Film Review: Spiral: From The Book Of Saw (2021)

Also known as: Untitled Saw Project, The Organ Donor (working titles)
Release Date: May 12th, 2021 (Denmark, Indonesia, South Korea, Norway)
Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
Written by: Josh Stolberg, Peter Goldfinger
Music by: Charlie Clouser
Cast: Chris Rock, Max Minghella, Marisol Nichols, Samuel L. Jackson

Serendipity Productions, Twisted Pictures, Lionsgate, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Whoever did this has another motive – they’re targeting cops.” – Detective Zeke Banks

This is the second time that they’ve tried to resurrect Saw and this one was worse than the first.

Spiral is the first film that doesn’t feature Tobin Bell or the Jigsaw character, other than some photographs and references to him, as the new killer is a copycat.

So like the previous film, Jigsaw, and the original Saw, we don’t specifically know who the killer is. However, after suffering through the misery of this entire franchise, it wasn’t hard for me to figure out who the killer was in the first fucking fifteen minutes. I also knew the red herrings were obvious red herrings and I felt like I was watching a gore-filled, live action episode of Scooby-Doo.

Additionally, I like Chris Rock, I always have. However, at this point in his career, it’s hard seeing him in a serious role as a detective, yelling at rival detectives, and to not almost laugh. It’s not that he can’t act but he’s been known for his loud comedic acting and stand-up specials where his distinct, loud voice is always hilarious. It’s kind of the same reason why it’s become hard for me to take Vince Vaughn seriously in dramatic roles now, as he also has a distinct voice and has primarily done comedy over the last few decades now.

Sam Jackson is in this too but just barely. The only two really notable people are Max Minghella and Marisol Nichols.

This movie also seems pretty tame compared to how far previous Saw films pushed the bar in regards to gore in mainstream film.

The traps were fairly interesting and new, as opposed to some of the sequels that started to update some of the more classic Jigsaw traps. I thought that the trap that pulled the dude’s fingers apart like perfectly smoked ribs was kind of gruesome, though. It’s about the only time I felt my balls wince up in my briefs.

Anyway, fuck this movie. It was a huge waste of time and I don’t know why I even watched it, other than I forced myself to be tortured by all the other sequel films and figured that I might as well finish it with this turd.

Rating: 4.25/10

Film Review: Vegas Vacation (1997)

Also known as: National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation (complete title)
Release Date: February 14th, 1997
Directed by: Stephen Kessler
Written by: Elisa Bell, Bob Ducsay
Based on: characters by John Hughes
Music by: Joel McNeely
Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid, Ethan Embry, Marisol Nichols, Wayne Newton, Wallace Shawn, Miriam Flynn, Christie Brinkley, Julia Sweeney, Siegfried & Roy, Toby Huss, Sid Caesar, Jerry Weintraub

Jerry Weintraub Productions, National Lampoon, Warner Bros., 93 Minutes

Review:

“You don’t know when to quit, do ya Griswold? Here’s an idea: Why don’t you give me half the money you were gonna bet? Then, we’ll go out back, I’ll kick you in the nuts, and we’ll call it a day!” – Marty

While this is the National Lampoon’s Vacation movie that most people like the least, it’s actually my favorite. In fact, I think I like these movies in the exact opposite order of the general consensus.

Now I didn’t realize that this was my favorite until I just watched it because I hadn’t seen it since the ’90s and well, a lot of things didn’t leave big impressions on me then because I was too busy chasing girls, smoking things and drinking things.

Anyway, I did remember thinking that this version of Audrey Griswold was gorgeous and I’m glad to see that I was right. I also thought Marisol Nichols was good in the role and brought something new to it but then again, one of the in-jokes of this series is that the kids are recast with every film and there isn’t much of an effort in trying to keep those roles consistent. I also like that the film poked fun at this by having Clark admit that he doesn’t recognize his own kids.

I think that the role of Rusty has been mostly consistent, though. I really liked seeing Ethan Embry get the opportunity to step into the somewhat iconic role, as he was emerging as a top young talent at the time and I pretty much like him in everything.

Plus, Rusty’s story was my favorite in the film and I found the gags pertaining to his side quest to be pretty good. I also liked Jerry Weintraub, one of the film’s producers, playing the part of an older gambling legend that takes Rusty under his wing. This was just good, amusing shit all around.

Beverly D’Angelo’s Ellen spent the movie smitten with Wayne Newton and honestly, I enjoyed this too, especially getting to see Newton play a fictional, over-the-top, womanizing version of himself.

Chevy Chase’s Clark was more chill than he normally is, which I actually found refreshing as his antics can grow tiring by the end of the film. In this, he just wanted to spend time with his family, who were all off doing their own things.

Clark also gets his own side plot where he develops a rivalry with a Vegas dealer played by the always stupendous Wallace Shawn. In fact, outside of The Princess Bride, this may be his best character.

I guess what I like about this so much is the same thing I like about European Vacation and that’s seeing each character go off and have their own adventure and story arc. Granted, I like seeing these characters come together, and they always do, but the multiple plot threads, weaving in and out, is just more entertaining and keeps the movie flowing at a good pace.

Vegas Vacation has an unfair, bad rap for some reason. Sure, it came out after a long hiatus in the series and is the only picture of the original four that didn’t come out in the ’80s. With that, the formula was stale by 1997. However, seeing it, nearly twenty-five years removed from its release, it isn’t bad and it fits well within the series and has the right sort of spirit.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Vacation movies, as well as other National Lampoon films.

