Movie Review: WOLF

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Movie Review: WOLFColumbia Pictures
1994
R

“Oh, and Gary, don’t tell people you had a drop of Tequila with your coffee this morning. You didn’t have coffee this morning.”

William Randall, Senior Editor for a publishing company in New York, is on his way home from Vermont one snowy night when he happens to hit a wolf. Checking it out, Randall is, of course, bitten by the beast. Shortly, he’s noticing some changes taking place- he’s growing hair in places that he hasn’t had hair before, he seems to have a heightened sexuality, and he has this habit of going out at night until the wee hours of the morning. Either William is finally hitting puberty in his 50s, or he’s turning into a werewolf. My money’s on the later. Anyhoo, he’s also gotten these nifty heightened senses- smell, hearing, touch, taste…which, given the recent hostile takeover at his company, it gives new meaning to the term “dog-eat-dog”. The downside…he’s waking up in the mornings covered in blood, not knowing where he was the previous night. I call those “Tuesdays”…

I’m not very big on werewolf movies. There’s only really a few that seems to do something fresh with the basics of the genre in my book- An American Werewolf In London, Ginger Snaps, Dog Soldiers, and of course Lon Chaney’s The Wolf Man. Now, having just viewed this movie, I feel compelled to add this to the list.

First of all, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Jack Nicholson is The Man. He gives a lovably sinister yet subdued presence in his roll as the over-the-hill Lycanthrope. Beautifully done. There’s really not much chemistry between him and Michelle Pfeiffer’s character (who, by the way, hasn’t had that kind of presence since her turn as Catwoman two years prior to this movie), but that’s just a minor setback. The movie as a whole has that feel of one of those classic 1930s Universal movies, with the film style and the musical score blending together nicely. The effects are minimal, but effective, having more to do with the afore-mentioned Lon Chaney’s wolf man than a full transformation to a wolf. The entire film builds on the tension and suspense juxtaposed against William Randall’s every day life, keeping me in the movie until the big wolf-man showdown in the last half-hour.

Wolf is one of those modern genre horror films that has retains a classic charm. Well worth a rental…

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Movie Review: The WICKEDS

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Movie Review: WICKEDSCapital Film Studios
2005
R

“What would Bruce Campbell do?”

A bunch of disposable and mindless twenty-something teenagers head out to an abandoned house that’s supposedly a set for a grade-b horror movie (how ironic) to, as it were, party. Meanwhile, a couple of nearby grave robbers, robbing graves under the cover of…daylight, awakens a vampire (who’s apparently wearing SPF-500 sunblock, as he doesn’t go “poof” in the clear, sunny day) and a bunch of zombies crawl out of their graves as a result. As they crash the “party” at the abandoned house, they all find themselves surrounded by the undead…and stuff…unintentional hilarity ensues…

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the latest in the “It’s So Bad, It’s Good” horror category. Oh, the pleasure I had watching this, hopped up on Mountain Dew and tortilla chips n’ cheese dip. It’s a grade-b movie that doesn’t pretend to be nothing more than that- a cheesy cinematic romp with zombies, vampires, ghosts and ghouls in cheap makeup, bad dialogue, even cheaper props (found at your local department store every Halloween), and Ron Jeremy. Yep, that Ron Jeremy. Don’t worry, though, he keeps his clothes on the entire time. In fact, due to a preview on the DVD, apparently he’s traded in his porn days for a more grade-Z Horror Movie career as of late. There’s a bit of gratuitous near-nudity, but beyond that little bit of exploitation, Wickeds is really just an excuse to run around spilling fake blood. Think of this as a great Ed Wood-esque revival of sorts. For fans who like their horror with high dosages of mindless cheese, Wickeds really is a fun romp. Get together with friends and enjoy…

Movie Review: WHY SHOULD THE DEVIL HAVE ALL THE GOOD MUSIC?

