Archive for the Gimmicks Category


Posted in 2013, Cinema Knife Fights, Comedies, Gangsters!, Gimmicks, R-Rated Comedy, Sequels with tags , , , , , , on May 27, 2013 by knifefighter

Review by Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares

hangover3.jpg(THE SCENE: Vegas.  The top of an extravagant Vegas hotel.  MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES are on the roof, making a rope from tied towels.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Tell me again why we’re doing this?

L.L. SOARES:  We’re crashing Chow’s party.  Since we weren’t invited, this is the only way in.

MA:  Scaling the side of a building?  I don’t think it’s worth it.

LS:  What do you know?

MA:  I’d rather start our review of THE HANGOVER PART III.  Why do you want to hang out with Chow, anyway?  That guy really bugs me.

LS:  Love him or hate him, he throws great parties.  But if you want to start the review first, be my guest.

MA:  Well, I meant “instead.”  I’d rather review the movie instead of climbing down the side of a Vegas hotel hundreds of feet high just to go to a party.  It’s not my idea of fun.

LS:  Your idea of fun is watching flowers grow.

MA:  Actually, I find reviewing movies a lot of fun.  So, let’s get started with today’s film, THE HANGOVER PART III.

LS:  And then we’re going to this party!

MA:  Sure.  Whatever.

Anyway, welcome folks, to another edition of CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.  Today we’re reviewing THE HANGOVER PART III (2013) the third installment in the immensely popular and funny HANGOVER series.  I loved the first one, liked the second one as well, but I had my doubts about this one, since it’s the third in the series, and usually by the time you get to the third film in a series, the quality goes down.

While I generally enjoyed THE HANGOVER PART III, I think unfortunately, it does play like a third film in a series, which is not a good thing.

It’s actually not all that repetitive, since the main gimmick of the first two movies—where the characters awake from a drunken slumber to find themselves in some ridiculous predicament with no memory of the night before and then have to retrace their steps because one of their friends has disappeared, leading them through some wild and wacky adventures— is absent here.  This is not a good thing, since for me, the best part of the HANGOVER movies was in fact this gimmick.

LS: Yeah, I was a little torn over this. At first, it seemed like a ballsy choice to do something completely different in PART III. No crazy party, no blackouts, no increasingly outrageous revelations. PART III goes in a completely different direction, and usually I would like that. Except, I agree with you, what makes these movies so great is the gimmick, and how the filmmakers should be constantly trying to one-up themselves. For example, PART II should have been even more outrageous and shocking than the first one, but it wasn’t (at least it tried). PART III should have been the most outrageous of all, and should have risked getting an NC-17 rating! But it doesn’t even come close. PART III is easily the mellowest of the three when it comes to shocking revelations. I was disappointed.

MA: This time around, Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) are on their way to take Alan (Zach Galifianakis) to a special facility where he can receive treatment for his mental issues.  On their way there, they are highjacked and kidnapped by masked thugs who work for a man named Marshall (John Goodman).  Marshall explains to them that their old friend Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) had stolen a bunch of gold from him, and he wants it back.

LS: Those weird Porky Pig masks the kidnappers wear are kind of cool!

MA: They were cool, and I was actually hoping we might see them again later on in the movie, but we don’t.

Marshall knows that Chow has been in contact with Alan, and so he believes Alan, Phil, and Stu are his best option for finding Chow, who has otherwise evaded detection completely since he escaped from a Bangkok prison earlier in the film.  Marshall tells them that unless they bring Chow back to him with his gold, he’ll kill Doug.  Marshall gives them three days to do this.

LS: Who’s Doug, by the way?

MA: You know who Doug is! He’s the fourth member of the Wolf Pack. He’s the one who always either disappears or gets kidnapped or stays home so that he’s not part of the main story. A lot of people call him the “Zeppo” of these movies, like the Marx Brother Zeppo who rarely had much to do in the very early Marx Brothers movies!

LS: Oh yeah, Doug. What does he look like again?

MA: It doesn’t matter. Can I get back to the review?

LS: Sure you can. Man, you’re so touchy!

MA: And that’s the set-up for the plot of THE HANGOVER PART III.  Phil, Stu, and Alan have to track down Chow and bring him to Marshall and his goons in order to save Doug’s life.

LS: They should just let him have Doug. That guy’s boring anyway.

(ALAN from the HANGOVER movies suddenly appears on the roof with them)

ALAN: What are you guys doing?

MA: Alan! You shouldn’t be up here on the roof. It’s dangerous.

LS: Oh, stop treating him like a baby. He can be on the roof all he wants.

ALAN: Thanks a lot, LL. I was just wondering why you guys tied all those towels together.

LS: We’re going to climb down and crash Mr. Chow’s party.

ALAN: I want to go, too! (claps his hands)

MA: Oh brother. I just want to finish this review.

LS: Okay, Alan, The rope made of towels is all set. You can climb down first.

ALAN: Oh goody! You guys are so nice!

MA (whispers to LS): What’s the big idea?

LS (whispers back): I can test out the strength of these towels and see if they’ll hold us. This way, the big doofus tries them out for us.

MA: Okay.

(ALAN hesitates, then starts climbing down the towel-rope. At one point, the towels snap and he falls twenty stories to his death)

LS: That’s really too bad.

MA: Well, at least that wasn’t us.

LS: Yeah. Bye, Alan.

MA: Can I finally get back to our review now?

LS: Sure. My experiment is over.

tho3-1MA: As far as plots go, this one wasn’t too bad.  I did miss the gimmick from the first two movies, but in the same breath I also appreciated that this one was different.  But it’s not the most plausible plot.  Do I really think it realistic that a guy like Marshall would entrust finding Mr. Chow and his gold to three stooges like Phil, Stu, and Alan?  Not really.  But in a goofy comedy like this, I’m not going to be too hard on the plot.

LS: Yeah, like I said, I was torn. Normally I like it when someone does a sequel that takes real risks – that deviates from the same tired, old formula. Except in this case, I guess I didn’t find the HANGOVER gimmick to be all that tired yet. Like I said, they could have stuck to the formula but just upped the ante a lot, and tried to really make us squirm. But instead of amping things up, director Todd Phillips brings it all down a notch. And that’s kind of a bummer.

MA: The bottom line as to why I didn’t like THE HANGOVER PART III all that much—I mean, it was entertaining and diverting, and I didn’t hate it—is that it’s simply not all that funny.  I saw it in a packed theater, and the audience didn’t laugh a whole lot.  The most laughs the film got were at the end, in the wedding scene just before the end credits, and then—in which was for me the funniest part of the whole movie—the brief sequence after the credits start rolling.  I wish this sequence had been at the beginning of the movie and the plot of this one had been about what happened afterwards.

LS: Yeah, this is very important. If you go see THE HANGOVER PART III, you have to sit through the end credits. Well, just part of them. Just don’t leave the damn theater right away! If you do, you will miss what is easily THE FUNNIEST SCENE IN THE WHOLE MOVIE. And here’s where I am in complete agreement with you, Michael. This scene during the final credits is hilarious, and proves that the original formula of these movies still has a lot of life in it yet. And yes, this SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE FIRST SCENE IN PART III.  Dammit, I was kicking myself after I left the theater, thinking about the movie that COULD HAVE BEEN if they’d just left most of PART III on the cutting room floor and made a new movie based on that final scene. What a missed opportunity to really make us laugh!!

MA: I recognize writer/director Todd Phillips was looking to shake things up a bit, and to not be repetitive by avoiding the hangover gimmick in this film, but for me, that’s the best part of this series.  That’s why it’s called THE HANGOVER!  I said this when we reviewed the second film in this series, and I’ll say it again:  I actually like the gimmick better than I like the characters.  So for me, I really missed the hangover plot this time around.

LS: I don’t agree that the gimmick is better than the characters, and I’ll explain that soon, when it’s my turn. But I do agree that the gimmick is just as important, and this is one of the few franchises that should have stuck to the damn formula! Just about every other sequel this year is probably going to be predictable and tired and should have tried something new EXCEPT the HANGOVER PART III. What were you thinking, Todd Phillips? You don’t know when you have a solid gold gimmick with lots of life still in it.

MA: Of course, the jokes could have been funnier.  Again, I didn’t laugh all that much.  It also didn’t help that the early jokes—Alan’s misadventure with his new pet giraffe, and the scene at Alan’s father’s funeral—were all jokes that I had already seen in the trailer.  In fact, most of the better jokes in this one I had seen in the trailers.

LS: I loved the stuff with Alan and the giraffe! I wanted more stuff like that!

MA: I agree.  It was funny.  But I’d seen it already.

I wasn’t impressed by the screenplay by director Philips, and fellow writer Craig Mazin.  The plot, while not believable, was decent enough, but the jokes just weren’t there this time around.

I liked the scene where they break into what Chow has told them is his own house, and the bit where Stu and Chow have to first crawl through the house and then disarm the alarm is hilarious, but there were too few of these laugh-out-loud moments in this movie.

LS: That scene had its ups and downs, but overall it was pretty clever. I liked it, too.

MA: And I enjoyed the scene where Phil and Alan crash Chow’s party, and Chow escapes, soaring over the streets of Las Vegas as a human kite while Stu pursues him from the ground.

LS: Yeah, that was pretty good! Chow gets some of the best moments in this one. But a lot of people hate the character of Mr. Chow, so they might not enjoy those scenes as much as we did.

MA: But THE HANGOVER PART III rarely reaches those kinetic moments of sheer insanity which drove the first movie along.  Nor do the individual characters have as many memorable moments here.

Bradley Cooper pretty much plays it straight in this one as Phil, and while Ed Helms does get to enjoy some funny bits here as Stu, he sadly avoids his signature moments where awful things happen to him, unless you count the after-credit scene.  No tattoos, no missing teeth, no strange marriages to a hooker.  Honestly, I missed that.

LS: Bradley Cooper’s Phil is always the straight man. He just says cynical things and swears a lot, and while he doesn’t give an amazing performance here, I was satisfied with what he does.

MA:  Yeah, but he’s was funnier in the first two movies.

LS:  Helms, on the other hand, is pretty hilarious in the first two movies, and this time around they give him nothing to do for the most part except get bossed around by Alan. Poor Ed Helms! He deserves better.

MA: Even Zach Galifianakis as Alan, by far the funniest of the trio, while still as insane as ever, just didn’t generate the same kind of laughter as he did in the first two movies.  In fact, some of his scenes here are downright weird without being funny.  The scene where Phil tells Alan he loves him, and Alan starts wailing and crying is simply bizarre, and not humorous at all.

LS: Alan is a complete weirdo, but he’s a lovable weirdo. I have no problem with scenes that are just plain weird. My problem is scenes where Alan just sits around and pretty much does nothing. There’s one scene where they’re all just standing around, and Alan is sitting on the hood of their car, looking half-asleep, and I thought “this is exactly the kind of stuff that’s wrong with PART III,” they should be moving around non-stop, and Alan should never seem tired or like he has nothing to do.

MA: Ken Jeong is back as Mr. Chow, and his antics aren’t as funny this time around either.

LS: Usually Mr. Chow makes me laugh my ass off—despite myself. But yeah, he’s pretty uneven in this one. Sometimes he’s really funny, but a lot of the time he’s not. He even drifts into the “becoming annoying” category a few times during this movie, which is awful. CHOW SHOULD NEVER BE BORING!

