[31 Days of Horror Part VII: The New Blood] Day 20 – [Happy 20th Birthday!] Bedazzled (2000)

Director: Harold Ramis
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Elizabeth Hurley, Frances O’Connor
Screenplay: Larry Gelbart, Harold Ramis, Peter Tolan
93 mins. Rated PG-13 for sex-related humor, language and some drug content.

Bedazzled was one of the first DVDs I ever owned. I remember getting a DVD player (for the family) for Christmas and, after hearing my dad swearing at the DVD player for an hour when he couldn’t get it plugged in, I was able to start my collection of DVDs, one that has exploded into a dangerously large amount over the last twenty years. I added Bedazzled to my collection because I was regularly checking it out from the video store anyway, so I might as well save the rental money and just own it. Now, it’s been at least a decade since I saw it, and I was very excited to revisit it for the 20th anniversary, but I was very nervous that it could have aged terribly.

Elliot Richards (Brendan Fraser, The Mummy, Crash) is a bit of a loser. He’s an unpopular geek who desperately wants to be accepted by his co-workers. At the very least, he’d love to just be noticed by his beautiful colleague Alison Gardner (Frances O’Connor, The Conjuring 2, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence), who doesn’t even seem to know he exists. When his latest attempt to speak to Alison fails, he is approached by a beautiful woman in a red dress, who introduces herself to Elliot as The Devil (Elizabeth Hurley, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, EDtv). The Devil offers Elliot a deal: to grant him seven wishes for his soul. Now, Elliot has seven wishes to woo Alison; now if he can only get the wording right.

To be clear: I haven’t seen the original 1967 film. Not that it matters, as we should be able to view a remake on its own ground. All that being said, Bedazzled is a very enjoyable film from director Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day, Caddyshack). I actually really liked Brendan Fraser’s lead performance as Elliot. There’s a level of charisma in the way he related to me as a viewer. I think a lot of us have been in similar places to Elliot, feeling out of place in our day-to-day, wanting something or someone he can’t have, and it’s admirable that he would try to sell his soul to get her. I think Fraser gives a likability to the unlikable Elliot, making him someone to root for even as he bungles each attempt to win Alison’s affection.

I also really enjoyed Hurley’s take on the Devil. It only makes sense that the Devil would appear to a hopeless romantic as a stunningly gorgeous woman who can make him bend to her will. More than that, Hurley has fun with the role. She creates someone that the audience can enjoy, almost making us forget that she’s kind of an antagonist to Elliot’s search. We know the Devil doesn’t really want Elliot to succeed. She wants him to make his mistakes quickly so she can search out the next lost soul on the planet to work on, but Hurley works the expectations well. It’s not an Oscar-worthy performance, but she does add to the film with her presence.

Bedazzled isn’t a top-tier film for Harold Ramis. It doesn’t contain the level of zaniness that we’ve seen from him, but it gives another rare glimpse of the heart and thoughtfulness that he was able to get from films like Groundhog Day, a more contemplative work. Bedazzled isn’t as subtle, but it does have a lot of charm that makes it watchable. The film has aged a little rough in terms of the way it portrays certain stereotypes, but outside of that, it’s an enjoyable enough romp. Looking back on it, perhaps it’s because it was a repeat watch of mine as a child, but I do still revere it, and I was so glad to have revisited it.

3.5/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 20th Birthday!] Bring It On (2000)

Director: Peyton Reed

Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, Jesse Bradford, Gabrielle Union

Screenplay: Jessica Bendinger

98 mins. Rated PG-13.

 

Can you believe it’s been 20 years since Bring It On came out? Well, I can, because this is the first time I’ve ever seen it. Let’s take a look back at Peyton Reed’s (Ant-Man, Yes Man) cheerleading film.

Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst, Spider-Man, TV’s On Becoming a God in Central Florida) has just been selected to be the new Team Captain for the Toros cheerleading squad. When Torrance tries to add the new girl, Missy (Eliza Dushku, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, The Saint) to the squad, she learns that her team has been using stolen moves and routines from other people for years. Torrance is forced to reinvent the squad in order to win without stealing, but she soon finds that her team is not as willing to adapt to the new way of doing things.

