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Caligari School
14 May 2006
The Fall of the House of Usher has suffered a rather bad fate as a film, due to numerous problems.

Not due to the fact that it's a bad film, on the contrary, but due to it's name. In the same year there was also a french full-length with the same name by Jean Epstein. And there are countless other recreations of this of the Fall in the House of Usher story.

This film succeeds as a silent short expressed mostly through visuals and mood. It's not so much horror as it as an excuse to show surrealist images of words floating, off camera angles and general dillusion.

The only thing that may put people off about this short is that it's clearly more about lush enchanting visuals then it is as a good representation on the Edgar Allan Poe piece.

This is a fine silent short, and is highly recommended to fans of early silent expressionist cinema.
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Chow's Best film Yet
4 October 2005
Although the Sports Comedy genre is often plagued with cliché and is usually only for the most strict of fans, you definitely don't have to be a Soccer/Football fan to enjoy Shaolin Soccer, It helps if you enjoy the idea of a silly (but not stupid or bad) Martial Arts Flick.

Compared to films of director Stephen Chow's past (King of Comedy, God of Cookery), Shaolin Soccer is a much greater visual treat. Although he's not exactly from brilliant yet, the direction has improved vastly. And the new CG scenes are often amusing and visually interesting demanding repetitive viewings.

While the film is fun and generally smart, it falls prey to a bit of an obvious story, of course this is one of those little-plot high-laugh comedies, One can't help be feel bogged down by some of the love plot, which unlike a lot of the soccer field action, it's totally predictable and at times is a bore.

If you must see Shaolin Soccer, be sure to watch it with it's original language and subtitles. The American English version had many of the films funniest scenes cut to make the film more PG-13 rating. Watch it in it's uncut version to see one of the funniest and most enjoyable Sports-Martial Arts-Comedy of the 2000's.
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Stamp of Excellence
17 August 2005
Closely Watched Trains is a a film to be watched again and again.

It's a coming-of-age type story that delves into the viewers psyche, young Milos who has some troubles with his girlfriend, seems to have this dwell on his life. And the world around him reacts, from the woman riding a horse to steam coming out of the train, the woman working her baking, and simply the movement of young Milos becoming a man in his own sense.

But this film isn't just a sexual innuendo, smart comedy presides through it all which most anyone can pick up on, a lot of it is sexual but not all. Making it a surprisingly upbeat film throughout, a rarity not just in a War film, but Czech cinema in general. This may make it sound a bit too happy but it definitely isn't. It's still a moving piece that demands repetitive watches.

Recommended for anyone with an interest in classic European cinema. If you are going to start watching Czech films, start with Closely Watched Trains.
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Cliché Ridden Gothic Film
15 August 2005
Curiosity kills the Cat in this average Gothic thriller.

As a Supernatural Gothic Thriller, in this film belief will have to be suspended to accept half of the goings-on in this movie. Most of the clichés of haunted-house hi-jinx are here, (locked doors, strange thumps in the night, fumbling of keys, people appearing out of nowhere, etc.). Only thing being a nice touch would be the fairly creepy Hoodoo music, that is if you can pull yourself in to accept it.

Even with the fun spooky Hoodoo music, Skeleton Key falters due to it's ability to jump all over the place all the time, and have tons of things unexplained, (why did Caroline go to see Ben for help?). And the first half of it wanders around pointlessly, and at times the script is a bit questionable. But to put the film on a bright side, the ending will most likely have you keep guessing, just don't expect to have all your questions you were asking yourself through the film answered.

6/10. Average thrill-fest.
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Downfall (2004)
Downfall works for the most part despite some major flaws.
3 August 2005
Like all War films that surround World War II taken from Hitler's side they all often have the knack of showing Hitler on rare, unintended positive side. Der Untergang has this problem. For the person who was slaughtered millions of innocent people, how can we see him doing things such as padding through a young boy's hair or putting a nervous secretary at ease with a joke? Luckily this is sort of kept under control with screenwriter Bernd Eichinger, who basically delivers that idea that even the worst of the Nazis were still human at heart, regardless of their intentions. The more interesting parts of the film is seeing Hitler not just picking out the Jews, but him and his cohorts going from picking out everyone, even to random Berliners who were considered traitors in Hitler's eyes. This film basically does delve in the fact that Hitler was long gone mad in his last final days.

