[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 2 – Leprechaun 3 (1995)

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Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith

Cast: Warwick Davis, John Gatins, Lee Armstrong, Caroline Williams, Marcelo Tubert, John DeMita, Michael Callan, Tom Dugan

Screenplay: David DuBos

90 mins. Rated R for some strong horror violence and gore, and a scene of sexuality.

 

I wanted to ensure that I got the time this season to review the best in horror. I wanted to review the highest-selling direct-to-video release of 1995. I wanted to talk about Warwick Davis’ favorite Leprechaun film. Though not the best in horror, Leprechaun 3 does lay claim to the rest of these accolades. But I wouldn’t call it good. I imagine that Lee Armstrong would agree with me, as she retired with only 3 acting credits to her name after completing this film. Let’s take a look.

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Leprechaun 3 follow another greedy little Leprechaun (Warwick Davis, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) who is awakened in Las Vegas. He comes across college student Scott McCoy (John Gatins, Real Steel, Need for Speed) and magician’s assistant Tammy Larsen (Lee Armstrong, Magic Island). Now, with the Leprechaun’s wish-granting gold spread out among the casino, all bets are off. Scott and Tammy must track down a rare medallion capable to defeating the Leprechaun before Scott succumbs to a terrible curse.

This is bad, real bad. And, to be fair, it’s one of the best of the bad. But still bad. Real bad. The Leprechaun’s powers are never really outlined, and it seems like he should be unstoppable, but yet he is constantly kept at bay. Then, there’s the question of his mystical coins, which again, have never been seen to grant wishes, though I suppose this is a different Leprechaun than the ones seen in previous installments. And what about the weird sequence of events that begins when the Leprechaun bleeds green oozy blood all over Scott, causing him to slowly turn into the most hillbilliest of Leprechaun creatures. Where the hell did this come from? I can settle for the weird amulet that turns him back to stone, but the rest of this just comes out of nowhere and goes nowhere.

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It’s bad. Real bad. But its fun. Just not real fun. Leprechaun 3 is the kind of film you would expect from this series. Not really getting great, but at least it isn’t worse. For now.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Mark Jones’ Leprechaun, click here.

For my review of Rodman Flender’s Leprechaun 2, click here.

[Early Review] Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

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Director: Travis Knight

Cast: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, Matthew McConaughey

Screenplay: Marc Haimes, Chris Butler

Runtime: NA. Rated PG for thematic elements, scary images, action and peril.

 

Well, I just got out of an advance screening for the upcoming Laika film Kubo and the Two Strings. Now Kubo has been hotly anticipated as a unique and original film for the stop-motion crew at Laika and the trailers have only furthered the excitement. So how does it stack up and should you see it on August 19th?

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Kubo (Art Parkinson, TV’s Game of Thrones, Dracula Untold) is a young boy who lives on an island with his mother. Their lives are secluded and peaceful, until the vengeful Moon King (Ralph Fiennes, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Hail Caesar!), who stole Kubo’s eye as a baby, finds him once again. Kubo’s mother sends him away to find three pieces of mystical armor to defeat the Moon King and his daughters, The Sisters (both played by Rooney Mara, The Social Network, Pan). Along Kubo’s journey, he comes across companions like Monkey (Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Huntsman: Winter’s War) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey, Interstellar, Free State of Jones) who aid him in the perilous and difficult path that lies before him. But can he defeat the Moon King, the evil force who killed his father?

Kubo and the Two Strings is the fourth film from Laika, and it may just be the best work yet. This is a gorgeously animated and stunningly told story steeped in classic Japanese folklore. Each of the environments actually breathe on their own, and function as a beautifully laid out tapestry of incredible visuals.

Kubo’s story directly takes from the Hero’s Journey, and he is given an interesting and action-packed set of tests to stop him from gaining the armor in time. Thankfully, it is the chemistry between Kubo, Monkey, and Beetle that make this movie a must-see. There is heart and soul, enough to compete with the lovely imagery.

The voice work is solid from Parkinson, and he is aided nicely by Theron and McConaughey. In fact, there isn’t a whole lot to turn one away from the film.

Now, Kubo can be seen as an animated film more so than a family or kid’s movie. There are some frightening images and sequences, but I’m not trying to tell you that younger children should avoid it.

My faults with the film? Really only one. There are a few story beats near the end of the film that I didn’t see the point in. But that didn’t take the enjoyment out of the experience.

