Archive for the Edgar Allen Poe Category

THE RAVEN (2012)

Posted in 2012, Cinema Knife Fights, Edgar Allen Poe, Gore!, Period Pieces, Psychos with tags , , , , , on April 30, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE RAVEN (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: A park in Baltimore in 1849. There’s some snow on the ground, and a mysterious figure sits on a bench, wearing a large hat. L.L. SOARES approaches)

LS: I got a mysterious message to meet someone here. Is that you, Michael?

MYSTERY MAN: Nope.

LS: Then you’re the great Edgar Allan Poe!

MYSTERY MAN: Uh….nope.

LS: Then who the hell are you?

MYSTERY MAN (holds out box): Uh, have one mister. Life is like a box of chocolates!

LS (pushes box away): Get out of here, Gump! I’m supposed to be meeting someone important here!

FORREST GUMP: D’uh, you are a mean person. I was only offering you a candy.

LS (kicks him off bench): Beat it!

GUMP: I’m gonna go tell my mommy on you.

LS: You do that.

(MICHAEL ARRUDA approaches from behind)

MA: What was all that about?

LS: I came here to meet you, so we could review the new movie THE RAVEN, and that damn Forrest Gump character tried to trick me into thinking he was you!

MA: Gump was pretending to be me?  Wow, I’m flattered.

LS: You’re sounding more like Forrest Gump every day.

MA: Real funny. (bends down and picks up the box of chocolates). Hey, he left these.

LS: We’ve got a movie to review!

MA: I’m only going to eat one or two.

(MA sits down on bench and starts eating chocolates)

MA: Why don’t you start? Hey these are delicious! Don’t you want any?

LS: Maybe later.

Okay, so this week’s movie is THE RAVEN, starring John Cusack as the legendary writer, Edgar Allan Poe. As horror writers, Michael and I are both fans of Poe’s pioneering work in the field. It’s pretty safe to say there would be no horror genre if not for Poe.

MA (talks with his mouth full): Yep. Mmmm, these are yummy. You sure you don’t want any?

LS: Nope. So, in THE RAVEN, the police come across violent murders that seem to be patterned after Poe’s story “Murders in the Rue Morgue.” At first, the detective on the case, Inspector Fields (Luke Evans), suspects Poe may have something to do with these grisly goings-on, but soon realizes that whoever the killer is is basing their murders on Poe’s stories. Talk about a “Number One Fan.”

MA (quickly finishing the chocolate he was eating):  All right, get these away from me. (pushes box away). Yeah, I thought Fields and the police dismissed Poe as a suspect too quickly. They have these murders based on Poe’s stories, and they have Poe, who’s about as far away from a well-balanced fellow as you can get, plus one of the victims is a fellow critic hated by Poe, and yet the police quickly dismiss Poe as a suspect and then welcome him into their investigation. Honestly, this seemed like a forced plot point to me, just to have the movie, THE RAVEN. These are police officers. Wouldn’t they be highly suspicious of Poe?

LS:  Poe aids Fields and the police in trying to guess the killers next move. Meanwhile, at a masked ball, Poe’s fiancée, Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve) is kidnapped during some confusion (having to do with Poe’s story “The Masque of Red Death”). This scene kind of bugged me. In one scene, Poe is standing right beside Emily, then in the next she has been kidnapped and Emily’s father, Captain Hamilton (Brendan Gleeson) reads a note from the criminal. If she was standing right next to Poe, when did someone have the chance to snatch her?

MA:  I’m with you. It was an odd scene, and I found myself asking the same question.

LS:  It really annoyed me! Because there is no way Poe would be standing next to Emily and let anyone take her away. He would have fought tooth and nail.

And there’s another scene, later on, when Poe kicks over a heavy table that has a lantern on it, yet the lantern doesn’t smash or start a fire. In the next scene, he’s carrying it down into some catacombs. Did they really have Plexiglas in the 1800s?

Sloppy writing. Anyway, poor Emily is soon buried alive in some mysterious location. While they try to track her down, Poe is informed that, unless he writes a new story each night in the paper, Emily will die. So, at the end of each frustrating day that they can’t find her, Poe must spend the whole night writing. Luckily the paper he normally writes for agrees to go along with this, since Poe has been writing for the editor, Maddux (Kevin McNally) for the last 10 years.

MA:  I didn’t really like this plot point, but more on that later.

LS:  Will Poe find Emily in time, before her air runs out? Who is the mysterious murderer and kidnapper who seems so obsessed with Poe’s life and work? These questions and more are answered in THE RAVEN.

