PICTURE OF THE DAY: THEM! (1954)

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James Whitmore trying to elude a giant ant in one of the scarier scenes from THEM! (1954).

James Whitmore tries to elude a giant ant in one of the scarier scenes from THEM! (1954).

PICTURE OF THE DAY:  THEM!  (1954)

Spoiler Alert!

While I don’t mind spoilers for older movies, since most of us have seen these movies several times over, in the interest of not wanting to ruin a good movie for those who haven’t seen it, this column features a major spoiler about the classic monster movie THEM! (1954) and so, if you haven’t seen the movie, feel free to skip this column, and I’ll see you again next time.

Anyone still with me?  Hope so!

Today’s Picture of the Day comes from the classic 1950s monster movie, THEM! which tells the story of a colony of gigantic mutated ants discovered in the desert of New Mexico.  They eventually terrorize Los Angeles.

THEM! is one of the best giant monster movies ever made, and one of the reasons for this is that for a 1950s film, it’s still rather scary and suspenseful.  Director Gordon Douglas crafts some genuinely suspenseful scenes, and the screenplay by Ted Sherdeman and Russell Hughes, based on a story by George Worthing Yates, tells a gritty realistic story rather than an overblown fanciful one.  This one plays like a mystery and a police drama long before it delves into the world of science fiction—- just what is killing these people?— and then once the giant ants are discovered, the film takes on that WAR OF THE WORLDS invasion feel— just how can we stop an army of giant ants?

Another reason THEM! is so scary and so memorable is it does something which so few films do— now or back in the 1950s— and it’s one of the reasons this movie has stuck with me since the first time I saw it on television as a kid in the early 1970s (and here’s the spoiler):  it kills off the hero.

Yikes!

Yes, that’s right, the hero in THEM!, Police Sergeant Ben Peterson (James Whitmore) in his attempt to rescue two children trapped by the ants in the storm drains underneath Los Angeles, gets the children out, but he  gives up his life in the process, leaving co-hero FBI agent Robert Graham (James Arness) in charge of saving the day.

It’s such a powerful scene, especially since in 1950s horror movies, this never seems to happen.  I remember being absolutely shocked that the ants got Ben Peterson.  So much so, that moments later, when the ants close in on Robert Graham, I thought he was a goner too, and I never would have felt this fear had not Peterson met his demise.  It’s great stuff.

The image from today’s picture of the day shows Peterson seconds before the ant gets him.  He had just pushed the children to safety and is about to follow them when the ant— the bastard!— sneaks up behind him and attacks.  For my money, it’s one of the most emotional and frightening moments in 1950s horror movie cinema.

I still get shivers thinking about it, even as I sit here and look at that still.  You’re a good man, Ben Peterson.  You saved those kids, and you came oh-so-close to making it out alive yourself.

Oh so close.

RIP Ben Peterson, one of my favorite horror movie characters, played so well by the great actor James Whitmore.

Hope you enjoy the image, and if you’ve never seen THEM!, definitely check it out.  It holds up remarkably well today.

Well, that’s it for now.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

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SEX TAPE (2014) Struggles To Be Funny

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Sex Tape posterHere’s my review of SEX TAPE (2014) which went up last week at cinemaknifefight.com, your place to read about movies, where you’ll find new movie content posted every day by L.L. Soares, myself, and a very talented staff of writers.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

MOVIE REVIEW: SEX TAPE (2014)
By Michael Arruda

There’s a sequence in SEX TAPE, the new comedy starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel, where the characters played by Diaz and Segel struggle to be intimate. They try everything, but nothing seems to work. It’s one of the movie’s more honest scenes, but it’s also symptomatic of what’s wrong with this movie. The entire film is one laborious struggle to be funny.

If you’ve seen the trailer for SEX TAPE, you know the plot of this movie. A married couple makes a sex tape to spice up their sex life only to have it accidentally shared with family and friends on the internet. Sadly, the film doesn’t offer much more in the way of surprises.

Annie (Cameron Diaz) and Jay (Jason Segel) have been married for ten years, have two kids, and seem to have lost the romance which they originally shared. They used to have sex all the time, but now, it’s not that they don’t love each other, it’s that they are simply too busy to have sex.

Finally, they arrange a date night, as Annie’s mom takes the kids overnight, but even then, it’s been so long, Annie and Jay just can’t seem to turn it on in the bedroom department. So, they decide to make a sex tape, which of course, they plan to erase the next day, but Jay forgets to do this, and the next thing they know, their sex tape has been shared with family and friends. This is because the sex tape is included in an app downloaded on a series of laptops which Jay handed out to their closest friends and family members. To get the tape back, they have to get the laptops back, and so for the rest of the movie, Annie and Jay take one outlandish action after another to retrieve the laptops.

