at it, I think it’s a butt.

(MA screams again)

LS: You’re a Butthead! I like it!

MA: This is awful! How did we get here? What’s going on?

LS: Well, remember last night? We were drinking with John Harvey, I think. I can’t remember much else.

MA: Drinking with John Harvey? That’s not a good sign. I don’t remember (closes his eyes) Okay, it’s coming back to me now. I remember, I think. Where is John, anyway?

LS: Well he sure isn’t here.

MA: How did we— this is just awful.

LS: It’s not so bad. Stuff like this happens to me all the time.

(A tiger roars, and they turn around to see a room full of them, pacing back and forth. Little monkeys in baby clothes run around the ceiling beams)

LS: They won’t hurt us, as long as we show no fear.

MA: And you know this because—?

LS: I told you. I have experience with this sort of thing.

MA: Don’t we have a movie to review?

LS: Oh yeah, I forgot. We’re reviewing THE HANGOVER PART II this time around. This is something new for us. We don’t usually review regular comedies, usually just the horror comedies, like SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004) and ZOMBIELAND (2009).

MA: I’d feel better reviewing this movie someplace else, away from the tigers.

LS: Do you always have to play it safe? Where’s your sense of adventure?

MA: Fine. Start the review. We’ll just look tough and hope the tigers aren’t hungry.

(One of the tigers puts on a bib and starts rubbing a knife and fork together)

LS: Okay. THE HANGOVER PART II takes place a few years after the first movie. Once again we are introduced to buddies Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis). Oh yeah, and Doug (Justin Bartha). But we don’t see much of Doug, just like last time.

In the last movie, for those who didn’t see it, the guys had a bachelor party for Doug in Vegas, and got completely drunk (and were unexpectedly drugged, too) and woke up to a nightmare as they tried to piece together the events of the night before. As they slowly put the pieces together, the hijinks they were up to the night before just get worse and worse. This time around, it’s goofy nice-guy dentist Stu who’s getting married, to Lauren (Jamie Chung), a sweet girl whose father is a big businessman in Thailand. So they have the wedding there and invite their closest friends to join them.

MA: Yeah, Stu broke up with his mean girlfriend from the first movie.

LS: Yeah, that was nice to see.

One thing about Thailand, it sure is beautiful. There are some great shots of the mountains and forests, and it just looks amazing.

But sightseeing is not what this movie is about.

MA: Unless you’re into seeing naked Asian men named Chow hop around and spew out obscenities. That character sure is annoying!

LS: Oh yeah, the hyper Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), the Asian gangster from the first movie who made the guys’ lives miserable, is along for the ride this time, too. Since then, he’s become Alan’s buddy and comes to town for the wedding—as well as lots of illegal activity—which just creates more complications for everyone.

(Suddenly someone who is hanging on to the ceiling fan above their heads jumps down. It’s a naked MR. CHOW)

CHOW: Did someone call Chow? It’s time to party, bee-yitches!

MA: Oh, no! It’s him.

CHOW: You got that right! Time to holler!

(MA pushes him out of an open window and CHOW hollers as he falls four floors down)

LS: That wasn’t very nice.

MA: Ya think?

LS: But you’re usually the nice guy in this team.

MA: Well, that’s one of the reasons CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT works so well. We’re unpredictable. You never know what’s going to happen, or which one of us is going to lose it.

LS: It’s about time you showed your dark side.

Anyway, back to the movie.

This time, the guys are determined not to get out of control before the wedding ceremony. They just sit around a bonfire on a beach, drinking beers with Lauren’s younger brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), when…you guessed it…they wake up the next day in a filthy Bangkok hotel room – just like this one we’re in – and have to figure out how they got there and what they did the night before. Oh yeah, in the first movie, they had to find out what had happened to Doug, who had disappeared for most of the film. This time around, they lose Teddy, and have to track him down.

When Alan wakes up, he finds his head is shaved and Stu finds he has a tribal tattoo on his face (much like the one Mike Tyson has – oh yeah, Tyson was in the first movie, so that’s where he got the idea!)

