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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Sam Raimi

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Like they say, “Once you go black, you never go back.”

When we last left Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), things seemed to be going relatively fine. Not only did he save the day, once again, but he got the girl of his dreams, M.J. (Kirsten Dunst), patched things up with his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris), and finally told his best-friend Harry Osborne (James Franco) about the fact that he’s not only Spider-Man, but that his father tried to kill him. Sure, the relationship between those two may be strained and even have Harry himself go a bit coo-coo with vengeance, but for the most part, Pete’s life is happy, joyful and one that makes him happy to wake up in the day. However, that all changes one day when he finds out that his Uncle Ben’s killer, believe it or not, is still out there, and he’s going by the name of the Sandman (Thomas Haden Church). To make matters even worse, Peter’s finding it hard to keep things going steady at work, and is finding some stiff competition in the newsroom with aspiring, fellow photo-journalist Eddie Brock (Topher Grace). Also, remember the girl of his dreams that he thought he won, hook, line and sinker last time? Well, she’s starting to get second-thoughts about dating a superhero. Oh, and as if that wasn’t all bad enough for Spidey, for some reason, there’s this black, venomous acid following him around and latching onto his suit, changing up his hair-do, and making him act in a totally different way, that may make him feel great and all, but pushes those whom are close to him, further and further away.

Okay, so yeah, that’s a long premise. But it needed to be because let’s face it: This movie is a total, complete, over-stuffed mess. I knew that the second I walked out of the theater back in the early days of summer ’07, and I knew that less than three or four days ago when I found enough guts to go through with it and actually give this movie another try. Shame on me, but you know what? I gotta do it for all of you.

"Kame me, kame me...huh?"

“Kame me, kame me…huh?”

All you mofo’s better be happy with this.

But, to be honest, even though I’m getting off of on the wrong foot and making it seem like I absolutely loathe the heck out of this movie, I can’t say that I really do. Because somehow, I was able to find little, itty, bitty, pleasures here and there throughout the movie. Now, whether or not these pleasures were indeed intended to be “pleasureful” is totally up to Sam Raimi and the creative-powers that be whom got behind this, but the fact remains: Spider-Man 3 isn’t all that terrible. It’s not good, that’s for certain, but it’s not shitty either.

Confused by what I’m trying to say? Don’t worry, I am too. Here, let me try to explain:

What I like to think of this movie as being is one, big, nearly-two-and-a-half-hour long “fuck you” from Sam Raimi. No, not a “fuck you” to us, the dedicated, lovely audience that spent all of our minimum-wages on seeing his past couple of Spider-Man movies, but more as a “fuck you” to those who tried to get in the way of his creative-vision way too many times before. Maybe I’m just making this all up in my head to make myself feel better, but there’s no way in hell that Sam Raimi, the creator of some of the greatest, most iconic cult films of all time, thought that this was a good idea. Or hell, even this! And oh god no, dare I even talk about this travesty!

No, no, no! I refuse to believe that the some mastermind behind Ash would ever stoop this low and give us something as painstaking as most of this movie can be! I don’t care what anybody says, I will stand by my grave if I have to! They always say that “money can’t buy happiness”, well, nor do I think that it can buy creative consciences either. It’s clear to me that Sam Raimi doesn’t know what to do with each and everyone of these subplots, so instead, he just crams them altogether in a way that’s incoherent, but wholly uneven. One second, you’ll be getting something out of a comedy-sketch in which Peter Parker is walking down the street, dancing, walking all fly, acting cool and hitting on the ladies, while some funky bass-action plays in the background; and then, all of a sudden, the next second, you’ll get a scene or two in which the Sandman talks about his dying-kid and how he does all of this crime and whatnot for her.

One second, it’s a laugh-out-lough, camp-fest; the next second, it’s a total downer that will make you want to say “party’s over”. I’m not saying that certain movies can’t be both frothy and dramatic at the same time, there’s just a specific-balance that these movies are capable of handling and maintaining, and it’s clear early on that Raimi is not able to do that. Whether or not this was him just having an off-day and deciding to hell with it all, is sort of beyond me, but there’s just so much going wrong here, that it’s almost too hard to think of it as anything else other than a ruse played on all of us, as well as the numerous Hollywood producers backing this thing.

Which is a total shame, because with all of the material and promise Raimi had at his disposal here, he could have done some wonders – given that he had a three-hour run-time and at least took away a villain or two. But what happens here is that we get just about three villains, four-to-five conflicts for Spidey (not including his own conflict with himself), three-to-four extraneous subplots that literally add nothing to the story, and a two-hour-and-twenty-minute run-time that goes by quick, but only because the movie is never comfortable enough focusing on one thing. Raimi always has to be moving from one end of the story, to another, which makes a lot of sense since he clearly has a lot on his plate to chew on, but made it seem like it didn’t really know what to do or say with its plot, or any of its characters. So instead, it just fell back on the same old, high-flying, CGI-galore action that was always there to make things better for these movies in the past.

Yup, they're totally boned from here-on-out.

Yup, they’re totally boned from here-on-out.

However, this time around, everything else is so poorly-developed, that it just feels like a cheat to get our minds out of everything else that’s going on so wrong with this movie – especially with the characters. And hell, if there’s anything about this movie that fuels me even more is how they wasted the whole potential that Eddie Brock/Venom had as a villain. Don’t get me wrong, I think Topher Grace is a fine actor that’s been trying his hardest since day one to get out of that Eric Forman-shell that’s been carved for him since, well, yeah, day one, but he’s not right for this role. I get what Raimi was trying to do with the casting of him – make him something of an over-the-top, immoral, sneaky and sly son-of-a-bitch – which yes, does work when he’s being Eddie Brock, the photojournalist for the Daily Bugle, but when he has to transform to Venom with about 15 minutes left of the movie, it feels like an after-thought. Almost as if the producers wanted Raimi to throw him in there for good measure, only to realize that the rest of the movie was stacked with so much to begin with.

And since I’m on the subject of new faces to this franchise, I have to say that I feel very bad for Thomas Haden Church here, because the dude is a great talent who just about makes everything better the minute he shows up in it. The problem with him here, as the Sandman, is that he’s given just about nothing to do. We get enough back-story to his character so that we can sort of see where he’s coming from, but it gets so convoluted once they start talking about how he apparently killed Uncle Ben in the past, that I just wanted them to stop with it all and move on. Give me the action, give me more scenes of Thomas Haden Church actually talking and showing some personality, and give me more of the core that really makes these movies tick in the first place: Pete and M.J.

It doesn’t matter what you’re own, personal opinions may be on Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst as working-professionals, but it should be noted that without them and their chemistry (or in some cases, lack thereof), this franchise would have fallen flat on its face as soon as it hit theaters. There would have been no “superhero movie boom”; no Spider-Man 2; no Amazing Spider-Man; no Amazing Spider-Man 2; nobody remembering who the hell James Franco was; and sure as hell no Spider-Man 3. Maybe we could have lived peacefully with that last aspect being gone and lost forever, but you get the picture – M.J. and P.P. gave these movies an extra oomph of heart and emotion that so many superhero movies try to recreate nowadays, but just can’t seem to get down perfectly.

However, here, the whole idea is that M.J. and Pete stop loving one another and grow apart, which kind of sucks to see since we’ve invested so much of our time in them, but by the same token, needs to happen in order for us to make them just a tad bit believable in terms of character-development and rounding the two out as individual beings, rather than just a couple. If this was done right, it would have been phenomenal to see, in a big-budget, superhero movie no less, but the movie really stumbles when it’s paying dear attention to this subplot. Pete eventually becomes a bit of a dick because of this venomous, gooey thing that keeps on attaching to his suit and making him act differently; and M.J. is coming at a bit of an existential crisis where she wants the focus to be constantly on her, her failing-career as a Broadway actress, and the fact that she’s been so loyal and dedicated to Pete, despite going around and starting to sleep with Harry, once again.

Ain’t nothing like old times, right peeps?

Yes, get as far, far away as you can from this movie, James. Don't just do us the favor, do yourself one.

Yes, get as far, far away as you can from this movie, James. Don’t just do us the favor, do yourself one.

Tobey Maguire, god bless him, tries his heart out but once Peter Parker gets that new, emo hairdo, it’s all downhill for him from there; Dunst looks bad because Mary Jane is so unlikable and unsympathetic in her whiniest performance yet; and James Franco, believe it if you will, probably has the best performance out of everyone here, just by getting a chance to live a little and show some of that Daniel Desario charm that was so absent from the two other movies. Which is strange considering that right as soon as this movie came out, hit theaters, broke a bunch of box-office records and basically ended the franchise that came to be known as “Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man“, Franco started popping-up in some interesting movies like Milk, Pineapple Express and In the Valley of Elah that not only stretched him a bit as an actor, but also showed the world that he wasn’t going to be doomed by his infamous past as “Harry Osborne, snobby, prick-ish son of a crazy billionaire”.

So yes, if there is anything, heck, anything at all good that you can take away from Spider-Man 3, it’s that it allowed James Franco to break-out from his cage and start trying his hand at some weird, quite frankly, goofy shit. But hey, we’re better as a society for it. Because seriously, when was the last time you actually got amped-up for something either Kirsten Dunst or Tobey Maguire were doing?

