Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Blood Diamond (2006)

"Blood Diamond" is about the state of chaos Africa is in because of the greed of finding and selling diamonds.  Leonardo DiCaprio plays a man who finds these diamonds and sells them illegally to his buyers.  Djimon Hounsou is a man who has been enslaved by the African Government to find diamonds.  Hounsou finds the biggest diamond anyone has ever seen.  He buries it near the place he found it and escapes from the Government.  DiCaprio finds out about Hounsou's find and he wants to know where it is hidden.  In exchange, DiCaprio will find Hounsou's family for him and guarantee their safety.  

This movie is excellent.  It is fast paced and very exciting.  The blood diamond issue is a real thing happening in Africa and it is a shame.  It is amazing that people will literally go to war over a rock.  

DiCaprio and Hounsou are perfect in this movie.  Their acting is so convincing.  Hounsou really should have won the Oscar that year, instead of Alan Arkin for "Little Miss Sunshine".  When Hounsou seeks revenge on the person who has brainwashed his son, it is really a marvel to watch.  He is nothing short of amazing.

"Blood Diamond" is a very underrated movie in my opinion.  I don't hear many people talking about it, but it is exciting, interesting, emotional, and a very important film dealing with real life issues.

A-  I recommend it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

30 Days of Night (2007)

"30 Days of Night" is about a small town in Alaska that is being taken over by vampires.  In Alaska, there is a certain time of the year where it is night for an entire month.  During this time, a group of vampires decide to take over the town, killing everyone in the process.  The movie follows the story of a group of people, including Josh Harnett, as the town Sheriff, and Melissa George, as his wife, trying to survive the 30 days of night.

I have heard from a lot of people that this is a great horror movie and after watching it, I have to disagree.  I think it is alright.  Nothing special.  It does have some very nice kills in the movie.  I really like how violent the vampires are.  The kills early in the film are the best because you do not see too much.  A character will just be standing around and then they are attacked and dragged away in mere seconds.  It was really shocking.  Later in the film, it just turns into every other typical vampire movie, except with an extreme amount of gore and violence.  The gory violence is what makes the film unique.  The movie does have a very good ending, however.  I won't spoil it, but it is a very interesting way to end the picture.

I thought that the vampires looked very good in the film.  The makeup was very subtile.  Something was different about each of the vampire's faces, but you can't really describe what it was.  Their faces were deformed a bit, but at the same time, they still looked human.  It was a very unique makeup.  

The biggest problem with the movie was its pacing.  It dragged on for a long time.  For what seemed like forever, the film was just about people hiding, while vampires are roaming the streets.  

While "30 Days of Night" does have some very exciting action sequences, I still think the movie comes up short.  It isn't bad, but it's not great.  


Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Thing (1982)

Remake of "The Thing From Another World" (1951)

A group of Government Researchers are located on the continent of Antarctica.  The group finds out that weird things have been happening at a nearby Norwegian base.  After searching the base, they find the remains of something really strange.  It is a man, but with two heads and claws.  They bring him back to their base to do an autopsy, but what they did not realize was that they brought in an alien virus.  The alien virus infects any living thing it touches.  It takes over a body and imitates life.  Once the virus infects the Government Researchers, it is not known who is human and who is a monster.

This is an awesome movie.  It is genuinely scary.  The makeup and special effects are top notch.  The best scene involves an infected man who is morphing into an alien being.  It is astounding to watch this scene.  The man grows another head, along with giant hands and legs.  His real head ends up detaching itself from his body.  It falls on the floor and grows spider like legs and starts running around the room.  That is such a horribly frightening scene to watch, but you can not look away.

John Carpenter directs this film and he does a great job.  He really keeps the audience in suspense during the film and he knows how not to waste the use of special effects.  He could have had these alien monsters throughout the entire film, but he knows how to build suspense and wait to use the effects at the correct time. 