MA: Speaking of Mike Tyson— yeah, he was in the first movie, and he shows up again here to sing a song. Now, I know his singing was supposed to be bad on purpose (at least I hope it was!) but I gotta tell you, it was so dreadfully horrible, it might just be the worst singing I’ve ever heard in a movie! It sounded the way I imagine a moose might sound if it could sing.

LS: Their adventures—or rather, misadventures—bring them into contact with everything from severed fingers and cigarette-smoking monkeys, to Russian drug dealers and transsexual strippers, to Buddhist monks and even some American gangsters, led by an effective but mostly underused Paul Giamatti. There’s a corpse to get rid of and someone has to be bailed out of a Bangkok jail. So, it gets complicated.

(A monkey dressed in a tutu pees on MA’s head from above)

(MA raises a pistol and shoots the monkey.)

LS: You really are showing your dark side today.

MA: Let’s just say I don’t really enjoy getting peed on, okay?

LS: PART TWO pretty much follows the same exact formula as the first HANGOVER (2009). It’s just in a different locale. So there’s not a lot of originality here. That said, the cast is solid and there are some big laughs. Although I thought it would be pretty much non-stop funny throughout—it wasn’t. There were some stretches without much laughs. But the good gags were very good.

MA: PART TWO follows the exact same formula as the original, but in this case, it isn’t a bad thing. Sure, this sequel does lack the freshness of the first one, but it hardly matters. The reason the first movie was so successful was because of its formula— three guys waking up after a drunken night out, with no memory of the night before, finding themselves in one crazy predicament after another, as they try to locate their missing friend. If the sequel had the same three guys doing something else, say on a cross country trip adventure, it wouldn’t be the same, because the best part of the original was the gimmick of the three guys piecing together their previous night.

So this is a case where repeating the same gimmick is a good thing because it’s the gimmick we want to see.

LS: Well, I don’t know how well future sequels will hold up. This formula is bound to get tired eventually. For me, the characters are just as important as the formula. I enjoy these movies because I like Phil, Stu and Alan. I think they’re great characters.

MA: See, I’m not a big fan of these characters. If I had to choose, I’d rather watch another movie with the same gimmick but different characters, as opposed to another movie with the same characters in a different plot, which is kind of weird, since usually if I don’t like the characters, I don’t like the movie. Then again, I don’t dislike these characters. I just don’t think they’re the strength of the movie.

LS: And if the next sequel deviated from the formula a little, I don’t think I’d mind too much, as long as it gave the characters a lot to do. Hell, I even like Mr. Chow.

MA: I hate that guy!

LS: I know, I know.

(A hand reaches in through a window, as MR. CHOW pulls himself back into the room. He’s bruised and bloody from his fall)

CHOW: Did someone call Chow? (smiles) Here I am!

(MA slams the window closed, crushing CHOW’s hand. He lifts the window pane again, and CHOW falls four floors down again)

CHOW: Aieeeeeeee!

MA: THE HANGOVER movies don’t play like traditional comedies to me, which is why I like them, even though I don’t think their overly funny. They play more like a television reality show. Watch three guys thrown into the middle of a foreign city try to solve the mystery of where they were/what they did, and locate their missing friend. Who knows what zany exploits these guys will experience, but you’ll tune in week after week to find out!

I like THE HANGOVER movies because they present a fun gimmick, more so than strong comedy.

LS: Whatever. As usual, Bradley Cooper plays Phil, the foul-mouthed, no-nonsense leader of the group. He’s the one who always keeps a cool head, and tries his best not to freak out as much as everyone else does. Cooper is pretty much the straight man in these movies, and he’s very good at it. As we’ve seen in recent films from MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN (2009) to LIMITLESS (2011), Cooper might just be the guy from this series to have a big career ahead of him as a serious leading man.

MA: I agree. I like Cooper a lot. That being said, I thought he was better in the first movie. He seemed to have less to do in this one. His character also looked bored at times, unlike Helms and Galifianakis who I though kept their characters fresh and energetic.

LS: Helms, as the jumpy dentist, Stu, is hilarious as he overreacts to just about everything, and struggles to keep his sanity intact as the guys desperately try to find out what they were up to the night before.