Also, I want to give a shout out to Melissa McCarthy. She sure has become a big star since that BRIDESMAIDS movie. And she has a small role here as a pawn dealer in the heart of Vegas who has an instant love connection with baby-man Alan. I really liked her in this one, and enjoyed her scenes with Galifianakis a lot! More Melissa McCarthy!!

MA: You didn’t go see IDENTITY THIEF did you?

LS: No, it looked stupid.

MA: But Melissa McCarthy starred in it. With Justin Bateman. And she’s going to be in the upcoming cop comedy THE HEAT with Sandra Bullock.

LS: That looks kind of dumb, too.

MA: But you just said you were a fan of hers. You said “More Melissa McCarthy!

LS: I know…(thinks about it)…I’m sorry.

I liked her in this movie, though!


MA: Bottom line, THE HANGOVER PART III suffers from jokes that simply aren’t as creative as the jokes from the first two movies.  The cast is decent enough, and it’s fun to see these characters on the big screen again, but the situations they find themselves in here really aren’t all that nutty.  The wild chaotic hilarity from THE HANGOVER is largely absent in this third installment.

THE HANGOVER PART III is mildly amusing, but I wish I had laughed more.

I give it two knives.

So what did you think of it, LL?

(MR. CHOW suddenly appears on the roof with them)

CHOW: What are you doing on the roof of Chow’s hotel?

MA: Just getting some air.

CHOW: What’s that rope made of towels. You were going to crash Chow’s party, weren’t you?

LS: We don’t care about your stupid party. And we have nothing to do with that rope thingie. So cool your jets.

MA: Yeah, we’re trying to review THE HANGOVER PART III here.

CHOW: Okay, Chow will be quiet. Chow wants to hear what you thought of it…And it better be good.

LS: Michael just said it sucked.

MA: No I didn’t! I gave it two knives.

LS: Like I said, he said it was garbage.

(CHOW pulls out a loaded gun)

CHOW: Did you now?

LS: But don’t worry. I’m going to give my final comments now.

CHOW (smiles): Okay, Chow wants to hear that before Chow kills this guy.

MA: Gee, thanks.

LS (to Michael): Look, I wanted to really like this movie, but just about all of your problems with it are legitimate. We’ve already discussed in depth how going off of the tried-and-true formula this time around was a bad idea. But why didn’t Phillips’ risk work?

Well, the bottom line is, THE HANGOVER PART III isn’t a comedy.

CHOW: It’s not??

LS: There, I said it. I let the monkey out of the bag.

It starts out as a comedy, it seems to want to be a comedy throughout, but as soon as those Porky Pig-faced dudes kidnap our heroes, the movie stops trying to be funny, and instead gets too wrapped up in its plot involving Marshall, and the gold, and trying to get revenge on Chow, and suddenly, these characters who we love in comedy films, are suddenly in a thriller.

My argument is, the movie still holds up okay because I like these characters. Even though they stop doing funny things, I like Phil and Stu and Alan, and yes, even Mr. Chow…

MA: What about Doug?

LS: Who’s that?

Anyway, they all seem to be plopped into a serious crime movie instead of a comedy, but I like these characters, so I was still interested throughout, and I enjoyed it. But I DIDN’T LAUGH much at all. I have to admit, people in the theater with me did laugh. When Alan said something particularly odd. When someone did something that almost got them killed. People in the audience laughed a lot more than this movie deserved, because they LOVE these characters. And I guess I do too, which is why I didn’t hate this movie. But where were the monkeys? The unexpected tattoos? The Thai lady men?

I said I was torn, and I am. THE HANGOVER PART III came out a day earlier than normal (the first showing was Wednesday night at midnight), so a lot of critics had their say even earlier than usual. And the reviews for this one have been pretty awful. So I went into THE HANGOVER PART III expecting the worst, and, I have to say, it really isn’t that bad.

But it’s also not the comic masterpiece it could have been.

MA:  It’s not even close.  And it’s not really that great of a serious crime movie either.  It lacks grit and it’s not edgy. It’s not violent either.  I think Phillips got caught in the middle between comedy and crime movie and ended up not making either genre proud.

LS:  Oh, I agree. The only reason this movie works at all is the characters, and therefore the cast. They’re the only thing that saves this movie.  The script is just a letdown on a lot of levels.

And I want to emphasize how important the characters and actors are here. You could say, well the original gimmick is the most important thing and any characters can be plopped into the story and it will work.  But that’s not true. Director Todd Phillips produced a movie called PROJECT X in 2012 that was pretty much the same gimmick as the HANGOVER movies, except it was high school kids. And it was pretty bad. Why? Because the characters just weren’t that good (one was a complete asshole). They were not strong enough protagonists to keep you interested in the gimmicky storyline (to be fair, PROJECT X was not directed by Phillips, but by Nima Nourizadeh). So that’s why I say the cast is just as important to the HANGOVER movies as the gimmick.

But seriously, in PART III, which has the characters but not the gimmicks, it’s still second-rate. It could have been so much better.

MA: I agree.  It could have been better.

LS: I mean, let’s look at this and figure out why it’s such a dud. We have Todd Phillips, a director who isn’t afraid to push the envelope. He proved it with the first HANGOVER movie. Hell, he proved it back with his very first feature film, HATED (1993), a documentary about shock-rocker GG Allin. GG was a complete lunatic who would do anything at any given moment – which is why he was such a great choice for a documentary, and Phillips followed him around in his crazy everyday life to make that movie. I’m sure on some weird level that experience inspired him to create the HANGOVER films, where the idea was ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN AT ANY TIME.

And HATED wasn’t a fluke. Phillips also gave us OLD SCHOOL (2003), which has some pretty decent moments, including Will Ferrell jogging in the nude. And the first HANGOVER movie, which deserved to be the big hit it was. And I still wish they would release his “lost” documentary about what really goes on in college fraternities, FRAT HOUSE (1998), which I fear we’ll never get to see.

THE HANGOVER PART II was a disappointment because it didn’t do anything that out-shocked the first movie. But it was still pretty funny, and I liked it. PART III makes the fatal mistake that it just forgets to be funny. NOTHING HAPPENS! Nothing that takes us by surprise. Nothing that shocks us. If PART III is a thriller, then it’s a predictable thriller, and most of the time we’re not really on the edge of our seats wondering how it will all wrap up. What saves the third movie is that by now we love the characters so much, we’ll watch them doing almost anything.

MA: I don’t really agree with you. I mean, I like these characters too, but I don’t  love them, and I certainly don’t like them enough to enjoy them in a mediocre movie.

And by the way, you sure do like shouting a lot during this review.

LS: But PART III has completely dropped the ball on giving us anything that’s unexpected or that will make us uncomfortable or that will push the boundaries of an R-rated comedy. It doesn’t’ do any of these things. And that’s disappointing. But even more disappointing, even more frustrating, even more infuriating, is that after the end credits roll a little bit, we get that final, “secret” scene. That Easter egg at the end of the movie. And we find ourselves laughing our asses off. And we suddenly realize Todd Phillips could have given us that completely off-the-wall PART III that could have shocked us, and could have made us laugh uncontrollably for 90 minutes – but he just decided not to. He made a conscious decision to screw with the audience. And that annoys me.

I like PART III for what it is. But I kind of hate PART III because of what it could have been. What Phillips actually thought about and came up with, but didn’t make. Especially since he has said this is the last movie of a trilogy.

The bastard!

But, based on what’s up on the screen, I like these characters a lot, and I liked this movie a little more than you did, Michael. I give it two and a half knives.

But based on that final scene, this one could have easily been a three and a half knife movie. Hell, I give that one final scene by itself, three and a half knives.

CHOW: No, no. You  both were supposed to give this movie FOUR knives. That was the agreement. Chow is very angry now. Chow will kill you both.

LS: Not so fast, Chow.

(LS grabs CHOW and throws him over the edge. This time, CHOW forgot his hang-glider and falls twenty stories to his death).


MA: Thanks. That was some quick thinking.

LS: Not really. He was just too predictable this time around.

Okay, I guess we’re done here, and now I’m kind of bummed out and I don’t want to go to Chow’s party anymore. So let’s just go down to the casino and play the slot machines instead.

MA: Or Texas Hold-Em.

LS: Yeah.


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

Michael Arruda gives THE HANGOVER PART III ~ two knives.

LL Soares gives THE HANGOVER PART III ~ two and a half knives



Posted in 2013, 3-D, Adult Fairy Tales, CGI, Cinema Knife Fights, Gimmicks, Magic, Trolls, Witches with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2013 by knifefighter

By Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares


(THE SCENE: The middle of the woods, outside a house made of candy. MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES approach house.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA: A house made of candy! Oh boy!

L.L. SOARES: I can think of better things for a house to be made of. Besides, I’m on a diet.

MA: Well, if you’re going to nitpick, I suppose I’d prefer a house made completely of chocolate. In fact, that looks like a chocolate doorbell. (starts to eat chocolate doorbell, which rings).

LS: Haven’t you read enough fairy tales to know you’re not supposed to eat the candy?

MA: I don’t care.

LS: Hey, this tile is made of Swedish fish. I think I’ll have a nibble.

(Door opens and nasty looking witch peers outside.)

WITCH: Welcome! Come on in, childr—-. (Looks at MA & LS, and frowns). Aren’t you two a little old for this?

LS: Speak for yourself, grandma. We’re just here to review a movie. We’re not here for the candy—at least I’m not! (elbows MA).

MA (wiping chocolate from his mouth): Sorry about that. I couldn’t resist. Hey this window is a giant lollipop! (starts licking)

WITCH: Hope you’re enjoying yourself. (adds on her fingers) That’ll be $15.00.

MA: Seriously?

WITCH: Yeah! What do you think this is, a fairy tale? Pay up!

(MA pays her.)

WITCH: You, too. At a penny a piece, you must have eaten 30 cents worth of Swedish fish.

(LS pays her)

WITCH: Thanks. Have fun reviewing your movie. Make sure I receive some compensation. You are using the exterior of my home for your review, after all. Plus, I’m making a cameo…and it’s a speaking part! (waves at camera).

LS: And that’s your compensation: exposure. Now leave us alone, you old bag, so we can review today’s movie!

WITCH: Well, I never!

LS: That doesn’t surprise me.

(WITCH slams door).

LS (to MA): Would you like to start today’s review? I’m going to look around to see if there are any houses around here made from better stuff than candy.

MA: Sure. In fact, I’ll come with you. Let’s walk and talk. Welcome, everyone, to today’s edition of CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT. Today we’re reviewing the new action fantasy horror movie, HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS (2013), the movie that asks the question: Can you turn a fairy tale into a hard hitting R-rated movie? The answer is—yeah, sure, but does it work? That’s the better question.

HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS opens with the traditional take on the fairy tale, with young Hansel and Gretel deposited in the deep woods alone by their seemingly evil parents, only to make their way to a house made of candy, in which lives a witch who eats little children. Of course, this time around, little Hansel and Gretel kill the witch and grow up to become witch hunters.

LS: They’ve been given a mission in life!

