JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 (2017)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 2 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Violence throughout, some Language and brief Nudity

Directed by: Chad Stahelski

Written by: Derek Kolstad

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane & Lance Reddick

Loads of people seem to gush over 2014’s JOHN WICK. As for me, I think it’s a fun little action movie that’s equal parts silly and cool. Any sequel to any action flick promises to up the stakes and be bigger, bolder, cooler, and more adrenaline-pumping. JOHN WICK: CHAPER 2 has crazy action scenes and further develops its elaborate underworld of guns, hotels, and hired killers. However, the film also encounters pacing issues and goofiness that hinder it as a whole. JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 is an entertaining romp. Nothing more, nothing less.

The plot picks up four days after the events of the previous film. Former assassin turned bloody avenger John Wick (Keanu Reeves) has just recovered his stolen car from a Russian-run chop shop and intends on living out the rest of his days in peace. John’s renewed retirement comes to an abrupt end when he’s visited by mob boss Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) who wants John to make good on a past deal. With the prospect of one last job until he’s out for good, John Wick returns to kill a target and soon finds himself hunted by pretty much everyone. Lots of bullets, hand-to-hand combat, and craziness follows.

First things first, JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 succeeds at what it set out to do. There’s plenty of kick-ass action and the stakes are ridiculously high. At one point, John Wick has pretty much an entire nation of assassins chasing him and decides to become a one man army. It’s friggin’ nuts to watch. The cinematography is slick and the execution of the action is stylish. I cannot express how nice it is to actually see what the hell is happening in an action movie, as opposed to constant shaky-cam that moviegoers are usually bombarded with in lesser modern action efforts. JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 is just as enjoyable as the first film, meaning that it still suffers from some problems.

CHAPTER 2’s second half is where things really pick up, but its first hour is frequently dull. It’s as if the movie suddenly shifted tones after the previous film’s conclusion to briefly become a brooding hour-long thriller about a reluctant assassin. Great films have been made about similar subject matter, but CHAPTER 2 has long stretches that feature nothing more than John Wick repeating himself to different characters and suiting up for his would-be final hit. Like I said though, the second half is infinitely more enjoyable as the body count reaches crazy levels and bullets begin to fly every which way.

CHAPTER 2’s cast has a few returning faces from the previous film, while also throwing new characters into the mix. Keanu Reeves is just as wooden as he was last time, becoming comically hollow when he tries to express the tragic emotional state of his character (having still lost his wife and her puppy). Still, Keanu knows how to kick ass, execute well-choreographed confrontations (ranging from hand-to-hand, vehicular mayhem, and gun-fu), and perform really cool stunts. Ian McShane is still enjoyable as a hotel owner who abides by a strict set of rules for the killers who inhabit his grounds.

Unfortunately, CHAPTER 2’s interesting new characters are underused or totally wasted throughout the proceedings. This time around, John faces off against a smarmy mob boss and Riccardo Scamarcio’s antagonist pretty much has underlings attack John and taunts him, making for a bit of an underwhelming main baddie. However, the final scene between himself and John further ups the stakes for a potential CHAPTER 3 (ending on a fun cliffhanger). Common plays a vengeance-seeking bodyguard who is sadly regulated to about three scenes, while Laurence Fishburne is having a blast in the cameo-like role of a hobo crime king. Also, Ruby Rose is bad-ass as a mute assassin who has a history with John, though she only appears for three scenes too.

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 encounters flaws in wasted potential and uneven pacing. I wish some of the more creative baddies had a bigger presence and the film’s first half is distractingly slow to sit through. However, the action remains fun, while the style reeks of being cool for the sake of being cool. I didn’t go into JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 expecting an action masterpiece and this sequel is on the exact same level of the original, meaning that it’s a fun time for those who want a kick-ass action flick and not much logic. If you liked the first film, you’ll probably like this one too!

Grade: B

2001 MANIACS (2006)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 27 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Horror Violence and Gruesome Images, Sexuality/Nudity and Language

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Directed by: Tim Sullivan

Written by: Tim Sullivan & Chris Kobin

Starring: Robert Englund, Lin Shaye, Giuseppe Andrews, Jay Gillespie, Matthew Carey, Peter Stormare, Marla Malcolm, Gina Marie Heekin, Brian Gross & Mushond Lee

2001 MANIACS is one of those rare horror remakes that is miles better than the original. Based on Herschell Gordon Lewis’s TWO THOUSAND MANIACS!, Tim Sullivan’s remake is a much more tongue-in-cheek effort that ultimately comes off as a hilariously un-PC horror-comedy. Driven by a constant combination of horror and humor, 2001 MANIACS has so much to like within its fast-paced 87 minutes. This should be taken precisely as the kind of film it was intended to be: a silly slasher flick with lots of laughs and gallons of gore.

