Thursday, January 31, 2013

Freddy Krueger: The Demon of a Thousand Faces

To date there’s been nine films starring the mother of all dream demons, the wise cracking, joke spewing, one and only son of a thousand maniacs, Freddy Krueger. As the films have progressed, Krueger has changed visage on many occasions, sometimes looking completely different, going as far as changing species and even genders! So, since most of these films are from the 80’s and February is 'Going Back to the 80’s' month here on The Film Connoisseur, I leave you guys with the many faces of Freddy Krueger. Props go to Fred Krueger himself Mr. Robert Englund for bringing this character to life with such dedication and to all those make up artists who over the years have shaped and molded Freddy Krueger into our favorite dream controlling demon. I’ve probably missed one or two of his looks, so I urge you guys to strike back on the comments section and let me know which ones I’ve left out.

Trench coat Freddy

Film: New Nightmare (1994)

Description: This film marked Wes Craven’s return to the franchise he created, and so he wanted to get as far away from what Freddy had become: a joke spewing cartoon of a villain. With this one, Craven wanted to make Freddy scary, dark and imposing and so we get a slightly more demonic looking Freddy who wears a black trench coat and according to the film, can actually crossover into the ‘real world’. 

Quote: “Miss Me?”

Demon Freddy

Film: New Nightmare (1994) and Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

Description: During the whole franchise, we get two glimpses at a more demonic than usual Freddy Krueger. Yeah, sure, Freddy is pretty evil looking on his own right, but on these two occasions mentioned here, he looks extra evil. First one is in New Nightmare, where during Freddy’s demise he burns in flames and as he burns, we see his true demonic nature, a horned Freddy Krueger. You see, according to this sequel, Freddy is an ancient demon who has existed for eons. Second demonic Freddy pops up in Freddy vs. Jason when Jason Voorhees has a nightmare and Freddy invades it. In Jason’s nightmare, Freddy has red skin, fangs and demonic yellow eyes; demonic indeed! 

Quote: “After they killed me I became something much, much worse”

Snake Freddy

Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Description: Snake Freddy is for me personally one of the scariest of all of the Freddy incarnations, I mean, this giant snake literally comes out of the woodwork and tries to swallow up Patricia Arquette whole, like some sort of demonic Boa Constrictor! Personally I feel as if this is one of the best effects achieved in the whole series; I’ve always considered Dream Warriors to be a high water mark in the series in terms of special effects work. That’s one thing I loved about these NOES films, they were showcases for entertaining and well developed effects sequences, each film is filled with its own show stopping moments effects wise, Snake Freddy being one of the better ones. 

Quote: “You!” 

Puppet Freddy

Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Description: Puppet Freddy comes to life as Phillip, one of the last of the Elm Street kids, falls asleep. You see, Phillip enjoys building his puppets and so Freddy turns one of Phillip’s handmade marionettes into a Freddy Puppet, which then grows into a life size Freddy Krueger! Then, Freddy turns Phillip into a living puppet, by cutting his arms and legs open and using Phillip’s own tendons and veins as the strings from which to pull him with! It really is one of the most gruesome deaths in the whole series.  

Quote: “The fact that we all dreamt about this guy before we ever met doesn’t impress anybody” 

Caterpillar Freddy

Film: Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

Description: Potheads never get it good in horror movies (unless it’s Cabin in the Woods) and Freddy Vs. Jason is no exception. On this one there’s a major pothead called Freeburg who smokes practically on every scene he is in, funny part is he even looks like ‘Jay’ from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001), another major pothead! So anyhow, at one point Freeburg smokes weed and succumbing to the effects of the drug, falls asleep. That is when this Freddy caterpillar pops up to smoke with him.  The worm is very reminiscent of the smoking caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland.

Quote: “I only smoke when I drink now”

Wicked Witch of the West Freddy

Film: Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)

Description: This was one of the most fun times I’ve had watching a NOES film in theaters, there was this excitement to see Freddy in 3-D, and it was just one of these movies were a lot was promised, amongst those promises, Freddy was supposed to “really “ die on this one! So of course it was a special film in that sense. On this one we got a lot of back story on who Freddy was before he became who he became. As far as I’m concerned, we know a lot of what we know about Freddy from this movie alone. By this time, the character of Freddy Krueger had become a full blown jokester; he’d kill teens and say jokes while doing it with definitive ‘gusto’. From the very beginning of this film you can tell that the tone on this one was going to be funnier than normal, for example, during the opening nightmare sequence one of the kids dreams that his home is flying through the air on a tornado, a la The Wizard of Oz (1939) and suddenly, on his bedroom window the teenager sees Freddy Krueger flying on a witches broom, wearing a pointy witches hat and waving his black cape around. This scene started the film on the right foot for me, I was laughing from the get go. 

Quote: “I’ll get you my pretty! And your little soul too!”

