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Mike E Monster
A Frankenstein entry that will satisfy die-hard Franky fans, if few else
**SPOILERS** This modern-day Frankenstein re-envisioning makes for an average horror, with too many elements conveniently thrown together, too quickly, with an ending that seemingly sets up a non-existent sequel. The monster looks more alien than experiment, as well. Still, solid performances throughout make this a passable Frankenstein entry with some genuine tense moments. The nods to past versions - the windmill, the death of little girl, the name of one of the characters - at least show its heart was in the right place.
On Christmas Eve (1992)
Magical animated feature sans dialogue that the whole family can enjoy
Out of the hundreds of Christmas movies available, this one has probably flown under the radar of many buyers out there - but assuredly, this rare gem is worth purchasing if you ever come across it. The animation is simply beautiful and the story is told without dialogue (only music and sound effects). Children will love it - and the story is told so well that parents will, too. The story focuses on an angel that loses its magic wand, thanks to an attack from a very large (and hungry) owl. The angel is then rescued by a family of mice, who then have to concoct a plan to get the wand back from out in the snow. Even Santa makes an appearance in this slice of holiday magic the whole family can enjoy (no matter what language you speak, too).
Another Miyazaki masterpiece
More overtly political than Miyazaki's masterpiece SPIRITED AWAY, PRINCESS MONONOKE nonetheless still manages to spin its own amazing web of visuals and segments comparable to the latter (and deservedly much lauded) SPIRITED AWAY.
Pitting industry versus nature (and the combatants therein) the lines between protagonists and antagonists are blurred, effectively forcing the viewer to consider the actions and consequences from both perspectives, and overall, the need for balance emerging as the only true solution.
Brilliant in conception and execution, in particular several of the groups of animals (my favourite has to be the night time appearance of the group of apes complete with glowing red eyes, wishing to `eat the human' intoned in spooky, electronically-delayed voices. I actually went back and watched this sequence in both Japanese and French, just to hear the dialogue in another language) , the film is also effectively paced, featuring a strong, engaging story, and - as in SPIRITED AWAY - moments of pure movie magic featuring transforming Forest Spirits, talking boars and wolves, rattling-headed Tree Spirits and other assorted enchantments. Thank God for men of imagination like Miyazaki-san. We are all the richer for it. Another recommendation to fans of anime and non-fans alike, quite simply, another example of filmmaking at its most magnificent.
One note of caution: First-time viewers may wish to consider avoiding the English dialogue dub (the method Miyazaki himself recommends for Western audiences when viewing his films so as not to distract from the visual). While SPIRITED AWAY came off effectively in this regard, my recommendation here is to go against Miyazaki and enjoy the Japanese track with English subs for MONONOKE. Save yourself the pain of trying to picture the voice of Billy Bob Thornton coming out of a short, squatty Japanese man. Ugh.
Oggi a me... domani a te! (1968)
Overall, just okay, really, although I will say kudos in particular to Tatsuya Nakadai, who played a great lead villain (he later played the leading role in Kurosawa's "Kagemusha"). What makes him even cooler is that - besides the fact that he wears no hat, nor does Spencer for that matter, Nakadai also wields a wicked machete when things get cooking! Halsey plays an effective lead too, in particular visually - I mean, the dude can grow a good scruff and done a wicked black cloak and hat!
The one drawback is the obvious low budget, never more obvious than the fact that - outside of the "good guy" gang and the "bad guy" gang, I think there is like 5 more people in the ENTIRE movie - seriously! The entire third act takes place in a barren forest as the two gangs square off - very weird, really. Kind of like a First Blood thang, with dudes hanging from trees and ambushing guys from the bushes and stuff. I REALLY would have loved to have seen a more seasoned-Argento tackle something like this. The possibilities would have been endless . . .
While not to be entirely dismissed as drivel, Lenzi's would-be zombiefest known as NIGHTMARE CITY nonetheless comes off as trying to be too different, too "off-the-beaten-zombie-path", and as result, ends up falling flat in an unsatisfying mix of missed opportunities.
Instead of going with "living dead"-style zombies (i.e. lumbering oafs) Lenzi - against producers wishes who wanted basically a Romero-style-clone - instead argued for and got his wish of the 'zombies' simply being victims of a nuclear radiation accident. All the 'creatures' become supermen of sorts - with heightened strength etc. - not to mention retaining their human faculties of running, driving, being able to fight with weapons etc.
As a result though - pretty much all suspense is thrown out the window, as the movie quickly bogs down into a violent and graphic game of hide and seek. The action is intense (and the blood and gore plentiful) but the 'creatures' or victims simply look like poorly-designed Halloween costume party attendees, who - after realizing they are late for their scheduled gathering - grabbed whatever they could out of their fridge and slapped it on their faces. The result is an unconvincing and inconsistent mess of effects that underwhelms the viewer. Some victims have little makeup, others are nearly indistinguishable under piles of green and red facial clay, (yet ALL sneer menacingly at the camera) and ALL are out for the blood of their next human victim (the creatures need blood to regenerate their cells to keep living. As a result, their victims in turn become creatures as well).
While I applaud Lenzi for at least attempting something different (in an interview on the disk, he explains how he wanted the film to be viewed as an environmental warning etc.) it comes down to the simple fact that the movie ends up failing - the zombies move too fast to be truly creepy and come off as poorly-dressed terrorists from a bad Chuck Norris movie - and basically plays out as a b-level gore bore, weaker on the gore, heavier on the B-bore.
While NIGHTMARE CITY may not be totally rank, let's say ya might wanna drink that milk today - know what I mean?? As in, it smells a little funny - not totally spoiled, but nowhere near fresh-enough to serve to guests. Feelin' lucky??
Recommended for genre completists only.