Film Review: Twister (1996)

Also known as: Catch the Wind (original script title), Wind Devils (working title)
Release Date: May 8th, 1996 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Jan de Bont
Written by: Michael Crichton, Anne-Marie Martin
Music by: Mark Mancina
Cast: Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Jami Gertz, Cary Elwes, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alan Ruck, Sean Whalen, Joey Slotnick, Scott Thomson, Lois Smith, Alexa Vega, Zach Grenier, Patrick Fischler, Anthony Rapp, Jake Busey

Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., 113 Minutes

Review:

“When you used to tell me that you chase tornadoes, deep down I always just thought it was a metaphor.” – Melissa

I hadn’t seen this movie since the theater but I had fond memories of that experience. I just never really went back and watched it again because it was a simple story that was very effects heavy and didn’t offer up much for a repeat viewing unless you’re a real digital effects junkie.

Since I came across it while scrolling through the content on HBO Max, I felt the urge to revisit it just to see how good it actually was and whether or not it’s held up after a quarter of a century. Plus, I really like the cast and it’s stacked with talent from top-to-bottom.

So for the most part, the effects do hold up. Sure, there are a few moments that might look hokey like the famous flying cow sequence but it hardly breaks the mind’s immersion into the film itself. And to be honest, I kind of like the humorous bits like that.

Generally, the tornado effects still look good and as effects heavy as this film is, it never feels like it’s too much. You kind of just get lost in the adrenaline rush of what’s happening and everything just works in the right way. Granted, I’d never want to see this sequelized or turned into a franchise. Once you’ve seen one tornado movie, you’ve pretty much seen them all and this surprisingly didn’t try to milk the flying cow to death.

It’s the personal stories in this that make the film work and make it much more than just a CGI fest.

I loved the chemistry between Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton and even with that, you still find yourself kind of sad over the way Jami Gertz, Paxton’s new fiancé, gets pushed to the side once he falls back in love with the woman he’s trying to get to sign divorce papers.

Hunt and Paxton just made a good couple and they balanced each other out, rather well. I also like that it’s the female half of the relationship that has become obsessed with her work and kind of let the romance fade away while the man steps up and reels her back in and centers her at a point in life when she needed it most. Then again, I always like seeing failed relationships finding a way to rekindle what was lost.

The supporting cast is pretty damn good too. I especially liked Lois Smith as the sort of matriarch of the storm chaser group. I also enjoyed Cary Elwes as the rival snot that gets himself killed because of ego. Philip Seymour Hoffman was enjoyable too, pretty much playing himself turned up to 11.

Twister seems like it’s been forgotten, as the years have rolled on. But honestly, it’s a really good movie in that summer blockbuster genre. I remember it being a big hit with moviegoers and everyone I knew, at the time, loved it quite a bit. When I worked at a video store, we could barely keep it in stock for the first few months.

Sadly, it was usurped by Independence Day, less than two months later and then the summer blockbusters kept getting bigger, louder and even more CGI heavy. 

Rating: 7.25/10

Film Review: 3 From Hell (2019)

Also known as: Los 3 del infierno (Mexico)
Release Date: September 15th, 2019 (Fantasy Filmfest – Germany)
Directed by: Rob Zombie
Written by: Rob Zombie
Music by: Zeuss
Cast: Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, Richard Brake, Sid Haig, Danny Trejo, Dee Wallace, Daniel Roebuck, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Emilio Rivera, Clint Howard, Richard Riehle, Sean Whalen

Capital Arts Entertainment, Spookshow International, Saban Films, Lionsgate, 111 Minutes

Review:

“Um… some old broad next door saw me gut that bitch. Um, think we should think about rolling out of here soon.” – Baby

Well, it took fourteen years to get a sequel to The Devil’s Rejects. If I’m being honest, the previous film had a perfect ending and it didn’t need a followup. I’m also not sure if Rob Zombie ever intended to do a third film. It feels like this was more or less done for fan service to get back on the good graces of those who liked his early movies, as everything since his Halloween remake hasn’t been received very well by most.

That being said, this is better than his more recent movies but it is definitely the worst of The Firefly Family Trilogy. Also, this is left open for a possible fourth movie but it should’ve ended with the second because you can only milk a cow so long before you start getting pus.

