REVIEW COMING SOON!
As far as I'm concerned, Schwarzenegger's last really good film was probably 'True Lies' (1994). But that doesn't mean one shouldn't appreciate the effort Arnold still put forward in giving us the action hero we all love him as, despite the quality of some of his more recent action films. I would probably consider 'Eraser' to be right around the time we were seeing a tipping point. It's fun, but at the same time, it felt like it was about time to make way for a new action hero.
Here, Arnold plays John "The Eraser" Kruger. Working for the Witness Security Protection Program (aka "WITSEC"), he "erases" the identities of high-profile witnesses by faking their deaths, protecting them from anyone who might get to them before they are able to testify in court. John is assigned by his boss, Chief Arthur Beller (James Coburn) to protect a Cyrez Corp. senior executive named Lee Cullen (Vanessa Williams). Cyrez is a defense contractor, wherein top executives have developed a top secret weapon, and Cullen has warned the FBI that they plan to sell the weapon on the Black Market.
Cullen delivers the disc with the weapon's data to the FBI, and is soon put under Witness Protection with Kruger's help. However, the disc is replaced with a fake by a mole who works for a man named Daniel Harper (Andy Romano), who happens to be the Deputy Secretary of Defense. Long story short, it's not long before John finds himself stuck between protecting Cullen, and battling sources of conspiracy from within his own company. And to make it perfectly clear, this was another action flick I found somewhat hard to follow, so if my description is a bit broad, I apologize for that.
I think in some ways, this feels somewhat typical for the time. There's not a whole lot of substance to the film, but it's largely dealing with conspiracy, corruption from within and of course it all adds up to some over-the-top action. But let's be fair, it's Schwarzenegger - we WANT that over-the-top action, complete with his ever-famous one-liners. Look no further here than the scene in the zoo, involving a couple of killer crocodiles. So I think if you're a die hard Schwarzenegger action fan, this can still be fairly solid, if only a little typical. This was 1996, so the box office was starting to get a little more "disaster movie" than "shoot-em-up", making this one film that sort of dangled there during the change-over.
I think, however, I only have a couple of small, maybe even insignificant criticisms to give to this movie. I can be far more forgiving than others, considering this seems to be a low-ranking movie, critically. I think it's a bit complicated (although, I tend to get confused easier than others), I think it could be considered a little too "shoot-em-up" at times, and it's often quite over-the-top with its violence. But having said all of that, this is a Schwarzenegger flick, and he's a well-established action hero. I might say it's equivalent to me buying a coffee and being a little disappointed that it wasn't actually a mocha. It's decent for what it is, there are better Arnold movies out there, but there are certainly much worse.
For as much as I enjoyed this, I have to admit that I find many more of Scorsese's works much better. It seems in the early 90s, one of the big trends was thrillers that sort of bridged the gap between slasher horror and dramatic mysteries. The best example of such a film was probably 'Silence of the Lambs', but there were several, and this was Scorsese's take on the subgenre. As far as his movies are concerned, the only thing I've seen that would even come close in comparison is probably 'Shutter Island', which I see in the same light - enjoyable, but he's done better. For yours truly, 'Goodfellas' still has yet to be dethroned.
Anyway, the story follows a North Carolina lawyer named Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte). He lives a seemingly average, upper-middle class life with his wife, Leigh (Jessica Lange) and 15-year-old daughter, Danielle (Juliette Lewis). That is until Sam's former client, Max Cady (Robert De Niro) is released from a 14-year sentence, after being tried for the sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl. What seems apparent to Max, is that Sam had further evidence that could have lightened his sentence, or secured his acquittal. However, due to Max's crime, Sam buried the evidence, but still managed to get him less than he really deserved.
This leads to Max stalking Sam and his family, and being a real jerk about it. I know how that sounds, but the way he goes about it is completely legal to any onlookers, while doing terrible things behind closed doors. Eventually, Max ends up targeting those close to Sam rather than Sam, himself, in a vengeful effort to take it al away from him. The thing about this is that the big "bullseyes" are, of course, Leigh and Danielle. Neither are even remotely close to strong characters, and they really do end up playing damsels in distress. To be perfectly blunt, I even kind of despised Danielle and her naivety here. Let's just say it makes me glad I don't have a teenage daughter to worry about with certain things.
Perhaps the most fun I had with this, however, was comparing it to the 'Simpsons' episode, 'Cape Feare' (S05,E02). There wasn't quite as much as I expected, but I did love catching what I did - namely the music, which I ONLY associate with Sideshow Bob these days. Sadly, I never got to see De Niro step on a rake and thwap himself in the face. But hey, he rode the underside of the car, and that was almost enough. But for as much as I did enjoy De Niro here (who earned an Oscar nomination for this), much like Scorsese, I feel like I've seen better from him. Juliette Lewis was also nominated here though, so that might say a lot about how Oscars work (her role would almost never fly these days).
By the end of it, this was a lot like the first time I saw 'The Shining' or 'Elm Street' in that I saw the 'Simpsons' spoof on it far beforehand. I did enjoy the film on its own, but the most fun I had with it was picking out all the references. It was good on atmosphere, the acting is decent, and it its goal is to make you somewhat uncomfortable, it definitely succeeds. A certain scene between Lewis and De Niro actually had me squirming just a little, knowing their age separation in real life of 30 years AND the idea that she's playing a15-year-old here. So maybe I just prefer his take on other things, namely the Mafia. This is fine, but it's nothing I'd rush back to.
Now we're going to take a look at some of the most important film material I've missed over the years; movies directed my Martin Scorsese, featuring his old go-to, Robert De Niro. I've seen some, but missed most, and we kick things off with the film that arguably put both Scorsese and De Niro both on the map. After this, they would both go down in cinematic history as one of the all-time great duos. But the path starts here, where De Niro actually plays a secondary role, but an interesting one nonetheless. He's not quite the guy we've come to expect over the years. In fact, this one's more of his comedic side - but not a family friendly one.
The film opens by introducing us to our four leads, and showing us their individual personalities; Michael (Richard Romanus), Tony (David Proval), Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) and Charlie (Harvey Keitel). Johnny Boy is a small-time gambler, owing money to loan sharks and refusing to work to make it happen. Feeling a responsibility towards him as a good friend is Charlie, who also happens to be having an affair with Johnny Boy's epileptic cousin, Teresa (Amy Robinson).Charlie also works for the mafia, under his Uncle Giovanni (Cesare Danova), who would rather Charlie distance himself from Johnny Boy and his self-destructive behavior.
Most of the movie is watching how Charlie deals with his personal divide between his devout Catholicism and his work for the mafia, which ultimately tears him between his friend, Johnny Boy, and some of the people Johnny owes money to. As for the other two characters, they are essentially a part of the group, playing side characters who own a bar, make deals in the streets, and have a fairly solid future ahead of them. They're the ones who may or may not get really hindered by Johnny's eccentric personality in the long run. But that's really about the extent of things as far as plot goes.
