Film Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Also known as: Planet of the Apes: Genesis, Genesis: Apes, Caesar, Rise of the Apes (working titles)
Release Date: July 28th, 2011 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Rupert Wyatt
Written by: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Based on: Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle
Music by: Patrick Doyle
Cast: James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo, Andy Serkis

Chernin Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Caesar. I’m sorry. This my fault. This has to stop. This isn’t the way, you know what they’re capable of. Please come home. If you come home, I’ll protect you.” – Will Rodman

I’ve already reviewed the two films after this one but this film came out in a time where I wasn’t writing movie reviews. So I figured that I’d go back and give it a rewatch because I had fairly fond memories of it and because I want to revisit and review the original film series as well.

All three of the films in the most modern reboot series are consistently good. This one sits in the middle for me between the other two but they’re all pretty close in quality and enjoyment.

This film focuses on the events that started the ape takeover of the planet. It handles that in a great way too, as it focuses on science run amok but with good intentions behind it. So it’s really not too dissimilar from science run amok in the real world. It’s also not too dissimilar from how some corporations are willing to compromise ethics for profit. Social and political critique aside, the setup to the ape takeover feels plausible within a real world setting.

In a lot of ways, this reminds me of the fourth Planet of the Apes film from the original series, in that it goes back in time to the early stages of the uprising. It also does this film some favors in that the fourth original Apes movie had my favorite story out of the lot.

This is well acted from James Franco, Freida Pinto and John Lithgow as the main human characters, but it is superbly acted by the living legend, Andy Serkis, who performed in a motion capture suit in order to play the main ape, Caesar.

The bond and emotion between Serkis and Franco is uncanny and you feel everything that both of them feel, every step of the way through this story. While it has to be somewhat difficult to pull performances off when motion capture is involved, Andy Serkis truly nailed it as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings films and I think that he’s even a bit better in this. Serkis has truly mastered how to speak through his eyes, his posture and subtle movements.

What’s really impressive, is that even though I’ve already seen this film and knew about the moment where Caesar speaks for the first time, it was still chilling to see it again and it’s the moment that really cements this film as something special.

I really liked this trilogy and I don’t think that it would’ve existed if this film hadn’t worked as well as it did.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Planet of the Apes reboot movies that followed this one.

Film Review: Highlander: The Final Dimension (1994)

Also known as: Highlander III: The Sorcerer (original title), Highlander: The Magician (Sweden VHS title)
Release Date: November 30th, 1994 (Philippines)
Directed by: Andrew Morahan
Written by: Paul Ohl, Rene Manzor, Brad Mirman, William N. Panzer
Based on: characters by Gregory Widen
Music by: J. Peter Robinson
Cast: Christopher Lambert, Mario Van Peebles, Deborah Unger, Mako, Clancy Brown (archive footage)

Fallingcloud, Initial Groupe, Karambole Films Productions, 99 Minutes

Review:

“I’ll see you in hell!” – Kane, “I’ll be the judge of that.” – Connor MacLeod

While the Highlander series should have stopped at one film, this third entry is at least much better than the second. Granted, it’s still fairly shitty.

Christopher Lambert returns as Connor MacLeod and once again, he has to fight another Immortal because sequels gonna sequel. It doesn’t matter that he killed the last Immortal (other than himself) in the first film. Actually, he does that in the second one too.

However, at least this doesn’t try to make sense out of the terrible, second film and this really just ignores that it ever happened. But that’s another problem with this series, as each new chapter just sort of did what it wanted. It’s kind of like the Terminator franchise without a big budget or bankable star.

The only good thing about this movie is that I liked the villain. While Mario Van Peebles’ Kane has the most generic name ever and he isn’t nearly as badass as Clancy Brown’s The Kurgan, I liked the sorcerer twist to the character and he looked fucking cool.

Plus, Van Peebles really seemed to be enjoying the role, as he got to be a total bastard that looked like he was truly relishing in his bastardness. Sure, he was hammy but he was good hammy while the rest of the film was shit hammy.

Other than that, this movie is a fucking mess and it’s really damn hard to sit through in one go. I had to pause it about three times to walk around the house and stare into the abyss of my empty fridge, as there was nothing to curb my boredom hunger.

