Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Peter Parker is bitten by a genetically modified spider which bestows him with superhuman abilities thus turning him into a masked superhero.

Review: At first I was not sure what to make of this film because I love the character of Spiderman but hated with a passion the second and third of the Raimi trilogy. Thankfully this version delivers a more serious approach while still trying to remain true to the comics and beloved characters; I did like "Spider-man" more than I liked this film though. Although this film did an amazing (yeah, I went there!) job at revitalizing the franchise, there were most certainly hits and misses in the process. The character of Peter Parker, and Spiderman himself, feel more like how I imagined the personality of the comic and especially my vision based on the '90s cartoon. Peter is more of a normal guy despite being a dork, and Spiderman is much more of a comedian than in the Raimi films; I suppose this can be a bad thing if you preferred the emo Peter obsessed with Mary Jane. I appreciated Andrew Garfield's performance, but his look still isn't quite what I imagine Peter to look like. Spiderman's powers felt more accurate as well since now the webbing was back to web-shooters and he wasn't stopping trains! How Peter is bitten and this whole connection to Oscorp with his parents was just "meh" for me. I felt the same way with how he got the costume and not being the wrestler this time since it could have been done better, but I understand the attempt to distance themselves from the first trilogy. As far as going back to Peter's original love interest, Gwen Stacy, I felt that was a much needed change of pace and Emma Stone was a decent choice for that role. Ironically, Ms. Stone with her usual red hair dye is how I imagine the Mary Jane character to look (don't even get me started on how much I loathe Kirtsen Dunst's portrayal). Their little romance felt more casual and less trying to be soul mates or whatever bullshit the Raimi films were trying to convey. On the other hand, the relationship with Uncle Ben and Aunt May felt significantly weaker even though more time was spent building the connections. I can't quite explain it but it was handled more accurately the first time around, and I was annoyed they removed the "with great power comes great responsibility" line. Another weaker aspect was with the villain, the Lizard, compared to the superbly presented Green Goblin. The Lizard just wasn't fleshed out enough or something and is defeated far too easily after a nonsensical plot to turn the city into lizards. At the same time, he didn't bring the kind of threat or screen presence that Willem Dafoe was able to do through the goblin. I know that the Norman Osborn character was lurking in the background but whatever. Overall, the story, action, and pacing felt solid and definitely set the tone well enough for a new franchise. The presentation of Peter, Spiderman, and the general direction showed a lot of promise and improvement. There were some lame moments like with the construction guys helping Spiderman, and some characters and the villain weren't as memorable this time around. For what it is, I tried to rate this film as if the first trilogy didn't exist for comparison, and this allowed me to better appreciate this film for its own merits. I definitely recommend this to fans, but realize you will be treading over covered material for a large chunk of the film. Only with a sequel will we get to fully realize what this new franchise is capable of, but I am very much interested so far.

Notable Moment: When Peter finally stands up to his bully, Flash, and indirectly shows off his powers. This part is both satisfying and corny as hell.

Final Rating: 7/10

Dredd Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: In a dystopian future, law and order are maintained by highly trained individuals called "Judges" who pass sentence on criminals.

Review: Forget everything you may know about the Stallone "Judge Dredd" and its campy nature, because this film distances itself a great deal while trying to remain more true to the comics. Although, I must admit, I did like the Stallone version with its over the top story and great one-liners (Law?! I AM the law!). This film actually reminded me more of a modern "Robocop" or something along those lines with just straight violent gunplay which this film is immensely successful with. The story is simple enough with Dredd training a rookie, named Anderson, as they investigate the deaths of some drug dealers. Little do they know that the drug dealers are connected to a much larger organization being run out of the giant housing tower they are investigating; the drug being sold is called "slo-mo" which makes your brain see things at a reduced speed, and the main villain is a female drug lord nicknamed Ma-Ma. I liked that they kept things simple with only four main characters: Dredd, Anderson, Ma-Ma, and Ma-Ma's main lackey, Kay. Unfortunately, I felt the only character that we come to learn anything about is Anderson. Anderson is interesting enough though since she has the ability to read people's minds and we get the most feel for her personality; her powers create the best moments of the film and allow for some cool scenarios. On the other hand, Dredd is just a one-dimensional killing machine, Ma-Ma only has a minor backstory, and Kay is just a throwaway villain. I really wanted more of a backstory for Dredd himself since this is his film, and because we are supposed to be establishing his character; this film felt more like a sequel than a beginning. It was as if the writers imagined that the audience would be familiar with Dredd and know how he is and why he's that way, but, alas, that is not really the case for the casual viewer. In fact, this is my main complaint with the movie overall because it's a solid action film that keeps you engaged, but is plagued by this feeling that you have no idea why this world is the way it is, you just have to accept it. We often see Anderson's psychic powers at work so why not introduce tidbits of backstory about Dredd through Anderson accidentally reading his mind at various points of the movie? This could have given us more depth to the character and kept the story moving at the same time. Oh well. Despite my complaints I rated this film so high because it has good acting (especially from Karl Urban as Dredd since he never removes his helmet), awesome action scenes, impressive visuals, and just the right pacing to keep you interested. I would have liked this movie even more had it not left me with a shallow feeling afterward. As it stands, however, it is a great foray into R-rated action that we so rarely see nowaday. You should definitely watch this movie if your a Judge Dredd fan or appreciate real action films.

Notable Moment: When Anderson kills the one corrupt Judge. It's funny because the Judge thinks Anderson is an easy kill, but has no clue Anderson can read minds.

Final Rating: 7/10

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ichi Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A blind swordswoman seeks out her mentor and must fight a group of bandits along the way.

Review: First, please don't mistake this for the movie "Ichi-the Killer" or think it has anything to do with that. For those who may not be all that familiar, this is a loose interpretation of the "Zatoichi" story, about a blind swordsman, but obviously this film has the protagonist as a woman. Speaking of Ichi herself, she is played by the unbelievably sexy Haruka Ayase; I have watched a few other movies with Ms. Ayase (which I will get to some time soon I hope), and you should know she's an incredible actress/singer and, despite how she looks in this film especially, she is quite the voluptuous woman! Oh the curves that lurk beneath that tattered outfit! Sorry, so distracted! Ms. Ayase does a fantastic job in bringing some tortured depth to the character as she is torn between helping people with her skills and coping with the fact that she doesn't have a real reason to carry on living. Essentially, Ichi is searching for her master (it is not entirely clear if he's also her father or not) since he's pretty much the only person she cares about and that cared about her; she was a part of a traveling group of blind performers, called goze, until she was exiled after being raped (yeah, I know, what the fuck, right?). Along her journey she meets a cowardly warrior, named Toma, that thinks he is saving her only to discover her remarkable abilities. Toma can be annoying especially since he is presented as Ichi's love interest, but for the most part he is a nice guy with a convenient story as to why he refuses to fight. Toma was being trained as a great fighter until he accidentally blinded his mother who then died a few years later as the only person who loved him. Although there is a connection made with their romance, I couldn't help but find Toma's attraction a little creepy since he is basically seeing Ichi as an extension of his mother; there is even a point where Toma is comparing the two indirectly and Ichi responds "I am who I am" to counter Toma. The other people helping Ichi are Kotaro, a boy who takes a liking to Ichi, and Kotaro's father; these two characters claim that they have heard of a blind swordsman who will be coming to the area which entices Ichi to stick around. Amidst this searching, Ichi and her crew become caught up in a local struggle with some bandits called the Banki-to and their leader Banki. Since arriving on the scene, Ichi has been leaving a trail of these idiots' bodies on the wayside, but Toma takes the credit for it since he is actually a great fighter when he's not too wimpy to do it; in fact, they seriously dragged out this "too scared to fight" plot line way too long which is probably why Toma annoyed me more than he should have. Eventually, Ichi decides to fight this Banki guy believing he may know what happened to her mentor only for Ichi to get her ass handed to her and learning her master is dead. Defeated, wounded, and without hope, this is when Ichi realizes she can't give up and that there are things in life worth fighting for. After being rescued by her crew, Ichi recuperates while Toma and the townspeople decide to fight Banki and his legions of rejects. This final battle is when the budget limits of the film showed, but it was still entertaining. There was something anticlimactic to it all though as Toma dies thinking he killed Banki followed by Banki easily being beaten by Ichi since he was barely alive; the film even emphasizes this fact by showing Banki stumbling due to the wounds given by Toma. I would have liked it much better if it was implied Ichi lost the first fight because she had nothing to fight for and that she was able to defeat Banki the second time because she was fighting for a cause...but nope. Overall, this is a well acted and excellent film despite some noticeable flaws. I definitely recommend giving this one a go especially if you liked a film such as "Azumi." Although this may not be that easy to track down, Ms. Ayase is reason enough to watch this!

