Also known as: John Carpenter’s Escape from L.A. (complete title) Release Date: August 9th, 1996 Directed by: John Carpenter Written by: John Carpenter, Debra Hill, Kurt Russell Based on: characters by John Carpenter, Nick Castle Music by: John Carpenter, Shirley Walker Cast: Kurt Russell, Stacy Keach, Steve Buscemi, Peter Fonda, Georges Corraface, Cliff Robertson, Pam Grier, Valeria Golino, Bruce Campbell, Michelle Forbes, A.J. Langer, Peter Jason, Paul Bartel, Jeff Imada, Al Leong, Breckin Meyer, Robert Carradine, Shelly Desai, Leland Orser
“Got a smoke?” – Snake Plissken, “The United States is a no-smoking nation. No smoking, no drinking, no drugs. No women – unless of course you’re married. No guns, no foul language… no red meat.” – Malloy, “[sarcastic] Land of the free.” – Snake Plissken
Full disclosure, I hated this movie when it came out. And frankly, it’s still a fairly bad film for reasons I’ll get into in this review.
However, like other ’90s cringe, such as Batman & Robin, I’ve kind of accepted the movie for what it is and with that, there are things I like within it due to my evolved perspective.
But let me hammer on the negatives first.
To start, the film looks like shit. From the CGI, to digital matte paintings and other computer generated effects, this looks cheap, artificial and since 1996, has aged incredibly poorly.
The CGI effects were bad for the time even but since that technology advanced rather quickly, it all looks so much worse now. And this film is a great argument as to why practical special effects are better in a lot of ways, especially in regards to the era in which this was made.
John Carpenter has had amazing practical effects work in most of his movies before this one but I guess he had to embrace the emerging technology, despite it being a really poor choice for this picture, which should’ve been dark, gritty and real.
The film is also full of terrible dialogue for the most part. While I still love Snake and he has some solid one-liners, most of the movie’s dialogue is just shit. I think that the good actors in this also underperformed and I guess I’d have to blame Carpenter for that, as he was directing them and then accepting the takes he was getting.
Expanding on that point, though, it looks like the performers are clunkily acting off of nothing. It’s as if there was so much greenscreen work and strangely composited shots that the performances were just off and didn’t match up in the way they were supposed to. This issue could also be due to the fact that this greenscreen style of shooting was still pretty new when used this frequently in a single production.
Additionally, the story just wasn’t good or that engaging. Other than Snake, I didn’t care about any of the characters and while it was cool seeing Peter Fonda, Pam Grier, Cliff Robertson and Bruce Campbell pop up in this, they were used too sparingly.
As far as positives go, I did find the makeup and prosthetics work to be really good. But this gets back to my point earlier about the overabundance of digital effects. When Carpenter and his effects team employed practical effects in this film, they looked solid.
Also, I really liked Snake in this, as previously stated, and he got some solid, badass Snake Plissken moments that we would’ve missed out on had this film never been made. As awfully hokey as the surfing scene was, we still got to see Snake “hang ten” with Peter Fonda and then jump onto an escaping car. It was an awfully crafted sequence in the movie but it’s also hard not to love it in spite of its very apparent issues.
In the end, I don’t hate this movie, as I once did. But I do have a hard time trying to get myself to watch it. Honestly, I only watched it this time to review it.
Rating: 5.25/10 Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as other John Carpenter sci-fi movies.
Release Date: June 9th, 2002 (CineVegas International Film Festival) Directed by: Don Coscarelli Written by: Don Coscarelli Based on:Bubba Ho-Tep by Joe R. Lansdale Music by: Brian Tyler Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Ella Joyce, Heidi Marnhout, Bob Ivy, Reggie Bannister
“What do I really have left in life but this place? It ain’t much of a home, but it’s all I got. Well, goddamnit. I’ll be damned if I let some foreign, graffiti writin’, soul suckin’, son of a bitch in an oversized cowboy hat and boots take my friend’s souls and shit ’em down the visitors toilet!” – Elvis
I’ll always have a certain level of respect for Don Coscarelli, as he gave the world Phantasm and Beastmaster, two films that had pretty profound effects on me as a kid.
