Rage: Carrie 2, The (1999), Re-Animator (1985), Salvador (1986), Saturday Night Live: The Best of Chris Farley (1998) (TV)Saturday Night Live: The Best of Phil Hartman (TV) (1997), Shaft (2000), South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (1999), Space Truckers (1997) Specialist, The (1994)
Much better than I expected
I'm not a huge Oliver Stone fan, I rented this because James Woods is so entertaining, but the movie itself was pretty good, too.
The movies I like that Stone directed didn't have a big political message, like U-Turn, The Doors, and Natural Born Killers (ok, that last one was slightly political) There was one scene in this where Woods and Savage were taking photos of a huge amount of dead bodies in a dump, and there's a subtitle saying "Blah-blah, dumping ground for corpses killed by death squads" (or something similar) Oh really? Thanks for the explanation Mr. Stone, I would have thought they were at Disleyland.
I probably wasn't supposed to find this movie as funny as I did, but God James Woods was so funny. It's just his timing, or the way he says stuff, or something, but he just totally steals the movie. He can just roll his eyes and I start cracking up. If it had a different actor in the starring role who wasn't as entertaining, I doubt I would have watched it more than once. He was definitely robbed of a Best Actor Oscar for this movie.
There's a scene near the start of the movie where he is barreling down the street in his crappy car and gets pulled over, that made me laugh so hard I played it back for my husband. Some of the scenes where they are driving down to Mexico are very Hunter S. Thompson-esque. The scene in the confessional where he asks the priest if it would still be okay to take a few hits of a joint once in a while is priceless. If you're a Woods fan, what are you waiting for? Get a copy fast! I
Oh yeah, and the movie itself is great, very emotional. You do care about the characters, even the sleazy ones. Woods is strangely likeable in a seedy sort of way. The ending also was unpredictable, and there a several scary, very tense scenes. One more thing--watch for John Doe of the punk band X in a small cameo as a restaurant owner-va va va voom!!!
Rage: Carrie 2, The (1999)
Nothing could top the original, but this could be worse.
I'm a huge fan of the first movie, so I really wanted to rent this one. I actually wanted to go see it in the theater when it got some not-too-bad reviews, but no-one would see it with me.
The movie had its good and bad points. On the bad side, there were a couple of really unbelievable plot elements, like the fact that Sue Stern would take Rachel (I think that was her name) to the ruins of the old high school, that still happened to be standing like it had burned down a couple of weeks ago instead of over 20 years ago. I get that she had to explain things to her, but that was just stupid. There's a killing thrown in towards the end that seems thrown in just to shock, and I'm surprised the actress agreed to it, not like she needs the money (if you saw it, you know who I mean). John Doe wasn't in it enough (and they made him look like crap. Yeah, I know his part wasn't that intregal to the plot, so what?). They just flat out-steal techniques from the first one such as switching to slow-motion footage of her walking in front of the flames.
If you've seen the first one, it's easy to tell where the plot of the movie is going. Of course, this movie being made at all was pretty unnecessary, the first one was a masterpiece. Obviously, it probably wouldn't have been made if there weren't the whole teen-horror craze going on that they wanted to cash in on.
But, it could have been worse. It got the element that the first one had of high school being a really dangerous and nasty place, and (if you are old enough) makes you REALLY glad that you are out of there. It had characters that you really cared about and wanted things to work out for. It also had characters you really, really hated that you are hoping will get what's coming to them, in a really horrible way. It also had a really memorable, scary epilogue, that wasn't a total rip-off of the first one and was actually original (and sad).
Again (and again and...)the original was about 50 times better, but at least this one doesn't insult your intelligence and has some decent characters with some depth to them, unlike most of the crap in the same teen-horror genre like say, Urban Legend or I Know What You Did Last Summer.
Not great, but not bad.
Space Truckers (1997)
I Expected Better From Stuart Gordon
I have never been let down by a movie of his in the past...ok, Castle Freak wasn't quite as good as I thought it would be, but I had impossibly high expectations. I had mediocre expectations with this but still felt let down.