Well, first off, why call it THE RAVEN? We’ve already had a few movies with this title already. According to imdb.com, there have been 23 movies with this title. Including the excellent 1935 film, starring Bela Lugosi as a sadistic plastic surgeon with an obsession with Poe, and Boris Karloff as a criminal on the run whom Lugosi torments. And the more humorous 1963 version, where Karloff and Vincent Price play dueling sorcerers, while poor Peter Lorre gets turned into a raven. Couldn’t the people who made this new movie come up with a more original title?

MA: I agree.  I certainly wouldn’t have named it after one of Poe’s poems or stories, because it’s not one of his stories but an entirely new tale.  I would have gone with something simpler like POE.  But that’s just off the cuff.  I’m sure there are a host of better titles.

LS: I have to admit, the concept of this movie seemed an awful lot like the recent SHERLOCK HOLMES movies where Robert Downey Jr. plays Holmes as something of an action star. And the comparison is kind of apt. In THE RAVEN, Edgar Allan Poe, at a point in his life when he was ravaged by alcoholism, somehow finds the energy to search for Emily, match wits with a madman, shoot guns, dig up graves and ride on horseback. It’s all pretty impressive, but not very believable.

MA:  You’re right. It’s not very believable, and as a result for me, not all that impressive.

LS:  John Cusack is okay as Poe, but not great. At first I thought he was really miscast. There are, however, a few scenes that worked for me, like when Cusack would look at Alice Eve lovingly, or when he takes action, then Cusack is tolerable. In other scenes, where he reads Poe’s poetry or goes off on a rant, he just sounded silly, and I found myself wishing they had cast Jeffrey Combs instead. Combs has played Poe on television (on the “Black Cat” episode of the Showtime series, “Masters Of Horror” in 2007) and on the stage, and he just seems more physically believable as Poe. He also can read Poe’s poetry without sounding goofy. And Cusack just seems way too healthy for the role. It’s impossible to look at him and believe this is a guy battling deep inner demons and an addiction to booze and drugs. I just had a really hard time buying Cusack in the role for most of the film’s running time. However, I realize that  Cusack’s name on the marquee probably sells a lot more tickets to mainstream America than Combs’s would.

MA:  I didn’t have a problem with Cusack. I thought he made for a dark and brooding Poe, and I didn’t think he sounded all that silly when he read Poe’s poetry. And he looked sufficiently under the weather. He didn’t project images of good health, let’s put it that way. I thought he looked like he was suffering from a head cold throughout the movie, so I didn’t have a problem with him seeming too healthy.

LS: A head cold? The man is weeks away from death! He should have looked a lot worse off than that! I didn’t find this believable at all.

(A man walks by sneezing and coughing, looking as pale as a corpse.)

MA:  Is that a better representation of how Poe should have looked?

LS: Nope. Not sick enough.

MA:  How about him?  (points to a figure staggering in the distance, with maggots crawling out of his eyes, rotting teeth, his left arm missing below the elbow, wearing bloodstained clothes and a knife in his skull.)

LS:  Now you’re talking!

MA: However, I did have a problem with his being a hero in the movie. I liked Cusack A LOT early on in the movie, in his scenes in bars and listening to a group of women read their amateur poetry to him, but as soon as he gets involved in the murder plot, I thought his character became much less enjoyable. Poe is a dark and haunted character, but he’s not Sherlock Holmes, and so he’s not the most entertaining hero.

LS: But you can understand why Poe is sucked into this mystery. He did write the first detective story, after all, and created the fictional detective C. Auguste Dupin!

MA:  And that’s exactly why I expected him to be more of a detective in this movie. I didn’t find this angle exploited enough.

(Three men show up. Two of them take off their jackets and begin bare-knuckle boxing)

MA: What’s going on here?

MAN WATCHING: It’s Sherlock Holmes and C. Auguste Dupin, determined to find out who is the tougher detective.

HOLMES: I was first!

DUPIN: No, I was!

(The two men knock each other out, and the WATCHING MAN drags them away by their shit collars)

LS: Wow, a real live boxing match. That was exciting!

MA: Didn’t last very long.  Actually, Dupin was first, but no matter.  They’re gone now.

LS: I guess they’re not as tough as they seem in these recent movies.

MA: Back to our review. Cusack’s Poe is sadly lacking charisma, which in and of itself is fine since I don’t expect Poe to be the most charismatic character, but as a lead hero in a horror movie, I found him dull.

I would have preferred to see Cusack play Poe in a straight biography rather than in this silly murder mystery.

LS:  I actually liked Luke Evans a lot as Detective Fields, and found him to be more dynamic and charismatic than Cusack’s Poe was. In fact, there were times when I found myself wishing the movie was Fields’ story, rather than Poe’s. I wanted to know more about Fields.