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Anderson Lee and his two best friends have taken to the road for Spring Break. On the way to Daytona Beach, the trio of hapless frat guys take a wrong turn. Instead of leading them to a beach filled with babes, this misguided detour has landed the group in the old-fashioned Pleasant Valley. It seems that the boys have arrived just in time for a big celebration. However, they aren’t the only guests of honor, because two more guys and three gals arrive shortly after. Taking the extremely old-fashioned Southern charm and friendly townsfolk as a good sign, the group of “guests” decide to stick around for the Guts and Glory Jubilee. After all, there’s a delicious barbecue at the end of the festival. What our “guests” don’t know is that they are the menu!

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2001 MANIACS knows exactly what it wants to be. This is a deliberately over-the-top horror-comedy that’s full of un-PC humor and cheesy gore. The former is definitely the driving force of what makes this slasher work so well. Throughout the years, we’ve seen so many dull and dreary slasher films that hit the same clichés and don’t have the decency to have fun with them. 2001 MANIACS utilizes a lot of the crazy situations that might be brought on by a group of modern college kids running headlong into old-school Confederate cannibals. What’s especially funny is that director/co-writer Tim Sullivan includes three people who the Confederates would have hated from the get-go. We get a black biker, his Asian girlfriend, and a gay guy thrown into the pool of victims. The interactions between the town full of insane Southerners and these three particular characters are hysterical to watch. The Mayor’s reaction to finding out that his son may be attracted to the gay guy is especially hilarious. It sounds like 2001 MANIACS might be offensive from that description, but it should be made clear that Tim Sullivan is exploiting every redneck joke he gets an opportunity to. From kissing cousins and bestiality to jokes about racial tensions and sex, nobody is safe from the crude and very funny comedic jabs.

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However, the laughs only make up half the film as the gore is especially glorious. Using mostly practical effects, 2001 MANIACS certainly doesn’t skimp on the blood or creative kills. Part of the fun is to guess how each character will meet their untimely demise. A couple of pieces of foreshadowing come back in a big way. We get severed limbs, popped out eyeballs, impalements, and many other acts of wanton violence. None of it is meant to be taken seriously at all as each death is accompanied by a few bad puns. The protagonists/victims are nothing to write home about. These are your average slasher stereotypes. There’s the jock, the black guy (who doesn’t meet the typical dying-first cliché), the nerd, the slut, the horn-dog, the gay guy, the final girl, etc. These characters were here to die and served their purpose well. The antagonists are quite a different story. These Confederate cannibals are colorful individuals and each seem to have an identity (as brief as their screen time might be). Robert Englund is especially enjoyable as the sinister Mayor Buckman.

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2001 MANIACS might not be the greatest horror-comedy or slasher ever, but it’s a gory blast of fun from beginning to end. The story is silly and the protagonists are stupid, but these factors lend to the enjoyment. Tim Sullivan crafted both a remake that’s far superior to its source material and a wholly enjoyable horror-comedy. This is the kind of film that knows exactly what it wants to be. Everyone seems to have had fun making it and that radiates off the screen. If you’re in the mood for a crazy, gory and stupid good time, then 2001 MANIACS is probably right up your alley.

Grade: B

CLOWN (2016)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Horror Violence and Gore, and for Language

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Directed by: Jon Watts

Written by: Christopher D. Ford & Jon Watts

Starring: Andy Powers, Laura Allen, Peter Stormare, Eli Roth & Elizabeth Whitmere

Clowns are scary. That’s a natural fact of life that’s easily exploited in horror films. CLOWN is a gory feature-length version of a fake trailer that Eli Roth filmed a few years ago. The idea is that if you have the name Eli Roth attached to your horror project, an effective fake trailer and a scary ass clown, then you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a built-in audience. CLOWN has been making waves as an anticipated horror flick for the past year and has finally received a home video release in the UK. If you have the means to import a copy and are a less discerning slasher fan, then you’re probably going to really enjoy CLOWN. Otherwise, this coulrophobic (fear of clowns) horror film is not likely worth your time.

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Kent McCoy’s son is having a birthday party and the clown has backed out at the last-minute. In a desperate effort to save his son from the disappointment of not having a scary-ass clown at his birthday party, Ken goes through the contents of a shady looking trunk and finds a clown costume. Donning the goofy wig, outfit, and red nose, Ken saves his son’s birthday…but has awoken something evil by wearing the costume. It turns out that the clown outfit isn’t actually an outfit but rather the skin of an ancient child-eating demon and Ken has begun to transform into that horrifying monster. It’s up to Ken’s wife and a crazed axe-wielding Peter Stormare to put a stop to Ken before too many innocent children are devoured.

