Top Five

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2014

Written and Directed by Chris Rock

Produced by Eli Bush, Barry Diller and Scott Rudin

IAC films/Scott Rudin Productions/Paramount Pictures

“Sometimes it’s just a movie”

“It’s never just a movie.”

Those lines of dialog are spoken by the two main characters in one of the first scenes of TOP FIVE: The first line is spoken by Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) a journalist from The New York Times who is assigned to interview the speaker of the second line; Andre Allen (Chris Rock). Andre is the hottest comedian in America, having made a fortune and success in film with his “Hammy The Bear” series in which he plays a cop in a bear suit. Andre is eager to break out of comedy and show what he can do as a dramatic actor. The same day he is being interviewed by Chelsea is also the day his new movie “Uprize” hits the theaters. It’s a movie about the Haitian Uprising and Andre has pinned all his hopes for his future career on this movie. At the same time he’s preparing for his wedding to Bravo’s reality TV star Eric Long (Gabrielle Union). It’s going to be quite a day. And thankfully for us, the audience it’s going to be a very funny and even thought provoking one as well.

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Those two lines are repeated a couple of times in the movie and I have to believe that as the writer of the movie Chris Rock wants them to stand out and not let us forget them as we watch TOP FIVE. Because yes, it is just a movie but at the same time it’s not just a movie. For 102 minutes Chris Rock makes us laugh until we pee in our pants, sure. But in the same movie he also has some extremely insightful and perceptive things to say about reality TV, addiction to not just alcohol but to fame, the joys and fears of being a celebrity, race, politics and relationships as well. Halfway through the movie it suddenly hit me what it reminded me of; Woody Allen’s “Stardust Memories” which itself was influenced by Fellini’s “81/2.” Not a bad pedigree if you ask me.

And much like “Stardust Memories” even though there’s a lot of extremely funny scenes in TOP FIVE it can’t rightly be called a straight up and down comedy. There’s a lot of pathos and brutal honesty in scenes such as when Andre returns to his old neighborhood so that Chelsea can interview his ex-girlfriend (Sherri Shepherd) and some of his boys (one of them played by Tracy Morgan). They claim that Andre was a lot funnier when he was drunk or high and Andre is pretty much sure that they’re right. He quit drinking after a harrowing weekend in Houston with Jazzy Dee (Cedric The Entertainer) but the stress of the wedding and the movie opening is causing him to seriously think about throwing sobriety out of the window. It’s a concern to his faithful boyhood friend and now bodyguard Silk (J.B. Smoove) who is trying to bag himself a date with every full-figured woman he meets while keeping an eye on his boss.

As Andre and Chelsea go through the day with Andre preparing for the wedding and doing interviews for the movie, they talk about their lives, their families and what exactly it is that they’re doing with their lives and why. It’s serious stuff, yeah, but there are some downright goofy moments that have you gasping with laughing such as the bachelor party where Whoopi Goldberg, Adam Sandler and Jerry Seinfeld give Andre marriage advice. Or Chelsea explaining her boyfriend Brad and his sexual preferences.

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It’s refreshing to be able to say that I truly didn’t think that there’s a single bad performance in the movie. Maybe it’s because most of the cast members are only on screen for a few minutes at a time and so were able to give their best, which they certainly did. Chris Rock certainly put together a diverse and eclectic cast. Besides those I’ve already named you also have Luis Guzman, Opie and Anthony, Taraji P. Henson, Gabourey Sidibe (who shows here as she did in “Tower Heist” that she has a definite talent for comedy) Ben Vereen and Kevin Hart. And there’s a really surprising cameo that takes place in a jail cell that is not only downright surrealistic but for me, was the biggest laugh in the movie.

So should you see TOP FIVE? Without a doubt, Yes. It’s vulgar, it’s gross at times (watch out for that scene in Houston) and it shifts back and forth between comedy and drama with no warning at all and may make you wonder at times as if you should be laughing at what you’re laughing at. But it also manages to be a psychological study of a talented man still trying to figure out what he wants his life to be and a really interesting romantic story as well. Not many people can claim to be able to look at their own public image and explore it objectively but I think that’s exactly what Chris Rock is doing in TOP FIVE and he does it very well. I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing what he does next. Go see and enjoy with my blessing.

