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What happens on the fourth day?


  • Dragonheart 3: The Sorcerer’s Curse

    Dragonheart-3-The-Sorcerer’s-Curse-2015

    Before I get into this quick review of Dragonheart 3, I better admit that I haven’t seen the first two Dragonheart films.  I assume that they all had something to do with dragons.  As a result, I can’t tell you whether or not Dragonheart 3 is better than Dragonheart 2 or whether it’s worthy of being associated with the original Dragonheart.  

    But, then again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Ultimately, all films — even sequels and prequels — have to be able to stand on their own and be judged based on their own individual merits.  And, speaking as someone who knows nothing about the previous films in the series, Dragonheart 3 has a good deal more merit than you might expect.

    The film’s plot … well, does the plot really matter?  Surprisingly enough, it does.  It’s obvious that the filmmakers understood that the main appeal of the film would be to see the dragon but they at least made an effort to keep the film’s non-dragon scenes interesting as well.  Taking place in post-Roman, pre-medieval Britain, Dragonheart 3 tells the story of two separate societies that are divided by Hadrian’s Wall.  On the “civilized” side of the wall, villagers live in fear of brutish knights who, in the best tradition of governmental overreach, claim to be providing protection but are mostly just interested in collecting exorbitant taxes and bullying the citizenry.  On the other side of the wall, fierce warriors live in the wilderness and resist all forms of government control.  Meanwhile, an evil sorcerer named Brude (Jonjo O’Neill) plots to conquer both the civilized and the uncivilized.

    (And if I wanted to, I could explain how the civilized side of the wall represents our corrupt federal government, the warriors on the other side of the wall represent the grassroots political activists, and Brude represents any number of cynical politicians and so-called “community organizers” who have used those activists to pave their way into becoming a part of the same corrupt government that they claim to be attempting to reform.  But, I’ll save that for another day…)

    On the civilized side of the wall, cocky Gareth (Julian Morris) wants to be a knight but, when he proves to be too kind-hearted to be an efficient extortionist, he is expelled from the knighthood and told that he can only rejoin if he pays a penalty.  Later, that night, Gareth sees a comet fall onto the other side of the wall.  Thinking that the comet will contain gold, Gareth sneaks over the wall and goes in search of it.

    When Gareth does finally find the comet, he discovers that it contains several eggs and a dragon named Drago (voiced by Sir Ben Kingsley).  It also turns out that Brude is also hunting for the dragon and its eggs and, when Gareth is severely injured while fighting Brude’s warriors, Drago saves Gareth’s life with an infusion of blood which leads to Gareth and Drago sharing a heart and becoming psychically linked…

    There’s a surprising amount of plot in Dragonheart 3 but it can all be boiled down to this: Brude wants to conquer Britain and he’s cast a spell that allows him to occasionally control Drago.  Gareth has to both break the spell and defeat Brude.  Along the way, Gareth learns from Drago’s noble example and becomes a stronger knight and a better man.

    Against all expectations, it’s all actually rather nice and sweet, with surprisingly good CGI for a low-budget, direct-to-video film.  As well, Kingsley brings a wounded dignity to the voice of Drago and Julian Morris gives a sincere and likable performance as Gareth.  It’s doubtful that anyone would have noticed if the two of them had just gone through the motions but instead, both of them give performances that elevate the entire film.

    However, I have to admit that my favorite character was Rhou (Tamzin Merchant), a warrior who joins with Gareth and Drago to battle Brude.  Not only is Rhou fierce and fearless but, much like me, she has red hair!  Only 2% of the world has red hair and we all rock!

    Dragonheart 3 is currently available on Netflix and it’s not a bad way to spend 97 minutes.

    Dragonheart

    Lisa Marie Bowman is a writer and a dancer.  She invites you to follow her on twitter.


  • Insurgent – A Really Loose Adaptation

    Last year when I reviewed Divergent, the first of four films adpated from Veronica Roth’s best-selling series, I gave it positive feedback. I really thought they did well at adapting the source material and making it something enjoyable and not entirely a copycat of The Hunger Games. With Insurgent, the second adaptation, I really can’t say that I feel this way any longer.

    This moment never actually happened, but the visuals were really cool.