SEX TAPE is a one joke movie— destroy that sex tape!— with only a few laugh-out-loud moments. Early on, there’s a hilarious conversation between Jay and a co-worker as they discuss taking pictures of their own private parts. I guess you had to be there. And towards the end of the movie, Jack Black, in an unbilled performance as the head of an internet porn server, enjoys a funny bit when he tries to find out who Jay and Annie are working for and spouts off an endless list of competitors filled with every possible porn name you can imagine.

But the rest of the film is trite and tired. The efforts to get back the laptops are silly and goofy, and reminded me— even though this is an R rated movie— of the antics displayed in those silly G rated Disney comedies back in the day. They’re obvious routine gags where you see the punchline coming a mile away. It also doesn’t help that the movie’s best bits were shown in the film’s trailers.

I kept expecting this one to suddenly shift into high gear and go way over the top with the humor but it never does. Its idea of a funny gag is having Diaz distract her potential boss on the first floor of his huge mansion while Segel searches the second floor for the laptop, all the while being pursued by the man’s guard dog. Ha, ha. Chuckle, chuckle. Is that Dean Jones and Kurt Russell I see snooping around the window?

The screenplay by Kate Angelo, Jason Segel, and Nicholas Stoller includes lots of discussions about sex, and lots of scenes featuring sex, but it doesn’t do a good job of making us laugh about sex. For an R rated comedy, this one really doesn’t have much of an edge to it. Stoller also wrote MUPPETS MOST WANTED (2014), THE MUPPETS (2011) which he co-wrote with Segel, and GULLIVER’S TRAVELS (2010), and the strange thing is, SEX TAPE plays like one of these PG/family comedies, which is bizarre considering the subject matter.

It’s rated R because of the partial nudity and frequent use of the F word for sex, but with the exception of one gag involving drug use, the jokes in this movie are decidedly PG-13. The potential is there for a wild comedy, the idea that a couple’s sex tape has been launched onto the internet, but even this isn’t the case. It’s only on a handful of laptops, and so all Annie and Jay have to do is find those laptops. They’re spared having to deal with the outside world.

And the tape itself we never see other than the goofy first few seconds where Jay utters “hello” and sounds like an idiot. To be fair, we finally do get to see parts of it at the very end of the movie, but it’s a case of too little too late. It reminded me of THE HANGOVER PART 3 (2013) where one of the film’s best moments was the film’s final scene.

Director Jake Kasdan fared better with the earlier Cameron Diaz/Jason Segel comedy BAD TEACHER (2011) which I thought was funnier than this movie. There’s not much about SEX TAPE to lift it above other comedies of its type. The worst part is for a comedy about sex it’s unbelievably tame.

SEX TAPE works best when dealing with the realities of how difficult family life can be for married couples, and how it can be next to impossible to find time to spend with each other. These moments are true and they work, but when the film tries to be funny, it falters. The jokes aren’t sharp, mostly because what Jay and Annie have to do to get the tape back isn’t that difficult. They just have to get back a few laptops. That’s it. The story is begging for things to spiral out of control, but this never happens. The scene with Jack Black, for example, should have been a springboard for things to come.

Cameron Diaz is okay as Annie. She looks great for 41, but she’s been funnier in other movies, like BAD TEACHER (2011). Annie isn’t much of a role. Diaz is on par here with her earlier effort this year, THE OTHER WOMAN (2014).

I’ve never been much of a Jason Segel fan, and his performance in this movie did little to change my opinion. The worst part about Segel and Diaz in this film is that they don’t really share much chemistry. There’s something very arduous about their relationship here. They don’t seem all that natural together.

Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper are forgettable as Annie and Jay’s silly best friends who receive a copy of the sex tape. Rob Lowe is also on hand in a thankless role as Hank, a man who’s interested in buying Annie’s blog because of the family values it promotes, which makes things problematic for Annie when Hank also receives the sex tape. Gee, I wish someone would buy my blog.

Another problem with SEX TAPE is we never witness people’s reactions when they see the tape. Hell, we never even see anyone watching the tape! Annie and Jay bend over backwards to retrieve the laptops only to hear, “Oh, I never even used it.” These moments could have been very comical, but we’re never treated to them.

SEX TAPE had the potential to be a laugh-out-loud bawdy comedy. Instead, it’s a labored minor comedy which delivers one or two laughs, few of them having anything to do with the titled sex tape.

I give it a ho-hum two knives.

—END—

 

 

NECON 34 Recap: We Are Family

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Necon batNECON 34 Recap
July 17-20 2014
By Michael Arruda

What is Necon?