MA: Years later, Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) are hired by the Mayor (Rainer Bock) of a small village to find and kill the witches who have been abducting the children of the village, much to the chagrin of Sheriff Berringer (Peter Stormare), a lawman who’d rather burn witches first, ask questions later. Plus, Berringer is still steaming over the fact that Hansel and Gretel prevented him from burning a woman named Mina (Pihla Viitala), who he believed to be a witch but who Hansel believed otherwise, a situation which ended when Berringer received a nasty head butt from Gretel.

LS: Mmmm…Gretel…

MA: Hansel and Gretel’s investigation leads them to the main witch baddie lurking in the woods, a witch named Muriel (Famke Janssen). With the help of a young witch-hunter wannabe, Ben (Thomas Mann), and a CGI-created troll named Edward (Derek Mears), who has a soft spot for Gretel, Hansel and Gretel go after Muriel and uncover some truths about their parents along the way.

LS: You probably should mention that Edward originally works for the bad witches and keeps the abducted children the witches steal in cages. It’s not until later that he “turns” good.

MA: When all is said and done, you already know which side is left standing and which side goes down.

One thing I’ll say for the folks who made HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS, they took their jobs seriously, and they tried like hell to make this one succeed. And you know what? For a movie I wasn’t interested in seeing at all, I actually liked this one. Well, a little bit anyway. I’m not going to lie. I didn’t love this movie by any means, and I never really was able to get past the fact that I was watching a story about Hansel and Gretel, but there were a lot of things I liked.

First off, the screenplay by director Tommy Wirkola and Dante Harper has a lot of things going for it. For one thing, even though this takes place in fairy tale land, people speak in modern day language, which means there are plenty of F-bombs flying around.

LS: I always hated that term: F-bombs.

MA: Well, this is a family-friendly site. Sort of. So we can’t exactly go on a cursing rant.

LS: Okay.

MA: At first, I didn’t think this worked, and I’m still not convinced that it did, but let’s put it this way: it made for some lively dialogue. This is a step up from the video game movies, like last year’s RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION (2012), which really isn’t a movie at all, but an extended video game. HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS, as silly as it is, is several notches above those awful movie wannabes.

I also liked how the story returned to Hansel and Gretel’s parents, offering an explanation as to why they did what they did, abandoning their children in the middle of the woods. Some thought went into this screenplay, which is always a good thing.

LS: I actually thought the explanation of why their parents abandoned them didn’t make total sense, since leaving them alone in the woods wasn’t really all that safe, especially with an evil witch’s candy house right nearby. But the screenwriters tried.

MA: True, but I think the parents expected to retrieve them after a short time, but that being said, they certainly didn’t have a contingency plan if things went bad, as they ultimately did. So, you’re right, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

LS: Thank you.

Hansel___Gretel _Witch_Hunters_5.jpg-large

MA: HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS also looks good, and director Tommy Wirkola made some good use of the 3D effects in some of the battle scenes. There’s plenty of blood and gore here—yes, it’s CGI— and even some nudity, and so this is definitely an R-rated pic.

LS: I didn’t see this one in 3D. I was getting sick of paying extra for 3D effects I didn’t care about. That said, this one was just fine in 2D. I didn’t feel cheated at all.

But there could have been a bit more of that nudity you mentioned. We never get to see the fetching Gretel nude. Or Famke Janssen’s evil witch….but Mina is quite nice.

(THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST, as played by Margaret Hamilton in green makeup, suddenly appears in a burst of red smoke)

WICKED WITCH (laughing): How about me! Would you like to see me nude as well?

LS: Not really. (thinks) Then again, I’ve always liked sideshows.

WICKED WITCH: Well, the witches in HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS are pathetic wannabes. I’M the real thing. Do these witches have flying monkeys? Do they have soldiers with big furry hats? NO! All they have is one simple-minded troll who turns against them. I’m the real deal, baby.

MA: No one is denying that.

WICKED WITCH: Well you better not! If I hear you talking smack about me, I’ll turn you into toads – and ugly ones at that. Mark my words, dammit!

(Suddenly, a house falls from the sky and crushes the WICKED WITCH)

MA: Oh, that was unfortunate.

LS: Ding dong, the witch is dead. Let’s go on with our review.

MA: Okay. I wonder how HANSEL & GRETEL would do against her.

(The WICKED WITCH’s feet wiggle beneath the house)

WICKED WITCH’s VOICE: I’d eat them for breakfast.

LS: She might be right.

MA: Anyway, Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton make for a very watchable Hansel and Gretel. The characters they’re playing are strictly one-dimensional, but they make the most of it and get as much out of Hansel and Gretel as possible. I can’t say that I liked either character, but I did enjoy watching both Renner and Arterton.

LS: I think the casting is probably the biggest reason to see this one. Jeremy Renner has just been getting bigger and bigger since he starred in THE HURT LOCKER in 2008, and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor (sadly, he didn’t win). Since then, he’s been in high-profile roles in movies like THE TOWN (2010), THE BOURNE LEGACY (2012) and, of course, as Hawkeye in THE AVENGERS (also 2012), even if he was a poorly developed supporting character in that one (and where the hell was Hawkeye’s mask from the comics?). He’s become an A-list actor and it’s surprising to see him in something like this.

MA: I agree.

LS: I also thought it was interesting how they made it so Hansel has to inject himself with something every once in a while to keep going. At first, you think he’s a drug addict, but it’s later revealed that they’re insulin shots—as he explains, he got very sick after eating all that candy in the witch’s house in the beginning when they were kids. I thought that was a cool touch.

As for Gemma Arterton, she’s a hottie I’ve had my eye on for a while. Before she played Gretel here, she was also Strawberry Fields in 2008’s THE QUANTUM OF SOLACE, played Io in 2010’s CLASH OF THE TITANS (and was one of the few things I liked about that movie), and has been in lots of small indie films like 2010’s TAMARA DREWE. I’m a fan, and she’s always memorable in everything she’s in, and she’s good here as well, even if she joins a long line of hot actresses who have been in action movies that require them to dress in leather and act tough and one-dimensional, including Kate Becksindale in the UNDERWORLD movies and VAN HELSING (2004) and Milla Jovovich in the RESIDENT EVIL movies. But I like HANSEL & GRETEL more than any of those.

While Renner is a respected actor now, he’s still waiting for that breakout role to make him a household name. So is Arterton. Unfortunately, despite their talent, HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS isn’t it. But it was a lot more fun than I expected it to be.

There’s something about HANSEL & GRETEL that feels like a movie that was on the shelf for a while, and was dusted off when Jeremy Renner started getting some buzz. And it was originally scheduled to be in theaters back in March of 2012.

MA: On the other hand, I was disappointed with Famke Janssen as evil witch Muriel. She spends too much time in the movie as a CGI creation, and I thought she was much more effective without all the CGI effects and makeup.

LS: I’ve always liked Janssen, but yeah, this is a thankless role. But she does as well as she can with it. And you’re right, she’s actually just as effective (if not more so) as a baddie when she’s not in the monster makeup.

MA: My favorite performance in the film, other than Renner’s and Arterton’s, belonged to Pihla Viitala as Mina, the woman who Hansel and Gretel save from being burned as a witch. Turns out, Mina has a secret of her own, and she and Hansel develop a relationship that is one of the more interesting in the film. Viitala is very sexy in this role, and I wished she had been in the movie even more.

LS: Yeah, I want to see more of her. I hope this leads to bigger roles.

(A disgruntled WICCAN emerges from the woods, holding a picket sign that reads “Down With Hansel & Gretel!”)

WICCAN: How dare you give this movie a proper review! After hundreds of years of persecution, the last thing we need is a throwback to the idea of witches as ugly old monsters who eat children. Real witches are nothing like that!

LS: You’re absolutely right. Real witches are nothing like this. But this is a fantasy movie. It’s not supposed to be reality. No one takes it seriously. Just like nobody believes that real-life dwarves have magical powers.

MA: Yeah, it’s just silly horror movie witches. It’s not supposed to be a realistic representation of witches.

WICCAN: Well, it still makes me angry.

LS: That’s okay. You’re entitled to your opinion. Don’t sweat it.

WICCAN: Thanks, I just wanted to say my peace. (leaves)

MA: Shall I continue?

LS: Be my guest.

MA: The rest of the cast is fine. Peter Stormare (who we just saw as an effective villain in last week’s THE LAST STAND) is effective again here as the villainous Sheriff Berringer. As he did in THE LAST STAND, Stormare outshines the main villain in the film, as I found his Sheriff Berringer here to be more dastardly than the bad witch Muriel.

LS: He’s certainly not as much fun to look at as Muriel. But I’ve always like Stormare. He’s been a character actor for a long time, and was great in movies like FARGO (1996), 8MM (1999), and George Romero’s BRUISER (2000), as well as TV shows like PRISON BREAK. He mostly plays bad guys, but he’s good at it.

MA: Derek Mears, as Edward the CGI troll, is also a decent character, but Edward is certainly more of a CGI creation than just an actor giving a strong acting performance.

I also enjoyed the music score by Atli Orvarsson. It’s lively, like the rest of the film.

There was also plenty that I didn’t like about HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS. As I already said, the characters of Hansel and Gretel are strictly one-dimensional, and so as much as I enjoyed Renner and Arterton in the roles, I didn’t like either character all that much, and so it’s not like I’d be looking forward to watching more movies about these folks. It’s my hope that this is a one and done deal.

LS: Agreed. This was a case of good actors doing the best with roles that were beneath them. And while I thought this movie was fun, I really don’t think we need any sequels.

MA: I hope not! The same goes for the rest of the characters in this one, with the possible exception of Mina. For a while, you’re not really sure about her, whether she’s good or bad, and I found her a little more interesting than the other characters in this film; of course, it helps that Pihla Vitaala is so damned sexy!

The plot is pretty standard, and didn’t excite me one iota, but since there are some movies out there that don’t even bother to give you a plot, having even an average plot is a good thing. There’s definitely a story here, even if it’s not a very good one.

LS: I think the story was kind of cliché. It really felt like we’d seen stuff like this before, many times before. But the interesting stuff came with the little details. There were things the filmmakers got right. HANSEL & GRETEL is above-average for this kind of thing, but it’s still not a great movie by any stretch.

I agree with you, Michael, that I was dreading going to see this one. I’d seen the trailer like 50 times and felt it pretty much gave away the entire story, and it kind of did. But it surprised me, too. I think the acting transcended the script, and it was a little better written than I was expecting. It also didn’t hurt that this movie tried to earn its R rating. By doing so, it had a little more edge (and flavor) to it than the heap of other, similar movies, that are usually PG-13 and sanitized to the point of pablum.

MA: I appreciated this one’s efforts to be a hard hitting adult fantasy tale, but I wish it had been even more successful. I wish the characters had been developed further and that the evil witch in this one had more to do than what she ultimately does. Then again, in a movie about Hansel and Gretel, maybe that’s too much to ask for.

LS: Probably. But as we’ve said before. Great writing can turn any lackluster idea into something exceptional.

MA: I didn’t love HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS by any means, but it was certainly better than I expected it to be, and I can’t deny that it’s entertaining in a silly sort of way. Ultimately it’s is a fairly successful bloody gory fantasy.

I give it two and a half knives.

