Sunday, May 30, 2010

Random Movie: MacGruber (2010)

Written by: PBF

MacGruber, if you didn’t already know, is a Saturday Night Live sketch that parodies a little show called MacGyver, which ran from 1985-1992. It was beloved by Americans and Bouvier sisters alike. MacGyver never used guns, but rather he would fashion some sort of weapon out of every day items. This premise begat several phrases, such as “MacGyver it.” The SNL sketch usually lasts 30-90 seconds, and involves MacGruber and his partner Vicki St. Elmo trapped in a room trying to defuse a bomb. Hilarity ensues and the sketch ends with an explosion, as MacGruber is unsuccessful at his task. This is the latest addition to the sketch-turned-movie universe, which is quite a mixed bag of good and bad.

The premise of the movie is fairly basic. Dieter Von Cunth steals a nuclear warhead and wants to destroy Washington D.C. Cunth killed MacGruber’s wife, so the task of stopping him becomes personal.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Random Movie: The Blind Side (2009)

A few episodes ago, PBF and I talked about movies inspired by true events and I was rather dismissive of this film. Yes, The Blind Side is at its core a film more oriented towards female viewers that goes over the top with sentimental gestures of faith and love. But it does feature football and statistics have shown that approximately 94% of men either love or are interested in football. So, how does a sure-fire date movie turn into a Best Picture nominee?

Michael Oher is a wayward young who has bounced from home to home after being separated from his mother several years earlier. He comes to study at the Wyngate Academy, a private Christian school attended mostly by the families of upper crust in society. His presence is an annoyance to his teachers due to his academic challenges and he stays mostly isolated from his affluent, caucasian classmates. After Michael is befriended by her young son, Leigh Anne Tuohy realizes that Michael has nowhere else to go and brings him home. Over time, the Tuohys and Michael become a close-knit family while Michael makes a name for himself on the school’s football team.

Normally these types of movies are not my bag as there seem to be dozens of uplifting, sports-based movies with any conceivable combination of elements (wimpy kid/underdog team/etc. seeking redemption or validation of their efforts). While you might believe (that is unless you have never read up on any other movie inspired by true events) that everything here is totally factual, it seems that there was some tomfoolery played with the narrative and the events themselves. This is not a bad thing necessarily as films exist to make money and the truth may not always be as compelling as what these facts can be spun into. Just a cursory glance at the film’s and the main character’s Wikipedia pages though indicate that some things did not play out as displayed in the film such as the real Tuohys took Michael in after he had started playing football. Again, there is no real problem in changing events and dressing them up for film but it is worthwhile to note at least.

The general consensus regarding Sandra Bullock’s Best Actress nomination and subsequent victory was primarily that it was undeserved for this film in particular but more of an award for her achievements over the past fifteen years or so of her career. I agree with that line of thought, not because Bullock did not perform well but she did not perform well enough here to warrant those accolades. Overall, the bulk of the performances were good but nothing to shower with praise compared to some of the other nominated pictures from last year. Mostly Quinton Aaron as Michael and Jae Head as SJ have the best performances as often times they are playing off of each other to which you can sense a natural relationship between them. Bullock has her moments of greatness though, particularly with Michael as she and the rest of the family push him towards greatness.

I will not lie and say that this is not a heart-warming and inspiring tale even though that might hurt any street cred I have for being cynical and sarcastic. Some of the things in this movie would seem outlandish if they were not based on reality (some form of it at least). But as many times as we see the fish-out-of-water-with-significant-economical-and-societal-obstacles tale told with the backdrop of sports, the film works by creating realistic and sympathetic characters that you invest in throughout. The drastic change from a homeless kid with one solitary polo shirt to a renowned student on the football field while improving his demeanor and academic performance is done well so things do not seem forced or unrealistic. The one element common to this genre I was happy at its exclusion was the evil human interference. We had a bit of this with the teacher and the NCAA official but I expected either the husband or the daughter over time would have a change of heart and push for Michael to leave only to later embrace him and his struggles. Again, this may or may not have happened in the real events but it is not only a clich├ęd point of conflict but it would have also brought down this otherwise universally positive tale.

