Evil Dead (2013)

Evil DeadEvil Dead

Release Date: April 5, 2013

Director: Fede Alvarez

Stars: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas

Runtime: 91 min

Tagline: The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience

Evil Dead might not be the most terrifying film you will ever experience, but it is one of the bloodiest, most exciting and satisfying horror flicks in quite some time.

Five friends go up to a cabin in the woods that has sentimental value, as they’d camp there all the time as tykes. This time, they have a more serious agenda. Mia (Jane Levy) is a heroin addict who plans to beat the addiction. To help her, lifelong friends Olivia (Jessica Lucas), Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), and her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), who is there to offer support, deem it necessary to keep her at the cabin, so she doesn’t overdose again in the future. Another force soon keeps them at the cabin, when the friends find the Book of Dead (left by witches and father of a possessed girl who was burned alive) and unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods. When this evil is unleashed, the friends get possessed one by one until one is left to fight for survival.

Cue the quick-paced plot, chainsaws, gross-out gore, gallons of blood, dismemberment, heroism and total awesomeness. The wickedly amazing good news is: It’s a great remake. It’s also a great individual horror film that stands well on its own two feet (and sometimes, one). It also stands fairly well being inevitably compared to Sam Raimi’s original 1981 cult classic.

This stays faithful to the original, but even when we think we know how this all plays out — there’s an admirable amount of wiggle room for surprise, and amazing plot twists. The original opts for simplicity where the central characters are merely taking a vacation for the shits and giggles, while these guys have a real purpose. They’re leading one of their best friends down a dirt road to sobriety, but litte do they know they’ll be leading her down a road of demonic possession. One thing that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and why this proves sometimes being simple can be better, is… Why choose that one childhood shacky cabin in the woods to help a friend get sober? Why not take her to a more secure friend’s house, a nice four-star hotel in the tropics, or, hmm… A rehabilitation facility?

Some of the decisions of the characters are really rather silly, but that’s expected in this day and age. Some decisions aren’t as silly as some of the characters in the original, like when the gal who was molested by the tree willingly went outside to ask “Who’s there? I heard you!” The way the demons were actually summoned is a very idiotic decision on one of the characters parts. Eric can hardly resist opening up the book because curiosity is just strangling him. Despite the multiple warnings from the book like probably a spell that was designed to give him a nasty paper cut, or actual warnings on the very page he reads a passage from, he still says the coveted words. Eric, if you’re so goddamn curious, just read the Latin in your head. It isn’t the time to practice a foreign language, especially not that of an ancient book with strange writings and demonic rituals in it. Granted, if he doesn’t commit the silly actions he does, none of the happenings of this great modern horror would happen.

This decides to take the terror trail and sometimes treads on some gross-out campiness. Fans of the original might think blood spewing all over the screen is funny (mostly because it’s pleasantly awesome), but others could be grossed out or find it cringe-worthy. The witty demons get some of the laughs, mostly the one in the cellar. It’s also funny when the possessed friends try to convince the unaffected that they’re normal and harmless, and they fall for the conniving demons, hook, line, and sinker. Fan of the original or not, one should not trust any of the effective false senses of security.

This doesn’t mean to be campy, this is a remake and it stands proudly on its own. Some of it is terrifying when the more primary characters’ lives are at stake, or like when one of the gals is being raped by a tree. It’s one of those horror movies that relies both on some effective pop-out scares and a wicked atmosphere. The sound of speeding wind when the camera is rushing through the forest is still very spooky and effective, and it gives a chill to the bone. One thing that is admirable about this is the director’s choice to use practical effects instead of CGI-effects. This rarity is great because this is an age with movies like Life of Pi or even Mama, where the latter’s villain is entirely CGI. The effects that the filmmakers achieve here are endlessly impressive. Fede Alvarez’s decision to use practical effects is a great one, and he seems like a director everyone should keep an eye on.

The characterization is good, where it focuses mainly on the brother-sister dynamic between David and Mia. She feels like David has not been there for her the past few years, and this sometimes anti-hero uses this to her effective advantage throughout the feature.

