Film Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Release Date: December 10th, 2001 (London premiere)
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
Based on: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm, Andy Serkis, Sala Baker, Peter Jackson (cameo)

New Line Cinema, WingNut Films, The Saul Zaentz Company, 178 Minutes, 208 Minutes (DVD Extended Edition), 228 Minutes (Blu-ray Extended Edition), 171 Minutes (DVD Widescreen Edition)

Review:

“[Gandalf is standing on the bridge, in front of the Balrog] You cannot pass! I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. The dark fire will not avail you, Flame of Udun! Go back to the shadow. You shall not pass!” – Gandalf

This was a definite treat to revisit, especially since I just revisited The Hobbit trilogy beforehand. I wanted to watch them in chronological order for the first time but having now seen this again, a film I have probably seen a dozen times already, I have an even greater appreciation for it, as it’s truly perfection.

Unlike those Hobbit movies, The Fellowship of the Ring and its two sequels, didn’t have identity issues. It has a consistent tone throughout and it knows exactly what it needs to be and how to accomplish that. This was Peter Jackson at his absolute best and this is a timeless movie and will continue to be for generations.

Being that this was the first major live action adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, makes its level of perfection something truly special and a feat that proves that the impossible can be possible. I should state, though, that the Soviets and the Finnish did their own live action adaptations before this but no one has really seen them and they weren’t done with the resources and budget that allowed this story to really live and breathe the right way.

I’ve tried to think of negatives for the sake of this review but the acting is superb, the directing and cinematography are flawless and the special effects are better than anything else that predates this film. Also, the issues that exist with The Hobbit films don’t exist with this one.

We have real human beings in prosthetics and makeup as the orcs and goblins. Also, the film isn’t afraid to rely on some other practical effects. Sure, there is CGI galore but the film doesn’t default to it and it’s why this looks better than The Hobbit films, which started coming out 11 years later.

The best thing about this film is its spirit. You immediately care about these characters, all of them, they mesh well pretty exceptionally, and none of them look stupid like most of the dwarves in The Hobbit. Gimli, the main dwarf in this story, looks like a real character and not a cartoon caricature.

Also, you care about the journey and how it is taking a toll on everyone in the party. You feel their emotions, their stress and their burden in seeing things through no matter what the cost.

The action is stupendous and the big battle at the end of the film is incredible. Also, the wizard battle between Gandalf and Saruman is incredibly badass.

Howard Shore, who scored all of these Tolkien pictures, did a much better job at creating the themes for these films than The Hobbit trilogy. The music here hits the right notes and it’s all become pretty iconic.

There is a reason why this film gave birth to Tolkien Fever in the early 2000s. Everything about it was just right and it was a real example of filmmaking and storytelling perfection.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the other two Lord of the Rings films, as well as The Hobbit trilogy.

Film Review: Ghosts of Mars (2001)

Also known as: John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars (complete title)
Release Date: August 24th, 2001
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: John Carpenter, Larry Sulkis
Music by: John Carpenter
Cast: Ice Cube, Natasha Henstridge, Jason Statham, Pam Grier, Clea DuVall, Joanna Cassidy, Robert Carradine, Wanda De Jesus, Peter Jason

Storm King Productions, Screen Gems, 98 Minutes

Review:

“…Friday night, the whole place should be packed. A whole twelve hours before sun up and there’s money to burn, whores to fuck and drugs to take.” – Melanie Ballard

Well, this was the only John Carpenter film I had never seen. That is, until now. I just remember that when it was coming out, I thought it looked terrible. My friends that did see it only confirmed my reservations about it and in fact, they were harsher on this film than I expected. So I never really wanted to give it a watch but hey, I review movies and this was on my Starz app, so I figured I’d torture myself for 98 minutes.

I wouldn’t quite say that it was torture though. It was stupid enough to entertain me but it didn’t do much to excite me. And it’s not like John Carpenter did anything wrong, it’s just that this proved that his style had become dated. Had this script been shot by him in the late ’80s, this could have been a film that was remembered more fondly because it would’ve fit that era better.

A big issue with it though, is its reliance on poorly shot and constructed miniatures, very confined sets and going the digital route in places where practical effects would’ve probably worked better. Also, it definitely lacks in the violence department, at least in what one should expect from a Carpenter film.