However, I saw this back when it was new and it didn’t really speak to me like I hoped it would have. I haven’t watched it since then but I do love Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis, so I thought that giving it another shot was long overdue. Plus, tastes change, I’m nearly twenty years older and I often times find myself enjoying movies that I previously hadn’t.
I’m glad to say that I enjoyed this much more than I originally did in 2002. But, at an older age, I think it’s also more relatable. Plus, I’m probably just able to enjoy the slow pace and the nuance of the picture much better.
The plot surrounds two guys that become best buds in a nursing home and discover that something strange is afoot when a reanimated mummy starts killing some of the residents. The odd thing is that Bruce Campbell believes he’s Elvis Presley and he might very well be. Ossie Davis believes he’s John F. Kennedy, after being reconstructed in a lab and dyed black. We never find out if they really are who they believe themselves to be but it doesn’t really matter and it’s part of the movie’s unique charm.
So basically, we have a story where an elderly Elvis and an elderly, black JFK team-up to fight a killer mummy. What’s not to like?
My first impression of the film, years ago, was that it was kind of cool but it moved way too slow and felt uneventful. Now, I like the pace and it isn’t slow, so much as it tries to really develop the characters, their personal bond and build up some suspense before the big final fight at the end.
It’s still far from Coscarelli’s best work but it’s definitely better than the later Phantasm sequels and the Beastmaster movies he didn’t direct.
As I get older in age, I feel like I can just relate to the movie and its characters much more than I did in my early twenties. It probably reflects where Coscarelli saw himself at the time that he made it, as well as the two stars. Davis died a few years later and even though Campbell is still going strong, today, by 2002, he had to be feeling age creep up on him.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: other Don Coscarelli movies, as well as other films starring Bruce Campbell.
Also known as: 3 (trailer title) Release Date: April 3rd, 2007 (Uruguay) Directed by: Sam Raimi Written by: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Alvin Sargent Based on:Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko Music by: Christopher Young Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, J.K. Simmons, Bill Nunn, Elizabeth Banks, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Dylan Baker, Elya Baskin, James Cromwell, Willem Dafoe (cameo), Cliff Robertson (cameo), Joe Manganiello (cameo)
Marvel Entertainment, Laura Ziskin Productions, Columbia Pictures, 139 Minutes, 137 Minutes (Editor’s Cut)
“Whatever comes our way, whatever battle we have raging inside us, we always have a choice. My friend Harry taught me that. He chose to be the best of himself. It’s the choices that make us who we are, and we can always choose to do what’s right.” – Peter Parker
While this wasn’t as bad as I remembered, there are still some things that are very off about this picture.
Starting with a positive, I do like the visual tone of this film the best out of the trilogy. It abandoned that overly copper, sunset look the other ones had and most of the film takes place at night or in normal daylight.
However, the improvements in the visual look are overshadowed by the film’s very shoddy CGI effects. It’s kind of baffling but this is the worst looking film of the three when it comes to digital effects. I’m not sure if the studio cut some corners or were rushed but most action heavy CGI sequences looked like a video game. It was distracting and pulled you out of the magic.
I think it’s possible that they overextended themselves in trying to include both Venom and The Sandman, as it’s damn near impossible to create those characters, in all their glory, without the use of CGI. In fact, their battles in the film needed to be larger than life spectacles.
Now the problem isn’t the use of either villain but it’s the use of both of them at the same time. Plus, Harry Osborn also becomes the new Green Goblin.
This picture suffers across the board because trying to wedge in three villains just didn’t work from a narrative standpoint and it forced the effects artists to focus their efforts into multiple effects heavy characters.
Now the film did a superb job with The Sandman’s story and if this movie just focused on him, it could’ve actually been incredible. The Sandman gets thrown to the side at multiple points throughout the movie though, as they then have to rush through Venom’s origin in the most half-assed way possible. Then they have to deal with Harry and his Goblin thing, Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship issues, introducing Gwen Stacy and even having Peter turn into an emo douche because I guess that’s what the Venom symbiote does in the movie universe.
The narrative is disjointed as hell but where it’s good, it’s great. But every time you really get into a portion of the story, it shifts gears or throws something stupid at you. The misfires and shifts are pretty maddening, especially when there are things in the film that work and come across as spectacular. It’s like you can see the real love for these characters rise up like cream to the top but then the filmmakers stir the coffee again. By the third act, they just keep throwing hot coffee in your face.
