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.