Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy


Runtime: 240 minutes
Release Date: May 4, 2010
Rating: NR
Director: Daniel Farrands, Andrew Kasch


Confession time: I actually own two copies of the original series and three copies of the first A Nightmare on Elm Street. I bought the original boxed set when it first came out and watched it multiple times. When I was in the mood to watch the films last summer and couldn't find my set, I bought the newer releases that stuck 4-5 movies in each set. I later found the original set in my garage, boxed up with some other movies from our move...three years ago. And I own the remastered version of the original that came with a bunch of special features. Um, and I may, may (may) still have the set on video too. Needless to say, I love me some Freddy. BTW, if you haven't read Englund's book yet, go buy a copy today. It's way better that Bruce Campbell's book, which I also love.


According to IMDB, Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy came out in 2010. I don't know how I missed it, but when I saw it on Netflix, it took me 0.5 seconds to add it to my queue. When I saw its runtime, I figured the odds of me actually sitting down and watching it were slim to none. I decided to take my time and watch an hour or so at a time and later found myself watching the entire thing one Friday night. Hey, give me a break! I'm a single gal still nursing wounds after a bad break up. What do you expect me to do? LOL!


Never Sleep Again is probably the most in-depth documentary that we will ever get about the Nightmare franchise. It starts with the first film in the series and goes straight through until Freddy vs. Jason. While it doesn't mention the remake of the first film, it would be interesting for the filmmakers to go back and update the film with some info about that one. That said, this is incredibly interesting and far better than I expected.


A Nightmare on Elm Street is a classic horror movie, but far too many people say that their fans and haven't seen the movie in years. This documentary starts with Wes Craven, Heather Langenkamp, Bob Shaye, and everyone else from that film talking. It delves into the arguments that went on behind the scenes between Craven and Shaye that led to Craven leaving the series, and it gives Langenkamp the chance to talk about how the film changed her life.


Each film gets a good portion of the documentary, and the stars of most of those films do come back. Patricia Arquette and Johnny Depp are probably the two most notable stars that didn't participate, but did you really expect them to come back? It's entertaining to hear Tuesday Knight talk about taking over the role from Arquette and hearing what others thought about coming back for the later films even though they knew they would die in the story.


The biggest surprise was listening to Lin Shaye talk about her role in the first one and how she only got the role because of her brother. She's such a funny woman and such a great actress, but she doesn't shy away from putting some of the blame on Bob for Wes leaving the series. It's also nice to see Wes on camera talking about why he later came back and how happy he was with the first film.


I also loved the section of the documentary dedicated to the second film and whether the director tried to make a gay movie. It was hilarious to hear them talk about how they just wanted to make a horror movie and never considered the gay implications while some of the more talked about scenes play.


My only complaint is that the documentary focuses way too much on Langenkamp. While she was in three of the films, she also spent a large portion of her career trying to get out from underneath the series and get her fans to focus on her other work. I think it's funny that after she had problems finding work, she finally decided to go back to the franchise and accept that most people will know her as Nancy.


Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy bills itself as "The Ultimate Nightmare Documentary." After watching it, I have to agree. I don't think we'll ever see a documentary that delves so deeply into a horror franchise.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Lucky Movie Review: If I Had a Million Dollars...


Runtime: 103 minutes
Release Date: July 15, 2011
Rating: R
Director: Gil Cates Jr.


Lucky opens with a pretty blonde woman buying a lottery ticket at a convenience store. After the clerk attempts to flirt with her badly, she grabs her ticket and leaves. Noticing that she left behind her license, the clerk runs after her and finds her gone.


We then get to meet Lucy and Ben. Old friends, the two now work at the same office but rarely talk. Ben is your typically nebbish guy who lives with his mom and doesn't really have any friends. Lucy is a super happy and peppy woman who is in love with her coworker Steve. Steve ends their affair at lunch, which leads to Lucy telling his clients during an important meeting that they were lovers and basically quitting her job.


Ben's mom calls and asks him to come home because of an emergency. When he rushes home, he finds the local news waiting to congratulate him for winning $36 million in the lottery. Ben heads downstairs, watches the news, and hears about a new missing girl. He then goes to his closet and sees the dead body of the girl from the store and lets her know that her ticket was a winner.


