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The Mist (2007)
Powerful Film Ultimately Marred by an Anti-Christian Theme and a Terribly Hollow Ending
The good: Excellent acting, great direction, superior character development and dialog.
The bad: Horribly bleak ending, and I mean bleak beyond words. Due to the 'Good" I really liked those folks, and the ending really bothered me.
The ugly: Ridiculously distorted portrayal of religious belief with barely a shred of alternative perspective. Essentially, the evil inside (the fruitcake Fundamentalist) was just as dangerous as the evil outside. Although the movie established the 'evil inside' as a fruitcake early on, she's obviously merely a vehicle to convey the film maker's prejudice against Christianity. No significant alternative religious perspective was portrayed: just one hyper-fundamentalist inciting the weak-minded and fatalistic towards frenzy and slaughter.
Ultimately, a terribly wasted effort. This movie is yet another example of the modern emptiness and shallowness of Hollywood, the juvenile distortions that are supposed to pass for social commentary these days: Christianity Bad! US Military Bad!
Back to Turner Classic Movies...
Prime Suspect: The Final Act (2006)
Better the Second Time Around
Just an addition to the other glowing reviews: I watched this when it first aired, as I did all of the Prime Suspects, and enjoyed it very much, but wasn't as impressed as I'd hoped I would be. However, after watching the first 6 again on DVD, and then watching "Final Act" I have reconsidered: this is an excellent send0off, perfect in so many ways, and I'm not sure how I missed it the first go-round. Perhaps watching the others just before watching the "Final Act" made the difference? One thing that stood out this time that I'd not noticed before: the music. The music was perfectly done. I'm not sure how to describe it, ominous, tense, subtle, but it certainly worked well for the film.
SPOILER FOLLOWS: The scene that reintroduced Ottley was masterfully done. I can remember the first time I watched it, I did a bit of a double take as soon as Jane walked through that door, thinking, "That looked a bit like Ottley" (I hadn't heard that he would be reintroduced). It seemed to me that the filmmakers managed to give the viewer the same sort of experience that Jane had: an almost subconscious reaction, followed by curiosity, then realization. Very clever.
Ottley, and a few other choice characters/moments, provided a welcome bit of warmth to a film that is in many ways terribly cold and lonely. Jane's lifestyle at the opening of "Final Act", her almost complete loneliness and isolation, and her alcoholism, seemed to me to be the natural outcome of her personality from previous episodes. Ultimately, and thankfully, Jane is redeemed, and the viewer is left thinking that there is hope for her, despite her retirement from the job that defined her.
I have rarely been so moved by any television program, let alone a finale. Kudos to the filmmakers/producers for avoiding the sort of tragedy the "Cracker" finale was subjected to.
30 Days of Night (2007)
Great if Watching a Little Girl Get Her Head Chopped Off is Your Cup of Tea
I was intrigued by the plot and the cinematography of "Night" right away, and hoped it would go in the right direction: it didn't. I managed to press on despite holes in the plot a snow-plow could drive through. Finally, however, I was forced to stop watching by the most obscene movie scene I've ever witnessed: a small girl (10, 12?) that's become a vampire is pinned against a wall by survivors so that her head can be chopped off, all of it shown in excruciating detail, including the Axe chopping into the child's neck. This scene was completely unnecessary to the plot, such as it was: it was merely an opportunity for the Director to shock his audience. He did, but at what price? There is something deeply disturbing at work in the film industry these days, "Saw" was my first taste of it, but it lives on in "Night" and many others.
The Cave (2005)
Surprised by the Low Ratings
I caught this on Dish in HD(StarzHD, I think). I was really impressed, and was surprised by the low rating here on IMDb. This is a well-made (looked great in HD on my 50" plasma) horror film that manages a bit of catharsis. In other words, it avoids camp, and certainly avoids the terrible morbidity and barrenness of films like "Saw". It's very well filmed, and well acted, and has an interesting plot with well written dialog. There's lots of action, mixed with horror, and great interaction between an interesting set of characters. As far as I know, one of the fundamental aspects of the plot, cave-diving, has never been used in a horror movie before. It's one of the best horror movies I've seen in the past few years and, despite the lukewarm reviews, it's definitely worth watching.
