RIP Wes Craven

August 2, 1939-August 30, 2015

Earlier today, it was revealed that Wes Craven, the legendary writer and director of A Nightmare on Elm Street, passed away after a long battle with brain cancer.  This man has been an extraordinary force in horror movies for over 30 years.  His first real effort was the controversial Last House on the Left in 1972.  The film followed two girls who were kidnapped, brutalized and murdered by a small gang of criminals.  He followed that up with the terrific The Hills Have Eyes, released in 1977.  But the film that truly made Wes Craven a master of horror, was A Nightmare on Elm Street.  Released by New Line Cinema in 1984, Nightmare unleashed a new and terrifying villain on the world: Freddy Krueger, played to perfection by legendary thespian Robert Englund.  While Friday The 13th kept the slasher movie alive, Nightmare on Elm Street took it to whole new level.  Featuring an unstoppable villain who gets very creative with his kills, Wes Craven created one of the most memorable villains in cinema.

Often crediting his nightmares as his inspiration for his films, Craven created a number of movies that thrilled and terrified audiences around the world.  He was right up there with John Carpenter as one of the most influential film-makers in the industry.  Regularly burdened with small budgets for his films, Craven would resort to both old-fashioned and new film-making techniques that would become his signature.  This is going to be a short post, but I’m going to list a number of films that he directed and/or produced that I really enjoyed.

Last House on the Left(1972)
A Nightmare On Elm Street(1984)
The Hills Have Eyes(1977)
Swamp Thing(1982)
Vampire In Brooklyn(1995)
Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors(1987)
Dracula 2000(2000)
The Hills Have Eyes(2006)
The Last House on the Left(2009)

I didn’t list everything he did, because he did so much.  He’s left quite the legacy of horror.  Wes Craven was a master of his art, and inspired many film-makers to try their hand in the genre of horror.  I will always be grateful for his ability to keep me entranced and on the edge of my seat during his movies, even some of his not-so-great movies.  Wes Craven leaves behind a wife, three children, and three grandchildren.  My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family.  Thank you, Mr. Craven for giving us the nightmares that we’ll never forget.

Police Story Lockdown

Released: June 2015(USA)

Director: Sheng Ding

Distributor: Well Go USA Entertainment

Run Time: 110 Minutes

Not Rated

Jackie Chan: Zhong Wen
Ye Liu: Wu Jiang
Tian Jing: Miao Miao

When it comes to martial arts actors, there is one that is just as famous as Bruce Lee, if not more so:  Jackie Chan.  Even if you haven’t seen a martial arts film in your life, or an action movie, you know who Jackie Chan is.  With over 100 movies to his name as an actor, Jackie Chan is one of the most prominent actors in Asian cinema.  Chan is extraordinarily talented, not just in front of the camera, but behind it as well.  He’s directed many of my favorite martial arts films including the original Police Story and Who Am I?.  He’s got his hands into everything, including music, camera-work, lighting, cinematography, and editing just to name a few.  There are not a whole lot of actors with his kind of filmography.  While he is known for his over-the-top stunts and crazy action sequences which are done for comedic effect, we’ve seen Chan branch into more serious roles like in Crime Story, The Shinjuku Incident, and most recently Police Story Lockdown.

The film opens as police officer Zhong Wen is on his way to a club to meet up with his estranged daughter, Miao Miao.  Hoping to reconcile their differences, Wen is told to go to a specific room to meet his little girl.  After talking to her, and meeting her boyfriend, Wu Jiang, who owns the club, the entire building is put on lockdown and Wen is knocked unconscious.  Waking up, he finds himself face to face with Wu Jiang, who orchestrated the whole thing and lured him to the building for an unknown purpose.  With his daughter and other hostages in danger, Wen must find out what Jiang wants and why he took certain people hostages.  The Police Story films aren’t really known for their complex story-telling, mostly just focusing on the action.  That would be a typical Jackie Chan movie.  But when you think about it, when has Jackie Chan done anything that was “typical?”  The story in Lockdown is actually very compelling and has some very interesting twists and turns.  The more you watch the film, the more things start really making sense.  You begin to see why certain characters are there as hostages.

