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Did you schmoes know that Robert Englund wrote a rejected script for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 that revolved around the sister of Tina coming back to Springwood to investigate the many dream related deaths? I've got to admit that the premise sounds pretty cool on its own merits, but the fact that it was penned by the actor that so indelibly brought one of cinema's boogeymen to life makes it so much more intriguing.
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movieman32 posted a BLOG item 3 months ago

Why It's a Classic : The Descent

Spoiler alert : Aaargh! Beware, all ye who enter this blog. For here there be spoilers.

Author’s note : Once I decided on The Descent for my next Why It’s a Classic blog, it was one I was looking forward to since it was the very first movie I ever reviewed on MFC. :)

Welcome, schmoes, to my latest installment of Why It’s a Classic, a series of blogs in which I’ll take a movie I have deemed worthy of classic status and examine just why that’s so. The latest classic to be examined is this 2005 effort from Neil Marshall…….

When this 2002 effort by Marshall…..

…...was a moderate success, he received several offers to direct another horror movie, but was initially resistant due to not wanting to get typecast as a horror director. However, he agreed to direct The Descent due to the dissimilarity between it and Dog Soldiers. Marshall initially wanted the cast to be multigender, but a business partner pointed out the rarity of an all female cast in such movies. To avoid making them cliched, he sought out the advice of his female friends, and explained the difference by saying, " The women discuss how they feel about the situation, which the soldiers in Dog Soldiers would never have done. " While the movie was set in North America, it was shot entirely in the UK, with exteriors being done in Scotland, and the interiors being done on sets built at Pinewood Studios near London. And, yes, you read that correctly. For a movie to nearly take place entirely in a cave, none of the cast or crew stepped foot inside an actual cave since it was felt to be too costly and time consuming. Instead 21 cave sets were designed by this most masterful production designer……..

Simon Bowles
…...and were constructed by this maestro…….

Rod Vass
Since Marshall shot the movie in strict chronological order, he was able to take the sets and redress and reuse them in later scenes. He also sought to limit the lighting to what was available to the characters, such as flares and the lights on their helmets. Marshall cited the films The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Thing, and Deliverance as influences in establishing tension in The Descent. He elaborated, " We really wanted to ramp up the tension slowly, unlike all the American horror films you see now. They take it up to 11 in the first few minutes and then simply can't keep it up. We wanted to show all these terrible things in the cave: dark, drowning, claustrophobia. Then, when it couldn't get any worse, make it worse. " He has also stated that he was influenced by Italian horror movies from the past, especially those by

Dario Argento

Lucio Fulci.

During the movie, the women encounter a group of creatures which were referred to as crawlers by the production crew, although no name was actually given to them onscreen. Once Marshall decided on a cave setting, he decided to add the crawlers, describing them as " something that could get the women, something human, but not quiet. " He further explained, " They've evolved in this environment over thousands of years. They've adapted perfectly to thrive in the cave. They've lost their eyesight, they have acute hearing and smell and function perfectly in the pitch black. They're expert climbers, so they can go up any rock face and that is their world. " He added women and children to the mix of crawlers, and explained his decision to do so by saying, " It is a colony and I thought that was far more believable than making them the classic monsters. If they had been all male, it would have made no sense, so I wanted to create a more realistic context for them. I wanted to have this very feral, very primal species living underground, but I wanted to make them human. I didn't want to make them aliens because humans are the scariest things. " The crawlers were designed by this dude right here…..

Paul Hyett
The crawler design started out as more wide eyed and creature like, but eventually shifted to a more human like appearance. They originally had pure white skin, but was changed to make their appearance grubbier. They were also phosphorescent, but since that was too bright in the cave setting, the idea was dropped in order to make them blend in the shadows better.

Why It’s a Classic
Geez Louise, poppa cheese, where do I start? I guess the first thing would have to be how the characters are kept relatable, which really helps once then excrement hits the cooling device. Now don’t misunderstand what I say when I mean the characters are relatable, that doesn’t mean they’re cookie cutter angels with nary a flaw among them. These women have their flaws, chief among them the fact that

is having an affair with

husband Paul, which causes her to duck out when Sarah loses her husband and daughter in a car crash. That in turn sets up the animosity

Beth ( my favorite character )
feels toward her. And what I love about these three characters’ emotional backstory is just how swiftly and efficiently it’s laid out. The affair is implied with a passing look between Juno and Paul…..

….which is unhappily noticed by Beth. It’s just a few seconds long, but lays so much groundwork. Then there’s this exchange between Beth and Sarah on their way to meet the others :
Beth : Juno is some piece of work. She’s always dragging us out to…….well, just look at it!
Sarah : Well, you know, she did go with us to Scotland last year.
Beth : Yes, and left in an awful hurry.
Then there’s also the fact that during this same ride Beth expresses concern over Sarah’s ability to handle the spelunking and offers to stay in town with her and go to a bar and get drunk. It’s moments like these that make the characters feel real and three dimensional. ( And on a related note, Beth has a funny line where she complains about the local radio station playing " either blood, mud, and beer, or sweet Jesus . " And although the rest of the characters development isn’t overly belabored, there’s enough to make them come alive. You get a sense of Sam’s innate kindness with the exchange where Sarah thanks her for her letter, and you also get a sense of her older sister Rebecca’s uber protectiveness of her. And then there’s characterization of Holly as a thrill seeking daredevil, which is a really effective counterpart to the fact she’s the first one to lose her shit once the cave collapses and the seriousness of the women’s situation is made perfectly clear. And yet, despite the tensions bubbling underneath the surface of the group, they still cheerfully posed for this picture……

So, yeah, even though the women’s personalities were painted with broad brushstrokes, it was still more than sufficient to get the audience on their side. And it made it believable when they turned on each other, which is, after all, where the real horror is. ( Okay, so maybe the eviscerations, disembowelments, and general carnage on display are technically ALSO where the real horror is. But you get my drift . ) Then there’s the fact that this movie was an effective white knuckle thriller before the introduction of the crawlers, with a scene where the ladies have to traverse a chasm with limited supplies being an exemplary standout, and a scene where Beth and Sarah almost perish in a cave in being a close second.

Some critics have stated they wished the whole movie would’ve been played out along these lines, but I respectfully disagree. The already unbearable tension was kicked up a couple of dozen notches the moment this happened……

That was when one of the more visually spectacular shots occurred ( one which I couldn’t find a pic or gif for, unfortunately ) . As Juno lights a flare, the women freeze in terror as the camera does a semicircle around them while the slithering sounds of the crawlers intensify. It makes for a wonderfully creepy and intensely cinematic moment. Another interesting thing about The Descent is how Marshall has stated how the title is meant to refer to both the women’s descent into the cave, as well as into madness. It’s the second meaning of the title I would like to address, since it’s handled in such a visceral manner, particularly with the characters of Juno and Sarah. The others convincingly portrayed a fear crazed state, but it was those two whose portrayals touched upon the heart of darkness that Marshall referred to. By the movie’s end, Juno has pretty much mentally collapsed, and the interesting thing about that is how so many factors contribute to that outcome. Of course there’s the issue of the crawlers, but there’s also the fact that she lied to her friends and led them to their deaths, not to mention the affair she was having with Sarah’s husband and the fact that she abandoned her friend when she was needed the most. It’s no wonder she’s irrevocably shell shocked by the time she accidentally buries her pickaxe in Beth’s throat. Her increasingly deteriorated mental state also makes it interesting when she later refuses to leave without first finding Sarah. Whereas that would normally be portrayed as unequivocally heroic action, here it reads ( at least to me ) as a fractured mind desperately clinging to a last shot at redemption. And then there’s Sarah, who truly reaches a bestial state by the movie’s end. The first moment comes after she’s defeated a number of crawlers and raises her head and lets out an anguished scream. This comes at a point in the proceedings where it’s easy to believe Sarah’s mind is at the breaking point, given what the character has been through up to that point, including having a crawler mistaking her head for a small boulder and stepping on it.

And that’s after finding out what she did about Juno’s culpability in Beth’s death, as well as her affair with her husband. That’s why I find it so ironic that so many critics were hung up on the fact that Sarah got her revenge on Juno instead of concentrating on simply getting out alive. And to that I say…... SHE WAS FREAKIN’ INSANE BY THAT POINT, PEOPLE!! Finding out a supposed close friend was fucking your spouse would be enough to send most people over the edge, even without the additional psychosis and insanity added to the mix. But with those elements added, Sarah’s revenge killing of Juno makes perfect sense. What makes that outcome seem a little more inevitable is the snarly flicker of the lips Sarah gives Juno before revealing her incriminating necklace. But what I like the most about how Sarah’s descent into madness is portrayed is how the seeds for such an outcome are subtly planted early on. There’s a moment shortly after the women arrive in the cave where she gets separated from the rest of the group after being distracted by the sound of a child’s laughter, which is pretty ironic seeing as how she’s the only character who lost a child. I mean, we’ve already discussed Marshall’s plans to realistically depict a colony by showing both genders of crawlers, but you never actually see any child crawlers. And yet Sarah hears one, which is pretty interesting. So the element concerning the women’s descent into madness was one that was handled very well, imho. Another well handled element of the movie was Marshall’s visual homages to his influences. The opening credits flashed across the screen in a way that was reminiscent of Alien. Then there was the couple of homages to Deliverance, one of which was the red jumpsuit Juno wore…….

……...which was a visual shout out to Burt Reynolds, and a scene where Beth’s arm shoots straight up from where she’s laying, which is a shout out to the final scene of Ed’s nightmare of a hand rising out of the swamp. There was an aerial tracking shot of the women driving to the mountains that was an homage to The Shining, and the following shot was an homage to Apocalypse Now……

Then there was a scene where Sarah raises her head in an anguished cry……

…….that was a shout out to Carrie. There were also shout outs to The Blair Witch Project in shots seen through the lens of a camera’s night vision, including the big reveal of the crawlers…..

