2001

October 8, 2016

Millennial Horror – 2001: Thir13en Ghosts

THERE

Thir13en Ghosts –There

Getting into the 2016 Halloween spirit, we are going to pick up right where we left off in 2015. In case you missed it, “Scream 3” was our last attempt and to keep the good times rolling let’s revisit another lackluster horror attempt from the early 2000s, namely 2001, with “Thir13en Ghosts” a remake of William Castle’s 1960 classic “13 Ghosts.”

To be honest, this isn’t a bad film. It’s got some great set pieces, I love the ghost designs, and the stories behind them, but just like most Dark Castle-produced, there always seems to be something missing. Maybe it’s the lack of scares, the over, or poor, acting, or maybe even the inclusion of dated pop culture zeitgeist, ie, Marilyn Manson’s “Sweet Dreams’ in “The House on Haunted Hill” and using rappers as actors (stay tuned for a review from a film for 2002 coming soon). I guess at the end of the day, you have to take the good with the bad.

The gist of “Ghosts” is that there is this guy trying to collect ghosts in order to powerful machine that would essentially make him a god. He is only missing the Thirteenth Ghost in order to finally bring the machine to full power. A pretty straight forward plot that is at times style-over-substance, but just like many Dark Castle-produced fare, the films are dumb and fun.

The ghosts in the film are interesting, each with their own little mythology and the makeup effects are really quite impressive. With so much emphasis on digital effects in modern horror, it’s great to see actual, live people in costumes, it really is a lost art.

The acting is pretty hokey and just plain bad, but again, you take the good with the bad and it doesn’t take you out of the film too badly, but yeah, when it’s bad, it’s bad.

Overall, “Ghosts” is a fun little remake with some nice production design, but plenty of flaws, but that doesn’t mean it’s unwatchable, besides maybe Rah Digga’s acting, you won’t be spitting bars, you might just spit up.

December 10, 2013

Hobbit Countdown: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

BALLS

The Fellowship of the Ring – Balls

One of the biggest no-no’s of pop culture is not messing up anything that beloved by a group of nerds.  And before I get nailed to a cross, I myself am a nerd and I use that as a term of extreme affection, I mean I married a Harry Potter nerd so I’m entitled to use the term nerd as often as I want.  As I digress, directors, writers, and actors have to tread carefully when trying to replicate a favorite fictional character because one bad line utter, one extra action acted upon, or one minor detail too much or too little can lead to the Internet banding together to destroy said director, writer, or actor.  It’s a tough gig to replicate things that are held in such high regard.  Now, back in 2001, a director from New Zealand, more famous for horror and gross-out fare such as “Meet the Feebles” and “Dead Alive” decided he was going to recreate something that everyone said could never be done; that tiny Kiwi, Peter Jackson, was going to recreate Middle Earth from J.R.R. Tolkien’s seminal series “The Lord of the Rings.”  People thought, “The balls on this guy.  The closest he’ll ever get to a Hobbit would be to look in the mirror!”  Well……Jackson did have balls, and with a little help from the Brothers Weinstein, he has able to create Middle Earth, in grand spectacle I might add, in the first of three fantasy epics, starting with “The Fellowship of the Ring,” a film that not only changed the way film was made, but the way people thought about fantasy films as a whole.

I keep going back to the word balls.  As is in selling real estate, you have to have brass balls to sell an epic three-part series of films to Hollywood executives.  If you’ve ever seen or heard anything about either Bob or Harvey Weinstein, I would be crapping myself before my pitch.  Especially if I’m a short New Zealander with only a few films to my name and having never helmed a big-budget film before.  Balls……

Needless to say, the series was greenlit, and under the guidance of Jackson, it propelled him to instant fame.  Jackson was able to create a lived in world that included The Shire, the Mines of Moria, Rivendale, and the White Tower of Isengard.  “Fellowship” is the first part of Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” films that tells the story of a Hobbit named Frodo Baggins, who embarks on an epic adventure to destroy a ring of pure evil.  With three other Hobbits in tow, Frodo must avoid evil Ring Wraiths hunting for The Ring, and at the same time trying to avoid the temptation of The Ring itself.  Deciding that Frodo will need more than his fellow Hobbits to complete his task, a Fellowship is formed that includes a bow-weilding Elf, a stout axe-swinging dwarf, Gandalf the Grey Wizard, and two men, including one who might be the long-lost King of Gondor.

At heart, “Fellowship” is the obligatory opening film from a trilogy that grows in size and scope with every film.  You can see Jackson’s typical dream-like style plays heavily in the first film that reminded me a lot of “Dead Alive” minus a lawnmower used to plow down dozens of zombies.  His action scenes are a little wonky and sometimes the action gets lost in the details, but you can still see the makings of a director still finding his bearings.

The gritty battle scenes of “Fellowship” are a stark contrast to another fantasy series that was also getting underway in 2001; the “Harry Potter” series.  While “Potter” was written with a younger demographic in mind, the allegories and vision of Tolkien captured the imagination of a more mature, and older, audience.  I’m not here to knock “Potter” heads, but “LotR” has to be considered the more intellectual of the two series’, and that’s all I’ll say before I’m ripped apart by “Potter” fans.  But if they want to bring it, I’m here to answer the Horn of Gondor.

What made “Fellowship” such a success was the fact that Jackson made the impossible, possible.  He actually created Middle Earth by using New Zealand as the fictitious backdrop of a world of Elves, Hobbits, Orcs, and Trolls.  I mean, people travel to New Zealand to visit sets that still stand to this day.  The amount of detail still amazes to this day, and Jackson’s reliance on practical effects (for the most part) is something that Hollywood is sorely missing in this day and age.

Needless to say, the gamble had paid off for the Weinstein’s and New Line Cinema after “Fellowship.”  Of course there are some nit-picky things I can point out about the film, but it’s a fantasy film, and not all things make logical sense in a world filled with non-existent creatures and items.  What needs to be concentrated on is how a dream can come try and how one guy, with balls the size of the small island nation he hails from, was able to a film that still dazzles to this day.  That film is “The Fellowship of the Rings,” a not long required fantasy film to watch, but a necessary FILM to watch.

Fun Fact:  1800 Hobbit feet were made for the production of “The Fellowship of the Ring.”

December 20, 2012

Happy Holidays: Lawless Heart

Lawless Heart: Intriguing

2001, 99 mins, Drama

I’m really not sure how this film got under my radar for so long, but I’m glad I finally saw it.
The other day I got home from work early, figure I watch a film and I searched on demand high and low. I found something called Lawless Heart and started to read into it. The film stars Bill Nighy (Underworld) and Tom Hollander (Pirates of the Caribbean). Well I figure that is a damn good enough reason to take a look.
The story straight from IMDB contains, Three intersecting stories about people whose lives are affected by the death of a gay restaurateur. 
The film starts off at the restaurateur’s funeral, which becomes a key moment for all and you will come back to this and other moments throughout the film.
Films that warp time and connect stories of different characters, always grabs my attention. I really love to watch films like that. The reason I think I do so much, is the crew, when making a film like this creates a lot of detail both inside the story and visually throughout the film. When you have great characters  this becomes something that grabs me and keeps me around for each persons story and to me that can create a damn good film because we seem not to get that anymore in films. 

Bill Nighy, in anything this guy does is simply great. He holds the screen and brings life to characters that you just don’t get out of other actors. He is always someone I look for when I’m looking for a film to watch.
Tom Hollander stands out in this film in a good way. He plays Nick, the gay restaurateur’s partner. He’s character’s story is quiet fascinating and intriguing in a way I never really see in a film.
All in all this is a wonderful acted and written film. I just wish we had more films like this come out more often. If you’re looking for a film to simply sit and relax too, then you should check it out.  
(The trailer is shit, but the film is really good)
October 3, 2012

31 Nights of Halloween, Joy Ride

Joy Ride – Fun

Now for something completely different.  Some people say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, and when it works, it works really well (I made up the last part, but you get the point).  Let’s face it as well, the horror genre really hasn’t had an original idea in years, and don’t give me “torture porn” as an example, or any of this “Paranormal Activity” bullshit.  And while I do enjoy a bloody gore fest, I also appreciate something with a little more subtlety, and that could be the reason why I enjoy “Joy Ride” from 2001 so much.

I’ll say this about “Joy Ride” before i get started; the movie takes a lot from other movies.  It has bits of “Duel,” “The Hitcher,” and hints of classic road movies like “Midnight Run” perhaps, but even with all of those homages, the film works and doesn’t feel stale.

