Monday, October 31, 2011

571. The Exorcist (1973)

Running Time: 122 minutes
Directed By: William Friedkin
Written By: William Peter Blatty, from his novel
Main Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair, Jason Miller, Lee J. Cobb
Click here to view the trailer

FRIGHTFEST 2011: 5 of 5

Well it's officially Halloween and with this review we'll cap off the past few weeks, which have been filled with thrills and chills, with "The Exorcist". Before I get into the review, I just want to make it clear that in viewing "The Exorcist" I DID watch the original cut of the film and not "The Version You've Never Seen". Now then...

Chris MacNeil (Brustyn) and her daughter Regan (Blair) have taken residence in Georgetown, while Chris, an actress, films a movie. The characters are established early, as is the relationship between the mother and daughter - a tight knit one. It isn't long, however, before the shit really hits the fan and Regan begins to appear to be sick. At first, she just develops odd behavior, being very free with her curse words and peeing on the dining room floor, during one of her mother's swanky dinner parties. Regan is put through a battery of tests, when the doctors suspect that she has some type of rare liaison on her brain. When all the tests come back negative, the doctors are baffled, and so is Chris, whom has now witnessed even stranger behavior, such as violent convulsions from Regan and an occasion where her entire bed physically shook. Meanwhile, Father Damien Karras is questioning his faith to the Catholic church and his mother's death doesn't help matters. When Regan's doctors tell Chris that her daughter may be possessed, Chris MacNeil turns to Father Karras.

I had only ever seen "The Exorcist" on one other occasion, prior to my viewing last night. I can remember being in middle school and hearing some of my fellow classmates talking about "The Exorcist" and saying how great it was. When I was a kid, I was always a little leery of horror pictures, because when I was an even younger kid, I watched things like "Child's Play" and certain Stephen King films and had a hard time sleeping for a few nights. I had always opted to steer clear of "The Exorcist" when I was a kid and even when I became a teenager and outgrew my fear of horror pictures, the desire to finally see it, simply never came. When I got married, my wife finally convinced me to sit down and watch it and I was surprised at how out of proportion I blew things in my own mind. It wasn't nearly as bad as I had heard or maybe I was just an adult now and fearing more real life things, like if me and my wife would make the next month's rent.

However, I'll admit it - last night the movie did get to me...just a little. It's not really that it scared me or anything, it was more disturbing than anything. And even to say that it disturbed me is a little too much, but there was just something there that was too unappealing for my tastes. The film itself is actually quite good. It gives us a fairly basic story and gives it time to unfold. "The Exorcist" doesn't use a lot of gore to get it's points across, but rather, uses interesting situations, strong language and when gore is used, it's used to it's fullest potential. The audience is shown things, that up until that point it had never seen and it's shown things probably far worse than any audience could even begin to conjure up in their imaginations. It takes a setting, as innocent as an obedient, little girl's room and turns it into a living hell on Earth. It treats everything as if it were 100% real and nothing that is ever happening in this film, is (even in the slightest) made to look like a phony situation. Another thing, in my opinion, that makes "The Exorcist" even more powerful, is it's inclusion of some superstar actors. You have Max von Sydow, Lee J. Cobb and Ellen Burstyn, three caliber actors whom you wouldn't and still today don't, normally see in horror pictures. Those, in my opinion, are the reasons why "The Exorcist" works.

I love how so many aspects of "The Exorcist" feel like a battle. You have the obvious battle between good and evil. You have, at one point, a sort of battle between science and religion. You have Father Karras battling his own, personal demons and trying to cope with his mother's death and his lost faith. There are so many scenes and situations of conflict that, when coupled with the extreme scenes of grotesqueness, it's not difficult for the film to put you into a state of unease. The scene where Father Karras and Father Merrin enter Regan's room and come face to face with Regan, is probably the closest we've ever seen, in film, to a battle between God and the Devil (unless I'm forgetting something, which is quite likely). The whole scene seemed to echo a battle scene to me. It was a fight for a soul, in my eyes. It was these two men of God taking on this demon and this demon is personified by a twelve year old girl. When the two men are stating over and over, "The power of Christ compels you!", it's like the scene in the battle where the swords are clanging and the score is raging and it just overpowers you with intensity.

Now, back to why it disturbed me. Honestly, it's hard for me to put that into words. The film put me in such a state of uneasiness (as far as watching films goes), that it almost began to turn me off, at times. In the end, I'm still able to admit all the positives about "The Exorcist", but no matter what the rating it gets, it's probably not something that I'd ever include on a TOP 20 list or anything. It's just not something that I could ever even consider a favorite, because it's not something that I'd want to watch that often.

The only bad thing that I feel I should mention is the opening. After watching the film and thinking back over it, I thought of the boring opening scene (set in Iraq) and wondered why it was necessary. THE BOOK makes note that the scene is baffling for those who haven't read the book and that really got me to wondering why they'd even include it in the first place. There were probably a thousand better ways to introduce and establish the character of Father Merrin and exclude that opening. Especially when you have a film that has garnered such a reputation as being so SCARY, you know your audience isn't going to want to waste any time getting into the meat and potatoes of the whole affair, so it made it doubly boring.

The bottom line is that "The Exorcist" will more than likely give you, at least, a little bit of a fright. I know you'll get the macho film-goer who will never admit to it, but I'm sure that everyone who sees this movie will be thinking about it well after they've left their seat. It's technically great, but in the end I can't say that it's a favorite of mine or that it ever will be. It's something that I wouldn't want to watch again for quite a while, despite the fact that it is really good, has great characters, situations, scenes and acting.

RATING: 7.5/10 That's a rating that mixes my hesitations about the film, with the technical brilliance. I hope I hit all the points I wanted to hit - I know, it was a long review.


October 31, 2011 5:48pm

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

310. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Running Time: 80 minutes
Directed By: Don Siegel
Written By: Daniel Mainwaring, from the novel The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney
Main Cast: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates, King Donovan, Carolyn Jones
Click here to view the trailer

Note: A commenter, here on the blog, has asked me if I would be able to start including trailers for the films that I review. In an effort to try my best to meet reasonable requests, I will start including a link to the trailer underneath the cast list. Of course, if I'm unable to find a trailer, one won't be included. Now then.....

FRIGHTFEST 2011: 4 of 5

As we near the end of our "Frightfest 2011" festivities, I officially take a look at the oldest film I've watched since my return - "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". This was actually more of a sci-fi film than a horror film, but it fit right in with the theme of thrills and chills for Halloween.

Dr. Miles Bennell (McCarthy) has been called by his nurse to return home early from a medical convention, with the information that everyone in town is apparently in need of him. When Bennell gets back, he soon finds that everyone has miraculously recovered from their ailments. However, there are several people in town claiming that certain members of their family, aren't who they claim to be. For example, little Jimmy Grimaldi is certain that the woman who is claiming to be his mother (and has since his birth), isn't actually his mother. At first, the doctor brushes off these notions and recommends a psychiatrist, who chalks everything up to a "mass hysteria" of sorts. Then Bennell gets a call from a friend, Jack (Donovan), who has a seemingly dead body lying across his pool table and one that resembles Jack to a tee. When they take the corpse's fingerprints, they find he doesn't have any. Later, in the night the "corpse" awakens and proves that it wasn't really a corpse at all, but something else. As the film goes on, Bennell teams up with his old fling Becky Driscoll (Wynter), Jack and Teddy (Jones) and together the quartet start to piece the mystery together, tying everything to mysterious, pea pod looking plants that have "cropped up" all over town and are the obvious sources of the corpse-like bodies/replicas that are popping up.