Skeleton Freddy

Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Description: Here’s something most people don’t think about, Krueger’s burnt skeleton. We all know his dream demon look, with the fedora hat and the red and green sweater, but what of his real body? The one that the Elm Street parents burned to a crisp? Well, on A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 we actually get to see that skeleton!  According to the ghost of Krueger’s own mother, you have to spray Krueger’s remains with holy water in order to defeat him. So, a brave doctor ends up digging up Freddy’s skeleton in order to lay it to rest, and give it a proper burial or something, but right there and then Freddy’s Skeleton comes to life and begins to attack the doctor! On this one we were presented with the idea that Krueger could control his remains from the dream world. 

Bus Driver Freddy

Film: Freddy’s Dead:  The Final Nightmare (1991)

Description: When one of the last Elm Street kids dreams he travels to this lonely open road in the middle of nowhere, out of the blue, a bus comes along and guess whose driving it? Bus Driver Freddy that’s who! Bus driver Freddy hits the kid with the bus and the teenagers’ body slams onto the windshield of the bus. Then Freddy hits the breaks sending the teenagers body hurling through the air and crossing the boundaries of Freddy’s world. After the kid disappears through some sort of dimensional dream world rift, from his bus drivers seat Freddy utters the words: “Good doggy! Now…Fetch!”

Quote: “No screaming while the bus is in motion! ” 

Nurse Freddy

Films: Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors (1987)

Description:  Joey, one the Elm Street kids being treated at a local mental facility is attracted to one of the nurses that takes care of him. They both find a place where they can get intimate and slowly but surely the nurse reveals herself to Joey, the lucky dude, this nurse is smoking hot! Joey starts kissing her but notices her tongue getting inhumanly long. It isn’t long before Joey realizes that this nurse isn’t a nurse, it’s really Freddy Krueger in disguise! Joey has fallen asleep and Freddy is gonna get him! Suddenly, in his dream, Joey’s bed disappears and beneath it is a gate way to a fiery hell!

Quote: “What’s wrong Joey? Feeling a little tongue tied?” 

Hall Monitor Freddy, Lt. Donald Thompson Freddy, Mrs. Voorhees Freddy

Films: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989), Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

Description: Freddy likes to mess with peoples’ minds and so whenever he can he’ll disguise himself as somebody else. In A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), he disguises himself as a hallway monitor, asking for hall passes with a gloved hand and a bloody face. In Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors he disguises himself as Nancy’s father, so he can get close enough to Nancy so he can kill her! He also disguises himself as Dan Jordan (Alice’s boyfriend) in A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989). After Dan dies, Freddy posseses Dan’s body and from the burning wreck Dan tells her “Hi Alice! Wanna make babies?” And in Freddy Vs. Jason (2003), Freddy disguises himself as Jason Voorhees’s mom so he can manipulate Jason to do his bidding.

Quote: “I’ve crossed over princess. I couldn’t go without telling you how sorry I am for all the things that I’ve done. I love you so much. I’ll always love you.”  “I love you too daddy” “DIE!”

Baby Freddy

Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)

Description:  On A Nightmare on Elm Street 5, we have a scene in which as Alice dreams, she takes a look into Freddy’s past and actually witnesses Freddy’s birth. The doctors performing the birth think that the baby is an abomination! When he is born, Amanda Krueger, his own mother says “This is no creature of God!” The baby falls to the ground and scurries away until he finds the church in which he was killed in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988). Once there, baby Freddy makes his way into an altar and slowly but surely becomes a full grown Freddy Krueger! 
Quote:  “We’ll just see bitch, we’ll just see…” 

Chef Freddy

Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

Description: Greta is a teenager living with her up class mom, who only cares about looking good in front of her rich friends. Greta wants’ to lose weight so she doesn’t want to eat so much, but her mom wants’ her to eat! Because this is a social gathering, and that’s what people do in social gatherings! Eat and drink! Greata’s mom has prepared a fine meal for all her friends to enjoy as they drink wine and gossip, but Greta is so bored with it all that she falls asleep on the table. That’s when Freddy strikes! He appears dressed as a Chef and straps Great down on a chair then starts to force feed her! He fills Greta’s mouth with so much food that she chokes on her dream and consequently, chokes in real life as well!

Quote: “Bon Apetit, Bitch!”

Television Freddy

Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Description: Jennifer Caulfield’s a teenager who knows the horrors of Freddy up close and personal, so she will do anything not to fall asleep. She’s always drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. To stay awake, she burns the cigarette butts on her own arm! She does anything she can to keep herself from falling asleep! But sleep overtakes her anyways one night while watching late night television. Greta Garbo is interviewing somebody and Freddy appears as an interviewee and says “who gives a fuck what you think?” and kills her on live television! Jennifer, not believing her own eyes gets closer and closer to the television until the television suddenly goes blank. That’s when Freddy’s head pops out of the top of the television! Then two robotic hands emerge from the sides of the television andgrab Jennifer by her arms! The robotic hands lift Jennifer up into the air and smash her head into the television screen. 