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To its credit, CLOWN has a pretty cool first hour. There seems to be a new wave of body horror afoot involving characters going through grisly transformations (e.g. CONTRACTED, STARRY EYES) and CLOWN seems to be the latest in the line of these. Pretty gnarly things occur when Kent tries to remove his costume (including half of his nose being ripped off) as well as nasty scenes during his actual transformation. I was surprised by how well made the first hour of this film actually was. There seem to be real attempts to make this story into something shocking and creepy, both of which work to a certain extent. I felt bad for Kent as he suffers the ultimate “no good deed goes unpunished” scenario. He tried to save his son’s birthday and winds up turning into a monstrous clown as a result.

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The last 40 minutes almost manage to entirely undo everything that worked so well in the first hour by turning CLOWN into a standard slasher flick lacking any memorable qualities. A showdown that stretches through three different locations (including a Chuck E. Cheese ripe for plenty of pizza-eating kids to wind up as meals) is lackluster and overly predictable. At one point, it seemed like the film was going to go in a totally unexpected (and darker) direction that I would have loved. Instead, things play out in fairly by-the-numbers fashion. When two side characters (Kent’s wife and a woefully wasted Peter Stormare) become the main focus of the action, it felt like CLOWN had turned into just another slasher flick with nothing fresh or fun about it (despite the idea of a guy turning into a cannibalistic clown). Special effects range from neat practical work on the killer clown to cheesy rubber body parts during kills and occasional weak CGI. For a slasher flick, the kills are also overly familiar and uninspired.

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To be totally honest, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from CLOWN. Despite many high-profile horror websites hyping this film up, I was pretty much just expecting a so-so slasher with a killer clown. Instead, I received a pretty cool body-horror story in the first hour that quickly devolved into a cheesy body-count flick in the last 40 minutes. I’m terrified of clowns in real life, but CLOWN is pretty underwhelming and by-the-numbers movie. Horror fans who love every slasher flick ever made will probably dig this. However, CLOWN wound up as a purely middle-of-the-road experience for me.

Grade: C

THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK (1997)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 9 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Intense Sci-Fi Terror and Violence

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Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Written by: David Koepp

(based on the novel THE LOST WORLD by Michael Crichton)

Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn, Pete Postlethwaite, Arliss Howard & Peter Stormare

Following the massive success of JURASSIC PARK, there were immediate talks of sequels. So Michael Crichton wrote a sequel novel (a first in his career) and faster than you could say cash-in, there was a script ready (by David Koepp, co-writer of the first film) and Spielberg was helming the entire project. In 1997, after four years of anticipation, audiences were treated to a middle-of-the-road sequel. What exactly makes this second installment so mediocre? Perhaps, it’s that there are many repetitive scenes that were done far better in the first film. One might argue that it could be the silly excuse for a story and hollow characters. Maybe, just maybe, it was the need to be overly excessive and unnecessarily dark in tone. At the end of the day, a combination of iffy factors make for an iffy movie and that’s definitely the case with THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK.

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Years have passed since the disaster of John Hammond’s prehistoric theme park. Chaos theorist Ian Malcolm is still recovering from the traumatic experience of being chased by man-eating dinosaurs. Imagine his surprise when he’s unwillingly recruited by the now disgraced Hammond to investigate a second island filled with dinosaurs. This mysterious second island was meant to be a natural preserve for the dino-clones. Ian and a ragtag group of researchers find their already dangerous expedition to the second island becoming even more dangerous thanks to a group of hunters led by Hammond’s evil nephew, Peter. Soon tensions between the groups rise and their expedition becomes a struggle to survive from more vicious dinosaurs.

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A comparison between LOST WORLD and JURASSIC PARK is inevitable, seeing as the second novel wouldn’t even exist without the success of the first movie. This sequel feels like a cash-in. The story is a piss-poor flimsy excuse for more people to get eaten by dinosaurs. Hollow characters don’t help either. Jeff Goldblum was an annoying asshole in the first movie, but that’s who his character was. Here, he feels like he’s forcing comic relief lines and seems distracted by the big paycheck on his mind. Julianne Moore and Vince Vaughn are equally as wooden. There’s also the godawful inclusion of an annoying kid character. While the first film had children in peril, those young actors were convincing in their roles and smartly written. The annoying addition of Ian’s smart-aleck, easily frightened child adds nothing but frustration to this film. A scene where she eliminates a Velicoraptor through gymnastics is beyond stupid.

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As the movie moves from set-piece to set-piece, there are a few neat moments to be had. The tone is far darker than in the original, which lends to more grisly deaths. My favorite of which being Peter Stormare’s ill-fated scumbag coming face to face with a pack of pissed off Compys (small carnivorous scavengers). These little beasties are arguably the best part of the entire film, but only pop up for a handful of scenes. The special effects bringing the dinosaurs to life somehow look less impressive than the first film, but do the job just fine. There’s still some entertainment value to be found in dinosaurs eating people, but the overlong running time (slightly longer than the first movie) drags to a crawl in the final third.

