Release Date: January 19th, 2001 (Sundance) Directed by: Richard Kelly Written by: Richard Kelly Music by: Michael Andrews Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Duval, Drew Barrymore, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, Katharine Ross, Patrick Swayze, Noah Wyle, Daveigh Chase, Arthur Taxier, David St. James, Jazzie Mahannah, Jolene Purdy, Stuart Stone, Gary Lundy, Alex Greenwald, Seth Rogen, Beth Grant, David Moreland, Ashley Tisdale, Jerry Trainor
“I hope that when the world comes to an end, I can breathe a sigh of relief, because there will be so much to look forward to.” – Donnie
This movie had a profound effect on me when I saw it in a movie theater, alone, in 2001. Once it was released on VHS and DVD, I had a copy of both. In fact, I had a version of the VHS that was released in blue plastic, as opposed to the traditional black.
Once I owned the movie, I watched it a lot. Mainly because it was so damn good and I was so damn intrigued by the vague concepts and ideas in it. There was this whole deep, mystical yet science-y mystery, which captivated my psyche.
Beyond that, the film connected with me in a way no other film has. I think that has a lot to do with my age, at the time, and because the title character and myself had similar issues. I liked seeing this character and how he was portrayed, as it felt genuine as hell and like it came from a real place from someone with similar experiences. I’m not saying that Richard Kelly is as “fucked up” as Donnie Darko but it’s clear that he knew what he was writing quite well.
I also liked how this sort of critiqued the Americana lifestyle and was set in the late ’80s, a time where American ideals seemed like they were winning and the middle class were relishing in a time of affordable opulence. Not that any of that is specifically negative, I just thought that this film looked at and examined it in an interesting way.
This is the first time I have watched the movie in probably a decade. I used to watch it so much, it was pretty much burned into my brain. Having that much time away from it, though, allowed me to see it with somewhat fresh eyes and in fact, I was a bit apprehensive about it, as I thought it might not stand up to the test of time and play as well.
Luckily, that apprehension was quickly absolved because this was just as good as I remembered it. Also, in some way, it was like rediscovering it because there were some neat details and nuance that I had forgotten about. I mean, I am starting to get old.
The film is pretty close to perfect and it is so well acted that you get ensnared by it. It’s beautiful visually and narratively and it certainly deserves more recognition than it gets, even if it did establish cult status and a slew of fans over time.
In recent years, though, it feels like it’s being forgotten, as new generations come along and prefer movies with less heart and simplistic, rapid storytelling that deliver constant gratification while moving so fast that nothing in a film older than fifteen minutes seems to matter. Look at the ninth Star Wars saga film and you’ll see what I mean.
It’s sad that Donnie Darko sort of feels like a relic now. At the time, I had hoped it was a bright beacon at the beginning of a new millennium that would help inspire smarter, more original movies but the Michael Bays and J. J. Abramses won out.
And sadly, Richard Kelly tried but was never able to capture the magic he had here with his feature length debut.
Rating: 9.75/10 Pairs well with: this is pretty unusual but I’d say Richard Kelly’s other films: Southland Tales and The Box.
Also known as: Quitters, Inc., The Ledge, General (segment titles) Release Date: April 12th, 1985 Directed by: Lewis Teague Written by: Stephen King Based on: stories by Stephen King Music by: Alan Silvestri Cast: Drew Barrymore, James Woods, Alan King, Kenneth McMillan, Robert Hays, Candy Clark, James Naughton, James Rebhorn, Charles S. Dutton, Mike Starr
Dino De Laurentiis Company, Famous Films, International Film Corporation, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 94 Minutes
“[to Junk] Forget the cat, you hemorrhoid! Get the gun!” – Dr. Vinny Donatti
My feelings on anthology horror movies has been made pretty clear on previous reviews. However, I really, really like the third and final story in this movie and it saves it from being a real dud.
The first story is interesting but in no way realistic. It’s entertaining to watch, though, simply because James Woods is so damn good in it and he commits to the bit with reckless abandon.
