New Line Cinema

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987, Chuck Russell)

Dream Warriors is masterful in its manipulation; it’s the very definition of franchise building. Screenwriters Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner, Frank Darabont and Chuck Russell wrap what appears to be particular kind of narrative–after a film away, Heather Langenkamp–the original’s protagonist–is going to be the focus. Only she’s not. Then it’s like the character who opened the movie–Patricia Arquette–is the actual focus. Only she’s not.

And no one’s going to think Craig Wasson’s the focus, even though he at least gets to participate in it–the focus is building a mythology around Freddy Krueger, a mythology with nothing to do with the actual narrative and entirely self-contained. According to the IMDb trivia page, Craven had it just the opposite; so either Russell or Darabont went in and separated things out. The screenplay is admirably constructed. It’s bad and dumb, but it’s well-constructed for what it’s trying to do.

But Dream Warriors isn’t just masterful in that type of manipulation. Whether it’s getting away with tons of fantasy special effects in a mainstream horror movie or turning the audience’s passive dislike for a character into a tacit approval of Robert Englund’s terrorizing of them, the whole thing is an expert package.

Mood is very important here because, as a director, Russell never wants to show his hand. There’s a certain respectability Dream Warriors is going for, what with having Dick Cavett and Zsa Zsa Gabor in the opening titles, which are a very classy sequence of arts and crafts from Arquette, set to Angelo Badalamenti’s (initially) way too good–for the movie–score. Roy H. Wagner’s photography reminds of giallo, with its shadows against the strong colors of the sets. Except Russell’s rarely ambitious in his direction. Editors Terry Stokes and Chuck Weiss have some effective cuts with Badalamenti’s music, but none of them have to do with Englund’s villain or even the sensational dreamscape where most of the big action takes place. Instead, they’re for the setup, when Dream Warriors is trying to appear sincere.

The acting is mostly bad. Often because of the script’s silliness. Expert construction or not, it’s silly. Langenkamp suffers the worst, except for maybe Priscilla Pointer, who plays the head psychiatrist of the Dream Warriors–a bunch of teens Englund is haunting. Pointer’s character isn’t just played as mean, she doesn’t even get anything to do with it. Arquette’s a little better than Langenkamp but not much. Craig Wasson plays another psychiatrist and even roughs up John Saxon at one point. Saxon’s so out of it he doesn’t look embarrassed in that roughing up scene. John Saxon was in Enter the Dragon. Craig Wasson shouldn’t be able to rough him up.

The rest of the supporting cast is a low mediocre. Except for Larry Fishburne. Larry Fishburne’s excellent. Movie should’ve been about him.

But it’s not made to be excellent, it’s made to further a franchise–and it succeeds. It even gives Englund some occasional good moments amid his otherwise one-note, sensationalist routine.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Chuck Russell; screenplay by Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner, Frank Darabont and Russell, based on a story by Craven and Wagner and characters created by Craven; director of photography, Roy H. Wagner; edited by Terry Stokes and Chuck Weiss; music by Angelo Badalamenti; produced by Robert Shaye; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Heather Langenkamp (Nancy Thompson), Patricia Arquette (Kristen Parker), Craig Wasson (Neil Gordon), Laurence Fishburne (Max), Priscilla Pointer (Dr. Elizabeth Simms), Rodney Eastman (Joey), Ken Sagoes (Kincaid), Ira Heiden (Will), Jennifer Rubin (Taryn), Penelope Sudrow (Jennifer), Bradley Gregg (Phillip), Nan Martin (Sister Mary Helena), Brooke Bundy (Elaine Parker), John Saxon (Donald Thompson) and Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger).


A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985, Jack Sholder)

Why is Freddy’s Revenge so bad? It shouldn’t be so bad. No mistake–it’s terrible and it’s terrible mostly because of director Sholder and lead Mark Patton.

While Patton’s awful, it’d be wrong to blame it entirely on him. He doesn’t get any help whatsoever from director Sholder. But then Sholder doesn’t direct any of his actors. It’s painfully obvious with Clu Gulager and Hope Lange, who are both game to try in this waste of their time, but Shoulder never gives them anything. The movie’s so weird because it’s like the actors are doing their own version of the script and Sholder’s doing his version of it.

But the movie’s also weird because, like I said, it should be better. Whoever decided to put an emphasis on having Robert Englund (in an eighty percent bad, twenty percent good) performance made the film worse. It’s hard to believe it would have been screenwriter David Chaskin because he writes all of the dialogue for the supporting cast when Englund’s around as though he’s not the character who’s supposed to be there. It seemingly unintentionally makes Englund’s Freddy Krueger into a bland monster. I say seemingly because if director Sholder had gotten that approach, in observing it, he would have changed it. Freddy’s Revenge isn’t a comedy. Sholder’s got no sense of humor. Of course, editor Bob Brady has no sense of timing so it wouldn’t matter anyway.