The film does manage to touch on topical issues such as racism and poverty but these were fleeting glimpses, not plot points driven too much into the story. Mostly it boils down to one young man’s struggle in life and the love and support that he received from virtual strangers to succeed. Is it sappy? Absolutely but the end result is a good movie about incredible events and the strength of conviction. Is it Oscar-worthy? I say not but movie-goers cannot live on a diet of overblown, depraved horror movies forever.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Random Movie: The Hurt Locker (2008)

War movies are an interesting beast. Having never been in these situations, I am sure the real life events of these movies can range the broadest spectrum of emotions from anger to fear to relative happiness. Rather than stick with these basic, primal emotions, recent films (especially those on the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) have attempted to interject politics and the hand-wringing of whether it is right or wrong, mostly to the detriment of the film (at least for what I have read on movies like Redacted). Just like zombie movies, some films are made with a social commentary and underlying thought interwoven in the story while some are just straightforward tales about the subject matter. I am truly happy that Hurt Locker took the latter approach to telling a story about three men in an army of thousands who are just trying to make it through each day.

The vast majority of the movie takes place with the company of three men, each a member of the Army’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit in Iraq early at the start of the war. We meet them towards the end of their 365 day rotation as Sergeant First Class James takes over as a team leader for Sergeant Sanborn and Specialist Eldridge. Together, the unit sets out on seemingly regular treks to locate and neutralize explosive threats in the country. When not in the kill zone, they blow off steam by watching porn, drinking alcohol, and horsing around. Normally, the previous two sentences would warrant the opening act of a similar movie before a mad bomber, kidnapping, or other plot twist is introduced. Here though, that is about all we get in the way of story.

This is not an average film by any stretch of the term as classic film staples such as an over-arcing story line or character development are nowhere to be found here. We meet these characters, see them do their jobs, see them goof around, and then they go home. While there are some minor notes of change in the characters themselves, these can be easily chalked up to the hellacious environment they are surrounded by and the tasks that they perform. Almost like the Joker in a little known movie called Dark Knight, these characters are absolute. You are given sparse clues about their origins, we first see them in their “groove” so to speak, and they leave in largely the same manner that they appeared. Normally, this type of story would have critics chomping at the bit to declare the movie flat and devoid of any semblance to real-life but here I fathom that was the intention.

With authentic locations, barely recognizable actors, and the ol’ favorite shaky cam style of production, this film comes off more as a documentary that a feature-length fictional tale from Hollywood. And just like a linear narrative of a documentary, things do not unfold in a nicely packaged three act story. By jettisoning things like a begrudged terrorist bomber and A-list actors, you can forget at times that this is a movie and not found footage from a war-torn video camera. All of the actors were great in their performances of selling this notion. The lead, Jeremy Renner as James, has the acting chops and is charismatic enough to carry the film, but his relative anonymity makes you think you have seen him before but cannot place him. In fact, it was only after I scrolled through his IMDb projects that I realized I had seen him before as a fairly prominent character in 28 Weeks Later. What pulled me out of this non-fictional account of war were the quite random appearances by Guy Pierce, Ralph Fiennes, and … David Morse? These actors as well did remarkable in their brief roles but consider it jarring to see a group of unknowns being lauded by that guy from The Rock or the father from Contact. Weird.

While I may have decried other movies (cough … Diary of the Dead) for mostly contained components of the story loosely interconnected, it is fitting here as a slice of life for these soldiers in the battlefield. It helps that the major sequences are so terrific in their execution and so taut with anxiety and fear even as the scene ticks on for eons longer than you would find in a typical action movie. The opening scene alone is one of the shortest ten minutes of film ever as it is expertly crafted to the point that the notion of time becomes a luxury, especially for the characters. And politics is never brought into the mix as the characters never take time to ponder their actions and debate the merits of war. Whether their feelings of the topic were good, bad, or indifferent were not addressed. Nor should they be as this is not a movie with Romero-style commentary on life, war, and everything in between.

