Archive for the Garbage Category

THE LONE RANGER (2013)

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, Based on TV Show, Cinema Knife Fights, Garbage, Johnny Depp Movies, Masks, Period Pieces, Westerns with tags , , , , , , on July 8, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE LONE RANGER (2013)
By L.L. Soares and Michael Arruda

loneranger(THE SCENE: The Interior of a steam locomotive. The year is 1896. In the saloon car, L.L. SOARES sits back in his seat and lights a cigar, as MICHAEL ARRUDA arrives and sits down across from him)

MA: Ahh, we finally have the chance to travel in comfort. This is pretty sweet.

LS: And I’ve already ordered our drinks.

(Waiter brings a tray over to their table and puts a glass of whiskey down before LS, and a pint of ale in front of MA)

WAITER: Will there be anything else?

LS: I think we’re fine for now.

MA: Can we have some pretzels?

WAITER: Certainly.  (leaves)

MA: You picked a nice place for us to review THE LONE RANGER. Usually when you start things off, we end up on the roof of a tall building or in the middle of a gang war. Nice to be able to relax for a change.

LS: Drink up, my friend. I’ll even begin the review for you.

MA: Please do.

LS: As you said, this week’s movie is THE LONE RANGER, based on characters who go all the way back pre-television radio serials. Although Michael and I are more familiar with the popular TV series starring Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger and Jay Silverheels as his sidekick, Tonto. We saw the show in reruns when we were kids, and while I didn’t exactly love it, I remember it being enjoyable enough.

This new movie version of the story features Armie Hammer as the titular ranger and Johnny Depp as his Native American sidekick, Tonto. I think it’s safe to say that the new movie takes a lot of liberties with the concept.

MA: Yeah, it’s a “little” different from the old TV show.

(WAITER returns with a basket of pretzels)

MA: (looks at LS) That’s it? Pretzels?

LS: Whatever do you mean, my good man. You asked for pretzels.

MA: No surprise ambush of bad guys? No tribe of angry Indians? Usually when you start these things, I’m in for some kind of shish-kebobbing.

LS: Nothing of the kind.

WAITER: Will there be anything else?

LS: Not for the moment.

Basically, THE LONE RANGER is an origin story, as we meet John Reid (Armie Hammer, who played both of the Winklevoss twins in the movie THE SOCIAL NETWORK, 2010) in 1869. He has just come back after going to law school in the East. He’s returned to Colby, Texas to be the town’s new District Attorney. His first case is going to be the trial of outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner, who played Alex Mahone in the Fox TV series, PRISON BREAK). Reid’s brother, Dan (James Badge Dale, who also had roles in this year’s IRON MAN 3 and WORLD WAR Z) is the town’s sheriff, and is known for being pretty heroic. The make things more complicated, Dan’s wife, Rebecca (Ruth Wilson) has strong feelings for John and it seems like she married the wrong brother.

Anyway, the train bringing Cavendish to town is hijacked by Butch’s gang of outlaws, and he escapes the law. John is on the same train, and barely escapes with his life. John also meets a Native American prisoner named Tonto (Johnny Depp), whose face is painted chalky white like death, and who wears a hat made out of a dead crow. Who is this guy? And why is he also captive in the same train car as Cavendish? It’s never really clear why he’s chained up beside the outlaw in the first place.

MA:  And that’s a problem—one of many—that this movie has.  There are a bunch of things that are never clearly explained.

LS:  In a really good movie, I don’t feel the need to have everything explained to me. The problem is, this is not a really good movie.

Anyway, Tonto also gets away after Sheriff Dan and his boys stop the runaway train (which was sabotaged by Cavendish’s gang).

John insists on going along with brother Dan and his men, and Dan deputizes John for the job (even though, John, stupidly, refuses to carry a gun – this is the wild west after all).

MA:  I liked the fact that John refused to carry a gun.  But this disdain for firearms doesn’t last throughout the whole story, which is too bad.  I seem to remember that Lone Ranger fought his battles without guns, but maybe I’m wrong.  I think he didn’t shoot to kill, that’s what it was.  I think he tries to shoot to kill in this movie, but he’s such a bad shot it doesn’t matter.

Have I said yet that I thought this movie was stupid?

LS:  No, but I’ll say it as well. It’s stupid and a waste of time!  Now let me get back to my plot summary so we can finish this review and enjoy our train ride.

The good guys track down the outlaws and there’s an ambush, where just about everyone is killed. Tonto arrives on the scene after the outlaws have taken off to bury the bodies, and ends up taking part in the strange resurrection of John Reid when a wild white stallion comes and stands by John’s grave.

MA:  Which is another thing that isn’t explained properly, how does Tonto get out of his prison cell and be free to discover John and the bodies of the slain rangers?

LS: I just stopped caring early on. Must have been some sort of magic, I suppose.

Revived from death (it’s never clear if he was every really dead), John seeks revenge on the men who killed his brother, with shaman-like Tonto at his side. Meanwhile, Cavendish and his men have teamed up with a corrupt railroad baron named Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson), who also has a U.S. Calvary captain, Jay Fuller, in his back pocket (Capt. Fuller seems to be an awful lot like historical figure, General George Custer). So it’s basically Reid and Tonto up against a whole bunch of corrupt individuals.

Oh yeah, and Tonto gets Reid to wear a mask that covers the top part of his face, because the bad guys think he’s dead. I’m not sure why this matters. If people think he’s dead, wouldn’t it be scarier if he didn’t wear the mask? Wasn’t it Batman who said something about striking fear in the hearts of criminals? I guess the Lone Ranger missed that lecture.

This one is directed by Gore Verbinski, who also collaborated with Johnny Depp on the wildly popular PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN films.

I have to admit, I really didn’t find a lot about this movie to like. One of my biggest problems is its length. At 149 minutes, THE LONE RANGER is just about two and a half hours long. And with the exception of the train being sabotaged by Cavendish’s gang early on, the first two hours crawled at a snail’s pace for me. I didn’t care about these characters, and there are long stretches were nothing seems to happen but backstory, and I found myself struggling to stay awake a few times. Hell, let me be honest, I was bored out of my skull for most of the running time! This is pretty odd, considering THE LONE RANGER is a big budget action blockbuster. The key word being ACTION. There didn’t seem to be an awful lot of action for most of the movie. In the last half hour or so, things suddenly get interesting again, and we get treated to some major action and happenings, but it takes us about two hours to get there! What the hell was Verbinski thinking?

You can’t make an action movie where it doesn’t really hit its stride until the last half hour!

MA:  True, but I had many more problems with this movie than just its lack of action.  I didn’t even like the action sequence at the end, even though parts of it are pretty cool.

