Film Review: Loaded Weapon 1 (1993)

Also known as: National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 (complete title)
Release Date: February 5th, 1993
Directed by: Gene Quintano
Written by: Don Holley, Gene Quintano, Tori Tellem
Music by: Robert Folk
Cast: Emilio Estevez, Samuel L. Jackson, Kathy Ireland, Frank McRae, Tim Curry, William Shatner, Jon Lovitz, Lance Kinsey, Denis Leary, F. Murray Abraham, Danielle Nicolet, Beverly Johnson, Ken Ober, Bill Nunn, Lin Shaye, James Doohan, Erik Estrada, Larry Wilcox, Corey Feldman, Whoopi Goldberg, Paul Gleason, Phil Hartman, Richard Moll, J. T. Walsh, Rick Ducommun, Vito Scotti, Charles Napier, Charles Cyphers, Denise Richards, Allyce Beasley, Joyce Brothers, Charlie Sheen, Robert Shaye, Chirstopher Lambert (deleted scene), Bruce Willis (uncredited)

National Lampoon, 3 Arts Entertainment, New Line Cinema, 84 Minutes

Review:

“Nice weather? You think we’re having… nice weather? I guess you didn’t lose the only one that meant anything in your life. I guess you don’t feel burned out by the human misery and despair perpetrated by the criminal vermin that infest every pore of this decaying city, forcing you to guzzle cheap wine and cheaper whiskey to dull the pain that shatters your heart, rips at your soul, and keeps your days forever gray. What flavor Icee you got today?” – Colt

Regular readers of this site probably already know that I’m not a big fan of parody movies outside of Mel Brooks’ work. However, ever now and again, I discover a parody film that is actually quite good.

I never saw National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 because I didn’t have much interest, even when it came out in 1993 and I was a huge Lethal Weapon fan. These films tend to be predictable, lame and lowest common denominator humor. While this is pretty low brow and a bit predictable, it wasn’t lame and it was actually really well done and executed.

I think this stands above other films like it because it has a really solid cast with several heavy-hitters that just commit to the material so convincingly, it makes everything work. You buy into the goofy jokes and the absurdity of it all and frankly, Emilio Estevez and Samuel L. Jackson had good chemistry. I wouldn’t say that it was on the level of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover but they played off of each other nicely and looked like they were having a blast playing these characters.

WIlliam Shatner and Tim Curry were both enjoyable as villain characters. Shatner went into this with no fucks given and it just made his performance that much more entertaining. I loved his accent, his facial expressions and the guy isn’t just a sci-fi legend, he’s a master of comedic timing.

This ridiculous film is just a lot of fun. If you like buddy action films and have a sense of humor, you’ll probably dig this.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the Lethal Weapon films and the dozen other movies this parodies, as well as other parody films of the time.

Film Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Release Date: December 1st, 2003 (Wellington, New Zealand premiere)
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
Based on: The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Andy Serkis, David Wenham, Karl Urban, Miranda Otto, Bernard Hill, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee (Extended Edition only), Brad Dourif (Extended Edition only), Bruce Spence (Extended Edition only), Sean Bean (Extended Edition only)

New Line Cinema, WingNut Films, The Saul Zaentz Company, 201 Minutes, 254 Minutes (DVD Extended Edition), 263 Minutes (Blu-ray Extended Edition), 192 Minutes (DVD Widescreen Edition)

Review:

“Hold your ground, hold your ground! Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!” – Aragorn

Having taken a break from seeing this for several years helped me look at this film, and the two before it, much more objectively. I loved this film when it came out and I watched the Extended Editions of all three films almost monthly for a few years. But I actually haven’t seen this now since before the first Hobbit movie came out in 2012.

My biggest takeaway from seeing it now is that this is a perfect film, at least in the form of the Extended Edition. There’s nothing I would change, add or take away from it. It is a great adaptation that took a few liberties but all those liberties worked and made this a richer story in a cinematic sense.

The acting is superb and everyone in this film was at the top of their game. But really, there are two actors who carried this film, Viggo Mortensen and Sean Astin. Mortensen was the perfect choice for Aragorn and if you aren’t willing to follow him into battle after watching this movie, you might be dead inside.

However, Sean Astin is the real star of this chapter in the franchise. As Samwise Gamgee, he is the true hero that sees things through. When Frodo, the one chosen to bear the burden of the ring is emotionally and physically drained, it is Sam who carries on, getting Frodo to the finish line by literally carrying him on his back up a flaming volcano. It’s one of the most badass and touching moments in motion picture history and really, all the credit has to go to Astin for just how damn good he was in this film. Where the hell was the Oscar nomination? I know that this was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and won all eleven but it was short one for Astin’s performance.

I also can’t deny the greatness that was Ian McKellen’s Gandalf in this chapter.