There are tons of things that I can talk about more but I will refrain as I enjoyed the hell out of this movie knowing little about it other than as a war movie that won Best Picture. As it stands of the nominees last year I have seen, The Hurt Locker is deservedly a victor at least as a prime example that a film does not have to follow standard movie conventions to be great.

Random Movie: Satan’s Little Helper (2004)

Written by: PBF

Satan’s Little Helper is a delightful little film in which you can hear the word Satan uttered at least 20 times, see a cat used as a paintbrush, and hear a young boy’s desire to marry his sister.

Dougie, I am going to have to assume is retarded, delusional, or just an idiot. He is a young boy who is quite obsessed with a game called Satan’s Little Helper. He plays it on his computer and this really odd looking portable gaming device that I bet even WiFi Pirate has never seen. Dougie is also wearing a costume at the film’s opening, that was made for him, of Satan’s Little Helper. He is on the way with his mother (Amanda Plummer) to pick up his sister Jenna, who for some reason he says that he wants to marry. Jenna brings her boyfriend Alex home, and Dougie does not care for this. All Dougie wants to do is go trick or treating with Jenna and find Satan. And he will be damned if Alex is going to cock block him (he really only mentions marrying his sister twice, but I find this really odd and not much attention is paid to it). Angry, Dougie goes off by himself to find Satan and comes across someone in costume decorating his house for Halloween (with real dead bodies). Dougie asks if he is Satan. Satan nods his head. Dougie asks if he could be his helper. Satan nods his head. Dougie asks Satan if he will kill Alex. Satan nods his head. Thus begin the exploits of Satan and his little helper.

To be quite honest with you, I may have liked this movie. I know I laughed more than a few times. It is a healthy mix of good comedy and bad horror. In fact, the horror and story element of this movie were so bad at times in comparison to how solid the funny was, I started to think it may have been bad on purpose. Satan never speaks. He goes from Satan costume, to Jesus costume (which is responsible for gifting us the best line in the film, “Jesus is Satan!”) to {SPOILER ALERT} a police officer. But the actor that played him, Joshua Annex (who apparently has 3 credits to his name) is quite hilarious with his “thumb up” approval and finger wagging to indicate “no,” or “I wouldn’t do that.” The people that speak in this thing can’t act worth a damn, but Alexander Brickel, who played Dougie, actually had some great moments of line delivery that made me laugh several times. This was helpful as most of the movie revolved around him and Satan. The flaws are many, such as this family’s inability to realize that their house is not the safest place in the neighborhood, and the lack of impact the death of Dad seemed to have on everyone (except maybe Dougie). The bad decisions that Dougie made I can believe, for as I stated earlier, has some mental defect, even if it is as simple as not being able to tell what is real and what is not. I reiterate, however, that I suspect that the holes and highly improbable scenarios that occurred were done on purpose, and that this film was more an homage to poor horror films, rather than a serious attempt at one. You could argue the other side of this, however, as there was really not that much gore in it at all. I will say, whichever it is, it ran a little long and became a little hard to pay attention to toward the end.

I have definitely seen much worse than this, and it really is not as bad as it appears if you just run it in the background. It is definitely good for some laughs, and not just “so good it is bad” laughs. Check it out.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mini Scum: Martyrs (2008)

If ever there was a case of an entire film being sabotaged by its final act, it is Martyrs. It begins ever so forcifully like a deleted scene from High Tension, Inside, or other French survival films and quickly ratchets up a good amount of scenes between the two lead girls. However at the one hour mark, an odd detour and shoehorned exposition turn a great horror film into random scenes of senseless violence. I have nothing against violence if it serves a purpose in a film. Here it just destroys the previous sixty minutes' good work.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Random Movie: Dead Alive (1992)