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You need to see Kubo and the Two Strings. It is breathtaking in its sights, but also wonderful in its sounds. Make sure to stay through the entire end credits. These animators put in hard work, and you get a chance to see how much. There’s also an amazing rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by Regina Spektor. When Kubo hits your theater, take the whole family on an adventure that is original and spectacular, aided by a striking attack on the senses. Seriously, you should be standing in line for it right now.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[St. Patrick’s Day] Leprechaun 2 (1994)

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Director: Rodman Flender

Cast: Warwick Davis, Charlie Heath, Shevonne Durkin, Adam Biesk, Arturo Gil, Linda Hopkins, James Lancaster, Sandy Baron

Screenplay: Turi Meyer, Al Septien

85 mins. Rated R for violence, and for nudity.

 

You’re damn right I picked Leprechaun 2 to watch today, and I hope I don’t regret it terribly. Spoiler Alert: I will.

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Leprechaun 2 follows the same Leprechaun (Warwick Davis, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens) as the first film (at least I think so, the last time he kicked the bucket in a fairly gruesome way and this time, he’s born out of a tree) as he searches for true love. A thousand years ago, he had fallen for a beautiful young woman, and according to some bullshit about turning 1000, he can claim her as his bride, provided that she sneeze three times and nobody say “God Bless You” (seriously, I can’t even make this up). The problem is that the young woman is the daughter of his slave, William O’Day (James Lancaster, The Prestige, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End), who mucks it up to save her. One thousand years later, in present day 1994, the Leprechaun is back to attempt to claim her back when he discovers Bridget (Shevonne Durkin, Ghost in the Machine, Spermicide), a young woman who resembles the girl he fell for so long ago. Bridget’s boyfriend, Cody (Charlie Heath, The Beverly Hillbillies, Friends Til the End), and his boss/friend/guy Morty (Sandy Baron, Sid & Nancy, Vamp) must unite to trick the evil little Leprechaun and destroy him before he gets her to sneeze. Wow, I had trouble explaining all that.

Leprechaun 2 is pure shit. As I said before, I’m still not sure if this is supposed to be the same Leprechaun as before or if we are to think that they all look alike (that might put me in hot water). Warwick Davis is clearly the only one having fun here, playing off the uninterested cast as best he can. Director Rodman Flender (Idle Hands, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop) cannot handle the poorly written screenplay from Turi Meyer and Al Septien (Chairman of the Board, Wrong Turn 2: Dead End).

Oh my God, I couldn’t defend this film if I tried. It’s a wonder even this one made it to theaters.

So, let’s just cover what is good. Warwick Davis can’t be faulted. Sandy Baron is probably the most skilled performer here and, again, does his best. There is a great scene involving  a lawnmower. The Leprechaun drives what amounts to a miniature Formula 1 death machine at one point. The credits were nice at the end.

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If you have already imbibed the green beer on this St. Patrick’s Day, then maybe you can stomach Leprechaun 2. If not, then I’m glad I gave you fair warning.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Mark Jones’ Leprechaun, click here.

[#2016oscardeathrace] Spectre (2015)

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Director: Sam Mendes

Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes

Screenplay: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth

148 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song (“Writing’s on the Wall”)

 

Well, let me assure you by saying that Spectre is the third best Bond film…featuring Daniel Craig (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Adventures of Tintin). Okay, I’m playing now.

Spectre opens with one of the single most impressive shots and sequences of the entire Bond franchise, due in large part to the masterful directing of Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition, Away We Go). Sadly, it is the film’s best moment, and while the rest of Bond 24 is exciting, it is missing something.

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James Bond has lost someone very close to him. In her place, he now has M (Ralph Fiennes, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, The Invisible Woman), who has bigger fish to fry when MI6 comes under political scrutiny. While M and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris, 28 Days Later…, Southpaw) try to protect the organization, Bond is off to discover the mysterious plans of the criminal syndicate known as SPECTRE, and his connection to its apparent leader, Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained, Big Eyes). There are a lot of spoilers to stay away from, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Sam Mendes described Bond’s dedication to uncovering SPECTRE as a more focused passion, and if that is the intention, I did not see it. Daniel Craig feels bored in this entry.

Christoph Waltz brings a healthy dose of fear to the villainous Oberhauser, and his henchman Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista, Guardians of the Galaxy, Riddick) feels nicely reminiscent of Oddjob from the glory days of Goldfinger, a much better version of homage than the way Die Another Day beats you over the head with it.

Fiennes, Harris, and Ben Whishaw (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, In the Heart of the Sea) as Q do their collective day’s work nicely, but the film rests far too much on a personal story for James, and Craig’s best work is when he is being tortured.

Director Mendes gives us a gorgeous Bond film, even after losing the incredible Roger Deakins to other projects. In his place, we get Hoyte van Hoytema, who does some better than expected work but fails to properly convey his visual medium to the story correctly. It isn’t easy, and he certainly tries.

In Bond girls, we get some of the most well-crafted Bond girling from Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color, The Grand Budapest Hotel) and some of the most underutilized work from Monica Bellucci (The Matrix Revolutions, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice).

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Maybe that’s the problem with Spectre. It’s just so uneven. There are some truly incredible sequences, and there are some snoozy moments. It just didn’t keep me the way previous entries have. Not a bad Bond film, but a step down for the franchise, its director, and Craig (who gave us better work this year in Star Wars: The Force Awakens; oh, you didn’t know that?).

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Spectre? What’s your favorite James Bond movie? Let me know!

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

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Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Ian McKellan, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Orlando Bloom

Screenplay: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro

144 mins. Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.

 

Let’s just take a moment to appreciate the work that Peter Jackson (The Lovely Bones, King Kong) and his creative team has accomplished. Six films, two trilogies, and hours upon hours of extended editions have comprised the Middle-Earth Saga.

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman, TV’s Sherlock, Hot Fuzz) and the company of dwarves have just let the diabolical Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game, Penguins of Madagascar) loose on Lake Town. It’s up to Bard (Luke Evans, Dracula Untold, Fast & Furious 6) to stop the evil dragon and reclaim their lives. Tempers soon flair up as the treasures of Erebor are up for grabs and Thorin (Richard Armitage, Captain America: The First Avenger, Into the Storm), consumed by greed, has decided not to honor the agreement made with Bard and his people. Meanwhile, Gandalf (Ian McKellan, X-Men, The Prisoner) continues his battle against the dreaded Necromancer.

The finale to The Hobbit trilogy is a far different film from its predecessors, and with a very simple plot, revolves entirely around the Battle of the Five Armies, one of the biggest battles in Middle-Earth history. It is very similar to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, where the entire film revolves around the climactic ending as opposed to standing on its own. It is definitely my sixth favorite Middle-Earth film.

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Ian McKellan is a torn Gandalf here, caught between his allegiance to the Company of Dwarves and his commitment to reason and peace. McKellan continues to impress.

Evangeline Lilly (TV’s Lost, Real Steel) is great as Tauriel here, the elf who has developed feelings for the poisoned dwarf Kili. Her relationship with Legolas (Orlando Bloom, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, The Three Musketeers) and his father Thranuil (Lee Pace, TV’s Halt and Catch Fire, Guardians of the Galaxy) are further delved into in this film and helps to increase her internal and external conflicts as the story progresses.

As far as the Company of Dwarves, we get more great but wholly underutilized work from Ken Stott (Shallow Grave, One Day) as Balin, the dwarf who will one day claim Moria, and James Nesbitt (Coriolanus, Match Point) as Bofur, the dwarf who, above all else, just wants his home back.

I also loved the continual references to future events and foreshadowing from The Lord of the Rings, like the cameo appearances from Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, How to Train Your Dragon 2), Ian Holm (Ratatouille, Lord of War), Christopher Lee (Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Dark Shadows), and Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas). My only major issue was that I wanted more. Tolkien fans will know that Balin ends up in Moria with Oin, we know that Gloin has a son named Gimli, we know Saruman’s fate, but I wanted to see more in this film.

Director Jackson continues to prove he can handle action and large-scale battle sequences, the action here is incredible. His cinematography mixed with the amazingly well-put-together sequences, and Howard Shore’s deep and thunderous score.

It took me a while to really enjoy Billy Boyd’s final song, “The Last Goodbye,” but once I did, I really felt it tied together not just this film, but the trilogy and in fact the entire saga.

If you get the chance to watch Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance capture for Smaug and the Necromancer, do it. He is incredible to watch even without the CGI placed over it.

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies isn’t Jackson’s best work, but it certainly is a perfectly fine finale to an epic series. I feel like the theatrical cut of the film is missing some key details, and I hope that the extended cut has the ability to expand this on the film and show us some more connective tissues.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, click here.

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, click here.

 

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, click here.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

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Director: Wes Anderson

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Edward Norton, Mathieu Amalric, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Lea Seydoux, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Schwartzman, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Tony Revolori

Screenplay: Wes Anderson

100 mins. Rated R for language , some sexual content and violence.

