Thursday, October 31, 2013

528. McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)

Running Time: 121 minutes
Directed By: Robert Altman
Written By: Robert Altman, Brian McKay, Edmund Naughton
Main Cast: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Rene Auberjonois, William Devane, John Schuck
Click here to view the trailer


Again, I want to say that I hope everyone enjoyed the FRIGHTFEST stuff as much as I enjoyed watching and reviewing the films. Even the bad ones were a hoot and I'll probably turn FRIGHTFEST into a yearly tradition. I also hope everyone out there had a safe and happy Halloween. I'm really not a Halloween nut myself (you know, besides posting the seven horror movie reviews), but I know some people get into and more power to them. Anyway, "McCabe and Mrs. Miller"...

What a breath of fresh air of a movie this gem was! I'll praise it in a bit, but for now, let me bring you up to speed on the plot. McCabe (Beatty) is a cowardly, yet smart mouthed gambler, who also fancies himself a businessman. Upon the film's opening, McCabe is settling into a cozy saloon, with a fresh deck of cards, ready to win his way into the proverbial penthouse. Skip ahead and we see McCabe dealing with a man for three "chippy's" a.k.a. three women, whom he intends to start a brothel with. He gets the gals and takes them back to his headquarters, which is still in the process of being built. For now, McCabe puts the three ladies into three separate tents and writes their names above the entrance ways. It doesn't take long for McCabe to actually get some real buildings built though and with the guidance of Mrs. Miller (Christie) - a know it all in the prostitute game - he starts to make a few dollars, although nowhere near what he expects to earn. When a couple of big time businessmen come to town and offer to buy all of McCabe's holdings for the meager sum of $5500, he refuses, not realizing that the men work for a man named Shaughnessy, who is known for having men killed who turn down his business offers. So, not wanting to disrepute himself, Shaughnessy dispatches three hitmen, who aim to kill McCabe!


When I say that this film is a "breath of fresh air", I don't necessarily mean that it's head & shoulders above other films I've watched this season, but rather, I mean that it was unlike anything I'd seen before. It was kind of western, though had an edge, which made it unlike any western I'd seen before. It's tone was almost defined by the Leonard Cohen score, which seemed to put me in a trance at the opening credits (with "The Stranger Song") and not let up until McCabe was frozen solid, amidst the harsh, wintry winds in the film's finale. It also had a unique, memorable performance by Beatty too. I say uniquely good, because normally I'm just not a Beatty fan, yet I loved him here. And no, it wasn't because he got all the best lines (talking about frogs with wings and turds in peoples pockets), but rather he played it cool, seemingly hiding behind the thick beard of McCabe and plotting his every word, using his vocabulary, body language and acting skills like chess pieces. "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" requires a patient audience, as it does have a tendency to move at a snail's pace, although for this viewer, the leisurely pace was warranted and welcome. It just seemed to be THAT movie that doesn't need to be rushed, that just means to take it's time and let things play out. I mean, the film spends basically the entire last hour establishing the businessmen who propose a deal to McCabe, McCabe's refusal of the deal and his dealings with the hitmen. Of course, the whole thing ends with a fantastic shoot out in the snow, so it more than makes up for the moments of the film that tend to lag a bit.

And seriously, if the networks insisted on turning one of Altman's movies into a television show, why couldn't it have been this one?! I wasn't born yet, but I'd have totally gone back and tracked down syndicated airings of the "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" weekly television show, with Kris Kristofferson as McCabe (he was just starting his acting career in '71) and some very talented actress as Mrs. Miller. GOLD! Anyway, pipe dreams aside, this is one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Sure, it had it's flaws in there too, but I chose, for the most part, to overlook them and the few that were there, were easily able to be ignored.

RATING: 7.5/10  Seriously, I've listened to The Stranger Song more than a couple of times today. Give it a listen and then go watch this movie. Altman redeems himself with "The Long Goodbye" on deck.


October 31, 2013  11:21pm

SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #1: Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Running Time: 99 minutes
Directed By: Edgar Wright
Written By: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
Main Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran
Click here to view the trailer

As noted many times in the recent past here at the "1001 Movies I (Apparently) Must See Before I Die" blog, in the next 12 - 18 months the ultimate goal of this blog will transform from 'one man's journey to watch all 1001 movies in the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book' to 'one man's journey to create his own, personal canon of 1,000 favorite films and show "those 1001 people" just how it's done! Sins of Omission will become a regularly, monthly feature on the blog where I'll take one film that WAS NOT included in any incarnation of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book and DOES NOT appear on the next list of 1000 films that I plan to tackle, give it a formal review and make it a permanent part of my list, which is entitled: 1000 Films You REALLY Should See Before You Die: A Personal, Ongoing Canon of My 1,000 Favorite FIlms.


Well there you have it. I plan to post that paragraph at the beginning of each and every "Sins of Omission" post, because I know my grand scheme is a bit complicated. "Shaun of the Dead" WAS the super secret seventh entrant in the FRIGHTFEST festivities and not only does it cap off one week of pure horror, but also becomes the very first sin that THE BOOK committed by omitting!

