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|12 reviews in total|
Its Supes versus Nukes for the fourth, much-derided Superman adventure often slated for its repressing low-budget, inferior special effects and a whole wad of plot holes and incoherence thanks no doubt to the extraction of a whole fifty minutes, much of the film's middle portion. Yet, among the wreckage are signs that there was a good film in here somewhere, as our hero struggles to decide whether or not to intervene in human history and the character's rather touching realisation that he is not just a visitor to Earth. A nicely-toned return to the Lois-Clark-Superman relationship also could have rooted the film back to its glorious predecessors - bar number three - but once Nuclear Man shows up and the film's story is cut in half, all promise and potential disappears from the project and the audience is left with a strictly mediocre re-tread of Superman II.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A lean, mean, steely adaptation by Graham Greene of his own 1938 novel, now regarded as a classic in British cinema. Although cited as 'watered-down' by fans of the book, one thing that cannot be undermined in this film is the quality of the casting. Twenty-five year old Richard Attenborough's convincing and perfect performance as vicious juvenile gangster Pinkie Brown must have left Greene gob-smacked whilst Carol Marsh (as Pinkie's despairingly innocent girlfriend, Rose), William Hartnell and Hermione Baddeley serve to bring Greene's supporting ensemble of seaside characters memorably to life. Certain aspects of the novel are lost or muddled on screen - Pinkie and Rose's obsession with Catholicism is patchy whilst the former's fear of sex is kept minimal, robbing the character of some of the depth that Greene conveyed in his book. Attenborough and the supporting players however are so graceful in their roles that any shortcomings are more than forgiven and the ending - again, a cause of controversy to some - , in the eyes of this reviewer, is a masterstroke.
On one level, Close Encounters is an archetypal Spielberg film; breathless, thrilling and awe-inspiring. On another level, it carries a profundity and depth which is unparallelled even by some of his biggest cinematic wonders. One thing's for sure; its brilliant storytelling and a dazzling piece of film-making. The superb Richard Dreyfuss is the down-at-heel electrician who becomes obsessed with the UFOs that one night pop up all over his home town, embarking on a journey which takes him literally towards the unknown. Spielberg's childhood fascination with alien life keenly explains why a third-time director handles this epic with such bruava yet the director's own neuroses over his parents' divorce lends an understated but nonetheless effective layer to Dreyfuss' character. All this is tied into an old-fashioned mythical adventure plot line with many implications. Like Kubrick a decade earlier, Spielberg uses the liberty of science-fiction to deliver a visually stunning and three-dimensional piece of cinema.
More accomplished, effective and entertaining than the original, The Bride of Frankenstein stands as nothing less than a vintage movie masterpiece - a marvellous melody of black humour and archaic horror. Colin Clive reprises his role as the tormented Henry Frankenstein who is lured back to his old experiments by the sinister Dr. Pretorious whilst the Monster (Boris Karloff back and even better) he created still roams free. As a film, it works in every department with acting, set design, photography, music and script all in peak condition. James Whale takes the boundaries re-established by his previous film even more further with a bravura expressionist style and the movie as a whole is executed with such imagination, energy and panache that still remains breathtaking.
Abysmal screen adaptation of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" which not only frequently abandons the source material but is devoid of any of its themes or meanings. The result is a strictly one-dimensional swords and sandal shambles which fatally chooses to take itself seriously. Miles O'Keefe is as bland as one can be in the role of Gawain whilst the action sequences are staged totally without panache or energy. The sole highlight (for me, anyway) among the mess was Sean Connery's lively portrayal of the Green Knight yet its not enough to rescue the movie. Overall, the whole thing is a sorry excuse for a film production and (considering its release in an era where action-adventure was being taken to new heights through "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones") one has to wonder what the filmmakers ever saw in it.
