Film Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

Release Date: December 5th, 2002 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair, Peter Jackson
Based on: The Two Towers 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 (Extended Edition), Andy Serkis, David Wenham, Brad Dourif, Karl Urban, Miranda Otto, Bernard Hill

New Line Cinema, WingNut Films, The Saul Zaentz Company, 179 Minutes, 235 Minutes (DVD Extended Edition), 228 Minutes (Blu-ray Extended Edition), 171 Minutes (DVD Widescreen Edition)

Review:

“From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak I fought with the Balrog of Morgoth… Until at last I threw down my enemy and smote his ruin upon the mountain side… Darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time… The stars wheeled overhead, and every day was as long as a life age of the earth… But it was not the end. I felt life in me again. I’ve been sent back until my task is done.” – Gandalf

I have seen all of these movies probably a dozen times but it has been several years now since revisiting them. From memory, I always thought of The Two Towers as the weakest of the trilogy but it is still a masterpiece and a perfect film for what it is: a bridge between the beginning and the end.

It also ups the ante quite a bit and is more epic in scale, as the two final battles alone are bigger than anything we saw in the first film, apart from the intro that showed the fall of Sauron millennia earlier.

But, really, the climax to this motion picture is absolutely amazing. If you are a fan of epic battles, this does not disappoint. If you are a fan of fantasy, this should definitely satisfy your palate.

All the key players are back and that includes Sean Bean’s Boromir, who died in the previous movie. Granted, he is only in a couple of flashbacks in the Extended Edition but it’s great to see him and to get more context in regards to how Gondor is run and the relationship between Boromir, Faramir and their father.

The return of Gandalf and the shift in power away from Saruman and to him is a really great moment that helps turn the tide towards the light. Ian McKellan was superb and his character’s evolution was incredible. The continuation of his battle with the Balrog is one of my favorite cinematic moments of all-time.

It is Viggo Mortensen who steals the show, however. While he was great in the first picture and was perfectly cast, he truly shines here and anyone watching this film would want to follow him, which is great considering what his role is in the goings on of Middle Earth and how this series ends in the following film.

If you are going to watch these films, you should always watch the Extended Editions, as they provide more story, better context and a heftier helping of the meat and potatoes. The Extended Edition of The Two Towers offers a lot of extra footage that isn’t in the original theatrical version. It isn’t so much that it makes it a different film but it certainly makes it a better one.

The Two Towers is perfect. It is a masterpiece like the other two pictures in the trilogy. It is the weakest, sure, but I’d rather be the weakest film in this trilogy than the best film in the Transformers series.

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

Film Review: Curse of Chucky (2013)

Also known as: Child’s Play 6 (working title)
Release Date: August 2nd, 2013 (Fantasia International Film Festival)
Directed by: Don Mancini
Written by: Don Mancini
Based on: characters by Don Mancini
Music by: Joseph LoDuca
Cast: Fiona Dourif, Danielle Bisutti, Brennan Elliott, Maitland McConnell, Chantal Quesnel, Summer H. Howell, A Martinez, Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly (cameo), Alex Vincent (cameo)

Universal 1440 Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 97 Minutes

Review:

“25 years. Since then a lot of families have come and gone; the Barclays, the Kincaids, the Tillys. But you know Nica, your family was always my favorite. And now, you’re the last one standing… So to speak! [laughs manically, then glares down at Nica]” – Chucky

This came out after a long break from Child’s Play films. The later sequels: Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky got so humorous and weird that the darker spirit of the franchise was gone and the films sort of became parodies of themselves.

Curse of Chucky did a pretty decent job at correcting the tone, as Chucky, while still humorous because he always has been, is much scarier, more evil and also back to being more patient in how he reveals himself to his victims.

The one thing that this picture does really well is suspense. It’s a slow build until we really get to see Chucky at his murderous best. Sure, he kills and at first glance, it might suck that these heinous acts aren’t captured on film as they happen but the wait is worth the payoff, as once Chucky reveals himself to one of the main characters, shit truly hits the fan.

Now the film does feel really confined, as it primarily just takes place within one house. However, this actually benefits the film, as you feel the doom closing in and tightening its grip. Add in the fact that the main character is stuck in a wheelchair in a multilevel house and you really feel like you’re stuck in a sardine can with a live piranha by the climax. Those two key elevator scenes were fantastic as well and really served to make the environment work for the movie.

