The (Un)necessary Remake Dept: The Manitou

The Manitou movie posterSome people might call William Girdler’s The Manitou a ripoff of The Exorcist, and in a sense they’d be right in that both involve possession of a sort.  Then’s there’s the fact that Girdler’s film came five years afterwards, though other than that it’s a whole other animal and deserves revisiting.

The movie, based on the novel by horror writer Graham Masterson, revolves around a woman named Karen Tandy (Susan Strasberg), who one day discovers that she has a tumor on her back.

Which is a huge mindfuck in and of itself, never mind that the tumor ends up being the doorway–and by “doorway” I mean a full-sized human being grows on her back and eventually rips its way out long before Alien was even an idea for Walter Hill and David Giler–through which Misquamacus, a Native American sorcerer, would be reborn after 400 years.

The premise of the movie is pretty goofy, which works in its favor because it makes it feel more original than it actually is.

Continue reading

Serial Killing 101- Review

Trace Slobotkin‘s 2004 movie, Serial Killing 101 (otherwise known as Serial Killing 4 Dummys) is a shockingly–”shockingly” because it looks relatively cheap– entertaining movie.

Visually, the problems are due to the cinematography of John P. Tarver, who’s lighting seems to wash out virtually everything it touches.

Which is a pity because once you get beyond that, the movie is actually pretty clever, even witty, at times.

Events revolve around Casey Nolan (Justin Urich) an actor that actually looks like a high school student–which very well might have been the case at the time–casting that’s appreciated when filmmakers are too often quick to pass off twenty-somethings as teens.

He’s a bit of a slacker, and bored with school, which results in him writing a paper about his desire to be a serial killer, which  doesn’t go over too well with his teacher, Mr. Korn’s (Rick Overton), who’s intervention sets into motion a whole series of unfortunate–for Casey–events.

As I said earlier, the movie is more clever than you’d think, and shockingly fun.

Serial Killing 4 Dummys

Whatever the guy (in red circle) is staring at, it’s not Casey

It also has some big name actors, such as Thomas Hayden Church (as an tad overzealous gym teacher), a virtually unrecognizable Corey Feldman (prior to the credits, I had no idea he was even in the movie, though after a second viewing I wondered how I missed him in the first place) as a store clerk, Lisa Loeb as Sasha Fitzgerald as a serial killer enabler (?) and eventual love interest and the great George Murdock as Detective Ray Berro.

I mentioned how clever the writing of this movie was, and there was an interesting payoff of an earlier scene in the movie that’s particularly well-handled (some of the practical FX, not so much).  It shouldn’t be so surprising to see a bit that’s set up in the beginning of the movie pay off at the end, but there you go.

Things wrap up a bit too neatly–all that was missing was a bow–as Casey’s fortunes begin to turn, but that’s a small gripe.

It’s also worth mentioning the winning performance by Stuart Stone (Amil) because once you get used the character, he threatens to steal any scene he turns up in.

Serial Killing 101 isn’t a great movie; it’s barely good, though what it is fun and doesn’t take itself quite so seriously, which is an okay every once in awhile.

 

Serial Killing 101 is currently on Netflix.

 

Frank – Review

Frank movie poster

“”Frank” Is Thematically Reminiscent Of “Boyhood,” Except Stuff Happens.”

Lenny Abrahamson‘s Frank in some ways reminded me of Boyhood, in the sense that both movies are about change and growing up, but what I find most interesting how the former film is at times touching, sad, funny and irritating, as opposed to the latter, which–particularly after the second hour–became a test in audience endurance.

Frank revolves around a band, Soronprfbs, and their enigmatic lead singer, Frank (Michael Fassbender) who wears a huge paper mache head everywhere.  And I mean everywhere.

In fact, you don’t see the character without it till the last fifteen or twenty minutes of the movie.

Frank shower scene

Did I mention he NEVER takes off the fake head?

