Saturday, 29 December 2012

This Is 40 (2012)

Tom:
This is 40,2012,USA
Director: Judd Apatow
Stars: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann & Albert Brooks
'' J.J Abrams, his ruining our daughter, that fucking geek!''

Film #108 of the December Project

5 years later, Director Judd Apatow takes us back to lives of Pete and Debbie with 'This is 40', the 'sort-of' sequel to his smash hit 'Knocked Up'. The film is basically a spin off as it does not see the return of Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigil, the lead actors from the original but instead focuses on those of Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann whom were supporting characters in the original.

A few year after the events of 'Knocked Up', we revisit the lives of Pete and Debbie as they are encountering middle aged issues and are on the verge of bankruptcy.

I have liked every one of Apatow's directorial projects thus far, but I have to ask the question, can the guy make a film that runs under two hours ?! Its almost like he cant be trusted to tell a coherent story unless it goes over the two hour mark. Its just silly at times and it can make his films feel tedious and bloated. Apatow is good at striking the right balance between raunchy comedy and emotional moments, he has done it very well thus far and with 'This is 40' is able to continue it to moderate success. I say moderate because this film seems to be stooped in the emotional aspect, there are a few funny scenes of course but the film actually takes a depressing turn and decides to focus on aging and family, which is a good thing and shows Apatow's maturity as a filmmaker. Apatow is able to pull of the films themes pretty well but due to the films 134 minute run time, it can feel bloated and a tad bit melodramatic.

With that being said, I enjoyed 'This Is 40' much more than I thought I would. I am 17 so I really could not relate to the predicaments of the characters in the film, but I was still able to buy into the emotional aspect of the film and thought it was quite good. Being an Apatow film, there is of course plenty of comedy throughout and all of which works pretty well. But Apatow seems to focus on it less than he usually does, what we get is good but I didn't really laugh out loud at all. I must say that the funniest moment of the film actually takes place mid credits and features Melissa McCarthy improvising, its absolutely hilarious and I highly recommend sticking around to see it.

Apatow's writing is usually good, I cant comment on its relativity to real life, seeing as I have yet to experience it but I will say that I was usually entertained by what he was putting on the screen. The family aspect is well utilized and all the characters are somewhat believable. But once again I Will state that it all became too tedious, this film really had no business being so long, if Apatow could have trimmed down the film to about 100 minutes it would have came of so much better.

The cast of the film is generally pretty great, Paul Rudd is one of my favorite people and I always love seeing him, he is great here as usual and constantly funny and sympathetic and his chemistry with Leslie Mann's character is perfect. I really like Leslie Mann too and she continues to be entertaining yet heartfelt in this film. The supporting cast is quite good, Albert Brooks and John Lithgow are great as usual and Iris and Maude Apatow do a really good job. Jason Segel returns as his character from the original, but doesn't seem to enjoying himself here and he looks kind of tired. Chris O'Dowd is really funny and gets some of the best lines of the film. I am growing very weary of seeing Megan Fox play the attractive women all the time, I do not think she is the be all end all and she really can not pull of a character, this is yet another example of that.

I liked 'This Is 40' an generally had a pretty good time with it. In all honesty its quite an unnecessary 'sequel' and really doesn't add much to anything, but is good for what it is. It does have some glaring problems, like its damned run time!, but in retrospect I was able to look past that while watching. Apatow's weakest directorial effort thus far but still a good time.

***

Psycho (1998)

Tom:
Psycho,1998,USA
Director: Gus Van Sant
Stars: Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche & Julianne Moore
''Hate the smell of dampness, don't you? It's such a, I don't know, creepy smell.''

Film #106 of the December Project

I would love to know Gus Van Sant's logic for creating a scene for scene remake of 'Psycho', I'm guessing it would have been something like ''Psycho is a perfect film, so If I remake it shot for shot my film will also be perfect! A plan so good it must be retarded *Van Sant trollface*'' Yes I'm quite sure that's exactly how it went...

'Psycho' (1998) is a bastardization of Alfred Hitchcock's original masterpiece, the films attempts to be a loving homage to the classic but it instead comes of as a mocking spoof. I will not state the plot of the film, but I will say that Vince Vaughn stars as Norman Bates, if that isn't a crime against cinema, I don't know what is.

I'm not really sure why I rewatched this, Maybe its because I am a glutton for punishment, but In the last week I revisited Hitchcock's original as well as its surprisingly good sequel, in my 'Psycho II' review yesterday I referenced this remake which got me recollecting how much I fucking hated it, I must have been in an overly cynical mood today which led to this viewing so I could truly convey my hate.

This film may be the laziest, most appalling mess I have ever seen, How could Gus Van Sant, who showed a lot of potential a year prior with 'Good Will Hunting', create such an uninspired film. How could he in good conscious, attempt to literally film an exact replica of something else ? Hell I feel guilty using quotes in essays, It just baffles that a filmmaker could completely playgerise another film and then put his name next to title so it reads Gus Van Sant's 'Psycho', its disturbing that a filmmaker would stoop so low to gain an easy buck and some notoriety.

Van Sant's ''Direction'' of the film is useless and he brings nothing new to the table, he is attempting to recreate perfection, and is failing miserably. It feels like this film was Directed by a guy who saw 'Psycho' on a TV in a bar one night, the sound wasn't but he thinks he got the gist of it. That or a retarded Hitchcock on acid.

The film is notorious for being basically a carbon copy of the original, and that is very true, its almost quote for quote and shot for shot, Its just incredibly mindless. The only thing I would condone reusing is the same house structure of the beautiful and famous Bates house, BUT NO! That's the only fucking thing they don't reuse AHHHH! But they also do add images of naked women and cows into the murder scenes, You know I don't think I needed to know of Bate's attraction to COWS!

This film may have the worst miscasting in cinema history, Anthony Perkins' performance in the original film is my personal favorite of all time and has become immortal, so which young up and coming and actor could they possibly have used to fill Perkins' large shoes, Vince Vaughn, VINCE FUCKING VAUGHN! I could not have possibly thought of a more unfitting actor to portray Norman Bates. Sure, Vaughn does try but at the end of the day he is just doing the corniest Perkins' imitation ever. Anne Heche portrays Marion Cane, which was played by the perfect Janet Leigh in Hitchcock's film whose performance was so sweet, kind and misunderstood, Heche portrays the character as the bitchiest, meanest and most cynical woman I have ever seen, she is just horrible in this role and universes away from being anything like Leigh. The film features a supporting full of great actors,like Viggo Mortensen, Julianne Moore and William H Macy, but they are all terrible and all doing imitations.

I have a very strong hatred for this film, 'Psycho' is my third favorite film of all time but 'Psycho' (1998) may be my most hated. Truly terrible and heartless filmmaking that everyone involved is responsible for, especially Van Sant.This is cinema at its most disheartening.

1/2*

Friday, 28 December 2012

Psycho II (1983)

Tom:
Psycho II,1983,USA
Director: Richard Franklin
Stars: Anthony Perkins,Meg Tilly and Vera Miles
''No, Mother. I won't do that. You can't make me kill her.''

Film #104 of the December project

I remember when I first heard that there were three sequels to 'Psycho' and not being able to comprehend it, why on earth would they make a sequel to one of the greatest films ever made ? especially 23 years after the original and without Hitchcock! This was a disastrous idea, it would be almost as ridiculous as making a scene for scene remake of 'Psycho' (what a sickening thought). For all intensive purposes, 'Psycho II' should be one of the most hated films of all time,but ill be damned if it isn't one of the most underrated and enjoyable slasher sequels ever made.

After 22 years of being incarcerated in a mental institution, Norman Bates is released back into society. After Norman attempts to lead a normal life, grizzly and familiar crimes start up once again but is it Norman whom is the perpetrator...or is it his mother ?

I remember preparing to watch this film for the first time, 'Psycho' is one of my favorite films of all time and I had to get myself in the right state of mind and convince myself this was not going to be the quality of Hitchcock. Despite that, I honestly did not appreciate 'Psycho II'. Several months later I rewatched the film out of the blue, and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it this time, and after today's viewing I can now confidently say that 'Psycho II' is one of the finest Horror sequels.

Like Brian De Palma, Director Richard Franklin is a filmmaker whose has constantly emulated Alfred Hitchcock's style throughout his career, If you have ever seen Franklin's 'Road Games' you will know what I mean, its an awesome film that is basically 'Rear Window' on the Australian highway. Franklin was a great choice to direct the sequel to Hitchcock's classic, and he does a fine job too creating a film that pays homage as well as giving a unique experience of its own. The film is usually thrilling and exciting.

