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I'm an artist, musician, CGI FX novice. I love movies, food, music, art and science.
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
The Truth Told...
In a supposedly existential and enlightened world this movie is something of an oddity. Slammed by controversy for being anti-Semitic (particularly, and perhaps ironically by the secular press), which is ridiculous as it would make the Bible anti-Semitic too.
What we have here is an account of historical fact with a little artistic licence. Great care has been taken to present the world of Jesus Christ as it really was. The people speak in the languages of the time, and the politics of the period are represented accurately. To have the film in these ancient languages and then sub-titled was a bold move and a stroke of genius because it makes the movie feel like a window on the past.
The cinematography was great and although Gibson uses the space on the big screen adeptly there was no feeling of it being epic (in the wide-screen millions of extras on the set sort of way). Naturally the portrayal of Christ's epic suffering was depicted in unflinching detail, which will remind people of just how much Christ suffered during the last hours of his life. Cleverly the movie shows a few flashback sequences showing that Jesus Christ was a human man, in some ways off-setting the unrelenting punishment and in some ways compounding the horror of it.
When I first heard about this movie the biggest controversy was that it was going to be in ancient languages and that there would be no sub-titles. Way back then it piqued my interest. The fact that Mel mainstream' Gibson was going to make a movie about the last hours of Christ in such a fashion made it a must see movie. And so it is. It is a classic and stands taller than any other religious film.
I cannot sign off without mentioning John Debney's score for the film. Especially the final piece of music as the end credits roll. The initial crescendo sounds confident, powerful, and like the choir of angels singing their praise to God. In a word, it is awesome. The music definitely gives this movie a lot of flavour, and helps draw out the emotions of the viewer without being patronising.
With this movie I got what I expected. I expected it to be great and it was. So often I am disappointed by movies I think will be great and then they turn out to be mediocre. A bold movie, for the reasons I previously mentioned. Congratulations to Mr Gibson for telling it how it was, and is.
10 out of 10.
The Italian Job (2003)
Average Heist Movie
This is a relatively entertaining heist movie abound with the commercial slick of Hollywood. The set pieces are suitably expensive, and the action sequences, although largely uninspired, are adequate. We don't expect great acting for a tongue-in-cheek film such as this but there are no real sparks in the interplay of the characters. The script doesn't sizzle and there really is no memorable dialogue to speak of. Edward Norton, who plays the villain, is on auto-pilot. Mark Wahlberg's performance is as charismatic as a 4 by 4 plank. The only character in the film I found entertaining was Lyle, played by Seth Green. Donald Sutherland, always a welcome sight, played little more than a cameo role
The final sequences with the Minis as they career around Los Angeles was a huge disappointment and a wasted opportunity to have a car chase sequence that could've been amongst the best in the annals of cinema history. It's not like the budget wasn't there, just the creative vision and inventive impetus.
On the plus side though the music was great. Graham Revell really injected some chic into the movie with his cool tunes. The film was expertly paced and managed to keep my interest from start to finish, but then that is the least we can hope for from the director of The Negotiator.
All in all not bad, but not good either. Worth watching if you're stuck for something to see but I wouldn't go out of your way to catch it.
5 out of 10.
Just as good as X-Men...
I didn't think that much of the original movie and so I wasn't expecting much from this overly hyped sequel. My expectations were sufficiently met.
I'm not a huge fan of the X-Men per say, but the comic and the current cartoon series are so much better than these movies. Perhaps it is because there is not enough scope to tell the whole story properly in the time of the movie. Perhaps it is the huge overuse of pretty standard special FX, which are more boring than dazzling these days. I suspect it has more to do with the general malaise in the screenplay itself. Although there was a story it seemed to be a case of connect the dots between the big set-piece sequences than a properly developed narrative. This gave the movie a bit of a directionless, aimless sort of feeling.