After "Halloween", I believe this is Carpenter's best movie.  It is suspenseful and horrifying.  It truly is one of the scariest movies I have ever seen.  I am glad I never watched this as a kid because it would have given me nightmares for years to come.

B+  I recommend it.  

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fanboys (2008)

"Fanboys" is about a group of friends who travel across the country to break into George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch to see a rough cut of "Star Wars: Episode I".  During their journey, they encounter several obstacles with trekies, hookers, pimps, and police.  

I wasn't sure if I would like this movie because I am not a huge fan of "Star Wars", but I ended up really liking it.  It was pretty funny.  It reminded me of the teen comedies from the late 1990s like "Can't Hardly Wait".  

The best thing about the movie were all the cameos throughout the film.  There are cameos from William Shatner, Carrie Fisher, Kevin Smith, Seth Rogen, and many more.  Seth Rogen is the best thing about the movie.  He plays the head trekie and he does a great job.  He is hilarious in that role.  He also plays a Star Wars loving pimp.  

The reason I wanted to see the movie was because I am a big fan of Kristen Bell.  I think she is a very good and unique actress and I have liked all of her previous work.  She did a good job in this movie.

The biggest problem with "Fanboys" is the script.  The main characters go through all these situations, but there is no real resolution when the scene is over.  It seems as though the writers planned out an awesome action scene and then got lazy at the end.  They couldn't figure out how to get the kids out of trouble, so they just ended the sequence and cut to the next scene.  It was a bit strange.

"Fanboys" is a good comedy that I think people should see.  If you don't like "Star Wars", don't worry.  You can still enjoy the film.

B  I recommend it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

One Million B.C. (1940)

"One Million B.C." is the story about how prehistoric men lived.  It is basically a Romeo and Juliet story that takes place with cavemen.  One caveman belongs to a group of barbarians.  When his leader tries to kill him, he leaves and joins a group of more civilized, calm cavemen.  There he falls in love with a cave woman and he learns how to be civilized.  He then returns to his barbarian group with the woman and teach their civilized ways.  Both groups, barbarians and civilized ones, come together when dinosaurs and volcanoes attack.  When the threat is gone, they learn to all live together peacefully.

Watching this movie is sort of like watching a silent movie.  The cave people rarely speak and when they do, it is in a prehistoric language that no one can understand.  I thought it was an interesting way to shoot the picture, but I'm not quite sure if it worked.  

The acting in the movie is ok, except for one performance by Lon Chaney, Jr.  Chaney is amazing in the role of the barbarian leader.  Because he has no dialogue, he has to express emotions of strength, fear, and weakness through his actions.  He does a great job with these emotions.  He was reminiscent of his famous father.  This is one of Chaney, Jr.'s best performances.

The special effects in this film were good.  When the volcano erupts, it is very exciting.  It looks very realistic, especially when a cave woman is swallowed by a river of lava.  

The biggest problem with this movie was the dinosaurs.  The filmmakers used real lizards with phony rubber horns in their heads.  They even had a small crocodile, which they glued a plastic fin onto.  It just didn't look very good.  The worst was the T-Rex however.  It was a man in a terrible costume.  They knew it looked bad, so every shot has the T-Rex behind a tree.  This doesn't work when the main caveman fights the T-Rex with his spear.  Throughout the entire fight, there is a tree in between them.  The caveman just pokes his spear through the tree.  It was a horrible sequence.

Overall, the movie is not great.  It is slow, long, and predictable.  The only thing that makes the film worth while is the climactic ending and the great performance from Lon Chaney, Jr.


Psycho (1960)

Yesterday I saw "Psycho" on the big screen.  "Psycho" is, in my opinion, one of the most influential movies in film history.  It is the beginning of a new wave of horror film.  It is the true start of the slasher genre.

"Psycho" is the story of Marion Crane, who is on the run from life as she once knew it.  She checks into the Bates Motel where Norman, dressed as his mother, murders her.  The rest of the film involves a private investigator, Marion's sister, and Marion's boyfriend trying to find out what happened to Marion.

