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I Am Legend (2007)
Some good ideas, but ultimately doesn't quite work
This is the third movie version of Richard Matheson's 1954 book 'I Am Legend', coming after 1964's 'The Last Man on Earth' and 1971's 'The Omega Man'. (There are several other versions also, such as 2007's poorly received 'I Am Omega'(!), but these are the two of note). Although I hadn't seen 'The Last Man on Earth' until very recently, after 'I Am Legend' was released, I was a fan of 'The Omega Man', although felt that parts of it let the film down, and was keen to see what a modern remake would do with the concept.
Will Smith gives a very good and likable performance as the lead, Robert Neville. I never used to be overly keen on Smith I found him rather bigheaded in 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air', but he has emerged as one of the better actors of the era.
Naturally, being a modern movie, the director and producers are obliged to bombard us with a lot of CGI. In fairness, they don't go completely over the top, as some movies of the era have, but even so, there is a fair bit of it. And I wasn't totally keen the 'monsters' of the movie look too animalistic and too fake; I couldn't really believe in them within the context of the movie, and are one of the things that ultimately lets the film down. We never fully get a 'grip' on the infected beings it lacks the vampire background of 'The Last Man on Earth' or the hooded beings against science of 'The Omega Man', and this key area of the movie winds up feeling slightly hollow as a result.
There are some good moments the opening sections of the film are very good, and interestingly filmed. Likewise, Robert Neville is presented to the audience as a likable and intelligent hero. I did feel, though, that it didn't unfold quite as well as 'The Omega Man'.
Aside from being based upon the same novel, 'The Omega Man' and this movie also have something else in common they both have very promising starts, but the second half of both movies really fall flat. There is the section where Neville gets caught in the trap, which I never really understood, and from there, where he meets survivors Anna and her son Ethan, proceedings rather take a nosedive.
The one big problem with the film is that it can't really decide what it wants to be. The premise of a man being able to go anywhere in the city he pleases by day, but trapped inside his home at night if full of possibilities, and in both this movie and 'The Omega Man' begins with this in mind. The early sequences of both films are great, but both ultimately lose their way. In particular, 'I Am Legend' can never really decide what to do with itself. It should be darker and scarier.
The ending is as shocking as it is surprising. I'm mostly glad they went with this and not the alternate ending, which didn't really work for me.
Although I haven't read the original novel, reading up on it online reveals that there are a number of things that haven't made it into the movie. Some have appeared in previous versions, but as yet no version has been completely true to the original book. It appears that in many ways the novel is the best version I think I might try and track down a copy.
Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974)
Not the best "good ol' boy chase movie", but good for late-night escapism
Although not being born until the tail-end of the 1970s, I none-the-less consider it "my" decade. I love all the great films to have come from the era, particularly those many "Good Ol' Boy" chase movies. My favourite of which is probably 'Smokey And The Bandit' - okay, it's maybe not got the strongest of plots, but it's brought to life by Burt Reynolds and a likeable cast. Which is probably one of the reasons that I took a little time to warm to 'Dirty Mary Crazy Larry'.
The premise and characters for this movie are good ones, for the simplistic genre at which they're aimed. But I found it took me quite a while to really warm to any of the characters, and felt that if one thing the film did suffer from, it was a little mis-casting here and there.
Peter Fonda's Crazy Larry SHOULD be an interesting character. A sort of deranged would-be race-car driver. Sadly, while Fonda is a more than credible actor, he doesn't quite pull it of for most of the film. His Crazy Larry to me didn't quite seem crazy enough. In a number of places he actually felt to be routinely trotting off the lines, and not really giving that much thought to the actual character and the things that (excuse the pun) would drive him. The character needed to be more unpredictable, more hell-bent on what he's doing. Well, I suppose all of those things WERE there in his character, just not all that convincingly.
I probably found the hardest character to, well. to LIKE, was Susan George as Mary. A terrific actress given the right material, but something about her character really didn't work for much of this movie. Actually, maybe I'm being a little fair - I'm not so sure that it was less George's fault, more just the way here character is written. It's great that the character isn't written as some super-babe, she's basically trailer trash, but even so... it took some effort from me to even get used to her. Technically, both Larry and Mary as characters should have been great; Sadly, it was quite late on into the film before I really started to care about either of them.
Adam Roarke's character, mechanic Deke, is possibly the best of the trio brought to life on-screen, as he came across as a little more 3-dimensional. It's a shame that he doesn't really get as much change to shine as he could have done.
The only other character that I can say I did particularly like was Vic Morrow as moody law-man Everett Franklin, sticking a finger up to proper Police procedures and determined to catch the unknown robbers at any cost.
I think that one of the main reasons it took me some time to really get into this film was down to the actual reasoning behind the robbery in the first place. In movies such as (sorry to have to use it as an example again) 'Smokey And The Bandit', the Bandit has a REASON for doing what he's doing. He's a folk hero, he's always got a twinkle in his eye and never seriously hurts anybody. Now I'm not saying that all anti-heroes in this type of film should be all very heroic and with 'justifiable' reasons for their actions, but one of the reasons I found it hard to warm to any of the three leads in this movie, was that - unless I missed something - there was no real reason why Larry and co. did what they did. Sure, they wanted the money, which is reasonable enough in any chase movie, but why pick the store-owner that they did? If the store-owner was portrayed as more obnoxious, or if he'd somehow previously aggravated Larry in some way, it would have felt much better. Then we'd have more reason to cheer the anti-heroes of the picture on as they raced on their way.
