[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 8 – Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)

Director: Rob Hedden

Cast: Jensen Daggett, Scott Reeves, Peter Mark Richman, Kane Hodder

Screenplay: Rob Hedden

100 mins. Rated R.

 

When the eighth Friday the 13th film was announced, the first poster was released depicting the “I Love NY” slogan with Jason Voorhees busting through it. The New York Tourism board sued to get the poster taken down. There are probably some rare prints of these posters out there, so if anyone’s looking for an early Christmas gift for me, just saying…

Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder, Daredevil, Victor Crowley) is still out there in Crystal Lake, still alive, waiting for his chance to return to the surface, and when two young lovers get their boat anchor caught in the lake, it lets Jason loose. Now unleashed, Jason hitches a ride on a boat headed for New York City, and along the way, he’ll spend his time doing his favorite thing: killing attractive teens.

Let’s address the elephant in the room: Jason doesn’t take a lot of Manhattan in this film. He takes a boat for about an hour of the film’s runtime, and he takes Manhattan, which is mostly Vancouver, for the final third. I think the expectations of a film subtitled Jason Takes Manhattan conjures up images of Jason slaying his way across the city. Now, without a doubt, the shot of Jason Voorhees in Times Square is pretty impressive, but it’s the only moment that feels like Jason Takes Manhattan.

None of the teens in this film are very memorable, and that includes Rennie (Jensen Daggett, Major League: Back to the Minors, Telling You), the lead. She’s a very relaxed and unremarkable lead character without much to root for. The rest of the cast is filled with machete fodder, with the exception of the always fun-to-watch character actor Peter Mark Richman (Agent for H.A.R.M., After the Wizard) as Rennie’s Uncle Charles, who also happens to be a teacher chaperoning the boat trip. Richman plays the unlikable Uncle Charles to pretty solid results.

But hey, at least the final product is incredible, right? No, it’s not. Not really, but it isn’t a colossal failure either, and maybe that’s a lot of the problem. There’s just no soul to this movie. It should be full of weird flavor and enjoyable sequences, but it’s very hollow. Think about it. Jason in Manhattan should be so much fun, but it doesn’t have any tone at all. It just is…and that’s a problem.

Jason Takes Manhattan is neither the best nor the worst of the Friday the 13th franchise. It’s just kind of forgettable. Outside of the one true moment of Jason Voorhees standing in Times Square (and, to be fair, Kane Hodder’s return as Jason should be all the more celebrated because he’s just damn good), there’s just nothing special flowing through the veins of this movie. It’s an empty shell, and that’s a damn shame.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th, click here.

For my review of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part 2, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part III, click here.

For my review of Joseph Zito’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, click here.

For my review of Jack Sholder’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, click here.

For my review of Danny Steinmann’s Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning, click here.

For my review of Chuck Russell’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, click here.

For my review of Tom McLoughlin’s Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI, click here.

For my review of Renny Harlin’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, click here.

For my review of John Carl Buechler’s Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, click here.

For my review of Stephen Hopkins’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, click here.

[Friday the 13th] Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)

Director: John Carl Buechler

Cast: Lar Park Lincoln, Terry Kiser, Kevin Blair, Kane Hodder

Screenplay: Daryl Haney, Manuel Fidello

88 mins. Rated R.

 

You’d think people would just start avoiding Camp Crystal Lake on Friday the 13th by this point. I mean, it doesn’t happen that often, right?

Tina Shepherd (Lar Park Lincoln, From the Dark, TV’s Knot’s Landing) has bad memories of her lake home, which is located near Camp Crystal Lake. When she was younger, her father drowned in the lake, and Tina blames herself. Tina was born with mental gifts, and she’s returned to the lake home with her mother and Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser, Weekend at Bernie’s, The Kingsbury Run) in order to come to terms with her abilities and her guilt, and while there, she inadvertently awakens a sleeping Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder, Daredevil, An Accidental Zombie (Named Ted)), who is waiting at the bottom of the lake for his chance to return. Now, Jason is back and unleashed upon a group of youths that have congregated in a nearby cabin for their mutual friend’s birthday, and Tina may be the only one who can stop the hockey-masked killer.

Somewhere out there is an old VHS cassette tape that contains the unrated cut of The New Blood, but it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a version of this film from before the MPAA and the studio tore it to pieces, which is too bad because there’s a lot to love about this installment of the franchise. John Carl Buechler (Saurian, The Eden Formula) was an inspired choice as a director as he understood both how to use effects and how to create tension and shocking horror in his films. The idea of finding someone more on equal ground with Jason works pretty well, and though there’s been some calls for the silliness of a Carrie White-style character, I would argue that you’ve seen Jason drown as a child, almost decapitated, and rise from the dead due to a lightning bolt; if this is what loses you, that’s pretty strange.

Lar Park Lincoln doesn’t do so well as Tina, as she just kind of spazzes a lot and shakes. There’s not a lot of depth to the character, and the screenplay from Daryl Haney and Manuel Fidello doesn’t give her a lot to do outside of reacting. If anything, the most interesting character is Dr. Crews, played menacingly by Terry Kiser. Crews is a scumbag to end all scumbags, the prime example of a character you want to see mercilessly ripped to pieces by Voorhees.

Speaking of Jason Voorhees, this installment is the first appearance by the man who became synonymous with the machete-wielding psycho, Kane Hodder. Hodder would go on to play Jason three more times before he was unceremoniously tossed aside for being too big to play Jason Voorhees. Hodder’s Jason is the first time I remember feeling like Voorhees was an actual person at one point, and that he’s an actual character. He’s a presence on film with a performance, one that is not dissimilar to a hungry shark. There’s a hunter mentality to Jason here instead of a generic boogeyman. It’s the best Jason performance to date.

Alas, the studio had a bit too much hand in this one, as well as a producer who didn’t have a handle for what the film was aiming for and didn’t take time to work with the filmmaker on helping his vision, and The New Blood, for all its campy fun, struggles to reach the level of Jason Lives. It’s still one of the better installments, but most of its characters are not well-performed, well-written, or even likable. There’s also a building of expectation that we are headed towards an incredible and intense finale unlike anything we’ve seen before in the franchise, and what we get is a bit middling. Sure, it’s unique, but having studied the film, I can see the way it was supposed to end up in my head, and it’s not what we ended up getting.

The New Blood is good but it should have been incredible and jaw-dropping and a success in forever changing the landscape of Jason Voorhees and the Friday the 13th series, but director John Carl Buechler was almost set up to fail. As frustrating as that is, it features a solid performance from Terry Kiser and an incredibly nuanced Jason as played by Kane Hodder. This one will still please genre and franchise fans, but we’re left with the wonder of what could have been.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th, click here.

For my review of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part 2, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part III, click here.

For my review of Joseph Zito’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, click here.

For my review of Jack Sholder’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, click here.

For my review of Danny Steinmann’s Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning, click here.

For my review of Chuck Russell’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, click here.

For my review of Tom McLoughlin’s Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI, click here.

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 15 – Cloverfield (2008)

Director: Matt Reeves

Cast: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, Odette Annable

Screenplay: Drew Goddard

85 mins. Rated PG-13 for violence, terror and disturbing images.

 

Damn, this movie drove me crazy with its marketing. Seriously, I was one of those people.

Cloverfield is presented as found-footage from an incident that took place in New York City in 2008 in which a large creature terrorized the city. We are mostly filmed by Hud (T.J. Miller, How to Train Your Dragon, Deadpool) who is at a going-away party for his best friend Rob (Michael Stahl-David, In Your Eyes, LBJ). While there, Hud and the rest of the party witness the beginning of the attack and flee the party into the streets of New York. Hud joins up with Marlena (Lizzy Caplan, The Interview, Allied), Rob, his brother Jason (Mike Vohel, The Help, The Case for Christ), and Jason’s girlfriend Lily (Jessica Lucas, Evil Dead, TV’s Gotham) in an effort to seek shelter and hopefully find Beth (Odette Annable, The Unborn, TV’s Pure Genius), who left the party earlier after a fight with Rob.

People don’t give enough credit to director Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes, Let Me In). Over the last decade, he has crafted several films that should be classics of their respective genre, but have largely gone unnoticed or underappreciated. Cloverfield often finds itself lost in the mostly unimpressive found-footage subgenre, but its characters are developed, its visuals are striking, and its pace is excellent. At a tight 85 minutes, Cloverfield doesn’t let up.

Drew Goddard (The Martian, TV’s Daredevil) put out a real nice screenplay with mostly-sharp dialogue, although there are times where his dialogue gets a little too expositional, and T.J. Miller is forced to give that exposition, which isn’t a strong point in his performance.

