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Original Story Less Horrifying
The short story on which this is based is less horrifying and actually somewhat more optimistic. The boy doesn't want to leave his parents and struggles to be kinder to them. Indeed, he is upset that he keeps talking down to his Mom. Even the librarian in the story is a much more understanding, kinder person. (And as a librarian, I like to think this is true of our profession and would be true, even in the situation depicted).
As a stand alone piece, without knowledge of the original, I can agree this is a spooky little tale.
Still, I would like to see the more hopeful original produced as a play some day.
With You (2006)
Is It Possible to be Scared AND Disappointed?
Because I was and am.
Parts of this film made me go "AIIIGGHH!!!" and hide my eyes behind my hands. Other parts had me saying "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?" And still other parts just made me say "Oh, come ON!!!!" The Good: Well, let's start with the sets. Most horror films these days seem to take place in the middle of a dark, artfully designed "atmospheric" wood where it's always midnight even at one in the afternoon or ten in the morning. The characters move into haunted houses that are pristine and lovely, but ever so inexplicably creepy. Most of them may as well have big signs on them that read "And you thought Amityville was bad?"
Jim's apartment, on the other hand, looks like two that I had to live in when I was starting out. The crap paneled walls and the crap carpeting, bad wall paper...it looks like a place any of us might have to rent one day when we're financially strapped. It didn't look creepy, just trashy. It looked frightfully real. And large portions of the story took place during broad daylight. And somehow that didn't subtract from the creep factor. Instead of atmosphere, I got genuine scares in a realistic setting that I could have lived in once upon a time. The mundane becomes scary. YAY! Props for that guys, even if it was by accident and not by design.
The Bad: Someone needs to learn to edit and listen to how people really talk. I want to say the acting was pretty wooden as well...but I couldn't tell if the actors were just bad at their craft or if they were struggling to sound natural with the trite dialogue they'd been given to say. Any stiffer and the words would have broken into bits before they hit the audience's ears. Keanu Reeves would have been very comfortable reciting a lot of these lines from his almost never moving mouth.
The Good: When you come down to it, the plot borrows from lots and lots of different (and mostly antiquarian) horror tropes. Still, it was refreshing to see what was essentially the plot of countless M.R. James short stories transported to Middle America in the twenty first century and played straight. The exposition, clumsy as it was, did tend to give one the chills.
The Bad: The exposition that was given was clumsy when it wasn't nonexistent. We never learn much about Amon except that he's mighty evil. People's eyes bulge when they hear his name. Conversation stops, whispers commence....but we learn very little about him or why he's doing what he does.
More Bad: Even with the music of M.R. James to play, there were some bad notes struck. Why did everyone act like an idiot? Why did we have to have the "whew, it's only the cat?" chestnut right before the big scare (which was rather impressive, from my POV). Why didn't Mr. Klein insist on a change of venue immediately? Why, when Jim and SLoan realized that the noises they were hearing couldn't possibly be coming from the next apartment, didn't Jim sleep on the couch at Sloan's? Why didn't the police officer take the infamous box to Jim at once instead of taking it to the hospital? (That poor town is in trouble if he's their finest.) And why were we offered Mr. Mercant's many dour prophecies when he, ultimately, doesn't show up for the rest of the movie?
The Good: Loved that the ghost wasn't kept to one spot and that it could amble around. Loved the crazy noises next door. Got a charge out of Sloan checking under the coffee table before sleeping.
The Bad: Those spiders still didn't have a patch on the tarantula attack from "Something Wicked This Way Comes" (yes, I am contradicting myself, but really--those spiders were kind of, well, sad. I'd be unhappy if they were in my house, too, but still....)
The Good: Nice to see a guy instead of a girl in jeopardy for a change. Nice to see a horror flick that doesn't depend on nudity and sex to keep the audience watching. Nice to see that the gore factor was almost nil...but...
The Bad: What the heck was up with that ending? Creepy yes, but...it didn't make sense with the rest of the story. Did Amon need to periodically get up, snatch a body and eat someone else's? We are never really told what Amon's deal is, so, while the ending *may* explain the various disappearances, it doesn't explain what caused the haunting in the first place. It felt tacked on rather than a natural outcome of the story.
So, I give this five stars. Five stars for an herculean effort to recreate old time-y haunted house elements in a modern day setting and to somehow put enough of a spin on to make it feel fresh and original.
Unfortunately, because the freshness borders on raw and unfinished (clunky dialogue, wooden acting, the need for people to act like idiots in order to bring the plot forward....) I give no stars for the rest.
Still, if Jim Christiansen keeps bringing this kind of scare to the table and learns to boost his dialogue levels, I will certainly come back for more.
We've Got Each Other (1977)
Wish This Had Lasted Longer
It's a pity this show didn't last longer. While I remember very little about the episodes themselves, I do remember that the chemistry between Oliver Clark and Beverly Archer was real and quite believable. Here were two people who looked like someone you might actually see in line behind you at the grocery store buying milk and eggs. He wasn't a Neanderthal slob guy (think Jim Belushi) married to the very smart and absolutely magazine model gorgeous wife (Courtney Thorne-Smith, but almost any television actress will do there). I can remember thinking that this show was unusual even back then for portraying main characters who weren't gorgeous and body conscious.
