Monday, January 15, 2018

The Matrix (1999) (Movie Review)

     The year was 1999 and during that summer, everyone was excited about a callosal Sci-Fi Blockbuster titled “Star Wars 1: The Phantom Menace”. Who can blame us, “Star Wars” is a major franchise and the concept of a new film after so many years was beyond thrilling. However, there was another Sci-Fi blockbuster released that summer which quietly snuck in to the theaters, wasn’t part of a major franchise, yet it surpassed the new Star Wars film by a mile. When “The Matrix” premiered, there was little marketing, the trailer didn’t show much and it was mostly shrouded in mystery. All the intrigue surrounding this movie revolved solely on the question “What is the Matrix”, and no-one knew what to expect. Of course, most people know the premise today, but back then, “The Matrix” wasn’t just a hit summer movie, it was a discovery, something original and it blew everyone’s mind. To this day, “The Matrix” is proudly regarded as one of the great classics of the Sci-Fi genera, and it’s inspired a whole generation of filmmakers. Personally, it’s one of my favorite movies, and arguably it’s the film that had the biggest impact on my early teenage years. In fact, I always viewed this movie as my transition from childhood to teenager. Something you’ll notice several times in this review is that I refer to certain aspects of the film as “the best of” or “my personal favorite of”. Some would say that “The Matrix” is dated, and while it might be in parts, I still view it as a classic and an important reminder of how originality can leave an impact on a generation. 

       When a computer hacker, alias Neo, is summoned by a mysterious group leader named Morpheus, he learns that the real world isn’t what it seems. In the future, all of human kind is in-fact enslaved by machines, who are all wired to a system called The Matrix, which makes the humans believe their living normal lives in 1999, when in reality their merely vessels to feed and power the monstrous machines of the future. Morpheus leads a small resistance of people on a hover craft called the Nebuchadnezzar, and from there they hack into the machines system. In short, they aim to free human kind from their robot captures, and believe that Neo is the key that will lead them to victory. While the films concept isn’t without flaw, or is even 100% original, it’s the experience of “The Matrix” that made it so captivating. Make no mistake, while different variations of the films concept had been around for years, the overall execution of it was the most exciting action movie experience the Sci-Fi genera delivered sense “The Terminator”.

         Before I get lost in the films many details, lets quickly take a moment to talk about the characters. Keanu Reeves plays our main hero Neo, and while his delivery is hit and miss, I still view it as one of the iconic movie hero portrayals right alongside Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. Basically, Neo is the everyday man who steps into a larger world. For this first movie it helps put the audience in his shoes, and experiencing all the wonder around him. For me, it’s his wide-eyed curiosity that makes him an enduring lead, and when he emerges as a hero in the end, I find myself cheering for him more than any other action star. One minor annoyance is that he gets branded as “The Chosen One”, in fact his name Neo is an anagram for One. It works in the contents of the story, but personally I prefer heroes who can accomplish great things on their own, without the added bonus of being a prophesied chosen one. The one good thing about his arc is that he views himself as “any other guy” up until the ending in which he discovers his true nature, and it is a genuinely triumphant moment.    

         My favorite character by far is Morpheus, who’s played brilliantly by Laurence Fishburne. He has this aura, like the master with all the answers, yet gradually we see both his humanity and vulnerability come through. In short, he just feels like the most well-rounded character. Just like with both “Star Wars” and the Harry Potter films, it’s the films iconic characters that really help cement this series in our minds. There’s also some memorable side characters including the operator named Tank, who has wit, charm, and helps liven the films tone. The late Gloria Foster is also very charismatic as the mystical Oracle, who’s a computer program that’s turned against the machines and guides our hero on his journey. If there was any one character I didn’t care for, it would be the love interest Trinity, who’s played Carrie-Anne Moss. While the actress is perfectly fine in the role, and obviously looks good in skin tight black leather, there’s still just something about her that comes off as very bland to me. Supposedly she set a new standard for bad ass action chicks, and while she definitely has cool moments, she just can’t leave a lasting impression. I also didn’t feel any chemistry between her and Neo, but this really doesn’t become an issue until the sequels in which their relationship is given way too much attention.

