Archive for the Vampire Movies Category

KISS OF THE DAMNED (2013)

Posted in 2013, Art Movies, Gore!, Highly Stylized Films, Independent Cinema, Indie Horror, LL Soares Reviews, Vampire Movies, Vampires, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , on May 28, 2013 by knifefighter

KISS OF THE DAMNED (2013)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

kiss-of-the-damned-trailer-1

For fans of vampire movies, these have been trying times. The TWILIGHT movies have pretty much defanged undead bloodsuckers for the time being, and aside from a few indie flicks, there hasn’t been a lot of hope that vampires will regain their former glory.

The new independent film KISS THE DAMNED tries to correct this, but unfortunately it’s just not strong enough to do the heavy lifting required to save the genre. That said, it’s a pleasant enough film regardless.

Josephine de La Baume stars as Djuna (pronounced Juna—“The D is silent,” as Jamie Foxx would say), a modern-day lady of mystery who sleeps during the day and comes out at night. She seems a little too eager to avoid contact with other people, but this intrigues screenwriter Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia) when they first see each other in a video store. She immediately feels uncomfortable when he returns her gaze, and flees the store, but he follows her outside. After some heated make-out sessions get cut short (Djuna is determined not to let things go too far), Paolo refuses to just walk away and demands to know why she won’t let their relationship go any further. At this point, she relents, and draws him into her world. Unfortunately, this involves him getting a couple of fangs in his throat, and being “turned” into something not quite human.

But Paolo is cool with losing his humanity, and seems to be the perfect mate for Djuna, who has been lonely for decades and hasn’t had someone to share her “life” with for way too long. Their love affair seems to be going in a good direction, until Djuna’s sister Mimi (a very sexy Roxane Mesquida) shows up.

Where Djuna is mature and afraid to get too close to anyone, Mimi is more reckless and violent. Djuna has sworn off hunting humans to get the blood she needs and has turned to animals, something she tries to instill in Paolo as well, but Mimi just doesn’t consider it dinner unless it’s running on two legs.

Mimi has come to stay with her sister for a week, while her “new place” in Phoenix (some kind of vampire version of rehab) is being readied for  her. The house the three of them “live” in is owned by another vampire, the successful actress Xenia (Anna Mouglalis, another standout here) who seems determined to give the wild child Mimi a second chance. Djuna, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with her sister and finds the new arrangement completely unsatisfactory, especially since she’s trying to start a new relationship with newbie vampire Paolo and all.

Djuna (Josephine de La Baume) initiates Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia) into the world of the undead in KISS OF THE DAMNED.

Djuna (Josephine de La Baume) initiates Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia) into the world of the undead, after some strenuous sex, in KISS OF THE DAMNED.

Of course, Mimi shows that Xenia’s trust in her was misguided, and Djuna was right all along, but not before she turns all of their lives upside down. One scene, where Mimi even tricks the totally-in-control Xenia into breaking one of her rules, is especially riveting.

KISS OF THE DAMNED is clearly a homage to the kind of European vampire film that was prevalent in the 70s and 80s, by filmmakers like the French master Jean Rollin (who gave us such classics as 1971’s REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE and FASCINATION, 1979), Spanish director Jess Franco (who gave us the classic VAMPYROS LESBOS, 1971) and Harry Kumel (Belgian director of the unforgettable DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS, 1971). Most, if not all, of these kinds of movies focused on female vampires with European accents. From the stylized cinematography by Tobias Datum to the original score by Steven Hufsteter, KISS OF THE DAMNED clearly wears its influences on its sleeve and is intent on “bringing sexy back” to the vampire genre.

Director Xan Cassavetes (full name Alexandra Cassavetes, daughter of indie legend John Cassavetes) does a good job here, capturing the mood and the inherent claustrophobia of the nighttime blood-drinking set. Xan previously directed the documentary Z CHANNEL: A MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION, about one of the first pay cable stations to focus exclusively on art films in California and its many devoted followers, and acted in such films as ALPHA DOG (2006) and, when she was younger, some of her father’s films like A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (1974) and MINNIE AND MOSKOWITZ (1971).

The cast emphasizes the European flavor of the proceedings. French actress Josephine de La Baume was previously in movies like ONE DAY (2011) and JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN (also 2011). Roxane Mesquida, also from France, was previously in such diverse films as the Catherine Breillat films FAT GIRL (2001) and SEX IS A COMEDY (2002), as well as Greg Araki’s KABOOM (2010) and Quentin Dupieux’s RUBBER (also 2010).

American actor Milo Ventimiglia will probably be most familiar here to American audiences, mainly for playing Peter Petrelli in the TV series HEROES (2006 -2010). He’s also been in some interesting independent flicks since, like the horror film PATHOLOGY (2008), which I liked a lot. With a dark beard and smoldering eyes, Ventimiglia is a strong presence here, and holds his own quite well with the attractive women he plays opposite. There’s also a small turn by actor Michael Rappaport (COP LAND, 1997, and DEEP BLUE SEA, 1999) as Paolo’s clueless agent, Ben, who shows up unannounced at one point, wanting to see how Paolo’s latest screenplay is coming.

I’m a fan of the kinds of movies Xan Cassavetes is clearly trying to recapture here, and I think she does a pretty good job evoking the same sense of time and place, but I never had the feeling that KISS OF THE DAMNED was adding anything new to the genre. It all seemed like things we’ve seen before, and while it’s a stylish throwback to the days when vampire films were both sexy and chilling, it doesn’t have enough of an original voice to stand out.

Still, I’d rather see something as visually appetizing as KISS OF THE DAMNED than a hundred TWILIGHTs, so I don’t want to be too negative. I just wish it had been more ambitious and tried to do something different with this kind of storyline. As KISS OF THE DAMNED ended, I found myself wanting more of these characters, and at the same time realizing that they really didn’t have all that much to say.

I give KISS OF THE DAMNED, three knives. Not perfect, but it will still wash the foul taste of TWILIGHT out of your mouth.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

Kiss-of-the-Damned-Retro

LL Soares gives KISS OF THE DAMNED ~three knives.

Advertisements

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 (2012)

Posted in 2012, Adult Fairy Tales, Bad Acting, Blockbusters, CGI, Cinema Knife Fights, Just Plain Bad, Melodrama, Twilight, Twist Endings, Vampire Movies, Werewolves with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: A cemetery. L.L. SOARES has just finished filling up a grave. He rests on his shovel and looks at the tombstone with says “TWILIGHT.” MICHAEL ARRUDA arrives in a long black car and gets out.  He’s wearing a party hat and carrying balloons.  DRIVER of hearse steps out, appalled.)

DRIVER:  Balloons?  This is a funeral!  This is most inappropriate!

MA:  No it’s not.  This is a funeral for the TWILIGHT series.

LS (calling over):  Did you bring the vampire strippers?

MA (looks at Driver): And you think I’m inappropriate?

DRIVER:  I’m appalled!

MA: Don’t lose your shirt, Taylor Lautner.  (to LS) I didn’t bring any strippers.

LS: No strippers? Damn!

MA: We need to review a movie after all.  I didn’t think we needed the distraction.

LS:  Who asked you to think?

MA: Sorry.  Well, at least it’s over.

LS: You got that right.  We can finally put the damn TWILIGHT SAGA to rest. Best grave I ever dug. I made this one extra deep.

MA: All we have to do is to review BREAKING DAWN PART 2, then it will be over for good!

LS: True enough. (He is on the verge of tears). And then we’ll finally be done with this series. I thought this day would never come.

MA: Me, neither. I thought we’d be going to see these awful movies forever.

LS: If there’s a hell, then I’m sure someone is being forced to watch a never-ending marathon of these movies.

MA: So why don’t you give us a synopsis of this last movie.

LS: BREAKING DAWN PART 1 ended with the feisty, perpetually sneering heroine of the TWILIGHT series, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), finally getting what she’s been wishing for since the first movie — she finally got turned into a vampire like her beloved Edward (Robert Pattinson). We could tell because her eyes were bright red! Spooky!

As BREAKING DAWN PART 2 opens, Bella is trying to learn how to control her unquenchable thirst for blood. Edward takes his newly-vampiric bride into the deep woods so she can feast on a deer’s blood, but a mountain climber makes an unexpected appearance, and when he cuts himself, Bella goes nuts. Suddenly, that measly little deer doesn’t seem so filling.

MA: This series is so bad even “hunting” scenes like this are dull and boring, especially with Edward watching his new bride with that goofy grin on his face, as if we’re supposed to think, “Aww, isn’t she cute?  Bella’s hunting.”  Gag!

LS:  The big question was, would she be able to control herself and not bite a human, or would she just go nuts like a lot of “newbie” vampires do when they first get “turned.” Somehow, Bella is able to pass the test.

MA:  Because vampires in the TWILIGHT world would never feed on a human, or at least not vampires in the Cullen clan, the most mind-numbing vampire family you’ll ever meet.  Vampire family.  (Shaking his head)  That kinda says it all, doesn’t it?

LS: Speaking of which, Bella is then brought back to the home of the Cullens — the vampire clan that Edward belongs to, and now Bella does to — to meet her new baby, Renesmee. What kind of name is that anyway?

MA: An annoying one.

LS: Turns out everyone is afraid Bella will turn her newborn baby into dinner, since the girl is half human and has human blood running through her veins. If you remember from the previous movie, Bella got pregnant immediately after a wild bout of sex with Edward, and the baby threatened to kill her. Which is why Edward finally relented and turned her into a vampire— he pretty much killed her in order to save her life, if that makes any sense.