MA:  Yeah, Evans was good, and his Detective Fields was slightly more interesting than Poe, and since I didn’t find Cusack’s Poe charismatic, I’d agree with you that Evan’s Fields was the more charismatic character. But as detectives go, he wasn’t the most effective. He kinda fails at everything he does.

LS: Exactly! I thought that was actually pretty inspired. He’s this renowned detective and a vibrant force of nature, and yet, he’s pretty much a failure, despite his reputation.

Alice Eve is good as Emily, and Brendan Gleeson—an always reliable actor—is fine as her father.

MA:  I agree. I liked Eve a lot, and I wish she had been in the movie more. She spends a bulk of the film buried alive while we wait for Poe and the police to rescue her. What a waste!

I really liked Gleeson as Captain Hamilton, a man who would rather shoot Poe dead on sight than have the author marry his daughter. We just saw Gleeson in SAFE HOUSE (2012).

LS: Gleeson was much better in movies like THE GENERAL (1998) and IN BRUGES (2008)

MA: I also liked Kevin McNally as Maddux, the newspaper editor who publishes the stories Poe has to write each night to placate the murderer. McNally played Gibbs in the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies, and I remember him from the Kenneth Branagh TV-movie SHACKLETON (2002). McNally provides nice support here.

LS: Strangely, McNally was also in a TV-movie called POE in 2011, playing a character named Kyle Kilpatrick. In that movie, Christopher Egan plays a Poe investigating murders in 19th century Boston. Coincidence?

I thought the script was clever at times, and the murders were suitably gruesome (especially one involving the notorious Pit and the Pendulum). Although I have to admit that CGI gore leaves a lot to be desired and cannot take the place of stage blood just yet. It just looks incredibly fake.

MA:  Yes, the murders were gruesome, and I thought the pendulum scene was one of the better parts of the movie. It blows away all the similar pendulum scenes we’ve seen in movies past. Finally, we get to see how truly gruesome and horrible this torture can be.

LS: Not gruesome enough for my tastes. This movie could have tried a little harder to earn its R rating.

MA: On the other hand, the script by Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare, I didn’t like that much. I liked the premise, that Poe would become involved with a murder investigation, trying to hunt down a murderer who’s basing his crimes on Poe’s stories. But I didn’t like how it played out. I didn’t like Poe’s having to write stories to placate the killer and save the woman he loves. On paper, it sounds pretty good, but it doesn’t make for exciting cinema. Scenes of Poe writing words on a paper just didn’t do much for me. They weren’t that exciting.

I would have rather seen Poe trying to solve the crimes. I expected him to be more of a Sherlock Holmes-type character, which would have been apt, since Poe’s stories influenced Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when he wrote Sherlock Holmes.

So, when the story heats up, and Poe’s feverishly writing his stories for the killer, and he and the police are furiously trying to find the killer, I just wasn’t going along for the ride.

(EDGAR ALLAN POE staggers toward them, looking disheveled)

POE (holding out hand): Some sheckles for a poor sod? I would gladly recite a poem for your edification, for but a sou.

LS: Beat it, ya bum!

MA: No, no, that’s the real Edgar Allan Poe! Of course we would love to hear you recite poetry. Here’s a dollar (hands it to him, and LS does the same)

(POE opens his mouth to speak, but instead, begins vomiting)

POE (wipes his mouth): Maybe later. I seem to be a bit under the weather right now.

LS: Now that’s the Poe I know and love.

(POE runs away to buy booze)

MA: Well that was depressing.

LS: Yeah, he didn’t look like John Cusack at all! And what was with Cusack having a goatee? Poe didn’t have one of those! He just had a mustache. Whatever happened to historical accuracy?

Anyway, the direction by James McTeigue, who previously gave us V FOR VENDETTA (2005), which I actually liked a lot, and 2009’s NINJA ASSASSIN, is adequate here, but everything didn’t seem quite as atmospheric as it should be. For some reason, the movie just didn’t seem to reach its full potential for me.

MA:  I agree that it didn’t reach its full potential, but I don’t think it was because of a lack of atmosphere. I thought this movie looked great. It brought back memories of Hammer’s movies, although this one took place in Baltimore rather than Europe.

But that being said, this movie is lacking, and it’s strange, because it has so much going for it. It has solid acting, strong atmosphere, sufficiently graphic bloody scenes, but I wasn’t into it. Why not?  The answer is the story, which I found surprisingly dull, for reasons I’ve already gone into.

I’ll be honest. I was kinda bored throughout the second half of this movie.

I also was disappointed with the killer in this one. I expected someone much more evil and sinister.

LS: Yes, I agree. The identity of the killer is something of a letdown. And you start to think back to the earlier scenes and the whole thing is just very far-fetched, that this guy would be so successful in everything he does to bait and elude the police. The killer’s motive was kind of cool, but the movie is not very believable.