LS:  There’s also a framing story that involves a young boy, Will (Mason Cook) who is visiting a wild west show in 1930s San Francisco and who comes across a very old Tonto, who seems to be living in one of the exhibits (called “The Noble Savage in his Native Habitat”). Tonto then tells the story of the movie as an extended flashback. I normally hate framing devices, and this one didn’t change my mind. I have no clue why so many directors love the idea of having framing scenes at the beginning and end of movies of characters who are telling us the tale in flashback. Just start things off with a bang with the actual movie, for chrissakes!

MA:  I hated this framing story.  It gets the movie off to such a slow start, which as you said, in terms of pacing, the film never really recovers from, and every time they return to this framing story, all it succeeds in doing is slowing things down even more.  They could have cut all these scenes and easily shaved 20 minutes of the running time.

LS: They could have cut a lot more than that.

Things don’t get interesting until two hours into the movie, and by then I had pretty much given up on it as a long, drawn-out, snooze. Armie Hammer has about the same charisma as a mannequin here, which is too bad, because he’s normally not a bad actor.

But, really, there aren’t many characters worth caring about in this movie.

MA:  By far, the character of The Lone Ranger was the worst part of this movie for me.  It wasn’t so much Hammer’s performance, although I agree with you he has no charisma here and isn’t interesting, but the way writers Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott, and Terry Rossio constructed the character.  He’s pretty much a joke in this movie, and as a fan of the character, this new interpretation left me feeling very disappointed.  He’s kind of a bumbling goofball which isn’t the way I remember the character at all.  What these folks did to the Lone Ranger reminds me of what Johnny Depp did to Barnabas Collins in last year’s DARK SHADOWS remake.

LS: All I can say is, don’t hold any shows or movies from your childhood too sacred, because someone is going to come along and screw them up for a new audience eventually. It’s only a matter of time.

MA: I liked Hammer at the beginning, and I liked how John Reid was this innocent lawyer who didn’t really understand the workings of the Wild West, but after his brother is murdered, I expected him to change, to have a revelation and come back as an avenging force.  But this isn’t what happens.  He becomes sillier.  It just rubbed me the wrong way.

LS:  You would think that Depp took the role of Tonto as some meaningful attempt to tell the true story of Native Americans in the old West, but his performance isn’t that insightful. His Tonto is really little more than comic relief.

MA:  I actually didn’t have a problem with Depp’s performance here, and I liked him much better as Tonto than as Barnabas Collins.  I thought he was pretty funny throughout THE LONE RANGER.  He’s certainly the dominating character in the movie.

But you know what’s wrong with this?  The movie isn’t called TONTO.  It’s called THE LONE RANGER.  The way this entire story is presented in this movie is a real mess.  I kept thinking, why make a movie about the Lone Ranger if you really didn’t want to focus on the guy? Because that’s what’s going on here.  He’s simply not the main focus of the story, which makes no sense to me.  I mean, his friggin brother gets murdered in front of him.  He has all the reason in the world to become this really interesting dynamic character, but instead he acts like a buffoon.

LS: I agree.

MA: And even though he is a buffoon he’s not funny.  He’s actually the straight man to Depp’s Tonto.  Hey, let’s make a LONE RANGER movie and cast Jerry Lewis as Tonto and Dean Martin as The Lone Ranger.  Actually, Martin would have made a more interesting Lone Ranger than Armie Hammer, even if he sang a few songs.

LS:  I always liked Dean Martin, and he was in some westerns when he was alive. Believe me, he would have been an improvement. But Jerry Lewis as Tonto? Sadly, this isn’t too far from that.

I also found things like a running gag where people keep asking the Lone Ranger “What’s with the mask?” to be pretty useless.

William Fichtner, who is usually pretty good, starts out pretty well as Cavendish, who has a harelip that reveals a silver tooth, and who isn’t adverse to eating human flesh now and again, but it’s not long before he turns into just another one-dimensional bad guy (actually, he’s little more than a henchman for Latham Cole, which is really too bad).

MA:  I liked Fichtner well enough, but the problem with his character is, they make him really evil early on— he actually eats a guy’s heart, for crying out loud!— but this is a Disney movie, and so he can’t get progressively more evil as he normally would in a well written movie, which means he gets stuck with nothing to do because if he did anything, it would probably be too horrifying for a Disney flick.

LS: Agreed. They painted themselves in a corner with that one. Cavendish gets less scary as the movie goes on, not more.

Tom Wilkinson is okay as railroad baron Latham Cole, but the problem is we’ve seen this character—or ones just like him—in dozens of movies before, and Cole just doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Another corrupt businessman in the early days of the railroad? Haven’t those been done to death by now?

MA (yawns):   I’ll say.

LS:  Helena Bonham Carter, as a brothel madam named Red, has some inspired moments, with her colorful clothes and a prosthetic leg made out of scrimshaw (and that doubles as a gun!), but she’s not in the movie enough to keep the boredom from setting in for long stretches. The scenes she’s in, though, are improved by her being there.

MA:  I agree.  Not that I really liked her character, but she was far less boring than most of the other folks in it.

I liked Ruth Wilson as Rebecca Reid.  I thought she was sufficiently sexy and voluptuous.  I wish her character had been more important in this movie.  It would have been nice to see her do more.

LS: Yes, she’s completely wasted. She might as well have been part of the scenery.

You know…I just really hated this movie!

MA:  I started out liking it— once it got past its silly framing story— but as it went on it gradually went downhill for me until, like you, I ended up not liking it at all.

LS:  It was overlong, boring, and had characters that did not keep me interested. What little action there is, mostly amounting to a big chase involving locomotives, comes too little too late, and I felt like I was being tortured for most of the movie’s running time.

How can you mess up a mindless action movie? By trying to give it more smarts than it really has, and by dwelling way too long on aspects of the story that just aren’t that interesting. Oh yeah, and forgetting to put enough ACTION into the damn thing.

Depp’s version of Tonto is just another in a long line of eccentric characters, like Captain Jack Sparrow. Between one-liners, mugging for the camera, and pretending to feed bird seed to the dead crow he wears on his head, this Tonto comes off more as a silly jester than an attempt to provide a realistic Native American character from this era. Tonto is humorous enough – not anywhere near as irritating as Depp’s take on Barnabas Collins—but he’s certainly not some great, iconic character here, either.

Armie Hammer plays Reid/the Lone Ranger as a one-dimensional good guy, which might have worked in the 1950s, but who just seems superficial and dull today.

MA:  I don’t even think he would have worked in the 1950s, unless he was co-starring with The Three Stooges, maybe.

LS:  I give the movie half a knife, for the half hour at the end when THE LONE RANGER finally remembers it’s supposed to be an action film. And for the times—which couldn’t have been more than once or twice—when Tonto elicited a chuckle from me. But overall, I had no use for this movie and considered it a waste of two and a half hours of my life.

cavaleiro-solitario-poster-001

What did you think, Michael?

