Friday, May 16, 2014

Review: Godzilla

When it comes to a movie I enjoy this much, I don't want to discuss it critically, I just want people to go see it.  This is what some would call a 'Thinking Man's Monster Movie' - not that it gets deep or metaphysical or anything.  The movie is a slow burn:  It doesn't just throw Godzilla into the action, it makes you wait.  You will get story, dammit!

This works beautifully.  The first full shot of Godzilla is one of those Movie Moments -  a magic of the cinema that causes you to sit up in your seat and experience movie nirvana.

Gareth Edwards, pulled from relative obscurity to direct, makes the smart decision to keep the cameras at human levels throughout the film.  While there are some wide shots of Godzilla and his battle with 2 other kaiju, most of it is shot from street level, adding a sense of awe to the sheer size of these creatures.  One hopes he gets to direct a sequel (please let there be a sequel!) since writer David Callahan (with screenplay credit going to Max Borenstein) does a wonderful job of setting up a 'larger world' for the film to take place in - there are people who knew about Godzilla and have researched the possibility of other kaiju .

It's hard to talk about the human characters without spoiling some key (and surprising) developments in the movie, so I will say that everyone did a good job, but several characters (namely, the female ones) get the short shift.  Why cast talent like Elizabeth Olson, Juliette Binoche, and Sally Hawkins if they are primarily supportive female types to their male counterparts?  (though I will say that Hawkins' screen partner Ken Watanabe felt shortshifted also)

The monster effects are well done, and while the 3D showing I watched was pleasant, I don't feel that the 3D added anything extra to the film as a whole.

A definite must-see blockbuster.  8.5 out of 10.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Nightmare Night: Remake 2010

I read that the main reason for this remake was to reimagine Wes Craven's vision using updated technology.  While there are updated effects, it doesn't really add to Craven's original movie whatsoever.

That said, the acting is fairly strong (having the likes of Rooney Mara, Connie Britton, and Jackie Earle Haley will do that), and the film does manage to capture a dark, creepy tone that has been missing since... oh Dream Warriors?

Other than the 'return to scary Freddy,' this movie's existence can't really be justified.  I suppose I should just be thankful Platinum Dunes didn't fuck it up on the same level as Friday the 13th.

Nightmare Night: Part 6: Freddy's Dead

Contrary to the poster's tagline, this was not the best (nor was it the last).

The reason I have never really warmed to this one has mostly to do with how mean-spirited it is.  I realize that is an odd complaint for a slasher flick, but setting a large chunk of this at a shelter for abused children really sets the film at odds with its quippy villain/jokey tone.  Maybe if it had a more serious tone, I'd appreciate it more.

The kills are clever, I suppose, but again, mean spirited since it relies on the fears of abused teenagers.  I always feel slightly dirty after watching it.

Nightmare Night: Part 5: The Dream Child

Yeesh, this movie.  I like the concept (Freddy uses the dreams of Alice's yet-to-be born child to get at her and her friends) but not so much the execution.  The child actor representing Jacob isn't very good, and while the kills have some originality to them, they aren't really well done.

On the plus side, it is nice that the black friend makes it to the end for a change (and make no mistake, Yvonne kicks quite a bit of ass) and I think by reducing the number of red shirts, we start to care a bit more when they die.

Otherwise, yeesh, this is hard to watch.  Not as hard as I imagine the next one will be, but man, this was not an enjoyable rewatch.

Nightmare Night: Part 4: The Dream Master

One thing I liked about the Elm Street series is how each movie built upon the 'lore' or the prior one, enhancing the rules and expanding what one can do in dreams.  Here, in addition to being able to pull one into dreams (like Kristen in Part 3), you have a Dream Master who can inherit the powers of other Dream Warriors.

It is, however, a step down from the prior.  It rather quickly disposes of the prior film's survivors, and we don't really have any build on any of the new characters aside from simple characterizations (one-note characters in a horror film?  I am shocked!)

This movie also broke the streak of past/future Oscar nominees appearing in the film (no more will appear until the remake with past nominee Jackie Earle Haley and future nominee Rooney Mara).  It is also what I consider to be the last 'good' movie in the main series (New Nightmare is only loosely a Nightmare film).

The kills, however, are the highlight of this film.  Turning someone into a roach then crushing them in a roach motel, sucking the breath out, dragging them into a water bed and drowning them - this movie pushes what Freddy can do to your body while sleeping.

Now onto the Dream Child.

Nightmare Night: Part 3: Dream Warriors

Where Wes Craven tries to save the series by ending it (he halfway succeeds)

Random Thoughts:
  • I love that it says Larry Fishburne instead of Laurence Fishburne in the opening credits.
  • Also:  While he wasn't nominated before appearing, Mr. Fishburne's appearance means that an Oscar nominee has appeared in the first 3 films (the others being Ronee Blakely/Johnny Depp in the first one and Hope Lange in the second).  No others will appear until the remake.
  • "This is where he takes us." - Further proof that Wes Craven's involvement dramatically improves the quality of any Freddy movie.
  • This movie is the one that introduces Hypnocil and Freddy's origin (the son of a hundred maniacs), making it particularly important to the canon.
  • I like Kristen's ability to pull people into her dreams, a nice twist to keep the series fresh.
  • Phillip's death has always been one of the hardest for me to watch.
  • I never understood why Nancy didn't have Kristen pull Dr. Simms and Dr. Gordon into the dream to, you know, prove they weren't crazy.
  • "Welcome to prime time, bitch!" - I don't hate witty Freddy as much as some, but this is the movie where it really started.  Also, nice cameo from Zsa Zsa Gabor.
  • The scene where they discover their dream powers is equal parts cool and cheesy.
  • The scene with the nurse is by far the most gratuitous of the series.  But someone was bound to have an adultish dream at some point, so I cannot complain too much about it.
  • I never understood the removal of Nancy and Neil from overseeing the teenagers.  One went into a coma, sure, but how many others have died beforehand?  Why do they care now?
  • Patricia Arquette sure has to scream alot during this movie.
  • I really liked Taryn, and hated seeing her die.
  • The fight with the skeleton is so deliciously cheesy.
  • Ah, if only they had ended the series here....
Number 4 up next.

Nightmare Night: Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge

The gayest horror film ever made?  I won't dissect the gay subtext (that's been done enough), but I definitely feel that you can't discuss this movie without at least a passing mention.

Random Thoughts:
  • The opening sequence with the bus would have been better if the people on the bus had been the teens that are killed throughout the movie.  But that might have been too obvious.
  • For all the shit horror gets for its constantly-naked women, I appreciate that the Nightmare films gratuitousness towards men (underwear shot of Nick Corri in the first film, more underwear plus some butt shots in this one).  As long as both sexes are getting objectified, I am all for it.
  • I find it so weird that Hope Lange is in this.  Clu Gulager is also.  Weird.
  • Man, they sure make you wait for the first kill (the bird doesn't count).
  • It's so odd that a scene takes place in an actual gay bar in the film.  I realize, subtext and whatever, but it's still weird that the main character in a mainstream horror film from the 80's goes to one.
  • Bad editing strikes again:  When the coach continually gets hit by rat tail towel whips, it goes back and forth on whether or not he is wearing pants.
  • This movie is boring.  Halfway through and we've barely seen any of Freddy, with only 1 death.  I don't expect buckets of blood or anything, but if you aren't going to kill anyone, at least make the 'investigation' interesting.
  • "Yeah, and she's female, and she's waiting for you in the cabana.  And you wanna sleep with me."  I said I wouldn't discuss it, but damn, this movie is so gay.
  • All things considered, Freddy cutting himself out of Jesse's body is pretty well done.
  • If they wanted to keep the Freddy murdering through Jesse angle, they really shouldn't have had all the random shit happening at the party without Jesse being there.
  • I realize they were trying to give an otherworldliness to Freddy's appearances, but the whale song was incredibly distracting.
  • Counting the deaths at the party, only 4 people visibly die, although an argument could be made for another four during the party sequence.  Not terribly memorable deaths at that.
  • The dogs with people faces should be scary, but don't really work that well.
  • Overcoming Freddy with love has got to be the lamest of his defeats throughout the series.

On to the third!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Nightmare Night: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

The original Nightmare.  If you are not a fan of the series, this is just another run-of-the-mill slasher with a slightly different premise.  To fans, this is the one that started it all.  This is before Freddy Kruger became wise-cracking, when he was still menacing.

One thing I love about this movie is how well Wes Craven does the dream sequences.  People walk through doors and find themselves in entirely different locations, odd objects appear, all sorts of things that happen in actual dreams.

Craven also does a fine job with the kills.  These are the bed-and-butter of slasher flicks, and the original has several of the series' best.  Tina's falling across the walls/ceiling as cuts appear all over her, Glen's fountain of blood.  There are few actual kills in this movie (4 in total, rather low for this genre of horror), so he makes them as impactful as possible.

While the acting isn't superb, you do have some quality performances from Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon as Nancy and her father, plus the iconic performance of Freddy Kruger by Robert Englund.  Not to mention the debut of Johnny Depp.

Plotwise, it does have a few holes, but nothing totally unforgivable:  This movie is all about the premise, and it works well.

Random Thoughts:
  • I love the reaction shots of Nancy's parents when she first describes her mystery assailant.  They know exactly who she is describing but refuse to believe it.
  • The sequence at the sleep institute (or whatever you want to call it) is pretty well done:  Gives some exposition and sets some ground rules for the series as a whole.
  • The tale of Freddy's death is a great moment, even if I don't think much of Ronee Blakely's performance in this,
  • "Nancy, you are gonna get some sleep tonight if it kills me" is a hilariously macabre line if you know how the movies ends.
  • Nancy is a fine name for the lead character, but it really should be Cassandra, given how correct she is and how little everyone believes her.
  • I like how unhinged Nancy gets (progressively) as she avoids sleep to try and stay alive.
  • I also like the 'Nancy sets traps' montage.  Girl isn't going without a fight.
  • I remember thinking the crucifix Nancy had was going to play a bigger part in defeating him.
  • Bad job editor!  We totally see the mattress that Englund falls on to once he is pulled out of the dream.
  • I bet Freddy doesn't appreciate the irony of burning to death twice.
  • I really wish they had let Craven keep his original ending, as the one they do have seems tacked on and is definitely lower quality than the rest of the film.
Well, there you have it.  1 down, 6 more to go.