MA: I really enjoy Ed Helms in these movies.

LS: Yeah, me, too.

And Galifianakis, as the finicky, child-like Alan, continues to be very funny. One telling scene while Alan is meditating gives us a peak into his skull – where he and his friends are all children getting into mayhem. He doesn’t even perceive of himself as an adult, and it shows in everything he does.

MA: I was only lukewarm to Galifianakis in the first movie, as I thought his character was overrated, but he definitely grew on me in this movie. I found him funnier in this sequel. Also, with his shaved head, he was reminiscent of Curly Howard. Or maybe that was just wishful thinking on my part.

LS: Ken Jeong as Mr. Chow is a real highlight here, too, just as he was in the first movie. Unfortunately, he’s just not in this movie enough. When he’s onscreen, he’s very funny and the character is wildly unpredictable. But PART TWO could have used more of that.

MA: Mr. Chow, a highlight? I find that character so damned annoying! I think he’s the least funny part of both movies. I don’t find his shtick funny at all. He’s grating and annoying.

(There is a knock at the door. MA goes to answer it)

MA: Hello?

CHOW (bloodier now, and bones are sticking out of his body): Did someone call Chow? Here I am!

(MA pushes him down the stairs and slams the door shut)

LS: Like the first movie, this one was directed by Todd Phillips. I’ve followed his career ever since his first movie, HATED (1994), the documentary he did about punk legend, GG Allin. Soon after that, he dove into the world of comedy, making ROAD TRIP (2000) with Tom Green and OLD SCHOOL (2003), which pretty much made Will Ferrell a movie star.

Considering the state of modern comedies, THE HANGOVER films are one of the better franchises out there. But I’m not sure how much longer they can keep it up. The idea was fresh the first time around, but with PART TWO, the formula has already become predictable– even if there are still a few surprises along the way. And there are still some big laughs. I just wish there were more of them. Even the cigarette-smoking monkey, which I thought would be hilarious, wasn’t as funny as I expected.

MA: Yeah, these films are funny, but neither one was as funny as I expected them to be. But that being said, I still liked both movies a lot. Sure, I don’t know if I’d be into seeing a HANGOVER 3, but then again, it’s a gimmick that works, so why not? Their misadventures are just so wildly over the top and crazy they’re hard not to like.

Admittedly, the situations in the sequel don’t seem as outlandish as the situations in the original, but maybe that’s the repetitiveness setting in. And a lot of them are similar. Instead of finding a baby as they did in the original, this time it’s a monkey. Instead of losing a tooth, this time Stu has a facial tattoo.

LS: Yeah, when you put it that way, it is kind of “by-the-numbers.”

MA: But the comedy is there, even if the laughs don’t happen as often as you’d like. One funny line that I thought was good comedy was when Phil gets shot and they go to a Thai hospital for treatment, and as they’re leaving the hospital, Phil says “That was only $6.00. How is that possible?” Which I thought was a funny comment on today’s health care mess.

LS: Yeah, I liked that one, too.

MA: While, as you said, Todd Phllips directed both HANGOVER movies, the sequel had new writers, Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong, and the screenplay is pretty much what you would expect, which isn’t a bad thing. Let’s put it this way. This script isn’t going to win any awards for Best Screenplay, but that’s okay, because we’re not seeing THE HANGOVER movies for their writing.

If you liked the first one, you’ll like this one. I know I did. I give it three knives.

LS: It wasn’t as totally hilarious as I was hoping, but it was a lot of fun. What the hell, I’ll give it three knives, too.

You know, this is actually a good year for comedy. After I saw THE HANGOVER PART II, I went to see another new comedy, BRIDESMAIDS, and it was much funnier than I was expecting. Starring Kristen Wiig (from SNL and a ton of small roles in recent movies), who also co-wrote it, it was kind of the female version of THE HANGOVER, in some ways. Just as character-driven and not afraid to get raunchy. It’s kind of cool to have two decent comedies playing in theaters the same week.

MA: Hey, I think I just remembered what happened to John Harvey. Follow me.

LS: Okay.

(LS follows MA up to the roof of the building.)