It’s also kind of a boring movie, for the most part. The villains are pretty shitty and this is really just a movie with space zombies that understand how to use primitive weapons. Also, the main villain just looked like any generic horror monster from the late ’90s that was trying to be a scarier version of Marilyn Manson but just ended up looking like a goth kid without a good Halloween costume.

The acting in this is terrible too. Ice Cube can do better but he really just plays himself and dialed it in. Natasha Henstridge was okay and at least believable in her role but she looked bored. Statham was pointless in this, as was Clea DuVall, who can deliver a good performance when given the right role.

This isn’t an unwatchable movie but I can’t recommend it. I think that most people will actually hate it, even though I found it okay enough to kill 98 minutes during a tropical depression.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: Later John Carpenter films, as well as other films from the era that dealt with Mars: Red Planet and Mission to Mars.

Film Review: The Accountant (2001)

Also known as: O Contador
Release Date: January, 2001 (Sundance)
Directed by: Ray McKinnon
Written by: Ray McKinnon
Music by: Rusty Andrews
Cast: Ray McKinnon, Walton Goggins, Eddie King

Ginny Mule Pictures, 40 Minutes

Review:

“If a man builds a machine and that machine conspires with another machine built by another man, are those men conspiring?” – The Accountant

I didn’t know much about Ray McKinnon other than his role as the preacher on the first season on Deadwood and seeing him pop up a few times in Sons of Anarchy. But he was a powerful performer and really lured me in when he was on screen.

I’ve been a fan of Walton Goggins for a really long time. I remember seeing him for the first time in that terrible fourth Karate Kid film and that also terrible third Major League movie. However, he stuck with me. I then remember seeing him get an Academy Award way back in 2002 for a short film that he had produced. I figured I’d check it out, as I wanted to go back and see a lot more of his earlier indie stuff. To my surprise, that short film was written, directed and starred Ray McKinnon. Well, it stars Goggins too, as well as another actor, Eddie King.

Man, I don’t really know how to describe this but it takes you to a lot of places emotionally in forty minutes. It is the perfect length, however. Had this been stretched out to feature length it probably would’ve dragged on too much and lost it’s impact.

In a lot of ways, this is like a punch to the gut but not in a bad way. There is some serious stuff to deal with here but it leaves you with some hope and also taps into the nostalgia of those who love simpler times and classic Americana.

This really has a strong Southern spirit to it in the best way possible.

McKinnon is utterly f’n superb in this and Goggins was the perfect actor to play off of him. These guys have real chemistry, which is probably why they’ve been good friends for years and have done multiple projects together.

I also thought that the music made for the film by Rusty Andrews was damn good and really added to the emotions and feelings that this film successfully conveyed.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Ray McKinnon’s Randy and the Mob and Chrystal.

Film Review: Jeepers Creepers (2001)

Also known as: Here Comes the Boogeyman (working title)
Release Date: July, 2001 (Fantasia International Film Festival)
Directed by: Victor Salva
Written by: Victor Salva
Music by: Bennett Salvay
Cast: Gina Philips, Justin Long, Jonathan Breck, Eileen Brennan

American Zoetrope, United Artists, 91 Minutes

Review:

“She did lose her head that night, Trish, and you wanna know what he did for her? He sewed it back on.” – Darry

I saw Jeepers Creepers way back when it first came out on DVD. I didn’t see it in the theater because it looked shitty. I was right. But checking it out with a bunch of friends that wanted to see how bad it was, was a pretty worthwhile experience. I hadn’t watched it since but I wanted to see if it was just as bad as I remembered. Well… it’s worse.

At the time, I had no idea who Justin Long was. In this film, I just saw him as a super effeminate pansy with a rose tattoo around his belly button and with the line delivery of an identity confused millennial. While this isn’t exactly how he would act in films after this one, I’d assume he was directed to play the character this way, he was certainly committed to being one of the most annoying scream queens with a penis that I have ever seen. But when I get into more on the director, further into this review, this will make more sense.

Gina Philips wasn’t as annoying as Justin Long but I didn’t like her either. And what sucks the most is that this entire picture rode on the shoulders of just Philips and Long. Two characters. This is a fucking horror movie! If there are only two characters, that’s not a lot of targets for the monster. Sure, random people get mauled, here and there, but they are characters you only know for like two seconds and then they are ripped to pieces, usually off screen, mind you. Horror movies where teens fight a monster need at least five teens. The more the merrier as people watch these things to see teens get stabbed, dismembered and mutilated.