This is not your average Jackie Chan film, because everything is played seriously.  It’s a much darker film than what we are used to seeing from Chan.  It’s more methodical and deliberately paced.  Yes, there are action sequences and fight scenes, but they really aren’t the main focus of the film.  The action is quick and brutal, with Chan’s character getting pummeled quite a bit.  We’re not used to seeing a Jackie Chan character take that kind of abuse before, but it also lends itself to a more emotional aspect of the film.  Chan is definitely on his A-game.  While he’s not doing his usual high-flying stunts, he is allowed to flex his acting muscles.  As a result, we get to see a very different side to the actor, and I find that to be absolutely refreshing.  The performances in the film are phenomenal.  Everybody brings their best effort to their roles.  For those expecting a high-octane, stunt-filled action film, you’re not going to get it here.  This is more of a dramatic piece, than a straight-up brawler.  It definitely has action and explosions, but the bombastic nature of the previous films is gone.  This is a very gritty and down-to-earth crime film where nothing is as it seems.  I think the film would have gotten a better reception if it had dropped the Police Story title altogether.  Why?  Outside of the fact that the main character is a cop and the name of the film, it has nothing to do with the other films, whatsoever.  Because it has that title, a lot of people are going to feel misled about what kind of movie this is.

As far as villains go, Wu Jiang is by far one of the most complex I’ve seen in an action film.  This guy comes across as a 3 dimensional human being with his own history and flaws.  His motivations for what he does don’t become clear until about the half-way mark, and then you start to understand where he’s coming from.  He’s not inherently evil, but the events of his life have led him to the situation he is in now, and Ye Liu does a phenomenal job, not just in the acting department, but also the physical as well.  We see the character is an expert an Muay Thai boxing, but an injury in an earlier fight from his past has left him with a limp.  He can still hold his ground though.  The other bad guys are pretty much cookie-cutter.  The fight scenes are very much inspired by MMA and Ultimate Fighting.  Instead of high-flying kicks and fancy footwork, it’s very close-quarters and brutal.  Jackie Chan can still hold his own.  Police Story Lockdown is a different kind of action movie, but that’s also because Jackie Chan can no longer do the crazy stunts he’s known for.  The man is 61 years old, so his movies have had to change to reflect that.  That’s not really a bad thing, as Chan wants to reinvent himself as a serious actor.  Because of that, Police Story Lockdown is much slower than his previous work, and that might turn off quite a few people.  There’s a lot of exposition here.

As a Jackie Chan film, Police Story Lockdown is one of his more interesting and compelling movies.  It’s different enough from his other films to kind of stand on its own.  As a Police Story movie, however, it fails on multiple levels.  I think the film would have been better if it didn’t have Police Story as the title.  It feels….deceptive, almost as if they were trying to get people to see it.  I would have thought that Jackie Chan’s name would have been enough to get people into theaters.  That being said, I really enjoyed the film.  It gives Jackie Chan a chance to flex his acting muscles, and it’s grounded in reality.  Personally, I would recommend Lockdown to anybody who is a fan of Jackie Chan.  You need to see it at least once.  It’s pretty good, despite its obvious flaws.  Solid 8/10.

The Best and Worst Movie Endings

Be warned, I’m going to spoiling the hell out of these movies, so if you haven’t seen them yet, turn back now.


Still here?  Good.  Every story ever told, written or put on film has three distinct parts to it.  Each part is extremely important in telling a story.  If you miss one, the rest of the story will be negatively affected.  The first part is the setup.  This part introduces the audience to the world of the story as well as the characters that live within.  The second part is the conflict.  In certain stories, the main characters go up against a foe of some sort, an antagonist if you will.  It’s something that’s not resolved right from the get-go, but the situation ends up escalating.  Everything is usually resolved in the final part of the story:  The resolution.  This is arguably the most important of a story, because this is where all the subplots and character development converge.  For movies and video games, the conclusion to the story is absolutely crucial.  It will determine whether or not you will decide to return to the story or cast it aside.  It is also important for an ending to try and keep the same tone as the rest of the movie.  For movies that have a dark tone to them, having a happy ending where everybody lives happily ever after is extremely inappropriate.  Likewise, if the film has a very upbeat tone, but the ending is a downer, that ruins the experience.  There is a level of consistency that must be maintained throughout the story.  What I’m going to do with this post is go over some of the best and worst endings in a film.  It’s not going to be limited to any genre, because each genre has its fair share movies that have great and terrible endings.  What I’m going to do here is follow up a great ending with a bad one.  So, let’s get this party started with a bang!

