Nov 23 2010

Pre-Thanksgiving Roundup Review: “ThanksKilling”

Here at Critical End! we’re proud of our knowledge of holiday themed horror movies.  Why, if it weren’t for us, you wouldn’t know the true, god-awful horror of such “classics” like Valentine, Leprechaun, and Silent Night Deadly Night Parts 1 through 5. What’s our secret?  Simply put: We know that you would rather spend the holidays with your family and not watching some shitty horror movie featuring Clint Howard or a killer leprechaun.  That being said, it’s with a humble heart that I ask you to ditch your family this Thanksgiving Thursday and go out of your way to watch a little holiday themed horror film proudly called ThanksKilling.

“But, Logan,” I can can hear you whining.  “I love my family and the time spent with them!”  Yeah, well your family sucks.  This movie doesn’t.  Okay, it kinda does.  But that’s the point.  Stick with me, folks.

The tagline says it all.

ThanksKilling opens on a cue card telling us that we’re about to see the very first Thanksgiving.  It then quickly cuts to boobs.  Pilgrim boobs, that is, and not just any pilgrim boobs.  Running pilgrim boobs.  And what happens when there’s no place else for pilgrim boobs to run?  A talking turkey kills her with an axe.  Smash cut to opening credits playing over what can best be described as a remix of the Halloween theme with added “gobbles” mixed in, and I suddenly realized that something magical was unfolding on my TV screen: A horror holiday film the likes of which I hadn’t seen since Jack Frost.

There’s what you might call a plot.  Some college students are heading home for Thanksgiving break and their car breaks down.  They party and flirt, and once they get all of the wiener and tit jokes out of the way, things get going.  You guessed it: A killer turkey starts stalking and killing them one by one.  An attempt, of sorts, is made to explain the origins of the killer turkey, but I won’t bore you with the details.  Let’s just say it involves and ancient pilgrim curse and flash animation. 

The probelm is, all of this is kinda awesome.  I would go as far as to say that there are some genuinely funny moments.  Sure, the actors aren’t the best, but they understand how to play it all very “wink wink”, without completly tipping the hat.  There’s even a Trey Parker-ish musical number.  And the turkey…well, all you really need to know is that he kills people, wears disguises, and talks. 

Proof that you will like this movie.

Until Eli Roth gets around to actually making Thanksgiving, this is the most fun you’re going to have at Thanksgiving, next to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, of course.  So ditch the boring family this year and check it out.  Oh, and ThanksKilling is currently a Watch Instantly on Netflix, which makes it a perfect way to spend those last few hours of Thanksgiving night before you nod off.  Your smelly uncle won’t mind.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆
7 out of 10.

Nov 10 2010

Conan finally returns. Was it worth the wait?


Short answer?  We’ll see.

Logan and I have talked about it before, and his prediction has so far turned out to be correct: Conan’s new show is no different than either of his old shows.  It’s a talk show with some funny bits, some not-so-funny bits, and some guests.  The question is whether he’ll use the comparative freedom of cable to innovate as he becomes more confident in his new home.  Right now, my guess is no.  Not because he’s incapable of it, or because he’s lazy.  Because the man seems to legitimately love the traditional talk show format.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  The first show was strong overall.  There was a pretty great cold open with a few laugh-out-loud moments (see above), and some excellent banter with Andy who I’m glad to see return to the role of proper sidekick.  (Side note: he’ll also be handling the role of “wacky priest” in the TBS comedy Glory Daze according to a well-placed ad.)  And I hope they continue to give each episode a cheesy 70’s detective show title (the premiere’s was Baa Baa Blackmail).  Not a new gag, but one of my favorites.

I’ll continue to watch (or my DVR will) for the time being, with the confidence that even if Conan’s new show isn’t quite the revolution it might have been, at least it’s a hell of a lot harder to get cancelled on cable.  What did you, the unwashed masses think?

Sep 9 2010

Review: “Hellcats” Series Premiere

I love my girlfriend.  Who else would be willing to both make out with me and watch Cabin Boy in the same afternoon?  Granted, I think she laughs more at the thought of making out with me than she does at Cabin Boy, but I appreciate that she’s still willing to watch all of my favorite movies and shows.

Of course, I’d be a terrible boyfriend if I didn’t return the favor, which is why I just smiled when she asked if I wanted to watch the series premiere of the CW’s Hellcats with her.
“Couldn’t we just make out instead?” I asked.
“Don’t make me laugh, Logan.  Now put your pants back on.  The show’s starting.”
“Okay,” I sighed.  “But the pants are staying off, thank you very much.”

Six people with a combined total of three complete shirts.

Taking place in a post-apocalyptic future where the male population is hunted to extinction, Hellcats tells the story of- no, wait.  That’s not right.  Hellcats is about college cheerleading.  Aly Michalka (who my girlfriend tells me is from some Disney Channel show) and Ashley Tisdale (who I recognize as the girl from Disney’s High School Musical series, but with a different nose) star as two polar opposite cheerleaders who have to team up if they want to beat a rival college and save their college cheerleading program.  Aly’s Marti is a tomboy (hence the name “Marti”) who likes to do things her way, while Ashley’s Savannah is a stuck-up brat (hence the name “Savannah”) who likes to keep it by the books.  Can’t we all just get along?

HELLCATS! (in color)

Yes, it’s all very Bring It On, but for what it’s worth, the show knows that.  There’s even a rather clever training montage where Marti buys a copy of Bring It On and learns to cheer from watching it.  Sure, she is a bit too quick to fall for all of this cheerleading stuff (the episode opens with her verbally bashing the cheerleading squad and ends with her joining it), but I’m glad they didn’t waste my time over a series of episodes when we all knew the direction it was headed.