In this story, we see a man go to Quitters, Inc. in an effort to quit smoking. The organization’s methods, however, are extremely fucked up and life altering. It’s a cool idea but it wasn’t very well thought out before execution. Granted, that could also be due to the segment really only having about a half hour to tell its story.
The second segment is like a dam in the river and it almost kills the movie. I guess it works watching it for the first time but there isn’t much to make you want to revisit it. In fact, I only sat through it to re-familiarize myself with it for this review.
It’s about a rich mafioso type in Atlantic City that forces the man that’s fucking his wife to have to make a lap around his casino penthouse by shimmying along a narrow ledge. Of course, the asshole tries to knock the guy off several times. Ultimately, the tables are turned and you’re probably thankful that we can move on to another story.
The third and final tale is a really neat horror fantasy starring a young Drew Barrymore, as a girl who takes in a stray cat she names General. Now the mom isn’t too keen on the cat and keeps forcing it outside. However, there is a small goblin-like monster that sits on the girl’s chest at night and steals her breath. The cat, of course, is trying to save the girl from this tiny and clever monster.
I love this story so much that I feel like it should’ve just been its own movie. Maybe they couldn’t have stretched it out to 90 minutes but it’s still really cool and it leaves you wanting more. Honestly, it reminded me of the really great episodes from the TV show Amazing Stories.
In the end, this film is okay. It’s really held back by the second segment but it is then gloriously saved by the great finale.
Rating: 6.5/10 Pairs well with: other ’80s horror anthology movies, as well as films based on the work of Stephen King.
Release Date: October 5th, 2017 (New York Film Festival) Directed by: Susan Lacy Cast: Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Richard Dreyfuss, John Williams, J.J. Abrams, James Brolin, Bob Balaban, Tom Hanks, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote, Leonardo DiCaprio, Harrison Ford, Oprah Winfrey, Frank Marshall, Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Robert Zemeckis, Cate Blanchett, Holly Hunter, Dustin Hoffman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tom Cruise, Eric Bana, Daniel Craig
This was a pretty stellar documentary for fans of not just Steven Spielberg but filmmaking and film history in general.
It reminded me a lot of the 2001 documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures, in that this spent a lot of time breaking down most of the key movies in Spielberg’s oeuvre.
Every segment here was rich, detailed and featured interviews with some major directors, actors and producers. But the film also gets into Spielberg’s personal life and how real life experiences influenced his movies.
This was a lengthy documentary, just as the Kubrick one was and rightfully so. In fact, this could have been the length of a ten part, two hour apiece Ken Burns documentary and I still would have been fully engaged.
Spielberg’s career has been long and full of at least a dozen classic films that will be remembered forever. Each segment could’ve been it’s own documentary film and it actually kind of sucks that a few films were mentioned but not given as much detail, most notably A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, the Jurassic Park sequels and some of his production work like Back to the Future.
Still, this is pretty thorough and there is so much to unpack and take away from this. It is one of the best documentaries on a filmmaker’s life and career.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: other documentaries on specific directors but this reminded me a lot of Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures.
Release Date: December 25th, 1980 Directed by: Ken Russell Written by: Paddy Chayefsky (as Sidney Aaron) Based on:Altered States by Paddy Chayefsky Music by: John Corigliano Cast: William Hurt, Blair Brown, Bob Balaban, Charles Haid, Thaao Penghlis, Drew Barrymore, John Larroquette, George Gaynes
Warner Bros., 103 Minutes
“Fight it, Eddie. You made it real, you can make it unreal.” – Emily Jessup
I was pretty excited to see Altered States pop up on FilmStruck, a mighty fine streaming service. It’s a film I have wanted to see for a very long time but it wasn’t very accessible.
The film deals with an abnormal psychologist who gets a bit too addicted to his work and pays a hefty price for it. His work involves seeing what will happen if he mixes hallucinogenic drugs and an isolation chamber. What we get to experience is a man tripping his balls off, seeing some strange and really messed up shit. However, each trip gets more and more intense and the man starts to have physical changes. He starts regressing and at one point becomes a savage neanderthal. He even goes so far as to regress into primordial matter.