As I stated earlier, this was the first time I watched this film, and when I spoke with other people who had seen this film back in 2000, I learned that I seem to be in the minority. This is a bad movie. I did not find much to like about it. The opening of this film was awful. I didn’t care much for Peyton Reed’s directing. I wasn’t impressed with the acting. I loathe the screenplay. I’m sorry, but I have to speak my thoughts. This was a bad movie.

The level of cheese that 20 years will add to some pop cultural films will help, and I will say, the cheesiness did help with that. I’m a big fan of Eliza Dushku, specifically from the work she did back in the early aughts, and I enjoyed the character of Missy and what she brings to the team. I feel like the film would be more enjoyable from her perspective primarily with Torrance as a secondary supporting lead.

From a purely technical perspective, the film is technically sound, but it lacks any technical flair. The cinematography is fine, but not flashy. The editing is fine, but the pacing is poor. The music was fine, but it isn’t memorable, even for an older film. There just isn’t anything that I loved about this film.

What it boils down to here is that I really enjoyed Kirsten Dunst and Eliza Dushku as the leads, but the film would work much better with the narrative focused on Dushku’s Missy. I like the way the narrative played out near the end. Outside of that, the film just doesn’t work for me. I’m very glad that many people love this movie, and it’s true. A lot of people love it. I am not one of those people. If you are, I’m happy for you, but it didn’t work for me. Bring It On, for me, simply doesn’t work.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 4 – Urban Legends: Final Cut (2000)

Director: John Ottman

Cast: Jennifer Morrison, Matthew Davis, Hart Bochner, Joseph Lawrence, Anthony Anderson, Loretta Devine

Screenplay: Paul Harris Boardman, Scott Derrickson

97 mins. Rated R for violence/gore, language and some sexuality.

 

John Ottman (Lion’s Den) won an Academy Award earlier this year for editing Bohemian Rhapsody. I think it’s say to expect some pretty snazzy editing and score for this Urban Legend sequel, right?

Amy Mayfield (Jennifer Morrison, Batman: Hush, TV’s House), a student at an upscale film school, has just decided on her thesis film: a serial killer who uses urban legends to kill his victims. The idea itself is an tall tale that supposedly happened at another university several year previously. Professor Solomon (Hart Bochner, Die Hard, Rules Don’t Apply) believes it’s a great idea, and Amy sets to work on her new film, but as soon as cameras start rolling, members of the film crew start getting killed, and it seems that life is imitating art imitating life as an actual serial killer is responsible. The question now comes to…who?

This is Ottman’s feature directorial debut, so I don’t want to be too harsh on him, but it seems like he didn’t know what to do here. It’s likely that the script wasn’t strong enough to begin with, but there’s a real lack of understanding apparent throughout the feature. It’s not a good movie, plain and simple, and while there are a couple good scenes, Final Cut is really all over the place. I know the attempt is being made at a more self-aware and slightly comedic tone, but it just comes off lazy. Ottman struggles to maintain a tone of any kind.

As I said above, the screenplay, from the writing team of Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Deliver Us from Evil) is confused a muddled. I’m not sure if the point of the film is a progression of the urban-legends-as-forms-of-murder of the first film in that the murders are taking place surrounding an almost film-version of the previous slayings or not. The killer isn’t really using urban legends to kill as often in the film, and he more or less just shows up near the set and kills people that way. It’s not really creative. In fact, an early kill scene in the film that actually utilizes a classic urban legend was only added to punch up the gore factor. There’s also a complete misunderstanding of filmmaking as a process and a business. It’s a fundamental issue that permeates the story.

The performances in Final Cut are mostly forgettable. I had forgotten Jennifer Morrison was the star until I rewatched it. Outside of the excellent Hart Bochner, no one is used well here and all of the characters become pretty flat characters just lined up for the chopping block. Even Loretta Devine (Crash, Always & 4Ever), returning from the first film, serves as an exposition machine, only showing up to progress the story and put doubt onto Amy’s claims that someone is killing her movie crew (remember that Devine’s Reese has had this happen before at a different university).

