1999

September 4, 2018

Analysis This

Analysis This is a solid film that delivers something not really seen in theaters these days, character driven comedy. It’s a satisfying picture directed by Harold Ramis with Billy Crystal and Robert De Niro showing us what we miss.


November 10, 2015

Countdown to The Force Awakens (Episode I) – Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

As we inch closer to the release of this year’s most anticipated release, “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip” I thought it only appropriate to bring up another film that might garner some attention in the next month or so; “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” I know much hasn’t been made of this film and it’s flying under the radar, but to get everyone in the mood and to be completely original, it seemed time to take a look back and discuss the previous six entries in the “Star Wars” franchise and do a little retrospective.

While many people don’t like to admit that they exist, the “Star Wars” prequels do in fact, and they are canon to the entire “Star Wars” universe. Sorry people, but they do. With that being said, let’s start ripping the band-aid off right away and jump right into 1999’s “The Phantom Menace” released 16 years after “Return of the Jedi.”

“Phantom” takes place 32 years before “A New Hope” and regales the audience with the story of trade agreements, treaty signings, bartering for parts of a ship, diplomacy, Jedi Council meetings, oh, and some lightsaber action. If you’re a big fan of intergalactic politics, you might find some fun in “Phantom,” but for most of us, even the biggest “Star Wars” fans will find the fun and will mostly be yearning for what came before in the later “sequels,” and by sequels I mean the original three films.

During “Phantom” we meet some old faces, just younger; including Jedi in training Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Padawan learner of Jedi Knight, Qui-Gon Jinn, Senator Palpatine who will eventually become Emperor Palpatine in the later films, and of course Anakin Skywalker, the one who was thought to bring balance to The Force, but instead turned his back on the Jedi order and would become Darth Vader.

Why’sa peoples hate’sa me so much….

The main issue with “Phantom” and there are plenty, is the gall of it’s creator, George Lucas, to expect old fans of the series to like what he likes no matter what. Sure, I get it, the original trilogy was written at a different time and place. The 70s and 80s were interesting time, and while studios had priorities like selling toys, lunchboxes, collectible cups at McDonald’s and Burger King, the 90s brought about a time where not only were the kids that grew up with “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back” now adults, but many of them were wealthy adults, or at least man-children, that would eat up collectibles like candy. Not to mention, most of these adults now had children that only had to point at something they saw at K-B Toys (yes, K-B Toys used to be a thing) and it was rung up at the cash register. While I blame Lucas for 90% of what you end up seeing on screen, there is plenty of blame to go around with yes-men/women and plenty of people that would not say no to the all-mighty Lucas who created something so beloved and everlasting that nothing we could do would be wrong. Well, hindsight is 20/20 and with the rise of the Internet, “Phantom” has gone down as not only one of the worst films in the “Star Wars” Universe, but some might say one of the worst films ever made.

I’m just here for the purple lightsaber

Okay, with that out of the way, let the “Star Wars” fan come out and actually say some good things about this film, this should be short of course;

The relationship between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan is the heartbeat of the film, albeit a weak one that isn’t fully explored or fleshed out. It’s clear that both Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson are trying their best with what they’ve been given and knowing the lore of “Star Wars” the relationship between a Jedi and his Padawan learner is a powerful thing, I just wish there was more to it. The seeds are planted early that Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon often are at odds, especially about taking Anakin to Coruscant to showcase him in front of the other Master Jedi, but there is that mutual love and respect between the two, as well as the student and teacher motif, that while it may seem lame, makes a more profound effect later on in “Revenge of the Sith.”

I could have been a contender…

Darth Maul also makes a decent showing, even though it’s far too short of one. In the original trilogy the only bad guy you worried about was Darth Vader. Sure, Boba Fett was cool, and I would almost call Maul the Boba Fett of the prequel series. While we get to see so little of him, he was turned into somewhat of a cult figure in the series, much like Fett himself. There is no denying that the final lightsaber fight between Maul, Obi-Wan, and Qui-Gon is the highlight of this film, it was so much a highlight that later we would get prequel books about the origin of Maul and the inevitable return of Maul as a half Sith, half robot with spider-legs, that was the appeal of Maul.

Of course I could beat a dead horse, but outside of those few lone bright spots, “Phantom” is plagued by issues that turn a once proud franchise into a near “MST3K” quality film. From the pratfalls of Jar Jar Binks, to the neverending Pod Racer sequence, to the cringe-worthy dialogue spewed by Jake Lloyd as the future Dark Lord of the Sith, and of course the lifeless performance by Natalie Portman, this film lacks fun, goodness, and the goofy innocence of “Star Wars” films past and replaces it with goofy out of place humor and lifeless exposition that will leave many fans, like myself, hollow and yearning for nostalgia, or at least “The Star Wars Christmas Special.”

So, has another 16 years made this film any better? Not really. The CG looks dated, the characters are just as insufferable, and outside of this film being canon, there really isn’t much you’ll get out of it. Many of the best things about “Phantom” aren’t even brought up again in the proceeding films, original trilogy included, so it begs the questions? What was the purpose of the prequels, namely this film? Oh yeah…..midi-chlorians….that’s it…..midi-chlorians……

Stay tuned in the next few days for more “Star Wars” goodness as we move on to another winner; “Star Wars Episode II Attack of the Clones.”

October 28, 2015

The Horror Time Capsule – 1999: House on Haunted Hill

MISUNDERSTOOD

House on Haunted Hill – Misunderstood

I’m not sure why there are certain films that take hold of me, especially universally panned films, that have such a lasting impression on me. I guess I’m the inverted horror movie hipster. While people will always hold Dario Argento and any type of obscure Hungarian and Spanish horror director in high regard, I love schlock and appreciate horror that is not only all that good, but just plan bad. This brings me to the remake of the William Castle classic “House on Haunted Hill.” This 1999 remake is the first film from the Dark Castle brand, that was started by super star producers Joel Silver and  director Robert Zemekis, who you might also remember had a huge hand in the creation of the “Tales from the Crypt” TV series.

“House” follows a similar story to it’s predecessor, however it includes the backstory of the titular “House on Haunted Hill” which was an insane asylum that housed a maniacal doctor who performed heinous experiments on the inmates until there was a revolt and everyone was murdered and the asylum burnt down.

Years later, eccentric theme park owner, Steven Price, wants to throw a party for his wife at the “House” that includes several of her friends, but by some work of evil, the invitations are changed and all new guests are invited, most of whom are connected by some wicked twist of fate.

There are a few things I like about this film, actually, I think the good certainly outweighs the bad for me. First, it’s funny to me that the roller coaster they use for Price’s newest creation, is actually the “Incredible Hulk” roller coaster at Islands of Adventure in Florida, a roller coaster I know all too well. I also love all the subtle nods to the Castle original, and the over-the-top performances, especially from Geoffery Wright who sells it so well as Steven Price. Lastly, the monster effects are awesome, and remind me a lot of the monsters in “Silent Hill,” but what could you expect from Greg Nicotero.

Sure, when you get down to it, this is a genre film, and it has flaws, but that doesn’t make it bad. For a genre fan, and a relative poopoo’er on remakes, this one holds up and is super entertaining.

