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Sky High

Overview

Fresh off The Man with the Screaming Brain, I needed another Bruce Campbell Fix. I got it in the most unexpected place, a kids movie named Sky High. It was brilliant.

Where do the Superhero's go to learn how to be Superheros? They go to Superhero school (AKA Sky High). Unfortunately [insert ominous music here] the son (Michael Angarano) of the two most famous superhero's "The Commander" (Kurt Russell) and "Jetstream" (Kelly Preston) has no powers. He hides this from his parents and is sent off to school w/o discovering his powers. He is quickly demoted to 'side-kick', where he is taught such interesting things as "if the undead are attacking your hero, which weapon do you give him". Then, he discovers his super strength and ends up being moved into hero classes.

There is an underlying side plot about 'sidekicks' vs 'heros', paralleling the clique's that exist in high school, but nothing revolutionary was touched on.

The magic in this movie rivals the first Spy Kids' movie, but is a lot more fun. I was kept consistently interested.

Style

This movie is campy, but it works really well. I knew i was in for a B-movie inspired treat when the Super Hero parents destory a huge robot in the beginning, and it reminds me of the old Godzilla movies.

The character "Warren Peace" actually quotes from the book "War and Peace", when reading a fortune cookie's fortune.

Bits like this are sprinkled throughout the movie.

Quotes

"So, my girlfriend becomes my arch enemy, my arch enemy becomes my best friend, and my best friend becomes my girlfriend. That's high school for you."

- Will Stronghold, summing up the movie

Consensus

You got Bruce Campbell, Bowling for Soup, and superheros. You can't go wrong with this one. I'd see a sequel.

Mr and Mrs Smith

Overview

Is there anyone who doesn't know the plot of this movie? It was so highly publicized from within the commercials and its theatre run. Two killers are married to each other, but neither knows what the other's true job is. They work for competing agencies. They are hired to kill each other. The actual events are a bit more complicated than that, but the summary is good enough.

The first third of the movie is the couple living in bland marriage. The space between them is growing. Since you already know what is going on, it is a bit satirical. I'm not sure if it was intended to be, but it is. Then the guns start blazing at each other for the second third of the movie. The final third of the movie is when they make-up and then flight from their bosses who want to take them in.

This movie has action, comedy, and is a great twist on the "buddy cop" formula. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work in the current rendition. I bet this could have been a really great movie if they cut it down to 90 minutes. Instead we had a mediocre summer blockbuster.

Style

This movie has comedy elements combined with action elements, and never really succeeds at any of them. I smiled a bit, but overall the performances were bland. The chemistry between Angelina and Brad was lacking. I thought it was the making of this movie that hooked up, so their plastic performances was a bit surprising.

Watch it Again

I'm glad I saw it, but I doubt you'll find a convincing reason to make me see it again.

Buy

The Fog

Overview

I'm watching the Fog. It is a 2005 remake of the John Carpenter classic. This is a good example of refactoring a story, retaining the original premise, but expanding on it. Ghosts are coming back from the dead (100 years later) to wreak revenge on the descendants of those who wronged them. All the primary elements are there, such as the fog [duh], the pieces of [stuff] washing up on the beach, the cover-up from 100 years ago, and the radio announcer (and her kid). Yet, they give a different slant to some of the elements and I think, except on one point, the story is very much improved.

The original movie told the backstory via a journal. In this rendition they give a little more realism to the backstory by revealing it through [100 year] flashbacks as the movie progresses. The journal is still there, but just it illustrates itself wherever possible.

My one problem with the movie is the premise. In the original, I seem to remember that "6 must die" and the movie ends when the last one falls. In this remake, all descendants are targeted, but the ghosts leave before extracting full revenge. They elaborated a bit on the story of the ghosts. The heroine actually takes the place of a dead girl [presumably the wife of the captain]. It was a nice touch, but they left it hanging there. We're never sure quite why Clark (Kent from the Smallville TV show) is left standing, even though he was on the "revenge' list.

Style

This remake does a real good job of improving on the original. The original cut of the classic used Fog as the villain, and just didn't work. They re-shot a bunch of scenes and added more characters in the fog and a few gruesome close ups. In this rendition they were able to make the fog scary. The shapes and ghosts in the fog are downplayed until the end of the movie, where they play a big part. The filmmakers did a great job of slowly rising to a huge crescendo.

