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

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption (2012) Review:

When Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson took the role as the Scorpion King in Stephen Sommers' The Mummy Returns (2001), it's hard to say whether viewers thought a series would continue this far. The first film wasn't cinematic gold, but it had charm for varying instances. The sequel prequel that came after it though was a step down from it. Not only was it boring but the story line didn't feel believable. Plus new characters were introduced that would not return in the films chronology. There was no point in it. As for continuing it, if the film makes money, of course make more entries. As much as a mess the last film was, the producers were smart enough to release it in the home video market. If this was released theatrically, these films would be doing a lot worse financially. For this third film in the series the quality to this has slightly improved but still has its problems. Thankfully of all things, this installment is not another prequel. Otherwise this timeline would be all screwed up.

"Hmmm,...not sure I'm ready for this"
Although it has 3 in its title, this is a sequel to the first Scorpion King (2002). After the decimation of his people and his wife from a mysterious plague, the Scorpion King (Victor Webster) goes back to his roots as a mercenary. On his travels, he is hired by King Horus (Ron Perlman) to infiltrate and stop his jealous brother Talus (Billy Zane) from invading his territory. Talus' wants to conquer Horus' land with the book of the dead. He can only do this by taking over Ramusan's (Temuera Morrison) land, while holding his daughter Silda (Krystal Vee) hostage. Teaming up with the Scorpion King is Olaf (Bostin Christopher) who was also sent by Horus for no other reason than he fights well. Written by Shane Kuhn and Brendan Cowles, the script is still fairly senseless but does manage to build on past stories than deconstruct them. For one thing, the continuity is explained as to what happened to the Scorpion King's wife and the people that followed him. It's not very specific but it is mentioned so that's a plus.

Roel Reiné was the director for this feature and how its handled is also a tad better. Instead of slowly moving from one task to the next, different situations ensue. Both Cowles and Kuhn have worked before with Reiné on other projects together so perhaps this is why the story has better flow. Roel Reiné has directed many other sequels like Death Race 2 (2010), The Man With the Iron Fists 2 (2015) and Hard Target 2 (2016). However even with forgivable continuity, the screenplay goes on to fail in other spots. One of the biggest flaws are various physical impossibilities. Some of it really just doesn't make any sense. A character's ear is ripped off by someone's hand. How is somebody that strong? Another character gets severely injured but has no problems later on. Nobody can heal that fast. Another problem is the acting of characters. Bostin Christopher as Olaf had some moments of comedic value but all he does it make the film feel like a bad buddy film. His dialog is also too contemporary for ancient times.

As for acting, Billy Zane chews the scenery every time he's on screen. As a villain, he comes off more as a parody to an antagonist than an actual threat. Sometimes this is funny but overall it feels out of place. Ron Perlman and Temuera Morrison are both underplayed and are not that interesting. Thankfully Victor Webster as the new Scorpion King tries to make his role his own. Not every line he says comes off forced but occasionally it doesn't sound right. For one thing, he at least looks similar to Dwayne Johnson. Krystal Vee as the daughter Ramusan is okay in her performance. She too has more personality than most and has sufficient chemistry with Webster. As for her development, its overused plot threads but at least its identifiable. There's also appearances from Dave Bautista, Kevin 'Kimbo Slice' Ferguson and Selina Lo as spirits to the book of the dead. They however have very little development. The original story writer was Randall McCormick who did the last film.

Krystal Vee
The action sequences to the film were well staged although they had one drawback. That being that in almost every scene that involved action, had multiple slow motion shots. This happened frequently and it felt like in some ways, the film was just buying time. It looks good, but too much of it loses the spectacle. Working as cinematographer was also Roel Reiné. For a while the setting was in the desert but it quickly shifts to jungle brush. This is okay but it's a bit disorienting. Nevertheless the picture looks good in its display. Very little of it seems fake except for a few shots. Roel Reiné has done almost as much cinematography as he's done his own projects. The music was composed by Trevor Morris. Another Roel Reiné collaborator, Morris has done more TV scores than theatrical films however the sound is decent considering it being a DVD release. However it is odd that no official score was released when every other Scorpion film in this series has one. Really weird.

While it may be somewhat better than the film before it, it's not by a large amount. Victor Webster as the new Scorpion King is a suitable replacement. However much of the other actors involved seem less invested. The script tries to build on the first film but retreads familiar territory.

Points Earned --> 5:10