Saturday, December 28, 2013

Movie Review: Friday the 13th: Jason Lives

After the poor reception of A New Beginning, filmmakers finally sought the chance to bring Jason back from the grave and the result is the fun and enjoyable fan favorite Jason lives. This is by far the ultimate Jason movie. It has thrills, it has kills, the stakes are much higher this time, and everyone is pretty much aware that a maniac is out in the woods. It's also one of the first films to have Jason as some sort of sub-human zombie-like killer, which is technically Tommy Jarvis' fault. The feel of the movie is a lot more lighter and softer than the sleazy part 5. So there's never a slightly uncomfortable moment. There's not even any nudity, it's almost like an apology. The characters are back to being likeable, though not only relatable but also charming and funny. Once you grow attached to them, it's almost sad when they die.
Jason Lives is much more fast-paced than your usual Friday the 13th film, with more action, slick writing, and a much more imposing killer.
Here's the story: after escaping the mental institution, Tommy Jarvis is set to face and vanquished his demons by burning Jason's grave, the man who have haunted him all these years. But once his inner pain and anger consumes him,  he stabs Jason with a metal pole, only to cause a strike of lighting to hit the metal pole, reviving Jason yet again. Tommy must now stop Jason from reeking havoc on Crystal Lake (now renamed Camp Forest Green) yet again.

The cast is much more charming and likeable than in the previous movies to the point where I felt a little bad when they met their end. They're not exactly one-dimensional, having each of the character mold into their distinctive personality. And finally for once the cops get to have a day in the spotlight.

Oh boy, there is so much to say about Tommy Jarvis. He's not particularly the best written character in this movie. He's also the sole reason why Jason is now an unstoppable killing machine, even though, HE'S supposed to be the hero. What was his purpose of going to Jason's grave in the first place? It could be said that Jason is the reason why he has this impending dark side. This other side to him he can't escape unless Jason is gone for good. They are one in the same and Tommy wants to break free from that. Live his own life without living under Jason's spell. Why didn't they put that in the script? I think his character would've been handled a lot better than it should. Even though I had read the script, there is no explanation on Tommy's psyche. It's just this routine of "oh look at me, I made a mistake" and trying to convince that Jason is real. It's a bummer because Tommy is the best character of the series and he was a lot more developed in Part 5.

Though besides all that, Thom Matthews is a solid actor, not to mention easy on the eyes, too. He just has that natural stance of the next big action star. The piercing blue eyes, the wavy blond hair, the chiseled features, and those kissable lips. He can definitely win an award for best Paul Newman look-a-like.

 Now let's move over to Megan Garris, who is our Final Girl, there is not much to say about her, only that she is the sheriff's daughter and she is totally in love with Tommy (not that I don't blame her). I did say she was a bit dumb in my last review, but that's not really the case.

She is viewed as a typical teenage girl who happened to discover boys and refuse to be Daddy's little girl forever. Then I thought she was there to be Tommy's love interest and eye candy for the boys, but what makes her stand out is that she has a cool personality. She's funny, likeable, and could hold her own.

The chemistry between her and Tommy works, It sort of reminiscent to the action couples of the 70's and 80's. In the end, I thought Megan was a really enjoyable character and Jennifer Cooke did a spot-on performance.
I couldn't quite catch up with the rest of the cast but the majority were likeable. I did enjoyed Megan's friends, Cort, Sissy, and Paula. I just thought they were harmless teenagers just sittin' back, doing their job, and having fun.

I especially felt for Lizabeth, played by director Tom Mchloughlin's wife, Nancy. I really didn't see what was wrong with her character. She seemed pleasant enough, she had a memorable line, and it really shown that Nancy didn't have to act her character, after all, she is a nice, nurturing woman in real life. I just didn't like how they killed off her and Tony Goldwin's character so soon, there was much to establish on these characters. Hell, Lizabeth was willing to give Jason her money. She's that generous. Oh well, you know what you get in a Friday the 13th film.

Then there's Cort, who is your usual fun-loving metal-head not to mention a cutie pie, too.

Of course, I had the sharp end of the knife when he did.

And here is Sissy. She doesn't get much screen time, but when we do see her we get to learn more about her personality. She's laid back, cool and someone you could definitely be friends with. Well, she gets a pretty gruesome death where Jason takes her head and twists it clean off. just awful.

But Paula was the one I had my heart out for. She's probably the most nice and innocent of Megan's friends. She doesn't do drugs, she doesn't have sex, she doesn't even swear and she's also nurturing and kind towards the kids. But I think she gets the worst death in the movie because we don't see it. It's just awful and it makes Jason more scarier and more brutal than any slasher villain.

