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.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dead Alive (1992)

Peter Jackson directs this zombie picture.  A strange half monkey half rat creature is on exhibition at a zoo.  An old woman is bit by the creature and she turns into a strange zombie like creature herself.  Every person she bites turns into a zombie themselves.  

The old zombie woman's son is trying to hide the fact that these zombies exist.  He takes care of them at his house and keeps them in the basement.  The son's uncle ends up moving into the house and he throws a huge party, but the zombies escape.  Everyone turns into a zombie eventually.  The son and his girlfriend have to do whatever they can to survive the night.

"Dead Alive" also known as "Braindead" is full of camp and humorous gore.  It is probably the goriest film I have ever seen.  It has some of the most original zombie kills such as an entire rib cage being pulled out of a man's chest.  It also has many grotesque scenes.  One scene was most disturbing and it almost caused me to get sick.  The zombie mother, her son, and a couple house guests are eating dinner together.  Custard is served for dessert and pus from the zombie mother's arm squirts into the guest's bowl.  He eats it.  Then the zombie woman's ear falls off into her own custard and she eats it.  It was really sickening.

The acting was OK in the film.  I mean these are all amateur actors, but they do a good enough job.  It is a zombie picture after all.  I thought the girlfriend played by Diana Penalver was actually pretty good.  She is very likable.  

The scene of the rat monkey at the zoo is a good scene.  Stop motion animation is used to make the rat monkey come to life.  I always like to see the use of this type of animation.  The best thing about the zoo scene is the cameo from Forrest J Ackerman however.

Even though "Dead Alive" is just one step above being an average student film, it still has some worthwhile things to it.  You can see the beginning of Peter Jackson's creative mind starting to take shape.  There is some originality to the story, but overall "Dead Alive" is just an average horror film with endless amounts of blood and guts.

C+  I kind of recommend it...

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Country Girl (1954)

William Holden is a director for a musical theater show and he wants Bing Crosby for the lead.  The problem with that scenario is no one else thinks Crosby can pull it off.  Crosby has been a drunk for the last several years and he is unreliable.  Fortunately for Crosby, he has his wife by his side played by Grace Kelly.

Crosby has been a drunk for so long because several years earlier his kid was run over by a car when he was supposed to be watching after him.  He has felt guilty ever since and he will not take any responsibility since that accident.  He is nervous and scared about the new show because everything is lying on his shoulders.  Kelly pushes him on, trying to get the best out of him, but Crosby tells Holden that Kelly really isn't needed.  Crosby just has Kelly help him so she can feel good about herself.  It is then realized that Crosby was lying and he has been lying to Holden the entire time.  He really is scared and a down and out drunk.  But with Kelly's and Holden's help, he can commit and be successful in the show.

During the film, Holden and Kelly fall for each other.  In the final scene, Kelly has to make a choice between Holden and Crosby.  Crosby understands if she chooses Holden since he has held her down for the past 10 years with his guilt and alcoholism.  Fortunately, Kelly chooses Crosby so they can start a new life together.

"The Country Girl" is a very good film.  I was surprised how good it was.  This is the second film I have seen with Grace Kelly and she is simply amazing.  She really is outstanding and she is one of the most beautiful actresses I have ever seen.  Seeing her in this film makes me want to see every other movie she has done.  Kelly won the Oscar for "The Country Girl".

Bing Crosby was incredible in the film also.  Not only does he do his usual singing parts, but he has many dramatic scenes.  This was one of the first times audiences really saw how great of an actor Crosby really is.  William Holden is also great.  He is very convincing as a strong director.  He probably based his characterization on directors he has dealt with in the past.

The reason I wanted to see "The Country Girl" was because of the William Holden episode of "I Love Lucy".  On that episode, Ricky asks Holden what he is working on and he replies "I just finished a picture called "The Country Girl" with Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly."  That was enough for me!  I had to see it!

"The Country Girl" was nominated for many Oscars, including Best Picture.  It only won 2 however.  Best Actress and Best Writing.  It really did deserve at least those, if not more.  It was a great picture.

A  I recommend it.

