Marianne Maddalena

Marianne Maddalena

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The Last House on the Left (2009) Review


Weak
Nearly 40 years ago, quasi-hippy filmmakers Wes Craven and Sean S. Cunningham were looking to make a name for themselves (and a little cash, if possible) in the thriving New York exploitation scene. Working with some intent distributors, they adapted Igmar Bergman's Virgin Spring for the drive-in, and a grindhouse classic -- Last House on the Left -- was born. With its memorable marketing campaign ("repeat to yourself... it's only a movie... it's only a movie) and direct, documentary style, it had impact and import during a crucial time in post-modern American cinema. As with several of Craven's past projects, Last House has now been remade for the post-millennial crowd, and that's too bad. This tedious, tepid update offers none of the original's brutality or energy.

It's time for summer vacation and the Collingwood family -- doctor dad (Tony Goldwyn), teacher mom (Monica Potter), and daughter Mari (Sara Paxton) -- are heading to their isolated lake house for a little R&R. Sadly, the teenage girl will soon run into escaped killer Krug (Garrett Dillahunt), his son Justin (Spencer Treat Clark), the equally unhinged Francis (Aaron Paul), and gonzo gal pal Sadie (Riki Lindhome). Along with her buddy Paige (Martha MacIsaac), Mari will be tortured, abused, and left for dead. When the criminals show up at the Collingwood home looking for lodging, it's not long before the parents find out what happened... and when they do, the tables are turned and no one is safe.

Continue reading: The Last House on the Left (2009) Review

The Breed (2006) Review


Terrible
The cover has a picture of two snarling dogs and a girl in a bikini, facing off with them on all fours. Looks like a tasty werewolf movie... but no, The Breedi is Cujo 2: Electric Bugaloo. At best. A gaggle of twentysomethings take a trip to a cabin in the woods and are beset upon by some exceptionally rabid, aggressive mutts (later revealed to be genetic experiments), and they quickly find themselves being feasted upon... when they aren't busy accidentally maiming themselves severely. Headliner Michelle Rodriguez proves here that her acting ability is actually getting worse as time wears on, and Taryn Manning is grating (as usual) from frame one. The script is about as absurd as they come, stuffed to the breaking point with "We gotta stay together." cliches and warmed-over action sequences pilfered from every horror movie under the sun.

Continue reading: The Breed (2006) Review

The Breed (2006) Review


Terrible
The cover has a picture of two snarling dogs and a girl in a bikini, facing off with them on all fours. Looks like a tasty werewolf movie... but no, The Breedi is Cujo 2: Electric Bugaloo. At best. A gaggle of twentysomethings take a trip to a cabin in the woods and are beset upon by some exceptionally rabid, aggressive mutts (later revealed to be genetic experiments), and they quickly find themselves being feasted upon... when they aren't busy accidentally maiming themselves severely. Headliner Michelle Rodriguez proves here that her acting ability is actually getting worse as time wears on, and Taryn Manning is grating (as usual) from frame one. The script is about as absurd as they come, stuffed to the breaking point with "We gotta stay together." cliches and warmed-over action sequences pilfered from every horror movie under the sun.

Continue reading: The Breed (2006) Review

The Hills Have Eyes II Review


Weak
A remake of Wes Craven's 1977 horror flick of the same name, last year's The Hills Have Eyes brought nothing new to the horror genre. But director Alexandre Aja's (High Tension) vivid modernization and incredibly grisly images shocked audiences all the same, and the popularity of that remake -- of course -- spawned this sequel, The Hills Have Eyes II.

There was a sequel to the original Hills in 1985 that had race-bound bikers busing their way across the desert and ending up stranded. This far bloodier version of the sequel has National Guard trainees on a routine mission falling into the hands of our favorite deformed mutants in the same desert as the unfortunate family in the 2006 movie.

Continue reading: The Hills Have Eyes II Review

Cursed Review


Grim
Although Arrested Development's Portia De Rossi and Judy Greer co-star in the werewolf mishmash Cursed, fellow Arrested cast member and erstwhile Teen Wolf Jason Bateman is nowhere to be found. Too bad; this horror-comedy could use a little more deadpan in its comedy, and a little more anything in its horror.

Really, both should've been covered when Miramax reunited Scream's writer and director, Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven. In the Scream trilogy, these uneven artists brought out the best in each other: Williamson's overwritten self-referential dialogue felt smarter braced against Craven-directed tension, which flourished with funny and likable characters. Cursed starts with the likable characters, and then jams on the brakes.

Continue reading: Cursed Review

Music of the Heart Review


Good
The creator of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream is toying with our conscience again, only this time his weaponry isn't Freddy's claws or a murderous prank caller. Director Wes Craven's latest endeavor, Music of the Heart, switches gears to more virtuous human emotions in order to tell us the story of one woman's triumph and the revival of a downtrodden urban community. Oddly enough, this film is just as powerful as any of Craven's horror films and can evoke strong emotion and sentiment, if you let it.