MA: I remember he said he was heading to the roof to chat with the pigeons.

LS: Pigeons? What the hell are you talking about!

MA (points): Look, there he is!

LS: Whoa! What in the hell?

MA: John! John, wake up!

JOHN HARVEY (opens eyes): What happened? Where am I? Why do I feel so strange?

MA: We’re— not really sure what happened.

LS: Dude—how is that even possible?

MA: John, you’re a dwarf. (Holds mirror for JH to see himself, revealing his head is on the body of a little person).

JH: Aw hell! And I thought I was hallucinating when the Magical Little People said they would make me their brother. You guys want to help me track down those little buggers to get my real body back?

MA: Sure. I’m up for a little adventure.

JH: By the way, nice bow tie, LL.

LS: Shaddup, you.

Well, I guess anything can happen in Bangkok! Hey, let’s grab some breakfast first. I could eat a tiger and a bunch of monkeys!

MA: And we can finally get out of these clothes. Okay, folks, that’s it for now. We’ll see you next time after we get John Harvey’s body back.

LS: Michael, I think you should keep that tattoo. It suits you.

MA: Why don’t you go stick your head in one of those tiger’s mouths?

LS: Tsk tsk. I wonder what Mr. Chow would say.

CHOW (his hand grabs onto the edge of the roof, as he pulls himself up): Did someone call Chow?


© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives THE HANGOVER PART IIthree knives!

LL Soares gives THE HANGOVER PART IIthree knives, too!


Posted in 2011, Classic Films, Movie Quizes, Quick Cuts with tags , , , , on May 30, 2011 by knifefighter

With Michael Arruda

Here are the answers to the QUICK CUTS:  MOVIE QUIZ questions about Humphrey Bogart:

1)      What was the name of the only horror movie to star Humphrey Bogart?


Humphrey Bogart didn't even get top billing when he starred in THE RETURN OF DR. X (1939)

 2)      What was the name of the original movie to which Bogart’s film was a sequel? (at least in name only, as the two movies have very little in common.)


3)      Who played the title character in the original, and who played title character in Bogart’s sequel?

ANSWER:  Lionel Atwill played Dr. X in DOCTOR X, and Humphrey Bogart played Dr. X in the sequel, THE RETURN OF DR. X.

Humphrey Bogart as the evil Dr. X



Posted in 2011, Classic Films, Quick Cuts with tags , , , , , on May 28, 2011 by knifefighter

With Michael Arruda

Not too long ago, the movie DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT (2011) came out, about a detective who battles vampires and zombies. So, it’s a good time to remember one of the most famous film detective icons of all time, Humphrey Bogart.

Bogart holding THE MALTESE FALCON (1941)

Bogie’s unforgettable performances as gumshoe Sam Spade in THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) and as Philip Marlowe in THE BIG SLEEP (1946), as well as his performances in such powerhouse movies as CASABLANCA (1942) (considered by many to be the best movie of all time, where there seems to be a famous quote spoken by someone every five minutes), and THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951), for which Bogie won his only Oscar, are just as powerful today as they were then.  Bogart remains one of the most recognizable film icons even today, more than 50 years after his death in 1957.

So, in honor of Humphrey Bogart, here’s today’s quiz:

1)      Among Bogart’s 80 movies, he starred in a horror movie only once.  What was the name of that horror movie?

2)      What was the name of the original movie to which Bogart’s film was a sequel? (at least in name only, as the two movies have very little in common.)

3)      Who played the title character in the original, and who played the title character in Bogart’s sequel?

Answers on Monday!

Bogart in one of his best films, CASABLANCA (1942)

Friday Night Knife Fights: TWILIGHT vs. SAW vs. SCREAM – Part 2

Posted in 2011, Friday Night Knife Fights, Garbage, Psycho killer, Sequels, Slasher Movies, Vampires, Werewolves with tags , , , , , , , on May 27, 2011 by knifefighter

FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS- Free-for-all Cage Match
TWILIGHT vs. SAW vs. SCREAM:   Which one of the three is the WORST series? Part 2 (Conclusion)
By Michael Arruda and L.L.  Soares


 (the camera buzzes as the film rewinds, then starts again)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Moving onto our next question, if you were allowed to improve one of these franchises, which one would you like to improve, and just how would you improve it?