Written by: PBF

The movie Dead Alive is called Braindead in every country but the United States. So, you know, if you find yourself in another land, and want to rent this, call it that.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Double Feature: Diary/Dawn of the Dead (2007/2008)

Whenever you turn around, zombie movies are fornicating as they seem to breed more bastard offspring than most other genres like Irish-assassins or Die-Hard-on-a-blank movies.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Springwood’s Finest: Top 9 Actors Who Had Careers in Spite of NOES

Now, I get that this is a really broad generalization encompassing over a hundred different actors but the Nightmare on Elm Street series seems to have been a showstopper for many an actor. All one has to do is peruse through the IMDb pages of the various films in the series to see several who have stopped working, taken extended hiatuses, or have been relegated to brief TV-show appearances or DTV movies. While this phenemonon is also apparent in other long-running slasher series as well, for now we are talking Freddy. So let’s dig in.

Lin Shaye: Random Teacher (Original)
Being the baby sister of the studio head can’t hurt but Lin Shaye has managed to carve out a pretty decent resume. She was in There’s Something about Mary, Snakes on a Plane, both Dumb and Dumber movies, and Boat Trip? Okay, I didn’t say these movies were good but at least a good chunk of her appearances make a (albeit probably brief) appearance in theaters says something.

Breckin Meyer: Spencer (Freddy’s Dead)
Again, not saying anything about the quality of the production but here we have the main guy from Road Trip, Jon from the Garfield movies, Go, and most recently appearing in a shitload of episodes for Robot Chicken as well as other recurring roles on several TV shows.

Patricia Arquette: Kristen (Part 3)
While she has been busy of late headlining Medium, previously Arquette appeared in Little Nicky, Lost Highway, and True Romance. Speaking of, what the hell is David Arquette up to nowadays?

Larry Fishburne: Max (Part 3)
Oh, shit. I mean Laurence. Apparently that’s still a touchy subject for him. We all have seen him recently (or I guess you all have as I don’t watch it) heading up the original CSI crew but lest we not forget his appearances in the Matrix series, the good Mission Impossible movie, a personal favorite Event Horizon, as well as the upcoming Predators.

Tracy Middendorf: Julie (New Nightmare)
Whereas some of the Nightmare alum may have to slum with random appearances on TV shows, Tracy has embraced this lifestyle with appearances in several of my favorite shows including Angel, Alias, and 24. While she is essentially playing disposable characters for the story’s sake, at least she can do so consistently.

Marshall Bell: Coach Schneider (Part 2)
Ah, yes. The S&M gym teacher. Who could have thought this would become the man who would fight for humanity in Starship Troopers, defend Charlie Sheen (in the movie!) in The Chase, and babysit Kuato in Total Recall. That’s a bad-ass man.

Lyman Ward: Mr. Grady (Part 2)
This goes to show that thirty seconds of screen time can be just enough to propel you into stardom … sort of. Ward went on after this to be Ferris’ dimwitted dad, Jake’s dimwitted dad in Not Another Teen Movie, and some dimwitted fool in a favorite killer child movie of mine, Mikey.

Jason Ritter: Will (Freddy Vs. Jason)
The son of John Ritter (who also worked with FVJ director Ronnie Yu, weird) went on to have regular status in the series Joan of Arcadia and The Class as well as working with director Oliver Stone in W. Not bad for a guy and a character that I remember not a damn thing about.

Wes Craven: Himself (New Nightmare)
Yeah, this is cheating but coming up with a list of nine(!) people from this series is hard. So while Craven’s acting has been limited to cameos here and there, he helmed a successful horror franchise with Scream, helped reboot his own films The Hills Have Eyes and Last House on the Left, and made a movie about an orchestra or something.

Writer’s Note:
I automatically disqualified Johnny Depp and Robert Englund as they were too easy to include. And John Saxon was excluded solely for his participation in Beverly Hills Cop 3.

