Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Happy Birthday John Carpenter!

Turns out, one of my all-time favorite directors of all time has turned 65 today! What new can be said about this outstanding person who brought us some of the greatest movies ever made, achieving both the cult and mainstream success and launching several careers besides his own? I'm just a fan, but I love his works since childhood, and I was actually preparing a big-ass retrospective article on him. I'll try my best to get it done, but for now, let's recap on his best (in my opinion) flicks, shall we?

The man himself.

1974 - Dark Star
Mr Carpenter's debut feature is an interesting dark comedy the pretty much spoofs Kubrick's 2001. It's also notable for having Dan O'Bannon's writing and even acting credits - parts of the script were subsequently adapted for his breakthrough screenplay for Alien.

1976 - Assault on Precinct 13
A brilliant action thriller inspired by George Romero's Night Of The Living Dead. A memorable movie from the beginning to the end, with intense action scenes and Darwin Joston's great performance as the iconic antihero, Napoleon Wilson. Totally one of Carpenter's strongest.

1978 - Halloween
One of the top-grossing independent movies ever that managed to kickstart the slasher genre into mainstream. Ironically, despite the genre's gory reputation nowadays, the original does not feature any graphic scenes and brutal dismemberment - it's all about acting, cinematography, suspense and one of the most famous horror scores ever.

1980 - The Fog
A somewhat obscure, but still solid flick about the mysterious fog wrapping around a small town. Featuring great performances by Jamie Lee Curtis (fresh off Halloween) and Adrienne Barbeau, an interesting plot twist, and heavy on atmosphere, it's a perfect movie to watch at night.

1981 - Escape from New York
This and Mad Max were to post-apocalypse what Blade Runner was to cyberpunk. This seminal action-adventure vehicle is constantly being ripped off even to this day. And, of course, it introduced Kurt Russell in his unforgettable performance as the cinema's original badass motherfucker, Snake Plissken.

1982 - The Thing
Yet another cult horror movie, again starring Russell and based off John W. Campbell's short story, 'Who goes there?' and its 1956 adaptation by Howard Hawks. It gives its nods to both the book and the 50-s version, besides having some of the most amazing practical effects you will ever see.

1983 - Christine
Of all the Stephen King adaptations I've seen, this may not be the best, but it ranks somewhere in the top 5. It does take some liberties from the book, but nonetheless the story is solid, the character development is there, and this one surely gives out a decent amount of creeps.

1984 - Starman
After a successful line of action and horror movies, a sci-fi melodrama is a pretty sudden change of pace. Believe it or not, of all the melodramas I have ever seen, Starman's end credits theme alone makes me a bit teary-eyed. It has everything - special effects, a heartwarming message, but it wouldn't be complete without the fantastic acting of Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen. Actually, this is my most favorite Bridges role!

1986 - Big Trouble in Little China
One of the rare examples of Carpenter collaborating with a major studio and big budget. While the movie sadly bombed at the box office for whatever reasons, it still is a great action comedy. Weird as it is, I always happen to think of it first of all while thinking of the 80's action cinema in general - it's that memorable. Kurt Russell is awesome again, and the special effects are on par with The Thing.

1988 - They Live
Another action cult classic, this time starring the professional wrestler 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper! His lines were quoted by none other than Duke Nukem, and the overall concept is an original example of dystopian satire. Oh, and the fight over the glasses is hilariously over the top and lengthy. And I'm all out of gum!

1992 - Memoirs of an Invisible Man
To be honest, last time I saw this flick when I was 16 or so, so I can't remember it real good, but anyways it's a funny and thrilling take on 'The Invisible Man' with some Hitchcock overtones thrown in. Chase and Hannah have a good chemistry together, and Sam Neill is once again a great bad guy! The only thing I remember I didn't really like was the runtime, though...

1996 - Escape from L.A.
The sequel to 1981's post-apocalyptic masterpiece is a mixed bag. Some call it superior to the first movie, some say it's worse, it even tanked at the box office. Personally I think that it's something between a sequel and remake, updating the visuals and paying decent tribute to what made the first movie great. Of other little touches, I'd like to point out Stacey Keach's great performance.

1998 - Vampires
James Woods and Daniel Baldwin play the members of a crack team of vampire hunters in this violent explosive action fest. Of course, we all mostly know Woods for his bad motherfucker roles, and actually, he's no real exception here. Thomas Ian Griffith is also cool as the vampire lord, the Western overtones that began in Escape From L.A. are all out here with awesome cinematography, and the gore factor is pleasantly high, too!

2001 - Ghosts of Mars
Sort of a similar deal to Vampires, but the events take place on Mars this time, with Ice Cube being this movie's version of Snake Plissken. Jason Statham can be seen in a supporting role, and overall this is could be another great offering, but sadly it really drags at times, so of all the pure action movies made by Carpenter, I'm sorry to say it must be the least best. The effects are great, though.

2005 - John Carpenter's Cigarette Burns (Masters Of Horror episode)
It's not theatrical, nor it's a feature film, but one of the better episodes of the Masters Of Horror show. What I especially liked about that is an idea alone, while not very original, it's still not done to death, either. Udo Kier plays a great supporting role, but the overall climax can possibly be a bit of a letdown... though the buildup (lasting for the 90% of screentime) is still worth watching.