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01. Toni Erdmann (2016) 4/4 02. A Man Called Ove (2016) 4/4 03. Manchester by the Sea (2016) 4/4 04. Eating Raoul (1982) 4/4 05. Arrival (2016) 4/4 06. A Simple Plan (1998) 3.5/4 07. Elephant (2003) 3.5/4 08. Moonlight (2016) 3.5/4 09. Nocturnal Animals (2016) 3.5/4 10. Eden Lake (2008) 3.5/4 11. Fences (2016) 3.5/4 12. Frailty (2001) 3.5/4 13. Deepwater Horizon (2016) 3.5/4 14. Love & Friendship (2016) 3.5/4 15. La La Land (2016) 3.5/4 16. The Seven Five (2014) 3.5/4 17. Some Call it Loving (1973) 3.5/4 18. Wake Wood (2009) 3.5/4 19. Lifeforce (1985) 3/4 20. Elle (2016) 3/4 21. The Usual Suspects (1995) 3/4 22. Land of Mine (2015) 3/4 23. A Stowaway on the Ship of Lunatics (2016) 3/4 24. Vampires (1998) 3/4 25. Sully (2016) 3/4 26. Hidden Figures (2016) 3/4 27. I, Daniel Blake (2016) 3/4 28. Hell or High Water (2016) 3/4 29. Alone in the Dark (1981) 3/4 30. Under the Shadow (2016) 3/4 31. The Appointment (1981) 3/4 32. Of Unknown Origin (1982) 3/4 33. Fast-Walking (1982) 3/4 34. The Bedford Incident (2016) 3/4 35. The Likely Lads (1976) 3/4 36. The Lobster (2016) 3/4 37. California Suite (1978) 2.5/4 38. Dead & Buried (1981) 2.5/4 39. Tanna (2016) 2.5/4 40. Better Off Dead (1985) 2.5/4 41. Lion (2016) 2/4 42. Eyes of a Stranger (1981) 2/4 43. Prince of Darkness (1987) 2/4 44. The Girl on the Train (2016) 2/4 45. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) 2/4 46. Jackie (2016) 2/4 47. Ghost Dad (1990) 2/4 48. Lights Out (2016) 2/4 49. Pathology (2008) 2/4 50. Dream Demon (1988) 2/4 51. Boiling Point (1993) 1.5/4 52. Out Cold (1989) 1.5/4 53. Neither the Sea nor the Sand (1972) 1.5/4 54. The Nameless (1998) 1.5/4 55. Hacksaw Ridge (2016) 1.5/4 56. The Haunted House of Horror (1969) 1/4 57. Ghosts of Mars (2001) 1/4 58. Leviathan (1989) 1/4 59. Leonard Part 6 (1987) 0/4
01. Cop (1988) 4/4 02. 10 (1979) 4/4 03. The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer (1970) 4/4 04. Cottage to Let (1941) 4/4 05. Arthur (1981) 3.5/4 06. Romantic Comedy (1983) 3.5/4 07. The Bed Sitting Room (1969) 3.5/4 08. Divorce Italian Style (1961) 3.5/4 09. Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965) 3.5/4 10. The Great Race (1965) 3.5/4 11. Experiment in Terror (1962) 3.5/4 12. 48 Hrs. (1982) 3.5/4 13. The Hot Rock (1972) 3/4 14. Tin Men (1987) 3/4 15. Happy New Year (1987) 3/4 16. The Third Alibi (1961) 3/4 17. Ransom (1956) 3/4 18. Micki & Maude (1984) 3/4 19. Bedazzled (1967) 3/4 20. Night Falls on Manhattan (1996) 3/4 21. Dead Ringer (1964) 3/4 22. Hickey & Boggs (1972) 3/4 23. The Hard Way (1991) 3/4 24. Monsieur Gangster (1963) 3/4 25. End of the Game (1975) 3/4 26. Derek and Clive Get the Horn (1979) 3/4 27. The Night Flier (1997) 3/4 28. Six Weeks (1982) 3/4 29. Radioland Murders (1994) 2.5/4 30. Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies (1969) 2.5/4 31. The Big Fix (1978) 2.5/4 32. Yellowbeard (1983) 2.5/4 33. The Wrong Box (1966) 2.5/4 34. Fender Bender (2016) 2.5/4 35. A Dandy in Aspic (1968) 2.5/4 36. Compromising Positions (1985) 2.5/4 37. Moving (1988) 2.5/4 38. Foul Play (1978) 2.5/4 39. Phantasm (1979) 2/4 40. Freebie and the Bean (1974) 2/4 41. The Empty Beach (1985) 2/4 42. Crazy People (1990) 2/4 43. Arthur 2: On the Rocks (1988) 2/4 44. Phone Booth (2002) 2/4 45. Lovesick (1983) 2/4 46. Wholly Moses (1980) 2/4 47. Black Beauty (1994) 1.5/4 48. High Heels and Low Lifes (2001) 1.5/4 49. F/X (1986) 1.5/4 50. A Film with Me in It (2008) 1.5/4 51. Best Defense (1984) 1.5/4 52. Blame It on the Bellboy (1992) 1/4 53. Like Father Like Son (1987) 1/4 54. Santa Claus: The Movie (1985) 1/4 55. 