Overall, Cloverfield is an experience like no other. This is a film that deserves to be seen and have more recognition, and maybe it will with the success of the Cloververse that I still don’t really understand. If you don’t get motion sickness, you just might enjoy the ride.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Dan Trachtenberg’s 10 Cloverfield Lane, click here.

For my review of Matt Reeves’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, click here.

For my review of Matt Reeves’s War for the Planet of the Apes, click here.

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

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Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot

Screenplay: Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer

151 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality.

 

So, after countless years of waiting for DC to officially make a move at creating a cinematic universe, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has arrived. Now comes the real question: Can DC create a universe from some of the most popular characters in comic book history? And what exactly is this film?

Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck, Argo, Gone Girl) has been obsessed with one thing over the past eighteen months: Superman (Henry Cavill, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Cold Light of Day). After witnessing the damage done to the city of Metropolis due to Superman’s fight with General Zod, and seeing one of his own buildings filled with his employees come down in the battle, Bruce does not believe that Superman should be allowed to do as he pleases, and he’s not alone. Senator Finch (Holly Hunter, The Incredibles, Manglehorn) and billionaire playboy Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network, American Ultra) completely agree. Bruce’s caretaker Alfred (Jeremy Irons, The Lion King, Race) becomes increasingly more concerned about Wayne’s mental state as the obsession grows. Meanwhile, Clark Kent’s life is moving in the right direction: He is in love with Lois Lane (Amy Adams, American Hustle, Big Eyes), he has a great job at the Daily Planet, but there is a problem. He too has become worried about a masked vigilante frequently called The Bat, but Clark finds that the world seems to be more concerned with Superman’s doings than this Bat character. When Lex Luthor sees an opening, he begins planting the seeds to bring these two heroic titans to blows, and hopefully take them both down at once.

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Well, we have a lot to discuss, so let’s start at the beginning. The title of the film is very strange. The decision to excise the “vs” in favor of a “v” implies a court case, which confuses me as I don’t understand why you want a superhero movie to be a court case, but I’ve already started to digress.

This movie’s plot seems to want to go everywhere but doesn’t actually get anywhere. It seems like two screenplays jammed together: one is a Batman v Superman movie, the other a Dawn of Justice movie. The problem here is that the glue used to stick these movies together is weak and flimsy. The Batman stuff is great, particularly their dealing with the origin, which is fleshed over the opening credits like how The Incredible Hulk treated theirs. Since this is the second Batman of this decade and the third iteration of an origin, I’m glad they decided to go this route, citing that Batman Begins did it the best it could ever be done. And what a Batman they picked! Ben Affleck owned this role. I learned from my initial criticism of Heath Ledger’s casting for The Dark Knight when Ben Affleck was selected to don the cowl for the nest Batman. I pulled back and thought, let’s just wait and see. And I was right, folks! Affleck’s performance was real and yet unlike anything we’ve seen from the Caped Crusader.

How’s the Superman stuff? Eh, not all that great. Henry Cavill doesn’t have the acting chops to do much, and his character is wasted on a convoluted plotline anda misunderstanding of the Man of Steel. I read countless times that this isn’t so much of a Man of Steel sequel but rather a backdoor pilot for the Justice League, which isn’t true. This is in fact a direct sequel as it fits every plot point of the previous film into this one, even the finished plot threads, and the movie bloats because of it.

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Now onto the Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot, Fast & Furious 6, Criminal) of it all. Wonder Woman is great. With only 16 lines of dialogue, Gal Gadot does her best to leave a presence here, and she does. It’s a great introduction to this character and truly excited me for the next installment featuring her.

Among the film’s principal faults lie Jesse Eisenberg, who plays a very new and very different incarnation of Lex Luthor. He did one incredible feat in this film. He made me hate Lex Luthor, but not in a way that works. Eisenberg skewers every scene is in by playing some goofy and unhinged extremes. For a character who was apparently written with such realism, none of that comes to play here. I was arguing with someone who claimed to understand (but not like) Eisenberg’s portrayal of the greatest criminal mastermind of our time. He told me that I didn’t like the performance because I wanted Gene Hackman back. I answered back that I didn’t like the performance because it was a poor performance. There were multiple moments in the film that feature Luthor in public essentially having a mental break. I was sitting in the theater and wanted to see someone just look at him and think that this guy is absolutely insane. The worst of it was all this press that came out later and announced that Bryan Cranston had been looked at, as had Tom Hanks (based on his incredible work on the underrated Cloud Atlas), and yet Eisenberg had been selected in order to reinvent the character. WHAT?!?