LS: Strangely, I give it the same score. Better than expected. Worth going to see if you want a fun night at the movies. But don’t go in expecting a movie you can really love.

(They come to a clearing and see another house, this time made of pizza and giant kegs of beer. Girls dressed as sexy beer maids beckon them forward)

LS: Now that’s a house that tempts me.

MA: I know we should go the other way, but what the hell.

(They run toward the house)


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

Michael Arruda gives HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS ~ two and a half knives!

LL Soares gives HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS~two and a half knives, as well.

SKYFALL (2012)

Posted in 2012, Action Movies, Bond Girls, Cinema Knife Fights, Espionage, Fast Cars, Femme Fatales, Gimmicks, James Bond, Michael Arruda Reviews, Nick Cato Reviews, Secrets, Spy Films with tags , , , , , , , on November 12, 2012 by knifefighter

By Michael Arruda & Nick Cato

(The Scene: On top of a moving train, MICHAEL ARRUDA is fighting with a thug.  On a hill in the distance, NICK CATO aims a high powered rifle at them.)

NICK CATO (speaking into a headset):  I don’t have a clear shot.

L.L. SOARES’ voice on other end of the headset:  Take the shot.

NC:  But I might hit Michael!

LS:  So???

MICHAEL ARRUDA (hearing conversation on his headset):  So??? Gee, thanks a lot!  You want a clear shot?  Here, you’ve got one!  (MA stops fighting, pastes a large bull’s-eye on the thug’s chest and steps away from him.)  There you go.  He’s all yours.

(Thug drops to his stomach.)

MA:  What the—?

(Train enters tunnel, and a standing MA hits the top of the tunnel, which knocks him off train into the water below.)

NC:  Oops!  That’s not good.

LS:  What happened?  Did you shoot anyone?

NC:  Nope.

LS:  Any blood and gore involved?

NC:  Nope.

LS:  Then it’s all too tame for me.  I’m leaving.  Catch you guys later.

(NC takes off his headset, just as MA appears in dry clothing.)

NC:  Weren’t you just in the water?

MA:  It’s amazing how quickly one dries off in Cinema Knife Fight land.  It’s like being in a movie with bad continuity.  Ready to review today’s movie?

NC:  Sure. And I apologize for shooting you, but I was just following L.L.’s orders.

MA: No problem.  Today we’re reviewing SKYFALL (2012) the latest James Bond movie and the third one featuring Daniel Craig as Agent 007.

SKYFALL opens with James Bond (Daniel Craig) chasing a bad guy who has in his possession a computer drive of extreme value.  They end up fighting on top of a train, while another agent, Eve (Naomie Harris), tries to shoot the villain, but hesitates because she doesn’t have a clear shot and worries she might hit Bond.  M (Judi Dench) orders her to take the shot, and she does, hitting Bond in the process, and he plunges into the water below, presumed dead.

NC: At first I thought a train-top fight was a bit cliché to open a Bond film with, but director Mendes really made this one work.

MA: Yeah, it’s a pretty intense scene.

Anyway, since this is a James Bond movie, he’s not dead, and after lying low for a while, he returns to MI6 to help his boss deal with the latest threat to national security.  The stolen computer drive contained the names of agents working in some very dangerous places, and so now their identities have been compromised.  It’s Bond’s job to locate the computer drive and also find out who’s responsible for stealing it.

It turns out the villain is a man named Silva (Javier Bardem), a former agent of M’s who wants nothing more than to get back at her, because he feels her ruthlessness left him for dead, similar to what we saw happen with Bond in the movie’s opening segment.  So, Silva releases the names of several of the agents to the public, and promises to continue to do this on a regular basis, putting them in harm’s way, all in an effort to humiliate M.

Silva also plans an elaborate scheme to kill M, and of course, it’s up to James Bond to stop him.

NC: I thought Bardem did a fine job as Silva, and his homoerotic taunting of 007 gave him a dimension we haven’t seen in a Bond film before.

MA:  Yep, that was an excellent scene!  Some people squirmed, others laughed out loud.  Very effective.

NC:  But, at the same time, I think early reviews painting him as one of the best Bond villains ever is a bit of a stretch.

MA:  That’s definitely a stretch.

NC:  Silva’s on a personal vendetta against, M, not so much on a mission to destroy the globe like a classic Bond enemy. (That said, the sequence of MI6 headquarters being blown up was quite intense). He’s off his rocker, that’s for sure, but to me he wasn’t half as threatening as most of the goons Bond has gone up against over the years.

MA:  Agreed.

SKYFALL is being touted in some circles as “the best Bond movie ever,” and while I liked this movie, it’s certainly not the best Bond ever.  I wouldn’t even call it my favorite Daniel Craig Bond film.  While I liked it, I also had some problems with it.

NC: I can’t stand early reviews that label things the “best ever.” Regardless, I still went in with an open mind and was surprised at just how much of the film I found myself…bored with.

MA: One thing I’ve always liked about the Daniel Craig Bond movies is the way they’ve reinvented the franchise. Since Daniel Craig has come on board, the films have showcased a darker, more realistic Bond, and the results have been similar to what Christopher Nolan did for Batman in THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy.

Speaking of which, I was reminded a few times of THE DARK KNIGHT while watching SKYFALL.  We learn more about Bond’s past, how he’s an orphan and how he lost his parents at a young age, a la Bruce Wayne, and when he returns home he even finds a faithful servant Kincade (Albert Finney) still living there.  Can anyone say “Alfred”?

NC: I have a love/hate relationship with what little we’ve learned about Bond this time, from his parents’ early death to his alcoholism. They’ve made Bond a more “real” character since Craig has taken the lead, and while it has been refreshing at times, I still find myself yearning for that suave, in-control, “man-up” Bond of yesteryear.

MA: Also, at times, the villain Silva reminded me of the Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT as it seemed to be his plan to cause utter chaos, and in fact, one of his ploys, to get captured on purpose, comes right out of the Joker’s playbook.  But Silva’s nowhere near as interesting as the Joker, and I have to say, SKYFALL, as good as it is, is no DARK KNIGHT.

The cast is solid, and on paper, it’s an excellent cast.  Daniel Craig is a natural as James Bond, and I liked him immediately in the role in CASINO ROYALE (2006).  That being said, he seems to have aged here, which is part of the plot, I guess.   CASINO ROYALE opens with him making his first professional kills, hence beginning his 00 status, meaning he now has a license to kill.  Here, in SKYFALL, he’s close to retirement, and his abilities constantly come into question.  Again, there were shadows of THE DARK KNIGHT series here, which went on to feature an older, beat up Batman.  With that in mind, I found Craig’s performance less satisfying here.  It seemed to be lacking that efficient edge he held the first two times around, when he came off like a killing machine.  Here, he’s like a killing machine in need of an oil change.  He seems to be missing a step.

NC: Agreed. And while I’m a big fan of M as played by Judi Dench (who, by the way, is absolutely fantastic here), Bond seems to be a bit too close to her this time, following her around like a lost puppy. Of course, her life is in danger and Bond gives his all to protect her (especially during the way too long finale), but that little bit of rebellion 007 always had going on is lost in the shuffle here. He comes off as just another agent within MI6’s arsenal, but if the ending is any indication, things look like he may be getting back to business in the next film.

MA: Yes, once again, Judi Dench is great as M, and she seems to have more screen time in each successive Bond movie.  She first played M back in GOLDENEYE (1995), Pierce Brosnan’s first foray into the series.  Her M is certainly more integral to the plots of these movies than the original M, Bernard Lee, who simply showed up to give Sean Connery and Roger Moore their assignments.  That being said, if you go back to those original Connery Bonds, you’ll see some very memorable scenes between Connery’s Bond and Lee’s M where M was continually frustrated with how much Bond seemed to know about every subject on the planet.  It was a running gag in that series.

NC: And part of my problem with the Craig series is M doesn’t seem to see that in Bond. Perhaps they want us to understand that 007 is only human (hence the “realism” of the latest films)? Either way it’s little nuances like this that seem to be making Bond less of a super spy and more of a typical agent. Some are enjoying it. I’m still on the fence and hoping we’ll again see the fine balance that was displayed in CASINO ROYALE (2006).

Bond gets his Aston Martin back in SKYFALL.

MA: Javier Bardem as Silva makes for a very colorful villain, but he’s nowhere near as memorable as he was in his Oscar winning performance as the hit man in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007).  And while I liked Silva as a villain, he seems a little out of place here.  Again, these Daniel Craig Bond films are a gritty, realistic lot, and the villains in the first two movies were also dark and realistic.  Silva is two steps shy of the Joker, missing only some facial make-up.  Not exactly the most realistic fellow for Bond to lock horns with.

NC: Silva’s mission to destroy MI6 and M herself is surely a different thing for Bond to deal with. But when Bond villains aim their sights low, the films lose their epic feel. Look at 1989’s LICENSE TO KILL, where Bond (played for the second and last time by Timothy Dalton) goes after drug kingpin Sanchez (Robert Davi) after he kills two of his personal friends. While the film wasn’t as bad as many claim, Davi wasn’t after anything other than making money with a new way to transport cocaine, hence making him one of the more forgettable Bond villains. I feel Silva’s personal mission to wipe out MI6 (in years to come) won’t be as memorable as many are giving it credit for. As goofy as Hugo Drax (from 1979’s MOONRAKER) appeared, his hell-bent goal to attack the world’s cities with chemical bombs from space isn’t something one easily forgets. Silva has a creepy laugh (and a nifty, hidden facial disfiguration), but he left me quite underwhelmed.

MA (cringing):  Not Hugo Drax!  But you’re right, at least he had an ambitious goal, worthy of a supervillain.

NC: Muhahahahahahahaha!

MA: Naomie Harris is okay as the latest Bond girl Eve, and I really enjoyed Ben Whishaw (most recently in CLOUD ATLAS) as a new young Q.  Rory Kinnear also reprises his role as Tanner, M’s assistant from the last movie, and does a nice job.  Kinnear is the son of late actor Roy Kinnear, who appeared in so many British movies over the years before his untimely death on the set of THE RETURN OF THE MUSKETEERS (1989) in 1988.

Ralph Fiennes is also on hand as Gareth Mallory, the man who’s put in the position of telling M her days on job are numbered and she should retire, and he makes the most of his scenes.  Rounding out the cast is veteran Albert Finney who does a nice job as Alfred—er, Kincade.

NC: I enjoyed Bérénice Lim Marlohe as Severine, who gives the film that classic touch of Bond-girl mystique and sophistication. She’s a real treat for the eyes, although her screen time here is a bit limited.  I thought Ben Whishaw was good as the new Q, too, but I’m hoping future films will contain more classic “gadget” segments. Q tells Bond (after handing him a gun and a small radio), “Were you expecting an exploding pen? We don’t do that anymore.” I hope the kid was just joking.

(Q appears and approaches them.)

Q:  I never joke about my work.

NC:  Bring back the cool gadgets!

Q:  You’ll have to talk to the screenwriters about that one.  (Exits).

NC:  As a tease, when Bond manages to get M away from danger, he takes her to a hidden MI6 garage and pulls out in the classic Aston Martin DB5, first seen in GOLDFINGER (1964), which caused 007 geeks like myself to squeal aloud in super-nerd glee.

