Hello everyone, it's Balcony Betty, back for another issue and although this is the December issue, I have decided not to go the easy route—there will be no holiday movies reviewed by me this time.
This month I saw "Zathura," based on Chris Van Allsburg's book by the same name. Like his previous book turned movie, "Jumanji," "Zathura" follows the antics of siblings while they battle their way through a special game. "Zathura" takes brothers, Walter and Danny, to outer space and pits them against carnivorous aliens, meteor shows, and the gravitational pull of a fiery planet to name just a few perils. Like "Jumanji," "Zathura" offers the brothers help from a previous player, who has been in limbo since playing the game, but this time the identity of their assistant provides the story with an unexpected twist. This movie has more action and adventure than its earlier counterpart and thus earned itself three and a half howls of pleasure .
After seeing "Zathura," I decided it was time to watch "Jumanji" again. While the cast members of "Jumanji" are more well-known, it does not have as much action as "Zathura." "Jumanji" is about a game that takes you to deepest, darkest Africa and it does deliver some of the expected action, but overall it is slightly disappointing, so I gave "Jumanji" two and a half howls of pleasure.
For this month's thriller I watched "Saw II" and the ads weren't lying; oh yes, there was blood. This movie picks up sometime after the end of "Saw." While in the first movie Jigsaw conducted his tests while paying no mind to those outside the test, this time the police, and one detective in particular, are being tested. While the majority of the players are new, the only previous victim to survive the game is back and once again put through the ringer. This movie is better than the first in some aspects, but lacking in others. Be on the lookout for the surprise ending and the large opening left for a "Saw III." Overall I gave this movie three howls of pleasure. One final note; this movie is definitely not for the faint of heart—if needles, guns, knives, or scalpels freak you out or if you get queasy at the sight of blood, I suggest you avoid this flick because you will not enjoy it.
For the last movie this month, I went to see "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." This is the fourth movie chronicling Harry's time at Hogwart's School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. This year Harry is thrust into the dangerous Triwizard Tournament, and he has recurring dreams about the return of Lord Voldemort. While the two and a half hour movie does leave out some of the background happenings, it still remains true to the heart of the book. Once again the special effects team has risen to the challenge of J. K. Rowling's magical story. I gave this movie four howls of pleasure and I have a suggestion; if you have never read the books before, you should consider doing so, because there has been something left out of each movie. Who knows, you may just enjoy the movies even more afterwards.
Until next time, this is Balcony Betty saying Happy Holidays, and remember that jingle bells are not appropriate accessories to wear to the theater.
All right, gang, it's Reaper Rick, back at ya with a whole bunch of stuff to go over this month. In my effort to take you back to a time of classic movies and great actors, this month I have chosen to showcase another of my favorite actors; one who can play almost any role, but does his very best when playing the part of someone with a somewhat less than perfect mental range. I speak, of course, of Jackie Boy--our own Jack Nicholson.
With almost sixty movies to his credit since first appearing on the Silver Screen in 1958, I could list many of his efforts that qualify to be in this review, but have picked out just a few to talk about, today.
To start the ball rolling, I want to review an early movie that Jack appeared in, and while he only had a small spot in this flick, it was classic Nicholson, all the way. In a number of his early efforts, Jack teamed with director Roger Corman, as he did in this 1960 cult classic, "The Little Shop of Horrors."
If you have never seen this campy, low budget film, it is worth the cost of a rental to see it, although it is still occasionally shown at college film festivals. The entire movie was shot in only three days, and tells the story of a young man (not Jack) who works in a skid row flower shop This character discovers a strange, sickly plant and nurses it to health by feeding it blood, and as the plant grows, it requires more blood, so the hero ends up killing people to feed his demanding, carnivorous pet. One of those murdered for plant food is the local sadistic dentist, who makes his patients scream for his own pleasure. Enter here, young Jack Nicholson, playing Wilbur Force, who happens to enjoy going to the dentist, as long as he doesn't receive any Novocaine--"it dulls the senses."
Again, Jack has a small, but memorable role in this movie, and it is really a badly done film--poor editing, poor lighting, very poor dialog--but it is a classic "bad film" and is worth watching for Jack's appearance, if nothing else. Over all, I give it only One Howl of pleasure for quality, but Four Howls for being a really Fun Flick. Check it out!
Okay. Moving ahead a few years, Jack has come a long way to star in this adaptation of Ken Kesey's book, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." (And, for those of you who like to read, as well as watch movies, Kesey wrote a number of great books during the sixties and early seventies--check them out at your local book seller). Filmed 30 years ago in 1975, Cuckoo's Nest won a number of Academy Awards, including a Best Actor nod for Nicholson, a Best Actress for his costar, Louise Fletcer, as well as Best Director and Best Picture Awards.
In this movie, Jack plays Randle Patrick McMurphy, a small time crook and general 'bad boy' who attempts to get out of jail time by feigning mental incompetence. He would rather spend a few months in the nut house than on a prison work detail, so pretends to be crazy. Unfortunately, they put him in a real asylum, where Jack has a hard time adjusting to the routine. With him in this nut house are such early stars as, Danny DiVito, Michael Berryman ("The Hills Have Eyes"), Christopher Lloyd and Scatman Crothers (who Jack teams with a few years later for the classic flick, "The Shining"). Running the show is the feared Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcer), who controls the inmates with an iron hand.
Jack, of course, does not like to be controlled, so he spends a lot of time trying to liberate (at least emotionally) the other inmates, and fighting against the iron hand of Nurse Ratched, which only gets him into more trouble with the authorities. Jack befriends a deaf mute Indian (played by Will Sampson), and they plan an escape together, but the 'machine' is too much for one man to overthrow and McMurphy is eventually subdued and made a permanent fixture at the institution. But, he leaves his mark on the other patients and none of them are ever the same.
I know that didn't explain very much about the movie, but this is really one you have to see for yourself, so I don't want to give too much away. It was filmed in a real mental institution in Washington and many of the hospital inmates were used as extras in the movie. This is a classic flick--one that must be seen, if you never have. It gets Four Howls of Pleasure from me, and likewise from the Academy of Motion Pictures. A Must See, for sure.
Jumping ahead another dozen years, we come to a film that seems tailor made for our 'Bad Boy.' In the 1987 film, "The Witches of Eastwick," Jack plays the original Bad Ass--the Devil, himself. It's the story of three women (and what a trio--Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer and Susan Sarrandon) who live in a small, New England town, all of whom live small lives and wish for something better. They want a dark knight to come riding into town on a black steed, to take them away from their dull, hum drum lives. Enter Daryl Van Horn, a mysterious, rich stranger, who offers them all they wish for, and more!
Jack offers them not only their lives back, but encourages within them powers they never knew they possessed. They soon become 'witches' (albeit mild ones) and also become pregnant with the devil's offspring. When the townspeople learn what is going on (these small minded, bigoted prudes), they turn on the girls, who eventually discover they may have made a mistake becoming so involved with this devilish mystery man, so they themselves turn on their benefactor. What results is a comical, frightening power play--the devil against his students--and a huge, funny battle of 'good against evil.'
This is not the best movie ever made, but it is a fun romp, with Jack able to show off some of his great ability to change faces and direction, and show his many different sides. Plus, I love Cher, and Michelle is always fun to watch, and in this movie you get to see the three girls go from frumpy to vivacious, to sexy--and that's always fun.
So, "The Witches of Eastwick" gets Two and a Half Howls of Pleasure. It may be a good 'date movie' and for sure it's a great popcorn flick. See it just for fun.
Now a couple of quick picks. "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." See it. It starts slow, but has a lot of action, and anything with Brad Pitt in it will have lots of good comedy angles. I liked it. "The War of the Worlds." I didn't expect much from this one. I'm not a fan of Tom Cruise and what can you do with a classic movie that hasn't been done before? Well, I was surprised by this one. They changed the story just enough to keep you interested and Dakota Fanning is an amazing little actress. I've seen her in three movies the past few months and she is always the star, regardless of who she is working with. The special effects are great and it's a good movie, despite having Cruise in a starring role. See it.
Before I go, I would just like to leave you with a word of warning; if there is one movie you choose NOT to see this season, please make it, "The Devil's Rejects."
This was not just a BAD movie, it was absolutely abysmal--which translates to: despairingly bad, wretched, awful, pitiful, the lowest, the most miserable--and I would like to add that it was a disgustingly pathetic attempt to document a supposedly true episode in the lives of a family of monsters who poorly disguised themselves as human beings.
It is beyond me as to why anyone would spend good money to make a film that depicts the lowest, the most base and the most absolutely despicable aspects of human nature. We are all aware that there are deranged, mentally incompetent, insane people out there who literally thrive on the pain and suffering of others, but why would anyone spend thousands of dollars to bring such a disgusting story to the screen? Profit, perhaps? Are there really enough viewers who would pay good money to make this type of thing profitable? I can not believe
it would be so.
I could not even watch the entire movie and I seriously regret wasting $3.50 to rent the DVD. If I wanted to view scenes of senseless killings and sadistic sex acts, I only have to turn on the news. Granted, there were a few well known stock actors in this film, which initially gave it some credibility, but I was disappointed these actors would debase themselves to the point of appearing in such a worthless celluloid effort.
I can not adequately describe my revulsion at witnessing even a portion of this piece of garbage, and can only show my total disrespect by giving this movie an amazing 5 Hangman's nooses . And, just in case anyone is unsure of my reaction to this movie--I did not care for it, and do NOT recommend it for viewing by anyone, anytime, anywhere. Got it?
Okay, so enough of my ranting. If you have opinions that may differ from mine, feel free to express them. We look forward to you comments. Until next time, this is Reaper Rick saying, get out there and watch some GOOD movies!
Oh, yeah, and I hope you all have a Happy Holiday season. Peace!