Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My Science Project (1985) - Fair at Best

On the Menu: MY SCIENCE PROJECT (1985)

Ingredients: John Stockwell, Fisher Stevens, Dennis Hopper, Danielle von Zerneck, Raphael Sbarge, Richard Masur and Barry Corbin. Directed by Jonathan R. Betuel. Run time: 94 minutes. Rated: PG.

At First Bite: I first heard about this movie about three or four years ago from one of my then-coworkers, Paul. It sounded like something fun, so I added it to my Blockbuster queue. And, since my queue is consistently about 5-6 pages long, the DVD finally just made its way to my mailbox.

Michael Harlan (Stockwell) is a slacker, who is going to fail his science class unless he comes up with an amazing project. He's leaning toward something to do with cars since he's obsessed with them.

Looking for all the help he can get, Mike takes Ellie (von Zerneck), the nerdy girl, on a "date" to the old military junkyard. He stumbles upon a glowing device (almost like a plasma globe inside a metallic carrying case) with an affinity for sucking up all the electricity around it, including all the power to Mike's 1968 GTO.

Mike, his buddy, Vince (Stevens), and Ellie take the "gizmo" to their science teacher, Bob Roberts (Hopper). The gizmo goes berserk and sends Mr. Roberts back in time.

If that isn't bad enough, Ellie's even nerdier stalker, Sherman (Sbarge), happens upon the device. While Mike and Vince have been detained by police, the gizmo ends up taking over the high school by rupturing spacetime and introducing mutants, gladiators and dinosaurs to 1985.


Does that mean Mike will still fail science?

Tough to Swallow: It's a silly movie all around. I honestly didn't look to nitpick this one to death. If anything, the acting could have been better, how would anyone believe a teen built the gizmo and why didn't anyone other than the kids notice the school had become the center of a major time warp?

I like John Stockwell. He was Cougar in TOP GUN. He directed BLUE CRUSH (one of my favorite guilty-pleasure movies). He looks the part of a slacker, but, as a lead actor, he's really hard to look at for 94 minutes.

Stevens's one-liners are hit-and-miss.

Something to Chew On: The movie was released August 9, 1985, which was 37 days after BACK TO THE FUTURE hit theaters. WEIRD SCIENCE (Aug. 2) and REAL GENIUS (Aug. 7) were two more sci-fi flicks that beat MY SCIENCE PROJECT to the punch. No wonder I had never heard of it before. Kinda reminds me of everyone seeing BIG enough times to memorize it, but not knowing about VICE VERSA, 18 AGAIN! or LIKE FATHER LIKE SON.

This film was Betuel's directorial debut. Ten years later, he helmed one of the worst movies of all-time: THEODORE REX.

Hopper dons an outfit from EASY RIDER for a scene where Mr. Roberts has been to the '60s.

A line of dialogue references the movie CHRISTINE, which also stars Stockwell.

Several TV shows are referenced, such as "The Flintstones," "Magnum, P.I.," "McCloud," "Kojak" and "The Brady Bunch."

Stevens went on to appear in Tim Robbins's 1992 directorial debut BOB ROBERTS, which sadly had nothing to do with Hopper's science teacher character of the same name.

The film currently has a 5.5 user rating on IMDb.com (1,812 votes).

Sides: There are no special features on the DVD.

Aftertaste: It's an '80s teen sci-fi flick. It's nowhere near as cool as BACK TO THE FUTURE, WEIRD SCIENCE or REAL GENIUS. It's definitely a notch below those although some of the effects are decent. The acting is okay. Stevens is the comic relief and livens things up a little.

I'm not going to say this is a movie you should run out and buy/rent. However, if you're a fan of the genre, I think you'll be entertained despite (or because of) the cheese factor.

I wanted to see it just to say, "I've seen it."

I will say that it might be Hopper's 3rd best film of the '80s behind BLUE VELVET and HOOSIERS.

RIP Dennis Hopper.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) - To Die For


Ingredients: Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Connie Britton, Kellan Lutz and Clancy Brown. Directed by Samuel Bayer. Run time: 95 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: After seeing the midnight premiere of the FRIDAY THE 13TH remake last year, there was no way I was missing out on the midnight showing of the reboot of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. The NIGHTMARE series is, by far, my favorite horror franchise. I grew up watching Parts 3 and 4 over and over again on VHS. I have to say I was severely disheartened to hear someone was remaking the original, but the casting of Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger definitely intrigued me. The dude has come a long way since his Kelly Leak days.

The plot is pretty much the same as before. A group of teenagers are having deadly dreams involving a burnt man in a ratty hat and sweater.

The main difference is our antagonist, Freddy Krueger, was a child molester in his past life and not a child murderer, which was also Craven's original intent.

Why are Nancy (Mara) and her friends, Kris (Cassidy), Jesse (Dekker), Quentin (Gallner) and Dean (Lutz), all having nightmares about the same man, and why is he trying to kill them? 

Tough to Swallow: The one scene I knew I was going to hate before I even walked into the theater was the Freddy-in-the-wall scene. In the original, the bedroom wall was made of latex, so it really looks like Freddy is going to push through. In this movie, it's all CGI, and, in my opinion, it looks awful.