Meanwhile, Ashley Tisdale has the annoying, perky girl routine down pat.  Say what you want about her, but she knows how to play just the right amount of mean so that you still like her in a certain way.  Obviously, the fact that both of these gals are Disney kids helps, as they already know how to shake their combined bootys (booti?) when the show calls for it, which it does quite a bit.  I counted a total of three montages in 45 minutes, which may have been slightly unnecessary, but this is a show about cheerleaders after all.

In the end, it’s hard to come down on Hellcats.  Granted, I’m not the target audience for the show (it also doesn’t help that I’m hetrosexual), but it does just enough to make you want to keep watching, which is all I can ask from a CW show.  It hits it’s marks and even manages to land a few bases,  basket tosses, and cradle catches as well. 

That’s…um…cheerleading terminology, folks.

Not gay.

Hellcats Pilot Episode 
Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 6 out of 10

Jul 9 2010

Alec Baldwin Home School: She’s Having a Baby


"Set sail for FUNventure with this week's Home School!"

I know, I know!  I introduced a brand new feature four months ago and never mentioned it again.  Put all the blame squarely on me, and not on our noble hero, Alec Baldwin, who makes his triumphant return in this installment of Alec Baldwin Home School.

You can check the first post for a proper introduction to the concept, but in short, Mr. Baldwin has announced that he’s retiring from acting.  He’s not a fan of his work, and thinks he’s never turned in a worthwhile performance.  We, gentle reader, are going to test his theory by journeying through his entire filmography.  What wonders will we find?  What horrors will we endure?  Time will tell!  The fun began with Forever, Lulu and continues now with  She’s Having a Baby.

The Film
In the late 80’s, John Hughes was writing and directing every third movie Hollywood released, thanks partly to the terrifying voodoo spell that forced all others to do his bidding, and partly to his masterful knack for pairing interesting plots with identifiable characters.  Unfortunately, that talent doesn’t really shine through in 1988’s She’s Having a Baby.

Kevin Bacon plays Jake, a young newlywed struggling to pay the bills while working nights on his novel.  He’s got no clue what he wants out of life, leading him to question his marriage to Kristy, played by Elizabeth McGovern, who is far prettier than the hair and fashion of the era would have you believe.  Of course, things get even scarier when he finds out that she is–in fact–having a baby.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, because this titular turning point doesn’t happen until like an HOUR in.  We actually begin on the young couple’s wedding day.  Our hero has cold feet, and who’s there to act as the embodiment of his desire to remain footloose (get it?) and fancy free?  None other than his best pal Davis, brought to life by one Alec Baldwin.  Davis is essentially that no-account asshole friend that everybody has in college.  He’s a lot of fun, but eventually you grow out of him.  Then when you see him again 5 years later and he hasn’t changed a bit, it’s all sad and awkward.

Davis makes a half-joking attempt to convince Jake to call off the wedding.  Both Baldwin’s performance and Bacon’s narration hint that Davis would rather keep Jake all to himself.  On the surface, it’s a comment on the pseudo-marriage that develops between best friends.  Below the surface, Davis is totally gay for Jake, and Baldwin makes sure it comes through via lots of meaningful staring at things.  Then Davis disappears for a good chunk of the film, leaving Jake to deal with his new evil father-in-law, a job he hates, and plenty of pointless arguments with Kristy.

With Jake’s depressing suburban existence firmly established, Davis shows up once again.  He’s living in New York now, but he’s brought his slutty model girlfriend along for a visit.  This leads to a big fight with Kristy, giving Davis the perfect opportunity to slide in with some straight talk.  He misses Jake.  Kristy’s great, but she’s tying him down!  He can’t be a writer in the suburbs!  He should come to New York!  It’s a pretty transparent attempt to reconnect with Jake, and he declines the offer, but it’s obvious that he’s tempted.

Then there’s some more standard-issue married life drama.  Jake’s boss tells him he’ll never be a real writer.  Jake meets some chick at a club who he begins fantasizing about.  You get the idea.  Finally, in what I took as a desperate ploy to save the relationship, Kristy attempts to get pregnant by secretly going off her birth control.  This doesn’t work, mostly because it would have been pretty depressing if it had, so she comes clean to Jake and the two start trying in earnest to have a kid.  With sex itself now reduced to work, Jake is more downtrodden than ever.

"See! I told you it'd be neat if we all switched hair!"

Hey!  Davis is back!  This time he confronts Kristy about whether Jake is ready to be a father, then awkwardly hits on her.  It’s actually the movie’s best scene.  Davis, now resigned to the fact that Jake’s not coming back to him, reaches out for a connection by proxy.  Or maybe he’s just trying to screw up their relationship, whatever.  Kristy refuses, but she’s more bemused than angry, leaving Davis confused and alone.

At last, Kristy gets pregnant and everything is magically awesome again!  Not for Davis, who we never see again and who has presumably gone off to hang himself, but who cares!  After a short montage, Kristy goes into labor.  Things look touch and go for a second because there should probably be something resembling a climax at some point, then everything turns out great.  So great, that it’s revealed that Jake has finished his novel which is entitled, oh yes, “She’s Having a Baby.”

