At the Movies Hosts Talk Horror

May 6, 2010

It’s refreshing to see good critics who have an appreciation for good horror. It irks me when people dismiss all horror films as junk. Every genre has lots of junky movies and some great movies. You just have to know how to keep a lookout for the good ones. You wouldn’t dismiss the entire comedy genre just because The 41 Year Old Virgin is  a piece of shit, would you?

Anyways, Michael Phillips and A. O. Scott (who also goes by Tony) of At the Movies had a segment this past week about overrated and underrated horror movies. Michael started things off with a bang by saying that The Exorcist is overrated. What? He said it was “pretentious” and nothing but a “Catholic freakshow.” Tony seemed just as surprised by this assessment as I was. Sure, The Exorcist is a pretentious freakshow, but it’s so well made with such great performances that I would hardly call it overrated. Later Michael redeemed himself by picking The Decent (which I listed as number three on my top horror movies of the last decade) as a hugely underrated film.

Tony’s picks for overrated and underrated horror films were Bela Lugosi’s Dracula and modern tweener The Final Destination. He called Dracula boring, which I think is an easy potshot since Dracula was made in an era in which, lets face it, all movies were boring (compared to fast moving modern movies anyways). Tony also said that The Final Destination was very cleverly made and, while not great, was not as terrible as everyone says it is, which I agree with.

Even though I disagree with some of their choices, I appreciate the time that the two At the Movies hosts spent suggesting unappreciated horror films. Good job, guys!

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Review: How To Train Your Dragon

May 1, 2010

Sometimes, a person just wants to watch some awesome 3D flying dragon sequences. If that is you, then you have come to the right movie, because How To Train Your Dragon is chock-full of awesome 3D flying dragon sequences. Normally, I would feel pretty negative about a movie whose soul reason for existence is some flying sequences, but this one is brisk and fun and well-made.

A village of vikings is constantly being attacked by dragons, and the improbable hero is a scrawny young boy named Hiccup. Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel)  astonishingly captured a dragon using a homemade bow-and-arrow-contraption and even more astonishingly was able to secretly tame and train the flying lizard. Soon the boy and the dragon, who he calls “Toothless,” become friends, and then Hiccup has the tough job of convincing every other villager that dragons are nice and they should stop fighting with them.

Hiccup has a parcel of young training mates: a nerd, a spineless bully, twins who are always bickering, and a tough young girl who is obviously the love interest. These training mates keep things breezy, but Hiccup’s dad is a bit of a downer. This is my main qualm with the entire movie. The father-son relationship brings a bit of unneeded melodrama into an otherwise lighthearted affair. The dad, Stoick (voiced by Gerard Butler), is a hefty successful viking who is disappointed in his son. He has many cliche and obviously manipulative  lines of dialogue throughout the movie, including “You’re not my son.” I mean, come on. Can it get any more generically melodramatic than that?

The flying scenes are outstanding. There was swooping, near misses, twirling, and just about every trick in the ocular book. I thought that I might get tired of them after awhile, but I didn’t; and it was impressive how long they held my two-year-old daughter’s attention. When it comes to the flying scenes, you’re really getting your money’s worth.

How To Train Your Dragon is a perfectly acceptable vehicle for abundant flying sequences. If you want more than that, good luck finding it. But if you are happy with nothing more than a bounty of visual dazzlement, then watch it already!

Two Fishbones out of Four

Coming Attraction: The 41 Year Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It

April 11, 2010

Click here to watch the trailer for The 41 Year Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It

Yes, this is a real movie, and yes, that is the real title. If you haven’t figured it out from the title, this is a spoof of Judd Apatow comedies.

There is a certain connotation that goes with movies with long titles. I’m thinking of movies like Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation Kazahkstan and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. These movies present themselves as quirky, different, and unbound by the normal conventions of movie titling. The 41 Year Old Virgin doesn’t appear to have any of those qualities. Instead, it looks like a mindless spoof (has there ever been a good spoof other than Airplane!?).

What is the point of parodying movies that are already comedies? I can understand making light of disaster movies or horror movies, but comedies are already funny to begin with. And all of the jokes from the 41 Year Old Virgin trailer are either direct scenes from other movies or outdated pop culture jokes such as the “Can you hear me now?” cell phone guy. These scenes from the original movies already seemed outrageous, trying to make them more outrageous was just a fruitless pursuit.

I’m going to give this spoof a 0.5 on the Potential Meter. Please avoid it when it comes out on June 8.

The Remake Pile: April

April 9, 2010

I’m thinking about making The Remake Pile a monthly edition, because it seems like every few weeks or so I hear about several new remakes coming down the pike. Some remakes are abominations, like Tim Burton’s remake of Planet of the Apes; and some remakes surpass the originals, like John Carpenter’s remake of the 1951 classic The Thing From Another World. I’ve found that I have somewhat of an interest in remakes, mostly, I think, because it is a good intellectual exercise in movie comparisons.

So, here we go with this month’s list.

Swamp Thing

Splice director Vincenzo Natali has a strong interest in remaking this 1980’s sludgy cult classic, says the SciFi Squad.

Horror maestro Wes Craven helmed the original Swamp Thing in which a scientist turned into the titular character when he jumped into the swamp after a fiery accident. I think a remake could be good if they go for a creepy atmosphere instead of a cheesy over-the-top quality. We’ll see what direction they go.

Let the Right One In

The remake will be called Let Me In and is due to be released in October of this year. The studio producing Let Me In is Hammer films. The same Hammer Films that made all those British Dracula movies from the 50’s but has not released anything in the last 30 years. So they’re basically hoping that this remake will relaunch the studio. (source: Cinematical)

They’ve hired on Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) to direct. I thought Cloverfield (the movie about a Godzilla-like monster wreaking havoc on New York) was handled well and I hope that he can bring the same kind of mysterious quality to Let Me In. I just hope they don’t water it down to a PG-13 movie.

