23 November 2009

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Ashley Greene, Michael Sheen, Taylor Lautner
Adapated for the screen by Melissa Rosenberg
Based on the novel "New Moon" by Stephenie Meyer
Directed by Chris Weitz
Summit Entertainment, 130 mins., Rated PG-13

Go see New Moon! Featuring a revolutionary performance by Kristen Stewart in which she limits her lip biting to TWO scenes and delivers every emotional line of dialog in a monotone, forgetful and delirious voice; multiple redundant conversations with two broody boys basically repeating the SAME conversation of two scenes ago; a female protagonist who is the exact opposite of a role model for young girls - going anti-social, suicidal, suffering nightmares, and sorta turnin’ druggie just because a boy in your life goes bye-bye; a iTunes playlist of unspectacular, emo songs to perfectly compliment a equally emo movie; two leads whose kiss appears to be as awkward and painful as a lobster clinching ones private parts, but doesn’t nearly amount to the painfulness of an audience member having to watch it; and finally, a bunch of guys who take their shirts without any reason whatsoever.

Yes, my opinion on The Twilight Saga: New Moon means jack shooters, because this juggernaut is gonna rank in some Revenge of the Fallen bucks, sirs. There’s not a day that goes by that the Twilight merchandise section in my store doesn’t get eye-goggled by a bunch of teen gals, or someone picks up one of our $29.99 cardboard cut outs of our dear beloved Eddie. Er, Edward, I mean. [But Edward sounds so edgy and oldyish; for the sake of bromance and a less broody sounding protagonist, I’m calling him Eddie] But dang nabbit, I sat in the theater and watched this 2 hour and 10 minute movie, and I gots me some things to say.

First off, a plot summary! Not like anyone who reading this doesn’t (probably) already know the story’s plot, but what the Edward: a few months after the romantic events of nearly dying by a crazed ex-O.C. cast member and having your boyfriend constantly wanting to kill you, Eddie and Bella are keeping it cool. Eddie still walks in slow motion, and still doesn’t know about the centuries old invention of a hair brush. But sadly, all the time Bella spends with Eddie ostracizes her from her other buddies, including Jacob Black, the resident Indian dude with long hair who is dying for the opportunity to ask this gal out. Luckily for him, a near fatal birthday surprise at the Cullen house sends Eddie & family packing, afraid they might cause harm to the deer little lass…

No need to fear, because Bella’s so distraught, she goes out of her way to self-inflict some hurt. She rides on a motorcycle with some random tattooed dude in town, she jumps off a cliff, and attempts to learn how to drive a motorcycle (with the all-too-innocent help of Jakie, who by no means has a unsubtle crush on our lead actress and totally loves Eddie) all to achieve a “rush”, as in freakishly seeing apparitions of Eddie that look even more freakier than Eddie looks like in real life! (shudder at the thought) The funny part is that Ghost Eddie keeps coaching Bella to do things a girl of regular everyday intelligence would know, but this being Bella, she needs it told to her by her ghostly hubby; there’s just some moments that are just too darn funny.

Well, the last half hour of the movie kicks into overdrive as Bella’s extracurricular activities (read: cliff jumping) leads Eddie to believe his long lost love is…lost, and intends to show off his glowly, sparkily self to all of Italy, thus exposing his kind, and hopefully get killed by his good Vampire clan buddies the Volturi. Sadly, Eddie lives, Bella and Eddie are reunited, and all is good and the world.

Oh, and there’s another crucial element to New Moon: a love triangle! During Eddie’s departure, Bella begins to use her friend Jacob as a distraction, sorta leading him on without any intention of following through (biotch). But things get really complicated as it is revealed Jakie is going through “some changes.” Changes, as in, gaining the ability to transform into a giant, cute puppy with a mighty growl complex. In summary, Eddie leaves Bella, Bella sad, Bella uses Jacob for distraction, Jacob fancies Bella, Bella loco, you won’t like Jacob when he’s angry, Bella-Eddie-Jakie triangle.

