The Last Stand vs. Mama

Kenny D January 18, 2013 0
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This week we welcome former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger back to the movie theater. Yes, he may have come back for the Expendables 2, but this is his first starring role since 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. In the battle of new releases we’ll see how he fairs against the Guillermo Del Toro produced horror flick, Mama. This isn’t the first time Arnold has taken on the supernatural. Remember End of Days??? Neither do I.

The Last Stand
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Johnny Knoxville was told to play his character from the Ringer

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Ray Owens, a big cop in a small town. He once worked on the Narcotics division in Los Angeles, but was tired of the bloodshed and wanted a quiet life in the Arizona town of Summerton, which sits on the US/Mexican border. Meanwhile, a cartel member escapes FBI custody and is making his way to the border in an incredibly fast corvette. (Where is Mad Max when you need him?) So Arnold has to gather up his 4 man squad and defend their town against cartel members and prevent the cartel king from crossing the border.

This may be the first anti-deportation action movie.

I’m not going to lie, it’s refreshing to see Arnold back on the big screen. He was one of the biggest action stars of the 80’s and 90’s and I enjoyed seeing him go into a battle with the same intensity, but also able to poke fun at his considerable age. He is an old man and it shows here. Thankfully, Schwarzenegger’s super power of dodging bullets is still around.

The supporting cast is as random as it gets. Jaimie Alexander (Sif from Thor) plays a cop, Luis Guzman plays the deputy and is the movie’s comic relief. Johnny Knoxville plays a heavily armored version of himself.

Knoxville’s inclusion in this movie is interesting because he also starred in the Walking Tall remake, and Last Stand is very reminiscent of Walking Tall…except with more explosions. This movie could have been called Michael Bay’s Walking Tall.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you know exactly what to expect. I was surprised the first half took itself as seriously as it did. I was hoping for bad dialogue gut laughs, but only got a serious Schwarzenegger and overacting by Peter Stormare and Forest Whitaker. It just felt like a standard 1970’s grindhouse movie in HD. The action in the second half of this flick is undeniably fun. You won’t be able to keep a straight face during the fun and ridiculous violence. An example of what to expect: A cartel soldier wearing rows of ammo gets hit with a flare and his torso explodes, while his legs still stand.

Hmmm, writing that sounds much worse than it actually played out. That’s desensitization for you. All in all, this movie is a lot of fun. Big. Dumb. Fun. If you’re a fan of bad action movies with good intentions then see this in the theater. For everyone else, it’s a rental.

Mama
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A scene from the next episode of America’s Next Top Model

Jessica Chastain was most recently seen in the war-on-terror drama Zero Dark Thirty. She is the new It girl in Hollywood. It seems odd that her follow-up role would be in the horror flick Mama.

This films begins as two girls are left to fend for themselves after being taken by their desperate, insanity driven father. Once, he’s out of the picture, the two girls, who are watched over by a supernatural mama, survive in the woods for 5 years. Their uncle (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who has been looking for them since their disappearance, takes them in to live with he and his girlfriend Annabel (Chastain). But the girls don’t come alone. Cue scary music. Mama still plays with the girls and gets angry/jealous any time their adoptive family get to close to them.

The young girls played by Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nelisse have the difficult task of carrying this movie for a great deal of time. And they do a fantastic job. The older daughter, Victoria, was old enough to remember her parents and what life was like before she and her sister lived on their own. The younger sister, Lily, only knows about their time in the woods and distrusts everything about suburban life. She sleeps on the floor under the bed and oftentimes outside. Lily is clearly happy every time mama shows up, but Victoria knows what that means for her uncle and his girlfriend. There were several times during this movie where I thought that Victoria might have a chance to be normal, but there is just no saving Lily. She was almost more scary and less predictable than mama herself.

Let’s talk about Mama the monster. I was incredibly surprised by how many times they showed her up close. I was worried that all we were going to get was flowing J-horror style hair that attacked at will. But Mama is clearly seen in several scenes. And the effects on her face look less CG than they do physical makeup, and I’m a fan of that. The scenes that showed mama’s backstory were very creepy and well done. I caught myself really getting into this scary mythology. If I were to compare Mama to anything I’ve seen in fiction, the closest similarity would be to Japanese comic creator, Junji Ito’s terrifying story of the Fashion Model.

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Or the Sarah Jessica Parker story

I didn’t even mind that this movie was PG-13. It has been a while since we have got a quality horror movie of that rating, but it has been done. (I.e. The Ring, Insidious, Drag Me to Hell) This movie had several great scenes, but unfortunately the in-between exposition felt redundant. And for the love of mama, why would anyone ever approach a increasingly rotting portion of the wall?! Especially if the wall is bleeding and moths are flying out of it? It’s bad horror movie rules like that, and a killer wig on the floor, that take you right out of the movie.

I did enjoy this movie and I look forward to more from director, Andres Muschietti. I didn’t love it though. On a PG-13 horror scale, with Darkness Falls being the bottom and The Ring being the top, Mama is slightly above average. It’s a rental.

The Last Stand wins, only because it’s refreshing to see Schwarzenegger in action again.

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