While I did enjoy "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" while it lasted, when it was over I couldn't help but shake the B-movie feeling and overall feeling that I had just taken in a very average picture. There were many aspects of the film that I did enjoy. I enjoyed the fact, that while the pea pod explanation was kind of a really stupid one, they played it off as a real threat and really made you feel that these characters were in danger and that they needed to survive these things at all costs. Some of the camera angles were really intense and frightening also - a specific shot of Dr. Bennell with his face right up in the camera, as he stood aghast at the horrors that befall the town. Another shot, a wide shot this time, of all the townspeople, now in a zombie-esque state, gathering (all at the same time) on the street and getting their directive. For a cheap, 1950s, sci-fi affair, at least the man behind the camera knew what he was doing. I also enjoyed the whole subplot of Dr. Bennell and Becky HAVING to stay awake. It actually made me wonder if there has ever been a movie where a group of characters, for one reason or another, HAD to stay awake. If not, I think if you could come up with a good reason as to why they couldn't sleep, that could be a hell of a movie.

On the other hand, there were also things that I really didn't care for about "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". For starters, the acting wasn't that great. Sure, Kevin McCarthy did a fine job as Dr. Bennell, but the rest of the cast was hit or miss, with most of them missing. As I mentioned above, while the threats did seem real, the whole pea pod thing was just so unbelievable, that it was really hard to get behind the idea of giant, evil vegetables being the cause of the havoc in this town. If they were simply staying true to the book, then it's hard to fault them for it, but it was just a goofy concept, if you ask me. Also, the other thing that I really HATED about this film and the thing that's really going to drag this one down, as far as ratings go, was the ending. What a terrible ending! I thought I had it pegged from the beginning. The entire film is told in flashback mode, as Dr. Bennell is being held in a psych ward because he's trying to get across the idea that everyone in town is brainwashed and not having much luck. I thought for sure, that when we snapped back to the present, at the end of the film, that Dr. Bennell would realize that his psych ward captors were also the victims of the body snatchers and realize that he was, indeed, caught. But, of course, we had to go for the happy ending, where the doctors realize that Dr. Bennell isn't crazy and that there are actually body snatchers on the loose. I hated it and it really drug the whole thing down. If they had gone with my ending or any un-happy ending, I could have easily ignored my other list of grievances, in regards to this movie, and given "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" a really good, high rating.

RATING: 6/10 As it stands, however, they went with the happy ending, so I went with the just above average rating of a '6'. I would, however, really like to take a look at Philip Kaufman's "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and see if it worked out any better. I'll be out at Wal-Mart most of my weekend, earning my income, so I'll probably see you all back here Sunday night for my review of the MOTHER OF ALL HORROR FILMS - "The Exorcist". Take care.


October 28, 2011 10:10pm

Thursday, October 27, 2011

482. Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Running Time: 136 minutes
Directed By: Roman Polanski
Written By: Roman Polanski, from novel by Ira Levin
Main Cast: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Maurice Evans

FRIGHTFEST 2011: 3 of 5

Well gang, "Frightfest 2011" is raging on to it's third installment, as we inch closer and closer to Halloween and "Mother of All Horror Movies" - "The Exorcist". Tonight I take a look at a movie that I went giddy over the first time I saw it - "Rosemary's Baby".

Rosemary (Farrow) and Guy Woodhouse (Cassavetes) are a young, New York couple, searching for an apartment, where they can raise a family. When the film opens they are touring the most recent candidate - an apartment at Bramford. The duo decide to take the place and before a few weeks are up, they meet the nosy neighbors - an aging couple, Minnie (Gordon) and Roman Castevet (Blackmer). When The Castavets invite Rosemary and Guy to dinner, the two feel obliged to accept, despite Guy's initial hesitation. When the evening concludes, Guy seems pleased as punch to be living next to the Castavets and can't say enough good things about them. On the other hand, Rosemary, didn't have as good a time as she thought she would and while she can't put her finger on it, seems to carry an uneasiness when it comes to Minnie and Roman. Fast forward a little bit and Guy lands the lead role in a major play opening up and the two finally decide to have that baby they've been talking about. Rosemary, however, has a little too much to drink on their intended night and goes to sleep, dreaming very strange dreams. The next morning Guy informs her that the two "went ahead as scheduled" and Rosemary can't get over the vicious looking scratch marks on her back. Now, Rosemary is pregnant, but everyone, including Guy, Minnie, Roman and her new obstetrician, Dr. Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy) seem to be acting strangely.

The first time you see "Rosemary's Baby" it's extremely hard not to like it, in my opinion. There are so many intricacies in the script and so many little things, that the film kind of takes on the characteristics of a thrilling murder mystery, as opposed to a cryptic horror film. Really, if you get down to bare bones, "Rosemary's Baby" isn't that scary at all. To me, it's more eerie than anything. There's a real sense of threat and uneasiness in the atmosphere of the film, that you can't help but be on edge throughout and even until well after the picture has concluded. The New York setting is the perfect place to evoke this eeriness, because it's the last place you'd expect to be frightened. Think about it, 95% of all horror movies take us to the most desolate of settings (middle of the woods, a cabin fifty miles past Kalamazoo), while "Rosemary's Baby" told us that "shit could happen EVEN where there were a lot of people.


Going back to the aforementioned idea that this picture takes on the characteristics of a murder mystery - well it really kind of does, in my opinion. You have so many different outcomes that when it gets down to the end of the movie, anything could happen. Who was in on all this? Did Guy really set up HIS OWN wife? Is the Dr. in on it to? What about the younger, more Charles Grodin looking Dr, is he in on it too? You have more questions than you have answers, where USUALLY the intent of a horror movie is to just be scared, this one plays out like a mystery, where you just have to know what happens and what's happening. "Rosemary's Baby" really works so much better the first time around. The first time I saw this picture, I honestly thought that there was a good chance that Rosemary was a whacko and that she was going to end up in Happy Hills Psychiatric Ward, while Guy was left to take care of this baby all alone. In actuality, that is a viable possibility, right up until the very end. Speaking of the end, it's an ending that I'm not crazy about. In my opinion, it's far too anti-climactic. We've just been spoon-fed two hours of tense, taught, eerie footage and then all that happens in the end is Rosemary happens upon this secret room, finds her baby and holds it, basically accepting all the shit that so many people just conspired to get over on her.

On a final note, the book makes note of a scene where Rosemary firsts notice the baby kicking, exclaiming "It's Alive!, It's Alive!" (ie. "Frankenstein") and the horrifying look on Guy's face, as he realizes what's living inside his wife's womb. I honestly didn't even notice this on first viewing (although I might just have to go back and take a look), but it's small details LIKE that one that make "Rosemary's Baby" stand out. Little intricacies that were added in to really hammer home the story. The story is so far-fetched on it's own, but the way the entire idea is executed, you really forget how hokey the story is and just go with it for the duration.

RATING: 8/10 Like I said, it works a little better the first time you see it, when you don't have all the answers, but it still holds up quite well. However, Mia Farrow still annoys the piss out of me.


