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The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
In a word: Garbage, in two: Absolute Garbage
I am a horror film fan. I have enjoyed films that may be perceived by some to be on the same basic level as this film such as The Devil's Rejects for instance. But using that film as my bases for comparison, this is nothing but splatter porn. At least Devil's Rejects gave us a bit of a story; with antagonists who exist in and outside of the horrific world they've created. These "mutants" exist only to torture and to move quickly in front of cameras to make them seem scary from the audience's point of view as most of the movements in those types of shots are not necessary unless you happen to be filming them. I don't know what I wanted out of this film, as I did not enjoy Craven's original, yet this still managed to somehow disappoint me. Absolute garbage.
The Beatles Anthology (1995)
A Long and Winding Road. . .
Having just finished watching this entire series I will keep this short as it is as close to speechless I think I will ever become:
It's been said to me countless times of films that are well over two hours long. It's always something to the effect that the time just flies by and before you know it. . .it's over. I've never known that to be quite as true as it was for The Beatles Anthology. Each episode is well over an hour long, and there are eight of them, but it never seemed like there was a wasted moment. It progressed as eloquently as the band did itself, with ever scene and interview being a logical step forward.
I am a huge Beatles fan, but really didn't expect to like this. I'm not sure why I thought I wouldn't, but something just didn't seem right about it. I'm glad I didn't go with that feeling. It is truly awesome and congers up every emotion I think I'm capable of. I know plenty of people who are not Beatles fans, but I would encourage them to still give this a chance since it really is so much more than just the story of a band.
Night of the Demons (1988)
A Halloween Night Staple
This is a cheesy, horribly acted, badly directed film, but I watch it around Halloween just about every year and have a great time doing so. I won't waste my time, or yours, by getting too deeply into it, after all we are treading in some shallow waters here, but for me this whole series is a guilty pleasure. As an avid horror fan I've seen much worse. Everything about this film is cheap, but I still enjoy it on a particularly gratuitous level. It can be welcomed around Halloween night with the right crowd, but the first twenty minutes of set up are so bad that you might lose some of your audience before they get to Hull House, the set piece of the entire film. Enjoy it with just a pinch of salt!
A bit mean spirited for my tastes
As a child I never understood why the name Grinch, and I'm equally stumped as to why the name Scrooge, has always been used to describe someone not in the Christmas spirit. It seems to me that if you call someone 'Grinch' it should be a compliment, not a detriment. When I grew up, and perhaps you can translate that into when I lost innocence, I realized the irony of the definition of the name Grinch. This character is supposed to be the isolated and lonely. It's supposed to be all of us from time to time. But the reality is that he does not represent the few, he represents us all. Why do we continue to use the name Grinch to describe someone not in the Christmas spirit when the lesson of the story is that the Grinch kept Christmas in his heart? The same goes for Scrooge who kept Christmas with him for the rest of his life. The reason is that because these two characters represent us all. Aren't we all these characters for eleven months of the year and only when we hit December do most of us dust off our liberality's in the name of righteousness? We forget that the Grinch became a being that loved Christmas, but only for the last few minutes of the story, or in our lives, December.
So for me this film does not work. It is not set to the same time as is the Dr. Suess classic. It tries to give the Grinch a reason for his isolation and his loneliness and that doesn't need to be done. The point of Suess's story was that the Grinch was upset. He was angry and he was lonely and in the end he was redeemed. Period. This film tries to show us that he is worth redeeming because some children made fun of him. Isn't Christmas a time when anyone can be redeemed? Why tell me why someone is worthy of redemption. If the Grinch wasn't picked on as a child should he have been shunned by the Who's? If the spirit of Christmas, and indeed the Dr. Suess book, is so magical, why give me a back story? Even though Dickens does give us a back drop for Scrooge to hang his isolation on, we know from the beginning that everyone, regardless of Scrooge's story, wants Ebenezer to be part of their Christmas. Here we are given a reason why we should include the Grinch, and that goes against the point of the season. It once seemed to me that we needed to hold on to the magic of Christmas the whole year through. Now I would be excited if we could hold on to it if only for one night in December.
I Knew This Was Going to Happen!
Why is it that every time a horror film makes any money the creative vision of that film gives way to a sequel involving typical film making techniques that the absence of were the very reasons the original was so original in the first place? Halloween gave us Halloween II. A Nightmare on Elm Street gave us Freddy's Revenge. These aren't sequels, they are desecrations.
For me, the Blair Witch Project worked. I saw it after the hype was firmly established and while it was what I expected it somehow still managed to get under my skin and stay there for a long time. This film, with it's bloated, unnecessary contemporary soundtrack and by the numbers direction was exactly what I didn't expect and I left the theater feeling cheated. The film starts off promising, managing to poke a little fun at itself without being too self aware. There's a couple references to the original films critics via characters who are walking around the woods claiming they "just want to see something." After the promising first few moments, the film seems to slowly fall apart. I think some of the individual parts of the film work very well, but the film as a whole seems less than the sum of it's parts.
What exactly is the film trying to express? It is an indictment on modern day "witch hunts" in which people who embrace alternative religions and/or dress in black are really good people that society prejudges as evil? Does the sheriff in the film serve as conservative ideology against the younger generation who engage in behavior he just can't understand and therefore labels it as wrong or even immoral? Given the directors documentary history, it seems natural that the film would use the idea of a witch hunt to show that things haven't changed much since the Salem witch trials of 1692. The Wiccan character even says that the first film sent back the cause of witchcraft (as a religion) 300 years. By the end of the film I was just confused. I'm not sure that the film didn't show witch hunters as sympathetic, thereby giving the prejudice an excuse.
Remember the first Nightmare on Elm Street? It was very effective in 1984, the time of it's original release. By 1991 we were given Freddy's Dead-The Final Nightmare. Supposedly they took the little independent low budget film and supplied it with a budget and true Hollywood talent and each installment came was no where near as effective as the first. It seems the lesson was not learned and we will be forced to see sequels of this merit.
It's not just the fact that sequels are generally inferior that is my point here. Two guys with some equipment purchased at electronics store make an original horror film-no matter how you felt about The Blair Witch Project it was different and they took a chance. Now Hollywood has it's hands on the franchise and have rendered it unrecognizable. I will go see the third Blair Witch project where the producers will undoubtedly try to correct what went wrong here, but I fear, while already low, my expectations will most likely be confirmed.
Duck Soup (1933)
The Marx Brothers Best Anti-War Film?
There is perhaps no other film quite like Duck Soup. It is one of the best comedies of all time, has held up well over the years, and has been copied from other comic genius' who never seem to get it nearly as good. Also, it is considered to be one of the few "real" anti-war films, in that it never, not for one moment, takes war seriously. Instead, it makes it look as stupid as any act can be, and the people involved are just kind of screwy. It has been said that you can't make a truly anti-war film because in some way you have to glorify some aspect of it. The camaraderie, the excitement of victory, the honor in the face of defeat, the glory of being a selfless hero, the people who come together to remember the hero who lost their life. Duck Soup never for one minute takes anything seriously. The film is about, essentially, if one can say it has a plot, two dictators destroying their own countries. It was such a slap to rising fascists that Mussolini banned the film in Italy. The motto is simply "War is stupid." Given this argument, Duck Soup is, perhaps, the only true anti-war film, and a great comedy as well!!! A flop when first released, Duck Soup is now considered by many to be a comic masterpiece. There are so many great moments that it really isn't worth commenting on. The point I'm trying to make here is that this is a gem.
Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
A film that explores the human soul.
When I registered with the IMDb, one of the survey questions asked what my favorite film was. I listed Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors. I don't know if this is always true, but for the most part I feel fairly confident regarding my choice. Allen's story here works, like most well written literature, on many levels. It is funny (Woody's lessons), symbolic (the Rabbi going blind), ironic (the good suffer and the evil go unpunished), deep (faith and suicide), and is a film that leaves you with something to identify with and learn from. Even Hally Reed's (Mia Farrow) surprising revelation at the end of the film, which I won't reveal of course, shows us a bit about the dangers of prejudging others. Woody shows us that we shouldn't judge on the surface, but must look deeper into the individual value of people. Do we trust Hally, or do we stick to what we see as the truth about Lester (Alan Alda)? This is a lesson that Woody's character, Cliff, doesn't even fully grasp at the end of the film, but Allen gives us the insight, even though what Hally reveals about Lester goes against what we've seen of him.
Crimes and Misdemeanors is certainly not for all tastes. It's not exactly a film that people would watch for pure escapism. This is a film to be treasured, revisited and held up with some of the greatest films of all time. Not for how it looks or sounds, but for what it says. This is a film aimed at both the heart and the mind and succeeds in capturing both.