Monday, May 9, 2016


One thing can be said about Hollywood. When they discover a money making concept they’ll milk it as dry as a bone. This doesn’t mean those movies made about a topic are bad but after a while they all sort of get mixed in together and it becomes hard to differentiate one from another, especially when they’re being released fast and furious (no, not that franchise here). Lately it seems that the only reason for adults in films is to give birth and then stand back and idly watch while teens do things like save the world. That premise is a big part of THE 5TH WAVE.

Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace Moretz) is your typical teen girl (as far as movie makers are concerned). She goes to school, pines over the good looking boy Ben (Nick Robinson) and loves her parents. Her life gets turned upside down within short order here as the Earth is invaded by aliens in attacks termed waves. The first wave is an EMP that knocks out all electrical systems, the second a combination of earthquake/tsunami that wipes out the coasts, the third is a form of disease spread by birds and the fourth are termed “silencers”, invaders who look human.

As Cassie and her family deal with each successive wave until most of the world is ended, they make a last ditch effort with others to band together in a camp. When the army shows up commanded by Col. Vosch (Liev Schreiber) everyone is overjoyed. With buses only big enough to handle so many at a time they’re filled with the youngest members of the camp first to take them to Wright Patterson Air Force Base. Cassie is on board with her brother Sam who forgets his teddy bear. As she runs to get it, the buses leave her behind.

The joy is short lived as the adults in the group argue about letting their children go unaccompanied, a fight breaks out and in an attempt to regain order the troops open up on the parents. Cassie hides during this but returns to find her father now dead joining her mother who died in the disease wave. Determined to find her brother, she packs up the essentials and heads out on foot to be rejoined with him. Along the way she’ll face the dangers of alien drones that watch from the sky as well as “silencers” all around.

As all of this goes on the Army takes the young people left on the world and begins training them to be the next armed forces to protect the planet. Visors are developed to allow the wearer to see the aliens beneath the surface of the humans infested by them. Ben has made it to the base as well and Sam is a part of his group. While Cassie tries to find her way to them the youth groups train, preparing for a special mission. In the end a few twists and turns (that some will see early on) occur and people the characters may have trusted once are not what they seem. In the end will the Earth by saved or not?

The movie offers a decent science fiction tale here, another in a long line of alien invasion films that dates back to 1953’s WAR OF THE WORLDS. This time around the concept of teen heroes has been added, a genre that has been around but seems to have found more traction lately as well as become a huge franchise generating machine for Hollywood with the success of both THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT. The odds are that the same was intended for this movie but the box office figures haven’t done as well as expected so odds are this one ends here. I won’t say that’s a good or bad thing when it comes to the actual movies themselves but the non-stop offerings of teen’s saving everything, being smarter than adults or taking over every screen on multiplexes across the country has made for some truly lackluster movies.

Box office sales are up but only because the price of the tickets has risen as well. As corporations control the movies we see the more pre-packaged product and less real movies we get at the theater. Certainly there is a way to balance that but as long as the number crunchers are in control the odds aren’t favorable in that happening. Once those numbers begin to drop perhaps but that may take a while.

So for the time being let’s enjoy movies like this even if they have become predictable. The acting in this one is better than most and the production values are quite well done. While there are no standout performances and every teen looks fresh from the pages of a fashion magazine, all in all each does a solid job here. The effects are well done, a definite requirement for a movie like this, but at the same time don’t offer a lot that’s new.

While typing this I realized my final view on this film. It’s not bad for a night’s entertainment but it won’t be one that you remember a year from now, a movie that will be talked about in 30 years or that will increase the star power of anyone involved. It’s a vanilla movie, one that taste good but offers no substantial flavor. You can do worse with a movie to watch at home than this, but don’t expect it to change the world either.

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I can remember the first time I saw this movie, back when it was first released and ended up playing at the local drive in. That drive in was the only place to see movies in town so when word reached it was coming I knew I’d be there. I wasn’t disappointed. The owner of the drive in would hold posters for me and the half sheet on this one remains in my collection, a perfect piece of movie poster art that captured the movie well. But while the poster displayed star Clint Eastwood with his foot resting on a big gun it was about more than that.