The film is written by Tom Holland, the man behind the cult classic 'Fright Night', his script is a little baffling at times and can usually become a little clustered and convoluted. There is too many twists revealed at the end of the film that change details from the original. I can appreciate the ambitiousness utilized and the fact that it is trying to be different, but Holland's broad script is a world away from Joseph Stephano's brilliantly subtle and terrifying script from the original.

With all its flaws in mind, 'Psycho II' is still a really fun and enjoyable film, its not scary per say but it is exciting and will keep you guessing. There is a couple of inventive kills throughout that are really quite effective

The most vital part of a 'Psycho' film is indeed Norman Bates,Anthony Perkins who gives yet another great portrayal of my personal favorite film character, but his intentions are different this time as hes portrayed as more of a sympathetic protagonist which is a nice twist on the character. Meg Tilly is okay in the film, but is honestly a little too bland, and it was great to see Vera Miles back as Lila Loomis.

I'm amazed at how much 'Psycho II' has a grown on me, its a constantly enjoyable slasher, that is both exciting and fun. The film is of course worlds away from the original but this may be the best possible and most fitting sequel to Hitchcock's immortal classic.

***1/2

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Paths of Glory (1957)

Tom:
Paths of Glory,1957,USA
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Stars: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker & George Macready
''Too much has happened. Someone's got to be hurt. The only question is who. General Mireau's assault on the Ant Hill failed. His order to fire on his own troops was refused. But his attempt to murder three innocent men to protect his own reputation will be prevented by the General Staff.''

Film #102 of the December Project

I first saw 'Paths of Glory' a few years back and thought it was a absolute masterpiece, I have since put it amongst my favorite films of all time, but I have only seen the film once due to the fact that I didn't want to ruin the incredible memories I had of the film. I purchased the DVD back in January and have I honestly been fighting temptations to watch it ever since, but I decided tonight was the night I would revisit this film and to my utter joy I found my fears were null as I once again experienced Stanley Kubrick's timeless anti - war masterpiece.

During World War I, Soldiers of the French army come under scrutiny after refuse to participate in an impossible order. One soldier from each company is chosen for execution due to portraying Cowardice in the face of the enemy.

I don't believe there is a film that captures the corruption and hypocrisy of war better than 'Paths of Glory'. Kubrick's film is a devastating portrayal of the ruthless men behind the scenes and how they will stop at nothing to gain victory, even if that means sacrificing their own men.Through characters such as General Mireau and General George Broulard we see the deceitful side of war and actions full of blackmail and hate towards people of their own side. War is a horrifying thing to begin with, but to see vicious hate filled acts within one army is unspeakable, as Colonel Dax states ''there are times that I'm ashamed to be a member of the human race and this is one such occasion.''

War was a reoccurring theme for Kubrick throughout his career, creating three incredible war films which all look at war in different ways. 'Dr Strangelove' is satirical and 'Full Metal Jacket' focuses on how war can change a man, but it is 'Paths of Glory' that seems Kubrick's most determined and haunting portrayal of combat. Kubrick's disagreement with the acts of war are highly present in this film and it is very firmly anti-war. I don't think there is a filmmaker who could better capture war than Kubrick and through these three masterpieces you get the ultimate war film experience.

The film features many moments that are heartwrenching and emotionally provocative. Scenes such as the corrupted trial,  lieutenant Roge's betrayal, the scenes featuring the 'Guilty' soldiers preparing for their demise and Dax's unforgettable final confrontation with the General, which features that incredible exchange ''You bring charges against General Mireau, so I insist that he answer them. Wherein have I done wrong?'' ''Because you don't know the answer to that question. I pity you.'' These are moments that will be forever burned into my memory and ones that I think about constantly. All these seem to be understandably overshadowed by the beautiful climax, which I believe is one of the greatest endings in film history. The young German girl, portrayed by Kubrick's future wife Christiane Harlan, is in a bar standing upon a stage in front of many rambunctious French soldiers, she begins to sing and every soldier in the room becomes silent and there is not a dry in the house,truly an unforgettable cinematic moment that displays hope in the face of extreme adversity.

Being a Stanley Kubrick film, 'Paths of Glory' is technically stunning. Kubrick's direction is as perfect and involving as ever and he enlists many of his famous long takes throughout the film, including a couple that take us through the trenches. The scene in which the soldiers attempt to take Ant Hill, is probably the most realistic combat scene I have ever witnessed, we focus on Dax as his leads his soldiers deep into no mans land, an incredibly filmed scene that has to rank amongst the greatest in war film history.

The performances in this film are all fantastic. Kirk Douglas is brilliant as Colonel Dax and is well supported by an incredible cast consisting of George Macready, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, Richard Anderson and character actor Joe Turkel who also stared in Kubrick's 'The Killing' a year prior, and most famously as Lloyd the ghostly bartender in 'The Shining'.

'Paths of Glory' is a cinematic triumph. A Perfectly made film that will throw you through a whirlwind of emotions. Its incredible to think that an 83 minute film can give you such a comprehensive experience of the first World War, but Kubrick does it, and that's just one of the reasons I idolize him so much. A masterpiece.

*****

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Flight (2012)

Tom:
Flight,2012,USA
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Stars: Denzel Washington, John Goodman & Don Cheadle
''You're a hero, man! You will never pay for a drink for as long as you live.''

Film #99 of the December Project

'Flight' marks the live action film return of Robert Zemeckis, whom hasn't directed a film of this sort since 'Cast Away' back in 2000. I have read a variety of different reviews for the film, with critics reviews ranging from 1 star to 5.

An intoxicated pilot is able to successfully land a plane, which sees him rescue 96 passengers but loose 6. While being hailed as a hero by some, he is also being pursued by the law and his drunken behavior may be uncovered.

'Flight's opening 30 minutes or so are quite well done, the sequence involving the plane crash is well executed,tense and exciting, it really does give you hope for a quality film but unfortunately 'Flight' really does not hold up after its plane sequence is completed. 'Flight' then becomes a semi Air Crash investigation and and a semi character study of an alcoholic drug addict, and never seems to know which one to focus on which ultimately leads to it becoming a big mess of both, it slightly redeems itself with an interesting final 15 minutes but its definitely not enough. 

The middle portion of 'Flight' drags immensely, this really did not need to run for 138 minutes, if there were around 25 minutes cut it would have done the film a world of good and allowed it to flow a lot more smoother. 'Flight' is indeed a tedious journey and in my opinion an unrewarding journey, I did not feel reimbursed for investing my time throughout that strenuous and slow middle period.

John Gatins' screenplay is quite ridiculous, there is nothing I loathe more than unnecessary religious subtext and 'Flight' has plenty of it with a hell of a lot of that 'God saved the plane' nonsense. There are so many cliches in this film that it grinded on my nerves, stuff like an alcoholics redemption, a strained father-son relationship I have seen it all done many times before and usually much better. It almost seems like Zemeckis' has lost awareness with the real world, after being lost in motion capture for so long.

I am not a Denzel Washington fan and I usually attempt to avoid films like 'Flight' which just strike me as soulless vehicles for Washington. For this film, Washington has been receiving rave reviews for his performance and has even received a Golden Globe nomination, but I have to ask, why ? Don't get me wrong he isn't bad here but doesn't he just play this role all the time, all he seems to be doing different is incorporating drunken behavior. Denzel is usually playing it really large and almost cartoony at times, I don't know any alcoholics but this just seems usually unconvincing.

Despite Roger Ebert unanimous praise, I don't think 'Flight' is a good film. Its so riddle with cliches and mind numbingly ridiculous content that I felt like had just wasted almost two and half watching it. Denzel Washington isn't bad here and the plane crash is well done, but the rest of the film is very tedious and almost a complete drag.

**

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Life of Pi (2012)

Tom:
Life of Pi,2012,USA/China
Director: Ang Lee
Stars: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan & Rafe Spall
''Mr. Patel's is an astounding story, courage and endurance unparalleled in the history of ship-wrecks. Very few castaways can claim to have survived so long, and none in the company of an adult Bengal tiger.''

Film #95 of the December Project

A few months back we studied Yann Martel's 'Life of Pi' for a literature class, Although I read the book very vaguely I was able to get the gist of it and pass the class, anyway enough about my personal accomplishments the reason I brought that up was that It inspired a slight interest of myself seeing Ang Lee's film adaptation, but at that time my personal film repellent Tobey Maguire was cast as the writer, and my interest was pretty much dashed. Fortunately he was recasted and all was right with the world.