L.L. SOARES:  The way to improve these movies is to simply stop making them.

(A gargantuan cheer erupts from the audience, and suddenly LS is receiving a standing ovation.  Even MA stands to give him a hand.)

MA:  I couldn’t have said it better myself.

LS:  I know.

(film fades to black)

And now the conclusion to FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS:

(The camera starts again. The audience’s ovation finally dies down)

MA:  Welcome back to FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS.  L.L. and I are continuing our discussion of TWILIGHT vs. SAW vs. SCREAM, attempting to determine which one of the three is the worst series overall.

Now, LL, you were just saying that the best way to improve these movies would be to simply stop making them.

LS:  Why continue making crap?  End these things and put us out of our misery.

At least the SAW franchise claims to have done this. A new SAW movie always came out around Halloween time for years, but that’s gladly over with. Instead, we’ll get a new PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movie every October.

How about something new and different, instead of retreads?

MA:  Unfortunately, that’s the Hollywood formula.  As long as the retreads keep making money, Hollywood will keep churning them out.

I definitely agree with you on this point, that the best way to improve these franchises is to stop making them. However, if I had to choose one I’d want to improve, I’d choose SCREAM.  I’m not interested in touching either TWILIGHT or SAW.

To improve the SCREAM movies I would tweak the SCREAM formula by having the hip in-the-know-about-horror movies banter spoken only by characters whose lives aren’t in danger.  As soon as these characters are threatened by the masked menace, I’d have them react realistically, meaning they’d be scared to death, and they certainly wouldn’t be making wisecracks about horror movies.  That’s how it is now, and it kills any authenticity these stories might otherwise have.

And that’s all I have to say on the subject.  I’m not really all that interested in improving these series.  I’d prefer they’d just go away.

We’re getting closer to our goal of choosing the worst of the three.  Of the three series, which one has been the most painful to sit through?

I’ll go first this time and answer my own question, and I’m going to cheat a little bit here, as I’m choosing two.  See, for me it’s a tie between TWILIGHT and SAW.

By far, TWILIGHT has been the most boring series to sit through.  Never in my life have I experienced boredom at the movie like this.  It’s awful!  I would pay someone to stop making these films, they’re so dreadfully slow and painful.

But as horribly boring as TWILIGHT has been, SAW has been just as painful, but for different reasons.  For me, it comes down to the subject matter of these movies.  I just don’t enjoy horror tales built around torture.  Seeing people suffer agonizing tortures just because, and the films really don’t justify Jigsaw’s actions, is not my thing.  How can you justify Jigsaw’s actions anyway?  Even if he had just cause, what he does is indefensible.   Jigsaw and his antics are about as fun as the flu, and as realistic as DYLAN DOG.

LS: See, this is where I have a problem with your argument, because, as far as I know, you haven’t seen that many of the SAW movies. I know I’ve had to review them alone for years. I’m guessing you only saw one or two of them. So it’s not really fair that you judge all of them if you haven’t seen them. On the other hand, I’ve had to sit through all of the movies we’re talking about.

MA:  Not fair?  What, are we on the playground?  You’re right.  I haven’t seen as many of the SAW movies as you have, but I’ve seen enough.  Are you telling me that in the later films things get better?

LS:  I’m saying that Jigsaw does have a justification for his actions—however lame—and that is he’s trying to put bad people in a life-and-death situation in order to wake them up and make them change their lives.

MA:  What a thoughtful guy!  And I already knew this, as this plot point was in the films I saw.

LS:  I admit, this gets tired fast, but it is how he justifies his actions. I don’t think it’s any more stupid than every character in a SCREAM movie suddenly being an expert movie critic or Taylor Lautner taking off his shirt every five minutes in the TWILIGHT movies.

To be honest, the SAW movies just don’t bother me as much as the other two series do. I find the movies brainless, but entertaining. And they don’t repulse me like the SCREAM or the TWILIGHT movies do. The SAW movies may not be great, but I don’t mind them that much.