October 26. 2011 11:29pm

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

486. David Holzman's Diary (1968)

Running Time: 74 minutes
Directed By: Jim McBride
Written By: Jim McBride
Main Cast: L.M. Kit Carson, Eileen Dietz, Lorenzo Mans, Louise Levine, Fern McBride


I realize you probably all thought I got lost, but I still made it back within a matter of hours, just not the amount of hours I had hoped for. I watched "David Holzman's Diary" last night, but was too exhausted to write the review, so I'm here now.

The film is yet another experimental film, but this time the experiment goes a whole lot better, if you ask me. David Holzman (Carson) is a film fanatic living on the Upper West Side of New York City. When the film begins, David announces his plan to begin a video diary, capturing every minuscule moment of his life, so that he can "get it all down" and find out the truth about his being. He introduces us to his new pair of eyes - his camera and we're off. He begins filming on July 14, 1967 and films for approximately a week. Once he's told us of his initial idea, he then introduces us to his girlfriend Penny (Dietz) via photographs. Penny is a model and when she comes to the apartment later that evening, she wants nothing to do with David's diary. She storms out and the next day, David explains that he's called her and worked things out. The next day, Penny comes back to David's and as she's sleeping, in the middle of the night, he films her. She catches him and storms out a second time. David tries his best to phone Penny, while trying simultaneously to film and mic the conversation, but she wants nothing to do with him. Meanwhile, David also takes to the streets of NYC to shoot various people, most notable an Upper West Side cougar and a woman who lives across the street from David, whom he names Sandra.

While "David Holzman's Diary" didn't blow me away, it did intrigue me very much. While it may not get the most stellar of ratings, I have a feeling that this will be a movie that I'll be thinking about for some time and one that COULD become a favorite. The film is very intimate, as a lot of it is just David, sitting in a chair, in front of the camera and talking to us. There's also an element of voyeurism, as David film's his neighbor. Both are elements that usually work to intrigue me and this film was no exception. I think the underlying message or theme of "David Holzman's Diary" is simply taking a look at oneself from a different perspective. Here, David wanted to "get it all down" so that he could find out some kind of truth, that he thought he was missing. He wanted to view his life as an outsider and watch it unfold as he would a television program or a film. He wanted to see if he could somehow dissect his life and find something that he had been missing.


However, by the end of the film, David is jobless, without a girlfriend and under the realization that he's actually a pretty pathetic character. He lost the only thing he really had going for him, in Penny. He made desperate pleas to try and get her back. He lowered himself to following women on the Subway, until the finally turned around and told him to "beat it" and he lowered himself to peeping on "Sandra", another girl that he's seemed to have fallen in love with, without ever having any interaction with. Even the lady who answers at his message service seems to feel sorry for him when she tells him that Penny called and she wants him to stop calling her. He's a man who wants to feel important, like some of his favorite film director's, but you get the feeling that before he started filming himself, that he lead this unbelievably humdrum lifestyle. He dated Penny, but she rarely excited him. Even when he initially talks about her, he calls her vain and then recounts one minute detail about her that "touches him" and it seems that's really all she does that makes him happy. And then, in the end, he really realizes how vulnerable he is, when his apartment is broken into and all of his equipment is stolen. Maybe, that's the equivalent of killing off the character. I mean, like I said, this guy had nothing and you get the sense that filming his life was really the most excited he's been about something. And then it's all over.

RATING: 6.5/10 It's a movie where you can really dissect the character and it was a really good one. Why the low rating? Well, it seems appropriate...for now.


October 25, 2011 2:18pm

416. Scorpio Rising (1964)

Running Time: 28 minutes
Directed By: Kenneth Anger
Written By: Kenneth Anger
Main Cast: Bruce Byron


Well folks, "Frightfest 2011" will resume tomorrow, but tonight, it's double feature night. Our first film of the evening actually isn't even a "feature" at all - at a length of 28 minutes, I easily drop my list of remaining movies by one....but was it THAT easy?

The film is "Scorpio Rising" and it opens by establishing that it's going to have something to do with bikers. In fact, the films opening titles aren't your usual white lettering on a black background, but rather silver studs spelling out the title and director's name, on the back of a black leather jacket. The film has no dialogue and thus no characters are ever established, but instead the film uses 1960s pop/rock & roll tunes to accompany it's images. As the film opens, we see a man working on his bike and that's immediately followed by several different men getting dressed in their "hog gear" (lots of leather, complete with jackets, belts and caps). Footage is inter cut with scenes of "The Wild One" starring Marlon Brando and we see a man lying on his bed, with pinups of James Dean splattered all over his wall. From there we go to the biker underground, where homosexuality, Nazism and religion are toyed with. Scenes of obviously homosexual bikers, inter cut with scenes of Jesus walking with his apostles are included, making the bold assumption that Jesus and his twelve were a group of gay men.

You know what, I'm sick and tired of this "innovation = greatness" idea. Just because McDonalds was the first restaurant to make and market a hamburger, doesn't mean that Burger King's isn't better. Just because Nike perfected the running shoe, doesn't mean that it doesn't make your feet hurt. Sure, "Scorpio Rising" had some before it's time ideas and in fact, when the film was screened in L.A., the theater owner was arrested for public obscenity. But just because "Scorpio Rising" was risque, innovative and "before it's time", doesn't mean that it's great. This was one of the biggest piles of trash that I've had to sit through in my continued effort to watch all of the films in THE BOOK and I'm not afraid to say that. Oh, don't worry fans of this film, that's just my opinion and lucky for you, opinions aren't fact and especially don't worry, because I'm sure you'll find all kinds of articles scattered throughout the interwebs, praising "Scorpio Rising", but not here.

THE BOOK makes note that without "Scorpio Rising", Martin Scorsese wouldn't have used pop music the way he did in "Mean Streets"and David Lynch wouldn't have found inspiration in the song Blue Velvet. Okay, well lucky for me that's the only thing I liked about this movie - the music. The music was great! In fact, if you want to experience "Scorpio Rising", go ask your Mom and Dad (or depending on your age, your Grandma and Grandpa) if you can borrow some of their old records. Ask for their record player too (you'll need that), give the records a spin and listen to Elvis Presley, Bobby Vinton, Ray Charles, The Angles, The Crystals and Little Peggy March sing their hearts out. Then, flip on your television and find some old biker movie or maybe even that episode of Roseanne where Dan sells the bike shop, mute the television and there you have it - that's "Scorpio Rising" in a nutshell, minus the homoerotic undertones.

I know, I know, I harp on this fact like a broken record, but this is the kind of movie I'm talking about when I say, "How in the hell did this movie make it into THE BOOK and ___________ didn't??" The music was fantastic and in fact, this movie was kind of like listening to the radio for an hour and a half. I applaud Kenneth Anger for making a controversial film in a time when controversial films weren't accepted. I applaud him for putting his ideas on film and presenting the final product to the world and for pushing the envelope. And, if he was an inspiration to the likes of Scorsese and Lynch, then I'll even applaud him for that. But his film was shit and that, my friends, is that.

RATING: 1/10 I BEG the BOOK to give me a short film that's worth my time. However, this is the first film since my return that's gotten a bad rating and I was beginning to think that I had on a pair of invisible rose colored glasses. I'll be back in a matter of hours to give my thoughts on another relatively short film, though it's not a short film. Get it?


October 24, 2011 11:15pm

Sunday, October 23, 2011

813. Reversal of Fortune (1990)

Running Time: 111 minutes
Directed By: Barbet Schroeder
Written By: Nicholas Kazan, from book by Alan M. Dershowitz
Main Cast: Jeremy Irons, Glenn Close, Ron Silver, Annabella Sciorra, Fisher Stevens


Taking a respite from both "Frightfest 2011" and my ongoing taking in of the majority of the 1960s films, I decided to let my wife do the picking last night and after perusing through the streaming portion of Netflix, we finally landed on "Reversal of Fortune".