MA: That’s it? What do I think? Where’s the falling chunk of mountain to conk me on the skull? Or maybe the train will suddenly derail and cut me in half.

LS: You’re being paranoid, my friend. There are no surprises planned for you. It’s just two guys sitting around with drinks, discussing a movie.

MA: It’s never just two guys sitting around discussing a movie with us— I don’t get it.

LS: Look, the movie this time was so awful, I figure I’d make the review as painless as possible. Why do we need gags, when the movie itself is a joke?

MA: Well I certainly agree with that.  And I can’t say that I’m disappointed.  I’d rather finish this review than be sidetracked thinking of ways to get you back.

I didn’t like THE LONE RANGER either.  I also didn’t really like the last half hour.  I’ll admit, the concluding action sequence at times is pretty impressive, and reminded me of some of the action sequences in the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies, but you know what really ruined it for me?  The music.

The film actually has a decent score by Hans Zimmer, a guy who has an incredible list of credits.   He just did the music for MAN OF STEEL (2013), and he wrote the scores for THE DARK KNIGHT (2008), THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012), and the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies, to name just a few.

And his score here for THE LONE RANGER is also very good, but in this concluding sequence, they finally introduce the William Tell Overture, the classic piece of music that used to accompany the old Lone Ranger TV show, and the radio show before that.  So, I guess they had to put it in the movie, but man, it seems way out of place.  It just makes things so silly.  I almost expected the action to switch gears and be shot in fast motion here.

Did I say this movie was silly?

That’s the biggest problem I had with THE LONE RANGER.  It’s way too silly.  I saw this film over the July 4th holiday with a bunch of family members, and they all loved it, and they told me one reason they liked it was it was so funny, but I tried to explain that there’s a difference between funny and silly.  Johnny Depp as Tonto was funny.  But the rest of the film was goofy, and to me, it ruined the character of the Lone Ranger.

(LS calls the WAITER over)

LS: We’re almost done with our review here. How about bringing over the special drinks.

WAITER: Of course, sir.

MA: Special drinks?

LS: Do go on.

MA: I liked how this one opened.  I liked the ambush scene.  I liked how villainous Butch Cavendish cuts out Dan Reid’s heart and eats it.  This was some potent stuff.  I expected the Lone Ranger to become this really cool character after this, to avenge the death of his brother.

Granted, I wasn’t expecting an R rated action film, but I was expecting a PG-13 rip rousing action adventure that had me cheering, not groaning.  Not cringing, or wincing, or otherwise rolling my eyes in disgust.

It’s obvious they were going for a repeat of the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN formula.  Now, Johnny Depp did his part, creating a rather memorable Tonto, but unlike Captain Jack Sparrow in the PIRATES movies, Tonto is not the main character here.  He can’t carry the movie.

And in PIRATES you had Orlando Bloom as a rather serious character who offset and gave balance to Depp’s shenanigans as Jack Sparrow.  You don’t have that balance here in THE LONE RANGER.  You have Armie Hammer doing his best Zeppo Marx impersonation.  Which Marx Brother is Zeppo?  Exactly!  He’s the one no one remembers!

I liked the ambush scene, I thought Johnny Depp was enjoyable as Tonto, but that’s it. The rest of the film I found to be a foolish goofy mess that I wish I hadn’t seen.

I give it one and a half knives.

WAITER:  Here are your drinks.

MA:  Thanks.

LS:  Drink up. A toast to making it through this one alive. Or rather, awake.

MA: (looks at glass) What is this, anyway?  There’s something moving in my drink.  Is that a scorpion?

LS:  Haven’t you ever had a scorpion bowl before?

MA:  Yeah, but they’ve never had real live scorpions in them!

LS:  This is the wild west.  Be a man! Chug it!  It’ll put hair on your chest!

MA:  I’ll pass. Waiter, another glass of ale, please.

LS: (drinks his glass, and pushes a scorpion leg back inside his mouth):  Mmmm. You don’t know what you’re missing.

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares & Michael Arruda

Michael Arruda gives THE LONE RANGER ~ one and a half knives!

LL Soares gives THE LONE RANGER ~ half a knife.

SCARY MOVIE 5 (2013)

Posted in 2013, Cinema Knife Fights, Comedies, Garbage, Just Plain Bad, Michael Arruda Reviews, Spoofs with tags , , , , on April 15, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  SCARY MOVIE 5 (2013)
By Michael Arruda

Scary-Movie-5

(THE SCENE: A cabin in the woods.  MICHAEL ARRUDA walks through the interior, inspecting the bloody carnage from some horrifying incident.  Blood is spattered on the walls, severed body parts are strewn about the floor, and the room is littered with busted and broken furniture.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA (looking things over):  I guess I’m too late for THE HANGOVER PART III cast party!  Wow, it must have been quite the shindig!  Hey look!  (picks up a small white object.)  It’s one of Stu’s teeth.

Anyway, as much as I’d like to be reviewing THE HANGOVER PART III today, I’m not.

Nope, I’m here today in this cabin in the woods because I’m reviewing that sorry excuse for a comedy, SCARY MOVIE 5 (2013).

(Picks up a severed arm.)

This arm is funnier than anything you’ll see in SCARY MOVIE 5.

(A severed head on the floor suddenly frowns.)

HEAD:  But that arm’s not funny at all!

MA: My point exactly.  (looks around cabin)

I sure have been spending a lot of time here lately, in this cabin in the woods.  L.L. SOARES and I were just here last week reviewing the EVIL DEAD remake, and I’m back here again for today’s review. I wish I were here under better circumstances.

HEAD:  I’m glad you’re here.  I could use the company.

MA (to HEAD):  So, what happened here, anyway?  Things must have gotten violent.

HEAD:  Why do you say that?

MA:  Well, for starters, you’re missing your body!

HEAD:  Oh, I’ve been without my body for years.  I arrived here this way.

MA:  You did?

HEAD:  Yeah, someone at the party said they wanted a little head.  (Drum beat)  So, here I am!

MA:  On that note, I should get started on today’s review. We’ll talk more later.

HEAD:  I’ll be right here.  It’s not like I can leave.

MA:  Anyway, I’m here in this cabin because today’s movie, SCARY MOVIE 5 (2013) involves a place just like this, although strangely, one of the movies it didn’t spoof, was the aptly titled THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2011).

I’m flying solo this week, as L.L. Soares is off on another assignment—which is code for “I’m not seeing that f—cking lame ass movie so do it yourself Arruda!” —so here I am, facing the dubious task of bringing you today’s review of SCARY MOVIE 5.

Here goes:  as if you didn’t already know, SCARY MOVIE 5 sucks.  Don’t see it.

Okay, you can go home now.

HEAD:  Are you leaving already?  Because if you are, would you mind giving me a lift to the closest bus station?

Scary Movie 5 poster #2

MA:  No, I’m not leaving already.  That was just a joke.

Even SCARY MOVIE 5 deserves an honest review.

HEAD: Okay, but when you do leave, can you take me to that bus station?

MA:  Sure.

HEAD:  I know it’s early, but I’d like to get a head start on the traffic.

MA:  Stop, all right?  Just stop.

Now, where was I?   Yes, the review.

Seriously, unless you’re a diehard fan of the series, and I’m sure there is one of you out there, you have no business seeing this movie.  Avoid it like the plague.  But you’re smart enough to already know that.

What’s the best part about SCARY MOVIE 5?  That Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan only appear in one scene, and it’s the pre-credit sequence.  You get them out of the way quickly.

Not that I have anything against Sheen or Lohan, but it’s obvious that they’re only in this movie to exploit their real life personal problems, which I find sad.  Keep your personal lives out of the movies, thank you very much!

Unfortunately, what follows after Sheen and Lohan isn’t much better.

SCARY MOVIE 5 spoofs a bunch of horror movies, obviously, and it uses as its framework the recent horror film MAMA (2013) as a young married couple Dan (Simon Rex) and Jody (Ashley Tisdale) agree to take care of Dan’s brother’s kids after they were found abandoned in a cabin in the woods.

So, that’s the framework for this one, but to say that this movie has a plot is saying a lot.

I will say that the scene where Snoop Dog and his buddy first discover the little girls in the cabin is a funny one, and one of the few times I laughed.

HEAD: I liked that scene, too.

MA:  So, you saw the movie?

HEAD:  What?  You think I’m not allowed into movie theaters or something?

MA:  I didn’t say that.

HEAD:  Of course, I do go early, so I can be at the head of the line.

MA (groans):  Enough! You’re giving me a headache.

HEAD:  You said that one.

MA: Moving right along—.

In addition to MAMA, the film pokes fun at the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies, and the jokes here are some of the worst.  Most involve the overweight housekeeper, in gags that are tasteless and vulgar. Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t mind tasteless and vulgar jokes, but they have to make me laugh.  These didn’t.

The film strangely parodies RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011) as Dan’s day job is to work with Caesar and his fellow apes.  These scenes were the most disappointing of all.  The material here is ripe for laughter, and yet time and time again, the writers drop the ball.

While Dan is busy training Caesar, Jody trains to be a ballerina in scenes spoofing BLACK SWAN (2010), in yet another series of scenes that constantly misfire.

There’s even a pointless sequence lampooning INCEPTION (2010) which seems out of place here and is about as funny as the real movie.

HEAD: Was INCEPTION a comedy?

MA:  No.  It was a thriller.

HEAD:  Then, why did you— oh, I get it now.  (laughs).

MA:  Probably the funniest sequence in the movie is a spoof of EVIL DEAD (2013), where Jody and her friend take turns reading from the Book of the Dead, which causes some comical results.  But other than this, I didn’t laugh much at all.

I’ve heard the argument that films like this shouldn’t be criticized because they’re supposed to be stupid.  Really?  I thought they were supposed to be funny?  And that’s the problem I have with this film. You want to spoof something, do a flippin good job, or don’t do it at all!

Pat Proft and David Zucker wrote this movie, and these guys have a ton of comedic credits, including THE NAKED GUN films, AIRPLANE! (1980) and a bunch of other funny parodies.   They should know better.

What’s going on here is lazy writing and taking the easy way out.   It’s obvious to me that these jokes were written with the mindset that even if it’s just the tiniest bit humorous, it’s okay.  The film plays like a first draft from beginning to end.

So many of the jokes in this movie, had they been properly set up and thought out, could have been very funny.  There’s no reason in the world why a movie like SCARY MOVIE 5 couldn’t be a laugh riot.  But it’s not, because the jokes just aren’t there.

You’re telling me that you’re spoofing the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies and the best you can do is relentlessly make fun of the housekeeper?  That’s it?  That’s all you’ve got?  You can’t do any better than the lowest common denominator of humor—crude bathroom jokes, vulgar sex jokes—and rehash it over and over?  That’s spoofing?  I don’t think so.  That’s laziness.

Some of the best parodies take specific scenes and have fun with them.  That sort of thing is severely lacking here.  And if the material isn’t there, if these films have been satirized to death already, then maybe you shouldn’t be making a SCARY MOVIE 5.

The cast can’t save this one either.  While Ashley Tisdale is watchable as Jody, there was something about Simon Rex’s performance as Dan that I found irritating.  He was over the top silly and goofy without being funny.  I have to admit, I strongly disliked most of his scenes, and since he’s in most of the movie, that’s not good.

The rest of the cast either overacts or mails it in, looking as if they’re just there to have fun as opposed to work and actually create something funny.

SCARY MOVIE 5 is rated PG-13, and honestly, this one looks as if it was originally intended to be Rated R and then edited down to a PG-13 rating.  Not that it would have made much of a difference.

In one gag, for instance, as Dan and Jody tour the medical facility where their young girls are being cared for, they pass a window where they see two babes showering and soaping up their bodies, and these babes are wearing bathing suits.  Now that makes a lot of sense.

HEAD:  Who showers wearing a bathing suit?

MA:  My point exactly.

HEAD:  That was a lame scene!  I felt cheated.

MA:  Well, yeah.  I felt that way after the first five minutes of this one.

I almost gave this movie 0 Knives, but admittedly I did laugh a couple of times, and I did enjoy that EVIL DEAD scene.  So, I’ll be generous today, but still, that’s pretty sad to find only one or two laughs in a movie that is supposed to be a comedy.

I give SCARY MOVIE 5 one knife.

Do yourself a favor and see something else this weekend.  Okay, I’m out of here.

HEAD:  Hey, don’t leave me.  Hey!  A little help?

MA (sighs):  Sure, buddy.  What is it?  You want me to drop you off at the bus station?

HEAD:  Actually, I’ve changed my mind.  I feel like washing my hair.  Want to do me a huge favor and reach into that duffel bag and hand me that bottle of Head and Shoulders?

MA:  You know, I’ve had enough of these lame puns.  You’re on your own.  I’m outta here. (Exits.)

HEAD:  Gee, wasn’t he a heady bastard!

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda

(EDITOR’s NOTE: While I didn’t see this one, I can say that, based on Michael’s review, A HAUNTED HOUSE, which came out earlier this year, sounds a lot funnier than SCARY MOVIE 5. So if you really have to see a horror movie spoof movie this year—you’d be better off seeing that one. It has a lame title, but at least it has some laughs and I gave it a decent review. Check out the review here. ~LLS)

Michael Arruda gives SCARY MOVIE 5 ~ one knife!

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

 …..Previously, on FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS:

 (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!

—-END—

2010: MOBY DICK

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

PICKIN’ THE CARCASS:  2010:  MOBY DICK (2010)
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.

—END—

© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda

Friday Night Knife Fights: TWILIGHT vs. SAW vs. SCREAM! – Part 1

Posted in 2011, Friday Night Knife Fights, Garbage, Horror, Psychos, Sequels, Serial Killer flicks, Slasher Movies, Vampires, Wes Craven Movies with tags , , , , , , , , on May 20, 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?
By Michael Arruda and L.L.  Soares

(BELL RINGS)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome to another edition of FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTSTonight we have a special Free-for-all Cage Match.

L.L. SOARES:  You mean we get to be in a cage, and I get to clobber you to a pulp?

MA:  No, it means rather than having two subjects battling it out, tonight we have three.  TWILIGHT vs. SAW vs. SCREAM:  Which one of the three is the WORST series?

LS:  Damn!

MA: What? You don’t like this topic?

LS:  No.  I just wanted to bash your brains in.

MA:  Oh well.   You’ll just have to settle for trying to do it in the figurative sense, although be prepared to have your figurative brains spread all over this arena.  (smiles)

LS:  This means war.

MA:  Then, let’s have at it.  TWILIGHT vs. SAW vs. SCREAM.   Which one of these series is the absolute worst?

(LS hands MA a club, and he’s holding a large pick-axe.)

MA:  What are we doing with these?

LS:  I just have to do this to get this out of my system.  Feel free to join me.  (Dumps a heap of film canisters at their feet, and he begins to smash them to smithereens with his pick-axe.)

MA:  Are those what I think they are?

LS:  Yep.  TWILIGHT, SCREAM, and SAW.

MA:  I think I will join you.  (They smash the film canisters into tiny bits and pieces.)  That felt good.

LS:  Too bad we have to talk about these clunkers now.  Can’t we just tell people the films stink and go home?

MA: No, we have a bout to decide.  We have to determine which one of these three series is the worst.  To that end, here’s the first question for tonight.

Which one of these series is doing more harm to the horror film industry right now?

LS:  All three franchises are guilty of putting out crappy product that makes the genre looks lame. But I don’t think the SCREAM movies are important enough to have much bearing anymore, and the SAW movies are supposedly finished.

MA:  I hope so!

LS:  The TWILIGHT movies don’t really count, because they have their own niche audience that has nothing to do with horror fans.

MA:  You can say that again.  I always thought TWILIGHT fans were young teenage girls, but at least in my neck of the woods—.

LS:  And you mean that literally, because you do live in the woods!

MA:  I don’t live in the woods!  Sure, I live in a rural community, but it’s not the woods!  Anyway, as I was saying, when I’ve seen these movies, the theaters have been packed with adult women, many of them middle-aged, and—even stranger— adult couples, as if these movies are good date movies.  Very strange that the teen girls have been outnumbered.

I don’t think any of these movies are truly doing harm to the horror film industry, either.  I don’t give these films that much credit or power.

I think SAW gives horror a bad name because it’s the kind of movie that people who aren’t horror fans point to when they complain about all that’s wrong with horror, and in this case, I’d have to agree with them.  I know a lot of horror people who also think the SAW movies are pretty bad.

TWILIGHT,  I think , is mostly laughable. The true fans like these movies because they love the books, but the rest of us see them for what they are: pretty boring love stories masquerading as vampire tales.  They are the most boring films I’ve seen in many years.

I know in the past you’ve pointed to SCREAM as a franchise that has hurt horror, saying that SCREAM led to a bunch of weak horror movies that had teens for characters and were played for laughs, and you’re not the only person I’ve heard say this.  I just don’t think SCREAM was ever that influential, and as far as having teens for characters, horror movies have had teens as main characters going back to films like HALLOWEEN (1978) and way, way back to the 1950s with films like I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF (1957) and I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN (1957).

But you’re right about there not being a whole lot of good horror movies during SCREAM’s heyday, but I think this is more a coincidence than a result of SCREAM’s influence.

LS: Well, I guess you’re entitled to your opinion. Even if it’s wrong.

MA:  So, of these three series, which one do you think is the best?

LS:  SAW is better than the other two because at least it tries to be interesting in creating different, elaborate ways to kill people.

MA:  And I completely disagree!

LS:  So what? You already had your say.

That said, the SAW movies are repetitious and predictable as well. Even though Jigsaw is dead, his disciples keep things going (and with flashbacks, it’s like Jigsaw never left). So it’s pretty much the same thing every movie. Basically, the SAW movies are just as bad in their own way— except they don’t annoy me as much as the SCREAM or the TWILIGHT movies.

MA:  If I had to pick one I think is better than the others, I’d go with SCREAM.

(LS screams)

MA:  SCREAM is better than the other two because I liked the first SCREAM movie better than any of the movies in the other two series.  I actually liked the first SCREAM a lot.  I thought it was clever, funny, and scary.  The series just gradually went downhill from there

I didn’t like any of the SAW movies, and it goes without saying, I didn’t like any of the TWILIGHT movies either.

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

LS:  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: Thank you, thank you.

(Audience continues to cheer as camera pans away.)

–END PART 1—-

COMING NEXT FRIDAY NIGHT:  THE CONCLUSION OF FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS- Free-for-all Cage Match
TWILIGHT vs. SAW vs. SCREAM:   Which one of the three is the WORST series?

THE ROOMMATE

Posted in 2011, Cinema Knife Fights, Garbage, Hot Chick Movies, Psychos with tags , , , , , on February 7, 2011 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE ROOMMATE
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares


(The Scene: A college campus. MICHAEL ARRUDA and LL SOARES sit on a bench in the middle of a vast green lawn in the middle of the campus, as college kids go about their daily routine.)

MA: Ahhh, college in spring time. Is there a better place to be?

LS: Considering our real bodies are back in snow-covered winter? No. But I don’t want to go back. Our astral bodies are doing just fine here.

MA: But we’re here for a reason. We’re reviewing the new movie THE ROOMMATE.

LS: Did you have to remind me? Yes, I suppose that’s why we’re here.

MA: Stop leering at the young co-eds!

LS: Stop leering at co-eds? You might as well ask the wind to stop blowing. The sun to stop shining.

MA: Get on with the review.

LS: (Chuckles) Okie doke. THE ROOMMATE is a riveting tale of obsession and murder, set on a college campus. Young freshman girls Sara Matthews (Minka Kelly) and Rebecca (Leighton Meester) are frolicking in the leaves of autumn…..

MA: Wait a minute. That’s not the movie I saw. Stick to the real movie!

LS: Do I have to?

MA: Yes!

LS: Okay, okay. Sara arrives at school, a fresh-faced (if slightly older than she should be) freshman, eager to fill her head with knowledge. When she gets to her dorm, her roommate isn’t there yet, so she bonds with suite-mates like Tracy (Alyson Michalka), who likes to get drunk and have sex (in that order). When her dorm room roommate does show up, it’s Rebecca, a very intense art student who seems a little bit overly concerned about Sara’s coming and goings.

MA: She’s downright nuts!

LS: I was getting to that. At first, Rebecca just seems like she really needs a friend and wants to bond with her new roommate. But things get creepy from there, as we spiral into Obsession Land. Rebecca starts doing odd things like threatening Tracy’s life in the shower (she changes dorms and stays away from Sara as a result) and setting up the pervy professor (Billy Zane) who hit on Sara, so that he gets fired.

It just goes downhill from there, as threats and intimidation make way for slicing and dicing, including poor Jason (Matt Latner), Sara’s ex who can’t seem to let go. Rebecca leads him on just so she can get all sharp edges on the poor guy. And don’t forget Sara’s long-time friend and fashion insider, Irene (Danneel Harris), who offers a way out (she offers to let Sara move in with her to escape her obsessive roommate)  and who gets seduced by Rebecca in a nightclub bathroom. When Irene takes Rebecca home, Sara suddenly stops getting phone calls from her friend. Anyone who is close to Sara is a target in Rebecca’s world. Mostly because the poor girl won’t take her meds!

MA:  I’m sure none of the young teens who were in the theater with me were thinking about this, but I found the characterization of Rebecca somewhat insulting to people with mental illness and mental disabilities. Rebecca obviously needs help, obviously needs to be on her meds, and yet no one seems to make this simple suggestion to her – “Ah, Rebecca, don’t you think you should take your meds?”  Even Sara, once she discovers that her roommate needs to be on meds, doesn’t say anything to her about it.

LS:  Yeah, Sara also doesn’t tell her R.A. or any adults in authority. It just seemed stupid to me. I guess she was worried Rebecca would flip out and kill her, but if that’s the case, and she really is afraid for her life, wouldn’t she try to get some help from the people in charge?

MA:  Which is why I found this characterization insulting. Nobody even mentions Rebecca’s doctor or suggests that she should see one. Oh well. I guess it’s just a silly horror movie, which is another reason not to see it.

LS:  A rather interesting part of the film involves Sara going to Rebecca’s family’s house for Thanksgiving (before she realizes her roommate is a full-on psycho). Actually, it’s not as interesting as it could have been—if only this movie had better writing—but it’s funny how even Rebecca’s parents seem terrified of her. A definite sign that something is very wrong.

MA:  I’d say!  Something is wrong with her parents!  What a pair of frightened wimps!  The mom whispers to Sara, “Is she taking her meds?”  Is she taking her meds??  Don’t you know?  It’s your daughter!  If your daughter is as sick as this movie makes her out to be, what the hell are you doing sending her off to college without the supervision of someone in the medical profession?

LS: Yeah, not only is that irresponsible to their daughter, it’s also putting a lot of other people in danger. And you know her parents are aware that Rebecca is dangerous, or else they wouldn’t be practically shaking with fear every time they see her. I guess they let her go away to live on campus just to be free of her!

MA:  And it’s like you said, this part of the movie could have been more interesting had the writing been better and the story followed up this relationship more, because when they first meet Rebecca’s parents, it’s such an odd uncomfortable meeting that I was thinking, this is going to be interesting, and then it goes nowhere.

LS:  Yep. Also during this Thanksgiving visit to Rebecca’s home, we get to meet a girl who might have been Rebecca’s earlier “crush” before she met Sara. Another potentially creepy scene that could have been done much better.

MA: And, as we predicted in last week’s COMING ATTRACTIONS column, this one was pretty much a by-the-numbers rip-off of the 1992’s SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, except made for a younger, college crowd.

LS: They even both have an “I’ll change my hair color so I look even more like my really cool roommate” scene. And that’s my number one problem with THE ROOMMATE. It’s so damn predictable!! There’s not one scene in this movie that I didn’t see coming a mile away!

MA: Same here. I found this extremely irritating, to be honest. Even though the setting, the ages of the characters, and the actual criminal acts committed by the psycho roommate were changed, all the thrills were pretty much the same—the only difference is this psycho isn’t as deadly as the Jennifer Jason Leigh character in SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, who I believe left a trail of dead bodies in that one.

And since THE ROOMMATE doesn’t do anything to improve upon SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, it doesn’t blow you away, and so if you’ve seen that first movie, this one is predictable and actually less intense than the original, though just as mindless.

LS: Now to the acting. First off we’ve got Minka Kelly in a leading role, as Sara. That’s a good thing.

MA:  Yes, I definitely liked Minka Kelly. She’s beautiful, and she can act, too. If I had to pick one thing I liked about THE ROOMMATE, it would be Kelly.

LS:  I’ve been a fan of the TV show Friday Night Lights since it began, and Minka has the pivotal role on the show as Lyla Garrity. This is the kind of well-written, strongly acted show that is ignored by viewers but constantly makes critics’ Top 10 lists. It really deserves a bigger audience. Friday Night Lights is one of the best shows on television, and everyone in the ensemble cast is pretty terrific. It’s always cool to see actors from this show go on to bigger and better things, but so far, the projects they’ve gone on to do not have the same level of quality as Friday Night Lights.

Perfect examples are Adrianne Palicki (who played Tyra on the show) who went on to be the pregnant girl in the so-so horror flick LEGION. And Taylor Kitsch, who is so good as Tim Riggins on the show, was just plain horrendous as Gambit in X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. Minka Kelly joins the ranks of good actors gone bad here, because THE ROOMMATE is pretty awful.

MA:  I wouldn’t call it awful. Mediocre, maybe.

LS: You’ve got to be kidding me. THE ROOMMATE is downright lousy. Although Kelly and Leighton Meester (also a TV vet, coming from the show Gossip Girl) certainly give it the old college try!

MA:  Forgive me if I don’t jump up and down and defend this movie. It’s hard to get excited about “mediocre.”

LS: Sure, Minka Kelly proved she was a good actress in Friday Night Lights, and she even recently got chosen as GQ’s “Sexiest Woman Alive.” Unfortunately, that’s not enough to save this movie.

MA: No, she doesn’t save this movie, but she is one of its best parts, and she does keep it from being horrible.

LS: Leighton Meester really tries to be creepy as “off-her-meds” Rebecca, but she falls a bit short. There was nothing she did in this movie that I didn’t see coming a mile away, so it was hard to see any of her behavior as all that scary. Then again, this is more the script’s fault than hers. In some scenes, she actually pretty good.

MA: Yeah, I thought Meester was sufficiently crazy, but nothing in her performance lifted it above the very predictable material.

LS:  Not only was THE ROOMMATE a complete rip-off of SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, it’s also a complete waste of time. Hell, even the “Sexiest Woman Alive” couldn’t save it.

MA:  I wouldn’t call it a complete waste of time. I actually think Kelly is worth watching, though don’t run out and see this one by any means!

