Posts from the ‘entertainment’ Category

The Nightmare on Elm Street remake: surprisingly encouraging

Sometimes I get the nagging feeling that the reason that I like so few new horror movies is because I am determined to do so.  It’s disturbing because it makes me doubt my own tastes.  And it would be easy to see why a self-fulfilling prophesy could be at work in my brain – after all, I have trouble remembering the last newer horror film that I truly liked, and I am adamantly, or even ferociously against almost all of them, especially remakes of classic films.  But today I can breathe easy, assured finally that I am not just a hater, that my tastes are simply uncompromising.

Not surprisingly I went into watching the Nightmare on Elm Street remake expecting to hate it.  Mostly I just wanted to be able to rip on it educatedly and that’s why I watched it (also I was pretty bored).  But about 20 minutes into the movie I realized with some shock that I wasn’t exasperated, or nauseated, or having to restrain myself from turning it off.  This is because the new Nightmare on Elm Street isn’t half bad.  It definitely resembles the original, however it does manage to be its own film.  The balance here between paying homage to the first one, and adding to the story and making it fresh is admirable.

Among the major differences is the tone – this movie is a lot less “fun”, more serious than the original.  This is especially apparent when it comes to the star of the show, Mr. Freddy Kruger.  In the original series he was a deadly jokester – just as likely to throw a quip at you than a hand full of knives – and I’ll admit that even as a kid this kind of took the edge off his scariness.  The newly imagined Freddy Kruger is, like the whole movie, darker, more serious, and at least a bit more scary.  He is also taken to task for his original trespasses (those that resulted in his becoming the dreamland murderer that we all know) – child molestation.  The original left it pretty much alone, focusing instead on Freddy’s proclivity for murder, but it is given a more focused role in this film, which adds to Kruger’s new, more disturbing and ultimately less likeable persona.

The level of violence and gore are also amped up, though not to any ridiculous degree.  I expected the sex and language to also be  increased upon, though I was happily surprised to be wrong on this count as well.   Much of the pandering and gratuitousness of modern horror movies is missing from this one, and I have to say it makes me very happy.

Was this a great film?  No, it was nothing mind-blowing, just a remake of an 80’s horror film.  But it was good; hell, I would watch this movie again.  And while this may strike some a prosaic designation, if one takes into consideration how few new horror movies get anywhere near to being described so positively by me, it would become clear that this is high praise indeed.

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The Arrested Development movie: why we should all just let it go

I love Arrested Development.  I think it is the funniest, smartest sitcom that has been on television.  I signed both petitions when Fox was trying to take it off the air, and to this day I resent that it was canceled after only 3 short seasons.  I am forever quoting lines from it, so much so that I sometimes don’t even realize that I’m doing it.  I’ve watched all 3 seasons more times than I can count.  I love it, I miss it, and I probably always will.

It launched the career of the very talented Michael Cera, brought Jason Bateman back onto the scene, and, well, the whole damn cast is just so talented and awesome.

And it is because I love it so much that I think that the plans for making an Arrested Development movie should be forever canceled.  Four years have elapsed since the show was canceled and talk of the movie still lingers on the web.  Initially I was pulling for it, waiting for it, hoping for it.  But as time has gone by I’ve grown up, gained wisdom and I now think that if you love something, you should let it go.  The fact is that the movie could suck, in spite of the good intentions and massive talent of all involved – it could suck, hard (think of the sadly disappointing X-Files: I Want to Believe).  And if it did in fact suck – I don’t think I could handle it.  I runs the risk of tainting 3 brilliant seasons of on point comedy genius.

We have to let it go.  Keep watching the DVD’s, keep appreciating it, and keep hoping that TV comedy someday gets even close to that kind of greatness again.  Fox should forever feel like they’ve “made a huge mistake”, and we should be left to mourn our loss and revel in lost genius in peace.

