Arachnophobia (1990)

A Web Would Indicate an Arachnoid Presence.

Arachnophobia (1990)Once upon a time, I rescued my super sissy friend Protestant from a spider.  Even though I would say that I have a fear of spiders myself (I wish there were a word for that), I drove to her house to protect her.  She is woman and I am man.  This is my station in life.  I beat that 8-legged mother fucker to death with my dick.  MAN STYLE!!  Then I ate raw steak off of a bone.  I’m such a fuckin’ man.  I spent roughly the next 2 hours mocking Protestant relentlessly (I guess you could say it was more like 2 years because I’m still doing it), and left for the evening.  About a year later, the experience of being so awed by my manliness had worn off and Protestant’s brain was freed up to think of requests.  And thus she requested Arachnophobia, written by Don Jakoby and Wesley Strick, directed by Frank Marshall, and starring Jeff Daniels, Harley Jane Kozak, Garette Ratliff Henson, Marlene Katz, Julian Sands, Mark L. Taylor, Roy Brocksmith, Henry Jones, James Handy, Brian McNamara, Stuart Pankin, Mary Carver, and John Goodman.

Doctor Ross Jennings (Jeff Daniels) moves with his family to the small town of Canaima, California under the assumption that he will be taking on all of the patients of aging Doctor Sam Metcalf (Henry Jones).  Much to his surprise, Metcalf decides he no longer wants to retire once Jennings has moved in, screwing over Jennings and his family.  Margaret Hollins (Mary Carver) finds out about this and suggests that Jennings throw a “Get to Know Doctor Ross” party as Metcalf once did, getting Jennings lots of potential patients with public relations since he’s already a superior doctor.  Jennings tells Hollins that the medicine Metcalf prescribed to her was unnecessary, and Hollins later says that she’s never felt better.  But then she’s found dead in her home, and the people of Canaima start to infer that it was a misdiagnosis by Jennings.  …Oh yeah, and there are spiders too.

This wasn’t a great movie, but it was dumb in the best of ways.  It doesn’t act goofy, but it winds up being pretty goofy, and most of the scenes involving John Goodman make me believe that it was their intention to be silly, so I allow and enjoy it.  It feels a lot like the old creature feature movies I’ve seen Mystery Science Theater make fun of, and that’s probably what they were going for.  I actually started getting this movie mixed up for Giant Spider Invasion that I watched on MST.  It’s pretty goofy and pretty easy as well.  The title pretty much says all you need to know about the inspiration for the movie.  A lot of people are scared of spiders.  Make a movie with a lot of spiders and you already have plenty of people freaked out.  It never really managed to scare me as much as it kind of creeped me out, as simply seeing most spiders will do.  Though it doesn’t scare, it will probably make you shake out your underwear a little more than usual before putting them on.  Of course, its goofiness makes it fodder for jokes, so here are some I thought of.  The firecracker analogy the entomologist uses in the beginning of the movie is not the most apt of analogies.  Shooting smoke into a tree is not similar to throwing a firecracker into a pond.  Maybe if you threw a stick of dynamite into that tree, I’d be with you.  The entire premise of the movie seems ridiculous too.  The greater majority of spiders are more afraid of us than we are of them, and will generally only attack when threatened.  Not these dudes.  These mother fuckers are out for death!  This spider is literally watching the photographer step on his homie and decides that this mother fucker is going down.  Nobody fucks with Los Arañas, ese!  It sees this guy kill his friend, remembers him, hides in a backpack, singles him out specifically in the camp, kills him, and then drains the guy dry.  He’s the Arnold Schwarzenegger of spiders!  Then I took issue with the fact that Dr. Metcalf was talking about looking into medical malpractice against Jennings after he just made such a stink over not allowing an autopsy to happen.  I’m pretty sure you’d have to get some proof for medical malpractice, and there’s a certain procedure that’s best suited for proving such things and you just shat in its mouth.

