Archive for the Prequels Category

OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (2013)

Posted in 2013, 3-D, Adult Fairy Tales, Based on Classic Films, CGI, Cinema Knife Fights, Exotic Locales, Fantasy Films, Highly Stylized Films, Prequels, Sam Raimi, Witchcraft, Witches with tags , , , , , , , , on March 11, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (2013)
By Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares

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(THE SCENE: A circus, filmed in black and white.  L.L. SOARES, dressed in a magician’s costume, stands on a stage in front of a sparse crowd.)

L.L. SOARES:  For my next astonishing trick, I’ll need a volunteer from the audience.  You, there!  The silly-looking gentleman standing in the back.

(Spotlight lands on MICHAEL ARRUDA, standing in back of audience.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Are you talking to me? (points to his chest.)

LS (under his breath):  Yeah, you, you Travis Bickle wannabe.  (louder to audience) Yes, young man. Come up here. Don’t be afraid.

(MA approaches stage to mild applause.)

LS: For this amazing feat of magic, I shall require the services of my magic wand.  (Lifts magic wand, dripping with blood.)

MA (now standing next to LS):  Are you sure that’s not your magic knife? You haven’t been drinking and mixed them up again, have you?

LS:  Silence!  For this trick, I shall make him disappear.  Hocus frigging Pocus!  (taps MA on the shoulder with bloody wand.  There is a great puff of white smoke, and when it clears, MA has disappeared.)

I like this gig!

(MA finds himself back in the audience)

MA:  Not so fast!  (Rushes back on stage).  We have a movie to review, and you’re not getting rid of me so easily!

(MA leaps at LS, the two wrestle, and fall out a back door onto an incredibly colorful path, as the scene is now in bright Technicolor.  They are on a hill, standing on a yellow brick road, looking down at the glittering Emerald City of Oz.)

MA:  We’re not in Kansas anymore.

LS:  When the hell were we ever in Kansas?

MA:  It’s a figure of speech.

Well, now that we’re here in Oz, let’s review today’s movie, OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (2013) Disney’s prequel to the classic THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939).

The story opens in a scene similar to the one we just left.  Young magician and con-man Oscar Diggs (James Franco), who goes by “Oz” for short, is struggling to make ends meet with his sideshow magic act.

LS: I have no idea if the Wizard has a regular name in L. Frank Baum’s OZ books, but do you think the fact that Franco’s character’s name is Oscar is a joke because he hosted the Oscars one year with Anne Hathaway? I remember they were pretty much pilloried for that gig.

MA: Who cares?

He’s helped by his assistant Frank (Zach Braff) and by clueless women who he charms and lies his way into getting them to be part of the act on stage.  When one such woman, Annie (Michelle Williams), tells him that someone has asked her to marry him, she professes her love for Oscar, but he tells her to go ahead and get married because he’s not a good man.  Their conversation is interrupted by the circus strong man, who is angry at Oscar for giving a gift to his woman—a music box, to be precise, which we learn Oscar gives to every woman he is romantically interested in— and so Oscar leaps into a hot air balloon and flees his former life, only to be caught up in a massive tornado which propels him of course to the Land of Oz.

LS: That’s the same way Dorothy got to Oz in the original movie! Hey, it was funny how there’s a scene with Franco, Williams and Braff, and I realized, there’s a whole new generation of actors whose careers started in television. Franco was on the short-lived, but revered cult TV show FREAKS AND GEEKS (which only lasted one season, from 1999 to 2000, yet almost everyone from that show has gone on to a bigger career, including Seth Rogan and Jason Segel); Williams, of course, became famous on DAWSON’S CREEK (1998 – 2003); and Braff first became a familiar face on SCRUBS (2001 – 2010). It was like a TV reunion! And yet, all three are really good here in a theatrical movie!

MA: I agree.  And I remember liking Braff a lot on SCRUBS.

In Oz, Oscar meets Theodora the Good Witch (Mila Kunis), who tells him of the prophecy that a wizard named Oz would arrive from the sky to free their people from the wicked witch of the land.

LS: And Kunis’s big break was also on television, on THAT ‘70S SHOW (1998 – 2006). Hey, don’t forget the part of the prophecy that says the wizard will have the same name as the land of Oz. I thought that was kind of goofy, but funny, too.

MA: Not to mention unbelievable, but since this is a fantasy, I let it slide.

Theodora falls for Oscar immediately and is convinced that he is the wizard from the prophecy, and that he will become king and she’ll be his queen.  She brings him to the Emerald City where she introduces him to her sister, another witch, Evanora (Rachel Weisz).

LS: Finally, someone who didn’t start their career on television! Well, American television. Weisz began her career in television in England, but became familiar to American audiences in movies like THE MUMMY (1999). I also thought she was kind of amazing in Neil LeBute’s 2003 film, THE SHAPE OF THINGS.

MA: On their way to the city, they meet up with and befriend a talking flying monkey, Finley (voiced by Zach Braff).  Oscar saves Finley from the clutches of a lion, and as result, Finley promises to be his faithful servant for life.

LS: Was it just me, or was Finley one of the best-looking CGI creations we have seen in a long time? The level of detail, and his facial expressions, were just terrific.

MA: No, it’s not just you.  I thought the same the thing, and I also thought the little China Doll was just as good.  Excellent special effects here!

The witch sisters show Oscar an enormous “treasure room” full of gold which will all be his once he has defeated the wicked witch, and all he needs do to accomplish this task is to destroy her magic wand.  Unable to resist the temptation of all that wealth, Oscar agrees to the task and sets out along with Finley to destroy the wicked witch.  Along the way, they rescue and repair a broken talking China doll (voiced by Joey King) who cries her way into becoming part of their team.

LS: Yeah, China is another amazing CGI creation. At least the effects in this movie are incredibly well done.

MA: Once in the dark forest, they attempt to destroy the wicked witch, but it turns out that this witch, Glinda (Michelle Williams), isn’t wicked at all, but a good witch.  The true wicked witch, according to Glinda, is really Evanora.

LS: Hey, wait a minute. We’ve been walking along as we talked, and we’re in a dark forest now as well.

MA: Funny how that happened.

LS: Hmmm, we’re surrounded by apple trees. I could go for an apple right about now.

(LS picks an apple off a tree, and the tree turns around and slaps him with one of its branches)

TREE: Do I go around picking things off you?

LS: One of those cool talking trees from THE WIZARD OF OZ!

TREE: I asked you a question.

MA: Sorry.  We don’t usually talk to trees. And where we come from, apples are food.

TREE: Food! How barbaric! I oughta knock your block off.

LS: Hey, how come you trees weren’t in OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL. I missed you guys when Oscar goes into the dark forest this time.

MA:  I never liked those trees, and so I’m glad they weren’t in this movie.  (An apple plunks him on the head.)

TREE: Maybe we were saplings back then and weren’t big enough to talk. How the hell do I know? Now give that apple back.

(LS hands over the apple he picked, and the TREE takes it)

TREE: Now hurry on off if you know what’s good for you!

LS: Okay, okay.

(LS and MA continue walking along the road)

MA: Anyway, Glinda introduces Oscar to the oppressed people of Oz and tells him that it’s up to him to free her people from the clutches of Evanora, and her unsuspecting sister Theodora, who it turns out, is about to undergo a dramatic personality shift, to say the least.

LS: Yeah, I have to admit, I didn’t see that coming. So let’s not spoil it further.

MA: OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL gets off to a slow and rather clunky start but ultimately improves to the point where it becomes a movie that I —surprisingly—- really liked a lot.

LS: I didn’t think the beginning was clunky at all.

MA: Well, not the very beginning, the black and white sequence where we see Oscar working as a sideshow magician with his assistant Frank, which I liked.  These scenes were humorous and shot in the tradition of the original movie, THE WIZARD OF OZ.  They also set the stage for the transformation to the colorful 3D extravaganza known as Oz.

LS: I also noticed that, during the black and white scenes, the screen we see is smaller. But when gets to Oz, it is not only more colorful, but the screen expands to widescreen perspective. A clever trick!

MA: But it’s in the early moments in Oz that I thought the film faltered.  I did not enjoy the early scenes between Oscar and Theodora.  I found Theodora to be incredibly naïve and as a result not very believable.

LS: There aren’t naïve people in real life? And wouldn’t it make sense if she never before saw a man fall out of the sky? It’s not something we see every day. And there is the prophecy!

MA: She falls in love with him in less than a minute.  Naïve.

I also thought the dialogue here, especially Theodora’s, was particularly bad, and the scenes inside the castle where Oscar meets Theodora’s sister Evanora aren’t much better.

Things pick up once Oscar sets out to destroy the wicked witch, along with his faithful monkey Finley and the little China Girl, two CGI creations who not only look terrific, but who are also two of the better characters in the movie. They’re better than most of the “real” people here.

LS: I’ll agree with you on that point.

MA: And then things really get moving once they confront Glinda and we learn that she’s not really a wicked witch.  When she explains to Oscar what his true mission must be, and he accepts, the movie takes on an entirely different and more rewarding emotional feel.   The scenes where Oscar must lead the various groups of Oz inhabitants, farmers, tinkers, and of course Munchkins, are light, funny, and ultimately gratifying.

LS: I actually had a mixed reaction to the scene where we first meet the Munchkins. They begin to sing, and Oscar discourages them. In a way it’s funny, and I’m not normally a fan of musicals, but at the same time, the music was one of the indelible stamps that made THE WIZARD OF OZ so unique. How there was music and singing, but it wasn’t really a musical per se. I think this new OZ could have let its hair down a little more.

MA: I’m glad Oscar told them to shut up.

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Of course, these scenes also coincide with Theodora’s transformation into the true threat of the movie, a transformation that I both bought and enjoyed.

LS: Enough of that!

(A MUNCHKIN suddenly walks by. He’s holding a stick over his shoulder with a knapsack on the end, like a hobo)

MA: Hey little guy, where are you headed?

MUNCHKIN: Far away from here. They won’t let us sing in this movie.

LS: Is that so bad?

MUNCHKIN: Don’t know a lot about Munchkins, do you? We were born to sing. It’s in our hearts, it’s in our souls. We live to sing! And this Oz character shows up and tells us to “Take 5.” The nerve of that guy!

MA: So where are you headed? Going to go to Middle Earth and hang out with the Hobbits?

MUNCHKIN:  Of course not, they don’t sing either!

LS: Going to go sit in a display case at Dunkin’ Donuts?

MUNCHKIN (sticks out his tongue): Very funny. That would be a big No.

MA: So where does a Munchkin go if he’s not allowed to sing?