Only the coolest convention ever!

Every summer a bunch of writers and readers descend upon Roger Williams University in Bristol, RI for Camp Necon, a writers’ convention unlike any other.

Here’s a brief recap of this year’s Necon, NECON 34, held July 17-20 2014, at the Roger Williams Convention Center.

Thursday, July 17

NECON 34 got off to a truly original start with Necon’s First Ever Live Concert, performed by Kasey Lansdale. Kasey, the daughter of author Joe Lansdale, entertained the Necon crowd with a nice mix of original songs and other favorites, even bringing Christopher Golden up to perform. Who knew that Golden could sing so well? Seriously, no joke, Chris Golden can sing. Wow. This was a fun outdoor concert.

Afterwards, I caught up with friends I hadn’t seen since last year and hung out with them into the night—.

 

Friday, July 18

No rest for the weary as I was co-hosting the first event of the day, a 9:00 Kaffeklatsch entitled Cinema Knife Fight Presents The Years’s Best Horror Films, co-hosted with my Cinema Knife Fight partner, L.L. Soares. L.L. missed last year’s Necon, so it was extra fun seeing him this year.

We had a nice turn-out of people and a spirited discussion of this year’s horror movies. Of course, the consensus was that there weren’t a whole lot of decent horror movies released so far this year. Two films that were discussed were GODZILLA and DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.

I recommended THE QUIET ONES, Hammer’s latest movie, an offbeat original tale of a possession investigation, as my top horror movie pick so far for 2014, and L.L. went with the recently released SNOWPIERCER.

In the audience were fellow Cinema Knife Fighters Bill Carl, Barry Dejasu, and Barbara and Craig Shaw Gardner, who as always, had lots of insights into this year’s movies.

Two more Kaffeklatschs followed. I attended the 11:00 one on The Best Books of Last Year, where Jack Haringa, Matt Schwartz, and Hank Wagner discussed recent good reads. Lots of titles were suggested, including Christopher Golden’s latest, Snowblind, which received high recommendations.

After a noon lunch, it was time for the afternoon panels. I skipped the first one to catch up on some rest, check emails, make a blog post, and call home to see how things were on the home front.

The 2:00 panel Somebody’s Gotta Tell the Truth: The Smart People’s Panel was a panel on nonfiction and criticism, moderated by Jack Haringa, and featured Nicholas Kaufmann, Hank Wagner, Hildy Silverman, Tony Tremblay, and Bev Vincent. Much of the talk focused on critical reviews and whether it was good form to publish negative reviews of people’s works. The consensus seemed to be that it’s better simply not to review a “bad book” than write a scathing review about it.

The 3:00 panel Quiet On The Set!: The Long, Long Road from the Page to the Screen was a panel moderated by Lynne Hansen on what it takes to make a movie, covering such topics as writers, directors, producers, actors, scripts, and studios. The panel included Amber Benson, John Dixon, Mallory O’Meara, Brian Keene, and Jeff Strand.

At 4:00, it was time for the highlight of the day, the We Are Family: The Bob Booth Legacy panel. Bob Booth, the man who along with his wife Mary founded Necon, sadly passed away last year after a courageous battle with lung cancer. Moderator Matt Bechtel made it clear that the panel would honor Bob’s wishes not to turn Necon into a funeral service, and so Matt and fellow panelists Chris Golden, John McIlveen, Linda Addison, Jill Bauman, and Craig Shaw Gardner offered their insights and stories on how Bob influenced both their careers and lives.

In addition to founding Necon, Bob Booth was also a writer, publisher, mentor, scholar, and fan. He also started Necon EBooks, which published my first short story collection, two movie review collections, and coming soon my first novel. So, I know firsthand how well Bob Booth supported authors, because he gave me my shot for which I will be forever grateful.

One of the highlights of this tribute was a video interview of Bob from a several years ago, part of a project to record Necon memories on video. Bob was a gifted storyteller, and his appearance in this interview is chock full of fun stories and anecdotes, my favorite being the story of how Necon began.

After dinner, Toastmaster Jack Haringa offered his toast with his signature scathing wit, a nice preview of things to come in Saturday’s roast. Haringa’s toast was followed by the comical Necon Update with Mike Myers.

Following these lighthearted affairs was the more serious Necon Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Inductees into the Necon Hall of Fame this year included Dan Booth and John McIlveen.

At 8:00 it was the Meet the Authors Party where authors like Christopher Golden, Tom Monteleone, F. Paul Wilson, and Brian Keene, among many others, signed their books and greeted fans. It’s an amazing venue in which to meet your favorite authors.

