Monday, December 28, 2009

Horror of Dracula (1958)

Many people consider this version of "Dracula" to be the best and frankly, I don't see it.  Don't get me wrong.  It has some really good stuff in it, but compared to other versions of "Dracula", "Horror of Dracula" is not the best.

Christopher Lee is great as Dracula.  Not only is he suave and sophisticated, but he is unbelievably scary.  There are many close ups of Lee with his fangs out and blood running down his chin that were really freaky.  It was very effective.

Peter Cushing was also great as Van Helsing.  He is exactly what Van Helsing should be.  He is an older gentlemen who studies vampires and has the skill to destroy Dracula for good.

So as you can see, the acting was not the problem for me.  My biggest problem were the sets and atmosphere of the picture.  I love Universal's "Dracula" mostly because of the foreboding atmosphere displayed.  This Hammer version looks like a modern day soap opera.  The sets were bare and they looked exactly like what they were; sets.  They did not look lived in and Dracula's castle did not display the look of decay like Universal's did.

My other problem with this version, which is a problem with all Hammer films for me, is its too talky.  Too much talk and not enough action.  Even though Dracula is very scary in the picture, his on screen time is limited.  

"Horror of Dracula" is the first of Hammer's "Dracula" films and is supposedly the best.  It is not a terrible version of the "Dracula" story, but I don't think it is anywhere near as great as Universal's version.

B-  I recommend it.

Eagle Eye (2008)

"Eagle Eye" is an average action film with nothing new to thrill a viewer.

The story is a little confusing and frankly, a bit dumb.  A new machine, which is meant to be a sophisticated spy camera, has gone mad.  It wants to take over the world with the help of who?  Shia LaBeouf!  Why Shia?  Because Shia's twin brother who worked with the machine had died and the machine needs Shia's imprint to gain access to continue its destruction.  

It was a ridiculous story.  The action wasn't thrilling and the acting was mediocre.  Even though there were some good actors in the picture, such as Billy Bob Thornton, Rosario Dawson and Michael Chiklis, the story just did not work.  Billy Bob was good in his role and I actually liked his character.  Besides Billy Bob, each and every character oozed of boredom.  

This was a film that tried to be a smart science fiction type thriller, but it just comes up short on all accounts.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Avatar (2009)

Everyone is raving about how great this film is and frankly, I don't see it...

I'm not saying it is bad.  I just don't think it is as great as everyone is making it out to be.  Yes, the effects are the best I have ever seen.  Yes, the film looked beautiful.  But I thought the story lagged.  I was very bored for the first hour and a half.  The film did pick up after that however.  There were some good action sequences that were quite thrilling.

A lot of people are talking about how these effects are going to change the way films are made.  I disagree.  There wasn't anything in the film that was that much different than films like "Lord of the Rings" or "King Kong".  The effects in "Avatar" are better than those films, but not so much that I would say it changes the face of film making.  

The acting was OK in "Avatar.  The only person that really stood out to me was Zoe Saldana as the lead female alien being.  She did a very good job and the viewer gets easily attached to her.

"Avatar" should be viewed for its beauty and special effects.  While the story isn't as great as the effects are, people will still enjoy the film. 

One other thing...  I hated the 3D.  I didn't think there was anything amazing about it.  The 3D shows at Disneyland are much better.  The glasses gave me a head ache and it was very annoying in a film like this.  In a special effects extravaganza of a film, I want to look at the beautiful backgrounds and what not.  When in 3D, I am forced to look at what is in the foreground.  3D needs to be retired soon.  It is an awful gimmick that aids kids of the A.D.D. generation, but adds nothing to the film itself.

B-  I recommend it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

If you know me, you would know I am not a big Will Ferrell fan.  I liked him on "Saturday Night Live", but I have not liked his film career.  I decided to give him one last chance.  I finally watched "Stranger Than Fiction".

The film is actually pretty good.  Will Ferrell is decent.  Not great, but not bad.  This is his best performance by far.  The real stand out performance is Maggie Gyllenhaal.  I thought she was very good as the hipster baker.  

This is a very original film where a man's life is being narrated by a disembodied voice.  Ferrell figures out that an author is writing a book and that author in control of his life since he is the main character of her story.

When Ferrell finds out about this he seeks the help of a literature professor played by Dustin Hoffman.  Hoffman was good, but I thought his character had some real issues that was not discussed.  For instance, he seems to believe right off the bat that Ferrell's life is being narrated.  Wouldn't he think it was strange?  Another thing that bugged me about Hoffman's character was that he told Ferrell that he had to die for the sake of a literary masterpiece.  What kind of human being would kill someone just so a good book can be written?  Hoffman should have died!

"Stranger Than Fiction" is beautifully written and everything comes full circle by the end of the film.  I felt the film would have been stronger, however,  if it dealt more with the relationship between Ferrell and Gyllenhaal instead of Ferrell trying to figure out what kind of story he was in.  "Stranger Than Fiction" is recommended for its writing, beautiful use of graphics, and the acting talent of Maggie Gyllenhaal.

B  I recommend it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Lovely Bones (2009)

I read the book by Alice Sebold and I loved it.  I was really excited to see the film, especially because I really like Peter Jackson.  I thought it would be impossible to make a good movie out of this story and this film sort of proves that theory.

"The Lovely Bones" isn't a bad movie, but it is not a good one either.  It is too long and all over the place.  Stanley Tucci is excellent as Mr. Harvey and all of his scenes are excellent.  The rest of the film has a few good scenes, but overall it doesn't connect.  There were too many scenes of Suzi in her "heaven".  It kind of got boring after a while, but at the same time, the effects were wonderful and it was beautiful to look at.

Susan Sarandon was very good as the Grandmother.  She was very funny, but she did seem to be a little out of place.  Rachel Weisz is a great actress, but she really had nothing to do with the story.  Her entire character could have been written out and it wouldn't have made a difference.  Mark Wahlberg was good as the loving Dad, but the real stand out performance is Stanley Tucci.  He was perfectly evil and creepy.  You really hate his character.

The film tries to jam everything in the book, but some subplots don't work, such as Suzi and the boy she was in love with.  There were too many scenes of the family grieving the loss of their daughter.  Also the book has many chapters of the father trying to figure out who his daughter's killer is.  There are a few scenes showing this, but I felt like that should have been the main part of the film instead of Suzi's "heaven".  True the book mostly takes place in her "heaven" and that works.  Unfortunately, it doesn't work for a film.  It brings the film to a stand still just so we can view the unique and crazy things that happen there.

Still "The Lovely Bones" is worth seeing for some good performances, beautiful cinematography, and great special effects.  The screenplay may not have been the best, but it still has several sequences that people will really enjoy.

C+  I recommend it.

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966)

This is a fun comedy that remains funny to this day due to the comic genius of Don Knotts.

I really liked "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken".  Don Knotts was great.  It kind of felt like a long episode of "Scooby Doo", but instead of the Scooby Gang, it was just Don Knotts.  Knotts' comedic timing and reactions were hilarious.  He was perfect.