MUNCHKIN: Why the show GLEE of course. I’m sure they’d invite me to join the cast.

LS: Good luck with that.

(MUNCHKIN walks away)

LS: Back to our regularly scheduled program.

MA: In spite of its slow start, I liked OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL a lot.  Sam Raimi has hit yet another home run with this colorful, agreeable, and highly entertaining fantasy tale that has a lot of things going for it.

LS: I agree with you. I liked it a lot, too. And I think a lot of the credit goes to director Raimi. This sure makes up for the awful SPIDER-MAN 3 (2007)! Nice to see him back to full power again.

I went in wondering how it would compare to THE WIZARD OF OZ, because comparisons are inevitable. And it compares quiet well. The level of acting and the script are good, but do not seem to be as solid as the original film. And strangely, though technology is so advanced now, I think the original 1939 film still looks more amazing and the land of Oz looked more “real” back then.

MA:  James Franco is excellent as Oscar, “Oz,” and in a movie driven by special effects, he still manages to carry this movie and drive it along.  I bought into his character and accepted his flaws as genuine.  He basically plays Oscar as a guy who succeeds in spite of himself, and I liked this.

LS: Oscar isn’t the most likable character in the world, but that’s okay. He’s not supposed to be. He’s actually kind of a fool. But this is a tale of redemption, and Franco shines in the lead role here. I love that goofy grin of his. He’s making it up as he goes along, but he has no idea what the rules are in this new world, and so he’s going to get duped sometimes, as a lot of us would be.

MA: Michelle Williams makes a sincere and touching Glinda, and I’d have to say I thought she delivered the best performance in the movie, which is saying a lot because I didn’t expect much from this character, and yet she makes for such a strong and attractive presence, I found myself that much more interested in the story whenever she was on screen.

LS: You know, in our COMING ATTRACTIONS column earlier this month, we made a big deal of Mila Kunis being so beautiful in the trailer for this movie. But the truth is, Williams is just as beautiful (and Weisz is certainly no slouch, either) here. The thing is, you’re right—she does deliver the best performance in the movie. I thought she was perfectly cast here. It’s so easy for such a completely “good” character to be just plain boring. Usually the bad guys are the most exciting ones. But Williams makes Glinda believable. And I liked her character a lot—which amazed me, because I always root for the bad guys! She really has become an amazing actress over the years. I thought she was great as Lily in BLACK SWAN (2010).

MA:  I have to agree with everything you just said, and I think that’s why I liked her so much.  For once, the “good” character was just as interesting as the bad!

I did not enjoy Mila Kunis early on as Theodora, to the point where I was hoping she wasn’t going to be in the movie much.  But I really liked her dark side, so much so that it made me forget completely her lame interpretation of Theodora at the beginning of the movie.

LS: Oh give Mila a break! The way she plays Theodora early on is crucial to what happens later, and I think she does a good job.

MA:  Gag!

LS:  She is beautiful, and her character is supposed to be clueless and easily manipulated. That is vital to how she ultimately reacts to both her sister Evanor and Oscar. I will admit, there are some scenes where Kunis did seem a little stilted, and her performance isn’t the best one here, but she’s coming along nicely as an actress. Who knew, when she played a supporting character on THAT ‘70S SHOW, that her career would be so huge. I don’t think she’s an amazing actress, yet, but I think she’s getting better and better.

MA: Like we both said earlier, the two CGI creations, Finley the monkey and China Girl, voiced by Zach Braff and young Joey King, were two of the most captivating and enjoyable characters in the movie.  They’re on par with Yoda in the STAR WARS films and Gollum from the LORD OF THE RINGS movies.

And the 3D effects here are excellent, too. I’d have to say that this is the most visually satisfying movie I’ve seen since HUGO (2011).

LS: Yeah, I saw the 2D version. Maybe I should have seen it in 3D instead. But I will say that seeing the 2D version didn’t hurt my enjoyment of the film at all.

As for the special effects, everyone who worked on them for this movie deserves heaps of praise. OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL is way above average, which made it stand up much better in comparison to the 1939 movie, which set a high bar.

(A FLYING MONKEY from the original WIZARD OF OZ walks by, carrying a knapsack over his shoulder)

MA: Hey little guy, where are you headed?

LS: Is there an echo in here?

FLYING MONKEY: I thought the wicked witch’s flying monkeys were one of the coolest things about THE WIZARD OF OZ, and now I find I’m out of a job.

MA: There are flying monkeys in OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL.

FLYING MONKEY: Let’s be specific here, shall we? The flying monkeys in this movie are flying BABOONS. There’s no sign of the monkeys from THE WIZARD OF OZ this time around. We’ve been replaced.

LS: You mean you don’t want to put on a little bellhop’s outfit and pretend to be Finley?

FLYING MONKEY: That wimp? No way! If the only choices I have are dressing like a bellboy and being all cute, or being out of a job, then I’ll be on my way.

LS: I do agree this was a little annoying. As a kid, I always thought the flying monkeys were the best part of THE WIZARD OF OZ. They didn’t need to be improved, and they didn’t need to be changed into baboons. Hell, if you want scarier monkeys, why not go all out and hire some mandrills?

MA: I didn’t mind the baboons here, although I’ve always liked the flying monkeys from the original, so admittedly I did miss them a little bit.

LS: The CGI flying baboons were okay, but they were one of the things I liked least about OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL.

FLYING MONKEY: Well, unless you can hire me on as an evil henchman, I’ll be going.

LS: I’m tempted. Honest I am.

MA: It’s not in the budget!

LS: I know. Farewell, scary monkey.

(FLYING MONKEY continues walking down the yellow brick road)

MA: The screenplay by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire manages to tell a compelling story with lots of references to the original movie, from a lion in the woods, to scarecrows, to the poppy fields.  There are many moments that will indeed bring back memories from the 1939 classic.

LS: A movie you admit you don’t like.

MA:  Guilty as charged.

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LS:  As a fan of the 1939 film, I was surprised how good OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL was. I really thought it would look shallow in comparison, and it stands up quite nicely. The script is clever, and sticks to the story of THE WIZARD OF OZ pretty closely. It explains a lot of things in a smart way.

MA: One thing I didn’t like, or at least didn’t understand, was that in the 1939 film, the characters that Dorothy meets, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Wicked Witch, and even the Wizard himself, all resemble people she knew in Kansas, which makes sense because at the end of the movie it’s revealed she was dreaming.  Here, characters Oscar meets also resemble people he knew back home, yet here it’s not inferred that he’s dreaming.

LS: Maybe he is. Then again, maybe he died in that tornado and Oz is the afterlife! The way I saw it, maybe it’s not inferred because maybe he wasn’t dreaming, and maybe Dorothy wasn’t either. Maybe she really visited this other dimension (or perhaps she had a near death experience and got a glimpse of the afterlife as well), too. You can debate it all you want, because it’s open to interpretation.

MA: But if we are to infer that it’s all a dream, then how does this tie in with Dorothy’s dream later?  Can they both have the same dream?  Or is Oz real?  No doubt, I’m overthinking this, but it was something that was definitely on my mind as I walked out of the theater.

LS: That’s a first. You can barely think and now you claim to be overthinking. I think poor Finley has more brains than you.

MA: Which goes to show just how clueless you can be sometimes!

LS: You know, one thing I was worried about was that Disney would make this story extra bland to appeal to the widest audience. They have a way of doing that sometimes, although I must admit, it wasn’t a problem with Andrew Stanton’s underrated JOHN CARTER (2012). Just last week you were complaining that JACK THE GIANT SLAYER was super homogenized and didn’t have any kind of edge to it. I was surprised that OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL has any kind of edge at all. But Franco’s Oscar is certainly a flawed character, the witches here can be kind of scary, and while it’s a great movie for the whole family, I didn’t think it was reduced to Disney-flavored pablum. What did you think about that, Michael?

MA: I agree.

It’s funny because JACK THE GIANT SLAYER was rated PG-13, and OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL was rated PG, yet OZ has more of an edge than JACK!  Now, there are more battle scenes in JACK than there are in OZ, but Oscar has more flaws than anyone in JACK, and the witches and even the baboons are scarier than the giants in JACK.

Nonetheless, to my surprise, since I hadn’t been looking forward to this one, I really enjoyed OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL.  Sam Raimi can add another notch to his belt because he’s made yet another classic movie.

I give it three and a half knives.

LS: Well, I have to admit, I’m amazed by your reaction, because you have gone on record as saying you don’t like THE WIZARD OF OZ.

MA:  I’m just as amazed.

LS:  And yet the reason why this new OZ is so good, is because it sticks to the original story so well. It makes a good companion piece to the 1939 film, and I wouldn’t be surprised if kids of the future get exposed to both films together, the way we got exposed to THE WIZARD OF OZ as children. Despite your dislike of the original, I remember it being a big deal as a kid. It was shown on television just once a year, and EVERYONE seemed to watch it, and make it a special occasion. Videotape wasn’t around yet, so you couldn’t watch the movie whenever you wanted.  You had to wait. And that created an anticipation around it that made it seem very special.

With a movie that is such an important part of a lot of people’s childhoods, it’s going to be very tough to make something new that can stand alongside it. And yet, I think Sam Raimi has done a terrific job here.

I don’t think OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL is a perfect film. I don’t think everything works, and there are moments when it seems stilted or that it’s trying too hard to be clever. And not all of the characters are equally interesting. While I like Rachel Weisz a lot, I didn’t find her Evanora all that interesting, even though she was crucial to the storyline (and Weisz seems to do what she can with the role). I don’t think all of the special effects are equally good – but that only makes sense, because they’re so expensive to do. I think Finley the monkey is amazing, for example, but I was less impressed with the flying baboons that Evanor commands. And I still think that THE WIZARD OF OZ packs more of an emotional wallop. In comparison, the new OZ is a love tap, but a very good one.

I also give it three and a half out of five knives (and,just to put things in perspective, if I had to rate the original WIZARD OF OZ, it would get four and a half or maybe even five knives).

By the way, this isn’t Disney’s first trip to Oz since the 1939 original. In 1985, there was a sequel called RETURN TO OZ, with Fairuza Balk as Dorothy, It was rather dark and I liked it a lot. But it wasn’t an all-star blockbuster like this one. I think the world of Oz still has a lot of potential – there are so many stories and characters created by L. Frank Baun that haven’t been tapped into yet.

(They reach the gates of the Emerald City. A GUARD waits outside)

GUARD: Halt! Who goes there.

LS: Hey, wait a minute, you’re Bruce Campbell, right?

GUARD: Of course not, I’m Winkie the Gatekeeper!