That being said, this is still a more enjoyable and palatable picture than its direct predecessor. But that movie was so bad it was used to torture information out of terrorists.

God, I really don’t want to have to watch the fourth and fifth films in this franchise.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Highlander sequels, none of which come close to the cool and original first film.

Film Review: It Chapter Two (2019)

Release Date: August 26th, 2019 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Andy Muschietti
Written by: Gary Dauberman
Based on: It by Stephen King
Music by: Benjamin Wallfisch
Cast: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgård, Sophia Lillis, Jaeden Martell, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Olef, Stephen King (cameo)

KatzSmith Productions, Lin Pictures, Vertigo Entertainment, Double Dream, Rideback, Mehra Entertainment, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros., 170 Minutes

Review:

“For 27 years, I dreamt of you. I craved you… I’ve missed you!” – Pennywise

The adult half of the story to It was never as interesting or as engaging as the child half, so I probably shouldn’t have expected this film to be as good as its predecessor. However, it falls short in other aspects despite just being less interesting.

To start, it’s just too damn long and way too drawn out. The first two acts are slow as hell and I actually found it baffling that this wasn’t something that was fixed in editing.

The worst of it all, was the middle act of the film where all the characters had to go off on their own journeys to deal with their personal demons. I felt like each of these segments was too long and frankly, they could’ve somehow been edited together into one overlapping sequence, as opposed to multiple ones that just felt like their own separate chapters in the story. They felt more like side quests in a video game while taking a break from the main story. That works in a game but it definitely doesn’t work in a motion picture with limited time to tell its story.

Another major negative was the horror itself. I found many parts of the first film to be pretty damn disturbing. In this film, everything came off like this was the diet version of the previous installment. Pennywise wasn’t nearly as terrifying and most of the murders and violence were basic bitch shit. Pennywise pretty much just goes clown piranha and bites people in half. There’s no real creativity to any of it.

Additionally, the final monster was just a giant Pennywise with crab-like limbs. While I’ve knocked how the monster looked in the 1990 TV miniseries, it was at least more imaginative than just making a CGI crab monster with a clown head.

That’s really part of the problem here too. You see, almost every evil entity in the film has to be clown themed. The original novel and TV miniseries deviated from this, as the monster takes many forms. It isn’t specifically a fucked up clown. Pennywise (or It) is a shape-shifting alien from another dimension. He’s also thousands (if not millions) of years old. The MFer predates clowns and really just uses that form to lure in modern children… not adults.

Moving past all the faults working against this film, it is well acted and the cast did a pretty superb job, all things considered. It’s also well shot and visually consistent with its predecessor.

Still, the negatives severely impact the movie as a whole and I just don’t think that I’ll ever want to sit through this again, which is sad, as I really dug the first picture and typically enjoy film adaptations of Stephen King’s work.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor and other recent Stephen King adaptations for the big screen.

Film Review: Shazam! (2019)

Also known as: Billy Batson and the Legend of Shazam! (script title), Franklin (working title)
Release Date: March 25th, 2019 (Pathé Unlimited Night – Netherlands)
Directed by: David F. Sandberg
Written by: Henry Gayden, Darren Lemke
Based on: Captain Marvel by Bill Parker, C. C. Beck
Music by: Benjamin Wallfisch
Cast: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Djimon Hounsou, Faithe Herman, Grace Fulton, Ian Chen, Jovan Armand, Marta Milans, Cooper Andrews, John Glover

DC Entertainment, DC Comics, Warner Bros., 132 Minutes

Review:

“[to Doctor Thaddeus Sivana] You’re like a bad guy, right?” – Shazam

I watched this back-to-back with the Birds of Prey movie that has a really long, dumb title. As much as that one rubbed me the wrong way, this one let me go to bed that night with a smile on my face. Reason being, unlike Birds of PreyShazam! is a movie that did just about everything right.

To start, I was impressed with Zachary Levi in the title role. He wasn’t just an adult acting like a kid, he really lived the part and was convincing, especially in regards to his enthusiasm, body language and facial expressions.