There’s also, according to what I’ve read, allusions to Picnic at Hanging Rock, Vertigo, 2001 : A Space Odyssey, The Third Man, and Don’t Look Now. The thing is, I haven’t seen any of those movies, so I can’t pinpoint where exactly those homages are. And on that note, there’s a piece of Ennio Morricone’s score for The Thing somewhere in the mix, although I’m not familiar enough with it to know where it’s at. And this doesn’t seem to be a one time deal either, as Dog Soldiers ( unseen by me ) is said to contain references to noted sci-fi author H.G. Wells ( Marshall’s favorite author ), as well as the movies The Evil Dead, Zulu, Aliens, The Matrix, and Star Trek 2 : The Wrath of Khan. So apparently the guy likes to reference his influences, and more power to him on that count. It does go a long way towards layering the proceedings and making things more enjoyable, without ever having the adverse effect of taking the viewer out of his movie. Another cool aspect of the movie was its symbolism, which was used somewhat sparingly but highly effectively. The first instance…….

…….was after Sarah wakes up in the hospital and was an excellent metaphor for the darkness that was closing in on her. Then there were the frequent flashes of Sarah’s daughter Jessica holding a birthday cake with five candles lit on it which appear throughout the movie as sporadic visions of Sarah’ s.

I believe the first thing to remember would be the fact that Sarah was discussing Jessica’s birthday seconds before tragedy struck. So it would make sense for her mind to keep returning to imagery associated with that moment. But the thing to make note of is the fact that there is only five candles shown throughout the movie, which symbolizes Sarah’s five friends. And that’s why they’re burning whenever you see five of them. Sarah’s friends hadn’t yet had their light ( that is to say their life ) snuffed out yet, which I believe is why you don’t see any more of these visions once the first character dies. That’s also why you see six candles adorning the cake during Sarah’s final vision…….

It’s not that Sarah has her life snuffed out in the original UK ending during which this final vision has taken place. But I believe the addition of the sixth candle represents the fact that Sarah’s sanity definitely got snuffed out. So that was the second bit of symbolism I enjoyed, and one of the reasons this movie was so enjoyable. And talk of Sarah’s final vision leads naturally to a discussion of the movie’s alternate endings, the original UK version, as well as the slightly truncated US ending. In the US ending, Sarah finds a mountain of bones which leads her to a way out. She makes it back to her vehicle in a highly traumatized state and gets in, only to see a vision of a bloodied Juno. The camera zooms in on Sarah’s shrieking reaction, and then the movie fades to black. In the original UK ending, things are the same up until the point where sees Juno and shrieks. But it then expands upon the scene by cutting back to Sarah in the cave, revealing her escape to merely have been a dream. We then have the aforementioned sequence where Sarah hallucinates her daughter holding the cake with the six candles, which she tellingly blows out.The camera then pulls back to reveal that the flames of the candles were in fact the flame from Sarah’s torch, as well as the fact the crawlers are getting closer. In the 4 August 2006 issue of Entertainment Weekly, it was stated that the ending was trimmed because American viewers did not like its " uber-hopeless finale ". Lionsgate marketing chief Tim Palen said, " It's a visceral ride, and by the time you get to the ending you're drained. Director Neil Marshall had a number of endings in mind when he shot the film, so he was open to making a switch. " Marshall compared the change to the ending of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, saying, " Just because she gets away, does that make it a happy ending ? " And that was exactly the spirit that I initially approached the ending. You see, that was the first ending I had seen, with the original ending being an extra feature. And I was initially okay with it for the very reason Marshall stated, which made it pretty much line up with the tone of the rest of the movie. But then I tuned into the original ending, and that was it for the compromised one. I didn’t give too much thought for my preference at the time. It just sat better with me, ya know ? But the rewatch I had in preparation for this blog made me realize that my main beef with the US ending is the fact that the birthday cake symbolism I enjoyed so much had no payoff. It was still present throughout the movie, and I suppose if one were being charitable it could be said those visions were a symptom of Sarah’s increasingly fragile state of mind. But the original ending takes that thread running throughout the movie and pays it off with a satisfyingly bleak, surreal manner, which makes it the clear winner in my book. And even though it never took me out of the movie, I remember thinking upon my first viewing just how conveniently stacked and unmoving the mound of bones Sarah traversed was, which is a detail that would make perfect sense if one were dealing with dream logic. But what surprised me was when I was reading the comments for Roger Ebert’s review of the movie and discovered just how many preferred the US ending,citing Sarah’s break with reality as being implausible, while I consider it to be the inevitable result of such a relentless series of shock situations. But to each their own, I suppose.

Final thoughts
So what we have here is a horror effort that hit the big screen without an ounce of fat on it, with every scene propelling the narrative forward. The Descent is filled with great, layered performances, awesome symbolism, nifty shout outs to other genre classics, and an almost unbearable tension, making it an easy candidate for the Why It’s a Classic column.

The mad genius behind it all !

Mood: Chillin'

sLaShEr84 at 11:55 PM Oct 23

Cool blog.

OldKingClancy at 07:27 PM Nov 01

I've said my piece on this film more than I care to remember but you've nailed why I love this flick so much. I like what you said about Juno's faltering mentality, it's an angle I've honestly never thought about cause I'm distracted by Sarah's own madness but I can absolutely see what you mean.

JohnLocke2342 at 08:16 PM Nov 20

HOLY SHIT dude I cannot believe I missed this blog. This is hands down one of the best, most in depth and incredibly retrospectives I’ve ever seen on MFC. You went above and beyond with this and made me think about the film in a whole new light. It’s a horror classic for a reason and one of the all-time brutal, raw genre flicks. Incredible stuff!

Read all 5 comments >>

movieman32 updated his STATUS: 3 months ago

Did you schmoes know that Robert Englund wrote a rejected script for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 that revolved around the sister of Tina coming back to Springwood to investigate the many dream related deaths? I've got to admit that the premise sounds pretty cool on its own merits, but the fact that it was penned by the actor that so indelibly brought one of cinema's boogeymen to life makes it so much more intriguing.
LelekPL at 09:33 AM Oct 07

I never knew that. I wish I knew that before I met Englund.

HTX0811 at 07:31 PM Oct 09

Never knew about this one but the Peter Jackson script for one of the other movies where I think the teens get drunk and beat up an older Freddy Krueger sounded really interesting.

movieman32 posted a BLOG item 6 months ago

Killer Klowns from Outer Space : Still a klassic!


Killer Klowns From Outer Space was a bona fide childhood classic that I hadn’t seen in years and, if you had asked me if I thought it would hold up, I wouldn’t have known how to answer that question. But then my buddy brought it on blu-ray and let me borrow it. And this recent rewatch has shown me that the answer to that particular question is yes, yes…….A THOUSAND TIMES YES!! Lol This movie is proof of how even the thinnest of plots can be made entertaining when the filmmakers’ imagination is given free reign to run wild. The plot concerns the titular aliens coming to Earth to kill and harvest humans for sustenance. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. And that’s not to mention the fact that every non clown character across the board is brought to life through some of the cheesier (over)acting put to film. But the genuine creativity on display nevertheless makes for a movie that remains a guilty pleasure due to moments such as this fatal ‘za delivery…..

" What are ya gonna do? Knock my block off? " YA DAMN RIGHT!
This was the scene that stood out the clearest for me, but I forgot just how amusing it was to see the clown do his little shuffle and tap himself with the boxing gloves.

It’s a small detail, but one that adds immeasurably to the humor of the scene.

This is one of my favorite examples of Killer Klown’s creativity, with the idea of a balloon dog coming to life and tracking our heroes simply being a cool idea. An interesting tidbit about this scene is the fact that the balloon dog's legs had to be coated in latex to keep from popping on the pine needles covering the ground. Or how about this unfortunate puppet show?

Another creative idea was the popcorn gun…..

This prop was the most expensive one in the movie, costing $7,000 and taking six weeks to build. It had an air compressor installed to actually propel popcorn. And the funny thing about all of that effort was the fact that it was initially lost on a young me, as I was underwhelmed by the weapon’s introduction. You had this scene of the heroes’ discovery and the clowns’ pursuit which was climaxed with the heroes being shot at with…….popcorn? Even at such a young, impressionable age, that payoff did little for me. It did, however, up the surprise factor when audiences were later shown how the popcorn was actually seeds which blossomed into little springy necked clownlings after what has to be one of cinema’s longest shower scenes involving the heroine Debbie.

What makes this scene even more of a classic is when Debbie opens the bathroom window and prepares to leap to safety, only to be confronted by these oddly prescient clowns…..

And then there’s my favorite scene in the entire movie, in which a shadow puppet show becomes deadly.

What I love most about this scene is the fact that such creativity is followed by a scene of patented Killer Klowns overacting ( not to mention one of the least convincing crashing a car into a wall scenes in cinema history ). Although acting of the caliber found here would usually be a detriment, in this instance it’s entirely appropriate, and lends the whole production a campy tone similar to that of the 60s Batman show. Another scene where this campy tone is evident is late in the movie when a security guard has an unfortunate encounter with a barrage of pies.

I love the nonchalant manner in which the security guard addresses the clowns as if it’s entirely natural to see a posse of clowns materialize out of nowhere armed with pies. But the cherry on top of this scene was when the last clown of the bunch impishly puts a cherry on top of the melted, smoking remains of the security guard. The Chiodo brothers originally wanted Soupy Sales to portray the security guard due to his routine of receiving pies to the face during his children’s show. However, the producers, who didn’t believe people would know who the comedian was, refused to fly him out.

But when it comes to campy moments of overacting, no one in the entire movie does it better or more consistently than this delightful chap here……

John Vernon as the hilariously obtuse Officer Mooney
Vernon easily walks away as the movie’s MVP with a hilariously over the top performance that had me in stitches throughout his screen time. And the thing that’s amusing is to contrast this viewing with my first viewing many, MANY years ago. You see, this performance didn’t stand out to me back then at all. Its effectiveness was on the same level as all the others. I guess that’s what happens when you’re talking about being young enough to actually take a plot like this seriously. You don’t exactly notice when a performance is loaded with camp value. But, geez Louise, poppa cheese, you can’t miss it once you go back and watch it again through adult eyes. And the thing that’s most amusing about his squinty, snarling performance is how the Chiodo brothers instructed him to play things straight. It then becomes the absurdity of the character that makes him so entertaining. Plus, you just gotta love how Mooney STILL refuses to believe the reports of clowns messing up the town even when he’s face to face with one of them, which results in scenes of him receiving quite the appropriate ( and highly entertaining ) torment and comeuppance…..

" This is where I’m supposed to read you your rights. But you’re in Mooney’s jail now. And in Mooney’s jail, you ain’t got no rights ! " LMAO You tell him, Mooney!

