THE HORROR JAR: The ALIEN Movies

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alien-movie-posterTHE HORROR JAR: The ALIEN Movies
By Michael Arruda

We finish off the 2014 year with THE HORROR JAR, the column that lists odds and ends about horror movies. Up today in the midst of frigid winter we look at the terrors of cold space, as seen in the ALIEN franchise.

The original ALIEN took moviegoers by storm in the summer of 1979, and I remember when I first saw this one at the movies upon its initial release being disappointed it wasn’t scarier. Of course, I was just fifteen years old back then. ALIEN is one of those movies that I have enjoyed more with each successive viewing, and for me, it’s the best of the series.

Here’s a look at that series:

ALIEN (1979)
Directed by Ridley Scott
Screenplay by Dan O’Bannon
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Ripley: Sigourney Weaver
Dallas: Tom Skerritt
Lambert: Veronica Cartwright
Brett: Harry Dean Stanton
Kane: John Hurt
Ash: Ian Holm
Parker: Yaphet Kotto
Running Time: 117 minutes

Iconic horror movie with famous tagline “In space no one can hear you scream” is one of the best shockers ever made. Deftly directed by Ridley Scott, this one is not a gross-out shocker— although there are some very graphic scenes— but a cleverly composed thriller with creative touches throughout. The intensely frightening Alien creature is hardly shown at all yet director Scott uses this to his advantage as the beast is there one moment, gone the next. My favorite scene when Dallas searches for the creature in the dark ducts with a blow torch simply uses a blip on a video screen to generate suspense.

Features a fantastic cast led by Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, a role she’d reprise three more times. Infamous scene where the baby alien bursts from John Hurt’s chest is now the stuff of horror film lore. Won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects. A classic of the genre, it was followed by five sequels and as of this writing one prequel.

ALIENS (1986)
Directed by James Cameron
Screenplay by James Cameron
Music by James Horner
Ripley: Sigourney Weaver
“Newt”: Carrie Henn
Hicks: Michael Biehn
Burke: Paul Reiser
Bishop: Lance Henriksen
Hudson: Bill Paxton
Running Time: 137 minutes

James Cameron’s big budget blockbuster is for many the best film of the series. It’s certainly the most ambitious and the most fun, as it features an army of the Alien monsters rather than just one, and in true James Cameron style it’s flawlessly made. That being said, I prefer the cold chilling style of the original over this high flying sequel ever so slightly.

The cast while still very good isn’t as impressive as the one in the original, although Sigourney Weaver is back and is arguably even better here in this sequel than she was in the original- heck, she was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress. Lance Henriksen impresses as Bishop, Bill Paxton chews up the scenery as the big mouthed emotional Hudson, and young Carrie Henn is memorable as “Newt” the little girl who Ripley rescues. The film won two Oscars, one for Sound Effects Editing and the other for Visual Effects.

ALIEN 3 (1992)
Directed by David Fincher
Screenplay by David Giler, Walter Hill, and Larry Ferguson
Music by Elliot Goldenthal
Ripley: Sigourney Weaver
Dillon: Charles S. Dutton
Clemens: Charles Dance
Bishop: Lance Henriksen
Running Time: 114 minutes

OK third film in the ALIEN series pales in comparison to the first two, and after the rousing spectacle of ALIENS, this one really falls flat. It’s sufficient to say that director David Fincher’s best work lay ahead of him, as he’s gone on to make some terrific movies since, including 2014’s GONE GIRL.

The setting of a space prison planet where Ripley lands after the events of ALIENS is a good one, and this film tries to return to the cold scary style of the original, but it ultimately falls short as none of the scares are noteworthy, nor is the story anything to brag about. Suffers from the “been there done that” phenomenon throughout.

ALIEN: RESURRECTION (1997)
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Screenplay by Joss Whedon
Music by John Frizzell
Ripley: Sigourney Weaver
Annalee: Winona Ryder
Johner: Ron Perlman
Running Time: 109 minutes

More of the same, and none of it as good as what has been done before. ALIEN: RESURRECTION is probably my least favorite of the ALIEN movies starring Sigourney Weaver. It’s certainly the least memorable of the series. Screenwriter Joss Whedon, who would go on to write CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012), and write and direct Marvel’s THE AVENGERS (2012) must have had an off day when he wrote this.

AVP: ALIEN VS. PREDATOR (2004)
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Screenplay by Paul W.S. Anderson
Music by Harald Kloser
Alexa Woods: Sanaa Latham
Sebastian de Rosa: Raoul Bova
Charles Bishop Weyland: Lance Henriksen
Running Time: 101 minutes

First ALIEN movie without Sigourney Weaver is certainly the goofiest and the most contrived. It’s saved only by its crossover gimmick with the PREDATOR series. Absolutely ridiculous story makes little sense. Still, the Alien vs. Predator battles are a lot of fun and provide a guilty pleasure in this otherwise lame-brained movie. By far the weakest of the series.

