Film Review: Ginger Snaps (2000)

Also known as: Transformare (Romania)
Release Date: August 1st, 2000 (München Fantasy Filmfest)
Directed by: John Fawcett
Written by: Karen Walton, John Fawcett
Music by: Mike Shields
Cast: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Kris Lemche, Mimi Rogers, Lucy Lawless (voice)

Motion International, 108 Minutes

Review:

“It feels so… good, Brigitte. It’s like touching yourself. You know every move… right on the fucking dot. And after, you see fucking fireworks. Supernovas. I’m a goddamn force of nature. I feel like I could do just about anything.” – Ginger

I remember liking this film when I saw it way back in 2000. I think I watched it again once or twice a year or so after but I haven’t seen it since then, almost twenty years ago now.

Sadly, this doesn’t hold up very well and I’m not sure what I liked about it back in the day, other than I was crushing hard on Katharine Isabelle. Well, until she started transforming and got weird cat eyes and wolf titties.

The two main characters here are insufferable. It really starts to grate on you about three minutes into the movie. They’re both overly goth-y and obsessed with death like total cliche dark ’90s teens. Now I loved goth chicks around the time that this film came out (and still do) but this is written in a way that is pure cringe and just really fucking awful. It is to goth chicks what The Big Bang Theory is to nerds.

Additionally, no one in this film is likable or has any redeeming qualities except for the pot dealing cool kid who is just trying to help. The mother, played by Mimi Rogers was sweet but by the end of the film, she kind of throws it all away in a weak moment, trying to desperately cling on to her shitty, ungrateful, bitchy daughters.

A lot of people absolutely love this film though and many consider it a classic. I don’t get it, really. The whole werewolf thing is a metaphor for puberty and it’s done in a heavy handed, obvious and predictable way. There is nothing in the film that is surprising or that will catch you off guard.

I think the thing that really drags this film through the mud the most is the dialogue. It’s ’90s edgy teen angst to the nth degree and it is just as much cringe as it is derivative and exhausting.

Also, the movie starts out fairly strong but then it drags and drags and is pretty boring. The big finale is way too long by at least ten minutes. Plus, by that point, you don’t care about anyone in the film.

For something trying so hard to convince its audience that it is edgy and cool, it did so with the strength and steadiness of a nursing home handjob.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequels: Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed and Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning.

Film Review: Unbreakable (2000)

Also known as: No Ordinary Man (working title)
Release Date: November 14th, 2000 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan
Music by: James Newton Howard
Cast: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright Penn, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard, M. Night Shyamalan (cameo)

Touchstone Pictures, Blinding Edge Pictures, Barry Mendel Productions, Limited Edition Productions Inc., Buena Vista Pictures, 106 Minutes

Review:

“It’s alright to be afraid, David, because this part won’t be like a comic book. Real life doesn’t fit into little boxes that were drawn for it.” – Elijah Price/Mr. Glass

There was a time when seeing M. Night Shyamalan’s name on movie poster generated excitement. This came out during that time and fresh off the heels of The Sixth Sense, just a year earlier and also starring Bruce Willis.

When the film starts, you really have no idea as to where this story is going to go. In the end, it is a superhero origin story where one character becomes a hero and another character becomes something else. While there is a big twist to what that is, being that this film has been out for nearly two decades, that twist has been spoiled for anyone who has just talked about this movie with someone else who’s seen it.

Also, this is tied into the 2016 movie Split, as well as an upcoming sequel to both films called Mr. Glass. That comes out in January 2019 and it is the film I am most anticipating, right now. It’s also why I wanted to revisit this one, because I haven’t seen it in so long.

The story is a slow but satisfying burn. When you get to the seminal moment of the picture, where the hero has to decide if he’s going to be a hero, it’s comes with such emotional weight and impact that everything that inched towards that scene was well worth it.

