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by Bill Gibron

17 Aug 2009

We all complain about talking in today’s movie theater experience, a combination of lax living room viewing habits translating over to the big screen scenario as well as that most senseless of addictionas - the cellphone. We crow about texting and other forms of technological shorthand, kids incapable of leaving their portable video game consoles long enough to absorb a 70 to 90 minute movie. But there are worse affronts to the sensibilities of a faithful cinephile, acts of egregious insensitivity and inappropriate behavior that, 100 years ago, would probably mark the difference between a civilized and callously uncouth society. While by no means all inclusive, here’s a list of 10 things that happen almost regularly in Bijous around the country that warrant a little more than a passing criticism. Sadly, strict laws against homicide keep film fans from resorting to outright violence, even if light of such affronts as:

Catcalls and Wolf Whistles
While definitely sexist and reminiscent of a time when chauvinism battled feminism for the proper way of dealing with a fetching guy or gal, aurally expressing your sexual approval of a star or onscreen sequence is just pointless. Megan Fox doesn’t want your horndog howl. She’s quite content with the million dollar salary your blind sense of beauty provides her. Besides, the only person hearing your approval of Eric Bana’s naked bubble butt is the un-attentive teenager zombie out in front of you. Also, when was the last time anyone acquiesced to physical congress with you based on a bleated sound of sensual acknowledgment. Thought so.

by Bill Gibron

29 Jul 2009

Be afraid, Twilighters, be very, VERY afraid. A certified franchise killer is coming your way, and it is not a swarthy group of Comic-con nerds complaining about your Beatlemania like overrun of their yearly San Diego geek-off. No, in a surprise move that Hollywood is still haggling over, Bryce Dallas Howard has been hired to replace Rachelle Lefevre as the evil vampire Victoria in the spinster/single gal phenomenon. Initial reports cite “scheduling conflicts” as the reason for the switch (the movies are being shot in rapid, near back-to-back, succession) while others use Ms. Howard’s increased profile and semi-star status as an excuse to up the series’ already ample commercial clout.

But there is another, more sinister possibility out there, a variable that should have everyone on Team Edward and Team Jacob shaking in their sensible shoes - Bryce Dallas Howard is a murderer of movies. She takes established cinematic dynasties and destroys them. Not completely, mind you. Tinseltown never completely buries something it can eventually reinvent, re-imagine, and more or less continue to exploit financially, but given her track record as a performer, Ron Howard’s daughter is clear creative poison. Need proof? Let’s look back at her brief ten years before the camera and see whose legacy she’s saved, and whose she’s left drifting in artistic limbo…

by Bill Gibron

16 Jun 2009

He’s one of cinema’s most endearing ‘characters’, a figure of fear for nearly three decades. And yet he’s not some one-liner quipping child killer or hulking sinister ‘shape’. He doesn’t wield a chainsaw (usually) and didn’t make a pinheaded deal with the devil until sometime later in his creative canon. Indeed, Jason Voorhees and his Friday the 13th films have become the stuff of legitimate legend, forging a VCR fueled fanbase that takes every action of his hockey masked spree slayer and transforms it into the goriest of Gothic gospel. With the 2009 reboot hitting store shelves today (as well as being available on On Demand and ITunes), we here at SE&L thought we would revisit every single movie in the Friday franchise - and sheepishly recognize that this means we indeed own all 12 - to see if the films themselves hold up to critical scrutiny. Even better, from 1980’s original slice and dice to the current installment’s cruel carving, we can see how Jason evolved, how he grew, and in several cases, how he blew, beginning with: 

Friday the 13th


Two things stand out about this original entry into the Voorhees family legacy. First, Sean Cunningham sure takes his time here. This movie feels at least twice as long as its 90 minute running time and not always in a good way. There are far too many pointless pauses between the bloodletting. On the positive side, Tom Savini’s make-up work is flawless, and Betsy Palmer’s turn as big bad Pamela V. has to go down in history as one of the meanest ‘mothers’ in the entire horror genre. For those who think it’s a classic - think again. Of a type? Absolutely. Of faultless movie macabre? No way.