Buy

Cube / Cube 2 / Cube Zero

Overview

In Cube, a handful of people wake up in a room with six doors, one on each wall plus one on the ceiling and one on the floor. They start exploring and pick up people along the way. They only have scatterings of memory from "their previous" life and don't know how they ended up in there. When moving from cube to cube they try to unravel the mystery while finding the way out and avoiding the traps. The movie is unique because there is no explanation given, and no distinct enemy. It is an exploration of human behavior and how people react to each other in dire situations. As the story unfolds, we find that most of the characters are tied to the cube in some manner, which makes things even more intriguing. Can they work together to figure out the puzzle of the cube? Yes, they figure it out, but by the end only one prisoner is remaining. The traps finish some while others are done-in by the group fighting. We never find out what is beyond the cube, as the movie ends as the last survivor traverses the exit path. Next comes Cube 2: Hypercube. It is much the same plot as the first, except now they are in a high tech structure. Instead of the 'Cutting Wires' and poison gas of the first movie, they are in one with alternate realities, weird 'wavering' walls, and blobs of [something]. Once again, the inhabitants are all tied to the cube somehow. At the end we get a glimpse of the outside world. It appears to be some military installation, and they are able to retrieve a "recording" of something. We never find out more about this recording, though. Phase 2 of the cube project is complete.

Cube Zero is a prequel. This is unique because it concentrates not on the cube prisoners, but the 'button pushing' prison-guards. I found Cube 0 to be intriguing, as the guards argue about the ethics of their job. Instructions are given to them via cards that come down an elevator. At the end we are told this is all an experiment, both on the prison guards and the prisoners. It seems to be a study of human behavior. The end of Cube 0 runs right into the beginning of Cube, which ties the two movies together nicely.

Watch it Again

I'd definitely pick up a fourth movie, but I don't know if I'd sit through the 'trilogy' again. I might watch the DVD commentary on Cube 0 in hopes that they offer some more explanation behind the cube lore. I want to know more about what the "cubes" are and why they exist and who are the people inside and why are they put inside. And who is really in control of the whole cube project?

Buy

Waxworks / Waxworks 2

Overview

There is no such thing as too much wax is there? Well, perhaps if you are the one that they are pouring it over. This weekend I also got to take some time to watch the Waxworks double feature. This is a 80s movie with a budget. But, I loved it anyway. Things tie together rather creatively. Since the screenplay was written in a weekend, the movie is more impressive than you'd think.

In waxworks, a wax museum just pops out of nowhere in a small town. And people are disappearing at the same time. Suspicious, isn't it? I wonder what is happening to the people. Apparently each of the exhibits at the wax museum (each one of them a spoof of some of your favorite horror movies) is really a portal to another time / another dimension. People pushed through the portal become 'victims' of the scene. Once all 20 scenes have their victims the figures living in the scenes become alive. There were scenes reminiscent of Night of the Living Dead, Dracula, the Wolfman, Little Shop of Horrors, and more that I can't remember. Some kids get wind of what is going on. Thankfully the hero's uncle knows exactly what is going on. The scenes are completed, the monsters come alive and a hilarious battle ensues. This movie had more of a nod to the 1953 House of Wax than the 2005 House of Wax did. The museum caretaker dies in a huge vat of wax as the waxworks burns down.

Unfortunately, something survives the fire and it is the hand from one of the zombies. That is where the second movies start's up. The hand escapes to kill the heroine's father. In an effort to prove her story, they go off on an adventure through time. The first movie was a Slasher film of sorts, but the second is more of an adventure story. The hero and heroine end up as warriors in an alternate dimension with a battle between God and the Devil. Blah, blah, blah, they make it back to the real world with a zombie hand, thus proving credence to the heroine's story and letting her off the hook.

Style

These two movies are 80s budget. The stunts are flimsy, the effects cheesy, and the wax 'statues' move and blink their eyes. But, the movies are as enjoyable as any other B-movie you can drudge up.

Quotes

The uncle (who died in the first one) comes back as a bird in the second movie and justifies his presence by saying "This is the only way they'd let me be in this one." It's a scream-like tongue-in-cheek maneuver, but it works.

Buy

Clerks 2

There are only three times in my life where I have seen the entire audience react to a movie.

