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"Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back"
"The Godfather Part 2"
"Wild at Heart"
Benicio Del Toro
Rachael Leigh Cook
Francis Ford Coppola
Red Eye (2005)
Fun, Taut Little Thriller
In a world of increasingly bloated Hollywood epics it's kind of nice to see a film that has an economical run time (a mere 85 minutes) and a tight story.
The late Wes Craven is best known for straightforward horror films, this is a thriller, though it does get into more traditional Craven territory towards the end. The film taps into a number of common fears about flying and loss of control. It's well made, maintains the tension throughout, but still has room for a joke or two.
Rachel McAdams is engaging as the likable Lisa caught in a nightmare, and Cillian Murphy is effective as the soft spoken, cold eyed terrorist.
Definitely worth checking out.
Spectacular Space Movie
This is one of the most spectacular science-fiction movies that I have ever seen.
The story revolves around Mission Specialist Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), on her first space shuttle mission, and veteran astronaut Matthew Kowalski(George Clooney) who are performing repairs on a space telescope when they are struck by debris from a destroyed satellite.
The views of the Earth from space and the spacecraft themselves are stunningly beautiful and Sandra Bullock gives a fine performance in the central role.
This is a film that you see less for the story and more for the experience of it, so it is definitely best to see it on the biggest screen available and in 3-D if possible (I don't even like 3-D much as a rule, but in this case it really adds so much to the experience).
Bleak, Brutal and Bizarre
This is one of the strangest works of Italian writer-director Pier Paolo Pasolini. It interweaves two story lines: The first, almost dialogue- free, tale takes place in an unknown volcanic landscape at an unspecified historical period and involves a young cannibal who leads a band that rapes and murders the local populace. The second tale is set in 1967 Germany and involves the son of a wealthy industrialist who is used as a pawn in a power game between his father and a business rival.
It's well-made with several striking images, but it is very slow, very obscure and challenging. It is a bleakly savage satire on human nature, which will certainly not appeal to everyone. In fact it's a film that is easy to admire, but hard to like.
It is certainly a powerful work of art, but certainly don't expect to enjoy it.
Radio Days (1987)
Warm, Funny and Heartfelt Tribute to a Bygone Age
This is definitely one of Woody Allen's best movies. There is no plot to speak of, more a series of anecdotes and episodes revolving around 10 year old Joe (played by Seth Green) and his large working-class Jewish-American family in 1940s New York City all linked by the ever-present voice of the radio. Interspersed with these tales are the stories of the radio personalities themselves.
It is one of Woody Allen's warmest works. Funny, and at times very moving, it's a tribute to family as much as the Golden Age of radio. The various episodes are weaved together very skillfully and the large cast all turn in fine performances, the film also looks fantastic, full of a nostalgic golden glow.
There's also a bittersweet quality here, lamenting the passing of an age long gone.
The Darkest Hour (2011)
Average Alien Invasion Tale
In this film two American internet entrepreneurs in Moscow team up with two tourists and the business partner who sold them out to survive an invasion by powerful aliens (who are supposedly invisible but are depicted as kind of glowing golden dust clouds) which arrive in the city and proceed to disintegrate any human they can get.
It's a fairly predictable alien invasion film with pretty wooden characters, and most fans of this genre of film will probably be easily able to tell who will live and who will die. It loses it's interest pretty quickly (even though it is a short film). It does have it's pluses though, the Moscow setting is interesting and the scenes of survivors walking through the desolate streets are pretty effective. Also some scenes are pretty exciting, it's just a pity that they are few and far between.
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Spider-Man Swings Again
Okay, well, going in I really had my doubts about this movie. I had enjoyed the previous Sam Raimi/ Tobey Maguire/ Kirsten Dust "Spider-Man" films (even the largely maligned "Spider-Man 3" (2007) was not without it's appeal) and I felt it was pretty redundant to retell Spidey's origins just ten years after they were depicted in the massively successful "Spider-Man" (2002).
However, I was pleasantly surprised. The origin story, while it covers all the familiar bases (nerdy teenager Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is bitten by a genetically modified spider and develops super-powers, his beloved Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) is shot in a street robbery convincing Peter to become a super-hero, he develops his powers by trial and error and eventually assumes his Spider-man identity), is dealt with in more detail than in the previous film version and it is different enough so that it still feels fresh. The film's principal villain, Doctor Curt Connors (aka The Lizard) is well portrayed by Rhys Ifans and Emma Stone makes for an engaging love interest, even if she is not really given enough to do. Andrew Garfield is great as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, giving a lanky agility to the role. His Peter Parker is much less of a nerd than Tobey Maguire's version, and feels closer to the character in the comic-books.