A Writer is advised to meet with a man named Pi Patel, with the promise that Pi's will make him believe in god. The Writer is understandably unaware of how life changing Pi's story is, which sees him survive a tragic ship wreck only to stranded on the ocean with one other survivor, a Bengal Tiger.

To be perfectly clear this film will not be released in Australia until January the 1st, so I had to resort to seeing a stream of the film online, Yes I did not get to experience the 3D spectacle aspect to this film, but shouldn't all great films be able shine through any viewing predicament ? 'Life of Pi' did for me.

This film has received unanimous acclaim amongst critics and audiences and has labeled as one of the best films of 2012, and after watching the film its easy to see why. Its a very likeable and poetic journey through one young mans determination and will to survive in the face of incredible adversary. It is a spectacle of a film, with stunning visuals that are on par with anything released in the last 10 years.

Ang Lee is a very talented filmmaker and he has proven it once again with this film, its so very broad and ambitious that its hard not to appreciate the bold approach Lee is taking. This film reminded of '127 Hours' in a lot of ways, both Lee and Danny Boyle are filmmakers who can inspire hope in even the most horrifyingly situations. Lee was the perfect visionary to create this film and he deserves the acclaim he is receiving, and to think M. Night Shyamalan was originally going to direct this, I'm sure he would have included a twist in which Pi was actually a Pie.

My biggest criticism of the film is its religious aspect, Yes I know why it is there and I am fully aware of its importance to the plot but I really wish it would have been toned down a significant amount.
David Magee's screenplay seems to feature at least a little bit of religious subtext in every single scene and it just irritated me instead of enlighten me. This also seems like a film which believes it change your opinions on god, but after viewing, My Atheism is completely unhinged. I would usually continue to ramble on the films religious aspect, but I enjoyed 'Life of Pi' so much that It didn't completely derail my appreciation of the film, but it may have altered it.

The 'companionship' between Pi and Richard Parker the tiger is pulled of to complete perfection in this film, Pi becomes fully invested in the caring for Richard Parker and that gives him purpose which is one of the reasons he is able to survive for so long. The CGI tiger is brilliant and its hard not to be in awe of his presence throughout the film. In fact, all the animals represented in the film are great, I especially loved Orange Juice the Orangutang.

The performances throughout are fantastic, Suraj Sharma does an incredible job as the younger Pi whom is stranded on the boat, his performance is incredibly brave, sympathetic and immensely supportive. Irrfan Khan is also great as the adult Pi, and I really liked Rafe Spall aswell, I'm sure he is much better than what Toby Maguire would have been.

'Life of Pi' is a beautifully executed spectacle of a film, The visuals are mind blowing and its heart is firmly in the right place. Although I have a few complaints about the film, I still think Ang Lee has done an incredible job and created a film that is rightfully deserving of its praise.

***1/2

Monday, 24 December 2012

F For Fake (1973)

Tom:
F For Fake,1973,France/Iran/West Germany
Director: Orson Welles
Stars: Orson Welles, Oja Kador & Joseph Cotten 
''What we professional liars hope to serve is truth. I'm afraid the pompous word for that is "art".''

Film #92 of the December Project

Like all great filmmakers, Orson Welles is as dynamic and entertaining as a person as his films are. Orson has been able to showcase this quiet regularly throughout his stellar career due to his performances in an array of classic films, weather they be his own, i.e 'Citizen Kane' or for someone else, I.e 'The Third Man'. In this ''Documentary'' Mr Welles lets loose and truly displays his larger than life personality.

With 'F For Fake' Orson Welles investigates some of the greatest frauds, fakes and hoaxes of all time including the paint forgery of Elmyr de Hory, the biography hoaxes of Clifford Irving, and Pablo Picasso's mystery paintings.

I first saw 'F For Fake' a couple of months, and it became not only one of my favorite Documentaries of all time, but one of my favorite films of all time. I was very excited to revisit it and upon doing so I discovered that I love the film just as much, maybe even more. This is far from a conventional doco in any sense, it has been described more as a Film essay which I absolutely agree with. Orson is portraying so much on the screen and his three different tales are always combining and intertwining together to create a chaotic, trippy avalanche of information and accusations. The way in which the film is set is risky genius, it could have ended up a giant mess but with Welles being one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, it turns out to be a work of art.

The film moves at an incredibly rapid pace, occasionally Orson will spurt off some dialogue in attempt to catch you up to speed but you really have to keep up with him to get a full understanding of the whole spectrum, it is not easy but its definitely worth it. Having the director narrating you through his own film is a terrific technique. As I alluded to earlier, Orson Welles is an amazingly interesting and always entertaining human being, whenever he is on screen you will most likely be hooked by his every word.

Like almost everything else in the film, the editing by Marie-Sophie Dubus Dominique Engerer is incredibly fast paced and features an immense array of colors,art, landscape and Orson that constantly reoccur throughout. The last 17 minutes of this film is absolute genius filmmaking, I don't want to spoil it but the first I saw the film I was in complete awe at the incredible move that Welles makes, bold and fantastic.

I loved the constant allusions Orson makes to his career, especially when he talks about the controversial 'War of the Worlds' broadcast, ''I didn't go to prison, I went to Hollywood'', and when he talks about his career peaking at 'Citizen Kane' (not true) Orson isn't afraid to mock himself or get involved, which I love.

'F For Fake' is a brilliant work of cinematic genius, I value Orson Welles as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, and this is another film that proves me right. One of my favorite films and definitely a must see.

*****

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Tom:
The Bridge on the River Kwai,1957,UK
Director: David Lean
Stars: Alec Guiness, William Holden & Jack Hawkins
 
''A word to you about escape. There is no barbed wire. No stockade. No watchtower. They are not necessary. We are an island in the jungle. Escape is impossible. You would die.''

Film #91 of the December Project

Its a beautiful thing when a film not only meets your expectations, but completely transcends them beyond you're imagination, I experienced this with the 1957 classic, David Lean's 'The Bridge on the the River Kwai'.

A group of British soldiers arrive at Japanese POW camp, which results in plenty of hostility between the British Colonel Nicholson and the Japanese Colonel Saito, after Nicholson's refusal of his men to participate in hard labor. The two colonels eventually reach an agreement which sees the British work on a railway bridge for their captors, but are unaware that their allies, the Americans, have intentions of destroying the bridge.

I am not quite sure why it took me so damn to finally get around to see this film, it actually seems like we have a shortage of DVD copies in Australia. Recently I was finally able to acquire a Blu-Ray copy and was excited to finally see the film. 'The Bridge on the River Kwai' has a reputation of being one of the greatest films ever made, so I was very hopeful I would agree with the masses on that statement, turns out I can agree whole heartedly.

This film is an absolute masterpiece in every sense of the word. For its 161 minutes of run time I sat in awe at the mastery that was being displayed on screen. The story, the direction, the performances, the cinematography were all as good as I have ever seen. This is the definition of the power of filmmaking, and the effect it can have on an audience.

The films premise is quite simple on paper, but its an extremely complex and winding tale about the effects of war and the nature of responsibility. The Screenplay by Michael Wilson and Carl Foreman is an absolutely brilliant, intelligent, dynamic, involving and thrilling piece of work which is perfectly brought to the screen by David Lean, who creates an incredible film. The cinematography by Jack Hildyard is absolutely phenomenal, he captures the life of the jungle and the essence of war through the camera lens.     

I honestly don't think I have been as emotionally involved in a film like I was in the climax sequence of this film. This was truly an incredible feat, creating quite possibly the most thrilling and heart pounding sequence in film history. The film is full of iconic, triumphant and emotional moments that will both inspire and enlighten you.

The cast in this film is perfect. Alec Guiness gives the greatest performance of his career as Colonel Nicholson, its an incredibly powerful showing as Guiness creates a hard nosed character built on principles. William Holden is brilliant as usual, and the supporting cast that includes the likes of Jack Hawkins and Sessue Hayakawa are just sensational.

Its a very daunting task when reviewing a film like 'The Bridge on the River Kwai', I mean what can I say about it that already hasn't been said ? The film is a bona fide masterpiece that more than deserves its stellar reputation. I will say that this is a film that embodies my passion for the medium, its an example of the true power that cinema posses. Truly one of the greatest film experiences I have ever had and definitely one of the greatest films ever made.