This is one of Hitchcock's best films.  It gave the world a new level of horror to be seen in the cinema.  I like how he combines new and old elements of horror in the film.  The psychiatric aspect, the sexual aspect, and the reality of the murders that take place was brand new at the time for audiences.  The old dark house aspect is what horror movies used to be like.  It was very smart to have all of these elements.

The film is perfectly cast.  Anthony Perkins is wonderful as Norman Bates.  You would never think he could hurt anyone and when you find out that he is the murderer, it is a real shock.  Janet Leigh is also great as Marion.  She really was a remarkable actress.  I always wonder how she kept her eyes so still during her death scene...  Everyone in this film was acting at their best.

Bernard Hermann did the music for "Psycho" and it is one of the best scores to ever be in a film.  Everyone knows the music.  It has been used and parodied countless times.  It is unforgettable.

"Psycho" is an important film that everyone should see, especially if you are into horror movies.  It paved the way for slasher films like "Halloween" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street".  John Carpenter realized this, so in his film "Halloween", he gives homages to "Psycho" as often as he could. 

A-  I recommend it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sssssss (1973)

"Sssssss" is a pretty original movie that has a few good scares, but overall comes up short.  The movie is drawn out and the climax is a bit of a let down.

"Sssssss" is about a scientist who is trying to come up with a formula to turn a man into a snake.  He wants to create a new species of  snake, which has a human mind.  The scientist has an assistant, which he experiments on.  Pretty soon, the assistant shows signs of becoming a snake.  His eyes become slits, he grows scales, his skin starts to shed, and he loses the use of his arms and legs.  What will happen when this man becomes the snake monster this mad scientist has created????

The scariest scene of the film takes place at a carnival.  Inside the freak show, there is a "snake man" on exhibition.  The snake man is in fact a previous assistant the scientist had.  The scientist tried to turn him into a snake, but the process did not work.  The man was stuck in a half man/half snake state.  So the scientist sold him to the carnival.  He looked incredibly realistic and freaky.

The makeup in the film is especially good.  The half man/half snake makeup is so convincing and scary.  It looks like something you would really see in a freak show.  

The film does have a problem of being a bit slow.  It takes a long time before any of the effects start to occur on the assistant turning into a snake.  The other problem is the ending.  When the assistant's transformation finally occurs, you expect him to be this giant snake monster, but no.  He is just a regular King Cobra snake!  It is a let down.  I wanted to see a neat monster!

Even though this is not a great film, it is still fun to watch.  People should see it just for the freakiness factor.  However, if you have a fear of snakes, do not watch this movie.  You will have nightmares for a long time...

C  I recommend it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007)

Sequel to "National Treasure".

"National Treasure: The Book of Secrets" is a fun filled treasure hunt to find the lost City of Gold.  Nicholas Cage is on this wild goose chase for one reason: To prove that his Great Great Grandfather did not have anything to do with the assassination of President Lincoln.  John Wilkes Booth kept a diary and Cage's Great Great Grandfather was listed in the book.  If Cage finds the treasure, then it will be proven that the only reason his Great Great Grandfather was listed was to help Booth find that same treasure.

While the movie is fun, the story is so ridiculous.  It is very hard to believe that Cage would go through all the trouble of breaking into the White House, kidnapping the President, and flying all over the world, to prove that his distant relative was innocent in the murder of Lincoln.

I enjoy the clues given to Cage throughout the film.  It is very interesting how the filmmakers use national landmarks as clues to find the treasure.  Who would have known that there was a City of Gold in Mount Rushmore?

If this film sounds familiar to you, then it is probably because it is almost the same story of "Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull".  It is strange when movies that come out around the same time have similar story lines.  I wonder if Spielberg and Lucas were pissed when this film was released...

