Mac Attack: The Good Son (1993, directed by Joseph Ruben)


“Hey, Mark, don’t fuck with me,” 12 year-old Henry (Macaulay Culkin) says to his cousin Mark (Elijah Wood) in The Good Son‘s signature scene.  But fuck with him Mark does because Mark knows that evil exists and that Henry’s evil.  Henry killed his brother and he tries to kill his sister, Connie (Quinn Culkin), by throwing her onto thin ice.  When Mark, whose mother has recently died, decides that Henry’s mother, Susan (Wendy Crewson), is going to be his new mom, Henry gets jealous and tells Mark that he would rather kill Susan than allow her to have another son.  Eventually, Mark and Henry both end up dangling from a cliff with Susan holding onto them.  Susan has to decide who to save, her evil son or the distant relation that she barely knows.  She makes her choice and the camera lingers on the corpse of the less fortunate child on the rocks below.  For most mothers, it probably wouldn’t even be a difficult decision.  Of course you would save your own child!  But Susan has to think about it.  Maybe she can see the future and knows that Elijah Wood has the Lord of the Rings to look forward to while Macaulay is destined for something much different.

The Good Son caused a lot of controversy when it came out in 1993, not because it was about a murderous child but because that murderous child was played by the then-biggest star in America.  How would people who loved watching Macaulay seriously injure two burglars react to watching Macaulay kill people?  The movie actually did well at the box office but it also revealed that the Macaulay Culkin was a limited actor.  Elijah Wood was a good actor but Mark still comes across like a little creep.  Trying to steal his cousin’s mother?  What did he think was going to happen?

Finally, The Good Son was written by Ian McEwan, of all people.  In McEwan’s defense, he only wrote the first draft and that was long before Macaulay Culkin was miscast as Henry.  Apparnetly, Macaulay’s father and manager, Kit Culkin, demanded that his son be cast as a psycho murderer before he would allow Maccaulay to appear in Home Alone 2.  I guess Kit thought making his son look evil would be a good career movie.  If only someone had been willing to say, “Hey, Kit Culkin, don’t fuck with the movie.”

Review: World War Z (dir. by Marc Forster)


WorldWarZ

I’ll get this out of the way and just say it: World War Z the film pretty much has nothing in common with the acclaimed novel of the same name by author Max Brooks (reviewed almost at the very beginning of the site). Ok, now that we have that out of the way it’s time to get to the important part and that’s how did the film version turn out on it’s own merits.

World War Z was a film that took the long, winding and rough road to finally get to the big-screen. Whether it was the five different writers brought in to work on the script (J. Michael Straczynski of Babylon 5 fame came onboard first with Christopher McQuarrie coming unofficially to help tighten a few scenes in the end) to the massive changes made to the original source material that was bound to anger the fans of the novel, the film by Marc Forster had an uphill climb to accomplish even before the final product even came to market.

I was as surprised as man others were that the finished product was better than I had anticipated. Some had very low expectations about World War Z coming in due to the rumors and news reports coming in about the problems during production, but it doesn’t change the fact that the unmitigated disaster predicted by every film blogger and critic beforehand never came to fruition.

World War Z might not have been what fans of the novel had wanted it to be, but when seen on it’s own merit the film was both exciting and tension-filled despite some flaws in the final script and use of well-worn horror tropes.

The film begins with a visual montage interspersing scenes of nature (particularly the swarming, hive-like behavior of certain animals like birds, fish, and insects), alarmist news media reporting and the mindless celebrity-driven entertainment media that’s so big around the world. From there we’re introduced to the main protagonist of the film in one Gerry Lane (played by Brad Pitt) and his family. We see that the Lane family definitely love and care for each other with his wife Karin (Mireille Enos in the supportive wife role) and their two young daughters, Rachel and Constance. The film could easily have spent a lot of time establishing this family and their relationship towards each other, but we move towards the film’s first major sequence pretty much right after the opening. It’s this choice to not linger on the characters too long that becomes both a strength and a weakness to the film’s narrative throughout.

WorldWarZPhilly

World War Z finally shows why it’s not your typical zombie film with it’s first major sequence in the center of downtown Philadelphia as Gerry and his family sees themselves in bumper-to-bumper traffic. As they wait there are some subtle hints that something might just be somewhat awry ahead of them as we see more and more police racing towards some sort of emergency ahead of the family and more and more helicopters flying overhead. There’s a brief lull in the scene before all hell breaks loose and the film’s zombie apocalypse aspect goes from 0 straight to 11 in a split second.

