Tag Archives: Jamie Lee Curtis

Halloween (2018, David Gordon Green)

Halloween never met a MacGuffin it didn’t embrace. Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride, and director Gordon’s script strings together MacGuffins to make the plot. And if it’s not a MacGuffin, it’s something they’re not going to do anything with. With a handful of exceptions, Halloween is usually at least reasonably acted. Sure, everyone lives in a 2018 where smartphones aren’t omnipresent but the screenwriters probably couldn’t figure out how to update the set pieces they lift from previous Halloween sequels for new technology.

Real quick, just because I probably don’t want to dwell on it–Halloween (2018) recreates some of the previous sequels’ thriller or slasher set pieces. It amps up the violence considerably–the film’s nowhere near as violent after it starts homaging the original Halloween as when it’s trudging through its first act mire. These set piece recreations tend to be extraordinarily violent, like Green is trying to set his Halloween–a sequel only to first film–apart from all the sequels. It’s bloodier. It’s meaner. It’s maybe louder. When Green isn’t luxuriating in the physical graphic violence, he uses the sound for off-screen graphic violence. It’s left up to the imagination.

Only not the result, because he always shows the result.

It seems weird, because for a while Halloween seems to at least be pretending it’s serious. But when Jamie Lee Curtis calls Donald Pleasence-stand in Haluk Bilginer “The New Loomis” (Pleasence’s character from previous films, including the original), it’s like Halloween feels comfortable dropping the pretense.

Back to the MacGuffin-filled opening–wait, there’s a third MacGuffin there too–anyway, Halloween opens with Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees as these obnoxious British podcaster producers doing a “Serial” on Michael Myers and the first Halloween. They go see Michael (presumably Nick Castle when he’s got the mask off, but never shown clearly–maybe Green and editor Timothy Alverson’s greatest–and most effective–feat). They bring him into the movie. They go see Jamie Lee Curtis. They mention Judy Greer.

Greer is Curtis’s daughter, who lives in town (the same town from the other Halloween movies because even though both Curtis and Greer suffer from severe mental anxiety and depression, they never want to leave the town). She’s got bland “dad” husband Toby Huss and smart and capable daughter Andi Matichak. Matichak and Curtis ostensibly have a character development arc, but much of it either happens off-screen or when digetic sound is brought over it for effect. The screenwriters avoid the heck out of character for Curtis. With Castle–i.e. what’s happened to the slasher since the slasher movie ended forty years ago–it’s easy. He’s been tied to a stone, silent for forty years. No development whatsoever. Easy.

Curtis, Greer, and Matichak? Not so easy. Greer’s second-billed but barely relevant. She just gets to think her mom is crazy and tell her to get help. Over and over again. Huss should be there to support Greer and he gets more material than her. And, until she’s following in grandma’s final girl footsteps, Matichak gets less than her friends. There’s best girlfriend Virginia Gardner (who’s actually really good), Gardner’s boyfriend Miles Robbins, then Matichak’s boyfriend Dylan Arnold and his bro Drew Scheid.

Matichek gets less to do, outside being hunted by a quinquagenarian masked spree killer, than any of them. The other characters don’t get more development, but at least Gardner and Robbins get stuff to do. Gardner especially. She’s babysitting adorably foul-mouthed near tween Jibrail Nantambu. Another big change in Halloween as it goes on–somewhere in the second act it decides it’s going to do some comedy. The first act doesn’t have any except Hall being a dip and Huss being such a dad.

The frustrating thing about Halloween–not while watching it but while considering it–is how many weird, senseless plotting choices the screenwriters make, apparently for no reason. The film has spared down visuals. Green avoids establishing shots. Possibly because he’s shooting Charleston, South Carolina for mid-sized town Illinois. But probably not. When they’re most important, he’s avoiding them because he’s doing his whole Halloween (2018) is meaner and bloodier and realer.