Urban Legends: Final Cut is shockingly not the final film of this series, and even though the eventual third film, Urban Legends: Bloody Mary, contains no connection to Final Cut, it does seem like this entire movie was a setup for that last shot, which is a confusing doozy of a tag to end the film. I just don’t get what this movie is or what it’s trying to be, and it somehow fails to be anything at all. I forgot most of the film. You probably will to.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Jamie Blanks’s Urban Legend, click here.

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 5 – Psycho Beach Party (2000)

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Director: Robert Lee King

Cast: Lauren Ambrose, Nicholas Brendon, Thomas Gibson, Amy Adams, Matt Keeslar

Screenplay: Charles Busch

95 mins. Not Rated.

 

So, I let my fiancé pick the movie today. I’m not sure I’ll let that happen again.

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Psycho Beach Party is a satire of Beach Movies and Slasher Films. Florence Forrest (Lauren Ambrose, TV’s Six Feet Under, Wanderlust) is a young beach bum who wants to learn to surf. When Florence starts showing signs of multiple personalities, she begins to look like the prime suspect in a series of slayings all happening in her small town. Surfing legend Kanaka (Thomas Gibson, TV’s Criminal Minds, Son of Batman), college drop-out Starcat (Nicholas Brendon, TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Coherence), and his girlfriend Marvel Ann (Amy Adams, Man of Steel, Big Eyes), and others must unite to discover the identity of the real killer in his not-so-hilarious send-up of the genre.

Damn, this movie is boring. My fiancé had last seen it when it released back in 2000, and she suggested it from fond memories. Those memories disappeared for her soon after starting the film. This movie was boring, cliché (even from a satirical perspective), convoluted, and unfunny. Even performers like Ambrose and Adams are wasted in this truly disappointing spoof.

The principal issue with this film is one that plagues most spoof/satire films in recent memory. I remember reading a Mel Brooks interview where he was asked how George Lucas felt about his film Spaceballs. Brooks said something about how in order to satire something, first you have to love it, and you have to make it the best you can, and that Lucas could see that. Mel Brooks loves the films he’s satirizing, and he doesn’t make bad movies. This movie thinks in order to make a cheesy movie that you have to aim for cheesy. It isn’t like that. In order to make a B-Movie, you have to make it like it’s an Oscar-Winner. The satire will reveal itself. Psycho Beach Party aims for so-bad-it’s-good but instead finds so-bad-it’s-worse.

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Psycho Beach Party has a lot to like. Wait, no, I said that wrong. Psycho Beach Party is awful. There, that’s better. It’s on Hulu right now, but I wouldn’t suggest subjecting yourself to it. I just saved you two long boring hours. These are some of the services I offer.

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

[Happy 15th Birthday!] Shaft (2000)

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Director: John Singleton

Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Vanessa Williams, Christian Bale, Jeffrey Wright, Richard Roundtree

Screenplay: Richard Price, John Singleton, Shane Salerno

99 mins. Rated R for strong violence and language.

 

Apparently, Shaft is one bad motha-“Shut Your Mouth!”

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John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction, Avengers: Age of Ultron) has carried on the family crest from his uncle John (Richard Roundtree, Se7en, Speed Racer). When he responds to a racial attack and has millionaire rich-kid Walter Wade, Jr (Christian Bale, The Dark Knight, Knight of Cups) arrested in the death of a black youth. Now, with the help of Narcotics specialist Carmen Vasquez (Vanessa Williams, Eraser, Temptations: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor), Shaft must defend the woman who witnessed the attack from Wade who has now teamed up with drug lord Peoples Hernandez (Jeffrey Wright, Casino Royale, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1).

Shaft is surprisingly not terrible, though it seems to have forgotten a lot of what made the original so cheese-good.

The greatest idea put forth here was to make this incarnation of Shaft a sequel to the previous trilogy. We even get to see the Richard Roundtree as the uncle, also known as John Shaft. I love the idea of continuing the story. Too many films just go the remake route but this works so well.

Sam Jackson does a great job here, but he gets bogged down by the truly disappointing work from Wright and Bale.