MA: At least SCREAM, for all its faults, has a set of recurring characters I enjoy watching, and the first movie had a good sense of humor and some decent thrills.  I can’t find anything redeeming about TWILIGHT or SAW.

LS: Who needs “redeeming?” I just want to be entertained. The SAW movies are the only ones that even come close to doing this. So they’re the lesser of three evils. And while you enjoy watching the recurring characters in the SCREAM movies, I despise them all and wish they’d just die already. So not everyone shares your affection for those dumb-ass characters.

As for me, I’d say the worst of the bunch is a draw too, but between two different movies.

The SCREAM movies because they irritate the hell out of me, and the TWILIGHT movies because it’s torture trying to stay awake while watching them.

MA:  And now for the big question, the final question of the night, when we decide the winner— or loser— of tonight’s competition:  which one of the three- TWILIGHT, SAW, or SCREAM— is the worst series?

LS:  The worst of the three is a tie between the SCREAM movies and the TWILIGHT movies.

MA:  There seems to be a lot of ties tonight.

LS:  They are bad in different ways. The SCREAM movies feature annoying, self-aware dialogue that doesn’t sound natural and thinks it is much cleverer than it is. Also, with each sequel they become more and more like the lame sequels they make fun of.

MA:  True.

LS:  The TWILIGHT movies, in comparison, don’t even try to be scary, because they’re not horror movies at all. They’re romance films playing dress up. And they’re abysmally boring.

MA:  Also true.

Okay, my turn to pick the worst.

I’m going to go with the SAW movies as the worst of the three because they have so little to offer.  Mindless violence, gruesome pointless tortures, and no story or decent characters whatsoever, the SAW films rely solely on the gross-out for their horror points, and this just doesn’t cut it—heh, heh— for me.

As much as I abhor the TWILIGHT movies, they don’t turn me off like the SAW movies.  They just put me to sleep.

With SCREAM – I actually like the characters, and the story in the first one was a good one.  Even though they’ve gone downhill since the first movie, the SCREAM films are still not as twisted and sick as SAW or as boring and dull as TWILIGHT.

So, my pick as the worst of the three is SAW.

It looks like then, since I picked SAW, and you picked both TWILIGHT and SCREAM, that we have a three way tie.

LS:  Let’s be honest here. They all suck.

MA:  I guess that’s apropos, that they each received a vote for The Worst Series.

With just the two of us here tonight, it would have been difficult to pick just one worst series anyway, unless that rarity of rarities occurred, and you and I agreed, and we both chose the same movie.  Maybe we’ll do this again sometime with some guest panelists.

LS:  I hope not.  I really don’t want to talk about these movies again anytime soon.

MA:  I agree with you there.  Still, there may have to be a rematch at some point.

So, hopefully nobody out there is disappointed, but tonight’s results reveal a stalemate.  Which one is the worst series?  It’s a draw, as TWILIGHT, SAW, and SCREAM all received one vote, meaning, they’re all horrible!

There are no winners here tonight, only losers.

LS: I guess I need to get off the stage then.

MA:  My prayers have finally been answered.

Well that wraps things up from here.  This has been FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS.  I’m Michael Arruda, and on behalf of L.L. Soares and myself, thanks for joining us tonight.  Good night, everybody!


Suburban Grindhouse Memories: THE MUTILIATOR (1985)

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2011, 80s Horror, Gore!, Grindhouse, Nick Cato Reviews, Psychos, Serial Killer flicks, Slasher Movies, Sleaze, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , on May 26, 2011 by knifefighter

Suburban Grindhouse Memories Presents:
By Sword, By Pick, By Axe, BYE BYE!
By Nick Cato

When you were a sophomore in high school, and a horror fan, sophomoric horror films were always a sure-fire hit.  The bluntly titled THE MUTILATOR (1985) was no exception.