A lot of people put Cage down for his action films.  I don't think he is that bad.  I can buy him in this role.  I thought he was good.  The supporting actors are better however.  Good performances from Ed Harris, Jon Voight, Helen Mirren, and Diane Kruger.  

"National Treasure: Book of Secrets" is non stop action.  While it is fun to watch, you can learn a little something about the history of the United States too.  I wonder if a secret book kept by each president really does exist...

B-  I recommend it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

House of Wax (1953)

Remake of "Mystery of the Wax Museum".
Remade as "House of Wax" (2005).

Vincent Price plays a genius in the world of sculpting wax.  He has a wonderful wax museum, which he opened with a partner.  Profits have not been well of late, so his partner decides to burn the museum down and collect the insurance.  Price does not like the idea, since the wax figures are his life's work.  The partner does it anyway, leaving Price in the flames.

Price survived the fire and has opened a new wax museum.  His hands can no longer sculpt.  Instead he finds models that he likes and kills them.  He then dips their bodies in wax and puts them on display.  

Terrorizing the streets of New York is a grotesque figure of a man.  His face is badly burned and he is dressed in all black.  He is the one doing the killing.  During the climax of the film, you find out that this monster is in fact Vincent Price.  

The problem that I have with this film is that when Price is the burned monster, you see his face the entire time.  During the climax, the heroine of the film punches Price's  "normal" face.  His face (made of wax) falls off to reveal the monster that has been terrorizing people.  If the monster was kept in the shadows and the audience did not know what he looked like, it would have made a much more terrifying scene.  That is the way it was filmed in the original and it really was frightening.  

Other than that, this version of the film is superior to the rest.  Price is great, as he always is.  The film is shot wonderfully.  The best scene of the film is when the monster chases the heroine through the dark candlelit streets of New York.  The cinematography was excellent.

"House of Wax" was filmed in 3D.  I like 3D usually, but not when things are done just for the effect.  In "House of Wax" there is a man who is a sort of carnival barker in front of the museum.  He has a ping pong paddle and keeps hitting the ball toward the screen.  This scene lasts way too long, just to show off the 3D effect.  I don't like that.  The rest of the 3D effects looked like they would have been fine.

This version of "House of Wax" is the most famous and rightfully so.  It is the best of the three.

B  I recommend it.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Rear Window (1954)

Jimmy Stewart plays a photographer who is stuck at home due to injuries he suffered trying to get a picture of an automobile race.  To pass the time, Stewart stares out the window looking in the neighborhood apartments.  He sees that one of the neighbors has been acting suspicious and his wife has disappeared.  Stewart is positive that this man killed his own wife and Stewart must prove that his theory is correct.

To prove his theory, Stewart has help from his girlfriend and nurse.  Grace Kelly plays his girlfriend and she is fantastic in this film.  Her enthusiasm to find out the truth behind this accused man makes her such a likeable character.  Stewart is also great in the film.  Every word Stewart says is interesting.  Very few actors can do that, in my opinion.

I thought it was very interesting to see the worlds of the neighborhood characters through the eyes of Stewart.  It was a very creative way to show them.  Spying on your neighbors is like slowing down to see a car crash.  You know you shouldn't enjoy it, but you can't help it.  You need to know what happened.  Coincidentally, being too close to a car crash is what got Stewart stuck in this situation in the first place.  I really think an audience can relate in this way.  It is human to be nosy.

One of the best things about Hitchcock movies is the use of humor along with suspense.  He really knows how to do this well and it is evident in the dialogue in this film.  One minute you are on the edge of your seat and the next you are laughing.  Hitchcock was great at achieving this.

I had never seen this film before and it actually took me for a loop.  I was in suspense, not knowing whether this man killed his wife or not.  I must be honest that it did not end the way that I thought it would.  The ending was extremely thrilling.    

"Rear Window" is one of Hitchcock's best.  Excellent acting, direction, script, set design, and so on...  I have yet to be disappointed by a Hitchcock film.

A  I recommend it.