"A romantic comedy...with zombies". That was the tagline of the hugely successful 2004 feature film from the creators of the hit Brit-com "Spaced", starring Simon Pegg as the title character and Nick Frost as his best friend and flat mate. "Shaun of the Dead" is inspired by the Romero franchise of zombie movies, but takes the classic conundrum of flesh eating zombies and adds a touch of hilarity. Shaun works in a dead end job, has a girlfriend he can't seem to do right by and has had the same best friend since primary school - a lovable nincompoop named Ed (Frost) that no one can seem to stand, save for Shaun. The film takes place over the course of two days. On day one, Shaun's day is going a bit rough: his co-workers (subordinates) are being disrespectful, his step-father is hounding him about his coming around to see his mother and his girlfriend is at her wit's end with Shaun, causing her to break up with him at the end of this horrible day. However, when the corpses of the recently deceased begin to rise up out of the ground and feed on the flesh of the living, Shaun has an epiphany and realizes that things could always be a little bit worse. Fortunately for Shaun, the zombie apocalypse is just what the doctor ordered for him to save face with the people he cares about and come out looking like the hero. All he has to do (with the assistance of Ed) is round up his helpless mother, stepfather Phil and his ex-girlfriend (Ashfield) and her mates, head to their favorite pub and wait for this whole thing to blow over!

What do I love about "Shaun of the Dead"? Well, to tell you the truth, everything! Not only is "Shaun of the Dead" the "Citizen Kane" of romantic zombie comedies, but it gets my attention and respect by always treating the zombies (although they're never called "zombies") as a very real threat. Jokes are made left and right, belly laughs are dished out by the scoopful, but those jokes & laughs are never at the expense of the film's threat and always in addition to it. How many times have you sat down to watch a horror movie with a group of people or maybe just one other person and you find yourself breaking that unbreakable rule of "no talking during the movie"? It's a rule I ALWAYS abide by, but sometimes horror movies get a free pass, if only so you can stop to make a few jabs at the cheap horror, the eye rolling special effects, "ooh" and "ahh" at the gruesome death scene or just throw jokes back & forth. It's because horror movies, while sometimes creepy, are also really easy & really fun to have a laugh at. "Shaun of the Dead" takes the age old tradition of making fun of horror films, turns those jokes into a plot and incorporates them into a very hilarious, yet sometimes creepy horror-comedy.

You see, that's the other thing I love about "Shaun" - how many times do you get to use the genre title "horror-comedy"? Sure there are others, but it's a rare genre and if done right can lead to a wildly clever time at the movies. All this blabbing and I've yet to mention Pegg and Frost, two hilarious guys who don't come off so much as movie stars, as just regular guys who loved watching movies growing up, soaking up pop culture so that they could one day make a living out of spoofing it. These guys look like the sort of "blokes" that I wouldn't mind hanging out with and are super talented to boot. The running time flies by and if you're not genuinely laughing AT LEAST a handful of times, then you may want to check your pulse and make sure you haven't been bitten by one of "them"! I can't recommend this film more highly and when I decided that I wanted to start a monthly column entitled "Sins of Omission" and knew that there were automatically two thousand films that could not be included (THE BOOK movies and the next 1000 list) AND I realized that it was nearly time for Halloween, I couldn't think of a better film to feature as my first "Sin" than "Shaun of the Dead". THE BOOK should really be ashamed of itself for leaving this gem out in the cold. We've talked a lot about how THE BOOK isn't necessarily a list of the 1001 BEST films, but rather 1001 samples of all different kinds of cinema. "Shaun" feels like a genre all it's own. There's no culture clash in comedic translation from Britain to the states. I'm sure I laughed at these jokes just as hard as anyone from Wright or Pegg's native UK. In terms of how well this film did in the states, I'd be hard pressed to think of a another foreign film that was as popular as "Shaun" in the U.S. Anyway, we're reaching the point of the review where I really start grasping for compliments, so I'll just wrap it up. Seriously though - one of the only films I know of that makes sense to watch on both Halloween and Valentine's Day - a true gem and one of my personal, all-time favorites.

RATING: 10/10  Well, I hope you guys enjoyed the FRIGHTFEST stuff as much as I enjoyed watching the horror movies and writing about them. It was a nice change of pace to forget about a book of films that I'm supposed to like and focus on a group of seven movies that were fun to watch and didn't come with a note from the higher ups.

Be sure to check back next month and the next installment of "Sins of Omission" when we continue the killing spree!

October 31, 2013  8:00pm

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Village of the Damned (1960)

Running Time: 77 minutes
Directed By: Wolf Rilla
Written By: Stirling Silliphant, Wolf Rilla, Ronald Kinnoch, from novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
Main Cast: George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Martin Stephens, Michael Gwynn, Laurence Naismith
Click here to view the trailer


Arriving at the oldest film contained in this year's FRIGHTFEST festivities, we come to the 1960 film "Village of the Damned", which was renamed to lesser avail in 1995, by John Carpenter. I hadn't seen either version and was excited to check this one out.

The film begins interestingly enough with all the citizens of the small, British town of Midwich fainting at exactly the same time, one afternoon. The main character, Gordon Zellaby (Sanders), happens to be on the phone with his brother-in-law when he suddenly drops the receiver and falls to the ground. His brother-in-law, alarmed at Gordon's sudden disappearance, heads to Midwich and, through a series of discoveries, realizes that whenever anyone crosses the line into Midwich, they faint. A few hours later, however, everyone wakes up, just assuming they've fallen suddenly fallen asleep for some strange reason. After about two months, another strange occurrence happens, as all the women suddenly become pregnant. Some women, like Gordon's wife Anthea (Shelley) is ecstatic about the impending birth of her and Gordon's first child. Others, like a married woman who's husband has just returned home after twelve months, are accused of infidelity and are shamed. When the children are born, it is discovered that they all weigh just over ten pounds, they were all born with strange eyes and that they're all a little more advanced than they should be. It is also discovered later, that the children seem to have some sort of link, whereas when one of them learns something, they all do. After a while, the children grow to a walking age and it also becomes apparent that their glowing eyes can control the will of grown men. If they want something to happen, all they need do is stare at you, with their shiny, glowing eyes and they will get what they desire. It later becomes apparent that the children must be destroyed.