I rest my case.

Consensus: Long, overstuffed, uneventful, confusing, incoherent, and definitely disappointing, Spider-Man 3 may go down in the history books as one of the weakest superhero movies made in the past decade or so, but it isn’t without its small pleasures found along the way, if only for its most dedicated, easy, and calm viewers.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Shit. Gotta remember to take my suit off next time I tan."

“Shit. Gotta remember to take my suit off next time I’m trying to get that summer glow.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Just when you thought saving the world from evil, maniacal villains was enough.

Last time we left Peter Parker, he was trying to save the world from the havoc of a super-duper evil villain; win the heart of his lovely neighbor, M.J. (Kirsten Dunst); ace his college courses; still have a roof over his head; and be able to sleep soundly at night, knowing that he’s saved the day. And well, not much of that has changed a bit. Well, maybe instead of having the Green Goblin as a villain, he now has the incredibly smart Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), and the four metal arms that control his every action and thought, leading him to want to destroy the world that’s been so crummy to him as is. Or, you know, something like that. Also going on, Peter has a problem with telling his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) the truth about what happened to their dear old Uncle Ben, on that one, fateful night. And then of course, there’s Harry Osborne (James Franco) who is rich and powerful now, after inheriting the family business from his deceased-father and still having a bit of a problem with Pete and the fact that he takes the man who killed his father’s pictures all of the time.

I’ve seen this movie many quite a couple of times and it hardly ever ceases to amaze me. Of course when I was a lot younger, this was considered “the best movie ever made, by far”, but now that I’m older, and hopefully wiser, it’s stooped-down to being “just as good, if not better than the first”. That’s just what happens with age, though, people. You get older, you learn a lot more and you know what you like, and dislike.

Here though, I like pretty much everything, even if I have seen this movie about ten or more times. That’s not an understatement either; I was brought-up on the Tobey Maguire – Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, which is why I have such a hard time loving these new ones, as well as being able to hate on the magic these two made in the first place. Sure, they’re definitely a lot goofier and lighter on their feet than what most of us are used to with superhero movies (thanks for that, Chris Nolan), but there’s something about their fun spirit and excitement that’s too hard to hate or ignore. Even when it comes close to running into “campy territory”, there’s still an essence that everybody involved is having a great time making this and for that, my soul just cannot hate any of them.

"Dammit M.J.! I mean, I love you and all, but you got to stop getting captured!"

“Dammit M.J.! I mean, I love you and all, but you got to stop getting captured without wearing a damn bra!”

Even the third one. But that’s a different review, for a different time (aka, tomorrow).

But anyway, like I was saying before, what Sam Raimi does so well here is that he does keep the same frothy, sometimes goofy and joy-free mood and tone of the first one, but ups the intensity of this by adding both bigger, bigger stipulations, but also giving us characters we can care and love a lot more than we did with the first one. It’s not like we didn’t get any character-development in the first Spider-Man movie, but it definitely didn’t go any further than “good guy”, or “bad guy”. Here though, we get characters, in a comic-book movie no less, that also happen to have dimensions and qualities that most human beings contain.

Sounds crazy, right? Well, that’s because it totally is! However, Raimi has just about each and every moment here that’s dedicated to building and making these characters who they are, feel somewhat genuine. He also does something strange for a mainstream, superhero blockbuster in that he lets a lot of scenes where two characters may be having a heart-to-heart or talking about something rather emotional, play-out in total silence, as if he isn’t telling us when the sad moments are coming. We’re just supposed to know what to feel, and cry, shake, tremble, or smile on our demand.

We so rarely see that with superhero movies, but Raimi took a big time risk here, and it paid-off especially well.

Another risk he took was in actually showing us the shitty side of being a superhero. Most of the time, we always see the person in the suit, messing shit up, being a boss, saving the world and getting the girl, the glitz, and the glamour by the end of the day, but what most of us really don’t see is what goes on when that said person gets out of that said costume and becomes what most of us are: Actual humans. Here, with Peter Parker, we get an idea that not only does it suck being depended on just about every second of every day, at every location in the heart of New York City, but that it’s even more of a drag having to deal with all of your other problems when you’re not out saving the world, one criminal at a time.

For Peter Parker, life kind of blows – the girl of his dreams is with some total meat-head, his best-friend doesn’t trust him, he’s not paying his rent, he hasn’t told his Aunt the dreaded secret that may ruin their relationship forever, and he can’t seem to hold down a steady job, or wage. But when he puts that suit on, life is suddenly better, if only by a bit. Still though, it’s apparent that being a superhero, no matter how many people look up to you as a result, it’s still a hard life to live. That’s why when Pete decides that it’s time to take a sabbatical of sorts, we want him to get all of the rest and chillaxing he can get; but also, not to wait too long either. Because, let’s face it, he’s Spider-Man and he’s a pretty awesome superhero when he’s kicking all sorts of butt.

And kicking all sorts of butt is what Sam Raimi allows for Spidey to do, more times than he did in the original. Though there is plenty of dramatic moments here where it’s just a couple of characters or two just sitting around and talking, Raimi still never forgets about the action, which features some of the most memorable brawls of recent-memory. That bank-robbery that turns into a fight on top of a skyscraper? Damn! The train-battle? Gosh! The moment Octavius becomes “Doc Ock”? Well, yeah, it’s pretty disturbing, even for a PG-13 superhero movie, but man, it was awesome!

In other words, Raimi gives us all the goods an average, everyday moviegoer could want, especially if they were coming to see a Spider-Man movie.

And of course, the cast is great too, with a few even putting in their best work of the whole franchise. Tobey Maguire may get a lot of crap for being the good-looking nerd everyone aspires to be (myself included), but it’s totally undeserved because the kid can act and handles his own as Spider-Man, and most importantly as Peter Parker. In fact, if Maguire wasn’t putting in great work here, this movie probably would have failed considering mostly all of it is focused in on Peter Parker, the person, rather than Spider-Man, the superhero the person becomes. Maguire may get a bit too earnest for his own good at times, but it’s easily forgivable since he’s just so likable and easy-to-root-for, because you know that while he wants to be at his girl’s play more than anything else in the world, he’s got a world to save and maintain peace within. If that doesn’t sound like a total dream-boat, I have no clue what does.

Ladies, we know the sex with him would be awesome. Let's just keep our heads out of the gutter for the meantime.

Ladies, we know the sex with him would be awesome. Let’s just keep our heads out of the gutter for the meantime.

Speaking of “his girl”, Kirsten Dunst is another who seems to get a lot of crap from those who think she can’t act, and I think that’s terribly wrong. For starters, she totally can and as she’s gotten older, she’s only been able to prove that moreso, time and time again. However, back in those good old days of the early-21st Century, I could see why some people got on her case as M.J. definitely isn’t the best-developed or most believable character out of the whole bunch, but at least Dunst seems like she knows what she’s doing when she’s delivering some of the cheesy-lines to be heard here. Same goes for James Franco as Harry Osborne, another one not many knew what to make of back in the day, but clearly has made a huge name for himself by just being him.

God, how time has changed.

With the absence of Willem Dafoe as the main baddie, we get Alfred Molina as Dr. Otto Octavius and the guy’s very good, as many could probably predict seeing as how Molina’s been a stand-out actor, putting in great work, time and time again. With Octavius though, Molina not only gets to show a human-side to a person who could be seen as a total monster, but even makes us see those small spots of humanity, even while his mind is practically being taken over by the evil chip in his brain. Though he’s clearly not as hammy as Dafoe was (therefore, eliminating some of the fun), Molina still feels like a real person who has been utterly driven to do bad things, for bad reasons and under extreme circumstances. Sort of like how Sam Raimi must have felt doing the third movie.

But like I said: Different review, for a different day, folks. Just you all wait.

Consensus: With a perfect mixture of heart, humor, action, excitement, and fun, Spider-Man 2 will go down in the books as one of the best superhero sequels of all-time because it never forgets what makes its story kick as well as it does, while also not forgetting to give the audience the high-flying, ass-kicking action they come to expect with a product like this.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

How could you hate that heart-throb? I mean, heck, it's a freakin' subway he's holding back!

How could you hate that heart-throb? I mean, heck, it’s a freakin’ subway he’s holding back!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Miller’s Crossing (1990)

Can we please bring the word “rumpus” back to the mainstream?

Tom Regan (Gabriel Byrne) is the right-hand-man of Leo (Albert Finney), the Irish kingpin of the 1930’s. Whatever Leo has to say, Tom helps him out with it, by any means possible, and vice versa. However, that partnership seems to go South once Tom starts sleeping with Leo’s dame (Marcia Gay Harden), and finds himself embedded with a new group of mobsters, this time, lead by the ruthless Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito). Once the two gangs go head-to-head in a battle over territory, brawn, respect and money, Tom gets thrown right in the middle of all of it, much to nobody’s surprise whatsoever.

I’m going to be honest with you all out there, this is not the first time I have ever seen this flick. No, actually far from. This right here marks my third time seeing this flick and now that I’ve not only grown older as a human-being, but as a movie-geek, I have finally come to terms with this movie’s awesomeness. Okay, maybe it’s not awesome but it comes pretty damn close, especially if you know how the Coens roll. And brother, do they roll with style!

What threw me off the first couple times upon seeing this movie was not knowing just what the hell I was getting myself into, and apparently, from reading what other peeps had to say about this flick as well, I wasn’t very far off. The Coens start this flick very traditionally where they barely give you any back-story, rarely lay down any groundwork for whom these characters are, what are their names, and/or just what the hell type of situation we have found them in. It gets even worse once you realize that everything and everybody they’re talking about, are things or people that we have never met or have yet to see, and probably will never see or meet. And lord almighty, this is about 30 minutes into the damn movie already! So therefore, upon being twisted and turned every which way but loose, you can already assume that this movie doesn’t start off on the right foot, that is, if you don’t know what to expect. However, being my third time upon seeing this, as I said before, I realized what I was getting myself into and found myself a whole lot more intrigued by everything and everyone in this movie. That’s all thanks to the Coens and everything they are able to do as writers and directors.

Typical Irishman: always rolling-up the sleeves.

Typical Irishman: Always rolling-up the sleeves.

The Coens, as we all know, have a certain sense of style that they abide by and if you aren’t down for it, then you might as well just get the hell out! However, if you are down for it, then get ready for a wild ride with this one! This movie is chock-full of witty one-liners that never get old, are always hilarious, witty, and are spoken at a mile-a-minute that you may just have to put the subtitles on, just so you can see what the hell it is these peeps are all talking about. But no matter how talky or goofy this movie can get, it’s always interesting and very enjoyable to watch, especially when you don’t really know exactly where this flick could go, at any which second. That’s what we have all come to know, hail and praise coming from the Coens and this movie and their craft-work here is no slight exception. It’s painted in Coen blood, from start-to-finish. And if you don’t like that, then take the high road, Jack.

That’s my attempt at trying to sound like one of these gangsters. But I’ll stop now.

The plot does get a little over-zealous at times and yet, I still have no idea just how the hell everything went down in the end, but that’s the fun with these types of movies, especially when they’re done by the Coens. There’s always something new or cool to pick out from the haystack here and whether or not it all adds up to the bigger picture, is solely on you and how much you pay attention. Does that mean that this flick doesn’t make sense in the grander scheme things? Of course not! Heck, I’d probably say that the movie makes more sense, but to me, some things just didn’t add up to their fullest extent. I don’t know if that’s the Coen’s, me, or just something about with the cosmos in the sky; but either way, something didn’t mesh as well as I had planned, but I still remained thrilled and constantly entertained by this movie, even if I did have to do a little head-scratching at times.

That’s when you know that you have masters at-work here, when you can get a flick that’s all about being crazy, loopy, and wild with where it wants to go and how, but yet, rarely ever seems to make sense, and still have it work. These guys are geniuses at making movies like this because no matter how many times you may scratch your head or have to press “the rewind button”, you always know that you’re in for a treat when it’s the Coens at play, and that’s always a joy to watch. I don’t care who you are in the world, watching the Coens have an absolute ball with fun material is fine entertainment for me. Whether or not that’s your type of cake, is fine with you. But it’s all me, baby, and that is what I like.

You my boys, Joel and Ethan. You my boys.

Let me also not forget to mention the amazing cast that’s on display here, that keep up with the Coens, every step of their goofy ways. Gabriel Byrne has never really lit-up the screen for me as an actor, but here, he’s pretty damn solid as Tom Regan, the type of guy you wouldn’t expect in a movie like this, yet, totally works. It’s sort a strange predicament that this guy is in because he’s always smart, lippy, and a step ahead of the curve, but yet, somehow always finds himself getting his ass kicked, a couple of black-eyes to show off and his head in his hands. It’s strange to see a type of guy like this that’s so intelligent and so on-the-top of his game, get stumped almost every step of the way, but not only do the Coens pull it off with no remorse, but Byrne does so as well. Byrne’s very good here and shows that you can give a character a minor ounce of heart, even if he goes on with the same smirk and remarks the whole time. Also, the guy’s gotta pretty kick-ass Irish accent that I’m pretty sure isn’t even a put-on. Irishmen unite!

Somebody get this man a towel.

Somebody get this man a towel.

Another fella who almost (ALMOST) does a better Irish accent is Albert Finney as Leo, Tom’s boss/buddy. Finney is great as Leo because he’s got the brass, he’s got the old-time appeal, and he’s also got enough stew in his bowl to where he can knock somebody’s teeth out and shoot some mofo’s up if he has to. That’s exactly what he does at one point here, and it’s great to see when an older man like Finney can still get up, shake off his legs and show these youngsters a thing or two about being tough and rugged, the old-school way. The problem with Finney, or I should say his character, Leo, is that he does disappear for a good majority of the movie, which sucks because we do begin to miss him after quite some time. That is, until he came back to the screen and somehow made everything all better with the weather.

However, much of that screen-time was actually given up for one person, Jon Polito as Johnny Caspar. Polito’s character seems like one of these dunces that doesn’t seem like he knows what he’s doing, why he’s doing it or what the hell he’s going to do next as back-up plan, but what he does know, is that he’s in it for the money. That’s probably how most gangsters were like back in the golden days, but what makes Polito stand-out the most is that he’s a bit of an a-hole, and yet, still a sympathetic guy because he isn’t a mean or a sadistic son-of-a-bitch. He just wants to go about his business in a kind, pleasant way where nobody has to get hurt and sticking to his “ethics”. Yeah, if somebody has to get pinched every once and awhile, well, then that’s just the way it is. It’s strictly business.

Last, but sure as freakin’ hell not least is John Turturro as Bernie, one of the main dudes in this story that has to keep it moving. Turturro plays Bernie like a wise-cracking, sneaky bastard that scams people all for the good of his own wallet, but yet, has this one scene where he absolutely breaks down and throws out all of his cards. Everybody knows the scene and if you don’t, just look up-top. It’s the one scene where Turturro lets loose and has you wonder, “Should he kill this guy or not? And if not, for what reason?” Once you start bringing morality into a flick like this, then you know you got a keeper, but when you have Turturro doing his thing and making the rest of the movie seem like his own, personal play-land; then it’s more than just a keeper. It’s a freakin’ winner, that’s what it is!

Consensus: Not everything adds up or makes perfect sense by the end of Miller’s Crossing, but like most Coen flicks, it is always fun, entertaining, enlightening, tense, funny, bloody, and most of all, able to give you something new to pick out from among the rest of the crowd, everytime you give it a view.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Cool guys do walk away from explosions.

Cool guys do walk away from explosions.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Evil Dead (2013)

Ash would have saved the day in no time. Oh, Bruce. How I miss you so.

Five twenty-something friends hole up in a remote cabin for a weekend filled of booze, drugs, sex, and a bunch of fun. Problems get in the way of their plans once when they discover a strange novel downstairs in the basement  called the Book of the Dead. As they continue to read the book, they unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods, which possess the youngsters to get killed-off, one by one, until only one is left intact to fight for survival.

Of course, there’s a little bit more than I let on with that synopsis. There’s more human-emotions going on this time around where family members quarrel, friends have arguments  and a sister is trying to kick a drug habit. But however, the story is still the same and it’s not because that plot-line has been done already once by the original Evil Dead, but because it’s been used in almost every other camp-fire story ever told before the sands of time. We all know that whenever kids go out to a cabin in the woods, all they want to do is chill out, party, drink a little brew, have a little sex, and just get out of the real world, when in reality (or non-reality): the exact opposite happens to them. It was fine when it was done in the 80’s, and heck, it was even fine when it was done last year (Cabin in the Woods), but enough is enough with the simple, conventional horror stories, and most importantly: enough is enough with the goddamn, useless remakes. Yes, I am talking about this movie.

Been raping young, teenage girls est. 1981.

Been raping young, teenage girls est. 1981.

If there is any amount of credit I have to give to this film, it’s director Fede Alvarez who actually does some new and cool things with this already-known story. Not does he change certain things up a bit with the story and how people die, but he totally abandons the humor-aspect. In ways, this works, and in ways; it doesn’t. But what should be known is that for all that the guy does, at least he does it with energy and some amount of heart. “Some”, being the key word.

Alvarez starts this flick pretty interestingly, having us have to deal with characters pissing and moaning, but also watching as how they don’t really know what to expect. But that’s where the interesting-aspect begins to go away, and the conventionality of this movie begins. It isn’t that I don’t mind when a horror movie likes to have fun with itself, gross us out, and even give us a couple of shockers along the way (you know what I mean, pervs), but I at least want to see something new and original, almost as if I haven’t seen it done before, ever. Now, I know that’s hard when you take a genre like the horror genre, and try to spin it 100 ways it’s already been spun, but you at least got to add a new flavor, a new coding, or just a simple piece of the recipe that may spice things up a bit. The “simple piece of the recipe that may spice things up a bit”, is definitely Alvarez’s unapologetic use of gore, blood, and/or ketchup packets and blood-flavored corn syrup, but that can only go so far, when you have characters doing THE SAME DAMN THING OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

Movies like this bother me because they always want to please the audience into thinking that everything they are about to watch is going is to surprise the hell out of them and shock them in one way they weren’t expecting (once again, cut it out you pervs), but it just doesn’t. The least-important characters to the story usually get knocked-off from least-meaningful to the main character, almost as if it was your wedding invitations; characters still fall for the bone-headed tricks like a monster changing it’s face to sound like the human they have possessed; and characters not having the balls to pull the trigger on that possessed-human, even if they know already that they are fucked-up, and never coming back. Also, while I’m at it; why does every, single character in a horror movie have to act like they don’t know what’s going to happen next when they enter a room, because the person they were talking to didn’t answer them? Really! If the person didn’t answer when you called them the first 500 times, either they don’t want to talk to you or they’re dead. It’s either one or the other. That’s what I usually used to think with all of my ex’s, but when it came right down to it: it was more of the former, than the latter. My life: one big misery.

Not campy enough!

Not campy enough!

But some of you out there may be saying, “Well, the original was just like that” or “That’s just how most horror movies are.” If you were to say any of those two statements to me, online or in real-life, I would have to agree with you but then also have a nice, calmed, and relaxed discussion about how the original had all of those conventions, but at least had fun with them in a campy, small-budgeted way. Sam Raimi and friends didn’t give a crap if they were re-inventing the wheel or changing the way the world works, they just wanted to have some fun, splash some paint everywhere they could, and get a good laugh while they were at it. This movie is too concerned with being serious, trying to be scary, and doing all that it can in it’s might, to have us feel like, as the poster says, “The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience.” Raimi didn’t give a crap about that, but apparently Alvarez was in a total, and completely and different world when he realized that maybe the original could be better, if it was serious and more about it’s scares. Once again, it may or may not have been his thought-process when he saw that classic, but something tells me it what exactly that.

As usual, every character is a cliché we have all seen before, but at least the performances are okay, right? Ehh! Shiloh Fernandez has just about sucked nuts in about everything I’ve seen him in, but he’s fine here as the older, more wiser brother. He isn’t corny and he isn’t trying too hard. Good for him. Apparently there was a lot of talk about how the character of Ash wouldn’t be in this movie. But not just the name, mind you, the actual fact that an Ash-like character would pop-up in this movie, but as a (get ready for it)….WOMAN!! That’s right. Jane Levy plays the troubled-sister going all cold turkey on everybody’s asses and is fine for what she has to do, but is actually left to be possessed for the longest time. Eventually, she does get the chance to have her fun time, but it isn’t until a little, too late in the game, to where she doesn’t even seem to pose a threat to these monsters, witches, and bad-souls. These are the only two that are worth mentioning in this flick, and considering that the movie holds a main cast of only 5 or 6 people; it’s a bit of a bummer.

Consensus: For fans of the horror genre, no matter how obvious or predictable it may get at times, the remake of Evil Dead will please most gore-lovers out there, but there isn’t much else that will shock you, surprise you, or even scare you for that matter. In my opinion, just stay at home and check out the original Evil Dead, or the whole Army of Darkness trilogy and just be reminded of how awesome Raimi and Bruce Campbell were, when they worked together.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Only the face a legion of cult-fans could love.

Only the face a legion of cult-fans could love.

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

No midgets hung themselves during the filming of this movie.

James Franco stars as Oscar, a small-time circus magician who is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz. There, he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting. Oscar must put his magical arts to use through illusion, through a bit of wizardry slowly transforming himself into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz he was destined to be after all.

Alright, let’s face it: we weren’t awaiting for a whole new-look at Oz, and hell, we weren’t even anticipating this movie; but dammit, it feels so good to be back. The first couple of previews for this movie made it seem as if it was just another, CGI-filled trip that was more like the recent Alice in Wonderland-debacle, than anywhere near a genuine piece of cinema, but thankfully, that’s where Sam Raimi comes in, and thank the movie heavens for him. However, anybody expecting a Drag Me to Hell or Evil Dead Raimi, are going to be surely disappointed. This is Raimi at his most kiddie-ish, and whether or not you are down for that; is most likely going to affect your whole feeling on this movie.

For me, I didn’t mind that Raimi was gunning for the kids/families, because it’s Oz, and I highly doubt people would want to go see Oz hanging out with Ash, and going around and sawwing-off zombies with a chainsaw instead of a limb. Like Bryan Singer pulled that last week, it may lose some respect from the people that love and praise you the most, but in this world and in this business: you can’t please everybody. Thankfully, the man pleased me and that was more than enough. Okay, I just realized that came out wrong but you get what I’m saying.

"Dammit. I knew I should have just kept the snake in the cage until I left this place."

“Dammit. I knew I should have just kept the snake in the cage until I left this place.”

What I liked so much about Raimi’s direction is that no matter what the problem may be with this story, with these characters, or with the ideas, the movie is always stunning to view. I got the humble chance to see this in 3-D (with some fancy schmancy glasses, thank you for that, Allied) and it was breath-taking because you can totally tell that whoever designed this movie, did it with love and with a great attention to detail. Throughout the whole 2 hours and some-odd minutes, you really do feel as if you are right there, stuck in this world of Oz there with all of these wondrous, and crazy characters, whether they be creatures, flying monkeys, witches, magicians, or people pretending to be magicians, and it was a place that I was happy to be in. Even when the start-off with the strange ratio in the old-school, black-and-white look, it was still beautiful and felt more than just a mindless gimmick.

I don’t know if that was because of the look, the feel, the characters, or what, but what I do know is that this movie is beautiful and you can totally tell that Raimi and company really put a lot of effort into the look of this film, and to make it work. It isn’t just pretty to take your eyes off of what’s supposed to be a plot, but it’s there to ease your eyes and have you go, “Woah. Ooh. Aaah.” Whether or not you’re the person who likes the shell-out a couple of extra bucks for 3-D, I’d say go for it, but don’t come complaining to me if you can handle that extra-dimension. It’s what it promises on the package, baby.

But it’s not like this movie is only good for the visuals, the story itself is pretty cool too. As a kid, I loved the hell out of the Wizard of Oz and always wondered what it was like before Dorothy and Toto came-around and shook things up a bit. I finally got that view, and Raimi provides a nice world that is easy to get used to, even if some of it does seem a bit like filler. But filler is fine with me as long as it’s fun, entertaining, and enjoyable while it lasts, and that’s something I have to give a lot of credit to Raimi for: he brought me back to this world and gave me a good time. Come to think about it, isn’t that what going to the movies are all about? Being transported into a different world where all of your wildest and craziest imaginations could, and just might come true? I think that’s what the social-act of “going to the movies” is all about, and what makes it better is that this time, the world you are transported to, just so happens to be Oz. Oh yeah.

What surprised me the most about this movie is how strong and fun it started-off. I felt as if there was a real sense of joy and display of entertainment to be entertained-by, but somehow, the film loses it’s way and found myself actually losing interest the story. Yeah, I can’t explain it and if I do, I’ll just end up running into spoiler-territory but something was just not working for me. It almost felt as if the movie had all of these intentions to get our minds, right off the bat, and then stopped caring much about the story as it continued to trug-along and that’s where I found myself forgetting what was going on, why characters were doing certain things, and just what were all of these crazy witches jabbering on about.

Maybe a film like this that takes place in Oz and is only meant for kids, isn’t really something that’s worth to be all that thought-about and studied as if it was my Junior Year research paper (still haven’t gotten my grade for that either), but to me, that shows a problem. A problem not just with the story or the screenplay, but with the direction and how Raimi begins to lose a bit of focus. Instead of making this movie just one, joyous adventure after another, the movie continues to pile on, more and more explanation and exposition to the story, when in reality, all we needed to know was: witches are evil, Oz is good, people need saving, and that’s why he is there. That’s all we needed, but the movie continues to ramble on with random shite that makes no sense and doesn’t need to when you have a movie that takes place in Oz. Just give me fun, delight, happiness, jokes, witches, magicians, flying monkeys, and dwarves. That’s it. Nothing more and sure as hell, nothing less.

"Hotness! Be summoned!

“Hotness! Be summoned!

Other than the fact that the movie adds a bit more than it should have, what has really surprised me the most about this movie is how it’s already being received. And by “being received”, I mean James Franco and his performance as Oz. Personally, I think the guy nailed what it was like to be a big, old cheap-o of a magician that doesn’t have a care in the world, is selfish, egotistical, a womanizer, and a bit of a d-bag. I thought, if anything, Franco nailed that aspect of that character down like-pat and really made me believe that such a schlub of a guy like Oz, could actually turn his life around and be the grand wizard all of these people expect him to be. Yes, the already-wanted Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp would have been a lot better for this role, but with Franco, he gives it his all and if anything, deserves some praise and kudos for going balls-deep in this role and not coming off like a member of the Dull Party, like he usually comes off as. Even though you may not hear this from many others, James, I just would like to say: good job and keep-up the good work. Don’t let them haters get yo ass down. Holla.

The supporting cast around him, also do fine jobs, even if some are better than others, which shows as well. Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis, and Michelle Williams play the three witches of Oz, who all do fine, except for the gal who plays the Wicked Witch. Even though Disney themselves already shot-themselves in the foot with this one and spoiled who the actual witch was, I refuse to give it away and say who. But, the person that they do end-up with seems a bit miscast, almost as if she put way, way too much emphasis on the yelling and cackling. The story as to why that chick becomes the Wicked Witch, is pretty interesting (Oz is a pimp daddy, fo sho), but the development of that certain character and how she acts so pissed was a tad annoying and made me just want to shoe her away. Maybe that was the point after all, but I was more annoyed of the chick, than scared. Unlike when I was a kid and nearly pissed my Spider-Man pj’s every time THAT Wicked Witch came around. God, she was a scary woman.

It was also nice to see Zach Braff back in action as Finley, Oz’s trusty side-kick who also happens to be a talking-monkey, since the guy hasn’t been around much. Also, I’m a huge fan of Scrubs so whatever the guy had to say, in whatever which way, always had me howling at the moon. Oh, and yes, for all of you die-hard Raimi fans out there, Bruce Campbell does show his wonderful-self in this movie, but it’s in a role that may surprise you, but more because you did not even know it was him and was such a small-role for the guy. Granted, a Bruce Campbell cameo is better than no Bruce Campbell cameo, but at least it could have been more epic and cool, considering I was waiting for him the whole time. Disappointment, disappointment.

Consensus: Though Raimi bites-off a bit more than he could ever possibly chew with some of this classic-material, Oz the Great and Powerful is still a fun, beautiful, and enjoyable trip back to the world we all loved when were kids, and will feel even happier to pass it on down to the next-generation of go-getters who still have no idea what tapping your ruby slippers are all about. Silly Y-Generation children.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Hey, I know they're sissies and all, but would it be so wrong to just ask for a tiny peck?

Hey, I know they’re sissies and all, but would it be so wrong to just ask for a tiny peck? I’ll cover the kid’s eyes…?

Spider-Man (2002)

May 3, 2002 will officially go down as the day the nerds came back to rule the Earth, as well as the box-office.

This tells the age-old story of science whiz kid Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), who is in love with his next-door neighbor, Mary Jane Watson (Kirtsen Dunst) and wants to do something successful with his life. That all changes when he gets bitten by a radioactive spider and then he becomes the web-swinging hero who we all know and love: Spider-Man. Problem is, there’s a certain person named Norman Osborne (Willem Dafoe) who stands in the way of him.

I don’t even know why I bothered writing out a little synopsis for this flick because all I probably had to do was just say; “this is the story of Spider-Man”, left it at that, and there would have been no confusion whatsoever. But for all of you younglings that apparently loved The Amazing Spider-Man, well, I got a bomb to drop on you: this is better. Yes, Andrew Garfield is a hottie, I’ll give ya that one.

If any of you peeps out there did read my review that I did for that flick, you could probably tell that I held this series up above everything else and that these flicks actually have a close spot to my heart, as I saw them when I was only about 8 and started getting into my movie watching days. However, now that I watch this film, I do realize that some of this may not work-out as perfectly as I thought when I was just a little tike but it still holds up 10 years later and with great reason: it set the bar the for every other superhero flick that came out after this. May have been a little risky saying that but seriously, think about all of the other superhero films that came out after this and just notice the format that they follow.

Director Sam Raimi deserves a lot of credit for taking this film, when it seemed like nobody else would, and gave it that “fun” element that all of the fan-boys craved from this story. Raimi takes a lot of time to develop his characters, their relationships, and what they mean to this story, but he also doesn’t take it too seriously by allowing there to be plenty of light-hearted moments of comedy, that can sometimes border on camp (the good kind, though), and give us some high-flying action we wanted to see in the first-place. There’s a lot of cool scenes with Spidey, flying throughout the sky and even though they may not look all that real, they still are a lot of fun and it’s great to see what it looks like up there whenever he does fly around on his webs. And even when the action kicks in, you can feel a certain amount of fun energy come right from Raimi’s direction. That’s what makes it pretty obvious that this guy loves the character of Peter Parker/Spider-Man and just cannot wait to get the chance to show us on the big-screen. Sometimes the film may go a bit over-board with it’s goofiness, but it’s all in good, old-fashioned, Raimi fun. And that was A-okay with yours truly, folks.

Could have used more tongue, I always say.

Could have used more tongue, I always say.

But back to what I was talking about before in how Raimi allows there to be a story here, because that’s one of the major assets to this flick. I have always thought that Spider-Man has had some of the most likable and endearing characters ever written for a comic, and it’s great to see that come out so well on-screen. Parker is obviously a loveable kid and you’d have to be the freakin’ devil to find anything wrong with him. He isn’t a Saint, but he’s just a lovely kid that you could have over for dinner, and ask him to clean the dishes because you wanna take an early-nap. Nobody has yet to ask me to do that, so the kid’s gotta special! However, what makes this kid so damn special is the little dramatic scenes between him and MJ that get your heart swooning, the scenes with him and Aunt May that show you that the ladies (young or old) think he’s adorable as hell, and it’s the scenes with Uncle Ben that makes you realize that this kid is going to have a lot on his plate as his life goes on. These little snippets of drama that occur here in this flick, make this story all the better to follow through on and pay attention to because you know that these characters are people you love to watch, and you can’t wait to see how they’re relationships develop over time. Mucho kudos to Raimi for giving us a bunch of comic-book characters that feel more three-dimensional than an actual comic-book. Yeah, that was cheesy but I think you’re picking up what I’m putting down.

Going back to Peter Parker, though, Tobey Maguire was probably the most perfect choice of casting you could ever get and it’s total surprise to me now, why the hell people were so against this in the first place. Obviously Maguire wasn’t a huge name in Hollywood and didn’t even really have a leading role in one until this point, but Raimi saw something in Maguire that made this character work wonders and give us a superhero that is not only loved by all out there, but also one that feels very realistic in the way he acts and how those acts change over time as he grows older. Parker starts out as this nerd who one day dreams of being a huge scientist (much like daddy Parker), but still can’t get past the fact that everybody picks on him and bullies him all for one reason: he’s geeky. But then his life changes once he gets bitten by this radioactive spider and that’s when we start to see a realistic transformation, not only in Peter Parker, but in Maguire’s performance as well.

It didn’t matter which side of this character he was playing, whether he was Spider-Man or not, Maguire owns every layer there is to this character and gives us a hero to root for and feel like is one of us. He’s a nerd, yes, but he’s also a kid that genuinely has good intentions in his life and it’s understandable why he wants to help all of the innocent people he does ends up saving. Maguire handles all of the action elements in this character that makes him somewhat of a bad-ass but also handles a lot of the character elements to him too, that make him seem more like a regular-guy that has to put up with some major responsibilities in his life, all because of one little, radioactive spider. It’s a total shame that Maguire has been trying his damn near hardest to get out of this type-casted role as the lovable geek, but I think with a choice role in Brothers (best part of the movie, in my opinion) and a big role coming-up in The Great Gatsby, he may have finally found a way to break out of that mold and I really do hope that he does because he deserves it. God, I love that kid.

Kirsten Dunst plays the apple of Peter’s eye, MJ, and she does a fairly solid job at a character that could have been one of those annoying, “save me, save me” female characters that these superhero flicks always seem to have. I remember as a kid, I fell in love with her and thought she was the hottest thing to ever grace the screen since Glenn Close in 101 Dalmatians (please, don’t ask) and I still think that holds up to this day even if I do think that the romance between her and Peter seems a bit phony. It doesn’t seem very clear why Peter loves her so much in the first place, other than the fact that she’s a hottie that he may actually have somewhat of a chance to be with. Maybe with the rap-sheet that I got, I have no room to be dissing on a guy about what traits about ladies tingle his spider-sense, but this just seemed like Peter wants her only because she’s good-looking and that’s all.

Big pimpin'.

Big pimpin’.

James Franco plays Parker’s nerd-o buddy, Harry Osborne and seems like he’s hamming it up just a bit, but it’s not until later where we see his true colors come out. However, I think that should be saved for another review, my dears. J.K. Simmons was also another perfect choice of casting as J. Jonah Jameson as every-line he says, made me laugh my ass off and even better, he actually looks like J. Jonah from the comics! Perfect choice right then and there!

And the last piece of perfect casting goes to Willem Dafoe for his role as Norman Osborne, aka The Green Goblin. Dafoe is perfect for this villainous role because he just looks like a freak show in the first place, but also plays up a lot of the elements that makes this character tick so much in the first-place. There’s a lot of weird stuff that Dafoe has to go through with this character, but he handles it perfectly even if the big distraction with this villain is that he looks so freakin’ ridiculous. Honestly, with a budget this big, you don’t think they could have come-up with anything better other than a distracting plastic mask that looks like some piece of over-priced junk I’d get at Halloween Adventure for $30! I don’t think I could have come up with anything better than what they got for him here, but there could have been something that looked a little more menacing. Just a little bit more. Machine-guns, maybe?

Consensus: Though it may not hold-up as perfectly as I once imagined it did, Spider-Man is still a fun and entertaining superhero ride from start-to-finish with a light and breezy feel from Raimi that shows his passionate love for Spidey, characters that we actually care about, a story that touches us in a way, and a bunch of performances that are all very, very good, especially Tobey Maguire’s iconic performance as Peter Parker.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Damn Trick 'R Treaters that try too hard.

Damn Trick or Treaters that try too hard.

Halloween Horror Movie Month: Army of Darkness (1992)

It’s official, Martin Lawrence totally tried to copy The Bruce Campbell. Obviously, it didn’t work.

This begins where Evil Dead II left off, except once again retconning the fact that Ash killed the flying bird thing at the beginning. Instead, he is taken prisoner by English knights at war with a group of Scots. After Ash shows his skill and superiority when killing the “Deadite” used for executions, the film takes a very adventures turn. Ash tries to fling the Necronomicon, mistakenly chants the phrase wrong, and is soon against an army of the undead.

It’s sort of weird that I placed this in the Halloween Horror Movie Month-meme because this one really isn’t as much of a horror flick as much as it’s more of a comedy. However, it is part of the Evil Dead franchise, so I guess it belongs here in that sense and it also makes me feel great knowing that I have finally got done watching it all. And jeez, what a franchise, man.

Since this was made after Sam Raimi hit it pretty big with Darkman two years before, the budget here’s definitely a lot bigger than what he was used to working with, which basically meant he was able to do whatever the hell he wanted, how he wanted, and with as much moolah as he wanted. That’s a pretty smart-idea to pull-off because if you give Raimi enough money, he’ll definitely be able to make it work and that’s what he shows off here.

There’s a lot of fun to be had here with this movie: the comedy is more obvious now but still goofy and over-the-top, the monsters are a lot better-looking, but still odd; and the action is very polished, but still entertaining as hell to watch on-screen. It’s obvious that this movie is very different from the other ones because of what it has at it’s disposal, but that doesn’t really seem to get in the way of Raimi and what he wants to do with this movie, and that’s to pretty much just give us another wacky and wild ride, but this go-around, is placed in the middle ages, where there seems to be a lot more goofy crap happening.

Since this is a pretty up-front comedy, I think it’s pretty safe to say that on that level, it definitely works. Just watching Ash go around and say dumb shit to these characters, without them having a single-clue as to what he means is really, really funny. There’s a whole bunch of anachronistic humor here, but it never seems over-used and just continued to make me laugh and laugh a lot more. I mean, hey, the sight of a 1982 station-wagon standing side-by-side a knight and his horse is pretty damn funny once you take into a consideration the fact that none of these characters have any idea just what the hell that actually is. As I said before, not as much of a scary movie as it is funny, and that’s the real charm behind it all, is that it is funny and knows how to play around with itself.

However, when you look at it as a movie that came after the first two, it sort of pales in-comparison. Granted, this movie is still a strong add into the trilogy, but definitely seems a lot more careful with itself now, considering that there was more of an opportunity to be a mainstream hit, when we all know that Evil Dead is not for a large audience, because some love it and some get it. One of the biggest disappointments of this whole movie is the fact that there definitely doesn’t seem to be as much gore or blood this time around and a lot of the action and violence is shown, but never shown in an over-the-top way that made the first two so much fun. Actually, for a movie that’s rated-R, it’s a bit tame and seems like Raimi wasn’t allowed to do everything that he wanted, simply because of the big, studio-heads that were probably behind this movie.

It’s not that the love or the spirit isn’t here, because it definitely is, it just feels as if it could have been more of a successful stand-alone movie, rather than one that’s associated with the Evil Dead franchise because Ash is in it. But you know what? Ash is also probably the best thing about this movie and it’s all because of how freakin’ cool and king-like Bruce Campbell is, once again too, may I add. Even though it seems like a bit of a shaky-idea to have Ash out of the cabin, fighting demons and have him now in the middle ages, still fighting demons, it still provides a lot of opportunity for Campbell to really stretch out his comedic skills and show everybody what he’s got and needles to say, the results are far from disappointing.

It helps that the script he’s working off of is pretty solid, but Campbell still adds a lot of that goofy, campy charm to a movie that seemed like it really needed that to remind us of the old movies. A shitty line like “Give me some sugar, baby”, just wouldn’t sound right if it was placed in any other movie, with any other actor saying the line, but thankfully, this is an Evil Dead movie and it is Bruce Campbell who delivers that line. Seriously, if a lot of you out there don’t like the first two or don’t even understand the real charm and awesomeness of Campbell, then I urge you to see this movie and watch it for his performance alone. There’s just something about him and his comedic-timing that just puts him and Ash one step ahead of everybody else in this flick and it’s definitely one of the best elements of the whole movie. Guy had me howling from start-to-finish, but he still kicked-ass when the movie needed him to and you know, that’s all that really mattered to me.

Consensus: Army of Darkness is definitely the weakest entry of the whole Evil Dead franchise, but is still a fun movie in it’s own right mainly because of the charm and likability of it’s leading man: the man, the myth, the mother ‘effin legend, Mr. Bruce Campbell, everybody.

8/10=Matinee!!

Halloween Horror Movie Month: Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)

You just had to go back to that cabin, didn’t you?

Basically, Dead By Dawn retcons the fact that Ash went with four other college students to the fact that he only went with his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler). It recaps the events of the first film, up until the point where the spirit attacks Ash, which basically means that it’s another night trapped with the horrifying demons of the Necronomicon.

After checking out The Evil Dead for Halloween Horror Movie Month last year, I knew I had to end this year’s one on a bang. And if you have seen this movie, you know exactly what type of bang I’m talking about. In-joke, bitches. In-joke.

If you think seeing this movie as being a part of my little meme for this month means that it’s scary, I will assure you: it’s far from that. Yeah, there is a couple of jump-scares here and there that catch you off-guard in the way most horror movies do, but this is more of a campy, over-the-top horror movie, with slight, comedic undertones, and that’s probably what makes this film so much damn fun in the first-place. Like with the first-movie, director Sam Raimi shows that he loves making these kinds of movies, regardless as to how much money or material is at his disposal. The guy just has a ball with everything that he owns here, and it shows, but in a good-way. So, for any movie-geek out there who thinks that making all of your wildest dreams come true of being a big-time film-maker are lost because you don’t know the difference between a 16 mm and a 70 mm, then have no fear and just take a note out of this guy’s book. Hell, he’s making this crap and no less than 15 years later he was already making a big-budget, Spider-Man movie. Just goes to show you what a bunch of fun and love can do and where it can get you in Hollywood.

Despite being a sequel to a relatively scary movie, Evil Dead 2 pulls no punches in making itself as goofy as can be. You got laughing furniture, prosthetic chainsaws, tree monsters, an evil book of the dead, and plenty of other crazy and goofy stuff that just so happens to show up in this movie, but it all works because it is never, not for once, taken in the least-bit seriously. Everything here is practically a joke and every scene that happens, is just as outrageous and crazy as the last one but who cares? It’s not about scaring the pants off of film-goers, it’s more about showing the audience that you can have a kick-ass time just watching a movie that does not pull any punches with itself, or it’s material.

And when I mean that this film “does not pull any punches”, I mean that it does not linger away from showing you some disgusting, freakishly-weird looking things up on-screen and as dated as they may be, they still are inventive and original, in their own, sick way. There’s plenty of blood and goo that just pops-out of nowhere sometimes so if you’re squeamish, remember, you have been warned to bring your brown paper bag with ‘ya. Then again, why the hell would you be going to see this movie in the first-place if you don’t like blood or gore. It’s called Evil Dead for chrissakes, and better yet, it’s the sequel. More evil, more dead, more blood, and more guts to be seen. That’s how I like my horror movies and that’s why I had a ball with this one.

I know, I know that this whole review has been all about me practically making love to this movie and telling you how much fun I had but when I say that, I really mean it. Yes, it can be perceived as corny-as-hell in most-spots but that shit doesn’t really matter when you have a cast and crew that sort of knows it and is doing it on-purpose. It’s so rare that you can come by a film that just knows what it is, plays around with itself, and makes no apologies for itself either. Trust me, rather than being scared shit-less until your own pants, literally fall-off from so much feces (sorry for the graphic image), you’ll most likely lose them from all of the piss that comes out when you laugh so hard. Seriously, lines like “Groovy” and “Swallow this”, just had me howling in my seat not only because they were corny, but just because they fit the whole tone of the movie and seemed like it served it’s purpose when it was all said and over with. You’re not going to get a more over-the-top and wild movie than this, and that’s a fact, Jack.

And you know who else serves his mother ‘effin purpose? Fuckin’ Bruce Campbell, that’s who! I remember seeing Campbell play Ash in the first movie, and remembering that this guy definitely seemed like he had a mean-streak in him and should totally let-loose against these demonic pieces of shit if he knew what’s best for him. Thankfully, by the end of that movie, he got that memo after all and gets that one right from the start here and it’s freakin’ awesome to see. The guy does a total 180 and starts kicking ass, taking names, saying cheesy-lines, saving dames, and doing everything else, other than chewing bubble gum (that was a They Live reference in case you peeps didn’t know). Campbell is the big reason why so many people love this movie, and exactly why I do too because no matter how many times the guy gets his ass kicked, he always comes back for more and that’s refreshing to see in a horror-genre that’s now plagued by high-school pussies that are more concerned with their virginity than their lives. That’s why we need another character like Ash in today’s day and age to smack some sense into these little pieces of crap. Actually, if there is a complaint I had with this movie was that when Ash does eventually meet-up with other people in this movie, they are annoying, despicable, and do every single, stupid thing that you would normally expect from horror-movie conventions and stock-characters. However, Ash was still there to save the day in the end and that’s all I cared about. Thank the lord for Bruce Campbell!

Consensus: I went back-and-forth on whether or not I should have given this movie an 8.5 or 9, and I just realized that the whole-time, I continued to smile and smile throughout and it’s exactly what I wanted in a horror flick. Pure fun, pure campiness, and pure, over-the-top, goofiness that never steps into serious-territory.

9/10=Full Price!!

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Never thought I would say this, but I missed Tobey.

The Amazing Spider-Man is the story of Peter Parker (Garfield), an outcast high schooler who was abandoned by his parents as a boy, leaving him to be raised by his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). Peter is also finding his way with his first high school crush, Gwen Stacy (Stone), and together, they struggle with love, commitment, and secrets. Oh yeah, and he’s also Spider-Man. Can’t forget about that one, little detail.

Before I start this review off, I have to give a little disclaimer and say that I have a special place in my heart for the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies. That’s right, even the 3rd one to an extent. So this review may be a bit biased in some points and if that is the case, I apologize but I just can’t believe they actually went through with this idea. I mean honestly, you couldn’t wait 5 more years!?!?

Anywhoo, what interested me most about this reboot was the fact that it’s helmed randomly by Marc Webb (director of one of my favorite flicks from 2009, ((500) Days of Summer). When people saw JGL (Joseph Gordon-Levitt for all of you noobs out there) walking down the streets, singing and dancing to the tunes of Hall & Oates, I highly doubt the thing on everybody’s mind was “ooh, I wonder how cool that would be with webs shooting out of that guy’s hands”. What I’m trying to say is that Webb (oh wait, now I get it) seemed like a very random and odd choice for this flick, but I can’t say that he doesn’t bring something fun to this film either. All of that quirky, indie style from his debut is lost here but there is still plenty of room for him to relish in the art of telling the Spider-Man story, the way he thinks is right and do what he wants, just as long as he doesn’t piss off all of the fan boys who want to see this.

The film is claiming to be “the untold story”, when in reality, it’s just a re-working on the same origin story we’ve seen before. Like for instance, instead of a Peter Parker being bitten in the lab because he was on a class field trip, he is in there because he secretly, sneaked into an internship meeting there. Or, instead of having Parker just shoot webs from his veins, he now has mechanical webshooters that pretty much do the same thing. These are the types of “re-workings” we see in this flick and it’s not so bad considering a lot of it makes more sense and gives us a better look at why the Spider-Man superhero is so damn popular and loved in the first place. There is a bunch of humor here, some of which, annoyed the hell out of me, but other times worked and gave this film a fun little feel.

Actually, I can’t really bag on this film as much because it seems like that’s all Webb is concerned about here: having fun. And no matter what the story may be, I’m down with that. There’s plenty of cool-looking action scenes where it’s just Spidey, doing his good olde, mono-a-mono showdown between him and a baddy, and some really beautiful scenes where we see him just fly through the sky, where New York City is pretty much his playground. Some real nifty stuff to see and have fun with here, and it’s also enhanced by some amazing-looking CGI that doesn’t really come off as fake. I saw this in 3D Imax and I have to say, it’s pretty good but I wouldn’t go out and pay for it only because there isn’t so much here that’s worth that extra-dimension. Then again, that could be said for a whole bunch of other flicks with that tagline; “in 3D”.

However, as fun as a lot of the action may be, there’s not as much as you would expect, especially when it comes to a Summer blockbuster. Maybe that’s not the right thing to say, because there is plenty of action and adventure for you to sink your teeth into, but then there are also these other, quieter moments where it’s just focusing on Parker and Stacy’s love relationship that are not only awkward as hell to watch, but don’t feature any type of fun dialogue to keep you interested. They sort of just show up, stay on-screen, and bother the hell out of you because you just want to see The Lizard and Spidey duke it out once again. I don’t mind when a film, let alone a superhero film, is trying to go into more depth about its main character, but when it’s done in a flick where you should be expecting, non-stop action all over the place, then that’s where the problem lies. Basically, just too slow for a superhero film.

What is very watchable throughout these boring scenes, is actually the eclectic cast that Webb has brought together and being lead by Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man/Peter Parker. Garfield plays a different type of Parker than from what we saw with Tobey Maguire. Instead of coming off as a total nerd, that can’t do anything right because he wears glasses and loves science, Garfield makes him seem like this lost soul that just keeps to himself and doesn’t really care what goes on around him. Yeah, he’s a little strange because he’s always taking pictures of things, but he’s got a certain edge to him that makes him seem a lot cooler than you would expect Peter Parker actually to seem like in the first place. I think that Garfield goes a little too far with his humor in this film, but then again, that can’t really be blamed on him because he’s obviously doing everything in his soul to be the different type of Peter Parker we are used to seeing.

Emma Stone is here as Gwen Stacy, Parker’s apple of his eye, and does a pretty swell job with what she is given and thankfully, as my friend at the screening I was at pointed out, wasn’t playing the usual “damsel in distress” role that we usually see ladies in superhero flicks usually play. She is actually pretty tough and smart, and can stick up for herself whenever the time comes. Her and Garfield have a little awkward chemistry going on here, but I think that’s what’s the point of this flick. Rhys Ifans does a nice job as our villain, The Lizard/Dr. Curt Connors. Ifans can always play these bad-guy roles and this one is no different, except his CGI starts to be a little distracting by the end. Actually, it makes him look like The Hulk and I don’t know if Sony wanted that on their hands after all of The Avengers buzz that still seems to be going on. Seriously, how much more money does that movie need to make?

The casting of Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben, seemed like an awesome bit of casting because Sheen just has this “old-timer likability” thing going on for him, that it doesn’t matter what role he plays, you love him regardless. That’s why everybody was so shocked when he got thrown off the roof in The Departed, because everybody loves that guy, who would want to do such a mean and cruel thing to him? Sally Field is here as Aunt May and as hard as she may try, she seems too young for an Aunt and all of the advice she gives out, makes it seem like she’s doing Mamma Gump, all over again. Another bit of inspired casting was actually Denis Leary as Captain Stacy, mainly because the guy shows that he still has the comedic chops to pull off some very funny moments, but can also make a rather, deuchy character, still likable and understandable.

Despite all of these awesome and great elements that this film featured (action, acting, humor, CGI, special effects, etc.), I still couldn’t get past the Sam Raimi movies, and I’ll tell you exactly why. I’m 18 right now, so I was about 7 when the first one came out and I loved it to death. Then that second one came out, and gee-goll-e, did that knock my socks off even more! Then that third one came out, and even though it was definitely not on-par with the other two that came before it, it was still fun and endearing enough to keep me locked on to what was going to happen next with Peter Parker. Honestly, that original series from Raimi will always be in my childhood and I was so mad when they decided to go through with this reboot, really I was. It was a total cash-grab, in my opinion, and as fun as this film may be, I still couldn’t stop thinking about the original flicks. Whenever Garfield was flying through the sky, I kept on thinking about Tobey doing the same thing. Whenever Uncle Ben would show up, I kept on thinking about Cliff Robertson delivering the all-time famous line, “With great power comes great responsibility”. And whenever somebody mentioned Oscorp, Willem Dafoe automatically popped right into my head. Really, the memories from all of my movie-watching from back in the day really made me miss those flicks and also made me want to go watch them again. So maybe this flick wasn’t for me since I loved the originals so much, but honestly, I just wish they never went through this in the first-place. Or at least waited 5 more years so that everybody’s minds were fresh and clear of Raimi and Maguire. Miss them already.

Consensus: The Amazing Spider-Man is exactly what you come to expect from a superhero flick: fun, action-packed, wild and crazy set pieces, baddies doing bad things, goodies doing good things, romantic love story, and some little shots of humor to liven everything up. Problem is, this is a reboot of a series that has already had its movies, and were ones that still stay stuck in my mind no matter what.

7/10=Rental!!

Halloween Horror Movie Month: Drag Me To Hell (2009)

Basically just don’t eff with gypsies.

After denying a woman the extension she needs to keep her home, loan officer Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) sees her once-promising life take a startling turn for the worse. Christine is convinced she’s been cursed by a Gypsy, but her boyfriend (Justin Long) is skeptical. Her only hope seems to lie in a psychic (Dileep Rao) who claims he can help her lift the curse and keep her soul from being dragged straight to hell.

Writer/director Sam Raimi took a break from making horror films for awhile and actually went on to make the Spider-Man films. Although I haven’t really checked out all of his horror films yet, I still get the urge to after seeing a crazy film like this.

The one thing about Raimi and horror films is that they aren’t necessarily scary as much as they are just totally freaky thrill rides. He doesn’t really go for scaring the pants off of the audience, and he just more or less focuses on a way to keep an audience entertained, while giving them some freaky happenings on screen.

I have to say that this is what Raimi does incredibly well here because he seems like he is just having a ball putting this good-looking girl through all of this torture, and adding a nice little funny moment to top it all off. You get a lot of goofy stuff in this film and for other directors it would seem forced and totally unnecessary but the way Raimi uses it to his advantage, works for him because the whole tone of this film is playful rather than being way too serious for somebody to actually chuckle at intentionally.

There’s some pretty disgusting things in this film that may turn some people away like random bugs, rancid meat, and eyeballs but it’s all toned down for at least a safer Pg-13 rating. A lot of those disgusting things that I saw on-screen too had me laughing but I kind of wish they pushed the boundaries when it came to sickening parts of this film. Raimi is a man about gore when it comes to horror (I’m a poet and didn’t even know it) so when I just saw him put little disgusting things here and there, I kind of got disappointed because I knew he could have really thrown it in our faces, but still went with that Pg-13 rating probably because nobody would see an R-rated film from the director of ‘Spider-Man‘. Stupid, but true.

Another problem I had with this film was how it seemed like Raimi kind of focused too much on the whole moral of this story. Well, not really the moral, but the reason all of this crazy stuff is happening to this girl. I mean we get it, it was her decision to not let this old lady have her house back, stop hitting me over the head with this big moral story and just show me this girl getting terrorized by evil demons again.

The acting front of this film isn’t really anything special, but it will hold you over for the whole hour and 40 minutes. Alison Lohman is good as Christine Brown because she just gets tortured the whole film but by the end you see a transition in her that’s really cool and pretty believable. She’s never really been one of my favorite actresses but she does good here. Justin Long isn’t his usual comedic-self as Clay, but plays the loving boyfriend role pretty well although his parents are assholes. Dileep Rao is also pretty funny as Rham Jas, the fortune-teller who seems like he’s out of a comedy.

Consensus: Drag Me to Hell is too toned-down and has problems with its script but when it comes to Sam Raimi’s direction this horror flick is fun, creepy, dumb, and very much what people should expect from him.

7/10=Rental!!

Halloween Horror Movie Month: The Evil Dead (1981)

30 years later, and it still kicks ass.

During an unplanned stop at a remote cabin deep within the woods, a group of teens falls prey to a mysterious supernatural force. As his pals become possessed and turn into flesh-eating zombies, Ash (Bruce Campbell) struggles to keep his cool and save his own skin.

Even though the title and poster should have been a big warning for me, I still had no idea just what I was getting myself into. When I say that, it’s a good thing too.

Writer/director Sam Raimi isn’t all about having A-list stars or big-budget effects and that’s why this film works on so many levels. The movie was made with about $400,000 and you can tell that all of that money went to non-stop blood, gore, and fake body-parts that this film constantly threw all-over-the-place. It also kind of gives hope to all aspiring film-makers out there, that if you can make cool films with a small amount of money. It all depends really on the film itself.

I mean I have seen a lot of gory horror films (Hell, half of the horror movie’s in today’s world rely on gore for “the scare factor”) but this one totally pushes the envelop and with good effect too, because I was totally wigging out by all of the crap I saw on-screen. Raimi gets totally insane as the film goes and in time, gets more original with this material. I mean come on, who has ever seen a tree rape someone before? I rest my case.

The way he constantly uses the camera to run-around the woods as if it were some sort of person, or unstoppable force is very influential and also at the same time, still very scary once you see how realistic the camera is moving to keep up with the action/terror. Truly freaky stuff here and it will definitely now make me look twice while I’m in the woods from now on.

The film isn’t as scary as it is just gory and it’s real problems actually lie within some of the writing because regardless of what Raimi may be able behind the camera, on paper, he can’t keep the magic going. There’s a lot of really cheap and dumb lines that I’ve probably heard about 1,000,000 times before and after this film was released and the dramatic weight they try to give this film seems forced and annoying considering how many times this film should have just strayed away from it. I guess maybe I’m being too judgmental but I have to say that this kind of took away from the film’s overall effect.

When it comes to acting, this film kind of suffers as well with the exception of the one and only, Bruce Campbell. This movie is practically responsible for launching his career into “the B-movie God” he’s known as today, and with good reason. He plays our hero, Ash, and starts off very nerdy and scared but then turns into this crazed killer that totally just wants to get the hell out of the woods and it’s kind of cool to see this guy’s whole transformation throughout the whole hour and 25 minutes.

Consensus: About 30 years later, and The Evil Dead still stands as an all-out gore fest with some great scares, awesome moments of blood, gore, and action, and also shows some low-budget film-making at its finest and really it’s early beginning.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Darkman (1990)

Liam Neeson is not a scientist, that’s how you know that this film is messed up.

In director Sam Raimi’s moody, intense thriller, brilliant scientist Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson) is almost killed by gangsters in a massive explosion. Unstable and disfigured, Peyton becomes Darkman, an impossibly strong, tormented antihero. Able to spend only moments in the sunlight, Darkman begins a quest to rekindle his love with his girlfriend (Frances McDormand), who he’s held at a distance, and to take vengeance on his enemies.

The funny thing about Darkman is that it looks like a comic book movie (Batman, Dick Tracy), though it features an original screenplay. It has all the elements of one of those origin episodes that the comic book fans love to collect, and how they discover how that superhero turned out to be that way and why.

One thing that you soon may notice about Darkman that it acts and looks like a horror film, when really its a natural tale based on revenge. A lot of elements are thrown together to make this wild fest filled with blend of comic book action, sets, and characters, pitch black humor, and sci-fi/horror violence. I wasn’t expecting anything different from a Raimi film, but what this is still a nice and well-worked blend.

There are a lot of original things that go on in this film. Sometimes the action is really cool to look at, and there are a lot of other scenes where Darkman uses some of his smart tricks to fool others thinking he is still dead.

The one problem I had with this film was that Darkman the character was not very compelling. He obviously has a reason for killing all these people, but compared to other super heroes such as Batman and Superman, he doesn’t have much of a personality and we can’t really connect to him as an audience.

Occasionally the film does get a bit silly with its very cheap one-liners, and cliche script. But the villains didn’t seem so bad either. They just seemed like people that were part of the mob nothing really different, and I think anybody, super powers or no super powers could have easily killed them.

Liam Neeson does try his hardest with the character but isn’t given much to play with. He does have little scenes where he goes into rage and it seems believable just not memorable, and falls by the waist side of this character.

Consensus: Darkman is well-directed, and at times a very fun picture, but isn’t too memorable, that features an uninteresting superhero, and gang of villains.

6/10=Rental!!!

A Simple Plan (1998)

What would you do with 4 million dollars?

When two brothers (Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton) find a body and a bundle of cash in a downed plane, they plot to hide the loot and split it later. It’s a simple plan, until things go murderously awry.

Like the Coen brothers’ FARGO, Sam Raimi’s A SIMPLE PLAN is an ice-cold neo-noir as chilling and bleak as its snow-covered Minnesota locale.This a fine suspense thriller that digs deeper and deeper into the values and dreams of these small town characters. A Simple Plan is suspenseful, powerful, and as merciless as Fargo. Its very great to see how all these characters seem so real and you can tell their motives at every moment so every moment that happens seems to have a reason.

The most significant thing about this film is that you can see what leads them to the next step. Each of their ideas are shown at the right amount of pacing so they don’t go to quickly in showing these characters reactions but also don’t take too long in showing. The mood is something else of extraordinary, as you can feel just through the music and the expressions of the characters that this is how you should feel if this was happening to you right then and there.

Director Sam Raimi does a wonderful job at creating the right pace, mood, and overall right script. Much of the movie’s script is very similar to the novel’s script as well. Though some motives and character traits are changed Raimi still sticks close too the novel without getting too obvious. A great directing job from a guy who would later go on to direct the Spider Man movies.

The heart of this movie lies within the strong performances from its trio of leads. Bill Paxton is great as a man who just wants what’s best for his family and Bridget Fonda is his wife who just wants get out of her ordinary miserable life. Much of the acting credit goes to Billy Bob Thornton who’s understated and profoundly moving performance is what gave this movie its heart. Each stars have a chance to show their acting skills and each do very well and fully make this film as effective as it was.

The only problem I had with this film is not that bad at all really. The film being much like Fargo did not have as much comedy in it, if any at all. To be realistic in any depressing situation there will always be comedy to lighten things up and since this was such a realistic movie I wondered where the comedic tone to it was. In my opinion the film was way too dark without any light tone whatsoever.

The film kept me on the edge of my seat and with every twist and turn in the story, I felt myself hooked even more. A Simple Plan is a very simple movie to get used to just don’t watch this after King of Queens myself.

9/10=Full Pricee!!