    This moment never actually happened, but the visuals were really cool.

    The film felt like it had two distinct parts. The first half was a little slow and for the most part seemed faithful to the events in the novel. And then right when we really get some action going, it feels like they had taken the book and thrown it out the window. There were several key charcters who were missing or who barely were utilized, not the least of which is Four’s father, Marcus. We see him at the beginning of the film but for those who haven’t read the books you probably missed the fact that they were father and son. But the biggest thing that was changed from the book to the film was the way the “big secret” left from the forefathers of the city was revealed. The movie felt like it was trying too hard. Jeanine who was the antagonist of the first film continued her antics under the guise of Erudite being the smartest faction. The thing is, she was hardly portrayed at being very wise. A big let down from where she was in the last film.

    Adpatation aside, Insurgent was a mostly decent film. Had I not read the books, I might have enjoyed the film just a little bit more. The production value was fantastic with really cool visuals. Entering the “sim” was very interesting, although difficult for the viewer to distinguish from dreamstates portrayed at the beginning of the film. (This made things all the more confusing.) The sets and costume designs were well done. I just wonder if they sacrificed the plot in favor of visual effects.

    Getting jacked into the Sim is just like the Matrix, although we have no clue how she's actually sitting like that.

    Getting jacked into the Sim is just like the Matrix, although we have no clue how she’s actually sitting like that.

    Insurgent has made this YA Dystopian series feel even more similar to The Hunger Games (which it did not need to do) and even gave us bizarre connections to The Matrix (the “sim” felt like the exact same thing.) As if wanting to bandy together with every other YA Dystopian, the ending was very Maze Runner. It is so different from the novel that I am not sure where they are going with the next two films. I definitely do not expect Allegiant to be anywhere near the same as the novel now. Needless to say, I was disappointed, but I’ll still go see Allegiant next year anyway.

     

    Mallory Douge is the resident YA expert at Fourth-day. Check out her other reviews for YA films.


  • A Few Thoughts On The iZombie Pilot

    izombie

    Pictured above, you’ll find Liv Moore (played by Rose McIver), the character who is at the center of the new CW show, iZombie.

    Just a few months before the start of iZombie, Liv was a friendly and optimistic medical student who was engaged to marry the handsome and rich Major Lillywhite (Robert Buckley), whose personality can pretty much be summed up by the fact that his name is Major Lillywhite.

    However, then Liv happened to attend a party where things went dramatically wrong.  How wrong?  Liv was offered a mysterious drug by a mysterious man.  Liv turned the man down.  Everyone else at the party took the drug and soon, it was zombie apocalypse time!  Liv was one of the few “survivors,” practically bursting out of a body bag that she had been placed into and discovering that her arms were covered with zombie scratches.  That would traumatize anyone, right?

    Now, several months later, Liv is no longer in medical school and she’s broken things up with Major.  She works as a coroner’s assistant, spending her time surrounded by the dead.  Her skin is deathly pale.  Her hair is nearly white.  She no longer smiles and instead, she reacts to almost every situation with a sarcastic comment.  Her family and former friends assume that she’s just going through a phase and that eventually, she’ll get over it and end up back with Major.

    What her family and friends don’t know is that, at work, Liv eats the brains of cadavers.  Eating brains is the only thing that keeps her own mind alert.  Much like the lead character in Warm Bodies, eating a brain allows her to access both the memories and the skills of the brain’s previous owner.

    As you probably guessed from the show’s title, Liv is now a zombie.  She’s a walking, talking, and thinking zombie and she’s not particularly happy about it.  Apparently, the only way that she can keep from turning fully into a mindless flesh eater is by eating brains.

    She’s also a zombie who solves crimes!  (And I’m just going to say right now that I’ve been waiting my entire life to have an excuse to write that sentence.)  She does so with the help of her boss, Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli) and Detective Clive Babinaux (Malcolm Goodwin).  Ravi knows that Liv is a zombie and is overjoyed to have the chance to study her existence.  Detective Babinaux, meanwhile, thinks that Liv is a psychic.

    Ever since I first saw the teaser trailer in January, I’ve been looking forward to seeing iZombie.  Not only did I think that the concept was a promising one, but I was excited to hear that iZombie was the latest from Rob Thomas, who previously gave the world Veronica Mars.