Film Review: Can’t Hardly Wait (1998)

Also known as: The Party (working title)
Release Date: June 12th, 1998
Directed by: Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont
Written by: Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont
Music by: David Kitay
Cast: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ethan Embry, Charlie Korsmo, Lauren Ambrose, Peter Facinelli, Seth Green, Robert Jayne, Michelle Brookhurst, Chris Owen, Jason Segel, Clea Duvall, Jaime Pressly, Sean Patrick Thomas, Freddy Rodriguez, Donald Faison, Eric Balfour, Selma Blair, Sara Rue, Marisol Nichols, Jenna Elfman (uncredited), Jerry O’Connell (uncredited), Melissa Joan Hart (uncredited), Breckin Meyer (uncredited), Jennifer Elise Cox (uncredited)

Tall Trees Productions, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing, 100 Minutes

Review:

“I don’t know about you, but I really believe that there’s one person out there, and for me it’s gotta be Amanda.” – Preston

I didn’t see this right when it came out, as it was a year after I had graduated high school and also because there were already dozens of similar movies that I had watched from the ’80s and ’90s, growing up.

I first saw this when it hit regular television but once I did, I thought it had a lot of heart while also having that heart in the right place. Sure, this is nothing new for the coming-of-age teen comedy subgenre but it’s hard not to like the main characters and their multiple story arcs.

Honestly, it also doesn’t hurt that this movie has a pretty stacked cast and even if most of these kids weren’t stars when this came out, they started to become them by the time I saw this.

The vast majority of the movie takes place in one location, a big ass house party. There are some school scenes early on but the bulk of the story takes place over one night.

To sum up the primary plot, the male lead has been in love with the female lead since his freshman year. But now that they’re graduating and the girl and her boyfriend split, this guy has one last chance to try and win her over.

Beyond that plot, the rest of the kids are dealing with the fact that high school is over and they have no idea what’s going to happen now that their lives are starting. The party is there as a way to blow off steam and distract them from the inevitable future but they all learn a lot about themselves over the course of the night.

There’s too many characters to feature for any great length and the two leads take up the bulk of the running time but each story is pretty enjoyable and endearing. I think there’s actually things that people can relate to with all of them, as they all share their own versions of doubt, insecurity and fear over what’s next.

Can’t Hardly Wait also feels a lot more like an ’80s teen movie than a ’90s one despite the music and fashion in the film. It just has that ’80s vibe to it and it’s easy to tell that the filmmakers were inspired by those movies and drawing from them.

That being said, this kind of feels like the last film of that subgenre of comedy. Sure, there were others after this but none of them are all that memorable, except for Not Another Teen Movie, which was a parody of this subgenre and kind of exposed all the tropes, making it hard to follow with another picture of this type.

In the end, the boy gets the girl and we leave these characters in a pretty positive way. Granted, the jock’s future isn’t all that promising but he went from dick to nice guy back to dick and well… karma is a bitch.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other teen comedies, specifically of the ’80s and ’90s.

Film Review: Bowfinger (1999)

Also known as: Bowfinger’s Big Thing (working title)
Release Date: August 13th, 1999
Directed by: Frank Oz
Written by: Steve Martin
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Steve Martin, Heather Graham, Christine Baranski, Terence Stamp, Robert Downey Jr., Jamie Kennedy, Adam Alexi-Malle, John Cho, Marisol Nichols

Imagine Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 97 Minutes, 85 Minutes (TV cut)

Review:

“Would you be willing to cut your hair?” – Robert K. Bowfinger, “Well, yeah, but it would probably be better if someone else did it. I’ve had a few… accidents.” – Jiff Ramsey

It’s hard to believe that Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy had never been in a film together until 1999. They crossed paths on Saturday Night Live, as Martin was a frequent host in the early ’80s and Murphy was there for a few seasons. However, the world had to wait a long time to see them on the big screen and man, what a treat this film was.

The plot is about a really driven film director that will stop at nothing to finally make a motion picture. He actually has similar tendencies to Steve Martin’s character from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which is fitting as both films shared Frank Oz as director.

Martin’s Bowfinger tries to convince the world’s biggest action star to be the lead in his film but it doesn’t work out. Martin then comes up with a plan to film the actor without the actor knowing. Eventually, he needs a look-a-like and hires a man that suspiciously looks too much like the actor. We later find out that the impostor is actually the actor’s brother.

While the plot may sound overly complicated, it all works really well and the film moves at such a brisk pace that the plot’s layers and twists still happen pretty organically.

Steve Martin wrote this picture and it’s pretty damn funny and reflects his style of humor and reminds me of his earlier work, as opposed to his more subdued mid-to-late ’90s output.

Also, this showed that Eddie Murphy still had the it factor when put into the right project. The late ’90s started to get rough for Murphy after several missteps. Unfortunately, it was those missteps that probably prevented this movie from being a theatrical hit.

However, I’m glad that its fanbase has grown over the years and people have more love for Bowfinger nowadays than they did in 1999. It’s a solid, goofy comedy that features two legends doing some of their best work. Plus, the rest of the cast is pretty perfect.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other comedies starring either Steve Martin or Eddie Murphy.

Film Review: The ‘Scream’ Film Series (1996-2011)

*written in 2015.

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.

Scream (1996):

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

Review:

“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.

Rating: 7/10

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, Marisol Nichols

Konrad Pictures, Craven-Maddalena Films, Dimension Films, 120 Minutes

Review:

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.

Rating: 5/10

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

Review:

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.

Rating: 3/10

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

Corvus Corax Productions, Outerbanks Entertainment, The Weinstein Company, Dimension Films, 103 Minutes

Review:

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.

Rating: 4/10