Remake

March 4, 2016

Trailer Hot Take: Ghostbusters (2016)

It seems the Internet has been in a tizzy today after the release of the first of what will likely be quite a few trailers for the new”Ghostbusters” film. While some of the reaction has been positive, there are still quite a few people out there up in arms that their beloved quartet of proton pack-wielding demigod killers have been replaced with what could be a new beloved quartet of proton pack-wielding demigod killers.

While my initial reaction was somewhat positive, in case you don’t listen to our podcast you know the three of us have been pretty gun-shy to say this film will be any good, and yes, after immediately seeing the trailer some of my worries for squashed, but upon another few viewings, a few things starting sticking out to me to really did give me this “meh” feeling.

Here are a few things to consider:

I like seeing the old firehouse from the original films, it’s a nice piece of homage.
Now this is when things not so great…..I hoping there will be some work done on the CG, because this really isn’t cutting it….
More weird ghost CG…..
 I do like Kate McKinnon, a lot. I would assume she is playing the role of an Egon Spangler-type this time, but she looks like she might be stealing the show in this one.

This iteration of Ecto-1 (if that’s what they are going to call it) looks pretty good and I like it swerving past the arc near Washington Square Park
 The uniforms look pretty good, no real complaints here
 Again, more suspect CG….and……3D might be looming….oh boy…..

I guess this is supposed to be funny and/or sexual based on what McKinnon’s character is supposed to be developed into. We’ll see…..
 The proton pack beams do look pretty legit

My main gripe is the overall tone of the trailer, as it kind of gives you a little bit of the new with some weird new tones. I hope the “possession” angle of the film isn’t a major plot point and just happens to be a small scene. But we’ll see in July….

July 12, 2013

(Turn on the TV) The Bridge

AGAIN

The Bridge – Again

FX is known for putting out fantastic programming.  Just look at the catalog; “The Shield,” “Justified,” “American Horror Story,” “Louie,” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Of course I’m missing a few, including “Archer” but you look at their lineup either currently or in the past, and you see the quality.  This brings me to FX’s newest show “The Bridge” a look at crime on the border of Texas and Mexico.  After watching the pilot I was left thinking, “again?”

“The Bridge” is based on the Swedish TV series “Bron” which deals with crime on the Denmark-Sweden border.  Who’d of thought; crime in Denmark and and Sweden, I thought that only happened in Steig Larsson novels.  In this American version, two cops, Diane Kruger, who is ironically German, and Demian Bichir, who is in fact Mexican, so that helps, both find a body on the US-Mexico border.  It’s discovered that the body was cut in half and comprised of two different bodies.  Intrigued?

Moving from the plot aspects to the character aspects for a second, I just want to comment on the character Sonya Cross, or North, depending where you read her character’s name from.  Now this is the third show in the past year where the creators decided to go the now-cliched detective route, namely giving the main detective symptoms of Aspergers.  We’ve had “Sherlock” on the BBC, “Hannibal” on NBC, and now “The Bridge” on FX.  There used to be an age where cops or detectives had the cliche of having a gruff exterior with a soft interior, usually involving “a past event” that shaped their character, but now we are stuck with detectives and cops who have some sort of autism.  It was cute the first time, but personally I think it’s time find a new cliche.

Being that the pilot was an “extended pilot” (clocking in at just over 90 minutes as opposed to your standard 60 minute program) we get some extra time with our main characters and our “killer.”  Yet, I didn’t really feel any type of investment with either North or her Mexican counterpart, Marco Ruiz.  The stakes seem higher for Ruiz who is balancing both personal and professional business in one of the most corrupt cities in Mexico, whereas the only thing we know about North is that she is a little off.

Stylistically, if you took the film “Savages” and gave it the Michael Mann treatment, that’s exactly how “The Bridge” looks, which means it looks great.  I would even say that it even has a little “No Country For Old Man” vibe with the look and feel of the desert landscapes.  They always say imitation is the highest form of flattery.

Overall, “The Bridge” has potential, but in a TV landscape with every cop and procedural show trying to one-up the other when it comes to violence, gory, and autistic detectives, where does this show fit?  Being it’s on FX, the pedigree is there, but it’s where they decide to go with the characters that really matters.  If I want to see gory murders and detectives with problems I’ll stick with “Hannibal.”

Fun Fact:  According to The International Boundary and Water Commission, the US-Mexico border is approximately 1.954 miles long.

October 25, 2012

31 Nights of Halloween, Halloween (1978)

Halloween (1978) – Classic

Thinking about the history of horror films there have been five distinct eras that I can think of; The early 1900s brought us the classic monsters like Dracula and Frankenstein.  Post World War II films brought us atomic age monsters that ranged from giant ants to komodo dragons.  The Vietnam War introduced zombies and class war horror.  The late 1970s started the slasher trend, and most recently (from about 1999 to now) we’ve had an epidemic of remakes, torture porn, and found footage.  While I appreciate all eras for what they’ve done for the genre, the most lasting of impressions on me were the 1970s and 80s slasher genre, and the cornerstone of that era was John Carpenter’s 1978 classic “Halloween.”

For my money, if you re-released “Halloween” right now, it would still bank, which theaters are actually doing this year.  It’s a simple concept; a young boy, named Michael Myers, brutally murders his sister on Halloween night and is locked away in a sanitarium.  On one fateful Halloween Eve, during a routine prison transfer, Myers escapes Smith’s Grove Warren County Sanitarium.  Myers’ doctor, Sam Loomis (sound familiar) pushes the panic alarm as he fears that Myers will be heading back to his hometown, Haddonfield, also the scene of his original crime.  We meet three teenagers, including a very young Jamie Lee Curtis, who plays Laurie Strode, looking forward to a fun Halloween night, which of course turns into “The Night He Comes Home.”  I’ll try not to give too much away, but considering “Halloween” is 35 years old, it might be time for you to get off your ass and finally watch the most influential horror movie in the past 50 years.

“Halloween” is what really kicked off the modern slasher genre in the early 1980s, and created the so-called “formula.” However, if you watch the movie now, it’s surprisingly tame, with very little blood, just a little bit of boob-age  and a relatively low body count.  The blood and gore is more implied than splashed all over the screen.  Take this for an example; “Halloween” was rated R in 1978, but a movie like “Tourist Trap” from 1979, a year after “Halloween” was only rated PG, and I find “Tourist Trap”, while very cheesy, extremely creepy, and at times, harrowing.  If “Halloween” was put out today the same way it was shot by John Carpenter 35 years ago, it wouldn’t be anymore then a PG-13 film.

Enough politics of course, and we’ll continue with this question; What’s so good about “Halloween?”  Damn near everything!  From the opening theme and titles, to the camera work, to the acting, which isn’t perfect, but when you have teenagers talking about bullshit it will have to do.  Everyone in the film is believable, with Sam Loomis, played by the late Donald Pleasence, the stand-out.  What I credit Pleasence for the most is that fact that he stuck around for four sequels, and while he got hammier and hammier, he always added a touch of class.

What makes this film a classic is what it inspired.  While I would credit both “Night of the Living Dead” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” with jump-starting the independent horror movie movement, “Halloween” made the most with what it didn’t have; money. For a movie made for less then $350,000 it looks great, has a good cast, and considering the fact that getting Pleasence to appear in the film was a decent part of the budget ($20,000) it doesn’t take away from the mood the film conveyed or compromise the quality.  “Halloween,” along with it’s predecessors proved that you didn’t need a ton of money to make a suspenseful and wildly entertaining film.

As far as Rob Zombie’s remake, or re-imagining, of “Halloween” in 2007 goes, while it’s not perfect, the more I think about it, its it’s own movie and can act as a stand alone film.  I almost take it as the “Henry:  Portrait of a Serial Killer” version of “Halloween.” What makes Michael Myers so scary is the fact that you really don’t know what drove him to kill his sister when he was a boy, or why he insists on always returning to Haddonfield to kill.  You find out later that he dabbles in the occult and celebrates Samhain, but in Zombie’s version he shows you Myers’ bad home environment and gives reason.  Once you do that the “magic” of Michael Myers is gone and he just becomes another John Wayne Gacy or Ted Bundy.  Once the mystery behind his actions are revealed he just becomes another serial murderer and it takes the luster off what you thought was just an unstoppable killing machine with no motive, which I find more frightening.

