Directed by Spike Lee
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
The first question that must be asked is…why? Why would Spike Lee feel like he needed to reach back and tinker with a beloved film like Chan-wook Park’s Oldboy? I suppose anticipation of box office riches would be the obvious answer. But then, wouldn’t he want to pick a film he could at least do justice to with a remake? Because Oldboy was apparently well out of his reach.
Park’s Oldboy is a fantastic film. A mystery that leaves the viewer stunned, breathless. Its main character, Dae-su Oh (played unforgettably by Min-sik Choi), was amazing. He had such layers and personality. Oh could be brutal in one scene, then make you laugh in the next. But his most admirable trait was his love for the young sushi chef he meets, Mi-do. It’s the charisma of Dae-su and the slow build-up of the relationship between him and Mi-do that gives Oldboy a lot of its power. Unfortunately, when directing the remake, Lee missed those two points completely.
Instead of Choi’s Oh, we get Josh Brolin’s Joe Doucett as the lead character. And to Brolin’s credit, he does what’s asked of him. We get a little bit more backstory on Joe than we did on Dae-su, and we find that Joe is a complete asshole. Brolin plays it well. He goes through some impressive physical changes in the role as well which are also really amazing. He’s just not given a character with any real depth. He spends most of the film hulking around the screen like a jacked-up version of Henry Rollins as Spike Lee basically turns Oldboy into an action film.
In Lee’s Oldboy he spends more time with his main character confined in the hotel room and removes much of the growing love between the two main characters. This is pretty much as backwards as you can get, as, even though Joe’s confinement is a major part of the story, it is not worth sacrificing time between Joe and his love interest, Marie (Elizabeth Olsen). Joe and Marie’s relationship seems completely arbitrary and senseless, and he presents her with nothing that would attract a beautiful young girl to a crotchety older man. He’s surly and distant and closed off. We’re supposed to believe she falls in love with this? Yeah, he’s jacked, but looking like she does, Marie could get just about any man she wanted. Joe is a shit and we don’t see any kind of tender moment between them until about an hour and 10 minutes into the hour and 40-minute run time. And Joe is still indifferent toward her.
There are some positive parts of Spike Lee’s Oldboy that should be heralded. The action, especially the choreography of the fight scenes, was fantastic. If nothing else, Joe Doucett taught himself how to kick ass after being locked up for 20 years, and it shows. There are some real bone-shattering moments in the movie. Additionally, the F/X are outstanding. From the infamous claw hammer to shotgun wounds to all sorts of other bits of nastiness, the F/X team on this film should be applauded. Also, it never hurts to have Samuel L. Jackson in the cast to drop a couple “muthafuckas” and spice up the dialogue. Jackson plays Chaney, who was originally Mr. Park (played sufficiently shiftily by Dal-su Oh) in the 2003 version of the film. Jackson retains the flair that Dal-su brought to the role and has his own nasty run in with Joe just as Park had lost some chompers to Dae-su.
However, as much fun as it was to have Sam Jackson in the film, some other additions to the cast didn’t work quite as well. Michael Imperioli was one of the most impressive actors in the cast of “The Sopranos,” but in Oldboy he’s just meh and delivers one of the most ridiculous death scenes in recent memory. Tongue out and all! Also (and this was a much more egregious error), Sharlto Copley’s performance as Adrian Doyle Pryce is almost cartoonish. Copley’s (who rocketed to stardom after his amazing work in District 9) character is the Americanized version of the main Oldboy antagonist, Woo- jin Lee. Of course that character in the 2003 film was a very rich, very proper businessman. Adrian Doyle Pryce (even the name is overkill) is supposed to be the same type of man, but between Copley’s acting and Spike Lee’s direction, the character comes out as a complete joke. A caricature. From his ridiculous facial hair to his overly flamboyant nature and mannerisms, this character, the main antagonist, was way off the mark.
There were plenty of nods to the original film in the remake. It was cool to see the angel wings Dae-su bought his daughter show up on a street vendor in the new movie. There was also an octopus Joe stops to admire in a restaurant’s fish tank. Many scenes were reminiscent of the first film… the dumpling search and the Double Dragon-esque fight scene were two notable ones. But too much was missing. Lee changed major parts of the story and there was no transformation in Joe (outside of a physical one) like the film needs. Dae-su was an evolving character; Joe is a berserker from the get-go who knows one speed: kill. But where Spike really drops the ball is in Oldboy‘s legendary climactic scene. Without giving away the secrets, let’s just say the original film’s ending is unforgettable. Choi’s performance is heart-wrenching and extreme. His emotional pain is palpable. In the case of Joe, we don’t get much. It is Brolin’s most emotional moment in the movie, but his character never gives much, and in the climax of the film that doesn’t change. Simply put, Joe Doucett is no Dae-su Oh.
There are two brief featurettes on the Blu-ray. The first is a short making-of segment that basically shows us Spike Lee looking ridiculous in various oversized outfits featuring gaudy New York sports teams’ logos. The most memorable part of it is a quote from Brolin wherein he says that he started wanting to make movies as a career when he saw Spike Lee’s film He’s Got Game. Really? That was the one that did it for you, huh?
Additionally, there is a much shorter segment called Transformation which basically shows the changes Brolin’s body and physical appearance went through for the movie. (And this is exactly where Lee misses the point. The movie is as much about the changes inside the main character as his outward appearance.) This is basically only a little more than a trailer for the movie, about the same run time, with the highlight being Spike Lee calling Brolin’s performance in Oldboy a “tour de force.” One hand washes the other, I suppose. The Blu-ray also contains some alternate/extended scenes as well as Talking Heads, a featurette discussing the Oldboy story, and some clips from Joe’s favorite workout video.
It’s tough to go back and remake a film as beloved as Oldboy. It never works out well. And, unfortunately, if you want the publicity that comes with remaking a picture like this, you’ve got to know you’re going to be compared to it. In this case, as in most cases, the remake just can’t stand up to the original. Brolin is certainly capable of more than we saw from him, but this new Oldboy would have been best left locked away somewhere.
2 out of 5
2 out of 5
Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review
Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne
Directed by Charles Martin Smith
I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.
Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.
Now let’s get to it.
First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.
Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.
I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.
Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.
It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!
And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.
Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.
This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.
And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.
Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!
In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?
That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.
Rockstar lighting for days.
Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.
Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.
More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.
Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcorn, and if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.
Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.
All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!
Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!
Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.
AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters
Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill
Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk
** NO SPOILERS **
It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.
To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.
That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.
Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.
Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.
Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.
Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.
But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.
But let’s backtrack a bit here.
Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).
And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.
Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.
With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.
Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.
I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.
Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!
Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.
Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?
On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.
That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.
In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.
While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.
Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.
Bring on season 12.
The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.
The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror
Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro
Directed by Nicholas Woods
The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).
The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.
The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.
The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.
The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.
The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.
- Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
- Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
- If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
- “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
- The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
- As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
- “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
- The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
- Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.
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