Sorry, John Hughes, but BOOOOOORRRRIIINNNG.  The movie’s front-loaded with a so many “Gee, we’re young and in love, but marriage sure is tough!” scenes that I mistook it for a film adaptation of For Better or For Worse.  It comes off as so cliche and easy.  Yes, starting a family is scary, and it’s clear that Hughes is writing from his own experience, but he brings nothing new to the trope.  Not to mention the fact that everything just kind of serendipitously  works out for Jake and Kristy, to the point that it feels like that’s the moral.  “I know it seems like every moment of your life since you said ‘I do’ has been a horrible mistake, but don’t worry!  At some point you’ll have a kid and everything will suddenly make perfect sense!”  Plus it’s slow and not that funny.

Luckily, for our purposes anyway, the highlight of the film is actually Alec Baldwin.  I’d have rather seen a movie about the mournful, sardonic, closeted homosexual who boxes up his longing for his best friend and drowns it in booze and blonds until he snaps and makes a laughable pass at the very woman who robbed him of his happiness.  But even as an ancillary character in a bland family comedy, Davis shines.  You can see his repressed feelings simmering under the surface in every scene, and he gets some of the best lines in the film, including the one I’ve quoted below, which you’ll want to adopt as your new Facebook status immediately.

My only knock is that Baldwin has the melodrama meter cranked up to dangerous levels.  Every impressive display of subtle emotion is immediately followed by a mood swing or bout of pensive smoking.  Still, I dug the performance, and I view it as a great second entry in our subject’s catalog.

Final Stats
Movie Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 5 out of 10
Baldwin Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 7 out of 10
Biggest Takeaway: This explains why that dude I played hacky sack with on the quad cried when I graduated.
Quote for Your Facebook Status: “It’s rude and it’s wrong, but it’s right on the money.”

Mar 3 2010

Tim Burton Now Apparently Taking Requests


abraham-lincoln-vampire-hunterIs it just me or is Tim Burton on total autopilot these days? I don’t want to say “parody of himself” just yet, but his most recent films are Alice in Wonderland, Sweeney Todd, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Those are just three existing stories about which somebody said “Wouldn’t it be cool if this was kind of screwed up and goth?”  Of course there’s also The Corpse Bride, which is just a version of A Nightmare Before Christmas that Burton actually bothered to direct.

Following his theme of just doing whatever my 14-year-old self would have begged him to do, he’s now on board to direct an adaptation of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which is one of them historical monster mashups done by the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies fella.  I guess that’ll be good?  Maybe?  I’m a big fan of a lot of Burton’s work, but this is such obvious material for him that I feel like I don’t even need to see it.  I wouldn’t mind seeing something from Burton that I’d never seen before, more in the vein of Big Fish than just another skewed-view re-imagining.

Well at least he’s not doing something silly like  a feature length version of Frankenweenie.

Mar 1 2010

Alec Baldwin Home School: Forever, Lulu

Alec Baldwin Cat in the Hat

"I have to go. My planet needs me."

Not too long ago, Alec Baldwin mentioned in an interview that he was retiring from acting. His exact words were:

“I consider my entire movie career a complete failure. The goal of movie-making is to star in a film where your performance drives the film, and the film is either a soaring critical or commercial success, and I never had that.”

Could this really be true? Not about the retirement, I predict he’ll pull a Dan Aykroyd in no time. I mean could Baldwin be right about his career? The guy’s been a name forever; certainly he must have turned in at least one outstanding performance.

Well, we’re going to find out in a new Critical End! feature that Logan and I are calling Home School. A Home School will be a series of posts that takes a chronological look at a group of related films. This could be a bunch of sequels like the Friday the 13th films, or the catalog of a particular actor or director. By the end, we’ll have taken an interesting little journey, obtained some perspective on the subject matter, and likely filled in some gaps in our cinematic education. All from the comfort of our couches (hence “Home School”). This inaugural installment will explore the entirety of Alec Baldwin’s catalog in an attempt to test the actor’s own hypothesis that he’s never done anything worthwhile. Join us, won’t you?

Alec Baldwin Home School: Forever, Lulu (1987)
Not to be confused with the Melanie Griffith/Patrick Swayze movie of the same name, Forever, Lulu (AKA Crazy Streets) is the 1987 comedy that marks the feature film debut of one Alec Baldwin. According to IMDb, he’d been floating around TV since 1980, most notably on Knots Landing. But since that season isn’t on DVD yet, we’re going to keep things simple and start here. Joining Alec is Debbie Harry of Blondie fame, and Hanna Schygulla, who I’d never heard of, but is apparently an incredibly well known German actress. See? We’re learning things already.

The Film
Forever, LuluSchygulla stars as Elaine, a wannabe author living in New York. Her sleazy manager won’t publish her novel because it’s not sexy enough, but she refuses to compromise her artistic vision, even though she’s down to her last nickel. She’s so destitute that she ends up taking a job writing the script for a porn movie just to make ends meet. Not a bad premise for a late 80s comedy. Except that’s apparently not the premise.

I guess she finishes the porn script off-camera, because it’s barely mentioned again. Instead, we get scene after scene of Elaine’s miserable existence. She sulks in her shitty apartment, gets grifted by a con artist, and complains about her love life to her annoying gal-pal sidekick who is NOT Debbie Harry. Occasionally, Debbie shows up in the periphery to stare knowingly and say absolutely nothing. It’s as if she’s in the talky introduction of a music video and she’s waiting for her cue to break into song.

