Movie Reviews – 44

The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
I knew that Alexander Aja’s remake of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes was well received by audiences are critics alike, but I’m kind of in a quandary as to how I feel about it myself. The movie is a surprisingly verbatim retelling of the story of a desert nomadic tribe of freaks wreaking havoc, torture and murder on an extended family of travelers that cross their isolated road. But that is the problem problem I had with the film. Having only recently watched the original for the first time only a few months ago, I was basically watching the same movie over again. Sure this time it was no nickel and dime budget so the effects and especially the makeup were noticeably improved. But up until near the very end, it was basically the same. The few changes at the end were extremely good and much appreciated, but I can’t help feeling that an opportunity was squandered in not revamping more. I know it almost sounds silly complaining that not enough changes were made when the usual complaint about remakes is that there is too much of a departure from the source material. But I now see that sometimes staying too close can be bad as well. The good news is that this makes the movie great for people who’ve never seen the original. And because it was a good movie to start with, the remake is also a good movie. Its just that those who’ve are familiar with the original may not really need to see this one.

Soldier (1998)
I remember when Kurt Russell was a teen making popcorn movies for Disney like “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes” or “The Strongest Man in the World”. Even before that he had an extensive career in movies and TV as a child actor. But it was only in the early eighties with movie like “Escape from New York” and “The Thing” that he outgrew his teen typecasting and really hit his stride professionally. Not quite Schwarzenegger or Stallone, he was a distant third in the class of hulking actors, but intelligent where the other guys were all broad and no brains. Soldier was an ambitious SF movie that missed the mark but it does have some redeeming qualities. Raised from birth as a human military tool in a secret government school of brainwashed boys, Todd 3465, as he is called, is literally dumped as garbage on a colony planet. Like his own discarded self, the colonists have been ‘forgotten’ by mankind and cannot even return to civilization without any working ships of their own. All they can do is watch the occasional automated garbage ships come and dump more junk. Todd is reluctantly accepted into the colony but his lack of emotion and other normal human attributes eventually leads him to be cast out from the colonists camp. But when the Earthlings take a second stab at colonizing the planet and the existing colonists are just in the way, it’s Todd 3465 to the rescue. Even sweeter is the fact that the cleansing crew are the very people who dumped Todd in the first place. I can’t give this movie a thumbs up but even in his stoic character here there is still something about Kurt Russell that shines through and makes the movie watchable albeit barely. It’s that same something the comes through when “Stuntman Mike” in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof turns directly to the camera for split second and he has the look in his eye. And that’s what this movie is all about. Kurt Russell soldiering on in Hollywood.

Insidious (2010)
At one point while watching Insidious I said to myself “I’ve seen all of this before.” Indeed, anyone familiar with Poltergeist will find themselves in oddly familiar ground. The mother of family who have a kid in a coma starts seeing ghosts in their house so they move to another house only to have the ghosts re-appear. At one point they call in a couple of guys who have lots of high-tech ghost detection gear (and a few low-tech ones as well) and when these ghost hunters have seen enough they call in an old lady who has psychic abilities that never fail. Those are the similarities with Poltergeist but there are a number of differences as well. For one thing there is a creepy factor going on here that goes way beyond the mild family horror of a movie like Poltergeist. The focus is really on the mom and her questioned credibility. The spook scenes are very effective and even had me a little jumpy, which is quite a feat I assure you. The back story is decent and credible as far as it goes, but it’s the scares that are what this movie is all about. Thumbs up for my money.

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One Response to “Movie Reviews – 44”

  1. Aloha Mister Hand Says:

    Never seen Soldier, but The Hills Have Eyes and Insidious were great!:) Nice post!

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