The special effects are still top notch and at the time that this came out, this film had the best effects of all-time. Everything was great over the course of all three movies but the grandiose scale of this epic picture called for a massive amount of effects work. Everything was executed masterfully and it’s almost unbelievable to think that these movies came out just a year apart from each other.

This is a story about friendship, honor and loyalty and it’s hard to think of a better example of these things in any other film. The Return of the King knocks it out of the park in that regard and is pretty inspirational because of it. It taps into the best qualities of human nature, overcomes immense adversity and sees hope and goodness succeed in the face of enormous and seemingly unconquerable darkness.

Again, The Return of the King is a pillar of perfection. It’s so good that I wish I could give it an 11 out of 10 rating.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the other two Lord of the Rings films, as well as The Hobbit trilogy.

Film Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

Release Date: December 5th, 2002 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair, Peter Jackson
Based on: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean (Extended Edition), Andy Serkis, David Wenham, Brad Dourif, Karl Urban, Miranda Otto, Bernard Hill

New Line Cinema, WingNut Films, The Saul Zaentz Company, 179 Minutes, 235 Minutes (DVD Extended Edition), 228 Minutes (Blu-ray Extended Edition), 171 Minutes (DVD Widescreen Edition)

Review:

“From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak I fought with the Balrog of Morgoth… Until at last I threw down my enemy and smote his ruin upon the mountain side… Darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time… The stars wheeled overhead, and every day was as long as a life age of the earth… But it was not the end. I felt life in me again. I’ve been sent back until my task is done.” – Gandalf

I have seen all of these movies probably a dozen times but it has been several years now since revisiting them. From memory, I always thought of The Two Towers as the weakest of the trilogy but it is still a masterpiece and a perfect film for what it is: a bridge between the beginning and the end.

It also ups the ante quite a bit and is more epic in scale, as the two final battles alone are bigger than anything we saw in the first film, apart from the intro that showed the fall of Sauron millennia earlier.

But, really, the climax to this motion picture is absolutely amazing. If you are a fan of epic battles, this does not disappoint. If you are a fan of fantasy, this should definitely satisfy your palate.

All the key players are back and that includes Sean Bean’s Boromir, who died in the previous movie. Granted, he is only in a couple of flashbacks in the Extended Edition but it’s great to see him and to get more context in regards to how Gondor is run and the relationship between Boromir, Faramir and their father.

The return of Gandalf and the shift in power away from Saruman and to him is a really great moment that helps turn the tide towards the light. Ian McKellan was superb and his character’s evolution was incredible. The continuation of his battle with the Balrog is one of my favorite cinematic moments of all-time.

It is Viggo Mortensen who steals the show, however. While he was great in the first picture and was perfectly cast, he truly shines here and anyone watching this film would want to follow him, which is great considering what his role is in the goings on of Middle Earth and how this series ends in the following film.

If you are going to watch these films, you should always watch the Extended Editions, as they provide more story, better context and a heftier helping of the meat and potatoes. The Extended Edition of The Two Towers offers a lot of extra footage that isn’t in the original theatrical version. It isn’t so much that it makes it a different film but it certainly makes it a better one.

The Two Towers is perfect. It is a masterpiece like the other two pictures in the trilogy. It is the weakest, sure, but I’d rather be the weakest film in this trilogy than the best film in the Transformers series.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the other two Lord of the Rings films, as well as The Hobbit trilogy.

Film Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Release Date: December 10th, 2001 (London premiere)
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
Based on: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm, Andy Serkis, Sala Baker, Peter Jackson (cameo)

New Line Cinema, WingNut Films, The Saul Zaentz Company, 178 Minutes, 208 Minutes (DVD Extended Edition), 228 Minutes (Blu-ray Extended Edition), 171 Minutes (DVD Widescreen Edition)

Review:

“[Gandalf is standing on the bridge, in front of the Balrog] You cannot pass! I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. The dark fire will not avail you, Flame of Udun! Go back to the shadow. You shall not pass!” – Gandalf

This was a definite treat to revisit, especially since I just revisited The Hobbit trilogy beforehand. I wanted to watch them in chronological order for the first time but having now seen this again, a film I have probably seen a dozen times already, I have an even greater appreciation for it, as it’s truly perfection.

Unlike those Hobbit movies, The Fellowship of the Ring and its two sequels, didn’t have identity issues. It has a consistent tone throughout and it knows exactly what it needs to be and how to accomplish that. This was Peter Jackson at his absolute best and this is a timeless movie and will continue to be for generations.

Being that this was the first major live action adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, makes its level of perfection something truly special and a feat that proves that the impossible can be possible. I should state, though, that the Soviets and the Finnish did their own live action adaptations before this but no one has really seen them and they weren’t done with the resources and budget that allowed this story to really live and breathe the right way.