    As well, and with all due respect to The Walking Dead, it was hard not to feel that it was time for a zombie show that was actually fun to watch.  (The Walking Dead is a great show but, whenever I watch it, I’m always thankful for the knowledge that each somber and grisly episode will be followed the always funny and adorable Chris Hardwick.  We need Hardwick there to keep the Walking Dead experience from becoming too oppressively depressing.)  From the minute I first heard about iZombie, I thought it seemed like it would be a fun show.

    And you know what?

    Judging from the pilot, it is.

    The first episode of iZombie aired on Tuesday night and it was pretty good.  The procedural aspects of the pilot’s mystery didn’t really interest me but then again, the pilot really wasn’t about the mystery.  The pilot was all about establishing Liv and her existence and it succeeded quite well in accomplishing just that.  Rose McIver brought a lot of life to the role of the undead Liv and the pilot made good use of the show’s moody Seattle setting.

    Add to that, the pilot features a great throw-away line in which Liv dealt with an annoying hipster by calling him, “Karl Marx.”  Seriously, you can’t set a show in Seattle unless you’re willing to make fun of hipsters…

    So, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where iZombie goes.  Hopefully, the show will continue to mix comedy with drama and it won’t allow itself to get bogged down in the whole procedural format.  Am I saying that I’m hoping that future episodes will continue to follow the lead of the pilot and turn out to be Zombie Veronica Mars?  Yes, I am.

    I’ve read some comments on the imdb from people who are angry that Liv is not a “real” zombie because she can think and talk and all the rest.  Those people need to relax and stop taking their CW shows so seriously.  Obviously it’s too early to say whether or not iZombie is going to live up to its full potential but the pilot was definitely a step in the right direction.

    izombie2

    —–

    Lisa Marie Bowman invites you to follow her on twitter.  She’s a lot of fun and won’t eat your brain.


  • No Green Lantern in the Justice League!

    green-lantern-copy (image credit - wegotthiscovered.com)

     

    Okay, so the latest rumor from El Mayimbe of Latino Review has Chris Pine as the number one contender for the role of Green Lantern Hal Jordan in DC’s rebooted movie universe.  Since Ryan Reynolds’ turn as the Emerald Knight in 2011 didn’t jumpstart the franchise in quite the way Warner Bros. had hoped, we can be reasonably sure that he won’t be returning for either the reboot in 2020 or in either of the Justice League movies.  Thus, the rumor that Chris Pine will be taking his place.

     

    But, who says Green Lantern will be returning at all?  The only announcement of any kind that WB has made is that GL’s next solo movie will be a full year after the second part of the JL movie.  Including next year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, there will already be seven confirmed DC superheroes starring in their own movies.  Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, Shazam, and Cyborg have all been founding members of the Justice League in one continuity or another, so it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine they’d be the founding lineup in this continuity.  (On top of which, each of their movies do have confirmed casting news.)

     

    Agreed, Green Lantern is an important member of the League, but there’s a larger story structure to consider.  Another thing the seven I listed have in common is they’re all Earth-based heroes.  The next five years of DC movies, including the two JL movies, could deal with terrestrial threats, capped with a movie featuring the Lantern Corps exposing the Earth to the rest of the galaxy.  Extraterrestrial villains like Mongul, Lobo, and especially Darkseid could all be held in reserve for DC’s own version of “Phase 2″.

     

    Also, a move like this would give WB a few more years to prepare a proper reboot for the franchise.  They could answer important questions, like which Lantern(s) to use, and who to cast.  Now, at Fourth-day, we don’t take anything Latino Review has to say seriously; but, since Chris Pine was in the running to play Hal Jordan before, it’s not impossible he could be now.  But, if the rumor I just made up is true, then he’ll have to wait until 2020 to appear in the DC universe.

     

    Stephen Monteith actually doesn’t think the 2011 Green Lantern was that bad, as you can read here.  You can also buy his original fiction at Lulu.com.


  • Fifth Annual Uni Awards, Movie Edition – Polls

    So, the 87th Oscars were predictably disappointing.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Neil Patrick Harris.  When he and Anna Kendrick, with an “unexpected” assist from Jack Black, started the show with a tribute to motion pictures, I knew the host segments, at least, would be a sight to see.

     

    neil-patrick-harris-nph-oscars-2015-opening-song-billboard-650 (image credit - Billboard.com)

     

    Of course, the tribute itself was kind of melancholy, since it highlighted a number of great contributions made to motion picture history by science fiction and fantasy that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences deliberately and unashamedly passed over.  When the musical number “Everything is Awesome” from the infamously snubbed animated film The LEGO Movie began, it felt like the Oscars were making fun of themselves.

     

    And when Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs touted the fact that movies promote looking at the world and ourselves in different ways, it made me want to yell “then why haven’t you celebrated or even acknowledged the movies that have taken the biggest risks to bring us the most incredible delights?”  Over a hundred science fiction and fantasy films were produced in 2014 alone, many of which will have a much longer and deeper impact on the world, and even the world of filmmaking, than the handful of movies that the Academy chose to highlight repeatedly throughout the night; and yet hardly any awards were given to any of them, even in categories like Costumes and Production Design.  It takes far more imagination and vision to craft believable aliens (and alien worlds) than it does to create even the best Earth-bound hotels.

     

    Uni Award

     

    So, without further griping, here is a chance for nerds and geeks and just plain lovers of science fiction cinema everywhere to give their answer to the Oscars.  We’ve selected almost 50 fantasy, sci-fi, horror, animated, and comic book movies from the past year for you to vote as your favorite of 2014.  Each movie in these lists has some supernatural or science fictional element to it, and (almost without exception) they were all ignored by the Oscars.  Vote below, and on Monday, March 23, you’ll see the results of the Fifth Annual Fourth-day Universe Awards, Movie Edition, on our YouTube Channel.

    (more…)


  • The Scorpion King 4: Quest For Power

    Scorpion-King-4

    Believe it or not, The Scorpion King 4: Quest For Power is a historical footnote.  It is the first 2015 release to be available for viewing on Netflix streaming!  That’s because The Scorpion King 4 was a straight-to-video release and Universal Pictures doesn’t seem to have much faith in the film’s commercial prospects.  In fact, if not for my love of historical footnotes, I probably would never have even watched the film.

    But I did watch it, mostly because I didn’t like the idea of The Woman In Black 2 being the only 2015 films that I had seen up to that point.

    And you know what?

    The Scorpion King 4 is cheap, silly, and often times impossible to follow.  But, when taken on its own terms, it’s also a lot of fun.  At the very least, it’s more entertaining than The Woman In Black 2.

    As for what the film is about … well, that’s a good question.  To be honest, I’ve never seen any of the previous Scorpion King films.  I know from Wikipedia that the character was spun-off from Brendan Fraser’s old Mummy film and, while I’ve seen bits and pieces of it on cable over the years, I’ve never actually sat through that entire movie.  However, I do know that the Mummy was Egyptian and apparently, so was the Scorpion King.

    So, you would assume that Scorpion King 4 would take place in ancient Egypt.  And indeed, the opening scene is set in the desert and involves the Scorpion King, also known as Mathayus (Victor Webster), and his partner Drazen (Will Kemp) storming a fortress that feels vaguely Egyptian.  After a lengthy battle, Mathayus and Drazen steal an urn that is covered with hieroglyphics.  However, Drazen double crosses Mathayus and takes the urn for himself.

    Okay, I thought, we’re obviously in Egypt.

    Except, of course, in the very next scene, Mathayus meets with his employer, King Zakour (Rutger Hauer).  King Zakour explains that Drazen is the son of a rival king (played by Michael Biehn, who makes little effort to hide his Southern accent).  Zakour also explains that the urn hides mystical secrets that, if deciphered, could allow Drazen to conquer the world.  Zakour sends Mathays to the rival kingdom, ordering him to deliver a peace treaty.

    And, while Zakour delivers all of this exposition, it’s hard not to notice that he appears to live in an ancient Roman villa and he has a rather cheap-looking crown perched on his head.

