‘Terrifier 2’ – Old School Horror at its Bloodiest and Goriest

For those of you who thought “Halloween Ends” did not deliver in the way a horror film should, and I’m still not sure what you all were expecting with that one, “Terrifier 2” definitely delivers. While David Gordon Green and his fellow filmmakers looked to challenge what we have seen in the past, writer and director Damien Leone is more than happy to wallow in genre conventions as he gives us all the scares, blood and gore he possibly can, and then he gives us ten times more of it. But in the process of bringing Art the Clown back for more mayhem of the most vicious kind, Leone gives us a sequel which more than outdoes the original. This used to be a rarity, but the history of movies is always longer than we realize, so maybe we should stop being so surprised when this happens with follow ups.

“Terrifier 2” starts with Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton) laying waste to the coroner who was about to perform an autopsy on him, and he becomes the first of many examples of what Art can do to the human body before the heart and brain finally stop functioning. Just as John Doe did to the “sloth” victim in David Fincher’s “Seven,” he leaves a human body rotting in the most unimaginable way, and then we find out the victim still has a pulse. Remember how you as an audience member reacted to that? Wait until you see this.

Art prepares to move to the next phase of his murderous rampage while washing his bloody clothes, because somehow it is possible to wash blood stains off of clothing in a movie like this, and in the process, he comes into contact with a mysterious sinister entity named The Little Pale Girl (Amelie McLain) who comes to more or less follow him on his future murderous travels. There is a laundromat employee present, but he is laid waste to before he even realizes who has more quarters than the average customer.

We jump to a year later and are introduced to Sienna Shaw (Lauren LaVera), a young woman busy working on her Halloween costume which her late dad designed for her, and her younger brother Jonathan (Elliott Fullam) who has long since become fixated on Art the Clown and wants to dress up as him for Halloween. They are still dealing with the aftermath of their father’s death from a brain tumor, and their mother Barbara (Sarah Voigt) is trying to distract herself with her remote job as an insurance agent while being quick to dismiss the concerns of her children for no good reason other than the fact that reality has not been the least bit kind to her or her kids.

Seeing Sienna and Jonathan here and how they were written is one of several reasons why “Terrifier 2” outdoes its predecessor. The characters are far more interesting this time around as we become deeply invested in the crazy plight they get caught up in, and they never come across as your average horror movie stock characters. These two could have been easily typecast as the problem child and town wimp, but Sienna and Jonathan are not written or portrayed as either as this sequel only has so much time, if any, for cliches.

More importantly, both Sienna and Jonathan are stuck in an environment where the adults, including their mother, do not take the time to listen to them or their problems which are quite serious. This is a huge problem in real life as young adults are far more aware of what is going on in the world around them as opposed to the adults who are too busy blunting reality as it has long since become far too much to deal with. Watching these youngsters reminds me of the ending of Terry Gilliam’s “Time Bandits” in which the parents make the fatal mistake of not listening to their only child when they should have. The same thing applies here, and the consequences are far more brutal.

And unlike the original, this sequel has a much stronger story and narrative thrust. While the first “Terrifier” felt more or less like your average slasher flick, Leone gives himself more to work with this time around. It also benefits from the strong performances of its cast, particularly from Lauren LaVera who makes Sienna into more than the familiar final girl we see in most horror movies. Sienna does go through hell, but it is a hell which involves a lot more pain than other final girls have ever had to endure, and LaVera sells it for all it is worth.

Kudos also goes to Elliott Fullam for playing Jonathan as more than the average high school nerd I often see in movies dealing with teenagers. Yes, Jonathan is fascinated with death and serial killers like many were in their youth for a variety of reasons, but Fullman makes sure he never comes across as a mere type which I really appreciated. Furthermore, Jonathan is featured prominently in the film’s final act for good reason as he helps Sienna save the day in ways no other character like him could have.

And let us not leave out David Howard Thornton who once again gives us one of the scariest psychopaths the world has ever seen with Art the Clown. From start to finish, he gives the gory proceedings an unforgettable malevolence without even having to utter a single word. Art remains the same as he ever was, but his brutality is even more infinite than ever before as he lays waste to those in ways which do not allow for remorse or regret in the slightest.

While “Halloween Ends” looked to defy genre conventions, “Terrifier 2” is defiantly old school horror. Like AC/DC once said, “If you want blood, you’ve got it.” The viscera on display has already had many audience members reacting quite strongly, assuming the reports of fainting and vomiting in theaters are to be believed. Seriously though, the blood and gore we see here is quite the sight for those horror hounds who feel like they are not getting enough of it. There are even scenes where I imagine Tom Savini is watching this and saying, “Hey! I could have come up with that! No, seriously!”

As I write this, “Terrifier 2” has made more than $10 million dollars at the box office, and it only cost $250,000 to make. Part of me worries about Art the Clown becoming mainstream considering what ended up happening to Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and, to a lesser extent, Jigsaw. Those murderous fiends proved to be ever so frightening, and then they became almost family friendly with each successive sequel we got year after year. As the post credits indicate, Art the Clown is not finished with is mayhem yet. There is bound to be another “Terrifier” in the near future, so let’s hope he doesn’t become too average before we know it.

John Carpenter is right, evil never dies, but its profitability can render it more harmless than it ever intends to.

* * * ½ out of * * * *

‘Halloween: Resurrection’ – You Think ‘Halloween Ends’ is Bad? Check This One Out!

As I write this, “Halloween Ends” has earned a box office gross of over $40 million in its opening weekend. Those are great numbers, and yet many fans have been rebelling against this installment with an everlasting passion. Listening to them makes me wonder if they have seen the other sequels because, when it comes down to it, “Halloween Ends” is way better than “Halloween: Resurrection” which I actually took the time to watch over the weekend out of morbid interest. If it were not for “movie ever. While certain entries in this series may age like a fine wine, this one never will.

This ill-begotten mess begins three years after the events depicted in “Halloween H2O: 20 Years Later” which ended with Laurie Strode (Jamie-Lee Curtis) decapitating Michael Myers once and for all. But, thanks to an ironclad clause in Moustapha Akkad’s contract, Michael cannot ever be truly killed off, and it turns out the man whose head Laurie chopped off with true precision was not Michael, but instead a paramedic whom Michael attacked, crushed his larynx so he couldn’t talk, and then took his uniform to walk away from the crime scene with relative ease. Keep in mind, this development was written for “Halloween H20,” but Curtis refused to do the film if this ending was featured in the final cut.

While I knew this ending was invented to make “Halloween: Resurrection” a reality, I can’t help but wonder what was going through Michael’s mind when he took out that paramedic. I imagine he was thinking, “Okay, maybe this isn’t the time to kill my sister. Perhaps another time in the near future. In the meantime, I am getting out of town for a bit. I have a timeshare waiting for me.” Michael was so close to killing Laurie, and yet he sensed things were not going to work out for him this time around. But how did he know what asylum Laurie was going to be residing in three years later? Oh wait, you don’t ask those questions in a movie like this.