The petite central cast of five people carry the film well. Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore don’t shine vibrantly, but the real carriers of the film are the other three. Pucci’s good as the brain of the operation, Eric. Fernandez has some scenes where he acts terribly, but he has other scenes where he is able to do a good job of portraying a concerned older brother. Because of this, he evens out to be just kind-of forgettable. Jane Levy gets her chance to shine in every aspect of the word as a sometimes anti-hero, and always an all-around bad-ass. Ash would most definitely approve of her.

In a nutshell: As far as horror remakes go, this is one of the finest in quite some time. This film has cool effects, a woman being sexually assaulted by a tree with a sex drive (try telling that one to a therapist), demonic possession, beatings, stabbings, and the usage of weapons like exacto-knives, nail guns, and, of course, chainsaws. If that all sounds like your idea of a good time, check this out; it’s one of the best 80’s horror films made in the past five years.

88/100

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

The Amazing Spider-Man

Release Date: July 3, 2012

Director: Marc Webb

Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans

Runtime: 136 min

Tagline: His past was kept from him. His search for answers has just begun.

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) finds a clue that might help him understand why his parents disappeared when he was young. His path puts him on a collision course with Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), his father’s former partner.

While inferior to Spider-Man 2 of the Sam Raimi trilogy, it’s vastly superior to Spider-Man 3, but it’s a little better than the first Spider-Man. It doesn’t have too many villains, and Marc Webb is a worthy enough director to reboot the great super hero. It doesn’t really ever reach amazing, as Raimi set the bar pretty high, but it is pretty awesome. Granted, The Pretty Awesome Spider-Man doesn’t have a good ring to it.

Peter has to deal with a few situations throughout the feature: some relationship problems, deaths within the family, a police captain, and of course, the Lizard.

Peter is having a few relationship problems with his new girlfriend Gwen Stacy, because he wants to keep her safe. Of course, super heroes are going to have villains. Also, one other relationship problem could arise because he’s never vibrantly exciting. He tells a few jokes, and he has that charming smile he’s always flashing, but that’s about it. Nothing else is virtually off about him, but there aren’t any other notable things about him. No one can forget the great Tobey Maguire, and comparisons between the two are inevitable. Garfield is pretty bland compared to Maguire. Gwen Stacy is a great love choice for Spider-Man. Garfield may be bland when he’s without Stacy (portrayed by Emma Stone), but when the two are together, they’re a pretty fine team. I really like Gwen Stacy, maybe even more than Mary Jane Watson.

Any of you who have seen the original Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, or are generally familiar with the story of Peter Parker, will know which family member of his gets killed off fairly early in the story.  The death of this character brings on solid character development to Peter, as it fills him with a need for vengeance, a trait one would not think of when they hear the word: super hero; but that is one of the primary traits of Parker after this time. Parker’s search for this character’s killer is actually realistic. He goes through a countless number of thugs in search of a man with a star tattoo on his left wrist. This ultimately puts him in the path of a New York police Captain, and that said Police Captain thinks Parker is a vigilant menace, mirroring the character of J. Jonah Jameson.

Compared to Raimi’s first Spider-Man, there are some things this does better, and things it does worse. The introduction to Peter’s new found powers is better, and funnier. Sometimes, the things he does are cooler. Although, no one can forget those “Go go spider web!” or “Up, up and away! ” lines that Maguire uttered in the original Spider-Man. The search for his relative’s killer is more realistic in this, because he just doesn’t find the killer off the bat. Though, if he did find the killer off the bat, it would bring closure much earlier in the story, and Spidey wouldn’t be haunted by that unholy ghost called vengeance.

