Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Ward

R.I.P. John Carpenter. Or rather, rest in peace John Carpenter's CAREER. Years and years ago John Carpenter made Ghosts of Mars. Awful. Just awful. Okay, maybe it was just a poor script choice for him. Whatever. Every director gets them. But USUALLY a director hops back on the wagon and makes a good film after that. Even if they make another shitty film even after hopping back on. And I can gladly say that Carpenter hasn't taken George Romero's route. George Romero is WAY past the point of no return. Almost so far that if he was announced "dead" tomorrow, I would say, "They're just releasing it?". But Im not going to go that far since he did create 3 of THEE greatest horror films to ever exist, and from what i've heard, Romero is a really nice guy, so I he doesnt deserve ANY bad words, PERSONALLY. But the man can't make a film worth sloth shit anymore. Ive said it before... All of Romero's fans should invest in putting ole' George in a home. And sadly, I think Carpenter might be next. Except... Carpenter SEEMS sensible enough to realize, "Wow, I dont make good movies anymore...".

So... John Carpenter. The man who made Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, Escape from New York, The Thing, Big Trouble In Little China, Prince of Darkness, and so many more, he finally lost his marbles with The Ward. And you know what? It's not as bad as you're expecting. But it's not good. And I guess as a huge Carpenter fan, it could be worse. But in the end, the film just looks like a huge tombstone with his career engraved.

Okay, the film starts off pretty good. An okay set-up, a really cool title card, and some pretty cool credits (the classic Carpenter font, for those of you who are pathetic enough to know what I mean). And really, for the first 15-20 minutes, it's pretty okay. Nothing "FUCK YES"-worthy, but good nonetheless. Then the girls start "acting". Alright, horror movies and females acting... USUALLY the same outcome. A train wreck. But in something as non-over-the-top as this? Get SOME decent actors.

So as the movie "progresses" (to progress usually means to get better [in this case, it doesnt]), the same tricks are used. Something weird happens at night, it pans to the girls face, and it fades to the next day. That happens about 3 or 4 times. And it's not as if there are any pieces left for us to pick up or follow. It's just being mysterious for the hell of it. It wasn't until a couple minutes later where you say, "Wow...". And no, not that "Wow..." where you think something's going to happen. It's that "Wow..." where you realize you've seen this movie before. Not only that, but done better. It was called Shutter Island. Seriously, the movie was Shutter Island with a fraction of the budget. And seriously, when you pit John Carpenter against Martin Scorcese it's a hard battle for me. I LOVE both. I enjoy Carpenter's best films over Scorcese's best, but the difference between those two, is that Scorcese is so much more consistent throughout each and EVERY decade.

Moving on as to why The Ward is a lame chapter in Carpenter's career. He really needs to edit from the past while he creates in the future. And what I mean by that is, a lot of the times, the edits and sound design were really bringing out that "Straight-to-Video" quality. Or lack thereof. If he edited this as if were made in the 80's, and not with all the editing tricks of today, it would have felt like a lesser 80's Carpenter film. And as uninspiring as that sounds, it's hopeful at the same time. Meaning, all he would have to do is find that perfect script and he's golden. If his direction was sharp in this, I would totally give it more points. But it wasn't. Sharp direction with a poor script, is Michael Bay. Bash the guy all you want, but he knows how to make a movie. Knows pacing. Knows shots. Knows how to ecenomically make a film. A story? Not so much. Unfortunately with Carpenter, he cant choose a good script or direct as well as he could before. And another sad fact about The Ward is that he didnt score it. And it's not the first time he hasn't scored a film of his, but maybe it would have given it some more of that Carpenter feel. But granted, one of the best things about the film was SOME of the music. And I say "SOME" because there were little sections that I loved, but mostly were just that annoying mesh of sounds and kinda-almost-music. I hate that.

And the end. Well. Im not going to "ruin" it. But halfway through I thought, "Please dont be that It's ___ in _____ head" ending. Hope I didnt ruin it for you. Because I totally didnt expect it. At all. Not. One. Bit. Like, at all. Ugh. I really expected more from Carpenter. Really? The ending in which was popular 5 years ago? It's not even like he hopped on the band wagon. He hopped on a band wagon that lost it's wheels years ago.

Does the movie suck? I guess not? But is it good by any means? I guess not. It's one of those. And I still cant decide which is worse. I love John Carpenter. I always will. He's made some of my all-time favorite movies. And he seems like a real great down-to-earth guy that I would blow my whole paycheck on, to buy him countless rounds of booze and countless packs of smokes, but I dont know if he has it anymore, as a film maker. When I heard Romero was making whatever "... Of the Dead" film a year or two ago (I honestly forget what it was called, thats how bad his career has gotten), but when I heard about his film announcement, I didnt really even pay attention. But Carpenter? You bet your ass I was on it. I followed the film with every story that was ran. But then it got a shit-release. And unlike The Beaver, I guess I can understand why. The movie was not good. But can you give the greatest horror film maker a shot? Even if the movie sucks, give him a good run. I never thought you could get worse than STV (Straight-to-Video). But you can... VOD (Video-on-Demand). And that's what The Ward has gotten. John Carpenter, the man who made HALLOWEEN, is now VOD film director.

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Super 8

I remember a little over a year and a half ago, I saw a little teaser before Iron Man 2, and it was a film called "Super 8". Now, the first image was a yellow truck. And for some reason, the first image that came to mind was Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Which of course features Richard Dryfuss' character, Roy Neary's truck. There was no particular reason as to why I thought THAT truck, it's just what I thought. And it wasn't until "something" was trying to break out of the train cargo that I thought "Wow, this might be a Close Encounters reference". So as the months passed by, more marketing was done for the film. TV spots, trailers, posters and I was instantly hooked. I love aliens, I love Spielberg, and I really dig Abrams (not so much his work, but his nerd/creative mentality). I mean, I just like the guy. So without going into complete spoiler territory, Ill keep it to a mininum.

First off, I want to explain one thing. There is a difference between ripping off and homage. Tarantino rips people off. In his HEAD, he's paying tribute to whoever he is ripping off, but there is nothing to indicate "HEY! This is from another movie!" to the average movie goer. And Ill admit it, sometimes he rips people off good (as counter-insulting as that sounds [is that a word?]). But what Abrams is doing here is just a complete homage to the ole late 70's/80's Amblin films. And honestly, just having Speilberg as producer on this film instantly makes it a homage to his films. It's kind of like if I were to film a scene in which a guy parks his car like The Blues Brothers. If it was just that, you would say, "That's ripped straight out of The Blues Brothers!". But if he parks the car like The Blues, and his passenger said, "Okay, Elwood...". That's a nod or a homage to The Blues Brothers. It's not trying to pass as it's own. And as I said, just having Spielberg as a producer instantly passes it as a nod and not a rip off to any of his films.

And you know what? The movie works. Until the end. But Ill get to that later. For now, Ill elaborate as to why 80% of the movie works. First of all, the kids. They casted a GREAT group of kids. It was clear they were going for The Goonies/E.T. group of kids. And it worked really well. You have the lead, Elliot-type character, the fat Chunk-like character, the girl, and the side friends. But the best was the main kid, the fatty, and the girl. This is a first time job for most of them, and they hit the right timing on most of their lines. The main kid didn't overact anything really, at all. The fat kid had some great, genuine comic timing, and the girl had that right balance of "the regular girl" and totally not boring. And the one great thing about it was, they seemed like they were actually a real group of friends, eventhough they all met on the set. Kudos to the kids and casting agents. And to Abrams for knowing how to direct kids.

As mentioned above, this movie is a bunch of movies in one. And to just put it out there, it's: The Gonnies, E.T., Close Encounters, District 9, and Signs all in one. The Goonies and E.T. I already elaborated on. But the main influence, that I see, is Close Encounters. And Im not just saying that cause it's one of my absolute favorite movies of all. There are shots taken DIRECTLY from Close Encounters. From the evacuation scenes, to the US Military's presence, to even the setting. It's all Close Encounters. And I dont have a problem with that. It actually did it quite well. I absolutely love that small-town rustic 70's look. It makes your bond with the group of kids that much more meaningful. If it were in a kind of boring setting, you wouldnt really care what the hell they were doing, or where they were going.

I also listed Signs as one of the influences. Was it an influence? I dont think so. Could it have been a rip-off? I think so. And this not being a spoiler, the kid's mom is dead in the beginning of the movie. So all it is, is the kid and his father, who is a local police deputy. So therin lies not only a Signs rip-off, but a Spielberg nod. Instead of father-neglect (a common theme in Spielberg films), it's his mother. Only, she didnt neglect him. She died. But getting back to the Signs rip-off. In Signs, a father is left with his two kids after his wife dies from being hit by a car while jogging. And the person who hit her tried to reach out to the husband, but just couldnt bring himself to it. In this, dude's wife dies because a co-worker called out, she covered his shift, and something terrible happened at work and she died. The dude goes to the funeral and tries to reach out and the husband doesn't want it. There's more to it in the film, but I dont want to lay the whole movie out for you. But there are some story-points taken from Signs.

The other film it kind of riffs from is District 9. And with this, Im not going to get into. Reason being, it would give too much away, story wise. Although, Im sure you might have guessed what it might have taken from D9. Now those are the films that I saw that Abrams had been influenced by. But he listed a few others, officially, as influences. The Thing, Scanners, and Slumber Party Massacre. Slumber Party, really? Apparently, it was for soundtrack musical choises. Why that film? Dont know. But it's odd and I like it.

The end. Dont worry, it's safe to read after this point. It's no secret, you see the movie you see the monster. Or alien. Or whathaveyou. And THERE lies the problem for me. The one thing Abrams SHOULD have taken from Spielberg's past films, was Jaws. In Jaws, you barely see the shark until really the end. Yes, you see glimpses of it, but not the entire thing. First off, Abrams could have chosen a MUCH better creatur design. And this is coming from someone who loved Cloverfield (I dont give a flaming shit. That was a great monster movie!). I loved the Cloverfield monster. It looked as if a creepy white hairless cat had mutated with a grasshopper. It just looked fucking cool. But this monster... Eh... No. Im not going to describe it, because that would be fucking retarded. But they could have done better. Much better. I have a comparrison as to what the monster looked like, but I wont say. Ill only give 3 clues: A 1998 animation film that ends with the letter "Z". Moving on...

The monster was where the brick started to crumble. And what happened after... They could have avoided the "SHOW EVERYTHING" approach. And I guess that's the end of the review really. The rest would just be spoilers.

All in all, it was a fun movie. Had an intriguing story, some really good acting, some fun references, a decent score, and a worthy entry for Abrams' film catalog. Was I disappointed? Yeah. Was it terrible? No. It'll actually probably end up being one of the better summer movies. Oh yeah, and there are lense flares.
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