As we all know by now, Laurie gets killed by Michael even though she has the upper hand. Laurie leads him into a trap, but she still needs to look under his mask to make sure she has the right guy this time around. A knife in her belly is all the proof she needs, and her lifeless body falls to the ground. This was to be Curtis’ last time playing Laurie as she did not want to make any more “Halloween” movies, but we all know how that turned out. The promise of anything final in a horror franchise always has us rolling our eyes and laughing uncontrollably, and this one is no exception.

We then move to a year later when we arrive at the campus of Haddonfield University, and we meet the students who have just won a competition to appear on an internet reality show entitled “Dangertainment” which is operated by Freddie Harris (Busta Rhymes) and Nora Winston (Tyra Banks). They include Sara Moyer (Bianca Kajlich) who proves to be the Laurie Strode of the group as she plays with her hair in the same way Laurie did, Jennifer ‘Jen’ Danzig (Katee Sackhoff) who, like Lucy Van Pelt, keeps signing her classmates up for events they never expected to participate in, Jim Morgan (Luke Kirby) who is looking to get laid on or off camera, Rudy Grimes (Sean Patrick Thomas) who quickly proves to be quite the cook, and Bill Woodlake (Thomas Ian Nicholas of “American Pie” fame) who is looking to score even though the ladies are understandably quick to reject him. Their mission, spend a night in Michael Myer’s childhood home and determine what led him to kill so many people.

Now the key thing to keep in mind about “Halloween: Resurrection” is that these participants are being equipped with head-cameras so we can see what they see as they walk through Michael’s childhood home, and this threatens to make this sequel more promising than it has any right to be. While this one came after “The Blair Witch Project,” it came before the glut of reality shows and found footage movies like “Survivor” and “Paranormal Activity” which Hollywood burned through before the profits ran dry. Still, while this installment could have done a number of clever things with these genres, it instead devolves into the same old thing to where nothing on display feels the least bit surprising.

The one thing which got me excited about “Halloween: Resurrection” was that it was directed by Rick Rosenthal. This is the same man who directed 1981’s “Halloween II,” a sequel I came to appreciate because I first saw it years after its initial release. I thought Rosenthal deserved more credit than he was given at the time and having a veteran “Halloween” director at the helm of this installment seemed like a really smart idea.

Right from the start, however, Rosenthal quickly fumbles the ball as the art of subtlety is completely lost on him here. With his previous venture in this franchise, he knew how to keep the action and characters grounded in a reality we all knew and understood, just like with the 1978 classic. But here, the volume is turned up way too loud to where the suspense is all but neutered, and the characters are unable to speak quietly if at all. Like a certain character Will Ferrell played on “Saturday Night Live” who had vocal modulation issues, these ones make you want to turn the volume all the way down. Okay, maybe that’s pushing things a bit, but these characters got annoying ever so quickly.

The one actor I feel bad for here is Katee Sackhoff who did this film long before she broke through into our collective consciousness on SyFy’s rebooted “Battlestar Galactica.” This is not Sackhoff at her best and, like Stacy Nelkin in “Halloween III: Season of the Witch,” she has to play her last scene without a head.

I should add there is also a subplot involving a college freshman named Myles “Deckard” Barton (Ryan Merriman) who has been communicating online with Sara Moyer for months. While at a college party, he watches this virtual reality series play over the internet and invites other students to watch it with him. This could have led to some interesting moments as the characters try to disseminate what is real and what is fiction, but the performances by everyone here are too broad to where we mock these foolish characters instead of relating to them.

And there is Busta Rhymes who is the first thing anyone thinks about when it comes to “Halloween: Resurrection.” For what it’s worth, he is an entertaining presence as reality show entrepreneur Freddie Harris, but he also takes this sequel into “Batman & Robin” territory as he turns the proceedings into a complete joke, the kind which makes you wince more than laugh. Seeing him trying to take Michael Myers out via martial arts made my eyes roll, and seeing him end things by speaking to television reporters about violence in the media is insulting and a bitch slap to everything we just watched.

When it comes to the recent “Halloween” movies like “Halloween Ends,” they were made by filmmakers who wanted to try something a little different while giving fans some of the things they came to expect. “Halloween: Resurrection,” however, was made by a committee which was designed to take this installment through a number of test screenings in an effort to hopefully give audiences what they wanted and get a return on their investment in the process. If Rosenthal has any artistic aspirations with this sequel, they are all but snuffed out as soon as we realize how cheap the opening credit titles look.

It’s no wonder the Akkad family went out of there way to reboot this franchise yet again after this misbegotten entry. Sure, Michael’s eyes open wide before the screen goes to black, but who gives a shit?

* out of * * * *

‘Halloween Ends’ – Expect The Unexpected

I got to listen to the film score for “Halloween Ends” in its entirety before I sat down to watch the concluding chapter of this particular Michael Myers trilogy. Composed and performed by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, it reminds me of what Carpenter himself said about this installment: it is meant to be “more intimate” than its predecessors, and the music helps to illustrate this. But more importantly, it reminded me to go into this sequel expecting the unexpected as the previous installment was undone by too many expectations.

While 2018’s “Halloween” may have delivered the goods thanks to the return of Jamie-Lee Curtis and John Carpenter to the long-running franchise, “Halloween Kills” was treated indifferently as everyone looked at director David Gordon Green, Danny McBride and their team of filmmakers as if to ask them, “Do you even know what you are doing?” But it occurred to me that, like Rob Zombie did with his “Halloween” films, Green is not out to give us the same old thing, Instead, he is determined to add something new to a franchise which has burned itself out from fatigue more than once.

Four years have passed since the night Michael came home again, and everything in Haddonfield has more or less gone back to normal. Still, the physical and emotional scars of the townspeople are on display as people look to blame Laurie Strode for all the chaos and death which has occurred over the years. Nevermind the fact none of this was Laurie’s fault; everyone needs a scapegoat when the killer is nowhere to be found, and people these days tend to believe in the wrong things because they never bother doing the research.

As for Laurie, she has since procured a house for herself and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) to live in, and she is working on her memoirs as a way to deal with all the evil and death which seriously derailed her life. Allyson now has a job at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital and is expecting a promotion any day now, Deputy Frank Hawkins is still quite sweet on Laurie even as she begs him to eat more vegetables, and Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards) remains a good family friend and continues to serve drinks at the local Haddonfield bar.

Into all of this enters Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), a young man who, like Laurie, once had a promising future which involved going to engineering school. But this is all laid waste to after a child he babysat ends up dying in a freak accident. As a result, he is seen as a freak of nature by the townspeople who hate him with little in the way of shame, and he is reduced to working in his Uncle Ronald’s junkyard fixing cars and stuff. But soon he gets the attention and sympathy of Laurie Strode and also Allyson as they see him as someone to help and relate to, but it doesn’t take too long for things to become very sinister to where many are reminded of a force of evil often referred to as “the shape.”

Right from the start, it should be clear how Green is looking to give us a new slant on things with “Halloween Ends.” I expected this one to start off with Michael Myers making his first kill, but it goes a whole other way which I did not see coming. Also, the classic font from the 1978 film is dropped in favor of the font used in the opening and closing credits of “Halloween III: Season of the Witch.” As for the pumpkin, it keeps changing faces as to indicate to us how nothing is what it seems on the surface. Yes, he is defying our expectations in a way I personally welcome.