The film tells the story of Claus and Sunny Von Bulow. On December 21, 1980, while preparing for Christmas at their palatial estate in Newport, Rhode Island, Sunny Von Bulow (Close) was found unresponsive by her husband Claus (Irons) and taken to the hospital. At the hospital, it was deduced that Sunny was more than likely drugged and that an overdose of insulin was the likely the culprit. As the day's passed, it was also becoming more clear that Sunny was slipping into a persistent vegetative state. As Sunny lay comatose in a hospital bed, her children (Claus' step-children) hired a lawyer to investigate possible foul play, which they believed had been committed by Claus. The couple had been having marital problems, and in the event of Sunny's death, Claus stood to inherit $14 million. In court, Claus was found guilty and sentenced to thirty years in prion. This film tells the story of Claus' appeal, using flashbacks and showing multiple scenes in conjunction with multiple accounts of the same incidents. It could be argued that the films real main character is Alan Dershowitz (Silver), Claus' appeals attorney and really the focal character of the entire production. The film details Dershowitz' detailed legal work and the work of his assembled legal team, including Sarah (Sciorra), his prize student.

This probably won't be a particularly lengthy review, as I simply don't have a whole lot to say about this film. "Reversal of Fortune" met my expectations and it's as simple as that. I wasn't necessarily blown away, although I did find the performances, specifically those of Jeremy Irons and Ron Silver, to be phenomenal. Jeremy Irons was particularly excellent, earning his Academy Award statue ten fold. I wasn't disappointed by the film either, as it was as solid as a rock. However, I guess I was a little disappointed, in retrospect, that I didn't enjoy it more than I did. This is one that I've had my eye on for quite sometime and when it began streaming recently, I remember thinking that I wanted to watch it right away. It's the type of film that you'd expect out of Hollywood and it's definitely the type of film you'd expect to see getting nominations at the Oscars and the Globes.

I did, however, really enjoy the manner in which the story was told. I liked that they gave us different scenes from different character perspectives. I wish we could have got to see more scenes inside the courtroom, but actually, the manner in which things unfolded, worked really well. I liked that they made the focal point of the film Alan Dershowitz and let us get close to that character, which allowed me as a viewer, to have more of a neutral view of the whole Von Bulow incident. Had they simply let the story unfold, without the character of Dershowitz, then it would have come more naturally for me to pick a side, whereas with the "Dersh" character in there, it was much easier not to do that and just simply hear the story and take your sides at the end. For what it's worth, if anyone cares and simply basing this opinion on what was portrayed and told ON THE FILM, I leaned more toward the side of Claus' innocence. But then again, I have absolutely no knowledge of the real case, the real characters or the real situations, so that opinion isn't worth much.

RATING: 7/10 It wasn't really able to crack that '8' barrier and break into that upper echelon of film, but it was still a fine night at the movies and one that I'd recommend.


October 22, 2011 9:23pm

Friday, October 21, 2011

939. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Running Time: 86 minutes
Directed By: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez
Written By: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez
Main Cast: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams

FRIGHTFEST 2011: 2 of 5

"Frightfest" rages on with the second installment of my tribute to horror, in preparation for Halloween. This time around we jump from 1982 to 1999 and take a look at an innovator in the world of cinema and the first ever (i think) "found footage film" - "The Blair Witch Project".

In October of 1994 three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, while shooting a documentary...A year later their footage was found...

As the film opens, we're presented with the above statement and the film begins. Heather, a college film student, prepared to make a documentary about the Blair witch, assembles a three man crew, consisting of herself, Josh and Mike and heads into the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland. Prior to actually getting into the woods themselves, Heather and the crew interview some locals about the myth of the Blair witch and we're given a few details about what supposedly happened. Some believe the myth, some don't. The myth involves the murder of seven children in the 1940s and also involves a witch who was hung to death in the 18th century. After the interviews, the crew does indeed make their way to the woods, where they hike to a cemetery of sorts, where seven piles of rocks are laid out in memorial of the seven slain children. Once they have the footage they need, the trio head back to the car, but seeing as how they're not experienced woodsmen and have hiked very deep into the woods, they soon find themselves lost. Soon, the food diminishes, tempers rise and things start to go bump in the night.

In my opinion, there are several key factors that make "The Blair Witch Project" a huge success, not just in profits at the box office, but also success in pure genius movie making. The first key element is the marketing. I remember when this film was released and I remember that ominous voice over, reading the line from above: "In October of 1994 three student filmmakers....". I remember reading things like "scarier than The Exorcist" and "the scariest movie of all-time is a true story" and I can even remember me and my brother turning to each other, when they'd play the tv spot and asking, "Is this movie really real?" In 1999 we'd pretty much seen it all as far as horror films go. Corn syrup had been spilled on movie sets for decades in an attempt to scare us and make us want to sleep with the lights on. Here you have a couple of amateur filmmaker's seemingly saying to themselves, "What can we do to really give people a fright?" And the answer was simple - provide us with a smidgen of doubt. Let us think for a second that maybe....just MAYBE this is really found footage. "A Nightmare on Elm Street" was OBVIOUSLY a movie, because "By God, there's that boy from 21 Jump Street". Any horror movie always ended and audiences could go home, calming themselves down by telling themselves that, "It's only a movie". However, when it came to "The Blair Witch Project", there was that smidgen of doubt - "It was PROBABLY a movie, but I've heard rumors that they really found that footage and that those three poor students were heinously murdered." "The Blair Witch Project" gave us a horror film that MIGHT, just MIGHT be real. Of course, the cat was later let out of the bag and it was a movie, but during marketing time, they had a stroke of brilliance and it worked.

The second key factor to success when it comes to "The Blair Witch Project" is that these same amateur filmmaker's didn't underestimate their audience. They realized that people DID have a brain and if you gave them a black screen, with people screaming that they could use their imaginations and conjure up things much more frightening than anything they could commit to celluloid. I commend them for sticking with that attitude and never giving us too much. There's never anything on the screen that is physically (to the eye) scary. All of the fright and scare that comes out of "The Blair Witch Project" came from your own mind. When you went to bed that night, after watching the movie, YOU were the one to blame for sleeping with the television on, because these filmmaker's technically didn't SHOW you anything worth being afraid of. It was all on you! Take for instance "Paranormal Activity", which gets a little silly at the end with the main character (the female) being dragged across the room by an imaginary ghost and then coming back to life, with evil in her eyes and attacking the camera. I mean, that's just going too far - that's underestimating your audience, in my opinion.

There are even other factors, in my opinion, that make "The Blair Witch Project" a phenomenal film. You have, with this movie, not only a horror movie, but also an experiment in human interaction. The recipe is simple - take three people, throw them into an unknown place, scare them, raise their tempers and sit back & enjoy. You also have the three actors ad-libbing their lines and basically saying what they'd say if put into that situation. As far as I'm concerned, these three were all amazing actors, putting on a hell of a show and selling a movie. Say what you will about "The Blair Witch Project", but as far as I'm concerned, it's brilliant. Maybe I'd classify it as a guilty pleasure, but I'm not ashamed to admit it. I think it gets a bad wrap for a couple or reasons - one being that it's a horror movie and two being that it had, what I hear is, a really shitty sequel. Luckily, I haven't seen the sequel and based on the horror stories I've heard about it ("horror stories" in a bad way, not a scary way), I'll steer clear of it.