That whole sub-plot goes on in the first bit of the film, and the actual super villain (in the full Lizard state) doesn’t get fully introduced until after the one-hour mark. Dr. Curt Connors has motivations that are quite easy to understand. He only has one arm, so he has a raging jealousy of lizards because they can regrow limbs. His motivations are easy to understand, but his master plan… not so much. He wants to turn everyone into lizards. Sure, we’ll be stronger and faster, but everyone’s more content being human… We’ll have scaly skin, and even a year supply of hand and skin lotions can’t cure that.

While it probably won’t enter the reboot series status of something like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, it still makes the sequels look promising. There are some great action sequences, dramatic scenes and plot development, and it’s a great introduction to a new Spider-Man series. Garfield may make for an often unfunny Spider-Man, as all the jokes are given to Police Captain Stacy, Gwen, Uncle Ben and Aunt May; but maybe the writers will give him a little more flare and heart in the sequels.

75/100

Celebrity Birthdays: October 22 – 28

Christopher Lloyd (October 22). Happy 74th birthday to the great Christopher Lloyd, who is best known for his role as Dr. Emmett Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy. I still have to see that series… He is also well known for his role as the main antagonist, Judge Doom, in the 1989 animation/live action feature Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Sam Raimi (October 23). Happy 53rd birthday to Sam Raimi, who has directed great trilogies like The Evil Dead and Spider-Man. I still have to see Evil Dead, but it seems really awesome.

Ang Lee (October 23). Happy 58th birthday to Ang Lee, director of such great films as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain. I haven’t seen anything by Lee, but I just want to tell you guys to check out his upcoming film Life of Pi, that comes to theatres November 21.

Craig Robinson (October 25). Happy 41st birthday to Craig Robinson, who has brought his great comedy styling to such films as Pineapple Express, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Hot Tub Time Machine, and TV’s The Office.

Seth MacFarlane (October 26). Happy 39th birthday to Seth MacFarlane, creator of animation comedy shows such as the great Family Guy, the okay American Dad! and the horrible (except for its theme song) The Cleveland Show. He made his live action feature film debut this year with Ted, which is now the top world-wide grossing R-rated comedy of all time. He’s also going to be hosting the Oscar’s honouring films of the 2012 year.

Other Birthdays: Oct. 23, Ryan Reynolds (36); Dwight Yoakam (56). Oct. 24, Tila Tequila (31). Oct. 26, Dylan McDermott (51); Bob Hoskins (70), Jon Heder (35). Oct. 28, Joaquin Phoenix (38); Julia Roberts (45); Joan Plowright (83).

My favourite Christopher Lloyd films: Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The PagemasterDennis the Menace

Favourite Craig Robinson films: Hot Tub Time Machine Pineapple ExpressZack and Miri Make a Porno

Favourite Dwight Yoakam film: Panic Room.

Spider-Man 3 — A film review by Daniel Prinn – Sometimes, the third time really isn’t the charm.

Spider-Man 3

Release Date: May 4, 2007

Director: Sam Raimi

Stars: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Topher Grace

Runtime: 139 min

Tagline: How long can any man fight the darkness… before he finds it in himself?

Sometimes, the third time really isn’t the charm; and apparently Parker’s charm just had to flee, too.

Peter Parker is still your always friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, well… kind of. When a mysterious black entity bonds with Peter, he must deal with relationships, numerous villains, temptations, a huge ego and revenge.

Some of the film is entertaining, but this is forgettable. It sucks that they made the worst (it isn’t retched, or anything, though) of the trilogy the longest. It’s the darkest of the series, but it doesn’t work well.

The numerous antagonists, and some subplots of revenge, make the film very crowded. There’s Harry, the New Goblin, who’s still bent on avenging his father’s death; there’s Flint Marko, Sandman, who is actually an unknown part of Peter’s past which starts yet another subplot of revenge; there’s Eddie Brock (Venom), a photographer who starts a feud with Parker at the Daily Bugle, and who eventually swears revenge on Parker (I don’t know why, but I’m just getting this odd vibe [maybe my spidey senses are tingling] that revenge plays a huge role in this film); and there’s also the usual relationship problems between Peter and M.J., and Gwen Stacy now seems to be  throwing some moves in on Spidey. [Phew!]