I’ve tried to think of negatives for the sake of this review but the acting is superb, the directing and cinematography are flawless and the special effects are better than anything else that predates this film. Also, the issues that exist with The Hobbit films don’t exist with this one.

We have real human beings in prosthetics and makeup as the orcs and goblins. Also, the film isn’t afraid to rely on some other practical effects. Sure, there is CGI galore but the film doesn’t default to it and it’s why this looks better than The Hobbit films, which started coming out 11 years later.

The best thing about this film is its spirit. You immediately care about these characters, all of them, they mesh well pretty exceptionally, and none of them look stupid like most of the dwarves in The Hobbit. Gimli, the main dwarf in this story, looks like a real character and not a cartoon caricature.

Also, you care about the journey and how it is taking a toll on everyone in the party. You feel their emotions, their stress and their burden in seeing things through no matter what the cost.

The action is stupendous and the big battle at the end of the film is incredible. Also, the wizard battle between Gandalf and Saruman is incredibly badass.

Howard Shore, who scored all of these Tolkien pictures, did a much better job at creating the themes for these films than The Hobbit trilogy. The music here hits the right notes and it’s all become pretty iconic.

There is a reason why this film gave birth to Tolkien Fever in the early 2000s. Everything about it was just right and it was a real example of filmmaking and storytelling perfection.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the other two Lord of the Rings films, as well as The Hobbit trilogy.

Film Review: A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)

Release Date: April 27th, 2010 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Samuel Bayer
Written by: Wesley Strick, Eric Heisserer
Based on: characters created by Wes Craven
Music by: Steve Jablonsky
Cast: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz

New Line Cinema, Platinum Dunes, Warner Bros., 95 Minutes

Review:

This film has been out for seven years and I really didn’t want to see it. I’m a massive fan of the original film and some of its sequels. More importantly, I am a bigger fan of Robert Englund and how he has played the character of Freddy Krueger over his 19-year and 8 film span. Englund was Freddy and Freddy was Englund.

However, if you absolutely had to recast the role, which they didn’t have to, Jackie Earle Haley isn’t a bad choice. The thing is, this was a role doomed for failure because it belonged to Robert Englund.

The character had also become increasingly more funny and campy, as the original series pumped out yearly installments. While Haley’s Krueger has a good one-liner or two, it just doesn’t have the impact and hilarity of Englund’s infamous one-liners. But that isn’t Haley’s fault. This was just a stupid film, that similarly to the Friday the 13th remake, a year prior, didn’t really understand the magic behind its predecessors.

The film is horribly acted, completely lacks suspense and has no originality. This remake steals all the cool shit from the original 1984 film and does it all over again with shitty CGI and unimaginative execution. Watch the original film’s scene where Freddy starts to come through the bedroom wall and then watch that same scene in this 2010 version. One is terrifying and feels real, the other feels like an unfinished cutting room floor scene of the Sandman from Spider-Man 3.

Kate Mara’s always depressing sister plays Nancy and completely lacks everything that made Heater Langenkamp great in that role. The kid who plays the Johnny Depp role is useless and pointless, Black Canary form Arrow essentially plays Tina from the original but they changed her name. Her death scene also treads the exact same water as the original but does it poorly and doesn’t add in anything new.

Also, Freddy, in this film, is a straight up child rapist. While that was implied in the sixth film (Freddy’s Dead) of the original film series, I never really accepted that after it took six films to make that point. Plus, Freddy’s Dead was mostly atrocious and added a bunch of crap to the mythos that didn’t need to be there, ala Jason Goes To Hell.

This movie is garbage. It brings nothing new to the table and it’s execution and creativity don’t even come close to the original Wes Craven directed masterpiece. Pretty sad, considering this film had a much larger budget to work with and the future of the franchise was riding on it being successful.

In the seven years since, there has not been a sequel and talk about Elm Street is nonexistent. Granted, it will eventually get rebooted again. I just hope that the next attempt isn’t soulless crap like this was.

Rating: 1/10

Film Review: Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

Release Date: August 15th, 2003
Directed by: Ronny Yu
Written by: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift
Based on: characters created by Wes Craven, characters created by Victor Miller
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Robert Englund, Monica Keena, Kelly Rowland, Jason Ritter, Chris Marquette, Lochlyn Munro, Ken Kirzinger, Katharine Isabelle, Zack Ward, Brendan Fletcher, Robert Shaye

New Line Cinema, Crystal Lake Entertainment, 97 Minutes

Review:

I have now reviewed all of the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street films, excluding remakes. I have finally gotten to the end of the ride, where the big main event that everyone always wanted to see, finally happened. The showdown of the immortals! Freddy vs. Jason!

For some reason, this film disappointed fans of both franchises. I’ve never really been sure why, other than complaints about the use of CGI having less of an effect than the practical effects of the 1980s used in Freddy’s dream sequences. Yeah, it does feel less organic visually but the spirit is still there and the emotional tone was perfect.