The creature is somewhat original but not in anyway cool. He’s a demon in a trench coat and hat with wings that sprout out of his back when he needs to travel faster. I feel as if the demon hunting the teens is a metaphor for the director: a creeper, shitzoid, pedophile who has been tried and convicted as such… well before this movie was made.

Victor Salva, this film’s writer and director, is a sick piece of shit. In 1988, he was convicted of sexual misconduct with a twelve year-old boy on the film set of Clownhouse. He even videotaped one of the encounters and was found to be in possession of child pornography videos and magazines. He plead guilty to lewd and lascivious conduct, oral sex with a person under fourteen and procuring a child for pornography. He was sentenced to three years in prison and was released after only fifteen months served.

How the fuck does this guy still work in Hollywood? Can people change and be rehabilitated? Yes. But when it comes to something like this, sorry… I feel no sympathy. And if you think he’s changed, Justin Long’s character in this movie should raise some fucking eyebrows.

In a day and age where just an accusation of sexual misconduct towards an adult woman can get you immediately fired from your Hollywood job, how has this guy, who fucked little boys, still been able to find work? I mean, he just made Jeepers Creepers 3 last year.

The fact that all of this was known when this first Jeepers Creepers movie was made is also an eye opener on how the industry works, as this was produced by American Zoetrope, a company run by the Coppola family and founded by Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas.

But getting back to the movie itself, it’s shit. Complete, total and utter shit.

There is no doubt about it, this must be put through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: I guess Jeepers Creepers 2 and 3 but why would you want to watch this, let alone sequels?

Film Review: Ichi the Killer (2001)

Also known as: Koroshiya Ichi, lit. Koroshiya 1
Release Date: September 14th, 2001 (TIFF)
Directed by: Takashi Miike
Written by: Sakichi Sato
Based on: Ichi the Killer by Hideo Yamamoto
Music by: Karera Musication, Seiichi Yamamoto
Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Shinya Tsukamoto, Nao Omori, Alien Sun

Omega Project, Omega Micott Inc., Emperor Multimedia Group (EMG), Media Blasters, 128 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2014.

“Put some feeling into it, already! If you’re going to give someone pain, you’ve got to get into it!” – Kakihara

Ichi the Killer is a gruesome movie. That is probably an understatement, actually.

All I can say is that if you are going to watch it, be prepared for some serious shit. Then again, if you are familiar with the earlier works of director Takashi Miike, you probably know what to expect to a certain degree. This just takes his love of ultraviolence and brutality to a whole new level.

Visually, the film is pretty close to being a masterpiece. The use of lighting and environment paints an emotional context over the scene before a character even speaks. The art direction and cinematography are amazing. The use of color is spectacular and tonal shifts from scene to scene is brilliantly done. What we have with this film is a beautiful picture comprised of ugly and horrible things.

The story is bizarre and unsettling but what else could one expect from a film that pushes the bar so high in the gore factor. The plot also pushes that same bar and then pushes it even further. The characters are complex, their motivations are sometimes confusing but by the time the credits roll, it all adds up.

Out of the earlier works of Takashi Miike, this may be my favorite film.

Film Review: The ‘Friday the 13th’ Film Series, Part III – The Kane Hodder Years (1988-2001)

Friday the 13th, Part VII – The New Blood (1988):

Release Date: May 13th, 1988
Directed by: John Carl Buechler
Written by: Manuel Fidello, Daryl Haney
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Harry Manfredini, Fred Mollin
Cast: Lar Park Lincoln, Kevin Blair, Susan Blu, Terry Kiser, Susan Jennifer Sullivan, Elizabeth Kaitan, Jon Renfield, Jeff Bennett, Heidi Kozak, Diana Barrows, Larry Cox, Craig Thomas, Diane Almeida, Kane Hodder

Paramount Pictures, 88 Minutes

Review:

Hey, it’s Bernie from Weekend At Bernie’s and he’s alive! Well, not for long – it is a Jason movie.

This film also features Jason Voorhees going against Jean Grey from the X-Men. Actually, it is some girl named Tina but she has telekinetic and psychic powers and thus, spends a lot of time confusing Jason with cheap parlor tricks. I have a theory that she has no powers and was a con artist that rigged her house with lots of Hollywood strings. In any event, it gives this film an interesting dynamic that we haven’t seen in this series before.

