Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Fog

The Fog (1980)

Runtime: 91 minutes

Directed by: John Carpenter

Starring: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, Tom Atkins, Hal Holbrook

From: AVCO Embassy

The viewing of this film came courtesy of TCM, who aired it late last night. I certainly wanted to watch this more than staying up to the morning hours to see again Night of the Lepus, something I had seen before long before starting this blog, and I was surprised they showed it and it wasn't TCM Underground; it's what I'll call “charmingly terrible”. But onto this movie, one that has great California scenery and plenty of atmosphere. So, onto the plot description then the Letterboxd review. I'll be back Saturday night:

“The centenary of the small seaside town of Antonio Bay, California is approaching. One hundred years ago, the wealthy leper Blake bought the clipper ship Elizabeth Dane and sailed with his people to form a leper colony. However, while sailing through a thick fog, they were deliberately misguided by a campfire onshore, steering the course of the ship toward the light and crashing her against the rocks. While the townsfolk prepare to celebrate, the victims of this heinous crime that the town's founding fathers committed rise from the sea to claim retribution. Under cover of the fog, they carry out their vicious attacks, searching for what is rightly theirs.”

Looking around on Letterboxd, I see that this movie gets a mixed review and some don't care for the plot, it being “boring” to them, the identity and implementation of the villains, and the overall quality of the picture. I understand... but I still disagree.

I admit that the story is wacky (what basically are “pirate lepers” returning on the 100th anniversary of a town's founding in order to gain revenge for some people deliberately crashing their ship in order to steal the gold on the ship and prevent the people on the boat from founding a leper colony right by what would soon be their new town) and even a little preposterous; no matter what you think of the plot, I think it's executed rather well.

The cast is rather talented and that's a big asset; there's Janet Leigh and her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins-sadly sans mustache-Adrienne Barbeau, Hal Holbrook and even cult actor Buck Flower in a bit part. The musical score from Carpenter is pretty great, as expected.

And most importantly, the scene where Hal Holbrook literally pops up out of nowhere in a hysterical manner to meet Janet Leigh... actually, the feeling of atmosphere, mood and feeling is great; all together those three aspects here were the best that Carpenter ever did. That makes up for how some of the special effects look wacky in 2014.

If you're expecting this to be an action-packed slasher or that it'll be a tense thrill ride, then yeah you probably won't get it. But if you enjoy deliberately paced thoughtful films where there's a constant atmosphere and eventually it'll envelop you like the title presence that shows up two nights in a row (or a movie where there's more than a few horror references, especially what characters are named)... then you should check out this film, which while isn't my favorite of John Carpenter, it doesn't mean it's bad or not worth seeing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Manhattan Melodrama

Manhattan Melodrama (1934)

Runtime: 91 minutes

Directed by: W.S. Van Dyke and an uncredited George Cukor

Starring: Clark Gable, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Leo Carrillo, Nat Pendleton

From: MGM

Here's the movie I promised last night, something different from the horror movies I've seen in October, and the first real old movie I've seen in a few weeks. The IMDb plot description (part of it, anyhow) then the Letterboxd review; I'll be back tomorrow night and so will return the review of a horror film:

Orphans Edward "Blackie" Gallagher and Jim Wade are lifelong friends who take different paths in life. Blackie thrives on gambling and grows up to be a hard-nosed racketeer. Bookworm Wade becomes a D.A. vying for the Governorship. When Blackie's girlfriend Eleanor leaves him and marries the more down to earth Wade, Blackie harbors no resentment...”

This is a film I decided to watch today-although I did see it before, a long time ago-as a change of pace from all the horror movie watching I've been doing this month. It's a movie that lives up to the title (thankfully there's no false advertising) and is best known in history not just as the first of many films that William Powell and Myrna Loy did together, but as the movie that got noted outlaw John Dillinger out of hiding and he was gunned down after going to the theatre to see it.

The plot isn't too complex but that it OK; it's about a pair of boys who are pals, one of whom is played by Mickey Rooney. They are on the steamboat General Slocum when it catches fire (a real life incident, by the way) and both are orphaned. You then see them as adults and one is Blackie (Clark Gable), a gangster. The other is Jim Wade (Powell), a district attorney who is looking to become governor of the state of New York. Loy is Eleanor, a dame who was involved with Blackie but once she met Wade, realized his honest unwavering integrity was much more appealing to her. Blackie is OK with that and all three are genial with each other, even when things happen and Wade has to decide if he should be honest or if he should try and help his friend.