Rated R: And that R rating ain’t just for show. There’s drug and alcohol use, male and female nudity, fairly explicit sex and raw language. This is most definitely NOT for the kids so if you’re going to go see it, stop being cheap and spring for a babysitter. Leave the kids at home. And if you’ve got sensitive ears and eyes you yourself may want to give this a pass.

102 Minutes

Big Hero 6

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2014

Walt Disney Pictures/Walt Disney Animation Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams

Produced by Roy Conli and John Lasseter

Screenplay by Robert L. Baird, Dan Gerson and Jordan Roberts

Based on “Big Hero 6” by Man of Action

The funny thing is that Patricia and I weren’t planning on seeing BIG HERO 6 today. Our initial movie of choice was “Nightcrawler.” But in between the time we made that decision and when we actually got on the road to head for the movie theater a couple of things happened. Nothing major or life threatening, I assure you. But it was a couple of things that indeed were bummers and kinda put a hurt on the good mood we were in. So instead of “Nightcrawler” I suggested we go see BIG HERO 6 instead as I figured that a light-hearted, family friendly superhero movie would do much more to lighten our mood than a dark and nourish crime drama.

Now I’m not going to say that we came out of the theater holding hands singing “A Whole New World” but I’d have to say we made a good choice in seeing BIG HERO 6. It’s bright, colorful and most of all, fun to watch. Yes, it does have some heavy moments of darkness but it makes sure to balance them with moments of triumph and joy.

In the futuristic city of San Fransokyo, Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) is a 14 year old whose brain power is off the chart. He’s already graduated high school and makes money hustling suckers in underground robot fights, beating larger and fiercer robots with his rather goofy looking littler robot. Hiro’s older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) who is even more brilliant than Hiro, takes him to The Institute of Technology to show him how his intellect can be used in more productive ways. Professor Callaghan (James Cromwell) is Tadashi’s mentor and offers Hiro a challenge to come study at the Institute.

Hiro also meets Tadashi’s friends: Fred (T.J. Miller) who plays the Institute’s mascot. GoGo Tomago (Jamie Chung) a hyperathletic adrenaline junkie whose specialty is electromagnetic energy that she’s applying to building better and faster bicycles. Wasabi (Damon Wayans, Jr.) is a laser expert who despite his hulking appearance is actually quite gentle and slightly on the neurotic side. Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) is a chemical genius in the tradition of great old school mad scientists.

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Hiro does indeed apply to the school, presenting his latest and greatest invention: microbots. They’re hordes of tiny robots that can link together to create anything the user can imagine, thanks to a mental link via a headband. Hiro is admitted to the Institute but his achievement is blackened by an unexpected tragedy. One that he chooses to deal with by secluding himself from Tadashi’s friends and his Aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph) Hiro’s interest in life is reawakened by two major events. The first is his discovering his brother’s greatest invention: Baymax (Scott Adsit) an inflatable healthcare robot who immediately adopts Hiro as his patient.

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The second event is Hiro learning that his microbots, which he had thought destroyed are being used by a mysterious man in a kabuki mask. The masked man has some sort of vendetta against Krei Tech, a technological company experimenting with teleportation. Hiro upgrades Baymax with battle armor and a memory chip that teaches Baymax karate and goes after the masked man. His first attempt fails miserably but after upgrading GoGo, Wasabi, Honey and Fred to give them superpowers based on their areas of technical expertise, the six of them become a superhero team determined to find out who the masked man is and why he’s bent on destroying Krei Tech.

big-hero-6-team-disney-1024x576BIG HERO 6 is an origin story, yes, but I wasn’t bored because this is a team I’m not familiar with and characters I don’t know. Even though it’s based on a Marvel comic book (and so I suppose it can be considered part of the MCU) the characters in the movie differ greatly from the ones in the comic.  And it’s not a terribly complicated origin story at that. I wish we had time to get to know more about the other characters but this movie is all about Hiro and Baymax and their relationship. Not that that’s a bad thing. Baymax is a wonderful character whose motivation stems from his being programmed to help others and if healing Hiro of his psychological wounds means that Baymax must allow himself to be weaponized into a high-flying, rocket-fist powered fighting machine, then that’s what he’ll do. But after going through all the trouble of creating such interesting and visually striking characters such as GoGo, Wasabi, Honey and Fred, I did want to see and know them better. We do get to find out something truly surprising about Fred that gets the biggest laugh in the movie and like any other Marvel movie, you’ve got to wait until after the end credits for it. But it’s worth it, trust me.

