Film Review: The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

Also known as: Jurassic Park 2, The Lost World (working titles)
Release Date: May 19th, 1997 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: David Koepp
Based on: The Lost World by Michael Crichton
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite, Arliss Howard, Richard Attenborough, Vince Vaughn, Vanessa Lee Chester, Peter Stormare, Harvey Jason, Ariana Richards, Joseph Mazzello, Camilla Belle

Digital Image Associates, Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 129 Minutes

Review:

“Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and um, screaming.” – Dr. Ian Malcolm

I barely remembered this film, as I hadn’t seen it in its entirety since the theater in 1997. Although, I have seen bits and pieces on television over the years. However, I usually catch the movie at the end, once the T-Rex is running around San Diego looking for its baby.

So I wasn’t sure what to expect in revisiting this but I always remembered not enjoying it as much as the original. However, it has a lot more Goldblum, so that is kind of a selling point, regardless of the overall quality.

Staring with what I liked about the movie, I thought it was immensely cooler simply for the fact that it was darker and pushed the envelope a bit further. It felt much closer to Jaws than the first film and it actually showed a good amount of dino on human violence. A lot of people get eaten, as well as a dog. We even see a girl get savagely attacked and are left with the impression that she was eaten to death. But we are told, several minutes later, that she survived the attack and was doing okay.

The tone in this movie, for the most part, was just right. It comes undone in the third act during the San Diego sequence but the movie did pretty good up to that point.

As mentioned in the second paragraph, this movie is heavy on the Goldblum, which I liked a lot, as even though he’s one of the three stars of the first movie, by the mid-point of that film, he’s kind of just hanging out in the techies’ office.

Looking beyond just Jeff Goldblum, this film had a great cast between Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn, as well as cameos by Richard Attenborough and his character’s grandchildren. This also featured Pete Postlethwaite in what I would call one of his greatest roles. His character was complex, interesting and he really shined in this role, despite not having the screen time that the bigger stars had.

I also liked the sequence where the raptors are hiding in the tall grass and picking people off, as everyone is running away from the danger. It’s superbly shot and it’s a chilling scene that has held up remarkably well, especially when other scenes don’t look like they’re on the same level as the first movie.

Moving on to the negatives, the CGI and special effects, overall, look worse than the first film. I found that baffling, considering that this came out four years later in an era where CGI effects were moving forward by leaps and bounds.

However, the scene where you see the first dinosaurs greatly pales in comparison to the dino reveal scene in the first picture.

Also, the movie doesn’t feel like a Steven Spielberg movie. It’s a hard thing to explain and his magical cinematic touch is difficult to quantify but this just doesn’t have that “touch” that other Spielberg adventure films have.

Something that made me scratch my head and go “huh?” was the scene where Goldblum’s daughter uses gymnastics to kill a raptor. I remember people bitching about this back in the day but the whole thing slipped away from my memory over the last twenty-three years. It doesn’t break the movie but it makes you question whether or not Spielberg was off that day and left the film in the hands of a stoner baked out of his mind.

While I liked most of the action, the sequence with the research trailers hanging off the cliff ran on for too long. It was stretched out for suspense and to set up the curveball that was the arrival of two T-Rexes but it was poorly crafted with bad pacing and it disrupted the suspense it tried to build towards.

Lastly, I didn’t like the San Diego shit. I get why they did it, as they had to try and up the ante with this film and taking a T-Rex to a major American city seemed like the next logical step. It just feels out of place and strange. Although, I did like the film’s token asshole getting eaten alive by the baby T-Rex.

This film is a mixed bag. It’s mostly good and it’s a better-than-decent popcorn movie to escape into for a few hours. However, it kind of shows that maybe this concept should have been kept to one film.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Jurassic Park/World films.

Film Review: Curtains (1983)

Release Date: March 4th, 1983
Directed by: Richard Ciupka (as Jonathan Stryker), Peter R. Simpson (uncredited)
Written by: Robert Guza Jr.
Music by: Paul Zaza
Cast: John Vernon, Linda Thorson, Samantha Eggar, Anne Ditchburn, Lynne Griffin, Lesleh Donaldson, Sandee Currie

Simcom Limited, Jensen Farley Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

A lot of people in the Twitterverse, as of late, have been talking up this slasher flick pretty heavily. I guess someone pointed out that it was a hidden gem and a bunch of people agreed.