It’s this sequence of all-encompassing chaos overtaking a major metropolitan city seen both on the ground through the eyes of Gerry Lane and then on flying overhead wide shots of the city that gives World War Z it’s epic scope that other zombie films (both great and awful) could never truly capture. It’s also in this opening action sequence that we find the film’s unique take on the tried-and-true zombie. While not the slow, shambling kind that was described in the novel, these fast-movers (owes a lot more on the Rage-infected from 28 Days Later) bring something new to the zomgie genre table by acting like a cross between a swarm of birds or insects with the rapidly infectious nature of a virus.

These zombies do not stop to have a meal of it’s victims once they’ve bitten one but instead rapidly moves onto the next healthy human in order to spread the contagion it carries. We even get an idea of how quickly a bitten victim dies and then turns into one of “Zekes” as a soldier has ended up nicknaming them. It’s this new wrinkle in the zombie canon that adds to the film’s apocalyptic nature as we can see just how the speed of the infection and the swarm-like behavior of the zombies could easily take down the emergency services of not just a city and state but of entire nations.

WorldWarZJerusalem

World War Z works best when it doesn’t linger too long between action sequences. Trying to inject some of the themes and ideas that made the novel such a joy to read only comes off as an uncomfortable attempt to try and placate fans of the novel. When we get scenes like Philadelphia in settings like Jerusalem and, in smaller scales but no less tense, like in South Korea and on a plane, the film works as a nice piece of summer action fare. This works in the first two thirds of the film but a sudden shift in the final third in Cardiff, Wales could be too jarring of a tonal shift in storytelling for some.

While the change from epic and apocalyptic to intimate and contained in the final third was such a sudden change this sequence works, but also shows just how bad the original final third of the film was to make this sudden change. It proves to be somewhat anticlimactic when compared to the epic nature of the first two-thirds of the film. We get a final third that’s more your traditional horror film. In fact, one could easily see World War Z as two different films vying for control and, in the end, the two halves having to try to co-exist and make sense.

World War Z doesn’t bring much of the sort of societal commentaries and themes that we get from the very best of zombie stories, but it does bring the sort of action that we rarely get from zombie films. The film actually doesn’t come off as your traditional zombie film, but more like a disaster story that just happened to have zombies as the root cause instead of solar flares, sudden ice age or alien invasion.

So, while World War Z only shares the title with the source novel it was adapting and pretty much not much else, the film wasn’t the unmitigated disaster that had been predicted for months leading up to it’s release. It’s a fun, rollercoaster ride of film that actually manages to leave an audience wanting to know more instead of being bombarded with so much action that one becomes desensitized and bored by it. There’s no question that a better film, probably even a great one, lurks behind the fun mess that’s the World War Z we’ve received, but on it’s own the film more than delivers on the promise that most films during the summer fails to achieve and that’s to entertain.

Trailer: World War Z (2nd Official)


WorldWarZ

We see the release of a new trailer for this summer’s epic zombie film based on the equally epic novel of the same name by Max Brooks.

World War Z is already the most expensive zombie film ever made with a budget rumored to be between 125-200 million dollars. Some of this has been due to the delays in filming and most of it seems to stem from a massive rewrite of the third act. Damon Lindelof was first hired to rewrite but due to prior commitments the job went to Drew Goddard. Such a rewrite also meant reshoots had to be done which took another seven weeks of shooting.

All in all, World War Z is one troubled film before it even gets to the general public.

Yet, it is also one of the more anticipated films for this summer. Some from fans of the genre who just can’t get enough of zombie films. Some from people wanting to see just what sort of zombie film ends up with a budget around 200 million dollars. From the trailer we’ve seen some of that money seem to have gone on some massive special effects sequences which includes swarming zombies of the Rage-infected kind. Then again we don’t really see the zombies close-up which tend to make them look like swarming ants from afar. Maybe the look of the zombies themselves have been saved for the release of the film.

This latest trailer actually gives a bit more of the plot of the film which puts Brad Pitt’s UN employee character to travel the world in search for the cause of the worldwide zombie pandemic. The speed by which things happen seems to have compressed all the events in the novel into a film of two hours. This, I’m sure will be a major contention with fans of the novel, but it looks like a decision by filmmaker to try and create a single narrative from a novel that was mostly single-hand accounts of the zombie war from survivors who have no connection with each other whatsoever.

We’ll find out in just under 3 months if this film will be a major flop or succeed despite all the stumbling blocks and problems throughout its production.

World War Z is set for a June 21, 2013 release date.

Trailer: World War Z (Super Bowl Exclusive)


One of the films that was to have it’s day in the Super Bowl ad campaign rush was Paramount Pictures’ troubled epic zombie apocalypse film, World War Z.

Starring Brad Pitt and directed by Marc Forster, the film is an adaptation (very loosely adapted from the novel) of the novel of the same name written by Max Brooks. Anyone who is even remotely interested in the topic of zombie fiction (or that they’re real like certain awesome people) have read this novel and have been highly anticipating the film. When the first trailer was released several months ago the reaction to the changes made from book to film was a resounding “Huh” to “WTF?!” from fans.

Time will not be changing some of these reactions, but from the sudden release of the Super Bowl ad TV spot that the film will show during Sunday’s Big Game it looks like the film will take the basic premise of the novel and go it’s own way. The zombies being CGI when seen from a distance and moving like ravenous army ants (siafu as the Japanese call them which is also what the zombies were called in the novel).

The film seems to want to see the zombie apocalypse first-hand as it occurs and sped things up to bring more action to the proceedings. This is not a bad thing if the film had been titled other than World War Z, but since it needed to use that name the complaints by fans of the novel will continue. Just based on the trailer and this teaser spot alone it looks like there’s something interesting going on in this film that people will either love or hate. I’m hoping I’ll be of the former than the latter.

World War Z is set for a June 21, 2013 release date.

WorldWarZ

Trailer: World War Z (Official)


It’s not hyperbole to say that one of the best horror novels to come out in the past 20 years was written by Mel Brook’s son. A son who wrote comedy scripts for Saturday Night Live. Max Brooks before 2003 was relatively unknown to genre fans. This changed post-2003 with the release of his tongue-in-cheek how-to book, The Zombie Survival Guide. It was a book that was slow to succeed in terms of sales but grew in popularity as more and more fans of the zombie genre heard about it and recommended it to like-minded friends. Just like the subject matter Brooks worte about this guide spread in a geometric pattern and more and more people began to know.

In 2006, Brooks released the companion piece to his best-selling guide with the fictional oral history account of the aftermath of a zombie apocalyptic war and how humanity fought back from the brink of extinction. This novel was World War Z and even before one could say “this book could be made into a film…” the film rights to the book became a hot commodity in Hollywood. In the end, Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company won the right to adapt the novel into a feature-length film.

After several years of trying to create a screenplay from the documentary-style and sprawling narrative of the novel the film finally went into production in mid-2011 with a screenplay that took some of the important events from the novel and set the film during the war itself as it unfolded instead of flashbacks as recounted by those who survived. This change has angered fans of the book and their anger and frustration went up another notch when some leaked on-the-set footage showing the zombies as more of the running-style zombies than the slower ones in the novel.

Another stumbling block pushed the film from a holiday 2012 release date to a summer 2013 release as Paramount looked to having World War Z as part of their 2013 summer blockbuster slate of films. This film has had so much issues and problems that it took to Brad Pitt finally agreeing to headline the cast to get the film finally made. So, instead of a film the chronicles the stories of the war’s survivors a decade after the war ended we now have a film that skews more towards a film that’s heavy on action set-pieces and globe-trotting. Someone on IGN.com has called World War Z (after seeing the attached official trailer) as 2012 with zombies. The first official trailer does seem to make it look like that.

As a fan of the novel I’m saddened by the changes, but I will say that the trailer does make this film look very epic. I’m more than willing to watch this film (who am I kidding I will watch this film and probably more than once or twice.) and look at it as the filmmakers’ own take on the novel. I mean if it turns out to be great on it’s own then hooray. If it sucks then I still have my novel to go back to. Plus, this is the first zombie film that will show the pandemic in global settings and proportions. This will be the first time we get to see this on film and not just on the written page.

My own review of the novel gives an idea just how different the film will be from the source material.

Trailer source: Joblo Movie Network

Review: Drive Angry 3D (dir. by Patrick Lussier)


Every year there’s always a handful of films which gets little to no love from both critics and audiences. These are titles that for one reason or another get left by the wayside. Some say these films are awful. Some say they’re weren’t in the theaters long enough for people (or even critics) to notice. Yet, these films will get it’s vocal and ardent supporters and fans who sees through all the flaws and warts and find a rough gem that really entertains. One such film for 2011 is the supernatural-action film from filmmaker Patrick Lussier simply titled, Drive Angry 3D. Yes, it’s a 3D film and not one of those post-conversion deals but shot from start to finish in 3D.

Drive Angry 3D harkens back to the good, dirty era of grindhouse films. Films with simple storylines and even simpler dialogue. They were made on the cheap (though with a budget of 35-40million this film definitely not low-budget) and cramed full of everything that could be exploited to bring in the audience: sex, violence and lots of nudity. Lussier’s film definitely has all three in abundance. With Nicolas Cage headlining a cast of veteran genre actors and a spitfire of a female sidekick, Drive Angry 3D was a grindhouse film at its very core.

The story could’ve come from any number of revenge films of the 1970’s. Cage plays John Milton (I kid you not) who escapes Hell itself to seek vengeance on the Satanic cult and their leader Jonah King (Billy Burke sporting a slithery Southern accent that’s one step over excessive but oh so fun to hear) for killing his daughter and kidnapping his baby granddaughter. A baby to be sacrificed by Jonah King and his followers to usher in an era of Hell on Earth. Just going over that brief synopsis one could just imagine this film being made in the 1970’s with country rock playing in the background.

Along the way in his quest for vengeance and redemption, Milton comes across Piper (played with crackling gusto by the lovely Amber Heard in the shortest Daisy Dukes I’ve ever seen on film) who becomes his partner in his quest through some shared encounters which shows Piper not as a damsel-in-distress but a young woman who can kick ass as much as Milton does. The fact that she didn’t appear in any form of nakedness throughout the film was a sign that she wasn’t a woman to be messed with.

While it Milton and Piper going after King and his Satanic-cult inbreds wasn’t enough action for one film Lussier and screenwriter Todd Farmer (he also played the role of Piper’s philandering fiancee who gets knocked around a bit by almost everyone) decided to bring in the character of the Accountant (played with an almost childish glee by William Fichtner) who has followed Milton from Hell to bring him back and an item that was taken from Lucifer’s own stash of goodies. Watching the Accountant play someone not used to being human play-act as one definitely became some of the funnier scenes in the film. That’s also why this film was such a fun ride to sit through. Everyone in the cast seemed to be having a blast playing their characters to the hilt. Even David Morse in the role of a Webster as the aging sidekick of Milton’s before his trip to Hell looked to be into his role.

But enough of trying to explain the story and how the actors performed. Drive Angry 3D is all about action and action of every kind. This film oozed action from its very being. We had car chases with some of the most beautiful classic muscle cars in existence. We first get to witness Piper and her 1969 Dodge Charger 440 R/T then for the last third of the film twin 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454’s. This film is such a throwback to the car chase action films of the 70’s like Vanishing Point and Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry. It wasn’t just car chase action to be had and experienced. This film didn’t shy away from some very violent and up-close gunfights. One particular gunfight may just go down in history as one of the best as Cage’s character (still fully dressed) shoots it out with some of King’s thugs while having sex with the local waitress, smoking a cigar and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s in one hand. Milton was one multitasking badass.

This film was all about excess and it’s why it held such an appeal to those who have seen it and have raved about it. It didn’t pay homage to grindhouse, but ended up as being one of the very films it tried and succeeded to emulate. Forget the gloss veneer of the film. A film doesn’t have to be dated and cheap-looking to be grindhouse. Both Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer wanted to make a badass film about a badass character doing badass shit and they succeeded.

Even the 3D used for this film actually worked. It helped that the crew actually used real 3D cameras to film every scene instead of doing post-conversion work of regular camera filmed scenes. Yes, there were scenes where things were made to come straight at the audience but it wasn’t so distracting as to ruin the experience. In fact, I would say that 3D added to this film’s appeal and fun. One reviewer had said that 3D should be reserved for use in films such as Drive Angry 3D. I won’t disagree.

Will this film be for everyone? I don’t think it is. Not everyone is ready for extreme excess of badassery from Cage, Heard and Fichtner.

Drive Angry 3D will be seen as a failure by those not involved in its production or by those who saw it and enjoyed it. There’s some truth in that, but I do think that this film succeeded in doing everything that was promised by its filmmakers and producers. It’s not an Oscar-baiting film or even one to be seen in the yearly film festivals and circuits. What this film has become was one hell of a ride that was all about kicking ass, taking names (screwing the local waitress while waiting for the ambush to come) and driving beautiful, fast cars. I do think that Lussier’s film looks like a cult-classic in the making as time passes and those who saw it while it was in the theaters should be proud to say that they saw it and liked it when most people couldn’t be bothered.

Now, where’s my pistol, cigar and bottle of Jack Daniels.