Class Act (1992)

"Class Act" is one movie that I used to watch a lot when I was a kid.  I thought it was hilarious then, and it still holds up today.

After the permanent records of Duncan and Blade have been swapped, they must lead the life of the other one.  Duncan, once a genius, has to play the part of Blade who is poor and from the "hood".  Blade has to play the part of Duncan, who is a genius with perfect grades.  

"Class Act" is a very fun movie.  I still think it is very funny.  Duncan and Blade interacting with each other are the best parts of the film.  Every time Blade slaps Duncan, it is a guaranteed laugh.  

The last act of the film is especially good.  A bully named Wedge has been picking on Duncan, but every time there is a confrontation, Blade sends his gang to take care of him.  Wedge works for a drug dealer who is not happy that Duncan (as Blade) is showing up Wedge.  They come up with a plan to kill Duncan.  There is an entire chase scene which ends up in a wax museum.  I love this scene.  Wax figures of The Three Stooges, Batman, Jason Vorhees, and many others are shown.  It is very funny when the kids enter the "Hall of Horrors".  They are scared out of their minds of these wax figures, but they still have to run away from the bad guys.

The biggest problem with the movie is the cameo by Pauly Shore.  He is the most annoying person to have ever been in a film.  I can't stand him and his scene brings the film to a dead halt.  Fortunately, he is not in it for long.  

"Class Act" is a very funny movie worth watching.  If not for the comedy, "Class Act" should be viewed to see the way kids were in the early 1990s.  The way they dressed was just embarrassing.  Oh those were the days...

B  I recommend it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Devil's Rejects (2005)

Sequel to "House of 1000 Corpses".

After a series of murders from a group called The Devil's Rejects, the police make their move on capturing these crazed killers.  The sheriff of the police department has a personal vendetta on capturing these criminals.  They were responsible for the death of his brother.  The main portion of the film follows The Rejects as they are on the run for freedom.

This film is not as good as the original.  The main characters in this movie are mass murderers.  There is no one to connect with and feel sympathy for.  This is a mistake that Rob Zombie always tends to make.  The audience needs a sympathetic hero.  It is not fun to just watch a killing for the heck of it.  The first film had a group of kids to get attached to.  He should have figured a way to do that again.

There is a scene in a motel room where The Rejects torture and murder its occupants.  The scene involves graphic murders and molestation.  I don't mind if a film has these acts in it, but the way Zombie shows it is just tacky and not creative.  Too much is shown and I imagine it makes an audience uncomfortable.  I am sure that is what he wants to achieve, but that type of horror isn't my taste.  

Even though the movie is not the best, it does have a great ending.  The Rejects are driving in their car and are stopped by dozens of police.  They end up having a huge shootout all shot in slow motion.  During this, the song "Freebird" is playing.  It was a nice and imaginative way to end the film.

Rob Zombie still has not proven to me that he is a good filmmaker.  He does have some good ideas, but I feel he goes for shock value way too often and focuses on villains way too much.  Case in point: "The Devil's Rejects".


Monday, April 6, 2009

The Legend of Hell House (1973)

"The Legend of Hell House" is the story about four people who try to prove that ghosts do exist.  They all spend a week in the haunted Hell House to conclude their theories.   

The movie is scary at points, but there is no real payoff.  The ending is very weird.  The ghost that has been haunting the house is angry because he was too short in life.  That's why he is killing the occupants of the house.  At the climax of the film, the body of the ghost is found.  After examining the body, it is realized that he was so upset with his height, that he cut off his legs and wore prosthetics to be a normal height.  It is a pretty funny premise.

The acting in the movie was really good however.  Roddy McDowell is excellent.  The scene where he really shines is when he confronts the ghost.  He pushes the ghost to its limits to defeat him once and for all.

There is one scene where the main character is being attacked by the ghost.  The dining room table is shaking violently, things are being thrown at him, the fireplace shoots flames at him, and a light fixture falls nearly killing him.  This scene was very intense, especially for 1973.