My eyes are starting to really hurt after being online all day, so I'll just list off what I thought was bad and what I liked (to be nice to Mr. Gordon, who is still one of my favorite directors, I'll put the good stuff last)
What didn't work--1. No chemistry between any of the leads, even those that were supposed to be attracted to each other
2. The plot really wasn't so hot, it seemed made as it went along, and elements were brought in that didn't go anywhere
3. not especially original except for a few things which I'll get to
4. Jeffrey Combs never showed up-they could have worked him in a cameo *somewhere* for crying out loud
5. lame monsters, who really weren't threatening or scary
6. little or no gore, to the point where it was unrealistic. George Wendt sucked out of a window, without even bleeding? I guess Alien Resurrection was a hard act to follow, but come on.
7. a pretty bad script that maybe could have been salvageable with better acting, effects, and...well, it could have used a few re-writes.
8. the ship itself--the harness did look like it was from a roller-coaster, and there was one shot where it was so painfully obvious the ship was a miniature that it looked like something from a B-movie (though I could have forgiven the B-movie stuff if the rest of the movie was entertaining)
Now the stuff that did work-
1. Debi Mazar is always fun to watch, though her character was kind of weak and could have had better clothes
2. Dennis Hopper at least tried, and made the character amusing and likeable
3. The genetically engineered square pigs-actually, that was the best part of the movie, and I got all excited when they showed up early on, I figured I was in for a treat, but there was just that one spurt of originality and it went downhill from there
4. Barbara Crampton showing up
5. the evil pirate captain having to kick-start his private parts
6. the country music used--bet you never heard that in a sci-fi flick before.
7. the two themes/genres of sci-fi and trucker/road movies blended together was a cool idea.. Not bad, but not good either.
Grade: If it was anyone other than Gordon directing, I wouldn't be giving this a C+.
"No I did not...I gave him life!"
The best horror movie ever made, period. This has to be my personal favorite. While polishing up this review, I put the DVD on to get that line of dialogue above just right, and was not only tempted to just quit writing for the rest of the day and watch the movie for the 74th time, but I realized I couldn't even begin to do justice to the pre-credit sequence ALONE with a review. That's how cool it is. OK, I'll just leave the DVD on while I write this, what the hell...
Forget all that Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer crap. You wanna see a REAL horror movie? Rent this one. Skip it if you're squeamish, though--trust me on this.
The plot is taken (loosely) from an HP Lovecraft tale, "Herbert West, Re-animator". The taglines kinda say it all. Dan Cain is a young medical student dating the Dean's daughter, who takes in a roomer and meets up with West, brilliantly played by Jeffrey Combs. West has discovered a "reagent" that will bring the dead back to life, except the serum still needs lots of work. When the dead people wake up, they do not seem happy at all to be brought back, and in fact have the tempermant of a grizzly bear on PCP. Added to the mix is the creepy Dr. Hill (who looks like an uglier, way creepier version of James Woods), who clashes with West and also has an icky obsession with Dean Halsey's daughter. (the attraction results in the movie's most outrageous scene that I'm sure you've heard about, which gives new meaning to a slang term for oral sex that..well, you'll figure it out).
This movie is scary, gory, original, and above all, lots of fun. Just when you think it can't get any more over-the-top, it does. Combs steals the show as West, who looks like a cartoon version of a brainy young scientist with huge hornrimmed glasses. I appreciate his performance more each time I view the movie. He gets most of the best lines, such as when--
SLIGHT SPOILER WARNING, though you'll see it coming a mile away-- Dan yells at him when a hysterical Meg has found her pet cat, Rufus, in West's fridge with a broken neck, that if he found the cat that way as he claimed, West could have left a note. "A note saying what? 'Dan: cat dead. Details later'?" he dryly replies.
Stuart Gordon made other great movies later on such as From Beyond and The Pit and the Pendulum (also with Combs) but he never topped this underrated, underseen gem.
A word of caution-make sure you are renting the unrated version, as the R version has most of the gore cut out and the last 20 great minutes reduced to 5 or so. The R rated version has some scenes not in the unrated one that you might find interesting if you are a big fan (I rented it by accident) but really, the unrated version is the way to go. Which leads me to the topic of the DVD...
The DVD is supposedly out of print, but we've found a few retail copies lately, and for a decent price. I would have paid about 4 times as much, though, for the commentary. Check this spot back, because I'll be adding another few paragraphs commenting on the DVD. In fact, I plan to just eventually devote a whole page of this site to the movie, as I'll be doing with my personal top 10 favorites.
