WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews

Welcome to the first installment of Weekend Wrental Wreviews! Growing up, I had very narrow taste in films, and even missed out on some major ones within the genres I limited myself to. Thanks to Netflix, I've been on a slow quest to make up for lost time and catch up on the things everyone else has already seen. I try to see six films a week, excluding trips to the theater, but that's neither enough nor always possible. Still, despite my time constraints, I always thought it would be good to jot down even a few thoughts on my recent rentals. I don't know if WWW! is my next regular feature or a one-time exercise, but for now here are my thoughts on the last few discs my DVD player has spun:

1) Roxanne: I think Steve Martin needs to step away from family films, which aren't that bad admittedly, and remakes, which do seem bad, and get back to his roots. There's a lot more substance to this classic that I once dismissed as some goofball comedy about a guy with a big nose. There's real intelligence, as well as a great message about strength of character and substance winning out over physical appearance. It's not about how we look, but how we act, react, and interact.

2) Hellraiser: Deader: The only thing deader than this film is the Hellraiser franchise, despite the fact that I have one more of the original eight films to see and a remake of the original is on the horizon. I'll go through these in reverse order since they get progressively worse, and this 7th film barely qualifies as a Hellraiser, continuing the trend set in a few previous installments in which Pinhead barely makes a cameo appearance to say a few things that always sound sinister and cool in a British monotone. Honestly, he could be saying “Ruffles have ridges.” or “These pretzels are making me thirsty”, and it would raise my hackles. But that doesn't save a bad movie that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and doesn't go anywhere. I didn't miss much skipping these sequels growing up.

3) The Kid: What would you do if a younger version of yourself suddenly showed up, and wasn't too happy to find out he turns into you someday? That's the problem Bruce Willis faced in this mostly light Disney comedy, and it's a very interesting one. The mechanisms of time travel or magic or whatever makes it possible isn't as important as the message about how life can beat us down, how we can choose to become numb and block things out and get caught up in stuff that isn't that important. We're all still the kid we used to be, but we tend to block out or forget that aspect of ourselves.

4) Hellraiser: Hellseeker: Out of all the terrible sequels after the first two films in this series, the sixth one is the least terrible. Ashley Laurence reprises her role as Kirsty, the protagonist from the first few films, and Dean Winters(30 Rock/Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) does a pretty good job in the lead this time around. The twist is parallel to that of the previous film in the series, but the execution and payoff are far better. Most importantly, it feels like a Hellraiser film, with a unique look into a person's psyche and what constitutes a personal hell.

5) Hellraiser: Inferno: Much like Deader, this fifth installment is a bad movie with a Pinhead cameo. While Deader followed a reporter investigating a cult, this one is a bad cop drama with a particularly corrupt Craig Sheffer justifying his drug habits and marital infidelity in poorly delivered voiceovers. When you're rooting for the demons to show up and do bad things to your main character, something is terribly wrong.

6) Bad Boys: Well, of course I've seen the Michael Bay buddy cop movies, but this isn't those at all. No, this is a gritty early ‘80s piece in which Sean Penn plays a juvenile delinquent whose actions lead to a horrible tragedy and land him in reform school. It's a scared-straight prison movie that doesn't pull any punches, and its notable for the performances of many young actors early in their careers, from Penn to Ally Sheedy to Clancy Brown. It's the type of film I could only see once, and the type that's absolutely essential to see that one time. It's a little gritty and its age shows, but it makes up for low lighting and budget with its intensity.

7) Hellraiser: Bloodline: I think this is where the series should have ended, or if they had to make one more after this one it should have been Hellseeker. Bloodline is split into three segments and covers three generations of the same family. One segment is set in the 1700s and finally gives us the origin of the Lament Configuration, the puzzle box that serves as the gateway between our world and that of the demons in all of these films. It's a little over the top, but not a bad sequence. Another segment is set in the present, and follows the descendant of the toymaker Lemarchand who created the box. This section is notable for picking up where the third film left off, in an office building whose architecture resembles that of the box. Such continuity between films would be discarded beyond this point. Now the part that makes this film absurd is the framing sequence, which is in the future on a space station. Mixing genres like this always works, right? Remember Jason X? This is where I think the writers painted themselves into a corner, because if Pinhead was defeated in the present only to remain dormant until the future when he's supposedly destroyed, then when do you set subsequent films? Does he resurrect even further into the future? Do the other stories take place in between the office building and space station sequences? Or is continuity completely ignored going forward? If you chose that last option, you've probably seen more and better films than I have.

8) Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth: What can I say about this third one? Pinhead returns, which is cool. We learn of his origins as a human before the box turned him into a Cenobite, which is also cool. But even as we explore his human side, his demonic side is played more as a simple antichristian villain, massacring a night club and desecrating a church. In the first two films, he was more of an enforcer, a neutral party who made sure people played by the rules. You open the box; he makes sure you go to hell. In 3, he just sort of kills everybody, and then brings a few random people back as subpar Cenobites like a guy with a television camera on his head or one whose head shoots CDs. It's like the ‘90s threw up on the film and he worked with what he had. It's not as bad as the majority of the films that follow it, but it doesn't hold up against the original, which is the most horrific and timeless despite a lower budget. I've owned that one for years on VHS, and when I finally got around to the rest of this series with Hellbound, I was optimistic. That second film, with its twisted journey into a nightmarish Escher drawing, is probably my favorite.

9) Nightbreed: Here's another Clive Barker flick, and another Craig Sheffer vehicle, but this one is actually good. A race of undead mutants and misfits live beneath a cemetery--think of the comic book version of Morlocks or some of the creatures in the Hellboy films--and Sheffer's character is drawn into this world first through dreams, then direct contact and transformation. The makeup and character designs are great, as are the costumes; David Cronenberg wears a particularly awesome mask of burlap with button eyes. In the end, it feels like they were setting it up for sequels that were never made. If the Hellraiser series is any indication, maybe that's not a bad thing.

Well, there you have it; nine of the last few films I've rented. I may cover more or less in the future, depending on the response to this installment. And hopefully there will be more variety, if it's at a time when I'm not working my way through a series. I've rated 2,204 discs on Netflix, which includes television series as well as movies. I'll never be able to review them all, but it's a good start...



Blogger Kev said...

I enjoyed this post!

7/25/2009 6:11 PM  

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