You have been invited…..to check out these other gems from 1999:

The Blair Witch Project
Deep Blue Sea
End of Days
The Haunting
Lake Placid
The Mummy
Ravenous
Sleepy Hollow
Stir of Echoes

April 7, 2015

Slaughter Film Presents: Action Movie Time Machine – Simon Sez

IT’S ALL JUST TOO MUCH

Well I had a lot to chose from for this “March Madness” related trek. There are so many options, “Space Jam” with Micheal Jordan, “Steel” & “Kazaam” with Shaq, Kevin Durant in “Thunderstruck”, and Gheorghe Muresan in “My Giant” with Billy Crystal… But, fuck those movies. 
The lonely few that are cool enough to talk about are Wilt Chamberlain in “Conan the Destroyer”. But this is a pretty small part and I’m sure we’ll discuss the Conan films in detail before long. And of course there is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from “Airplane”, but more importantly “Game of Death” with Bruce Lee.
With all these options I bet you’re wondering what we will be boarding the “Action Movie Time Machine” for this time. Well, another Rodman flick. Yep. Way back when, the studio wanted to make a sequel to “Double Team“, but that never happened. Someone else — who didn’t have the rights to the title, characters or JVCD — decided to go ahead with the film anyhow using whatever was left on the table. Which was Rodman, the “cyber monks” and Dane Cook for some reason. No good can come of this. No good can come of “Simon Sez”.
The year is 1999. MySpace & Napster are born onto the Internet while Barbie turns 40. The West Nile virus appears in the United States, Lance Armstrong “wins” his 1st Tour de France, and people lose their minds over Y2K.
THE SKINNY
The film begins with Simon, Denis Rodman, investigating an arms dealer/terrorist for Interpol with some help from his “Cyber Monk” friends Micro & Macro, John Pinette & Ricky Harris. Micro & Macro are using their robo-fly to eves drop on the arms deal, all while making “hilarious” jokes that would cause “Paul Blart” to pop a stitch. “Sorry Simon, we’re working out a few bugs.”. ‘Cause it’s a robot fly, get it? GET IT?! Micro & Macro are the comedic relief and I hate it already.
None of this stuff really matters. It’s just an introduction to the characters – the same way Bond movies always start with Bond finishing up an assignment before the REAL story starts.

Soon after, Simon is relaxing on a French beach when he encounters Nick Miranda, Dane Cook. At first Nick tries to bullshit Simon, pretending to know him from his days at the CIA, but Simon sees through his rouse and then learns that Nick works for a tech company and has been given the job of delivering a briefcase filled with two million dollars as a ransom payment to rescue his boss’s daughter. Nick did some research on Simon in hopes that he could be coerced into helping which inevitably happens.

After the deal goes bad, Simon and Nick escape to Simon’s headquarters where he opens the briefcase to find a CD where the money should be. The monks attempt to read the disc, but it is secured with Department of Defense encryption. Now Simon takes is upon himself to rescue the girl while protecting the DoD disc with help from Nick and the monks. By the way, the software on the disc can turn any telescope into a laser weapon…or something.
The monks do some digging and discover that a man named Bernard Gabrielli is the one who has kidnapped the girl. He is using her for leverage to gain the disc that he will then sell to Ashton, the arms dealer/terrorist from the beginning of the film. As it turns out, Gabrielli is trying to get the disc to save his son – the kidnapped daughters love interest – who Ashton threatened to kill. I guess it’s Ashton’s plan to have others do his dirty work so he seems unconnected to any of the crimes.

Around this time Nick learns that his boss is unsatisfied with his handy-word and tells him that he will soon be in France to hand over a copy of the disc to Ashton in person. Simon and Nick use this as an opportunity to save the day. They even recruit Gabrielli’s son, Michael, who happens to be a kung fu/parkour expert. I don’t know why his father was so worried about his wellbeing. He’s a bad-ass.

Nick, Michael and Simon’s GF, who I hadn’t mentioned until now because she isn’t very important to the story, fight through Ashton’s gang of motorcycle clowns to rescue the girl. Simon follows Ashton to The French Telescope. I assume that’s what it’s called. The two fight it out and Simon impales Ashton with a sword which pierces some telescope power supply that electrocutes both him and the telescope. Simon narrowly escapes before the building explodes.

The film ends with that one guy’s daughter and that other guy’s son marrying each other, Simon and his GF go on a date and the monks chat with Nick, who is now an Interpol agent himself. The End.

