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Halloween Movie Challenge 2015 - Movies 14-16 [06 Oct 2015|01:37am]

[ mood | awake ]

This batch of movies have something of an interesting pedigree:

This is from the director of 'The Blair Witch Project.' The horror beats in this are fairly standard for haunted hose/demonic possession type movies but this is a particularly well made example of that type. The performances and writing are pretty solid, the atmosphere is chilling. What helps lift the film is that the events that are set up could be the results of a demonic possession but could equally be explained by the main characters mental health issues/traumatic childhood/ongoing drug abuse issues. As an audience we get to see what the main characters sees (which her husband, sister etc do not) but even then that could still be her delusions/hallucinations rather than demonic influence. On that level the film is pretty smart. The dvd also includes a few extras in the special features. These are excerpts from a supposed documentary made after the events in the film have supposed to have happened. They fill in a lot of the background detail particularly about the family background of the main character and the events of her childhood - but also historical detail which illuminates some of the haunted house/demonic influence aspects. These could not realistically have been cut into the film in the form they currently take but they are very useful for the understanding of the movie.

15. MAMA:
'Presented by' Guillermo Del Toro, this is one of the most interesting ghost stories I have seen in a while. Pushed to the edge by the economic crisis, a man kills his wife then bundles his two young daughters into the car. Due to his erratic driving in freezing conditions the car crashes in a remote spot. The man takes the girls to shelter in a cabin they found and at the point where he decides to kill the girls too a spirit arrives to protect the girls and continues to watch over them in the wild until they are discovered several years later. On their return to civilization the girls are practically feral - especially the youngest. They are taken in by their uncle and his girlfriend but the spirit (which the girls call 'Mama') has come back with them. The film hits a lot of the usual beats common to a lot of ghost stories but has an interesting slant built into its story and the performances of everyone - especially the girls - makes this a particularly good example of the genre. The visuals are pretty good too and most importantly it is effectively creepy in all the right places.

'Presented by' Sam Raimi, this claims to be based on a true story. More accurately, it is based on a story that appeared in the LA Times, some of the elements of that story were used in the basis of this movie. The Possession is actually one of the best demonic possession movies I have seen since 'The Exorcist'. The story has a nice modern/urban setting and a lot of the supernatural elements are drawn from a Jewish tradition. The central characters in the film are a young family coming to terms with a recent divorce, so there is plenty of character work going on in tandem with the supernatural elements to the story, all of which contribute to the unique feel of the film. Once again all the performances are excellent - especially from the children. The film would not have been anywhere near as good if that were not the case.

All three of these films pushed all the right buttons for creepiness and originality in a genre where it seems to be quite hard to do either.

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Halloween Movie Challenge 2015 - Movies 10-13 [05 Oct 2015|01:05am]

[ mood | awake ]

Two of these movies bear the tag "based on true events":

10. ECHO:
There are a lot of points in which this story will feature many of the same aspects as a lot of other ghost stories. The most notable of these common touching points is a terrible act of violence at some point in the past which both creates the restless spirits and must in some way be corrected by the central character in order for the ghosts to find peace. A lot of the elements which 'make people jump' in this type of horror film are also here (freaky looking children, seeing things in a mirror, a ghostly character moving in a doorway behind the character - all of that sort of thing (basically everything apart from the ever present cat used in al too many false scares).
There is however something about 'Echo' that helps keep it relatively fresh despite the well walked path it follows and I think it is the choice of main character. In all too many films the central character is a young woman, sometimes in high school, sometimes in college, sometimes she is even old enough to have a job. Partially that is because this type of character is appealing to a broad range of people but it also allows the character to be more easily perceived as vulnernarable to whatever the threat might be. (If the female character is older than I have described here then she will often be a parent and so her child may be the vulnerable one and she is in the role of protector, but also still potentially more vulnerable and sympathetic than a man of a similar age). 'Echo' refreshingly cast a man in the main role and not just a man but an ex-convict who has served time for a violent crime. This heps to shift the dynamic of the film in a number of ways so even though the ghost story is little more than a retread of a familiar formula it has at one least fresh ingredient to add some spice. I quite enjoyed this one.