Notable Moment: When Ichi and her friends are attacked in the woods at night. Ichi swiftly slices a lantern in half so it's dark and then dispatches of five goons all at once. Talk about epic!

Final Rating: 7/10

I don't know about you, but that "I'm going to kill you" look is really doing it for me!

House at the End of the Street Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A mother and daughter move into a house next door to where a young girl murdered her family and then disappeared.

Review: I have to say, the advertising campaign for this film is probably one of the most misleading I've seen in years. I can't believe they pitched this movie as a horror or even as a straight thriller. Unfortunately, the genre of the film itself is also confusing as it attempts to be a mystery/thriller but comes off more as a misguided romance with a tacked on thriller element mostly at the end (get it, the end...end of the street! Okay I'll stop). Let me address the so-called horror elements first: the opening shows the murder they keep talking about all film long, there are sparse hints as to what the brother of the alleged murderer, Ryan (hey, that's my name bitch!) is up to, and then of course the film amps up at the last 20 minutes or so. The rest of the film is a mix of mother/daughter drama and romance between the main girl, Elissa (played by the luscious Jennifer Lawrence), and the Ryan character; the mom is played by Elisabeth Shue who is still looking pretty hot as well. I was seriously wondering why were they building up so slowly, then I thought, why are they making Ryan seem so likable since we know he's going to be bad, then I finally wondered why didn't they just keep this as a romance film since it was starting to make me care about the characters getting together?! Basically, the story plays out similar to any chick flick: new girl is super hot but has no friends, befriends and falls in love with town outcast, antics ensue, and they live happily ever after with the girl tied to a chair waiting to be turned creepily into the guy's dead sister, Carrie Anne (the alleged murderer)...wait, what?! Okay, it's not as if the film brings this out of nowhere per se, but they really should have focused more on this being the core of the story rather than spending over an hour making Elissa and Ryan fall in love only for this to be the conclusion. And more annoying, they made me want them to get together damn it! Grr! I was actually quite surprised by the dynamics of Elissa and Ryan's relationship, the way it was presented, and even the atmosphere and music when Ryan was killing people. It's like the original writer had this tragic romance film in mind and they just decided to switch the genre at the last minute, but they kept too much of the original script intact or something. Anyway, Ryan was the real killer all along, Carrie Anne had accidentally been killed when they were kids, and Ryan was dressed up as Carrie Anne by the parents. Since then, Ryan has been kidnapping girls so that he always has a Carrie Anne in his life and so that he won't have to be her anymore...or something along those lines. I really don't know what to make of this mess except to say it's yet another mixed bag. I liked the acting, surprisingly the romance aspect was touching, and there are some decent ideas albeit wasted. I'd say maybe give this one a view, but know what you're getting into ahead of time and expect your final impression to be "why?"

Notable Moment: At the end when you realize Ryan was Carrie Anne. It felt like "Sleepaway Camp" all over again!

Final Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Apparition Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A young couple is being haunted by a malevolent force unleashed from some stupid experiment.

Review: I know that people will probably get tired of me saying this virtually every other review, but, seriously, so much damn wasted potential! It's almost as if this is two separate films just mashed together yet took the worst aspects of both instead of the best. One half is just a straightforward haunted house film with all your typical cliches well intact. The other half is a sci-fi horror with a feeble attempt at an abstract understanding of ghosts, where they come from, and their true intentions. The story is somewhat convoluted, but the main characters, Kelly and Ben, are taking care of some house for Kelly's parents when they start to notice weird shit happening. It is a slow buildup which sort of emphasizes how pointless it all is by the end. I don't understand this approach at all considering you come to find out it has nothing to do with ghosts technically. Why would this evil force manifest itself as horror cliches? When a "ghost" does finally pop up of course it's Grudge-looking. This is probably the most annoying part because the evil force is supposedly representing your fears, but some Kayako-wannabe is not most people's fear! Plus, with that kind of basis, that's the best they could do with it? Please. You find out Ben had been apart of a team that conducted an experiment to communicate with ghosts but somehow inadvertently unleashed this evil force. For some reason it is fixating on the people from the experiment allegedly because it "absorbed" one of the team members somehow. Supposedly it feeds off negative emotions until it is strong enough to physically appear which just sounds like typical haunted house bullshit anyway. In case you're wondering, nearly all exposition comes in the form of the only interesting character, Patrick (played pointlessly by Tom Felton since he is wasted here), who has figured out a way to keep the force from getting to you. Toward the last 10 minutes or so of this mercifully short film, it starts to turn into some kind of Kairo (Pulse) ripoff whereby people are disappearing and the world appears to be taken over by this force (it sure worked quick after taking its sweet ass time getting going). Of course the movie ends idiotically where Kelly just gets grabbed by a bunch of hands...I suppose it makes for a good trailer shot, right? I mean, what the hell were they thinking? This movie started off decent enough, had some nice cinematography, and good ideas, but a laughable execution. I actually really like this idea that ghosts are just this evil force screwing with people to find a way into our world, but why didn't they run with that notion instead of a haunted house flick? Likewise, they could have just kept that slow buildup for a haunted house film and then transitioned it into some kind of "Shutter" wannabe where you find out the dead girlfriend of Ben is haunting them because he got her killed or something to that nature. But nope, they tried to have both and instead got neither. This one is an easy pass unless you want to take tips on how not to put two scripts in a blender and film what comes out.

Notable Moment: When Kelly is humorously running around the house in her underwear for a good 5 minutes. A little ridiculous but I'm a sucker for a cute girl with a nice butt.

Final Rating: 4.5/10

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hellgate Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A man narrowly survives a car accident that kills his wife and child, and now finds himself able to see ghosts.

Review: I'm kind of perplexed as to how to approach this film since I did like it, but it just felt so shallow overall that I couldn't bring myself to give it that high of a rating. The film's strong points were with the actors and the overall premise. Even though the plot is nothing new, they did change some things up like the main character, Jeff, is only able to see the ghosts because his soul has been trapped in the afterlife while he lives on; he only has a month, or something like that, to live on before his soul becomes trapped in the afterlife according to some Thai folklore. Jeff is played by Cary Elwes which is sort of surprising, but what is more weird is that William Hurt is also here as some kind of makeshift medium. Did they just blow their budget on getting a few somewhat recognizable names because this movie is low budget as hell? Rounding out the cast is Jeff's caregiver, Choi (played by the lovely Ploy Jindachote), who did an impressive job here trying to bring to life a character without a lot to work with. I did like the dynamics between Choi and Jeff since it felt natural, and Choi is so caring because she is used to taking care of terminal patients and Jeff is her first patient that will live. The way their relationship is presented leaves it up to the viewer whether there is a romance there or just good friends which made the ending feel more satisfying and less cliched. But other than some decent acting and a slight twist on a common ghost story, there isn't much else to attract an audience. I think most of my problems are budget related because there are so many moments where you just wish there was a higher production value here. The climax is especially painful because the characters are supposed to be going to some "shadow world" full of demons but instead it is just some fake-looking ruins, wet leaves, and a noticeably small set. Likewise, the demons are just people with shitty red makeup (supposed to be blood?), cheap looking claws and teeth, and not really doing much except for swiping a little at the characters. The direction with William Hurt's character, Warren, was just pitiful as he's supposed to be hiding out in the sticks of Thailand and yet speaks like all of two words in Thai?! There are too many moments of obvious Thai extras and William Hurt just smiling at each other as if they understand each other and this irked me greatly. On the other hand, I do appreciate the effort from Hollywood to tap the actual source for the actors rather than pulling a "Memoirs of a Geisha" and making all the actors a different ethnicity than they should be! The ending took me somewhat off guard because it ends on a happy note. Ending on a zinger or a bad ending has become the new cliche that to have the classic "Hollywood ending" back feels welcomed. Overall, this is a decent flick but it is hindered by low production values and just a hallow feeling to the experience. I'd say give it a watch just to promote more films like this where Hollywood and actors from other countries successfully merge.

Notable Moment: When Jeff first sees a ghost woman haunting his home; yes, it feels Grudge-like, but it was probably the most standout moment.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Silent Night Review

Check out my updated review here!

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: In a small town, some guy is dressed up as santa killing people on his naughty list.

Review: Okay, let's address the fact that this is an alleged remake right from the get go. The title is different, nothing at all except a few scenes (which are more of an homage than anything) reflect the original, and only with a loose interpretation of the plot could we reasonably call this a remake. In case you're wondering what the hell I'm talking about, there was a somewhat cult classic from the '80s called "Silent Night, Deadly Night," which was known for its brutality, at the time, and the ridiculously hilarious sequels it spawned. In fact, the scenes that this film tries to mimic from the original feel so out of place and bizarre you have to wonder why they bothered because the casual viewer is just going to think they're filler scenes. If anything, the identity of the killer is the only thing that truly pays tribute to the original's plot. Oh and don't bother trying to guess who he is because he's not an actual character you really see in the film. I will say that the reveal as to why the santa chose this town is satisfying enough to not make everything feel like a total waste. I think the only reason why I even rated this movie so high was because it delivered on its only promise: a guy dressed up as santa killing people. It's been done a ton nowaday, but I liked the interesting ways he killed people, and I did feel the makers of the film were having some fun here especially in the form of one angry santa guy who actually brings up some poignant problems about how Christmas is in this country. As for the cast, although I'm not a big fan of Jaime King, I do appreciate her growing work in the horror genre as I feel this generation has lacked some real scream queens. Oddly enough, Malcolm McDowell is here as a cliched small town sheriff which kind of felt out of place but okay. The biggest draw for me was the sexy Ellen Wong as the police dispatcher, but to my great dismay she hardly does anything; at least the writers had sense enough to not kill her off though. What really hurt the film was trying to give the audience red herrings as if we would think any of them were the actual killer santa...or was there some other reason except to pad the film out? Also, there was an overall sense of pointlessness to the whole premise as it just felt unnecessary except as a means to kill 90 minutes of your life. I'd say it's worth a watch if you are into this kind of thing or a fan of the original, but if this isn't your cup of tea, this is an easy pass.

Notable Moment: When a wannabe porn star, played by Cortney Palm, loses a leg and is thrown into a wood chipper. There was something so overly brutal about this killing that bothered me...I just didn't feel that that girl deserved such a horrid death.

Final Rating: 6/10

Ellen Wong: best thing going on here and she's terribly wasted!

Apt. Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A depressed woman turns her attention to spying on her neighbors only to discover something more may be going on in their apartment building.

Review: My eyes are rolling here (as usual). Once again (and again and again) we have a case of wasted potential! I'd love to meet these writers that come up with really cool, creative, and interesting approaches to horror films only for them to completely drop the ball along the way. Maybe someone else ruins these movies along the way, but this is seriously a growing trend in recent horror movies. Let's start what with they did right: great atmosphere and mystery as we are given an interesting story about a workaholic, named Se-jin, who witnesses a suicide and becomes depressed because she did not intervene; I'll go more into that later. Anyway, Se-jin becomes bored and begins to watch her neighbors across from her building and the weird habit of their lights all going out at a certain time. She then learns that people are dying in that apartment building and begins to connect that to the flickering lights and that it happens at the same time each night. Unfortunately, this leads to many stupid occurrences and lots of padding to take this movie to the 90 minute mark; for example: Se-jin and her job never have any relevance, it being Christmas time, some nutcase shut-in, the police and their idiotic investigation, some teenage girl living in the building, etc. Eventually, you find out that a disabled girl named Yu-yeon, whom Se-jin had befriended, is actually a ghost and many of the things Se-jin has seen were hallucinations by the ghost. Also, the people who are dying were the individuals who tormented Yu-yeon in life. I will say this, Yu-yeon was well deserving of her revenge, but I seriously find it hard to believe this many weirdos would work together to torture this girl. Back to that suicide at the this greatly bothered me in the long run because it all amounts to nothing in the end. That woman had some vague connection to the story that I didn't understand, but we come to find out that rather than simply not helping the woman, Se-jin pushed her away and contributed to her death. But all of this is meaningless because all it does is serve to explain why Se-jin even cares to help Yu-yeon (and about the events of the movie for that matter), but it never comes back to have a real purpose overall which sucked. Lastly, in typical K-horror fashion, the ending made no sense as we are to assume Yu-yeon killed Se-jin (for some reason) and the one detective idiotically moves into the apartment building and then sees Se-jin's ghost...huh? Roll credits?! This one kind of pissed me off, I have to admit, because it had me going at the beginning and then let me down hard by the end. It's worth a view, but don't go in expecting anything; the ghost is also a major Kayako wannabe.

Notable Moment: When Yu-yeon appears as a ghost and is staring into the window and we see only her reflection. This was a most effective use of lighting and camera angles to make the ghost look significantly scarier than the makeup effects were pulling off.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Saturday, December 1, 2012

My Top 10 TV Show Episodes

Disclaimer: Contains massive spoilers for multiple shows! Taking a break from movies for a bit, these statements are all in my opinion and don't necessarily reflect my favorite shows as many are not making this list because they don't have a stand out episode or not top ten worthy.

10. Supernatural "The French Mistake" (season 6 episode 15)
Had this show originally ended as intended after season 5, I would have said my favorite episode was "Yellow Fever" which is still a strong contender for this position. Despite season 6 being mediocre, it did produce my actual favorite episode so I appreciate it for that, but I still wish this show would get cancelled before it loses all dignity (which it's very close to). All you really need to know about this episode's story is that the lead characters, Sam and Dean Winchester, are sent to the "real world" where they are fictional characters and everyone believes they are their real-life actor counterparts. I hope that makes sense because it's hard to explain! Nonetheless, it leads to so many humorous situations that make fun of the state of the show and the actors themselves. For example, you have the Sam character, played by Jared Padalecki, going to Jared's house where you meet his real-life wife who was also a cast member of the show at one point. Another situation is that they keep mocking the fact that they are in season 6 and some acknowledgement of the show's decline with the original creator gone. The writers played with many ideas fans had wanted to see and joked about over the years and created an overall memorable experience that genuinely topped anything they had attempted before. Now if only all the episodes could have maintained such creativity and fun.

9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer "Normal Again" (season 6 episode 17)
Much like Supernatural, season 6 of Buffy was at the point where things were falling apart and the show had been originally intended to end after season 5. This season did have some decent episodes overall, but it wasn't until this episode came along that I truly felt there was still some hope for the writers. Essentially, Buffy fights some kind of monster and is presumably poisoned. Buffy then finds herself stirring to awareness at a mental institution where we are told by her psychiatrist that she has been imagining all the events of the show up to that point. It works nicely because, through the psychiatrist, the writers give an honest critique of the season and how it has been a let down thus far. At the same time, they provide some interesting analyses of events in the show and connect them to how Buffy would imagine them to cope with her psychosis. While this is going on, Buffy is drifting in and out of consciousness and back to the "real" world where her friends (the Scoobys) are trying to figure out what's wrong with her. Eventually everything comes to a head as Buffy tries to kill her sister, Dawn, to escape her delusions, but is unable and returns to her "real" life as a vampire slayer. After being cured of the poison, Buffy is shown to be back to normal or is she? To my great rejoice, the writers did not wimp out and ended the episode with a shot of Buffy still at the mental institution allowing audiences to draw whatever conclusion they wanted about what is actual reality. While this plot line is nothing new, the way it is presented, and the way it is built upon a show with a rich mythos, it enhances the fun and creativity. (I should note a strong contender for this spot was an episode of the anime "Big O" called "Roger the Wanderer" which deals with this same theme which is definitely worth a view as well)

8. Batman: The Animated Series "I Am the Night" (episode 49)
Some may brush this show off as just a "kid's show" but it was far from that. This was one of the few shows out there to deal with violence realistically while featuring gunfire rather than lasers or whatever bullshit cartoons were doing over the decades. In fact, this episode dealt with the shooting of Commissioner Gordon and the possibility he could die; so you can imagine the themes were often mature and dark. But the heart of this episode and the reason why I love it so much is because it addresses Batman's doubt and weariness with fighting crime. The episode opens perfectly with some cool music and Batman wondering if he should throw in the cape while talking with Alfred. It happens to be the anniversary of Batman's parents being shot and you feel that despair as he limply brings himself to go out into the night. There was a powerful moment similar to this in the 1989 "Batman" movie, but this does it a little better as Batman leaves roses at crime alley. As I said, Gordon is shot and of course Batman feels responsible. He comes so close to losing it as he seeks revenge, but Batman is able to pull himself together. The show does end a little too cheerfully as Gordon recovers, a troubled kid reforms, and Batman feels he is, in fact, making a difference. The mood, atmosphere, music, and dialogue were so perfect in this episode, and it made such a great change of pace away from fighting one of the classic villains each week.

7. Xena: Warrior Princess "The Bitter Suite" (season 3 episode 12)
Selecting an episode from this show was difficult for me because I had to pick from one of the many great episodes featuring Callisto! This is a special circumstance for me because, while I do find the actress that plays Callisto (Hudson Leick) quite beautiful, obviously, I prefer the character instead. For the better part of a decade I found Callisto to be the most beautiful woman until I saw Ms. Rika Ishikawa (as I've mentioned before in other reviews), and as it stands goddess Callisto is my number 2. But anyway, the reason I chose this episode over an actual Callisto-themed episode is because this had her sexiness along with so many cool things going on at once; ideally the best Callisto episode is "A Necessary Evil." Like many long running shows, they often feature a musical episode and that's what this was. Surprisingly the songs are really good, catchy, and mostly sung by the actors themselves. The plot was that after Xena's son had been killed by her sidekick, Gabrielle's, evil daughter the two clashed in such a way it sent them to an alternate universe called Illusia. In this place everyone "speaks" through song and as such the two former allies are able to slowly recover their friendship while dealing with all the lies, tension, and disagreements they have faced up to that point. I really loved a lot of the presentation as they began to forgive each other and brought resolution to many ongoing plot lines. Although it kind of ends in a cheesy way, it was a fantastic ride with great musical numbers and, of course, heavily featuring my goddess Callisto! This was definitely the standout episode of the series and the only one to feature so many recurring characters all in one episode.

Callisto vs hard to choose!

6. Community "Basic Lupine Urology" (season 3 episode 17)
While I love the natural comedy of Community and so many episodes feature the genius of pop culture references, this episode was virtually the ultimate homage. Borrowing from the storytelling formula of "Law and Order," the procedural crime drama is made to be its most ridiculous nature through the students of Greendale Community College. In a nutshell, the main cast is growing a yam for a lame science project and they believe someone sabotaged their project and begin to investigate. There are so many burst out laughing moments I can't possibly list them all. While you do need to appreciate the humor and characters of Community to "get it" you do also need to be familiar with L&O. For example, they mimic the scene setups as the witnesses always seem to be talking and doing their job at the same time, the clothes of the characters, a hilariously creative way to create the courtroom feel through a classroom, etc. They even use the same film quality and have a cameo from the medical examiner from L&O. The dialogue, the music, even the commercial breaks are perfectly timed to enact an episode from L&O. The writers do everything right...I just love it!

5. The Twilight Zone "The Hitch-hiker" (season 1 episode 16)
Now we come to one of the most legendary shows of all time with a long list of episodes that could have easily made my list. However, none impacted me more or resonated with me the way the "Hitch-hiker" episode was able to. I do want to say that many viewers nowaday are missing out on this episode in its entirety as it's shortened to allow for even more stupid commercials that were thankfully not played back in the '60s. The plot is quite simple as a beautiful young woman, played by Inger Stevens, is traveling across country and is being haunted by a man in black that is hitchhiking. The thing that is making her so uneasy is the weird vibe she gets from him and the fact that he is always ahead of her despite the fact that she is going faster and faster and almost never stopping. Now, for many that moment at the end of "The Sixth Sense" when you realize Bruce Willis was really dead came as a big shock, but I saw it coming a mile away because I watched this episode of the TZ. At the beginning of the episode, the woman just narrowly escapes being killed in a car accident only to suddenly be at a gas station fixing her car up. By the end of the episode you realize she really did die in that crash and that the hitchhiker is Death or something along those lines. That revelation at the end of the episode was when I first felt that shock that the character I've been following was dead all along. This left a strong impression upon me especially considering how excellently the Nan character is acted out through Ms. Stevens. She provides such a moving performance and considering how troubled her real life was and that she would later commit suicide, it was no wonder she probably connected so strongly with her own character. These kind of twist endings are the best part of the TZ, but this episode was able to pull a great story together and still stand the test of time.

4. Elfen Lied "No Return" (episode 13)
This was the final episode of an unfortunately too short anime that I think a lot of people missed out on. While the story is definitely complete, I would have loved to follow the further adventures of the main characters. Although many may be turned off by the ridiculous amount of violence, gratuitous nudity, and mature subject matter, there is actually a deep and compelling story worth checking out. What you need to know is that there is a growing number of mutated beings called the "diclonius" which have telepathic powers that appear as invisible arms called "vectors." Throughout the story we learn of the horrible lives of suffering the main characters have all gone through because they are a diclonius that have been ridiculed by society and eventually captured, experimented on, and tortured by the government, or they were the people that had the misfortune of being hurt by a diclonius' powers; there are a few characters who have even just had a shitty life flat out! It all sounds so depressing, but as the story progresses each characters seeks resolution to their story lines through forgiveness or a sense of love and belonging; it becomes quite touching by the end and this episode brings it all to a close epically. The two best moments are when the most powerful diclonius, Mariko, reunites with her father, Kurama, as he's come to kill her. Kurama had run the facility that experimented on the diclonius and the two reach forgiveness as they are killed by another scientist. But the most touching moment is when Lucy, the main character and the "queen" of the diclonius, reveals the only reason she endured being captured, tortured, etc. was for the chance that she could make amends to her only friend and crush, Kohta, because in a fit of rage as children she killed his father and sister with her powers. Lucy's begging for forgiveness almost brings a tear to my eye because it felt so sincere and you can just imagine how sorry she must have been to go through years and years of torture just to say sorry to someone who has every reason to hate her. There is so much more going on here that I'd rather save for a time I can do complete reviews on these entire shows, but, suffice to say, this episode rightfully earns its spot on my list for gripping storytelling and invoking an emotional connection with the characters.

3. Heroes "Five Years Gone" (season 1 episode 20)
It has always bothered me that this show had possibly the best single season of any show I've ever watched only to go downhill immediately afterward and later being cancelled in disgrace. But we can't let the failures of the later seasons hurt the image of the amazing first season in which this episode was the highlight. Here we have Hiro, whose power is to bend time and space, travels to the future with his friend Ando to find out how to save the world. I already loved most of the characters of this show, but this alternate future that they are trying to avoid provides the audience with a cool spin on each person. Each character has a chance to shine and we see how their lives could be totally different if certain events go unchanged. For example, some of the heroes are villains in the future and some of the villains are heroes due to some circumstances. The best part is of course when we realize that the Nathan character, who has become president of the United States, is actually Sylar, the main villain, in disguise as he absorbed the shapeshifting power from another hero. Worse yet, the cheerleader that they kept believing was the key to stopping Sylar had never actually been killed in the alternate timeline. The cheerleader's power was to heal from any wound and presumably immortality and she now has had that power taken by Sylar! One of the last shots of the future before Hiro and Ando travel back to present day is of Sylar and the main character, Peter, going toe to toe with all their powers (since each can absorb other heroes powers) and one is using fire and the other ice. It felt so epic and really had you hyped for the season finale! I loved watching this first season so much that I just imagine it all ended by the finale and that season 2-4 never existed.

2. Death Note "New World" (episode 37)
Let me begin by saying if you haven't watched DN yet, get out there and watch it! The writing is excellent and planned perfectly, the dialogue and story are clever and creative, and this show really moves you to cheer for one or both of the main characters, Light and L. The overall plot is that beings known as "Shinigami," which are like grim reapers, have magical notebooks that any name written in it will kill the said person. One "bored" Shinigami, named Ryuk, leaves his notebook in the human world where a young genius named Light picks it up. Light then takes it upon himself to kill all the criminals in the world in an attempt to make a better life for everyone or so he tells himself. Honestly, there is an incredible character study to be had here with Light as he began as an idealist obsessed with justice and doing what's right only for him to be tragically led astray into an egomaniac killer through corruption of the notebook's power and his inability to cope with the fact he had become what he hated. At the same time, he is being hunted by the world's greatest detective, L, who believes he can uncover the identity of the one killing criminals around the world. Most of the show is a cat and mouse game as the two come head to head. Eventually L is killed which leads us to this final episode which is my favorite. Anyway, by episode 37 Light has set into motion events that will finally kill everyone left who knows about the notebook leaving himself unchallenged. But L's successor, Near, manages to outsmart Light at the last minute. Considering the edge-of-your-seat buildup in the previous episode, "1.28," watching Light's plan unravel due to his reliance on controlling people backfires gloriously. Now revealed as his alter ego, Kira, Light goes crazy as his associates all realize the evil he has done throughout the series and how he has deceived them. It all ends with Ryuk writing Light's name in his notebook just as he had said he would do someday in the first episode. The music is phenomenal and enhances the reflection and conclusion to the series so appropriately. As much as a villain Light was, it was hard for me to see him go as I was still rooting for him to win! I love every second with this episode and often re-watch it because it's just that good!

