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Omen, The (DVD)

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The Omen DVD (click for larger image)Starring Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, David Thewlis, Mia Farrow, Michael Gambon, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Pete Postlethwaite

Directed by John Moore

Distributed by Fox Home Entertainment


Who could forget seeing little Harvey Stephens as Damien Thorn looking over his shoulder and smiling at the camera during his parents’ funeral? It’s probably one of the all-time most memorable shots in our genre’s history. The answer to my question is — nobody. No one could ever forget that scene. Apparently someone thought we needed a reminder, however, and here we are reviewing another completely unnecessary remake of a classic. Truth be told, things aren’t all too bad. This new telling of The Omen has its merits but honestly brings absolutely nothing new to the table.

Usually I open reviews with a quick synopsis of a movie’s storyline. In this instance — Screw that! If you don’t know what The Omen is about by now, then just hit the back button, leave this website, and never return.

Go ahead, run along; the rest of us will wait.

*whistles*

OK, now that the poseurs are gone, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. The question on everyone’s minds and one of the most heated debates in any genre conversation — why so many remakes? Is there a reason for them? Did this particular series benefit from having one?

My take on remakes is this: They serve only one purpose, and that is to get a potential viewer who has never been exposed to the material in question interested enough to seek out the original work that inspired what they just sat through. That’s a very good thing. However, most remakes misfire because of two common pitfalls:

1- They rehash past glories with modern effects for no discernible reason other than to cash in on another film’s success as a means to make a quick buck.

2- They try too hard to one-up their predecessors and end up flat on their remade faces.

Some remakes have been pretty good. Take Dawn of the Dead for instance. I’ll never forget the sickened feeling I got in the pit of my stomach when this was announced. To my shock and awe I and many other fans who were just as distraught over the news loved it. So what made it work? Well, for one thing director Zack Snyder never once tried to out Romero, Romero. He brought a fresh and new take on the material, and as a result what viewers got was just more Dawn of the Dead. That, my friends, is what I like to call a best case scenario.

The Omen DVD (click for larger image)Unfortunately fans of The Omen did not fare so well. Director John Moore’s retelling is just the same old movie with a fresh coat of paint, fleshed out mostly by actors who cannot hold a candle to the original cast. Don’t get me wrong; in and of themselves everyone turned in a good performance, but the problem is that no one has the slightest bit of chemistry together. Take Schreiber and Stiles for instance. In the original film their parts were played by Lee Remick and Gregory Peck. These actors portrayed their characters with a lot of love and honesty. You felt for them. Their horror was your horror. In this version Liev and Julia are as wooden as the crucifixes strewn about the film’s scenery. When they’re exchanging dialogue, it’s as if they are in separate rooms. They don’t play off of each other in the slightest bit, and they’re the focal point of the whole damned movie. If you cannot believe in their love and their family unit, then all bets are off. David Thewlis does as much as he can with what he has, and there are maybe one or two instances in which he and Schreiber set off a few sparks, but even they soon fizzle.

If I had to pick three heroes of this film, the only ones who make it even slightly interesting, it would have to be Pete Postlethwaite, Mia Farrow, and Damien himself, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick. There’s no denying that they are the scene stealers. Unfortunately they do not receive nearly as much screen time as the rest of the cast. Postlethwaite is perfect as the manic Father Brennan who spends every second trying to get Schreiber to listen and *ahem* heed the omens. Mia Farrow as Mrs. Baylock, Damien’s nanny, plays her part as if she’s sinfully lusting after the child. They have a very uncomfortable and very eerie sexual tension during their onscreen time together. And what of the little devil himself? Fitzpatrick breathes a lot of life into the character of Damien and does it all with his eyes. This kid can turn the evil on and off at the drop of a hat. This was a very impressive debut for the youngster. I’m sure we’ll be seeing him again really soon.