I didn't have too many problems with this movie, but I didn't go crazy for it either. In my opinion, the film had a lot of potential early on, with the fainting residents of Midwich and even the plot twist of all the women in town becoming pregnant. But I'd seen advertisements for this movie before and even the 1995 version and I knew that the film had something to do with children as the villains and their glowing eyes. In a perfect world (for my money anyway) we'd have just kept the town of Midwich fainted and rode that train to the end. What made everyone faint? How can we get people in there to get them awake, without the people we send in fainting? This could've been very interesting, sort of like "Under the Dome" but without the dome. I've always said that I don't like films with children in the main roles and this is really no exception, however, I didn't loathe the film or anything. It's just that it didn't seem to have enough high points and featured too much talking from the main characters. If you think about it, the only real shocking moments in this movie are the two occasions where the children use their glowing stare for evil: 1) when they force a man to wreck his car and 2) when they force a man to shoot himself. That's really it. Add in maybe three or four more of these moments and spread them out a little and I think we have a winner. As it is, I'll keep this review short and call it a mediocre time at the movies.

RATING: 6/10  Remember, tomorrow is not only the conclusion of FRIGHTFEST, but will also be the very first SIN OF OMISSION film. What is a Sin of Omission film? Well, there will be a hefty paragraph tomorrow explaining all the details, as I unveil the conclusion to the FRIGHTFEST festivities and I'll go ahead and tell you now that the film is a '10/10'!

October 30, 2013  1:44pm

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Running Time: 100 minutes
Directed By: Zack Snyder
Written By: James Gunn, from story by George A. Romero
Main Cast: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer, Michael Kelly
Click here to view the trailer


In the words of Christopher Walken: "WOW, Wowie Wow Wow Wow". I have to tell you, I'm real skeptical of any horror movie that's come down the pike since, say the year 2000, but this was something special and proved that Zack Snyder's push into the limelight, wasn't for nothing.

Fans of the blog should know the story of "Dawn of the Dead", since it was only last year (right around this same time, as a matter of fact) that I reviewed the original, Romero version of the film. However, for the newcomers, I'll gloss over the good stuff and we'll get on with the show. Zombies are overtaking the world! We focus in on young, good looking, married nurse Ana (Polley), as she arrives home from a shift that went an hour too long, to meet her husband in the comforts of their married bed and catch the tail end of American Idol. In the middle of the night, a neighbor girl (probably about eight years old or so) is noticed standing at the entrance to their bedroom door, blood dripping from her mouth. Ana's husband, concerned, rushes to the girl's aid, not realizing that she's been transformed into one of the undead. He's bitten! It only takes a few moments for him to turn into one of the wild eyed creatures from hell and within about thirty seconds he's attacking Ana, forcing her to barricade herself inside the bathroom, covered with the blood from her husband's...former husband's gaping neck wound. She manages to get to the car and drive off, realizing that the streets are overrun with flesh eating mosters: Welcome to "Dawn of the Dead". Meeting up with a few other survivors: Ken (Rhames), Michael (Weber), Andre (Phifer) and Andre's pregnant girlfriend, the group hole up in a shopping mall, firearms in hand and wait for help to arrive...but outside, zombies (a word we never hear in the film) pound at the glass doors, as their numbers multiply.

Me to my wife, during the film: "If that pregnant woman gets turned into a zombie and her unborn baby bursts from stomach, as a little, undead zombie, I'll give this movie a 10".

Well, it didn't exactly happen like that, but I'll be damned if I didn't get the zombie baby I'd always wanted!! Seriously though, who isn't skeptical of recent horror movies. They're all cut from the same pattern, they all have cheap thrills and barely creepy effects and for the most part, they're all as dull as dry toast, trying their damndest to do something to make you jump, when all you really want to do is jump into a better flick. However, here comes Zack Snyder to save the day and give us a kick ass zombie movie, that also brings the quality goods. I realized within the first fifteen minutes that this movie was something special and wasn't just going to be another one of those modern pieces of horror rubbish. A few POV shots and an aerial shot of Ana's town in blazes and chaos made me realize that I was in for a treat, by someone who knew how to be a good host. Because when you think about it, that's what film director's are, they're party hosts and if you enjoy their movie, then they're a good host and otherwise, they're a not so good host and I'm here to tell you that as far as "Dawn of the Dead" is concerned, Zack Snyder gave me a chance to party hard, let my hair down and have a good time, without feeling ashamed at liking something that isn't usually likable.