Here concludith New Moon, the much heralded superior successor to Catherine Hardwicke’s 2008 adaptation Twilight. My opinion: the first was better, but I get why Hardwicke probably wouldn’t be suitable to helm this pic; she’s not all that familiar with special visual effects, although director Chris Weitz (brother of Paul Weitz who helmed the equally disastrous but much less entertaining Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, which really does showcase some of the most bland performances in the history of Harry Potter-cashin’Ville) has some experience with his less than stellar The Golden Compass some while back, though most notably for making Nicole Kidman actually look hot. New Moon is longer than the first, and plays more or less like a extended episode of some teen series where a woman is split between two really bad guy candidates with a monster-ish psychopathic tendency, but has to choose one of ‘em. Anyway, sorry about the detour, but Hardwicke was at least able to get some deep emotional pull from the story and the actors, something that is saddeningly absent from this picture, despite being a far more emotional story!

Right off the bat, I’ll bring up some things I liked: the very first shot of the wolves in the trees was very, very cool. Actually, it wasn’t cool; it was quite frightening, really. I thought that visual would have made a pretty cool horror flick. The chase after Victoria in the woods as she’s jumping about and using the trees to her advantage as the Wolfies run after her as some well timed music plays: that was good. Plus, the moment where she sticks her head out of the water – e-e-r-i-e!!! There’s also a wolf fight between one of the sorta villainy dudes from the first one and said wolves – it’s quite cool, although I wish it was extended longer. And, er, I guess out of all the main character performances, Taylor Lautner was the, um, “best.”

One particular, no-brainer awesome performance comes from Michael Sheen, choosing not to freak me out today with his scary eyebrows (a la Forst/Nixon), who plays the main head honcho in charge of the Volturi, a vampire organization that is basically The Law. Sheen appears to be having a absolute blast, as he waves his hands around, shows off some pretty red eyes, and is overall completely charismatic as he talks in a slow, deliberate voice. I would rewatch these last minutes over and over because Sheen is just mesmerizing to watch. And the sight of Eddie getting his ass handed to him is just too good to ignore commenting.

Now, a question that’s been puzzling me: is there a particular reason that once a member of Jacob’s fan club finds out they’re a wolf-in-name-only, they choose to go about their day without their shirt? I’m frankly surprised we didn’t see a grocery store scene where he had his shirt off, or going to the public bathroom with his shirt off, or even helping an old lady across a street…shirtless. Is it a ‘one-with-wilderness’ thing? I get the obvious female eye candy thing, but logistically: um, why?

For the bad stuff, I’m not going to spend a gazillion hours chronicling every non-Oscar-level moment in this movie, or I’ll never get done. The jist is: Kristen Stewart doesn’t act in this movie. In the first, there were moments of a genuine performance. In New Moon, I honestly can’t tell you, pinpoint, or possibly surmise any scene where she changed her ‘performance’ even one iota molecule or whatever. The same monotone, zombie-ish performance that is somehow lacking compared to Rob Pattinson (shudders). Pattinson is as pale as ever, and totally digging his ‘totally hot self’, but never once conveys a sense of being a remotely interesting or likable person. Speaking of which, the ‘lovers’ are about the most blah, uncharismatic group I’ve ever seen. Whenever they kiss, it really looks like Pattinson is constipated, and Stewart is just bopping her head back and forth with her lips outstretched to get the scene completed. Both of them look like they’re in actual physical pain! Sure, Eddie really wants to kill Bella and suck her blood dry, but where’s the tiny wincy hint of romance? There’d probably be more chemistry between Kristen Stewart and Christopher Lee, though who’d ever wanna watch a scene with those two together..