1. Lost "Walkabout" (season 1 episode 4)
Okay, let me get a few things out of the way to start. As much as I loved "Lost," I have trouble looking back fondly due to the disappointing ending and my sense that the direction of the show was lost (no pun intended) at some point. But the first season, and this episode in particular, brings back a nostalgia that I wish never went away. There was so much wonder and mystery surrounding the show and you had no idea where the story or characters were heading. What was the island? Were the characters already dead? Why is there a polar bear there?! That fascination would later be shattered, but if you take yourself back to the days when we knew nothing, this really was the pinnacle of TV writing and storytelling. It has all the positives I've discussed thus far in other shows, except it takes it a little further. "Walkabout" focuses on my favorite character, Locke, as we first delve back into his life through flashbacks. There was a certain aura to Locke leading up to this episode as he seemed to know something about the island no one else did and he seemed oddly happy or just crazy. Now there were other cool things going on in the background of this episode like the main character, Jack, seeing his dead father roaming around the island, but the real action is with Locke. At first Locke appears to be some kind of survivalist, hunter, or maybe some kind of crazy military guy. However, through the flashbacks we discover Locke was just some office guy with dreams of going on an Australian "walkabout" in the outback while everyone else doubts him. Furthermore, Locke seems quite pathetic as he uses like a phone sex hotline to try and get a girlfriend and reveals he has a therapist. Back on the island, Locke, is trying to hunt wild boars and growing angry over people doubting him. In the most subtle and genius way, it is revealed that the reason why Locke is acting the way he has been is because he has been in a wheelchair, unable to walk, all of this time leading up to crashing on the island! Somehow the island has restored his ability to walk and now he is out to prove all the people wrong from his life telling him he can't do some things. If you watch the episode again, you see so many little clues you would easily overlook. The way the revelation is presented, the incredible music score accompanying the scene, and the final shots afterward create possibly the best twist in TV history while telling an amazing and inspiring tale along the way. I love this episode so much and only wish there could have been another episode on its level. While "Lost" is a fantastic show, it was sad that their crowning achievement was right out the gate and no episode could equal it...but then again it is a hard act to follow. This episode is a must watch for any fan of great story telling or else you're just missing out!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sinister Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A true-crime writer moves into the home of a murdered family for research only to discover he has become a part of the mystery.

Review: I have to say I really liked this film especially how original many of the plot elements were. Taking note on the widespread use of found-footage films out there nowaday, this movie incorporated aspects of those films with a traditional haunted house format to bring us something unlike anything else in recent memory. Although the obsessed writer for a main character has been done before, there were aspects altered enough to make it acceptable like the cops confronting the main guy, Ellison, or shots of him watching interviews he had in his prime; it's little extras like this that make things feel more fresh. The way Ellison finds the footage of the crime scenes and the way in which they are presented feels visceral and sets the tone fast. The accompanied sense that not all is right and that there is something going on in the house perfectly enhances the atmosphere to bring on a strong sense of dread I rarely feel in a film. The creepy music, snuff-like film quality, and eerie curiosity of the plot's direction sucks you into the film's universe and has your expectations peaked. There are predictable aspects to this film especially in regards to how the movie will end (you can guess the ending maybe 10 minutes in), but the overall story is surprising, and I really liked that the characters felt more real and did move out of the house and admitted freaky shit was going on rather than how unrealistic people typically act in a haunted house film. I also loved the look of the Mr. Boogie or Bughuul character as the demon haunting the films and seemingly being the murderer. The demon living within the film or images was cool as well since it set up some nice scares, but I do wish the film made more use of him since he looked so ominous; he served to create the more memorable moments so I suppose that was good enough. I really wanted to rate this movie so much higher, but there were two annoying things that held it back. One: the completely uselessness and red herring aspect of the sons "night terrors." It was such a pointless contrivance I had to take away points for only serving the purpose of providing scares without any reason. With the amazing potential here, they did not need to resort to such cheap scares or else they should have incorporated this plot element into the story!  Two: the daughter being mesmerized, or whatever the demon does to kids, came out of left field. Yes, it does make sense, but we had no inclination or hints to show this happening. As far as we know she was totally normal and then is suddenly enthralled by Bughuul. This could have been cleared up so easily by a few scenes or her interacting with those ghost kids (instead of just once) or even some flashbacks where we see her at points of the movie slowly being controlled. Again, this was basically the huge twist of the movie and makes no sense so I had to take away points. The ending is still appropriate despite the predictability as there really would have been no other way to end it. Overall, this is a great movie with some of the best use of atmosphere I've seen in a few years and definitely worth a view. Considering this was just another low-budget horror film, I give the film more credit for successfully making use of more subtle scare tactics.

Notable Moment: Even though it was in the trailer, when Ellison holds a picture to the window showing the location of Mr. Boogie, and removes the photo only for Mr. Boogie to be standing there for real.

Final Rating: 7.5/10

Paranormal Activity 4 Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Five years after the events of part two, Katie, Hunter, and the demon emerge to further their agenda with a new family.

Review: To start things off, let's address the fact that this movie does, in fact, negate the canon of "Tokyo Night" since in that entry Katie was dead. I suppose you could really stretch your imagination in a way to make it make sense, but I think it is safe to finally declare that movie a remake and nothing more. The next thing is that I believe the critics are way off about this one. I thought it was just as good as part three, and I'm still not understanding how so many people see part two as the high point of the series. Nothing even happens in that movie! While I could see the complaints about part three, there are quite a few original scares in this film and the audience's expectations are toyed with quite often which adds to the suspense. For instance, I liked the use of the X-box Kinect and how they incorporated its motion detecting into the film (even if it was a cheap product placement), and how certain scenes were set up with you expecting something to pop out only for something to occur later when you're off guard. This "Kinect" allowed us to sort of see the demon for the first time while not flat out showing us what it truly looks like; this allows those who find it scary imagining what the demon looks like to remain content while appeasing those who want to see the damn thing already after 4 (sort of 5) films! Although the fate of the new family involved is incredibly predictable, there was a twist I was not entirely expecting in regards to Hunter. I found the new characters to feel much more real than most of previous films as they seemed to act more natural; events didn't feel as forced or as contrived. The Robbie character was also an exceptional young actor as he truly felt like some demonic child. My main complaints about the film arise in the final five or so minutes. As I mentioned in my review of PA3, my questions regarding the cult may have been answered since it would appear other children have been used in these deals with the demon(s); I was getting the impression that Hunter was so crucial for no particular reason, but at least now it may seem he is just a piece in the puzzle. We still don't understand the full reason for needing these dumb kids considering the demon seems to be one with Katie so much so that it can take a monstrous form at will. And while some of my questions with this cult may have been indirectly answered, we still don't know jack about them considering by the final shots they seem to be a damn army at this point! My understanding would be that at the end of the day, Katie is still in her body somewhere, and the demon wishes to be fully merged with Hunter through whatever ritual they are going to perform right before the movie cuts out. Ending the movie at that moment is really stupid since the makers should know how angry it will make the audience to end it so abruptly. It felt weaker too because the audience already knows they are saving the daughter, Alex, for last because they wanted her as a virgin sacrifice. Furthermore, the audience is left dumbfounded with so many more unanswered questions like why was Hunter given up for adoption, was there a connection between why this family did the adoption and the cult, was there more to the dad and mom arguing, etc.? I can see why so many feel disappointed with this entry since we really do need a part five, at the very least, to wrap things up. I would love for them to do one more film to just bring closure to it all with maybe some kind of showdown between the demon and an exorcist or even end it with the demon finally getting whatever it wants; either way, this formula is feeling old and each film is creating more questions rather than answers! The final scene after the credit is stupid too since the makers are claiming it has no real connection to the PA franchise, but is some kind of promotion for a spinoff series...huh? In the end, I did like this movie because it had nice pacing, original scares despite the whole found footage thing, good acting, and knew the audience's expectations and made effective use of that fact. I would recommend making your own judgement about this film rather than listening to the critics especially if you're like me and felt part two was the weakest entry so far.

Notable Moment: When Katie emerges from the shadows on the couch. I really couldn't see her, and I felt this was a nice and eerie touch.

Final Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Halloween II (remake) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After lying low for a year, Michael Myers decides now is the time to return to Haddonfield and finish what he started the previous Halloween.

Review: After the unbelievably terrible remake, we move on to the very loose remake of the second "Halloween" film which is also the final installment so far in this franchise. Well, you would think after 10 films in this franchise they could come up with some good ideas, but nope. I do see some glimpses of originality from Rob Zombie this time as he does want to do something different, but he just ends up going back into territory we already touched on during the "Thorn" universe as Jamie had a connection to Michael...well, now Laurie has a psychic connection with Michael for some odd reason. Like Jamie, Laurie also envisions herself as becoming like Michael and wearing the clown costume. This treading back into material already dropped for being too supernatural is really annoying because it makes me wish they just picked up with where six ended (did I really just write that?!). The first half hour or so of this film involves some hospital scenes that are similar to the original part two, but after that, it's all Rob Zombie from there on out. I did like these hospital scenes despite how weird all these dumb dream sequences were. These scenes really emphasize how much I want to kill Mr. Zombie's wife so he can't keep putting her in his shitty movies! Plus, come on, a serial killer with mommy issues? How original. As if Michael's character wasn't ruined enough by the portrayal in the first remake. The hospital chase is suspensful though and entertaining enough which is what I was hoping for from this whole film and the last remake. Laurie has been transformed into a huge, raging bitch while Loomis has been turned into a douchebag sellout. Their characters were already shallow in the remake, but I guess they figured, we ruined Michael, mine as well ruin all the characters, right? I don't understand why after going through all the traumatic events of the last film, Laurie would be such a huge bitch? Then when she realizes she's Michael's sister, she really goes off the deep end. Loomis, on the other hand, was always this guy so obsessed with Michael that he was borderline a villain himself, yet they feel that would translate better into some guy just trying to make a quick buck off Michael Myers?! Whatever. Thankfully Annie, played by Danielle Harris again, has been changed into a normal character which sucks because they decided to kill her off needlessly. Getting back to Michael, this film makes some pretty idiotic decisions about how to approach him the second time around. First, this film can't be bothered to explain how Michael survived the bullet to his head at point blank range from a .357 magnum, but decides on his off time, Michael is just a hobo moving about the countryside to stay under the radar. Desperately trying to explain what Michael does with his free time is one of those things that tells the audience this franchise has exhausted its storytelling abilities. I suppose it's not too bad when compared to the "Halloween" sacrilege committed later. Michael talks. Goddamnit...Michael fucking talks! It's only in the unrated version, but fuck, it happened! The other thing is that he lifts a car. A fucking car! I'm shaking my head in shame seriously. I can't even believe this shit. I always regret that I wasted my money watching the first remake in theaters, but luckily I did not make the same mistake twice. This shit is unforgivable. The film ends really stupid with little explanation as to what is happening and again ripping off part four, but I suppose there is a little closure since Michael is dead...for now. As I said, there were a few good ideas, and this film is a vast improvement over the abomination that is the first remake, but at the end of the day, this is just a stupid and unnecessary movie that thinks it is being more abstract and creative than it really is. Well, that wraps up this franchise. It sucks that most of these franchises end on a sour note, but that doesn't mean we can't keep appreciating the entries we love and of course the originals that spawn these sequels!

Notable Moment: When Laurie and her friends go to a Halloween party dressed as characters from the "Rocky Horror Picture Show." I really loved the look of the girls because they looked just like the characters. Other than that, just any scene with Danielle Harris as with the other stupid remake.

Final Rating: 4.5/10

Halloween (remake) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A retelling of the classic tale starting with how Michael became the monster in the mask we know.

Review: Before I begin, let me address the convoluted nature of this franchise. You have the purist perspective of just "Halloween" 1 and 2, the separate universe of part 3, the "Thorn" universe of 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6, the "H20" universe of 1, 2, H20, and Resurrection, and finally, the reboot universe of Rob Zombie's part 1 and 2. Got all that?! Anyway...I don't just hate this movie, I fucking loathe it! Throughout my reviews of this franchise, I have touched on many problems that went wrong in earlier films only for this stupid remake to do those same mistakes all over again! Like with the whole trying to explain why Michael kills angle...stop it! And for the love of god, why would you think this origin of Michael would be good? I would seriously rather have the "Thorn" story line over this, and that is saying something. So Michael was just a little, girly-looking, emo bitch-boy who had psychopathic tendencies and then snapped one Halloween? Lame. The original was so much more elegant and actually was outside the box. Michael was a normal boy from a good family who had no reason to kill and yet chose to. He then never disclosed the reason and waited with inhuman patience to do it again. Now that is disturbing...what's not disturbing is a little bitch-boy. Plus, the original had the plot twist aspect as the viewer had no clue the killer was actually just a little kid. This film didn't even try to put a spin on things or work with the source material in any regard. Grr! This movie gets everything wrong! The first ten minutes are a joke with some of the worst acting and dialogue you could come up with. The film then goes on for almost a full hour of just showing us what makes Michael crazy...a full hour! The less we know about Michael, the scarier he was, but I guess Rob Zombie couldn't wrap his mind around that one; it's so annoying because it's shit like this that made films like part six so stupid. Surprisingly, even with an hour of worthless material, I still don't get a lot of things. What made Loomis think Michael was so dangerous considering he keeps contradicting himself with shit like that he thinks Michael is his best friend (what the fuck!)? What is with Michael and the masks? Why does Michael seem to hate everyone but his mom and Laurie? Why did this version of Michael turn silent rather than always being like that as with the original? Why did Michael grow into a seven foot giant when no one else in the family is tall? Ugh! Nothing makes sense and the decision making was so poor. When the film finally gets on track to familiar territory with Laurie, we just get so many pointless moments that further ruin the characters we know and love. The girls are total bitches and not likable at all. It annoyed me too because Danielle Harris (who played Jamie in part 4 and 5) returns to the franchise as Annie and they made me not like her character. Although they did have the sense to not kill her character off this time since Ms. Harris is a fan favorite to those who follow this misguided franchise (and a personal favorite of myself). All the main elements from the original are quickly brushed over to get more to this idiotic plot line about Michael killing just to be closer to Laurie. I'm not even exaggerating when I say maybe 30 minutes are dedicated to remaking the original while the other 30 minutes are just weak action scenes of Laurie running, fighting, and struggling with Michael with a little help from Loomis who is completely wasted. They couldn't even get the "Halloween" theme right as it is first used out of nowhere. How hard is it to screw that one up?! This film is just a complete failure from the moment it begins to the abrupt and weird ending. I have no idea what they were going for except a cheap cash-in since all the icons were/are getting remakes. Had some of these scenes been reworked, get rid of the "Halloween" aspect, and get an original idea, this may have been at least average. But, as it stands, I actually prefer "Season of the Witch" over this shit! There, I said it! This is the worst in the whole franchise and deserves to be at the bottom as the pitiful waste of film it is.

Notable Moment: The few scenes with Danielle Harris since that's about the only thing going for this shit.

Final Rating: 3/10

Ms. Harris is the only good thing...

Halloween: Resurrection Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: With nothing better to do with his life, Michael Myers goes back to his childhood home only to discover a reality TV show being filmed at the location.

Review: Now we come to perhaps the most hated entry in this franchise. I'm not going to lie, despite the ridiculous premise and how stupid this film is, I find it really entertaing as a sort of guilty pleasure. With Mikey losing his head in the last film, they used a pretty effective and creative plot line to ressurect him; they explain that when Michael was first hurt by Laurie in "H20" that he then switched places with a paramedic to make a getaway (although, since when has Michael been that smart?!) while Laurie actually killed the paramedic. Now Laurie has lost her mind and ends up in a mental instituition where Michael finally kills the character off. I'm really not sure if this was the wisest decision, but they really weren't going to lure back Jamie Lee Curtis like they did with Donald Pleasence since she apparently has no real love for the state of the franchise (can't say I blame her). However, this death is maybe the biggest plot hole in the franchise. Since when did Michael kill someone outside of Halloween night! Especially the main person he has always been trying to kill?! Fuck! Oh wait, I get it, you just want an asinine plot contrivance to explain the rest of the movie, is that it? This is just so stupid beyond belief; I'm talking "Season of the Witch" stupid! So in the oddest moment of the franchise, Michael does all of his killing the day before Halloween so he can take a much needed 24 year late nap at his house, but what's this? Someone is shooting a reality TV show the same year Michael finally gets his work done a day early?! Well, time to conveniently gear up for this Halloween, Mikey! I suppose there was really nothing left to do with the Michael Myers character since he finally killed all his family members and they killed the "Thorn" plotline. I actually don't mind this reality show angle, but it is executed so terribly with annoying characters you are begging for Michael to kill; I mean come on, Starbuck, a kid from American Pie, Busta Rhymes, and Tyra Banks?! Thankfully he kills most and they are decent enough deaths that I feel satisfied for being tortured with their presence. There is some dumb as hell contivance with the lead, Sara, having a friend on the internet that helps her survive getting out the Myer's house since he is watching the show. This constant cutting back to the internet friend, named Decker, is annoying because you feel removed from what this whole franchise is all about. Michael is totally wasted as well since he has been reduced to just a jump scare rather than the driving force of the film as in the past. Like "H20," this just doesn't feel like a "Halloween" movie at all. This movie is terribe, but, like I said, there is just something I find entertaining about this film that still allows me to watch it and laugh which I can't do with shit like "H20" and part six. I think the writers had become self aware and just tried to make something that would sell to the audience; needless to say, there is a reason why this was the last film before the reboot. Unfortunately, this film ended on a cliffhanger and I'm still wondering what will happen next (well, not really)!

Notable Moment: When Freddie says "Trick or treat mother fucker!" It is so laughably stupid that I find myself saying it at least once every Halloween since 2002.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Laurie has tried to make a new life for herself, but she finds herself being hunted by Michael Myers once again.