The plot is pretty well done, as it brings together both of these worlds and merges them into one thing. Freddy Krueger gets into Jason’s mind while he is wandering Hell and poses as his mother, telling Jason to go to Springwood to start killing the teenage population. If the teens live in fear, Freddy can manifest in their minds once again. Pretty good setup and it created an interesting scenario that saw Jason stalking teens in Freddy’s neighborhood.

I wasn’t a fan of Kane Hodder not being cast as Jason Voorhees. Ken Kirzinger did a solid job as Jason but the character was missing those Hodder mannerisms that became iconic over his four film run as the character.

Robert Englund was fantastic as Krueger, especially after a nine year hiatus following the more serious New Nightmare. This was Freddy back at his comedic and sinister best. And even though he only has one kill in this entire movie, the comedic effect of Jason beating him to the punch with kills was entertaining and added a cool dynamic to these horror icons’ relationship.

Monica Keena is fucking gorgeous in this movie and she was a good lead. She overacted in some scenes and screamed ridiculously too often but she was one of the better teenage characters out of any of these films. Jason Ritter was okay but it was cool seeing John Ritter’s kid get a shot in Hollywood. Kelly Rowland was atrocious as Kia, the nerd kid was boring and the rest of the supporting cast were ripoffs of popular actors of the time, most notably a poor man’s Jack Black and a horrible wannabe Jay from Jay & Silent Bob fame. Also, there was a heroic deputy that knew about Jason Voorhees. His character was a wasted opportunity where they could have brought back Tommy Jarvis from the fourth, fifth and sixth Friday the 13th films. It would’ve been cool to see Jason finally get his revenge on Tommy.

I don’t think that Ronny Yu was the best choice for director. He wasn’t bad but some of the action sequences were too Hong Kong and just felt weird and out of place. There were lots of shots where things would go into a strange slow motion pace with the visuals blurred and obscured – probably to hide things and keep the budget down. It wasn’t a style consistent with either film series and it became distracting.

As far as the Freddy vs. Jason battle, it happens twice in the film: once in the dream world and another in the real world. The ending is also open ended and ambiguous. You could argue that either monster won and in the end, they both survive anyway.

Unfortunately, there were no sequels after this for a joint film or solo films for either monster. Years later they both got remade with inferior films. It’d be nice to see them get a good reinvention in the future or to just pick up these films where Freddy vs. Jason left off. Although, Robert Englund says he will never play Freddy Krueger again, as he is a lot older than he was when he started in 1984.

Rating: 7.75/10

Film Review: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

Release Date: October 14th, 1994
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Wes Craven
Based on: characters by Wes Craven
Music by: J. Peter Robinson
Cast: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, Miko Hughes, Tracy Middendorf, David Newsom, Fran Bennett, Wes Craven, Robert Shaye, Marianne Maddalena, Sam Rubin, Sara Risher, Nick Corri, Tuesday Knight, W. Earl Brown

New Line Cinema, 112 Minutes

Review:

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is a sequel of sorts to the original series but it is also a standalone film. Reason being, it is supposed to exist in the real world, as Freddy Krueger evolves from being a monster on the screen to manifesting in the real world to terrorize Heather Langenkamp, the actress who played Nancy in the first and third films in the series.

The film is a reinvention of the Freddy Krueger mythos. This is why I am reviewing it as its own thing.

Freddy enters our world, after being killed off in the film series. He needs fear to exist and if no one is making movies, he will evolve beyond them. The premise is bizarre but it gives the franchise a bit more originality and energy to give the audience something compelling and new.

For some reason, Freddy has evolved physically, as well. His scars are very different, he sometimes wears a trench coat and he no longer wears a glove, as his claws have grown organically out of his hand. Additionally, he now has a razor on his thumb. He looks more primal overall but I’m not a big fan of the trench coat.

The film also feels more serious than any of the previous chapters. The ante is upped creatively and it brings more realism to a horror fantasy.

Langenkamp was great, playing herself and having to deal with her child being terrorized and her husband being murdered. Her husband in the film was played by her real life husband.

As for the kid, Miko Hughes was stellar. He was a good child actor in a time when many weren’t. Also, he is the youngest potential victim Freddy has ever gone after on screen.

There are less deaths than normal but the real world feel adds more to those scenes. There is just something sinister and wrong in the scene where the young kid sees his babysitter dragged across the ceiling and gutted by Krueger. Robert Englund as Freddy, was at his evil best.

Watching Heather have to protect her very young son from a monster she unknowingly helped create, is more interesting and emotional than watching another slasher film full of mostly unlikable teens getting slaughtered for the umpteenth time.

