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REVIEW – The Evil Dead

October 31, 2016 1 comment
The Evil DeadDirected by: Sam Raimi
Produced by: Robert Tapert
Written by: Sam Raimi
Edited by: Edna Ruth Paul
Cinematography by: Tim Philo
Music by: Joseph LoDuca
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Hal Delrich (Richard DeManincor), Betsy Baker, Sarah York (Theresa Tilly)
Based on the short film Within the Woods by Sam Raimi
Year: 1981

 

“Cult classic.” That’s the best way to describe something like The Evil Dead, a low budget horror flick that’s just this side of camp, to the point that you’re not entirely certain whether it’s intentional or not. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, for instance, is obviously trying to be campy. The original version of The Last House on the Left? Not so much, but it’s got quite a bit of camp value, despite (or, more likely, because of) its disturbing subject matter. The Evil Dead has all the hallmarks of camp, and yet, because it’s so earnest, it’s also easy to believe that director Sam Raimi was, in fact, trying to make a genuinely terrifying horror film that just kind of got away from him. If you know anything about the strenuous shoot, for example, you can see where the earnestness comes in. Most of the crew was confined to the remote Tennessee cabin location for several weeks, and Raimi purposely mistreated his actors to get them into the proper mood for a horror film, for example. There’s a very good chance that The Evil Dead was, in fact, meant to be a scary horror film that instead came together in the editing as the ambiguously humorous production that it ended up being – something that its sequels and spin-off series embraced more wholeheartedly. Read more…

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REVIEW: Wizards

August 5, 2016 Leave a comment
WizardsDirected by: Ralph Bakshi
Produced by: Ralph Bakshi
Written by: Ralph Bakshi
Edited by: Donald W. Ernst
Music by: Andrew Belling
Starring: Bob Holt, Jesse Welles, Richard Romanus, David Proval, Steve Gravers, James Connell, Susan Tyrrell, Mark Hamill
Year: 1977

 

I’ve only seen a few films of Ralph Bakshi – Cool World, Fritz the Cat, and now this movie – but there was a time when his works were always in the back of my mind whenever the subject of animation history came up. Ever since I was a kid, in fact, which is funny since almost none of his work is remotely child-friendly, except for perhaps his adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. As a nerdy kid who studied almost anything that piqued my interest (but especially movies and video games), reading about Bakshi’s subversive, gritty, adult, and oftentimes controversial works always fascinated me. Revered as, if anything, noteworthy departures from the traditionally family fluff that, even today, is usually thought of as the default mode for animation in America, his stuff always stood out as almost mythical or even forbidden to my adolescent mind. I’d see references to it in stuff like The Simpsons and recognize the reference for what it was, but apart from maybe a few clips here and there, Bakshi’s animated films seemed to be spoken of in terms normally reserved for “banned” films like Song of the South and the infamous Censored Eleven – eleven Warner Bros. animated shorts that have been withheld from distribution due to their controversial, racially insensitive material. (I wasn’t far off in that regard, in retrospect, either.) Read more…

REVIEW: The Passion of the Christ

March 24, 2016 Leave a comment
Passion of the Christ, TheDirected by: Mel Gibson
Produced by: Bruce Davey, Mel Gibson, Stephen McEveety, Enzo Sisti
Screenplay by: Mel Gibson, Benedict Fitzgerald, William Fulco (translation)
Edited by: John Wright
Cinematography by: Caleb Deschanel
Music by: John Debney
Starring: Jim Caviezel, Maia Morgenstern, Monica Bellucci, Hristo Zhivkov, Francesco De Vito, Luca Lionello, Hristo Shopov, Rosalinda Celentano, Claudia Gerini, Fabio Sartor, Luca De Dominicis, Mattia Sbragia, Chokri Ben Zagden, Toni Bertorelli, Jarreth Merz, Sergio Rubini, Sabrina Impacciatore
Year: 2004

 

It’s been 12 years since Mel Gibson’s adaptation of the gospels’ account of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, which would go on to divide audiences over its theology, brutal violence, and even accusations of racism (which were later vindicated when the director’s own demons made their very public appearance soon after the film’s release). Each Easter since I’ve started this blog, I have thought about doing a review of this film, and each time I held back because I simply was not in the mood, nor did I think I had the stamina, to endure this film again. This year, I don’t really know what’s changed – perhaps it’s the political climate and the fact that so many people are willing to marry their faith to their political stances, and I’m feeling particularly opinionated, perhaps it’s the Tyler Perry modern day musical retelling on TV, or perhaps it’s simply to get this annual inner debate in my head over with already – but, yeah, I decided that now was time to review one of the most famous and infamous Christian-targeting films of all time. Read more…

REVIEW: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

October 22, 2014 3 comments
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet StreetDirected by: Tim Burton
Produced by: Richard D. Zanuck, John Logan, Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald
Written by: John Logan (screenplay)
Edited by: Chris Lebenzon
Cinematography by: Dariusz Wolksi
Music by: Stephen Sondheim
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Ed Sanders, Jayne Wisener, Jamie Campbell
Bower, Laura Michelle Kelly, Sacha Baron Cohen
Based on the stage musical by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler and characters created by James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest
Year: 2007

 

I haven’t seen it myself, but, given its large fanbase, I’d say that it’s a surprise that it took nearly 30 years for Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s 1979 musical to see a film adaptation released. Of course, considering that most of those years were pretty lacking in any non-animated musicals, this would have definitely been a misguided notion. And even if musicals were not considered the box office poison they were considered to be throughout the 80s and 90s (again, provided that you were not animated), then no doubt the very nature of Sweeney Todd would be enough to hold it back. It’s a grim, macabre musical that dares to shock audiences with its rampant and bloody violence, songs with swear words in them, and even a dark sense of humor largely built around some sneaky cannibalism on the main characters’ part. This is some dark material, and any adaptation during that time would have no doubt led to the film bombing and further sullying the idea that musical films have their place in this world. Luckily, fortune smiled upon musical film fans, as not only did the early 2000s provide studios with an unexpected small boom in that very market, with Moulin Rouge! and Chicago gaining both popular and critical acclaim (not to mention money), but the 80s and 90s also saw the rise in popularity in the one director who could conceivably adapt the play for film faithfully and still not have it bomb based solely on name recognition alone. I’m talking, of course, about Tim Burton. Read more…

REVIEW: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie

April 17, 2014 2 comments
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The MovieDirected by: Bryan Spicer
Produced by: Haim Saban, Shuki Levy, Suzanne Todd
Written by: Arne Olsen (screenplay), John Kamps, Arne Olsen (story)
Edited by: Wayne Wahrman
Cinematography by: Paul Murphy
Music by: Graeme Revell
Starring: Jason David Frank, Amy Jo Johnson, Steve Cardenas, Johnny Yong Bosch, David Yost, Karan Ashley, Paul Freeman, Paul Schrier, Jason Narvy, Nicholas Bell, Robert L. Manahan, Peta-Maree Rixon, Richard Wood, Jamie Croft, Gabrielle Fitzpatrick, Julia Cortez, Barbara Goodson, Mark Ginther, Robert Axelrod, Kerry Casey, Kerrigan Mahan, Jean Paul Bell
Year: 1995

 

Ah, the Power Rangers! Probably one of the first TV series to expose me to the fact that a lot of adults could get paranoid over quite a little bit. Remember that story about how Power Rangers inspired kids to stab one another? Or that one about how it encouraged kids to jump off balconies? I sure do. It was also one of the first series many of us likely experienced backlash over, as Power Rangers was a series that kids who felt that they had passed some agreed upon threshold where it was no longer acceptable (or even never was acceptable) to watch the series would tease kids like me who (usually) openly admitted to watching it. Naturally, the Power Rangers’ first theatrical film was a big event for some of my friends and me. It was also the reason for the only time I recall ever being able to make myself cry in desperation. Long story short, my friend did something to piss off our babysitter, and she threatened to not take us to see it. He called her bluff, and she actually called it off. Frustrated because I hadn’t done anything, I worked up a lot of tears, and, yeah… I earned some sympathy points, and we went to see it anyway. Read more…

2013 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (January – April)

January 11, 2014 3 comments

Iron Man 3 - Robert Downey, Jr.

With a few exceptions, this is the time of year when studios tend to dump lesser films and films not expected to do well during the blockbuster and Oscar seasons — stuff like low budget horror films, foreign imports, romcoms cashing in on Valentine’s Day, and films held off because the studios would rather market them at a time when nothing else is really out, and they might be able to get a few bucks out of those who crave a blockbuster but don’t want to wait a few months. Naturally, being the thrifty, frugal person I am, there were quite a few films I didn’t see during this time period, though with the summer blockbuster season creeping earlier and earlier into the year, such as with the high profile March release of Oz the Great and Powerful and the April release of Iron Man 3, it certainly seems like studios are catching on to the idea that, hey, there’s room to spread them all out. One can only hope that if that trend continues, filmmakers would be more likely to try harder and make films that standout in quality for your dollar… but that’s probably unrealistic.

Anyway, here are the films that, as of this writing, I did not see from January – April 2013, in order of release, as noted on Wikipedia. Please note that, as in the past, I still reserve the right to watch any film that is listed here and then re-remark on the film in one of the upcoming articles on films I did see from 2013. So, yes, you might see some of these films again, and soon… Read more…

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Independence Day Review: “Live Free or Die Hard”

Live Free or Die HardDirected by: Len Wiseman
Produced by: Michael Fottrel
Written by: Mark Bomback (screenplay and story), David Marconi (story)
Edited by: Nicolas De Toth
Cinematography by: Simon Duggan
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Starring: Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Cliff Curtis, Maggie Q, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jonathan Sadowski, Kevin Smith
Based on the Wired article “A Farewell to Arms” by John Carlin
Year: 2007

 

People understandably lament the quick devolution that John McClane has undergone over the course of the four movies that have followed the original. The quick-witted everyman cop trying to win back his wife has become more known for performing ridiculous stunts and frequently being in the wrong place at the wrong time and yet just the right man for the job. The issue was already apparent in the incredibly dull Die Hard 2, and by the third film, the coincidences of his involvement become too glaring to ignore unless you suspend your disbelief and pretend like this is something that regular cops have to deal with every now and then in the Die Hard world. (Considering the ties that were later made to the TV series Chuck, I wouldn’t put it past them on that point, though.)
Read more…

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