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Day of the Dead (2008)
Not A Good Day
This has to be one of those remakes that makes you cringe every time you think of the original while you watch it.
A mysterious virus plagues a small Colorado town, and the Army is called in to retain order and quarantine the area. What they don't know is that the virus will soon turn those who are infected into bloodthirsty zombies who, frankly, seem to have more energy than a talented gymnast.
While these zombies run, jump real high and scale ceilings to capture their victims, a small group of people band together and try to fight them off while fleeing at the same time.
A talented cast (Mena Suvari, Ving Rhames, Stark Sands, Michael Welch and Ian McNeice) is wasted, despite a few good lines. Regardless, rent the George A. Romero original.
Filmed in Bolgaria, but oddly looks like Colorado.
Kids Will Be Kids
Based on the popular TV series, the four foul-mouthed elementary school boys Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny sneak into an R-rated movie featuring their favorite duo, Terrence and Phillip. Soon after, almost all the kids in the South Park, Colorado community see the movie.
But the parents start launching a campaign against the film, its stars, and the country it came from...our northern neighbor, Canada. This is only after the kids who saw the movie start imitating the raunchy, vulgar language depicted in the film.
Although it gets awfully raunchy and foul-mouthed at times, it's still a smart, funny little satire. Some scenes will even make you laugh so hard that you'll start to cry. There are also some scenes that are a little creepy because they are so truthful...an example of the great satire in this film.
Campy Comic Book Fun!
What do these have in common: Dead people coming back to life, alien weeds, a monster living on a college campus, and cockroaches? The answer? Those are things featured in five stories in CREEPSHOW, a fantastic homage to the horror comics of the 1950s.
George A. Romero (1978's DAWN OF THE DEAD) and Stephen King (author of CUJO) teamed up with makeup artist Tom Savini (FRIDAY THE 13TH) to make this horror film that features an almost all-star cast. The cast features Ted Danson, Hal Holbrook, Ed Harris, E.G. Marshall, Viveca Lindfors, Leslie Nielsen, Adrienne Barbeau, and even Stephen King himself.
An interesting bit of trivia: The marble ashtray (which plays a major role in CREEPSHOW's first story) is featured in all five of the film's stories if you look closely. (thanks to the IMDb)
Forrest Gump (1994)
As Sweet As, Well, A Box of Chocolates
Tom Hanks portrays Forrest Gump, a simple-minded but charming man who hails from the town of Greenbow, Alabama. Through the eyes of Forrest Gump, we look at various moments throughout history, including a realistic Vietnam War re-creation and a rather amusing one that refers to the Watergate scandal.
Sally Field plays his loving mother, and Robin Wright plays Jenny...the girl he met as a boy and thinks about constantly no matter the situation. Gary Sinise is Lt. Dan Taylor, who Forrest meets in Vietnam and forms a relationship as the film progresses.
A great cast is led by a terrific director, Robert Zemeckis. A tad longer than it should be, but still a great film! It proves that you don't have to be smart to find success in life...or even LIVE it.
Death Sentence (2007)
A Great Revenge Thriller!
Kevin Bacon, Garrett Hedlund, Kelly Preston, and other talented actors star in this very intense movie based on Brian Garfield's novel.
Bacon plays Nick Hume, a mild-mannered businessman who has a loving family. One night his son is killed during a hold-up, and the gang members responsible get away. With the grief of losing a son and the frustration he feels at the local justice department, Hume decides to "get even" with the gang members who killed his son by killing them. The result is violent and intense, with eye-popping stunts and chase scenes.
Almost like a "Death Wish" for the 21st Century!
Mr. Brooks (2007)
...is Really a Serial Killer (!)
Kevin Costner plays well-respected and successful businessman Earl Brooks, who has a loving wife and pretty daughter. But he also is a serial killer that detective Tracy Atwood (Demi Moore) is trying to capture.
The film gives us a chance to experience the thoughts of a crafty, "professional" serial killer -- thanks to the great performance by Costner and the addition of his character's conscience (played by William Hurt). Dane Cook does a good job as a man who wants to experience "the rush" of killing somebody. There's also a wow of an ending.
Takes place in Oregon but filmed in Louisiana.
28 Weeks Later (2007)
...and London is Being Re-Populated with People (well, kind of)
Sequel to "28 Days Later..." has Donald Harris (Robert Carlyle) being reunited with his two children while the U.S. military is assisting with re-populating London after clearing out the virus that caused everyone to become flesh-eating zombies in the first film. Unfortunately, the virus comes back to wreak more havoc in the city.
Entertaining but a lot more gory than its predecessor, with some truly unpleasant but still effective scenes. But it isn't as good as it should be (or that we hope it will be).
Robert Carlyle turned down a role in "28 Days Later...", and some of this film's second unit direction was done by Danny Boyle, who directed the original.
28 Days Later... (2002)
...and London is Deserted (well, almost)
Scary, atmospheric, almost realistic zombie film about a man (Cillian Murphy) who awakens after a coma to find London completely deserted...with the exception of ferocious, bloodthirsty zombies. Soon he meets other survivors who are trying to do the same as him...stay alive.
A rather different approach to the "zombie movie" genre. Proof that a truly effective horror thriller doesn't need fancy computer-generated special effects...although there is a lot of gore and heavy-handed violence.
Leonardo DiCaprio was offered the role of Jim (Cillian Murphy's character), and Ewan McGreggor was considered for the same role.
Play Misty for Me (1971)
"Fatal Attraction" for the '70's
Clint Eastwood made his directorial debut with this thriller, filmed in 1971.
Eastwood plays a disc jockey who has a brief fling with a female fan (Jessica Walter). When he tries to end the relationship, she doesn't take it very well. That is when he discovers that this lady is in fact a real psycho who is obsessed with him and will do anything to be with him.
Great performances (especially Walter's as the mentally-disturbed fan), a swift pace, thrilling situations, and beautiful photography (filmed in Carmel, California...Eastwood's hometown) makes this movie worthwhile.
The "Horoscope" Killer
Terrific drama about the infamous Zodiac killer, who murdered several people in the San Francisco Bay area in the late 1960s, early 1970s. The film, however, is not only about the brutal murders but more of how this complex case baffled and took up the lives of reporters and detectives alike.
Jake Gyllenhaal portrays Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist who works for the San Francisco Chronicle who becomes obsessed with solving the case, along with fellow Chronicle reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey, Jr.). Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards portray the homicide detectives assigned to the case. Although everyone's performances were great, the performances from the three leads (Gyllenhaal, Ruffalo, and Downey, Jr.) are the best.
Overall, very long but still fast-paced and compelling.
The film "Dirty Harry" was actually inspired by these Zodiac killings. The killer's nickname was derived from him leaving the police and newspapers with ciphers they had to solve in order to understand their hidden messages. In no way does the nickname refer to the 12 Signs of the Zodiac such as Aries, Scorpio, Leo, etc.
"Rear Window" for the 21st Century
Obvious but suspenseful thriller about a teenager (Shia LeBeouf) who is under house arrest after committing a crime and must wear a special ankle bracelet. His boredom eventually leads him to watch his neighbors and make observations about them. Other than a cute girl (Sarah Roemer) who just moved in next door, the teen notices a man (David Morse) who acts rather suspiciously, and might be a serial killer.
But could he be a serial killer, or is the teen's imagination running away with him? Not a typical teenage thriller one might expect, with great performances, realistically suspenseful situations, and a fast pace. Lots of fun, too.
Carl Ellsworth (who penned the script for 2005's "Red Eye") contributed on the screenplay for this film.
Dead Silence (2007)
Creepy ghost story about a young man who returns to his home town after his wife his brutally murdered shortly after they receive a ventriloquist dummy (which belongs to a murdered ventriloquist) by an unknown individual. Donnie Wahlberg plays the homicide cop who follows this young man, wanting answers to the murder.
A very stylish production design (the theater is very cool) makes watching this film worth it, as the story doesn't offer as many scares as expected. The final twist is okay, but a little on the silly side.
Film was directed by James Wan (of SAW fame) and written by Leigh Whannell (also of SAW fame). Broadway actress Judith Roberts is also very good as Mary Shaw, the talented but disturbed ventriloquist. Amber Valletta (the young man's stepmother) has never looked so gorgeous.
Saw III (2006)
I Want To Play A Game...
...and it's called, "Watch this movie!"
Actually, "Saw 3" isn't so bad. Stranger than the last two "Saw" films, this installment deals with a man whose son was killed by a drunk driver. This man has to go through a variety of tests dealing with forgiveness in order to survive -- with a major test at the end!
Knowledge of the last two "Saw" films is a must in order to understand what goes on in this one. Several unanswered questions are finally answered in this one. Revealing more would give everything away.
Many cast members from the first two installments appear in this one, including co-creator/screenwriter Leigh Whannell as Adam, Donnie Wahlberg as Det. Eric Matthews, Shawnee Smith as Amanda, and Tobin Bell as sadistic serial killer Jigsaw.
A quick piece of trivia -- the producers of this film asked the producers of "Scary Movie 4" if they could use their bathroom set because of how similar it looked to the bathroom set in the first two "Saw" films.
...it's easy to get through
Harrison Ford, Paul Bettany, Alan Arkin, Robert Forster, and other talented actors and actresses star in this fun, action-packed (if not predictable) thriller about a security expert who is forced into robbing his own bank.
Ford plays the security expert, and Bettany plays the main bad guy who kidnaps Ford's family and forces him to rob the bank. That's really the story in this thriller, but it's so much fun that you forget about its shortcomings and total predictability. A few of Bettany's henchmen seem to be a little on the "polite" side, which is also kind of strange. Arkin plays Ford's boss, and Forster is his co-worker/friend.
Story is set in Seattle, but filmed almost entirely in Canada. Virginia Madsen and Robert Patrick co-star.
Sporting a Laugh
Robert Wuhl created and starred in this HBO TV show about a sports agent who was cutthroat but, at the same time, had the important values everyone seems to have.
Robert Wuhl portrayed Arliss Michaels, who represents several athletes (most of which are real and even made cameo appearances on the show). Sandra Oh played Rita, Arliss's sarcastic secretary who was never afraid to speak her mind and even helped Arliss as well as her co-workers at times. Then there was Jim Turner, who played Kirby, another sports agent who had those important values which made up for his unruly ways of doing business and other activities outside the office (you have to see the show). Finally, there was Michael Boatman, who played Stanley, the agency's financial adviser who was ultimately an arrogant jerk who was somewhat likable and even funny.
The show itself was funny, but sometimes even touching and truthful. It pointed out that even the biggest people in a business like this has the kind of heart a lot of people look for in everyone. That is what made these characters (Arliss, Rita, Kirby, and yes, even Stanley) likable -- they all had hearts.
Robert Wuhl also served as executive producer and even directed some episodes.
I give "Arliss" 3 1/2 stars out of 4.
The Last Man on Earth (1964)
An Apocalypse with Vampires!
After a mysterious plague wipes out all the people on Earth, a surviving scientist (played by the late Vincent Price) does what he can to survive in apocalyptic America. His foes, which are humans transformed into bloodthirsty vampires by the mysterious plague, try to get to him every night.
A creepy music score and imaginative direction are this film's major assets -- those and Price. The opening to the film is good and sets the mood for the remainder of the movie. It also gives you a sense about the main concept of the movie, which is a plague wiping out every human in the world. It's only the end that disappoints.
Set in the U.S.A. but filmed in Italy.
A Horror Movie for Horror Movies
What a clever idea -- make a horror movie within a horror movie, complete with references to horror films of the past and even rules, said by one of the characters, of how to survive a typical slasher flick.
The movie stars Neve Campbell, a high school student in a small California town whose mother was murdered a year ago. She, and others, begin to realize that there is a serial killer obsessed with scary movies and that she or some of her friends may be the next victims.
Also starring in this horror movie/spoof are David Arquette, who plays the deputy, Courtney Cox (the future Mrs. David Arquette) as the aggressive tabloid journalist covering the killings, Skeet Ulrich as Campbell's boyfriend, and Rose McGowan as Campbell's best friend. With this talented cast, terrific direction by horror movie whiz Wes Craven, and a great script by Kevin Williamson, it's hard to go wrong with "Scream."
Henry Winkler (of TV's "Happy Days" fame) has a cameo as Principal Himbry, and Wes Craven appears briefly as Fred the high school's janitor (he's wearing the same sweater as Freddy Kruegger in the "Nightmare on Elm Street" films. Hmmmm....
Scream 2 (1997)
Another Horror Film for Horror Films
This hipper, more suspenseful sequel to "Scream" has Neve Campbell and Jamie Kennedy in an Ohio college (movie was actually shot in Georgia) when more killings begin after the release of "Stab," a horror movie based on the brutal serial killings depicted in the first movie.
As he did in the original, Randy (Jamie Kennedy) lays down the rules to Dewey (a police uniform-less David Arquette), only these rules apply to sequels. Courtney Cox returns as Gale, the reporter who seems to be even more aggressive this time around, thanks to a popular non-fiction book she wrote that the "Stab" movie is based on.
Jerry O'Connell, Timothy Olyphant, Lewis Arquette, Elise Neal, and Laurie Metcalf co-star.
Coach Carter (2005)
The "Student Athlete"
Entertaining movie based on the real-life Ken Carter, a high school basketball coach who not only teaches a California high school basketball team how to win, but also about the concept of the student athlete.
Samuel L. Jackson portrays Mr. Carter, who pushes his new basketball team, called the "Richmond Oilers" (his alma mater), even further academically after they start winning games. Many others (including his co-workers, players on his team, etc.) find his methods extreme and ultimately don't support them.
At first, it looks as though the movie will be nothing but clichés, and following a by-the-numbers routine of other films with a similar storyline. It doesn't disappoint, thanks to the many great performances (especially by Jackson) and fast-pacing.
Co-scripted by Mark Schwahn (who created TV's "One Tree Hill") and directed by Thomas Carter ("Metro"). Bob Costas appears briefly as himself.
Hide and Seek (2005)
Ready or not, here IT comes...
After his wife's suicide, a psychiatrist (Robert De Niro) brings his traumatized daughter (Dakota Fanning, in a terrific and eerie performance) to a house in the New York country. Upon their arrival at the new house, strange events begin occurring -- including Fanning's "games" with her new imaginary friend, Charlie.
This psychological thriller is terrific in terms of the acting and imaginative direction by John Polson (2002's "Swimfan"). The ending is definitely a surprise, and the events leading up to it are definitely creepy. Fanning, once again, delivers the goods as the traumatized girl who lost her mother and even does a great job adding a creepy atmosphere to it, a creepy atmosphere every psychological thriller should have.
Not recommended for the faint of heart.
V for Vendetta (2005)
"E" for Excellent!
Hugo Weaving stars as V, a masked man who knows how to please the ladies while, at the same time, fight with knives. Natalie Portman plays Evey, a working-class girl who befriends the mysterious man.
During the movie, you come to realize that V is not only after Natalie Portman's character and fling knives at anyone who poses a threat to him, but is on a special mission involving the corrupt government of London, lead by the chancellor (played by the talented John Hurt). Stephen Lang plays the chief inspector on the case, who is understandably confused by all the mayhem which leads to the spectacular climax.
You don't know if V is the bad guy or the hero, considering how the government in the near-future does not seem to be the kindest and most reliable government, and how V begins killing a handful of people during the course of the film.
It's obvious this film is based on a comic book, since it has that sort of atmosphere and fighting choreography (think of the "Blade" films).
The Grudge (2004)
Not Holding a 'Grudge'
A remake of a Japanese film of the same name by the same director of the previous year, THE GRUDGE focuses on an American nurse (Sarah Michelle Gellar) who visits a mysterious house with a curse brought on by its rather vicious past. In a way, this was like "The Ring", which happens to be another Japanese movie. However, this was a little weird in terms of presentation.
Still effective, not to mention imaginative, but seemed to get a little silly at times. When the effective scenes did come, though, they were definitely chilling. The ending was a little disappointing, too. Then again, it's a horror movie and not a fairy tale.
In other words, despite being weird, this film is worth a look. The stylish direction adds to the eeriness felt throughout.
A "whodunit" of the 21st Century
FBI trainees in the criminal profiling division get stuck on an island with a sadistic serial killer while going through a simulation organized by their eccentric teacher (Val Kilmer). The serial killer kills victims by using booby traps.
The movie reminded me of a cross between SAW and FINAL DESTINATION, with a 21st century twist on Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians". This combination of movies and books made this movie a lot of fun. Other contributing factors included the performances (especially by Kathryn Morris as a vulnerable trainee), a fast pace, imaginative directing by Renny Harlin (CLIFFHANGER, THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT), and terrific writing.
Suppose to take place on an island off the coast of North Carolina, but was actually filmed in the Netherlands.
Final Destination 3 (2006)
'Coasting' to Death
Believe me when I say that once you see this movie, you'll think twice about going on a roller coaster. That is, this time a girl has a premonition of a roller coaster crashing and her and her friends dying on it. When she is successful in getting herself and a few others off the ride, they watch in horror as it crashes.
That's when Death comes for them, one by one, like the previous films in the series. This was an amusing film, with great special effects and imaginative writing and directing (by the same team who brought us the first "Final Destination"). The ending is a real thrill, perhaps one of the biggest thrills in the series!
Tony Todd, who played Bludworth in the first two "Final Destination" movies, is the voice the riders of the roller coaster hear while boarding.
House of Wax (2005)
Remodeling the 'House of Wax'
52 years after Vincent Price stared as a scarred, vengeful wax sculptor, a group of filmmakers shot a remake. This, however, is only an in-name remake -- unless you count the mad sculptor's name being "Vincent". In other words, other than the main concept, this film differs in terms of characters and supporting storyline.
In this re-envisioning of the horror classic, there's a big group of college students who get stranded and eventually separated while on their way to see a college football game. This movie, in itself, wasn't bad. It was gory, but also had a few really good jolts. Great visual effects at the end, too. Unfortunately, a revelation at the end just didn't seem to add much to the film.