30 Is a Dangerous Age, Cynthia (1968) 1/4 56. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1972) 1/4 57. Unfaithfully Yours (1984) 0.5/4 58. Find the Lady (1976) 0.5/4 59. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978) 0/4
01. Unfaithfully Yours (1948) 4/4 02. Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (1999) 4/4 03. The Green Man (1956) 3.5/4 04. Wilt (1990) 3/4 05. Whatever Works (2009) 3/4 06. Denial (2016) 2.5/4 07. All Night Long (1962) 2/4 08. Sour Grapes (1998) 1/4
01. The Deadly Affair (1966) 3.5/4 02. Best of Enemies (2015) 3.5/4 03. Callan (1974) 3/4
Not Only But Always (2004)
Spoiler free review
All biopics inevitably fall into the trap of simplifying a lifetime of genius and then having to shoehorn it into two hours of eventful drama. Some succeed, most don't. The ones that do however either hang their hook on some particular event like "Trumbo" did with the blacklisting or just outright fictionalise everything and capture the spirit of the person into an imaginary story ("Amadeus"). "Not Only But Always", a biopic on the genius duo of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore attempts to tell the whole story and fails to do so. I shan't dabble into minor squabbles with the film's accuracy ("Ad Nauseum" was recorded before "10" was shot etc.) because the most important thing this film needed to get right it got absolutely wrong. It takes the complex, energetic and endlessly fruitful relationship between Cook & Moore and simplifies it into a series of rows. Not a hint of their mutual love and respect is seen, not a hint of their chemistry or that magic they had together. Watching this film one gets the sense of hatred and contempt between the two men never the love that must have been there. This isn't simply my view. The hate-filled energy emanating from the duo has been contested by numerous biographies and people who knew them. Even Peter Cook's first wife has spoken out against this production. The heart of it is not missing it's wrong, which is far, far worse. This is not the fault of the film's two stars. Rhys Ifans and Aidan McArdle are spot-on as Pete & Dud, respectively, and the framing story (which involves Pete & Dud, the characters, watching the life story of Pete & Dud, the comedians) is the best part of the film as they manage to portray the duo so uncannily that I found myself unable to tell real footage from the recreation. The fault lies squarely on the shoulders of writer/director Terry Johnson who seems content to simply sensationalise a 30-year partnership. Watching this film I got the same feeling I get when I read a tabloid. All rows, no depth, no insight. This truly surprises me because his play "Insignificance" (later brilliantly filmed by Nicolas Roeg) is absolutely the perfect biopic of not one, but four people. Taking an event that never happened, draping it in the soft gauze of surrealism, Johnson managed to capture the essence of Albert Einstein, Marylin Monroe, Joe DiMaggio and Joseph McCarthy. The essence of Peter Cook & Dudley Moore has evaded him.