Friday the 13th, Part II


It’s just so sad how the MPAA functions. Strangely cyclical in their concerns, they were in the middle of their anti-violence campaign when the adult Jason decided to show up with a potato sack on his head and a murderous attitude on his brain. This meant that most of the deaths here were severely edited to meet the “voluntary” ratings board’s demands, and as a result, they defanged this sequel’s potential teeth. Still, as with an origin story, Jason’s first journey into spree killing is better than you’d expect. It has a faster pace than the first film, and the ending begins the whole “huh?” aspect of plotting that will perplex the franchise from here on.

Friday the 13th Part III


It’s gimmick time for the series, and sans the arterial spray the material dictates, we get another anemic adventure. The need to bring more and more victims to the fray finds a hilariously hack biker gang stalking our teens and no one can deny ole’ Shelly’s contribution to the mythos (actually - who brings a hockey mask to a weekend sex and drugs make-out party???). Still, the need to play to the 3D set-up leaves many of the murders inventive but strangely passive. Besides, our horror anti-hero gets one of the worst last act send-offs ever/ Hanging? Jason? Please…

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter


One of the best entries in the franchise, and a fine slasher film at that. With everyone assuming this was the end - after all, the title even suggests the same - there is an urgency and energy here that’s missing from all previous installments. Even better, director Joseph Zito amps up the brutality with the help of a returning Savini. With Corey Feldman poised to be the memorable nemesis to this crazed killer’s unstoppable slaughter, a classic battle between good and evil emerges - and the ending is one horrific hack and slash set-piece. If it really were the finale, it would have been a great one.

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning


Here are some basic cinematic rules - you can’t make a Halloween film without Michael Myers (Part III: Season of the Witch), a Terminator film without a Terminator (Salvation), and you definitely can’t make a Friday the 13th film without Jason Voorhees - and no, a plot twist substitute for same just won’t work. Director Danny Steinmann argues that studio interference and MPAA demands (again) disemboweled his proposed “reboot” of the series. Perhaps the lame script, lousy acting, and supreme lack of gore gave said corporate interference a run for its mediocrity money. Whatever the case, this is perhaps the worst entry in the entire fright franchise.

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives!


Tom McLaughlin stands as the J.J. Abrams of the Friday the 13th series. Brought in to resuscitate what looked like a dead cinematic staple, the filmmaker injected the return of Jason (in a new, novel “zombie” form) with enough black humor and directorial flare to compensate for the previous entries’ lack of excitement. Even the opening, which sees our main monster resurrected by a stray lightning bolt, is giddy in its goofball Frankenstein allure. With a tone that sets it apart from other Fridays, and acting that redefines the term Method, this is what all sequels to the slasher genre should be - fun and flashy.

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood


Groan. After leaving Jason at the bottom of a lake to basically be nibbled away at by trout, Part VII producers had to find a way to get him back on shore and slicing away. Sadly, they chose a ridiculous Carrie-lite narrative involving a girl with telekinesis. Toss in an unethical shrink, a group of obnoxious teen partiers, enough pot references to choke Bill Maher, and an ending that makes about as much sense as any other Friday entry and you’ve got nothing but scare flick stupidity. At least the last act psychic showdown between our heroine and Jason has some spark…some.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan


It’s a decent idea - transport our hockey masked horror to the Big Apple and let him murder a few New Yorkers in the process. Unfortunately, Jason goes about his ripper road trip via a boring ass cruise filled with graduating high schoolers. Yawn. There is nothing really wrong with the boating material. It’s the same old MPAA hampered violence. But once Big J gets to the center of modern culture, this all gets wonky - VERY wonky. The ending remains one of the biggest head scratchers in the entire history of the series - and that included Crispin Glover’s “dance” sequence from The Final Chapter.

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday


In which our icon goes demonic - and immortal - and stupid. Before, we could support a pissed off adult Jason. We even bought the undead fun of his zombie counterpart. But turning our hulking figure of menace into a small prosthetic beastie that “invades” the bodies of others? Huh? We come to Friday the 13th for slashing and high body counts, not voodoo shapeshifting nonsense. Sadly, the promised trip to Hades also doesn’t do very much for the fan. It’s rather flaccid and ends up playing out like exactly what it is - a poorly realized and though out plot point.

Jason X


Here is the true ‘love it or hate it’ entry in the Jason mythos. Ignoring practically everything that’s happened since Part VI, we get a futuristic twist on the whole serial killer concept. While it’s a kick to see David Cronenberg as an angry bureaucrat eager to use our icon’s “limitless regenerative powers” for his own illicit purposes, the rest of the film offers up an Aliens rip-off with Mr. Hockey Mask as the resident xenomorph. In between futile firefights and lots of android titillation, we get a Jason 2.0 that’s part monster, part machine. Too bad the rest of the movie is all crap.