I had my In The Spooklight collection and For The Love of Horror short story collection on hand, as I set up shop with L.L. Soares, Peter Dudar, and John Dixon. I purchased Peter’s novella romp Blood Cult of the Booby Farmers and look forward to reading it.

At 10:00 it was time for Necon Late-Night Movies where I caught Lynne Hansen’s short film CHOMP, a lively little tale of people fighting off some hungry zombies.

And the night finished, as Necon nights always do, with late night socializing outside on the quad where you’d be hard pressed not to find a friendly author or a captivating conversation, the kind where you’ll suddenly realize an hour has past and you’re still talking about that latest movie or book or hot sauce recipe. You never know.

 

Saturday, July 19

Breakfast at 8:00 followed by the 9:00 panel, It Only Hurt A Little (Writing a Novel), moderated by Richard Dansky, where authors L.L. Soares, Kristin Dearborn, Meghan Acuri-Moran, Dan Foley, and Laura Cooney discussed the experience of writing their first novels. Dan Foley made a point to thank Bob Booth for helping launch his career by publishing his first novel with Necon EBooks. I second that thank you.

Following at 10:00, the Putting It All Together: How To (and Not To) Assemble an Anthology panel, moderated by Doug Winter, and featuring Tom Monteleone, Darrell Schweitzer, Kasey Lansdale, Scott Goudsward, and Jacob Haddon, where they discussed the ins and outs, and dos and don’ts of putting together an anthology. Among the topics of conversation was what to do when a name author delivers subpar material. This was a really interesting panel and included lots of practical nuts and bolts on how to assemble an anthology.

I skipped the 11:00 panel to catch up on some rest, and after lunch at noon, it was time for the 1:00 Guest of Honor Interviews, where Toastmaster Jack Haringa interviewed guests of honor Michael Koryta, Amber Benson, and Nick Kaufmann. This was a two hour event, but I had to skip out halfway through to work a shift at the New England Horror Writers table in the Dealer’s Room, which actually was a lot of fun, hanging out with Scott Goudsward and other members of the New England Horror Writers group.

At 4:00 it was the lively and energetic panel Man vs. Beast vs. Other: The Best Monsters in Modern Horror, in which the panelists discussed their favorite monsters. Moderated by P.D. Cacek, the panel included Errick Nunnally, William Carl, Brian Keene, Mary SanGiovanni, and Nate Kenyon. This was a really interesting panel where there was much more than just the traditional monsters discussed.

After dinner, it was time for the Artists’ Reception at 6:30 where there was some incredible art work on display, as always. This was presented with coffee and a delicious array of desserts. I had a chance to chat with Tom Monteleone during this event, and it was fun catching up.

At 7:30, it was time for the Necon Talent Show. This year the gimmick of the “gong” was added, a la the old Gong Show TV show. I’m not sure the gong went over all that well, but I actually liked it and thought it was hilarious. There was also a panel of judges this year, a la American Idol, including F. Paul Wilson doing his best British accent and Tom Monteleone playing the clichéd Italian.

Contestants sang, danced, performed stand-up comedy, and played guitar in a fun show which was entertaining and satisfying.

After this, it was time for The Infamous Necon Roast. The “unlucky” roastee this year was Guest of Honor Nick Kaufmann, and the running gag was Nick’s mediocrity. Of course, anyone who knows Nick, even just through Necon as I do, knows there’s nothing mediocre about him. Hilarious roast, and Nick was a good sport about it all.

Afterwards it was time for another for Necon Late-Night Movie, this time a showing of the short film GAVE UP THE GHOST, written by Jeff Strand, a comical tale of a possessed computer. Not something you see every day.

Into the night, more socializing, conversations, and grilled Saugies, those tasty hot dogs found only in Rhode Island.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

After 8:00 breakfast, it was the 9:00 panel Up and Coming: Genre and Erotic Fiction Do the 9AM “Walk of Shame,” a panel on horror and erotic fiction moderated by Sephera Giron, and featuring Peter Dudar, Hal Bodner, Mike Myers, Heather Graham, and Nick Kaufmann. This very informative panel discussed differences between erotica and pornography, and erotica’s place in horror fiction, and how to seamlessly mix the two.

I skipped 10:00 panel to pack up and check out, and at 11:00, it was time for the Necon Town Meeting where we took stock of the weekend and looked ahead to next year’s Necon.

Again, it was reaffirmed by the Necon first-timers how comfortable people here made them feel, and how much of a family Necon is, which is the true legacy of Bob Booth and the rest of the Booth family, that they have created a gathering for like-minded writers, readers, artists, and fans who can spend a weekend discussing the things they love, learning valuable insights, having tons of fun, and doing it all in a friendly environment, with people who though not related by blood feel and act like family.

It’s a one of a kind experience.

