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A weird horror movie that is very good in its own right
Wes Craven's "Scream" is a truly original horror film with a very original plot that wasn't even thought of before it was made, though it is very creative it isn't perfect and most movies aren't. The movie opens with a high-school girl named Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) who is home alone in her house making popcorn and is about to watch a movie until some sort of creepy voice calls her on her cell phone asking her questions that are related to horror movies such as "What is your favorite scary movie?" along with "What was the name of the killer in Halloween"?", and "Who was the killer in "Friday the 13th"?" numerous times after repeatedly hanging up on him, and then he says to her that if she hangs up again, as well as gets any questions wrong he will kill both her and her boyfriend Steven, and unfortunately both of them get killed by a serial killer dressed in some sort of ghost-grim reaper costume. The next day her whole school in shock and grief after hearing about the murders. The next person on the serial killers hit list is a girl who was a friend of the victims named Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) whose mother was murdered approximately a year earlier and fears that she might be next, and as a result is staying over the house of her best friend Tatum Riley (Rose McGowan), and also being guarded by a local Sheriff's deputy by the name of Dewey (David Arquette), while also being stalked by a journalist named Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) who wants to ask questions about her mother, and how she is doing after the murders happened, and as a result of that her school principal (Henry Winkler) suspends school for reasons of curfew until the serial killer is captured by the police. But however I will not spoil anything beyond this point which will practically give away the entire movie due to the major plot twists towards the end of the movie. During the movie however Craven and his screenwriter Kevin Williamson do a very good job of messing with people's heads by making people think that a certain person committed the crimes and then constantly make us think that it was a different person every few minutes. Craven's direction and Williamson's screenplay are very good and well balanced but could have been better with a lot more tension and suspense. Alfred Hitchcock once said to "Always make the audience suffer as much as possible." Which is what I feel like is lacking here. There is no question the Craven was one of the most popular horror filmmakers of all time along with George Romero, James Wan, John Carpenter, James Whale, Tod Browning, and many others. However this movie did make me more excited to see other horror films by Craven such as "The Hills Have Eyes" (1977), and "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984) which may be much better films to watch, but then again that's just me.
The Conjuring (2013)
One of the finest horror films of the decade
James Wan's "the Conjuring" is a far better horror film than I had expected it to be, but four years ago when it was released into theaters I thought it was about a person being possessed but when you watch it for the first time you will find out that it is so much more than that. The movie is based on the true story of Roger and Carolyn Perron (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) who have five daughters named Andrea (Shanley Caswell), Nancy (Hayley McFarland), Christine (Joey King), Cindy (Mackenzie Foy), and April (Kyla Deaver), who then move into an old Rhode Island farmhouse which is haunted but nobody notices until a few days later when the mother goes to some sort of paranormal activity class and learns about signs of demonic activity which happens to be taught by supernatural activity investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) who then get told about the situation and then decide to take a look at the house for themselves, but after they're hired things would get a lot worse than an ordinary person would be able to comprehend. During the many investigation scenes Lorraine finds out that there was a young woman hung by a tree by her own mother that was possessed by some demonic spirits to kill her which she then finds out will happen eventually but for reasons that I will not reveal, but things get scarier and scarier with really effective jump scares which are written at just the right times, and Wan's direction is very similar to the techniques of Alfred Hitchcock in terms of building up suspense in the movie. The performances especially from Farmiga and Wilson are very good, and mostly everything is totally realistic for a horror film. But at the same time I feel like this movie could have been a lot better despite being a near masterpiece. This is one of the best movies of the decade but not the best horror film that I've ever seen, although it is one of the very best, ranking among greats like "Psycho" (1960), "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991), "Carrie" (1976),"Poltergeist" (1982), "The Shining" (1980) and many others. But compared to this movie the other Wan movie that I watched recently which was "Saw" (2004) this movie is nearly twice as better than that one, which is why I would highly recommend it for horror movie fans who haven't seen this movie yet.