What I really liked about this one was its overall simplicity. This wasn't another mafia movie as we've come to know them so much as a "slice of life" movie about one particular mafia character. The movie is largely just watching how these four characters act, and it's surprisingly packed with a certain sense of humor you don't always get in these kinds of movies. And the way it ends, for yours truly, is just a *chef's kiss*. Without spoiling anything, it's left open-ended, but not in the sense that you think a sequel is going to happen. Think 'Inception' or 'Thelma & Louise'. I love having to use my imagination for stuff like that because, dammit, sometimes being "spoon-fed" is just no fun.
As one would probably expect from a movie from 1973, there are bound to be areas of the film that wouldn't quite fly as well today - but at the same time, when we're looking at these characters, these offenses come as no real surprise. Regardless, the film went on to be one of the all-time great "break-out" films in history. The equivalents to this for Scorsese would be along the lines of 'Jaws' for Spielberg, 'Clerks' for Kevin Smith, or 'Halloween' for John Carpenter. So it could be that this one is off the radar for some, simply due to age, but if you like a good mafia type movie with a good sense of humor, I can highly recommend this one. While it may not be my favorite Scorsese flick, I still really enjoyed it for the type of movie it turned out to be.
This one takes me back to around the middle of last year, when a coworker recommended it. It took me a while to get around to it, but I promised to check it out and review it on my next round of "Reader's Suggestions", and I finally made it. It was recommended as a solid Denzel movie after I brought up the fact that I find him to be one of the all-time greats, but there's still a lot of his material I haven't seen yet (which may lead me to a Denzel month soon for "Catching Up").
Anyway, something a lot of people don't know about me is that before watching almost any movie, I check out Rotten Tomatoes just to get an idea of the movie's quality towards critics and general audiences alike. Be it the critic meter or the fan meter, one is almost always higher than the other, but this actually caught me totally off-guard. The critics give it a measly 23%, but the audience seems to appreciate it as generously as 78%. This means it averages out at almost exactly 50/50, and it was very clear that it was a film I'd be analyzing from both perspectives - which honestly makes things much more fun.
John Quincy Archibald (Denzel Washington) is a factory worker in Chicago, living with his wife, Denise (Kimberly Elise) and son, Michael (Daniel E. Smith). The couple are in the midst of some financial trouble when suddenly, during a little league baseball game, Michael collapses. After rushing to the hospital, John and Denise learn that Michael's heat is wearing out, and he will need a heart transplant in order to survive. The procedure will cost $250,000, with a required down payment of $75,000 just to get Michael on the organ recipient list. To make matters worse, John further learns that his job has changed health insurance policies, no longer covering him for his son's surgery.
When desperate times call for desperate measures, a spark is ignited by Denise when she tells John to do what he needs to do in order to get Michael on the list. This leads to John confronting the hospital staff at gunpoint, and forming a whole hostage situation. His demands are quite plain and simple; to get his son on the list. But with his stand-off with negotiator, Lt. Frank Grimes (Robert Duvall) and police chief Gus Monroe (Ray Liotta) come the whole documentary of 'Sicko' in which the film digs into the unfair practices of the American Health Care system. In that sense, it may be seen as a bit preachy. But I can't say I don't empathize with the whole situation, either. The film represents the desperate voice crying out through it all, pleading for help. Imagine being told "you don't have enough money, so your son is out of options and won't get to live" - I don't even have kids and that hurts.
Going back to looking at those Tomatometers, let's first take a look at the critical side of things. I think I understand a lot of the criticisms behind it, because I have a few of them, myself. For one, it's a movie that relies on tugging at your heartstrings. I don't tend to mind that as much as others, but I do recognize it. It goes to extremes even beyond the poor kid who is slowly dying in the background. I think it also clearly takes its "Q"s from other movies too, for instance I saw some 'Dog Day Afternoon' with the crowd cheering on the gunman, agreeing with his purpose. Besides that, it is kind of just another hostage movie; desperate man takes hostages and demands things while a celebrity negotiator tries to talk him down.
On the other side of things, there's still something likable about this, and level out a lot of that criticism. For starters, there's just Denzel, himself, and that's all you really need. This is a guy who just oozes charm in whatever he's doing, even if he's being an asshole. He's one of those actors that really adds "star power" to a movie in a very real sense; perhaps because most of the time he sticks to reality, and is therefore more relatable than an actor who dabbles in fantasy or sci-fi. Otherwise, I appreciate the film's very real statement, and they use the extreme of their young dying boy for the purposes of standing out and asking "what if this was you?" Where some see it as too much, I see it as the message the film is trying to get across, and the more personal it is, the more effective it is. I appreciated what the film was, I'm glad I saw it, but it's also not something I'd rush to see a second time. Landing on the Tomatometer, I might end up more on the fans side, but while understanding the critic's perspective. Where do you land?
Today, we begin another month of reader suggestions. This is where friends, family, coworkers, and even maybe a few fans throw a title out there that they would suggest I watch. The main reason is to catch up on great movies that I've missed over the years, and I had a good time with it a few months ago, so I figure this is going to be a relatively regular thing. No names will be mentioned throughout the process, but you'll know your suggestion when it pops up. This one is for a lifelong friend of mine, and huge supporter of the site.
For a "movie guy", it's actually pretty amazing how much I've missed out on over the years. Some titles falling under that category are titles I surprise myself with, and 'The Warriors' has been under that category for quite some time. Truth be told, the only, and I mean only thing I ever knew about this movie was that it was a street gang related story where some guy clinks beer bottles and utters the famous sing-song line of "Waarrioors, come out to plaayaay". It's a creepy-ass scene, but it was never enough to draw me in completely, without knowing the rest. But now that I have finally seen it, I just regret holding off for so damn long.
Our story centers on gangs of New York City in 1979, that really seem to reflect the gritty side of New York street life in the 80s (it was like they knew what they had). Leader of the Gramercy Riffs, Cyrus (Roger Hill) calls a midnight summit, requesting nine unarmed representatives from each gang. He proposes a city-wide truce among the gangs, as together, they outnumber the cops by a significant amount. Together, they could take back the streets, and most of the gangs cheer. But when Luthor, leader of the Rogues, shoots Cyrus, he pegs the murder on Cleon, leader of the Warriors. Chaos ensues, and most of the Warriors escape, but a hit on the Warriors is put out over the radio, and soon it turns into survival for them.
Although the film came out to critical ridicule upon its release, it has since become a cult classic reflection of the times. Some of the cult draw may have to do with the idea of it being a rare film with a violent history upon its release. Our version of that might be 'The Dark Knight Rises', which involved a massive theatrical shooting in Aurora, Colorado. 'The Warriors' was linked to acts of vandalism and three murders between showings the week following its release. Paramount pulled all advertising, theater owners were allowed out of their contractual obligation to show it, and security personnel were added to at least 200 theaters across America. That doesn't sound like a lot now, but in 1979, that was pretty significant.
