Sunday, July 23, 2017

Grizzly (1976) Review:

Animal attacks are not uncommon things in the contemporary world. Humans can sometimes cross paths with a wild animal at the wrong time and place. Of course not all animals are intentionally setting out to harm individuals, but there are those moments where they had it coming. Whether it was due to their lack of awareness or just plain ignorance, certain animals should not be domesticated because it's just shouldn't be done. As explored in Steven Spielberg's ocean thriller Jaws (1975), the shark had proven to be a formidable force that should only be observed from far distances. It made a lot of people think twice about going back into the water. Smartly capitalizing on the fad and everyone's deepest fears, a producer by the name of Edward L. Montoro made this independent film focusing on a dangerous land animal. The animal of choice for this feature was the grizzly bear. So now instead of scaring the living life out of beach goers, Montoro wanted to make people fear their own backyard. Well done Mr. Montoro.

"Why am I in a Jaws (1975) knock-off?!"
Although the film has its own credited screenwriters, the parallels between this movie and Jaws (1975) are all too familiar. Written by Harvey Flaxman and David Sheldon, the script has few differences in its story. Michael Kelly (Christopher George) is a ranger at the local park and the season for backpackers and hikers has just kicked in. To his dismay a couple of campers were mauled by a grizzly bear and now he's on the hunt with helicopter pilot Don Stober (Andrew Prine) and nature boy Arthur Scott (Richard Jaeckel). Breathing down Kelly's neck is park owner Charley Kittridge (Joe Dorsey), who wants the bear gotten rid of. See the similarities in how the events reflect what goes on in Jaws (1975)? The noticeable changes are that it deals with a bear instead of a shark and it's on land and not at sea. There are even scenes where after the campers are attacked, a posse of hunters go out to kill the bear themselves. Even Kittridge becomes greedy and becomes okay with having the publicity.

The minor changes within the story though deal with Christopher George's character. Unlike the main character of Jaws (1975), Mike Kelly is a single man who hasn't found the right woman in his life yet. Co-starring in this film is another actor by the name of Joan McCall playing Allison Corwin. She initially comes across like she could turn into Kelly's love interest but then goes nowhere. From the start Corwin explained to Kelly that she was trying to finish a project she was working on, but two thirds of the way through she completely vanishes from sight never to be heard from again. Something's a miss here. And McCall's character isn't the only one with an unfinished thread. There are a few others, and doesn't resolve much in the story. It's unbecoming that so much of the screenplay resembles another movie only to not completely take what they've learned and apply it correctly. Why bother introducing a character that adds nothing to anything?

The only true actors to come out unscathed is Christopher George and "Teddy" the bear actor. Although much of his other co-stars have been in several films like him, George is the only actor to try and make his role his own. Christopher George is probably best known for playing a role in the so-bad-it's-so-good film Pieces (1982). This feature would be his next best. The rest of the acting by Andrew Prine and Richard Jaeckel act passably but do not stand out from any other cast member. Andrew Prine would take a minor roll Ronald F. Maxwell's epic of Gettysburg (1993) and Richard Jaeckel would also play a minor role in the science fiction drama Starman (1984). For animal actors, "Teddy" the portrayed grizzly bear killer was quite a looker. In all honesty, the thought of having a real bear on scene was not thought to be likely. Apparently they did have a real bear on set though, and he is something to watch. There are some pretty serious injuries that are filmed too but the actual mauling isn't too believable.

"Teddy" the bear actor
The camerawork that goes with film is mostly doable. The only time it's too unconvincing is when the camera represents the animal attacks. The lens just moves too much to figure out everything. Other than that, the wide panning shots by William L. Asman are visually pleasing. The forest is a big place and the landscape is vast in its scope. The camera is also used as the eyes of the grizzly which has it pushing through brush so as to look like the viewer is the bear. That looks fairly accurate. Although Asman has done cinematography, his main credit is as a camera operator to films like The Rocketeer (1991) and Speed (1994). The music by Robert O. Ragland is also a supportive element to the film. It's by no means anywhere close to as recognizable as John Williams' music, but it has its moments. Sadly there's no main theme, which could've helped the movie greatly. Ragland also made the score to both The Fear (1995) and The Fear: Resurrection (1999). Hmmmmm okay.

As a calling to what could be said as the land version of Jaws (1975), this film fairs out alright but nothing truly great. Only a few actors work among the whole cast and the cinematography is the only good looking visual. The gore is average at best and the script is in a lot of ways very much the same to Jaws  (1975). The music is decent but it's difficult to remember it.

Points Earned --> 6:10

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Return of the Native (1994) Review:

People get caught up in all kinds of things in their everyday lives. Whether it's their career, hobbies or other peoples' problems, some individuals can't seem to let go of their insatiable interest in certain things. Too much of anything isn't good for you in general. However, the most toxic of all topics is getting trapped on a consistent basis is in one's romantic life. Lovers fall for each other all the time, 365 days a year. What they don't understand is how quickly overrun they can become with their emotions. Once this occurs they can become completely distracted and not even see the flaws in the person they desire or the mistakes they might make themselves. It can also cause that same person swamped with lust to neglect anything else that might required some kind of obligation. This is dangerous and must be stopped. For novelist Thomas Hardy, these were themes he focused on a lot. With other written works like Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure, The Return of the Native also visited this subject.

"It's okay Eustacia,...someday you'll meet Zorro"
Eustacia Vye (Catherine Zeta-Jones), is an attractive young woman who lives on a heath in England, but wants to move to France. Her reason for this being that the rest of the town thinks of her as a modern day witch. She's already known for partially seducing Damon Wildeve (Clive Owen), the soon to be husband of Thomasin Yeobright (Claire Skinner), of which Wildeve is more keen on moving away from the heath. That is until Clym Yeobright (Ray Stevenson), the cousin of Thomasin returns from France. When Eustacia and Clym first meet, they become quite infatuated with each other. Not long after they get married and move out of the heath, but not to France. In turn, Vye still longs for France and Wildeve hopes to see Vye once more. Adapted by Robert W. Lenski, the teleplay for this film operates in a way that shows just how muddled people's emotions can get after finding the one they love.  There's lots of back and forth between characters and that's normally how events like these happen. Lenski has written almost all teleplays.

Primetime Emmy nominated director Jack Gold governed this picture. With drama genre films being his strength, Gold knows mostly how to keep the plot engaging. With the threads of Vye, Yeobright and Wildeve taking up much of the plot, Gold and Lenski also work in Diggory Venn (Steven Mackintosh), a field worker who had hopes of marrying Thomasin but was too poor to do so. The person behind this roadblock was Mrs. Yeobright (Joan Plowright). She also feared, like the rest of the town, that Eustacia was the cause of all problems. What doesn't exactly work within the feature are two small areas. The first being that by the finale, one character thread is left unresolved. It's so noticeable, it could make the viewer wonder if the production crew just forgot to film a scene or something. Second, the issue of how English was spoken at the time. According to the story, it is set in 1842, yet the way English is spoken sounds like it belongs to Antoine Fuqua's King Arthur (2004). And yet that took place way before the 1800s.

