The Woodsboro Murders

Scream 2 overcomes the horror movie sequel curse that it’s trying to satirize. Since everyone knows those tend to suck. Unlike with his Nightmare franchise, Wes Craven actually returned to direct. Meaning Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courtney Cox, and Jamie Kennedy would return too. Instead of having an entirely new cast of victims like most sequels do. Sidney and Randy are now in college where they try to move on from “The Woodsboro Murders.” Which is difficult considering Gale just wrote a book about it. Something that gets between her and a now disabled Deputy Dewey. There’s also a newly released movie based on the events called Stab. Just like Scream, Scream 2 has a very chilling opening sequence. One question some viewers might of had about the first movie is, “Where are all the black people?” Well now there’s plenty, including Jada Pinkett-Smith whose killed in a theater packed with people dressed like Ghostface. Kind of in poor taste if you think about it. Well just like in real life, the previous murders inspire a copycat killer. This new Ghostface seems to be killing people in accordance with the names of the previous victims. Buffy herself Sarah Michelle Gellar is one of them. Sidney is so on edge that she even suspects her new boyfriend might be the killer. He almost was but it was drastically altered due to a script leak. Newly exonerated Cotton Weary is also a suspect. According to Randy, the rules to a horror movie sequel are: the body count is bigger, the death scenes are more elaborate, and something about having a successful franchise. SPOILER ALERT! Random creep Mickey is the killer, but he’s not as important as Mrs. Loomis. Out to avenge her son’s death à la Mrs. Voorhees. With more creative kills and wit, Scream 2 is a sequel done fright.

2. Scream 2

Possible Ghostfaces

Preceded by: Scream & Followed by: Scream 3

Do You Like Scary Movies?

Scream wants to know, “Do you like scary movies?” If the answer is yes, then “What’s your favorite scary movie?” Well back in the early 90’s that would have been tough to say. Since genuine horror films were scarce at the time. So just as he did with New Nightmare, horror legend Wes Craven decided to turn the genre on its head. This time by making teenagers well aware of classic horror movies and clichés. I’ve certainly become an expert. Scream has one of the most chilling horror movie openings of all time. Where a mysterious voice on a cellphone calls teenager Casey Becker played by Drew Barrymore. Who is of course the star of the movie… psych! The calls are flirty at first before becoming very sinister, and when she fails to answer horror movie trivia, she’s killed before the title even appears. The real “Scream Queen” is Neve Campbell who plays legendary final girl Sidney Prescott. Her quiet little town of Woodsboro is stalked by a knife wielding maniac. Ghostface is an instant icon wearing a tattered black robe and long white ghost mask. Halloween costumes where unavoidable growing up. Police Deputy Dewey or desperate reporter Gale Weathers aren’t much help. Though romance did spark between David Arquette and Courtney Cox. Sidney is incessantly stalked by Ghostface. So if you want to survive you have to follow Randy’s 3 simple rules: you can never have sex, drink/do drugs, or say “I’ll be right back.” After killing principal Fonz and Ghostface namer Tatum, the killer is revealed to be (SPOILER ALERT!) Sidney’s boyfriend Billy Loomis and his shaggy friend Stu. All for the love of horror movies and an incident involving Sid’s mother. Despite it’s satirical tone, the kills are still effectively terrifying. Scream is the youthful breath of fresh scare that the horror genre needed.

1. Scream

Ghostface goes in for the kill

Followed by: Scream 2

Les Plaisirs Simples de la vie

Amélie is all about the little things. Like peeling off dry glue from your fingers or knocking over a set of dominos. Something that’s currently known as “oddly satisfying.” I’m personally partial to cracking my knuckles. Although they can be a bit tricky to watch at times, I still make an effort to watch foreign films every now and then. Amélie is a French film that reached a universal audience and received 5 Oscar nominations. Becoming so popular in the U.S. that I knew I had to check it out eventually. Amélie Poulain is a bright-eyed young waitress who enjoys life’s simple pleasures. Her pleasures include sticking her hand into bags of grain and cracking crème brûlée with a teaspoon. When she discovers a 40 year old box full of childhood treasures, Amélie makes it her life’s mission to find whoever it belongs to. Which leads her down an even greater path towards improving the lives of everyone around her. From co-workers and neighbors to strangers on the street. What makes her so unique is that she’s not in it for the recognition. She leaves the people she’s helped without ever taking any recognition for it. Unfortunately that comes at a cost to her own happiness. Something she thankfully learns to fix. French actress Audrey Tautou perfectly captures Amélie’s imaginative spirit. Making Amélie a surreal romance that’s just as oddly satisfying as I hoped it would be.