MA (mockingly nodding):  Of course it does.

(A couple of MOURNERS arrives, crying into their handkerchiefs)

MOURNER 1: Oh my God, it’s over! How will we ever go on with our lives?

MOURNER 2: This is just the saddest day ever. I don’t know if I want to live anymore!

MOURNER 1: I have an idea. Let’s make sure it never ends. Let’s go see BREAKING DAWN PART 2 again. And again. And then go back and read the books again and watch the DVDs again and then it will seem like the story goes on forever.

MOURNER 2: Oh my God, that sounds wonderful!

(LS suddenly raises his shovel and chops both of their heads off, with blood squirting everywhere)

LS: I’m sorry Michael, but I had to put those two poor, tortured souls out of their misery.

MA (grinning as blood spatters his suit): Totally understandable, although I was thinking more along the lines of a stern reprimand.

LS:  Anyway, in this new movie, the hateful Irina (Maggie Grace) spies Bella and her new baby and runs to tell the Voltari – those vampire overlords who act like the Vatican of bloodsuckers —because this is a big no-no in the tenants of vampire law. You see, in the past, babies and children who were turned into vampires were nothing but trouble, since they immediately stopped growing and stayed at their age (mentally and physically) forever. Suddenly, with a lust for blood and incredibly strength, they were huge threats to the human world (you don’t want to see a super-strong vampire baby have a tantrum!) and also threatened to expose the adult vampires who are always trying to stay a big secret to humankind. Thus, vampire babies are immediately destroyed. After Irana goes and finks on Bella (what a rat!), the Voltari are convinced that Renesmee is a baby turned into a vampire and the leaders of the group, especially big kahuna Aro (Michael Sheen), declare the child must be slain and those involved with her “creation” punished.

But, as we already know, they’re wrong, since Renesmee wasn’t “turned,” she was born a vampire/human hybrid because Bella was human during the child’s conception. Thus, the child is a rare creature and has started growing at an alarming rate. Like, she’s grown several years older in a matter of days!

The Voltari, however, have no interest in allowing a fair trial. If they could just talk it out, there would be no movie. Besides, Aro and his cohorts have had it in for the Cullens since the second TWILIGHT movie, NEW MOON (2009), and this is just the excuse they need to wipe out of the clan completely.

MA:  This is all so interesting.

LS:  I have to admit, it’s a little painful to remember all this stuff. I want to block it out of my mind.

The Cullens, in turn, find out about their impending doom when Alice Cullen (Ashley Greene) has a vision that the Voltari are coming to get them. This puts a plan into motion where the Cullens travel the globe to gather friends and allies as “witnesses” to demand that the Voltari listen to reason. These same witnesses might also have to fight if the Voltari won’t listen to them.

Also along for the ride are Bella’s other love interest, Jacob (Taylor Lautner), and his pack of werewolves. Jacob has sworn to protect Renesmee with his life, partly because he has “imprinted” himself on the child (something that happened in PART 1). It seems that werewolves automatically “imprint” a bond with someone when they have found their true soul mate. It’s completely out of their control. And the fact that Jacob has imprinted with a baby is kind of creepy, except when you realize that Renesmee will probably be a full-grown adult in a few months, based on how fast she’s growing.

MA:  Werewolves are really nannies.  Who knew?  Why didn’t someone tell Lon Chaney Jr.?  Larry Talbot would have made the perfect baby guardian. Look, it’s Uncle Larry!  Of course, when the moon was full, he’d have eaten the kid, but he would have been good for a little while, anyway.

Werewolves protecting little kids?  And people want to know what’s wrong with this series?  Sheesh!

LS:  And don’t forget the imprint thing. Sounds like a certain shirtless werewolf might end up on a sex offenders website if he isn’t careful. He better wait until she’s at least 18….er, days…old before he consummates their passion.

So the Voltari are coming to slaughter the Cullens. The Cullens have gathered allies to speak on their behalf, or fight for them if necessary, and the werewolves have pledged to help. And that’s the story in a nutshell.

MA:  In a nutshell?  It must belong to a coconut.  That’s one detailed synopsis.  Do we really need to know that much about this movie?

LS: Are you knocking my synopsis?

MA:  No, it’s a terrific synopsis.  It’s just making me relive some things I’d rather forget— like the entire plot.

LS:  You mean you weren’t intrigued by questions like: Will the Cullens survive? Will the Voltari listen to reason? Will Jacob take off his shirt? Well, I can answer the last question: Jacob will definitely take off his shirt! And simpletons in the audience will “ooh” and “ahh” like they always do.

I thought BREAKING DAWN PART 2 was very telling. I have now sat through five TWILIGHT movies, and you would think that, after all this time, I would have grown to care about these characters, and be concerned about what happens to them. But the truth is, I hate all of these characters just as much as I did before. BREAKING DAWN PART 2 is not going to win over any new fans.

MA:  That’s a good point.  These characters have been so annoying for so long throughout this series that I can barely stand to look at them, let alone watch a movie about them.  And I didn’t find the three lead characters to be quite as an annoying in this movie, yet, it didn’t matter.  Based upon the previous movies, I just didn’t care about these folks.

That’s pretty bad.   As you said, you’d expect characters in a series to grow on you, not grate on you.

LS:  Of course, that doesn’t really matter, because the fans of the series who already exist are more than enough. I actually got my ticket online before the showing, because the past few times a TWILIGHT movie has come out, all the showings on the first day sold out immediately. But even though I bought my ticket in advance this time, I still had to stand in a long line before they let us into the theater (even with tickets!) and the place was pretty packed. So this series has just as many—if not more— hardcore fans as ever.

But in all seriousness, I thought this movie was excruciating to sit through. We’ve seen worse movies this year—the latest RESIDENT EVIL movie comes to mind—but TWILIGHT is the only series that consistently bores the hell out of me every time I sit through another chapter. I still think Bella is irritating and I have no clue what Edward or Jacob see in her. I think Edward and Jacob are morons. I think the Cullen family is a snooze. And I really hate the Voltari—who are lame-ass villains—even though their number includes Dakota Fanning as Jane and Michael Sheen as Aro, two actors I normally like.

And there’s some new stuff this time around. It turns out a lot of these vampires have super powers. As if being a super-strong, blood-drinking vampire wasn’t enough! One guy can shoot fire from his hands. Another one can shoot out tendrils of darkness that can blind or suffocate someone. Other ones can foretell the future, create electric shocks or create shields around themselves.

Who knew these sparkly vampires were really THE X-MEN!

I actually found this “look at my cool powers!” aspect to be extra annoying, since there’s no logical reason for these extra powers.

(THE SCENE suddenly SHIFTS to a field of colorful wildflowers. BELLA and EDWARD are sitting in the flowers, snuggling and giggling)

BELLA: Oh God, I love you so much.

EDWARD: And I, you.

BELLA: I love you so much it hurts. I love love love you.

EDWARD: Oh, how I love the word Love.

BELLA: It’s is a lovely word, isn’t it? And it’s so wonderful to be this much in love.

(SHOT moves to JACOB and RENESMEE, sitting in a different part of the garden)

JACOB: And I love you, too, little Renesmee. You’re just a toddler now, but soon we’ll be lovers and I’ll sweep you up in my arms and we can have long-winded conversations about love, like Edward and Bella.

RENESSEE: Uncle Jacob, you’re really starting to creep me out, man. Besides, I hate the name Renesmee. It sounds stupid. I much prefer to be called HONEY BOO BOO.

JACOB: Anything you wish, oh love of my life. Oh joy of my jowls. Oops, I spilled some Kool-ade on my shirt. Would you mind if I take it off? This stain offends me so.

RENESMEE A BOO BOO: Oh boy. Do what you gotta do, buster.

(THE SCENE returns to the graveyard. LS is off to one side, vomiting)

MA: Ahem, the camera is back on us again.

LS: Oh, sorry (wipes his mouth)

I’m also sick of the exaggerated emotions and affectations of the main characters here. Everyone is in love in big CAPITAL LETTERS. The characters are pretentious, sappy, and stupid. At least Bella and Edward get to have some sex in the BREAKING DAWN movies. After three movies before that where the two of them were forever locked in torturous abstinence, it’s nice to at least see them go at it, even if it’s all very sanitized and romanticized. What a tasteful nibble of a neck. What a very safe interlocking of naked limbs with not a glimpse of any naughty bits…

The audience I saw it with was so emotionally invested in these dumb characters that it was embarrassing. They had reactions that were as exaggerated as the characters on the screen. And they laughed at everything – even things that weren’t funny. Like everything out of Bella (and Edward and Jacob)’s mouth was the most clever, witty dialogue ever written. Let me tell you a secret – it wasn’t. The only scene that struck me as even mildly amusing was one where Jacob takes  his clothes off in front of Bella’s father, Charlie (Billy Burke) to show him how he turns into a big CGI wolf, and Charlie looks very uncomfortable, wondering if he just stepped into a scene from MAGIC MIKE. But otherwise, it wasn’t as clever or as emotionally charged as the audience pretended it was.

MA:  Yes, that was a funny scene.  Hey, after five movies, they got a scene right!

LS:  I really, truly hate this series. And seeing the saga finally come to an end filled me with joy. I give this movie one knife for the fact that the story is finally over alone! Otherwise, there’s nothing here I can recommend. It’s complete crap.

What did you think, Michael?

MA:  Well, the best thing I can say for this movie is that it’s the first TWILIGHT movie that didn’t bore me to tears, but that doesn’t mean it’s good.  It means that for once, things actually happened in this movie.  They may have been stupid things — like lame vampire superheroes— but they were things.  See, usually, these movies are so dull I start chomping on my fingernails once the popcorn is gone.  My fingernails survived this installment.

Another positive is BREAKING DAWN PART 2 gets all of its whining out of the way early.  Bella whines at Jacob because he imprinted on her baby daughter.  Now, in past movies, we’d have to suffer through multiple scenes of Bella’s angst.  She’d talk about it with Edward.  She talk about it with Jacob.  She’d go back and talk to Edward some more.  Edward and Jacob would talk.  Blah, blah, blah.  But here in BREAKING DAWN PART 2, it’s one and done.  That’s a good thing.

They also got the boring “Bella talks to her dad” scenes out of the way early as well.

That’s because in this movie, there’s actually a plot and things actually happen.  There’s a build-up to a big battle showdown.  Did I enjoy this build up?  Not really. But somehow this one just wasn’t as painful.  And of course there’s a big bloodbath at the end— not really.  It’s a pretty lame battle.  You’ll find more intense stuff in a Disney movie.

The acting is what you’d expect, although I have to admit the three leads didn’t annoy me as much this time around.  I think it’s because they spoke less in this movie.  The closest thing I came to enjoying a performance was watching Michael Sheen ham it up as Aro.  His over-the-top performance is one of the movies few highlights.

LS: He actually has a couple of funny scenes this time. I can’t blame the guy for wanting a decent paycheck.

MA: Director Bill Condon could have easily filmed BREAKING DAWN as one movie as opposed to dragging it out into two parts.  PART 1, basically a wedding, could have been condensed in about 15 minutes of screen time.  PART 2 is definitely better, but again, this isn’t saying much.

Melissa Rosenberg wrote the screenplay, and she wrote the screenplays for the entire series.  Not something I’d want on my resume.

LS: But I’m sure she’s happy it’s on hers. These movies made a shitload of money!

MA: It’s funny, here we have this paranormal romance, this love story, this love triangle between Bella, Edward, and Jacob, but what is the series finale about?  Vampires with superpowers and the meddling Voltari.  The love triangle was resolved movies ago.

LS: And it was never much of a triangle. We always knew Bella had the hots for Edward. Her relationship with Jacob was always just an intense friendship. She never returned Jacob’s feelings like he wanted her to. So the triangle angle was almost kind of forced, don’t you think.

MA: Yep. To me, this just shows that this love story wasn’t much to begin with.  You’d think this series would be driven by a tale of unbelievable love, but it’s not, which just reinforces the ridiculousness of building a “saga” around these characters.

But, hey, at the end of the day, the TWILIGHT series will long be remembered for featuring the cutest werewolves ever!  One day, when Disney buys the franchise, we’ll see little Jacob-werewolf-nannies on the shelf next to Winnie the Pooh.

It goes without saying, but I am overjoyed that this series is finally over.  That being said, this last installment, TWILIGHT BREAKING DAWN PART 2, didn’t torture me with mind-numbing boredom, and as you said at the outset, we’ve seen worse movies this year.

I give it two knives.

LS: Fair enough. You’re much more generous than me this time around. Maybe you’re just relieved it’s finally over…

Or maybe your heart has finally let the love in…

MA:  I don’t think so.

LS:  Of course, the way it ends, the storyline could always be continued. And there could be spin-offs…and you know the studios will seriously consider it…but for now, this moment in time, let’s pretend like TWILIGHT is really over. That we never have to see another TWILIGHT movie again. And, for the moment, let’s sparkle with happiness.

MA: Now let’s go somewhere and celebrate!

LS:  Sounds good.  (Looks at TWILIGHT tombstone.)  It’s hard to believe.  We’ve buried the TWILIGHT movies forever.

MA:  It’s about time.

LS:  That celebration is long overdue.  Let’s get out of here.

(MA & LS exit.  From behind a gravestone appear a young man and his hunchbacked assistant. The young man carries a shovel, the hunchback a camera. They dig up the grave.  The young man holds a TWILIGHT DVD in his hand.)

YOUNG MAN:  It’s just resting.  Waiting for a new life to come!

HUNCHBACK:  Yes, master.

YOUNG MAN:  We shall give it life again.  We shall re-make them!

(Loud groans and wails are heard off-camera):  Nooooooooooooooooo!!

—END—

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

Michael Arruda gives THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 ~ two knives!

LL Soares gives THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 ~one knife!

Friday Night Knife Fights: NEAR DARK vs. LOST BOYS – PART 2

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2012, Friday Night Knife Fights, Vampire Hunters, Vampire Movies, Vampires with tags , , , , , on July 19, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS
NEAR DARK vs. THE LOST BOYS (Both from 1987)
PART 2  (OF 3)
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Paul McMahon, and Mark Onspaugh

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome back everybody!

Tonight, it’s Part 2 of FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS, NEAR DARK vs. THE LOST BOYS.  Once again, L.L. Soares, Paul McMahon, and Mark Onspaugh, and myself, Michael Arruda, are all here on this panel as we try to determine which of these 1987 vampire movies is the better of the two.

Last time, NEAR DARK took Round 1, and so the score after one round, is:

NEAR DARK 1, THE LOST BOYS 0.

On to Round 2.  You guys ready?

LS:  No, we like just sitting here.  Of course we’re ready.  Let’s go!

MA:  Question 2: Which film has the stronger cast?

L.L., why don’t you start us off?

LS:  A lot of the cast of THE LOST BOYS is actually quite good. I’m a big fan of Jason Patric, who plays Michael. He went on to some very good roles after this movie, and he’s a sympathetic hero (although why he still lives with him mom and goes to high school when he looks to be about 25 continues to baffle me). I also like Dianne Wiest as Lucy, the mom. She went on to be in a lot of high-brow flicks.

MA:  I’m with you with Wiest, but Jason Patric in this movie is a bore.

LS:  As for the vampires. Hey, I have to admit that I dig Keifer. The guy has presence. You believe he leads a gang of vampires. There was a time when I didn’t like him as an actor, but I’ve definitely changed my tune on that.

MA:  I definitely agree.  Keifer Sutherland makes the most of his scenes here, and I liked him a lot.

LS:  And Jamie Gertz is pretty hot. Edward Hermann is kind of goofy as Max. He’s not great, but he’s memorable. And I like Barnard Hughes as Grandpa. I guess he’s supposed to be a comic relief character, although he’s not the only one.

MA:  You liked Max and Grandpa?  Come on!  As much as I like Edward Hermann, Max is an awfully weak character for someone who is supposed to be a vampire leader and a love interest for Weist’s character.  I didn’t buy him in either one of these roles.  I think Hermann’s miscast.

LS:  Max is a dumb character. How can he be miscast? Who would you have chosen, Sir John Gielgud?

MA:  Let’s see.  It’s 1987.  How about Kurt Russell?  I would have believed him as a leader of the lost boys!

LS (shaking his head):  But he’s not supposed to seem like a leader of the lost boys. He’s supposed to trick you. Wally Cox would have been better than Kurt Russell, but I think he was dead already by then. It’s not really an important role anyway, and Hermann is just fine in it. His overly mannered presence made me laugh, unlike Corey Feldman’s jokes.

And who doesn’t like Grandpa?!!

….but everyone else in the movie?

The other vampires are pretty bland when it comes to personalities, so they didn’t impress me much at all.

And then we get to the true reason why THE LOST BOYS is fatally flawed. The “other” storyline that’s going on here. The one starring the “Two Coreys.”

MA (rolls eyes): Ugh!

LS: It’s like there are two movies going on simultaneously. The real one, where Jason Patric struggles not to become a vampire. And then there’s a second one, starring Corey Haim and Corey Feldman.

The horror that is COREY FELDMAN!

Corey Haim plays Sam, Michael’s younger brother, and he’s just another annoying brat. I hated all his scenes. But he’s Laurence Olivier next to Corey Feldman, possibly the worst actor in the history of movies.

MA:  I actually liked Haim when I re-watched THE LOST BOYS for this column.  Feldman, not so much, but I wouldn’t call him the worst actor ever.  Some folks in the TWILIGHT movies have dibs on that distinction.

LS: You liked Corey Haim? Well, there goes your credibility out the window. His performance is just made up of stupid jokes that aren’t funny, him whining all the time, and telling people he has nightmares because of comic books. He’s just a little jerk. As for Feldman. He’s not the worst actor ever? What planet are you from? I don’t like the TWILIGHT movies but even a shirtless (and brainless) Taylor Lautner could act Feldman under the table! Come on!

MA:  We’ll see how you feel this November when we review the final TWILIGHT movie.

LS:  In THE LOST BOYS, Feldman plays Edgar Frog, who, with his blander and less annoying brother Alan (Jamison Newlander), runs a comic book store and also keeps track of the vampire residents of the seaside town they live in, Santa Clara.  They’re supposed to be funny (one is named Edgar and one is Alan, get it?), but they’re just complete assholes. Feldman especially acts if he is in a completely other movie—some lame-ass teen comedy—because he certainly doesn’t take any of this stuff seriously, and personally I think that’s because he can’t. He doesn’t have the acting ability to portray a serious character. He’s a clown.

I can tell these characters are complete idiots the first time Sam goes into the Frog brothers’ comic book store. They have a conversation about Superman comics that is just friggin’ lame and shows that they probably know nothing about real comics books. And then Sam says “I’m looking for a copy of number 14 of Superman, which, if they had one, would be worth thousands of dollars. It’s just asinine.

But I’ll go so far as to say every single time this movie focuses on the two Coreys and their shenanigans, the entire movie comes to screeching halt. You lose any momentum that has been building, any attempts at the movie being scary, and you lose any belief or concern about the other, real, storyline. They just completely ruin the movie for you. And that goes double for Feldman, who is like cinematic poison here.

I don’t know if he’s this bad in every movie he’s in—because I kind of avoid Corey Feldman movies—but I don’t remember him being half as annoying in STAND BY ME (1986).

Director Joel Schumacher (more on him later) should have made up his mind. Did he want to make a good horror movie about a guy struggling to remain human, or did he want to make a crappy teen comedy where Corey Haim and Corey Feldman constantly do things to get middle-school kids to laugh? Because he can’t have both.

MA:  Well, he could have had both if he took both storylines seriously.  The  “Coreys” story is simply too goofy, but if those teens were portrayed as real people rather than as cartoonish vampire hunters, then their scenes would have been better.  In FRIGHT NIGHT, for example, the humor in the Roddy McDowall storyline works because McDowall took the role seriously.

LS:  Don’t mention Roddy McDowall in the same breath with those two teen twerps!  They ruined THE LOST BOYS!

Which brings us to NEAR DARK. I dug every single cast member, except maybe Homer, who got on my nerves most of the time, but nowhere near as much as the Coreys. And Jenette Goldstein as Diamonback either isn’t fleshed out enough or isn’t memorable enough to stand out for me. But everyone else—I don’t’ need to list them all, do I?: —is just really good here. I even like Tim Thomerson (a B-movie veteran) as Caleb’s dad, even though he doesn’t have a lot to do here, and I like Marcie Leeds, who plays his little sister Sarah, a lot. (Marcie is a way better child actor than Joshua John Miller as Homer, by the way).

Hands down, NEAR DARK has the better cast.  Even if THE LOST BOYS had even more good actors, it would lose. Because Corey Feldman’s performance is made of anti-matter and negates everything it touches.

MA: I wish you’d tell us what you really think about him.

LS: Sorry, I know I held back a little.

MA: Paul, what about you?

PM:  This is a tough call.

THE LOST BOYS had more name recognition with lots of popular Teen Beat pinup stars, multiple Emmy nominee Edward Herrmann and Diane Wiest, coming off her first Oscar win for HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986). Even so, not a whole lot of acting showed up onscreen. Herrmann and Wiest had very little to do, and in the end Corey Haim did the most of the actual acting in the film.

LS: You call that acting?

PM:  Yeah.  He’s pretty good in his scenes.

MA:  I agree with Paul.  I liked Haim in this movie.

LS (shakes his head): You guys have gone crackers.

PM: In NEAR DARK,  the actors were less well known, with Lance, Bill and Jenette Goldstein (who played Jesse Hooker’s girl Diamondback) all coming off ALIENS the year before.

The relationship between Caleb and Mae (Adrian Pasdar and Jenny Wright) in NEAR DARK was based on exactly the same set up as the relationship between Michael and Star (Jason Patric and Jami Gertz) in THE LOST BOYS, namely, a horny man thinking: “What a babe! I’m’a get me somma dat!” In NEAR DARK, though, the relationship is far more involved because after Mae bites Caleb, beginning his turn into a vampire, she’s put in charge of getting Caleb to make his first kill and turning him completely, something he is resisting.

Caleb and Mae have a sad love affair (with blood) in NEAR DARK.

LS: I really liked that aspect of the story.

PM: And as for child vampires, Homer would have Laddie for breakfast. The NEAR DARK cast evokes a lot more emotion than the cast of THE LOST BOYS, and is more believable to boot.

My vote for the best cast goes to NEAR DARK.

MA:  I agree with Paul that Dianne Wiest and Edward Hermann are fine actors, but neither of them had much to do in THE LOST BOYS.  I actually thought Corey Haim did an excellent job as Sam, but I didn’t like the plot he was stuck in at all, involved with those silly juvenile vampire hunters.

But I was most impressed with Kiefer Sutherland as the vampire David.  To me, he’s the best part of THE LOST BOYS.  I wish he had been the main vampire in the movie, and the story had been built around him.  Oh well.

LS: Sutherland is pretty much the main vampire in this movie, and it kinda was built around him, so I don’t know what you’re whining about. Their “big boss” is a secret until the end and certainly the movie isn’t built around him.

MA: If Sutherland were truly the main vampire he’d still be around at the film’s conclusion!

LS: That’s such a minor point. I’m judging the whole movie, not the last two minutes. Why are you so hung up on who ultimately is the “main vampire.” As far as screen time, and the impression he makes on you, Sutherland is the main vampire.

MA: I’m just saying he’s my favorite character in the movie, and for my tastes, he’s not in it enough, nor is the story built around him as much as I wish it were.  You obviously disagree.

In NEAR DARK, Adrian Pasdar is okay as Caleb Colton, but he certainly didn’t wow me.  But Jenny Wright as the vampire Mae, now she’s a different story!  Her quirky beauty in NEAR DARK makes her one hot vampire.  Sizzle!

I also really enjoyed Lance Henriksen as lead vampire Jesse Hooker.  To me, he’s the presence that is so sorely lacking in THE LOST BOYS.  Had Sutherland been in LOST BOYS more, then I think he would have given the movie that presence, but as it stands, he’s not as powerful a character as Henriken’s Jesse.  For me, Henriksen is the most memorable part of NEAR DARK.

LS: I can’t praise Henriksen enough. He is terrific in NEAR DARK. One of his best roles.

MA: Surprisingly, I didn’t like Bill Paxton all that much in this one, and this surprises me because usually I enjoy him a lot.  I think it’s because it’s the same “Bill Paxton” shtick we’ve seen before in other movies, and I don’t think it works as well when he’s a vampire. I didn’t find him as funny as a vampire, but I also had a hard time taking him seriously as a psycho vampire.

LS: I thought Paxton was annoying at times, but I think that was on purpose. Overall, I loved his performance in NEAR DARK. The guy is a force of nature, and he deserves more roles like this.

MA: Well, I found his portrayal of a vampire too annoying!

But I did enjoy veteran actor Tim Thomerson as Caleb’s devoted dad, Loy, who spends the bulk of the movie trying to save his son from the vampires.

LS: Thomerson is great.

MA: I like Sutherland and Haim in THE LOST BOYS, and I like Henriksen, Wright, and Thomerson in NEAR DARK.  Advantage:  NEAR DARK.

What did you think, Mark?

MO:  I love Dianne Wiest in THE LOST BOYS, and Edward Hermann is good as the bumbling, good-natured head vampire.

(MA& LS groan).

MO: But come on – NEAR DARK has Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton and Jenette Goldstein, all from ALIENS (1986), and Jack Deth himself, Tim Thomerson!

Gotta go with NEAR DARK on cast.

MA:  Round 2 goes to NEAR DARK as well.  After two rounds, it’s:

NEAR DARK – 2, THE LOST BOYS – 0.

Edward Hermann has a spooky secret in THE LOST BOYS.

On to Round 3.

Question 3: Which film has the more effective screenplay? 

Paul, let’s start with you.

PM:  I’m not a fan of horror movies that pretend to be comedies. What little threat there is in THE LOST BOYS comes from Michael allowing himself to get pulled steadily into David’s group so that he can be with Star. This tension is offset by Michael’s brother Sam getting pulled into the comic zaniness of the vampire hunting Frog Brothers. The first time I watched them enter the sunken hotel, I expected them to chicken out and run away screaming. That said, the screenplay balances those elements at least as well as a good YA novel would. It keeps the suspense all the way through to the end of the film, with the only real let down being that it ended on a punch line. A punch line, for chrissakes!

MA:  You found suspense in THE LOST BOYS?  Seriously?  I thought THE LOST BOYS completely dropped the ball on anything remotely related to horror.

LS: If it focused on Patric and Sutherland and Gertz as a love triangle, it would have worked.

PM:   NEAR DARK is solid, brooding and downright scary in parts, not to mention a whole lot bloodier than THE LOST BOYS. While Michael brazenly ignores that Star is hanging out with some very shady characters, NEAR DARK’S Caleb has been bitten and is forced to remain among her band of rowdies to stay alive. The stakes for him are higher (take the pun as you will).

However, the ending of NEAR DARK didn’t pop like it should’ve, it just kind of fizzed out. The vampires just seem to give up, a huge disappointment which seemed out of character. While that might have been done to keep the running time down, it looked like Kathryn Bigelow and Eric Red just plain ran out of ideas.

I give a slight edge to THE LOST BOYS in terms of screenplay.

MA:  I completely disagree.

I give the screenplay edge to NEAR DARK, hands down.

The screenplay to NEAR DARK by Kathryn Bigelow and Eric Red is a gritty realistic tale that remembers something important, something that THE LOST BOYS forgot:  it’s a horror movie, stupid!  It also remembers to be scary!

THE LOST BOYS screenplay by Janice Fisher, James Jeremias, and Jeffrey Boam ruins any chance of it being taken seriously by throwing in a silly vampire hunter plot that belongs in a kids’ movie, or at least a PG movie.  What’s it doing in an R rated movie? It just doesn’t fit in at all!

And the attempts at humor in THE LOST BOYS all misfire.  The humor is nowhere near as sharp or as biting—heh heh—as the humor in its 1980s contemporary, FRIGHT NIGHT (1985).

LS: Hell, FRIGHT NIGHT is a better vampire movie than THE LOST BOYS.

MA: But the worst part of THE LOST BOYS story is that the vampires are not treated seriously.  It’s a very superficial screenplay.  It comes off as “let’s write a story about vampires without really caring if anyone believes it or not.  After all, who believes in vampires?”  Sorry, but this is the wrong approach.

This surprised me, because screenwriter Jeffrey Boam, who passed away in 2000, has a lot of screenplay credits, and I like a bunch of movies he wrote:  THE DEAD ZONE (1983), INNERSPACE (1987), FUNNY FARM (1988) and INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989).  Oh well.  You can’t strike gold all the time.

LS:  Well, I agree about THE DEAD ZONE, but none of those other credits wow me.

Look, I’ve said it before. THE LOST BOYS had potential. If it stuck to the serious aspects of the story, it could have been a classic of its time. But the silly antics of the kids just overshadows everything and ruins the tone, and anything good about the script, and worst of all, those scenes aren’t even funny, so they sacrificed the good stuff for nothing! Watching it again this week, I noticed how good it could have been, and it kind of saddened me. . It was a lost opportunity. With a better script, a different director, and some changes in the cast, it could have been terrific. But as it is, it’s a bad movie.

Sam and the Frog Brothers. Three stooges who should have been left on the cutting room floor in THE LOST BOYS.

The screenplay for NEAR DARK is far superior. Sure, it’s dated now in some ways, and it certainly has flaws in logic, but overall, its’ a solid story that holds up very well over 20 years later. Kathryn Bigelow proved this was no fluke. She went on to make more great movies like STRANGE DAYS (1995) and she won the Oscar for THE HURT LOCKER (2008). And Eric Red is another talented writer. He also gave us THE HITCHER (1986, and 2007) and BODY PARTS (1991).

You can’t compare the quality of the scripts. NEAR DARK wins hands down.

MO:  I think the bleak, desolate vision of Kathryn Bigelow and Eric Red’s NEAR DARK holds up better than the jokey, bright and candy-colored screenplay of THE LOST BOYS, even though I liked some of the latter’s riffs on Peter Pan, including a pirate’s cave and seeking “mother” for those lost boys…

LS: Yeah, and the title of course. The Peter Pan riffs were one of the best things about THE LOST BOYS. And yet another aspect squandered by an otherwise putrid script.

MO: But I found NEAR DARK more intense and less hopeful, because of the lack of one-liners and kooky characters, and that made the triumph of our protagonists all the sweeter, because the film could have gone either way, as opposed to THE LOST BOYS where you just know they’re not going to kill off the two Coreys.

LS: Oh, I wish they had.

MO: So, I’m going with NEAR DARK, too.

LS; The only logical choice, I’d say.

MA: Okay, then.  Round 3 goes to NEAR DARK, despite Paul’s misguided vote for THE LOST BOYS.

Which brings the tally up to NEAR DARK – 3, THE LOST BOYS – 0.

And that’s all the time we have for tonight.  Join us next Friday for the third and final segment of this debate to see if THE LOST BOYS will ever score a point, or if NEAR DARK will march on towards a decisive win.

Thanks for joining us, everybody.  See you next Friday!

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Mark Onspaugh and Paul McMahon

One more part to go. Don’t go too far. Squeak, squeak.

Friday Night Knife Fights: NEAR DARK VS. LOST BOYS – PART 1

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2012, Evil Kids!, Friday Night Knife Fights, Gangs, The Cinema of Joel Schumacher, Vampire Movies, Vampires, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , , , on July 16, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS
(SPECIAL MONDAY EDITION!)
NEAR DARK vs. THE LOST BOYS (Both – 1987)
PART 1 OF 3
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Paul McMahon, and Mark Onspaugh

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome to a special weekend edition of FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS.

L.L. SOARES:  With nothing exciting opening at the movies this weekend, we decided to skip our traditional Monday Cinema Knife Fight column and instead kick off the week with a FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS piece.

MA:  This will run in multiple parts, with the subsequent parts appearing on Friday nights, the usual night for FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS.  Part 2 will be posted this Friday.

LS: But this first part appears on a Monday. Is that confusing enough for you?

MA: Tonight it’s the battle of the 1980s vampire movies, or I should say the 1987 vampire movies since these flicks were released the same year, NEAR DARK vs. THE LOST BOYS.  Joining us tonight in our quest to see which film tops the other, are CKF staff writers Paul McMahon and Mark Onspaugh.  Thanks guys for joining us.

PAUL MCMAHON:  Happy to be here.  It’ll be nice to participate in a column where I won’t be distracted for a change.

(LS starts juggling hand grenades)

MARK ONSPAUGH:  What was that about your not being distracted?  Good luck with that!  I’m happy to be here as well, as always.

MA:  All right, then let’s get started.  Tonight’s bout has five questions, or rounds, in Friday Night Knife Fight lingo.  Whichever film wins the most rounds wins the bout, and if the final question is unanimous, then that’ll be scored as a knock-out and that film will win the bout regardless of how it scored during the previous rounds.

PM: That doesn’t sound fair.

MA: It makes it like a boxing match.

LS:  We’re Cinema Knife Fighters!  We’re not fair!

MA:  No, but we are honest.

LS:  Shut up, you!

MO:  Going at it, already?

LS:  Not soon enough for me!

MA:  Okay, let’s move forward with our first question.  Since these two movies are about vampires, that’s where we’ll begin.

Question #1:  Do you prefer the vampires in NEAR DARK or THE LOST BOYS?

Mark, since you’re a veteran of these columns, let’s start with you.

MO:  Okie-dokie.

This is a tricky one.  THE LOST BOYS has some very cool makeup effects, while NEAR DARK has almost none.  It has some blood, some burning and some wounds, but that’s it.

MA:  I like the make-up effects on the vampires in THE LOST BOYS too, especially on Kiefer Sutherland.

LS:  I think NEAR DARK works without effects. But the ones in THE LOST BOYS are pretty good for the time. Both movies seem pretty dated now.

MO:  But the NEAR DARK vamps are more than just punk kids, or calculating adults—.

MA:  By calculating adult, are you referring to the Edward Hermmann character, Max?

MO:  Yeah, that guy.

MA:  He’s pretty lame.

LS:  But he went on to become the grandfather on THE GILMORE GIRLS!

The bad-ass vampires from NEAR DARK.

MO:  I was about to say that the vampires in NEAR DARK—there is a twisted cruelty to them that, to me, runs deeper than the juvenile delinquent vamps in THE LOST BOYS.

LS:  Now you’re talkin!

MO:  In a perfect world, my preference would be vamps like NEAR DARK with makeup effects (including those taloned bat-feet!) from THE LOST BOYS, but I get that NEAR DARK director Kathryn Bigelow wanted to say anyone could be a vampire, that they wouldn’t fly around or show big fangs.  So much is attitude with a vampire—I’m going to go with the bad-ass and bleak vamps of NEAR DARK.

LS:  I don’t think there’s even a smidgen of doubt about that one.

(MO tosses grenade over his shoulder, and there is a big explosion off-camera)

MA: FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS is always explosive!

MO: Getting back to Cannom, he also worked on VAN HELSING (2004), THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (2006), and ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012).

LS: So you’re telling us that he’s a really talented guy, but  his choice of movies to work on can be pretty awful?

MO: I’m saying his makeup effects are really cool.

MA: Hey, I liked ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER, both the movie and its effects!

(LS laughs)

MA (to LS): Since you’re pretty much already made your opinion known, LL, why don’t you go next?

LS:  Well, y’know, I sat down last week and watched both of these movies again. I hadn’t seen either of them in a while. The last time I saw NEAR DARK was like five years ago, and I haven’t seen THE LOST BOYS since the 80s.  So it was interesting to go back and look at these movies with fresh eyes.

The thing about THE LOST BOYS is that it wasn’t as freakin’ godawful as I’d remembered. Sure, I’ve got some major problems with it that I’ll discuss later, but the basic vampire storyline, Jason Patric and the vampires trying to recruit him, really isn’t so bad. The vampires are kind of cool-looking, especially Keifer Sutherland with his black duster (which he made cool LONG before THE MATRIX), when they’re in vampire mode. But when they’re not, they look like a really lame hair band. There are two guys in the group who look almost identical and I couldn’t really distinguish them. And then there’s Alex Winter, from BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE as Marko, a younger vampire. And Jamie Gertz is hot and I practically liked any scene was she was in. So despite the hair metal look, these vampires weren’t completely horrible.

THE LOST BOYS – Vampire Gang or Hair Band?

But the ones in NEAR DARK are just so much more believable. Sure, they’re supernatural creatures, too, but they’re more gritty, less flashy (except for Bill Paxton) and I just thought they were superior in every way. I gotta go with Mark on this one, attitude counts for a LOT, and the NEAR DARK vamps are bad asses compared to the more wimpy LOST BOYS. THE LOST BOYS might have more flash, and the big-ass fangs, but they just seem childish in comparison.