The emotional drama that occurs throughout the running time though is executed properly by the cast. Since this film is much older now, it is quite a sight to see such big name actors in their younger years. Catherine Zeta-Jones as Eustacia Vye is quite the onlooker and is very skilled in getting what she wants from the people who can't resist her. That is until she meets Cylm Yeobright. For Clive Owen as Damon Wildeve, it's unusual seeing him play a character that's not so caring of others. Owen doesn't play it as a jerk, but is somewhat difficult to sympathize with. Ray Stevenson was the right choice to play Clym Yeobright. Stevenson plays Clym like a true gentleman and is also the one viewers should condole with mostly. Both Stevenson and Zeta-Jones have good chemistry on screen and are quite a pair (as some minor characters stated in the movie itself). What's more surprising is that Owen and Stevenson would end up starring together a decade later in King Arthur (2004). Fancy that.

A young Clive Owen
For supporting characters, Claire Skinner as Thomasin is a caring young woman. Although she may seem slightly weak at first, she does manage to take hold of the reigns and lead the way occasionally. Steven Mackintosh plays rather an underrated and overlooked character as Diggory Venn. He's also the best example of how patience pays off when it comes to treating your enemies with respect. Mackintosh was also in Brian Henson's The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992). For visuals, even for a TV film, the cinematography was very palatable by Alan Hume. Much of the picture contains the 1800s homes and surrounding grasslands in the country. It's very beautiful to look at, even with a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Hume also worked on Zeppelin (1971), Octopussy (1983) and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983). As for music, another unreleased soundtrack this time by composer Carl Davis was well produced too. Containing a repeating main title, the tune isn't completely memorable but does replay often.

Looking past some very minor places within this feature, this old romance story is a fascinating drama that will keep the attention of its audience. The actors are younger than ever, the music has an outlining theme and the camerawork is very pretty.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Dreamer: Inspired By a True Story (2005) Review:

Movies based on true events can be a challenge to make when it comes to keeping the facts straight. Depending on who's making the movie and how much they want to bend the truth, the end result can come out resembling nothing like the narrative that motivated it. Another factor would be how heavily involved the originating source was to the production. With their input, much of the authenticity remains intact. For the story of a filly that got the chance to race in one of the biggest racing cups, the actual horses associated with the event may not be in it but they are represented accurately. For John Gatins, the writer of Coach Carter (2005), Real Steel (2011), Flight (2012) and Power Rangers (2017), this story in particular must have struck a chord with him in some way. Being that this was the only production he directed and wrote simultaneously, this project really must have meant something. Directing and writing is not easy to do. However Gatins seems like he can handle such an assignment.

"Hmmmm,....I see in your future,...a movie adaptation...."
Ben Crane (Kurt Russell) is a professional horseman who races horses. At one point he used to raise horses but soon got caught up in the business end of things. His father referred to as Pop (Kris Kristofferson) doesn't speak much to him because of his career change. His wife Lily (Elisabeth Shue) is a hard worker and loves both him and Pop. Above all else Crane's daughter Cale (Dakota Fanning) is the biggest horse enthusiast. Constantly curious and trying to understand what her father is up to, Ben brings Cale to a race track to see a horse by the name of Soñador (Spanish for Dreamer). Although Soñador indirectly was telling Ben she couldn't race, Ben's boss Palmer (David Morse) pushes him anyway. As a direct result Soñador ends up having an accident fracturing her cannon bone. Fearing she may be put down in front of Cale, Ben decides to buy off Soñador from Palmer and nurse her back to health. There after starts a chain of events that leads to bigger and tenser events.

The whole film by itself is something hard to find a problem with. The story is well written, has characters that go through the right kind of development and demonstrate that sometimes it's not always business as usual. If you fight for what you want no matter the length of time, more often than not the odds will favor you. The only part that might seem a bit unrealistic for this movie is when Ben Crane looks into the eyes of his horse and can understand what they're telling him. Okay, it's kind of believable if a person has that much experience with a certain animal but it is also somewhat far-fetched. A step away from that, the script handles the plot well. Kurt Russell as Ben Crane is favorable lead and has a character arc that is rightfully sympathetic. Kris Kristofferson as Pop Crane as the grizzled version of his son is a good anchor for the family. The casting is also spot on because Kristofferson does look very much like an older Kurt Russell to some degree. Out of them though, Dakota Fanning stands out the most.

Having a child actor as the lead can be a gamble sometimes, but Fanning as Cale Crane is an enjoyable young star. Her smile and honest demeanor shows that she truly liked the part she was cast for. She's also the one who drives the story along with Soñador. David Morse as Ben's competitor does a great job at showing just how good of an antagonist he can be. He's not an irritating one, but does know how to get under one's skin in an effective way. David Morse was also in other big name films like The Rock (1996), The Green Mile (1999), The Hurt Locker (2008) and Drive Angry (2011). Rounding out the supporting cast was Freddy Rodríguez and Luis Guzmán as the secondary caretakers to Soñador with Ben and Cale Crane. Both Freddy and Luis in their respective roles added small portions of comedy to help lighten the mood at times. Rodríguez has gone onto participate in more TV shows like The Night Shift and Bull. While Guzmán remains an actor on the big screen being in films like Keanu (2016) and The Do-Over (2016).

Luis Guzmán & Dakota Fanning
Even from The Mummy (1999) fame, actor Oded Fehr has a minor appearance as certain character who affects the fate of the main characters. He may not have a lot to say but it's a credible showing. For what's on screen, the cinematography shot by Fred Murphy looks wonderful. Caught on a wide screen aspect ratio, Murphy's work can be really appreciated. Majority of the shots contain green pastures and other rural landscapes. The best shots though belong to the racing scenes, which really capture the beauty of how the horses run and the way they maneuver. Murphy also worked on films October Sky (1999) and Secret Window (2004). Completing the final component for this feature was the film score composed by John Debney. With other family projects to his credit like Spy Kids (2001), Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001) and The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (2015), this particular genre feels natural. Debney's score is one of those prime examples of how a non franchise film can use a reoccurring main theme that works.

There's very little that doesn't captivate here. The script has a small part that gets a little beyond credibility but overall it's hard not to find it engaging. Actors, cinematography and music all converge on one another to make a gratifying viewing experience.

Points Earned --> 8:10

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Ed Gein (2000) Review:

After the gruesome discovery residents of Plainfield had made when entering the house of Ed Gein, no one knew the genre of horror would change forever. With Robert Bloch publishing his thriller novel "Psycho" in 1959, Hollywood would end up taking the story and twisting it into various iterations. Alfred Hitchcock's adaptation of Psycho (1960) of the same name frightened many at the time. Skip a decade or so and Tobe Hooper would do the same thing in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). Without Ed Gein or his contorted history, the stories of horror, fans have today to enjoy would not exist. It is unfortunate though that such events had to occur in order to develop such iconic creations. Up until that point though nobody had really made a movie based on the actual inspiration himself. Ed Gein had only been written about prior and was still alive up until the mid 1980s. Putting a production together that solely focused on the background / life of Ed Gein is just as intriguing as the other popular horror movies.