The New Blood is important, in that it is the first film to feature Kane Hodder in the role of Jason. He is the only guy to play the role more than once. In fact, he played him over the course of four films and is the most recognized Jason actor and pretty much the overall fan favorite. I definitely think he had the best presence and mannerisms and brought the role to the next level, even though C.J. Graham did a pretty phenomenal job in Jason Lives (the installment before this one).

Jason also looks the absolute best in this film. He still looked pretty good in the next film but this is definitely my favorite Jason, as far as overall appearance. The fact that you can see his spine and ribs through the back of his tattered jumpsuit is pretty damned cool, as he was fish food in a lake for like ten years leading into being set free at the beginning of this movie.

The problem with this film, is that it was butchered by the censors and the MPAA. There is less gore, not because it was filmed that way but because it was edited down a lot. The fluidity of certain scenes and certain cuts are horrible.

Despite those issues, this is still a better-than-decent Friday the 13th chapter. It is also the best of the four Kane Hodder films.

 

Friday the 13th, Part VIII – Jason Takes Manhattan (1989):

Release Date: July 28th, 1989
Directed by: Rob Hedden
Written by: Rob Hedden
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Fred Mollin
Cast: Jensen Daggett, Todd Caldecott, Peter Mark Richman, Kane Hodder

Paramount Pictures, 100 Minutes

Review:

Jason Takes Manhattan is a really misleading title. Jason is only in Manhattan for less than a third of the film and he’s pretty much just in the alleyways and the sewer other than a quick chase scene in Times Square. This film should really be called Jason On A Boat because it is primarily Jason on a boat, killing some teens.

There are a few good kills, like a sauna rock through a stomach and a boxer having his head knocked off by a Jason uppercut. That’s about it though. This takes Jason out of his normal element but it isn’t a wanted change and it is executed with absolutely no imagination. This is just a very boring film.

The ending is retarded level bizarre. It makes no sense and I’m not sure why the City of New York flushes their sewers with toxic waste every night at midnight and how hanging out on a ladder above the rampaging toxic river didn’t asphyxiate and cause severe brain damage in our heroes. And somehow, toxic waste melts Jason down to a crying little boy.

The film is also visually inconsistent with previous installments. The child Jason looks nothing like Jason has looked in the past at that age. The tone of the film is just strange and it feels more like an old Sci-Fi Channel slasher knockoff film than a chapter in a storied franchise.

I’ve always liked Jensen Daggett though and this is her first film. That is about the only positive I can give.

This was the last film of the original series to be released by Paramount.

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993):

Release Date: August 13th, 1993
Directed by: Adam Marcus
Written by: Jay Huguely, Dean Lorey, Adam Marcus
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: John D. LeMay, Kari Keegan, Erin Gray, Allison Smith, Steve Culp, Steven Williams, Kane Hodder

New Line Cinema, 88 Minutes

Review:

This is the worst film in the entire franchise. It is beyond horrible. Jason is barely in it and the monster is a demonic heart worm.

New Line Cinema acquired the rights to the Friday the 13th franchise and decided to reinvent it in their own way. Kane Hodder is back as Jason Voorhees but he is only in the opening sequence and the final battle, other than appearing in mirrors throughout the film when other people are possessed by his evil spirit.

By the way, that evil spirit travels from host to host via a worm crawling out of one mouth and into another. And Jason’s evil French kiss worm hatched from his heart. So I guess his heart is really some sort of egg. Well, the heart was eaten by a possessed guy in a morgue but that is how he got infected with the Jason worm and how this whole stupid process began.

The film also introduces a horrible concept that was abandoned after this film. Basically, now it is learned that Jason can only be killed with a magic knife wielded by a blood relative. So Jason is hunting down surviving family members because if he kills them, he can’t be killed. And somehow, all these people live around Crystal Lake and yet, he has never tried to hunt them down before, in any of the eight movies that predate this one!

The truth is, I completely ignore this film when it comes to the Friday the 13th mythos. The movie is absolute shit. It doesn’t exist except in some parallel universe. No, it doesn’t exist there either. Avoid it at all costs, unless you really want to torture yourself.

Jason also looks horrible. He looks like Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cosplaying as Jason. Why does his noggin look like a big mutant brain with a hockey mask that is obviously too tight for his newly enormous head?

The only noteworthy thing about this movie, is that after Jason is dragged to Hell, the glove of Freddy Krueger (from the A Nightmare On Elm Street series) bursts out of the ground, grabs Jason’s hockey mask in the dirt and drags it down to Hell. This set up the eventual Freddy vs. Jason film that was in development hell for a decade.