Calling this film unique and bizarre is a serious understatement. It is those things but it embraces the weird so genuinely and effectively that even if this tale is quite fantastical, you are sucked right into it.
I think the real reason why this picture works so well is the skill of its director, Ken Russell. By this point, he had already directed three Oscar winning films: Women In Love, The Devils and The Who’s Tommy. This film would also go on to win Oscars for Best Sound and Best Original Score. But it was Russell’s uncanny vision and his ability to manufacture such vivid and intense images throughout this film that prevented this from turning into some hokey, LSD-laced, run of the mill sci-fi thriller.
William Hurt was exceptional as the psychologist, Eddie Jessup. Every single scene felt believable and he sold everything that was happening to him on screen. Not bad, as this was actually his debut film. He also had help from a young Bob Balaban, as well as Charles Haid, who became my favorite guy in the movie.
Eddie’s family was comprised of Blair Brown, who played his wife, and Drew Barrymore, as his daughter. This was also Barrymore’s debut film. We also get to see a very young John Larroquette play an x-ray technician and there’s a small role for George Gaynes, as well.
The special effects are good for its time and the hallucination sequences are amazingly orchestrated.
There are a slew of films that deal with scientists going mad over their own experiments. There are also a slew of films that are serious mind fucks. Altered States is one of the best, though. And after finally watching it, I can see where other films were inspired by it. It is a great “body horror” film and it will make you uncomfortable at times. In some regards, I think it’s comparable to earlier David Cronenberg films, as well as 1990’s Jacob’s Ladder.
Rating: 8/10 Pairs well with: Other body horror flicks from the era: Videodrome, The Fly, Scanners, From Beyond, Eraserhead, The Thing, etc. Also, Jacob’s Ladder.
Release Date: June 9th, 1995 (Mann Village Theater) Directed by: Joel Schumacher Written by: Lee Batchler, Janet Scott Batchler, Akiva Goldsman Based on:Batman by Bob Kane, Bill Finger Music by: Elliot Goldenthal Cast: Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman, Chris O’Donnell, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Drew Barrymore, Debi Mazar, René Auberjonois, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, En Vogue, Ed Begley Jr.
Warner Bros., 122 Minutes
“Can I persuade you to take a sandwich with you, sir?” – Alfred Pennyworth, “I’ll get drive-thru.” – Batman
People like to trash Batman & Robin as one of the worst films ever made. It’s far from one of the worst ever. But most people haven’t really dug as deep into the shit barrel as I have. And truthfully, this movie is much worse.
People also love trashing the Schumacher Batman films as a whole but typically say that Batman Forever is okay. No, it absolutely is not okay. It is one of the worst comic book adaptations of all-time. It doesn’t understand the source material at all and it is a clusterfuck of biblical proportions capped off by horrible characters, horrible acting, ugly as hell sets and a hefty helping of several awful ’90s tropes.
Generally I like Val Kilmer. He’s horrible in this and either severely miscast or had such a bad script and direction that he just showed up, read his lines dryly and went back to his trailer to bang babes. I’m going to say that it is both of those things. It’s like no one that made this movie gave a shit about it at all and they just did a bunch of cocaine and then took a shit ton of downers before going on set.
Well, except for Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey, they acted like they were on cocaine mixed with speed. And really, their versions of Two-Face and the Riddler made no sense within the context of who those characters are.
Tommy Lee’s Two-Face was like a crazier version of the Joker and turned up to 11. He was a coked up gorilla dressed like a circus performer. Carrey’s Riddler was another crazier version of the Joker mixed with his Fire Marshall Bill character from the sketch comedy show In Living Color. But I’m also someone that never got Jim Carrey’s appeal and always thought of him as an annoying asshole, excluding Dumb and Dumber and his dramatic work after the ’90s.
