[Happy 20th Birthday!] Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight (1995)

talesfromthecryptpresentsdemonknight1995a

Director: Ernest R. Dickerson

Cast: Billy Zane, William Sadler, Jada Pinkett Smith, Thomas Haden Church, CCH Pounder, John Kassir

Screenplay: Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris, Mark Bishop

92 mins. Rated R for gore, horror violence, sexuality and language.

 

Only a series like Tales from the Crypt can make a joke about going postal into a plot point. Seriously.

talesfromthecryptpresentsdemonknight1995b

It’s been twenty years since the first in a planned (but cancelled) trilogy of Tales from the Crypt films was released in theaters. Demon Knight is the story of an age-old battle between good and evil, following Brayker (William Sadler, The Shawshank Redemption, Machete Kills), a man who has lived far past his years, as he is hunted throughout the forgotten roads of western civilization by a being known only as The Collector (Billy Zane, Titanic, The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption). Brayker is in possession of a mystical relic, a key, and The Collector will stop at nothing to retrieve it. As Brayker holds up in an old church turned into a motel, owner Irene (CCH Pounder, TV’s NCIS: New Orleans, Avatar) fears he is dangerous and accidentally brings The Collector right to their door. Now, Brayker, Irene, and the rest of the motel residents, including ex-con Jeryline (Jada Pinkett Smith, TV’s Gotham, Collateral) and Roach (Thomas Haden Church, Sideways, Heaven is for Real), a guy just looking for a good time, to stop The Collector from unleashing hell on Earth in this full-length tale told by the menacing Crypt Keeper (John Kassir, Pocahontas, The Smurfs 2).

talesfromthecryptpresentsdemonknight1995c

It is tough to judge a film based on campiness when camp is the overall goal in mind. The movie is goofy, but has a solidly enjoyable screenplay, though it gets a little muddled at the end. Some of the rules created don’t exactly make sense (kind of like Gremlins, you don’t really need to care). The performances are all loopily over-the-top, sometimes too much so. This whole movie exists to service the fans, and half of them weren’t even serviced all in all. I happened to enjoy it, but I agree that it may have worked better as a longer episode rather than a feature. I will say, though, it’s still a pretty damn fun time.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 5th Birthday!] Avatar (2009)

avatar2009a

Director: James Cameron

Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver

Screenplay: James Cameron

162 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and smoking.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Achievement in Cinematography
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Achievement in Visual Effects
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Achievement in Art Direction
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Directing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Film Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Editing

 

Titanic was a powerhouse at the box office during its release back in 1997. I don’t think anyone could have guessed that director James Cameron (Aliens, Aliens of the Deep) would be the one to dethrone his own film as highest grossing film of all time, but as it turns out, he did in 2009 when he released Avatar, a masterpiece of science fiction and general filmmaking.

Avatar is the story of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington, Terminator: Salvation, Cake), a paraplegic grunt who takes on his dead twin’s job as explorer on the planet Pandora. Jake’s job is simple, explore and make contact with the Na’vi, a species of humanoid blue aliens living on the planet, through the use of neural link with something called an avatar. When he gets lost on the planet by himself, he is saved by Ney’tiri (Zoe Saldana, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Book of Life), a Na’vi princess who is tasked with showing Jake the ways of their community. While the science lead Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver, Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Cabin in the Woods) wants to pursue peace talks with the indigenous Na’vi, the military Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang, Conan the Barbarian, A Good Marriage) is only interested in moving them elsewhere in order to mine the precious element Unobtanium which lies beneath their home.

avatar2009c

James Cameron should be awarded for the directing skills he has. I love the work he puts into his films. His screenplays, however, often fail to truly inspire. That’s where the controversy surrounding Avatar lies. Cameron’s screenplay was very criticized for being essentially the same movie as Pocahontas, Dances with Wolves, Fern Gully, and The Last Samurai. Now, I don’t see that as being a problem, because there are only essentially two stories. The first is the story of a man who leaves home and finds a mysterious place, and the second is the story of a mysterious man who comes to town. Yeah, these films are similar, but so many stories are the same. It’s how you tell them that matters, and James Cameron tells his story well.

Avatar’s cinematography deserves to be experienced, not merely seen. The environments on Pandora are so beautifully envisioned and so deeply realized. The film is edited together very tightly, though the story does run on a little longer than it needed to be. The special effects are so vivid and so well-crafted that they are the most-deserving of the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects that year.

Let’s take a look at the performances here. Sam Worthington definitely has the look of a superstar and there was even a time when I thought he was capable of acting, but since that time has passed and I have realized that isn’t true. His work in Avatar isn’t the worst in cinema, but he is easily trounced by his fellow actors. Stephen Lang’s over-the-top performance works quite well given the out-of-this-world story here.

Can I just have a moment to proclaim Zoe Saldana as the hottest alien working in films today? She is mostly known for the incredible work in three science fiction masterpieces like Star Trek, Guardians of the Galaxy, and here as well.

I give enough props to Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and the Furious, Machete Kills) for portraying the same character she plays in every movie, and she does it well enough.

Sigourney Weaver adds that extra layer of professionalism to the film that raises the level nicely.

avatar2009b

Avatar isn’t a perfect film, but it comes pretty damn close for all the hype it had. I still find it quite enjoyable, even for a film with a less than stellar screenplay and a runtime a little longer than needed. Still worth it. Still a phenomenon.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