LS: I saw Bruce Campbell’s name in the credits, but I didn’t see him anywhere. I was sure he was Winkie.

GUARD: You are sorely mistaken.

LS: Rats! I always wanted to meet Bruce Campbell. Speaking of Bruce and director Sam Raimi, I wonder if the remake of their classic EVIL DEAD (1981) will be any good.

MA: That doesn’t come out til next month!  (to GUARD) Hey, will you mind letting us in?  We’ve come a long way.

GUARD: Well, boo hoo for you. No one goes inside today! The Emerald City is under renovation.

LS: Double Rats!

MA: Oh well, I guess we’re headed back home.

LS: Can we at least take a hot-air balloon this time?

-END-

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda & L.L Soares

Michael Arruda gives OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL ~ three and a half knives!

LL Soares gives OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL ~three and a half knives, as well.

THE REMOTE OUTPOST LOOKS FORWARD, THEN BACK AT 2012

Posted in 2012, 2013, Alien Worlds, Based on Classic Films, Mark Onspaugh Columns, Prequels, Remote Outpost, Science Fiction, Television, TV Shows with tags , , , , , , , on January 16, 2013 by knifefighter

You find yourself on a barren and desolate world, light years from anything or anyone you know… Without much food or water, your oxygen running low, you strike out for the distant hills… After days of torturous climbing, you see an oasis below. An installation of quonset huts bedecked with hundreds of television antennae. Congratulations, Traveler, you’ve reachedTHE REMOTE OUTPOST.

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THE REMOTE OUTPOST LOOKS FORWARD, THEN BACK
By Mark Onspaugh

Well, the holidays have come to an end at the old Remote Outpost. The freeze-dried Christmas tree has been vacu-packed, the electronic menorah has been powered down and reintegrated into the antenna array, and the powdered eggnog and dehydrated turkey are on order for next year.

Now that the snart herds have moved to the Seventh Crater and the triffids are dormant, it’s time to reflect on that most marvelous technological advancement, television. We’ll try to adopt a more positive air going into 2013, at least on this rainy afternoon. (Besides, a “Worst Of” list would take many times the word count I am allowed.)

5 SHOWS THAT MAKE ME DROOL WITH ANTICIPATION

New shows are on the horizon, and some of them sound just peachy. Here are the ones I am most excited about:

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BANSHEE (Premieres January 11, Cinemax). Alan Ball has become one of those names you look for. He wrote the screenplay for the movie AMERICAN BEAUTY back in 1999, and has since been the creative force behind the television series SIX FEET UNDER (2001-2005) and TRUE BLOOD (2008 – Present). I am a big fan of TRUE BLOOD and recently came under the spell of SIX FEET UNDER (see below). So when I heard Ball was executive producing a new series, I got downright twitterpated. BANSHEE concerns an ex (or escaped) con who poses as the (murdered) sheriff in the Amish community of Banshee. As with other projects with Ball at the helm, the secrets our protagonist keeps are just the tip of the iceberg in Banshee. One of the characters is named Mr. Rabbit, who will be played by Ben Cross. Mr. Cross portrayed Sarek, Spock’s father, in the STAR TREK reboot of 2009. He also stars in the upcoming JACK THE GIANT KILLER (2013), which is NOT to be confused with JACK THE GIANT SLAYER (also 2013)—that stars Ewan McGregor. It looks like it’ll be Brits vs Scots in the land of the giants.

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BATES MOTEL (Premieres March 18, A&E). A psychological thriller that will give background on Robert Bloch’s beloved psycho. Hitchcock’s 1960 film is the initial inspiration, but beyond that, the producers will not be a slave to it or its sequels. The show is not, as one critic suggested, “How I Stuffed My Mother.” Besides Norman’s mother and her lover, the townspeople will also play a role in Norman’s descent into madness, and producers promise it won’t all be black and white, connect the dots. Norman Bates will be played by Freddie Highmore, the young actor so wonderful in FINDING NEVERLAND (2004), CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005) and AUGUST RUSH (2007). Freddie has grown up, and actually looks like a young Tony Perkins. Norman’s mother will be portrayed by Vera Farmiga, who promises mother Norma Bates will be both sympathetic and layered. We all know Vera from such films as THE DEPARTED (2006), JOSHUA (2007), SOURCE CODE (2011) and the upcoming THE CONJURING (2013). BATES MOTEL is produced by Carlton Cuse of LOST (2004-2010) and Kerry Ehrin of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (2006-2011).

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DEFIANCE (Premieres April 15, Syfy). A lush science fiction drama where Earth has been remade into an almost alien world by extraterrestrial visitors who were denied permission to settle. After a long and costly war with humanity, the two species now live in an uneasy peace and try to make the Earth habitable for both. Defiance is the name of the town in the ruins of St. Louis, and where our protagonist, Jeb Nolan becomes head sheriff. There he must contend with humans, aliens, military types and various dangerous characters. From the trailers I’ve seen, this will be no cheap-looking, terrible CGI suck-fest. It is tied in with a game, but what show isn’t multi-platforming these days? Hopefully the writing will give us another BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2004-2009) or SGU STARGATE UNIVERSE (2009-2011).

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BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: BLOOD AND CHROME (Premieres February 10, Syfy). I was around when Glen A. Larson first introduced us to Cylons and humans whose names were the same as some of our more ancient gods and goddesses. I didn’t much care for the show, but watched it because I was starved for SF on TV. When the (then Sci-Fi Channel’s) remake was announced for 2004, I just shook my head and chuckled. I ignored it, until a friend hit me over the head with the DVD’s. I quickly became an ardent fan, and was sad when the (regrettable) ending aired. Now we have a chance to visit that universe again, as we see young “Husker” Adama and his friends in the first war with the Cylons, before the skin jobs made the scene. Like the many incarnations of STAR TREK, I anxiously wait for the chance to geek out in a world that is interesting and well-formed. Here’s hoping it’s as good as its predecessor.

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VIKINGS (Premieres March 3 on History). Cable has often found fertile ground in examining (often in lurid detail) historical events, places or infamous families. DEADWOOD (2004-2006), THE TUDORS (2007-2010) and THE BORGIAS (2011 – Present) gave us all the scandal, gore and sex we were never taught in history class but always suspected (or hoped) was there. While perhaps not wholly accurate, all these shows had/have sumptuous production values, good writing and acting. Now comes the saga of Ragnar Lothbrok, who, legend has it, was descended from Odin himself. VIKINGS will be produced for the History Channel, who brought us that bang-up version of the feud of the HATFIELDS AND McCOYS (2012). VIKINGS was created by Michael Hirst, who created the aforementioned TUDORS, and one of its stars will be Gabriel Byrne, who has been in such movies as STIGMATA (1998), END OF DAYS (1999) SPIDER (2002) and GHOST SHIP (2002). By Odin’s eye I will be there!

WELCOME TO THE PARTY, PAL!

If I’m wrong, I am usually man enough to admit it. Two shows I came late to the party for are THE BIG BANG THEORY and SIX FEET UNDER (2001-2005).

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BIG BANG is shown initially on CBS (on Thursdays at 8pm EST), and then rerun about a billion times a day on TBS and Fox. Even though I love science fiction, pop culture and DC comics (all of which BB has in buckets and bales), I thought the character of Sheldon Cooper (portrayed by Jim Parsons) was just too two-dimensional. A friend of mine is very devoted to the show, and kept tempting me with anecdotes about appearances by Wil Wheaton as an evil version of himself (Wil was the much-loved or despised character of Wesley Crusher on STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, 1987-1994), and a Spock action figure voiced by Leonard Nimoy himself. I finally watched the show for more than one episode, and found that Parsons is quite brilliant. It’s not easy to portray such an unlikeable character and make him endearing. I have to admit, when he approached Penny (about her intending to break up with his roommate) and said, “Please don’t hurt my friend,” I actually teared up. The entire ensemble is terrific, and there are lots of references to physics, DC superheroes, Star Trek, Star Wars and sex —and who doesn’t love one or all of those things?

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SIX FEET UNDER is no longer with us, but lives on in DVD form. Created by Alan Ball, it revolves around the Fishers, a family who owns a small but honest funeral home in L.A. Patriarch Nathaniel Fisher is killed in a bus crash while driving one of the family hearses. Though dead, Nathaniel often appears to council or annoy one of his family, and is played by the amazing Richard Jenkins (THE VISITOR 2001, CABIN IN THE WOODS 2011, JACK REACHER 2012). His family includes son Nate (Peter Krause of THE LOST ROOM, 2006 and currently on the NBC drama PARENTHOOD), son David (Michael C. Hall, now the star of DEXTER), daughter Claire (Lauren Ambrose of the recent remake of COMA 2012) and wife Ruth (Frances Conroy of AMERICAN HORROR STORY). Each episode begins with a death (not always the one you expect) and that corpse’s impact on one or more of the family and/or staff. At times, the deceased will interact with a character. In addition, a huge funeral home conglomerate is trying to put the Fishers out of business, and each member of the family has secrets that are coming to light.

IT’S SO HARD TO SAY GOODBYE, FAREWELL, AUF WIEDERSEHEN, GOOD NIGHT

Two of my favorite shows are saying “adieu” this year (inarticulate sobbing here)…

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One is FRINGE (Fox, Fridays 9pm EST), which began in 2008 as a sort of new take on THE X-FILES (1993-2002) but evolved more into a love story and a search for redemption. Though complex, I never felt lost in the mythology as I came to be with THE X-FILES. The central core of characters Agent Olivia Dunham, Peter Bishop, Walter Bishop and Astrid Farnsworth are all wonderfully played by Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble and Jasika Nicole, and ably supported by Blair Brown as Nina Sharp, Lance Reddick as Philip Broyles and Leonard Nimoy as Dr. William Bell. Noble as Walter is one of the great characters of recent SF TV, a genius and mad scientist who had parts of his brain cut out so he would not become evil and callous, unlike his counterpart on a parallel Earth. The elective surgery has left a man with a taste for sweets, inappropriate sexual banter and a craving for LSD and music of the 60s and 70s. If you never gave this series a try, do so. I, for one, will sorely miss it.

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BREAKING BAD took one episode to hook all of us here at the Outpost. It concerns a high school chemistry teacher who discovers he has cancer. Looking to make money to pay for his treatment (and to take care of his family once he is gone), Walter White (the just awesome Bryan Cranston, once the father on MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE 2000-2006) turns to making meth with a former student, Jesse Pinkman, portrayed by Aaron Paul. And he’s real good at it. His product is so good it’s soon drawing the attention of tweakers, dealers, cartel members and DEA agents. Complicating matters is the fact that his brother-in-law works for the DEA, and is not the lunkhead he seems to be. What is fascinating is how Cranston essays a good man who gets into a dirty business, and transforms over time from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde… This is not only someone who becomes evil, he enjoys it. BREAKING BAD airs on AMC (the last episodes of the final season will be airing soon), but you’ll want to watch it from the beginning.

