Halloween Kills Review

Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) spends the 12th Halloween experience laid up in a hospital bed after her near mortal injuries incurred from the 11th one. In that sense, Halloween Kills is quite similar to the first official sequel from 1981. The samesies comparisons don’t stop there as this is an inferior follow-up to what came before it. The difference is that the 1978 original was a slasher classic to which all followers have been judged. 2018’s Halloween was not and therefore the letdown isn’t as steep.

Kills takes place (like Halloween II) during the immediate events after its predecessor. Laurie, daughter Karen (Judy Greer), and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) had left Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney) to burn at her tricked out house. Unsurprisingly, it turns out to be mission unaccomplished as the masked one escapes that space and leaves plenty of dead firefighters in his wake.

While Laurie is recovering from her own stabbing, Michael has his knives out for plenty of other townsfolk in Haddonfield. As you may recall, we are on our third iteration of the killer’s most famous prey reuniting with her predator. The 1981 sequel continued John Carpenter’s storyline and revealed that Laurie is Michael’s little sister. 1998’s Halloween: H20 set their sibling rivalry 20 years later.

By the time David Gordon Green and company came around and another two decades passed, 2018’s Halloween ignored all of that. The familial connection was slashed in favor of Laurie becoming a survivalist and waiting for escaped booby hatch patient Myers to find her. Kills allow for other figures in the ’78 pic to return – Tommy Doyle (who Laurie babysat) is now Anthony Michael Hall. Kyle Richards reprises her role as Lindsey, one of the other kids tormented that night. And we catch up with Sheriff Bracket (Charles Cyphers) and Nurse Chambers (Nancy Stephens). We also spend some unnecessary time with flashbacks to 40 years before that don’t add much (though if you want CG Donald Pleasance, you’re in luck).

The phrase “Evil Dies Tonight” is repeated ad nauseam as the denizens of our Illinois murder spot (led by Tommy) seek to end Michael’s return engagement. Of course, we know that ain’t happening. Halloween Kills is the second of a trilogy that will end (?) with next year’s ambitiously titled Halloween Ends. This has the feel of stopgap viewing with no real payoffs and our star player relegated to the sideline. There are a few garish highlights. I was entertained by the couple Big John (Scott MacArthur) and Little John (Michael McDonald… not that one) who live in Michael’s childhood house of horrors and probably should’ve upped their homeowners insurance. A hospital set scene where the residents chase down another of the escaped mental patients is shot effectively.

Ultimately Halloween Kills, for most of its running time, feels painfully average. It’s more violent than part one… which was actually part II if you ignore that other part II. So I suppose this is part III when ignoring nine other movies. The gimmick of Laurie coming back (again) had its pleasures in 2018. Tommy and Lindsey coming back in the mix doesn’t really cut the mustard. Michael cuts the tracheas and tendons with dutiful impassioned restraint. It seldom rises above the mediocrity where most of this series has dwelled since part one (the real one).

** (out of four)

Summer 2001: The Top 10 Hits and More

My annual recounting of the cinematic seasons that preceded 30, 20, and 10 years prior continues on the blog today with the summer of 2001! It was a frame dominated by an animated jolly green giant that kicked off a massive franchise for its studio.

As is tradition, I’ll run through the top 10 domestic grossers as well as other notables pics and some flops. If you missed my post covering 1991’s May-August output, you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/06/26/summer-1991-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

Let’s get to it!

10. Dr. Dolittle 2

Domestic Gross: $112 million

Eddie Murphy returned as the doc who talks to animals in this sequel that managed to cross the century mark, but failed to approach the $144 million earned by its 1998 predecessor. This would mark the end of Eddie’s involvement in the franchise, but a direct to DVD third helping came in 2006.

9. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Domestic Gross: $131 million

Angelina Jolie (fresh off an Oscar for Girl, Interrupted) headlined the video game adaptation that, despite weak reviews, spawned a sequel and an eventual reboot with Alicia Vikander that will soon get its own follow-up.

8. The Fast and the Furious

Domestic Gross: $144 million

We first saw Vin Diesel and Paul Walker and those souped up whips 20 years ago. Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or haven’t heard of The Rock), this begat a franchise which is still running strong today. F9 is currently the #1 movie in America in this series that has topped a billion bucks.