MA: Another problem with the story is it’s simply not as twisted as one of Poe’s stories. To accomplish this, we would have had to really get inside the head of the killer, and since this movie is a mystery, we don’t meet or know the killer until the end.

LS: Oh, I agree with that, too. This movie is pretty wimpy compared to a real Poe story. Not half as dark as it needed to be to truly feel Poe-inspired. Maybe that’s why I questioned the strength of the movie’s atmosphere.

Overall, I liked THE RAVEN more than I thought I would, based on the trailer. I went in with low expectations, thinking it would be awful. It’s not. There are several things about it that I liked,  and despite the far-fetched plot, it kept me interested throughout. But I don’t think it was a must-see movie. More of a rental. I give it two and a half knives.

What about you, Michael?

MA:  I fully expected to like this movie, and I was very surprised that I didn’t like it. It gets off to a strong start, and really does well at setting the stage for a deliciously macabre murder mystery, but then it drops the ball because later the suspense is sadly lacking when it’s needed most. THE RAVEN isn’t bad, but it’s oddly not that compelling or thrilling, and as a result I give it two knives.

(FORREST GUMP runs up to their bench, laughing)

LS: What’s so funny, Gump?

GUMP: You ate the candy, you ate the candy!

LS: So what?

GUMP: Haha. I put some of that Ex-Lax stuff in it. And you ate it. Gump got you good, you mean man.

LS: Actually, I haven’t had a chance to eat any yet. Thanks for warning me.

MA: What did you say?

GUMP: It was Ex-Lax candy. Gump got you good!

MA:  Oh yeah?  Well, Gumpy boy, I’ve got news for you. You didn’t get me, because there were two boxes of chocolates left here— (aside to camera) how’s that for an unrealistic plot point? —  and I didn’t eat yours. I ate the other one. So, you can take this box and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine!  (shoves box into Gump’s hands.)

GUMP:  You meanie!  (runs away crying)

(A figure is suddenly standing behind them. They turn to see the GRIM REAPER.)

REAPER:  Did you eat my chocolates?

MA:  Er, your chocolates? (to LS) What are the odds he put something stronger than Ex-Lax in his candy?

LS: It was nice knowing you, man!

REAPER:  So, did you eat my chocolates?

MA:  Um, yeah. Am I going to—?

REAPER:  Hope you liked them. I’m a big fan. (Walks away).

LS:  In that case, give me some of those. (helps himself to some chocolate.)

VOICE-OVER NARRATION (sounding sad):  Life is like a box of chocolates. You eat ……..and then you die. (violins play)

LS (stops eating):  Let’s get the hell out of here.

MA:  I’m with you. Let’s go review another movie or something.

(LS and MA run from the park, as a raven flies overhead, cawing)

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives THE RAVEN ~ two knives!

LL Soares gives THE RAVEN ~two and a half knives.

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CKF QUICK CUTS: FAVORITE POE ADAPTATIONS!

Posted in 1930s Horror, 1960s Horror, 2012, Classic Films, Edgar Allen Poe, Quick Cuts, Roger Corman, Vincent Price with tags , , , , , , , on April 27, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  QUICK CUTS
Favorite POE Adaptations

With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Peter Dudar, and Paul McMahon

 

The great Edgar Allan Poe’s work has a long history of movie adaptations.

 

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome to another edition of QUICK CUTS.

THE RAVEN opens this Friday, April 27, starring John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe, in a tale that pits the author against a murderous psychopath who patterns his crimes after Poe’s stories.

So, with Poe hitting the big screen yet again, it leads us to the subject of today’s QUICK CUTS column:  what’s your favorite movie based upon a story by Poe?

It could be that one which you feel best captured his work, or simply that one that you just happen to like the most.

Pete, since this is your first time here, we’ll start with you.

PETE DUDAR: Thanks, Michael.  And you’re right.  I’m new here to QUICK CUTS.  I’ve been looking forward to my chance to throw in my two cents.

(L.L. SOARES throws a bunch of coins at PETE.)

L.L. SOARES:  Keep the change!

PETE DUDAR (laughing):  Wow.  Real coins!

L.L. SOARES:  What?  Don’t they have real money up there in Maine?

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Alright, guys.  Let’s get to some real answers.

PETE DUDAR:  My favorite Poe film has to be Roger Corman’s adaptation of THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER.

L.L. SOARES:  The movie version was called THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960) in the U.S.

PETE DUDAR:  Yeah, that one.  In England it was called THE FALL OF...Vincent Price is one of the most beloved Poe character portrayers, and his performance as Roderick Usher is just flat-out creepy.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Yeah, Price is pretty creepy as Roderick.

