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I'm not a film critic, or film maker, or film student. I'm just a random person saying what I think of the movies I watch, so I don't suppose my opinions will carry any weight. But I love to talk about movies. I do hope that folks will see what I've said about some film they liked (or disliked) and will share their own opinions, and we can discuss them. All comments are welcome, provided you've got an LJ ID (which is free, after all).
I've established a rule for this diary, and it's that the impressions I write about must be fresh. If I don't write about a movie within 48 hours of watching it, then I won't write about it at all until I see it again. So, for example, even though I've seen The Maltese Falcon something like a hundred times, I won't write about it 'til my next re-watch. I want this diary to be as much about experience, and as little about memory, as possible. Also, since this is intended for my personal use, it's gonna be spoiler-heavy. Seriously, there are gonna be spoilers just raining off of this thing. I can't stress this enough:

There will be MANY spoilers,

and you will NOT be warned.


So if you haven't seen a movie I'm talking about, you might possibly not want to read that entry. Okay?


May 1, 2013

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My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

I'm still pretty new to anime. I grew up with Star Blazers, but didn't even realize it was Japanese at the time. I just recognized that it was a highly unusual style, and was surprised later in life to see other things that looked like it. Somehow anime never got a hold on me, even though I loved some western cartoons that were clearly influenced by it (The Powerpuff Girls and Samurai Jack remain among my all-time favorite shows). I just never really exposed myself to it.
In 2012 I decided to rectify this, and the obvious place to start was watching Akira. I respected it very much as a work of art, even enjoyed it, but it didn't really connect with me. I followed that up with a couple of well-regarded television shows that I didn't really like at all, and eventually decided that anime wasn't for me. I delayed the project, figuring I'd eventually return to it, but I'd lost some enthusiasm.
But there was a thing in the back of my head. Ian Loring, who I've mentioned before as one of the hosts of 35mm Heroes and Dude and a Monkey, is a reviewer whose opinion I very much respect. For several years now he's talked about Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro as the first film he would ever watch with his children once he got around to having some (and his wife has just given birth to their first as I write this, so grats to them). Meanwhile, here in the States, my best friend's wife last year gave birth to their first child. Her first birthday is coming up and I was wondering what I should get her for the occasion, and thought I'd check this movie out as a possible gift on Ian's recommendation. I hoped for something unusual, sweet, and perhaps a bit silly.
My Neighbor Totoro is definitely all of those things, but to a much greater degree than I expected. Bits of it are quite silly, and in fact the movie sometimes seems to be set in a completely different world from the one we live in. The whole thing is indescribably sweet, every second of it. Sometimes it's just sweet and lovely, like the scene in the rain at the bus stop. Sometimes it's sweet and painful, like Mei (the younger girl, about four years old) running off to take the corn she's picked to her mother, hoping it will save her. Sometimes it's sweet and funny, like when Satsuki (the older girl, about nine or ten) and Mei frighten away the “dust bunnies.” But it's always sweet; I watch the entire movie with a smile on my face, and often slightly misty-eyed as well. So, as to its being unusual, it's unusual mostly in that I think it might be the best children's movie I've ever seen.
First of all, it just looks amazing. The exteriors are gorgeous, as if the characters are walking through an impressionist painting. These are landscapes by Monet, or perhaps Cézanne, and you feel like Miyazaki sat and painted each individual frame with a brush (as, in fact, he might have done). Brilliant colors, hazy boundaries, and heavy shadows abound. Interiors, meanwhile, are much sharper, more in the style of mid-Disney and slightly less to my taste, but still lovely. And then the characters are drawn in a style that is very much what I expect from anime: distinctive (each character has his or her own look) and very expressive. I love the exaggerated facial expressions. I'm enchanted, in particular, every time Mei puts on her brave, determined face, as when she hunts the soot spreader, or sets off for the hospital.
And the story is perfect, in that there sort of isn't a story. There's no plot, no antagonist, nothing to be overcome or defeated. There is no climax or denouement. There is no moral to this story. We just have these two young sisters, and their mother is very sick and the family has moved to the country to be nearer the hospital where she's staying, and they're worried about her, but they're also caught up in all the wonder of discovering their new surroundings, and it's just a few months in their lives. Their lives, though, are the way we want to remember childhood. These are the children we wish we'd been, or would like one day to have, cheerful and unquenchable and devoted, full of love and wonder and curiosity. Their father, too, is the sort of parent we'd all wish to be, wise and patient and insightful, always knowing the right thing to say.
I'm not going to get into discussing every little thing about the movie that I love, because this would end up being a 10,000 word essay, so I'll just sum it up into a few very general phrases. The characters are perfectly written, with each thought and emotion fully realized. The girls (and Kanta, the boy who has a crush on Satsuki) are in no way dumbed down, and yet are instantly recognizable as authentic children with believable reactions and motivations, not simply little adults. The art (as I mentioned) is flawless, and the fantasy elements fit so smoothly into the story that the viewer can totally believe in them, which is helped by the fact that the father never treats the girls' stories about the things they've seen as lies or jokes or delusions. The movie is full of tiny things, throwaway things that could easily have been glossed over, and yet Miyazaki clearly took care to see that even these little things (Mei's dry but tear-streaked face when she comes to Satsuki's school, for instance, or Kanta riding sideways on a bike that is too large for him) were well-executed. Also, I love living in the City, but if I ever move to the country I want to live in this family's house. It's a gorgeous set.
Let me sum up like this: movies in general, and children's movies in particular, are so often simply entertaining (if they can manage even that), but Miyazaki has created a genuine work of art here. I've never seen any of his other films, but even if all the others are ordinary he's a genius, because only a genius could have created this. If you haven't seen My Neighbor Totoro you really should, but more important if you have young children you simply MUST show this to them. My decision as to my friend's daughter's birthday present is suddenly very easy, and I'll be screening more Miyazaki movies soon; I suspect that she'll be getting these as presents for years to come.

BEST THING ABOUT THE FILM: Tough call, but I have to go for the Cat Bus. Actually, it's an indication of how great the human relationships in this movie are that I haven't really even gotten into the fantasy characters in this essay. Totoro is cool, and the dust bunnies, and the little Totoros, but I really wish I could ride on that bus.

WORST THING ABOUT THE FILM: There's only one bad thing about this movie, and it's the music over the opening and closing credits. Good heavens, that's awful (to be fair, Japanese pop music in the eighties was even worse than it was in the States). The score during the film itself is mostly a mix between electronic updates of traditional Japanese music and Western-style chamber music, which suits it perfectly, and while it occasionally slips into these weird synth-sax passages during action sequences, you don't notice them too much because of what you're seeing. Those opening and closing bits, though, are pretty bad, with the opening the worse of the two. But it's only the first and last moment of the film, and everything in between is brilliant, so I can bear it.

SCORE: 9/10. I have a long-standing policy, from well before I started this blog, that I don't give any movie ten stars on a first watch, or soon after. It's easy to get caught up in how much you enjoy a film and to not notice its flaws until later. So for right now I'll grade this just close to perfect. Tomorrow I'll mail it back to Netflix, and then when my tax refund comes in a couple of weeks I'll buy it and watch it again before giving it that last point, but it's hard to imagine it won't move up. Aside from the opening and closing music, I can't think of a single way in which this film could be improved.
EDIT: Yeah, totally gave it the last point. Just utterly charming. 10/10. (3/4/14)

LISTS: #9 on my Favorites of the Eighties.

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The World's End (2013)

