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Prince of Darkness (1987)
A mysterious and disturbing John Carpenter movie
Aesthetically Prince of Darkness seems to be a B horror movie from the 80's, but I'd hesitate to call it such. It doesn't rely on cheap gore and sexy teenagers but rather a brooding soundtrack, several mysteries that linger in the mind after watching the movie and hard-ass scientist characters that remind me of the Antarctic crew in Carpenter's The Thing.
Plot-wise, the movie combines Satan, time travel, mirrors, mind control, the walking dead, ancient Catholic conspiracies and technobabble about anti-gravity and anti-causality. So quite a few things are in the mix. I thought many of the ideas were intriguing, especially the repeating dream sequence.
The main characters are masculine but not overwhelmingly so - the movie doesn't devolve into a testosterone-fest like Carpenter's Vampires. The atmosphere is more serious, there are only a few jokes in the entire movie and those are uttered by terrified characters trying to lighten up the mood.
An ambitious sci-fi epic falls short of its goals
This is a movie directed by Wally Pfister, the director of photography for Christopher Nolan's films. It seems he didn't do Interstellar because he wanted to start his own directing career - in the form of Transcendence.
I'm not such a big fan of Interstellar, but compared to Transcendence, that movie was a masterpiece. Transcendence has a mind-bogglingly huge ensemble cast and enough science fiction ideas thrown around to constitute three or four Isaac Asimov short stories, and yet the film amounts to pretty much nothing.
I was surprised to find that in a movie with Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy and Rebecca Hall, it's actually Paul Bettany who delivers the best performance. The others don't seem to be the least bit interested in the story or the characters (with the possible exception of Rebecca Hall, who does a fine job with a character that doesn't make any sense.) The story follows the development of advanced artificial intelligence and even more advanced nanotechnology to the point where the "science" is pretty much just divine magic. Sure, why not, but the film doesn't really achieve that feeling of grandiosity that should come with such achievements.
Profondo rosso (1975)
A beautifully shot, dreamlike crime thriller
I preferred Dario Argento's Phenomena and Suspiria to this, but Profondo rosso was still a driving, intriguing thriller. It has that Italian giallo charm and has a fantastical and dreamlike feel to it.
The scenes are often shot in unusual angles and go on longer than you'd expect, and also the lines sometimes don't really seem to make much sense, evoking a sense of bizarre uncomfortability. By the end of the film you're completely immersed in its world.
The performances are pretty good. I thought our protagonist, played by David Hemmings, was a bit wooden. The locations and the music are top notch. The film was originally shot in Italian so that's the language I recommend watching it in.
By modern standards the gore scenes look pretty fake, and amusingly enough the blood itself is very brightly colored (in contrast to the film's title.)
The Rescuers (1977)
A Disney cartoon both cute and gloomy
The Rescuers is part of the classic Disney animation feature canon, but it looks more like a Don Bluth movie, its mouse protagonists bringing to mind Mrs. Brisby and Fievel and its overall animation style being a little sketchy (but not so sketchy as to be from the Jungle Book - 101 Dalmatians era) and having plenty of dark colors.
The story is very urgent with high stakes (for a Disney animation) and at times scary for small children - there are terrifying scenes of cramped underwater caves, emotional abuse of a little girl, even a human skull being torn to bits.
I liked the 70's-style romantic ballads, too. But the look, sound and pacing might be a little old-timey for the kids these days.
A theatrical epic of chivalry, magic and myth
I expected to see an 80's fantasy adventure but got much more. Excalibur is the finest movie about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table I've seen since Monty Python's version.
Excalibur seems to be a theatre performance brought to the silver screen. The direction always focuses on the actors, the lines and sets are larger-than-life. The story closely follows Thomas Malory's original classic from the 15th century, making this a rather Shakespearean movie.
Visually we get ridiculous amounts of plate armor, huge castle corridors, ludicrously pompous setpieces and costumes, artistic nudity (male and female) and lots of green lighting. This is a movie with no realism in the mix. This is an epic tale of mythic events and characters, told in a mythic manner, as if a child's imagination was conjured up to the world to see. Sadly, there are no dragons, but the witches and magic swords make up for it.
There is much in the way of hubris, betrayal and tragedy. Men lead their loyal subjects to wars over land, over women, over revenge. I believe I've written enough.
A pretty but needless rendition of the classic feature animation
The very existence of Cinderella (2015) surprised me the moment I heard Disney was producing such a movie: I was aware that there was a trend of making fairy tale movies, but after lukewarm outcomes I thought that fad was dying. And Cinderella, really? What more could there possibly be to say of that story? Not much, it seems. Kenneth Branagh faithfully adapts the classic Disney feature animation into a live-action movie. His choices are playing it safe and he treats the story and the original animated movie with respect. He even keeps the little pet mice in.
The movie largely rests on newcomer Lily James' slender shoulders. She delivers an adequate performance but is by no means stellar. As expected, the show is stolen by Cate Blanchett as the Evil Stepmother. I also liked Richard Madden's Prince - you might know him as Robb Stark from Game of Thrones. His scenes are the best in the film. The anachronistic Helena Bonham Carter is her usual weird self.
The castle is a little overdramatic with its CG-rendered courtyard, but the mansion where Cinderella lives is furnished beautifully. The famous dress is good-looking, too, although it's ridiculous to claim that the Fairy Godmother kept the old dress (supposedly just making a few improvements to it). I also noticed that Lily James' waist is impossibly narrow, especially compared to her chest.
I preferred Drew Barrymore's Cinderella movie with its simple rural charm, but I suppose this is worth a watch too if you really like fairy tales.
Spring Breakers (2012)
This seems to be a movie made for enraging people. I can't think of any movie that would make more people angry, for one reason or another. Spring Breakers is, ahh, shall we say triggering. Let's see: it features... white people murdering black people, suicidal tendencies (including giving a blowjob to a loaded gun), naked minors, minors drinking alcohol and taking drugs, irresponsible sex, girls watching My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, the TV show with the most ubiquitously hated fan base, dubstep music by Skrillex, and gangsta rap, and talking about how angelic Britney Spears is, and I'm sure plenty of people will find the mantra-like endless repetition of hollow phrases like "Spring break forever" infinitely annoying and think the whole movie is plot less and stupid and glorifies a "white trash" culture, and even if it is a parody and even if it is laughing at the things it is portraying and portraying them in a negative light, it is doing so in a manner that is incoherent, too slow and/or too "artsy".
That said, I loved it.
Warm Bodies (2013)
A surprisingly funny and romantic zombie film
A weird combination of romantic drama and zombie apocalypse movie, Warm Bodies certainly covers new ground. It wasn't a great movie and the plot certainly has some elements that leave you scratching your head and/or make you sick. Still, it succeeds in being funny at times and emotional at others.
The story is told from the point of view of a zombie. His inner monologue is pretty hilarious. He can't speak, or do much of anything besides shamble around and eat brains, but it's like he has this longing for something greater. Then he manages to fall in love with a human being.
Squick? Well, there is no necrophilia here, though it's sort of implied by the story. The romance is actually pretty romantic, though that might sound strange.
The bad guy is the girl's dad, played by John Malkovich with a veteran's stoic confidence. He doesn't approve. We get a Romeo & Juliet story.
Still, it's a B-movie with poor action sequences and some stuff that got thrown in when it should've been cut.
Dude, Where's My Car? (2000)
Surreal comedy with a disappointing ending
This movie was effing crazy.
The plot and the situations and the characters are completely surreal. The whole thing is like from some deranged dream induced by reading too many written assignments of 5-year-olds and abusing substances you shouldn't be abusing.
I liked how the characters just looked at the stuff like, "this isn't so weird that I should comment on its weirdness". They don't make many movies like this. Everything is so realistic and believable now, even though the subject matter is totally crazy. This film was like a LucasArts adventure game where you do things not because they make sense but because of the surreal humor they provide.
Unfortunately, as the plot elements come together, the absurdity turns into crackpot comedy revolving around jokes like "big breasts are better than small breasts" and "Germans are gay". The last half hour of the film is a disappointment.
Man of Steel (2013)
A needlessly edgy Superman film
I've been recently watching season 1 of Smallville and I got to say, that show, while simplifying and adolescent, portrays the beginning of Superman's heroics a lot better than the film Man of Steel. It has a nice, relatable hero and a message of optimism.
Man of Steel imitates the Dark Knight films with its "dark", "mature" look and conflicts. It shouldn't. Superman is supposed to be a friend who helps people in need. In this film he just wrecks stuff.
Let's see: the beginning of the film is infantile space fantasy with a plot as silly as, say, 2012. Thankfully Russell Crowe happens to be around, always a pleasure to watch his performances. After that young Clark Klent hides in a closet because the world is scary, embarrassing himself in front of fellow students. He concentrates on his mother's voice to block out the horrors. Then we learn his dad died in front of him because he couldn't save him because his secret would have gotten out. The rest of the film revolves around Kal'El struggling to get over these childhood traumas, and of course, kicking the ass of his fellow alien superpeople.
Amy Adams I thought was a good Lois Lane though the romance felt forced. The visuals were stupid with ruined skyscrapers left and right after some dude fell through them.