The weekend finished with the farewell lunch, where I sat with friends L.L. Soares, Laura Cooney, and Steve Dorato, most likely for the last time until next summer, and said my farewells to many familiar and friendly faces, people like Craig Shaw Gardner, Barbara Gardner, Chris Golden, Richard Dansky, and Paul McMahon to name just a few.

And of course the Booth family, Sarah, Dan, Mary, and Matt.

I said it last year but it bears repeating: Necon is more than a con. It’s family.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

 

THE ABOMINATION by Jonathan Holt Is Not So Abominable

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abominationWhat I’m Reading –The Abomination by Jonathan Holt
Book Review by MICHAEL ARRUDA

If you like conspiracies, then The Abomination, a novel by Jonathan Holt, might be the book for you.

Let’s see, it features the CIA, the Catholic Church, the U.S. military, the Bosnian underground, the virtual world of alternative social media, and the Italian police force, all intertwined in various degrees of mischief, and just who is pulling the strings and for what reason is what the main characters in this one have to find out. There’s no shortage of questions in this mystery novel, but it’s the answers to these questions that don’t always satisfy.

The action takes place in Venice and begins with the discovery of a dead body, the murder victim a woman dressed as a Catholic priest. Taking the case is the seasoned and respected Detective-Colonel Aldo Piola and his new young assistant, the recently promoted Captain Kat Tapo. Kat is an ambitious young woman, and her methods immediately impress the older Piola, so much so, that they eventually have a romantic affair, even though Piola is married.

Meanwhile, young Second Lieutenant Holly Boland of the U.S. army arrives in Venice to work at the army post there. When she receives a request for information regarding the Bosnian war in the 1990s, she discovers that the files she is looking for have only just recently been destroyed. And then, when the woman who made the request turns up dead, Holly’s path crosses with Kat’s, as the two murder cases appear to be connected.

At the same time, a genius mathematician named Daniele Barbo is about to go to trial in a computer hacking case. Barbo is famous for creating Carnivia, a 3D mirror world of his home city of Venice, a popular online destination because of its ability to keep identities anonymous. Barbo becomes involved in the murder case when Kat and Boland discover that the murder victims were using Carnivia to hold secret meetings.

There’s no shortage of intrigue in The Abomination, the first book in a trilogy about the virtual world of Carnivia, and I enjoyed following both Kat and Holly on their investigative paths which led them into the shady dealings of the CIA, the Catholic Church, and the Bosnian underground. However, there’s just so much going on and so many players involved, I found it more and more difficult to buy into the conspiracy plot the more I learned about it. It was like being in a room where everyone was talking at the same time. It’s noisy. I would have preferred a tighter conspiracy story with fewer players.

I liked both Kat and Holly Boland a lot, and they were my two favorite characters in the book. It was refreshing to have not just one, but two strong female lead characters.

Barbo is also an interesting character if somewhat underdeveloped. I wanted him in the story more, and by the time he starts working with Kat and Holly, the novel is almost over. This was a compelling threesome and I would have liked to have read about their interactions in an entire novel.

I also really enjoyed Detective-Colonel Aldo Piola, but once it becomes clear that the novel is going to be more about Kat and Holly, Piola strangely disappears from the proceedings and hardly matters anymore as the story enters its final act, which I found disappointing since he was such a solid character early on.

The villains here aren’t bad, but no one really stands out either. The main player pulling the strings who will remain nameless to avoid spoilers plays so many different sides of the fence I’m still not sure I understand the character’s intentions.

The Abomination is entertaining enough. It’s an ambitious story and it’s well-written, with likable characters, but I never really got into it as much as I expected, and the biggest reason for this lack of enthusiasm was its conspiracy-filled plot which became so convoluted I found myself not believing it. I wish the plot had focused on a smaller more conceivable conspiracy.

And for a tale of lurid murder and intrigues, it never got quite as abominable as I expected it to.

—END—

 

 

OLDBOY (2013) Unbelievable

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oldboy-posterStreaming Video Review: OLDBOY (2013)
by
Michael Arruda

I missed OLDBOY (2013) when it played at theaters last year— it was gone pretty quickly— but I was able to catch up with it the other day on Netflix streaming.

OLDBOY is a remake of a 2003 Korean film of the same name, a movie I have not seen, but one that is reportedly much better than this remake by director Spike Lee. OLDBOY is a tale of mystery and revenge, and it’s one that I would have liked much more had I actually believed it.

We meet Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin), a man who’s not particularly likable— in fact, he’s downright unlikable— screwing up his business meetings and his family life, as he misses his three year-old daughter’s birthday party and screams at his ex-wife on the phone. After botching an important business deal, Joe gets himself stinking drunk, and it’s in this state that he’s kidnapped, whisked away into the night from a dark rainy street.