Getting back to the movie itself, however, we really just wanna know if I thought it was any good. Well, this movie does what a lot of movies struggle to do, and I admire it every time I see it - well-rounded characters. We have a full gang of main characters here, and the film does a good job at letting us know that while we're routing for them, they're still a tough street gang of New York, and at points you kinda second guess your liking of them. In actuality, they're just the unlikely gang that got framed. There was nothing particularly special about any of them, but in a weird roundabout way, that's what's so good about it. They stay true to who they are supposed to be representing. At no point do you get characters like the goody-goody who says "gee whiz, you guys, I think this is wrong." In short, the movie has balls.
This is one of those "made for men" kinda movies; 1979's version of something like '300' or 'The Expendables', but less about action and more about survival, and holding your turf. There are some relatively uncomfortable moments, but nothing too extreme. It gets as intense as it needs to when it comes to them facing off against other gangs, and you can't really help but get into how original some of the gang ideas are. This is actually quite a creative movie, despite its overall simple plot. And speaking of creative, I did NOT know that Joe Walsh's 'In the City' was written for this movie! Most would know it as being performed by The Eagles, but it's totally Walsh's song. Anyway, it gets bonus points for that, as I am an Eagles fan, and that's a great tune.
I figured I'd close off Wes Craven month with what I consider a bit of an underrated treat - even though this was my first time seeing it. I admit, I consider it underrated for all the wrong reasons, though. Chalk this one up to a new guilty pleasure. It's all sorts of silly, but there are certain things about it that harken back to Craven's 'Elm Street' days. You sort of recognize that he develops a style of doing things, and the villain here may as bloody well be an early Freddy (he was much more sinister in the first film).
The villain in question is the vile Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi - a lot of fun to watch as a horror villain) who is wreaking havoc in an LA suburb. Having killed 30 people, and being on the loose, everyone in town is considerably scared. But when detective Don Parker (Peter Berg) gets too close to Pinker, it results in the tragic murder of his wife and two foster children. It starts to get weird when it turns out that Parker's surviving foster son, Jonathan (Peter Berg) has some connection to Pinker, as he can see when and where he's going to strike next through his precognitive dreams.
Without spoiling much, eventually these dreams do lead to Pinker's capture and execution, but at the cost of innocent lives. The horrific fun comes into play when we learn that Pinker has made a deal with the Devil that when he fries, he doesn't die, but absorbs and becomes electricity. Yes, you read that right, but it gets better. He's also able to carry on his body count by possessing other people. Does Jonathan have what it takes to stop him, which includes having more imagination than you could... imagine? Once the film gets into its climax, it doesn't just toss reality out the window, it drops it from a 50-story building with weights tied around its ankles. It gets so stupid but so fun all at once.
I'm such an 'Elm Street' fan and there are tastes of it throughout this movie. It's fun to view this as though Craven's hinting at the directors who took the property over on how Freddy ought to be (he became a real wise-cracker). This was 1989, and 'Elm Street 5' had just come out a couple of months prior, so it would make sense. Pinker has so many similarities to Freddy, you almost wonder if they were once partners in crime. Upon everything else that brings up the original 'Elm Street', Heather Langenkamp cameos here as a murder victim. I think I see this as Wes Craven having fun with the genre, as was the style at the time.
This film is all sorts of ridiculous, but I'm so happy I chose it to end this month with. On a bit of a more serious note, Craven left behind a legacy of horror when he passed most unfortunately and suddenly in 2015. He covered just about everything, going from the uncomfortable snuff film that was 'Last House on the Left' all the way up to making fun of the slasher genre he helped create with 'Scream' (although he only directed those). Fans of the franchise, including myself, will say that the best Freddy films were the original, 'Dream Warriors' and 'New Nightmare' - the ones Craven was involved with, and there are more titles on his resume to cover.
Having seen some of them, I can recommend a few from his directorial resume. 'The Serpent and the Rainbow' is quite scary, and based on a true story of Haitian Voodoo; 'The People Under the Stairs' is perhaps his most underrated film, according to some sources; and 'Red Eye' as a great bottle thriller on a plane. I'm glad I sat through all of these, but it's a little sad that I could only ever "break even" with them. But even if they come out as average to me, I think I'd still recommend horror fans going through his work. Wes Craven is a name synonymous with horror, covering a lot of different sub-horror genres, and these movies deserve a good look. Five years later, rest in peace, Wes Craven. Thank you for providing us horror fans with some great material that would often haunt our dreams, and succeed in the scare.
The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Continuing this Month of Craven, and taking a look at some of his work I missed out on, I figured 'The Hills Have Eyes' needed to be a part of things. It bears so many similarities to 'Last House on the Left', but it's a bit of an upgrade from the snuff film that was. For the record, if you Google both titles, 'Last House' is the only one Google dubs "horror/exploitation".
The primary similarities between the two films lie in a few different aspects. They are both psychological real-world revenge films that play with our fears of strangers, both were considered Wes Craven's jumping-off points, both have become classics in the realm of cult horror, and both have been remade to fit a modern setting. The main difference is pretty much the budget. Its overall style and substance is pretty reminiscent, at least to me, of 1974's 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre'. There's this overall discomfort behind everything, not just having to do with the threat at hand, but the setting is clearly a place one does not want to find themselves in, whether stranded or not.
The story, for those unfamiliar, is about a family who are on their way to L.A. from Ohio. While parents Bob (Russ Grieve) and Ethel (Virginia Vincent) drive their loaded camper van, their teenage children, Bobby (Robert Houston) and Brenda (Suze Lanier-Bramlett) tag along, as well as the eldest daughter Lynne (Dee Wallace), her husband Doug (Martin Speer), their baby daughter Katy (Brenda Marinoff), and their dogs, Beauty and Beast. While passing through, they stop at Fred's Oasis - seemingly the only gas station for miles, where Fred (John Steadman) tells them their best to stick to the roads. He wishes them a pleasant vacation, but soon, an accident occurs that puts the camper out of commission.
The family now finds themselves stuck in the desert where a hidden threat lurks behind the rocks in the mountains, in the form of a mutant, cannibal family named after a bunch of planets. Things are lead by Papa Jupiter (James Whitworth) who works with his sons, Mars (Lance Gordon), Pluto (Michael Berryman) and Mercury (Peter Locke) to hunt whoever passes through for food and supplies, supporting Jupiter's wife and daughter, Mama (Cordy Clark) and Ruby (Janus Blythe), who seems to wonder where she stands in all of it. This premise leads to some disturbing imagery, uncomfortable moments, and a seemingly constant panicked scream from Brenda which is probably the worst thing about the whole film, which is saying a lot. It wasn't effectively harrowing so much as it was annoying.