While I’ve been aware of it for years, I’ve never seen it. But it was streaming on one of my services, so I figured I’d check this Canadian slasher movie out.

I liked it but I don’t think it’s a hidden gem. It’s fairly okay and the killer is creepy as fuck but it’s a slow moving film that’s kind of drab when the slasher isn’t actually slashing.

Granted, this did have some rather good sequences in it, like the dream with the doll in the road and the ice skating kill. But there was a lot of filler and drawn out moments surrounding a plot that I didn’t care about.

Now you need a plot to set these films up but let’s be honest, no one watches slasher movies for the story, as much as they watch them for the kills, tits, gore and general mayhem and young people orgies. Sure, I love my slashers to have great origin stories but that can usually be done in just a few minutes and we just need to see the potential victims arrive at the place where the danger waits.

Curtains was cool to check out but this would come nowhere near my top ten… or top twenty-five, even. Top fifty… maybe.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s slasher flicks.

Film Review: Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994)

Release Date: December 10th, 1994 (Japan)
Directed by: Kensho Yamashita
Written by: Hiroshi Kashiwabara
Music by: Takayuki Hattori
Cast: Megumi Odaka, Jun Hashizume, Zenkichi Yoneyama, Akira Emoto, Towako Yoshikawa, Kenji Sahara

Toho Co. Ltd., 108 Minutes

Review:

“Godzilla! I still have something to settle with you!” – Lt. Kiyoshi Sato

This was the second to last of the Heisei era Godzilla films and while they tried to up the ante and get really creative, it falls just short of the film before it: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II.

The story picks up the plot threads about Godzilla Junior and the psychic chick from the previous movie. However, it mainly focuses on the arrival of SpaceGodzilla, who basically looks like a larger Godzilla with giant crystals protruding from its body. The creature’s origin isn’t clear in the film but it’s been theorized that he was born from Godzilla’s cells that ended up in the cosmos by either Mothra or Biollante’s spores. It’s believed that the cells were mixed with black hole radiation.

Anyway, the film also features the return of Moguera to the big screen. While this giant robot was never used in a Godzilla film before, it first appeared in Toho’s 1957 film The Mysterians. Moguera had then been used in other Godzilla related media. In the US, the giant robot is probably most recognized as an early boss in the original Nintendo Godzilla game.

In this film, Moguera, now spelled M.O.G.U.E.R.A. is created from the left over tech and armor that was salvaged from Mechagodzilla after its defeat in the previous movie. Since Mechagodzilla was created from left over parts of Mecha-King Ghidorah, it ties all these films together. And frankly, I like that Toho was really trying to keep a tight continuity in this era unlike the Millennium era that followed a few years later.

For the most part, the movie is engaging and enjoyable and it fits well within this series. My only real complaint about it is that the effects feel like they’re a step down from the previous few films. Maybe it’s due to the weird environment changes, like seeing the kaiju battle in a city populated with giant crystals and smoke, as opposed to detailed metropolitan miniatures but it does feel like SpaceGodzilla was created just to find a way to cut the budget in regards to effects.

Also, the Godzilla Junior suit is hokey as hell after it looked really good in the previous chapter.

In the end, though, I really like the baddie and seeing Moguera officially enter Godzilla cinematic canon was cool. But really, this is just more of the same when compared to the rest of the Heisei pictures.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Godzilla films from the Heisei era.

Comic Review: Negan Lives! – One-Shot

Published: July 1st, 2020
Written by: Robert Kirkman
Art by: Charlie Adlard

Image Comics, 36 Pages

Review:

Even though The Walking Dead comic series ended a year ago, I always figured that we’d get comics in the future.

Hopefully, this one-shot isn’t the last but I don’t think it will be. I’m not sure what Robert Kirkman’s plan is, if there even is any, but I think that stories will continue to pop into his head every now and then.

This story takes place somewhere between the time where Negan left the comic series and its finale. It shows Negan living on his own where a girl stumbles into his homestead. Negan knows that its an obvious setup and is just kind of waiting for some bad guys to show up and try to take his shit.

They do and like everyone else, they don’t kill Negan and end up paying for it with their lives.

