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Nightmares (1983)

Like a bad dream I somehow remember this film from the early 80’s.  There was a number of anthology films going around at this time (Tales From the Darkside, Tales From The Crypt, The Twilight Zone). For some reason I remember a major segment of this film that has followed me throughout my adulthood, and that’s the segment of the guy who gets sucked in to the video game.

It reminds of things I shouldn’t be doing in my childhood, like going to the local arcade at 10pm when I was….oh 11 years old?  My brother would take me and I knew it was something I shouldn’t be doing, but it was also something that wouldn’t harm me.  That’s the feeling of watching horror films.  They’re not real…but sometimes they affect you in a certain way.

The film is broken up in to 4 segments; A woman runs out of gas on a dark evening and must escape a maniacal Gas Station Attendant.  Emilio Estevez tries to break a high score on an arcade game called Bishop.  A priest deals with loss of faith as he is stalked by a pickup truck, and lastly a family battles a giant rat….which kind of makes no sense at all.  The majority of the film surrounds Estevez’s story, and part of me wishes they would have just made that the film.

If you look at Nightmares only as an anthology it will no doubt get lost in the pantheon of other film anthologies that have come before and after it.  However, some of these segments could have been broken out on their own as films.  It’s a film that seems somehow ahead of its time, but segmented unnaturally as well.

It feels unnerving almost like if you were watching 80s pornography, or perhaps Masterpiece theater as a child.  It doesn’t fit at times, and that’s what makes it most enjoyable watching it 35 years later.  It’s a bit of nostalgia, along with a bit of anxious adolescent viewing.

And you know what’s interesting, is that I see these types of films making their way to the small screen as anthology TV shows once again.  It was something that was done so well on shows like Tales From The Crypt, and the short-lived Nightmare Cafe to name a few.

Grade: B- (though Estevez segment gets an A)

A+ for the poster

Wonder Woman

I’m going to be the first to admit that I thought this film was going to make about $58 bucks at the box office. With the colossal failure that Batman Vs. Superman was I thought Wonder Woman was destined for failure.  DC < Marvel all day long.  However, what you get turns out to be not just a great Comic book film, but also a great WWI film as well.

The film starts with a little bit of mythology as to who Wonder Woman is, and where she comes from.  She comes from a mythical island that has been shrowded in secrecy for centuries.  A land of warrior woman who have been protected by the gods.  One day however someone breaks that veil as his plane crashes into the water surrounding the land.  That man is US Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), and he brings a boatload of Germans  with him.

Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) saves Captain Trevor only for her people to end up fighting a fierce battle vs. the Germans.  Once they defeat the Germans the land of women must decide what to do next.  Wonder Woman decides she must follow Trevor back to the world outside to find the unspeakable terror that is set to destroy the world.

Trevor tries to walk WW through her new world and explain to her all of the changes and dangers that await them.  There is some fun there as WW really has no clue how to interact with this new world, and has no idea that….she’s kind of the sexiest woman anyone has seen.  She also doesn’t understand why these humans fight, and what “war” truly means to them.  This is the major problem that she must face going forward.

Wonder Woman sits nicely in the DC universe, and it’s a breath of fresh air, because really the only thing that has been working has been Christopher Nolan’s Batman films.  It’s well done, and director Patty Jenkins does a fantastic job of bringing this character to life.

In the end Wonder Woman is original enough to be highly entertaining, and it’s shot extremely well.  The one thing about it though is that it still can’t find a way to get away from the finale of “Good Guy vs. Bad Guy” in an epic final battle.  THAT is something we’ve seen all the time.

Grade: B+

House on Haunted Hill

The original House on Haunted Hill is by far my favorite Vincent Price film of all time.  It’s also my favorite concept.  Strangers locked in a house, haunted by ghosts, and they can’t get out.  Everyone is a stranger.  We don’t know who is who, nor the motives of anyone.  We just know they’re pretty much all bad people and deserve to die.

All of these idiots agree to stay the night in an old haunted house, and the winner takes home $1 million bucks, or at least whomever survives takes home the cash.  We’ve seen this story a million times, and isn’t it strange that it’s still an entertaining tale?  Booby traps, only the strong survive, guts, gore and death? Sign me up!

Geoffrey Rush plays Stephen Price.  The rich host of the party, and obviously in a role that is an homage to the late, great Vincent Price.  He has his booby traps in place within the host and he’s set out to scare the entire party in to leaving the house in his sadistic ways.  Unfortunately for him and everyone involved the house is actually haunted, and people are about to die.

House on Haunted Hill was in the middle of the remake throws of the late 90s.  It took its source material and created something that it set out to be…entertaining.  It’s not a film that’s trying to become something original and special, and sometimes that’s much needed from a film….just a good and entertaining view.

Grade: B

Alien: Covenant

Alien: Covenant is everything that I wanted Prometheus to be, but at the same time it does little to answer the massive questions that Prometheus laid out to begin with.

We follow the new crew of The Covenant.  Their mission is to find a sustainable planet for humanity to colonize.  They have their sights set on one particular planet, but those directions get derailed when a new habitable planet pops up on the radar. They decide to set their sights on this new planet, which of course will be a mistake.  This is the planet that Elizabeth Shaw chased David to in Prometheus.  We add to the dilemma of The Covenant with a David look-alike Walter….the more advanced version of David.  Collisions will happen.

The crew is of course in for a rude awakening as they search the planet.  They’ll run in to David and trust his story of what happened with Shaw, and why he is there.  The reason he ended up there though is obviously much different.

Covenant feels a little like a remake at times of Aliens.  The same type of characters are in place.  They’re just on a different world with a different type of Xenomorph.  That’s not to say that it is tired.  It is most definitely a welcome addition to the Alien franchise.  I also think it will end up being an important middle portion to a new trilogy, and in the end we will receive the answers from Prometheus that we’re looking for.  These are the questions of god, humanity and evolution that Scott set out to answer in his mythical world.

High praise for Katherine Waterston as Dany Branson.  She’s obviously meant to be a doppelganger of Sigourney Weavers Ellen Ripley, but she does it in a way to slightly imitate, not completely replicate.  There’s also this air of history repeating itself along the Alien franchise, not to mention history itself.

Ridley Scott does a lot with a little, and creates an extremely entertaining sci-fi horror film.  He’s able to create something that is loved by both critics and fans alike, and that’s not easy to do.  Covenant makes me really look forward to the next installment.

Grade: A-