Freddy’s Revenge fails on multiple cylinders, but they all seem unaware of one another. The visual effects and Christopher Young’s score weather the film the best, even if Sholder doesn’t know how to shoot the effects sequences. Brady wouldn’t be able to cut them anyway.

You know, maybe another big problem is bad (and uncredited) production design from Gregg Fonseca. It’s entirely possible Sholder wouldn’t have been able to shoot it properly but there’s just something off about Freddy’s Revenge.

Chaskin’s script isn’t good, but it’s got signs of ambition. Sholder’s actively trying to avoid ambition. For instance–the infamous gay subtext. It should have made the movie. Instead it’s just another one of the film’s failures because Sholder’s not cognizant of what he has to direct. And Patton’s desperately in need of direction, unable to figure out the bad–but ambitious–script.

Anything titled A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge should be bad, but nowhere near this bad.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jack Sholder; screenplay by David Chaskin, based on characters created by Wes Craven; director of photography, Jacques Haitkin; edited by Bob Brady; music by Christopher Young; production designer, Gregg Fonseca; produced by Robert Shaye; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Mark Patton (Jesse Walsh), Kim Myers (Lisa Webber), Robert Rusler (Ron Grady), Sydney Walsh (Kerry), Clu Gulager (Ken Walsh), Hope Lange (Cheryl Walsh), Christie Clark (Angela Walsh), Marshall Bell (Coach Schneider) and Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger).


Freddy vs. Jason (2003, Ronny Yu)

Freddy vs. Jason is terrible, no doubt about it. It’s poorly directed, it’s poorly written, it’s poorly acted. Not even composer Graeme Revell–who’s actually worked on good movies–tries. His most ambitious part of the score is the generic mixing (consecutively cut together) the two separate franchises’s familiar themes. It’s real lazy.

One cannot accuse director Yu of being lazy, however. He, photographer Fred Murphy and editor Mark Stevens rush through every shot in the film. With the exception of two or three crane shots, there’s nothing well-directed in the film. Yu’s a lousy director; the film looks awful and the actors clearly weren’t getting any direction.

As the primary damsel in distress, Monica Keena is awful. Kelly Rowland is awful as her friend, Jason Ritter is awful as her boyfriend. The film’s best performance is probably Brendan Fletcher but only for half of his performance. Really bad acting from Kyle Labine.

Like most franchise pairings, Freddy vs. Jason doesn’t have much in the way of artistic potential; it might’ve been nice to have an iota of intelligence from Damian Shannon and Mark Swift’s script.

Not even the film’s fight scenes work out. Robert Englund looks silly battling his hulking adversary. Well, Yu wouldn’t know what to do with the footage anyway. He can’t construct a scary sequence and he’s even worse at trying to do a fight sequence.

The film’s mean, misogynistic, homophobic and a little racist. Freddy vs. Jason’s only achievement is being entirely worthless.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Ronny Yu; screenplay by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, based on characters created by Wes Craven and Victor Miller; director of photography, Fred Murphy; edited by Mark Stevens; music by Graeme Revell; production designer, John Willett; produced by Sean S. Cunningham; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger), Monica Keena (Lori Campbell), Kelly Rowland (Kia Waterson), Jason Ritter (Will Rollins), Chris Marquette (Charlie Linderman), Lochlyn Munro (Deputy Scott Stubbs), Katharine Isabelle (Gibb), Brendan Fletcher (Mark Davis), Zack Ward (Bobby Davis), Kyle Labine (Bill Freeburg), Tom Butler (Dr. Campbell), Garry Chalk (Sheriff Williams) and Ken Kirzinger (Jason Voorhees).


Jason X (2001, James Isaac)

Jason X is wonderfully bad. I don’t think it’s intended to be camp, but who knows. It certainly plays as high camp, possibly the best camp at the expense of the Friday the 13th series. Maybe if it were just a little less gory….

Todd Farmer’s script borrows a number of set pieces and dialogue exchanges from Aliens. And he forecasts it at the beginning, when Lexa Doig’s present day protagonist gets cryogenically frozen trying to escape killer monster Jason. It immediately feels like Aliens and then the similarities just continue, complete with a Burke character in Jonathan Potts and even Apone with Peter Mensah.

