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Archive for May, 2008

A sequel to a remake. Oookay, if you say so.

This is one of those odd movies that’s not bad, but it’s not good, either. It’s just there. Existing. Being. It has no value, no worth, and no substance.

Return to House on Haunted Hill is so vastly different from its predecessor that it’s not even funny. At least House on Haunted Hill had Geoffrey Rush in it, who spiced things up and made them at least a little fun, as well as a nice role for Famke Janssen who played Rush’s deviously nasty wife.

Even when House on Haunted Hill screwed up, it at least tried. At least it had a purpose. This movie is like everyone slept straight through it – the scriptwriter, the actors, the director – you name it.

The basic premise of the movie focuses around the sister of Sara (the female survivor from the first) who is kidnapped by a mercenary type fellow searching for something hidden deep within the old insane asylum that he believes Ariel (the sister) can help him find.

Enlisting the unwilling aid of a college professor and his team, once they’re inside the house, Desmond refuses to believe the stories of hauntings surrounding the property — of course. He’s tracked down Ariel because her sister mailed her Dr. Vannacutt’s diary before committing suicide.

Now, here comes the ridiculously stupid plot point: The college professor and Desmond The Merc are both in pursuit of a famed idol of Baphomet. Here’s where we start to deviate blindly in places. All of a sudden, Baphomet is to blame for everything. The stupid idol is what corrupted the entire asylum. Those inmates not only were overthrowing the evil Doctor Vannacutt, they were also attempting to destroy the idol! (Here we’re told that no, the inmates weren’t insane, they were on the side of good and all.)

Then an entire history is given to Dr. Vannacutt that is wholeheartedly unrealistic. Vannacutt is described as being a nominee for the Nobel Prize (what?!) and basically being a total Boy Scout…until he came into contact with this mystical idol. Then he became the inhuman monster they’ve beat us over the head with. Here we deviate from the straight up, standard effective ghost story in the first and veer into uncharted waters — waters which ultimately are too deep for the filmmakers to handle. The story runs roughshod over the first, establishing entire lower floors of the house that never existed nor looked like anything from the first. In short, continuity from the first film, whether it’s the look of the sets or the general ideas, is sadly in short supply.

And yet, as we go exploring through Dr. Vannacutt’s now varied backstory, Jeffrey Combs is underutilized. Combs is far from a bad actor (he made Re-Animator, in my opinion and people who have seen The Frighteners can remember how effective Combs is at being a total creepy weirdo when he wants to be) so why he’s criminally underused is beyond me.

The crux of the problem with this movie is this: story is everything. When you have a shoddily crafted story that is technically executed in a good manner, it still isn’t good. The special effects were excellent for a virtually straight to DVD release, but I can’t think of a good example to offer up here because the plot is that damn bad.

To add insult to injury, there is nothing going on from the other side of the film, and by that I mean that it feels like there’s no feeling or emotion in this one. It feels like everyone just showed up for another day at the office, and that is the biggest insult you can deliver to a moviewatcher. If you’re not going to put some sort of feeling in it, or actually attempt to convey some sort of feeling to your viewer, why bother?

Even the killing scenes are filmed with an astounding nonchalance that’s almost insulting. Really. If I hadn’t sat down to watch it with the intent of reviewing it here, I would’ve shut it off.

No point to this one but profit, and a word to the people who felt that way about this one: You’ll have to make a better product than this to profit off of it. Good God.

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So, I have this thing I do in “real life” all the time.   I’ll be somewhere with a friend and I’ll be reminded of something and I will turn to said friend and say, “Hey, have you ever seen [insert movie here]?  Because this totally reminds me of that.”

Usually I’m met with a blank stare, not because my friends aren’t into movies, but because seldom few people I know are into movies like I’m into movies, so apparently I’ve seen more movies than most “normal” people.

However, I trust if you’re reading this, you’ll get this reference.   C.H.U.D., straight up, is not a good movie.  In fact, it really, really blows.   But it’s hard for me to take the CHUDs seriously when your creatures look like they’re the long lost cousin of Sloth from The Goonies.    Allow me to present the damning evidence:

Seriously, every time one of these things popped up on screen, I just mentally shouted, “Hey, you guyyyys!”

C.H.U.D. is the story of a corrupt set of officials that hide nuclear waste in the city’s subterranean sewer system.   Unfortunately for the wrongdoers, there’s a whole bunch of homeless people that have taken up residence in the sewer tunnels who, upon exposure to the waste, mutate into C.H.U.D.s:   Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers.

The C.H.U.D.s begin to eat other homeless people before beginning to attack surface dwelling New Yorkers.

The script’s no good, the camera work’s not that great and the story itself is a variant of approximately 75,000 other horror/sci-fi movies.   But there is one moderately interesting thing about this movie — the cast.

I mean, after finishing this movie, my initial instinct was to think — goodness, Daniel Stern and John Heard were willingly involved in this movie?   What’s funnier is after watching Daniel Stern yuck it up in such classic, charming fare as Cabin Boy, his straight-laced, serious performance in C.H.U.D. of all movies as a tireless advocate for the homeless is surrealistic at best.    John flippin’ Heard?    What’s even weirder is that later on these two would both go on to be in Home Alone.

In a small cameo part is John Goodman.   Yes, John flippin’ Goodman was in C.H.U.D. for what felt like 46 seconds as an irritating cop in a diner.    This was the only thing that electrified me.   I was laying down, half-heartedly watching this piece of crap when all of a sudden, I bolted upright.  “Is that really John Goodman?    Jesus, that really IS John Goodman!”

When that is the only thing that piqued my interest, you’ve got a problem.   It’s an ill-conceived, poorly executed film that only still attracts viewers because of the well-known names in the film.   Even the beginning “initial death” in the first three minutes of the frame, which is intended to shock and thrill the viewer, fails miserably.

Close your eyes and imagine your version of what a film involving cannibalistic Morlocks would entail.   Chances are, it’s light years better than this movie, and it’s probably involving Sloth-like C.H.U.D.s running around screaming, “Hey, you guys!”

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The first time I watched this movie, I kind of felt like, “Is this movie a joke? No, they’re for real! They’re for real! Holy cow, they’re serious. Oh my god, this is awesome in such a bad way.”

Jack Ryan is all business. First he takes on the Soviets. Now he takes on…one crazy dude from the IRA.

The first irrational quibble I have with this movie: Sean Bean isn’t Irish. I say again, Sean Bean isn’t Irish. He’s not Irish in the slightest, as far as I know, and every time I see Sean Bean, I picture that heavy English accent coming out of his mouth, not an Irish one. I can’t say how well he does at the Irish accent, but this dude is the English bad guy in every American film…and I’m supposed to buy him as Irish in this? What? No! Look, I know we give a lot of roles to people who aren’t necessarily from that country who can pass the accent, but I didn’t like it very much when Anne Hathaway played Jane Eyre. (Seriously, now.) I know Sean Bean’s cute and all (really, why do you think I sit through this film repeatedly?) but wasn’t there an Irish actor somewhere willing to take this part? Didn’t they have Liam Neeson on speed dial or something? He’s cute and Irish! Two birds! One stone! (Plus he’s old! Which, as we all know, appeals to me! Hey, now I’m really curious. Did Liam Neeson even get a call to be in this movie? He would’ve been so much better than Sean Bean.)

Secondly, Sean Bean always seems to look in this movie as though he’s about to shiv you for your Big Mac. I mean, the guy looks like he hasn’t taken a shower in eight years and from his complexion, I deduce he might have a touch of the consumption. It’s just gross. And he’s kind of….mullet-y. It’s a bad look. A bad, greasy, tuberculosis-ridden look. Why do you make the pretty guy so ugly, Hollywood?

Thirdly, the whole story setup is just…oh, me. I know it’s based on a book, but bear with me please – the white knight American rides into save the fancy English people from the nasty splinter faction of the IRA? And then is targeted because he killed one of the IRA dude’s brother? Said IRA guy travels all over the world evading the CIA specifically to come kill Jack Ryan? Uh…implausible at best, but I’ll let it slide.

Luckily for us, though, Sean Bean plays eeeevil so very well, even going after Jack Ryan’s wife and daughter, while Ryan tries to catch up in a station wagon. Yeah, Jack Ryan’s very macho and all, tooling around in his Ford Taurus station wagon. And, you have to give Bean’s character credit: He really does live by the motto “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”. Nothing stops this dude! I wouldn’t be surprised if some day Hollywood made Patriot Games 2: Sean Miller Rises From The Deep because this guy just doesn’t quit.

Somehow, Sean scrapes together his crack team to infiltrate Jack Ryan’s home in the northeastern United States where a whole bunch of people are gathered (not before he’s traveled to a terrorist camp in North Africa though. What a vacation) to throw an annual “Jack Ryan Is Awesome” party or something, and Miller dies in one of the most unbelievably crackheaded ways I’ve seen – Jack Ryan bludgeons him to death with a boathook.

Really? After everything this man has survived? Bombings, shootings, interrogations, prison, traveling to North Africa which is probably dangerous if you haven’t had your shots, attempting to murder innocent women and children, tracking Jack Ryan all over the globe and he dies via boathook?

How very unfulfilling. Make a zombie Sean Miller sequel, Hollywood, I dare you!

All in all though, it’s such an addictive movie. I can point out to you twenty things I laugh at every time I watch the movie, but yet I watch it again and again. Is the combination of Harrison Ford and Sean Bean too much for me? Perhaps. God help us all if they had actually cast Liam Neeson in this film.

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Oh, Quentin.

Imagine my shock when I opened up my internet browser this morning and moseyed on over to Cinematical only to discover you’ve been running that mouth of yours again. Sure, I wished for you to get on the ball about Inglorious Bastards, but not quite like this.

Via the good folks at Cinematical:

Tarantino has pronounced that he’s finished a draft of the script (that was fast) and “if all goes well, I will be here, in Cannes, in 2009 with Inglorious Bastards.”

…Wait, what?

I’ve been hearing for years, literally, about this movie, Mr. Tarantino — I’ve heard crazy, strange stories about 800 page draft scripts and Michael Madsden and whatever bizarre affectations come along with a Tarantino film. And now? Now, you give me this.

Oh, Quentin. Again.

We have a strange and varied history, don’t we? I like you and then you do something so odd and creepy that I have to take ten steps back and start running away.

I love your movies. Granted, it’s always been very trendy to fall head over heels for Tarantino films, but there’s no denying you’ve got talent and not just that, I’ve resisted your insane-o movie crack many a time, even insisting in some quarters that you’re not as good as you think you are or that perhaps you should issue a “cheat sheet” of recommended movies that you’ve stolen from wholesale every time you release a new movie. And every time I run away, either from some freaky interview you you gave, or your psychotic ramblings that make you sound like a two-bit hack jacked up on uppers, you’re still there with your stupid Reservoir Dogs and Charlestown Chiefs jersey and infectious love of kung-fu. You make it hard to stay away.

Here you tease me with the fact that you’ve finished a long awaited draft (or pared it down, depending on which sources we believe) of Inglorious Bastards and you say it might be ready for the 2009 Cannes festival. How, pray tell, are you going to accomplish that? Are you going to hop yourself up on so many amphetamines Judy Garland style to finish this film from a draft script that by the time Cannes rolls around next year you’ll be singing cracked out versions of “Get Happy” with RZA? Tell me how, Quentin! Tell me!

After all we’ve been through, Q, it’s so decidedly unfair to dangle this carrot in front of my face with a promise you can’t deliver. But there’s our history, right, Quentin? An avenue of broken promises and addictive films that I keep running back for, while making shameful excuses to everyone else I know. “He is a genius, I promise!” I say. “Look, I know he’s a freakshow and a half, but he’s talented! Yes, I know all his characters curse a lot and talk about random stuff; just watch the movie, okay?”

This is so unfair, Quentin. We both know the real truth – we can probably expect Inglorious Bastards around 2020, but I don’t understand why you have to keep on pulling at my emotions like this.

(If you actually do sing “Get Happy” with RZA, I want video. ASAP.)

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Ah, the days before Eddie Murphy was a total primadonna.

With Eddie Murphy’s career in a constant state of decline the past ten years or so, it’s hard for me to remember a time when moviegoers actually liked him. It’s hard to remember the Trading Places/Coming to America era when you’re deluged with The Nutty Professor II and The Adventures of Pluto Nash and…(gulp) Norbit. It’s hard to see the really good among the field of really crap movies Murphy’s put out in the past few years.

It’s also hard to remember a time when Eddie Murphy looked like he was having actual fun making comedies, instead of watching him sulk and storm off at the Academy Awards because no one gave him an Oscar.

Trading Places is the story of two very different men — the poor, thieving Billy Ray Valentine (Murphy) and the wealthy, pretentious Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) — who have their places in life switched by the morally lacking Duke brothers, who own the commodities firm that Louis works for. The Duke brothers are at odds. One argues that Louis has gained his wealth in life through his breeding and birth, while one argues that the only thing preventing Billy Ray from being where Louis is would be the nature of his place in society; that is, among the lowest classes. Together, they scheme to ruin Louis while elevating Billy Ray to test their theories — all for the bet of precisely one dollar.

Trading Places is a curious movie to watch nowadays. I actually stopped and restarted the movie about three times over. I love Dan Aykroyd, but with my prior experience with Eddie Murphy, I found this one draining and exasperating to sit through with regards to him. (Which is odd, considering I love Coming to America, which features a minor cameo by the Duke brothers.)

To be truthful, Jamie Lee Curtis as the compassionate prostitute Ophelia and Dan Aykroyd made this movie work for me. You have to be willing to sit through some essentially very depressing stuff (the ruining of Louis, while comic, gets really sad after a while) and watching Eddie Murphy ham it up as the penniless guy who’s now rolling in the money doesn’t really quite take the edge off of all of it, to tell you the truth.

In the end, the two wind up meeting each other and developing a plan to put the Duke brothers out of business for good.

All in all, Trading Places is an excellent movie, but it feels a little maudlin nowadays when you realize the direction Murphy could’ve gone instead of where he went. Then again, almost anything directed by John Landis is guaranteed to make me smile.

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This movie rules. It rules everything!

It’s by no means a perfect movie, but if you love the Indiana Jones movies…are you ever gonna be pleased.

In the start of the movie, Indy’s back to being the mild-mannered college professor, teaching at his university and generally doing his thing, but some Russians have another idea. A team of Russian soldiers headed up by Dr. Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) are searching for something at Area 51 (!) that will help them unearth the mystery of the crystal skulls, which they want to weaponize and use to make the entire world… Communists! Oh, no! The story feels a little odd in comparison to the other Jones movies, but by no means horrific; it’s just…different.

The movie paces nicely and the special effects are to die for. The problem is that sometimes Lucas and Spielberg want too many graphic shots where there’s really no necessity to have it and the CGI’s blatantly obvious. Stuff like that jerks me out of the movie, so that drives me bananas.

Cate Blanchett has some minor problems in the beginning of the film with the Ukrainian/Russian accent (the o’s are noticeably not Russian) but recovers quickly. Shia LaBeouf was surprisingly charming as Indy’s sidekick, and his entrance may make film fans smile – it’s practically a shot straight out of The Wild One.

Overall, though, it’s just such a fun, fun movie. It’s a good story with old favorites like Marion Ravenwood brought back. It’s a newer version of Indiana Jones, but with nods to the viewers from past movies…but updated nicely. And moreover, it retains the same formula that made all the other Indy movies so remarkably loveable.

The best part of the movie for me was the fact that the filmmakers were even willing to take shots at themselves. When meeting Indiana for the first time, Mutt, Shia LaBeouf asks, “What are you? Eighty or somethin’?”

Here’s hoping that fedora gets hung up before Indy qualifies for the assisted living center – until then, bring it on again, and again, and again. It’s very much worth the $10 I paid to see it.

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Someday, when the aliens invade and begins systematically changing people into their minions, Clue will be my litmus test to determine who’s human….and who is not!

That’s right, I said it: If you don’t like Clue, there’s something wrong with you and yes, you probably are a pod person.

I can’t tell you how many times I have watched Clue. Probably 300 times and some change. It never gets old! Never! The brilliance of this movie lies in the dialogue.

Wadsworth: A double negative!

Colonel Mustard: Double negative? You mean you have photographs?

Wadsworth: That sounds like a confession to me. In fact the double negative has led to proof positive. I’m afraid you gave yourself away.

Colonel Mustard: Are you trying to make me look stupid in front of the other guests?

Wadsworth: You don’t need any help from me, sir.

Colonel Mustard: That’s right!

Clue is obviously based on the really popular board game of the same name. Unlike, however, most adaptations of pop-culture staples, Clue really has some substance. From the new back story given to the game and why the party-goers are there, to the running gags and throwaway jokes (when each visitor enters the house for the first time, for example, each stops to check their shoes for dog poop after Wadsworth initially steps in some).

Of course, the two things I love most about this movie?   Tim Curry and Madeleine Kahn.

Tim Curry is his normal good acting self, but I love, love, flippin’ love Madeleine Kahn in this movie.   When I say, “Flames…flames…on the side of my face!” and people don’t get it, it makes me kind of sad.   Her portrayal of Miss White as the Black Widow character who murders all her husband is so neurotically genius that I don’t know where to start.

Clue is like one big, long running gag that’s timed almost perfectly.   Most other films would be ruined by having three (!) endings, but not Clue.   I read somewhere that originally the studio distributed cuts of the film with different endings to different theaters, meaning that you didn’t know what ending you were getting in your theater.    Luckily for us here in the present, we have nifty DVDs.   The Clue DVD allows you to select “play one ending at random” or all three at the end together.   The third and final ending in the series of endings is by far my favorite.

I get all disappointed nowadays when someone wants to bust out the board game because it’s not nearly as fun as the movie.   I still have never met anyone who viewed the board game as greater, but if you exist out there, person who likes the board game but not the movie, you’re probably a pod person anyways.

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