The audience didn’t know what to make of the opening sequence, where a young kid accidentally shoots his mother (through the kitchen wall) while he polishes his dad’s hunting rifles as part of a birthday present.  Despite his good intentions, his father comes home to find his wife bleeding to death and his son standing there with a rifle.  The kid manages to run away after his old man lays a beating on him, but the kid sneaks back and spies his father having a birthday drink with the mother’s corpse.  Call me sick, but I laughed so loud at the absurdity of this scene a friend of mine elbowed my side, causing half of my valuable popcorn to fall onto the sticky floor.

Shot under the working title FALL BREAK, I’m assuming director Buddy Cooper changed the title when he realized his generic slasher film sounded too much like a generic teenage T&A beach movie.  Either way, THE MUTILATOR’s “plot” jumps ahead to the aforementioned kid now grown up, hanging with his friends, when he gets a phone call from his father.  Seems his old man wants his son (who he hasn’t spoken to in years) to help him shut down his isolated condo for the winter…and of course his son’s bored friends egg him on to do it (figuring they’ll use the place to party while they’re there).

It doesn’t take long for the body count to begin, and being we know who the killer is three minutes into the film, there are no surprises, no tension, and absolutely NO scares.

But what THE MUTILATOR does have going for it (if you’re a slasher film completist, anyway) are classic 80s gore sequences, including a guy gutted via outboard motor, some poor girl having a fishing gaff shoved into her crotch, plus various decapitations and amputations via axe, pick, and nearly anything else this kid’s crazed old man could get his hands on.

While I don’t know how this holds up on home video (I’ve only seen it once upon it’s initial 1985 theatrical release), THE MUTILATOR—for a film with such little suspense—managed to have the crowd screaming and cheering for more inventive (and graphic) kill scenes.  Thinking back on it now, I’m sure if there were any psychiatrists in the audience they must’ve thought we had all flipped our lids.  But at the time, this was a bloody good time for any high school horror fan.


If any film had an ending that’s nearly as silly, twisted, and ridiculous as PIECES (1982), it’s the conclusion to THE MUTILATOR.  After our slasher is cut in half at the waist (!), he manages to hack a policeman’s leg off with his handy axe, even though his guts are strewn all over the dirt floor.  We all laughed.  Some booed.  But in 1985, the blood-hungry crowd still left my local suburban grindhouse oddly satisfied.

Director Buddy Cooper (who I met at a 1989 Fangoria convention in NYC) didn’t set out to break any new ground, and in fact his directing is nothing to write home about (the film also suffers from some horrendous lighting and acting).  But what Buddy did was create a fun, gory slasher film that audiences were craving at the time…and while THE MUTILATOR is forgettable (except for the ending), I’m glad to have seen it in it’s prime.  (There’s an “extreme uncut version” DVD available…but without a cheering, shouting, giggling audience, a home viewing can’t be half as fun…)


© Copyright 2011 by Nick Cato


It’s hard keeping your head on straight (or at all!) in THE MUTILATOR (1985)


Posted in 2011, Action Movies, Animals Attack, DVD Review, Garbage, Giant Monsters, Michael Arruda Reviews, Pickin' the Carcass, Remakes with tags , , , , , , on May 25, 2011 by knifefighter

By Michael Arruda

With a title like 2010:  MOBY DICK, I knew this one was going to be bad.  The only question was:  how bad?

Why watch a movie like this in the first place?  Well, while MOBY DICK, the famous American novel by Herman Melville, has never been one of my favorites, it does tell an entertaining story, one that strangely has yet to be captured effectively on film.  The 1956 version directed by John Huston and starring Gregory Peck, isn’t bad, but as a movie version of a classic literary novel, it fails to leave its mark as a classic film.  It’s worth watching mostly for Peck’s powerful performance as the maniacal Captain Ahab.  It lacks pacing and as a result it isn’t a very suspenseful movie, despite its subject matter.  JAWS, it ain’t!

The 1998 version starring Patrick Stewart isn’t bad either, but it’s a TV movie, and it just isn’t on the same level as a theatrical release.

So, when I heard there was a new version of MOBY DICK, one that updated the tale to modern times, I was intrigued, and that’s why I decided to watch this one.