The photography was superb in a safe Hollywood sort of way but despite this in its favour the movie still lacked something important, namely a soul. There is a glut of Marvel comic heroes that have been brought to the screen of late and while I feel Daredevil and Spiderman are definite successes, the X-Men franchise is an absolute failure.
4 out of 10.
Cronenberg's best horror film...Wow!
David Cronenberg is one of my favourite directors, but on occasion he has managed to make dire movies. The first bad movie of his I saw was Crash. It was bad for me because as a huge J.G Ballard fan I felt the movie missed the whole point and vision of the novel. The second bad film from Cronenberg was eXistenZ, a parody of his previous and more serious work and something of a backward step. Other than these two blips everything he has done has been great (more or less), with my favourite being Dead Ringers.
But now we come to Spider. Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! This is a drab and depressing study of mental illness. The colours in the photography are washed out just like the droll lives of the characters. It is unremittingly bleak and tawdry, a monochromatic study of madness as some kind of normalcy. It is unrelenting, and merciless. No binding of flesh to technology here, no escape from the true horror of it all.
In short, David Cronenberg has made the movie we all wanted: The movie that truly disturbs us. This is hardcore horror, though it lacks gore, supernatural elements and the like. It creates an atmosphere of sickness that seeps into your soul as you watch. It is boring and humdrum but the atmosphere is full of the potential for something really awful to happen. The movie operates on a visceral level and turns your guts into knots in ways the like of (the classic) Videodrome could never hope to.
Ralph Fiennes is utterly convincing as a man crippled by mental illness. His younger played self by Bradley Hall is equally impressive. Miranda Richardson and Gabriel Byrne are excellent as are the rest of the cast in this movie.
I definitely did not enjoy this movie, but then it is not supposed to be a movie to be enjoyed in the normal sense. It is a horror movie no matter what anybody says. It is David Cronenberg's first undisputed masterpiece in my opinion.
His next film is sci-fi, but I hope he continues to push his talent and vision forward and that he will not be looking back. Cronenberg is one of the unique directors that have something to say to our generation and for it.
10 out of 10.
The Exorcist III (1990)
The best Exorcist...
The Exorcist is supposedly the most horrific movie ever made and when I finally got to see it I pretty much laughed my ass off from start to finish. I am sure it wasn't intended as a comedy but it was the funniest film I had seen in ages. I never bothered hunting down the first sequel but when Exorcist III came down the wire my interest was sufficiently piqued by the trailer for me to go and watch it.
Exorcist III takes us into a very different landscape and manages to convey some of the same atmospheric creepiness of the infinitely superior movie Jacob's Ladder, which was released the same year. It's basically a psychological serial-killer thriller with a supernatural element. George C. Scott turns in a believable performance as a hard-bitten, conflicted cop. Brad Dourif (possibly the most underrated actor that ever walked upon God's green earth) gives yet another spellbinding and intense tour de force of acting, here playing the Gemini Killer/ James Venamun. The parley between these two characters provides the entertaining core of the movie.
It is somewhat of a shame that this movie is judged against that which many consider to be a towering monument to horror (i.e. the first Exorcist movie) especially when it can stand on its own apart from the series. It was originally to be entitled Legion' and that would have been much better for this picture.
I would not go so far as to call this a classic movie. However, it is a cut above the rest. The film is definitely a `must see' purely to see Brad Dourif in his full, unadulterated glory. It is impressive visually too and doesn't smack of the normal formulaic approach to horror espoused by Hollywood.
Best watched alone in the dark during a storm or some such.
8 out of 10.
The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter at his very best...
Immediately after the credits of this movie the opening shot is of mountains in the icy wasteland of the Antarctic, which seems to recall H.P Lovecraft's novella At The Mountains of Madness.' (Later Carpenter would direct In The Mouth Of Madness)
The claustrophobic and paranoid atmosphere evoked in The Thing is nothing short of masterful. The special effects were awesome for the time and still stand up to the CGI effects of today. The film manages to transcend its genre because although the original story is hardcore science fiction the movie counter-balances with the right amount of action, horror, and drama. Ostensibly The Thing is a metaphor for the cold war but below the surface it is about human relationships. Who can you trust? The tag-line asks. There is a hallucinatory intensity to the movie that really kicks in when the paranoia of the characters starts (when Blair is asking Clark how long he was alone with the dog). It makes you feel like you're right in that camp with them.