That tone doesn’t fit with podcasters Hall and Rees. Either they’re jokes, in which case Halloween (2018) is a joke, or they’re serious. But the film kind of wants to take Rees seriously and not Hall. Only Hall’s the noisier one.

With the exception of Curtis, Halloween’s female characters tend to be silent sidekicks to their far less capable male partners. Patton and Curtis know each other–from the first Halloween night–but… it’s not like they get character development. Halloween (2018) doesn’t do character development, because it’s going to deliver an amazing finish. Jamie Lee Curtis vs. Michael Myers, forty years later.

It’s the point of the movie. Curtis has spent forty years arming and training herself to take out Michael Myers. And now she’s going to get to do it.

And the big finale… isn’t boring. It’s dumb. If it weren’t so visually flat, it might be worth some spoof value. Because Halloween (2018) plays like an unaware spoof of itself. Like the screenwriters had something else in mind and Green just sucked the laughs out of it. But Green’s one of the screenwriters.

Halloween (2018) takes itself way too seriously while seeming to know it shouldn’t be taken seriously at all.

Curtis is fine. She and Matichak have potential. She and Patton have potential. The movie explores neither. Matichak’s all right. She’s got very little. Patton’s fine but seems like he should be good. Greer–the movie avoids giving Greer character more than it does Curtis–Greer is hostilely wasted. Like she’s stunt-casted.

The teens–other than Gardner–are all thin, both part and performance; it doesn’t matter.

Gardner’s good. Nantambu’s funny. Not good, but funny.

Technically, nothing leaps out. Green’s direction is fine. It’s never terrible. The script’s weird, but not bad as far as dialogue. Usually. Except the podcasters. And the Donald Pleasence stand-in. Alverson’s editing is good. Simmonds’s photography is flat, visually and in terms of quality. The score–from John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter (yes relation), and Daniel A. Davies–sounds like a Halloween score. Nothing special.

Richard A. Wright’s production design is lacking.

Halloween (2018) is a curiosity. Even though it had the ingredients for something else. Something more. The film’s stunningly unambitious. It’s also passive aggressively hostile to those unfamiliar with the previous movies. While the podcasters fill in a bit, it’s more what’s been happening since the last movie, not what happened in the last movie.

And Curtis gets nothing. Nothing with any of it. Because the script can’t figure out how to make her a protagonist. It can’t figure out a lot of things.

The movie can’t figure out a lot of things. It’s really flimsy and kind of cynical–it’s like a one hundred minute exploration of why you shouldn’t try to make a “serious” movie sequel. To Halloween specifically, but also in general. Again, if it were a spoof–even a dark comedy one–there might be something here.

It’s not. And instead Halloween H40 just a lot of actors wasting their time and some remixed John Carpenter music.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by David Gordon Green; screenplay by Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride, and Green, based on characters created by John Carpenter and Debra Hill; director of photography, Michael Simmonds; edited by Timothy Alverson; music by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel A. Davies; production designer, Richard A. Wright; produced by Malek Akkad, Jason Blum, and Bill Block; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Jamie Lee Curtis (Laurie), Judy Greer (Karen), Andi Matichak (Allyson), Will Patton (Hawkins), Toby Huss (Ray), Haluk Bilginer (Sartain), Rhian Rees (Dana), Jefferson Hall (Aaron), Virginia Gardner (Vicky), Dylan Arnold (Cameron), Miles Robbins (Dave), Drew Scheid (Oscar), Jibrail Nantambu (Julian), and Nick Castle (Shape).


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Halloween: Resurrection (2002, Rick Rosenthal)

Halloween: Resurrection is an exercise in desperation. The film throws reality TV in to ape the found footage zeitgeist without actually committing to the narrative conceit. It’s also chasing some kind of post-American Pie familiarity with the Internet and webcams, only without any actual understanding. It’s exceptionally incompetent.