Shyamalan, at this point in his career, knew how to build tension, emotion and narrative in every single scene. It was something that he lost, as time went on, but he seems to have found his mojo again with 2016’s Split. And frankly, I’m glad, because he had the makings of a great filmmaker but sort of just slid into a weird place for quite awhile.

This film and Split are my two favorites in Shyamalan’s filmography, with The Sixth Sense being right there with them.

The atmosphere in this film is incredible. The story is powerful while being very subtle. This is a superhero origin story that is so much better than most of the films that deal with the same sort of narrative. Comic book movies don’t need to be grandiose spectacles and this proves that. Oddly, it proved it about eight years before grandiose comic book movies became the norm. And while this isn’t based off of a comic book, I’m surprised this universe hasn’t spawned it’s own comic series. Maybe it will after the third film, next year.

Bruce Willis and Sam Jackson have done several films together and it is a treat, every. single. time. that they share the screen with one another. This is no different and to be honest, it’s my favorite of their collaborations. I want more of these two characters. Luckily, years later, we are going to get just that.

In the meantime, if you want to see Mr. Glass, you owe it to yourself to watch this and Split first.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: It’s sequels: Split and the upcoming Mr. Glass.

TV Review: Black Books (2000-2004)

Original Run: September 29th, 2000 – April 15th, 2004
Directed by: various
Written by: Dylan Moran, Graham Linehan, Arthur Mathews, Kevin Cecil, Andy Riley
Music by: Jonathan Whitehead
Cast: Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey, Tamsin Greig

Assembly Film and Television, Channel 4, BBC, 18 Episodes, 25 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2014.

It is quite possible that Black Books is my favorite situation comedy of all-time. It is certainly in contention anyway, as it is one of those shows where I can watch any episode at any time and still find it uncontrollably funny. The jokes and gags don’t get old, the camaraderie amongst the cast is iron clad and the tone of the show in how it deals with its subject matter and its use of timing, is impeccable. Very few shows are this well written and have the comedic talent capable of optimizing such great writing, as well as the cast of Black Books.

The plot follows Bernard (played by Dylan Moran) who is a drunk Irishman living in London running a bookshop. With him are his dimwitted but insanely lovable sidekick Manny (played by Bill Bailey) and their neighbor and friend Fran (played by Tamsin Greig). The show, like all sitcoms, follows the cast’s misadventures and misdeeds. In this case, things never seem to end well and the characters are usually their own worst enemies.

The cast plays off of each other so well and in such a way that I would put them head-to-head with any other great sitcom cast and I could guarantee they’d outshine them.

It’s sad that the show only lasted for three series, six episodes each. 18 episodes just isn’t enough but at least those 18 episodes are all quality, unlike American sitcoms that pump out 25 episodes a season, only producing a handful or less that are worthwhile. Regardless, I would love to see this revived for another series or even a proper special to officially close out the show. Yes, it has been ten years since it left the air but all three of these actors still has the talent and the ability to pull it off.

Besides, if you are a fan of the show, how could you not want to see where Bernard, Manny and Fran are ten years later? My prediction, Bernard and Manny are miserable working for some online book retailer and Fran is a cat lady with a failed liver.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: SpacedThe IT Crowd and Green Wing.

Film Review: In the Mood for Love (2000)

Release Date: Septmeber 29th, 2000
Directed by: Wong Kar-wai
Written by: Wong Kar-wai
Music by: Michael Galasso, Shigeru Umebayashi
Cast: Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung

Block 2 Pictures, Jet Tone Production, Paradis Films, Universal Pictures, 98 Minutes

Review:

“Feelings can creep up just like that. I thought I was in control.” – Chow Mo-wan

Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love is a film that is beloved by many, especially those in the film industry. While I had heard people talk about it for the last decade or so, I didn’t experience it until I was taking a course on the history of Hong Kong cinema.

While it doesn’t resonate with me in the same way as many critics and filmmakers, it was a visual treat and stupendously acted by Hong Kong greats Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung. I certainly can’t deny that this is a marvelous film, even if it isn’t my personal cup of tea. And frankly, the cinematography and the acting, kept me completely engaged for the duration of the film.

The story takes place in Hong Kong in 1962. It starts as two different couples are moving into the same building on the same day. Not soon after, we find out that the husband of one couple is cheating with the wife of another couple. The story doesn’t follow them, however. Instead, it follows the spouses who are being cheated on. They become dear friends and a strong bond develops without them crossing the line of infidelity. Eventually, their feelings develop into more of a romantic attraction but those feelings cannot be explored.

In the Mood for Love is a sad movie but it is also a movie about hope. It analyzes the emotions of these characters at a really intimate level and everything is just tastefully and respectfully handled, as the characters who are the victims of infidelity, don’t go the route of their spouses.

The story is pretty fresh and thus, quite interesting. It is hard taking this ride with the characters, as you develop a deep connection to both of them.

The real highlight of the motion picture, however, is its overall tone. From the cinematography, the lighting and the music used to bring 1962 Hong Kong to life, in a colorful and vivid manner, everything is just alluring and majestic. The film feels almost like a historical fantasy world even though the emotion and tragedy of the characters keeps you firmly rooted in reality.

In the Mood for Love is an exceptional picture and has gone on to influence other filmmakers from a narrative and visual standpoint. It is considered a true classic by many but Wong Kar-wai sort of has a knack for making high quality works of motion art.

 

Film Review: The ‘Scream’ Film Series (1996-2011)

*written in 2015.

I was a senior in high school when the first Scream came out. It was huge, especially due to kids my age. Well, mostly kids who were never really into horror or girls who were too terrified to watch something actually scary. This isn’t me taking shots at the film, it is just the reality of it.

Scream changed the horror genre forever. The problem, is that it essentially ruined it. I’ll explain more as I go on but let me get to my thoughts on each film.

Scream (1996):

Release Date: December 18th, 1996 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Kevin Williamson
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich, Drew Barrymore

Woods Entertainment, Dimension Films, 111 Minutes

Review:

“What’s your favorite scary movie?” – Ghostface

I didn’t like this film the first time I saw it when it came out. I thought it was cheesy, not scary and full of too many recognizable stars. Although, everyone else in the theater seemed to be terrified when Drew Barrymore got murdered in the beginning. But then, the audience for Scream is not the real horror fan audience. At least not by 70s, 80s and 90s standards.

The problem with having recognizable stars in horror, as well as a decent budget, is that it feels less real and authentic. It is similar to the use of bad CGI for blood splatter and monster effects in horror now. It separates you from the film by constantly reminding you that you are watching a production. I’m going to feel more for some girl I’ve never seen before, who I have only witnessed going through the horror on screen, than I will some girl that was whiny and moody on Party of Five for several years before this movie came out. Or a cast member of Friends who I would’ve loved to see killed off, yet somehow she survived to be in all four films.

Ghostface, the slasher in these films, is not scary. Maybe he was to the teen audience of 1996 but being a teen at that time, I thought he was shit. The mask is goofy, the cloak looks like it was stolen from the Spencer’s Halloween display and the wavy knife looked like something gimmicky that came with a 80s G.I. Joe toy.

The film was too polished, and just looked too Hollywood. Craven, before this, had been known for his grittiness.

The slasher genre and horror, in general, were pretty much ruined when the characters started discussing the rules of slasher films. The film parodied the genre it was in and put on blast the unspoken rules of horror. Maybe perceived as smart and cool at the time, and maybe it was just Craven’s way of saying “fuck you” to his competition, this approach killed horror going forward. Yes, Wes Craven, a guy who modernized horror in the 70s and 80s, killed it in the 90s.

Due to its success, Scream went on to kill horror even further. It was mimicked by every studio, horror was now free of sex, gore was minimal, it became PG-13 to pull in more teens, known stars were cast, budgets swelled and the rest is history.