I also thought it was interesting how you became a vampire in each movie. In THE LOST BOYS you have to drink the blood of a vampire—as Michael does when he thinks that the bottle of David’s blood is wine. It’s an interesting scene when the wine is introduced, after David shows Michael how he can make him see things that aren’t real. So it’s an elaborate process that takes time. Michael has to drink from that bottle several times, but it affects him right away. He starts avoiding sunlight and wearing sunglasses inside.

In NEAR DARK, when Mae just bites Caleb, the transformation begins, which is kind of scary, how easily it happens. No tricks, no big elaborate plan. Just a little nibble, and Caleb is a goner.

However, it is interesting how, in both movies, you have to make your first “kill” to complete the process for real. And neither movie’s hero wants to take that step. That’s a big similarity in both movies.

And Jenny Wright is so much more interesting as Mae than Jamie Gertz is as Star. Gertz is very pretty, but also very “Hollywood.” In comparison, there’s something odd about Wright. She always seems to be holding back, always seems to be afraid to really emote about anything, and it works in her favor. She’s also pretty, but in a more unconventional way. And where Star is the bait to lure men in, Mae is more her own person.

MA: Paul, how about you?  What are your thoughts on the vampires?

PM:  I’m with L.L.  NEAR DARK all the way.

There’s an evil about Jesse and his group that surpasses anything in THE LOST BOYS.

LS: THE LOST BOYS are still on training wheels!

PM: In THE LOST BOYS,  Kiefer’s David had a glam band that followed his every command and offered no challenge at all to his leadership. (Max wasn’t any kind of leader to those boys, no matter what he says at the end of the film.)

MA:  Max couldn’t lead a marching band, let alone a band of vampires!

LS: Aww, he’s not so bad. I’ve always liked Edward Hermann.

PM:  Lance Henriksen’s Jesse Hooker was more menacing by far. Jesse’s crew had intense personalities that made them independent characters. Bill Paxton’s Severen was the most evil character in either film, and Joshua Miller stole his scenes as Homer– quite the feat for a child actor.

The great Lance Henriksen as Jesse Hooker, leader of the vampire gang in NEAR DARK.

MA:  I dunno.  I couldn’t really get into Miller.

LS:  I didn’t care for Homer that much either. I just never grew to like him; he was an annoying brat, which I guess was the point. His constantly trying to turn Caleb’s sister, Sarah, into one of them was the one interesting thing he does in the movie. But she always out-smarted the little runt, and even though he had super strength, she always managed to get away.

Vampire kid Homer from NEAR DARK – you little brat!

But don’t forget, THE LOST BOYS has its equivalent, too, with Laddie. Another little kid vampire. Laddie isn’t half as memorable as Homer, and I think he’s just there to make Gertz look maternal, and thus softer than the rest of the vampires. More sympathetic, because she’s always protecting the littlest vampire.

PM:  The vampires in NEAR DARK kill every night, and during the bar scene they play a torturous game of cat and mouse with the patrons, enjoying the hell out of the fear they generate.

MA:  I think that’s the movie’s best scene.

PM:  Homer’s dance through the burning carnage is creepy as hell.

LS: The only time I thought Homer was creepy or clever at all was the scene where he pretends to have had an accident with his bicycle, and some guy stops to see if he’s hurt, and he bites him. But that dance was lame, like most of Homer’s scenes. What a little jerk!

PM:  I thought the dance was creepy.

LS:  Hell, if you want to compare little kid vampires, Kirsten Dunst as Claudia in INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE (1994), makes both Homer and Laddie look pretty insignificant.

PM: In THE LOST BOYS, David’s group only kills in one scene and it’s over pretty quickly for an R-rated film.

LS:  THE LOST BOYS was R rated?  I thought it was rated G! I bet it wouldn’t earn its rating if I asked my special R-rated computer.

Seriously, that one scene is pretty gory for the time, I guess. But yeah, it’s over very quickly.

PM:  Michael doesn’t even get bitten to become a vampire, he is tricked into sipping David’s blood from a wine goblet.

LS:  Lame! And what’s with that dumb name —“Michael?”

MA:  Ha, ha!  Here, have a grenade!  (MA pulls pin on grenade and tosses it to LS):

LS:  Gee, thanks!  And it’s not even my birthday!  (Tosses grenade at camera).  3D effects, Cinema Knife Fight style!  (There’s an explosion off camera followed by some groans and screams.  Rubber hands and feet fly out from behind the camera towards the panelists, who all duck.)

MO (laughing):  This is the best 3D ever!

PM:  The scene when Mae bites Caleb in NEAR DARK is charged with enough sexual tension to leave the viewer cold.

My vote goes to NEAR DARK.  No contest.

MA:  I’m not a fan of the vampires in either movie, really, but I think this is one area where THE LOST BOYS may have NEAR DARK beat.

LS:  Oh no, Michael wimps out, as usual.

MA:  Hear me out.  The few times we see the vampires (at least when they look like vampires, since they “transform” when they hunt/feed/kill) in THE LOST BOYS, I like the way they look, especially the makeup on Kiefer Sutherland.  I agree with what Mark said.  I think the make-up effects in THE LOST BOYS are pretty cool.

Keifer Sutherland as David, leader of THE LOST BOYS.

LS: But vampires are more than just effects.

MA: Agreed. But, in terms of how they look, I prefer the vampires in THE LOST BOYS.  But in terms of how they act, and how I feel about them in general, I prefer the vampires in NEAR DARK.  They’re a more deadly, realistic bunch.

In THE LOST BOYS, the group of teen vampires led by Kiefer Sutherland do very little.  When they feed and kill, it’s overdramatic, quick, and not scary.  And the head vampire Max (Edward  Herrmann) is a joke.  So, in terms of how they act, I hate the vampires in THE LOST BOYS, with the exception of Kiefer Sutherland.  He gives the best performance in the movie, and I have to admit, I like him better than any of the vampires in NEAR DARK.  This, combined with the cool makeup, gives THE LOST BOYS the edge, albeit a very thin one.

However, I’m in the minority, as the three of you chose the vampires in NEAR DARK, and so Round 1 goes to NEAR DARK.

LS: Hurray!

MA: And that’s all the time we have for now.  Join us again this Friday night for Part 2 of FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS:  NEAR DARK (1987) vs. THE LOST BOYS (1987).

Good night everybody!

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Mark Onspaugh and Paul McMahon

More to come! Squeak, squeak

Quick Cuts Presents: Reenacting Tim Burton’s Pitch Meeting for DARK SHADOWS!

Posted in 2012, Based on TV Show, Quick Cuts, Vampire Movies with tags , , , , , on May 13, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  QUICK CUTS
DARK SHADOWS
With Michael Arruda, Jenny Orosel, and Craig Shaw Gardner

 

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Hey, DARK SHADOWS opens this weekend, which begs the question, DARK SHADOWS as a comedy?  What were you thinking, Tim Burton???

And that’s exactly what tonight’s QUICK CUTS is all about.  We get to be Tim Burton at his pitch meeting.

Our panel tonight fills in the blank:  Turning DARK SHADOWS into a comedy is a good idea because __________________________.

****

JENNY OROSEL:  I’m not sure what the entire conversation was like, but I’m sure it included the phrase, “Puff, puff, pass, man. Puff, puff, pass.”

CRAIG SHAW GARDNER: DARK SHADOWS  always had a certain “nudge nudge wink wink” aspect to it. It was very melodramatic, they flubbed lines, and the sets were cardboard.

But the real answer comes from the night-time reboot, when, every time Barnabas Collins needed to succumb to his inner vampire, he would cry:  I CAN’T HELP MYSELF!

I think that says it all.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Here’s my list of the Top 10 Reasons turning DARK SHADOWS into a comedy is a good idea:

10. Barnabas Collins has always reminded me of Jack Sparrow.

9. The Collins clan is such a fun-loving family.

8. After the TWILIGHT series, vampire fans need a good laugh.

7. Barnabas Collins has always reminded me of Willy Wonka.

6. Otherwise Tim Burton will turn it into an animated film on a double bill with FRANKENWEENIE.

5. Barnabas Collins has always reminded me of the Mad Hatter.

4. With THE AVENGERS playing, no one’s going to see it anyway.

3. Johnny Depp’s interpretation of Barnabas Collins will be creepier this way.

2. It worked for ED WOOD; heck Martin Landau even won an Oscar!

And the #1 reason turning DARK SHADOWS into a comedy is a good idea:   it’s better than turning it into a musical!

Good night, everybody!

—END—

VAMPIRE CIRCUS (1972)

Posted in 2011, 70s Horror, British Horror, Cinema Knife Fights, Hammer Films, Vampire Movies with tags , , , , , , , on December 5, 2011 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: CLASSIC EDITION
VAMPIRE CIRCUS (1972)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: A crypt located beneath an old castle. L.L. SOARES lies stretched out on a slab, as MICHAEL ARRUDA stands above him, raising a wooden stake and preparing to plunge it into LS’s heart)

LS: Wait, wait. What are you doing? I was only sleeping!

MA: How do I know you’re only sleeping? How do I know you haven’t been turned into— a vampire!

LS: How about handing me that bag of circus peanuts over there?

MA: Sure. (Hands LS bag of circus peanuts).

LS: I’ve been sleeping so long I’ve built up an appetite. (opens bag and starts eating). Vampires, as you know, don’t eat food.

MA: Good point. Lucky for you, too. I was about to drive a stake through your heart.

LS: I know we disagree a lot, but that’s not reason to get violent!

MA: Sorry. All this vampire circus stuff has made me nervous. Speaking of which, how about we review this week’s movie?

LS: Okay, Since nothing of interest came out in the theaters this week, we ended up reviewing a “classic” of sorts – a vampire film from the legendary Hammer Studios called VAMPIRE CIRCUS (1972). By the time this one came out, Hammer had already put out most of its best films, from CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) and THE HORROR OF DRACULA (1958) to THE SCARS OF DRACULA (1970) to TWINS OF EVIL (1971).

Since this was later on in Hammer’s history, there’s more blood and nudity by this time. But, sadly, no big stars. Perhaps the biggest star in VAMPIRE CIRCUS is David Prowse, who plays the mute circus strongman. You might know him better as Darth Vader in the first three STAR WARS films. He was the man behind the black mask (with voice provided by James Earl Jones).

MA: He also played the Frankenstein monster in two Hammer Frankenstein movies, THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN (1970), the only Hammer Frankenstein movie NOT to star Peter Cushing, and FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (1974), the final film in the Hammer FRANKENSTEIN series.

LS: And he was the muscleman who carried Patrick Magee around in the last half of Stanley Kubrick’s classic A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971), my favorite Kubrick film. And, it just so happens, Adrienne Corri, who plays Magee’s wife in that movie, Mrs. Alexander (who is raped early on to the tune of “Singing in the Rain”), also played the gypsy woman in VAMPIRE CIRCUS! It’s a small world.

MA: And while you’re right to say there weren’t any big stars in this one, there were two familiar faces for Hammer Films aficionados. Hammer favorite Thorley Walters played the Burgermeister.

LS: The Burgermeister Meisterburger?

MA: No, not him. Anyway, Walters was in lots of Hammer Films, including DRACULA-PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966), in which he played a Renfield-type character named Ludwig, and FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (1967) where he played Baron Frankenstein’s faithful, but absent-minded assistant, Doctor Hertz.

Also, Anthony Corlan (now known as Anthony Higgins) played the vampire Emil, and he played the young hero in TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (1970). Corlan’s actually very good in both movies, and I thought his vampire in VAMPIRE CIRCUS was one of the better parts of the movie.

So what did you think of VAMPIRE CIRCUS? Did it stand the test of time?

LS: I’d seen it as a kid, but I barely remembered any of it. The only scene that still stood out for me was one where a naked woman covered in stripes, like a tiger, fights a man in front of an audience (who happens to be Emil, the panther man).

MA: Yep. That’s the scene I remember, too.

LS: One thing I did notice about VAMPIRE CIRCUS though, is how weird it is. There’s a lot that makes absolutely no sense.

MA: Like what?

LS: Well, let’s start at the beginning. The movie starts out well enough.

MA: The movie starts out great! I think the pre-credit sequences might be the best part of the entire movie.

LS: A young girl is playing when she is approached by Anna Mueller (Domini Blythe) who leads the girl back to the castle of Count Mitterhaus (Robert Tayman), a vampire. It seems Anna does this pretty often and while she is not a vampire herself, she is the count’s lover (which leads to some nice nude scenes), and thus wants to provide him with nourishment. Anna’s husband, Albert (Laurence Payne), a school teacher, leads an uprising of villagers who break into the castle and stake the vampire. The villagers also punish Anna by whipping her with belts, but she gets away.

When the count is staked, he swears that the children of his attackers will die to bring him back to life.

MA: Now, all of this happens before we even see the title VAMPIRE CIRCUS. Like I said, it’s a pretty strong opening!

LS: Fifteen years later, the town is stricken with a plague that is slowly killing off its citizens. People from nearby villages establish road blocks to keep anyone from getting in and or out, and a doctor, Dr. Kersh (Richard Owens), risks his life to get out and seek medical supplies in the big city.

Some people believe the plague is the result of Count Mitterhau’s curse, although the more intelligent citizens deny any connection. It is about this time that a circus comes to town, The Circus of Nights, featuring a gypsy woman (Adrienne Corri), a dwarf in clown make-up, a strong man (David Prowse), dancers (Milovan and Serena Weber), and brother and sister twins who do an aerial act where they appear to turn into bats, named Helga (Lalla Ward) and Heinrich (Robin Sachs), and some exotic animals, including a tiger, a panther, and a chimpanzee.

It appears that the big cats are shape shifters of some kind and can turn into humans. The panther becomes Emil (Anthony Corlan), who seduces the local Burgermeister’s daughter. Emil, aside from sometimes being a panther, is also a vampire and the cousin of Count Mitterhaus, come back to resurrect his relative and exact revenge on the villagers who staked him.

Up until here, the movie appears to make sense, but as it goes on it just gets weirder and weirder.

For example, are the tiger and the panther shapeshifters or vampires? Emil certainly appears to be some kind of were-panther. The tiger just has one scene as that naked, striped girl (who is quite alluring), who does an erotic dance/battle with Emil as part of the show, and then is never seen again.

The new edition of VAMPIRE CIRCUS by Synapse Films offers the movie in both DVD and Blu-Ray format.

The gypsy woman, the dwarf and the strongman appear to be human (there’s even a moment where it is suggested that the gypsy woman is Albert’s former wife, Anna), and yet they help the vampires exact their revenge. And what about the Mirror of Life – a strange funhouse mirror that allows the vampires to lure in victims (they seem to emerge on the other side in the crypt where Count Mitterhaus lies staked and awaiting his resuscitation.

Albert Mueller’s daughter Dora (Lynne Frederick) returns home from the city (just barely avoiding getting killed by road block gunmen on her way through the woods), and she seems to be a big part of the Count’s revenge.

Then there is the scene where the villagers realize the circus is dangerous and plan to destroy it, yet right after that a full audience is watching the circus acts. Wouldn’t they have been warned to stay away?

MA: Yup, you’d think so. I felt the same way, and I think it’s because the script by Judson Kinberg isn’t very sharp at all. It’s as if the filmmakers came up with the concept— a circus full of vampires— and a central premise— they’ll be in a village to seek revenge upon the villagers for killing one of their own years before— but didn’t have a clue when it came to filling in the blanks. As you’ve pointed out, there are loose ends all over the place.

I read once that this one suffered from cuts which made it confusing when initially released, but I thought that the DVD/streaming versions available now were supposed to be the uncut versions. I think it’s just a bad script.

LS: Emil clearly transforms into a panther several times (and tears his victims apart), even though by the end it is clear that he is a vampire. So which is he? A vampire or a shape-shifter?

MA: This movie doesn’t differentiate between the two. In VAMPIRE CIRCUS, vampires can turn into other animals— not just bats.  Which is kind of a neat when you think about it.

LS: Yeah, the more I think about it, the more I agree that it’s an interesting take on vampires. Also Emil and the twins are constantly dripping blood from their victims onto the body of the Count, which is supposed to revive him, but it seems to take forever.

MA: It’s also extremely fake-looking. The drops of blood look like cartoons.

LS: As the movie continues, less and less of it makes sense. And why didn’t they just pull the stake out of the Count instead of letting it stay there?

MA: I thought the same thing. If they have access to the Count’s body, why not just pull the stake out? It would have saved them a lot of trouble.

LS: And the way characters suddenly find crosses (or cross-shaped objects) at the last minute to ward off a vampire in any given scene gets kind of ludicrous after a while.

MA: Only Peter Cushing can get away with doing this. (laughs).

LS: The cast includes some Hammer regulars, like you said, and a couple of ladies who were more famous in England for who they married. The very pretty Lynne Frederick who plays Dora Mueller later gave up acting to marry Peter Sellers when he was much older, and after that, David Frost. Lalla Ward who plays the vampire “twin” Helga was also the second Romana on DR. WHO where she met Tom Baker (who was The Doctor at the time) and they were married for a brief time. She later married famous biologist (and controversial author) Richard Dawkins!

I didn’t think this was one of Hammer’s better films, but it is interesting at least.

What did you think of it, Michael?

MA: Yeah, I’m with you. Not one of Hammer’s best, but certainly interesting.

I absolutely love the opening to this movie and thought it was the best part of the entire film. It’s a really cool way to open the film. Sadly, the rest of the movie isn’t as good.

The dance sequence with the striped woman is certainly memorable, but that’s about it.

There’s plenty of blood and gore on hand, but it’s dated blood and gore. The blood looks like bright red paint and none of the gore sequences look all that convincing. The film’s heart is in the right place, but its effects are simply dated.

I did enjoy Anthony Corlan as the vampire Emil a lot. I thought he made for a very effective vampire. I also liked the way the movie looked. Hammer Films always looked like they were made on a huge budget, which they weren’t, but they never look cheap. VAMPIRE CIRCUS is no exception.

However, there were lots of things I didn’t like about this movie. I’ll start with the direction by Robert Young. I thought this film was dreadfully slow-paced, and during many of the action sequences, the players seemed to be moving in slow motion.

There really weren’t any scary scenes in this one either, and in many of the scenes that were supposed to be scary, the camera would settle on a reaction shot for far too long, which tells me a more graphic shot was cut out and replaced with a reaction shot.

Most of the actors in VAMPIRE CIRCUS overact here, which surprised me, because Hammer Films usually contain strong acting. Not so here, as I thought the acting was a definite weak link in this movie. I liked Corlan as Emil, and that’s about it. Even veteran Thorely Walters hams it up painfully as the Burgermeister.

VAMPIRE CIRCUS could have certainly used the talents of Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, director Terence Fisher, and screenwriter Jimmy Sangster. It was not Hammer’s “A” Team working on this one.

And while the circus angle is different, the main story here, of the village preyed upon by a vampire, is nothing new. VAMPIRE CIRCUS suffered from having too many traditional elements— frightened villagers, vampires in castles, buxom maidens.

LS: What’s wrong with buxom maidens?

MA: Nothing. I just threw that in there to see if you were paying attention.

Also of note, VAMPIRE CIRCUS is rated PG, yet it contains nudity, bloodshed, and— while its dated-looking—considerable gore. It contains more horrific elements than many of today’s PG-13 movies. How times have changed!

LS: I didn’t know it was PG here. You’re right, that’s wild, since there’s lots of nudity. But I think in England it was rated X, as were most of the Hammer films, to keep anyone under 18 out of the theaters. What a weird contrast!

MA:  Yup.  It was rated PG upon its initial American release, and it’s still listed as PG today.

LS:  By the way, there are also some cool extras on the Synapse Films version of the DVD/Blu-Ray, including a “Making Of Vampire Circus” short, the theatrical trailer (of course), and a reminiscence of the magazine HOUSE OF HAMMER, featuring lots of screen time by horror author and horror film historian, Phillip Nutman—a friend of our site here.

MA: Cool.  So, all in all, I found VAMPIRE CIRCUS mildly amusing. It’s not as good as I remember it, but it’s not bad and deserves credit for trying to put a new spin on the vampire legend—a circus full of vampires—even though it doesn’t quite succeed at what it sets out to do.

I give VAMPIRE CIRCUS, two knives.

LS: I wasn’t sure if we’d be giving ratings to this one, since it’s an oldie, but since you rated it, I’ll I give VAMPIRE CIRCUS, two and a half knives. I think we’re in agreement in how we felt about this one, but I think I enjoyed it a little bit more than you did.

Like I said, I was a little disappointed with this one, especially with the second half which is a bit out of whack, but overall I enjoyed it. It was nice to watch a Hammer film again—I haven’t watched one in a while, and they did put out a quality product— even when it’s flawed, like this one.

I wish there was more of the tiger girl, though! She was hot! And I wonder why the chimpanzee didn’t transform into a human if the other animals did! Poor chimp! And I’m still not sure what that “Mirror of Life” thing was all about— but I guess it adds a surreal element to it all.

The Tiger Lady from VAMPIRE CIRCUS - one of the film's most memorable characters, despite only appearing in one scene.

MA: Well, that wraps things up here. Let’s get out of this crypt and get some real food.

LS: Sounds good to me. I could go for a nice juicy steak.

MA: Speaking of which, (lifts hammer and stake) I hate to waste a perfectly good pair of vampire hunting weapons. Hmm, I wonder what would happen if I could track down a certain pair of vampire teens, and if a certain wooden stake found its way into a certain pair of hearts—.

LS: I’m certain we’d still have to review the last TWILIGHT movie.

MA: Damn! I’d rather join the circus!

—END—

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

Michael Arruda gives VAMPIRE CIRCUS ~ two knives!

LL Soares gives VAMPIRE CIRCUS~two and a half knives.

CKF COMING ATTRACTIONS FOR DECEMBER 2011

Posted in 2011, Aliens, Coming Attractions, Mystery, Period Pieces, Psycho killer, Remakes, Sherlock Holmes, Spy Films, Vampire Movies with tags , , , , , , on December 2, 2011 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT – COMING ATTRACTIONS
DECEMBER 2011
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(The Scene: The Circus. MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES walk by cages of lions, tigers, gorillas, and other wild animals.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA: So here we are— attending your family reunion.

L.L. SOARES: Very funny. Nah. It’s feeding time, and I’ve signed on to feed the animals.

MA: Really? What are you feeding them?

LS (takes out salt and pepper shakers and shakes them over MA’s head): You.

MA: Ha ha. Good one!

LS: I’m dead serious.

MA: Well, lucky for me, we’re not at a normal circus. This here is a vampire circus! (Caged animals suddenly sprout fangs and start sipping blood from liquid dispensers mounted on the sides of their cages.)

LS: Who knew!

MA: And we’re here at this bloodsucker’s circus because the first weekend of December, there isn’t anything of note opening at the theaters, so we’ll be treating our readers to a DVD review, of the weird Hammer Films movie, VAMPIRE CIRCUS (1972).

VAMPIRE CIRCUS is one of the stranger Hammer vampire movies, made at a time when it seemed Hammer was releasing multiple vampire movies each year. It’s also one of Hammer’s more erotic vampire films, if I remember correctly. I’ll be looking forward to taking another look at it.

There’s not a lot of star power involved with this one. No Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee on hand, but the director, Robert Young, is still actively making movies today.

LS: I remember seeing stills of this one as a kid in old issues of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine, and really wanting to see it. I eventually did, but it’s been awhile. And Synapse Films put out a very nice Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack a year or so ago. This will be a good one to revisit, for old time’s sakes.

MA: Yes, VAMPIRE CIRCUS is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray—as well as streaming video—so there are plenty of opportunities to catch this one.

LS: On December 9, we’ll be back at the theater, as we’ll be reviewing TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY (2011). Ahh, a British espionage thriller, with the talented Gary Oldman as George Smiley. I’m not a big fan of spy movies, but this one sounds interesting.

MA: Yeah, this one looks like a neat Cold War spy thriller, and I’m really looking forward to it, even though I have to admit, I don’t like the title at all. Sounds like a bad nursery rhyme.

LS: You don’t like the title? It’s based on the classic novel by John le Carre!

MA: Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy, stuck his thumb inside a pie.  Awful.

But I almost always enjoy Gary Oldman. Plus the stellar cast also includes John Hurt, Colin Firth (THE KING’S SPEECH, 2010), Toby Jones, and Mark Strong (KICK-ASS, 2010). With a cast like this, I’m expecting a lot.

It’s directed by Tomas Alfredson, who directed LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008), with a screenplay by Peter Straughan and Bridget O’Connor, based on the le Carre novel of the same name.

All in all, I have some high expectations for this one.

On the other hand, on December 16, I’ll be reviewing the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes sequel, SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (2011). While I really enjoyed SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009) and bought into the Downey Jr. interpretation of an action- oriented Holmes, I can’t say that I have high hopes for the sequel.

LS: Me neither, which is why I’m not reviewing this one. You’re on your own buddy!

MA: Gee, thanks.

LS: Actually, I didn’t see the first one so I’m not all that interested in this one. Although it was cool to see in the trailer that Noomi Rapace will have a major role in it. Noomi played Lisbeth Salander in the original Swedish film version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2009).

MA: Again, I liked the first one. I thought Robert Downey Jr. made for a fun Sherlock Holmes, as he brought along his Tony Stark/Iron Man pizzazz to the role, and he shared good camaraderie with Jude Law’s Dr. Watson. The two actors generated some neat chemistry together.

But SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS is a sequel, and most sequels just don’t compare to the original. I’ve seen the trailer for this about a million times and feel I’ve seen the entire movie already, so that hasn’t helped, and since it’s a sequel, it probably means there will be more action, more subplots, and fewer things that make sense. While I’m not dreading this one, I don’t expect it to be all that good.

Guy Ritchie’s directing it, and he directed the first one, and it’s written by Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney, two newcomers who did not write the first one.

LS: On December 21, we’ll be reviewing THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2011). What a funny coincidence, since the star of the original film is in the new Sherlock Holmes movie. I have seen all three of the Swedish films based on the books by Stieg Larsson, and enjoyed them a lot, but I guess an American version of the series was inevitable. Since David Fincher is directing this one, I am very curious to see how it turns out. Fincher has given us everything from SEVEN (1995), to FIGHT CLUB (1999), to THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010). My first reaction is to say that since the Swedish films are so good, there’s no need for an American remake, but if anyone can bring something new and interesting to this movie, it’s Fincher.

MA: I’m looking forward to this one. I’ve enjoyed all the trailers I’ve seen for it, as it looks like it’s going to be a very stylish mystery thriller. I haven’t seen the Swedish version, so this one will be fresh for me.

Steven Zaillian wrote the screenplay, and he has a bunch of screenwriting credits, including the Steven Spielberg classic SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993). It also has a great cast, led by Daniel Craig, and also features Stellan Skaarsgard and Christopher Plummer.

LS: And don’t forget Rooney Mara, who will be taking over the role of Lisbeth Salander!

And just in time for Christmas, I’ll be reviewing the new horror sci-fi movie THE DARKEST HOUR (2011). This is the closest thing to a horror movie that’s coming out in December, so I’m looking forward to it. Invisible aliens attack the Earth for our energy and are able to smash humans to atoms if they get too close. How do you fight such an adversary? I guess we’ll find out.

MA: Since this one is opening at Christmas, I won’t be available to see it, and I can’t say that I’m feeling too bad about it. It looks like yet another alien invasion story. Frankly, I’m tired of this plot, as there have been a lot of these tales on the big screen the past couple of years.

So, that wraps up December. Also, as the year winds down, look for our annual BEST OF and WORST OF columns on our picks for the best and worst movies of 2011.

LS: Have a good weekend everyone, and we’ll see you soon with our review of VAMPIRE CIRCUS. Speaking of which (turns to MA). What blood type are you?

MA: Why?

LS: Just wondering. Just in case someone I know is a picky eater.

(Behind MA a giant gorilla with massive fangs sticking out of its mouth looms in the shadows).

—END—

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