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Leonard Nimoy stars in this TV movie as race car driver Tom Novak, who has a baffling vision of an English country house at a most inopportune time(as he's in a race!) and has a crash out. An ESP expert(played by Susan Hampshire) contacts him, and they go off together to stay at a manor house where she suspects his vision originated from. Turns out she's right, as an American actress(played by Vera Miles) and her daughter are also staying, and they become the target of a nefarious occult plot... Nimoy and Hampshire work well together, and on location filming helps, but story is mostly uninvolving and muddled, with a most predictable and silly resolution, though a bright closing scene sets up a possible TV series that never materialized.
Mr. Nimoy would have greater success with ESP on his hosting duties with "In Search Of..."
Into the Wild (2007)
One Man's Jouney
Based on the Jon Krakauer non-fiction bestseller about Christopher McCandless(played by Emile Hirsh) a young man who had just graduated from college who decides to put his future on hold to fulfill a personal ambition to hitchhike to Alaska(after abandoning his disabled car) in order to survive in the wilderness on his own, living off what he can hunt and gather from the land. Along the way, he meets all kinds of people like Ron Franz(played by Hal Holbrook), a lonely old man who wants to adopt Chris, but he politely refuses, since he isn't orphaned, having two worried parents(played by William Hurt & Marcia Gay Harden) as well as a sister(played by Jena Malone) back home, who serves as narrator of his life, which will have a most tragic end... Superb version of the fascinating book has fine acting by all, especially Hirsh, and exquisite direction by Sean Penn. Does leave out certain (potentially) unappealing parts of Chris' personality, but well captures the yearning to be one with nature, and rebel against a modern society he dislikes.
Haunting final words from a postcard he sent: "I now walk into the wild"...
Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar (1967)
Friendly Big Cat
Winston Hibler directed this pleasant story from Walt Disney studios about a group of loggers in the Pacific Northwest who adopt an orphaned cougar cub they found in the woods, and make him their unofficial mascot, who entertains them with his playful antics throughout camp. When he gets bigger, it isn't quite so funny, since he tends to raid and wreck their kitchen! When Charlie gets lost, he embarks on a series of adventures that cause him to revert to being wild, so when he finally makes his way back to camp, starts to become destructive, and possibly dangerous, though one man in particular(played by Ron Brown) is determined to save his life, and protect his future(along with a nice lady cougar he met along the way...) Entertaining film is fun for the whole family, and cat lovers in particular.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Tim Burton directed this violent adaptation of the classic Washington Irving story that stars Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane, who in this version is not a schoolteacher but a New York constable(and forward thinking scientist) who is sent by his burgomaster(played by Christopher Lee) to investigate a series of brutal decapitation murders that have occurred in the New England town of Sleepy Hollow, where he is much surprised to find the cause to be a phantom headless horseman(played by Christopher Walken) who is being used in a devious plan of revenge and profit. Christina Ricci plays his love interest Katrina Van Tassel, and Miranda Richardson plays her stepmother.
Gothic film has a fine cast and superb set design & art direction, and a clever script, though is marred by too many decapitations, when that should have been left more to the imagination. Otherwise, a nicely-tuned take on the legend, as if it had been made by Hammer Studios!
The Conjuring (2013)
The Perron Haunting
James Wan directed this harrowing film adaptation of a previously untold case of paranormal investigators Ed & Lorraine Warren(played by Patrick Wilson & Vera Farmiga) who are called in to help Roger & Carolyn Perron(played by Ron Livingston & Lili Taylor) who have recently moved into a farmhouse in Rhode Island with their five daughters that turns out to be haunted by both ghosts and a demonic witch who had caused their deaths, and now wants to possess the wife for a most sinister purpose, while the Warrens and the other family members do everything they can to help, though an exorcism is the only way to stop the witch...Chilling film is superbly directed and acted, which provides genuine scares with a palpable atmosphere of fear and dread, and a minimum of violence and profanity, with the subplot of Annabelle the doll also quite effective. A model of its kind, and the Warrens are more properly treated here than they had been in the TV movie "The Haunted".