It was nice to see Chucky return to a darker, broodier tone. However, the film, sadly, isn’t as fun as the original three. Those still had a real darkness about them but they were more exiting and they have actually aged really well, considering their budget and time of release.

But I think that this and its follow up Cult of Chucky were good entries in the Child’s Play franchise. I had hoped to see more but I guess they’re going to reboot the series in the near future for some dumb reason.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: he Cult of Chucky, it’s direct sequel and the original Child’s Play trilogy when they were still really dark.

TV Review: Deadwood (2004-2006)

Original Run: March 21st, 2004 – August 27th, 2006
Created by: David Milch
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: David Schwartz
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Jim Beaver, W. Earl Brown, Dayton Callie, Kim Dickens, Brad Dourif, Anna Gunn, John Hawkes, Jeffrey Jones, Paula Malcomson, Leon Rippy, William Sanderson, Robin Weigert, Sean Bridgers, Garret Dillahunt, Titus Welliver, Brent Sexton, Bree Seanna Wall, Josh Eriksson, Powers Boothe, Keith Carradine, Gerald McRaney, Keone Young, Ray McKinnon, Brian Cox, Sarah Paulson, Zach Grenier, Cleo King, Stephen Tobolowsky, Richard Gant, Alice Krige, Fiona Dourif, Kristen Bell

Roscoe Productions, Red Board Productions, Paramount Television, HBO Entertainment, 36 Episodes (so far), 48-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

HBO’s Deadwood was ahead of its time. It only lasted for three seasons but luckily it stuck around that long. It also ended on sort of a cliffhanger and left you wanting to know what would happen after its final moments at the end of its stellar third season. Well, apparently HBO has announced that, ten years later, there is a movie on the way.

As for the show itself, it is really the first gritty and brutally realistic showcase of frontier life I had ever seen on television up to that point. It pulled no punches and went all out.

Now it did take some time to fall in love with. The first season moves a bit slow but by the time you get to the final episode of that season and see how the characters are changing and how they’ve evolved in a short time, it gets pretty compelling.

Timothy Olyphant and Ian McShane are perfect and their relationship is one of the most dynamic in television history. This was also both men at their absolute best. While Olyphant is the first billed star, Ian McShane seems to get more actual screen time and overall, is the more interesting character.

The rest of the cast is full of several well known and great actors. And every one of these characters has a great story surrounding them. Most shows with large ensemble casts suffer from questionable quality with certain characters, as there is always someone wedged into large shows that either doesn’t fit or has an awful plot thread going on. This doesn’t happen in Deadwood. In fact, as far as a character driven drama, it has some of the best character development I have ever seen in a show. Even the characters, who at first, feel somewhat generic, end up having a lot of layers to explore.

Now the show isn’t as beautiful and as vast feeling as the AMC’s big western show Hell On Wheels but it edges it out in regards to its large ensemble cast, all of whom are more interesting and complex than most of the characters on Hell On WheelsDeadwood lacks in not being as visually epic as Hell On Wheels but it has more to sink your teeth into overall and it also takes place in a small camp and not an endless wide-open frontier. I like these shows pretty much the same but Hell On Wheels is a wee bit ahead simply because the rivalry between Bohannon and the Swede was incredible.

At the end of the day, Deadwood is one of the two best western shows I have ever seen. It is also one of the best HBO shows ever produced. It’s short run was unfortunate but the fact that this got on television to begin with is pretty awesome.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Hell On Wheels and because it shares a lot of actors with these shows, Fear the Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy.

Film Review: Alien: Resurrection (1997)

Also known as: Alien 4 (working title)
Release Date: November 6th, 1997 (Paris premiere)
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Written by: Joss Whedon
Based on: Charcaters created by Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Music by: John Frizzell
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Michael Wincott, Dan Hedaya, Brad Dourif, Ron Perlman, Gary Dourdan, Kim Flowers, Raymond Cruz, Dominique Pinon

Brandywine Productions, 20th Century Fox, 109 Minutes, 116 Minutes (Special Edition)

Review:

“[voiceover] My mommy always said there were no monsters. No real ones. But there are.” – Ripley

Alien: Resurrection is a film that shouldn’t have been made. At least not in its existing form. Ripley died but they bring Weaver back as some sort of clone made from her DNA that conveniently has her memories and is basically Ripley. It’s a terrible f’n attempt at keeping the franchise’s star at the forefront instead of just moving in a new direction, which was needed but didn’t happen until 2012’s Prometheus.