The problem I have with this film is two-fold.

First, this plays like the seventh movie in a row where Rob Zombie is basically creating a vehicle just for his wife. It’s more of his, “Look, guys! Isn’t my wife hot and crazy?!” The thing is, I initially liked Sherri Moon Zombie but she has been used to death and the focal point of all of Rob Zombie’s films that I’m kind of over it. Actually, I’ve been over it since Halloween II. She’s not a good actress and every character she plays is pretty much the same with her crazy dial adjusted to whatever the scene calls for. But I get that she is a main character in this film series. But maybe seeing her return to this role would’ve actually been welcomed had she not been the star of every movie Zombie’s directed since The Devil’s Rejects.

My second problem is that this is a movie with multiple personality disorder.

The picture is really two films wedged into two hours. With that, this doesn’t have what feels like a traditional three act structure but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Where this is bad, however, is that the first half is terrible, almost cringe worthy minus a few highlights. The second half is much better but it still isn’t up to par with the two films before it.

The first half of the movie deals with the family members surviving a shootout that definitely should have killed them, their time in prison and then their eventual jailbreak. This excludes Sid Haig’s Captain Spaulding, however, as he is executed. This was primarily due to Sid Haig being in poor health and only being able to film for one day on set. Sadly, he passed away a few weeks back but he did go out with a bang and delivered the best dialogue of the picture. Luckily, for Haig fans, he has two more movies slated to come out next year.

The second half of the film sees Otis and Baby with their cousin Winslow escape to Mexico, where they think that they’ll be safe from the national manhunt that wants to see them brought to justice, once again.

I mostly like the second half and it at least woke me up from the slumber of the first hour.

In Mexico, we see the family hole up in a shitty motel brothel with some other rough characters. However, their hideout vacation is quickly invaded by a Mexican cartel in lucha libre masks that want revenge for something that Otis did. So we get a big war between the Firefly Family and the lucha cartel in a rundown Mexican brothel. In some ways the setting is pretty much a rehash of the confrontation the family had in Charlie’s brothel in The Devil’s Rejects, except there is a lot more action, the extra flair of the Mexican locale and it feels more like a western standoff.

I think that the one saving grace of the film is Bill Moseley, who hits it out of the park once again, as Otis. But I also really enjoyed newcomer Richard Brake, who played the new, third member of the family. While he doesn’t makeup for the severe lack of Haig’s Spaulding, he was still a fun character with a lot of charisma and he meshed well with the dynamic of Otis and Baby.

3 From Hell is the weakest chapter in the trilogy. That’s mainly due to the first hour and frankly, that half of the film could’ve been edited down to a half hour. This would’ve benefited from being a 90 minute movie instead of a two hour one.

Ultimately, it’s bogged down by scenes that didn’t need to be there because they didn’t advance the plot. This should’ve rolled forward at a swift pace and not have started out as such a slog to get through.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the two films before it: House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects.

Film Review: Batman Returns (1992)

Release Date: June 16th, 1992 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Daniel Waters, Sam Hamm
Based on: Batman by Bob Kane, Bill Finger
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Michael Murphy, Vincent Schiavelli, Andrew Bryniarski, Cristi Conaway, Paul Reubens, Sean Whalen

Warner Bros., 126 Minutes

Review:

“My dear penguins, we stand on a great threshold! It’s okay to be scared; many of you won’t be coming back. Thanks to Batman, the time has come to punish all God’s children! First, second, third and fourth born! Why be biased? Male and female! Hell, the sexes are equal with their erogenous zones blown sky high! Forward march! The liberation of Gotham has begun!” – The Penguin

When I was a kid, other than Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Back to the Future, Part II, this was my most anticipated sequel. This was also the second and final time that Michael Keaton would play Batman, as well as being Tim Burton’s last Batman picture.

While I don’t quite love this chapter in the film series as much as the original, it is still really damn good and certainly better than the two Joel Schumacher films that followed.

We lose Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl and Jack Palance but we gain Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, as well as small parts by Vincent Schiavelli and Paul Reubens. Plus, Michael Gough and Pat Hingle return to accompany Keaton.