Random Movie: Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)

According to Box Office Mojo, the 1994 kids’ sports movie Little Giants grossed a meager $19 million in its theatrical release. Why is this movie relevant in a review for Wes Craven’s New Nightmare? The Rick Moranis and Ed O’Neill PG-rated family movie had the distinction of being released within a week of New Nightmare. As such, I saw New Nightmare at least seven or eight times in theaters via Little Giants. I also had a VHS copy of Man’s Best Friend, the Ally Sheedy-starring Cujo-ripoff just because it was the first with a preview for Nightmare 7 before its release. For the record, I believe I watched the movie once and the opening previews at least a few dozen times.

You see, somewhere between 1990 and this film’s release in 1994, I became very obsessed with horror films (healthy for an 8-year-old, huh?). When I first got wind of the newest Freddy film involving Heather Langenkamp and Wes Craven, likely through some random issue of Fangoria, I was excited. When watching it, I found it humorous that the film was set in a reality where New Line sucks, destroyed the Nightmare series, and thus has unleashed an ancient horror on the world which apparently really likes being Freddy. That’ll teach ‘em. As I said, I watched this movie tons when I was just an impressionable twelve years of age to the point where I can still visualize the cigarette burns between reels and hear the booming DTS clang of ironworks in the opening scene and recognize that one of the kid’s laughter from the background with the New Line logo was also used in the park scene later on. Again, none of this is really germane to the quality of the film but even if this movie were complete garbage, which for the record it is not, I would be the most impartial judge ever due to these circumstances.

But enough with nostalgia as this film does not need aid from my rose-colored recollections of it. It is just a damn fine movie on its own. Most of the acclaim I gave to Part 5 was its attempt to return to the roots of the story, namely horror instead of comedy. That movie failed though with its out of control, mainstream Freddy. Here though we have Wes Craven, who has most certainly been shocked and chagrined at life over the later sequels of his work, returning to form with his original concept and elements that work. For the better part of the film, Freddy is mostly a passer-by. Sure, he causes some damage and kills but for the first hour or so of the movie, the character of Freddy is largely absent. In his place is a menacing threat to Heather and her family. It may be Freddy, it may be a psycho fan, it may be paranoia and dementia. Who knows?

As opposed to the remake (which I have not seen but am just going off of PBF’s review), we have a largely original story but heavy callbacks to the original film that actually fit with the premise of the movie. While the overall idea of an evil entity which has taken Freddy’s form is a bit much to take at first, once you get past that, the illusions to the first film fit in quite well. Iconic moments such as the bathtub scene, the phone-makeout, and Tina’s death are referenced but not recreated as their original forms have no place in this film. And of course to bring things back to formula, Freddy starting out is once again a dark, menacing force with little time to mug for the camera or spout one-liners.

Above all, my main problem with the film was the change in course in the back half of the picture, especially pertaining to that particular penchant of Freddy. While still cleverly executed, after Freddy emerges from Heather’s closet, he seems to be on a rapid acceleration back to his former self from the last few pictures. The jokes are not as bad or as forced as before but to have a villain thrust upon you, immediately delivering trailer-worthy bits of dialogue is a bit much all at once. Once Heather/Nancy travels into Freddy’s world, the picture slams on the brakes for me. While I appreciate the reference to earlier in the film, for Freddy to die by way of the witch in Hansel and Gretal is a bit lazy and the finale is where the special effects are called to the plate and strike out with pretty bad CGI and matte paintings that are damn close to removing you from the story. However, even at its worst, the finale of New Nightmare is remarkably better than the ineptitude shown during any part of Freddy’s Dead.

I enjoyed how a prominent theme from the original (and some of the sequels) was carried over: namely, idiot parents. Just like Nancy in the first film, Dylan is having nightmares and seeing Freddy but he is quickly dismissed by his parents as nonsense. And once Nancy comes around to the existence of Freddy in real life, she then has to try to convince her “parents” or authority figures, John Saxon and that bitch doctor. Even though it was heavily re-edited (and twelve-year-old me noticed it too), the final part of the original Nightmare shown on Heather’s TV only expounds the notion that parents or authority will always think they are right and things like Freddy are just fantasy.