2010: MOBY DICK, now available on DVD and streaming video, opens in 1969 with a young seaman, Ahab, on an American submarine that is attacked by an extremely fake looking CGI whale.  What’s a whale doing attacking a submarine, you ask?  Well, the Moby Dick in this version isn’t just an ordinary whale.  He’s a super prehistoric whale, which means he’s bigger and badder than the white whale in Melville’s novel.  He’s the Godzilla of white whales.   Now, before you get all excited and think, this sounds interesting, let me clarify for you the level of special effects in this one:  they’re LAND OF THE LOST  material—not the movie, but the old Saturday morning TV show.   They’re embarrassingly bad.

Seaman Ahab loses his leg to Moby Dick, and it’s actually a pretty gruesome scene, about the only effective scene in the movie.  It’s also about five seconds long, which means that’s as good as it gets.

The action then switches to present day where we meet Dr. Michelle Herman (Renee O’Connor).  She fills in for the Ishmael character in the novel, and we know this because her first line in the movie is the first line of the novel, but rather than “Call me Ishmael,” she says “Call me Michelle.”  Yup, it’s pretty lame.

Michelle studies whales, of course, and she’s recruited by the now Captain Ahab (Barry Bostwick) aboard his submarine “The Pequod” to help him hunt Moby Dick.  About the only thing this movie gets right are the names of the characters and the name of the ship, “The Pequod.”  It also mentions the Essex, the real life ship that was sunk by a whale and served as Herman Melville’s source material and inspiration for his writing MOBY DICK.  In this flick, the Essex is also a submarine.

And that’s pretty much the story.  Captain Ahab and his crew chase down Moby Dick, and if you’ve read the novel, you know what happens, and you know there’s only one survivor, the narrator of the story, in this case, Michelle.

The acting, directing, and writing in this one are all absolutely horrible.

Barry Bostwick—yes, that Barry Bostwick, Brad from THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975), now an old man who looks more like Robert Frost than Captain Ahab—lacks the intensity and drive to be a believable Captain Ahab.  When he delivers his lines of hatred aimed at Moby Dick, he sounds like an old man barking at the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn.  He’s miffed, but he’s not passionate.

Renee O’Connor (Gabrielle from XENA, WARRIOR PRINCESS ~ editor’s note) is just plain awful as Dr. Michelle Herman.  She doesn’t come off as believable at all, and of course it doesn’t help that she has to speak some pretty horrible dialogue.  The rest of the cast aren’t any more memorable than a cast of cardboard cutouts, except for Derrick Scott as Pip, who wins the award for the most annoying character in the movie.

One of the weakest parts of 2010: MOBY DICK is the incredibly bad action scenes, completely mishandled by director Trey Stokes.  There are far too many close-up shots of the actors reacting to things— presumably destructive things— that Moby Dick is doing, yet we never see these things as they occur off camera.  For example, one scene actually has the white monster attacking a cruise ship, but the only way we see this is through the reaction shot of one passenger on the ship.  We never see the actual attack.  Now, I’m sure this means the film didn’t have much of a budget, but if you’re a director, you’ve got to do a better job at building suspense with what you have.  I mean, if you can’t make the scene work, don’t include it.

Also, Moby Dick varies in size.  In some scenes, he’s big enough to attack a cruise ship, and in others, when he’s near people, he appears much smaller.  The action scenes, or lack thereof, are just plain awful, which absolutely kills this movie, since there are so many of them.  The scenes in this one make the action scenes in old GODZILLA movies seem as if they were directed by James Cameron.

The screenplay by Paul Bales gets the names right, but that’s it.  The dialogue is laughable.

The special effects are horrible as well.  Moby Dick looks like the SyFy special.  The close-ups of the whale’s eye are effective, but that’s hardly enough.  At one point, Moby Dick actually leaps over an island.  Gee, I didn’t know whales could fly!

While I like the idea of updating MOBY DICK, this film doesn’t do justice or give the proper respect to the source material.  It’s a horrible movie, and it’s not even fun in the sense that it’s so bad it’s good.  It’s just bad.  It makes the previous two versions seem like CITIZEN KANE and CASABLANCA.

Like Captain Ahab, it deserves to sink to the ocean depths, never to be heard from again.


© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda