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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Ted Raimi

The Grudge (2004)

Do all Japanese boys sound like cats?

An American nurse (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is living and working in Tokyo and somehow gets exposed to a mystery virus. What makes the virus so mysterious is that it’s one that locks a person in a powerful rage before claiming their life and spreading to another victim, but with a black, shadow-y figure there to see you before you die. Basically, it’s just weird.

Everybody knows the story of the Grudge by now: American girl tries to help out old lady, old lady sees something, mystical figure pops-up with a Howe-weird, cat noise, and all hell breaks loose. That’s the age old story that every teenage girl, and dude who was trying to take them out for a good scare so they could cuddle-up with them when they got frightened, saw.

But here’s the aspect of the story that they don’t know: It actually kind of sucks.

With that being said, the movie can be a tad scary, if only because of where it’s set. The fact that the creators of this remake decided to keep the story in its original native land and only change up certain aspects of the story so that they could throw in Americans people would be easier to connect with and whatnot, was actually a smart idea because it gives you an unsettling feeling. Nothing against Japan or its inhabitants, but there is just something eerie and strange about a bunch of Japanese people staring at you from a far, far distance and giving you that feeling that they either don’t like you, are silently judging you, or want to eat you and your family for din-din. Not saying this thought comes to mind every time a Japanese person stares at me, but in this, it kind of is.

Feast your eyes on what life after Buffy looks like.

Feast your eyes on what life after Buffy looks like.

However, when you get right down to it, that’s all the movie really has to offer. There are a couple of neat-o scares and chills to be had (that “after-work” scene was pretty damn tense), but everything else just feels like formula. The one film that this reminded me a lot of and probably for better, than worse, was the Ring. That movie, for all of it’s faults if you can find them, was creepy and something that made me feel a little bit tense when I would have to think about the next time turning off a static-y television-set. This movie, feels like a carbon-copy of it without any back-story worth mentioning, scares that don’t really get you at the right place and the right time, or any type of character that screams, hoots, and hollers like Naomi Watts could.

But then again, you have to beg the question, Can anybody? The answer to that is, I don’t think so. Heck, that’s why we have Naomi Watts in the first place.

Yes, little Japanese kids yelling in high-pitched, cat noises can be a little disorienting when you hear it the first two or three times, but after that, it’s just on-replay and never seems to end. Every time somebody would walk into the house, there would be movement upstairs, some sort of cracks and sizzles in the distance, a slight yelp from a ghost, the person would then pursue it, only to see a little boy, and have that little boy yell at them out of nowhere in that loud-ass voice I talked about earlier. It happens many ‘a times and maybe it could work on the types of people that are really, reelin’ in their chairs, scared to the high heavens, but on a person who doesn’t scared all that easily (yeah, I’m the shit) by material like this and knows what to expect next, then it doesn’t do anything nor does it serve any purpose. It’s boring, tedious, and goes to show you that the director may have decided to film all of this movie on his Lazy Sunday schedule, where everybody, including him, is still working with a hangover from the wild night before. Yeah, we all know those days and judging by the effort given by everybody in this cast and crew, I think they do as well.

Even though the characters aren’t here for anything else other than to just serve something resembling a story and serve the scares to come up, the performers do their best with what they’re given, even though it seems like a waste on this kind of material. Sarah Michelle Gellar is fine as the American nurse that gets all caught-up in this hubbubaloo that nobody needs to get involved with, not even Freddie Prinze Jr.’s wife, and she shows that disdain and annoyance on her face. But, she can also display the scared and shocked face well, too, and does that every chance she gets the opportunity to.

Honestly, just leave her. The "monster" isn't going to do shit anyway.

Honestly, just leave her. The “monster” isn’t going to do anything anyway.

Two very, very talented character actors pop up here as the kids of the crazy mother that sees things, William Mapother and Clea DuVall, and both are okay and definitely elevate this material to more than it aspires to be, but even I felt like taking them by the arm and being like, “Seriously? This is the type of crap you want to put on your resume to show that you have box-office appeal?”. Hey, good for them if it adds a couple of more bang to their buck, but for me, it just disappoints more than ever because I know they can do well with good material, but good material, this is not. The only hope I had for this movie was that they had the one, the mighty Bill Pullman here as some dude that randomly kills himself in the beginning and get’s a back-story later on, but it’s so goofy and so random, that it’s really just humorous. Pullman’s good and can do no wrong in my eyes, but even I felt like he was slumming this one down, big time.