Jason X (2001):

Release Date: July 24th, 2001 (Germany)
Directed by: James Issac
Written by: Todd Farmer
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: Lexa Doig, Lisa Ryder, Chuck Campbell, Jonathan Potts, Melyssa Ade, Melody Johnson, David Cronenberg, Kane Hodder

New Line Cinema, 92 Minutes

Review:

This is the last film in the regular series of movies unless you count Freddy vs. Jason in 2003. It is also the last film to star Kane Hodder as Jason.

So when horror franchises jump the shark, they usually go to space. Where most horror franchises go to space by the fourth film (see Critters, Hellraiser and Leprechaun), at least Jason didn’t have to leave Earth until the tenth installment of his series.

Jason X is a bad movie. It is a really bad movie. But it is a bad movie that is great in its awfulness. It is fun, it is ridiculous and the film doesn’t, at any time, try to take itself seriously. It knows it is bad but it is doing a damned good job of creating a good time.

After nine films full of killing teens at (or around) a summer camp, the new direction was refreshing. At least the scenery changed and at least it wasn’t a boring ghetto cruise ship on the way to a boring Manhattan sewer.

Jason is cryogenically frozen, wakes up 500 years in the future on a spaceship conducting a high school field trip and goes on a sci-fi killing spree. At one point, he is rebuilt by nanomachines into what fans call Uber Jason. Basically, he looks like a much angrier and deadly version of a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers villain.

If you try to take this film seriously, you will hate it. If you take it for what it is, an intentionally bad but awesome time, you will most likely enjoy it.

*I will review Freddy vs. Jason and the 2009 Friday the 13th remake at a later date.

Film Review: Ghost World (2001)

Release Date: September 21st, 2001 (USA)
Directed by: Terry Zwigoff
Written by: Daniel Clowes, Terry Zwigoff
Based on: Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
Music by: David Kitay
Cast: Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Brad Renfro, Bob Balaban, Illeana Douglas, Steve Buscemi, Stacey Travis

Advanced Medien, Granada Film, Jersey Shore, Mr. Mudd, United Artists, 112 Minutes

ghost-worldReview:

Ghost World is a film I really liked for a few years around the time it came out in 2001. I hadn’t watched it in a very long time but felt the urge to revisit it.

The movie is based off of a graphic novel of the same name by Daniel Clowes, who also created the comic series Eightball. Both of these comics have reached cult status.

Thora Borch stars as Enid and Scarlett Johansson stars as her best friend Rebecca. This film is the first time I saw Scarlett Johansson and I remember feeling, at the time, that I would definitely see more of her. I felt the same way about Thora Birch, even since seeing her as a child star before this film but she has stuck to mainly independent work.

The cast is rounded out by Steve Buscemi’s Seymour, a lonely older guy that Enid develops affection for after a prank gone wrong, and the late Brad Renfro’s Josh, who serves no real purpose other than being the guy the two girls are crushing on. It is also worth mentioning that Bob Balaban plays Enid’s father and Illeana Douglas plays her art teacher.

Directed by Terry Zwigoff, who is known for his surreal feeling otherworldly films, the style of Ghost World doesn’t disappoint. Taking its cue from the comic series, it feels like a timeless world, more in tune with the 1950s with touches of the 60s and 70s, even though it is obvious that it is in modern day.

The soundtrack is fantastic and is still, to this day, one of my favorite of all-time. The music adds a lot to the film and it serves as the force that brings the characters of Enid and Seymour together and strengthens their bond.

Ultimately, this is a film about relationships and finding yourself lost in the world. On one hand it shows the relationship of Enid and Rebecca dissolving as they grow older and apart from one another. On the other hand, it shows the birth of something new between Enid and Seymour. In the end, Enid has to deal with everything she has known and relied on slipping away.

It is a sad film in many regards but it ends with a sense of optimism and hope. Although, some people I have talked to, interpret the ending as something really dark. I don’t quite see it as that black and white or depressing. Enid’s journey shouldn’t feel that dissimilar to things we’ve all gone through: feelings of loneliness, isolation, having nowhere to turn and feeling like everything bad that’s happened is your fault.

Ghost World is a fun movie. But it is a very human movie. Despite its subject matter, it isn’t a heavy film. It is lighthearted and you do care about the characters and hope all of them find their place in the world. With that, I think the film accomplished what it set out to do and from what I remember of the comic book, which I need to read again, it did capture its magic.