*****

Saturday, 22 December 2012

His Girl Friday (1940)

Tom:
His Girl Friday,1940,USA
Director: Howard Hawks
Stars: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell & Ralph Bellamy
                              ''Diabetes! I ought to know better than to hire anybody with a disease.''

Film #86 of the December Project

Howard Hawks' 'His Girl Friday' is a popular classic, renowned for its snappy and rapid dialogue. I went into this hoping for a good quality showing, I got something a lot more. 'His Girl Friday' is hysterically funny and a brilliant satire of media influence.

When his ex - wife and best journalist, Hildy Johnson, is on her way out of town and on the verge of remarrying, Newspaper editor Walter Burns attempts to do every thing in his power to prevent her leaving. Fortunately for Walter, the biggest news story in two years has broke out and has seen the escape of a convicted felon, Hildy gets the journalists itch.

What struck me instantly about this film, is that after 72 years since its release, 'His Girl Friday' is still unbelievably funny. Charles Lederer's incredible screenplay is still so incredible and so hilarious and the actors portraying the roles are absolutely perfect. The film depicts the media as heartless type of business, full of leaches who are willing to do anything to get a good story, even if that means ignoring the facts. Although its left quite ambiguous, I think were supposed to believe that Earl Williams is indeed an innocent man, but he is never really given a chance due to the fact that the media have already labeled him as a monster.  

The film is based on a play Ben Hecht, and the plays influence is quite obvious because it feels somewhat like watching one on screen. There is no overly extravagant set pieces and the film mainly consists of only three venues where the story progresses, This was an aspect I loved about this film. I thoroughly enjoy character based films and that's what 'His Girl Friday' is.

The two leads of the film are phenomenal. Cary Grant absolutely embodied the phrase 'Film Star', he has an undeniable presence to him aswell as charisma that can hardly be contained by the screen. Grant's performance here is comedic gold, and despite the fact that he is absent for long periods throughout the film, he still gives an iconic performance. Rosalind Russell is also incredible as Hildy, her performance is very funny and always enthralling.

'His Girl Friday' is a fantastic film and is thoroughly deserving of its reputation as a classic. Incredibly funny, beautifully made and always enjoyable.

****

Frankenweenie (2012)

Tom:
Frankenweenie,2012,USA
Director: Tim Burton
Stars: Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara & Martin Short
                                                                     ''You're Dog is alive!''

Film #85 of the December Project

'Frankenweenie' may have marked the first time I was ever excited for a Tim Burton film, unfortunately it came out at time when a slew of other great films so I never got around to seeing it in theaters.Determined to see the film, I withstood the temptation of downloading a poor quality torrent in the hopes that one day a watchable copy would arise, today was that day.

Victor is a quiet yet intelligent young man, whom only has one friend and that is his loveable canine companion, Sparky. One day in a tragic accident, Sparky is killed. In sadness and inspired by a science class, Victor attempts to bring Sparky back to life via the conduction of lightning.

I had actually watched Burton's original live action 'Frankenweenie' short earlier this year and I quete enjoyed it, Thus my excitement for this film. I really the spin on the classic 'Frankenstein' tale and was very excited to see Burton incorporate into a stop motion film. While I enjoyed the story in the original short, I did not enjoy how it was expanded here. John August's screenplay is just so by the numbers, a film like this should thrive on imaginative thinking and August can not provide it, giving us a surprisingly bland story that did absolutely nothing for me and continuously lost my interest.

As I have stated on many occasions, Tim Burton has become a very generic filmmaker and has been creating forgettable films for many years, unfortunately this trend continues with 'Frankenweenie'. Its unbelievably frustrating to watch a filmmaker who used create such unique films, wallow in mediocrity. I recently revisited Burton's 'Ed Wood' which is one of my favorite films and an absolute masterpiece. Watching that film and then this, it is so clear how horribly generic he has become. This film should have been a canvas for him, he could have done damn near anything he pleased but instead he decides to play it safe, resulting in a film that could have been made by anyone. I usually ask myself if Burton has been broken by the system in some sense, but maybe I'm just making excuses for the guy.

No matter what you think of the film as a whole, you have respect the designers and creators behind stop motion films. Its always a  tour de force for them to bring films like these to our screens and I always admire the dedication taken. The design of the film, like its plot, is of course a throwback to the Universal monster movies, I.e 'Frankenstein', its definitely got that atmospheric vibe to it (not that Burton or the plot capitalizes on it) and I liked the fact they decided to use a black and white filter. I really liked the whole design and landscape of this film, I found it very appealing to look at and experience.

The voice cast is decent but honestly pretty forgettable. Charlie Tahan does a good enough voicing Victor, as does Catherine O'Hara and Martin Short whom voice multiple characters. Martin Landau was my favorite part of this cast and was very good in his short role. Winona Ryder wasn't bad but I did find it quite odd that she was portraying a child. All the characters are pretty unremarkable, except for Sparky the dog, who is honestly one of the best and most loveable film dogs I have seen in quite some time.

I was disappointed with 'Frankenweenie' I had monumental hopes for this to be great but it wasn't, it was a poorly written and unimaginative film that just so happens to be beautifully designed, which is its saving grace. Just before I started watching the film, I read a great critic on Letterboxd Jamie Reiter's review of 'Frankenweenie' in which he stated that 'Paranorman' was a far superior film, while I did like that film I didn't want that to be true,but Jamie was absolutely correct, 'Paranorman' trumps Burton's film in every aspect. It is with great sadness that I must call 'Frankenweenie' my biggest disappointment of 2012, that the last time I trust Burton!

**

Dredd (2012)

Tom:
Dredd,2012,UK/USA/India
Director: Pete Travis
Stars: Karl Urban,Olivia Thirlby & Lena Headey

Film #84 of the December Project

I have never seen 'Judge Dredd', although I was actually flicking through channels one day a few years back and came across it, when I saw both Sylvester Stallone and Rob Schneider on the screen I turned the film off in about 0.3 seconds and never looked back. Anyways I had heard plenty of buzz about 'Dredd', the 2012 re-imagining of the character, so I finally decided to check it out while hoping for the best. 

In a desolate, futuristic city Police officers have gained the authority of being judge,jury and executioner to the criminals they prosecute. Judge Dredd is one of the most professional and feared of his kind, while on a mission to take down Ma-Ma, an evil villainous drug lord. Dredd takes on a young psychic apprentice on her first assignment, the two are locked inside Ma-Ma's apartment block and hunted by her henchmen.

For the first half of 'Dredd' I was entertained but was honestly feeling a little underwhelmed, having the feeling that I wasn't really getting much out of the film other than mindless enjoyment, gladly this feeling did not last long as I ended up having a blast. For me, 'Dredd' is a blockbuster film that is able to strike the right balance of mindlessness and sophistic!tOd [`w never to stupid yet its never overly intelligent, its a perfectly accessible Action Crime film that should most likely entice many viewers.There really is a little something for everyone here.

I was very glad the film didn't hold back on its violence and didn't end up with a PG rating. The action scenes are heavily reliant on grotesque beatings and buckets of blood, and are all the better for having used them. The director Pete Travis does a good job creating a constantly enjoyable film, he keeps the film going at a constant high speed pace and while it may have the ability to become nauseating, he does do a good job and creates something that will most likely not bore any viewers.

I'm really not a person who is wowed by slow motion effects, and 'Dredd' does nothing to change my mind. I know that it is quite vital to the plot but there were just too many sequences that relied on slow motion techniques, one or two would have been fine but I just became irritated by them towards the end. The climax reminded me of 'Alien 3' because of this reason, and I honestly don't really want to be reminded of that.

'Dredd's cast is generally pretty good. Karl Urban does a good job playing the simplistic title role, and I wish we would have spent a little more time focused on him and his badassery. Olivia Thirlby is okay playing the young psychic woman who has just been introduced to the world of a Judge. I didn't really like Lena Headey in this film though, she is usually pretty creepy and intimidating in her roles but she didn't bring it to this character though. I know they spool off some dialogue of why we should fear her but I was never convinced and I was never quite sure why she had this legion of followers.

'Dredd' is the kind of big budget blockbuster that I can enjoy, it offers enjoyment to all kinds of audiences. It's a real shame this film bombed at the box office and lost around $37 million, when a horrible Michael Bay film like 'Transformers 2' can become one of the highest grossing films of all time, its really quite concerning. 'Dredd' isn't perfect but it is a lot of damn fun, recommended.