Quote: ‘’Welcome to Prime Time, Bitch!”

Video Game Freddy

Film: Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)

Description:  What horror film from the 80’s didn’t have a pot head amongst their characters? Not a lot of them that’s for sure! On Freddy’s Dead the pothead is named Spencer, who also happens to be a gamer. One day, while visiting the strangely desolated town of Springwood, Spencer enters an abandoned house and decides to space out while watching a little television. Suddenly, Krueger appears on the television and tells Spencer “Hey Spencer, let’s trip out!” As he spaces out and smokes his weed, Spencer finds himself inside of the television and participating in a  Nightmare on Elm Street video game! First Spencer faces a video game version of his father who tells him: “Be like me! Be like me!” to which Spencer replies: “Not like you! Not like you!” and starts attacking back. Then, Spencer has to face the video game version of Freddy, who starts kicking the shit out of Spencer in all sorts of ways, like stepping on him with his giant feet. Funniest part of this sequence is seeing a video game version of Freddy Krueger, walking around in one of those 80’s style side scrollers. 

Quote: “Great graphics!”

Power Glove Freddy

Film: Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)

Description:  The Nightmare on Elm Street Video Game that Spencer ends up participating in is actually being played by somebody and that somebody is Freddy Krueger himself! The faces Freddy makes while playing the video game are priceless and then, Freddy Krueger whips out his very own version of Nintendo’s Power Glove and says “Now I’m playing with power!” For those of you who don’t know what the hell a power glove is, well, it was this thing Nintendo released during the 80’s, basically, it was a controller in the form of a glove. Who would’ve thought we’d ever see Freddy the Gamer? 

Quote: “” I beat my high score! Ha ha haaa!”

Child Freddy

Title: Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)

Description:  As Maggie and the rest of the orphans search around Springwood for clues about Freddy, they stumble upon Springwood Elementary School where they encounter ghosts of Freddy’s past. Including his old teacher, his old classmates and they even get to see Freddy Krueger himself as a child. Freddy was an outcast, all his buddies knew he was “son of a hundred maniacs” and they made sure he never forgot it. Freddy would just have fun smashing hamsters to death, strange kid in deed. 

Quote: “Son of a hundred maniacs, son of a hundred maniacs!”

Teenage Freddy

Film:  Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)

Description: Teenage Freddy didn’t have it too good. He was adopted by an abusive parent who kept him locked up in a basement. Freddy would only get visits from his step father to get whipping, until Freddy starts liking the whippings! Freddy strats enjoying cutting himself with a knife! And one day, when Freddy can’t stand the abuse anymore he stabs his step dad with a knife! 

Quote: “The secret of pain is to stop feeling it and start using it”

Motorcycle Freddy

Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)

Description: When Dan Jordan, Alice’s boyfriend decides to take a ride on his motorcycle, he falls asleep driving it and suddenly, a mechanical version of Freddy’s face appears on the motorcycle itself! Then cables come out of the motorcycle and inject themselves into Dan’s flesh, joining his body with the motorcycle, effectively turning Dan into a half man, half motorcycle thing! Freddy screams “Fuel Injection!” Freddy turns Dan into a speed demon!

Quote: “Yee-Haa! This boy feels the need for speed!”

Beach Freddy

Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

Description:  Nightmare on Elm Street 4’s the film where Freddy became a joke, he was no longer scary, now he was a one line spewing monstrosity. How did I notice this? Well, as soon as I saw Freddy’s claws traveling through the sand as if they were a shark’s fin, I knew something was off. Plus, doesn’t Freddy seem completely out of place wearing shades in a beach? Let’s not forget this is the film where Freddy actually eats a meatball pizza, the catch being that the meatballs were made up of his victims’ heads! Still, even though this movie is kind of funny, I still think it’s one of the most entertaining ones in the series, the effects work was top notch on this one.   

Quote: “You shouldn’t have buried me, I’m not dead”

Super Freddy

Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)

Description: On this film we meet Mark, a comic book geek/artist who can’t stand the sight of blood even though his comics are drenched in it. So anyways, one night he falls asleep reading comic books. During his dream he becomes one of the characters he created in his own drawings, this cool looking super hero who uses these cool looking guns, problem is that Freddy also changes into Super Freddy! It’s then that Freddy turns Mark  into a cartoon character made of paper! Freddy then starts to shred Mark into pieces! Mark ends up dead when all of his comic books fall on him and kill him, bummer.  

Quote: “I told you comic books were bad for ya!”

Freddy the Drunken Truck Driver

Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)

Description: Dan is driving his car when he suddenly falls asleep driving, Freddy then appears next to him driving. He tells him “Hey Danny, you better not dream and drive!” then takes a zip of a bottle of alcohol. Then Freddy pours some of the alcohol on his shoulder, and for some reason, the alcohol eats through Freddy’s arm as if it was acid! Freddy then rips off his arm and sticks it on the ceiling of the car…it is then that Dan wakes up and crashes his car on an oncoming truck.