When he awakes, he finds himself imprisoned in a hotel room. He receives food on a tray which is passed through a small opening in the door, and of course he has access to a bathroom, but he’s held in this room for twenty years. During this time, he sees on television news reports of his ex-wife’s murder, and how he has been implicated in the crime. Over the years, since the story of the murder of his ex-wife makes for sensationalistic television, especially since the chief suspect— him—has disappeared, there are follow-up reports, and during the twenty year span he gets to see reports of his daughter’s well-being.

One day, after twenty years of imprisonment, he is released without explanation. Joe makes it his mission to find out who imprisoned him for twenty years and for what reason. He receives help from his friend Chucky (Michael Imperioli) and a young nurse Marie Sebastian (Elizabeth Olsen) with troubles of her own, and she’s attracted to Joe because she sees him as a kindred spirit. Their search leads them to some unsavory characters, a man named Chaney (Samuel L. Jackson) and another man named Adrian (Sharlto Copley) who tells Joe that he’s asking the wrong question, that the question he should be asking isn’t why he was imprisoned, but why was he released?

Not that it really matters, because the answer to both these questions is so convoluted I didn’t buy any of it.

First of all, Joe Doucett is one of the least likable protagonists I’ve seen in a movie in a while, and so I didn’t care what happened to him. That being said, what he did to deserve this fate is so minor it’s ridiculous. When it was time finally for the great revelation— the reason this all came to pass— I was like— really? Are you kidding me? That’s it?

Did I believe that a guy as strong as Joe couldn’t have broken out of that hotel room? Not once in twenty years? No. I did not believe this.

Did I believe that an organization as described in the movie— the one responsible for running the hotel— exists? No. Don’t get me wrong. In real life it very well might exist, but in this movie, it came off as so fake I thought I was watching a cheesy 1980s Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. Those films were fun because Arnold was so over the top. This film is trying to be dark and serious. It doesn’t work.

Did I believe Joe could become a deadly assassin just by training all by his lonesome in his hotel room? Not really.

I’ve enjoyed Josh Brolin in such films as NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007), JONAH HEX (2010), and GANGSTER SQUAD (2013), and his performance here in OLDBOY is fine, but he’s stuck playing a character I just didn’t like, and as a result, I didn’t care what really happened to him, which made for a very long 104 minutes.

Likewise, I enjoyed Elizabeth Olsen as Nurse Marie Sebastian. I always seem to like Olsen, enjoying her performances in the otherwise awful horror movie SILENT HOUSE (2011) and most recently GODZILLA (2014). That being said, she does seem to play the same part- the victim.

Sharlto Copley is always fascinating to watch but he’s somewhat less so here as the mysterious Adrian. It’s still an interesting performance, but nowhere near as powerful as his villainous turn as Kruger in the science fiction hit ELYSIUM (2013). And Samuel L. Jackson does his wise-cracking bad ass shtick as the sketchy Chaney.

I don’t really have a problem with the direction by Spike Lee, other than the big no-no that I didn’t buy the story, but I used to really enjoy Lee’s movies, films like SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT (1986), DO THE RIGHT THING (1989) and MALCOLM X (1992). It’s been a while.

For me, the weakest part of OLDBOY was the screenplay by Mark Protosevich, based on the screenplay of the Korean movie. First off, the basic premise of the movie, the story of a man kidnapped and held against his will for twenty years only to be released without any explanation, was highly implausible.

The imprisonment scenes with Joe in the hotel room were all rather dull, and director Lee adds very little in the way of creative touches to make these mundane scenes memorable.

Things naturally pick up a bit and get more interesting once Joe is released, because then the mystery becomes the focal point of the movie: why was Joe imprisoned? As much as I didn’t like Joe as a character, I was still interested in following him on his investigation while he tried to learn what happened. By far, these scenes were the most gripping in the film but they were hardly exciting.

And then, once he starts finding answers, it doesn’t take long for the realization to set in that these answers are completely ludicrous. I just did not believe that someone would spend that much time and energy— twenty years’ worth— just to exact revenge when so many simpler options exist.

There is one final twist, and I will say, of all the plot points in the movie, this one was the most satisfying, but for me, it was too little too late.

Had this film put some effort into making the audience believe what was going on, it would have been a much more satisfying film. I didn’t believe in the forces at work here. I didn’t believe they could do what they did, and I certainly didn’t believe Joe’s “crime” was the kind of thing which would drive someone to plan out twenty years’ worth of revenge. I also didn’t like Joe as central character very much.

And for a thriller, I didn’t find OLDBOY very exciting or all that intense.