In sci-fi terms The Thing presents us with a monster that is truly alien (a formless thing that devours and replicates tissue, and NOT a critter of some description). It also shows us a monster that can give a presentation of normalcy, much like a smiling airline passenger who turns out to be a terrorist.
This is John Carpenter's masterpiece and it is a classic movie. The understated score by Ennio Morricone is clinical and perfect, adding to the cold ambience of the picture. The ending is ambiguous but leaves room open for a sequel. It's a well-crafted movie that is entertaining and engaging from beginning to end.
10 out of 10.
Dead Like Me (2003)
Dead like...nothing else.
I saw the pilot when it aired on Showtime, thanks to some publicity here on IMDb. It follows other U.S shows that have incorporated movie production values and that lack usual television censorship. Dead Like Me is of similar high quality but is completely different.
The show has great story lines and although each episode is self contained there is also an arc to the entire series too. The characters are all brilliantly brought to...life by the actors and are exceedingly entertaining to watch. Ostensibly a comedy Dead Like Me also has some very touching moments and indeed, makes one reflect upon ones own life. Some of the ways people die in the series are convoluted and highly amusing to watch, as are the antics of the Grim Reapers.
One thing I do like about this show is that it leaves some very big questions in the air concerning its milieu. The characters don't have the answers and so we the audience are left to speculate about certain aspects of the Dead Like Me universe. How refreshing not to be patronized and have every last little detail explained to us.
It's a popular show and rightly so. It's brisk pace, snappy dialogue, and superb cast and direction make it a cut [of the scythe] above the rest.
10 out of 10 for season one. Bring on season two a.s.a.p.
Turn it off and do something less boring instead!
All the bare chested women in the world couldn't keep me from hitting the stop button about a third of the way through this awful rubbish. With the derisory acting, equally terrible script plus the poor CGI FX to match; this movie is an insult to the Werewolf genre. It is supposed to be serious, which in itself would be funny if this film could even make it to the level of being a bad joke.
This is one of those movies where the people behind the camera are obviously competent but are too lazy to make something even one quarter decent. Avoid at all costs and watch one of the classic Werewolf movies instead.
0 out of 10!
There's a good idea in there somewhere...
Just DLed and watched this movie for want of something to watch. Well, while watching the movie I kept seeing an idea that had no hope of exploration, which was the mental illness angle. Had this been a more serious effort exploring the schizophrenic mind it would have made for interesting viewing. Cronenberg's infinitely more horrifying Spider focused more on the hum-drum aspects of mental delusion, but They could have explored mental health in a much more Donnie Darco (i.e glossy horror) sort of way.
That aside, it was watchable enough. Predictable, but at least the evil won in the end, which makes a change I suppose.
This movie gets a 1/10.
28 Days Later... (2002)
The beginning of the film reminded me of both John Wyndham's Day of the Triffids, and the classic Twilight Zone episode 'Where is everybody?'. All the way through this movie was reminding me of other movies, including the recent Dog Soldiers.
The plot was pretty old hat, but the presentation made it entertaining enough. The acting was adequate, as was the cinematography. The leitmotif of the movie seemed to be the word, 'Hello' which began the main part of the feature, surfaced throughout, and ended it nicely.
I suppose the movie plays on peoples fears of a biological or chemical attack from Islamic extremists. The most horrific aspect of the movie was the attitude of the soldiers in the last part. They wanted to keep the female protagonists purely to rape them, which was far more horrifying than the zombies on speed.
All in all, you could do worse than this movie. There are better zombie flicks out there though. Romero's Living Dead trilogy (yeah, and on that note where is part IV of that George, Twilight Of The Dead?), any Fulcio zombie flick, and Bava's Demons and Demons II.
I give this movie 6 out of 10.
The Art Of Horror
Guinea Pig 1 Devil's Experiment is one of those films I have wanted to see ever since I saw a trailer for it, and the first sequel in the early 90's. It was impossible to get back then because customs would stop any video on their banned list from entering the country, and I didn't feel like going to Japan just to see it either.
The piece is not a movie in the conventional sense though it belongs firmly in the horror genre. What you have is a horror film stripped to the bare essentials of what makes a good horror movie: atmosphere, violence, and gore. Devil's Experiment is more like a piece of funereal art than a movie. It is something you would run day and night on a large flat-screen monitor and put up on the wall next to your Hieronimus Bosche prints.
It is quite a short movie, but it belongs up there with other classics of the period like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Cannibal Ferox, etc. This film however is art because the makers were making a point about extremity. These days, mainstream movies are far more extreme in terms of violence and special effects, but mainstream movies use context to justify what is on the screen. Take away plot, narrative, and meaning though and you would have a hard time justifying the rest of it. Charlie Sheen waged a personal campaign to have the Guinea Pig movies banned in the USA in the early 90's, which just made them more popular. I only mention it because I don't remember seeing Charlie Sheen in any movie of merit. While his films will be forgotten over time the Guinea Pig movies will live on possibly being included on the curriculum at film makers school along with Metropolis, Citizen Kane and the like.
Devil's Experiment is a `have-to-see' movie for lovers of movies (not just horror movie fans either) and art. Time has taken its toll on the impact of the movie, so you must view it with a mind of when it was made. Indeed it could probably be shown on free to air TV channels in forward-thinking areas such as Europe, UK, and Japan (the UK showed an artist eating the flesh of a real dead baby at the beginning of the year on free to air TV).
It is an interesting movie, the special effects are well-done considering the miniscule budget on which it was made. Don't believe the hype about it either. It is not the most sick or horrific movie you will ever see. Chances are, if you are reading this review then you have seen a more horrific movie already.
8 out of 10, and I am now after the sequels.
Cradle of Fear (2001)
Cradle Of Fun
Since the demise of Hammer Horror there has been little to fill the void in this rather specific genre. Mr Chandon knows what is amiss and has sated our thirst for the pastiche schlock horror that was missing in our lives. Mixing the gory elements of 80's Italian horror cinema, the cop show stylings of The Sweeney, the story format of Asylum (1972), and some soft porno goings on, then we have Cradle Of Fear.
This isn't horror in any true sense of the word. This is fun and frolics with blood. It is every corny avenue of trash you can imagine and yet it is great. It is great because it is supposed to be trashy and disposable.
The one joke I loved above all was the opening credit "A Horror Film by Alex Chandon". When was the last time you saw a credit like that? This is how Scream should have been, an intelligent satire of horror movies past and present. But it isn't just a satire, it is a loving tribute of all things Hammer too. While not quite up to the tribute Cinema Paradiso pays to the history of cinema, this film does reflect all that was wonderful about Hammer.
The plot was predictable, the acting absolutely awful, and the cinematography was abitrary, and let us not mention the special effects. There is a connection with pseudo-Satanic pop-rockers Cradle Of Filth too, who supplied some of the music. But all of that is quite irrelevant. What we have here ladies and gentlemen is a director who needs a much bigger budget.
I hope Chandon makes more films like this one. It is a pleasure to watch this kind of movie. This isn't the kind of trash like Long Time Dead was... this is trash that says, "Hey, I am crap but you'll love me anyhow." And love it I do.
7 Out of 10 I give it.
When I first saw this movie pop up on IMDB in "Upcoming movies" and saw that it had G. Clooney and it was a sci-fi romance type movie. I thought to myself that it might be one to avoid. So I avoided it.
