Evil Dead (2013)

I’ll Swallow Your Soul!

Evil Dead (2013)I had a lot of trepidation when I went into today’s movie. It was based almost entirely on the fact that I remember having a great deal of respect for the movie that this movie was rebooting. But now that I think about it, I’ve felt that way before. Dredd and Total Recall were both remakes of movies I thought I liked, but didn’t when I watched them again, allowing their remakes to blow the originals out of the water. I assumed the same would happen when I watched the remake of Red Dawn, but that one let me down. There had to be some remake movie that could fit in as the third movie. Maybe today’s movie would accomplish that. Let’s find out as I review the remake of Evil Dead, remaking the movie by Sam Raimi, written by Rodo Sayagues and Diablo Cody, co-written and directed by Fede Alvarez, and starring Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore, and Phoenix Connolly.

A group of friends (well, they used to be. They kind of hate each other now) meet at a cabin in the woods to give Mia (Jane Levy) the opportunity to kick her drug addiction. Her brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez), would like to also take this opportunity to repair his relationship with his sister. He also brings his girlfriend, Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore). I don’t know what that has to do with the other statement, but I had introductions to do, okay?! Anyway, Mia also brings her friends, the nurse Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and the school teacher Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) to help her overcome her addiction. As Mia starts going through withdrawals, she complains of a smell of death coming from the house that no one else but her and the dog can smell. The dog helps them unearth a cellar where they find animal corpses suspended from the ceiling, a double-barreled shotgun, and a book made of human skin, wrapped in a trash bag and tied with barbed wire. Eric’s curiosity not only kills the cat, but goes back in time and kills the cat’s parents. He opens and reads from the book, unleashing something into the woods that is not of this Earth.

I don’t know if I’ll ever write a review for it, but I rewatched the original movie not long after watching the remake, and sadly I’d have to admit that I found the remake far superior. I say sadly because I actually remember liking the original movie a lot, but on rewatching I was not really on board with it. This remake was not perfect, but it did all the things that the original movie did right and improved on them. The original had next to no story for instance, and this one had a fairly simple, but fairly solid story. Originally, it was just people going to a cabin in the woods to hang out and getting caught up in this mess. This movie had a much better reason to go to the cabin with the drug addiction thing, although it was a fairly stupid reason. I know this chick nurse thinks she can handle something like a drug addiction, but this would’ve worked out better for Mia (for so many reasons) if you had taken this chick to a legitimate rehab facility. Dr. Drew would’ve fixed that girl up fast. And then you all get killed because you wanted to handle it on your own. Dr. Drew doesn’t even rehab people alone! The other people you brought certainly weren’t helpful. All Eric wanted to do was get everyone killed by reading from a book filled with blood, death, and demons, wrapped in human skin. That’s not foreboding at all. Once the demon stuff started happening, there were a couple of things I took issue with, but a couple of things they still improved on from the original. For instance, in the original anyone could turn evil for no particular reason. In this one, it at least seemed to be transmitted by injury. That also meant that no one should’ve been surprised when Eric came back at the end. But I also don’t know why the demons were so stupid. When they look like the person they inhabit, they are fairly able to manipulate people, but they always have to change back into a demon to say something, thus reminding the person why they were cool with killing you. Like the girl in the very beginning. Her dad didn’t look like he was going to be able to kill her when she looked like his daughter, but then she goes demon and he lights her ass on fire and blows her head off. They also fall for the other side of that too, when the person that’s been possessed starts acting scared and innocent and people are too stupid to get their friends before checking on it. Those people were dicks too, by the way. Apparently, they just broke into someone else’s house, lit a girl on fire and shot her in the head in their cellar, and left behind a bunch of dead animals and the fuckin’ Necronomicon for the real owners. That’s top-shelf douchlery right there. Also, the Necronomicon in this movie seemed to tell the entire story of the movie. It made me wonder why Eric didn’t just skip to the end and find out what to do, like I do with any book I read. Also, why does the picture of the demon in the book have a candle over his head? Is that the medieval way to say it has an idea?

There are a couple of things they did very well in this movie. First was the atmosphere. They created a fantastic atmosphere early in the movie and kept it going all the way through. The second was gore. I assume that one of the things that made the original movie so popular was how well they did the gore with so little money. They threw money at this movie, and they used it to amp up that gore to the point where it made me squirm on at least one occasion. Did you see the trailer where the girl cut her tongue in half with an Exacto Knife? That’s the one! All the other gore was very well done too, but that one particularly got to me. The third was their homages to the original movie. They had a pendant that was reminiscent of the one Ash gave his girlfriend without being identical. They also had a super badass ending where the chainsaw on the arm came into effect. And it was awesome. One of the first questions I has about this movie was if they did the tree rape or not. The answer is kinda. What they did kind of made more sense, and didn’t look nearly as goofy. It was, in fact, scary, and didn’t look like someone whacked a lady in the vag with a broom handle.