MA: SKYFALL was directed by Sam Mendes.  This one looks great with some very impressive foreign locales, but I thought it was short on action.  I liked the film’s opening pre-credit chase scene, which culminates on the top of the moving train, as I thought it was amazing and intense, but other than this, the actions scenes were few and far between.

NC: Most Bond films are sprinkled with sections of non-action, but usually they’re interesting. After SKYFALL’s spectacular opening train fight, the film goes to sleep for far too long, and the ending shoot-out (that reminded me of a typical Western, only with better firepower) became way too tedious.

MA: I did like the chase in the subway, and the attack on M in London was very suspenseful, but like you, I thought the finale, the armed assault on Bond’s family home, was anticlimactic.

The screenplay was written by Bond veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.  This is the fifth Bond film they’ve written, the first being the Pierce Brosnan film THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (1999).  They’ve written every one since.  The third writer in the credits is John Logan, who has written a wide variety of movies, including HUGO (2011).

I was hot and cold on the script.  The story itself—a crazed former agent out to kill M— I thought was just OK.  At times it works, but more often than not it wasn’t all that exciting.  I wanted more of a threat to the world, not just M.

NC: Exactly.

MA: One scene I did like was M’s speech, where she talks about the changing threats the world faces today, how today’s threats aren’t on a map.  They’re in the shadows, and you don’t always know who your enemies are.  Too bad in this one they knew exactly who their enemy was.

NC: M’s speech reminded me a bit of President Bush’s speech shortly after 9/11, which I guess the screenwriters figured would give the series modern relevance.

MA: Thomas Newman’s music score was very effective.  I thought I would miss the music of David Arnold, who’s been doing a phenomenal job scoring these films since TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997), but I didn’t.

NC: It was great to hear the classic Bond theme when the Aston Martin came into play, though. And while I’m not a fan of the title song, I have to admit Adele nails that classic 60s-style Bond feel with her opening track.

MA:  Yes, that opening track, which I also heard from folks as the best James Bond theme song ever!  What is up with all this “best of” stuff?  I think fans were really in need of their James Bond fix this time around!  For the record, I wasn’t that impressed with the song.

There were also some good uses of humor, such as one scene involving Bond, M, and the ejector seat.

In general, I like how the Daniel Craig films are more modern, fit in better with current times, and are nowhere near as unbelievable as the Pierce Brosnan films ultimately became.

NC: Hey! The Brosnan films did get a bit silly, but man was GOLDENEYE (1995) great!

MA: But somehow, SKYFALL has less of an edge than the previous two Daniel Craig Bond movies. The plot’s not as good or as tight, and the majority of the scenes simply aren’t as intense.  I definitely wanted the villain Silva to do more.  I mean, all this planning—years of planning, they say in the movie— just to get back at M?  Why not just shoot her and be done with it?  If you’re going to concoct this elaborate scheme, why not come up with something more ambitious?

NC: And this is exactly what Mike Myers made fun of in his AUSTIN POWERS films: if you’re going to make the series more “modern,” knock it off with the bad guys’ intricate planning and just get down to business.

(AUSTIN POWERS zips by in a motor boat.)

AUSTIN POWERS:  Oh, be-have, baby!  Be-have!

MA: And this ultimately is what SKYFALL is missing:  something grand and ambitious.  Silva should have been planning the ultimate terrorist attack, and it should have been up to 007 to thwart him.

NC: Silva reminded me a bit of Jonathan Price’s far more threatening cyber terrorist Elliot Carver, from 1997’s TOMORROW NEVER DIES, only working on a much smaller scale.

MA: I liked SKYFALL, but it’s not the best Bond ever, not by a long shot.  I give it three knives.

NC: SKYFALL has its moments, but overall I was disappointed. The scenery (especially during a silhouetted fight on the top floor of a Shanghai tower) is often excellent, and much of the cinematography is very well done (such as the aforementioned train-attack scene). Regardless, I found this to be the slowest moving Bond caper since 1985’s A VIEW TO A KILL and far from the best film in the series. CASINO ROYALE (2006) is still easily Craig’s best turn as 007.

I give it two knives.

MA:  Well, I guess you were more disappointed with it than I was.  In spite of its shortcomings, I still enjoyed seeing Daniel Craig as James Bond on the big screen.  It’s just that after all the hype, I expected it to be even better.

Well, that about wraps things up here.  Want a ride back to town?

NC:  Sure.

(MA & NC approach a parked Aston Martin.  MA tosses NC the keys.)

MA:  Why don’t you drive?

NC:  Cool.

(They drive away in the Aston Martin as James Bond theme plays.)

NC:  Hey, what’s this button?

MA:  That’s the— (screams)  Ejector seat!!!  (flies into the sky.)

NC:  Sorry.

(MA lands back in the water.)

NC:  There’s something symmetrical about all this.


© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and Nick Cato

Michael Arruda gives SKYFALL ~ three knives!

Nick Cato gives SKYFALL ~two knives.


Posted in 2011, Cinema Knife Fights, Demons, Family Secrets, Faux Documentaries, Ghosts!, Gimmicks, Paranormal, Prequels, Scares!, Sequels with tags , , , , , on October 24, 2011 by knifefighter

By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares


(NIGHT #3. October 23, 2011. 2:33 AM)

(THE SCENE: A bedroom, night. A figure lies asleep in a bed, being recorded by a video camera. The bedroom door is ajar. It slams shut with a loud thud. MICHAEL ARRUDA jumps up from the bed with a start.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA: L.L., is that you?

(L.L. SOARES’s muffled voice): Me? What? What’s going on?

(LS appears from under the covers, and as soon as MA and LS realize they’re in the same bed, they both scream and leap to the floor.)

LS: What am I doing in your house?

MA: Don’t you remember, you were supposed to be playing the ghost at the door?

LS: I thought you were! I told you I wanted the napping role!

MA: Oh. I thought you said “nabbing” role.

LS: Who says “nabbing” role? What the hell does that mean?

MA: I don’t know. It’s what I heard. Anyway, if we’re both here, who slammed the door?

LS: I don’t know, and I don’t care. That stuff seems less scary all of a sudden.

MA (looks at bed): I know what you mean. Anyway, how about we start reviewing this week’s movie?

LS: You go first. I’m going to make myself some hot chocolate to settle myself down.

MA: Okie-dokie.

(LS leaves out of the door that previously slammed, leaving it ajar on his way out)

MA: That was weird.

Anyway, today we’re reviewing PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 (2011), the latest installment in the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY series, obviously. This one begins with video footage from 2005 and then 2006 in which we again see the sisters who were the main characters from the first two movies—Kristi Rey (Sprague Greydon)  and Katie (Katie Featherston)— and in these scenes we witness the discovery of videotapes of the girls’ childhood from 1988 that were previously from their grandma’s basement. These tapes are stolen, but who stole them and how we end up watching them is left unclear.

But we do end up watching them, as they make up the main story of this movie, which takes us back to the sisters’ childhood, so we can see how all these freakish paranormal occurrences began to happen to them even while they were children. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 is pretty much a prequel, then, to the first two movies. Prequel? Didn’t we just do this last week with THE THING (2011)?

(Door slams)

MA: What the!

LS (returns with steaming mug of hot chocolate): Yep, we did. Actually, Part 2 was mostly a prequel to the first movie (with a little bit of a “sequel” at the end), so Part 3 is mostly a prequel to a prequel.

MA: I’m confused.

LS: No, no, you’re doing fine. Keep going.

MA: What the hell kind of hot chocolate is that? (Looking into mug) What are those? Eyeballs?

LS: Yeah! What do you put in your hot chocolate? Marshmallows?

MA: Well— yeah.

LS: What a wuss.

MA: Anyway— so, the action takes place in 1988, as we meet the girl’s mom Julie (Lauren Bittner) and her live-in boyfriend Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith). Dennis videotapes weddings for a living (if you can call it that, since his lack of income is a sore spot in their relationship) and so he’s rather obsessed with video cameras. He convinces Julie to let him tape them having sex, but before they can complete the act, there is an earthquake (they live in Carlsbad, California). During the quake, dust from the rattled walls and ceiling floats in the room, coating what looks to be a spectral figure in the corner, and this phenomenon is captured by Dennis’s camera.

And since they’ve also been hearing weird noises in the middle of the night, Dennis decides to set up some video cameras around the house, hoping to catch more glimpses of their “ghost.” What he captures is Julie’s youngest daughter getting up in the middle of the night talking to someone— someone she calls Toby— who everyone else knows better as her imaginary friend.

Dennis captures more weird things on his camera, and he also gets his buddy Randy (Dustin Ingram, who gets to appear in one of the scarier scenes of the movie) involved, when he shows these spooky things to him. Eventually, Dennis becomes convinced that Julie and her daughters are in danger, but Julie disagrees, dismissing her daughter’s behaviors as normal child behavior—kids do weird things, she says—and she grows increasingly irritated by her camera-toting boyfriend.

In this case, you shoulda listened to Dennis, Julie!

LS: I’ll say.

MA: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 is exactly what I expected it to be: spooky scary stuff without much of a story to hold it together, and that’s the main reason I’m not a big fan of this series. To me, the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY series raises “cheap scares” to another level. We’re subjected to repeated scenes of silent homes at night while people sleep— for anyone who’s spent time alone in a quiet house, these things are naturally scary. It’s creepy when you hear a noise in the middle of the night. Spooky, yes, creative, no.

The PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies just don’t have much of a story, and they suffer for it. Watching these movies is like watching a TV reality show with cameras filming weird things going on in people’s homes. Sure, it’s entertaining in a voyeuristic sort of way, but it just doesn’t do it for me the way other more traditional horror movies do.

(LS suddenly moves toward the camera and appears to be talking to someone. He looks upset. Then he moves back to where MA is)

MA: What was that all about?

LS: Nothin’

MA: Who were you talking to.

LS: Toby. But he told me not to tell anyone what he said.

MA:   Tell Toby he’s being a pain in the ass.

LS:  Sure, but do you really want me to tell him that?

MA:  Like I’m supposed to believe he’s really over there.

LS:  Hey, Toby.  He just called you a pain in the ass.  (To MA)  You’ll be sorry.

MA (shrugs it off):  Anyway, All this being sad, the films, this one included, are creepy, and they do provide some jolting scares, but they’re the kind of scares one gets while walking through a Halloween Haunted House attraction rather than watching a well-written horror movie. Still, being scared is fun, and I can’t deny that watching PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 was fun, because it was, especially in a crowded theater (I’m guessing this one’s going to enjoy a strong opening weekend), but there’s just not that much to it. I left the theater wanting more.

There were some neat touches and some scary scenes. I liked the camera on the fan oscillator bit, as that set the stage for some creepy material. I also loved the “Bloody Mary” scene, as it was probably my favorite scene of the whole movie, although it’s not the same one showed in the movie’s trailers.

Wanna play "Bloody Mary?"

LS: Yeah, I actually thought this bit of information was fascinating. We talk about trailers a lot here – about ones that give too much away, about ones that keep you wanting more and in this case we finally get someone who knows what the hell they are doing. There are scenes in the trailer for PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 that were filmed just for the trailer. We don’t see them in the movie. And they are not just throw-away scenes – they are memorable and even may provide clues to the actual film. Not only did they not ruin the movie for their prospective audience, they built up scares before you even saw the movie! Friggin brilliant! That’s what trailers should do!

