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Halloween (1978) Review

Considered by many to be a modern horror classic, Halloween succeeds through simplicity. This thriller -- a veritable kickoff for 25-plus years of slasher films -- works because director John Carpenter keeps the story neat and the presentation basic. It's an approach that gives Halloween an easy, no-frills realism, and a likable indie style that shines through even today. Carpenter and co-writer/producer Debra Hill turn a few suburban streets into a house of horrors for some unsuspecting teenagers -- with no special effects and very few cheap thrills.

A 19-year-old Jamie Lee Curtis makes her film debut as Laurie Strode, a bookish, anti-social highschooler unaware that while she babysits on Halloween night, a psychotic maniac lurks in the neighborhood. The strong, silent type, this hulking being quietly walks the town in which he killed his sister 15 years earlier, back for more after a hospital escape. Meanwhile, his horrified doctor (the ominous Donald Pleasance) waits, as single-mindedly obsessed as the killer he's chasing.

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The Dead Zone Review

One of the more successful entries into the Stephen King horror film genre (and probably the best under the Dino De Laurentiis production label), The Dead Zone is aided in no small part by Christopher Walken in the lead role.

Walken stars as high school teacher Johnny Smith, who wrecks his Beetle and spends five years in a coma, only to discover he now has the gift of second sight. Predicting local tragedies is one thing, but eventually he becomes entangled in a political race (with Martin Sheen running for President), and Johnny foresees that if he wins, disaster will ensue (you know, the nuclear kind).

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World Trade Center Review

Oliver Stone's World Trade Center is a victim of bad timing and a blockbuster mindset. The heroism of September 11, 2001 is still fresh in the minds of millions of Americans, but so is the terror and unease of that day. Stone's movie doesn't reflect those feelings. He hasn't made a movie for a 2006 audience; he's made one for 2036.Stone's account of that day sticks to the two Port Authority cops, John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno (Nicolas Cage and Crash's Michael Pena, respectively), who were pinned for hours under the rubble of the World Trade Center. As the men talk to each other and endure cave-ins and unspeakable pain, the movie drifts to how their wives (Maggie Gyllenhaal and Maria Bello) handle the news of the terrorist attacks and of their husbands' uncertain fates.World Trade Center is meant to showcase America's heroism during a truly heinous time, but why does it feel so empty? The reason lies in this year's other notable 9/11 movie, the memorable United 93. That movie focused on one aspect of that terrible day -- the crew and passengers who gave up their lives to prevent a commuter flight from crashing into the White House -- but it gave you the experience without any chaser. There were no big name actors, no storylines featuring cute kids. It was a reminder of the country's capabilities, and it was desperately needed given the United States' wobbly war on terror. The best compliment I can give director Paul Greengrass is that his film felt necessary.Stone's picture doesn't. His film boils down to being about two tough cops trapped. The reminders that we bonded as a nation that day are thrown in bits and pieces: the former Marine who suits up; the cops from Wisconsin who serve bratwurst; the EMT who tells the cop to say goodbye to his wife for him; the 9/11 news accounts and sound bites. It's almost as if the studio execs said, "Hey, those two cops stuck underneath make for a great story, but how can we make it about 9/11 and not about 9/11?" World Trade Center feels like a rescue drama capitalizing on the day's frenzy, paying little heed to that day's incomprehensible heroism. And the frenzy from the home front isn't credible. Bello and Gyllenhaal look too well-preserved to suffer, too toned to be working class housewives. The latter especially applies to Bello's character. How many mothers of four look like they can run a mile in under six minutes?The focus on Jimeno and McLoughlin further takes away from the day's togetherness. What about everyone else who was pinned underneath the rubble, or the cops, firefighters, and office workers who died leading people to safety? (For more on that read Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn's brilliant 102 Minutes.) What about the families who waited in hospitals or by silent phones for good news that never came? September 11 was about a city and a country mourning and pulling together. It wasn't about two people, no matter how brave they were.World Trade Center feels too much like it was made for nostalgia purposes: Hey, do you remember that? How you felt? Well, yeah, all too vividly, actually. The television accounts and newspapers told us plenty about those brave men and women on the ground working all hours, ignoring fatigue. We still have those images swimming in our heads and our hearts, and such a compressed, slick vehicle doesn't serve as a fitting tribute, at least not yet.Off to work.

The Fog (2005) Review

It should be an unwritten rule of moviegoing: if it's not reviewed in the papers (or here) by Friday you shouldn't see it. Studios know when they have critical duds on their hands. They know when a film is atrociously acted, exceedingly dull, and entirely contrived. They don't screen those films for critics. They don't want the bad press on opening night. For a good many films, this sort of passive aggressive deception works. People go to see the films and the studios make their money back. My only hope is that you take my advice: If it hasn't been reviewed on Friday, wait a day. Or two. Then look online for the review. Chances are it'll be like this one.

The Fog is a terrible movie. Simply put, it sucks. It should have gone straight to video. No, even that is a better fate. It should have gone directly to the Sci-Fi Channel, the latest repository for "new" terrible films.

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Reform School Girl Review

Rarely have I longed for the hours lost watching a terrible movie than after (and during) a screening of the atrocious Reform School Girl, a picture released 11 years after its making on DVD (and a remake of an oldie), thanks to a shortish appearance in it by Joey star Matt LeBlanc -- who, no, does not play one of the girls.

B-lister Aimee Graham gets a rare starring role here as a good girl who gets caught up in a random and dumbass crime (with LeBlanc), then gets sent to reform school where she spends her time swabbing floors, inciting food fights, exploring lesbian love (natch!), and throwing the big race at the "school" track meet.

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Escape From New York Review

The idea of Manhattan being transformed into a maximum security prison isn't much of a stretch. Many New Yorkers already feel as though they're in jail every day, surrounded by monolithic skyscraper walls. John Carpenter imaginatively stretched that premise in his cult classic, Escape from New York. In his alternate version of 1997, the Big Apple is a cityscape jail. The rules are simple. Once the inmates are shipped in, they don't get out. The bridges are mined. The waterways are watched over by sweeping helicopters. The police force, like an army, is encamped on Liberty Island and the outer boroughs.

That's exciting enough, but Carpenter also calculates in a ticking time bomb narrative device. Air Force One is hijacked by some socialist radicals who crash-land the plane into the heart of "this inhuman dungeon of [an] imperialist prison." The President (Donald Pleasence) manages to escape in a safety pod, only to be captured by none other than the leader of a ferocious band of gypsies who control the island, the self-proclaimed Duke of New York (Isaac Hayes).

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Crazy In Alabama Review

This bizarrely incoherent tale set in the segregated South mixes two stories as well as oil and water. One follows Melanie Griffith's neo-psychotic widow on a cross-country trip with her husband's decapitated head along for the ride. The second follows her nephew's quest to integrate a small town in Alabama. The only thing scarier than Griffith's black fright wig is the "directed by Antonio Banderas" credit. Talk about crazy.

Dragstrip Girl Review

You could make a worse movie than Dragstrip Girl, but you'd really have to try awful hard. The story: Bad Hispanic boy (Raymond Cruz) falls for good rich white girl (Natasha Gregson Wagner), with tragic consequences that play out over a backdrop of 1950s amateur drag racing. Will their love be able to overcome the enormous obstacles -- namely, that he's a car thief and she's a cheerleader -- or will society crush their budding romance?

Who cares!? This movie is so bad that the ending (which, by the way, is just about the worst part of the film) slips out of mind as soon as the disc pops out of your DVD player. Made for TV way back in 1994 and only now getting its DVD and home video release because Wagner and Cruz have become minor stars, you won't see any hint of the performing ability you might find from them today, simply because the story is so poorly written it couldn't have been saved by Cary Grant. Just about the only joy to be found in the film is from a grizzled Traci Lords, playing the hooker next door whom our scruffy hero likes to spy on through the enormous hole in the wall.

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Halloween II Review

It took three years to get it to screen, but Halloween #2 picks up immediately where Halloween #1 left off. Michael Myers chases Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) through the hospital where she has been recently interred, while Donald Pleasence grumbles about druids. Absolutely awful, with no trace of the original's terror. (Side note: Curtis, playing a teenager, is 23 years old at the time.)

The Fog (1980) Review

Pretty brilliant notion from John Carpenter: Combine scream queens Adrienne Barbeau and Jamie Lee Curtis with old-school actors like John Houseman and Hal Holbrook. Here they come together in a story about a fog that invades a seaside town, carrying with it hooded killers. Excellent mixture of genuine frights, misdirection, and old-fashioned bloodshed. One of Carpenter's best.

Jailbreakers Review

What's this??? William Friedkin (renowned director of The French Connection and The Exorcist) directing a new film with Shannen Doherty (now 30 years old) playing a highschool cheerleader who isn't even old enough to drive????? A little digging gets to the truth -- Jailbreakers was made directly for Showtime back in 1994. How Friedkin got involved and why Dimension is releasing it on video and DVD now will have to remain a mystery.

Doherty's "Angel" plays a 1950s rising-star student/actress/cheerleader who suddenly falls in love with a wrong-side-of-the-tracks type named Tony (Antonio Sabato Jr.). Trouble inevitably strikes when she and Tony go on a crime spree, landing him in jail again and forcing her family to split town. A daring (read: incomprehensibly stupid) escape courtesy of Tony's pal (Adrien Brody) gets him out of jail... so he can track down Angel in her new life!

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Halloween III: Season Of The Witch Review

It's almost understandable that John Carpenter made Halloween III without Michael Myers -- or any actual reference to the first two films. Why? Well, Mikey burned to a crisp at the end of Halloween II. And lord knows, people can't just get back up and start killing after they burn into oblivion. The story this time out involves an evil toymaker, cursed masks, and the potential death of every child hunting for Halloween candy. The masks have little bits of one of the rocks from Stonehenge in them. If only our hero can stop the "kill" signal from being sent to the masks on Halloween night!

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Cool And The Crazy Review


Ever wonder what became of Ralph Bakshi -- who made those weird Lord of the Rings videos in the '70s along with Fritz the Cat? Well, among other atrocities he's responsible for this film, Jared Leto's first film and one of Alicia Silverstone's earlier appearances, too.

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Shake, Rattle & Rock! Review

Now that Renée Zellweger is a big big star, what better time than the present to release a seven year-old dud with Renée in the starring role? (See also The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which was also released in 1994 with the aid of Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey.)

A virtually identical film to John Waters' Hairspray, Shake, Rattle & Rock! Tells us of teens obsessed with a 50's-era dance show, the parents that disapprove, and the struggle of minority chanteuses to get through the door. Unfortunately, Shake doesn't bear nearly the pleasures of a Waters' movie. While director Allan Arkbush is wise in casting the charming Patricia Childress and Max Perlich into supporting roles as Renée's friends (and later bandmates as she starts her own rockin' group), the movie is just plain dull and invariably predictable, an after-school special at best. And there's so much slow-motion nonsense that film comes off as padded and lifeless, despite a spare 83-minute running time.

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Runaway Daughters Review

Looking at the talent lined up for Runaway Daughters, I can only assume the whole affair is an elaborate joke that no one ever got.

This is a bad movie, folks, and here's why.

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