Probably should have just stayed President of the United States and never even bothered stepping on Japanese soil.

Consensus: The Grudge isn’t quite the horror masterpiece it’s been made out to be by some, and instead, feels like a lazy retread of things we seen done many, many times before, and more effectively as well.

4 / 10 = Crapola!!

"Yeah, I know I'm cool."

“Yeah, I know I’m cool.”

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

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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

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

Clear and Present Danger (1994)

What has this Ryan dude got himself into now??!?!?

After saving his family and the Prime Minister of England from a slew of crazy Irishmen, Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) is now an assistant to the CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence when all of a sudden, his longtime friend Admiral James Greer (James Earl Jones) is diagnosed with cancer. This is tragic news for both Greer and Ryan, but both know that a job has to be done, so that’s when Ryan decides to take over the job as the Deputy Director of Intelligence, where he is assigned his first assignment: Recover $650 million from the Colombian drug cartels that was left over there by one of the President’s good buddies. Ryan is more than willing to complete the task, but he finds out that there is more brewing beneath the surface than just some money being needed. Apparently, some of the President’s closest advisers are involved with these same said drug cartels and want to keep on continuing to make more money, while also getting rid of Ryan and his boy scout-ways. However, as we found out before, Ryan doesn’t go down easy and won’t back down from a challenge, no mater whom it may be coming from.

Patriot Games was no beauty, but it was at least a relatively small, inspired and taut thriller that worked well when it was showing off the mechanics of the technology that surrounds Ryan and his skills, rather than the fists he uses in fights. And compared to this movie, it was a hell of a lot shorter, clocking in at less than two-hours which, still felt long, but nowhere near as long as a near-two-and-a-half-hour movie like the one we have here, which makes this one feel like any other sequel out there: Overlong, over-exposed, over-stuffed, and worst of all, over-directed.

I wouldn't advise somebody turning their back on Willem Dafoe, but that's just me.

I wouldn’t advise somebody turning their back on Willem Dafoe, but that’s just me.

But while I do feel like director Phillip Noyce got his vision better this time with the action, there’s still a weird feeling with the story that didn’t quite keep me as interested here as it did with the last movie. For instance, the novelty of the first movie where it was just this one situation, with these handful of characters, felt like it was a smaller, more-intimate thriller, for lack of a better term. It made you feel as if you were right there in the moment, with these characters, figuring out what was going on, how they were going to solve it and whether or not they were all going to make it out alive. Problem is, that was when Jack Ryan was just a small-timer in the CIA, but now, he’s taking orders directly from the Big Man himself, which already means that the issues are going to be expanded and a whole lot more jumbled.

That’s why I can’t get too pissed at this movie for giving me a story that covers a larger map of where it goes and how, but I can be pissed off at the fact that it was just so damn convoluted. It seems like with any movie that concerns politics, there’s always got to be a slew of lies, deceptions and back-stabbings, which is exactly what we get here, however, there’s just so many that you lose count of who is screwing who over, and why. In fact, half of the people whose names were said, I couldn’t really match the faces with, all because the movie would focus on this one character for a couple minutes, have them leave and then, all of a sudden, let us know that that character was an important player in the rest of the proceedings we were about to be a witness of.

Think Miller’s Crossing’s Mink, but instead of one character played by Steve Buscemi, you have ten different ones, all played by people less charming and lovable as creepy blue eyes.

So, in essence, when the movie does begin to get closer and closer to its climax, it became to be such a chore for me to keep up with who was who, what they were doing, for what reasons and what the major ramifications of them were. That’s why I just gave up and decided to enjoy the action. Which, no surprise whatsoever, was a smart decision on my part because Noyce definitely got that part of the movie down perfectly. Not only does the action come at you at a full 100 mph, but it also feels very tense, as if the whole movie leading up to it was meant for just this one moment. They aren’t action scenes just thrown in there because they were needed, they feel like they enhance the story and keep it moving at a nice pace. That’s what I wish I saw more in my action movies, but I highly doubt I’ll get. So be it.

Tuco?

Tuco?

And, like usual, it’s always a joy to see Harrison Ford acting in a actioner, regardless of who he’s playing, and his second outing as Jack Ryan, shows that he never gets old as the character, even if he is getting a bit old himself. Once again, Ryan’s less of a bad-ass, and more of a smarty pants who knows what to do at any situation and, if he has to, will get his hands dirty. Ford definitely shows no signs of slowing down with this character, which is why I feel like he could have gone on and did ten more of these movies, and we’d still have a great time with him. However, like what seems to be the case for many major motion-picture franchises nowadays, Ben Affleck came, he saw, and he conquered. That Boston bastard.

The most disappointing aspect behind this flick is even while it does put all of this focus on all of these numerous subplots, characters and emotions, we never really get to see much of Anne Archer or Thora Birch as Ryan’s wife and daughter respectively. Makes sense since this movie is more about the government and its non-stop clusterfucks, and less about the family-dynamic inside the Ryan household, but still, a little bit more development would have been perfect. Especially since Archer, even with her shortened screen-time, shows that she’s still a cool wife that’s willing to take the fact that her hubby could die at any second, and she’d be the one to take over the fam-squad. God, that woman sure is a breath of fresh air that I so desperately need in my life. Tired of all these young bimbos. They don’t know shit about the 70’s like my girl Anne does.

Consensus: Like most mainstream sequels usually are, Clear and Present Danger is quite overblown, loud and excessive to the point of where it’s numbing, but still does feature some fun and exciting moments amongst all of the numerous subplots that are hard to keep track of, characters that we don’t care about and less-focus on the ones we do care about, meaning the rest of Ryan’s family, including the new baby boy!

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Jack's still got it. Oh, and so does Harry.

“Knew I should have taken the keys out.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Patriot Games (1992)

Those crazy Irishmen. You take away their Guinness and bodies start flyin’.

While he’s on vacation, having a rumpus-good time with his fam-squad, Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) finds himself caught in the middle of an IRA attack in England, where he kills one person and subdues another (Sean Bean). Ryan used to be apart of the CIA, but is now spending his time to be with his family, teach military students about history, and just keep on living his life in the most relaxing way possible, and then all of this comes up to ruin everything that was so peaceful to begin with. Although he’s touted as a “hero” and a “savior” among the mass-media, some think otherwise. And by “some”, I mainly mean the one dude who got arrested, who wants to extract revenge on Ryan the most sinister way possible: By getting right to the man’s family. Ryan, as any man of the house would respond, doesn’t take so kindly to some crazy, vengeful Irishmen trying to stomp all over his family, so he goes back to the Agency and finds himself ready to hunt this man, and his accomplices down, in hopes that they’ll leave him and his family alone. Easier said, then done, I’m afraid to say, Jack. Easier said, then done.

The most interesting thing about most Tom Clancy film-adaptations is how little they focus on the new technology, and more on the characters that inhabit the story. It’s very interesting, although, very strange as well, considering most of Clancy’s focus more on the hi-rez technology of the agencies he’s writing about, rather than the actual agents themselves, who use the technology on a regular-basis. More or less, they’re just there as paint-thinner on the wall, meant to show you that there is substance to the story you’re reading, no matter how weightless it may be.

The owner of that car never washed it again after that. True fact.

The owner of that vehicle never washed it ever again after this. You can still practically see the cheeks.

That said, Clancy sure does love the character of Jack Ryan and come to think of it, so does Hollywood. Not only have they adapted the character of Jack Ryan numerous times for the big screen (five to be exact), but they’ve also never given up on the possibility that this character will eventually break it big with mainstream audiences, and become something of a more classier-version of someone like, say, Ethan Hunt or James Bond. Seems like a very hard obstacle for this character to hurdle over, but I think with the right time, right direction, and right leading star playing that role, then Jack Ryan may be the household name Hollywood has been wanting for the longest time since 1990.

Which is why even though it’s the only Jack Ryan adaptation out of the whole bunch to actually gets it own sequel, Patriot Games still feels like it’s trying a bit too hard to reach those same heights, even if the heights of Ethan Hunt weren’t found yet. Don’t get me wrong, this movie is fun, but it’s fun in the type of way that you only get with thrillers that take their time and focus on the smaller things in their plot, like clues, like hints, and hell, even like twists that come at you, and yet, still feel deserved. Rather than focusing on all of the blood, bullets, octane and expositions, director Philip Noyce keeps the movie’s tension focused in on the story, what could happen next, why and by whom will be affected. These are the types of thrillers that usually work wonders for me, and for the first half-hour or so, I was really on the edge of my seat, while still waiting in anticipation for the violence to really start coming out at me.

That’s why when the action did start coming out at me, in full-fledged form, I was a bit surprised how disappointed I was with it all. It didn’t disappointment in the way that it was light on all of the action I feel like the story needed to fully kick itself into high-gear; it was more that the non-stop, high-flying action made this whole movie feel somewhat disjointed when the rest of the movie before then is taken into consideration. So much time and focus is placed on the plot, and all of the little intricate details surrounding it, and then once that all goes out the window because some bullets go flying and machine guns start getting fired, it felt out-of-place, as if Noyce knew that he had Harrison Ford in the lead role, therefore, he needed somewhere to show him throwing people off of moving-objects. Which, all seriousness aside, is awesome because Ford’s the man and can make kicking anybody’s ass at his age seem believable, but after all of the slow pacing the movie went through, it seemed like a cheat at the end of it.

Guess what happens next to this character that Sean Bean is playing?

Guess what happens next to this character that Sean Bean is playing?

Then again, like I said, having Ford in this lead role is more than enough to compensate for the fact that this movie gets a little off its rocker by the end. Ford handles this role of Jack Ryan like a champ, giving us a mean bastard who knows when’s the right time to get vicious with somebody, how and for what reasons. He’s not the type of a-hole member of the CIA that we usually see in movies; in fact, he’s very different because of the fact that he actually left the agency to try and make something better for himself and his family. In that case, he’s your regular, loving father in America, just trying to do right and make everybody that surrounds him happy, even if that means killing some people in order to do so. Even then, you still feel like he could be your next neighbor; the type who holds a very deep and dark secret in his basement, somewhere underneath all the cardboard boxes used for moving.

And while Ford’s lighting up the screen, doing his “everyday man” act like no other, the supporting cast is doing a pretty fine job as well. Anne Archer shows, once again, why she’d be the coolest wife for any guy to get to go home to and continues to have dreamers like us just wishing, hoping and waiting for the day that someone like her walks on by; Samuel L. Jackson plays one of Ryan’s buddies, and gives us a rather nice, soft, sweet and cool role that’s even more enjoyable to watch now, considering this all came before the Sam Jackson we all know, and mostly, love in today’s world; Sean Beans plays the nutty Irishman out for revenge and goes a bit over-the-top, but then again, I feel like that’s what he was called on to do, so whatever; and James Earl Jones shows up as Ryan’s head-boss and scares the crap out of everybody around him, everytime he shows up. And that’s even before he starts opening his mouth!

Consensus: The last-act may get too action-y and crazy for what was before, a smarter, thoughtful thriller, but Patriot Games still proves to be a nice adaptation of the Jack Ryan character, mainly due to the fact that Harrison Ford can play a character like this in his sleep, without ever seeming like he is in fact sleeping.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

He'll take a bullet for his family anytime. Then again, if my wife was Anne Archer, you bet I sure as hell would too!

He’ll take a bullet for his family anytime. Then again, if my wife was Anne Archer, you bet I sure as hell would too!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

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!!

Reign Over Me (2007)

At least it’s better than Sandler dressing in drag.

Former university room-mates Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) and Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) meet up again by chance on a Manhattan street corner. Five years after losing his family in the 11 September 2001 attack on New York City, Charlie – once a successful dentist – has retreated from his life, and Alan is stunned to see the changes in his formerly gregarious friend.