In a nutshell, this is a clusterfuck but it’s a clusterfuck that has greatness in it. I still like the movie despite its massive flaws and for fans of Harry Osborn, his journey comes to a beautiful end. With it, the film hits you right in the feels, as you feel the pain that Peter and Mary Jane share over the loss of their dear friend and how wrecked their own relationship has become.
The film does leave you with some hope but the ending is still kind of a downer. Granted, they planned a followup (or three) to this film but those movies never happened.
In the end, this movie was a weird end to the film series. I know it wasn’t intended to be the send off for these characters but it left the film series in a strange, uncertain place. I would’ve liked to have seen this cast get to make at least one more picture but that ship has sailed.
Maybe a comic book sequel could work but with the comic industry being in the shitter, waiting to be flushed, that’s probably wishful thinking. Plus, they’ve already rebooted the film series twice since this came out.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: the other two films in this mostly great series.
Also known as: Spider-Man: No More, Spider-Man 2: Lives, The Amazing Spider-Man (working title), Spider-Man 2.1 (recut version) Release Date: June 25th, 2004 (Lithuania) Directed by: Sam Raimi Written by: Alvin Sargent, Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Michael Chabon Based on:Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko Music by: Danny Elfman Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, Alfred Molina, Donna Murphy, J.K. Simmons, Bill Nunn, Elizabeth Banks, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Dylan Baker, Daniel Gillies, Vanessa Ferlito, Elya Baskin, Hal Sparks, Joel McHale, Emily Deschanel, Joey Diaz, Chloe Dykstra, John Landis (cameo), Willem Dafoe (cameo), Cliff Robertson (cameo), Phil LaMarr (uncredited), Peyton List (uncredited)
Marvel Entertainment, Laura Ziskin Productions, Columbia Pictures, 127 Minutes, 135 Minutes (extended cut)
“We need a hero, couragous sacrificing people, setting examples for all of us. Everybody loves a hero, people line up for ’em, cheer for them, scream their names, and years later tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who told them to HOLD ON a second longer. I believe theres a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble. And finally gets us to die with pride. Even though sometimes we have to be steady and give up the thing we want most, even our dreams.” – May Parker
I always thought of Spider-Man 2 as the superior film between the first two. However, having revisited them for the first time in over a decade, I think they break even. And that’s a good thing, as the first was a wee bit better than I remembered and this one was just about the same.
I like the story and the stakes in the first one better but this film has what I consider to be one of the greatest moments in superhero film history, if not the greatest.
That moment comes at the end of the train battle where Spider-Man exposes himself to the people on the train while he is risking his own life to save them from a horrible death. Those people, in a very powerful moment, stand up for Spidey and vow to protect his identity. Shit gets me misty… every fucking time.
The rest of the film is pretty great too and while I get bored with there being a lot of romance in superhero films, Sam Raimi did a stupendous job with these pictures, as he truly captures the emotions and the heartbreak of the characters, showing both sides of the equation equally and fairly.
A lot of the credit also has to go to Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, who played these roles greatly while also having incredible chemistry. Sure, their story gets a bit fucked up in the third film but I’ll review that one in about a week.
Another thing I like about the film is how Raimi foreshadows things to come. Spider-Man is exposed to the public, which sort of foreshadows his identity becoming known to his love Mary Jane and his best friend Harry Osborn, who has vowed to get revenge on Spider-Man for the accidental death of his father.
It also foreshadows stories to come after this film by including Dr. Curt Connors, the man who would become The Lizard, as well as J. Jonah Jameson’s son, who would become Man-Wolf. Granted, Raimi never got to explore these characters more, as Spider-Man 4 and the films following it were eventually cancelled after the third movie misfired pretty hard.
It also felt like the groundwork was being laid for a Sinister Six story, which would become a focal point of The Amazing Spider-Man films that followed but that series was also cancelled in favor of another reboot that brought Spidey into Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe via Captain America: Civil War and his own solo films and guest appearances that followed.