Much like with 'Last House', there are a few comparisons to the remake to be made here. To start with, while I may have enjoyed the remake of 'Last House' just a touch more, I'd say that for this title, I'd have to go with the original. The remake felt far more brutal, ugly, disturbing, and contained imagery that I had a hard time shaking off. One may argue that would make it more effective, but I guess we all have stuff that we have a hard time stomaching. For me, it's things like torture and sexual exploitation, and considering the two 'Last House' films and the two 'Hills' films, this is probably the least stomach-churning of the bunch. The revenge here isn't quite as crazy as the revenge in 'Last House', but it's still there, and manages to fix some of the bad taste certain moments leave in your mouth.
I think the film has a major downside, though, in that it just kinda ends. Often, I like an open ending like it offers, but it works better for some things than others. Something like this could have had a pretty interesting twist, but it leaves it up to you and your imagination to decide what happens to who. That is, until you watch the 1985 follow-up, which seems to set the record straight as to what happened afterwards, but there is a 7-year gap there, and I'm not really sure Craven intended on continuing it at first. I could be wrong though, so call it a nitpick on my part.
I'm beating a dead horse at this point, but 'Last House' and 'Hills' are a couple of movies that fall into that category of being glad that I finally watched them, but have no real desire to revisit them. This month is essentially meant to be a homework assignment for me, by watching some of Craven's most famous non-'Nightmare' titles that I haven't seen before. Otherwise, considering what these movies are, they are not exactly for me. I know you're supposed to feel discomfort in a horror movie, but they both go a little overboard sometimes (the remakes more so) and seem to bask in the glory of pure discomfort as opposed to something more psychological, which I prefer.
I know, it could be argued that providing the audience with pure discomfort IS psychological, and I probably should praise it for how it made me feel. But with that said, I prefer that psychological horror to be more of a "what the hell did I just see lurking behind that tree" rather than a "look at how bad this person is treating the other, this could happen in real life". At the end of the day, Craven definitely did his job at providing his audience with a couple of memorable first works that have gone down in cult horror history as cinematic gems. He made a name for himself with 'Elm Street', but his biggest fans know him for his early work just as well.
Come August 30th, the 5th anniversary of Wes Craven's tragic passing will be here. I therefore decided to take a look back on some of the non-'Nightmare' films he did, which I have never seen until now. Although, regarding the first two titles on the list, I have seen their remakes; 'The Hills Have Eyes', and this, which you could watch as a double feature if you wanna feel incredibly uncomfortable for a few hours.
This particular film has reached the mantle of being a strong cult classic, considering the people involved in its creation - Wes Craven of 'Elm Street' fame writing and directing, and Sean S. Cunningham of 'Friday the 13th' fame producing, and this was pretty much a first for both of them, though Cunningham produced one film before it called 'Together', which was altogether his own. This film, regardless of how one may feel about it, is a piece of horror cinema history, bringing together the soon-to-be creators of Freddy and Jason, and they do a very good job here with getting to their audience.
The story revolves mainly around two girls, Mari Collingwood (Sandra Peabody), about to turn 17, and her friend, Phyllis Stone (Lucy Grantham). The pair head to a concert in what's considered a bad neighborhood, despite Mari's parents objections. She insists that Phyllis is street smart, and that they'll be okay as long as they stick together. Stick together, they do, but tragically not in the way they had hoped. In the meantime, Mari's parents are setting up for her birthday celebration when she comes back, making everything all the more harder to watch.
Upon asking a stranger where they could possibly score some weed, Mari and Phyllis find themselves in a spider's web situation, as they are forced to face every teenage girl's worst nightmare; a group of sexually deviant serial killers. About 80% of the film is a dragged out and perfectly uncomfortable series of events, and it's altogether pretty horrifying to sit through, especially if you're like me and really squirm at that kind of stuff. Although, I will say that if you have seen the 2009 remake, it is much more graphic. I found myself fast-forwarding the discomfort after a couple of minutes because I just couldn't sit through it. This is much more dragged out, but probably not quite as brutal... but it's still not cool, man.
Now, I've mentioned it a few times before, but I am absolutely not one to sit through torture porn. I simply don't like the shock value of it all, and the 2009 remake of this really cemented that fact. What's not so known about me is that often I feel like some of that can slide as long as the revenge taken on these characters ensures they get whatever they deserve. Honestly, 9 times out of 10, it works out that way, and this film is no exception. I won't say exactly what happens, but the revenge aspect of the film is what triggers thought. You come to realize that some of the revenge aspects may or may not be more brutal that what the revenge is about - but you also have no question about who the bad guys are. I have to admit that it's kind of interesting, and it's a good jumping off point for Craven and Cunningham.
With that said, however, that's just me. It should be very clear that this is absolutely not just one of those famous horror movies I'd recommend people check out based on whatever. It's an hour and a half of pure discomfort, one way or another, and I still had a hard time sitting through it - although having seen the remake, I pretty much knew what I was in for. The "trigger warning" list here is pretty extensive, and it wouldn't be any sort of surprise if one doesn't feel like sitting through it.
For what it is, it has its place in the horror history books. Aside from the names attached, it was also a borderline snuff film that went mainstream, and very risky for 1972. For context, one of the most shocking films of all time, 'The Exorcist', wouldn't be around until the next year, and that plays with the supernatural. This plays with real-world issues, and provides an in-depth cautionary tale about venturing out there and talking to strangers, even if you feel you're grown enough to take care of yourself. Craven could always write teenagers being forced to face their worst fears, and he does it here in a way that makes you fear for them.
It's very hard to give this one any sort of rating. It's not something I'd rush back to anytime soon, or even really felt like watching in the first place. It's uncomfortable and difficult to sit through without cringing. But if that's the whole point behind it, then it's effective - and the whole revenge aspect of it is more than just a guy with a gun - it goes full tilt slasher. Considering this film's place in the history books, and the idea that it made me look at this kind of thing in a new light (appreciating it, not necessarily liking it) I'm gonna play generously. After all, without the film's success, would I have ever seen a 'Friday the 13th' or 'Elm Street' film? If you're curious to see a bit of history for the horror books, I say go for it, but proceed with the utmost caution. I'll say it again; trigger warnings are all over this thing.
Every once in a while, a movie comes out that passes me by at the time, and it sort of fades into obscurity. But thanks to friends who know how my mind works, I'm eventually lead to such titles. 'Fracture' is what I'm gonna round out the month of reader suggestions with, as a suggestion from a friend who clearly understands my interest in not just good characters, but a good villain.
The film starts out with the wealthy Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) seemingly committing the murder of his wife, Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz) with a gunshot to the head. LAPD Detective Robert Nunally (Billy Burke) leads a squad to investigate the overheard gunfire, only to find Ted holding a gun, and confessing to Jennifer's murder. As police take Ted into custody, however, other first-responders report that Jennifer is alive, but in a coma and on life support.
The attempted murder case is assigned to the ambitious Deputy District Attorney, Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling). Willy has built quite a resume for himself with a 97% conviction rate, often achieved by handing unwinnable cases over to other DDAs. He's offered this case as his last in the DA's office, having recently been hired by the prestigious private firm, Wooton Sims. With Ted having made verbal and written confessions, and acting as his own lawyer, it's easy for Willy to see this as an open and shut case. But there's one important piece of the puzzle missing - the murder weapon.
Willy soon learns that Ted may very well have the upper hand in his case when Nunally gets brought into the picture. But not willing to throw in the towel, and considering himself challenged by Ted, how far is Willy willing to go to solve and close the case? Losing could not only threaten his future with Wooton Sims, but his career as a lawyer altogether. Just how personal is he willing to make it?
I'm not usually one for courtroom dramas,but there's certainly the odd exception, and this is definitely one of them. It's not quite as overly complicated as others, so that helps, but what really does it for me are the two lead characters. Ryan Gosling reminded me a bit of Brad Pitt in 'Seven' here. Although he's not quite as jokey, it's a similar personality, and he just wants to get his man. I enjoyed how determined he was to try to get justice for who, to him, was a complete stranger. It's another one I can say is a personal favorite of Goslings - somewhere in a Top 5 list.
The star of the show, though, was definitely Anthony Hopkins, who pretty much reprises that super intelligent and manipulative persona he had with Hannibal Lecter. The only difference is that he's got things dialed back here. He's far less intense, a little more casual, but all of that nonchalant persona is still there, and it just solidifies the fact that Hopkins can play the villain extremely well. Often it comes across as a little too similar, but it's not a role he's been typecast to do, either. It's not something that I roll my eyes at, saying "here we go again".
Other than performances (probably the best reason to check it out), I can give this one credit for being a decently gritty courtroom drama that kept my attention. Generally speaking, movies with a whole lot of talking aren't my cup of tea unless the characters are engaging, and the atmosphere feels threatening, and this movie nailed both pretty accurately. The only real downside was that some it it felt pretty implausible, but with that said, I don't know a whole lot about how law works, so some of the technicalities offered up here made me scratch my head a bit. But for what the film is, I found myself pleasantly surprised, and would definitely watch it through again to try to pick up on more.
To preface this review, let me just state the fact that generally speaking, this isn't the kind of movie I tend to gravitate towards. That doesn't mean I disliked it. On the contrary, I enjoyed it, and I'm glad I finally sat down to watch it. However, it's another title that I can put on my list of respectable films that I understand, but one watch is enough for me.
We all have particular tastes, and I wouldn't typically lean in the direction of a detective film. It's just that something like 2009's 'Sherlock Holmes' is a bit more up my alley than something like this. I liked this, but I didn't love it like most.
The setting is LA, 1937, and the atmosphere is detective noir, fitting the time very nicely. A private investigator by the name of JJ "Jake" Gittes (Jack Nicholson) specializes in cases that involve cheating spouses, and his latest target is the chief of LA's Department of Water and Power, Hollis Mulwray (Darrell Zwerling), who a woman claiming to be his wife suspects of infidelity.
While tailing Mulwray, he witnesses dealings that include a public meeting to see about constructing a new dam to create additional water supply during a chronic drought. Mulwray refuses to build the dam, pointing out potential issues with the land the dam is to be built on. Continuing his tracking, Gittes witnesses Mulwray meeting with a young woman who isn't his wife. The news of the scandal is published, but this prompts the real Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) to step in, and soon Gittes is convinced that Mulwray is being framed, and he, himself, is being played.
Evelyn helps Gittes in his investigation of her husband's framing, but the further the investigation goes, the more secrets are uncovered, and the more dangerous things get. The unknown young woman's identity may be the final piece to a mysterious puzzle involving shady business deals, and further unveiling of whether or not Evelyn can be trusted, especially when her father, Noah Cross (John Huston) becomes a part of things.
So, just how admired is this film? Well, it's often considered the "greatest screenplay of all time", which earned it an Oscar win, along with 10 more nominations, often losing to 'The Godfather Part II', which set the bar incredibly high that year. Further to that, it earned 4 Golden Globes for Best Picture, Director, Lead Actor and Original Screenplay and 4 more nominations on top of that. It's seen as some of Polanski's, Nicholson's and Dunaway's best work, and it has its place in the history books of great film, meeting so much of the criteria that makes a film stand out among the rest.
With all of that, along with seeing the film for myself, there's a lot where I can understand people's point of view. Things like the acting, cinematography, stage direction, fitting costumes, atmosphere and vehicles for the era were all things that stood out, and I found it to be a very solid film for what it is, with one of the most heart-wrenching endings I've seen to date (which earned it a lot of points for its bleak reality). Most people know the famous quote "forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown", but you can't quite fully appreciate the context of that without seeing it all unfold for yourself. You will probably like it more than I did, and that's only a matter of taste. It's a very well done film!
This one peaked my curiosity at the time, but I missed out on the chance to catch it in theaters, and haven't really looked back until now. It struck me as what could probably be a really good revenge movie, and with Jackie Chan in the lead, how could you go wrong with its badassery?
Minh Quan (Chan) lives a peaceful life, with his daughter, Fan (Katie Leung). For work, he runs a Chinese restaurant with his business partner, Lam (Tao Liu). Things are going pretty well for the lot of them, but things hit the ground running at mach speed when Fan is killed in a bombing incident, while shopping.
This, of course, puts our revenge story on track, as Quan does everything in his power to try to get the names of the bombers. Starting, and failing, with Scotland Yard, his next big focus is the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), who Quan catches speaking publicly about being a former IRA leader, but condemning the bombing.
The "Authentic IRA" claim the bombing, and the combination of events leads Quan to Belfast to find Hennessy, and take things into his own hands, stopping at nothing to try to get Hennessy to admit that he knows the names of the bombers - and when I say stopping at nothing, I mean it. This guy does not take "no" for an answer if he suspects anything you might be hiding from him.
While it is a Jackie Chan movie, and he does still show us that he's definitely still got it, I can honestly say that it doesn't feel like it used to be. And listen, that's perfectly fine. Chan has worked incredibly hard for decades, and into his 60's by this point. The guy deserves our praise for providing us with so much awesomeness for as long as he's lasted in the acting game. But if you're looking for a lot of his epic moves, you might be a little disappointed.
With that said, that's also just not the kind of movie this is. It's more of a suspense thriller, and Chan does things more stealthily and methodically here that usual. The film is much darker than his regular stuff, and we get to see a different, more dramatic side to him here. It's still very entertaining, it's just very different than his usual gig.
I'm glad I finally watched it, but I dunno if I really got a hell of a lot out of it. It's good for what it is, and if you're looking for a movie where Jackie Chan changes it up a bit, it's a good one to check out. But overall, I found it to be a little hard to follow (at least for me), often getting into Irish politics and such, and yeah, political thrillers are not my idea of a good time (although I understand I'm an odd one out here). As an action/suspense/thriller/revenge film, it's not bad, but movies like 'John Wick' otherwise exist, and I personally just have more fun with those. Still, it's perfectly passable, and others might get more out of it than me.
This review begins a series of reviews I've been meaning to tackle for years now, only due to them being major titles in the film industry that I've personally just never bothered with - the big Vietnam titles. What I mean by this, is just about anything that 'Tropic Thunder' took inspiration from. An odd thing to think about, considering how much I love that movie. Anyway, it hasn't been so much a total lack of interest, but other things have just held my interest more, over the years.
Starting things off with 'Apocalypse Now', we get the deep, dark, and even pretty scary side of things when we see what war can do to one's sanity. A Green Baret Colonel named Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando) is seen as gone insane after leading his army over the border into Cambodia, and conducting hit and run missions against the Viet Cong and the NVA. He acts like a sort of demi-god over a group of tribal natives, and Captain Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen) is sent by a Colonel Lucas (Harrison Ford) to eliminate Kurtz.
Willard's crew meets with a surfer-type Lt- Colonel Bill Kilgore (Robert Duvall), who provide them with an entry point into the Nung river after napalming the hell out of a Viet Cong outpost. Willard, and his crew consisting of Lance (Sam Bottoms), "Chef" (Frederic Forrest), "Mr. Clean" (Laurence Fishburne - absolutely unrecognizable here) and Chief Phillips (Albert Hall) head upriver to complete the mission, running into some nasty obstacles along the way, and learning very quickly to never get out of the boat.
As the movie unfolds, it's almost as though it's a slow dive into insanity, itself. What made this movie so creepy, at least for me, was just the sheer strangeness of it all - especially when we get into around the last half of the film. Once we meet the likes of Kurtz and a random Photojournalist (Dennis Hopper) things kinda take you for a psychological ride, and Brando makes things really weird, really quick.
I have to admit that, considering the different cuts of this film, I went with the original. So yeah, there's likely a whole whack of interesting stuff I missed out on, but I wanted to keep it simple. I mean, two and a half hours is still a long movie. Plus I'd be more interested to see what was added later, with a movie like this.
With eight Oscar noms, winning two (Cinematography and Sound), and going down in history as just one of those titles everyone knows, and can reference without seeing. "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" has since become one of the most famous lines in film history, along with "The horror, the horror!" So it ends up being one of those titles one should probably see if one wants to write film reviews. But, I mean, that's also the core concept of this "catching up" page.
It's a pretty remarkable film, and Francis Ford Coppola does a brilliant directing job here, making his audience feel more and more uneasy about things the more the film goes. It really is like Willard and his crew are sailing down this river of madness, sort of reaching a peak once they reach their destination. It's not often that a film can just do that sort of thing to my mind, but I have to commend any film that can - that is, genuinely make me feel something, but not on a psychological level, not an emotional one. There's a reason this movie is pretty legendary.
Throw Momma from the Train
Some of us who were born in the 80's recognize Anne Ramsey's face very well, most likely from 'The Goonies'. She had a particular gift for playing bitter, angry, irritable old women, and she did it so very well. In fact, she did it so well here, she was even nominated for an Oscar - losing that year to Olympia Dukakis for 'Moonstruck'. Sadly, she missed her chance and passed on later that year. However, us kids from the 80's remember her so very well, and most of us probably can't even put a name to her face.
Here, we are introduced to Larry Donner (Billy Crystal); a college professor and tutor for aspiring writers. The only successful book he's ever written was done so under his ex-wife, Margaret's (Kate Mulgrew) name, and she now reaps the benefits while he wallows in misery about it. That is until one of his students, Owen Lift (Danny DeVito), comes up with a proposal.
Owen lives at home with his horrible mother (Ramsey), and constantly fantasizes about ways to rid himself of her agonizing nagging once and for all - by the way, the way she nags is just hilarious. Finding out about Larry's situation, Owen makes the criss-cross offer of "I'll kill your ex-wife if you kill my mother". While Larry takes it as a joke, he soon finds out that Owen has carried out his part of the deed, and Larry suddenly becomes the prime suspect. All the while afterward, Owen continues to pressure Larry into carrying out his part of the bargain.
I had a lot of fun with this one, and it offers a lot of good, dark laughs, which are always right up my alley. Between DeVito (who also directed this one), Crystal and Ramsey, I'm not sure who got the most laughs from me. It might as well be a three-way tie, all showing their best humour in their own ways.
The fact that this is essentially a re-imagining of 'Strangers on a Train' is openly addressed, making the film completely self-aware (much like how 'Happy Death Day' mentions 'Groundhog Day'), which blends nicely with the comedy of it all, especially for a film from 1987.
If you're someone like me, and you're really into dark comedies, I can highly recommend this one. Remember, by '87, all the rage was slasher horror, and the PG-13 rating had recently been introduced via 'Temple of Doom' in '84. This was a title that fit nice and snug into that PG-13 rating, and really helped pave the way for dark comedies to have more intensity to them. Not that anything in here was all that intense, even for the time, but I daresay this one helped to open that door.
Very Bad Things
First up on June's catching up list of dark comedies is what was recommended to me for a starting point - 1998's 'Very Bad Things'. I dunno if this became some kind of a cult classic over the years, considering I think I know quite a few people who enjoy it. It's generally rated somewhere in the middle. I'm sorry to say that this is one time where I side with the critical end of things, and found myself actually really disliking this movie.
Our story includes five dudes, who head to Vegas for a bachelor party. The cast is actually pretty great - The husband to be, Kyle (Jon favreau), Charles (Leland Orser); Adam and Michael Berkow (Daniel Stern and Jeremy Piven, respectively) and Boyd (Christian Slater) who represents the overall testicular fortitude of the film. During the party, something pretty horrible happens, and the film is mostly about the guys trying to keep it covered up, back home. But when some of them start cracking under the pressure, things start to escalate and unravel.
Meanwhile, Kyle's wife to be, Laura (Cameron Diaz), is worried beyond belief of her wedding day not going her way. That's unfortunately her whole character here - the bratty, manipulative princess. However, Adam's wife, Lois (Jeanne Tripplehorn) actually came across as a bit of that mixed with the moral compass of the film. She just wants to get to the truth about what happened, and she digs, and it's irritating, but she's still tough enough against these guys that she comes across as a good character for the most part.
These guys though. I swear to God, Christian Slater was the only one who didn't just annoy the hell out of me at least once. The worst culprit, for me, was Daniel Stern. When he got going, he just wouldn't stop. It was enough to give you a headache. The rest of them break down and buckle under the pressure in very pathetic looking ways. I totally get it, they're supposed to be average people undergoing something very traumatic. But this was mostly done for comedic effect, and it just comes off as sad... but like, not the kind of "sad" you might think.
For my money, Christian Slater was the only really likable character here. He's the rebellious one of the group, wanting to party hard, get his friends messed up, etc. But most importantly, he was the only one to stay cool through about 90% of the movie. The rest of them - the dialogue is just a bunch of screaming and yelling and noise and it's just plain irritating. One word that perfectly describes this movie, to me, is "obnoxious".
I'll give the movie credit for probably being the overall inspiration (or one thing to inspire) 'The Hangover', which I liked MUCH better (the first one, anyway). I'll also give it that I laughed a couple of times, and I appreciated how they managed to film what being high might look like... but not a whole lot more. For the most part, I really just thought this was an awful, noisy mess, full of unlikable characters who you just don't care much about by the time it's all over. But again, reviews for these seem to meet in the middle, so maybe it just wasn't for me in the same way Dane Cook just isn't for me. I mean, if you get a laugh out of a lot of screaming and yelling and crying and people losing their shit, you might get something from it.
This one is often regarded as Syamalan's best film since 'Unbreakable', which is a very generous gap between films (about 15 years). I suppose that all depends on personal taste, but for my money, that's pretty accurate. Of course, when Shyamalan is at his very best, it really is the twist ending that puts that lovely, ripe, cherry on top of the already pretty good sundae. This film is no exception.
The film starts off by introducing us to a few teenage girls; the lead, Cassie Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy), and her two best friends, Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula). Claire, Marcia and Claire's father offer her a ride home after a party, only to have Claire's father knocked out, and his car taken over by Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder. He kidnaps the three girls, and holds them captive, playing through several different personalities - particularly a "Dennis" and a "Patricia", who both seem to worship, and be awaiting the arrival of, something known only as "The Beast". The idea of holding the girls captive is basically so they can be food for whatever this "Beast" is.
Meanwhile, we also see Kevin's sessions with his therapist, Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley), who takes a very keen interest in Kevin's disorder, believing that the different personalities mean much more than just a malfunction of the brain. One prime example is that one of Kevin's personalities actually needs insulin for his diabetes while none of the others do.
As the film moves forward, we get to know his personalities, the girls make several efforts to escape their captor, and we remain ever curious as to what this beast is supposed to be. For me, the initial twist was something easy to see coming a mile away (I'm scratching spoilers for this post, just because 'Glass' exists and all the secrets are out in the open by now). Basically, the beast is one of his personalities that ends up being real instead of a figment of Kevin's imagination. The belief of the Beast being all in his head basically comes from the Beast being able to do extraordinary things like climb walls, and have extraordinarily strength.
As we all know at this point (unless you've just been under a rock for the last couple of years), the twist that MAKES the movie is that this ends up taking place in the 'Unbreakable' universe, once we see David Dunn (Bruce Willis) in a coffee shop, referring to Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson - not appearing in this film). It was easily one of Shyamalan's best twists ever, turning this thriller into a superhero movie, much like 'Unbreakable' ended up being a drama that ended up being a superhero movie. Of course, this sets things up for 'Glass'.
On a personal level, I actually really liked this one. Syamalan isn't always my cup of tea, but my God, when he knocks it out of the park, he really does knock it out of the park. 'The Sixth Sense' will probably always be my favorite of his, but 'Unbreakable' and 'Split' are in very close proximity. It's unfortunate to read that so many have thus far found 'Glass' to be a bit of a wreck in comparison. But with that said, I haven't seen it quite yet, so here's hoping I just see it as a "weaker-number-3-film" in a trilogy. I can't say Im surprised though, as 'Unbreakable' and 'Split' pretty much covered the twists that lead to 'Glass', so where do we go from there? I guess I'll find out soon enough.
Arsenic and Old Lace
Carrying on with Mother's Month, she has recommended one from acclaimed 'It's a Wonderful Life' director, Frank Capra. This one ends up being much more of a dark comedy, though, and probably about the furthest back the idea of dark comedy goes. The concept is dated as being some time in the 60s, but this is a 1944 movie, which leads me to believe this kind of movie was very rare back then.
We meet a couple of newly weds - a drama critic who has written several books on the idea of marriage being a bad thing, Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant), and his childhood girl-next-door love interest, Elaine Harper (Priscilla Lane). The couple head back to their hometown of Brooklyn, where Elaine heads to her father's house to pack for the honeymoon. In the meantime, Mortimer drops in on his two aunts, Abby (Josephine Hull) and Martha (Jean Adair), along with his brother, Teddy (John Alexander) who is convinced he's Theodore Roosevelt. The visit begins innocently enough, but soon enough Mortimer discovers a dead body in the window seat, soon discovering that his aunts are murderers who believe they are doing a service for lonely old bachelors.
To make things even more complicated, Mortimer's brother, Jonathan (Raymond Massey) drops in with his accomplice, Dr. Einstein (Peter Lorre). A killer on the run, he's looking for a place to lay low, and needless to say, it's just one of those disaster after disaster piling up kind of movies where the humor is well in the forefront of an otherwise dire situation.
I think what's to be admired the most about this movie is everyone's performance. Grant is hilarious, being the innocent victim of his surroundings, Hull and Adair are very convincing as sweet little old ladies who believe they are doing some good in the world, Massey is really quite comically intense, and Lorre... well, he's Lorre. For those unfamiliar, he was one of the more typically parodied classic actors, often portrayed in Warner Bros. cartoons, or here, as Boo Berry.
When all said and done, it's still not quite as dark as some of the stuff we have around today, but for 1944 I'd have to say that's pretty understandable. It certainly still has its moments, but it's mostly a light comedy for a dark comedy, if that makes any sense. It's one I'd recommend for someone looking for something classic, funny, but somewhat morbid all at once. I had fun with it.
Wait Until Dark
Up next for Mother's Month, I checked out the Terrence Young '67 thriller, 'Wait Until Dark'. In case that name might be ringing a bell, but you're not quite sure about it, he'd probably be best recognized as a 'Bond' director, with titles like 'Dr. No', 'Thunderball' and 'From Russia With Love'.
Furthermore, Audrey Hepburn was nominated for an Oscar for her role of Susy here. She was recently blinded in an accident along with becoming recently married.
Her husband, Sam Hendrix (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) is followed home by a group of criminals, lead by a man named Roat (Alan Arkin), after acquiring a random doll from a random woman. The criminals wait until Sam leaves for business before making their move, attempting to get their hands on the doll, only to find the blind Susy in the apartment alone. The whole thing eventually leads to a pretty intense climax, featuring a life-threatening game of cat and mouse between a blind woman and these crooks. Think 'Home Alone' if it was more of a to-be-taken-seriously thriller.
Much like 'Rear Window', this is sort of a bottle movie, and plenty of comparisons can be drawn between the two. However, with two like movies, one usually picks a favorite, and mine has to be 'Rear Window' over 'Wait Until Dark'. While this was still perfectly fine, I just didn't find it offered up as much. And despite her Oscar nomination, Susy sadly wasn't particularly likable to me. But hear me out.
She's a lovely character and all, and her overall personality is very likable, but this is a 1967 version of an independent woman, which, let's just say wasn't exactly fleshed out yet. In my mind, not quite until Lori Strode starts battling Michael Myers in '78. But please, if there's someone before that, feel free to educate me on the matter. Susy here is a fighter, but also a trope. For example, she falls over, cries and begs a lot while she's fighting. That said, there should be a level of fairness offered to the fact that she's supposed to be recently blind and not quite used to it, and your average everyday girl next door. Still though, personally, I didn't quite feel it. Perhaps a good way to compare my feelings on it would be to compare it to an escort mission in your favorite game. Yeah, you're having a lot of fun with it, but this person in trouble can be such a pain.
All that aside, I have to admit that the movie still did a good job at entertaining me. I may not have loved it, but I liked it enough to be able to say I might very well revisit it some time to see if I get more out of it. There's great atmosphere here, it still feels like something different (or at least not-heavily explored) to have a blind person fight off criminals, and it's actually pretty intense at times. It certainly meets the standards of what a thriller was back then, so I can't be too critical about things. I'd say it's just a bit dated. But worth checking out if you're on the lookout for a classic thriller you can have a fun time with.
The month of May is here, and with it comes that annual celebration of mothers everywhere. This year, I'm gonna show my appreciation by taking a look at some of her highest film recommendations - some of her personal favorites I have yet to see. Don't worry, I'll do something that's actually special for her too.
Anyway, as a reviewer and overall lover of film, I kinda regret to have to admit that Hitchcock is actually a somewhat unturned stone for me. I recall 'The Birds' scaring the crap out of me as a kid (those pecked out eyes, man), and I consider Anthony Perkins' portrayal of Norman Bates from 'Psycho' one of the best all time movie villains, but it pretty much ends there. So, for one, I chose this from her list due to it being my "nest on the list" of Hitchcock films I wanted to finally see, and for two, this pretty much sets up next month's catching up theme as well. Hitchcock is most definitely a director worthy of a list of movies I feel a NEED to catch up on. But for now, perhaps considered Hitchcock's best overall film, this is 'Rear Window'.
If you've somehow managed to find yourself under a rock for the past 60-plus years, you've probably missed the countless parodies of this. They tend to be pretty much the same, involving someone in a cast and a wheelchair with nothing better to do than look out the window at his or her neighbors. They spot something mysterious, suspect a horrible crime has gone down, and in the end, often it's all a big misunderstanding, but sometimes not not. Well, it's the same plot here at the source material of all those parodies, featuring Jimmy Stewart in the lead role of L.B. Jefferies; a magazine photographer who's injury comes from an accident at a racetrack while he was covering a story. But how it ends exactly? I won't say, only because for me, it caught me off guard.
Perhaps most intriguing about this movie was that I expected to be laughing through it considering the amount of parodies I've seen of it. Kinda like how I giggled my way through 'The Shining' the first time I saw it, due to the 'Simpsons' parody (by the way, 'The Simpsons' also tackles this one with 'Bart of Darkness'). However, I didn't. This was something I was able to take seriously, have a good time with, and, though perhaps a bit dated on it, even feel the overall suspense with the climactic scene.
It's interestingly shot, and a testimony to how a film can work really well with some sort of ultimate limitation to it. For example 'Buried' featured Ryan Reynolds in a box for an hour and a half, but worked great as a thriller. This does the same thing, with all camera angles either taking place within the apartment, or looking out the window. But a lot happens, and I have to give Hitchock some ultimate credit for his creativity here.
For my own tastes, I'm not sure this one tops something like 'Psycho', but damned if it doesn't pose that dethroning potential. I could see myself growing to love this movie upon more viewings. And the good news is, it's a movie worth checking out more than once. One where you look for the clues to it's ending all along the way. Not quite as strong as 'Fight Club' or 'Sixth Sense' in that... sense, but still. It's a mystery thriller, and it's always fun to do that with those.
I'm very happy that this was at the top of my mother's recommendations this month. She was very much convinced that I would enjoy it, not only for story and performance, but for it's overall execution. She was absolutely right. It's certainly one I'll be revisiting in the near future.
I'm gonna pull the plug on my Shyamalan "marathon" after this one, seeing as a new month is upon us this time next week. So, here I am reviewing 'The Happening'. Widely regarded by many to be the single worst Shyamalan film of all time, it doesn't stop there. It also gets the worst performances out of both Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel - two actors who do just fine otherwise, and is seen by many to be in that "so bad, it's good" category. It might not meet the same level of terrible as something like 'The Room' or 'Troll 2', but it's certainly on-par with things like last years 'The Snowman', or even Shyamalan's own 'Devil', which at least for myself is practically a coin-flip.
What can I say about this movie that hasn't been said before? It boasts a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 18%, with a 24% audience rating, a Metascore of 34, and a total of 4 Razzie nominations, including Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Actor and Worst Screenplay, so quite a whammy of bad, but there are people out there who do seem to enjoy it despite how bad it is. Admittedly, I think I might be one of those people. Going back to 'Devil', I just see that as bad with no entertainment value behind it at all. Just a bunch of stupid people, and stupid rules about stupid bread landing stupid jelly side down. This however brings with it the bizarre performances from Wahlberg and Deschanel, the ridiculous plot and dialogue, and plenty of quotability.
The basic plot involves something... well, happening, that is causing people to commit suicide, and our main characters try to keep ahead of it in pretty much the same style they tried to keep ahead of the enclosing cold weather in 'The Day After Tomorrow'. It's believed very strongly to be caused by plants releasing some sort of toxin into the air that messes with our brains, but others believe something more like terrorism is involved. The movie plays out, you're entertained by how ridiculous it all is, and it ends on the strangest of notes. It's not a cliffhanger, but it doesn't really end by wrapping anything up, either. It just kinda stops and we're still left looking for answers and being confused by what the hell we just watched.
Anyway, it's no secret. This movie is kinda legendary for being bad, and I don't see it in much more of a positive light than most. It's stupidity is very entertaining, and it got a few solid laughs when it wasn't supposed to, but it's otherwise pretty irredeemable. That said, it does kinda have to be seen to be believed, and it makes me want to revisit it in the near future to see what craziness I may have missed the first time around. It's a pretty terrible flick, but I actually highly recommend checking it out for a good laugh.