This is one of the few films in my selection this year that features a recognizable main cast with Christina Ricci and Ioan Gruffudd, among others. It is quite an ambitious film as it seems to hold three apparently separate plots which are eventually woven together for the films climax. There is the discovery of a (deliberately) buried 1st Century Roman church, an Amrican woman (Ricci) is is hit by a car, loses her memory and is taken into the family home of the people who ran her over and there is a man who seems to be plotting a bloody revenge on several key members of the community which may have been historically involved in child abuse centered around the towns former children's home. The seemingly disparate plots are eventually woven together by Ricci's character and feature a fantastic new element - that the people who chose to watch the crucifixion of Christ purely for the spectacle of 'something to do' have been sentenced to forever witness all of humanities damning moments. The church featured original images of these people, the bloodbath the man is planning is one of these damning moments and Ricci is the woman who finds all this stuff out and tries to stop it.
The film is a bit messy and uneven but I think it just about rewarded my patience in sticking with it. There are a few plot holes and even one major philosophical failing (If Christ being crucified is meant to absolve all humanity from sin as long as they believe, why are these people not forgiven?). For it's ambition and creativity I am happy to just about give this film a pass for its failings.

This is the first of the films in this batch to bear the tag "based on true events." The film falls flat on its arse in every way imaginable. It is so poor I couldn't even be bothered to quickly look up what 'events' it is supposed to be based on. An American family go for a break to a cabin in the woods, some spooky stuff happens and it turns out that some hidden family secrets are revealed. Its already difficult to care but when the production values, acting, script, effects, lighting - EVERYTHING - is this bad the film never gets off the ground. The films only saving grace is that it is only 82 minutes long. While you feel every single one of those minutes slipping by you are only glad that there isn't 83.

Also "based on true events" - the events in this case being the famous Borden killings. An American woman was accused of brutally murdering both her parents with a hatchet but was acquitted at trial and nobody else was ever accused. The connection between those fairly well documented effects and this film is minimal. The central character here (also named Lizzie) has moved back into her family home (the home where the Borden killings happened more than a century earlier). She has little recollection of her childhood but something about being in the house causes disturbing nightmares and even hallucinations. Some ghostly type shenanigans later and we see (for some reason) that original Borden killings were matched in uncanny detail by murders that took place in the home when the main character was a child AND that her boyfriend and next door neighbour have also just been murdered uncannily in exactly the same way. Little is explained and little makes sense unless you subscribe to the view that "sometimes shit just happens". The Borden killings may well provide a fertile basis for an interesting movie one day, but this is not it.

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There's Ore In Them Thar Mountains [04 Oct 2015|02:54pm]

[ mood | annoyed ]

I've posted a review of Albuquerque over at my journal.

Review: http://allisontooey.livejournal.com/118569.html

1 movie buff| tear your ticket

Halloween Movie Challenge 2015 - Movies 7-9 [04 Oct 2015|02:04am]

[ mood | awake ]

Two of these movies might make a reasonable triple bill with 'Rosemary's Baby':

The story is that a young girl survives a car accident in which her sister is horribly burned. The young girl grows up but begins to have strangely predictive 'visions' including some that indicate that her injured sister may have been buried alive and she begins to look into what really happened. The film suffers from some really uneven pacing. The story is set up smartly and quickly but once the characters are pointing in the right direction the story then proceeds at a snails pace before reaching an disappointing finale. The pacing might have been deliberately chosen to 'build tension' but what little tension there is drowns in predictability long before the end.

The film starts with a narrated prologue detailing an old story about a demon, how some guy cheated him out of the deal they made to handover his firstborn child. The Demon then curses the guy and all future generations of his family. We join the main part of the story as a newly married couple are driving off to their honeymoon destination. The wife decides to have her fortune told - things get a bit spooky and the woman is told that she is pregnant and the baby is in danger. More spookiness follows.
The prologue feels to me to be both tacked on and unnecessary. Like in the 'Paranormal Activity' films it explains the 'family connection' to the demon, but the explanation does little to enhance the story but does damage some of the mystery. So the film treads similar ground to both 'Rosemary's Baby' and 'Paranormal Activity' without really being nearly as good as either. A much better film about a demonic curse is 'Drag Me To Hell'. If you have seen that then Cursed is effectively redundant.