Another scene that seems to be pretty shocking for 1973 involves the ghost having sex with one of the girls at the house.  Because the ghost has penetrated her, he can now possess the girl.  It is a very strange scene to watch.

"The Legend of Hell House" is just an average movie with very good actors.  It tries to thrill the audience the same way "The Haunting" did years earlier, but it comes up short.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Cloverfield (2008)

"Cloverfield" is one of the best monster movies I have seen in a long while. When I originally saw this in the theater, I had to walk out. The hand held camera caused me to feel ill half way through the movie. It was a shame because I was really into the movie. I finally finished watching it when it came to DVD. Boy did I love it.

"Cloverfield" follows the story of a group of people who are in the middle of an attack on Manhattan by a giant monster. It is not clear what or where this monster came from, but everyone's life is in danger.

The effects in the movie are excellent. It's amazing how they did some of them, especially when the camera is shaking the entire time.

The acting in the film is excellent as well. My favorite performance is from Lizzy Caplan. I thought she was great. During a scene where she is attacked by one of the monsters, her fright really seems to be genuine.

Perhaps the best scene of the movie is when the military fires onto the monster. The main characters are caught in the crossfire. They end up making a run for the subway, just missing being crushed by the foot of the giant monster. This scene was shot so well and it was so exciting and thrilling.

An interesting note about the film: Just about every time the film flashes to white, a scene from another giant monster movie is shown. An example: During the climax of the film, when the helicopter crashes and the film cuts to white, an image of King Kong on the Empire State Building is shown. I thought that was a very creative thing to do.

"Cloverfield" is one of the most exciting, entertaining, thrilling, and scary movies I have seen. I could watch it again and again.

A- I recommend it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)

When I went to see "The Haunting in Connecticut", I expected it to be just like every other ghost movie that comes out. I was proven wrong, as this seems to be quite good compared to others of the genre.

The story revolves around a boy named Matt who is in the last stages of cancer. To be closer to the doctor treating him, Matt's family rents a nearby house. Soon, eerie things start to happen. They eventually realize that there is more to this house than what meets the eye. The house has a history to it and it is haunted by more than a few spirits.

I thought that the frights were very well done in this film. Most of the movie did not rely on special effects. That's what I like. The only obvious CG effect that was used was ectoplasm spewing from a boy's mouth. I didn't mind that. I thought it looked good. The makeup job on the main ghost was also very well done. He was kept in the shadows mostly, which kept the audience anticipating what he will look like. I thought that was a good way to show this character.

I thought that acting was also very good, especially from Kyle Gallner, who plays Matt. He is very convincing being scared and dying of cancer all at the same time.

Although I liked this film better than others of its kind, I still thought it was a bit too slow and involved. The movie should have ended 15 minutes before it actually did. The story gets very complex in the last act and the frights were not nearly as good.

But I still think the film is a very good addition to the "ghost" genre, even with its faults.

B I recommend it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pajama Party (1964)

This has to be one of the corniest movies I have ever seen.  It includes a lot of 1960s singing, dancing, and swimming.  

The story is ridiculous.  Tommy Kirk plays a martian from Mars who comes to Earth to start the beginning stages of taking over the world.  He eventually falls in love with Annette Funicello.  This makes him realize that he just wants to stay with Annette and he stops the invasion.

At the same time, there is a total separate story going on about how some gangsters want to steal a safe full of money from Elsa Lanchester.  Lanchester was the first person Tommy Kirk encountered and she was more than happy to give him a place to stay.  To distract Lanchester from catching them in the act, the gangsters decide to throw a pajama party for the neighborhood teens.  As they are trying to steal the money, Tommy Kirk finds them and sends them away to Mars.   Unbelievably ridiculous.

It is funny to see how teens were back in the 60s and that makes this film worthwhile.  Other than that, it is truly awful.