OLDBOY plays more like OLD MAN.

—END—

 

 

MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES: THUNDERBALL (1965)

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Thunderball posterMEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES: THUNDERBALL (1965)
By
Michael Arruda

Welcome to another edition of MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES, that column where we look at great quotes from some really great movies. Some of the best lines in the movies come from the James Bond films, especially the early ones with Sean Connery and Roger Moore.

One of the best Bond films in terms of memorable lines is THUNDERBALL (1965), Sean Connery’s fourth outing as 007. This film came at the height of James Bond mania, following the insane success of the third film in the series, GOLDFINGER (1964), and really, you could call this film the high point of the Sean Connery era, as the series trended downward a bit after this film.

Anyway, let’s have a look at some of those memorable lines of dialogue from THUNDERBALL, screenplay by Jack Whittingham, John Hopkins, and Richard Maibaum.

 

This is the only James Bond movie where we see all the 00 agents together in one room in one shot. It comes early on in the movie, when an emergency meeting is held to discuss an impending crisis. Bond is the last to arrive, something that is not unnoticed by M (Bernard Lee) who says, stopping Bond in his tracks momentarily:

M: Now that we’re all here.

 

One of my favorite lines in the movie comes when Bond (Sean Connery) first meets the beautiful Domino (Claudine Auger) and calls her by her name, something that he wasn’t supposed to know.

BOND: My dear, uncooperative Domino.

DOMINO: How do you know that? How do you know my friends call me Domino?

BOND: It’s on the bracelet on your ankle.

DOMINO: So, what sharp little eyes you’ve got.

BOND: Wait till you get to my teeth.

 

The villain in THUNDERBALL is Largo (Adolfo Celi) and he enjoys some memorable lines as well, like in this scene where he talks about his favorite henchman, Vargas.

LARGO: Of course. Vargas does not drink— does not smoke— does not make love. What do you do, Vargas?

Of course, we know what Vargas does: he kills.

 

As you would expect, some of the better exchanges in the movie are between Bond and Largo, like in this scene where the two men are getting to know each other, each pretending to be someone they aren’t, each trying to learn something of value about the other.

Here, they discuss guns:

BOND: That gun, it looks more fitting for a woman.

LARGO: You know much about guns, Mr. Bond?

BOND: No, but I know a little about women.

 

And as Largo leads Bond in a sharp shooting contest.

BOND: It looks very difficult.

(Shooting from the hip, Bond shatters his clay pigeon.)

BOND: Why no, it isn’t, is it?

 

Some of my favorite lines of dialogue in THUNDERBALL are between James Bond and the beautiful assassin Fiona (Luciana Paluzzi) who works for Largo and has made it her mission to kill James Bond.

After the two ride together in a car, with Fiona driving at incredibly high speeds, she screeches the car to a halt, and Bond appears visibly shaken.

FIONA: Some men just don’t like to be driven.

BOND: No, some men don’t like to be taken for a ride.

 

At one point, Bond walks in on Fiona while she’s taking a bath in the bathroom of her hotel room.

FIONA: Since you’re here, would you mind giving me something to put on?

(Bond casually hands Fiona her shoes.)

 

And their time together ends at a festival, where Fiona finally attempts to kill Bond, but since this is a James Bond movie, it’s Fiona who dies, not 007. She’s cut down on the dance floor, in Bond’s arms. He guides her limp lifeless body to an empty chair and says:

BOND: Do you mind if my friend sits this one out? She’s just dead.

 

And we finish with a classic James Bond line, one that fits in with the fine tradition of double entendres uttered by Bond when he finishes off his adversaries.

In this scene, Bond is on the beach with Domino, when she spies Vargas creeping up on them, and she tells Bond this. He casually shoots Vargas with a spear gun, then turns to Domino and says,

BOND: I think he got the point.

 

That’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed these quotes from the classic James Bond movie, THUNDERBALL.

Thanks for joining me today, and I look forward to seeing you next time on another edition of MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

 

 

 

THE HORROR JAR: PLANET OF THE APES movies

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Roddy McDowall as Caesar in BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (1973)

Roddy McDowall as Caesar in BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (1973)

THE HORROR JAR: PLANET OF THE APES Movies By Michael Arruda

Welcome back to THE HORROR JAR, that column where we feature various lists of odds and ends pertaining to horror movies, or in today’s case, science fiction movies. Yep, we’re stretching the boundaries a bit today, venturing off into the world of science fiction as we look at the PLANET OF THE APES series.

The latest APES movie, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014), the second in the re-booted series, opens in theaters this weekend, June 11, 2014. Here’s a look at all the APES films so far:

PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner

Screenplay by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling, based on the novel by Pierre Boulle.