PETE DUDAR:  I’m still on the fence about the new movie THE RAVEN. I feel as if Jeffrey Combs was slighted for the more popular (and better looking) John Cusack. Sometimes, integrity really is more important than box-office draw.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Well, we’ll find out this weekend.

L.L. SOARES:  As a huge fan of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, I really love their Poe-themed movies THE BLACK CAT (1934) and THE RAVEN (1935).

THE BLACK CAT, arguably the best of the Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi team-ups of the 1930s.

 

MICHAEL ARRUDA (groans):  Those are my two favorites too!

L.L. SOARES:  Well, I get to talk about them first.  So, shut up and let me talk about them!

These movies were made when both stars were at the height of their fame, and are very atmospheric (especially The Black Cat). Unfortunately, neither movie was very faithful to Poe’s work, and the only things they had in common with the stories were their titles.

Roger Corman’s series of Poe-inspired movies during the 1960s and 70s weren’t always faithful either, but at least they tried a little harder to be. The best of the bunch would be a tie for me: THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960)—.

PETE DUDAR:  Nice choice!  I’m glad I thought of it for you!

L.L. SOARES:  You didn’t even get the name of the movie right!

THE HOUSE OF USHER, Corman’s first Poe film, features a terrific performance by Vincent Price as Roderick Usher, in a tale of madness and incest in a creepy old house.

But for me, it’s a tie with MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964) which also features Price, this time as the decadent Prince Prospero, throwing a lavish masquerade party in his castle while a plague decimates the outside world. MASQUE even manages to include Poe’s story “Hop Frog” into the mix (although here the character is called Hop Toad for some bizarre reason).

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Maybe Corman didn’t like frogs.  Paul, how about you?

PAUL MCMAHON:  I don’t have any problem with frogs.

MICHAEL ARRUDA (laughing):  No.  What’s your favorite Poe adaptation?

PAUL MCMAHON:  My favorite Poe adaptation would have to be Roger Corman’s THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961) with Vincent Price. Richard Matheson’s screenplay added a ton of build up—the story was only two pages long, after all—but the movie kept the flavor of Poe throughout. It kept my attention completely, and had a kick-ass ending.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Really?  I always thought the ending was a bit of a letdown.  I wanted that pendulum to do some damage!

PAUL MCMAHON:  I also really enjoyed THE RAVEN (1963). Yeah, it was goofy as hell, but watching Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Jack Nicholson tearing it up makes for a fun night. I still plug it in occasionally.

L.L. SOARES: Ugh.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Yeah, that’s a funny one, but it’s not one of my favorites.

PAUL MCMAHON:  What are some of your favorites?

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Like L.L., probably my all-time favorite movie based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe would be the Universal flick THE BLACK CAT (1934) starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, although about the only thing this movie has in common with Poe is the title.  It’s really not based on Poe’s story at all.  It’s still a really cool movie though, probably my favorite pairing of Karloff and Lugosi.

L.L. SOARES: Hey! I already said all that. You just copied me!

MICHAEL ARRUDA: I also like THE RAVEN (1935) again starring Lugosi and Karloff.  Once more, this one had little to do with Poe other than Lugosi’s character’s obsession with Poe, especially his instruments of torture, and the film includes a scene with a giant swinging pendulum from THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM.

You also can’t go wrong with the Vincent Price movies based on Poe.  My favorite Price/Poe vehicle is probably THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968) based on Poe’s THE CONQUERER WORM, which is the film’s U.S. title.  It’s probably the best made of the Price/Poe movies, and it contains one of Price’s scariest performances.

PETE DUDAR:  No, that would be THE HOUSE OF USHER….

L.L. SOARES:  Hey, he got the title right!

PETE DUDAR:  Shut up, you!

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Ironically, THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL is not one of the Poe movies directed by Roger Corman.

L.L. SOARES: Yeah, it’s directed by the great Michael Reeves. I love that one, too!

MICHAEL ARRUDA: I also like THE OBLONG BOX (1969), with Price and Christopher Lee, THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964) and THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964), in which Vincent Price dons dark sunglasses and looks like Johnny Depp’s uncle.

So, there you have it, folks, our picks for our favorite Edgar Allan Poe adaptations.

Will the new movie THE RAVEN join the ranks of favorite Poe movies?  We’ll find out this weekend.

L.L. SOARES:  So be sure to join us this weekend for our CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT column on THE RAVEN.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Yes, definitely join us for that!  And thanks Peter and Paul for joining us.

L.L. SOARES:  Yeah, and next time bring Mary!

PETE DUDAR:  It’s been a blast.