There's literally no reason to not like this film. The snobs can laud it as a modern horror masterpiece, while Snyder gives the casual, shallow movie goers something to "ooh" and "AHHH!" at. You have firearms galore, chainsaws, explosions, decapitations, blood by the buckets, tricked out buses and did I mention a ZOMBIE freakin' BABY!! Oh yeah and the ending is great too! You obviously have a very talented filmmaker here, having fun and that's probably why the results were so great. He took an original story and made it his own, while still paying homage to the original. Raise your hands if you'd have liked to have seen him tackle all three or Romero's original zombie flicks. I would've been totally down for that, leaving "Dawn of the Dead" as it is, remaking "Night of the Living Dead" as a modern black & white picture and really sprucing up "Day of the Dead", straying further away from the original than the other three. It's a pipe dream, but it could've been cool and kept Halloween time at the box office a bit more quality, instead of the atrocities that are being committed today with a "Carrie" remake (did we really need another one) and Insidious 2 (because no horror movie can end at part 1!).

RATING: 9/10  Great, great stuff and highly recommended. If you haven't seen this one, I can understand any skepticism, but trust's good!

October 29, 2013  8:00pm

517. M*A*S*H (1970)

Running Time: 116 minutes
Directed By: Robert Altman
Written By: Ring Lardner Jr., from novel by Richard Hooker
Main Cast: Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Tom Skerritt, Sally Kellerman, Robert Duvall
Click here to view the trailer


Well FRIGHTFEST 2013 is just about in the bag (actually, all the FRIGHTFEST posts are up and scheduled to post at 8pm, for the next three nights, so for me FRIGHTFEST is kind of over) and it's time to start up a new festivity: "Altman Week". I know I said "Scorsese Week" was going to be the final director tribute week, but after looking THE BOOK over, I realized that there's still a few opportunities with director weeks left, so I figured "why not". Plus, these are great to do when I hit the halfway mark of a season, which is exactly where we are now. It's also worth noting that I'm OFFICIALLY 3/4 of the way finished with THE BOOK! Anyway, "MASH"...

Truth be told, there's really no linear, point A to point B plot here. Of course, we all probably know the story of "MASH", as it was spun-off into a very popular television show. In fact, the MASH finale still stands as the highest rated American television broadcast of all-time, with something like 125 million viewers. Now me, being a sitcom junkie (I bet you didn't know that about me), a guy who will literally give ANY sitcom at least one shot, has never seen one full episode of "MASH" and that's because I've always loathed war stuff and I think readers of the blog already know that. It's not because I'm a "give peace a chance" nut, it's just because war and war life themes have never had ANY interest for me, none whatsoever. So it wasn't a surprise that I didn't really care for this movie either. The plot revolves around a mobile hospital unit, operating during the Korean War. Your main characters are the doctors and nurses that make up the unit and the hijinks they get into. When Major Margaret Houlihan (Kellerman) joins the operation, she's dubbed "Hot Lips" and given rough treatment by the men. Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould (two that I don't mind) make up the rest of the cast, but in my view, their talents are really wasted here.

I don't know, maybe it's because the types of people (men) that probably enjoy this movie, are the same types of people (men) that I don't think I'd get along with. Overly patriotic, war nuts who also enjoy football and giving their female co-workers a hard time. I mean, isn't that the epitome of the American bully? I'm not saying this film's only audience is that type, but I bet it makes up the core, especially in the 70s when the film came out. No, it just wasn't for me, not in the least and as much as I tried to like it, I just couldn't settle into it. I liked the cast, as it was a bunch of guys that I normally enjoy, but I couldn't even, as much as I tried, enjoy that. Sure, there were a few bits that I got lost in: the dentist's wish to commit suicide and the finale football game were decent attention keepers, but that's it and had it not been for THE BOOK, I'd have probably NEVER seen this.

RATING: 4/10  That's about as high as it gets for this one. I do have high hopes for some of Altman's work though and I can tell you now that I've seen "Short Cuts" before and really liked it. Anyway, not a great start, but there's five more...


October 29, 2013  1:18pm

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pumpkinhead (1988)

Running Time: 86 minutes
Directed By: Stan Winston
Written By: Mark Patrick Carducci, Stan Winston, Richard Weinman, Gary Gerani
Main Cast: Lance Henriksen, Jeff East, John D'Aquino, Kimberly Ross, Joel Hoffman
Click here to view the trailer


Several points to make here in the opening paragraph: 1) I can't believe it took four people to write such an amazing pile of crap 2) I can't believe this movie is actually getting time on a blog that was originally intended to house 1001 "must see" movies and 3) I plan to have a lot of fun with this review!

Okay, so the film stars Lance Henriksen, which was the main reason I said "okay" when my wife suggested we watch it for FRIGHTFEST. While I can't pinpoint a particular performance I enjoyed Henriksen in, I've always dug the guy and he's someone who seems to crop up in horror movies, probably because he's one scary mofo. Here Henriksen is Ed Harley, a "good 'ol boy" with a cute kid named Billy. Ed owns a grocery store and one day, while manning the store, with Billy and his dog Gypsy playing outside, a group of teens (very typical, horror movie type teens with a 4:2 girl:boy ratio) drive up, on their way to the cabin for the weekend (note the insanely original writing and my insane use of sarcasm). Of course, no group of teenagers would be complete without a resident prick and this group is no exception. Here, Joel (D'Aquino) is the jerk of the crew and while being a rebel and riding his motor bike around the nearby premises', he accidentally hits and kills Ed's son. Oh, I forgot to mention that Ed had stepped out for just a minute, to fetch some feed for a customer. When Ed returns he's pissed, but not quite as pissed off as you'd think he'd be (seriously, watch the movie - Henriksen doesn't play the scene well at all). Anyway, Ed wants revenge, so he finds the old witch who lives in the mountains and asks her to conjure up Punpkinhead - a demon who, for a fee, will get your revenge for you. Yes, a DEMON who fights crime!! So Ed pays (in what seems to be silver coins) and Pumpkinhead is unleashed, chasing the teens through the woods, in typical slasher, horror fashion. However, after a bit, Ed begins to feel remorse for asking for revenge on the teens that killed his son, so he tries to hunt down Pumpkinhead to stop him.