Finally, more than 20 minutes in (and not a Baldwin in sight), Elaine grabs a gun and prepares to blow her brains out. Unfortunately, she’s interrupted by a phone call to go on a blind date. She agrees, but the date goes so poorly that she ends up running into the street, waving her gun in the air, and yelling about her crappy life. An approaching couple mistakenly thinks she’s mugging them, so they give her their coats and run. In the pockets, she finds a picture of Debbie Harry signed “Forever, Lulu” and a mysterious address.  Now, the story begins!

Alec Baldwin young and hairy

There is no visual record of "Buck", so enjoy this picture of a young Baldwin posing for Young and Hairy Quarterly.

Well, kind of. First we get several more boring scenes of Elaine whining indecisively and parading around in her stolen mink coat. Some goon recognizes the coat (I think?) and tries to mug her, but she’s rescued handily by Buck, a strapping NYC cop portrayed by, you guessed it, Alec Baldwin. We’re 28 minutes in, but our hero has finally arrived to awkwardly hit on Elaine, get rejected, and then disappear again for most of the film.

Then a bunch of other crap happens. She goes to the address, witnesses a murder, and ends up stealing a briefcase full of money from the mob. So the mob’s looking for her and she’s got to decide what to do with the cash. It’s been like 45 minutes at this point, and I THINK this is now supposed to be the real premise of the film. Except all she does is sit around and brood some more before deciding to turn the case over to the cops.

Yep, no wacky Blank Check style spending spree, she just comes clean about the whole thing. But, she’s able to turn her story into a best-selling book! Now a famous author, she hobnobs with the rich and famous in another series of long, uneventful scenes. Meanwhile, gangsters halfheartedly try to kill her, and Debbie Harry continues to drop in to stand around silently. There’s also some oddly casual nudity from Schygulla, and an appearance by Wayne Knight as a shoe-licker in a fetish club. None of this actually advances the plot.

At about an hour and 15 minutes, the mobsters finally manage to capture Elaine and…I guess demand an apology? It’s pretty damn unclear what they actually want since she already told the police everything and doesn’t have the money anymore. Anyway, they’re about to kill her when Officer Baldwin makes his triumphant return and saves the day. In the process, the picture of Debbie Harry is splashed by some clearly-labeled Paul Newman salad dressing, which reveals a secret message!

The photo actually concealed the names of the city’s biggest drug dealers. Alec instantly recognizes the names, leading me to wonder why a list of already-known drug dealers would be at all valuable. At any rate, with the three thugs dead, clearly nobody will every bother Elaine again, so she and Alec celebrate by getting it on in the back of a dirty mob-owned fish market. In the last scene, Elaine finally runs into Debbie Harry, recognizes her as Lulu, kinda shrugs at the coincidence, and walks away.

Forever Lulu: The Apple

Obviously, Alec Baldwin wasn’t yet a star, so I wasn’t that shocked that he plays a glorified bit part. But I gotta tell you, for a film with the tagline “Two outrageous women are turning New York City upside-down!” I expected a story with at least two women. Take a look at the DVD cover again. It’s a production shot from that final scene, the only notable time Debbie Harry actually interacts with Hanna Schygulla. If all those wistful glances were supposed to be significant enough to elevate Harry to co-star status, I guess that significance was lost on me. And I don’t buy that the best friend is the other woman either, as she’s mostly an afterthought.

Anyway, no one was expecting the first film in Baldwin’s catalog to validate his career, and it certainly doesn’t, but he escapes mostly unscathed. In a movie that manages to feel interminable at 85 minutes, Baldwin’s scenes are a welcome relief. This is partly because he has the good fortune of being in the few scenes that actually shove the plot forward. But it’s also due to Baldwin’s undeniable likability, a theme I’m pretty sure we’ll see repeated as we continue our voyage up his IMDb page. His performance is hammy and one-dimensional here, but you just can’t help enjoying it at least a little.

So that’s our first Home School. I promise they won’t all be so long. Next time, we’ll take a look at She’s Having a Baby, which provides a bigger role for Baldwin and a bit more opportunity for critique.

Final Stats
Movie Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆  4 out of 10
Baldwin Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆  5 out of 10
Biggest Takeaway: Hanna Schygulla is difficult to watch when clothed. Further study needed.
Quote for Your Facebook Status: “Have you ever made love to an older woman in a fish store?”

Jan 5 2010

Stephen King’s Top Films of 2009

This man has more money than you'll ever see in your entire life.

In the upcoming week you’ll get a chance to both hear and read your ol’ pals Logan and Ryan’s “Top Ten Films of 2009” lists.  Until then, why not read what Stephen King has to say over at Entertainment Weekly.  I think he’s put together a great list (featuring several films that have made most peoples “worst” lists), and I’m especially fond of what he had to say about both the original Last House on the Left and the 2009 remake.

Dec 21 2009

Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker

It’s once again that time of year when families gather around the warm glow of the television and watch such holiday classics as It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Home Alone, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation to name a few.  Sure, your pals here at Critical End! watch those too, but when the hour grows late, the fire has died down, and the kids from Ryan’s third marriage have all gone to bed, that’s when the real Christmas fun begins.  Logan mixes his “special” eggnog (Ingredients: Eggnog, mostly booze), while Ryan warms up the DVD player for those holiday slasher films known as Silent Night, Deadly Night.  This year, in honor of the birth of Christ our savior (Okay, and the release of Parts 3 to 5 on DVD), we thought we’d let Logan share his opinion on each film in a special 5 part series each week until Christmas. 

silent5This week Logan concludes with a look at Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker. 

Body Count: 4?  Boring!

