Sam Raimi is the guy who invented the Coen Brothers. He's the funny little man in the black suit who has based his career on The Three Stooges... in a good way.
The Evil Dead (1983) -- Not just another slasher movie. There are real moments of horror, but mostly this is just a pleasure to watch. Everyone dies in interesting ways and the gore is gleefully over the top. On top of the usual horror elements, there are not-so-subtle plays on gender, sexuality, manhood, and the idea of the hero. Both sides get it, whether it's a girl being raped by a tree or a man getting a "cum shot" of blood on his face from a woman's open neck. The movie gets better with each viewing, and it only improves itself in your mind once you've seen the sequels. (See below for the sequel, The Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn.)
Crimewave (1985) -- If you really really really like goofball comedies that go "boink" and play cartoony music, you might like this. Not my personal cup of tea, I find it hard to watch for its badness. Supposedly, this was written by the Coen brothers.
The Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (1987) -- As good or better than the first movie, this one has less horror and "meaning" and more humor and momentum. One imaginative set piece after another. You can feel a little bit of mainstreaming creeping in from time to time (perhaps a necessary evil of a higher budget), but not too much, and for the most part the more professional elements of the movie only help it. Watching Sam Raimi's insane direction makes you wish that more people had this much energy for making movies. (See above for the predecessor, The Evil Dead. See below for the sequel, Army of Darkness.)
Darkman (1990) -- Sometimes collapsing under the weight of its own goofiness and sometimes benefiting from it, Darkman isn't perfect, but it's sure a good try at an original superhero (borrowing from the Hulk, Batman, Superman, and countless others). Watching Liam Neeson's purposefully-bad overacting is worth it alone, and probably the funniest thing about the movie (contrasted with Frances McDormand who doesn't seem to know she's in a comic book movie). I always dig the origin stories of superheroes the best, and I'm glad this movie ended just as the origin was finished, rather than watching some stupid generic "adventure" (see Superman).
Army of Darkness (1992) -- I didn't like this movie much at all when I first saw it. I like it better now, though I still think the idea for the movie was faulty, to spend most of the movie in dullish, bad comedy battle sequences. The movie works best during scenes like the one at the windmill, just zany Bruce Campbell, a little creepiness, some Alice in Wonderland craziness, and Sam Raimi's imagination. This movie also seems to have inspired certain elements of The Lord of the Rings, especially The Two Towers. (See above for the predecessor, The Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn.)
The Quick and the Dead (1995) -- A pretty fun western, with that Sam Raimi zaniness throughout.
A Simple Plan (1998) -- Would be a nice double feature with Fargo, and almost just as good a movie. Everything unfolds at a slow, intense pace in this movie, showing Sam Raimi a restraint Raimi hasn't exactly shown before. Billy Bob Thornton makes the rest of the actors look downright average by comparison with his performance (everyone else seems to be "acting," where he's up to something entirely different), which is about the worst thing you can say about the movie (the allowance of "average"). If you watch it in a certain mood, you yourself will begin to feel some of the fear and guilt spread liberally throughout the movie. One of Raimi's best.
For Love of the Game (1999) -- The first of Raimi's entirely average duo of movies before doing Spiderman, this is exactly what you would think a romantic baseball drama starring Kevin Costner would be.
The Gift (2000) -- A mediocre film: one of those "I've seen this before" supernatural thrillers.
Spider-Man (2002) -- One of the best superhero movies in that it's not some silly over-the-top goofy thing (like the Batmans became). Spider-Man was always my favorite superhero, so I was glad when Sam Raimi did what he did with it. It and the original Batman are the best so far. And while this one is lacking in the brand new world production design of Batman, it's somewhat fitting that it's set in regular ol' New York City, since all the characters seem like regular ol' people instead of superstuff (unlike Batman, even though he's technically more human than Spider-Man). Tobey Maguire is perfect, cute, funny, polite, charming: all the things that Peter Parker is supposed to be. All the other actors were great as well. Overall, this movie was more about the story than the normal flashiness of superhero movies and blockbuster movies in general, so that's a good thing.
Spider-Man 2 (2004) -- Like the first movie, the best thing about this one is that you barely notice it's a big-budget superhero movie. It's really just a movie about people that you like, paired with some genuinely cool action sequences to keep things pumping. The movie also works great as a sequel and especially as a continuing narrative of the first movie (and eventual third), taking its time telling a story. The only bad thing is that the character of Peter Parker just becomes a bit of an idiot, and his inability to balance his social life with his crime-fighting life becomes ridiculous and redundant. As sequels go, a true hit.
Spider-Man 3 (2007) -- Manages to tie many elements together (the "evil" Spider-Man vs. the "good" Spider-Man and the effect they have on their respective Peter Parkers, Venom, the Hobgoblin, the Sandman, Mary Jane, Gwen, the skinny girl and the landlord, etc.) without becoming too overwhelmed with it in the way that Batman and Robin did. Like Spider-Man 2, this is barely a superhero movie (in a good way), and you even see a plain-clothed Peter Parker doing a lot of the Spider-Man stuff for a lot of it. No Spider-Man movie has been perfect, but this one shaves off some of the dumber stuff and would be a good way to close the series.
Copyright (c) Aug 2001 - May 2007 by Rusty Likes Movies