RATING: 10/10 As it stands right now, this is a TOP 5 caliber choice for my next TOP 20 and I'm not ashamed to admit that. I might get flack for that, but I say what I mean when it comes to my opinions on film. Great movie!


October 21, 2011 12:14am

Thursday, October 20, 2011

371. One-Eyed Jacks (1961)

Running Time: 141 minutes
Directed By: Marlon Brando
Written By: Guy Trosper, Calder Willingham, from the novel The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones by Charles Neider
Main Cast: Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Ben Johnson, Katy Jurado, Pina Pellicer


As we make our way through the "Frightfest 2011" festivities, from now until Halloween, I'll also be peppering in some other odds and ends to kind of split up all the gore. Today, I took to the streaming portion of Netflix and a western starring and directed by Marlon Brando - one that I've been eye balling for quite some time.

The films plot is pretty cut and dry, but as the film progresses small pieces of storyline are continually thrown in and it actually gets to be a pretty intricate little revenge story. Brando plays Rio, the quick drawing, easy-going, bad ass outlaw, who along with Dad Longworth (Malden) opens the film mid-bank robbery. Once the loot is got, Dad and Rio take refuge, but our quickly found out and are on the run for their freedom and their lives. When they come to a standoff with the law, the two make a deal that Dad will go get a couple of fresh horses, while Rio stays behind and holds back the cavalry. When Dad reaches his destination, a lone ranch where he plans to steal two horses, he has a change of heart, steals one horse for himself and leaves Rio to fend for himself. Rio is captured and sent to prison, where he spends five years brooding over the fact that his best friend back stabbed him. After five years, he has enough and escapes, swearing revenge on Dad Longworth if it's the last thing he does. When he finally happens upon Dad, he finds that Longworth is now the Sheriff of Monterey, California. Dad lies about the past to save his own hide, because surely Rio has held a grudge and he'd stand no chance against a vengeful Rio. Rio plays it cool, stating that no hard feelings are to be had, but secretly he plans to kill Dad....that is until he falls in love with Dad's step-daughter (Pellicer).

Let's talk about Marlon Brando. Up until today, I've never really been giddy about his acting skills. Sure, he was good enough, but I had never really bought into people who tried to sell him as the greatest actor who ever lived. This is only my second encounter with Brando as I work my way through the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book and even after watching "On the Waterfront" earlier this year, I still wasn't convinced that this guy was anything worth writing home about. Then I see a Western today called "One-Eyed Jacks" and Brando sells me. I mean, this guy not only sells me the car, but he sells me the stereo system, the new paint job and all the trimmings. Long story short - Brando was amazing in this movie! He plays his character to perfection, personifying everything that Rio should be. The film opens with him chewing on a banana. You think, oh here sits a guy who's relaxing, enjoying some fruit, taking it easy...but as the camera pans out you realize that he's in the middle of holding up a bank! He's quiet in it. He says more with his eyes than he does with his mouth and I realize that the things I'm spouting sound so cliche, but they're the God's truth.

Another particular scene is when Rio meets up with a fellow named Bob Emory (Ben Johnson) and the duo, along with a couple other guys plan a bank heist. At this point, Rio has just escaped prison and is searching relentlessly for Dad. Rio finally gets word from Emory that Longworth is the Sheriff of Monterey and wants to know if Rio would like to stick up the bank in Monterey. At this point, Rio is steaming man. He's not saying a single word, but you can see the anger in his eyes, at the fact that Dad has become a Sheriff and profited at Rio's expense. His answer to Emroy, a simple "Yep".

The storytelling in "One-Eyed Jacks" is really great too, as they manage to really make you believe that Marlon Brando and Karl Malden are going to tear each other apart if given the chance. It also takes the old west, stereotypical roles and gives them a spin, as the Sheriff here is actually the bad guy and the outlaw is the one we end up rooting for. Now, the big downfall of "One-Eyed Jacks" is the length, as this thing, at times, just seems to drag on FOOORREEVERRR. There are some scenes and segments that are really slow and other times things move along nicely, wrapping you up in the story and really working to get over with the audience. I read somewhere, just now, that Brando shot an additional FIVE HOURS of footage that he wound up scrapping. My God, even the footage that remained wasn't all necessary and if they could've just snipped a few hairs here and there, I think it would've made the film much tighter and a lot more smooth and this COULD HAVE ranked off the charts, as far as my rating system goes.

RATING: 6.5/10 I may or may not be undercutting this one, but the parts that dragged, really dragged. The acting from Brando and Malden is sensational and the storytelling is top notch, if only it had been a little shorter.


October 20, 2011 6:02pm

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

684. The Evil Dead (1982)

Running Time: 85 minutes
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Written By: Sam Raimi
Main Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker, Hal Delrich, Theresa Tilly

FRIGHTFEST 2011: 1 of 5

Today, I kicked off "Frightfest 2011" by heading to the DVD shelf and grabbing "The Evil Dead". It's a film we own, simply because we found it for cheap, at a time when my wife and I were on a horror movie binge. Will it hold up and maintain it's spot on my DVD shelf or was it deemed a worthless purchase and be gotten rid of?

The film opens with a group of college age students, in a car and headed to a cabin for a weekend in the woods. Sounds like a typical horror film opening to me. We have Ashley (Campbell), his sister Cheryl (Sandweiss), his girlfriend Linda (Baker), his best friend Scotty (Delrich) and Scotty's girlfriend Shelly (Tilly). Once they cross the rickety, wooden bridge that leads them to the cabin, they, at first, have no idea of the horror that awaits them. Almost immediately upon entering the ominous looking, wood cabin, weird things begin to happen. For instance, the clock stops on it's own and the cellar door opens and slams shut, without being touched. When Scotty goes to inspect the cellar, he and Ash find a collection of things that peak their interest. Among the items is a "Book of the Dead", a dagger with a skull on the end of it and a tape player. When they bring it upstairs and play the reels that are loaded in the tape player, they unknowingly resurrect demons upon the area, bringing even the trees to life. From here, the shit really hits the fan, as certain members of the quintet are possessed.....and we'll leave it at that.

You know, I, just today, watched a trailer for a horror movie that is to be released in January called "The Devil Inside Me" (i think) and after watching "The Evil Dead", I got to thinking. It always tickles me how hard modern day "horror masters" try so hard to give us "the scariest movie of all-time", but almost always end up failing with a *THUD*. No name directors are handed millions of dollars to try and give us our next fright and they can never come through. But then, you look at a movie like "The Evil Dead", with a budget of a mere $375,000 and a really simple formula, and realize that it's scarier than anything that Hollywood has put out in the past 20 years. Now granted, I'm a twenty-seven year old who's grown out of his fear of horror cinema, but I can still admit when a film really gives me a little bit of fright and this one totally delivers. Hell, I haven't seen "The Exorcist" in a while (soon to change that, check back later this month), but I'd be willing to say that "The Evil Dead" is right up there, on par with it, as far as being scary. The make-up and effects are off the wall, sometimes silly, but usually creepy and the sound effects and music only add to heighten that terror.