Sure, the movie is a melodrama but it isn't overblown or ridiculous. Things are grounded so you could believe that this situation could happen. Several real life aspects are brought in to add believably, that being the sinking of that ship, the trouble in Russia the early part of the 20th century, a day at the horse races at Belmont Park and even an important scene is set at an older version of Madison Square Garden at a hockey game. There are no deus ex machina convenient moments or any of that nonsense. It's not the cheeriest of endings but it's not preposterous either.

The movie's nicely done but what elevates it are the performances of the three leads, who help keep things even-keeled and don't delve into histrionics. All 3 are multidimensional and all 3 are greatly acted. This movie should be known more than the first teaming of Loy and Powell or the last movie that John Dillinger saw.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Runtime: 96 minutes

Directed by: Chuck Russell (no relation)

Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Patricia Arquette, Craig Wasson, Larry Fishburne

From: New Line Cinema

I am continuing the horror movie watching (when I return tomorrow night it'll be with something quite different as a nice change of pace for the month) by seeing again a famous one from the '80's, and thankfully a good one, a film where Freddy Krueger hadn't yet become a catchphrase-spouting buffoon; sure, Dick Cavett and Zsa Zsa Gabor appearing in one scene was highly wacky but this didn't get goofy until the next few sequels. Now, onto the Letterboxd review:

It had been too long since I had watched a Freddy Krueger movie so this month was the perfect time to do so, and I am going in order (slowly but surely) seeing them again and this was the next one up. I was happy to revisit this one, as it's a quality film on its own and it's certainly a rare horror sequel that can adequately be compared to the original.

Ignoring the second film (it's pretty much a wacky alternate not canon tale; I enjoy it for what it is but it's for the best to say it's not canon) this tale expands on the universe created in the first, introducing a bevy of other teenagers who are in a psych ward, all being haunted by Fred Krueger, but no one there believes them... until Nancy Thompson-now being in the field-joins the staff...

This movie proves to be close to the equal of the original; multiple people being involved does help, Freddy utters some wisecracks but isn't a stand-up comedian quite yet-thankfully-there are some great setpieces and much of the practical effects are pretty awesome and CGI just isn't the same and doesn't give you the same feeling. A minor plot point introduced here actually was used for Freddy vs. Jason almost 2 decades later and to a hair metal fan like me, the Dokken songs are pretty bitchin'.

It's a story I enjoyed, how Freddy uses the fears and fantasies of those teens against them to try and kill/terrorize them. The theme of teenage alienation and how parents can't relate to their kids becoming adults is also an important aspect. The script, which had a lot of input from Frank Darabont and Chuck Russell, is well-done, as is the direction from Russell.

I remember that the rest of the sequels don't reach the heights of this and the next few are rather dopey, but at least I can laugh at them. Thankfully the series at least created a sequel that should be seen along with the original.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History Of Friday The 13th

Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th (2013)

Runtime: 400 minutes (not a misprint)

Directed by: Daniel Farrands

Starring: This is a documentary; many people from all the films are in it and it is narrated by Corey Feldman; yes.

From: 1428 Films

As a big fan of the documentary Never Sleep Again (from the same people), I hope I didn't have to wait as long to try and find it to give it a viewing, and I didn't. I found the discs recently and not even I could watch it in one day, so I spread it across two nights. Here's the Letterboxd review, and note that I'll return on Tuesday night:

It took a long while but I finally found the documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy and once I sat down to watch it, I thought it was great and gave it 4 ½ stars as it's a 4 hour comprehensive look at that franchise and it's done oh so well. So, I was naturally happy when I heard that they were doing a similar thing with the Friday the 13th franchise.

While overall this isn't as great as Never Sleep Again in many ways, it's still well worth seeing, especially if you enjoy the Jason Voorhees films and grew up watching and enjoying them. This is also thorough, lasting 400 minutes in total; I watched it over a span of two nights. You get to see various people from all the films give their thoughts; it's not as extensive as in NSA but I understand as I imagine most of those actors are quite difficult to track down or it may be hard to convince them to participate. All the films are still given their proper respect and enough time to give their backstories and honestly explain why they did or did not work.