Today, I don’t hate Scream. Even with how it altered everything, it is better than the modern horror films we’re stuck with. While Scream was the start of something bad, year after year, that bad has gotten worse. And that wasn’t Craven’s intention. I think he was really just focused on an idea and a concept. That concept ended up bringing an end to his own career, other than pumping out Scream sequels that got worse as time went on.

Scream 2 (1997):

Release Date: December 10th, 1997 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Kevin Williamson
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jamie Kennedy, Laurie Metcalf, Jerry O’Connell, Jada Pinkett, Liev Schreiber, Rebecca Gayheart, David Warner, Omar Epps, Portia de Rossi, Luke Wilson, Heather Graham, Tori Spelling, Joshua Jackson

Konrad Pictures, Craven-Maddalena Films, Dimension Films, 120 Minutes

Review:

Scream 2 was a step down from the original but I like that Liev Schreiber got to be a bigger character. I was also glad they killed off Jamie Kennedy. And Aunt Jackie from Roseanne is in it.

The problem with Scream 2, which is made more than obvious in the opening scene, is that it feels like it has to compensate for its lack of black actors in the first film. In fact, the first film really featured no black actors and was thus, accused of being another “whitewashed” slasher picture.

Some people have criticized Jada Pinkett’s monologue about race in slasher films but I enjoyed it. She wasn’t wrong. And at least Craven put it in there to address some of these issues that were brought up after the success of the original film. Although, it did feel like overcompensation.

The film isn’t as good as the first. The reveal of who the killer is this time, is pretty underwhelming. The formula ran it’s course in the first movie and we were stuck with a picture where we were treading the same water without any new scenery. The ending brings with it a twist but it is more of a head-scratcher than a shocking reveal. It also starts the trend of building up a bigger backstory that isn’t necessary.

Neve Campbell’s mom was a slut and her sluttiness is a key factor into why her daughter and her friends have to suffer. And in the third film, her legacy of sluttiness goes back even further.

Scream 3 (2000):

Release Date: February 3rd, 2000 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Ehren Kruger
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Foley, Lance Henriksen, Matt Keeslar, Jenny McCarthy, Emily Mortimer, Parker Posey, Deon Richmond, Patrick Warburton

Konrad Pictures, Craven-Maddalena Films, Dimension Films, 117 Minutes

Review:

The third film ended the trilogy. Well, it was supposed to be a trilogy, where the fourth film years later, was to be the start of a second trilogy. The second trilogy never happened, so we ended up with a single quadrilogy. But, at the time, this was treated as the third and final act.

This was also, by far, the worst movie in the series. It takes the parodying itself shtick to the max. It takes place mostly on a Hollywood set where it gives you a movie within the movie, which is a tactic that is more annoying than clever.

Scream 3 adds the awful Jenny McCarthy to the cast, the typically cool Patrick Dempsey and the indy sweetheart Parker Posey. I almost feel bad seeing Posey plying her trade in this shit picture.

The killer reveal is stupid. It fleshes out the backstory more than anyone needs in a slasher film and the bad guy’s motivations are recycled horror trope schlock. There is nothing imaginative or original about any of this.

This film also loses sight of its whole purpose. In trying to be a clever series in constantly referring to the rules of horror, this one breaks its own rules – or it just doesn’t truly understand them. Especially in regards to what they say about the final film in trilogies, Scream 3 proves that these films have no balls. This is obvious when characters establish that “all bets are off” and “no one is safe”, yet for the third consecutive film, every major character survives. Additionally, the horror gore factor it tries to sell in the film is minimal, the sex factor in horror that this film constantly makes reference to, is nonexistent and everyone who understands the rules, continues to make the same dumb mistakes.

And the sole black character is reduced to a caricature but at least they didn’t “whitewash” this one after meeting their quota in part two.