Just in the interests of full discolusure let me make this statement right off the bat: Shaun of the Dead gets my vote as the best film of the 21st century, and my reverence for Spaced is nearly as high. I adore Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and while I'm not under any illusions that they can do no wrong, I do contend that they can do no wrong while they've got Edgar Wright watching over them.
So I came to The World's End with a great deal of excitement, but also some trepidation. I didn't want to be let down, you know? Intellectually I know it isn't going to be another Shaun, but inevitably there's a bit of my brain that's thinking, “Oh, there's a new Shaun coming out!” and that's kind of hard to ignore. I kept telling myself that if it was just as good as Hot Fuzz I would be happy.
Our set-up is pretty simple: Gary King (Simon Pegg) used to be the ringleader of the youth in the little town of Newton Haven. We open on a now-middle-aged Gary telling his therapy group about a night when he tried to do a twelve-stop pub crawl with his gang of friends: Andy (Nick Frost), his best friend; Steven (Paddy Considine), the rival to the throne; Oliver (Martin Freeman), the uptight and ambitious geek; and Peter (Eddie Marsan), the younger boy who tags along with everything the gang does. On the original night the boys only made it through nine pubs, so Gary decides to get the gang back together for another try. Unfortunately, in the course of the evening, they uncover an invasion by alien robots, or "blanks." Easy enough.
The opening montage is pretty good, but I actually like what comes right after better, the start of the story proper, where Gary is going to the guys, talking them into doing the pub crawl. It's funny, but more than that it tells us absolutely everything we need to know about Gary: that he's always got a comeback, that he can't be reasoned with, that he's impervious to anything anyone else says. “Do you know your problem, Gary? You're never wrong,” Andy complains, to which Gary replies, “How is that a problem?”
It sets up the way the other guys look at him well, also. Peter is a little reluctant, but clearly still has a bit of a hero-worship thing going on, and is somewhat under Gary's spell. Steven is determined not to be pushed around by Gary, keeps dropping little lines attempting to assert his superiority, but somehow ends up getting dragged along in Gary's wake anyway. Oliver is sort of detached, telling himself that he's coming along for ironic enjoyment, to see how screwed up things are going to get. I get the impression that this is roughly how their relationship worked as kids, as well. Andy, of course, is the exception, because his relationship with Gary is the one that has really changed, but otherwise it's a pretty econimcal set-up for the characters, past and present.
I do have to ask a question at this point, though....why on Earth does Andy believe Gary's line about his mother's death? There can't be anyone else who knows Gary that would believe that story. He's so clearly someone who will say anything to get his way. It's a bit of a weak point, but since it gets the story going I'm prepared to forgive it.
As with all of Wright's movies, there's a ton of foreshadowing at the beginning of the movie. Practically everything anybody says, practically every image we see, will come back later in the film. Actually, Wright plays with this a little bit, having a few obvious bits that don't pay off. The scene where the guys meet at the station and Oliver says that Gary will outlive them all grabbed me the very first time he said it. “Oh, everybody's gonna die and Gary will die last, or be the only survivor!” But immediately after that comes the discussion of the Musketeers, with Gary saying that there should have been five so that two could die and they'd still have three, and that's pretty obvious as well, isn't it? So I started trying to figure out which three would live. It was easy to figure that Pegg and Frost would be two, so which of the other three? Freeman was the obvious choice just from a casting standpoint, as a much bigger star than either Marsan or Considine, but since we know from the opening montage that Steven made it to the end of the original night it had to be him. Also, I submit that Frost's “Are we there yet?” in that conversation is the best use of that tired old line ever.
Anyway, it might be fun to comb through this movie and write down every tiny bit of foreshadowing and recurring dialog, but that would run to the tens of thousands of words and this isn't a good spot for it. I mostly mention it because one criticism I've heard about this movie is that there's too much repeated dialog, and that annoys me. “Repetitive” is a word I hear a lot in discussions of The World's End, but I love the running jokes in this; in fact, that's very much the point of the movie, and is always gonna be with a Wright/Pegg script. I don't understand the complaint at all, frankly.
I adore the cast in this. In fact, it might be even better than the main cast of Shaun. Rosamund Pike, who plays Oliver's sister Sam (a love interest both for Gary and Steven), is an actress I've always liked, and it's nice to see her in something I'll actually want to watch again as opposed to, say, Die Another Day. It's not the best part any actress have ever been given, of course. It might just be that I watched this and Frances Ha so close together, and am therefore very much aware of how shallow the female characters of male writers can be, comparing them to Greta Gerwig's Frances. The character is pretty ordinary, but suffers in the comparison. I wish there'd been more here for her, but she's very good with what she's got. Also I like it that she keeps saying “Oh, crumbs!” every time she's surprised. I'm a big Dangermouse fan, and that's very Penfold.
An aside: supposedly Pike was originally cast as Emma Frost in X-Men: First Class, and I want to go on record here saying that she might have given that movie an extra star; she suits the role far better than January Jones. I doubt I'll ever write about that one, since I don't expect to see it again, but I bet I'd be more interested if Rosamund Pike had been in it.
Considine is good as the smart and competent guy who somehow always gets overwhelmed by the force of Gary's personality, and Freeman nearly as good as the detached, ironic, but still irritable Oliver. Marsan is better than either, and in fact I'll go so far as to say I've never seen him better. He really nails that mopey quality, and I wish that Gary had been more obviously protective of him (I do quite like the scene in the opening montage where the bully smacks Peter with his bookbag and Gary stands up for him, but nothing is really made of that).
It was nice to see Nick Frost getting a chance to play a different kind of character. I'm so used to seeing him as a big kid, but he does a really good job as a grown-up, a lawyer wrestling with real-life issues and frustrated at the behavior in his friend that typifies the characters he usually plays. Prior to Spaced Frost wasn't an actor at all, and pretty much his whole career since then has been more or less under the auspices of Pegg and Wright. I'm hoping that after this he'll be on his own. I look forward to seeing what he's got.
Pegg's Gary has been the lightning rod for this film from folks who don't like it. Personally I think he does a great job playing a very nearly unredeemable character, but of course that means that he's a bit unlikeable on a first watch. I saw a lot of myself in Gary, and I think that's why I disliked him so much the first time I saw this, but he has definitely grown on me. I still like Pegg better as Shaun, but I would go so far as to say that I like this portrayal better than Nick Angel in Hot Fuzz. I think he does exactly what the part requires.
As with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, though, the real star of this movie is Wright's direction, and I continue to be amazed at his progression as a filmmaker. In my opinion he's the best director under 40 out there (though as of April 18th that won't be true anymore). He has a real flair for how comedy ought to progress, and how to knit together many tiny threads into an appealing cloth, but what's interesting is that he's become a really solid action director. The opening fight in the bathroom is very well-put-together (the bit where Gary knocks the first robot's head off in particular), but what I really like is when Andy gets up, rips his sweater open, screams “I hate this town,” and lays into the blanks with a pair of stools. Nick Frost, Action Hero, is not something I expected ever to see, but I really like it.
The ending is not all I might have wanted it to be. In the first place, it really bothers me that Gary doesn't get his last pint at The World's End. More than anything else in the film I understood Gary's desire for those twelve drinks, and it feels like a terrible let-down that he only got eleven. Also, I don't get why the blanks leaving sent us back to the dark ages, even if they did provide the know-how for all the digitized connectivity. We already had plenty of technology before they arrived, so shouldn't we at worst go back to the world of the early nineties? No smart phones, but at least cars and radio and, you know, electricity? Allowing for a world-wide EMP that destroyed every circuit on the planet, we know how to make new circuits, right? Even I understand the principle, and I am not a practical-minded man. And the closing monologue from Frost could be better, though I do like the image of Gary wandering the countryside with the robot forms of his old friends, getting in trouble. It's not a terrible ending, but it's a bit jarring coming at the end of a film that otherwise so carefully written and smoothly directed. To be honest, there's nothing I really like after we see Sam, Gary, Andy, and Steven on the hillside watching the town burn. That would have made a great ending, if a bit abrupt, If something had to come after, I wish it had been a better something.
But the ending doesn't spoil the film for me. It just prevents it from being perfect. It's behind Shaun, of course, and behind Scott Pilgrim as well, but it's very much on par with Hot Fuzz, and as with all Edgar Wright films I'm sure I'll like it more upon the many, many re-watches I'm bound to give it.

BEST THING ABOUT THE FILM: Just the relationships between the five boys and, to a lesser extent, Sam. One thing I've heard a lot in reviews of this movie is that it might have been better if it had been just the pub-crawl, without the invasion aspect. I can't agree with that, but I do get it; the movie is at its best when it's just those six people talking. Great writing, and great performances all around.

WORST THING ABOUT THE FILM: The first time I saw this I shouted “Don't let Oliver go to the john alone!” It was obvious that, if the blanks could get any of the boys alone, they'd be assimilated. And then Oliver comes back, no longer drunk, no longer stressed out, no longer angry when the boys make inappropriate remarks about his sister, and very much on Gary's side about not leaving town. It's obvious that Oliver is a blank, but the movie plays that out waaay too long. I mentioned that the ending let me down, and to be honest that's the worst thing, but this happened right in the middle of the movie still being really good and it jars a bit, so I had to mention it.

PUNCH THE AIR MOMENT: When the robot consciousness says “It's pointless arguing with you.” I love the idea of humanity being so stubborn, belligerent, and idiotic that higher races would simply give up on us. It's a beautiful thought, the very antithesis of the sugary Star Trek speeches you'd get once or twice a year about our great potential. I find it far more emotionally satisfying. Also, I'm a big Sisters of Mercy fan and was turned on all movie by Gary's T-shirt, so when the blank version of Gary appears with the choral opening of "This Corrosion" playing...well, that wrecked me a little bit.

SCORE: 8/10. A better ending would have given it a clean nine stars, but you can't have everything. Like I said, I told myself coming in that if this movie was as good as Hot Fuzz it would be a success, and that's what I got. Considering that this year all of my other most-anticipated films have been at least slightly disappointing (outside of The Grandmaster, which I still haven't managed to see), I'm pretty well satisfied with this.

LISTS: #9 on my Favorites of the Teens (so far)

Stoker (2013)