The cast did a fairly good job. Most weren’t playing likeable characters, but they were playing them well. The one I liked the least was Olivia, played by Jessica Lucas. She was a bitch. She made it pretty clear in the movie. The first time we meet her she gets snarky with someone because they refer to her as a doctor, and she’s a registered nurse. Bitch, she gave you a promotion! I’m not even in the medical field, but if someone called me a doctor, I’d consider it a compliment. Also a dick was Eric, who caused the whole mess. And was regularly a dick anyway. He was bitchy towards David from the beginning because, as he put it, he hasn’t cared about them for the past century. They all do look very good for their age, though. I spent a lot of the movie trying to figure out who was supposed to be the Ash character in this movie. Turns out it’s kind of a few of them. David has the look but not the chin for it, Natalie takes her arm off because of infection, and Mia is the one who survives. Perhaps it was Bruce Campbell because he IS Ash and shows up at the end and says Groovy, but only if you stick around for the credits. I understand that David should probably have a problem killing his girlfriend, but I didn’t understand why he had a problem with it by the time she turned demon. She had nails in her face and was missing an arm. I’d have no use for her anymore, even if she lost the demon stuff. She was no longer hot.

I thought the remake of Evil Dead was awesome, and superior to the original. I always was a bigger fan of Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness though, since those were when they started getting funny. I thought this remake improved on everything that was enjoyable about the first one. The story was similar, but much better. They had a lot more money and thus a lot better gore. And the performances in this movie were all great and not kinda goofy as they were in the original. Of course, none of the people in this movie were Bruce Campbell (except for Bruce Campbell, that is) and he pretty much made the original movies for me. Even without the be-chined one, this movie is worth watching. Get to a theater and check it out. Evil Dead gets “Feast on this, motherfucker!” out of “I feel better now.”

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Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

I Don’t Want to be a Good Man … I Want to be a Great One.

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)It’s Tuesday (as I’m writing this, not as you are reading this), which means it was $5 movies at my local theater. Most of the times I get to go to the theaters on Tuesdays, I try to make it a double feature. And, if possible, I try to make the movies I pick be one for me and one for you, my audience. Today was only different in that I accidentally created a theme with the two movies I saw, tied together by the director of today’s movie. But the movie I wanted to see for myself was the other movie. Today’s movie was the one that was requested on Facebook, and it’s also a movie I probably never would’ve seen on my own. The first thing that drew me to the movie was my roommate Richurd telling me about how awful it was. That always makes me want to see something. But I do like the director, so let’s see how Sam Raimi did with Oz the Great and Powerful, based on a series of novels by L. Frank Baum, written by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire, and starring James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Zach Braff, Joey King, Bill Cobbs, Tony Cox, Abigail Spencer, Tim Holmes, Stephen R. Hart, Bruce Campbell, and Ted Raimi.

We are in Kansas once more. Oscar “Oz” Diggs (James Franco) is a magician at a travelling circus who is down on his luck. He is forced to make a hasty retreat when the circus strongman (Tim Holmes) attacks Oz for flirting with his wife. Oz is thoroughly satisfied with himself for escaping in a hot air balloon … until he realizes it’s being drawn into a tornado. He crashes and, when he reawakens, he is in color and in the Land of Oz. He meets Theodora (Mila Kunis), a good witch who believes him to be the wizard prophesized to overthrow the Wicked Witch that terrorizes the Land of Oz, and she quickly develops romantic, and unrequited interest in Oz. On the way to the Emerald City, they rescue a flying monkey named Finley (Zach Braff) from a lion of questionable bravery. When they reach the Emerald City, Oz meets Theodora’s sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz), who tells Oz that the Wicked Witch poisoned the previous King of Oz, and to defeat her he would need to destroy her wand. But all may be only slightly different than it appears…

I was not a fan of this movie. It wasn’t horrible as my roommate suggested, but there wasn’t much in the movie that was able to win me over. I have a lot of experience with the original Wizard of Oz movie since it was one of my mom’s favorite movies, which meant that I would be forced to watch it several dozen times in my youth. This movie captures a lot of what they accomplished in the original movie, but neither one of them were particularly strong on story. The original movie was all about a girl making friends on her road to meet the Wizard of Oz. This one is Oz making friends on his road to defeat the Wicked Witch. They have a couple of twists in the plot that were admittedly ruined for me by my knowledge of the previous movie. But, though you know where it’s going to end up since it’s a prequel to the original movie, it’s still a little interesting to see how they get there. But it felt like it should’ve been much more interesting. I understand Theodora’s motivation for becoming the Wicked Witch, but I don’t understand the love at first sight thing she had going on. She just dives right into being all the way devoted to this guy and why? Because he’s going to be king? Because he’s a wizard? Because you realize that you’re a witch, right? You can throw fireballs out of your hands but you’re going to be really impressed that he can pull fake flowers out of his sleeve and throw a smoke bomb on the floor? But then she gets pissed enough to commit her life to evil because the relationship she committed to too quickly turns sour. I suppose that’s a thing that women do, but my problem with that situation is that I didn’t see any reason that Evanora should’ve even bothered to conceal her wickedness. When she unveiled it, the soldiers of the Emerald City were still on her side. I also didn’t understand why Glinda was the only one that had the wand as her weak point and crutch? Neither of the other witches even used wands, let alone would die if theirs was broken. Also, “China Town” being a city made out of fine porcelain? Come on…