4. A

Amélie enjoys cracking crème brûlée with a teaspoon

Exhibit A

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb takes the living museum concept and does something deeper with it. By exploring the origin behind the magical Egyptian tablet that brings everything to life. What more could they do? Battle of the Smithsonian literally brought all the most famous exhibits to life. After deciding to keep the American Museum of Natural History open over night, everything seems to be going well for Ben Stiller’s Larry Daley. Until the power of the tablet starts to wear off. So Larry takes Ahkmenrah, Theodore Roosevelt, Sacagawea, Attila the Hun, Jedidiah, Octavius, Dexter the monkey, and a caveman version of himself to the British Museum. Where Ahkmenrah’s parents can hopefully fix the problem with the tablet. Larry’s much older son Nick tags along as well. As far as comedians are concerned, Rebel Wilson is the only new one. Larry doesn’t have a love interest this time after being interested in both a fellow museum employee and a waxed version of Amelia Earhart. Instead Stiller’s caveman doppelgänger gets a comical love interest with Wilson’s British night guard. Since there’s less of a focus on the exhibits, the only notable one is Sir Lancelot. He gets most of the funny scenes. Including one with unexpected cameos from Hugh Jackman and Alice Eve. The possible loss of the exhibits is surprisingly emotional. Though not as emotional as the real life loss of both Mickey Rooney and Robin Williams. Both of whom passed away before its release. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb isn’t the most imaginative installment, but it is a satisfying enough conclusion to this fun trip through history.

3. NATMSOTT

Larry and company ride the trolly

Preceded by: Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Landmark Battle

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian takes the living museum concept and does something bigger with it. By taking all the action to the most famous collection of museums in the United States. The Smithsonian museum in Washington D.C. Since the events of Night at the Museum, Ben Stiller’s Larry Daley has left his night guard position to pursue his dream of being an inventor. All his success distracts him from the fact that all his friends at the American Museum of Natural History are being shipped off to the Smithsonian archives. Specifically Sacagawea, Attila the Hun, Jedadiah, Octavius, and Dexter the monkey. Rexy and Theodore Roosevelt stay behind, but Robin Williams does show up again as a Teddy bust. The Egyptian tablet stays behind as well (or so they thought). Dexter swipes the tablet and it brings the entire Smithsonian to life. So it really helps to know a thing or two about history. And expect even more comedians. Like Bill Hader, Jonah Hill, or Hank Azaria. They’re hilarious, but some of them might have over improvised. Azaria plays Kahmunrah, evil brother of Ahkmenrah. He allies himself with famous historical villains Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Al Capone. Meanwhile Larry first allies himself with General Custard. Then famed pilot Amelia Earhart. Amy Adams is the best new addition to the cast. Along the way they encounter famous exhibits like the Thinker, the Lincoln Memorial, the Air and Space Museum, and even paintings that they can walk into. All of it ends with a massive battle where Larry becomes a jedi night guard equipped with a flashlight saber. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian takes full advantage of its fun concept.

2. NATMBOTS

Abraham Lincoln lifts up Larry

Preceded by: Night at the Museum & Followed by: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

History Comes to Life

Night at the Museum brings history to life… literally! As it turns out, Night at the Museum is the first movie I went to see after my longest theater going drought ever. I usually see movies all year round, but 2006 was surprisingly scarce. I remember when Night at the Museum came out. It was part of three trailers that premiered on Nickelodeon. Deck the Halls, Eragon, and of course Night at the Museum. The latter being the only one I wanted to go see. It was also the only movie I ever saw on Christmas Day. I was drawn to the concept because of all the museums I went to and my knowledge of historical figures. Ben Stiller plays newly appointed night guard Larry Daley. An ordinary guy thrust into the extraordinary world of a museum that comes to life every night. He was hired by three elderly guards played by legends Dick Van Dyke, Bill Cobbs, and Mickey Rooney. The American Museum of Natural History contains the skeleton of a T-Rex, stuffed animals (including a particularly rambunctious monkey named Dexter), waxed figures, miniatures, statues, and an Easter Island head. Of course the concept can be played for laughs. Which is why the cast is made up of comedians. Like Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Rickey Gervais, or Robin Williams. Robin Williams is surprisingly perfect for President Theodore Roosevelt. Although Mickey Rooney gets the funniest lines. Other important historical figures include Sacagawea, Attila the Hun, and Christopher Columbus. Night one is pure chaos, night two goes well until something goes wrong, and night three is where the conflict comes in. All because of an ancient egyptian tablet. Night at the Museum is a historical lesson in fun.

1. NATM

Larry runs from Rexy

Followed by: Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

The Kung Fu Kid?

The Karate Kid (2010) sounded like a bad idea, but it did a surprisingly admirable job. For me the first warning sign was the presence of Jaden Smith. Since Will Smith was desperate to make him as big of a star as he was. He and Jada produced the remake just for him. All I can say is his performance is not as obnoxious as I thought it would be. Then again Jackie Chan does sort of keep him on the right path. Although it is technically a remake, The Karate Kid (2010) is vastly different from the original. Both are about youths that move to a new city with their mother, meet a local girl, get beaten up by a school bully that was taught never to show mercy, and learn martial arts from a wise Asian maintenance man. That’s where the similarities end. Instead of being a teenager, Dre Parker is actually a kid. His Shifu Mr. Han is also younger. Making his fight with the bullies seem a bit wrong. Jackie Chan gives a surprisingly dramatic performance that Pat Morita would have been proud of. Instead of “Wax on, wax off,” Mr. Han teaches Xiao Dre “Jacket on, jacket off.” Not quite as quotable. Another major change is having Dre move from Detroit all the way to Beijing, China. Their explanation for moving that far way doesn’t make much sense. But at least it gives us an opportunity to learn more about the history of kung fu. So why is the movie called The Karate Kid? The tournament is the same, if just a bit more stylized. The Karate Kid (2010) respects the original enough to tell the same story in an interesting new way.

6. The Karate Kid

Mr. Han teaches Xiao Dre

Remake of: The Karate Kid (1984)

Swanky New Lessons

The Next Karate Kid doesn’t need to exist, but since it does, here it is. Pat Morita is now the last cast member standing since Ralph Macchio bailed out. This time Mr. Miyagi trains a teenage girl in the radical 90’s. Literally the only thing this unnecessary revamp is good for is giving Hilary Swank her first starring role. Before she was a 2 time Oscar winner, Swank was the bratty karate student Julie-san. She’s rebellious because she takes care of an injured hawk. Which has nothing to do with anything and is just plain bizarre, but not as bizarre as a group of ruthless teen security guards picking on Julie. Mr. Miyagi for some reason ends up looking after Julie when he swaps houses with her grandmother. She refuses to “Wax on, wax off,” so he instead teaches her karate at a buddhist monastery. Most of which feels like leftover martial arts lessons that they couldn’t fit into the previous films. He also teaches her how to dance. Followed by an even weirder monk bowling sequence. In the end, Julie frees the bird, fights the bully, and gets the boy. The Next Karate Kid is just as pointless as it sounds, but at least Hilary Swank makes an impression.

5. The Next Karate Kid

Mr. Miyagi meets Julie-san’s hawk

Preceded by: The Karate Kid Part III

Mr. Miyagi’s Little Trees

The Karate Kid Part III brought great shame to the martial arts franchise. It’s easily the worst film of the trilogy. So much so that it was nominated for multiple Razzie awards including Worst Picture. The reception was so bad that Ralph Macchio essentially quit the franchise afterwards. Above anything else, the main problem with The Karate Kid Part III is how mean spirited it is. Almost exactly like Rocky V. The plot is practically a rehash of the original. With yet another bully for Daniel to overcome. Daniel is now living with Mr. Miyagi and planning to open a small business with him. Their second mistake was putting focus on Mr. Miyagi’s love of bonsai trees. Daniel also has yet another love interest after The Karate Kid Part II already gave him a new one. Only new girl Jessica isn’t even single. Things get really bad when sadistic ex-sensei John Kreese swears revenge on Daniel and Mr. Miyagi. He enlists the help of a ponytail wearing wealthy war buddy who manipulates Daniel into leaving Mr. Miyagi. He teaches him strangely brutal Cobra Kai methods that leave him bloody and bruised. Daniel being easily taken advantage of just makes him look like an idiot. He couldn’t be more out of character. Pat Morita is the only bright spot. Aside from him, The Karate Kid Part III is the most embarrassing chapter in the series.

4. The Karate Kid Part III

Daniel fights Barnes

Preceded by: The Karate Kid Part II & Followed by: The Next Karate Kid

No Mercy

The Karate Kid Part II continues Daniel-san’s journey in Mr. Miyagi’s homeland of Okinawa, Japan. Much like Rocky II, the sequel first picks up immediately after The Karate Kid. Daniel and Mr. Miyagi encounter sadistic sensei John Kreese in a parking lot after the tournament. He breaks Cobra Kai’s second place trophy and nearly chokes out Johnny, but Mr. Miyagi intervenes. He shows him mercy by honking his nose. Aside from Kreese, Johnny, and his gang, Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita are the only returning cast members. Ali is annoyingly written out due to an off screen break up. Which is always frustrating, because it puts a likeable character in a bad light. Instead Daniel travels with Mr. Miyagi to his home country where he finds a new love interest. The young Japanese niece of Miyagi’s former flame named Kumiko. The reason for the trip is for Mr. Miyagi to visit his dying father. As well as come to terms with demons from his past. The location change is the strongest part of The Karate Kid Part II. Along with stand out moments like Daniel breaking though blocks of ice. It’s an interesting cultural change, but the energy is sort of lacking. Daniel once again faces a group of bullies. Only they’re much more willing to fight to the death. So Daniel’s main lesson in martial arts is to show mercy even with your worst enemy. The Karate Kid Part II is the only honorable sequel of the bunch.

3. The Karate Kid Part II

Mr. Miyagi and Daniel-san in Okinawa

Preceded by: The Karate Kid & Followed by: The Karate Kid Part III