Truth be told, we don’t even get to see Michael Myers until almost a half an hour into “Halloween Ends.” The way I see it, the filmmakers see this sequel as a way of meditating on our collective relationship with evil; how we deal with it, how we can possibly overcome it, and how it can consume us beyond all repair. Laurie and Allyson have had their brutal experiences in this realm, and Corey is only getting started. This is why I find this particular installment so fascinating as I wondered who would prove to be more fearful, Michael or those who survived his wrath as a person’s dark side can easily overcome all else.

The fact “Halloween Ends” is getting such polarized views is not surprising to me. Fans go into them expecting certain things, and this one doesn’t always deliver on them for a variety of reasons. While fans may be begging for the same old thing, I always admire a filmmaker who is willing to take things in a different direction as franchises like these need any form of freshness they can get. Sure, there are some solid scares here, but this sequel is more about getting into your head psychologically than anything else as the dark side in all of us can easily consume our common sense and purpose in life before we realize it.

Andi Matichak remains a wonderfully strong presence as her character of Allyson maneuvers through a life in which she has lost so much and strives for any kind of normalcy she can get her hands on. Will Patton is still one of our most dependable character actors, and it is fun to see him try to warm up to Laurie Strode in a way few others could. And then there is Rohan Campbell who gives us a character in Corey who succumbs to an evil nature partly because life has given him few other avenues to pursue. In the process, Campbell gives us someone we empathize with and fear all at the same time.

But in the end, all praise goes to Jamie Lee Curtis who never fails in giving a strong performance in any motion picture she appears in. “Halloween Ends” is no exception as she makes Laurie Strode’s struggle to stay one step ahead of the evil which has destroyed much of her life all the more involving. Like Ellen Ripley from the “Aliens” franchise, she has been fighting her personal antagonist for so long to where she cannot remember a time when Michael was not in her life. Curtis represents the strong character a franchise like this thrives on as she strives, and encourages those around her, to not fall victim to a way of feeling which is inevitably destructive.

Many have complained about how “Halloween Ends” takes too long to get to the penultimate event we have all been waiting for; Laurie doing battle with Michael Myers one last time. Some need to be reminded of how the original 1978 acted as a slow-burn horror movie as it, aside from the key murder at its start, left the violence on hold until its latter half. Carpenter was more interested in creating an atmosphere of horror and suspense than in perpetrating violent onscreen violence back then, and Green mostly follows suit here. Also, this movie is not called “Michael vs. Laurie” for a number of reasons (and thank God it wasn’t by the way). I mean come on; this sequel is not just about these two.

Sure, it does contain a number of disposable characters who are just asking to be sliced and diced here. There’s a nurse who gets the promotion Allyson was hoping for, but that’s because she’s having an affair with the doctor the two are working under. Then there’s Allyson’s ex-boyfriend, a police officer who just won’t let their relationship, and there’s no forgetting the African-American DJ who never knows when to keep his mouth shut. They are all just begging for an exceptionally brutal exit from life, and one murder in particular would make Tom Savini proud, seriously.

In the end, I admired “Halloween Ends” for trying something different in the slasher movie genre. While it might not be completely successful, its ambitions kept my eyes glued to the screen, and it helps to bring closure to Laurie Strode’s constant fear of “The Shape.” Perhaps this ending will not satisfy everyone, but I can accept it for what it is.

Of course, it is hard to believe this will be the last “Halloween” movie ever. We have seen promising titles such as “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter,” “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare,” “Saw 3D: The Final Chapter” and “Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday” throughout the decades, and they eventually became punchlines we still laugh at. For sure, this is definitely the last “Halloween” movie for Jamie-Lee Curtis, John Carpenter and Blumhouse among others as the rights to franchise will now revert back to the Akkad family.

What life has taught me and others is evil never dies. It simply changes shape, especially when money is concerned.

* * * out of * * * *

The First Trailer For ‘Halloween Ends’ is Here, But Are We Truly Prepared for It?

2022 has been a year where Hollywood keeps reaching back to the past to where we got “Top Gun: Maverick” or “Jurassic World: Dominion,” and this will continue in the fall with “Halloween Ends,” David Gordon Green’s third and final “Halloween” movie in which Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) looks to have her last epic battle with the force of nature known as Michael Myers who destroyed her life decades before. And now, the first trailer for “Halloween Ends” has been released for the whole world to see, and while it may make expectations raise very high, you may want to check how high they end up going.

The trailer opens up on another Halloween night in what looks like Haddonfield, but it might actually be somewhere else. Nevertheless, we are caught up in the point of view of someone entering a quiet little house while breathing rather heavily. Even before he steps slowly and quietly up the stairs, we know it is Michael Myers. But the real first shock of this trailer is not the sight of Michael, but of him pushing open a door to where we see Laurie is hiding right behind it, ready to blow his brains out. That’s right, Laurie is prepared for Michael now more than ever to where we hear her say, “Come and get me motherfucker!”

Of course, the more the good people at Blumhouse keep pushing the climactic battle between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers, the more I wonder if this trailer is truly preparing fans for “Halloween Ends.” Truth be told, the filmmakers and executive producer John Carpenter have described this “Halloween” movie as being quite different from the two which preceded it, and this trailer does not necessarily illustrate this.

What we know about this movie so far is that it takes place four years after the events of “Halloween Kills.” Laurie has been living with her granddaughter, Alyson (Andi Matichak), and she is on the verge of finishing her memoir. As for Michael, he has not been seen in years and no one has any idea where he has wandered off to. But when Alyson’s new boyfriend, Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), is accused of killing a boy he was babysitting, violence erupts among the townspeople to where Laurie is made to confront the force of evil known as Michael Myers one last time.

 “Halloween Kills” was seen as something of a step down from Green’s phenomenally successful 2018 “Halloween” movie, but looking back, I wonder if that was the result of unrealistic expectations. Carpenter himself described the sequel as being the “ultimate slasher movie,” but many were not in agreement with his thoughts on it.

Also, we recently got word of a test screening for “Halloween Ends” which had several audience members having an indifferent reaction to it. From what they told us, this movie focuses more on Alyson than anyone else, and Laurie does not even show up until the last act. This is not made the least bit clear from this trailer which features the return of several other characters including Deputy Frank Hawkins (Will Patton), Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards) and Sheriff Barker (Omar Dorsey) as some many quick cuts are made to where we cannot make the faces of everyone out right off the bat.

Curtis has said this movie will be shocking and that it will make people angry, producer Malek Akkad has stated it will be more contained than the previous sequel, Carpenter has said it will be a departure from the previous entries, and Green has described it as being a coming-of-age film and a more intimate film like Carpenter’s “Christine.” I bring all this up because I am not sure this trailer makes any of this the least bit clear, but hopefully the next trailer will as expectations need to be tempered a bit.