Storm of the Century (1999)
Spoiler free review
Stephen King on film and TV is famously hit and miss and yet his two written especially for TV miniseries "Storm of the Century" and "Rose Red" are shining examples of his finest work. "Storm of the Century" starts out very strong with an intriguing premise, quietly building dread and some very creepy occurrences worthy of "Twin Peaks" and ends with an unexpectedly deep dilemma as its character driven story marches towards a heart-wrenching climax. And it is the characters that make this miniseries. Entirely believable and fleshed out they are brought to life in the form of engaging performances. Casey Siemaszko and especially Jeffrey DeMunn have to be singled out though there isn't a rotten apple in the entire bunch (even the usually bland Tim Daly makes for a strong lead). However, the presence that really counts in a horror film is that of the villain and the villain of "Storm of the Century" is one for the books. Colm Feore gives an unforgettable performance as the steely, creepily unflinching figure in all of his many forms. He really proves himself a chameleon actor of undeniable presence and power (especially in the fantastically trippy dream sequence). The one problem that sticks out in the series is that the middle (which would constitute part two in its miniseries form I suppose) drags somewhat. I couldn't help but think that the whole experience would work much better in a somewhat truncated version with much of the stagnating middle removed.
Spoiler free review
A horror-comedy with a clever premise that somehow despite its excellent cast fails to be either scary or particularly funny. Lacking in atmosphere and edge that made "Clue" and "Murder by Death" good, "Arnold" exists in that category of films that no one should pay to see or be particularly excited by but are fond childhood memories and good things to catch on TV on a rainy day and wonder afterwards what drugs the makers were on and where you could get some. Granted there are some funny moments like the shrinking suit or Bernard Fox as the bumbling policeman . The problem is it resides on a formulaic plot (not that it is based on a formula but rather cycles around in one as someone falls in love with Arnold's bride, they talk about Arnold, then they go upstairs and the man dies and so on and on until the ending) and too many corny and predictable jokes. Still, I must confess I enjoyed seeing "Arnold". It had a sort of a witty, oddball charm to it and played up to my love of comedies with a Gothic mystery twist. It's cheap and silly but it knows it is and is meant to be so. If those kinds of films are your cup of tea then you'll enjoy it too, it won't be on your top 10 but you'll enjoy it, if not, well you might have fun with it as well, there's a masterfully slimy performance from Roddy McDowall in it and some imaginative death scenes.
Spoiler free review
A well executed but clichéd thriller with a hippie message well put but nothing new. Nothing new seems to be the theme of the picture as we follow Albert Finney playing a disheveled cop with a drinking problem who eats in a mortuary with a goofy best friend and a straight-laced partner as he investigates a bunch of shape-shifting Indians who are worried about the environment and the human race, well you get the picture. Another problem arises when midway through the plot loses steam and gets somewhat boring as all films with a predictable plot and a one-note message eventually do. However, lots of good work went into making this film and the visuals are particularly well done. The grim cinematography and excellent (and at the time innovative) stalker POV shots with night vision make for a visually interesting film. The acting is top notch as well particularly from Gregory Hines who (as usual) makes a potentially annoying character funny, intelligent and immensely likable. Albert Finney is believable as the cop even if he doesn't bring anything new to the part. Edward James Olmos gives his usual performance but that's OK and there is Tom Noonan (pre- Manhunter) playing the resident animal lover/nut. Another thing to note is that the plot is executed with a lot more decorum and intelligence than your typical werewolf movie.
Time Travelers (1976)
Spoiler free review
It's a crying shame "Time Travelers" never went to series 'cause it was definitely promising. There is something about this TV movie (failed pilot) that just doesn't seem typical. It's not the characters 'cause they are fairly paper thin and featureless. It's not the plot 'cause it's as run of the mill as they come. I think it's the urgency of the pace. There is none of that typical televisual stiltedness defined by people standing around rooms talking in long, overlong scenes. "Time Travelers" moves quickly, deftly directed by Alexander Singer from a clichéd but still touching and intriguing script by Jackson Gillis apparently inspired by a story by Rod Serling. I can't help but think how great this film would have been had Serling himself written the teleplay with that usual righteous ferociousness of his. I think it would have gone down in history as one of the best thrillers on television. As it stands is an entertaining and very moving and pacy thriller with some great music by television's Morricone, Morton Stevens and a lot of fun to be had along the way.
Event Horizon (1997)
Spoiler free review
"Event Horizon" fits so well into the mold of a "Hellraiser" sequel it's difficult to believe it isn't one. The creepy, gloomy atmosphere, lots of action and a noticeably thin screenplay, the only things missing are the low budget (though the conspicuously bad CGI is present) and Pinhead. Of course "Event Horizon" is nowhere near as bad as one of those sequels, the directing is dynamic and confident, the set design (that is best described as techno-Gothic) is excellent and the acting is top notch. It is also much less corny than a "Hellraiser" sequel and features actual scares rather than a series of jump scares and lots of misplaced gore. Indiscriminate shots of gore and violence are very wisely shown sparingly and in quick flashes maximising shock value and minimising repulsion from the audience. Their absence allows the atmosphere to build and so it does, helped by the aforementioned set design and its overall space setting which isn't used as cleverly as in say "Alien" but the blackness surrounding the characters adds to the nightmarish feel of the movie. A real problem exists in the screenplay which goes nowhere quickly stranding its extremely thin characters to die one by one. When the film descends into a slasher in outer space is when it ultimately falls apart and becomes rather silly and anticlimactic but the build-up is very effective. The film never becomes boring and the imagery of Hell is very harrowing and strikingly memorable. Overall a fun, scary film that sadly lacks substance but its style is good and it keeps one's attention all the way through.
Burnt Offerings (1976)
Spoiler free review
"Burnt Offerings" is a classy, remarkably effective chiller relying entirely on atmosphere that builds (or rather I should say creeps) relentlessly throughout the film. The tension became so high by the end that a simple (unenhanced) sound of a door handle made me jump out of the chair. In a film with a plot that is ever so simple, for the audience to get really involved they have to care for the characters and "Burnt Offerings" has a cast of them. Oliver Reed, Karen Black, Bette Davis and Lee Montgomery play fleshed out, real characters, sympathetic even in the moments when their misgivings are brutally revealed. I was rooting for them to win, to get out alive and well. A horror audience in most cases roots for things to happen to the leads, something gory or horrific. Now, instead, I found myself rooting for nothing to happen, for it all to be a dream or a benevolent force. The reason, of course, is that the characters feel so real that it is impossible not to identify with them. This pulls us out of our comfy chairs and straight into the old house with them. In the same plight. The plot is perfectly paced, carefully revealing, not some old secret, or a painting behind cobwebs, but rather our leading characters' obsessions and errors. The film's horror hinges on what the evil reveals in them, rather than on what they reveal is the evil. The plot is very similar to "The Shining" even down to some conspicuously similar details (in both the father is a writer, both are about a family being caretakers in a seemingly haunted house and they even end on a similar eery note) most noticeable however is the focus on psychological rather than physical effects that a haunted house has on its occupants. All in all this a sleek, smart and extremely creepy horror film in the truest sense of that adjective, very creepy and disconcerting. Watching it I felt very uncomfortable and very scared.
Isn't It Shocking? (1973)
Spoiler free review
Though boasting several nice performances (most notably from Lloyd Nolan) "Isn't It Shocking" fails to deliver on its title largely due to a televisual stiltedness that results in a notable lack of suspense and/or atmosphere. The comedy works much better though and the chemistry Alan Alda has with his co-stars is golden. In fact, I'm quite surprised this never went to series (probably due to Alda's engagement on MASH) but I can see it being very successful as a comedy/drama series with Alan Alda as a small town chief of police reigning in traffic and his girlfriend's kids. That way, maybe it could have worked.
Lord of Illusions (1995)
Spoiler free review
Loaded with an atmosphere of foreboding and impending doom "Lord of Illusions" is undoubtedly scary but what makes it really work are the comedic touches. Not unlike Barker's first film "Hellraiser", here he plays with genres and expectations of the audience. Our lead is an obvious emulation of a film noir detective, equipped with a hat and lots of one-liners he stumbles into a plot of an excellent horror film. This blend has caused problems to many directors but Barker deftly mixes gory horror with goofy comedy creating a take- off on the noir genre that despite having a lot of tongue-in-cheek moments plays out very seriously and convincingly. Bakula, in particular, nails the feel of the character. He doesn't fall into the trap of making D'Amour a spoof, rather than that, in giving him a certain humanity and vulnerability he makes him seem tangible and fleshed out. It also helps that the world surrounding him isn't quite realistic either. Where "Hellraiser" and "Candyman" tried very hard to set themselves firmly in the real world, "Lord of Illusions" is set in some kind of a colourful 40s-meets-90s world, the same world inhabited by the characters in say "Body Heat" just a little on the goofy side. The neo-noir aspect of the film is played with a lot, in fact, the plot of the film in which a private detective plods through the facts backwards seems lifted almost word for word out of a Raymond Chandler novel. The horror in the film works a little less well. Rather than using his own brand of creepiness and gore, Barker here relies a little too heavily on jump scares and fake-outs. Nix isn't a very threatening villain either (to further the comparison to "Hellraiser") he lacks both the fleshiness (pun not intended) and humanity of Julia and the imaginativeness and creepiness of the Cenobites. His speeches are interesting though and rank up there with some of Pinhead's best. As far as imagery goes though "Lord of Illusions" more than keeps up. Swann's on-stage performance is mesmerizing and spine-tingling and the scenes with Nix's crazed cult creepy. Some of the effects do seem dated but the film doesn't rely on them heavily anyway choosing instead (wisely, very wisely) to rely on atmosphere (the same way a good film noir does). Famke Janssen makes for an excellent and very believable noir damsel and Joel Swetow makes for an excellent butler, so creepy and duplicitous. Overall "Lord of Illusions" is a fantastically entertaining film, both funny and scary and despite several shortcomings a hugely satisfying experience. I must stress though that the extended version is vastly superior as the theatrical cut makes less sense and cuts several of the film's best scenes (the human interactions where the dialogue and the wisecracking D'Amour shine brightest).