Being that this is just a one-shot, it’s a short, simple story that is kind of similar to the episodes of the show that focus on one character for an hour. It doesn’t really move anything forward or effect the larger comic series.

Still, it was a good read and it was cool peaking in on the Negan character once again.

I only hope that the ending is a hint at something more to come with Negan or The Walking Dead universe, as a whole.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Walking Dead comics.

Film Review: Tenebrae (1982)

Also known as: Unsane (US alternative title)
Release Date: October 27th, 1982 (Tortona, Italy premiere)
Directed by: Dario Argento
Written by: Dario Argento
Music by: Goblin (credited as Claudio Simonetti, Fabio Pignatelli, Massimo Morante)
Cast: Anthony Franciosa, John Saxon, Daria Nicolodi, Giuliano Gemma

Sigma Cinematografica Roma, 101 Minutes, 91 Minutes (edited)

Review:

“Let me ask you something? If someone is killed with a Smith & Wesson revolver… Do you go and interview the president of Smith & Wesson?” – Peter Neal

Tenebrae or Unsane, as its also been called, is one of the Dario Argento movies that I’ve seen the least. In fact, it’s probably been twenty years since I last watched it. I kind of regret not revisiting it sooner, though, as my experience with it this time was pretty incredible.

While it’s not the best of Argento’s stories, it is one of his best directed films and it has some of the best visuals he’s ever done outside of Suspiria and Inferno.

This isn’t as stylish as his earliest giallo pictures but it feels more fine tuned and refined. It feels like the giallo style actually adapting and moving into a new decade. Now while the style was starting to disappear into the ’80s, this kept it alive for a bit longer and I think that’s because it feels like a more mature film. It certainly shows that Argento had really found his stride and in some regard, it almost plays like an Italian version of an early ’80s Brian De Palma neo-noir picture.

It’s almost uncanny that this was able to look so clean yet be so gritty and raw at the same time.

I think that some people may see this and think of it as watered down when compared to Argento’s earlier work but I think he really just tried to make a more palatable movie for a wider audience. Granted, Argento also doesn’t betray himself, as the finale gets incredibly bloody. However, the more reserved tone actually sets the climax up perfectly, as seeing an immense amount of vibrant red blood spray across a plain, white wall is pretty fucking jarring in an awesome way.

Additionally, this film features amazing camera work. There is a long tracking shot done by crane that is breathtaking to see and it has held up tremendously well. Also, some of the shots during the murder sequences are fantastic. The moment where you see cloth tear to reveal a woman filled with terror just as blood splashes across her face is, hands down, one of the best shots Argento ever captured.

Lastly, the score by three of the four members of regular Argento collaborators, Goblin, is one of their best. The film’s main theme would even be sampled by the French band Justice for two songs on their 2007 album Cross.

While this isn’t my favorite film of Argento’s from a story or even visual standpoint, it’s still a breathtaking experience that hit all the right notes and made me appreciate the director even more. 

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Dario Argento’s other giallo pictures.

Film Review: Jurassic Park (1993)

Also known as: JP (promotional abbreviation)
Release Date: June 9th, 1993 (Washington D.C. premiere)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Michael Crichton, David Koepp
Based on: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Bob Peck, Martin Ferrero, BD Wong, Samuel L. Jackson, Wayne Knight, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards, Miguel Sandoval, Whit Hertford

Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 127 Minutes

Review:

“Yeah, but, John, if the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.” – Dr. Ian Malcom

I think it might be hard for younger people to understand the hype around Jurassic Park when it came out. For me, it came out in the summer between middle school and high school but I spent most of my eighth grade year listening to my science teacher enthusiastically rave about the novel it was based on. In fact, she offered up extra credit for those of us who read the book and did a report on it, which I did. I liked the book better, FYI.

Anyway, I think that I may have been just a hair too old for this movie to have had the same effect on me as it did younger people in my life. For those born just after the Star Wars films had their theatrical releases, this was their Star Wars. And while I liked it, quite a lot, I do feel like the movie is a bit overrated.

Now I still think it’s damn solid and a fun movie but the story seems pretty basic, overly simplistic and just there to show off what Industrial Light and Magic could do with CGI effects. In that regard, this is a masterpiece of its time and without this film, we wouldn’t have gotten anymore Star Wars films, as this was the real test that George Lucas wanted in order to see if he could make more space movies in the way that he had always envisioned.