     The greatest threat to our hero’s while in the Matrix are computer programs that can take over any humans still connected to the machines. These foes are simply referred to as “the agents”, who have enhanced strength and can’t be gunned down. The leader is Agent Smith, who’s played by Hugo Weaving and subsequently one of the greatest movie villains of all time. While these agents in general are basically programmed to terminate all who resist, Smith has his own personal goal, to break out of the Matrix system, and become an individual. Hugo Weaving absolutely shines in the role, and gives the character a sheer presence of dread and menace. The best villains are the ones who always keep calm, collected, and yet can still put up a good fight. I also love antagonists that are polar opposites of the protagonists, and Smith is a perfect offset to our hero Neo. It’s hard to explain, but in my opinion, the rivalry between Neo and Smith is one of the most engaging hero/villain dynamics I’ve ever seen. Outside the Matrix is another threat that comes in the form of Robot killing machines called Sentinels. Personally, I never really liked the designs of these things, as they resemble squids, and they just didn’t look all that unique or particularly threatening either.

    Rounding up the cast is Joe Pantoliano as a crew member named Cypher, who was once a loyal follower to Morpheus, but down the road turns into a metaphorical Judas. Basically, he betrays the Nebuchadnezzar crew by turning Morpheus over to the agents, and all for the exchange of being reinstated into the Matrix. This might just be my favorite traitor character I’ve ever seen. Joe Pantoliano is nothing short of charismatic and despicably charming in the role, and we the audience so badly want to see him get his comeuppance. Despite his traitorous ways, Cypher is also very understandable, and maybe even relatable in his motives. He hates the real world of the future and wants to return back to the computer-simulated world of the Matrix. This also brings up an interesting dynamic, is it better to be set free in a real world that sucks, or live as a slave in a simulated world that’s peaceful. This is what characterizes “The Matrix” as it’s more than flashy effects and thrilling action. This is a movie that raises intriguing questions that don’t have easy answers, and it interweaves its subjects with references to philosophical, mythology and religious ideas. Admittedly the pseudo religious aspects of the film, and even the Philosophy come off as hit and miss at times, but I admire the attempt to make this film equal parts entertainment and also a thinking mans film.

      More then anything, I love a film that can pay homage to multiple other works and yet still have its own distinct, even original identity. For the sake of this review, I’ll try to keep the comparisons light, as the influential details of this film can fill a 9-hour biography, but I at least want to address some of the big influences. The main influence of "The Matrix" is "Plato's Allegory of the Cave", which also revolved around people that are trapped their whole lives in a shadowy illusion of the world, then one person is set free, and discovers the real world outside the cave. I'll never forget taking a High-school literature class, learning about "Plato's Allegory of the Cave" for the first time, and discovering where the roots of one of my favorite movies first grew. "The Matrix" also pays homage to "Jean Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation", which is a French philosophical treatise that examines the relationships among reality, society and symbolism. In fact, a copy of “Simulacra and Simulation” can briefly be seen in Neo’s apartment early in the film. In many respects, “The Matrix” also makes me think of a super-hero movie, it just didn’t have an original comic book sours material. The characters all display superhuman abilities, and the story is very superhero-esk at heart, especially in regards to Neo who has to discover his true powers, and his destiny to free all humanity.

     Let’s not forget about “Alice in Wonderland”, because this film is like a modern-day retelling of it, and there’s frequent references to Wonderland all throughout the film. The White Rabbit for example comes in the form of a tattoo on a woman who leads Neo away from home and on his journey. Every building in the Matrix has checkered tile floors, there’s a black cat which raises questions just like the Cheshire Cat, and when Neo leaves the dream world, he does so by touching a mirror, which is a reference to “Alice Through the Looking Glass”. If you’re a fan of Japanese anime, you’ll definitely notice that “The Matrix” was heavily influenced by films like “Akira” and especially "Ghost in the Shell". In fact, the now iconic green cereal-cod of The Matrix is directly lifted from the opening title cards of “Ghost in the Shell”. If you haven’t seen either of those movies, I highly recommend checking them out, just to see what helped inspire this film. Now the movies concept of people living in an illusion world had been utilized well before “The Matrix” in several TV shows like “The Twilight Zone”, “Star Trek: TNG” and various films during the 90’s including “Dark City” and “The Truman Show”. What "The Matrix" defined was a distinct personality and tone, which lead to the inception of the cyber punk sub-genera, in which countless other films tried to replicate the exact style and feel of “The Matrix”. However, there’s no mistaking “The Matrix” for any of it’s pretenders. Just about every scene from this film is iconic, or maybe I should say … you could walk into any select moment from this film and instantly recognize what movie it is. “The Matrix” has also been parodied more then any other film I can think of, so even if you’ve never seen the movie, you’ve probably still seen a film that satirized it.