Once the kids arrive in the camp (which is first for a Friday film), you kind of feel the oncoming danger in its' wake. And once the kids are in the middle of the mayhem, you feel quite scared for them. Once you look at it in a perspective way, It sort like the monster that everybody tells campfire stories about has become real.

Finally, there is Sherriff Garris, who is shown to be a badass but has a soft spot for his daughter Megan underneath it all.

Once Jason goes after Megan, Sheriff Garris flips out and he goes into an epic battle with Jason, only to result in one of the most cringe-worthy on-screen deaths in the movie and it doesn't even have any blood or gore whatsoever. But at least the man died with dignity.

Now, with Jason, like I said, he is much more brutal and much more stronger than ever. He is played by CJ Graham, who was a military guy, which gave Jason this larger than life appeal he's known for today. Jason also seemed to adapt a terminator-like feel to his movements and it definitely worked in this film.

Now on to the special effects. It's amazing how they would conjure big money effects in such a small independent-made film.

I thought the RV scene was glorious. Once it crashes, Jason rises up triumphantly. It's probably one of the most memorable scenes.
Now on to the trivia. Originally, the filmmakers asked John Shepherd to reprise the role of Tommy, alongside Melanie Kinnaman and Shavar Ross as Pam and Reggie, respectively. But Shepherd later declined due to personal differences involving his faith, so the filmmakers decided to completely retcon the series, bringing in Thom Matthews in the role, who previously starred in Return Of The Living Dead.

Crew Member Dan Bradley played Jason in the first few days of shooting. Dan Bradley didn't quite have CJ Graham's tall muscular Physique, he is a lot much bulker and according to one of the filmmakers, "a little fat." So they decided to bring in CJ Graham to give Jason more of an imposing, threatening appearance.

When the film was first screened to test audiences, they demanded more body count, which includes a couple having a romantic evening in the middle of the night for some dumb reason and the death of caretaker Martin.

The Caretaker was originally supposed to live in the alternate ending, serving purpose to important plot twist involving Jason's Father, Elias. Yes, I said it, Jason's FATHER.

This would've been the first time we get to see him on screen. But this particular scene was not filmed, instead it was left on the storyboard. It gives more information as to how Jason was never cremated since then and implies that Elias pays Martin to take care of the body.

There is also a menacing side to the Elias character which explains how fucked up the Voorhees family tree is.
Time for some Nightmare connections. Jennifer Cooke starred as Elizabeth in the TV series V. Guess who starred in the mini-series prior to it.....Yes Robert "Freddy Krueger" England.

Some seem to the think that the little girl Nancy in the movie is a special nod to Nancy Thompson from A Nightmare On Elm street, but actually it was based on Tom Mchloughlin's wife as she has the same name. But you can think however you want it.
The movie was a box office hit but not so much as let's say the first Friday the 13th or Final Chapter, though it did well on home video.
I really liked this one. Some people might be put off by the humor in this movie but I think it works. To be honest, there was going to be some point in the series was going to be a little campy. So again, I really enjoyed this movie. With likeable characters, A scary villain, and a great soundtrack by Alice Cooper. This is definitely a fun thrill ride.
My Last Word: Easily the best Friday the 13th Film.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Nutcracker Memories

Since it's Christmas, I decided to take a little break from my Nightmare On Friday the 13th reviews and instead, tell you about one of my favorite Christmas fairy tales of all time, The Nutcracker.
I don't know what's so intriguing about it because of how simple the story is but it's filled with such magic, romance, and adventure that I couldn't resist loving it. And as a kid I was a sucker for those types of stories.
There have been many adaptions from what I remember. Hmm.....there was a animated film in 1990.

Which surprisingly starred Kiefer Sutherland (Jack Bauer) as the voice of titled character. It wasn't particularly well-known until I seen it on the Disney channel a long time ago. I pretty much enjoyed this, it definitely had much more adventure than the source material and I guess the reason for it's obscurity because some people seemed to think this as a commercialized Disney knock-off, but I think it should've have deserved a bit of a cult classic status.

There was also a 1993 ballet production having Macaulay Culkin as the starring role, which was later made into a film. Even though it's not the most highly remembered or highly regarded by most, This was the I definitely remembered when I was about wee five years old. I was a big Macaulay Culkin fan and so my Dad got me most of his movies. Somehow he looked upon George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, along with the movie storybook. I was....Entranced. The sets were so beautiful and elaborate, the contrast between stage and film blended so perfectly, the ballet were so flawlessly choreographed. It was like watching a live-action fairy tale. Again, it's not the most well-known of the Nutcracker but I think it was a magical experience to watch as a kid.

Then it was introduced as Barbie's first movie and since it was, of course, Barbie's first movie, I gave it a watch.

Most notably, The Rat King was voiced by Tim Curry, whom was a childhood favorite of mine (even though, he scared the hell out of me in the movie IT).

It's probably not one of the best adaptions but a pretty enjoyable watch. It still has the same feel as the original story, including a ballet dance between Barbie and Ken.

But unfortunately, this will lead me to the universally hated The Nutcracker in 3D. Well, I haven't exactly seen this version though from what I heard it has nothing to do with the source material. So my thoughts on seeing this movie will and forever be scrapped.

But the most memorable of all of the adaptions is and will always be the ballet productions. And shall I present you my most favorite songs and scenes:

So there are my fond childhood Christmas memoires of The Nutcracker. From way back when and even til this day, I think it's a holiday classic that will forever be treasured.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Movie Review: A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge

Now to be perfectly honest with you....I don't think this movie is half-bad. it does have it's corny moments, like Jesse's dance, which I will discuss further down the line, and break certain rules from the first film, but I enjoyed this one. Hell, back then I didn't even know there was any nightmare sequels. The only ones I know, when I was eight or nine or so, was part 3 and 4. I didn't really know about part 2 and 5 that much because they were really obscure and the weakest of the series. Though in my opinion, I don't think this was all that terrible. It may have lacked the dark and grittiness of the first and it maybe out of bounds most of the time, but I think it stands out than most slasher films of the 80's.
Here's the story: quiet, sensitive Jesse Walsh and his family has just move to 1428 Elm Street, the house that Nancy Thompson once lived. Suddenly, strange things occur. Jesse keeps having these terrible dreams, that becomes so real, it almost takes over him. Moment by moment, this creature from his dreams, the one they call Freddy Krueger wants his body and soul. And he must tap into Jesse's bloodlust to empower him. as his family and friends grow more concern of him, Jesse must fight back to keep his life in order and destroy Freddy Krueger before mayhem strikes again on Elm street.

The acting was pretty solid. Again, the characters are pretty genuine and you can feel a special connection between the cast. The chemistry works well and the actors seem to make the characters real (well, some of them. ie: Kerry).

Oh there is so much to say about Jesse Walsh. It is an indication that he is a closeted homosexual but the subtext in the movie is so heavy-handed that it's not an indication anymore. It's right there in your face. Actor Mark Patton was gay in real life, so it was easier for him to convey his emotions through the role. Dealing with homosexuality and coming out of the closet was a real challenge for teenagers back in the 80's and the movie is treated as a major theme of this.

Jesse Isn't your typical macho horror movie hero. Just like Nancy in the first film, He's just a normal teenager who somehow is put In a fantastical situation and he reacts to things realistically. Mark Patton really got into the emotional state of that character and he brought on a stellar performance.  It's really a shame he didn't went to go on new horizons on the acting biz because although this was his first big role, it would've been good to see him in more projects.

Then we have Lisa Webber played by Kim Myers. I know I was a little harsh on her on my last review, But I thought Kim Myers did a good job. Not only does she look like Meryl Streep (personally, one of my favorite actresses), she also has this natural girl-next-door quality that makes her likeable and welcoming.

But just to get this out of my chest, I really didn't see the chemistry between her and Jesse. I just think their romance was a bit forced. And I think the only reason the filmmakers wanted to make her a love interest was because she was a girl, when she could've just been only an ally helping a friend. And that's how they come off as...really good friends.

And here is the delightful Ron Grady played by the very handsome Robert Rusler. Ron Grady or Grady as they call him is probably the most memorable character in the movie. Not only is he smoldering sexy, he is funny, likeable, and charming.

And quite frankly, He and Jesse had better chemistry. It starts off as a love-hate relationship but then in the end, we see that he generally cares about Jesse and wants to help him. So it was sort of sad and a bit sudden when he got slashed, since we were really seeing a relationship developing but cut short by an instant.

Kerry, on the other hand, played by Sydney Walsh, is the least developed of the cast. She is just the caricature of a typical one-dimensional 80's teen with big hair and outrageous fashion sense. She was there to serve as Lisa's sex-crazed friend. But I have to say her outfits are ridiculously awesome (what's with that candy-striped bow? lol).