The look of this movie is by far its most appealing aspect. Once we get to Oz, the movie is beautiful, colorful, and visually striking. As much as seeing the original film in Technicolor must’ve delighted audiences in 1939, I was delighted by the look of this movie. But with the relative lack of story, I started feeling like I was watching a demo video for some new Nvidia graphics card. There were still a couple of issues I took with the look in this movie though. The first I noted was that Finley was not nearly cute enough to be tolerable. The people in the movie acted like he was supposed to be cute, but I found that role was occupied by the tiny China Girl, who was unforgivably and relentlessly adorable. The second was the look of Theodora after she turns evil. I understand what they were trying to do by making her look like a younger version of the same character in the original movie, but I just thought it looked goofy. She had Mexican chola eyebrows for crying out loud! I would’ve felt better about it if they had just Hulked Kunis up with some green paint and let her do the rest with her performance. I would just assume that her appearance changed over the years.

Mila Kunis Oz the Great and PowerfulA lot of the performances worked for me, but sadly the main character mostly did not. I’ve liked James Franco in things before, but he was a little too wacky for my tastes in this movie. One could say that he was chewing the fantastic scenery, as they say. I was fine with Mila Kunis in the movie right up until she turned green, and then she kind of lost me. It was possibly the makeup, but also the over the top wicked witch laugh. I don’t know how much you can knock her for it since it was obviously an homage to the original movie, but judging this movie on its own, that was just pretty goofy. It may also have been the fact that she wasn’t wearing those tight pants that made her butt look so good anymore. Rachel Weisz did a good job throughout the movie, and I felt like she was giving a better performance to this movie than it had earned. Had I been in the movie, I would’ve seen Kunis and Franco goin’ nuts and decided to take it easy. On the other hand, she didn’t do a very good job of concealing her wickedness. I kind of had an idea of it from the first time we met her. Michelle Williams brought it to the movie as well, and I found her extremely charming as Glinda. I was trying to figure out what it was I liked so much about her. She had something similar to naiveté, but she was smarter than being considered naïve. Perhaps it’s just extreme optimism. I did feel like Kunis and Weisz should’ve had a Kansas counterpart like Braff and Williams did, though. That’s kind of a staple for the Oz movies. Or at least the one I remember.

Oz the Great and Powerful didn’t really work for me as a movie, but it still has some very watchable parts. They took a cue from the Wizard of Oz in having a super simplistic story, and at least half of the performances were off-putting in how over the top they were, but Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams gave more to the movie than it had really earned. The movie was inarguably beautiful, though the combination of the visual spectacle and lack of story made it feel too much like a demo for a new graphics card. I like watching the video demos when I get a new graphics card, but I won’t recommend that you pay $10 to see it in theaters. Check it out at a RedBox eventually. Oz the Great and Powerful gets “I don’t want to die yet! I haven’t accomplished anything!” out of “You’re capable of more than you know…”

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The Quick and the Dead (1995)

We Both Have Guns.  We Aim, We Fire, You Die.

Westerns are some of my favorite movies, so including it as a category in my contest was a given.  What wasn’t a given was which movie it would be.  Being a fan of the genre, it could have been any number of movies.  I’ve already reviewed True Grit, so that was out.  I really like the Unforgiven, but it’s a little too slow for my tastes so I don’t think it’d make it as my favorite.  It could’ve been any number of Sergio Leone and/or Clint Eastwood movies, but I don’t have that much love for older movies.  That being the case, one western movie caught my attention, so I picked it.  Going into it, I remember being very fond of this movie, but wasn’t sure how well my memory holds up.  So I’m throwing the dice and hoping that I was right in thinking I really liked the Quick and the Dead, written by Simon Moore, directed by Sam Raimi, and starring Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Roberts Blossom, Gary Sinise, Kevin Conway, Keith David, Lance Henriksen, Mark Boone Junior, Tobin Bell, Jonothon Gill, Lennie Loftin, Sven-Ole Thorsen, Josef Rainer, Pat Hingle, Raynor Scheine, and Olivia Burnette.

