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Haute tension (2003)
High Tension is well-directed, well-shot, and contains a good bit of tension (see what I did there..?). It's a pleasure to look at and the main actress is excellent as she carries much of the weight of the film's nearly dialogue-less bulk.
Also, the music is excellent (both the scoring and the planted songs - yay for Muse.
I advise watching it in French with English subtitles on. The dubbing isn't horrible, but distracting nonetheless...and half of the movie remains subtitled even when watching the dubbed version - so why bother? I give it 9/10 for a great leading actress, excellent direction, and excellent music.
30 Days of Night (2007)
30 Days of Night returns something to the screen that we haven't seen enough of in more recent vampire films - old world type vampires. I enjoy just about any decently made movie in the genre, but it seems that too many vampire movies nowadays contain the "Neo-Vamps". That is, vampires who are well cultured, well manicured, and even perhaps suffer from too much conscience. They all know martial arts, dance to techno, and are invariably clad in S&M leather and/or trenchcoats (not that I'd mind a visit from Kate Beckinsale...thank you very much). But vampires nowadays are more like the Immortals from Highlander - only with fangs.
30 Days throws a dozen or so old-world, savage vampires into a small Alaskan town in the one month during the year that they have no sun. It's an excellent premise, and the movie does not fail to take advantage of it. The cast is very good, the sets are excellent, and the gore is just right. Also worth a mention is the cinematography - specifically the overhead shot of the town's streets during the full siege of the creatures.
I don't dislike Underworld or the "Buffyverse" as some of the purists out there do, but there's much to be said about the sideways evolution of recent vampire films/shows. 30 Days of Night is a solid reminder of how horrifying a vampire movie can be. 9 out of 10 stars from me.
The Invasion (2007)
A pleasant surprise (after all the reviews)
This premise has been done over and over and over again in the last six decades and we, as an audience, never really tire of it. When this movie, its predecessor(s), or any derivation thereof is the subject of conversation, much is always made of the subtext of the story - communism, fundamentalism, etc. That's fine. We get it.
Then, of course, there's the face-value horror of an alien infection or invasion. That premise has been done over and over again in the genre as well. Why? Well, because it's just plain scary.
But honestly, what's genuinely frightening to me in these films is the big picture that rests comfortably behind all the blatant horror and the subconscious fear of the loss of individuality. That big picture shows us what sci-fi has taught us many times in many films... Utopia cannot exist without the loss of our souls. "To imagine a world where this was not so, where every crisis did not result in new atrocities, where every newspaper is not full of war and violence." It's the dream of many to see such a world. But the character in this film sums it up when he caps it off with, "Well, this is to imagine a world where human beings cease to be human." These films tell us that we're doomed to be who we are - forever. Otherwise, to hope for vast, sweeping change is to hope for sheer horrors beyond our imagining...or maybe we *have* already imagined it.
I gave The Invasion 9 out of 10 due to its rushed ending and its lack of the "Body Snatcher Screech". Opening reviews of this film were way off as far as I'm concerned. Well worth my two hours.
VH1 Storytellers (1996)
The Billy Idol show is awesome
You don't even have to be a huge fan of the guy to enjoy this disc. Billy Idol clearly loves what he does and energy just pours out of him. All of his big hits are presented here; including fantastic acoustic versions of White Wedding and Rebel Yell.
I've always like Billy Idol, but watching this DVD really intensified my respect for him (and his guitarist). He's the rare, real deal. Too few of today's "stars" represent rock with any respectable amount truth and motive. He just plain *likes* to rock. And you gotta love it.
10 out of 10. Almost deserves an 11 for the White Wedding and Dancing With Myself segments.
The Mist (2007)
Raises the bar for King adaptations
One of King's most famous short stories is brought to the screen with all of its terror and humanity intact. Darabont, known for the dramas - Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile - has now raised the bar for adapting King's horror stories to the big screen.
The Mist is about two kinds of terror - that of the supernatural and that of the human capacity for primal regression in the face of ultimate fear. A group of small town folks trapped in a local food-mart when the mist rolls in try to survive. The terror outside, in the mist, becomes only one of the problems they face as those trapped inside turn to "leaders" who believe differently about what is happening. The result is an obvious homage to "Lord of the Flies", but suits its purpose in the horrifying landscape King creates.
Darabont handles the saturating sense of dread and despair with a deftness that has been embarrassingly absent in nearly all of the previous attempts to bring King's stories to film. What's absent in The Mist are the standard clichés, thin characters, and inexplicable human behavior that are prevalent in most horror films.
The script is nearly indistinguishable from the source material save for very small details, some minor modern updates (cell phones), and an added ending (the short story lacked any real ending). It works on every level for both the fans of King and those who are new.
10 out of 10. Way to go Frank!