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Spielberg regarded the T-Rex as the show-stealer of the original, so it seems like he was having a blast in this sequel. More time is devoted to the T-Rex than any other dinosaur. Velociraptors are noticeably absent aside from a brief 10 minute patch of film. While the Compys are a cool new dinosaur, other fresh-faced prehistoric reptiles (including a Stegosaurus) pretty much exist for a brief minute or two and then vanish entirely. The main problem with THE LOST WORLD comes in it feeling so derivative and repetitive with an unnecessary amount of excess. In the original, a scumbag with disregard for the monster in from of him was killed by a scary-as-hell Dilophosaurus. In this sequel, that moment happens twice with Compys and a baby T-Rex. In the first, there was an exciting car chase between three people and a T-Rex. In the sequel, there’s a similar chase on foot where the amount of people running is upped purely for a higher body count. The list of scenes goes on and on. It’s almost as if Spielberg, Koepp, and Crichton tried to clone the original film with more violent sensibilities. The end result is a lackluster, overly familiar disappointment.

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More dinosaurs, bloodier deaths, and a T-Rex running through the streets of San Diego does not a good sequel make. There is some dumb fun to be found in THE LOST WORLD purely for seeing deserving dumbasses meet their doom at the jaws of dinosaurs, but a boring story and wooden protagonists make this a drag for the most part. When you’re simply counting the seconds until the movie to ends during a would-be exciting climax, there’s a serious problem with your so-called adventure. THE LOST WORLD is a middle-of-the-road monster movie when taken on its own. That doesn’t stop this sequel from being a massive disappointment when viewed after its incredible predecessor.

Grade: C

HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS (2013)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 28 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Fantasy Horror Violence and Gore, brief Sexuality/Nudity and Language

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Directed by: Tommy Wirkola

Written by: Tommy Wirkola

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Pihla Viitala, Thomas Mann, Peter Stormare & Derek Mears

When a new spin is put on timeless fairy tales, it’s usually geared for family audiences or teenagers. HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS is quite a different story! This is a hugely entertaining, gory, and R-rated take on a classic children’s story. Tommy Wirkola burst onto the filmmaking scene with the Nazi zombie horror-comedy DEAD SNOW. That film was a victim of being far too derivative and forced, but Wirkola has since shown significant growth in his writing and directing abilities. While it’s far from perfect (actually suffering from a reversal of a problem in DEAD SNOW), HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS is more than serviceable entertainment for guys and gals who want a bloody action-packed fantasy that never takes itself too seriously.

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The movie begins like the original fairy tale with young Hansel and Gretel being abandoned by their father in a shadowy forest. The siblings are wandering lost in the woods and stumble upon a cottage made of candy. They are taken prisoner by a menacing witch and manage to slay the old hag. The film then cuts to a grown Hansel and Gretel who have gained a reputation as witch hunters for hire. The siblings are hired to investigate a series of child disappearances in the small town of Augsburg. These mysterious missing kids may have something to do with a grand plan at work that involves black magic, old secrets and more than a few bloodthirsty witches for the sibling duo to take down.

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HANSEL & GRETEL is a ton of fun. It’s not meant to be high art and more than succeeds at being a B-movie blast of over-the-top violence, impressive effects and a clever story. I enjoyed the hell out of this flick! Besides reveling in the campy nature of its silly premise, the story is actually really creative (albeit predictable in areas). Tommy Wirkola brings a lot of imagination to the table. This is boosted by Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as the titular heroes. Peter Stormare briefly pops up as the town’s corrupt Sheriff and Famke Janssen is excellent in the role of the main villainess. Plenty of cool action scenes abound as well, most of which get downright messy with gore.

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WITCH HUNTERS is a massive improvement over DEAD SNOW, but Tommy Wirkola makes a mistake that’s on the opposite end of the spectrum from his 2009 Nazi zombie flick. DEAD SNOW took far too long to get into its crazy action and overstayed its welcome by a solid 20 minutes. HANSEL & GRETEL launches right into its insane ideas (not a bad thing), but comes off as way too rushed by the end. Running at under 90 minutes (credits included), HANSEL & GRETEL feels like it was a half fleshed-out feature. There’s a lot of imagination at work, but there could have been significantly more time spent in developing ideas and certain plot points fully. It almost sounds like an odd thing to complain about, but WITCH HUNTERS is about 20 minutes too short.