PAUL MCMAHON:  Fun as always.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  On behalf of L.L. Soares, Pete Dudar, Paul McMahon, and myself, Michael Arruda, thank you all for joining us.  Good night everybody!

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Peter Dudar and Paul McMahon

Cinema Knife Fight: COMING ATTRACTIONS – APRIL 2012

Posted in 2012, Action Movies, Comedies, Coming Attractions, Edgar Allen Poe, Hit Men, Horror, Vampires with tags , , , , , , on March 30, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT – COMING ATTRACTIONS
APRIL 2012
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(The Scene: A mysterious cabin in the woods. Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares cautiously approach the structure.)

LS: What are we being so cautious for? We’re horror writers! We love freakish cabins like that!

MA: It’s not the cabin I’m worried about.

LS: What, then?

MA: Shh! I’m worried about those guys! (points to a stone wall to the right of the cabin, and sitting on the wall are the new Three Stooges.)

LS (shudders): Yikes! They are scary! I love the Stooges, but the new movie coming out this month has me terrified!

MA: Me, too! Let’s get to the cabin quick!

(They run to the cabin, LS pulls the dilapidated door off its hinges, and both writers enter. The inside of the cabin is dark and spooky.)

LS (smiles): There’s no place like home!

MA: I’d turn on a light but then we’d be forced to see what’s inside this place. (to camera) I know, without light, how can you see us? Gotta love dramatic license.

LS: Lights? We don’t need no stinkin’ lights!

MA: Anyway, welcome to this month’s COMING ATTRACTIONS column, the column where we preview the movies we’ll be reviewing this April.

Up first, on April 6, it’s AMERICAN REUNION. There’s a good chance one of our staff writers will be covering this one.

LS: I hope so. I didn’t mind the first AMERICAN PIE movie back in 1999, but the characters weren’t good enough to launch a bunch of sequels. For some reason, the trailer for AMERICAN REUNION looked really annoying to me. The only good news is, this is supposedly the last film of the series. Unless it does boffo box-office, and then, I’m sure, the franchise will be resurrected.

On April 13—Friday the 13th! —we’ll be bringing you reviews of three new movies. First up, it’s THE CABIN IN THE WOODS. This one could go either way. It looks like it starts out as a typical “bunch of kids go to stay in a deserted cabin in the woods” movie. We’ve seen that before—too many times, actually—in everything from FRIDAY THE 13th sequels to the EVIL DEAD movies to Eli Roth’s CABIN FEVER (2002). And lots of bad movies. The thing about this one, though, is that it’s supposed to take this clichéd set-up and do an interesting new spin on it. We’ll see.

MA: I’m not sure what to think of THE CABIN IN THE WOODS. The trailer didn’t really do much for me. I am glad however, that we get to review a new horror movie. There really haven’t been many horror movies so far in 2012.

It’s written and directed by Drew Goddard, the man who wrote CLOVERFIELD (2008), so this is a good thing. However, it’s also the first time Goddard is directing a movie, so, we’ll see. It’s also written by Josh Whedon, who has a long and varied resume and has written, among other things, TOY STORY (1995) and ALIEN: RESURRECTION (1997).

LS: That’s what you know Joss Whedon from?

MA: I don’t know Josh Whedon from a hole in the wall. I’m just listing some of his movie credits.

LS: I’m guessing you weren’t a fan of the BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1997 – 2003) and ANGEL (1999 – 2004) TV-series. Because those are what made him a household name. Man, could you think of lamer credits to mention?

MA: They’re his movie credits.

LS: Yeah, but who cares about those credits! He’s known for BUFFY and ANGEL!

With talent like Goddard and Whedon involved, I’m thinking CABIN IN THE WOODS has a good shot at being a pleasant surprise. I hope so, at least.

MA: It features a mainly young cast, including THOR himself, Chris Hemsworth. The cast also includes veteran actor Richard Jenkins, who we saw recently in LET ME IN (2010).

LS: And, for Whedon fans, there are two familiar faces from Whedon’s underrated series, DOLLHOUSE (2009 – 2010)– Fran Kranz (who played Topher Brink on the series) and Amy Acker (who played Dr. Saunders, and was also “Fred” on ANGEL).

MA:The same weekend we’ll also be reviewing the new big screen update of THE THREE STOOGES—a film I’m looking forward to only because I’m a huge Three Stooges fan. I have to admit, based on the movie’s trailers, I don’t think this one is going to be so hot, but you never know. You can always hope, right?

(There is a commotion outside the window. The Three Stooges, wearing carpenter overalls, begin hammering on the outside wall.)

LS: Hey! Keep it down! We’re working in here!

CURLY: We’re workin out here!

LARRY: Say, they can’t tell us to be quiet! We’ve got a job to do!

