Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: Movie Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) and Three Better Ways to Spend Your Money at the Movies

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Movie Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) and Three Better Ways to Spend Your Money at the Movies

by Tony Dayoub

No big surprise. A Nightmare on Elm Street, the unnecessary remake of Wes Craven's 1984 hallucinatory slasher film opening tomorrow has nothing new to offer. You know this film is headed in the wrong direction literally from the start, with a misguided opening credit design that looks like it started as near-illegible chalk scrawls on a sidewalk, but ends up visually echoed by redundant white on black credits as a corrective. And the film goes downhill from there. My frequent criticism of remakes is, why revisit a decent film if it won't be improved? In Samuel Bayer's reboot, the overt sexual paranoia of the original's promiscuous kids is neutered into a hollow exploration of pedophilia simply to give the illusion of topicality.

The fifth of Michael Bay's unwarranted horror remakes (must he rape our entire childhood), Elm Street lifts iconic scenes from the original series to lesser effect. A narrower example of this is the make-up design for Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley), a combination of prosthetics and CGI a la The Dark Knight's Two-Face which, though realistic, is also strangely cuter. An extended origin sequence for Krueger, probably a bone tossed at the Oscar-nominated Haley (Little Children), doesn't serve the film's creep factor well. Instead it defangs the evil Freddy immediately by dispelling the mystery around the monster. Elm Street repeatedly forgets scary movies should scare, relying on cheap, overscored shocks to move the film along.

How to Train Your Dragon depends on its three-dimensionality to immerse the viewer in a wondrous fantasy world where Vikings battle the winged beasts in firefights captured by lofty-angled cameras. Theater owners, wise to the film's spectacular achievement, raised their prices accordingly for the 3D version. But Dragon is the first 3D blockbuster since last year's Avatar to really employ the gimmick judiciously and justifiably. And it's the rare family film which appeals to all ages.

The biggest surprise I've watched theatrically this year is the DC Comics adaptation, The Losers. This A-Team retread is inexplicably fun to watch despite trotting out some cliche action tropes like the snarky catchphrases which seem to consist the entirety of its dialogue. Like the often derivative Bond movies, its charm is in its casting, production design, and choice of locations. Filmed primarily in Miami and Puerto Rico, there is a distinctly tropical heat to the activity, also brought to the table by the increasingly notable Latina actress, Zoe Saldana (Avatar). She steals the show from just about everyone despite some able charisma by Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen) and Idris Elba (The Wire)... everyone but Jason Patric (Narc). Patric's wickedly funny performance as the CIA baddie could constitute the only reason to see this film even if the other elements of it failed. Not a great film by any stretch, The Losers is still good, trashy amusement.

No One Knows About Persian Cats is a timely look at life under the oppressive regime in Iran through the prism of music. With most forms of musical expression outlawed there, the underground rock scene in Tehran is the perfect venue through which one can appreciate the almost otherwordly restrictions the hip, young people of Iran face each day. Now in limited release in New York and Los Angeles (also available on VOD through Sundance Selects), the film boasts an impressive pedigree. Directed by Bahman Ghobadi (A Time for Drunken Horses), the film employs nonactors mostly playing themselves. If the name of one of the screenwriters, Roxana Saberi, sounds familiar it is because the Iranian-American journalist was at the center of an international incident last year. After being sentenced to eight years in prison because of false accusations of spying for the U.S., she eventually was released on appeal 100 days later. At times a freewheeling visual and aural feast of the various forms of music emerging from the secretive network of artists in Tehran, and other times a downbeat examination of the tension between a government and its people, No One Knows About Persian Cats is an energetic masterpiece which succeeds in fostering understanding of a society long regarded as alien by us.


Mike Lippert said...

Couldn't agree with you more about the Losers and Jason Patric, both of which I praised in seperate postings earlier today.

AS for Elm Street, I thought the original was weak even though it is loved by many so I'm not so suprised that the remake isn't anything special either. Maybe Michael Bay can remake Hellraiser next?

Tony Dayoub said...

The original ELM STREET weak? Maybe its full effect has been watered down by the cumulative weight (or lack of) of its huge number of sequels, the TV series, etc. Or maybe it seems quaint now in relation to modern horror like SAW and HOSTEL. But in its day ELM STREET was quite perverse in its introduction of callous humor to the slasher film. A lot of that has been mitigated by the imitators spawned by that specific quality. But back then it caused quite an uproar.

Thanks or stopping by.

Mike Lippert said...

The reason I say it is weak is because I think it's needed to define Freddy and his powers better. If horro villians don't have parameters set on them they simple become a service to the plot to do whatever it needs of them in the moment. Freddy is kind of like that. His powers are not truely defined so therefore he appears to Nancy when she is asleep and sometimes he appears to her when someone else is asleep and sometimes he appears...and so on. Because he seems to have no definition and therefore plays by his own rules it feels like he just appears and does whatever Craven needs him to do. If his powers came with some sort of logic or definition the movie would have been great, however I find this "making it up as we go along" quality to be somewhat distracting. Personally, for my money the best (maybe the only good) entry in the series is New Nightmare, which nicely predates that self reflexive horror thing that Craven would make famous in Scream.

J.D. said...

Yeah, I figured the NIGHTMARE reboot was gonna suck. Thanks for letting us all know so we can save $10.

I was surprised that you liked THE LOSERS which has been getting kicked around by the critics quite a bit. The trailers didn't wow me but your review has my curiosity piqued.

Tony Dayoub said...

J.D., THE LOSERS has gotten some love from Roger Ebert, Michael Phillips, and A.O. Scott, who all seem equally surprised at their enjoyment.

Scorpius Maximus Indicus said...

The minute i saw Michael Bay's name along Nightmare, i knew this has to be given a miss. Bay has screwed up every genre possible. The worst War movie( Pearl Harbor), the worst Sci Fi movie( Armageddon), and what not.

On a side note, i did watch Open Range at last, and found it be a really good ole fashioned classic Western kind. Not as great as Costner's Dances With Wolves, but this is a redemption from him as director, after The Postman.

-- Ratnakar

Tony Dayoub said...

I really like the small simplicity of OPEN RANGE.