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Don't get me wrong, I really like Cameron Crowe. His recent projects,
including Jerry Maguire which was an interesting and original romantic
comedy, and Vanilla Sky which also had some great and original ideas, have
been something to look out for. But nothing he has done yet is a patch on
this hilarious, heart-warming rock n' roll tale.
It tells the story of a wannabe rock journalist, played brilliantly by Patrick Fugit, who manages to break his way into the world of rock n' roll when he is given a chance to accompany the band Stillwater on tour while writing an article for Rolling Stone magazine. But this is not what the film is really about.
Introduce Penny Lane, a band-aide portrayed by the gorgeous Kate Hudson, and Russell Hammond, Stillwater's emotional guitarist, and a back-story for the kid journalist including his overbearing mother and rebellious sister, and what we have is a well-structured, evocative and emotional coming-of-age love story.
But the fact that this film is ranked in IMDb's top 250 says it all. If you're in the mood for something romantic and light-hearted (but with a harsher edge at times), choose this movie and you won't regret it.
It's always tricky trying to write a review of a great movie that
you've loved for years. Attempting to finally put down in words exactly
what makes it so great seems almost impossible ... but I'll give it a
shot anyway. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give to you, An American Werewolf
in London -- Two American's arrive by truck in the Yorkshire moors, as
part of a three-month tour of Europe. As they walk along the country
roads, they engage in realistic back-and-forth banter and we learn that
Jack is unhappy with the situation and would much rather be in some
continental city, whereas his friend David is glad to explore the
English countryside. As the sun goes down, they take refuge inside a
pub called "the Slaughtered Lamb", to escape the cold. The locals are
unfriendly, especially when they ask about a pentagram painted on the
wall ... the two of them eventually take the hint, and leave to
continue walking through the moors.
Wandering off the road into the dark grassy land, they begin to hear strange and frightening howling noises, and see something big stalking them in the shadows ... suddenly Jack is attacked, and David flees the scene before turning back to help his friend, but he too is set upon by some kind of wolf-beast until the locals show up armed with shotguns. He wakes up in a hospital, and learns that his friend Jack is dead. While there, he falls in love with a beautiful young nurse. As he recovers from his trauma, he has peculiar dreams about monsters, misty woods, and killing. Then he starts having gruesome visions of his dead friend, who warns him that he is becoming a werewolf ...
There are so many memorable sequences in this movie it's unbelievable. My favourite has always been the initial werewolf attack on the moors -- I first saw the movie when I was very young and that was the one that scared me most of all. I also remembered the dream sequences particularly well, and that poor man who is stalked by the werewolf in the London underground. It's an incredibly surreal movie, especially during the excellent hospital sequences, because, well, becoming a werewolf would be a pretty surreal thing to go through! All of this is helped by the high quality of directing from John Landis, and Rick Baker's infamously brilliant make-up inventions.
The soundtrack is also excellent -- Landis' idea was that he would only use songs with the word 'moon' in the title. Since then the songs "Bad Moon Rising" and "Blue Moon" are automatically linked with this movie by anyone who's seen it. The cast is also very notable, and both David Naughton and Griffin Dunne give funny, competent performances as the two Americans, while the all-star British cast is headed by the brilliant Brian Glover, Jenny Agutter and John Woodvine.
Some of the comedy may be a little cheesy, but most of it is still worth a few laughs. You should bear in mind that this was the first real horror comedy ever made, and these days they're a dime-a-dozen. If it hadn't been for American Werewolf, the genre would certainly not have been the same. This is an indisputable classic of the horror genre, and an incredible important movie. Two decades on, it's easily still deserving of it's title as the greatest Werewolf movie of all time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
We open in Paris ... the camera pans over the Gothic arches as
atmospheric, haunting choir music plays in the background. A man
dressed in a lab coat bursts out of the sewers pursued by someone or
something. He calls out to a nearby taxi, but as he flees towards it
some kind of beast leaps out from a nearby grate, grabs him, and drags
him down into the sewers to meet his gruesome fate. Yum. Nice opening.