This year has seen two of the greatest Korean directors come to the West to make their first English-language movies. Of Kim Jee-Woon's The Last Stand I can't say anything, because even though I prefer his work to Park Chan-Wook's, I haven't seen The Last Stand yet. I decided it could wait, because whatever I think of their previous work, Park's Stoker is clearly the more interesting of the two films, and I've been eager to see it.
It's easy to look at Stoker and call it a sensual experience, more about sound and visual than story. I think that's true, but it doesn't detract from the story. I don't know that it's terribly deep, or that it will change anyone's life (and if it does, a person whose life is changed by Stoker is probably someone you want to keep in front of you), but it's a coherent, well-told story. Usually when we say that a film is more about the images than the plot we're saying that the plot makes little sense, but that isn't the case with Stoker. The plot is simple but it proceeds naturally, without any missteps or foolishness. It isn't interested in surprising us; the surprises will be audio-visual, rather than plot-oriented. I have no problem with it.
It helps that the film is so well-acted. Matthew Goode, who plays Charlie Stoker, is creepy and charming by turns, as the role requires. His big puppy-dog eyes, his sweet smile, they're extremely sinister. I got the impression early in the film that Park wanted us to suspect that Charlie was some kind of vampire (the movie's title, the fact that Charlie never eats, and we don't see how he kills his first victim), but he pretty clearly isn't one. Still, he would have made a good one.
Nicole Kidman is better as Evelyn Stoker, the widow of Charlie's brother Richard. She's both jaded and wistful; there's a genuine sense of longing from her throughout the picture, a longing for the man she married (Richard had ceased being that man by the time he died), a longing for a good relationship with her daughter, an overarching longing to be cared for. She's a lonely, pointless woman and clearly has been for a long time. I assume that this happened because Richard saw something in their daughter India when she was very young, something that he had also seen in Charlie, and tried to “save” her from her impulses in a similar way to that tried by James Remar's character in Dexter, and he became so caught up in that effort that his relationship with Evelyn suffered. Ever since, she's been trying to matter to someone and has never learned how either to make herself valuable to others, or to value herself.
The big success is Mia Wasikowska as India. I was worried about her coming into the picture; I only knew her as the title character in Tim Burton's poorly-received Alice in Wonderland, and wasn't looking forward to seeing her in this. However, in Stoker she's a real star. It's a genuinely mesmerizing performance. The last time I was as impressed by an actress so young was Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone, and while this doesn't equal that performance, it's remarkable none the less.
But again, the film mostly works as a sensual experience. I love the sound in particular. In the opening scene we hear India's voiceover, saying that she can hear things that most people can't, and the sound mix constantly reminds us of how important sound is to her. We hear the footsteps of the spider crawling up her stocking, the heightened sound of the pencil being sharpened, Charlie's “See you soon” at the funeral. At the dinner table, when she and Charlie are sitting alone and he slides his wine glass across to her, that's the loudest glass of wine I've ever heard drunk. I love the scene where she's rolling the egg around on the table, listening to the shell cracking, or where she leaves the metronome running and can hear it all the through the house, timing her movements to it as she climbs the stairs, as she makes snow angels on her bed. The sound in this film is actually more compelling than the visuals.
And that's really saying something, as the visuals are both beautifully-done and intellectually interesting. Obviously there are gorgeous shots that don't require much thought, In particular there's one where a scene of India brushing Evelyn's hair turns into a flashback of India and her father hunting, visualized by Kidman's copper-colored hair transforming into tall grass that is amazing to see. You don't have to think to appreciate the film, but there seem to be rewards in figuring out the subtleties in Park's presentation. I'm still trying to figure out some of the camera movements in the film that seem to indicate a first-person perspective even though they don't. It'll stand some figuring out. I doubt that Park did that accidentally.
Park tells his story as much through these visual cues as through dialog. Take the scene in the classroom where the students are meant to be doing a still-life of a vase of flowers, and it turns out that India is actually doing the design inside the vase rather than the outside that everyone else sees. What does that tell us about India? Again, that she sees things that others don't. It's a subtle reinforcement of that opening voice-over. The whole movie is full of little clues.
The best scene in the whole movie, in my opinion, has no dialog in it at all. India is playing piano, and Charlie comes in and sits down next to her and begins to play along. Very simple, but it's one of the best sex scenes I've ever seen in a film, and there's no sex in it. By comparison Charlie and Evelyn making out to “Summer Wine” or India masturbating in the shower seem pretty pale.
I also like the bit where India comes home in the rain to find the umbrella hanging on the gate. Charlie offered it to her as she left, saying it was going to rain, and she ignored him. She also doesn't take it when she sees it on the gate. Charlie is attempting to be a shepherd for her, and she won't be herded. It's a running theme of their relationship. Charlie pays some lip service to treating her as an equal, sure. The scene on the stairs during her father's memorial service where Charlie says he'll be staying for a while, but that he wants it to be India's decision as well, for instance. But he can be insistent when she demurs. The last thing he ever says is an order: “India, come here! Now!” Charlie has come home seeking her companionship, but it's clear that he wants to be both father and lover to her. By the end of the movie she wants neither. She wants to belong to herself.
That's why it isn't surprising when India kills Charlie at the end. I believe she's fascinated by him, and the film does start with her talking about wanting to be rescued. When she first realizes what Charlie is she's attracted to him, and I think she means to go away with him when he first suggests it, but she knows that if she does she'll have to follow his path, and she would rather follow her own. In retrospect Charlie's death seems inevitable, as in fact do all the deaths in the film.
What's more interesting to me, and seems not at all inevitable, is the death that doesn't take place. Not Pitt, who dies in the original script but survives the movie, but Evelyn. Why does India spare her? She doesn't seem to have any genuine affection for her, and furthermore has just received a pretty scalding lecture from her. You might reasonably expect her to be feeling resentment after hearing it, if she feels anything at all. On the other hand, though she's clearly trying to hurt India, Evelyn seems more pathetic in that moment than anything else. “India, who are you? You were supposed to love me, weren't you?” Evelyn is very much still a child, and India has become a woman with Charlie's death. Perhaps she thinks that particular murder would be beneath her. Perhaps it was Evelyn's request to Charlie that he take her instead of India, if we can see that as her attempting to sacrifice herself to protect her daughter (I'm torn as to whether she's protecting India, upset that neither of them wants her, envious that he prefers India to her...). However India interpreted that conversation may have affected her somehow, but I don't understand her forbearance in this scene. If someone would like to explain it, I'm listening.

BEST THING ABOUT THE FILM: I've already gone on at some length about the sound in this, but on top of that the music is magnificent. Clint Mansell is really coming into his own now. He's been doing good work for Darren Aronofsky for years, of course, and his Requiem for a Dream score is rightly highly regarded, but in just the past few years, with Moon, Black Swan, and now this, he's established himself as the best in the business, in my opinion. Also, the song “Becomes the Color” by Emily Wells that plays over the last scene and the credits is perfect. I love it when a movie ends with just the right song. That's a star all by itself, really.

WORST THING ABOUT THE FILM: Aside from not understanding why Evelyn is still alive at the end I have no real problem with the movie, so I guess it has to be that. But it doesn't trouble me much.

SCORE: 9/10. I think this is the best 2013 movie I've seen so far, by a fairly wide margin. Furthermore I'll have to agree with fatpie42 and say that it's Park's best work. As much as I love Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and appreciate Oldboy, I found neither of them as moving or as artistically rewarding as this one.

LISTS: #4 on my Favorites of the Teens (so far)

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The Great Gatsby (2013)

Coming into 2013 I had a list of films that I thought had a real shot at being my favorite movie of the year. Because I haven't been able to get to theaters much, I've watched only Now You See Me, which I enjoyed but nowhere near as much as I hoped to. I haven't yet gotten to Stoker, The Grandmaster, Much Ado About Nothing, Pacific Rim, or The World's End, which appear to be the main contenders (barring a few dark horses like Only God Forgives or Europa Report). At this moment, my favorite film of 2013 is probably the Evil Dead remake, and while that's a fun little picture, if it ends the year at the top of the list 2013 will have been a desperate failure.
The one I was really looking forward to, the one I was sure would be my favorite, was Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby. It was by far my most-anticipated movie of the year. I know that Luhrmann is known as a style-over-substance guy, but to be fair, I'm sometimes a style-over-substance guy myself. I loved his Romeo + Juliet when it came out, and I enjoyed Moulin Rouge, which is a bit of an accomplishment in itself because it's a movie I should have hated. Gatsby seems like the kind of story Luhrmann can tell maybe better than anyone else, but what really put it over the top for me was the casting of Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role. I've been saying for years that he was born to play Jay Gatsby, and he was finally getting his shot. Having Carey Mulligan, one of my favorite actresses, and Toby McGuire along for the ride was just icing on the cake.
I finally got to watch it last weekend, and I've been thinking about it a lot in the week since, trying to decide how I felt about it, and the principal feeling I keep coming back to is disappointment. It is nowhere near as good as it should have been.
DiCaprio is good, but I kind of had this feeling throughout the movie that he wasn't playing Jay Gatsby. Instead, he was playing Orson Welles playing Jay Gatsby. At his first moment at the party, where he shakes Nick's hand and the voiceover is talking about his smile, I thought, “That's Orson Welles' smile,” and DiCaprio never swayed me from that opinion. I couldn't really say it troubled me, but I was constantly aware of it.
Mulligan had to play Daisy, a thankless task. Daisy is one of the less likeable characters in American fiction, selfish and careless and shallow. Luhrmann and Mulligan seem to have decided to try to give her some warmth, and to an extent that works, but it ends up robbing her of any character. She seems to have no volition, no motivation. She's a charming and beautiful doll, no more capable of thought or complex feeling or making her own decisions than if her head were filled with straw.
Of course, to portray her this way, they had to take her completely out of the story after the death of Myrtle (Isla Fisher, who is somehow both under-served by the part and not very good in it). From that moment we never hear a complete line of dialog from her, just hints of phrases now and then, drowned out by ambient noise and other voices. We get no more closeups of her face, either. Luhrmann can't show her reaction, since she feels remorse neither for the crime itself nor for the fact that Gatsby took the blame for it and has been murdered because of it. He doesn't want us to see her as heartless, but the result is that she's just...blank. Gatsby's love for her is the single most important aspect of the story they're telling, and we never get why he loves her at all. How could anyone love her? Be charmed by her, sure. Fall for her briefly, of course; she's Carey Mulligan. But love her? Never.
Of course, the fact that Gatsby's love for her is the most important aspect of this story is in itself damning. This is supposed to be a story about class, about the cluelessness and casual cruelty of the wealthy, yet for some reason Luhrmann mostly ignores it. Sure, we see Tom (Joel Edgerton) treat a few “lesser” people as props and devices, but even that's mostly glossed over. During the confrontation in the hotel between Gatsby and Tom it finally comes out a bit, but it's still underdone and is, in any case, too little too late. F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel is a political work, an indictment of the wealthy, a statement on the inequality of American society. Luhrmann misses that whole text completely.
So what, though, right? We knew coming in that Luhrmann isn't a storyteller, and while it's clear that he doesn't have even a Cliff's Notes-level understanding of the story, the story isn't supposed to be the main thing. It's supposed to be visual, tactile. It's supposed to be about luxury, opulence, the decadence of the Roaring Twenties. For a style-over-substance guy, Long Island in 1922 is as obvious a setting as the fin-de-siècle Paris of Moulin Rouge.
So how does Luhrmann get the style so wrong? Well, principally, by not having real style. Almost all of the sets in this movie are computer-generated, and obviously so. In places that works, giving a dreamlike quality to the surroundings that the characters (who often blur into the backgrounds, so heavy-handed are the effects) move through, adding a layer of unreality to Gatsby's world which is, in fact, unreal. From a narrative standpoint that makes sense, then, but it still looks terrible. And during Myrtle's death scene it goes so far into the fantastic that I felt like I was watching the long-rumored Sin City sequel. It was literally cartoonish. I found myself starving for anything at all to look real, just for a minute.
Not everything about the movie was terrible, of course. There was actually quite a lot to like here. McGuire is exactly what Nick ought to be, and Edgerton is extremely strong (meaning, of course, extremely hateful) as Tom. Hell, DiCaprio and Mulligan weren't actually bad, they just weren't what I wanted. Unfortunately, none of the supporting cast distinguished themselves, except perhaps for Elizabeth Debicki. I was looking forward to seeing Adelaide Clemens again. I've been wanting to find out whether or not she can actually act since her not-great-but-better-than-the-film-deserved performance in Silent Hill Revelation. I'm still wondering. There just wasn't anything for her to do.
The score, which was my principal worry coming into the film, turned out okay. I still wish they had used period music from the most exciting period of American music, rather than Jay-Z's approximation of it, but the fact is that I like Jay-Z and he did a decent, though not outstanding, job here. The ballroom scenes were exactly the kind of excess I enjoy. The frame of Nick writing about the events of that summer from some time in the future, allowing Luhrmann to use some of Fitzgerald's excellent prose, works surprisingly well given that it doesn't make sense...everybody knows that Nick Calloway didn't write The Great Gatsby.
But overall I really feel let down. This is just such a tragic missed opportunity. Luhrmann had a great story with the perfect leads, and instead of using them he just masturbated for two and a half hours. Thirty minutes in I almost turned it off, and actually said out loud, “Man, I hate this movie.” As it went on it pulled me in to some extent, but I never shook that first impression.