      I was first introduced to this movie as a young second-grader, walking in on one of the films nastiest scenes, and it gave me nightmares for months. The first half of this movie is almost like a Sci-Fi horror film as Neo slowly discovers the truth, and gets into situations like his mouth getting sewed up, and a bug getting placed into his stomach. There’s actually a very joyless tone for the first half, and it’s my only real problem, as it starts things on a gloomy note. Once Neo is separated from “The Matrix” and we’re given the frightening backstory of how the machines took over, the movie officially begins and I’m hooked. Another thing that separated “The Matrix” from all the others that came before it was a unique “video game style” approach to the story. Setting the film in a world where the rules of physics can be bent, or even broken, allows not only for spectacular visual effects but imaginative, computer game-like scenarios impossible in any normal environment. When plugged into the Matrix, people can request things like martial arts skills or helicopter flight training uploaded right into their minds with the push of a button. That concept alone is so wildly original, and it’s easily my favorite aspect of the film. Now despite these video-game elements, action still maintains a great sense of urgency and you still feel the danger.

     The highlight for any true action fan is the moment when Neo simply requests “Guns, Lots of Guns”, which are then uploaded for his use, leading into easily one of the most excessive, balletic and personally my favorite gunfight ever captured on film. Seeing the lobby shoot-out scene for the first time was one of the most breathless experiences I’ve ever had, and it still holds up today. On that note, I think this movie has the best variety of action on display. We have helicopter chasses, gun fights, chasses on foot, Sci-Fi robot clashes, and kung fu martial art fight sequences. Now there isn’t much action at all in the first hour of the film, but it works to the movies advantage. Letting us get to know the characters and get fully submersed in the films unique universe allows the action to thrill once it finally comes around in the third act. The combination of camera work and editing is also some of the tightest I’ve ever seen. There’s a select moment featuring Neo running up a stair case, which on paper is nothing special, but the way this moment was shot, edited and scored makes it feel like the most exhilarating feat of action. Naturally the films editing, sound design, and especially the visual effects all won Oscars at the 2000 Academy Awards. Oh, and about those special effects … lets finally talk about those.

   Of course, the most famous scene of the movie is the built time sequence in which we see Neo dodging bullets. This was a revolutionary feat of special effects, which allowed the camera to move around an object in three dimensions, and in slow motion. In general, slow motion took off like wild fire after this film. I could honestly spend this entire review just talking about select favorite moments that have stuck with me over the years. In fact, this movie features one of my all-time favorite movie scenes which takes place during the films exhilarating final act. After a daring rescue, we get a thrilling helicopter chase that culminates into a spectacular crash into the side of a building, and Neo saves his companions just in time. Aside from being a big spectacle, this is the moment when Neo excepts who he is, and learns the difference between knowing the path and walking the path. The shots, the angles, the music ... just everything building up to Neo’s epiphany is sensational. It’s a moment where I really felt myself cheering for the hero, and it’s always satisfying to see where a character’s journey begins. It’s just a great little scene that masterfully combined wisdom with adrenaline fueled action. 

     The movie then closes in the subway with a nail biting final dual between Neo and Agent Smith. It’s hard to explain why, but of all the climactic final duels I’ve seen between hero’s and villains, this has always been my absolute favorite. Right from the start, this duel is like a classic western showdown, and it even includes a newspaper blowing in-between them like tumbleweed. Aside from being beautifully choreographed, this is a battle that really highlights the hero as an underdog rising to a challenge, one who keeps getting knocked down, but is still determined to get up and keep going. I love the tense fight choreography, I love the setting, I love how the momentum builds, and the music is absolutely pulse-pounding. As the battle wraps up, our hero finally rises above his foe, amusingly fights with one hand behind his back, and in the end, it's just so satisfying to see Neo vanquish Smith.  

    In short, “The Matrix” is what you’d call “a guy flick”, as it’s got guns, cool black glasses, lots of action, woman in leather and awesome special effects. However, there’s still so much more to this film that can appeal to a wider audience. If you like philosophy, superhero stories, Japanese Anime, Fantasy tails with a modern spin, martial arts cinema, or intriguing Sci-Fi, then this film has something for you. I can’t pretend that "The Matrix" is a perfect film, but it is an experience that was more meaningful to me then most other movies I grew up with. To put it simply, “The Matrix” is a film that reminds me why I love movies, why I love to analyze and review them, and it’s inspired me to be imaginative. Perhaps one day I’ll make movies like this, because it’s just one of those experiences that inspires me to do so. No, “The Matrix” isn’t without flaw, but it’s still one of my favorite movies, and I highly recommended it to anyone who loves the art of imaginative film-making.