MA: I guess.  I would have liked to have seen those scenes in the movie.

I enjoyed Christopher Nicholas Smith a lot as Dennis, and thought he gave the best performance of the movie. He was a very likable main character, and he wasn’t stupid, so when the freaky stuff starts happening, his reactions seemed real and they made sense.

LS: Yeah, I guess he can be annoying, since he brings his video camera everywhere (luckily for us), but this seems to be how he assimilates the world around him. He uses a camera for a living, but he also is most comfortable using cameras to solve the mystery of this haunted house, and it makes perfect sense that he would use the tools he is comfortable with.

MA: I also really enjoyed Dustin Ingram as his buddy Randy. Randy gets to take part in the scary Bloody Mary scene.

LS: Yeah, Randy is great. I wanted more of him. More of that cute babysitter, too (why didn’t Dennis ever introduce the two of them, like Randy asked?).

MA:  Because the movie’s only 85 minutes long.   He didn’t have time!

LS:  When he gets to experience the weirdness first hand, Randy rightly freaks out and realizes it’s not just sitting around watching creepy videos anymore. Something really is going on, and it hits home.

(LS moves toward the camera and appears to be talking to someone we can’t see again. He seems more agitated, and then steps back to where he was)

MA: Still talking to Toby?

LS (mutters):  Someone’s going to be sooooorry.

MA: I wasn’t as enamored with Lauren Bittner as the girls’ mom Julie. She was OK, but I thought her character’s refusal to believe Dennis, in spite of the evidence, was a bit of a stretch, and I know later on she flat out refuses to watch the videos, and so she’s not seeing what Dennis is seeing, but still, with that weird stuff happening, wouldn’t she WANT to see what’s going on?

LS: I have to admit, I thought for once one of these PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies was going to finally earn its R-rating and show us some skin during the “Let’s tape ourselves having sex” scene with Julie and Dennis. Like you said earlier, an earthquake interrupts them, so all Julie gets down to is her underwear. But seriously, I haven’t figured out how these movies don’t get a PG-13 rating. They’re not gory and there’s not much else to demand an R.

MA:  I have to agree with you there, and even more ridiculous, the theater manager was at the ticket booth checking ID’s, even for people who obviously looked in their early 20s.  Even better, they had a second employee by the theater entrance to check again!!  I thought I was walking into an NC-17 movie or something!

LS: Hey, they were doing some extra carding at my theater, too. I bet it’s because they expect so many kids to sneak into this one. I don’t think it’s because of the movie’s content – it can’t be. But rather because theaters don’t want to lose money for all these kids who plan to sneak in!

MA: Maybe.

LS:  Back to our review.

And don’t forget the kids in this movie. They’re terrific. There’s Chloe Csengery as the young Katie and Jessica Tyler Brown as young Kristi Rey. They’re both believable kids, and that’s crucial to a movie like this.

MA: Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman do a fine job at the helm. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 is well-paced and it’s scary, even if the scares are cheap and sometimes false. Christopher B. Landon wrote the screenplay, and he wrote the screenplay to the second film in the series as well.

LS: Joost and Schulman previously made the faux documentary, CATFISH (2010), about a guy (Ariel Schulman’s brother, Nev) who decides to go and meet a woman he’s been having an online romance with on Facebook, with unexpected results. It was a clever little movie, and the perfect training ground for a PARANORMAL ACTIVITY sequel — I mean, prequel. It’s the same style of filmmaking, except this time for scares, and they do a fine job here. And the script is just as good as the other films in the series.

MA: It’s adequate, but I wanted to know more. For example, who stole the video tapes? How is it that we’re watching them? I really thought there would be some explanations at the end, and there weren’t.

Speaking of the end, I was disappointed with the ending to this movie. I thought it was abrupt and not very satisfying. It definitely left me with that “it can’t be ending here” feeling.

LS: Can you say PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4? This movie is so primed for another sequel, it’s not funny. The strange thing is, if you’ve been watching all the films, Part 3 does give us some answers to what the hell is going on. Some very definite answers. But, like you said, it offers up new questions as well, which is exactly what you want to do if you plan to keep making these movies. Who did steal the videotapes? Why? And why are they watching them? Come back next time and find out!

That said, I actually liked the ending of this one. It doesn’t answer the questions you asked, but it answers stuff from the previous movies, in a very spooky way.

MA: All in all, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 isn’t a bad movie, but I don’t think it’s a particularly very good movie either. Still, it’s Halloween, and if you want to be scared, it’ll do the trick. Just don’t expect much of a treat. I give it two knives.

LS: I don’t know, I definitely like this series a lot more than you do, and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 is no exception. Sure, there are lots of cheap scares, but there are definitely some real ones, too. The acting is perfect, especially the kids, who could make or break a movie like this that strives for realism to dupe us into suspending disbelief. I thought the story and scares in this one were just fine.

And you said earlier that these movies are fun, and that nails why they’re so popular. Unlike the recent remake of THE THING, where they followed the numbers and didn’t surprise us at all, and a formulaic Hollywood pic like REAL STEEL, where we knew the plot twists coming a mile away, the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies still find ways to surprise us. Sure, they follow their own “connect the dots” formula. You keep seeing a scene until something suddenly “goes wrong.” But it works. There are always scenes that you don’t expect.  It’s a formula based on giving us some real scares, and it succeeds, and that’s why I continue to enjoy going to these movies.

And a BIG part of the fun is the audience. For some reason, audiences for the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies are animated, vocal and interactive in ways no other audiences are. I don’t know why this series actually seems to plug into kids and elicit reactions from them – but it does, and that’s a big part of “the experience.”

MA:  I think it’s because they’re scared.  Folks in the theater with me were blurting out zingers and one-liners with regularity, and it’s not like they’re making fun of the movie.  I think they’re releasing nervous tension.

LS:  I haven’t seen audiences this involved since the old midnight movies like THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.

MA:  Yep, the experience is a little like ROCKY HORROR.

LS:  And the fact that these movies continue to scare audiences without fail is something to be applauded. There is no way you can replicate this in your living room, and if you’re watching these movies on DVD, you may have no clue what’s so great about them. In fact you might be thinking “What’s the big deal about these movies, anyway?”

Are the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies great works of art? No. They can’t hold a candle to classic horror films that actually are about something. But for what they are, they’re a good time. And for that reason, I give PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 ~ three and a half knives. It’s certainly better than a lot of the movies we saw over the summer, and so far this fall. And, especially if you’re a fan of the other films in the series, you need to go and see Part 3 on the big screen. With an audience. Preferably a packed house.

MA:  See, I just can’t get into them as much as you do.  For me, it’s the difference between watching a TV show like LOST vs. a reality TV show.  The reality TV show is fun to watch, but I’m nowhere near as interested in watching it faithfully as I am a scripted show like LOST.  That’s not to say the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies don’t have scripts, because they do, but their stories to me are secondary.  It’s all about the camera.  It’s a gimmick series.

LS: A gimmick that works.

(LS stops and then steps closer to the camera. He appears to be talking to an unseen person again. The discussion gets heated, and then LS steps back to where he was)

MA:  What was that all about?  Isn’t Toby still out to get me?

LS:  Yep.

MA:  So, what are you all worked up about?  I would have thought you’d be happy about that development.

(There is a loud swoosh! sound, and MA is whisked off his feet by an unseen presence and dragged off camera.)

LS:  I’m upset because he won’t let me join in on the fun.

MA (off camera):  I heard that!  You wait till next time!

LS:  Have fun with Toby!  (Off camera there are sounds of a powerful struggle).  Okay folks, while those two duke it out, I’ll say so long—until next time!


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

Michael Arruda gives PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 ~ two knives!

LL Soares gives PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 ~three and a half knives.

Go see Paranormal Activity 3 - OR ELSE!


Posted in 2011, 3-D, Cinema Knife Fights, Gimmicks, Horror, Sequels with tags , , , , , , , on August 15, 2011 by knifefighter

By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: A suspension bridge. Workmen are making repairs. MICHAEL ARRUDA and LL SOARES drive along slowly in bumper-to-bumper traffic. MA is behind the steering wheel)

MA: I hate these large suspension bridges. I can’t get off them fast enough. They’re creepy.

LS: What’s the matter? Afraid it might fall apart or something? Heh heh heh.

MA: I find them scary. What can I say?

LS: Quit your baby whining and drive!

MA: I need to take my mind off this bridge. Why don’t you start our review of FINAL DESTINATION 5?

LS: Sure. Okay, folks, today we’re reviewing the latest FINAL DESTINATION movie. This is number 5, can you believe it?

MA: It seems like number 55.

LS: It does seem like we’ve sat through a lot of these movies. I really wasn’t too thrilled about having to see this one. I’m tired of the whole concept at this point.

MA: Me, too.

LS: FINAL DESTINATION 5 is the newest film in the series that deals with people escaping their fate, only to have Death come looking for them to balance the scales. This time around, it’s a bus full of white collar types on a business outing – some kind of team-building retreat thing – but they never make it to their final destination.

MA (looks at camera): Ooooh!

LS: Hey, keep your eyes on the road!

MA: We’re going two miles per hour here. I think I can look at the camera for a second. Jeesh!

(There’s a loud thud, and WORKMAN cries out.)

WORKMAN: You ran over my foot!!!

MA: Sorry about that!

LS (to WORKMAN): Oh stop your baby whining!

(There’s another thud followed some shattering sounds.)

MA: What was that?

LS: I think he just kicked in the brake lights. (Rolls down window) Hey! We’re trying to review a movie here!

Where was I?

MA: Plot summary.

LS: Oh yeah.

While the bus is on a bridge much like this one, things suddenly go haywire. While workers are busy repairing the bridge, it suddenly crumbles apart, killing tons of people in the process. We see a big, long sequence where Sam Lawton (Nicholas D’Agosto) and his friends get off the bus and try to escape before the bridge plunges to the ocean below. Along the way, almost everyone is killed in horrific ways, from having metal poles punch through them to having cars fall on top of them to being impaled on a sailboat. We go through all this (and it’s actually not a bad scene), and then realize, it was all just a vision on Sam’s part. He wakes up back on the bus, and suddenly realizes it’s going to happen all over again – this time for real – and he has to get his friends off the bus and to safety.

MA: It’s not a bad scene at all. I liked it better than the initial accident/death scenes in the previous two movies in the series. The third film had a roller coaster sequence, and in the fourth it was death at a car race. I liked this bridge scene better.

LS: Me, too, It was way better than the last two movies. This time, Sam is able to get his friends off in time, and eight people escape their violent deaths. But Fate/Death doesn’t like to be cheated, as a mysterious coroner (Tony Todd) tells them at the funeral of their co-workers who didn’t get away. And so, the survivors begin to die in horrible ways, as Death reclaims them.

The first FINAL DESTINATION movie was kind of a clever concept. But by now the entire thing has gotten very tired.

MA (yawns): You said it.

LS: Sitting there, I wished there would be some real surprises this time around, but there weren’t.