9/11 dramas are ones that can be pretty hard to make, mainly because people out there are still very sensitive to the subject. Yes, 11 years later, people are still not ready to be reminded of that disastrous day and it’s films like this that remind us just how terrible it was for everybody. Even somebody like Billy Madison.

I could totally tell what Mike Binder was trying to do with this flick, and for some of it, it worked. This almost seems like a “buddy drama” of sorts because it focuses on Charlie and Alan’s relationship throughout most of the film and it serves as the heart in the middle of it all. You see how certain people deal with loss and grief in different ways: some try to act like it never happened by avoiding everything that has to deal with their loss, while others just still have it on their minds 24/7 and barely find any comfort from it. It’s definitely something that seems very true and the way Binder touches on it, with delicate care and respect for most of the people out there, who have all had to deal with something as painful as this.

Another aspect of this flick that I also liked was the huge use of music for this movie, as it seemed like they were used in a way that was more believable, rather than just trying to throw classic rock songs at us every 5 seconds so we’ll go home and search ’em up on YouTube. As you can tell, The Who is definitely in this film but there are also other key tracks from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, The Pretenders, and of course, Pearl Jam who actually do a cover of the song that this movie is named after. Maybe it’s not as awesome as I’ve made it sound but it’s still some clutch music, used for some very clutch moments.

However, there are definitely a lot of glaring problems here that really bummed me out considering just how well this film was doing for the first hour or so. One of the problems was that I think Binder lost a lot of focus with what the main story here was. The relationship between the two main characters is obviously the main focal point of this flick, but the has way too many side stories going on here, that it distracts us from what is mainly going on here. For example, there is a whole subplot concerning Alan and a patient of his that keeps on trying to give him a blowy. This story took up so much time here, that even when it was finally revealed as to why she was being the way she was with him, that I just knew why they brought her character here and what they’re going to do with her next. That’s not the only story here that distracts, but it’s one of the main ones that seem to take us away from our story at hand: these two dudes’ friendship, and the one dude going through some real, heavy shit.

Even when the film did focus on its main plot, a lot of it starts to get very repetitive as it goes along. Every time the films would focus on Charlie, we would see him just being a nut and trying his damn near hardest to avoid any single question or type of conversation that would relate to his family or 9/11. It happened once or twice, which was fine, but then they just started to really hammer away on that and it almost felt like we were the ones getting the therapy here. This bothered me to high heavens and it also took a lot away from the film considering this should have been so much more emotional than it actually was. Still, at least it wasn’t as manipulating as Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Now that’s a shit storm right there people.

The main set-up for this film, basically was to show us Adam Sandler‘s return into dramatic territory and for the most part, it’s a pretty good performance if a bit, disappointing. Sandler does a great job of keeping his character very warm, fuzzy, and also very weird but never a character that you feel like is a bad person, just a very hurt one to say the least. Sandler doesn’t ham it up with this performance and is a lot more subtle and it works very well, especially when it comes to the scene where he talks about what went down with his family and how he felt. I don’t want to say that it made me tear up but it was definitely an emotional scene, and one that Sandler performed very well.

However, there is also a bad side to this performance as well. Sandler is good with the dramatic stuff as well as some of the comedic stuff that Binder throws in here, but a lot of the scenes where he flips out and shows his anger, seem very out-of-place but it has nothing to do with the writing or direction, it’s mostly Sandler’s voice. Sounds weird, right? Well Sandler’s voice here, whenever he freaks out, is pretty much the same goofy voice he uses for such characters in The Waterboy and Billy Madison and considering none of those scenes are trying to be comedic at all, it’s confusing and a little bit distracting. Maybe that’s why it was so good for him to be silent in Punch-Drunk Love, because we couldn’t hear him utter the word “Borophyll”.

However, as much as the film revolves around Charlie, it’s actually supposed to be more about Alan, played by Don Cheadle. Cheadle, as always, is great and does everything that he can with this performance but the film strides so far away from his character, that in the end when it seems like they want it to be all about him, some of it comes off as fake and underused. Still, Cheadle does what he can and that’s really all that matters.

Consensus: Reign Over Me boasts strong performances and keeps its heart in the right place, but sort of loses focus and take our minds away from what the film is essentially trying to talk and be about.

6/10=Rental!!