Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Random Movie: I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

In late 1996 and 1997, Scream made horror movies, especially those featuring attractive TV stars, a hot commodity in Hollywood. Thus, it’s no surprise that in addition to two sequels to that film over the next three years, audiences were given similar films to existing franchises like Bride of Chucky and Halloween H20 as well as the hopeful launch of new franchises such as Urban Legend and this entry: the awkwardly titled I Know What You Did Last Summer.

Written by Scream scribe Kevin Williamson (along with about a billion other properties in the late 90s), IKWYDLS was loosely based on a young adult novel that featured neither a killer Gorton’s fisherman nor witty Kevin-Williamson-ish banter between the main characters. I know this because I actually read that book … in sixth grade. Author Lois Duncan was reportedly quite unhappy with the movie. In fairness, she’s not the only one as even with the elements introduced by Scream closely adhered to, this film is commonly relegated to the crap designation of teen horror. So, why is it then that I have an unnatural fondness for this movie?

If you can say Scream is a modern take on an effective slasher flick (ala Halloween), then IKWYDLS is a modern take on the other dozens of crap slasher films (most F13 movies for example). The set up is pretty basic and overwrought with four friends, after a night of teenage shenanigans, who run down a man crossing a street and cover up the murder. One year later, the four start receiving notes referencing the event that they swore would stay between them. The kids try and figure out who is behind the veiled threats as things escalate. It’s basically a retooled story lifted from a Scooby Doo episode but then again, most movies in these genre are as well.

Even though it is constantly lumped together with the Scream wannabes, IKWYDLS is pretty much a straightforward slasher film without nonstop references and homages to past films or attempted humorous conversations that pop up regularly in other films. There are a few moments where the unnatural high-schooler dialogue from Williamson sticks out but not often. The core cast of Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Freddie Prinze Jr. are crafted more like your average dumb kids instead of sarcastic, quick-tongued protagonists. That is not to say that any of the actors are bad per se; in fact, all are decent if not spectacular. That certainly beats the alternative of being awful (cough, Alicia Witt!).

The biggest thing that makes this film stand out comes from director Jim Gillespie. He isn’t a household name like Wes Craven and you’ve probably not seen anything else he has directed but he has a way with not only his composition but with the action scenes that can get mighty suspenseful at times. The score from John Debney is pretty effective as well from haunting melodies to loud, crass stings when called for. On a technical level, everything clicks here better than expected for a movie of this caliber.

Where the film likely gets its bad rep from is in the final 20 minutes and rightfully so since it does a lot to undo the relative excellence. Before that though, it should be noted that there are several scenes throughout (mostly including the aforementioned killer fisherman) that make no damn sense such as how he is able to load and unload a body and a few dozen crabs or even crash a car through a building with no one noticing. As the finale comes, it becomes clear that Williamson (or whoever did a rewrite) left all the horror cliches for the end with Julie being chased around the bowels of an unnatural large fishing boat instead of … jumping off? There are so many moments in the final scenes that are laughably absurd that you can’t help but wonder if they are intentional. And of course, instead of a happy ending we get a completely open door for a sequel and one final jump scare which again makes no damn sense at all.

Perhaps I view this one through those nostalgic glasses we spoke of previously as this was the very first DVD I ever bought and the soundtrack was in constant rotation on my treks to school and back. But, it’s not a bad film comparatively to other crap I’ve subjected myself to as long as you have the right expectations going into it. Until the sequel that is …

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mini Scum: Spaceballs (1987)

With George Lucas’ 13th revision of Star Wars hitting Blu-ray recently, I figured I should honor that somehow. But not with those reviews. That would be painstaking. If you read old reviews of Mel Brooks‘ Spaceballs, the consensus is that it came far too late to be an effective parody of those famed sci-fi films. Funny enough though, I saw Spaceballs likely when I was under six and didn’t see Star Wars until well into high school. Thus, the spoof aspect never really stuck out to me. That’s fine because that part is only moderately funny.

Brooks’ film works best when it breaks the 4th wall and pokes fun at unrelenting merchandising of lunchboxes, flamethrowers, and toilet paper. I especially enjoy the one-off jokes such as the cross-eyed gunner Asshole or Mr. Rental. The cast is largely decent considering the unevenness of the story with John Candy, Brooks himself as two characters, and the lovely Daphne Zuniga as the standouts. Some laugh-out-loud moments exist but those are buried too far under countless bits that fail. Watch it for nostalgia’s sake but not to expect a good film. That is, until Brooks’ realizes the potential for a touched-up Special Edition.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Random Movie: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

Written by: PBF

First off, I have never read the graphic novel, so I swear to God, if you negate my review if this film wasn’t faithful to the source material, I will sick Kane Hodder on you.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is 100% pure entertainment. Every fucking thing about it. From the comic booky words that fly on the screen, to the insanely clever script that is basically a group of well constructed lines stacked in order of hilarity that assemble a story. Visually, aurally, intellectually and otherwisely this film is extremely pleasing. It’s almost guerilla like in its blatant disregard for seamless scene transitions. Which, by the way, is awesome. Pretty much every scene or line is completely unexpected and hilarious. There literally is a laugh about every 1.5 seconds.