Stuff that annoys me: Unrated DVD releases

Ok, so we have the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), and they are in charge of rating the movies that are released in this country.  Most of us are familiar with the ratings system and so we know what to expect when we see a particular rating associated with a film.  And if you are watching a movie in the theater this is a fairly reliable indicator of things to expect, so that it is possible to relatively accurately decide if the content is appropriate for you and/or your family.  So far, so good.  The problem (and the bit that annoys me) comes when a film is released to DVD.  Unless you live under a rock (or are seriously not in the market for DVD’s) you’ve probably noticed the growing trend of “Unrated” DVD releases; in many cases the fact that the film is unrated is actually emphasised as a selling point.  Myself I have trouble finding non-unrated DVD’s as of late.

It used to be that “special features” were not subject to rating, and it would be noted as such on the DVD cover.  So you could expect things like commentaries, outtakes, and “making of” documentaries to possibly contain things not fitting with the rating of the actual film.  Within the last few years however the trend has been for the movie itself to be released with deleted scenes (scenes not included in the theater release) which are also unrated.  So that, not only are you not getting the movie that you may have seen in theaters and enjoyed, but you are also getting a movie that potentially includes content that could take a movie rated PG-13 to an R, or an R to an NC-17, and so on.  This usually includes added sex, language, drug use, violence, and gore.

Ok, so, I’m not a prude – really, I’m not.  I’ve heard the argument that the “Unrated” editions allow the filmmakers to retain the “artistic integrity” of their movies, which may have been undermined by editing required to achieve a certain rating from the MPAA.  Ok, that would be a good argument – if that was the case, but most of the time I don’t think it is – I think it’s bullshit. 

First of all, many films lack artistic integrity to begin with.  Second of all, all of the unrated versions of movies that I’ve seen haven’t benefited at all from the additional content – in fact they usually suffer.  I mean really – do more tits and ass, more profanity, or more violence ever really make a movie better?  I know some folks might argue with me, but I think that by and large – no they do not.

I think that the marketing folks are trying to make a buck at the expense of films and audiences.

I also think that it is unwise to require ratings for movies shown in theaters (where box office attendants make sure that people underage can’t get in without a parent), but allow unrated content to be bought practically anywhere films are sold and brought home.  I mean – why have a ratings system at all if that’s what’s going to happen?  Then you have all that added content just sitting there, in your living room, waiting to be seen by (little) people who should not.

Ok – yes it is the parents job to say what their children can and cannot see, but why even put this stuff out there?  And I don’t believe that violence in entertainment causes violence in real life, but I think that denying its role in the violencization ( I think maybe I made that word up) and overall degradation of todays youth culture would be naive.  So, if it’s not adding “integrity” to films, and it’s bypassing and ultimately undermining our already stressed ratings system, then why the hell does this go on?  It just pisses me off.

‘Blue Bloods’ Tom Sellack’s new procedural

I love Tom Selleck.  I have since I was little; one of my first remembered TV watching experiences is of Magnum P.I., which I still watch to this day.  I’ve seen some of his movies, and some of his subsequent television work (Las Vegas, the Jesse Stone TV movies), and I’ve always been impressed.  I was very excited to hear about Blue Bloods, and have been anticipating it for months.  It had a lot to live up to, being produced by the creative team behind The Sopranos, and in spite of my fondness for Selleck, I admit that I was apprehensive that it would suck, like so many other shows unfortunately do.  Well, I finally got to see it and I have to say that I was not disappointed.

Yes, it’s a pretty basic police procedural, however it doesn’t feel stale, and is not overly predictable.  It also boasts a nice ensemble cast (including Donnie Wahlberg, who always manages to be compelling). I don’t believe it is possible to truly get an accurate feel for a show based on its pilot (in my experience the pilot tends to be one of the worst episodes).  The pressure of introducing an entire cast, setting, and circumstances usually leads to lots of exposition and consequently overburdened dialogue (which often leads even good actors to somewhat choppy delivery).  And the pilot of Blue Bloods is not without these weak points.  However I still think that it is a strong show with a strong premise.  Police procedurals are hugely popular, and this one, with its side focus on this particular family of cops (and one district attorney) seems like a winner.  I am now waiting to see some more episodes to back up my initial reaction, but I have little doubt that this series will only get better as the season goes along.  Blue Bloods airs on Fridays at 10/9c on CBS.