Ya know, I never noticed the fact that it’s obviously a wrapped up arm grabbing Mooney’s neck until I posted this gif. But, hey, what can I say? This is the kind of movie where such a detail adds to the overall charm.

And the best thing about this scene? Why, that would be the delightfully foreshadowed early moment when Mooney shouts out to his deputy, " Go ahead and make a dummy out of yourself! But you won’t make a dummy out of me ! " lol And this was many years before Edgar Wright would be celebrated for doing the same thing in his Cornetto trilogy. So that was a very enjoyable performance. But for all of the enjoyably hammy overacting to be found in Killer Klowns, there were a couple of genuinely creepy moments that bear mentioning. The first one occurred when the clowns were first entering the city. One clown enters the frame ahead of the others and turns around to look at them.

Since it takes several seconds for another clown to enter the frame….

…..the scene has the effect of making it seem as if the clown is looking directly at the audience, which is simply cool. Another tense, creepy moment was this one right here……

This moment is one that still works, but what’s amusing is how it got a young me to straighten up in my seat. This wasn’t a popcorn or cotton candy cocoon gun, but a rather large mallet, and even at such a young age, I was aware of the fact that mallets were for bashing. That’s why it seemed to take a particularly long time for the girl’s mother to call her away from the door. Lol

Production trivia
The movie, which was meant to be an homage to 50s monster movies, was originally titled Killer Klowns, but the Chiodo brothers added " from Outer Space " to both sell the humor and keep audiences from confusing it with a typical slasher movie. In the beginning of the movie, a young man is seen passing in front of Mooney while drinking a beer.

This budding thespian was actor and comedian Christopher Titus making his feature film debut. The theme song by The Dickies was based on the title alone. The band didn’t even read the screenplay before writing it. Many of the characters in the film – including Mike Tobacco, the Terenzi Brothers, and Joe Lombardo – were real names of and based on real childhood buddies of the Chiodo Brothers. Mike Tobacco was known for bringing girls to make out point with champagne in his glove compartment and a rubber raft in his back seat. The Terenzi Brothers really did rent an ice cream truck with the hopes of getting girls (because everyone likes ice cream). This is a particularly interesting bit of trivia to me because during my rewatch, I couldn’t help but snicker at the name Mike Tobacco, thinking it was such an incredibly cheesy character name. So you can imagine my surprise to discover Monsieur Tobacco actually existed! Lol The Chiodo brothers originally didn’t want to reveal the clowns until much later in the movie. However, their executive producer insisted they show them in the first reel, proving that even the lowest budgeted movies aren’t immune to studio meddling.

Klownzilla was originally meant to be shot in stop motion, but for speed and budgetary reasons, this Chiodo brother right here…….

…….suited up and got the shot done. The Chiodo brothers, in an amusing attempt at a " realistic " ending, wanted Dave to die in the climactic explosion. But when test audiences reacted badly, the brothers decided to shoot the upbeat ending. Ironically enough, the Terenzi brothers always survived by hiding in the freezer of their truck.

The Chiodos ( l to r ) : Charles, Stephen, Edward

Final verdict : 8/10 for a B movie classic from way back when that still delivers the cheesy fun thirty years later.

Mood: Chillin'
timmyd at 08:10 PM Jul 31

I watch this at least once a year . love it.

sLaShEr84 at 05:05 AM Aug 02

Nice blog, this is a good old horror flick.

movieman32 posted a BLOG item 7 months ago

"Welcome to prime time, bitch !" : The enduring appeal of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 : Dream Warriors


Ya know, as I was growing up, there were three Nightmare movies that I considered the classics of the franchise. Those were part 1, Dream Warriors, and New Nightmare. I’ve already blogged about part 1 and New Nightmare, and I’ve been really wanting to finish up the Classic Nightmare trilogy of blogs for a while. The only problem was that it had been an insane number of years since I had seen Dream Warriors and, in such a situation, a rewatch is mandatory. Well. seeing as how Hulu has recently added the Nightmare franchise to its library, I have finally gotten a chance to have that rewatch. And so now, without any further ado, let us discuss the ins and outs and what have you of Dream Warriors.

Dream Warriors director and co-writer Chuck Russell

This was Chuck Russell’s directorial debut after writing, directing, and acting in several one act plays after becoming fascinated with Chicago’s ( the city where he grew up ) thriving theater scene. But, according to Russell, the job almost wasn’t there for him to take : The studio rightfully felt that Nightmare 2 was a bit of a misfire and wanted to get the franchise back on course. In fact, at that point they were uncertain if it would continue. I thought in Nightmare 2 Freddy became almost less personable… more of a typical slasher than a dream demon. I convinced New Line we could do bigger, wilder dream sequences and make Freddy more of a devilish ringmaster…make it both more frightening and more fun. An ironic factor about the making of Dream Warriors was the participation of this guy…..

A Nightmare on Elm Street creator Wes Craven ( R.I.P. )
….who teamed up with this guy…….

Novelist and screenwriter Bruce Wagner
….to help him write the screenplay for Dream Warriors after reading and liking one of Wagner’s unproduced screenplays, although it was rewritten by Russell and……

Screenwriter and director Frank Darabont
…… who was making his screenwriting debut with this effort ( and who would go on to work with Russell again in the same capacity in the 1988 remake of The Blob ). The reason I say Craven’s participation was ironic was that he intended for this entry to end the series, but its hit status made that an impossibility. That was reminiscent of how the original’s hit status squashed the auteur’s plans to make it a standalone entry. Craven’s very first idea for the screenplay was to have Freddy invade the real world and haunt the actors who were filming a Nightmare sequel. Even though New Line rejected that idea, the idea eventually made its way into Craven’s New Nightmare screenplay. Another early idea was to have the teen characters travel to a specific location to commit suicide, with dreams of Freddy found to be the common link. Since suicide was somewhat of a taboo subject at the time, this storyline was eventually abandoned, although aspects still remained within the filmed version, with its mentions of suicide and self mutilation. However, the blow was softened by the fact that these were depicted as being carried out by the teens while directly under Freddy’s influence, with enough of a fantasy element being present to make the acts acceptable. According to Craven, the idea of the teens being treated at a mental health care facility wasn’t just a riff on One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but was instead based on actual establishments of the time : At that time there was kind of a movement of such places that even advertised on television, 'Send us your troubled child and we'll make them okay.' And, essentially, they were like prisons, or insane asylums. Even though Craven and Wagner received a story and co - screenwriter credit, the finished version was quite different from their original version, with differences including : Nancy not being a dream expert or mental health professional of any kind, Kristen only being confined in the institution for a short while and having a father, Neil being much younger, Taryn being black, Joey being the one who built the model of a house and who had trouble getting around ( although he didn’t use a wheelchair ), and Phillip being thirteen years old. Will’s name was originally Laredo, he had long hair, didn’t use a wheelchair, and was the one who made the clay puppets.

This version showed the ranch house where Freddy was born, which was the house that showed up in the teens’ dreams instead of the Elm Street house, and Lt. Thompson knew from the start that Freddy was real and still alive and was obsessed with finding the Krueger house and burning it down. There was no mention of Freddy’s mother being a nun, or of him being "the bastard son of a hundred maniacs", and both Joey and Kincaid are killed. The deaths were more grotesque, and Freddy was more vulgar and less talkative. And finally, Freddy was killed with his own glove, not by holy water, although an element of that was retained when Nancy uses his glove on him. I bring up this myriad amount of changes simply because it’s fascinating to me how different a final draft screenplay can often be from its original version. It brings to mind a line in Sunset Boulevard when screenwriter Joe Gillis says, “ My last picture was about Okies in the Dust Bowl. You’d never know it cause by the time it was filmed, it took place aboard a submarine. “ The constant rewrites, along with the fact that Russell and Darabont’s final screenplay came in with a $20 million price tag while only being allotted $4.5 million, led to a tense set. This was particularly true for Patricia Arquette, who was making her acting debut as Kristen Parker less under than ideal circumstances. On her first day of filming, the production was so far behind her scenes were put off until 4 AM, at which point she had forgotten her lines. After 52 takes of fumbling through her lines, Russell had to finally resort to feeding her the lines via cue cards, with Arquette subsequently admitting the Dream Warriors shoot was not one of her happier professional experiences, and Heather Langenkamp has admitted to not seeing eye to eye with Russell on Nancy’s characterization. But the $64,000 question remains : did a good movie arise from the ashes of constant screenplay rewrites and on set tensions? And the answer is…..kinda. One thing that was made apparent on this rewatch was just how mediocre the acting among the teen characters was, with the worse offender being Jennifer Rubin as Taryn. There’s also the fact that the audience only gets to know the most cursory things about the teens, which simply means that even if the acting was on point, it becomes pretty to drum up much sympathy for them, causing their demise to become little more than a series of admittedly cool set pieces . Heather Langenkamp, who was much more effective as Nancy in the original and New Nightmare gave a rather lifeless performance this time around, and I never could get over the way Nancy bit the dust in this.

It bothered me as a youngster, and I still don’t care much for it now. It just seems that someone with Nancy’s history of fighting Freddy should have known better than to embrace her father’s ghost in the middle of a nightmare sequence. It always came across as a rather unceremonious end to such an iconic character and was thankfully rectified in New Nightmare. Craig Wasson’s performance as Neil was pretty inert for the most part, with it briefly coming to life at the movie’s end, and Nan Martin ( of later The Drew Carey Show fame ) as a mysterious nun who knows of Freddy’s past is appropriately creepy. Patricia Arquette

gave a pretty good performance, especially for it being a debut performance in a troubled production. Her proficiency as a scream queen/ final girl is inarguable, but there’s also some quieter moments between Kristen and her mother that show hints of the range that would go on to sustain a thirty year career. And then you have Morpheus himself……

Laurence Fishburne ( or Larry Fishburne, as he was being billed at the time )
… Max, an orderly who grows concerned over the increasing body count among his patients. His concern is made palpable, and a scene where he refuses to let Nancy see a comatose patient is a nice character moment. But there’s two performances that make a bigger impact than all the others, and the first one is…..