Would the film be at all amusing to someone not well-versed in Friday the 13th, Aliens and eighties movies in general? No. Farmer’s script is exaggerated and most of the actors can’t sell the lines. Melyssa Ade does rather well with her lame one-liners, giving them a proverbial eye roll on delivery.

The problem’s director Isaac. He can’t direct. The movie could even get away with the cheap (and derivative) special effects if Isaac and photographer Derick V. Underschultz were better at their jobs. Harry Manfredini turns in a surprisingly okay score and editor David Handman gets in a couple rather solid jump scares.

By turning slasher movie monster Jason Voorhees into Alien, Jason X erases all expectations. It’s too stupid to consider taking seriously. And has some success. Doig’s likable and Manesh’s good.

It’s truly too bad Isaac’s not a better director.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by James Isaac; screenplay by Todd Farmer, based on characters created by Victor Miller; director of photography, Derick V. Underschultz; edited by David Handman; music by Harry Manfredini; production designer, John Dondertman; produced by Noel Cunningham; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Lexa Doig (Rowan), Lisa Ryder (Kay-Em 14), Chuck Campbell (Tsunaron), Jonathan Potts (Professor Lowe), Peter Mensah (Sgt. Brodski), Melyssa Ade (Janessa) and Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees).


Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993, Adam Marcus)

Jason Goes to Hell is terrible. It’s terribly made, it’s terribly written, it’s terribly acted. It’s so terrible I wish the word “terrible” was in the title just so I could continue to make terrible jokes instead of trying to write about the movie.

There’s something interesting about it. And not just how the movie implies Jason Voorhees is a Deadite, which would have been far cooler, or he’s a leftover from New Line Cinema’s previous effort, The Hidden. Tying it into either of those franchises would have at least been imaginative. Well, not the second. Director Marcus apes The Hidden more than enough.

But the other interesting thing is disturbing. Marcus makes a big deal out of torture scenes featuring Steven Williams and Richard Gant. Both have big scenes where they torture white guys. The first one, with Gant, is a ritualistic BDSM thing with a naked Rubenesque male. The second has Williams gleefully torturing geeky but secretly a great fighter white guy John D. LeMay, all while whispering softly to him.

Marcus is similarly creepy when it comes to women in the film. He sexualizes Erin Gray while she’s injured, while her daughter–female lead Kari Keegan–escapes any objectification.

It’s not competently perverse enough to give pause, but Marcus seems to wish he could be that perverse.

Really bad photography from Bill Dill; he and Marcus are the incompetent duo on this one. Though Harry Manfredini’s score’s atrocious this entry.

Hell is tired before the opening titles.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Adam Marcus; screenplay by Dean Lorey and Jay Huguely, based on a story by Huguely and Marcus; director of photography, Bill Dill; edited by David Handman; music by Harry Manfredini; production designer, Whitney Brooke Wheeler; produced by Sean S. Cunningham; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring John D. LeMay (Steven Freeman), Kari Keegan (Jessica Kimble), Steven Williams (Creighton Duke), Allison Smith (Vicki), Steven Culp (Robert Campbell), Billy Green Bush (Sheriff Ed Landis) with Erin Gray (Diana Kimble) and Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees).


Pump Up the Volume (1990, Allan Moyle)

Everything director Moyle does in Pump Up the Volume builds the rest of the film. It’s not exactly he’s building good will, he’s shaping the possibilities of the film. It makes for a film where you can have a car chase, a comic relief moment, an inspirational message and a quiet character moment all in the same five minutes.

For example, while Christian Slater is definitely the film’s lead, it’s questionable whether or not he’s the protagonist in the traditional sense. He guides the viewer through the film far less than his romantic interest, Samantha Mathis. Moyle isn’t doing a character study or even an epical high school student story. It turns out he’s doing a story about a high school and finding the most interesting people in it, while focusing harder on a couple of them.

The film’s construction is brilliant, down to how to opening titles establish the ground situation and some of Slater’s character. In the first half of the film, Moyle gives Slater a bunch of monologues, which Slater nails, but these sequences are also extremely well-constructed by Moyle and editors Larry Bock and Janice Hampton. They’re transfixing. Volume succeeds because Moyle figures out a way to make Slater’s pirate radio DJ just as compelling to the viewer as the film’s characters.

Slater and Mathis are both fantastic. Lots of great supporting performances–Billy Morrissette, Ellen Greene, Scott Paulin and Annie Ross are standouts.