Quote: “Put your pedal to the metal Dan!”

Drug Pusher Freddy

Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Description: Taryn is a girl trying to break with her heroin habit, but it’s getting increasingly difficult when the orderlies of the mental institution supply her with the stuff. When Taryn falls asleep she ends up in an isolated alley where she comes upon Freddy Krueger who offers her heroin. All of Freddy’s  fingers transform into syringes! Taryn’s veins literally open up and beg for the drug and that’s when Freddy injects her with all of the syringes and gives it to her! He literally sucks Taryn dry, and she dies from an overdose…after killing her Freddy says “what a rush!”
Quote: “Let’s get high!”

So that’s it boys and girls, hope you liked this list numbering many of Freddy’s different looks. If you want  to know a bit more about Freddy, don’t forget to check out my article entitled: Freddy Krueger: An Unauthorized Biography or Why is Freddy so messed up? It retells Freddy’s life story in seven chapters! And don’t forget, its 80’s Month here on The Film Connoisseur, so starting today, its all 80’s all the time! Don’t miss it! See you around! 

Orgazmo (1997)

Title: Orgazmo (1997)

Director: Trey Parker

Cast: Tery Parker, Matt Stone, Dian Bachaer, Ron Jeremy


You’ve probably not seen Orgazmo, it’s an obscure sex comedy that no studio wanted to put up the money for because of its crass nature and by crass I mean rude and vulgar and all those nice things that 99.9% of the population find ‘offensive’. Because of this, Orgazmo might not be the kind of film you will see playing in theaters, but on the land of straight to dvd, a film like Orgazmo can do just fine. It can thrive, find its audience and become a cult film. How I came upon Orgazmo is I love the South Park guys, their sense of humor (based mostly on crude sincerity) clicks just fine with me. To me their shows and films are like a lightning bolt of truth. They are refreshing because they are sincere with their material. Blunt? Sure, but I love how they say things unfiltered, which to me is something that is really missing in this world we live in. Humanity needs more sincerity and truthfulness and Trey Parker and Matt Stone have it to spare and share it with the rest of the world and it’s the reason why I enjoyed Orgazmo so much. 

Orgazmo is all about Joe Young, a faithful Mormon who goes house to house preaching the word of the bible to others. He wants to marry his beautiful girlfriend Lisa, the only problem is that the wedding is expensive and Joe doesn’t have the cash to marry her yet. But fear not! One day while preaching he knocks on the door of a pornographer who is right smack in the middle of shooting a porn film about a superhero named Orgazmo! The problem is that the actor who plays Orgazmo has just quit and now the pornographer is one Orgazmo too short. When the porn director sees Joe, he knows he’s found his replacement! Will Joe take the 10,000 dollars that the porn king is offering him to play Orgazmo or will he remain faithful to God?

Aside from being a genuinely funny movie, Orgazmo talks about sexual repression amongst Christian parishioners. A distinctive element of Christian religions is how they suppress sexual desires amongst their followers. Yes sir, sex in its many forms is a big no-no for Christians. At least until they are married, then it’s okay to open the gates of lust and desire. But if you are not married, then sex is a sin and you’re going to hell in a hand basket for doing it. According to the bible having sex before getting married is one of the worst sins you can commit. In 1 Corinthians 6:18 the bible states that “He who commits fornication, sins against his own body” You see, according to the bible, our bodies are temples for God, and they are not our own. That’s right our bodies belong to God’s, so we gotta take care of them. What startles me about bible scriptures like this one is how they equal the act of having sex with something evil, they demonize sex. I personally think this demonization of sex is something really hypocritical, most people find a way to have sex no matter what the church says. As anyone who’s gone through puberty can attest, when you’re a teenager there’s no stopping those raging hormones! The makers of Orgazmo agree, sexuality is normal, no need to demonize it.  This is why they place their main character, a Mormon, right smack in the middle of a very sexual situation: the making of a porn film!

Which is where things get really funny! Placing a Christian on the set of a porn film makes this a fish out of water story, the fish being Joe Young (Trey Parker), the results being comedy gold. The porn industry is ripe for jokes, and only a couple of films have ventured there. Last one I remember watching was The Amateurs (2005) which stars Jeff Bridges as an amateur porn producer/director. Another one that comes to mind is Zack and Miri make a Porno (2008), a film in which two roommates team up to make a Star Wars themed porn film in order to get some money to pay the rent. With Orgazmo I laughed like a mad man in many a scene, including one in which Joe has to have sex with this ultra fat and old porn actress, who also has a very manly voice. That moment is so awful for Joe that he mentally escapes to a beautiful sunny country side, smiling and running through the grass with his girlfriend. Or watching Orgazmo’s sidekick ‘Choda Boy’ wearing his dildo hat or shooting his dildo missile! I know that sounds nuts, but it’s exactly what happens. I mean, how genius is to have a super hero who has a gun called the ‘Orgazmorator’ which gives its victims instant multiple Orgasms? When Orgazmo shoots his enemies with the Orgazmorator, they actually say “thank you!”! The ‘Orgazmorator’ reminded me of the ‘Orgazmatron’ from Barbarella (1968), in that film the villain Duran-Duran tries to kill Barbarella with it by giving her nonstop orgasms.

As you can see, sex comedies are nothing new. Barbarella is an early example, and so is Flesh Gordon (1974). Though they are scarce today, these type of comedies proliferated like babies, especially during the late 70’s and 80’s. The only thing that makes Orgazmo different is that it’s not about teenagers trying to have sex for the first time, it’s about a Christian, putting himself through the experience of making a porn film so that he can pay for his expensive church wedding, and then, with the help of his side kick Choda Boy, he really does become Orgazmo! For real! Ha, hilarious premise! Highly recommend checking out this incredibly underrated comedy. It has cameos by a bunch of famous porn stars like Chasey Lane and Ron Jeremy. It was directed by Trey Parker, whose not only one of the creators of South Park, but also the director behind Team America: World Police (2004) and Cannibal: The Musical! (1993). Parker found it difficult to get funding to make Orgazmo, but he found his money and he made his movie. There’s no denying that Orgazmo can be considered vulgar by many, but there’s no denying it is also very funny. Ebert called it “sophomoric and witless” but I say if you’ve seen an episode of South Park than this type of comedy shouldn’t be all that shocking. The uninitiated Trey Parker’s and Matt Stone’s unique brand of blunt humor might prove to be a bit too harsh, but for the rest of us, it’s as funny and as cool as it’s ever been. Up next for Trey Parker and Matt Stone is a film called ‘The Book of Mormon’, I’ve yet to understand their fixation with Mormons (they have made fun of them in two films and a couple of South Park episodes) but if it’s anything as funny as Orgazmo, then sign me up!

Rating:  4 out of 5

Monday, January 28, 2013

Ted (2012)

Title: Ted (2012)

Director: Seth McFarlane

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth McFarlane, Giovanni Ribisi, Sam J. Jones  

When Ted was first released in theaters, I totally ignored it because I thought it was going to be a stupid movie, a one trick pony about a Teddy bear doing all sorts of obscene stuff. And while it was that, it was also much more than that and I’m sorry I missed this super funny movie in theaters, I totally underestimated, my bad.  Still, I managed to laugh just as much in the comfort of my home and so I’m here to say that if like me you thought Ted was going to be a sucky movie and haven’t seen it yet, then give it a chance, you’re missing out on a truly funny movie.

Story is all about this kid named John who is a social outcast; his class mates make fun of him and he is lonely most of the time, which is why he ends up talking to his teddy bear. Like many kids at that age, when they got no friends, they make up one. One night, John wishes upon a star. His wish is that Teddy would be real, so he could talk to him like a real person. To his surprise, his wish comes true; his Teddy bear has come to life! Fast forward thirty years and John is now an adult and his Teddy bear still talks! In fact, John and Ted are best buds, they smoke weed, drink and party together. They are inseparable.  Problem is that John’s girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) wants’ more out of their relationship and gives John and ultimatum: her or Ted.

The most relevant thing about Ted are the themes it plays with. Yeah we have a little Teddy smoking weed and cursing like a sailor, but at its core Ted is a movie about growing up, leaving behind childish comfort zones and facing responsibilities head on. Sometimes, people don’t want to face the often times overbearing responsibilities of adult hood. Some would just rather party all the time, like that stupid ass  Eddie Murphy song. To some, responsibilities loom heavily on the horizon, threatening to end all their fun in life, so they ignore them and party as much as they can. Problem is that, if you don’t face these responsibilities and ignore them instead, then you’re hiding away from growing up, you remain a child forever, hence the term “Peter Pan Syndrome” a term commonly used in the world of psychiatry for people who just don’t want to grow up. These are people who are afraid to face anything that threatens their comfort zone. They don’t want to hear their parents, girlfriend, or friends telling them to “do something with your life”. Basically, people like this shun away anything that questions or threatens anything in their comfort zone. People who suffer from this state of mind, shun the rest of the world because they don’t want to face it, they feel inadequate facing others who have moved on with their lives.

John, the character played by Mark Wahlberg isn’t so far down the rabbit whole, he’s at least managed to get himself a beautiful girlfriend played by Mila Kunis, and he wants to become an adult even though he is already 35 years old. He has fallen into that gutter where your life is essentially going nowhere. But his girl is willing to give him a chance, and John at least demonstrates a desire to stand up for himself and become a man; which of course includes one of the biggest responsibilities imposed by society on any human being: marriage! The ultimate compromise! Can John grow up, get married and become a man? That all depends on him leaving his child like things behind, his comfort zones which include smoking weed, drinking like a mad man and watching movies. The problem with these things is not that John does them, it’s that they are the only things he does with his life. It’s all about that delicate balancing act, work hard and then you can party hard. But it can’t all be party! John at least admits that he is 35 and “going nowhere”. So this is a movie about a man who has to stop wasting his life away. The problem is Ted the talking Teddy bear. This little talking Teddy represents that friend that doesn’t want to stop partying, the facilitator of mirth, the one that always calls you up to hang out and party like there’s no tomorrow. According to the film, this type of friend can be detrimental to a person, because they are the kind of friends who won’t let you move on with their lives, who will drag you down with them into their own neverland.  

But you have to admit; sometimes a good party has a strong pull! And in this film the party is not only filled with babes, drugs and alcohol, it also counts with the presence of Sam J. Jones, the actor who played Flash Gordon ("Quarter Back, New York Jets!") in Mike Hodges’s Flash Gordon (1980)! This was the coolest joke in the movie for me because I am a fan of that particular Flash Gordon film, it’s so campy, so flashy, so cheesy, but oh so very fun! Thing is that this Flash Gordon joke is a running gag throughout the whole freaking movie so I was laughing like a mad man every step of the way. Take it from me; if you’re a fan of that Flash Gordon film, with Queen singing “Flash! AaaAaaaaa he’ll save everyone one of us!” then you are in for a special treat with Ted.

"Look Flash, there's Tim Burton blast him away with your laser cannon!"

Ted can be categorized as a “guy’s film” which is basically the kind of movie a guy will want to play for all his buds in his man cave, drinking beers and eating pizza, though woman can also identify with the film since it is a woman that is pushing John to make all these changes in his life. The theme of commitment in a relationship is also one that women will find interesting. Though if they want to see the female verison of this film, then I urge them to check out Young Adult (2011) starring Charleze Theron which plays with similar themes but from a females point of view. Word of warning to those who can’t take a raunchy jokes, the film does indulge into its fare share of vulgar jokes that I’m sure many will find offensive, but again, Gene Simmons definition of success shines through:  “offend as many people as possible”.  This film might have had a Teddy Bear smoking weed, drinking beers and attempting to have sex (even though he has no penis!), yet still, the film went on to make more than 500 million dollars at the box office! So a ‘congratulations’ is in order for first time director Seth McFarlane. Making such a huge hit his first time out is always something good, let’s see if he can duplicate it with his next one, which no doubt we will be seeing sometime soon. I’m sure the success of Ted has Hollywood knocking on his door as I type this.

Rating:  5 out of 5 

The original 'Flash Jump'! 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Original vs. Remake Comparison: Judge Dredd (1995) vs. Dredd (2012)

Judge Dredd is one of those properties that has huge potential for becoming the Next Big Franchise, but for some reason, Hollywood has never really figured out how to start it up properly. There’s been two films based on Judge Dredd, the first one was Danny Cannon’s Judge Dredd (1995) and the second, Dredd (2012). Both films were not as successful as expected by their producers, yet I have enjoyed both cinematic incarnations of the character, both for different reasons. Still, one could safely say that American audiences have not truly warmed up to Judge Dredd yet; both films were failed attempts at jump starting a franchise. One of the best examples of a failed franchise that Hollywood just won’t give up on are the Punisher films, which Hollywood has attempted to start off three times with no success; and two of these adaptations were produced during the current boom of comic book movies, so why the failure? If you ask me, I’d say that no matter how how much franchise potential a property might have, when a film like Green Lantern (2011) fails it proves only one thing: you still need a good movie to kick things off. Without that good first film, your franchise is going nowhere; which is why Danny Cannon’s Judge Dredd is such a conundrum for me. Cannon’s Judge Dredd is not a bad film in my book; actually, if you ask me, it’s quite the contrary, it should have started a whole franchise of Judge Dredd films! Still, back in 1995 audiences in the United States didn’t think a Judge Dredd movie was such a good idea, even with Sylvester Stallone attached as the main star of the film. Why did this first attempt to bring Judge Dredd to the silver screen fail?

In retrospect, Danny Cannon’s 1995 film wasn’t a total bomb. While it is true that the film failed to make its budget back in the United States where it only made 34 million; it did make more cash abroad, recuperating its 70 million dollar budget and making a grand total of 113 million worldwide. So things weren’t all that bad for this Stallone vehicle, it just didn’t make as much money as expected in the United States. But still, one has to wonder, why didn’t it perform? Well, it could have something to do with Judge Dredd not being as well known a character as other popular comic book properties. The roots of Judge Dredd go back to the U.K. where it first appeared in the illustrious science fiction comic book magazine 2000 A.D., way back in 1977. Now in the U.K. Judge Dredd is a well known comic book character, for example, it was considered one of the top ten comic book characters ever created by Empire Magazine. But the truth is that the grand majority of Americans don’t know what the hell 2000 A.D.  is and with the exception of those hard core comic book geeks like myself, Judge Dredd simply hasn’t reached that level of recognition that other comic book characters have. So we could attribute the low box office intake to the fact that in the U.S., Judge Dredd is not that well known a character.

Judge Dredd has had a long and fruitful comic book life

But was Danny Cannon’s film really all that bad? Was it really all that unfaithful to the comics? Well, if you ask Judge Dredd creator John Wagner he’ll tell you that Cannon’s film “had nothing to do with Judge Dredd”. I can see where he is coming from, but I don’t necessarily agree. I’ve been reading the first issues of the old 1970’s Dredd comic books (and having a blast with them I might add!) and I have to say that Danny Cannon’s film is actually very close to what Wagner and Ezquerra originally created with their comics. There’s Mega City One, which by the way looks absolutely stunning in Cannon’s film. There’s a grand set design here, the city looks massive and convoluted the way Mega City should be, filled with crooks and chaos. Judge Dredd himself looks amazingly close to how he looks in the comics; the wardrobe by the way was designed by famed fashion mogul Gianni Versace!  The suit might not look functional, but hell, it’s the Dredd from the comic books, there’s no denying that! The look for the new film looses the giant golden eagle shoulder pads for a more toned down and functional shoulder padding, but I have to admit, I like the look on Cannon’s film better, it just looks more like the Dredd from the comic books. You can tell there was a desire to be faithful to the iconic Judge Dredd suit, it only he’d worn it more through the film.

They got the guns right, they got Dredd’s motorcycle just as huge as in the comics and with built in machine guns! I tell ya, in look and overall feel, Danny Cannon’s film succeeds in transferring the comic book character and the world of Mega City One to the silver screen in a more successful and faithful manner than director Pete Travis’s Dredd (2012), which by comparison brings us a very scaled down version of Mega City One. This due to the fact that the makers of Dredd had a smaller budget than Cannon and Stallones film. The makers of Judge Dredd had a cool 70 million dollars to play with, some sites even say the budget was closer to 90 million, while the makers of Dredd had only 50 million. But apparently 70 million dollars could get you a heck of a lot back in ‘95 and as a result, Cannon’s film looks expensive, it’s one of those movies where you can see the millions up on the screen. It has big effects, big stars, and an imposing musical score arranged by Alan Silvestri. So if you ask this film connoisseur, I say Cannon’s film is better in these respects. It’s bigger, badder, louder. Unfortunately, the films levels of violence garnered it an ‘R’ rating and so, I think this too might have hurt its intake at the box office. Its target audience couldn’t go and see the film because it was restricted.

Thematically speaking, the film plays with a lot of important (if somewhat redundant) issues. First off, we have a corrupt judicial system, corrupt cops and a corrupt government. Their main purpose in life is to build an army so they can overtake the city. Same as real life politicians, the corrupt government of Mega City One uses criminals to purposely inflict fear in the hearts and minds of the people so they’ll have an excuse to build a clone army. By the way, the theme of corruption amongst the police force is touched upon yet again in Dredd. Cannon’s film centers around a story line from the old comic books called “The Return of Rico”, where ‘Rico’ - Judge Dredd’s evil brother- returns from exile to exact some revenge on those who sent him to prison. Armand Assante, one of my favorite actors and one who is criminally underrated in Hollywood, plays the over the top Rico, a great asset to this film. And speaking of Judge Dredd’s cast, we also get the awesome Max Von Sydow playing Judge Dredd’s father figure Judge Fargo. Sometimes the performances are tuned up a bit too much, Stallone himself said that the tone they went for was too ‘Hamlet’ when they should have kept it fun and gone more Hamlet and Eggs. I get what he’s saying, but I actually think it’s not all that serious, there’s a fine balancing act between serious sci-fi and goofy comic book movie on this one, what with Rob Schneider hopping along for the ride, a joke a second is always assured. True, I’m not the first to admit that Schneider doesn’t always hit the mark, but in my opinion he isn’t all that annoying, he’s just the a-typical comic relief character. If you want to blame someone for including Schneider here, blame Stallone, he’s the one that asked for him! Originally Stallone wanted Joe Pesci, but Pesci declined so they went with Schneider. 

I’ve read many die hard Judge Dredd fans (the purists) complain that they didn’t like the fact that Stallone takes off the helmet and the uniform for most of the film, and I have to say I agree, taking the iconic Judge Dredd suit and helmet off for 90% of the film was not a good idea. In the Judge Dredd comics, we never get to see Dredd’s face, ever! It’s this big mystery that bathes the character with an enigmatic  aura that works like magic. But in the films defense, we have to understand that Stallone was the big draw here and the producers didn’t want to hide their bankable film stars face in a helmet for the whole film, so in a way, it’s understandable that they did this. But I, along with many Dredd fans would have preferred to see more of Dredd looking like a Judge, not like Stallone. Wardrobe issues aside, Stallone did a good job in bringing the character to life, he plays him cold and robotic, the way Dredd should be. He shouts things like “I am the law!” and calls people “citizens and perps”. He sentences people on the spot, I mean, for all intents and purposes, this is Dredd come to life. I say you and I are lucky that this film turned out as cool as it id, during this production Stallone and Cannon didn’t see eye to eye in a great many things, yes my friends, this was a troubled production, things didn’t run smoothly between actor and director. So much so that Cannon vowed never again to work with big movie stars like Stallone.  Still, I say that the end result is a fun movie, with great action, a good story, a good cast and great visual effects, Mega City One looks like something out of The Fifth Element (1997) mixed with Blade Runner (1982). An escapist film with great production values, I say give this one a second chance!

