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The Gift (2000)
Wow. Don't watch it when you're home alone.
Spooky, atmospheric, great acting, great story, great dialogue, great plot. One of the best I've seen in a long, long time. I laid awake *thinking* about it afterwards - high praise indeed.
Sam Raimi just keeps getting better and better as a director; the cast was skillfully chosen, and for those of us raised in small southern towns, the setting/characters ring true to life.
Awful waste of talent
Ugh. I remember being excited at the prospect of seeing this film, being a fan of Herbert's work. I also remember it being painful to sit through in the theater.
It is impossible to shove a huge, several-hundred-page book into 2 hours. The amount of material cut to make it fit simply negated any sense of complexity or wonder in the original novel, and in some places strained the bounds of logic.
Every single character (except Baron Harkonnen, who shrieks loudly) whispers throughout the entirety of the film. It's as though the director had been told that whispering increases dramatic tension, and thought that if a little was good, then a LOT....or, perhaps, they just didn't want to wake the audience.
If you're a fan of the books....avoid. It'll just make you irritable.
Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love (1996)
THIS IS NOT A FEEL-GOOD MOVIE.
I wish someone had told us that; as it was billed as an exotic love story. Sure, there's love (and lust, and half-naked attractive actors), and gorgeous sets and beautiful costumes, but there's also death and obsession and hopelessness. Overall, this is a depressing and ultimately unlikeable film.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Fabulous, Except for One Little Detail....
This is one of Craven's best works, with memorable dream sequences and slowly mounting tension as the line between dreams and reality is eroded bit by bit.
There is, in my opinion, a little too much gore, but that's entirely a matter of personal taste. Some of the more intense images from the film, years later, have been incorporated into my own nightmare imagery, which speaks highly for their visceral impact.
The only sour note in this production is...the ending.
CAUTION: SPOILER AHEAD!
In a futile attempt to either be "mysterious" or to keep the franchise alive (I lean towards the latter), the more satisfying ending fades into a cheap "is it really a dream?" scare ending. I found it completely off-putting, and it tarnishes the frightening and disturbing film which preceeded it. Nevertheless, this is, overall, one of the best horror films of the 80's. Give the sequels a miss, but this one should be a must-see.
Dead Ringers (1988)
Difficult to Watch
Like all of Cronenberg's work, this film is technically brilliant. Dark, deliberate, and haunting, it follows the descent of two brilliant gynaecologists - twin brothers - into drug addiction and madness. Based loosely on a true story, this film is relentless and claustrophobic. Forcing oneself to watch is rewarding, in an odd way, but is very hard to do.
Not a 'horror' movie in the classic sense, but still a frightening film about the thin line between sanity and madness - as are many of Cronenberg's movies. Jeremy Irons is compelling as the twin brothers.
Don't watch it when you're depressed, though.
Blood & Donuts (1995)
Not your usual vampire movie
Don't let the lurid cover fool you; this isn't a stupid direct-to-video release with bad dialogue & gratuitous gore. Instead, it's a thoughtful and rather bittersweet movie about a reluctant vampire and his attempts to maintain human contact in the face of insurmountable obstacles.
Returning from a self-imposed exile, Boya lives a marginal existence, eating rats in a flophouse,and mourning human friends gone by. Yet,he is drawn to light and life in the form of a neighborhood donut shop and it's fresh-faced counter girl. He also befriends a good-hearted cabbie who dreams of better things and owes money to the wrong kind of people. (And look for David Cronenberg in a juicy cameo role.)
This film is a breath of fresh air in the recent spate of vampire movies which appear to be nothing but an excuse to snarl insults and spray fake blood. Well-acted, well-written, well-directed....go and rent it. You'll be glad you did.
The Shining (1980)
Go read the book instead
Stanley Kubrick was like the proverbial little girl with the curl...when he was good, he was very, very good, and when he was bad, he just *stunk*. This film, sadly, is one of the latter occasions.
The book, a dark and frightening masterpiece, is hopelessly gutted and all the characters turned into caricatures by a director apparently obsessed with his own cleverness. The ending is inexplicably altered (one of the lynchpins of the original story being thereby removed), and we see none of the loving but dysfunctional relationship between the parents.
Danny, the central character, doesn't have confusing internal visions - instead, he behaves as though he should be seeing a psychiatrist, talking to himself in an "exorcist"-like voice.
Dick Halloran, who in the book is a major supporting character, becomes a token cameo.
The scariest scenes in the book, so leisurely and haunting, are either removed entirely or changed into cheap and gaudy shocks.