“Joy Ride” stars Paul Walker, Steve Zahn, and Leelee Sobieski as three friends on a road trip before they meet the ire of a spurned trucker out for blood.  The premise is simple, but the fact that there is real acting in the film helps, not to mention the chemistry between Walker and Zahn is fun to watch.  Sobieski is fine as essentially the damsel in distress (and a great Helen Hunt look-a-like), and the eerie voice of Ted Levine as “Rusty Nail” really works, mainly because you can’t help thinking about this.

The direction is atmospheric by John Dahl, and the writing by J.J. Abrams, pre-Lost, is well-crafted and doesn’t feel forced or awkward, as is a symptom in genre films.

Overall, it’s worth buying the ticket for this “Joy Ride” as there is plenty of suspense, horror, and a lot of fun.

Fun Fact:  The “CB” in the CB Radio stands for Citizens Band.

August 18, 2012

Rescue Dawn…And Inexplicably Behind Enemy Lines

HARROWING
Hey, remember that horrid dreck of a film Behind Enemy Linesstarring a more annoying than funny Owen Wilson and a completely phoning it in at this point Gene Hackman?  Yeah?  Well, Rescue Dawn is exactly like that.  Wait….no…no, no, no.  Rescue Dawn is nothing like that.  Rescue Dawn is practically the opposite of that.  Despite both films being about a pilot trying to survive while trapped in enemy territory, Rescue Dawn sets itself apart by being a HARROWING tale of desperation, will, and faith.  While, Behind Enemy Lines simply presents a cheap, clichéd, cash grab that only manages to make me want to gouge out my eyes with a dull spoon and/or puke uncontrollably.   But I’m not here to insult Behind Enemy Lines.  I’m here to talk about Rescue Dawn….and insult Behind Enemy Lines.
Rescue Dawn earns its spot with great survival films like Cast Away, The Road, and my personal favorite The Adventures Of Milo and Otis…uh…I mean The Edge.  Dawn has the advantage over those 4…um…3 by being a true story.  A situation that gains a whole new respect from its viewers by being filmed starkly, without pulling any punches.  Director Werner Herzog, oddly famous for actually eating his own shoe,  greatly delivers on the unflinching realism of being in a P.O.W. camp.  The effects of starvation and malnutrition, the desperation to escape, the fear of capture and the loneliness of isolation.  Its all there in spades. 
Usually, survival films provide great opportunities for some terrific performances.  Rescue Dawn is no different.  Christian Bale is always at his best when he gets to totally go method and manipulate his body, as he does here. (Lost 55 pounds for the role.)  However, Steve Zahn (Lost 40 pounds for the role.) and the vastly underrated Jeremy Davies (Lost 33 pounds for the role.) give him a run for his money.
If you want to see a quality drama with good acting, good direction, and good storytelling, then watch Rescue Dawn.  If you want to see a film that takes a similar situation and reduces it to a mindless, banal, poorly shot action film, then watch the vomit inducing dumpster fire that is Behind Enemy Lines.  Hell, watch them both…then tell me I’m wrong.  Sweet Lord, I hate Behind Enemy Lines.
August 17, 2012

Freddy Got Fingered

Freddy Got Fingered – Surreal
In the magical land of Canada there is a man who sucks cows’ nipples, torments complete strangers, and treats his friends like winners.  That man is Tom Green.  Back in the late 90s, MTV took a liking to this strange young man and gave him his own weekly show and soon enough old Greeny went Hollywood and birthed from his loins came “Freddy Got Fingered.”
A lot has been said about “Fingered” over the years; how awful, vile, deplorable, sick, the accolades can go on and on, but I have to say, without Tom Green and this oft-kilter comedy (I say it’s more performance art then actual comedy) you wouldn’t have your “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job” or “Workaholics” comedies that really pushes the limits of taste, and what we can take.

Aside from skateboarding and other post-adolescent hijinks, this comic gem includes deer carcass wearing, horse penis wiggling, compound leg fracture licking, a sadomasochist wheelchair bound rocket scientist, and of course my favorite, baby umbilical cord swinging.  If that isn’t performance art, I really don’t know what you’d call it.

Outside of all the wacky antics, there is one performance that really stands out, and that is Rip Torn’s.  With all the fucked up stuff going on in “Fingered” you forget its really the story of a son just trying to gain his father’s trust by spraying him with elephant cum.

Heartwarming, and definitely fun for the entire family, “finger” it out and go check out “Freddy Got Fingered” you won’t regret what you’ll see.

Fun Fact:  The scene where Freddy is watching TV in his house are actual scenes from Tom Green’s surgery for Testicular Cancer

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