Archive for the Remakes Category

MANIAC (2012)

Posted in 2013, Art Movies, Based on Classic Films, Cult Movies, Disturbing Cinema, Exploitation Films, Grindhouse, Indie Horror, Intense Movies, Joe Spinell Films, Kinky Killers, LL Soares Reviews, Psycho killer, Remakes, Serial Killer flicks, Sleaze with tags , , , , , , , on July 16, 2013 by knifefighter

MANIAC (2012)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

 Maniac

Yet another in a long list of  movies that do not need to remakes, William Lustig’s original MANIAC (1980) featured the amazing Joe Spinell (who also provided the story and co-wrote the screenplay) as Frank Zito, a violent psychotic who kills women and then scalps them, so he can attach their hair to mannequins that surround his bed like lovers. Visceral stuff, made all the more effective by the teaming of Lustig, Spinell, and effects maestro Tom Savini at the peak of his powers. This was one movie that lived up to its title, and yet there were tender moments as well, focusing mostly on the friendship (and blossoming romance?) between Spinell’s Zito and Caroline Munro’s photographer, Anna D’Antoni. It didn’t hurt that Munro was one of the most beautiful women to grace celluloid at the time. But Spinell somehow, through this relationship, made you sympathize with a man who is otherwise a deranged animal. You somehow cared about Zito and wanted to see him redeemed. Of course, in these kinds of movies, redemption eventually gives up and steps aside, so that punishment can take control of matters.

In the new version of MANIAC (2012), Franck Khalfoun gives us a strange recreation of the original film, with just enough quirks and differences to make it enjoyable on its own terms. Even if it comes nowhere near the gut punch of the original. This time, the script is co-written by Alexandre Aja, the director who has given us such recent horrors as the HILLS HAVE EYES remake (2006), MIRRORS (2008) and who is currently adaptating Joe Hill’s HORNS for the big screen. As for Khalfoun, he previously directed the murder in an underground parking garage flick, P2 (2007) and has acted in Aja films like HIGH TENSION (2003) and PIRANHA (2010).

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The new MANIAC stars Elijah Wood, oddly enough, perhaps the exact physical opposite of Joe Spinell. Where Spinell was genuinely creepy and yet always had a strange vulnerability to him, Wood seems slight and wimpy, but has a kind of strangeness to him that could easily be perceived as a capacity for violence. This aspect of Wood has been exploited previously in SIN CITY (2005), where he played an intense and merciless hit man with a penchant for eating human flesh. So this is hardly the first time someone saw Elijah Wood and thought “Hey, he might actually be an effective psycho.”

In MANIAC, however, Wood’s appearance and attributes are given only a small chance to shine, since the movie also adopts the rather odd gimmick of giving us the story from the killer’s point of view. What this means is that, throughout most of the film, we see everything through Frank Zito’s eyes. So whether or not Wood looks the part, we only see him occasionally, when he happens to look at himself in a mirror, for example.

Elijah Wood is actually quite good in the remake of MANIAC. I just wish he was onscreen more.

Elijah Wood is actually quite good in the remake of MANIAC. I just wish he was onscreen more.

This POV seems very artificial, making us very aware that this is not a gritty tour of the gutter like the original film, but something different. The new MANIAC strives toward art, towards being something more than just another killer on the loose flick. And yet, considering the subject matter, this arty direction doesn’t always work. We’re not watching a MANIAC film for artistic merit. We want to see a psychotic on the verge of complete madness, and the POV actually distances us from the meat of the film, even as it thinks that it is bringing us closer to the madman, by showing the film from his eyes.

The POV works some of the time. It’s not a bad thing, per se. There are some scenes that use this to nice effect. But in a movie like this, it doesn’t really elevate the story in any way. It’s just a fancy trick that tells us “No, you don’t have to really see Frank get his hands dirty.”

I actually like Elijah Wood. I’m not really a fan of projects like the LORD OF THE RINGS movies (or the HOBBIT films), but he’s been in plenty of other things that have impressed me. I think I first noticed him in Ang Lee’s THE ICE STORM (1997), and he has a kind of intensity that gives him a lot of range. I even enjoy him in the odd FX TV series WILFRED, where he plays a man whose best friend is a man in a dog suit (the rest of the world sees it as an actual dog). But the point is, Wood is kind of fearless and open to playing a wide variety of roles, however offbeat, and for what he does in MANIAC, I think he does a decent job. In a way, though, I would have preferred to see the whole “from the maniac’s eyes” viewpoint ditched, so that we could have really enjoyed Wood’s performance to the fullest.

In the new movie, Anna is played by Nora Amezeder as a French photographer who is drawn to Frank via his strange little shop where he carries on his family’s business of restoring antique mannequins. She uses mannequins in her photographs for artistic effect, and his equally artistic display of actual mannequins might just be the perfect complement to her photos in her upcoming gallery show. Can she borrow some of his work? He catches her taking pictures of his shop’s display window and invites her inside. The fact that she sees beauty in the same objects he does creates an immediate connection. And the groundwork is there for the one normal relationship in Frank Zito’s life.  Sadly, whatever normality there is between them won’t last for long. There’s no way it could.

Unfortunately, no matter how good Elijah Wood is as Frank Zito, he can never come close to Joe Spinell's performance in the original film.

Unfortunately, no matter how good Elijah Wood is as Frank Zito, he can never come close to Joe Spinell’s performance in the original film.

Wood’s Frank Zito has mother issues, after all, that go as deep as Norman Bates’s. We see flashbacks to Frank as a child, forced to watch as his mother has sex with all comers, whether its two sailors at once in her bedroom as he peers out from between the slats of a closet door, to a late night assignation in a parking garage, Frank wants his mother as much as he is repelled by her, and it is only a matter of time before relationships he has with other women dovetail into his feelings for his mother—even the one he has with poor Anna.

Feeling a possessive jealousy for whatever woman he comes across that he finds attractive, that same need to have them always turns into a stronger need to punish them. And therefore, he can’t really have any enjoyment with them while they are alive. He can only truly possess them (and come close to “loving” them) when they have been recreated, with their bloody scalps stapled onto the heads of his mannequins. In the darkness of his apartment, he convinces himself that the mannequins are the real women, and that they are now in an environment he can control. It is only then that he can show them that he cares.

So he drives around the city late at night, picking victims at random based on how they elicit lust in him, and making quick work of them. He tries to break the cycle, even joining an online dating service and meeting Lucie (Megan Duffy), a tattooed beauty who actually seems to act motherly towards him (uh oh!) when he complains of a migraine at the restaurant they agree to meet at, and who takes him back to her place afterwards for some almost-successful seduction. You really think Frank might finally loosen up and enjoy himself, but in the end, we know that’s impossible.

There are some interesting set pieces, including Frank hunting down Anna’s agent, Rita (Jan Broberg), breaking into her glorious Manhattan apartment to kill her in her bath tub. This sequence is done quite well

I liked this new version of MANIAC. It’s a good film, despite its flaws. It’s just easier to judge it as a stand-alone film about a psycho played by Elijah Wood. To compare it to Lustig’s original is to its detriment. There is no way this movie could deliver the goods like the original movie did.

I give it three knives.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives the 2012 version of  MANIAC ~three  knives.

 

(Despite being made in 2012, the new version of MANIAC is only now getting limited release in theaters in some cities. It is available on cable OnDemand in some markets as well.)

maniac_version3-2012-movie-poster

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CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT REVIEW: MAN OF STEEL (2013) – Another View by L.L. Soares

Posted in 2013, Based on Comic Book, Blockbusters, Cinema Knife Fights, DC Comics, LL Soares Reviews, Reboots, Remakes, Special Effects, Superheroes, Villains with tags , , , , , , on June 28, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: MAN OF STEEL (2013)
Review by L.L. Soares

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(THE SCENE: An outpost in the middle of the Arctic. A group of SCIENTISTS in heavy coats are looking down at a spaceship encased in ice, as workers use machines to melt and cut through the frozen surface. L.L. SOARES comes up from behind, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and drinking a Margarita.)

LS: What are you guys up to? Is this another remake of THE THING?

SCIENTIST 1: I have no idea what you are talking about. What is zis…thing?

LS: It’s a movie, Chop Top. About an alien shape-changing monster found in the ice in the Arctic. That’s why we’re here, right? (slurps drink loudly through straw)

SCIENTIST 2: We are here to welcome the last son of Krypton, Kal-El.

LS: Kal-El? Doesn’t Nicolas Cage have a son with that name? What, is he all grown up and dating a Kardashian now?

SCIENTIST 1: No, no. This has nothing to do with Nicolas Cage or monsters.

SCIENTIST 2: We are here to greet Superman.

LS: Superman? He’s back again?

SCIENTIST 2: Yes, and he will fight for truth, justice, and the American way.

LS: That’s nice. I was wondering when they were going to bring that overgrown Boy Scout back to the movies, considering all the success Batman has had lately. Y’know, I really didn’t mind SUPERMAN RETURNS  (2006). Brandon Routh was actually pretty decent in the role, but he got the short end of the stick. It should have been a hit.

SCIENTIST 1: Brandon Routh? How dare you mention his name here, in zis sacred place. (Points down at the ship frozen in the ice)

LS: Get over it, Doc. I bet nobody is even in there. You guys are standing around in the cold for nothing. Speaking of which, anyone got a spare jacket? I didn’t bring the right clothes for this trip. That’s what I get for asking Jimmy Buffet for travel tips.

SCIENTIST 2: So why are you here anyway? We did not invite you?

LS: I’m here for the ambiance, and to review the new movie MAN OF STEEL.

SCIENTIST 1: Yes, MAN OF STEEL. You mean zee Superman. So you are here for zee same reason as we.

LS: The Man of Steel and Superman are the same thing? Imagine that!

SCIENTIST 2: You have been joshing us all along. Busting our jaws, so to speak.

LS: Busting your jaws? Yeah, yeah, that’s it.

SCIENTIST 1: So go ahead, movie man, give us your review of zee MAN OF STEEL.

SCIENTIST 2: Yes, stop your joshing.

LS: Okay, okay. First off, I want to preface this by saying that my Cinema Knife Fight cohort, Michael Arruda, reviewed MAN OF STEEL when it first came out. You can read that review here. So this is kind of an afterthought. I saw the movie myself recently and figured I’d give my two cents.

SCIENTIST 2: Enough with the preface. What did you think of it?

LS: Well, I should first get around to a brief synopsis. MAN OF STEEL is the story of Kal-El, who would later go on to become known on Earth as Clark Kent…

SCIENTIST 1: And Superman!

LS: Yes, of course, Superman. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? But he has to get there first.

SCIENTIST 2: So his father Jor-El sends him here from the planet Krypton.