Anyway, getting back on the topic of this film, my only real criticisms of it are the same as the previous one and that’s the visual style of it and how it looks overly copper. Granted, that feels like it is less of a problem here and the visual aesthetic was a bit more fine tuned and natural looking.
Apart from that, I just don’t like Dr. Octopus as much as I liked the Green Goblin. Both characters had weird designs and outfits in these movies but with the films being so good, you quickly look passed that. But Octopus feels kind of generic and uninspiring. While I like Alfred Molina in the role, I felt like he needed more meat to chew on and a much better look. In the end, however, you do really sympathize with him when he realizes what he’s done and decides to undo his work in an effort to save New York City and redeem himself in the eyes of Peter Parker, a kid he likes and respects.
Wrapping up two movies, this picture has an absolutely perfect ending. If the series ended here, it probably would’ve been remembered even more fondly but we did get that third film that derailed everything and it sort of left a stink on top of the series. Plus, after this, it would’ve felt almost criminal not to continue on.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: the other two films in this mostly great series.
Also known as: Spider-Man: The Motion Picture (working title) Release Date: April 30th, 2002 (Philippines premiere) Directed by: Sam Raimi Written by: David Koepp Based on:Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko Music by: Danny Elfman Cast: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, Joe Manganiello, Bill Nunn, Elizabeth Banks, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Randy Savage, Octavia Spencer, Macy Gray, Lucy Lawless, Jim Norton
Marvel Entertainment, Laura Ziskin Productions, Columbia Pictures, 121 Minutes
“Remember, with great power comes great responsibility.” – Uncle Ben
Spider-Man blew my mind when it came out in 2002, as the vast majority of comic book movies before it were terrible. Also, Marvel didn’t have a good track record up to this point, other than 2000’s X-Men, which was just one movie that seemed to have taken a step in the right direction.
Sam Raimi made magic, however, and seeing this for the first time in a very long time, I’ve got to say that the magic is still there. Frankly, I loved this movie in 2002 and I love it now in 2020.
Side note: how the hell is this 18 years-old already?
From top to bottom, this is a solid picture. Sure, I have some issues with the creative direction but it achieved what it set out to do, which was to tell a great origin story, close to the source material, and to entertain and give fans something spectacular.
On top of that, it’s well acted, everyone plays their parts well and even if Tobey Maguire wasn’t 100 percent perfect as Spider-Man or Peter Parker, it’s hard not to love him and become invested in his journey. I’m from the camp that really liked Tobey Maguire and I still think he’s the best live-action Spider-Man, overall.
I also thought that Willem Dafoe was genius casting as Norman Osborn a.k.a. the Green Goblin. While I’m not a fan of the Goblin’s suit in the movie, as a character, his was pretty close to perfect. It actually kind of sucks that they only really got to use him in one film but the story that emerged from his demise makes up for it, as these movies become just as much about Harry Osborn’s journey, as they are Peter Parker’s.
This is just so well crafted and executed that it set the bar really high for the series. It would actually be eclipsed by the second movie, which I once considered a near masterpiece. We’ll see how I still feel about it in another week or so. Let’s try not to talk about the third film until I review that one. I have a feeling that time did it some favors in spite of its creative misfires.
Anyway, the emotional high points of this movie still hit me right in the feels and regardless of having seen this multiple times, it’s all still very effective. The Uncle Ben stuff really feels like a punch to the gut, even if you know it’s coming and you’ve already experienced it.
Apart from the Goblin costume, my only real gripe about the movie is the overly copper look to it. It’s not terrible but I’m not a fan of everything sort of looking like it was shot at sunset, excluding the night scenes. This just feels really filtered and overly vivid. It’s an obvious creative choice but it’s not one that makes the visual presentation look more like the comics. Well, maybe the comics of the time but it kind of detracts from what could’ve been a more colorful, more cheerful look to the film, more akin to the classic artwork and tone of Steve Ditko.
One thing that really stood out to me quite a bit was Danny Elfman’s score. What happened to movie scores? There really aren’t very many that are that memorable in modern times and this one just really points that out, as it’s dynamic, energetic, fun and I’d say, by this point, iconic. While it’s not on the level of Elfman’s Batman scores, it feels more refined and complex and it doesn’t come off as derivative of his older work, which some of his scores do.