Right now, I am convinced people will be disappointed in “Halloween Kills” for all the wrong reasons, and I want them to view it for what it is as opposed to how they picture it in their minds. From all the talk about it, Green and his fellow filmmakers aim to give us something a bit different from what we have previously seen, and that cannot be a bad thing, right?

Nevertheless, we can at the very least expect another terrific music score from Carpenter, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, and we can be assured this will be the last “Halloween” movie released under the Blumhouse banner. After this, the rights to the franchise will revert back to the Akkad family, and odds are they will keep this franchise going on in one way or another. Seriously, remember what Carpenter said:

“Let me explain the movie business to you: if you take a dollar sign and attach it to anything, there will be somebody who wants to do a sequel. It will live. If the dollar sign is not big enough, no matter what, it will not live.”

Remember, evil never dies.

“Halloween Ends” will arrive in theaters on October 14, 2022.

‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Was Well Worth the Wait

Movies take a long time to make and bring to the silver screen, but this one took forever to debut thanks to the pandemic and a superstar’s strong desire to ensure it DID NOT debut on streaming. This is also a sequel which comes to us 36 years after the original, and that one was a classic 1980’s flick. Can you make a sequel to an 80’s classic in another decade where things have changed ever so much? I mean, Paul Hogan tried to do this with “Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles,” and it proved to be one of the most needless sequels in cinematic history.

Well, when it comes to “Top Gun: Maverick,” this is a sequel which proves to be well worth the wait. While it does pay some homage to its predecessor, especially in its opening moments where the music of Harold Faltermeyer and Kenny Loggins blast through the speakers and generate a wealth of nostalgia, this sequel is the rare one which largely stands on its own and proves to be even better than the original. Now that is saying a lot as “Top Gun” forever holds a special place in my heart for being one of the most iconic 80’s films whose VHS tape gave our home speakers quite the workout and proved to be one of the few from this glorious decade which I did not walk out of crying uncontrollably. Believe me when I say this is saying a lot.

We catch up with Pete “Maverick” Mitchell all these years later as he continues to avoid promotion in order to keep flying. He works as a test pilot who is determined to lay waste to any of Chuck Yeager’s all-time records. The problem is, pilots like him are in the process of being phased out to make room for drones. As Rear Admiral Chester “Hammer” Cain (the great Ed Harris) points out, Pete is on his way to becoming a relic. Of course, the Admiral tells Pete this at the same time he is forced to point out his talents are needed back at Top Gun to train a new generation of pilots for an important mission.

While his fellow aviators have advanced in rank, Pete has remained a captain and continues to piss off admirals and other superior officers in ways both intentional and unintentional. When the original “Top Gun” ended, Maverick was about to become a instructor, but here we learn he only lasted two months as one before ditching those duties. I have to say I was annoyed upon learning this as dropping out after such a short period of time seems rather petty of Maverick, but it also once illustrates what a rebel he is among his fellow aviators.

Upon his arrival at Naval Air Station North Island (a.k.a. NAS North Island), Maverick comes to meet a new generation of aviators which include Lt. Natasha “Phoenix” Trace (Monica Barbaro), the lone female pilot of the bunch, and Jake “Hangman” Seresin (Glen Powell) whose ego knows no bounds even when you want it to. But the two individuals who will factor most strongly into Maverick’s life here are Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly), and admiral’s daughter whom he once did a high-speed flyby years ago and now owns a bar, and Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller) who just happens to be the son of his best friend, the still missed Goose (Anthony Edwards). Suffice to say, some here have not quite gotten over the past, and dealing with the present may prove to be even more challenging.

One of the things I have to address about “Top Gun: Maverick” is the fact Kelly McGillis did not return to portray Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood. Many consider this the latest case of ageism in Hollywood, but while I do not want to lay any shade to that, there are also several other actors who are absent in this sequel: Tom Skerritt, Rick Rossovich, Meg Ryan, Michael Ironside, and James Tolkan to name a few. When it comes to the filmmakers/ response to this, they said they did not want to spend a lot of time looking backwards, and to this I applaud them endlessly.

The problem with a lot of sequels, especially ones which come 10 or more years after their predecessor, is how much they reflect on what happened previously. Sequels are clearly made to cash in on the original’s massive success, and it gets to where filmmakers are a bit too fearful to tinker with an established formula. I was reminded of this while I was watching “Blues Brothers 2000,” a sequel I was honestly excited to see come fruition. But as I watched this movie unfold before me, the following dialogue started playing in mind:

“Hey, remember when we did this years ago?”

“Yeah.”

“Remember when they did that?”

“Yeah.”

“Hey, remember this bar owner from the original?”

“Yeah.”

“He was funny when he said what he said, you know?”

“Yeah, he was.”

“Seriously, do you want to turn this sequel off and just watch the original?”

“Oh yeah, way ahead of you!”

We love what came before, but not everything can be the same. Granted, “Tom Gun: Maverick” does not reinvent the formula or the genre it is a part of, but it does give us something new and fresh which makes everything we see here all the more thrilling. This is not a simple regurgitation of what we previously witnessed, but instead a look at the present and the challenges it presents for the characters here. While certain notes from the original are played on here, this sequel is not necessarily business as usual.

More importantly, this is one of those sequels which are better than the original. As incredibly entertaining as “Top Gun” was, it did suffer from cliches and a romantic subplot which the movie really could have done without. “Top Gun: Maverick” improves upon its predecessor in many ways as, even if repeats familiar beats, brings a lot more depth to the proceedings and more heart to where, even when things seem emotionally manipulative, I got so swept up in the action. I cheered as loudly as the next audience member during the climatic sequences, and this made me feel like I was back in Thousand Oaks watching “Return of the Jedi” for the first time. The audience got so involved in the action, and it filled my spirits in a way few cinematic experiences could have back then. Believe it or not, the same goes for this long-awaited sequel.

The late Tony Scott, who directed the original “Top Gun” and to whom this sequel is dedicated, gave us some amazing aerial dogfights years before. “Top Gun: Maverick” was directed by Joseph Kosinski who previously worked with Cruise on “Oblivion” and was also behind the camera for “Tron: Legacy” and “Only the Brave.” Like Cruise, he was clearly determined to not fake a single scene from start to finish. The g-forces you see the actors experience is no joke, and it made me wonder what was going through their heads as their faces were being smushed in beyond their control. And seeing those fighter jets fly through treacherous terrains at such high speeds was infinitely thrilling.

Kosinski has proven to be a strong director with a great visual style, and “Top Gun: Maverick” is his best film yet.

As for Cruise, there is no doubt about his dedication to authenticity. While, to quote a lyric from Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” all those lines on his face (or his forehead to be more specific) are getting clearer, he is not about to let age get in the way of what he wants to accomplish in a motion picture. When it comes to his star-making role, he slips back into it ever so easily, and he is not just portraying Maverick in the same way he portrays Ethan Hunt.

I also got to praise the rest of this cast as they more than rise to the occasion here. Miles Teller has long since proven to be a truly talented actor, and I love watching him hold his own opposite Cruise from scene to scene. Jennifer Connelly remains an infinitely talented presence as she gives Penny Benjamin a reason to stand head-to-head with a man who once flew by her at very high speed. Glen Powell tricks you into believing his character’s strong ego will be forever crushed, but it makes sense as to why it never does. And then there is Val Kilmer who returns briefly as Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, and his presence reminds us of how powerful a presence this actor can be even if cancer has forever robbed him of his wonderful voice.

