I’m getting around to “Sleepaway Camp” right now.
Why this film, and why now, you may ask? Well, it was the first film on Joe Bob Briggs’s first movie marathon since 2000 (which took place on Shudder), and I figured “Why not?” I would much rather be starting out with “Basket Case,” but this one comes first in the lineup of the marathon, so this’ll be the first of fourteen reviews, with “Blood Feast” and “Pieces” excluded and “Demons 2,” “Basket Case 2” and “3” and “Hellbound: Hellraiser II” added for good measure. Let’s get going.
Perhaps the number one issue I have with this movie is that it doesn’t know what kind of horror story it wants to tell. It seems to be caught between a surreal dive into insanity and, as Joe Bob himself says, an ’80s slasher movie. Either way, both feel underdeveloped, especially towards the end, and they don’t even compliment each other well, like they would in something like “Oculus” or the original “Haunting.” There are also a ton of storyline inconsistencies and production snafus that do occasionally create plot holes themselves. (I’ll get into those with more vigor later.) Overall, it seems like something that could’ve had potential, but it needed to be proofread more before the script was written. (Or during, even.) Long story short, it’s pretty bad.
Story Grade: D-
Very flat and rather dull, with the exception of Mr. Slausen, whose actor is far too good for the movie. And I will get to that in greater detail later.
Characterization Grade: D
It’s roughly on par with most ’80s slashers, with similar gaps in logic and human psychology along for the ride. This is not good for a movie that wants to play with genre expectations, which shadow this movie in hindsight, whether fair or not. Still, it’s got an occasional line from Mr. Slausen that’s… effective enough, I guess.
Script Grade: D+
As I say, there’s production snafus everywhere, and that’s at least two letter grades marked down. It would’ve been a C average without those.
Direction Grade: F
As Joe Bob says, you can’t go too wrong with Chuck Connors. I mean, he keeps your attention even when the camera spends too much attention on him, which is another production problem (not just a snafu), but is still impressive. The others are mostly pretty good, especially Jocelyn Jones, but sometimes, it can get a bit underdone or hammy. Still, one of the better overall parts of the movie, honestly.
Acting Grade: B
I’m gonna be honest, this part is rather successful, especially if you let it scare you. It’s certainly helped by Robert A. Burns’s excellent effects and Pino Donaggio’s atmospheric score, as well as some legitimately disturbing scenes, like Tina getting her face plastered to start the process of her becoming a mannequin and that bit with the soup and crackers. There are parts, however, where the movie leans too heavily on violence and shock tactics, but that can be overlooked rather easily in comparison to everything else regarding the shaky feeling of the movie.
Scare Grade: B+
As I say, there’s production snafus everywhere, including bad voice overdubbing and a dripping noise in the basement that never has its source shown (far from the only unexplained sound effect), and those snafus pop up everywhere, even in scenes that are supposed to be scary, which renders those scenes utterly laughable as opposed to scary. (I say this standing by that when the movie is scary, it’s really scary.) But, as mentioned, the effects and score are fantastic, so it’s not all bad. I struggle to find a good enough grade for this area of the movie, as it’s such a mixed bag, but I guess the effects and score are good enough to earn it a…
Execution Grade: C+
This movie is such a missed opportunity in so many respects, but in others, it delivers exceedingly well. On one hand, it has a confused story, bland characters and production snafus galore. On another, it has an excellent score, exceptional effects and some genuinely scary and disturbing scenes. I wish I could award a grade for effort and vision instead of results, but since that’s not my job, the movie shall have to settle for a…
Final Grade: C-
I am so glad to get this review out there so I can be done with this movie. Tomorrow, I’ll be posting a review of the next movie in the Joe Bob marathon, “Sleepaway Camp,” which I’ve heard really good things about. I’ll see you then.
Hey guys. In case you’ve have been wondering, I’ve been attempting to review a very particular movie in recent weeks. However, things have gone wrong in the worst capacity, it seems. I even have issues with my TV that can’t be fixed as efficiently as I’d like them to. They’re still not fixed, but I have found a workaround for the problem, and will update you when they finally are fixed. The day after tomorrow and the day after that will see the publication of a review of two movies that I must see before they disappear from Netflix. On Saturday, I’ll post a review of a very special movie, and a milestone for my blog. What it is will be a surprise. See you on Tuesday.
From now on, I’ll just give out reviews whenever I see a movie of my own accord. I can’t stick to schedules, it seems. ;(
Okay, that didn’t go the way I planned. So I guess it’ll be the start of an off-and-on Marvel Cinematic Universe marathon next. That’s long overdue, I’ll say.
I’m sure many of you will ask me where my reviews of “Lifeforce,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “The 36th Chamber of Shaolin” are. Rest assured, I’ll get to those later. (When, I don’t know.) Just not today; today, I have to review the direct predecessors to a movie coming out in theaters this weekend.
This trilogy of reviews will be different than the status quo, as these movies are unusual and require a lot of rethinking of what they are. I will front that when I saw the original movie, the movie I’m reviewing today, I was a bit confused in a “it’s fine, but why does this movie have 90+ on Rotten Tomatoes” way. With that being said, I have more to say to its advantage now, but this still won’t be easy to describe without people having seen the movie. Enough buildup; let’s get to it.
I wouldn’t say that this movie has a coherent story so much as it does a coherent way of telling it and a coherent, perfectly well-rounded worldview to back it up. It also contains one of the best twists ever to be found in an animated movie aimed at kids. Once that twist hits, the movie goes from enjoyable to making as much sense as it possibly could. (It makes a little less sense later on, though, but I’m not gonna fixate too much on that.) This twist makes the entire movie’s point all the stronger, and it’s one of the better examples of this kind of movie, and shows that there’s a lot you can do with movies or TV shows that are “just” toy commercials with a story. (If only Hollywood had actually taken note of how it executed itself, we may have actually gotten a good “Emoji Movie.”) The story isn’t perfect (there’s not that much in way of structure to it, and there’s some rather gaping plot holes), but sometimes, that’s okay.
Story Grade: 82% (B-)
Emmet is a fine protagonist, and Lucy is a fine love interest, but Lord Business and Vitruvius are where this area of the movie shines. Good Cop/Bad Cop was also really funny. What more can I say?
Characterization Grade: 85% (B)
The script is really funny, seemingly knowing exactly which jokes to run with, which ones to use sparingly, which ones to pull back after a while and even which jokes are okay to run into the ground. (It’s so great when writers get that last part right, because it’s usually not a good idea to run any joke into the ground.) I do wonder if Morgan Freeman (Vitruvius) was a bit embarrassed by the amount of times that his character says “Cloud Cuckooland,” though.
Script Grade: 95% (A)
The animation is great (if a bit choppy in places where it shouldn’t be), and the overall speed of the animated sequences is really something to behold.
Directing Grade: 90% (A-)
Chris Pratt and Elizabeth Banks are great, as well as really funny, and Will Ferrell is funny in his live-action and animated forms. (I’m usually on the fence about him, but here, he really shines.) Morgan Freeman is great, but how could he not be? (He was born in my home state, BTW.)
Acting Grade: 95% (A)
The action is large-scale and very well-staged.
Action Grade: 98% (A+)
I don’t think there’s a single joke in this movie I didn’t like. Even the small ones that are almost in the background get a laugh. Some of my favorites include Unikitty’s “no consistency” remark, Abe Lincoln’s “A house divided would be better than this” comment, and Shaq’s “Are you ready for this?” “Oh no, they were ready for that” line. But what am I saying? It’d be hard to rank them, anyway.
Comedy Grade: 100% (A+)
There’s an unbridled joy in watching this movie, and I have no way of doing it justice by merely describing it.
Execution Grade: 90% (A-)
As I said, I didn’t always think much of the movie, but as time went by, I realized that I was thinking of it in a slanted way, as it’s the kind of movie where, the less said, the better. I can’t say it’s easy to say why the critics praised it high heavens, but it’s a lot better than I initially gave it credit for, and there’s a lot more to like about it than not to. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s a perfect movie in terms of what it’s trying to do, and sometimes, that’s enough.
Final Grade: 80% (B-)
Well, that’s all for now, but my “Lego Movie” week will continue on Thursday with my review of “The Lego Batman Movie.” Spoilers: I’ll have a bit more to say about that one.
Hey guys. Uh, the “Lifeforce” watching is taking longer than I thought it would, but in the meantime, I thought I’d give you a different review, and one of a double feature, to boot. So, look at this as two-and-a-half reviews in one. What’s the half? Well, you’ll see in a little. For now, let’s talk about the feature-length movies, “Planet Terror” and “Death Proof.” (As usual, if you don’t wish to see a bunch of horrible violence and gross scenes, don’t watch this movie. By all mean, read on, but don’t watch the movie.) Let’s start with the first feature, “Planet Terror.”