A History of Violence (2005)
A jaw droppingly great movie
I've always wanted to see David Cronenberg's "A History of Violence" for many years but when the opportunity presented itself to me and I watched it I knew it was going to be great, but at the same time it was far different than the movie I pictured but in a good way of course. The main character of this movie is Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) an ordinary working class man who lives in the town of Milbrook, Indiana with his wife Edie (Maria Bello) and their two children, and also owns a local diner which is non-coincidentally called "Stall's diner".However Stall's life changes when one night he is about to close up shop in his restaurant and two guys come in and try to rob the diner in order to get themselves more money that they didn't earn out of desperation because of being broke and due to the fact that they're threatening the lives of every single person in the restaurant Stall takes matters into his own hands killing both men and as a result he is hailed a hero for his actions, although he isn't very proud of what he did, which unveils a secret that he had concealed for 20 years which I will not spoil. After the failed robbery a mobster named Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) comes into the restaurant with one of his men and tries telling him that his name isn't really Tom Stall but rather Joey Cusack and tries to make him remember his past by showing him scars on his face and that he is blind in one eye. There is another scene in the movie where Edie takes her daughter to the mall and she sees Fogarty again and he tells her to ask her husband a very shocking question which is spoiled by the trailer of which I won't mention. After dealing with Fogarty and his men for the last time Tom or Joey decides to drive to Philadelphia to meet his alleged brother Richie Cusack (William Hurt) who also happens to be a mobster, and after the meeting Tom goes back to his family and nobody knows what happens next. The movie is a nearly flawless adaptation John Wagner and Vince Locke's graphic novel (which I didn't read), and a brilliant Oscar nominated screenplay by Josh Olson, as well as Cronenberg's expert direction. Also with the performances are very good with standout work from Mortensen, Harris, and Hurt (who received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor). The only problem that I had with the movie was Maria Bello's performance which wasn't very impressive to me and made me feel like another actress could have played the part of Edie Stall so much better than she did but then again that's just me. Mortensen's work is comparable to that of Robert Mitchum's performance in "Out of the Past" (1947) because in both movies the main characters deal with a troubled past and tried to keep it a secret but couldn't take it any longer. The performances given by both Harris and Hurt compare among the greatest gangster portrayals in all of movie history along with Jack Nicholson's Frank Costello in "The Departed" (2006), James Cagney's Cody Jarrett in "White Heat" (1949), Marlon Brando's Don Vito Corleone in "The Godfather" (1972), Al Pacino's Michael Corleone throughout the entire "Godfather" series, Ray Liotta's Henry Hill in "Goodfellas" (1990), Daniel Day-Lewis's Bill "the Butcher" Cutting in "Gangs of New York" (2002) along with so many others. I wish this movie could have gotten more accolades at the Oscars than it did 11 years ago for example not only a supporting actor nomination for William Hurt, but there also could have been one for Ed Harris as well, along with a best actor nomination for Mortensen. This is a violent movie but however it isn't the most violent movie that I've ever seen, and is not suitable for younger viewers who want to watch it at home, which is why it got the R rating in the first place. This is one of the best crime thrillers that I've ever seen , as well as being one of the best films of 2005.
A Tale of Two Cities (1935)
One of the finest Dickens adaptations I've ever seen
Jack Conway's "A Tale of Two Cities" is based on the popular Charles Dickens novel of the same name depicting the events of the French Revolution and happens to depict them very well, and thanks to how Conway directed this movie it is also one of the finest period pieces that I've ever seen. The movie stars Ronald Colman in a role he always felt that he was born to portray as Sydney Carton an alcoholic British lawyer who defends a young Frenchman named Charles Darnay (Donald Woods) who happens to be a relative to an aristocrat named Marquis St. Evremonde (Basil Rathbone) who he differs from in every way in terms of political philosophy, and all the poor French citizens who are victims of the reign of King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette, and as punishment they wanted to kill all of the aristocrats as well as all of their relatives all the way down to babies which is a very sickening idea thanks to clouded judgment. Carton is also defending him for the sake of his wife (Elizabeth Allan), daughter,her maid (Edna May Oliver) and the rest of her family of which he credits for sobering him up, and as a result he decides to sacrifice himself for the sake of his friends which is his plan for getting Darnay out of prison. Although Colman felt he was born to play the role of Sydney Carton he strongly refused to play the dual roles of Carton and Darnay which are supposed to be lookalikes in the story. Though I didn't read the novel I do know that the novel starts with the words "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." which I couldn't think of any better words that Dickens wrote to best describe this story. The screenplay along with Conway's sure handed direction makes you relate to both the British and the French citizens but the problem with the French people is that they let their emotions get the best of themselves and they totally acted out of revenge towards aristocrats and racism towards British people. The performances are very good but Colman is so good in this role that he makes the role of Carton his own and was unfortunately snubbed for a best actor Oscar nomination probably due to the fact that his performance was far too good for the Academy, this is a great film that is hardly remembered anymore, and is one of the finest films that the year 1935 had to offer.