ALIENS VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM (2007)
Directed by The Brothers Strause
Screenplay by Shane Salerno
Music by Brian Tyler
Dallas: Steven Pasquale
Kelly: Reiko Aylesworth
Morales: John Ortiz
Running Time: 94 minutes

This second “Alien vs. Predator” flick takes place in a small town and ditches the ridiculous storyline of the previous installment. Keeping things simpler this time around makes this film slightly better than the last as small town folks find themselves in the middle of a war between the Predators and the Aliens. I actually enjoyed this one, and the fact that it has some frightening moments helps.

PROMETHEUS (2012)
Directed by Ridley Scott
Screenplay by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof
Music by Marc Streitenfeld
Elizabeth Shaw: Noomi Rapace
David: Michael Fassbender
Meredith Vickers: Charlize Theron
Janek: Idris Elba
Running Time: 124 minutes

Ambitious science fiction film by original ALIEN director Ridley Scott takes place in the same universe as the ALIEN movies, and so serves as a sort of ALIEN prequel, but the film is much more than just an ALIEN tie-in. I wanted to like this one so much more than I ultimately did, as it is full of big ideas and some very interesting science fiction concepts; however, it doesn’t quite make good on its promises and falls short of its lofty goals. It does have a fantastic cast and it’s certainly very well made, but the story doesn’t always hold water. Based on the premise and set-up for this one, I wanted and expected more.

In terms of the ALIEN tie-in, it is a prequel to the first film, but only on the most peripheral level, as it’s more a case of both films taking place within the same setting, with the events of PROMETHEUS having little to do with the events in ALIEN other than taking place on the same planet.

Back in 1979, when I first saw ALIEN at the movies, I was disappointed, and then over the years with each successive viewing I liked the film more and more. Perhaps the same will happen with PROMETHEUS, that over time, I’ll like it better. We’ll see. I’m about due to watch it again.

So, there you have it, the ALIEN movies. In a nutshell, the franchise begins with two classics of the genre, ALIEN and ALIENS, both outstanding movies, moves on through two mediocre redundant entries ALIEN 3 and ALIEN: RESURRECTION, bottoms out with the lowly ALIEN VS. PREDATOR movies, although the last one ALIENS VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM was actually rather enjoyable in a B monster movie sort of way, before being reborn in a prequel of sorts, the highly imaginative science fiction movie PROMETHEUS which takes place years before the events of the first film on the same planet where the crew of the Nostromo first discovered the Alien creature.

And that wraps things up for today and for the year

I hope you enjoyed reading my posts here at This Is My Creation: The Blog of Michael Arruda throughout 2014, and I look forward to your joining me in 2015 for more articles about movies, the horror genre, science fiction, and more as we move on to another exciting year.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

STOCKING STUFFERS 2014: Gifts I’d Like to Find Under My Tree This Year

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"I hope you like my gift, Larry.  I picked it out of the graveyard myself."

“I hope you like my gift, Larry. I picked it out of the graveyard myself.”

STOCKING STUFFERS – 2014

Gifts I’d Like to Find Under My Tree This Year

By

Michael Arruda

 

Here are a few horror movie goodies that I’d like to find under my Christmas tree this year, in no particular order:

 

-A newly discovered unedited complete version of KING KONG (1933) including the infamous lost “spider in the pit” sequence.  Sorry folks, this still hasn’t been discovered yet and as of right now only exists in our collective imaginations.

 

-For the recently restored unedited version of HORROR OF DRACULA (1958) to be made available here in the United States.  This one does exist, but no sign of it in the U.S. yet.  What’s the hold up???

 

-A boxed set of all the Universal monster movies with long lost scenes restored, including Bela Lugosi’s scenes of dialogue as the Frankenstein Monster in FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943), Dwight Frye’s extended scenes as Karl in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), and the original cut of THE WOLF MAN (1941) where Lon Chaney’s Larry Talbot only becomes a werewolf in his own mind.

 

-A horror movie with Johnny Depp in a serious role instead of the over-the-top goofy roles he’s been taking of late.  It’s as if he’s quit being Depp and instead has adopted the persona of Jack Sparrow from the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies, and it’s Sparrow making all these recent films like DARK SHADOWS, THE LONE RANGER, and INTO THE WOODS, not Depp.

 

-More horror films with Chloe Grace Moretz.  She was phenomenal in LET ME IN (2010) and pretty darn good in the re-boot of CARRIE (2013) as well.  And the best part?  Chloe Grace Moretz is not a scream queen!  She’s a force to be reckoned with.

 

-Speaking of LET ME IN, how about some more horror movies by director Matt Reeves?  He’s directed two of the best horror movies in the past decade, CLOVERFIELD (2008) and LET ME IN (2010), not to mention the excellent DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014).  He’s one of the most talented genre directors working today.

 

-Speaking of CLOVERFIELD, how about the long awaited sequel which has been rumored for years finally coming out?  That would be nice.