I don’t know if a sequel to this could have ever materialized and been as good. It was best that this formula only lasted for a single film. And ultimately, it was a really good film.

Rating: 7.75/10

Film Review: The ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street’ Film Series, Part II (1988-1991)

 A Nightmare On Elm Street IV: The Dream Master (1988):

Release Date: August 19th, 1988
Directed by: Renny Harlin
Written by: Brian Helgeland, Scott Pierce, William Kotzwinkle
Based on: characters by Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner
Music by: John Easdale, Craig Safan
Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Danny Hassel, Tuesday Knight, Brooke Theiss, Andras Jones, Toy Newkirk, Ken Sagoes, Rodney Eastman, Robert Shaye

New Line Cinema, Smart Egg Pictures, Heron Communications, 93 Minutes

Review:

The Dream Master is the most successful film of the original series of six. I believe it is because it took the formula of Dream Warriors and then upped the ante and shot it more like a 1980s MTV music video in a time when MTV ruled the world and teenagers’ minds.

It is a colorful film with great editing and visuals. It opened the door for director Renny Harlin to go on and have a pretty big film career.

While Dream Warriors is my favorite film of the series, this one is right behind it. The dream sequences are very imaginative even the few that are a bit cheesy. But, at this point, the franchise was serving up more cheese and laughs than utter dread. Sure, Freddy was still sinister and evil but he had fully become the character everyone was cheering for.

Robert Englund was stellar as usual and he had great chemistry with his new foil, Alice (played by Lisa Wilcox).

This film sees Alice gain the powers of her friends as they die. Whatever their talents are, she has them all by the end of the movie, giving her more ammunition when taking on Freddy. She also knows how to control her dreams in a way that others before her weren’t able to do. She is Krueger’s perfect nemesis. Ultimately, where Nancy is the godmother of all the Elm Street children, Alice is their unrelenting protector.

I love this movie. It was also the last of the good films in the series.

Rating: 7/10

A Nightmare On Elm Street V: The Dream Child (1989):

Release Date: August 11th, 1989
Directed by: Stephen Hopkins
Written by: Leslie Bohem, John Skipp, Craig Spector
Based on: characters by Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner, William Kotzwinkle, Brian Helgeland
Music by: Jay Ferguson
Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Danny Hassel, Beatrice Boepple, Whit Hertford, Kelly Jo Minter, Erika Anderson, Nicholas Mele

New Line Cinema, Smart Egg Pictures, Heron Communications, 96 Minutes

Review:

Alice is back. This time she’s pregnant. Freddy wants the baby in an effort to resurrect himself. Essentially, we have the A Nightmare On Elm Street version of Rosemary’s Baby.

I was glad to see Alice and her boyfriend Dan return but overall, this film sucked.

There were a few good dream sequences, mainly the one where the kid gets sucked into the comic book. Also, the force feeding death to Greta was pretty well done and stomach churning – literally.

While this film tries to give Freddy Krueger more backstory, it chips away at the mystery too much. They revisit the nun mother plot from the third film and expand on it. All this ties it to the baby plot thread.

This film was also toned down in its color palate and just feels and looks really bland after the MTV-esque Dream Master.

It is mostly a sterile film with little to add to the series. Considering they got Alice back, they wasted an opportunity. Additionally, the writers completely disregarded the fact that she had the ability to get her friends’ skill sets. She ran around like a bad ass, which was fine, but she didn’t have the magic about her character that was there in the previous installment.

Rating: 5.5/10

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991):

Release Date: September 13th, 1991
Directed by: Rachel Talalay
Written by: Michael DeLuca, Rachel Talalay
Based on: characters by Wes Craven
Music by: Brian May
Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Zane, Shon Greenblatt, Lezlie Deane, Yaphet Kotto, Breckin Meyer, Ricky Dean Logan, Johnny Depp, Tom Arnold, Roseanne Barr, Alice Cooper, Robert Shaye

New Line Cinema, 89 Minutes

Review:

This is, by far, the worst film in the series. While Freddy’s Revenge was a weird piece of work, it had so many redeeming factors. This film, truly has none.

The mythos is completely fucked up, similar to what happened to Jason Voorhees around the same time with Jason Goes to Hell. Freddy now has a daughter, he is now cemented as a child molester – which was just implied before, he had a normal family with a nice house but murdered his wife in front of his daughter and none of it made much sense or added anything interesting.

The film fast forwards to ten years into the future where all the Elm Street kids are dead and Freddy needs the last kid to go out and lead others to him. The fact that Freddy just assumes that kids will make it back there, doesn’t make any sense either.

Also, there are barely any kids in this film. Only three of them die. There are also too many survivors in the end.

Most of the dream sequences are completely retarded. For instance, the one where the kid is trapped in the video game is more of a cartoon and looks nothing like video game graphics. Also, the game play makes no sense. It was clearly devised by someone who never played a game before.

