Resident Evil (2002)

Video games have tried, more and more over the years, to break free from just being escapist entertainment to being interactive art.  Often inspired by, and containing many homages to movies themselves, it's no surprise that there have been a number of attempts to translate the more successful video game franchises into movies themselves. 

The problem has been that in most cases not much thought went into making the game beyond using its name to put butts in the seats.  Even if they were able to get a major star at the peak of popularity like Angelina Jolie for the Tomb Raider films, there was still nothing really there to recommend them.  It didn't help that when it came to video game adaptations that an overwhelming number went to Uwe Boll, who famously used the movies as a scheme to make money from a German tax loophole.

The only series that has been successful, both at bringing in money and managing to somewhat be entertaining is the Resident Evil series of films, largely…

Dr. No (1962)

James Bond has become a genre all in itself, separate from (though influential on) other types of spy movies.  Ian Fleming created the character as a deadly, but dashing member of British Intelligence in the 1950s, and it was only a matter of time before Bond made it to the big screen.

Uniquely, though, it wasn't his first adventure, Casino Royale, that made it.  There was an American version of the story produced for television, but a movie version wouldn't show up until to the 2000s, and much of what the story was about had ceased to exist at that time.

Dr. No was the sixth book in the series, and the movie was produced and released during one of the tensest points of the Cold War.  Unintentional comparisons to the Cuban Missile Crisis aside (which was not anticipated when Dr. No went into production), the novel was chosen largely because it was the most cost-effective to film.  Keep in mind that this was the first Bond adventure; Sean Connery was not a major star, the Briti…

Halloween (2007)

The 2000s were not a good time for horror.  Well, I should clarify; in the United States, they were not a good time for horror.  It was filled with self-aware movies trying to be the next Scream as well as never-ending reboots and remakes.  The best horror was coming out of Asia, and Hollywood was doing its best to ruin those for American audiences as well.

The problem with many of the movies of this time is that, for every Leigh Whannell or Eli Roth that came on the scene you had a bunch of anonymous people working for Michael Bay just trying to squeeze a few more dollars out of tired franchises.  So, with The House of 1000 Corpses and a truly standout horror film in The Devil's Rejects, one would expect that at least Rob Zombie would be able to do what others couldn't and bring new life to an old franchise. 

In truth, most of the sequels to Halloweenhad been pretty awful.  The best one wasn't even a sequel at all, but tried to put the series back on track as being an an…

It's Alive (1974)

In 1973 Larry Cohen was enjoying the success of Black Caesar, one of the key blaxploitation films, and was working on its sequel, Hell Up in Harlem.  While making that movie Cohen also decided to make a horror film.  Featuring a couple dealing with a killer baby, It's Alive resulted in Cohen becoming primarily known as a horror director.

Frank (John P. Ryan) and Lenore Davis (Sharon Farrell) are expecting a second child.  It was kind of a surprise baby as they are approaching later life, but they decide to keep it.  They ship their child Chris (Daniel Holzman) over to his uncle Charley (William Wellman Jr.) for a few days while Lenore heads to the hospital.

During labor, she becomes concerned.  When she was in labor with Chris, at least according to Frank, it was only 45 minutes.  This time it seems to be taking longer, and the baby is a lot bigger.  Still, the doctor goes for a live birth.

While Frank is waiting, he sees one of the doctors stumble out of the maternity ward and c…

Carnival of Souls (1962)

Recently on the website Quora there was a question about how a film becomes a cult classic.  My general answer, beyond the fact that trying to make a cult movie often fails miserably, is that there has to be some sort of vision behind it.  Anyone can make a terrible movie on purpose.  Few people can attempt to make a great movie and fall right in that area where they technically failed, but their talent still shines through.

The other thing that typically makes a cult film is that it could have been much more in the mainstream if budget constraints weren't an issue.  However, once again, the talent and vision of the people behind it often overcome that to put something unique on the screen.  Director Herk Harvey certainly accomplished that with Carnival of Souls.

Mary (Candace Hilligoss) is with her girlfriends when some boys challenge her to a drag race.  It ends badly, with her car going off a bridge and into a river.  Attempt to retrieve the vehicle and the bodies seem futile,…

Blood and Black Lace (1964)

Music is my main love.  I own close to 10,000 records and CDs, and a good number of them I know the history behind.  However, there is one thing with music: pointing to a specific person, at a specific time, and saying, "This is where it all started," is often impossible. 

Rock and roll?  Yes, Bill Haley had the first major hit, but that was after he had been unsuccessfully pushing the sound for two years after getting bored with the country scene.  There are elements going back to the late 1940s, but those blend in with other styles that already existed.  Punk rock?  Yeah, you could say the Stooges, but what about a band like the Sonics?  There was no name to it for almost a decade after bands started playing it. 

Movies, however, are a different thing.  We can point to Birth of a Nation as being the first feature film that unfolded a story rather than just being a short, quick vignette that may or may not have a narrative.  The Cabinet of Dr. Caligarilargely created the h…

The Gift (2000)

Sam Raimi is one of the most well-known horror directors.  Due to The Evil Deadand its sequels, he was one of a handful that took the genre in new directions.  He had his own style, combining horror with humor, and it largely (and has largely) stayed an affair of family and friends. 

However, sometime in the 1990s, he seemed to have decided that he really didn't want to be known for that any more.  Which was fine; A Simple Plan was much better than the awful book it was based on, and featured Raimi becoming less wild but still as striking in his directing, no doubt due to his work with the Coen Brothers.  He got his vanity project out of the way - a baseball movie called For Love of the Game - and then tepidly stuck his toe back in the horror waters with The Gift.

I'll admit that when I first saw this I was unimpressed.  I still wanted the old Raimi back, with those weird angles, frenetic camera work, hammy dialogue and performances and everything else he was in the beginning…