The final scene also has some bad CG blood spurts. Seems odd since producer Brad Fuller has said he hates CG blood. Just like the first film, the final scene here is the weakest of the movie.

On numerous occasions, sounds and music are amped up to create jump scares.

The biggest problem I have with this film is the filmmakers defanged the Nancy character. Mara's Nancy is timid whereas Heather Langenkamp's Nancy was a take-control-and-do-it-herself kinda girl. Remember the original? Nancy was like Macaulay Culkin in HOME ALONE.

Mara is like an Emily Blunt/Alexis Bledel hybrid, but, unfortunately, doesn't have the acting chops of either.

No cameos? Really? 

Something to Chew On: Unfortunately, Wes Craven was not consulted for this remake.

Some CGI is used to create Freddy's burned facial features. The work is done by the same special effects crew that did the CGI for Two-Face's face in THE DARK KNIGHT.

This is Bayer's feature-film directorial debut. His previous directorial works were mostly music videos, e.g. "My Favorite Mistake" for Sheryl Crow, "Stupid Girl" for Garbage, "Mama, I'm Coming Home" for Ozzy Osbourne, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and "American Idiot" for Green Day, "Until It Sleeps" for Metallica, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for Nirvana, et al.

The final script is a combination of 4 different drafts. There were around 15 drafts altogether.

Billy Bob Thornton was considered for the role of Freddy.

John Saxon was offered a cameo, but had to turn it down due to scheduling conflicts.

Filming took 66 days to complete (May 5, 2009 until July 10, 2009).

Six crew members' names appear on the back of a class photo in the film.

Gallner was injured on set when his abdomen was cut by one of the knives on Freddy's glove.

The film's budget was $35 million, and it grossed $32,902,299 in its opening weekend. The entire box office gross for the original 1984 film was $25,504,513.

Haley is contracted for two more NIGHTMARE films. Mara is contracted for one more film.

Warner Bros. wanted the movie to be in 3-D, but producers Andrew Form and Fuller fought against it.

The film currently has a 5.4 user rating on IMDb.com (10,246 votes).

Aftertaste: I'm not a big fan of remakes, especially horror remakes. PSYCHO, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, HALLOWEEN and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET are movies that didn't need reboots. They are classics. Unfortunately, nothing is untouchable in Hollywood when money is involved. Look out POLTERGEIST, HELLRAISER, THE BIRDS, CANDYMAN, ROSEMARY'S BABY and anything by David Cronenberg!

Personally, I'd rather go see the original in a theater than sit through something like Gus Van Sant's PSYCHO or the 2009 version of FRIDAY THE 13TH (and, yes, I did see both of those remakes -- on their opening nights).

However, aside from what I mentioned in the Tough to Swallow section, I left the theater impressed with Bayer's NIGHTMARE.

Aside from the first two films of the series and WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE, Freddy was a jokester that you almost ended up rooting for rather than against. Remember his origin story? He was a child murderer. He's supposed to be scary, not funny.

Some reviewers have written that Haley's Freddy still resorts to one-liners and comes off hokey.

No, see, the intent is creepiness. Take the line, "I'm your boyfriend now, Nancy." In the original 1984 film, Freddy says this over the phone, then the speaker turns into his tongue. Here, Freddy says the line and slowly licks the side of Nancy's face. Which one is hokier?

If anything, you can say most of Freddy's dialogue is creepy-pedophile funny; you're not supposed to laugh.

Another thing that works in this film is the sympathy created for its villain. Did he really mess with those kids? No? Well, it sucks he got trapped in an abandoned warehouse and burned alive.

Whether or not the allegations of molestation are true, you know Freddy is back to seek revenge... in your dreams. And, the dream world is visually breathtaking at times, e.g. the burnt classroom (as seen in the trailer).

The concept of micro-naps, where a character has stayed awake so long that he/she will unknowingly start dreaming while still awake, really keeps you guessing. It's a lot harder this time around to distinguish between reality and a character's dream. Near the end of the movie, there's a scene in a store where Nancy goes in and out of micro-naps within seconds. Freddy swipes at her in the dream and products fly off the shelves in reality. It is actually pretty cool to watch.

Bayer took the memorable scenes from the original and made them his own. The murder-on-the-ceiling scene now involves mostly just mid-air thrashing with Kris being tossed around the room like a rag doll. Most likely, if you remember it from the original, there's an homage to it in this movie. My personal favorite is the new twist on the melting staircase.

In retrospect, Craven's film glossed over Krueger's backstory and focused more on the visuals. I doubt many people inferred that each teen had a sibling who was killed by Freddy, but, according to a deleted scene, that was the idea. Why else would the parents of the current teens have burned him? And, then, why wouldn't Freddy just kill the parents in their sleep?

The 1984 version will always be one of my favorite horror films of all-time, but I do think this is the story Craven should have told. This is easily the 3rd-best movie of the franchise (perhaps tied with the third film DREAM WARRIORS) behind both of Craven's entries.

I really want to see it again on the big screen, but that will now have to wait until it shows up at the $3 theater.

Since we know there are perhaps two more new Freddy films lined up, how about we get to see some cameos from old cast members?

That would be a dream come true.