The first was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie. I probably saw it opening weekend. There were a ton of kids there, and they cheered through the whole movie. It was a lot of fun.

The second was Aracnophobia. This was billed as "thrill-omedy", except there was no 'omedy' in it. The whole theater screamed through the whole movie. It was pretty scarey. To top it off, my friend two seats over me, kept reaching over and used his hand to 'mimic' a spider crawling up my back.

The third movie was Clerks 2. I have never heard that much laughter in a movie theatre ever. At one point tears were starting to roll down my eyes because I was laughing so hard.

With so many movies, the best parts are put in the trailers and commercials and there are no surprises in the theatre. You may have heard the line "There is only Return, and its' of the Jedi not the King," right? While that is a memorable spot in the movie it surely doesn't tip the iceburg of the humor that lies within. With Clerks 2, the best parts are not TV safe!

If you are easily offended, you might want to back off this one. Experience with Clerks is not needed, but you should see it anyway because it's a fantastic movie.

Oh, and you can get your name in the credits on the DVD. There were about 5 minutes worth of name scrolling in the movie version.

Mystery at the Wax Museum / House of Wax

Overview

This was a weekend for wax. I sat through the Mystery at the Wax Museum (1933), it's 1953 remake named House of Wax, and the 2005 movie by the same name. I watched them in 'release' order.

The Mystery of the wax Museum was an old movie, back when Hollywood was still learning the medium for story telling. Some of the parts seemed rather disjointed and the story didn't flow very well. A wax sculptor fights with a business partner who wants to use underhanded techniques to cash out of the business. After a fight, the business partner leaves an unconscious sculptor in the flaming wax museum. He survives, but loses the use of his hands. He 'goes underground' and vanishes. Everyone thinks he is dead. He returns, slightly psychotic. With the loss of his hands he 'hires' a few people to help him out. It turns out that they are just kidnapping dead bodies and then using a process to cover them with wax. This is an effort to recreate his lost 'treasures'. The movie has a lot of interesting plot points, but is lacking with the glue that holds it together.

Thankfully, the 1953 remake fixes a lot of the pacing problems from the first one. It is also one of the first movies every to be shot in 3D and stars Vincent Price as the crazy sculptor. This movie was a pleasure to watch. A few of the scenes were notably 3D, but they were lost in the 2D DVD conversion of the movie. When the wax museum opened for the first time they had a guy with a paddleball. He even spoke w/ 'you' the audience and tried to hawk us popcorn. Another highlight of this movie was Dabbs Greer as one of the cops. Dabs is most famous for Reverend Aldron from Little House. He has an extremely distinctive voice. Since T is forcing me through all seasons of little house (We're half way through season 8), it was cool to see him in an earlier role. He was unrecognizable except for the voice.

That brings us to the 2005 House of Wax. This movie had nothing to do with the previous movies, other than containing the same name. Straying away from the creepy/ mysterious feel of the previous movies, this one was turned into your standard slasher. It had the parade of random pop icons (Such as Paris Hilton) and a cast of unknowns. One cool idea in this movie was that there actually was a wax museum built completely from wax. At the end of the movie this house burns down. I'm not quite sure how. Have you ever tried to burn a candle without a wick? You can't because was doesn't burn. It just melts when it heats up. With everything made of wax, there was nothing to burn. It was cool to see Paris due, I guess. The 'leads' in this movie were a brother sister set of twins. They just didn't pull it off as well as the Jeeper Creeper pair. I was told this remake had a lot of nods to the originals, but even watching them back to back I didn't see any. This is one to forget.

Buy

Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest

Overview

Tons of spoilers, so you've been warned.

Come one, come all, to see the theatrical recreation of the Ghost Pirate Lechuck. T and I went to a midnight showing of Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest last night. It had everything you would have expected.

First, let me complain about the theatre. Because of the crowd they were trickling people in the theatre few by few and trying to force assigned seating onto us. I wasn't happy with that. T and I ended up with horrible seats, way too close to the screen. Someone told us they had multiple midnight showings; which would make sense. However, if we had known that before-hand, we would have held out to be the first in "Theatre 2" when it opened.

As you would expect, the movie was full of piratey goodness. Captain Jack Sparrow along with most of your favorites (and some of the easily forgotten) actors from the first film. There was a lot of action, and a lot of humor. Unfortunately, they replaced the "sneaky sly Captain Jack who can talk his way out of anything" with a "I'm a cartoon character and am indestructable even when a bomb explodes in my pants or an anvil falls on my head". It's not that I wasn't laughing through the first half of the movie, mind you. It's just that I prefer the sly talker to the comic violence.

The Ghost Pirate LeChuck makes an appearance, playing the 'pirate beast' Dave Jones. He has squid for a beard. Or maybe he is a squid. The story was unclear on his origins and mythology. There was something about him not being able to get onto land more than every 10 years. And something about a lost love. Perhaps they'll explain more in the third installment. This one leaves you satisfied, but is still a cliff hanger

Following the monkey island theme, the Voodoo Lady also made an appearance. She was living in her Monkey Island 3 house. They alluded to the fact that she had some relation to Davy Jones (perhaps his lost love?).

To add a bit of plot in here, Davy Jones wants Captain Jack Sparrow's soul. We aren't sure why. Jack tries to spend time on land to avoid Davy Jones. He convinces Will Turner (Legolas) to go onto Davy Jones' [cursed] ship to search for a key that will open the Dead Man's Chest which contains Davy Jones' heart.

There is also an East Indian Trading Company that is causing havoc, and wants Jack's compass (remember the compass that didn't point north?). What they really want is the Dead Man's Chest, with Davy Jones' heart, so they can control the sea.

If you get the chance to watch the first movie before seeing the second, I strongly recommend it.

I'm sure you'll want to re-watch the second movie before seeing the third. I know I will.

Update: The day after i wrote this, the Voodoo lady entry on Wikipedia was edited to compare the Voodoo Lady with Tia Dalma (The 'Voodoo Lady' from Pirates 2). A Wikipedia entry on Tia Dalma also went up. I find it doubtful that this review sparked the Wikipedia changes, but remember you heard it hear first.

American Psycho / American Psycho II

Overview

American Physco by Bret Easton Ellis was published in March of 1991 and ended up receiving quite a bit of bad press. Feminists declared it as a 'cookbook' for people wanting to degrade / torture / kill women. The book is a morbid satiric tale about rich life in the 80s. I never read the book, but a movie was released in 2000.

In an attempt to head off the bad press that the book received, the movie studio got women to write the screenplay and direct the movie. The movie was created as a period piece, trying to capture the essence of the 80s. When I think of period pieces of always think of trying to replicate something happening so long ago, not something that happened in my lifetime. They did a good job as the period piece.

The movie excels at creating a creepy atmosphere, as we follow the 'adventures' of wealthy executive Patrick Bateman, through a few days of his life. It is unclear whether this guy is a deranged murder (who gets away with it), a figment of someone else's imagination, or a guy with a rather morbid imagination. Did the murders really happen? It is unknown. There is also a strong undercurrent in which people getting confused for each other; and everyone is made up to look alike. Despite the fact that "person A" is killed in the beginning; other characters in the "merger and acquisition" scene claim that they kept eating with him. The movie is creepy and will leave you walking away with an uncomfortable feeling in your gut.

The book never had a sequel, but Hollywood doesn't go that way. Every movie must be done at least twice. The sequel is nothing like the original. It isn't a period piece; it isn't creepy; it isn't sarcastic; and it isn't nearly as confusing. It isn't a bad movie either. Instead of the black comedy style of the first, the second leans toward the "slasher film" genre. It has better acting than what you'd expect from most slasher films, and significantly less gore. It starred Mila Kunis as the 'only survivor' of Patrick Bateman's murder spree. The flashbacks to 'Patrick' were surprisingly well done, and matched well enough with the style of the first movie. Whether good or bad; I couldn't get past the fact that "Jackie Burkhart" was killing people. I'd love to see them make an American Physco 3 with the whole cast of That 70's Show.

Watch it Again

Probably not.

Buy

Original Star Wars Trilogy on DVD

George is finally going to release the original theatrical version of his first Star Wars trilogy on DVD:

More info over here

I'm not expecting much extras, as it's a two disc set that includes both the original and the special edition version of each movie. I wonder if the 'special edition' be the theatrical release or will it have the changes added to the DVD release?

Thinking about it, I thought that the prequel trilogy DVD releases included extra scenes mixed among the movie. Are the original theatrical versions of the Star Wars prequel trilogy available?

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