Best Death Scene: A worm-like toy called, and I swear I’m not making this up, “Larry the Larvae”, crawls into a guys mouth and later explodes out of his eye socket…then his car blows up.  Talk about a rough day…

Looking back now in retrospect, if I knew that the Silent Night, Deadly Night series was going to completely suck, I wouldn’t have told you that the earlier movies sucked.  Just when I thought that I had expierenced the most suckage that I could from the series, I had to go and ruin it by watching parts 3 to 5…and to think that I waited all this time just to buy these last three films on DVD.  There’s a simple reason why they took so long to come out: Because these films should be destroyed.  Yes, when I started this whole mess I never thought that I would side with Mickey Rooney, but now I see how right he was!  The only problem: By the time Part 5 came out, even Mickey Rooney had forgotten how right he was.

Some of you horror nerds may know the name Brian Yuzna as the writer/director of the last two Re-Animator movies.  Remember after you saw the first Re-Animator (he had nothing to do with it) and you had high hopes for all of the sequels?  Well, don’t worry, as he went on to ruin the Silent Night, Deadly Night series as well.  Granted, this series never had the amazingly awesome Jeffrey Combs to keep it slightly afloat (Can you imagine him as a killer Santa?  Somebody write that movie!), in fact, now that I think about it, Yuzna turned Clint Howard into the star of these last two films.  Doesn’t that just say it all?

I think this picture says it all.

I think this picture says it all.

But I promised a review, so I’ll attempt to deliver one: Mickey Rooney, despite his hatred of the 1984 original film’s portrayal of a killer Santa Claus, shows up as the killer Santa in this one.  Of course, this isn’t until the last 15 minutes of the film.  By that point the viewer has been forced to sit through some cocktail napkin plot that plays out like a soap opera.  Why won’t little Derek talk?  Who is his real dad?  Why is he the same boy who played little Bill in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey?  Is he supposed to be Bill in this movie too?  Why is Mickey Rooney so fat?  Did they pay him entirely in hoagies?  If so, I wonder how much that many hoagies would cost?  By the time you learn the answers to most of these questions, you no longer care.  Oh, and it turns out that Mickey Rooney wasn’t even the killer Santa…a robot Mickey Rooney was.  How’s that for a twist ending?

So where does this film fall in the entire series?  Flat on it’s fat ol’ bloated Mickey Rooney/Clint Howard dildo wearing face, that’s where.  Granted, this is where the last three films have mostly landed as well, but I really wanted to type the words “Clint Howard” and “dildo” again.  It really brought a lot of traffic to the site when I did it last week.  Anyway, my final thoughts on the Silent Night, Deadly Night series are thus: Watch the second one only…and only if you’re REALLY in need of a Christmas film…and drunk…and blind…and mostly deaf in both ears…you know, come to think of it, you may want to avoid Christmas altogether this year so you don’t accidentally see any of these movies…Clint Howard dildo.

 Rating: ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆
2 out of 10

Series Average:
Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆
3 out of 10

I really hope that you guys and gals enjoyed this series.  As always, we love your thoughts, requests, and comments on anything we do here at Critical End!  Have a great holiday.

Dec 13 2009

Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4

It’s once again that time of year when families gather around the warm glow of the television and watch such holiday classics as It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Home Alone, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation to name a few.  Sure, your pals here atCritical End! watch those too, but when the hour grows late, the fire has died down, and the kids from Ryan’s third marriage have all gone to bed, that’s when the real Christmas fun begins.  Logan mixes his “special” eggnog (Ingredients: Eggnog, mostly booze), while Ryan warms up the DVD player for those holiday slasher films known as Silent Night, Deadly Night.  This year, in honor of the birth of Christ our savior (Okay, and the release of Parts 3 to 5 on DVD), we thought we’d let Logan share his opinion on each film in a special 5 part series each week until Christmas. 

silentnightdeadly4This week Logan looks at Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4. 

Body Count: 5 (…wha?  Only 5?!)

Best Death Scene: Whatever you do, NEVER beat Clint Howard with a broom.  It’ll make him mad enough to stab you to death with a butter knife.

I’ll be frank: I have no clue what the hell Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 was about.  I had a hard enough time trying to wrap my head around the odd arrangement of the title.  I think it involved bugs…no wait, that’s not right…I think it involved lesbian bugs.  Is that even possible?  What the hell is going on here?  All I remember for sure is that it started off so great…


Want to see this face do a whole lot of things that should be illegal? Rent this movie.

Picture this: We open on a cold, windy December night on some rat infested back street.  The city is quiet, save for a low clicking sound.  As the clicking grows louder, we realize that it’s the broken wheel on a shopping cart being pushed by a bum who hasn’t showered in weeks.  This bum: Clint Howard.  He stops his cart as something shiny catches his eye in the gutter.  Bum Clint Howard bends down and picks up the bug infested remains of a soggy hamburger.  Ever the happy go lucky hobo, he sighs and says to himself, “What?  No cheese?”  Suddenly a scream is heard!  Clint looks up just in time to see a woman jump from a building!  And she’s on fire too!  Freakin’ awesome!  Cut to: opening credits.  Sounds great, right?  Well, that’s about as good as this “movie” ever gets.  Not caring if I give too much away, I think we can safely say that this film is seriously crazy ass insane.  That’s not a good thing.  Ditching the Ricky/killer Santa story line completely, this film attempts to pull a Halloween III and take the franchise in a whole new direction.  The “story” this time has to do a young investigative reporter hot on the trail of a murder in which Bum Clint Howard is the only witness.  This would be okay if she wasn’t the WORST investigative reporter of all time.  Not only does she allow herself to get drugged twice, but at one unintentionally hilarious point in the film, she literally stands on a HUGE clue for an entire scene and never notices it.  Anyway, when she eventually wises up a bit too late, all of the evidence leads her into a second and third act that involves, and I kid you not, lesbian bugs.  Oh, and then the film gets weird: Cockroaches grow huge, Clint Howard watches clips from Silent Night, Deadly Night 3 while a couple has sex in a bed behind him, and the lead reveals she’s Jewish despite the Christmas theme of the film.  Around the time that Howard strapped a dildo to his face while three old women rubbed grease all over his hairy chest, I started to think that maybe somebody had spiked my eggnog.

Alas, that wasn’t the case.  Turns out that Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 is just as strange as it’s title.  What exactly the “initiation” mentioned in the title was, I can’t quite say.  All I do know for sure is that I some how survived it…and I will NOT be doing it again next Christmas.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆
2 out of 10

Next week: Oh God, I have another week of this?!  After watching this film, I never want to see another movie again.  In fact, I now hate movies AND Christmas.  Damn, you Howard.  Sigh…next week the series comes to an end with a story about killer toys.  Oh, and I fully expect them to be killer lesbian toys as well.

Dec 9 2009

Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!

It’s once again that time of year when families gather around the warm glow of the television and watch such holiday classics as It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Home Alone, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation to name a few.  Sure, your pals here at Critical End! watch those too, but when the hour grows late, the fire has died down, and the kids from Ryan’s third marriage have all gone to bed, that’s when the real Christmas fun begins.  Logan mixes his “special” eggnog (Ingredients: Eggnog, mostly booze), while Ryan warms up the DVD player for those holiday slasher films known as Silent Night, Deadly Night.  This year, in honor of the birth of Christ our savior (Okay, and the release of Parts 3 to 5 on DVD), we thought we’d let Logan share his opinion on each film in a special 5 part series each week until Christmas. 

silent-night-deadly-night-3This week Logan looks at Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!

Body Count: 11 (But once again, 3 of those are from clips of the first movie)

Best Death Scene: According to this film, the worst thing you could say to somebody in a coma is, “Who’s your favorite singer?  Perry Coma?”  Chances are they’ll wake up and kill you for telling lame jokes.

Let’s get one thing straight: Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2, despite it’s awesome gayness, was not a box office hit…or maybe it was, but only because it cost around ten bucks and a six pack of Coors to make.  Whatever the case, the powers that be decided that it was time for the series to return to what made it huge in the first place: home video.  1989’s Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! was the first of three direct to video sequels, and the only one not to feature Clint Howard.  For many, that’s all the review you’ll need to read right there.

BOO!  Hey, kids!  Mickey rooney here to remind you that I hate these movies!  See you in Part 5!

BOO! Hey, kids! Mickey Rooney here to remind you that I hate these movies! See you in Part 5!

It’s been six years since Ricky went on his Christmas Eve killing spree.  It appears that he suffered some sort of head injury at the end of the last film that would cause a team of doctors to encase his brain in a glass dome.  While this sounds like the coolest thing since Jason got his hockey mask, it’s actually far, far from it.  Due to this, Ricky now stumbles around drooling and acting like Frankenstein’s monster, which, granted, isn’t that far from the way he acted in the last two films, now he just has an excuse.  Oh, and the movie finds every excuse possible to put him in a goofy hat to cover the dome.  This also isn’t as great as it sounds.  Why?  Because for some reason the director (who has the impossibly awesome name “Monte Hellman”), seemed to be under the impression that this was a drama.  The story concerns an annoying blind girl who has some sort of psychic connection with the dome-headed Ricky.  While it takes most crappy horror series a while to get to “the sequel with the hot clairvoyant chick” (see Friday the 13th Part VIII, or Halloween 6 in which said hot chick is Paul Rudd), the Silent Night, Deadly Night series must have known that it was going to fizzle out early and decided to jump the gun.  Anyway, for reasons beyond me, blind chick agrees to spend Christmas with her brother (one of two Twin Peaks stars who appear in the film), and his destined-to-have-a-nude-scene girlfriend.  Everything is going fine until Ricky literally hitchhikes to them (would you pick up a guy in a hospital gown with a glass dome on his head?) in an attempt to “connect” with annoying blind girl.  Oh, and for some reason I Spy‘s Robert Culp is there too, but only to promote some new gadget called a “cell phone”.  It’s all very loony.

While Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 1 was trashy fun, and Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 was a train wreck classic, Better Watch Out! is just bad.  It would appear that the killer Santa that outraged parents in 1984 had finally run it’s course, and as the series moved into the 90’s we all knew that there was only one thing that could save it…

Next week: …KILLER BUGS.

Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!
 Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆
3 out of 10


Dec 7 2009

Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2

It’s once again that time of year when families gather around the warm glow of the television and watch such holiday classics as It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Home Alone, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation to name a few.  Sure, your pals here at Critical End! watch those too, but when the hour grows late, the fire has died down, and the kids from Ryan’s third marriage have all gone to bed, that’s when the real Christmas fun begins.  Logan mixes his “special” eggnog (Ingredients: Eggnog, mostly booze), while Ryan warms up the DVD player for those holiday slasher films known as Silent Night, Deadly Night.  This year, in honor of the birth of Christ our savior (Okay, and the release of Parts 3 to 5 on DVD), we thought we’d let Logan share his opinion on each film in a special 5 part series each week until Christmas. 

2posterThis week Logan looks at Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2.