Carrie Snodgress
The running time mainly follows Ed Gein  (Steve Railsback) to the point of where he begins to commit his heinous acts that many never saw coming. Inserted at different points are flashback sequences that show what brought him to that point. These flashbacks pursue his upbringing from young boy to middle-aged adult. Living under the strict rule of his mother (Carrie Snodgress), Gein transforms from a timid adolescent, to a man with a distorted sense of reality. Writing the screenplay to this indie film was Stephen Johnston. For the most part, the story feels pretty solid. Certain scenes within the movie do contain moments that are unrealistic, but this appears when Gein has already hit his psychosis so it can be assumed that only he is seeing these things. However there are factual errors to the story. Certain names and events were changed. For example, the owner of the hardware store that Gein had killed was Bernice Worden. In this feature it was Collette Marshall (Carol Mansell). Maybe it was legal issue?

Or the deputy who arrested Gein was named Arch Sly, but here his name is Sheriff Jim Stillwell (Pat Skipper). Even the way of which Gein's disgusting hobby was discovered has a slightly altered telling as to what other sources say. Perhaps director Chuck Parello modified these scenes to make it more dramatic. But why - a true story is way more convincing. Aside from this, the rest of the story execution is captivating enough. The subplot between Gein and Mary Hogan (Sally Champlin) is fascinating. Parello even delves into what might have happened to Ed's brother Henry (Brian Evers), since his death still remains unknown. This is by far the best personification of the life of Ed Gein in the most realistic fashion. From an upbringing with his religious mother, to his plunging mental health on his own. After this movie, Johnston also wrote for psychotic films like Bundy (2002) and The Hillside Strangler (2004). Parello is best known for directing this feature and Henry II: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1996).

Gein is displayed as a truly lost individual with no clear sense of control or guidance. Steve Railsback as Ed Gein puts in the right amount of effort to show how much he studied the role. Railsback brings the deranged individual to life with quiet and restrained intent. There's enough to show that there's something not all there. Railsback has been in several film productions, his most famous being The X-Files and Lifeforce (1985). Carrie Snodgress as Augusta Gein is even more convincing being that she was the force that drove her son into lunacy. Citing biblical stories and forewarning her sons of the dangers of sinful people. Snodgress was also in other films like Easy Rider (1969) and Pale Rider (1985). The third actor that best fits the mold of their character was Sally Champlin as Mary Hogan. Not only did she fit the character visually but matched Hogan's described personality as well. All other cast members within the film work well too but do not stand out because their roles are not as prevalent.

"Don't I look purrty?"
Being that this is an independent film, the visuals are not as perfected but help paint the story. Some of the digital effects look lightly rendered onto the picture, which isn't horrible but not great. There are practical effects though for the skin / bone cannibal like activities that Gein was interested in and what psychologists suspected. The cinematography shot by Vanja Cernjul worked for the film. It wasn't filmed in a wide aspect ratio, but it did get the needed shots in order to convey the correct atmosphere for how Plainfield might have felt at the time. Cernjul was also the cinematographer to American Psycho II: All American Girl (2002). For music, Robert McNaughton composed the film score. For an unreleased film score the music does its job efficiently. It's unfortunate that there was no main theme of any sort. McNaughton also scored both Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986), its sequel and is related to the director of the first; John McNaughton.

By no means is it a gory horror film with the most recognizable icon. The script also adapts certain parts of the history correctly, while other times is misses the mark completely. No matter what though, the main leads fill the shoes professionally, the story is tempting to watch, the music fits the atmosphere as well as the visual style.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Monday, July 10, 2017

Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009) Review:

When the first Universal Soldier (1992) film came out, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren were very much in their prime of popularity. Both had been in their fair share of widely known movies and were often included into the same category as Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. It was also the movie that had one of the earliest collaborations between the big name action stars aside from Rocky IV (1985). Later on the series went underground to TV sequels but did not fair well financially due to the lack of star power. A few years later, Van Damme came back to the series in Universal Soldier: The Return (1999) but it too failed horribly. The poor writing in general and silly nature of the end product felt nothing like the first movie. With that it was no shock that the franchise remained dead a good decade before producers thought maybe another film could be made. When they did, it was met with open arms but also rolling eyes. It was passable at best but not good.

"Uhhhh,....am I supposed to be punching him?"
Instead of being a third story time line to the original, one could consider this the first real sequel to Universal Soldier (1992). The reason behind this being that it completely ignores the events of Universal Soldier: The Return (1999) and has a more serious tone. The Ukranian Prime Minister's children have been captured by terrorist leader Topov (Zachary Baharov) and held in Chernobyl as ransom. Special forces are developing a plan to get them out but are stuck because Topov has teamed up with scientist Dr. Colin (Kerry Shale) from the UniSol project now known as Black Tower. On their side they have the next generation UniSol or NGU (Andrei Arlovski), an emotionless killing machine. After a few attempts it is decided by Dr. Porter (Gary Cooper), another scientist from the Black Tower project, to bring back Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme). However Colins has a backup and that's having Andrew Scott's body (Dolph Lundgren) on standby if a problem arises.

For a continuation of the original story, the writing is average at its greatest. Yet there are still a lot of unanswered questions. So what did become of Veronica Roberts (Ally Walker)? How is Andrew Scott's body intact after the finale of Universal Soldier (1992)? Again, the UniSol project was only known by a select group of scientists so where was Dr. Colins and Dr. Porter? These questions just begin to add up over time. Written by Victor Ostrovsky (in his only credit ever), the only thing in the script that is relatively untainted is the fact that Deveraux has been in rehabilitation since the end of Universal Soldier (1992). But as for development very little of what Deveraux feels is explained and his reconvening with Scott only triggers old memories. Nothing is explained as to how both of them feel. It even seemed at one point that Scott was thinking about something but he ends up getting cut short. Why throw in something that might work only to completely negate it?

There's also appearances from others like Corey Johnson, Mike Pyle, Emily Joyce and even son of the star himself, Kris Van Damme. Directing this feature is John Hyams, the son of director Peter Hyams. Hyams Sr. was the man behind 2010 (1984) and would later direct End of Days (1999). The direction here by John Hyams isn't that impressive. It's very linear in story structure. However when it comes action, the stunts and sequences are well staged. Much of the action that occurs throughout the running time are energetic by default and are very lively. The types of violence ranges from hand-to-hand combat, shootouts to improvised weapons. Also the interactions between Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme are noteworthy to view. Since these two characters share a history together that boils both their blood, it's interesting to have the two meet in a situation that is very familiar to them. Andrei Arlovski as NGU is a competent fighter too but since his character has very few words, not much can be said.