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Apparently, HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS has received a bit of a cult following behind it (deservedly so) and there’s supposedly a sequel on the horizon. I wouldn’t mind seeing a second installment in this potential gory fairy tale franchise. This is actually a case where the sequel might be able to out-do the already solid original on every possible level, providing more time is spent on another creative screenplay that’s packed full of cool action scenes and goofy humor. HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS is a nice step above Wirkola’s previous horror-comedy effort aided by lots of humor, a clever story, well-shot action scenes, awesome effects, and likable characters. This is a most unusual and pleasant surprise.

Grade: B

My 10 Favorite Cinematic Villains

List by Derrick Carter

There are tons and tons of great villains in film. In fact, this year alone I can already think of ten off the top of my head that stood out. What makes an awesome bad guy? Is it something that plays to our personal preferences, like many different qualities in cinema? Are there always universal themes in each great bad guy that are just so damned believable and (sometimes) relatable that we almost fall in love with watching their evil deeds? When is it okay to root for the villain, be terrified of them or a little of both? I decided since All Hallows Eve is only a few hours away, I would ponder over my 10 personal favorite baddies.

Now, I must get this out-of-the-way. This is ALL OPINION. I’m not claiming these are the best bad guys out there, far from it. You probably already know fantastic antagonists that range from Heath Ledger’s Joker to Hopkins’ Hannibal to the well-known classics. I’m just counting down my favorite bad guys and listing the reasons why I love to hate them so much or just plain enjoy watching them. Without further ado…

10. Ratigan

10. RATIGAN (from THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE)

Nothing kicks off a villains list better than an animated rat from Disney. GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE is a take on Sherlock Holmes with mice, rats, and other talking animals filling in as characters. It’s actually a really solid movie and one I plan on reviewing in the future. However, the best part of the film is the nefarious Ratigan! Voiced by the always-great Vincent Price, Ratigan is a sort of Moriarty figure with a tail. He tries to act civilized and uses his pet cat (how’s that for a unique weapon?) to cover his vicious side, which does come out in the film’s intense finale. Want another justification of why he’s on this list? Did I mention he sings too? Good luck trying to get his two ultra-catchy tunes out of your head.

9. Drexl Spivey

9. DREXL SPIVEY (from TRUE ROMANCE)

Gary Oldman can do bad so good! Leave it to this chameleon to turn a laughable stereotype into something out of a nightmare. Drexl Spivey is a pimp and also a “wigger.” Whereas this sounds funny and possibly comedic, it’s not at all. Drexl is the best part of TRUE ROMANCE and he’s only in for a short time of the film. After he’s gone, the story goes down a couple of notches. The stand-out scene is in an intense conversation with Christian Slater. Having already seen Drexl go friggin’ crazy on two people and brutally murder them up to this point, it makes the tension that much scarier. Also this isn’t the last time you’ll be seeing Oldman on this list.

8. Aaron The Moor

8. AARON THE MOOR (from TITUS)

Shakespeare writes fantastic villains who delight in their evil ways. It was a tough choice between Aaron The Moor and Ian McKellen’s Richard III. Seeing as Richard isn’t exactly as chilling as Aaron is, this choice was decided on that factor. Aaron (played by Harry Lennix in this version) is purely and simply bad-to-the-bone. He absolutely loves corrupting those around him and has no real friends to speak of. Even his so-called accomplices vicariously become his victims by the play/film’s end. Adding a slightly comical tone to the role too is how Aaron will occasionally turn to the camera and directly address the viewer, thus letting them in on how much fun he’s having committing horrible sins. It should say enough that his only dying regret is that he didn’t do more evil.

7. Dino Velvet

7. DINO VELVET, EDDIE POOLE, & MACHINE (from 8MM)

Another underrated flick has a three-way-tie between some of the nastiest deviants you’ll come across on-screen. 8MM is a thriller about a detective (played by an unusually good Nicolas Cage) trying to prove a supposed snuff film is authentic. We’d have a pretty boring and underwhelming movie if said snuff film was a fake, so Cage does indeed come across the creators (and a surviving star) of the small reel of murder footage. Eddie Poole (a scummy James Gandolfini) proves to get the most satisfying comeuppance of the trio. Dino Velvet (an awesome Peter Stormare) is the flamboyant “director” who has chilling pieces of dialogue. It’s the bondage-masked Machine who delivers one of the bleakest explanations of why there are evil people in the world in a haunting scene near the end. 8MM contains a three-for-one delivery of memorable baddies.

6. Dr Josef

6. DR. JOSEF MENGELE (from THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL)

Let’s face it. It’s really not that difficult to make anyone hate a Nazi. All you have to do is throw the swastika on their shoulder and you’ve got yourself instant bad guy. In this fantastic 1978 thriller, a group of war criminals are trying to clone a new Hitler (it’s not remotely as silly as it sounds). As if that wasn’t interesting enough already, the leader of the group is played by the one and only Gregory Peck (that’s right, Atticus Finch). Peck pretty much plays the Fuhrer without actually being called the Fuhrer. Adopting a flawless German accent, a vicious temper, and a nasty talent for deforming people with science, Peck gives what I’d argue is the most creative Nazi ever shown on-screen (I’m counting zombies, Fiennes, and Hans Landau). If you haven’t seen this flick, then strap yourself in and give it a watch. This is another one that’s definitely getting a review from me down the line.