Music by Jerry Goldsmith

Make-up by John Chambers

Taylor: Charlton Heston

Cornelius: Roddy McDowall

Zira: Kim Hunter

Dr. Zaius: Maurice Evans

Nova: Linda Harrison

Academy Award Winner for John Chambers for Outstanding Make-up Achievement

Running Time: 112 minutes

Classic science fiction movie, one of the best science fiction films of all time. Superior script by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling, with many memorable lines. Oscar-winning ape make-up by John Chambers. Famous twist ending is not in the novel by Pierre Boulle, which actually makes this film a rarity in that it’s better than its source material.

“Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!”

 

BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970)

Directed by Ted Post

Screenplay by Paul Dehn

Music by Leonard Rosenman

Make-up by John Chambers

Brent: James Franciscus

Zira: Kim Hunter

Dr. Zaius: Maurice Evans

Nova: Linda Harrison

Ursus: James Gregory

Taylor: Charlton Heston

Running Time: 95 minutes

First APES sequel is not as good as the original, but still makes for a highly entertaining movie. The only film in the original five film series not to star Roddy McDowall.

 

ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES (1971)

Directed by Don Taylor

Screenplay by Paul Dehn

Music by Jerry Goldsmith

Make-up by John Chambers

Cornelius: Roddy McDowall

Zira: Kim Hunter

Dr. Lewis Dixon: Bradford Dillman

Dr. Stephanie Branton: Natalie Trundy

Dr. Otto Hasslein: Eric Braeden

Armando: Ricardo Montalban

Running Time: 98 minutes

Apes escape from the future using Charlton Heston’s spaceship from the original movie and travel back in time to 1973 and find themselves in the United States, where they’re treated like celebrities at first until they’re deemed a threat to humankind.

 

CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1972)

Directed by J. Lee Thompson

Screenplay by Paul Dehn

Music by Tom Scott

Make-up by John Chambers

Caesar: Roddy McDowall

Breck: Don Murray

Lisa: Natalie Trundy

MacDonald: Hari Rhodes

Kolp: Severn Darden

Armando: Ricardo Montalban

Running Time: 88 minutes

Baby Caesar is all grown up and leads the apes in a revolution against the slave-driving humans in the 1990s.

 

BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (1973)

Directed by J. Lee Thompson

Screenplay by John William Corrington and Joyce Hooper Corrington

Music by Leonard Rosenman

Make-up by John Chambers

Caesar: Roddy McDowall

General Aldo: Claude Akins

Lisa: Natalie Trundy

Governor Kolp: Severn Darden

Virgil: Paul Williams

MacDonald: Austin Stoker

Running Time: 93 minutes

Final film in the original APES series finds Caesar leading both apes and humans on a path towards peaceful co-existence, which is easier said than done because both militant gorillas and vengeful humans have other plans.

 

PLANET OF THE APES (2001)

Directed by Tim Burton

Screenplay by William Broyles Jr., Lawrence Konner, and Mark Rosenthal

Music by Danny Elfman

Make-up by Rick Baker

Captain Leo Davidson: Mark Wahlberg

Thade: Tim Roth

Ari: Helena Bonham Carter

Running Time: 119 minutes

Awful, awful remake. Nuff said.

 

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011)

Directed by Rupert Wyatt

Screenplay by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver

Music by Patrick Doyle

Caesar: Andy Serkis

Will Rodman: James Franco

Charles Rodman: John Lithgow

John Landon: Brian Cox

Running Time: 105 minutes

Much better than the dreadful 2001 Tim Burton remake, but not as good as the original series. This film is more a remake of CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES as it follows the story of Caesar as he leads the apes in a rebellion against humans. Andy Serkis, fresh off his turns as Gollum in the LORD OF THE RINGS series and as King Kong in Peter Jackson’s KING KONG (2005), makes for a memorable Caesar. Well done, but lacks the imaginative spirit of the original movies.

 

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014)

Directed by Matt Reeves

Screenplay by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver and Mark Bomback

Music by Michael Giacchino

Caesar: Andy Serkis

Malcolm: Jason Clarke

Dreyfus: Gary Oldman

Running Time: 130 minutes

Directed by one of the most talented genre directors working today, Matt Reeves, the man who directed CLOVERFIELD (2008) and LET ME IN (2010). Andy Serkis returns as Caesar in another remarkable performance. Another exquisitely made poignant genre film by director Reeves. Excellent movie.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

Books by Michael Arruda:

TIME FRAME,  science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.  

Ebook version:  $2.99. Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.

InTheSpooklight_NewText

 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com.  Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.  

For The Love Of Horror cover

Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.