Great ending:  The Dark Knight

This is one of my favorite endings, because Batman was forced to kill Harvey Dent, who was disfigured in an explosion.  He was holding Gordon’s family hostage, and Batman had to do something to save that family.  Taking the blame for Dent’s murderous rampage, Batman chose to become the bad guy because he believed that Gotham needed it’s true hero, Harvey Dent.  Dent had managed to put away most of Gotham’s criminals in one fell swoop, so the city needed to believe in that version of Harvey Dent.  This ending sent shivers down my spine, because of the emotional speech by Commissioner Gordon detailing why he had to chase Batman.  Combine that with Hans Zimmer’s amazing score, and you have an ending that really nails why Batman was needed.  It’s not a happy ending, but it is one that leaves with a sense of hope that things are going to turn around in a city that is rife with corruption.

Bad Ending: The Matrix Revolutions

Oh, god, where do I start with this?  We had two movies where things were really building up to some kind of final confrontation with The Machines, and this is what we got?  This is a prime example of bad writing.  It makes absolutely no freaking sense.  Okay, Neo has to go the Machine City to do….something.  Okay, he’s not coming back from that.  What happens, is that he makes a deal with the machines, that if he defeats Smith, they will leave Zion alone and free people who are still trapped in The Matrix.  Okay, the rest of the movie was amazing.  It was essentially a war movie, with great visual effects and action.  The final fight between Smith and Neo was nothing short of amazing.  But, and it’s not shown in the video I posted, but Neo eventually stops fighting and allows Smith to take him over.  If any of you are scratching your head at that, don’t worry, I am too.  The whole ending to this movie and trilogy was horrendously anti-climactic.  It boils down to Neo being Jesus and sacrificing himself for the rest of humanity.  That’s what I got out of it.  Watch the whole trilogy from beginning to end, and you’ll be banging your head against the wall, asking yourself, “What the hell was that?”

Great Ending: The Mist

This one is a bit controversial.  Having read the original story by Stephen King, the ending to this movie is a major shocker.  See, the original story had some of the main characters escape store and drive off into the mist.  It was very ambiguous, and you had no idea whether or not any of them survived.  For the movie, Frank Darabont went for a more brutal and tragic ending.  Again, survivors driving off into the mist, but they run out of gas.  So, the adults agree to be shot instead of being killed by the monsters that live in the mist.  So, Thomas Jane’s character, shoots all of them, including his own son, because he didn’t want him to be savagely brutalized by a monster.  He doesn’t have a bullet for himself, so he leaves the vehicle hoping that he will be killed by one of the creatures.  Out of the mist comes a military convoy escorting survivors from the fog.  This is all the more tragic, because if the character had waited a few more minutes, he and his son would have been rescued.  This is a sucker punch of an ending, and I’m glad that the filmmakers had the balls to go with this ending instead of the book.  Stephen King himself prefers this ending.  I can certainly see why people didn’t like it, but I think it was very appropriate for a story like this.  To be truthful with you, most of the endings to Stephen Kings books are generally not happy endings.

Bad Ending: Star Trek: Nemesis

There’s no video for this one, so I’ll just tell you.  Towards the end of the movie, both the Enterprise and Shinzon’s ship are severely damaged, because Picard rammed his ship into the Scimitar.  Since the self-destruct is somehow broken, Picard transports over to the enemy ship to destroy it.  After confronting and eventually killing Shinzon, Data shows up, transports Picard back the Enterprise, and then destroys the Scimitar with him still on it.  That is definitely a way to send off a character like Data.  Unfortunately,  because of an earlier subplot involving the discovery of an earlier android model, B-4, the whole sacrifice angle is kind of pointless.  Why?  Because Data had copied all his memories and abilities over to B-4 so B-4 could, in theory, be more like Data.  So, when Data gets blown up, B-4 starts showing signs that Data’s memory transfer starts working.  While the film itself wasn’t terrible, I’m just glad they rebooted the series before any further damage could have been done.