Piranha

According to the MTV Movie Blog, Piranha remake director Alexandre Aja promises record breaking bloody violence. “I don’t remember the exact number,” he told MTV, “but we’ve passed Kill Bill. You’ve never seen something like that before.”

The MTV interview made it seem like the new Piranha will not take itself seriously, and really, how can a movie about killer fish take itself seriously? And also, it’s in 3D! So it’s got that going for it. Piranha is due out this year in August.

The Remake Pile

March 20, 2010

There are lots and lots of remakes being made out there, and I thought it might be fun to compile several of them into one web log entry.

The Monster Squad

According to Deadline, a Monster Squad remake is happening. The producer of the original Monster Squad, Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious, Dragonheart), is set to direct.

The main premise of the original is that a group of kids who are fans of classic monsters learn that Dracula and his friends are coming to their small town.

I’ve never seen the original. The trailers for the original make it look cheesy, and I’m not sure how successful a cheesy remake would be. It is making me think of the Land of the Lost and Van Helsing failures. Perhaps the Monster Squad remake will take a more serious tone.

Predators

IMDb says that “a group of elite warriors are hunted by members of a merciless alien race known as Predators.” Who are those elite warriors, you ask? None other than Laurence Fishburne, Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, Danny Trejo, and Topher Grace.

Am I the only one who doesn’t buy Topher Grace as an elite warrior? The same Topher Grace that was the skinny boy from That 70’s Show?

Robert Rodriguez presents and Nimrod Antal (Vacancy) directs. You read that right. Nimrod Antal.

Fright Night

In the 1985 original, a teenager believes that his next-door neighbor is a vampire. Fright Night had some comedy to go along with the horror.

Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) is set to direct. Gillespie has done comedy pretty well, but we’ll see how he handles the horror.

Pet Sematary

As if you didn’t see this one coming a mile away. I’m actually surprised they haven’t remade Pet Sematary already.

1408 writer Mathew Greenberg is set to write the remake for Paramount, according to BeyondHollywood.

Top Five Sci-fi Movies of All Time

March 19, 2010

If you’re like me, then you love sci-fi. And horror. And action. And suspense thrillers. But mostly sci-fi. So here is a list of the best of the best, the cream of the crop, if you will. If you have an interest in sci-fi, and haven’t seen one of these movies, then what are you waiting for? Go see them already!

1. Alien

Alien is the mother of all sci-fi. So many films have copied it, but no sci-fi film has surpassed it. A must see for all sci-fi devotees and for movie lovers of any ilk. Roger Ebert gave Alien four stars, and said it “vibrates with a dark and frightening intensity.”

2. 2001: A Space Odyssey

Coming in at a close second is 2001: A Space Odyssey. This film tends to focus more on originality and artistic merit and toying with the conventions of narrative. Actually, it doesn’t toy with the conventions, it throws them in the trash. The slow pacing and overall weirdness of 2001 will repel many viewers, but this sci-fi masterpiece should be viewed by everyone at least once.

3. The Fifth Element

In the future, Bruce Willis drives a cab and unwittingly gets caught up in the search for a cosmic weapon that will save the Earth from evil. Whereas my first two picks for best sci-fi may have a somewhat serious tone, The Fifth Element mixes a healthy dose of fun in with its high level of inventiveness.

4. The Thing

Mystery suspense  TERROR! Mystery suspense  TERROR! EWW GROSS! Mystery suspense atmosphere mystery TERROR! Mystery suspense EWW GROSS! Mystery suspense FLAME THROWER! KURT RUSSELL! TRANSMOGRIFYING ALIENS!

5.  Dark City

Ladies and gentlemen, once again, Roger Ebert : “Dark City by Alex Proyas is a great visionary achievement, a film so original and exciting, it stirred my imagination like Metropolis and 2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Horror Alphabet: B

March 6, 2010

C is for Cthulhu. D is for Dracula. E is for Eyeball. F is for Freddy. G is for ????

Horror Alphabet: A

February 23, 2010

Here’s my latest installment in the horror alphabet. Next I think I’ll do “B is for Blood,” or maybe “B is for Buckets of Blood.”  “C” can stand for clown or Cthulhu.

Horror Alphabet

February 21, 2010

I’ve been tinkering with the idea to make an alphabet with a horror theme. Here’s the first one I’ve done. I’m thinking I’m gonna do “A is for Alien” next.

Review: A Serious Man

February 20, 2010

The Coen Brothers’ cynical worldview is captured as elegantly as ever in there 2009 film A Serious Man.

Larry Gopnik is not a serious man. He is not important or significant, he is meek and compliant, and his problems are mounting like flapjacks on a platter. When Larry learns that his wife has a lover, he does not kick her out of the house, instead he takes her suggestion and moves into a local motel. When  Larry’s brother mooches off of him and his son steals from him, he does not lay down the law, instead he let’s them get away with it.

Larry turns to his Rabbis to try to make sense of it all, but they just tell him unhelpful stories about dentists and parking lots, and Larry leaves more confused than before. The Jewish context seems to make this film more personal than all of the Coens’ other films. The characters seem true to life and almost biographical. The Coens claim that the characters of the film were not based on real people, but they say that the characters were very similar to people they grew up with.

A Serious Man is not as momentous as the Coens’ trademark films like Fargo or No Country For Old Men, but it is more of a personal film and more lovingly rendered. This film is not entirely satisfying, but in the end, does anyone ever really  get any real answers?

3 fishbones out of 4

Note: In my preview of the A Serious Man trailer, I gave it a 3 out of 4 on the Potential meter. I think the trailer was a good indication of the quality of the actual film.