MA: You said it again. Surprises certainly would have helped this movie, to keep it fresh, but this is the fifth film in the series, so I certainly wasn’t expecting any surprises.

LS:  A big part of the problem is that none of the characters are particularly interesting or likable. We’ve all heard this criticism of these kinds of movies before – I just didn’t care about these people. You’d think Hollywood would catch on and actually have the screenwriters on these movies try to develop believable characters for a change.

No such luck here. I guess that would take too much effort.

MA: Well, I think it’s a case where the writers aren’t being asked to write believable characters. Hollywood, especially with these horror franchises, wants cookie-cutter characters and plots, and they certainly don’t want to deviate from the original concept, since it makes money. They want something safe, something that will be what fans of the series want to see, and they want to feel secure that their movie will make money. The sad part is, in terms of business, they’re right, because I’m sure this movie will make money.

LS: Movies with original plots and believable characters would probably make more money, but like I just said, that would take too much effort. But back to the characters in this one.

First off, the “hero” this time around, Sam Lawton, is a pretty boring guy. He works in the office, but really wants to be a chef, but he doesn’t want to leave his girlfriend to go to Paris to intern at some fancy restaurant there, so he’s considering ignoring his life-long dream of culinary greatness. You know what? Who gives a damn? I thought Sam was a real snooze and I wish he’d died in the original disaster.

MA: Really? I actually liked Sam and though Nicholas D’Agosto did a nice job creating a likable hero, although I found it laughable that late in the film after so many of his friends have died from horrific accidents, and he knows that he’s on the “death” list as well, that he’s still whining about whether or not to go to Paris for his dream job. Wake up, buddy, you ain’t going anywhere because Death is coming to get you! Fool!

LS: Yeah, he’s a complete moron. But his “friends” aren’t any better. There’s his girlfriend Molly (who breaks up with his early on, so he can pursue his dream in Paris – how noble!) played by Emma Bell.

MA: So noble I almost threw up! That came off as so phony.

LS: There’s Sam’s buddies Pete (Miles Fisher) – who is also Sam’s boss at the office – and Nathan (Arlen Escarpeta) – who was recently made the boss of the factory part of the building, even though he’s young and the more experienced factory workers resent him. There’s also a hottie named Olivia (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood), who dates musicians and has bad eyesight; a very annoying “playa” type, Isaac (P.J. Byrne), who is always on his cell phone talking to different ladies, even though he looks like a twerpy nerd; Candice (Ellen Wroe), a college intern who is dating Peter; and the group’s big boss, Dennis (David Koechner, a veteran of several Will Ferrell comedies), who is a total jerk.

MA: Something tells me these guys won’t be getting their own TV show.

LS: Anyway, they begin to die off, one by one, in horrible/violent ways. One person dies while getting acupuncture at a Chinese spa, another gets burned by a laser during eye surgery. Those are the more interesting ones. Others have hooks or wrenches forced through their heads. In this kind of movie, the big draw is that characters are going to die in horrible, creative ways. But, overall, I wasn’t all that impressed.

MA: As far as the cast, they’re OK. I’ve seen so much worse. It wasn’t like they stank up the joint. I think with what they had to work with, they were fine.

My favorite death scene was the first one, where the girl dies in the gymnastics accident. That was such a grisly last shot, I almost had to look away, and I enjoyed the scene at the Chinese spa, because that one was funny, but after that, I thought these scenes went downhill fast and grew very tiring.

LS: There’s also an FBI guy on the case named Agent Block (Courtney B. Vance) who I just found irritating as hell. At first, he tries to accuse Sam of being involved in terrorism or something because he knew to get off the bridge before it collapsed. Agent Block doesn’t buy the whole “I had a vision beforehand” thing, which is fine, but even when it’s revealed that the bridge disaster was caused by structural problems, Agent Block is still determined to nail Sam for something and is always around at each death scene. For some reason, this guy just really bugged me.

MA: Yeah, he thinks this at first, but later he admits that he doesn’t believe Sam is responsible, and he just seems to be trying to figure out what the heck is going on. He didn’t bug me that much.

LS: You’re talking about the scene where Agent Block asks Sam what he thinks is happening – anything he might think is behind it all – and Sam just parrots what Tony Todd’s character said (something like “Death doesn’t like being cheated”) and then Agent Block seems annoyed with the answer. Then why did he ask it?

MA: He asked the question because he’s trying to solve the case, and he’s hoping Sam has some insights into what’s going on, and when Sam gives him the “Death doesn’t like being cheated” spiel, it’s not what Block wants to hear, so naturally, he gets annoyed.

LS: Stop defending the guy! Agent Block is a dummy and an awful detective.

As for Tony Todd, this is the guy who played friggin CANDYMAN (1992) after all, and I’ve always dug him as an actor, but he sure is in a lot of crap these days. The last time I reviewed a movie he was in, it was the dreadful ARE YOU SCARED 2 (2009)—where he just spouted nonsense at the screen for most of the movie (but with that cool voice, he was still the best thing in it). And he’s the best character in FINAL DESTINATION 5, too, even though he just pops up randomly throughout the film, really isn’t given much to do, and his character’s name isn’t even mentioned this time around! On a side note, either Todd or his voice has been in every single FINAL DESTINATION movie, except the fourth one, 2009’s THE FINAL DESTINATION.

MA: Tony Todd as the mysterious William Bludworth is your favorite character in this movie? He’s in it for about five minutes!

LS: I don’t care. He was still my favorite character. I wish they would have given him more to do and developed him more. The rest of them are a sorry bunch.

Oh yeah, Todd was also in another recent movie I reviewed, last year’s HATCHET 2, which I liked way better than FINAL DESTINATION 5.

MA: I actually liked the two leads, Nicholas D’Agosto as Sam, and Emma Bell as his girlfriend Molly. I thought they were likeable enough.

LS: Despite the lame characters and ho-hum script, director Steve Quale (whose previous directing credits include a short film, a TV movie, and a documentary he did for James Cameron about life under the sea – but he was also a second unit director for the Cameron films TITANTIC and AVATAR) does a decent enough job generating tension a few times.

MA: I would agree with that.

LS: Despite its flaws, the movie kept me watching and never got too horrible to sit through. But it also didn’t knock me out, either. It was just an okay distraction for 90 minutes.

MA: I would agree with that as well.

In fact, I liked FINAL DESTINATION 5 better than the previous two installments in this series, which isn’t saying much, since I really didn’t like the previous two movies at all. The fourth one, THE FINAL DESTINATION, I thought was the worst.

This one gets off to a good start with its suspension bridge sequence, which I really liked. I find large suspension bridges scary anyway, and so there was lots of potential here to scare people, because I know I’m not the only one who finds large bridges ominous.

LS: I know a lot of people who have a fear of big bridges, so I think it’s pretty common.

MA: Director Steven Quale did a terrific job shooting this sequence. It actually looks pretty real and not as cartoonish as a lot of other CGI effects out there, and I thought the deaths here—while certainly horrific—weren’t too over the top. The movie saves that for later.

LS: Some of the blood and graphic deaths on the bridge were obviously CGI. But everything moves at such a nice pace, you don’t mind too much. CGI still has a ways to go to satisfy me, though.

MA: And it was shot in 3D—.

LS: Yes, you’re right, this one was also released in 3D, and the opening credits take full advantage of that, with all kinds of things crashing through glass to hurtle towards you. After the beginning credits end, the main 3D moments involve the big death scenes. But you know what? I saw it in 2D and I got the point. I’m just glad I didn’t have to pay another $5 for it.

MA: I saw it in 3D, and dare I say it? I was actually impressed. The 3D looked good throughout the entire movie. Believe it or not, in spite of the fact that this was a tired fifth movie in a silly horror series, it boasts some of the better 3D effects I’ve seen this year.

And the 3D really stands out in that opening bridge sequence, which was my favorite part of the movie. Compared to what follows, this initial sequence was actually a bit intense. I enjoyed it.

But as the movie goes on, it settles into its FINAL DESTINATION formula and gets tired and old real fast, yet for a while there, it was actually pretty entertaining.

LS: You mean I finally go the cheaper route and see a movie in 2D and the 3D effects here were actually worth seeing? That figures! I probably would have enjoyed it a bit more.

MA: Eric Heisserer wrote the screenplay, and he also wrote the screenplay for the remake of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010). I actually liked FINAL DESTINATION 5 better than NIGHTMARE, but I certainly had higher expectations for NIGHTMARE than I did for this movie. Neither screenplay impressed me all that much.

LS: I really think this series needs to retire. It’s way past the point where these movies are worth making at all. FINAL DESTINATION 5 wasn’t completely horrible, but it wasn’t all that terrific either. I give it two knives. If you have to see this one, wait for the rental.

MA: Unbelievably, I have to agree with you here yet again!

With FINAL DESTINATION 5, you know what you’re getting into, so don’t expect a great movie, but that being said, it is better than the previous two installments in the series, the bridge sequence is pretty cool, the 3D looks good, and during its first half it’s fairly entertaining. So, if you accept that it’s mindless, silly, by-the-numbers stuff, it’s not that bad, but it certainly isn’t worth seeing at the movies unless you’re a hardcore fan of the series.

I also give FINAL DESTINATION 5two knives.

LS: So, we’re done?

MA: Yep, and look, perfect timing! We’re just getting off the bridge now. And not soon enough for me! (wipes perspiration from his brow.)

LS: What a wimp! Afraid of bridges! Like anything’s really going to happen.

(Behind them, the bridge crumbles violently as people scream and shriek. Then the enormous structure collapses into the ocean.)

MA: Did you hear something?

LS: Yeah, you whining! Shut up and drive!

(MA & LS drive away, as behind them hundreds of people arrive at their final destination. Sad music plays as we FADE OUT.)


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

Michael Arruda gives FINAL DESTINATION 5two knives

LL Soares gives FINAL DESTINATION 5two knives, as well!

Friday Night Knife Fights – 2D Vs. 3D – Conclusion

Posted in 2011, 3-D, Deformed Freaks!, Gimmicks with tags , , , , on April 8, 2011 by knifefighter

With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, and Dan Keohane

MA:  Welcome back to the third and final segment  of our Great 3D Debate. Once again L.L. and I are joined by Dan Keohane.

(Dan is seen making a cigarette disappear up his nose.)

LS:  I love that trick!

(Dan pulls it out of his ear.)

MA:  We’re discussing 3D movies vs. 2D movies, and so far, 2D movies have had the upper hand in this duel.  We all love 3D effects, but we seem to be in agreement that on their own, they don’t make a movie better, and nowadays with all these new 3D movies, it costs more to buy a ticket.

LS: Scam!

MA:  And that’s exactly the topic we’re leading off with tonight:  the extra cost of the 3D ticket, which begs the question, are these new 3D movies worth the extra ticket prices the theaters charge?  Or is it a scam by the film companies and theaters?

LS:  I sound like a broken record, but except for AVATAR, 3D movies are not worth the extra ticket price at all. It really does feel like a scam. Plus you still have to wear annoying glasses – they’re just sturdier now. I find it ludicrous, by the way, that you have to pay extra for those glasses and then afterwards the theaters ask you to donate them back so they can be recycled. How about refunding my $5 surcharge if I return the glasses?

MA:  Good point.

I don’t think the new 3D movies are worth the extra ticket prices either.