MOE: So what are we standing around out here talking for? Let’s get working! (slaps the other two)

CURLY: I’ll work when I’m ready!

MOE (hits Curly on head with a hammer): Are you ready?

CURLY: I’m ready!

(They return to hammering the walls.)

MA: Guys, we really are working—. (A cream pie suddenly hits MA in the face. LS laughs at him, and then a cream pie hits him in the face as well.)

MA: We’d better stop this routine now. It’s almost as bad as the new movie trailer.

LS: At least the cream pie is tasty! It’s coconut cream!

MA: Chris Diamantopoulos plays Moe, Sean Hayes plays Larry, and Will Sasso plays Curly. Sean Hayes, who plays Larry, is of course known for the TV show WILL AND GRACE (1998-2006), on which he played Jack. Interestingly enough, Hayes also played Jerry Lewis in the TV movie MARTIN AND LEWIS (2002).

LS: And Will Sasso was a regular on MAD TV from 1997 to 2009, and was also in the short-lived William Shatner series $#*! My Dad Says (2010 – 2011). But who is Chris Diamantopolous?

MA: Most of his work has been on TV so far. Shows like THE STARTER WIFE, 24 and UP ALL NIGHT. In fact, all three of these guys built their careers on television, so THE THREE STOOGES might finally make them movie stars.

LS: Or might not.

MA: THE THREE STOOGES was written and directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly, otherwise known as the Farrelly brothers, and they’ve been responsible for some pretty good comedies over the years, including THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY (1998) and DUMB AND DUMBER (1994).

LS: I also like their movie KINGPIN (1996) a lot. But they’ve also made their share of duds, too. Based on the trailers, I’d say this might be a bit painful to sit through. But I’d be really happy if it surprised me.

MA: Heck, Larry David is even on hand, as Sister Mary-Mengele. Take that for what it’s worth!

LS: Somehow that doesn’t reassure me.

MA: The science fiction adventure LOCKOUT also opens on April 13, and we most likely will have one of our talented staff writers covering this one. It doesn’t do a whole lot for me, as it looks like ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981) in space!

LS: Yeah, I’m not going to be too sad that we can’t review LOCKOUT. It does look like a rip-off of ESCAPE, except, instead of Kurt Russell as the cool Snake Plissken, we have Guy Pearce as some ultra-cool dude named Snow. (yawns)

On April 20, THE MOTH DIARIES opens to a limited release. I don’t know much about this one, and there’s a good chance it won’t even be playing near us. At first, I thought it might have something to do with that Richard Gere movie, THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES (2002), but I think it’s actually about vampires. If it comes near me, I’ll try to review it.

MA: I’d say chances are incredibly slim it will be playing anywhere near me.

Since we don’t expect THE MOTH DIARIES to make it to my neck of the woods, most likely we’ll be bringing you a DVD review, and right now it looks like our feature will be STAKE LAND (2010).

STAKE LAND looks like ZOMBIELAND (2009), but with vampires instead of zombies, and without the laughs.

LS: So basically it doesn’t look like ZOMBIELAND at all.

MA (laughing): No.

Actually, it does, in that the world is being overrun, but by vampires, not zombies. I thought the preview looked halfway decent.

LS: STAKE LAND is another one of those movies, like YELLOWBRICKROAD that came out on DVD last year and got a lot of buzz, so I’m interested in seeing it. Hopefully it’s better than YELLOWBRICKROAD, though. That one was a disappointment.

On April 27, we’ll be reviewing THE RAVEN. This one reminds me a bit of the new SHERLOCK HOLMES movies that Robert Downey Jr. has been doing, because it looks like another case of a cerebral character from the 1800s being turned into an action star for mass consumption. Except this time it’s a real historical figure.

MA: Real historical figures transformed into action stars? Where else have I heard that concept before?

LS: Well, there’s another movie coming in June called ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER.

MA: Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. I’m on the fence about THE RAVEN. I like the concept, the idea of Edgar Allan Poe solving murders and chasing down a crazed killer who’s basing his crimes on Poe’s stories, and the film looks atmospheric. While I’m not a huge John Cusack fan, he is a very good actor, and so he should be fine as Poe, but for some reason, this one’s not exciting me. I guess because I haven’t seen or read anything about it that seems to imply that it will be really special.

LS: I like Cusack, but, seriously, I don’t know why they didn’t cast Jeffrey Combs in the role instead. Most people will remember Combs from his iconic role as Herbert West, the RE-ANIMATOR (1985), but he also played Poe on an episode of the Showtime series MASTERS OF HORROR, and also played the role in a one-man stage show. Seems to me he has pretty much made Poe his own. Cusack seems like a bit of a letdown in comparison, because, in the trailers at least, he seems more like John Cusack that Edgar Allan Poe.