For the most part, this is a terrible film that at least has some good actors and a few cool bits in it. The stuff featuring Brad Dourif and his xenomorph captives is pretty well done. I also liked the look of the standard xenomorphs in this chapter.

People everywhere love Joss Whedon like he’s some sort of golden boy. Well, he wrote this script and the story and this is one of the prime examples I give when battling it out with Whedon fanboys. Did he have a few good ideas, sure. However, even the good ideas were pretty unrefined and made this feel more like a fan fiction fantasy than anything that fits cohesively within the already established Alien mythos.

The Ripley stuff was just dumb, the human/xenomorph hybrid was strange and bizarre and not in a good way and the whole tale just seemed like a pointless side story in some pocket of the Alien universe where I just didn’t care about a single character or their mission, even if Earth itself was in imminent danger.

It’s hard to believe that I didn’t care about anyone. I like Weaver, Ryder, Perlman, Dourif and Wincott a lot. They have all done things that have spoke to me and had me invested in their characters. I don’t in any way blame them, I blame Whedon’s weak script and the director, who was the first in the franchise that I am not even remotely familiar with. Okay, upon checking he did Amélie but that was after this and I haven’t seen it in a long time, so I can’t judge it. I kind of liked it back in 2001 or so, though.

Alien: Resurrection is an example of a major studio turning a property into their whore that has to keep turning tricks to keep making the pimp money.

The underwater sequence was kind of cool, so I do give this film some props for that. Usually underwater stuff comes off as terrible. But then, maybe this film should’ve focused on its strength and taken place entirely underwater. I’m being facetious, that would’ve been shitty.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Other films in the Alien franchise but this one is one of the weakest.

Film Review: Child’s Play 3 (1991)

Also known as: Chucky 3: El Muñeco Diabólico (Mexico), Chucky 3 (Germany)
Release Date: August 30th, 1991
Directed by: Jack Bender
Written by: Don Mancini
Based on: characters by Don Mancini
Music by: Cory Lerios, John D’Andrea
Cast: Justin Whalin, Perrey Reeves, Jeremy Sylvers, Brad Dourif, Andrew Robinson

Universal Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t fuck with the Chuck.” – Chucky

While there is a very slight variance in overall quality of the original Child’s Play trilogy of films, all three are pretty damn consistent and each has it’s own vibe. Plus, the sequels don’t just feel like rehashes of the original.

The thing that sets this one apart is that Andy is now 16 and enrolled in a military school, drastically changing the setting and opening the plot up for a myriad of new directions.

Chucky is resurrected because what is a Child’s Play movie without Chuck? He tracks down Andy to his military school but not before murdering the crap out of the CEO of the toy company that produces Good Guy Dolls.

However, Chucky meets the young boy Tyler. He realizes that he can tell Tyler his secret and take over his body instead of Andy’s. Although, Chucky still wants to murder Andy for being a total pain in the ass in the first two movies. So what we get here, is teenage Andy in a race against Chucky in an effort to save young Tyler’s soul.

This film gets really dark but the early Chucky movies showcased terror and dread over the humor that would take over the franchise after this film. There is a grisly garbage truck murder, some other really good kills and the big awesome moment where the teenagers playing war games don’t realize that Chucky switched out their paint rounds with real ammunition. We then get a great final encounter with Chucky in a carnival spookhouse.

I just love how dark and brooding this film seems. Sure, the first two films were also quite dark but this one just ups the ante atmospherically and it works. Plus, Brad Dourif just feels more at home in his Chucky role. His one liners are great but they don’t distract from the proceedings.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Anything with Chucky in it.

Film Review: Child’s Play 2 (1990)

Also known as: Chucky 2: El Muñeco Diabólico (Mexico), Chucky 2 – Die Mörderpuppe ist zurück (Germany), Brinquedo Assassino 2 (Brazil)
Release Date: November 9th, 1990
Directed by: John Lafia
Written by: Don Mancini
Based on: characters by Don Mancini
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Alex Vincent, Brad Dourif, Christine Elise, Jenny Agutter, Gerrit Graham, Grace Zabriskie, Beth Grant, Catherine Hicks (archive footage)

Universal Pictures, 84 Minutes

Review:

“Surprise! Did you miss me, Andy? I sure missed you. I told you. We were gonna be friends to the end. And now, it’s time to play… I’ve got a new game, sport: It’s called “Hide the Soul”. And guess what? You’re it!” – Chucky

Child’s Play 2 is my favorite film in the Chucky franchise. While the first is probably considered the superior film in quality, this is the one that I think is the perfect Chucky movie and back in the day, this chapter resonated with me the most. So let me get into why.