Is it a scam?  I don’t know.  I’d like to think it’s not a scam, but the more I think about it, the more upset I become.  Why?  I can understand a film like AVATAR which spent so much money on top-of-the-line best-of-the-best 3D effects, but the rest of these movies?  The effects aren’t as good, supposedly because they weren’t as expensive, yet they charge the same extra fee.  What’s up with that?  I smell a rat, and it doesn’t smell good!

If 3D movies cost the same as 2D movies, I’d be all for them because the effects are fun and sometimes they do add something to the movie, but factor in the extra cost, and that takes the fun away.  In other words, if you’re going to charge me extra because of 3D effects, then those effects had better be damn good and the main reason I’m seeing this movie!

What’s next?  Pay more for certain directors?  Actors?  Steven Spielberg directed this movie, so it costs $3.00 more.  What’s that?  This movie stars BOTH Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino?  $3.00 co-actor fee.

I don’t like the 3D fee.  Sure, the argument is that the equipment needed at the theater to show these films in 3D costs more, but that argument only goes so far.  Gas prices keep going up, so it costs me more each week to drive to the theater, so we’re in the same boat.  I don’t get to request lower ticket prices because it costs more to drive there.  I just suck it up.  The theaters should too.

LS:  Michael —since you and I rarely have access to preview screenings for films—we just about always have to pay for movie tickets out of our own pockets. Sometimes, I bitch about this. But truth is, it keeps us honest. If I go see a movie for free and it has gimmicky 3D effects, I’ll be more forgiving. But if I just paid $15 for a movie where the 3D effects add nothing, I am going to be pissed off. Just like our readers.

DK:  Now here’s an idea—.

MA:  Are you through doing magic tricks?

DK:  Maybe.  Actually, it’s the only one I know, so I have no choice (laughs).  What was I saying?

LS (to MA):  Stop interrupting our guest!  You’re the host.  You’re not supposed to be rude.  This isn’t Fox News!

MA:  I wasn’t being rude.  I just wanted to find out if he was going to do something else, like pull a rabbit out of his jacket.

DK:  No, no rabbits.

MA:  You were saying something about an idea.

DK:  Yes— if Hollywood is going to insist on using this new toy of theirs… how about trying out this conversion (from 2D to 3D) trick on some classic sci-fi movies, or classic movies which have enough effects that would lend themselves to the effect. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) in 3D? That would be very cool. STAR WARS (been redone so often no year fits anymore, lol) in 3D? Oh yea. BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (1961)? Probably not.

MA:  I’d like to see the 1953 version of WAR OF THE WORLDS in 3D.  That’d be cool.

Well, gentlemen,—.

LS:  Who walked in?

MA: Ha, ha!  We’ve reached the moment our readers have been waiting for.  It’s time to make our decision, to declare a winner of this bout.  3D vs. 2D.  Are 3D movies the future of motion pictures, and do we want to see more of them?

Or, have we had enough of 3D already and want to go back to just 2D movies, saving 3D for once in a blue moon?

So, what will it be?  3D, or 2D?  Dan?

DK:  When the 3D floodwaters have settled, we’ll be left with a select few movies in 3D which should be in 3D, and the rest will come back to roost in 2D, simply because people will stop paying for it, and the extra cost to produce/convert these movies will become unprofitable. Hopefully more theaters will convert to digital “projection”, and when that happens, 2D will be even more brilliant to watch. That is, if the movie itself is brilliant. Don’t forget, you still need to make a good movie. That’s what will bring people in to the theaters. If they want 3D, they’ll have plenty of it when they walk outside into the real world.  So, it’s 2D for me.

LS:  A 3D movie once in a while would be just fine. Something like the next PIRAHNA movie.

MA:  Or better yet, something else.  The world doesn’t need another PIRANHA 3D movie.

LS:  Well, it’s going to get it because they’re already working on the sequel!

MA:  I know, I know.  You don’t have to remind me.

LS:  A horror flick once in a while, and some cartoons, but not all of them. Once in a blue moon is perfect. But this push to try to make every single movie that comes out a 3D extravaganza is just a con game to separate us from our money for shoddy merchandise.

Part of the problem is, too, that they’re coming out with 3D televisions now, and they have to create content to make the more expensive TVs worth buying. This is probably a big part of the push to make more movies in 3D. But once again, it’s just another way to take our hard-earned money. I don’t care about 3D movies, and I don’t care about 3D TV. I refuse to get sucked in by these things. I wish they would just go away. Once in a while is fine. But 3D 24/7—every time we go to the movies or turn on a television set—is overkill.

Look, what makes for a great movie is the story, the acting, the direction. Without these things, no gimmick in the world is going to improve your work. Unless you wield billions of dollars l don’t think it’s worth it.  2D, damn it!

MA:  Since I loved AVATAR so much, I really wanted 3D to be the future of motion pictures, but as long as they’re charging extra for it, I’m not into it.  Get rid of the extra charge, and I’m all in.

As is stands now, we have to pay extra for 3D, so as long as this stands, I’m against it.  It’s 2D movies for me!

Well, there you have it!  It’s unanimous!  2D movies win out.  I mean, we all love 3D, but it costs more to see them, and really doesn’t add a whole lot to the quality of the movie.  Thanks, guys for chiming in on this.

DK:  No problem.  I just remembered another trick I know how to do.  Do you guys mind if I try something new?

LS:  Go for it.  We’ve seen your other trick so many times, it’d be good to see something new.

MA:  Go right ahead.

DK:  I’m not sure if this will work.  It’s been a while.   I’ll say the magic words and snap my fingers— (utters what seems to be a foreign language and snaps his fingers— in a poof of smoke, MA & LS suddenly disappear.)  Hmm.  That wasn’t supposed to happen.    Guys?  You still here somewhere?  This has never happened before.  I’m sure they’ll be back in time for their next column— won’ t they?

This has been FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS—-good night everybody!


FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS – Round 1 – 3D vs. 2D Movies

Posted in 2011, 3-D, Friday Night Knife Fights, Gimmicks with tags , , , , , , on March 25, 2011 by knifefighter

Featuring: Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, and Dan Keohane

Filmmakers have been experimenting with 3D for decades.

MICHAEL ARRUDA: Welcome everyone to FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS. Tonight, L.L. Soares and I are joined by Dan Keohane.  Dan, thanks for coming.

DAN KEOHANE: Wanna watch me make a cigarette disappear up my nose?

MA:  Er—maybe after the show.  For those of you out there who don’t know, that’s one of Dan’s talents.  He’s a pro when it comes to sleight of hand.

L.L. SOARES: I want to see Dan’s cigarette trick!

MA:  We will, after the show, but right now we’ve got a fight to get to.

LS:  You’re no fun.

MA:  And proud of it!

Anyway, tonight on FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS, we’ll be having the great 3D debate.  That’s right, it’s 3D MOVIES  vs. 2D MOVIES.  Where do you weigh in on the recent onslaught of 3D movies?  Do you love ‘em, or do you hate ‘em?

Dan, we’ll start with you.  Are these new 3D movies the best things you’ve ever seen?  Are they the future of motion pictures?

DK:  The future?

No, not really, not if we still have to wear glasses and pay extra money to see the films, because if this were the case, then I wouldn’t want every movie to be filmed in 3-D. We’re only beginning to see digital movies shown in theaters anyway, and once they’re all digital then the picture quality on the big screen will be so much clearer.

Besides, I seriously don’t want to be putting on those clunky glasses every time I sit down in the movie theater. They make my eyes water.

MA:  I don’t like the glasses either.

If these movies all looked like AVATAR (2009), then I’d actually argue that they would  be the future of motion pictures, but they don’t all look like AVATAR.  I’m assuming it’s too expensive for these other 3D movies to have the kind of effects that AVATAR sported.

The 3D effects in AVATAR were the best I’d ever seen.   They totally blew me away!  Problem is, no movie after AVATAR has even come close. TOY STORY 3D came closest, but that one was all animated.

LS:  Throughout its history, beginning in the 1950s with movies like HOUSE OF WAX (1953), up until now, 3D has been a gimmick to bring audiences into the theaters. With the advent of television, the movies lost a chunk of their audience and had to find a way to get people paying for movie tickets again. 3D was one of the biggest gimmicks, created just for this reason.

MA:  Thanks for the history lesson!  Should we take notes?

LS:  I’ll give you notes!  (Throws a notebook at him, and it flies past MA towards audience in perfect 3D fashion.)

DK:  Anyone want to see me jam a Q-tip into one ear and pull it out the other?

MA:  I haven’t seen you do that one.  Is it in 3D?

LS:  Pay attention you two!

While 3D could be fun, most filmmakers who used it had little imagination and the majority of films just had objects coming at you, like the paddleball in HOUSE OF WAX. It really added nothing to the story, and you had to wear annoying glasses. Once in a while it was fun to don the red and green lenses to see a 3D movie, but it was nothing anyone wanted to do on a regular basis. This, combined with the fact that nobody really knew what to do with the technology, led to its demise. 3D has resurfaced several times since; it seems to return every other decade or so.

Don your glasses. It's the notorious "paddle ball" sequence from HOUSE OF WAX (1953)

MA:  I remember a few 3D films popping up in the early 1980s, and at the same time several UHF stations— remember those?—- started the gimmick of showing 3D movies on TV, and you had to get your glasses at your local supermarket or convenience store, or something or other, but neither of these 3D experiences caught on.  It was nothing like it is now.  Of course, the technology and quality are better today.

LS:  With AVATAR (2009), James Cameron proved he was one of the few filmmakers who had enough imagination (and money) to use 3D to its fullest potential, creating a whole 3D world to play around in. And that movie’s success has led to the latest round of 3D movies.

MA:  Would you like to see all movies eventually shot in 3D?

LS:  Nah!

Aside from a rare instance, like AVATAR, I don’t see any reason for movies to be continued to be made in 3D. Occasionally, a movie uses it in an interesting way, like CORALINE (2009), where the 3D was very subtle and just added great depth to everything – throughout the movie. But in most cases it just comes to the forefront for a few “gotcha” scenes and then fades back into the background. And don’t even get me started on movies that were not meant to be 3D, which have the effect added afterwards, and which look just plain awful.

MA:  We’ll talk about that in a little bit.

LS:  I am not a fan of 3D and I am looking forward to its next demise.

MA:  I’m not a fan either, although if they all looked like AVATAR, then I might feel differently.  Moving right along, is this just a fad?  Will 3D movies disappear again, or are they here to stay this time?

DK:  It’s definitely a fad.  Companies are filming, or converting, movies in 3D because people are willing still to pay the extra money for them, but 3D is not making the movies better. That’s still a requirement, regardless of how it’s shown on the screen. Thing is, people are going to stop paying the premium for this.

LS:  We’ve been watching 2D movies for almost a century now. It’s been just fine. 3D is just a distraction. Unless every single movie that comes out has the budget and technical know-how to use to it well, like AVATAR, then its’ a waste of time, and a useless fad.

MA:  I agree.

Okay, folks, we’re out of time.  Looks like Round 1 goes to 2D movies.  Tune in next Friday night to see if 3D movies fare any better, as we continue the great 3D debate with Round 2 of FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS!

See you then!  Good night, everybody!