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Only good for unintentional laughs
This is a truly terrible movie. It's manipulative and predictable, badly acted and badly written - BARELY written might be more accurate as it's mostly a compendium of cliches, and it's edited like the world's longest movie trailer.
I love comic books and I love big comic books-style movies. But there are good comic books and bad comic books, and Armageddon is like a glossy and expensively-printed comic book written and drawn by untalented and uncaring hacks. The science is not just bad, it's not even science. Racist stereotyping abounds.
Yet I had a good time laughing at it. Never with it, only at it.
High Art (1998)
Intimate and intense
This is a great little movie, well acted and made, with nice visual that aren't overdone and an excellent soundtrack. I ran across it by accident on late-night tv and have been looking for a copy to buy ever since. Ally Sheedy and Radha Mitchell are both excellent.
The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962)
One of the greats
What better movie is there than this? It gives you everything: thrilling surgery scenes, exciting car chases, nailbiting stripper-fight tension, a talking severed head, a seven-foot-plus pinhead monster (sensitively played by Eddie Carmel), and some stunning scenes of verbal philosophy. Plus one of the greatest pieces of theme music ever recorded.
Do yourself a favour and rent The Brain That Wouldn't Die today.
A horror master in the making?
Dante Tomaselli's first movie, Desecration, is far from perfect: the acting and dialogue is terrible, the story is vague, there are some silly ideas, and there's a cheap look to some of it.
However, in terms of atmosphere and imagery and outright fear, it's a winner. It took me a little while to get into it, but once I was it had an almost unbearable creep-out factor. If Tomaselli had abandoned the story altogether and made a totally abstract piece of surrealism, it might have been a total success. As it is, it's still one of the scariest horror movies of the last few years.
I can't wait to see Tomaselli's second movie, Horror. He has the potential to become the most exciting young horror filmmaker around. If he can adapt his style to fit a more mainstream storytelling sense he may become huge. If he descends further into surrealism he'll almost certainly end up a cult favourite. Either way, he seems to be someone with a unique and compelling vision, which horror has been missing for too long. Bravo!
Finally, a decent doco about the Friday the 13th series! There's some good interview footage here with Sean S. Cunningham, Kane Hodder, Joe Bob Briggs etc and some perplexing footage of the guys from American Movie.
The only qualms I have are: no interview with Tom Savini, and no footage from any of the first eight Fridays. Paramount owns the rights to those movies (this disc was from New Line who only did the last two) and it's way past time for a special edition of at least the first Friday the 13th, with a decent doco on the series at bare minimum.
For the moment, though, this'll do.
Return to Oz (1985)
Brilliantly dark kids' film
Return to Oz is a great children's movie with a dark sensibility, to the point of being basically a horror movie for kids. Of more recent children's movies, only Babe: Pig in the City comes close to being this dark. Some people might have a problem with this - and both these movies were commercial failures - but I loved spooky things as a kid, and neither of these two movies are scarier than some early Disney movies like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or Sleeping Beauty, or indeed The Wizard of Oz.
Fairuza Balk is great as Dorothy, with just the right mix of wide-eyed innocence and slightly grown-up-ness. It's no surprise she grew up to be a great, quirky actor. Most of the best roles are taken up by the various bizarre Oz creatures, many of which have a very Jim Henson feel to them; when Brian Henson turns up as Jack Pumpkinhead, it feels very natural.
It's probably too intense for some kids, but many will love it. You'll know within the first ten minutes if they can take it or not!
River's Edge (1986)
One of the greats
I love River's Edge. It reminds me of my teenage years, and the people I used to hang out with, and the stuff we'd get into. Not that any of us killed out girlfriends, you understand, but pretty much everything else, yeah.
I'm surprised that so many people took this as a "moralising" movie. I thought it did a great job of staring at the whole situation pretty coldly.
Crispin Glover was sooooo good in this movie. Hell, even Keanu was okay.
My Dinner with Andre (1981)
My Dinner With Andre is one of the best movies I have ever seen. I expected to be a little bored by the movie, and only saw it because of its experimental nature. It didn't work out that way. It takes what should be a non-cinematic subject - two people discussing life experiences and philosophy over dinner - and makes it into an enthralling and entertaining movie.
The subject matter is wonderful, ranging from the everyday to, frequently, the outlandish and the fantastic. But the real joy comes in the characterisations. Upon hearing of this movie, I thought that it might be better suited to a stage production, and part way into it, it occurred to me that a radio play would also be a great way to stage it.
Although either of these approaches might have been rewarding, I believe that film is the ideal medium for this script. First of all, the projection of voice required in the theatre would rob the acting of much of its subtlety and authenticity; two people sitting in a restaurant do not shout at one another constantly, and appropriately much of the dialogue is virtually whispered. And secondly, both theatre and radio eliminate the possibility of playing off facial expressions and reactions. Many of the reaction shots of Wallace Shawn are wonderful, changing the impact of Andre Gregory's statements.
Many people will not be able to appreciate this movie. That's as much as matter of taste as of anything else. But for me, aside from anything else, it reaffirmed the value of good conversation. If the idea of the movie appeals to you at all, you must see it. Ten out of ten.
The Last House on the Left (1972)
Inept, yet disturbing
Last House on the Left is a movie that's legendary for being disturbing, and in another camp legendary for being awful. I think it's both. The screenplay & direction by first-timer Wes Craven are very amateurish, and the comedy scenes are cringeworthy. A lot of the acting is poor, and the movie has an awkward structure and pace, as well as many huge credibility problems where the story depends on massive coincidences.
And yet, it's one of the most disturbing movies I've ever seen, and manages to push its anti-violence message with amazing force. David Hess is excellent as the sadistic Krug, and although Sandra Cassel and Lucy Grantham are laughable in the early scenes, when the movie actually gets going their performances improve dramatically so that you can almost physically feel their terror.
Although Craven has made a number of better written, directed and acted movies with much higher production values, I don't think he's equaled the impact of this shoddy, squalid little film. It's art, of a sort.
Deadbeat at Dawn (1988)
Totally f**king awesome!
Deadbeat At Dawn is one of the best movies I've ever seen. Its miniscule budget works in its favour, and the amateur acting, while unpolished, is mostly very convincing. The acting honours go to Mark Pitman as Bone Crusher; despite minimal screen time and dialogue, he's unforgettable. Writer/director/editor/make-up supervisor/stunt coordinator/star Jim Van Bebber does an excellent all-around job, abetted by Michael King's cinematography. The psychedelic kaleidoscopic transitions are a bit much, but otherwise this is an excellent movie.