Review: First let me say I have no idea why this terrible installment gets so much praise. Sure, it's better than part six and most of the crap that will follow after this entry, but it was nowhere near on the level of part four or even as good as five in my opinion. The movie starts to go wrong almost immediately as it ignores the events of part 4-6. While I don't blame them for ditching that ridiculous plotline, at least try to connect the story; this lazy and easy way out annoys me to no end. This film loosely implies the storyline goes part 1, 2, and H20 yet creates its own continuity errors in this ignoring process. Up until this point, Michael's whereabouts were always explained in between Halloweens yet this film never addresses how the fuck a big guy in a mask can run around and live life for 20 damn years! Also, even part four explained Michael was severly burned after part two yet couldn't explain the bullets to the eye...well this film doesn't address either of these issues! Hell, it's been 20 years so that should be enough time to make your horrible burn scars disappear and your eyes to grow back, right? And even if the sequels had Michael's motives ambiguously stupid, they at least tried to give some method to the madness. H20 believes Michael would take a 20 year vacation and then out of nowhere obsessively stalk and try and kill Laurie again. I never knew he was so sentimental...hmm it's always the quiet ones. Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie and she now has a loser son, John, played annoyingly by Josh Hartnett. Laurie has changed her identity and life to get away from Michael, but is spazzing out now. How convenient that she is losing her mind the same Halloween Michael decides to show up and say hello. I think one of the main reasons I hate this film is because it's told almost completely through the perspective of Laurie, John, or some pointless background character rather than through Michael as with the other films. There's no Michael in the shadows or mystery to him at all anymore. It doesn't even feel like Michael Myers which may be explained by the fact that this film was made during the "Scream" era of teen slashers being revitalized. It is odd to note that this film actually had the lowest body count of any of the movies and was really short. I did kind of appreciate the short running time because this movie is weak, but it only emphasizes how little content is in this film. Not having Loomis severely hurt the overall appeal for me as he always helped balance out things with the hero and Michael. To this film's credit though, the ending would have made for a satisfying conclusion to the franchise, despite the moronic build up, but even the final showdown with Michael felt weird to me. The original heart of this franchise was never meant to be about Laurie vs Michael, but was meant to be about the creepy aspect of a masked killer lurking in the shadows who has no motive or reason except to kill; that is what freaked out audiences in '78 not a cheesy wannabe "Scream." In the end, this isn't a bad film, but not a good "Halloween" continuation. There are some cool moments and a few things work well like the "Psycho" nods. But other than that, this is just a mediocre "Scream" ripoff that was common during the late 90s.

Notable Moment: The opening credit sequence. This scene is done so excellently that I had such high hopes for this film that I was angrily disappointed.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Michael Myers is back chasing some baby for whatever reason as he feels inclined to kill members of the Strode family occupying his childhood home.

Review: Ugh, what a total mess. It should come as no shock that there are actually two versions of this piece of crap since this thing went through heavy editing; too bad it still sucked either way. After part five, I suppose they painted themselves into a corner as far as story could go so they figured, what the hell, let's go the sci-fi/fantasy route and ditch this horror thing. There are so many poor decisions here accompanied by flat out stupidity. First mistake, killing off the Jamie character in the opening act! After having a character at the center for two entries, they decide to replace the actress (how dare they replace Danielle Harris! Grr!), kill her off meaninglessly, never truly explain what happened to her, and then idiotically imply Michael impregnated her! Well since they closed up most of the loose ends from part five 10 minutes in, I guess they figured let's give Michael some stupid baby to chase after, right? Oh wait, can't fill a whole movie with Michael chasing an immobile baby can we? I know, let's bring back some old characters and call it "Halloween." Mistake number two: the characters. The main character (I think) is supposed to be Tommy from the first film while he teams up with some other members of the Strode family who are living in Michael's old house. Tommy is obsessed with Michael for some odd reason and since it is conveniently Halloween, he must be loving it. Loomis is back from the dead with no explanation and does so little here; it's a shame because this was Donald Pleasence's last film before his death and you can see aspects of the editing hurt by lack of reshoots. The Strode family is sort of reintroduced yet they seem oblivious to the subject of Laurie and serve as nothing but Michael fodder. There is some deadend plot point about the other lead, Kara Strode, and her son, Danny, apparently hearing voices and kind of becoming like Michael...I guess? It makes no sense and serves no purpose except probably some plan for a sequel that never panned out. The man in black that left everyone speculating after part five is revealed to be some guy named Dr. Wynn at Smith's Grove Sanitarium (where Michael was kept in the original film) who belongs to an idiotic group called the "Cult of Thorn." The biggest mistake of this film was trying to explain Michael and in the dumbest way imaginable! (We'll get back to shitty origins of Michael later in this franchise!) According to this film, that symbol from part five represents the curse of Thorn which causes chaos (where, in the whole world?) unless the curse is passed to an individual who is consumed by the curse and must offer their family as a sacrifice to ease the suffering. Therefore, Michael is nothing more than a cursed individual who must kill his family members to appease some druid demons or some shit like that; this is supposed to explain why Michael doesn't seem to die to anything. Also there is some nonsense about Dr. Wynn trying to create a perfect cursed being which has to do with the baby and the implied rape of Jamie by Michael which just makes no fucking sense! Plus she was only supposed to be 15 years old at this point! Nothing makes much sense here to tell you the truth or it is just so stupid I don't want to accept it. Not another thing works here as this was probably the lowest point in the franchise as a whole. This film has the worst variation of the "Halloween" theme of any of the movies, the acting is abysmal at many times, and the overall atmosphere just feels so off. This is not the direction this series should have gone in, but, for better or worse, the next entry also takes this franchise in a whole different direction.

Notable Moment: When Tommy and Kara are running from Michael at Smith's Grove and we see this stupid look come over Tommy's face with that annoying electric guitar rendition of the "Halloween" theme playing. Makes me laugh so hard for some reason.

Final Rating: 4.5/10

Monday, October 8, 2012

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Michael is back again as he continues his attempt to kill his young neice while a mysterious man in black lurks in the background.

Review: I am well aware many people despise this entry in the franchise, but I thought it had some good ideas executed poorly. This film had four major weaknesses that severly hurt its chances of being a hit: a Jar Jar-esque character in the form of Tina, changing the direction of the ending to part four, stupid and senseless choices, and basically repeating the same formula of part four. Like the first two "Halloween" films, part four and five are closely connected which is a big reason why I like it; I love continuity and especially when it flows. It is the following Halloween after part four and Michael has been recuperating since his previous pummeling. This film opens during the events of the graveyard scene in part four and shows that when Michael fell in the grave there was actually an opening that led out to a stream which allowed Michael to survive (forget the hundred bullet wounds). He finds his way to some random hermit living in the woods who generously takes care of him for a year only for Michael to repay him with death! Okay, this is just so stupid! I mean, was this the best thing they could think up to keep Michael occupied with for a year? Or here's a better idea, how about they pick up where part four actually ended with Jamie now possessed by whatever was making Michael kill?! I know Michael is essentially the selling point, but come on, they could have done it so much better. Michael's mask has been altered yet again with no real explanation as well. As for Jamie, they imply that her stabbing her foster mother was just an isolated incident...somehow. I still must give credit to Danielle Harris as she is just a little girl and she is basically leading this entire cast and film; it's also quite sad that she is a better actor than most of the cast. This film emphasizes that Jamie and Michael have a telepathic link that allows the other to somewhat see and feel what the other does. It is extremely vague and feels heavily contrived, but at least they did try to pick up with what part four was suggesting. Plus, I feel the Jamie character is the most sympathetic in this franchise since she is just a little girl who lost her parents, has been nearly killed by her uncle for no reason, and now has a weird power and is being stalked again. Loomis is back and even more crazy here as he doesn't really trust Jamie and the audience really feels the obsession getting to Loomis. But again, I need some Loomis in my life to make the franchise more complete. It's so funny because by the end of the film Loomis has gone completely off the deep end as he uses Jamie as bait to capture Michael and seemingly dies yet again. This franchise rusurrects Loomis almost as much as it does Michael! Rachel, who was a pivotal character in part four, is killed off way too early, the foster family seems to be dropped entirely, and all the supporting cast are replaced by the ridiculously idiotic friends of Rachel. This gang of goof balls includes two cops who get their own cheesy sound effects (why the fuck?!), two horny losers (the girl is kind of hot), a total douchebag conveniently named Michael (who thankfully dies early), and their beloved leader Tina. Suffice to say I hate Tina; she can't act, sounds annoying, and her part could have easily been, and should have been, Rachel's role. The only somewhat decent character is some kid who has a crush on Jamie. Rounding out this cast of misfits is the mysterious man in black. We never see his face and he just lurks in the background of certain scenes and he seems to be following Michael. He has a weird tattoo on his wrist and the symbol is seen in various shots if you have a good eye. Unfortunately, we never find out what the hell is going on with this guy since the only thing he does is bust Michael out of jail at the end of the film. We do finally get an answer as to who he is in part six, but I try my best to forget that one even exists. As I mentioned earlier, this film just follows part four's formula with Michael mindlessly killing fodder with many padded scenes. It is enjoyable somewhat, but the highlight is when Jamie, Loomis, and the police set a trap for Michael to lure him out at Michael's childhood home. This sequence is cool and there are some close calls for Jamie. As I mentioned earlier also, Loomis goes bananas here which is interesting to see the lengths he'll go to get Michael. To the great disservice of fans, we see a brief shot of Michael unmasked as Jamie makes a connection with him and he's fucking crying! Oh come on! Plus where the hell are his burn scars? Grr! Damn continuity errors! I assume they wanted to continue this plotline about him being cursed, but if it's going to be so vague you can't pull shit like this until it is clarified. Finally, Michael is put in jail as I keep saying (which is stupid in itself), and he is broken out; the final shot, which is a nice one, shows Jamie standing in front of the cell crying and in disbelief as she delivers a chilling and echoing "No" as the film closes. Once again, the ending is the best part of the whole film! I do like this version of the "Halloween" theme music and there is an extra haunting melody to the end of the theme I really love. Eh, I don't know about this one. I do like this movie because of Ms. Harris and Mr. Pleasence and because of the flow in my head of part 1, 2, 4, and 5 as an incomplete canon. I would say check this entry out especially if you liked part four, but don't expect much at all.