This led to the Special Edition Star Wars movies, which I thought were cool to see but I still preferred the unaltered originals. But then those movies led to the Prequel Trilogy and a bunch of other effects heavy films to follow.

Getting back to this film, though, it kind of recycles the best animal horror elements of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws but makes the monster a bunch of dinosaurs and shifts the man-eating to land.

Overall, this is less horrific than Jaws and it isn’t really categorized as “horror” even though it very much is. But I guess marketing it as such, kind of hurts trying to sell it to the public as a family adventure movie. Now if they had put (or left) some actual gore in it, I probably would’ve dug it more as a kid but then parents would’ve been outraged and this might not have become a massive franchise.

The film is really good and probably Spielberg’s best from the ’90s, after Schindler’s List, of course.

It was well cast and the main players are all pretty great, as they created iconic roles that seem to leave a void when they aren’t included in the Jurassic movies after this one. This was, in fact, the only film to feature the Jurassic Holy Trinity of Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill and Laura Dern.

This one also feels the most special, as it was the first. It’s probably the best too but I really need to watch the second and third, as it’s been years.

Top to bottom, this is just fun, energetic, doesn’t have a dull moment and you find yourself getting lost in it. It’s a good movie to turn your brain off to and it’s still one of the greatest popcorn movies of its time.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other Jurassic Park/World films.

Film Review: The House of the Devil (1896)

Also known as: The Haunted Castle (US), The Devil’s Castle (UK)
Release Date: Winter, 1896
Directed by: Georges Méliès
Cast: Jehanne D’Alcy, Jules-Eugene Legris

Star Film Company, 3 Minutes

Review:

Is this the first horror movie ever made? Well, it’s probably the oldest one still in existence.

The film is important in the earliest days of motion picture history for it being what’s considered the earliest form of cinematic horror but even more than that, it’s use of special effects and editing are quite impressive for the time.

The House of the Devil came out when film was still a new, barely unexplored medium and those who were experimenting with it still found themselves inventing the techniques that would go on to expand the art form into the most popular artistic medium on the planet.

Beyond simple horror, this also bleeds into the fantasy and comedy genres. It features pantomimed sketches with a bat, a devil, a couple of cavaliers, a skeleton, spectres and other goodies.

It uses clever editing techniques to show the transformation of magical creatures and other monsters appearing like magic to confront the heroes.

The film is only three minutes, which is pretty normal for pictures from this era but it packs a lot into that short time and it’s a much more entertaining film that what was the norm.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other very early and experimental films.

Film Review: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)

Also known as: Ghost Rider 2 (working title)
Release Date: December 11th, 2011 (Austin Butt-Numb-A-Thon)
Directed by: Neveldine/Taylor
Written by: Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman, David S. Goyer
Based on: Johnny Blaze by Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, Mike Ploog
Music by: David Sardy
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Ciaran Hinds, Violante Placido, Johnny Whitworth, Christopher Lambert, Idris Elba

Imagenation Abu Dhabi FZ, Hyde Park Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“[voiceover] Why does the devil walk on human form anyway? I have no idea. Maybe he doesn’t know either. Maybe he passes on from body to body, down through history, waiting for the perfect fit. But I know one thing, on Earth, he’s weak. His powers are limited. He needs emissaries to do his dirty work, so he finds them or makes them, using his greatest power, the power of the deal.” – Johnny Blaze

I dreaded going into this, as there was no way it could be better than its predecessor, which was a pretty big pile of cinematic shit.

However, I was wrong.

Granted, I may be alone in my assessment of this picture but I found it to be more palatable than the first Ghost Rider film because it just went batshit crazy from the get go and Nicolas Cage was fully unchained and allowed to be the insane madman he can be when he turns his performance up to eleven.

This is still a terrible film and I doubt I’ll ever watch it more than once but I didn’t find myself wanting to fast-forward like I did with the previous one.

I think it also helped the movie that Idris Elba was in it, even though he should never have to be a part of a production this atrocious. He was a bright spot in this turd, however.