BEST THING ABOUT THE FILM: The scene at the hotel. It's actually extremely well-done, with DiCaprio, Mulligan, and Edgerton all giving it everything they have. In context, though, it just reminds us of how great this movie might have been.

WORST THING ABOUT THE FILM: The endless CGI. Jesus, Baz, you've got plenty of money. Build a fucking set!

SCORE: 4/10. Perhaps that's unfairly low, but it's been years since I found a movie this disappointing. In a couple of years I'll go back to it, I suppose, and maybe once the anticipation I felt for it has gone I'll find it more to my taste. I might even decide I like the movie overall. But right now, all I can feel about it is that tremendous disappointment. Someday, someone will make a proper movie from The Great Gatsby, and when that happens I'm sure I'll love it, but it won't have DiCaprio. It won't have Mulligan. It kind of breaks my heart.

Tags:

In Bruges (2008)


I saw Martin McDonagh's second film, Seven Psychopaths, earlier this year and loved it, and have loved it more each time I've re-watched it since. So I've been kind of putting off watching this one, because it would have to be a disappointment; I was sure it would be obviously the first effort, the one where McDonagh made all the mistakes he would learn from before creating his masterpiece. I was totally wrong, though. McDonagh hit a home run first time out. I'm surprised but pleased to say that I think this is actually the better of the two films.
Of course, it helps when a young guy making his first picture is able to get Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, and Colin Farrell to star in it. That's got to smooth out the wrinkles somewhat, doesn't it? But regardless of the cast McDonagh has put together such a strong, thoughtful, well-told story here. I'm so impressed by it that I'm going to do something out of character for me: I'm going to issue a spoiler warning. If you haven't seen this go watch it (it's streaming on Netflix) and come back. For most films I really don't think it matters much, but this one you'll want to see without knowing too much about it first. And because it's the story that interests me, I'm gonna go into it in some detail.
So let's go. The basic story is pretty simple. Ken (Gleeson) and Ray (Farrell) are two hit men in the employ of Harry (Fiennes) who have been sent to Bruges to await further instructions. It eventually turns out that the reason they've been sent off is that their last job went bad, and Ray accidentally murdered a young boy. Ray thinks they're in Bruges to hide out. Ken thinks they're there on the next job. He's half right. Harry visited the city as a child, loved it, and sent them there so that Ray could have a nice time right before Harry orders Ken to kill him.
The main thing McDonagh had to do to make this film work is to get us on Ray's side. This isn't the first time an attempt has been made to make a child murderer sympathetic, of course. It's a challenge filmmakers have been setting for themselves since M, but McDonagh needs more than that. We can't just sympathize with Ray. We have to like him. So it's interesting that at the beginning of the movie we don't, or at least I didn't. He's whiny. He's rude. He's ungrateful, here in this beautiful city that he refuses to even try to enjoy. We're a half-hour into the movie before we learn what he's done, and another filmmaker would have used that time to seduce us. McDonagh doesn't even try to make Ray likeable 'til we know about the boy. That's pretty bold.
He comes alive when he meets Chloe (Clémence Poésy) and we learn that when he's not being a big crybaby he's actually very charming, or at least a bit of a likeable nincompoop. Even when he's violent he's endearing, especially when he smacks down the annoying Canadian (Zeljko Ivanek); for a smoker that scene is pretty rewarding. Chloe makes us like him, in effect saves his character for us, so it's interesting that she's his undoing. If not for her, he wouldn't have hit the Canadian, and so wouldn't have gotten arrested on the train. Instead of making his escape, he's dragged back to Bruges, and back into danger. Furthermore, if not for Chloe he wouldn't have blinded Eiric (Jérémie Renier), and if Eiric hadn't wanted revenge Harry might not have found Ray anyway. It's not her fault, really; certainly she means him no harm, but the fact is that if he hadn't met her he would be safe somewhere else on the Continent, and Harry and Ken would have buried the hatchet. Happy ending.
That's the thing, though, isn't it? Should there be a happy ending? Because it sure feels like there's gonna be one. Ray and Chloe are happy together at the cafe, Harry and Ken have made up in the bell tower, and it feels like everything's gonna work out, and we're pleased with that because we've gotten so into Ray and Ken and what's going on with them that we've forgotten what the movie is actually about. Then Eiric calls up to Harry, he and Ken fight, and Harry shoots Ken in the neck. “I'm sorry, Ken,” he says, “but you can't kill a kid and expect to get away with it. You just can't.” Suddenly it all comes back to us. Do we want Ray to walk away? Just...run off with the beautiful girl and live happily ever after? Is that justice?
Well, is it? Society cries out for punishment, doesn't it? But me, personally, I'm uncomfortable with the idea of punishment. Don't get me wrong, I recognize the need to remove some people from the community; we're all better off when folks without conscience are taken off the streets. But Ray has a conscience. It's only Ken's intervention that prevents his suicide in the park. He knows that he deserves to die, says that he wants to, and it's only Ken and Chloe keeping him alive. If the only point is to make him suffer for what he's done, what can we do to him that will hurt him more than he's already hurting himself?
And yet, it's an open question whether Ray has learned any lesson, really. I think we can safely assume that he isn't gonna be a hitman anymore, but in the course of the film we see him assault the Canadian and his girlfriend and Jimmy (Jordan Prentice), as well as Eirik (to be fair, that one was self-defense). He may not want to kill, but he certainly hasn't lost his taste for violence.
That's what makes the scene where Harry comes for him at the hotel so gripping. Marie (Thekla Reuten, who has more than a touch of Juliette Binoche about her, of which I heartily approve) is blocking Harry from going upstairs after Ray, guessing that he won't hurt a pregnant woman. She's right, of course. But while they argue Ray creeps to the top of the stairs and takes aim at Harry, and the first time I saw this I was convinced that Ray would take the shot and accidentally kill Marie instead. It's a huge relief when he doesn't. Maybe he is learning.
On that note, I think it's instructive what happens when Jimmy is killed. Harry has just put a bunch of bullets into Ray. He's badly, perhaps mortally, wounded, but he crawls across the snowy cobblestones towards Jimmy's body. When Harry sees the body, he wrongly assumes he's killed a child himself, just as Ray did. So instead of delivering the coup de grace, Harry shoots himself. But, and here's the important point, Ray tries to stop him. With what might have been one of his last breaths, Ray tells Harry to wait, so that he can explain, but Harry just says "You've got to live by your principles" and kills himself.
Think about it: if Ray just keeps his mouth shut then the man who has shot him will die, and Ray will still have a slim chance to survive. If Ray tells him the truth, then he himself will die and Harry will go home to his wife and kids. Ray knows this, yet he still tries to tell Harry the truth. He is, in effect, attempting to sacrifice himself to save the man who has killed him. I think that's McDonagh telling us that Ray has learned, that he might somehow find a way to make amends, if he lives.
So that's what the movie comes down to, and why the ending is so good. We don't know whether Ray lives or dies. He needs to repay society for the damage he's done to it, and he seems to want to, and he clearly can't if he's dead or in prison. But like Harry says, can he kill a child and just walk away? Do we want him to live, or don't we? McDonagh leaves it up to us. All he has is questions. He offers no answers.
Farrell is very good as Ray. I especially like the scene where he finds Ken at the bar and explains how his date with Chloe went, and his mouth is running at three times normal speed because he's just done a gram of cocaine. I don't know how he delivered that dialog; it's like watching a great guitarist play a complicated piece of music, really. Fiennes is, as always, excellent. It's always good to see Ivanek, who is one of my guys. Poésy is very charming, though I did keep thinking of Melanie Laurent while I watched her. Still, watching her was a genuine pleasure. But the real star is Gleeson. He's one of my favorites; I love his face, the way you can see everything he's thinking right there in his eyes. You get so much out of him even when he's not talking. Like Fiennes, he's always excellent, and I think this might actually be the best work he's ever done. There are moments, like when he's telling Harry that he loves him, that make your breath catch. I'd watch him in anything.
And once again, I have to give a lot of credit to McDonagh. What a great debut film! It's not quite at the same level as Duncan Jones' Moon, but then, Jones' follow-up Source Code isn't as good as Seven Psychopaths, either. I hope to see a lot more from this guy, although the fact that he took four years between films, and the second one was about writer's block, makes me a little nervous. I hope this isn't all we're gonna get from him. Still, even if it is, he's done more with these two films than most writers or directors do in a whole career.

BEST THING ABOUT THE FILM: The city itself. Having seen it in this film, Bruges is now the place to which I hope to retire. It's just gorgeous, and shockingly photogenic. Full props to the cinematographer (Eigil Bryld), but it's clear that he had a lot to work with.

WORST THING ABOUT THE FILM: The beginning isn't much fun. It becomes brilliant once Chloe is introduced, and we get the flashback to the boy's murder, but up until then it's both slow and aggravating. Even on a re-watch I find the first twenty minutes a bit hard to enjoy.

SCORE: 9/10. Very close to perfect (aside from those first twenty minutes). It raises questions that are worth discussing, and makes me wish I had seen it in theaters back in 2008 and then gone to the bar with friends afterwards to talk about it all night.

LISTS: #12 on my Favorites of the Naughts.