7. American Pie 2

Domestic Gross: $145 million

Universal quickly green lighted this sequel to 1999’s smash hit comedy. The gross out gags in part 2 (which resulted in another theatrical effort in 2003 and numerous direct to DVD entries) stands as the largest worldwide earner of the bunch.

6. Planet of the Apes

Domestic Gross: $180 million

Tim Burton’s reimagining of the 1968 classic didn’t result in the new franchise that 20th Century Fox hoped for. Critics had their knives out for Mark Wahlberg’s lead performance and the surprise ending that didn’t pack the wallop of Charlton Heston’s encounter with the Statue of Liberty. The studio would get their successful trilogy a decade later beginning with Rise of the Planet of the Apes (which will be covered in 2011’s blog post).

5. Jurassic Park III

Domestic Gross: $181 million

Joe Johnston took over directorial duties from Steven Spielberg is this threequel. Sam Neill was back in this dino-tale that (while profitable) failed to reach the heights of the first two commercially. A reboot 14 years later would get the series back in billion dollar good standing.

4. Pearl Harbor

Domestic Gross: $198 million

Michael Bay’s romantic war epic failed with reviewers but still approached $200 million domestically and $450 million worldwide. Its six Golden Raspberry nominations topped its four Oscar nods.

3. The Mummy Returns

Domestic Gross: $202 million

Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz returned for this adventure sequel to the 1999 hit that topped part 1 domestically by nearly $50 million. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson would join the fun here and was rewarded with his spin-off (The Scorpion King) the next year. A third Mummy landed with disappointing results in 2008.

2. Rush Hour 2

Domestic Gross: $226 million

It was the best of times for director Brett Ratner and stars Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan as this action comedy built upon the grosses of the 1998 original. A third would follow six years later.

1. Shrek

Mike Myers as the title character ogre, Eddie Murphy stealing scenes with his voice work as Donkey, and Cameron Diaz as Princess Fiona proved that Disney wasn’t the only animation game in town. Shrek even competed for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in this DreamWorks game changer that resulted in three sequels and a stage musical.

And now for some other notables flicks from the summer that was:

The Princess Diaries

Domestic Gross: $108 million

Disney’s live-action fairy tale served as a breakout role for Anne Hathaway and a return to the studio for Julie Andrews for the first time since Mary Poppins. A 2004 sequel followed.

The Others

Domestic Gross: $96 million

With its own Sixth Sense style twist ending, this gothic horror pic with Nicole Kidman earned solid reviews and got genre fans to turn out.

Legally Blonde

Domestic Gross: $96 million

Shrek isn’t the only feature to spawn a Broadway treatment. So did this Reese Witherspoon hit which also resulted in a sequel and a third Blonde that is slated for May 2022.

Cats & Dogs

Domestic Gross: $93 million

Dr. Dolittle wasn’t the only animal game in town. This kiddie pic featuring featuring talking creatures also began a franchise.

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

Domestic Gross: $78 million

Long planned as a project for Stanley Kubrick (who passed away in 1999), Steven Spielberg directed this sci-fi visual feast with Haley Joel Osment. The film elicited strong reactions from critics and crowds (both positively and negatively). It may not have reached $100 million domestic, but it’s still a picture people like to debate about today and that’s more that can be said for most titles on this list.

Swordfish

Domestic Gross: $69 million

Hugh Jackman and John Travolta headlined this action pic which somewhat underperformed expectations. This is mostly known as the film that paid Halle Berry an extra $500,000 to go topless during a few seconds of screen time.

Moulin Rouge!

Domestic Gross: $57 million

Baz Luhrmann’s postmodern musical with Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor scored 8 Oscar nominations and has its legions of fans that have endured over the past two decades.

Sexy Beast

Domestic Gross: $6 million

This crime drama is mostly known for its menacing supporting turn from Sir Ben Kingsley, who was rewarded with an Oscar nod.

Ghost World

Domestic Gross: $6 million

Terry Zwigoff’s dark comedy (based on a late 90s comic book) earned raves for its screenplay and for costars Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, and Steve Buscemi.

And now for some pictures that did not meet expectations:

America’s Sweethearts

Domestic Gross: $93 million

Yes, it may have approached $100 million, but this rom com starring Julia Roberts and featuring John Cusack, Billy Crystal (who cowrote), and Catherine Zeta-Jones didn’t come near what her previous blockbusters like My Best Friend’s Wedding, Notting Hill, and Runaway Bride managed.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Domestic Gross: $84 million

Disney’s animated sci-fi adventure was a letdown that didn’t recoup its reported $100 million budget domestically. A hoped for franchise with TV spin-offs and Disneyland ride attraction never rose to the surface.

Scary Movie 2

Domestic Gross: $71 million

This rushed horror spoof follow-up to the 2000 surprise smash couldn’t get close to the $157 million of the original. However, this didn’t stop several sequels from following that achieved greater success.

Evolution

Domestic Gross: $38 million

Director Ivan Reitman and supernatural comedy sure worked well in 1984 with Ghostbusters. Not so much here in this DreamWorks flop with David Duchovny which earned less than half its budget in North America.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

Domestic Gross: $32 million

Tomb Raider was an example of a video game adaptation that made money. Not so here with this rendering of the popular role playing fantasy series that didn’t score with audiences.

Ghosts of Mars

Domestic Gross: $8 million

It wasn’t a good day at the box office for this science fiction flop from director John Carpenter and Ice Cube.

Pootie Tang

Domestic Gross: $3 million

Moviegoers didn’t turn out for this comedy written and directed by Louis C.K. that originated from a sketch on The Chris Rock Show (who costars). Despite the failed run at the box office, it has since become a cult hit.

And that does it for 2001, folks! Look for my post about summer 2011 in the coming days…

Hubie Halloween Movie Review

Adam Sandler doesn’t have many new tricks up his sleeve with his latest Netflix “treat” in Hubie Halloween. Here he employs his Waterboy voice as a self professed holiday monitor in his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts. Hubie is a constantly bullied and goodhearted mama’s boy (also Waterboy shades) who is easily scared and easily grates on one’s nerves within moments. This is the typical streaming mediocrity we have come to expect from its star, but it’s slightly more of a letdown after the career best work we just saw from him in Uncut Gems. 

Collaborating with his frequent director Steven Brill, Hubie is squarely aimed at teens and Sandler diehards. There’s familiar faces galore and many of their characters are marked not by funny dialogue, but “funny” appearances. Kevin James (the town law enforcement) has funny facial hair! Tim Meadows has funny hair! Steve Buscemi has funny arm hair because he might be a werewolf! June Squibb (as his dear mama) wears funny t-shirts! Shaquille O’Neal has a funny voice in a bit that pays homage to John Carpenter’s The Fog (one of the few that I actually chuckled at).

As for plot, Sandler’s latest weird title character has to deal with an overstuffed amount of it. There’s his romantic subplot with his Happy Gilmore love interest Julie Bowen. We have a recently escaped patient from a mental institution. There are multiple tormentors of Hubie who get plenty of screen time, including Ray Liotta and Michael Chiklis. And it all happens on one long (and 102 minutes is too long here) Halloween day and night where Hubie’s constant sidekick is an all purpose thermos which serves soup, is a megaphone, and serves every other function imaginable.

Hubie Halloween isn’t awful (some other Sandler Netflix experiences are) as much as totally disposable. It’s as childish as the central character. Sometimes that works for this comedic performer with the right screenplay. This one, with a smattering of decent jokes, is mostly stuck in its own unfocused fog.

The main issue here is a familiar one. Sandler is either playing someone obnoxious or a buffoon. It’s the latter in this case and too often this latest buffoon just isn’t that funny. Even with all that supposedly hilarious hair everywhere.

** (out of four)

Halloween Movie Review

The latest Halloween installment has so much reverence for the 1978 original that it has no use for the multiple sequels that followed. It ignores them and that includes the ones where Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) appeared. She’s not Michael’s sister. She’s not living under an assumed name while working at a boarding school 20 years after his night of havoc. This Halloween ignores all of that and is a direct sequel from what happened four decades ago.

It cheats a little with that. As you’ll recall, John Carpenter’s classic concluded with Michael Myers apparently still on the loose. Here we learn that he was apprehended and has been in custody for 40 years. His psychiatrist Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) is long gone with a new doc (Haluk Bilginer) studying him. Michael is about to be transferred to a new facility on the night before his beloved title holiday (maybe picking a different day for that would have been wise). You can correctly guess whether that transfer is successful.

Laurie is still experiencing PTSD from her encounter in ‘78. She’s an alcoholic reclusive double divorcée estranged from daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and grandchild Allyson (Andi Matichak). Her off the beaten path home is a survivalist den. Karen strayed after her mother (wisely it turns out) taught her how to take down a monster. Michael’s breakout session provides the chance.

David Gordon Green directs and shares co-writing duties with Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley. They sprinkle the screenplay with nods to part one both large and small. This reimagining recognizes that providing Michael a lot of back story isn’t needed, as the sequels eventually did to a ridiculous degree. He’s The Shape… an unstoppable machine who perhaps cannot be taken out. Nick Castle, who donned the infamous mask 40 years back, returns. Carpenter is around as well – providing the iconic music.

Halloween is effective in spurts. It takes some time to get its motor running while the original was lean and mean. Some of Michael’s kills are fine examples of blunt force creativity. Curtis clearly loves the role of Laurie and she has a few memorable moments as a now badass grandma. She’s not just an unwilling victim anymore. Laurie wants Michael to escape so she can finish him off and that’s a welcome touch.

Yet in all honesty, the 2018 edition never rises too much above the level of the first sequel in 1981. It continues the story from the greatest slasher ever in a serviceable, sometimes scary, and far more spotty way. Of course, I never expected this to match what came with Carpenter’s low-budget vision. Perhaps I hoped it would have a little more running time where it came closer.

**1/2 (out of four)

 

Halloween Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (10/12/18): A week before its premiere, I’m revising my estimate up from $67.2 million to $75.4 million

Next weekend, the latest Halloween entry arrives in theaters and this one does so with a twist. While this is the 11th installment in the 40-year-old franchise, it ignores everything that happened in parts 2-10 and serves as a direct sequel to the 1978 John Carpenter classic. Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie Strode with Nick Castle (the original Michael Myers) donning the mask once again. David Gordon Green, known for pics as varied as Pineapple Express and last year’s Boston Marathon drama Stronger, directs and is co-writer along with comedic actor Danny McBride. Blumhouse Productions is behind this and they have proven themselves as masters of making low-budget horror flicks hugely profitable ventures (the price tag is only a reported $10 million). Costars include Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, and Will Patton.

This is actually Curtis’s fifth time playing her iconic character when including Halloween II, 1998’s Halloween: H20, and Halloween: Resurrection. Just pay no mind to anything that happened to her in those follow-ups. The release date timed for the actual holiday and the return of the series best known player has created some serious buzz. So did its screening at the Toronto Film Festival where it premiered to solid reviews (Rotten Tomatoes is currently at 85%).

Add all that up and Halloween appears primed to scare up big business. The current record holder for biggest horror debut of all time belongs to last year’s It at $123 million and that mark seems unattainable. However, this seems poised to top 2018’s The Nun, which premiered with $53 million. I believe a mid 70s gross is where Laurie and Michael will stake their claim, which would give it the second highest October debut behind Venom. 

Halloween opening weekend prediction: $75.4 million

This Day in Movie History: January 16

10 years ago Today in Movie History – January 16 – marked the release of Along Came Polly, the romantic comedy headlined by Ben Stilller and Jennifer Aniston. The pic would debut to a terrific $27.7 million in its opening weekend, ending the month-long reign of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. With a stellar supporting cast that included Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alec Baldwin, and a sight impaired ferret, Polly‘s overall domestic haul would eventually stand at $88 million.

Today marks the 66th birthday of director John Carpenter. He is responsible for what I believe to be the greatest slasher flick ever – 1978′ Halloween. There’s also a trio of genre classics starring Kurt Russell – Escape from New York, The Thing, and Big Trouble in Little China. Other notables features: Assault on Precinct 13, The Fog, Christine, Starman, and They Live.

January 16th would have marked the 35th birthday of Aaliyah. The R&B singer was certainly known more for her musical career, but she was beginning to branch out to film with roles in Romeo Must Die with Jet Li and Queen of the Damned. Aaliyah was tragically killed in a plane crash in 2001.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between the two:

John Carpenter directed Kurt Russell in Escape from New York

Kurt Russell was in Tango&Cash with Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone was in The Expendables with Jet Li

Jet Li was in Romeo Must Die with Aaliyah

And that’s today – January 16th – in Movie History!