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An good sci-fi flick with some excellent special effects.
Note that this contains spoilers. If you haven't watched the film, I suggest you do before reading this.
The first hour or so of this film was fantastic. Just taking in the spacecraft with all its amazingly conceived features, was reminiscent of the first part of 2001: A Space Odyssey. It also stuck me as being a realistic version of the type of spacecraft in Wall-E (think of the little cleaner droids, buzzing around, fixing things and cleaning the mess the characters make!) The premise of being alone on a vast, automated, self-repairing craft that is aware of your presence and provides all the conveniences you require, was an interesting concept. The technology and physics seemed plausible, cool, and realistic; and the special effects were restrained and effective. The robot bartender was fascinating, and provided some welcome entertainment.
For the first hour the story seemed meaningful and thought-provoking, but after that it began to fall apart. A major aspect of the plot during the first half of the movie was being unable to get to the crews' quarters to wake them up, and the hopelessness of the situation because of this.
Then, as if by magic, one of the crew wakes up, says there's something wrong with the ship, wanders around a bit, then dies. From then on it seemed to me like the script had been taken over by a different person, there to ensure the film served the public the usual smattering of sensationalist action scenes at expense of both the plot and plausibility of science. There is a brief promise of mystery as the trio realised there was something wrong with the ship and tried to figure out what it was, but this quickly evaporates as the problem turns out to be nothing more than a faulty nuclear reactor that is heading for self-destruction.
The obvious thing to have done here would have been to wake more of the crew, now that they had access, to see what could be done. However, we are told there is not time for that, so the protagonist miraculously fixes the nuclear reactor all by himself. What a genius! This involved finding and hot-swapping a replacement circuit board, getting blasted into space, being spectacularly rescued by his female companion, dying, and finally brought back to life by having about a dozen or so different resuscitation techniques applied to him at once by a machine! Yeah. Face palm.
Night of the Demon (1957)
Great story, great atmosphere, suspenseful: ruined by the monster.
I realise this film has its and fans they will downvote this review.
It's not that the monster effects are bad. Well, they are, but this is not what ruins the film. What ruins it is the fact that the monster is fully revealed within the first 5 or 6 minutes. The smoke effects were scary enough - we didn't need to see more. By revealing a cross-eyed rubber giant right at the beginning, the film lost much of its power to engage and frighten. They could have saved this disappointment for the end, after we had had the chance to enjoy the films many merits. I guess the producer wanted to see all his money on the screen from the start. Had they chosen not to show the demon at all, this film might have been a masterpiece.
As horror writer H.P. Lovecraft once said: "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown". Having something unknown, undefined and not entirely visible after us is far more unsettling than something we can see and define.
Even the author of the original story upon which this film is based, M.R. James, never described the demon, but rather left it to our imagination, with only hint here or there as to its appearance. James, the master of the Ghost Story, wrote all his stories like that. In his essay on writing fiction, James said "...our ghost should make himself felt by gradual stirrings diffusing an atmosphere of uneasiness before the final flash or stab of horror." All of James's stories follow this rule, so it's somewhat disappointing to see this fundamental rule broken in this adaptation of one of his classics.
The Finest Hours (2016)
Entertaining, Inspiring and Gripping.
The movie does an good job of portraying a convincing 1950s, innocent ocean town and its people. The casting and acting is strong, and the story, once it gets going, is quite gripping. The special effects of the storm, and waves, the wreck and rescue are handled well and not over-done.
With a film based on a true story like this, it's easy to overlook its qualities and focus on fact checking instead. Unfortunately the movie does stray from the facts, the main discrepancies being depiction of events on-board the SS Pendleton, such as the attempt to ground it on a shoal and the dramatic argument among the crew. These are fictionalised. When it comes to the actual rescue mission, however, events are followed accurately and there is an extra sense of drama knowing that this part of the move happened in real life in much the same way.
A rare movie that not only entertains but, being based on a true-story, also informs and inspires.