There really isn’t anything else to say about “Halloween” that hasn’t been said.  It’s a classic film, not just in the horror genre, but film in general.  It not only set a standard for the genre, but single-handedly created a sub-genre that is often duplicated, but never really reaches the standard of its predecessor.  It’s October people, pop “Halloween” into your DVD, Blu-Ray, VHS, Betamax, Laser Disc, or Reel-to-Reel and enjoy greatness.

Fun Fact:  An inside-out William Shatner mask was used for the iconic mask that the Michael Myers wore.

October 23, 2012

31 Nights of Halloween, Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Dawn of the Dead (2004) – Run

The bane of the horror genre for the past decade has been the remake.  Hollywood has gotten so lazy and they’ve treated the horror genre like a dumping ground for bad updates on generally good horror fare.  I understand the point; horror is cheap for a studio to produce, they can introduce fresh new actors (namely females that will bring in the male audience) and generally, they will at least break even no matter how bad the film.  Not to say there aren’t exceptions to the rule, and 2004’s “Dawn of the Dead” remake is an example of a horror remake gone right.

Before I go into the actually movie I’m going to say this:  I do not like Zack Snyder.  I’m not really impressed by his body of work, and I think he bites off too much, thus, his work suffers.  That is the problem with “visionary” directors like Snyder.  Take “Dawn of the Dead” and compare it to something like “Sucker Punch.”  “Dawn” is great because the concept is simple, effective, and done very well (while I may not agree with everything in it, but I’ll get to that later).  “Punch” was for prepubescent boys, and it included girls in cosplay costumes, a paper-thin plot, and a severe case of style over substance.  I understand this is his style, but when big ideas are only half-realized its hard to take him serious as a director when I’m taking him as a one trick pony.

While I don’t really enjoy Snyder’s other films (see above), I did enjoy “Dawn of the Dead.”  While on the surface it’s a remake, there are things that are done well, and other things that tweak me.

The premise is the same as the George A Romero’s original; The zombie apocalypse is in full swing and a small group of survivors head to the mall to buy some Dockers and make their stand.  While the mall provides the group with everything they need, from food to recreation, they begin feeling trapped by the zombies outside the mall hungry for their flesh.  As its been told over and over, ad nauseam, the film’s setting, a mall, along with the zombie invasion, is an allegory for consumerism and how we, the “zombified” public, feel the need to endlessly consume and spend.  While Snyder’s remake does have a mall where survivors are holed up, the meaning behind the film is lost and is essentially a zombie action film.

What Snyder does right is pay homage, in part, to some of the original actors.  Both Ken Foree and Tom Savini have fun cameos as a preacher and a sheriff, respectively.  He also, as opposed to his other films, keeps the slow-motion to a minimum and tries to flesh out his characters with somewhat of a back story.  The actors look like they are having a good time, and while cheesy at times, the acting is solid for a horror film.  As a Troma fan, I also appreciate the fact that James Gunn wrote the original script of “Dead.”  An independent dude makes good.  Now, let me explain why run is the word of the day.

What I can’t get behind, and the problem I’ve always had was this……the running zombie.  Oy vey!  I’m a purist first of all, zombies are shamblers, walkers, they might have a little giddy-up, but they are not sprinters.  When you die you develop rigor mortis brain/body decay, which would have a major effect on the way that you move and react. 

I’ll also say this; I love “28 Days Later.”  There is an explanation why those “zombies” run.  They aren’t zombies!  They don’t die, re-animate, and come looking to eat your brains, this is because they are infected with a virus (a rage virus to be exact).  If you’re going to be the “living dead” you shouldn’t be able to run, its physiologically impossible.

For as much of a problem that I have with the running zombies, I enjoy “Dead” very much, it’s just the little quirks that stop me from saying this remake is better than the original.  It appeals to the ADD crowd with running zombies, slow-motion, quick cuts, and isolates the purists a bit, but overall, Snyder creates a neo-zombie film that gives the audiences everything they want; hardcore zombie gore, boobs (a little), and intense action.  Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead” is worthy of your time.

Fun Fact:  While the original “Dead” took place in the greater Philadelphia/Pittsburgh area, the remake takes place in Milwaukee, WI.