 

-A reversal in the decision to turn the Universal monsters into superheroes.  The powers that be at Universal are making a huge mistake here.  To me, this decision is a concession that these monsters are no longer scary, and that’s simply not true.  All it takes is a good writer, combined with a talented director, and these monsters could be relevant again.  Don’t bother remaking the origin stories- we all know them.  What we need are new tales of these monsters in frightening horror movies which will scare modern audiences to death.  Leave the superheroes to Marvel!

 

-Speaking of Marvel, I’d like to see Robert Downey, Jr. in a horror movie.  Scarlett Johansson too, for that matter.

 

-Speaking of people making horror movies, Woody Allen made his decision to move on from comedies years ago and continues to churn out quality films year after year.  I sure wish he’d channel his keen writing talents and write a horror tale someday.  I think it would be pretty cool.

 

-Lastly, to all my writer friends, I’d like to find a copy of your latest book under my tree so I could read your work throughout the year.  My Christmas wish for all of us is that we have books in print year after year for years to come!

 

Thanks all!

 

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, happy winter!

Thanks for reading!

 

—Michael

 

 

 

 

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS (2014)

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exodus gods and kings posterHere’s my CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT review from last week on EXODUS:  GODS AND KINGS (2014), the new Biblical epic by director Ridley Scott starring Christian Bale as Moses:

 

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  EXODUS:  GODS AND KINGS (2014)

Movie Review by Michael Arruda

(THE SCENE: In the middle of a great sea which has receded to make a walkable path, MICHAEL ARRUDA casually strolls along the rocky ground.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome to this week’s CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT column.  Today I’m walking in the middle of the Red Sea, which as you can see has been conveniently parted by God so that Moses can lead the Hebrews to safety.  Of course, a horde of angry Egyptians are in hot pursuit, and—well, you know the story.

Anyway, they tell me that the sea will remain parted long enough for me to get through today’s review.  (Looks at the thick dark storm clouds and violent lightning strikes in the distance).  I hope so.

Today I’m reviewing EXODUS:  GODS AND KINGS, the new Biblical epic by director Ridley Scott, which tells the story of Moses and his Pharaoh brother Ramses as they fight over the future of the Hebrew people.  I’m doing this review solo as my “brother” L.L. Soares is off on another assignment, but truth be told, I think he wasn’t too keen on doing a review in the middle of a parted ocean.  In fact, now that I think of it, he did seem awfully eager to send me here.  Hmm.  Oh well.  I have no intention of drowning today, so let’s get on with the review.

Unlike Cecile B. DeMille’s classic THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956) starring Charlton Heston, which began with the birth of Moses, EXODUS:  GODS AND KINGS opens with Moses (Christian Bale) already as an adult.

(Charlton Heston as MOSES scurries past MA)

HESTON:  Where the hell are my people going?  They’re supposed to wait for me!

MA: Er, they’re following another Moses, this one played by Christian Bale.

HESTON:  Another Moses?  Like hell!  (Lifts his staff high in the air.) I’m not giving up this staff until they rip it from my cold dead hands!!! (Runs away in pursuit of the Hebrews.)

MA: So the movie begins with Moses, his brother Ramses (Joel Edgerton) and their father, the Pharaoh Seti (John Turturo) discussing their plan to attack their enemy.  Moses scoffs at the Pharaoh’s reliance on mystical omens to determine the outcome of the battle, as he doesn’t believe in all that religious stuff, only in a man’s ability to do the job himself.  Can someone say irony?

Of course, there is a prophecy that on the battlefield whoever saves a leader will himself become a leader, and it’s Moses who saves Ramses, which doesn’t sit well with the Egyptian prince, although truth be told, he’s not too broken up about it, since he and Moses share a strong friendship- they’re “brothers” after all.

However, when Moses is sent to visit the Hebrew slaves to gather information about their reported uprising, he meets with one of the Hebrew elders Nun (Ben Kingsley) who tells Moses the true story of his upbringing, how in response to a prophecy Pharaoh had ordered all the first-born Hebrew boys killed, and so Moses’ mother secretly sent him away, and he was raised by the Egyptians.  In short, Moses is Hebrew.  Moses nearly kills Nun over this story, and says he doesn’t believe it, but as he goes along it gnaws at him.

Furthermore, Moses had given the Viceroy (Ben Mendelsohn) a hard time for living too lavish a lifestyle and thinking he was a king, an admonishment that didn’t sit well with the Egyptian official, and so when he too learns the story of Moses’ secret, he quickly informs Ramses.

Ramses loves Moses, but he can’t afford to keep a possible leader of the Hebrews in his court, and so he banishes Moses to the desert.  There, Moses is taken in by some desert dwellers, where he marries and has a son.  Years later, alone on a mountainside, he gets caught in an avalanche, hits his head on a rock, and when he awakes sees the burning bush and experiences his vision of God, in this case, in the form of a young boy.