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The animation in BIG HERO 6 is nothing less than amazing. Maybe it’s because I don’t go out of my way to see a lot of computer generated animated movies and so I’m not jaded by the movement and detail. It’s still magical to me to simply look at. And it’s helped immensely by the kind of superhero story I love: the characters become superheroes because they honestly want to help people and make the world a better place. And if they can have some fun while doing it, why not? No, BIG HERO 6 is no “Guardians of The Galaxy,” the other big Marvel movie of 2014 and it wisely doesn’t try to be. It’s got its own brand of superhero fun. One well worth seeing. Enjoy.

102 Minutes

Rated PG

 

Interstellar

interstellar-movie-poster   2014

Syncopy/Lynda Obst Productions/Legendary Pictures/Paramount Pictures/Warner Bros.

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Produced by Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan and Lynda Obst

Written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan

You know how I’m always BMWing about how most Science Fiction Movies made in recent years really aren’t Science Fiction Movies? That they’re actually Action or Horror movies in disguise and that the Science Fiction elements are just there to provide an excuse for bigger guns and bigger explosions? Well, you won’t make that mistake with INTERSTELLAR. From start to finish this is a Science Fiction Movie that isn’t interested in trying to give movie goers a rollercoaster ride. And for those movie fans who constant mantra is “When I go see a movie I just want to turn off my brain” you need to maybe go see “Big Hero 6” then. INTERSTELLAR is a movie made to engage the intellect and make you think. If you turn off your brain when you see this movie then you’ve wasted your money. Now, that’s not to say it’s all that good either but nobody can say that Nolan and his crew didn’t go all out to try and give us a “2001: A Space Odyssey” for this generation.

Sometime in the near future the Earth has apparently become one big dust bowl. Corn seems to be the only thing that will grow (one nice visual gag has a family sitting down to eat a meal where the half dozen dishes are all made from corn) and soon Earth will be unable to feed humans at all. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a former NASA pilot/engineer who is now a farmer. He hates farming but Earth needs farmers more than it needs pilots. That is until Cooper finds a secret NASA installation led by an old mentor of his, Professor Brand (Michael Caine) Brand tells Cooper that they’ve discovered a wormhole orbiting Saturn. NASA’s scientists believe that extra-dimensional aliens have deliberately placed the wormhole there for them to find new worlds that humanity can live on (then wouldn’t it make sense to have placed the wormhole closer?) and they need Cooper to pilot an experimental spacecraft through the wormhole. On the other side are potentially habitable planets that are being surveyed by members of The Lazarus Mission. It will be the duty of Cooper and his team to confirm the viability of those planets. interstellar-movie-still-013-1500x1000 This news doesn’t sit well with Cooper’s daughter Murphy (Mackenzie Foy) as time will move differently for the explorers than it will on Earth. But Cooper has his duty and so he leaves Earth with his intrepid team. Professor Brand’s daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway), a respected scientist in her own right. Physicist Dr. Romilly (David Gyasi) geographer Doyle (Wes Bentley) and the multi-purpose artificially intelligent robots TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin) and CASE (voiced by Josh Stewart) Their quest will take them to a strange new galaxy with worlds both weird and wonderful. But just as much as there is to marvel at, there is also death and despair. The quest to save humanity will not be an easy one and there must be sacrifices to insure that future.

INTERSTELLLAR is not going to be a movie for everybody. It doesn’t have fistfights every few minutes or spaceship chases/battles. The conflicts here are mostly cerebral and fought between intellect vs. emotion. That will cause some to perceive INTERSTELLAR as slow moving and I have to admit I was one of them. This also isn’t a movie that’s going to take the time to explain everything to you. You’ll just have to take a lot of the science on faith and that’s okay by me. As long as the characters sound like they know what they’re talking about, that’s good enough for me.