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Movie Review: WHY SHOULD THE DEVIL HAVE ALL THE GOOD MUSICBlank Stare Films
NR
2004

Filmed mostly at the Cornerstone Festival in Bushnell, IL, this documentary takes an unbiased and relatively neutral look at the Christian rock phenomenon, culling thoughts and opinions on the subject from band members, fans, and industry types on both sides, and features performance clips by various bands playing at the festival…

I’ve been a collector of, and consequent self-proclaimed pseudo-journalist of, Christian rock and metal in all its forms since 1992. For nearly 15 years, I’ve probably come across a plethora of arguments for and against this genre, as well as varying degrees of thought concerning this nigh-controversial subject- some profound, some not-so profound, and some just downright silly.

While the recent bout of documentaries are little more than thinly-veiled propaganda pieces slanted to the biased viewpoint of the filmmaker, Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music? is relatively neutral in scope. On this documentary, the filmmakers went into Cornerstone to get a fairly good inside view on the subject of Christian music. The viewpoints of the artists and festival goers are rather diverse concerning Christianity and the music, ranging from the Nothing But Worshipful Lyrics stance, to the We’re Christians In A Band philosophy, and all points in-between. From the Preach From The Stage ideology to the Let The Music And Art Do The Talking sides…all valid and interesting insights are given.

As a balance, the film also captures the opinions from nonchristians in the music industry- magazine publishers, bands (mostly from Pansy Division, interesting bunch they are), and music producers- expounding on their take on Christian music. Though critical, for the most part it’s refreshingly non-hostile, and quite insightful as to why Christian music isn’t as readily embraced in the mainstream, a point which is also covered by the Christian artists.

What I liked about this documentary is the fact that there was no preconceived agenda involved. There’s no narration (unless you’re watching the director’s commentary), it just plops down the camera and let the interviewees talk. If there was an underlying agenda, I didn’t see one. Then again, I’ve been accused of being blind to the obvious New Age and Satanic conspiracies surrounding the various Bible translations, so I could just be slow on the take. But I doubt it…

On the downside, for me anyway, I came off having heard all these thoughts before. They didn’t provide any new insight on Christian music that I haven’t come across earlier in my involvement. Had this been viewed my first couple of years immersed in the Christian music culture, when my own concepts were still naive and narrow, Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music? would have been a shock to my sensibilities. But I’m old now, and everything on this film is old hat, which doesn’t bode well for re-watch value. But, it is a good insight on the subject, and if you’re pretty open minded to other’s viewpoints, both Christian and otherwise, and can look past the two vulgarities uttered at a couple of places (in other words, not a good choice for youth group night), then Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music? should make for a doable one night rental.

Movie Review: WHEN A STRANGER CALLS [2006]

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Movie Review: WHEN A STRANGER CALLS [2006]Screen Gems
2006
PG-13

“Have you checked the children?”

Some teenager is babysitting in a very swank house, she receives some harassing phone calls, stalked by some guy, then…well…let’s just say that by this time, it was too late to demand my money back at the box office in front…*sigh*…

FADE IN, INT. SCENE
You are sitting in a comfy chair, reading this review of When A Stranger Calls remake, when the phone besides you rings, making you visibly jump. You pick up the phone, lifting it nonchalantly to your ear

YOU: Hello?

heavy breathing

YOU: Grandma? Is that you? What have I told you about making phone calls to the outside world?

CLOSE UP: The telephone speaker end on your ear

DEEP VOICE: You’re going to suffer tonight!

YOU: Who is this? If you’re from that collection agency, I told you, the check’s in the mail!

you hang up the phone

CLOSE UP: Telephone. Phone rings. You look warily at it, then pick it up again.

YOU: Hello?

DEEP VOICE: Don’t do that again!

YOU: Who is this? Is this a prank?

DEEP VOICE: SILENCE, MORTAL! You will suffer tonight!

YOU: What are you talking about?