Nicholson is his typical over-the-edge self, and is horribly miscast as the conflicted semi-alcoholic father with a history of childhood abuse living who slowly becomes the abuser under the 'guidance' of the hotel. Shelley Duval's performance is flat, and gives no indication that she is slowly beginning to fear her husband.
Do yourself a favor and just re-read the book one more time.
Cut to ribbons
Like all of Argento's work, Suspiria is a stylish, atmospheric thriller. Sadly, most prints I have viewed seem to have been edited into an incoherent mess, and the soundtrack is thick and somewhat scratchy, making the dialogue difficult to follow.
(MILD SPOILER AHEAD)
Nevertheless, this is well worth seeing, even with the sound and editing problems. Argento's trademark shocks - such as a leap into a room filled with barbed wire - leave an impression on the viewer.
The relentless musical score adds to the claustrophobic feel of the film, and the shadowy cinematography enhances the feeling of immediate danger.
All in all, a nice rental for a stormy afternoon.
Much worse than the original. It was actually *painful* to sit through, and it barely held my six year old's interest.
Introduction of some new Pokemon is marginally interesting, but storyline is extra-thin, dialogue is still bad, and music is mediocre. Watch the television show instead - it's much better.
Incense for the Damned (1971)
What were these big-name stars thinking? Patrick MacNee and Peter Cushing star in this hideous excuse for a horror movie. Cushing obviously couldn't have read the entire script, as his portions are dignified, well-acted, and have nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of the movie. Otherwise, bad script, bad acting, bad direction, bad writing and a truly bad plot hold sway.
The highlight for me of this cinema mudpie is an "orgy" scene shot with a dragonfly-eye lens so that the filmmakers wouldn't have to pay more than two actors. The worst of the worst. Don't waste your time watching a second of it.
Belle Epoque (1992)
Smart, sexy comedy
I ran across this film late one night on cable, and quickly became engrossed. Set during the Spanish Civil War, it's the story of a former seminarian turned army deserter who befriends a man with four beautiful daughters. He "misses his train" when the daughters appear, and finds himself overwhelmed with their charms, even though they cause him considerable headaches.
Filmed in Spanish, with English subtitles, the fact that one has to stop and read the subtitles does not detract from the funny dialogue or the sexually charged scenes. The cast is lively, funny, and there is excellent chemistry between the handsome lead, Fernando (Jorge Sanz) and his host's beautiful daughters. Not for kids; this film has some very erotic sequences.
The only down side to this film are the occasional subtle references to suicide and death which - presumably - have meaning to Spaniards but are lost on the rest of us.
All in all, well worth watching - especially with your significant other, and the lights turned down low! :)
Razor Blade Smile (1998)
Not the worst vampire film I've seen
Well, this isn't going to win any awards for the director who obviously wanted to be avant-garde in his approach, but it's better than "The Bloodsuckers". The acting is fair-to-middlin', with the best performance coming from Coote in the character of the detective who has gone off the deep end. The lighting/cinematography is terrible, and they keep inserting blue screen lighting for no discernable reason whatsoever. Lots of effects which have no bearing on anything in the plot, and lots of ludicrous shots of the vampires bearing really fake-looking fangs and hissing. There are some continuity errors, too - for example, one scene has the lead entering a house through the front door, and second later, she's shown crawling in a window. ::sigh::
On the up side, there is a tad of depth to the story, a slightly surprising ending, and some nice staging. The earnest scenes in the "vampire goth" club are slightly amusing. There's lots of sex (prompting me to wonder if the director was conflicted about his genre), and the persons involved are fairly attractive. Lots of gore, too, so chances are you'll find something to like in the production. The title sequence is a Bond-inspired piece which is really the best part of the film.
Worth catching if it's on late-night cable, but don't go rent it.
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
A wonderful film
Two stunningly beautiful naked (or semi-naked) people, reciting Shakespeare to one another. ::sigh:: What more could a history buff/English Lit major ask for?
An excellent date movie for intelligent individuals.
Sweet and frothy
I happened to flick across the beginning of this film last night on cable. I missed the title, but saw "Joesph Fiennes", "Rufus Sewell", and "Ray Winstone" - and decided it was worth a look.
Though the beginning was a tad slow (the first five minutes makes you think it's going to be very depressing), this is actually a sweet comedy about love and friendship and the nature of "love at first sight".