For fans of this film, do you know WHY Ed feels remorse and starts to hunt Pumpkinhead? Because if this plot development doesn't happen, then after Ed hires Pumpkinhead, we no longer need the Henriksen character, because after that point, the conflict exists solely between Pumpkinhead and the teenagers (actually, they're probably more like twenty-somethings). So the writers (all four of them!) conjure up something for Lance to do, so that they don't waste a lot of money on the only star to be found in the picture. Speaking of that conflict between Pumpkinhead and the teens: whose side are we supposed to be on? I mean, I realize that Joel was really the only bad seed of the group, but why wouldn't we want Pumpkinhead to punish the group responsible for coming into the woods and disrupting shit to the point that Ed Harley, respected town citizen, had to call upon the spirit of an age old demon to kick some ass?! I mean, everything was fine until they showed up. No need to wake Pumpkinhead from his slumber or anything! So, do I root for the demon to rid the backwoods of these loud mouth, city citizens or do I root for the unrootable teens? Also, why Pumpkinhead? I mean, I realize they dug him up out of a pumpkin patch graveyard (yep, a PUMPKIN PATCH GRAVEYARD!) but, his head, in no way, resembles a pumpkin. He looks more like a Predator rip off. Ah man, remember "Predator" - if memory serves THAT was a bad ass movie! This, on the other hand, not worth the celluloid it was filmed on.


Anything good to report? Well, they did a good job of establishing the bond between the father and son in such a quick amount of time. It's literally about two scenes and we're fully aware that if something happens to this boy, Ed is going to lose his shit. The ending was pretty cool too. No, not the 'Ed Harley shooting himself in order to kill Pumpkinhead' ending (that was just stupid and didn't make a lick of sense). No, I'm talking about the fact that now Ed Harley has become the new Pumpkinhead - that's kinda' cool, I guess. Henriksen was really good too though; his performance probably only suffered because of the crap he was given to work with. You can't polish a turd folks! The film is just WAY too rushed, unoriginal, nonsensical and with the exception of Henriksen, terribly acted.

RATING: 2/10  I can't even justify why this film doesn't get a '1', it just seems more like a '2' to me. However, whether it's a '1' or a '2', it all spells B-A-D. On the other hand, I don't regret watching this one for FRIGHTFEST, because it was your typical, old school, bad horror movie, the wife and I had a blast making fun of it and it seemed to fit with the impending "holiday".

October 28, 2013  8:00pm

Sunday, October 27, 2013

877. Les Roseaux sauvages/The Wild Reeds (1994)

Running Time: 113 minutes
Directed By: Andre Techine
Written By: Olivier Massart, Gilles Taurand, Andre Techine
Main Cast: Elodie Bouchez, Gael Morel, Stephane Rideau, Frederic Gorny, Michele Moretti
Click here to view the trailer


This one has been sitting on my desk for a good two weeks or so now, just staring at me, as I kept putting it off and putting it off, sort of knowing that it wouldn't be the type of film that suited me. What can I say - I know my tastes...

I'm not gonna' lie, I sort of mentally checked out of this one at about the halfway mark, stopped caring about the story and just sort of mildly marveled at the cinematography, which I found to the the film's saving grace, if it had one. I just couldn't form any sort of emotional attachment to this picture and I'll take the blame for that one. The film was set primarily at a boarding school and revolves around four youths: Francois (Morel), a shy, Michael Cera looking boy; Serge (Rideau), a more outgoing boy, whose brother dies in the Algerian War; Henri (Gorny), an older boy and Maite, Francois' best friend, a female. The film basically revolves around Francois and his confusion at his own sexuality. He has a sexual encounter with Serge, who seduces him and spends the rest of the film trying to figure out his own preferences. Meanwhile, Henri shows an attraction toward Maite. Honestly, that's all I'm going to be able to muster, because as far as I'm concerned, that was the plot. There wasn't much to it and if there was, it was my own fault for zoning out and missing anything poignant that may have been buried in there. However, as I said, I just couldn't settle into this one, for some reason.

I have found recently though that I'm becoming more and more fascinated with foreign landscapes and architecture. It's not just any foreign scenery either, as it tends to mostly be European sites that seem to catch my eye and leave me gawking at certain things that others might not find beautiful at all. I'm talking about old, paint chipped buildings; miles and miles of rolling, green fields; landmarks that have seemingly been in place for a dozen centuries, it's all very interesting and awesome to me - meaning it inspires awe.

As for this movie, take a pass and thank me later. It just seems to be too quiet to really catch anyone's attention and it's subject matter isn't interesting enough to elicit any sort of any real emotion connection, at least from me anyway. I will give Techine credit for being able to make his film really feel like it's from a different period. The film is set in 1962 and honestly, this film doesn't resemble anything else that was produced in the 90s, so there's that too. Otherwise, thumbs down from this reviewer.

RATING: 3/10  For the few things I mentioned, I'll gladly give it a '3' and say I tried my best, but just couldn't form the emotional attachment necessary to enjoy it more. My fault...