As I recall, the dialogue was consistently funny and intelligent, the situations were amusing and it left one with a warm and happy feeling that watching a rerun of "Friends" just doesn't deliver. (Sure, "Friends is funny, but warm? Nope. Nada.) To echo the previous poster, yup, they don't make programs like this anymore because they aren't "sophisticated" enough. Pity, because, frankly, the latest round of "sophisticated" sitcoms seem to be getting meaner and meaner. If mean names, nasty comments and vulgar language is "sophisticated" I guess I will take the "naive" humor of this type of show over that.
What Everyone Else Said
This was a simple minded excuse to string together lots of revolting sexual imagery and, oh yes, blood. Robert Glenister (sp?) delivers a great performance as the piggish department head. But the rest of it???? Let's see...plot twists so unbelievable as to make M. Night Shyamalan's works seem realistic and logical by comparison.
Characters who act in ways totally out of character because the plot needs them to do that.
A wrap up delivered second hand by the second male lead at the eleventh hour--just before the bad guy comes to "off" him and a scene that makes absolutely NO sense even when its reason for being there is explained...so that the heroine can hear on the phone--in the killer's presence--the truth of the matter.
For that matter, the second hand wrap up delivered by Glenister's character would be interesting if any clues had been planted for it...but there were NONE. Until the moment he gives up the explanation, we have not been given clue one to follow in what should be a play-fair mystery.
Film cuts that make sense only when you realize it's done to "fool" the audience (who is, one hopes, too smart to be fooled).
Actors without any kind of chemistry. No, I lie: GREAT chemistry between the heroine, such as she is, and the piggy boss. Now THAT would have been an interesting relationship to explore. Every time they got screaming at each other, I really did expect clothing to fly and there DID seem to be a spark there, despite her protests.
But the chilly, creepy Greg Wise??? Sure, he's pretty in the same way a wax statue is...maybe he's the Keanu Reeves of England? Charmingly wooden, but not much passion.
And, really, if there had been just ONE main character to like and sympathize with, I might have forgiven all of the above, but when the only likable characters are the red herring's snooty wife or the heroine's put-upon Pakistani assistant (a great acting job by the young lady whose name I don't remember)...well, then you are clearly watching it for the sex scenes. If that's the case, go rent a porn flick instead. If you want a mystery with lots of angles, great, whole characters and believable twists...just pick something at random off the rental shelf with your eyes closed and you are guaranteed to have a better movie.
Did Susan and Sam Owe Someone a Favor???
I borrowed this from my library, so thankfully, I only lost the dollar rental fee and 103 minutes of my time (well, not quite 103 minutes--I fast forwarded once during a tedious bit--and even with the fast forward I lost absolutely nothing of the plot...) Who thought this was a good idea? Was it only shown in Australian theaters? Are Austalians so undiscriminating in film that they will sit through any suspenser even if it is godawful and choppy? As I watched I felt that the writer had all these "great" ideas for scenes...and wrote them up then cobbled them together to make a story about a nutter and the nutter's victim. While the first "twist" gave me an "omigod!" rush...it was promptly dampened by the belabored ending and the final "twist" which left me saying to my cat "well, I'm glad I sat here working on a craft while I was watching this thing...something got accomplished." Not recommended. Not ever. Even if someone PAYS you run fast in the opposite direction. And keep running.
Le pacte du silence (2003)
Gerard, Go Back To Being Martin Guerre...PLEASE!!!
Luckily, I rented this from my library, so all I want back is the 99 minutes I wasted watching it. (Actually, I only wasted about an hour and 15 minutes, since I fast forwarded through everything that didn't have subtitles...and I was still bored.) It lacked character development. Plot development. Thematic development. Whatever it is you need to make a good thriller, the producer and director said "Oh, let's not do that..." and did the WRONG thing. It wasn't as if bad choices were made mistakenly, but deliberately. The narrative was painfully choppy, the English translation for the subtitles pitifully stilted (and wrong...at one point,according to the subtitles, the Monsignor tells Joachim the Reverend Mother doesn't trust him. In French, however, he says "She thinks you're the anti-Christ." Gerard Depardieu is a terrific actor but he just ain't priest material and it's been a long time since he (And Sean Connery and Harrison Ford and a few others) could play a believable romantic hero opposite a (much, much) younger actress. (Indeed, had this played over here, Sean Connery would be our priest and Lindsay Lohan would be the nun.) I don't know if the script can be blamed on the source novel, but I could not swallow Carmelite nuns at a voodoo ceremony any more than I could swallow the sudden and inexplicable love affair between Joachim and Gaelle. The ending was a gory mess and the efforts to blur the twins' identities was just silly.
A waste of time from start to finish. The only good part of this flick for anyone at MY home was that my cat got to sit on my lap and sleep for the hour and 15 minutes the movie played....