The film opens with Jamie Lee Curtis, fulfilling a conctractual obligation, crapping all over her work in the previous films (not just the last one she did as a grown woman). The entire thing looks rushed, even though the terribly written sequence is one of the more thoughtful ones. Larry Brand and Sean Hood’s writing is terrible, but that opening sequence is about the only time they try to be respectable.

The rest of Resurrection is idiotic not just in the execution, but in the intention. Until about seventy minutes into the film–I went into the film thinking it was over ninety minutes; it’s actually ten minutes under the advertised length. Then the film becomes this strange, nearly successful mix, in spite of everything.

After twenty or so minutes of cutting between the webcams and third person, David Geddes’s photography gets so bad–it’s bad at the opening, with Geddes and Rosenthal apparently thinking harsh, strong blue lighting is scary–Resurrection almost transcends. It’s almost becomes this commentary on the idea of “reality” in a slasher movie.

But somehow everyone misses it and Resurrection ends terribly, without even bothering to give its disposable characters any arc. It’s exceptionally lazy.

Most of the acting is atrocious. Rosenthal can’t direct actors, but the acting is still bad. Sean Patrick Thomas is probably the worst. Thomas Ian Nicholas isn’t much better. Tyra Banks is awful. But Rosenthal hurts all of them; well, except maybe Thomas.

In the lead, Bianca Kajlich is strangely terrible when trying to perform her role, but fine when just having to be terrified. Similarly, while Busta Rhymes is bad, he should be better. The direction is just wrong. It’s almost like Rosenthal’s intentionally trying to sabotage anything inoffensive in the film.

The only question Resurrection raises is how much Rosenthal hates Halloween?

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Rick Rosenthal; screenplay by Larry Brand and Sean Hood, based on a story by Brand and characters created by Debra Hill and John Carpenter; director of photography, David Geddes; edited by Robert A. Ferretti; music by Danny Lux; production designer, Troy Hansen; produced by Michael Leahy and Paul Freeman; released by Dimension Films.

Starring Jamie Lee Curtis (Laurie Strode), Brad Loree (Michael Myers), Bianca Kajlich (Sara Moyer), Busta Rhymes (Freddie Harris), Sean Patrick Thomas (Rudy), Katee Sackhoff (Jen), Tyra Banks (Nora), Daisy McCrackin (Donna), Luke Kirby (Jim), Thomas Ian Nicholas (Bill), Billy Kay (Scott) and Ryan Merriman (Myles Barton).


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Halloween II (1981, Rick Rosenthal)

Halloween II is not always a crappy sequel set in a closed setting without any sympathetic characters. It is a crappy sequel set in a closed setting without any sympathetic characters. But it wasn’t always.

Even though it gets off to a rocky start–the recap of the first movie is too abbreviated for unfamiliar viewers and superfluous for familiar ones, not to mention director Rosenthal clearly unable to reign in Donald Pleasence’s enthusiasm for histrionics–the first twenty-five minutes has potential.

There’s a lot to blame Rosenthal for with Halloween II. His inability to direct actors or even to compose shots of actors is a big one. He doesn’t have a sense for it; he additionally wastes Dean Cundey’s cinematography skills for the majority of the film, which is one of the film’s greater sins. But there are a handful of decent moments in Halloween II and even a couple good ones. And lots of bad ones with just too many problematic pieces, but not mishandled entirely.

But Rosenthal’s not entirely responsible. Writers and producers John Carpenter and Debra Hill, instead of embracing a bigger budget studio sequel to their indie horror sensation (hyperbolic enough?)–they try to undermine it at every step. That first half hour has potential because you can see Hill and Carpenter thinking about things, thinking about the implications of the first film. In the second two-thirds (at ninety minutes and change, the film almost perfectly splits into three sections), after creating a goofy subplot to give Jamie Lee Curtis something to do besides play unconscious, they stop. They’ve moved into their new story, that crappy one in the closed setting without sympathetic characters. Halloween II is shockingly inept at its characterization.

