Archive for the ‘Essay’ Category

Spooktober 2017: The Return

Posted 28 Oct 2017 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews

By Ezra Stead 

As always, I am not finished almost exclusively watching horror movies for the year, nor will I be once Halloween night has come and gone; this will likely continue throughout November. However, in the interest of providing this list with some sort of seasonal relevance, now is the time to tell you about a handful of the movies I’ve watched so far in this, the best of all possible seasons. As it happens, this year I ended up watching a high percentage of iconic franchise entries, so, forsaking some other great ones I discovered that don’t fit into this category (Pretty Poison and The Blackcoat’s Daughter in particular are a couple of real gems), let’s take a look at some noteworthy sequels, in the order in which I viewed them.

CULT OF CHUCKY—I don’t think any horror franchise in movie history has reinvented itself so drastically as this one. The success of the original Child’s Play (1988) led to two more of the same, basically, before series mastermind Don Mancini took it into full meta-comedy mode with Bride of Chucky in 1998, following that up with the unfairly maligned Seed of Chucky in 2004. Curse of Chucky came along in 2013 to bring the series back to real horror, with fewer nudges and winks, and with this latest entry, Mancini has struck the perfect balance, and made the best Chucky movie since Bride, at least. It’s rare for the seventh entry in a franchise to be this good.
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Baby’s Day Out – A Scathing Indictment Of A Pre-Apocalyptic Society

Posted 19 Jun 2017 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead 

Baby’s Day Out, USA, 1994

Directed by Patrick Read Johnson

As anyone who’s read my in-depth review of Beethoven knows, family movies from the 1990s are often covert founts of darkness and despair, sometimes to the point that it’s nigh impossible to see them any other way. Another great example of this curious phenomenon is 1994’s Baby’s Day Out, which depicts a world on the brink of total destruction just underneath its deceptively cheerful surface. This is a world that no longer values anything but material possessions, social status, and unbridled hatred. If allowed to go on the way it is, this society will surely collapse on itself, as childcare, familial connections, and basic human decency are utterly neglected. Baby’s Day Out is the tale of the one super-genius infant who just might be able to save a world full of nihilistic idiots from itself.  Read More

Ezra’s Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2016

Posted 22 Feb 2017 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead 

Well, here we are again, folks! Every year since 2001, I’ve made it my self-imposed obligation to see at least 100 new movies (104 in 2016) and then attempt to rank my ten (or more) favorite ones against one another. Notice I didn’t say these were the “best” movies of the year, but my favorite ones; the distinction is important, lest anyone mistakenly expect a shred of objectivity herein.

Anyway, this year, in the interest of championing underdogs and holding a light to some movies you might not have been constantly hearing about since November or so, I have decided to exclude any of the Academy’s Best Picture nominees from my top ten. If you want to know how I felt about those films, you can find my favorites, unranked, in the Honorable Mentions just below the main list, and if you want to know more than that, there’s always the annual MoviesIDidntGet.com Oscars Podcast, which you can listen to on this very site, very soon.  Read More

Toning Down The Terror – Stephen King At The Movies

Posted 01 Nov 2016 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay

By Ezra Stead 

carrieFew authors in the 20th century (or any time, for that matter) have been more frequently adapted for the movies than Maine’s favorite son, Stephen King. This Halloween season, instead of presenting a cross-section of my month’s viewing as I have in years past, I thought I’d offer a look at some (not nearly all) of those movie adaptations and the ways in which certain elements were changed from page to screen. More importantly, we’ll be exploring why those elements were changed (at least, to the best of my speculation). Specifically, many of these movies tend to tone down two things: violence (especially directed at children) and overtly supernatural elements.

SpoilerAlertLet’s start from the beginning. Carrie was King’s first published novel and, within two years’ time, the first movie adaptation of his work. Brian De Palma’s 1976 film is still the best adaptation that has been made of the book, and one of the best of all S.K. movies in general. However, even bloody Mr. De Palma softened the blow of Carrie’s destructive rampage a bit, though probably more for budgetary reasons than anything else. In the movie, we see Carrie burn down her school and blow up a car on her way home, but in the book she pretty much destroys the whole goddamn town on that walk home. The novel actually includes an official body count of 409, “with 49 still listed as missing,” which seems significantly higher than what we see in the movie. Read More

Ezra’s Top 10 Favorite Movies Of 2015

Posted 27 Feb 2016 — by Ezra Stead
Category Animation, Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead 

This is always a difficult thing to do, and this year, just like every other year, I left out plenty of movies I really like, even from the Honorable Mentions. This is a particularly interesting year in that I actually really like all the Oscar nominees that I’ve seen, which is relatively rare for me. Anyway, of the 107 new movies from 2015 I managed to see in time for this list, these are my (completely subjective) favorites.

Mad Max: Fury Road is a movie in the glorious pulp tradition of Robert E. Howard and Heavy Metal magazine, but it never feels derivative, even of its own source material1. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD – it’s always a treat to have really high expectations for a movie and then to see them exceeded. George Miller’s return to the wasteland of his career-defining trilogy is a perfect example of this phenomenon. The first time I saw it, though, Fury Road appeared to only meet my expectations, a rare enough feat in its own right. It was the second viewing that made me realize that this was not only my favorite movie of the year, but also my favorite Mad Max movie, and quite possibly my favorite movie of the last two decades. Then I saw it three more times in the space of about two weeks, and I noticed something new about it every single time. The rich, detailed world-building not only rewards but demands multiple viewings, and it’s a testament to Miller’s craft that the movie doesn’t rely on a lot of expository dialogue and other hand-holding devices to make sure the audience can keep up. Max Rockatansky’s world of “fire and blood” has its own language that is every bit as evocative and original as its eye-popping visuals: War Boys, Blood Bags, Bullet Farms, etc. This is a movie in the glorious pulp tradition of Robert E. Howard and Heavy Metal magazine, but it never feels derivative, even of its own source material (The Road Warrior being the original Mad Max movie it most closely resembles). What seems to be overlooked in all the talk about its incredible visual effects and stuntwork (which makes a better case than any movie I can think of for an Oscar category devoted to the people who risk their lives to make movies awesome) is the quality of the writing and performances. Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult are especially great, but there is also a surprising tenderness and depth to Tom Hardy’s performance as Max, a man of few words and great stoicism, and Melissa Jaffer managed to break my heart with just a few minutes of screen time as the Keeper of the Seeds. Critics and skeptics say this movie is just one long chase scene, which is reductive, but even if that were strictly true, complaining about that misses the point of how amazing it is that a movie this compelling could be made from a single long chase. Others might say it doesn’t belong in the Best Picture Oscar race because it’s not serious and important enough, but its themes of feminism and environmentalism are extremely relevant; they’re just not belabored to the point of didacticism. Fury Road’s vision of the destruction of the Old World, in which water was plentiful and “everyone had a show,” seems all too plausible, despite its over-the-top visual antics, and there’s a funny/scary comparison to be made between the film’s main villain, Immortan Joe, and a certain current Presidential candidate. I have no doubt this movie will ride eternal in Valhalla, shiny and chrome. It is perfect in every way.  Read More

Ezra’s Spooktober 2015

Posted 28 Oct 2015 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews

By Ezra Stead 

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge is probably my second favorite one in the series, after Craven's original, of course. I’ve decided not to get quite so carried away this time around, but as I said last year, October is my favorite month. Since I tend to watch a lot of horror movies year-round, in October I feel like I have to do something special, so I try to watch almost exclusively horror movies. I watched (or, in many cases, re-watched) a total of 22 before starting this article, and I’m far from finished. In the interest of actually recommending some movies before Halloween, I’m putting this out now, and in the interest of brevity, I’m cutting it down to ten recommendations, grouped together as double features (even though their availability varies a bit). Not all are horror movies, exactly, but I think you’ll agree they’re all on-theme for the season. Enjoy!  Read More

Beethoven – A Dog Hater’s Perspective

Posted 22 Aug 2015 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead 

Beethoven, USA, 1992

Directed by Brian Levant

Beethoven would seem, at first glance, to be the ultimate dog lover's movie, but it is arguably more enjoyable, and certainly more interesting on a subtextual level, to view it from the opposite perspective. I should start this off by saying that I am not truly a dog hater. Like virtually any human being, I have been known to find dogs charming in small doses, but I would never want to live with one, so I can relate to George Newton (Charles Grodin), the hapless protagonist / antagonist of Beethoven. This would seem, at first glance, to be the ultimate dog lover’s movie, but it is arguably more enjoyable, and certainly more interesting on a subtextual level, to view it from the opposite perspective.

The film stacks the deck against we dog haters from the beginning, opening on an ominously rainy night outside the “Pet Supply” warehouse where evil Dr. Varnick (Dean Jones) conducts his nefarious experiments on innocent puppies. A prime example of this deck-stacking occurs later in the film, when it is revealed just what Dr. Varnick has in mind for poor Beethoven: a munitions manufacturer wants him to “test” a new type of exploding bullet, to see the impact it makes on “big skulls.” While it can be argued that animal testing is worthwhile because of the potential human benefits gained from it, even the most dyed-in-the-wool dog hater would find it difficult to defend the scientific expediency of shooting a dog right in the goddamn face.  Read More