I also felt this to be the tamest of the Shaft series. Literally, he doesn’t have any of the sensuality of the original character. Now, granted, as I said before, these are different characters, but I feel like it was a big miss from the film.

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Shaft is good, but I can see why the franchise never continued. Singleton’s directing works in short spurts but this film didn’t really go anywhere. The film had several plotlines that didn’t go anywhere, for example the thread involving Dan Hedaya and that other guy becoming crooked cops. I just didn’t care. There were just a lot of chopping to be done to this film and a lot of elements missing here.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, click here.

 

[Happy 15th Birthday!] Shanghai Noon (2000)

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Director: Tom Dey

Cast: Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Lucy Liu, Xander Berkeley, Walton Goggins

Screenplay: Miles Millar, Alfred Gough

110 mins. Rated PG-13 for action violence, some drug humor, language and sensuality.

 

Today, let’s look back on Shanghai Noon, a marginally forgotten action/comedy/western from 2000. I just learned that plans are being put in place to bring Shanghai Dawn, a new installment, to cinemas in the near-future. Is it worth it? Does it hold up? Let’s find out.

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Chon Wang (Jackie Chan, Rush Hour, Kung Fu Panda 2) is in the American West in search of the missing Chinese Princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu, TV’s Elementary, Kill Bill Vol. 1). There is one problem: he keeps running into the infamous and underwhelming outlaw Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb) who has been left to die by his newest recruit Wallace (Walton Goggins, TV’s Justified, Django Unchained), an unhinged fool of a man. After a forced friendship is built, Chon and Roy team up to save the princess while they evade Marshal Nathan Van Cleef (Xander Berkeley, TV’s Salem, Terminator 2: Judgment Day), who is hunting O’Bannon and “The Shanghai Kid”.

Shanghai Noon is a fun little excursion that with several flaws but a likable comedic duo. The chemistry between Chan and Wilson is pretty solid, even if the conceit that brings them together has no reason. I don’t believe that an outlaw like Roy O’Bannon would just decide to help out Chon without getting anything back. I just wasn’t convinced by his motives here, especially hearing how quickly he would sell Chan’s character out. Once they do become partners, though, that doesn’t really matter. They are a likable team nonetheless.

The villains are less than strong, however. Both villains are extremely predictable, unmotivated, and unconvincing, in no part due to the performances, though, but how they are written.

Director Tom Dey (Failure to Launch, Marmaduke) gets this film tonally right in a lot of ways, and I can’t fault him for the uninspired style, as he hasn’t really proven to be above par as a filmmaker. Shanghai Noon also runs a bit too long, especially near the end. There are sequences involving the attempts at rescuing Pei Pei that feel like they aren’t going anywhere. That being said, the choice to add classic rock music to the score really helps keep the lighthearted tone moving.

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Shanghai Noon is far from perfect, but western action/comedies are not an easy thing to do. As it stands, the chemistry from the strong two leads carry this film very well, and it’s easy to overlook some of the film’s more blaring faults.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 15th Birthday!] Requiem for a Dream (2000)

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Director: Darren Aronofsky

Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans, Christopher McDonald

Screenplay: Hubert Selby Jr., Darren Aronofsky

102 mins. Rated R for intense depictions of drug addiction, graphic sexuality, strong language and some violence.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actress in a Leading Role (Ellen Burstyn)

iMDB Top 250: #90 (as of 1/24/2016)

Damn, this is a tough movie to watch. Warning: This isn’t a movie that will make you happy.

Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn, Interstellar, Draft Day) just found out that she is going to be on television. Her son, Harry (Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club, Mr. Nobody), an addict, is about to make some primo money selling drugs. His friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans, White Chicks, A Haunted House 2) just wants to be a good kid. Harry’s girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind, Winter’s Tale), wants to design clothing. Each has dreams of becoming better than they are, but unfortunately for them, they are all addicts slowly falling deeper and deeper into their delusions of happiness in this film from director Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Noah).

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Damn, I’ve seen Requiem for a Dream a couple times now, and it doesn’t get any easier, but this is a work of pure art that almost requires itself to be seen. It isn’t an easy film, and no one is walking out happy, but if you want a truer depiction of addiction, you will not find it anywhere else.