As such, it’s hard for the supporting cast to give good performances. Gloria Gifford is fantastic. Lance Guest isn’t. Hunter von Leer is simultaneously terrible, miscast and likable. Some of Leo Rossi’s performance is similar. And Pleasence is a complete ham. He’s got maybe one decent moment. Rosenthal just can’t direct him at all.

Carpenter and Alan Howarth’s score is too loud, too thoughtless. The same can be said for the editing.

It’s a bad film but has enough qualities to prove it shouldn’t have been.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Rick Rosenthal; written and produced by John Carpenter and Debra Hill; director of photography, Dean Cundey; edited by Mark Goldblatt and Skip Schoolnik; music by Carpenter and Alan Howarth; production designer, J. Michael Riva; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Jamie Lee Curtis (Laurie Strode), Donald Pleasence (Dr. Sam Loomis), Charles Cyphers (Sheriff Leigh Brackett), Jeffrey Kramer (Graham), Lance Guest (Jimmy Lloyd), Pamela Susan Shoop (Karen Bailey), Hunter von Leer (Deputy Gary Hunt), Leo Rossi (Budd), Gloria Gifford (Mrs. Alves), Tawny Moyer (Nurse Jill Franco), Ana Alicia (Janet Marshall), Ford Rainey (Dr. Frederick Mixter), Cliff Emmich (Mr. Garrett) and Nancy Stephens (Marion Chambers).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED ON BASP | HALLOWEEN II AUDIO COMMENTARY.

Veronica Mars (2014, Rob Thomas)

Rob Thomas loves the "Veronica Mars" television show fans. He must. He pretty much wastes the first act of the feature film (also titled Veronica Mars) thanking them for funding the film's production through Kickstarter. It's worse for star Kristen Bell than the film–both recover, but the film first–as the script's moving her around like a marionette. She doesn't get to do anything for way too long. Instead, she's an entirely passive, narrating protagonist.

Luckily, a lot of Thomas's fan service is amusing. So it allows Mars to coast–something Thomas's direction unfortunately can't do (he's mediocre until the second half)–and the acting is mostly strong. Even when the characters are just there to take up running time.

But coasting isn't enough; Thomas seems to know it because he brings erstwhile leading man (and don in distress) Jason Dohring. The script gives Dohring all the drama and all the layers it doesn't give Bell. Dohring excels. It's in his scenes where Bell starts getting better.

And then, all of a sudden, Mars sheds the dead leaves and starts growing organically. The film still calls back to elements from the show, but Thomas and co-writer Diane Ruggiero give Bell a role to act. They finally let her engage with the story instead of just visiting old friends. Problem solved.

Fine supporting turns from Enrico Colantoni, Ryan Hanson and Gaby Hoffmann. Tina Majorino looks completely lost.

Mars succeeds–almost everything with Bell opposite Dohring or Colantoni is spectacular stuff. It's just rough going at the start.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Rob Thomas; screenplay by Thomas and Diane Ruggiero, based on a story by Thomas; director of photography, Ben Kutchins; edited by Daniel Gabbe; music by Josh Kramon; production designer, Jeff Schoen; produced by Thomas, Danielle Stokdyk and Dan Etheridge; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars), Jason Dohring (Logan Echolls), Krysten Ritter (Gia Goodman), Ryan Hansen (Dick Casablancas), Francis Capra (Eli ‘Weevil’ Navarro), Percy Daggs III (Wallace Fennel), Gaby Hoffmann (Ruby Jetson), Chris Lowell (Stosh ‘Piz’ Piznarski), Tina Majorino (Cindy ‘Mac’ Mackenzie), Jerry O’Connell (Sheriff Dan Lamb), Martin Starr (Lou ‘Cobb’ Cobbler), Ken Marino (Vinnie Van Lowe), Max Greenfield (Leo D’Amato), Eddie Jemison (JC Borden), Jamie Lee Curtis (Gayle Buckley) and Enrico Colantoni (Keith Mars).


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