[31 Days of Horror Part VII: The New Blood] Day 15 – The Tripper (2006)

Director: David Arquette
Cast: Jamie King, Thomas Jane, Lukas Haas
Screenplay: David Arquette, Joe Harris
93 mins. Rated R.

I’m not sure when it was that I became aware of The Tripper. Some time around its release, I must have seen a trailer for it, most likely around the time that the 8 Films to Die For series began (The Tripper was originally a part of that branding before parting ways). The idea of Ronald Reagan (the actor!) being the main serial killer of a movie directed by David Arquette was a rather odd thing, but hey, I was open to the idea. I just never got around to seeing it. Flash forward to the closing of either Hollywood Video or Blockbuster, and I ended up with a copy of this movie, and still the years ticked by before I actually sat down this morning to see it. Wow. Just wow.


A group of hippie-ish friends are all riding down to the American Free Love Festival, a rock-and-roll music event held in the woods. There, the attendees are killed off one at a time by a killer who seems to be…Ronald Reagan. Deputy Buzz Hall (Thomas Jane, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Magnolia) is willing to do anything to protect these people, even if he doesn’t fully align with them. As the Reagan-obsessed killer chops his victims down with his trusty axe, it’s clear that Ronnie is here for vengeance!


It’s interesting to note that director/writer/co-star David Arquette intended to make a “fun” movie and didn’t want to force a political agenda with the film because it feels like that’s exactly what he is doing. The film is stuffed full of Reagan-era propaganda that makes it feel like he very much did have an opinion and a statement. Oftentimes, critics especially will see themes in a film or story that simply weren’t intended to be there, but this is a situation where it’s hard not to see it. Arquette’s film fills its opening and closing titles with a lot of flavor that seemingly critiques the animosity between political rivals, something that has made the film more relevant now than back in 2006 when it dropped. Perhaps he’s just asking questions, as some filmmakers are wont to do, but it feels more like he’s pushing in a direction.


All that aside, the film is meh. It’s not all that great, most of the characters are neither likable nor interesting with the exceptions of the always likable Jason Mewes, Paul Reubens, and Thomas Jane. Outside of that, I’d be hard-pressed to remember any actual details about the onslaught of uninteresting victims-to-be. It’s not so much that the film is poorly directed (it’s not great, but there’s potential), but perhaps that the concept could have used a few more drafts in the screenwriting stage to fine-tune some of the more captivating elements. As it stands, it’s just very messy. I don’t hate it. In fact, I could see it developing that midnight movie feel that I have to assume Arquette was going for. All the same, it’s a messy and flawed movie.


The Tripper is admirable for the attempt, and I do feel like I’d like to see Arquette take another crack at directing a feature, though perhaps one with a better screenplay. The cast does the best they can with the material, but this movie just needed more than it got. That being said, it mostly worked for the first hour before ultimately falling apart near the climax. File this one under midnight movie and you may just have something here. Just not in the light in day.

2/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

[Alright Alright Alright Movies] Grandma’s Boy (2006)

Director: Nicholaus Goossen

Cast: Linda Cardellini, Allen Covert, Peter Dante, Shirley Jones, Shirley Knight, Joel David Moore, Kevin Nealon, Doris Roberts, Nick Swardson

Screenplay: Barry Wernick, Allen Covert, Nick Swardson

94 mins. Rated R for drug use and language throughout, strong crude and sexual humor, and nudity.

 

Hey, it’s April 20th, and we could all use a laugh right about now, so in honor of this most blessed day, let’s take a look at Grandma’s Boy, the 2006 stoner comedy from Happy Madison that kind of went unnoticed upon first release only to resurface a few years later as a dumb piece of pop culture. I remember hating the film on first release, so let’s see how we are sitting on the film today.

Alex (Allen Covert, 50 First Dates, Murder Mystery) is a stoner video game tester who’s just been booted from his apartment. With nowhere to go, Alex moves in with his grandmother Lilly (Doris Roberts, Christmas Vacation, TV’s Everybody Loves Raymond) and her two friends. Alex doesn’t want his friends to know he’s living with his grandmother, so he starts lying about his three crazy wild roommates, and it works…until the lie is undone.