Friday the 13th Series Wrapup

When I started this project, I wrote that this was my favorite film series. After having sat and watched each film two or three times while writing about them, I've found no reason to regret that statement. It's just such a good time. Even the worst moments I enjoy; the boring first two acts of Part 7 lead to the great third act; the mean-spirited and sleazy Part 5 leads to the joyous and goofy Part 6; the grossly disappointing Part 8 sends the series to a new studio to give it a much-needed infusion of creativity, and in each case what follows is improved by the comparison with what came before.
I admit that I'm slightly burned out on the series at the moment, though. That's a whole month during which I've watched virtually nothing else, and I'm very much looking forward to In Bruges and Chinatown before I start my year-end rush to watch every interesting 2013 film that's available on DVD so I can make an informed decision in January as to what the year's best film was. But before I get started on all that, let's have a quick retrospective of this series and its best bits:

BEST KILLS:
1. Judy (Debora Kessler), Friday the 13th Part 7: The New Blood. The famous girl in the sleeping bag. Kessler never made another movie, but this one was enough, really; she'll never be forgotten.
2. Adrienne (Kristi Angus), Jason X. The frozen-face girl. I always wondered what the mess looked like once everything thawed.
3. Deborah (Michelle Cluny), Jason Goes to Hell. The girl who gets split mid-coitus, a victim of the censors who makes the Director's Cut of the film worth owning all by herself.

BEST FINAL GIRLS:
1. Ginny (Amy Steele), Friday the 13th Part 2. The most believable of the series. Not fearless but tough, resilient, and resourceful. Even before the killing starts, she stands out among typical Final Girls. She is not shy, she's comfortable with her sexuality, and she takes shit from exactly nobody. This race isn't even close.
2. Rowan (Lexa Doig), Jason X. Smart, cool under fire, and surprisingly adaptable, given that she wakes up in the 26th century and immediately becomes the leader.
3. Alice (Adrienne King), Friday the 13th. You can't leave out the template, and while she isn't maybe as tough as some, she's the only Final Girl whose killer actually stayed dead.

Honorable Mention: Tina (Lar Park Lincoln), 7. She doesn't fit the list, given her powers, but at the same time you can't ignore the ass-whuppin' she laid on Jason.

BEST OTHERS (non-Tommy category):
1. Sheriff Garris (David Kagen), Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives. The most heroic death in the series, the man who tried to take Jason on with his bare hands (well, and a stick and a rock) to defend his daughter. It's too bad they couldn't find a way to let him live, but he got a good death anyway.
2. Vicki (Allison Smith), Jason Goes to Hell. Did you see her toting that shotgun? And the way she ran not-Jason through with that rebar? And just how generally cool and pretty and fun she was? It's criminal that she wasn't a Final Girl.
3. Jimmy (Crispin Glover), Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. Probably the most enjoyable performance of the whole series, and once he's dead a bit of the fun goes out of this really very good movie.
4. Julius (V.C. DuPree), Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan. Not only the head-cam death...I still love his fearlessness, and his line on the boat (mentioned in that entry, so click the link).
5. Sgt. Brodski (Peter Mensah) and Kay-Em (Lisa Ryder), Jason X. I always love a good space marine. The only thing better is a good killbot.

Honorable Mention: Shelly (Larry Zerner), Friday the 13th Part 3. You gotta give the kid his propers for bringing that damned mask along on his vacation.

BEST CAST:
Jason Goes to Hell. There really aren't any weak links. Plus, if I was giving out an award for "Prettiest Cast" it would probably go to this film also, though Part 2 might give it a run for its money.

BEST DIRECTOR:
Tom McLoughlin, Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives. Steve Miner and Joe Zito might be better all-around directors, but nobody ever got what makes this series great the way McLoughlin did. I said this in my review of the film, but I'll say it again: I wish they had just turned the whole series over to him. We'd have a great bunch of fun, gory pictures.

BEST JASON:
1. Kane Hodder, The New Blood, Jason Takes Manhattan, Jason Goes to Hell, Jason X. Obviously. The only man to play the role more than once, and the guy who has come to embody the character in the minds of the public, is also a great ambassador for the franchise, basically willing to talk to anyone in any forum at any time about Jason and be scary and entertaining while doing it.
2. C. J. Graham, Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives. The guy who created the character Hodder perfected, and another great interview subject.
3. Steve Dash, Friday the 13th Part 2. The uncredited performer who first played Jason as a killer. He's so different from everyone else who's done the job, playing Jason as a stalker and trapper, getting by on agility and animal cunning instead of strength. It's the Feral Boy representation of the character, more a wild animal than a human killer. I can't say I'm sorry future actors didn't follow his lead, because I love the series we have, but I wouldn't mind visiting an alternate universe where Dash made ten of these things either, and maybe smuggling a few DVDs back with me.

BEST PICTURE:
fatpie42 insists that I must rank the movies, even though their relationship very much depends upon my mood. So first let me graph them according to the four-tiered ranking system I've been applying during this series, and which is a direct rebuttal to folks who think that the franchise went into steady decline after the first (or second or fourth, depending on who you're talking to) installment:



Notice that the remake isn't included. I haven't watched it yet, and won't 'til I've caught up on some of the other things I want to see. I doubt I'll include it in this project even after I do watch it, or rank it this same way; probably I'll give it X stars out of ten like I do with everything else, because it's just not part of the series. I'm no more obliged to include it here than I am to include Hammer's Dracula in a retrospective of the Universal classics. But possibly, once I've watched and written about it, I'll come back and edit this, and insert it on the list. We'll see.
Anyway, that leaves us eleven films (including the New Line installments, which I often ignore while thinking about the series), and here's my one-to-eleven ranking, with the understanding that if you asked me tomorrow I might completely rearrange them:

1. Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives
2. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
3. Jason X
4. Friday the 13th Part 2
5. Friday the 13th
6. Freddy vs. Jason
7. Friday the 13th Part 7: The New Blood
8. Jason Goes to Hell
9. Friday the 13th Part 3
10. Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan
11. Friday the 13th Part 5: A New Beginning

Jason X (2001)