LS:  The rest of the cast was just so-so. Cam Gigandet, playing Minka’s love interest Stephen, a fratboy with a soul. I guess he’s okay in the role, but his constant smirk made me want to punch him in the face.

MA:  I actually liked Gigandet’s performance. I thought he came off as sincere and likeable.

LS: And poor Danneel Harris as Irene isn’t given much do to at all, except be a victim. Although I wish I could have tried out her cinnamon lipstick.

MA:  I thought Billy Zane as the perverted Professor Roberts was pretty good. I wished he had been in it more. I thought he would have stuck around to seek revenge against Rebecca, but he just kinda disappears.

LS: Yeah, once Rebecca “deals with them” they all conveniently disappear. Can’t have any actual tension or suspense in this movie.

It’s funny. Throughout this movie, this young-ish crowd I saw it with was constantly yelling and jumping in their seats to THE ROOMMATE, which annoyed me no end. How could they have such strong reactions to scenes that were so damn predictable? And then it hit me. These are the same kids who made the TWILIGHT movies box-office hits. They don’t care about originality or real scares. So why am I expecting them to be more savvy than they are?

MA:  You know, I had nearly the same exact experience. The theater was packed; there was barely an empty seat in the house. I do believe that 90 percent of this young crowd were seeing their first horror movie ever. People were screaming, and squirming in their seats. There’s a scene where Rebecca picks up their cute little kitty, and you know she’s going to harm it, and nearly the whole theater erupted in a collective gasp, and it only got worse as Rebecca carried the animal into the laundry room towards its inevitable fate. I thought the people in front of me were going to have a coronary. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been chanting “Kill the kitty! Kill the kitty!”

LS: Thanks for bringing that up. Obviously they were going for a “boiling bunny” kind of scene here, like in FATAL ATTRACTION. But everything is implied, everything happens off-screen, and it’s not scary at all.

MA: But seriously, I was sitting there bored, and people—young people—were gasping and chattering nervously. I didn’t get it.

LS: You can say this movie was not made for us; it was made for a younger crowd. But the truth is, a good movie is a good movie, no matter who it’s meant for. And this movie isn’t good.

So here’s my rating. I give THE ROOMMATE half a knife. And I only give it that because I dig Minka Kelly, and she’s done work in the past that proved to me she really is, deep down, a serious actress. You would never tell it from watching THE ROOMMATE.

But I can’t give more than that. This movie is just embarrassingly bad.

MA:  I liked it better than half a knife. As I already said, I enjoyed Minka Kelly a lot in this movie, and, taken as a whole, the acting in THE ROOMMATE was pretty darn good.

The writing, not so much. Sonny Mallhi wrote the screenplay, and it’s average at best. Considering that it’s based almost exactly on SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, with really no improvements to the original story, I’d say that’s disappointing. If you’re going to remake something, you really should try to make it better.

LS: And if this is a remake, then give the original some credit. (Of course, they’d deny that.)

MA: That’s a good point.  There’s nary a mention or a nod to the original.  It’s like the filmmakers were pretending this was an original movie, which it’s anything but!

And there was an odd moment when Sara phones Rebecca, and it’s a collect call!  What’s up with that?  There are still collect calls in today’s age of cell phones and wireless service?  I didn’t get that. Today, who would need to make a collect call?

THE ROOMMATE was directed by Christian Christianson. I wonder if he’s religious?  He does an adequate job in telling this average story. Where he fails is in generating suspense. THE ROOMMATE isn’t really all that suspenseful. Plus this movie feels less like a horror movie and more like a made-for-TV thriller.

LS: It almost would be right at home on the LIFETIME channel.

MA: It’s OK. Like I said before, mediocre is the word that comes to mind, but since oftentimes I see films that I think are downright awful, with horrible acting, writing, and special effects, I hesitate to place THE ROOMMATE in this category.

LS: I’ll do it for you.

MA: I did find one scene scary, when Sara discovers her friend Irene tied to her bed. In restraints, Irene jumps up at the camera, and I thought this was a good quick fright. I also liked the belly ring scene in the shower. That caused a few winces.

LS: Yeah, the scene where we find Irene tied to the bed works. It might be the only scare in the movie.

MA: But I’m not surprised that you hated this movie, since ultimately it was a watered down version of SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, which I believe was an R rated movie, and this one was PG-13. Gone is all the nudity and all the murders. Not that that made SINGLE WHITE FEMALE any better, because I was never a big fan of that movie either, but THE ROOMMATE is definitely lacking, and any kind of an edge would have been a good thing, so the decision to water down the original material probably wasn’t a good one.

LS:  Well, despite being R-rated, I wasn’t that impressed with SINGLE WHITE FEMALE either—and it had better acting and a far better director—it just wasn’t that great a movie. THE ROOMMATE is even worse.

MA: THE ROOMMATE is an average passable movie that is okay if you want to watch it on DVD and have nothing better to do, but it’s hardly worth the effort of seeing it at the theater. I give it two knives, mostly because all the actors in this one do a good job and they’re easy to watch. Too bad I can’t say the same for the rest of the movie.

LS: Okay, enough chit-chat. We have some other work to do.

MA: Work?  What the hell were we just doing?

LS: Writing Cinema Knife Fight is fun. It’s not work. Well, most of the time.

MA:  That’s true. Okay. So what work are you talking about?

LS:  Did you think we could just sit here, enjoying the sun and watching skimpily-dressed co-eds?

MA:  Well, the thought had crossed my mind.

LS:  You are very naïve, my son.

(Pulls out shovels)

MA:  Are we robbing a grave?

LS: We need to clean up the trash on campus.

MA:  Are you kidding me?

LS:  Nope. That’s why we’re really here. And the first heap of garbage we have to shovel is none other than THE ROOMMATE!

MA: I am dumb-founded!  Well, like I said before, it’s hard to defend mediocrity. Let’s get shoveling!

—END—

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

Michael Arruda gives THE ROOMMATE2 knives

LL Soares gives THE ROOMMATE1/2 knife


ARE YOU SCARED 2

Posted in 2011, Garbage, LL Soares Reviews, Psycho killer, Sequels, Serial Killer flicks with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2011 by knifefighter

ARE YOU SCARED 2 (2009)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares


If you read this week’s Cinema Knife Fight column, where Michael Arruda and I reviewed the movie ARE YOU SCARED? (2006), you might think things can’t get much worse than that one.

You’d be wrong.

Despite all its flaws, and the fact that it was a pretty blatant rip-off of the SAW movies, the first ARE YOU SCARED? at least had a coherent plot, and you could tell what was happening throughout. In other words, it made sense, even if it was a bad movie.

ARE YOU SCARED 2 doesn’t even attempt to tell a coherent story.