The film as a whole on the other's well..slow and scattered. You can even tell at times that it was glued together from a multitude of historical sources. Making some sequences long and over-done, allowing it to drag, even if Traudl Junge has an interesting story (even if it was re-stated before in the documentary "Hitler's Secretary".), and the filmmakers seem to lack the drama of what was going on with the specific people which allowed them to get all caught up in what was happening.

Overall Downfall succeeds even if does seem like it could have use some re-organizing, and better sense of pace. It's still well worth a watch.

8 / 10.
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Not as Consistent as the South Park film
25 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Team America: World Police had a fair amount of big laughs, but it's not nearly as consistently enjoyable or as successfully satirical as "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Un-Cut".

To start Team America works best when it's parodying American action films (espeically Jerry Bruckheimer films (e.g: National Treasure (2004), Bad Boys II (2003), Bad Company (2002).) and simply, the puppets in general which are clearly lovingly crafted and perhaps creepily too life-like. This all goes fairly good with the nice 'clearly-written-bad-to-make-it-funnier' dialog of Team America.

This may have been better if it weren't so ponderous at times, as most of the Team America squadron members aren't memorable on their own. Perhaps as they are all too similar as puppets, it's not really clear. And of course, the things that plagues all of Trey's work is the juvenile need to offend, i'm not against gross-out humor, (see The Young Ones (TV Series), or the Monty Python and the Meaning of Life for my praise), but it's a hard art to master and keep fresh and smart. The closest we get in this film is to a hardcore puppet sex scene. While other topics such as Puppet vomit, to puppet gore fall under predictable on Trey Parker's standards. The rest of non-gross out humor in the film seems to fall astray to much repetition as the it's not sharp enough to be repeated several times with laughter coming from the audience (was the Film Actor's Guild funny the first time for anyone?). And on the other point, Trey Parker often try to add some celebrity tomato-throwing at people in their films and shows, but from what we see with Team America, it's hard to catch on what specifically offends the boys with Kim Jong-Il, Alec Baldwin, Michael Moore, and certain others, they just seem to lampoon for the sake of it without giving reasons why what they are doing is funny or why it makes sense.

So overall, Team America has it's moments, Trey and Matt know it does, but they seem to try and repeat them hoping they are funnier in repetition (they aren't) and they have their desire to shock us with poop jokes (no surprises, or shocks here), and they have surprisingly good puppetry ideas (hurray!).

So overall, we have a fairly average comedy. Let's see how we can show them up the next time boys.
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Nosferatu (1922)
One of the Best Silent Horrors You'll see.
25 April 2005
Nosferatu is one of the most celebrated Horror films ever, and with good reason. It's beautifully directed by F.W. Murnau (one of Germany's greatest Directors in any field), and as it's not terribly scary by any standards today, it still creates a sense of atmosphere which sticks with the film.

The story of Nosferatu is fairly predictable considering, but it's still fun. From The Castle meeting with Count Orlock and Hutter to Nosferatu's slow take over the boat, and not to mention beautiful visuals filmed in outdoor German outback by Murnau. And don't forget the classic window and shadow scenes! Speaking of visuals, we have one of the best looking and disturbing icons of horror, or cinema in general with Nosferatu, with his long pointy fingers, to his warped face. He's become a popular culture icon for obvious reasons. Nosferatu is played well by his role, but Hutter is also well played (by silent movie standards of course).

If there are problems with Nosferatu, it's that the plot is a big confusing to explaining why characters like Knock do what they do. And also some effects are a bit awkward, such as the speeding up of the camera for the horse chase, to the stop motion effects of Nosferatu's coffins and boat trip. Even in 1922, these shots could be done better.

Regardless, the above is petty bickering. This isn't the best German Expressionist Horror film (The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari holds this title), but this one that sticks with you visually and in mood. When i first watched this film. I watched this for the first time at Midnight and in a Dark room alone. It was perfect. I suggest you all do the same.
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Duck Soup (1933)
Hail Freedonia!
25 April 2005
In numerous reviews it's almost impossible to resort to reviewing Duck Soup without reverting to clichés of which film is better (Night at the Opera or Duck Soup), and simply just quoting the best Groucho Lines in the film.

In this reviewers opinion, Duck Soup is easily the greatest Marx Brothers movie, as it shows them in their classic Comedy style, and there is nary a thing to bring this film down. The songs are all great tunes without a weepy ballad in sight, everyone is in full form, nary a piece of film is wasted.