From this moment on, Moses believes in this God known as “I am,” and he leaves his family in order to lead the Hebrews out of slavery and out of Egypt.  Of course, Ramses won’t have any of this, and so it takes help from God, in the form of vicious deadly plagues, to help loosen Ramses’ grip on His chosen people.

EXODUS:  GODS AND KINGS is a likable enough movie.  Like NOAH (2014) which came out earlier this year, it deemphasizes the religious elements and focuses more on the human elements of the story.

(Russell Crowe as Noah runs by leading a multitude of animals making their way through the parted sea two by two.)

MA:  I think we’re confusing our Bible stories here.  Noah, aren’t you supposed to have an ark?

NOAH:  Not in this crossover movie.

MA:  Crossover movie?

NOAH:  In the new movie NOAH MEETS MOSES, I discover a wormhole which leads me thousands of years into the future where I arrive with my animals just in time to help Moses with his Egyptian problem.  We’re on our way now to strike at the Egyptians from behind.  It’s all part of the new push to turn Biblical characters into action heroes.  Eventually we’re going to have our own AVENGERS-style movie.

MA:  Why not?  Everybody else is!  You’d better hurry.  This sea isn’t going to remain parted forever.

(NOAH and the animals race off in pursuit of the Egyptians.)

MA:  God is still present in EXODUS:  GODS AND KINGS, and the relationship between Moses and God is still an integral part of the story, but it’s not the main part.  The driving relationship in EXODUS:  GODS AND KINGS is the one between Moses and Ramses, and that’s the story which works best here.  They love each other like brothers, and yet they are thrown into this conflict which not only pits them against each other, but puts them on the opposite ends of brutal bloody events which make it impossible for them not to want to hurt the other.

Yet through most of the conflict you get the sense that Ramses still loves Moses and doesn’t want to harm him.  In fact, even after his own son is killed, even as Ramses asks Moses how he could worship a God that kills children, his anger is not aimed at Moses, but at God, and he even offers his sympathy to Moses and his child.  It’s not until Moses informs Ramses that no Hebrew children were killed that Ramses finally loses it and becomes an instrument of pure vengeance.  For Moses’ part, his answer to Ramses is that it’s not him that is doing these things, it’s God, and that regardless of what they do, God’s will is inevitable.

EXODUS:  GODS AND KINGS also deemphasizes the epic feeling of this story, and this is not a bad thing.  The screenplay by Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine, and Steven Zallian makes a point of emphasizing the human elements rather than the supernatural.  Moses is not at all interested in gods and religion- he’s a man of common sense and action, and so when we witness his transformation later, it’s all the more interesting because we know that he was not someone who was looking for omens and religion- he wasn’t interested in the least.

Ramses may be the most clearly developed character in the movie.  You really come to understand his plight, that he in no way wants to harm Moses.  Joel Edgerton as Ramses does a nice job showing how this incredibly confident leader is increasingly overwhelmed by a force he doesn’t recognize or believe in; yet, it’s a relentless force that won’t leave his people alone.

The four writers here all have extensive credits, with Caine and Zallian with the more impressive ones.  So, it’s no surprise that the screenplay is a good one.  That being said, it doesn’t all work.  I thought some of the key moments were glossed over.  The conversation between Nun and Moses where Nun tells Moses the true story of his birth lacks drama and just sort of happens matter-of- factly.  “Your name is Moses?  By the way, even though I’ve just met you and have known you for all of two seconds, I know the true story of your birth.”  Yeah, right.  Get away from me you senile old man!

 

Likewise, as much as I believed in Moses’ conversion, it sort of just happens as well.  On the one hand, the lack of melodrama makes things more believable, but on the other, sometimes things come off just a little too low key.  I banged my head, had a vision, and now without question, I’m jumping into my new role as a religious liberator of an entire people.  Really?

And really, other than Moses and Ramses, no other character is developed to any degree of satisfaction.

But in this movie that’s okay because the two leads do an excellent job.  Christian Bale makes for a likable and heroic Moses.  Sure, it’s not as ambitious a performance as last year’s turn in AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013) nor is it as satisfying as his work in OUT OF THE FURNACE (2013), but he’s still very good here and I never grew tired of watching him.

Just as good as Bale is Joel Edgerton as Ramses.  Of course, Edgerton is helped by the script which does its best job defining the Ramses character, but even so, Edgerton is excellent.  I liked him as Tom Buchanan in THE GREAT GATSBY (2013) but he’s even better here as Ramses, where he rises above the cliché.  Edgerton makes Ramses a very human leader who is not interested in killing his brother or his people.  He just knows who he is- the Pharaoh- and as such he cannot allow a slave race or their “god” to dictate terms to him.

(Gatsby and Daisy, and Tom, Nick and Jordan Baker race by in two 1920s vehicles, nearly running MA over in the process.)

GATSBY:  Sorry about that, old sport!

MA: Hey, you need to watch where you’re going.  You’re going to run someone over if you keep driving like that.  Actually, you are going to run someone over, and it’s not going to be pretty.