The drug use parts were also written by someone who clearly never smoked weed. Weed doesn’t make you hallucinate like LSD. But in this movie it did. Sure, you could write that off as Freddy making the kid trip when he got drowsy but it still doesn’t make much sense given the scenario.

The film is capped off by an atrocious 3D sequence through Freddy’s brain. It serves no purpose to the story and just makes the film look more ridiculous when played back over twenty years later on a 2D screen.

I hate this movie. Freddy wasn’t killed by the heroine of this film, he was killed by shitty execution, shitty writing and a shitty director.

Rating: 2.5/10

Film Review: The ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street’ Film Series, Part I (1984-1987)

A Nightmare On Elm Street was my favorite horror film series, as a kid. Today, it still ranks up there and I consider it to be the best of the big horror franchises of the 80s. Sure, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Hellraiser and several others are great but nothing is as imaginative and as creative as the world Freddy Krueger lives in.

Freddy Krueger is a force of nature, in the films and in reality. He went on to be a pop culture icon and even had the highest grossing independent film of all-time.. twice!

In this review, I will cover the first three films in the franchise.

A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984):

Release Date: November 9th, 1984
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Wes Craven
Based on: characters by Wes Craven
Music by: Charles Bernstein
Cast: Robert Englund, John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Nick Corri, Johnny Depp, Robert Shaye (voice, uncredited)

New Line Cinema, Media Home Entertainment, Smart Egg Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

The original film was written and directed by the series creator, Wes Craven. This is the film that cemented Craven as a horror maestro. While he had some solid successes before A Nightmare On Elm Street, this film was his first massive hit.

Being created during the height of practical effects, this film features some technical marvels from a filmmaking standpoint. Craven and his crew used several rotating sets to achieve a few different effects and it turned out to be pretty stellar. Also, they were very inventive on how to achieve things visually on a film with such a small budget. This film is a must-see for any film student just for the special effects alone.

In regards to the horror, this is the scariest film out of any of the Elm Street movies. It is dark, it exudes terror and Freddy is a lot more sinister in this. He gets funnier as the series rolls on and almost becomes a twisted anti-hero.

In the first film, he is still frightening. Robert Englund was the perfect actor for the role of Freddy Krueger and he would get more comfortable with the character in each installment. But whether it was Englund not being too comfortable yet, Craven’s direction or both – the character of Freddy is on a different level of dread in this chapter.

Heather Langenkamp was great as Nancy and was always a delight every time she showed up in one of these movies. Johnny Depp was pretty decent as Glen and this was his first film. Amanda Wyss did good in the role of Tina. The film also featured John Saxon, formerly from Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon and the Canadian slasher film Black Christmas, as Nancy’s dad and the top cop on the Springwood police force.

While this film is a technically savvy and paved the way for a lucrative franchise, I found the ending to be odd and kind of pointless. Nancy basically wins by telling Krueger that she takes away any power she gave him and he disappears into a cloud of dissipating photons.. or something. Her mother then sinks into her bed as a skeleton, waving goodbye. It was probably fine for the time but it plays horribly today. It just feels obvious that Craven hadn’t really thought the ending through before shooting it. Besides, Nancy defeating Freddy by ignoring him wasn’t really effective, as we got five more sequels in the regular series, A New Nightmare, Freddy vs. Jason and a remake years later.

Rating: 9/10

A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985):

Release Date: November 1st, 1985
Directed by: Jack Sholder
Written by: David Chaskin
Based on: characters by Wes Craven
Music by: Christopher Young
Cast: Robert Englund, Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Rusler, Clu Gulager, Hope Lange, Marshall Bell, Robert Shaye (uncredited)

New Line Cinema, Smart Egg Pictures, Heron Communications, 85 Minutes

Review:

Freddy’s Revenge or as it should be retitled, Freddy’s Big Gay Hilarious Gangbang, is a bizarre movie. It ignores the rules established in the first film in an effort to be completely different and to not retread the same story. While I respect the filmmakers’ efforts in not making a clone film, all it did was create a lot of confusion about the established rules and mythos.

The main character is Jesse Walsh (played by Mark Patton). Jesse is a loner and an outcast but weirdly, the hot ginger girl in school likes him.. a lot. In fact, she deals with way too much of his shit and Freddy’s shit just over her high school crush. Besides that, Jesse wants to spend more time with his new guy friend, Ron. He even runs away to Ron’s house after he freaks out about the girl being ready to bang him.

Many consider this to be the gayest horror film of all-time and rightfully so. It is amazing at just how gay it is and that’s not a knock, it is actually pretty fucking cool.

