Friday, 30 November 2012

Black Christmas (1974)

Tom:
Black Christmas,1974,Canada
Director: Bob Clark
Stars: Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder & John Saxon
                                                               ''Agnes, It's Billy! Don't tell what we did!''

Film #1 of The December Project

Bob Clark's seminal Canadian slasher film is known for pioneering the slasher genre as we know it. While the film is usually forgotten in favor of John Carpenter's 'Halloween', it was 'Black Christmas' which pioneered most of the slasher genres famous techniques.

The film revolves around a sorority house at Christmas, the girls are subject to prank calls from someone they refer to as ''the moaner'', little do they know that this prankster has more serious implications in mind, and begins stalking the house, killing victims and residing from the attic.

I recently watched and reviewed the 2006 remake of 'Black Christmas' in which I proclaimed my love of this film and scolded that one. I do have a special place in my heart for Bob Clark's original film, when I first saw it, it creeped me out beyond measure, I have seen it dozens of times since at it still effects me.

While I love John Carpenter's 'Halloween' and consider one of my favorite films of all time, You can really tell it borrows a significant amount from 'Black Christmas', If you compare the two opening scenes of both the films, you can see what I mean, With the use of Point of view shots and the fish eye lenses, 'Halloween' is basically emulating this film, but 'Halloween' does do it more effectively and is a better film, it does go to show how important this film was in horror film lore, When arguably the greatest film of the genre (Halloween) is considered utilizing what 'Black Christmas' did.

Like 'Halloween', I do consider this film to be one of the greats of the genre, Its a well executed and almost unbearably creepy film, the phone calls featured here, have the most eerie and unsettling I have ever heard on film. To be honest, I don't think a killer has ever scared me as much as 'Billy' did, there is so much mystery behind him/her/it, there is a truly unsettling presence when you know he is lurking.

I have many times in many different reviews, described my love of the ambiguity technique, and I think my admiration for it stems from this film, I know people who don't appreciate this film because they require answers to the mystery, to me this is not necessary, and it makes the film all the more effective not knowing. 

I have also heard people refer to this film as slow, and that its middle section drags. I have never really thought this until this viewing, while it didn't bother me too much, there is a clear buffering in the plot. There is too much unnecessary fluff featuring Mrs Mac, every second that women is on screen, I am irritated,also there is too much police procedure and too much Mr Harrison.

The film features a solid cast, that features a stand out performance from pre - Superman Margot Kidder, as the loveable yet abusive drunk. Olivia Hussey is in the lead role, and she specializes in playing a clueless heroin. Keir Duella also stars, he stared in '2001: A Space Odyssey', which means he worked with Stanley Kubrick, which automatically makes him great. John Saxon is also good as a L.t Fuller, a similar role to one he would play ten years later in 'A Nightmare On Elm Street'.

I have a strong admiration for this film, Bob Clark's film still has to be considered one of the scariest of all time. An immensely creepy experience, historic in the horror genre.

****

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Jack and Jill (2011)

Tom:
Jack and Jill,2011,USA
Director: Denis Dugan
Stars: Adam Sandler,Adam Sandler & Al Pacino 
 
It's been months since I have seen this film, but it is just now that I feel obliged to write this review. I have seen many horrible movies in my lifetime, but there have been few that have taken a unbearable mental grip on me like 'Jack and Jill', I cant escape the fear and terror of watching this film, its something that may haunt me for the rest of my days.

I will not summarize the plot of this movie (I refuse to refer to it as a film!), There are two Adam Sandler's though, that's all you need to know, and fear.

Upon the completion of viewing this movie, I would have referred to this as the most effective horror movie of all time, then I was informed the film was a comedy. There is no greater nightmare for me personally than Adam Sandler, discovering a movie where there was two Sandler's is almost a vision of a fiery hell, where all your most horrible thoughts will come to life and eat your soul, but 'Jack and Jill' is much much worse than that.

As I write this review, memories that I have attempted to bury deep into
 my mind are returning and resuming their haunting. I must write on though, the fate of the earth depends on it.

The 'Happy Madison' duo of Denis Dugan and Sandler, have teamed together numerous times to bring us some of the worst movies ever made, but this is the very worst, which is saying a lot. I don't this can be classified as filmmaking, instead it should be referred as robbery, Sandler and Dugan are robbing the idiotic audience members who have paid to see this!

There are still nights when I awake in terror, remembering moments of this film, seeing Adam Sandler dressed as a woman flying on jetski through the air, and sharing the screen with Al Pacino, What the Fuck Al! Your were in 'Dog Day Fucking Afternoon', get your fucking shit together. There are really no words that can do this piece of horror justice, this is an example of the very worst in film. One of, if not, the worst movies ever created.

No stars

Hard Candy (2005)

Tom:
Hard Candy,2012,USA
Director: David Slade
Stars: Ellen Page, Patrick Wilson & Sandra Oh
''There's that whole nature versus nurture question, isn't it? Was I born a cute, vindictive, little bitch or... did society make me that way?.''

'Hard Candy' is a modern day retelling of the old fairytale Little Red Riding Hood, like the classic tale its based upon, 'Hard Candy' attempts to inform its audiences of stranger danger, albeit in a more sadistic and disturbing way.

Hayley Stark, is an innocent young girl who meets an older man online named Jeff Kohlver, who is a well off photographer, the two go back to his house, but Hayley is suspicious of Jeff's actions, and is determined to prove his is a pedophile, going to unthinkable measures to do so.

'Hard Candy' is not a film you enjoy, you appreciate the message, but you watch in horror as the message gets turned on its head. Its strange in the way that you aren't quite sure which character to side with, examples being with the two lead characters, While Hayley is attempting to give comeuppance to a suspected pedophile, she is also a sadistic sociopath who is obviously taking pleasure in torturing. Jeff, you dislike the man because he may or may not be a child murderer, but you also feel highly sympathetic for him as he faces every mans worst nightmare. It's a bizarre character structure, but one that is so effective and makes the film all the more enthralling.

David Slade, gives the best directorial effort of his career, which isn't hard seeing as he also directed '30 Days of Night' and a Twilight film. The direction is always compelling and always keeps the audience alert and on their toes, it moves at a rapid pace and there is never a dull moment.The camera shots and angles are usually frantic and quick, which suits the film. Brian Nelson's screenplay is also intelligent and quick witted. There is plenty of horrific moments and scenes throughout the film, especially the infamous castration one, which will truly shock and disturb you.

The two central lead performances are phenomenal, Ellen Page is really incredible, she is a frightening yet supportable 14 year old vigilante-esque character. Patrick Wilson is also really good playing a very difficult role.

'Hard Candy' is a rewarding film experience, it is not pretty, is it not fun, but it is disturbing, it is enthralling and it is very effective. Well made and superbly acted.

***1/2

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Tom:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower,2012,USA
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Stars: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson & Ezra Miller
                                         ''Right now we are alive and in this moment I swear we are infinite.''

It takes a lot for a film to almost make me burst into tears in a cinema with only two other people, but alas 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' did just that. This film blew me away and provided one of the most beautiful and heartfelt film experiences of 2012.

Charlie is a distraught teen, who has just come of an extended stay at a mental hospital and is beginning his freshman year at school, feeling lonely and out of place, Charlie meets Sam and Patrick, who introduced him to the real world .

Teenage angst films, we see them every year right ? some them are good, others not so good, but few achieve on the level that 'The Perks of being a Wallflower', its more than an angst tale, its a universally relateable story of making the best out of adversity, and climbing out of hell so to speak. There a few films I can relate to as much as this one, and few characters I can relate to like Charlie, minus a few details, I could truly identify with his mindset and his place in life.

'The Perks of being a Wallflower' sees the rare occurrence of an author adapting his own novel to the big screen, not only its script but partaking directing duties as well. Its something that would be nice to see more often, but I doubt most could do it as well as Stephen Chbosky does here. In his only his second directorial effort, Chbosky proves that he gets film, and understands what it takes to make a great film, and he does exactly that.

I really can not speak highly enough of this phenomenal cast, Logan Lerman is great as Charlie, Emma Watson is also terrific! she is amazing and compelling and proves that she can indeed have a successful career post Potter, but it is Ezra Miller who steals the show, after his career making performance in 'We Need to Talk about Kevin', Miller gives an incredible performance here as the gay,eccentric, tormented and loveable Patrick, damn this guy is going to be great! This film also has a great supporting cast, Mae Whitman is lovely,Kate Walsh & Dylan McDermott are good, Melanie Lynskey is very important in a small role, and one of my favorite people, Paul Rudd even co stars and is great as usual, And guess who plays the shop teacher ? TOM FUCKING SAVINI!