As for the other problems with the film, there are three that stick out immediately, the first being The Omen‘s opening. The film’s only attempt at bringing something new to the series plays much like the same type of cash-in as the theatrical release date of 6/6/06. In it we’re shown some footage of recent disasters like the Tsunami and of course 9/11. This footage is used as a cheap plot device to show the audience that these are the signs of the Anti-Christ’s coming. YAY! Way to capitalize on tragedy to sell a few movie tickets. I’m sure the victims of these unfortunate events really appreciate the exploitation. Thumbs-up, numbskull.

The second is yet another plot device that director John Moore decides to beat into your skull — the usage of the color red. Every time something spooky or bad happens, we see something red on the screen. Photographs showing anomalies? Red lights in the darkroom. Nanny gonna hang herself? Red balloons go floating by. Priest gonna get impaled? Not before a woman wearing red runs by him. This happens every five friggin’ minutes. Red. RED. RED.

Attention John Moore: You overdid it. Instead of being stylish, you’re being annoying. We get the picture. Red = spooky shit. Thanks.

The Omen DVD (click for larger image)And the third thing wrong? One of the key elements that made the original film work so well is that Damien never knew he was evil. Neither did the audience at first. We got our confirmation during the haircutting scene. But Damien? He wasn’t aware of that fact until Damien: Omen II. Fitzpatrick’s Damien seems to know right away that he’s a malevolent little bastard. He even puts the hoodoo on a security guard just by staring at him. While this makes for a bit of a more sinister child, it also takes away any impact of the revelation that Damien is in fact the son of Satan. Again, I blame this on John Moore.

In the end we have a film that is merely a shell of its former self. Its only saving grace comes in the form of a few worthwhile performances, some pretty bitchin’ make-up effects, awesome sound design (this DVD will give your home theatre quite the workout), and a great score from Marco Beltrami. It’s worth a look, but it will leave you a bit cold.

As for the supplements, we get an even little package. First up there’s a commentary by director John Moore, producer Glenn Williamson, and editor Dan Zimmerman. Man, do these guys sound pleased as fucking punch. Here’s a hint though, when recording a commentary it may be a good idea to have all the participants fashioned with their own mic. Dan Zimmerman sounds as if he were in another room. Maybe John Moore’s inflated ego got in the way.

From there we’re treated to a behind-the-scenes featurette entitled Omenisms. Here you will see John Moore berating his crew and proving himself to be a rather unlikable guy. Seriously, did we really need to see him demean his crew over some faulty track? The Omen is a franchise rife with material. Let’s hear from David Seltzer, writer of the novel. How about the film’s effects? Please anything other than Moore’s incessant bitching will do.

The next featurette is a little diddy called The Abbey Road Sessions, which shows you Beltrami at work composing the score. Not bad, but nothing you haven’t seen seventy-five hundred times already. To spice things up, Beltrami should have taken his entire orchestra and had them walk nude across that famous street. Hey, it worked for The Beatles!

Ever wonder where the evil origin of the number 666 came from? Our last featurette, Revelation 666, explores that and the way that the number of the beast infects our culture. And who is one of the authorities on this matter? Poker king Phil “The Una-Bomber” Laak. *blank stare* Maybe this world is gonna end. *shakes head*

While the featurettes are OK, the main thing of interest for you genre fans will be the unrated extended and alternate scenes. Finally some usage of the color red that I can dig. We get three scenes here: a much more violent impaling, a longer cut of the decapitation, and an alternate ending in which we see Thorn getting the hell shot out of him while trying to stab Damien in the church. These scenes deliver as the blood finally gets to fly to a gratuitous degree. Very cool inclusion, but with the recent trend of unrated editions of films hitting DVD nowadays, one has to wonder why The Omen didn’t get that very same treatment. I blame John Moore.

So there you have it, folks. Another remake come and gone and another (for the most part) missed opportunity dropped into our laps for reasons unbeknownst to us. Wait. That’s not entirely true. The reason is obvious. We needed to see what the cinematic genius John Moore could do with the color red.

See how friggin’ annoying that is?

Special Features
Commentary by director John Moore, producer Glenn Williamson, and editor Dan Zimmerman
Revelation 666 featurette
Unrated extended sequences
Unrated alternate ending
Omenisms featurette
Abbey Road Sessions featurette
Trailers

2 1/2 out of 5

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DIS Review – Not for the Faint of Heart!