Notable Moment: At the end when we discover Michael has been freed from jail and we are left wondering who was the man in black and what he wants.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Michael emerges from a coma to seek out and kill his eight year old neice who is still living in Haddonfield.

Review: With the pitiful performance of the dreadful "Season of the Witch," and with it being the tenth anniversary of the original film, they decided to bring back Michael with this fourth entry which was probably the smartest move. Personally, I believe this is the second best film in the franchise so everything goes down from here on out, and there are ten films total! This movie has one of the most odd but interesting openings in the franchise. Instead of the famous "Halloween" theme music there is a kind of haunting melody with a windy-esque feel as we see Halloween-themed imagery of old, classic farm houses that really brings back the nostalgia of the 80s for me; something just feels off with this holiday now and everyone is a total wimp and wants to stop trick-or-treating by like 7 PM?!! The worst thing about this film is the introduction sequence because it is just so contrived and full of plot holes, but they did try their best to revive Michael in a feasible way without making him a supernatural entity like Jason. After part two, Michael was an eyeless crispy critter, but this film ignores the shots to the eyes and just says Michael slipped into a coma after the severe burns (yeah, unlikely story but okay). It's funny because they do this trick twice as Loomis has also returned from the dead with some burn scars; did they not realize there was an explosion too?! Apparently the thing that sets Michael off and wakes him from his coma is news about his neice which makes him go apeshit and kill everyone with only Loomis in hot pursuit as the police believe Michael died during the escape. How Michael knows his neice, Jamie, is in Haddonfield is as good as anyone's guess, but it may have an explanation by the end of the film. If you can get past all of this ridiculous resurrection, the movie becomes so much more enjoyable. We get an interesting contrast early in the film as we see the every day life of Jamie and how she appears to be very sad while at the same time we cut back to Loomis and Michael wreaking havoc across the countryside as they both are moving toward Haddonfield. Loomis has a lot to do in this film as essentially there are only three main characters besides Michael; they are Loomis, Jamie, and the other is Rachel, Jamie's foster sister. I did like the attention to Loomis as he does feel like a crusader in these films, and he always borderlines on being a little too obsessed. Actually, we have yet another big contrivance as Michael slowly assembles his attire from the first two films while traveling. The mask looks off too since they couldn't use the original likeness due to some legal issue with William Shatner; just look the story up on that as it is kind of entertaining. Oh, in case you hadn't realized it by now, all of this is taking place leading up to Halloween night in which the majority of the movie takes place during! There is a hint of typical '80s slasher material here with some teen stereotypes as Michael dispenses with whoever gets in his way. There is a part where Loomis finds all the police dead which was kind of preposterous since Michael has never been so overt, but since it was offscreen I will forgive it. I do like the relentless chase scenes as Michael tries desperately to kill Jamie. Danielle Harris, as Jamie, does a wonderful job, and I have to admit I had a crush on her when I was little; still kind of have a crush since she is still appearing in the "Halloween" franchise to this day! There is an interesting dynamic as you have Rachel trying to protect Jamie and Loomis not exactly helping things with his crazy antics. Unfortunately, there is way too much screen time to some idiots I refer to as random rednecks. They serve as some kind of pointless padding or I guess to show us the town as a whole is involved this time to take down Michael? After the body count has piled up and everyone thinks they're safe, Michael seemingly appears out of nowhere aboard a truck Rachel and Jamie are escaping in. Finally, after shaking Michael loose at a graveyard (how apropos), everyone guns him down with shotguns and he falls in a grave as many tombstones cave-in on him. After this, we are given perhaps the best and most shocking ending in the whole franchise! Remember when I said how did Michael find Jamie? Well apparently Jamie finds herself possessed with whatever made Michael kill as she does her best to recreate the opening scene of the first film in the clown costume and all. The film leaves us with a final shot of the bloody Jamie and Loomis trying to gun her down to no avail. This ending is half the reason I rate this so high. Now if only they continued the franchise properly with this plotline! Overall, this is a fun film that knows it has problems trying to followup where part two left us. I love the characters and we actually come to care if they are killed. There is a creepy atmosphere here that I don't think the other films were ever able to maintain. Since this franchise's timeline and story changes so much, people have their own sense of canon, but I would suggest any real fan make this a part of their canon.

Notable Moment: At the end when it appears the curse has been passed on to Jaime, and she stabs her foster mother.

Final Rating: 7.5/10

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Halloween III: Season of the Witch Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A tale of the hilariously idiotic plot to destroy the children of the world through cheap Halloween masks, magic, and androids. You better believe zany antics ensue.

Review: Okay, before I tear this film to shreds, let me say I do appreciate the concept behind this film. I understand they were hoping to create a sort of anthology series as every year there would be a new "Halloween" film with a different story related to the holiday. This would have been amazing had this idea been properly realized, but why, oh why, would you start off such an ambitious undertaking with this piece of shit as the starter?! I mean seriously read my plot summary and let that ridiculous plot sink in a bit. It is so asinine it is hard to grasp what any writer was thinking! This story, with a few tweaks, would have made for a better kid's movie with light horror elements. Actually just the Halloween masks and magic might have been an okay subject despite the stupidity of the villain's plan, but why did they feel the need to include robots/androids?! It makes no sense and how would some crappy novelty company have the means and know how to manufacture androids in their spare time? Screw that, why would they even bother?! They already have most of the people in the town that the factory exists in as loyal followers. Needless to say, the androids look beyond stupid, and I still think they are just robots. They seem to be nothing but wires and glowing lights (how fucking typical); what exactly holds them together? As for the villain's plot, I was never quite sure if this movie implied he honestly thought he was killing everyone in the world or just a few people in the USA? Most countries don't even celebrate Halloween! Then you have to factor in how many people would even buy these dumbass masks; they only sold three types: skeleton, witch, and pumpkin. UGH! It's so fucking stupid! We don't even get a good explanation about why he's doing this except for a ritual or whatever; what does he even gain or accomplish by any of this? You gotta love vague and ambiguously stupid plans to destroy the world. Plus, taking tiny pieces from Stonehenge and merging them with computer chips that you put in Halloween masks while using some spell hidden in a commercial jingle so that it will make the wearer's head burst unleashing bugs and shit is such a plausible and perfect scheme, right?! Don't forget enforcing your secret and ingenius plot with android bodyguards! I'm shocked no one has tried to do this in real life because surely it must work! Don't even get me started on the fucking commercial jingle you hear a hundred times throughout the movie. Damn you Silver Shamrock! This movie mostly plays out like a crappy mystery thriller with no scares and no real suspense. The only thing that keeps you interested is wondering where the hell they are going with this or if you're one of those people who kept thinking Michael Myers would show up at some point. Probably the cruelist moment is when the main guy is locked in a room and they turn on a TV playing "Halloween." Well, there went any hope for a Michael cameo. Why didn't they at least tie in Michael by making one of the SS masks a Michael Myers mask?! This may not be the worst movie in the world, but considering all that it had going for it yet it turned into this mess, it deserves to be called one of the dumbest movies in history! I only watch this film when I want a good laugh, because this is really more of a comedy than anything else. Thank god this series returned to form with part four.

Notable Moment: Any time we hear the annoyingly catchy, yet amusing, Silver Shamrock theme music.

Final Rating: 3.5/10