Okay, back to EXODUS:  GODS AND KINGS.

 

Both John Turturo as Seti, and Ben Kingsley as the Hebrew elder Nun make their mark in relatively brief roles, and Ben Mendelsohn makes for a very memorable Viceroy.  We’ve seen Mendelsohn in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012), KILLING THEM SOFTLY (2012) and KILLER ELITE (2011) but this is probably his best performance that I’ve seen.  He makes for a deliciously sly weasel.

The women don’t fare as well.  Maria Valverde is okay as Moses’ wife Zipporah, but she’s hardly memorable.  Then there’s Sigourney Weaver as Tuya who is in this one for all of a minute- blink and you’ll miss her.

(A bunch of the Aliens from ALIEN creep by.)

MA (to the Aliens):  If you’re looking for Sigourney Weaver, she’s playing an Egyptian in this movie, which means she’s back there in Egypt.  You need to turn around.

(The Aliens ignore him and keep going.)

MA:  Oka-ay.  I don’t know why I was talking to them anyway.  It’s not like they understand English.

(SIGOURNEY WEAVER suddenly appears in a low flying spaceship firing lasers at the Aliens.)

WEAVER (to the Aliens):  For the last time, I can’t get you cameos in the AVATAR movies!

(She fires more lasers at them and continues her pursuit.)

MA:  And lastly, there’s poor Aaron Paul from TV’s BREAKING BAD as Joshua.  Is he bad?  Not at all.  He’s just given absolutely nothing to do.  I kept thinking, after his work as Jesse on BREAKING BAD, this is all they’re giving him?  For the most part he gets to stand next to Christian Bale, and when he’s not staring off into space with an awe-struck expression he’s uttering one or two monosyllabic lines.  Seriously, the expression on his face made me think Bryan Cranston’s Walter White was standing next to him saying, “Jesse, what part of playing an Egyptian do you not understand?”

 

I’m not usually a fan of CGI effects, but I have to admit I was into them here.  I liked the look of this movie and thought ancient Egypt looked rather spectacular.  Visually, director Ridley Scott did a phenomenal job.  The plague scenes in particular were very well done, but the centerpiece of this movie and my favorite scene was the parting of the Red Sea.  Visually, it’s a tremendous scene and by far the most exciting sequence in the entire film.

I also liked how it was shown to resemble a Tsunami, which lent credibility to the idea that a sea would recede and then return with a vengeance.

This movie is available in a 3D version and probably looks great in 3D, but I chose not to pay the extra admission price, and so I saw it in 2D and liked it just fine.

I enjoyed EXODUS:  GODS AND KINGS more than Ridley Scott’s previous film THE COUNSELOR (2013), and I even liked it better than his film before that, the overly ambitious science fiction ALIEN-prequel PROMETHEUS (2012).

Not everything works, but enough does so that its 150 minutes goes by rather quickly.  It helps to have Christian Bale in the lead role, and he does a nice job carrying this movie, with help from Joel Edgerton as Ramses.

While I liked the idea of having God appear to Moses as a child, I’m not sure it worked all that well.  Not that I wanted an over-dramatic Hollywood interpretation of God, but the young actor they chose to play God looked like he belonged in a re-imagining of THE BAD NEWS BEARS.

There are some battle scenes in this one, especially early on, and not that I have anything against battle scenes, but I see so many that they’re really not anything special anymore.  I mean, the scenes of battle in this movie were interchangeable with battle scenes I’ve seen in DRACULA UNTOLD (2014), HERCULES (2014) and any number of historical battlefield movies I’ve seen on the big screen in recent years.  The best thing I can say about the battle scenes in this one is that they don’t go on too long.

And since this one’s not called THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, those ten rules of God’s law are hardly in this one at all.

For what it was, a visual tale of one of the Old Testament’s more exciting stories, the tale of Moses leading his people out of Egypt, EXODUS:  GODS AND KINGS is an enjoyable movie that held my interest and kept me entertained for its long 150 minutes running time.

I give it three knives.

Okay, I made it, and the waters remained receded.  (Things suddenly grow dark, and MA turns around to see a massive tidal wave closing in on him.)  Uh-oh.  (Opens an umbrella.)

(The gigantic wave thunders down upon him and covers everything in its path with a massive flood of water.  Cut to a beach where we see MA walking out of the water still holding his umbrella.)

MA (examines his umbrella):  Hmm.  Waterproof.

(Exits onto beach past a group of sunbathers, and a volleyball game with Ramses’ Egyptians on one side of the net playing Moses’ Hebrews on the other.)

—END—

99 CENT NETWORK Launches

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99 Cent NetworkMovie and Music Network Launches 99 Cent Network

By Michael Arruda

 

As you know, over at Cinema Knife Fight, L.L. Soares and I have recently started reviewing movies for a new online movie network, The Movie and Music Network.  Our goal is to attract new readers for Cinema Knife Fight from the Movie and Music Network viewers, and to provide free movies for you, our readers, to watch on their network, which is possible because whatever movies we review are available for you to watch for free.  Just click on the link provided in the review.