The reason that I keep watching and enjoying this film is simple though. It is expertly crafted leaving just enough details out of reach (such as what the hell is wrong with Robert Englund) and constantly building to bigger, more scarier things. And while it might be because my own kids now, I was quite anxious during the playground scene even though I have known for sixteen years that Dylan will survive. And when he cries out for Rex after Julie is Tina-zed, I got shivers. It was just that effective.

This is my longest Nightmare review to date but I feel it is quite warranted. Go ahead and disparage me and my beliefs if you must but New Nightmare is the best of all the sequels and at times comes damn close to beating the original in sheer execution if not originality. As I said, I am probably the worst person to get an unbiased opinion from on this film but it is remarkable and I am sure the few extra bucks that Little Giants got from me was worth it.

Random Movie: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Written by: PBF

I am not sure if this poster is from the new A Nightmare on Elm Street. In a similar fashion, I really was not sure what I was watching when I saw the film.

I would like to say that the only reason I am reviewing this, as opposed to Puck, is because I just happen to have seen it first. Puck has given us an incredibly insightful and brilliant analysis of the original franchise thus far, and I am eager for the remaining installments. I also, having not had a computer for a while, have not contributed anything to the site as of late. So, with Puck’s approval, here is my review.

I will spare you a plot synopsis, as it is the same story. Freddy hunting and killing teenagers in their dreams as revenge. Between the 8 other movies that feature Freddy and Puck’s recent reviews, if you are not already familiar with the plot, I question your comprehension skills and you will not find this review helpful at all.

So, I guess the thing that bothered me the most about this movie, is trying to figure out what the hell the point of it was. Not the story, the movie specifically. It was some bizarre cross breed of re-imagining, remake, and reboot. All I know is that I kept re asking myself, “What the fuck?” during this thing. While the basic plot is the exact same as the original, there were many differences. There is a Nancy, but her last name is Holbrook rather than Thompson. Other than her and Freddy, no other characters were named the same. Oddly enough there was a Jesse, and as I neglected to notice while watching the movie, Puck pointed out that the main character in Nightmare 2 is named Jesse. Also, there was a character named Kris, perhaps a reference to Kristen in Nightmare 3. Also, Nancy worked at a diner, like Alice did in Nightmare 4. These facts alone can be used to argue that the remake category is out the window. However, the choice was made to include the some of the same scenes, some as they were in the original and some slightly altered. This really distracted me. I could not help comparing the movie to the original and asking myself why certain choices were made. For example, there is a scene in which Kris, who is closest to being the Tina character from the original, has a nightmare in class and wakes up screaming. This happened to Nancy in the original. Yet the rest of the events of the film that involve her, were more close to (if not the same as) the events that involved Tina in the original. What purpose did making that choice serve? Was it solely to be able to classify this as a re-imagining? I would say no, as this movie was not so much “imagined,” as it was “stolen” This was a really lazy re-whateveritwas. I would have preferred that they fully committed to something. Remake it scene by scene even, at least I would not be confused. I would have liked if they had completely different events happening, but say, left the bathtub scene in there (not because of nudity, jackass, there isn’t any in that scene) as an homage or something. I also think the fact the Freddy is dressed exactly the same also disqualifies this as a re-imagining. In my opinion, I think he looked more like an actual burn victim that Robert Englund did (no offense to him, he is and will always be the only Freddy as far as I am concerned. Also that would be a make up issue, not an acting issue). There were other things that I took issue with, such as the absence of Nancy’s father (but I guess technically that was not really Nancy, so that may be irrelevant) but I think I have made my point.

As far as the film outside of the pre-existing universe it was lifted from, I would say it was passable. Jack Earle Haley did a decent enough job. Freddy was quite mean, and even swore regularly in this one. He made some jokes, but was hardly the the stand up comedian that Freddy was in the later films of the franchise. No one else in the film was especially good, but the writing was not that particularly great. The only time I actually felt bad when someone died was not because I connected with them, but rather because of the brutality of their death. This film was quite gory. I was kind of hoping for that and was rewarded, but the suspense was sacrificed a little. That whole, “someone looking around, saying ‘Hello?’ then someone jumps out of some place” wears a little thin after the 10th time it happens. Besides the fact that it is not a new technique. The use of “micronaps” was a tad annoying in that respect as that is where a lot of this activity took place. I did like the way that Freddy’s origin was told, and that the kids all somehow knew each other, but they had to figure out how. That was executed pretty well I thought. Another thing I liked was that this was set in modern times but there was no emphasis on that. As opposed to say, Platinum Dunes’s (and New Line Cinema for that matter) other re-whateveritwas, Friday the 13th. That film was rampant with iPods, glowsticks and GPS devices, as if to scream, “Look at me! I am Friday the 13th, but 29 years later!” This one was not. The gadgets that were in this were all used minimally and simply as products of the time. Nothing really new here, just your typical slasher film. While it did not break any ground, on the whole, and again ignoring the original franchise, it was a popcorn movie at best.

I found it outright impossible not to compare this to the Wes Craven Nightmare. So much so, that it was distracting. If you have not seen the original, then you might like this. But I do not think it is possible to like them both. For if you like one, you will find the other inadequate (and by inadequate I mean “much like parts 2-Freddy vs Jason”).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Random Movie: Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)

Way back when I rewatched and reviewed Hatchet, I commented on how most movies that attempt a combination of horror and comedy (in any percentages) usually suck ass. Now upon watching Freddy’s Dead for the first time in quite a while, I feel that above statement may be too harsh for some other films that may try horror/comedy but fails. This is because Freddy’s Dead also tries that combo but fails EPICALLY! There is a theory about long running franchises and how the first film you see in theaters ends up being your favorite. While that holds true for James Bond, Freddy’s Dead was the first Nightmare film I saw in theaters and that just makes me more angry. I would also like to apologize to Nightmare 2 as I previously held it tied with Freddy’s Dead for worst of the series. Nightmare 2 is brilliance dedicated to film comparatively.

Where I may have been able to enjoy Part 5 due to some effort that was put forth towards it, every single person involved in this movie seems to be on auto-pilot, driving towards a paycheck, starting with the writer. Jettisoning the relative simplicity of what worked before (and even any previous characters), we have a retcon of Freddy’s motive: he’s really killing kids because they took his daughter away. While it may make sense that Freddy had a wife and daughter at some point, wouldn’t the fact that his wife was murdered (or disappeared) put Freddy on the radar for the rash of murders (not counting his father and a hamster years before)?

Never before in a Nightmare film have there been had such a group of worthless characters with no redeeming qualities. Everyone in this movie makes me angry at life for how it disrespected the films before it. As the three punk kids are lost in Springwood, I almost wondered if Freddy did not have anything to do with it and they were just too fucking stupid to get out of a small town. Possibly excluding John (and that is just because we don’t know anything about him), the rest of the kids and Maggie are just horribly drawn caricatures of previous Elm Street residents, stupid decisions and all.

Also, considering that Springwood was supposedly only two miles away from this unnamed metropolis that the opening and closing acts take place in, why does everyone again have to be told about Freddy? I would think that if a few thousand (judging from the new population mark on the sign) kids had died or disappeared, the whole damn state at least would know about it. But no, in order to shove more exposition in the film, we have to bring everyone up to speed. The parts where the adults were all crazy in the town were mildly entertaining and creepy but the presence of Tom Arnold and Rosanne killed that for me.