Then I saw George Clooney being interviewed on the BBC and he was saying that Solaris hadn't been greatly recieved by American audiences. This made the movie a must see and so I acquired it and watched it.
It might be the version I got or something but there were no credits at the start of the picture. It just started, just like that. And when it started it was immediately obvious that this wasn't going to be a straight forward story.
The story itself was not necessarily important, not as important as the issues explored. The issues addressed were about humanity, regret, and what it might be like to meet something truly alien. This last concept was pulled off brilliantly, as while watching the movie kept you on the back foot. Although science is given some lip service during the movie what is experienced by the characters is clearly beyond human comprehension and beyond science too. Although there is no sense of metaphysics going on there is a sense of philosophical enquiry. This is high-brow, serious science fiction then; a rarity in these times.
The look of the movie I would describe as harking back to the style of 70's sci-fi movies but with 21st century CGI. This was really brought home right at the end of the movie when the credits rolled. Lovely 70's style font and the mainstay of the credits rolling as though they should have been at the start.
This movie is in the same league as Logan's Run, Silent Running and the ilk.
I was pleasantly surprised by the movie because I thought it was going to be Hollywood's usual thing of killing off any interest by explaining everything. It didn't. The audience was allowed to work it our for themselves. I thought it was going to be a trashy romance in space. It wasn't that either.
It was just what it was. A proper science fiction movie.
I give this movie 7 out of 10.
Cube 2: Hypercube (2002)
n-shapes are a fascinating subject because while they can be represented by non-Elucidean equations they cannot be visualized by human beings in any meaningful way. We know the directions left, right, up and down, but which way is ana and kata? The three dimensional shadow of a rotating hypercube turns inside out as it goes round. Sounds like science fiction but this is all established mathematics.
So what does all this have to do with Cube 2? Not an awful lot it seems. The movie seems to concern itself with the rather fantastical branch of non-causal quantum mechanics. I'm afraid this is more fantasy than science fiction. It is a shame that an opportunity was wasted in that the makers of this movie could have shown us the much more interesting world of hyper-shapes, which have little to do with quantum mechanics.
The movie itself suffers from other flaws. The characters were arbitrary and not three dimensional (excuse the pun) The biggest danger to the characters came from the characters themselves rather than from the environment in which they were trapped. This resulted in a huge lack of tension.
The other thing that disappointed me about the movie was that too much was explained about the organization behind the hypercube, thus neatly negating any sense of mystery therein.
The original Cube was a masterpiece of tension and character acting. I expected the sequel to be at least as good and far more interesting. Hypercube, however, as with most sequels, was a huge let down.
I give Hypercube 4 out of 10 and recommend that you watch the original rather than the disappointing sequel.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
The last masterpiece from Kubrick.
I heard a lot of people talk about this film before I saw it. The critics seemed disappointed with it, and I heard it mentioned that Mr Kubrick just made this movie as an excuse to surround himself with naked women. Yada-yada-yada... I had no preconceptions about the movie other than it was directed by Stanley Kubrick, a director who had always delivered smashing movies in the past. This film serves as a fitting epitaph to a master craftsman.
So what is the movie about? I think it is a mockery of English sexual repression and an attack on the male psyche. Far from being sexually explicit in content it is, in fact, extremely restrained. It is intellectually erotic but there is no heat of lust present, which is intentional. Victorian values are hammered home time and again (the "Dire consequences for Cruise's character and his family" spoken by the man in the red cloak at the masked orgy, and the hooker who turned out to be HIV positive that Cruise had nearly had sex with the night before), which is quite amusing. Kubrick is not preaching here, just gently mocking the country in which he resided and made his movies. Of course, the film wasn't only about that.
It can be taken for granted that every shot and scene was masterfully photographed, from the cinema verite style shots of New York streets to the arch-Gothic pathos of the masked orgy. It had a very film noir feeling throughout and the mystery of what is happening is interesting from start to end.