LS: Yeah, and I thought the way the movie handled Krypton was kind of interesting. Usually in these movies, it just looks like a futuristic version of Earth, with crystal buildings and stuff. However, in MAN OF STEEL, it actually looks like an alien planet, and a dying one at that. For once, we get to see some of the animal life on Krypton. And their machines and technology looks so weird. I liked this a lot. And everyone has these robots who are like CGI machines, constantly creating weird shapes and they seem to have a mind of their own, even as they serve their human-like masters. I just really liked the way the Krypton scenes looked. I wanted to spend more time there.

I originally had a hard time picturing Russell Crowe in the Marlon Brando role of Jor-El, but he’s actually pretty good here. He’s older and kind of stately now, and he fills in for Brando pretty well. I also really liked the Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer as Superman’s mother, Lara Lor-Van. They were both commanding and classy, and you could see them as the parents of someone as colossal as Superman.

SCIENTIST 1: Do not forget zee General Zod.

LS: How could I forget him? Michael Shannon plays General Zod, the head of Krypton’s military. He’s in the middle of a coup, trying to take things over from the decrepit leaders who rule the planet. The old guard have botched things and the planet is on the verge of dying, so Zod decides it would be better if he was in charge. Of course, Zod and Jor-El are friends from way back, but they disagree about how to handle the last days of Krypton, probably because Zod’s big plan to change things comes way too late in the game. He claims he wants to alter the future of Krypton, but, let’s face it, there is no future there. At least Jor-El and Lara have a plan to keep their race alive, involving shooting little Kal-El out into the universe shortly after he is born. A plan which, for some odd reason I didn’t understand, Zod is completely opposed to. He’s so opposed to it, he goes to great lengths to try to stop them, even to the point of killing poor Jor-El. But Lara beats him to the punch – or rather, the launch button.

It’s not long afterwards that Zod and his officers are arrested and tried for treason. So much for his big takeover attempt. Zod and his pals are shot up into space in some weird giant tooth ship that turns into a black hole, or something like that. The other dimension they’re sent to is called the Phantom Zone, by the way.

Meanwhile, little Kal-El shoots through space like a Kryptonian sperm looking for the big mother egg of Earth.

SCIENTIST 2: A vivid image.

SCIENTIST: Enough of zee sex talk. What about Kal-El. He gets found by zose farmers!

LS: Yes, the Kents. They find him after his ship crashes in Kansas and amazingly nobody tracks the ship down or knows anything about their intergalactic adoption, so they raise the little tyke to be their son. Of course, they realize early on that Clark isn’t like other boys. And Pa Kent teaches him to control his temper so he doesn’t get arrested for murder on a daily basis. When Clark saves a school bus full of kids that crashes into a river, there are witnesses, but they just chalk it up to an act of God.

Kevin Costner is actually pretty good as Jonathan Kent. You know, when he was younger and a big star, I didn’t care for him all that much, but now that he’s older and plays more character roles, I’ve grown to like him a lot. And he’s a perfect choice for Pa Kent. The great Diane Lane, who I always liked, plays Clark’s mother, Martha Kent. So we’ve got more good casting here.

So eventually, Clark grows up and decides to go out into the world. He becomes a kind of quiet loner, drifting around the earth, taking a variety of jobs from fisherman to bartender to construction worker, trying to figure out where he came from, and why he’s here on Earth. It’s in the Arctic that he finds an alien ship that is pretty much the Fortress of Solitude, and a hologram of his father pops up to explain everything.

SCIENTIST 1 (looks down): And zat is what is in zee frozen in the ice beneath us.

LS: I guess so. Boy, you think Russell Crowe is dead in the movie, and then he’s onscreen more after he’s dead than he was before. I almost got sick of seeing him. And he always shows up just at the right minute to help out.

SCIENTIST 2: What about the great Cavill?

LS: Henry Cavill? The guy who plays Superman?

SCIENTIST 1: Yes! Zee great Cavill.

LS: He’s not bad here. While I still think Brandon Routh got cheated by not getting to be in any sequels, I have to admit, Cavill’s pretty good. He plays the role completely different, though.

And this is a big part of why I liked the new movie so much. I have never been a Superman fan. I always thought he was too one-dimensional. Superman = Good. It’s all so black and white. There was never any dark side to him. You knew what you were getting, and you knew he would always do the right thing. And frankly, to me, that’s pretty damn boring. Not like Batman, who at least has enough darkness to him to make him a wee bit unpredictable.

In MAN OF STEEL, Superman is still a force for good. It’s not like he suddenly turned into an anti-hero. But the movie plays up the fact that he’s an alien from another world. That he doesn’t belong here. That, even though he grew up here and has been assimilated into this world (something that will come in real handy during his battles with Zod), there’s still a kind of “otherness” to him. And I liked that. It made him more interesting than the kind of character Christopher Reeve played him in the original SUPERMAN films. All good and golly gee. I liked Reeve, but I like Cavill’s Superman better. I like that there’s actually some mystery to him.

SCIENTIST 1: What about Lois Lane?

I liked Amy Adams a lot as Lois. She seemed more like a real reporter than in previous incarnations. But there is a vulnerability to her. Even though she’s in a job that can be dangerous, she never seems particularly tough. And if she acts like a damsel in distress when Zod and his minions come to Earth—well, any human would seem weak in the face of such super-powered beings.

SCIENTIST 2: And Zod?

Michael Shannon was the main reason I was excited about seeing this movie going in. I didn’t know much about Henry Cavill, but I’ve been a Shannon fan for years. He’s been pretty amazing in independent films for years, and stuff like William Friedkin’s BUG (2006) and he had a supporting role, but was a scene-stealer in REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (2008). But his most impressive role so far has been as Prohibition Agent Nelson Van Alden in the HBO series BOARDWALK EMPIRE. Van Alden has gone from a do-gooder government agent to a much darker character who’s rather unpredictable, and capable of murder and violence. It has been fascinating seeing his character grow and change through the seasons of that show.

I actually liked Shannon in MAN OF STEEL, but I had a mixed reaction to his General Zod. Mainly because I still remember the great Terence Stamp’s portrayal of Zod in SUPERMAN II (1980). Stamp’s take on the character was more that of a sadistic soldier with a god complex, and he had a bit of a dark sense of humor. In comparison, Shannon plays the character completely humorless. This isn’t really a man who is pushing his own agenda and a lust for power. Shannon’s Zod is a zealot who believe he is doing the right thing. He was bred to be a warrior and to safeguard the Kryptonian race, and he takes this responsibility very seriously. I think I still like Stamp’s version of the character better, he was a hoot and you could cheer him on as a real bad guy. I’m not sure I like Shannon’s Zod as much, but the actor takes him into a completely different direction, and I can appreciate that.

I also really liked German actress Antje Traue as Zod’s “right hand” woman, Faora-Ul. She’s just as ruthless and formidable as Zod  is, and is a strong ally, instead of being just another faceless flunkie.

I also like that there was so much destruction in the movie during the battles between Superman and his Kryptonian enemies. These people have god-like powers, and would make as much of a mess as Godzilla if they fought it out in a major city. It was just nice to see some of the fall-out from that. By the time the fighting is over, Metropolis looks like a bomb hit it.

The script for MAN OF STEEL  is by David S. Goyer, the guy who gave us the BLADE movies and the really cool script for DARK CITY (1998), as well as Christopher Nolan’s excellent DARK KNIGHT trilogy. He’s a solid screenwriter and has become the go-to-guy for a lot of superhero stuff. And I liked what he did with Superman here. By the way, Goyer’s script for MAN OF STEEL is based on a storyline he wrote with Christopher Nolan.

The movie is directed by Zack Snyder, who has also done his share of comic book adaptations, like Frank Miller’s 300 and Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN. I thought he did a good job with MAN OF STEEL. I like the more science fiction focus of the film, since Superman is an alien being, and there would be repercussions about this—something that previous films completely ignored. He’s not just some super strong guy who fights crime, he’s proof that we’re not alone in the universe. And it was nice to see a movie finally address this.

While I like the script and the direction and the acting, there are flaws. I’m actually sick of seeing Superman’s origin story yet again, even if it’s used to give us a different perspective this time around. And the action scenes are pretty good, but, as usual, go on way too long. The movie is definitely longer than it needs to be, but that seems to be a common thing among blockbusters these days—there’s this idea that more is better. But, with tighter editing, and a more focused storyline, a little shorter film could actually be an improvement.

But my complaints are actually kind of minor. I think everyone involved tried to do something different with a character we’ve seen a hundred times before, and they succeeded in breathing new life into the concept. I’m still not a huge Superman fan, but I’m more of a fan than I was.

I give MAN OF STEEL, three knives.

SCIENTIST 1: Arruda only gave it two and a half knives.

LS: I know. I liked it more than he did. I would have given it even more knives if they had ditched the origin story and done something really daring. But, for what it is, it’s a solid, well-made superhero film.

I’ve got to go now. What is it you guys were waiting for again?

SCIENTIST 1: We are waiting for Superman to emerge from zee ship.

LS: The ship trapped down there in the ice? You guys are idiots. Nobody’s in there.

(LS suddenly leaps into the air and flies away)

SCIENTIST 2 (staring up into the sky): WTF?

-END-

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives MAN OF STEEL ~three knives.

Quick Cuts: Featuring SUPERMAN

Posted in 2013, Aliens, Based on Comic Book, DC Comics, Quick Cuts, Reboots, Remakes, Sequels, Superheroes with tags , , , , , on June 21, 2013 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS:  SUPERMAN
Featuring Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Peter Dudar, and Daniel Keohane

man_of_steel_poster_by_hammond09-d5930z8MICHAEL ARRUDA:  With the release of MAN OF STEEL (2013) this past weekend, tonight on QUICK CUTS we’re talking some Superman.  Joining L.L. Soares and myself on tonight’s panel are Peter Dudar and Daniel Keohane.

First question, gentlemen, who’s your favorite Superman?  George Reeves?  Christopher Reeve?  Brandon Routh?  Kirk Alyn?  Dean Cain?  Tom Welling

L.L. SOARES:  I guess my favorite Superman would have to be Christopher Reeve, only because I haven’t seen Henry Cavill yet.

ARRUDA:  Not a George Reeves fan?

SOARES: I really enjoyed the George Reeves SUPERMAN TV show as a kid. It was really campy, and if you watch the show now, it’s even funnier. The storylines made no sense at all.

George Reeves in the 1950s TV series THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN

George Reeves in the 1950s TV series THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN

DANIEL KEOHANE:  Oh, I still have such fond memories of the old George Reeves SUPERMAN television show.

SOARES:  Good for you!  What do you want, a medal?

KEOHANE:  I would run and leap in the air onto the couch making that flying shooshing sound to recreate the guy jumping out of the Daily Planet window.

SOARES:  What a goober!   I bet you still pretend to be Superman when no one’s looking.

KEOHANE (laughing):  No, it’s been a while since I leapt onto my couch trying to be Superman.  Although I used to struggle whenever I walked by a phone booth—.

ARRUDA:  Lucky for you, there aren’t too many of those left.  No one’s into Tom Welling?

