Director Selective Series: Sam Raimi Part 5

Hello, Weirdos. Hope you all had a decent Thanksgiving, if that’s something you partake in. During this Series, I fell in-love with the Evil Dead series all over again, so over the long weekend I got an Evil Dead tattoo (pictured below). Part 5 is the final installment of the Director Selective Series: Sam Raimi . Next month I will view the directorial filmography of a new director. Until then here are the last 3 from Sam Raimi:

I have seen all of these before, but none of them for several years. I'm looking forward to see if I still enjoy them, and to see a return to Horror for Sam Raimi.

Here are my thoughts on the films from Part 3 and Part 4 of the Sam Raimi Series: 

  •  The Quick and the Dead: A first time watch for me. I've not seen many westerns. The plot is thin—a duel competition and one woman's quest for revenge. Other than a bit of Sharon Stone's back back story there isn't much character development. Not enough to be invested in anyone, or the plight of the townspeople. Also, this film, and maybe it's because I've seen too many movies, is predictable. You know who is going to die and when. Sharon Stone overacts in emotional parts, but Gene Hackman is charismatic and villainous. Nothing overtly screams Sam Raimi aside from maybe DiCaprio's slick dialogue. Overall, The Quick and the Dead is enjoyable to watch and never boring, but nothing to write home about either.
  • A Simple Plan: I went into this film completely blind. If anyone has ever asked, "what if Sam Raimi directed Fargo?" this film would be the answer to that question. It is also one of those films where things continuously go wrong such as Don't Breath or Cellular. Paxton is fantastic. He's mumbling, he's bumbling, he's the good guy turned criminal. As the film progresses we get to see him slowly shift gears, but in the end he holds tight to his moral compass. Thornton shines in this role. He plays Paxton's dimwitted brother. There were times I forgot I was watching Thornton because he embodies this role. Thornton is the Lenny to Paxton's George. Which is another thing I noticed about this picture; it has strong Of Mice and Men undertones. Almost a modern retelling. An engaging film with twits and turns that takes you down and never brings you back up.
  • For Love of the Game: Another of Raimi’s movies unfamiliar to me. I knew it was about baseball only because the poster from last weeks post. This genre, sports, is another I’m unfamiliar with. For Love of the Game is essentially two stories, interwoven, revolving around Billy Chapel played by Kevin Costner. One story is about the romantic relationship between Chapel and Jane Aubrey, played by Kelly Preston. The other story is of a washed up pitcher. Metaphorically things are straightforward. Game equals parts of the their relationship. When Chapel starts the game strong, the relationship is strong. When Chapel struggles, the relationship struggles. And so on. There are a few cheesy inspirational moments, but not enough to bog the film down. Impressively, Raimi is able to make both stories work, and make each inticing enough to get the audience excited and emotionally invested. 
  • The Gift: Directed by Raimi and penned by Billy Bob Thornton, The Gift is a thriller about a psychic dealing with the murder or a fellow townsmember. Kate Blanchett plays Annie Wilson and her performance is fine. Fine is a fair descriptor for nearly all the performances. Greg Kinnear is his typical nice-guy self. Hillary Swank could have been anyone. Keanu was decent playing an angry redneck as opposed to his usual hero figure. Giovanni Ribisi displayed the most emotion. Some of the imagery is cool, specifically when Annie sees a body floating in her tree. Anyone who has watched a procedural cop show could predict the ending of this conventional thriller. 
  • Spider-Man: Is Spider-Man campy? Yes. Are there cheesey lines? Yes. But does it all work? Yes. The supporting characters play their parts well. JK Simmons IS Jameson. Maguire is a solid Peter. He isn’t as quick witted or funny as Spidey as in later iterations. Instead he’s on the corny side, but plays the bubbling nerdy boy next door perfectly. There is a scene where Spider-Man is as good as destroyed by the Goblin. Maguire displays intense emotion showing through his face and body language that he is struggling to keep going. As he begins to shake the audience sees a ferocity take him over. Dafoe is fantastic as the schizophrenic Green Goblin. Dafoe plays it cool, creepy, and terrifying. Green Goblin, as a character, meshes well with Raimi's style. Practical effects are used whenever possible. The computer effects that are used are dated, but the editing is seamless making the effects unnoticeable. Spider-Man feels like a comic book movie in the best way. It is fun, it is exciting, and it is well balanced being grounded and fantastic. David Kopek's writing is on point. Spider-Man isn't given powers and then instantly a great hero. First thing he does is try to make some money. Then he kicks some ass of someone who isn't a bad guy, and lets a thief run right past him. Through intelligent writing choices like this the audience is able to see the growth of the main character. It is also good to see some familiar faces including Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi,  and the Oldsmobile.
  • Spider-Man 2: Spider-Man 2 continues the growth of Parker as a man and hero as he goes through a midlife identity crisis. There are at least three callbacks to the Evil Dead series. During the surgery scene when the doctors are attempting to remove the mechanical arms from Otto there is a man wielding a chainsaw, the camera fixed on a flying object, and sweeping POV shot from the villains perspective. This scene is horrific and reminiscent of the kitchen scene in Jurassic Park with the raptors. That's what makes the octopus arms work so well—they're a sentient, animalistic extension of Otto. Part 2 hits similar beats as its predecessor: Peter struggles with responsibility and his love for MJ, Peter learns how to use his abilities after losing them briefly, and the city has mixed feelings toward him only to help him triumph in the finale. Spider-Man 2 is as good as 1. It lacks a freshness, but without all the origin and set up part 2 allows audiences to swing into the thick of things leaving room for developing characters and more web-slinging thrills.

I know that was a long one, Weirdos, but thanks for reading. Next weeks thoughts will be accompanied by a new director as the Director Selective Series continues. If there is a director you'd like me to comb through please leave a comment suggesting one below. Keep on Creepin'.