It would have been a joke if Cruise did a “Top Gun” sequel back in the 1990’s or at the cusp of the new millennium. He would have needed such a sequel back then as “Cocktail” would have. His career was flying high without a need to revisit his past, but when it became time to do so, he was not about to serve us the same old shit.

“Top Gun: Maverick” for me is the epitome of a summer blockbuster as it makes you feel like a part of the action, and you find yourself cheering with the audience in a way you normally do not. While it not be a cinematic masterpiece, it does its job with sincerity and boundless enthusiasm, and like many, I cannot wait to see it again. Yes, this sequel was made to be seen on the silver screen, so please do so before it does make its debut on streaming.

I cannot wait to see it again.

* * * * out of * * * *

‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One’ Teaser is Here, Should You Choose to Accept it

It’s been close to five years since the last film in this long-lasting franchise, but now we get our first look at “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One.” I should, however, state how frustrated I was to see it will not be released until July of 2023 which is such a buzz kill. All these exciting images are presented to us, and now we have to wait just a little over a year to see them on the silver screen. This reminded me of how thrilled I was when I first watched the teaser trailer for “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions,” and how deflated I was when we saw the year 2003 plastered at the end of it. We were so excited, and then we were made to wait a full year before we went back to the “real world.” That’s like putting salt in the wound!

Well, with Tom Cruise returning as Ethan Hunt once again, we are greeted with various images we have come to see in the “Mission: Impossible” films such as him palling around with his colleagues played by Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson and Vanessa Kirby among others. We also get glimpses of insane car chases which go through downtown cities, trains traveling through the countryside, and our heroic characters partying at a members’ only rave in the most glamorous of places. So yeah, this definitely looks like a “Mission: Impossible” film.

Having watched this teaser trailer several times now, this particular sequel looks to be not much different from the others which preceded it. Perhaps this is because Christopher McQuarrie is returning to director’s chair for the third time, or maybe I am just reacting to how Tom Cruise still looks like he hasn’t aged a day since “Mission: Impossible III.” I’m not surprised to see him “grinning like an idiot every 15 minutes” here and, in this trailer, we see him running really fast, and all by his lonesome as usual. When was the last time anyone rang alongside him anyway?

What stood out to me most in this trailer was the appearance of Henry Czerny who returns to this franchise as Eugene Kittridge for the first time since the original “Mission: Impossible” film from 1990. Hearing him talk to Ethan and explain how he needs to take a side makes me feel like this sequel will have very high stakes, and this always helps to add to spectacle on display.

One other thing; seeing Ethan ride a horse is something I have not seen him do before in this franchise. At least I can count on the filmmakers bringing in that as something new. Plus, I have not seen a train fly off the rails since “Back to the Future Part III,” and that should be quite the sight to see. And then there is Cruise driving a motorcycle off of a cliff, something we already knew he was going to do. It makes me wonder what motorcycle enthusiasts think of such a stunt. Once they learn what kind of motorcycle he let crash to the ground, they may be incredibly heartbroken.

And if you look closely, you will get glimpses of newbies to this franchise which include Esai Morales, Hayley Atwell and Cary Elwes among others. These are actors you can always depend on, and I have no doubt they will be great additions.

“Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” is set to open in theaters on July 14, 2023. If you haven’t already, check out the trailer above. Whether or not this will equal or be better than “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” one of the best action films of recent years, remains to be seen.

‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ – A Mixed Bag at Best

With Sam Raimi returning to Marvel Movies for the first time since “Spider-Man 3,” I honestly got really excited. With a title inspired by one of the many H.P. Lovecraft stories out there, and a look which makes this film seem like “The Evil Dead” as if it were produced by Kevin Feige, this “Doctor Strange” adventure looked to be more than the average superhero flick as it ventured into the horror genre, something we have not seen a Marvel movie do recently, if ever before. Plus, I was looking forward to the Bruce Campbell cameo you know is coming and to see where Raimi was going to put his classic 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 car on display as it has been featured in every one of his films. Come on, you know that car is going to make an appearance at some point.

Well, what stunned me about “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” was how much of Raimi’s visual flair ended up onscreen here. When it comes to Marvel Movies, I assume they are usually made by committee to where the director does have some say, but the producers usually get final cut regardless. But watching this one made me realize how much leeway Feige and company gave this celebrated filmmaker, and that’s even though said leeway only goes so far. As for the screenplay, well, just read on.

I went into this “Doctor Strange” sequel believing it would take place after the events of “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” but some have said this one is actually a prequel to it. Is it? I don’t know and would love it if someone could give me a definitive answer on this. What I can tell you is that it starts off with Stephen Strange and America Chavez (played by Xochitl Gomez) running away from an ever so fierce demon while trying to find the Book of Vishanti, this movie’s answer to the Necronomicon. But it is soon revealed that Stephen was just having a bad dream, or was he?

America then appears to Stephen again while he attends the wedding of his beloved, Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), to someone other than him. After defeating an octopus demon with one eye with the help of Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong), they learn America is being hunted by demons because she has the power to travel through the multiverse in a way few others can only hope to.

It should be noted that this “Doctor Strange” sequel went into production without a finished screenplay, and it shows. Trying to explain everything which goes on here is very difficult as the number of universes these characters travel through is endless to where I am surprised no one had totems like those “Inception” did. Surely everyone here would eventually wonder if they were actually in the correct universe, right?

When it comes to the visual effects, I am back and forth on them. The opening featuring a lot of CGI to where I found myself not being the least bit enthralled at the action. As the show went on though, the effects became quite immersive and very clever, and there’s an absolutely brilliant scene in which Stephen and America find themselves flying through different universes which vary in colors, depth and weather. It reminded me of when Cameron Diaz chased after Catherine Keener while traveling through the mind of a celebrated actor in “Being John Malkovich.” With creativity like that, I wonder how far the imagination can stretch.

And yes, the actors are all terrific here as one would expect. I don’t even want to think about what other actors could possible inhabited have inhabited the role of Doctor Strange any better than Cumberbatch. While this is the second film where this Marvel character has the lead, Cumberbatch has already played this doctor in various other MCU adventures to where he can play a role like this in his sleep. With a simple move or inflection of his voice, this Oscar nominated actor can communicate so much even without uttering a single word.

Benedict Wong offers strong support throughout as, like Cumberbatch, is not about to let any of the visual effects upstage him in the slightest. Xochitl Gomez excels at playing a young adult who has more to deal with than the average teenager as she navigates through puberty while being afflicted with a special superpower. Rachel McAdams reminds us of what a pleasing presence she can be as Christine Palmer, the love of Stephen’s life who got away from him because superheroes can’t always have loving relationships. And there’s no leaving out the great Michael Stuhlbarg who portrays surgeon and Stephen’s one-time colleague, Nicodemus West. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t have a lot of screen time; Stuhlbarg makes every single second he appears onscreen count for all they are worth.