Body Count: 24 (But to be fair, 12 of those are from clips of the first movie)

Best Death Scene: One poor soul is killed simply because it’s garbage day and he’s disposing some trash.  Fellas, let this be a lesson next time the wife/girlfriend wants you to take the garbage out.

Oh, where to start?  I guess I need to get the most important thing about this movie out of the way first: Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is my favorite bad movie of all time.  Yes, some people may tell you that you could never get worse than, say, Troll 2, or to a more recent extent, The Room, but for my money, this film has them all beat.  And do you want to know the weirdest part about the whole thing?  More than one third of Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is made up of, yeah, you guessed it, clips of Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 1 MINUS most of the gore and nudity.

Following the video success of the first film, producers begin to search for a way to extend its shelf life a bit.  Due mostly to the fact that nobody in Hollywood likes to use their brain (See any Adam Sandler film for further analysis), they collectively decided that the best thing to do would be to hire an editor to re-cut the film, adding two more scenes that would, get this, feature a mental patient telling the story which would have  made the original film appear to be nothing more than the ravings of a lunatic.  Hollywood, this is why you have no friends.

2poseLucky for us, Director/Editor Lee Harry (and yes, that is his actual screen credit in the movie), and a team of six writers decided that the movie needed a bit more.  Now, when I say a bit more what I really mean is about 30 minutes of new material.  The rest, as I mentioned above, is nothing but clips from the first movie edited for content.  Wow, it took six writers to come up with that?  Maybe this film was some sort of tax write off…whatever the case, the movie comes across like the equivalent of listening to your drunk Uncle Steve attempt to explain the first film.  It’s now several years later and Billy’s little brother, Ricky, is all grown up and in the nut house.  How he got there is the only real mystery in the movie (Spoiler: He killed lots of people), and is revealed mostly through what I have dubbed “eyebrow acting” and in flashbacks that bring the grand total of Ricky actors to a staggering EIGHT people.  My God, that’s a lot of eyebrow acting.  At one point the film really jumps the rails (and Ricky’s eyebrows threaten to jump off his face), when he decides that he needs to flashback to his first date.  The movie then becomes a love story about a killer Santa for a few minutes.  The best part?  They go to see Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 1 on their first date.  Just when we thought the film had finally stopped showing clips from the first movie, the filmmakers decided that what we really wanted to see was people watching the first film.  God, I love this movie.

Oh, there’s more, but just take my word for it: Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is NOT to be missed.  If you’re a lover of bad films, then this will be like the holy grail for you.  I can’t end this review without mentioning the fact that this film features one of my all time favorite lines and scenes from any movie ever.  The clip from this scene is all over YouTube, but it’s worthless unless you actually made it through the rest of the film.  I guess what I’m saying is that you have to work for it…and believe me: It’s worth every second.  Happy Garbage Day, folks!

Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆
3 out of 10

In three days: Ricky returns for some more yuletide slayings, but due to the head injury he received in the last film, he now wears his brain in a glass dome.  GENIUS.


Nov 29 2009

Silent Night, Deadly Night

It’s once again that time of year when families gather around the warm glow of the television and watch such holiday classics as It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Home Alone, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation to name a few.  Sure, your pals here at Critical End! watch those too, but when the hour grows late, the fire has died down, and the kids from Ryan’s third marriage have all gone to bed, that’s when the real Christmas fun begins.  Logan mixes his “special” eggnog (Ingredients: Eggnog, mostly booze), while Ryan warms up the DVD player for those holiday slasher films known as Silent Night, Deadly Night.  This year, in honor of the birth of Christ our savior (Okay, and the release of Parts 3 to 5 on DVD), we thought we’d let Logan share his opinion on each film in a special 5 part series each week until Christmas. 

silentnight1This week Logan looks at Silent Night, Deadly Night.

Body Count: 13
Best Death Scene: Death by impaling on a stuffed antelope’s horns?  Count me in!

Silent Night, Deadly Night is the cult slasher that was so highly offensive that, get this, C.A.M.M. (that’s Citizens Against Movie Madness in case you were wondering) decided that they needed to boycott its 1984 theatrical release.  Several “concerned” parents felt that the image of Santa with a bloody ax was going too far.  Hell, they even got Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney to join their letter writing campaign to TriStar Pictures (Never mind the fact that Rooney himself would later star in Part 5).  Want to know the kicker?  All of this worked.  That’s right, after two weeks in only a handful of theaters, Silent Night, Deadly Night died a quiet death.  Luckily, it was the early ’80’s and people were enjoying the spoils of a rather new gadget called VCRs.  It was here that the film really took off, quickly selling close to a million copies on VHS and becoming a cult hit.

So was all the uproar really worth it?  Yes, actually.  This movie is pretty damn gory, full of needless nudity, and, truth be told, rather fun.  It opens on Christmas Eve 1971 with 5 year old Billy and his newborn brother Ricky accompanying their parents to visit their crazy old Grandfather.  Crazy old Grandfather warns them that they better run when they see Santa tonight, but do they listen?  No, because he’s crazy and old.  On the way back home the family happens to run into a maniac dressed like Santa who shoots the father and rapes the mom in front of the two kids.  Outraged yet, Mickey Rooney?silentnight2

Needless to say, Billy grows up hating Santa and working at, of all places, a freakin’ toy store.  It’s also the only toy store that I’ve ever seen with easy access to a huge fire ax (It’s located next to the board games and stuffed animals).  Well, we all know what happens from here.  Through a series of events (mostly told by way of a cheesy ’80’s montage), Billy ends up dressing up as the store Santa.  A sleazy, tight pants, co-worker hitting on Billy’s best gal is all it takes to send Billy into a Christmas Eve/morning killing spree with the above mentioned ax…but not before using a bow and arrow to dispatch one unlucky victim.  Why this toy store sells real bow and arrow sets is beyond me, but who am I to question the practices of Ira’s Toys?