I'm a true fan of the original Cracker series, and own all of them on DVD. Cracker had a tendency to be over-the-top on occasion, but Robbie Coltrane and the other cast members, as well as the writers, always seemed to carry it off despite themselves. I count the original Cracker among the great Brit TV crime series of that time, and there's some stiff competition: Prime Suspect, Inspector Frost, Inspector Morse, Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Homes, and a host of others. Cracker, along with Prime Suspect, was on the top of my list.
Which makes "A New Terror" all the more sad...
Ultimately, this was a very pale imitation of Cracker's former glory. I forced myself to sit through the whole thing, convinced that it couldn't actually be this bad, and that some spark would eventually ignite. I was wrong, it was bad from beginning to end.
A few criticisms: First, just to get any potential bias up-front right off: I was offended by the anti-American, anti-war screed that droned on and on throughout most of the show. The topper: the murder of two American's innocent of any crime and a British Junkie is, in Fitz's words, "understandable, but not justified". I thought "I waded through two hours of crap just to hear this disgusting bit of drivel?" So I had a negative reaction to the anti-war/American tone brought on by my beliefs... Beyond the politics, I had the distinct sense that this Cracker was merely a prop for the propaganda, and it actually helped to undermine an already terribly weak script.
Second, just how much air-time did Robbie Coltrane get? Fitz was almost a bit player in this one, as if he was an afterthought plugged into some story originally written without any thought of Fitz's role. Coltrane could have carried the show on his own broad and still suitably flabby shoulders, but the writer was apparently thinking of other things, and missed the chance, and by a wide margin.
Third: WHAT AN ABYSMAL SCRIPT! There was some sparkle, and a couple of bits of actual character development (Fitz's son ranting that Fitz couldn't stay at his house if he missed his plane to Australia, the Detective that liked to beat his poor-performers over the backs of their heads, and some of the old sparks between Fitz and his Missus) but not nearly enough to carry the tedious storyline.
Fourth, where the hell was Panhallagan? Now that would have been interesting... It was Manchester after all, and 10 years on she'd be up in the ranks. Another wasted opportunity (or perhaps the actress wasn't interested?)
Well, there's much more (that's bad) to say , but I'll close with a curiosity: at the end of the show (as it aired on BBCA), when the advertisement announced that the "Director's Cut" was available on BBC On-Demand, I thought AH-HA! The Director's cut, which, presumably, one has to pay for, might have all of the goodies I expected to see tonight but never did, like a coherent, interesting storyline. Unfortunately, after convincing myself to sit through the horrible free version of "A New Terror" with the hope of seeing something, anything, worth watching, only to be disappointed, I have no hope left to motivate me to actually pay for a second, potentially longer and more tedious version. Besides, it angered me to think that BBCA sliced and diced, and sacrificed show time to accommodate the endless (every ten minutes or so) stream of commercials, and then turned around and asked me to pay for what probably should have been version aired tonight.
To close, I quote the first paragraph of Variety's review of "A New Terror": it really says it all: "Initial excitement about Robbie Coltrane reprising his role as the BBC's flawed, boozing, womanizing criminal psychologist is snowed under by the heavy-handed political statement writer Jimmy McGovern is determined to deliver within this revival vidpic. Jolting at first in its message -- namely, that Americans are a bunch of whiny namby-pambies who didn't care a whit about terrorism before it came crashing onto our doorstep -- McGovern's chest-clearing rant overwhelms the narrative and mutes the pleasure of seeing Fitz back on the case."
Alien Resurrection (1997)
What a Sad Wreck of a Movie
Yes there are spoilers below, but that's presuming that it's possible to spoil something that's already rotten.
What a shame after three fine predecessors: a silly, pointless romp around a spaceship with bad actors reciting terrible lines in the midst of a plot that might have come from the pen of a seven year old. One of the stupidest moments was when the doctor puckered up his lips and presses them to the glass that separates him from the alien that is trying to figure out how to eat him. That kiss was just weird (I can't help but think this has something to do with the French Director: but then again I always suspect the French when I see weird things) And what, after 200 damn years they didn't know they had acid for blood? Sad is too fine a word for this shambles of a film: pathetic is closer to the mark.
I give it three for sets and cinematics, which were appropriately metallic and gloomy.
Don't waste your time.
Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
What a Waste....
How in the world can the talents of John Malkovich and Willem Defoe, coupled with the potential of (another) modern remake of the powerful Nosferatu tale end up a loser? That is the only mystery in this film. I often wonder why Hollywood and the film industry in general seems incapable of producing the sort of quality films abundant in the '40s, 50s, and '60s. Films like this provide at least part of an answer: tremendous amounts of talent and money are squandered on ridiculous drivel like this movie. I suppose that there is some sort of post-modern pseudo-intellectual point to this meandering, frustrating flop, but who gives a crap?
Avoid at all costs!
Daniel Deronda (2002)
Don't Judge "Deronda" Based on the First 15 Minutes
The first time 'round, when PBS initially offered up "Deronda", I watched the first 15 minutes or so and was so disgusted with Gwendolynn that I changed channels and didn't think twice. Second time 'round, based on reviews here at IMDB, I gave it a bit more time and I'm certainly glad that I did. "Deronda" is a powerfull, beautiful, bit of television. I'm a conservative by nature and, on a regular basis, I'm sickened by the politically correct preaching that's often pushed by PBS and Network television. Daniel Deronda like, say "Prime Suspect", is story-telling with a liberal slant that is both legitimate and thought-provoking. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and the lush production. I'm surprised by the nit-picking about "wooden" acting: I found the acting excellent, particularly compared to the endless trash television that's pumped into the idiot box these days. perhaps this is trite, but "Deronda" actually inspired me, uplifted me and, at least as far as I'm concerned, that's one of the most significant hallmarks of great art. Don't miss it.
The Changeling (1980)
Excellent Supernatural Thriller
Many years ago I happened upon this sleeper while watching tv in the wee small hours of the morning. I was transfixed.
Yesterday, I happened upon the DVD in a bargain bin and, once again, I watched, transfixed, into the wee small hours. But this time it was widescreen and uncut...
This is an outstanding example of the 'supernatural thriller' genre, and certainly in the same league as another sleeper from the era, the excellent "Don't Look Now".
My list of movies that meet the terror threshold is a short one:
1. The Exorcist
2. The Exorcist 3
3. Don't Look Now
4. The Changeling
The men that directed these movies understood the importance of silence and stillness as tools for building tension and suspense. Furthermore, although children play a crucial, and curious, role in each of the movies I've listed, the movies are adult in nature: with the exception of "The Exoricst", the protagonists are exclusively middle aged to elderly. Of course, Megan is certainly a protagonist in "The Exorcist", but she shares her prominence with both the Priest and Megan's mother, both middle-aged. There is little of the modern horror movie's frenetic, youth-oriented, sex-soaked, gore-filled, slash-fest overtness.
I wonder if Hollywood is even capable of making movies like these anymore? I seriously doubt it.
Full Circle (1977)
Excellent Horror Movie
I tuned in a bit late, perhaps 15 minutes or so, but I could tell right off that I'd hit upon something worth watching. I highly reccomend this to fans of "Don't Look Now", one of the most frightening movies I've ever seen. "Full Circle" has much the same feel, and some of the same subject matter.
Others here have criticised the film's slow pace: I, for one, especially appreciate the Director's willingness to take time to build suspense and terror. I believe that silence is an important part of a horror movie (perhaps almost every kind of movie) and it's obvious that the Director shares my appreciation for what's NOT said.
I won't risk spoiling this movie in any way: I merely suggest that, should you get a chance to screen "Full Circel", you savor the opportunity.