October 27, 2013  11:30pm

The Collector (1965)

Running Time: 119 minutes
Directed By: William Wyler
Written By: John Kohn, Stanley Mann, Terry Southern, from novel by John Fowles
Main Cast: Terence Stamp, Samantha Eggar
Click here to view the trailer


It was an anonymous poster who came to the blog and said "I recommend William Wyler's The Collector for Frightfest" and it was faithful Ray who seconded the nomination. While I wouldn't go so far as to call "The Collector" an out and out horror movie, I am grateful for their insistence that I watch it!

The film has two stars and really only three (including the neighbor) notable cast members, with everyone else playing the role of extra or glorified extra (that is, extra with a line or two). The film's main is Frederick Clegg (Stamp), an amateur entomologist, professional bank teller and socially awkward misfit, whom, upon the film's opening, is purchasing a house in a secluded area. If you're wondering where Freddie has gotten the money to purchase this house, he's apparently just won a lottery - something called "football pools", which is apparently exclusive to England, where the film is set. The winnings also give Freddie the means to carry out his master plan: kidnapping a girl. He selects a very specific girl, Miranda (Eggar), a girl that he used to ride the bus with at school and one who never gave him the time of day. He stalks her in his van and when the time is right, uses a chloroform soaked rag to render her unconscious, taking her back to his new house, which incidentally is equipped with a sound proof cellar. Arriving back at his place, we learn that he's gone to a lot of trouble, tidying up the cellar and making it look like a small apartment, complete with a whole new wardrobe of clothes, that he hopes will fit her. He tells her that he loves her, that he's always loved her and that his hopes in kidnapping her being that she will fall in love with him. He makes a deal with her: If she doesn't try to escape, if she talks to him (actually converses with him) and if she promises to eat the meals he brings her, he'll let her go in four weeks. The film is filled with suspenseful climax cues and some great back & forth between the prisoner and her captor.


This film just goes to show you that there are thousands of cinematic gems out there, just waiting to be consumed by the movie lover. I hadn't even heard of this picture before it was suggested to me by the anonymous poster, but now I've heard of it and loved it! So I guess a hearty "thank you" to the poster that suggested the film is in order: Thank you!

Everything was just perfect, from beginning to end, they never took a misstep that I disapproved of and even the ending was just perfect. Let's face it, there were several choices on how to end this movie. 1) You have the girl escape to the authorities, report Clegg, thus seeing him arrested. I kind of thought this was where they were headed, as there was some minimal narration that came at the beginning and end and I kind of thought we were listening to Clegg's story from his padded cell. 2) Have the girl actually fall in love with him. Again, this is something I thought they were heading for and am so glad they didn't do. How awful would that have been? I guess those were really the only two foreseeable options, as the third would be having the girl die and having Clegg succeed, which is what happened. However, the way it all went down was just perfect. You couldn't have Clegg just kill Miranda, because he loved her. So she's killed when she's left to starve and freeze in the cellar, while Clegg is at the hospital, getting treated for a wound she inflicts on him. And then the cherry on top, having the film's ultimate end be Clegg stalking another girl, preparing to go through the cycle all over again.

Here's the question though: Whose side are we supposed to be on? Am I the only one who found myself urging the nosy neighbor to JUST LEAVE, before the water came rushing down the stairs - the water that Miranda had forced on with her big toe, hoping to draw the attention of whomever came to visit Clegg? I certainly wasn't urging the neighbor to JUST STAY A LITTLE LONGER, while the water made it's way to his line of vision. I think it was a movie where I didn't care so much about the outcomes of the characters, as much as I just wanted to see all of the pieces fit together to make for a really good movie. As long as Miranda is tied up and helpless, this movie continues and I get to bask in it for a little while longer, to see a few more suspenseful pieces and to see a little more brilliance from Terence Stamp. I have to say, speaking of Stamp, I loved the casting choices and the fact that there were really only two cast members. I'm a sucker for a film that could easily be a stage play, though, ironically, I've never seen a live stage play. One last thought and if this thought is a popular one, I promise I've seen it nowhere: Is there some sort of connection between this movie and "The Silence of the Lambs"? I'm talking about the butterfly/moth stuff, not just the obvious "guy holds a girl captive" thing. The butterfly thing in both films, as well as the obvious parallels between the plot lines just seemed odd to me, that's all. Anyway, damn fine film!

RATING: 8.5/10  I can't go whole hog and I really don't know why. I think it's like that first date with a girl you really like and you really don't want to end up in bed at the end of the night, because you don't want to rush things and end up screwing something up. Doesn't matter though, great movie - end of story.

October 27, 2013  8:00pm

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Day of the Dead (1985)

Running Time: 102 minutes
Directed By: George A. Romero
Written By: George A. Romero
Main Cast: Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joseph Pilato, Jarlath Conroy, Anthony Dileo Jr.
Click here to view the trailer


"Day of the Dead" sort of hits close to home, as it not only features make-up and special effects by Tom Savini, a Pittsburgh native (only sixty miles or so from me), but also stars Lori Cardille as the main character, daughter of long time Pittsburgh broadcaster Bill Cardille, nicknamed "Chilly Billy" for his hosting duties on Chiller Theatre, an old Saturday night horror movie program that aired in the Pittsburgh area. Bill also appeared in the original "Night of the Living Dead", as well as the 1990 remake, directed by Tom Savini.