From here until the “shocking” ending things are pretty much your typical ’80’s slasher film with something of a budget.  That is to say that Silent Night, Deadly Night is really no different than any fun, trashy horror film along the lines of the original Friday the 13th.  Yes, it’s garbage, no doubt, but it’s a great time if this is your sort of thing.  I could honestly recommend this for your yearly alcohol fueled Christmas party, if not for the existence of Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2…but we’ll get to that next week.  Until then, why not find a copy of Part 1 and check it out this holiday season?  Tell them Mickey Rooney sent you.

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆
5 out of 10

Next week: Little baby brother Ricky picks up where Billy left off and delivers one of Logan’s five favorite film lines of all time in Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2. 


Nov 19 2009

Bored to Death? More like BORED to Death!



Okay, Bored to Death, what the hell?  I’ve given you like five episodes at this point and not only do you refuse to get good, you refuse to even acknowledge your premise.

Jason Schwartzman as neurotic Philip Marlowe = Comedy Gold.  So why does this show exploit none of the tropes of the genre its ostensibly riffing on?  Every episode is a boring Point A to Point B slog with almost no mystery.  It’s much more a male Sex in the City than anything else.  Ted Danson is pretty much the only reason I’m still watching, but if the series doesn’t deliver on the second half of its first two-parter this weekend, it’ll be time for me to give up and go back to waiting for Slackers 2.

Sep 9 2009

Logan’s Top Five College Films of All Freakin’ Time

I think South Park said it best: “There’s a time and place for everything- and it’s called college.”  The following movies are the finest examples of why this statement is true.  They’re also insanely funny, highly quotable, and will hopefully remind you why it was worth the money you’re still paying on those student loans.

5.  National Lampoon’s Van Wilder (2002)van wilder
“Crazy kids with their crazy VDs.”
-Van Wilder
Allow me to be honest: National Lampoon’s Van Wilder has an incredibly weak script, a finale that revolves around lots of pooping, and the “acting” ability of one Ms. Tara Reid.  But you know what?  It’s easy to forget about all of that when you have Ryan “I swear I’m not Chevy Chase” Reynolds as your title character.  This was the role that finally brought him to Hollywood’s attention and it saves what otherwise would have been yet another straight to DVD National Lampoon film. 
Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆  7 out of 10 

4.  National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)animal-house
“Grab a brew.  Don’t cost nothin’.”

There’s really not much I can say about this film that you don’t already know.  If you went to college/been within 20 feet of a college/heard of the word “college” before, then you’ve most likely already seen this film more times than you care to mention.  What can I say?  It’s a classic.
Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆  7 out of 10

3.  The Rules of Attraction (2002)rules1
“He’s not OD-ing.  He’s a freshman.  Freshmen don’t OD.”
-Paul Denton
Chances are that you’ve never heard of Roger Avary, which is a shame.  Here’s what you don’t know: He’s the other guy who won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Pulp Fiction.  Yeah, he could have cashed in on the  Tarantino name for years to come, but he chose instead to take his career as a writer/director in a different direction when he adapted Bret Easton Ellis’ satirical 1987 novel. Unlike the other films on this list, this is not a college movie about the goofy guy with the wacky friends that gets the girl in the end…this is a film about the people you tried your best to avoid in college.  Oh, and as long as you’re not easily offended, it’s also damn funny.
 Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆  8 out of 10    

2.  Slackers (2002)slackers
“I like you.  I’ll probably give you a nickname.”
-Cool Ethan
I always thought that this would be one of those little seen comedies that would slowly build a large underground following, much like Office Space.  Seven years later (and a 4.8 average rating on IMDB) and I’m still wondering when it’s going to happen.  The biggest problem that people seem to have with this movie is that Jason Schwartzman is not acting like he’s in a Wes Anderson film.  Unlike Anderson, it’s obvious that the director of Slackers just let Schwartzman go nuts with the character.  That, combined with Critical End! fav Devon Sawa and a large cast of people you’ll recognize from the late 90’s, make this a must see.  Oh,and good luck getting this Schwartzman written closing tune out of your head:

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆  8 out of 10 

1.  Dead Man on Campus (1998)deadman
“You can’t be suicidal if you’re singing show tunes!”
Looking back, it seems like it was one of those all too rare nights when the comedy gods were on my side: It was my second night of college life.  I was in an entirely new world surrounded by strange people and experiences which I was totally unprepared for…when suddenly this movie came on TV and taught me everything I would need to know about the next few years.  Simply put, Dead Man on Campus is the greatest film about college life ever made.  It’s one of those sneaky films that you’ll find yourself quoting for months after and wanting to watch again and again.  While the very funny and original script is to blame for much of this, it’s really hard to mention this movie without bringing up the fact that it should have launched Mark Paul Gosselaar’s post Saved by the Bell career.  This is definitely one of those “time and place” movies, the likes of which we may not see again for a long time.
Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆  9 out of 10

Okay, now it’s your turn.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know what I missed.

Jul 11 2009

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

Everything I know about dancing I learned from repeat viewings of this movie.

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆
Crispin Glover’s “Dead Fuck” Dance Rating: ★★★★★★★★★★