Scream 4 (2011):

Release Date: April 11th, 2011 (TCL Chinese Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Kevin Williamson
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Anthony Anderson, Alison Brie, Adam Brody, Rory Culkin, Marielle Jaffe, Erik Knudsen, Mary McDonnell, Marley Shelton, Nico Tortorella, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell

Corvus Corax Productions, Outerbanks Entertainment, The Weinstein Company, Dimension Films, 103 Minutes

Review:

Oh, there’s Emma Roberts! Why’s she in every thing horror-esque, lately? I don’t dislike her but I’m getting tired of seeing her play the same roles again and again. She’s actually okay and I’m certainly not as sick of her as I am of her Aunt Julia.

Anyway, here we go, years later. The main cast is still alive. Surprise, they live through the end because again, the Scream franchise has no balls.

There’s a bunch of false curveball beginnings to the film, all movies within the movie, which has gotten tiresome with the Scream series. I mean, fuck, has Wes Craven completely run out of ideas? Hire new writers, bro.

This film tries to establish the “new” rules of horror, as it takes place a decade after the previous film. Except, everyone knows that the new rules post-Scream are horrible and the genre has gotten awful.

The killers are predictable. More so than previous films, actually. The two killer formula has been used to death in this series and was only somewhat effective the first time around.

Also, from what I remember, no black people in this one. But there is the reference to gay people surviving horror movies and then a bad in-movie joke where a character being stabbed to death, claims he’s gay in hopes of getting a free pass. I’m not standing on a politically correct soapbox here but Craven isn’t doing himself any favors trying to branch out beyond his audience of straight white teens. I get the attempt at humor but it was juvenile and not that funny.

I’m getting tired of talking about these movies now.

In the end, this film sucks. Although it doesn’t suck as bad as Scream 3.

Film Review: The Tao of Steve (2000)

Release Date: January 26th, 2000 (Sundance)
Directed by: Jenniphr Goodman
Written by: Duncan North, Greer Goodman, Jenniphr Goodman
Music by: Joe Delia
Cast: Donal Logue, Greer Goodman, James ‘Kimo’ Willis, David Aaron Baker

Good Machine, Sony Pictures Classics, 87 Minutes

Review:

“Both men and women want to have sex. It’s natural, except we’re on different timetables. Women want to have sex, like, y’know, fifteen minutes after us, so alright, if you hold out for twenty she’ll be chasing you for five.” – Dex

I never saw the Tao of Steve until now. However, throughout the years since it came out, I heard many people talk about it with enthusiasm. Leonard Maltin even devotes a chapter to it in his book 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen. Plus, I have always been a fan of Donal Logue.

Unfortunately, this movie didn’t resonate with me like it did with other people. Maybe it’s because I watched it now, seventeen years after its release. So it doesn’t tap into nostalgia but instead feels like a film full of some of the worst 1990s romantic comedy cliches.

It is enjoyable in the fact that Logue is as charismatic as ever but even then his presence is bogged down by less talented actors and a script that feels like it was written by philosophy majors that were only one semester deep but thought they had reached some sort of twenty-something enlightenment.

Additionally, the music is dated in a bad way. Yes, there are great tunes from the late 90s but The Tao of Steve uses some lowest common denominator safe pop rock dreck that needs to just stay in the 90s and not venture out into the year 2000 (or beyond), when this film was released.

I don’t know if it’s a Santa Fe thing but the fashion in the film feels incredibly dated, even for 2000. In fact, the guys all look slobbish and the girls all look like tomboys at a Smash Mouth concert.

The Tao of Steve is not as interesting as you would think. His zen philosophy on picking up women has more holes in it than Swiss cheese but then again, that is part of the plot. Still, you can see the holes from a mile away but this film tries to play it up a lot more than it should.

It feels like this film tried to use Donal Logue in a way to create their own version of The Dude from The Big Lebowski. However, despite Logue’s strong performance, the script isn’t even a tenth as brilliant as the Coen’s Lebowski script.