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Starring Bill Oberst, Jr., Lori Jo Hendrix, Peter Gonzales Falcon

Directed by Adrian Corona


I’ve made this claim many a time on this website before, and in the company of film friends as well: Bill Oberst Jr. is one of those actors that can literally be thrust into ANY role, and deliver a performance with so much harnessed electricity that you couldn’t believe that it was possible. I was the lucky recipient chosen to get a look at his latest project, titled DIS, and I think that I can honestly say – this is the stuff that nightmares are constructed of.

Directed by Adrian Corona, this 60-minute dive into the black depths of hell, and in actuality DIS is located between circles # 6 and 9 in Dante’s Divine Comedy, and trust me when I tell you – there’s not a shred of comedic relief in this demented presentation. Oberst Jr plays an ex-soldier named Ariel, and his seemingly harmless jaunt through the woods will become anything but that, and judging from the film’s opening scenes, you are meant to feel as uncomfortable about this watch as any you might have checked out in recent memory.

Perversion is the norm here, and lord help you if you’re caught where you shouldn’t be…my skin’s crawling just thinking about what I saw. Ariel’s travels are basically dialogue-free, but it only adds to the infinite levels of creepiness – you can tell he’s being stalked, and the distance between he and the horrors that await are closing in rather quickly.

Visually by itself, this hour-long chiller can sell tickets without any assistance – hollowed-out buildings and long sweeping shots of a silent forest give the movie that look of complete desolation. Sliced up into three acts, the film wastes no time in setting up the story of a killer needing fresh blood to appease his Mandrake garden – seriously guys, I can’t type as much flashy stuff as there needs to be in order to describe this innately disturbing production.

If you’re one of those types who tends to shy away from the graphic side of things, then I’d HIGHLY advise you to keep your TV tuned to the Hallmark Channel for some holiday entertainment, because this one registers high on the “I can’t believe someone thought of this” meter. So the quick recap is this: Oberst Jr in a standout performance, visual excellence, and an unshakable sense of debasement on a cellular level – keep the kiddies out of the living room with this one. Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended, and one that I’ll throw down as a top 5 for me in 2017.

  • Film
4.5

Summary

Director Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended!

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User Rating 5 (2 votes)
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Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End Review – A Heavy Metal Massacre In Cartoon Form

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Starring Alex House, Bill Turnbull, Maggie Castle, Melanie Leishman, Chris Leavins, Jason Mewes

Directed by Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace


“Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil” – Canadian television’s greatest blend of Evil Dead, Superbad and Deathgasm? Yes. That answer is yes. For two face-melting seasons, Todd “protected” Crowley High from episodic villains who were bested by metal riffs, stoner logic and hormonal companionship. Musical interruptions showcased stage theatrics like Sondheim meets pubescent Steel Panther and high school tropes manifested into vile, teen-hungry beasts. It was like a coming-of-age story got stuck between Fangoria pages – all the awkwardness with 100x more guts.

That – for worse – was until Todd fell to a premature cancellation after Season 2’s clone-club cliffhanger. Indiegogo became the show’s only way to deliver a feature-length finale, except to reduce costs and ensure completion, the project would have to be in cartoon form. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End suggests an animated curtain call for this otherwise live-action production, and from a fan’s perspective, familiar maturation follies befall our favorite bloodsoaked friend group. But for new viewers? Start with the far-superior original show – you’ll be lost, underwhelmed and baffled otherwise.

Alex House retains his characterization of Todd Smith (in voice only). At this point, Todd has thwarted the book’s apocalyptic plan, Hannah (Melanie Leishman) has died, longtime crush Jenny (Maggie Castle) isn’t as horny for Todd anymore, and best friend Curtis (Bill Turnbull) has sworn Todd’s name to Hell (since Hannah was his girlfriend). Guidance Counselor Atticus Murphy Jr. (Chris Leavins) is now Janitor Atticus Murphy Jr. because Janitor Jimmy (Jason Mewes) is now Counselor Jimmy, yet Crowley High finds itself plagued by the same satanic uprisings despite these new changes. Why is evil still thriving! How is Hannah back in class! Who is the new “Pure Evil One” now that Todd has denied the book! Welcome to the end, friends – or is it a new beginning?

At just north of 80 minutes, structure runs a bit jagged. We’re used to Todd battling one baddie over a half-hour block – backstory given time to breathe – but in The End Of The End, two mini-boss cretins play second fifth-fiddle to the film’s big-bad monster (well, monsters – but you’ll see). A double-dose of high school killers followed by a larger, more important battle with the gang’s fate hanging in the balance. Not a problem, it’s just that more length is spent singing songs about Todd’s non-functioning schlong and salvaging relationships from the S2 finale. Exposition (what little there is) chews into necessary aggression time – fans left ravenous for more versatile carnage, underwhelmed by the umpteenth cartoon erection gag. Did I mention there’s a lot of boner material, yet?

These two mini “chapters” – “No Vest For The Wicked” (yarn demon)/”Zits Alors” (acid acne) – never come close to rivaling Hannah Williams’ doppelganger bombshell (“Songs About Boners”/”This Is The End Of The End Of the End”). Hannah [X]. Williams waking up in a room full of other Hannahs, emerging from some sleep-pod chamber; Todd’s gang facing off against this new “chosen one” in a way that erases “Sack Boy” and “Pizza Face” from memory. The End Of The End dashes dildoes-swinging into the show’s biggest mystery while dropping call-backs and bodies with equal speed – maybe too hastily for some.

Now, about the whole pivot to animation – a smooth rendering of Crowley High and all its mayhem, but never representative of Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil‘s very Ash Vs. Evil Dead vibe. All the practical death effects (gigantic man-eating cakes, zombie rockstars) are lost to one-dimensional drawings, notable chemistry between cast members replaced by edited recordings lacking signature wits. This isn’t Metalocalypse, where dismemberment and bloodshed are gruesome on levels that outshine even live-action horror flicks. There’s no denying some of the magic is missing without Chris Leavins’ “creepy uncle” overacting (a Will Forte breed) or the book’s living incarnations of evil. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End plays hooded minion to Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil’s dark ruler – less powerful, a bit duncier, but still part of the coolest cult around. Just try not to think about how much radness is missing inside hand-traced Crowley High?

It’s hard not to strike comparisons between “reality” and ‘toon, because as noted above, live actors are sorely missed in a plethora of situations. Be they musical numbers, heretic slayings, Todd and Curtis’ constant references to wanking, wangs or other pelvic nods (no, for real, like every other sentence) – human reactions no longer temper such aggressive, self-gratifying cocksmanship. It doesn’t help that songs never reach the memorable level of “Horny Like The Devil,” but the likes of House, Leishman, Turnbull and Castle were masters of selling schlock, shock and Satan’s asshole of situations. Instead, lines now land flat like – for example – Leavins’ lessened ability to turn pervy, stalkerish quips into hilarious underage stranger-dangers. Again, it’s not Metalocalypse – and without that kind of designer depth, a wall prevents inter-dimensional immersion into Todd’s extracurricular madness.

If this review sounds over-negative, fret not – it’s merely wishes of what could have been. None of this is to say Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End should be skipped. When you’re already known for masterstrokes of ballbusting immaturity, metal-horned malevolence and vicious teen-angst creature vanquishing, expectations are going to be sky high. Directors Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace successfully service fans with a smile, ensuring that rivers of red scribbled blood spurt from decapitated school children just like we’re used to. It’s just, I mean – ugh, sorry, I just have to say it one more time. BY DIMEBAG’S BEARD, this would have been an epic live-action flick. As is? Still one fine-with-a-capital-F-YEAH return to Crowley High for the faithful who’ve been waiting some 5-or-so years in a Todd-less purgatory.

  • Film
3.0

Summary

Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End brings closure to hungry fans in all the ways they’d hope – albeit turned down a notch through animation. Over-the-top kills and headbanging metal riffs still reign supreme, they’re just drawn by hand instead of oozing practical effects this time.