I do not think Tom Cruise could act his way out of a paper bag but somehow Kubrick got him to turn in a decent performance. The unusual soundtrack added plenty of atmosphere to the picture but really stole the scene, initially, in the masked orgy sequence. I also really enjoyed the way the naked women walked in that sequence - like androids with cold grace and perfect balance. I had never seen anything like it before and found it one of the most pleasing touches of the movie.
The last line of the film was a classic comedy moment. Kubrick essentially made comically black movies and this one was no exception in my mind.
I think this movie is equal to his best work, and better than some of his not so good movies. I give this movie 10 out of 10.
Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001)
Kubrick gets the Disney treatment.
On many levels most Kubrick are basically black comedies, whether he consciously intended them to be or not. Speilberg is basically good at what he does, which is making commercial entertainment that can be watched and thrown away. His films are bubble-gum for the mind, where as Kubrick is an artist who makes films that can provoke thought and feelings.
So what happens when a guy who makes commercial movies without depth directs a movie sketched out by one of the greats? Pretty much what you'd expect. A film that has that commercial sheen and is photographed adequately but lacks any shelf life. There is no innovation, no great performances milked from the actors, and nothing of interest happening on any level whatsoever. We get the trademark Speilberg brand of sentimentality by the bucketful though, which provokes nausea in any rational human being.
Kubrick innovated in every film he made, and coaxed and bullied out great performances from his actors. Kubrick was edgy even in his latter years. That is why Kubrick is remembered and will continue to be, and why Speilberg is going to be a footnote.
If you haven't seen the movie then don't bother. Watch Blade Runner instead. I give this movie 2 out of 10, and I'm in a generous mood.
Jacob's Ladder (1990)
It's not good, it's a classic movie.
The film takes place within the dying mind of a soldier in Vietnam. Jacob believes the war is far behind him and that he is living his life with his wife and a job as a postman. A life that is torn apart by strange creatures that his chiropractor tells him are demons or angels depending on ones point of view.
Not a horror movie in the strict sense of the word, but Jacobs Ladder has an atmosphere of disturbing creepiness. As in any good H.P Lovecraft story you don't get a good look at the nightmare creatures, which makes them more scary than not. The film utilizes much more realistic fears as well as the demons, such as the surreal psychiatric institute sequence, and conspiracy theory paranoia, etc. The concept of the other-worldly creatures being demons or angels is similar to Hellraiser, where the cenobites are either, depending on how you look at them. Unlike that movie Jacobs Ladder doesn't feel like a fairy story. It feels like a freezing blast of wind from the depths of death itself as Jacob's soul is burned away.
Everything is right in this movie. The direction, acting and dialogue are flawless. The plot is intricate and complex but unfolds logically at a natural pace. The photography is atmospheric and good to look at, and the special effects are understated and yet really make the impact they are supposed to.
This film isn't just good, it is a classic - a movie of movies standing high above the usual junk we get to see. Intelligent, thought provoking, and yet slick and entertaining just like a really good movie should be.
10 out of 10.
It's not so black and white.
This intriguing film reminded me of David Lynch's Eraserhead somewhat. The soundscape of the movie was very industrial in places and the metaphorical imagery used was reminiscent of the early Lynch film. Unlike Eraserhead however this effort has "student film-maker" written all over it, which is not to detract from the entertainment value of the movie.
The movie's protagonist thinks mathematics can provide the answers to the big questions, but finds out the painful way that it cannot. This is all illustrated quite appropriately within a hallucinatory milieu. Unfortunately is it all a bit too obvious unlike David Lynch who can have machinations within machinations to the point of indecipherability. That criticism aside, the lighting, sound effects and photography were all interesting and combined to provide a claustrophobic feeling and a sense of unrelenting futility.
To sum the piece struck me as the early work of a director who is on the up and up. I am looking forward to seeing some more of his work in the future. I enjoyed this movie despite its flaws and give it a 6/10 score.