5. Cesar

5. CESAR (from SLEEP TIGHT)

This is a fun entry. Unlike the majority of bad guys on this list, Cesar doesn’t have a body count to his name. This main character in the Jaume Balaguero’s Spanish thriller is a doorman who has made it his goal to cause misery to everyone around him. He cannot feel happiness, so why should anybody else? He mainly sets his sights on a young woman who isn’t cracking under his pressure. When the villain has keys to every apartment in the building and takes to poisoning your make-up, infesting your apartment with roaches, and escalating things from there, its safe to say that you might sleep with one eye open. Don’t worry, because that’s why Cesar keeps a bottle of chloroform handy. The dark sense of humor around this character is off the charts too. One of the best scenes is a conversation with an older apartment dweller who tries to be polite and gets owned in the most emotionally demolishing way possible. Cesar may not be a serial killer or a criminal mastermind, but he’s a dickhead. He also happens to be a dangerous dickhead with keys to your apartment and a whole lot of patience.

4. Leland Gaunt

4. LELAND GAUNT (from NEEDFUL THINGS)

There have been plenty of portrayals of Satan on the big screen, but Max Von Sydow’s performance in this Stephen King adaptation takes the cake. Armed with a slimy sense of humor (he claims he’s from Ohio), an upbeat attitude (offering people good things in return for small favors), and a kindly old grandfather demeanor, you’d never think this shop owner is actually the Devil incarnate. That’s exactly who he is though and he’s quite good at using people to destroy each other. How can you beat a Satan with the balls to say “You can’t win. I’ve got God on my side.” Enough said…

3. Dolores Umbridge

3. DOLORES UMBRIDGE (from the HARRY POTTER series)

Let me tell you why this bitch is on here instead of Voldemort. Not once during the entire HARRY POTTER saga did I ever want to jump through the screen and strangle Voldemort with my bare hands, no matter how many people he killed. The same cannot be said of this sickly sweet witch with a penchant for cats and truly nasty punishments. I think part of the reason I hate her so much is because I had a teacher in Junior High who was pretty much an exact doppelgänger of Umbridge. This educator emotionally battered the entire eighth grade class on a daily basis and acted like a sweet little lady at parent-teacher conference. We’ve all met people like Umbridge and we all hate them for obvious reasons. Props to J.K. Rowling for including such a despicable character in her series. Voldemort is a saint compared to her.

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2. NORMAN STANSFIELD (from LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL)

This pill-popping, gun-totting, certifiable nutjob is my favorite Oldman performance….ever! Stansfield is the best corrupt cop to grace cinema! He’ll make you laugh one minute and piss your pants out of sheer fear in the next. He can switch at the drop of a hat and is evil to his core. At one point, this villain corners a little girl in the restroom and asks her if she appreciates her life. When she answers yes, he calmly responds “Good, because I could never take a life from someone who didn’t appreciate it.” That’s straight-up cold! It’s also highly ironic that the movie featuring a hitman and an assassin-in-training as likable protagonists manages to show someone who’s even more of a lunatic than hired killers. Props to Oldman. This is the role that I’ll remember him for!

1. Milton Dammers

1. MILTON DAMMERS (from THE FRIGHTENERS)

My favorite villain of all-time. Jeffrey Combs absolutely cracks me up through this entire film. In a movie riddled with many threats from different sides (ghosts and serial killers), this drastically misguided FBI agent manages to be the stand-out baddie of the bunch. Sporting a slicked Hitler haircut, nervous mannerisms, and a side of crazy that keeps escalating as the film goes on, Jeffrey Combs is amazing in this role! He also has my favorite villain demise of all-time. His dialogue is absolutely hilarious too! Dammers is a self-described asshole, but he’s such an entertaining one! That’s why Milton Dammers is my favorite villain of all-time!

Have any personal favorite villains of your own that don’t get enough recognition? Leave them in the comments below!