KEOHANE:  I assume Welling is the new guy?

Tom Welling as a different kind of Superman on the TV show SMALLVILLE.

Tom Welling as a different kind of Superman on the TV show SMALLVILLE.

ARRUDA:  No.  He played Superman in SMALLVILLE.

SOARES:  I tried several times to get into SMALLVILLE, but it just didn’t grab me. I thought it was boring. And I didn’t care for Welling all that much.

ARRUDA:  I liked what I saw of SMALLVILLE, although I didn’t follow the show towards the end.

PETER DUDAR:  I remember being a kid and having my dad take me to see the 1978 Alexander Salkind/Richard Donner version of SUPERMAN.  Christopher Reeve was larger than life on the silver screen, both as the bumbling, mild mannered Clark Kent and as the confident bastion of non-religious righteousness that was Superman.

SOARES:  Confident bastion of non-religious righteousness?  What is this, a college lecture?

DUDAR:  If you can’t handle the big words, I’ll be happy to dummy it down for you.

SOARES:  Dummy this down.  (Raises his middle finger to his forehead.). Speaking of dummies, where’s Lil’ Stevie? I thought he was the brains of your outfit?

DUDAR: I was six years old at the time I saw SUPERMAN; an age far too young to grasp either dramatic acting performances or the criminal genius of Lex Luthor’s (Gene Hackman) sinister real-estate plans.  What I do remember was the man in the blue uniform and red cape who could fly and break through steel doors and somehow managed to make the earth turn backwards until time regressed and Lois Lane was saved from dying in the earthquake. 

Christopher Reeve as Superman

Christopher Reeve as Superman

ARRUDA:  I saw SUPERMAN at the movies too, though I was a bit older than you when I saw it.

SOARES: Same here.

ARRUDA: Christopher Reeve is my favorite Superman, as well.  Not only did he make a believable and likeable Superman, but he also was hilarious as Clark Kent. 

I’ve always thought that Reeve never received enough recognition for his role as Superman.  I remember back in the day critics were none to kind to Reeve.  It’s a shame that it took a horse riding accident which left him paralyzed and eventually killed him to really make people take a good hard look at his acting achievements.

I will say that I recently watched a bunch of episodes of the ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN TV show, and I was really impressed with George Reeves’ performance as Superman. 

SOARES:  Sit down, Dan!  Don’t go leaping off your chair now!

KEOHANE: It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s—.

ARRUDA:  The first season of the George Reeves show, in black and white, was the best.  It was far superior to the subsequent seasons in color, as these latter seasons were geared more for kids and were often silly.  The first season had some pretty cool episodes.

SOARES: Great Caesar’s Ghost!

ARRUDA (laughing):  That’s my favorite line from the series!  Good old Perry White. 

But I still prefer Christopher Reeve as Superman, and he gets my vote for being the best.

SOARES: I guess I was never a big enough Superman fan to really care. Reeve wins by default. I don’t think his Superman was all that amazing, but it’s probably the best we’ve had so far.

KEOHANE:  I thought Christopher Reeve was a good Superman too, but to be honest, I’m still traumatized by that first movie’s slow, terrifying death of Lois Lane, even if she did get saved by the Big Guy turning back time – though the car should have still fallen into the crack in the earth after he saved her. That mistake always pissed me off.

I have no idea who Kirk Alyn was – was he the original pre-Reeves guy?

Kirk Alyn played Superman in movie serials from 1948 and 1950.

Kirk Alyn played Superman in movie serials from 1948 and 1950.

ARRUDA: Yep.  He starred in two Superman serials, in 1948 and 1950, which predated the George Reeves TV show by a few years.  Alyn actually has a cameo in the Christopher Reeve SUPERMAN movie.  He’s in that brief scene on the train, where we see little Lois Lane with her parents, her dad played by Alyn, and her mom played by Noel Neill who played Lois Lane on the George Reeves TV show. 

SOARES: I actually think Brandon Routh was the most underrated Superman. I actually liked him a lot in the role, and didn’t mind his movie all that much, but it has been put down so much that he’ll never play the role again. But I liked him, and would have liked to see him in some sequels. He got robbed.

ARRUDA:  Yeah, I agree with you about Routh.  I didn’t like SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006) all that much, but it wasn’t Routh’s fault. He was good in it.

Brandon Routh in SUPERMAN RETURNS

Brandon Routh in SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006)

KEOHANE:  I like the look of the guy in the new movie.  Superman with a beard is kind of cool.  How can he shave, though?

SOARES: Kryptonite Razors?

ARRUDA:  Good question!  I should have asked it for this panel.

Instead, our next question is:

What’s your favorite SUPERMAN movie?  Or TV show, if that’s your preference?

KEOHANE:  My favorite Superman movie is a tie between SUPERMAN III (1983) with Richard Pryor and SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE (1987).

ARRUDA:  Are you nuts?

KEOHANE:  No, no— I’m just kidding.

I still twitch a little thinking of those, though SUPERMAN III had some cute parts in it.

SOARES:  Superhero movies shouldn’t be cute.

ARRUDA:  I’ll say.  Unless you’re talking about a kid’s story, cute is probably the last word you want to hear describing your work.  “I liked your movie.  It was— cute.”  Ugh!  But that being said, Dan is right.  SUPERMAN III does have a case of the cutes, and that’s one of the reasons it’s such bad movie.

KEOHANE:  All joking aside, I’d have to go with SUPERMAN II (1980) as my favorite Superman movie.  It had a lot of action and was the Superman franchise’s WRATH OF KHAN when you think about it.

ARRUDA:  Khan!!!  Or, in this case, Zod!!!

SOARES:  Okay, you two STAR TREK geeks, let’s get back to the subject at hand, Superman.

My favorite Superman movie is easily SUPERMAN II as well, with Terence Stamp as General Zod. And I totally agree that it’s like the WRATH OF KHAN in that it was the second film in a franchise, and the best of its given series. I thought the first SUPERMAN movie with Christopher Reeve was kind of boring for at least half its running time, as we got his origin again. This is one origin story that has been done to death. SUPERMAN II was a self-contained story, and was all the better for it. After the second one, the series went downhill fast. You can see just about the same exact arc with the 80s STAR TREK movies.

ARRUDA:   SUPERMAN II (1980) starring Christopher Reeve is my favorite Superman movie as well.

Terence Stamp as the first General Zod in SUPERMAN II (1980)

Terence Stamp as the first General Zod in SUPERMAN II (1980)

I’ve always enjoyed the climactic battle between Superman and General Zod and his two friends, although the special effects are clearly dated now.  I also enjoyed the back story of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, as in this movie Lois finally discovers that Superman and Clark Kent are one in the same.

SOARES:  It took her long enough! I thought she was supposed to be smart.

ARRUDA:  Yeah, those glasses of his aren’t much of a disguise, are they?

DUDAR:  If you guys are through discussing SUPERMAN II, I’d like to talk about the better Superman film, the first Christopher Reeve SUPERMAN movie, which is my favorite.

(SOARES yawns)

I recall revisiting SUPERMAN every time it appeared on HBO, and then on network television, and then countless times more through syndicated cable stations.  With time and age, I found the few moments of the film that could be dismissed as cinematic cheese, like Ned Beatty’s Otis who played out as campy comic relief, but not to the detriment of the film, but as a whole, the film has stood the test of time as one of the great superhero films. 

ARRUDA:  I would agree with that.  There’s also something very cinematic about it, as it plays out on a grand, epic scale.

DUDAR:  Yes, and seeing it made you believe Reeve was really flying in some of those shots. 

SOARES: You thought he was really flying? You weren’t a very smart kid, were you?

I still say that at least half of the movie is a total snooze.

ARRUDA:  I’m glad you brought that up, Peter, as that was one of the taglines from the movie, “You’ll believe a man a can fly.”  That was a big part of SUPERMAN, the special effects that for its time were superior to any other “flying” effects before it.  Compared to MAN OF STEEL, which has CGI effects that are the same as every other movie with CGI effects, the 1978 SUPERMAN was much more cinematic, much more special.

MAN OF STEEL boasts effects that, while very good, aren’t anything we haven’t seen before.

DUDAR:  And Margot Kidder in SUPERMAN seemed to fit in fine as Lois Lane, the street-tough reporter that seemed to melt whenever Superman entered the room.

And let’s be honest…the fact that she couldn’t differentiate between Clark’s glasses and Superman’s never-moving curlicue made her all the more endearing.  What the hell kind of reporter is she? 

SOARES: A dumb one.

DUDAR: The SUPERMAN sequels went on a progressive downhill slide.  SUPERMAN II had the great Terrence Stamp as Zod who, along with his two cohorts, posed the greatest threat ever to Superman’s existence:  Three of them against one of him.  The odds alone are enough to create massive tension.

The film delivered terrific special effects and a storyline that was filled with drama based on the character arcs of Clark, who was ready to give up being Superman to follow his passion for Miss Lane; Lois, who finally embraces her inner bitch at the end and slugs one of the baddies right in the kisser; and Lex Luthor, the returning Hackman, who is willing to “kneel before Zod” in order to rid the world of Superman…talk about putting your pride in check!

This is a cool movie and worthy sequel, but it never captures the heart of the first film.

Henry Cavill as the new version of Superman in MAN OF STEEL.

Henry Cavill as the new version of Superman in MAN OF STEEL.

ARRUDA:  Perhaps, but it’s just so much damned fun that I’ve always liked it a wee bit more than the first SUPERMAN.

SOARES: Yeah,  SUPERMAN II is better than the first one because it has General Zod in it.

As for Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, wasn’t he like in every single Christopher Reeve SUPERMAN movie?

ARRUDA:  He’s not in SUPERMAN III, but he’s in I, II, and IV.

SOARES:  Enough was enough! He wasn’t so great that we needed him involved in every plot. In fact, I thought he was second-rate compared to a villain like Zod.

Luthor was supposed to be the smartest man in the world (the big brain vs. Superman’s brawn), but I never once believed that about Hackman’s performance. He wasn’t so smart, he was more like a glorified Damon Runyon character. His version of Luthor was just so-so.

And what bugs me the most is that there were so many other villains from the comics who deserved screen time more than Hackman’s Luthor—like Brainiac or the Space Parasite, or later on, Doomsday. And Superman had some really absurd/surreal villains that would be terrific in a movie: Bizarro Superman—and all of Bizarro World—.and Mr. Mxyzptlk top my list of characters I would most like to see in a Superman movie.

ARRUDA:  I agree.  Bring on the other villains!

DUDAR:  The other sequels are instantly forgettable, other than noting that Richard Pryor appeared in SUPERMAN III.

SOARES:  That “cute” movie which Dan loves so much!

KEOHANE: No, no.

Before we move on from this question, I’d just like to give a special nod to George Reeves’ black and white TV show for the fond memories and his perfect Clark Kent.

SOARES: Didn’t we discuss George Reeves already? Why are we going back to him now?

KEOHANE:  Because I chose SUPERMAN II as my favorite Superman movie, but I want to give a nod to the George Reeves TV show, too.

ARRUDA:  Dan is right, though. George Reeves did make a great Clark Kent.  He wasn’t the bumbling comedic Kent portrayed by Christopher Reeve in the movies.  Reeves’ Kent is actually pretty heroic.

DUDAR:  I still prefer Christopher Reeve.  For me, Christopher Reeve will always be the real Man of Steel…though I am curious to check this summer’s next big blockbuster.

ARRUDA:  Tonight’s final question:

What’s your favorite scene from either a Superman movie or TV show?

I’ll answer this one first.  I’ve always liked the Niagara Falls sequence from SUPERMAN II.  Lois and Clark go up to Niagara Falls for an assignment, and it’s here that Lois discovers Clark’s true identity.  After a nifty rescue scene where Superman saves a little boy from falling into the falls, Lois deduces that Clark is never around when Superman is, and she also questions why  Superman just happens to be at Niagara Falls.  Is it just a coincidence that he’s there, or is it because Clark is there?

Later, to prove that Clark is Superman, Lois jumps into the water so Clark will turn into Superman and save her, but Clark doesn’t do this, and in one of the movie’s more comical scenes, attempts to rescue her on his own as Clark Kent.

And of course the sequence concludes when later that evening, Clark accidentally trips into a fireplace and doesn’t get burned, and at this point Lois has her proof.  Clark admits as much, that he is Superman, and they also admit their feelings for each other, in one of the film’s more touching moments.

SOARES:  How cute!

I have two favorite Superman scenes. The first one is also from SUPERMAN II, when General Zod says to Superman “Kneel before Zod.”  Finally a scene where a character is strong enough to make goodie-goodie Superman kneel!

The second one is not even in a Superman movie. It’s David Carradine’s speech about Superman in Quentin Tarantino’s KILL BILL VOLUME 2. In that movie, Carradine’s Bill gives a long (and wonderfully written) speech where he concludes that Superman thought human beings were simpering cowards, because in trying to fit in with them he took on the guise of Clark Kent, who he played up as a weakling to separate him from Superman. It’s a really terrific theory about how Superman’s alter ego revealed his negative perception of the human race.

KEOHANE:  My favorite scene isn’t from any of the movies or TV Shows, but from a rare comic book called Superman Versus Aliens. Supes battling the Xenomorphs from the ALIEN movies was just too cool.

DUDAR:  I don’t really have a favorite scene. 

But I will say that the soundtrack to SUPERMAN absolutely kicks ass! 

ARRUDA:  I’ve always enjoyed John Williams’ score as well.

DUDAR:  Whenever I’m accomplishing something manly or heroic, that’s the song that leaps into my brain.  When I hear it, I am unstoppable. 

SOARES:  So when you’re writing your novels you’re listening to Superman music?

DUDAR:  Of course!

ARRUDA:  To conclude, we have a special treat.  (Takes out an IPod and begins playing the SUPERMAN theme.)

DUDAR:  Time for me to go chop some wood.

KEOHANE (stands on his chair):  Up, up, and away! 

SOARES: If I have to choose a John Williams score that’s inspiring, I’d have to go with  his Imperial March from the STAR WARS films. It’s better than anything in a SUPERMAN soundtrack.

ARRUDA:  Well, folks, we’re out of time- thankfully!  Thanks for joining us everybody!  We’ll see you next time on QUICK CUTS.

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda, LL Soares, Daniel G. Keohane and Peter N. Dudar

EVIL DEAD (2013)

Posted in 2013, Based on Classic Films, Chainsaws!, Cinema Knife Fights, Cult Movies, Demons, Evil Spirits, Gore!, Possessed By Demons, Remakes with tags , , , , , , , on April 7, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: EVIL DEAD (2013)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Evil Dead poster #2

(The Scene: A cabin in the woods. L.L. SOARES is sitting at a desk, reading an ancient book. MICHAEL ARRUDA looks over his shoulder)

MA: You know you shouldn’t be doing that. It always ends badly.

LS: I know. But I feel compelled to do it.

MA: Whatever you do, don’t read aloud from it.

LS: ATA HEMPTO KEEPAP

MA: I told you not to read from it.

(The leprechaun from LUCKY CHARMS cereal appears)

LUCKY: You’ll be after me lucky charms!

MA:  I beg your pardon?  I don’t think so!

LS: We summoned you by accident.

LUCKY: Accident? And me in the middle of me breakfast.

LS: Go play with Toucan Sam or something.

(LUCKY turns MA into a monkey and disappears)

LS: Well, that’s an improvement.

(Monkey MA starts screeching and running around the cabin)

LS: I might as well start this week’s review.

(Monkey morphs back into MA)

MA: Nice try.  What?  Is the leprechaun on your payroll?  Don’t answer that. Just get on with the review.

LS:  EVIL DEAD is a remake of Sam Raimi’s 1981 cult classic (the difference in titles is that the original had a “THE” in front of it).  That was the movie that put Raimi on the map—and just look how his career turned out? Now he’s directing stuff like OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL. But back then, Raimi was just some unknown kid trying to make it in the movie biz. Strangely, even though all this time has gone by, THE EVIL DEAD is still my favorite of Raimi’s movies.

MA:  Things work out that way sometimes.  Often the first thing an artist does—or at least the first hit—remains the best.

LS:  So when I heard they were giving it the remake treatment, I wasn’t surprised, but I wasn’t hopeful either. Raimi’s movie was low-budget, but incredibly resourceful. Despite the money limitations, the original EVIL DEAD introduced Raimi’s signature “stalking cam” where the camera shows the point of view of a creature running through the woods. Well, not exactly running. Sweeping through the woods at high speed is more the feel of it. And THE EVIL DEAD made a star of the very cool Bruce Campbell, who was Ash in the original and its sequels.

The trailer for the new version looked hopeful, and it started this ad campaign where it declared this to be “The most terrifying film you will ever experience!” Then the buzz started—a lot of it coming from the South By Southwest Film Festival earlier this year in Austin, Texas, where audiences loved this movie. So I started to get excited about it and really looked forward to seeing it.

Evil-Dead-Poster

But there was always the chance it could be a complete disappointment.

MA:  I don’t believe ad campaigns for one minute.  The most horrifying movie you will ever see? Yeah, right.  Anyway, like any ad, I didn’t give this one much credence, and I put it out of my mind since I didn’t want to have this movie hindered by too high expectations.

LS:  So let’s start off with the obvious question. Is this the most horrifying movie you will ever see? Nope. That’s a pretty big claim, and it’s just about guaranteed to fall short.

MA (laughing):  It sounds like an ad campaigns for a movie back in the 50s.  SEE the most terrifying monster ever to set foot on the earth!  An ungodly horror not meant for human eyes!  Too hideous!  Too horrifying!

Too much!

It’s a dumb add for a decent movie.

LS:  There was a lot of that kind of stuff in the 70s too. I remember MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970) had the ad campaign “Positively the most horrifying film ever made.” And I’m sure there were plenty of ads that copied that one.

But I’ll give the new EVIL DEAD this much credit: it sure tries hard to live up to that tag line.

MA:  It gets an A for effort.

(LS again reads from the ancient book.)

LS: OOGIE TOOFIE LOOFIE

(This time CAPTAIN CRUNCH appears.)

CAPTAIN CRUNCH:  Hey kids, how about helping your captain eat a healthy breakfast by—hey, wait a minute.  You two aren’t kids.

MA:  How observant you are.

CAPTAIN CRUNCH: Are there any kids around?

LS (rubs his stomach):  Not alive, anyway.

CAPTAIN CRUNCH:  In that case, how about helping this captain fill his flask, if you know what I mean?  (Holds out an empty flask).

LS (pointing):  The bar’s that way, in the next room. Fully stocked.

CAPTAIN CRUNCH:  Mrs. Crunch is going to have a good time tonight!  (Exits with a skip in his step.)

MA:  He always seemed so innocent on those TV commercials.

LS:  Maybe, but I never did trust that Crunchberry Beast.

Do you remember back when we were kids and Captain Crunch had an enemy in those cartoon commercials named Jean LaFoot?  There was this whole storyline going on. They just don’t make commercials like that anymore.

evil_dead_2013_by_myrmorko-d5jai2t

Anyway, back to the movie.  This one begins promisingly enough. A bunch of college-age kids meet at a cabin in the woods. In the original, it was more for a fun weekend. Here, it has a more serious motivation. Mia (Jane Levy, also the star of the current ABC comedy SUBURGATORY) is trying to get off drugs for the second time in her life, after a recent overdose that almost killed her (actually, we’re told, she did technically “die” for a moment during it). Her friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), a cynical guy with long hair, and Olivia (the very stunning Jessica Lucas, who was also in CLOVERFIELD, 2008) are there, as well as the older brother Mia hasn’t seen in years, David (Shiloh Fernandez, who was also Peter in 2011’S RED RIDING HOOD) and his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore). They’re all there to give Mia support during her attempt to kick drugs via the “cold turkey” approach. They’re there in that cabin in the middle of nowhere to see her through the rough times, keep her there, and make sure this time the “cure” takes.

MA:  I liked this premise a lot.  It really worked for me and made things more interesting in that these folks actually had a real reason not only for being there, but for staying there, in that they wanted to see things through to the end and truly help Mia kick her habit.

LS: Exactly. In these kinds of movies, there’s always a point where you say “Why the hell do they stay there? Why not leave?” It happens in this movie too—it’s inevitable in these kinds of horror movies—but for a little while there, everyone staying put actually makes sense. And that’s unusual.

Right away, Mia and David have issues. Mia is happy to see him, but also resents him for taking off on her when she was a kid, leaving her alone with their crazy mother, who died in a mental hospital a few years before this reunion. David clearly didn’t come back because he was trying to save his own sanity, but he’s trying to make up for his choices now, by giving Mia the support she needs.

So they go in the cabin, intent on seeing this through to the end. The friends make a pact to stay strong and not give in when Mia wants to leave. They’re going to make sure it works this time.

But the cabin has other plans.

MA:  I’ll say.

LS:  First off, they find a roomful of dead cats hanging from the ceiling in a secret room below the cabin (the reason the cats are there is explained in the creepy opening sequence of the film, which takes place in the past). They also find a book wrapped in barbed wire, which of course ends up upstairs with them, and of course one of them, namely Eric, has to cut the wires and open the book, and even read from it.

MA:  Gee, that sounds familiar.  (points his thumb at LS).

LS: As soon as he does that, he sets the demons in motion.

From here, EVIL DEAD takes on a relentless pace, as each member of the group takes turns being possessed by demonic forces. It begins with Mia, who has the main demon “attached” to her soul in the middle of the woods (with a special appearance by the ghost of the book’s previous victim), after trying to flee the cabin. When she goes back, Mia attacks the others, and then the fireworks begin.

I loved the pacing of this one. It doesn’t let up for a moment after the horror begins, and I really enjoyed that. There’s plenty of violence and gore and self-mutilation which is what you would expect from an EVIL DEAD movie. I am so glad they didn’t go the PG-13 route with this one. In fact, there are a couple of scenes that are downright amazing, including Mia using a razor to cut her tongue in half, the messy results of a shotgun blast, several people cutting off offending limbs in horrible ways, and an amazing “chainsaw to the head” moment that paints the entire screen red. So, if you happen to be a gorehound, this one is definitely for you.

In a lot of ways, this movie is almost perfect. It has a more serious tone than the first one —Raimi was famous for injecting funny moments to relieve tension, but this one is simply grim and vicious—which is in no way a bad thing. It’s also fairly faithful to the original, especially the key horrific/gross-out moments. Director Fede Alvarez (this is his first feature film, his previous movies were all short films) does a stunning job bringing this one to the screen. But there are a couple of minor gripes.

First off, the movie completely pushes its R-rating to the line, and past it, as far as the gore goes. This is not a movie for the squeamish. And yet it seemed to have a puritanical streak a mile long. From a character taking a shower in her clothes early on, to other key moments that would have had a lot more impact if there was some nudity involved. And I’m not talking gratuitous nudity—I’m talking logical stuff (do YOU take a shower with your clothes on?) This odd repression didn’t ruin the movie, but it did feel like it was holding back, and EVIL DEAD should be the kind of movie that is no-holds-barred. It just continues to amaze me that violence and gore is becoming more and more mainstream, but sex and nudity are still taboos that are to be avoided at all costs.

MA:  This didn’t bother me.  The movie’s pacing is so intense I didn’t have time to think about the fact that there wasn’t any nudity.  But something else bothered me about this one.

I agree with you that it pushes the envelope in the gore department, and I’ll even go so far to say that it’s nearly perfect with its handling of these horrific moments, in that in spite of the fact that it was in your face most of the time, it somehow didn’t go overboard.  Now, all this being said, for some reason, and this is the problem I had with it, it wasn’t all that scary.  I’m not sure why, because there were certainly scenes of suspense, and while I was enjoying these scenes, they really weren’t getting to me.  I think it’s because there was just a familiarity about the whole thing, as a reimagining of an old movie, that it somehow lacked freshness.

Also, and I’m not sure I can properly explain this, but it didn’t really hit me in the gut.  I was more entertained by this one than disturbed, which surprised me, because it is such a bloodbath throughout.  Another possibility I have to consider is perhaps the characters weren’t as fleshed out as they could have been, and I didn’t care as much if they had their arms lopped off.  I don’t know.  I enjoyed this one, but it didn’t really have me on the edge of my seat.

LS: I think it’s a mix of two things. First, we’re jaded old guys who have seen this kind of thing a thousand times before. Extreme gore just doesn’t shock us anymore. Secondly, because this is a remake, we’re familiar with the story for the most part, so there aren’t a lot of surprises—although, Alvarez does diverge from the original story a few times. Between these two things, it’s going to be pretty hard to scare us. But for some kid who never saw the original, this might really rock their world.

MA:  I guess that explains why the rest of the theater audience was screaming, while I wasn’t.  At least I wasn’t laughing, which says a lot for how good this one was.

(LS looks down at the Book of the Dead)

I just can’t help myself.  (Again reads from the evil book.  Toucan Sam appears.)

TOUCAN SAM:  I follow my nose.  Wherever it goes.

LS (points):  The bar’s that way.  (TOUCAN SAM exits.)

MA: What’s with all the breakfast cereal characters?  What is that you’re reading from, anyway?  The Book of Dead Breakfast Cereal Icons?

LS (his mouth full of cereal):  That’s a mouthful.

(CAPTAIN CRUNCH sticks his head back into the room.)

CAPTAIN CRUNCH:  That’s what she said!  (He burps).

MA:  He’s bad.

LS:  He’s drunk.

CAPTAIN CRUNCH:  I dare say.  That’s a Peanut Butter Elephant standing by the bar!  (Hiccups and exits).

MA: This is weird.  Let’s get on with the review.

LS:  The acting is mostly good, especially Jane Levy as Mia and Lou Taylor Pucci as Eric.

MA:  I thought Jane Levy was excellent as Mia.  She nailed this role.  She made for a very strong lead, and I liked that she has to fight to overcome her drug addiction, a fight that strangely disappears at one point when she’s fighting the main demon face-to-face.  Could this be a case where she was—scared straight?

LS:  My one acting complaint, however, is Shiloh Fernandez as Mia’s brother David. He’s ostensibly the hero of this movie, and thus the equivalent of Bruce Campbell’s Ash in the original film. But let me tell you, David is no Ash. Not even close. Campbell may have given an over-the-top performance in the original, but it was riveting, and fun as hell. In comparison, Fernandez is kind of a dud. He’s kind of one-dimensional for most of the movie, and isn’t very interesting. He just reacts to everything that is thrown at him, but doesn’t have much of a personality of his own. I just thought his performance was a letdown for such a crucial role, and that someone with more charisma could have knocked this movie out of the park.

MA:  I thought he was okay.

LS: My point exactly. Bruce Campbell wasn’t just okay in the original movie. He kicked ass!

MA: You’re right.  He’s kind of low key, but he didn’t really bother me.  However, I do agree with you that the movie would have been better with someone more charismatic, although I’m not sure if that’s simply Fernandez’ fault or a lack of good writing. The way the story plays out, the character of David doesn’t turn out to be the most effective hero, and I didn’t really like this all that much.  I would have preferred a stronger hero.

LS: I also had a few issues with the ending. There’s a kind of loophole that provided a glimmer of hope toward the end of the film, that didn’t make complete sense to me. I don’t necessarily have a problem with glimmers of hope, but this one seemed forced, and that, again, goes against the whole “no-holds-barred” ethic of an EVIL DEAD movie.

Despite these complaints, I liked this movie a lot, and thought it was pretty amazing. It may not be the scariest movie ever made, but it was one of the best horror movies I have seen in a long time, and I completely recommend it to fans of the genre. You’re going to have a lot of fun with this one, even if the basic plot (guy reads book and summons demons) still seems a little silly (and, sadly, cliché, since so many people ripped Raimi off after the first EVIL DEAD).

I give it three and a half knives.

Also, if you stay until the very end (after the end credits), you’ll see a final “surprise” scene that is strictly for fans of the original film (kids with no knowledge of the original film may completely not get it). So stick around, hardcore fans.

MA:  I didn’t stick around to the end, so I missed the final surprise.  I liked this one a lot too, although not as much as you.  And while I thought it was a very good horror movie, I wouldn’t put it above other very good horror movies of recent years. For example, I thought last year’s CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012) was about the same in quality.

LS: CABIN IN THE WOODS had a completely different agenda, and Joss Whedon’s script had a lot of fun with the tropes and clichés of the genre. It was smart and funny. The new EVIL DEAD is trying to do something completely different.

MA: But in terms of quality I thought they were about the same.  Both very good horror movies.

LS: By the way, the script here was by director Fede Alvarez, as well as Diablo Cody (who, you may remember, won an Oscar for her screenplay for 2005’s JUNO, and also wrote JENNIFER’S BODY (2009) and 2011’s YOUNG ADULT, the last one being a movie I liked a lot), and Rado Sayagues.

MA: I liked the acting, the pacing, and the intensity of the in-your-face gore, but something about this one lacked freshness, perhaps because it was a reimagining.  I also didn’t find the characters all that exciting or even likeable, with the exception of Jane Levy as Mia.  Horror fans will love it. Non-horror fans won’t.

I give it three knives.

LS: Just three? You must be smoking wacky tobacky or somethin’.

(MA looks around the cabin) I guess we’re done here.  So, just what is the connection between the book you’re reading and the breakfast cereal characters?

LS:  I dunno.  I just started reading it and the characters showed up.

MA:  Well, what’s the name of the book?

LS (looks at cover and reads):  THE BOOK OF THE DEAD: A REIMAGINING. BROUGHT TO YOU BY KELLOGG’S.

MA:  A reimagining?

(The door bursts open and CAPTAIN CRUNCH, TOUCAN SAM, THE LUCKY CHARMS LEPRECHAUN, TONY THE TIGER and SNAP, CRACKLE AND POP, and a bunch of other cereal characters stand there bloodied and crazed, holding knives, chainsaws, and various other brutal instruments.)

TOUCAN SAM:  We’ll cut off your nose!  Wherever blood flows!

MA:  I think breakfast is over.  Let’s get out of here.

LS:  I’m sticking to corn flakes from now on.

(TONY THE TIGER roars, his face full of blood,”THEEEEY”RE GREAT!”)

(MA & LS flee while the demented cereal characters pursue them through the woods.)

—END—

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

Michael Arruda gives EVIL DEAD ~ three knives!

LL Soares gives EVIL DEAD ~three and a half knives.

TOTAL RECALL (2012)

Posted in 2012, Action Movies, Cinema Knife Fights, Conspiracy Theories, Philip K. Dick Stories, Remakes, Science Fiction, What is Reality? with tags , , , , , , , , on August 6, 2012 by knifefighter

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

(The Scene: A futuristic lab where a SCIENTIST in a white lab coat and his two beautiful female assistants attend to both MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES, both strapped into chairs with strange, bizarre, and downright weird gizmos on their heads.

SCIENTIST:  Here at Rekall, with the flick of a switch, we’ll give you all the memories of experiences you always wanted to have.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Cool!

L.L. SOARES:  Bring it on!

(Babe #1 injects L.L. SOARES, while Babe #2 injects MICHAEL ARRUDA, and both men drift off to sleep.)

SCIENTIST:  Now, to make sure there aren’t any problems, we shall monitor their experiences.

(SCIENTIST presses a button on MA’s monitor:  MA is running with bulls, skydiving, winning at black jack, surrounded by beautiful women.)

VOICE-OVER NARRATOR:  Without doubt, Michael Arruda is the most interesting man alive.

MA:  Stay thirsty, my friends!

SCIENTIST:  Why do I suddenly feel like having a beer?  (Shuts off monitor).  Let’s check on the other one.  (Turns on LS’s monitor.)

(It’s a dark scene in the woods, with the sound of crickets chirping.  Suddenly, screams and shrieks fill the air.)

SCIENTIST:  What the—?

(Two scantily clad women tear through the woods, screaming.  Pursuing them with a crazed look in his eye is LS, wearing clothes covered in blood, and wielding a chainsaw over his head.)

LS:  Come to Papa!

SCIENTIST:  Does anyone have a pair of 3D glasses on them?

(DISSOLVE to later in the experience, as MA & LS wake up.)

MA (opening his eyes):  That was wild!

LS (wearing glasses like a professor and reading from extensive notes):  I dunno.  I thought the severed body parts lacked sufficient detail. Also, the blood wasn’t the right consistency….

SCIENTIST (handing MA a piece of paper): Here you go.

(MA looks at it and shrieks.)

LS:  What is it?

MA:  It’s the bill!  (hands it to LS)

LS (eyes grow to the size of dinner plates):  Whoa! We’ll settle this after our review.

MA:  Good idea.  I’ll start.  Today we’re reviewing TOTAL RECALL (2012), a remake of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.  Both movies are based on the Philip K. Dick story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.”

This one stars Colin Farrell in the Arnold Schwarzenegger role, and was directed by Len Wiseman, the guy responsible for the UNDERWORLD movies—he directed two of them and wrote all of them.  To me, this is the story of this movie, Wiseman’s involvement, and is ultimately why I didn’t like it, because in a nutshell, it reminded me of an UNDERWORLD movie.

LS: Well, it must have been an above-average UNDERWORLD movie, because this one is better paced, better acted, and has a better story than any of the UNDERWORLD films I’ve seen. I’m no big fan of Wiseman or UNDERWORLD either, but I thought TOTAL RECALL was definitely a step up for the guy. At least he had superior material to work with than yet another vampire vs. werewolf rehash.

MA: It’s the future, and the world is a rather bleak place, as there are only two spots left on the planet where people live, the area that today is Great Britain, and Australia, which is where all the factory workers toil.

LS: Actually, it’s the United Federation of Britain, which looks to be made up of the continent of Europe, plus a little more, all cobbled together. And at the other end of the world is The Colony, which geographically looks close to where Australia would be (then again, I’m pretty bad at geography), but it could also be a stand-in for the United States back before the Revolutionary War.

MA: Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) is one of these factory workers, trying to live the dream with his beautiful wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) but ultimately failing to get ahead.  He’s also been troubled lately by a recurring dream in which he’s on the run with another beautiful woman, Melina (Jessica Biel), trying to elude government soldiers.  The dream makes him feel as if he’s supposed to be doing something important, which of course in real life he doesn’t see as the case since he’s working in a factory.

LS: But not just any factory. He works in the factory that manufactures the synthetic android soldiers that make up the government’s army. This means he knows those things inside and out, and this will be useful as the movie develops.

MA: Dissatisfied with his life, Quaid decides to check out Rekall, a company that implants fake memories into their clients’ minds so that they can experience all the things they would like to do in real life but can’t, sort of the ultimate in virtual reality.  The one catch is that you’re not supposed to choose something you do for real, because that screws up the system.  Quaid chooses “secret agent” but just as he’s about to be inserted into the virtual world of Rekall, the attending scientist discovers that Quaid really is a secret agent, but before he can disconnect Quaid from the system, government soldiers break in.  Quaid reacts by killing all of the soldiers, and suddenly he realizes that, for him to have done that, he’s not who he thought he was.

LS: Or is it all part of the Rekall experience?

MA:  See, that question is exactly the one I wanted the movie to tease us with, but it really doesn’t.  It plays things so straight it leaves little room for us to speculate on these sorts of questions.

LS:  Doesn’t Rekall have a kind of “semi-legal” or borderline illegal feel to it? There’s something fishy about the technology and the place it’s done in. Also, it seems like an incredible violation of privacy. Sure they give you new exciting memories of things you never did, but first they go through an extensive examination of your real memories, and see everything you might want to keep private. I’m not sure if it felt worth the price.

MA: I didn’t care.

Turns out, Quaid really is a spy, and the life he thought he’d been living all these years is a lie.  His wife is not his wife, but an agent out to kill him.  He escapes from her and is reunited with the girl in his dream, Melina.  Together, Quaid and Melina try to complete their mission, which involves helping the resistance stop the evil leader of the world, President Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) before he wipes all of them off the face of the earth with his evil army of battle droids, all the while trying to stay one step ahead of Lori who his hellbent on killing her “husband.”

LS: Cohaagen? Almost sounds like President Quahog. What is this, an episode of FAMILY GUY?

But seriously, I was going to chastise you for giving away spoilers, but the truth is, this movie doesn’t really have any spoilers. You’d think in a movie about memories and paranoia and things not being what they seem—which is the whole point of why you’d adapt a story by Philip K. Dick, in the first place!—that there would be all kinds of twists and turns and shocking surprises, but there aren’t any in this version of TOTAL RECALL. Once Farrell’s character finds out—via going to Rekall to have his memories toyed with—that he is really a super spy—that is where the surprises end, and that’s about 15 minutes into the movie!

MA:  Yep, and that’s why I really didn’t like this movie all that much, because as you said, for a tale about virtual worlds and false memories, it’s all rather straightforward and mundane, disappointingly so.  I really expected some decent twists and some genuine suspense about what was real and what wasn’t, but the screenplay by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback never exploits these potential fascinating tidbits.  Instead, the story remains underwhelming and seems like just an excuse to showcase endless chase scenes.

LS: Wiseman does like to beat an action scene to death, doesn’t he? Like those cool floating cars. At first, the scene is really cool, and you’re appreciating the novelty of it, but then the chase scene just goes on and on. It almost wears out its welcome. But it’s still better than the action scenes in the UNDERWORLD movies.

MA: And while the acting performances for the most part are all fine, the characters aren’t really developed either.

Colin Farrell’s best scenes as Douglas Quaid come early on in the movie when he’s talking to his buddy, Harry (Bokeem Woodbine), about being stuck in his life.  He vents his frustrations about working his butt off without anything to show for it.  He’s even passed over for a promotion when the job is given to a less qualified candidate who has more connections.  These scenes ring true, as they connect to real life situations and are much more satisfying than the endless action scenes which permeate the rest of this movie.  Once this happens, Quaid is reduced to a bland hero who is about as interesting as a video game character.

LS: Yeah, that scene at Rekall, where the soldiers rush in and he takes them all out single-handedly (if you saw the movie’s trailer, you saw the scene) looked more like a video game than a movie. It’s hard to care about the people being killed or feel any real tension about whether the main character is in danger, if you can’t even believe the soldiers he’s fighting are real.

And were you confused about the whole synthezoid thing, too? Some of them are synthetic androids. Others are guys in battle suits. But they all look the same, and I’m guessing this is on purpose and the real humans are in charge. But you constantly wonder, whenever Quaid kills a bunch of them, are there any humans in those suits at all? And you’ll never know for sure.

(A group of BATTLE DROIDS surround them.)

DROID #1:  Some of us are droids!

DROID #2:  Some of us are human!

MA:  All of you are irritating!  Don’t you have something else to do?

LS: There’s one way to know for sure who’s human and who’s not.  (lifts axe).  Humans bleed!

DROID #1:  All of us are running! (Droids flee.)

MA: I enjoyed Farrell much more in last year’s FRIGHT NIGHT (2011) remake.  He took the character of vampire Jerry Dandrige, gave him an edge, and made it his own.  Here, he doesn’t give Quaid any edge at all.  I have to admit, I missed Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wise-cracking self.  At least he was good for a few laughs along the way.  Farrell’s Quaid is boring.

LS: Not FRIGHT NIGHT again!

MA (shrugs and shakes his head):  Farrell starred in FRIGHT NIGHT last year.  What do you want me to say?  You want me to compare his performance to last year’s HORRIBLE BOSSES (2011)?  I would, but he wasn’t the lead in that one.

LS:  Arnold Schwarzenegger was so much more fun in the original TOTAL RECALL (1990) movie, that I found myself missing him once in a while, too.  At least he had a personality—even if it was a sometimes goofy one!

But you’re right, Farrell’s Quaid is not that exciting for a lead character. At first he seems like an everyman character, toiling away in the factory (although he’s an everyman with the looks of a movie star), then he seems like just another bland action star. I bet Adrien Brody could have done a better job with this role, like he did in PREDATORS (2010).

MA: Good choice!  Brody would have been terrific, but then again, I expected Farrell to be better.

Kate Beckinsale doesn’t do a whole lot as relentless assassin Lori Quaid other than look hot and angry throughout as she chases Quaid across the world, but you know what?  This is fine by me!  I think I could watch Beckinsale run around in that tight get-up shooting at people all day.  Seriously, she was my favorite part of this movie, which isn’t saying much, because I didn’t find much about this one that I liked, but without having to show much range or much acting ability, Beckinsale succeeded in holding my interest every time she was on screen, and then some!

LS: I love Beckinsale, too, and I think she’s wasted in those UNDERWORLD movies she does with Wiseman. However, here, I actually thought she had a better role, because she was finally playing against type as the bad guy! Beckinsale makes a great villain, and her single-mindedness throughout the movie—all she wants to do is track Quaid down and kill him—makes her a force to be reckoned with. I like her much better as a villain here than I do as the generic action hero she plays in a lot of her movies. And she’s so damn beautiful.

MA: Jessica Biel is fine as Melina, but like Farrell’s Quaid, her character is underdeveloped.

LS: To a degree, because none of the characters in this movie are developed very well, but I liked Biel a lot more than you did. I thought she was the yin to Beckinsale’s yang. It was no coincidence that the two women look kind of similar in some scenes—a more clever director would have had more fun with that in a damn Philip K. Dick movie, which should be all about screwing with your (and the character’s) mind. I thought Beckinsale was the better actress, and a much more forceful screen presence, but Biel has come a long way and I thought she was a great counterpoint. The two women were easily the best things in this movie.

MA:  Bryan Cranston, a fine actor who seems to look different in every movie I see him in, is largely wasted here as your standard movie baddie, Cohaagen.

LS: I like Cranston a lot, mainly from his work on the excellent AMC TV series BREAKING BAD, but yeah, his role here doesn’t amount to much. Just another corrupt authority figure.

I also liked Bokeem Woodbine, who you mentioned before as Farrell’s buddy, Harry. He has a kind of realness to him that a lot of the other characters don’t have, and I liked his character.

There is just one scene, in a bank, where Woodbine’s Harry plays some mind games with Quaid, where this movie even attempts to dig into the paranoia that enveloped the world of Philip K. Dick, and Woodbine handles it well,  even if it isn’t as well written as it could have been. Otherwise, director Len Wiseman doesn’t have a clue what to do with his source material.

MA: Again, this one was directed by Len Wiseman, the guy responsible for the UNDERWORLD series, so if you’ve seen any of those movies, you know how TOTAL RECALL plays out.  I found the films very similar in tone and style.  They’re slick and nice to look at, but in terms of content, they’re pure fluff.

All the action scenes began to look the same after a while too, and in all honesty, this was a movie where I grew bored in the second half, having grown tired of one action scene after another.  I did like the elevator sequence, though, as that one was a little more exciting than most.

I also didn’t like the look of the synthetic police force at all. They looked like they were STAR WARS clone rejects sent over by George Lucas.

LS: I completely agree! And I’ve already given my two cents about how it was hard to care about synthetic police being blown away—even if they don’t always differentiate between the droids and the real human cops.

(YODA enters.)

YODA:  Droids or humans, humans or droids, confusing they are!  The way of the Jedi is clarity we seek.  Confusion, we avoid, harmony and vision, the Force provides.

LS:  Clarity? So, why the hell do you talk like that?  I can’t understand anything you’re saying!

YODA:  Rude you are!  (Exits.)

MA: The lady with the three boobs was an interesting bit, and I liked the scene where Quaid has to slice his wrist open to remove the phone embedded under his skin, but why he didn’t bleed to death I have no idea!

LS: The lady with the three boobs was onscreen for about two seconds. Blink and you’d miss her. But that, combined with the phone removal scene you mentioned, takes up about two minutes of the actual movie. I’m surprised you found them so memorable you had to mention them.

MA:  There wasn’t much else worth mentioning.

LS:  You bring up silly little stuff like that, and yet you completely forget to mention The Fall, which I thought was pretty cool. A gigantic metal capsule that literally falls from one place at the United Federation of Britain, straight through the planet to The Colony, passing through the earth’s core! Scientifically, I’m sure this entire concept is a bunch of hooey, but it looked breathtaking at times. This is the only way to travel between the two parts of the world (the rest of the planet has been blasted by nukes) and thousands of people get onboard every day to commute to jobs in the other country. The Fall plays a pivotal part in the plot of this movie, and using it to travel between the good and bad countries is crucial to the storyline. How could you completely ignore it in your review?

MA:  I ignored it because for the most part, the film ignored it!  It passes through the planet’s core, right?  Now that’s a cool concept, but the film doesn’t go into any kind of detail about it at all.  In the movie, the Fall is about as interesting as one of those droids!  When it’s mentioned in the movie, it’s only in the context of how much the folks who use it hate it.  The filmmakers don’t even try to dazzle us with the science behind it.  They’re more interested in unending action scenes.

And you thought it looked breathtaking?  I didn’t.  I wasn’t impressed at all.

LS: Impressed or not, it was a major plot point, and it had a big part in the final showdown between Farrell and Cranston.

MA:  I seriously doubt people are going to be talking about the Fall after this movie.  They might chat about the three-boobed lady though!

Overall, TOTAL RECALL is about as fun as watching someone play a video game.  Pass the popcorn, please!  Still, I’ve certainly seen worse movies, and this one does look good and does sport a decent cast, even if nobody is going to win any awards here.  It also has Kate Beckinsale.

LS: And Jessica Biel.

MA: I give it two knives.

LS: I actually liked this one more than you did, especially the performance by Kate Beckinsale, which we totally agree on, and to a lesser extent Jessica Biel. Beckinsale is just so terrific in her role here, it almost vindicated all of the awful action movies she’s been in.

It’s funny, I first noticed Beckinsale in little art movies like Whit Stillman’s THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO (1998), and thought, “Wow, this girl has a future as a movie star.” But who knew it would be a future made up mostly of action movies? It wouldn’t bother me if most of them were actually good. I was just so happy to finally see her in something like TOTAL RECALL, where I enjoyed her character so much.

But I’m also a big fan of writer Philip K. Dick, and this movie does not do him justice. You expect a lot more in the way of twists and surprises when you see his name connected to a movie, and Len Wiseman was not up to the task of doing this one right at all.

But, despite this, I thought TOTAL RECALL moved at a fast pace, it kept me riveted throughout, and the cast was pretty solid. It fulfilled what you want to see when you sit down in a movie theater. So for that reason, I give it 3 knives.

But it could have been so much better!

MA:  Yeah, it could have been clever, creative, imaginative, take your pick!  Heck, I would have settled for inspired.

LS: So I guess we’re done.

SCIENTIST: That’s all well and good, but what about my fee?

LS: I think I hear Kate Beckinsale calling me!

MA: No, that’s Jessica Biel calling you!  Kate Beckinsale is calling me!

LS: Who cares who’s calling who?  Let’s skedaddle!

(The guys run out of the place, chased by the SCIENTIST and his assistants in fast-motion)

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

Michael Arruda gives the 2012 version of TOTAL RECALL~ two knives!

LL Soares givesthe 2012 version of TOTAL RECALL~ three knives!

Me and Lil’ Stevie Are Moved by CARRIE (2002)

Posted in 2012, High School Horrors, Me and Lil' Stevie, Peter Dudar Reviews, Remakes, Telekinesis, TV-Movies with tags , , , , , on May 16, 2012 by knifefighter

Me and Lil’ Stevie

Are Moved By

CARRIE

(2002)

By Peter N. Dudar

(INTERIOR/NIGHT:  Establishing shot of a gymnasium filled streamers and balloons and painted banners and signs. High school students in tuxedos and formal gowns are floating and twirling on a wooden floor with gridded basketball lines and circles. In the background, a slow dance number flows through the mid-spring evening. One couple waltzes past the camera, and as the man’s tuxedoed back turns to face us, we see that it is a man holding a ventriloquist dummy in the form of Master of Horror, Stephen King. We also see that Lil’ Stevie is wearing a prom dress!)

Lil’ Stevie:  What the…What did you do to me?

Peter:  You’re my prom date for the night. You look gorgeous!

(Lil’ Stevie pulls the pin out of his corsage and sticks it right in Peter’s eye.)

Peter:  OUCH!  Why you little…

Lil’ Stevie:  Good evening, Constant Viewer, and welcome to our little column. In this edition, we’ll be reviewing Brian De Palma’s masterpiece adaptation of my very first novel, CARRIE. Now, in case you didn’t know…

(Peter plucks the pin out of his eye and plants it right into Lil’ Stevie’s wooden nose.)

Peter:  Hold that thought!  Today, we’ll be discussing David Carson’s 2002 made-for-TV adaptation of the REAL Stephen King’s novel CARRIE (USA Network). I was going to have us review the original De Palma film, but the truth is that I just don’t have it on DVD and Netflix only had the newer version. So I figured, what the hay and the two of us sat down and watched it.

Lil’ Stevie:  You must have slipped me some Roofies because I don’t remember it. You didn’t molest me or anything, did you?

Peter:  Of course not. I’m waiting till after the dance. Now, can we get on with this?

Lil’ Stevie:  Just a sec…(pulls pin out if his nose and tosses it aside). Alright, get on with it!

Peter:  For the two people out there who have never read the book or watched the movie,  CARRIE (played originally by Sissy Spacek and, in this version, by horror-fan fave Angela Bettis, who also starred in Lucky McKee’s MAY, 2002), is the ultimate high school loser. She is the epitome of tragic figure:  her mother is a fanatical religious nut who has raised her in ritual obedience and punishment, her fellow schoolmates absolutely loathe her because she is incapable of fitting in, and we get the impression that she has absolutely no hope within herself to ever find happiness in any part of her life.

Lil’ Stevie:  Hell, when I was writing the book, even I wanted to slap her!

Peter:  That’s terrible!  But you didn’t write the book, so quit interrupting. This version of the movie begins with Carrie’s mom Margaret White (Patricia Clarkson, SHUTTER ISLAND, 2010) delivering her baby at home, in her own bed, all by herself. Apparently, Carrie’s deadbeat dad was long gone by this point.

Lil’ Stevie:  Would YOU want to stick around with that psycho-head?

Peter:  I suppose not. But this little glimpse of Carrie’s life is missing from the original movie, as was the rain of burning stones directly afterward.

Lil’ Stevie:  At least that follows what I wrote in my book…

Peter:  Jump ahead the seventeen-plus years of her life to her senior year of high school, where the mousy, beaten-down Carrie practically tiptoes through the halls of the school with her head down and her books clutched in a death grip in front of her. We see her in her daily classes, where the other kids carelessly pick on her and laugh at their own delight. We see her in the library, where she sketches in her notebook a picture of a heart, with her and her crush, Tommy Ross (Tobias Mehler, DISTURBING BEHAVIOR, 1998) holding hands and living happily ever after. And we see her in gym class, where she strikes out to end the softball game.

Lil’ Stevie:  She’s on the Loserville Express!

Peter:  It’s no wonder the other kids pick on her. She sucks at life!

Lil’ Stevie:  I shoulda just euthanized her back in chapter 3, so she didn’t have to endure all the punishment I throw at her.

Peter:  Like when all of a sudden, at the end of adolescence, she suddenly has her first menstrual cycle in the girl’s shower?  Only to have all the other girls peering at her over the shower stalls and chanting terrible things at her?  And then they fill her locker with tampons and write “Plug it up!” in magic marker on the locker door for all the world to see?

Lil’ Stevie:  (Chuckling) Yeah, that may have been a little over the top.

Peter:  Actually, no it wasn’t. That’s the kind of cruelty you can only find in teenagers. They suck!  It’s a developmental thing…camouflage your own flaws by pointing out the shortcomings of others. It’s a defense mechanism. Three parts projecting, two parts pack mentality. And with a bunch of high school girls, all riddled with their own self-esteem issues, it becomes very convenient to find a weaker target and throw garbage at her.

Lil’ Stevie:  Only, MY pile of garbage has telekinesis!

Peter:  Teleki-what?

Lil’ Stevie:  Telekinesis!  The ability to move objects with your mind.

Peter:  Oh, like this…

(Peter closes his eyes and concentrates, and suddenly Lil’ Stevie begins smacking himself in the face over and over again.)

Lil’ Stevie:  OUCH!  Hey, knoc…OUCH!  Quit it!

Peter:  (Laughing) Sorry. I got CARRIE’d away. Get it?

Lil’ Stevie:  You’re an imbecile!

Peter:  Anyway, for their stunt in the locker room, gym teacher Rita Desjarden (Rena Sofer, TRAFFIC, 2000) tells the rotten little bitches that if they want to go to the senior prom, they will be spending a week in detention with HER. Which means they will be running laps on the track until they puke.

Lil’ Stevie: …And since most of them want to lose those last few pounds before prom anyway

Peter:  Of course, the actual perpetrator, Kris Hargenson (Emilie De Ravin, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, 2006) refuses and declines her prom privileges, and she begins hatching a scheme to get even with Carrie. Even though none of it was Carrie’s fault, Kris blames her and simply wants to punish her.

Lil’ Stevie:  God, she is such a bitch!

Peter:  De Ravin plays the role perfectly. You can feel the hate just oozing out of this girl, when the reality is that she’s a spoiled brat who is used to getting everything she wants. Seeing just how well she performed here made me wonder if actresses enjoy playing this kind of role, especially when it is nothing like themselves in real life, and if it somehow impacts their reputation, as some people can’t seem to distinguish characters from their portrayers.

Lil’ Stevie:  You think too much.

Peter:  The other girls commit to doing Ms. Desjarden’s detention so they can go to the prom. But Sue Snell (Kandyse McClure, MOTHER’S DAY, 2010) actually feels guilty about the whole shower incident. Wanting to clear her conscience and actually show poor Carrie some compassion, she decides to also opt out of the prom, and encourages her boyfriend Tommy Ross to take Carrie to the prom as her date. She sets the wheels in motion with no knowledge of what Kris is up to, and the catastrophic results that will later ensue.

Lil’ Stevie:  And while all of this is going on, Carrie is discovering her supernatural powers. Developing them, so to speak. We see her as she begins to spasm and convulse, and then she’s moving hairbrushes off tables and throwing the rude little kid on his bicycle into a tree after he taunts her.

Peter:  You know, I’m glad you mention this. This aspect of the movie reminded me of Harry Potter, and how he reacted to the mean people in his life. I kept waiting for Hagrid to pop out and go, “You’re a wizard, Carrie!”

(Harry Potter suddenly appears on the dance floor.)

Harry:  Did somebody just say my name?  Brilliant!

Lil’ Stevie:  Avada Cadavra!

(A light fixture suddenly falls from the ceiling and crushes the boy wizard to death.)

Peter:  Why did you do that?  I loved Harry Potter. Even the Real Stephen King loves Harry Potter!

Lil’ Stevie:  He was a tool!

Peter:  The rest of the movie is the unavoidable catastrophe that has been set in motion:  The prom, the terrible prank that Kris and her boyfriend Billy Nolan (Jesse Cadotte) play on Carrie, and the vengeful wrath of a girl that has been pushed too far by her mom, by her classmates, and by life in general.

Lil’ Stevie:  Which begs the question, was remaking Brian De Palma’s original masterpiece worth it?

Peter:  Well, there are several things to consider. First is that Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie absolutely nailed the roles of Carrie and her mother in the original version. The photo of Spacek dripping with blood is iconic to us horror fans. Second, De Palma’s version has the “jump out of your seat” popcorn horror moment at the end, when Sue Snell visits her grave. Third, the gymnasium sequence, when the camera goes to split and multiple screens of the chaos that happens after Carrie gets pig blood dumped all over her is some of the best horror ever committed to celluloid. It’s amazing to behold.

Lil’ Stevie:  But in this version, we have a whole different ending…

Peter:  Which we won’t give away to those who still want to see it. Look, this version is not terrible at all. In fact, it’s quite good all the way up to the bogus ending. Bettis is a fantastic actress, and she really does give a great performance here. As do most of her castmates. Where this film succeeds is stripping away all the bad fashion sense of the late 70’s and adding the up-to-date touch of cellphones and technology. Carrie goes to the library and Googles her special powers rather than have to hunt through books to learn about it. It makes the story more accessible to today’s teens.

Angela Bettis has the title role in the 2002 TV-movie version of Stephen King’s CARRIE.

Lil’ Stevie:  But it’s not the original. And it never captures the power of De Palma’s vision.

Peter:  Close, but no cigar!

Lil’ Stevie:  Well, then…Let’s have some fun. I wanna spike the punch and have a few drinks before Carrie gets up on stage.

(Lil’ Stevie suddenly swings his arm up and begins smacking himself in the face over and over again.)

Lil’ Stevie:  OUCH!  I told you to…OUCH!  STOP IT!

Peter:  I’m not doing it!

(Carrie walks over and confronts the two.)

Carrie:  That’s for making my life such a bummer. You didn’t have to be such a creep and write my life to be this way!

Lil’ Stevie:  I’m sorry!  I’m sorry!

Carrie:  (To Peter) How would you feel about ditching this little jerk so you and I can go have some fun?

Peter:  (To Lil’ Stevie) Later, Stevie. See you next time, folks!

(Peter drops the puppet on the floor and takes Carrie by the arm, and the two exit the gym. From out of nowhere, a stream of blood comes gushing out, spilling all over Lil’ Stevie in his prom dress. The doors slam shut just as the flames begin to engulf the school…)

Lil’ Stevie:  You just wait till I write the sequel!  Don’t leave me…NOOOOOOO!

-The End-

© Copyright 2012 by Peter N. Dudar

Quick Cuts: WHO WOULD YOU CAST AS THE THREE STOOGES?

Posted in 2012, Classic Films, Comedies, Quick Cuts, Remakes with tags , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  QUICK CUTS
THE THREE STOOGES Recast

With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Paul McMahon, Mark Onspaugh, and Colleen Wanglund

MICHAEL ARRUDA: Welcome to another edition of QUICK CUTS. 

Today we’re talking about The Three Stooges, because today, April 13, the new movie THE THREE STOOGES opens with a new trio of actors playing the iconic dunderheads.  Based on the trailers, it looks pretty bad.  Who are these guys playing the Stooges anyway?  Well, they’re all TV actors and not exactly household names.

So, the subject of today’s QUICK CUTS is this:  if you were in charge of casting a new movie about THE THREE STOOGES, who would you choose to play Moe, Larry, and Curly?  In other words, who’s your perfect cast to play THE THREE STOOGES?

Take it away Cinema Knife Fighters.  Mark, you’re up first.

MARK ONSPAUGH:  Can we resurrect the dead? Because I think Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard are three “perfect” Stooges.

L.L. SOARES: Don’t forget Shemp! He was pretty cool, too.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Hmm, Zombie Stooges.  That might work.

L.L. SOARES:  Yeah, the original Stooges are the best, and I see no need for a modern day remake with new actors in the roles.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  I agree, but since the new movie has already been made, let’s get on with our question.

MARK ONSPAUGH (Sighs):  I still say resurrecting the originals is the only “real” way to go – that said, I would go with these:

TOUGH OLD BIRDS
Clint Eastwood as Moe
Clarence Williams III as Larry
Michael Ironside as Curly

Clint Eastwood as Moe?

WOMEN CAN BE STOOGES, TOO
Lisa Lampanelli as Moe
Joan Rivers as Larry
Monique as Curly

WHY NOT HORRIFYING STOOGES?
Bela Lugosi as Moe
Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry
Tor Johnson as Curly

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Fun choices, although we might be seeing your last category, “Horrifying Stooges” for real in the upcoming movie!  Actually, I’m hoping it’ll be better than it looks, because I for one could really be into a goofy funny Three Stooges remake.

L.L. SOARES:  Dream on!

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Okay, Paul, what are your choices?

PAUL MCMAHON:  Having always been a huge fan of Dennis Dugan’s BRAIN DONORS (1992), a… remake?… reboot?… “appreciation…” of the Marx Brothers classic A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (1935), where Dugan used John Turturro, Mel Smith and Bob Nelson as Groucho, Chico and Harpo Marx, I would cast a similar “appreciation” for the Three Stooges.

Moe – John Leguizamo
Larry – Colin Mochrie
Curly – Gabriel Iglesias

Gabriel Iglesias as Curly?

To assure the derision I know will come, I would also cast Dwayne Johnson to play their nemesis, and I’d use his “People’s Eyebrow” at least twice.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  I’ve never seen BRAIN DONORS.  I’m gonna have to check that one out.

PAUL MCMAHON:  Oh, it’s hilarious.  It’s a very underrated movie.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  I love the Marx Brothers, so it sounds like fun.

Time for my Stooges picks.

The Deadly “Are you looking at me?” Stooges –   Robert DeNiro as Moe, Al Pacino as Larry, and Joe Pesci as Curly.

Al Pacino as Larry?

The “Night at the Museum” Stooges –   Ben Stiller as Moe, Owen Wilson as Larry, and Robin Williams as Curly.

The “Highbrow/We’d Like to Win an Oscar” Stooges – George Clooney as Moe, Ryan Gosling as Larry, and John Goodman as Curly.

The “Women/We’ll Take that Oscar First, Thank You, ‘Cause We Got Meryl” Stooges –   Sigourney Weaver as Moe, Elisabeth Shue as Larry, and Meryl Streep as Curly.

The “Expendables” Stooges– Sylvester Stallone as Moe, Jason Statham as Larry, and Bruce Willis as Curly.

The “Tim Burton” Stooges– Johnny Depp as Moe, Helena Bonham Carter as Larry, and Sacha Baron Cohen as Curly.

And last but not least, the “Slam Dunk/We Just Hit a Casting Home Run” Stooges –  Adam Sandler as Moe,  Mike Myers  as Larry, and Zach Galifianakis as Curly.

Colleen, you’re frowning.

COLLEEN WANGLUND:  Yes, I am.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  What’s the matter?  Sitting too close to L.L.?

(L.L. SOARES reaches for table behind him, grabs a cream pie, and flings it at MICHAEL ARRUDA who ducks out of the way.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Hey, it’s too early for that.  We’ve got a panel to run.

L.L. SOARES:  Remind me to murder you later.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  I’ll make a note of it.  So, Colleen, you were frowning.

COLLEEN WANGLUND:  Well, I’ve been mulling over my answer— Okay here’s my answer…

I wouldn’t cast anyone to play Moe, Larry and Curly because I wouldn’t make this movie.

(A great cheer erupts)

COLLEEN WANGLUND:  For us older folks who grew up on the old movies and shorts, I don’t think this flick has any appeal because it isn’t the original. As for the younger audience, I think the Stooges, unfortunately, have no relevance.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Well, while I can’t argue with your logic that this movie shouldn’t be made, I do know a few middle school students who are interested in seeing this movie, so maybe it will strike a chord with younger audiences.

Okay, L.L., time for you to weigh in.

L.L. SOARES:  Well we kind of already have a new Three Stooges. It’s too bad they’re so lame.

Bella Swan as Moe
Edward Cullen as Curly
Jacob Black as Larry

Edward Cullen as Curly?

At one point, the Farrelly Brothers’ THREE STOOGES movie was going to star some A-list actors: Sean Penn as  Moe, Benicio Del Toro as Larry and Jim Carrey as Curly. I’m sorry that fell through, because even if it was bad, it would have been really interesting to see those guys play the Stooges.

But seriously, I don’t think anyone can replace the original guys. On the one hand, I would love to see a new Three Stooges movies, but since it can’t be the originals, it’s just not “real.”  I have really mixed feelings about this new movie, and I think chances are incredibly slim that it will be any good. But who knows? I’ve been wrong before.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  So, that wraps things up.  Thank you everyone, for joining us on this week’s QUICK CUTS.

(L.L. SOARES throws another cream pie.  MICHAEL ARRUDA again ducks out of the way, and the pie instead hits PAUL MCMAHON in the face.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Here we go.

MARK ONSPAUGH:  It’s show time!

COLLEEN WANGLUND:  I think I’ll pass on this segment.

L.L. SOARES:  Not so fast.  (He takes cream pie and squishes it in her face, while laughing.)

(PAUL MCMAHON hurls pie across panel and plugs L.L. SOARES in the face.  L.L. throws back, but blinded, hits MARK ONSPAUGH instead.  Everyone on the panel is throwing pies now, and strangely, MICHAEL ARRUDA has not been hit.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Well, it looks like I’m the only one to escape this cream pie madness, so once again, thank you all for joining us.  (Suddenly, Michael is hit by a barrage of pies.  He wipes cream off his face and licks his fingers. )  Mmm, this is pretty good!  Did Jenny make this?

—END—-

Will the real THREE STOOGES please stand up!