This is also easily perhaps better the most continuously funny as the brothers. I've seen all their films on MGM, and this is the only real one that makes me cackle every time, which is even more impressive considering how old the film is.

Hail Freedonia! This is a Comedy Classic!
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A promising film, that sadly just fails to deliver 100%
22 April 2005
The 3rd in George A. Romero's Dead series, which sadly is the weakest of the first three.

The film has a fairly interesting (yet kind of unrealistic premise) of The Zombies out numbering humans 1 to 40,000. Which leads us to an underground bunker where we have a common war between Scientists and the Army.

The most interesting parts in the film would probably be a trademark gory sequence (even if it's nothing we haven't seen before in previous Dead films.) and the "Frankenstien" professor and Bub (which seems straight out of Bride of Frankenstien (1935), the Doctor even sounds like the Blind Man from BoF!) Sadly, the film at times is really way to talky, and drags. Some characters are under-written, and it's allegorical content seems a bit even more phoned in then it did with Dawn of the Dead, released years earlier.

Regardless of these facts, this is still more memorable then the average horror film, but most viewers will probably be hoping more from Romero's signature series.

If you love Zombie films, by all means check this out, but watch Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the dead first.
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The Last truly great film from the Universal Horror Series
5 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Son of Frankenstien is the 3rd in series of Frankenstien films out of Universal, and it surprisingly remains in quality, but not quite as high as done by James Whale with Frankenstien and of course, Bride of Frankenstien.

Son of Frankenstien's main heights are brought in from a stellar cast mainly Basil Rathbone, as the Doctor who makes a great and believable approach as the son of Dr.Frankenstien, Lionel Atwill as the cool wooden-armed Inspector, and Bors Karloff reprising his role as The Monster, who doesn't appear that much in the film actually, but this doesn't bring the film down much at all, considering we have Bela Lugosi in one of his best roles ever, as Ygor, the humorous, and eerie "friend" of the monster. Essential viewing for his role alone, but there is so much more to this film then just that.

Although never reaching the heights of Bride or the original Frankenstien, this film has cool expressionist textured shadows, and probably remains the "scariest" (as far as scares can come from movies made made over 65 years ago) can be. A good example would be the Monster walk with Dr.Frankenstiens child near the Sulphur pit.

This is essential viewings for any fan of film, and probably the last great Universal Horror Flick. If you are in doubt of this film's quality, try watching "Ghost of Frankenstien" after this, and see if you are sit through it without flicking it off half way through

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Faust (1926)
One of the Great Triumphs of German Expressionism.
5 April 2005
F.W. Murnau (director of such films as Nosferatu (1922), Sunrise, and Der Letzte Mann 're-imagines' the tale of Dr.Faustus.

Unlike Nosferatu, it's most comparable film by Murnau, Faust clearly had a much higher production values, which can be seen with some eye-popping special effects such as the entrance of Mephisto, or even Mephisto's stabbing, or even the scene of Faust and Mephisto flying. You might consider these dated by today, but on looking back you'll wonder how they did these effects in the 1920's, making them incredible. Other noteworthy items are the sets, and backgrounds and sets which stand strong today.

The main character, Faust is played well both by Gösta Ekman (playing both the young and old Faust), but it is Emil Jannings who truly steals the show as Mephisto who can works just as well as being the embodiment of all evil, to the funny scenes (read: intentionally funny scenes) such as the church scenes where Mephisto covers his ears from the church music, to a woman trying to seduce Mephisto.

If there is a problem with Faust, is that it drops into Melodrama (specifically with the tagged on happy ending) between the middle and the end which drags the film down to a pace at time, but this hardly is much to complain about because Faust is one of the best Fantasy tinged Tragedies, and still holds up today as fine filming even if you don't think you could stand through a film made over 75 years ago.

9/10. A must see!
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Totoro is a Winner
5 April 2005
Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro is a film that should be able to put a smile on any viewers face, and without a doubt, it'll take you on one of the most whimsical and fantastic journey's ever.

My Neighbor Totoro is a story that definitely something children can relate with, as i watched this with someone, they immediately paused the film and asked if this reminded me of being 4 years old again. This film really connects with people. But it's far from a quality nostalgia piece, it's well animated, beautiful, avoids cliché stereotypes (from both typical of the Anime genre and Children's Fantasy films), and is beautifully filmed (see scenes such as the girls waiting for the bus with Totoro and the scene where the magic nuts and seeds grow with the help of Totoro).