I would have liked to see more of Don Knotts "ghost hunting" and being frightened out of his wits, but what we get is fine too.  You really feel bad for Knotts because no one will believe that he saw an actual haunting.  By the end of the film, you are very happy for Knotts though.  Even though he is a huge geek, he becomes the town hero and he gets the beautiful girl.

The best piece of comedy in the film was the guy that kept yelling off screen: "Attaboy Luther!"  It was very funny.  Supposedly it was the screen writer who was yelling that throughout the film.

It was also fun to see all the different actors from "I Love Lucy" in the film.  In the film, you can find Charles Lane, Phil Ober, and Ellen Corby.  If you are a fan of "I Love Lucy", you should know who these people are.

"The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" is an extremely fun movie to watch with the family.  The structure to the film is very good and Knotts is great to watch.

B  I recommend it.

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

Disney animation is back!

I was very excited to see "The Princess and the Frog".  I was hoping it would live up to my expectations and it certainly did.

It is one of the most beautiful productions Disney has ever produced.  I loved the backgrounds displaying the swampy lagoons and iron work in the New Orleans town.  

The characters were great in the film.  I loved the comic relief firefly, the jazz playing alligator, and most of all the voodoo villain.  It is one of the best Disney villains to date.  He was truly scary and he was animated brilliantly.  

There were only a few things that could have been better.  I thought that Tiana and her prince could have been developed better.  There wasn't really much to their love story.  They seemed to just fall in love too quickly before developing their relationship.  Another thing that could have been better were the songs.  They were fine in the fact that it set the mood to the New Orleans Jazz theme, but there wasn't anything that seemed very memorable like all the 90's Disney films had.  Maybe the songs will grow on me over time and become classics.

"The Princess and the Frog" is an excellent addition to Disney's animated features.  It was funny and very emotional.  I actually cried.  I really hope people see this and bring back this type of Disney animation.  "The Princess and the Frog" should win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars this year.  

A-  I recommend it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

"The Midnight Meat Train" is a horror film from a short story by Clive Barker.  Barker is well loved in the horror community, but I have never been a big fan.  I have read a few of his things and I have seen "Hellraiser", but it really didn't strike my fancy.  "The Midnight Meat Train" didn't either.

"The Midnight Meat Train" is just an average story about a guy who kills people on a subway train.  He kills people so he can feed some creatures human meat.  When it is revealed that he is killing to feed creatures, it was not very clear what these creatures were.

I didn't really connect with any of the characters.  They were all standard and boring.  The lead's girlfriend was annoying and during the final action scenes, she just seemed to disappear during a fight and return at the end.

Some of the film was extremely gory and uncomfortable to watch.  The toughest scene to watch involves the removal of teeth, fingernails, and eyeballs.  There are also several special effects shots showing things like heads being smashed in and eyes popping out.  These were some of the worst effects I have ever seen.

There is also another scene where the killer takes his shirt off to reveal these boils all over his body.  He cuts one off and puts it in a jar.  I don't understand what the point of that was.  Maybe I missed something...

There is nothing new about "The Midnight Meat Train".  It's very average, but it will keep you interested if you are bored one night and want to rent a movie.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Road (2009)

"The Road" is a very good movie about a father and son surviving a post-apocalyptic world.

The film was very moving, emotional, sad, and depressing.  I really connected with the father and son.  Viggo Mortensen was great.  He is always good in everything he does, but this is my favorite performance I have seen of his.  He seems like the perfect Dad that will do anything for his son's safety.

The film also had a very distinct look that I had never seen before.  Everything is dead and gray.  It is depressing from the very first frame to the last frame.  

There are a couple thrilling parts of the film that deal with people who have resorted to cannibalism.  It is scary, but very realistic at the same time.  All of the survivors are starving, but cannibalism is not an option for the father and son.  They just hope to find food.  The appearance of Viggo and his son really sell that fact that they are indeed dying of starvation. 

It is never told how the world ended up this way.  Everything is dead and only a handful of people are still living.  It doesn't matter why this happened though.  The movie is about a father and son relationship and it is one of the best I have seen in a while.

A-  I recommend it.

Toys (1992)

"Toys" is a very strange movie.  It is sort of like "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" except this time it's toys and Slugworth is really trying to steal the company.

The best thing about the movie would be the set designs and locations.  The whole film is beautiful and some of the sets are amazing.  They are especially amazing when movement is used.  For instance, there is one set inside a brick room.  The room becomes smaller and smaller before your eyes.  The bricks move toward the actors in the room, sort of like a Tetris game.  It finally stops leaving the actors only a few feet to move.  I really liked that one.

The acting in the film was good, which surprised me.  I am not a big Robin Williams fan.  He is way too over the top and not funny.  He seemed a bit laid back in this one, even though he was supposed to be eccentric and fun.  It was a good characterization on his part.  Joan Cusack was also very good.

Even though "Toys" has a lot of good visuals and some good acting, the story is just a little slow.  It isn't the best movie, but I wouldn't call it bad either.  I can understand how a kid could love it, but viewing it for the first time as an adult, makes it enjoyable, but not an all time favorite.

B-  I recommend it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Fly (1958)

"The Fly" is a great film of science fiction.  It is incredibly unique and if you don't know anything about the film, you will truly be shocked.  

I wonder what it was like to see this film in its first run.  Even though I know the ending and what actually happened to this scientist, the film still did scare me.  The last scene where the fly is crying for help is one of the scariest scenes in motion picture history.  

Everything is good about the film.  The acting is very good, especially from Vincent Price and Patricia Owens.  The make-up is good too.  The human with the fly head is a good make-up.  The fly from the sequel is more widely known, but this make-up is better in many ways.  

Not only was that last "Help me!" scene scary, but having the scientist walk around with a sheet over his head was too.  It was eerie watching him eat his food and all you would hear is a slurping type sound.

"The Fly" is a classic of science fiction for good reason.  I much prefer this version to the Jeff Goldblum remake.  If you haven't seen it, do so.  You will be on the edge of your seat, especially because of the way the film plays out.  Not only is it a science fiction film, but it is a sort of murder mystery as well.    

B+  I recommend it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Targets (1968)

This is one of Boris Karloff's last films and it is also one of his best.  

Karloff basically plays himself.  He is an old horror star who wants to retire.  A side story is going on about a seemingly normal man, who turns crazy.  He kills his family and he ends up killing people randomly.  He ends up shooting people at the drive-in where Karloff is making a personal appearance.

I couldn't believe how violent this film was.  There were some pretty graphic things shown.  When the sniper is killing people randomly, he even kills kids.  No one is safe.  There is one scene in particular that is very disturbing.  

The acting in the film was good, but Boris Karloff was excellent.  He was perfect and he was very funny at times.  The funniest part is when Karloff jumps of fright from his own reflection.  This has to be in Karloff's top 10 performances.

What I also liked about the film was that it was filmed in the San Fernando Valley.  This is where I am from so it was fun to spot out different locations.  True a lot has changed since 1968.  There are no drive-ins anymore, but I did still recognize a few locations.

"Targets" is Karloff's last triumph.  There is suspense throughout the entire film.  It is very realistic to what a modern day serial killer is like.  After the film was finished, it was put on hold due to the murders of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.  It was later released and viewed as an issue of gun control.  