THE VERDICT
Ironically, the problem with “Simon Sez” isn’t Rodman – it’s almost everything else. That’s not entirely fair. The film has a simple action plot that I’ve seen a dozen times, but that’s okay – it works. Rodman isn’t a great actor but he also isn’t awful. He is easier to take serious in this than compared to “Double Team”. The film has some pretty fast paced fight scenes, some of which feature Xin Xin Xiong who is another remnant of “Double Team”. These are the highlight of the film in my opinion, but everything else…bad.
And it’s not that it’s bad exactly, it’s just hard to focus on the film when I’m rolling my eyes at the constant jokes that are as if they’re from a kids cartoon. The Cyber Monks, if done serious, could have been interesting…maybe. But there is too much of them and I hate it.

Not to mention, the monks are the comedic relief, and with them, why did the film need ANOTHER funny man? Dane does a great job bringing his goofy energy and physical comedy to the screen but it’s just too much. He and Rodman may have made for an interesting “odd couple” scenario, but they are interrupted too often by the monks.
Here is an example of “too much”; Nick secretly follows Simon to his headquarters, the basement of a church, where the monks see him enter with their security cameras. They use a mic and speakers to make Nick think that God is talking to him. Then “God” makes Nick dance the “running man” before they drop him down a into the basement with a trap door. Once he is in the basement, they pretend to be “Killer Monks” by shooting at Nick with blank filled Glocks… Why is all of this in a movie?
“Simon Sez” is strange because it’s better than “Double Team” in some ways and god awful in others, and unfortunately doesn’t have JVCD to carry it along.
After watching this movie again, I can’t help but compare it to ANY other action movie combined with “Richie Rich”.
I’m Cory Carr and this concludes another trip on the “Action Movie Time Machine”. Until next time, Semper Fi Punk!
For more from Cory, check out his website slaughterfilm.com, where he and his good friend Forest Taylor record weekly podcasts, reviewing the films that are legendary, even in Hell!

November 6, 2012

Election Day Special: Election

SURPRISING
On this election day, I wanted to talk about a film that really encapsulates what most modern elections, especially this one, are about.  A revenge seeking electorate creating a candidate that looks great superficially but is merely an empty shell underneath, then propping up said candidate to satisfy their own deeper resentment for his opponent, no matter what lines they cross.  That film my fellow Americans is the 1999 comedy Election, starring Matthew Broderick, Chris Klein, and Academy Award Winner Reese Witherspoon.  
Election is a film that caught me by SURPRISE when I first saw it.  This was Chris Klein’s first film, Witherspoon wasn’t big yet and Broderick was dead to me after Godzilla.  So, I wasn’t expecting it to be as funny as it is.  The wholesome setting and simple story mixed with the quirky and sometimes dirty humor is a terrific combination.  It is much like Fargo in that regard.  Election and Citizen Ruth were director Alexander Payne’s beginnings in finding the abnormal in normal modern society.  They are the roots for his later films About Schmidt, Sideways, and The Descendants.  Though, Election is a little more slapstick than the rest.  Some of the jokes are subtle and hidden, like the the way Tracy Flick’s block letter buttons and posters seem to look like something else if squint at it.  Then some are just over the top hilarious, like Mr. McAllister’s encounter with a bee.   Overall, Election is as great as it is because of its characters and the performances of the actors playing them.  So, I want to focus mainly on that.  
Tracy Flick is simply amazing.  She is that girl you hated in your chemistry class that reminded the teacher to give out homework.  The girl who had a fuzzy pink scrunchy that matched her fuzzy pink sweater that matched her fuzzy pink pen cap.  The girl that would stalk the halls like a hungry lioness, accosting people with a clipboard and guilting them into participating in a food drive or a blood drive or a clothes for blind Indonesian midgets drive.  Man, I hated that girl.   Reese Witherspoon plays this overly ambitious go-getter in a scarily accurate way.  Amy Poehler, whether she admits to it or not, owes her entire character of Leslie Knope from Parks And Recreations to Reese.  Tracy Flick is Leslie Knope in high school.  It is uncanny.  Reese has gone on to do many things since, including winning the Oscar for Walk The Line.  However, when I want to point to a great Witherspoon performance, I point to Tracy Flick every time.  
It is a bit surreal watching Matthew Broderick go from being the teen rebel to the vindictive and devious authority figure.  Shows I’m getting old.  Though, Broderick plays the character of Mr. McAllister in a more sympathetic way than Dean Rooney.  His performance, as well as all the performances in Election, are done in a way where you can understand where each character is coming from.  When I first saw this film, I saw Mr. McAllister as the bad guy.  However, the older I got, the more I began to side with his point of view.  The one crying shame about Broderick is that he does such a great job in this film but in the same year he does such a horrid job in this one.  
Bar none…Bar…none, this is Chris Klein’s funniest performance.  Well, I’m not counting his unintentionally hilarious performance in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li.  Paul Metzler is the unsung comedic force of this film.  His aloof, matter of fact, ho-hum nature is so funny and SURPRISINGLY real, I was convinced for a while that Klein was pretty much like Paul in real life.  All of the narrations in this film are funny but his make me laugh the most.  
A lot of kudos should go to actress Jessica Campbell.  Her portrail of Tammy Metzler and her tragic side story is one of the most heartfelt moments of the film.  She feels real in the role and makes the emotions of a teenage sexual identity crisis seem genuine and still funny.    
Election is one of those movies that gets overlooked when it comes to great comedies.   It proves you can still get a belly laugh out of an audience without a flatulence joke or some once great comedian dressed in a fat suit.  Go out and vote…PICK FLICK….watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.  
October 4, 2012

