Tag Archives: Bruce Campbell

Within the Woods (1978, Sam Raimi)

While Within the Woods is well-known as a precursor to The Evil Dead—Raimi has a number of sequences he uses again, once he’s got a budget—it’s more significant for its differences. First, it’s a monster movie. While gory, it has more in common with an old Universal horror picture than it does Evil Dead. Second (and related to the first), it’s Raimi’s only film for many years with a female protagonist. Bruce Campbell’s not the lead here, it’s Ellen Sandweiss.

As a director, some of Raimi’s shots work and some don’t. Once he gets to the horror sequences, he’s more in his element, but he does have some strong material before.

Sandweiss is excellent—even if her last ten minutes is constant screaming—as is Campbell. Mary Valenti’s good, Scott Spiegel isn’t.

It’s an interesting, moderately successful film. It deserves a real release, for Sandweiss’s performance alone.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Written and directed by Sam Raimi; director of photography, Tim Philo; produced by Robert G. Talpert.

Starring Bruce Campbell (Bruce), Ellen Sandweiss (Ellen), Mary Valenti (Shelly) and Scott Spiegel (Scotty).


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Spider-Man 3 (2007, Sam Raimi)

After having two decent Danny Elfman scores similar to his two Batman scores, Raimi brought in composer Christopher Young, who does a terrible job, sure, but also mimics the (non-Elfman) score to Batman Forever. The music in this film makes the ears bleed.

In theory, following the great financial and critical success of Spider-Man 2, Raimi should have been able to do whatever he wanted with this entry. And maybe he did. But if he did, his truest intent for a Spider-Man movie was to make an unbearable one.

It’s real bad. The only thing the film has going for it is James Franco. It ought to have Thomas Haden Church in the plus column too, but the handling of his character is exceptionally bad. Haden Church barely gets any screen time and the film ends without resolving whether his innocent, sickly daughter is going to die or not.

Topher Grace’s villain, the evil Spider-Man, is exceptionally lame. Have I already used exceptionally in this response? I’ll use it again. Just awful, awful writing. Grace is almost mediocre, but can’t essay the character properly; he instills too much sitcom charm.

Tobey Maguire apparently didn’t even bother getting in shape for this one. Raimi gives him an evil mop haircut at one point, for his evil scenes, so the viewer knows he’s bad.

J.K. Simmons is good and Elizabeth Banks finally gets some decent lines.

So it’s not a completely awful film, just extremely close to one.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Sam Raimi; screenplay by Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi and Alvin Sargent, from the screen story by Sam Raimi and Ivan Raimi and based on the comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko; director of photography, Bill Pope; edited by Bob Murawski; music by Christopher Young and Danny Elfman; production designers, Neil Spisak and J. Michael Riva; produced by Laura Ziskin, Avi Arad and Grant Curtis; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Tobey Maguire (Peter Parker/Spider-Man), Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane Watson), James Franco (Harry Osborn), Thomas Haden Church (Flint Marko/Sandman), Topher Grace (Eddie Brock), Bryce Dallas Howard (Gwen Stacy), James Cromwell (Captain Stacy), Rosemary Harris (Aunt May), J.K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jameson), Theresa Russell (Emma Marko), Dylan Baker (Dr. Curt Connors), Bill Nunn (Robbie Robertson), Elizabeth Banks (Miss Brant), Ted Raimi (Hoffman), Perla Haney-Jardine (Penny Marko), Willem Dafoe (Green Goblin/Norman Osborn), Cliff Robertson (Ben Parker) and Bruce Campbell (Maître d’).


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Spider-Man (2002, Sam Raimi)

I wonder what kind of movie Spider-Man would have been if the filmmakers hadn’t been so concerned with a “proper” film post-9/11. I know they added the New Yorkers attacking the Goblin to defend Spider-man and I’m wondering if that American flag ending was another addition… this kind of inane jingoistic nonsense ruins movies, but it can’t ruin Spider-Man. You can’t ruin a picture something else has already fouled.

The big problem isn’t the special effects; it’s the mediocre writing. Besides the atrocious narration, there isn’t a single distinctive bit of writing. Willem Dafoe’s villain arc is terrible, as is Dafoe’s performance.

Another problem is Danny Elfman’s score, which is for a Batman movie.

But there’s not much chance of this film being good with Laura Ziskin producing. She lets Raimi do some Raimi-esque stuff, but not really. All the quirkiness is lip service and there are some really lame conceptual decisions (the Flatiron Building and the Goblin costume come immediately to mind).

Besides Dafoe, the acting is indistinct. Either good, okay or dreadful. Wait, J.K. Simmons is fantastic.

Raimi’s New York is completely absent personality–combined with Don Burgress’s way too crisp cinematography, the film looks like the biggest budgeted Mentos commercial ever.

The CG special effects are often terrible, but a lot of the action set pieces are at least well-composed (the bridge sequence, for example).

While it’s not a complete waste of time, but Spider-Man is a definite failure.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Sam Raimi; screenplay by David Koepp, based on the comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko; director of photography, Don Burgess; edited by Bob Murawski and Arthur Coburn; music by Danny Elfman; production designer, Neil Spisak; produced by Laura Ziskin and Ian Bryce; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Tobey Maguire (Peter Parker/Spider-Man), Willem Dafoe (Norman Osborn/Green Goblin), Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane Watson), James Franco (Harry Osborn), Cliff Robertson (Ben Parker), Rosemary Harris (May Parker), J.K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jameson), Gerry Becker (Maximilian Fargas), Bill Nunn (Robbie Robertson), Jack Betts (Henry Balkan), Stanley Anderson (General Slocum), Ron Perkins (Dr. Mendel Stromm), Michael Papajohn (Carjacker), K.K. Dodds (Simkins), Ted Raimi (Hoffman), Elizabeth Banks (Betty Brant) and Bruce Campbell (Ring Announcer).


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The Evil Dead (1981, Sam Raimi)

For whatever reason, Sam Raimi now has The Evil Dead released in a matted version (to 1.85:1 from 1.37:1). It looks awful.

Raimi’s strength as a director comes from his constantly agitated camera; his static shots are–well, I guess the shots of the sun setting and the moon rising in Evil Dead are cool–mediocre at best. With the improper matte and the utter lack of head room, his static shots become much, much worse.

I haven’t seen Evil Dead in about ten years (I still have the OAR DVD release around and feel like it deserves another look) and I think the ship’s sailed for me. I saw the unrated, NC-17, rated X version. I can’t figure out how the film, with it’s super-cheap special effects, deserves such a rating. It’s cartoon violence.

Things I noticed this time include Theresa Tilly’s terrible scream (wish there was a good synonym for scream starting with t, let me tell you) and Richard DeManincor’s character’s complete indifference to other people.

There’s a lot of other stuff to the picture, sure, but it’s basically all about seeing Raimi’s camera movements. Joseph LoDuca’s score might be the best thing about the film, just because it’s so good, compared to the roughness of everything else.

Campbell does an all right job–definitely the best performance–but everyone’s underwritten here. It’d be impossible to gauge acting talent from Evil Dead.

The last third is unbearably long though. Boring gore. Who knew?

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Sam Raimi; director of photography, Tim Philo; edited by Edna Ruth Paul; music by Joseph LoDuca; produced by Robert G. Tapert; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Bruce Campbell (Ashley J. Williams), Ellen Sandweiss (Cheryl Williams), Richard DeManincor (Scott), Betsy Baker (Linda) and Theresa Tilly (Shelly).


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