B+  I recommend it.

Quarantine (2008)

I haven't heard much about "Quarantine", so I didn't expect much.  I finally watched it and I was pleasantly surprised on how good it was.

It is all shot from the perspective of a News cameraman who was doing a story on firefighters.  They all end up going to an apartment building where their services are needed and authorities lock them inside to contain a virus.  A serious case of rabies has caused people to go insane.

The film was really a zombie movie inside a contained area where no one can leave.  When someone tries to leave, police snipers kill them.  This makes the film very scary.  You know there is no way for anyone to survive.  You want them to find a way, but the reality is they will die.  

The acting in the film was good, but Jennifer Carpenter, who is also on "Dexter", overacts for some of the film.  She is good in the beginning, but when all hope of surviving is thrown out the window, she just overreacts beyond any sort of realism.  It got kind of annoying.

"Quarantine" is a remake of a foreign film called "[.REC]".  I haven't seen that one so I can't say which one is better, but this remake is very good.  It was was much better than a similar type movie: "Paranormal Activity".  Eh...  That movie still bugs me.  Watch "Quarantine" instead.

B  I recommend it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Vampire (1957)

"The Vampire" is made by the same company that produced "The Return of Dracula".  Like "The Return of Dracula", this film is very fun and worth while.

"The Vampire" has a different take on what a vampire really is.  A doctor becomes a murderous monster after accidentally taking pills that contain blood from vampire bats.  The doctor becomes addicted to the pills, but he knows there is a cost.  He knows he will kill when under the influence of the drug.

This was a very good story.  It is a nice parallel to life on drugs.  The doctor was a perfect father and a popular fella, but by the end of the film, he loses everything.  He sends his daughter away, he loses all of his friends, and he eventually loses the battle against the drug.

While not the best vampire film, "The Vampire" was very enjoyable.  It had some good monster make-up and sympathetic characters I cared about.  It was fun spotting several good character actors also.  If you are a fan of "I Love Lucy", you will recognize the police officer that saves the day.

B-  I recommend it.

Step Up 2: The Streets (2008)

OK...  It is kind of embarrassing that I actually watched this film, but what is even more embarrassing is that I actually liked it.

I have never seen the original film, but "Step Up 2" had a lot of good stuff in it.  It had characters that I cared about.  Briana Evigan plays the lead and she is really the reason why I watched this film and liked it so much.  There is something about her that really keeps my attention.  Her character is an underdog and outcast, but by the end of the film, she has it all.  Not only is Evigan a very good actress, but she is an incredible dancer.  I am not really into watching people dance, but the things that she does is pretty remarkable.  

Even though I did like the film, a lot of it was awful corny.  The dialogue was cheesy and some of the supporting actors were not very good.  There were several scenes where the ADR was very obvious and that always hurts a scene.  

"Step Up 2" has its problems.  It's not for everyone, obviously.  It may be a chick flick, but it's a good one.  

B-  I recommend it.

Michael Jackson's This Is It (2009)

"This Is It" is a wonderful tribute to one of the most innovative and original musical legends of all time.

You will only like this movie if you like Michael Jackson and his music.  This is basically a theatrical version of his concert he was planning.  The show is put on with footage shot during his Los Angeles rehearsals.  In between songs, they did show a few behind the scenes moments.

There were some great things filmed for the concert including an all new zombie and ghost sequence for Thriller.  I really liked this and there are many homages to Disneyland's "Haunted Mansion" in it.  

There is one segment where the filmmakers profile the lead guitarist.  She was incredible.  It was the best display of guitar playing I have ever seen.

It was a real treat to see Michael Jackson in this light.  He is doing what makes him comfortable.  He is not his usual shy self.  He knows what he wants and he gets what he wants done.  "This Is It" is a perfect way to say goodbye to a legend.

B  I recommend it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

"Shadow of the Vampire" is a fictional story about the making of the film "Nosferatu".  

John Malkovich plays director F.W. Murnau and Willem Dafoe plays actor Max Schreck.  Malkovich is good in his role as the crazed director that will do anything for his film.  The real star of the film is Dafoe, however.  Dafoe was nominated for an Oscar for this role and it was well deserved.  He really transforms himself into this crazy vampire posing as an actor.  It is a marvel to watch.

The best scene of the picture is when Dafoe grabs a bat out of the air, bites off its head, and sucks the blood out.  It is creepy as hell.  The only thing that bugged me about the scene were the reactions of the people Schreck was with.  It didn't really seem to bug anyone else that this "man" grabbed a living creature and ate it.  I thought that was kind of strange.

Even though this is a great idea for a movie and it has some incredible acting, the film is just a little too slow.  Too much of the film was about the making of "Nosferatu".  I wanted to see more of how Schreck lives his life.  

This could have been just an average vampire film, but thanks to Willem Dafoe, "Shadow of the Vampire" is really a frightening tale based around true events.  Could Max Schreck really have been a vampire?  Did we witness real murders in "Nosferatu"?  It was a very intriguing concept, indeed.

B  I recommend it.

The Box (2009)

"The Box" is a very original film with a very interesting story.  It is good, but it does have its problems.

The film is extremely well done, except for the middle of the picture.  The film turns from a very good suspense film into a science fiction film that I could not keep up with.  I really had no idea what was going on.  It was difficult to follow.  Things pick up in the end, however.  

Frank Langella plays the villain of the piece and he is great.  Langella really is superb in this role.  He is elegant and very frightening.  It is no wonder he was chosen to play Dracula in the 1979 version.  James Marsden is very good in his role too.  He does a good job playing the terrified father trying to survive this ordeal.  The only performance I had a problem with was Cameron Diaz.  She wasn't terrible, but she just can't keep up with the other actors.  They were out of her league.  Plus, she had a terrible accent in the film.

The effects in the film were really amazing.  Langella is missing half of his face and it looked very convincing in every shot.  It was remarkable.

"The Box" is a very good story, even though it gets very confusing.  I'm not sure exactly who Frank Langella's character really is, but the performance is really worth watching anyways.

B-  I recommend it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Return of Dracula (1958)

"The Return of Dracula" is a very good Dracula film heavily influenced by Hitchcock's "Shadow of a Doubt".

Dracula is posing as a long lost relative of a family and living with them.  His purpose for arriving to California and living with this family is so he can start a new race of vampires on this side of the world.

Francis Lederer plays Dracula and he does a very good job.  He is charming, yet very threatening.  Dracula turns a blind girl into a vampire and she is pretty scary herself.  There are frightening shots of the female vampire running in the graveyard to get back to her coffin before the sun rises.

While I was watching "The Return of Dracula" something struck me about the music in the film.  It sounded very familiar.  I was finally able to figure out that it is the same theme as "The Shining".  I later researched it and found out that it is an old tune that many horror movies use.  

"The Return of Dracula" is a very good monster movie.  I was surprised how well shot and directed the film was.  I was expecting a cheap Monogram type film, but instead it seemed to be closer to an "A" type picture.  It is up there as one of the better vampire films.  

B  I recommend it.