Music of the Heart begins like any of the other "triumphant teacher" dramas we've all seen. Stand and Deliver and Dangerous Minds both crossed my mind as I sat through the first hour of Roberta Guaspari's (Meryl Streep) struggle to teach a handful of young urban kids how to play the violin. This part of the story is hackneyed and clichéd, and you've seen it before--if not in a previous movie than in some boring after-school special. But where other "triumphant teacher" dramas fail because they concentrate too much on the saintliness of the teacher, this movie succeeds in its captivation of Roberta Guaspari's character flaws, and her struggle as a single mother attempting to raise her two children in East Harlem. When the film expands beyond the existence of just "Roberta the teacher" and into the rest of her life, the film becomes genuinely enjoyable.

Continue reading: Music of the Heart Review

The Hills Have Eyes (2006) Review


Good
The Hills Have Eyes is a truly American horror film. Like Manifest Destiny gone horribly awry, the film reflects our obsession with the danger of the West: Its forbidden, desolate landscapes, the rugged masochism it inspires. For Americans, the West is a place where anything can and does happen. And in The Hills Have Eyes our nastiest nightmares are bloodily realized.

Wes Craven's brutal 1977 micro-budgeted The Hills Have Eyes was a post-hippie scream of horror, both at the collapse of the youth-led revolution and the dreadfulness of the Vietnam War. Craven turned his eye to home, to the desolate stretches of vast American desert where he could posit a family of bloodthirsty mutants preying on those who stumble onto their fallout abode, and it could almost (almost) seem plausible. With a world of misery at large, how strange would it be to find murderous maniacs in our own backyard? Sure, the original film suffers from some notably outré moments and jagged pacing, but Craven succeeded in bringing a grimly gleeful sense of humor to what was essentially a Texas Chainsaw Massacre riff.

Continue reading: The Hills Have Eyes (2006) Review

Music of the Heart Review


Good
The creator of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream is toying with our conscience again, only this time his weaponry isn't Freddy's claws or a murderous prank caller. Director Wes Craven's latest endeavor, Music of the Heart, switches gears to more virtuous human emotions in order to tell us the story of one woman's triumph and the revival of a downtrodden urban community. Oddly enough, this film is just as powerful as any of Craven's horror films and can evoke strong emotion and sentiment, if you let it.

Music of the Heart begins like any of the other "triumphant teacher" dramas we've all seen. Stand and Deliver and Dangerous Minds both crossed my mind as I sat through the first hour of Roberta Guaspari's (Meryl Streep) struggle to teach a handful of young urban kids how to play the violin. This part of the story is hackneyed and clichéd, and you've seen it before--if not in a previous movie than in some boring after-school special. But where other "triumphant teacher" dramas fail because they concentrate too much on the saintliness of the teacher, this movie succeeds in its captivation of Roberta Guaspari's character flaws, and her struggle as a single mother attempting to raise her two children in East Harlem. When the film expands beyond the existence of just "Roberta the teacher" and into the rest of her life, the film becomes genuinely enjoyable.

Continue reading: Music of the Heart Review

Red Eye Review


OK
Horror director Wes Craven has had his share of hits and misses. His strongest work encompasses the iconic (A Nightmare on Elm Street) and the ironic (Scream). His weakest outings give the genre a bad name (Deadly Friend). Red Eye, his latest effort, shows that while he may not drive your fingernails into the armrest like he used to, he still knows how to grab your attention.

The film begins with Lisa (Rachel McAdams), a driven professional, on her way to board the eponymous flight from Dallas to Miami. When the flight is delayed, she meets Jackson (Cillian Murphy), who, after some clumsy flirting, gains her trust. By apparent coincidence, they end up seated together when the flight finally takes off. Unfortunately, Jackson turns out to be part of a conspiracy to kill a Homeland Security bigwig and Lisa is a key to their plans. Jackson tells her that if she doesn't help, a man is waiting outside her father's house, ready to kill him.

Continue reading: Red Eye Review

Wes Craven's New Nightmare Review


Grim
In this unofficial seventh entry into the Nightmare on Elm Street series, Wes Craven takes us into one of the most bizarro horror setups ever put to film, as he reveals, yeah, those other six films were all just movies, but now it's for real. He's not kidding: Craven plays himself, as does Robert Englund... and Craven reveals that Freddy is some sort of half-spiritual evil (thus inspiring his screenplays), and now his intended victim is Heather Langenkamp (also playing herself), the star of the original Nightmare film. She's now a mom, and her creepy son has something to do with all of this, with a less-burned-up Freddy stalking the starlet from reality into some proto-sleepwalking-fantasy world. By the end, she's discovered the very script she's living, and, well, if any of this ends up making sense to you then you're a better man than I.

Scream 3 Review


Good
Normally, as a critic, we are exempt from the cost of seeing a movie. Normally, we get in for absolute zero when we attend a press screener of a film. However, since Dimension, for what appear to be highly mysterious (and controversial) reasons, cancelled the screener of Scream 3 I had to pay.

This is one movie that I did not waste my money on.

Continue reading: Scream 3 Review

Scream 2 Review


OK
Two Words: Flying Camel.

Ha! I got you. You thought it would be "Good Sequel," didn't you? The reason I say Flying Camel is because, in an ordinary universe, Flying Camels do exist (although they do in Wim Wenders' The End of Violence). In the ordinary universe, good sequels are just as rare.

Continue reading: Scream 2 Review

Marianne Maddalena

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