I also really enjoyed Mark Strong as the villainous Doctor Sivana. While he’s already been Sinestro and played big parts in other comic book movies, I thought that this was his best role yet in the genre.

Speaking of his character, the opening scene was a nice swerve where you expected it to be the origin of Captain Marvel… or Shazam as they are calling him now, in an effort to avoid confusion with Marvel’s Captain Marvel. But the opening origin was actually that of the villain, Doctor Sivana. We see him as a young kid almost acquire the Shazam power but he fails the test due to craving the dark magic that seven demons tried to influence him in taking.

Over the years, Sivana dedicated his life to finding a way back to that mystical place with the dark magic and he does achieve his goal.

To counteract that, the good wizard Shazam seeks out the right candidate to take his power in an effort to save the world from Sivana. He finds the young Billy Batson and this movie then turns into a heck of an entertaining adventure.

While origin movies have been done to death and origins can seem to make a first chapter in a superhero franchise feel somewhat stagnant and derivative, this origin story for both the hero and the villain is just so good and it feels fresh.

Ultimately, this was a great way to introduce this character to a new audience in a new medium and it really set the stage for some hopefully solid sequels. With Dwayne Johnson coming aboard as Black Adam in the second film, I’m really stoked to see the magic he and Zachary Levi can create together onscreen.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the better DC Comics pictures of the last few years.

Documentary Review: Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows (1998)

Release Date: December 20th, 1998
Directed by: Paul Jay
Written by: Paul Jay
Cast: Bret Hart, Vince McMahon, Shawn Michaels, Stu Hart, Helen Hart, Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, Jim Neidhart, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Triple H, Brian Pillman, Blade Hart, Julie Hart, Diana Hart, Keith Hart, Tammy Sytch, Georgia Hart, Dave Meltzer, The Honky Tonk Man, Earl Hebner, Vince Russo, Mick Foley, Dustin Rhodes, Pat Patterson, Leon ‘Vader’ White, Ellie Hart, Alison Hart, Michael P.S. Hayes, Savio Vega, Harry Smith

High Road Productions, National Film Board of Canada (NFB), TVOntario, Vidmark/Trimark, 93 Minutes

Review:

Wrestling with Shadows is, hands down, one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen on any subject. Luckily for me, it’s on a subject I love: professional wrestling.

When this came out back in the late ’90s, it was a mega hit! Well, as much as it could be, as Vince McMahon used his influence to try and stop it from being seen. I remember that they did end up broadcasting it on A&E in 1999, which was the first time I saw it.

As a wrestling tape trader in the ’90s, this was one of those holy grail things that was being passed around, as well as the screener copies of 1999’s Beyond the Mat.

For those that don’t know, this was supposed to be a simple documentary about a year in Bret Hart’s life. What it ended up being is an intimate peek into one of the biggest scandals in professional wrestling history: The Montreal Screwjob.

The documentary is more intimate than most on the subject of professional wrestling. It truly delves into the personal lives of not just Bret Hart but the entire Hart Family. While Bret is certainly the focus, we get to hear from several family members and even see what family dinners looked like. We get an intimate look at the famous Hart Family Dungeon and even get to spend time with his parents, most notably his mother Helen. The Hart matriarch talks about how she truly feels about the wrestling business and how what was only supposed to be temporary became her family’s all-consuming legacy.

Beyond that, this starts to tell the story about how WWE owner Vince McMahon offered Bret Hart a twenty year contract worth a ton of money and how he decided he needed to renege on that deal and let Bret Hart leave for greener financial pastures with Ted Turner’s WCW, the company that was taking WWE to the woodshed at the time.

Eventually, this all leads to Vince lying to Bret and double-crossing him in front of the world.

The last twenty minutes or so of this documentary are damn compelling and it still holds up, twenty-three years after the incident.

Whether you give a crap about professional wrestling or not, this is still a fascinating documentary that started out as one thing and then evolved into something much, much more.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries but most notably Beyond the Mat and 350 Days.