Let’s talk some on the Dawn of Justice portion of the film, which does get us into some spoilery territory, so be warned. Batman v Superman is seen as almost a Justice League origin story in a lot of ways. It sets up Batman, Wonder Woman, and even introduces us to several other members of the team. A major problem here is that the audience is spoon-fed the Justice League. The references and setups are literally beaten over the heads of viewers. There are better ways about this. The introduction of the Justice League was terrible sans The Flash, who got a quick moment of reveal that actually worked for me. As for Aquaman and Cyborg…yuck. Cyborg even wasted the origin story on a poor expository flitter of a moment with no style whatsoever. Absolutely stupid. Now, the film does have some subtlety here when they dance around some of the dark past of Bruce Wayne, but it doesn’t do this enough. You could even have thrown some of this into a post-credits scene to get it out of the main narrative.

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is, to me, a more enjoyable experience than Man of Steel, but as far as a cohesive story, it is not. This is a collection of some really cool moments squeezed into a movie that’s bursting at the seams. Ben Affleck gets great redemption from his previous Daredevil failure (in a world where Ryan Reynolds and Chris Evans are also getting second chances) and is easily the best part of this film (Scott Adkins blames the Oscars for why Ben Affleck was cast, but doesn’t understand that Scott Adkins was not cast because he was Scott Adkins). I’m excited to see where this franchise is going (Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman) but I’m nervous that the DCEU is not getting off to a great start and can’t really afford to fumble anymore. Overall, the film is divisive and has some great elements, but there is just too much that is found guilty in this court case.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, click here.

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, click here.

[#2016oscardeathrace] The Martian (2015)

 

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor

Screenplay: Drew Goddard

144 mins. Rated PG-13 for some strong language, injury images, and brief nudity.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role [Matt Damon]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Production Design

IMDb Top 250: #208 (as of 2/23/2016)

 

The Oscars have been pretty good to science fiction in the last few years. We had 2013’s Gravity, 2014’s Interstellar, and this year with The Martian, Ex Machina, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (yes, I know the last one is more fantasy). Today, though, we will focus on the one nominated for Best Picture this year (that’s The Martian).

Mark Watney (Matt Damon, The Bourne Identity, Interstellar) is dead. There was a storm on the surface of Mars and his crew, led by Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty, Crimson Peak), barely managed to escape. With one casualty, the crew is on the long journey back home, their collective hearts and minds in grief over the loss of Mark. There’s really only one major problem: Mark Watney is actually alive. Having survived the storm, he is now stranded on the desolate planet by himself and no way of getting home. But then he starts to think he may not be so doomed, and Mark probably says it best: “I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.”

I found The Martian to be a rather thrilling and enjoyable ride. I know many have come to doubt director Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Exodus: Gods and Kings) and his abilities as a filmmaker in recent years, and I have to admit he has had some real flubs in his previous projects, but he still interests me with his unique films, all carrying a very-Ridley-Scott flavor to them. The screenplay for The Martian, by Drew Goddard (TV’s Daredevil, World War Z) is fabulous and, other than genre, very much a diversion for Scott, especially considering its comedic tones, which I did not expect, but the director handles it very well, proving his versatility behind the lens.

Matt Damon kills it as Watney, making it look easy to essentially carry a film. Now, that isn’t to say he doesn’t have a terrific supporting cast. Chastain does great work, but it is Jeff Daniels (Dumb & Dumber, Steve Jobs) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, Triple 9) who really shine here. There are others involved here who really bring it to the table, but I would be deeply disappointed in myself if I didn’t mention Donald Glover who has a pretty small role but creates a very memorable performance from it.

The cinematography is beautiful and blends very nicely with the visual effects to create a stunningly real representation of Mars. The production design is another win here, though its nomination is a little laughable for a film with so few actual sets.

There are plenty of moments in The Martian that harken back to Scott’s original sci-fi masterpiece Alien without absolutely saying “I MADE ALIEN TOO!” and they help to remind us of how this masterful filmmaker has created so many worlds. The Martian is another incredible piece to add to Ridley’s impressive resume. Now, the film runs on a little too long and occasionally bogs itself down in explain Mark’s plight, but these are small problems that fail to dramatically affect my enjoyment.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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