Peter, Peter, Peter, where in the world did your charisma go? All of the charisma of this film went to the freaking maître d’ (a cameo from Bruce Campbell, star of the Evil Dead trilogy); I know the film isn’t supposed to be very charismatic, it’s supposed to be dark, which it is, but some of it doesn’t work. The unbearable part of the film where Parker is taken completely over by the dark entity is just so annoying, it taints my view of the overall movie. I’m not usually one for cockiness or a huge ego in the first place, and Parker isn’t even good at being cocky. Whenever, or if ever, I re-watch this, I’m going to use the fast forward button with pleasure through those scenes.

The positives are fairly limited. The film has entertaining sequences, and many solid performances. Whilst the sub-plots crowd the movie, they are, admittedly, interesting. Venom is the best villain of the series, but Grace doesn’t give the best villain performance of the franchise. (Who could beat Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin?) Venom is my favourite Spider-Man villain, and while I usually enjoy Topher Grace as an actor, he doesn’t work in this dark role. The villain does add some entertainment value to the movie.

Overall, it’s an entertaining ride with a crowded script. It’s a film that isn’t all bad, and the bad and good aspects balance out. It’s an average film, that is by no means horrid. Check it out if you like super hero films. 

60/100

Spider-Man 2 – A film review by Daniel Prinn – Spidey’s back for a winner

Spider-Man 2

Release Date: June 30, 2004

Director: Sam Raimi

Stars: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina

Runtime: 127 min

Tagline: This summer a man will face his destiny. A hero will be revealed.

[Spider-Man 2] is a great example of a film where sequels turn out better than the first outing.

Everyone’s friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man is back for this really sweet sequel. Peter Parker is still dealing with his powers and responsibilities and how they often intrude with things of his “normal” everyday life. Parker is also dealing with relationships, and often feels there is just about too much on his feast of a plate. Also, well of course, he has to deal with new villains: Doctor “Doc Ock” Octopus. Octopus came to be after yet another experiment gone wrong (seriously, where do they find these  stupid scientists who always find away to screw the experiment up and turn to a life of crime?!). With the mechanical tentacles that attached to his back now controlling his every move, he tries out his new abilities on the innocent citizens of New York.

The film is quite solid and has memorable action sequences and is pretty well-paced; and the film really doesn’t drag on in many areas or overstay its welcome. This flick has better action sequences than the first and Parker has grown more charismatic as his confidence has grown. In some ways I enjoyed it more than the first, and in other ways not.

I preferred the villain of the first, because the character of Doctor Octopus doesn’t overly interest me, I mean it’s interesting that he’s being controlled by the mechanical tentacles and he’s bent on revenge, I just didn’t feel he was a great villain. And people don’t really watch super hero films for the hero (on most occasions), we’re in it for the villains.

Some of the flick is quite memorable, but other scenes are a little forgettable. It’s fairly well- paced and a great action film experience.

The film stars Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris and J.K. Simmons. The direction by Sam Raimi is also really good.

It’s the best film of the Spider-Man trilogy.

80/100

Spider-Man – A (short) film review by Daniel Prinn – A great start to a solid trilogy

Spider-Man

Release Date: May 3, 2002

Director: Sam Raimi

Stars: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Willem Dafoe

Release Date: 121 min

Tagline: Does whatever a spider can.

Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is an average everyday science wiz, until he goes on a field trip and gets bitten by a spider that gives him superhuman abilities. After tragedy befalls his family, Peter must use his abilities to become New York’s masked saviour.

Along the way, he deals with a number of things: coping with his newfound abilities, fight for the love of Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), and fight the evil Green Goblin.

It’s quite the action film; and it is one of my favourite super-hero films. The storyline is  well-structured, the characters are likeable, the acting is good, and the direction is great. I liked the villain in this one; but the action sequences aren’t very memorable.

The film also stars James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris and J.K. Simmons.

It’s a good movie, and a great first film for a great movie trilogy.

 

75/100