I wasn’t lying when I said this film went unnoticed. It only grossed about $6 million in its theatrical run but went on to bring in $50 million in home video sales. Why was it popular? Perhaps because it’s so damn stupid. No, that’s not exactly a criticism. The first priority of a comedy is to entertain and make you laugh or, at the very least, smile. In a stoner comedy, those moments are usually derived from stupidity, and yes, there is stupidity abound, and some of it really works. Then, there are chunks of the film that do not. Let’s talk about the parts that worked for me first.

I felt that Linda Cardellini (Scooby-Doo, Avengers: Endgame) was great as Samantha, Alex’s new “boss” who has been sent to oversee final touches of Eternal Death Slayer 3, the video game Alex and his coworkers are working on. The overall character arc conceived for her is terrible, but she makes the most of it and is a fun presence onscreen.

I also really enjoyed Peter Dante (The Waterboy, Grown Ups 2) as Dante, the stereotypical stoner drug dealer who tries to buy a tiger in the movie. That’s pretty much all he does in the film, but everything that comes out of his mouth is hilarious. Same thing with Nick Swardson (The Benchwarmers, Airplane Mode), who plays Jeff, Alex’s very childish friend. Swardson can’t really lead a film, but he works really well in a supporting role. Even Doris Roberts, who is very funny in the film playing a similar character to others but in a completely whacko movie.

But none of that, absolutely none of it, matters if the film isn’t funny. Thankfully, the guffaw laughs are far more prevalent than the eye rolls. Yes, there are a few eye rolls, but some truly funny lines, scenes, and characters exist within the frames of Grandma’s Boy. Without a doubt, this one is very funny.

So there you have it. It’s 420, and now is probably the best time to watch this stoner comedy. Yes, it’s really dumb and some of it is nonsensical and they completely waste Jonah Hill early on in his career, but it is undeniably funny for a number of scenes, and while it may not work for everyone, it will work well for its demographic.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 12 – Final Destination 3 (2006)

Director: James Wong

Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ryan Merriman, Kris Lemche

Screenplay: Glen Morgan, James Wong

93 mins. Rated R for strong horror violence/gore, language and some nudity.

 

When I was young, I would watch scary movies with my mother. At a certain point in the film, when she could take the scares no longer, she would announce, “I’d just give up and let ‘em kill me!” In the Final Destination franchise, I’d actually be inclined to say the same.

Final Destination 3 picks up five years after the original with an entirely new cast being hunted by Death/Fate. Wendy Christensen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, 10 Cloverfield Lane, TV’s Fargo) is at an amusement park with boyfriend Jason, best friend Carrie, and Carrie’s boyfriend Kevin (Ryan Merriman, 42, A Sunday Horse). But when Wendy has a premonition that the rollercoaster she boards will have a horrific malfunction killing everyone on board, she and several others get off the ride. When her premonition rings true, everyone rejoices, until they begin dying one by one in the same order they would have died on the coaster. Wendy has one tool: a camera that has clues to each death. Now if she can just stop Death from killing her friends…

Final Destination 3 is more of the same, and in that way, fans should enjoy themselves. It retains the mythology of the original film after the first sequel skewered the rules for its own amusement. My only major problem with being same old in this franchise is that, after two films, you kind of just stop caring if the characters will live because you know, there’s no chance of that. It’s only, who will die next? This is the installment where that becomes extremely apparent and it takes all the emotion out of it, even if that emotion is replaced with a macabre humor.

The other big disappointment in this installment is the loss of Tony Todd’s Bludworth from the first two films. Todd does not appear in this film save for a cameo voice role as the devil at the amusement park, but I felt that his character really means something and to lose him is a big waste.

Overall, though, the film was fun enough to keep my enjoyment level high enough for the runtime. Leads Winstead and Merriman are very nice to watch and have good chemistry. The film is nicely shot and the pace is quick enough. In fact, some versions of the DVD even feature a Choose Your Fate feature that plays like a Choose Your Own Adventure where you get to interact with the movie as it plays out. It’s a fun little feature that should make watching with friends enjoyable.

Final Destination 3 is more of the same, but that isn’t necessarily the worst thing. The film could have been much worse, but as expected horror, it plays well enough thanks to some nice lead performances, a smart screenplay, and capable enough cinematography. Fans of the franchise should be sated here.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of James Wong’s Final Destination, click here.

