[Happy 30th Birthday!] Highlander (1986)

 

Director: Russell Mulcahy

Cast: Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Clancy Brown, Roxanne Hart

Screenplay: Gregory Widen, Peter Bellwood, Larry Ferguson

116 mins. Rated R for strong action violence, a scene of sexuality and some language.

 

Wow, 30 years since Highlander. 30 years since the Princes of the Universe. Damn.

Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert, Mortal Kombat, Hail, Caesar!) is an Immortal, a being destined to live forever in search of the illustrious “Prize.” The only way to die is to be killed by another Immortal. He has lived for hundreds of years, trained by mentor Ramirez (Sean Connery, Dr. No, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), and is being hunted by an Immortal of pure evil called the Kurgan (Clancy Brown, TV’s Spongebob Squarepants, The Shawshank Redemption). Now, a beautiful cop named Brenda (Roxanne Hart, Letters of Iwo Jima, License to Wed) is hot on his trail in an attempt to discover exactly who or what he is.

I really wish I had more time to describe this film.

I absolutely love the lore behind the original Highlander. Christopher Lambert, who learned English just in time to portray Connor, is a terrific and very likable lead. He is matched by the majestic and goofy Sean Connery having a ton of fun as the Egyptian Immortal Ramirez. Clancy Brown is terrifying, oozing creep factor.

This is arguably Russell Mulcahy’s (TV’s Teen Wolf, Resident Evil: Extinction) most visually stunning film. The imagery is filled with gorgeous landscapes, sweeping battle scenes, and beautifully shot moments.

The soundtrack from Queen is intense and wondrous and fits this film so perfectly. Each song matches the tone of the scene just right.

Highlander is just right, and while the film has a few pacing issues early on, overall it is just an absolute blast to watch. It has the ability to pull me in and make me watch it multiple times in one sitting. It is just a fun time, pure and simple.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 10th Birthday!] The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (2004)

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Director: Stephen Hillenburg, Mark Osborne

Cast: Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Clancy Brown, Roger Bumpass, Mr. Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson, Jeffrey Tambor, Alec Baldwin, David Hasselhoff

Screenplay: Derek Drymon, Tim Hill, Stephen Hillenburg, Kent Osborne, Aaron Springer, Paul Tibbitt

87 mins. Rated PG for some mild crude humor.

 

I think every generation has some children’s entertainment that earlier and later generations just wouldn’t quite understand. It’s for the same reason that older generation thinks that kids’ music these days aren’t good, while I can simultaneously play music that I love around younger folks today and they don’t like it either. It just existed in the right time and couldn’t have in any other.

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I think that holds about as true as ever with Spongebob Squarepants. It just couldn’t have happened at any other time. But it did happen. It still is happening. There have even been two movies (the sequel is coming in 2015). Today, I’m going to discuss the first film, which celebrates 10 years of release today. I actually remember seeing it in the theater way back when. I think my buddy and I were the oldest people in the theater that weren’t parents. And that was okay. We laughed at the right times. We even cried at the right times (totally serious here). When I got out of that theater, I felt like I had learned something incredible about myself. The lesson in The Spongebob Squarepants Movie is simple, yes, but also incredible important to people finding themselves being forced to grow up when they just aren’t ready.

Spongebob Squarepants (Tom Kenny, TV’s CatDog, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) is dreaming of his new promotion running the Krusty Krab 2, the new restaurant opened by his boss Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown, The Shawshank Redemption, When the Game Stands Tall). The only problem is Mr. Krabs didn’t give him the promotion; he gave it to Spongebob’s coworker Squidward (Roger Bumpass, Monsters, Inc., The haunted World of El Superbeasto). Meanwhile, the evil nemesis Plankton (Mr. Lawrence, TV’s Rocko’s Modern Life) has discovered Plan Z, the only plan he hasn’t tried to steal the Krabby Patty secret formula, and has enacted it by stealing the crown of King Neptune (Jeffrey Tambor, The Hangover, A Merry Friggin’ Christmas). Mr. Krabs has been framed for the theft, and King Neptune isn’t a forgiving man/fish/whatever. So now, Spongebob, with the help of Patrick Star (Bill Fagerbakke, The Artist, The Babymakers), Neptune’s daughter Mindy (Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation, Lucy), and the ever-incredible David Hasselhoff (as himself, Click, The Devil’s Carnival: Alleluia!), needs to become a man to “Get the Crown, Save the Town, and Mr. Krabs!” But there is evil on their way as well, as Bounty Hunter Dennis (Alec Baldwin, The Departed, Blue Jasmine) has been deployed to stop them.