Best Ending: Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Terminator 2 is widely considered to be one of the greatest science fiction sequels to date, and it’s really hard to argue with that assessment.  It’s got a great story, with interesting characters and amazing visual effects.  As far as sequels go, this was about as good you could get.  The film certainly had a great number of memorable moments, with great action and fantastic drama.  The ending to the film is one that still tugs at my heart strings today.  After spending most of the movie connecting with these characters, it’s heartbreaking to see the Terminator make the decision to be destroyed in the end.  But that’s because from the time he spent with John Connor, he knew that it had to be done.  After the Terminator sacrifices himself, the film cuts to a road with Sarah Connor speaking:  “The future rolls towards us.  I face it for the first time with a sense of hope, because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.”  It’s a pretty powerful ending and it’s one that really resonates with me.

Not a whole lot, is it?  These are the ones that are most memorable to me.  Sure, there are plenty of movies out there with horrible and great endings.  But these are the ones that really stood out the most for me.  For certain movies like Lord of the Rings, the ending to each film is leading directly into the next, and I’m absolutely fine with that.  But sometimes, movies have endings that setup for a sequel that never happens and THAT I’m not okay with.  If you’re going to piss people off with an ending, you want to do it in a way that’s truly memorable for the RIGHT reasons, like The Mist.  That was a phenomenal movie with a controversial ending.  There’s a difference between pissing people off with an ending and alienating people.  The ending to The Matrix Revolutions alienated a lot of people.  It was a pretty big faux pas.  If any one has any doubts or any suggestions of their own, feel free to leave a comment or question.

Fantastic 4 Reboot(Fant4stic)

Released: August 2015

Director: Josh Trank

Distributor: Fox Studios

Rated PG-13

Run Time: 100 Minutes

Miles Teller: Reed Richards
Michael B. Jordan: Johnny Storm
Kate Mara: Sue Storm
Jamie Bell: Ben Grimm
Toby Kebbell: Victor Von Doom

Fans of the Fantastic 4 comics have been asking what it’s going to take to get a good Fantastic 4 movie.  Well, after an aborted attempt during the 90s, two sub-par movies 8-10 years back, and now a reboot, I have an answer for that question:  Fox Studios has to give up control of the license to Marvel, because they clearly are unable to make a good movie based on those characters.  It’s a shame, because Fantastic 4 has the potential to be an awesome new franchise.  Fox Studios has released many a good movie over the decades, and has released some pretty lousy ones.  They struck gold with X-Men back in 2000, and launched a new film franchise that is more popular than ever.  They also released Daredevil which was critically panned back in 2003.  So far, the only comic book movies that Fox has actually managed to be successful with is…..X-men.  Even then, that franchise had its ups and downs.  So what makes Fantastic 4 not so fantastic?

The movie begins with a young Reed Richards and Ben Grimm working on a project that could have the potential to teleport people from one place to another.  Years later, Reed is at it again at a school science fair where he’s noticed by a top-notch scientist, and his adopted daughter, Sue Storm.  They’re working on the same kind of project he is, but they feel that Reed has managed to crack inter-dimensional travel.  So they offer him a scholarship and a job designing a teleportation device.  I’m not going to on with the story, aside from the fact that it’s a run-of-the-mill origin story.  I don’t know if filmmakers have noticed, but the audience is pretty much sick and tired of these f**king origin stories.  Every time a comic book movie series is rebooted, we are treated with another origin story and quite frankly, I’m tired of it.  It’s unnecessary.  We know about these characters.  We know that they get their powers from something cosmic or something of that nature.  Stop treating us like we’re morons.  We have the Internet.  We have Wikipedia.  We can find out about these stories in a split second.  So, what’s worse than an origin story?  An origin story where nothing f**king happens.  I kid you not:  It takes a good hour just to get our four heroes to get their powers.  Say what you will about the 2005 film, but the characters got their powers within 20 minutes of the film starting.  I appreciate good build-up, but Fantastic 4 takes its sweet time establishing the characters.  That’s not good for a superhero movie.