Nicole Kidman is completely wasted as the overly horny psychiatrist trying to get into Batman’s head and pants. Chris O’Donnell wasn’t necessarily a bad Robin but the character is a kid, not a thirty year-old. It’s like they took their casting cues from Beverly Hills 90210, a show synonymous for trying to pass off thirty year-olds as high school students.
Well, at least Pat Hingle and Michael Gough are back as Commissioner Gordon and Alfred but really, I just feel bad for them. Hopefully they got paid well.
The film also features nipples being added to the Bat-suit, I’m not shitting you. Plus, it has gratuitous Bat-butt and Bat-crotch action shots.
Lastly, the beautiful Danny Elfman score has been replaced by an awful brassy explosion that never lets up, courtesy of Elliot Goldenthal, who was apparently trying to destroy our eardrums. The Elfman theme and scores were a magnificent part of the Burton films but I guess if Warner Bros. wanted to distance themselves from quality and align themselves with a foot long double meat shit sandwich, than this was a necessary change.
This movie is a steaming pile of neon accented bear droppings. It most certainly needs to be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 4 Stool: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft.”
I was a senior in high school when the first Scream came out. It was huge, especially due to kids my age. Well, mostly kids who were never really into horror or girls who were too terrified to watch something actually scary. This isn’t me taking shots at the film, it is just the reality of it.
Scream changed the horror genre forever. The problem, is that it essentially ruined it. I’ll explain more as I go on but let me get to my thoughts on each film.
Release Date: December 18th, 1996 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: Wes Craven Written by: Kevin Williamson Music by: Marco Beltrami Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich, Drew Barrymore, W. Earl Brown
Woods Entertainment, Dimension Films, 111 Minutes
“What’s your favorite scary movie?” – Ghostface
I didn’t like this film the first time I saw it when it came out. I thought it was cheesy, not scary and full of too many recognizable stars. Although, everyone else in the theater seemed to be terrified when Drew Barrymore got murdered in the beginning. But then, the audience for Scream is not the real horror fan audience. At least not by 70s, 80s and 90s standards.
The problem with having recognizable stars in horror, as well as a decent budget, is that it feels less real and authentic. It is similar to the use of bad CGI for blood splatter and monster effects in horror now. It separates you from the film by constantly reminding you that you are watching a production. I’m going to feel more for some girl I’ve never seen before, who I have only witnessed going through the horror on screen, than I will some girl that was whiny and moody on Party of Five for several years before this movie came out. Or a cast member of Friends who I would’ve loved to see killed off, yet somehow she survived to be in all four films.
Ghostface, the slasher in these films, is not scary. Maybe he was to the teen audience of 1996 but being a teen at that time, I thought he was shit. The mask is goofy, the cloak looks like it was stolen from the Spencer’s Halloween display and the wavy knife looked like something gimmicky that came with a 80s G.I. Joe toy.
The film was too polished, and just looked too Hollywood. Craven, before this, had been known for his grittiness.
The slasher genre and horror, in general, were pretty much ruined when the characters started discussing the rules of slasher films. The film parodied the genre it was in and put on blast the unspoken rules of horror. Maybe perceived as smart and cool at the time, and maybe it was just Craven’s way of saying “fuck you” to his competition, this approach killed horror going forward. Yes, Wes Craven, a guy who modernized horror in the 70s and 80s, killed it in the 90s.
Due to its success, Scream went on to kill horror even further. It was mimicked by every studio, horror was now free of sex, gore was minimal, it became PG-13 to pull in more teens, known stars were cast, budgets swelled and the rest is history.
Today, I don’t hate Scream. Even with how it altered everything, it is better than the modern horror films we’re stuck with. While Scream was the start of something bad, year after year, that bad has gotten worse. And that wasn’t Craven’s intention. I think he was really just focused on an idea and a concept. That concept ended up bringing an end to his own career, other than pumping out Scream sequels that got worse as time went on.