From Jesse and Ron wrestling each other’s pants off, to Jesse’s flamboyant sexual dance while cleaning his room, to the leather bar, to the school coach getting murdered while being tied to shower pipes as his ass is repeatedly slapped by a towel, to Jesse constantly whining about Freddy being “inside him”, to Jesse wanting to sleep in Ron’s room, to Jesse screaming like a girl, to Freddy emerging from Jesse’s body during one of the most obligatory gay exchanges in cinematic history, this is certainly a pretty gay but extraordinarily fabulous movie. Wikipedia has more information on the homoerotic subtext here.

The film lacked almost everything that made the first film scary. However, it had some of the best effects. For instance, the aforementioned scene where Freddy emerges from Jesse’s body was insane and still plays pretty well today. Even if Jesse’s body was replaced by a robotic dummy, it was there, on the set, and it looked more real than anything modern CGI can do.

Freddy’s Revenge is a bizarre installment to the series but the bizarreness is what makes it special, unique and definitely worth a watch.

Rating: 7/10

A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987):

Release Date: February 27th, 1987
Directed by: Chuck Russell
Written by: Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner, Frank Darabont, Chuck Russell
Based on: characters by Wes Craven
Music by: Angelo Badalamenti, Dokken
Cast: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Patricia Arquette, Laurence Fishburne, John Saxon, Priscilla Pointer, Craig Wasson, Ken Sagoes, Rodney Eastman, Jennifer Rubin, Bradley Gregg, Ira Heiden, Penelope Sudrow, Dick Cavett, Zsa Zsa Gabor

New Line Cinema, Smart Egg Pictures, Heron Communications, 96 Minutes

Review:

Dream Warriors is my favorite film in the series. Wes Craven came back to write the story, which was then tweaked and fleshed out by Frank Darabont (The Walking Dead, The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Mist, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and so many other projects).

This chapter pretty much ignores the second film, it goes back to the rules and mythos of the first movie and expands on it. It brings back old characters, introduces new characters and blends them together well. You care about the old, you care about the new and there is almost perfect harmony with the cast.

This is my favorite group of teens out of any of the films. Actually, they are my favorite group of any teen group from any horror film ever. They were all unique, interesting and had a great dynamic.

The film introduced us to Patrica Arquette as the lead heroine Kristen. It also brought back Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon as Nancy and her father. Laurence Fishburne shows up in this as an orderly at the rehab center where the teens are.

This movie introduces the concept of being able to control dreams in an effort to combat Freddy. Each teen also has a special power or skill set that makes their interactions with Krueger more interesting.

The one thing this film did, that set the stage for every film after it, is that the dream sequences got really elaborate and a lot more creative. We didn’t just have some guy taking teens to a boiler room in their mind in an effort to slash them to bits. We now had Freddy using their fears and things about them to torture them in unique ways. You like puppets? Well, you get strung up by your tendons like a puppet. You like TV? Well, you get killed by a TV. You like titties? Well, titties lure you to Freddy.

Dream Warriors is the perfect Elm Street film. It has everything and it also stars the most iconic characters in the series and opens the door for the future of the franchise.

Rating: 9.5/10

*Continued in Part II.

Film Review: The ‘Critters’ Film Series (1986-1992)

As a kid, I used to love watching the first two Critters films over and over. And since I recently reviewed the Gremlins series, I thought I’d get reacquainted with its best knockoff.

Critters (1986):

Release Date: April 11th, 1986
Directed by: Stephen Herek
Written by: Stephen Herek, Domonic Muir, Don Keith Opper
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Dee Wallace, M. Emmet Walsh, Billy “Green” Bush, Scott Grimes, Nadine Van der Velde, Don Keith Opper, Billy Zane, Terrence Mann

New Line Cinema, 85 Minutes

critters-1Review:

After producing a massive hit with A Nightmare On Elm Street, New Line Cinema joined several other studios in trying to make their own copycat of 1984’s Gremlins. It was a similar trend to what happened after Jaws came out in the 70s and it inspired a ton of copycats through the rest of the decade.

Critters is probably the best of the Gremlins wannabes. The main reason, is that it is still its own film with its own identity. Sure, the two pictures share similarities but Critters is darker, more ferocious and has that great low-budget 80s horror vibe to it. Plus, it establishes the creatures as vicious aliens and brings in two cool alien bounty hunters.

While, from a critical standpoint, Critters is considered the best of its franchise. I do feel that the second one edges it out a bit, which I will explain when I get to that one.

This film is still pretty fantastic though. It is comical, at times, but it does seem like the most serious of the movies. Overall, it might also be the most fun.

Dee Wallace, who was the queen of 80s horror, plays the mom. She doesn’t get as dirty as she has gotten in other films but it is always great to see her embracing the genre of horror. Scott Grimes plays the son, who would also reprise his role in the sequel. Then you have a small part by Billy Zane, before he was well-known.