The general rule of sequels made this long after the original is that they're just cashing on the success of the others, and they really ain't good. Look at The Godfather III or the Star Wars prequels as the best examples. But is this one going to break the mould? An American jock called Andy McDermott is on a 'daredevil' tour of Europe with three friends. He decides he's going to bungee jump off the Eiffel tower for a stunt, but there he meets a girl named Serafine who is committing suicide, and he rescues her with the help of his bungee cord in a pretty neat sequence. As it turns out, this girl is the product of that steamy little shower scene in the original movie and has inherited some of her fathers traits. The title is probably the smartest thing about this movie. It is of course a reference to the original, but also it references the 1951 Gene Kelly classic "An American in Paris". Smart. If only good titles made good films, they'd be sorted.
As a result of all this stuff I mentioned so far, I do enjoy this movie more than I like to admit. But unfortunately, I think that's pretty much all the original ideas that this movie has. After that we're left with basically a teen comedy, with no real horror scenes, plenty of boredom and no sense of continuity. D'oh! There's not a whole lot of respect for the original either. For example, in the original the victims of th e werewolf remained in limbo until the wolfs bloodline was severed. Here, all they need is for the one werewolf who killed them to die. Hmm.
It's a real shame, because the seeds were all here for a good sequel, aside from that terrible decision to use completely CGI werewolves (what were they thinking???). The cast are all pretty decent ... Tom Everett Scott was actually an okay choice for the lead in my opinion, as he does remind me of David Naughton sometimes. Julie Delpy is always great as the mysterious female character, a lot like Emmanuelle Seigner in The Ninth Gate.
An American Werewolf in Paris does have it's moments, certainly, but it could have been a whole lot better.
This 30-minute documentary is available on the "Brief Encounter" DVD, and features interviews with surviving cast and crew, the background to the film and stories about the film's production. It explores exactly why the film itself is so popular, and why it still has the same emotional content today as it ever did. It's a very interesting watch, and gives you a much deeper understand of the film and the Noel Coward play on which it was based, as well as some light background on what the general situation was like in wartime England when the film was made.
Definitely worth seeing if you're a fan of the film.
Giants, werewolves, witches, and some rather big fish.
Half of this movie is about a grown man brought up by a storytelling father who seems to be obsessed with the fairy tales he creates. Now, with the father on his deathbed, his son feels as though he doesn't know him at all and so attempts to bridge the emotional gap while recalling the fairy tales that his father told. And this brings us to the other half -- the fictional fairytale stories of the young Edward Bloom, who is everything from a soldier in Vietnam to a human cannonball to a bankrobber to a wealthy landowner ... he faces all kinds of fantastic creatures and people throughout his life, and befriends all of them.
The Father/Son relationship is easily one of the most over-explored in Hollywood, and more often than not signals schmaltzy background music, tender moments and a lot of heartfelt talk about baseball. Bleurgh. However, "Big Fish" actually manages to try something different with a tired old formula and actually pull it off superbly well. This movie is actually a lot like "Forrest Gump", what with the accents and the comedic, fantasy retelling of a person's life -- certainly not a project you'd associate with the Master of Darkness, Tim Burton.
Contrary to what some might say, Tim Burton just doesn't make bad movies. He makes great ones, and decent ones -- usually one after the other in sequence. As his previous movie was the heavily-flawed and ill-conceived "Planet of the Apes" remake, this one was due to be a great one anyway. It doesn't necessary feel like a Tim Burton movie the whole way through... sure, you've got those weird trees, some slanted houses and plenty of surreal, Gothic darkness here and there, but much of it could just as well have been a Spielberg project, particularly in the Father/Son sequences. The main difference, though, is that Burton doesn't pile on the Schmaltz as another director would. Even the inevitable death sequence is both abrupt and tasteful, and no longer than it needs to be.
This is another entertaining and heartfelt film from Tim Burton, at least of the quality we expect from this great director. Everyone should see this movie.
After working on "Sweet Valley High" and "Breaker High", I suppose
"Werewolf High" seemed like the next logical step for writers Peter
Knight and Chris Briggs ...
Tommy Dawkins (Brandon Quinn) is your typical high school jock -- popular, dumb and care-free ... that is, until he is out camping one night and is bitten by a werewolf. Thanks to his infliction he is forced to befriend nerdy goth outcast Merton J Dingle (Danny Smith), and together they work to conceal his lycanthropy and battle whatever evil forces set sights on the town of Pleasantville. As awkward as teenage years always are, Tommy finds that it is even more so when you're a werewolf -- especially since he wolfs out every time he gets close to Stacey Hanson (Rachelle Lefevre), the girl of his dreams. Later, Stacey is transfered to another school and Tommy sets his sights on the new girl, kick-boxing Buffy-wannabe Lori Baxter (Aimée Castle).
I caught a couple of episodes of this series when it was on, and it seemed like a pretty silly show that was aimed primarily at the teenybopper crowd. I was attracted to it at the time because obviously it featured werewolves and also it had strong similarities to Buffy, which I enjoyed. In the end I was put off by the silly WWF-style fight scenes, and the slapstick humour didn't really appeal to me all that much. However, when I watched the episodes back-to-back recently I began to really enjoy it. Many of the jokes are silly, but I'll admit it does manage to make me chuckle quite frequently. The constant movie references score particularly highly with me. The characters themselves are quite amusing ... Tommy really is an idiot, and Danny Smith who plays Merton J Dingle has become a kind of cult icon. Together the two of them form an interesting comic team.
It turns out there actually is an awful lot to enjoy here, especially if you happen to catch the series on a good day. At it's worst the show is like a kid's version of Buffy without the same level of atmosphere or wit (although it does seem to be conscious of this, throwing in direct references to the show). One problem is that the comic actors and guest stars often aren't particularly restrained, they're out there in full-on "I will make you laugh" mode which can come off more annoying than amusing. But hell, there are certainly worse things you could be watching.
If you're looking for an interesting, dark and brilliant werewolf series, check out Frank Lupo's Werewolf. But if you're just after an entertaining, amusing and diverting version of "Teen Wolf", then this is the best there is.
It's like this ... you put in the DVD and the most professional-looking
thing you see over the next ninety minutes is the logo of the
distribution company. And at this point, you know you've just been
People are generally trusting enough to assume that if something has been put on DVD, it's going to be of a certain level -- at least financially if not creatively. But sadly this isn't the case. Distribution companies are perfectly happy to throw together DVDs of amateur movies and ship them right out into the stores to await the unsuspecting buyer who is drawn in by the well-designed DVD cover. The weight behind this particular project is most likely independent horror movie pioneer Kevin J Lindenmuth, whose name may be known amongst genre fans since he's responsible for various other low-budget werewolf movies -- "Rage of the Werewolf", "Werewolf Tales" and so on.
"Blood of the Werewolf" is made up of three short independent werewolf stories with no real connection other than the fact that they deal with hereditary shapeshifters. The first segment, "Blood Reunion", pretty much sets the tone for the whole thing ... a man returns to his home town to look up a girl who had a crush on, only to find that her domineering grandmother refuses to let her have relationships with men, and for reasons which are somehow related to a dark family secret. This instalment is poorly directed, poorly directed, and basically nothing superior to what you could throw together yourself with a few friends and a home video camera.
The second story, "Old Blood", is probably the strongest out of the three and is directed by Lindenmuth himself. It tells the story of a lesbian couple, one of whom is a shapeshifter and the other wishes to be given this power. Her wish is granted, but she doesn't become the creature that she envisioned. This short movie shows that Lindemuth has more talent and experience than the other filmmakers who worked on this project, but still not enough to raise it above the level of an amateur movie.
And finally we have "Manbeast", in which some army guy runs through the woods while being chased by two other fellas. They wish to kill him as he has been bitten by the beast and is believed to be dangerous, but all might not be as it seems. This one has an interesting concept, but it's stretched out to be far too long, and if you don't guess what the "twist" is in the first ten minutes then you probably ain't too bright. This pretty much sums up the problem with this whole DVD ... a few good ideas just aren't enough to justify spending money on something like this. After all, would you pay for a picture you could have painted yourself?
It's interesting that Lou Costello initially was reluctant to do this
movie, since it became probably the most popular and successful
instalment in the Abbott & Costello catalogue. It was so popular, in
fact, that many of the Abbott & Costello movies to follow were along
similar lines -- they would go on to meet The Mummy, The Invisible Man
and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. You can sort of see where he was coming from
... horror/comedy isn't exactly a highly respected genre, although
there have been several classics in it since (Young Frankenstein, An
American Werewolf in London, etc).