Spider-Man still is one of the best superhero movies ever made. I think it’ll maintain that status forever, as it helped push Marvel properties down the right cinematic path and it exceeded 2000’s X-Men by quite a bit.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: the other two films in this mostly great series.
Release Date: March 10th, 1995 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: Robert Kurtzman Written by: Brian DiMuccio, Anne Kurtzman Music by: Shawn Patterson Cast: Nicole Eggert, Richard Grieco, Bruce Abbott, Heather Langenkamp, Susan Tyrrell, Peter Jason, Sarah Douglas, Tom Savini, Reggie Bannister, Joseph Pilato, Jack Nance, Derek Mears, Bruce Campbell (uncredited)
A-Pix Entertainment, Two Moon Releasing, 100 Minutes
“You’re under arrest for the murder of Alyssa Lloyd.” – Alyssa Lloyd/The Demolitionist
If you were to take Robocop and take all the really good stuff out of it, replace the actors with mostly incapable ones, bastardize the plot and make the hero look like Jamie Powell from Charles In Charge, then you would have The Demolitionist. But hey, special effects maestro Tom Savini acts in this!
This movie is terrible with a capital TERRIBLE. It’s mid ’90s sci-fi/action schlock for the straight to VHS market. Granted, even though I lived in video stores throughout my youth, I never rented this. The first time I saw it was in the early ’00s when I was a third shift security guard at a high rise condominium on the beach and this popped up on TBS or TNT at three in the morning. I actually didn’t get to see it with full violence and boobies until I just watched it the other night.
Why did I decide to watch this again? Well, it’s been like fifteen years and even though I knew it was bad, I’m a sucker for terrible motion pictures. So, being a sucker for cinematic shit, reliving this experience was not a disappointment.
First, this film has Richard Grieco in it as the sadistic villain. Grieco was decent on the original 21 Jump Street and his own spinoff of that show, Booker. He also starred in a terrible but fun movie, If Looks Could Kill, which saw him play a high school student mistaken for a James Bond type of spy. Other than that, his acting work has been abysmal and this is no different. Well, it could actually be the big glorious cherry on top of his sundae of shitty performances.
Nicole Eggert of Charles In Charge and Baywatch fame stars as the hero. She’s basically Robocop but a hotter version with a normal head and a body that also doesn’t really look altered. Granted, she’s basically a zombie and needs some special injections to prevent her from rotting away. Sadly, we don’t actually get to see Robozombie eating douchebag brains.
Eggert and Grieco were just atrocious in this. It’s really bad, man. Their acting is actually worse than I remembered. I can’t say that it is wholly their fault though, as this entire production is horrendous. Weirdly, it is directed by Robert Kurtzman, who is actually really respected as a monster movie makeup artist. However, his work in the director’s chair leaves a lot to be desired.
Nothing about this movie is good, other than I have a soft spot for Eggert because I used to crush on her hard when I was a young lad in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
You may be wondering if this cyber turd should be run through the trusty Cinespiria Shitometer? Of course it does! The Shitometer can eat and analyze the toughest turds! Even cyber turds! The results read, “Type 4 Stool: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft.”
Rating: 2.5/10 Pairs well with:Robocop and other clones of its story but this is no friggin’ Robocop.
The Evil Dead film series is something I watch quite a lot. I probably have a mini-marathon about once a year or so. With the Evil Dead revival TV series making waves at Starz, I figured I’d rewatch the films again. I have had a strenuous few weeks with work, travel and helping people move. So I needed a nice relaxing weekend to veg out and soak in some good film watching. Well, what’s better than a series of classic horror comedies to get lost in for several hours?
The Evil Dead (1981):
Release Date: October 15th, 1981 Directed by: Sam Raimi Written by: Sam Raimi Music by: Joseph LoDuca Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Hal Delrich, Betsy Baker, Sarah York
Renaissance Pictures, New Line Cinema, 85 Minutes
“Thank you. I don’t know what I would have done if I had remained on those hot coals, burning my pretty flesh.” – Shelly
If you have never seen the original The Evil Dead, then you have done yourself a disservice.
First off, this film introduced the world to Bruce Campbell – one of the greatest horror icons of all-time and a good actor who has the comedic timing and presence of some of Hollywood’s greatest comedians.