The movie ends with a lot of conveniences that amused me as well.  It was convenient (all through the movie, technically) that the spiders always waited till the most pivotal moment to do something.  In the end it was convenient that they waited until it was climax time to burst out of every seam of the house when none had been seen in the house prior.  Then it was also convenient that only the big spider Jennings would have a prolonged battle with was home when he fell into the basement.  I know they kept saying that the spiders were territorial and typically only one would be in the nest area, but they all lived there mere minutes before, and now only one.  I also thought the movie had a real sign of the times at the ending.  They go back to the city and are enjoying wine in the living room when they leave because of some silly earthquake gag, leaving the camera to watch the wine bottle drain on the floor.  In today’s movie world, there would definitely have been some credit sequence reveal where a spider crawled out of the wine bottle, hinting at a sequel.  This movie at least was fine with just making one really goofy movie.

The look of the movie worked fairly well, but they started off using a lot of gimmicks to cover up the fact that their main spider was less than convincing.  They did a lot of just showing his legs at the edge of the frame because showing all of it would display wires or a dude’s hand in a spider glove or whatever.  Later, I found myself very impressed with the tricks they somehow got these spiders to accomplish.  There were a lot of shots of spiders lowering themselves from their butt webs onto things and spiders dragging sacks through windows.  It must be pretty difficult to train these things.  And these spiders really cover their bases when it comes to webs.  This one spider covers every fuckin’ inch of that farmhouse with web, catching everything from mice to bats, and I’m pretty sure there was a fuckin’ cat hanging in that web at one point.  These spiders that stick to corners are underachievers and deserve to starve to death.

They actually got some decent actors to play it straight in this movie.  You’d think they might either not try that hard or be a little goofy, but most of them just went straight with it.  John Goodman was a little goofy, but he was also very funny in the movie so I was okay with it.  He was probably the most consistently enjoyable part.  Julian Sands’ entomologist character was unconvincing to me, but mainly because he was the foremost expert in spiders and still let one catch him in the neck while he was playing with its web.  I was also excited to see that Grandma Gilmore (Frances Bay) and Mimi (Kathy Kinney) were in this movie.  …That is all…

Arachnophobia wasn’t a good movie, but it was a fun movie, and an effective movie.  The story was silly and not that complicated, reminding me a lot of old creature feature movies, but it was enjoyable to watch and it’s effective in that anything that lands on your skin will freak you out for a while.  The performances were all good, especially John Goodman.  This movie still holds up as a pretty fun watch, and even better if you’re looking to make jokes about something.  Arachnophobia gets “You think I was hoping you were ravaged by disease?” out of “Tear out bad wood.  Put in good wood.”

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Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

If He’d Pay Me What He’s Spending to Make Me Stop Robbing Him, I’d Stop Robbing Him!

The impetus for today’s review came from amidst my birthday movie genre contest.  By the time I had finally reached the Western category, I had gotten my opinions on movies questioned and ridiculed so much that I started to doubt my decision to pick the Quick and the Dead.  I’m actually a very delicate creature, after all.  As a result, I did research on other potential candidates for westerns to see if there were any I wasn’t thinking of.  In the end, I realized that I was forgetting my lifelong “fuck you guys” strategy in regards to people disagreeing with my opinions and went with my original choice, but one more did catch my attention from my research.  When I later came across the BluRay of the same movie for only $8, it seemed fortuitous.  And that leads us inexorably to my review of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, written by William Goldman, directed by George Roy Hill, and starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, Jeff Corey, Strother Martin, Henry Jones, George Furth, Cloris Leachman, Ted Cassidy, Kenneth Mars, and Donnelly Rhodes.

In short, this movie is the story of Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford).  Is it an accurate story of Butch and Sundance?  How the hell should I know?!  Butch is the talker; he always has a plan and he can often talk his way out of situations.  If that doesn’t work, Sundance is the one that kills people with guns, and does so really well.  In the beginning, the duo – along with their gang, the Hole-in-the-Wall gang – are comfortable with just robbing banks and train cars, but eventually their continued robberies on the same money owned by E. H. Harriman leads Harriman to hire a renowned Indian tracker called “Lord Baltimore” and a relentless lawman named Joe LeFors.  After barely escaping with their lives, Butch decides that he and Sundance should move to Bolivia along with Sundance’s girlfriend, school teacher Etta Place (Katharine Ross).  There, they resume robbing banks after Etta teaches them enough Spanish to get the job done.  But, it’s only a matter of time until their robbing ways catch up with them.