Without a doubt, I give “The Matrix” a perfect 5 stars … I mean, why not?

Comming Soon

Comming Soon

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Gremlins (1984) (Movie Review)


     It’s the holiday season, no other time of year is more joyful or magical then this. So, what better way to close out Christmas then with a classic Horror movie from the 1980’s. Now the notion of a horror themed Christmas film has been done sense the early 1970’s, but the 1984 movie “Gremlins” is a special case in which it’s actually regarded as a Yuletide classic that’s celebrated year after year. Heck, putting aside Christmas, there are some who would still make the argument that “Gremlins” as a classic movie in general. While I personally can’t call this one of my favorite movies the same way many others easily could, I do still have a lot of fondness reserved for this film, and there is something special about it that’s tricky to describe. It’s such a unique film that’s very adult with most of its context, but it’s aimed toward kids. It’s branded as a horror film, but it’s watched around the Christmas season. It’s a crazy, harper-active, monster run-amuck movie, but celebrated like any Hollywood masterpiece. Even when I was a little kid, I had no idea how to feel while watching this film, it terrified me just as much as it made me laugh, and it was consistently entertaining to watch. There’s simply no other film like it, so it’s time to dust it off my movie shelf, give it another watch and see what makes it so special after all these years.

      Our story begins with an inventor who’s looking for a special Christmas gift for his son Billy. He stumbles upon a beaten up old antic shop where he discovers a most unusual yet unavoidably lovable little furry creature named Gizmo, who’s instantly picked to be the special gift. Billy takes an immediate liking to his new pet, and a close friendship ensues between them. However, they’re three particular rules Billy needs to adhere to, and naturally he blunders every single one of them. Rule #1 … bright lights will hurt it, and the sun light is lethal. Rule #2 … don’t let him get wet or he’ll multiply into a bunch of nasty critters. Rule #3 … never feed them after midnight or those furry little critters will transform into savage monsters called Gremlins. After failing to follow three simple guide lines, Billy along with his little friend Gizmo do all in their power to stop the Gremlins from terrorizing their small town, and hopefully in the process … save Christmas from going to the monsters.

      It’s a very standard monster movie plot, but it’s lased with so many cornels of originality that it stands apart from other typical B horror movies. Most of this film’s success comes from all the right talents coming together to work on this project. Steven Spielberg at the height of his carrier produced this film, and while he didn’t direct, his finger prints are all over the film. There’s countless references to his movies ranging from “Indiana Jones” to “E.T.”, and he even has a walk by cameo. The screenplay was written by then new-comer Chris Columbus who would later bring to life another Christmas classic “Home Alone”, and most famously direct the first two “Harry Potter” movies.
The director of the movie is Joe Dante, who was heavily influenced by “the loony toons” to give this movie the feel and tone of a live action cartoon, and it really helps give the film its own distinct identity. Other films in his carrier include “The ‘burbs” and “Innerspace”, yet “Gremlins” remains his magnum opus. Of course, Joe Dante would also direct other crazy kid films in the same vein as “Gremlins” like “Small Soldiers”, and he even got his own shot at the loony toons with the 2004 movie “Loony Toons: Back in Action”. There’s even a scene in “Gremlins” where famous Loony Toon animator Chuk Jones makes an appearance commenting Billy on his sketch drawing, and all while a Loony Toon short plays on a TV in the background. Another very important talent to address is my personal favorite movie music composer … the late Jerry Goldsmith, who supplied the music in “Gremlins”. His score for “Gremlins” is spot on, gives the film a lot of energy and again helps give the movie an identity. It’s such a bouncy and catchy score that you’ll be humming it to yourself for days after watching this.    

      Of course, the best thing about this movie by far are the Gremlins themselves, who are easily some of my all time favorite movie monsters. Unlike other films that involve creatures attacking people, the Gremlins have no clear evil motives, nor do they eat anyone, these guys just want to have a party and let loose while all at the cost of the humans who all get trampled under their amusement. You could say the Gremlins represent an immoral side of ourselves that just wants to bust loose and have fun, regardless of how dangerous the fun might be to others. They almost behave like adolescent children, because at one moment they could be doing something terrible but then they also watch “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, and they sing along with the songs and just enjoy themselves to the fullest. It doesn’t excuse their actions, but we still like them on some level, and it’s such a treat to see monsters convey so much personality. I also like how there’s that one Gremlin with a furry Mohawk that can be singled out as the leader, and lovingly nicknamed Stripe. He is the wickedest of the Gremlins and blessed with the vocal talents of the great Frank Welker, who’s one of the best animal/creature voice actors to ever live. He’s also famous for voicing various cartoon bad guys from shows like “Inspector Gadget” and “Transformers”.       