 

Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom, Fantastic Mr. Fox) has a style. It is easy to tell when a movie is a Wes Anderson movie. He has tells. He has a visual sense that he knows he wants. The Grand Budapest Hotel has this notable visual sense that Anderson is known for. It is told in a frame device of a frame device. In the present, a girl opens a memoir by “The Author” (Tom Wilkinson, Batman Begins, Belle) who recounts a tale of his meeting with Zero Moustapha (F. Murray Abraham, TV’s Homeland, Amadeus) who further recounts a tale of his time working as a lobby boy for M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, The Invisible Woman) who is framed for murder. The entirety of the film revolves around this whodunit as Gustave claims he had nothing to do with the death of Madame D (Tilda Swinton, Adaptation, The Zero Theorem). Her family is fighting over her fortune, and one of them may be the one responsible for her death.

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This movie is all over the place. I enjoyed the central premise but I didn’t feel as though the plot stayed in one place long enough to be interesting. I prefer the more calculated Moonrise Kingdom to this piece, which just goes too far out.

Of the actors involved here, I really liked a lot of what was brought to the screen from an acting perspective. I particularly loved Ralph Fiennes as Gustave, who may be more worried about the state of his hotel than about the murder to which he is framed. F. Murray Abraham is a great narrator here. I also really like Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man, John Wick) as the hitman Jopling who has been hired to take out the leads that could link authorities to the true culprit. Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, Morning Glory) steals absolutely every scene he has here, and I wish he had more screentime. The film also contains a cadre of Anderson cameos from previous collaborators.

Anderson does display a gorgeous cinematography here, the only fault being with the editing job which spends too much time dragging out too many subplots.

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I liked The Grand Budapest Hotel. I didn’t love The Grand Budapest Hotel. It was merely enjoyable but Wes Anderson has done better and can do better. I can see several actors getting nods from the Academy for this film, but you will not see this film on the list of Best Picture nominees.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel? Did you stay for the night or check out early? Let me know!

31 Days of Horror: Day 14 – Leprechaun (1993)

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Director: Mark Jones

Cast: Warwick Davis, Jennifer Aniston, Ken Olandt, Mark Holton, Robert Gorman

Screenplay: Mark Jones

92 mins. Rated R for horror violence and language.

 

It’s tough to place a film like Leprechaun. In one way, it’s far too childish to be scary. On another, there’s too much gore and horror for it to be a kid’s movie. So what exactly is it?

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Well, Leprechaun is a bit of an enigma. It’s the story of an evil little leprechaun (Warwick Davis, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Jack the Giant Slayer) who has his gold taken away from him and is willing to stop at nothing until he gets every piece of it back. The leprechaun is eventually trapped in a crate for several years until Tory Reding (Jennifer Aniston, TV’s Friends, We’re the Millers) and her father move in. Once he is free, he goes on a murderous rampage to get his gold back.

This film is stupid. Really stupid. It suffers from genre confusion. The original idea was for a scary kid’s movie which eventually evolved, thanks to studio heads, into a comedic yet more adult horror film, though it still doesn’t fit into either category. I find it tough to blame writer/director Mark Jones (Scorned, Rumpelstiltskin) as I’m sure he had little measure of success once his film was tampered with, but even so, the acting is horrid. Jennifer Aniston has never been an actress of particular depth, and I’ve never been truly impressed by her worth, and her first starring role is no exception. She is given a band of merry men who turn in wretched work and the entire film falls to Warwick Davis’ portrayal of the evil leprechaun. Now, Davis does fine work with this ultimately not scary role, but he just isn’t scary at all.

That’s what boggle me about this movie and, in fact, the entire series. Not one of them is scary. So why do we classify them as horror. Likely due to the gore factor, and the films do have that.

But, if there is a silver lining to this movie, and I think there is, it is that it is kind of fun to watch. This is usually my go-to for St. Paddy’s Day movies alongside The Boondock Saints and The Departed. It has a relatively odd premise played out to its lengths.

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And there is that line of bad movies. Some of the Leprechaun films (I’m looking at you Leprechaun 4: In Space) are so horrid that it is tough to sit through them. On the other hand, some are just goofy enough to be fun. On that line, Leprechaun does end up on the so-bad-it’s-good side more so than the take-me-out-to-the-pasture-and-shoot-me side. So for that, I give the film its rating.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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