DEEP VOICE: You’re going to see that remake of the “okay” 1979 film When A Stranger Calls later tonight.

YOU: How did you know that?

DEEP VOICE: You will suffer! Suuuuffeeeeeeeer!

YOU: *sigh* Okay, I’ll bite…why will I suffer by watching this movie?

DEEP VOICE: What you are about to subject yourself to is ninety minutes of pointless, underdeveloped crap that’s mostly filler, in the “We don’t have a full-length screenplay, so let’s shamelessly stall as much as possible” way of things.

YOU: Oh, co’mon…it’s an hour and a half! It can’t be that bad…

DEEP VOICE: You’re wrong. It is that bad…and MORE! The first hour consists of a girl alone in a house, doing nothing much. She is wearing an orange shirt so bright that it will do irreparable damage an hour into the movie. You won’t really care about her character because she’s so underdeveloped. Then the pain…the pain…it truly begins!

YOU: Right. Melodramatic freak.

DEEP VOICE: You don’t get it, do you? The pain, it…it’s indescribable. The phone rings non-stop. Silly “BOO!” scares. The girl gets yawn-educing prank calls. She strolls around the house non-stop instead of figuring out how to work the television. Heed my words, hapless mortal- the evil of this redundancy will set within your veins and you will witness clock padding in a film like you never have before!

YOU: Uh-huh. Listen, I’ve seen bad movies before…

DEEP VOICE: YOU KNOW NOTHING OF THIS PAIN, THIS SUFFERING!

YOU: How do you do that?

DEEP VOICE: Do what?

YOU: Talk in all caps like that?

DEEP VOICE: SILENCE! Heed my warning! You are about to subject yourself to a movie that will set up red herrings, situations and side characters with possible potential, but do practically nothing with them! A film so full of plot holes that it will turn your feeble brain to Jello! A film that will take a scene of a girl walking down a darkly lit corridor and stretch it and stretch it and streeeetch it until you’ve attempted to slit your wrists with your empty bag of popcorn! And nothing hurts worse than a paper cut! Except maybe…THIS MOVIE!

YOU: Um, yeah…listen, I gotta…

DEEP VOICE: After the first hour of pointless time killing, some clichéd and underused stalk and slash scenes will unfold. You may think this is good, but you’re wrong! You will watch, and mourn all the exciting scenarios and potential this film could have had, yet blatantly ignored! And just when you think the hurting has stopped, the flick will end things in a way that you saw coming before the opening credits rolled! Do you understand what I’m saying? The last few minutes are so standard, so predictable, so clichéd, so cheap, that you will know them BEFORE THE MOVIE EVEN STARTS! Maybe even after the second or third preview.

YOU: Are you finished? Because I really need to get going, here…

DEEP VOICE: Fine! Brush off my admonishments like so much dandruff! But heed my final warning, mortal. The only twist that you will witness in When A Stranger Calls, the sole “surprise” that the film has in store for you…was already revealed in the trailer!

YOU: Wow…you are really a freak…

DEEP VOICE: EVIL! SUFFERING! UNHOLY WASTE OF TEN BUCKS! OOOOGIE-BOOGIE!

YOU: You’ve really got to teach me how to talk in all caps like that. Listen, it’s been fun, but really…I gotta get going or I’m going to miss the previews. Give me a call, we’ll hang out sometime.

DEEP VOICE: Crayons taste like purp…

CLOSE UP: Phone receiver being set on the cradle.

You shake your head, stand up and grab your coat.