Scream 2 (1997):
Release Date: December 10th, 1997 (Hollywood premiere) Directed by: Wes Craven Written by: Kevin Williamson Music by: Marco Beltrami Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jamie Kennedy, Laurie Metcalf, Jerry O’Connell, Jada Pinkett, Liev Schreiber, Rebecca Gayheart, David Warner, Omar Epps, Portia de Rossi, Luke Wilson, Heather Graham, Tori Spelling, Joshua Jackson
Konrad Pictures, Craven-Maddalena Films, Dimension Films, 120 Minutes
Scream 2 was a step down from the original but I like that Liev Schreiber got to be a bigger character. I was also glad they killed off Jamie Kennedy. And Aunt Jackie from Roseanne is in it.
The problem with Scream 2, which is made more than obvious in the opening scene, is that it feels like it has to compensate for its lack of black actors in the first film. In fact, the first film really featured no black actors and was thus, accused of being another “whitewashed” slasher picture.
Some people have criticized Jada Pinkett’s monologue about race in slasher films but I enjoyed it. She wasn’t wrong. And at least Craven put it in there to address some of these issues that were brought up after the success of the original film. Although, it did feel like overcompensation.
The film isn’t as good as the first. The reveal of who the killer is this time, is pretty underwhelming. The formula ran it’s course in the first movie and we were stuck with a picture where we were treading the same water without any new scenery. The ending brings with it a twist but it is more of a head-scratcher than a shocking reveal. It also starts the trend of building up a bigger backstory that isn’t necessary.
Neve Campbell’s mom was a slut and her sluttiness is a key factor into why her daughter and her friends have to suffer. And in the third film, her legacy of sluttiness goes back even further.
Scream 3 (2000):
Release Date: February 3rd, 2000 (Westwood premiere) Directed by: Wes Craven Written by: Ehren Kruger Music by: Marco Beltrami Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Foley, Lance Henriksen, Matt Keeslar, Jenny McCarthy, Emily Mortimer, Parker Posey, Deon Richmond, Patrick Warburton
Konrad Pictures, Craven-Maddalena Films, Dimension Films, 117 Minutes
The third film ended the trilogy. Well, it was supposed to be a trilogy, where the fourth film years later, was to be the start of a second trilogy. The second trilogy never happened, so we ended up with a single quadrilogy. But, at the time, this was treated as the third and final act.
This was also, by far, the worst movie in the series. It takes the parodying itself shtick to the max. It takes place mostly on a Hollywood set where it gives you a movie within the movie, which is a tactic that is more annoying than clever.
Scream 3 adds the awful Jenny McCarthy to the cast, the typically cool Patrick Dempsey and the indy sweetheart Parker Posey. I almost feel bad seeing Posey plying her trade in this shit picture.
The killer reveal is stupid. It fleshes out the backstory more than anyone needs in a slasher film and the bad guy’s motivations are recycled horror trope schlock. There is nothing imaginative or original about any of this.
This film also loses sight of its whole purpose. In trying to be a clever series in constantly referring to the rules of horror, this one breaks its own rules – or it just doesn’t truly understand them. Especially in regards to what they say about the final film in trilogies, Scream 3 proves that these films have no balls. This is obvious when characters establish that “all bets are off” and “no one is safe”, yet for the third consecutive film, every major character survives. Additionally, the horror gore factor it tries to sell in the film is minimal, the sex factor in horror that this film constantly makes reference to, is nonexistent and everyone who understands the rules, continues to make the same dumb mistakes.
And the sole black character is reduced to a caricature but at least they didn’t “whitewash” this one after meeting their quota in part two.
Scream 4 (2011):
Release Date: April 11th, 2011 (TCL Chinese Theatre premiere) Directed by: Wes Craven Written by: Kevin Williamson Music by: Marco Beltrami Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Anthony Anderson, Alison Brie, Adam Brody, Rory Culkin, Marielle Jaffe, Erik Knudsen, Mary McDonnell, Marley Shelton, Nico Tortorella, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell
Oh, there’s Emma Roberts! Why’s she in every thing horror-esque, lately? I don’t dislike her but I’m getting tired of seeing her play the same roles again and again. She’s actually okay and I’m certainly not as sick of her as I am of her Aunt Julia.