Documentary Review: 350 Days (2018)

Also known as: 350 Days – Legends. Champions. Survivors (DVD title)
Release Date: July 12th, 2018
Directed by: Fulvio Cecere
Cast: Bret Hart, “Superstar” Billy Graham, Greg Valentine, Jimmy Snuka, James J. Dillon, Bill Eadie, Abdullah the Butcher, Ox Baker, Ted DiBiase, David “Gangrel” Heath, Marty Jannetty, Angelo Mosca, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, Lex Luger, Lanny Poffo, Wendi Richter, Larry Sharpe, George “The Animal” Steele

Happy Fish Productions, 108 Minutes

Review:

This was a pretty interesting documentary that focuses on a part of the wrestling business that I don’t think has been covered as the sole subject of a documentary before: the travel schedule.

The film lets a few dozen wrestlers discuss their travel schedules over the course of their careers and how it effected them physically, mentally and their lives inside and outside of the ring.

Each wrestler has their own story and almost everything here is pretty cool for fans of the business.

This is presented as talking head interviews edited into a quick paced narrative, keeping things flowing nicely and allowing each of the wrestlers’ stories to build off of one another’s.

I especially like hearing insight from Bret Hart, Lanny Poffo, Greg Valentine, Billy Graham, Wendi Richter and Ted DiBiase.

I don’t think that a lot of people that aren’t fans of the wrestling industry, know or understand how hard a professional wrestler’s schedule and travel can be. This does a good job of explaining it through personal stories.

This isn’t the greatest wrestling documentary out there, but it was still professionally shot, edited and presented and that sets it apart from some of the sloppy ones you may have seen.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other recent wrestling documentaries.

Film Review: Doctor Sleep (2019)

Release Date: October 30th, 2019 (France)
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Written by: Mike Flanagan
Based on: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
Music by: The Newton Brothers
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis, Carl Lumbly, Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind, Bruce Greenwood, Jocelin Donahue, Zackary Momoh, Carel Struycken, Alex Essoe, Henry Thomas

Intrepid Pictures, Vertigo Entertainment, Warner Bros., 152 Minutes, 180 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“You’re magic. Like me.” – Abra Stone, “You need to listen to me. The world’s a hungry place. A dark place. I’ve only met two or three people like us. They died. When I was a kid, I bumped into these things. I don’t know about magic. I, I always called it “the shining.”” – Danny Torrance

*There be spoilers here!

When I first heard that Stephen King was penning a sequel to The Shining, I was pretty excited. If I’m being honest though, I didn’t have high expectations or anything, I just thought that it’d be cool to check in on Danny Torrance after the events of his childhood to see how he turned out and what sort of effect that level of horror had on him.

I wasn’t excited about the book, itself; I was more excited about the possibility of what the book’s existence meant. Especially, as a sequel film is something that has been toyed around with by Warner Bros. before. But luckily for us, they didn’t crap out some inferior straight-to-DVD product, they instead waited decades and decided to adapt King’s own sequel.

Full disclosure, I haven’t read the book and for those of you who have been reading my reviews for awhile, you probably already know that I’m not a massive fan of King’s writing but I’m more of a fan of live action adaptations of his work. Well, the good ones, anyway.

I didn’t have huge expectations for the film either but once I knew what the premise for the story was and saw who was cast as the lead, it was hard to not feel something.

Once I saw the first trailer, I felt that the tone and the style of the movie were solid and I was intrigued.

Unfortunately, I missed it on the big screen, as I had a lot going on and it didn’t stay in my local theater for more than a couple of weeks. Also, it’s hard for me to sit in the cinema now for two and a half hours because I’m getting old, I drink too much soda, hate holding my pee and can’t stand other people around me scrolling Facebook, answering their phones, chatting to their neighbor and making as much noise as possible with their popcorn crunching and candy bag diddling.

So I’m glad that I watched this at home, even though it would’ve been really cool to revisit the Overlook Hotel in a proper cinematic setting.

Getting to the film itself, I was really impressed with Doctor Sleep. I can’t say that it is as good as Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining but it is really hard to top or even come close to a masterpiece. Still, this film does the material justice and it justifies its existence, becoming its own story and its own film, independent of the original. Granted, for context and for a richer overall experience, you should still probably watch the original film if you haven’t, as the call backs to it are really neat and it might be better to get the whole experience and not just one half of it.