And this brings us to Taylor Lautner, the dude who spends at minimum an hour of running time shirtless, broody, longing, and possibly really trying to improve his acting ‘skills.’ To be fair, Lautner is a pretty likable guy, and has the short end of the stick. The majority of girls are goo-goo ga-ga over Mr. DcDreamy & Perfect-o Eddie, so it probably takes a bit for the gals to accept him in lieu of constipated Pattison. I don’t have much to say about Taylor, but good luck sir. You were one of the least annoying aspects of the movie, although you had some pretty bad performance moments yourself, but I’m rooting for you in the next two. And good luck with Breaking Dawn, because apparently that’s going to be a doozy.

I read the first Twilight book before it became a national phenomenon, and never really got into it enough to read the second, so I’m watching these movies with a fresh eye. The plotline itself, the devastating effects of a breakup with ones ‘true love’ is definitely interesting and worth exploring, but the way it’s presented, it’s a little unfortunate. Bella wakes up with night terrors for months and becomes entirely anti-social. This is the bit where I could go into Bella being a horrible role model for young girls, but that’s been brought up so many bloody times and is on the verge of being as annoying as Stewart’s presence in a movie, so I’ll skip that for now. Interesting idea, just wish it was presented in a different light. The idea of Jacob and how he nudges his way in-between her and Eddie is also interesting, as well as his “dark passenger” (hehehe, oh I crack myself up).

Good ideas, it’s just the story, the way it was presented…I just don’t like how it was written, I guess. How Bella reacts, and the shell of a person she becomes after Eddie’s departure… Gah, is all I can say without getting too into it. Gah! Gah! Guh!

I ragged on New Moon a lot in this review; and for that I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it. It just reads so well as Mystery Science Theater potential there were just some things that couldn’t be left unsaid. Overall, New Moon is a ‘good’ movie. Fine, well crafted, good cinematography; music composition and selection could use a little work, and the ‘actors’ could use quite a lot of work. But nonetheless, I’m dumb enough that in June 2010, I’ll be one of those people sitting in the theater Kit Kat bar in one hand and a Dr. Pepper in the other ready to immerse myself in a third helping of Eddie, Bella, and Jakie. Until then folks, vote for Team Jacob! (I kid, I kid; no really, don’t vote, at all)

16 November 2009

The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day

Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, Billy Connolly, Clifton Collins Jr., Julie Benz, Peter Fonda
Written & Directed by Troy Duffy
Release date: 31 October 2009 (limited), 13 November 2009 (wide)
Stage 6 Films, 117 mins, Rated R

The saints…are coming, the saints…are coming

Back in May I discovered a movie that people have been going ga-ga over for a decade. 1999’s “The Boondock Saints”, the debut of writer and director Troy Duffy, went largely unnoticed by me, uninterested in the bland covers and furthermore unaffected by the ginormous hype surrounding the flick the past few years. It wasn't until someone sat me down, popcorn in hand, and forced me to watch it; and wouldn't yah know it - within the first 6 minutes, I knew it was a movie that I not only loved, but would be owning in the very immediate future (and I did; bought the Steelbook DVD edition the day after). And, as luck would have it, I found out that a sequel was already in development and would probably be out by the end of the year! (it was)

So, moral of the story, wait 10 years to really get into a much loved movie because by that time a sequel will probably already have been made or be out really, really soon.

Anyway, the day has finally arrived, and "Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day" premiered at my local Marcus Theater (much to my utter surprise when surfing through the theater's website; I thought I was going to have to practice patience and wait for the eventual DVD and Blu-Ray release), and [duh], I raced my butt over there right after my lovely Intro to Mass Communications class (read: the media's evil).

The movie begins in a familiar fashion – Duffy’s much treasured fade in and outs accompanied by vocal, chanting-ish music (then followed by some rock music; if nothing else, “All Saints Day” serves as a good jukebox). In Boston, a priest is killing in a manner resembling the Saints, the vigilante group that disappeared without a trace eight years before after the public murder of mafia crime lord Yakavetta. The murder reaches the Saints – Connor and Murphy McManus (Flanery, Reedus), living the peaceful life in Ireland with their Da (Connolly). Immediately, they suit up and travel back to Boston to execute everyone involved in the murder, and cause some “gratuitous violence.” Along the way, they meet up with Romeo (Collins), a spirited kick-ass kind of guy who believes in the Saints and find them just and wants to be a member of the gang; plus he has a few connections that could be useful.

