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.