Freddy vs. Jason


YES! Finally, someone gets the basics of both Mr. Voorhees and Master Krueger, Esq. Instead random joking and uneven mythology, Hong Kong action king Ronny Yu just unleashes these monsters and lets them do what they do best - murder tons of innocent people. This is a literal bloodbath, the kind of carnal display that will make gorehounds happy while satisfying even the most discerning fright flick purist. From the novel way they get these two together to the last act stand-off that’s nothing but pure knock down drag out horror heaven, this was the best installment in the series…that’s right, was, until:

Friday the 13th 2009


If Sean Cunningham is responsible for giving birth to this monumental scary movie franchise, Marcus Nispel should be given credit for forcing it to finally grow up. Removing all the stilted trappings of previous installments, and focusing instead on the unbridled cruelty of a disfigured man on a homicidal rampage, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake director delivers the kind of hardcore terror this franchise has sorely lacked. This is what Jason Voorhees was always meant to be - focused, unyielding, determined…and very, very deadly. If you want your slasher fare with an ample amount of comedy and carnality, look elsewhere. This is the moment when Jason became the monster he was supposed to be - and it’s mesmerizing. (Our full review of the Friday the 13th 2009: Killer Cut Blu-Ray can be found HERE).

by Bill Gibron

2 Jun 2009

A recent thread in a DVD site discussion board got me thinking about actors I’d like to see elevated to superstar status. You know the drill - beyond b-movie badass-dom or cult icon consideration. The names that come to mind are many - Bruce Campbell, Jeffrey Combs, Ted Levine - but none are as fascinating as Lance Henriksen. Known now for his dark, broody turns and his genre giant status, the 69 year old character actor has one of the more intriguing backstories in all of Tinsel Town. Born to a poor family, he dropped out of school when he was 12. He didn’t learn to read until he was 30 (that’s right - Henriksen was illiterate for most of his early adult life) and graduated from the prestigious Actor’s Studio in New York. Outside of work, he’s an accomplished artist and master potter, and some of us are lucky enough to own tea cups hand thrown by the man himself.

As for his work in films, fans who look carefully will see Henriksen as one of the technicians helping aliens make first contact in Steven Spielberg’s masterful Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and he turned up in other seminal post-modern efforts like Dog Day Afternoon, Network, and Prince of the City. By 1983, he found himself playing one of the fabled Mercury astronauts (Wally Schirra) in Phillip Kaufman’s excellent adaptation of Thomas Wolfe’s space race chronicle, The Right Stuff. But it was James Cameron who truly elevated Henriksen’s performer profile. Originally tagged as the cruel killing machine known as the Terminator in the 1984 hit, producers balked at letting the seemingly unknown thespian take on the lead. While a certain sitting Governor became the iconic villain, Henriksen was relegated to the role of wise cracking cop Hal Vukovich.

But Cameron didn’t forget his favorite passed-over player. Casting Henriksen as Bishop, the benevolent android in his sequel to Alien, Aliens, he found a unique way to make the man into an action hero after all. Yet something odd happened around 1986. Henriksen had been working steadily, taking on roles in such mainstream movies as Jagged Edge, but he suddenly started finding a kind of easy direct to video acceptability which gave him unlimited access to numerous below the radar projects. While he elevated independent horror gems like, The Horror Show, Near Dark, and Pumpkinhead, he was, by the ‘90s, turning into a solid schlock legend. Sure, he had a commercial cache that lead to work in Sam Raimi’s The Quick and the Dead and Disney’s Tarzan, but it wasn’t until Chris Carter’s X-Files follow-up, TV’s Millennium, that Henriksen flirted with household name acknowledgment.

Sadly, after three seasons - two of which stand as some of the best television has/had to offer - the serial killer series was cancelled, and with it, the possibility of the actor making the leap back into the A-list. This isn’t to suggest that Henriksen has since found it difficult getting work. A look at his Wikipedia and IMDb pages proves the man can clearly get cast. But the titles he’s been associated with are inconsistent at best, from big budget bullcrap like Alien vs. Predator, to low budget nonentities like Sasquatch Mountain and Dark Reel. Even within the most miserable moviemaking dynamic, however, Henriksen soars. He’s the kind of reliable lynchpin that can turn your turgid tale of zombies/vampires/monsters/murders/insert supernatural threat here into something semi-cogent and coherent.