Poltergeist (1982)

A family living in a suburban town is having problems with spirits.  The little girl of the family is speaking with spirits through the television set and things are moving around the house.  One night, the hauntings get much worse.  The young boy in the family is attacked by a tree and he is about to be eaten until his father saves him.  All of this is really a distraction so the spirits can steal the little girl.  The family then tries everything, with the help of paranormal psychics to get their child back.

"Poltergeist" is an excellent ghost movie made by Steven Spielberg.  Tobe Hooper gets the directing credit, but all signs show that Spielberg really directed the movie.  I wouldn't doubt it.  This is a ghost movie that only Spielberg could do.  

There are several scenes that are really great.  I love it when the chairs stack up on the table in one take.  It really is a shock.  It is at this point that we know that there really is something wrong in the house.  Another great scene is the sequence where the mother goes into the other dimension to get her little girl back.  It is quite thrilling and you do not know what to expect on the other side.  There is also another scene where one of the para-psychologists peels off his face to reveal his skeleton.  That was really frightening.  Of course, it was all in his mind though.

One of the most famous scenes from the film is when the clown doll attacks the little boy.  It is a scary scene, but I don't get why the boy would sleep with a scary clown doll starring at him.  It didn't make any sense.

Everything was top notch in "Poltergeist".  It has excellent acting, especially from the parents played by Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams.  It has excellent special effects and a great score from Jerry Goldsmith.  

"Poltergeist" is a thrilling ghost movie in every sense of the word.  Spielberg once again proves why he is such an amazing talent.  Now I have to watch the sequels again.  The second one used to scare the hell out of me.

One more thing...  When the skeletons start emerging from the pool with JoBeth Williams in it, it is incredibly creepy.  What makes it even scarier is knowing that Spielberg used real skeletons!

B+  I recommend it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Coraline (2009)

I heard good things about "Coraline".  I have been waiting to see it and it finally came time.  It was very enjoyable.

Coraline is a young girl, who is an outcast in a new town.  She does not have any friends, except for the neighbors she has met.  In her house, she found a little door in the family room.  When she goes through this door, she enters an alternate world where everything seems perfect.  In the real world, Coraline's parents don't have enough time for her.  But in this world, her parents are there for her 24/7 and they give her anything her heart desires.  

Coraline keeps visiting the strange new world, but eventually finds out that her other mother is actually quite evil.  She wants Coraline to live there and never return to her real parents.  To keep her there, the other mother kidnaps Coraline's real parents.  Coraline then makes a deal with her other mother.  If Coraline can find her parents and the eyeballs of missing children, she and her family will be let go.  Now the missing children don't have eyes because in the alternate world, the other mother has removed everyone's eyes and replaced them with buttons.  Coraline is not the first person to go through the portal.  The missing children are ghosts and their souls will only be free if Coraline can find their eyes.  Coraline then goes on an adventure to save herself, her family, and the souls of the lost children.

I watched "Coraline" on blu-ray and it is the best thing I have seen so far on that format.  Because the film is stop motion and real puppets are used, little details of each model are shown like no other format can do.  It was really a marvel to watch.  It is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen.

I liked all of the characters in "Coraline".  Whether it was her neighborhood friend, the crazy acrobat that lives upstairs, the two crazy old actresses, the black cat, or the scotty dogs, each character was unique in their own right.  These great characters are enhanced even more through great voice performances headed by Dakota Fanning.  She did a terrific job.

I actually thought "Coraline" was very scary.  It is one of the scariest movies I have seen in a while.  It was just very creepy witnessing Coraline meet other versions of everyone she knows.  Of course her evil "other" mother was the scariest.  Even though she has buttons instead of eyes, she is very beautiful.  But when Coraline finds out what her true intentions are, she morphs into a tall, skeletal woman and then into a sort of spider creature.  It was frightening. 

"Coraline" is a little slow in parts, but overall it is a very good picture.  It is obviously very influenced by "Alice in Wonderland" and "The Wizard of Oz".  Entering an alternate world is not a new thing in film, but the approach this film has is remarkable.  It is something that has never been seen before.

B+  I recommend it.