Freddy is still dark and mysterious but a lot more talkative than in the first film, establishing early stages of what he'll become in the next film.

They also made his face more demonic-looking, which really creeped me out when I first watched this. The look, for me, set the tone of the film, making Freddy this ferocious being who's more angrier and more blood-thirsty.

The effects are spectacular. Not only do they have elements of possession, the filmmakers also seem to focus on the house, having this haunted house feel similar to the movie Poltergeist.

The special effects really come into play in the scene where Jesse turns into Freddy. It's totally state of the art and groundbreaking and would later catapult towards the later sequels. It's really cool and imaginative.

The other scene I like was the pool party scene but now I get a mixed vibe from it. It totally derides what was so great about the first movie. The scenes where Freddy is in the dream world is much more scarier because that's when his victims are more vulnerable. Seeing him killing a bunch of teenagers at a pool party just make him look like a Jason knock-off. But I get that he is fully possessive of Jesse's body and he isn't a ghostly, shadowy figure anymore.
Now for some behind the scenes facts. There were other actors that were originally auditioned for the role of Jesse, which included:

John Stamos

Brad Pitt

And Christian Slater. Since Jesse runs around shirtless throughout the movie, that would've been quite interesting to watch....if you know what I mean.

At first they hired a stuntman to play Freddy in one of the scenes but since the stuntman was doing a poor, stiff job, they decided to bring back Robert Englund seeing that it's more than just a guy in a rubber mask, it's the actor that brings out the character. Freddy only had 13 minutes of screen time out of the 87 minute running time of the movie, which in my opinion, makes him more scarier and threatening and has just amount of good build up, very much like the first film.

The S and M bartender is played by Robert Shaye, in one of his first cameo roles in the Nightmare sequels. The a truly frightening sight. lol.

Oh just to add this little fact, Clu Glanger, who plays Jesse's father, also starred in Return Of The Living Dead, alongside Miguel Nunez Jr., Mark Venturini, and Thom Matthews who also starred in Friday The 13th: A New Beginning and Friday The 13th: Jason Lives. So there's one of your Freddy and Jason connections.

(You see this picture. It's looks like they are totally going to have a threesome later on. Lol).
Now let's get to the topic at hand. Let's talk about the homoerotic subtext that is the most talked about in this movie. And this kind of subtext bothered certain horror fans (whether those horror fans are homophobic, let me just say this here, don't watch the movie and don't say anything negative about the movie if that really bothers you so much. that's all) but personally, I think that's where the film works. Most film critics view slasher films as misogynistic, generally marketing violence towards women. They see it as an interlude of sex and violence where in those movies the subtext are mainly heterosexual. So I think a homosexual angle is interesting and fresh and most of the victims in this are mostly male.

There is one particular scene where I said, in my last review of this, that was completely out of a falcon 80's gay porno, and the scene in question is where Jesse has an encounter with Coach Schneider. Now thinking of it, there's nothing sexual or arousing about it. There's something creepy and foreboding behind it that's akin to the movie Cruising. It seems that the coach is going to do really bad things to Jesse, that would be more pain than pleasure if you see it that way.

So eventually, Coach Schneider got what he deserved....

I don't know whether the filmmakers identified Jesse as gay. When I first read the script, I think he was viewed as a typical heterosexual teenager but since Mark Patton was gay and there was a whole of gay subtext in the script, it pretty much summed up what the movie was going to become. Some of the filmmakers were caught between whether the whole gayness of the movie was intentional or just to say "hey let's just put in there, nobody would NOTICE." but it's pretty noticeable and out there.

Especially the scene were Jesse dances to an 80's pop song. Originally, it was supposed to be a rock song, similar to the scene in Risky Business but I guess this was the one song they could afford. I don't's so wrong but it's so right at the same time. You gotta see it to be believe it:

This song is catchy, too. It was later remade in 1991 and is a much more popular cover song  by Cathy Dennis.

The reason why the chemistry between Mark Patton and Robert Rusler was so good because according to a rumor they hooked up on the set. But who knows they were probably really good friends. Though, it still up for debate.....
I just think it's good. It's nowhere near as great as the first one but it still has the same atmosphere, the same feel, and it's definitely a solid sequel.
With a strong performance by Mark Patton, likeable characters, a still scary villain, and cool visuals, Freddy's revenge Is a great addition to the nightmare franchise.
P.S. Check out Jesse's Lost Journal written by Mark Patton, it's very insightful and very interesting once you read it. Here's the Link:

My last word: Totally worth-watching