Meanwhile, Special Agent Eunice Bloom (Benz) is on the trail of the Priest’s killer, along with Agents Duffy, Dolly and Greenly. Similar to eight years ago, things get major bloody. It's revealed that the murder of the priest is connected to Concezio Yakavetta (Nelson), son of Joe Yakavetta (said crime lord the Saints executed), who wants the Saints dead out of revenge. But things may not be as they seem, as there's another layer to the killing that no one predicted.

First off: excitement levels were OFF THE CHART walking in and sitting in the theater.
It’s quite evident everyone involved had a bloody BLAST making this flick, and it shows, but unfortunately there’s a overarching feeling that Duffy & Co. are trying too hard to rekindle the awesomeness of the first one.

Returning as the McManus brothers, Flanery and Reedus seem giddy as ever to come back, although they look a tad weary than ten years before. Billy Connolly has a expanded role as their Father, and even factors into the story during its final 30 (although, seen in Godfather Part 2-ish flashbacks, we get a history lesson of Papa McManus, and boy is it good). Basically, just don't mess with this guy - or the family for that matter. Newcomer Clifton Collins, Jr. joins the boys as Romeo, providing more of the funnies as well as a lot of kick-assery. One particularly funny sequence with his character is when he's trying to think of a good final line after a shoot-out. And as for Julie Benz - well, not her best performance, looks a little freaky, frankly. Sirs, if you're interested in this gal, may I refer you to her stint on Angel, specifically the entirety of season 2: to say her every performance in every episode was flabbergasting would not be an understatement.

There are also three surprise appearances that brought a smile to my face; one of them is far too juicy to spoil, but I will say to that one question all "Boondock" fans are asking, it’s a yes, but for a limited time, but it was absolutely awesome. There’s also a cameo from a deceased character that brought a very man-macho moment to the picture (near the last half hour when shit really began to hit the fan), and the appearance of a actor that surprised the hell outta me for being in this. That’s Paul Johansson, infamous for his portrayal as the deliciously wicked Dan Scott in The CW’s “One Tree Hill”. I haven’t been this surprised or giddy about a surprise starring role since Scott Patterson (Luke on The CW’s “Gilmore Girls”) graced the screen in “Saw IV.” Johansson plays the edgy FBI Agent who takes over the Saints investigation and is basically just a hard-ass, something he can do quite well.

You want action? "All Saints Day" has action galore. Although it takes about 30 to 40 mins. for the Saints to do what they do best, it's not until the last 30 really that the action is totally completely awesome. A group of maybe 20 people coming down on the Saints, guns ablazing; the Saints trying to break into a building, inspired by a crazy idea from a movie one of them had seen; a fun and quick bar duel, etc., etc. More action than the first, but sadly not as, well, fun. At least, there wasn't that sense of joy for most of the movie that I felt with the first one; there was more or less of my brain thinking, '2 guys versus 10 of these dudes? How are they NOT shot even ONCE?' But, whatev - hold onto that suspension of disbelief.

As for the script, and basically the whole reason the movie exists: well, it's alright. To start off, I'm going to bring up a point I didn't even think about until I was reading some other reviews. Film.com reviewer mentioned the rather dumb reason the boys go out of retirement and go back to Boston to exact some revenge; indeed, they knew of the priest, they didn't know him personally nor was he important in some way. So, in that respect, the MacGuffin sort of didn't work all that well. There's plenty of callbacks to the first movie, a lot of trying to rekindle the flare that worked so well before. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't (although the dream sequence with a deceased character was sorta fun).

I did enjoy the sorta possible theme of that whoever the brothers associate with, they put in harms way; but these people make their own choices, and they believe in them and what the boys are doing is good and right, so they continue on regardless of the perils. It's little nuggets like that which I enjoy in vigilante movies that sadly goes mostly unnoticed here.