But for me, the best performance in this “Doctor Strange” sequel comes from Elizabeth Olsen who returns as Wanda Maximoff, better known as the Scarlet Witch. While Wanda may have been good in the past, we see here going rogue here as she attempts to reunite with her children, and these are kids who may not actually exist if you know what I mean. While this particular character could have easily turned into a one-dimensional villain whose selfishness comes at everyone else’s expense, Olsen gives Wanda an emotional depth which makes her threat to those around her all the fiercer. If there is one reason to check out this sequel, it is for Olsen.

After writing all of this, I imagine you must wonder why I have such mixed feelings about this MCU film. Simply put, it comes down to the inescapable fact that the screenplay needed another draft or two. I would have liked it if there were some sort of Thomas Guide available for the average audience member as the story is hard to navigate through to where it is difficult to become emotionally involved in everything going on. Perhaps it is best to view the previous events which took place in both the first “Doctor Strange” movie and “Wandavision” before stepping into this latest chapter as it will help ground you in every single event going on here.

Also, the pace drags in ways it should not, and taking this into account is especially frustrating. While many complain about the average movie lasting around two hours and 30 minutes, and this is not counting the half hour or so of commercials we are forced to experience at our local AMC theater, this one only lasts 126 minutes, and yet there were still moments where I found myself almost falling asleep. This should be a sign of when something or anything drags slower than your ordinary snail as we live in an age where we have no choice but to pick up the pace.

When it comes to “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” I cannot help but describe it as a near miss. While there is a lot here to admire, the final cut is undone by a screenplay which needed another draft or two before production began. While some filmmakers can get away with giving us an enthralling motion picture which everyone involved made up along the way, this one does not quite qualify. It really sucks to say this, but there you go.

As for the post credit scenes, one features an Oscar-winning actress who I did not expect to see here, and the other features an actor from many cult films pointing out the bleeding obvious. I hope you enjoy what they have to offer.

* * ½ out of * * * *

The Super Bowl LVI Movie Trailers in Review

The Super Bowl has come and gone again. While the home team, the Los Angeles Rams, got me interested in this monumental event more than usual, what always brings me back to the Super Bowl are the commercials and the trailers for upcoming films which look to bring in the largest audiences possible. Even if some are available to stream on streaming services on opening day, these blockbusters are clearly made for the silver screen. Whether or not COVID mandates are still in place when these films arrive, I look forward to seeing many of them in a theater.

Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness

Following the massive success of “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” Doctor Strange returns to battle the multiverse once again, and it looks badass to put it mildly. Sam Raimi returns to make his first movie based on a Marvel Comics character since “Spider-Man 3,” and it sure feels like a Sam Raimi film with all the crazy images which look like they came from “The Evil Dead.” The only thing I have to wonder now is this, will there be a Bruce Campbell cameo? Moreover, will his classic yellow 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 make an appearance as well? If so, that would be groovy.

Granted, the trailer presented during the game was a teaser for the official trailer which is now available to view online. I am just going to leave you the official trailer down below. Just when I thought I was getting burned out by superhero/comic book movies, this “Doctor Strange” sequel has whetted my appetite.

By the way, was that Patrick Stewart’s Professor X voice we heard?

The Lost City

Look, I love Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum is fun, but this trailer for “The Lost City” makes the film seem like a wannabe “Romancing the Stone” which is too broadly comedic for its own good. Directed by Aaron and Adam Nee and based on a story by Seth Gordon, Bullock plays the brilliant but reclusive writer Loretta Sage who is known for penning romantic adventure novels which take place in exotic locations. While promoting her latest novel, she is kidnapped by an eccentric millionaire played by Daniel Radcliffe whom we see only briefly here, and it is up to Alan (Tatum), the model for Bullock’s book covers to save her. Oh yeah, there is a secret treasure involved. Sound familiar?

It pains when actors are clearly striving to be funny as this trailer. Still, it is worth watching for Brad Pitt who steals the show here just as he stole a certain scene in “Deadpool 2.”

Jurassic World Dominion

As disappointing as “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” was, its conclusion gave its follow-up an interesting scenario to work with, dinosaurs co-existing with human beings. Can such a thing be possible, or will one race dominate the other to where a certain species is rendered extinct?

The trailer presented during Super Bowl LVI is the same one that recently premiered online. The image of cowboys trying to herd some dinosaurs who could easily kill them just by stepping on them is a fascinating image, and the characters played by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard now have a daughter because, let’s face it, these two were bound to get it on at some point, and the whole will they or won’t they scenario has long since been played out.

But the real joy of the “Jurassic World Dominion” trailer is seeing the return of the “Jurassic Park” trio, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum. Neill is always terrific in whatever project he appears in, Dern looks like she hasn’t aged a day since “Jurassic Park III,” and Goldblum looks to get more of a role this time around as opposed to the glorified cameo he got in the previous installment.

The magic of first seeing the dinosaurs in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film has never been quite the same, and this franchise has taken some embarrassing turns since then. But with “Jurassic World” director Colin Trevorrow behind the camera again, maybe everyone involved will give this trilogy the conclusion it deserves.

The Adam Project (Netflix)

On one hand, this trailer acts as a promotion for the original content Netflix is going to be dropping on us in the coming months. But this trailer’s main attraction is clearly the Shawn Levy film “The Adam Project” starring Ryan Reynolds, an actor no one can ever seem to get sick of. Originally titled “Our Name is Adam,” back when Tom Cruise was attached to star, Reynolds travels back in time to meet his younger self (played by Walker Scobell) in an effort to confront their late father. While the storyline seems like a rip-off of “Looper,” this looks like its own thing despite any similarities which I am hoping are coincidental.

Seriously, seeing Reynolds in this trailer made me as giddy as Will Ferrell was when he spotted him in the audience the last time he hosted “Saturday Night Live.”

Nope

This trailer for Jordan Peele’s latest cinematic opus reminds me of the greatness of the first “Cloverfield” trailer; it gives us a lot of fascinating and unforgettable visuals while leaving the movie’s plotline a mystery. The trailer for “Nope” looks like it takes place at a horse ranch in the middle of nowhere when all the electricity suddenly goes out, and either Armageddon is happening or a UFO is landing as characters flee as fast as they can or get sucked up into the air. Whether it is a political thriller dealing with racism like “Get Out” and “Us” or just a straightforward science-fiction horror thriller, this trailer has me deeply intrigued, and July 22nd cannot come soon enough.

Ambulance

Anybody who knows me well understands how much I despise Michael Bay. Ever since the cinematic atrocity that was “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” I have avoided his movies like the plague. However, I cannot help but be intrigued by his latest film, a remake of the 2005 Danish film of the same name, which is about a bank robbery gone wrong (is there any other kind in movies?) which leads two of the robbers to hijack an ambulance and use an EMT and a wounded police officer as hostages. Plus, with a cast that includes Jake Gyllenhaal and “The Matrix Resurrection’s” Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, this looks to be a film not made with 5-year-old moviegoers in mind. Whether it is made with the mindset of a 5-year-old, however, remains to be seen.