Jeff Bridges is the disgraced radio DJ whose downward slide leads him to meet Robin Williams' loopy street crawler leading to a series of escapades that involves knights, dating, the Holy Grail and video club membership. Terry Gilliam's tragicomedy is a lively, thoroughly entertaining and often hilarious treat which isn't afraid to enjoy itself in the light of its offbeat story. Bridges and Williams are invaluable in their roles and light up the screen with an array of memorable moments. The dual romantic sub-plot involving the pair's relationship with the two women in their lives (Mercedes Ruehl and Amanda Plummer) takes centre-stage for the film's middle portion and does become somewhat tedious as the on-street exchanges between the two men are more rewarding. Yet, for the most part, The Fisher King shines as a delightfully amusing piece of screwball entertainment.
Bruce Willis steps into the role that made him a Hollywood star - vest-strapped, wise-cracking New York cop John McLane who finds himself fighting off a herd of terrorists in an LA skyscraper after arriving at his wife's Christmas party. A superior action film on every level, Die Hard oozes quality in every department - John McTieran directs the whole thing with remarkable aplomb and skill, the script is perfectly balanced between suspense and humour and Willis - love him or hate him - gives a terrific performance. Far more than a hollow 80's shoot-em-up, Die Hard is an artistically and technically dazzling film that serves as gripping and great entertainment from start to finish. The best of the series? I think so.
Whilst there are a few solid versions of Dracula out there, F.W. Marnau's 1922 silent adaptation remains the greatest film adaptation of Bram Stoker's tale. Ironically, the film was unauthorised and was eagerly sought to be destroyed by Stoker's widow which makes its latter-day rediscovery and restoration all the more appreciable. Opting for a folkloric depiction of the vampire, the film presents one of the screen's most menacing figures, the hideous Count Orlok (Max Schreck), far removed from the suave urbanity of the succeeding incarnations that we have grown used to. The story is the same: a naive young estate agent ventures to Transylvania in order to secure the bloodthirsty aristocrat's move to his home town where strange happenings are occurring. Yet, what makes Nosferatu the definitive Dracula movie is its grandiose air of menace, atmosphere and fascination which few films ever have rivalled. For its time, the film is stunningly cinematic with its use of location and parallel crosscutting whilst Marnau assembles a gallery of unforgettable and chilling shots, not least the sight of a shadowed Orlok creeping swiftly upstairs ready to devour his victim. Eighty years down the line, Marnau's work firmly stands as a superior piece of silent cinema as well as one of the definitive horror classics.
Two towering performances from Johnny Depp and Martin Landau are the jewels in the crown in Tim Burton's glorious satirical biopic of Ed Wood (Depp), the so-called "worse director of all time". The film follows Wood as he aspires to create a big-time blockbuster, refusing to let a string of awful flops (Glen or Glenda?, The Bride of the Monster), his own cross-dressing activities and the troubles of his washed-up "big star" Bela Lugosi (Landau) stand in his way. Depp and Burton could have gone for the obvious - an outright mockery of Wood - but instead achieve something far richer; Wood comes across a sympathetic character whose blind determination and enthusiasm comes across as touching, even admirable. Depp's versatility as an actor is never more apparent whilst Landau fills the role of the tragic Lugosi inside out. There's little to fault here - the ending is perhaps a bit abrupt - but the film has too many merits for it to be tainted. A wonderfully entertaining movie and one of Burton's best.
An exceptional cast and intelligent direction seals the quality of the first 'talkie' version of Robert Louis Stevenson's tale. Often hailed as the best of the many screen adaptations of the story, director Robert Moumalin exploits the symbolic potential of the tale as well as boldly tapping into popular Freudian trends concerning sexual repression. The result is not a by-the-numbers rendition but an effective interpretation with quirks and dimensions of its own. Yet the film belongs to Frederic March who scooped an Oscar for his sensational dual role. Although as Jekyll he unfortunately has to trade flowery romantic dialogue with Rose Hobart, there can be no disputing the menace of his Hyde, with his simian-like appearance, top hat, cloak and cane, who turns cockney hooker Miriam Hopkins' life into a nightmare. It's a breathtaking transformation both physically (thanks to stellar make-up and special effects) and artistically and is undoubtedly the centrepiece of this excellent vintage classic.
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