But wait... reading all that, you might thing I'm over-criticising; that I think it's a BAD movie. No no, not in the least.
Well, one of the many things I DID like about it was the '69 Dodge Charger. Belovedly identified to myself and a whole generation as being the 'General Lee', from the cult (and, for the simplistic silliness that it was, much underrated) series 'The Dukes Of Hazzard'. Actually, when I heard that there was a Dodger in this film when it was coming up on TV, it was one of the main things that pulled me in! The '69 Charger, what a classic car. I'm no car expert in the least, but you don't have to be an expert on something just to know when it LOOKS good. Just to look at it, those cars have character, and you know they can really shift even without hearing the engine roar.
In fact, I'd say that the film pretty much picks up as soon as they acquire the Dodge. Not for the car itself (don't get me wrong - I'm hardly a car fanatic), it's just from about that point that the story really starts settling down, as do the characters.
One of the strong points of this film is that it's filmed very well, in fact, I have to say, show much better than the great majority of it's similar counterparts ('Smokey And The Bandit' et al). The natural scenery is used to great effect, really giving the feeling of racing along all those dirt roads. There are many fantastic shots, including numerous sequences shot from a following film car of the Dodger (and the Chevy before it) tearing along the roads, and the several shots at the cross-roads where the Police hope to entrap the trio. Many critics say that we only watch movies like this for the big car chases and crashes, and, let's face it, that IS the big pull, but it being well-shot, making good use of the natural countryside such as in this movie really helps bring things to life.
But shots of the cars racing along, and particularly in the terrific helicopter sequence towards the end, now THEY'RE well done. I'd go as far as to say they're definitely amongst the best I've seen in any film of the era that falls into this genre.
For all that I've slated the actors / characters above, it must be said that none of them are outstandingly bad - far, FAR worse acting has been seen on the screen in many other films. As the film went on, I did find myself warming to the anti-heroes a little bit more. There's a good scene between Mary and Deke where, while Larry is fixing the damaged Charger, they sit down and talk about their circumstances. Now I'm not really one for deep "character development" (not in such a simplistic genre), but I found that it did help me identify and care about the characters just a little bit more. It's just a shame that this scene is used so late on in the story - it could have been used to much better effect earlier in the film, when we were still trying to actually care about any of them.
And the ending. What a great ending. Without giving too much away. it's totally unexpected, really packs a punch, and actually finishes the story off very well.
So, to summarise, while I wouldn't class it amongst the very best of the many 70s redneck chase movies, and it does suffer from some poor casting, if you like this style of film and have seen it's better counterparts, then you can do far worse than look here for some late-night escapism.
The excellently shot chase sequences (and the terrific ending) defiantly make up for the shakier bits earlier on.
Deadly Past (1995)
Not bad, but very average late-night thriller
A reformed convict (Ron Marquette), is now on parole, working at a local bar, and living happily with his girlfriend (Dedee Pfeiffer), until classy ex-girlfriend (Carol Alt) reappears on the scene and manipulates him into becoming involved with a murder, as she, in turn, is being black-mailed over a previous killing.
It's hard to really find much to say about this movie. There's nothing outstandingly good, but there's nothing outstandingly bad either. The leads are reasonable in their roles, and the plot is watchable, but has a very routine, "done before" feel to it.
It's all very 1990s - beautiful looking people, with lots of art deco and sun-touched soft shots. I found the compulsory sex scenes to be dragged out and actually rather slow the story up. The three leads are fair in their parts (with Michelle Pfeiffer's sister Dedee coming off best, being actually rather lovely in her part!), but it's possible to feel that more could have been done with the characters and more depth given to them, particularly with Marquette's reformed criminal being framed from murder.
It's the sort of film that is very average, but after you've watched the first half an hour or so, you find yourself having to watch the rest of it just for the sake of it.
Bottom line: a fair TV movie in it's own way, but similar plots have been done, much better, by numerous other TV movies both before and since.
Enjoyable, twist-a-minute late-night fare.
An entertaining late-night film (I found myself watching it at 1a.m. one night) with twists and turns a-plenty in the plot.
A computer whiz (Jim Metzler) who faces redundancy, is driving through the desert, fleeing with a vast sum of embezzled company funds, when he is duped into picking up a curious but seemingly harmless young couple (Kyle Secor and Jennifer Rubin) - unaware that, amongst other things, the seemingly goofy boyfriend is actually a professional killer hired to kill him. From there, things take numerous turns far too complex to attempt explaining here, but sufficient to say, there's a plot twist awaiting around every corner.
Just as the film sets out to follow one scenario - each of which would usually be sufficient for the entire plot of a late night film of this genre - suddenly things are turned on their head and the story takes a different direction. Don't pop out to get a drink else you'll miss a vital turn and spend ages trying to catch up with whats happening!
The cast is mostly unknown (seen performing in other B-movies at most) but don't be put off, as each of the leads deliver solid, watchable performances.
Things begin to get a little shaky an hour or so in, with the late stages of the film maybe not as good as early on, but not enough to damage the film overall.
All-in-all, for what this film is - essentially a late-night B-movie - its above average compared to many of its counterparts, thanks to good performances and the twist-a-minute plot.