The trailer for “Ambulance” has been out for some time now, but its Super Bowl spot serves as a reminder of how I am honestly excited for it. While it looks to have those typical Bay flourishes like explosions and cameras moving around in circles, there is nary a Transformer to be found here.

Top Gun: Maverick

Delayed by the COVID pandemic more times than “No Time to Die” and hoping to score big at the foreign box office, “Top Gun: Maverick” is FINALLY arriving in theaters this May. For its Super Bowl spot, Paramount partnered with Porsche because when Tom Cruise says he “feels the need, the need for speed,” you either think of “Top Gun” or a Porsche, right? Well, I would certainly love to drive a Porsche with Jennifer Connelly as my passenger, that’s for sure.

With Cruise reteaming with his “Oblivion” director Joseph Kosinski, we can expect some truly intense visuals and real G-force experiences as shown on Maverick’s face. But as with those “Avatar” sequels which James Cameron keeps promising us, I have to say RELEASE THE DAMN MOVIE ALREADY!

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Okay, this is not a movie trailer, but it is a trailer to one of the most anticipated television series ever. Now, this trailer proves this is not a remake of Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, but instead a prequel that takes place many, many, many, many, many years before Gollum found his precious. While it looks epic, those CGI effects look fairly obvious and kind of take me out of the spectacle on display. Still, we are in J.R.R. Tolkien territory, and it remains ripe with imagination after all these years.

DC Movies

Instead of a single comic book/superhero movie, DC movies will be giving us four of them in 2022: “The Batman,” “Black Adam,” “The Flash” and “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.” Images from each one are featured in one Super Bowl ad, and these are my thoughts: I’m sick of hearing about “The Batman.” I just want Matt Reeves’ cinematic interpretation of Bruce Wayne and his alter ego to come out already. Seeing Dwayne Johnson as Teth-Adam/Black Adam proves to me how passionate he was about bringing this character to the silver screen. Hopefully, Ezra Miller will have more speed on his side than he did with “Justice League.” As for Jason Momoa, he has already proven to me he is the definitive Aquaman, and the upcoming sequel is yet another reminder of the fact I have still not watched the original. With these four movies, perhaps DC will finally give the Marvel Cinematic Universe a run for its money.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

I have not seen the first “Sonic the Hedgehog,” and the Super Bowl spot for the sequel does not make me want to check either of them out. When it comes to Jim Carrey though, I have no problem defending him as an actor. While he looks to be doing his usual schtick here as Doctor Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik, he is far more than what he appears to be. His lack of an Oscar nomination for “The Truman Show” was tragic, and they should have just handed him the Oscar for his performance as Andy Kaufman in “Man on the Moon.” And when it comes to “Batman Forever,” I still think he was the best thing about it. Anyway, that is all.

‘Jackass 3D’ – The Hilariously Insane Stunts Take On Another Dimension

WRITER’S NOTE: This review was written back in 2010 when this film premiered.

I saw “Jackass 3D” on the same day I saw “Paranormal Activity 2.” Believe it or not, these two films have a lot in common. Sure, one is a comedy (and an extraordinarily painful one at that) while the other fits far more comfortably into the horror genre. Still, the differences are only skin deep. Both have you going in and knowing that what you are about to watch will be unsettling and far more disturbing than you can ever guess. You keep waiting for something awful to happen, and you are never sure if you can keep looking at the screen when it does. Long after leaving the theater, I still can’t figure out which one had a more visceral or unsettling impact on me.

“Jackass 3D” arrives at the tenth anniversary of this show which debuted on MTV back in 2000. After watching the stunts performed here and then re-watching them in slow motion, it’s astonishing these guys have survived for as long as they have. I have watched several episodes of the show and remember laughing so damn hard at the insane stunts these guys dared to pull off. For some bizarre reason, however, I have still not got around to watching the first two “Jackass” movies perhaps because I listened a little too much to the warnings of friends, one who told me point blank they contained scenes which no man should ever have to witness. But with the latest one being in 3D, I got sick of listening to my friends warning me and to me listening to them to begin with.

Just about everyone is back for this one: Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O, Ryan Dunn, Chris Pontius, Ehren McGhehey, Preston Lacy, Dave England, and Jason “Wee Man” Acuña. All are here to prove that, after all these years, their sadomasochistic escapades are still as painful as much as they are fun. It makes me wonder how these guys spend their time when they are not on camera. At least they have a sense of humor about their work.

Basically, “Jackass 3D” is just like the show in that there’s no plot, just randomly placed stunts, some of which are beyond belief. I kept wondering, perhaps even hoping, CGI effects were utilized because man, these stunts looked seriously painful! There’s the High Five which has Knoxville body slamming unsuspecting cast and crew members with a giant plaster hand which gets released at quite a high velocity. Then you have the game of tetherball where the ball is filled with Africanized bees, and nobody lasts long in such a game. We also get to watch Knoxville trying to catch a football and eventually getting slammed to the Astroturf by football player Jared Allen who has at least 20 pounds on Knoxville. And then there are those stunts that need no explanation like the Lamborghini Tooth Pull. Seriously, the title says it all.

With its use of slow motion, this film is a hair-raising reminder of just how exquisitely painful those instant replays from football games can be. Does anyone remember when Tim Krumrie got one of his legs snapped in half during the Super Bowl between the Cincinnati Bengals and the San Francisco 49ers? Watching some of these guys landing on what looks like their necks inadvertently brought this painful memory to my attention quickly even after so many years.

But then there is the Sweatsuit Cocktail and the Poo Cocktail Supreme. Now these really need no explanation, but since I brought them up, I have to tell you the Sweatsuit Cocktail almost literally made me hurl. It involved one of the actors exercising on one of those stationary bikes, and the sweat coming off his body was collected in one of those plastic Dixie cups. Guess what Steve-O did with that cup… Man am I glad I didn’t eat lunch before seeing this!

So, what is different about this particular “Jackass” episode? I guess it’s that everyone is sober this time around. This was done to the benefit of Steve-O who went through some highly publicized substance abuse issues in recent years. When they started making “Jackass 3D,” he had been clean for two years. But seriously, if you were foolish enough to perform any stunts (and please don’t by the way), wouldn’t you want to be the least bit inebriated?

Not to worry though because those warnings of how these stunts are performed by professionals and that you should never attempt them on your own are on display at the beginning and the end of this film. But really, why would you even think of doing any of them? I’m not just talking about the Sweatsuit Cocktail, which I am fairly confident you will not tip the bartender for. Isn’t the whole point of the “Jackass” show and movies is to enjoy watching people do things you know you are never supposed to do? Is there another show you can think of where people like Knoxville get off on such exquisite pain and still have a good laugh about it?

For me, “Jackass 3D” is a mixed bag as there are a lot of insane moments you can’t help but combust in sheer laughter over, and then there are others where you have an immense urge to look away. But laughter does seem to win out for those willing to endure the more painful moments on display here, and there are more of them than you might expect. Movies that make me laugh as hard as this one did can never be easily dismissed.