In comparison, Pete Travis’s Dredd is the complete opposite of Cannon’s film. It’s a smaller scale story, less epic, more personal. We get to follow Dredd and a rookie try and stop ‘Ma-Ma’, a big time drug dealer who resides on the 200th floor of Peach Tree building complex. It isn’t going to be an easy task, especially when Ma-Ma locks down the whole building! By keeping Dredd confined to one location, the filmmakers keep costs down by not having to show the futuristic exteriors of Mega City One, while at the same time giving us more time to focus on Dredd himself, which is something that sets this film apart, we are with Dredd for most of the films duration.

Gotta tell ya, if I’m given the choice to choose between both of these films, I’d choose Cannon’s film simply because its way more fun. Dredd is such a serious affair, so dreadful, it needed something to liven it up, it needed more sci-fi to it, more action, like the comics. As it is, we simply get Dredd going from floor to floor shooting people in slow motion, which in my opinion felt a little redundant after a while. I did like the slow motion effect of Slo-Mo. Basically, once you take it everything around you slows down to a crawl. Because of this, blood, shards of broken glass, bullets and tearing flesh, can all be appreciated in slow motion. Cool visuals in deed.

On this one, Dredd looks awesome as well. Yeah they lost  the giant golden eagle shoulder pads, but it’s not a big loss, they went for a more realistic approach. Dredd almost looks like a real cop, closer to something we might see on the streets someday. But again, if asked to choose, I’d take the look from Cannon’s film better, simply because it’s more comic bookish, it’s the Dredd of the comics, not a toned down version that wants to be more realistic. This is something that filmmakers need to remember, when we go see a comic book film, we’re not looking for realism, we’re looking for escapism, we’re looking to see something we haven’t seen. Characters who do things we can’t do. And in my opinion, this is what brings Dredd down a bit, its desire to be more serious and realistic. In a Dredd film, I want the futuristic motorcycle, the flying cars, the killer robots, the cool weapons, the sci-fi, Dredd needed more sci-fi to it. But I get it, the budget was smaller, this wasn’t as big a production as Stallone’s film was, this is a smaller scale production, so I accepted it for what it is. And truth be told, I enjoyed Dredd.  I read an article where Alex Garland speaks about this decidedly smaller scale film, and in it he explains that they went with this because they were testing out the waters to see if people would approve of this new film. Had this one worked, had it made some dough, we would have seen two more films, bigger in scale with the possible introduction of infamous Judge Death! But alas…this was not to be.

Unfortunately, Dredd bombed at the box office, even more so than Cannon’s film. Dredd cost 50 million, but only made 32; it didn’t even make its money back! That is the mark of death for any franchise. But again, you need a good entertaining first film to grab audiences and this one was so small scale that it failed to impress. Though well made, it simply wasn’t epic enough. Dredd feels like a whimper next to the big and loud Stallone film. But I’m not going down as saying Dredd is a bad film, I just think it wasn’t all it could have been.  Sad story in my book, I wanted to see more of Judge Dredd! But fear not, thanks to the efforts of Judge Dredd creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, Judge Dredd is becoming better known across the United States and the world. The old comics are getting reprinted and collected in these giant volumes that compile all of those old Judge Dredd comics that appeared in 2000 A.D., highly recommend searching those out! It’s very entertaining to see how this character has evolved through it’s comic book history. Judge Dredd has gone through various  comic book companies, writers and artists. For example, DC comics has printed a couple of Judge Dredd series, and so has IDW Publishing, which by the way is currently printing a series as I type this. Hopefully Dredd (2012) will find its audience on dvd and awareness of the character will grow over the years. Until then, we got volumes of comic book history and these two films to quench our thirsts for all things Dredd. Here’s hoping that a couple of years down the line, Hollywood decides to give Judge Dredd another chance at franchise glory. Until then, according to municipal code 213: good hearted attempts at jump starting a franchise and Code 310: films that don’t deserve the bad rap they get and Code 201 of the Cinematic Crimes Journal, I the Film Connoisseur find both of these films NOT guilty! Go watch them and have a good time!

Rating Judge Dredd (1995): 4 ½

Rating Dredd (2012): 4

A fan made poster that Danny Cannon made when he was a teenager, before he even dreamed of directing Judge Dredd (1995). He submitted it to a contest for 2000 A.D. and won! 


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