The two top billed villains in this story are the Penguin and Catwoman, although when you really analyze the picture, Walken’s Max Shrek is the true villain and his name was an obvious homage to Nosferatu actor Max Schreck. By story’s end, Catwoman is more of an antihero like she would become in the comics.

Danny DeVito was probably a perfect choice for the Penguin back in 1992. He had star power, charisma and definitely a similar body type. However, in this adaptation of the Batman mythos, he is reinvented to be more grotesque and much larger in girth. While he comes from wealth and opulence, this version of the character was rejected as an infant and went to live out his life in the Gotham City sewers where his only friends were sewer penguins and eventually the circus themed gang that he controls.

Catwoman also has a different origin. Here, she is a pushover secretary who gets in over her head and is shoved out of a high rise window, presumably to her death. There is a sort of mystical moment where alley cats swarm her body and she is magically reborn with cat-like reflexes and confidence. It’s pretty silly but Tim Burton made this film more like a dark fairy tale than his previous Batman movie.

Even though Gotham City is a massive place, the sets and design of this film make it feel pretty confined, even when we are in what are assumed to be wide open spaces. Maybe it was designed this way, intentionally. But the film feels smaller than the previous Batman movie, even though it cost a lot more to make: $80 million, as opposed to the $35 million budget of the first chapter.

Still, the cinematography is pretty good and the world looks much more like a Tim Burton world than the first film, which had tighter controls on it from the studio. It was the Burton elements though that I feel bogged this picture down a bit. Plus, the film was considered less family friendly and caused the studio to make drastic changes to the franchise after Burton was booted before the next picture. Granted, the followup movies were pretty horrendous.

This is a pretty good Batman picture, even if it does take some tremendous liberties in altering the source material. The right kind of spirit was there and this really just sort of exists in its own Tim Burton universe. That’s not a bad thing and if it wasn’t for the Burton Batman movies, we would have never gotten the near perfect masterpiece that was Batman: The Animated Series.

Rating: 8.5/10

Film Review: The ‘Hatchet’ Trilogy (2006-2013)

*written in 2015.

I never watched Hatchet or any of its sequels until this past weekend. I heard good things and they star Kane Hodder (the longest running actor to play Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th films) as the monster Victor Crowley. These films also star a plethora of other horror icons. The series grabs actors from the A Nightmare On Elm Street, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Candyman and Gremlins franchises. I’m sure I’m leaving some out as well.

Let me analyze each film in this trilogy separately.

Hatchet (2006):

Release Date: April 27th, 2006 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Directed by: Adam Green
Written by: Adam Green
Music by: Andy Garfield
Cast: Joel Moore, Tamara Feldman, Deon Richmond, Mercedes McNab, Parry Shen, Joel Murray, Joleigh Fioreavanti, Richard Riehle, Patrika Darbo, Joel David Moore, Joshua Leonard, Tony Todd, Robert Englund, Kane Hodder

ArieScope Pictures, Radioaktive Film, High Seas Entertainment, Anchor Bay Entertainment, 93 Minutes

Review:

“But you only shot him once, right? Maybe you gotta shoot him more times. Like four- or six- maybe you gotta shoot him six times?” – Shawn

The first film is enjoyable. Although these movies are supposed to be homages to the great slasher films of the 80s, they feel more like homages to the late sequels of those films. What I mean, is that this movie plays like the fifth film in a slasher franchise, where plot doesn’t matter and things are just violent, insane and way more over the top than normal.

Hatchet follows a group of people on a haunted bayou boat tour outside of New Orleans. The boat crashes, the people are stranded and our brutal beast of a killer literally rips them apart.

While this is considered part of the slasher sub-genre of horror and Victor Crowley is seen as a slasher, he tends to rip off arms and pull people’s heads apart, as opposed to stabbing people with knives or using machetes. Granted, he does use some tools here and there, but he has the tendency to mutilate his victims with his bare hands.

The film is more campy than scary. It is more like splatter porn than a mysterious slasher film that builds suspense. Instead of characters hiding from a knife-wielding psycho and trying to survive the night with cunning and stealth, we have people running from a mindless berserker that wants to fertilize the woods with hundreds of gallons of blood. There really is no suspense, just intense insanity once the monster shows up.