I'll tell you right now that the film is EASILY the worst when put head to head (to head) with "Night of the Living Dead" and "Dawn of the Dead", but I'll save the opinion column for a little further down the page. The film starts with a pretty eerie dream sequence in which we see the main character, Dr. Sarah Bowman (Cardille), sitting alone in an asylum-type room. Once she snaps back to reality, we learn that the events that began in "Night of the Living Dead" and continued in "Dawn of the Dead" are still taking place and now we zoom in on a small group of survivors, holed up in an underground, military compound. Among the survivors are two, smaller groups: the doctors and the military men, as well as two pilots. The doctors and the military men are always at odds with one another, mainly due to the tyrannical behavior of Captain Rhodes (Pilato). The doctors, fully aware tha
t the humans are outnumbered by the "undead", try doing experiments on them, trying to tame them and possibly domesticate them. The experiments are headed up by a particular doctor, Dr. Logan and his star "pupil", whom he calls Bub, a member of the undead clan whom Dr. Logan has made lots of progress with, teaching him to use a gun and salute the military men. Of course, things go awry...

My biggest problem with "Day of the Dead" was the lack of action and the fact that we really don't get into the humans vs. zombies part of the story until something like the last thirty minutes. Prior to that, the real conflict of this movie isn't the humans vs. the monsters, but the humans vs. each other, as the doctors and the soldiers engage in, what seems like, a never ending war of words. I love, love, love a good zombie flick, but I think most zombie movie lovers would agree that the meat & potatoes of any good zombie flick is the survivalist qualities, the "how are they going to get out of this jam" or the "oh no, there's fifty zombies between him and where he needs to be, let's see how he gets out of this!". I was shocked when I looked on IMDB and saw that this film has a healthy '7.0' rating. You have to figure that the majority of the people rating this are the real horror junkies and in my opinion, this just wasn't up to snuff with other, better horror or even more specifically, other zombie movies - especially Romero's zombie movies.

Otherwise, if you want to get technical, the make-up and effects were pretty B.A., as you can never go wrong with Greg Nicotero and Tom Savini, who know their stuff when it comes to making things look extra f'd up. I've included a few pictures here, but as far as just how gruesome these zombies look, there's no comparison to "Night of" or "Dawn of". Unfortunately, it's a shame that the zombies look the best in a film where they're not at the forefront of the plot for most of the time.

I think I can be quoted, at one time on this blog, as saying I'm not really a horror guy. I've realized recently that that's an absolutely false statement. As much as I didn't care for this on a quality movie level, I have to admit that it was a lot of fun at times and ultimately I had fun watching, even though I had some severe gripes. If you're just looking for a cheap thrill, then this should do the trick. However, if you want quality, like me, then you need to opt for either "Night of" or "Dawn of" and forget "Day of".

RATING: 4/10  Yeah, that's about as good as it gets from me. I just can't go any higher. Had they put the zombies a little more "out there" and made them more prevalent, this would've been fine, but it is what it is. 

October 26, 2013  8:00pm

843. Strictly Ballroom (1992)

Running Time: 94 minutes
Directed By: Baz Luhrmann
Written By: Baz Luhrmann, from story by Andrew Bovell, Baz Luhrmann
Main Cast: Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice, Bill Hunter, Pat Thomson, Peter Whitford
Click here to view the trailer


Dang, I've skipped clear from 1994 to 1992, but it was only because "Strictly Ballroom" is streaming on Netflix and I needed something to watch in a pinch. Expect a few more jump arounds between now and the end of the season, as my main goal is to just get the 90s finished off.

It's Baz Luhrmann, so you know the style of film that we're dealing with here, as "Strictly Ballroom" looks a lot like "Moulin Rouge", in that it's characters are, at times, cartoonish and the whole thing is very showy. Paul Mercurio is Scott Hastings, the young, hot shot dancer on the block who has been pegged to win all the year's competitions. However, during a competition, he takes liberties on the dance floor and sways from the traditional steps that would define "strictly ballroom". He loses the competition and his partner, feeling disgraced, leaves him for Scott's competitor, Ken Railings (I loved this character, for some reason). Scott, needing a new partner in anticipation for the Pan Pacific competition (the World Series of the dancing world, if you will) chooses rookie dancer Fran (Morice). He works with her for a few weeks (in what equals out to a pretty fantastic montage) and in the process, the two fall in love. Leading up to the Pan Pacific competition, rumors swirl that Scott will enter the competition and display his new, rebellious dance moves. Meanwhile, Scott's mother (Thomson - in a great performance) and the president of the Australian Dancing Federation, Barry Fife (Hunter), do anything in their power to stop Scott and keep the phrase "strictly ballroom" in the Pan Pacific competition.

The whole thing is very cliche and very predictable. Literally, within the fist ten minutes of the picture, I had the whole movie figured out, as we've seen this formula a thousand times before. What's unique and what probably compelled the writers of THE BOOK to include "Strictly Ballroom" is Luhrmann's presentation. You know, I found myself, at the beginning of this movie, saying to myself "I don't care for Luhrmann's style, it's just not for me". However, I found myself getting swept up in the theatrics of it all. Recently I heard someone use the phrase "pure cinema" and while I didn't stick around to get the text book definition of the term, I think it's pretty obvious what it means and I think Luhrmann's pictures (notably "Moulin Rouge" and "Strictly Ballroom") are perfect examples of what that term stands for. Whether they're for me or not is a different story, but I can definitely say that Luhrmann's pictures are the text book examples of what a night at the cinema should encapsulate: showy costumes, boisterous characters and music that doesn't just linger in the background. These movies are loud, but not too loud and the word "grand" also comes to mind. They're in your face, but for the most part, you welcome it. Luhrmann obviously has a penchant for entertaining and it's hard to deny him the title of master entertainer, again, whether this was for me or not. And if it wasn't fully for me (which it wasn't, not fully), I fully accept the responsibility and don't place any blame on anyone else.

