Archive for the ‘Pure Popcorn flicks’ Category

Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Posted by ron On October - 24 - 2010

Back in the 80s Wes Craven invented a new horror franchise with an iconic monster who attacked teenagers in their dreams. In yet another prime example of horror retreads gone horribly wrong, the modern re-telling of A Nightmare on Elm Street delivered none of the pop-corny, sugar rush fun. Instead Director Samuel Bayer delivered the theatrical release of Dateline’s To Catch a Predator.

Jackie Earl Haley played a very straight edged, no nonsense Freddy. He didn’t waste any time getting down to business. Every brooding teenage victim had their appointment with the sommelier of nightmares. Most teenagers party, drink, and have sex without parental supervision but these teenage victims brood. The decision to strip the sex appeal out of A Nightmare on Elm Street was a bold move because the detached sleep deprived teens definitely fit the profile of disturbed children. However fleshing out the truth behind their behavior made Freddy Krueger secondary to such a transparent story.

The critical flaw in the modern version of A Nightmare on Elm Street was the omission of Nancy’s father who was the town sheriff. In Craven’s version, the relationship between Nancy and her father was an important dynamic in a role reversal of authority. Nancy’s dad, the most powerful authority figure in the town, was powerless to protect his only girl from a man he killed. Hence his ignorance forced a desperate Nancy, the main protagonist to take matters into her own hands. Thus, what began as a whiny screaming teenager developed into a strong willed survivor. In this film, the Sheriff role was reduced and demoted to the father of Nancy’s potential boyfriend. He became a character that went nowhere. Hence, multi-talented Clancy Brown had very little to work with. Without the father-daughter dynamic, this modern take on the development of the Nancy character just didn’t feel quite so complete without a better designed transition scene. The elements were there but the director didn’t make better use of the parental roles. In fact, they were so non-existent that it might have been a better departure from the original if the kids were orphans unaware of their past.

Bayer, renown for the music videos of Metallica and Garbage, didn’t favor the build up of suspense. He substituted Craven’s “the thrill of the hunt” approach with creative camera effects and disturbing visuals. However such stationary targets undermined the entertaining savagery of Krueger’s kills.

Alas, the film took itself too seriously. A Nightmare on Elm Street led you to believe Freddy was a pedophile who raped these teens when they were too little to remember. One wonders who made the executive decision that it wasn’t enough to kill a child to be a heinous monster but now, the monster had to molest them before killing them? Maybe if the teens had molested Fred Krueger but blocked it out of their minds, Bayer might have had something. It’s just un-necessary to make something that was inherent to be explicit if there was nothing to add.

In my three liquor rating scale of one bourbon, one scotch, and one beer The Nightmare on Elm Street remake rated a very dissatisfied flat beer with two flies.

Cheers,
Ron

American Werewolf in London

Posted by ron On October - 18 - 2010

Perhaps nothing satisfies your craving for top shelf, lowbrow humor quite like a John Landis film. From the Kentucky Fried Movie, Animal House, and the Blues Brothers, one should be prepared for sleazy, raunchy satirical fun. Yet Landis’ crude but effective tactics never failed to pay tribute to the works that inspired him. If imitation is the best form of flattery, An American Werewolf in London was a fitting 80s tribute to the 1941 classic, the Wolf man starring Lon Chaney Jr. In this re-telling of a grim tale, two NYU college kids were backpacking across the English countryside on a damp cool night until a vicious man-beast would forever change their fortunes.

Unless you’ve been living on the moon, one would find it extremely difficult not to have some preconceived knowledge of the werewolf curse. Werewolves continue to be one of the oldest folklore legends, so Landis made the executive decision not to waste any time with the origin of the curse. In the London hospital, the bitten survivor played by David Naughton literally referenced Lon Chaney Jr in the Wolf Man in order to blatantly spell out a familiar fate for our sympathetic character that conveniently shared the bed of his Florence Nightingale.

The film attempted no plot twists but Landis upgraded the main character’s guilt with visceral visuals of David’s nightmares and hallucinations generated by his subconscious. It’s a crude but inventive way to externalize, internalized thoughts. It’s also a vehicle to utilize some of the greatest special effects artists in the history of cinema that continue to be spoken about today. In the third act when David sat in the XXX movie theatre and spoke to his deceased best friend, one wondered if this later inspired a similar scene in Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko. Horrific imagery might have undermined the actor’s ability to project a tortured soul but it fit Landis’ personality to perfection.

If you’ve seen this film before, try substituting the werewolf curse for socialized medicine and one might have some refreshing fun in a second take. An American college kid backpacked across England, jumped by hooligans, and taken to a London hospital. Now reconstitute this film with every public servant having dismissed a crazy American believing in the infectious idea of affordable healthcare but never doubting its existence before having to put him down for good.

In my trois liquor rating scale of one bourbon one Scotch and one beer, An American Werewolf in London rated a relaxing fall beer as a guilty pleasure to share with old friends during this Halloween.

Cheers,
Ron

Night of the Living Dead

Posted by ron On October - 2 - 2010


Duane Jones played the last man with a brain, literally.

After more than 40 years and thousands of movie reviews later, Night of the Living Dead continues to inspire and recycle horror fans from one generation to the next. So much has been written about this 1968 classic, any movie critic would be severely challenged to say anything that hasn’t been said before. However, this isn’t a review to challenge movie critics but rather to compliment its enjoyment for fans and critics alike. 

With the brand of visceral cruelty that modern horror films seem to favor, it’s hard to believe that in 1968 teenagers were disturbed by the violence in Night of the Living Dead. Even by today’s standards of a PG-13 rating, the method by which the violence in this film was shot seemed amateurish except for the fact that any female character slapped by a man would eventually have papers served by the end credits. Yet, this film still has some revolutionary elements today. 

Some 40+ years later horror films still haven’t really warmed up to an African American lead or minority protagonists in general. Duane Jones played such a straight arrow that any man could relate to him. As Ben he finds himself in a situation that he doesn’t understand. Ben knew he had to keep his wits about him in order to survive. Audiences who rooted for him against the overwhelming odds, felt the ending was an agitating cruel twist of fate. Jones commanded the big screen when he described the gruesome sight of body parts torn apart as he drove a truck through a crowd of zombies. At that point, the film transcended racial differences because any audience can relate to the physical and psychological struggle. Never mind Jack Johnson’s coined phrase, “the great white hope.” Ben was the America’s last hope for sanity in an insane world plagued by zombies.

Night of the Living Dead never relied solely on jump scares. The slow drawn out build of suspense was its bread and butter. Any audience was aware of what was coming because a majority of the shots placed the unaware victim in the foreground with the infectious zombie horde slowly advancing into overwhelming numbers. The pacing was so drawn out that today it might require some patience and restraint not to scream out “run goddam it”. Still the film had a design where every encounter with the undead had a subtle, calculated build up that almost caught one slightly off guard. A few zombies might not seem formidable but a claustrophobic climax with a relentless horde presented a different effect. 

Romero’s ground breaking film might never have the same theatre value with ticket prices far from the 1968 prices. However, the orchestra soundtrack will always continue to delight anyone hosting friends in their home with entertainment centres and cozy couches. Night of the Living Dead will always be the perfect conversation starter for all ages of horror fans alike because its the beginning of many good things to come.

In my homage to George Thorogood’s one bourbon, one Scotch, and one beer I rate Night of the Living Dead as a cozy bourbon on a cool autumn October evening with friends. 