And now for something not so completely different:

 

The Movie and Music Network is launching a new sister network called the 99 Cent Network (www.99centnetwork.com).   What’s the deal with the 99 Cent Network?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  Read on:

The launch of the 99 cents network will allow you to buy three movies for only 99 cents, or ten titles for $1.99.  This will give you access to these titles anytime you want.  It’s yours forever.  Woo hoo!

And, even better, you can share your library of films with a friend or family member with just one easy click … A perfect gift for the holidays!

Simply create an account with your email or sign in through Facebook to view or share your collection.

To interact or share on social media, use @99centnet, or hash tag them at #99centnetwork.

Now, ready, set, go! : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBYxd65V2N0

99 Cent Network

www.99centnetwork.com

@99CentNet

#99CentNetwork

 

Feel free to check it out!

Thanks!

—Michael

 

YOUR MOVIE LISTS: CHLOE GRACE MORETZ Movies

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carrie_chloe_moritz- carrie

Chloe Grace Moretz as CARRIE (2013).

YOUR MOVIE LISTS:  Chloe Grace Moretz

 

By Michael Arruda

 

Welcome to another edition of YOUR MOVIE LISTS, the column where you’ll find lists of odds and ends about movies.  Today we’re looking at films starring Chloe Grace Moretz.

 

Ever since Chloe Grace Moretz burst onto the scene as Hit Girl in KICK- ASS (2010), I’ve been a huge fan, so much so that she’s clearly one of my favorite actresses working today, and what makes this even more amazing is she’s only seventeen years old.  It’s a rare thing for me to be blown away on a consistent basis by an actor that young.

 

Sure, part of what made her so memorable as Hit Girl was the shock factor: here was an eleven year-old girl using language usually reserved for Robert De Niro in a gangster movie and kicking bad guys’ butts with the ferocity of Christian Bale’s Batman.

 

But Moretz didn’t stop there.  She has continued to star in one decent movie after another, and she’s usually the best part of these movies.

 

Here is a partial list of movies featuring Chloe Grace Moretz:

 

HEART OF THE BEHOLDER (2005) – film debut of Chloe Grace Moretz.

 

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (2005) – plays young Chelsea Lutz in this re-imagining of the 1979 film.

 

KICK-ASS (2010) – the film which pretty much put Moretz on the map.  While Aaron Taylor-Johnson is pretty impressive in the lead role as Kick-Ass, the young teen turned superhero, Chloe Grace Moretz is even better as the eleven year-old Hit Girl, the roughest, toughest pre-teen superhero ever seen in the movies.  Violent and not for everybody, KICK-ASS is one of the more enjoyable off-beat superhero films you’ll ever have the pleasure to come across.

 

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID (2010) – plays Angie Steadman in this very funny movie based on the popular book by Jeff Kinney.

 

LET ME IN (2010) – Moretz is amazing as the vampire Abby—perhaps even more impressive than her performance as Hit Girl— in this Hammer horror film directed by Matt Reeves.  This is one of my favorite horror movies of recent years, and Moretz’ performance is a major reason why.

 

HUGO (2011) – plays Isabelle in a delightful supporting role in Martin Scorsese’s highly entertaining visual tour de force about a young boy name Hugo (Asa Butterfield)  living in the walls of a train station in 1930s Paris.  Also starring Ben Kingsley and Sacha Baron Cohen.

 

DARK SHADOWS (2012) – plays Carolyn Stoddard in this reimagining of the iconic 1960s TV show by director Tim Burton.  A comedic misfire, not even Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, or the presence of Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Christopher Lee, and of course Chloe Grace Moretz could save this one, which plays more like THE ADDAMS FAMILY than DARK SHADOWS.

 

KICK-ASS 2 (2013) – While it was nice to see Moretz reprise her Hit Girl role along with Aaron Taylor Johnson’s return as Kick-Ass, this sequel is nowhere near as good as its predecessor.

 

CARRIE ( 2013) – plays the lead role of Carrie in this decent remake of the 1976 film starring Sissy Spacek, both based on the very first novel by Stephen King.  Moretz is good, and Julianne Moore might be better as Carrie’s cruel mom.

 

IF I STAY (2014) – love story where Moretz’ character Mia has to decide via an out-of-body experience after a car crash whether or not she wants to return to the land of the living.

 

THE EQUALIZER (2014) – supporting role as a prostitute in this OK actioner very loosely based on the old TV show from the 1980s starring Edward Woodward.  This one stars Denzel Washington in the lead role.

 

There you have it, a partial list of some notable Chloe Grace Moretz movies. Hope you enjoyed it.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

—Michael

THE BABADOOK (2014) OFFERS SUPERIOR HORROR

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babadook posterTHE HORROR:  THE BABADOOK (2014)

Horror Movie Review by Michael Arruda

Here’s a follow-up review to L.L. Soares’ and my Cinema Knife Fight column on THE BABADOOK, a gem of a horror movie, in selected theaters now.