The interesting thing is that after all the anticipation, I don't have too much to say. The performances were good, the script was good, the music was okay, the editing alright (could be tighter); basically, it was all good. There does seem a sense of overindulging, like Duffy thought himself invincible to a long-ish feel to his movie and possible flat jokes (there's a sorry few), and a lot of music, enough to the point that I thought 'why not make this a music video?' I really don't want to rag on the flick, nor do I wish to cast it in a negative light - there are areas of improvement, but it was, overall, a fun movie-going experience and worth the wait.

So, in the end, “All Saints Day” had its ups and downs, boasts action galore, one helluva movie soundtrack (I’ll have “The Saints Are Coming” stuck in my head for at least two weeks), and the potential of a third installment (fingers crossed, and hopefully another 10 years won’t elapse). Actually, speaking about a third picture, the Wikipedia page mentions a interview with Duffy and Connolly about said third movie, with a tentative working title of "Boondock Saints III: Saints Preserve Us". Duffy & Co., count my ticket already bought.

15 November 2009

Batman Portraits of Evil: Silent Night

Starring Craig Deering, Joe Korbel, Katie Diedrick, Tom Skobel,
Adrianna Lombardo
Directed by Craig Deering & Allen Murphy
Screenplay by Kyle Bridges
Evil Iguana Productions, 32 mins., 2009

I remember a little over a year ago perusing through YouTube trying to find anything and everything Dark Knight, even a new TV spot that has at least a half-second of new footage that would give me a little better clue as to what to expect from this sure-fire orgasmically awesome sequel to an already orgasmically awesome franchise rebooter. Well, there wasn't much of those, but there were already plenty of spoofs and parodies online. One of the more famous and watched is the much loved "Interrogation Scene Spoof" (it's truly a classic, and kudos to everyone involved in that), but there was another one that made me go hehe-haha quite a bit as well: called "The Dark Knight Trailer Spoof", it was one of the funnier of the spoofs (I'm sorry video creators, but there's just some so-called "spoofs" that just feel more awkward and less funny than a episode of The Office [both versions]), and was created by a rather oddly named group: Evil Iguana Productions. Well, luckily their group name was weird enough that it stuck in my head.

Fast forward to this evening. It's the week of release for The Twilight Saga: New Moon, and me being sick of the love-fest and
goo-goo-ga-ganess over Edward and Jacob, I wanted to escape the frenzy and watch some much-needed Twilight spoofing. I had recently watched the SNL Taylor Swight "Firelight", which was amusing (I loved the hell outta Swift mimicking Stewart by her constant lip biting) but not all that stellar. Unfortunately, the majority of Twilight spoofs online didn't deliver, either.

However, my watching of the "
New Moon Trailer Spoof" from good ol' Evil Iguana Productions led me to a Megavideo link of something called Batman Portrait of Evil: Silent Night (and I honestly thought it was Batman fighting a evil Santa Clause, a la the Silent Night, Deadly Night flicks). A 32-minute flick, credits included, with the Joker, Commissioner Gordon, Batman, and a house seige set on Christmas Eve? Count me in. And considering it's a fan-made project with a small budget and a couple of Batman-lovin' enthusiasts...it's pretty damn good.

Gotham City, Christmas Eve. Batman's on edge, worried about the Joker's whereabouts after his break-out of Arkham a little over a month earlier, waiting for the deranged psychopath to strike. Commissioner Gordon shares a drink with a fellow officer giving her the good news of her promotion. But the happy stuff ends there, as the Joker and his lackeys invade a policeman's house, holding his wife and two children hostage. Throughout the night, the Joker attempts to break the policeman's sanity, forcing him to make life and death decisions and undergo torture, all to prove a point. Anyone can break; all it takes is
one. bad. day.

If the last line sounds familiar, it should. Much to my happiness and therefore kudos to the Evil Iguana crew, there's lines and quite a lot of inspiration originating from Alan Moore's
The Killing Joke, a Joker-centric tale that has him forcing Gordon to undergo torturous trials in an attempt to make him lose his sanity and morality.

Moving away from the spoof genre, the folks at Evil Iguana instead conceived their own script using existing characters and created a engaging 32-minute movie with some impressive performances and tight script.

First up, acting wise - it's great. Director Deering plays double duty reprising his role of Joker from the trailer spoof, and even improves upon it. Freakishly emulating Ledger's Joker rather well (and by far better than the majority of YouTube videos I've seen of people trying to do the role justice), complete with the trademark voice and that thing Heath did with his lip. Considering that the Joker is front and center throughout the film's running time, maintaing the Joker's threat and creating an performance that would keep the viewer involved is paramount, Deering did fantastic. There's several moments that I loved, but one that was quite hilarious involved the Joker sitting in front of a picture.

As husband and wife, Tom Skobel and Adrianna Lombardo were quite good (although Lombardo looked quite young compared to her gray-haired hubby), particularly Skobel as he's mentally being broken down by the Joker's antics. Blow after blow, Skobel nicely conveys this man's descent to lunacy. Lombardo has limited screentime, sadly, as she's quite pretty. Writer Kyle Bridges channels a little Leonardo DiCaprio-
Departed-ish with a New York accent as Commissioner Gordon; a solid performance, but sadly unable to fully emulate the awesomeness of Gary Oldman (my apologies, I'm just totally diggin' what Oldman's done with the character).

This being a Joker film, Batman's not a important part of the story, and is thus noticeably absent through most of the movie. And although it was great seeing Batman, he could have been exercised from the film entirely, and I wouldn't have minded. So, basically, all around greatness.

The script is brilliant and beautiful. By beautiful, I mean it works on many levels. Thanks to the great performances and the wonderful script, the tension is all there; I'm sitting in front of my computer wondering what the Joker's going to do next. He's unhinged, loco, ready and willing to do
anything. When Lombardo's children are taken away, I'm worried; when the Joker picks up a present, my heart's beating faster because I wanna know what he's going to do with it (hehehe, oh the result). The dialog's great, the idea is exceptional. It's just...well, it's bloody dandy, folks.

In fact, the only real negative thing I can say is that they far over-use James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer's scores for
Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Yes, that music does help create the appropriate atmosphere, and yes they are using Heath Ledger's Joker as a inspiration, but that doesn't mean other music can't be consulted (I'm looking at you, too, fellow movie makers).

I know I may seem awfully giddy for a simple fan-made project, but out of the multiple low-budget movies I've watched on YouTube, none have grabbed me, impressed me, and kept me as enticed from beginning to end as
Silent Night did. You may not find it as pleasing and marvelous as me, but this entire 32-minute short felt like a continuation of Christopher Nolan's film, and I know it would happen in a hundred years, but I would LOVE for something like this to be brought to the big screen for reelz. Just, y'know, check it out, see if you like it. At the very least, give Evil Iguana Productions a look through, I know you're guaranteed a laugh.

09 November 2009

Trilogy Pack: The Evil Dead


This summer, as I was waiting for
Drag Me to Hell to start, I sat ready to watch a horror flick by the guy who I know as “the director of the Spider-Man trilogy”; others folks, however, were watching “from horror director Sam Raimi, director of the Evil Dead trilogy”, eagerly anticipating Raimi’s return to the horror genre after his superhero detour. Up until recently (like, tonight recently), I never watched any of the Evil Dead movies. Of course, I knew plenty about Ash and his chainsaw-wielding arm, and I heard that the Evil Dead sequel was more or less a bigger budgeted remake of the first, and that the third film was set in the past. As to why the franchise was so revered and loved by countless fans that will defend Raimi no matter what because of these movies, I hadn’t a clue.

Now, a hour or so after watching the trilogy back-to-back at my local second-run theater ($8 for all three movies, not counting concession purchases), I appreciate Raimi’s trilogy, and I get why so many people dig the franchise, but as to fallen in love with it – nah, not yet; perhaps a few more viewings of the second or third, and I just might fall in love (the sorta funny thing is that I’ve owned the first two on DVD for three years, and haven’t watched ‘em). But I get one thing for sure: Bruce Campbell’s status of Awesomeness.

It was a frakkin’ awesome experience being in a packed theater with a bunch of equally-minded nerds and horror hounds watching the trilogy (as opposed to the nearly desolate reception the recent 1978 Halloween screening had at the Mall of America), and the Plaza Maplewood was even awesome enough to throw in a couple oldies trailers: the only ones I can remember at the moment were Krull, the teaser for Alien, Night of the Living Dead, and Army of Darkness. That made me super giddy. The last time a theater showed vintage trailers was four years ago, when my local Marcus location showed the previous five Star Wars trailers preceding Revenge of the Sith.

As most would-be interested parties have probably seen the Evil Dead trilogy, I’m not going to go in-depth, deep-in-specifics, but just give an overview of my general thoughts concerning the flicks.

Bruce Campbell
w. & d. Sam Raimi, 1981

The first, the beginning, the Big Kahuna, Bruce Campbell’s big starring vehicle, Raimi’s first horror flickaroo – and we’re presented this with a washed out, red-tinted, hair-and-crackling 35milimeter print that was just painful to watch, and listen to. Obviously not the most ideal way to see the first of a ‘cinema classic’ trilogy, but the audience reactions to the screen more than made up for it [besides, it was fun watching the missing frames create quick edits; for example, a dude sitting on the ground gets up faster than Qui-Gon & Obi-Wan getting out of Dodge in Episode I, and I’m sure only a few people will get that reference).

Well, first and foremost, I can say this wasn’t what I expected. I guess all the hype surrounding Army of Darkness made me think this was more akin to that, but it isn’t so much. It’s dark, very independent looking, not so greatly scripted, not all that greatly acted (though I wager that’s part of the gem of the flick), and it’s really, really messed up. By messed up, I mean particularly the finale, that featured some pretty dodgy but inspired stop-motion claymation, and was quite grotesque. For some reason, this stuff irked me more than any of the Saw flicks.

For an independent feature, it's still quite impressive. There's a little bit of lag time where nothing really happens, and the suspense sadly isn't all there, but once shit hits the fan (aka the last twenty minutes), you just forget about all the not-so-stellar stuff. Oh, and one final thing: holy frakkin' crap, look at how YOUNG Bruce Campbell is! I'm used to watching this dude as the clumsy Autolycus, the King of Thieves in Xena and Hercules, and to me, THAT was a young Bruce. At any rate, Evil Dead was still a cool movie, but in comparison to the other two, it definitely ranks the lower slot.

Bruce Campbell
d. Sam Raimi, 1987

Raimi and Campbell must be nuts, because Evil Dead 2 is just INSANE. Just when something got weird (Ash slicing off his hand, and it subsequently taunting him), it got even more freakin’ weirder (the entire house talking, laughing, and eventually Ash crackin’ up about it). And the sequence near the beginning when the naked headless female body gets up from the grave, dances around, makes sexual positions, and then has the head roll back on? That was one of the most messed up things I have ever seen, and if anyone was stoned watching the flick in the theater, I'm sure that probably blew their mind. As I said above, the sequel gets a lot of “grr” for being basically a remake of the first movie, but I was rather surprised at how little it felt like it; yes, it basically is the first movie all over again, but there’s so many things that separate the two that it feels distinct.

The character of Ash becomes more of a parody than anything else, being thrown into anything and everything imaginable, beat the hell up, and completely loses his bonkers. Actually, he’s like Jack Bauer thrown into a horror situation, but minus the intense seriousness and gun. The first film concluded with Ash once again the target of the thought-to-be-destroyed resurrected demons, and no matter his attempts, he’s always dragged back to that bloody house. This film follows that with Ash unable to get away from the house, and his problem gets more complicated with the arrival of four more people, one of them the daughter of the Professor who started this whole mess (who looked like the Gay Harden woman from Frank Darabont's The Mist, but I was wrong). Together, they battle resurrected old dead ladies (her reveal was a hilarious scene with Ash locked in the cellar), fight the woods, and Ash gets the bad end of the stick once again when he's sucked into a portal that brings him back into the time of Arthur.