Samuel L. Jackson. Shaft. Nuff said.
OK, so that's a rehash of one of the tag-lines ("Samuel L. Jackson. Shaft. Any Questions?") but it seems to sum things up for me. Kinda says it all- even if I never saw any advertising or read any reviews for the film, I've been waiting for this movie based solely on that premise. I am a big blaxploitation fan (though I have to admit, I haven't seen Superfly or the original Shaft, I love the genre) and Jackson is an actor that I will watch a mediocre movie just to see-especially if he plays a bad-ass.
I won't bother giving a plot sypnosis, except to point out that Jackson portrays not the original 70's Shaft, but Shaft's nephew, which I thought was a brilliant touch. The best part of that is, Richard Roundtree gets to reprise his role as the original, and they have some great scenes together. Some people have complained that Roundtree wasn't in the film enough. Though I wouldn't have minded if he'd been around more, I thought he had just the right amount of screen time and scenes. My favorite was when he visited a party thrown in Shaft's honor, has a nice talk with him, then leaves the Lenox Lounge with a foxy chick on each arm and a big smile on his face (not to mention being dressed to the nines). Besides, this movie belongs to Jackson, and he owns it completely. Though he's done many memorable roles, I think this will be the one he's remembered for.
The supporting cast is great -Christian Bale and Jeffrey Wright both play thoroughly unlikeable yet entertaining bad guys, with Bale as a spoiled, racist yuppie and Wright as a drug dealer with an accent that makes Al Pacino's in Scarface sound whitebread. This is a pretty testosterone-filled movie (not that there's anything wrong with that )so there's not an especially strong female supporting cast, but the women in the film are great. Gloria Rueben of ER has a nice cameo that I'm sure most actresses would have played for free, short though it is-hell, they probably could have auctioned the small role she has off to the highest bidder. My only complaint is that they didn't get Pam Grier for a cameo- she would have been great in Vanessa L. William's role, but even more perfect as the bartender in the party scene.
There's not enough room for me to list all the things I loved about the movie & admired the filmmakers for doing. However, some of the top ones would be: the fact that they use the ORIGINAL Isaac Hayes theme and not some horrible 'updated for the new millennium' remix, the way Shaft is especially pissed off by abuse of women and children, Busta Rhymes as Shaft's comic-relief sidekick, the fact that none of the good guys in the film ever refer to a woman as bitches or hoes, the way no theme or scene seems 'dated' (sadly, even today an interracial couple trying to have a nice evening on the town will still have to deal with racism) and the exceptionally satisfying way all the nasty characters get what is coming to them- justice is definitely served in the end.
Man, I hope they make this into a franchise - the crowd-pleasing epilogue, with the theme music kicking in, definitely leaves room for one.
I'm ripping off this comment from another review I read, but I have to repeat it: I'd happily pay the price of admission just to see Jackson read the phone book for 2 hours as this character. Needless to say, the movie is much more exciting than that. Action scenes are great, the plot was fine, even including twists I didn't expect, and the dialogue was perfect. Jackson reportedly had some arguments with the filmmakers over the character, mainly over how he treats women-reportedly,a scene was cut at his request with him tossing a candy bar to a woman he's just slept with after she complains that he never takes her out to dinner.
Going to see the movie, I was a tiny bit concerned- as a lot of other fans probably were- that he would turn into too much a caring, sharing watered-down Shaft, but no-one needed to worry. It would have kind of detracted from the character to see him hopping into bed with a different chick constantly throughout the movie like 007. One of the few references to Shaft's sex life is also probably my favorite line in the movie- though it was hard to pick, this is the one that made up my mind to purchase the movie. A good-looking female bartender, lonely not just for sex but for someone to hold her, is about to hook up with Shaft at the end of the party scene, telling him among other things that "it has been a long time". Shaft gives her a nice slow smile and replies as only Samuel L. Jackson can: "You know me...It's my duty to please that booty."
Grade: A+. Any Questions?
Specialist, The (1994)
OK, I'm ready to rip the movie to shreds now. Where do I start?
Well, let's see. Just off the top of my head, here are some of the features of this turkey. Sly Stallone mumbles so badly that only about 5% of his dialogue is intelligible (though this is probably a plus, given the quality of the writing).Sharon Stone is nice to look at but her acting starts off bad and gets worse in a hurry. Her character is so unlikeable I cheered up when Woods slapped her around.
Rod Steiger's accent, which I believe is supposed to be Cuban because he pronounces "you" as "chew" a la Scarface, comes and goes. James Woods plays a parody of himself (this was actually the most entertaining thing about the movie).
They show Sly working out, and all he does are ballet-like stretches to show off his bod, and it was not a pretty sight, sorry to say. He is so over-pumped that there are alarmingly bulging veins on every inch of his body visible. Stone and Stallone (has a nice ring to it, huh?) have no chemistry--during their big sex scene, they look extremely bored instead of aroused, as if they are about to doze off but the only thing keeping them awake is to make sure their buff bodies are displayed carefully so they look their best on camera.
Continuity is terrible-Sly's character adopts a fluffy grey kitty, which I guess is supposed to make him sensitive (I was just worried he'd crush it accidentally) but in a scene towards the end, the cat is dark brown. I give a grudging point towards the kitty not being killed by the Columbians or Woods--the one thing that I didn't see coming, because every time Sly came home looking for his cat I expected him to find it nailed to the wall or something equally hideous.
Woods does have a great scene (a couple, really) where he does a little trick with a pen and some plastique to frighten his office staff. I also laughed at the way he'd constantly be yelling "Shut up!" to characters who hadn't even said anything yet.
The movie is, I have to admit, one of those that is so bad, it would qualify as one of those 'love to hate it' movies that you sit around with your friends with to watch and make fun of. Worth renting if 1. you are a Woods fan and find him entertaining in any movie no matter how terrible it is or 2. you have a free rental coming at the video store (or both of the above, like me).
If you can't stand all three of the principal stars, skip it by all means.
Saturday Night Live: The Best of Chris Farley (1998) (TV)
I miss this big guy.
I've found that most people either totally love Chris Farley or, when you bring him up, make a face and say, "I never really thought he was funny." Most of the people I am not friends with anymore fall into the latter category- not because of that, but later I look back and say, "Well, I should have known we wouldn't get along when they said they never liked Chris Farley."
If you are in the first group, and don't own this video yet, RUN don't walk to the video store (or your PC) and buy one. I would actually recommend the VHS over the DVD; we rented the DVD and several funny skits, like the "Little Women" one were gone. There's only one extra, that "Hibernol" ad parody, and it's not worth missing all that other stuff for,
When they ran it the first time on TV, it wasn't long after Farley's death, and I was still sad about it. After the sober opening by Tim Meadows, however, I started laughing pretty much non-stop till it was over. His better-known routines are on here, such as Bennet Brower, Matt Foley, and the Chippendale's dancer, which are all hilarious. But there's also quite a few skits that I never saw, and we watched pretty much every week when he was in the cast (or so I thought).
My only complaint is that it isn't longer, and some funny skits, they only show snippets of, like him playing Alan Hale, and the skit with Sandler where Michael Keaton was the host and Sandler plays his cranky grandmother whom he has to watch for 20 minutes. (if you want to see the whole skit, which is one of the funniest goddam things I've ever seen them do, then buy the Best of Adam Sandler as well, because it the whole skit, plus some other great Farley stuff not on this tape is on there). I have to admit that there's a few snippets that are funnier just because you don't know what's going on, like Farley running around at top speed with Sandler riding pigyback, and of course them BOTH falling spectacularly.
The only noticeable (if you're a Farley fan) omission is a skit called "The Relapse Guy" where he plays a guy who goes to rehab then gets wasted again over and over (it's way funnier than it sounds, trust me). I think they thought it was a little too close to home (though they did leave in the Ditka stuff with him faking a heart attack-that kind of made me wince).
Every time I see this, several things happen-- I get sad that he wasn't around long enough to make more movies with Spade, or even by himself, because (this sounds corny) he had so much to give. I also get pissed off at him for not taking better care of himself and dying . I also usually laugh so hard I fall off the couch.
No matter how bad of a day I had, I can watch almost any of the skits on here and get cheered up instantly. He was a guy who could just say one line that you would think no-one could say and make it funny, and make you fall down laughing just the way he says it ('so I looked him right in the eye and I says to him, I says...'). His costars really had a hard time keeping character, which shows even more in the dress rehersal 'blooper' clips they show. Watch David Spade and Christina Appelgate during the Matt Foley thing- they both have to turn away from the camera to hide their faces because they can't keep a straight face, and when he starts in with the "I bet you're asking yourself 'Hey Matt, how do we get back on the right track?' " you can see their shoulders shaking they are laughing so hard. Sandler can't keep a straight face when he's doing the "Lunchlady" song with him, or the Zagut's couple either. Come to think of it, I have no clue how anyone on stage with him could ever keep a straight face. I never did get this on tape, but when he showed up as Sandman on Nat X, and started reading a letter that a viewer wrote, Chris Rock (who usually doesn't have a hard time looking angry) started giggling so hard that both of them started to laugh.
If you were bummed out when he died, get ready to get teary (though you'll already have tears running down your face from laughing) when he sings, "so long, farewell" as Matt Foley at the end, sitting on Phil Hartman's lap (I could watch this and be fairly calm until Hartman was killed, now I can't see the clip without getting choked up). But even if you do get emotional, keep watching, because after the credits they stick on the one thing I'd been hoping for the whole time-a quick clip of Farley as "Sandman" on Nat X. "Sandman, git him outta here!" (sweep sweep)
What a waste- I hope whereever he is he now (maybe in a VAN down by the RIVER!) that he knows how happy he made people during the short time he was around, and how happy he is still making those of us who thought he was funny. Faaat guuuy in a little cooooaaat...
Saturday Night Live: The Best of Phil Hartman (1999)
First, keep in mind I am definitely not giving Phil Hartman's talent a less-than perfect rating (I would give him A, if I were rating that) or his performances on SNL as a whole a sub-par review.
I just felt that this collection didn't do him the justice he deserved. There was some great stuff in here, such as him as Barbara Bush, The Sinatra Group (where as Sinatra, he hilariously puts down his 'guests' Billy Idol, Sinead "Uncle Fester" O Connor, and Luther Campbell, played by Sting, Jan Hooks, and Chris Rock) Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, Bill Clinton, and more. After watching it, however, I did feel like they could have done a better job putting it together-there were sketches that I really had to wonder what they were thinking (such as the beheading one) when they included them instead of more of PH as Ed McMahon, or even more Sinatra.
After it was over, my husband said he felt like he was watching "The Best of Jan Hooks and Phil Hartman", since she seems to play a more prominent role in some of the bits they include than he does. I should state in all fairness that I was never a big fan of hers, and was relieved when left the cast. But even if she didn't irritate me, this should really be a tribute that focused more closely on Hartman. I agree that they (Hooks and Hartman) worked closely together (for example, she played Hilary to his Bill)so it would have been hard not to have her appear at least part of the time. I just wanted less of her and more of Hartman.
At first, I didn't especially like the short film they ended it with (Hooks plays an elderly star who goes to her safety deposit box to try on her prized jewelry collection, and we flash back to her as a young woman, dancing with Hartman in a glamorous Astaire/Rodgers type musical) the first time I watched it, but upon repeated viewings, the ending really grew on me and I found it very touching and fitting. It is so well-done and romantic that it probably would make me choked up a tiny bit even if Hartman was still alive, but since his tragic murder, it really is poignant to the point where I get pretty sad even thinking about it.
At the risk of sounding really sappy, his death was so shocking and unexpected that I still find it hard to believe sometimes that he is gone. This video collection is good, but just seems as though it was slapped together too fast (with the better organized Farley tribute, I get the feeling they already had put the whole thing together and ready to go months before he passed away-they aired it what, 2 weeks after he died). I am sure everyone involved in the making of this collection was still emotional and shaken up after Hartman's death, and were maybe so sad (he was especially well-loved among everyone that worked on the show-I have never heard anyone ever say anything negative about him before or after he died) that they didn't have their hearts in it to do the best job possible.
I can't blame them for that.
I enjoyed it, but felt it was too short and left out too much...though it's a long shot, I'm hoping for a volume 2, a second, better-organized collection. Or, you can be like my husband and I, and watch the re-runs on Comedy Cenral.