First off, I don’t even know why this one is billed as a sequel. It has absolutely nothing to do with the first movie. Even though the villain of the first one, Shadow Man (Brent Fidler) survived at the end of the first movie (sorry to spoil that for you, folks!) and could easily have continued his story in this one.

Instead, ARE YOU SCARED 2 starts off showing us a group of fun-loving idiots who go around digging up hidden suitcases all over the place. They’re professional scavenger hunters and the group we’re watching, “Team DNA,” is one of the best (or so we’re told). They’re made up of four friends: Dallas (Tristan Wright), Andrew (Chad Guerrero), Taryn (Andrea Monier) and Reese (Kathy Gardiner). They check the Internet each day for new challenges, and are given coordinates by strangers to the next hidden item. The “prizes” can be anywhere – we first see them navigating through a junkyard to find a cache in the trunk of a rusty old car. And they film their exploits and post them on their site, where they actually have a following (!). The girls even do “sexy chat’ on the site.

So you think, “Okay. This new movie has nothing to do with the first one – which was bad anyway – so all we can go is up, right?  The fact that this movie is a complete departure from the first one’s plot is a good thing, right?”

Wrong.

This time, we see another guy in an isolated room watching a bunch of computer monitors. This time it’s not Shadow Man, though. This time it’s CANDYMAN (1992)! Yes, Tony Todd himself appears in this movie for some bizarre reason (Can’t he get better roles than this?). He follows these morons’ scavenger hunts online, and decides he wants to be in on the fun. So he posts the coordinates to his spooky old house online (the scavenger hunters have no idea who posts each hunt – it could be anyone). Team DNA decides to accept the challenge and track down the coordinates to the house and get inside.

From here, the movie just plunges into complete sewerage.

The kids find the hidden suitcase pretty fast in one of the upstairs rooms. But it has a severed arm handcuffed to it. They assume the arm is fake and find a ton of money inside the suitcase. So they’ve hit the jackpot, right? Not so fast. Sleeping gas fills the room and knocks them out. And when they wake up, they’re part of a brand new game. This time, instead of a scavenger hunt, it’s hide and seek.

It turns out they’re not alone in the house. Also hiding inside are two nutjobs (Mark Lowry and Dallas Montgomery). One talks constantly in a Southern accent and always seems to be on the verge of crying. The other one is a hulking Leatherface wannabe in a skull mask. Tony Todd is their “boss” (in the credits, he is just called “Controller”), and tells them to hunt the kids down and kill them. All the while, Todd is filming the goings-on for his own internet reality show – which caters to the underground snuff film crowd.

The psychos hunt the kids. The kids wander around the house with a GPS unit that Todd has provided for them, trying to get out and avoid the killers. And Todd watches and films everything that goes on in the house, and in the surrounding woods, with surveillance cameras that are posted everywhere.

Reese, who’s actually very pretty, gets captured first and tortured by Southern Guy, while Skullface tracks down the rest of them. There are a lot of close calls, violent confrontations, and twists. Some of the kids are driven to tap into their dark sides. But it all culminates in utter stupidity.

First off, I have absolutely no clue why Tony Todd is in this movie. Technically, he runs a snuff site and wants to make money off the footage. But why is Tony Todd the ACTOR in this one? It appears as if most of his scenes were filmed separately (until one of the kids finally find him towards the end), and amount to him sitting in a chair, watching computer screens and talking to himself. That is, when he’s not spouting soliloquys to his pet turtle, Timothy. Most of his scenes seem completely incoherent. Sure, he’s still got one of the best voices in the business, and could make anything sound great, but the dialogue he’s forced to expound here is just ludicrous. It’s like someone on an acid trip wrote down a bunch of gibberish and then gave it to Tony to say in his scenes alone.

The psychos could be interesting, but they’re not. Southern Guy just pretty much tries to imitate Edwin Neal’s performance of Chop Top from the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974), talking in a strained voice and making all kinds of goofy faces. First he does something horrible and then he begs his victim to forgive him. Then he does something else sadistic. I have to admit, it’s more of an effort than this movie deserves, but not enough is done with this character. Skullface has a nice spooky presence but most of his scenes just involve him breaking doors in and crashing through walls. Nothing all that scary. It would have been nice if the insane characters had a bit more of a backstory or a smidgen more character development. Who are these people? How did Tony Todd find them? I guess it really doesn’t matter, after all.

The kids, the main characters — the ones we’re supposed to identify with — are completely annoying. You don’t once think “I hope these kids live.” They’re just idiots. Reese, while pretty enough, is incredibly whiny and you’re glad when she’s captured. But her friends don’t even seem to care. At one point they have a chance to get away, but they go back. Not because they want to save Reese (hell, they don’t even acknowledge she may be in trouble), but because they want revenge on the person who did this to them. Poor Reese! It makes sense that we don’t care about her, but you think her friends would!

Aside from the fact that the kids are horrible actors, that the dialogue throughout is dumb, that the psychos just aren’t scary enough, that Tony Todd’s scenes force him to say nonsense (in a very cool voice), and the production values aren’t very good (this isn’t filmed anywhere near as well or atmospheric as the first one, and instead opts for a more “reality TV” look that is just lame). Aside from all that, we don’t even get to really see most of the kill scenes! A lot of the time, I had no idea what was going on. Someone would be struggling with a psycho or getting tortured, and you’d see their face, but the real damage is done off-screen and you have NO IDEA WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THEM. I found this completely annoying and stupid. No matter how bad the first movie was, it at least took the time to show you a drill boring through someone’s forehead or an axe chopping someone’s head off. But in ARE YOU SCARED 2, most of the gore happens off-camera and we don’t even get to enjoy it!

Andy Hurst, who directed the first ARE YOU SCARED? isn’t even around for this one. Sure, we pointed out he did an awful job, but compared to ARE YOU SCARED 2, the first one was a work of genius! In the second movie, the culprits are John Lands and Russell Appling, who both wrote and directed the movie. I only mention them, because frankly, we should know who turned out a movie this bad, and perpetrated this crime against cinema.

By the end, I realized I’d just completely wasted 94 minutes of my life. Of course, I should have known better. The first movie was bad enough. You’d think I would avoid the second one like the plague. But I was curious to see just how bad Part 2 was. And I wanted to see what the great Tony Todd had to do with the storyline. Todd is the one I feel worst for – the guy is a talented actor and deserves a lot better than this crap.  Won’t someone making a good movie hire this guy for Chrissakes? And not just for a cameo like in HATCHET (2006)!

So no, when I was watching ARE YOU SCARED 2, I was NOT scared. Not for a second. But I was annoyed and sad by the time the credits rolled. Because I realized I was dumb enough to sit through this one.

As for a rating — how many knives I give this one — let’s just skip it this time. To talk about giving this one a rating is a joke. I can’t believe I watched this one right to the end.

-END-

© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares