Movie Tchotchkes for my Home Theater

Vincent Price

The walls in our movie room (living room) are decorated with all kinds of movie posters. Most are standard small 11×17 with a few exceptions for prized items like my original The Last Man on Earth full-size poster (Thanks, Maya!)

Pennywise

Last year for my 50th birthday, my wife got everyone to give me those Funko Pop dolls so I have rows of those all over the movie room.

Alien

 

With apologies to Ridley Scott’s Prometheus 2, I am ridiculously looking forward to Neil Blomkamp’s Alien 5.

Sad Jason

 

Jason misses his mother

Back from vacation soon. Enjoy!

Stephen King’s A Good Marriage to a Killer Mermaid

Stephen King’s A Good Marriage is currently available on instant Netflix

A Good Marriage

 

Stephen King’s A Good Marriage (2014) – Rated R

With a serial killer on the loose and a stranger stalking her family, a woman unearths a sinister secret that threatens her marriage — and her life.”

Stephen King adapted this from one of his stories in Full Dark, No Stars. It is a very straightforward tale. What would happen if you discovered X? The storytelling in both the novella and the screenplay are very refreshing. The full focus is kept on the husband and wife. Direction is similarly straightforward and not at all flashy.

Three time Oscar nominee Joan Allen is wonderful as Darcy Anderson, our woman who discovers a sinister secret. She singlehandedly makes the movie what it should be. Anthony LaPaglia is quite good as the concerned husband. Stephen Lang is mostly window dressing as a mysterious stranger.

A Good Marriage is worth watching if you like a dark what if? character study. There is not much action and not much to the movie beyond the relationship between husband and wife but that is enough.

Killer Mermaid

 

Killer Mermaid (2014) – Not Rated

Two young women go on an exotic Mediterranean vacation and uncover the watery lair of a killer mermaid hidden beneath an abandoned military fortress.”

Obviously my first thought on seeing that this was on Netflix was “oh no Asylum is back at it again”. My plan was to skip it. I looked it up on imdb and because it wasn’t Asylum, I thought I would give it a shot.

First I’d like to rant a bit about the dumbing down of the title. This was originally titled “Mamula”, the location of the film. Apparently that was too esoteric so in the UK, it was titled “Nymph”. Not on the nose enough, U.S. audiences received it as “Killer Mermaid”. It just reminded me when Amicus’ horror anthology “Asylum” came over here, someone apparently thought that we wouldn’t know what an asylum was and retitled it “House of Crazies”.

Digression: The term Asylum apparently caught on in the U.S. as there was The Asylum in 2000 and 2013. Asylum (by itself) has been the title of movies in 1992, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2011, and 2014. There have also been Stonehearst Asylum, The Amityville Asylum, Dark Asylum, Asylum Blackout, Asylum Days, Hell Asylum, and Doom Asylum.

Pardon my digressions but there isn’t much to say about Killer Mermaid. There is some gore but not enough and not creative enough for gorehounds. There are pretty young ladies but strangely the camera only focuses on one of them. They have a wonderful location to shoot at but not much is made of it. Most of the cast is Serbian but they have Franco Nero for some international appeal.

Compared to pretty much any Asylum picture, Killer Mermaid is good but really only by comparison. By any other metric Killer Mermaid is a slightly entertaining, forgettable waste of time.

Carrie Why?

I just saw the Carrie remake at the theater.

Carrie

 

Carrie (2013) – Rated R

A reimagining of the classic horror tale about Carrie White, a shy girl outcast by her peers and sheltered by her deeply religious mother, who unleashes telekinetic terror on her small town after being pushed too far at her senior prom.

The other kids, they think I’m weird. But I don’t wanna be, I wanna be normal. I have to try and be a whole person before its to late.

One Line Review: Unnecessary remake poorly handled, CGI blood laughable.

Obviously the big question besides ‘is it any good?’ would be ‘why remake Carrie yet again?’. After all, the 1976 film from Brian de Palma is an absolute classic, carefully paced, well-acted, and inventively filmed with a hard-to-beat finale and a coda that has since been copied in dozens of other horror movies.

People were respectful enough to leave Carrie alone until 1999. This is the year The Rage: Carrie 2 was released, with a different telekinetic teen suffering a very similar series of circumstances. Amy Irving reprised her role as Sue Snell. In 2002, Carrie was rebooted as a TV movie starring Angela Bettis. Despite the story being framed as a Greek tragedy, this was planned as a television series. Thankfully that did not get off the ground.

Carrie is a wonderful story about high school bullying and not fitting in. Carrie 2013 director Kimberly Peirce wrote and directed Boys Don’t Cry, a great story about bullying and gender identity. One would think that that would make her uniquely qualified to helm a bully-centric version of Carrie. Unfortunately this aspect is barely touched upon.

Very little of Lawrence D. Cohen’s script has been rewritten. Many scenes are verbatim from the 1976 original. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa makes a few modernizing tweaks. The filming and YouTubing of the shower incident are excellent ideas, straight from the headlines. Unfortunately they aren’t handled very well and don’t ultimately have the impact one would hope.

More of Carrie’s burgeoning abilities are covered. Unfortunately they are handled as if she is training them. In the original, the telekinesis comes across more as a force of nature, supporting the Greek tragedy aspects. Here she trains her powers and everything is much more deliberate. Instead of Carrie losing control, you sit there wondering why she didn’t do ‘x’.

Only a spoiler if you haven’t seen any version of Carrie nor read the book: Normally I only talk about endings in the vaguest of terms but, as this is a reboot of a remake, I feel safe mentioning Prom. Prom is the big showpiece of any Carrie. Brian de Palma used multiple camera angles and an inventive use (at the time) of split-screen. Kimberly Peirce’s version is even worse than the made-for-TV version. The CGI blood looks like very weak kool-aid that defies the laws of physics. Apparently in 37 years, we have regressed in the art of special effects. Honestly, I should put LOL as the bucket drop actually made me laugh out loud in the theater.

There are a few nice things to say about the remake but only a few. iPhones and YouTube are certainly necessary updates, even though they are mishandled. The bass effects are well done (too bad the visual effects money was spent on sound design). The lead is age-appropriate – it was a little hard to believe that 27-year-old Sissy Spacek was having her first period. Most of the rest of the cast are actors in their mid-20s playing high school students, just like in the original.

Julianne Moore does a fine job with Piper Laurie’s role but is not better than Laurie. Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick Ass, Let Me In), who I normally love is okay here but Spacek’s performance was much more nuanced. The other actors were okayish but could not exceed the material.

Carrie isn’t downright awful except for the Prom sequence. and the road sequence following. and a few of the earlier scenes. Anyway it’s not awful, just not particularly good.

Children of the Popcorn

Children of the Corn 3-8 are currently available on instant Netflix. I have no idea why I’m putting myself through this. I never thought the original was very good and I never even saw part 2.

Children of the Corn 3: Urban Harvest (1995) – Rated R

After Eli (Daniel Cerny) kills his father, he and his brother, Joshua (Ron Melendez), leave rural Nebraska behind when they’re taken in by a Chicago couple. Joshua easily adapts to his new home, but Eli brings his special brand of evil to the city.

Okay Urban Harvest is a good title and moving it to Chicago was an interesting choice. The special effects are beyond terrible as is pretty much everything else about this.

Hall of Shame: This is Charlize Theron’s debut (as young woman – blink and you’ll miss her AND her voice is dubbed over). Look for Buffy’s Xander (Nicholas Brendon) as Basketball player one.

Children of the Corn 4

Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996) – Rated R

When the children of a small Midwestern town morph overnight into possessed murderers, it’s up to a young medical student to save her affected sister and her cornfield-surrounded neighbors from the evil child zombies.”

This is certainly a step up from Urban Harvest. The story begins with someone evil climbing out of a well. This only strikes me as odd because that is not where Urban Harvest ended. The Gathering is not bad for a low budget horror, especially after watching Urban Harvest – it’s just not good either.

Hall of Shame: If Urban Harvest is good enough for Charlize Theron, then The Gathering is apparently good enough for Oscar nominees Naomi Watts and Karen Black. Watts is actually the star here.

Children of the Corn 5

Children of the Corn 5: Fields of Terror (1998) – Rated R

Six college students out for a ride get into trouble when their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, and they miss the bus that could have led them to safety. Bunking down in an abandoned house, the students soon realize they’re not alone.

“Geez, you’d think there’d at least be a 7-11 at the end of the earth.”

The third character killed is carrying a bunch of stolen ears of corn. Each time she gets sliced by the scythe, she drops a single ear of bloody corn. Apparently the corn was very important to her. He-who-walks-behind-the-rows finally makes a return appearance here (well kinda sorta) after being absent the last two films. It also feels like there are actual townsfolk this time.

This is just your standard group of young people get stranded and are picked off one by one scenario. The paint by numbers script goes no further than that. The two scenes following the climax are both absurd.

Hall of Shame: No Oscar nominees here but wow, two of Frank Zappa’s kids (Ahmet and Diva), Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, David Carradine, Eva Mendes’ movie debut (no she is not nude), Kane “Jason” Hodder are just some of the recognizable names and faces in this movie.

Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return (1999) – Rated R

Hannah Martin (Natalie Ramsey) drives to Nebraska to find her birth mother, and on the way she picks up a dark stranger. This act of kindness kicks off a mysterious chain of events, all of which were prophesized 19 years ago by Isaac (John Franklin), the evil leader of the children of the corn. When Hannah reaches her hometown, Isaac wakes from his 19-year sleep, ready to fulfill his final prophecy.

John Franklin, who debuted as Isaac in the 1984 original, returns to the role 15 years later (for some reason the story is set 19 years later). He still looks and acts creepy. This entry doesn’t have much else going for it.

Hall of Shame: Nancy Allen and Stacy Keach are caught slumming here.

Children of the Corn 7

Children of the Corn 7: Revelation (2001) – Rated R

Jamie Lowell (Claudette Mink) travels to small-town Nebraska to visit her grandmother — only to discover that Grandma has mysteriously vanished from her run-down apartment building … which just happens to be located in the midst of a cornfield. Jamie keeps running into strange-looking children around town and in the apartment building. Soon, her grandmother’s neighbors begin to disappear, too.

Hall of Shame: Veteran character actor Michael Ironside livens up the proceedings as Priest even if they didn’t bother to give him any dialogue. No shame though as this is what he does best.

Children of the Corn: Genesis (2011) – Rated R

When their car breaks down in the middle of the desert, an expectant couple reluctantly takes shelter inside a ramshackle compound, where an unhinged “preacher” and his mail-order bride are involved in a curious side project.

How about a Children of the Corn sequel sans Children? Also not much Corn either. Veteran weirdo Billy Drago is the noted unhinged preacher but, fascinating though he is, he cannot save this.

Wrap Up: None of these got my vote but the interesting thing was that unlike slasher sequels, these movies were all very different. Not good mind you, but different.

R.I.P. Ed Lauter 1938-2013

Ed Lauter passed away October 16th at the age of 74. While essentially relegated to character bits, Lauter was quite prolific, appearing in 204 roles. Instant Netflix has ten of them currently available.

The Artist

The Artist (2011) – Rated PG-13

“Winner of five Oscars, this artful black-and-white silent film follows the romance between a silent-era superstar on a downward spiral and a rising young starlet who embraces the future of cinema at the dawn of the “talkies.””

Ed plays Peppy’s butler

Starship Troopers 2

Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation (2004) – Rated R

“The Starship Troopers are back to battle the Bugs. This time, the Troopers are not only besieged by giant insects, but must battle a human threat as well. When they end up stranded, their only hope is to team up with those who betrayed them.”

Ed plays General Jack Shepherd

Golden Years

Stephen King’s Golden Years (1991) – Not rated

In a top-secret U.S. military laboratory, a freak explosion exposes unsuspecting janitor Harlan Williams (Keith Szarabajka) to fallout from toxic chemicals. Williams, an older man, soon finds the accident has reversed his aging process. But the government’s plan to use him as a human guinea pig forces Williams to go on the run, setting off a nationwide manhunt. Horror writer Stephen King penned this gripping, made-for-television miniseries.

Ed plays General Louis Crewes

Netflix also has: Camille (2008), Strike Force (2003), School Ties (1992), Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985), In the Custody of Strangers (1982), King Kong (1976), and The French Connection II (1975).

R.I.P. Ed Lauter – you will be missed.

 

 

Hatfields Ring Bag of McCoys Fire Bones

When I was a kid, I loved miniseries. Of course when I was a kid there was no HBO, no VCRs, and you could play any TV series out of order as, other than soap operas, there was no sequential storytelling. How fares the TV miniseries now? Apart from the BBC and Ken Burns (both of whom do miniseries exceedingly well), we have:

Ring of Fire

Ring of Fire (2012) – Not Rated

Stemming from a small town, a volcanic eruption triggered by an oil rig ignites a domino effect of eruptions that extends across the world, dooming all of humanity if the devastating string of explosions can’t be stopped.

Ring of Fire isn’t awful. That’s about all I can say for it. They wisely hide their budgetary limitations but shying away from CGI as much as possible. Characters often talk of events that would be shown in a big budget blockbuster. Acting is better than an Asylum movie but not by much.

If they jettisoned a few unnecessary subplots, Ring of Fire would have easily fit in a single movie slot. Also, a note to filmmakers, you don’t have to make your catastrophe global if ALL of the action is local, it comes off very silly. Shaky cam is DEAD, please let it stay that way.

Hatfields & McCoys

Hatfields & McCoys (2012) – TV-14

Close friends Devil Anse Hatfield and Randall McCoy return to their neighboring homes after the Civil War — Hatfield in West Virginia, McCoy across the river in Kentucky — to building tensions and resentments that soon explode into warfare.”

Hatfields & McCoys is a very good miniseries covering the highlights of the infamous feud. The Hatfields come off as the clear aggressors in the early stages but later the McCoys are unable to put the feud behind them, mostly because they don’t feel as though they’ve gotten even.

The general storyline is fairly factual though the miniseries does up the actual body count during several of the more celebrated incidents. Hatfields & McCoys does succeed at evoking rural life in the late nineteenth century, interfamily relations, and ultimately the pointlessness of the feud.

Bag of Bones

Bag of Bones (2011) – TV-14

Reeling from the sudden death of his wife, author Mike Noonan moves into his backwoods writing retreat, only to be swept up in a supernatural conspiracy that involves a custody battle over a young girl and a vengeful ghost that haunts his house.”

Although the miniseries is often the ideal format for Stephen King adaptations (It, The Stand), Bag of Bones does not work very well. It is not a bad miniseries and Pierce Brosnan is always welcome but there is not much here to recommend. Bag of Bones merely hits the highlights of the novel and we never get invested in the characters. It either needed to be three parts or have portions of the story trimmed and altered to make it more cohesive and coherent.

Storage 24 & Bag of Bones

Storage 24 and Bag of Bones are currently available on instant Netflix.

Storage 24Storage 24 (2012) – Rated R

“In this creepy thriller, an emergency power shutdown in London leaves four friends trapped by random circumstances in a cavernous storage facility. Before long, the group realizes that something lethal is inside the darkened warehouse with them.”

I love monster movies and I rarely get any these days. Over the last couple decades, horror movies have moved to make the villains either human or ghostly. The few monsters we get are almost invariably vampires or zombies (not that I mind those but they are overdone).

I’m not having much luck lately. Storage 24 is another not good film. It is a British horror movie and, as such, has a very small budget. The monster isn’t the worst that I’ve seen but they are wise to keep it under wraps for a bit.

Being trapped in a storage facility gives them a chance to use ducts a la Alien albeit at a far cheaper rate. Storage 24 follows fairly standard plot tropes but there are some nice humorous touches, mainly involving a particular toy. The ending, while telegraphed earlier in the film, is also a nice touch.

I think Storage 24 suffers most from coming right after the enormously fun British alien invasion film, Attack the Block. Still there is some fun to be had here if you don’t mind the cheap special effects and silly plot devices.

Bag of Bones

Stephen King’s Bag of Bones (2011) – TV-14

“Reeling from the sudden death of his wife, author Mike Noonan moves into his backwoods writing retreat, only to be swept up in a supernatural conspiracy that involves a custody battle over a young girl and a vengeful ghost that haunts his house.”

I looked forward to catching this as soon as it showed up on Netflix. My wife cannot handle intensely scary material but we have watched most of the Stephen King adaptations together. They satisfy my craving for the supernatural without unduly disturbing her. We began watching this and just a few minutes in, there was something under the bed. My wife screamed and that was the end of Bag of Bones.

Bag of Bones, like the novel, is very heavy on exposition. I think perhaps it needed to be filmed in three parts instead of two as things are very swiftly told in conversation, rather than unfolding over time. You also don’t get a feel for any of the characters except Mike Noonan.

The best I can say about Bag of Bones is that Pierce Brosnan is quite likeable. Annabeth Gish and Melissa George are wasted in throw away roles. Matt Frewer, despite fifth billing on imdb, has what amounts to a cameo appearance.

Watching Bag of Bones is essentially reading the Cliff’s Notes – you’ll get the gist of the story without any idea of what made the novel good. This was a really missed opportunity.

Misery – More movies from the King

Misery (1990) – Rated R

“Former nurse Annie Wilkes saves her idol, romance novelist Paul Sheldon, after he crashes his car during a blizzard. But when she learns he plans to kill off her heroine in his next volume, Annie morphs from nurturing caregiver to sadistic jailer.”

“And don’t even think about anybody coming for you. Not the doctors, not your agent, not your family. Cause I never called them. Nobody knows you’re here. And you better hope nothing happens to me. Because if I die… you die. “

If you have not seen this, Kathy Bates is absolutely fantastic. How good is she? She played a psychopath so convincingly (and wincingly – you know the scene I mean) that she beat out Meryl Streep for an Oscar. Interestingly Anjelica Huston was originally offered the role but had to turn it down because she was working on The Grifters. Huston was nominated for an Oscar for her work in that film but lost to Bates.

This is not to say that the other performances are bad. It is wonderful to see Lauren Bacall in any movie even if this amounts to little more than a cameo. Richard Farnsworth and Frances Sternhagen do quite a bit with their limited roles and are always a pleasure. James Caan does quite well as Paul Sheldon, our Stephen King substitute. Caan is overshadowed by Bates in almost every scene but is great as a foil.

As with his previous adaptation of a Stephen King story (Stand by Me), director Rob Reiner shows that he knows that what makes King stories work are the characters. William Goldman, hot off his collaboration with Reiner on The Princess Bride, does an excellent job of adapting King’s novel.

If you have already seen this film then watch it again knowing that King wrote this as a metaphor for his battle with substance abuse. There is a key scene in the film that is toned down from the book and yet the toning down makes it seem all the more gruesome – much like not seeing Frankenstein’s monster toss the little girl in the lake is actually scarier.

People Watch: Look for Rob Reiner as a helicopter pilot and J.T. Walsh as State Trooper Sherman Douglas in uncredited cameos.

Stephen King’s The Stand

Stephen King’s The Stand (1994) – Not rated

“When a super-flu decimates most — but not all — of the human race, the lonely survivors divide into two civilizations which are destined to clash. Based on the best-selling novel by Stephen King.”

“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” – Yeats but quoted by Ed Harris in the show

Stephen King’s The Stand runs for six hours and still feels a little rushed in the storytelling department. I have no idea how they originally planned to make it into just a movie. It is also currently being thought of for a reboot because apparently American memories were wiped during Y2K. That said be aware that this is a long haul (albeit with a good payoff).

Mick Garris has made a good living from Stephen King. He directed 1992’s trashy but fun Sleepwalkers and somehow became the go-to guy for Stephen King adaptations. Perhaps this is because he is one of the few directors to have actually read the books but that is just speculation on my part. After The Stand, Mick would go on to direct The Shining mini-series, Quicksilver Highway (which adapts King’s “Chattery Teeth”), Riding the Bullet, Desperation, and the just aired Bag of Bones. He also wrote the screenplays for Quicksilver Highway and Riding the Bullet.

Stephen King wrote the screenplay based on his own magnum opus so this is a pretty faithful adaptation of the novel. He does an excellent job of juggling a huge and disparate cast of characters. King can’t resist appearing in his films and here he plays Teddy Weizak in the last two episodes.

Gary Sinise is fantastic as Stu “Country don’t mean dumb” Redman. Also excellent are Ray Walston (Glen Bateman), Ossie Davis (Judge Farris) and Ruby Dee as Mother Abigail. They are ably backed by Molly Ringwald, Rob Lowe, Miguel Ferrer, Jamey Sheridan and a host of others. Regrettably a few of the actors are not so good, either too over-the-top (Matt Frewer as Trashcan Man, Rick Aviles as Rat Man) or just plain off the wall (Laura san Giacomo’s Nadine is not exactly a model of sanity so I suppose I should cut her some slack).

The episodes break down into fairly neat story arcs. The first episode is the best movie/TV depiction I’ve seen of an apocalyptic outbreak (until this year’s Contagion anyway). The second episode is all about the journeys of various characters after the apocalyptic events. The third episode is about community and the fourth is all about faith. It doesn’t break down perfectly but pretty close.

People Watch: Look for Ed Harris and Kathy Bates in uncredited cameos as a General and radio jock respectively. Yes that is former NBA superstar Kareem Abdul Jabbar as the doomsayer. The cane used by a character in the fourth episode is the same cane from Storm of the Century.