FADE OUT

…there. Not only did I just save you money, but I also entertained you by making this a movie script. Or something. Now you can send me the ten bucks you would have spent on that pointless exercise in Hollywood crapola…and here’s hoping Arrow In The Head doesn’t read this…and if he does, hey, it was an homage, dude…

A Legacy, A Liturgy, and a Ragamuffin Metal-Head

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in flames redOn Friday, December 5th, I accompanied my friend–whom I shall refer to as The Other James–to see the bands Red Fang, In Flames, and Opeth play at the Sokol Hall in Omaha, Nebraska. Without going into great detail about the wondrous experience that was had at the show, let’s just say that it was epic. Warm \,,/METAL\,,/ induced fuzzies were had by all that attended. Except for maybe the significant others of the \,,/METAL\,,/heads that were dragged there regardless of whether or not they liked the music of awesome, I guess. But, that’s besides the point.

It was near the end of the show; I was in the upstairs balcony sitting in the bleachers on account of my arthritic ankle, taking in Opeth’s set (which is mind-blowingly awesome, by the way…they really are the Pink Floyd of extreme music, but I digress), more or less fellowshipping with my fellow \,,/METAL\,,/ brethren and sistern, when the thought occurred to me: Why can’t church be more like a \,,/METAL\,,/ show?

Mind you, I’m not talking about the music style played, or the setup of the building, or even the kind of people that show up to church. I’m talking about the contrast of the atmosphere I was getting at the show, versus what I normally come across when I go to church each and every Sunday.

At the show, there were slices from all over the genre spectrum there, mainly due to the diverse styles of the bands that were playing–Red Fang was more stoner metal, and In Flames was melodic technical death metal, whereas Opeth is…Opeth–but the tribes ran the gamut of the beared and burly death metal types, the Vikings with the war vests, the scenester and hardcore kids, the darker gothic types, to even those who have to dress conservatively due to the nature of their careers, but were there in the mosh pits and working on their bangover none-the-less. There were more than a handful of those who had some sort of physical handicap–a couple in wheelchairs in the back jamming out, I saw a blind guy playing along with the guitars on his guide cane…heck, I was going tripod myself, using a cane to hobble about due to my gouty ankle (the doctor says “gout”, but I’m convinced my body just wants to be a jerk sometimes). Some parents even brought their young kids along to share in the goodness (the vocalist for In Flames pointed to one of them and proclaimed, “Here’s to the next generation of metal-heads!” at one point, which was bloody awesome). For the four hours we were there, there was a general sense of camaraderie and respect between everyone. I overheard one of the security officers quip that it was always so quiet at these metal shows. More than once I was asked by complete strangers, even more scary-looking than I am, if I was doing okay due to my obvious ankle discomfort.

In short, I felt at home. At a metal concert. And it wasn’t even close to being a so-called Christian metal concert.

So…why can’t I feel like that at church on Sundays? I mean, I realize that by going to a church that is literally called Country Bible Church, and is situated in the country in Eastern Nebraska around a general farming community that I may have already answered my own question. But, that’s the thing–many different people, the one thing that brings us all together being our faith in Christ Jesus, my risen Lord, Saviour and God, and my being a Christian since I was 15…I still feel like the outsider in the club. In many ways, I still feel like I did in High School, being one of the few \,,/METAL\,,/-heads there. Sure, I was a member of that school, but I really didn’t fit in anywhere. The same still holds when I go to church, when I join in the corporate worship each week. I still feel like I have to prove myself worthy of joining in. I hate that feeling.

Mind you, I love the church I’ve been attending (for the most part) since 2006. The focus on exegesis study of the Bible is right up my alley, and I find things intellectually stimulating, helping me deepen my faith and understanding. And I realize that no church is perfect, whatsoever. Still, the fact that I felt more accepted and at home at a \,,/METAL\,,/ show in a seedy venue in South Omaha, with those that share my love of the genre, more than I do in a sanctuary surrounded by those who share my faith in Jesus…well, I found that rather profound, personally. It’s less of an indictment and more of a lament. Maybe there’s just something wrong with me, I don’t know. What do you guys think?