When Lucy finds out about his win, she decides to finally give him a chance. This leads to her frequently turning up wherever he is and kind of throwing herself at him. They start dating and eventually marry. Lucy seems to bring out the bad side of Ben, convincing him that as a millionaire, he can now do whatever he wants. On their honeymoon in Hawaii, Ben kills a hotel maid after imaging that she's Lucy. She oversees the murder and thinks about calling the police before finally deciding to stick with him. When they get back home, Lucy realizes that this wasn't a first time thing and that her new husband is a serial killer with an interest in women who look just like her.


I heard a lot about Lucky before I sat down to watch it, but as much as I like both Colin Hanks and Ari Graynor, this film didn't do either of them justice. Lucy is such an annoying character that you can't possibly root for her. She goes from loving a random man at work to deciding that she needs to win Ben, even though she never cared for him before. All she cares about now is his money, which she makes clear when he runs out on their honeymoon.


Everything that she does in the film is because she just wants his money. There was one point in the film where I thought she might actually care about him. After finding three bodies buried on their property, she digs them up and moves them. Turns out that she's just worried that if someone finds them, she might lose out on her gravy train.


I loved Hanks in Band of Brothers, Orange County and on Roswell, but there is nothing to love about him here. Not only is his character incredibly boring, but he isn't even a very good serial killer. The movie tries to make his scenes funny or light but it fails completely. After murdering the maid, he sets up the room to make it look like she slipped on a banana peel and hit her head. Instead of making me laugh, it made me groan.


Lucky was in my Netflix queue forever, but now I think I understand why I waited so long to watch it.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Purge: Anarchy – Exactly What We Wanted from the First One


Runtime: 103 minutes
Release Date: July 18, 2014
Rating: R
Director: James DeMonaco


The main problem that myself and a large number of other people had with The Purge is that it was too much of a condensed story. Once a year, everything you can imagine is legal. People roam the streets, attacking, raping, pillaging, and murdering anyone who gets in their way. Instead of showing us that violence, we got a story about one family stuck in a house for the night. The Purge: Anarchy finally gives us what we wanted to see.


Eva is a single mom working as a waitress to support her daughter Cali and her father. On the night of the Purge, she stops by the pharmacy to get her dad his medication. He lectures her about spending money on things they don't need and mentions that the medication doesn't do anything and that he doesn't have much time left. After he tells them he wants to take a nap, he leaves a note on his pillow and sneaks away.


Shane and Liz (Kiele Sanchez, "30 Days of Night: Dark Days") are a married couple on the way to Shane's sister's house. The two are in the middle of separating, and she wants to tell his sister, while he wants to keep it a secret until after the Purge. When they leave a grocery store, a man jumps on the the car (and literally made me jump in my seat) just as a reminder of what's to come. On the way into the city, their car breaks down, and just minutes before the Purge starts, they find themselves stranded and alone.


Sergeant (Frank Grillo, "Mother's Day") is a man mourning the loss of his son one year ago. His ex-wife stops by to check on him and sees pictures of the man who killed his son on the wall. Realizing that he plans to go out, she tries to change his mind, but he tells her to go back to her new husband and leave him alone. He then reveals a souped up car that he made bulletproof just for the night.


Eva and Cali find the note from Papa, which says that he sold himself to a wealthy family for the night. She explains to her daughter that the rich by people to purge for themselves and that they mainly choose those who are sick or desperately in need of money. When a man breaks into their apartment with plans to rape them both, they try to fight back. A large semi pulls up outside and a group of military-looking people climb out.


As the man comes at them, a series of shots ring out and come straight through the walls and windows. Though they try hiding in the closet, two of the military men find them and drag them outside, claiming that they picked them especially for an unknown figure. Sergeant comes down the street at the same time, and though he promises himself not to get involved, he winds up saving the two women. Shane and Cali manage to hide in the backseat of his car, and despite his best wishes, the five decide to work together to get through the night.