Even the English dub done by Fox isn't as bad everyone states. I've seen the Japanese version, and i'd have to say it's a mixed-bag between having Mei's voice sounds a bit too bratty for the English version, or having the Father's voice sound a bit awkward and perhaps not as caring in the Japanese version. Disney is said to be releasing a re-dub in mid-to-late 2005, so perhaps that will even out the controversy.

This film may not reach the heights of other Anime classics (mainly it's double bill with Grave of the Fireflies, or Miyazaki's other masterpieces Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away), however this will definitely be high on any film lovers list, and is definitely a high water mark of it's genre.

A solid 9/10, This film is next to impossible to watch without it pushing a smile out of your face.
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A Classic in Sci-Fi (and uhmm..Campy) Film
8 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Planet of the Apes is easily one of the best films from 1968, even if it does have a bit of wonky dialog in the first quarter and some silly monkey jokes (some intentionally funny, some accidentally funny).

But does this kill the film? Not at all. It just makes it a bit of a guilty pleasure for some. The film is visually quite good, from the excellent make-up for the apes to their stony rock town to the epic ending which sadly has probably been spoiled for all viewers as it has been engraved into the cultural lexicon. It's a definite piece of Americana at it's best with some classic lines and very memorable characters. If you had too see only one movie that a friend might say "it sounds pretty dumb" from the title alone. This is the one to see. Also, if you find Planet of the Apes to not be as quality fun film as some may say, just try and sit through the unfortunate sequels that followed.
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A True Horror Classic that changed all Horror films that followed it
14 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Night of the Living Dead is a true classic and without a doubt Romero's best and most influential film.

Of course, being simply influential alone would not simply allow this movie to get a full-fledged star rating if it didn't pull through with it some quality at all, which it does in spades. In Night of the Living Dead, there is good pacing, surprisingly good acting from a list of no-name actors, and the most important part that sticks with the film to this day, the sense of dread in the film. In this movie to this day you get that feeling of hopelessness, people get attacked for no reason and nothing can save them. Whether it's family-togetherness, love between a couple, or even the law-enforcers at the end, this was all tapping into the uncertainty level people were having at the time and still today it has meaning. Topping this off with Romero's (at the time) large use of gore adds to the overall uneasiness of the film. Finally at the film's current times, there is a great subtle final nail in the coffin attack with the sad fate of the character Ben. Being the only sole voice of reason is shot, which, at the time of filming brought harsh realities of such other African-American leaders who were brought down unfairly such as Malcolm X or Martin Luther King, even if this wasn't the original idea Romero had.

Overall, no matter how cheesy some of this movie make look to modern eyes, Night of the Living Dead is a classic for offering horror without a shred of hope, forever influencing every horror movie in it's wake.
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A surprisingly good sequel to the classic Night of the Living Dead
9 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Being a sequel to a classic horror film that was released 10 years earlier, Dawn of the Dead had a lot to live up to as a sequel. Did it return? Well...somewhat.

Dawn of the Dead has it's high points, unlike the ultra low budget outings of Night of the Living Dead, Dawn has extremely nice visuals from gnawed gory zombies, to the zombie who gets into accidents with a screw driver, to helicopter mishaps, it's a visual treat. This would mean nothing if it didn't have a background meaning to back it which it does with it's satire of pop consumerism and racism being drawn in, even if they seem a bit embarrassingly drawn out at times, instead of placed a lot more subtly in Night of the Living Dead.

The only items really holding back Dawn are that it's pacing is rather laid back and often story is a little off, as there are times where characters seem a little confusing in their behavior, which was more logical in Night of the Living Dead. Also, even with the film's satirical message, this movie seems more or less a gore-filled action movie underneath it all, with guns shootings, to the gang of bikes taking up more of the film's time then scenes where you feel that truly hopeless emotion that i felt from Night of the Living Dead. Which is a mixed-blessing in the long run, as these scenes can be a nice treat.

So is Dawn of the Dead the true Horror Classic? Well, yes and no, it's more memorable and better then your average Horror, and fans of the genre will definitely want too see this, but if you must see only one Zombie film, your bet is to see the original Night of the Living Dead, but this is still a fairly worthy sequel.

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