Actually, the main difference about this particular “Jackass” is the fact it was shot in 3D. This ends up giving the stunts more dimensions than anyone in the cast. Now pay attention: it was not reformatted into 3D; it was actually shot in this format. The effects here are actually very good in putting you right into the action, perhaps closer than you would ever be humanly comfortable. It’s not full of cheap 3D effects where things are just hurled at you on the big screen just because they can be. That is, except for the dildo shot out of a cannon and made to look like it is flying around the world until it smashes into some guy’s head.

I also got to tell you, male full-frontal nudity continues to make a comeback long after Jason Segel unveiled in his throbbing python of love in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” It’s not the first thing you would think of to hit a baseball with, but hey, this is “Jackass” for crying out loud! All the same, I probably shouldn’t go into too much detail over the Helicockter as it is as painful as it sounds. Then again, I would prefer it to the model town getting covered by a sudden explosion of excrement.

So anyway, you have been warned. “Jackass 3D” is by no means meant to be watched on a full stomach unless you wanna take bets over who’s going to purge first after your collective visit to the Cheesecake Factory. This one had me laughing like crazy, and I was on the edge of my seat every bit as much when I was watching “Paranormal Activity 2.” Perhaps it was even more terrifying than “Paranormal Activity 2,” but with “Jackass 3D,” no detail is spared and nothing is left to the imagination (not completely anyway).

Once again, you have been warned…

* * * out of * * * *

‘Scream 4’ – The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

WRITER’S NOTE: This review was written back in 2011.

Honestly, we needed another “Scream” movie. Since the original was released back in 1996 (YIKES!), we have had dozens upon dozens of horror movies thrust upon us. Many of them had an endless number of clear-skinned teenagers and were given PG-13 ratings which, after a while, indicated the horror genre was being watered down too much. Of course, there is the “Saw” franchise which makes the MPAA go nuts with all the copious blood and guts on display, but those plot twists always give me a massive migraine. Horror went at times from being laughingly lame to hardcore bloody, but they could never top what Asian or Japanese movies achieved. However you look at it, we needed Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson more than ever to give us their take on the continually evolving rules of surviving a horror movie.

Each generation has its own ongoing horror franchise(s) along with the occasional “remake” or “reboot.” When I look at movies from decade to decade, I eventually come to see the more things change, the more they stay the same. This is definitely the case with “Scream 4” which, while having a strong level of suspense, also has a weariness about it. In the process of dealing with a new generation of horror fans, this sequel feels no different from ones which preceded it as the old rules still apply when new ones should be installed.

So, the whole gang is back along with Craven, Williamson (sorely missed on “Scream 3”) and composer Marco Beltrami. Neve Campbell returns as Sidney Prescott who arrives back in her hometown of Woodsboro to promote her new self-help book, and she is reunited with her friends Dewey (David Arquette) who is now the Sheriff in this town, and Gayle (Courtney Cox) who has long since gotten married to him and retired from tabloid journalism. Soon after Sidney arrives, the Ghostface killings start up again. You might think this killer would be more imaginative and use another mask instead, but horror sequels are not heavy on originality, are they?

This time though, the focus of the killer’s rage appears to be on Sidney’s cousin, Jill (Emma Roberts), and it also puts her best friends Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) and Olivia (Marielle Jaffe) in the crossfire. Ghostface’s priority targets are usually teenagers, but after a while he (or she) proves to be indiscriminate as adults become easy targets as well. Oh yeah, Jill has an ex-boyfriend named Trevor (Nico Tortorella) who still wants to be a part of her life regardless of the fact she wants nothing to do with him. Does any of this sound familiar?

With “Scream 4,” the chief thing to expect is to expect the unexpected, just like with any Peter Gabriel album. I do have to hand it to Craven and Williamson though because, even after a decade, they still leave us guessing throughout who the real culprit is (or if there is more than one) and of what will happen next. The movie moves along fairly swiftly to where you really have no time to examine the logistics of everything going on. I imagine you could punch a few holes in the plot, but only after you have watched this movie. I also got a huge kick out of the beginning which plays on the reality of what we are seeing on top of the monotony of a franchise which, like Michael Meyers, just won’t die.

But it’s also the inescapable problem with “Scream 4;” we have gotten so used to expecting the unexpected to where while there is tension, the whole thing is not as scary as it used to be. I kept waiting for this sequel to get seriously scary, but it never does. Even the moments designed to make us jump up out of our seats aren’t as effective as they once were. The first “Scream” was more than just a simple satire of the horror genre, but a movie going experience which was more intense than we expected, and it reinvigorated the horror genre at a time where it was not particularly popular. With each installment, the filmmakers gleefully deconstructed horror movies while scaring us out of our wits. But with this fourth film, the enthusiasm and inventiveness are at an all-time low.

It is nice to see Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Courtney Cox back as their infamous characters. I could not help but expect Campbell to be this Ellen Ripley/Paul Kersey character by now, so used to seeing people and those closest to her get killed off in brutal fashion to where she now desires to bring her own brand of vigilante justice to whatever nemesis chooses to cross the Prescott path. Perhaps Sidney could have used a bit more of this attitude as Campbell looks a bit worn out from all those sharp pointed knives that always get pointed in her general direction. Let’s face it, running from a demented killer is nothing new for her.

Of all the veterans, Cox shines the most as we watch Gale Weathers emerge from being just another desperate housewife to someone who is desperate overcome an unwelcome writer’s block. Seeing Gale get back to her bitchy self is fun to watch. In the other movies you hated her for it, but knowing Gale for this long makes you long for her inevitable return to greedy selfishness. As a result, it gives this sequel much of its bite.

In regards to the newcomers, they are more or less designed to be types, and part of me wished they were given more dimension and depth. Emma Roberts is fun to watch as Jill Roberts, but she gets the show stolen from her by “Heroes” star Hayden Panettiere whose character of Kirby is part tease, part sharp retort, and part movie geek more than she would ever admit. She’s got a lot of sass about her which reminded me of the girls from my high school I couldn’t stand, and of the heart and soul they do have which I never took into account back then.

It’s also nice to see Rory Culkin here, having made a strong impression in “You Can Count on Me,” “Mean Creek” and “Signs.” As Charlie Walker, he represents the chief movie geek Randy Meeks was in the previous “Scream” movies. Charlie is not exactly a geek nor is he exactly one of the cool guys. In the end, he’s kind of in between those crowds like most people I know. Culkin is truly one of the perfect actors to play someone very knowledgeable about movies in general, and he gives this sequel some of its more satirical moments.

But when all is said and done though, I still came out of “Scream 4” feeling rather weary. I didn’t dislike it, and it did keep me interested throughout to where I wasn’t looking at my watch. But in the process of creating a new formula for satirizing horror movies, it ends up getting caught in the clichés of them all. Also, I felt it could have spent more time examining the endless films which came out in the past few years. This franchise was incredibly influential, and we continue to realize this with the passing years.

Still, I am open to seeing a “Scream 5.” Whatever problems this particular sequel has, I believe and hope they can be compensated for in the future. And like I said, we always need movies like “Scream” because the horror genre will constantly be its own worst enemy from one generation to the next. As it was described before, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

* * ½ out of * * * *