Spoiler free review
"Incubus" starts out strong, with several truly shocking and impressive murder scenes (especially the library one) clearly inspired by Italian Giallo films and a good central performance from John Cassavetes. There is something very reminiscent of old school actors in Cassavetes here. On the outside, he is as cool as Bogart, but there is a lot of suppressed anger in him. In every scene he is a ticking bomb with the real danger of it all exploding hanging over every one of his actions. Like John Garfield in "A Postman Always Rings Twice" he brings both a certain dose of danger and a lot of humanity to his fairly shallow character. He is definitely a screen presence to be reckoned with. Needless to say no one else in the cast comes close to matching Cassavetes' intensity, in fact. a lot of the acting is over the top and downright amateurish. Kerrie Keane is especially bad, her newspaper editor is a mass of inconsistencies, first a blubbering mess, then in next scene a seductress and then Nancy Drew. The fact that Keane is utterly unconvincing in all three roles doesn't help. Another offender is the helpless ham that is Duncan McIntosh. On the other hand, fine support is offered by John Ireland and Erin Flannery but they are given so little to do they might not even be there. Another problem arises in the clichéd and silly plot that gets very dull midway through. The characters jump to conclusions with such speed (and surprising accuracy) that the audience can barely keep up. Cassavetes' doctor, a man of science, embraces the supernatural possibility before even considering any other route simply because a clearly sick boy claims his dreams are causing the murders. Very unbelievable stuff. This unbelievability is probably the film's biggest problem. I never had the slightest illusion any of this was actually happening. There are also glaring inconsistencies in the film's flashbacks which are supposedly set 30 years ago yet are staged in such a way that they seem to be set in the 1800s (with people dressed in period clothing, roaming around in dungeons and torture chambers). Inconsistencies carry over into the film's visual style. The stylish directorial ambitions of John Hough (there are several very imaginative shots, like the one from underneath a wheelchair and a mesmerizing shot of McIntosh on top of the stairs) clashes heavily with the film's very realistic cinematography. I have to side with Hough on this one as the film is so clearly a fantasy they should have gone the whole hog and shot it in an over- the-top, stylish way of Argento's "Suspiria" or "Deep Red". The murder scenes as I mentioned earlier are mostly very imaginatively shot with very shocking results, but the staging of some (like the farmhouse one) is very reminiscent of lesser "Friday the 13th" films. Again Hough's stylishness clashing with the film's slasher realism. The cinema kill is the only one that doesn't work, in fact, it is laughably badly executed largely due to a melodramatic performance of the victim worthy of an operetta. The conclusion is well thought out but the lack of clues and a sudden ending make it very disappointing. Also, the screenwriter felt the need to include an exclamation that explains the ending where the imagery would have been more than enough further taking the edge of an already badly executed finale. "Incubus" is a very bad film (with its only merits being a good performance from Cassavetes and some inspired imagery) but unlike films like "The Sentinel" or "Hellraiser III" it isn't boring, and does have that cheesy charm of so bad they're good movies with all of its clichés and badly written lines. Fine for a rainy afternoon or a Halloween marathon.