Krakatoa: The Last Days (2006)
NOT a documentary or docudrama.
Mediocre TV-film that lacked a suspenseful build-up.
To call this a documentary or docudrama is a mistake. Although framed in Verbeek's narrative, the portrayal of actual events is not entirely accurate; while the portrayal of the people involved is heavily fictionised and styled to suit a modern audience. Some of the script and acting was good, but most of it was bad; and far too much emphasis was placed on fictitious drama rather than the actual events. The film could have been saved by special effects, but even these seemed dated lacking the quality CGI standard we now expect. Also there was a lack of attention to detail. For example, Captain Lindemans's ship the SS Governor General Loudon was built in 1875, yet the ship portrayed in the film is clearly a product of the 1895 - 1910 period.
There were one or two nice touches, such as the audio being replaced by a ringing noise to convey the temporary loss of hearing due to the loud explosion, and the scenes aboard Loudon prior to the Tsunami, but in retrospect I would say that I watched this film to the end more out of curiosity about how it was made, rather than because I found it enjoyable. I have to say that it was a wasted opportunity.
A symptom of the appetite for pain and death of our society
This film, though well made and well acted, was popular because of its subject matter - extreme violence, torture and sadism.
I can only say that the genere itself reflects the sick appetite for entertainment based on crime pain and death that has become a hallmark of western society.
I can only wonder what less corrupted people think when they watch this and similar films, along with the inordinate amount of gruesome crime TV series.
Perhaps, folks, it is time to reflect on this obsession and demand better.
As if there is not enough violence in the real world...
King Kong (2005)
Nostalgic Adventure Romp that pays homage to cinema of 1930s
Far too many reviews here dismissing this film with 1 or 2 stars.
For me the film was a success because it managed to evoke perfectly a time in cinema history when geographical adventure in exotic lands was a much loved and exciting genre. This was the era of popular adventure pulp fiction when the likes of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Sax Rohmer were put on the silver screen and provided audiences with perfect escapism from the depression and high unemployment of the 1930s. I believe that this theme is emphasized in the first twenty minutes when we are shown the effects of the depression on New York and the role cinema and theatre played in that.
The CGI effects of those opening scenes are the best in movie for me, because they were not so obvious. We are used to seeing top notch special effects when it comes to monsters and dinosaurs, but the recreation of Brooklyn in 1930s, complete with hundreds of automobiles was a refreshing and delightful scene. And what better way to begin an adventure than on an old tramp steamer with a shady captain (perfectly cast) and crew? And what a cosy-scary situation to be in, when grounded in fog on the shores of a mysterious island! For me Kong himself was almost incidental in this exciting Haggard-style adventure!
The roles were all perfectly cast and the humour was enjoyable and not overdone.
This is one of the few movies I can watch periodically watch the first hour of with great enjoyment. I wouldn't know how to rate it objectively but for me this is certainly an 8 out of 10!
The Last Signals (2012)
Accurate & disturbing vision of the Titanic disaster.
I found this to be a very interesting and disturbing portrayal of the sinking of Titanic told through the eyes its Junior Wireless operator, Harold Bride, who survived the event.
For me, part of the reason why it worked was because of the close attention paid to accurate historical events and technical details, as well as the competent acting by Jake Swing and Thomas Lynskey.
Because it's told through the eyes of one person, and because most of the scenes are confined to a single room, the film for me had an existential quality. The two wireless operators lived their interwoven lives in the this small, almost surrealistic environment, whose only communication with the outside world was through the electrical buzz of primitive wireless equipment, or through little paper slips sent back forth and in capsules through pneumatic tubes. Only very occasionally would the door to the outside world open and an officer pop his head inside. I couldn't help thinking of Jean Paul Satre's "No Exit" during these scenes, or at times the 1976 version of the BBC's "The Signalman".
As one might expect with a low budget, independent film, the special effects were limited, but mostly tastefully handled with restraint, and always depicted through the eyes of Harold Bride.
A good portrayal weakend by poor special effects at the end.