Furthermore, this truly is a sequel to that 1980 Kubrick version. The hotel is the same, once you travel back there, and the actors cast to reprise that film’s iconic roles were done so with the intent of trying to replicate the performances and the look of those actors. I’d say that this film pulls that trick off, even if it is kind of weird seeing someone else’s face in the place of Shelley Duval’s, Scatman Crothers’ and Jack Nicholson’s. But its done in the best way possible and it respects the work of the actors that came before.

Side note: Jack Torrance appears very briefly and he’s played by Henry Thomas a.k.a. Elliott from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. What’s even more interesting is that he also once played the iconic Norman Bates in 1990’s Psycho IV: The Beginning.

Beyond all that, the actors playing the main roles in this film all give superb performances. I’ve especially got to give credit to Ewan McGregor, as the adult version of Danny Torrance, and Rebecca Ferguson, who plays Rose the Hat, this film’s primary antagonist.

I also thought that Kyliegh Curran was really good as the young Abra. This is the first movie I’ve seen her in and kid actors are usually annoying as hell but she played her part like a veteran and delivered in a way that most adult actors wouldn’t have been able to.

The supporting cast did their job solidly from Cliff Curtis as Danny’s friend, Zahn McClarnon as the evil but awesomely enchanting Crow Daddy, Emily Alyn Lind as Snakebite Andi and Bruce Greenwood, as Danny’s boss and leader of his AA group. We also get to see Carel Struycken as the patriarch of the evil gang, he’s probably most famous for playing the Giant in everything Twin Peaks related. He was also Terak, the villain from the second Ewoks TV movie from the ’80s.

The most important takeaway for me was the story. I loved it, I thought it was a great expansion on the already established mythos and even if a return to the hotel initially felt like cheap fan service, it worked and it brought things full circle for the Danny character.

Sadly, he does die, which I thought was a mistake because there is real potential in the idea of Danny and Abra having stories beyond this one. I guess they can utilize Danny as a ghost, as they did with the Dick Hollorann character, but there’s that part of you that wants him to survive this because there’s more good work to do and the end of the story is left wide open for further exploration, especially in regards to what the villains are and how there might be more.

I thought that the direction by Mike Flanagan was top notch. I’m not all that familiar with his other work, other than I know that he’s worked in the horror genre for a little while. This may inspire me to go back and look at his earlier films, though.

Additionally, the movie has great cinematography that is equal parts terrifying and mesmerizing. The film is meticulously shot and presented with perfect lighting regardless of the visual tone of the scene while also boasting magnificent shot framing. There isn’t a weak looking or half-assed scene in the picture and the work of the director and cinematographer, Michael Fimognari, is impressive.

My only real issue with the film is that I think it would have worked much better as a short (six or eight episode) season of a television series. There’s a lot to this tale and there is certainly a lot more context that could have been utilized to enrich the story if it had more time and more room to breathe. I wanted to know more about the villain group, their history, where they come from, what their larger purpose is, etc. I also would have liked to spend more time with Danny, as a new guy in town, trying to reestablish his life.

In the end, this is one of the best movies I’ve seen from 2019. It is also one of the best horror films of its decade, as the ’10s weren’t very kind to the genre and barely gave us a handful of memorable horror pictures.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the 1980 version of The Shining, as well as good movie and television adaptations of Stephen King’s work.

Film Review: Bad Moon (1996)

Also known as: Thor (working title)
Release Date: November 1st, 1996
Directed by: Eric Red
Written by: Eric Red
Based on: Thor by Wayne Smith
Music by: Daniel Licht
Cast: Mariel Hemingway, Michael Paré, Mason Gamble

Morgan Creek Entertainment, 80 Minutes

Review:

“Ted, you know you’re always welcome here. Here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to park your Airstream in my backyard, and you’re going to live out of my fridge.” – Janet

I’ve never seen this film, which is pretty strange as it came out around the time that I was working in a video store. I certainly remember the poster and thinking it was badass but for whatever reason, I never took the tape home to watch.

I’m glad I checked it out now, though, as it was better than what I had anticipated and it was cool seeing Michael Paré in it, as I really dug that dude when I was a kid because he was the coolest thing in a cool movie that I watched a lot: Streets of Fire.