The book makes note that with the addition of the two sequels, today "The Evil Dead" is laughable, at best (I'm paraphrasing), but I haven't seen "Evil Dead II" or "Army of Darkness" in ages and can barely remember a thing about them, so I guess as a standalone picture, "The Evil Dead" is a damn fine horror movie, if you ask this blogger. Horror movies haven't been my cup of tea for a long time and in a way, I've really grown out of them. But I'm still ready and willing to admit when someone (Sam Raimi and crew) do a fantastic job of evoking thrills and chills and really putting me on the edge of my proverbial seat. It's also funny to realize that when it was made, Hollywood wouldn't touch "The Evil Dead" with a ten foot pole, citing that it was far too gruesome. Fast forward about 20 years into the future and Hollywood hands over the helm to "Spider-Man", a big summer blockbuster, to none other than Sam Raimi. Bottom line is this: IF you're looking for a good scare, then "The Evil Dead" is a top notch choice. However, I'm not sure I'd label it a "must see", but that's just me.

RATING: 7/10 That's a rating on the horror movie scale. It's a solid scary flick and one that I would the right people.


October 19, 2011 6:04pm

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

432. Obchod na korze/The Shop on Main Street (1965)

Running Time: 128 minutes
Directed By: Jan Kadar, Elmar Klos
Written By: Ladislav Grosman, Jan Kadar, Elmar Klos
Main Cast: Jozef Kroner, Ida Kaminska, Hana Slivkova, Martin Holly Sr., Frantisek Zvarik


Continuing our trek through the 1960s, we come to "The Shop on Main Street", yet another Holocaust movie from the "1001..." book and another fantastic one, at that. Lets jump right into it, shall we.

Tony Brtko (Kroner) is an easy going, Slovak carpenter living in Czechoslovakia right around the time of the Nazi occupation. He lives with his nagging wife Evelina (Slivkova) and his loyal dog Essenc. His wife is constantly trying to persuade him to get a real job and earn more money, so that they're not so poor, a task that would be relatively easy for him, seeing as how his brother-in-law, Markus (Zvarik) is a Nazi. However, Tony holds a grudge against Markus and it isn't until Markus and his wife come to Tony's for dinner one night, that Tony finally decides to take Markus' help. Markus hands over to Tony control of Lautmann's sewing shop, owned by the very elderly and very deaf Mrs. Lautmann (Kaminska). Basically, Tony is named Aryan controller of Lautmann's shop and will basically take control of all her assets and profits. Tony sees this as an opportunity to shut up his wife and make a few bucks and he graciously takes the gig. However, when he first confronts Mrs. Lautmann, she is very confused and can't understand what her intentions are. A Jewish sympathizer, Mr. Kuchar (Holly Sr.), intervenes and cuts a deal with Tony: If he takes care of Mrs. Lautmann and leaves her to her shop, then the Jewish community will, in turn, take care of him monetarily, providing him with a weekly payment, simply for leaving Mrs. Lautmann be. Tony agrees, but doesn't breathe a word of the deal and instead, trots off everyday to the store to be a companion to Mrs. Lautmann and fix things around her place.


There's really a lot more I could put into that plot description, without giving anything away, but that's plenty to inform someone who has never seen the film. In a word, I thought the film lived up to the title of the book and is certainly a must see. It may not be the best film I've watched, but I'd still call it a must see, just because it was so powerful. There really isn't any bad to talk about, so we'll skip right into the good and I'll gush a bit. The cast did a fine job and I especially liked Jozef Kroner. If anything, this book can certainly take credit for really opening my eyes when it comes to the Holocaust and making me even more aware of the horrors that went on during that time period. Every film I've watched from the book that has dealt with the subject of the Holocaust, has been a fine one and I look forward to seeing more. One of the small details that was a really heavy line for me, was when Mrs. Lautmann, in her confused state, as she watched her friends and neighbors loaded on to trucks and taken to the camps, she compared what was happening to the "end of the world". It really makes you think what these people must have been going through and how scary everything must have been and how most of them must have been thinking that this was it for them.

The final half or quarter of the film is so well done, so dramatic and so powerful that it really draws you in and doesn't let go until the credits roll. Tony begging and pleading with Mrs. Lautmann to hide and to not let the Aryan's see her, Tony then realizing that is he's caught, they'll both be punished and telling her that "it's you or me", trying to shove her out the door and into the menacing hands of the enemy. In the end, Tony accidentally kills Mrs. Lautmann when he tries to hide her in a closet and then hangs himself. The final scene is Mrs. Lautmann and Tony, dressed in their best duds, skipping down the main street as happy as ever. I think, maybe, it hints at the fact that this was really the closest relationship that Tony had ever experienced - the day's he'd spend with Mrs. Lautmann, shouting in an effort to try and get her to hear him. I think the final scene may also be trying to say that, at this time, death may have been a better option than living. That, at least, in death you may find a piece of happiness and that in the world at that time, there was absolutely no happiness or joy to be found.

RATING: 8/10 Again, one where quibbling over numbers is so irrelevant. It's a great film and that's that and it's one that I wouldn't be surprised to see make the next TOP 20 list.


October 18, 2011 7:02pm

Monday, October 17, 2011

368. Splendor in the Grass (1961)

Running Time: 124 minutes
Directed By: Elia Kazan
Written By: William Inge
Main Cast: Natalie Wood, Warren Beatty, Pat Hingle, Barbara Loden, Audrey Christie


Unintentionally I picked another Warren Beatty film, as we make our way deeper into the cinematic offerings of the 1960s. This time around we're dealing with Beatty's first feature film, as he stars opposite an absolutely radiant Natalie Wood.

Bud Stamper(Beatty) and Wilma Dean a.k.a. Deanie Loomis (Wood) are two high-schoolers in love. When the film opens, the two love birds are parked near a raging waterfall and making out like love birds do. Except our tale is set in Kansas, circa 1928 and it takes place during a time when kissing is as far as you'd better go, lest you be outcast from society - especially if you're a woman. Deanie is all about upholding her family's name and keeping her name and reputation clean and virginal. All that Bud seems to really care about is getting past kissing and on to more serious love making. Bud represses his urges though and the two make for a cute, ultra popular high school couple. When Bud can't take fending off his urges any longer, he pleads with his father to let him marry Deanie, so that the two can consummate their relationship, but Bud's successful father, Ace (Hingle), only wants the best for Bud and certainly wants him to go to Yale in the fall. However, Ace gives Bud some advice - If you absolutely can't repress your urges, then find a girl who isn't so "good". Bud puts his relationship with Deanie on the back burner and begins to mingle with the school whore, in an effort to "cool himself down". Ultimately, this action makes Bud unhappier and sends Deanie over the edge.


Man, it was wild seeing such a young Warren Beatty and realizing how much he resembled Montgomery Clift. As far as the cast goes, you really couldn't ask for better performances from the stars on parade here. My personal favorite was Pat Hingle, who, with careful delivery and an boisterous performance, knocked one out of the park as Ace Stamper. The screen seemed to glow a little bit brighter when Natalie Wood was on it, though I can't say I necesarilly cared for her character too much, although it was clear that Wood was giving it her all. Beatty burst onto the scene with vigor as Bud Stamp, playing his character cool, but also getting the most out of him. When you look at the characters themselves, you find that me and the book seem to differ in opinion a bit. The "1001..." book states, and I quote, "...a film in which the characters register as authentic individuals, acting and reacting in a register that is far from the Hollywood cliche." In my opinion, that doesn't really ring true. Do teenage girls often times end up in mental institutions for three years when their sweethearts break it off with them? Do they go on a rampage, screaming and jumping into the middle of a lake? To me, these performances were very Hollywood cliche, maybe straying a little here and there, but never venturing too far outside the lines of very dramatic performances.

