Music Video of the Day: Spice Up Your Life by Spice Girls (1997, dir by Marcus Nispel)


Are you tired?

Are you bored?

Are you stuck in a go-no where life?

Are you living in a dystopian future that was apparently inspired by Blade Runner?

Well, don’t worry.  Spice Girls are here!

One thing that I like about the Spice Girls is that you could always sing along to their songs.  The other thing I like about them is that, regardless of how simple their music may have been, their music videos were almost always ludicrously overproduced.  That’s the case here, where Spice Up Your Life is transformed into an anthem for revolution.

Spice Up Your Life was directed by Marcus Nispel, who has subsequently directed a few features film that I didn’t care much for.

Enjoy!

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night: Friday the 13th (dir. by Marcus Nispel)


Last night, Jeff and I watched the 2009 reboot of Friday the 13th.

Why Was I Watching It?

For the past two weeks, I’ve been reviewing the 12 films that make up the Friday the 13th franchise.  This is the last installment so far and, appropriately enough, I’m reviewing it on Friday the 13th.  (No, that’s not just a coincidence.)

What’s It About?

It’s a reboot!  That’s right — forget about every other Friday the 13th film because, apparently, they never happened.  Instead of trying to figure out some new gimmick to try to get audiences to watch Jason Voorhees kill yet more teenagers, producer Michael Bay and director Marcus Nisepl have simply gone back to the beginning and started all over again.  (I think I saw something similar in an episode of Futurama once.)

Basically, this is the first four films all rolled into one.  The film starts with a young Jason Voorhees watching as his murderous mother (Nana Visitor) gets beheaded by a camp counselor.  30 years later, Jason (now played by Derek Mears) is living in the woods around Camp Crystal Lake.  A bunch of obnoxious campers come up to the Lake because they’re looking for a marijuana crop and Jason, being the culture warrior that he is, responds by killing all of them except for Whitney (played by Amanda Righetti), who he just kidnaps.

A month later, Whitney’s brother Clay (Jared Padalecki) arrives at Crystal Lake to search for his sister.  Upon arriving, he runs into yet another group of obnoxious campers who have decided to take a vacation up at Crystal Lake.   Jenna (Danielle Panabaker) agrees to help Clay look for Whitney and while the two of them are off searching, Jason shows up and starts killing everyone else. 

What Worked?

One reason that I’m using the What Lisa Watched Last Night format to review this film is because, to a large extent, it’s pointless to get all nitpicky while reviewing a film like the reboot of Friday the 13th.  This is not a film you watch because you’re looking to see something that’s going to redefine cinema.  This is a film you watch so that you can scream, laugh, and grab your boyfriend.  And, on all those fronts, Friday the 13th succeeds well enough.  Director Marcus Nispel obviously understands the slasher genre and he provides everything that we’ve come to expect from a film like this.

Also, I have to admit, I always scream at the end of the film even though I know what’s going to happen.

The victims are all very disposable and forgettable but Aaron Yoo is funny as the token stoner.

What Did Not Work?

With this film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Conan The Barbarian, Nispel shows that while he may understand how to make a genre film, he also doesn’t seem to be capable of adding anything new to them.  This isn’t a problem if you’re just looking to be entertained but, for true fans of the original films that have been rebooted by Nispel and producer Michael Bay, it’s hard not to wonder just why exactly these franchises needed a reboot as opposed to a sequel.  Watching a film like Friday the 13th reboot, it’s hard not to feel as if the filmmakers simply gave up trying to bring anything new to the equation and instead rather cynically decided to just capitalize on the earlier work of filmmakers who, as opposed to Nispel and Bay, aren’t in the current mainstream of the Hollywood establishment.

The main difference between a reboot like Friday the 13th and the original films in the franchise is that the reboot cost a lot more to make.  It’s a lot slicker (and therefore, you never really buy into the reality of the horror) and, with a few exceptions like Aaron Yoo, it’s full of bland actors who are recognizable from TV and who seem to be going out of their way to “act like characters in a slasher film” as opposed to at least trying to give actual performances.  It almost feels as if Nispel, Bay, and the cast are specifically going out of their way to wink at us and tell us, “We’re so much better than the movie that you just paid money to see.”  It feels incredibly condescending.

The film’s attempt to shoehorn the original first four films of the franchise into one 97 minute movie results in a film that often feels rather rushed.

“OMG!  Just Like Me!” Moments

Oh, a lot.  I would be so dead if I ever wandered into a slasher film.

Lessons Learned

From rewatching the entire Friday the 13th franchise, I learned several lessons: Don’t have premarital sex (or probably not even marital sex for that matter, Jason has got some issues), don’t drink beer, don’t smoke weed, don’t snort cocaine, don’t skinny dip, don’t go commando, don’t go in the wood, don’t go camping, don’t walking into a dark room, don’t say, “Is there anyone here?,” don’t shower, don’t sleep in abandoned cabins, don’t help out strangers, don’t hitchhike, don’t flirt, and … well, don’t do anything and you should be just fine. 

However, what fun would that be?

Well, this concludes my series on the Friday the 13th franchise.  I’ll be posting a few final thoughts on the franchise as a whole later tonight or on Sunday but for now, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these reviews as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.  Stay supple and don’t go wandering around in the dark.  Happy Friday the 13th!

Review: Conan the Barbarian (dir. by Marcus Nispel)


In 1982 the duo of John Milius (director) and Arnold Schwarzenneger (actor) brought to the big-screen the first film adaptation of the classic, pulp character of Conan the Cimmerian by Robert E. Howard. The Milius-Schwarzenneger Conan the Barbarian was an instant hit and classic. It also made Schwarzenneger into an A-list superstar who would rule the 80’s and 90’s. This film was followed up by a lesser quality, though fun in its own way, sequel in 1984 with Conan the Destroyer. Milius saw this franchise as a trilogy with the third and final film to be called Conan the Conqueror. But a sort of blacklisting of Milius as a filmmaker and Schwarzenneger moving onto other projects killed the planned third film. The start of the new millenium saw an interest in restarting the third film, but after countless delays and changes in filmmakers and stars the project was once again shelved.

In 2010, the franchise which launched an Austrian-bodybuilder into superstardom was finally greenlit, but this time around it would be a reboot of the series with the film hewing coser to Robert E. Howard’s creation and world-building than the Milius version of 1982. To bring Conan the Cimmerian to life would be Hawaiian-Irish Jason Momoa (of Stargate Atlantis and Game of Thrones fame) with German-filmmaker Marcus Nispel taking on the directing reins. The film’s trio of writers (Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean Hood) would literally take the world of the Hyborian Age which Howard had meticulously created for his Conan character and use that as the basis for this reboot.

Conan the Barbarian begins with a surprising introductory narration of the world of the Hyborian Age by none other than Morgan Freeman. This narration was one clue that while this film wouldn’t and shouldn’t be seen as thought-provoking and award-season fare it looks to try anything and everything to make it fun and relevant. The film succeeds in this respect in its own way. As we see Conan come into the world as a baby born of battle in the most literal way. It’s not often we see on the big-screen a pregnant mother delivering her child by way of battlefield C-section. From this moment forward this film will wallow in the bloody carnage and machismo-fueled world of Robert E. Howard to the nth degree.

The film’s Conan as played by Leo Howard as the younger version then to Jason Momoa as the adult version looks to be different than the Schwarzenneger one. While Momoa was still quite the physical specimen on the screen he also exuded a sense of fluid, athleticism like that of a sleek jungle cat whereas Arnold’s Conan was more of the big cat of the savannah. The stand out performance in the film comes from both Leo Howard (quite ferocious as the young Conan) and Momoa. The film lives or dies on whether we believe these two actors as the characters they inhabit. Not once during the near 2-hour running time do we not believe these two as Conan.

Conan the Barbarian as a film does have several weaknesses which could derail it for me. For one, the story itself is quite cliched as we see the typical hero’s journey coinciding with the goal of saving the world from an almost cartoonish villain (Stephen Lang clearly having fun as the warlord Khalar Zym) with an equally cartoonish sidekick (Rose McGowan who seemed out of place as Zym’s witch-daughter Marique). The story’s plot seems more geared like a video game where each sequence was there to put Conan in the best way possible to do what he does best and that’s kill enemies by the score and do it with bloody panache.

While the film will definitely not score very well with many people I think they will do so as they compare it to the original Milius film. I think the mistake they also will use as an excuse to not like the film is that it’s dumb and loud. I, for one, thought I would feel the same, but as I watched the film I acknowledged those very same criticisms, saw the flaws, but in the end I still enjoyed the film for what it was: an almost gleeful, throwback to the 80’s sword-and-sorcery exploitation film that tried to cash in on the success of the original Conan the Barbarian.