Andrei Arlovski
Camerawork was managed by Peter Hyams, which was unfortunately disappointing. Seeing that Hyams Sr. has had previous experience in doing cinematography, it's surprising that here the look to this picture is so unappealing. With credits to movies like 2010 (1984), Running Scared (1986), Narrow Margin (1990) and Timecop (1994), the visuals to this film should've look at least okay. Instead many scenes have dull colors and the backgrounds look to much like everything else surrounding it. Music was another problem when viewing this sequel. Composed by Kris Hill and Michael Krassner, the music is just as forgettable. Featuring only a few different cues, much of the sounds are just electronic clicks and warps. There's really no main theme and the cues for various sequences are about as anonymous as they get. As far as it's known, not even an official release of the music has been announced. So it's even harder for a fan of the music to really enjoy it. Although it would be hard to say whether it's worth it or not.

Stepping up from the previous sequel, the script attempts to connect to the first film. Yet only a couple places does it actually work. Camerawork and music aren't that good but Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme are fun watch on screen again and the action is good too.

Points Earned --> 5:10
x

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Power Rangers (2017) Review:

In the early 1990s, the Power Rangers TV show was a big thing when it came out. With its big action set pieces and varying evil characters to combat, many kids found the show to be a lot of fun growing up. Since then the show has continued to be superseded by different kinds of rangers. The style and execution of the show very much remained the same but the difference was in the designs and settings. Every few years seemed like a new version of the Power Rangers were being made. Prior to that, two movies were made featuring the original rangers. Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie (1995) and Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie both attempted to bring about more fans but only succeeded with the first. The show was what really kept the franchise afloat. Being that it's so popular though, producers finally thought it was time to reboot the series with a brand new film. Modernization of the characters, suits, and villains were something that was bound to happen. In the end, it was alright.
Related image
"So,...will this make us cool again?"
Seeing that this is a reboot film, the script was handled as an origin story. Written by John Gatins, audiences are introduced to a bunch of misfits that can't seem to find a break in their lives. Jason (Dacre Montgomery) is a football player who just blew is last shot at getting a scholarship for a dumb prank he tried to pull. Kim (Naomi Scott) was once a cheerleader who made an ill-fated social media post that got her in trouble. Billy (RJ Cyler) is just a book worm techie and gets caught in the wrong situations. Zack (Ludi Lin) and Trini (Becky G.) are both outsiders who try to stay as secluded as possible from the town they live in. Before they know it, they cross paths together after discovering mystical colored coins. Upon making this discovery, they then run into Alpha 5 (Bill Hader) and Zordon (Bryan Cranston), the original owners of the glowing coins. There they learn what the power rangers were all about and that an ex ranger by the name Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) must be stopped before she destroys their world.

The development of the main leads are adequate. Although they make questionable decisions at first, viewers can get attached to them. The actors portraying those characters do an acceptable job. With the cast only having big name actors as the supporting roles, this gives ample time for the lesser-known thespians to shine. Out of that group, nobody takes the spotlight more than the other. They all have their moments to grow and that's always a sign the writer is thinking properly. What doesn't make sense though is that once these individuals start to train as power rangers, everyone in school treats them exactly the opposite. That's not realistically believable. On top of that Billy is a wiz at almost everything and even discovers an important plot device that Repulsa is looking for. How he finds is not explained and makes no sense. Putting that aside though, the rest of the storytelling is decent. Gatins was also the writer to Real Steel (2011), Need for Speed (2014) and Kong: Skull Island (2017).

The direction was also competently controlled by Dean Israelite. What's more surprising is that Israelite had only directed one other theatrical feature which had a much smaller budget and only made twice as much back. The film was Project Almanac (2015), which was released in late January. When movies are released then, most are because they are not very good films. But all the power to Israelite for moving up. The action sequences that begin to occur around the middle of the film are well staged. Any CGI that was used in those scenes were also rendered effectively not to look fake. One of the more unique designs was to Repulsa's Goldar. Made completely of molten liquid gold, the flow of how the liquid gold moves is not seen on many creatures. The power ranger suits was another change that was done in order to not date the costume. This worked in their favor because although it's metallic armor, it looks much more durable than to that of the older style suits. Like they actually could take a beating.


Related image
Bryan Cranston as Zordon
Camerawork for this film was a mixed bag however. Shot by Matthew J. Lloyd, the cinematography is a hybrid of shaky cam, rotating panoramic shots and traditional shooting. The classical filmmaking parts were fine; nothing to mention there. The shaky cam and rotating shots are another problem. Shaky cam is always an issue because the motions can be nauseating even if the idea is to create realism. As for the rotating shots, it can get very dizzying. Lloyd got some professional shots but anything else is nothing to be impressed with. He also filmed for Cop Car (2015) and Project Almanac (2015). Rounding out the  technical elements was music composed by Brian Tyler. In the past, Tyler's music has been used for many different action films and here it sounds very stock in its own way. For some reason he doesn't translate the Power Rangers main theme but it's not all neglected. Tyler seems to have taken an alternate approach to his music. In certain areas, cues will sound close Daft Punk's sound. Interesting.

Modernizing the power rangers franchise wasn't a bad idea at all. Much of the work put into this feature manages to stand out with relatively necessary development of characters. The action is permissible and the music fits the genre to a degree. The only problem is the script misses some key points and the cinematography is uneven in presentation.

Points Earned - -> 6:10

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Hunley (1999) Review:

The American Civil War is one of those times that history buffs love to revel in because of how tragic the war was. There have been so many personal stories revealed over decades about various people on both sides who fought the odds to prove themselves to others. Even in bigger events, there were people who had stories like this. Ronald F. Maxwell's Gettysburg (1993) and Gods and Generals (2003) were just a couple from a cluster of films made to shed light on these individuals. By far the most ingenious invention ever made during this period was the Hunley submarine used shortly by the confederates in 1864. Not long after, the Civil War would end in 1865. What's surprising is that not only was the Hunley the first of its kind to be a fully functioning combat sub, but it also vanished quickly after it was brought into the world. Discovered at the bottom of the ocean in 1995, it was then salvaged in 2000. In 1999, this TV Movie was made to try and explain what might have happened the last time it was used.

Image result for the hunley 1999
Lt. Dixon speaking to his crew
Written and directed by John Gray (White Irish Drinkers (2010)), the story follows Lieutenant George Dixon (Armand Assante), a real life officer who volunteered to be the leader of the Hunley sub experiment. After a couple failed launches, Dixon tries one last time and recruit a team that'll make the mission a success. Soon he finds Simkins (Chris Bauer), Collins (Sebastian Roché), Wicks (Michael Stuhlbarg), Miller (Jeff Mandon), Becker (Michael Dolan), White (Frank Vogt) and his second in command Lt. Alexander (Alex Jennings). After being given the "go-ahead" by General Beauregard (Donald Sutherland), Dixon begins his preparation with his crew to use the Hunley. The script was also co-written John Fasano, the same writer to some bad to decent films like Universal Soldier: The Return (1999), Sniper: Reloaded (2011) and Sniper: Legacy (2014). For a story based mostly on fact, it's a decent watch. The problem is that it is predictable in a war drama sort of way. It's rather obvious as to how it'll play out.