I don’t want to hate on this film, I went into it expecting to like it. For me, it just failed in all the parts that aren’t Donal Logue.

Film Review: The ‘Battle Royale’ Film Series (2000-2003)

It’s been a while since I’ve seen Battle Royale, so I figured I’d pop the DVD in and rewatch this almost masterpiece. After doing that, I figured that I’d watch the sequel, which I have never seen.

Battle Royale (2000):

Release Date: December 16th, 2000
Directed by: Kinji Fukasaku
Written by: Kenta Fukasaku
Based on: Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
Music by: Masamichi Amano
Cast: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Taro Yamamoto, Masanobu Ando, Kou Shibasaki, Chiaki Kuriyama, Takeshi Kitano

AM Associates, Kobi, Nippon Shuppan Hanbai, MF Pictures, WOWOW, Gaga Communications, Toei Company, 113 Minutes (Original Release), 121 (Extended Cut)

Review:

“So today’s lesson is, you kill each other off till there’s only one left. Nothing’s against the rules.” – Teacher Kitano

This film is a classic. That is a bold thing to say but unless you have seen the film, it may be hard to understand why.

I could rave about the direction, the material, the stylistic approach of the gore-filled bits and so many other factors. Apart from all that, the film just hits you in the stomach. It is over the top and the fact that all this gruesomeness is happening to kids, really has an effect unlike any film I had seen before it. It’s severely dark, somewhat campy, sometimes sweet and insanely ambitious.

For those who don’t know what it is about, the Japanese government gets tired of asshole kids and passes a law. The law creates a lottery where a school is picked and its students are tricked into going on a field trip, only to be gassed and wake up on a strange island and forced to kill one another until their is just one survivor. It’s like Hunger Games without the suck factor. Also, it came first and is about a thousand times better, as a film.

Battle Royale is a symphony of a lot of beautiful dark shit leading to a crescendo that is jaw-dropping and for lack of a better word, “awesome”. There is a reason why this is one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite films. Truthfully, in the history of Japanese cinema, this cracks my top ten for sure… maybe even my top five.

I actually don’t want to reveal too much because I’d rather people just experience this incredible motion picture.

Battle Royale II: Requiem (2003):

Release Date: May 18th, 2003 (Cannes)
Directed by: Kenta Fukasaku, Kinji Fukasaku
Written by: Kenta Fukasaku, Norio Kida
Based on: Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
Music by: Masamichi Amano
Cast: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Ai Maeda, Shugo Oshinari

Fukasaku Group, TV Asahi, WOWOW, Tokyo FM, Sega, Toei Company, 133 Minutes (Original Release), 152 (Extended Cut)

Review:

“We declare war on all adults!” – Shuya Nanahara

Considering that I hadn’t seen this film and have such a high level of respect for the first one, I was excited to throw this in the DVD player. And then it started.

Battle Royale II tries to capture the magic of the first film but fails in many ways.

I can’t completely trash it, as there are bits that I enjoyed. But ultimately, even though these films have ridiculous premises, this one just had a lot of really unbelievable shit, even for being a sequel to a film with such an over the top story to begin with.

The plot follows a new group of kids who are forced to raid an island in an effort to murder a terrorist who has been banding kids together in an effort to destroy the evil adults of the world. Wow, it comes off as even more ridiculous summing it up in one sentence like that. Anyway, the format of the film was different than the first but it just didn’t give us anything worthwhile even though they attempted something fresh.

I enjoyed the first hour of the film, which centers around the raid on the island. Once that part is over and the two groups of fighting kids meet face-to-face, the film just gets boring as hell and quickly goes downhill. The last act is more action and violence and it keeps one’s interest but does so just barely.

I could’ve done without seeing the sequel and Earth could’ve done without it even being made. The open-ended ending of the first film was perfect and should have been left alone.

Plus, this thing is so damn long and it didn’t need to be.