Nispel’s film may not stand the test of time as the original, but in the end he made a film that actually stayed true to the pulpy origins of the character (Robert E. Howard was never known as a subtle writer and this film reveled in his blunt-way of writing). This Conan the Barbarian was several steps above the usual sword-and-sorcery stuff which the SyFy Channel seems to churn out by the dozen each year and it’s steps below that of the original. What it does share with the 1982 film is a sense of fun even if it’s at the expense of story and character and at times I’m fine with that. Not everything has to be Inception or Pride and Prejudice.

A Quickie With Lisa Marie: Frankenstein (dir. by J. Searle Dawley)


There’s literally been hundreds of film adaptations of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus.  Everyone from James Whale to Terrence Fisher to Paul Morrissey to Kenneth Branagh to Marcus Nispel has taken a shot at interpreting the legend and the monster’s been played by everyone from Boris Karloff to Christopher Lee to Robert De Niro to Srdjan Zelenovic (who was pretty freaking hot and yummy for a creature stitched together out of random corpses in Flesh for Frankenstein).

However, the very first cinematic version of Frankenstein came out in 1910.  Produced by Thomas Edison’s film company, this 10-minute, silent film starred an actor named Charles Ogle as the monster.  Frankenstein, himself, was played by Augustus Phillips while his fiancée was played by Mary Fuller.  The film was directed by a fellow known as J. Searle Dawley.  Dawley reportedly directed over a hundred silent films and most of them are lost to history.

For about 6 decades, it was assumed that Dawley’s Frankenstein was lost as well.  However, in the mid-70s, it turned out that one remaining print of the film still existed and was apparently sitting up in someone’s attic in Wisconsin.  It also turned out that the film was still in viewable condition.

And now, thanks to a combination of YouTube and the fact that every movie made before 1922 is now in the public domain, I’ve had the opportunity to see this movie for free and even better, here’s your chance to see it for free.  Understand that when I say better, I’m speaking from the point of view of someone who is fascinated by history in general and cinematic history in specific.  In many ways, this film epitomizes everything that makes it difficult for modern audiences to appreciate the excitement once generated by silent film.  The acting is overly theatrical and watching the film makes you appreciate the eventual development of the dolly shot and the zoom lens even more.  Add to that, the music that was selected to accompany this video is way too obvious and heavy-handed.  I would suggest, before watching, that you mute the video and put your own preferred music on instead.

Still, the film does have a lot of historic interest.  I don’t think you can truly judge and appreciate the films of today unless you know something about the films of the past.  Watching a movie like the 1910 Frankenstein not only makes you realize how far films have come as an art form but also how much of the medium’s inherent earnestness has been lost with each advance in technology. 

Anyway, with all that said, here is the 1910 version of Frankenstein

Trailer: Conan the Barbarian


1982 saw the release of one of the most iconic fantasy films ever with the John Milius and Arnold Schwarzenneger collaboration, Conan the Barbarian. There was a follow-up sequel that wasn’t as great as the first, but still did well enough that down the year there was talk of a third film to finish off the Schwarzenneger Conan trilogy. It never happened as the project continued to be shelved year after year until even Arnold himself backed out and thought a third film was never in the cards.

This trailer suggests otherwise though it’s more of a reboot to the Conan film franchise and sticks much closer to the character and world created by it’s creator Robert E. Howard. This film is directed by German filmmaker Marcus Nispel whose body of work tends to be in the genre arena like the remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre to the Viking-Indians mashup story, Pathfinder. There’s also to be a new Conan in the form of Jason Momoa (who played the character of Ronan in the long-running scifi tv series, Stargate Atlantis) who is currently gaining some fans outside of his Stargate work due to his casting as the mighty Khal Drogo in HBO’s critically-acclaimed and very popular fantasy series, Game of Thrones.

This Conan the Barbarian remake looks to return the character to it’s Age of Hyboria roots. The trailer gives ample evidence of the film using much of the fantasy world Robert E. Howard created with long-lost civilizations, evil warlords, sorcery and, of course, fantastic monsters. While the trailer doesn’t show just how well Jason Momoa acts as the character Conan it does show that he fits the role the way Howard originally wrote him. While still having a muscled physique this Conan also is more agile and lithe than the Schwarzenneger iteration.

Conan the Barbarian is set for an August 19, 2011 release on both 2D and 3D screens.