Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)





In the early 2000's, Michael Bay and Crew created their own production company titled Platinum Dunes, producing many horror remakes in their wake. The first of many being The Texas Chainsaw Massacre released in August 2003. I'm gonna go on a stretch here and say this is actually one of the more decent Platinum Dunes production and that's saying something. I'm not saying that this is better than the original, however, it's at least better than most recent horror remakes. To keep this short, although there was some passion put into this, the original will always be a classic. I know in my first review of this I said it was slightly better than the original but here where I was wrong. Maybe as a stand alone movie, this could be a cult classic in it's own right. However, I'll seek out my pros and cons for this movie later. In all in all, its a good enough horror remake.
Here's the story: In the summer of 1973, Five friends on their way to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert, come upon a disturbed young woman warning them that trouble is headed their way before blowing a gun to her head. Now with blood on their hands, the group has to deal with the nasty local sheriff and the deranged Hewitt family, who holds a deep dark family secret that's hiding under the basement with a chainsaw to grind.


The one thing I liked about this movie is there are more to the characters. I'm not saying that all of them are likeable or anything, it's just that they have more personality and we get to know them well enough. I will say one thing though, they certainly do not look like they're from the seventies. I mean come on, I've seen Abercrombie and Fitch lines with clothing wear like this.


The strongest actor out of any of the cast is Jessica Biel.
 
 

She gave off such a raw, intense performance, I'm surprised she doesn't get much credit as she deserves. I mean Jessica Biel is literally playing a woman that's fighting to survive and it results to a truly magnetic performance.


Again, we don't know much about Erin but what we do know is that she's the type of person that does the right thing. For example, after the hitchhiker's suicide, she is the only one that is truly affected by it, and also when she figures out the Hewitt's stole a missing baby, she goes and rescues her. The thing with Erin is it doesn't matter if she's the typically innocent final girl, but is that she is the type of person that always strives to do the right thing and I think it what saves her in the end.


Okay, Erica Leerhsen as Pepper.....I got nothing. Though I do think Erica Leerhsen is a really great actress, it's just there's really nothing about this character to dwell on other than being the hot girl.
Now you see why I focused on the girls first because of how I see it, this movie has a pretty hot male cast, so feast your eyes as I showcase this:


First we have Kemper played by the very sexy Eric Balfour.
 
 


He is the very kind, sweet, loving boyfriend of Erin, though he is not perfect (he's in on the scheme with his friends harboring pot from Mexico), he's still a charmer and you're kind of sad once you see he's the first to go.


Then you have Andy played by the gorgeous Mike Vogel.....give me a moment.....okay. Andy maybe be the type to make jokes at the wrong time but he's still a cutie with his lovely hair, toned biceps, and chiseled abs. Yowza! Pepper is one lucky girl! Unfortunately, when he gets attacked by Leatherface, he pretty much doesn't have a leg to stand on....literally. And it's up to poor Erin to put him out of his misery. *sigh.*




Last but not least you have the adorably hot Jonathan Tucker as Morgan, the stoner nerd of the group. Morgan is probably the most obnoxious character but that still doesn't mean he's still adorable. Though he does get the most abuse from the Hewitt family, especially from Sheriff Hoyt, who breaks his teeth. Ouch! In the end, he dies trying to make heroic sacrifice.
 


R Lee Ermey was indeed chilling as Sheriff Hoyt, stealing the show from Leatherface but in a good way I suppose. Though you get a sense that both him and Leatherface are equally threatening. Although, he's basically his character from Full Metal Jacket, he has a subtle yet interesting backstory involving him being a World War II veteran who had to resort to cannibalism once he and his army buddies find themselves deserted during the war. So the filmmakers gave a unique explanation of how the Hewitt family became cannibals other than some illuminati subplot schmoozed in the middle of the movie. I'll give the film points for that for the meantime.


And now we have Leatherface, more ferocious and fierce than ever, and he's played by muscle man Andrew Bryniarski, who pretty much this animalistic force of nature. Do I like this change? Well, I feel like the childlike nature of Leatherface was more effective but I think in this version, they made him  much more frightening and dangerous than ever. I'm willing to choose this over anything of how they portrayed him in Next Generation.

And like with Sheriff Hoyt, they also gave Leatherface, an extended backstory since he was bullied half of his life by teenagers for his skin disease, his isolation and depression fueled his anger which resulted him of becoming the chainsaw wielding, skin-wearing psycho that he is now. Yes, I will say that his backstory is a little similar to Jason Voorhees though at least the filmmakers tried to give him character development.





The directing is actually quite good. Marcus Nipsel brings in this sense of dread and dreariness to the atmosphere with the film's lighting mostly being grayish and almost gothic-looking. It has it's advantages and disadvantages. I could barely see a thing in most scenes and in my honest opinion, it became a sort of trend thereafter with horror films for some reason. Besides all that, just the feel of what the movie looked like was handled well. You can actually smell the blood, sweat and tears pouring out of the screen, just like how the original made you feel.
But the main thing I liked with this remake was the authenticity they put into it. Now the whole "based on a true story" thing is a little annoying, that as well became a trend for horror films but in the upmost subtle way (and yes I said subtle) the filmmakers put a lot of work into it to make it "seem" real, not that it is real but real in how they project it.
The Verdict? I would say it's a tie but original will always beat old, just on terms of realism and suspense. Though this version is your typical Hollywood horror film, however, the filmmakers at least tried to make a true Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie, and also having the curiosity of getting the original creators involved.
Both movies stand alone on their own, though, this doesn't quite hold up well, especially beside the original, it still an entertaining enough slasher movie.
My last word: If you want to, you can give it a watch, it's not for everybody but it's a good enough.





 








 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Return To Oz





This has been one of my favorite movies since childhood, around the time where the Wizard Of Oz pretty much resonated in my life. It was something about the Land Of Oz that captured me. Beautiful but dangerous, strange but whimsical. And it was one of the few children's novels I read many times than most fairy tales. I was much more familiar with the 1939 film than the book when I was a wee little child, though about around age 5 or 6, I stumbled upon this little video store called Video Spectrum. It was at the time where I was looking for every Wizard Of Oz adaptation there was.


Once I found what I was looking for I was distracted by adorably cute art cover and in an instant I got my mom to rent for me.
But boy was I in for a surprise.....




I wasn't particularly frightened by the dark, mature nature of the film but this was far from the happy, jolly musical I grew up with. The movie was much more high adventure, with the stakes higher and the villains much more frightening.



I swear both Mombi And The Nome King would put the wicked witch to shame.
 
But beside all that, I fell in love with this movie. After watching this, I became more interested in dark fantasy kids films that was pretty much underrated among the mainstream. However, Return To Oz was indefinitely misunderstood. Robert and Ebert named it one of the worst films of 1985 because they grew up more with the 1939 movie than the book, and was pretty much upset of the ominous atmosphere of the film when case in point, the books had some dark themes as well.
 

It was all but forgotten until I discovered it and even since then my obsession with The Wizard Of Oz grew.






Books, Toys, Merchandise you name it. I was all over it until the age of 12.


So this is my dubious honor to Return To Oz, Who celebrated it's 30th anniversary a few days ago. Now before I begin my good points with the film, there are some flaws here and there. My main problem is how Dorothy would run all the way to the Emerald City in what seems like just a mere minute. In my eyes, It was a pretty long journey so it would be in impossible for her to approach the city with no problem. In my opinion though, they should've placed the setting in the Land Of Ev from the Ozma Of Oz novel. That's probably the only minor problem, nothing much else really. But for those of you who don't know, this is more of a semi-sequel to the 1939 movie, having elements from both the film and the books which I liked.
The acting is fantastic, especially from showstoppers like Piper Laurie's small role as Auntie Em and Nicol Williamson as the Nome King.


But the biggest star of them all is Fauriza Balk in her first starring role. Never have I seen a child actress with such maturity and grace, having the exact manifestation of Dorothy in the book. She's brave, practical, and a lot more effective than Judy Garland's Dorothy (just my opinion, guys).







The biggest showcase of Return Of Oz is it's special effects. To the animatronic structures of our favorite Oz characters maintaining the exact same illustrated sketches from the novels to continuing human-like transformation of the Nome King, it shows that the special effects crew put a lot of hard work into their craft. This was way before CGI and I have to say that even 30 years later it still holds up quite well. I like how it's a mixture of both the books and the movie, though the only element I could find was the iconic ruby slippers that would always gives a little color and imagination to the World Of Oz, fitting the film perfectly.




Major props to Walter Murch, which is sadly his only directing credit. It's a shame because he has a really good eye along with the classic music score the feel of a Wizard Of Oz movie.


By and By, it's movies like this that inspire me, Movies like this is the reason I have a rich imagination, and it's movies like this is the reason I'm an aspiring writer. So this is my tribute to Return To Oz, a truly underrated classic.









 



  




 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Movie Review: Carrie (2002)






When I first heard there was going to be a television remake of Carrie, I was super siked. Although I was only eleven years old at the time and it was unnecessary to remake an already classic movie but for those of you  who don't know this is more based on the book than the Brian De Palma movie. At first I thought I liked it but through the years I noticed the bad acting, bad writing, and horrible, horrible CGI effects, which again was not needed but hey it's a TV movie, they had to think of something right? But in the end, it's not really all that great though at least, Brain Fuller, who later give his writing credits to the hit show Hannibal, did put some effort with this, so the risk they took with this version is worth the take.
The Story: Misfit girl with unexplained powers decided  to take her revenge on her vicious classmates on Prom Night.
The Acting is....not all that great. Though Angela Bettis did an alright performance, she is nowhere near as good as Sissy Spacek, and it's not particularly an Emmy-winning performance, however, she is still a very underrated actress and did a somewhat decent job. Also Kandyse McClure did an okay performance and not to mention Rena Softer as Miss Dejardian. It's just that the rest of the acting seemed forced and not all believable.


I thought the casting of Angela Bettis was a pretty good idea. When I looked at her, she seem to perfectly embody a  high school outcast, though I could tell that Angela Bettis doesn't "look" like a high school student. She was pushing thirty at the time and looks it. Sure, Sissy Spacek was twenty-six during the filming of the original but at least the filmmakers made ways to make her believable as a high school student. But In my honest opinion, the filmmakers should've casted Alison Pill in the role. She was around the same age as the character around that year and fit the psychical description of the character and had the right emotional range to carry that role.



Besides all that, again, Angela Bettis did an alright performance, she wouldn't hold a candle to Sissy Spacek but at least she tried. The character of Carrie leans more towards the book version, Being a bit more talkative and is able to stand up against her mother. Also in this version, they seem to make her cationic and to be suffering from anxiety, going into nervous spats, like jittering and shaking in a trance-like state once her powers take over her.


But what bothered me the most about this version is how they make Carrie extremely powerful. For example, she can lift up a two-ton desk across the room, lift up a person on a bike in mid air, and crack open a chalkboard. I know it's a build up to how Carrie is not in control of her powers but the filmmakers pushed it up to 11 that I couldn't take it seriously anymore. In addition to her powers, she seemed to have premonition as indicated in the prom scene before the pigs blood is dumped on her,  it's an interesting touch but still overdone.
For now that's all I should say about Carrie because those of you who haven't seen this, there is a major spoiler about her that I should leave in the middle of the review.


Margret White played by Patricia Clarkson was a bit stiff. Don't get me wrong, Patricia Clarkson is a good actress, it's just the way the filmmakers portrayed the character which is bit, well, safe.