Also, it has to be said that many of the people involved with this did the His Name Was Jason documentary, and in fact some bits from that are used here; from interviews I know that there was a “meddling producer” who screwed things up and that's why HNWJ ended up only being a 90 minute cursory glance at the franchise; they had the rights to that footage so it was used much better here.

Considering NSA and this were small productions done without the benefits of a lot of money or a huge crew, everyone did a fantastic job with both documentaries and gave a great present for the hardcore fanbase of both franchises, which are popular and yet rarely get their just due to what they are.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Heroes Two

Heroes Two (Fang Shiyu Yu Hong Xiguan) (1974)

Runtime: Either 86 or 93 minutes (I saw this on the El Rey Network so I don't know for certain)

Directed by: Cheh Chang

Starring: Kuan Tai Chen, Sheng Fu, Hark-On Fung, Mu Chu, Yi Feng

From: Shaw Brothers

Yep, I finally saw another Shaw Brothers film; it was a long while since I've seen one... or an Asian film for that matter. It was a nice change of pace. I talk about it in the Letterboxd review below and I'll say that I'll return Sunday night.

Looking through Letterboxd I realized that I hadn't seen any Shaw Brothers films in 4 months time; I realized how ridiculous that was so I rectified that mistake and this happened to be on the El Rey Network so it worked out perfectly.

The story to this wasn't complex but that is OK. It's still an entertaining watch. Basically, rebels are feuding with an evil government. The government are A-holes who manipulated a poor sap named Fong Sai-yuk who happens to be a great fighter to take out fellow talented martial artist Hung Hei-gun as he was causing problems for them. Fong is told what he did and to atone for his mistake, he and some rebels try to break out Hung from captivity and they try to kick some ass.

It should be noted that the two lead characters are actually Chinese folk heroes, told in stories centuries old. The movie was one of the first to have legit Shaolin Kung-Fu. And, the action was done by the legendary Lar Kar Leung.

The movie is fun to watch as it has what you expect from the studio and the genre, so there's bloodshed, honor, redemption, some cool sets and beautiful rural scenery, evil villains and fights-oh, there are plenty of fights. There's an interesting quirk or two which I won't spoil but it is something that will guarantee I won't forget about this film.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Red State

Red State (2011)

58% on Rotten Tomatoes (out of 84 reviews)

Runtime: 88 minutes

Directed by: Kevin Smith

Starring: Michael Parks, Melissa Leo, John Goodman, Michael Angarano

From: The Harvey Boys

Boy, did I ever go from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows when it comes to movie-watching, and all in the span of a little more than 24 hours. I did not enjoy watching this film, and I swear its badness bled over into today, which was a crappy day overall AND I have an upset stomach so there won't be any movie-watching and I'll have to return Friday night instead of tomorrow night. Alas... here's the Letterboxd review:

Oh, this movie...

Ever since this came out this is like a typical Kevin Smith movie from the past 10 years and like the man himself, it riles up people in an incredible way and it's incredibly polarizing. Me, I pretty much avoid watching Kevin Smith movies; I don't hate them all... one day I need to watch the ones I actually enjoy for this site; you know, like the Clerks films or Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. Before this the newest one I saw was Cop Out... well, technically it was so awful and Tracy Morgan was the most noxious entity in human history I could only watch the first 15 minutes before turning it off in disgust but maybe I should try and stomach the movie in full so I can rip it apart here on this site like I am going to with this pathetic excuse for a motion picture.

I knew I was in trouble only a few minutes into the picture when I saw that the three teenage males that are the de facto protagonists of the picture are actually asstagonists of the highest order; I mean, they're absolutely awful human beings and they drop the F bomb CONSTANTLY and it didn't take long before I hated the movie right from that point. Other characters doing the same thing and dropping the F bomb every fourth word didn't improve my mood.