Oh, he still gets the callback to the big time now and then. Ed Harris, an old pal from way back when, offered Henriksen a juicy role in his old fashioned Western Appaloosa and the z-movie maverick more than held his own with celebrated co-stars Viggo Mortensen and Jeremy Irons. In fact, he was so good, that his return to tripe like Alone in the Dark II appeared counterproductive. Now there is nothing wrong with an actor working. Indeed, many in the peripheries of the profession would give their right arm, left leg, and first born child to have the kind of career Henriksen manages. But as he continues to cultivate a direct to digital film façade, it looks like standard Tinsel Town talents are merely overlooking this amazing man.

And that’s a shame, because if anyone can act rings around today’s so-called dramatic superstars, it’s Henricksen. He can out attitude DeNiro and put that showboating shill Pacino in his place. He’s got a classic old school façade that makes him perfect for paternal roles, and he is also equipped with enough late in life electricity to be an excellent over the hill rogue. In fact, when one looks at his overall oeuvre, when they see him effortlessly move between thrillers and juicy genre fare, evil incarnate to voice-over work for kiddie cartoons, it’s clear that Henriksen is our greatest living actor. The fact that no one wants to challenge him on said ability is sad. He is more than happy to elevate a first time filmmaker’s lousy goofball ghost story. He’ll gladly champion some no-name hack’s hideous scary movie mung. Imagine what he could do with someone like Christopher Nolan or David Fincher on his side. It boggles the mind. 

So here is your challenge, so called smarter-than-us suits in Hollywood - give Lance a chance! That’s right, drop your agent-mandated list of go to guys and give this fright flick fixture a shot at the solid social superstardom he so richly deserves. Some would argue that he is already there, a recognizable name and famous face that few actually remember but most never forget. In a realm which can chew up and spit out a talented little twinkie, turning them from above the marquee to up the river in a single cinematic season, Henriksen has survived - struggled by survived. Now, as he enters his 70th year, he should become what he so richly deserves to be: an acknowledged master of his craft and a well-paid, well-placed personality. Again, he really is all of those things, just not to the oblivious free market moviegoer. It’s time to let the rest of the artform’s aficionados know we we’ve been saving for decades. Lance Henriksen is a giant and a true movie star. It’s time to start treating him like one.

by Bill Gibron

28 May 2009

Thirteen. It seems like an appropriate number for the man who made the Deadites and that fabled Book of the Dead, The Necronomicon, a fright fan household name. Yet ever since he struck professional paydirt with an oddball Western starring a then hot Sharon Stone, Sam Raimi has wondered away from his horror roots. Over the course of the next ten years, he made two thillers, a baseball themed drama, and then literally re-invented the post-millennial popcorn comic book superhero blockbuster with his Spider-man movies. But now, after 15 years in a macabre-less cinematic stasis, Raimi is back. His latest scare statement, the amazing Drag Me to Hell, manages the next to impossible - it readily reminds us of why we fell in love with the man and his anarchic directorial style in the first place while pushing his skills forever forward. Same may call it a return to form, but from the way this movie works, it’s clear that Raimi never really left his love of dread behind.

Still, when one looks over his oeuvre, concentrating only on his feature films, it’s hard to get a handle on which Sam Raimi will be remembered. There are literally millions of fans who never knew he had a horror hound past. For them, Raimi is the man who brought Peter Parker and a myriad of web-slinger icons to life. For others, however, his career ended back when Bruce Campbell failed to properly utter the classic sci-fi mantra “Klaatu Barada Nikto” and wound up in a post-apocalyptic wasteland (look it up). In light of such a drastic dichotomy, SE&L has decided to take the 13 works in Raimi’s creative canon and rate them, worst to best. Of course, by its very nature, the list will be unfair. Can you really grade the wonders of The Evil Dead against the spine-tingling chills of A Simple Plan? Does the same filmmaker really exist in both Spider-man III and Crimewave?

//Mixed media


Stevie Wonder Takes a Knee as Green Day and Others Also Speak Out at Global Citizen Festival

// Notes from the Road

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