Posts Tagged ‘Sam Raimi’



USA 2011  Directed by: Kenneth Branagh  Written by: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne  Produced by: Kevin Feige  Cinematography by: Haris Zambarloukos  Editing by: Paul Rubell  Music by: Patrick Doyle  Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba, Colm Feore, Tadanobu Asano, Rene Russo

I never saw the appeal of Thor as a comic-book hero. Actually, if picky, I’d say Thor is not even a superhero by any means. He’s a Nordic mythical deity cast to Earth by his father Odin. And, with his red cape, ironclad armor and a little gold, winged helmet housing a set of goldilocks, he’s borderline a Halloween mascot.

“Thor” the movie is an attempt to make the character less kitsch – red cape, ironclad armor, and long flowing goldilocks for all the females to swoon over. Chris Hemsworth (Thor) took a lot of time working out for the ladies. Outside his armor he’s a pin-up for Levi’s commercials…at times where it would barely hold on to his tight derrière. His piercing blue eyes could raise your body temperature to tip the mercury.

But, “Thor” is a superhero comic-book adaptation. And it’s mostly for boys. What bright idea was it to make it into a romantic comedy? Sure, there were moments of clashing and flying fists and bodies. Of course there was a ton of CG effects that required a small nation of computer animators. But for the most part, the story somewhat circled around Thor and his love interest, Jane Foster, played sappily by the recent Oscar doll, Natalie Portman. However, the fault doesn’t lie with the actors, considering there are a few more big-screen heavyweights aside from Portman – Anthony Hopkins (Odin), Stellan Skarsgård (Jane’s senior yet timid colleague), and cameos by Jeremy Renner and Sam Jackson. It’s just that all the crucial stakes raised by the characters weren’t…all that crucial.

Thor’s an arrogant god born with invulnerability. Because of his hard head that put his realm in danger of going back to war with its nemesis, the frost giants, Thor is stripped of his powers by his father and cast to Earth as punishment. There, he meets Jane, by accident, and struggles to regain his senses and worth for his triumphant return. But then, the film segues to Jane and Thor getting acquainted for a really long time, leaving all the action and plots to the curb. Somehow, Thor (a daft god) finds Jane (a geeky, squeaky astrophysicist) really interesting. But, unlike other sensible action movies where at least the distressed dame would be the cause for the hero to go berserk and blow things up, Jane was just there to have coffee talk with Thor. And for the final battle, she isn’t even really in harm’s way; accept maybe stubbornly tiptoeing into crossfire.

Throughout the film, one character stood out sincerely, Kat Denning’s sexy, pouty Darcy – Jane’s intern, who found Thor, Jane, and the entire scenario to be a farce. It made a lot of sense on paper to point Kenneth Branagh to the director’s chair…for the amalgamation of theatrical period-costumed figures with modern-day countryside simpletons. But the delivery missed the target by a long shot. “Thor” was handled with little sensitivity to the comic-book genre and over-saturated melodrama that left it out by the backdoor like a wet dog. So despite the thunderous disputes and whirlwind high-school crush, Branagh hammered the last nail in Thor’s coffin.

PIRANHA 3D a.k.a. PIRANHA [2010]


USA 2010  Directed by: Alexandre Aja Written by: Alexandre Aja, Pete Goldfinger, Josh Stolberg, Gregory Levasseur Produced by: Alexandre Aja, Mark Canton, Marc Toberoff, Gregory Levasseur Cinematography by: John R. Leonetti  Editing by: Baxter  Music by: Michael Wandmacher Cast: Elisabeth Shue, Adam Scott, Jerry O’Connell, Ving Rhames, Jessica Szohr, Steven R. McQueen, Christopher Lloyd, Richard Dreyfuss, Cody Longo, Ashlynn Brooke, Gianna Michaels, Eli Roth

Shooting a piranha movie in 2010 sounds as promising as shooting another DIRTY DANCING sequel. It is hard to imagine what it takes to come up with that idea; someone’s either lost it completely, or is convinced that it works against all odds.

No matter what we think, here it is, PIRANHA 3D, riding the 3D wave and arriving with one of the summer’s loudest marketing campaigns, telling us that 3D is about to finally show its teeth. The story: it’s spring break, the kids go bananas and the piranhas come to the party for some F&B. The heroes are a) Jake, a young guy who was supposed to baby-sit his younger siblings but instead joins the spring break frenzy, and b) the local police force, namely Jake’s mother Julie who’s in charge of the sheriff’s department. It is her who early in the story discovers a mutilated body in the local lake, but before anyone knows what’s going on piranhas attack the partying kids on the waterfront. Of course there’s more to it than meets the eye, but amid the attack of the evil fish who’s got the time to care? So, while everybody screams and runs, we lean back and enjoy the bloody show, waiting for the things to come.

And they do keep coming. PIRANHA 3D is one of the edgiest horror flicks in a while, not the thinking man’s kind of movie, but it is certainly going to be a fan boys’ favorite. PIRANHA’s irresistibility is the result of three key points: first of all, it’s a great homage to JAWS, secondly it’s the best animal horror film in decades, thirdly it’s a blood-drenched gorefest par excellence.

#1. Yes indeed, PIRANHA 3D is a truly witty genre homage: the characters, the dialogue, the outfits, the plot, many of the details along the way and finally the showdown are a skillful ode to what JAWS invented. PIRANHA 3D almost looks as old-fashioned at times, with a lovely 70’s touch, and while I can see some sophisticated, direct references to JAWS, the movie is only a mere sequel to the original PIRANHA, not so much an actual tribute to Joe Dante’s work. Genre fans won’t care: PIRANHA 3D is as clever as it is entertaining, and references to respective classic and contemporary films are there aplenty.

#2. Animal horror films are usually either silly, or they are disgusting mondo stuff. You will seldom find animal horror that works, and that’s why directors shouldn’t touch this species of horror flicks ever, unless your career is over anyhow or you’re the go-to guy for cheap DTV B-movies. Animal horror is mission impossible. With PIRANHA 3D however Aja has created a movie so cool, humorous, offensive and seriously sick that you’ll totally forget that the fierce creatures on a rampage are fish. PIRANHA 3D is as good as the best zombie flicks and their spoofs, so don’t be put off by the movie’s idea.

#3. Sam Raimi considered THE EVIL DEAD a black comedy, so that probably qualifies PIRANHA 3D for being a horror satire. If you don’t share this kind of humor better stay out of the cinema: while the film begins rather tame, teasing us with a lot of hints, once the piranhas are unleashed all hell breaks loose. Aja is like a Doberman, once he got you by your balls he doesn’t ever let go: PIRANHA is a very gory mess, and when you think it went as far as it can Aja takes it a step further, and when you think they can’t do that, they just do it, and when you think this can’t work it nevertheless does. PIRANHA 3D shamelessly indulges in cruelties, but it also doesn’t take itself too seriously, which makes it a very likable (did I just say that?) movie.

It hasn’t felt that good enjoying mayhem and mutilations since Peter Jackson’s early works, and despite the film being rather short and anything but a drama, Aja has made PIRANHA 3D into a fine shocker that works on many levels. We even care about some of the characters – who would have thought that.

Maybe the term “amusing” describes PIRANHA 3D best: from stupid jokes (including, but not limited to, the only penis joke that you’ll ever need), to all the violence that mostly isn’t exactly funny (watch Aja’s HAUTE TENSION and you know what I mean), the movie keeps up a 10-out-of-10 fun factor and tongue-in-cheek attitude. PIRANHA 3D may get a bit drunk on its own excesses, but so do we. After all you can’t be the only person staying sober on a really wild party. PIRANHA 3D swims away in a blaze of glory. It’s a great catch not to be missed.