The Haunted (1991)
The Smurl Haunting
Robert Mandel directed this TV movie adaptation of the reputedly true account of Jack & Janet Smurl(played by Jeffrey De Munn & Sally Kirkland) who moved into a newly renovated home with his parents and their children, only to discover that it is haunted by ghosts and a demonic spirit that increasingly terrorize them, causing them to seek help from their church, then paranormal investigators Ed & Lorraine Warren(played by Stephen Markle & Diane Baker) Things take a desperate turn after they contact the press... Mediocre film has a good cast and much potential, but suffers from unimaginative direction that squanders the few eerie scenes it can produce(like the "Janet?" scenes) Rambling plot that inexplicably drops characters(like the Warrens for instance) doesn't help matters either. Still not on DVD yet for some equally inexplicable reason, but is on YouTube. Compare this with the later film "The Conjuring" to see what I mean about direction!
The Village (2004)
M. Night Shyamalan directed this ambitious film that stars William Hurt as Edward Walker, who leads his small, isolated village in Pennsylvania, along with Alice Hunt(played by Sigourney weaver) whose son Lucius(played by Joaquin Phoenix) is in love with Edward's daughter Ivy(played by Bryce Dallas Howard) That love is tested when Lucius is attacked by mentally-impaired Noah(played by Adrien Brody) forcing Ivy to seek medical help in the outside world, with the woods in-between occupied by mysterious creatures they have a truce with to keep their children out, but for reasons that, if uncovered, would destroy their carefully created community. Commendable tale about the virtue of preserving and cherishing innocence is well-made and acted, with a most thoughtful story, though it came perilously close to imploding when you consider the revelation at the end, which viewer may see coming a mile away. Still, an interesting and atmospheric film that is worth seeing.
M. Night Shyamalan directed this understated thriller that stars Mel Gibson as Reverend Graham Hess, who has moved into a country farmhouse with his brother Merrill(played by Joaquin Phoenix), and two children Morgan(played by Rory Calhoun) and Bo(played by Abigail Breslin)after his wife was killed in a car accident, a personal loss that has made him lose his faith. One day, they notice crop circles in their field, which they initially pass off as kid vandalism, but it turns out to be a prelude to alien invasion, that will hit close to their home, and making Graham rethink his anger with God. Well-intentioned film is not as well structured as the directors' first two pictures, with some awkward writing and plot holes, yet the ending is deceptively underwhelming, for it's because of its subtlety(and the sudden realization by Graham about God's reasons) that it retains itself in viewers' memory. Despite the numerous flaws, this is still worthwhile.
M. Night Shyamalan directed this compelling film that stars Bruce Willis as David Dunn, a security guard at a sports stadium who comes to the attention of eccentric comic book lover Elijah Price(played by Samuel L. Jackson) who believes that David has hidden powers of healing because he was the sole survivor of a terrible train crash that killed over a hundred passengers. David scoffs at this, but gradually believes that Price may be right, which pushes his son Joseph to extreme measures, terrifying his wife Audrey. Elijah persists in his firm belief in fate, which will lead to a devastating revelation by the end... Stunning film is told with great imagination and sober-minded seriousness, which is most effective, leading to an unexpected ending that may blind-side the viewer, but on reflection(like Elijah says) we should have seen coming. Extremely underrated.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
M. Night Shyamalan directed this superbly crafted tale that stars Bruce Willis as Dr. Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist who has an eventful night where he receives an award, then is shot by a disgruntled ex-patient(played by Donnie Wahlberg). Later on, he is assigned the case of a young boy named Cole Sear(played by Haley Joel Osment) who claims to see ghosts which terrify him(and alienates him from his schoolmates), which troubles his disbelieving mother(played by Toni Collette) while Malcolm tries to reconnect with his wife(played by Olivia Williams). The truth of the situation will come as quite a shock to Crowe by the end... Chilling film with outstanding direction and performances(particularly Osment, who is superb) and a smart script. Astute viewers may see the final twist coming, but that doesn't lessen its impact.