    Okay, I thought, the film has moved to the Roman Empire but at least I know we’re still in ancient times…

    Except then Mathayus rides his camel into the rival kingdom and it turns out to look a like the set from a community theater production of Spamalot.  As soon as Mathayus arrives, he is captured by Drazen’s men and ends up in a jail cell next to Valina (Ellen Holman), a revolutionary who is wearing a green, prison bikini top.  After Mathays is framed for the king’s death, he and Valina escape from the prison and run into the wilderness, where Valina changes into a battle-worthy bikini top.

    They reach the house of Valina’s father (Barry Bostwick) and it turns out to be a Dutch windmill!  So, within the first 30 minutes of the film, we’ve gone from ancient Egypt to the Roman Empire to a medieval village in England to Renaissance Netherlands.  Eventually, our characters will end up in another village, one that happens to feature a temple that looks a lot like a left over set from Hercules in the Haunted World…

    What’s surprising is that the film’s refusal to settle on a definite setting or time period is actually oddly charming.  As soon as that windmill showed up and a feather-covered Barry Bostwick flew across screen (Bostwick is an inventor who has filled the windmill with blueprints for cars and airplanes), I knew that this was a film that was at peace with being a mess.  And you had to respect the film’s no apologies attitude towards being incoherent.

    Trying to keep up with the plot is exhausting so I suggest that, if you should find yourself watching The Scorpion King 4, you ignore the plot.  The best thing about The Scorpion King 4 is that it doesn’t take itself all that seriously.  All of the dialogue is either intentionally melodramatic or anachronistically humorous and all of the actors seem to be having fun going over the top.  Some of the fight scenes are exciting, some of the scenery is pretty, and some parts of the film are better than others.

    In the end, The Scorpion King 4 is pretty forgettable.  But it’s still better than The Woman In Black 2.

    Scorpion King, The Lost Throne


  • The Woman In Black — Angel of Death

    The-Woman-in-Black-poster-excerpt

    Welcome to January!

    This is the time of year the studios release the films that they don’t have much faith in, hoping to make a little money while all of the critics and more discriminating audiences are distracted by the Oscar race.  Typically, films are released in January that the studios are specifically hoping will be forgotten by June.

    Case in point: the horror sequel The Woman In Black 2: The Angel of Death.

    Now, as you all know, I love horror movies.  It’s rare that I can’t find something to enjoy about a horror movie, whether it’s the atmosphere or the suspense or just the chance to do some old-fashioned screamed.  Some of my favorite horror films have been the ones that — much like The Woman In Black 2 — were snarkily dismissed by most mainstream critics.  And, needless to say, I’m a natural born contrarian.  The lower a film’s score on Rotten Tomatoes, the more likely it is that I will find a reason to defend it.

    Taking all of that into consideration, it’s hard for me to think of any film, horror or not, that has left me feeling as indifferent as The Woman In Black 2.  I would not say that I was terribly impressed by the film but, at the same time, I didn’t hate it either.  Instead, I felt it was an amazingly average film and I was just incredibly indifferent to the whole thing.

    The Woman In Black 2: Angel of Death picks up 30 years after the end of the first Woman In Black.  It’s World War II and German bombs are falling on London.  A group of school children are evacuated to the countryside under the care and watch of two teachers, Eve (Phoebe Fox) and Jean (Helen McCrory).  Naturally enough, they end up taking refuge in the abandoned Eel March House.  The Woman in Black is still haunting the house and she’s determined to claim all of the children as her own.

    While Jean refuses to accept that anything paranormal is happening at the house, Eve quickly comes to realize that they are not alone and that the Woman in Black seems to be particularly determined to claim young Edward (Oaklee Pendergast).  Working with Harry (Jeremy Irvine), a pilot who is deathly afraid of water, Eve tries to save the children…

    The Woman in Black 2 goes through all the motions.  Floorboards creek.  Doors open and slam shut on their own.  The Woman in Black often appears standing in the background and occasionally jumps into the frame from out of nowhere while screaming.  The film is darkly lit and there’s a lot of atmospheric shots of the fog covered moors.

    But, ultimately, the film never really establishes an identity of its own.  Instead, it feels like a collection of outtakes from every other haunted house film that has been released lately.  While I wasn’t a huge fan of the first Woman in Black, I did think that it benefited from having a sympathetic lead character but the cast here seems oddly detached from the story that they’re supposed to be telling.  You never believe in their characters and, as a result, you never really buy into any of the menace surrounding them.