Cheers,
Ron                    

Machete

Posted by ron On September - 8 - 2010

Betrayed and left for dead Danny Trejo is Machete, a man without a country hell bent on retribution against the men who had wronged him. If this trope sounds familiar, it’s because this film contains all of the basic food groups in delicous exploitation films: Mindless bloody violence, gratuitous nudity, campy performances, and an overly simplified sociopolitical message. There were no surprises in Machete but it was enjoyable for that very reason. As a Grind house trailer, it was billed as a ridiculous tale of bloody revenge built around an emotionless unstoppable Mexican killing machine that was one part Hammurabi and two parts Jason Vorhees. It delivered on that promise.

At age 66, Trejo was a marvel to watch. His scarred leathery face and imposing frame were perfect for a moody silent type haunted by his past. However it was his flat affect and minimal responses that provided so much of the film’s comedic timing. Whether it’s playing off of Jessica Alba or any of his co-stars, Trejo’s less is more approach was the perfect foil.

On one level, Machete was a revenge film but it was also part of a larger amusingly convoluted arc that ultimately ignited a revolution led by illegal immigrants living in Texas. At no point did the audience learn much about the network run by Michelle Rodriguez to which she cryptically replied to an immigration officer, “They pay their part.” Are they encouraging more illegal immigration or possibly working towards their citizenship? No more information was yielded. How was paying the network more advantageous than applying for a work visa? At no point did the audience ever learn about Machete’s political views on illegal immigration. In fact, we did not get any indication on what the illegal immigrants hoped to gain out of risking their lives to enter in a stand off between Machete and a rogue Border Patrol death squad. Fortunately the film didn’t spend too time on the socio-political commentary. The story never made it personal, mean spirited, or over serious. It provided just enough anti-Mexican juice for the audience to get behind the main protagonist, his allies, and to cheer the end of the overly theatrical villains played by DeNiro, Seagal, Fahey, and Don Johnson.

Director Robert Rodriguez hasn’t deviated too much from his body of work that included El Mariachi, Desperado, and Once upon a Time in Mexico. He’s still stuck on revenge but I think he’s learned how to get more out of his actors. He hasn’t lost his sense of culture. Little details in this film really added some reverence for pride and the importance of cultural identity. Rodriguez continued to suffer from choppy editing that absolutely killed the climax of Machete. When all the plotlines converged to the Border Patrol Death Squad camp, the chaos was edited down to posing, firing munitions, and next person. Shockingly Rodriguez didn’t recruit more Mexican Americans to work as extras. What was supposed to be a living tsunami of illegal immigrants resembled more of a minor league baseball team in number. It was unclear on whether or not this mega battle scene was chopped up badly on purpose but I thought Trejo deserved more of a coupe de grace and so did the audience.

Still, this film brought laughs, the action, and hot women. In my never ending tribute to George Thorogood’s One Bourbon, One Shot, One Beer I am rating Machete a nice cold beer that warrants another one because it’s a tasty guilty pleasure.

Cheers
Ron

Piranha 3-D

Posted by ron On August - 22 - 2010


Ving Rhames might have to go medieval on some fish in the campy gore film, Piranha 3-D

Dressed as the exact same character where he fought an iconic cannibalistic sea creature, Richard Dreyfus’ career has come full circle in Piranha 3-D, a shamelessly entertaining and gory film with a lot of fun performances from the stars to the extras. French horror director Alexandre Aja didn’t exert too much of his signature fatalist film making to the Joe Dante’s 1978 recipe about the nature channel gone bad. Aja merely enriched the camp flavor of the Piranha franchise. This was refreshingly uncharacteristic of today’s directors who often tried too hard to rewrite/reboot the rules of any film less than 5 years old.

Set in Arizona along the Colorado River, unsupervised college kids have invaded a small town to party on boats and other floating devices for a Spring Break of debauchery. Unfortunately, this unlucky town was about to face something more excruciatingly painful than miles of trash and puke on the boardwalk. Unknownst to the hundreds of hard young bodies baking in the Sun, a tremor has opened up a deep underwater canyon that released thousands of hungry mouths. Between the hard drinking college kids and the impending doom that awaits them, there was a young man whose coming of age story could involve a lovely young lady if he could escape sleazy pornographer, underwater lesbian nymphs, and a serious grounding if his sheriff mom, played by Elizabeth Shue doesn’t find out he abandoned his younger siblings.