Priscilla Pointer as Dr. Simms
Dr. Simms is similar to what Craven would later do with the character of Dr. Hefner in New Nightmare, which is to make a health care professional into the antagonist while at the same time making her motives perfectly clear and understandable. After all, most people would have the same trouble accepting the situation Neil and Nancy were presenting. So it was pretty cool to see layers to a character that could’ve easily been one dimensional. And the other impactful performance was……

John Saxon as Lt. Donald Thompson
Saxon effectively portrayed the haunted deterioration of a man who had seen horrific things, and been deeply affected by them. He made it possible for the audience to care about him, which could not exactly be said of most of the other characters. And the reason for that is that he comes with a bit more backstory than the others, due to the events of the first movie. The more the audience knows about a character, the easier it is to invest in that character. And the thing about his performance is that it seemed to force Wasson and Langenkamp to up their acting game in their brief shared scene, with Wasson in particular having a fired up moment where Neil responds angrily to Lt. Thompson’s snide dismissal of "I don’t believe we’ve met." But what of the top dawg, the actor who has embodied the Nightmare saga, this guy here?......
Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger
Englund knocked it out of the park, as usual, but the character of Freddy himself was at an interesting crossroads in this entry. Some fans have decried Dream Warriors as the beginning of Freddy’s descent into stand up boogeyman. And that’s true to a certain extent. Freddy is WAAAYYY more quippy…..

…… than the first two entries, but at the same time, he still retained the darkness that made him such a compelling horror icon. I mean, there wasn’t any “ Check out my high score “ type malarkey in the dialogue. It was a delicate balancing act that the subsequent sequels failed to maintain, and is just further proof of why Englund will always be the definitive Freddy ( If you don’t believe me, check out the 2010 remake. ). Another asset is the impressive set design in the dream world, which was done by James R. Barrows and was appropriately surreal and at times grimy. Although I lamentably couldn’t find a pic or gif for it, I would have to say my favorite set was when the Dream Warriors finally locate Joey. They enter a room, and when they do, the camera pans across a fiery landscape that still impresses to this day. And one final thing I feel the movie did right was to utilize the services of

Makeup effects artist Kevin Yagher
to do the makeup work on Robert Englund. Yagher took over the job from this guy…….

Original Freddy makeup artist David B. Miller
…...after the original Nightmare. This was the last Nightmare to utilize Yagher’s services, and Freddy’s look suffered slightly as a result. It wasn’t a dealbreaker, but the makeup work from Dream Master on had an overly slick look to it, in my opinion. Here the look of Freddy was kept on a more raw and gritty level, much to the benefit of the character.

Fun Facts

After a tiring day, Robert Englund fell asleep in full Freddy makeup. He awoke to see himself in a mirror, which scared him very badly.Ken Sagoes stated in an interview he really didn't want to audition for the role of Kincaid, but his agent talked him into going. On the day of the audition he walked in heavy rain to catch a bus to the location. He showed up completely drenched and had to sit and wait for a few hours due to the auditions running late. When it was his turn, director Chuck Russell told him, "Do whatever you want to do". Sagoes was so frustrated and mad about the whole ordeal that he yelled "FUCK YOU!", and then proceeded to scream and curse out Russell. Russell immediately hired him. For the dream sequence in which a Dick Cavett interview is interrupted by Freddy Krueger, Sally Kellerman was originally in the script as the guest but Cavett was then allowed to pick the person he'd be interviewing. He picked Zsa Zsa Gabor because he thought she was the dumbest person he'd ever met in his life, and he'd never have her on his show in real life. So, if there was one person he'd want to see killed by Freddy it would be her. For the "sexy nurse" scene, the set was flipped so that Rodney Eastman was actually standing up when he appears to be strapped to the bed. He had to be spread eagled for so long that he actually passed out. He compared the experience to a crucifixion.

The original Freddy snake was supposed to be his normal pink hue, but it was decided it looked too phallic. So green goo was slathered on it to keep it from looking like Kristen was being attacked by a giant penis. Wes Craven ended up working with two Arquettes. Patricia was in this, while her brother David was in the Scream series. In the original screenplay, one of the dream warriors built a giant Transformers like robot to fight Freddy. This even made it into the storyboard stages, but budget limitations made it impossible to film.

Kristen comes across a classic nightmarish image of a roasted pig on a table, and then it comes to life and growls at her. They actually roasted a pig, let it spoil, and prop guys puppeted it from beneath. The poor guy who was actually behind the camera, cinematographer Roy H. Wagner claims the pig's stench was so overwhelming he can still smell it to this day. FX creator

Mark Shostrom
created a desiccated "little girl corpse" which Kristen would discover she was holding, but it was decided that the item was too grotesque. A miniature skeleton was used instead. Originally Taryn's character's head was to explode after being injected with Freddy's syringes but looked too fake.

Final verdict : Even though the acting isn’t quiet what I remembered it being, everything else about this entry works. The nightmare sequences are appropriately surreal and creepy with some inventive kills ( with the Phillip marionette kill being my favorite ). It broadens the Freddy mythos in an interesting way with the new backstory, and Freddy hadn’t yet completed his descent into Freddy Youngman territory yet, with some of the ol’ darkness from the original still intact.

Rating : 8/10

Author’s Note :
Well, schmoes, this will be the last Nightmare blog I’m gonna write. Although the rest of the sequels had their moments, part 1, Dream Warriors, and New Nightmare were the ones I enjoyed enough to want to blog about them. And now I have. I hope you schmoes had as much fun reading them as I did writing them. And now, I must bid you all a fond TTFN ( ta ta for now ) !

Mood: Chillin'

timmyd at 08:10 PM Jul 07

Great read , buddy . Excellent job.

sLaShEr84 at 08:24 AM Jul 08

Nice blog, I need to watch this one again soon.

WalkAway at 08:33 PM Aug 03

Wonderful write-up! I always say 1, 3, and new are the holy trilogy!

movieman32 updated his STATUS: 8 months ago

Random Thought of the Day : One of the best soundtrack choices in any piece of filmed entertainment I've seen would have to be the use of Black Sabbath's War Pigs in the beginning of the season 2 finale episode of Fargo. :)
grelber37 at 08:30 PM May 12

"War Pigs" is also very interestingly used at the end of 300: Rise of an Empire.

HTX0811 at 03:44 PM May 13

That season had some really great music.

movieman32 posted an IMAGE item: 9 months ago

Moviefreak2010 at 03:37 AM Apr 27


dsloy at 05:35 PM Apr 27

this post gave me cancer

timmyd at 08:49 PM Apr 27

hahaha. great.

movieman32 posted a BLOG item 10 months ago

Some great songs that were impeccably used in classic movies

There's a lot of elements that have to come together successfully for me to say I enjoyed a movie, and one of those elements is the movie's soundtrack. I was watching a movie that had a scene where a character exits a cab, and you could hear a song by a popular rap artist play for five seconds before the door shut. FIVE. FREAKIN'. SECONDS. Was that enough to assist the movie in any way? No. But what it did do was add another song to the soundtrack. And I can't stand it when music is used in such a pandering way. As a fan of movies, what I like is when a song selection enhances a movie through its lyrics or, as in most of the following examples, it simply helps the movie's atomosphere. So here goes a list of movieman32's choices for song selections that were impeccably used in movies.

Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen in Wayne’s World

After Dark by Tito y Tarantula in From Dusk Till Dawn

I Just Dropped In by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition in The Big Lebowski

Stuck in the Middle With You by Stealers Wheel in Reservoir Dogs

Liar, Liar by The Castaways in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Mirror in the Bathroom by the English Beat in Grosse Pointe Blank

Golden Brown by The Stranglers in Snatch

Across 110th Street by Bobby Womack in Jackie Brown

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Metallica in Zombieland

Don’t You Want Somebody to Love by Jefferson Airplane in The Cable Guy

Extra Tidbit : What soundtrack selections do you think were impeccably used in movies?

Mood: Chillin'

OldKingClancy at 08:54 PM Mar 29

Lust For Life/Born Slippy - Trainspotting
The End - Apocalypse Now
Wise Up - Magnolia
And Then He Kissed Me - Goodfellas
White Rabbit/Somebody To Love - Fear & Loathing
Real Hero - Drive
Hip To be Square - American Psycho
Needle In The Hay - Royal Tennenbaums
Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime - Eternal Sunset
Tiny Dancer - Almost Famous
Hurdy Gurdy Man - Zodiac
Bela Lugosi's Dead - The Collector
Sister Christian/Jessie's Girl/99 Red Balloons - Boogie Night

I could probably do more but it's late. Great picks, love a lot of these, Metallica opening Zombieland in violent slo-mo just sets the perfect tone.

cerealkiller182 at 08:29 AM Mar 30

This list would go on forever.

BATeMAN at 04:51 PM Mar 30

I always notice OST and soundtracks. Love the list, I think might copy but like cerealkiller182 said, could go forever. So, will take me awhile.

Here's a random favorite of mine -
Romeo + Juliet / Radiohead - Talk Show Host.

movieman32 updated his STATUS: 11 months ago

Random thought of the day : As someone who includes Ennio Morricone tracks on his daily playlist, I feel that no matter what one might have thought about The Hateful Eight, ya gotta give it props for winning the legendary composer his long overdue Oscar. :)
Weapon X
Weapon X at 10:37 PM Mar 09

His score was like that of a slasher movie. Just the overture delivered some proper chills.

movieman32 updated his STATUS: 11 months ago

I'm about to sit down for a ftv of Mulholland Dr., which is coincidentally my first David Lynch movie I've attempted to watch. I wanted to shake up my movie viewing with something a bit unusual and out there, and from what I know about Lynch's work, something from his filmography would seem to fit the bill. :)
Pat Hatfreet
Pat Hatfreet at 02:03 PM Mar 05

I watched "Lost Highway" for the first time last week and it was very unusual and out there. I can't say I cared for it.

dsloy at 05:49 PM Mar 06

loved it, easily his best film

timmyd at 08:23 PM Mar 06

great flick

Read all 4 comments >>

movieman32 updated his STATUS: 11 months ago

Here's a quick heads up to any and all schmoes who have Netflix streaming. If you want to see a killer dark comedy, check out Cheap Thrills. I give the movieman32 guarantee that you'll love it!
Pat Hatfreet
Pat Hatfreet at 11:22 PM Mar 01

Yeah, "Cheap Thrills" is a cool film!

cobb at 01:35 AM Mar 02

yeah its really great

dsloy at 05:37 PM Mar 02

so damn good

Read all 5 comments >>

movieman32 posted a BLOG item 11 months ago

Why It's a Classic : Grosse Pointe Blank

Spoiler Warning : Wait a minute. Did I hear you correctly? Are you actually gonna read this blog without seeing the movie first?

Author’s Note : The author feels it’s necessary, in conjunction with the spoiler warning, to let you schmoes know Netflix is currently streaming this classic.
Welcome, schmoes, to my latest edition of Why It’s a Classic, a series of blogs in which I’ll take a movie I’ve deemed a classic and examine just why that’s so. The latest classic to be examined is George Armitage’s 1997 comedic hitman thriller romance……

Professional hitman Martin Blank is feeling a sense of dissatisfaction with the job at the same time his receptionist Marcella begins pressuring him to attend his ten year high school reunion in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Although his psychiatrist Dr. Oatman encourages him to attend the reunion and get back in touch with Debi, his high school flame he stood up at prom and still has feelings for, he initially proves resistant to the idea. But when a botched hit leads to an assignment in Grosse Pointe at the same time as his reunion, he heads off to take care of business on both the personal and professional front. Throw in a vengeful, rival assassin who’s upset because Martin won’t join his newly formed hitman’s union, two duplicitous government agents, and a cleaner sent in to take care of him, and this becomes one trip back home might Martin might not walk away from.
Tom Jankiewicz was working as a cashier at a Big Lots discount store in Upland California and substitute teaching at Upland High School while also attending Cal State Fullerton when the inspiration to get serious about what would become Grosse Point Blank came to him…… the form of an invitation to his 10 year high school reunion at Bishop Foley Catholic High in Madison Heights, Michigan ( which was said to be nearly verbatim to the one Marcella reads to Martin ). Jankiewicz, who had aspirations to break into Hollywood as a screenwriter, was stunned by the passage of time and the difference between where he wanted to be at that point in his life and where he actually was. According to his brother Pat, " When the letter came, he wasn’t actually where he wanted to be yet. But give him credit. It freaked him out, but it also made him productive. It made him get serious about Grosse Pointe Blank. " He picked the title while substituting for an English class by writing it on a chalkboard to see how it would look on a theater marquee. He chose Grosse Pointe, an upscale Michigan suburb, rather than his working class hometown of Sterling Heights due to the contrast between the two. And although he got the idea through receiving his high school reunion invitation, he didn’t attend as, according to Pat, " The reunion of his imagination was better than the one he would’ve attended. That was his theory anyways. " Although Jankiewicz didn’t attend his reunion, he did base several of the characters on his old classmates, as well as naming Joan Cusack’s character Marcella after his manager at Big Lots. He shopped the screenplay around to several production companies, with Kiefer Sutherland showing interest at one point, but the mix of violence and comedy proved to be a tough sell. Then John Cusack got his hands on it and agreed to co-produce it through his production company New Crimes Productions, a production company he formed with his actor friends

Steve Pink

James Franco lookalike D.V. DeVincentis.
The duo also helped him rewrite portions of the screenplay to better suit his sensibilities, and they also had parts in the movie. Another contributor to the screenplay ( although uncredited ) was this guy……

Director George Armitage
…...who has stated, " The script, when I met with John and the writers, was 132 pages. I said: "Look, I’m not doing anything over 100 pages. " They said, " Okay, " and they did a re-write, and it came back 150 pages. So I said " Okay, you guys are fired, " and I spent most of pre-production re-writing the screenplay, getting it down to 102 pages. Then we would improvise, and I noticed that some of the stuff I’d cut out was in the improvs, they were bringing back stuff that I’d cut out, but we had a good time with it. " The reason Armitage decided to go uncredited was because he feared, due to what he felt was the oftentimes arbitrary rules of the Writer’s Guild, that adding another credited writer to the list would lower the amount the others got paid.

Screenwriter Tom Jankiewicz ( 9/8/63 - 1/23/13 ) Jankiewicz died from a sudden heart attack at a Q & A session after a screening of Grosse Pointe Blank at Cal State University, and was almost painfully shy and turned down most requests for interviews, which is why this section depended on quotes from his brother.

Why It’s a Classic
The reasons why Grosse Pointe Blank is a classic are numerous. You could point to the highly quotable and character building dialogue as a reason. Or the expert craftsmanship George Armitage brought to the table as director. Or the amazingly entertaining and inventive action set pieces. And all of those are indeed valid reasons. But to me this movie obtains classic status on the strength of the performances of its impeccably cast ensemble of actors. And even though there’s quite a few performances that will be touched upon, I want to start this section with two I believe are career best for the actors giving them. As for the first actor being discussed, well, anyone who’s seen Grosse Pointe Blank probably already knows it’s……..

John Cusack as Martin Blank
I’ve seen John Cusack in quite a few roles over the years and, after recently giving this classic a couple of viewings, Martin Blank has taken the number one spot in the favorite character category. Over the years Cusack has cornered the market on moody, reflective characters, and Martin fits right in with the rest of the lovable neurotics. What I love most about Cusack’s performance is how he bounces off of the rest of the cast, and the resulting chemistry. And I’m not just talking about his chemistry with the leads, which is expectedly stellar. He has a good rapport with the bit players as well. For example, there’s a one off scene with Belita Moreno ( of later George Lopez fame ) as one of Martin’s old teachers that crackles with a delightful comedic back and forth. There’s a scene of Martin interacting with his mom Mary ( played by Barbara Harris in her final movie role before retiring from acting ) in a nursing home where the chemistry is tinged with a sadness and poignancy. It’s also a scene of impact because of the preceding scene in which Martin discovers some shocking news and orders Marcella to locate his mother because " I want my mom. " There’s something pretty humanizing about a sociopathic killer clinging to his mother. It, as well as a scene where he visits his apparently alcoholic father’s grave…..

…….adds a welcome sense of vulnerability to him. Then there’s the fact that his chemistry with Minnie Driver is sizzling, which is of the utmost importance since the love story between the two is the engine driving the movie’s narrative. You can really believe they had a passionate history together and that Martin had spent the last decade pining for her. From the very first second the characters reunite, the give and take between the two is on point. The sweet nature of their burgeoning relationship also makes later developments much more affecting. Another thing I like about Cusack’s characterization of Martin is how he portrays him as someone who thinks of his hits as nothing more than a job, and is able to keep himself at arm’s length about the reality of the situation, as evidenced by the fact that he tells several people throughout the movie this…..

The neat thing about that is that OF COURSE IT’S HIM! I mean, who else is committing the acts? But the self deception concerning what he does for a living adds another layer to an already awesome character. And the final thing I love about this performance is that when the screenplay calls for it, Cusack can be very convincing as a man of action, as evidenced by a handful of action set pieces which will be discussed in greater detail later. And the second performance that I think was a career best was……

Dan Aykroyd as Grocer, the aforementioned vengeful, rival assassin
Nostalgia can play a big part in what performances we enjoy most by an actor, and it was largely for that reason that Ray Stantz was my favorite Aykroyd performance for many years. It left an indelible impression on me as a youngster, and it’s still a pretty enjoyable performance. But what has bumped that performance down to the number two spot is that a recent rewatch of Ghostbusters has made me realize that Aykroyd was a lot more subdued in that role than I remembered, almost to the point of playing the straight man at times. A recent rewatch of Grosse Pointe Blank, however, has proven the exact opposite, with Aykroyd bringing a demented glee and manic energy to his acting that is quite entertaining, as is evidenced by his twisted rendition of She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain during a climactic moment ( " I’ll be blowing your fuckin’ head off when I come. " ), or by the way he keeps on taunting Martin about a millionaire’s hunting dog named Budro that Martin was thought to have blown up. There’s three scenes of the two having some kind of face to face moment, and in each one, Grocer says something different ( and equally hilarious ) about the incident. I really dig how he uses cutting wit to toy with Martin and undermine his confidence. But the best thing about the performance is how Aykroyd sells the menace of Grocer as well as the eccentricity. The movie’s opening scene shows Grocer smoothly executing a man and his bodyguards the audience had just seen Martin successfully protecting.

That feeling of menace is amplified in the scene of Martin and Grocer’s first face to face meeting, in which the two circle each other warily before getting down to business.

Up until this point, the audience has only been treated to scenes of Martin exhibiting the utmost professionalism and remaining cool, calm, and collected under the most unexpected circumstances. So it really paints a convincing picture of Grocer as a nemesis to see Martin approach him so cautiously. And while we’re on this subject of this scene, I would like to point out a favorite moment of mine that really makes Grocer come alive as a character. As he’s getting into his car, he dismisses Martin by fluttering a hand at him and shouting, " Popcorn! " After watching this movie several times recently, I still have no idea what that line means. But the wonderful thing about it is that it doesn’t matter if I understand the line or not. It means something to Grocer, and it’s such moments that really sell the character and give him an eccentric edge. ( and the moment’s mirrored nicely in the movie’s climax when Martin throws his saying back at him. Another layer to Grocer that’s pretty entertaining is the fact that the characters of corrupt NSA agents Steven Lardner and Kenneth McCullers first getting tipped off to Martin’s Grosse Pointe contract by him is done out of sheer petulant spite over losing out on the contract. There’s something awesomely unique about a sociopathic assassin shown having the equivalent of a temper tantrum. It’s not something you see all that often in assassin portrayals, and the fact that a portion of the movie’s plot is kicked off by such childish behavior is a cool angle to approach things from. And before I move on from how awesome Cusack and Aykroyd are, I would like to highlight one more excellent scene of a meeting in a diner between them.

You schmoes remember how I mentioned the quotable dialogue as one of the movie’s assets? Well, what makes this scene so awesome is how the dialogue isn’t just entertaining ( although it’s certainly that ), but able to provide good characterization as well, as evidenced in this exchange when Grocer offers Martin a sedative :
Grocer : Here's the new stuff, kid. Durazac 15. Makes Prozac seem like a decaf latte. Want a couple? I've got jars.
Martin : I don't do that stuff anymore.
Grocer : No wonder you got the shakes. And don't say " do it, " because I don't " do it." I ingest it, on orders from my neurophysiologist. It's legal. In five years they'll be putting it in the water for the citizens, like fluoride. This is a great bit of characterization because as lethal as Grocer is at his line of work, he has still gotten edgy enough ( presumably from the job ) to require doctor prescribed sedatives. And it’s hilarious because of how sensitive a professional killer is about how he’s perceived because of that. And then you have Cusack’s moment of characterization, in which Grocer once again screws with him about Budro : " Poodle pumper. Hound hitter. Pooch puncher. " The thing that makes this such a hilarious moment of incisive characterization is how furious Martin gets over the assumption that he blew up the poor dog : " Budro was never a target. Budro was acting on instinct. I would never hurt an animal, and I’m offended at the accusation. " Just as with Grocer getting upset at how his pill consumption is perceived, there’s something highly amusing about someone with such a detached attitude about killing getting so upset about the assumption that he would harm an animal. This also led to a moment I like where Grocer derisively refers to Martin as Chatty Cathy, and tells him to clip his string. And although this section isn’t about her, I’d like to give a quick shout out to Wendy Thorlakson, who played Melanie the waitress

" Nothing in the omelet. Nothing at all. "

The above scene was a moment that took me out of the movie just a bit upon first viewing, since it was the only moment in the movie where Martin acted somewhat like a dick. But the reason I say it was actually a great moment of characterization is that a rewatch made me realize the rudeness was most likely due to his taut nerves, seeing as how he was sitting across from someone who matched his lethal skills in killing. So kudos to Ms. Thorlakson for being part of that scene. But her shining moment came when Melanie approached the table just as Grocer told Martin " I'm gonna put a bullet hole in your fuckin' forehead, and I'm gonna fuck the brain hole ! " Her reaction in that moment was absolutely priceless, and goes to show the care that went into even the smallest roles. And before I move on from this scene, I just wanna throw out a couple more lines I love, the first of which occurs when Grocer is sitting down and tells Martin, " Easy there, chief. I don’t see hollow point wound care on the menu. " The other one is when Martin angrily shoots down Grocer’s repeated offer to join his union by snapping , " Loner. Lone gunman. Get it? That’s the whole point. I like the lifestyle, the image. Look at the way I dress. " Classic ! And now for the last main performance, which is…….

Minnie Driver as Debi
Now the weird thing about this performance is just how many people had issues with it. And I don’t mean professional critics, who seemed to be on board with what Driver brought to the table ( as am I ). But a lot of the average schmoes out there who posted reviews on this movie absolutely loathed this performance, with one person even posting that the movie had to be turned off due to Debi’s " apparent mental problems ". WTF?!! I don’t know what performance these people were watching, but I thought Driver gave an absolutely charming performance that perfectly encapsulates the confused feelings a jilted high school senior might feel ten years down the road when meeting up with her former beau. But the thing I really enjoy about Debi is the fact that she’s not just a jilted person pining hopelessly for her long lost love. She has backbone and a steely resolve,as evidenced by the scene where Martin goes to the radio station where she works and gets put on the air…….

And, as previously noted when talking about John Cusack, the chemistry between the two is on point, resulting in an easy give and take such as the following exchange…...
Debi : So is there a Mrs. Mysterio?
Martin : No, but I have a cat.
Debi : Not the same.
Martin : Well, you don’t know my cat. It’s very demanding.
Debi : It’s? You don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl?
Martin : I respect its privacy
Then there’s the scene where Debi accepts Martin’s offer to go to the reunion with him while getting an impromptu airplane ride…..

" What if your dad comes in ? " " You can give him one too. "
The sweetness between makes the inevitable scene where the dime drops all the more impactful…

I’ve always felt this moment of devastation was played so believably vulnerable by Driver.

What makes this scene the bee’s knees is the fact that the viewer has had time to really get to know these characters and care about them. Although one could be forgiven for thinking that’s the filmmaker’s first goal, that so often isn’t accomplished. But when it is, most of the battle has been won, as it most definitely was here. And now on to some stellar supporting performances, beginning with……

Joan Cusack as Maecella AKA Sargent Pepper
This is one of my all time favorite performances, and what I love about it is how she says some really hilarious lines in such a deadpan manner, which only makes them funnier. One such example is when Marcella’s reading Martin’s high school reunion invitation to him ( in the middle of an assignment, mind you ).....

" As a graduate of the class of 1986, you are someone special. Remember, there's nowhere you can go that you haven't learned how to go in time. Whatever the hell that means. "
Other memorable moments include a scene where she’s destroying the office…..

…...which is a delight because, unlike her performance up until that point, this is a funny bit of physical comedy. You can kinda see that in the above gif, but she’s really funny when Marcella pounds the hell out of her hard drive with a sledgehammer and then chunks it across the office. And then there’s the triumphant " ALRIGHT! " when she discovers the pension Martin left for her. So that was a nice moment that was nearly slapstick, and a great exit for the character. But one final thing I must mention is a phone call between Marcella and Martin after she’s found out there’s two government spooks and a cleaner on his tail. I can’t remember it verbatim at the moment, but the gist of it is that Martin needs to get the hell out of Dodge. The concern and fear for Martin is extremely well conveyed, and is a nice bit of pathos for the character. So there you have it, folks. You take two parts deadpan delivery, one part pathos, mix it all together, and you’ve got an iconic character for the ages. And now on to the next supporting performance, which is……

Alan Arkin as Dr. Oatman
Dr. Oatman is quite simply one of cinema’s great supporting performances in cinema, imo. The character is funny for a couple of reasons, the first being Oatman’s ongoing terror at finding out he has an assassin for a client, as evidenced in the following exchange in which Martin jokingly reminds Oatman he knows where he lives :
Dr. Oatman : Oh, now see? That wasn't a nice thing to say; that wasn't designed to make me feel good. That's a... kind of a... not too subtle intimidation, and I, uh, get filled with anxiety when you talk about something like that. This is such good writing because who wouldn’t freak out in a similar situation? It’s a realistic, relatable detail that has the added benefit of being funny, and one that enables Arkin to steal scenes with the ease of a master thief. Another way in which his character is a classic is the fact that he doesn’t care about putting an effort into Martin’s therapy, a fact which is evidenced by the scene in which he instructs Martin to realize " This is me breathing " without taking a break from the meal he’s eating at the time, or even trying to cover the fact he’s talking through a mouthful of food. Or the scene where he’s about to answer a ringing phone, only to stop dead in his tracks when he realizes it’s Martin calling. It’s the accumulation of moments like these that result in one hell of an entertaining character who, despite limited screen time, really contributes mightily to the movie’s entertainment factor. And now on to the next two great supporting performances, which is…..

Hank Azaria as NSA agent Steven Lardner…...pseudonym : Steve

K. Todd Freeman as NSA agent Kenneth McCullers…….no pseudonym
The success of of Lardner and McCullers as characters is remarkable because they’re two government agents abusing their power to not only ensure Martin meets his demise, but that he eliminates his target before doing so. These are the type of characters that could’ve easily tipped the scales into cliched villainy, but their amorality is instead brought to life with an eccentric wit that has the effect of making them quirky and likable. The main reason for that is they’re given a few scenes of just the two of them talking about subjects ranging from McCullers’ incorrigible romanticism……
McCullers : You got any ideas how you want to wax this guy?
Lardner : Can’t you just say kill? You always gotta romanticize it.
… what exactly sets them apart from the bad guys…….
McCullers : Man, why don't we just do his job, so we can do our job and get the fuck out of here?
Lardner : What do you mean, " do his job? " What am I, a cold-blooded killer? I'm not a cold-blooded killer.
McCullers : Now, wait a minute.
Lardner : No, you wait a minute. You want to kill the good guy but not be the bad guy. Doesn't work like that. You have to wait until the bad guy kills the good guy, then when you kill the bad guy, you're the good guy.
MCCullers : So - just to clarify - if we do his job we're the bad guys, and if we do our job we're the good guys.
Lardner : Yes.
McCullers : That’s….great. ( They both start laughing ).
This is such a great moment with these characters because of how the dialogue efficiently and entertainingly establishes their amorality without becoming overly expository, and it’s another example of how the writing was rich with subtle characterization. And the fact that it’s strictly the dialogue that sells these characters is what I find the most impressive. Think about it. You never see these two doing anything other than talking. They don’t become characters of action until the very end of the movie and, well, it’s an effort that’s swiftly truncated, to say the least. And before I move on, I want to give a shout out to K. Todd Freeman, who was born and raised in Houston, Texas…….THE PLACE I CURRENTLY CALL MY HOME! H-TOWN REPRESENTIN’, BOYEEE! WOOP, WOOP! *ahem* Now that I’ve gotten that bit of hometown pride out of the way, let me move on to the next supporting performance, which is the most poignant and resonant one in the movie. Surprisingly enough, it’s from this guy right here…….

Jeremy Piven as real estate agent Paul Spericki, Martin’s high school BFF
The reason I say surprisingly is I’ve just never been a fan of Piven. I haven’t seen him in too much, but in the few movies I have seen him in, he always seems to be trying way too hard to be the charming, motor mouthed wheeler dealer. The last Piven movie I attempted to watch was The Goods : Live Hard, Sell Hard. And I didn’t walk away from it all that impressed. Hell, the best role I had seen him prior to Grosse Pointe Blank was as Dean Pritchard in Old School, and that required him to be the straight man. So go figure. And the remarkable thing about his role is that the same elements were present throughout the movie. So why did that approach work like gangbusters this time when it failed so many others? I think it comes down to two reasons. Throughout the movie, Martin openly admits his occupation to three people : Debi, Paul, And Debi’s dad. And as you can see from the below gifs, each person thought Martin was joking…….

…….until they all find out otherwise by the movie’s end. But whereas Debi and her dad’s situation resulted in a happy ending, Paul’s ended on a much more somber note as he ends up helping his old friend dispose of a body.

The guy who started off unable to contain his joy at being reunited with his old buddy ended their reunion shell shocked beyond belief. It was a complete character arc that Piven managed to sell in only a few scenes, which is pretty impressive. I mean, the audience is being asked to accept that this guy would remain so loyal to Martin after ten years that he would unthinkingly make himself an accessory to murder. And you know what? You never end up doubting it for a second. So that’s definitely one of the reasons this role works. And I think the other reason is simply the fact that he was acting opposite John Cusack in all of his scenes. The two both grew up in Evanston, Illinois and went to highschool together, as well as Cusack attending the Piven Theater Workshop, an acting school founded by Piven’s parents. And I really feel that acting opposite his old buddy helped him elevate his acting game. There’s a ton of history between the two that adds immeasurably to the chemistry on display, making this the most entertaining I’ve ever seen Piven. And even though this section would never end if I went into detail on every good supporting performance, here’s a quick roll call of the periphery characters who gave Grosse Pointe Blank the feeling of being set in a tangible, lived in world : Mitchell Ryan as Debi’s dad Bart Newberry, Jenna Elfman as injured, ditzy classmate Tanya, co-writer Steve Pink as former classmate and current neighborhood security guard Terry, future The Walking Dead star Michael Cudlitz as the bully Bob Destepello ( " Wanna do some blow? " ), and John’s sister Ann in a scene stealing bit part as a drunken former classmate. It’s quite the cast of characters, both major and minor, that is acted to perfection by this talented ensemble. So, let’s see, we’ve discussed the writing and acting. Now it’s time to move on to the action, which is on display during the opening credits. We see Martin gearing up to snipe someone as a well guarded fellow exits a hotel. The first thing I like about this scene is the fact the audience is led to believe this is the individual Martin’s about to take out. But in a neat twist he takes out a potential bicyclist assassin instead. So far, so good, but it gets even better with the introduction of Grocer, who enters the scene with guns blazing to eliminate the target Martin just finished protecting. I like how the scene starts off on a low key as we see Martin do his thang and then swells to a crescendo of violence by the end. And the best part? Why, that would be the scene being set to " I Can See Clearly Now " by Johnny Nash. I really dig the ironic juxtaposition of the upbeat lyrics serving as a backdrop for a scene of carnage. Then there’s one of my favorite shootouts of all time between Lapoubelle, the cleaner sent in by the pissed off millionaire, and Martin in the Ultimart while Carl the cashier is obliviously lost in Doom and loud heavy metal music.

One thing I’ve grown weary of as an audience member is a lockstep approach to a shootout, in which one character pops out from behind a corner and fires and then ducks while his opponent does the same, rinse and repeat until one of them gets it. I think any cinephile has seen their share of such routine scenes to the point where a shootout really has to bring something different to the table to set it apart, and what the Ultimart shootout accomplishes is to crank up the velocity to nearly breakneck levels. This is a veritable ballet of bullets, with Martin and Lapoubelle ducking, dodging, bobbing, and weaving throughout the store’s aisles with a sinewy grace that is really cool. Add to that the inspired silliness of Duffy Taylor as the zoned out Carl, and you’ve definitely got a shootout that sets itself apart from the crowd. Plus, I love it when Martin and Carl escape the explosion, and Martin tries to comfort him by asking if he’s alright, only to be angrily told, " No, I’m not alright! I’m hurt…..pissed off…….I gotta find another job. " That’s such a delightful skewering of the typical scene in which the stock answer is usually something along the lines of " Yeah, yeah, I’m okay ", and is yet another example of the screenplay’s subversiveness and subtle wit. Now do you schmoes remember the aforementioned dead body Paul helped Martin dispose of? That came about because of the next great set piece of the movie, which was when Lapoubelle and Martin get into a fight in the high school hallway.

This is one of my favorite fight scenes ever because it has such a raw, gritty, unchoreographed feel to it that really sells the desperation of the situation, with Martin taking a wild swing and missing at one point. Another nice detail is the resigned look on Martin’s face as he plunges the pen into Lapoubelle’s neck, as if he’s realizing how his chosen profession, and one mistake in particular, will most likely haunt him for the rest of his life. It’s a moment that fits in with the whole Martin bottoming out part of the plot, and is much more effective than if the moment had been played angrily. And, once again, the song serving as the scene’s backbeat, in this case Mirror in the Bathroom by The English Beat, fits perfectly with the proceedings and expertly complements the driving momentum on display. But that’s not it. Anyone who has seen their share of movies have undoubtedly seen their share of body disposal scenes, and I’m no exception. That’s why it means something when I say this is one of the cooler ones, with the soundtrack selection once again aiding in the effectiveness of the scene. This time it’s 99 Luftballons by Nena, and the melancholy nature of the opening verse meshes perfectly with the moment Debi walks into the aftermath of the fight, and the moment where the tempo picks up is used astonishingly well during the moment when Martin and Paul are scrambling through the hallway with Lapoubelle’s body and use the stairway railing to speed up the process. Another great detail that sells the moment is how both Martin and Paul burn themselves on the boiler that was Lapoubelle’s final destination. And it gave Cusack an opportunity to deliver one of my favorite lines : " A thousand innocent people die every day. But detonate a millionaire’s dog, and you’re marked for life. " An interesting bit of trivia is that Lapoubelle was played by Benny " The Jet " Urquidez, a professional kickboxer who trained Cusack for Say Anything and has remained his personal trainer since then. And then the movie ends with an extended action scene, which takes place in Debi’s house after Martin finds her dad is his latest target and narrowly saves him from Grocer and his men. They then hole up in the house while Martin takes care of things. The late Roger Ebert was one of my favorite critics, and it was a rare occasion when I found myself disagreeing with him. But this final shootout was one of those occasions, with Ebert hating it and commenting that the people getting killed were treated no differently than the pop up targets in video games. I noticed throughout the years that he seemed to have a problem with movies that resolved their problems with a third act scene of violence, and I’m not gonna say that isn’t a valid point. The 1990 crime thriller State of Grace is an example of such a movie, with its fascinating psychological elements nearly being undone by the final scene’s descent into a cliched, slow motion, bottle shattering moment of violence. But I think this movie’s ending is totally appropriate to what came before it. You can’t expect a bunch of sociopathic murderers to settle their differences with a civilized discussion over tea and crumpets, ya know? Those that live by the gun would most likely settle their differences with the gun, resulting in the hail of bullets Ebert found so unsatisfying. One of the specific complaints was that the ending could’ve been more clever and wittier. And that’s the main point of contention I have with that point of view. The finale IS witty and clever, beginning with the moment Martin has Bart in his car racing towards safety and tells him about the contract on his life, as well as why he decided not to accept it……

…….while Grocer, who’s in close pursuit, makes this astute observation……

C’MON! That right there is already a funny moment, and it gets better from there due to the finale’s ability to mix the brutality of the moment with Martin’s romanticism, as seen in the following gif…….

This scene was already pretty cool because of the fluid way Martin kicks the fridge and delivers the fatal frying pan blow. But it proves my point about the finale’s expert way of combining tones when he turns to Debi and says " I love you, Debi. And I know we can make this relationship work. " Or take the following moment :

Martin : " …….but if you can look past that, I think you’ll find a man worth loving. " Awww! Then you have Grocer screwing with Martin’s head, such as when he says : " Smells like a wedding. You’re breaking my heart down here, Blank. I can’t aim through the tears. " *barking* " Budro’s coming for you! " I also love the moment when he interrupts a close range shootout to make one last plea with Martin to join his union, resulting in the following exchange:
Grocer : Comrade! Comrade!
Martin : What?
Grocer : Why don’t you just join the union, we’ll go upstairs and cap daddy!
Martin : This union, there gonna be meetings?
Grocer : Of course!
Martin : No meetings.
( The shooting continues. )
What Aykroyd’s contributions during this stretch mean is that the viewer is treated to a perfectly executed trifecta of action, pathos, and comedy. And that’s why I don’t see how anyone who’s seen this movie can say the ending is anything but clever. Plus, it sends the movie off with what I believe is its funniest line : " You got my blessing. " LMAO! So now that we’ve covered the insanity of the action scenes, we come to the last reason why Grosse Pointe Blank is a classic, and that’s the craftsmanship on display by director George Armitage. Why this guy never broke into the mainstream is a mystery, as he was able in this instance to flawlessly combine several different tones and genres into a cohesive, massively entertaining whole. This is especially impressive when you consider these words from the director himself : With Grosse Pointe Blank I shot three movies simultaneously. We shot the script as written, we shot a mildly understated version, and we shot a completely over-the-top version, which usually was what was used. We cast that movie—and I’ve cast most movies—by having the actors come in and read, then throwing the script out and saying: " Okay, let’s improvise. " That’s what I was comfortable with. I say to the actors: " You are creating the character. This is written, these are the parameters, this is the outline. Now you take this, make it your own, and bring me, bring me, bring me. "... I’m very fond of Grosse Pointe Blank because of that, the insanity of it was trying to keep things working with three different registers to choose from. The fact that he gave his actors the freedom he did and was able to pick the best elements out of three different approaches speaks volumes about the man’s talent ( and also raises the intriguing notion of alternate versions of nearly every scene floating around somewhere ). And even though I was itching to make this section a little bit longer, as I really loved Armitage’s work here, I guess there really isn’t much more that needs to be said. I mean, the movie speaks for itself, wouldn’t you say? And it’s a movie that has truly earned the classic status with its expert blending of many different genres and tones, impeccable performances in service of characters you come to care about, highly entertaining, quotable dialogue, awesome soundtrack, and insane action. In short, there’s something for damn near every cinematic preference stuffed into one amazing movie that deserves to be seen by any schmoe that thinks of themselves as a fan of movies.

Cusack and Armitage

Fun facts : Cusack saw the movie as a metaphor for the Reagan/Bush years : I grew up fascinated by people in the Reagan administration, their ethics, their mercenary values. People who plan wars and then go home to their wives and kids… do they live? To me, Grosse Pointe Blank was a metaphor for the people in the Bush White House. Jenna Elfman and Mitchell would go on to costar in Dharma and Greg. Elfman wearing the body brace was a tribute to Joan Cusack in Sixteen Candles. Marcella can be heard talking on the phone to someone named Amelia. Amelia is Minnie Driver’s real first name. When Quentin Tarantino was working as a cashier at Video Archives, George Armitage was a frequent customer and became good friends with the future auteur. The director decided to give his friend a shout out during the Ultimart shootout : I called him and said " Could I use your lobby card of the Pulp Fiction cast? So we wired it with squibs and shot it up too. " He said Tarantino wanted to make a cameo - " he wanted to get shot or blown up or something " - but it never materialized. Blank's line " meet the new boss " in the diner breakfast scene is taken from The Who song " Won't Get Fooled Again ". John Cusack is a big fan of The Who

Mood: Chillin'

Frosty_86 at 12:40 AM Feb 17

Great write-up man. I love this movie, it's such a quintessential 90s movie. It was probably the last time Dan Aykroyd was great on screen. The comedy is absolutely on point, I love the little oddities Cusack as throughout the movie. Him and Minnie Driver were fantastic on screen together. I know it's about a hitman but it is something people can relate to. The reunion scene is greatness, it's thoughtful and poignant. It's a perfect representation of every one who everybody knows from high school; what paths their lives take and the different points people are at ten years removed from their teenage years. The action is also surprisingly intense and quite brutal for a comedy. It is damn near a perfect movie.

timmyd at 08:18 PM Feb 17

great read , my man . I absolutely love this film.