Even some cool stuff that was tried was so horribly executed. The famous jump-rope song was not spoken but John and Maggie run across it scrawled in various places in Springwood, I suppose to be an ominous warning of some sort. Sad part is, they left out “7-8 Better Stay Up Late!” I understand it was probably filmed and edited out for pacing or whatever but even as a 9-year-old that shit irked me! And for my first 3-D experience in theaters, the finale of this was so boring, you could have developed an additional couple of dimensions and it would not have made any difference. Yeah, it was sort of interesting to see Freddy as a child or teenager but I’ve checked out after the previous seventy-five minutes, not to mention that awkwardly shoving a backstory into the big finale of a series just seems rather lazy.

It seems that despite working on every other Nightmare movie (other than 5), director Rachel Talalay has no clue what to do with Freddy. His make-up here looks more like a rubber mask that I donned for Halloween many moons ago and his already terrible persona is turned into more of a demented cartoon character with the broom riding, video game playing, and many other dumb things. It almost seems as if the filmmakers had no clue of how to make Freddy scary again, nor did they want to, so they went with “humor.” You will notice this movie is not filed under comedy because it was only funny in a sad way. The fact that no one seemed to mind this character assassination is troubling even as New Line President Bob Shaye has the balls to appear in this movie, laughing like a damn fool.

For the record, I thought that Johnny Depp agreed to come back and cameo in this was neat and I loved the continuation of the idiot parent theme from a few films ago as all of the parents in this movie are either abusive or neglectful. There may be a deeper meaning to this in the movie but it was drowned out by all the crap floating around it. At the very least, I am thankful that I have suffered through that now to go onto largely better films in the franchise. Quoth the Vardulon, FUCK THIS MOVIE!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Random Movie: A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)

I will admit that I was not looking forward to A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 as part of this ongoing game of catch-up with the original films. Previously, I have been more or less ambivilent to the film as it is not the worst, is not the best, but falls into that middle ground also safely occupied by its predecessor. Due to the extreme condition of diminishing returns over the life of the franchise thus far, I had expected it to fair quite poorly, especially compared to the commercially-acclaimed Part 4. While this is in no way a good film, director Stephen Hopkins and at least one of the three credited screenwriters on this film had their hearts in it.

Yes, I know that this movie is rated in the same league as Freddy’s Dead and Part 2 as far as quality goes but I felt this movie at least tried to not only stay within the growing cannon but also return to tension and scares over goofy puns and elaborate death scenes. Notice I say tried because for all the praise I could give this movie for the effectiveness of the character-driven scenes, Freddy’s part of the film is amplified 5x over the last film which leads to a really bizarre shift in tone whenever he is onscreen. It almost seems that two different scripts were written for this film, one goofy like the last and one more oriented to the first part of the series, and the film we received was an unholy combination of the two.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Random Movie: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

So now we come to the fork in the road. Nightmare 3 has ended. A sequel is greenlit. I would imagine the head honchos at New Line sitting in the conference room thinking about how to best continue the series. I would guess by this point Freddy had become fairly mainstream if I, a six-year-old at the time, had seen a fair amount of merchandise, television promos, and previews for the last films. So, instead of continuing on the path of relative excellence established by the previous film, Bob Shaye turns Freddy into a laughably bad stand-up comedian on a beach, presumably to click with more teens and more dollars. One might say this was a good choice as this film more or less launched Freddy into stardom, but it was at the expense of a good series to that point.

For some reason, I have historically really liked this film in spite of the about-face in technique. It was, and to a point still is, a pretty fun movie to watch but man did it piss me off this go around. I chalk that up to the fact that I cannot say I have actually watched all of the Nightmare movies in chronological order, instead skipping around to avoid Part 2, 5, and Freddy’s Dead. But watching the movie on the heels of its predecessors almost immediately sets it up for failure. In the first sixty seconds, you have many indications that this movie will be nothing like those before. This is not only the first in the series to give Robert Englund the main starring credit, but it also is the first to have the updated New Line logo and feature a typical 80s pop song over the credits as opposed to the score. Granted, these are relatively trivial things but these just forebode the rest to come.