31 Nights of Halloween, Audition

Audition – Kiri

Asians, specifically Japanese folk, have given us plenty to be happy about.  Playstation, Nintendo, Karaoke, Anime, Godzilla, and of course giggling Japanese school girls.  But the hell with that!  I’m talking about hardcore, blood-soaked, WTF, mind imprinting moments of sheer horror, and one person has been giving Westerners nightmares for quite sometime; give a round of applause for Mr. Takashi Miike-san and his magnum opus, 1999’s “Audition.”

Apparently love stories in Japan are totally fu*cked, but on the surface “Audition” is a classic, where a lonely widower is looking for love in what ends up to be all the wrong places.  The lesson(s) to be learned from this film would be to never trust an overzealous friend who encourages you to meet women by way of a fake TV/film audition and choosing the one girl who A) was a former dancer B) waits by the phone for your call C) worked in a bar where people go missing and D) has an acupuncture/piano wire fetish and loves to whisper “kiri, kiri, kiri“.  These are the A,B,C (and D’s) of leading a happy, productive, and not-missing-your-feet life in Japan.

“Audition” is well paced, and has a solid narrative throughout, with good acting (I’m sure it would be better if I understood Japanese). The final, grueling, 30 minutes is an exercise in horror, suspense, and mind-fuckery at its very best.  Miike knows how to pull out all the stops and create an atmosphere of dread and hopelessness where the audience doesn’t know where, or when, he will stop and give a breather.  It’s an art that is lost upon the modern horror director and in my opinion hasn’t really been seen since Alfred Hitchcock.

So if you’ve just gotten out of a relationship, or maybe are about to go out on the town with your finest Affliction glitter-tee, destroyed denim, and are going to fist-pump your way into the heart of the girl at the bar drinking the cranberry juice who volunteered as the designated driver, think about this;  you might be the one in the burlap sack slurping up vomit from a dog bowl.  Do yourself a favor, check out “Audition.”

Fun Fact:  Takashi Miike made a cameo appearance in torture porn pioneer Eli Roth’s film “Hostel.”  He’s credited as “Miike Takashi.” 

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