For the most part, the story here accomplishes what it set out to accomplish, with the only exception being the ending, where it’s not addressed how the world survived the presumed outbreak at all. But it’s totally forgivable when you look back at the fun time the movie was up to that point, and the overall quiet mood of the last scene is a decent decompressor after the crazy stuff of the rest of the movie. It’s one heck of a thrill ride, and the story only goes slow during points where it needs to. If you were to look at the story from a purely academic standpoint, it’d be awful, but this ain’t that kind of movie, and the fact there’s a heavy dose of self-awareness that it has a (by most accounts) awful story means that writer and director Robert Rodriguez is able to focus on what the audience is expecting (lots of action, lots of high-octane stunts and lots of over-the-top violence), and somehow get those analytical thinkers in the audience to come along for the ride. I don’t know why, but this movie’s story got me right in the mood for what to expect, and for that, I salute it. But, that aspect of being intentionally (again, by most accounts) awful means that I can’t give a higher grade than…
Story Grade: 78% (C+)
This is, objectively, better than the story, but it still has plenty of issues. The only characters who aren’t blank slates (Dakota, the sheriff, etc.) are given one or two traits to identify them. This was, of course, done intentionally, but it does count just a wee bit negatively towards the total of the sum of its parts, as characters are pretty important to me. Thankfully, the characters aren’t insufferable unless they’re supposed to be. ([coughs] Doc Block.) This allows me to enjoy the movie on the virtue of not wanting to see the characters suffer. (Actually, now that I think about it, that seems to be a reason for the movie working so well.) Still, their lack of a fully-rounded personality holds me back from anything higher than a…
Characterization Grade: 82% (B-)
To the point, with a very wry sense of humor to the proceedings, to boot.
Script Grade: 85% (B)
This is one area where the movie really shines, and I can totally see the technical expertise of Mr. Rodriguez that put him on the map with his $7,000 debut film. (No, I am not understating the budget of his debut movie.)
Directing Grade: 88% (B+)
… What can I say? Given what’s happening around them and how ill-defined their personalities are, the actors do the best they possibly can. (And yes, I’m including pretty much every actor involved in that equation.)
Acting Grade: 85% (B)
Despite some explosions being there with no real context, the actual action is very well-done. The scenes with Cherry (or Palomita, or whatever she’d like to be called at the end) shooting people and mutants with a machine gun attached her leg stump without pulling the trigger while flying through the air to boot, especially, make not a lick of sense, but sometimes, it’s fun to give the middle finger to reality/logic and merely sit back and enjoy the show. And because of the way everything in the movie is constructed, this is definitely one of those times.
Action Grade: 100% (A+)
The way that things are executed is the reason this movie is so fun to watch. Even during the slower set-up periods of the movie, it’s constantly on the move, only pausing to catch its breath when it absolutely needs to.
Execution Grade: 95% (A+)
The story here is very simple. This is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. I could describe the story of the movie in one, maybe two paragraphs, and yet the movie has a lot of sitting around and talking to bring its running time up to even longer than “Planet Terror,” which, despite being the shorter movie, has much more story action in it. So, the question begs to be asked: Is the sitting around and talking interesting? Well, it depends on what you’re looking for. I’ll have more on that in a moment, but the two final car chases and Stuntman Mike’s brutal beating make the movie… worth it, I guess? I mean, I’m glad I saw it, but I can certainly see why it’s often considered a weak Tarantino movie, even among his fans, and even though (confession time) I haven’t seen another movie of his yet. (Will I? Absolutely. Have I? No.)
Back to the story, though, I can’t say that it’s uninteresting, and it does deliver what it promises, but it takes a long time to deliver it. Honestly, as far as “carsploitation” movies go, I like “Mad Max: Fury Road” more. As for this movie, I can’t actually say I have much of an opinion on its story. At the time of writing, that’s never happened to me, and so I’m giving this area my first…
Story Grade: N/A
They’re a lot more interesting than the ones in “Planet Terror,” but that’s a low bar to clear, and they’re still rather two-dimensional. I liked spending time with them, but that’s mostly what I have to say.
Characterization Grade: 85% (B)
If you’re looking for dialogue that’s truly compelling or great or whatever, you’re not gonna get it; with that being said, the dialogue isn’t terrible, and even has a lot of witty jokes in it.
Script Grade: 80% (B-)
Solid, especially when it comes to the final two car chases and the dialogue said during them.
Directing Grade: 88% (B+)
Solid, but what else would one expect from a cast including Kurt Russell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Rosario Dawson?
Acting Grade: 88% (B+)
When it comes up, it’s pretty much every bit as good as “Planet Terror.”
Action Grade: 98% (A+)
What can I say? It’s well-done, but I was expecting such.
Execution Grade: 92% (A-)
Before I get to my concluding thoughts, I suppose I should bring up what I meant when I said at the beginning that this was two-and-a-half reviews in one. It’s because this movie has fake trailers. They don’t count towards the overall double feature, but let me give you my brief thoughts on them by ranking them and giving a brief overview of my thoughts on each of them. (I’m electing to leave out the Canadian-theater only trailer “Hobo with a Shotgun,” as I’ll save my thoughts on that one for my inevitable review of its feature-length adaptation.)
4. “Werewolf Women of the S.S.” Very bland and unmemorable in comparison to the others, but could be worse, especially considering writer-director Rob Zombie’s actual films. Two-and-a-half stars out of five.
3. “Thanksgiving.” More slasher movie violence, slasher-movie-related cheese, and black-humored Thanksgiving-related puns than you can shake a stick at. Not personally big on slasher movies, but still, three-and-a-half stars out of five.
2. “Machete.” The one with the most defined story, and more action-packed than a “trailer” has most rights to be. I thought for a minute about which was better, this or “Thanksgiving,” but since I like action movies more, I chose this one. Three-and-three-quarters stars out of five.
1. “Don’t.” This one is my favorite simply because it’s the one that made me laugh the most. It still has a lot of gory violence, but if you have the stomach for that, I’d actually recommend you looking for this one on YouTube to see for yourself. It not only works as a trailer for a phony Hammer-era horror film, but also as a great parody of those stupid trailers that sell themselves really aggressively without telling you a thing about what’s in the product they’re selling. I’ll stop here, as I could gush about it for a while, so… four-and-a-half stars out of five. In the words of Joe Bob Briggs, “check it out.” (Bonus points for you if you got that reference. Oh, and it was directed and written by “Baby Driver” director Edgar Wright, just so you’re aware.)
In the end, this double bill is worth it for three out of the four fake trailers and “Planet Terror” alone, and even my personal lack of a defined opinion on “Death Proof” can’t bring it down. If you’re in the mood for a violent, nonsensical and crazy turn-off-your-brain movie, check this double bill out, but do be prepared to be stumped about what to think of the second feature.
Final Objective Grade for “Planet Terror”: 80% (B-)
Final Personal Grade for “Planet Terror”: 90% (A-)
Final Grade for “Death Proof”: N/A
Collective Grade: 81% (B-)
And that’s just about all I have to say. Look out for my review of “Lifeforce” later today.
Hey guys. Just wanted to let you know that I’m taking a short break from movie reviewing. I’ll be back to regular blogging in October, but for now, I’ll be unwinding with some low-grade B-movie cheese delivered to us via the cast of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” And I’ll be reviewing every episode ever produced for the show, new and post-KTMA old. (Bonus points for you if you know what that means.) Here’s the link to said blog. I’ll be posting new reviews of the episodes every Tuesday from now until the end of October.
Perhaps more than ever, I must warn you away from this post if you don’t want the movie spoiled, as I can’t talk about movies in-depth without spoiling them. Especially not movies like this. Got that? Well, let’s press on.
This movie is even darker than its predecessor, and perfects that tone to a T, on top of that. I’ll admit that I was a little put off by how built-up the second meeting with the Colonel was in the first hour, but the fact that that hour flew by at a very quick pace (for me, at least) should tell you something. Once that second meeting with the Colonel happened, though, the movie started getting really, really good. By the end, I was utterly and completely enthralled. The story is so well-crafted that it’s hard to even know how to say why. I’m gonna give it…
Story Grade: 98% (A+)
The apes are as interesting as ever, and the introduction of “Bad Ape” could’ve very well turned out horribly, and too distracting from the movie’s tone, but they knew exactly when to use him. And here’s the best part: While downplayed in comparison to the previous two movies, the human aspect of the story is actually great and not bland in comparison. The Colonel is one of the best villains I’ve ever seen on film, not just because of how evil he is, but because of how understandable his evil is, which almost makes the line between what’s right and wrong in this movie so gray that there’s no “black” to compliment it. What else can I offer except the tip of my hat?
Characterization Grade: 100% (A+)
About on par with the script of “Dawn,” so I’ll repeat the grade I gave there.
Script Grade: 95% (A)
The best direction I’ve ever seen of any movie in the trilogy so far. I mean, the motion capture technology was pushed so far, and the action scene at the end is pure eye candy. And the expressions of both the apes is incomparable, and the body language expressed by the speaking and mute humans is incredibly expressive.
Directing Grade: 100% (A+)
For Caesar’s first fluently speaking role, Andy Serkis once again cemented his status as the Master of Motion Capture. Woody Harrelson is wonderful, and the actress playing Nova is brilliant.
Acting Grade: 100% (A+)
Like I said, pure eye candy, and caring about what happens is more important to its effect in this movie than ever.
Action Grade: 100% (A+)
This movie does indeed have “it,” and I love it. What more can be said?
Execution Grade: 100% (A+)
What more can I say? I’d have to see it again to find anything else to say.
Final Grade: 92% (A-)
Personal Final Grade: 100% (A+)
So, would I like to see more in this series? If they’re gonna be as good as “Dawn” or even “Rise,” I’d say yes. That’s all for now. See you soon!
Okay, so after a week-and-a-half of delays, I’m back, for the love all things good and great. (And no, I’m not telling you what caused the holdup. That’s between me and my housemates.) I’ve wasted enough time, so let’s get to it.
The story here is very well-realized and executed, with a huge scope, despite being “confined” to a single area of the country, and real weight to what’s going on. This is also one of the darkest movies to achieve “blockbuster film” status since “The Dark Knight.” (Didn’t forget about “Rises,” but whatever you think of that film, it’s not what you’d call “as dark as can be,” like its predecessor.) The amount of philosophical discussions to possibly be gained from this movie is about as high as it can go, as well. The story also has the benefit of small things that don’t add up in the moment making sense in the grand picture, and what few things that truly don’t add up being small things that you’d only notice on repeat viewings. (Plus, the fact that three years later, I’m still shocked that Koba turned on Caesar should tell you something.)
Story Grade: 100% (A+)
This is an area that doesn’t have as much success as the other parts. The human characters aren’t uninteresting, but there’s not as much to their characterizations as there ideally should be. (I mean, Carver not trusting apes even in the face of the full picture of what actually happened in the lab might be possible in any other context than the one presented in the story, but that’s just my perspective.) Where the movie shines the best, though, is developing the apes as characters, with Caesar’s hesitance to pass judgement being a major problem, and Koba having an understandable reason for doing what he does. (Not justifiable, just understandable.) Maurice is also shown to be as docile as an ape in these movies can be, finally establishing a clear character for him, specifically. In the end, not quite as a success as the story, but still enough to earn a cool…
Characterization Grade: 92% (A-)
The dialogue between the apes is well-written (both sign and spoken), and the sense of dread to the whole movie is complimented by the dialogue between the human characters, as well. What else is there to say?
Script Grade: 95% (A)
Matt Reeves sure knows how to direct a great action movie, and his penchant for cinematic art (which I hear played a big part in the making of “War”) shines through. This area is part of why the movie is such a tangible improvement over “Rise,” which had one weak area, that being direction.
Direction Grade: 100% (A+)
The motion capture actors are great, as per expected, and how can I dislike the humans when they’re Gary Oldman (even if he’s kind of a… insert swear word here) and Keri Russell? (I’m not familiar with Jason Clarke, but he’s good.)
Acting Grade: 95% (A)
The assault on the city is quite a sight to behold, and the final fight between Caesar and Koba is legitimately exciting, with the fact that you care about what’s happening, again, being a huge bonus.
Action Grade: 100% (A+)
This might be one of the best-executed movies I’ve ever seen. The motion capture is great, the overall imagery is great, and everything seems to be running like a well-oiled machine. (In fact, I’d be very surprised to find out that there were any major problems with production at all.)
Execution Grade: 100% (A+)
This movie has all of this, but it also has the “it” I mentioned in my “King Kong” review, the “it” that makes me know that this movie is one of my favorites. I can’t tell you the exact spot, but it’s easily among all of them. Anyway, what’s my grade?
Final Grade: 90% (A-)
Personal Final Grade (For What That Means, Go Back to My “Rise” Review): 96% (A)
Well, that’s two out of three films in the reboot series reviewed. Look for my review of “War for the Planet of the Apes” tomorrow. See you then!