Secondly, it introduced the world to director Sam Raimi – a man who has gone on to make some pretty amazing films, the most notable (after the Evil Dead trilogy) being Spider-Man 2. We’ll ignore Spider-Man 3.
The Evil Dead follows some friends who go to a cabin in the woods, a formula that wasn’t redundant at the time. There they discover an evil book and some tape recordings that release some demonic evil on the group. Their horrible misfortune becomes our violent, frightening yet very hilarious entertainment. Never has a film offered up so much disturbing dread and still nailed it with comedy. Well, except Evil Dead II.
The most amazing thing about this film is that it was well below even being low budget. I don’t think there was really any budget at all and that is where the filmmaking skill of the young Raimi came through. He was able to create a world full of high quality practical effects for next to nothing. Filmmaking like this is truly a lost art for the most part. The Evil Dead is a standard bearer of what can be done when money is non-existent but passion far exceeds limitations.
Evil Dead II (1987):
Release Date: March 13th, 1987 Directed by: Sam Raimi Written by: Sam Raimi, Scott Spiegel Music by: Joseph LoDuca Cast: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley, Richard Domeier
Renaissance Pictures, Rosebud Releasing, Embassy Communications, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, Palace Pictures, 84 Minutes
“Groovy” – Ash Williams
Evil Dead II is an interesting follow-up to the original. The first ten minutes are a condensed loose remake of the first film while the following hour and fifteen minutes continue where that story left off.
This film is superior to the first in that there is a slightly higher production value and that allowed Sam Raimi’s ingenuity to be that much better. They still had a shoestring budget but that extra cash improved the look of the practical effects, as well as the sets, costumes and overall use of gore. Everything was more refined and cleaner than its predecessor.
From a story standpoint, this is the strongest of the films. It is also the fan favorite, as it is the quintessential Evil Dead movie. It is bookended with a rehash of the first film and the introduction to the world of the third film. It is a perfect bridge, tying the trilogy together. As the centerpiece of the three films and adapting elements of each chapter, this one also allows the tale to evolve the most and it plays like The Empire Strikes Back of this gore-filled, hilarious horror trilogy.
Evil Dead II is everything that made the first film great but done more masterfully. It is an amped-up successor that is one hell of an insane ride.
Army of Darkness (1992):
Release Date: October 9th, 1992 Directed by: Sam Raimi Written by: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi Music by: Joseph LoDuca, Danny Elfman Cast: Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz
Renaissance Pictures, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, Universal Pictures, 81 Minutes (US), 88 Minutes (International)
“Alright you Primitive Screwheads, listen up! You see this? This… is my boomstick! The twelve-gauge double-barreled Remington. S-Mart’s top of the line. You can find this in the sporting goods department. That’s right, this sweet baby was made in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Retails for about a hundred and nine, ninety five. It’s got a walnut stock, cobalt blue steel, and a hair trigger. That’s right. Shop smart. Shop S-Mart. You got that?” – Ash Williams
The third film isn’t even called Evil Dead. It also takes the most liberty of all three of the original films, as it deviates from the environment established over the course of the first two chapters – bringing our hero into the Middle Ages where he must find a way back home while combating the evil forces once again unlocked by the evil book, the Necronomicon.
This film is the least terrifying and has the most comedy. Although, it is still dark, twisted and can be frightening at times. It is also the only one that I saw in the theater when it came out, as I was too young and unaware of these films when the previous ones were released.
Where Evil Dead II is the quintessential Evil Dead movie, Army of Darkness is the quintessential Bruce Campbell movie. Never has he been better and more bad ass. By this point, Campbell was really comfortable with the role and played it so naturally, that he and Ash Williams have become one. He’s tough as nails, even more hilarious and this is probably where audiences most fell in love with him.
The Middle Ages setting is refreshing and gave this series a much needed curveball while still being true to the heart and spirit of the great films before it.