Often, when people discuss this movie, they talk about Friday the 13th jumping the shark. To that I have two replies: first, movies don't “jump the shark.” That's a TV phrase. Movies “nuke the fridge.” Second, this movie is the one you think went too far? Not the one where Jason's a body-jumping spirit of evil, or the one where he reverts to childhood after being drowned in Manhattan's nightly toxic-waste flushing, or the one where he battles a psychokinetic teenager? Not the one where he gets brought back to life by a lightning bolt, or the one where “Jason” is really a guy who flipped out after seeing his son's murdered body and just adopts Jason's identity while he goes on a revenge rampage where he kills exactly NOBODY who's responsible for his son's death? Not the one where he just...wakes up in the morgue after taking an axe to the forehead, or the one where his mother's rotted and worm-eaten corpse apparently comes back to avenge HIS death? Hell, as early as Part 2 we have to believe either that Jason is the reanimated corpse of a ten-year-old that aged another ten years practically overnight, or that Jason has been living in the woods for decades, refusing to acknowledge his mother, but then when she's killed he's so distressed that he goes on his own murderous rampage. Since when has this series been tied to any sort of reality that couldn't be violated? The whole goddamned thing's full of sharks!
At its best, Friday the 13th is fun. It's not emotionally affecting or philosophically challenging. You don't watch for intricate plots or great acting or auteurish direction. You watch them to have a good time, and this movie right here is as good a time as any of them. Jason in space? I'm in.
The opening is all you could possibly want. Jason's being held prisoner in Crystal Lake Research Facility, where they've been trying to find a way to kill him. But since nothing has worked, they're just gonna freeze him and let future generations try to figure something out. But then Dr. Wimmer (a cameo from my personal favorite director, David Cronenberg) shows up. He wants to conduct experiments on Jason to find the source of his regenerative power. When our heroine, Rowan (Lexa Doig, who I guess has been the one trying to kill him) voices her concern over the possibility of Jason escaping and killing more people, Dr. Wimmer says that he's sure that his small group of soldiers can handle Jason. So then Jason breaks loose and kills seven soldiers and Wimmer in, oh, about twenty seconds. It's one of the best scenes in the whole series, right off the bat.
The movie really is, more even than the others, a series of set pieces with some quick explanatory bits in between, and in this case they don't bother with the filler before jumping into the next bit. We see Rowan kneeling over the body of a murdered soldier, who apologizes before expiring, and then she glances over her shoulder and sees Jason behind her. Right then, spur of the moment, she comes up with a pretty good plan: get Jason to follow her to the freezing room, blast him into the cryo-chamber with a shotgun, and freeze him herself. Works, too, except that she forgot his super-human strength. She leans against the door of the chamber, and he stabs her right through it, breaking containment and causing the entire room to freeze. And then they both wake up 500 years in the future. Yeah, I know. We'll talk about it in the “F13 Rules” section. For right now the point is that she formed a plan and executed it close to perfectly, and not many have managed that against Jason.
Then there's the scene in the cargo bay. Jason takes out an entire platoon of space marines, one after another. There are two women in the platoon (Dylan Bierk and Amanda Brugel) and for some reason both are killed off-screen, but the men get deaths plenty entertaining. One (Sven, played by Thomas Seniuk) has his neck broken, not in the modern clichéd way, but in the sense of Jason just slowly turning his head 'til his neck comes loose. Another (Condor, played by Steve Lucescu) gets tossed onto an enormous screw, which is a nice effect and leads to a predictably terrible joke. A third (Barna Moricz) actually thinks he's defeated Jason, and subsequently gets cut right in half. Then he tries to crawl away, warning his teammates to get the hell out. Finally Brodsky (Peter Mensah), the typical tough-as-nails sergeant, gets run through by Jason with a spike of some kind. “It's gonna take more than a poke in the ribs to put down this old dog,” he gasps, so Jason stabs the machete through him as well. “Yup, that oughtta do it.” Of course, he's not actually dead; in fact, he turns out to be nearly as hard to kill as Jason himself.
The filmmakers missed an obvious line here: when Rowan is worried about the marines being trapped in the cargo bay with Jason, another character tells her “Don't worry. These guys live for this stuff.” She really should have had a response to that, either “Well, so does Jason,” or possibly “Up until now, yeah.”
One grunt doesn't die in the cargo bay because he's already been killed in what would be a big set-piece in any other film in the series, but here it's almost throwaway: Dallas (Todd Farmer, who wrote the script) and Azrael (Dov Tiefenbach, who has already had his arm cut off by Jason when the killer was still frozen) are playing a VR video game when Jason storms in and kills them both. Of course, it turns out that he only killed virtual images of them, and they stop the game to find out that Jason is really there. Then he kills them both. Dallas' death is pretty standard (head smashed against the wall), but Azrael's is one of Jason's nice, simple ones; the boy has jumped onto his back in order to help Dallas fight him. Jason grabs a leg, whips the boy around and breaks his spine like Jose Canseco breaking a baseball bat over his knee, then tosses him aside like a ragdoll. Just one smooth motion. It's nice when they bother with making even the incidental kills memorable. Hell, I like it when Stoney (Yani Gellman) gets killed, and he's not even really a character. Jason stabs the machete straight through him, Stoney turns around to look at his terrified girlfriend (Kinsa, played by Melody Johnson), and Jason grabs the machete's blade and pulls it the rest of the way through. It's moments like that that show how much the filmmakers care.
But we can't skip the best death in the entire film, the murder of Adrienne (Kristi Angus), the tech who had been conducting what she thought was an autopsy on Jason. He shoves her face into a tub of liquid nitrogen, freezing it, then bashes it to splinters on a counter. It's pretty close to perfect, and for many fans the best kill in the whole Friday the 13th series.
Then there's a the bit involving Kay-Em (Lisa Ryder), an android built by the ship's nerdiest member, Tsunaron (Chuck Campbell). In the early parts of the movie she's basically a Data analog, but once Jason has killed most of the ship's crew and the survivors are trying to gather themselves and escape, Tsunaron gives her an “upgrade.” Jason has our other surviving crew members trapped at an airlock, but Kay-Em steps out, dressed in black and heavily armed, and proceeds to beat the ever-loving shit out of him. It's funny that, although we love Jason, the best moments are the ones where someone successfully stands up to him.
And finally, in order to buy time to make their escape, Tsunaron and Kay-Em use the game that Azrael and Dallas were playing earlier to create a VR Camp Crystal Lake to distract Jason with two pretty, seventies-era teenaged girls. This might be my favorite moment, as Jason calls back to my own favorite kill (the sleeping-bag murder in Part 7) by using one girl, wrapped in her sleeping bag, as a cudgel on the other. It's a nice touch.
Of course, with all this going on, there isn't a lot of time for character development, but we have a few decent actors here who manage to get the most out of what's given to them. Boyd Banks plays Lou, the ship's pilot, and is definitely one of my guys; I'm always glad to see him. He has most of the best lines, and I wish he'd been in more of it. Tsunaron and Janessa (Melissa Ade) seem to be the characters whose dialog Farmer spent the most time on, and both of them are fun. Ade is clearly a comic actress; she's great when she's being snarky, but pretty bad when she has to show emotion. Still, she's funny enough when she's funny for me to overlook her weaker moments.
We have to have someone unlikeable, someone whose death we'll cheer for, and in this one it's the guy running the field trip, Professor Lowe (Jonathan Potts). He's as slimy as you could want, trying to bring Jason back for the money he can get for him, asking the marines not to kill him, trading grades for sex, and not being too worried about who gets killed. There's a pretty telling scene where the marines ask if he's got all his students together and he says yes without thinking, but it turns out that three are missing and two of them are already dead. His own death is a lot of fun, though; Jason crashes through a window and has him cornered, but he's talking to the others over the intercom. Jason drops the fancy, shiny machete-like implement he took from the lab when he sees his own rusty old machete on the counter, and the Professor calls to the students, “Hey, it's alright! He just wanted his machete back.” His actual death takes place off-screen, but we've already got enough out of it.
Mensah is great as the typical marine sergeant. “Typical” does not mean “bad,” and even a clichéd character can be entertaining if well-played. Mensah is all you could want in the part. I like it when the Professor tries to bribe him to take Jason alive. He tells the grunts about it, and they're disappointed, then he adds, “So after you've blown him to hell, put one in his leg so we can say we tried.”
Similarly, Doig is everything you could want in a Final Girl: smart, tough, and beautiful. She has a great little speech when she's telling Lowe about Jason, which I'll include just because I like it:

We executed him for the first time in 2008...We tried everything. Electrocution, gas, firing squad, we even [hanged] him once, nothing worked. Finally it was decided if we couldn't terminate him we could at least contain him in cryogenic stasis. Freeze him until we could figure out what to do...but unfortunately some people who were too smart for their own good thought that a creature that couldn't be killed was too valuable to just file away.

I am not such a bad writer that I'll end by saying that this is also how I feel about him, or about the series in general; too valuable to file away. After all, this may be the end of it, but they're good for endless re-watches, a proposition I've spent a big chunk of my life proving. And this one in particular is special. Of all the entries that tried to do something new, to vary from the formula, this one works the best. Farmer wrote a great, fun, silly script. It's clear that not only is he a fan of the series, trying to pay homage to its best moments, but that he also gets what makes it great. Jim Isaac did a fine job directing, as well. He worked on several projects for Cronenberg (which, presumably, is how he got Cronenberg to cameo), mostly doing effects work; his only notable outings as a director were on the dumb-fun The Horror Show (also known hilariously as House 3) and the disappointing Skinwalkers, so he doesn't have much of a resume, but I appreciate what he's done here. The sets were great (more on that in a minute). The makeup effects were as good as the series has ever seen, and Manfredini did the music one more time and was a lot livelier than he'd been in a while. Everything kind of came together for the last shot, everyone was on his game, and the result is just a great, great good time.

BEST THING ABOUT THE FILM: The Crystal Lake holodeck program. First it just looked great, really had a Seventies feel to it. I like the care they took with that, even making visible seams where the wall met the floor, so that it would feel like a real hologram (if that makes any sense). The set department was good the whole film, but here in particular they did a good job. And then of coruse “Hey, do you wanna smoke some pot? Or have pre-marital sex? We LOVE pre-marital sex!” was funny, and the call-back to Part 7...it's such a good sequence.

CONTINUITY: None, really. It could have followed a few years after any of the others, but has nothing to tie it to any. New Line still didn't have the rights to the Paramount material, so they couldn't connect this too closely to the earlier films aside from Jason Goes to Hell, and they didn't bother. And of course it doesn't lead into any other films because there are no other films. There isn't even mask continuity: the one he's wearing clearly isn't from any earlier film. It's essentially a stand-alone movie with a familiar character, but he's well-played as always by Kane Hodder. In fact, I would say this is the best work Hodder's ever done as Jason, in his last time out.

F13 RULE: Okay, so seven soldiers, including one high-ranking officer, and a scientist who appears to be of some importance are murdered when they go to collect an unstoppable killer. Did no-one miss them? Did nobody come looking for them? And if they did, why didn't they check the cryo-chamber in the basement for this specimen they're so concerned with preserving, as well as the missing scientist? What, did WWIII break out half an hour after Rowan and Jason froze? How did all this escape notice? This is really much worse than the way local authorities always leave bodies on the bottom of the lake.
In what sense is a cryo-chamber feature that reacts to a loss of containment by freezing the entire room, rather than shutting down, a safety measure?
It's a great visual, but...can a guy who's been cut in half really crawl like that? Much less speak?
Why on Earth didn't Lou lock the cockpit after he learned that there was a psychotic killer aboard?
As in Part 8, I must reprimand Jason: kill the guy piloting the boat LAST.
Can I just point out that a glass dome might not be a desirable feature on a space station?
Couldn't they have found a better way to show that Kinsa's losing her mind than that silly “Stoney's gonna meet me there” line? I mean, Melody Johnson isn't a great actress anyway, but they didn't put a lot of effort into her lines.
“Yup, it's just like riding a bike.” I doubt that. I suspect that guns have changed somewhat over the last 500 years.
When Rowan finds Brodsky and has to go through the narrow alley with the blade sticking out, why does she only drop far enough for the blade to pass across her throat? I would have ducked completely under it.
Seriously, nobody noticed that Jason fell on the machine that rebuilds injured people? I would have put him out an airlock right away no matter where he landed or how many pieces he was in, but least move him off of that thing, for heaven's sake.
Tiamat to Grendel,” possibly a little too cute.
Janessa is one of my favorite characters. She should have had a better death, and also, her last line is appalling.
Okay, so Jason breaks through the door and the room depressurizes. That makes sense. But they close every door they run through after that, and he keeps breaking them down. Shouldn't every room depressurize? I mean, there's still a path leading directly back to open space, right? I don't remember any emergency doors closing behind him.
Why couldn't they just throw an endless stream of campers at him? “He's almost done with the campers!” Well, make some damned more! They don't cost anything!
To Brodski: you really should have just pushed Jason off into deep space. Or, if you really wanted to push him back into the atmosphere, why did you have to come along? Inertia is your friend, Brodski. Give him a shove and he'll never stop; you don't have to ride him to make sure he gets there.

SCORE:Supermurdered. The last film in the series might be my favorite of them all. It's just so much fun. And I love “It landed in the lake” “Let's go check it out” as an ending. It just feels right, the idea that even though we won't see any more of this story, the story is still going on.

Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

On the advice of fatpie42, I'm doing the films out of the order I had intended because, as he points out, continuity in the series actually makes a lot more sense if you put this movie between the ninth and tenth installments of Jason's series. I kind of don't feel like it's part of the series at all, to be honest. Probably part of that is just that, prior to this retrospective, I hadn't watched it anywhere near as often as the actual Fridays; I saw it in the theater, and I rented it once. Two views. In comparison, I've probably seen Part 8, my least-watched episode, twelve to fifteen times. Maybe too it's how much money they spent on it ($25 million, a sum I never thought Jason would see), or the presence of another killer, or the way the movie seems to want you to see Jason as the hero towards the end. I'm not sure, but this just doesn't feel like a Friday the 13th. It feels a bit more like a Nightmare on Elm Street installment, but still not quite that, either. It's very much its own thing. There's a lot to like about it, though, and a few things not to like as well, so let's go through it.
First, a couple of notes on the cast. The big deal here is that Kane Hodder is not playing Jason. The fans, me included, were really disappointed about that back in 2003, and also surprised. This movie was in development hell forever, and there were many abortive earlier attempts to make it, but the last time it was supposed to be made and wasn't, the reason was that Hodder wasn't available. Sean Cunningham and his son Noel had gotten fed up with New Line dragging its feet on the project, so they went ahead and produced Jason X, and by the time the studio was ready to make this one Hodder was busy on that one, so they waited. I remember at the time thinking, “Yeah. Respect.” They knew how important he'd become to the character, so of course they wanted to keep him for what they hoped would be a tentpole project.
What happened in between that and the actual start of production on this was that Ronny Yu signed on to direct, and he didn't think Hodder was big enough to play Jason. He wanted someone who would really tower over Freddy. Now, Hodder is built like a bulldozer, but he's not terribly tall, a little over six feet. So Yu signed Ken Kirzinger, who's something like six-and-a-half feet tall, to play the part.
Kirzinger, of course, has been in the series before. He was the cook in the diner near the end of Jason Takes Manhattan who gets tossed into the mirror by Jason, and he also filled in for Hodder on a last-minute reshoot in one scene, so technically he had been Jason before, but he's just not Hodder's equal. Don't get me wrong, he stabs and swings weapons with a lot of weight, and I appreciate that. It's just that he's very flat; you don't feel any personality from him. This is especially true of the climactic battle, where Jason is certainly lumbering and unstoppable but doesn't seem really to be feeling anything. Remember how Jason got angrier and angrier at Tina in Part 7? Remember how you could feel just waves of rage rolling off him, how he would seethe at her? I want Jason doing that in this movie, and Kirzinger doesn't. He doesn't visibly react to the image of his mother the first time, either (he's a little better the second time), and that's some pretty unconvincing trembling he's doing when the water starts pouring on him. He's not a bad Jason, but he's a definite step down from what we've gotten used to.
On a brighter note there's Robert Englund as Freddy. What can you really say about him in this part that hasn't been said before? Englund has created one of the greatest monsters ever, as memorable and unique as Lugosi's Dracula, and gives his usual tremendous performance here. He gets basically all the good lines in this movie, which is as it should be. My favorite is when he's got Gibb trapped in his boiler room, and says, “The only thing to fear is fear Himself.” It's a great character moment.
Gibb is played by Katherine Isabelle, and I'm a little aggravated that she isn't the Final Girl. She's one of my favorite actresses, and was even in 2003, because I'd already seen her in Ginger Snaps and knew how good she could be. Since then, of course, she's done the excellent American Mary, which has become one of my very favorite recent horror movies (I'm putting off writing about it 'til this series is over, and will have LOTS to say), but for now suffice it to say that I'm even more aggravated now than I was then that she isn't the Final Girl. She auditioned for the lead, but Yu felt that she suited the unhinged alcoholic friend better. And, you know, he's right, but that's only because the lead is just a typical dull virgin. Make the unhinged alcoholic the hero, dude! Shake some shit up!
That said, I thought that Monica Keena was pretty good as Lori, the typical dull virgin in question. There are a couple of places where she's actually quite effective, in fact. I like the scene where she's telling her friends about her dream and suddenly here comes Mark (Brendan Fletcher), reciting the Freddy legend. I like how visibly shaken she is, without falling into histrionics. I hadn't been on her side 'til that moment, but I kinda was after that. Also, I like the way she says “Welcome to MY world, bitch!” right before she cuts Freddy's head off. She's not trying to be clever, calling back to him saying the same thing earlier. She's not trying to be funny. She's injured and terrified and exhausted and angry and she practically screams the line, and I really think that works. She has some weaker moments as well, but I'm not gonna dwell on them. She's got a knack for terror, and that's good enough.
I like Fletcher a lot, too; he's a little over-the-top, but I think it suits the character. Tom Butler is nearly as creepy as Freddy himself playing Lori's dad. Chris Marquette is fine as Linderman, and I also enjoy the Jason Mewes analog, Freeberg (Kyle Labine). There's a wonderful moment in the absolutely brilliant Nightmare on Elm Street documentary Never Sleep Again that came out last year, during the section devoted to this movie. They're conducting cast interviews, and they interview Mewes for a minute about his experience making the film before everyone remembers that he wasn't actually in it. Also, if you're wondering, yes, Kyle is the brother of Tyler Labine of the really cool slasher spoof Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. Note the complete lack of family resemblance.
Kelly Rowland is a bit of surprise, and much better than I thought she would be as Kia. My only problem with her is her last scene, where she's facing Freddy. At first he's approaching her and she's backing away, but she starts talking shit to him and suddenly seems to gain some power. She stands her ground and Freddy starts to back away from her, as if her words are actual weapons. It's sort of a call-back to Nancy in the original Nightmare defeating Freddy simply by not being afraid of him; the more shit Kia talks, the less afraid she is, and the weaker Freddy gets. I love the idea. The problem is that her dialog in that scene isn't actually very good. I hear that Rowland ad-libbed most of that herself, and it would be fine for putting someone down on a playground, I suppose, but in a movie where what you say is your only defense against one of cinema's greatest killers, those lines need to be razor-sharp. I wish Yu had brought in someone who really does great dialog just for this bit. “Hey, Joss Whedon, I'll give you a couple of grand if you'll spend a weekend writing a two-minute slew of sassy, Freddy-specific putdowns.” Or Shane Black, Diablo Cody, whoever. Then the scene would have been great.
The dialog in general in this isn't very good. The scene where Lori is pining for her missing boyfriend with whom she had real love even though they were both 14, while Kia is just insisting that she have sex with SOMEONE ANYONE and get over it, is pretty painful. Every scene between Lori and Will (more on him in a moment) is bad. The discussion with Lori falling asleep on the sofa while everyone else sits around a table and tries to figure out what to do next, which then turns into a dream sequence itself, isn't all bad but there are some clunkers there (I do like Linderman's line, when he's called a virgin, that “If you pay for it, it still counts!”). The writers seem to have run out of rhetorical juice after they wrote Freddy's part.
But sometimes the actors don't really help, and the principal offender here is Jason Ritter as Will, Lori's love interest (and once again, the dumb boring love interest survives...man, I'm sick of that). I've heard he's done some good work in other films, so maybe he's a decent actor, but you can't see it here. As an example: his dad used to do a face when he was explaining something to Janet and Crissy that he knew would make them mad, like that he'd forgotten to mail the rent or something. Ritter does the same face here when he's explaining to Lori that he saw her dad kill her mom. He does it again when they're confronted by Freddy at the camp, and it really doesn't work. I'm never with this kid for a second.
A final note on the cast: in my memory, Betsy Palmer came back to play Pamela Voorhees in this, and I was surprised to see that the actress is actually Paula Shaw. Weird how I'd edited that in my memory. Anyway, I don't know Shaw well since she seems to be mostly a TV person, but she must have done a decent job, since I was able to make that connection.
Right from the get-go there's a pretty cool vibe from this movie, as we see the New Line Logo and hear first the creepy little piano line associated with Freddy, overlaid with Jason's signature sound effect. It's a very nice touch. I also like the fantasy Freddy uses to draw Jason in, where he kills the camper, but then she talks to him, and morphs into other campers who are also talking to him, telling him that they deserved to die, and then his mother shows up. The morphing effects don't look as good now as they did in 2003, of course, but it's a good start.
Jason's first real kill is one of his best ever, the murder of Trey (Jesse Hutch, who we immediately hate, and I remember the audience cheering his death). Trey's lying in bed, and Jason stabs him 'til his organs start leaking through the mattress, then snaps the bed closed, breaking him in half. It's a beautiful moment, and lets us know what to expect: it's the 21st century, and the censors have much smaller sticks up their asses. I don't think any of the other kills quite live up to it (Jason uses his machete too much; I guess Yu really liked it), but there are some good ones. I like the day-glo date rapist getting speared and tossed into orbit, streaming Glo-sticks as he goes. Rowland's death, though simple, is pretty good, the way she slams into that tree. You feel that. Freeberg getting cut in half is as nice as people getting cut in half typically is. I especially like the death of Deputy Stubbs (Lochlyn Monroe). Jason is getting electrocuted and grabs him, letting the current run through him too. He ends up fried, but Jason's only problem is breaking the current so he can go after the kids. It's always cool when Jason subjects a victim to something that's also happening to him and he's fine while the other character dies (see Vicki in Part 9, if that counts, or Sandra in Part 7).
There were a few disappointments as far as killing goes, as well. I enjoy the death of Blake's dad (Brent Chapman) only because he reminds me of Alex Jones, but I wish they'd killed him on screen. It would have been cathartic. Also, why does his head pop off rather than just falling? And Kinsey (Viv Leacock), the attendant who pushes Mark and Will around at the institution...why doesn't he die when Jason raids the place? Somebody explain to Ronny Yu that if you introduce an unlikeable character in a horror movie you have to kill him, messily by preference.
I suppose the main disappointment in this area is that Freddy only kills one person in the whole damned film. He gets Mark, but otherwise Jason does all the killing. Now, I don't mind that myself. I'm more a Jason guy than a Freddy guy anyway, plus which the Fridays always had higher body counts than the Nightmares, but seriously, Jason must kill twenty people in this thing, and 20-to-1 is too high a ratio.
The lead-up to that one kill is good, though, with Mark seeing his brother, an earlier victim of Freddy, in a bloody bathtub with slit wrists, speaking in Freddy's voice. The brother is played by Zack Ward, a B-movie guy whose work I enjoy, and I wish they could have used him more in this. The bits in the dream world generally are done very well. I love the blood dripping and instantly disappearing, forming a trail to lead Lori to the little eyeless girl. Also, the girl herself is a very good effect, with Freddy's claw-marks around the sockets, and that actress (Joëlle Antonissen) does a really good creepy delivery of her lines. We'll call that Tremendous Visual #1. Also, the bit where Freddy sends ripples along the floor to trip Lori as she's trying to get away is well-done; that looks really painful. And of course the sun-drenched dream of Crystal Lake, ending with Tremendous Visual #2 (Freddy jumping out of the lake), is great. The half-submerged house is magical, just gorgeous. And I love the giant shadow Freddy trying and failing to kill Blake (David Kopp).
All of this is rather beside the point, though. What we want is to see Freddy and Jason duke it out. They do this twice; once in the dream world, and once at the real Crystal Lake. The first time is actually a bit disappointing, because Freddy barely uses his dream powers on Jason. It's cool when Jason cuts his arms off and they just grow right back, but otherwise he just uses some dream telekinesis to toss Jason around. We should have had Freddy transforming into a giant snake and eating Jason (with Jason subsequently cutting his way out), or causing the whole boiler room to come alive and attack him, or maybe bringing back the ghosts of his many victims to bury him in a pile of mangled corpses. Something better than that damned pinball sequence. I mean, pinball is one of my great loves, but there's a time and place for it and this movie ain't it.
And as far as Freddy discovering that Jason is afraid of water, I have GOT to call bullshit. Jason is not even slightly afraid of water. Think of all the times he's had to go into the lake to get his victims, even assuming that the end of Part 1 was a dream sequence: he stabs Samantha through the raft in Part 4, is still in the water when he kills Paul with the spear gun in the same movie, he chases Tommy into the lake in Part 6, and he pulls Sandra underwater and holds her there 'til she drowns in Part 7. Furthermore, he must have been in the water to get to New York in Part 8 (he sure wasn't on that little boat). And yet we're supposed to believe that he's afraid to walk through a paper-thin waterfall to kill Freddy? Oh, I don't think so.
The fight in Crystal Lake once the kids have brought Freddy into the real world, though, totally delivers. In the first place, propers must be given to the set designers who put together that cabin; it looks exactly like the girls' cabin in Part 6, and I really appreciated that. But really you have to love that whole fight. I love the scared look Freddy gets when he realizes he's in the real world; he would bite his hand like a silent-movie heroine if the glove wasn't on it. When he starts shooting those pressurized gas canisters at Jason, and we get the shot of Jason walking amongst them implacable, that's Tremendous Visual #3 (unfortunately the effect once he actually gets hit isn't quite as good). The huge cement mixer or whatever it is slamming around, the rebars falling and running Jason through...it's like an update of what Tina did to him in Part 7, and I'm loving it.
The final bit on the dock I don't like as much, because I really can't see Freddy standing up to Jason physically in the way he does there, but Jason ripping Freddy's arm off and running him through with it is very nice, and of course Lori subsequently cutting Freddy's head off I've already discussed. I'm still a little weirded out by the way Lori seems to look at Jason with a bit of sympathy; after all, he has just killed Linderman and Kia, and killed Gibb and Freeberg earlier, but I'm prepared to live with it.
And best of all, of course, is that Jason wins! I've heard Freddy fans trying to claim that it was a tie, because of the stupid wink at the end, but that's ridiculous. If one guy walks out of a lake carrying another guy's head, the guy who still has his body is clearly the winner, no matter what happened before or what happens next.
For the first time there's a lot of CGI, which might be another reason it doesn't feel like part of the series. Of course this movie is ten years old now, so the CGI is a bit of a mixed bag. Some of it works, like the weird floating corpses in Jason's dream world or just the simple shot of Mark's last energy pill falling down the drain. Sometimes it doesn't, like with the pinball scene or the way the police station morphs into Lori's house during her first nightmare. Sometimes it doesn't look real but is still cool, notably the caterpillar that gets Freeberg stoned in the hospital. For a real Friday the 13th, which is supposed to feel gritty and raw, you'd have to get rid of most of it, even the better bits, but in this very separate movie I would be willing to admit that on the whole it adds something good to the mix. Freddy, of course, was made to live in a CG world, and that helps.
I've heard that originally this script included Tommy Jarvis. I wonder what they had him doing, and whether he survived (and possibly made Will superfluous, which would have been nice). There was also a character named Jenny who got cut, which makes me wonder if they were gonna bring back Amy Steele from Part 2 as well. That seems less likely, but I can't remember an important Jenny from the Nightmare series. I've read probably a half-dozen scripts over the years that were rejected by the studio, including one that I really liked (in which Jason and Freddy are battling for control of Hell until Satan finally gets fed up and throws them both out), but I've never read the original script for this. I guess I should track it down.
One last note: the makeup for young Jason during the Crystal Lake dream sequence really paid respecct to Savini's original work on Ari Lehman, and I appreciate that. It was a very nice touch.