22 JUMP STREET (2014)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 52 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Language throughout, Sexual Content, Drug Material, brief Nudity and some Violence

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Directed by: Phil Lord & Chris Miller

Written by: Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel & Rodney Rothman

(based on the TV series 21 JUMP STREET)

Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Peter Stormare, Ice Cube, Dave Franco, Amber Stevens, Nick Offerman & Rob Riggle

If anybody claims that they knew 2012’s 21 JUMP STREET reboot would be as good as it was, then they’re lying to your face. That movie should have stank to high heavens and the concept sounded like the worst idea in theory. Then Chris Miller and Phil Lord entered and churned out a pretty decent action-comedy. 21 JUMP STREET, though fairly predictable and almost wearing out its welcome, was a big success. The last thing anyone expected was a sequel, but 22 JUMP STREET is now in theaters and it manages to one-up the first film in every possible way. The script relies on an extreme amount of meta-humor and a mighty clever plot that goes out of the way not to repeat certain scenarios from the last film (hence the obvious meta-humor aspect prevalent in every frame of the film). 22 JUMP STREET is a very funny and wholly entertaining sequel to an action-comedy based on a cheesy 80’s cop-drama (you don’t often see that description, do you?).

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After a bust gone wrong, Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) are sent back into the Jump Street undercover program. Since their age is starting to show, they have now been placed in college to find the supplier of a new deadly synthetic drug (exactly like the first time, as their police captain so eloquently states) and stamp it out before it spreads across the country. The pill-based drug “WHYPHY” is extremely hard to track down. While on their supposedly simple mission, Schmidt falls for an art major and Jenko blends into the hard-drinking football-playing frat boy lifestyle. These factors complicate the dim-witted duo’s mystery of discovering where the drug is coming from and the identity of who’s selling it.

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Everything is a lot funnier and more entertaining this time around. This is the most meta-humored movie I’ve ever seen. One of the opening scenes in the sergeant’s office should let you know right away what you’re in for, because he’s pretty much describing the unexpected success of the last movie (right down to box-office lingo) in briefing the partners of their new assignment. Ice Cube, who got annoying as the angry black man stereotype in the first film, is given a lot more room to garner some well-deserved laughs. A few of his scenes had me cracking up to the point of near tears.

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The comedic pairing between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum feels more natural here too. Jonah Hill is essentially still playing the straight-man that he played in the previous installment, though he does get some comedy gold here and there. Channing Tatum is absolutely the funniest person. The friendship between Hill and Tatum feels genuine, even if it does get strained from time to time. It’s a good pairing, though I wouldn’t necessarily pray to see 23 JUMP STREET in the future (lightning probably won’t strike three times with this idea). A much-welcomed Peter Stormare shows up as one of the antagonists and gets some memorable moments. Another stand-out is Jillian Bell as a disapproving roommate who comes off as a very unusual comedic character in a lot of odd ways. You really have to see her performance to fully appreciate how funny she is. Plenty of cameos abound as well.

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22 JUMP STREET has a fair share of problems. These mainly revolve around some predictable through-the-motions clichés that do pop up from time to time. The movie makes fun of itself with some ultra self-aware jabs at even containing these familiar buddy-cop tropes. It still can get a little irksome. Also for the first half, I felt as if the movie would wind up on the same decent-but-not-great level that I found 21 JUMP STREET to fit squarely in. Then one key moment (you’ll know if when you see it) happens and the movie catapulted into hysterically good territory. The second half of the film is where things really shine, although the former does have it’s fair share of good jokes. Once it hits the successful stride halfway through, it never lets up on the laughs.

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22 JUMP STREET, much like 21 JUMP STREET, is far better than it has any right to be. It’s a sequel to a comedic reboot of a silly 80’s TV series. Things work out entirely in the movie’s favor though. This is one hell of a funny action-comedy. The first half has some solid laughs, but takes a little while to get fully going. The second half is where things went onto being downright hilarious. The movie is very entertaining and I can definitely see myself watching it again sometime in the future. Also stick around for the brilliant end credits that send the film out on the highest (most meta) note possible!

Grade: B

FARGO (1996)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Violence, Language and Sexuality

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Directed by: Joel Coen

Written by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Starring: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, Harve Presnell, Kristin Rudrud

FARGO is one of those films that I hear about all the time and have never seen before. It’s ironic, because I really dig everything I’ve seen from the Coen brothers (even their less popular efforts like BURN AFTER READING and THE LADYKILLERS). A lot of people seem to constantly reference or laugh about the funny moments in FARGO, but it’s not a total comedy. FARGO is actually a crime thriller that hinges on a lot of intricate plans that go sour due to misunderstandings between the characters and unexpected bumps in the road.

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It’s 1987 and the dead of winter. Jerry (William H. Macy) is an awkward car salesman dealing with some serious financial trouble. In order to score the money he needs to settle his debt, Jerry has set up the kidnapping of his own wife. Her father is extremely rich and will pay the ransom….to be dropped off by Jerry. The two kidnappers (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) go through with the plan, as Jerry’s problems become more frustrating. Things go wrong and blood is shed, which brings in Marge Gunderson, a pregnant police officer. Despite expecting a baby in a matter of a few months, Marge is on top of her game and this creates even more difficulties for Jerry.

