Escape From L.A. (1996)

Escape From L.A. (1996)

Original Theatrical Release Date: August 9, 1996
Director: John Carpenter

It’s 2013 and Los Angeles is now an island for undesirables, deported from America by the U.S. Government. Once you go there, you can never get back. The President’s daughter, Utopia (A.J. Langer), steals a doomsday device and heads for the island in order to help free the prisoners there and daddy isn’t happy. He gets Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) to go after her by having him injected with a disease that will end his life in hours and promising him the cure if he’s successful. However, a revolutionary named Cuervo Jones (Georges Corraface) and L.A.’s many dangerous denizens stand in the way.

Sequels are rarely ever able to outshine the originals, and this film is no exception.

The entire movie is a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the entire culture of Los Angeles, and that it probably the most entertaining aspect of the film. It’s an action film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that is fun for the most part but makes for a movie that’s hard to become attached to, unlike the first film Escape From New York.

Kurt Russell really channels his inner Clint Eastwood for this installment, and other actors such as Steve Buscemi and Peter Fonda fall into their roles with seemingly great joy. Who doesn’t want to see Bruce Campbell as the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills?

The movie plays out like an Extreme Sports story, with Kurt Russell taking on extreme forms of basketball, hang gliding and surfing, which is really strange in the context of this film, but made for some entertaining scenes.

The special effects have not held up well over time and some of them, while laughably funny, tend to take you right out of the movie. However, at this point in his career it seemed like John Carpenter was just having some fun, and the fun did shine through and it’s sort of infectious.

Still, for those who weren’t introduced to this series of films back when they originally came out, it might be hard to fully appreciate this sequel by today’s standards, though the original still holds up.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Escape From L.A.

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Evil Dead (2013)

Evil Dead (2013)

Original Theatrical Release: April 5, 2013
Director: Fede Alvarez

Five friends travel to a remote cabin in the woods to help one among them, Mia (Jane Levy) overcome her addiction to drugs, figuring that being away from the city will enable her to purge her system. With the help of her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) she thinks that she’ll pull through this time. However, one of the friends, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), discovers a book and unwittingly unleashes a supernatural horror upon them all. Will any of them survive?

When I first heard that there was going to be an Evil Dead reboot, I was pretty angry. You don’t just go and mess around with the Evil Dead. C’mon, now.

However, when I heard that Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell were not only endorsing the film, but also producing, I was a little more accepting. THEN, when I saw the trailer…I was excited.

First off, don’t make the mistake of going to a movie theater that lets you order food while you watch the movie, because that’s what I did and let me tell you right now…it was really hard to use the ketchup and eat my rare hamburger with all the blood flying around on screen.

Blood. Sharp stabby things. Skin tears. Broken bones. Puke. Pus. Power tools. Blood. Broken Glass. Nails. Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood.

At times, it looked like Mr. Kool-Aid burst through the wall, yelling “OOHHHHH YEAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH” but he was full of blood instead of Kool-Aid and exploded everywhere.

A little bit of the movie is far-fetched, but as with all horror movies, this happens. If it were “realistic” there would be no supernatural horror, according to logic. There has to be a suspension of disbelief when folks are cutting their own limbs off.

As far as the casting goes, I think most of the actors did their jobs well. Some parts seemed TOO superfluous, and in my opinion, I would have cut out about five minutes of the movie at the beginning (though it opens with a great camera angle very reminiscent of Kubrick’s The Shining).

Overall, I think this was a good update to the original, although I will prefer to think of it as a separate entity from the original Evil Dead film. Go see it if you’re a horror fan or even if you think you might hate it. It could surprise you.

About the only thing the film lacked was likable characters. I didn’t mind most of them, but some I didn’t care about and even the main characters weren’t really as exciting as Ash was in the original Evil Dead series. We’ll have to see if they work on that with a sequel (if they make one) but as it stood, I felt that most of them were annoying and frustrating.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For Evil Dead

Oz The Great And Powerful (2013)

Oz The Great And Powerful (2013)

Original Theatrical Release: March 8, 2013
Director: Sam Raimi

Oz (James Franco), a small-time traveling circus magician, finds himself on the run due to his philandering. He escapes the clutches of a slighted circus strongman with the aid of a hot air balloon and is hit by a tornado which transports him to the land of Oz. With his newfound companions, he must defeat the Wicked Witch and restore Oz to its former glory and also redeem himself.

Before seeing this film, I’d had lots of trepidation about it. We have all (hopefully) seen the original Wizard of Oz and it’s one of those untouchable films that has withstood the test of time, and will seemingly always be a classic in our hearts. So, when I heard that Sam Raimi was doing an Oz prequel with James Franco and Mila Kunis…yikes. I was pretty scared.

However, my fears turned out to be unfounded.

The film starts out true to 1930’s/40’s film fashion and Raimi does a great job with the transition from black and white to full color. You can definitely see his influence in the film with the way some of the scenes are shot and especially with how one of the witches looks. (She looks like a Deadite from his Evil Dead series) This may or may not be a good thing, given the nature of the flavor Oz movies have.

The best part of the film, to me, was Mila Kunis as Theodora. We finally see how she became the evil witch we all love to hate, and despite the crazy makeup she still somehow exudes sexy. There were a couple of weird nods to her hotness, with a butt-shot and a bodice-ripping scene…but it didn’t jar me for too long. She looked amazing as The Wicked Witch.

All of the companions are creepy but somehow entertaining. (Doll with a knife?! Helloooooo?!) There were nods to other characters like the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow that we know we’ll eventually see. The visuals were great and the music was nice by Danny Elfman (despite the random pop song during the credits…WTF?)

All in all, I think it was a fun movie. It had some plot holes and dull moments, so it’s not perfect, but it’s nice to revisit Frank L. Baum’s universe again and see how Oz, The Great and Powerful got his start.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Oz The Great And Powerful