A lady named Ellen, but referred to almost exclusively as “The Lady” (Sharon Stone), rides into the town of Redemption, where a single elimination quick draw contest is about to start.  The town is run by the ruthless John Herod (Gene Hackman) and the Lady enters the contest shortly after Herod does, and shortly after saving the life of a reverend named Cort (Russell Crowe) who used to ride with Herod.  Then she gets drunk and sleeps with another contestant, Herod’s son “The Kid” (Leonardo DiCaprio).  As the contest movies along, the Lady is revealed to have a deep hatred for Herod, but we find out why slowly.  Will the Lady be fast enough to kill Herod?

Hey!  I was right!  I still really liked this movie.  It’s just badass.  The action is well realized, the directing is great, and the story was very involving.  At first, the movie makes itself seem like it has a pretty obvious story, being all about the quick draw contest.  It would be interesting enough with this, but wouldn’t be anything special.  It’s not until the Lady’s motivations of revenge bubbles up that I started getting more invested in the movie, but it works very well.  She’s definitely got a really good reason for hating Herod, and when it’s finally shown in its entirety, it’s such a horrible thing that happened to her that you can’t wait for her to kill this dude.  Not that he had made himself seem like a likeable character at any point in the movie as everyone hates him, but even he has some decent reasoning for the way he is.  Cort also has a pretty great back story.  As a matter of fact, a lot of the characters in the contest are given enough story that they’re mostly not just bullet fodder.  I would say that one thing didn’t make sense about the story.  If everyone in the town knew how fast and deadly Herod was, why would any of them join the contest?  Cort didn’t have a choice, the Lady had revenge on her mind, and the Kid wanted to earn his father’s respect, but all of the other people should’ve known better.  The dialogue in this movie was also very crisp and most of the characters had a nice snappy line prepared for any old situation.

All of the action in this movie worked very well for me.  Some people might think quick draw shootouts move a little slow, but I appreciate them so long as they build up the tension well leading up to the draw.  And Raimi does it very well, using a lot of quick cuts, close ups on the faces of the contestants, and quick zooms on the clock that will set things in motion.  He also uses the montage a lot, but not in an annoying way.  It just works for getting the lesser contestants taken care of quickly so we don’t waste too much time.  And one of them was the people preparing for the contest, using various period-correct ways of loading their weapons, which would seem to be pretty boring, but I was interested by it.  He also uses shadows and lighting very well, like the part where it showed a guy had gotten shot clean through by having his shadow have a hole in the chest.  There was also a part where a character got his head canoed by a bullet that is one of the coolest and most memorable moments in the movie.  Even with my dim recollection of the movie, I remembered that part before I started watching.

The greater majority of the performances in this movie were just fantastic.  Sharon Stone sets herself up as a badass quick, fast, and in a hurry.  She’s got this gruff, abrasive exterior at all times, but sometimes shows that underneath she’s out of her element and frightened.  I thought this worked excellently for a character, starting her off as the classic, fearless protagonist, but then humanizing her.  Of course, at the very end of the movie she is just straight up badass.  She was almost scary when it came time for the climax of the movie.  Gene Hackman was almost always intimidating.  He played it as almost nice on the surface, but if he was even slightly crossed he turned very intimidating.  He even cracks that intimidating façade slightly when something actually happens that he seems to regret.  He’s mostly holding it back, but you can kind of see a hint of it.  I really liked Russell Crowe’s character in this movie.  He was always made out to be this epic badass and stone cold killer, but he had denounced violence and claimed he wouldn’t pick it up again.  When he did, it was great.  He has a little scene near the end of the movie where he takes out something like six guys in a very short amount of time and it was fantastic.  I liked Leonardo DiCaprio too.  He always had this cocky little twerp attitude, but it was clearly covering up some serious low self-esteem issues that had been beaten into him by his father.  He also performs it very well around the time when he’s going to face his father in the contest where he gets very serious for the first time, and has a very well-acted emotional scene shortly after.

The Quick and the Dead may not accurately be considered my favorite western movie, but I think it’s up there.  It’s a lot of good action, a very engaging story, and some pretty top notch performances to back it all up.  I’ve liked Sam Raimi as a director for a while, and he seems to fit into the western genre very nicely.  It’s not the most groundbreaking movie, but it’s pretty awesome.  Check this movie out.  The Quick and the Dead gets “Me and Jesse James think it’s the best handgun in the world” out of “Is it possible to improve on perfection?”

Congratulations again goes to Chris for guessing today’s movie and winning his third DVD in this contest.  A more paranoid man would begin to think that he’s got cameras in my bedroom and can see the stack of DVDs waiting to be reviewed, but I think I’ll just assume that he’s madly in love with me.

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.