I’ll close out this year-end wrap-up with a list of shows I think are well worth your time:

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BOARDWALK EMPIRE (HBO) —A bloody and dark series about Atlantic City in the 20s and the rise of organized crime, with Steve Buscemi at the center of it all.

GAME OF THRONES (HBO) —Warring kingdoms, sex, gore, dire wolves, dragons and things undead. What’s not to love?

THE WALKING DEAD (AMC) —A wonderful series where the living are just as important as the living dead, with brilliant makeup, effects and many WTF! moments.

JUSTIFIED (FX) —A Federal Marshall returns to rural Kentucky in this bitchin’ series from the mind of Elmore Leonard. Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins are lawman and outlaw who were boyhood pals. Brilliant.

SONS OF ANARCHY (FX) —Hamlet on Harleys. Also brilliant.

ARROW (CW) —Green Arrow without the Smallville soapiness.

THE NEIGHBORS (ABC) —A very human family moves to a cul-de-sac filled with aliens. The seemingly one-joke premise continues to be inventive, delightful and hilarious.

BOB’S BURGERS (FOX) —My favorite animated show. Unattractive characters (literally) and hilarious send-ups of family sitcom sweetness.

SHAMELESS (SHO) — The saga of the Gallaghers, who are grifters living by their wits in Chicago. Many of their efforts are often derailed by the worst of the lot, their patriarch, played by William H. Macy. A U.S. version of a Brit show, and hilarious.

LUTHER (BBC America) —Idris Elba is amazing as a British detective in this dark and inventive series.

FACE-OFF (Syfy) —The only reality show I watch—sure, some of the drama is manufactured through writing and editing, but the contestants come up with amazing effects makeup—without CGI!

© Copyright 2012 by Mark Onspaugh

ALEX CROSS (2012)

Posted in 2012, Action Movies, Cop Movies, Crime Films, Detectives, John Harvey Reviews, Just Plain Bad, Murder!, Prequels with tags , , , , , , on October 23, 2012 by knifefighter

“Alex Cross” … It’s Utterly Unwatchable
Movie Review by John D. Harvey

Sigh …

Honestly, I like movies. I have in the past written positive movie reviews, though I wouldn’t blame you for thinking otherwise based on the skewering that I gave TAKEN II a couple of weeks ago, and now ALEX CROSS in the following paragraphs.

I’ll say this, though. As much as I disliked TAKEN II, it’s practically a masterpiece compared to ALEX CROSS. With that in mind, if you don’t feel like reading any further than this paragraph, then that’s fine. I won’t be hurt. Just because I lost 90 minutes of my life watching ALEX CROSS, it doesn’t mean you need to lose the next several minutes of your life reading about how much I hated it.

So anyway, ALEX CROSS attempts to reboot a neglected franchise based on thriller/mystery author James Patterson’s novels featuring the brilliant Detroit  police detective/psychologist, Alex Cross (now played by Tyler Perry). Previously, Morgan Freeman occupied this role in ALONG CAME A SPIDER (2001) and KISS THE GIRLS (1997). Directed by Rob Cohen (better known for his THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise films), ALEX CROSS is sort of origin story. But it’s also a police procedural, and a serial killer thriller, and a buddy cop movie, and it even tries its hand at a bit of comedy. Who cares? It is essentially a failure regardless of genre or marketing category.

This time, Cross tracks an artistically-inclined killer nicknamed Picasso (Matthew Fox), who is one of many dimensionless stock characters in this film. There’s also Cross’ loyal, wise-cracking partner, Thomas (Edward Burns); a slick but untrustworthy foreign businessman (Jean Reno); and an oafish police chief (John C. McGinley), who of course, at one point, dismisses Cross from the case at the most critical moment (because we’ve never seen *that* in a cop movie before).

There’s not much of a plot beyond that. Picasso kills someone, and then Alex Cross and his team are on the case, and then they track him down via unlikely, and not clever or original, clues. Honestly, most of what you’ll see in ALEX CROSS is a litany of tropes and clichés that you won’t see in a modern thriller unless it’s an over-the-top comedic spoof. This is not an over-the-top comedic spoof.

As far as the acting is concerned, most of the performances are phoned in, lackluster, and predictable. Tyler Perry’s take on Alex Cross is ham-fisted and incongruous.  Matthew Fox (who had better be happy that he still has LOST checks showing up in the mail) overacts the serial killer role with a twitchy, kooky, psycho-eyed intensity. I mean, this guy couldn’t wait in line at the deli without everyone knowing that he’s got bodies buried in his basement.

ALEX CROSS‘s action sequences are equally abysmal. The fight scenes are particularly annoying because there is so much “shaky cam” (to conceal talentless fight choreography) that it looks more like it’s the cameraman that’s getting beat up.

And finally, there’s the ending, which I suspect was written up on the back of a cocktail napkin at the end of three-day whiskey binge by someone with massive head trauma. It makes no sense. It’s rife with plot holes large enough to accommodate an aircraft carrier. It’s … just … dumb.

In conclusion, don’t see ALEX CROSS. It’s dreadful.

Rating: ZERO KNIVES.

ALEX CROSS
RUN TIME: 1hr 41min‎‎
RATING: PG-13‎‎
DIRECTOR: Rob Cohen
WRITERS: Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson
CAST: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, and Ed Burns

– END –

© Copyright 2012 by John D. Harvey

John Harvey gives ALEX CROSS ~ zero knives

PROMETHEUS (2012)

Posted in 2012, 3-D, Alien Worlds, Aliens, Blockbusters, Cinema Knife Fights, Monsters, Prequels, Ridley Scott, ROBOTS!, Scares!, Science Fiction with tags , , , , , , , on June 11, 2012 by knifefighter

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

(THE SCENE: An alien world, much of which is composed of desert. L.L. SOARES is sitting on a lawn chair next to a tent. He’s stretched back, getting rays, when MICHAEL ARRUDA happens by, driving a moon rover)

MA: Hey. You do realize that excessive sun isn’t good for you.

LS: Who are you, my mother?

MA (dressed as an elderly woman): What are you doing sitting around all day! Clean your damn room!

LS: Now there’s a scary image—you as someone’s mother!! Anyway, there’s six more hours of daylight. Leave me alone and let me get a tan.

MA: I would, but we’ve got a movie to review.

LS: Oh yes, the much-anticipated PROMETHEUS. I almost forgot.

MA: Almost forgot? I think the sun has fried your brain! PROMETHEUS is one of the movies you and I have been most looking forward to in 2012. How could you “almost forget” about it?

(In the distance, a humongous space ship takes off into the sky)

MA: Wow. It sure is nice to have an unlimited budget here in Cinema Knife Fight Land.

LS: Oh yes, in the realm of the imagination, we can do anything!

MA: Okay. If you can do anything, how about starting with a review of PROMETHEUS?

LS: All right I will, if that will make you happy.

MA: Please do.

LS: Ridley Scott’s new film, PROMETHEUS, is a prequel to his 1979 masterpiece, ALIEN. Let’s make that clear from the get-go, shall we? Scott and other people involved have been very cagey about whether or not the events of this movie occur before the story of ALIEN. Well, wonder no more. The ambiguity is gone. PROMETHEUS is clearly a prequel.

MA: Yes it is, although I would have enjoyed it more had there been more references to ALIEN.

LS: PROMETHEUS begins with an odd scene where a muscular albino alien is standing on a cliff over a waterfall.

MA: I liked this scene. I thought it was a very cinematic way to open the movie.

LS: He ingests something that appears to be acid (and also appears to be alive) and commits suicide, falling into the raging waters below. We’ll be seeing him (or, more of his kind, at least) later on.

The story then shifts to Scotland. It is the year 2089, and scientists Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) and Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) discover a cave that has prehistoric drawings on the walls. The drawings include an image they have seen many times before: a giant figure reaching out to the sky, in the direction of five spheres. They believe this image is a message, since they have found it in other caves, in other parts of the world.

Using the image as a map, they are able to track down a planet in a solar system far away that has an earth-like atmosphere (although the carbon dioxide levels are rather high). Charlie and Elizabeth are sure the messages are telling them that this planet is the cradle of civilization—the place where aliens they call “Engineers” came from, and came to Earth to create us.

To get there, the scientists need cash, and this is readily provided by the Weyland Corporation, a mega-corporation with seemingly unlimited funds, headed by Peter Weyland (an unrecognizable Guy Pearce, in heavy old man make-up). Weyland, through a hologram, tells them he was very eager to find out if the scientists are right about their findings, but he has appeared to have died in the meantime (the craft has taken a few years to get there). In his place, as the corporate person in charge of the expedition, is the cold and authoritative Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron). She makes it clear from the get-go that while Charlie and Elizabeth are the ones who initiated this expedition, Meredith is calling the shots, since it is her firm’s money that bankrolled it.

(Sigourney Weaver’s character from ALIEN—RIPLEY—comes by, carrying a very large gun)

RIPLEY: You guys see a big ALIEN go by here?

MA: No, we haven’t.

LS (points): He went that-a-away!

RIPLEY: Thanks (she goes in that direction)

(The tent behind LS shakes)

MA: What was that all about?

LS: Who knows? As I was saying….The ship is piloted by a man named Janek (Idris Elba) and his team. The expedition is made up of a several other scientists, as well as an android named David (Michael Fassbender) who was created by Weyland to be his eyes and ears. David clearly has his own agenda when it comes to the mission, and often does things that everyone else is unaware of (things that are not always in their best interest). During the initial voyage in space, David is only one “awake” in the ship, while the rest of the travelers are in suspended animation.

Once they reach the planet, they find strange dome-like structures there, that clearly were not made by nature. Too eager to wait, a group of them immediately go out to investigate one of the domes. What they find there is rather remarkable, and potentially very dangerous.

The rest of PROMETHEUS shows us what they find in that dome, what it represents, and the can of worms the scientists open up by disturbing the site.

I went into this one with very high hopes, and clearly PROMETHEUS is one of the movies Michael and I have been most looking forward to in 2012. Personally, I am a huge fan of Ridley Scott’s ALIEN, and the idea of Scott returning to the “world” of that movie was rather exciting. Scott is a top-notch director, who was not involved with the various ALIEN sequels, so his directing the prequel is something of an event. He also hasn’t made a science fiction movie in decades, and since this is also the man who made BLADE RUNNER (1982), a lot of people were eager to see him return to the genre. After all, how many filmmakers can be credited with creating two films that many people consider to be among the best of cinematic science fiction?