First of all, I love that this movie, much like the show, rides the line of batty and tragic. There are definite moments when our heroes face certain death and I honestly started tearing up. Spongebob is such a nice and caring character, and his friendship with Patrick Star is one of the guiding reasons he is able to keep going when he feels at his lowest.

The guest voices from Johansson, Tambor, and Baldwin are what helps create the atmosphere here. These are talented and seasoned performers delivering this goofy and lovable script.

The animation takes a leap in the movie as well, and still looks pretty good ten years later.

Let’s not forget the music. There isn’t a musical’s worth of musical numbers, but when they do pop up, they are incredible and rattle around in the brain long afterward.

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All in all, I’ve seen a lot of people give Spongebob Squarepants, his series, and his films a lot of flak for the lack of lessons and learning, and I say to them, no, there are lessons and warm characters and just a lot of good ol’ wackiness to keep one happy. Don’t fault the show for trying to have fun. Same thing here, this movie is a ton of fun.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

31 Days of Horror: Day 10 – John Dies at the End (2012)

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Director: Don Coscarelli

Cast: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman, Doug Jones, Daniel Roebuck

Screenplay: Don Coscarelli

99 mins. Rated R for bloody violence and gore, nudity, language and drug content.

 

I didn’t watch anything of Don Coscarelli’s films at first release. He displays such vivid enthusiasm on the screen that his movies cannot be ignored forever. Thanks to Netflix, I found a copy of Phantasm to experience. Thanks to a fellow reviewer, I was able to view Bubba Ho-Tep. Thanks to the bargain bin, I have now been given access to John Dies at the End, a quirky and rather disappointing film based on the novel of the same name.

The story is extremely convoluted but it comes down to this: a new drug has the potential to take its users into other dimensions and across massive expanses of time, but not everyone who uses is entirely normal after the experience. The story follows John (Rob Mayes, Enough Said, A Golden Christmas 3) and Dave (Chase Williamson, Sparks, The Guest) as they attempt  to discover the source as Dave recounts the tale in a restaurant with audience Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti, Sideways, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) listening intently.

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Now, I like a lot of the supporting work here. Giamatti gives us a more captivated audience to connect to, but ultimately is unused, as is Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water) as Dr. Albert Marconi, a paranormal power-player whom John and Dave look up to.

I had to spend a lot of time calculating exactly what turned me off of this film, and I came to the conclusion that it suffers for the very reasons that Coscarelli’s other work, Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep, work so well. That strangeness, that quality of oddity turned me away from this. It didn’t start like that, I happened to find the film’s opening, involving an exorcism, a doorknob that transforms into a penis, and a demon made up entirely of frozen meats, quite entertaining. The plot just sort of unravels as it is trying to build.

That’s a lot of what makes up John Dies at the End: trying. I can see that it is trying to be strange and yet appealing. I can see that it is trying to be comedic. I can see that it is trying to shock. It is, and yet none of that matters between a weak script and lead performers that can’t carry the film.

Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes are unknowns, and are likely to stay that way, neither one of them seems to be able to handle a scene and truly hold an audience in the way that Dave tries to hold Blondestone.

Coscarelli was quoted that John Dies at the End was one of the greatest titles in motion picture history, and that can be kind of true, although SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT allowing John’s character to live makes it come off as less inspired. Making the decision to kill off the character you promised to kill off would allow you some more creative freedom to embrace the strange, because it allows the audience to be less focused on the ending and more on the journey, which is oftentimes a tough sell. END SPOILERS.

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In the end, I can openly appreciate the attempt that this film is making. I can, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that I was checking my watch less than fifteen minutes in, and that doesn’t make for a wonderful last eighty minutes or so. Don’t rate Coscarelli on this bummer.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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