Massive Blackout Saves a Few Moviegoers from Freddy vs. Jason
What happens when the central villain of a gory and indulgent horror series faces off with the central villain of another similarly crass franchise? Just what you'd expect: twice the gore, twice the vulgarity, and twice the revelry in baser behaviors.
It also becomes the most popular film at the box office: $36.4 million in its first weekend. The amount would have been higher if not for the nation's largest power outage on record. Nevertheless, these numbers make it look like the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchises are bound to march on, undead.
Tom Snyder (Movieguide) says the movie is "filled with gruesome violence and gore. It also contains a barrage of foul and vulgar language. Scenes of explicit nudity and depicted sex round out the reasons why everyone should avoid this abhorrent movie, which also features a nominalistic worldview with occult elements."
"The film is driven by a repulsive impulse to treat graphic violence as entertainment," says David DiCerto (Catholic News Service). "Serial killers are treated like rock stars, cheered on by enthusiastic fans every time they rack up another notch on their machete, earning bonus points if the method of slaughter employed is exceptionally gruesome." He is also troubled by "the film's promotion of substance abuse and casual sex … [and] a disheartening suspicion of and antagonism toward authority figures, especially parents."
Mainstream critics chalked this film up as yet another "nightmare," and learned again how little their warnings to the public affect a film's box office. Paul Farhi (The Washington Post) compares the clash to Bush vs. Hussein: "It's overlong, it's hard to tell which one's the bad guy, and it's filled with lots of senseless carnage on both sides."
Returning to the genre that won him Oscars and superstardom, actor/director Kevin Costner delivers Open Range to moviegoers this week. This ambitious epic, which also stars Robert Duvall, Annette Bening, Michael Jeter (in one of his last big-screen appearances), and Michael Gambon, looks like it will restore Costner's reputation among critics.
The star has not had much success since Dances with Wolves, turning out a string of disappointing choices both as an actor (Dragonfly, For the Love of the Game) and director (Waterworld). Costner instills his new film with some of the qualities of beloved, classic westerns. In doing so, he pleases many mainstream critics, and several religious press critics as well.
The film follows Boss (Duvall) and Charlie (Costner) as they move a cattle herd near a small town where the local tyrant, Baxter, is keeping the locals in line with fear and abuse. When the two cattlemen suffer devastating losses because the local authorities dislike "free-rangers," they decide not to move on without evening the score. The clock is then set ticking toward a showdown.
Steven D. Greydanus (Decent Films) calls it "a simple, uncluttered tale of honor, loyalty, freedom, and frontier justice, padded only by a rather unpersuasive romantic subplot."
Bob Waliszewski (Focus on the Family) also praises the cinematography and performances. He praises the heroes as "examples of compassion and respect." But he is displeased that they are portrayed as having "few boundaries." He concludes, "Had this been a Roy Rogers, Gene Autry or Hopalong Cassidy flick, the bad guys would fall without the bloody closeups. Perhaps someday a new western will capture the heart and realism of Open Range and leave the violence more to the imagination."