BEST THING ABOUT THE FILM: The business in the cornfield. Jason gets set on fire (about which, of course, Jason does not give a shit) and there's a great aerial shot of him trailing fire through the rows, chasing Chris Gauthier (the restauranteur from Eureka). And then he reaches the rave the kids are having in the middle of the cornfield and just starts laying 'em to waste, still burning. Hell, in under a minute he kills more kids than Freddy usually does in a whole movie. Jason likes to kill folks one at a time, but I always dig him most when he's in a crowd just laying it down. That's Tremendous Visual #4, and the best of the lot.

CONTINUITY: A mixed bag, assuming that we put this one between Jason Goes to Hell and Jason X. At the beginning of the movie Jason is dead. He seems to be in some sort of shadowy limbo rather like what the ancient Egyptians expected the afterworld to be like, but I suppose we can call this hell, and if we do then this one actually does pick up where Part 9 left off. In fact, I would say that's about as good as narrative continuity ever gets on these films.
On the other hand, mask continuity is completely out the window. That mask Jason is wearing has nothing to do with the earlier films, no damage at all until Freddy starts hacking it up. Yu just couldn't be bothered. It makes me a little sad, really...it was the one thing we could hold onto.

F13 RULE: Why does Jason leave Gibb alive after he kills Trey? She was showering in the next room. He always has trouble resisting that.
Why is Lori the only kid present at Trey's murder who has to spend the night in the police station? Just 'cause it was her house? Her dad runs a mental institution; I bet he can afford a hotel room, and anyway they're right back in there the next day.
The CG effect during the “Got your nose!” bit is pretty shoddy, but I like that moment anyway.
The police seem to want to find Mark pretty badly, before he can tell everyone about Freddy and start the panic that will bring him back. So...why don't they have his home staked out? I would say he's dumb to go there, but I guess he just knows that the cops are even dumber.
By the same token, couldn't they anticipate that Will would come for Lori? Why aren't the cops there, either?
Man, I bet some farmer is pissed.
No teenager can drink straight Everclear, and no man alive can drink a whole pitcher of it. I can barely stomach that shit myself, and I've been abusing alcohol for more than a quarter-century. Somebody get that man a mixer.
I get that Jason can't be stopped by fire (just as he can't be stopped by anything else), but why is it that his clothes never burn, either?
Couldn't they have made it a little less obvious, as the kid was running from Jason, that he already had a mouthful of blood to spit out upon being stabbed?
During the planning scene, around the table, was I the only one having a major The Faculty flashback?
Deputy Stubbs, who wants to help the kids kill Jason & Freddy, is able to find them easily because of Mark's brother's ridiculous van. Again, why haven't the other cops thought of this? If John Saxon was still sheriff, he'd have figured that shit out long since.
Kia: “These two killers, we're not safe awake or asleep!” Umm, honey, Jason is perfectly willing to kill you in your sleep. With only one killer, sleeping still wouldn't save ya.
The institution hasn't disabled the stolen security pass yet? This place has armed guards but somehow doesn't give a shit about security.
How was Jason able to follow the kids to the institution? Teleportation, that's how.
Sure, kill some nameless guard, but Kinsey gets off? That sucks.
I've known a lot of potheads in my time, but I've never met one who would have actually stopped in the middle of a burglary, where he's stealing something that will literally prevent him from dying, to sit on the floor and smoke a joint. At worst, he'd smoke it while looking for what he came for. Have the people who wrote this never smoked pot?
Lori is right, I think. If they can get Jason back to Crystal Lake and then get out safely themselves, he won't follow them. But how the hell does she know that?
Ever notice how, when Jason pins the girl to the tree or when Freddy pins Jason to the pipe with it, the machete is suddenly six feet long?
Will, we'd all be a lot better off if you could drive and talk at the same time. We're in a bit of a hurry here.
The bit with two counselors fucking that suddenly becomes Freddy screwing a corpse, excessively creepy, but it works 'til he waves her hand at Lori.
They should roll Jason over so the water can drain out. Beats the hell out of mouth-to-mouth with a rotting corpse.
It turns out that Kelly Rowland swings a mean tire iron (or whatever that is). Somebody ought to sic her on Chris Brown.
Jason dragging Freddy through that whole row of windows really feels good. It should have broken every bone in his body, but still, that was a great bit.
When Freddy breaks out the wrestling moves, dropping elbows on Jason (right after Jason kills Kia), it's a little silly but also hilarious. I'm totally willing to go with it.
Oh, and Kung Fu Freddy right after that! He must have learned that from Rick, the wannabe Ninja in Nightmare 4.
Jason definitely should have landed a couple of blows while Freddy was hanging upside down.
I get setting the dock on fire, but perhaps they should stop short of making sure that the propane tanks would go, too. Lori and Will are not as explosion-proof as our gladiators.
They never show Jason's face here, and they didn't in Jason Goes to Hell, and (spoiler alert) won't in Jason X. I am a little tired of this trend of not having awesome Jason makeup, in large part due to our last look at his face being the atrocious makeup in Jason Takes Manhattan.
Kirzinger has a stunt double. A stunt double! Every person (including Kirzinger) who has ever played Jason as an adult has been a stunt man, and all of them, from Steve Dash to Kane Hodder, have done their own stunts. That is, in fact, why stuntmen were always cast. Ken, you're not special. Now get out in that field and set your damned self on fire.

SCORE: Just Plain Murdered. It's sort of on the border between that and “Killed Off-Screen.” Ronny Yu is an action guy, and he's made a good action film with some excellent horror elements, but it just isn't a Friday the 13th. Upon reflection, though, it's too much fun to downgrade. However, I still wish Kane Hodder had been Jason. I'll never forgive Yu for that.