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User Rating 3.11 (9 votes)
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The Shape of Water Review: A Quirky Mix of Whimsy and Horror That Does Not Disappoint

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Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stulbarg, Doug Jones

Directed by Guillermo del Toro


“True Blood,” Beauty and the Beast, and Twilight aside, the notion of romantic love between humans and otherworldly creatures has been a popular theme throughout storytelling history. The ancient Greeks told tales of Leda and the swan, while stories of mermaids luring sailors to their lusty demise were met with wonder worldwide, stemming from Assyria c. 1000 BC. To this day, there’s Creature From the Black Lagoon fanfic that’s quite racy… for whatever reason, some people are fascinated by this fantasy taboo.

The new period film from co-writer/director Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water, dives right into the erotic motif with the tale of how Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) fell in love. (While I personally could have done without the bestiality angle, I do applaud del Toro for having the balls to show what’s usually implied.) Having said that, The Shape of Water is about more than just interspecies passion.

The Shape of Water is a voluptuous, sumptuous, grand, and melodramatic Gothic fable at times (there’s even a lavish 1940s style dance routine!), but mostly it’s an exciting and gripping adventure, pitting the good guys against one very bad buy – played with mustache-twirling (minus the mustache), bug-eyed glee by Michael Shannon. Shannon is Strickland, a sinister and spiteful Cold War government operative who is put in charge of a mysterious monster captured in the Amazon and shipped to his Baltimore facility for study. When using cruel and abusive methods to crack the creature’s secrets doesn’t work, Strickland decides to cut him open to see what’s ticking inside.

Elisa, a lowly cleaning lady at the facility, has meanwhile grown fond of “the Asset,” as he’s called. She’s been spending time with him on the sly, not even telling her two best friends about her budding tenderness for the mute and isolated alien. She relates to him because not only is she lonesome, she’s unable to speak (an abusive childhood is alluded to – which includes water torture). Using sign language, she first tells out-of-work commercial illustrator Giles (Richard Jenkins), then her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer), about the need to rescue her waterlogged Romeo from Strickland’s scalpel. Needless to say, it won’t be easy sneaking a classified government experiment out of the high security building.

The Shape of Water is vintage del Toro in terms of visuals and accoutrement. The set-pieces are stunning to say the least. Elisa and Giles live in cozy, cluttered, age-patinaed apartments above a timeworn Art Deco moving-pictures palace; Strickland’s teal Cadillac is a collection of curves and chrome; and the creature’s tank is a steampunk nightmare of iron, glass, and sturdy padlocks. DP Dan Laustsen (Crimson Peak) does justice to each and every detail. Costumes (Luis Sequeira) and Creature (Legacy Effects) are appropriately stunning. The velvety score by Alexandre Desplat (“Trollhunters”) is both subdued and stirring.

While the film is a fantasy-fueled feast for the senses, it’s really the actors who keep you caring about the players in such an unrealistic, too-pat story. Jones, entombed in iridescent latex and with GC eyes, still manages to emote and evoke sympathy as the misfit monster. Jenkins is endearingly morose as a closeted gay man surrounded by his beloved cats and bolstered by the belief his hand-painted artwork is still relevant in an ever-more technical world. Spencer is the comic relief as a sassy lady who’s hobbled by her station in life but leaps into action when the chips are down.

Del Toro cowrote the screenplay with Vanessa Taylor, whose credits in the television world are numerous – but she’s probably best-known for her work on “Game of Thrones” – which adds an interesting and feminine perspective. The story definitely feels more comic-book than anything, which is okay I guess, but I prefer del Toro’s deeper delves into history and character (The Devil’s Backbone is still my fave). But, for those who love del Toro’s quirky mix of whimsy and horror, you will not be disappointed.

The Shape of Water is a dreamlike, pulpy adult fairytale that dances on the surface of reality while remaining true to the auteur’s vision.

  • Film
4.5

Summary

The Shape of Water is a dreamlike, pulpy adult fairytale that dances on the surface of reality while remaining true to the auteur’s vision.

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User Rating 4.57 (7 votes)
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