October 19, 2012

31 Nights of Halloween, Psycho (1960)

Psycho (1960) – Prodding

Slasher films have been around for a loooooong time, and have had plenty of ups and downs.  Take “Halloween” for instance, it pretty much invented “the formula.” Then you have “Friday the 13th” that perfected “the formula.” After that you had plenty of other slasher fodder, including any holiday being translated into slasher fare.  Let me illustrate.

I digress, I’ll continue this rant in another review, but it does bring me to a point; recent slasher films (and I use that term loosely) are awful.  There is nothing iconic about the sub-genre anymore.  Gone are the days of Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, and Leatherface.  However, it does bring me to the most recent review on the “31 Nights of Halloween” and that is Alfred Hitchcock’s proto-slasher film, 1960’s “Psycho.”

You might think that I’m going to laud “Psycho”and say how great a film it is, well, it’s just okay.  While there are many redeeming aspects, namely the cinematography, music, and the balls Hitchcock had (spoiler alert, c’mon this is a 50 year old movie) to kill off his star, Janet Leigh, “Psycho”doesn’t hold up as well as some people think, and watching it again as an adult with more of a appreciation of the genre and film in general; it’s prodding.

Maybe I’m committing blasphemy (I must be, because there is nothing negative out there about this film).  I’ve besmirched the greatness that is Alfred Hitchcock, The Master of Suspense.  Sorry Alfie, no hard feelings I hope, but “Psycho”just seems antiquated in this day and age.  It’s almost a procedural serial killer/cop drama, which wouldn’t work for the genre today.

“Psycho,” based on Robert Bloch’s novel of the same name, and loosely on 1950’s serial killer, Ed Gein, is about Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), whose on the run with $40,000, and finds her way to the Bates Hotel, run by Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) and his domineering mother.  Crane is soon murdered by what seems to be a woman while taking the most famous shower in cinema history.  Bates finds the body, and disposes of both it and Crane’s car.  Worried about her sister, Lila Crane (Vera Miles) hires private detective, Milton Aborgast (Martin Balsam), to track down her sister.  The P.I. meets a grisly fate at the hands of the same woman that murdered Marion.  Hearing nothing from their detective, Lila and Marion’s lover, Sam Loomis (John Gavin), take matters into their own hands and head to the Bates Hotel. Lila, while investigating the Bates’ residence, stumbles upon the basement revealing the skeletal remains of what seems to be Norman Bates’ mother, revealing the twist that Bates was actually acting as his mother, thus committing the murders of both Marion and Aborgast.

When you break the movie down that way it sounds great; simple, effective, and trendsetting.  No one had seen that level of violence from a mainstream film, especially one done by Hitchcock.  The problem with “Psycho” is the pacing.  The interactions between characters seems forced (granted, I’m looking at this from a 2012 perspective as opposed to the 1960s) and it takes a while to move the story along.  I understand that is the point of a suspense film, but “Psycho” comes off as more of a noir, and when you think about it in that sense, it’s an excellent study in noir film making.

What drives “Psycho” lies in the director and the composer.  Hitchcock brings an eeriness unlike any film before it and Bernard Herrmann’s score brings a sense of dread in every scene, and “the shower scene” speaks for itself.

The point I’m trying to get at is this; would “Psycho” make it in today’s horror market?  No, and the proof of that is the 1998 remake.  It’s the same exact movie, only with different actors and in color.  If it didn’t work then, it won’t work now.  You also have to take into account what movies studios are pitching; found footage films.  You might say, “Hey Matt, you just watched “V/H/S” and you said you liked it?!”  Yes, I did enjoy “V/H/S”, but when it comes to the horror genre that’s all you’re going to get.  That, and another “Final Destination” and something else that has something to do with demonic possession.  No matter how bad the film is, people will eat it up, and a relatively smart film like “Psycho” wouldn’t stand a chance.

“Psycho” is a film that you can call timeless in it’s direction, tone, and music, but the way the story is constructed and once the twist ending is out there is little replay value from a shock standpoint.  If you want an education in film study, sure, “Psycho” is great, but it’s a time capsule film what worked then, but doesn’t really work now.

Fun Fact:  John Carpenter named Donald Pleasence’s hero psychiatrist from the “Halloween” series after Sam Loomis from “Psycho.”

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