The research I did was right: this is indeed a really good movie.  There are a couple of things that date the movie in a really weird way, but it holds up very well for the most part.  The basic premise of the story probably just comes from the legends of the characters the movie’s based on, but the added stuff – like the little moments, the dialogue, and the chemistry between Butch and Sundance – all sell the movie even more.  The bulk of the story happens in about three parts.  It starts off with everything being relatively peachy for the gang as they rob banks.  They then spend a very good amount of time on the run from Lord Baltimore (which I, of course, heard Lord Voldemort) and LeFors (who I thought was a character from Mallrats).  And then it ends up a lot like the first part in a more colorful setting.  The story itself doesn’t impress in any grand way, but the dialogue and the characters charmed me.  I first got on board when one of the members of the gang tried to stage a coup on Butch by way of a knife fight.  Butch says, “Let’s get the rules straight,” to which the would-be leader replies, “There’s no rules in a knife fight,” and Butch responds with a kick to the balls, saying, “Well if there’s no rules, then let’s get to fighting.”  Later, when Butch is trying to explain to Sundance why they should jump off of a cliff into the water to escape their pursuers, he says, “Would you make a jump like that if you didn’t have to?” and Sundance responds, “I have to make the jump and I’m still not gonna.”  I would definitely admit that there are a few parts to this movie that really date it and waste the time of the audience at the same time, like the part where Etta and Butch are riding a bicycle.  “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” is playing while they’re doing it, and there’s really not any purpose to the scene.  And, if you know the song, it really doesn’t have any place in a western.  In fact, it happened on more than one occasion that the music seemed to fit more in the time the movie was filmed than the time the movie was set in, and I just found it very distracting.  There was also a part where Butch was trying to enjoy the company of a prostitute, but kept getting distracted by Sundance, who was looking out the window to see if they were still being pursued.  Butch kept criticizing Sundance for doing it, but what is the alternative here?  Turn around and watch you bang a whore?  I’ll stick to my window, thankyouverymuch.

I was very fond of the look of the movie as well.  At first I was worried because it seemed like it was going to be in black and white, and those movies tend to be boring, at least visually.  But it just starts out in sepia tone and turns to color.  And the color is mostly great, especially once they get to Bolivia and the scenery is prettier.  They also went for some artistic shots that I usually find pretentious, but I actually liked the few they went for here.  One example is right as the group is leaving for Bolivia and Butch pushes the bicycle out into a small stream, leaving the camera watching the slowly turning bike tire as the color turned back to sepia for a bit.  They also had a cool bit of montage as Butch, Sundance, and Etta were robbing banks in Bolivia where the scenes were played without the sound of the scene, relying only on the physical performance of the actors, but it was done so well that you could tell exactly what was going on in the scene.  Granted, this was one of those occasions where the music was distractingly out of place, but it didn’t stop me from being impressed with everything else.  The action in this movie was spread out pretty far, having only a few sparse moments of fist fights and/or gun fights, but the ones they had were enjoyable.  Sundance killed people like a boss on more than one occasion, and it was a pleasure to watch.

There really weren’t that many performances to pay any mind to in this movie, but the ones that were all did excellent jobs.  The three people worth paying attention to were Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Katharine Ross, and all of them were great.  Paul Newman’s Butch Cassidy was extremely charming, and Robert Redford’s Sundance Kid was a total badass.  Both of them were exceptionally likeable, even though they were technically bad guys.  Katharine Ross didn’t really give me anything to say as she wasn’t in the movie that often, but she was good when she was there.  I did get curious for a time about who in the group she was technically with, or if she was just being passed around between Butch and Sundance, but that was about all I had on her.

I’m generally not big on older movies, but Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a flat out good movie.  The story keeps you involved almost the entire way through, though it wastes a little bit of time with a couple of needless scenes, most specifically involving a bicycle.  But I really liked the main characters and the chemistry they had together, and the action, though rare, was pretty awesome.  Lots of fun to be had in this movie and I really enjoyed the ride.  I definitely recommend you check out this movie, through whatever method you can.  I was able to pick this movie up at Best Buy for only $8, and it’s more than worth it.  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid gets “Small price to pay for beauty” out of “Oh, good.  For a moment there I thought we were in trouble.”

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