2012 (2009)

"2012" is exactly what you expect: a special effects extravaganza with world wide destruction at every corner.  It gave me everything I wanted.

"2012" is not the best movie.  The characters are not very good and the acting is mediocre at best.  But the destruction scenes are incredible.  It was very thrilling.

The director, Roland Emmerich, has directed two previous disaster films: "Independence Day" and "The Day After Tomorrow".  In "The Day After Tomorrow", Emmerich had the film more character based and only had a couple quick disaster scenes.  That film did not work at all.  For "2012", Emmerich learned from his mistakes  and gave us one disaster after another.  It was great.

The special effects in the film are top notch.  Some of the best I have seen.  There are so many special effects shots what with floods, earthquakes, and volcanoes to name a few.

"2012" is great fun if you go in with the mindset that you just want to see things be destroyed.  Don't expect to get attached to the characters.  It is not that type of film.  This is just a thrilling adventure where you want to see things break, crumble, burn, drown, and die.

B  I recommend it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Fourth Kind (2009)

"The Fourth Kind" is actually a pretty decent alien picture.  It combines supposed "real" footage with dramatizations starring Milla Jovovich.  The "real" footage was where the scary things happened.  I feel like the film would have been better without these dramatizations.  I don't really like how it cut back and forth between the two.  

Even though the dramatization is not as scary, Milla Jovovich does give a great performance.  She really is a terrific actress.

There are some very scary scenes, but what makes it scary is you don't know exactly what is going on.  Whenever an encounter occurs, the camera is affected.  You can barely make out the images shown, but it is enough to really scare you.

Yes, a few things didn't make sense.  Yes, some characters are not so good like the loud non-believing sheriff or the ultra-ugly little boy, but overall "The Fourth Kind" does what it sets out to do.  It scares an audience.

B  I recommend it. 

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Black Sunday (1960)

Barbara Steele's face is a very recognizable one to a fan of horror.  I remember seeing that face with puncture wounds in the pages of Famous Monsters.  I had never seen the film that face was from, until now.

"Black Sunday" is an excellent horror film.  It is an Italian film that is dubbed into English.  The audio sounds a little off because of the dub, but it doesn't hurt the film overall.

The film is a great vampire horror story, which at times is very scary.  Barbara Steele comes back to life to take over the body of her relative.  Another vampire comes back from the grave to help bring his lost love (Steele) to life.  This other vampire was very scary, but I wish his face was more hideous.  It would have added another dimension of fear.

"Black Sunday" is a classic horror film that combines myths of vampires and witchcraft.  Director Tim Burton has said that this is his favorite horror film and I can see why.

A-  I recommend it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Frankenstein (1931)

"Frankenstein" is one of my favorite films and I watched it again last night.  I can't tell you how many times I have seen it, except that it is the first movie I remember seeing.

What can I say about "Frankenstein"?  It is perfection.  Jack Pierce's make-up was the best in this film and I think it is the best make-up in film history.  

Karloff is amazing in the role of the monster.  He is not a bad guy.  He is like a child that does not know his own strength.  He did nothing wrong.  The people he kills in the film either deserved it or it was an accident.  

Another thing I love about the film are the massive sets used.  It is remarkable to think that the huge laboratory is inside a sound stage, not ten miles away from where I live in southern California.

James Whale is great as director.  Any director could have made a monster movie and scared people.  Whale went the complete opposite direction and had Karloff play the monster with sympathy.  Only a true genius would be confident in that decision.  

"Frankenstein" is one of the most important horror films to be made.  It is the film that really started the Universal horror cycle.  It is fantastic on all accounts.  You would think a film this great could not be topped, but Whale and Karloff proved the world wrong four years later with "Bride of Frankenstein".  A rare time when a sequel is better than the original.

A+  I recommend it.

Nosferatu (1922)

I saw "Nosferatu" on Halloween at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.  The film had a live organist just the way you would see it back in 1922.  I had never seen "Nosferatu" from beginning to finish and I must say it is quite the film.

There is a certain amount of creepiness to the film.  It is very scary, but subtle at the same time.  The vampire, Nosferatu, doesn't pop out and scare you.  It is all about atmosphere and mood.

I really liked how the arrival of Nosferatu to the town was a plaque.  He brought rats with him on the ship, which caused the plague.  Nosferatu, himself killed a few people as well, adding to that plague.  

Max Schreck played the vampire and he really is an icon of horror.  His look is unique and has not been topped.  

I was also surprised on the amount of comedy in the film.  It was a film way ahead of its time by combining the horror with the comedy.

Even though I prefer Bela Lugosi's look of Dracula compared to Schreck's, "Nosferatu" is the better film.  It is scary, eerie, and just about every other adjective that describes a great horror classic.

A  I recommend it.

House of Frankenstein (1944)

"House of Frankenstein" is one of my favorite films.  It might not be the best made movie, but it brings me joy like no other.  

It is the first monster rally film.  It includes Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Dracula, a Mad Scientist, and a Hunchback.  

Seeing this in the theater is something I have always wanted to do.  I finally saw it in the theater this past Friday.  Seeing these monsters on the big screen is simply amazing.  Lon Chaney's transformation into The Wolf Man is great.  It is my favorite scene from the film.

There is also a good amount of emotion in this film.  You really feel bad for Daniel, Ilonka, and Larry Talbot.  Daniel is a hunchback in love with Ilonka, but Ilonka is in love with Larry.  Larry refuses to get close with Ilonka because of his werewolfism.  It is a love triangle destined for doom.

Even though "House of Frankenstein" is ridiculous, especially when Karloff describes how he will build new brains for his victims, it is a very enjoyable film.  All of the actors are very good, with J. Carroll Naish's performance standing above the rest.  The cinematography is great and the music by Hans J. Salter is fantastic.  It is one of my favorite musical scores.  "House of Frankenstein" is a movie I can watch over and over again.

A-  I recommend it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Stepfather (2009)

"The Stepfather" is actually OK.  It's nothing special though.  It was a fun time at the theater and there was a good amount of tension.  

The stepfather, played by Dylan Walsh, was very good.  He was a very convincing killer, changing from lovable to crazy to deadly.  If his performance wasn't done well, the movie would not work.

Amber Heard played the girlfriend of the eldest son.  She is pretty popular these days.  I don't really like her though.  She was kind of boring and just seemed kind of slutty.  

My biggest problem with the movie is that we know the stepfather is a killer right from the get go.  I feel it would have been much more thrilling if the film began with what seemed like a nice, loving family and the stepfather slowly becomes evil.  It would have been much more effective.

I have never seen the original version of "The Stepfather", so I can not compare the two.  This version ended up being pretty good, but it had its problems.  The film reminded me of "The Amityville Horror", but without the ghosts.

B-  I recommend it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Fall (2006)

This is a very good film that reminded me of films like "Cinema Paradiso" and "Pan's Labyrinth".

An injured stuntman tells stories to a little girl with a broken arm.  They are in a hospital together and they become good friends through their story time.

I really liked how the stories paralleled the lives of the characters.  The best thing about the stories were the wonderful locations used.  The director found all of these amazing places and planned a movie around them.  It truly is one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen.