I really cant speak highly enough of this film, it simply blew me away. I expected it to be good, hell I walked 40+ minutes in 35 degree heat just to see it, but I didn't expect such a relateable and utterly beautiful film experience. This film overtakes 'Argo' as my second favorite film of the year. Highly recommended.

****1/2

Jailhouse Rock (1957)

Tom:
Jailhouse Rock,1957,USA
Director: Richard Thorpe
Stars: Elvis Presley, Judy Tyler & Mickey Shaughnessy
                                          ''No, you ain't gonna hate me. I ain't gonna let you hate me.''

Being possibly the biggest icon in all the world, its advisable to explore other forms of media. In addition to being 'The King of Rock and Roll' Elvis Presley of course became a pretty notable film star, what is usually considered his best effort is this film, 'Jailhouse Rock' , in which Elvis no sells police brutality, and sings,naturally.

Vince Everett (Elvis Presley) is a young man who is imprisoned for manslaughter after a bar fight gone wrong, During his stint in the big house, Vince slowly gains notoriety as singer and begins his path to super stardom.

I have never really seen much of Elvis' work as an actor and whatever I have seen was a long time ago, Today I picked up this film on Blu-Ray, I was mostly expecting elaborate and spellbinding musical sequences but to surprise it was more of a character study than a musical, and an enjoyable yet tragic one at that.

The film does feature some great music sequences though, this is a given when the film stars Elvis, the famous 'Jailhouse Rock' scene featuring the simplistic yet fantastic set design is still an entertaining and effective scene. The choreography and photography is all top notch.

The script though is filled with plot holes and implausible situations, but this is a moot point seeing as its a vehicle for Elvis Presley.

This is basically Elvis' film and all conversations regarding 'Jailhouse Rock' will always lead back to him, all though he gained some criticism for not being the greatest of actors,His performance here is fine, hes natural charisma shines through and his presence on screen is undeniable, he does seem to have troubles with dramatic moments though that seem a little over the top, and as I mentioned above, he completely no sells a police whipping in the jail. The rest of the cast is good, especially Judy Tyler, who tragically passed away three days after the completion of filming in a car accident.

'Jailhouse Rock' is definitely an enjoyable experience, its far from perfect though and there are some ridiculous moments,even for the times, but its hard not to have a good time with this film. Elvis was truly one in a million.

***

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Tales from the Hood (1995)

Tom:
Tales from the Hood,1995,USA
Director: Rusty Cundieff
Stars: Lamont Bently, Corbin Bernsen & Clarence Williams III
Newton: Damn it, man, this is no time to panic!
Strom: Then when the FUCK do we begin to panic?

I was ready and excited to watch 'Holy Motors' I began the film, only to realize my English subtitles did not work, in disarray and disappointment I stopped the film, I searched my hardrive for another film to watch, finally coming across 'Tales from the Hood' a film I have started watching many times but have never made it past the ten minute mark, today was the day I was going to complete this film!

As you may be able to tell from the title, this film is a Horror anthology revolving around African- American citizens, an obvious take on 'Tales from the Crypt'. The film is centered around three drug dealers who attempt some supply from an eccentric funeral house director, who tells the dealers of four gruesome and terrifying tales of terror (from the hood!)

I was expecting this film to be a full blown Horror-Comedy, but to my surprise it was more of a serious statement on racism, which shouldn't really comes as a surprise seeing as its produced by Spike Lee. The film was pretty effective in its own right, some segments really hit the nail on the head when it comes to racism. Some segments have dated very poorly and just comes off as more amusing than terrifying when its obviously intended to be. 

I'm not racist in the slightest, but this film makes you feel pretty horrible for being white, at times it can feel more like a vehicle of propaganda then a fully fledged film that everyone can enjoy. I despise the idea of racism and I don't need a horror anthology to inform me of this.

Also the film is the subject of a misleading title, couldn't they have thought up a better title than 'Tales from the Hood'? I know its a reference to 'Tales from the crypt' but come on! people could get this confused with 'Leprechaun: In the Hood'.

The film opens with a segment titled 'Rogue Cop Revelation' about a rookie cop who witnesses the beating of a City councilman and black rights activist who stands up against corrupt policeman, Decent segment that features the message of karma.

Secondly is 'Boys do get bruised', we have probably the best segment of the film in my opinion, a new child arrives at school and his teacher discovers bruising on him, which the child claims came from a monster. Its really a symbolic and frightening realistic (I use the term lightly) tale, that is well executed and decently performed.

Next is 'KKK Comeuppance', Which features obligatory KKK themes, revolved around a former member running for the senate, his wicked past comes back to haunt him though. This segment is weak and way to cheesy.

Finally we have 'Hard-Core Convert', A African- American murder is sent to prison to repent his sins. Easily my least favorite segment of the film, very over the top and preachy.

'Tales from the hood' was a surprisingly serious statement on racism, but unfortunately it was far too preachy and over the top for it to be very effective. In my opinion, there is no need to go back and search this one out, go watch 'Do the right Thing' instead, that's a great film,this is a below average one.

Quick Rate of the segments:

- Rouge Cop Revolution **1/2
- Boys do get bruised ***
- KKK Comeuppance *1/2
- Hard - Core Convert *

Overall: **

Monday, 26 November 2012

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

Tom:
Picnic at Hanging Rock,1975,Australia
Director: Peter Weir
Stars: Anne-Louise Lambert, Rachel Roberts & Jacki Weaver

                             ''What we see and what we seem are but a dream, a dream within a dream.''

I never really knew much about 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' up until very recently, I knew it was considered one of the best Australian films, I had honestly thought it was a comedy. Recently I searched the film up on IMDB, and read the plot summary and discovered this film was a mystery, I instantly went to eBay and purchased the Blu- Ray, as a result I may have just witnessed the greatest Australian film ever made.

On St. Valentines Day 1900, a group of school girls travel to Hanging Rock, a former volcano that erupted around a million years prior, during the day trip, a group of girls explore the rock, which results in a bizarre disappearance.

'Picnic at Hanging Rock' is a completely immersing film, its an utterly engaging and beautiful mystery that left me haunted, disturbed and amazed. I expected to like this film, not love it like I did, and I really  wasn't expecting such a haunting experience, but 'Panic at Hanging Rock' is all that and a whole lot more.

I love ambiguity, for me personally, if its done right ambiguity can be the most terrifying aspect a film can supply. I know some people require a solution when watching a mystery, they need answers, but I am not one one of those people, and if this film gave me straight answers, It probably wouldn't have had the same effect on me. That's the beauty of 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' , it will leave you in a daze for a long time.

The film is so beautifully photographed, mixed with its amazing score, the film feels like a moving work of art. Peter Weir directs this film, Weir is a highly talented filmmaker and probably one of the very best this country has produced, he would later go on to make classic films like 'Gallipoli', 'Dead Poet's Society' & 'The Truman Show', but in my view, this film is still his finest hour, such a controlled and masterful piece of work.

The cast is all brilliant, but they definitely take a back seat to the spectacle taking place on screen. The film features performances from Australian actors such as Anne-Louise Lambert, Rachel Roberts, future 'Wolf Creek' star John Jarret, and Academy Award Nominee Jacki Weaver.

Recently, I have seen many Australian classics, 'Wake In Fright', 'Walkabout'.'Long Weekend' & 'Road Games' to name a few, but they all pretty much pale in comparison to 'Picnic at Hanging Rock'. A beautiful and incredibly haunting mystery, that is a must see if you want to witness the best of Australian cinema.

****1/2

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Black Christmas (2006)

Tom:
Black Christmas,2006,USA/Canada
Director: Glen Morgan
Stars: Katie Cassidy, Mary Elizabeth Winstead & Kristen Cloke
                                                                         ''They're my family now.''

The 2006 remake to Bob Clark's seminal Canadian slasher film, 'Black Christmas, which as great as it was, It was more of a cult classic, an underground film that was overlooked in favor of more marketable slasher films such as 'Halloween' and 'Friday the 13th', the film features 16 producers in total, which included those involved with the 'Final Destination' series, maybe this remake was an attempt to bring some well deserved attention the brilliant original, or maybe they just wanted to make some easy cash.

Billy was an un-ordinary child who was abused by his sadistic mother, one Christmas, Billy brutally murdered his mother and proceeded to eat her. In present times, Billy is locked in a mental institution but hes legend continues to haunt the town, Now he has escaped and wants to murder the girls in the sorority house that used to be his former home.

Firstly, I just wanted to say that I love the original 'Black Christmas', the first time I saw it was one of the most eerie and horrifying film experiences I've ever had. I have seen the film many times since and I always enjoy it. I had always heard how bad this film was and never really planned to ever watch it, but I came across it on Youtube so I thought, why not ? that was my first mistake.