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE

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Movie Review: WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARENew Line Cinema
1994
R

“Every kid knows who Freddy is. He’s like Santa Claus… or King Kong or…”

Genre writer / director / really rich guy Wes Craven is writing another instalment in the Nightmare On Elm Street series, and he wants everyone from the original movie to reunite. Robert Englund is thrilled. Heather Langenkamp…not so much. While it seems like a no-brainer, being cautious about this new movie endeavor turns out to be a good idea, as the script Craven’s writing seems to be coming to life…everything he’s writing is coming true. And Freddy…the “real” Freddy…is haunting Heather and her young son. And this Freddy doesn’t have a wacky sense of humor…

While a fan of the Nightmare series, I’ve never really been truly scared by the movies. About the closest that Craven’s brainchild has come to capturing the nightmares it’s supposed to be playing off of, and making Freddy a sinister bogeyman, was the first one. Nightmare 2 was close, but after that, the series became a succession of bad effects, been-there-done-that plots, and made Freddy into a bad-pun spewing caricature of his former self. One needs to go no further than the sixth instalment- Freddy’s Dead- to understand how sad it became.

With Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, I’ve gained a whole new respect for Freddy, as well as Craven’s ability to write something smart and scary when he really applies himself. I love the angle this movie has on the Nightmare series…more of a deconstruction of a franchise from the perspective of the actors and writers. It’s a scary concept in itself- what if our fictitious creations start taking on an independent life themselves, and we no longer have control over them? The “real” Freddy is dark and vicious, without the humor from the regular series, which makes this one much more scary. The fact that the movie has the actual writers, studio workers and the stars from the original playing themselves (that scene where Heather and Robert appear on the TV show together is great) in this movie-within-a-movie works well, making the psychological elements all that much more. A steady pace, cool effects (like the “bio-glove” concept, rather than the real glove from the regular movies), a strong cast, and a really good script…the only thing suffering is the ending, which kind of cops out. Otherwise, a great companion piece to a hit-or-miss (mostly miss) franchise…

Movie Review: WATCHERS

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Movie Review: WATCHERSUniversal Pictures
1988
R

“Remember I told you there were three biological experiments at [unintelligible]: the OXCOM, the dog, and their best animal…it’s me, Cliff. I’m their third experiment!”

Cory Haim, sporting his usual big 80s ‘do, suddenly finds himself in ownership of a stray golden retriever when it jumps into the back of Cory’s pickup. Naming the dog “Furface”, he takes him home and, well, you know. Anyhoo, the doggie has a secret: Seems ol’ furface was part of a secret government project that conducts genetic experiments to create the ultimate warriors. Using special dogs as homing beacons, the OXCOM’s (the horrible killing machines that appears to be a very large and hateful orangutan with terribly deviated septum) will kill every human around the pooch. Basically, it’s the “Hey! I’m a cute doggie! Now say hello to death in a monkey suit!” trick. There was one glitch, though- the OXCOMs hate the canines for some reason, so they kill the dogs whenever possible. As you may have guessed, the dog escaped the secret lab after it was sabotaged by some other government, along with one of the OXCOMs. Soon, people who have crossed paths with the OXCOM start dying at the hands of the furry death machine, and Michael Ironsides is dispatched by another government agency to take out the two genetic freaks and anyone who has encountered the two beasts. So, faced with this fun scenario, Cory takes Furface out to a wilderness cabin and starts using all the survival knowledge he accumulated from various episodes of the A-Team and MacGuyver. Explosions, shooting, stabbing, and the tried-but-true “I’m dead now, turn your back” act bring this tepid mess to its conclusion none-too-soon.

Tell you the truth, I haven’t read the book yet, so I watched this without that baggage. I wasn’t really that impressed with the movie. One has to think how Dean Koontz allowed the Canadians (yes, it is a Canadian movie) to take his book and make it into this horrid piece. Mind you, about the only redeeming quality is the gore, but that alone can’t carry this movie. What boggles my mind is the fact that, regardless of how bad this DTV piece was, it’s spawned two more sequels. Fascinating…

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