Salem’s Lot (1979)
★ / ★★★★
I have a lot of patience when it comes to miniseries, especially the ones based on Stephen King’s novels, because the first hour or so usually consists of slow build-ups. However, this one completely rubbed me the wrong way because it did not have enough small payoffs during the first nintey minutes of exposition. Clichés such as a man (David Soul) returning to his hometown to deal with his traumatic past, the husband and the cheating wife, and a strange man (James Mason) taking care of an even stranger home quickly began to pile up. The horror and the mystery became secondary which is always a bad thing when it comes to movies that are supposed to be scary. I haven’t read King’s novel of the same name so I can’t comment on how closely this film followed its source. However, having been familiar to some of King’s novels, I doubt that the book was as slow-moving, boring and hollow as this one. Perhaps Tobe Hooper, the director, is to blame because he directed the picture with such a lack of urgency. In my opinion, when people start dying in a small town, one would expect the residents to gossip, form outlandish guesses on what was really happening and all kinds of histrionics. In this movie, everyone stayed quiet at home and awaited being visited by a vampire. It just wasn’t believable even for a horror movie. After all, half the fun of watching a movie about strange happenings are observing the reactions of the individuals who are directly affected by such. I was also very annoyed with its use of soundtrack. Like in most horror movies, whenever the soundtrack would come blasting from the speakers when nothing profound was happening on screen, I’m immediately taken out of the situation and I start questioning why the movie is directing me to feel something. For me, a strong movie shows what it wants to show and it has the confidence to allow the audiences feel any sort of emotion. The soundtrack should only fascilitate the emotion and never force it down the audiences’ throats. I’d have to say that “Salem’s Lot” is a complete misfire for me. I really tried to like it because I enjoy most miniseries based on King’s novels. But the more I tried to like it, the more I ended up hating it.
★★ / ★★★★
I really got my hopes up after watching this animated flick’s trailer for the first time but after actually seeing the movie, I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed. Igor (John Cusack) wants to be more than a deformed lowly assistant so he figures that he can get the recognition he deserves by creating an evil monster for the Evil Science Fair. Instead, Igor ends up creating a harmless monster who was eventually brainwashed to be an aspiring actress (voiced by the lovely Molly Shannon). The conflict comes in when Dr. Schadenfreude (Eddie Izzard) decides to steal Igor’s invention and pass it as his own in order to be the king of Malaria. One of the many problems that this film has is its many references to “Frankenstein.” Since the filmmakers’ audiences are children, I don’t think they will be able to fully appreciate the references because most of them probably haven’t read the novel or seen any “Frankenstein” films. Sure, the obvious slapstick and winking at the camera are present but those elements won’t satisfy astute adults who want to experience something more rewarding like in “WALL-E” and “Ratatouille.” Another problem I had with the film is the way the story unfolded. I think it spent too much of its time preaching the importance of choosing good over evil (especially toward the end). Actions speak louder than words and the filmmakers could’ve been more efficient by showing the audiences why choosing good is better than evil instead of making big, somewhat meaningless (and cliché) speeches. My favorite part of the film was its most sensitive: when the monster decides to give Igor, Brain (Sean Hayes) and Scamper (Steve Buscemi) gifts. Scenes like that made me not dislike this animated movie as much. Another negative is that sometimes Brain and Scamper outshined Igor. Those two are way too hyper and loud which made them more interesting than the lead character. I did like the syle of animation because it reminded me of “Corpse Bride” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” However, it goes to show that without strong writing, colorful animation can only entertain so much.
17 Again (2009)
★★ / ★★★★
Even though I’m no fan of Zac Efron (he hasn’t yet proven to me that he can be a versatile actor), I have to admit that I somewhat enjoyed this movie. Granted, that enjoyment didn’t come from either lead actors, Efron or Matthew Perry; in fact, the supporting actors were the ones that stepped up to the plate and delivered the big laughs. Having been down on his luck, Perry gets a second chance to look like his seventeen-year-old high school self (played by Efron) after talking to a magical janitor/spirit guide. In that younger body, he’s able to find a relationship with his two kids (Michelle Trachtenberg, Sterling Knight) and fix his marriage problems with his wife (Leslie Mann). The only person that knows about the whole magical transformation was Perry’s best friend played by the hilarious Thomas Lennon. Lennon stole every scene he was in and I seriously couldn’t stop laughing because of the way he embraced his characters’ nerdy persona. (“Star Wars,” “The Lord of the Rings,” you name it, the geeky reference is there.) He was matched by Melora Hardin (“The Office”), the high school principal with a little secret that she expertly masks. What dragged this film down was its inability to stay away from syrupy scenes and lines, including the so-called dramatic slow motions during the basketball games. Its message was also very vague. I felt like the message it tried to convey was in order to stop feeling like outcast, one should join the basketball team because that’s where the opportunities are found. That would’ve been easily solved if Trachtenberg and Knight had friends who are astute, well-adjusted, and happy with where they are in life. Instead, the two of them are simply outcasts: Trachtenberg is dependent on her boyfriend (played by the lovely, though not-so-lovely in this film, Hunter Parrish) and Knight as a socially awkward loverboy. What this movie is trying to show is not real life and it’s a shame because I know for a fact that teenagers (especially teenage girls) will be drawn to this. “17 Again” has some funny material but I found it confusing in its core and very unrealistic in its portrayal of high school. Or maybe I just need to see Efron play a character who doesn’t know how to play basketball. Perhaps then the cheesiness will decrease exponentially.