But INTERSTELLAR is not all about the hard science and grandeur of space. The heart of the story is the relationship between Cooper and Murphy and how it binds them despite the gulf of space and time separating them. And the acting of Matthew McConaughey and Mackenzie Foy convinced me of the depth of their relationship. Once Jessica Chastain takes over as an older Murphy there’s more intensity to the character but I think I preferred Mackenzie Foy’s characterization. Anne Hathaway and John Lithgow along with two actors that really surprised me when they popped up (Topher Grace and Casey Affleck) provide their usual solid work in supporting roles. interstellar-movie-still-007-1500x1000 What didn’t I like about the movie? Despite the fact that the Earth is dying, nobody seems to really be all that upset about it. Matter of fact, everybody seems to have accepted it really well. And we’re really not shown much of a disaster outside of a few dust storms. Despite all the family drama going on, the movie never engaged me on an emotional level. It’s a visual feast, especially if you see it in IMAX as I did but emotionally I just couldn’t get invested in the characters and the often dull dialog they had to work with. The third act just didn’t feel right to me as there were just too many things happening that seemed pulled out of a hat and for a movie that up until then had prided itself on its hard science it suddenly took a left turn into the kind of time travelling jiggery-pokery “Star Trek: Voyager” used to resolve it’s stories. But it’s ambitious and I always respect a filmmaker who goes out on a limb to do something different and give us a personal vision. It’s not my favorite Nolan movie (that honor goes to “Inception” which for me so far is his best movie) but it is worth seeing just on the basis of its spectacle and grandiose desire to be a movie with more of a purpose than just selling popcorn. interstellar-black_-hole_-interstellar-is-the-best-movie-of-2014 165 Minutes Rated PG-13

John Wick

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2014

Lionsgate/Entertainment One Films/Warner Bros. Pictures

Directed by Chad Stahelski

Produced by Basil Iwanyk, David Leitch and Eva Longoria

Written by Derek Kolstad

Those of you who are dog lovers should be advised that there is a fairly graphic murder of a dog in JOHN WICK. I feel obligated to mention this because while many of you have no problem going to see a movie where human beings are machine gunned to pieces, stabbed, blown-up, incinerated and otherwise killed in all sorts of horrible ways, you would have a stroke right there in the theater seeing a dog get killed on screen.  But you should also know that the title character more than gets revenge for the murder for his dog. Does he ever. JOHN WICK has one of the highest body counts I’ve seen in an action movie recently. In fact, considering all the property damage, killings and general mayhem John Wick (Keanu Reeves) commits during the course of the movie you kinda understand how one of the bad guys feels when he screams out just before taking a bullet in the forehead; “It was just a @#$%^& DOG!”

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But it wasn’t “just a dog.” That’s the point. It was the last gift given to John by his late wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan) as a way to help him cope with his grief. She knew she was dying from cancer and arraigned to have the dog delivered to him after she was gone. The dog, named Daisy is a victim of a home invasion committed by Iosef Tarasov, (Alfie Allen) would be Russian gangster. John had an altercation with Iosef at a gas station earlier as Iosef wanted to buy John’s vintage 1969 Mustang. Iosef and his two cohorts break into John’s house, steal his car and kill Daisy.

Turns out that John Wick is well known to Iosef’s daddy, Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist) who is a Real Russian gangster. In fact, he’s the head of the New York branch of the Russian Mafia and he tells his idiot son that he wouldn’t be where he was if it wasn’t for the lethal abilities of John Wick. “You make him sound like The Boogeyman,” Iosef sneers.

“He’s not,” his father replies. “He’s the guy you send to kill The Boogeyman.”

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Viggo tries to talk John out of killing his son but he might as well try to reason with a tsunami. John proceeds to tear through Viggo’s men with a frightening, cold-blooded precision, upping the stakes of the game until Viggo has no choice place a $2 million bounty on John’s head. A bounty that attracts the attention of two of his old friends: Marcus (Willem Dafoe) and Perkins (Adrianne Palicki) assassins whose skills are just about equal to John Wick’s…

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Besides the high-octane shootouts and truly suspenseful hand-to-hand combats, JOHN WICK really delightedly me with its suggestion of a larger world outside of the movie that we were watching. A world where professional assassins and contact killers operate under an extraordinary code of rules that if broken mean instant death. Krugerrands in this world aren’t just gold coins. They’re mystical talismans that open secret doors and act as passports and letters of transit. One of the most fascinating concepts in the movie is The Continental, a New York hotel that apparently caters only to assassins. Owned by Winston (Ian McShane) and managed by Charon (Lance Reddick) The Continental is fascinating enough to deserve a movie of its own.