Ellen Burstyn is pure magic as Sara, the matriarch who needs to cut her addiction to fatty foods and in the process finds a new vice. Jared Leto is a kid with one foot in the grave who keeps slipping deeper and deeper into it. Jennifer Connelly’s Marion has so much drive but can’t seem to break out of her chains.

Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore, About Last Night) was perfect casting as Tappy Tibbons, a TV personality trying to sell his new books to the masses. He is unnerving and terrifying and everything he needs to be to those who need him.

Aronofsky’s film is jarring and painful to watch, mostly because it is a visual drug trip happening in real time. When the characters shoot up, you shoot up. When the characters make love, you make love. When the characters lose all self-respect, guess what. So do you. It isn’t easy, but it is real.

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The dreamlike qualities combined with the realism about vices and the drugs that surround us all make Requiem for a Dream one of the most painful experiences in film history. That’s about as complimentary I make it sound. It is stunning and gruesome and works perfectly at everything it tries to be. If you can, see this film.

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, click here.

31 Days of Horror: Day 29 – Final Destination (2000)

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Director: James Wong

Cast: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith, Tony Todd

Screenplay: Glen Morgan, James Wong, Jeffrey Reddick

98 mins. Rated R for violence and terror, and for language.

 

Death comes to all of us. When it is your turn to die, it is your turn, and there is little that can be done about it. That’s the message we get from Final Destination, from director James Wong (The One, Dragonball: Evolution). The original idea for this film came from James Wong’s time as a writer on The X-Files. He envisioned the story as an episode from the wildly popular sci-fi television series. Unfortunately, the idea was scrapped several times and eventually was reformed into a feature film screenplay.

It tells the story of Flight 180 and its passenger Alex Browning (Devon Sawa, TV’s Nikita, Idle Hands). Alex has a premonition of the plane exploding upon takeoff, and forces himself and several other students from his field trip from the plane. The plane explodes and the seven survivors feel as though they just cheated death. They soon discover that you can’t cheat death for long, as the survivors are being picked off in the order they were supposed to die on the plane, but Alex starts seeing clues, and along with fellow student (Ali Larter, TV’s Legends, Resident Evil: Afterlife).

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The original film in this series is the best one, though it is still riddled with multiple technical and artistic issues. These characters are just not very smart. Alex keeps searching out clues and getting himself deeper and deeper with law enforcement as he tries to stop these crimes. He grabs murder weapons and tracks DNA all over crime scenes. He sees signs that clues him into the next death, yet at one point, he sees a man burning leaves and then assumes that a house will blow up. I like the idea of a magazine getting shredded and his friend’s name comes up, but the fire is a bit much. Then there’s the cops who believe that Alex is somehow capable of committing these crimes, like somehow orchestrating a bus hitting someone when they are surrounded by witnesses that could attest to his innocence. We have a character who believes that if it is his time, he should kill everyone else with him. I get it, these are students and teenagers, so they still have some learning to do, but these are dumb teens.

I like the performance given by Tony Todd (The Man from Earth, Hatchet II) as coroner Bludworth. It doesn’t amount to much more of a cameo appearance, but it is a classic horror film trope of the warning of death and dark times to come, much like Crazy Ralph from Friday the 13th. He practically yells “Doomed! You’re all doomed!”

Wong’s directing is really nothing special. His cinematography is disappointing. The film has nice pacing though and moves along with ease, not stopping long enough for most of these issues to take away from the enjoyment of the film.

I do really enjoy the clues that Alex and Clear do not see. I like that there are numerous noticeable clues in the film that foreshadow events soon to come, many of them are ones that aren’t even pointed out by our main characters. There is even the inclusion of John Denver songs at many of the Rube Goldberg style deaths. If you didn’t know, Denver died in a plane crash and his music works as a calling card in many ways, a warning like Bludworth’s. I know I didn’t listen to his music for a while after seeing this film.

I also like the score of the film. It stays with you long after the film ends. It won’t win any major awards, but as far as horror scores go, not bad.

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So there you have it. Final Destination is far from perfect, but it is a lot of fun. I find that it still holds up now, 14 years later.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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