All of the acting was top notch, but the big breakout performance is from the little girl played by Catinca Untaru.  She didn't speak English before  this film.  She learned during the filming and she did a great job.  She has a natural talent about her.

"The Fall" needs to be seen by everyone.  It is a great story with amazing cinematography, locations, actors, and music.  I was really impressed.

A-  I recommend it.

Saw VI (2009)

Here we go again with another "Saw" film.  I am not a big fan of the series.  They are not terrible movies, but they're not great.  They are just average horror movies with nothing special about them.

"Saw VI" felt the same way.  It has your usual torture situations with a lot of blood and guts.  This film tries to be somewhat political dealing with health care issues.  I like that message, but I sort of felt it was too in your face.  It could have been more subtile about its message, but then again, we are talking about "Saw VI".  

My biggest problem with the film was all of the flashbacks.  So many times, we are looking at flashbacks from other "Saw" films.  I think it is a mistake to connect each "Saw" film with a story line.  I have seen all of the films, but I forgot what had happened.  I don't care about the characters.  I think each film should stand on its own.

"Saw VI" has a lot of problems, but I wouldn't say I was bored.  It kept my interest and it was tolerable, which is a lot more I can say about many other films in their 5th sequel.


Lady and the Tramp (1955)

"Lady and the Tramp" is a beautiful film.  It has some of the best animation in a motion picture.  My favorite thing about the animation are the wonderful backgrounds.  It really is a marvel to look at.

But even though "Lady and the Tramp" has wonderful animation, it feels a little slow.  It is not a big adventure story like some of Walt's other films.  It does have some really great scenes like the Bella Note scene and the siamese cats scene, however.  

Even though "Lady and the Tramp" is not one of my favorite Disney films, it is still very enjoyable to watch.  It has perfect animation and wonderful songs.  There is something in the film that everyone can enjoy.

B  I recommend it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tales of Terror (1962)

"Tales of Terror" is a very good horror compilation film directed by Roger Corman.  

The first story is based off of Edgar Allan Poe's Morella.  This is a good creepy little story and Vincent Price is very good in it.  When you see the body of Price's wife on the bed, it is a real fright.  It has a good ending too.

The second story is based off of Poe's "The Black Cat".  This one stars Vincent Price with Peter Lorre.  There is a good amount of comedy in this one.  Price is very funny, especially when showing off his wine tasting skills.  This story has a nice creepy ending of Loree being haunted by Price and his wife (who Price was having an affair with.) 

The third story is based off of Poe's "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar".  Vincent Price and Basil Rathbone star in this one.  This one is quite scary, especially when Price comes back to life to get revenge of Rathbone.  Rathbone was keeping Price's mind alive and not letting him cross over.  When Price comes to life and attacks Rathbone, his body melts away.  I used to call him the milkshake man when I was a kid because of the melting effect.

"Tales of Terror" is a fun time.  It might not be the best made film, but it does a good job combing scares with laughs.

B  I recommend it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Duel Reviews - "The Wolf Man" (1941)

Robby: For our next duel review, Bryce and I will be reviewing one of my favorite films: "The Wolf Man". 

"The Wolf Man" is a "fang"tastic horror film with characters you really care about. Just look at the cast list! Claude Rains, Patrick Knowles, Ralph Bellamy, Warren William, Bela Lugosi, Maria Ouspenskya, Evelyn Ankers, and of course Lon Chaney, Jr. How could you not like these characters? Besides Lon Chaney, Jr.'s role in "Of Mice and Men", this is his finest acting performance. You really sympathize with Chaney as Talbot. The film begins with Chaney as a happy go lucky guy, as he tries to win the love of Evelyn Ankers. After Chaney is bit by the werewolf, he falls into a deep depression. His eyes say it all. By the end of the film, you really feel bad for Chaney. Even though he is a monster, he is also the hero of the film. Lon Chaney's lycanthropy in the film is actually a very realistic and personal parallel to the life of the troubled actor himself. Lon Chaney suffered from alcoholism. When sober, Chaney was the nicest man. When under the influence, Chaney could be a horror to be around. 

Bryce: I was actually really looking forward to revisiting this one. From a young age I was a huge horror buff, but I also had fairly protective parents so the ratio of horror movies I was actually able to see rather then fantasize about was quite low. For whatever reason the original Wolf Man was one of the few that was deemed suitable, and so the VHS copy the library had got worn out thanks to my dozens of repeat watches (For some reason the cover of this copy was dominated by a picture of Gene Shallit which was infinitely more terrifying then anything in the movie). Still once I got my own damn Video store account and started to branch out a bit, I stopped revisiting The Wolfman, and it’s probably been over ten years since I’ve seen it. So I was primed. 

It’s great revisiting a film you’ve forgotten about (I didn’t even know Lugosi was in this) and The Wolfman didn’t disappoint, a great example of old school craft. Still out of the big three of universal monsters I have to judge this movie the weakest. While George Waggner does a fine job directing the film, he’s just not the borderline insane visionary genius that James Whale and Tod Browning where. Same goes for the leading man, Lon Chaney Jr. does a decent job, but compared to Lugosi and Karloff, he just doesn’t match up. Still when judged on it’s own merits, The Wolf Man’s a great slice of universal horror, who could ask for anything more? 

Robby: I disagree with your point that "The Wolf Man" is the weakest out of the big three monsters. True it is no "Frankenstein", but I think it is much better than "Dracula". "Dracula" is great and one of the most important horror films, but it has its problems. The film takes a huge downward spiral after the first 15 minutes. I'll review "Dracula" more another time. 

I do agree with you on Lon Chaney, Jr.'s acting. He is great in this role, but he is no Karloff or Lugosi. He can't compete. 

Another thing I want to mention about "The Wolf Man" is the great musical score my Hans Salter. It has a very distinctive three note theme that is very memorable. Hans Salter did nearly all the Universal Monster films in the 1940s, but "The Wolf Man" is by far his best. 

But what made "The Wolf Man" a success was the incredible make of Jack Pierce. Pierce's first attempt at a werewolf make-up was in "Werewolf of London", which came out six years before "The Wolf Man". Pierce originally had plans to do a make-up much more like the Wolf Man's, but Henry Hull, who played the werewolf, could not stand that much make-up. Fortunately Lon Chaney, Jr. did not mind it. The make-up is one of Pierce's best. Pierce did an even better job with the make-up in the sequel: "Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man". 

Bryce: Pierces’ designs are great. I’ve heard that the film was originally supposed to be more of a Val Lewton like movie, where you never saw knew for sure whether or not Chaney was really changing. Do you know? Salter’s score is also top notch, reminds me of Danny Elfman’s Batman theme in some places (Dun dun dun duuhhhh dun) 

I still really like Chaney I just can’t help but imagine his father in the roll. The whole film is really cast perfectly. Claude Rains is great playing every scene with just a hint of an aristocratic sneer. What Chaney lacks in his father’s subtlety and grace he makes up for with his size. Even before he’s cursed he’s a huge beast of a man towing over his father in a way that’s almost comical. He LOOKS like the kind of guy who could club a wolf’s brains in. You bring up an interesting point with his alcholism, he plays the morning after his first transformation, like a man waking up after a black out drunk. Lugosi makes the most of his cameo role as the original Wolfman. He’s only on screen for about a minute, but manages to invest his character with a real sense of tragedy. 