Evil Dead (2013 remake):
Release Date: March 8th, 2013 (SXSW) Directed by: Fede Álvarez Written by: Fede Álvarez, Rodo Sayagues Based on:The Evil Dead by Sam Raimi Music by: Roque Baños Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore, Bruce Campbell (post-credits cameo)
Ghost House Pictures, FilmDistrict, TriStar Pictures, 92 Minutes
“Mia’s not here, you fucking idiot! Your little sister’s being raped in Hell!” – Mia
The remake isn’t really a remake but more of a retelling that happens in the same universe to a different group of people. While it takes certain liberties to differentiate itself from the original films, each film in the original series also found ways to deviate from the established plot. It may be hard to figure out where this fits exactly but that isn’t much different from how the second film fits with the first, as it treads the same water but alters the original’s back story.
This film is the first to not be directed by Sam Raimi, although he produced it, oversaw its production and gave it his blessing. Also, the addition of Bruce Campbell in a cameo after the credits adds credence to the film.
Evil Dead is different in tone in that it focuses a lot more on horror and is truly terrifying from start-to-finish. The cinematography is top notch, the acting is better than one would typically get in a horror film and the characters are mostly likable. Plus, this film had a nice budget.
Compared to the original trilogy, this film isn’t as good. Compared to modern horror, it could very well be a masterpiece. It isn’t some PG-13 CGI fest with nothing but jump scares and irritating teenagers. In a sea of “found footage” horror schlock, this movie is refreshing and kind of groundbreaking. It doesn’t really give anything new to the genre, it just reinvigorates it and reminds us of what true cinematic terror can be.
I like this film a lot, as I have been a huge horror fan my entire life and this, at least, sets itself apart from the mediocre shit that modern horror has become.
Release Date: July 18th, 1990 (France) Directed by: William Lustig Written by: Larry Cohen Music by: Jay Chattaway Cast: Robert Z’Dar, Robert Davi, Claudia Christian, Michael Lerner, Laurene Landon, Bruce Campbell, Clarence Williams III, Leo Rossi, Danny Trejo, Sam Raimi, Charles Napier
Fadd Enterprises, Medusa Pictures, The Movie House Sales Company, Overseas FilmGroup, Live Home Video, 88 Minutes
There is a belief that sequels are never as good as the original. Well, Maniac Cop 2 bucks that trend, as it is better than its great predecessor. While the IMDb rating doesn’t reflect that, most people don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, which is why Avatar is the highest grossing movie of all-time.
We’re missing the gravitas of the first in regards to it boasting the acting talents of Tom Atkins and Richard Roundtree. Bruce Campbell comes back, at least, even if it is in a limited capacity. However, we do get Robert Davi and that’s a big plus. Clarence Williams III and Danny Trejo also have small roles in this.
This chapter in the trilogy sees the Maniac Cop return, as he didn’t die in the finale of the first film. His first order of business is to tie up the loose ends from the previous movie, which in a horror picture translates to “kill those damn survivors!”
We also learn more about the situation that sent our title character to prison in the first place. He was a good cop that went to the extreme, at times, but he was set up in a government conspiracy and made to take the fall. All this comes out in this movie and Robert Davi is on a mission to clear the Maniac Cop’s name and hopefully give him peace: ending his spree of violence.
The action in this film is a lot heavier and so much better than the first one. There are a lot of good vehicle sequences and then the big battle between the Maniac Cop and an entire police station is absolutely fantastic. Then there is the finale where he storms the prison, catches on fire and angrily stalks and murders the criminals who initially killed him behind bars, all while he is still on fire!
Maniac Cop 2 is a solid film. It is low budget horror at its finest but it is a film that has so much more than that. It also surpasses the first movie in bad ass intensity. Robert Z’Dar was so good as the monster and this is the monster at his best.
Release Date: May 13th, 1988 Directed by: William Lustig Written by: Larry Cohen Music by: Jay Chattaway Cast: Tom Atkins, Bruce Campbell, Richard Roundtree, Robert Z’Dar, Laurene Landon, William Smith, Sheree North, Buck Flower
Shapiro-Glickenhaus Entertainment, 85 Minutes
This is a film that stars four incredible bad asses. First you have Tom Atkins, who kicks the bejesus out of anything in his path even if he doesn’t look like a traditional action star. Then you have Bruce Campbell a.k.a. Ash Williams from Evil Dead and Brisco County Jr. from The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. Add in Richard Roundtree, who will always be known as Shaft, and Robert Z’Dar, most famous for his role here, as the Maniac Cop, but who has also been in a slew of bad ass roles over his career.