Actually, it’s not playing in that many theaters as it received a very limited release, but it is available on Comcast OnDemand, which is how I saw it.

THE BABADOOK tells the very depressing story of a young mother Amelia (Essie Davis) raising her young son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) on her own because her husband, Samuel’s father— was killed in a car crash on their way to the hospital the night Samuel was born.

Amelia has been depressed by this tragedy for Samuel’s entire young life, and as a result Samuel is quite the disturbed little boy.  He acts out in school, seems to love violence and weapons, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that he makes his mother’s life a living hell on a daily basis.

One night Samuel asks his mother to read him a picture book called The Babadook, and even though she doesn’t remember buying the book, she reads it to him anyway.  It turns out to be a very sinister story, about a creature called The Babadook who once entering a house, never leaves.  It causes Samuel to have severe nightmares, and soon he’s perseverating on the Babadook.

Amelia tells her son it’s just a story and for him to pretty much get over it, but when weird things begin happening, and a shadowy apparition enters their home, Amelia begins to think differently.

THE BABADOOK is a superior horror movie, extremely well-acted by the two leads, Essie Davis as Amelia and young Noah Wiseman as Samuel.  It’s also brilliantly directed by Jennifer Kent, who also wrote the intelligent screenplay.  The film works on multiple levels.  Is it really a supernatural being haunting them, or is it all in their heads?  It offers many creative touches, and nearly everything in the film works.  Best of all, for a horror film, it’s damn scary!

My favorite part in terms of its being scary is that all the scares in this movie are real scares.  There’s not a false scare to be found.  No friend jumping out from behind a character’s back saying, “It’s only me!”  The scares in this movie are all authentic.

Essie Davis delivers an excellent performance as Amelia.  She completely captures the angst and depressed anxiety of a single mom trying so desperately to take care of her son but consistently failing to handle him.  At times, she makes you want to cry out loud.  Because of her anxiety, she suffers from sleep deprivation, and I haven’t seen a character look this in need of sleep since Al Pacino in Christopher Nolan’s INSOMNIA (2002).

Every bit as good as Davis is Noah Wiseman as Samuel.  When Samuel throws a tantrum, he becomes absolutely freakish, and yet we don’t despise him.  He’s not evil.  In fact, he comes off as almost mature when he declares he’s going to protect his mother from the Babadook.

The direction by Jennifer Kent is fabulous.  There’s a claustrophobic feeling throughout which becomes more intense as the film goes along, as Amelia and Samuel become trapped in their home with the Babadook.  The movie works so well because even before the horror elements show up, it gets under your skin with its emotional back story.

There are some really cool scenes here, and the Babadook shows up in a variety of creative and unexpected ways.  The creature is also quite chilling to look at, even though we usually only see him in darkness and shadows, but the way he moves about, especially with his long slender arms, was reminiscent of Count Orlok in the silent German classic NOSFERATU (1922).

Creativity reigns throughout the film.  Even the title is clever, as it’s an anagram for “A Bad Book.”

The screenplay is also terrific.  It’s crafted in such a way that the entire story also works from a psychological standpoint.  Amelia and Samuel, closed in together in their claustrophobic house, consistently drive each other insane, to the point where the Babadook becomes a physical manifestation of their illnesses.  The film doesn’t come out and say this, which is what makes it work so well, because it can be interpreted either way.  Even the ending, which is more creative than most, supports the psychological interpretation.

THE BABADOOK is a small Australian production, and as such, it’s a completely refreshing horror movie, unhindered by the restraints of the traditional Hollywood formula:  loud sound effects, loud music, false scares, a shallow story and even shallower characters, all wrapped up with a forced ending which features either a twist or a last scene to show that the threat isn’t really dead after all.  The ending to THE BABADOOK rises above this formula.

Like THE QUIET ONES which came out earlier this year, THE BABADOOK is a phenomenal horror movie, easily one of the best horror films of the year.

It’s not to be missed.

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IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957)

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Curse of Frankenstein - lobby card - creatureThis IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column on Hammer’s THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) was my 100th IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column, originally published in the HWA Newsletter in December 2010.  It’s reprinted there now in the December 2014 edition of the Horror Writers Association Newsletter .

Thanks for reading.

—Michael

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT

By

Michael Arruda

Welcome to the 100th IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column.  Woo hoo!  It’s been a fun ride.  Thanks for coming along.

In honor of the occasion, let’s look at THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957), Hammer Films’ first horror hit.

To make their Frankenstein movie different from the Universal 1931 original starring Boris Karloff, Hammer Films decided to concentrate more on the doctor rather than on the monster.  Enter Peter Cushing as Baron Victor Frankenstein.