HTX0811 at 07:18 AM Feb 18

Great writeup. I always love putting this on whenever I catch it on cable.

Read all 4 comments >>

movieman32 updated his STATUS: about 1 year ago

Happy New Year, schmoes! If stealing a piece of someone's heart was an actual crime, you would all be doing hard time. So let's all agree that it's a good thing it isn't and have the best 2017 possible!
cobb at 12:10 PM Jan 01

aww happy new yr

Pat Hatfreet
Pat Hatfreet at 12:20 AM Jan 02

Happy new year!

HTX0811 at 06:50 AM Jan 02

Happy New Year!

movieman32 posted a BLOG item about 1 year ago

Five Favorite Films

Rotten Tomatoes, which is a site I frequent with some regularity, has a segment entitled Five Favorite Films, in which different entertainers discuss their five favorite films and why they feel that way about each one. It’s easily my favorite part of RT, which is why I decided to present my own Five Favorite Films list.

5. Sleepwalk With Me ( 2012 )

Mike Birbiglia was a name I became aware of when this movie was released, as I would come across the occasional article about him. But it wasn’t until his role in Orange is the New Black as Danny Pearson that I became a fan…...and a rather huge one at that. That is when I decided to give this movie a chance, having passed it up several times on Netflix. And it turned out to be really good. The story is one that’s been taken for a spin more than a few times ( to put it mildly ). A struggling artist tries to find his purpose in life amidst his personal and professional problems. Does that sound familiar to anyone yet? But the movie still works incredibly well due to Birbiglia’s winning perspective and screen presence. I like the frequent fourth wall breaking, and the movie had me from the beginning with the entreaty to turn off cell phones. You’ve got veteran actors James Rebhorn and Carol Kane painting a realistic and entertaining look at long time marriage as Mike’s parents, with Rebhorn’s gruff patriarch often times barking out at Kane’s ditzy and determinedly cheerful matriarch. Cristin Milioti is another winning presence as Mike’s sister Janet, who gives him some rather fateful advice regarding his relationship with his girlfriend Abby, played by Lauren Ambrose, with whom Birbiglia has excellent chemistry. But the most fascinating element of the movie is the condition the character suffers from, REM behavior disorder, which Birbiglia himself suffers from. It can be summarized as sleepwalking on crack, and is a condition in which the afflicted act out their dreams in their sleep. This leads to several dream/sleepwalking sequences that are pretty insane. There’s one such sequence in particular that leads to such an outrageous situation I felt positive that specific scene had to be fabricated for the movie. ( I’m sure you schmoes will know the scene in question when you see it. ) But, nope, the scene happened to Birbiglia exactly as depicted. It’s a very fascinating, funny, and surreal element that adds immeasurably to an already exemplary movie.
4. Cheap Thrills (2013)

Cheap Thrills is a darkly comic masterpiece about what happens when down on his luck Craig ( Pat Healy ) and his equally down on his luck high school buddy Vince ( Ethan Embry ) get drawn into the orbit of wealthy couple Colin ( David Koechner ) and Violet ( Sara Paxton ). The couple, who are celebrating Violet’s birthday, draw the duo in with initially harmless bets, such as fifty dollars for whoever can drink a shot first. But as the intensity and payouts of the bets increase, Craig and Vince find themselves increasingly at odds with each other as they struggle with just how far they’ll go to escape their dire situations. This is such an enjoyable movie filled with a simple, yet well thought out, premise, great dialogue, and amazing performances ( Paxton’s is the slowest to get going, and even it takes off after about a half hour in. ) And on that latter note, I have to say that Koechner is the movie’s MVP, and the main reason I picked up the movie on blu-ray. I came across several reviews that mentioned how he managed to portray a menacing alpha male without changing his comedic stylings, of which I’m a huge fan. And that ended up being the main ( but by no means only ) reason I love this movie. Ethan Embry was also stellar as the rough and tumble Vince, although I should go ahead and admit that the only movie I’ve ever seen him in is Vegas Vacation, and that was some time ago. But I seem to remember him coming across very much like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory and, well, he definitely doesn’t play that type of character here. And then there’s the fact that this was my introduction to Pat Healy, in a performance that was highly entertaining and has me looking forward to many more movies from this talented thespian. Craig’s actions may get more extreme and questionable as the movie goes on, but the seriousness of his situation ( he loses his job on the same day he receives an eviction notice ) is laid out with such clarity in the opening scenes that the viewer ends up, if not exactly rooting for him, then at least understanding what drives his actions. Another reason it’s so enjoyable is the fact that it’s often hilarious without resorting to a hackneyed joke/punchline setup, instead letting the absurdity of the situation provide the laughs. And on a final note, let me point out the fact that before seeing Cheap Thrills, this spot would have been filled with the timeless Bogart classic The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Why is this a relevant detail? It’s simply because both films deal with characters whose greed causes them to give in to their baser instincts and turn on each other, which is a fact I thought was too interesting not to mention.
3. Sunset Boulevard ( 1950 )

Billy Wilder is one of my favorite directors from the Golden Age of cinema, and Sunset Boulevard is easily my favorite movie of his. It’s a darkly comic look at happens when faded silent movie star Norma Desmond, played brilliantly by the incomparable Gloria Swanson, lures broke screenwriter Joe Gilles, played equally brilliantly by the equally incomparable William Holden, into the macabre orbit of her and her loyal servant, played hauntingly by Erich von Stroheim. And that’s all I really want to say about Sunset Boulevard at this point because it will soon be the recipient of its own Why It’s a Classic blog. However, anyone who considers themselves a fan of movies should check this masterpiece out at least once. The acting, writing, directing, insights into Hollywood ( some of which are still accurate today ), and meta nature of the screenplay all combine to make this one of hell of a movie and one of my favorites.
2. Jaws ( 1975 )

The thing I find most impressive about this often times nail bitingly tense classic is that over four decades had passed between the time of its release and the time I got around to seeing it. And yet, the movie had me enthralled through a combination of stellar acting, understated terror ( which was admittedly understated mainly because of the technical difficulties of the mechanical sharks ), and amazing direction from the then novice director Steven Spielberg. I was in love with this movie from the start, but it took watching Jaws 2 and part of 3 to really appreciate just what kind of cinematic magic the viewing audience had been given. Another pretty cool thing about this movie is that it not only managed to be an amazing viewing experience, it also revolutionized the way movies were marketed and distributed. And any time a movie that ended up coming in WAAAYYYY over budget and over schedule ( and was once thought of as a career ender for Spielberg ) can accomplish something like that, the classic accolade is well deserved.
1. The World’s End ( 2013 )

It had been a while since I had last seen The World’s End, and the thought occurred to me that it may not have held up as well as I remembered. I also found myself wondering if I perhaps shouldn’t switch rankings with it and Jaws. But a rewatch quickly put those doubts to rest, as The World’s end holds up incredibly well, and is the perfect capper to the Cornetto trilogy. And what makes it so enjoyable is the interaction between Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who are the rock stars of this ensemble just as they were in the previous two Cornetto outings. But this time the relationship depicted runs a bit deeper in that they start off the movie with Frost’s Andy Knightley being at severe odds with Pegg’s Gary King ( which is especially effective given the prologue depicting their rock solid friendship ). That’s why it pays to see all three movies in the trilogy, even though each one is a standalone movie. When Andy’s secretary tells him he has a friend there to see him, and he looks up and sees Gary and responds, " No, I don’t ", it promised this long time fan things would be taken to another level. And why was that? It’s because this is the first time the duo had portrayed a set of characters with such acrimony between them. In Shaun of the Dead, they played such strong besties that even zombiehood couldn’t come between them. And in Hot Fuzz, the worse you could say about the relationship between Nicholas and Danny was that it was strained at times. But in The World’s End, Danny’s animosity towards Gary really gives Frost a chance to show his range, as well as deepening Pegg’s remarkably nuanced turn as Gary. And that’s not to mention the rest of the cast, which includes Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, and the absolutely ethereal Rosamund Pike giving performances that are by turn funny, dramatic, and touching. Another thing that was expected by this point in the trilogy, but no less awesome because of it, was Wright’s superlative skill at foreshadowing, with the entire prologue foreshadowing events from later in the movie. And the final feather in The World’s End cap was the amazingly entertaining fight sequences strewn throughout the movie, with the above gif coming from my favorite one, in which Gary attempts to throw down while keeping from spilling his pint. And the fact of the matter is that Wright is such a consummate pro that he made juggling such a variety of tones look like easy, which is ultimately what gives The World’s End the number one spot.

So there goes five favorite films list, schmoes. What favorite films would be on yours?

Mood: Chillin'

movieman32 at 01:17 PM Dec 31

Trey, I can't disagree with you about M. I was surprised by how modern a movie released in 1931 can still feel.

XSsoCX at 02:41 PM Dec 31

I absolutely adore "Sleepwalk with Me", so happy to see I'm not alone.

Glinda at 03:05 PM Dec 31

Welcome back Movieman32! Great to see ya back, and just in time for the new and fabulous 2017. :)

Great list and I too love Sleepwalk With Me. Nice to see it on your list!

I adore JAWS (number one fav), and Sunset Blvd is just fantastic.

I've not seen Cheap Thrills yet, but had a blast with The World's End.

Read all 4 comments >>

movieman32 updated his STATUS: about 1 year ago

Well, schmoes, I have finally come across a computer and am all set to resume my blogging. I guess it's true good things come to those who wait ( even if the one doing the waiting doesn't want to and is doing so grudgingly lol ). I'm gonna finish a blog I was working on when my computer initially went out before starting anything new, but I'm stuck on what classic I should share my thoughts on first. I've narrowed it down to Grosse Point Blank and Unforgiven but honestly can't decide between the two. So which one do you guys think it should be? Btw, I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas holiday! :)
timmyd at 08:03 PM Dec 29

Two excellent films , but I'd love to hear your thoughts on Grosse Point Blank . Hope your holidays are going well also.

sLaShEr84 at 09:11 PM Dec 29

Thats good.

cobb at 01:51 AM Dec 30

glad ure back have a happy new yr

movieman32 updated his STATUS: about 1 year ago

Classic quote of the day : " You can't go home again, but apparently you can shop there. " - Grosse Point Blank
timmyd at 08:20 PM Dec 02

love that film.

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