I went to the drive-in this weekend to see Lucy and The Purge: Anarchy. While Lucy was fairly blah in my mind, I couldn't tear my eyes away from the screen for this one. Frank Grillo has leading man written all over him, and while I fondly recall him from his days on the soap Guiding Light, it's nice to see him on the big screen. The role of Sergeant almost seems written for him. Though he doesn't talk much, he conveys everything he needs to say with his eyes and facial features.


The movie does a smart job of introducing just enough characters to keep the film moving without bringing in so many stories that we struggle to keep up. Papa, the father of Eva and grandfather of Cali, is probably the only throwaway in the film. He's really only there for us to understand what the rich do during the annual Purge, but after a few lines, he's gone and never mentioned again.


The film delves deeply into the dichotomy between the rich and the poor. The poor find themselves stuck in the city slums with barely any hopes for living through the night, while the rich throw elaborate parties and spend money to kill people, while turning it into a fun event. I won't get into the political side of the film, but trust me, it's there. All I will say is that there's a group on the fringes who believe that the Purge is wrong and they create a viral campaign around bringing an end to the annual event.


My only minor issue with the film is that The Stranger from the first movie makes an appearance in this one. He turns up as one of the fringe fighters and helps our unlucky heroes, and while he makes it clear that he doesn't agree with the Purge because of what he went through before, he's really just a throwaway character. If they wanted to bring him back, they should have given him more than two scenes and a few lines.


The Purge: Anarchy was exactly what most of wanted from the first film. It takes the action outside of one setting and lets us see what happens to people living deep in the city. We see people hiding in the subways, the rich spending their money to kill and maim people just for kicks, the middle class kicking back with wine and music, and how people go to great lengths to make money during the Purge. If you wanted to see more action in The Purge, you'll want to see this one.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Airplane vs. Volcano


Runtime: 91 minutes
Release Date: March 28, 2014
Rating: NR
Director: The Kondelik Brothers


I never know where to put this bad movies: here or on my television movie blog. Since I have a tag for disaster flicks, I'll just go ahead and put it here.


Airplane vs. Volcano opens with some poor dude checking out an inactive volcano and later watching as it goes off and kills him. We then see an airplane flying through the sky, unaware that there are a chain of volcanoes going off in front of them. The military somehow gets involved and decides to evacuate people living on the closest islands without giving a damn about the people in the sky.


This makes Robin Givens extremely unhappy. I know she has a character name, but since she'll always be Robin Givens to me, I didn't bother to learn her name. Robin is some kind of volcano expert and her second in command is on the flight. He somehow manages to get a phone call to the military base to let them know that the people on the flight are still alive, but it really doesn't seem like anyone in the military gives a damn about them.


The whole point of the movie is that there's an airplane stuck in the air with volcanoes erupting all around them. Dean Cain pops up looking a little less sexy than he has in the past...Oh, who am I kidding? Dean Cain could pop up with a massive bald spot, wearing a University of Michigan shirt (not a fan), and singed off eyebrows, and I'd still rip off my clothes and attack him. He's a pilot who picked the wrong flight. When the pilot and co-pilot die, he has to take over the plane. Unfortunately, the plane is on some kind of auto pilot. He can make the plane move to the left or right slightly but can't really do anything else. It's up to Robin Givens and Dean Cain to save the day while up against both bad military personnel and erupting volcanoes.


The best parts of the movie take place on the plane. For some reason, everyone on board decides that they hate Dean Cain. Look guys, Futuresport was bad but it wasn't that bad. The air marshal has to kind of keep everyone under control and keep them from attacking. It would probably be super bad if they did, given that he's the only one who can actually fly the plane. There are a bunch of other characters in the movie but most of them are pretty forgettable. I think there's a mom flying with her kid and some guy with tattoos who we're supposed to find threatening. He was far less scary than the guy I saw at Kroger earlier tonight with tattoos completely covering his arms, face, neck, and bald head who incidentally bought a large amount of food with a food stamp card before paying cash for beer, a carton of cigarettes, and some fireworks. Definitely scared the crap out of me.


Airplane vs. Volcano is from the great minds at The Asylum, so you know it has the worst special effects. When the volcanoes went off, it actually reminded me of some of the bad video games I've played over the years. On the plus side, we actually get erupting and flowing lava, fireballs, and sparks that basically shoot out of the sky and at the plane. Those effects kept me laughing for far too long.


This one is just another bad movie from the folks at The Asylum, but if you're like me and love watching "serious" movies that will make you giggle, you have to give it up for Airplane vs. Volcano.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Shrooms – Another Reason Not to go in the Woods


Runtime: 84 minutes
Release Date: November 23, 2007
Rating: NR
Director: Paddy Breathnach


The first time I saw Shrooms was when I had Netflix the first time, which was probably around 2008 or maybe 2009. I liked it so much that I gave it a four star rating and maybe even a five star rating. Every time I came across it somewhere else, I would stop and point out that I liked the film. While I still liked it after watching it recently, I didn't like it as fondly as I did in my mind.


Tara and some of her friends arrive in Ireland to hang out with their friend Jake. Jake previously studied at their college and had some kind of relationship with Tara. Though we never find out exactly what happened between them, it's clear that she still has a crush on him. They plan on camping in the woods by a former children's home and spending the weekends tripping on shrooms.


Jake gives them a quick primer on what to look for and what to avoid, warning them about the black deathcap mushrooms found in the woods. When the group splits off, Tara finds one of the deathcap shrooms and eats it. Though they find her and get her back to the camp, she has a major seizure and sees what will happen to them over the course of the weekend.


Later that night, Jake tells the group about the ghost stories that locals tell about the old children's home. Though everyone laughs it off, they also seem a little worried about spending the whole weekend away from civilization. It doesn't help that Jake takes all their phones and locks them in his glovebox to prevent them from freaking out on the shrooms and calling the cops. After one of the friends has a fight with his girlfriend, he drinks some of the tea made from the mushrooms, has a trip, imagines himself running into a man in a robe, and dies at the other man's hands. The remaining group members later find themselves running from a mysterious killer, but as they all drank the tea, there's no way of knowing what really happened and what is part of their trip.


Shrooms is never going to win a ton of awards or probably even acclaim from horror movie fans, but damn if it still isn't entertaining. One of the best moments occurs when Bluto, one of the jocks from the groups, hallucinates a talking cow in the middle of the woods. Not only does the cow warn him about going off on his own, but it gets the best line in the movie. When Bluto points out that the cow can talk, the cow responds in a deadpan voice, "that's cause you're outta your mind." How can you not love a horror movie that includes a talking cow?


On the second viewing, it took me about halfway through the movie before I remembered what happened in the end, which I consider a success. Far too many horror movies today are so one dimensional and predictable that you can almost guess the ending in the first few minutes. Shrooms just kind of pulled me into the movie and let me focus on the story and characters before I thought about the ending. That led to me making some weird, "oooh" sound and my roommate yelling at me not to ruin it for him.


Shrooms is a fun little movie that offers some nice distractions and a fun story. If you haven't seen it yet, jump on Netflix.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Blood Widow Movie Review – The Dangers of Owning Your Own Home



Runtime: 84 minutes
Release Date: June 3, 2014
Rating: NR
Director: Jeremiah Buckhalt


Laurie and her boyfriend Hugh recently bought a new home in the country, which they hope will help them grow closer together. Hugh is still something of a party animal and a little immature, while Laurie hopes that buying a house together will make him think about the future and settle down. Her hopes disappear when Hugh informs her that he invited some of their friends out to the house to help them celebrate.


Not long after moving in, they discover an old boarding school located right next door. Though hidden in the woods, their group of friends quickly find the old crumbling building and decide to check it out for themselves. They manage to make it back all in one piece just in time for hundreds of other people to arrive for the big party.


When one of their friends has the urge to partake in a little recreational party, she makes the mistake of heading back to the boarding house. A figure dressed in black with a white mask covering its face pops up and makes the girl wish she just said no. The following morning, Laurie realizes that her friend is missing and no one knows what happened to her. Her car is still there, but the others convince her that she probably just got a ride back to the city with someone else.


Cut to the former owners of the house giving them a call to warn them about hanging out in the boarding school. Apparently, the school closed down after one girl went a little psycho and murdered all of the students in the school. She later disappeared into the night, and no one seems to know what happened to her. Well, except for just, because we can see her running loose through the old school and stalking the people in the house. I don't know about you, but that seems like something that should come up during closing. Naturally, the Blood Widow comes after the people in the house and starts killing them off one by one.


I'm always willing to give new horror writers and directors a chance, but the only good thing about Blood Widow is the ending. It's the type of ending that you both love and hate at the same time. While you want the killer to get his or her comeuppance, you also want the hero of the film to survive. This has one of those endings that leaves you feeling satisfied but also leaves you feeling bad for the characters in the film.


Danielle Lilley, who plays Laurie, is the standout of the movie. She previously appeared in Five Across the Eyes, which I know that I've seen and know that I have a copy of somewhere, so I need to track it down and give it another watch. Laurie is the hero/heroine of the film, and Lilley does a pretty good job of making you feel for her. If you've ever been in a relationship with someone you loved but worried about what would happen in the future or thought the person didn't really give a crap about you, you'll understand where Laurie comes from. That's what makes the ending of the movie so much harder. I'm trying not to spoil it for you, but let's just say that if you aren't a fan of her character, you'll love the ending.


Blood Widow, while not a great film, does have a few elements that show what both the writers and director can do. Hopefully they get some more money and time for their next films.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Wolf Creek 2 Movie Review: A Pale Imitator


Runtime: 106 minutes
Release Date: April 17, 2014
Rating: NR
Director: Greg Mclean


Two police officers working in the wilds of Australia want to catch a speeder and get some action. After noticing a truck driving a little too fast, they decide to pull him over. The driver, Mick Taylor, acts like he's surprised they stopped him and attempts to leave before they reveal that they're serious. Mick gleefully kills them both, shooting one and decapitating him before tying up the other officer and setting him and the car on fire.


Cut to two German tourists backpacking through the wilds. After heading to Wolfe Creek, they try to get a ride back to civilization but find themselves stuck. They decide to camp overnight and try to find a ride the following morning. While fooling around in their tent, they see a bright light outside. Mick steps out, warns them that it's illegal to camp in a national park, and offers to drive them to the nearest town. The man feels a little uncomfortable and denies his request, which leads to Mick stabbing him in the back.


Instead of running, the female tourist goes into shock and literally cannot function. Mick grabs her, forces her to the ground, and attempts to rape her, but her boyfriend pops up and smacks him over the head. This is the point where my nurse roommate went off about how the guy should be dead. As they fight, the girl continues to basically lay on the ground and cry. Katarina, the girl, later wakes and sees Mick chopping her boyfriend into small pieces.


This is the point where she realizes that she should probably get her ass in drive. While he's distracted, she runs off into the wilderness and manages to hide from him. Katarina gets to the road, flags down a car, and jumps inside. The driver, Paul, is a surfer visiting from Britain, and while he can't necessarily understand her, he does offer to help. Mick chases them down the road and manages to fire off a shot, which kills Katarina on the spot. It then becomes a cat and mouse game between Mick and Paul, and once Mick catches him, all bets are off.


Wolf Creek was a great movie. When Blockbuster went out of business, every store around here somehow had dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of copies in stock, and I ended up buying a replacement for my missing copy. Most of the horror movie fans I know were undecided on the film, but I liked it. As soon as I heard there was a sequel that featured the same guy and the same director, I couldn't wait to see it. That said, I wasn't crazy about Wolf Creek 2.


This is the classic example of a sequel showing way too much of a villain. I was a big fan of Vacancy 2 just because that movie set up the characters from the original and showed why they did what they did. This one seemed like it wanted us to learn even more about Mick, but I don't really need to know that much about him. Do I care that he hates the British? Not really. It would make sense if the film revealed some big reason why he would hate tourists and go after them, but it seems more like he just doesn't like people.


Wolf Creek 2 occasionally felt more like a remake than a sequel. While the opening moments were amazing, we then get stuck following two annoying tourists. The scenes of them backpacking together, talking with other tourists, getting rides, and basically sightseeing left me checking my watch and wondering where this was all going. Then, as soon as we finally get invested and want to see Katarina survive, she's dead. We then need to invest in an entirely new character, and in the end, the movie pretty much ends in the same way the first one did.


Though Wolf Creek 2 got some good reviews, I'll stick with the original.