To start, we know who and what Chucky is. In this film, he comes back to life and just goes for it. No waiting, no building of suspense for 45 minutes, just pure unadulterated Chucky, ready to kill anyone standing between him and his “best friend” Andy (Alex Vincent). And why? Because he needs young Andy’s body before his soul is permanently trapped in his doll form.

The true highlight of this film though, is the big grand finale in the Good Guy Doll toy factory. We get to see our surviving heroes run through mazes of dolls that look like Chucky. We get to see the heroes crawl through industrial machinery and try to outwit the pint-sized plastic killer. We also get to see Chucky get run through the ringer like never before and really, he’s never got his ass kicked quite like this again. Andy and his older foster sister Kyle (Christine Elise) make a formidable duo. I’m actually really glad that they are now both back in the franchise, two and a half decades later.

As a guy that has seen a shit ton of horror movies, the finale in Child’s Play 2 is one of the best final battles I’ve ever seen in the horror genre. Although, the county fair showdown in Child’s Play 3 is also pretty damn good.

I also like the casting in this film. The foster parents were Jenny Agutter, who I adored in An American Werewolf In London and Logan’s Run, and Gerrit Graham, who always makes me smile, even when he’s sort of just a snarky douche. I loved him in TerrorVision and C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud, as well as his multiple appearances in the Star Trek franchise. Then you have Beth Grant, who is always perfect, in a small role as an elementary school teacher that gets in Chucky’s way.

Child’s Play 2 is the peak of the original trilogy of films for me, back before the franchise got a lot more comedic with 1998’s Bride of Chucky. It’s a perfect Child’s Play film and has Chucky at his brutal best where he still gets in some funny one-liners without the film being overtly funny and still having a good amount of actual terror in it. And there is just something about that Chucky-Andy relationship that almost makes the Andy films feel like the only ones that actually matter.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Child’s Play (1988)

Also known as: Blood Brother, Blood Buddy (both working titles)
Release Date: November 9th, 1988
Directed by: Tom Holland
Written by: Don Mancini, John Lafia, Tom Holland
Music by: Joe Renzetti
Cast: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, Brad Dourif, Dinah Manoff

United Artists, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 87 Minutes

Review:

“Hi, I’m Chucky. Wanna play?” – Chucky

I remember the first time that I saw the Child’s Play trailer in the theater. I was nine years-old and it looked pretty terrifying. Now I wouldn’t see the movie in the theater but I did get to check it out as soon as it hit video store shelves in 1989. I was immediately hooked by the film and was always pumped whenever a sequel was coming out. Well, at least the first two sequels, both of which I also really enjoyed.

This is the original though and I didn’t really know what to expect when I first saw it. in modern times, people know Chucky as a killer doll that has great one liners and a sick sense of humor. In this original film, he’s pretty much just sick and blood thirsty, focused on two things: revenge and possessing young Andy’s body. What’s scarier to a kid than your toy coming alive and wanting to possess your body with voodoo? Okay, maybe if that toy was a clown.

The film was directed by Tom Holland fresh off of his success with Fright Night. It also re-teams Holland with his Fright Night star, Chris Sarandon. While this isn’t quite as fun and exciting as their previous movie, it did create a larger franchise, as Chucky has had seven movies to date while Fright Night had two and then a another two with a reboot series. But Chucky, as a character, deservedly had more longevity than Jerry Dandrige, the villain from Fright Night.

The first Child’s Play is scary and dark in a way that the others aren’t. Okay, the first three are really dark compared to the titles with “Chucky” in the name but this first film has a much more serious tone. Maybe after coming off of Fright Night, Holland wanted to put the comedy to the side. Also, the filmmakers probably weren’t aware at just how hilarious the character could be with Brad Dourif’s genius behind the voice.

The film is pretty well acted between Chris Sarandon and Catherine Hicks. Alex Vincent was really damn young but he was less annoying than most child actors and he did well with the dark material. I liked that he would go on to be in the first sequel and that he would return for the two most recent installments, where he is now an adult.

Child’s Play wasn’t the first killer doll movie but it popularized that tale, as many knockoffs would come out shortly after. None of them really have the same quality and sense of dread that this film has though.

This was a solid foundation for the franchise. Granted, I think I like the second film a little bit more but that’s because of that incredible final battle in the toy factory.

Rating: 7.75/10