This movie is absolute trash! I have never been so disgusted in my life, what a sick, pathetic, lazy miserable excuse for a film. When filmmakers made a modern horror, they seem to think the secret is to include plenty of gore, little do they know that nobody gives a fuck about gore! The beauty of this genre, which I adore so dearly, is when a Horror film can enthrall you through pure tension, atmosphere, plot and characters (see 'The Shining', 'Psycho'), 'Black Christmas' features none of these qualities, instead it relies on jump scares, over the top violence and some of the most unlikeable characters put on film, to try and ''Scare'' its audience, and fails fucking miserably!

The film is complete mind numbing idiocy made by very incapable filmmakers, while watching this film you can really sense the filmmakers misplaced arrogance, I genuinely believe they thought they were creating the scariest film ever made, which makes this even more irritating. They also attempt to make a sentimental statement about family, which turned to be an absolutely laughable. Its so amateurish and embarrassing, it almost made me physically ill to see the art form I love so dearly be bastardized in front of my very eyes.

The entire cast is terrible, even Mary Elizabeth Winstead who I genuinely like is bad, not that shes given much choice. All these characters are horribly snide and ignorant people, we hate them all, even though Glen Morgan tries his best to not make that so.

This film is a complete insult to the original, It takes everything great about that film, such as the ambiguity, the atmosphere, the genuine creepiness, and replaces it with bullshit, what made the original so effective, is that we didn't know who or what Billy was, In remake we get his whole fucking back story, including his liver disease which causes him to have yellow skin, YELLOW SKIN!. It baffles me as to why Bob Clark was involved in this, but then again he did make two 'Super Baby Genius' films.

I really can not do this thing justice, its unbearably bad and equally heartless, truly horrible stuff. This Christmas, do yourself a favor and avoid this thing like the Plague.

1/2*

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Walkabout (1971)

Tom:
Walkabout,1971,UK/Australia
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Stars: Jenny Agutter, Luc Roeg & David Gulpilil

                                                 ''Please try. It's silly to give in now. It can't be much further.''

1971 was seminal year for Australia films, seeing the release of two of the country's finest productions, including Ted Kotcheff's masterfully horrifying 'Wake In Fright' and this film, Nicolas Roeg's coming of age story told through the Australian outback, 'Walkabout'

Two British children, A teenage girl and young boy, are almost murdered by their father, who ultimately kills himself, leaving his two children stranded in the Australian outback, they attempt to survive on their own until they encounter a young Aboriginal boy, who is on a ritualistic ''Walkabout''.

I don't think the Australian outback has really ever been as portrayed as beautifully, mysterious or awe inspiring as it is in this film, it really takes on a life of its own and its mesmerizing to watch, Director and Cinematographer Roeg really captures the beauty and spectacle. Roeg was a good filmmaker early on in his career, he captured characters and tone so vividly, 'Walkabout' is no exception.

'Walkabout' is a terrific coming of age story, Two youths being forced to adapt to the unforgiving wilderness after almost being murdered by their father for no given reason. The first 25 minutes are very disturbing and confronting, and its ambiguity makes it even more so. Throughout the duration of the film, we see these children grow before our very eyes, with the help of a young Aboriginal, who you would except to play a bigger on screen role than he actually does, but the simplistic use of the character is fantastic, he is essentially a vehicle to show the children the beauty of the earth and to guide them, they are all essentially on their on personal Walkabouts.

I really cant speak highly enough of the films beauty, not only its glorious locations but its fantastic score by Composer John Barry, who's score compliments the incredible locations. Be warned, There is some graphic animal violence in the film, keep in mind this was filmed before Animal Rights act went into effect.

The film features some fine performances, Jenny Agutter is fantastic here, giving a incredibly strong lead performance. The Director's son, Luc Roeg is fine as the young boy, and David Gulpilil is mysterious and enigmatic as the young Aboriginal participating in a Walkabout.

Walkabout is a beautiful and spiritualistic journey through the Australian outback, Its is impeccably filmed and brilliantly directed by Nicolas Roeg, A seminal classic in Australian film lore.

****

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

Tom:
Beasts of the Southern Wild,2012,USA
Director: Benh Zeitlin
Stars: Quvenzhane Wallis, Dwight Henry & Levy Easterly

''When I die, the scientists of the future, they're gonna find it all, they gonna know, once there was a Hush Puppy and she live with her Daddy in the bathtub''

'Beasts of the Southern Wild' is the film that came from nowhere, to wow audiences throughout the Cannes film festival, needless to say I had been anticipating the film for quite some time and have finally had the chance to see it.

Hush Puppy and her ill father are part of a ramshackle bayou community, but the simple life is threatened by melting ice-caps and more civilized society, 6 year old Hush Puppy must dig deep in order to survive a changing world.

On a technical level, 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' is almost good, its a well directed and very finely performed film, but to perfectly honest, I could never fully invest in it. I'm not sure what it was, as I wanted to like this film so much more than I did. I was not a big fan of the screenplay, It was too fantastical, which was an objective of the screenwriters, but to me it all became a little too much, I would have preferred a little more realism to add to the ''magic''.

'Beasts of the Southern Wild' is a profile of the people who get lost in the shuffle, people who cant quite adapt to a modern world (It may not always be in this form), its something that really isn't told all that much, but this film does an excellent job of portraying this.

Benh Zeitlin does an admirable job in his feature film directorial debut, which saw him win two Cannes film festival awards, hes artistic vision is vividly brought to the screen, he is able to capture some pure emotion and bring the best out of his cast.

The films greatest source of praise though, comes from its tiny leading lady, six year old Quvenzhané Wallis gives brave and fearless performance as Hush Puppy, a performance that has rightfully impressed so many and is almost Oscar worthy.

I didn't hate this film, I had such high expectations and while I enjoyed the film from a technical aspect, I just never emotionally connected to this film, unfortunately.

**1/2

Friday, 23 November 2012

ParaNorman (2012)

Tom:
ParaNorman,2012,USA
Director: Chris Butler & Sam Fell
Stars: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick & Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Aggie: But what about the people who hurt you? Don't you ever want to make them suffer?
Norman Babcock: Well, yeah, but what good would that do? You think just because there's bad people that there's no good ones either? I thought the same thing for a while. But there's always someone out there for you. Somewhere.

'ParaNorman' is the 2012 stop motion animated adventure comedy, while the film has been praised by most, it has also shunned by parents, believed to be a film targeted for children, 'ParaNorman' has apparently frightened children and created a storm, but is it deserved ? and do animated films have to automatically have to be 'Kids films' ?

Norman is a lonely kid with a special gift, he can see ghosts and talk to dead people, due to his abilities his is forced into saving his town from Zombies,ghost and a horrible past that is coming back to haunt them.

Stop motion films never fail to amaze and leave me in awe, and 'ParaNorman' is no different, in fact it may just be the best film of its kind since Wes Anderson's 'Fantastic Mr Fox', not that there has really been many. 'ParaNorman' is so beautifully and intricately detailed that their were honestly moments were I was just completely immersed in this world and even forgot that it was even animated, Which is always a positive.

'ParaNorman' is a surprisingly emotional experience, which I didn't see coming, its message of people being universally afraid of what they don't understand, and not being able to understand unique people. Its actually a really sad reality and its very well portrayed in this film by both Norman and Aggie.

'ParaNorman' is obviously heavily influenced by other films, of course its influence by 'The Sixth Sense', its almost felt like a animated sequel to that film,almost. There is of course influence from plenty of classic horror, Zombie films in particular, i.e George A Romero's Dead trilogy. I also felt a lot of Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible', which used the Salem witch trials as an allegory, similar to what 'ParaNorman' does.

The film features a very solid voice cast, Kodi Smit-McPhee is good in the title role, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann & Jeff Garlin all provide great and humorous support. John Goodman is also great in a small role.

The film is very well made by Chris Butler & Sam Fell, they very much show their passion for horror films and the themes displayed in the film. The visual effects in the film are just terrific, Its really fantastic and utterly beautiful.

In my mind, it is just complete idiocy that parents are ridiculing this film, and I hate the fact that animated films automatically become labeled as children's property, If children do see this film then they may just get a valuable life lesson on acceptance, sometimes parents are the most childish.

'ParaNorman' is a vibrant, funny and even thrilling film that is almost hard not to enjoy, There is a lot to like for both kids and adults.

***1/2

Marathon Man (1976)

Tom:
Marathon Man,1976,USA
Director: John Schlesinger
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Roy Scheider & Laurence Olivier

                                                                               ''Is it safe?... Is it safe?''

John Schlesinger's 1976 film 'Marathon Man' features one of the simplistic taglines I have ever seen featured on a film poster, ''A Thriller'', that's it, its such a clever use of simplistic irony, because the film is far from being just an average thriller.