This is a movie that had some serious issues, even before it started filming, but I’ll get to that later.  If the story sucks, what about the rest of the film?  Is it salvageable?  Not really, no.  To start, the acting is atrocious.  The acting is flat all across the board.  Nobody is convincing and they all behave like cardboard cutouts on a treadmill.  Kate Mara only has one facial expression throughout the whole movie and Toby Kebbell is trying to ham it up as Doom.  Now, there has been some controversy over casting an African-American in a role that was generally for white guys.  I don’t really see the issue if the character is well-written and performed admirably.  The problem is, is that Johnny Storm is so horrendously written, that not even Michael B. Jordan could salvage it.  The story sucks and the acting sucks, so what’s left?  The action and visual effects, of course.  Boy, the ball was dropped on this one.  There are certain action sequences that you see in the trailers that don’t make it into the final film.  What the hell?  The only real action that the movie has is basically at the tail end.  You can’t have an action movie without action in it!  Thankfully, the action that we DO get to witness is actually not bad.  The final battle between our 4 heroes and Doom is something you need to see to believe.  It’s actually pretty spectacular.  The visual effects, for the most part, are pants.  Look what they did to Doom:

Really?  Three movies later and this is what they come up with?!  When you see him in the final film, he’s glowing green in parts and looks like an alien.  I’m astonished that they screwed Doom up AGAIN.  On top of that, The Thing is absolutely atrocious.  He’s completely CG.  Look at the previous two films, and it’s an actual actor in a suit.  It was far more convincing, and they had a better actor in Michael Chiklis.  Some people had complained about his lack of pants.  Really?  The character is so horrifically rendered, that all you’re worried about is that he doesn’t have pants?!  Oh, it gets better, Reed escapes a military installation called Area 57 and hides out in South America.  So, in order to disguise himself, he reforms his face into….something else.  It’s really, really bad.  There are just way too many problems to ignore here.

Now, I had gone into the movie after reading and watching several reviews including that of Chris Stuckmann which you can see here.  They had all reached the same conclusion: The movie sucks.  I had read that there were some serious problems behind the scenes, even prior to filming.  For one, Josh Trank was tapped to direct one of the planned Star Wars spin-offs.  He ended up getting kicked off that particular project because they had gotten word of his “erratic” behavior on Fantastic 4.   He took to isolating himself from everyone else and not wanting help from anyone.  It was also reported that he pushed the actors to be as flat as possible.  Why would he do something like that?  There’s plenty of blame to go around, but I think that Josh Trank bit off more than he could chew with Fantastic 4, and it shows.  Fox Studios is also to blame because they wanted to make a movie in a way that it didn’t really need to.  There were a lot of elements in this movie that I did like and could’ve been made into a decent film.  The problem is, is that you’ve got a director and a studio that were constantly butting heads, and it ended up showing on the screen.  I may be coming down hard on this movie, and I have every right to, but at least I actually managed to sit through the whole thing, unlike Pixels.

It’s clear to me that Fox intended for this reboot to set up for another one.  However, given the film’s budget of 155 million cash bucks, so far it only pulled in 26.2 million in three days.  That effectively makes the film an official bust.  The word on the street is that Fox Studios may end up taking a 60 million dollar loss on the project.  That’s not an insignificant amount of money.  Fox Studios is so blind that they are still pushing ahead with a sequel.  They really don’t remember their history with The Fantastic 4.  This is easily one of the worst comic book movies since Superman IV.  I really wanted to like this movie.  I wanted to be one of the few that would tell everybody else that they were wrong.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  The Fantastic 4 reboot is a colossal failure for Fox Studios and Josh Trank.  The smartest thing that Fox can do right now, is to give the franchise back to Marvel/Disney.  I’m giving this one a 4/10.  This, Fox Studios and Josh Trank all get a dunce cap and are hereby sentenced to The Dunce Corner.