As far as the story itself goes, they had me hooked well into the halfway point of the movie. I was very interested in these kids and what would happen to them and how their lives would ultimately be effected. Then, Deanie has her meltdown, jumps into the lake and she's carted off to the mental hospital. Bud ends up going to Yale and falling for an Italian waitress and from that point on we're basically on auto pilot as we cruise through the rest of this two hour and some odd minute film. It's a film that could have used some trimming. The climax comes way too early and then we're left to wade through the rest of the movie, as our characters do unimportant things. I get where they were going though. The overall message of the film, as I understood it, had to do with dealing with what life hands you. Though you may be popular and happy while you're in high school, it can all change at the drop of a dime. Boyfriends and girlfriends can go astray. Life may not hand you the hand you were expecting, but you don't grieve. You take the good with the bad and you find the strength to soldier on and whatever comes, you make the most of it. It's a nice message and it's one where they needed that lengthy final act to show what happens to these characters and how far from they end up, from where they thought they would. But it does drag at the end, and I think the message could have been conveyed a little bit quicker.

RATING: 6.5/10 Not a BAD film and hell, Pat Hingle's performance and Natalie Wood's radiance are enough to see it alone. I was just expecting something better, maybe.


October 16, 2011 11:09pm

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Starting within the next few days here at the 1001 Movies I (Apparently) Must See Before I Die blog, I'll be taking a look at five horror movies from the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book, in preparation for Halloween. Those of you who have been with me for a while probably remember my salute to scary movies last year (although it wasn't called "FrightFest") and I thought it would be fun to do it again. This year we up the ante on the fear factor, as we take a look at these five horror films, including "The Exorcist", which is usually noted as being the scariest horror flick of them all! Stay tuned in the coming weeks, as I'll be reviewing these sporadically and mixing them in with some other "treats" for you, my loyal followers.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

925. Festen/The Celebration (1998)

Running Time: 105 minutes
Directed By: Thomas Vinterberg
Written By: Thomas Vinterberg, Mogens Rukov
Main Cast: Ulrich Thomsen, Henning Moritzen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Paprika Steen, Trine Dyrholm


Well for the third consecutive viewing, I've relied on my DVD shelf to keep the blog steaming ahead and this time I opted for a foreign title in "Festen". It is a film that I had only seen once, prior to tonight's viewing, but one that upon my initial and only viewing, deemed it a must own and eventually purchased it. My decision to buy it was the correct decision!

The film was the first created under the Dogme rules, which were drawn up by Thomas Vinterberg (the director of this feature) and Lars von Trier. There are ten rules in the Dogme code, the most notable being that a film must be shot with a handheld camera and that the sound in the film must never be produced apart from the images and vice versa. This particular story focuses in on a wealthy family and we join them on the day of the patriarch's sixtieth birthday. A big party is being thrown for the father of the family, Helge (Moritzen), where many guests will come from all over to pay tribute to the man. The notable guests include Helge's three living children; Christian (Thomsen), Helene (Steen) and Michael (Bo Larsen). The fourth child, Linda, has recently committed suicide. The children and all of the other guests converge on Helge's mansion, taking residence for the day and night and suiting up for a big birthday celebration, which includes a big, extravagant dinner. Maids, servants, cooks and errand boys are in full force. When the time comes to sit down for dinner, Christian clangs his glass with his butter knife and begins to make a speech in honor of his father. In the midst of his speech and without changing his demeanor, Christian accuses his father of viciously raping and molesting him and his twin sister, Linda, when they were children. The commences from there...


Wow, so many things to say about this one and I can feel a long review coming on, so buckle up. The first thing that I want to address is the mixture of emotions that this film FORCED ME to feel. For those of you who've seen it and have decided to join me past the "spoiler alert", allow me to refresh your memory. As the film goes on, Christian continues to make his way back to the dinner table and does so on two more occasions. The second time he returns, he blames his father for the death of his twin sister and flat out calls him a "murderer". The third time he returns to the table, he has handed a note to his sister Helene and requests that she read it aloud. It's a suicide note from Linda, and confirms all of Christian's accusations. Helge, after hearing the letter, comes clean and admits to the unforgivable acts, storming out of the room. So, at this point, it has become very evident that we're dealing with a monster here, in Helge. I mean, you have this man, who for years sexually abused his own, small children and when he storms off from the dinner table, he leaves us with the despicable line of "that's all you (children) were good for". Ouch! I mean, clearly we're not dealing with a very moral or good human being.


Why did I feel sorry for him in the end? I mean, before I start to sort out my emotions, let me just give an imaginary round of applause to Thomas Vinterberg for twisting up my emotions like that. It takes a true genius of a man to make you feel one way and then make you feel bad for making you feel that way. When this film concluded, I just could NOT help but feel sorry for Helge, almost to the point of tears. But then I felt guilty, almost to the point, that I wasn't even going to admit here that I did feel sorry for the character. It took a visit to IMDB and a few users who confirmed that I wasn't alone in feeling this way, for me to be comfortable with even admitting to it. I have no idea why I felt sympathy for Helge, but I did and it was truly heartbreaking when his son, Michael, asks him to leave the table so that the others can enjoy their breakfast. I think, though, that this wasn't a completely inconceivable feeling, that I had. If you notice, Christian looks on at his father, as if he too feels sorry for the old man. I think I may be reading WAY too much into the picture when I say that we're dealing with a man who has clearly realized that he's made a mistake. You've got this old man, who knows he's driven all of his children away and now they're back, it's his sixtieth birthday and he wants to make things right again. However, with the severity of the atrocities that he's committed, there's no way he's going to be able to atone. You just get that vibe, or at least that's the vibe that I'm interpreting.

And speaking of being comfortable, that is one feeling that this film just doesn't allow. The whole thing for me was very uncomfortable and I credit that to the style in which it was filmed. The handheld camera made it feel as if we were peeking in on this family, but when the shit starts to hit the fan, it becomes a peeping tom experience that makes us want to let the curtain fall back down and close our eyes. It feels as if this is something that we just shouldn't be seeing and I think that the inclusion of Helene's American boyfriend kind of helped to ease that tension for me, as a viewer, because here you had someone just like us - an outsider, invited to this party to have a bite to eat and a good time and he walks smack dab into the middle of this family's shit storm. "Festen" is really a film that just requires you to watch and whatever emotions come to you, then that's it. In my opinion, there are no intended emotions. When the Vinterberg made this film, I highly doubt that he intended us to feel one way or another. I think, however, he did know that we would FEEL and that the feelings were going to be profound.

RATING: 9/10 Was that even a review? Or was it me just rambling, ranting and interpreting. Oh well, it's a fantastic movie and one that I'd recommend only to serious movie goers.


October 13, 2011 1:14am

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

470. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Running Time: 112 minutes
Directed By: Arthur Penn
Written By: David Newman, Robert Benton
Main Cast: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Michael J. Pollard, Estelle Parsons


For those of you with a sturdy memory, you'll remember that prior to my hiatus I made the announcement that this set of 100 films would be thick with movies from the decade of the 60s. Well we're sticking to those guidelines and "Bonnie and Clyde" fits right in. Since my Netflix will be on hold until tomorrow, I was once again forced into the waiting arms of my DVD shelf and it's worth noting that this film was not brought into the DVD collection by me, but rather my wife. Let's see what I think of her purchase.