This can be troublesome for viewers because this does not permit the experience to be very suspenseful. It's unfortunate that that is how the story structure comes across. John Gray seems like a competent director but the execution follows a structure very close to other heroes who were believed to be a lost cause. However this particular issue does not take away the quality of the main leads. Both Armand Assante and Donald Sutherland emote correctly for the scenes required. They are also given backstories that allow the viewer to understand why they are who they are. Before Lt. Dixon went off on the Hunley mission, he was a regular infantryman and was narrowly saved by a gunshot that struck a coin given to him by his wife (Caprice Benedetti) before leaving. As time goes on, Dixon also realizes that he and General Beauregard share the same interests. The supporting cast is what suffers the most in development though. Although their actual histories were unclear, this gave the liberty to play with that.

Chris Bauer as Simkins is the brawn and misses his wife. Sebastian Roché as Collins is frequently combative with others. Alex Jennings as Lt. Alexander gets seasick easy but will loyally follow his first in command. Aside from those three, everyone else has brief backgrounds given just to give them one character trait. One can catch fish with his hands and another speaks French. Not exactly the most important of attributes. Even the individuals focused on more like Simkins, Collins and Alexander aren't that greatly developed. Visual aspects to the film were largely credible though. For 1999, there are some bits that contain CGI, but they're not extensive enough to carry a full act in the film. That goes for things like quick cuts to the Hunley submarine underwater or a few explosions. The rest of what was put on screen were mainly practical sets and props. Clips that had city structures and interior shots of the Hunley were impressive to look at. The team behind making that prop made an accurate representation of it.

Image result for the hunley 1999 donald sutherland
"Ready to dive Dixon?"
The camerawork handled by John Thomas was relatively good. Although the film was made for TV and did not have a wide lens, the shots were nice to look at. Exterior scenes that contained the city sets look voluminous and the inside of the Hunley certainly looked cramped and uncomfortable for anyone to enjoy. Each shot gave what was needed in order to convey the correct setting to the audience that was watching. John Thomas would later shoot for big name movies like Sex and the City (2007) and Sex in the City 2 (2010). Randy Edelman composed the film score for sound. Being that Edelman had produced the widely underrated music to Gettysburg (1993), it's only appropriate that he scored this film as well. Since the story is not on large a scale, the music is not as grand in sound. The tracks contain more solo pieces from either trumpet or snare drums. Both contribute equally though and  bring the right feeling for each scene especially dealing with Dixon. All in all it's a good watch but not as unique as one would think.

Structurally the execution is not anything special, the supporting characters are not well developed and a lot the suspense is removed since it is known what happened to the civil war sub. However the actors are believable, the visuals, cinematography and music all help bring it to a level that is doable for a civil war film.

Points Earned --> 6:10

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Fate of the Furious (2017) Review:

Putting all criticisms aside, it is truly amazing how quickly this franchise has expanded. In a matter of less than two decades, a simple racecar thriller known as The Fast and the Furious (2001) has created practically as many sequels as the original Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) did. That's mind blowing. This should prove to viewers who do and don't enjoy it that the producers must know what they're doing when each film passes its predecessor. However being that actor Vin Diesel has clearly stated that there will only be 10 entries in the story, it's rather difficult to think anyone would stop there. Some fans might have hoped that after Furious 7 (2015) was released, would mark the end of the series. Looking at it that way would make sense because of how well the film sent off Paul Walker and his character. With that, there was concern of how the next entry would deal with this absence. Don't worry though, everyone on board seemed to have thought of everything.

"So now we gotta get Dom?!"
Sometime after the events of Furious 7 (2015), Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are relaxing when Toretto is confronted by a person called Cipher (Charlize Theron). Not long after blackmailing him, Cipher begins using Toretto to do her dirty work. This in turn betrays the family he has been so heavily involved with from the start. Trying to stop Toretto, Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) arrives and adds Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) to the crew, which many hesitate on. Yet Letty, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Roman Pierce (Tyrese Gibson), Tej Parker (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) all know they need all the help they can get. Cipher also has a deadly yes-man by the name of Rhodes (Kristofer Hivju) who isn't afraid to kill. Meanwhile Mr. Nobody added a newbie to his roster too, that being Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood). But that's not all, there's several other character appearances. Writer Chris Morgan seems to know just how to give a wink and nod at every turn.

Character development is continuously growing throughout the entries. New roles are added, which then in turn begin to build on their foundation with a series of trials that'll prove themselves to others. All actors within the story give amiable performances. This goes for protagonists and antagonists. The fast crew all have great quips with each other and even manage to respectfully squeeze in a reference or two to Paul Walker's character. The comedic elements are what really help push the likability of these characters. Seeing Tej and Roman or Luke and Deckard bicker, is all for a good laugh. Little Nobody shows that even he can be funny due to his lack of understanding with the original crew. Charlize Theron and Kristofer Hivju as the two baddies are great at being the villains. They show no mercy in their killing. This will also show to the fans that the people working on this movie know how to play with one's emotions. Not everything is green pastures for the fast crew.

The sequences involving action are well staged. It's also great to know that director F. Gary Gray utilized as many practical effects as he could. And like always, the action is turned up another notch to the point of being unexpected. Each time, the stunts get crazier and crazier. Lots of cars were destroyed, there's no doubt about that. Unfortunately there is one minor gripe about this. When things start to get harry in New York, the scene will possibly become a little over gratuitous in its delivery. There's a point where so many cars are getting wrecked, it can get comparatively overwhelming. At some point viewers might ask, "Okay we get it, how much of that is needed?" kind of question. Labeling that as an isolated issue, the rest of the sequences are fine because it is not so blatant in its destruction. As for the physical possibilities of handling these scenarios, it's highly unlikely. This franchise is at a point though where belief has to be suspended to a point.

Charlize Theron
Camerawork has always been a strong point in the franchise's last few entries and it remains that way. Thanks to Stephen F. Windon, the way the camera captures all action and visuals blends very well together. Again this all goes back to finding ways of being creative. There are several angular shots that work to give the viewer a better of idea of what it's like to be in a certain situation. This also applies to the non action related shots. Wide scope panning shots are also much appreciated in letting the viewer take in the sights to see what and where the characters dwell. All visually pleasing. Another weak point however is Brian Tyler's musical score. Although he has been scoring the franchise for a number of entries now, there's not much to mention over it because its sole purpose is just to elevate the experience with no emotional weight. That's not to say it isn't composed competently, but it does not add to the pressure of what is being presented on screen. All in all though, another solid entry.

Fortunately for this franchise, the cast and crew know how to keep pushing each new film to entertain. The music is sadly undetectable and one action scene feels a little too much, but other than that, the rest of the action, the actors, camerawork and story make another great installment in the series.

Points Earned --> 7:10


Friday, March 24, 2017

Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings (1993) Review:

In Stan Winston's career, he was known as the master of visual effects. Whether that was practical or special effects, filmmakers could always rely on the creativity and quality of Stan Winston and his team. With credits belonging to films like The Terminator (1984) and Aliens (1986), it would be difficult to find someone match his integrity. As good as he was at his craft, Winston did delve into other positions of the movie industry. Being in the makeup department was his second most utilized role. However in 1988, Winston took a stab at directing a feature film and thus ended up producing Pumpkinhead (1988). Although it did not achieve the accolades that other horror films had garnered before it, Winston's directorial debut has gained much love over the years. It was not a masterpiece in every aspect but it sure entertained. The film is underrated and rightly deserves its cult following. But like every starter film comes sequels that baffle. Unfortunately not even Winston's creation was immune.

"Uhhhh,....I thought this was Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth"
In this sequel, Sean Braddock (Andrew Robinson) is a new sheriff in town who's looking to do some good. Regrettably, Sheriff Braddock is not greeted with warm smiles. A local by the name of Judge Dixon (Steve Kanaly) feels he's entitled to whatever he pleases because he's rich. On top of that, Braddock has an unstable connection with his daughter Jenny (Ami Dolenz). Meanwhile Jenny has a love hate relationship with Danny (J. Trevor Edmond), the son of Judge Dixon. Trying to fit in, Jenny heads out with Danny and his gang when they end up crossing paths with a witch who has the spell book to summon Pumpkinhead. Believing it to be a myth, Danny goes through the ritual and ends up summoning the demon he thought wouldn't appear. Interestingly enough Constantine and Ivan Chachornia are the writers of which never went anywhere after this. It's quite sad because this film has several flaws in its execution. Even weirder is that three of the writers from the original film served as creative consultants. And it's still bad.

Of all things, the biggest sin this sequel commits is dating itself. The story is all too familiar dealing with characters that are in over their head and others that know things before the main leads. There really is no value to this kind of twist. Then there's the actors themselves. Aside from Andrew Robinson and Ami Dolenz, the rest of the actors are largely annoying and forgettable. J. Trevor Edmond and his gang consisting of actors the likes of Soleil Moon Frye, a very young Hill Harper (CSI: NY) and Alexander Polinsky are all very obnoxious. The overall attitude is "let's take things to the extreme", a very 90s mentality. Of course once chaos erupts, then everybody fends for themselves in the silliest ways. It's all very stock and unoriginal. Nobody cares for these people. There's also several areas that go unexplained. The reason as to why Pumpkinhead is brought to life isn't for the reason a fan might think. The good news Pumpkinhead doesn't have any particular bloodline that he follows.

However the reason that is used, carries little emotional weight because it is all indirect in its story telling. There's also unclear continuity as to when and if this story is tied at all to the original Pumpkinhead (1988) movie. There's another scraggly old lady in this movie,...so is it the same witch from the prior film? If so when does this story take place? Before? After? Does it matter? Plus there's a subplot about the mayor (Roger Clinton) of the town popping in and out of a few scenes discussing whether Pumpkinhead's killings would bring in revenue from the media. Not a necessary plot thread. Poor director Jeff Burr. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre III: Leatherface (1990) was an average film at best and now he has another sequel with lackluster quality. It's obvious that Burr likes making horror films but the studios that oversee him always give him problems. Surprisingly even the minor characters are played by other familiar actors. Gloria Hendry, R.A. Mihailoff and Joe Unger are some to name a few.

Ami Dolenz & J. Trevor Edmond
For a direct-to-video film, the practical effects are acceptable. Mark McCracken as Pumpkinhead has the height and the costume itself looks similar to that of the original film. It is apparent that the facial articulation and smoothness in its movements aren't as polished as before though. Even the violence and gore is alright. This makes up for some of the dull writing seen throughout. The cinematography by Bill Dill was frustrating to watch. Several times the lenses move in and out on Pumpkinhead as if to look scary when all it does is make the experience feel cheaper than usual. It won't give the viewer a sense of the surrounding and it's also a bit disorienting. The music was thankfully a plus for what it was worth. Jim Manzie a composer who worked hard with Jeff Burr to release his score to the third Texas Chain Saw film, unfortunately did not get a chance to do it in full here. The main title although recognizable doesn't sound as creepy as the original but works when it has to. Mostly.

By all means it could've been a lot worse, but it is not good entertainment either. The effects aren't bad for a home video release and the film score isn't out of place. Yet a very small number of actors come off trying and the story lacks continuity and compelling storytelling.

Points Earned --> 4:10

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Shining (1980) Review:

For many horror fans and filmmakers especially, site director Stanley Kubrick as a part of their inspiration to make movies. Kubrick had a reputation for being a director with a unique vision. Many of his films had aesthetically pleasing visuals and shots that were hard to find amateurish. He was after all a photographer before a filmmaker, which helped give him that edge. When it came to stories, another person who was constantly sought after to get permission for their works was Stephen King. Although King was not in the Hollywood business full time as other people, what he did provide were foundations to creating new horror films. Since its release, Kubrick's interpretation of Stephen King's The Shining text was widely praised for how intense the viewing experience was. Since then, much of the crew members have surfaced and spoke about the film and the level of involvement Kubrick demanded. Oddly enough, King wasn't that impressed with it. Believe it or not, King might be right.

"Son,...look into my eyes and tell me I'm pretty"
Adapted by Kubrick and Diane Johnson (in her first and only screenplay), the story is about writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) looking to find a place of seclusion to finish his project. He ends up finding an opening position as the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. Finding it worthy of his goal, Torrance brings his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) to live with him from the fall to the summer of next year. Little do they realize that the hotel harbors an ominous spirit that has connections to a horrific past. As an overall story, the execution is very well done. However there are certain elements that if omitted, would not have impacted the experience in a negative way. Danny has a psychic ability where one can see events from the past and future. This talent is called "shining". This is only revealed to Danny and the audience when Dick Halloran (Scatman Crothers) concedes that he can do it too. What isn't mentioned is how on earth anybody knows what "shining" is. How does one contract such a power? Is it through genetics or by other  entities that be? The other big hole in the story is the lack of explanation for certain key events. How is a viewer supposed to understand what Kubrick's message is? 

It doesn't make any sense and it's sometimes sillier than it is disturbing. Everything else about the production on a written and visual level all work effectively to create a dark and disconcerting haunted house feature. The performances by Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall are neck and neck in quality. Nicholson easily can look off his rocker while Duvall reacts perfectly to her co-star's outbursts. Nicholson's eyebrows also add to his menacing look (as weird as that sounds). Danny Lloyd is definitely not as skilled as Duvall or Nicholson but can still freak out the audience with his mouth agape look. Very unsettling. There's also other short appearances from Barry Nelson as the prior caretaker to Mr. Torrance and Mr. Durkin (Tony Burton). 

Scatman Crothers as the cook to the hotel is an interesting character. It is because of his talk with Danny that adds to the suspense of the dangers that lurk within the building. The imagery that is displayed however is what really drives home the concept of dread that precedes the hotel. What is great about how Kubrick directs this film, is that it is not treated like many other mainstream horror films. Jump scares do not exist in this film. It all relies on mysteries and off-putting flashes of different scenes. These quick scene cuts are not annoying either. They're intriguing because it makes the viewer question "what is going on". At first "REDRUM" is a questionable component to the narrative but overtime, the meaning is exposed. Though it may be obvious or rather uneventful to some when light is shed on the matter, it will be for those not use to the Kubrick method of execution. Remember, Kubrick was also the director to Paths of Glory (1957), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and A Clockwork Orange (1971). 