    And, the end result, is indifference.

    the-woman-in-black-2

    —–

    Lisa Marie Bowman loves watching horror movies and dressing black.


  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

    thehobbit5armies

    It seems kind of weird to do a quick review for a 144 minutes film that not only serves as the end of one epic trilogy but also as a prequel for yet another epic trilogy.

    Well, so be it.  I hate to admit it but I really don’t have that much to say about The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies beyond the fact that I saw it on the day after Christmas, I enjoyed it, and I thought Aidan Turner was really hot.  It’s not a perfect film but then again, The Hobbit has never been a perfect trilogy.  As opposed to the Lord of the Ring films, The Hobbit told a story that could have easily been told in two films.  As a result, whenever you watch one of The Hobbit films, you’re aware of all of the filler that was included just to justify doing three films.

    But so what?  The Hobbit films are fun.  Despite the cynical economic reasons behind turning The Hobbit into a trilogy, director Peter Jackson’s love for the material always came through.  In the title role, Martin Freeman was always likable.  Ian McKellan and Christopher Lee made for properly enigmatic wizards.  Though apparently his inclusion caused some controversy among purists, it was nice to Orlando Bloom as Legolas.  I also liked Evangeline Lilly’s elf character, even if everyone else seemed to dislike her and her love story with Aidan Turner.  And then there was Benedict Cumberbatch providing a perfectly evil and self-satisfied voice for Smaug.

    I have to admit that, with the exception of Aidan Turner, I was never a big fan of the dwarves.  They were all so surly and bad-tempered and it didn’t take me too long to get tired of Richard Armitage showing up as Thorin and acting like a jerk.  However, in the final part of the trilogy, Armitage’s surly performance started to make sense.  As Thorin grew more and more paranoid, I saw that The Hobbit was actually using both the character and Armitage’s performance to make a much larger point.  Power corrupts and most conflicts are ultimately all about money and property.  It was a good message.

    When the Battle of the Five Armies started, I was shocked to discover how little I remembered about the previous two Hobbit films.  It took me a while to get caught up on who everyone was and why they were all fighting over that mountain.  As opposed to the LoTR films, it’s not always easy to get emotionally invested in The Hobbit films.  But, Jackson is a good director and he’s a good storyteller and, even though it took me a while to get caught up, I was still often enthralled with what I was watching on screen.  The images were so stunning and the battle scenes were so spectacularly done that I could handle being occasionally confused.

    Battle of the Five Armies is a fitting end for the Hobbit trilogy.  It’s not a perfect film but it is exciting and fun and that’s really all that matters.  At the end of it, the audience in the theater applauded, not just for the film but in recognition of everything that Peter Jackson has given us over the past 14 years.

    It was a good way to spend the day after Christmas.

    —–

    Lisa Marie Bowman is a writer and dancer who likes Orlando Bloom and Aidan Turner.


  • You May Have Missed This: Bride of the Monster

    bride_of_the_monster_1956_movie_poster

    Every Saturday Night, members of the Late Night Movie Crew and I watch a classic film from the past. Last Saturday’s film — the first Late Night Movie of 2015 — was the infamous 1955 film, Bride of the Monster!

    This was not the first time that I had seen Bride of the Monster. As a fan of the work of the legendary director Ed Wood, I’ve seen the majority of his films, many of them several times. Bride of the Monster is not only the closest that Wood ever got to making a “legitimate” movie but it’s also my personal favorite of his films.

    (Plan 9 may be fun but it has nothing on Bride of the Monster.)

    As for the film’s plot — well, the story is typical Ed Wood. By that, I mean that it doesn’t make a bit of sense. There’s an old mansion in the middle of nowhere. There’s a gigantic Octopus who apparently lives in a pool of stagnant water that sits somewhere near the old mansion. There are hunters, who have a habit of vanishing whenever they wander too close to the house.

    There’s also Lobo (Tor Johnson), the hulking mute who we’re assured is “harmless as a kitten.” Lobo develops a crush on Janet (Loretta King), the intrepid reporter who wanders too close to the mansion while looking for a story. Janet reminded me a lot of me, in that she wasn’t going to let a little thing like common sense get in the way of an experience.

    And then, there’s Dr. Varnoff (Bela Lugosi). Dr. Varnoff is the owner of the mansion. He’s a scientist who was chased out of his home country by … well, by somebody. To be honest, it’s not always easy to figure out how Varnoff ended up in America with Lobo and a big octopus. It’s also difficult to understand why Varnoff is conducting experiments and killing people. Varnoff talks and talks about his reasons but just because a man talks doesn’t mean that he’s going to say anything.

    Yes, Bride of the Monster is one of those films that makes absolutely no sense but you know what? That’s exactly why I love it. Like all of Wood’s film, it is unique. And I’d rather watch a film that is uniquely bad than one that is generically competent any day!

    There’s a lot of things to watch for whenever you watch Bride of the Monster but I’m only going to specifically mention two of them. (The rest you’ll be able to spot for yourself. Bride of the Monster may be many things but subtle is not one of them.)

    First off, you have to respect the dedication of the actors who bravely pretended that they were being attacked by that octopus. For most of them, this meant laying in a shallow pool of water while grabbing hold of some rubber tentacles and thrashing about for a bit. Yes, it looks silly but that doesn’t change the fact that the actors really threw themselves into it. Even the film’s worst performances feel as if they’re being given by very dedicated actors.

    Secondly, this was Bela Lugosi’s final film (with the exception of his posthumous appearance in Plan 9 From Outer Space). And people always seem to make fun of Lugosi’s performance here but you know what? He’s not bad at all. He brings a tragic weariness to even the most ludicrous of lines. I’m sure that Lugosi was not hoping that his career would end with something like Bride of the Monster. But he still gave it his all.

    As bad as Bride of the Monster may be, Bela Lugosi is very, very good. When you watch the film, don’t judge it too harshly. Don’t focus on the awkward line readings or the nonsensical plot or …. well, just don’t focus on all the things that you usually think of as indicating whether or not a film is good or bad.

    Instead, when you watch it, watch it for Bela.

    You won’t be disappointed!

    ——

    Lisa Marie Bowman likes old movies.  You can read more of her work over at Through the Shattered Lens and HorrorCritic.


  • Into the Woods

    Into_The_Woods_(film)

    I had such a mixed reaction to Into the Woods, the latest Rob Marshall-directed musical adaptation, that it’s hard to really know how to start my review, let alone how to conclude it.

    So, I’ll start by answering the most important question that you probably have about this film.  I think sometimes that film snobs like me tend to forget that, for most people, it’s just a question of whether or not the film is worth the time, effort, and money that it will take to sit through it.  In other words, having seen Into the Woods, do I recommend it?

    Yes, I do.  Well, kind of anyway.  As I said before, it’s complicated.  But, for the most part, I enjoyed Into the Woods.  The audience that I saw it with (and the theater was absolutely packed) seemed to really love the film and there was even a smattering of applause at the end of it.  Into the Woods is a crowd-pleaser.  It’s a well-made film.  It’s perfectly cast.  It’s full of funny moments.  The costumes are absolutely to die for.  (I’m totally in love with the gown that Anna Kendrick gets to wear to the ball.)  Meryl Streep will probably get an Oscar nomination.  Chris Pine deserves to be given a lot more awards consideration than he’s received.  It’s such a good film and yet…

    And yet, I never loved Into the Woods like I thought I would.  I watched it and I kept thinking about how much I, of all people, should have loved this film.  I love musicals.  I love spectacle.  I love fairy tales.  I love revisionism.  I love satire.  I love handsome, charming men, like the one played by Chris Pine.  In a perfect world, Anna Kendrick would be my best friend and we’d spend all of our time going to wine tastings and watching Lifetime movies.  Into the Woods was full of everything that I should have loved and the final song actually brought tears to my mismatched eyes but I never quite came to love the film.  Something was just off.

    Before I go any further, I should admit that my reaction may have been influenced by outside factors.  On the one hand, all of the Bowman girls are together right now for the holidays and I loved the fact that, as I watched Into the Woods, I was watching it with my sisters and all four of us were sharing in the experience.  Really, that’s the ideal way to watch something like Into The Woods.  This is the type of movie that was specifically made to be watched and appreciated by large groups, preferably made up of people who understand and appreciate the conventions of musical theater.

    On the other hand, we had the most obnoxious woman ever sitting directly behind us.  She laughed through the entire film, regardless of whether anything funny was happening on screen or not.  (The film features a lot of comedy but it grows progressively darker with each passing minute.)  It wasn’t just that she wouldn’t stop laughing as much as it was that her laugh was so insincere.  You could tell that she was laughing because she wanted everyone to be impressed with the fact that she “got” the film.  But ultimately, all she did was get on everyone’s nerves with her inability to understand that we weren’t there to listen to her dry heave of a laugh.  We were there because we wanted to see Into the Woods.  The experience was not meant to be about her.  It was about the movie.

    As for what the film is about, it’s an adaptation of the famous Stephen Sondheim musical in which the Baker (James Corben) and the Baker’s Wife (Emily Blunt) attempt to break the spell of a not-quite-evil-but-definitely-bad-tempered witch (Meryl Streep).  By bringing the witch several things (the majority of which can be found in the woods that sit right outside their village), they can lift the curse that has made it impossible for the Baker’s Wife to get pregnant.  Along the way, they run into everyone from the witch’s daughter, Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy) to Jack the Giant Slayer (Daniel Huttlestone) to Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) to the Big Bad Wolf (Johnny Deep, playing up the sexual subtext of the story ofLittle Red Riding Hood) to not one but two charming princes (played by Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen)!  Into the Woods starts by poking gentle fun at the fairy tales of old and then gets darker and darker until, by the end of the film, only a few characters are left alive.

    It’s a great idea and it’s gorgeously executed but yet the film itself never quite makes the transition from being good to being great.  Towards the end of the musical, the surviving characters sing about missing their loved ones and it brought tears to my eyes but that was one of the few moments when the film itself actually made an emotional connection.  Otherwise, I spent a lot of time feeling curiously detached from what was happening on screen.

    Thinking about Into The Woods, it’s hard not to compare it to 2012’s version of Les Miserables.  In Les Miserables, all of the songs were recorded live on set.  And, for all the unfair criticism that Russell Crowe received for his singing, this brought a definite raw power and immediacy to the entire production.  What some of the actors may have lacked in conventional singing ability, they made up for with the sheer power of their performances.  InInto The Woods, the majority of the songs were pre-recorded.  Everyone sounds almost too perfect.  There’s none of the vitality or danger that came with Les Miserables or even Rob Marshall’s previous musical, Nine.

    (As far as casting, direction, and almost everything else is concerned, Into The Woods is a hundred times better than Nine but it still never manages to produce a moment as vibrantly silly and memorable as Kate Hudson’s performance of Cinema Italiano.)

    Into the Woods does have a uniformly excellent cast.  Everyone — even the much-criticized Johnny Depp — does a wonderful job with their role.  Meryl Streep has been getting all of the awards-consideration, largely because she’s Meryl Streep and, if she could get a nomination for giving that performance in August: Osage County, then she can probably get a nomination for anything.  (And don’t get me wrong — Meryl’s great and all but there’s still a part of me that would have loved to have seen what a less self-enamored performer — like Marion Cotillard or Helen Mirren — could have done with the role of the Witch.)  But, to me, the film’s best two performances really came from Anna Kendrick and Chris Pine.  Whether pausing to strike a heroic pose or casually trying to seduce a woman who he meets in the woods or explaining that he’s been raised to be charming and not sincere, Chris Pine is never less than outstanding.

    So, to get back to the only question that really matters, did I like Into The Woods?  I did but I did not love it, which is unfortunate because I really wanted to love it.

    However, overall, I recommend Into The Woods.

    Just don’t watch it alone.

    Or with anyone who has an annoying laugh.

    —–

    Lisa Marie Bowman wishes you a happy holiday.  She also writes for Through the Shattered Lens, Horror Critic, SyFyDesigns, the Big Brother Blog, and SurvivorBlog.  Her poetry has appeared in Praxis Magazine.



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