Robby: Yes all of the acting is excellent and lets not forget about Maria Ouspenskya as Maleva the old gypsy woman. She was perfect and this became her signature role. 

"The Wolf Man" remains a classic of horror and for good reason. Universal will be releasing a remake soon with Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins. I'm a little suspicious about that one, however... 

If you have not seen "The Wolf Man" do yourself a favor and watch it. Watch it at night under the full of the moon. And remember: 

Even a man who is pure in heart 
And says his prayers by night, 
May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms 
And the autumn moon is bright. 

Bryce: Yeah I was excited about that one until it became a synonym with disastrous production. Let's face it good Werewolf movies are few and far between, and The Wolf Man deserves its classic status.

Visit Bryce's blog at: Things That Don't Suck.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Paranormal Activity (2009)

"Paranormal Activity" is getting some great reviews claiming to be the scariest film to come out in years.  I was quite excited to see it.

I waited and waited for something to happen.  Besides a door closing or a sheet moving, nothing did happen.  I was bored out of my mind watching two characters record themselves sleeping.  In fact, I was so bored, I walked out on the film before it ended.  This was the first time I had done this in years.  When I got home from the theater, I looked up a bootleg version of the ending on youtube.  Guess what?  Something happened.  But that something was not worth the first hour and a half of torture.  

"Paranormal Activity" is one of the worst movies I have ever seen.  I don't understand why people are enjoying it.  It is beyond boring.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Duel Reviews - "Night of the Creeps" (1986)

Duel Reviews:  Two Friends Two HUGELY Different opinions.  I’m doing this review of "Night Of The Creeps" with my good friend Bryce Wilson.  Bryce has his own review blog called "Things That Don't Suck".  We both love horror movies but seldom agree on what makes a good one. So we’ve decided to take each other through a couple of our old favorites. Bryce has been going through 31 horror films in 31 days for Halloween.  For our first set of reviews, we will be picking some of our favorite horror films.  First up is Bryce's pick: "Night of the Creeps".

Bryce: So this years of 31 Days Of Horror has apparently turned into a Tom Atkins tribute. Not that I’m complaining. There are few people as entertaining to watch as Atkins and no movie showcases that better then Night Of The Creeps. The thing that makes Night Of The Creeps special to me is the way it so effortlessly molds the innocence of the old school fifties AIP films, with the anarchy of the eighties splatter punk films. It sets this up with the great transition from the bizarre scifi opening, to the glorious black and white prolouge. Anything can happen. Despite some pretty grisly gore shots, but the movie keeps a feeling of innocence and fun throughout the whole runtime. I kept expecting Nick Adams or Elisha Cooke Jr. to show up. I’ve got to give most of the credit to Fred Dekker here, remember this guy directed The Monster Squad, he knows old school horror. It really is too bad that Robocop 3 seems to have permanently killed his career. Then again since Robocop 3 caused several murder suicides (FACT!) I’m pretty sure the punishment fit the crime. Still I’d love to see him make another movie, because Night Of The Creeps is genuinely fun, after the past ten years of Nu Horror it’s like a breath of fresh air. It THRILLS ME!

Robby: Let's start out with Fred Dekker, the director of Night of the Creeps. The movie of his that I know best is "The Monster Squad", which I love. I was worried that "Night of the Creeps" would be a big disappointment, especially when comparing it to "The Monster Squad", but as it turns out, "Night of the Creeps" is not bad at all. It is still no "Monster Squad" however...

I love a good zombie movie and this is one of the better ones. I much prefer slow, stupid zombies compared to the fast, clever ones which the remake of "Dawn of the Dead" made popular of late. The thing I did not like about these "Night of the Creeps" zombies was the whole alien aspect. I like not knowing exactly what is going on in the world to make the dead come to life. Personally, zombies scare me and alien creatures do not. Maybe that is the reason I was not keen on the idea of alien creatures creating these zombies. But on the plus side, as Bryce said, I like how it pays homage to the classic films of AIP. It is a true 50's sci-fi/horror film set in the 1980s.

Bryce: Yeah the whole alien aspect is a little funny. The first five minutes of the movie play like someone mixed up the reels with another film in a projection booth. But I think it ultimately fits, as the film becomes more of a tribute to fifties filmmaking. Plus I like the way the alien slugs make a secondary threat. Just cause you kill the zombie doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. That’s something I haven’t seen before, and I love it when the movies are able to give a genre I’ve seen before that little something extra. 

Aside from Dekker though, this movie belongs to the man Tom Atkins, who sells his role with a smart ass and a righteous stash. He’s funny as hell in this thing, playing it on just the right side of campy, though serious enough to blast a zombie with his 12 gauge like he really means it. The main characters are good. It’s obvious that Dekker cares about them as characters and not just zombie chow. The main characters progression from wimp to worthwhile human being is believable, the love interest is appealing (I always get a kick out of the how she looks in her party dress wielding a flame thrower) and let’s all take a moment to pour one on the curb for poor old JC proving Zombieland’s axiom about Zombies and toilets true. But still this is Atkin’s show, making him one of my all time favorite horror movie leads. 

Robby: I agree! Tom Atkins steals the entire film. His character was just right. He had the right amount of seriousness with a bit of charming goofiness. He is the character I really cared about. Even when Atkins gives exposition for past events, I was drawn in and truly interested in what has happened to his character over the years.

The other characters were written well enough, but they really were bad actors. True, it is good to see the main character of Chris progress from nerd to hero, but the actor portraying him (Jason Lively) was just plain bad. Even so, the writing of the character was done well enough where a bad actor doesn't hurt it too much.

Another good character was Cynthia's ex-boyfriend Brad, played by Allan Kayser. He was Chris' personal villain for being in his way of his true love with Cynthia. He was the kind of great 80s teenage villain that was made popular by the "Karate Kid" series. He is the type of person that you hate for every reason and you are just waiting for that scene where the hero gets to confront him. The confrontation in this film: Chris gets to shoot Brad in the head after he had become a zombie. That is good stuff!

Bryce: God Brad was such a douche. Like Spader level bad. I miss those old school 80’s WASP villains with their perfectly coiffed hair and sense of entitlement. Anyway, I’m glad you liked this one. It might not be the scariest movie ever made, but it’s a great slice of retro fun.

Robby: A slice of retro fun for sure. One other scene I did like was when Tom Atkins says to other police officers: "29 year old dead guys don't just get up and walk away!" The film then cuts to the dead guy walking. "The Monster Squad" did the exact same thing. The father in "The Monster Squad" says: "3,000 year old dead guys don't just get up and walk away!" Cut to the Mummy walking down the street. I love seeing hints of a director's previous work in films.

"Night of the Creeps" is a fun movie. It started out slow, but give it a chance. By the end of the film, you will be entertained like only an 80s film can do.

B  I recommend it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Zombieland (2009)

This is one terrific horror comedy.  It is funnier than most comedies I see and there are some great action sequences.  