9. DELIVERY: (The Beast Within):
This is also a film about demonic possession/pregnancy but is much more effective than 'Cursed.' The young couple in this film are supposed to be taking part in a reality tv show where they film their early experiences of pregnancy. The first section of the film takes the form of an episode of that supposed TV show. This is really well put together part of the film, written/directed/edited by people who seem to have a great grasp of what that kind of tv show would be like. The rest of the film is put together from 'other footage' that had been filmed of the couple's pregnancy but had not been used in the tv show.
The performances in the film are excellent, particularly from Laurel Vail who plays the expectant mother. We see exactly the happy loving couple doing all the things that you would expect a loving couple to do, both in terms of the pregnancy and the reality tv show they are making. This being a horror film things then get complicated. There is almost a miscarriage and from that point on events occur with increasing frequency and intensity and the expectant mother becomes obsessed with the possibility that a demon in possessing her unborn child.
Some of the scares are fairly routine. (I have seen far too many films of this genre and so I take most of the tricks in my stride). What elevates this film is the performances of everyone involved, but especially the young woman I mentioned. Because of this the film remains entirely watchable and engaging all the way through to the end.

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Halloween Movie Challenge 2015 - Movies 3-6 [03 Oct 2015|01:46am]

[ mood | awake ]

Four more movies for this years Halloween movie challenge:

3. 7 DAYS:
This French movie takes itself far more seriously than the films I usually adopt for this challenge but then it's subject matter is that little bit darker. The film is about a man who kidnaps and tortures the man who police believe raped and murdered his eight year old daughter. The '7 Days' in the title refer to how long the grieving father tortures the suspect. The film doesn't play with any possibility that the man being tortured isn't guilty. The focus remains on the father and what price he pays for becoming a man capable of extracting such a terrible revenge.
The fil does not shy away from portraying the violence quite graphically but unlike films like 'Saw' and 'Hostel' the torture isn't there to excite. We see the effect on the victim but also the effect on the man dishing it out - and those who surround him. A metaphorical ticking clock helps keep the tension high as the kidnapping results in a massive police man-hunt. Hanging in the balance is not just the life of the child killer, but whether they can find the kidnapper in time to prevent him from becoming something at least as bad.

It is always good to see an interesting female character in this genre. The titular Alyce in this case lies to the police about the circumstances of a terrible accident which has left her best friend crippled and disfigured. Guilt and drugs push Alyce into a downward spiral that she begins to resolve by killing her friend before she recovers her ability to talk, then other deaths follow.
I am not sure I follow the film's logic beyond the first victim, but it almost doesn't matter. Alyce remains a fairly likable character while her victims score highly in the traits of being unsympathetic, shallow, exploitative or annoying. In Horror film terms that pretty much guarantees that we take Alyce's side. The film has its flaws but scores high on originality and a great central character.

A family move into a house only to (gradually) discover that one of it's former occupants is not only still living in their attic and watching everything they do but is also murderously delusional. The central relationship between the family's teenage siblings is likable and well written but the films plot plays out with grim predictability. The few redeeming features are not enough to rescue this film from forgettability.

This seems to be a movie that is in some way about mothers and daughters. There is a weird and creepy old lady who seems to befriend a number of young girls, possibly as a surrogate for her own absent daughter. There is a young girl who seems to befriend a series of fairly wealthy old ladies - the girl is at least as creepy as the old lady we started with. There is some creeping about by all concerned as we try to find out who is the creepiest of them all and what it is that the old lady keeps so secretly in her 'butterfly room'. It all gets resolved in the end with disappointing predictability which is a shame because for a moment it looked like the film might actually have something more to offer. Sadly, not so much.

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Halloween Movie Challenge 2015 - Movies 1 & 2 [02 Oct 2015|01:14am]

[ mood | awake ]

I dont know how many others are still doing this movie challenge this year (31 new horror movies to be seen and reviewed in October) but I kicked off my challenge with these two (starting with movies with a slightly lighter touch):