The plot is basically a biography of the escapades of Bonnie Parker (Dunaway) and Clyde Barrow (Beatty). The film starts out by showing us the humdrum life of Ms. Parker as she prepares for another day as a waitress at a local truck stop. On her way to work she notices a man trying to break into her mother's car and calls him on it. It's, of course, Clyde and the two strike up a conversation. Bonnie is more excited by the fact that Clyde was about to commit grand theft auto and becomes even more excited when she learns that Clyde has just been paroled from prison and is a known thief. Although at first she doesn't believe Clyde, he promptly proves his thievery skills by holding up a grocery store. Later, Clyde convinces Bonnie to come on the road with him, where they'll be bandits, eluding the law, robbing banks and living high on the hog, because after all, in Clyde's eyes Bonnie deserves the best. Eventually they add to their gang of two, by recruiting service station attendant C.W. Moss (Pollard), Clyde's brother Buck (Hackman) and his wife Blanche (Parsons). The quintet make national headlines and are hunted by every sheriff and policeman within a reasonable radius.


This was a film that I really had mixed feelings about, so lets take a look at the good, before we focus in on the bad. For starters, I would say that all of the actors involved did a good job, with Gene Hackman and Estelle Parsons getting my personal nod of approval for best performances of the entire film. Estelle Parsons was just so damn annoying and batty that you couldn't help but get a little kick out of her and Gene Hackman is someone that I've always been a fan of and this film was a fine example of his greatness. Beatty and Dunaway did fine too, with Dunaway actually being quite terrific and perfect for the role of Bonnie. She looked stunning as she paraded around in her signature cloth hat, with bright red lipstick and 60s style regalia. The other really memorable and pretty much perfect thing about this film is the end, when Bonnie and Clyde are ultimately hunted down and murdered and the scene is exquisite, using quick cuts to different angles to build the tension and make it clear to us, the audience, that something is about to go down. When the bullets finally start flying, it's as if death staged a brutal ballet and it was gruesome and gorgeous, all at the same time.

What I didn't care for about this film, was basically everything else. It's not really that I didn't like it, it's just that I didn't care for it one way or another. The whole film seemed to really give me that *meh* feeling and it's as if what I was watching wasn't really all that special at all. For a film about thieves and criminals and a gang of misfits on the run from the law, we really don't see THAT MUCH thieving or running. For the most part we just kind of hang out with the Barrow gang and observe them and at times it gets a little boring. Granted, we do see some chase scenes and a few heist scenes, but they never last long and it's no time before we're watching the gang interact some more, Bonnie screaming at Blanche or Buck and Clyde fooling around. The bottom line is that while there is nothing really BAD on display here, I'd say there's also nothing very stellar either (save for the ending and certain performances).

6.5/10 Not good, not bad, but rather, lingering somewhere in that middle ground.


October 12, 2011 7:18pm

Monday, October 10, 2011

721. The Breakfast Club (1985)

Running Time: 92 minutes
Directed By: John Hughes
Written By: John Hughes
Main Cast: Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy


Well I've returned to the blog, from yet another hiatus, but we won't dwell on that too much, but instead just jump right into the thick of things. It has become the standard for me to watch a familiar film when I return from hiatus, so I marched to my DVD shelf and plucked off "The Breakfast Club".

The plot is fairly simply, so it shouldn't take long to recount it here. Five teenagers are sentenced to spend a precious Saturday in detention. The "prisoners" are a wide range of personalities, including John Bender (Nelson) - the rebel, Claire (Ringwald) - the prom queen, Andrew Clark (Estevez) - the athlete, Brian Johnson (Hall) - the brain and Allison (Sheedy) - the basket case. They are presided over by teacher Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason), a hard-nosed man, very qualified to be the detention enforcer. At the beginning of the day they're given the assignment of writing a paper on "who they think they are", but it's pretty much blown off, as the five engage in various arguments and discussions about school life, home life and sex. As the film progresses, the group becomes closer, as they wage a war of words with one another and the reasons for their detention sentences become clear.


I can still remember it like it was yesterday - my brother raving about this movie called "The Breakfast Club" and insisting that I see it. As I've mentioned in the past on this here blog, most of the movies that would go on to be my all-time favorites were initially shown to me by my big brother. This one is no exception and from the first time I saw it, I fell in love with it. Watching it for, what seems like the 100th time, again last night made me realize something very important about my own tastes in films and how they're changing big time as I become an adult. When I was younger, my favorite part of "The Breakfast Club" was always the first half. That's the more jovial half, the half that is packed with the most comedy and the half, that as a young person, you can have more fun with. When I was younger, I remember always dreading the second half, because while it was still good, it got more serious and was more dialogue driven and as a youngster, that wasn't my cup of tea. However, last night, when re-watching, I enjoyed the second half much more than the first half and that's the part that now really hammers this film home as a true classic. As John Bender, my favorite member of "the club", sits on the floor with his four cohorts and the five sound off, arguing and sympathizing with one another and realizing that they have much more in common than they initially thought.

Sure, if you want, you can nitpick the hell out of the movie. Personally I think it takes off way too fast. It seems like no more do the beginning credits end and we're right into the thick of things, focused in on the library, where we'll spend the next ninety minutes with this group. The ending also gets a little hokey and almost silly, as John & Claire and Andrew & Allison seemingly become a pair of couples and the groundwork for those relationships really isn't established at all. In fact, Bender and Claire are at each others throats BIG TIME at one point, delivering these lines...

John Bender: Don't you ever talk about my friends. You don't know any of my friends. You don't look at any of my friends. And you certainly wouldn't condescend to speak to any of my friends. So you just stick to the things you know: shopping, nail polish, your father's BMW, and your poor, rich drunk mother in the Caribbean.
Claire Standish:

John Bender: And as far as being concerned about what's gonna happen when you and I walk down the hallways of school together, you can forget it cuz it's never gonna happen. Just bury your head in the sand and wait for your fuckin' prom.
Claire Standish:
[Crying] I hate you!

John Bender:
Yeah? Good!

....and the next minute, she's sneaking into a broom closet, that Vernon locks Bender into and making a move on him. There's never any explanation as to why these two would want to even be around each other at the end of their detention day. I guess, if we stretch it, we can surmise that maybe the reason that they were at such odds, is because they had a little thing for one another, but that's probably reading far too into the whole thing. And really, these are just "nitpicky" things. The film is absolutely brilliant and if you haven't seen it, then you have a treat to look forward to someday. It's a film that I can't imagine anyone not liking, at least a little bit.

The personalities are ones that we all knew when each of us went to school. We all knew people who were represented by someone in this film - I know I did. So it's a film that is really easy to relate to, even if you don't necessarily fit into one of the five categories of teenager on display. It's also an extremely quotable film, with a truckload of memorable scenes and dialogue exchanges and as the cherry on top, it has a pretty kick ass 80s soundtrack.

RATING: 8.5/10 I may be undercutting this one, just a hair, but if I am I'll rectify it at the end of the month, during recap time. Sorry if the review was a little rusty, it's my first one in a couple of months. They'll get better.


October 10, 2011 6:39pm

SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #69: Re-Animator (1985)

Running Time: 105 minutes Directed By: Stuart Gordon Written By: Dennis Paoli, William Norris, Stuart Gordon, based on the story Her...