The story starts when a couple of crates arrive in the US, to an office manned by Chick Young (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello). The two of them are asked to the two crates to the their destination, a house of horrors. What they don't realise is that one crate contains Dracula's coffin and the other, the Frankenstein monster. Dracula awakens and escapes with the monster, leaving the two freight handlers to deal with the insurance company over the missing goods. But it turns out they have bigger worries -- Dracula has chosen Wilbur's brain to transplant into the Frankenstein monster in order to revive him ...
Since the Universal horror franchise had stopped taking itself seriously several years previously, it made sense that the final movie should just go the whole hog and be a comedy. As a comic team Abbott and Costello were never of the same stature of, say, "Laurel and Hardy" or "The Marx Brothers", but they do have their moments -- and a lot of them are in this movie. Abbott of course plays the straight man to Costello's blundering comedian, and it works very well with this script. They are backed up by arguably the strongest cast out of any of the Universal horror movies, with Bela Lugosi, Glenn Strange and Lon Chaney Jr in their finest roles. All of the monsters are played perfectly straight, with the comedy coming from Abbott and Costello themselves.
"Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" is silly and zany and very, very funny. Whether or not it can be classed as part of the Universal horror series, it is as entertaining as any of them and absolutely essential viewing.
Several soldiers are sent out to investigate loss of communication with
a research outpost, in which the occupants seem to be being killed off
one by one by an unseen force ...
First of all, it's worth mentioning that this movie is primarily filmed in the far, snowy reaches of Alaska. And with a location like that, half your work is already done. It doesn't matter how you film it -- it's going to look desolate and wonderful. For an independent filmmaker, it's important to find a great location like this as you can't exactly afford the most elaborate sets, and Martinez exploits this to it's full potential. Out in the snow the soldiers are hunted, stalked and slaughtered by an unseen white-haired beast, which cannot be stopped. And to top it all off, it's actually got a pretty good back-story to it.
Watching this movie you can be assured that you're not in the hands of amateurs, but of people who understand and enjoy what they are doing. The special effects obviously aren't great, but what they have is used very well. While they hardly show the monster, this means that it remains reasonably convincing, and the low-budget "gore" effects are a lot of fun as always. The cast do a pretty good job here ... the performances are mostly serious, although there is a bit of pretty dark comedy thrown in here and there, which makes the whole movie a lot more entertaining than it would be otherwise.
At 22-minutes, this is short independent film-making of a very high order. If the other instalments match up to this one, then that's definitely something for us all to look forward to.
You always know what to expect from this genre of low-budget
supernatural-historical movies ... peasants with one brain between the
lot of them, fine wenches being treated very, very badly, and plenty of
over-acting from men wearing tights and funny hats.
Cry of the Banshee has all of these elements, and is fairly representative of the genre. It isn't on the same level as cult movies like "Witchfinder General" (also starring Vincent Price), but it does have it's moments. Here Vincent Price plays a wicked lord with a very strange family. He takes great pleasure in finding, mistreating and executing young witches, until he messes with the wrong coven and his entire family is cursed. They soon begin to get gruesomely killed off one by one by a seemingly unstoppable monster. That'll teach 'em.
Vincent Price gives a fairly memorable performance here as the evil, sadistic lord of the town. He does the best he can with the script, anyway, which is all a great actor can ever do. Nobody else on the cast is particularly noteworthy, but on the whole it's a fairly competent movie as far as the acting is concerned. On the subject of the script, it does seem to be thing that everyone involved struggled with. The movie had already been sold to the distributors, which meant that the director, re-writers and so on couldn't change it as much as they would probably have liked to, so they didn't necessary end up making the movie they wanted to make.
This accounts for the way that some aspects of the film are so much better than others. In some scenes the actors themselves seem pretty bored with it, whereas in others the relish in the opportunity to show their full talent. The scenes involving the witches coven are pretty interesting, and some of the climatic moments are particularly well-shot. Also, the opening credits sequence is instantly recognisable as the work of Monty Python's artist Terry Gilliam, which is pretty neat. However, there aren't enough great moments to elevate it above most other movies of it's kind.
If you're a fan of Vincent Price, or of those trashy period movies of the sixties and seventies, you might want to give this one a look. Otherwise, it probably won't appeal to you that much.
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