The Frighteners (1996)

thefrighteners_1Starring Michael J. Fox, Trini Alvarado, Peter Dobson, John Astin, Jeffrey Combs, Dee Wallace, Jake Busey, Chi McBride, Jim Fyfe, Troy Evans, Julianna McCarthy, R. Lee Ermey, Elizabeth Hawthorne

Directed by Peter Jackson

Expectations: High. I love this.

threehalfstar


The Frighteners is Peter Jackson’s transitional film, bridging the gap between his small, imaginative indie movies, and his blockbusters to come. The Frighteners isn’t a perfect amalgamation of these things, but it does represent the closest that Jackson could probably come to replicating the manic energy of his early work while under the watchful eye of Hollywood producers. Thankfully, Jackson’s executive producer here was Robert Zemeckis, who let Jackson be himself while trusting him to deliver a fun film. Jackson definitely delivers the goods, but it is also such a tonally varied film that it completely alienated most of the American audience, causing the film to undeservedly flop.

In addition to the wildly flip-flopping tone that goes from absurd comedy to grisly horror without a moment’s notice, the plot itself is nowhere close to being a traditional “Point A to Point B” Hollywood plot. Instead, the film opens with a thrilling scene that we have no context on, and then moves into introducing us to the many characters around town. This gives The Frighteners something of a small-town, Stephen King novel vibe, as Jackson sets up the world that his characters will play in before really going for the jugular. And like a good Stephen King novel, The Frighteners might take a little while to get going, but it is still engaging its audience with exciting and whimsical things around every corner.

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Back to the Future Part III (1990)

Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Mary Steenburgen, Thomas F. Wilson, Lea Thompson, Elisabeth Shue, James Tolkan, Jeffrey Weissman, Flea

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Expectations: High, I love this one too.


For some reason Back to the Future Part III gets a bad rap. I just don’t get it. I’ve always loved this one and wondered why so many consider it a poor series entry. Not only does the story deftly fit within the framework built in the previous two films, it builds upon it even more. There were quite a few themes and loose ends left at the end of Part II, and Part III brings them all together in the closing moments and perfectly caps off the series. What’s not to like?

Doc Brown is stuck in the Old West and Marty happens upon some info that he can’t sit on. Despite Doc’s explicit warning not to come get him in the past, Marty does what he feels is right and makes the jump. Of course it’s not as simple as finding Doc, throwing him in the car and speeding off into the future and this time around our main heavy is Biff’s ancestor Buford Tannen, once again expertly played by Thomas F. Wilson. Seriously, he fits perfectly into any wacky role Zemeckis and Bob Gale can cook up for him.

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Back to the Future Part II (1989)

Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Thomas F. Wilson, Lea Thompson, Elisabeth Shue, James Tolkan, Jeffrey Weissman, Flea, Casey Siemaszko, Billy Zane, J.J. Cohen, Charles Fleischer

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Expectations: High, I love this one too.


How do you follow-up one of the most exciting, entertaining and enthralling films of all-time? It’s a nearly impossible situation to be in for any filmmaker, but thankfully Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale were up to the task. Back to the Future Part II builds on the fiction of the first film beautifully, taking us on an even faster paced thrill ride through time. Doc Brown takes Marty and Jennifer into the year 2015 (so yes, you’ve only got three more years to wait for your flying car). Doc did some temporal snooping and found out about a few events worth avoiding in the McFly family timeline. He enlists Marty to impersonate his own son so that they can nip these problems in the bud. Of course, it does not go as planned and we have a ridiculously exciting film on our hands.

I haven’t seen this one nearly as much as I’ve seen the original; the ratio is probably 10:1. This makes for a lot of fun when re-visiting the film, as I remember general plot points and scenes, but nothing in great detail. For instance, I’m always surprised at how little future stuff there is, as the characters are only in the future for one section of the film. Due to this fact, I am able to judge this film more objectively than the first, which isn’t to say that some nostalgia isn’t clouding my vision.

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Back to the Future (1985)

Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson, Claudia Wells, Marc McClure, Wendie Jo Sperber, George DiCenzo, Frances Lee McCain, James Tolkan

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Expectations: I know exactly what to expect. Pure greatness.


Four stars? Really? Perhaps I am being overly generous due to a good twenty-six years of unadulterated love for this movie, but after re-watching it for what is probably the fiftieth time, Back to the Future still excites, delights and is just flat-out awesome. As I’m sure everyone has seen the film, this is nothing close to a revelation, but as Back to the Future is one of my favorite films, I simply could not watch it and not write something about it.

You know the story, Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) creates a time machine and Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) mistakenly finds himself in 1955 with no definite way back to the future. It’s such a joy to watch the plot unfold, as each detail in the opening 1985 sequence, small or large, comes into play beautifully in 1955. It’s so perfectly laid out, so flawlessly plotted, so relentlessly paced. The beauty of it all is just how well it works amidst its quick pacing, as the film throws quite a bit of time travel info and space-time continuum references at you. In the hands of lesser filmmakers this could spell disaster, but Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale have crafted a time travel fantasy for the ages. In its complexity, it is actually ultra-simplistic though, working on basic themes and ideas easily relatable, making for what is hands down one of the best mainstream crossover science fiction/fantasy films of all time.

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Mini-Review: Teen Wolf (1985)

Starring Michael J. Fox, James Hampton, Susan Ursitti, Jerry Levine, Matt Adler, Lorie Griffin, Jim McKrell, Mark Arnold, Jay Tarses, Mark Holton

Directed by Rod Daniel

Expectations: Low.


Wow, what a weird movie. I somehow managed to escape seeing this in its entirety during my childhood and have finally remedied the situation. I imagine the results would have been better if I saw it back then, but regardless, I still enjoyed Teen Wolf. It’s a supreme piece of the 1980s and many times throughout I thought to myself, “Wow, only in an ’80s movie!” The scene that immediately comes to mind is when Michael J. Fox turns into a werewolf during a basketball game and then proceeds to continue playing with everyone in the stands shrugging it off and cheering him on to a shitty 80s song.

Michael J. Fox plays a teen who finds out one day that he’s a werewolf. To his shock, his dad’s a werewolf too! A very funny looking werewolf, I might add. The film never deals with the bloodlust or any of the darker elements of the genre mythology, instead worrying about who Fox will take to the dance, or how many backflips the Wolf can do while riding on the roof of a moving Wolfmobile. It’s all played strictly for laughs and it gets a few, but it’s more of a novelty than a true comedy. I generally love 80s movie scores as well, but I found the Teen Wolf score and song selection to be rather lackluster.

Co-written by noted comic writer Jeph Loeb, the script is fun and light-hearted, doing everything you might expect from a 1985 film entitled Teen Wolf. Do you like the 80s? Do you like werewolves? Then you’ll enjoy Teen Wolf enough to warrant the time.

I saw a werewolf doing a layup down the center of the paint
His hair was perfect
Ahwwwwoooooo, werewolves of high school.
Draw Blood Back Flip

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werewolves_of_London

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