Seriously though, these characters were just too good to be true. What was it about Ken Railings that I loved. I loved his deviousness, his wicked smile and his shimmering, blonde pompadour. Shirley Hastings - the stage mother, had a villainous quality that I couldn't stand, yet ate up with a spoon. And then there was Barry Fife, played by Bill Hunter (who is quickly becoming a favorite, after his performance here and in "Muriel's Wedding"), a heel to end all heels.

There's not much left to say about "Strictly Ballroom". While the characters and the grandeur of it all were welcome and exuberant, the predictable plot and cookie cutter nature of the whole thing was off putting and the general story was just, sort of *meh*. To hinge your entire film on a dancer who is going to DEBUT SOME NEW DANCE MOVES!!...well, it's just a little silly, isn't it?

RATING: 6.5/10  VERY VERY close to a '7', but I found it difficult to bring myself to propel this movie into that upper echelon of film. Still a fine film though, with nearly just as many pluses, as there were minuses.


October 26, 2013  1:01pm

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Omen (1976)

Running Time: 111 minutes
Directed By: Richard Donner
Written By: David Seltzer
Main Cast: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Billie Whitelaw, Harvey Stephens
Click here to view the trailer


Pull up a chair, you're in for a scare! Okay, that was awful, but I'm not deleting it because it's Frightfest 2013, anything goes and I think this is going to be a lot of fun. I've got to tell you it's odd not reviewing a BOOK movie, throwing the traditional out the window and celebrating Halloween with everyone else. Anyway, "The Omen" gets the honor of being the first NON "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" movie to be reviewed on this blog and we'll call it a so-so start.

This is the demon child movie to end all demon child movies and any movie that has followed about a creepy kid has "The Omen" to thank for paving the way. In Rome, American diplomat Robert Thorn (Peck) grieves over the loss of his child, who has just died during birth. With his wife still out of the know about their dead baby, Robert is convinced by a priest to take another child that has been abandoned and pass it off to his wife, Katherine (Remick), as their own. He goes ahead with the plan and the child is named Damien, with the three forming a happy little family. Not long after, Robert is appointed U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain and so the family pack up shop and move to the U.K. At Damien's fifth birthday party, his nanny stands atop the Thorn mansion, in front of all the party goers, jumping off the roof and hanging herself in front of a bay window, claiming that her actions are for Damien. Not only does this event plague the Thorns, but weird things continue happening: During a visit to a wildlife park, a pack of baboons attack the car that Damien and Katherine are riding in and when the Thorns try and take Damien to a wedding, he freaks out at the very sight of the church. It's around this time that a priest, Father Brennan, comes to see Robert and tells him that his child is a bad seed. Later, Father Brennan meets back up with Robert and tells him what will happen: Katherine will become pregnant again, Damien will kill the baby, kill Katherine and then kill Robert. Robert refuses to believe it, but has a hard time accepting the priests ravings as a lie, considering the odd nature of Damien and all the odd things that seem to follow his son around.


I've got to tell you, I just have a hard time buying devilish dogs and demon children when you've got Gregory Peck in there. Peck is an actor's actor and it seems to me that he should only be featured in serious roles and certainly not horror films. Not that he didn't do a fine job, it's just, to me, the equivalent of seeing Daniel Day Lewis pop up in the next Wayans production. Okay, so maybe that analogy is way off, but you get my drift. So I had never seen "The Omen" before and I've got to say it wasn't too shabby. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a horror classic or anything, but it's from the 70s, a time when nearly every movie that got made was, at least, good.

I've gotta' tell ya, naming that kid Damien was their first mistake - that's just asking for trouble. You'd never see a five year old lured to the dark side who was named Ernie or Scooter.

Man, what about the ways that people died in this movie. I hate to be that lame, easily impressed guy, but there were some pretty bad ass killings in "The Omen"! Nanny hanging herself off the roof, priest impaled with rod, photographer decapitated, Lee Remick thrown off a roof and through an ambulance!! WOW!

In case it isn't painfully obvious by now, I just don't have a lot to say as it pertains to the 1976 version of "The Omen". It's a fine horror movie, made at a time when gold was being shot out of Hollywood left and right. The cast is kind of *meh*, as I have a hard time swallowing Peck in something so farfetched & contrived and I just don't care for Remick here either. Also, I like a lot less biblical stuff with my horror movies, thank you. It's okay for there to be a little, but they were thumping the Book of Revelations and being very "priestly". It's not offensive or anything, it's just a personal preference. It didn't blow me away or anything and it certainly didn't scare me, however, it DID provide just the right amount of creepy to make for a cozy afternoon for me and my wife, on our day off. 

RATING: 6.5/10  So "FrightFest 2013" is off and running, with a less than stellar start. That's okay though, because the best SHOULD be saved for last anyway. 

October 25, 2013  8:00pm

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...