I have accused Michael Cera of being repetitive in his characters. This is the first film in which even though he still employs some of the same traits, I did notice that he does actually distinguish his character from all others.

Also, Kieran Culkin is extremely hilarious as his roommate. But, then again, so is every person in this film.

I suppose I should mention the plot. In a nutshell, Scott Pilgrim is in love with Ramona Flowers. She is resistant to his “charms,” but eventually succumbs due to his persistence. However, they both discover that if they are to be together, Scott has to defeat Ramona’s 7 ex boyfriends. What ensues is a film that will delight video game, music, comic book and just anything fans.

I am really serious when I say that there is something to like every single second of this film. Whether it is a funny line, a bright color, a word flying across the screen, I have never seen a film that has stimulated so many different parts of my brain for the entirety of its running time.

I realize that this is a short review, but when you have nothing but positive things to say about a film, brevity is the result. I am probably the last person on Earth to see this, but I’m glad I did.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Future Crap? Top Horrid-looking Upcoming Movies

Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star
I’ve determined that Adam Sandler through his Happy Madison shingle is trying to make everyone hate him. I cannot fathom any other explanation for his recent output (see Jack & Jill below). I needn’t really say much because the crap speaks for itself. Even the trailer announcer sounds bored. Watch for it to hopefully tank this weekend, September 9.

“Whatdya say we remake those Bourne movies with that kid from those, eh … Twilight movies? Yeah! No, not Robert Patterson (sic)! The other hunky one. Yeah. We just need to get a big director like Spike Lee! Oh, he’s not available. What about John Singleton? Yeah, that’s the stuff. And, uh, we’ll pack it with good actors like Alfred Molina and Sigourney Weaver! Big blockbusta on our hands!” – random movie exec. I’ll pass on this September 23.

Real Steel
Pop quiz, Hollywood hot shot! What do you get when you combine the Fighter/Rocky/any other boxing movie with Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots? Uh, the humorously named Real Steel apparently. From the trailer below, it seems to hit all of the stepping stones for a underdog sports movie … except by replacing the underdog with a pile of metal under the tutelage of Wolverine and some bratty looking kid. Expect it to make a trillion dollars off the backs of stupid movie fans on October 7.

Sacrilege alert! I’ve never seen the original Kevin-Baconized Footloose. Wait, is that cheering or booing? Either way, chalk another 80s film to the Tinsel Town remake train as a small town with a ban on typical teenager fun like dancing. I would assume the sex and drugs are off-limits as well. A new cast of unknowns attempt to shake up the establishment by dancing any-damn-way (shocker!) and ruffle Dennis Quaid’s feathers. It looks flashy like Step Up and edgy like … Step Up 3(?) with the hollowness of both combined. Mark your calenders to skip this turkey October 14.

Red State
Honestly, it’s hard to judge this one by the trailer alone. It looks part awesome (the gunfight mostly) and questionable (everything else). But this has gotten crapped on by a lot of reviews regardless of what Quentin Tarantino says. Kevin Smith will probably chalk that up to critics being stuck-up assholes but I am hardly a critic and despised Cop Out. Be educated when it drops October 21.

Tower Heist
I’ve already spoken of Brett Ratner’s Tower Heist before but mostly because it was a pretty good cast in a horrid looking movie. It is even more relevant now that Eddie Murphy has been tapped to host the Oscars next February (coincidentally produced by Ratner too) and I still cannot imagine a good movie coming out of this. Be skeptical come November 4.

Jack and Jill
Dear baby Jesus. I cannot believe this is a real movie! I honestly cannot conceive that “From the Producers of Just Go With It and Grown Ups” is a selling point in the trailer! I cannot comprehend that there seems to be twice as much unfunny Adam Sandler in this than his last aborted comedy I watched. I am still waiting for the day before November 11 that Sandler announces to the world that this was merely a big-budgeted hoax made into a trailer just to show movie-goers how asinine their purchases are. I’m really waiting … still waiting.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1
So … positives! The trailer came in under two minutes! That’s pretty good considering the recent crop. And … well, I got nothing else. Yes, you might recall that I kind of liked the last one to an extent. At least it wasn’t as bad as the preceeding entry. Watching this trailer makes me want to go tear off my shirt in anger and go run in the rain. If I transform into a werewolf, at least I won’t have to worry about gaining admittance to this piece on November 18. And I hate weddings too!

New Year’s Eve
What can Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl, Zac Efron, and Sarah Jessica Parker equal? A movie that I unconditionally do not want to see! I never saw Valentine’s Day either. I consider myself lucky for that but even the celebratory night of drinking and shenanigans is not safe from the rom-com crew. Put those folks in a remake of New Year’s Evil and I’ll be there. Otherwise, have fun in a probably crowded theater when this launches December 9.