Excellent series, and a win for fans
In the minds of just about every human being on the planet, nuclear apocalypse reigns supreme on the list of horrifying "End of the World" scenarios. Jericho takes that premise and turns it slightly sideways by showing us a small town in Kansas where the initial, obvious effects of nuclear war wouldn't quite reach (far away from blast centers, far enough away that fallout was minimal, etc.).
What the show does with impressive bravado is paint the audience a picture of how secondary considerations would become the focus in this kind of event. Amidst the everyday problems of a small town community (politics, rivalries, relationships, etc.), we see them struggling with basic needs such as food supply, power for heat, and most frighteningly - information.
The town is cut off from all sources of information - as is the audience, as a result. This allows the viewer to feel more immersed in the situation. The writers do a really great job at keeping "omnipotence" away for the audience - leaving the viewer intrigued and begging for any kind of consolation to ease their mind. In turn, we are quick to empathize with the characters and feel more invested in how things will turn out.
The show is smart, entertaining, and has a lot of heart. It was canceled after its first 22 episodes, until fans buried CBS offices in New York with over 20 tons of nuts in protest. CBS was gracious enough to reconsider and order 7 more episodes of the series. Keep watching so we can get more!
Silent Hill (2006)
Beautiful and nicely directed, but the script lacks a bit
I've never played the game(s), so I won't draw any comparisons.
The film was visually stunning. Watching it, you are thrust into the atmosphere - not just a spectator, but almost a participant. Bravo to the set designers and cinematographer(s).
What bothered me most was the bulk of the dialogue. It teetered badly at times. An unimaginably evil demon should never use the word "got". The best dialogue was given to Alice Krige's character (and what a treat it is to watch her work, by the way - always a fan).
All in all, a decent movie. But it definitely fell short of what it could have been. Given the source of the material (a game), it could've been much worse.
Salem's Lot (2004)
One of the few exceptions - and just barely at that
King's material so rarely makes it to the screen properly. I've all but given up hope on seeing anything from him in the theater or on television that is worth watching.
He's a master of horror, drama, and suspense. A writer that our grandchildren will likely study in school; as we've studied so many classics in different genres. But when our grandchildren take those college-level classic literature courses, I do hope they leave out the details on the screen-adaptations of such "classics" as Pet Semetary or Maximum Overdrive or Christine...
That said, there are a few gems that stick out - in the horror genre. I'm not going to debate the merits of Shawshank or The Green Mile or Stand By Me. We all know that those are ... different.
The Stand was butchered. They had the right idea, at least - not to try to tell the story in 2 hours. But they were on the right track. The Storm of the Century was decent. But that was written specifically for television.
Which brings us to my point - Salem's Lot. A great book. A good original film (given the era...not so great anymore). And now, this new version. Fans of King decry just about anything that taints their memory of the original work. Me, I'm just happy to see it done decently after so many disappointments. This new version is pretty good. There are plenty of changes ("updates") to the story and characters - and the fans have whined incessantly about it. But they were necessary to avoid anachronistic cheese and to help the viewer relate better to the characters. The story is well-paced and it actually looks really good. There is a notable lack of campy filler and the usual dung that litters the majority of King's past films/series.
All in all, I give it 7 out of 10. Well worth the watch.
Understated point, but good
Watching this film feels very natural. That is a credit to the cast and the writer. You can't, for even a second, not believe these people are real and walking around the real world at any given moment. Alan Arkin was outstanding as usual.
I just felt that the tiny bit of closure - or a better word, redemption - that these characters stumbled onto, was too understated. I also felt that perhaps that was the intention of the film-makers to begin with. But I think in the end, it took away from the film as a whole. Maybe it's because we're conditioned to want larger, more dramatic pay-off. I'm not sure.
Still a good film, 7 out of 10.
Battlestar Galactica (2003)
Oustanding update - but not really for fans of the original
I'll start by saying that I liked the original BSG. I realize it's a classic - and that most people get agitated when you mess around with the classics. But let's face it, have you watched the original lately? It didn't wear well with time; as is the case with much of the older sci-fi genre.
Enter BSG'03. It is well produced, decently written, brilliantly cast, and just admit it - the new cylons are scary. I don't mean an individual cylon. I mean the race as a whole. The new concept is more frightening on a grander scale.
I read an earlier comment and I quote from it: "...all they did was remove the adventure, the fun and the humour from the original production." I'm sorry, but when the human race as I know it is coming to an abrupt end - the last three things on my mind will be adventure, fun, and humor. The fact that this show's tone is very bleak is an asset, not a flaw. In the past few decades we've seen our share of sci-fi that was "adventurous, fun, and humorous". Some of it was good, but the vast majority of it was terrible. There is a place for that kind of writing, and that place is nowhere near BSG'03's premise.
In short, suck it up and admit that this show is fantastic and deserves the praise that it gets.