Directed by Tim Burton this is a movie based on a tv series that I had never seen or even heard of until the movie was released. I cannot judge it in terms of it being 'a re-imagining' because I had never seen the original. Judging it as just a film in its own right I would say that it is pretty hit and miss. I selected it as the first film in my challenge because as the only real 'comedy' I am likely to do this month I thought I could start on a light note. As a comedy, the film doesn't really work for me. Maybe because I was expecting something that might have been more of a spoof? Whatever the reason - I did not laugh much and only smiled rarely. Most of the usual Tim Burton suspects are present (Danny Elfman, Mrs Burton, Johnny Depp etc) and while everyone does a decent job of what they are about (and Burton's set designs are gloriously gothic - as usual) there is little in the way of spark or chemistry. I can see why these characters and these set ups might have worked and been funny back in the 70's when the original sit-com was aired, but by today's standards they are a bit lack-luster. The first two films of the Addams Family managed to hit all the notes that this film ailed to do, based on (I think) similar source material. The Vampire played by Johnny Depp might ot have been out of place in the excellent mockumentary 'What We Do In The Shadows' which similarly featured vampires from another era struggling to cope with a modern society, but that too was a much better film. Chloe Grace Moretz and Jackie Earle Haley were the most fun to watch but Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Lee and Johnny Lee Miller were just wasted here.

To some extent I had also expected this movie to be something of a comedy given that the last two films from the franchise I saw (Bride Of Chucky and Seed Of Chucky) were very much in that vein. Curse of Chucky however takes the franchise back to its roots. There still is a rich vein of dark humour tapped in the film but the emphasis has shifted a little more away from the comedy and back to the horror. This is in now ay a bad thing. I liked the 'fun' Chucky movies too but I am not sure where else they could have gone with them that wouldn't have been tiresome. There are some great effects and set pieces in this film and it reminded me very much of the great 'supernatural slasher' franchise movies of the 80's, which I guess is how it should be - its where this franchise has its roots. There are also two little scenes at the end which are a great nod to the fans of the series - one as an epilogue before the credits and one after the credits have rolled. This wasn't the comedy I had expected, but I still had a few sick giggles. Welcome back, Chucky!

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Death, Seduction, and Working Conditions [01 Oct 2015|12:51am]

[ mood | tired ]

I've posted an end of the month Grab-Bag over at my journal.

Reviews here: http://allisontooey.livejournal.com/118429.html

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Four Zombie Movie Reviews [01 Oct 2015|01:22am]

[ mood | awake ]

Here are brief reviews for four zombie movies. This is not part of my usual halloween movie challenge - it is just my warm up:

Arnie stars in a zombie movie - but this one is far from obvious. The zombie outbreak has started, but people take weeks to turn. The emphasis of this film is not on the rampaging zombies but a more personal and emotional tale of how families cope (or not) when one of their loved ones is infected. The evacuation centers are little more than death camps so families try to keep their loved ones at home for as long as possible, walking a terrible tightrope. They want to spend as long as they can with their dying loved ones, but left too late and their loved ones turn completely and become a danger to others. Arnie gives a surprisingly subtle performance alongside a brilliant turn from Abigail Breslin as his infected daughter. I was hoping this would be good - its actually brilliant.

I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this movie as the cover of the dvd featured people in death camp uniforms as zombies. I have no problem seeing nazi zombies (Dead Snow for example, was great fun) but there is a world of difference between seeing the perpetrators of the holocaust in the role of zombies compared to seeing the victims of the holocaust in the role of zombies. Luckily the film actually managed this fairly well. Yes, it was prisoners that were cast in the role of zombies (due to some horrific Nazi experiments) but we quickly come to see the zombies as brutalized victims rather than scary monsters. The films ending is a little bit anti-climatic and even a little ambiguous but it is a reasonable attempt to do something a little different with the genre.

A period zombie movie! Set in the Napoleonic war, the movie bills itself as 'Sharpe meets The Walking Dead'. I don't know about The Walking Dead part, they could have just said 'zombies' and it would have been more accurate, but this is actually pretty good. The films painfully low budget is revealed during the battle scenes (something is lost of the grand scale when you only have a couple of extras and everything is shot in quite tight close ups) but the rest of the film is pretty convincing. A British soldier tries desperately to get back to his commanders because he has uncovered a plot by the French to resurrect their fallen soldiers from the failed Russia campaign with the use of blood from infected humans - a device it turns out that the British are already familiar with.
Most of the scenes are designed to be shot with a relatively small cast in good locations and small sets. These scenes work really well and the originality of the idea deserves a lot of credit. Mostly the film works very well indeed. With a bigger budget and lots of extras and effects the battle scenes could have been as epic as the film deserved. Somebody give these film makers more cash!