In the Valley of Elah (2007)
A gripping murder mystery
Paul Haggis' "In the Valley of Elah" is inspired by the true story of Lanny Davis a Georgia man who was searching for his son Richard after he returned from Iraq and never returned home to his family and then does his own investigation with the help of detectives in order to find him. The film stays true to the story and sequence of events but the names of the characters and the locations have been changed. In the movie the name of the father is Hank Deerfield (Tommy Lee Jones) who finds out one morning that his son Mike (Jonathan Tucker) has returned from the Iraq war and never returned home. The next morning Deerfield gets a call from the military that he had returned from his tour of duty and then tells his wife Joan (Susan Sarandon) about it and then tells he that he is going to drive to Fort Rudd, New Mexico to take a look into things himself, despite Joan's pleas to go with him and her saying that the drive will last two days and Hank simply responds to her by saying "not the way I'll drive it." When he gets to the Fort he has a look at his sons room and sees that there are no signs that the bed was slept in and pocketed his son's cell phone to see if he can get any major information out of the phone. then he goes to a local police station and meets a young detective named Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron) who helps him try to find his son and later they find out that he was killed and his remains dismembered and burned on desert terrain and under some dry bushes and tumbleweeds. After the body is found it is up to them to find out who killed Mike Deerfield, and everything from this point I will not spoil because it is too crucial to the story. This movie is Paul Haggis' second film as a director and out of this one and "The Next Three Days" (2010) which is the only other film I saw out of his directing resume this one is the absolute best out of the two. Jones, Theron, and Sarandon all give standout performances along with supporting cast members such as Jason Patric, James Franco, and Josh Brolin as well as many others. Jones gives one of the very best performances of his career and as a result earned an Oscar nomination for his profoundly moving work living up to Humphrey Bogart's quote that "The only thing an actor owes to the public is a good performance." Which is a quote that is always true for any entertainer, the screenplay by Haggis and Mark Boal is very well written and also well thought out. When I finished watching it I originally thought that the movie had political leanings but when I thought it over I found that the characters were angry with the military for not doing anything to prevent the crime that was the focus of the story of this movie. Also due to the fact that this is one of 2007's finest films.
The Wolf Man (1941)
An imperfect horror film
George Waggner's "The Wolf Man" isn't the classic horror movie that I honestly expected it to be, but for the most part it does work as a horror movie even though it didn't scare me very much. Lon Chaney Jr. stars as Larry Talbot a British man who comes back from America to Wales after his brother dies in order to spend more time with his father John Talbot (Claude Rains) and during that time his father shows him the new telescope that he got and decides to test it out himself and also during that period when he is testing out the telescope he sees a young blond haired girl named Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers) and later they go for a walk in the night time together with Gwen's friend Jenny (Fay Helm) to a local gypsy fortune teller in the woods named Bela (Bela Lugosi) who sees her and then sees a suspicious star on her hand and tells her to run away from him as fast as possible because in this film according to legend that in the night time whenever you see a star on someone's hand and you are about to turn into a werewolf the person that you see the star on will become their next victim, and thus Bela turns into a werewolf kills Jenny, and Larry tries to save her by killing him with his cane that he had gotten from the antique shop with a silver handle that kills him but not without getting bitten by him. Then the next night is Bela's funeral, and then we meet Bela's mother Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya, who was six years Lugosi's senior in real life) who tells Talbot about the legends and he thinks that she is joking and completely dismisses her claims until he turns into a werewolf himself and kills a gravedigger, and the next night almost kills both Gwen and his father who doesn't believe the legends either until he finds out that the werewolf he killed was his own son. The whole movie works as a horror thriller all the way until the ending which was totally ridiculous and should have been altered and rewritten. During that time in Hollywood history the Academy didn't take horror movies about monsters very seriously and considered them devoid of art and of no considerable interest to them. The performances are very good especially with standout work from Chaney, Rains, Ankers, Lugosi, and Ouspenskaya, the screenplay by Curt Siodmak could have been better but was still very good, as well as George Waggner's direction. However the movie doesn't rank among some true horror classics like "Psycho" (1960), "Carrie" (1976), "The Shining" (1980), "Misery" (1990), and "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991), and is Oscar material in terms of music, acting, and cinematography, but even though it is a good movie it isn't a must see film even though I highly recommend it on the reasons that were previously stated.
Silver Streak (1976)
A hilarious murder mystery
Arthur Hiller's "Silver Streak" is rightfully one of the most popular movies that he has ever directed thanks to his expertise with the making of this movie mixing the genres of romance, comedy, and crime very effectively. The movie's main character is named George Caldwell (Gene Wilder) who is going on a train ride from Los Angeles to Chicago to attend his sister's wedding, who also happens to publish books for a living. While on the train he meets a supposed vitamin salesman named "Bob Sweet" (Ned Beatty) who is really a Federal undercover agent named Stevens, as well as a young woman named Hilly Burns (Jill Clayburgh) who is going to Chicago for a new job, end up falling in love with one another. While Caldwell and Burns are in her room Caldwell sees a dead body hanging off of the train and then falls off and he believes that it is the Professor who Hilly is going to work for that was killed, but the one problem with his story is that no one believes him. The next morning he tells Sweet about the murder and conduct a brief investigation of their own after getting thrown off the train by a minion named Reese (Richard Kiel) and then one of his superiors named Mr. Whitney (Ray Walston) who then orders Reese to kill Caldwell fearing that he may have incriminating evidence against them and their whole operation, but then Reese carries out the order and doesn't hit the intended target, instead by killing Stevens. After the murder the two men find out that Caldwell isn't dead and Reese tries to go after and kill him once and for all but then gets shot with a spear-gun to the chest on the top of the train and Caldwell falls off again. After that happens he goes to a local Sheriff's department to report the casualties and an all points bulletin is set for him all across the country. Caldwell then steals the Sheriff's car and then meets a thief named Grover (Richard Pryor) who tries to help him get back on the train and succeeds. Then we formally meet a man named Roger Deverau (Patrick McGoohan) who is the architect of this whole murder plot who then admits to the whole thing and tries to evade police by using the train to get away from them, and the rest I will not spoil. The writing and comedic timing for this movie is very well thought out, Hiller's direction has the proper balance of three different genres, the chemistry between Wilder and Clayburgh is very good and convincing, as well as the relationship that both the Wilder and Pryor characters is the most hilarious aspect of the movie, and the chase scenes involving the train are very well staged which is no wonder why this movie got an Oscar nomination for its sound effects. The one I wished that would have happened is that Colin Higgins who wrote the screenplay for the movie would have allowed me to get to know the characters a little more although I related to them a lot in their respective situations. It isn't a great movie but it is a very funny movie that is totally worth remembering.
As Good as It Gets (1997)
One of the all time greatest romantic comedies
When I first saw this movie about five or so years ago I couldn't get past the opening scene just because at my age I didn't like the concept of main characters who are insensitive and totally lack a filter when talking to other people, but watching this movie in its entirety last night made me realize that it had so much more heart that I didn't get to see or notice when I first saw the beginning of this movie. The movie is a character study of Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) a novelist who has written over 60 romance novels that are very popular, but during the course of the film we discover that he is a man who suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder and refuses to take his pills to improve his condition. Udall is also a germaphob, and always stays true to his habits such as not being able to walk on lines and other stuff of that nature. Udall also goes to the same restaurant every morning, has the same breakfast and asks for the same waitress whose name is Carol (Helen Hunt) who hates him due to his personality and because he made an insulting remark about her son who has been suffering from asthma, and takes care of him with the help of her mother (Shirley Knight). Udall also has a gay neighbor named Simon Bishop (Greg Kinnear) who is an artist that has a dog named Verdell whom Udall develops an affection for, and also has a person who happens to be a good friend of his named Frank Sachs (Cuba Gooding Jr.). Also during the course of the movie we see Udall's transition from a grumpy curmudgeon to a nicer person, as well as the relationship between Melvin and Carol improving drastically. The movie was directed and co-written by James L. Brooks who previously directed popular films like "Broadcast News" (1987), and "Terms of Endearment" (1983) unseen by me. One thing that I have noticed in some reviews that I've read about this movie that there was a lot of comparisons to Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" as to how Melvin Udall is this movie's version of Ebenezer Scrooge. The screenplay is expertly by both Brooks and Mark Andrus and they both deliver the proper comic timing at just the right moments, as well as with standout performances by Nicholson, Hunt (who both won Oscars for their respective performances). Kinnear (who received a Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor), Gooding Jr., and well as Knight (who gives her best performance since her Oscar nominated work in "Sweet Bird of Youth"). Though this movie is very well made there is some fairly minor problems that I have with it as to some of the dialogue that Helen Hunt's character spoke in the movie with her mother about going out to dinner, and how she spoke to the doctor who is trying to help her son with his asthma (Harold Ramis), which I will not spoil. This is a very heartwarming and hilarious movie that proves that sometimes the meanest people can have a soft heart inside, and that people can change for the better during any situation even towards a gay neighbor who got robbed and beaten and in need of financial assistance. What a beautiful movie to watch, and a near masterpiece.