It’s impossible not to become jealous of the extras and actors who brought their best ham for the occasion along with tiny bathing suits. Jerry O’Connell delivered a riotous performance as a small time pornographer who fed off filming the activities of curious college girls who lost their inhibitions along with their virginity. Christopher Lloyd reprised his role as a crazed scientist. Eli Roth got into the fun as an MTV-esque host, while Ving Rhames might be more lethal to aquatic life than British Petroleum.

The 3-D wasn’t necessary and outside of a floating half eaten penis, it didn’t serve the film.

Piranha 3-D was one of the few films this summer that actually delivered on its promise of sex, drugs, and sushi. For that, I am giving Piranha 3-D a delicious bourbon.

Cheers
Ron

The Expendables

Posted by ron On August - 11 - 2010


Sly hangs onto dear life in the Expendables, a throwback to beefcake 80s gun porn the perfect film for D-Box theatres.

The Expendables attempted to revive 80s Republican cinema with the very man who helped institute the Reagan era of musclebound gun porn and American invincibility. From a lost era Sylvester Stallone returned as the last American action hero to deliver one big box office bang for Hollywood. Unfortunately he didn’t bring Governor Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers along for the ride. Instead, he brought in the tweener action heroes like Terry Crews, Jet Li, and Jason Statham with Bruce Willis in the background. Like tax breaks to the American middle class, the Expendables squandered its opportunities to deliver its nostalgic brand of pornography. It was a makeshift film with pieces of an action film that didn’t satisfy the blood lust of many prior one liner money shots. In having failed to do so, there was no sense of nostalgia but more of a reminder of why Sylvester Stallone’s legacy was one that deserved to stay in the past.

The 80s action film formula emphasized slightly homoerotic testosterone injected action that was reminiscent of choreography in American professional wrestling entertainment. That is to say, the protagonist and antagonist traded one sided blows in a sea saw battle. The traditionally topless oiled up muscle bound men rolled around in grimy surfaces with other muscle bound men as explosions go off in the distance. The climax of the physical bravado was always highlighted by a catch phrase or one liner and a spectacular death as the coupe de grace. It was an excessive form of entertainment.

American audiences will still enjoy this form of ridiculous contest of manly men trying to one up each other in feats of implausible skill and survival. They will enjoy the one-thall showdowns: Jet Li vs. Dolph Lundgren and Sly vs. Steve Austin. However one wonders if the use of muscle men as real life super heroic stuntmen is still relevant today? Sophisticated digital cameras, the blue screen, and Hong Kong high wire choreographed fights have changed action films in cinema. The audience has already accepted that an anorexic woman can jump from a speeding car, slide down a rooftop, and grab onto the side of a truck without one scratch. What was once an exclusive club to the physically endowed has become available to anyone. While modern times won’t diminish the feat of the Expendables, it has already made it appear dated.

The physical feats and complexity of the Expendables are worth appreciating as a dying repetitive art form of extreme violence. True to form, It also suffered from a lot of same flaws as its predecessors. Bad acting, empty dialogue, and an implausible plot never failed to take the viewer out of the movie. Worse, it may have crippled the overall enjoyment of the film, something that Rambo, Commando, or Action Jackson never did.

In my die hard appreciation of George Thorogood’s one Bourbon, one Scotch, one Beer I rated the Expendables an old stand by beer that didn’t disappoint but never quenched by thirst. 

Cheers,
Ron    

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Thoughts on Cinema is dedicated to film reviews. An uncompromising opinion on the intellectual, artistic, and entertainment value to the consumer. With rising ticket prices, we dedicate ourselves to present to you content regarding what you should or should not be viewing. -Ronald H. Pollock Founder and Editor in Chief

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