All of the acting is good in the film and like most comedies I like, there is some emotional attachment to these characters.  You really feel bad for some of them and you want them to have a happy ending.  Woody Harrelson was the funniest in the picture.  He is the best zombie killer in the world and he has one mission in life: to find a twinkie.  Good stuff.

I cared about the main character played by Jesse Eisenberg.  I really wanted him to get the girl in the end.  He was good, even though he was a poor man's Michael Cera.

The best sequence of the film is when the group goes to Los Angeles and they go to seek shelter in a big celebrity's house.  That celebrity makes a great cameo.  I won't spoil who it is.  You gotta see it.  

"Zombieland" may not be the best zombie comedy (Shaun of the Dead), but it is up there.  It is very fun and it is a great time in the theater.

A-  I recommend it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Poltergeist III (1988)

"Poltergeist III" is the weakest in the "Poltergeist" trilogy.  It is pretty dumb with a lot of plot holes, but it does have some good effects.  The ghosts make contact through mirrors in this film.  It's a neat idea, but it's overwhelming.  There are too many scenes with mirrors.  It gets pretty ridiculous.  

Kane is back, but he is not played by Julien Beck, since he died.  Instead, the producers got some actor to wear make-up to resemble Beck.  It doesn't work nearly as well.  He is not creepy at all.  

Zelda Rubinstein is back and she is good in her performance.  There are some pretty great special effect scenes involving her.

Lara Flynn Boyle plays Heather O'Rourke's cousin and she does a good job.  She is very good.  

This is Heather O'Rourke's last film of her career.  She died during post production at 12 years old.  She had some sort of intestine disease and she ended up dying of a heart attack.  It is very sad.  People believe that there is a "Poltergeist" curse because someone dies after each film.  Heather O'Rourke after the third film, Julien Beck died of cancer after the second film, and Dominique Dunne was murdered after the first film.  It is a strange coincidence.

"Poltergeist III" is just an OK film, but it is a good time.  It completes an above average horror trilogy.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)

I think this is a very good sequel to "Poltergeist".  This film gave me countless amounts of nightmares when I was a kid.  I was so scared of Kane (The Beast).  His skeletal features and strange way of talking just freaked me out.  It is still very frightening.  He is maybe the scariest looking actor to ever hit the screen.

There were some good shocks in the film and the effects were once again great.  It also had good acting, like the first film.  

I wasn't crazy about the Indian character.  I would have liked it more if it was just Zelda Rubinstein again establishing contact with the supernatural.

"Poltergiest II" is a great sequel that has a good amount of scares.  If you wanna watch something good on a dark and stormy night, watch this.

B  I recommend it.

District 9 (2009)

I really enjoyed this film.  It sets out to do what great science fiction films do.  It parallels real life situations excellently.  Through aliens, race issues are represented.

The effects were excellent.  I didn't like the design of the aliens very much, but they still looked very realistic.  

It is a very good picture that everyone should see.

B+  I recommend it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

13 Ghosts (1960)

A very fun ghost movie with great special effects for its time.  I loved the look of the ghosts.  They resembled ghosts found in Disneyland's Haunted Mansion.  I wish I could see this in Illusion-O.  It would be so fun.  

"13 Ghosts" is a great film in the William Castle series.

B+  I recommend it.


From now on, I will not be reviewing every film to the extent that I have been doing.  I will now post the picture of the poster, give it a rating, and maybe a sentence or two.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Shining (1980)

Stanley Kubrick directs this "masterpiece of modern horror".

Jack Nicholson plays a writer, husband, and father.  Jack and his family take a job as caretakers of the Overlook Hotel during its off season.  Once Jack, his wife, and son are alone in the hotel, strange things start happening.  Spirits are materializing and they are trying to control Jack, forcing him to kill his family.  Jack's son, Danny, has a special ability where he can see spirits, the future, and read people's minds.  His ability is referred to as shining.  

"The Shining" is a great horror film.  Jack Nicholson is amazing in his role as Jack Torrence.  He is genuinely crazy and you really believe that he has it in him to kill another human being.  Stephen King, the writer of "The Shining", did not want Nicholson to play Torrence.  King wanted a straight actor who really transforms into an insane murderer.  I see where King is coming from.  It would have been much more effective that way, but no one can do crazy like Nicholson.  I think ultimately they made the best choice with Jack.  

All of the ghost scenes are incredibly scary.  The scariest has to be the bathroom scene.  Jack's son, Danny, has been attacked by a ghost of a woman.  Jack goes to check out the room where Danny was attacked and he finds a beautiful nude woman in the bathtub.  She walks toward Jack and they kiss.  It is then when the woman turns into an elderly, decaying, old woman.  As Jack runs away, she follows him with maniacal laughter.  It was really scary.  The other scene that I think is really scary is when Jack's wife sees ghosts of a man (dressed in a bear suit) giving a blow job to another man.  It was very random and incredibly eerie. 

Stanley Kubrick really gets the best out of his cast and crew.  Jack Nicholson is as good as he has ever been.  Shelley Duvall and Scatman Crothers really give outstanding performances as well.  "The Shining" also has one of the best musical scores of a horror film.  It really adds a good amount of terror to the story.  The other thing that really stands out is the cinematography.  The way each scene is framed is a work of art.

"The Shining" is known as one of the scariest films ever made and I couldn't agree more.  They don't make horror movies this involved anymore.  "The Shining" is a slow moving film, but it adds to the eerie atmosphere.  It really sets a foreboding mood.  Horror films do not accomplish this anymore.  Most of today's horror films are just too fast paced and they do not set the mood needed to really scare someone.

A-  I recommend it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sorority Row (2009)

A group of girls in a sorority pull a prank on a boy.  One of the girls hooks up with him and she pretends to die.  The boy falls for it and the other sorority sisters take the prank too far.  They drive the "body" out to the middle of nowhere and they decide they have to cut the body into pieces.  This is all to prank the boy and he still believes it.  When no one is looking, the boy shoves a tire wrench through the girl's chest, killing her.  He had no idea she was still alive.  The sorority girls then decide dispose of the body by throwing it down a mine shaft.  They then have to live with their secret so they do not get in trouble.  

Months later, killings start to begin.  Everyone involved with the murder is being killed and the sisters believe that the murdered girl has come back for revenge.  

"Sorority Row" was a terrible movie.  The whole thing was dumb.  The reveal of the killer was not a good one.  I figured it out fairly early in the film and the killer really did not have a good reason for murdering people.  It was so dumb.  He was the main girl's boyfriend and he was killing everyone so she could live happily ever after with him and so she could rid her life of these bitches she has as friends.  It was not a good motif.  
I did like the main girl played by Briana Evigan though.  Not only is she one of the most beautiful actresses, but she seems to have a good amount of talent.  She was the only character that I liked because she wasn't a snobby bitch.  I also thought Margo Harshman did a good job as the "slutty" sister.  She is a terrific actress.

Another bad thing about the film was Carrie Fisher.  She plays the house mother.  For the final night of the semester, she lets the sisters throw a party.  After the party, she returns and she is upset because the house is torn to pieces.  She shows up with a shotgun for what reason?  To shoot the girls?  It didn't make sense.  When the girls tell her that there is a killer in the house, she starts to search the premises.  She starts shooting at anything that moves.  There was party there just moments ago.  It could have been anyone she was shooting at.  It was amazingly bad.