This is a really enjoyable British zombie film. The biggest criticism I have is that it share a lot of superficial similarities with the movie 28 Days Later. This is only a small criticism though as a) the similarities are only superficial, b) 28 Days Later is a brilliant film to emulate on any level and c) Darkest Day is one of the most ambitious and competent indie zombie films I have ever seen.
The film is shot almost entirely in Brighton by a group of people who worked for free at the weekends over what turns out to have been several years. (They claim that the total budget for this whole movie, including it's catering came in at less than £1,000). The film starts with a man coming to consciousness on a beach. He has no memory of any recent events and quickly discovers the apocalypse has happened and the streets are deserted apart from wreckage, 'infected people' (as opposed to zombies) and a small group of survivors who reluctantly take him in.
Much of the first part of the film takes place in the group's 'safe house' and features largely improvised scenes which show the outlines of the characters and the group dynamics. The main action in the film kicks off when the group are forced to flee from both the infected and the British military who begin to take a very lively interest in the group. The devastation of the apocalypse is neatly captured by some deft (mostly early morning) camera work, but there is also a lot of production value added by some very competent CG work. This is used very cleverly not to create huge effects but for adding extra soldiers and equipment (including trucks and helicopters) to the scenes. The illusion of a much bigger cast with many more serious props and vehicles that you would normally find in a film like this is very effective. Full credit should go to the people who made this film - it is effective on every level it needs to be to make a very enjoyable film and the fact that they have managed something this good is quite staggering.

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Hobson's Choice and Run All Night [29 Sep 2015|11:23pm]

[ mood | awake ]

Two more random 'clearing the decks' reviews from my 'to watch' pile:

Hobson's choice seemed to be forever on tv when I was a child and it became one of my favourites - it is easily my favourite John Mills film. Directed by David Lean and starring Charles Laughton the film tells the tale of a 19th Century small businessman in Salford (effectively Manchester). Laughton plays a widower, father of three and the owner of a shop that makes, repairs and sells boots and shoes. Laughton's character is pompous, too fond of his creature comforts (especially drinking with his friends) and rules his home and his business strictly to suit his own needs. This works well for him until his oldest daughter (who practically runs the home and business by herself) decides to rebel - and marry the shop's underpaid and painfully deferential craftsman (played by John Mills).
The comedy comes mostly from the pricking of the pompous owner (Laughton), and the grooming of the timid and deferential husband to be (Mills) both masterminded by the steel willed eldest daughter (Brenda De Banzie). The title of the film comes from a phrase which is little used today but which basically is an offer of which only one realistic choice is offered - a situation which applies in part to John Mills' character once the daughter sets her mind to marriage, but entirely applies to the father (whose name is Hobson) as once his daughter's schemes are set in motion all of his remaining choices have only the one remaining option. Arguably the daughter is forced to act the way she does as her father's obstinacy and arrogance force her into a Hobson's choice, rebel or be kept at her father's heel forever.
Few films of this era retain the sparkle of Hobson's choice. The characters and performances are strong, the script is great and the pacing is note perfect. The film is more than 60 years old so almost as much time has passed since it was made as there was between the film being made and the period in which it was set, but it still feels really fresh.
As a footnote there are two early performances here from people who would later go on to great comedic fame: Prunella Scales (Of Fawlty Towers fame) and John Laurie (from Dad's Army).

I don't know how many films there are like this now but Liam Neeson seems to make a lot of them. I am not saying that its a bad film but it is quite similar to a number of other action films in which Neeson has starred.
Here Neeson plays a former mob hitman, estranged from his family and struggling with remorse, alcohol and grief for his dead wife. When his son witnesses a mob murder committed by the mob chief's (Ed Harris) son, Neeson is forced to intervene to save his own son's life. The subsequent killing of Harris' mobster son sends all the forces of police and mob after Neeson and his son. For some reason Neeson has only a single night to fight of both the police and the armed criminal underworld to a) get his son to safety and b)kill the revenge-filled Ed Harris.
There is a lot of action and it is quite well done but it does feel like a lot of other Liam Neeson films I have seen. If you have liked the other Neeson action movies there is every chance you will like this too - but it is more than starting to feel repetitive. Thrillers and predictability are rarely a great mix

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The Taking Of Pelham 123 and Dirty Harry [28 Sep 2015|06:43pm]

[ mood | awake ]

Two gritty 70's thrillers:

I had seen the remake of THE TAKING OF PELHAM (with Denzel Washington and John Travolta) several times before making my back to the original, though I had first heard the title referenced in a Carter USM song, 'The Taking Of Peckham' many years before. The plot involving the hijacking of a New York subway train is pretty much the same in both versions. The remake amps up the action a little, adds a little more sub plot and back story and adds a few twists and turns to beef up the plans of the hijackers. This was necessary as while the plans and demands of the criminals in the original 70's version may have seemed audacious to modern eyes it would probably seem a little bit naive. Possibly the most notable update is the ransom demand which in the 1970's was a princely $1million but the figure smacks of that Austin Powers joke today.
This isn't to say that the original version is without merit. (It is adapted from a book so even the term 'original' is used advisedly). Walter Matthau takes the lead and as usual is a fantastic piece of casting. The original is also steeped in its time and place - the New York of the 1970's (which is how I grew up seeing it on tv) with its grubby streets, political corruption and crime infestation. Even the language and attitudes are of the time and place with white men unself-consciously calling black men 'niggers' and women 'dames' with a normalcy that is staggering today. I'm not arguing for that state of affairs to be desirable, but the original Pelham not only works as a great thriller (with the bonus of Walter Matthau!) but it is also now a snapshot of a time and place which has since evolved into something very different.

Dirty Harry is kind of a milestone in cinematic history. It is one of the first points of transition for Clint Eastwood - moving away from westerns into modern urbanity. It also was a significant early appearance for a new type of 'hero.' Dirty Harry was practical, grounded and strong. His coolest lines are spoken (not shouted) with a detached confidence. He has little time for authority, is intolerant of bureaucracy and deals efficiently in 'justice' rather than the more specifically legalistic 'law'. Dirty Harry would go on to influence the likes of Stallone, Shwartzenegger and Willis among others.
The film itself is deceptively simple. Eastwood plays an edgy cop, not hidebound by 'the rules' and used to tackling rough and dirty jobs. His main task becomes stopping the maniac known as 'Scorpio' who kills from rooftops, kidnaps (sometimes rapes) and kiils to get what he wants - all in the face of on impotent justice system too pre-occupied with red tape and the human rights of the accused to dispense actual justice.
It is easy to be critical of the film on the basis of its political message which seems to be that cops should have the fight to use whatever force is necessary to get the job done and anything less than that id just the liberal coddling of criminals. I am not convinced that that was the intended message of the film-makers but it is certainly a by-product. I think the film makers were trying to make a film that showed the main character to be a cool and efficient dispatcher of justice in a world that seemed to be lacking any such figure. As during the course of the film we are shown exactly what Scorpio has done and his character is given zero redeeming features we are encouraged to cheer unreservedly for the one man intent on stopping him - and we do. Dirty Harry is not deep with meaning and metaphor but as a gritty crime/thriller pantomime it really excels. Like the original 'Taking Of Pelham' is also reflects a certain gritty reality of the time, a less corporatized and less shiny world than we have seen in a while.

Both films may be flawed but they are classics in their own right.

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Held Hostage to Convention [27 Sep 2015|10:44pm]

[ mood | sleepy ]

I've posted a review of the movie Ransom over at my journal.

Review here: http://allisontooey.livejournal.com/118067.html

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"THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E." (2015) Photo Gallery [26 Sep 2015|09:50am]


"THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E." (2015) Photo Gallery

Here is a GALLERY of images from "THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.", the 2015 adaptation of the NBC 1964-1968 television series. Directed by Guy Ritchie, the movie stars Armie Hammer and Henry Cavill.
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"MIAMI VICE" (2006) Review [23 Sep 2015|09:07pm]


"MIAMI VICE" (2006) Review

I wrote this REVIEW of "MIAMI VICE", the 2006 adaptation of the 1984-1989 NBC television series. Directed by Michael Mann, the movie starred Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell.
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The Death Zone of Storytelling [23 Sep 2015|06:23pm]

[ mood | okay ]

I've posted a review of the recently released Everest over at my journal.

Review here: http://allisontooey.livejournal.com/117921.html

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Daredevil (Directors Cut) and The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty [24 Sep 2015|02:16am]

[ mood | impressed ]

In my reviews lately I have tried to pair/group movies together around a common theme, actor, genre or director but these are just two relatively recent (but not new) movies that I've been wanting to catch for a while. I am also trying to clear the decks to some extent as I prepare for the annual Halloween movie challenge. (Not long now!).

I liked the original version of the Daredevil movie that was released but always considered to to be one of the weaker, more floored movies to have come out of the Marvel stable. Every review I have seen or heard about the Director's cut indicated that it was MUCH better but I hesitated for a long time as resources and time are limited and I had already sunk both into this film twice (like a good little fan-boy) at the cinema and on dvd. I recently bagged a bargain bin copy of the director's cut and I am happy to add my voice to the almost universal view that this version is MUCH better.
I had wondered what we were going to get in the proclaimed extra 30 minutes of footage and the answer was not just simply 'a little bit of everything.' There is a little bit more in the way of action with extra footage added to the fight scenes we already knew - some of it lending a much darker edge to the violence. More importantly there is an entire subplot that had originally been cut for pacing reasons (against the director's wishes). The 'sub-plot' is no tangent to the main plot of the film but a crucial element that once re-instated allows for a better look at the characters and their relationships with each other, it allows for a much more rounded story that makes much more sense and it significantly shifts the movie's overall tone. The returned footage does all of this and I don't think the pace of the film suffered unduly - so it clearly seems like a mistake to have cut it out.
Not that this version is all about what has been brought back. There are a few small elements of the original film that have now been left out of the director's cut version. The clumsy and predictable 'love scene' has been taken out of the film, shifting the balance and adding a complexity and depth to the relationship between Matt & Elektra. The fact that they don't quite manage to get together adds a poignancy and a depth to the characters feelings which was totally lacking in the previous version. Matt's relationship with the church is also better illuminated in this version both by what has been cut out and what has been re-instated.
I can count on my fingers the number of times that a Directors cut has been this SIGNIFICANTLY better than the original theatrical release: Blade Runner, Apocalypse Now (Redux) and Once Upon A Time In America all leap to mind. I wouldn't quite compare Daredevil to those movies in any other context, but in terms of the jump in quality from theatrical cut to Director's cut it is right up there.

I am not a Ben Stiller hater. I have liked a few of his movies, but some more than others. Few have given me as much joy as this, which Stiller both stars and directs. I remember seeing the trailer and being impressed by the visuals but I was not expecting anything as heart warming and life-affirming. The story of Walter Mitty is well known - the man who lives a rich interior fantasy life in which his own sense of importance is overblown. (I was reminded of when Tony Blair branded government weapons inspector Dr David Kelly as a 'Walter Mitty character' for daring to criticize the British governments propaganda about Iraq's supposed WMD, but that just made me sad and angry).
The film puts the Mitty character in the context of a man who works for Life magazine, processing other peoples photographs that illustrate their adventures in far away places. This is a great touch as it allows the man living the fantasy inner-life to have a regular point of contact with the images that give him fuel. It also throws into contrast the lack of external life the man enjoys and the journey (literal and metaphorical) he has to go on find a happier balance. The film is beautifully shot, written and performed. The visuals are brilliant but especially worthy of note is the films soundtrack both in terms of its choice of songs but also its score - its perfect. I have been struck by a few film soundtracks over the years and have sometimes been impressed enough to go and buy the soundtrack as soon as I had finished the film but with technology being what it is I ordered for myself the soundtrack and the score while I was sat on my sofa watching the film. I'm not bragging here about my limited tech skills, I'm just saying that I was that impressed and moved by this movie's soundtrack that I felt that I had to order both soundtrack and score there and then while I was in the moment. It is though one brilliant element of a very well made and enjoyable film.

1 movie buff| tear your ticket

The Last Flight Of Noah's Ark, Battle Beyond The Stars and Short Circuit [22 Sep 2015|01:50am]

[ mood | awake ]

Triple Bill Of Nostalgia:

This is one of the first films I ever saw in the cinema when I was a kid. Some of the imagery has stayed with me long after I had forgotten what the movie was called, who was in it or what it was about. The plot is a watered down, Disneyfied version of Flight Of The Phoenix (which I reviewed recently). A Pilot crashes his plane on a remote Pacific Island with a cargo of animals and three passengers - a female missionary and two orphans. With the help of two Japanese soldiers who have been living on the island unaware that the war had ended (there was an actual case of this in the 1970s!) they convert the wrecked plane into a boat and set sail in search of rescue. The film is intended to be very child friendly so the level of danger is kept pretty mild and most of the difficulties in all levels of the plot are smoothed over. The result is a quite pale and insipid film, which is a shame as Elliot Gould takes the lead role but he is wasted here. A lot of the film is aimed towards cute but it mostly lands on mildly annoying.

This film was another from my earliest visits to the cinema. I was too young to realize when I first saw it that the movie is the cheap science fiction remake of The Magnificent Seven (and therefore The Seven Samurai). Any doubts you might have on this aspect are dispelled by the Spanish edition of the dvd I recently bought which runs under the title, 'Los 7 Magnificos Del Espacio.' My Spanish is poor but that requires little translation.
The plot will be all too familiar if you have seen any of its earlier iterations. A peace loving, poor agricultural community (in this case a planet) is threatened by big bad (space) bandits so mercenaries are sought to help protect the community from the bandits. It turns out there are seven of them! Given the films close to zero budget it would be easy to write off as a cheap rip off and on some level that is true - but there are some things the movie still has going for it. Firstly, the plot is simple but it is a bit of a classic. Secondly this is a Roger Corman production, a man who specialized in maximizing his bang from his minimal buck. The excellent John Sayles wrote the screenplay and there are a good deal of recognizable faces in the cast, famous at least for their TV work if not their actual movie careers. These include Richard Thomas (from The Waltons) George Peppard (A-Team) Robert Vaughn (The Man From Uncle) and John Saxon (who has a massive list of TV credits but also appeared in Enter The Dragon and A Nightmare On Elm Street)
Perhaps the films greatest strength (which defies its minimal budget) is in its genuinely inventive creature design. I wouldn't want to get anybody's hopes up here, the costumes and effects remain cheap but some of the concepts are brilliant. There are creatures with a hive mind consciousness and other creatures who communicate solely through variations in temperature to name just a few. It is this inventive design which lifts the film above its otherwise forgettable station in my opinion. And Tucked away in the credits under visual effects is the name of James Cameron! In another time and place, with a decent efects budget this film could have been epic, but the reality is that it would probably struggle to achieve cult status.

Short Circuit:
This wasnt an early cinema trip for me but it was a big deal in the early days of VHS. The story is sweet in its simplicity. A military prototype gets struck by lightning and discovers that it is alive. The tech company that built it want to retrieve it but the machine is conscious of the fact that once it is taken apart to find it's 'malfunction' then it will no longer be alive. Parts of the story will be very reminiscent of 'E.T.' with the cute outsider with interesting abilities being hounded by the authorities but sheltered and befriended by innocents. The robot itself is a particularly well designed articulated puppet with some similar features to Wall-E but a generation earlier and built for live action. There is probably also some of the robot's design DNA in the titular robot character 'Chappie'.
Steve Guttenberg is one of the main human players in this movie, this being made in the time when he was everywhere and he is joined here by Police Academy cohort, G.W. Bailey. All Sheedy takes the main role - someone else who made some massive movies in the 80's (St Elmo's Fire, The Breakfast Club, War Games) but then kind of faded.
The film may be a little bit too naive to stand in the modern world now but it made a massive splash at the time and I still look on it with great fondness, despite its flaws.

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So is Purgatory for Bureaucrats? [20 Sep 2015|08:22pm]

[ mood | hungry ]

I've posted a review of Hell is for Heroes over at my journal.

Review: http://allisontooey.livejournal.com/117635.html

2 movie buffs| tear your ticket

[19 Sep 2015|05:25am]

Hold That Ghost (1941)

Classic Abbott & Costello (their second film in starring roles) as the boys inherit what may be a haunted tavern. It hasn't lost any of its comedic value over the years, and features their moving candle gag. Costello and Joan Davis are hysterically funny, while Shemp Howard amuses in a small role, and Ted Lewis and the Andrews Sisters add some musical performances. Recommended.
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"HEARTBREAKERS" (2001) Photo Gallery [18 Sep 2015|09:36pm]


"HEARTBREAKERS" (2001) Photo Gallery

Here is a GALLERY featuring images from the 2001 comedy, "HEARTBREAKERS". Directed by David Mirken, the movie starred Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love-Hewitt.
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"THE V.I.P.s" (1963) Photo Gallery [18 Sep 2015|08:49pm]


"THE V.I.P.s" (1963) Photo Gallery

Here is a GALLERY featuring images from the 1963 melodrama, "THE V.I.P.s". Directed by Anthony Asquith, the movie starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
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