So, considering the expectations I had going in, it is almost impossible that PROMETHEUS could have lived up to them. That said, the film is very good.

MA: Nah, I’m disagreeing here right away. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed with PROMETHEUS, and for me, it didn’t have to do with high expectations. I just didn’t find PROMETHEUS to be a great movie. It’s a good movie, but it has a lot of flaws.

But I’m jumping the gun here. You were about to say why you thought the film was so good. So, what did you like about it?

LS: First off, the direction is top-notch, as you would expect in a Ridley Scott film.

MA: I would agree, up to a point.

LS: The cast is also above-average. I thought everyone did an excellent job here, and the cast includes many of my favorite actors. Noomi Rapace was Lizbeth Salander in the original Swedish films based on THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO trilogy. She was intense and extremely believable in those movies. Here, her Elizabeth Shaw is softer and less guarded—dare I say it, more human—but in her way, is just as tough.

MA: No arguments here. I liked Rapace as Elizabeth Shaw a lot. Rapace created a very resilient heroine in Shaw, and I thought she was strong enough to carry this movie.

LS: Idris Elba is someone Michael and I have been watching for a while now, first noticing him for stand-out performances in movies like 28 WEEKS LATER (2007), THE UNBORN (2009) and the remake of the slasher film PROM NIGHT (2008).

MA: Yep, I’m a big fan of Elba.

LS: I thought that he often was better than the movies he was in. More recently, he appeared in last year’s THOR and was an alcoholic Vatican enforcer in GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE. But his star has actually shone brighter on television than in feature films, for the most part, especially his role as Stringer Bell in the stellar HBO series,. THE WIRE, and his lead role in the current BBC series, LUTHER, which has been earning him much acclaim. He’s quite good in PROMETHEUS as Captain Janek, and even brings a sense of humor to the role, like in a scene where he tries to talk ice queen Martha Vickers into bed.

MA: Yeah, I liked that scene, but for the most part, I thought Captain Janek was just your standard good guy captain. I had no problem at all with Elba’s performance, which I enjoyed, but I thought the character was one-dimensional and not that exciting. I expected him to take on a more heroic and central role as the movie goes on, but that didn’t really happen.

LS: Actually, it did. He does do something very heroic toward the end.

MA: Yeah, I know, but for me it was too little too late. I mean, the action he takes is dramatic enough, but long before that, I wanted him to be a key player, and I didn’t feel he was.

LS: Let’s face it, Janek was a supporting character. Everyone can’t be the lead. Considering how many strong characters there are in the movie, I think they did a good job of giving everyone ample screen time.

MA: Oh, he’s in it enough. He’s just not that interesting.

LS: As for Vickers, it seems like actress Charlize Theron can do no wrong lately. I loved her in last year’s dark dramedy, YOUNG ADULT. And we just saw her as the evil queen, Ravenna, one of the high points in the movie SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN. Here, she’s another cold, unapproachable woman—a type she’s done several times before, and which she’s good at. I have to admit, I like it when she plays characters that are more outside of the “ice queen” box—characters who are a little more vulnerable, perhaps—but she makes the best of this role.

MA: Theron’s fine, but I thought Vickers was terribly underwritten. I wanted to know much more about her, and I wanted her to have more screen time, and play a more prominent role towards the end of the movie. She’s a very cold character and is almost more robotic than the actual robot character, David, in this one. I wanted to know why.

LS: Well, there is a scene where Idris Elba’s character asks her if she’s a robot!

As for Michael Fassbender, as the robot David, he might just be the most interesting character in PROMETHEUS.

MA: I think he is.

LS: Created to act and appear human in every way, David is not as subservient as he first appears, and clearly is more in control of the situations the crew comes across than anyone else. It should come as no surprise that Fassbender is so good in this one. He’s been impressing us in a lot of movies lately. Fassbender was also in 300 (2006) and was the British Lt. Archie Hicox, a memorable role, in Quentin Tarantino’s INGLORIOUS BASTERDS (2009). Since then, his star has only continued to ascend. Last year alone he was Magneto in the above-average superhero flick X-MEN: FIRST CLASS; played psychiatry pioneer Carl Jung in David Cronenberg’s A DANGEROUS METHOD; and played a sex addict, in a fearless performance in British director Steve McQueen’s movie, SHAME. Fassbender just seems to be very good at everything he does, and his role here, as David, is no exception.

MA: I agree. I like Fassbender a lot, and I think he gave the best performance in PROMETHEUS. The only problem I have with his character David is we’ve seen this before. David is an android with a private agenda, apparently working in secret for the Weyland Corporation. This is clearly reminiscent of the character Ash (Ian Holm) in the original ALIEN, who had the same agenda, and was working for the same company.

LS: I think that was intentional, don’t you?

MA: Absolutely, but I still found it repetitive.

(One of the monsters from the PREDATOR movies comes by, carrying a gigantic gun)

PREDATOR: You guys see an ALIEN come by here?

MA: Nope. We’re reviewing a movie here.

LS (points): He went that-a-away!

PREDATOR (closes his helmet): Thanks!

(PREDATOR runs in that direction, turning on his cloaking device to become invisible)

(Tent next to LS shakes again, and there is the faint sound of giggling)

MA: Hmm. What’s the deal with the tent?

LS: How should I know?

MA: What are you up to?

LS: Nothing. Let’s just finish our review.

The rest of the cast is also quite good, with other stand-outs including Logan Marshall-Green as Elizabeth Shaw’s fellow scientist (and lover) Charlie Holloway. He plays just the right combination of cockiness and earnestness here. And Sean Harris is also a stand-out as the unorthodox geologist Fifield, who seems more like punk rocker than a man of science at times (however, I’m sure it’s quite possible to be both).

The effects are pretty impressive here as well. The movie was released in both regular and 3D versions, and while I didn’t get to see this one in 3D, I bet it looked pretty good in that format as well. The spaceships, the alien landscapes, and the alien creatures we see are all pretty flawless and believable, which only enhances a movie like this.

MA: I saw it in 3D, and while I enjoyed the visuals of the alien landscapes and spaceships in 3D, I have a feeling it looked just as good in 2D. Let’s put it this way. There weren’t any scenes where I sat there thinking, “this is so cool in 3D. I’m glad I saw this in 3D!” As has been the case with most 3D movies we’ve seen in the past few years, the 3D effects are almost an afterthought.

LS: If I have any complaint at all, it is the pacing. At just over two hours, I found that certain parts of the movie seemed stretched out and slow, throwing off the movie’s pace a bit. It was something I almost “felt” more than saw. And it’s funny, because early on, things move pretty briskly. We’re not in Scotland looking at caves very long, before we’re suddenly on a spaceship, approaching an alien planet. But once on the planet, there were just some scenes that seemed longer and slower than they should have been.

MA: Yeah, the pacing was slow in places, but interestingly enough, the pacing isn’t one of the things that bothered me about this movie.

LS: Considering how excited I was to see this one, I thought it might be that rare film that passes the four knife mark. But after seeing it, I was actually on the fence about whether to give it 3 ½ or 4 knives. A very good film, but not a masterpiece. I really expected even more from Ridley Scott, if you can believe it.

But what the hell, I ended up giving PROMETHEUS, four knives out of five, one of the best ratings I’ve given for a movie this year. It’s smart, it’s ambitious, and I really enjoyed it.

MA: I gave THE AVENGERS four knives, which is the highest rating I give movies (a five knife movie would have to be perfect, and that’s never going to happen!) and I think THE AVENGERS blows PROMETHEUS out of the water.

LS: No way! They’re two very different kinds of movies: one is pure fun, and the other tries to be much more than that. But I think PROMETHEUS is as good as THE AVENGERS. In fact, I think it’s better.

MA: Yes, they are two very different movies, but THE AVENGERS pushes all the right buttons and is nearly flawless, whereas PROMETHEUS, while good, falls short.

LS: And while it’s going to be very rare that we rate anything higher than four knives, it is possible. I gave KILL LIST four and a half knives earlier this year.

MA: PROMETHEUS could have been something truly special. It asks great questions—who made us? where did we come from? where do we go when we die? — but it gives us answers that are clearly inferior to these questions. I kept thinking, these are the answers the writers came up with?

LS: What if we found out the answers and they really were a letdown? Wouldn’t that be rather ironic?

MA: I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of PROMETHEUS. The movie had an awe-inspiring science fiction feel to it, and I thought the film was heading towards moments akin to things found in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. I enjoyed the story, the visuals, and I liked the idea of humans on a quest to find our creators. I was definitely going along for the ride.

LS: I’m glad you brought that up, because I thought there were a lot of parallels between this movie and Kubrick’s 2001. From the clues that scientists find that tell them there was life on other worlds (in PROMETHEUS, it’s the cave paintings providing a map, in 2001, it was the more physical artifact of the Monolith), to a machine that has its own agenda and turns on the people who think they are its masters, to even the pacing and some of the visuals (the alien space ship here looks somewhat like the orbiting space station in 2001).

MA: And there’s some good suspense along the way as well. The scene in the cave with the weird snake creatures is one of the more intense scenes in the movie, and I absolutely loved the scene where Elizabeth has to perform surgery on herself to remove a certain “addition” inside her body. It’s by far the most intense scene in the film.

LS: Thanks for bringing that up! The surgery scene is one of the best in the movie! I loved that scene.

MA: But that’s about as intense as the movie gets. Later, as it builds towards its conclusion, I found the suspense lacking.

And in terms of awe-inspiring science fiction, the film hits its climax in a really cool scene when David discovers, among other things, a 3D map of our solar system, and at this point I was looking forward to the “where do we go from here” stuff. Unfortunately, where we go is strictly standard drama.

Compared to ALIEN, for example, PROMETHEUS is a dud when it comes to that kind of suspense. It’s not that scary.

LS: Yes, I think this is one thing that should be pointed out. Even though PROMETHEUS is a prequel to ALIEN, it is not a horror movie. Sure, there are some scary creatures here, but overall, PROMETHEUS is more a movie about ideas. Maybe that’s what threw off the pacing for me. I thought it was building like a horror film, slowly ratcheting up the suspense, and it wasn’t. It’s not that kind of movie. While ALIEN was unabashedly a horror movie set on a space ship, PROMETHEUS is a science fiction film that doesn’t follow the same blueprint at all. It’s not meant to be a rehash of ALIEN. It’s a completely different animal.