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Besides the actors already mentioned we’re also got John Leguizamo, Dean Winters, Clarke Peters, Kevin Nash and David Patrick Kelly showing up in what are essentially glorified cameos with the exception of Winters, who plays Viggo’s right hand man and gets more mileage out of a running gag about his inability to understand Russian than the gag deserves but he makes the payoff worth it. And I like Keanu Reeves a lot as an action star. Always have. I really don’t understand the hate for him as he’s always impressed me as a guy who has no pretentions about what he does. He makes movies for a living and he does it the best he can. And he does a great job here. He understands that in an action movie it’s his job to be the calm center and let the action revolve around him and that’s just what he does.

JOHN WICK is the latest entry in what I perceive as a return to the 1980’s Action Movie. We’ve had a lot of them lately. The “Taken” movies. The “Expendables” movies. The “Raid” movies and there’s a handful of others such as Sylvester Stallone in “Bullet In The Head” and Keven Costner in“Three Days To Kill.” Like those films, JOHN WICK is a B-Movie with an A-Movie budget and cast and it worked for me. It’s got a basic plot that’s just enough to get the movie going and once it does it served up enough full tilt boogie action to satisfy the action junkie in me. It’s stylish and just a little bit surreal. Highly Recommended.

101 Minutes

Rated R

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare

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1991

New Line Cinema

Directed by Rachel Talalay

Produced by Michael De Luca, Michael N. Knue, Robert Shaye and Aron Warner

Screenplay by Michael De Luca

Based on a story by Rachel Talalay

Based on character created by Wes Craven

By the time we get to FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE, Freddy Krueger has been around for eight years now and he’s simply no longer scary at all. How could he be? By this time Freddy has appeared in rap/music videos, hosted his own horror anthology TV show and his face appears on lunch boxes, kid’s pajamas (which shows you how loopy merchandising can get since Freddy Krueger is a killer of children) T-shirts, coffee mugs, shot glasses, tote bags, bumper stickers, oven mitts in the shape of his famous bladed glove…I think you get the point. By 1991 Freddy Krueger has been marketed up the yin yang and Robert Englund is appearing on award shows and talks shows as Freddy joking and clowning, breakdancing and riding skateboards. So when you no longer take a horror icon seriously anymore, what’s left to do? Turn him into a live action cartoon, that’s what.

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Peter Jackson wrote an unused screenplay for this movie in which Freddy Krueger was now perceived by teenagers as not being a threat at all and treated as a joke. In fact, his script had kids taking sleeping pills just so they could go into the dreamworld and beat up on Freddy. That would certainly have been better than what we got in FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE which for most of its running time is more Looney Tunes than Wes Craven.

Set ten years after the end of the previous film, we’re told that Freddy Krueger has killed off every last child and teenager in Springwood, Ohio and the remaining adults who still live there have pretty much gone insane from grief. Let’s face it, that’s a pretty depressing opening for the movie as what’s happened is that clearly Freddy has won. None of the battles, sacrifices and deaths of the characters in the previous movies have meant a thing because ultimately, Freddy got what he wanted. But now he needs to get out of Springwood and he needs one more very special child to do so. That child just may be John Doe (Shon Greenblatt) who wakes up in a youth shelter with nothing but caffeine pills and an old newspaper clipping of a missing woman named Loretta Krueger.

John comes under the care of case worker Maggie Burroughs (Lisa Zane) and dream specialist Doc (Yaphet Kotto) who also work with other troubled teens such as Carlos (Ricky Dean Logan) who was physically abused by his mother so badly he lost his hearing one one ear. Spencer ( Breckin Meyer) is a pothead. Mainly to piss off her control freak father. Tracy (Lezlie Deane) uses boxing and martial arts as a way of controlling the rage stemming from the sexual abuse she suffered at her father’s hands. Maggie herself has her own issues in the form of recurring nightmares about Springwood and that, along the article John Doe suggests to her that they should take a trip to the town to get some answers for both their problems. Carlos, Spencer and Tracy hide in the back of the van and all of them end up in Springwood where Freddy awaits with the secret of who the final Springwood child is and reveals his master plan to escape Springwood and kill more children because as he puts it in the movie’s only chilling line: “Every town has an Elm Street…”

This is the one that everybody remembers mainly because of the cameo appearances by Elinor Donahue, Johnny Depp, Alice Cooper (as Freddy Krueger’s abusive stepdad) Tom Arnold and Roseanne Barr (who are billed in this movie…no lie…as ‘Mr. and Mrs. Tom Arnold’) and it’s a shame because Lisa Zane’s (Billy’s older sister) performance is really good and deserves to have a better movie to be in. She, Yaphet Kotto and Robert Englund are really the only performances to watch out for as they commit to the material and give it all it’s worth. Even though here Freddy Krueger is definitely a cartoon character (the scene where he kills Spencer by video game is cringe worthy) Robert Englund is obviously trying his best to work with what he’s got.