The movie kicks off with a panoramic shot of a wheat field, a small country church on a Sunday morning off to the side. A car drives up and we cut back and forth from outside of the church and a man about to enter to a preacher (Clint Eastwood) delivering a sermon. The man enters, pulls out a gun and begins shooting. This prompts Eastwood to run out the back and across that field.

At the same time this is happening a young man (Jeff Bridges) walks from train tracks to a used car lot. Talking to the salesman he’s invited to sit in and listen to a sporty new car to see how powerful it is. It is indeed and even more so when he speeds off the lot, stealing the car.

These two stories intertwine when Eastwood runs out of the field into the road and is nearly hit by Bridges and attempts to jump into the car. As Bridges tries to lose him he careens off into the field, hitting the man chasing Eastwood. The pair drive off and a friendship is begun.

As things progress Bridges tells Eastwood his name is Lightfoot and the two travel down the road together, stealing along the way and swapping cars when needed. He lets Eastwood know he could see there was something different about him and he wants to learn from him. When he discovers the men chasing them were involved in a major bank heist years ago he remembers the name of the man who operated a cannon to rob the bank, the Thunderbolt.

The pursuing ex-gang members eventually catch the pair with plans to kill them. When they learn that the loot from the old robbery is gone they back down. It’s then that Lightfoot suggest that they pull off the same heist all over again. Who would ever suspect a group of thieves doing the same heist using the same plan?

It isn’t just the story that makes this movie work although there is more story going on here than in many movies being made today. It isn’t just a heist movie. It’s a movie that talks about friendship, about loyalty, about greed, about achieving a dream and it’s done in such a way as to make what should be considered bad guys out to be a combination of killers and anti-heroes. Many movies released at the time had that ambiguous lawbreaker as the central character in their films. Burt Reynolds made a career out of it.

At the core of this film is the relationship between Eastwood and Bridges. You get the feeling that in Bridges Eastwood’s character sees himself when he was younger. Brash, mouthy and ready to take on the world Bridge’s character is constantly joking with the others earning him the rancor of gang member Red Leary (George Kennedy). A butting of heads is inevitable between these two and you’re just not sure where that will lead. The interaction between all four crooks, including Geoffrey Lewis as Eddie Goody, makes you wonder at times if they can pull of the heist at all.

When this movie was made Eastwood was in the midst of seeing his acting career rise to atmospheric proportions. Having just come off of the first two Dirty Harry movies and leaping into both THE EIGER SANCTION and THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES just after this film, he was a mega-star. Bridges was on the early cusp of stardom having done both THE LAST PICTURE SHOW and THE LAST AMERICAN HERO before this movie. Their combined star power made this movie a success before it hit the screen and the interplay between the two of them here just pushed it over the top.

All of the performances seen here are great. Eastwood’s cool demeanor, Bridges’ cocky youngster, Lewis’ bumbling sidekick to Red and Kennedy’s anger driven criminal meld together to make the story work. While you would never think of these four different people coming together to achieve anything the fact that they did once and got away with it seems amazing. That they could possibly do it again is even more questionable.

The movie was another landmark as well. It was the first film directed by Michael Cimino. Having written the screenplays for both SILENT RUNNING and MAGNUM FORCE this was his first film in that position. Four years later his next film was released to stunning success. It was called THE DEER HUNTER. While that movie raised his level in Hollywood his next film brought it crashing down, the often discussed financial disaster HEAVEN’S GATE. To date he’s only directed 8 movies which is a shame when you watch those that he’s made. Hollywood isn’t a forgiving town though.

Twilight Time is releasing this movie in a limited edition series. As with all Twilight Times films this means there are only a limited number being made so if you want one make sure you get it now. The transfer is amazing with a widescreen presentation that uses the full frame to tell the story. The extras are small in number but it is the movie itself presented this clear that makes this worth picking up. This one is a definite add to the collection for all movie fans and Eastwood fans in particular.