MA: I agree with you, but the problem I have is that in spite of this, PROMETHEUS still gravitates towards the horrific, but unfortunately it’s rather tame horror. And then, getting back to it being a movie about ideas, it doesn’t finish the job by giving us a big payoff. I liked the fact that it was about ideas, but I wanted these thought-provoking ideas to take me somewhere.

The “Engineers,” for example, prove to be about as intellectual as the alien monsters themselves. PROMETHEUS is missing that grand moment when everything comes together and you say, “Wow!”

There’s no Wow.

LS: I think I agree with you on that. I think that’s another reason why I had a problem with the pacing. In a way, there is really no payoff. There is an ending—and a set up for a sequel, I should add—there are major things that happen, but you’re right. There’s no big Wow. The question is—can it still be a great movie without one?

MA: I found the screenplay by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof to be muddled. There were several moments where I found myself scratching my head, like when Captain Janek is suddenly talking about having to protect Earth from this alien race who has been building weapons of mass destruction. What weapons of mass destruction? And how does Janek know this?

LS: The weapons of mass destruction here are biological. The things in the pods. Those are the weapons. The alien ship is full of them. That’s how Janek knows—the same way we know.

MA: Yeah, I get that, but I found it an odd way of saying it, and for me it was a distraction. Why not just say these dudes are messing around with biological experiments so let’s get the hell out of here!

I also wondered why Peter Weyland was played by Guy Pearce in “old man” make-up. I thought perhaps it was because at some point in the story he’d somehow be getting younger. Nope.

I was also disappointed with the answer to the “Why were we created?” question. I don’t want to give anything away here, but I found the answer unimaginative and disappointing, which goes back to there not being a grand “Wow” moment.

LS: I didn’t think it was unimaginative at all. And if it was disappointing—well sometimes things in life are much more underwhelming than we had hoped.

MA: And I also was disappointed that the famous discovery early on in ALIEN, where the astronauts discover the giant alien pilot sitting in his ship with his chest cavity exploded, isn’t recreated here in PROMETHEUS. I thought sure that image would be one of the last images seen in this movie, but that’s not how things play out.

LS: Yes, that’s strange. The giant alien pilot is explained. In fact, it sounds like that’s the germ of where PROMETHEUS, the movie, springs from, in a way. But, you’re right, there’s no scene that exactly replicates that image from ALIEN.

MA: I wanted more of a direct connection between PROMETHEUS and ALIEN.

With or without the hype, I expected more from PROMETHEUS. I liked its imaginative visuals and storyline early on, but later, when I expected it to become very suspenseful and dark, it doesn’t cut it, mostly because it never gets all that dark. And I didn’t like the answers it provided to its thought-provoking questions.

LS: I think you were looking for a movie that was much more like ALIEN, and PROMETHEUS isn’t it, because it wasn’t meant to be. It’s a different kind of movie, and I actually found it refreshing that it didn’t follow the rules we expect from sequels and prequels. As for the answers, just because you are disappointed in them doesn’t mean they aren’t thought-provoking.

MA: But that’s why I was disappointed. I didn’t find them thought-provoking. Seriously, in terms of it being a movie about ideas, it’s no 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, that’s for sure!

I give it two knives.

LS: We sure disagree on this one. I think you’re the one who’s been sitting in the sun too long. Speaking of which, I think I’ll go back to working on my sun tan now.

MA: Okay. I think I’ll take this moon rover for a spin. Sure you don’t want to come along?

LS: Nah. I’m in the mood to relax and contemplate some thought-provoking questions.

MA: Really? Like life, the universe, and everything?

LS: No. Since we’ve got an unlimited budget here, I was wondering more about what I’m going to have for dinner. Steak or lobster?

(One of the monsters from ALIEN pops its oversized head out of the tent)

ALIEN: I’d recommend the steak! (hands LS a beer) Here you go buddy, thanks for watching my back!

MA: I should have known..

—END—.

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

Michael Arruda gives PROMETHEUS ~ two knives!

LL Soares gives PROMETHEUS ~four knives.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3

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

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 (2011)
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!

—END—

© 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!

THE THING (2011)

Posted in 1950s Sci-Fi Films, 2011, 80s Horror, Aliens, Cinema Knife Fights, LL Soares Reviews, Michael Arruda Reviews, Monsters, Prequels, Science Fiction, Sequels with tags , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2011 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE THING (2011)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

 

(THE SCENE: Army barracks in Antarctica. Wind is howling and snow covers everything outside. MICHAEL ARRUDA comes in from the cold, covered in layers of clothes and a ski mask)

MA: LL, are you here?

(LL SOARES is lying on a hammock in a darkened storage room. MA enters the room and turns on the light)

MA: What are you sleeping for? You said you were going to meet me when I arrived on this base.

LS: What, and interrupt my nap? I don’t think so.

MA: Nap? What happened to the guy who was all excited and eager to see the new movie THE THING?

LS: Well, I finally saw it……

MA: Your tone smacks of disappointment. Do tell.

LS: If I have to. (Rubs sleep from his eyes)

THE THING (2011) has the same name of John Carpenter’s 1982 film THE THING, and yet it is a prequel to Carpenter’s film. If it’s a prequel, how about giving it a different name? That just seems stupid to me.

MA: Well, you’re right that it is a prequel, since the events in this movie do occur before the events in Carpenter’s film. However, it’s a rather lame prequel. It’s shot as if audiences weren’t supposed to know it was a prequel, because it’s doesn’t make a direct connection to the 1982 movie until the very end, which comes off as if it were supposed to be a surprise, and honestly—had it been a surprise—it would have been really cool. The problem is, it’s not a surprise, because everyone and their grandmother knew beforehand it was supposed to be a prequel!

The other problem is, since audiences are going in already knowing it’s a prequel, they’re looking forward to some direct connection to the Carpenter film, and it’s just not there until the very end, and so it comes off, or at least it did to me, as a major disappointment.

Eric Heisserer could have done so many creative things with this concept, but he doesn’t. I found THE THING devoid of creativity and imagination, and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since Heisserer also wrote the screenplay for the remake of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010) and FINAL DESTINATION 5 (2011), two other sub-par movies.

Here’s one example: how about some footage from the original film? Wouldn’t it have been cool to see Kurt Russell step out of the helicopter at the end? This movie just didn’t take advantage of its connection to the Carpenter THING and its fans.

LS: In Carpenter’s film, about an expedition in Antarctica, they find a spaceship stuck in the ice, and its strange passenger – an alien creature that can replicate whatever it comes into contact with. At first it starts with sleigh dogs and eventually starts imitating the people on the base, to the point where no one can tell if anyone else is really the alien. It was a brilliant study in claustrophobia, paranoia, and just plain scary monsters. In Carpenter’s film, it was mentioned that there was a Norwegian expedition before them, but they were wiped out. The American team, led by Kurt Russell, was there to investigate what happened.

Which brings us to the new movie called THE THING. This one is about that missing Norwegian expedition, and what happened to them.

The movie begins with some guys in a snow tractor thingie, traveling over the ice and trying to locate a signal coming from beneath the surface. When they find the location of the signal, they stop, and suddenly crash through the ice below. Which is how they discover a gigantic space craft under the ice and snow.

They also discover a frozen life form, presumably the occupant of the space ship and they are eager to study their finds. Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) is called in to check it out. He brings along his assistant Adam (Eric Christian Olsen, who sometimes looks like a second-rate Brad Pitt) and paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the girlfriend from SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD). They arrive just in time to help the Norwegian scientists figure out what the creature in the ice is. A tissue sample is extracted from the block, and of course, some idiot lets the thing defrost (isn’t anyone concerned it might rot and be useless to them?). It turns out, the thing is not dead. It was only sleeping.

Like Carpenter’s film, the monster then goes about imitating other people in the research party, killing and replicating them one by one, like a distant cousin to the pods from INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. In Carpenter’s film, you could determine who was the Thing by taking a blood sample. In this version, the Thing is unable to replicate metal, which means if you have fillings or any other metal accoutrements, they will fall out when you become “replaced.” So Dr. Lloyd is able to determine who is the bad guy by making everyone “open their mouths” and show her their fillings.

MA: A crude, very unscientific method, and cinematically speaking, nowhere near as exciting as the blood sample scene in the Carpenter film.

LS: I dunno. I thought it made sense, given the urgency of their situation. They didn’t really have time to take blood tests.

In this movie, they catch on to the alien’s tricks pretty quickly and there’s no gradual understanding of what it can do, like in Carpenter’s film. Also, there seemed to be several times where the monster revealed itself when it didn’t have to. In Carpenter’s film, the replicated people revealed their true alien form when discovered. In this version, they seem to reveal themselves at the drop of a hat.

So one by one, people reveal that they are really the monster, and then their bodies start changing and twisting and they turn into creatures that look rather Lovecraftian with big teeth and tentacles, and I have to admit, the effects here are really good, and the creatures look just as good as in Carpenter’s movie, and, in a couple of scenes, even better.

MA: Definitely have to agree with you here. If there’s anything I really liked about this movie, it was the special effects and the look of THE THING. I would agree that at times, it looks better than the one in Carpenter’s movie.

LS: As many people know, the story of THE THING has a long history. It began as a story by John W. Campbell way back in 1938 called “Who Goes There?” For you literary history buffs, Campbell is best known as the editor of the magazine Astounding Science Fiction, which was prominent from the 1930s to 1950s. Campbell had an incredible eye for talent and he single-handedly discovered most of the writers who are considered the masters of old school science fiction, from Isaac Asimov to Theodore Sturgeon to Fritz Leiber. But he wrote fiction as well, and this particular story has had some incredible staying power.

In 1951, the director Howard Hawks made a movie version of Campbell’s story called THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD. Hawks was probably best known for westerns (like 1948’s RED RIVER and 1959’s RIO BRAVO) and screwball comedies, like the classic, BRINGING UP BABY(1938). But I think THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD was his only science fiction film. It’s good film, and above-average for the science fiction films of the time, due to a solid script and good acting, but nothing mind-blowing. In that version, James Arness (Marshall Dillon from the classic series GUNSMOKE) was the monster, made up to look kind an outer space version of Frankenstein’s monster.

MA: I always loved THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, and I consider it one of the best science fiction/horror movies from the 1950s, up there with THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953) and THEM! (1954). There’s a sense of creepiness in the film that really makes it a lot of fun to watch, and it’s also notable for its rapid fire dialogue, a pace that made it more realistic than the dialogue in other science fiction films of the period.

LS: Yeah, it was good. But then it was remade in 1982 by John Carpenter as simply THE THING, and as fans of the Carpenter version can tell you, this is one of the rare instances where a remake actually improved on and surpassed the original. And the monster is 100 times more interesting and visually exciting this time around.

MA: I’m not going to disagree with you because I like the 1982 film so much, and it certainly holds up better today than the 1951 version, but that old creepy black and white flick is still pretty darned good!

LS: Which brings us to the present, and the new version of THE THING.

(THE THING from THE FANTASTIC FOUR shows up.)

THE THING: What about me, you jokers? It’s CLOBBERIN’ TIME!

LS: You’re not part of this movie’s history, Mr Grimm.

MA: Come back to us the next time we review a new Marvel movie.

THE THING: But it’s called “The Thing.” How can it not be about me?

LS: I’m sorry Ben, but it’s not.

THE THING: Can I at least break some heads?

LS (points to MA): You can break his head, but wait till after the review.

MA: Uh..I hear the Hulk is hanging out with the Norwegians down the road. Why don’t you tangle with him?

THE THING: Really? Thanks for the tip. He owes me some money. (THE THING exits— making a giant hole in the wall.)

LS: The new remake—I mean, prequel— is not a completely awful movie, but it does have several problems.

MA: Yes, it does.

LS: To begin with, because the Norwegians are not very fleshed out, the language barrier is even more pronounced (most of them talk in Norwegian with subtitles, but a lot of them also speak English, so they alternate). Unlike Carpenter’s version with real, distinctive characters, nobody in the new version stands out except for Winstead. So problem number one right off the bat is that you don’t really care about these characters much.

MA: Yep, I would have to agree. That was one of the best parts of Carpenter’s THE THING, that it was filled with quirky, memorable characters, and this movie just doesn’t give us that.

LS: Yep.

MA: I also agree that Winstead’s character, paleontologist Kate Lloyd, is the best character in the movie, and Winstead delivers the best performance. I like Winstead a lot, and I want to see her in more movies.

On the other hand, as good as Winstead is, and she is good, she’s no Kurt Russell, and so this new version of THE THING also lacks a strong main character.

The rest of the characters are just OK, and the acting simply serviceable. Joel Edgerton is likable as helicopter pilot Braxton Carter, but ultimately he’s not that effective a hero.

I did like Ulrich Thomsen as Dr. Sandor Halvorson, and I liked his cold professor character, the guy who’s all about the discovery and not so much about the value of human life. He reminded me a lot of the professor character in the 1951 version, Dr. Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite), both in the way he looked and acted. We saw Thomsen earlier this year in SEASON OF THE WITCH (2011).

I also liked Jorgen Langhelle as Lars. Lars was one of the Norwegians who didn’t speak English, but this doesn’t stop him from being a memorable character, and he plays a key role in the story.

LS: Then, there’s not much to the story. There is really nothing here that wasn’t already covered in Carpenter’s classic.

MA: Exactly. If THE THING were a TV show, this movie would have been just an average episode, which you can get away with in a TV series, since you’ve got more than one episode to work with. But it’s not a TV show. It’s a movie, a one-shot deal, and all I kept thinking was, this is your one shot, and this is all you come up with? To me, the story was a definite disappointment.

LS: The plot is pretty much a retread of Carpenter’s film, but with a different team, and there really isn’t much that this film adds to the concept. As I sat through this movie, I kept thinking this was a chance to maybe try out some new ideas, take things in a different direction, but no, it’s the same old stuff we already saw.

MA: I’ll say! There were so many different directions this tale could have taken, yet it settles for the retread.

LS: Winstead takes charge of things pretty quickly and is calling the shots, making everyone show her their mouths and stuff. But once she takes charge, for the rest of the movie, nobody once questions her and asks her to open her mouth. Everyone just does what she says. I guess you could say this happens because she’s the only person in the movie with a distinct personality, but that’s really not a good enough reason.

Also, the movie is rated R, and yet there is absolutely no reason for it to be rated this way. There is no swearing, no nudity, no extreme gore. There are human bodies twisting and cracking open and turning into weird monsters, but I really didn’t think it was shocking enough to warrant an R rating. I think the MPAA is being just a little too sensitive these days. If something is rated R, then I want it to earn it. As is, a typical episode of any TV show on HBO or Showtime has more “adult content” than anything we see in this movie.

MA: I disagree with you here. I thought the THING scenes were sufficiently disturbing, more so than the THING scenes in the Carpenter version. I thought the effects here were the best part of the movie, so much so, that those scenes you mentioned, of bodies twisting and cracking open and turning into bizarre monsters, were very disturbing.

The most disturbing scenes I’ve ever seen? No. But I wasn’t sitting there thinking “These effects suck, and these creatures look cheesy.” No, I was thinking this is some pretty horrific stuff, and what I liked about it, is it took stuff we saw in the Carpenter version, and made it even more graphic, in terms of how clearly we saw things. So, I liked these scenes, and I think because of them, the movie earned its R rating.

LS: I thought the monsters looked pretty cool, but “very disturbing?” I don’t know.

There is also a certain monotony to the whole thing. Winstead and the others determine who the monster is. They blast it with flame throwers. It turns up as someone else. They burn that person, and then someone else is the monster. How does the creature keep moving around if they keep burning it? They just can’t seem to kill this critter. Also, there are scenes where there appear to be three or four different monsters. Someone’s arm turns into a centipede type thing, another one combines with another body to create a two-headed freak, etc. I thought there was just one monster, but there appears to be a bunch. No wonder the team never seems to be able to get a handle on things.

MA: Well, the creature replicates, and so yeah, there’s more than one THING because it keeps making more of itself. It was like this in the Carpenter movie as well.

The problem I had was with some of the logic behind it, and I seem to remember having similar questions with the Carpenter movie as well. If this thing can replicate and hide in a human’s body, why doesn’t it just stay hidden? That way it can escape to somewhere else.

But this thing replicates left and right, and it’s like you said, as soon it does, they see it and burn it, and so it keeps getting destroyed. It doesn’t seem all that smart, which begs the question, is this THING an intelligent alien, or just a mindless murderous monster? In this movie, where it replicates without seeming to know it’s about to be killed, the THING comes off as a mindless brute, whereas my memory of the Carpenter film, it came off as a smart intelligent alien. Doesn’t it build a ship in the Carpenter film?

As much as I liked the look of the THING in this movie, I didn’t really like the interpretation of the THING.

Does it have an agenda? In the Carpenter movie, the characters were worried that if it reached civilization, it would wipe it out. Is this THING interested in invading earth? It doesn’t seem to be in this movie. It only seems interested in survival.

LS: And if that’s the case, then why reveal itself in scenes when it doesn’t have to? When it has everyone fooled already?

MA: It’s also hinted at early on that perhaps the THING isn’t the original occupant of the crashed ship, and I thought this was a neat idea. One of the characters questions why a ship’s occupant would land his ship in the ice and then flee the ship only to freeze to death? Why not stay in the ship? The implication being that the occupant may have been trying to escape, or perhaps even kill the THING by killing himself, but this concept in never revisited or explored.

LS: I agree. They never explore this enough. One scene that really bugged me took place inside the space ship. The ship is gigantic—too big, I thought, it looks like the size of a small town—and yet it only has one occupant? Why the hell is it so big? It certainly doesn’t have to be. There’s no logic to it.

MA: Which reinforces what I was just talking about. The ship was gigantic because it might have held an entire crew, a crew that was wiped out by the THING, but I’m only speculating here because the movie dropped the ball and didn’t follow this up with any degree of satisfaction. They throw out that brief hint in one bit of dialogue, and then never go back there.

LS: Yeah, they dropped the ball on that.

And a showdown with a monster inside the ship reminded me an awful lot of the end of SUPER 8, which came out earlier this year and had a better story than this movie, even if THE THING has a cooler-looking monster.

I saw the trailer for THE THING something like ten times over the past few months. They kept hyping this one, and frankly it looked good to me. But I was mostly let down by the actual movie itself. It takes its time in the beginning, moving at a slow pace as it sets up the storyline. Once the action begins, it seems kind of repetitious, as I mentioned, and then the ending is kind of dumb.

The monsters look great, but it wasn’t enough to save this movie. I was disappointed. It was better than last week’s REAL STEEL, but not as good as some movies we gave three knives to. So I have to give this one at least two and a half knives out of five. But man, it could have been so much better than this.

MA: It could have been a helluva lot better than this!

To me, the fault lies with the director of this movie, Matthis van Heijningen Jr., and the screenwriter, Eric Heisser, because the biggest problem with THE THING is it lacks creativity and imagination…

LS: Starting with the completely poorly thought out title.

MA: …and oh yeah, scares. Guess what, folks, your movie looks pretty good, but guess what you forgot to include? Scares!!! How about making this one scary, huh? Not happening.

I was really excited to see THE THING—really into it! I kept thinking, I can’t wait to see how this will be tied into the John Carpenter movie. And I even enjoyed the beginning of this movie, as I was into its storyline, and I was enjoying its characters, and later, once the THING makes its appearance, I enjoyed that too.

LS: Since Carpenter’s movie, the THING itself has become kind of a cult monster. It definitely has its fan base, and I think there was bound to be another movie about it eventually —and here we have it. If nothing else, I hope this movie does well, just so that they expand on THE THING franchise, and maybe hire better talented directors and screenwriters if they make more movies, to take this concept into more interesting directions. Because it has a lot of untapped potential.

MA: As the movie plodded along, from one unimaginative non-creative scene to the next, I realized, this really isn’t going anywhere, and this really isn’t all that creative. I’ve seen this all before, and better, in the John Carpenter movie, and so, slowly, things began to go downhill, and they continued to go downhill, tumbling all the way down to its conclusion, which you so correctly described as dumb!

If this had been released a couple of years after the original, it would have been easily dismissed as an inferior sequel, or “prequel.” Right now, the best thing it has going for it is its connection to the 1982 movie, and the excitement surrounding it, but the problem is there’s barely a connection, and so it’s one more reason not to like this movie.

The other thing really missing from this film that worked so well in the Carpenter version is the sense of paranoia the characters go through— who’s the THING? Who’s human? These questions, and the fear that went with them, dominated Carpenter’s movie. The characters— grown men— were scared shitless about this.

In this movie, we hardly get that sense of paranoia at all. Towards the end, it gets a little better in the paranoia department, but not much, and the characters never seem as terrified here as they were in the Carpenter movie.

At the end of this movie, someone in the audience shouted, “That sucked!” which is never a good sign, and at the very end when we finally hear Ennio Morricone’s music from the Carpenter version, someone else shouted, “Now, that’s what I’m talking about!”, and that about says it all. We wanted a connection to the 1982 film and didn’t get one until it was way too late.

LS: One more thing. After the end credits start, stick around for a bit, because there’s an “extra” scene during the credits.

MA: I give this new version of THE THING two knives, and I give it that much because I liked the special effects and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the lead role, but the story and all-around creativity behind this one aren’t very good.

Well, that’s that.

LS: Yes it is.

MA: Can we go someplace warmer now?

LS: Yep, but first— (LS’s body suddenly explodes, as a tentacle, toothy monster breaks out of his body.)

MA: Oh my God, you were really THE THING all along!

(THE THING’s tentacled head and body suddenly explode, and after some strange contortions, becomes LS again.)

MA: I think THE THING just met its match. Are you okay?

LS: Never felt better! Let’s go get some snow cones.

MA: Okay, folks, we’ll see you again next week, and hopefully we’ll be in a warmer climate. See you then!

—END—

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

Michael Arruda gives THE THING (2011) ~ two knives

L.L. Soares gives THE THING (2011) ~ two and a half knives


Cinema Knife Fight COMING ATTRACTIONS for OCTOBER 2011

Posted in 2011, Aliens, Cinema Knife Fights, Coming Attractions, Paranormal, Prequels, Science Fiction, Sequels with tags , , , , , on October 7, 2011 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT – COMING ATTRACTIONS
OCTOBER 2011
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(The Scene: Antarctica, with white-out blizzard conditions. Two figures slowly emerge from the blizzard, dressed in heavy winter parkas, covered with ice and snow. One of the figures ignites a flare, which illuminates the sky above them in an eerie red glow. The light reveals the two figures to be MICHAEL ARRUDA and L.L. SOARES.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA: The flare should last long enough for us to get through this COMING ATTRACTIONS column.

L.L. SOARES: Let’s get started then.

MA: Welcome, everyone, to our October Coming Attractions column, where we let you know what’s on tap for the month ahead for Cinema Knife Fight. As usual, this job takes us to the best places…..Not.

LS: Quit complaining! Antarctica is a great vacation spot! The only thing missing is a giant pissed-off polar bear. Now, that would be fun.

MA: I’m sure that could be arranged.

LS: Did I mention the bear would be pissed off at you?

MA: On second thought, let’s skip the polar bear.

Anyway, we’re here in the Antarctic to celebrate the release of what I believe to be the centerpiece of the October movies we’re reviewing, the remake of John Carpenter’s THE THING. This one’s not coming out till October 14, so we have another movie first, and that would be REAL STEEL, which opens October 7.

REAL STEEL looks like ROCKY meets TRANSFORMERS, as it’s a tale set in the near future about robot boxing. Now, on the surface, this one sounds stupid and silly, but it stars Hugh Jackman and Evangeline Lilly (Kate from TV’s LOST), two actors who I like a lot, so maybe there’s hope for this one. On the other hand, I still haven’t forgotten that was Jackman in VAN HELSING (2004). Ugh!

But I’m also a sucker for all the ROCKY movies (even the bad ones) and boxing movies in general, so for that reason I am looking forward to REAL STEEL, even though I’m not holding out hope that it will be very good. Plus, I don’t like the TRANSFORMERS movies, so hopefully, it won’t be too much like that silly series.

It’s directed by Shawn Levy, who directed the comedies DATE NIGHT (2010), NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM (2006) and its sequel NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN (2009), the remake of THE PINK PANTHER (2006), and CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (2003). Go figure. Maybe REAL STEEL will be funny. Ha ha. Chances are higher it’ll be laughable.

(Polar Bear appears behind them.)

LS: You missed the most obvious origin of REAL STEEL. That old game when we were kids—ROCK EM SOCK EM ROBOTS. You’d control them with these hand controls and make them fight until one knocked the other’s block off. Don’t you remember that?

MA: Sure I do. It’s still around today.

LS: Well, just like we’re getting a movie version of the game BATTLESHIP next year—with aliens no less—REAL STEEL is an obvious attempt to turn them Rock Em Sock Em Robots into a movie.

I gotta admit, I’m dreading this one. It looks like a real turd to me, with its TRANSFORMERS-inspired robots, and a cute kid who plays Jackman’s son. No doubt there will be a lot of sappy scenes of father and son in this one. I better take a shot of insulin before I see it, in case it gives me diabetes.

I actually like Jackman, but he has been in crap before. You mentioned, VAN HELSING, which is a perfect example. I actually really like him in the X-MEN movies, though, where he plays Wolverine, one of my all-time favorite comic book characters. I just hope the next WOLVERINE movie isn’t as lame as the last one.

But I don’t have high hopes for REAL STEEL. You listed director Shawn Levy’s credits and they sound pretty loathesome. I bet this movie stinks to high heaven. But there’s always a chance it might surprise us.

(LS sees the polar bear. He fires a snowball at the bear and hits it in the head. He then points to MA.)

LS: Next up, as Michael mentioned previously, is THE THING, released on October 14. At first glance, this one appears to be a remake of a remake. The whole THING franchise began as a novella by John W. Campbell waaay back in 1938. In 1951, the director Howard Hawks directed a movie version of Campbell’s novella called THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD. Then it was remade in 1981 by another good director, John Carpenter as simply, THE THING.

But, in actuality, this new one is supposed to be a prequel, not a remake. Remember when, in the beginning of Carpenter’s THE THING, we find out there was a team of scientists from Norway or something who were in Antarctica first, but Kurt Russell and his guys can’t find any sign of them? Well, this new version of THE THING is supposed to be the story of that first team. Where all the confusion comes from is the fact that they decided to call the new movie THE THING, even though it’s a prequel. What’s up with that? Did they do this just to confuse everyone? I have no clue.

The other thing about this one is that I really thought the trailer was pretty good—even though I’ve seen it like 17 times. These movie studios really have no mercy for people who go to the movies every week, do they? But if you’re going to subject us to a trailer multiple times, it better be good, or you’re risking losing your audience. In the case of THE THING, the trailer is good, and I still want to see it. So that’s a good sign.

(Polar Bear growls at MA who looks up in the nick of time.)

MA: Hey, aren’t you the bear from those old Coke commercials? (Bear nods). I thought so. Here. Have a Coke and a smile. (Hands Bear a bottle of soda.)

LS (shaking head): Obvious product placement. What, are we doing commercials now? (looks at polar bear.) And you? What kind of legendary predator are you? Aren’t you going to do something about him hitting you in the head with a snowball?

MA: I didn’t hit him with a snowball. It was probably you.

LS (to bear) Who are you going to believe? The guy who gave you a soda…..or the guy who gave you a beer? (Hands a bottle of beer to the Bear.)

(Bear takes both, smiles, and holds both bottles in one paw as he pats both LS and MA on the head with the other, then runs away happily.)

LS: Well, that was disappointing.

MA: I don’t know. I think it’s good that we keep our fans happy, even the animal ones.

LS: I’m not talking about that. I was hoping for some bloodshed.

MA: Well, I guess you just have to wait till the next horror movie.

Speaking of which, I’m looking forward to THE THING.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars in the lead role. Winstead played Scott Pilgrim’s mysterious girlfriend in SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (2010) and she was excellent in that, so I’m looking forward to seeing her in THE THING.

LS: Yeah, I like her, too.

MA: It’s directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr., with a screenplay by Eric Heisserer, and like the previous two film versions of THE THING, is based on the short story “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell Jr. Heisserer wrote the screenplay for the recent remake of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010) and FINAL DESTINATION 5 (2011). Let’s hope he does a better job with THE THING.

LS: That’s not a very good resume. I hope he does a better job with THE THING, too.

MA; On October 21, we’ll be reviewing PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3. I’d be lying if I said I was looking forward to this movie. I’m sick of this series already and wish it would go away. That being said, there aren’t a lot of new horror movies coming out this October, and so it would be nice if it were a good movie. I’m not holding my breath though.

LS: That’s funny, because I’m looking forward to this one. I liked the last two movies, and I thought that the second one really added something to the storyline, and I bet the third one explains even more. I actually like this series. Also, it’s really fun to see these movies with a real audience—there are always great reactions from people to the goofy scares.

Hell, I’d rather see this than DREAM HOUSE again.

And this is another one where I actually like the trailer. Go figure.

And to close out the month we’ll be reviewing IN TIME, due to be released on October 28th. Actually, our very own sci-fi reviewer Dan Keohane will be reviewing this one for us. Michael and I are taking that weekend off for a change. In this one, Justin Timberlake plays a guy in the future who gets paid in time instead of money. The rich live forever, and the poor die young. I dunno, I can’t get excited about a science fiction movie starring Justin Timberlake for some reason. I’ve enjoyed him in a few supporting roles, like in THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010), but I can’t see him as a good leading man.

This movie has recently been in the news because writer Harlan Ellison has filed a lawsuit claiming this movie has way too much in common with his classic short story, “Repent Harlequin, Said the Ticktockman.” I’ll be curious to see how that plays out.

MA: IN TIME has a pretty cool trailer, and it has me interested. I’ll be looking forward to reading Dan’s review of it.

Well, that about wraps things up here. I’m actually a bit disappointed there isn’t a new original horror film coming out this October in time for Halloween. Instead, we have a prequel to THE THING and the sequel PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3. I guess I’ll just have to watch some old classics to get me through the season.

LS: Me, too. TEXAS CHAINSAW, HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, HOSTEL…..

MA: I was thinking a bit further back than those. Hey, who’s that over there?

LS: Who goes there?

(MA & LS come across two figures sitting around a small camp fire in the snow. It’s Kurt Russell and Keith David from John Carpenter’s THE THING.)

MA: You two guys still sitting here after all these years?

KURT RUSSELL: What does it look like, asshole?

LS: Watch your language. This is a PG-13 website.

MA: Yeah.

LS: Yeah, calm down, Snake Plissken!

KURT RUSSELL: Snake? Wrong movie. I’m MacCready.

KEITH DAVID: And I’m Childs.

LS: Did you guys ever discover if either one of you is the Thing?

KR: We’re still waiting. Perhaps you’d like to join us.

MA: Sure, but only until it’s time for us to leave and review a new movie.

KR: Really? We’ll see about that.

LS: Hey, I’m in no hurry.

KD: Good.

MA: Anyone have any marshmallows?

(The four men look at each other as Ennio Morricone’s THING music begins to play.)

—-FADE TO BLACK—

Cinema Knife Fight Coming Attractions © Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares