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
By Ezra Stead
If I had to pick a favorite month, it would most likely be October. The weather is perfect and I have all the excuse I need to watch practically nothing but horror movies for a month. This year I watched or revisited 25 films of varying quality, and I’m passing along the recommendations to you. I’ve broken them down into three basic categories, with a fourth “Other” category for those that don’t fit any of the big three. The Undead includes zombies, vampires, Frankensteins, and of course the immortal curse of the Candyman; Mutants & Monsters covers genetic freaks, giant animals and other Things That Should Not Be; Werewolves is pretty self-explanatory. All films are ranked from highest recommendation to lowest, ***** being the highest rating and * being the lowest. Happy viewing! Read More
By Ezra Stead
Remakes of classic films have an even worse track record than sequels when it comes to relative quality. Whether they change everything and ruin the whole idea (Frank Oz’s 2004 Stepford Wives remake) or remain slavishly faithful to the original (Gus Van Sant’s 1998 Psycho remake), most remakes have great difficulty in justifying their own existence, let alone surpassing the original. Here are five that achieve this rare feat.
1. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978) – this is the only one on the list that I wouldn’t argue is definitely better than the original, but it’s pretty damn close. Transposing the McCarthy-era paranoia of Don Siegel’s 1956 classic to the pre-Reagan era, Philip Kaufman’s remake presents an even darker vision, complete with a chilling ending in the spirit of the one Siegel had originally envisioned for his film, before the studio interfered to happy it up a little. Featuring great performances by Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy, and state of the art special effects for the time, this is a truly frightening film, the rare remake that lives up to its source material. Read More
By Ezra Stead
Carrie, USA, 2013
Directed by Kimberly Peirce
To justify its own existence, a remake of a classic film doesn’t necessarily have to be better than the original, but it is crucial that it be different in some substantial way. For example, though I prefer the original French film Love Crime in many ways, Brian De Palma’s Passion more than justifies its existence by adding a third-act fever dream to the original source material, as well as being strikingly unique in several other ways. Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear is another good example of a filmmaker taking a markedly different approach to an already great film, in this case by adding psychological and moral complexity to what was originally a very cut-and-dried good versus evil story. In the horror genre, John Carpenter’s The Thing and David Cronenberg’s The Fly update classic B-movies to horrifying effect, to my mind managing to surpass the original films in quality and memorability.
Though I would like to evaluate Kimberly Peirce’s new film version of Carrie on its own merits, without comparing it to De Palm’s 1976 adaptation, it is just too similar, and everything good the new Carrie does with the material, De Palma’s film already did better. This is evident from the very beginning, in the famous shower scene in which Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz) gets her first menstrual period and, not knowing what is happening and believing that she is bleeding to death, is mercilessly taunted and humiliated by her classmates. In De Palma’s film, the horror of this moment is forefronted, with the performances and shooting style heightened to a surreal, nightmarish pitch. The vulnerability of Sissy Spacek’s performance in particular sells the moment, and it is a truly disturbing scene to watch. Peirce, conversely, shoots the sequence in a relatively flat, ordinary way, and though the content is still rather shocking, it lacks the emotional power of the original. Read More
By Ezra Stead
Dean Koontz’s Phantoms, USA, 1998
Directed by Joe Chappelle
At the suggestion of a couple of fictional gentlemen by the names of Jay and Robert, as well as one close, non-fictional friend (hint: we co-wrote this movie together, but he did not act in this one) who recently reminded me of their recommendation, I decided to finally check out “Affleck [being] the bomb in Phantoms.” I can only assume all three parties were being highly sarcastic; after all, one of them was played by Kevin Smith, a longtime friend of Mr. Affleck, but not necessarily someone known for his unadulterated sincerity, Jersey Girl (2004) and the jail cell speech in the third act of Clerks II (2006) excluded.
Dean Koontz’s Phantoms is awful, in that special way in which films like Lawrence Kasdan’s 2003 Stephen King adaptation Dreamcatcher are awful. Author and screenwriter Dean Koontz is often considered the poor man’s King (Koontz fans, please note: I have not actually read any of his books, I am merely recording the popular consensus as I understand it), so it is fitting that Phantoms should have so much in common with that unintentionally hilarious travesty of cinema. Unfortunately, Phantoms lacks the over-the-top craziness of Kasdan’s film, and is therefore substantially less entertaining, albeit mercifully shorter. This is not to say there is no unintentional comedy to be found, as there certainly is, but overall the film is more of a by-the-numbers bad horror movie that lacks the overreaching ambition of the amazingly insane Dreamcatcher. It also borrows heavily from far better films such as Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) and John Carpenter’s The Thing, which only serves to remind the viewer how truly low-rent this already mediocre film is in comparison to those classics. Read More