An intelligent but tormented graduate history student (Dustin Hoffman) devotes his life to the past and to training for a marathon, but he is about to be catapulted into an international conspiracy centered around a fugitive and sadistic ex Nazi dentist.

Its a terrific thing when a film makes you completely invested in trying to decipher its plot, for the first fifty minutes of 'Marathon Man' is left to themselves to figure out what is taking place on the screen, its so great to see a film that does not condescend to its audience. William Goldman's script, adapted from his own novel, is absolutely fantastic, its so intelligent and so unrelenting that it kept me intrigued aswell as disturbed and enthralled for its entire running time, which is exactly what I want from a thriller.

The film is very well directed by Academy Award winner John Schlesinger, in surprisingly his last film that was a commercial success, he works brilliantly from Goldman's screenplay and is able to bring the excitement from his script and translate it to the screen. Like Goldman, Schlesinger does not back away from strong violence and risky themes, The famous torture scene is still very effective and incredibly haunting, and portraying an ex Nazi, that resembles Joseph Mengele, in a modern film is always going to be a touchy idea, but it only makes the film more effective and gives it a hint of realism.

The cast in this film is phenomenal, another example of why Dustin Hoffman was so damn good throughout the 70's, Hoffman uses his infamous method acting techniques to create yet another realistic and incredible performance that should have earned him another Oscar nomination. Acting legend,Laurence Olivier who portrays "the White Angel" Szell, in yet another impactful and haunting performance in such a great career. The supporting cast is exceptional, Roy Scheider, Marthe Keller & William Devane are all great.

'Marathon Man' is a groundbreaking thriller, its doesn't feature the usual thriller film cliches, and in result is a horrific and disturbing film that is brilliantly made and exceptionally acted. 

****

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Session 9 (2001)

Tom:
Session 9,2001,USA
Director: Brad Anderson
Stars: David Caruso, Stephen Gevedon & Peter Mullen
 
                                                 ''Satanic Ritual Abuse Syndrome. It was big in the '80s.''

Before Brad Anderson directed Christian Bale's incredible performance in 2004's 'The Machinist' he helmed another psychological thriller, that being 'Session 9'. 

An asbestos cleaning crew is hired to clean a desolate mental hospital, all men have their individual problems and they all seem to escalate as the Hospitals past eerie comes back to haunt the men.

Anyone that knows me, is aware that Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining' is my favorite film of all time, now I was aware that this film somewhat imitated 'The Shining' in certain regards, and that's definitely an understatement. Anderson is obviously influenced by Kubrick's mastery (who isn't ?) and attempts to utilize it to its full extent. For all of 'Session 9's positives I was always thinking back to 'The Shining', admittedly I probably think of 'The Shining' everyday though.

This film has an undeniably creepy atmosphere, which is present from the early stages of the film to its climax, This is due to Anderson's stylish direction, and Uta Briesewitz usually stunning photography, these are the films finest and most redeeming attributes. I was a little less impressed by Anderson's use of frantic editing, I understand why it was employed for this type of film, but it really didn't do anything for me, and instead took me out of parts of the film rather than enthrall me.

All the characters in the film are intentionally unsympathetic, these are all troubled people and Anderson, and to a lesser extent the actors, conveys this well. There aren't any standout performances here and I really wish that some notable and capable actors were hired, but what can we do ?

'Session 9' is far from a great film in my opinion, sure it shows glimpses of Brad Anderson's directing abilities, as he creates a fantastic and haunting atmosphere, at the end of the day though, it felt like 'Session 9' just borrowed ideas and concepts from a truly great film in 'The Shining'.

**1/2

Long Weekend (1978)

Tom:
Long Weekend,1978,Australia
Director: Colin Eggleston
Stars: John Hargreaves, Briony Behets & Mike McEwen

                                          ''If you go out in the woods, you better be in disguise...''

'Long Weekend' is a classic and mostly forgotten ''Ozplotation'' film, It is surprisingly hardly ever mentioned in the lore of Australian films, hell I'm Australian and hadn't heard of this film until last week, upon reading the plot summary, I instantly searched out this film.

An Australian couple, suffering from monumental issues in their marriage, set out to a distant beach in the country to spend a long weekend, but they conduct thoughtless acts that damage the nature of the area, They disrespected nature and now nature will disrespect there cries for mercy!

To be perfectly honest, throughout the first 45 minutes of this film, I was struggling to get emotionally invested and felt I was going to dislike this film. I understood the characters were supposed to be insufferable, but I was just getting fed up watching these people, just then 'Long Weekend' took me by its grip and from then on I was completely enthralled. The last half of this film is just brilliant!

One of my favorite aspects of 'Long Weekend' is its minimalist approach to depicting the attacks of the animals, I always have to give props to a Horror/Thriller film that doesn't resort to hitting its audience over the head with tacky special effects in order to get a reaction out of them. Its always scarier predicting when the horror will arrive, is it not ? 'Long Weekend' uses this mentality to brilliance, Its so effective in that way, Your always anticipating,

Colin Eggleston's direction is brilliant as he creates a phenomenally terror charged atmosphere that has to be seen to be believed. Everett De Roche's screenplay is also fantastic and together Eggleston work together to create such a tense and thrilling film. They are obviously influenced by Hitchcock, in particular 'The Birds'.

The performances are irritating and never enjoyable, but I guess they weren't supposed to be, characters take a back seat in a film like this. John Hargreaves plays a horribly intensive and borderline abusive man, who the audiences thrives to see comeuppance of. Briony Behets plays a more sympathetic character. 

As I mentioned, I wasn't all that interested in the first 45 minutes of this film, but its last half is so incredibly gripping, another example that Australia has a decent success rate in the horror genre and we should definitely invest more into it.

***1/2

Monday, 19 November 2012

8 and 1/2 (1963)

Tom:
81/2,1963,Italy
Director: Federico Fellini
Stars: Marcello Mastroianni, Anouk Aimee & Claudia Cardinale


Note: I had just finished writing this review when the battery ran out on my laptop, I attempted to re write it word for word, resulting in a very incoherent review, sorry.

''My Dears... Happiness consists of being able to tell the truth without hurting anyone.''

Finally my '8 and 1/2' DVD arrived and finally I was able able to see the widely beloved classic. '8 and 1/2' is the most well know piece of work in the filmography of legendary filmmaker Federico Fellini, the film illustrates the hardship of making a film.
     
Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni) is a disheartened filmmaker, who in his latest project is being continuously harassed by co-workers, acquaintances and even his wife. Guido attempts to escape into a world consisting of his memories and fantasies.

When watching this film, I kept wondering to myself if Fellini was basing these events on his own experiences. The film revolves a Director, who appears to have once cared passionately about the art form, but upon entering the world, he becomes disheartened by the show business' side of film, and money hungry producers who don't seem to care about the creative process. Was this what happened to Fellini ?, We know he continued to make unique and personal films for the duration of his career, but were his preconceptions destroyed upon entering the business and realizing that creativity can sometimes take a back seat ?

The film is usually described as a comedic drama, and while I felt the dramatic aspect was always present, I never thought of the film as a comedy, sure I can understand some audience members finding it humorous, This film played as a brilliantly executed and horrifying surrealistic nightmare. I personally have ambitions to be a filmmaker later on in life and I love films, so to see a character depicted who has become a filmmaker but has lost passion in the art was frightening to me.

Fellini's direction is masterful, he so brilliantly blurs the thin line between dreams and reality, that it is damn near impossible to pin point when a fantasy begins and when it ends. I also have to mention Gianni Di Venanzo    's cinematography, which is absolutely spell binding, hes work in the fantasy aspect truly transports us to a different world, very awe inspiring.

The performances are all excellent, Marcello Mastroianni is brilliant as Guido, he truly captures the characters despair hollowness. The amazing Claudia Cardinale lights up the screen whenever she is present, the rest of the cast is all great.

'8 and 1/2' was a truly unique and one of a kind experience, It may be the seminal film that chronicles the process of movie making, capturing all the heartache and imagination involved. Fellini was a master of his craft and '8 and 1/2' may just be his masterpiece.

****

Dark Shadows (2012)

Tom:
Dark Shadows,2012,USA
Director: Tim Burton
Stars: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer & Helena Bonham
 
                                                                 ''A woman doctor... what an age this is.''

I don't think there is any doubt, Tim Burton is not what he used to be, hell he may be the most overrated filmmaker working today, rarely does a director consistently disappoint like he does, providing audiences with bland, lame and visually cliched films. I what seemed to be his most obscure and random project in years, A film adaptation of the 1966 television series 'Dark Shadows'.

Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is a vampire who has been buried for two centuries, After finally being set free Barnabas returns to his family estate, finding his dysfunctional descendants occupying the house as he struggles to adapt with the current times.

To be perfectly honest, I had very low expectations going into this film but to my surprise I actually got some enjoyment out of it, thanks mostly to Johnny Depp's performance which is the cornerstone of the film, hes brilliantly executed dry humor is something to marvel. The film is at its best when it focuses more on its comedic elements, especially the fish out of water aspect of Barnabas' character, but whenever 'Dark Shadows' tries to be something more is when it kind of falls apart.

Burton's messy direction is unfocused and just baffling to watch, If this film didn't have such a strong cast it could have been a near disaster. The films action sequences are just a little too much, I understand that they were supposed to be over the top, but it makes the scenes more tiresome than compelling, the last half hour in particular is quite rough.

Also, I don't understand whom the film is targeted at, It seems a little too zany for children and families, and not something intriguing or enticing enough for teenagers and adults. It honestly baffled me the whole time as to who this films target audience is.

'Dark Shadows' features a good cast, as I mentioned before Depp is great and really enhances the film, also Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter and Chloe Grace Moretz were all good, Jackie Earle Haley was hilarious, My biggest problem with the cast was Eva Green, who always just irritates me.

There is some enjoyment to be had with 'Dark Shadows', its comedic moments are fun, its fish out of water aspect is good due to Johnny Depp's performance, but the film does fall apart when it tries to be something more than a comedy. Its fight sequences are too much and Burton's directing abilities continue to plunder, well  at least I hear 'Frankenweenie' is good.

**1/2

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Silence (1963)

Tom:
The Silence,1963,Sweden
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Stars: Ingrid Thulin, Gunnel Lindblom & Birger Malmsten
 
''The horrible forces. You need to watch your step among all the ghosts and memories. All this talk... There's no need to discuss loneliness. It's a waste of time.''

I'm not sure why it took me so long to finally getting around to watching Ingmar Bergman's final installment in his unofficial 'Faith in God' trilogy, 'Through A Glass Darkly' was great and 'Winter Light' was damn near life changing perfection, I guess so many other films got in the way and prevented me from seeing this , but I finally found time to watch 'The Silence' today.

The film revolves around two sisters, Ester (Ingrid Thulin) & Anna (Gunnel Lindblom) and the emotional distance between them, The two are traveling home along with Anna's son Johan, an innocent minded young boy who is oblivious to the inner turmoil between his two mother figures.

'The Silence' was one of the most surreal viewing experiences I think I have ever had, after witnessing the beauty of 'Winter Light' which was stooped in the pain of real life, 'The Silence' is a completely different animal, From the early stages of the film we are bombarded with heavy symbolism and imagery alluding to sensuality which continues throughout the duration, I didn't feel Bergman's questioning of religion was all that present in this film compared to 'Winter Light', instead he focuses heavily on sibling despair, the emotional connection that has been lost between two sisters, Upon the films release, it was widely shunned for being too heavily based on sensuality, while there is definitely some there, I believe its highly unreasonable to label it as 'Semi - pornographic', Bergman is an artist in full control of his work, and 'The Silence' may just be his greatest achievement.

Like all of Bergman's work, 'The Silence' is beautifully shot by cinematographer Sven Nykvist, such vibrant, dim and atmospheric scenes, its easy to see why Nykvist is one of the best.

The film features powerhouse performances, especially from Ingrid Thulin who was always amazing, especially when working with Bergman.Gunnel Lindblom is also fantastic.

I was not expecting such a visceral and surrealistic experience, but 'The Silence' stunned me and left me in awe due to its beauty and intricacy. There are some heavily themes here, which Bergman works to near perfection, proving why he was one of the greatest filmmakers.

****

The Avengers (2012)

Tom:
The Avengers,2012,USA
Director: Joss Wheldon
Stars: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans & Scarlett Johansen

Bruce Banner: I don't think we should be focusing on Loki. That guy's brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him.
Thor: Have a care how you speak! Loki is beyond reason, but he is of Asgard and he is my brother!
Natasha Romanoff: He killed eighty people in two days.
Thor: He's adopted.

To say I had absolutely no interest in seeing 'The Avengers' upon its release would be putting mildly. Sure, I'm no Marvel fan but I had seen the previous films leading to this one and really not being impressed by any of them, I really could not understand everyone's excitement for this film. Months have gone past and after hearing everyone's unanimous praise of the film and having a copy of the DVD laying around, I finally decided to watch 'The Avengers' with no expectations at all.

Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and his army threaten to take over the Earth, Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) from S.H.I.E.L.D bands together a group of superheros to save the earth from destruction.

I believe Christopher Nolan has destroyed the superhero genre for me personally, with three Batman films he showed me the pinnacle of what this genre is capable of, those films are the perfect mixture of art,entertainment and spectacle, everything else just feels obsolete. In 2012, Nolan's final installment in the Dark Knight trilogy was released, but strangely it may not have been the most talked about or popular superhero film of the year, it was seemingly outmatched and out grossed by Joss Whedon's crime fighting ensemble piece.

Unlike Nolan's films, 'The Avengers' isn't artistic in the slightest, but I'm sure that isn't its intention, Whedon's film relies
on chaotic and entertaining fight sequences mixed with humor and satirical quips, A formula that can usually guarantee success with the masses, which 'The Avengers' achieved and then some.

Its not hard to understand why 'The Avengers' was so well received, but to be honest I never really fully enjoyed the film, for me to get the full enjoyment out of a film like this, there just has to be more deeper meaning or a deeper threat of consequence, How many more times can the world be faced with near destruction and filmmakers expect audiences to care?

As you would expect, 'The Avengers' features some dazzling special effects and some elaborate action sequences that are guaranteed to leave audiences in awe, but my favorite aspect of the film was humor, admittedly at time I found it to be a hit and miss but for the most part I generally loved the one liners and humorous converses between characters, it didn't hurt that they were deliver by capable actors either.

Whedon's is obviously passionate and very fond of these characters and does his best to try and do all of them justice, and for the most part succeeds, but in doing so minor characters take a back seat and when they face hardships its hard to care seeing as were never really introduced to them.

The film features a star studded cast, including the likes of Robert Downey Jr, in his third portrayal of Iron Man is great, Mark Ruffalo good as Bruce Banner, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth both do a fine job in their second take on the characters of Captain America and Thor. Samuel L Jackson and Jeremy Renner are both fine but underutilized, Tom Hiddleston continues  to remind me heavily of Michael Fassbender which is not a bad thing, and Scarlett Johansen is easily my favorite of the cast as she is great as Black Widow.

I can appreciate 'The Avengers' from a technical standpoint, but in all honesty I was not at all emotionally invested in the film, I don't have any prior affection for the characters other than the films I have seen them in, Its a spectacle of a film and I can understand others liking of it, but for me personally, 'The Dark Knight Rises' is the superior superhero film of 2012, and 'The Avengers' simply falls into the realm of average action films.

**1/2

The Hustler (1961)

Tom:
The Hustler,1961,USA
Director: Robert Resson
Stars: Paul Newman, Piper Laurie & George C. Scott


http://www.totalprosports.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/the-hustler.jpg

''You know, I got a hunch, fat man. I got a hunch it's me from here on in. One ball, corner pocket. I mean, that ever happen to you? You know, all of a sudden you feel like you can't miss? 'Cause I dreamed about this game, fat man. I dreamed about this game every night on the road. Five ball. You know, this is my table, man. I own it.''

I seem to be repeating myself in every review this ''No - Rewatch November'', but this is a film I had been dying to see for the longest time. 'The Hustler' is the 1961 classic, Robert Rossen directs a cast to die for lead by Paul Newman, and featuring the likes of George C. Scott, Piper Laurie & Jackie Gleason.

'Fast' Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) is a pool hustler, and the best in the game, he travels countryside with his partner hustling every sucker that gets in his way. On his way to the top, Eddie challenges Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason), a legendary pool player, the two play straight pool for 25 hours, which sees Eddie loose over $18,000. With his confidence gone and his life in shambles, Eddie meets Sarah Packard (Piper Laurie) and prepares to challenge Fats one last time.

I have seen the sequel to this film, Martin Scorsese's 'The Color of Money', so I am familiar with Newman's Eddie Nelson character, while it was Newman's performance in 'The Color of Money' that earned him his sole Academy Award, but I believe it was just the Academy's way of righting wrongs for not giving Newman the statue in 61 for his performance here, A truly remarkable performance that sees Newman portray an overly arrogant young man, whos ego gets the better of him, Its a tale of redemption and a tragic character piece, its saddening and yet in its own way hopeful.