Hammer Films’ signing of Peter Cushing to play Victor Frankenstein in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN was a major coup for the tiny studio which made low budget movies.  In the 1950s, Peter Cushing had become the most popular actor on British television.  To British audiences, he was a household name.

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN was Cushing’s first shot at being the lead actor in a theatrical movie, and he doesn’t disappoint.  In fact, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN belongs to Peter Cushing.  He dominates this movie and carries it on his shoulders.  He’s in nearly every scene.

Cushing succeeded in creating a character who was the perfect shade of gray, a villain who was also a hero.  He’s so convincing in this dual persona that we want to see Victor Frankenstein succeed in his quest to create life, even though he murders a few people along the way.

Peter Cushing went on to become an international superstar.  He delivered countless fine performances over the years until his death from cancer in 1994.  Yet, his performance as Victor Frankenstein in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN is arguably his best.

Like the 1931 version of FRANKENSTEIN before it, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, while based on the book by Mary Shelley, is not overly faithful to the novel and takes lots of liberties with the story.

Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) enlists the aid of his former tutor Paul (Robert Urquhart) to conduct his experiments, to “create the most complex thing known to man- man himself!”  Victor wants his creation to be “born with a lifetime of knowledge” and so he invites the brilliant Professor Bernstein (Paul Hardtmuth) to his house for dinner.  After dinner, Victor promptly murders him.  Later, when Paul confronts Victor and says he’s going to stop him from using the brain, Victor replies with one of the better lines from the movie, “Why?  He has no further use for it.”

Lightning strikes and starts the lab equipment while Victor is out of the laboratory, and the Creature (Christopher Lee, also in his starring role debut) is brought to life without Victor present, saving him from an “It’s alive!” moment.

Victor opens the door to the laboratory and finds the Creature standing in the doorway alive.  In the film’s most memorable scene, the Creature rips off the mask of bandages covering his face, and the camera tracks into a violent grotesque close-up of the Creature’s hideous face.  It’s a most horrific make-up job by Phil Leakey, and it’s unique to Frankenstein movies, since in all six of the Hammer Frankenstein sequels to follow, this Creature, so chillingly portrayed by Christopher Lee, never appears again.

Lee’s Creature is a murderous beast, and he quickly escapes from the laboratory.  Victor and Paul chase him into the woods, where Paul shoots him in the head, killing him.  Or so he thinks.  Victor promptly digs up the body and brings it back to life again.

Victor performs multiple brain surgeries to improve the Creature, but eventually things get out of hand, as Paul goes to the police just as the Creature escapes again.  The film has a dark conclusion which I won’t give away here.

Over the years, Christopher Lee has been criticized for his portrayal of the Creature in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Sure, Lee’s Creature is not the Karloff monster.   However, the Creature, who appears fleetingly here and there, has an almost Michael Myers quality in this movie, a killer who creeps in the shadows, here one moment, gone the next.

Lee is scary in the role.  His Creature is an insane unpredictable being.  As the Creature, Lee doesn’t speak a word, and he hardly makes a sound, using pantomime skills to bring the character to life.  His performance has always reminded me of a silent film performance, a la Lon Chaney Sr.  Lee captures the almost childlike persona of a new creation born into the world for the first time, albeit a child that’s a homicidal maniac.

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN has a great music score by James Bernard.  It’s haunting, ghastly, and memorable.

Director Terence Fisher, arguably Hammer’s best director, is at the helm here.  As he did in all his best movies, Fisher created some truly memorable scenes in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  The Creature’s first appearance is classic, one of the most memorable scenes of its kind.  The scene when Victor murders Professor Bernstein features a great stunt where Victor pushes the Professor off a second floor balcony to his death, and we actually see the stunt double hit the floor head first with a neck breaking thud.  It’s a jarring scene.  And this is 1957.

There are lots of other neat touches as well.  When Victor’s fiancée Elizabeth (Hazel Court) peers into the acid vat in which Victor has been disposing unwanted bodies and body parts, she covers her nose- a great little touch.

Jimmy Sangster’s screenplay is one of his best.  Probably the best written scene is the scene where Victor tries to convince Paul how well he has trained his Creature by having the Creature stand, walk, and sit down.  Paul is unimpressed, saying “Is this your perfect physical being, this animal?  Why don’t you ask it a question of advanced physics?  It’s got a brain with a lifetime of knowledge behind it, it should find it simple!”  It’s also a great scene for Christopher Lee, as it’s one of the few times he invokes sympathy for the Creature.

But THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN sinks or swims with Peter Cushing.  Rarely has an actor delivered such a powerful performance in a horror movie.  Cushing is flawless here.  He draws you into Frankenstein’s madness and convinces you he’s right.

If I could give you one gift this holiday season, it would be to watch THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Rediscover it today, more than 50 years after it was made.  It’s time this movie received its due as one of the best ever, which isn’t news to those who saw it in 1957. After all, it was the biggest money maker in Britain that year.

One of its original lobby cards reads “THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN will haunt you forever.”

It will.

—END—