MA: I’ll also be reviewing the latest Jason Statham action pic, SAFE, which also opens on April 27. I guess I’ll be doing that one by myself. I’ve become a Jason Statham fan the past few years, as I’ve enjoyed his recent performances, and so I’m looking forward to SAFE, even if it looks like just another action movie. I’m hoping Statham’s presence will lift it above the fray.

So, that’s April in a nutshell. Not the most exciting month, in terms of big movies, but that’ll change in May.

LS: Yep, there are some blockbusters on the way in May. (Sticks his head out the window where the Three Stooges are working.) You guys have any more cream pies?

CURLY: Soitantly!

MOE: Would you like another cream pie?

LS: Of course. They were delicious.

MOE: Boys, let’s give the man another pie.

(They fire Three pies at LS, who ducks, and all three pies hit MA. LS laughs.

LS: I just love the Three Stooges, don’t you?

MA (wiping pie from his face): Oh yeah. They’re a riot.

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

In the Spooklight: THE TOMB OF LIGEIA

Posted in 2007, Edgar Allen Poe, In the Spooklight, Roger Corman, Vincent Price with tags , , , , , on October 8, 2010 by knifefighter

This column, on the Roger Corman/Vincent Price classic THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964), is from October 2007 and is another Halloween edition of IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, part of our month-long celebration of Halloween here at CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.—Michael Arruda, October 8, 2010

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: THE TOMB OF LIGEIA
by Michael Arruda

I prefer horror to be an emotional experience, which is why, sometimes Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptations don’t work for me.

THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964), starring Vincent Price, Corman’s eighth and final Poe adaptation, is a perfect example.

Technically, the film is flawless. It’s arguably Corman’s best job at the helm. The film looks phenomenal, there’s great use of locations, and the camera work is extremely stylish. For these reasons alone watching THE TOMB OF LIGEIA can be as rewarding and mouthwatering as reading a good novel. Your intelligence won’t be let down.

It also has a decent screenplay by Robert Towne, which lives up to its source material. (Towne went on to write classics like 1974’s CHINATOWN).

However, THE TOMB OF LIGEIA has never been one of my favorites because as it plays out, it’s as cold as a corpse with about as much life (unless of course you’re talking vampire and zombies, which get around rather well, but there ain’t no vampires or zombies here!). Perhaps this is on purpose, and perhaps it’s just another sign of Corman’s genius. Could be. But for me, the fact remains that as I watch THE TOMB OF LIGEIA, and as I recognize while watching that “Hmm, this movie is extremely well made,” I also realize I’m not emotionally invested in the characters or the situations.

THE TOMB OF LIGEIA tells the story of Verden Fell (Vincent Price) who’s—what else? —brooding over the death of his wife, Ligeia. When a new woman, the Lady Rowena (Elizabeth Shepherd, in a dual role, as she also appears as Ligeia) expresses interest in Verden, the ghost of Ligeia takes offense, setting off the usual, standard ghostly shenanigans. We learn that Verden isn’t mourning his deceased wife—he’s afraid of her— afraid that she’s not really dead. It turns out Ligeia was a bold, energetic woman who had asserted she would never die, and she definitely got inside Verden’s head.

It’s this part of the film that works best for me. Is Ligeia really a ghost?  Or is it Verden, so brainwashed by his deceased wife that he himself is causing the mayhem? On this level, the film works well.

And the performances by the two leads are terrific. Price stands out as Verden. His look, with the dark brown hair and dark glasses, to shield his ultra sensitive eyes from the light, is unique to this movie. Price moves through this role effortlessly, as if he could do it in his sleep. Elizabeth Shepherd is just as good as The Lady Rowena. Her portrayal of Rowena as a strong woman who is not intimidated by evil spirits is refreshing.

But THE TOMB OF LIGEIA fails to connect on an emotional level. Price’s Verden isn’t that likeable, and while Shepherd’s Lady Rowena is, she’s not a central enough character to carry the movie on her own. I don’t really care about these characters, and as a result, I don’t care all that much about what happens to them, which makes for a lackluster movie viewing experience.

THE TOMB OF LIGEIA is a mixed bag, which for Halloween, is OK. In a trick or treat bag, chances are you’ll get candy you’re not crazy about along with your favorites, but still, it’s candy, and you’re not going to throw it away. Likewise, THE TOMB OF LIGEIA is a stylish, almost beautiful, horror movie that is pleasing to the eye and the intellect, but not so attractive to the heart. For those of us who tell tales, the heart can be the difference maker. Still, it’s Corman, it’s Price, it’s Poe, it’s candy.

It’s Halloween. Eat up.

—END—

© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda