Archive for the Sequels Category

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

Advertisements

THE HANGOVER PART III (2013)

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

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  THE HANGOVER PART III (2013)
Review by Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares

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

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

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

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

LS:  What do you know?

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

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

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

LS:  Your idea of fun is watching flowers grow.

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

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

MA:  Sure.  Whatever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LS: Who’s Doug, by the way?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALAN: What are you guys doing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALAN: Oh goody! You guys are so nice!

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

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

MA: Okay.

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

LS: That’s really too bad.

MA: Well, at least that wasn’t us.

LS: Yeah. Bye, Alan.

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

LS: Sure. My experiment is over.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LS: No, it looked stupid.

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

LS: That looks kind of dumb, too.

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

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

I liked her in this movie, though!

the_hangover_part_3_movie-wide

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

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

I give it two knives.

So what did you think of it, LL?

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

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

MA: Just getting some air.

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

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

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

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

LS: Michael just said it sucked.

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

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

(CHOW pulls out a loaded gun)

CHOW: Did you now?

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

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

MA: Gee, thanks.

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

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

CHOW: It’s not??

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

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

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

MA: What about Doug?

LS: Who’s that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MA: I agree.  It could have been better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bastard!

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

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

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

LS: Not so fast, Chow.

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

CHOW: AAAAAAAAAIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEE

MA: Thanks. That was some quick thinking.

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

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

MA: Or Texas Hold-Em.

LS: Yeah.

-END-

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

Michael Arruda gives THE HANGOVER PART III ~ two knives.

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

Cinema Knife Fight COMING ATTRACTIONS for MAY 2013

Posted in 2013, 3-D, Action Movies, Bad Situations, Coming Attractions, Disaster Films, Dystopian Futures, R-Rated Comedy, Sequels, Superheroes with tags , , , , , on May 3, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT – COMING ATTRACTIONS:
MAY 2013
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(The Scene:  The interior of a HUGE laboratory, with STARK ENTERPRISES logos all around, and various Iron Man suits on display.  MICHAEL ARRUDA &. L.L. SOARES enter lab.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome to the Coming Attractions column for May 2013.

L.L. SOARES:  Our time to tell you what we’ll be reviewing in the month ahead

MA:  We’re here at Stark Enterprises not only because we’ll be seeing IRON MAN 3, the first big release of the month, the weekend of May 3, but because this place is humongous, and it’s symbolic of the blockbuster movies that are finally starting to roll out in theaters this month.

LS:  Whatever.  I’m just glad we’re here.  I can’t wait to try on one of these funky Iron Man suits.

MA:  I don’t think that’s such a good idea. Mr. Stark explicitly said we could do our review from here if we don’t touch anything.

LS:  Since when do I care what you think?

MA:  If you blow yourself up fiddling with one of those suits, don’t blame me.

LS:  I won’t blame you.  I’ll come back to haunt you though.

MA:  Oh joy.  Anyway, we kick off the month of May with a review of IRON MAN 3, opening in theaters on May 3.  I love the Marvel superhero movies, and so it goes without saying that I’m really looking forward to this one.

Iron-man-3-new-banner-3

The original film in this series, IRON MAN (2008) is one of my all-time favorite Marvel superhero films.  The second one IRON MAN 2 (2010), not so much.  I realize this is the third film in the series, and so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it played like a third film in a series and wasn’t so good.

But I really enjoy Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, and I like Gwyneth Paltrow a lot, and the Marvel films have just been so good, I think this one will play better than a third film in a series.  Of course, I feel as if I’ve already watched IRON MAN 3, when I watched last year’s phenomenal THE AVENGERS (2012), which I liked even more than the original IRON MAN.

IRON MAN 3 features Ben Kingsley as the villain, The Mandarin, and Guy Pearce and Don Cheadle.  It’s directed by Shane Black, with a screenplay by Black and Drew Pearce.  Looking forward to it.

LS:  Yay, the Mandarin is finally in an IRON MAN movie! The Mandarin, in the comics, is like Iron Man’s big villain, the equivalent of the Joker for Batman, so it’s about time he made it to film. I wonder if the Mandarin’s giant blue killer robot ULTIMO will be making an appearance – with today’s CGI efforts, they’d be able to do him justice, but I didn’t see any sign of Ultimo in the trailers. The Mandarin’s main powers emanate from rings on his fingers that involve alien technology, and he’s a criminal mastermind. It looks like they have changed him a bit for the movie, making him more like an international terrorist, which is okay, as long as the basic essence of the character is there. The fact that he is played by Ben Kingsley means we should get a decent bad guy in this movie. Let’s hope they don’t waste him like they did Whiplash (as played by Mickey Rourke) in IRON MAN 2.

MA:  Yes, Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash was very disappointing, surprisingly so.

aftershock

LS:  Then, the weekend of May 10, we’ll be reviewing AFTERSHOCK.  Looks like another “End of the World” type movie, with a cast that includes director Eli Roth. Roth also acted in Quentin Tarantino’s INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, 2009 (and his Grindhouse entry DEATH PROOF in 2007), so he should do fine here. Aside from that, I don’t know much about it. But I hope to be entertained.

MA:  I liked the trailer for this one.  It looks like it’s going to be an intense movie.

Star-Trek-Into-Darkness-First-Official-Teaser-Poster-Is-Here

Moving right along, on May 17 we’ll be reviewing STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS, director J.J. Abrams’ follow-up to his successful STAR TREK (2009) movie, which was a reimagining of the classic 1960s TV show which I thought worked very well.

It’s been hush-hush with this sequel, as very little information has surfaced as to what this movie will be about.  Even the film’s trailers haven’t given too much away, which is a good thing.

The cast from the first movie are all back again, and this is also a good thing, since they all did a terrific job the first time around capturing the personalities of the iconic crew of the Starship Enterprise.  Chris Pine is back as Captain Kirk, Zachary Quinto returns as Mr. Spock (he was phenomenal in the first movie), Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy, Simon Pegg as Scotty, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Anton Yelchin as Chekov, and John Cho as Sulu. 

I’m looking forward to this one.

LS:  Me, too. I enjoyed Abrams’ first STAR TREK movie. It actually held up pretty well, even though he kind of put his own spin on these iconic characters. So I’m expecting more of the same with INTO DARKNESS. Should be a good time.

Hangover-3-banner

On the weekend of May 24, we’ll be reviewing THE HANGOVER PART III (2013).  Do we really need a PART III? I don’t know. I liked the original a lot, the second one wasn’t as good, but it had some big laughs. I’m sure PART III will have laughs, too, but where else can they go with this series? As usual, Hollywood gets a hit and they flog it to death. But maybe THE HANGOVER series still has more to offer. We’ll see.

MA:  I’m looking forward to it.  I’m actually looking forward to the entire month of May’s releases.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve been largely disappointed with the movies that have come out so far in 2013, generally speaking. I’m hoping that May’s releases change this.

LS: I haven’t been too disappointed. I’ve seen at least four movies so far this year that might make my “Best of 2013” list, so I can’t complain too much. I’m usually not a big fan of brainless big-budget blockbusters, but this year’s crop of May movies look better than average.

MA: I can think of two so far that would make my “Best of” list, and we’re about to enter May, so like I said, I haven’t been too impressed by this year’s crop of films.

But I do love THE HANGOVER movies, although I recently re-watched PART 2 on Blu-Ray and didn’t find it as funny as I did the first time.  Still, how can you not enjoy the insanity which surrounds Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis)?  The stories in the first two movies are just so over the top I find it nearly impossible not to laugh at them.  I suspect the third film in the series will be just as nutty.

If you like your comedy with an edge, then THE HANGOVER movies are the films for you.

LS: Don’t gush too much. I guess THE HANGOVER movies have kind of an edge for mainstream R-rated comedies, but I really haven’t found them all that shocking. I do hope there is more of Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) this time around, though.

MA: It’s directed by Todd Phillips, who directed the previous two HANGOVER movies, but once again it’s not the original writers penning the script.  It’s written by Phillips and Craig Mazin, the same pair who wrote PART II.

The-Purge-585x370

We finish May with a promising thriller, THE PURGE, which opens on May 31.  Starring Ethan Hawke, this dark actioner tells the tale of a futuristic society that allows crime to run rampant for one night of the year and what happens to one family in particular on this brutal night.  From the producers of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies and SINISTER (2012), this one is written and directed by James DeMonaco, who doesn’t have a whole lot of credits, but he did write the screenplay for the remake of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (2005) which I remember liking a lot.

This one looks like it has promise.

LS:  The trailer for this one looks really cool. And there are more sinister villains in masks, reminiscent of THE STRANGERS (2008). Ethan Hawke also had a really good showcase in his last movie with these producers—SINISTER, which I liked a lot—so I am eager to see what they come up with this time.

MA:  Also opening on May 31 is the thriller NOW YOU SEE ME (2013), an interesting-looking yarn about a team of illusionists who rob banks.  It’s got a great cast which includes Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Elias Koteas.

It’s directed by Louis Leterrier, who directed the CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010) remake, which I didn’t like, but he also directed THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008) starring Edward Norton, which I really liked.

It’s written by Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, and Edward Ricourt.  I hope to review this one solo as well on this last weekend of May.

LS: Yeah, if you review that one, you’ll be seeing it by yourself. However, I might be reviewing a few movies solo this month too, if they are showing near me. Some films coming out in limited release in May include THE ICEMAN, starring Michael Shannon as a real-life hitman and serial killer; the indie vampire movie KISS OF THE DAMNED; and the new movie by Ben Wheatley, who made my favorite film of last year, KILL LIST; this one’s called SIGHTSEERS, and I’m sure I’ll be reviewing at least one of these before the month is over.

MA: All in all, it looks like May is going to be a good month for movies.

LS:  Okay, I have my Iron Man suit on.  Now it’s time to take it on a flight.

MA (shaking head):  I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

LS:  Ignition!  (Rockets ignite, blasting MA in a fiery ball of flame.)  Oops! 

MA (charred and smoking):  Oops?   That’s all you have to say?

LS:  How about, “See ya!” (Ignites rockets and flies off into the sky).

MA: He really burns me up (drum beat). Anyway, folks, we’ll see you this weekend with a review of our first May movie, IRON MAN 3

LS: Look out below!  (LS in IRON MAN suits flies into the ground, creating a huge smoky crater.)

MA:  Oops!

—END—

 

THE LAST EXORCISM PART II (2013)

Posted in 2013, Demonic Possession, Devil Movies, Exorcism Movies, Indie Horror, LL Soares Reviews, Occult, Sequels with tags , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2013 by knifefighter

THE LAST EXORCISM PART II
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

lastexorcism2

Before sitting down to review this one, I went back and read my Cinema Knife Fight review (with Nick Cato) of the first LAST EXORCISM movie from 2010, and it refreshed a lot of the back story for me. Back then, I gave the first movie three knives, and it was based mostly on the performance of Patrick Fabian as Reverend Cotton Marcus. The movie started out like a documentary of Marcus and his vocation as a preacher and exorcist. The way Fabian played him was likeable and charismatic, and I really enjoyed the movie until the final scene. The funny thing is, looking back at it now, I really don’t mind the ending at all, and it’s grown on me.

Which brings us to this new movie, THE LAST EXORCISM PART II. Based on the trailer, I thought this was just another cynical attempt to cash in on a movie that did pretty well at the box office (and cost a small amount to make) by producing a quickie sequel. But I have to admit, it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.

In the second film, Cotton Marcus is nowhere to be seen, since he pretty much met his doom at the end of the first movie. This time around, the focus is on Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell), who was also a standout in the first film. She was the girl Marcus went to exorcize, and she was convincing as a poor, lost innocent undergoing a terrifying ordeal at the “hands” of a demon.

Things begin not long after the events of the first film. As PART II opens, a couple find Nell (again played by Bell) in their house late at night (she gets into bed with the husband and even scratches him, when the wife gets up to go to the bathroom). The scene where they track her down to the kitchen, huddled up on a counter and looking deranged, is actually quite effective. She ends up in a mental hospital, and it’s explained that her family died during the night that ended the first film, when her father’s house caught on fire. She is scared, confused and clearly traumatized by what she has gone through. We also see that everyone is treating her as the victim of a cult, which makes sense, but it doesn’t address the fact that she was truly possessed by a demon in the first film. Something the medical community would avoid.

Not long after being admitted to the hospital, Nell is determined to be pretty harmless to herself and to others, and is released to a halfway house in New Orleans. The place is overseen by Frank Merle (Muse Watson), and Nell makes some new friends, including her roommate Gwen (Julia Garner), who at times seems to have a cruel streak, along with Daphne (Erica Michelle) and Mo (Sharice Angelle Williams). Nell gets a job as a maid at a motel, and even finds herself attracted to a boy who works at the motel, named Chris (Spencer Treat Clark). She’s a little strange, but the others seem to accept her, and Nell starts to slowly adapt to a fairly normal life, which is amazing, considering the events of the first film.

But, as we know going into the theater, a normal life is not really in the cards for Nell. The demon that possessed her in the first film, Abalom, soon makes its presence known, and makes it clear it wants her back. The weirdness happens slowly, with the odd passerby on the street saying something cryptic to her. A street performer (who pretends to be a statue in the park) following her during some festivities. When she goes into a church for refuge, even there a preacher seems to have a link to Abalom and tells her it is useless to resist, as strange figures appear in the church’s windows. Nell flees in a panic.

There are also times when her father, Louis (Louis Herthum, who also played the role in the first film) appears to speak to her. Once, late at night, she sees him sitting in the chair across from her bed, and he tells her he is trying to protect her. Is he real or just a figment of her tortured imagination? Other strange things happen when she’s asleep, like the fact that one of her hands often caresses her when she’s unconscious, as if it no longer belongs to her, and she levitates and twists into painful-looking shapes, without ever being aware of it.

One particularly uncomfortable moment involves the other girls finding a video on Youtube of her being exorcized by Reverend Marcus in the first film. She is twisting violently into unnatural shapes, and speaking in voices, and the other girls are both fascinated and scared by what they see. Nell comes into the room, and when she finds out what they’re watching, she screams at them to shut it off.

Some of the people around her aren’t what they seem to be, but not all of them are in league with the devil. A woman named Cecile (Tarra Riggs) has made it her mission to save Nell from the forces that want her, and she sets up a meeting with some like-minded friends. Can they save her from the forces of darkness? Well, you’ll have to see THE LAST EXORCISM PART II to find out.

LastExorcism2

Right off the bat, I want to make it clear that not everyone is going to like this movie. First off, there are long stretches where nothing seems to happen. It’s almost more of a character study than a horror movie, as we watch Nell slowly adapt to her new life and become a part of normal society, something she was never allowed to do when she lived on her father’s farm. We want her to find happiness with her new friends and with Chris. But we know it’s only a matter of time before the satanic being that once shared her skin comes back. The movie is not fast-paced. It takes its time, and there are long gaps between scares. And anyone looking for a roller coaster ride isn’t going to find it here.

Strangely, I didn’t mind the pacing or the lack of scares at all. Nell is so interesting that I really wanted to see more of her life. I found her struggle for normalcy to be touching, and believable. And even if it comes off more as a drama at times, I didn’t see that as a bad thing. Ashley Bell gives a terrific performance here as a girl who has endured great horrors and struggles to transcend them. It’s really a showcase for her as an actress (just like the first LAST EXORCISM film was a showcase for actor Patrick Fabian) and in that sense, I enjoyed it. I also thought her looks worked very well in defining her character. She has an odd face that sometimes looks almost like an old woman’s and other times seems rather pretty. This odd quality gives physical presence to the confusion and turmoil going on inside her. I was really impressed with Bell, and thought she did a great job as the lead in this film. In fact, watching PART II, I actually found myself wanting to spend more time with this character, and I would actually look forward to a PART III if the same filmmakers were involved.

One thing I didn’t like was that, in trying to present things almost as a drama, the filmmakers felt the need to pop in some “false scares” to keep the audience awake. Stuff like dogs suddenly barking loudly in the dark, or images in Nell’s mind (visions or dreams) suddenly popping up on screen and screaming. I thought these things were unnecessary, but I’m sure that the people involved thought it was a legitimate choice, since the movie is pretty quiet for the most part, and it was their way of reminding us this is a horror movie, even if it is an unusual one. And not all audience members would be as patient without a few jolts added here and there. For the most part, LAST EXORCISM PART II is actually a good example of “quiet horror,” which means it’s not  really inhibited by its normally dreadful PG-13 rating.

Also, the ending this time around was a little predictable, and almost had a CARRIE feel to it, but it still worked for me. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I see similarities between Nell’s story and Carrie White’s.

I also thought it was interesting that PART II is filmed in a much different way than the first one. The first film was presented as a fake documentary, focused mostly on Reverend Marcus, and it worked very well in that way. You would think PART II would adopt the same gimmick, but it doesn’t. I thought it would hurt this movie to be filmed in a more traditional, straightforward way, but it actually works pretty well here. To film it as another “found footage” film would defy logic (who would be filming this fragile girl struggling to stay sane?) and the gimmick would get in the way of the storytelling in this one. So it was a good decision to leave the gimmicks behind in PART II.

By the end of the film, it is quite clear that this is a horror movie. But leading up to there, it could almost be the story of a girl dealing with mental illness, trying to get better after painful events. As I watched it, it made me think of how very different the original THE EXORCIST (1973) is from its first sequel, the quieter and more thoughtful EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC (1977). Both THE HERETIC and LAST EXORCISM PART II took risks by not being rehashes of the films that came before them, and I find that much more refreshing than seeing the same thing all over again.

LastExorcism_1Sht_Wall_FM1Aside from Bell and Herthum, this new movie has a completely different team involved. Daniel Stamm, who directed the first film, has now been now replaced by Ed Gass-Donnelly, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Damien Chazelle. Gass-Donnelly’s previous work consists of several short films and two other features, THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY (2007) and SMALL TOWN MURDER SONGS (2010), which also sound like small, quirky films, and I might just seek them out.

Eli Roth is one of the producers of this film (he also produced the first one), and I still think his name is associated with product that is a little more interesting than the standard fare.

Most fans of horror films probably won’t like this film, and will wonder what I see in it. But the truth is, the fact that this movie is so different from the first one, and takes risks that would alienate some theater-goers, endears itself to me all the more. I’m a fan of movies that take chances and confound expectations. And in that sense, THE LAST EXORICSM PART II is a success. I give it three knives.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives THE LAST EXORCISM PART II ~three knives.

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (2013)

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, Blockbusters, Bruce Willis Films, Cinema Knife Fights, Crime Films, Sequels, Spy Films with tags , , , , , , , on February 18, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (2013)
By Michael Arruda

goodday

(THE SCENE: Russia.  A street jam-packed with vehicles stuck in traffic.  MICHAEL ARRUDA sits in the back of a cab.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome everyone to another edition of CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.  I’m in Russia today to review the latest in the DIE HARD series, A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (2013) which happens to take place in Russia.

As you can see, I’m doing this one solo, as L.L. Soares is back in the States on another assignment.

CAB DRIVER:  You write Cinema Knife Fight?

MA:  Yeah.  You know about the column?  And you speak English?

CAB DRIVER:  Yes, I speak English, and I know about your column.  It’s a real hooter!

MA: I think you mean “hoot.”

CAB DRIVER:  No, hooter.  Look!  (Points out window at well-endowed babe in tight fitting T-shirt walking along sidewalk.)  So, you write Cinema Knife Fight.  Don’t worry. I’ll get you out of this traffic.  Fasten your garter belt!

MA:  I think you mean seat belt.

CAB DRIVER:  No, I’m talking to my wife. (taps tiny headphone sticking in his ear).

MA:  Oh.

CAB DRIVER (talking into headset):  Make sure it’s good and fastened.  I want to play the Here Comes the Bride game when I come home tonight.

MA:  Too much information.  Too much information.

(Cabbie presses a button and suddenly the taxi jettisons into the sky and starts flying above the traffic.)

MA:  Whoa!  What is this?  THE JETSONS?  What the hell are you doing?

CAB DRIVER:  It’s something I installed myself, for my special passengers.

MA:  I think I’d rather be in traffic.  Besides, I’m reviewing an action movie.  I don’t think I’m going to be taken seriously if I’m reviewing it from a flying car.  It’s just not believable.  Of course, the film I’m reviewing today, A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD, suffers from the same problem.

I didn’t believe a damn thing that was going on.

John McClane (Bruce Willis) learns that his son is about to be sentenced to life in prison in Russia on murder charges.  McClane has been estranged from his son for a while, but it comes as no surprise to McClane that his son has found himself on the wrong side of the law, because he believes his son to be a troubled young man.  But it is his son, after all, and so McClane goes to Russia to help him out.

But things aren’t what they seem.  McClane’s son Jack (Jai Courney) really works for the CIA, and the murder charge is just a ruse to get him close to a Russian political prisoner named Komarov (Sebastian Koch) who both the Americans and Russians are interested in because of the whereabouts of a “file” that only Komarov knows about.  Ah, it’s the old secret file trick!

When the bad guys attempt to kill Komarov by blowing up the courthouse where he’s about to stand trial, Jack McClane whisks him out of harm’s way only to run smack dab into his dad John McClane, who thinks his son is getting himself into deeper trouble.

After some initial squabbling, John and Jack settle their differences and together they attempt to get Komarov to a pre-arranged safe house.  When that location is compromised, all hell breaks loose as the Russians who want that secret file will stop at nothing to capture Komarov, but they picked the wrong day to launch their plan, because on this day, they’ll have to square off against John and Jack McClane.

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD has the weakest plot of the entire series.  It’s really nothing more than an excuse to feature Bruce Willis in action scenes spouting off humorous one-liners.

a_good_day_to_die_hard_poster

I had a lot of problems with this one.  I don’t know where to begin.

I’ll start with the biggest problem, the believability factor.  This movie is so unbelievable that it might as well have featured flying cars like the one I’m riding in now.

CAB DRIVER:  Ah, you like to feature my flying car in a movie?

MA:  Yeah, if it’s produced by Walt Disney.

After Jack whisks Komarov away from the burning courthouse, he’s immediately pursued by the bad guys in an armored vehicle.  John McClane, seeing that his son is in danger, steals the first vehicle he sees and suddenly we’re in the midst of a high speed chase.  Now, this scene had the potential to be a really intense sequence, but it isn’t because the things Willis does while driving are so ludicrous and unbelievable, we’re entering Indiana Jones territory.

Now, perhaps John McClane has become so overblown that he’s crossed into the world of Indiana Jones.  I don’t know.  Sure, none of the DIE HARD movies have been all that realistic, but the original at least still played like a serious thriller.

Here, McClane has become a parody of himself.  He’s running around, especially in this chase scene, performing stunts that would have easily killed him, spewing out one-liners as if he’s on a nightclub stage.  In fact, the car chase scene almost plays like a comedy.  And that’s the difference between this movie and other action films where you also suspend disbelief.  In the better action films, in spite of the outlandish stunts and action sequences, there’s still a semblance of believability in the back of one’s mind where you believe that yes, this could happen, but here, in this movie, it’s not even close.  I’m sitting there thinking, there’s no way he could possibly survive this, unless of course, the whole thing is being played for laughs.

Also, the Russian bad guys have been hanging out with Dr. Evil.  They want to capture Komarov so they can locate the secret file.  So, what do they do?  They blow up an entire block to get to him!  Nice going!  Who does this sort of thing other than bad guys in an action movie where the point seems to be to blow up as many things as possible?  Wouldn’t it make more sense just to send your best undercover guys inside and whisk him out unnoticed?  Of course it would!

Later, Komarov is betrayed by his own daughter Irina (Yuliya Snigir), and when he asks her why, she says money.  This rings so hollow that it comes as no surprise later in the film when it’s revealed that she really didn’t double-cross him.  Neither is it much of a surprise when we learn Komarov’s true intentions.  It’s all part of the DIE HARD franchise formula, which by now needs to be put to rest.

The screenplay by Skip Woods features a weak story that did nothing to draw me in, blah boring characters who added nothing to the plot, and it fails to instill life into an aging John McClane.  Once so interesting he could carry an entire movie, McClane has been reduced here almost to being a guest in his son’s story.  Woods also wrote the screenplay for X-MEN ORIGINS:  WOLVERINE (2009), a movie I liked much better than this.

a-good-day-to-die-hard-trailer-bruce-willis-john-mclane

Even Bruce Willis doesn’t seem to be having a good time.  Sure, his John McClane is still that DIE HARD “bad boy,” and yes, he does get to utter his infamous catchphrase from the original movie, but unlike Sylvester Stallone in BULLET TO THE HEAD (2013) and Arnold Schwarzenegger in THE LAST STAND (2013) who seemed to transcend their ages and remain volatile enough to pack a punch without age being a factor, Willis’s John McClane doesn’t.  Stallone and Schwarzenegger joked about their age, they addressed it head on, but here, no mention is made that McClane isn’t that “bad boy” anymore, but a “bad old guy.”

It would be difficult enough to believe a younger man pulling off the feats shown in this movie.  I certainly didn’t believe a guy Willis’ age could pull off these antics.

Jai Courtney seems to wear a permanent scowl on his face throughout the movie as Jack McClane, Mr. Die Hard Jr., and he gets to play straight man to Willis’ smart-ass senior citizen.  Courtney is about as compelling as a movie extra.  I liked him much better in the recent Tom Cruise movie, JACK REACHER (2012).

Sebastian Koch is pretty one-dimensional as Komarov, even though the character isn’t, as he’s more secretive than that secret file everybody wants, and Yuliya Snigir is just plain pretty as his daughter Irina.  Her character is nothing we haven’t seen before, but she’s a looker, and looks like she belongs in the latest RESIDENT EVIL movie.

And in one of the more wasted pieces of casting I’ve seen in a long time, there’s Mary Elizabeth Winstead, a very talented actress who was excellent in SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD, and who also was in the recent genre films THE THING (2011) and ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012), reduced here to what amounts as a thankless cameo, as she reprises her role as John McClane’s daughter, Lucy, from the previous film in the series, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD (2007).  McClane should have taken Lucy with him to Russia.  It would have been a more interesting movie had she tagged along.

CAB DRIVER:  Live free or die hard?  Isn’t that a state model?

MA:  I think you mean mot—no.  I’m not going there this time.

CAB DRIVER:  Here we have similar phrase.  Live hard and die free.  Think about it!

MA:  That’s nice, poignant.  A little too deep for this column, but thanks.  I’m going to get back to the review now.

Director John Moore utilizes some odd camerawork in this movie.  In the aforementioned car chase scene, there are some weird cuts and close-up angles which resulted in making this sequence seem choppy when it should have run smoothly and seamlessly.  When you’re noticing the camerawork in a chase scene, rather than being caught up in the action of the moment, that’s not a good thing.

I can’t say that I liked A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD.  I found it way too over-the-top to be believable, and Bruce Willis didn’t wow me this time as John McClane either.  He seemed like an old man out of his element, blowing things up and shooting heavily armed men without a care in the world.  It’s almost as if he expects not to die.  Hmm.  Maybe Willis thought he was making a sequel to UNBREAKABLE (2000), rather than DIE HARD.

Simply put, it’s a good day to skip this movie.

I give it one and a half knives.

(Flying cab lands in parking lot.)

CAB DRIVER:  Okay, we’re here.

MA:  Perfect timing.  How much do I owe you?

CAB DRIVER:  For you, nothing.  You’re a Cinema Knife Fighter.  I’m honored to have you in my cab.

MA:  Gee, thanks.  And now I’m off to the annual International Movie Critics Convention where I’m the keynote speaker.

(looks at camera):  And if you believe that, you’d believe today’s movie.

—-END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda

Michael Arruda gives A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD  ~ one and a half knives!

TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D (2013)

Posted in 2013, 3-D, 70s Horror, Cannibals, Chainsaws!, Cinema Knife Fights, Gore!, Indie Horror, Sequels, Serial Killer flicks, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D (2013)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

chainsaw3d

(THE SCENE: a meat packaging plant. MICHAEL ARRUDA and L.L. SOARES are seated at a table.  LEATHERFACE slams a slab of meat onto the table in front of them and promptly slices into it with his chainsaw, spraying both LS and MA with blood.  He places dripping chunks of meat onto two plates and slides them in front of LS and MA.)

LS (grinning):  Oh boy!  (begins to eat raw meat.)

MA (frowning at plate in front of him):  I’ll pass, thank you.

(LEATHERFACE grunts and points towards plate.)

MA: Nothing against your cooking—(aside) what cooking?—but I ate before we got here.  Anyway, we’re here to review your new movie, so why don’t you let us do that, and maybe I’ll work up an appetite.  (LEATHERFACE nods).  Since L.L. is busy filling his face, I’ll start things off.

LS (wipes blood of his chin): Gee, thanks, buddy!

MA: TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D (2013) is the latest movie in the TEXAS CHAINSAW franchise, a series that started with Tobe Hooper’s original THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974), a classic of the horror genre, but a movie that I just have never been able to get into or appreciate.  In short, I’ve just never liked it.

LS (spits out his food in shock):  What kind of a horror fan are you?  How can you not like THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE? It might just be the best horror movie of all time.

MA:  If we were reviewing that one, I’d tell you, but right now we’re reviewing TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D.  Anyway, along the way, there’s been various remakes and sequels, including THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2003) and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE:  THE BEGINNING (2006).  None of these movies did anything for me, but if you’d care to comment more on them, to give the folks a little history, be my guest.

LS:  Not really. As is usual with these kinds of things, the various sequels and remakes run the gamut of various levels of bad (or at least inferiority) compared to the original film. I thought the recent remake and its sequel were incredibly bland and sterile compared to the visceral power of the original film. The nominal sequels have been a mixed bag of wasted celluloid, with only the sequel Hooper made himself, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (1986) worth checking out at all, and that one is a train wreck of another kind, which is sad, considering the great cast involved. I think the one I hate most is TEXAS CHAINSAW: THE NEXT GENERATION (1994) which is like a really wimpy retelling of the original film with a younger cast that includes Matthew McConaughey and Rene Zellweger in early roles (let’s just say, they’re wasted) and a skinny Leatherface! Just pathetic! Nope, there’s not much to recommend about the franchise aside from the first movie. Unfortunately, Tobe Hooper’s career hasn’t been especially awe-inspiring since his first film either, he never did recapture the pure gut-punching adrenaline of TCM ever again, although he’s made a few okay films. I wish he had something to do with this new one, other than a “Characters created by” credit, though.

MA:  Which brings us to today’s movie, TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D.

The film opens with events from the original film

LS: In 3D no less! Looked….kinda goofy.

MA: …and then adds new footage showing the locals forming a lynch mob, surrounding the home of Leatherface and his family, and burning it to the ground, killing everyone inside.  Well, almost everybody.  A couple rescues a baby from the home, although you wouldn’t want these folks working as your local paramedics, as the man, once he takes the baby from its mom’s arms, kicks the mom in the head, killing her.  And of course, we never do see Leatherface perish in the fire.

LS: This first scene really set the wrong mood right from the start for me. The first film is so dark, almost subterranean in its spookiness, that a shootout in broad daylight seemed like a real letdown. This holed-up-in-a-house-with-the-police-outside scene also reminded me of a similar scene that started off another, much superior horror film – Rob Zombie’s classic, THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2005)– which makes this one look pretty awful in comparison.

And we don’t really get to see any of the original characters in the shootout scene– Chop Top (Edwin Neal in the original and Bill Moseley in Hooper’s 1986 sequel) was hit by a truck before this, Leatherface is in hiding, and the Cook, maybe my favorite character in the original, isn’t shown at all (actor Jim Siedow died in 2003, but they couldn’t have had someone else play his character?). The only character from the original movie we see in the shootout scene is old, zombie-like Grandpa, sitting in a chair with his deathly white face (anyone could be behind that old man makeup). It turns out a bunch of relatives showed up at the house before the police, to defend their kin (including Drayton Sawyer, played by the previously mentioned Bill Moseley in a different role here). There are so many new faces, it doesn’t even seem like the same family or the same story, although it was cool to see Gunnar Hansen (the original Leatherface) as “Boss Sawyer.” But something about this whole opening shootout seemed too normal, too bland right from the start. The original cast and house made us feel like we were traveling through Hell itself. Here, it’s just another shootout with the police…

(A man holding a chainsaw and wearing a severed pig’s head over his own head enters the room)

LS: It’s Farmer Vincent from the movie MOTEL HELL (1980)

FARMER VINCENT: That’s right, boys. I’m here to make sure old leatherbutt here made the meat correctly. Did you use my special recipe?

(LEATHERFACE grunts and nods his head no)

FARMER VINCENT: The hell you say! How could you prepare these people a decent meal of meat and not prepare it correctly! DAMN YOU!

(FARMER VINCENT revs up his chainsaw, and LEATHERFACE revs his up in turn)

MA: Now gentlemen, there’s no reason for violence here.

FARMER VINCENT: Like hell there’s not!

LS (grin): Let ‘em fight, this might be fun.

(Suddenly the Sawyer family member known as THE COOK enters the room, flapping his arms)

COOK: Dang nab it! Don’t go making a mess in here.

FARMER VINCENT: I thought you was dead!

COOK: Well, I ain’t. And I prepared the meat. So you bet damn well it’s done right.

(FARMER VINCENT grabs a chunk, lifts his pig mask and tries it)

FARMER VINCENT: Mmmm. Pretty good.

COOK: Now get yer ass out of here before I kick it across the state of Texas!

FARMER VINCENT: I’m going, I’m going.

COOK: Now look what you done! (he slaps LEATHERFACE). Causing all this commotion. And me in the middle of my cooking! (LEATHERFACE cowers before him)

(COOK stops and turns to LS and MA)

COOK: Sorry, gents. I didn’t mean no harm here. Just go about enjoyin’ your meals.

(COOK goes back to the kitchen. LEATHERFACE is still whimpering in a corner)

Texas-Chainsaw-3D-2012-Movie-Poster

LS: That was fun! It’s like dinner theater!

MA: Can we get back to our review…finally?

LS: Sure!

MA: After the shoot-out, where the Sawyer home gets burned to the ground, the story then jumps ahead to present day where beautiful young Heather Miller (Alexandra Daddario) receives a letter informing her that her grandmother has died, and that the woman left a home in Texas for Heather in her will.  Now, Heather wasn’t even aware that this grandmother existed, and so she also learns at this point that she was adopted, and that her true blood line lived in Texas.  Yep, Heather’s the grown up baby that was rescued from Leatherface’s home, making her Leatherface’s cousin.

LS: Woo-hoo! That sure is some looker, you’ve got for a cousin, Leatherboy!

(LEATHERFACE grins and nods his head)

MA: Heather and her hip friends decide to take a road trip to Texas to check out the new home.  Along the way they pick up a hitchhiker (an event which mirrors the original story) and once in Texas, they find that the home left for Heather is an elegant mansion.

The twentysomethings prepare to celebrate, but their plans are short-lived when it turns out that Leatherface still lives in the basement, and he’s none too happy about new folks moving into his home.

Further complicating matters is that the mayor of the town, Burt Hartman (Paul Rae), is the leader of the lynch mob who burned Leatherface’s home to the ground.  He hates Leatherface’s family, and he’s not above lynching Leatherface a second time, or his young cousin Heather.

It seems lovely Heather has more to worry about than just Leatherface.  In fact, Leatherface might even become her ally.  Aww, a kinder gentler Leatherface!  Just what we need.

(LEATHERFACE nods at first, then pauses as if thinking, then vigorously shakes his head “no.”)

MA:  I didn’t think so.  Honestly, I’ve seen worst movies than TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D, and I didn’t hate this one by any means, but that being said, boy, what a lame movie!  In short, this one’s awful.

The worst part of TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D, and why I called this one lame, is its story.  Its premise generates absolutely no suspense—Heather and her friends arrive at her new home—does anyone in the theater (and there were three other people there besides me, by the way) not expect Leatherface to be living somewhere inside that mansion?  A creative story would have taken us in a different direction, one that we didn’t expect.  Not so here.  You can see every move happening long before it does.  It’s standard horror storytelling all the way.

LS: Unfortunately, yes.

MA: And nice job, Grandma!  Way to go, caring for your long lost granddaughter by giving her a house with a homicidal maniac living in the basement!  Yup, as they say in the movie, blood is thicker than water.  What a boneheaded move!  I’m supposed to believe that a woman who cares for her family would bequeath a home with Leatherface living in it to her unsuspecting granddaughter?

LS: Yeah, Leatherface almost kills her a bunch of times, until he realizes who she is. But you can’t completely blame Grandma! She did leave Heather a letter.

MA: Yeah, she says in her letter to Heather that all Leatherface needs is a little loving and caring, and he’ll protect her.  How sweet.  Leatherface is a regular hero.  I don’t think Heather’s friends, all butchered by Leatherface, would agree.

LS: This is one major plot point that bothered me. Leatherface kills some of her friends (I’m not saying who) and suddenly it’s like it never happened and Heather has to make some choices about who she’s going to stand by and who’s the enemy. And suddenly, she’s able to forgive the murders of people she cares about without a second thought. It didn’t seem genuine to me.

MA:  I agree.

LS:  Although, they’re not the best friends. Her boyfriend Ryan (Trey Songz, who is okay here, but not very developed as a character) is cheating on her with her best friend, Nikki. (Tania Raymonde).  But Heather doesn’t know that.

MA: Adam Marcus, Debra Sullivan, and Kirsten Elms wrote the screenplay for this one. You’d think three writers would have come up with a better story.

LS: Maybe they should have gone with Arruda and Soares instead?

MA: I like the sound of that!

LS: Seriously, they have some good ideas. The script just wasn’t good about following through with them.

MA: Director John Luessenhop does an okay job at the helm.  The film looks fine and includes the expected gore, which I found both tasteless and fake-looking, not a good combination.  One guy gets his body sawed in half by a chainsaw, grisly and pointless, but expected, and yet it didn’t disturb all that much because it looked fake.  That CGI culprit again!

LS: I didn’t mind the stuff you’re calling tasteless. But some of the fake-looking stuff I could do without.

MA: But anything resembling genuine suspense is absent here, as are any real shocks.  And as you already know by its title, it’s in 3D, and no, I wasn’t impressed.

LS: I don’t know. It wasn’t worth the extra price, I’ll give you that. But there were some cool moments where chainsaws come right out of the screen at you, that I enjoyed. But it was just a gimmick. Over all, it wasn’t really worth seeing it in 3D.

MA: I did like Leatherface’s mask, as it was sufficiently gruesome.  But that being said, Leatherface himself didn’t make for the scariest villain.  I mean, he comes off as this overweight lump of a man barely able to run—I was half surprised he didn’t keel over and die from a heart attack.  His cholesterol level must be off the charts!

LS: Another big problem I have with the movie is that you’re right, Leatherface isn’t scary here. In the original, he was this big killing machine. Intimidatingly huge, and vicious. Here, he’s kind of like the smaller, less scary version. Sure, he’s supposed to be 20 years older, but not once did I feel like he was a force to be reckoned with. Not once did I think he could scare the hell out of anyone. The chainsaw—sure, that’s scary. Leatherface here, not so much. Gunnar Hansen in the original movie was SCARY AS HELL.

MA: For the most part, the acting was okay.  Alexandra Daddario holds her own in the lead role as Heather Miller.  She’s beautiful and she can act, so that’s nice combination to have.

LS: You’re right. She’s very stunning. Between those eyes of hers, and everything else (she wears shirts exposing her belly in almost every scene of the movie), my eyes were just drawn to her like a magnet. And she’s okay here as an actress. Nothing amazing, but she pulls it off.

MA: Her friends were fine, but reminded me of the same types of characters I’ve seen in countless other horror movies of this type.  I recognized Tania Raymonde from LOST, as Heather’s friend Nikki, who likes to flaunt lots of skin and cleavage in this one.

Also in the cast as a young police officer is Scott Eastwood, Clint Eastwood’s son.  He’s okay.

LS: Scott Eastwood as Carl is really wasted here. He’s actually really good in every scene he’s in. But then, toward the end, once the action shifts to the inside of a slaughterhouse, he is completely forgotten and we don’t see him again, which doesn’t make a lot of sense.

MA: Paul Rae as Burt Hartman makes a nice villain, and he’s actually the main baddie in this one, as he’s one big pain in the ass.  He seems to want to lynch everyone he meets. One other thing I’ll say is that this movie doesn’t paint a very nice picture of small town Texas either.  These folks aren’t friendly.

LS: Hartman is good, even if he never does seem like that big of a threat. He’s the leader of a lynch mob who became a crooked mayor in a small town. Somehow it seems like the enemy here should have been more formidable.

MA: And of course there’s Dan Yeager as Leatherface, wowing us with his multidimensional performance.  Yeah, right.  Sorry, Leatherface, but you’re about as multidimensional as a loaf of white bread.  In fact, at times in this movie, you resemble a loaf of bread.  A big fat loaf.

LS: He’s supposed to be Leatherface as an old man, so sometimes it worked for me. But as I stated before, he’s simply not intimidating or scary. They needed to get a bigger, scarier actor in this role. Yeager just seems like a mini version of the real thing.

MA: Sorry TEXAS CHAINSAW fans, but I can’t really find anything good to say about this movie, the latest silly chapter in a series that I just can’t warm up to.

I give it one knife.

LS: I actually liked this one more than you. But in the end, it is a disappointment. First off, I think the people who made this film had their hearts in the right place. You could tell they really wanted to pay respect to the original film. TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D states its goal early on with the footage from the original film. It’s meant to be a direct sequel to the 1974 movie. It simply dismisses all those bad sequels and boring remakes. In the remakes, by the way, the family’s name was changed to Hewitt for some inexplicable reason. Here, in this movie, we are told right off the bat that the murderers are the Sawyer family—the correct name—and that immediately got points from me early on.

I really think the people who made this film liked the original and wanted to do it justice, but  they just didn’t have the imagination to do it well. That said, there were scenes I liked, and things about the movie that worked for me. I just didn’t think it was scary, and I don’t think it’s very logical (especially toward the end). The fact that Leatherface is able to walk away without being arrested, after killing Heather’s friends, other people, and running through a local carnival with a chainsaw, completely puzzled me. It just wasn’t believable.

MA:  Not only that, but in a key scene, the sheriff just stands and watches a main character get murdered in front of his eyes without offering assistance.

LS: Well, he does kind of deserve it! Strangely, I liked this movie. I thought its flaws outweighed what was good about it, but I saw this as kind of a labor of love, and I can appreciate that. The original CHAINSAW deserves to be revered in the horror genre. And for once, this didn’t feel (completely) like a movie that simply wanted to cash in on a name brand and make some quick money.

I give it two and a half knives. Not a great score, but not a dismal one. And it’s at least as good as some of the movies I’ve given that score to in the past. This one has its problems, but it has just enough heart to come close to winning me over.

(LEATHERFACE pushes plate of meat back in front of MA and grunts.)

LS:  That’s right.  You said you’d build up an appetite.

MA:  I meant, like next week.

LS:  I think he wants you to eat it.

MA:  Oh well.  (grabs a fork and digs in).  (chewing).  Not bad. Rather spicy.  What kind of flavoring did you use?

(LEATHERFACE reaches into his pocket and removes what looks like squished guts and organs.  MA stops chewing.)

LS (laughs):  Sorry you asked?

MA:  I was thinking steak sauce and paprika.  Anyway, isn’t it time we move on?

LS:  What?  And skip dessert? He made us blood pudding!

(LEATHERFACE nods eagerly)

MA:  Well, folks, at least you get to leave now.  Thanks for joining us, and we’ll see you next time.

—END—

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

Michael Arruda gives TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D ~one knife!

LL Soares gives TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D~ two and a half knives!

THE WORST MOVIES OF 2012 by L.L. Soares

Posted in 2012, 2013, 3-D, Bad Acting, Bad Situations, Based on a Video Game, Exorcism Movies, Fantasy, Faux Documentaries, Just Plain Bad, LL Soares Reviews, Sequels, Worst-Of lists with tags , , , , on January 2, 2013 by knifefighter

THE WORST FILMS OF 2012
By L.L. Soares

Well, there were lots of really good movies in 2012, but, as usual, there were some dogs as well. I think the fact that it was a lot easier writing this list – and keeping it to 10- is a good sign. There were a lot more good movies than bad ones in 2012.

These are the worst movies I saw last year.

NUMBER ONE:
SILENT HOUSE

silent-house-poster

I keep hearing the original 2010 film from Uruguay was better. That’s not hard to believe. The American remake of SILENT HOUSE was one of the worst movies I’ve had to sit through in a long time. Poor Elizabeth Olson, who was so great in MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE (2011) is completely wasted in this “thriller” about a woman terrorized in her summer home by an unseen intruder (well, unseen until the end). The big gimmick here is that it was supposedly filmed in real time, all in one take. If that’s so, then it was a lot of effort for nothing. It has a stupid twist ending, involving something that should have been traumatic, but is never made believable by the awful script. It was an idea that could have been done well, but the filmmakers involved completely blew it. Laughably bad.

NUMBER TWO:
RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION (IN 3D)

Resident_evil_retribution_poster

The previous Resident Evil movie (RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE, 2010) was at least dumb fun. I was starting to think this was one of the better film series based on a video game – at least the movies were entertaining. Then the new one (RETRIBUTION) comes out in 2012, and it’s just friggin dismal. It’s more of a place holder between the previous movie and the next one than a real movie of its own, with very little plot to distinguish it, and no attempt to tie up loose ends. I walked out of the theater feeling really cheated. If nothing else, this movie convinced me that it’s time to stop making RESIDENT EVIL movies.