Elba couldn’t save the movie, though, as it had a bafflingly bad script, not a very good story to begin with and then was littered with horrendous CGI special effects and awful acting.

Honestly, based off of the first film, this one should’ve never been made and I think that it was only greenlit, at the time, in order for the studio to try and hang on to the intellectual property rights. I mean, it’s obvious that no one associated with this film gave a shit about it.

Well, except maybe Nicolas Cage, who dedicated himself to the insanity so much that it’s only worth seeing because the level that Cage performs at here, must be seen to be believed.

At the end of the day, the movie feels like cocaine that somehow became sentient and then sniffed itself.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: the Ghost Rider film before it.

Film Review: Ouija Shark (2020)

Release Date: March 7th, 2020 (Toronto premiere)
Directed by: Brett Kelly (as Scott Patrick)
Written by: David A. Lloyd
Cast: Christina Roman, Zoe Towne, Robin Hodge, John Migliore, Peter Whitaker

Wide Eye Releasing, 81 Minutes

Review:

“One of those movies you watch until the end because you’re convinced it must get better…. But it doesn’t…….This was by far one of the worst movies I have ever seen for a while!Do not bother….This Film is So-So-Very-Very-BAD!” – a user review from IMDb

The above user review from IMDb is pretty spot on, bad grammar and all because Ouija Shark doesn’t even deserve a grammatically correct response.

Man, this movie is shit. I only watched it because I was immensely bored and figured I’d watch this new, 2020 movie that was made by a director that deliberately makes bad movies.

That being said, I half expected it to have some sort of redeeming value, as self-aware bad movies tend to capitalize off of that self-awareness.

This absolute turd, however, doesn’t even try. Sure, it attempts to be hokey and funny in spots but it all falls flat and you’re left shaking your head wondering what you did in your life that brought you to the point were you actually rented a film like Ouija Shark.

This is atrociously acted with some of the worst special effects I’ve ever seen. And even if all that’s deliberate, nothing is really done to fine tune it with any sort of wink to the audience who are in on what’s supposed to be a joke.

Eh, whatever, fuck this movie. I need those 81 minutes back.

Rating: 1/10
Pairs well with: staring at asphalt while breathing in traffic exhaust.

Film Review: Ghost Rider (2007)

Also known as: El vengador fantasma (several Spanish speaking countries)
Release Date: January 15th, 2007 (Ukraine)
Directed by: Mark Steven Johnson
Written by: Mark Steven Johnson
Based on: Johnny Blaze by Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, Mike Ploog
Music by: Christopher Young
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Wes Bentley, Sam Elliott, Donal Logue, Peter Fonda, Brett Cullen, Rebel Wilson

Relativity Media, Crystal Sky Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 110 Minutes, 123 Minutes (Extended Cut)

Review:

“Any man that’s got the guts to sell his soul for love has got the power to change the world. You didn’t do it for greed, you did it for the right reason. Maybe that puts God on your side. To them that makes you dangerous, makes you unpredictable. That’s the best thing you can be right now.” – Caretaker

Even though 2003’s Daredevil received pretty bad reviews, under-performed and left most moviegoers feeling disappointed, it’s director was still given the character of Ghost Rider to adapt into another live-action Marvel movie.

While I liked the Director’s Cut of Daredevil for the most part, Ghost Rider is an atrocious motion picture from top-to-bottom. Honestly, this came out when Nicolas Cage seemed to run out of gas and saw his career trending downward fast. Honestly, this and its sequel could’ve been the nail in the coffin.

This is terribly acted, except for the scenes with Sam Elliott and the minimal appearances by Peter Fonda. They can’t save the rest of the movie, however, as Cage, Eva Mendes and Wes Bentley don’t really seem to give a shit about anything. Even Donal Logue severely under-performed and he’s a guy that I tend to expect a lot from, as he’s proven, time and time again, that he’s a more than capable actor with good range and convincing performances.

The special effects can’t save the film either, as they’re generally pretty generic mid-’00s CGI shit. Hell, the villains don’t look the way they’re supposed to look and it just adds to this movie’s cheapness.

It’s a vapid, shit film, a complete waste of time and could only be upstaged in its awfulness by its even worse sequel.

I guess I’ll have to review that flaming turd soon.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel and other terrible comic book adaptations of the era.