      Let’s talk about the effects, because these are easily some of the greatest monster effects and a true testament to the art of practical animatronics. There’s no CGI at all, everything is puppets and robotics performing in front of the camera, and even though I’m aware of that, they always felt real to me. The expressions and mannerism from both the Gremlins and Gizmo are so genuine that I never even think about that figurative “man behind the curtain”, or in this case men behind the puppets. Now I’ve talked a lot about the Gremlins, but our hero creature Gizmo shouldn’t be ignored as he’s at the heart of the film. As a kid I always wanted to reach into the TV screen and take him for a pet myself. Actually, now that I think about it … I still want Gizmo as a pet. His relationship with the hero boy Billy also works well because they keep it subtle. It’s an admittedly cliched “boy and his pet scenario”, but the movie lets the relation play out in a humble way without forcing any overly toughing scenes on the audience. Zach Galligan is also very committed to the role, and kudos to him for keeping a straight face while talking all cutesy to a puppet like Gizmo.         

   Aside from all the memorable creatures that steal the show, this movie actually has a strong ensemble of human characters. There’s a goofy neighbor played by Dick Miller and he’s always a welcome presence. Actually, he’s a regular actor in many of Joe Dante’s films including “The Twilight Zone: The Movie” and “Small Soldiers”. 

My favorite of the human characters is actually Billie’s father, an inspired inventor whose machines always go wrong. His contraptions bring a lot of comedy to the film, but the character himself is actually very charming and an all-around lovable father. It could have been so easy to make him a one-note joke with failing inventions, but he really adds a warm presence to the film. Another memorable human character is this wicked old crone named Mrs. Deagle, who has a grudge against Billy and his little dog too. She makes for a terrific villain character who’s just there to get a satisfying payoff when she encounters the monsters … and boy howdy is it satisfying. It’s one of the most brutal yet hilarious payoffs a villain of this sort could possibly receive, and it’s a rare case in which we really cheer for the monsters. The only human character I never liked and felt could have been removed completely from the film was the girl friend played by Phoebe Cates, who could give Charlie Brown a run for his money about feel depressed around the holiday season. Of course, she has a very dark back story that explains everything, including why she “doesn’t believe in Santa”, but it never added anything to the film for me, nor did it get me invested in her character. Her back story by the way is so offbeat that it actually bothered me more than anything the creepy monsters did in the film.

    This brings me to my next subject of the film, which is its horror movie elements. While “Gremlins” is mostly a family comedy, it’s equally a horror film and has some stand out creepy highlights that shocked my senses when I was a little kid. The best scene of all is the buildup to when the Gremlins take their new monster forms. There kept off screen for several minutes, yet there’s an eerie atmosphere, and sustained tension just building to when we finally see them. I love the details like the shadows casted on the walls and the jump scares involving things popping out from either the foreground or the background. 
Each jump scare slowly reveals more of what the monsters look like, which in of itself is terrific filmmaking, and a great way of taking an old horror cliché and making it work. The scene in which the high-school doctor looks around his classroom for an escaped Germline is honestly more subtle and disturbing then most slasher movies, and the payoff is very effective. When Billy enters the classroom, he finds the doctors dead body on the floor with a lethal injection pumped into him, which is disturbing enough, but it also raises another alarming question … “just what the heck was this high school doctor doing with a lethal injection is his classroom?” Another scary highlight is the kitchen attack, in which Billy’s mother has to fight off multiple Gremlins at once, and it’s every bit as disturbing as it is awesome. She chops one up in a blender, stabs one with a kitchen knife and blows up another in a microwave ... in short, it’s the greatest horror movie moment in which a generic mother can fight off her attackers. It should be noted that this film along with “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” are what lead to the creation of the PG-13 rating system. 

        Now for all the monster violence and scary scenes, the film consistently maintains the look and feel of a Christmas movie. It’s such a unique contrast, but the film really is shot and colored like any classic holiday film, and it just adds a different flavor to the experience. The opening title sequence alone captures the magic of any Christmas film and boasts a catchy theme song that sounds just like something you’d hear on the radio this time of year. Gizmo is literally introduced to us as a Christmas gift that gets unwrapped. There’s moments with people just walking down the side walk while Christmas carolers are singing in front of homes, and there’s countless other little details and even memorable Christmas visuals. 
There’s the moment with Gizmo wearing a Santa hat, we have the Gremlins dressed like Christmas carolers, also the dog wrapped in colorful Christmas lights, there’s the one evil Gremlin popping out of the Christmas tree and there’s even an effectively creepy usage of classic holiday tunes. My sister for example was never able to listing to the song “Do you Hear What I Hear” after watching this film. One of my favorite moments takes place after the Gremlins attacked the town, and features our surviving hero’s walking around the destruction while an eerie instrumental rendition of “Silent Night” plays in the background, and it really adds to the atmosphere. Perhaps the most shocking holiday image of all is seeing Santa Clause himself attacked by the Gremlins, while the cops are too dumbfounded to help. I really can’t think of any other horror movie that sparkles in that warm Christmas glow, while still being a creepy and violent monster flick.  

    Another charm this movie has going for it are all the movie references, trivia and homages on display. Seriously, if you’re a movie buff of any kind, you’ll love all the gags and details referencing other works. For example, the birth of the evil Gremlins is intercut with the characters watching “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, in which the film’s most famous line “There here already, your next!” reflects what’s about to transpire in the film. There’s a scene with the father at a Sci-Fi convention and we can see the vehicle from “The Time Machine” in the background, which hilariously disappears between shots … as if it actually went to the future. Robby the Robot from “Forbidden Planet” also makes a cameo, which is great, I love it when that robot makes appearances in other works. There’s a theater that’s apparently playing two movies titled “A Boys Life” and “Watch the Skies” which were actually the working titles for Spielberg’s “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. We even have the towns radio DJ marketing himself like “Indiana Jones”. Of course it wouldn't be complete without references to other Christmas movies like "It's a Wonderful Life". Aside from the movie references, there’s other little jokes cleverly weaved throughout the film, including an “AMC Gremlin” that’s parked outside a gas station.

    The movie builds to an exciting finally in which all the monsters are blown up in a theater, and Billy is lured into a deadly game of cat and mouse with the lead Gremlin Stripe in a shopping mall. This is where the film gets scary again as the action gets really intense, and Stripes death is downright horrific as it features his body melting away into a nasty corps … its great stuff. One thing that always annoyed me is that after all Billy experienced, he still has to give Gizmo back to its original owner, ending the film on a bitter sweet note. One little detail that always stood out to me is that the music heard during this good-bye scene sounds just like the theme music from “Free Willy”. Now obviously “Free Willy” wouldn’t come out until years after “Gremlins”, but seriously, listen to the music in this scene again and tell me it’s doesn’t sound like that same “Free Willy” theme music.

     Before I wrap things post up with my final verdict of the film, lets quickly look at the one and only sequel in 1990 titled “Gremlins 2: The New Batch”. This is one of those cases in which I can’t make any persuasive argument that this sequel is better than the first, but I certainly enjoy it more. I actually find this to be a very underappreciated sequel that might just be better than audiences give it credit for. You’d think that after the large fan base of the first “Gremlins”, the sequel would at least get some recognition. Well, then again, it’s not as subtle as the original and is extremely over the top. It might just be the wildest sequel I’ve ever seen, full of forth wall jokes, movie references and self-paradise ... kind of like the first, but on steroids. Personally, that’s what I like about this film, it’s just non-stop entertainment and even builds on the original. Instead of watching Gremlins invade a city, this sequel confines them in a giant corporate building of sorts, which is a great way to change things up. We also get a variety of different Gremlins and designs on display which again keeps things feeling fresh and new. If you can get passed its mind-numbing overtones, you might just be able to have a really fun time with this film.  

    In the end, both “Gremlins” and its sequel were two of my favorite movies as a kid, and while they haven’t aged with me very well, they are still a tone of fun to watch and still very unique. I’ll say this, if you’re in the mood for an offbeat horror movie to watch for Christmas, things don’t get any better than “Gremlins”. It’s still the definitive scary holiday film for kids and families to watch around the holiday season. I can’t make a persuasive argument that everyone will get into the films over the top behavior and strange tone, but it is still a small classic. I loved it as a kid, and it’s an important reminder of how to take a clichéd concept like monsters invading a small town, then given new life through a smart screen play and it feels wildly original.

I give “Gremlins” 3 ½ stars out of 5.