The film is beautifully made, Resson's direction is impeccable as hes screenplay which he co - wrote with Sidney Carroll and adapted from the novel by Walter Tevis. While I am not a big fan of sports, I do enjoy sports films and 'The Hustler' may be one of the best I have ever seen, not because it focuses heavily on its sport but because it focuses more on its plot and its characters, sure its pool scenes are all fantastically shot and very well acted but its the scenes in between that really makes this film so impactful and longstanding, the characters are so well written and acted that when they suffer heartbreak, it just makes it all the more real.

'The Hustler's cast is absolutely impeccable as you would expect, as I already stated Newman gives a triumphant and award worthy performance. George C. Scott, whom is also one of my favorite actors, gives yet another great performance in his legendary career, Scott declined a rightfully deserved Oscar nomination for his performance in this film, A great actor who believed more in the art than the notoriety. Piper Laurie is fantastic and Jackie Gleason good in a small role, he plays a character that is the driving force behind the whole film. 

To be honest, I never expected 'The Hustler' to be such an impactful experience, sure I expected it to be a great film but not with such tragic themes, Without a doubt 'The Hustler' is one of the great sport films of all time, Brilliantly well made and phenomenally acted, a truly great experience.

****

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Do the Right Thing (1989)

Tom:
Do the Right Thing,1989,USA
Director: Spike Lee
Stars: Spike Lee, Danny Aiello & Ossie Davis

''Whoa. Y'all take a chill. You got to cool that shit off. And that's the double-truth, Ruth.''

I have never really explored the filmography of Spike Lee as of yet, sure I have seen '25th Hour' which I consider one of my favorite films, but I have never really seen anything else of Lee's, not even 'Do the Right Thing' which is usually considered to be his finest and most popular work, and one of the most important films of the 80's.

In Brooklyn, on the hottest day of the year racial tensions boil to violent proportions as peoples hate and ignorance get the best of them.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last (checks watch) 23 years, you would have heard of this film and the impact it has made, Spike Lee is an obviously passionate African American activist and has made a career of attempting to break down the barriers of racial prejudice in our modern society through his films. 'Do the Right Thing' is hes most accurate and universally acceptable film depicting the ridiculousness of racism.

The film is an odyssey through a day in life of an African American neighborhood, its the hottest day of the year, as the weather brings out the worst in some people. Races depicted in this film are Whites, Blacks & Koreans, all of which despise each other and refuse to see eye to eye.

Lee may get criticized for whatever reason nowadays, but there is no denying that he made a truly great film with 'Do the Right Thing', he writes, directs and stars and does a hell of a job doing all three, hes passion through in this script and while it can be misconstrued as right winged, I would call it realistic.

The film is in my view, an ensemble piece, there is no real main character, Lee's Mookie may be the closest though, its up to the audience to decide who the protagonist and antagonist are, which is a beautiful thing and something that other films don't utilize or do properly, its one of the ultimate acts of audience participation.

The cast is all fantastic, Lee is great, Ossie Davis brilliant, Danny Aiello, John Turturro and Richard Edson are all fantastic. The film also features Rosie Perez, Ruby Dee and Samuel L Jackson before he became a big name.

'Do the Right Thing' is really an unforgettable experience, I am so thankful I finally got around to watching it, but am baffled as to why it took me so long. I can understand the heavy praise this film receives and I intend to be one of those people praising it from now on. Thank you Spike Lee for creating such a sad, entertaining and confronting film that questions our prevalent racial barriers.

''Violence is a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it a descending spiral ending in destruction for all.''

****1/2

Detachment (2011)

Tom:
Detachment,2011,USA
Director: Tony Kaye
Stars: Adrien Brody, Christina Hendricks & Marcia Gay Harden
 
''Whatever is on my mind, I say it as I feel it, I'm truthful to myself; I'm young and I'm old, I've been bought and I've been sold, so many times. I am hard-faced, I am gone. I am just like you.''

Tony Kaye was renowned for being difficult to work with while making his critically acclaimed 'American History X' in 1998, due to this he has never really had much of career since, despite the films positive reaction. 'Detachment', released in late of 2011 (or 2012 depending on your country), is the most significant work in his filmography since that time.

Henry Barthes (Adrien Brody) is a substitute teacher, who is disheartened with the world, he is achingly miserable when he accepts a teaching job and hopeless school.

Having been to a school like the one depicted in this film, I could instantly connect to this film. It was horrible and almost unsurvivable and has given me an early understanding of horrible and unhappy places. Adrien Brody's character Henry Barthes, whom is already an unhappy person, then enters this world and sees children's lives being destroyed before they truly begin, It's a confronting fact of our world and the film does a fine job depicting it.

There have been so many films which have featured the same plot outline, where an sad teacher enters the lives of students and people around him and they are able to enlighten each others lives, 'Detachment' is so far away from those other films, its very sad, very surreal and is never really all that hopeful. The film does portray utter hopelessness and despair though, and maybe that's more realistic.

Adrien Brody gives a fine lead performance and really captures depression and grief well, Also I didn't realize this film had such a prolific cast, nobody really gets much time but their are appearances by Christiana Hendricks,James Caan, Lucy Liu, Tim Blake Nelson, Marcia Gay Harden, Blythe Danner and even Bryan Cranston!

'Detachment' is a fine film, as I have said it depicts sadness,despair and loneliness well, but it is such a deliberately harrowing experience and not in the informative or life changing way. A little bit of hope goes a long way.

***

Friday, 16 November 2012

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

Tom:
Bad Day at Black Rock,1955,USA
Director: John Sturges
Stars: Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan & Lee Marvin

''You killed Komoko, Smith, and sooner or later, you're gonna go up for it. Not because you killed him, but because of thinking in a town like this you could get away with it.''

Paul Thomas Anderson has said many times that ''You can learn more about film, listening to the commentary track on 'Bad Day at Black Rock' then you can in 20 years of film school.'' Being an avid admirer of Anderson and extremely trustworthy of his opinion on films, I instantly set out to watch this film.

A stranger (Spencer Tracy) arrives via train in Black Rock, a small town made up of prejudice and racist occupants,The strangers name is John J Macreedy, a war veteran whom investigates the mysterious disappearance of Japanese resident, while trying to get to get to the bottom of it, Macreedy must deal with the hostile townsfolk who are hell bent on keeping their secret. 

From the opening helicopter shot of a train arriving at a beautiful little town, I was hooked and knew this was was going to be great, For the next 80 minutes, I was thrilled, saddened, enlightened, haunted, horrified, inspired and blown away. 'Bad Day at Black Rock' is an exceptional exercise in classic cinema, Director John Sturges beautifully builds tension as the film progresses and he doesn't resort to violence or action in order to do so, he works brilliantly from Millard Kaufman's screenplay which is adapted by Don McGuire from Howard Breslin's story. The film is always compelling, the scenes which feature two characters conversing are brilliant and its short length works in its favor, Its just enough to time to explore the characters and environment without becoming tedious, but you still yearn for more.

Tales of overcoming prejudices are always inspiring no matter what, and its done to near perfection in this film, Racism is a terrible and inhumane part of life, and that's how its depicted in this film. Macreedy is a character whom is truly good at heart but hes best quality is that he views everyone as equals, hes seen the horrors of the war in Italy and due to his life being saved by a foreigner, racism does not apply to him, Characters like Macreedy are easy to support.

The film features a phenomenal cast lead by the legendary Spencer Tracy, who is brilliant as Macreedy. The film also co stars the likes of Robert Ryan, Lee Marvin, Walter Brennan & Ernest Borgnine who all do a great job.

As PTA implied, 'Bad Day at Black Rock' is basically filmmaking 101, Sturges directs this film so seamlessly it all makes it look so easy. I am finding it very difficult to place this film into one specific genre, because it features so many different elements for various genres, crime,drama,mystery,thriller and even a Western, and the beauty is the film never feels convoluted. 'Bad Day at Black Rock' is a classic, and I really recommend checking it out.

****

Wreck-It-Ralph (2012)

Tom:
Wreck-It-Ralph,2012,USA
Director: Rich Moore
Stars: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman & Jane Lynch
''It's hard to love your job, when no one else seems to like you for doing it...''

'Wreck-It Ralph' is an animated throwback to the video games of the 1980's, The film has gained a mostly positive reception amongst most critics and audiences, but having a less impressive reaction from video game fans, not being a video game I went hoping to enjoy the film.

Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is a video game villain, who is part of the ''Fix it Felix Jnr game'', but Ralph is a good guy at heart, and after 30 years is fed up with being lonely and disliked and thrives to be loved and earn a hero's gold medal.

'Wreck-It-Ralph' thrives on the nostalgia factor, he appears to have many to the older video games, while its enjoyable for the first half of the film, it definitely fades towards the middle section of the film, while I was having a blast in the opening section of the film, my interest started to fade when the film began residing in sugar rush, sure there are some nice visuals but it felt like a complete transformation from the film I was enjoying at the beginning.

'Wreck-It-Ralph' features a nice moral and message which is that of redemption (or close enough), Ralph is a 'Bad' guy who has never had a choice in the matter and strives to be liked. While it does have its heart in the right place, I just felt hollow at the end of the film.

As I mentioned above, This film does feature some nice visuals. I love the look of the traditional arcade and the gaming consoles, but when the film start featuring the game Sugar Rush heavily, which is basically a candy land, that's when I got irritated and so tired of looking at cliched world.

The voice cast here is fine, I have discovered recently that I really like John C Reilly ('Step Brothers' not included) The guy can pull of dramatic roles, comedic roles and Yes, animated voice roles. Reilly was the perfect choice to play Ralph, hes funny and loveable just like Reilly himself ('Step Brothers' not included). Sarah Silverman is also great here as Vanellope, Silverman is really coming into her own, film wise.

'Wreck-It-Ralph' isn't a bad film, its just a very average one, it falls into the realm of forgettable animated films for me personally. As I said, I really enjoyed the opening 30 minutes or so, especially Ralph's opening narration, but after that the film just fell by the way side. I cant really recommend checking out the film in theaters, but a rental would be more applicable.

**1/2

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Cheerleader Camp (1988)

Tom:
Cheerleader Camp, 1988, USA
Director: John Quinn
Stars: Betsy Russell, Leif Garrett & Lucinda Dickey 

''Everyone, one of our girls has been murdered, lets all get out of here and not panic, (crowd proceeds to panic)''

'Cheerleader Camp' also known as 'Bloody Pom Poms' is a 1988 slasher , the film is understandably forgotten in slasher film lore and with good reason...

Alison Wentworth (Betsy Russell) is a cheerleader who is suffering from some terrifying nightmares, she accompanies her cheerleader companions to a cheerleader camp (where have I heard that before ?) a strange little camp ran by three supervisors (3!), Two creepy old men and a woman, but there be trouble a foot as an unknown killer roams the camp...and kills!

I don't believe 'Cheerleader Camp' has one solitary idea of its own to bring to the Horror genre, the whole film just feels compiled of rehashed concepts from better films, i.e Alison's nightmares are of course from 'A Nightmare On Elm Street', its laziness like this that make this film so forgettable.

If you take a serious mind into this film you may be institutionalized with serious damage to the brain. This film is mind numbingly ridiculous, I really hope the film was made with this intention because if not I'm very disheartened. The kills are un inventive and lame, and there is a lot red herrings, you know how you can tell they are red herrings ? Because the film fades to RED!!

I like Betsy Russell, and while she is horrible here she is definitely the most tolerable, the rest of cast is absolutely sickening, there is a jock, who looks like a 40 year old man and a fat son of bitch who is one of the dumbest bastards I have ever seen in a slasher film, which is saying a lot!

This also has to been worst camp I have ever seen, worse than Crystal Lake and Sleepaway Camp combined!

I am in a cynical and tired mood so I am sorry for these crazy ramblings all you need to know is that 'Cheerleader Camp' is an unoriginal, irritating and mind numbing film that I would only recommended if your in the mood for pure idiocy. 

*

A Clockwork Orange

OLI:
A Clockwok Orange, 1971, UK
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Malcolm McDowell

"What we were after now was the old surpries visit. That was a real kick and good for laugh and lashings of the old ultraviolent."

It's weird, spooky, confusion, challenging, violent, abusive and highly sexual in disturbing ways. With in the first 30 minutes there were three sex scenes, two of them rape! But there is something slightly appealing about A Clockwork Orange. I don't know why, but I kinda like it.

In the not so distant future, London is terrorised by crime, violence and vandalism lead by troubled youths. Non more infamous and menacing, is Alex (McDowell) and his 'droogs.' As they cause havoc and destruction, Alex is turned on by his team and is sentenced to 14 years of prison for his crimes (rape and murder). In basic forms, the film explores the treatment Alex receives and it's effectiveness. However there is a lot more going on the just that. You really have to watch it to get a sence of what's going on.

It is a classic Kubrick styled film and, as always, is visuals are superb. With such a legendary director and producer behind the camera, you wouldn't expect anything less. I love the moving camera shots and close ups. His cinematography is always unreal. Th music in this film felt a little over exaggerated. I would of heard Beethovens "9th" at least ten times. I understand that it plays an importantrole in the film, but it was just too much and unnecessary. Music such as "Singin' in the Rain" sung by McDowell, felt a lot more appropriate and was more entertaining. Acting was also fine but I felt as if character development was a bit choppy. We learn a lot about Alex, but other characters felt rushed and sometimes irrelevant.

I think that this film is all about free will. If someone wants to do bad things, should their right to make all decisions based on these thoughts be taken away? Is it right to strip people of freedom of choice if the choice is not necessarily correct? A director such as Stanley Kubrick has the ability to pull of films that tackle these kinda issues, and A Clockwork Orange demonstrates that. It is most definitely not my favourite of Kubrick's work, but it is a good film and I did get some enjoyment out the the weirdness and confusion of this quirky movie.

*** (3/5)

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Passenger (1975)

Tom:
The Passenger,1975,USA/Italy
Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Stars: Jack Nicholson, Maria Schneider & Jenny Runarce
‘’I’ve run out of everything – my wife...my house... an adopted child...a successful job... everything except a few bad habits I could not get rid of.’’

I am big fan of Jack Nicholson, actually scratch that, I am a huge fan of Jack Nicholson, I don’t think there is an actor whom has captured my imagination more or has truly embodied my love of film like Jack, I also believe that few actors have had as legendary a run of films like Jack had between 1970 to 1975, If you think back you will see Jack give immortal performances in films such as ‘Five Easy Pieces’, ‘ The Last Detail’, ‘Chinatown’, ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest’ and this film Michelangelo Antonioni’s ‘The Passenger, The film, also known as ‘Profession: Reporter’ has been one I have attempted to track down for the longest of times, but a copy of the DVD has always seemed to evade me, but finally I was able to see ‘The Passenger’, ready to see my favorite actor of all time create another immortal performance.

David Locke is a Reporter who has become increasingly miserable with his life and profession,  while researching for a documentary in the Sahara Desert, Locke meets a British reporter named David Robinson who seems to be happier than him and can appreciate life’s subtle beauties more than Locke, When Locke suddenly finds Robinson dead, he assumes his identity in an attempt to leave his old life behind.

I have seen others label this film a thriller, but to be honest I don’t see it, sure there are some intense moments and scenes throughout the film but I would not call this a thriller, maybe I just don’t  want to, To me ‘The Passenger’ was a character study and possibly the most beautiful one I have ever seen. David Locke is one of the most fascinatingly complex characters I believe I have ever seen put on film, right alongside the likes of Nicholson’s other characters such as Robert Dupea & Randle P McMurphy, He is a deeply flawed man who has been broken down by the pain of life and the world he has discovered through his profession, From having personal experience I definitely felt that Locke had some form of depression and was struggling to live with it, I also noticed this due to his actions of assuming another mans identity, We would be lying to ourselves if we ever said that we wouldn’t  for one second have wanted to be someone else, escape our life’s and start over, Locke sees the opportunity and fulfills the sad dream of us all.

Antonioni’s direction is pure subtle mastery, For such implausible events, Antonioni makes them feel as real as humanly possible, he also happens to share my belief that character is the most important element of a film, sure a great story is also a wonderful thing but what does it matter if we don't give a damn about the characters ? 

Jack Nicholson’s performance in this film is absolutely and utterly incredible, I say this not only as a fan of his but as a fan of Acting in general, once again Mr Nicholson captured my imagination and once again I will call him my favorite actor of all time. There is a moment in this film when Nicholson gives a speech about a blind man he once knew, who gained vision and saw the world for what it really was, Its an amazing scene and really sums up my exact thoughts on society.

If you read this review, you may notice that I had a very personal connection to this film, and honestly I don’t think there is another film that I can connect with more on a personal level. The film is genuine, glorious, tragic, truthful and incredible, If you have never seen ‘The Passenger’ please do yourself a favor.

****1/2

Reservoir Dogs

OLI
Reservoir Dogs, 1992, USA
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Staring: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Micheal Madsen, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi & Lawrence Tierney

"Are you gonna bark all day, little doggie, or are you gonna bite?"

To compare this film to the likes of Pulp Fiction would be pain wrong. Although similar in many ways, these are two different films that tackle different issues. It is also important to note that Reservoir Dogs was made before Pulp Fiction so if anything, Pulp Fiction should be likened to Reservoir Dogs.

When 7 gangsters all with different stories and different connection the the mob boss Joe (played by Lawrence Tierney) pull off a job together, it is discovered that one of them is a rat. This creates tention and deceit within the group and small alliances form. The entire film, minus the first seen, is set in a warehouse. And with the inclusion of each new member to the ron day view point, we slowly learn more about each character through scenes shot in retrospective. It is this "back in time" film technique that demonstrates the how and why different characters react to this conflict the way they do.

This is Tarantino's first major feature film and it is incredible that a director of only 29 and with only minimal film making experience was able to make such a powerful film. Like most Tarantino films, the camera work and cinematography is simple yet amazing, and the writing superb. Disjointed time series and the way each scene was able to flow into one-another could never be recreated, I love it. The themes and dialogue in this film are absolutely brilliant. For example, in the opening scene Mr. Brown (played by Tarantino himself) explains to the gang the meaning behind Madonna's song 'Like a Virgin.' And the way in which the camera spins around the table... Wow!

Acting in this film is perfect. I have seen many movies that feature Steve Buscemi, but only recently I have discovered that the true actor he is and he quickly is becoming one of my favourites. Tom Roth plays a convincing role as his character; Mr. Orange. In fact, all actors played their roles convincingly. I was able to make a connection with all of them; from the sweet affectionate Eddie (Penn) to the wild and unpredictable Vic (Madson) ond even the ragged and determined Mr. White played by Harvey Keitiel.

Quentin Tarantino has a genre, I just can't seem to give it a name. It is his own style that no one else could ever pull off. And believe me, many have tried... and failed! Both Fiction and Dogs are about 'West Side Gangsters,' both tackle kinda the same issues and both feature simular, if not the same, actors. But if you were to ask me which one was better, I would have to say Reservoir Dogs. It's heavier in terms if themes and possibly violence, but it's lighter as it doesn't mess with you head as much, but defiantly still gives you a run for your money.

***** (5)

The Shining

OLI
The Shining, 1980, USA
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Jack Nicholson & Shelley Duvall

"Red Rum...Red Rum...Red Rum...Red Rum...Red Rum...Red Rum...Red Rrum...Red Rum..."

Imagine if you (a boy at an age of 5-ish, who possesses a supernatural power allowing you to see things from the past and future), your dad (a writter and recovering acholic) and yor mum went to take care of a hotel for 5 months during the winter. There is a games room, a hedge maze, large fire places, a huge kitchen and blood surging from one of the apartments like a wave from the ocean! Yes, BLOOD!!! This film is scary! One of the most brilliant, well crafted psychological horrors ever made.

The adaptation of the Steven King's spooky novel has been amplified by the immense film. Kubrick has produced a incredible piece of viewing delight that leaves you on the edge of your set. The man is a true genius. It is obvious to see where renowned directors, such as Quentin Tarantino, draw their inspiration from. Camera work, cinematography, lighting... all amazing. And the sound! Don't get me started on the sound!!!

This film contains the best ever music score that really intensifies the spooky feel this film creates. As a musician myself, all I can do is drool in awe at the superb musicianship of Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind. I could turn the screen off and still feel just as scared purely listening to the sounds and music of The Shining. At the same time, I could mute the volume, watch the film in silence and you would sill get the same response from me. That is a true testate to Kubrick.

It's an old school horror and Nicholson portrays the old school psycho to the highest standard. Shelley Duvall also plays a convincing role making the film feel all the more real.

This film is more suspenseful than freaky but that's what I like to see in a horror. It's one thing to have monsters jump out at you, but to create a film that doesn't let you know what's coming next, and that leaves you in awe, is something completely diiferent and magical. It's a film that ends, and begins for that matter in mystery and superstition. For this reason, as a viewer, you are forced to ask questions and I don't believe that one will ever truly understand every thing about The Shining. But that's the beauty, you don't really have to know, you purely have to enjoy the amazing feat and terrific sense of hopelessness and insecurity created by this film.

Putting the DVD in to the DVD player was scary enough! The feeling of willingly knowing that you are about to change as person because of a film, can only an only be topped by the film itself.

****1/2  (4.5)

Premium Rush (2012)

Tom:
Premium Rush, 2012,USA
Director: David Koepp
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dania Ramirez & Michael Shannon

''I like to ride. Fixed gear. No brakes. Can't stop. Don't want to, either.''

I first became aware of 'Premium Rush' when I saw the poster for it at my local theater before seeing 'Argo', From what I gathered, it was some kind of action thriller that involved bicycles, despite the presence of Joseph Gordon-Levitt I silently scoffed and walked away. A few days later, as I often do, I was searching around IMDB, when I once again came across this film, I found out a few more details such as the film was co-written and directed by David 'Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' Koepp, who has never been one to pen an intelligent screenplay, with relatively low expectations, I decided to check out 'Premium Rush'

The film revolves around a bike messenger named Wilee (like the coyote) a live wire who makes a living out of delivering mail around New York city. One day, an unsuspecting Wilee takes possession of valuable letter that gets the attention of a corrupt cop, who chases him through the city. 

'Premium Rush' is told in a non linear way, the film jumps from and between different parts of the day and features a couple of long and elaborate flashback sequences that catch audiences back up to speed, Its a short and fast ride, clocking in at around 83 minutes sans credits, which is what you would expect for a film like this. Despite his shortcomings as a filmmaker, Koepp is able to keep the film moving at a quick pace and is able to orchestrate some exhilarating chase sequences. I also enjoyed the scenes The script, which Koepp co writes with John Kamps is really ham handed and is riddled with caricatures,plot holes over sentimentality and one of the most ridiculous and baffling sub plots I have seen all year.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is awesome, yes we already knew that and he continues his trend of good performances here and does the best with what he is given. Michael Shannon is also great as he usually is, as the bad cop, Shannon is always at his most entertaining when he is able to let loose and he does that here. The rest of the cast is pretty sub par, Jamie Chung plays a horribly stereotypical Asian character, A very poorly written character.

'Premium Rush' for the most part is a fun little ride, but with all of David Koepp's work you really must check your brain at the door before watching, because you really wont be needing it here. Although minimal There is enjoyment to be had with this film due to its chase scenes but there is other much more worthy films in cinemas that are more deserving of your time, but if you want intelligent and distinguished action, go see 'Skyfall'

**1/2

Skyfall (2012)

Tom:
Skyfall,2012,UK/USA
Director: Sam Mendes
Stars: Daniel Craig,Judi Dench & Javier Bardem
Sévérine: How much do you know about fear?
James Bond: All there is.
Sévérine: Well, not like this... Not like him...

Before I begin this review, I must state I am not a James Bond fan per se, I have seen about four Bond I can think of off the top of my head, two of those are the previous Daniel Craig. After hearing the amazing buzz 'Skyfall' and seeing it was helmed by a great filmmaker in Sam Mendes, I decided to watch the film (A week prior to its Australian release date, thank you Movie2k!).

After MI6 is hacked by an ex agent from M's past known as Silva, Agent 007 must deal with his aging and pain riddled psyche in order to prevent Silva's retribution on M.

'Skyfall' is a distinguished and for the most part intelligent action thriller, something we are sorely lacking these days due to cinemas being riddled with messy mindlessness spewed out by the likes of Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich. 'Skyfall' is what I imagine the Bond films to be, centered around a charismatic and brilliant hero who must prevent the worlds destruction from an equally brilliant villain. The film has the classic Bond formula and is able to adapt it with modern times.

Whoever idea it was to have Academy Award winner Sam Mendes deserves all the congratulations in the world. Mendes is a great filmmaker and after succeeding with films like 'Road to Perdition' & 'Jarhead' which mended both meaning and action terrifically, hes success with a Bond film was never really in doubt. If James Bond was made cool again in 2006, then Sam Mendes just made him fucking Fonzie in 2012.

Also on a side note, this film, both in structure, tone and elements really felt similar to The Dark Knight, I'm not sure if this was intentional or if anyone had the same feeling but it felt present to me.

Daniel Craig returns to play Mr Bond for the third time in 'Skyfall' and let me just say that Craig is man! he oozes coolness and bravado and has really made this role his own, heres to hoping he continues with the role in the future. Javier Bardem plays the Bond villain,the flamboyant and sadistic Silva in this film, after the creation of Anton Chighur in 'No Country For Old Men' and with this performance, I think its fair to say that Bardem makes one hell of a villain!

After fans reveled in the success of 'Casino Royale' and felt the pain of disappointment with 'Quantum of Solace' they can now rest easy in witnessing, from what I understand is one of the best Bond films, while I cant judge it on that level., I will say that 'Skyfall' is a hell of a fun time, and you wont regret the ride.

***1/2