Moyle crafts Pump Up the Volume precisely and to great success.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Allan Moyle; director of photography, Walt Lloyd; edited by Larry Bock and Janice Hampton; music by Cliff Martinez; production designer, Robb Wilson King; produced by Rupert Harvey and Sandy Stern; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Christian Slater (Mark Hunter), Samantha Mathis (Nora Diniro), Ellen Greene (Jan Emerson), Scott Paulin (Brian Hunter), Mimi Kennedy (Marla Hunter), Cheryl Pollak (Paige Woodward), Billy Morrissette (Mazz Mazzilli), Andy Romano (Murdock), Anthony Lucero (Malcolm Kaiser), Robert Schenkkan (David Deaver) and Annie Ross (Loretta Creswood).


Detroit Rock City (1999, Adam Rifkin)

Detroit Rock City is going to be difficult to talk about. It’s painfully unfunny, yet fully embraces the idea it’s the complete opposite. Maybe director Rifkin really thinks his weak seventies pop culture references, his sight gags, and his terrible cast are funny. Or maybe he’s just good at hiding any awareness of the film’s stupidity and obviousness.

Carl V. Dupré’s script seems to be for an audience who only knows about the seventies through television reruns and movies, but also for diehard KISS fans. There’s no establishing of the KISS theme; if you aren’t a fanatic, you’re probably missing something. It’s too bad, because the thorough (if bad) opening titles utilizes seventies news and pop culture and it sure seems like KISS could be a zeitgeist worth exploring.

Maybe if the actors were better. Of Giuseppe Andrews, James DeBello, Edward Furlong and Sam Huntington, it’s a constant race to see who’s worse. Andrews is real bad and obviously trying. DeBello’s real bad and not trying–he gets all the “funny stoner” lines and butchers each one. Furlong looks stoned and bored; it should have been part of his character. Huntington’s awful but somewhat less annoying than Andrews, who’s desperately trying to play a bad boy.

And Lin Shaye’s evil Christian mom? So bad. So’s Natasha Lyonne.

Maybe the only distinct thing in Rock City is how much it likes rampant bigotry and misogyny. Rifkin identifies them in seventies pop culture artifacts… and then the film embraces them.

Icky bad stuff.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Adam Rifkin; written by Carl V. Dupré; director of photography, John R. Leonetti; edited by Mark Goldblatt and Peter Schink; music by J. Peter Robinson; production designer, Steve Hardie; produced by Kathleen Haase, Barry Levine and Gene Simmons; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Edward Furlong (Hawk), Giuseppe Andrews (Lex), James DeBello (Trip), Sam Huntington (Jam), Melanie Lynskey (Beth), Nick Scotti (Kenny), Shannon Tweed (Amanda Finch), Miles Dougal (Elvis), Natasha Lyonne (Christine) and Lin Shaye (Mrs. Bruce).


Lost in Space (1998, Stephen Hopkins)

For maybe forty minutes–from twenty minutes in to the hour mark–Lost in Space is actually rather engaging. It’s not any good as a narrative, but Hopkins’s direction of the space sequences is phenomenal. The film opens with something familiar, a dogfight out of Star Wars, but the later sequences are not. They aren’t original, but they’re the first time such a budget had been expended on them.

Overall, Hopkins does an excellent job with the film. The last hour, featuring an alien planet and time travel, falls apart because Akiva Goldsman’s script collapses under its own idiocy. The first hour, when Goldsman is still setting up the plot, only has awful dialogue and can survive.

The CG is sometimes excellent, sometimes not. Lost in Space tries a lot with the technology. Hopkins is able to get good performances opposite the CG–especially from Lacey Chabert and Heather Graham.

Chabert is good throughout (she’s inexplicably underused, having nothing to do) while Graham occasionally runs into some problems. Her flirting scenes with Matt LeBlanc are terrible, but she’s otherwise good. LeBlanc’s terrible the whole time. Often laughably so.

William Hurt is excellent (though one wonders why he said yes to Lost in Space and not Jurassic Park). Gary Oldman is hammy, but the character’s terribly underwritten. Mimi Rogers, Jack Johnson and Jared Harris are all awful. Watching Rogers act opposite Hurt is painful.

The film’s bad, but there are some amazing sequences in it. Nice score from Bruce Broughton too.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Stephen Hopkins; screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, based on the television series created by Irwin Allen; director of photography, Peter Levy; edited by Ray Lovejoy; music by Bruce Broughton; production designer, Norman Garwood; produced by Carla Fry, Goldsman, Hopkins and Mark W. Koch; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Gary Oldman (Dr. Zachary Smith), William Hurt (Prof. John Robinson), Matt LeBlanc (Maj. Don West), Mimi Rogers (Dr. Maureen Robinson), Heather Graham (Dr. Judy Robinson), Lacey Chabert (Penny Robinson), Jack Johnson (Will Robinson) and Jared Harris (Older Will Robinson).


Mortal Kombat (1995, Paul W.S. Anderson)

I can’t think of another movie with such a dearth of acting ability. It’s another reason Mortal Kombat, specifically its financial success, is something of a milestone. Combined with the terrible CG, the movie’s box office achievement shows how little general audiences—specifically males—care about anything of quality.

I think Trevor Goddard gives the best performance. He’s supposed to be evil and dumb. I believed his character to be both.

For such a big movie, Mortal Kombat only has a handful of actors, supporting and principal. Robin Shou, Linden Ashby, Bridgette Wilson, Christopher Lambert and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa are basically the speaking cast (in addition to Goddard).

In another achievement, the film actually features a Lambert performance where he’s better than someone else. Tagawa’s exaggerated facial expressions suggest director Anderson told him to perform like a maniacal cartoon. It’s truly one of the silliest, bad performances.

The earnest attempts—from Shou and Wilson—are no better. Shou struts around with hair from an eighties band (all he needs is a hat). In fact, a hat would help, it might be able to act. Wilson’s even worse. Some of her problem is screenwriter Droney’s dialogue, but not all of it. She’s just awful. When the film follows her, it’s hard to believe Anderson and the crew were able to shoot the scene without giggling.

Ashby’s weak, also because of the script, but I suppose he’s better than Shou and Wilson.

Anderson’s got some decent setups, but Mortal Kombat’s still dreadful.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson; screenplay by Kevin Droney, based on video games by Ed Boon and John Tobias; director of photography, John R. Leonetti; edited by Martin Hunter; music by George S. Clinton; production designer, Jonathan A. Carlson; produced by Lauri Apelian and Lawrence Kasanoff; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Robin Shou (Liu Kang), Linden Ashby (Johnny Cage), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Shang Tsung), Bridgette Wilson (Sonya Blade), Talisa Soto (Princess Kitana), Trevor Goddard (Kano), Chris Casamassa (Scorpion), François Petit (Sub-Zero) and Christopher Lambert (Lord Rayden).


The New World (2005, Terrence Malick), the extended cut

Historical fact, or even the attempt at paying lip service to it, is so inconvenient. If there’s a better example than The New World, I’m not familiar with it.

Malick struggles to make it all fit together and he can’t quite make it sync. He has to move from Colin Farrell being the protagonist to Christine Bale. Q’orianka Kilcher gets some focus too, but barely any once Bale arrives.

After Farrell and Kilcher’s romance, it’d be difficult for anyone to properly follow it up. While Malick does get Bale’s best performance from him, the casting is a misstep. Much like James Horner’s score, there’s something off with the casting. Lots of the “name” casting works—obviously, Farrell is excellent, but so are David Thewlis and Wes Studi. Third billed Christopher Plummer is barely in it enough to make an impression.

Much of The New World does not “wow.” It feels like a disjointed period piece from early on—and Horner’s music is an immediate liability—and it actually becomes more interesting in the last act, as Kilcher and Bale head back to 17th century England. Here, Malick starts using Caspar David Friedrich’s Woman before the Rising Sun as a direct influence for how he portrays Kilcher.

A lot of what he does is interesting—none of the Native Americans (including Kilcher’s Pocahontas) are ever referred to by name in dialogue—and the pacing is exquisite.

Malick nearly recovers at the end, but again, tragically, kowtows to the “non-fiction” imperative.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Terrence Malick; director of photography, Emmanuel Lubezki; edited by Richard Chew, Hank Corwin, Saar Klein and Mark Yoshikawa; music by James Horner; production designer, Jack Fisk; produced by Sarah Green; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Colin Farrell (Captain John Smith), Q’orianka Kilcher (Pocahontas), Christian Bale (John Rolfe), Christopher Plummer (Captain Christopher Newport), August Schellenberg (Chief Powhatan), Wes Studi (Opechancanough), David Thewlis (Edward Wingfield), Yorick van Wageningen (Captain Samuel Argall), Raoul Trujillo (Tomocomo), Janine Duvitski (Mary), Michael Greyeyes (Rupwew), Irene Bedard (Pocahontas’s Mother), Kalani Queypo (Parahunt), Ben Mendelsohn (Ben), Noah Taylor (Selway), Ben Chaplin (Robinson), Eddie Marsan (Eddie), John Savage (Savage), Billy Merasty (Kiskiak) and Jonathan Pryce (King James I).


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