The special effects are pretty impressive and it all looks great in 3D and IMAX.
In January 1879, about 100 British soldiers are forced to hold the small outpost of Rorke's Drift in South Africa's Natal province against about four thousand attacking Zulu warriors.
Based on a true story, this is one of the greatest war movies ever made. The film quickly sketches the personalities of the main characters, and when the action starts it quickly moves into high gear. It successfully mixes tension and action in a way that few war movies have yet matched.
The performances are great, particularly co-producer Stanley Baker as the hard-as-nails Lieutenant Chard who assumes command on the strength of his seniority, and Michael Caine, in his first major starring role, as the aristocratic Lieutenant Bromhead, who comes into conflict with Chard.
Refreshingly, the film is respectful in it's portrayal of the Zulus as honourable and dignified warriors.
The script features plenty of memorable dialogue and a decent amount of humour. It also features some stirring music from John Barry.
Green Lantern (2011)
Not Bad but Unexceptional
This film, based on the DC Comics character, involves arrogant test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) who is given a super-powered ring by a dying alien in a crashed spaceship. The ring marks him as a member of the "Green Lantern Corps", a kind of elite intergalactic police force, based out of the planet Oa and gives him the power to turn his thoughts into physical "constructs". Soon Jordan finds himself pitted against a powerful being that feeds on fear.
Despite what some critics have said, this is nowhere near the worst superhero movie ever made. However, it is bland and unexceptional. It is very much an origin story and is mostly made up of exposition, with very few surprises and the villains pretty much taking a back seat for most of it. The look and feel of the film is pretty close to the comic-book series and there is a nice line in corny humour. Ryan Reynolds does a decent job as Hal Jordan, but the character is so obnoxious for the most part it is impossible to really sympathise with him, and most of the other characters are relegated to one note clichés. Blake Lively makes an engaging love interest, it's just a pity she is never really given much to do.
The special effects are good, if overused and lose their impact long before the film is over, however the alien effects are pretty good. Another problem with the film is the fact that Green Lantern kind of has too many powers to be interesting. It just feels like kind of a cop-out to have a character who can do pretty much anything.
If you're a fan of the comic than you might enjoy the film's fidelity to it's source, but others may find that it lags in many places. However there are moments when the film flares up and provides some thrills. The trouble is just that there aren't enough of them.
By the way, stick around when the end credits start, because there is an additional scene.
Quatermass and the Pit (1967)
One of the Best of Hammer
This is the third in the series of films made by Hammer Studios based on the ground-breaking 1950s "Quatermass" TV serials.
Workmen excavating an extension for the London Underground system come upon a series of humanoid skulls and bone fragments in clay which is estimated to be five million years old, much earlier than the earliest humanoids were thought to have developed. Further excavation uncovers a strange metallic object, which is at first thought to be an unexploded World War II bomb. Professor Bernard Quatermass (Andrew Kier) of the British Rocket Group investigates and quickly comes to believe that the object is far more sinister than an unexploded bomb and, as he begins to learn about the local areas extensive history of bizarre paranormal phenomenon quickly concludes that the object is not nearly as dormant as it appears.
This is one of the best of Hammer's 1960s output. Andrew Kier makes a gruff but sympathetic Quatermass and Barbara Shelley is an appealing female lead. Julian Glover gives a perfect portrayal of pig-headed military stiffness as Quatermass' adversary.
The script, by Nigel Kneale working from his own TV script, is intelligent while not stinting on the thrills. The idea of apparently supernatural phenomenon given a science-fiction "rationale" was a recurring theme in Kneale's work and the premise, while irrational, is certainly fascinating and makes for some great entertainment.
The film looks good and has a lively colour palette. While it is very much a product of it's time, it has aged pretty well.
The Curse of the Spiral
This deserves points for being probably the only movie ever made in which a shape is the focus for horror. In this case the shape is the humble spiral ("uzuamki" in Japanese).
This film takes place in a small town where the residents slowly become obsessed with spiral patterns which end up causing grotesque physical mutations in people.
It is a deeply strange movie that starts off almost as a kind of wacky dark comedy, but becomes progressively darker and weirder as it goes on. It's stylishly made with a variety of impressive cinematic pyrotechnics, some of them very subtle, such as the small, almost hidden spiral patterns appearing in various scenes. The main flaw with the film is the ending, which is kind of abrupt, also it tries but never quite manages to recreate the nightmarish images in the original comic series.
This is well worth checking out for horror fans who are looking for something truly unique.