It also stars Mariel Hemingway and Mason Gamble, the kid from the ’90s Dennis the Menace movie remake. But more importantly than that, it stars Primo, a German shepherd that played the dog Thor. Why am I bringing up the damn dog? Well, because I’ve never seen animal acting this good and I’ve seen thousands of movies.

The dog was just superb, seriously. He stole every scene that he was in and he conveyed emotion, greatly. While the Academy would never watch a fine motion picture like Bad Moon, the film is a good example for the argument that maybe animal actors should have an Oscar category. But that will never happen because Hollywood hasn’t been fun in years and they’d actually have to pull a lot of sticks out of asses and learn how to be human beings again.

Anyway, this film mainly uses practical special effects and they look fantastic. The werewolf in this is one of the best I’ve ever seen in any movie. Granted, I have a strong bias towards bipedal werewolves.

The only special effects hiccup was the werewolf transformation scene in the final sequence of the film. They went the CGI route and while some of it looks okay, there are very weird and wonky moments that look terrible even for 1996 standards. CGI was still in its early stages, though, and this film didn’t have a budget the size of Jurassic Park‘s. I can look beyond that scene, however, as the rest of the film is pretty f’n awesome.

Now some of the acting is a bit off but I think that it was due to the editing and direction. The worst scene that comes to mind is the one with the con-artist baiting the dog to bite him. Unfortunately, this scene introduces us to two of the main characters, so it kicks off the film with a rocky start. Luckily, everything sort of slides into place and the rest of the film is mostly fine.

One thing that really stood out for me was the musical score. It was intense but good. It reminded me a lot of the scores by Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner. It had that heavy, brassy, orchestral vibe in the best way possible. I’ve never heard of Daniel Licht or recognized any of his scores in other films but looking him up on IMDb, he’s done a lot of cool ’90s horror pictures. Sadly, he died a few years back.

I was really surprised by this picture. It was a lot of fun and a really cool, campy, werewolf flick. It’s not perfect but it doesn’t need to be. While it has the flaws that I’ve already mentioned, everything else more than makes up for them.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: ’80s, ’90s and early ’00s werewolf movies: Silver Bullet, Ginger Snaps, Dog Soldiers, the original Howling.

Film Review: The Gate II: Trespassers (1990)

Also known as: Gate 2 (informal title)
Release Date: June, 1990 (Italy)
Directed by: Tibor Takacs
Written by: Michael Nankin
Music by: George Blondheim
Cast: Louis Tripp, Pamela Adlon (as Pamela Segall)

Vision PDG, Alliance Entertainment, Epic Productions, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Who needs chicks when we got demons?” – John

The Gate is a film that I have a lot of love for. I remembered not liking the sequel nearly as much but it had been so long since I’d seen it, that revisiting it was something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time. It’s been a hard movie to track down though, at least in the streaming era.

In fact, I could never find it, even to rent. But within the last month it popped up for free on Amazon Video for people with a Prime membership. So I figured now was my chance to watch it because it could disappear tomorrow and never return.

So seeing it now, I like it better than I did when I saw it circa 1992. It’s not as good as the first movie and it lacks Stephen Dorff but it adds in a more comedic tone and is kind of fun, even if it feels slow at points.

Terry, the heavy metal wizard kid from the first movie is the only cast member to return. He wants to help his dad, who has fallen on very hard times, so he tries to reach out to the demons that plagued the first movie. Apparently, he didn’t learn his lesson the first time.

However, while Terry is calling upon the forces of Hell, his occult ceremony is interrupted by Pamela Adlon, who I love in everything, along with her doofus dickhead boyfriend and his lacky dipshit friend. All four teens get involved in the demonic shenanigans and we get a movie that is actually fairly original and not trying to rehash what we already saw in the first picture.

Overall, this is a pretty enjoyable, cheesy horror film. It has a few slow bits and they probably could’ve lobbed off ten minutes of the film and made it better, even thought it’d just be 80 minutes then.

I thought that the effects were mostly pretty good, especially since this didn’t have a hefty budget. The stop motion animation, while dated, still works really well. There are also some scenes where they had to composite things visually and they did a fantastic job. For example, the bits where the little demon in the cage is a guy in a rubber suit and he’s interacting with regular sized humans in the same shots came out impressively well.