Anyway, here we go, years later. The main cast is still alive. Surprise, they live through the end because again, the Scream franchise has no balls.
There’s a bunch of false curveball beginnings to the film, all movies within the movie, which has gotten tiresome with the Scream series. I mean, fuck, has Wes Craven completely run out of ideas? Hire new writers, bro.
This film tries to establish the “new” rules of horror, as it takes place a decade after the previous film. Except, everyone knows that the new rules post-Scream are horrible and the genre has gotten awful.
The killers are predictable. More so than previous films, actually. The two killer formula has been used to death in this series and was only somewhat effective the first time around.
Also, from what I remember, no black people in this one. But there is the reference to gay people surviving horror movies and then a bad in-movie joke where a character being stabbed to death, claims he’s gay in hopes of getting a free pass. I’m not standing on a politically correct soapbox here but Craven isn’t doing himself any favors trying to branch out beyond his audience of straight white teens. I get the attempt at humor but it was juvenile and not that funny.
I’m getting tired of talking about these movies now.
In the end, this film sucks. Although it doesn’t suck as bad as Scream 3.
Release Date: May 26th, 1982 (Cannes) Directed by: Steven Spielberg Written by: Melissa Mathison Music by: John Williams Cast: Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, Henry Thomas, Robert MacNaughton, Drew Barrymore, C. Thomas Howell, Erika Eleniak
Universal Pictures, 114 Minutes
“It was nothing like that, penis-breath!” – Elliot
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is hands down, one of the greatest films ever made. I just saw this on the big screen, although it is the third time I have seen it in its proper format. This was the first time, however, that I got to see the original version in the theater. The other two times, it was that special edition that had unnecessary bonus scenes and for some stupid reason, removed the cops’ guns and replaced them with walkie talkies. Finally, I got to see the original unaltered version in all its glory.
It doesn’t matter how many times I see E.T., each time it hits me the same way. It is emotional and real and its effectiveness has not worn off in the thirty-five years since it was first released. That is a testament to just how perfect this motion picture is. It is also a testament to how great of an actor Henry Thomas was, as a kid, as he carried the massive weight of this picture on his back.
Watching E.T. in the theater, and seeing how today’s kids responded to it, showed that it isn’t a generational thing, it transcends all that, as happy parents got to share something with their kids, who all seemed to be truly effected by it. And while sitting there, unable to stop myself from smiling as soon as the movie kids took to their bicycles to outrun the police, I came to the realization that no matter how hard filmmakers try, no one makes movies like this anymore. Sure, we have strong summer blockbusters, here and there, but nothing that has a lasting impact and carries so much emotion with it.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is truly the measuring stick. Yes, I like other big summer movies more but E.T. did so much more with a lot less, compared to films like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark and certainly more than The Avengers and Transformers. It didn’t rely on being cool and having over-the-top action, adventure and effects. It has great effects on a smaller scale but it just goes right for the heart and grabs it. In reality, George Lucas inspired countless filmmakers and writers but Star Wars didn’t hit people right in the feels like E.T. did. You certainly won’t feel a tenth of the emotion of this film with Captain America: Civil War.
Some people may just go to big summer movies for endless explosions and robots dancing because they’re too afraid to feel emotional in front of their dude brahs or babes. But when a film can go beyond some simplistic bullshit and find a way to resonate within its audience, there is something really special about it. I didn’t see droves of kids leaving the theater begging for toys. I saw little faces that looked like some sort of switch flipped in their little heads. Did these raging, self-absorbed toddler terrorists somehow experience empathy?
While this is a review of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, I don’t feel like I need to rehash the plot or talk about how amazing ever little piece of the film is. I assume that mostly adults read these reviews and frankly, I have to assume that nearly everyone has seen this film and gone on to understand its greatness and importance. If you haven’t, that is an injustice that needs to be rectified.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is a masterpiece. Well, as long as you don’t watch the stupid special edition.