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Besides their mad directing skills, the Coen brothers are also famous for their writing talent. FARGO displays the siblings at the top of their game. The only redeeming traits in the lot of characters belong to Marge, Jean (Jerry’s wife) and a few characters only seen for less than 10 minutes of screen time. I’ve said it many times before and it still holds true with this film that characters don’t need to be seen as “good” people to be compelling. Jerry is a total scumbag, but he’s very entertaining to watch in how he’s simultaneously a coward and a constant manipulator. The real stand-outs belong to Carl and Gaear, the two kidnappers. These are two of the funniest villains to ever grace the screen and the laughs come for two completely different reasons. Buscemi plays the part of the short, funny-looking (as many other characters describe him) motor mouth. On the other hand, Stormare is a hulking thug who doesn’t say much and is far more intimidating, but also garners plenty of jokes from his subtle performance.

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The unexpected directions in the plot seem to come naturally too. Instead of a grand revelation or twist ending, we see the circumstances that all the characters are thrown in escalate for one reason or another. Needless to say that everything doesn’t go as planned, much in the same way as their later BURN AFTER READING, this could be viewed as a sort of comedy-of-errors. The tone is far more serious than people give it credit for though. That’s not to say that there aren’t funny moments though, because the script is packed with plenty of the Coens’ unique brand of humor.

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FARGO is the classic everybody harps it up to being, but it also delivers on far more than just humor. A few minutes before the conclusion, a certain character delivers a bit of profound dialogue that puts the events of the entire film in perspective. What this person says seems fairly obvious and to the point, but it’s the way in which the speech is delivered that leaves it sticking out in my mind. That’s what I believe all fantastic cinema should set out to accomplish. It should leave the viewer with something to chew on, whilst also delivering on telling an original (or at least, creative) story. FARGO excels at this and stands as one of the Coen brothers’ best films!

Grade: A+

THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 58 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Pervasive Strong Language, Drug Content, Sexuality and Brief Violence

Lebowski poster

Directed by: Joel Coen

Written by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, David Huddleston, John Turturro, Tara Reid, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Elliot, Peter Stormare, David Thewlis

THE BIG LEBOWSKI is considered to be a cult classic. Plenty of my friends love the film, one of them even has a Jesus bowling shirt. The Coen brothers are a force to be reckoned with in the filmmaking world, so there should be no reason for this film not to live up to the hype. However, it seems that people are willing to overlook some pretty big flaws. It’s far from a bad movie, but it’s also not a comedic masterpiece either. It’s hysterically funny, but it’s far from perfect.

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The Dude is a slacker just enjoying life as it comes to him, despite no ambition. His real name is Jeff Lebowski and a case of mistaken identity puts him in a situation where a kidnapped woman’s life is in his hands. Thanks to his equally idiotic hot-headed best friend, Walter, a the money drop-off doesn’t go as planned and new complications present themselves to The Dude, Walter, and their fellow slow-witted bowler friend, Donny.

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As far as characters go, THE BIG LEBOWSKI is near perfection. Jeff Bridges inhabits the robe-wearing slacker known as The Dude with a manic energy. John Goodman is hilarious. Steve Buscemi isn’t really given much to say as Donny, which is his character’s running joke. Julianne Moore is the actually the worst part of the film, as her character seemed a bit bland and uninteresting. Peter Stormare and Philip Seymour Hoffman give memorable performances as two very different side characters. Finally, John Turturro steals every second of the few scenes he’s in as the weirdo rival bowler, Jesus.

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There are plenty of laughs to be had throughout. The dialogue is clever and some of the jokes are set up way in advance. The dream sequences that The Dude has are impressive as far as the visuals are concerned. The story begins well enough and has a pretty cool set-up. There are even a couple of plot twists throughout, but some flaws detracted from my overall enjoyment of the film. There is some seriously sloppy storytelling at work here. A lot of plot elements are thrown in and then never revisited for a second. It’s not even like they existed for a single joke, it seemed like the Coens planned on coming back to some of these plot points. It never happens though and means that those scenes could have been left out of the final cut completely.

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The conclusion isn’t grand or climactic either. There is actually one fairly big event that was being built up and isn’t even shown (involving the best character in the film). The movie just sort of ends in the most anti-climactic way possible. Also, the running time feels stretched for a movie of this kind. It’s just under two hours and if it were cut by 20 or 30 minutes, with some changes to the plot, this could have easily wound up being one of the greatest comedies of all-time.

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I may be in the minority, but I felt THE BIG LEBOWSKI (though funny) was far from the comedic masterpiece that many people claim it is. There are plenty of hilarious bits and the performances are great (with the exception of Julianne Moore). It’s a rowdy fun time, but there are some big issues with the film as well. It’s good, but that’s about all it is.

Grade: B

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