Oh-KAY! Resident Evil got a little more hardcore and bleak than I was prepared for, but that's a good thing. I was expecting a mediocre, derivative action movie where I'd be able to predict every single shock and plot twist, with maybe a few cool money shots or zombie gore thrown in that made it worth a rental (I'm a sucker for zombies). If you'd told me before I saw it that I'd be giving it 4 stars afterwards, I probably would have laughed. I ain't laughing now.
I can't compare the game to the movie that well, since I've only played the game once or twice in the arcade and didn't last very long before I got eaten. (Check the trivia section on the IMDB if you want more info on that, though beware of many spoilers) I don't know if the game has any more of a backstory than the DVD box did: a virus is accidentally unleashed at an underground biological research facility that turns all the employees, lab animals, and experiments into flesh-eating undead. A rescue team discovers too late they are stuck in there with them; they have 3 hours to get out without getting eaten or, worse, infected before the 'Red Queen' master computer permanently shuts down all the exits.
On the negative side, it was a little longer than an action movie needs to be-- 10 minutes could have been trimmed, I caught myself wanting to hit forward and skip scenes in the first half hour of people wandering warily around deserted areas. I've never wanted to do that with a Romero movie. It does take a little too long to get going, but when the action kicks in, trust me, it doesn't let up, to the point where I felt kind of battered after the movie-- really unrelenting. I couldn't stand the industrial/techno soundtrack, but then I don't usually listen to bands with song titles like 'Fistf*ck" and "My Plague (New Abuse Mix)". I guess it was appropriate for the movie; I didn't exactly expect, say, Oingo Boingo (though that would have been kind of cool, now that I think of it) but it was grating after a while. Several shots were extremely derivative of Romero, but since I haven't watched the featurettes or commentaries, I'm not sure if the filmmakers intended them as a tribute/in-joke (like the newspaper headline blowing around a deserted street proclaiming THE DEAD WALK! which, as far as I'm concerned, should earn a movie 3 stars right there) or just ripped them off with the plan to say they were 'inspired by' the other movie if anyone pointed out the similarities.
The end seemed to be setting up for a sequel (according to the IMDB, one is planned but not even in pre-production), though at least not in an extremely cliched way, and it mainly irritated me because it was a cliffhanger. There's also several CGI shots where the monster looks about as realistic as the one in the actual game; I did not for a moment forget I was watching CGI, and it was VERY easy to tell where the animatronics ended and the CGI began. Oh, and terrible tagline, at least on the poster art ("Survive the horror"? C'mon, marketing team, you can try a little harder).
OK, enough of what didn't work. On the plus side, Milla Jovovich has proven herself to be one of the few genuinely talented model-turned-actresses, and gives a great performance. I was kind of disappointed in Michelle Rodriguez's acting, mainly because she was so good in Girlfight, but she was acceptable and at least can really look like a badass. There's quite a few fun--and sick--shots. There were plot twists that I actually didn't see coming--sorry to say, I could see most of the jumps walking up 5th Avenue-- and the plot was a lot more brutal and downbeat than I expected (for a movie based on a video game, and for a modern zombie movie, anyway)--good for them. They did definitely outright steal some ideas from Dawn of the Dead (and, as everybody has already probably pointed out, Cube) but at least had some originality by putting a slightly new twist on them. There was a much higher body count than I thought (not counting all the zombie employees, of course, I mean among the heroes), most of which was pretty b-llsy. Characters did not die in the order I expected them to. Things got pretty cold-blooded (so to speak).
I'd recommend it for a rental, if you want a mindless, scary action movie with some real suspense. Big fans of the game, it's probably a good investment to purchase (though I'm sure everyone that was going to buy it did so a long time ago) . You could do a lot worse (like rent the director's Mortal Kombat, for instance) Bonus/deleted/alternate scenes, and easter eggs (yes, you can stop hunting for them now), are conspicuously absent on the DVD, which leads me to believe the talk about releasing a 2 disc set a few months down the line of an 'unrated director's cut'. I'll rent that to see that extra gore (hey, I ain't above that, and I'll gladly admit to it), and I wouldn't mind seeing the flick again, either.
Not bad at all for a mainstream studio movie based on a game.