Tag Archives: Bryan Singer

30 Days of Madness, Day 30 — Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

by Tom Kapr

Wherein I attempt to watch one new-to-me horror film every day of October till Halloween and write a quick review. I will end my review with a letter grade like we do on our podcast (A, B, C, D, or F–pluses and minuses are for the non-committal!) and with the movie’s rank on my Flickchart.

trickrtreat2

Written & directed by Michael Dougherty. Produced by Bryan Singer.

Starring Dylan Baker, Brian Cox, Quinn Lord & Anna Paquin.

Trick ‘r Treat  is a rollercoaster ride. I am a fan of horror anthology films like Creepshow and Cat’s Eye. I was both intrigued and hesitant to watch this. I have a strange relationship with horror. I love horror, and exploring the things that horrify, but I do not like watching a lot of nastiness. The problem with a lot of horror films is that they are made by filmmakers who seem to have nothing but contempt for their characters.

Trick ‘r Treat is nasty, to be sure, but has enough love for the characters and stories and is crafted well enough to be enjoyable as a sort of quintet campfire of campfire tales. It also sets itself apart from other anthologies, such as the ones I mentioned, with its strong narrative structure. It doesn’t need to break away from one story altogether before telling another. All four main stories are interwoven–one is happening, noticeably, while another is taking place, and all occur on a single Halloween night in a single small town–and are bookended by a fifth story that gives the film a satisfying sense of coming full-circle.

The film quickly establishes that nobody is safe from the horrors running amok in this town on this night, children included–part of the reason I was hesitant to watch. I’ve stated in previous reviews that I didn’t enjoy watching children get gunned down for the sake of an action movie. And I’m not saying I enjoy similar fates in this film, but the nature of film gives it all a very contemporary fairy tale feel; and anyone familiar with the fairy tales of old know that children, especially naughty and nasty ones, are fodder fit for the terrors that lurk in the dark.

Brian Cox and Dylan Baker, especially, turn in great performances that revel in the ridiculousness and of their respective stories. And Anna Paquin is just fine in a tale that has not one but two satisfying twists. The reason I make mention of Quinn Lord in my cast list above is that he plays Sam, the burlap sack mask-wearing “child” who acts as a sort of connective tissue, making appearances in each segment, much in the way the cat did in Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye. Sam instantly becomes one of the most iconic and beloved horror characters in cinema. Just a creepy presence that eventually becomes much more for one or two unfortunate souls.

I am so glad this one got voted through as my final film of the month. It’s a great scary, fun flick, which, as an added bonus, is full of old-school practical effects that rank among the best. And any horror movie that references Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island is okay by me. It’s a fine ending to month of horror movies.

Final grade: A

My Flickchart ranking: #614 (out of 3275, a relative 81/100)

Why I’m worried about “The Dark Knight Rises”

By Tom Kapr

 

Like any good movie nerd, I have been eagerly anticipating the release of The Dark Knight Rises since Batman escaped into hiding during the final scene of The Dark Knight in 2008. That’s four years ago. In this day and age, that’s almost an eternity to wait for the next chapter in whatever epic saga one is currently into. And Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy (as it is now known) is the epitome of the modern epic saga. In fact, this is a first for the comic book superhero genre. Bryan Singer is the only other filmmaker to approach this success, in artistic terms, with the first two X-Men movies. Unfortunately, he decided to forgo directing the third one in favor of helming Superman Returns, leaving X-Men 3 in the hands of Brett Ratner. (Wow. I think I actually felt you shudder.)

This actually brings me to my first point in why I’m worried about The Dark Knight Rises. Traditionally, if the first two films in a series are great, the third will tend toward a huge drop-off in quality. This is especially true in the superhero genre. I’ve already mentioned X-Men: The Last Stand, which was frustratingly close to good, but only because it had a handful of great scenes surrounded by some truly dreadful ones. Spider-Man 3 was nowhere near the quality of Sam Raimi’s first two, which is a pity since everyone was really looking forward to Spider-Man fighting his great arch-nemesis Venom. Superman III doesn’t belong in the same category as Superman and Superman II. And when it comes back around to Batman, while I am no fan of the excessively unpleasant Batman Returns, it almost looks like a masterpiece compared to the cartoonish Batman Forever. I’m even going to throw Return of the Jedi into this, because while it will forever be a childhood favorite, if I look at it objectively, it’s not nearly as good as its predecessors.

 

This is actually the LEAST of my problems with JEDI.

 

Hey, Batman Forever is a stupid name for a movie, isn’t it? Superhero movies, and blockbuster sequels in general, tend to generate some stupid movie titles, usually because, rather than just slapping a sequential number on the title, they’re trying to go for something that stands out a little more. I could launch into a long tirade about stupid movie titles, but let’s stick with Batman. While it may not be as dumb as Batman Forever, The Dark Knight Rises is a stupid title. The Dark Knight Returns might have been a more fitting one, but then it would be the same title as Frank Miller’s 1986 graphic novel, which, while clearly having inspired Nolan’s vision of his trilogy, tells a much different story (involving Two-Face, Green Arrow, Selina Kyle as the madame of an escort service, a metaphorically castrated Superman, a female 13-year-old Robin, and the Joker going so far as to — SPOILER ALERT — chemically annihilate a Boy Scout troop). But hey, Batman Begins is an even worse title, and that was a great movie, so I’m just splitting hairs here.

I think the thing that worries me the most is that this follows The Dark Knight, which is possibly the greatest superhero movie ever made. (I personally think The Avengers beats it, but I have to at least put Dark Knight in a Top 3 of all time with that and X-Men 2.) And while it has some flaws, The Dark Knight isn’t just a phenomenally superior superhero movie — it’s one of the best thrillers ever made, period. It will rival any great crime thriller or psychological thriller you can put up against it. And this is largely due to the presence of the Joker. The Joker, as written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer, and as performed by the late Heath Ledger, is the best depiction of this iconic villain ever put on the screen. Not only is this one of the greatest and most memorable characters in the history of film, I would argue that Heath Ledger gave one of the all-time greatest performances of any genre, ever. That’s a lot of superlatives, I know. But while The Dark Knight is a good movie, it’s really the Joker, more than any other ingredient, that makes it great.

 

 

How can Nolan follow that? This isn’t necessarily a matter of topping oneself, but he has to at least be up to the standard that he himself created. While I can envision Rises being of the same general quality as The Dark Knight, what I can not envision is anything coming anywhere near the performance and the overall presence of Heath Ledger’s Joker. No disrespect to Tom Hardy, an actor I admire, nor to Bane, the formidable villain he portrays in Rises, nor even to the writing and directing talents of Nolan, who’s probably the greatest director of complex epic thrillers of the past decade. But just, how could he possibly live up to his own quality?

 

Then there's this. Whatever this exactly means for Batman, it indicates some degree of tragedy, and it is extremely difficult to make tragedy dramatically satisfying.

 

I guess I just have to hope for the best. And as I said, that is what Nolan is — the best. He has a better track record over his career than any other director I can think of. Memento, The Prestige, and Inception, the underrated Insomnia, and including of course Batman Begins and The Dark Knight – the man has never made anything less than a good movie. And with the exception of his much quieter and more difficult-to-love first film Following, he has never made a film that has been anything less than awe-inspiring.

I have to put my faith in Nolan’s abilities. I know that if I go in expecting another Joker, I’m going to be disappointed, so I have to limit myself to expecting, at least, another engaging villain and another engaging plot. I do have enough faith to know that Nolan will not re-tread what he has already done in the first two films. Every film he makes is its own film, and engages me in unique ways, so that is what I will be expecting from Rises. Take into account the established pillars that are Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, and Michael Caine, as well as the considerable talents of Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and what you have is a cast at least as formidable as that of either of the first two films. (If you subtract Heath Ledger, of course.)

 

I also have this to look forward to.

 

At the very least I expect nothing less, but nothing more, from Christian Bale, who I sometimes forget is even in these movies.