[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

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

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Director: Francis Lawrence

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland

Screenplay: Peter Craig, Danny Strong

123 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material.

 

Of all the young adult post-apocalyptic stories currently drowning our theaters, The Hunger Games is definitely at the top of my list. The list is of good quality work, and the list is small. At just over two hours, the newest film in the franchise, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, takes the series in a new direction while setting up the final climactic piece to this series, but does it work?

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Yes and no.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook, X-Men: Days of Future Past) has escaped from the Third Quarter Quell Hunger Games intact, and now she finds herself in the midst of a major rebellion against the Capitol and the insidious President Snow (Donald Sutherland, The Italian Job, Horrible Bosses). Her on-again-off-again real-but-also-kind-of-fake boyfriend Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson, Bridge to Terabithia, Epic) has been captured and might be dead. She is joined in her quest to take down Snow by friends Gale (Liam Hemsworth, The Expendables 2, Empire State) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson, TV’s True Detective, No Country for Old Men) as well as the rebellion leader President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore, Magnolia, Non-Stop) and her second-in-command Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote, Doubt). Does Katniss have what it takes to be the face of a rebellion, and can she save the ones she loves from the dark and powerful Capitol?

First of all, I must say that I was in agreement about making Mockingjay into two films. Having read the book, I found that there was a lot of material to be mined from it and I couldn’t see a logical place to cut it without it feeling rushed. That being said, I felt that the area they could’ve beefed up and gone into more were not. We are thrown into the film without have a few minutes to start connecting the dots. I spoke to some views who hadn’t read the books to question their thoughts and they felt as though a little more prologue or something to bring the story into its frame of reference would’ve been appreciated. We also could have spent more time with some of our new characters and there are a lot of them, virtually all of them in this film. We could’ve developed Liam Hemsworth’s Gale as more than just a good-looking fella. There is some action for Hemsworth in this picture but it doesn’t feel as exciting because frankly we don’t know his character like we should.

Now, this movie isn’t bad, don’t think that’s where I’m going with this, but it could’ve had better pacing and more to it. We get some great work from J-Law here as Katniss, and some awesome work our second tier players Moore, Hoffman (in the last performance before he was taken from us), and Harrelson.

Director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Water for Elephants) handles the material well, but I don’t think he added as much from a stylistic perspective as he could have. Think about the latter Harry Potter films, the ones directed by David Yates. Each Yates film in the series, although directed by the same man, has a different feeling and a wholly unique style. I could see a moment from Yates’ film and know which film it is. I don’t feel like F-Law has learned anything from last year’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which he should have. Again, not really a flaw, just a notice.

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The problem with most of these films is that they are intended to be viewed as a whole, so when The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is released next year, I will take a look back at this first installment (or third, technically) and see how it holds up as a complete saga. Mockingjay – Part 1 is a strong and powerful entry in The Hunger Games saga. There are some truly great moments in this film, and we get a wide array of awesome performances and a lot of tension building for next year’s finale. It is, however, a step down from Catching Fire.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Non-Stop (2014)

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Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Cast: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Nate Parker, Jason Butler Harner, Anson Mount, Lupita Nyong’o

Screenplay: John W. Richardson, Chris Roach, Ryan Eagle

106 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some language, sensuality and drug references.

 

Liam Neeson gets on a plane…

I watched Non-Stop with the expectation to see Taken again. What I got was more like a rip-off of Taken 2. I found the film to be a bit of a bore, unlike normal Neeson fare. The movie tells the story of Bill Marks (Bryan Mills?), an alcoholic federal air marshal who hates planes. Perhaps this is the first indicator that you picked the wrong career. Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, A Million Ways to Die in the West) portrays Marks as he boards a flight and discovers that a killer is on the plane, but who is it? This is essentially the plot at its most intricate. Julianne Moore (Magnolia, last year’s Carrie remake) is Jen, a passenger on the plane who might want to bone the air marshal. The rest of the somewhat first-class cast are given coach roles and little wiggle room to stand out.

I’d like to point out that I don’t know how many flights allow vigorous make-out sessions and dry humping during flight, but maybe I need to switch airlines.

Non-Stop

I have very little to say that is good about this movie. It all comes down to a weak antagonist (literally a pop-up bubble text message that is sent to Bill throughout the film but does very little to convey menace), characters we don’t care about (live or die, who cares?), and a motive that is so over the top that it makes one laugh out loud at real tragedy and just downright pissed me off. I didn’t like this movie. For my money, I’ll hold out for Taken 3.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of Jaume Collet-Serra’s Non-Stop? Did Liam Neeson save you on this film, or would you like a pillow for this flight?

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