If that isn’t enough to sell you on this film, I don’t know what is.
In the film, there is a serial killer who seems to be picking random people to murder. It isn’t long before it is discovered that the killer is a cop. Bruce Campbell’s character gets blamed for the killings but he isn’t the guy doing it. Tom Atkins is leading the investigation and has to answer to his boss, Richard Roundtree. The killer is a hulking giant of a man in a police uniform. The Maniac Cop is actually Robert Z’Dar and the story tries to put the pieces together in an effort to discover his identity and why he’s become a murderous maniac.
While this film fits the slasher formula, it is more of a whodunit mystery. This film is also more of a crime thriller, whereas its sequels went the more traditional slasher route.
It is a pretty decent film overall but it isn’t anything exceptional. The cast makes it much better than it should be. The movie is bogged down by poor editing, direction and a shrill and incomprehensible score. The music is fine to a point but there are scenes where the score takes over and is a distraction, most notably in the shower fight scene.
The cinematography is pretty good though. While the film is dark, for the most part, the highlights and subtle lighting work add a depth to the visual side of storytelling. The scene where the Maniac Cop is flashing back to his demise in prison, is a good example of how a really dark shot can have life, as the sliver of light highlighting the character’s eye while his body is a black silhouette adds a sense of humanity to the monster.
Maniac Cop is not so much a classic, as it is just a really cool slasher picture that is different from the norm. It takes itself more seriously and it has a bit more gravitas than your run of the mill 1980s masked killer movie.
Release Date: February 14th, 2013 (El Capitan Theare premiere) Directed by: Sam Raimi Written by: Mitchell Kapner, David Lindsay-Abaire Based on:Oz books by L. Frank Baum Music by: Danny Elfman Cast: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, Bill Cobbs, Joey King, Tony Cox
Walt Disney, Roth Films, Curtis-Donen Productions, 130 Minutes
Being a fan of Walt Disney in general and a fan of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, I figured I would check this film out. I wasn’t keen on Disney’s live-action Alice In Wonderland, a few years prior, but considering that this had a pretty decent cast and a different director, I gave it a shot. Besides, Walt Disney made magic with 1985’s Return to Oz, which is still one of the best, if not the best, interpretations of Baum’s work. Also, that film still has a level of creepiness to it that makes it just as unsettling as an adult, as it was when I first saw it as a child.
As far as this film goes, I’m really on the fence. There were scenes and sequences in the movie that were incredibly well done and parts where the writing was superb. Then it would quickly go the other way and give you situations that were beyond ridiculous, even for a CGI fairytale, as well as a huge level of confusion over the characters motivations and evolution throughout the film.
Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz were pretty good in their roles. James Franco was decent but really grew into the role and took charge in the final act of the film. Zach Braff was great as Oz’s assistant in the prologue to the film and as the voice of Finley the flying monkey, a character that one could almost consider beloved had he had more screen time and had he been developed a bit more.
The biggest negative of this film was Mila Kunis. I found this surprising, as I usually like her in most things. However, her transformation to the Wicked Witch of the West was poorly done and her acting in the role went from completely uninteresting and vanilla to so over the top that she became cringe worthy every time she came on the screen.
A special shout out goes to Bill Cobbs, Tony Cox and Bruce Campbell. All three did great in their minimal roles. In Campbell’s case, it was really just a cameo.
The special effects weren’t great and the green screen work in many scenes was pretty deplorable. The evil flying monkeys looked odd and the world of Oz was too fantastical. Yes, it’s a fairytale but the world felt like a crude coloring book done by an angry three year-old who only had four crayons. It was like looking at some bad child art hanging up in a Pizza Hut.
The final battle, if you could call it that, was the highlight of the film and it really showcased the creative ability of director Sam Raimi. He and the writers found a great way to solve the problem of a mere mortal taking on two powerful wicked witches. The final act of the film was the best and it left me feeling some level of appreciation for what I spent two hours of my time watching.
All that being said, I would rather play the Temple Run game based off of this film than ever watch this movie again. In fact, that game is really what motivated me to finally watch this film a few years after its release.