Shelley Duvall
If anyone is looking for gore though, the volume is very low. Is there bloody violence - yes, but not enough to satisfy someone who enjoys lots of victims. Camerawork by John Alcott was wonderfully captivating. Having worked with Kubrick before, Alcott knows how a scene needed to be shot. Every scene has wide angle lenses that have static movements that rarely rotate. Also the technique of very slow zoom-ins are implemented and that helps the viewer focus in on what Kubrick was trying to convey. Alcott also worked on Terror Train (1980). Music on the other hand was a mixed bag. Composed by Wendy Carlos (best known for her score to Tron (1982)) and Rachel Elkind, the music used is effective but only in certain areas. In some parts its perfect with its deep drawn out strings and synths, which represents the dire threat that lives with the Torrance family. While in other places, it gets dragged out far too long when a scene is no longer that worrisome. It's not bad but could've been used better.
 

Some parts within the script could've been left out completely and the story would've run smoother. The music works but far extends some scenes for no reason. Aside from this, the acting, creepy imagery and unique cinematography make this a different horror film worth seeing.

Points Earned --> 6:10

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Get Carter (2000) Review:

Unless the people involved in a remake of an original film from the past truly have a passion for what they're doing, most people do not have high hopes for the overall outcome. Many viewers do not believe there are needs to reconstruct or modernize their favorite film property. Different interpretations are not normally accepted because the deviate too far from what made the original so memorable. Actor Sir Michael Caine has proven in many projects that he is quite the capable performer. Even before he starred in the first Get Carter (1971), Caine had had a number of good roles. Get Carter (1971) was one his best roles of the 70s and it forever stuck with him. By the late 1990s, Sylvester Stallone on other hand had hit a slump in his career. After supposedly retiring from action films (which does hold up today), Stallone took part in lesser acclaimed films. Most of these tanked or were not even theatrically released. This film is one of those blunders during that time but it isn't as bad as some say.
Image result for get carter 2000
"Hmmm,...not sure as to why people don't like me...."
Basing its premise off the original, Jack Carter (Sylvester Stallone) learns the death of his brother. Feeling his brother's death was no accident, Carter begins investigating who and what might be the reason for his personal loss. The people Carter begins questioning are suspects like Geraldine (Rhona Mitra), Eddie (Johnny Strong), Jeremy Kinnear (Alan Cumming), Cliff Brumby (Michael Caine) and Cyrus Paice (Mickey Rourke). All of these individuals have some kind of connection to Carter's brother. On top of that, Carter tries to figure out to reconcile his personal career with his family. His brother's wife (Miranda Richardson) doesn't really want him around and her daughter (Rachael Leigh Cook) doesn't understand him. Both of which are trying to cope with their loss. All in all the rewritten screenplay by David McKenna wasn't bad. McKenna was also the writer to widely acclaimed American History X (1998). It's not flawless like many scripts but it is workable. Here's what doesn't work first though.

There are several unnecessary aspects going on throughout the running time. Unlike the original where Carter was a gangster, this time he's a hired bouncer of sorts. There's a subplot where Carter is having an affair with his boss' mistress. There's no real payoff for this plot thread. It gets resolved but there isn't much to feel for it because of how little it's focused on. Also some specific and significant plot points are not as clear as some might think. This can get confusing if one isn't paying attention enough. The other problem belongs to the editing executed by Gerald B. Greenberg. Greenberg who's had a long career should know better. The problem is having fast to slow film editing for quick snippets of the movie. What's the point of speeding up a scene for a few seconds, then to have it play a regular speed for a few seconds and then speed it up a few seconds again? That's not style, that's needless speed adjustments. Other than these issues, the film plays out okay.

Although he hasn't gone on to direct numerous other theatrical features, Stephen Kay's direction was doable for the story. Kay has had more recent credits as an actor in general hospital. The actors achieve what they set out to do. Sylvester Stallone's acting is not at the level of emotion hard hitting level and that's not expected with this character. His performance is supposed to feel relatively disconnected from everyone else because nobody else does what he does. That's why his niece and sister in law is not sure how to converse with him. Rachael Leigh Cook is believable as Carter's niece considering she starter her career much earlier than this feature. Alan Cumming and Mickey Rourke both play their characters well. Rourke plays his role the most relaxed and comfortable. Even Michael Caine has a significant role, of which he has quite a harsh tongue as well. Even with Stallone saying he was retiring from the action genre, this film still has action sequences.


Rachel Leigh Cook
Are they as brutal as some of Stallone's other R-rated films - no. However this is 
made up by Stallone's ferocious anger that is portrayed on screen. Almost the entire movie has Stallone with a clenching his teeth with rage. There's a lot of built up energy there.  The action ranges from shootouts to fist fights. The camerawork by Mauro Fiore was decent. The only weird thing is that much of story takes place in rainy settings. Not sure if that was just due to filming location during a certain season or was intentionally filmed on days like those. Either way, the lighting was good as well as the scenes filmed. Fiore also worked on other films like Smokin' Aces (2006), Avatar (2009), The A-Team (2010) and Southpaw (2015). The film score by Tyler Bates was unique listening experience. Most scores rely more on orchestra. However Bates focused more on percussion, which gives the sound a smoother feel. Bates also reprises the original Get Carter theme. Even the softer themes are acceptable. Not bad.

Editing and subplots are the only big issues among this production. This remake is terribly unwatchable as viewers say. It doesn't surpass the original but it's not awful. The acting is fine, the action is fun and the music is nicely updated.

Points Earned --> 6:10

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Welcome Home (1989) Review:

War veterans can unfortunately suffer from some pretty heavy stuff. War in general causes problems for almost everybody all the time. It's not a nice activity to par-take in. Soldiers go off to fight; some come back while others never return. It's a sad truth, but that's sometimes the normality of it all. When marines go off to battle, most return with some kind of post traumatic stress (PTS) that changes the way they behave. This ranges from person to person and the intensity can vary too. But for those who lose their loved ones at war, nobody enjoys receiving a box with their offspring's name plate in it. On the other hand it's even more of a shock to the system when that individual returns from combat. After long periods of waiting, family members can get worried. The relief of knowing and being able to see somebody again after an extended time is overwhelming. But what is it like when someone is realized to be living when originally confirmed dead? This causes a whole new scenario.

Sam Waterston & Thomas Wilson Brown
Kris Kristofferson is Jake Robbins, a Vietnam war vet who was supposedly killed on duty in 1970. When in reality, he was being taken care of by some natives. Seventeen years later he wakes up to discover he's back in the states and missing his family. He's then accompanied by Col. Barnes (Trey Wilson) who informs him that he cannot return back to Vietnam to see his kids for word getting out that there might be some survivors left behind. Frustrated with the options he's given, he returns home to get some closure with his dad (Brian Keith). He also visits his now moved-on wife Sarah (JoBeth Williams), his son Tyler (Thomas Wilson Brown) and step-father Woody (Sam Waterston). With a screenplay by Maggie Kleinman, who would only write for one more movie being Desperate Choices: To Save My Child (1992), the script is all right for a basic story. It does have some unanswered questions and plot threads, but overall it's solid for a premise. This makes it watchable, but on a predictable level.