I have never seen the original "Sorority Row", but I'm sure it can't be as bad as this.  This is not a good horror movie.  It tries to be like "I Know What You Did Last Summer", "Scream", and all the rest of the '90s horror films, but it falls flat.  Really really flat.


High Noon (1952)

Gary Cooper plays a Marshal in a small western town.  He has just been married to Grace Kelly and they are planning on starting a new life in a new town.  Unfortunately, some bad news has come up.  The most dreaded bad guy is being released from jail and he has it in for Gary Cooper.  He will be arriving to town at noon.  Gary Cooper can leave with Kelly, but he decides to stay and confront his villain.  Cooper tries to put together a small group to fight the villain and his 3 accomplices.  To Cooper's displeasure, no one will fight by his side.  Cooper has till noon to figure out what to do.  Will he leave town or fight his enemies?

"High Noon" was a terrific picture.  It was exciting the entire time and you really feel bad for Cooper.  No one will help him after all that he has done for the town.  It is true that if he leaves town, a shoot out will not take place.  But Cooper knows that the villain will find him anywhere he goes.  

The acting is very well done in this picture, but frankly, I don't get Gary Cooper.  I don't think he is the great actor history has made him out to be.  He seems to be a bit stale, but not enough where it affects the film.  I'm not saying he is a bad actor.  I just don't think he is one of the greats.  Grace Kelly did a great job in her role though.  Her character changes dramatically by the end of the film and it is quite the thing to witness.  Lon Chaney was also in this film as a retired Marshal.  He did a very good job, but he was only in two scenes.  It is still a very memorable role, however.

The film is wonderfully directed and the script is written beautifully.  It is hard for many screen writers to keep an audience aware of many different characters, but it works well here.  You really get to know the townspeople, even though they may only have one or two scenes.  

The best thing about the film was the climactic ending.  Cooper does fight his battle and when it seems like he is about to be killed, Grace Kelly saves him.  She picks up a gun and kills one of the bad guys herself.  That was the change in character I was talking about.  She refused to stay with Cooper because she wants to start her new life.  She is on the noon train and ready to leave, when she hears gun shots.  Right away, she jumps off the train to try and help the love of her life.  

"High Noon" is an excellent western film.  I can truly understand why it is a classic.  Everyone was on top of their game during the filming of the picture.

A-  I recommend it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Show Boat (1936)

James Whale directs this version of "Show Boat" from Universal Pictures.  I really wanted to see this film because James Whale is one of my favorite directors of all time.

Irene Dunne plays the daughter of a Show Boat captain.  She wants to be the star of the show and when the female lead is forced to leave for being half black, she takes the lead role.  A new male lead is hired as well and they soon fall in love.  After a successful tour, the couple leaves the boat to start a life together.  After having a child and realizing that he can't afford a family, Dunne's husband, played by Alan Jones, takes off.  Dunne is then left alone and forced to find a job herself.  She gets hired for a new stage show and she is a success.  She becomes a world famous entertainer and after retiring, her daughter takes her place.  Jones gets a job working as the door man of the theater where his daughter sings.  At the end of the film, the family is reunited.  

I was actually a little disappointed with "Show Boat".  The only scene I had viewed before was the "Old Man River" scene with Paul Robeson.  I love that scene.  The song is wonderful and a great montage is shown.  I thought that the film was going to be about slavery and race issues.  There were subplots that dealt with this, but the main story did not.  I would have preferred the slavery issues to the love story.  The slave characters are much more interesting.

James Whale does do a good job directing the film, but I felt that it was also rushed.  The songs just seem to come and go way too fast.  There is no build up to a song.  But the way the film is shot and the way the actors are directed is excellent.

All of the acting was great and Irene Dunne was spectacular.  She begins the film as a youthful teenager and by the end, she is in her 50s.  She was very convincing playing both stages of life.

Overall, "Show Boat" was good, but it was not the great classic I thought it was going to be.  This was James Whale's favorite film in which he directed, but I still gotta stick with "Bride of Frankenstein."

B  I recommend it.

By the way, Irene Dunne's father is Barney Kurtz of "Mertz and Kurtz" from "I Love Lucy."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rambo (2008)

It's a simple story.  A group of Americans decide to go to Burma to help an ailing community who is suffering from war.  When they are captured, Rambo and a group of mercenaries are hired to bring the Americans home.

I was very impressed with "Rambo".  I had only seen the first one and it is pretty good.  I really liked how simple the story was.  Rambo goes in, kills the bad guys, and saves the good guys.  There was a nice theme throughout the movie.  That theme was "Live for nothing or die for something".  It gives validity to the way Rambo lives his life.

"Rambo" has to be the most violent film I have ever seen.  People get beheaded, gutted, they explode, and Rambo even rips a man's jugular out with his bare hands.  It was very graphic.

The acting in the film was OK.  Stallone didn't have many lines as Rambo since the character has a troubled past and he is always depressed.  But Stallone pulled it off.  The other actors weren't special, but they got the job done.  

Sylvester Stallone not only starred in "Rambo", but he directed and co-wrote it.  Stallone knows what he is doing when it comes to a good action film.  The film has an incredibly fast pace.  It felt like it was over before it started.  It is always better to leave the audience wanting more than leaving them thinking it was too long.  With the success of "Rambo" a 5th film is being made.  I will definitely see it.

B+  I recommend it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I Saw What You Did (1965)

William Castle directs this thriller about a couple of teenage girls that make crank calls.  They call random people from the phone book and say "I saw what you did and I know who you are."  Unfortunately for them, one number they call is the house of a murderer.  The murder occurs when they are on the phone, but they have no idea.

John Ireland plays the murderer and when he gets this call, he freaks out.  He thinks his murder has been witnessed.  The girls are curious about this man they have called.  They think he sounds sexy.  They decide to drive by his house to catch a quick glimpse of him.  Unfortunately, they are caught by Ireland's girlfriend played by Joan Crawford.  She takes the registration from the girl's car, which belongs to her parents.  The kids then drive home embarrassed of what had happened.

Ireland then takes the registration, which has the teen's address on it and he pays a visit to them.  To save himself from life imprisonment, Ireland tries to kill the teenage girls.  When it looks like lights out for the lead girl, the cops come and save the day.

While William Castle is famous for his horror films, he is most famous for his gimmicks.  The gimmick for "I Saw What You Did" involved seat belts that were installed in several movie theater seats.  Castle publicized the film as such a thriller that you audiences needed to be strapped in their chairs.

Joan Crawford gets top billing in "I Saw What You Did" even though she is barely in it.  It is actually just a cameo by Crawford, but since she as such a huge star, she gets top billing.  The kids in the film did a good job, but they never really went on to do anything else with their careers.  John Ireland was very convincing as a crazy murderer.  He did a great job.  

Even though the film is extremely corny, it is still very fun to watch.  William Castle doesn't direct the best films, but he sure knows how to entertain an audience.

B-  I recommend it.