Joesph Fiennes is heart-stoppingly beautiful, with his lovely puppy-dog eyes put to good use in his character as an overly-sensitive young man wedged between two aggressive friends who are less-than-sensitive.
I dislike most "romance" films; yet this one was different, for a reason I can't quite put my finger on. It tugs at your heart, and for all it's improbable situations (de rigeur in most romantic comedy), it rings true to life.
Definitely a good film for watching on a rainy afternoon.
The Craft (1996)
This is pretty good b-movie occult thriller. Some internal inconsistency; fair acting, some genuinely memorable images, but mostly Catholic school girls looking like models (did anyone in *your* high school dress that cool?), non-existent adults (except for the shop owner who runs a firetrap bookstore - lots of white gauze and lit candles), and a throwback tale of moral caution about messing around with "things you do not understand".
Kindred: The Embraced (1996)
Hit and miss
I must admit, I love vampire movies, vampire television shows, vampire books. This was no exception. This production, based on a game, was much better than I expected. Though it produced some of the most overblown television dialogue to date, it also produced intense, shocking images. It was certainly one of the most powerful television episodes I've ever seen.
If you can catch reruns of it on the tube some night, lucky you.
Pride and Prejudice (1995)
A perfect adaptation
This mini-series was so amazing - the first I've seen to take all the time it needed to tell the story correctly! The cast was splendid, the scenery beautiful, no glaring out-of-period intrusions to spoil the atmosphere.
I bought it as soon as I saw it on sale. One caveat, though...mark out an entire day to watch it, because once you start, you won't be able to stop till you've seen the whole thing. :)
Fun, silly, frothy
Let's face it: you could drive a MACK truck through the holes in this plot.
If you are a history buff in any way, the fact that the film uses the Eye of Horus and calls it "the eye of Ra", and that "Ra" wears the lunar horns of Hathor will just grate on your nerves.
Nevertheless, this movie is one of my guilty pleasures. James Spader, for the first time, is not smarmy or snobbish. The effects are nice, the story moves quickly along, and you're left with the sensation that you've eaten a bowl of whipped cream. Tastes delicious, but no substance whatsoever...yet, you just don't care.
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
A perfect romantic comedy
I love this movie. I've seen it dozens of times, and I enjoy more each and every time, as I see some new absurdity pencilled into the borders of the film.
The funeral scene is still one of the most touching pieces I've ever seen - my eyes fill with tears every time I see it, and it provides a necessary counterpoint to the rest of the movie, which is light and frothy.
Rowan Atkinson is hysterical as a young priest-in-training, and the supporting cast works together as if they really have known each other all their lives.
Definitely worth the rental!
I stumbled on this one late night when I couldn't sleep. What a riot! Toni Basil plays the gun-toting mother of a slightly nerdy young vampire; Thomas Dolby is the media-besotted director of a funeral parlor, and Dean Cameron is the teen himself. This bizarre comedy includes numerous asides to the camera and a peg-legged guy with an enormous ham bone. How can you resist?
Brilliant, Incredibly Difficult to Watch
This film made me want to shoot myself. It is a brilliant, well-acted, beautifully-shot movie which is one of the most depressing things ever committed to film.
It includes an homage to "Battleship Potemkin" that increases the film's complexity for those who recognize it. I saw it in a crowded theater, and when I recognized the famous sequence, I laughed out loud. It was not a funny part of the film, and I feared I'd be lynched. So...caveat emptor if you're watching with people who don't know much about Russian film.
Stunning, brilliant, and I will never watch it again.
Fritz Lang was one of the most talented directors this world has ever produced, and it was lucky for us that he was forced to emigrate to the US!
"M" is the story of a child killer - based on a true story - which will stick with you for years to come. Even the grainy, hard-to-see copy I first viewed made an indelible impression on me. Peter Lorre is incredible as the tortured man who knows how sick he is, yet cannot help himself.
A powerful commentary on vigilantism, too, as folks everywhere, including the local gangsters, scramble to find the killer.
You'll never be able to hear "the Hall of the Mountain King" without shuddering again.
The Frighteners (1996)
Scary, Funny, Well-Made!
This is an amazing film, with top-notch acting (Jeffery Combs is a riot as an FBI agent who is a few sticks short of a bundle), lots of surprises (even for this horror movie buff), excellent scariness quotient, and a storyline which entices you to become involved with the characters.
John Astin has a wonderful character role as the Judge, and the ghosts are stripped in so seamlessly that you don't really notice that they are effects.
If you haven't yet seen this, run, don't walk, to the nearest video store. You're in for a treat.