Showing posts from 2018

Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)

Resident Evilends with Alice (Milla Jovovich) and her potential love interest Matt (Eric Mabius) being dragged away by the Umbrella Corporation for experiments.  He is mutating, so he is thrown into something called the Nemesis program, while Alice wakes up alone in a laboratory, escaping only to find Raccoon City virtually abandoned and left to the dead.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse picks up during the time that Alice is under, with a devastating heat wave hitting the city in addition to a wave of people succumbing to the T-Virus, changing into zombies and attacking their loved ones.  In response, Umbrella has a number of scientists evacuated, including the originator of the virus, the wheelchair-bound scientist Charles Ashford (Jared Harris).  While evacuating, his daughter Angie's (Sophie Vavasseur) transport is involved in an accident, leaving her trapped in the city after Major Cain (Thomas Kretschmann) walls the urban center in and prepares to cleanse it with a nuclear weapon.


From Russia with Love (1963)

Though low-budget and a bit controversial, Dr. Nohad been a bit o a box office success.  In the 1960s, as now, that meant a sequel was assured.  It wasn't that much of a surprise as producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman intended Dr. No to be the first in a franchise, and it turned out their plan worked out well.  With director Terence Young back on board and twice the budget, it was time to to film one of Ian Fleming's most popular James Bond novels.

SPECTRE is back, this time wanting to kill two birds with one stone: steal a coding machine from the Russians and get revenge on James Bond (Sean Connery).  Even though we don't see his face, we meat Ernst Stavro Blofeld (and his white cat) for the first time as he plots with defected Soviet intelligence agent Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) and chess champion Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal).  The idea is to convince a low-level agent at the Soviet consulate in Istanbul name Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) to pretend to fall in…

Halloween II (1981)

Although the recent Halloweenhas has given us a more worthwhile sequel to the original movie, the first attempt at a sequel was both an attempt to earn John Carpenter a paycheck (he didn't see much of a return early on from his 1978 film) and to get rid of the chance of him being asked to right another script with Michael Meyers in it.  He once again wrote the script with Debra Hill and, according to interviews, some help from his old Buddy Weiser.

Halloween II begins immediately after the end of Halloween.  Michael (Dick Warlock) has been shot six times by Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance), but got up and walked away.  Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), severely injured in her encounter with Michael, is rushed to a hospital while Loomis and Shriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers) search for Myers.  The killer is first thought possibly dead after someone wearing a similar costume is killed in an accident, but it turns out Myers has tracked Laurie down to the almost deserted local hospital.  …

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

There are not a lot of modern filmmakers that will be presented in film classes other than a case of what not to do.  In many ways the auteur director has given way to little more than spectacle, even with many independents.  I believe it is because too many don't get to build their independent credentials before being swept up into the various expanded universes that exist today, and that whatever style they have is compromised in order to make their latest film fit in with the bigger picture.

Wes Anderson has managed to remain independent and be successful.  Bottle Rocket may have owed quite a bit to the Cohen Brothers, but even as early as Rushmore he was exploring his own personal muse - something that came to bloom in full with The Royal Tenenbaums.

Not knowing much about The Grand Budapest Hotel, it struck me at first that it was going to be something quite similar.  I expect quirky characters and a bit of a detachment from reality in his films, but it had been awhile since…

Kick-Ass (2010)

After years of superhero films stuck in in PG-13 epic sameness, Deadpoolmanaged to change things up.  It was violent, irreverent and proved that audiences were ready to accept a superhero that wasn't anywhere near perfect.  Iron Man had introduced that into the standard Marvel universe, but it was about time that a movie understood that those who went to see these movies were not just the comic book fans - something Bryan Singer had understood with his X-Men films.

Of course, this was not the first time this was attempted.  Watchmen managed to adapt Alan Moore's comic of the same name.  In many ways it was successful, but not at the box office.  Neither was Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, despite it's eventual cult status. 

Still, there was one movie that still proved that it could bridge that gap, and it was Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of Mark Millar's comic book Kick-Ass.  In many ways the movie version is a bit of a strange amalgam of all three movies I mentioned …

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…

Psychic (1991)

While many directors of classic horror films have gone on to continue entertaining in the genre, as well as expanding their horizons, George Mihalka became known for one movie only: My Bloody Valentine.  It may not have been a great movie, and it unfortunately suffered more butchering than the anyone in the film prior to release, but it had a memorable villain.  Also, being at the beginning of the whole slasher craze, didn't feel it needed to go over the same ground others did.

While he did a number of other horror and exploitation films, the bulk of Mihalka's work revolved around directing episodes for television series.  It's a good thing because he was never able to replicate anything as interesting as My Bloody Valentine, which was also rare in not having any sequels pop up. 

Today cable series and movies are often of a quality above feature films.  There was a time, however, when a direct-to-cable (and often direct-to-video) movie meant that what you were getting cou…