What makes Frank, the movie, though the individual is pretty interesting as well, so fascinating is that any other movie that revolved around a guy who who wore a huge paper mache head everywhere you could be relatively certain that it would be the crux of the entire movie.

Instead the movie is about growing up, and understanding that sometimes to build something beautiful you have to break it down.

I wish Boyhood were nearly as succinct and profound; though mainly succinct.

 

Frank is currently on Neflix.

Marathon Man Is On Netflix!

John Schlesinger’s Marathon Man–arguably one of the best thrillers ever made–has turned up on Netflix!  If you haven’t seen it, it’s definitely worth a look.  It has stars like Roy Scheider, Laurence Olivier, William Devane and Dustin Hoffman playing roles that careers are made from, in a story that involves international intrigue, danger (you’ll never look at dentistry the same way again) and diamonds in a manner that flows almost effortlessly from one scene to the next.

It’s a classic, and well-worth your time.

Jarhead 2: Field Of Fire – Review

Jarhead 2 poster

“Jarhead 2 would be a better movie if it weren’t called “Jarhead.””

Don Michael Paul‘s Jarhead 2: Field Of Fire is a fascinating movie–which shouldn’t be mistaken for good, though it’s by no means terrible–that revolves around a platoon in Afghanistan and a mission circumstance forces them to undertake.

What makes the movie so interesting is that it’s as if the makers had never seen the original film that their movie is (supposedly) based upon.  The original Jarhead starred Jake Gyllenhaal and was based on the story of Anthony Swafford, and the American response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Though most importantly Jarhead was less a war movie than one about the nature of war, which was depicted as long lengths of time either doing nothing or doing things that appeared on the surface to be pointless, punctuated by an occasional bout of violence, till everything was defined by the same monotonous routine.

Field Of Fire takes an opposite tack, as Josh Kelly (Chris Merrimette) and his platoon are forced to fight to defend the life of a mysterious woman who’s being transported by Navy Seal Fox (Cole Hauser).  There’s no pointlessness of violence here, though the movie does try to adapt the somewhat cynical tone of the original film, for the most part unsuccessfully.

This pointlessness extends to the rest of the movie as well, which besides conflict has little in common with the original film.

Jarhead 2: Field Of Fire is currently on Netflix

Ant-Man – Trailer

I caught the Ant-Man trailer–for some reason it’s still being called a “teaser”–and I have to say, it looks awesome.  You’ve got Paul Rudd in his Ant-Man costume, running about, riding an ant and looking bulked-up.

As I said, it’s pretty awesome.

You also see Corey Stoll strolling down a corridor, and I have to say that I have never seen him look more bad-ass.  You also see Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), looking gorgeous.

Interestingly enough, I get a very Iron Man-vibe from the trailer; not an accident, I assume.

I also am willing to bet that most people are going to quickly forget that Edgar Wright was even considered to direct.

Predestination – Trailer

Before I begin I think that I should acknowledge that Benedict Cumberbatch is a good actor. That being said, I don’t necessarily think that he’s a good choice for Marvel Studios upcoming Doctor Strange.  For awhile Ethan Hawke was in the running–and I get the feeling that if the choice were entirely Scott Derrickson’s he’d probably have the role (mainly because he and Hawke appeared to work well together in Sinister).

Which shouldn’t be taken to imply that Hawke doesn’t have his plate full, with Boyhood threatening to win beaucoup awards, and with his latest movie Predestination, where he plays a time cop in search of a enemy that has always managed to elude him.

It’s from the Spierig Brothers–whom I thought were Australian, for some reason–who’s last film, Daybreakers, was an interesting take on vampire lore that didn’t quite live up to its potential.

That being said, maybe they’re do better this time around.

In descriptions of Predestination I have heard Looper mentioned–and while it does share the plot device of time travel–a more apt comparison (admittedly based upon only the trailer) would be Tony Scott’s Deja Vu.