Y'know, I feel really bad for Ash. This guy goes through Hell (not to mention what happens in the next movie; which, by the way, had awesome foreshadowing earlier in the story, complete with an hilarious one-liner on Campbell's part), with basically every part of his body getting sliced into, ripped up, jabbed, thrown into a wall, etc., etc. And yet he's basically indestructible. No wonder there's Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash comic series - I gotta remember to pick that up. The franchise might not be half as fun if it wasn't for the audience wondering what new catastrophe's going to happen to him.

Impressive cinematography (the one-shot in which the Evil follows Ash through the houses' many rooms and doors is very cool), funny dialog, great kill-off characters (way better than anything the Friday the 13th franchise has yet to produce), and an helluva awesome ending. Pretty damn good, sirs, pretty damn good.

Bruce Campbell
d. Sam Raimi, 1993

Out of the three, Army of Darkness probably receives the most attention, and I get why. Epic, funny, fun, cool, action-y, imaginative, and attractive girls; what’s not to like? Plus, it boasts one helluva awesome looking poster. Once again, Raimi retools the ending of the previous film into something similar but simultaneously different, and that sort of caught me off guard. Evil Dead 2 concluded with such a strong finale with of kick-assness, it felt a little weird to sort of wipe the slate clean. Anywhoozles, Ash (Campbell) has been transported back in time via this portal that was meant to exile all the Evil in the forest – which it did, but just brought it to a different time. So Ash is captured by Arthur and some other Knights, thought to be a bad guy conspiring with Arthur’s opponent Henry, but some believe Ash to be the prophesied one that will bring peace to the land. Ash doesn’t so much care about the peace-bringing bit as much as the whole going-home part, which is possible but only by ownership of a Necronomicon book. So Ash stays (plus the presence of a rather attractive woman I'm sure plays a part in that), and basically he inadvertently (in a rather funny scene that shows the importance of correct pronunciation) jump starts the Apocalypse, which leads to another awesome full-out war.

The best way to compare this would be Hot Fuzz meets First Knight. The humor and action of Fuzz mixed in with the ancient Arthurian tales of Knight come together to make one helluva awesome movie with a brilliant concept: demons in midevil times, and a 20th century man with a chainsaw hands comes to kick some demon ass! Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!

As with any mythical movie, there's gotta be a battle scene, and Army doesn't disappoint. Boasting one really awesome Bad Guy, Ash kicks some serious ass, beats the hell out of some bad guys, and (of course) gets the girl.

The film’s final minutes were a blast (keep in mind, this was the theatrical release, not the director’s cut). First off, it was GREAT seeing Ted Raimi onscreen; as a loyal fan of
Xena, Warrior Princess (don’t laugh, it was a damn good program), it was marvelous watching Joxer the Mighty grace me with his presence once again. And Ash getting his shotgun, putting bullet into bullet into the demon, freakin’ SWEET! Total Awesome Fest if ever I’d experienced it.

And then the movie was over, the audience got outta their seats and headed home, and the Plaza mentioned something about “join us next year for this again.” So, here’s hoping they do the Trilogy again, and here’s hoping I have time off work to attend.

All in all, I didn’t fall in love with the franchise, but I enjoyed my time. The Evil Dead movies are completely nutty, freakin’ hilarious, highly imaginative, wonderfully casted, and – as the best compliment possible – one hell of a enjoyable time in the theater. Kick-ass job Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Ivan Raimi, and everyone else involved in the production of these flicks. So, fellow movie lovers who, like I recently, haven’t seen the Evil Dead movies, would I recommend them? If you dig horror movies and corny, cheese ball fun, absolutely.