What doesn't make sense in Kleinman's script are some unresolved plot components. The most noticeable lack of clarity is when it comes to Jake's return. Who picked up Jake from Vietnam? Did he make it back himself? The scene before he woke up in the states was being taken to a hospital in Thailand. Where was the transition? Another problem arises with some character's unresolved actions. An act or two are committed that seem like a reconciliation would be in good order. However that never happens either and it's kind of a big deal. One should not be able to walk away feeling fine with themselves. Aside from these two concerns, the final point to be made is that the structure of the story is very predictable. From start to finish the long-term experience doesn't bring up many new twists or surprises along the way. The plot is quite linear in a very practical sense. There isn't much to it other than how certain characters cope with Jake's return. And the end result is none too shocking.

Yet that doesn't mean watching this movie is boring. All members involved that were listed act the way one would expect. The characters are very relatable in the situations they encounter as well as their reactions. Watching Kristofferson play Jake and seeing him make mistakes along the way is the right kind of development. For anyone who's been claimed as long gone and returns, the feeling is confusing.  You want to return, but it's hard to say whether that might open up old wounds or not. Topics like these are mixed bags when it comes to feelings and it's a risky gamble. Sarah, Woody and Tyler's revelations when they find out of who Jake is just as sympathetic. One of the best scenes though was when Jake's father finally sees him again. It's a gratifying experience. The human drama and emotions are clear. Brian Keith also gives some great insight to Jake after he contemplates how he's a deserter. That's blown right out of the water after his dad talks.

"Welcome home,...old boy..."
Directing this feature for the final time was Franklin J. Schaffner. With what has been presented on screen as much as the script struggled to clear up some things, Schaffner's direction was mighty helpful. Without him, the story would not have been as engaging. Schaffner had also directed The Boys from Brazil (1978), Patton (1970) and Planet of the Apes (1968). For visuals, Fred J. Koenekamp handled the camera. Since this was a film with a much smaller budget, whatever was captured was the greater part real. There aren't too many distinct shots but the scenery captured is pretty. Much of the background contains suburban town roads, to back country lake houses. Koenekamp also worked on The Hunter (1980) and The Swarm (1978). Lastly, famous composer Henry Mancini produced the film score. Another great aspect to this feature was that Mancini created a reoccurring main theme. Even Kristofferson's good buddy Willie Nelson made a song for the film. This is memorable, it's just sad that the soundtrack wasn't released.

The procession of its story is as predictable as one would think and there are moments that go forgotten, but this is still an enjoyable film. The characters are likable and have understandable motivations. The cinematography is pleasing and so is the music.

Points Earned --> 6:10

Friday, February 10, 2017

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989) Review:

Repeating the same formula again and again in a franchise normally doesn't work. This has been proven time and time again in several genres. Most commonly, horror films suffer the most from this trend. Even then, some series have turnarounds. When A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) was released, critics and fans were impressed. Although A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) was not as well received as its predecessor, the film managed to further the story of the teens that had connected lines to Freddy Krueger. The dream sequences continued to be imaginative, the kills remained inventive and the music continued to be creepy. Surprisingly even after that film, the next entry maintains its credibility. It still doesn't match the third or first film but it is still a decent watch. Directing this installment was Stephen Hopkins. Hopkins would later go on to direct films like Predator 2  (1990), Blown Away (1994), The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) and Race (2016).

Fetus Freddy
The story picks up sometime after the events of the prior movie. Alice (Lisa Wilcox) is graduating school with her boyfriend Dan (Danny Hassel). Accompanying them are their classmates Yvonne (Kelly Jo Minter), Greta (Erika Anderson) and Mark (Joe Seely). One night Lisa begins having nightmares again implicating that Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) has risen from his grave. Fearing the worst, people begin having near death experiences, which causes Alice to go into a panic. What confuses Alice is that Freddy is also appearing when she's awake. Somehow he found a loophole. This time, Leslie Bohem wrote the screenplay. For the most part, Bohem's script is adequate enough to advance the story but misses significant points. The most major of issues arise from the continuity. Although Alice and Dan are returning characters, the three new ones don't seem to know much about Freddy Krueger. How is that possible when all of these events occur in the same location for the past four films?

On top of that, there are moments where some of those characters know how to combat Krueger in their dreams. Yet they would not know that because that was taught in the third film. Lastly, the dream sequences are rather disappointing. This does not consist of all dreams but some of them come off more campy than they do bizarre and horrific. There are some arrangements that get creatively dizzy but its only at the finale. Aside from this, the script doesn't create any other big mistakes. Bohem would later write for movies like Daylight (1996), Dante's Peak (1997) and The Darkest Hour (2011). The actors were a credible aspect to the movie. This entry does not contain teens looking to fornicate, instead they persist to be defined by their personalities. Lisa Wilcox as Alice is still a likable lead and grows as the main heroine. Dan Hassel as Alice's boyfriend is also the least stuck up jock. That's also an amiable trait. Greta, Yvonne and Mark are not the greatest of individuals when it comes to development but they do help.

Nicholas Mele also returns as Alice's father. He even develops as a supporting character. Finally Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger prevails as the antagonist of dreams. Over time his dialog has become more jocular than serious and that has produced mix results. On one side, the comic lines cause some good laughs. On the other hand, being too comical makes the film sound less grounded and more like a parody. When a baby Krueger spud decides to crawl around the floor, it looks far less intimidating. A few puns here and there is okay, but doing it one too many times in a scene wears out its welcome fairly quickly. Nevertheless Englund will and forever be Freddy Krueger. The effects are another satisfying component to the entry. Gore may not be as abundant as the last entry but the dreams and kills are still horrific to a degree. Much of the props and sets are made with practical effects and visually it looks good. The level of gore may not please gorehounds though who want the violence.

"I'm so happy to be back"
The camerawork filmed by Peter Levy was competently shot. The cinematography to the picture contains several shots that focus on either the dream realm or reality itself. Each scene has the proper amount of lighting and scope to show the viewer what there is to focus on. Peter Levy has also worked with director Stephen Hopkins multiple times for the same films like Predator 2 (1990) and Race (2016). He has also done other projects like Ricochet (1991) and Cutthroat Island (1995). Composing the score to the film was Jay Ferguson. Thankfully Ferguson reused the main theme Charles Bernstein successfully created from the first film. As for the score in its entirety, it has a number of cues that are creepy, using synths. However, there are a few tracks that come off less creepy and more pop like. Not exactly what one would expect from a horror score. Jay Ferguson has also composed scores to films like Johnny Be Good (1988) and Tremors II: Aftershocks (1996). It's not the best of the nightmare scores but it does work.

The lack of visual gore, script continuity and overly comical dialog given by Freddy Krueger may not be the best aspects to this installment. However, the characters, music and development pull through to make it a watchable experience to the ongoing series.

Points Earned --> 6:10