An interesting thing about this film too, is that it was shot almost immediately after the original came out. It was slated for release in 1988 or 1989 but got delayed due to the studio folding. The film was sold off and eventually released in Europe in 1990, finally making it to the U.S. in early 1992, which is when I saw it.

The issues with its release probably hurt its performance and thus, what could have been a nice, low budget horror franchise, never got to live beyond its second chapter.

However, there have been talks of remakes for years. In fact, Alex Winter, at one point, was slated to direct a 3D remake. But that was nearly a decade ago and now Winter is working hard on resurrecting Bill & Ted for the big screen.

The Gate II is a sequel that didn’t need to be made but it does justify its existence by taking things in a fresh direction. A third film could’ve been cool and may have made more money as a straight-to-video release in the ’90s. But alas, The Gate‘s story ended here.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor, The Gate, as well as Brainscan, Pet Sematary Two and other early ’90s teen demon movies.

Film Review: The Thing (2011)

Also known as: The Thing: The Beginning (working title)
Release Date: October 10th, 2011 (Universal City premiere)
Directed by: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Written by: Eric Heisserer
Based on: Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Eric Christian Olsen

Morgan Creek Entertainment, Universal Pictures, Strike Entertainment, 103 Minutes

Review:

“You think they’re gonna pay a bonus for bringing home an alien instead of core samples?” – Colin

While this prequel to 1982’s The Thing, also titled The Thing, is not a bad movie, it is a perfect example of why I will never like CGI monster effects as much as physical, real, practical effects like its predecessor.

If you watch both Things back-to-back, you will see the stark difference between this CGI festival of love and the much more impressive, real feeling effects of John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece.

Where the 1982 movie, regardless of how many times I’ve seen it, is still terrifying and a complete and total mindfuck, this 2011 prequel’s special effects look like they’re from a video game. Because of that, they pull you out of the film and its potentially terrifying impact because you’re reminded that this isn’t real and in fact, it’s kind of cartoonish by comparison.

The story here is good, as is the acting, the direction and just about everything else. Well, except for the pacing. Frankly, it’s oddly paced and doesn’t slowly build and escalate in the same way as the 1982 version, which they honestly should’ve just followed because it’s a perfect template on how to build tension at the right speed, in the right way and how to smack the audience in the face with a perfect finale.

Maybe the writers and the director didn’t want to do a complete rehash but they should have. While this is neither a remake nor a reboot, who cares. The reason why The Thing is a perfect movie is because of its flawless narrative framework, as well as its incredible effects that still look good almost forty years later. This Thing doesn’t seem to understand that, so it doesn’t utilize either of those winning techniques and we’re left with something promising on paper but executed like someone was designing cut scenes for a Resident Evil video game.

While I generally liked the story and how it explored the creature a bit more than what we already knew, it kind of goes too far with the battle on the crashed UFO finale. It’s not a big battle and it just follows the two remaining survivors as they decide to go there for some odd reason. They burn the alien and we think the story is done. But we already know that if it were truly dead, we wouldn’t have had a story for the 1982 movie.

So there’s a twist at the end that isn’t all that surprising and for some dumb reason the female lead of the movie survives. Honestly, this is a movie where everyone should’ve died. We shouldn’t have gotten the final girl riding off into the tundra in a snowcat like The Shining.

During the credits, we cut to a sequence that sets up the opening shots of the 1982 film. This part was done pretty well and honestly, at least this movie did a pretty good job of connecting the dots that we only just peaked at in the 1982 version. We see how every victim discovered in the 1982 version died where they were found, as well as seeing how the alien carcass had two faces merged together. I liked that they actually gave enough of a shit to work this stuff into the plot and none of it really felt forced.

Ultimately, this is a decent companion piece to the ’82 picture but it certainly isn’t necessary and honestly, didn’t need to be made. The fan service stuff was neat but the film completely missed its mark due to its failure of understanding the elements that made John Carpenter’s The Thing a perfect horror movie in the first place.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: 1982’s The Thing, which this connects to directly with its post-credits scene, as well as other body horror flicks.