I admire films that dare to deal with specialised subjects like this. On the whole I think the film's portrayal of the lives of those involved in the Vajont disaster -- and of the events leading up to it -- was good. However, there are quite a few technical inaccuracies and some of the characters are partially fictionalised.
The film twists the facts a bit to follow a more stereotypical disaster movie plot & build up the tension, portraying the engineers as worried and afraid when in fact they were calm and confident that they were in control of the situation right until the end. The film makes a drama about the water level, and that the water level was slightly over the critical 700m mark when the landslide took place, suggesting this was the cause of the disaster. In reality the engineers had already taken the water down to SADE's critical level - 25m blow the dam crest. However, the problem was that the "critical" level simply didn't apply - the flood was caused by the speed of the landslide when if finally happened, which no-one had predicted correctly.
The special effects are best when they are subtle - for example in visualisations of the dam and the village of Longerone during the first ninety minutes or so of the movie. However, in the finale, they failed to convey a sense of the awesome power this flood really had. We are talking about a 150m high wave of solid water coming over the top of the dam, then being funnelled down the narrow gorge beyond at 140 km/h. In the film it initially looked like buckets of water being thrown at a model in slow motion. The spray particles were too large, and there was no dark mass of water behind the spray. The only time it looked frightening was when we were given a glimpse of the wave racing down the narrow gorge, preceded by an enormous, howling rush of air tearing the valley sides apart and carrying debris along with it. This air blast was also depicted arriving in the village below, like a sudden hurricane falling upon the bewildered villagers. Another nice touch was the blue flashes seen by the villages up in the valley at night, at the moment of the landslide, caused by the collapse of power lines. This was a frightening premonition of the destruction that followed.
Black Swan (2010)
Over-rated but OK.
Knowing almost nothing about ballet, I watched this film after hearing good things about it. I thought it was going to be based on the tragic life of some Prima Donna. It turned out to be more of a shock horror movie rather than a study of disturbed psychology and was unrealistic and sensationised.
It isn't a bad film, but I certainly isn't worth the 10/10s I keep seeing on IMDb.com. It reminded me a bit of Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (only without the hilarity) probably because of the abundance of hallucinatory visual effects which were very well done; but also because both films were so highly over-rated! There was very little way of development in the film. The main character, Nina, starts off as being deranged and gets even more deranged then dies. The performances, however, were strong and I particularly enjoyed Portman, especially in the dance of the black swan, with the wings growing on her, and of course the music, though there was surprisingly little dancing.
May be I had the wrong expectations, but whatever one's expectations this film is not more than a 6/10.
An excellent adaptation of one of the greatest ghost stories of English Literature
I would say that this is the best screen adaption of M.R. James's best ghost story. It follows the original story tastefully avoiding the temptation to update the plot by sensationalising it or overdoing the supernatural events that take place. Nor does it suffer from the BBC dramatization syndrome of the 60s and 70s that they are essentially set-bound.
Miller's adaptation is filmed on location and is refreshingly cinematic in appeal. Instead of trying to follow the story's dialogue word for word, it focuses instead on conveying the mood of the story. There is no music added to accompany the drama. Silence permeates the film, heightened by the sparse dialogue and attention to sounds such as the clinking of cutlery and chairs being moved. Amidst this we hear the rambling thoughts and mutterings of the main character - Professor Parkins played by Michael Horden. All of this conspires to convey the existential loneliness of Parkins somehow trapped in a world of the infinite and undefinable symbolised by the beautiful black and white photography of a remote region of the Norfolk coast. Hordern does an excellent job of bringing the fidgety, crusty college professor character to life, and is a sheer delight to watch as he mumbles and reflects his way through the long scenes, often alone.
One of the reasons the adaptation works so well is because the original story was very visual, often describing the images appearing in the imagination of the professor. Miller has recreated these visuals exactly as I had imagined them when I first read the story as a boy. But the main reason this is so good is because all the right ingredients are there. A great story, good cast, and good direction.
No fancy special effects needed.