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25 Films That Scared the Crap Out of Me When I Was a Kid May 10, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Entertainment, Misc, Movie Reviews, Reviews.
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When I was a snotty little kid, my older sister used to always borrow horror movies from the local video store.  Scary movies were all that she watched.  Scary movies and Stand By Me and White Fang (on loop — thanks to crushes on River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke).

I grew to like horror films too, but it wasn’t before they caused some serious lifelong trauma.  Without further ado, here the 25 that scared me the most (entirely from memory).

(to see the list, click on ‘more…’)

(more…)

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Hollywood’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Mara Rooney August 17, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Entertainment.
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A day after reports stated that Scarlett Johansson was going to be a “shoo-in” as Lisbeth Salander, the titular character in the Hollywood remake of the Sweden book/film blockbuster The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it has now been announced that the role will go to relative unknown Mara Rooney.

Yeah, I can kind of see it

I’ve seen Rooney in the A Nightmare on Elm Street remake, in which she was pretty decent.  She doesn’t necessarily have that dark intensity Noomi Rapace (the original Salander), though physically she does fit the role (skinny and not too tall).  I’m sure with the right make-up and outfit, she can make a decent Salander.

All I can say is that I’m glad Scarlett Johansson didn’t get the role.  Nothing against her personally but boy would that have been a horrible choice!  I know she’s lost some of her curves, but still.  Any of the other names mentioned before Rooney bagged the role — Emma Watson (a little too young-looking still), Ellen Page (too young and a little too small), Carey Mulligan (too classy?), Emily Browning (too young-looking?), Mia Wasikowska (could be good) and Natalie Portman (would be excellent) — would have been better than Johansson, who is just too clean/innocent/sweet to play the role.

Then again, this is a Hollywood remake, and as such, as expectations should be kept in check.  Is it going to be as dark as the original, or is it going to be sanitised for the US audience?  Will they remain true to the book, or will they make it more Hollywood?

Rooney is good in the sense that she is not a widely known name, so that will bring a sense of freshness to the film.  However, they have also chosen 007 Daniel Craig to play Mikael Blomkvist, so that defeats the purpose of trying to make it star-free.

In any case it’s still early stages — filming isn’t even set to begin until next month, with the release set for late 2011.

Movie Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) May 26, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Movie Reviews.
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As a kid, my older sister tormented me with her video rentals, most of which were horror movies.  And of all the movies we watched, the one that was etched into my memory more than any other was A Nightmare on Elm Street (and its many sequels).

So of course, I was very excited about this new “reboot” of the franchise, especially with one of my favourite actors, Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen, Little Children, Shutter Island) playing Freddy Krueger.  Haley, while maybe not a physically imposing guy, has the uncanny ability to unsettle audiences with his creepiness, and I was sure he’d make a terrific Freddy.

The verdict?  Not great — one of those remakes that could have been a lot better, but on the bright side, could have also been far worse.

A Nightmare on Elm Street follows a familiar plot line to just about every other movie in the original franchise — a bunch of kids being terrified in their dreams by the horribly burnt, knife-fingered Freddy Krueger, except that if you die in your dream, you die in real life.

There is some attempt to make the story more compelling by inserting Freddy’s origins into the plot, and tying that to the central characters in the film to create a “mystery” that needs to be solved.  Not to say it worked, but at least they tried to give the characters an additional motivation to just simply staying alive.

The intention this time was to make Freddy more frightening as opposed to the wise-cracking, almost comical Freddy that he evolved into during the latter part of the original franchise.  This new Freddy is all malevolence and anger, though there is still a part of him that likes to toy with his victims.  For the most part, I think this is a welcoming aspect of the film, especially because Haley is so magnificently frightening, even without his make-up!

Speaking of Haley, I must say that he only half-worked as Freddy.  He did whatever he could with the character, but maybe it’s because I’m so used to the Robert Englund version that Haley’s version just didn’t quite feel right — like it was a poor man’s rip-off version of the real Freddy or something.  Englund’s prominent nose and impressive frame is replaced by Haley’s flatter nose and smaller frame, and even though they wore the same outfit and had the same burns (though Haley’s were more “realistic” thanks to improved prosthetics and CGI), it still took me a while to adjust.

I’m not sure if it would have been a good idea, but I would have liked to have seen them give Freddy a slightly new look — perhaps keep the burns and knives on the fingers but do something else with the rest of his outfit.  It would be destroying an iconic look but I felt like seeing something fresh rather than recycled.

What I liked about the film was that you didn’t really get a sense of who the main character(s) were right from the start, so you had a sense that anyone could die at any moment, or that perhaps this or that character may escape death for a while.

On the other hand, I do have two main gripes about the film (in addition to all the smaller gripes about the lack in logic I can forgive).  First, I hated how they telegraphed when a character was in a dream.  Almost every single time, it was bleeding obvious.  Doesn’t all the fun stem from the audience’s uncertainty as to whether a character is dreaming or not and their inability to tell the difference between the dream world and the real world?  Instead, we are basically told “he/she is dreaming now!” and we prepare ourselves for a Freddy’s appearance and/or a gruesome death.

Secondly, there was little innovation and originality in the deaths.  I think they simply recycled some of the better deaths from the original franchise and stuffed them in.  However, I wanted to see something new and creative, something unexpected and more shocking than just Freddy doing his thing with those fingers.

As for the young cast (ie apart from Haley), I actually don’t think they did too terrible of a job.  Kyle Gallner (The Haunting in Connecticut, Jennifer’s Body) is a veteran of these types of films now and he brings an uneasy presence to the screen — the clear stand out.  The others, Rooney Mara (Youth in Revolt), Thomas Dekker (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) and Twilight hunk Kellan Lutz were all solid — but Katie Cassidy delivered one of the most irritating performances of the year as Kris.  Nothing against her personally but she just tried too hard.

Apparently, A Nightmare on Elm Street has done well enough at the box-office for talks of sequels to be in the works.  I just hope that if they do continue this franchise, they be a little more innovative and creative next time, and not just try and cash in on the popularity of the original.

2.5 stars out of 5!

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