Rob Zombies’ Halloween Remake and why it sucks (a review 4 years late)

I put off watching it for almost 4 years.

Admittedly I am not a huge fan of remakes in general, and horror remakes specifically. I am a horror movie fan, though I mostly like older films; I can count on one hand the number of newer horror movies that I have any use for. I am a fan of the original Halloween, and of several of its sequels. When I heard that Rob Zombie was remaking this movie I could not help but be apprehensive, and not in a good way. I had already seen House of a Thousand Corpses, and The Devil’s Rejects, and was not impressed. The former was much-anticipated, even by me, and so it was perhaps destined to be disappointing. The later attempted to cast a family of psychopaths as the protagonists (a concept which I still cannot wrap my head around), and was overlong. The entire tone and atmosphere of these films, coupled with extreme sadism and violence presented as commonplace, were to me somewhat nauseating, and I could not but conclude that Zombie’s grim, dirty, vicious, over-sexed worldview was not for me. And so I did not watch the Halloween remake; I didn’t watch it, and didn’t watch it, and then I did.

I think it was because I noticed that they had made a sequel to it. I remember thinking, “hum, I wonder if that’ll be better than the first one?”, and then I remembered that I hadn’t actually watched the first one and started feeling somewhat guilty for being presumptuously negative. And so I watched it. I had already read synopses of it and so I knew that Zombie had delved into the private life of Michael Myers to reveal the dysfunction and abuse that created the monster. And indeed he did.

The movie is only about 2 hours long (though it feels much longer) and the first half is this explanation of the horror that created the psychopath Michael Myers. In my opinion the entire first half is (aside from being uberviolent and sickeningly twisted) totally unnecessary. Practically the whole world knows that childhood abuse can cause people to become violent, mentally damaged adults – it happens, and the details of countless cases of this are unfortunately nothing new. The concepts of nature versus nurture are quite well explored. Another famous movie psycho, Jason Voorhees, is a good example. A disfigured little boy who is tormented by his peers, is presumed dead, but is actually alive and after the added trauma of seeing his mother killed, seeks revenge.

For me, part of what made Michael Myers so scary was the idea that he was just evil, just crazy. One day he was just a normal little kid, and the next thing you know he snapped and killed his sister. Unpredictable, unexplainable, and totally terrifying. Zombie’s Michael is practically the opposite. While he is scary because of his propensity for violence, he is predictable and explainable. And that ruins a lot of the premise for me.

I think that Rob Zombie (who directed and wrote this film) probably thought he was adding something to the plot of this story by giving us insight into Myer’s childhood, and by creating a subplot involving his baby sister who he comes back to town looking for. But I really don’t think so. Again, part of what was scary about the events in the original was that Michael could have picked anyone to latch onto and stalk. Jamie Lee Curtis wasn’t his sister or his old babysitter or anyone to him – just an unfortunate who caught his eye. She could have been anyone (even you or me!).

I think that adding to the plot of a horror film like this is wasted energy, since the plot is not, and has never been, the draw of horror films. And in most cases (including this one, and the recent Friday the Thirteenth remake) I think it ultimately takes away from the action and the fear factor.

Aside from the aforementioned plot trouble, this movie again suffers from the same afflicted tone, atmosphere and worldview as Zombie’s other movies. Indeed I would argue that the psychopathic killer and his exploits are not even the scariest or most disturbing elements of the film, so overshadowed are they by the rest of the sick, twisted world of Rob Zombie.

Not to seem overly critical I feel that I should point out that there are several good points to this movie. Here they are: the effects are great-looking [little to no CGI here], Malcolm McDowell is right on point as Dr. Loomis, Dee Wallace is always a great addition to a horror film, I just plain like to watch Danny Trejo, and the soundtrack is pretty great [which is true also of Zombie’s other movies].

And there you have it. I think this movie sucks. I wish that I had never seen it (I had to re-watch Hot Tub Time Machine just to scrub the memory of it off my psyche). I would suggest that Rob Zombie stop making movies, but that would be awfully selfish of me. I’ll just stop watching them.