I think they were trying to make her  more cold and calculating, however, I liked when Margret was a little crazier, a little bit more manic. That's how Piper Laurie made the character memorable with her over the top, zealous performance. But Patricia Clarkson next to her seems too soft in comparison. She came off like a strict schoolteacher and it just didn't work for me. With this version of Margret, there's just nothing for me to look in upon and therefore I have to leave it at this note.


Sue Snell played by Kandyse McClure, actually did a decent enough job, At least she's better than most of the supporting characters in the movie, who'll I will take a riff on their acting later.


And just to add this, This version of Sue maybe of a different race but I swear she has the uncanny resemblance to Amy Irving's Sue. It's like they were separated at birth.


Anywho, what the filmmakers did different was have a much more deeper connection between Sue and Carrie. The scene  where she helps Carrie with her makeup was really sweet and is one of the few scenes that I liked in this version. What I also like is how she is treated as an ally and is able to give Carrie the confidence that she needs, not just some girl who's giving up her prom date out of pity.



Speaking of Prom Date, Tommy Ross played by Tobias Mechler was just eye candy. Sure, there's really nothing about Tommy in the book but at least William Katt gave him a personality and charm in the De Palma version. So Tobias, Cute guy, not high on acting chops.



Chris Hargensen played by Emile De Ravin was....not a great performance. She will become a better actress over time but upon seeing her in this, she came off rather bland and was trying too hard.


As for the character of Chris, she leans more to how she was in the book: A spoiled, entitled Daddy's girl who happens to drive into the dark side under the influence of Billy.


Billy's actor by the way is terrible. He tries too hard to be this aggressive bad boy mixed with sociopathic tendencies, it just didn't work for me.



Unlike the De Palma version, Billy is in control of the whole pig's blood prank and seems more adamant on humiliating Carrie, without  even knowing of her, making him more ruthless and vindictive rather than dumb and manipulated by Chris. It is he who is the manipulator.


I would also give a special mention to Katherine Isabelle, who is again wasted in another giveaway role as one Chris's henchwomen. She supposed to be the equivalent to PJ Soles' Norma but  she didn't make it very memorable and therefore she just faded away into the background most of time becoming the typical annoying cackling villainess. She plays Tina in which unlike in the book, she is in on the prank and becomes the instigator, turning the pig's blood prank into full circle.



Which leads us to the climax: the prom scene.  Though it's what you expect basically with lots of countless CGI, ripped off from Final Destination and random objects flying towards the screen, due to the low budget.


However, the one thing I liked before the chaos starts was the reaction of the prom goers. In this version, we see the actual reaction and they are in genuine shock with the exception of Tina and her boyfriend. And once Carrie snaps and all hell breaks loose, it makes the scene quite effective.
The main thing I liked about the 02' version is the subsequent police interviews by the people who had the most experiences with Carrie, making her this mysterious entity. It doesn't make the movie better but it does give a whole new perspective on the source material.
But wait there's a twist and I wouldn't have known that this remake of Carrie would have a twist at the end:


Turns out, Carrie is alive after all. And Sue helped her clear her name. When I first discovered upon this, I thought, how awesome is that but now that I realize it, Sue just helped someone get away with murder. Who is a mass murderer at that. It just makes the outcome of it kind of hollow.  The purpose of this was to make this into a television series. Yes, this was actually a pilot movie with Sue becoming a recurring character. The plot of this was to have Carrie move to Florida of all places to connect with other people with the same telekinetic abilities. This would've been an interesting concept but I didn't think was going to be executed very well. So due to the low ratings of the pilot movie, the idea fell through.
So there you have it, the TV remake of Carrie. I seem to like the ideas they had with it instead of the movie itself. I mean, it has a lot of things going for it but in the end, it's very forgettable and nothing noteworthy to talk about.
The Verdict? Go with the original. It has a much more organic feel. Whereas to this version, it's more of a analytical study than a psychological coming-of-age horror story with none of the powerful essence of the both book or the 1976 movie.
My last word: If you want to go for it, since it adapted heavily from the book but for all that it's worth, the Brian De Palma film is  and always will be the better movie.