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Archive for the ‘J.D.’s film reviews’ Category

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By J.D. Lafrance

When The Bourne Identity (2002) debuted in theaters audiences were hungry for a new kind of spy film. The James Bond movies adhered to a tried-and-true formula and it had gotten old. For the most part, the adventures that Bond had in his movies never affected him personally (the notable exception being On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Licence to Kill). In America, Mission: Impossible II (2000) collapsed under John Woo’s stylistic excesses and a boring love story with no chemistry between Tom Cruise and his love interest played by Thandie Newton. The world had changed dramatically since the events of 9/11 and a new international espionage action thriller would have to acknowledge this new reality. Along came The Bourne Identity, a very loose adaptation of Robert Ludlum’s novel of the same name, that took the genre and personalized it, but without sacrificing all the things we’ve come to expect from a spy movie: exotic locales, exciting car chases, lethal bad guys, and intense fight scenes. What made the film such a breath of fresh air was how it tweaked these tried and true conventions.
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by J.D. Lafrance

“I’m disgusted by what we’ve become in America. I truly believe there is brain death in this country.” – John Carpenter

Filmmaker John Carpenter has always considered himself as an outsider in Hollywood. Like Sam Fuller before him, Carpenter makes genre films that are usually regarded by critics as simple thrill rides. However, underneath the surface lurks a strong, often savage social commentary on what Carpenter believes to be the problems that plague the United States. This approach is readily apparent in They Live (1988), an angry film born out of his disgust with the greed and materialism of the Ronald Regan era during the 1980s. What’s interesting is how its scathing critique of homelessness, rampant unemployment and corporate greed has become relevant yet again. Sadly, these problems never really went away, they’ve just become more prevalent due in large part to the current president in the White House.
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by J.D. Lafrance

I never saw John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) at a young, impressionable age so it never imprinted on my psyche like The Birds (1963), Night of the Living Dead (1968), and Jaws (1975), which continue to this day to creep me out as they make me regress instantly to the little kid who saw them through fingers barely covering my eyes. That being said, Halloween is still an unsettling experience because Carpenter created such a well-crafted scare machine.
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by J.D. Lafrance

In the late 1980’s, Frank Mancuso Jr., then caretaker of the popular and profitable Friday the 13th series of films, decided to branch off into a television series but without the hockey mask-clad killer Jason, much like John Carpenter’s decision for Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) to not feature Michael Myers. Of course, we all know how well that went over with fans of that particular franchise so most were expecting history to repeat itself with the Friday the 13th show. After much publicized growing pains, the show hit its stride towards the end of the first season as it followed the adventures of a trio of antique store owners searching for cursed objects. It became the second highest rated first-run syndicated show for the much coveted male 18 to 49-year-old demographic, just behind Star Trek: The Next Generation. The show went on for two more season before being cancelled and now enjoys a dedicated cult following.
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Candyman

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By J.D. Lafrance

Based on Clive Barker’s short story, “The Forbidden,” Candyman (1992) is one of the more well-known mainstream horror films to openly acknowledge and use urban legends as the basis for its story. When most people think of such things the first ones that come to mind are alligators in the sewer or razor blades hidden in Halloween candy. The one Candyman uses is much more sinister. A young couple are about to have sex. The girl looks into a mirror and says the word, “Candyman” five times. A tall man with a hook instead of his right hand appears and brutally murders her. Urban legends are, as one character puts it, “modern oral folklore. They are the unselfconscious reflection of the fears of urban society.”
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Creepshow

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By J.D. Lafrance

Anticipation was high among horror fans when it was announced that three giants of the genre were going to collaborate together on a film. Author Stephen King, director George A. Romero and makeup effects wizard Tom Savini decided to pay tribute to the classic EC horror comic books from the 1950s with an anthology film called Creepshow (1982). Coming off the personally fulfilling, but commercial failure of Knightriders (1981), I’m sure Romero was eager to move on to something else and hooking up with King made sense. The two men had originally met over the possibility of collaborating on an adaptation of the author’s novel Salem’s Lot, but when the film rights were sold off to television, Romero moved on.

Making a horror anthology was a bit of a risky gamble at the time. They were all the rage in the 1970s with Hammer and Amicus cranking out films like The House That Dripped Blood (1971), Tales from the Crypt (1972), and From Beyond the Grave (1973), but by the end of the decade they had fallen out of favor. King and Romero wanted to bring these kinds of films back while also celebrating the horror comic books, like House of Mystery and The Vault of Horror that they grew up enjoying as kids. The project was given a decent budget and populated with a mix of up-and-coming movie stars and veteran character actors. While receiving only mixed reviews, it was a sleeper hit.
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By J.D. Lafrance

El Topo (1970), Pink Flamingos (1972), Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), and Repo Man (1984). These iconic films are examples of “midnight movies” – cinema so outlandish and bizarre that they could only be viewed at midnight screenings, typically financial flops during their initial theatrical run only to be rediscovered later by a small but dedicated following that worships every scene, every bit of memorable dialogue. These films dealt with wild elements like drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, sex and violence in extreme ways so that the act of going to see them felt like a taboo smashing event in itself. The midnight movies aesthetic nearly became extinct thanks to the decline of art houses and repertory theatres and the popularity of home video and the Internet. Like the zombies in Romero’s Dead films, however, the midnight movie experience refused to die with films like Donnie Darko (2001) developing a cult following through late night screenings. Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy (2018) continues this tradition.
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