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I remember the first time I saw this movie having ordered it for the video store I worked at at the time. As a huge fan of the first film I was anticipating this one to be just as good. When I finally got the chance to watch it I was disappointed and felt that it didn’t live up to the previous movie. Seeing it now in this format I was stunned at how wrong I was. In truth I don’t think it was the movie itself that made the difference but the presentation of it. Watching it now I’m amazed at the difference the quality of transfer makes. That VHS version was fuzzy at moments while this new blu-ray release is as crisp and clean as the original. Thank goodness this movie can be re-discovered this way.

For those unaware the first film dealt with Dr. Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) and his search to re-animate the dead with a serum he had developed. With the aid of his friend and colleague Dr. Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) they had just scratched the surface of their goal with drastically bad results, reanimated corpses that were more intent on killing than being alive. Among their “victims” was another colleague, Dr. Hill (David Gale) who tried to steal their discovery only to have West decapitate him and then reanimate his head and body separately with dire consequences.

As this film opens it is months later and West and Cain have left Miskatonic University to work as doctors providing help in a civil war in Peru. West is still developing his serum using traits of animals found there. An attack forces them to leave and they return to their positions at the University.

While Cain deals with the tragedy around his late girlfriend’s death from the first film while attending to patients he’s trying to help, West continues his research pilfering parts from various corpses and sewing them together in the basement of the home to two own. In an effort to win Cain’s assistance in his research he takes the heart of Cain’s ex-girlfriend and tells him that if he helps he’ll place her heart in the finished product so she can live again.

Three people will stand in the way of West’s research. One is Det. Chapman (Claude Earl Jones) whose wife was one of the victims of what was dubbed the “Miskatonic Massacre”. The other is pathologist Dr. Graves (Mel Stewart) who is still rummaging through the remains of that massacre and comes across both a vial of the serum used at the time and Dr. Hill’s head. He brings the head back to life and Hill will once again lead to trouble for West and Cain.

I won’t reveal any more but will let you know that yes indeed there is a bride. Built from those various body parts West has been stealing and completed with the head of a woman Cain was treating (played by Kathleen Kinmont) she does rise from the table and at moments resembles in look and movement the classic Bride of Frankenstein we’ve all come to know at love. The end result is something to be seen.

Directed by Brian Yuzna fresh off of his directorial debut with SOCIETY and having produced the original film, he does a great job here taking what director Stuart Gordon had begun with and making it his own. At the same time the two films match together pretty well in the way things are handled and shot. That he could make a horror film that stands well next to a classic like the first says much about his ability.

While all of the actors involved here to a tremendous job it is Combs who stands out. Rarely has an actor and a role been more perfect than this. The way he speaks, moves, tilts his head or makes a quip can never be replicated by another actor nor should they be. Combs OWNS this character and should someone else try to play the part my guess is they will fail miserably. That he could do this part so well in both films is a testament to his skill. That he could be the only good thing in the third film speaks volumes.

If the fact that we have a pristine transfer of the film weren’t enough, Arrow Film has gone all out to make this a version of the film that collectors and horror fans will want to add to their collection as soon as possible. The extras include a limited edition collectors booklet, a new audio commentary track with Brian Yuzna, an audio commentary track with Yuzna, Combs, visual effects supervisor Tom Rainone as well as effects team members John Buechler, Mike Deak, Bob Kurtzman, Howard Berger and Screaming Mad George, an audio commentary track with Combs and Abbott, featurettes like “Brian Yuzna Remembers Bride of Re-animator”, “Splatter Masters: The Special Effect Artists of Bride of Re-animator” and “Getting Ahead in Horror” and a sequence of deleted scenes. That might seem like enough but Arrow has also included not just the R rated version of the film but the unrated version of the film as well. It is an amazing collection of items for a movie that needs to be found again.

I’ve long sung the praises of Arrow Film and will continue to do so as long as they put out product like this. And I will champion the first two films in this series when discussing horror with fans and those unaware alike. As I said at the beginning here, even though I saw this film all those years ago watching this version for me was like watching it for the first time ever. I can’t recommend this one enough.

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