***

Friday, 21 December 2012

Psycho (1960)

Tom:
Psycho,1960,USA
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles & Janet Leigh
Norman Bates: It's not like my mother is a maniac or a raving thing. She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven't you?
Marion Crane: Yes. Sometimes just one time can be enough.

Film #82 of the December Project

Earlier this week on Letterboxd, I saw Noetic Hatter's review of 'Psycho' in which he simply called the film 'Perfection'. Now, I am going to attempt to write as long and as loving a review as I possibly can but to be perfectly frank, Noetic's review may be the most accurate and fitting review that has ever been given to a film...

Marion Crane is a young and beautiful bank worker, whom in order to begin a new life with her boyfriend Sam Loomis, steals $40,000 from her workplace, unbeknownst to Sam. During her drive she encounters a small and quiet hotel, ran by a nice young man who is mentally overwhelmed by his domineering mother.

I always find it hard to write reviews for films I love so dearly and have such a personal effect on me, especially 'Psycho'. Actually I'm not quite sure if this can be classified as a review, the film is flawless and I could not for the life of me find one single aspect of the film to be critical about. Alfred Hitchcock, without a shadow of a doubt (no pun intended) is arguably the greatest filmmaker to have ever lived, for a man who has created more masterpieces than I have fingers, its criminally difficult to select one of his works and label it as his finest achievement, but if you ask me I will answer 'Psycho' every single time. Yes, I know it may be a cliche to pick this film but it is perfection personified, but then again so is 'Rear Window', 'Vertigo' & 'North by Northwest' among others, but there is just something to this film that almost absolutely transcends everything that came before or after it, it is cinema at its purest form and its a spellbinding filmmaker at the peak of his powers.

'Psycho' is the ultimate ''Director's film'', Hitchcock is playing his audience like a violin, predetermining our responses and playing with our emotions. At the end of the day, Hitchcock wasn't really fully invested in plot, he was invested in the spectacle of cinema and the experiences his audience was about to witness. 'Psycho' is about as well directed a film you will ever see, You enter the film aware of the man behind the madness, but once the first frame appears, you become utterly emerged in the spectacle that everything else becomes irrelevant.

The film is scripted by Joseph Stefano, based on Robert Bloch's novel. From what I understand, at the command of Hitchcock, Stefano toyed heavily with script changing many details. While I cant judge the book, I will say Stefano's script is the ultimate in terror, suspense, bizarre and spectacle. This is a film that will keep you questioning yourself until the very end, aswell as terrify you beyond belief. A brilliant script that was brought to life perfectly by Hitchcock.

This film features my favorite performance and my favorite film character of all time, and that is Anthony Perkins' Norman Bates. Perkins' performance is more than perfect, it is immortal, iconic and ever other possible positive adjective I can think of. Perkins' portrays a loveable, innocent and sad young man whom we can all suspect has a little something to him, I really cant put my love of this performance into words, just utter perfection. Speaking of perfection, Janet Leigh is also incredible in this, she is a seemingly kind hearted girl who makes just one wrong choice out of love and pays for it in a big way. She is so beautiful, and just so damn nice that we have to feel sympathetic for her. The supporting cast in this film is phenomenal, Vera Miles is perfect, John Gavin is perfect, Martin Balsam is perfect, Everyone is perfect!

The film is arguably the finest horror film ever crafted, It would still be the undisputed king of the genre, if Stanley Kubrick didn't stick Jack Nicholson and his family in a snowed hotel for the winter twenty years later. I don't care how macho you are, this film will still leave you in terror. Its perfect pacing, haunting imagery and moments that will burn into your memory for as long as you live. This is horror at its absolute finest, actually this is just film at its absolute finest.

This was my probably my 20th or so viewing of this film, and every single time Mr Hitchcock gives me an experience that makes me fall in love with film all over again. I can never truly convey how great this film is and how much I adore it, because its more than words can express.

Noetic got it dead right, this film is ''Perfection''.

*****

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Tom:
Night of the Living Dead,1968,USA
Director: George A. Romero
Stars: Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea & Karl Hardman
                                           ''They're coming to get you, Barbara, there's one of them now!''

Film #77 of the December Project

Recently, I saw the Tom Savini Directed remake of 'Night of the Living Dead' when reviewing that film I stated that it succeeded only in getting me to appreciate the original even more. After seeing that film, I had the urge to watch George A. Romero's original classic, so I went straight to eBay and purchased the Blu- Ray, because the two DVDs I already own  aswell as the 1000 different copies on Youtube could not suffice. Despite the ratio bars, I once again thoroughly enjoyed the classic for the umpteenth time...in HD!

The original Zombie film, depicts a group of survivors who all by chance end up at the same rural farm house during a mass murder spree conducted by the dead, who have seemingly returned from the grave to feed on the living.

The opening scene of 'Night of the Living Dead' may be one of my favorite in horror film history. The scene takes place in the cemetery and sees the brother and sister duo of Barbara and Johnny, partaking in their annual visit to their fathers grave. Johnny playfully tries to intimidate Barbara, (spawning the classic quote from above) but his jokeyness turns out to be a horrific precursor to the Zombie attack, The scene is still so effective in its menace,its haunting imagery and black and white aspect have helped make it so endearing. For me, this is the absolute high point of the film but that's not to say the rest of the film isn't great, because it is.

'Night' has a certain charm to it that can never really be fully replicated, little quirks that really stick out now a days, like the fact that it changes from day to night in just one shot or the fact that our hero punches a woman in the face, this little things showcase the beauty and charm of Independent filmmaking at its finest.

I'm not really sure how to classify Romero as a filmmaker, on one hand he created a few of my favorite films but on the other he has created some of my most loathed. I will say the man has always seem to be more comfortable directing the dead rather than the living, this is statement is at its most present in 'Night of the Living Dead'. Romero does not garner a single good performance out of his actors, but I don't think this was the most important thing to him, he was focused on the horror, the seclusion and the experience, which he does an impeccable job with. The ways in which Romero's builds atmosphere and tension are incredibly brilliant, its almost as if the zombies become supporting players and it is the humans who create their own troubles through lack of communication and understanding, this is something that Romero became way to focused on later down the line but here it works to perfection.

The zombie effects throughout the film are glorious considering the time and budget involved, that really did a thoroughly good job creating some timeless effects that are still quite disgusting even today.

The performances in the film are obviously coming from inexperienced people who arent very convincing at all. The only three actors on screen whose performances feel somewhat natural are Duane Jones, Russell Streiner and to a lesser extent Judith Ridley. Judith O'Dea is really quite insufferable here as Barbara, its almost like she has trouble playing a human being at times. Karl Hardman is hilarious playing an unintentionally semi retarded man. Overall everyone's performance feels forced and over the top but it never really takes away from the film.

As much as I like and enjoy this film, It has become my least favorite of Romero's original trilogy, Romero's 'Dawn of the Dead' which would arrive ten years after this film, is still the undisputed king of Zombie and will most likely never be touched, while 'Day of the Dead' is just plain incredible. I still love 'Night', but I love it from a historical standpoint, it changed the game and made people fully aware of what Independent filmmaking is capable of. It is a great Horror film and one that has become required viewing.

****

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Network (1976)

Tom:
Network,1976,USA
Director: Sidney Lumet
Stars: Faye Dunaway, William Holden & Peter Finch
''I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV's while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be.''

Film #76 of The December Project

I have seen Sidney Lumet's 'Network' three times now,I have always loved the film and always understood its prophetical aspect, but It wasn't till today's viewing that I fully realized that this film is a complete masterpiece.

Howard Beale is weathered television anchor, who is on the verge of loosing his job. At the beginning of his final week Howard announces on the air, that a week from now he will kill himself on live television. Beale becomes somewhat of a mad prophet and captures the attention of audiences as well as the television network, whom is determined to exploit him.

We have all heard of how prophetic, intelligent and politically endearing 'Network' is, and how it may be even more relevant today than it was upon release. 'Network' is a incredibly scripted picture, Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky is able to put his finger on the pulse of our culture so precisely and so critically that it still feels so telling and relateable to this day.

'Network' represents the epitome of the television generation, the time where machinery and electronics began to take a stranglehold on our society, Emotions took a back seat to power and greed. Through the network letting Howard run loose on national television and seemingly make a fool of himself on a daily basis, is the representation of our exploitative side, and how a the health of a person's state of mind is secondary to personal notoriety,success and of course wealth.

The film is the ultimate depiction of the dimness of the future and the loathsome attitudes society has in store for us.Chayefsky's script is just utterly remarkable, hes words will stand the test of time and continue to enlighten and terrify audiences for many generations to come. The film is Directed by Sidney Lumet, one of the most prolific filmmakers of all time, Lumet's efforts with this film are equally remarkable as his other films such as '12 Angry Men' and 'Dog Day Afternoon'. Lumet beautifully crafts the film , and like he did with '12 Angry Men' creates tension and suspense through pure dialogue.

In my personal opinion, 'Network' may just be the most well acted film ever made, this cast is the personification of perfect. Faye Dunaway is completely flawless as Diana Christensen, a young heartless woman and is completely driven by her work and personal success, love and other small pleasures of the real world don't apply to her, television is her life. William Holden is as incredible as usual in his role as Max Schumacher, he basically represents the last remnants of the old way, good old television when it didn't have to rely on the exploitation of mad men. Robert Duvall is great as the ruthless TV Executive. Beatrice Straight is remarkable as Max's grief stricken and heart broken wife,her five minutes and forty seconds of screen time saw her pick up a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award. Ned Beatty is incredible as CCA Chairman Arthur Jensen, hes scene with Howard in the conference room is one of my favorite of the film. Peter Finch's performance as Howard Beale is iconic and unforgettable, words really can not do it justice, truly a brilliant performance.

I have only scratched surface of the film with this review, Its very ironic that a film centered around a prophet, is exactly that. 'Network' is still frighteningly relevant today as ever, This film may just live on forever. A masterpiece.

'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!'

*****

Indie Game: The Movie (2012)

Tom:
Indie Game: The Movie,2012, Canada
Director: Lisanne Pajot & James Swirsky
''The things I've sacrificed are social. You kind of have to give up something to have something great.''

Film #72 of The December Project

'Indie Game: The Movie' is at its heart an underdog tale, a tale that shows the results of hard work and constant dedication into creating something that almost inhabits every aspect of your daily life. This is a film that may feature some similarities to the popular 2007 documentary 'The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters'. While I really like 'The King of Kong', I don't quite think it hit me on the personal level that 'Indie Game' did.

The film chronicles the journeys of three different independent video game video game productions, all of which suffer the trials and tribulations of having an undermanned team and funds but are still driven by their passions and success.

'Indie Game' is a very well compiled film, I loved the variation it showed towards the three different approaches of creating the game. Edmund McMillen & Tommy Refenes who create the game 'Super Meat Boy' represents the traditional aspect, they are two guys who fell in love video games at a younger age and are dedicated to create a game that is in the same vain as Mario. Jonathan Blow, creator of 'Braid' is invested in the emotive side of his game, in create a deeper meaning and a more original experience. Phil Fish, working on the video game 'Fez' represents the yearning for universal accept and acclaim, I don't think its really think  for selfish reasons but more to make his mark. All three productions are linked by passion and the love of video games.

The film also displays the universal theme of dedication, it doesn't really matter whether its for video games or any other aspect of human life, if you invest enough time,effort and thought into something and fully believe in it, you do have the ability to be successful. 'Indie Game' fully embraces that theme and executes it extremely well. Also, we fully endorses these characters actions, because in some way we've all been in there positions, being so emotionally invested something that its success becomes your mission.

The film is beautifully photographed, and always looks stunning. The film also has its comedic elements through its quirky and entertaining subjects on screen, every one of which has something useful and vital to bring to the film.

'Indie Game: The Movie' is an absolute sheer joy of a film, it will enlighten you, entertain you, make you laugh and maybe even tear up. Highly entertaining and also inspirational. Underdog stories are still alive and well.

****

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Goldfinger (1964)

Tom:
Goldfinger,1964, UK
Director: Guy Hamilton
Stars: Sean Connery, Gert Frobe & Honor Blackman
James Bond: Do you expect me to talk?
Goldfinger: No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.

Film #71 of The December Project

I have only seen around 5 or 6 James Bond films, two of which were the first two films in the series 'Dr. No' and 'From Russia with Love', I had always wanted to see the the third installment 'Goldfinger', which is universally considered the greatest of Bond films. Having that prior knowledge of the first two films, I was really hoping I could keep up with this one and appreciate its apparent greatness.

Agent 007, James Bond is hired to infiltrate a Gold smuggler known as 'Goldfinger'. In doing so Bond stumbles upon the villains plan to contaminate the Fort Knox gold reserve.

I enjoyed 'Goldfinger' but can not really understand why it is considered the greatest Bond film. Sure I haven't seen all that many but is this really as good as it gets ? while its usually entertaining I just cant help but feel there is nothing of a huge importance taking place on screen. It doesn't help either that film features a really bland and unappealing villain. When Goldfinger first appeared on screen I thought to myself 'really this guy is the villain ?' I was hoping he might become more fearsome as the film progressed but he never did, how was he supposed to be so intimidating? because hes slightly overweight and wealthy ? hes semi-Asian bodyguard was ridiculous as well with his un-intimidating throwing hat and slow brisk walk.

The film features plenty of exciting action set pieces, plenty of chase and fight sequences that see Bond fight the odds against a pantheon of villainous henchmen. The film some typical and classic Bond action and is more often than not, well executed.

Connery was in his prime as 007 in this film, his exudes coolness and badassery here, and truly made the Bond role his own. The classic Bond one liners are present throughout as well as his ass kicking abilities. Connery was the man!

I'm not really sure what else to say about 'Goldfinger', for all my criticisms I still enjoyed the film, I think I was expecting a borderline masterpiece and I wanted to love this film so much but I couldn't help but feel that what I got was just okay. As I said I didn't really enjoy the Goldfinger character and felt he was just too clumsy and unappealing to be taken seriously as a villain, but Connery's Bond made up for it with his pure coolness and great presence.

I honestly think I enjoyed this years 'Skyfall' more than this and not because its recent and modern and 'Goldfinger' is dated and obsolete, I hate that kind of mentality, I honestly prefer films from the 20th century, but 'Skyfall' was a more emotive piece of filmmaking, which is something this film lacked. I still liked 'Goldfinger' but kind of felt hollow about it afterward. 

***

The Innkeepers (2011)

Tom:
The Innkeepers,2011,USA
Director: Ti West
Stars: Sarah Paxton, Pat Healy & Kelly McGillis
                                       ''Never skimp on bread; you'll always regret it.''

Film #70 of The December Project

I feel like I have stated this in at least 30 of my reviews this month, but Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining' is my favorite film of all time. That film is a supernatural tale set in an isolated hotel, any film that also meets that plot criteria is obviously going to gain my interest, despite whatever its quality may be. 'The Innkeepers' is one of  those films.

Claire is a very pleasant and kind young girl who works at an almost desolate hotel, which is in its final week of business. The staff consists only of Claire and Luke, an expert on the paranormal. The two take shifts running the desk of the hotel as well as searching for spirits that continue to lurk from the Hotel's past. Why starts out as a hobbie, may turn deadly.

I was so pleasantly surprised by this film, I went in expecting nothing but a sub par ghost story, what I got was a highly entertaining and effective horror film. 'The Innkeepers is set out in three chapters, and each one continuously builds suspense and atmosphere quite well, ending in an almost satisfying conclusion. What surprised me most about this film was how much I enjoyed the human aspect, I loved the first twenty minutes which just included conversing between Sarah Paxton and Pat Healy's characters, its strange that I could of almost groaned when the horror aspect kicked in.

The is quite a good horror/thriller, its atmospheric and tense with a few jump out moments. The films climax didn't really work for me though, it felt far too abrupt and left too many questions unanswered, I know that's a good thing sometimes but it didn't work for me here, with that being said I still thoroughly enjoyed the horror aspect of the film.

'The Innkeepers' is directed by Ti West, who is someone I don't really know a lot about (it actually wasn't till just now that I realized this was the second West film I had seen today as I also watched the abysmal 'V/H/S') West seems to be a Horror filmmaker who creates new horror by the way of older traditions, it worked for Kevin Williamson, right ?  I get the feeling that West is not very popular amongst film goers, but I don't fully understand why, Sure West seems to rely on past techniques at times but it usually results in an at least a semi original piece of work. As I mentioned in the intro, the film feels heavily inspired by 'The Shining' (why wouldn't you be ?) and while there is constant allusions and references to that film, it never feels like its completely replicating it. West seems to strike just the right mix of homage and originality. While I cant consider myself a fan of his yet, I do look forward to seeing more of his work in the future.

The film uses it beautiful location of the Yankee Pedlar Inn to a decent effect, we only get to see the lobby and a couple of floors but it is a glorious old hotel and wish we just got to see a little more of it, but that's not really a huge complaint. The film is well photographed by Eliot Rockett who seems to be able to give the venue a life of its own, and make us believe unseen entities are present.

I can now say I am a big fan of Sara Paxton, she was superb in this film. She is so easily supportable and so sympathetic, I loved her in this film and hopefully she can continue this form and create a solid filmography. Paxton's constant on screen companion Pat Healy, is also great in this, he and Paxton's chemistry is always believable and usually quite funny. Kelly McGillis is also quite good in her role.

I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed 'The Innkeepers'. Ti West does a good job walking the fine line between homage and originality and is able to create a very entertaining film. Not to mention Sarah Paxton is damn awesome aswell.


***1/2

Monday, 17 December 2012

A Midnight in Paris (2011)

OLI:
A Midnight in Paris, 2011, U.S.A
Director: Woody Alan
Starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marian Cotillard & Cathy Bates

 
“That’s the problem with writers. You are so full of words.”

The great films are the ones that get you thinking. They make you consider thoughts and provoke emotion. A Midnight in Paris does not do that. By no means would I ever consider this to the likes of The Shinning or Into the Wild, and although elements of Woody Alan’s direction are good, he's got nothing on Scorsese or Kubrick. But sometimes it's nice to watch a light movie and I always like it when a film can make me smile. Not think, not cry, not change, but just smile and enjoy and laugh a bit.

In 2010 Gil, the want-to-be novelist (Wilson), and his fiancée Inez travel to Paris. While Inez (played by Rachel McAdams) is of spending time with her friends; Gil is left wondering through the streets of the elegant city that he finds himself in. It's Paris, but a golden age Paris of the 1920's. Gil travels forwards and backwards in time throughout the film developing his novel with the aid of some legendary writers of the past which he meets in his travels.

The plot is simple and not very original. Characters are under developed and incorrectly casted. Direction can get a bit sloppy at times, but I don't know what it is. I still think it’s kinda good.

Although this film has a plot and contains characters, at its core it's just another movie about Paris. Alan has really tried to capture the beauty of the city and has done so very well. I now have an urge to travel to Paris more than ever after seeing this film. Darius Khondji is very talented behind the camera and the cinematograph displayed in the opening scene captures the city of love to a tee! At times I felt as if he was ripping of Kubrick a bit, but I guess, all good film makers do.

What this film didn't have was a good cast. I liked and enjoyed some if the characters such as the lovely but hopeless Marion Cotillard, but other characters just felt boring and were poorly acted. I don't think that actors like Kurt Fuller did a justifiable job at all. I can't get to angry at the actors here though because I know that Kathy Bates and Adrien Brody can act. They were just incorrectly casted and not developed enough as characters. For that, I blame Woody.

Having said that, Owen Wilson is in his prime here. He is an awkward, loveable, hopeless romantic and the role of the lost writer looking for inspiration is where he belongs as an actor. The character Gil really plays to his strength and he was the defiant highlight of the cast.

It's a cheeky little film. Not quite a comedy, certainty not a drama, there’s no action, only a little romance, it's just a quiet little nothing film about Paris. The storyline is basic and the characters aren't too interesting, but I don't care. I liked it. It's a bit fun.

*** (3/5)

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop (2011)

Tom:
Conan O'Brien Can't Stop,2011,USA
Director: Rodman Flender
Stars: Conan O'Brien & Andy Richter 
''You have forty thousand people in the palm of your hand. It's like watching Hitler... but a nicer Hitler.''

Film #66 of The December Project

I'm not American, so I have seen any of Conan O'Brien's television shows. My knowledge of the guy basically comes from pop culture references as well as the fact he was a writer on 'The Simpson's once. I had always been interested in this film ever since its release, but it was only that I finally got around to it. I was expecting an enjoyable documentary, but I really wasn't expecting such a joyous, wildly entertaining and hysterically funny film.

After a controversial television time shift, and a falling out with NBC, Conan O'Brien was forced of TV for several months. Despite a $40 million dollar pay off, O'Brien is pissed off and still desperate to entertain, thus he comes up with the idea of a cross country tour titled 'The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour' which spans 42 dates.

The film is very enjoyable and constantly hilarious, O'Brien is obvious a highly entertaining individual and that is definitely well displayed throughout this film. In addition to capturing his entertainment factor, the film paints a portrait of O'Brien's passion for entertaining. It never feels like its all about the money to him, its more about the interactions with the fans and thrill of performing in front of an audience. The film captures this whole aspect extremely well.

Being a comedian, O'Brien is always funny when hes on screen, providing many laugh out moments, he has a great presence to him as well which may be the reason he so beloved. Conan is kind of the guy that will use a joke in any situation weather hes angry,upset,happy etc, it can come across as kind of douchey, and even he states that at the beginning of the film, but its admittedly hilarious even if it can be misconstrued as cruel, I.e the scene with Jack McBrayer, as Conan playfully abuses him for being a 'Hick', its kind of mean spirited but so damn funny.

The film features many special guests along the way, including the likes of Jon Hamm, Jack McBrayer, Jack Black, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Jim Carrey, but the most entertaining people on screen are Conan's companions such as his assistant Sona and Andy Richter.

'Conan O'Brien Can't Stop' is a hilarious yet moving portrayal of someones passion for entertainment. The film is highly enjoyable and always enthralling. a strong recommend.

****

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)

Tom:
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2,2000,USA
Director: Joe Berlinger
Stars: Jeffrey Donovan, Kim Director & Erica Leerhsen
Matthew Lillard Jeffrey Donovan in 'Book of Shadows'
                          ''The gene pool is a little shallow here. Dive in and you'll crack your skull open.''

Film #63 of The December Project

While in preparation for my first viewing of this film, I yesterday revisited 'The Blair Witch Project', which is a film I have grown to love and admire. I came into 'Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2' with absolutely no idea what was about to occur. All I knew was that this film is pretty much universally despised. I could have never predicted what I saw...

A year after the release of the smash hit phenomenon that was 'The Blair Witch Project', fans have flocked to Maryland, where the film was made, to garner clues to its authenticity. A local rebel runs a tour group into woods, but him and hes group find out that Blair Witch may not be just a legend.

I am not quite sure yet of what I have just watched, was it a spoof film ? a comedy ? a ghost story ? or a 2000 version of 'The Breakfast Club' ? I have no idea, but I am quite concerned and puzzled as to why I enjoyed this film so much. This is a bad film, don't get me wrong, its absolutely poor in all areas of filmmaking, but its so damn funny and so entertaining. I think my experiencing benefited from the fact that I was expecting the worst going in.

What I respect about the film, is that it did not try to replicate the style of the original film, and try to create its own experience, did it succeed ? fuck no! but the results are always entertaining. 'Blair Witch 2' is a film that continues to defy expectations and goes to places you don't think possible, its gutsy if not brainless.

Director Joe Berlinger and Screenwriter Dick Beebe pull out all the Horror film cliches they can muster, weather it be from 'The Exorcist', 'The Omen', 'Evil Dead' and even its own predecessor, the film goes to great lengths to scare you. It does not achieve this though, actually the results are quite humorous, very humorous in fact. Maybe it was the strange line delivery by the actors, or the screenplay, or the direction or possibly the worst Sheriff put on film, but 'Blair Witch 2' almost had me laughing my ass off.

The films concept and execution are just so brilliantly obscure and its baffling to think how the filmmakers decided to go with this idea. The film features plenty of tiresome allusions to witchcraft and what not, The long speeches about the origins of witchcraft and how it works were probably the only part of the film I did not enjoy.

I thought Matthew Lillard was really great in this film, but then I realized it wasn't him, which saddened me because I'm a big fan. Anyway, it was Jeffrey Donovan who seemed to be channeling Lillard's performance in 'Scream', he was the most enjoyable character on screen due to his resemblance to Lillard. To be brutally honest, the cast is horrendous, it seemed like no one knew what the hell they were doing, maybe that's the directors fault, but they could of at least improvised or something. Kim Director (great name) plays a cliched Gothic women, who the rules do not apply to. Tristine Skyler plays the women who we have to be sympathetic towards, because she had a miscarriage, her husband is played Stephen Barker Turner who is a Jeff Daniels' lookin son of a bitch, and is the most intolerable person on screen, and Erica Leerhsen plays a woman who is convinced shes a witch, see its practically the cast of 'The Breakfast Club'!. Also I above mentioned the Sheriff, either that guy was portraying the worst police officer ever, or he was just the worst actor ever, I'm not sure yet, its all guess work at this point.

'Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2' is a bad film there is no escaping that fact, but it is also a really freaking enjoyable one, a guilty pleasure if you will. Its not a patch on its predecessor but its a very entertaining and funny time. I can see myself revisiting this in the future, in the same way I do 'Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2'.

**1/2

The Man with the Iron Fists (2012)

Tom:
The Man with the Iron Fists,2012, USA/Hong Kong
Director: RZA
Stars: Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu & RZA
Poison Dagger: I'll see you in hell!
Jackknife: Yes, I suppose you will. I'll save you a spot by the fire.

Film #62 of The December Project

RZA's original cut of 'The Man with the Iron Fists' was actually four hours in length, he suggested to Eli Roth that they could maybe split into two separate films, Roth declined and the film was finally cut down to around 90 minutes long, thank you Eli Roth! You have done the world a great favor...

 On the hunt for a fabled treasure of gold, a band of warriors, assassins, and a rogue British soldier descend upon a village in feudal China, where a humble blacksmith looks to defend himself and his fellow villagers. (from IMDB, Couldn't be bothered doing one myself)

I haven't really seen all that many Kung fu based films, so maybe some of 'The Man with the Iron Fists' effect is lost on me, but I found this to be a very incompetent piece of filmmaking. I know borderline nothing about RZA, I basically only know his name from the 'Kill Bill' soundtrack, this marks his directorial debut and is clearly obvious that an inexperienced filmmaker is behind the camera, because this is very amateurish. It baffles me as to how a musician is granted 15 million to make a film, it seemed like Tarantino probably gave him the good word and studios brought it. RZA's work is godawful here and very incompetent, with two certified filmmakers on set, Tarantino and Eli Roth, could they not have gave him some pointers ? The film is unfocussed and inconsistent, his choices are just ridiculous.

The screenplay relies on its fight sequences to make this film watchable, its such a hollow and just boring tale being told. The script is co written by RZA and Eli Roth, RZA's involvement in writing this is obvious but I would have expected just a little more from Roth, who I do like despite his haters. The fight sequences are entertaining and elaborate, there chaotic and most of the time fun, but they can become tedious and over long. Ive never really been one for long fight scenes, I really prefer characters and story, but those are absent here so I had to focus on the fighting.

The performances are all pretty useless, except for Russell Crowe, I have never been the biggest fan of Crowe's, but he was great here and he single-highhandedly makes this watchable, if he wasn't involved it would be a Lot worse and that's saying something! Lucy Liu plays a less intimating and more heroic version of the character she played in 'Kill Bill', I'm a big Pro wrestling fan so I knew Batista was in this, while he was a terrible wrestler, he wasn't all that bad here, surprisingly. Now, I have stated that RZA did a terrible job as a Director and a screenwriter, but how did he do as an actor ? HORRENDOUS! what a bland and uninteresting performance, just horrible and it was a self indulgent act to put himself in the role.

I honestly thought this could be a fun film, I was dead wrong! This was boring and I was completely non invested in this film. I can now say I hate RZA as a filmmaker, what a pitiful display, how he already has two more projects lined up is beyond me, hes performance is also horrible, he just gets everything wrong! In my opinion Avoid this, unless you like long fight sequences, and have a disdain for plot, if you do, you are not my kind of person.

*

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Death Ship (1980)

Tom:
Death Ship,1980, UK/Canada
Director: Alvin Rakoff
Stars: George Kennedy, Richard Creena & Sally Ann Howes
Trevor Marshall: Where do you plan to sail her?
Ashland: Into eternity, Marshall. Eternity.

Film #61 of The December Project

I really need to stop going into films about ghost hauntings in an isolated place expecting 'The Shining', because I know I'm going to be very disappointed each and every time. 'Death Ship' is a film that was released the very same year as Kubrick's classic, and I was very hopeful it would be presented in a similar fashion, Like 'The Shining' on the sea! that was not the case.

After a shipping collision, a group of survivors band together in order to stay alive. While on a life craft, they encounter a seemingly desolate ship and jump on board, but little do they know, the ship has a mind of its own and plans on terrorizing its new acquaintances.

You may need an Ice pack after a viewing of 'Death Ship' because the film will beat you over the head with plenty of World War II, German, Holocaust and Adolph Hitler allusions, they are constant and heavy handed and usually become way too much. The way in which the plot unravels is very predictable and your more than likely to see the twist coming from several miles away. The opening 10 to 15 minutes are rough and irritating and don't do a very good job of setting up the characters, during that time I was honestly questioning myself if I wanted to sit through the rest of this film.

The film is never really scar nor thrilling, but it features plenty of interesting imagery, such as the ship arriving through the fog and the blood shower. The films atmosphere is usually effective in generating interest, but not always, and more often than not the film can become tedious when its attempt to garner suspense.

The films characters are kind of bland and forgettable, apart from Captain Ashland, whom at least has some interesting qualities to him, and is played by a good actor in George Kennedy. Richard Creena,Sally Ann Howes, Kate Reid & Nick Mancuso also co star, but there are no real stand outs.

'Death Ship' has some enjoyable moments, but but it was to unfocused, tedious and just plain forgettable. 'The Shining' it was not!

*1/2

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Tom:
The Blair Witch Project,1999,USA
Director: Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez
Stars: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael C. Williams
Michael Williams: They're people fucking with our heads.
Heather Donahue: But no one knows we're out here.
Michael Williams: Yeah, but have you ever seen 'Deliverance'?

Film #60 of the December Project

I am on the verge of finally witnessing 'Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2', but before doing so I decided to rewatch the original for the 7634th time. I have a peculiar history with this film, I first saw it a couple of years ago, and being young and dumb I had the same reaction everyone seems to have to it these days ''it was lame because we didn't see anything''. Every viewing since then, 'The Blair Witch Project' has continuously gown on me as I continue to find more that I love about the film, and after just completing yet another viewing, I can gladly say I would rank it amongst my favorite Horror films.

Three ambitious young filmmakers set out document the legend of the Blair Witch, an urban legend of a witch whom abducted small children. The three explore the woods where she once roamed, but succumb paranoia and terror as they cant seem to escape and are hunted by an unseen entity

I was only four years old when 'The Blair Witch Project' was in cinemas, I really wish I could back in time and be part of the phenomenon it had Caused, people believing it was all factual, I would have reveled in that. Unfortunately time travel has not been invented (yet) so I'm stuck watching the film on the small screen for the moment, which isn't a bad thing in itself.

The men responsible for the film and its success, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, whose execution of the events taking place on screen are impeccable. The two utilized a lot of dramatic manipulation when filming 'Blair Witch' and even had the three actors under the slight impression of realism. The film used the handheld footage way of filming before it became over utilized, and I would dare say it has used it better than any other film of its type. The way in which it is used here is so involving, its as if we the audience where also a character on screen, were part of these events, Other films like 'Paranormal Activity' feel a little more pedestrian. The transitions between the black & white to the colored camera were really well done and gives the audience two different points of view.

I have always absolutely loved the interview footage with the townspeople at the beginning of the film, it sets the scene and the mood of the paranoia to come later on, and surrounds the audiences and characters with population before throwing us out into the woods alone. The location used in the film is its greatest asset, the woods are a scary place and the one depicted in the film emphasizes that greatly, The way in which the film has aged has only added to its effect.

The film is still and unnerving, disturbing and haunting experience. Its amazing how much fear is built up through simple dialogue and a few rumblings in the bush. The way in which the suspense  progressively builds up is a thing of beauty. The climax in the abandoned house, with both Mike and Heather filming, giving us that contrast of black & white and color is brilliant, the scene which shows the children's hand prints on the wall still irks me. The very final scene is great, while I didn't like it the first time, I have grown to appreciate Myrick and  Sánchez's use of simplicity and ambiguity, it is so effective and leads to a scary final image.

The actors Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael C. Williams are all so convincing and there performances are so real throughout the film,They are all highly sympathectic people and we support them the entire way. Myrick and Sánchez's manipulation must have worked wonders.

'The Blair Witch Project' is the little film that became a phenomenon, the highest grossing Independent film of all time. I have grown to love this film, its a brilliantly executed,haunting and creepy experience that I can see myself continuously going back to for many years. A classic!

****