I was surprised to like this movie since I'm from the "check your brain at the door and have fun" school of film viewing. However, this film touched my heart. I have friends like mentally retarded Emily. I have friends like unsocialized Evie. And I've been in Evie's shoes, chasing away opportunity out of fear and out of devotion to others.
Amy Madigan's disappointment in her daughters was almost palpable on screen and the awkward moments where she tried to bridge the gap with Evie were raw and painful to watch. And perhaps I am denser than most, but I never saw the twist with Evie's father coming. Usually I cotton on to those things rather quickly.
My reservations are similar to others posted here. I thought Christopher Lloyd's wonderful, sympathetic character (a very different role for him, I thought) was underused. What happened to him once he realized what was going on with the poetry? Would he, like James, try again??? Second, the ending, such as it was, didn't seem to resolve or accomplish anything. I didn't expect the pieces to be picked up and all the ends tied neatly, but I felt that I was left at odds with the characters, that there was no real healing taking place here or any real efforts at healing being made.
Otherwise, exquisite and lyrical and disturbing and, for some, very, very true.
Wish I'd Seen The Movie Described in Other User Reviews (Spoilers)
I'm not stupid and I don't have the attention span of a gnat. I LOVE movies with subtitles because (silly me) subtitled movies generally have a more interesting and original plot than what comes out of Hollywood these days. Like most fans, I'm irritated with the American Movie Machine nabbing and remaking foreign films, particularly the J and K horror films.
But 99.9, IMHO, may be improved by an American schlockmeister, at least for this dim-witted old broad. Maybe then I will understand what the heck happened. I watched it twice, hoping that I was just MISSING something. Reading the other comments here, I wonder if I should get it again and watch it over. I can't be that stupid, can I? It should have been great. Creepy atmosphere. Taciturn villagers who won't give straight answers. Faces appearing on walls. Not to mention the whole effort to videotape the dreams of alcoholics and drug addicts...it should have been freaking fabulously frightening.
But then...it all went spinning off to nowhere. Plot lines were dropped. Clues were brought up and discarded. And that whole ending just...well it sent me over the edge.
Guess I will stick with simpleminded fare like "The Devil's Backbone" or "Cure". 99.9 is simply too esoteric and sophisticated for me.
The Bone Snatcher (2003)
Kind of Fun in a Painful, Jawdropping Way
My jaw fell so many times watching this flick, I have bruises. Okay, granted, I really wasn't expecting the quality of, say, The Others or even Thirteen Ghosts (the new one, which was just dreadful and is still head and shoulders above this insanity). Someone else noted the thin characters...I wouldn't call them "thin". "Thin" implies there might be something to them. How about almost non-existent? In no particular order we have: The Girl Who Will Scream; The American Who Will Figure It All Out; The Macho Guy Who Will Just Bull Through Everything Until He Gets Killed: The Wise Black Man Who Will Die Early; The Extra Guy Who Is There To Die First; The Extra Woman Who Is There To Play Tough. That's it. That's your character list and that is what they are and what they remain from beginning to end. If they were "thin" they might, at least, change a little bit from beginning to end. But they don't. Well, okay, the American guy decides he's going to stay with the fieldwork at the end and the Screaming Girl goes back to wherever she came from. That's the change. Other than that, they all act according to their assigned roles and rarely betray any real emotion when they finally meet up with the menace.
Now, the producers get props for an original menace, I will say. I had understood the story was going to be "Tremors" but with ants instead of giant worms. I give the writer credit: these are very cool, very scary ants and what they do with bones is excellent. (The first time the "bone snatcher" appear, I admit I jumped a few feet.)Unfortunately, the very cool concept becomes Alien in the Desert very quickly. We get a lot of commentary on ants that may or may not be true, but we don't get much of the mythology on which the menace is based. And we get every monster movie cliché ever made. People go into places they know they shouldn't and when they have no compelling reason to. Moronic characters try to hinder our heroes and die for it. One character does double duty as "scientist who doesn't want to kill the monster but study it". A Very Cool Gadget is introduced only so the American can tell everyone something about ants that, gee, I hope everyone knows anyway. Then the gadget is broken. Our heroes run out of the one thing that can keep the menace at bay. And then there is that final, annoying moment when we know the menace is still with us--and wonder exactly what and how the hey the hero or heroine came by it. It completely renders everything that went before as useless and false.
Three stars for the cool use of ants and bones. Nothing at all for clichés, clunky dialogue and dim bulb characters.
The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
A Gorgeous Trainwreck
After reading through the commentaries here, I want to see the movie the other writers saw. After I watched Phantom last night, I kept asking "Where was the passion?" Minnie Driver and Miranda Richardson manage to portray some of the passion and emotions their characters experienced, but Emmy Rossum seemed whiny, Patrick Wilson callow and Gerard Butler....well, I have never seen the famous Michael Crawford version, but I have seen other Phantoms (all still unknowns) and all of them assayed the role with more passion and darkness in their pinkies than Butler did with his whole body. Yes, it was pretty to look at (and I will admit that "Past the Point of No Return" was a great sequence) and I give props to the writers for explaining why Carlotta suddenly loses her voice during a performance, but if I never see this again it will be just fine with this Phantom fan.