NUMBER THREE:
DARK SHADOWS

DarkShadows

As a kid, I used to watch the original DARK SHADOWS TV show after school every day in the late 60s/early 70s. It was extremely low-budget, and sometimes laughably bad, but they always played it straight and tried to make it a decent show. Basically a soap opera with vampires and werewolves, the main plot involved the vampire Barnabas Collins and his struggle to reunite with the reincarnated version of his lost love, Josette.   It spawned two pretty good movies at the time, too (HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS in 1970 and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS in 1971), which were clearly horror films. Then Tim Burton decided to revive the old show as a new movie. Is it a bigger budget version of the old horror show? Nope. It’s a completely asinine comedy, involving Johnny Depp as Barnabas (the role was originally played by Jonathan Frid), rising from the dead in the 1970s and experiencing culture shock when confronted with hippies and bad fashion. Made with that “wink wink” style of comedy that I can’t stand, this is easily one of the most annoying films of 2012. What a wasted opportunity to make a movie version that was truly scary. Instead, we get a moronic exercise in tedium.

NUMBER FOUR:
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2

MV5BMTcyMzUyMzY1OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDQ4ODk1OA@@._V1._SY317_

You know something’s wrong when the latest TWILIGHT movie isn’t the worst movie of the year. The end of the “saga” – BREAKING DAWN – was broken into two films so the greedy studios could make more money. Meanwhile, we get more of the same crap we’ve been getting since the first film. Bella (Kristen Stewart) is now a vampire and is still in love with Edward (Robert Pattinson). The bad guys are told a lie and instead of checking it out, just attack our heroes and their family, when everything could have been resolved in a few minutes. I want to say this movie was a relief, because I knew the series was finally over, but I bet you they find a way to keep it going. Just to keep the money coming in. I want the two hours of my life I wasted on this movie back.

NUMBER FIVE:
SILENT HILL – REVELATION 3D

SilentHill

Not a good year for movies with “Silent” in their titles, I guess. And almost all of the 3D movies in 2012 were pretty lame, so this one has two strikes against it from the get go.

The original SILENT HILL movie from 2006 wasn’t great, but at least it had some interesting imagery and some strange scenes to keep it from being a complete snooze. About a journey to a surreal town/world where it’s always raining ashes and demons fight each other for power, it was actually one of the better video game-based movies. But as we learned with the RESIDENT EVIL franchise, these guys should stop while their ahead. It took six years to make this sequel, and they shouldn’t have bothered. It’s boring, incoherent, and just plain bad. Poor Pyramid Head, the strange-looking beastie from the series who deserved a better movie to appear in. Maybe it’s time to finally have a moratorium on movies based on video games.

NUMBER SIX:
UNDERWORLD AWAKENING (IN 3D)

MV5BMjAxMjc0ODk0OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTc5NDQwNw@@._V1._SY317_CR0,0,214,317_

The UNDERWORLD films aren’t based on a video game, but they might as well be. Kate Beckinsdale returns as an ass-kicking vampire who has to fight werewolves and humans in what has to be one of the most boring franchises around. I hate this series. I hate it even more because Beckinsdale is hot in that leather outfit and deserves to be in a horror movie franchise that doesn’t suck. The vampires here might not sparkle like in the TWILIGHT movies, but they’re not much better. Another boring series that needs to just stop already.

NUMBER SEVEN:
THE DEVIL INSIDE

devilinside

Another “found footage” horror movie – a genre I normally enjoy. And the first half of this exorcism movie is actually pretty good, until it falls apart. A woman is making a documentary about her mother, who has committed murder while being possessed by a demon. There are a few good scenes, but they’re not enough to save the movie. Overall, it’s just too predictable and doesn’t give us anything we haven’t seen before. And then there’s the fact that the movie doesn’t really have an ending. Instead,  it ends abruptly and we’re given a URL and told to go to the website for more. I’m sorry, I don’t pay for a movie ticket to be told to check out a website. Another movie where I left the theater more than a little pissed off. You would be much better off renting the 2010 movie THE LAST EXORCISM instead. It’s another “found footage” horror flick about an exorcism, but it’s actually really good and doesn’t waste your time.

NUMBER EIGHT:
THE INBETWEENERS

??????????????????

The British series this movie was based on, about four socially inept teenagers who are desperate to finally lose their virginity, is supposed to be pretty funny. Or so I’m told. But, if that’s the case, I have no idea why the movie version is so unfunny. The characters are likable enough. There’s some heartfelt scenes where you actually care about the people involved. But there are hardly any laughs. This is supposed to be a comedy. A comedy without laughs isn’t much of a success. And the fact that this was a big hit in England is kind of depressing.

NUMBER NINE:
BATTLESHIP

battleship-poster

The idea of making a board game into a movie is kind of dumb. The people involved with this movie were given an almost impossible task – to take this concept and run with it – and they try. But it’s a failure. Another waste of film and actors and special effects – all for nothing. Poor Taylor Kitsch. After playing the lead in a really good movie (JOHN CARTER) that was unfairly maligned, he next starred in this cinematic garbage, and any buzz he had as an up-and-coming movie star pretty much vanished. Until SAVAGES, that is. But will SAVAGES be enough to keep his career from fizzling out? 2012 must have been a real rollercoaster for poor Mr. Kitsch. As for BATTLESHIP, I hope the poor box office for this one has sunk any chances of a sequel. But no matter how awful this movie was, it was still better than the eight movies I listed before it.

NUMBER TEN:
WRATH OF THE TITANS

220px-Wrath_of_the_Titans

Despite their budgets and the high-tech special effects, the TITANS movies have left me cold. First there was CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010) that was a remake of a 1981 Ray Harryhausen fantasy film with stop-motion monsters. In the new films, the monsters are CGI, but I don’t see them as much of an improvement. They’re kind of generic in a way. Sam Worthington plays Perseus as kind of a one-note character (and I know he’s capable of more than that – maybe he’s as bored as I am). Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes are completely wasted as Zeus and Hades, respectively (but they’re the only characters in the movie with any real passion). Some of the monsters look cool, but overall, the movie is kind of boring. The story just isn’t that compelling….ZZZZZ… Oops, did I nod off there for a moment?

HONORABLE MENTION

PROJECT X – A faux documentary-style teen sex comedy about the craziest house party ever. It didn’t make my list because it was so forgettable that I…er…forgot about it until I saw it on Michael’s list. It mustn’t have annoyed me as much as it did him, but, frankly, it’s not worth talking about any further.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares