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In the Dark Half (2012)
This is a really impressive piece of filmmaking until the end, when it just sort of splinters into a lot of random bits (including what look like stray cuttings from PRINCESS KA'UILANI?) It's too bad, because otherwise this might have been an eerie masterpiece standing alongside, instead of shadowing, SIXTH SENSE.
Jessica Barden is AMAZING as Marie; a weird 15-year-old living in a depressed suburban tract that backs onto "the hill," a large tract of undeveloped land that includes an abandoned bunker where she conducts burials for kills she steals from her poacher neighbor Filthy (Tony Curran.) Filthy entertains both Marie and his young son Sean with myths and folktales, but when Sean dies while Marie is babysitting, Filthy loses control while Marie becomes convinced that she is in communication with the dead. Increasingly estranged from her only friend Michelle (Georgia Henshaw) and erratic mother (Lyndsey Marshal,) Marie becomes convinced that Sean wants her to draw his father into the bunker.
Directed by Alastair Siddons, In The Dark Half is wonderfully weird, with terrific performances by everyone, atmospheric music, and effective cinematography. The script is a little all over the place from the beginning but this works at first, keeping the audience guessing as to the film's intentions; I thought this really worked for a while as it allowed the supernatural elements to creep in. Unfortunately it all began to fall apart once they are plainly in place, simultaneously telegraphing "the twist" without really setting up the rest of the finale to make sense. That doesn't necessarily make it a terrible film; it just left me feeling kind of disappointed.
As M Goes Bye
>> > SPOILER ALERT < <<
It seems pointless to have a spoiler alert in a Bond film; the tropes are too well-established, although Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson HAVE spent the last couple of films trying to get outside the box. They really succeeded with CASINO ROYALE and in a way did with QUANTUM OF SOLACE, though chiefly by ripping off Clive Cussler. This paint-by-numbers effort by Sam Mendes, however, isn't so much an attempt to get outside the box as a kind of disinterested shrug AT the box - and its contents - and despite a few moments of impressive cinematography falls directly into my category of "I've no interest in seeing THAT movie again," which is unusual for a Bond film (a tribute to the amazing abilities of Cubby Broccoli et al.) However although Javier Bardem isn't given much to work with here, there is real audience identification with his character as he tries to achieve what so many Bond fans have wanted to see for so long - the elimination of Judi Dench.
Now don't get me wrong - Dame Judy is an OK actress, and is pretty much OK in many films, like MRS HENDERSON PRESENTS or BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL. It's just that like John Cleese as Quartermaster... Well, it was a fun twist to throw the actor in for a laugh (or whatever Mrs Dench is supposed to evoke) during the Pierce Brosnan era, but for where the franchise needed to go with Daniel Craig - not the right character for aspirations to seriousness.
And that's pretty much all there is to this film - the poignancy of the great Spanish actor as he begs M to join him in a murder-suicide, instead of the lame-ass knife-in-the-back finale that seems WAY too symbolic of the scripting of his part. If only, as Bond weeps after M breathes her last, Bardem could have suddenly shrieked "Pass the onions, Danny-boy!" as he twisted back up for the final jolt, giving Moneypenny an opportunity to yell "DUCK, Jimmy!" and redeem herself for what really wasn't ENTIRELY her fault in the Orient Express scene (couldn't Bond hear M yelling "Take the shot! TAKE THE SHOT"? Is he supposed to be growing deaf with age?? How is that the TOKEN's fault?!?)
It's too depressing to contemplate the film much further. The initial motorcycle chase across Istanbul's rooftops is energetic though little more than an homage to the far superior Saigon-scooter chase from TOMORROW NEVER DIES, and once we're ducking tunnels while wrestling atop the roof of a speeding train, we know we're in trouble. A thin plot has sometimes been saved by some magnificent scenery-chewing, but the half-assed assassination scene is a mess and the extended destruction of the Bond manor just feels tired. We sighed with Bardem as he shrugs at the spectacle of Bond giving the sub-boss treatment to a henchman, and seriously - the grounds-keeper needs a flashlight to find the kirk? During a sassenach attack?!? To be honest, I kind of expected this kind of thing from director Mendes, famed, if that's the right word, for the unfortunate contemporary-Hollywood's-prejudices-about-middle-America vehicle, American BEAUTY.
Sigh. So... Ralph Fiennes as M, huh? Is the restrained character's demonstrated willingness to stand up for subordinates and get it on with a gun in pinch some kind of signal for something new when James Bond Will Return? I hope so, Barb and Mike, 'cause as far as I'm concerned this is two duds in a row.
>> > SPOILER ALERT < <<
Incident at Raven's Gate (1988)
I've got to give a kind of spoiler on the spoiler - I can't EXACTLY give the ending away, because the director/screenwriter doesn't completely give the ending away! Nevertheless, it is clear in the end what the general idea is. If you're a Peter Weir addict, you may like this film or at least cut it some slack. If not...
As other reviewers have pointed out, the film presents us with a disparate group of people each isolated in their own way in a remote and challenging landscape. All have their own issues, and consequently aren't automatically brought together by the mysterious problems that slowly arise: instead they are confused and divided, unlike the outcome in some other films of this type. That, together with a lot of intentional vaguerie, gives the film dimensions that make it interesting and discussion-worthy to some. However I think most people, certainly those looking for a tight plot that comes together in a definite answer in the end, are going to be frustrated and irritated by the story and its "resolution."
The acting is good, and though I wasn't particularly impressed by the heroic "ex-con judged by his reputation" stereotype, it was played perfectly competently by Steven Vidler, likewise the stressed-out obsessed cop well played by Vincent Gil; the nature of the plot is such that random and uncoordinated behaviour actually contributes to where the story is going - in the end a government conspiracy is vaguely alluded to, but its nature or intent is left deliberately vague (in the NetFlix version *I* saw anyway.)
I wasn't particularly impressed by the "suspense," which is achieved by a lot of jump cuts of frenetic behaviour in dark rooms. Things happen, something else happens, the action shifts... The film eventually ends...
I love the movies of Peter Weir, and Director Rolf de Heer is obviously heavily influenced by the opacity of his countryman's films. Weir, however, is alluding to semi-mystical powers of nature, which has nothing to do with whatever is being encountered at Raven's Gate.
Not Perfect, But Good Entertainment Value
This film compares favorably to SO much that hits the screen nowadays that it's well worth seeing; also it's a key part of the rest of the Pink Panther 'series' although not included in the box sets so far. We get the classic "minkey" sequence and meet Cato, for the first time, in one of the series' great slapstick routines. However the film has a sort of split personality and the current DVD transfer is too grainy for a large-screen TV IMHO. So, rent it, but I'd wait for something better if you're looking to collect.
I wouldn't exactly say this movie sets the tone for the rest of the series. The original starred David Niven, with an all-star supporting cast including Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau. Then Clouseau became the star of "A Shot in the Dark," which didn't involve either the Pink Panther gem nor jewel thief Sir Charles Lytton. This film has them all, so tries to 'balance' the action between Clouseau and Sir Charles. It doesn't work, and probably as a result there were no more such attempts: the series becomes all about Clouseau, and that's for the best. I like Christopher Plummer, but the movie is too 'heavy' when he's on screen - probably the writer's fault. As for Catherine Schell, I'd look at her in anything (or nothing at all) and IMHO her acting compares favorably to at least Dyan Cannon's and Elke Sommers'. Herbert Lom, Burt Kwouk, and Andre Maranne are of course a terrific comedic supporting cast, but Peter Arne has to straddle the comedic and serious aspects of the film, which doesn't really work out.
The story shifts back and forth between the perspectives of Sir Charles and Clouseau. The Pink Panther gem, nationalized by the government of Lugash after the events of the original film, has been displayed in the national museum until stolen in a great caper sequence. Against the wishes of his frustrated boss ("how can an idiot be a police officer"), Clouseau, who (sort-of) recovered the gem previously, is recalled from beat duty ("There was some question whether it was the man or his minkey who was breaking ze law") and put on the case at the request of Lugash police chief Colonel Sharky. Clouseau naturally suspects Sir Charles, particularly since his trademark, a glove embroidered with the letter "P," was left at the scene. Sir Charles, however, is surprised; he has been living in retirement and knows nothing about the matter until it is brought to his attention by his mischievous wife Claudine. Knowing he will be suspected, Litton sets off for Lugash to find the real criminal while Clouseau sets off for Nice to investigate Sir Charles' home - and wife. Clues lead both Clouseau ("I am NOT Guy Gadbois") and Sir Charles to a Swiss hotel (and the parrot sequence.) All is revealed in the final confrontation where more than one policeman proves to have been playing a double game.
Someone here said it hasn't aged well but I'd say almost the opposite - the first time you see it you'll probably think it hilarious - but it may pall the second time around.
The Rocketeer (1991)
Not Indiana Jones, But Fun
THE ROCKETEER is a perfect, but not great, movie. It is NOT a tribute to the cliffhanger movie serials of the 1930s, its an homage to the B-movies of the '40s: think SANTA FE TRAIL or CAPTAINS OF THE CLOUDS. Our swell hero and his wisecracking sidekick take some digs from his girl but, after standing up to the swings of the action heavy, close in for the K.O. in the final reel.
This is an affectionate reproduction of a simpler time in film-making and you'll love it if you're not expecting the wrong kind of thing. The critics (abetted by the studio) typecast this as another cliffhanger-tribute movie, but if you're expecting a non-stop thrill-ride like INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE or Brendan Fraser's THE MUMMY, you're going to be disappointed (as many were) because the pacing of this film is totally different. Fighting a Nazi on a zeppelin? You're almost through THE ROCKETEER, but LAST CRUSADE is just warming up.
I loved CRUSADE and MUMMY, but hyperactive duds like THE WILD, WILD WEST and THE MUMMY RETURNS show the limitations of the non-stop-pacing school. I wish there were more fun adventure flicks paced like THE ROCKETEER; it works if you give it a chance! I'd describe this as a very warm film; at heart it's all about love. Not just love of flying; Cliff and Peevy's comradely love, Hughes' love of innovation, Valentine's love of country - but most importantly, Jenny's love of the movies! And the filmmakers' love of the period shines through in the little details, not spotlighted but carefully there. Plus you get a neat plot and some fine actors having a lot of fun! Pop in the DVD, break out the popcorn, and get ready for a pleasant good time.
The Persuaders!: Overture (1971)
Great Early '70s Ensemble
This one-season 70's series was a LOT of fun as it would almost have to be with both Moore, doing his typical suave Englishman routine, and Curtis almost reprising his SOME LIKE IT HOT hustler-with-a-heart-of-gold. Sometime DR WHO scriptwriter Terry Nation makes the most of the contrast, and throw in wacky '70s fashions plus enough dough to actually shoot scenes on location, and you've got something that should have run MUCH longer.
Two international playboys receive a summons to the Riviera, where they wind up under the thumb of a retired judge with a hunger for justice. Judge Fulton needs someone outside the law to pursue the mystery of a crime syndicate that is still operating after the apparent death of its boss. Fulton challenges Wilde and Sinclair to rise above their selfish lifestyles and, developing a taste for sparring with each other, the pair pursue a beautiful girl who unknowingly holds the key to locking up the bad guys.
This isn't my favorite episode of the series; it takes Moore and Curtis an episode or two more to really master their chemistry. If you're wading through the DVD set I'd recommend skipping ahead to POWERSWITCH.
The Outer Limits: Counterweight (1964)
Flawed Humans Must Evolve
A group of people participate in a group-isolation test to see if they can withstand being sent to a distant planet. Although they know they will be subject to unexpected tests, strange events strain their unity, and when personality changes start to happen, certain members break down in paranoia - or IS it paranoia?
This isn't one of the best episodes, but the story actually moves a bit better than some. However the characterization never evolves above stereotypes and not a lot makes real sense. None of the characters are particularly engaging, and as usual the female characters are the weakest. Disappointing.
I Am Legend (2007)
It's been a long time since I've seen "Omega Man" or read the original Matheson story, but I'd heartily recommend them as superior entertainment, while this... Well, if you've got nothing better to do, it's not TERRIBLE, but...
I have to agree with everybody who says this was all about the CGI, and not about the plot - or, in my opinion, the suspense. There's not enough characterization of the zombies, and too much of Robert Neville - I like Will Smith, but I didn't care for his rather hysterical interpretation, although the interplay with Sam was good. There was too much backstory on the virus (and Neville's family) and too little on the zombies. And things don't seem to have been too challenging for Anna and Ethan - nothing worth talking about, anyway! Ethan isn't really necessary in any way - Sam is the Richie character (I think it was Richie - anyway, it IS kind of a clever riff on the doofus who wanders off in search of the cat...)
I can't believe anybody respects the pacing. There are two moments of genuine suspense in the movie - Following the Deer, and the Copycat Trap - and both of them totally failed to have any shock value. Following the Deer turns out OK, while The Copycat Trap builds up and builds up, but then, well, up hops Bob and gets his gun, oh dear he drops it - oh, Sam isn't in as much trouble as we thought - oh, he was, was he - and we wind up waiting around for the dog to change, and then - well, that was that. Poignant, maybe (he has the recovered-rat antitoxin - why not Sam?) but suspenseful - are you kidding? And As for the film's finale, did we really need to see it? I think it was irrelevant (especially with the voice-over), and the prologue is also unnecessary - we could have spent the time getting a few real chills and thrills in.
Ruined New York is well done, but it's not like we haven't seen THAT before (couldn't this have been filmed in Detroit, without CGI?) The movie has a kind of moral, which has to do with Neville being wrong about what turns out to be true at the very end. There's a worthy idea there - nothing to do with Matheson's original idea, or the title of the film, of course - but there isn't enough supporting material in the rest of the story for it to be said to be the film's theme - and there's nothing else to the story, really - so why is Neville a legend? Apparently, it's the same reason he was on the cover of TIME magazine...
Muddled Takeoff on "Creature From the Black Lagoon"
A wealthy Norteamericano scientist (Ralph Meeker) brings his team to a banana republic in search of scientific fame. He discovers that a legendary lake monster is in fact a living fossil, an ichthyosaur. The millionaire's egotistical plans for the monster are obstructed, however, by the egotism of the local dictator (Henry Silva), by his own team's commitment to scientific integrity, and by certain remarkable properties of the monster itself...
Once again, as too often on THE OUTER LIMITS, a decent story is undermined by clumsy plotting and awkward direction, which combine with low budget to stumble us to the usual preachy moral, which could have been better supported by the story elements.
The Outer Limits: The Mice (1964)
Assumptions and Honesty
This is yet another OUTER LIMITS episode where a good idea got lost due to clumsy handling. Despite some good acting and more action than SOME episodes, the plotting prevents the buildup of real suspense and the story elements aren't handled in such a way as to reinforce the plot idea; as a result we wind up kind of confused at the end!
Earth scientists have established contact with a distant space civilization, the Chromomites. They build a matter-transporter with the aim of exchanging representatives; the Chromomites demand that the first being to pass through the transporter be an important Earthman, a kind of scientific diplomat. However Earth's authorities decide that it would be best to test the device by sending a criminal, just in case, and they select a man they believe to be no more than a hardened killer. However when the Chromomite representative arrives, it soon appears that the aliens may have had the same idea...