The ending is horrible, by the way. The film just cuts off. But it isn’t so bad, if you immediately watch the second film, which starts right where this one ends.

Rating: 6/10

Hatchet II (2010):

Release Date: August 26th, 2010 (Frightfest)
Directed by: Adam Green
Written by: Adam Green
Music by: Andy Garfield
Cast: Kane Hodder, Danielle Harris, Tony Todd, Parry Shen, Tom Holland, R. A. Mihailoff, AJ Bowen, Alexis Peters, Ed Ackerman, David Foy, Colton Dunn, Rick McCallum

Dark Sky Films, ArieScope Pictures, 85 Minutes

Review:

“Come on, you hatchet-faced fuck!” – Bob

The second film is more of the same. It also continues into the next day following part one. Also, the main girl is suspiciously different looking. Oh, she’s now a different actress – Danielle Harris from Halloween 4 and 5, to be exact.

The sole survivor of the first movie, the new actress playing the old actress, returns to New Orleans to get answers regarding Victor Crowley. She then immediately heads out with a clueless posse to hunt him down because why the fuck not?

This one gets more insane than the first installment and is a lot bloodier and ridiculous. There isn’t a whole lot more to add really.

Same movie; ante upped.

Rating: 6.25/10

Hatchet III (2013):

Release Date: June 14th, 2013
Directed by: B.J. McDonnell
Written by: Adam Green
Music by: Scott Glasgow
Cast: Kane Hodder, Danielle Harris, Caroline Williams, Zach Galligan, Robert Diago DoQui, Derek Mears, Cody Blue Snider, Rileah Vanderbilt, Sean Whalen, Jason Trost, Diane Ayala Goldner, Joel David Moore

Dark Sky Films, ArieScope Pictures, 82 Minutes

Review:

“I’ve seen some crazy shit, man. I was working on an Asian male; head severed off, uh, leg cut off below the knee. I’m telling you, man… He looked kinda like you, man.” – Randy

Like its predecessor, this one starts immediately where the last film ended. Basically, these three films happen over the course of three consecutive nights.

There is more splatter, more horror icon cameos but we are essentially just watching a single four and a half hour film instead of three separate movies.

Like the other films, this one ends somewhat open ended. I can only assume there will be a fourth chapter in the future.

These aren’t great movies but they are worth a watch and an entertaining way to kill a few hours. I don’t know how driven I will be to ever watch them again but I would check out another sequel. But I doubt that I would ride this out for ten films like Friday the 13th.

Rating: 6/10

Film Review: The People Under the Stairs (1991)

Release Date: November 1st, 1991
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Wes Craven
Music by: Don Peake, Graeme Revell
Cast: Brandon Adams, Everett McGill, Wendy Robie, A.J. Langer, Ving Rhames, Kelly Jo Minter, Sean Whaler

Alive Films, Universal Pictures, 102 Minutes

Review:

“Yeah, and maybe the President will make me Secretary of Pussy.” – Leroy

People Under the Stairs is a movie that I did not like when it came out in 1991. In fact, as much as I loved a few of Wes Craven’s films, the majority of them were like this, just weird and uninspiring without much to care about.

Having seen this film for the first time in a long time, I still don’t like it. However, it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. But it was still weird and uninspiring, as well as boring and pointless.

I don’t understand what this film was trying to be. I guess it’s part horror, part comedy, part social justice, I don’t know. It’s a confusing mess and adding in two cast members from Twin Peaks doesn’t give you the license to be bizarre for the sake of being bizarre. It also doesn’t excuse a stupid picture.

No, actually, the more I think about it, I still hate this picture.

I hate it because its ugly, lame and insulting. Wes Craven is way better than this unless A Nightmare On Elm Street and The Serpent and the Rainbow were just flukes.

The monsters are awful, the psycho people are awful, the characters are awful, the plot is awful, the acting is awful, the direction is awful, the whole damn film is awful.

Yes, this is getting put through the Cinespiria Shitometer. Well, what we have here is a “Type 7 Stool: Watery, no solid pieces. Entirely liquid.”

Rating: 3/10