Ride the High Country (1962)
A beautifully filmed western
Sam Peckinpah's "Ride the High Country" is framed like one of John Ford's westerns and one thing in common with those and many other western movies that this is one of the best westerns ever made. The movie stars Joel McCrea as Steve Judd an ex Union Army soldier and retired lawman who is hired to find and transport gold back to the bank, but he couldn't do it alone as he couldn't think of any other person better to help him than his old friend Gil Westrum (Randolph Scott) who brought along a young kid named Heck Longtree (Ron Starr), while on the trail the three men stay for the night on a ranch owned by a man named Joshua Knudsen (R.G. Armstrong) who is very religious and has a daughter named Elsa (Mariette Hartley) who Longtree gets a crush on but doesn't find out right away that she is engaged to a man named Billy Hammond (James Drury) who along with his brothers have very bad manners and do not treat Elsa very well. As the movie goes on Judd finds out that Westrum is trying to betray him by stealing the gold and keeping it for himself despite their friendship knowing all along and repeatedly denying that it would happen, arrests him and then they become friends again. This movie would go on to be Randolph Scott's final role in movies and after filming ended he said that making movies no longer interested him and that he couldn't give any better performance than he did in this movie which would end up being his most popular film. The performances are excellent especially featuring standout work from both Scott and McCrea (who was very modest about his own acting abilities) thanks to a great screenplay from N.B. Stone Jr., and Peckinpah's direction for this movie which happened to be his second film that he directed, as well as the beautiful cinematography by Lucien Ballard. The movie ranks among the best western movies that I've ever seen in my entire life and I've seen lots of them, and thanks to a masterpiece like this as well as one of the top ten best films of 1962 I am totally looking forward to seeing more of Sam Peckinpah's movies in the future.
Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
A shockingly great movie
Alexander Mackendrick's "Sweet Smell of Success" is a movie about journalists that is unlike anything that I've ever seen before and when it comes to the journalism industry it is even more shocking than Sidney Lumet's "Network" (1976) which was released 19 years after this movie came out in 1957. Burt Lancaster stars as JJ Hunsecker a very powerful columnist for the New York Globe and who has lots of readers to his name, asks a young press agent named Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) to break up the relationship between Hunsecker's little sister Susie (Susan Harrison) and a jazz musician named Steve Dallas (Martin Milner) while Falco tries to go even further as to framing him as a dope smoker. The film isn't a typical film noir with a private eye investigating a murder though it does have the ingredients of one. This is a movie that is truly flawless thanks to the extremely intense screenplay written by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, the glorious black and white cinematography by James Wong Howe, Mackendrick's direction, and all of the performances especially from Lancaster and Curtis stand out from all the rest and each of them give some of the best work of their respective careers and are truly Oscar level work that was snubbed that year. In his review of this movie Roger Ebert wrote that the relationship between the Lancaster and Curtis characters was like "two junkyard dogs". of which there is no better way for me to describe it. Burt Lancaster is one of my all time favorite macho men in the movies along with John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, James Stewart, Clark Gable, Liam Neeson, Harrison Ford and many others. This film is also one of the best noirs that I've ever seen and not only is it a masterpiece, it is also one of the ten best films of 1957.