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But it’s scenes like this and where he shows up as The Wicked Witch of The West that neutralizes the good ones such as where he replaces Carlos’ hearing aid with one that amplifies his hearing to the the point where the dropping of a handful of nails sounds to poor Carlos like explosions going off in his head. That’s the old sadistic Freddy we used to know and love at work there. Or the one where Carlos is dreaming he’s opening up a road map and it keeps on opening and opening and opening until he’s suffocating from the road map filling up the entire back of the van.

And it’s surprising to me that Rachel Talalay directed this one in such a slapdash silly manner as she’s been associated with every “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie from the beginning as a producer. One would think that she would know the character inside and out and come up with a truly knockout “last movie” in the series. But she obviously was more interested in the getting to the 3D sequence that is the climax of the movie complete with “dream demons” that supposedly explain Freddy’s supernatural powers and were undoubtedly pulled outta the same hat George Lucas got his “midichlorians” to explain The Force.

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FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE is the one movie I would truly point at as being the real clunker of the series. I can only recommend it being watched if you’ve already watched all the other movies in the series already. Fortunately, despite the title, it wasn’t the last and the next two Freddy Kreuger movies would more than make up for this one.

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89 Minutes

Rated R

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

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1989

New Line Cinema/Heron Communications/Smart Egg Pictures

Directed by Stephen Hopkins

Produced by Robert Shaye and Rupert Harvey

Screenplay by Leslie Bohem

Story by John Skipp, Craig Spector and Leslie Bohem

Based on characters created by Wes Craven

There are those who will say that by the time the series got to A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD, Ol’ Freddy Krueger and his antics were getting pretty tired. I don’t agree with that. There’s still a lot of talent hard at work in this one and in a lot of ways, it’s a better story than “The Dream Master” which invoked the rule of Just Go With It as opposed to adequately explaining its plot. At least here in THE DREAM CHILD, screenwriter Leslie Bohem respects the intelligence of the audience by providing a motivation and a reason for Freddy once more coming back to life. And it’s a pretty good idea Freddy has at that. The movie also boasts a Freddy Krueger that’s significantly more sadistic than he was in his earlier movies. The story is darker and the kills more gruesome and personal. In fact, I’d go so far as to say this is the darkest movie of the series so far and will remain so until we get to “New Nightmare”

Life has finally become normal for Alice Johnson (Lisa Wilcox) She’s been dating Dan (Danny Hassel) the football jock she had a crush on in “The Dream Master” and they’re making plans to travel to Europe for summer vacation after high school graduation. Her dad (Nicholas Mele) has quit drinking and rebuilt a loving, healthy relationship with his daughter. She’s even got a whole new crew of BFF’s. Greta (Erika Anderson) is a leggy, gorgeous aspiring supermodel whose every move is closely monitored by her mother. Mark (Joe Seely) is a geek who plans on being a comic book artist and is madly in love with Greta. Yvonne (Kelly Jo Minter) works as a candy striper at the local hospital.

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Yes, Alice’s life seems like it’s all going to be sunshine, lollypops and rainbows from here on out. Until the new nightmares start. Nightmares where Alice is dressed in a nun’s habit and wearing a nametag saying ‘Amanda Krueger.’ She’s in a lunatic asylum where she is attacked by the inmates. There are more dreams in which Alice, as Amanda, relives Freddy’s cursed birth by herself giving birth to him. Once again reborn, Freddy sets about killing Alice’s friends but leaving her alone. Alice discovers why after Dan’s shocking and unexpected death: she’s pregnant with Dan’s baby and Freddy has used the dreams of her unborn child to get into her dreams as well. Freddy needs her alive at least until her child is born. Alice’s friends are woefully unequipped to help her but she does have one powerful ally. Amanda Krueger’s spirit has joined the fight to aid Alice in defeating her damned son once and for all.

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Although Lisa Wilcox has improved a lot as an actress since “The Dream Master” the real star here is the special effects, the dream imagery and three of the most visually striking kills of the entire series. Dan is riding on a motorcycle that merges with him and both become this H.R. Giger inspired biomechanical demon. There’s a simply amazing shot of this creature roaring down a highway billowing smoke behind it. Mark falls asleep and is sucked into a black-and-white comic book where he is turned into a 2D character. When Freddy cuts him, instead of blood flowing out, it’s all the color from his body. Greta is fed to death. It’s a lot more creepy and grisly than it sounds, trust me.

The ending is also imaginatively done with Alice, Amanda and Freddy all trying to get to Alice’s son on M.C. Escher staircases that go every whichaway. It’s a fun scene to watch but we get back to the gruesomeness in the jaw dropping scene after that where Freddy tears his way out of Alice’s body. The special effects boys obviously had a field day in this movie and it shows. There’s some truly imaginative stuff done here.

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The acting is nothing to brag about. The cast of this movie are all nice to look at and they work hard at trying to create characters but it’s obvious way too early that these are just victims and outside of Alice don’t present any real threat to Freddy at all. Kelly Jo Minter gets the thankless job of being the one friend who doesn’t believe any of this Freddy Krueger stuff and so is stuck with repeating the same lines about Alice acting crazy over and over and over again. The few scenes that Erika Anderson and Joe Seely have are quite cute, though. His character’s crush on Greta is genuinely sweet and he does make a good impact on the screen when he states how much he loved her.

The two characters and actors who really stand out are supporting characters. There’s Whitby Hertford as Alice’s son, Jacob. Pazuzu only knows where the casting director found this kid from but his big sad eyes, deadpan expression and delivery of my favorite line of his: “Oh. Hello” tickled me to no end. And Nicholas Mele as Alice’s dad gets to show a nice bit of character development in here. In “The Dream Master” he was an obnoxious, self-hating drunk unable to deal with the death of his wife and had lost touch with his kids. Apparently the death of his son in that movie pulled him together and in THE DREAM CHILD he’s a sober, fully supportive parent who’s going to AA meetings, grown back his spine and looks out for his daughter.

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But I can understand why A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD is considered to be a tired movie. By this time it’s pretty clear that nothing anybody can do is ever going to be enough to get rid of Freddy for good. The final scene makes that clear. So why continue with the series if Freddy’s never going to be defeated? I guess that’s why New Line decided to make the next one; “Freddy’s Dead” the last one. But Freddy certainly didn’t deserve to go out the way he does in that one.

But that’s a review for another time. You want to hear if A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD is worth your time. Well, if you’ve watched the first four then why wouldn’t you watch this one? It’s not a waste of time but it is one that you could have playing in the background while you’re doing other stuff and not feel as if you’re missing anything. Enjoy.

90 Minutes

Rated R

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

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1988

New Line Cinema/Heron Communications/Smart Egg Pictures

Directed by Renny Harlin

Produced by Robert Shaye and Rachel Talalay

Screenplay by Brian Helgeland and Scott Pierce

Story by William Kotzwinkle and Brian Helgeland

Based on characters created by Wes Craven

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER is that bad of a movie. It is a disappointing movie in a lot of ways but that’s because it had to follow the grand slam home run that was “Dream Warriors.” Let’s face it, “Dream Warriors” is one hell of an act to follow. THE DREAM MASTER is nowhere near as bad as “Freddy’s Dead” but I’ll take “Freddy’s Revenge” over THE DREAM MASTER any day.

We catch up with the surviving Dream Warriors: Kristen (now played by Tuesday Knight) Joey (Rodney Eastman) and Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) who have apparently been released from treatment at Westin Hills and are now attending high school, getting on with living normal lives. At least Joey and Kincaid are. Kristen is still returning to the dreamworld, obsessed with the notion that Freddy Krueger is still alive and well somewhere in the dreamworld, still after them. Joey and Kincaid quite sensibly tell her that she may in fact herself cause Freddy to come back if she keeps on looking for him.

Kristen reluctantly agrees and concentrates on rebuilding her life. And she’s got a good one. She’s got a new BFF, Alice (Lisa Wilcox) Sheila (Toy Newkirk) a brainy black girl, Debbie, a tough chick (Brooke Theiss) who looks out for Sheila and she’s even got a boyfriend, Alice’s brother Rick (Andras Jones.)

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Turns out that Joey and Kincaid were right as Freddy does indeed return to resume killing of Elm Street children. Once he finishes off the last of the Dream Warriors he turns his razor bladed glove on Alice and the others. But before Freddy killed her, Kristen was able to pass on her powers to Alice. Now, whenever one of her friends is killed by Freddy, Alice gains their abilities. How? Don’t ask me. THE DREAM MASTER isn’t big on explaining much of anything but we’ll get to that in a bit.

The movie eventually comes to a showdown in the dreamworld between Alice, now powered with the various abilities of her friends and her brother (Rick’s martial arts skills, Sheila’s intelligence and Debbie’s greater strength thanks to her avid weightlifting) and Freddy.

Let’s get what I didn’t like out of the way first so I can end this review on as upbeat a note as I can, okay? First of all, killing off Joey, Kincaid and Kristen is such a downer that I can’t express it. I mean, in “Dream Warriors” these characters earned their victory over Freddy Krueger and deserved to live their lives in peace. To bring them back in THE DREAM MASTER only to kill them off so coldly and callously is a kick in the ass to the integrity of all the characters in “Dream Warriors” who gave their lives to fight and finally defeat Freddy.

Having said that, I gotta admit that I always knew that if Joey was gonna get it, it would be from chasing a chick. And Kincaid’s next to final scene always gives me chills as he’s in a junkyard that as the camera pulls back we see it apparently covers an entire planet, screaming to the sky over and over; “Freddy’s Back! Freddy’s Back!”

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Tuesday Knight as Kristen is a disappointment in the role but it’s not her fault. Patricia Arquette made such an impact as the character that I feel that if they couldn’t get her back (allegedly she wasn’t even asked to return) they should have just left the character alone. Rodney Eastman and Ken Sagoes bring a lot of energy to their roles for the brief time they’re in the movie and it’s welcome as the crew of young actors in THE DREAM MASTER are nowhere near as interesting or vibrantly memorable as the cast of “Dream Warriors” Oh, they give it their all and I commend them for their work but they just don’t command my investment into their characters. I was tickled pink to see Brooke Bundy return as Kristen’s slutty mom, still shouting “Andale! Andale!” at her stressed out daughter.

But the major flaw of the movie is its refusal to explain anything. Freddy Krueger returns because…well, simply because he’s needed to return. But at least it’s done in a truly memorable fashion with Kincaid’s dog urinating fire on Freddy’s bones. The movie never bothers to explain exactly how Kristen passes along her power to Alice or how that enables Alice to absorb the abilities of her friends when they die. Some cockamamie rhyme about The Dream Master is pulled out of nowhere and that along with Freddy looking at his own reflection (?) enables Alice to defeat him.

But remember how in my review of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” I mention how the series was different from the “Halloween” and “Friday The 13th” series in that the producers, writers and special effects people tried to do something different in each movie? Well, the dream sequences and visuals in this one are exceptional. The one scene that still freaks me out, out of all the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies is the one where Debbie is turned into a cockroach and trapped inside a roach motel. There’s the scene where Kincaid’s dog pisses fire on Freddy’s bones. Yeah, it’s goofy as hell but damn if it don’t work, somehow. There’s the scene in a movie theater where gravity goes berserk and Alice is pulled into the movie she’s watching. And the conclusion has the souls of Freddy’s victims fighting their way out of his body, ripping him to pieces in the process. It’s a doozy of a sequence, heightened greatly by Linnea Quigley’s contributions to the scene. Don’t worry…you’ll know her when you see her.

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So how does A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET: THE DREAM MASTER stack up against the others in the series? As I keep on emphasizing and will maintain: it’s not that bad an entry in the series. It just has the misfortune to follow the movie that is generally regarded as the best sequel of the franchise. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the production values (which are actually damn good, btw) the visual effects or Robert Englund’s performance here as he fine-tunes Freddy’s wisecracking one-liners. And the direction by Renny Harlin is professional and peppy as Harlin knows how to keep a movie moving. But the fate of the Dream Warriors and the uninspired characters doesn’t make this one of my favorites in the series.

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And instead of a trailer, here’s one of the best examples of just how goofy things were back in the 1980’s. By this time Freddy Krueger had become such a pop culture star that he appeared in a video rapping alongside rap superstars The Fat Boys! Enjoy!

93 Minutes

Rated R