Maybe it'd improve once they got those boys to the evil compound of the group that's like the Westboro Baptist Church. Oh no! Not only do I still do not get why exactly those boys were targeted by the Five Points Trinity Church (and this is after looking at a few different sites-including Wikipedia-to try and find an answer) but what the church does is utterly preposterous and never believable at all. Plus, the movie thinks that having their leader Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) babble on incessantly was a good move. No. Less is more, and what he says is not something like what you'd hear in a Tarantino film, where I could excuse long monologues because they're interesting or they're important to the plot; needless to say Kevin Smith is not QT.

Much of the film: people being complete A-holes yelling at each other, incoherent shaky-cam action scenes, not a lot of horror (that was the only reason why I finally gave it a chance via a late-night cable viewing last night) and worst of all, just about everyone is a despicable character and those that are not... brutally nihilistic things happen to them, which isn't an automatic turn-off for me but the way it's done here... what a thoroughly unpleasant and atrocious movie this is; what was the point and what was Kevin Smith trying to say here? I have no idea! It was an awful story filled with awful people and it's filled with stupid nonsensical contrivance after stupid nonsensical contrivance.

It's just inept and I usually don't think this way when I disagree with a lot of people on this site, but I honestly can not comprehend at all why this has so many positive highly-rated reviews. I just don't get it. This was so bad, I am honestly just done with that pot-smoking lazy idiot Kevin Smith, who refuses to improve from his student film days and thinks it's OK to do things in a crude way because it worked with Clerks 20 years ago. I certainly am not going to watch Tusk if it's filled with so much ugliness like this was, and I really wish he would have stuck with one of the 10 or so retirement announcements he's made throughout the years and just do podcasts for his small fanbase.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Guest

The Guest (2014)

93% on Rotten Tomatoes (out of 70 reviews)

Runtime: 99 minutes

Directed by: Adam Wingard

Starring: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley, Leland Orser

From: The greatly named Snoot Entertainment

I've mentioned many times already how this year has been a disappointment so far with too many movies I've seen. I heard a lot about this and I was hoping this wouldn't be another one of those.

It is not. In fact, it's one of my best movie of the year if not the best. I'll explain why in the Letterboxd review below and I'll return tomorrow night.

I can thank several messageboard threads for informing me of this motion picture. I am sure I'd hear about it eventually given that I rated pretty highly the writer/director's previous collaboration, You're Next, and of course I'd hear about it from some people I follow here having seen it already. But, I heard very strong hype from it between here and those boards. I anxiously awaited the opportunity to see it on the big screen and the release schedule changed a few times; it came to Miami recently but that's too far from me, who lives near Orlando. Finally, I saw that it came near my neck of the woods... only I was under the weather so it wasn't until last night that I finally was able to see it; was it worth the long wait?

YES

I won't say too much about the plot as the mystery aspect is the biggest aspect of the movie, but it's about a young soldier who shows up at the doorsteps of a New Mexico family and says he's discharged from the Army and he was close pals with their late son. He's a charming good-looking friendly guy so most of the family trusts him... but not everything is as it seems.

Of course, with me giving it the highest possible rating I think that this is a better film than the last movie from the collaboration between the director and writer (You're Next) and in fact if this isn't at the top of the Top 10 list I'll be doing sometime early next year it'll be near the top. The writing and direction are big reasons why. I'll just say that if you explained the general plot to someone who doesn't want to see the movie but still wants to know what it's about, it's not that complex at all. It's how it's presented that makes it such a fun thrill ride. It takes its time unraveling the story and that is a big plus.

Dan Stevens is simply incredible in the lead role. He plays a guy you can tell almost right away is not fully right and something is “off” with him and yet he's just so charming and damn likable you can see why many fell under that character's spell. The rest of the cast also delivers, especially Maika Monroe as the 20 year old who ends up becoming the lead girl.

Another important thing to mention: the musical score. Much of it is 80's synth done in modern times; think the Drive score or the soundtrack to the all-time great game known as Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. With my eclectic tastes I thought it was simply incredible and it worked with the visuals oh so well.

While more than one moment made me go “hey wait a minute now...”, I will excuse that as several genres are blended together in a tasty fashion, the story's always interesting, there are some quality setpieces and when the fit hits the shan (some people do get wrecked) you have greatness. The movie's not in wide release (at least in the United States) but if it's by you it's a must-see. The way things are going I'll guess it won't ever get a wider release and that's a crying shame as it deserves more mainstream attention than it'll get.