For my review of David R. Ellis’s Final Destination 2, click here.

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

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Director: Brett Ratner

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellan, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, Patrick Stewart

Screenplay: Simon Kinberg, Zak Penn

104 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence, some sexual content and language.

 

After X2: X-Men United, the superhero series was invigorated and raring to go again. Bryan Singer left to direct Superman Returns, so Brett Ratner took over the chair and creative control of the franchise. This has often been seen as a bad idea. Brett Ratner, not to be blunt, is terrible.

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It’s the story of the mutants dealing with the death of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen, GoldenEye, Taken 3) in the previous film. Logan (Hugh Jackman, The Prestige, Prisoners) appears on the surface to have gotten over her death and has taken on a more important role within the school alongside Ororo Munroe (Halle Berry, TV’s Extant, Cloud Atlas). Meanwhile, Eric Lensherr (Ian McKellan, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Golden Compass) has been recruiting new mutants to join The Brotherhood in the fight against the government, which has created a new treatment or “cure” for mutants. Rogue (Anna Paquin, TV’s True Blood, The Piano) is interested in the cure, but her boyfriend Bobby (Shawn Ashmore, TV’s The Following, Frozen).

There a lot of moving plot points in this movie, but the script is far too weak to fully explore them all. There are multiple times when dialogue is unreal, too much exposition is given (or sometimes, not enough), and characters are doing things that betray their character traits.

The actors are trying to perform to a weak script, and most of them do as well as they can, but Brett Ratner focuses too much on trying to be a spectacle, often sacrificing character moments under piles of action. Now, the action is good, and leads to a solid climax which is handled nicely, but we have a conflict of style. On one hand, we have the previous film, which establishes a seriousness and a stake in what happens. On the other hand, we have a goofy style which pushes against and a more-comic-booky look to the film, something that was handled much better in the prequel X-Men: First Class.

While the climax is handled nicely, Ratner chooses to play down the denouement, which, considering this was supposed to be a closing of the trilogy, is what really kills this movie. We have so many plot threads untreated and ultimately unthreaded that it set the series up for several films of trying to fix the damage, before finally X-Men: Days of Future Past was able to do.

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This isn’t the worst X-Men movie of all time. That honor is currently held by X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but that doesn’t mean that this wasn’t an epic letdown from X2, and served to topple the franchise for a couple years.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of X-Men, click here.

For my review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, click here.

For my review of X-Men: First Class, click here.

For my review of The Wolverine, click here.

For my review of X-Men: Days of Future Past, click here.

31 Days of Horror: Day 9 – Fido (2006)

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Director: Andrew Currie

Cast: Carrie-Anne Moss, Billy Connolly, Dylan Baker, K’Sun Ray, Henry Czerny, Tim Blake Nelson

Screenplay: Robert Choniak, Andrew Currie, Dennis Heaton

93 mins. Rated R for zombie-related violence.

There have been many “boy and his dog” movies, but there has never been one like Fido, an overlooked zombie movie from about 8 years ago. It takes place in an alternate past, where some time around the 1950s, a zombie outbreak occurred, and was quelled. In the aftermath, a company called ZomCom was created, among its many creations were collars used to domesticate the zombie menace and essentially enslave them to do menial tasks and become like pets. Timmy Robinson (K’Sun Ray) and his family just got a new zombie of their own. His mother (Carrie-Anne Moss, The Matrix, Pompeii) is all for it. His father (Dylan Baker, Spider-Man 2, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues) is not. As a status symbol of their community, the zombie, named Fido (Billy Connolly, Brave, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies) grows an unlikely friendship with Timmy, and trouble ensues.

It is difficult to classify a zombie movie as cute, but this one is. The environment is as though we never stepped out of the 50s, but we also get the addition of zombies as domesticated animals. It is a unique environment, and one that we are unlikely to see again. The strong acting performances from Moss, Baker, and Connolly are what carry this movie. We also get a great supporting turn from Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Kill the Messenger) as Mr. Theopolis, the next door neighbor whose relationship with his zombie may not be politically correct, even in this world.

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As it comes down to it, Fido is a fabulous movie and one that doesn’t leave you for some time, the goofy premise and strong acting chops make this a satire worth remembering.

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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