Most importantly, the film introduces us to Charlie (played by Don Opper) and Ug (played by Terrence Mann). They would go on to be in all four of the films in the series, playing a pair of bounty hunters. Granted, Charlie is a drunk Earthling buffoon in the first movie but he would evolve into a sober bad ass buffoon over time.

The first movie still plays pretty well. The effects are good for the time and mostly hold up. I can see why this is considered the best of the series but let me get into the second picture and why I prefer it.

Rating: 7/10

Critters 2: The Main Course (1988):

Release Date: April 29th, 1988
Directed by: Mick Garris
Written by: David Twohy, Mick Garris
Music by: Nicholas Pike
Cast: Scott Grimes, Don Keith Opper, Terrence Mann, Liane Curtis, Barry Corbin, Tom Hodges, Sam Anderson

New Line Cinema, 85 Minutes

critters-2Review:

The reason I like this installment the best, is because it is a lot less confined than the others. The first film takes place primarily on a farm, the third film is mostly set in an urban apartment building while the fourth and final chapter is on a confined space station. Critters 2, on the other hand, encompasses an entire small town and the areas around it. And honestly, it just feels like it has the biggest budget. It utilized what little it had with maximum effects. Plus you get the giant Critters ball at the end of the film, which was just really cool when I was a young kid.

The film also features Charlie as an actual bounty hunter. In fact, it features the bounty hunters the most and they are the coolest characters in the series, especially Ug. We are then introduced to Lee, a third bounty hunter, who takes the form of a nude Playboy Playmate. Granted, she acquires clothes after her introduction. But it was great seeing amazing breasts in a PG-13 movie when I was nine.

The film brings back Scott Grimes from the original. It also adds in Liane Curtis, who I was crushing on, back in the day. Barry Corbin joins the cast as the sheriff and I’ve always been a fan of his work. Sam Anderson, who you may know from a slew of television appearances, has a small role as Liane Curtis’ overprotective father.

Critters 2 is the quintessential Critters movie. It has everything you would want from one of these pictures. Although, a bit more gore would have been better. While there are more creatures and more overall destruction, it seriously lacks in showing the audience anything graphic. You get a few bones and skeletons but that is the gist of it.

Rating: 7/10

Critters 3 (1991):

Release Date: December 11th, 1991
Directed by: Kristine Peterson
Written by: David J. Schow, Rupert Harvey, Barry Opper
Music by: David C. Williams
Cast: Aimee Brooks, John Calvin, Katherine Cortez, Leonardo DiCaprio, Geoffrey Blake, Frances Bay, Don Keith Opper, Terrence Mann

New Line Home Video, 85 Minutes

critters-3Review:

Critters 3 is the worst of the films.

While it does feature a very young Leonardo DiCaprio, he isn’t the main character and he has little to do other than hating his dork stepfather and being a romantic interest of the teen girl lead.

Most of the characters in this one are pretty unlikable. Especially Frank. Frank is just an awful and annoying human being. I cherished his death.

Although, Frances Bay’s character was cool. She has always been a great character actor and her meat cleaving bad ass grandma was fun to watch.

This is just a pretty weak film. It doesn’t serve much purpose other than trying to make money without spending any. The creatures weren’t really funny anymore and everything felt like a rehash of things we’ve already seen in the other movies.

And nearly everyone survives, which is a big failure for a movie series that prided itself on eating people.

Rating: 4/10

Critters 4 (1992):

Release Date: October 14th, 1992
Directed by: Rupert Harvey
Written by: David J. Schow, Joseph Lyle, Rupert Harvey, Barry Opper
Music by: Peter Manning Robinson
Cast: Don Keith Opper, Terrence Mann, Paul Whitthorne, Angela Bassett, Andres Hove, Eric Da Re, Brad Dourif

New Line Home Video, 105 Minutes

critters-4Review:

Critters 4 is a step above Critters 3 but not by much.

It is the ugliest film in the series as it utilizes dark and dreary space station sets. Everything in this movie looks 90s and not like something that should represent the 2040s, when it takes place.

The sets look like every other generic horror movie spaceship set of the era. Everything is dark and back lit. The computer screens look outdated, even for the 90s. Nothing about it is imaginative or cool. By comparison, it makes Jason X look like a science fiction masterpiece.

On a positive note, we are back to seeing these creatures devour everyone in sight. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of characters. Most of them die horrifically though.

We also get to see a young Angela Bassett, just before she found fame playing Tina Turner in the biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It. The film also stars Brad Dourif most known as the voice of Chucky in the Child’s Play movies and Grima Wormtongue in The Lord of the Rings films.

Strangely, Ug returns as the villain in this chapter. His turn to the darkside is never really explained and the opportunity to add depth to the story and the relationship between Ug and Charlie was wasted.

Critters 4 is just more of the same. Except it is all acted out on the ugliest sets in the series.

Rating: 4/10