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A few reviews

TM2YC

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Island of Lost Souls (1932)
Dr. Moreau's "House of Pain", his twisted laboratory where he conducts sadistic quasi-scientific procedures, his toothbrush mustache, his slicked down side-parted hair, his flight from authorities in Europe, the trademark round black Nazi-esque sunglasses worn by his assistant, might make the viewer think this was inspired by Dr Mengele but of course 'Island of Lost Souls' was made 10-years earlier. There is also a touch of Col. Kurtz's compound about Moreau's island.  The way Charles Laughton plays Dr. Moreau is really creepy, giddy with power and not showing a shred of remorse. The makeup prosthetics are still pretty startling, we see glimpses of hair covered ears, creatures with one human foot and one trotter and distorted facial features, just enough so our imaginations fill in the rest. The queasy atmosphere that these FX create is occasionally shattered by hilariously rubbish dummies being tossed around. This came out in the same year as Tod Browning's 'Freaks' and shares some DNA with that controversial film. 'Island of Lost Souls' was banned in the UK for 25-years, only securing an X-Certificate after cuts were made (it's uncut and PG now :D ).


 

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24 Hour Party People (2002)
I've watched Michael Winterbottom's Factory Records/Hacienda/Tony Wilson/Happy Monday/Joy Division biopic so many times on DVD, it was added to Amazon Prime so why not watch it again. The film mixes together actors playing real people, real people playing fake people and the real people playing themselves. Meta layer upon layer, like recreating the final night of the Hacienda nightclub, except there was no such event, so the scenes in the film are the real faked last night, or Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan) breaking the fourth wall (constantly) to tell us which bits are true and which are lies, or him telling us about a cameo appearance, then remembering it was cut, except it wasn't and that it'll be on the DVD extras, which it is. This anarchic style conveys the spirit of the times even better than the content of the film itself, which is a laugh riot and the music is incredible. I love this film.

The UK trailer is even a comment on trailers:


The more cheesy US trailer is fun too:

 

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In honor of Halloween, been watching a fair few creepy movies:
1.Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Revisited)
I hadn’t seen the original for probably a decade, and besides the flashback sequences, it was hard for me to tell what Andreas had changed.  Yes, it looked darker (tonewise) but actually there were still a lot of lighter, little kid elements to it.  This was great for me, since I think the films should grow up with the main characters.  I was worried it would be too dark, but I’d say all the small trims and music changes simply accomplish the goal of making it fit better with the rest of the series.  I actually couldn’t remember any scenes that were missing while watching it, and at over 2 hours, it’s probably the best length now.  Pretty good as a kids’ Halloweenish movie, with a brief floating Jack ‘o Lantern scene (though sadly, less candy eating.)

2.Night of the Living Dead (1990)
Well, a lot of good elements here, but everything this film does well has been done better in other zombie films since.  I notice Savini’s penchant for lingering on pointless gore effects is here, too.  The zombies here are a lot more skillful and intelligent than in most other films.  They drag bodies, try different entrances if it’s not working, try doorknobs, use simple tools.  But for more dangerous zombies, I’d skip this and watch 28 Days Later.

3.Insidious (2010)
I was a big fan of the original Saw and a lot of the gang is back here, but this never really reeled me in.  This seems to be an odd hodge podge of imagery and tropes from the supernatural horror films of the 70s and 80s, but it didn’t come up with anything original enough to set itself apart for me.  Plus, I didn’t really care enough about the characters before things ratcheted up to 11.  The script has a fair number of “okay, let’s just make this incredibly obvious so we can move on to the next scary scene” moments, which would probably make for an entertaining date night in the theater, but just made me roll my eyes watching it at home.
 

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mnkykungfu said:
3.Insidious (2010)
I was a big fan of the original Saw and a lot of the gang is back here, but this never really reeled me in.  This seems to be an odd hodge podge of imagery and tropes from the supernatural horror films of the 70s and 80s, but it didn’t come up with anything original enough to set itself apart for me.  Plus, I didn’t really care enough about the characters before things ratcheted up to 11.  The script has a fair number of “okay, let’s just make this incredibly obvious so we can move on to the next scary scene” moments, which would probably make for an entertaining date night in the theater, but just made me roll my eyes watching it at home.

Haha I too rolled my eyes at this movie, especially the finale, which I found utterly absurd and ridiculous. The plot itself was ok, but random creepy things grinning at the camera are just silly, not scary.
 

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Burnt Offerings (1976)
As I watched a father, mother and son drive toward the remote haunted building that they'll be the caretakers for (as it slowly drives them insane) I was thinking "This seems a lot like 'The Shining'?", then I realised this was released 4-years before Stanley Kubrick's film and 1 year before the book. You've even got a father with a typewriter and near identical plot elements around old photos. Bette Davis, Oliver Reed and Karen Black do a great job showing the decent from loving, happy family to paranoid and unhinged. The scene where Reed is messing about with his son in the swimming pool and their play twists almost imperceptibly into violence is really disturbing. A creepy 70s Horror film that is well worth checking out.

 

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Muppets from Space (1999)
Following the back-to-back perennial classics 'The Muppet Christmas Carol' and 'Muppet Treasure Island', I was excited for and then extremely disappointed by 'Muppets from Space', I didn't even bother watching all of it... 20-years later it's not got any better. Like the Marx Brothers, The Muppets are perhaps best when they have something to deconstruct, a narrative framework for them to tear down, making the story just about them is hard to make work. Removing all the joyous songs and replacing them with boring Funk montages was also a bad idea. In the last two movies Michael Caine and Tim Curry were playing it for the Best Actor Oscar, where as Jeffrey Tambor (as the main human character) is simply awful, overplaying every line to the point you think he's going to have an aneurysm. The film is full of embarrassing, dated and nonsensical celebrity cameos from Hulk Hogan and characters from 'Dawson's Creek'. The lazy parodies of things like 'Men in Black' and 'Independence Day' make this feel stuck in the 90s. The only genuine laugh I got out of it was Miss Piggy falling off her high heels 33-minutes in. It's the only Muppets movie to have lost money, no wonder it was 12-years before they'd release another one.

 

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Naked Lunch (1991)
Director David Cronenberg fuses together Burroughs' novel, elements from the author's life and his own disturbing visions. Stylistically it's a classic Film Noir, shot in golden browns and sickly greens. The characters and the plot are largely either uninteresting, or unintelligible but Cronenberg's wild and disgusting visual ideas and the freaky makeup FX are enough to sustain the viewer's interest. By the time you get to Roy Scheider unpeeling the woman skin he's wearing, you've probably got used to that kind of stuff happening. Peter Weller plays a writer/exterminator/fugitive having bad trips on "Bug powder Dust", "Black Meat Powder" and "Mugwump Jism".  The croaky voice Peter Boretski does for all the creatures is the creepiest thing.

This original trailer is very strange and worth watching:


The film/book has inspired some great songs:


 

mnkykungfu

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TM2YC said:
Naked Lunch (1991)
Director David Cronenberg fuses together Burroughs' novel, elements from the author's life and his own disturbing visions. Stylistically it's a classic Film Noir, shot in golden browns and sickly greens. The characters and the plot are largely either uninteresting, or unintelligible but Cronenberg's wild and disgusting visual ideas and the freaky makeup FX are enough to sustain the viewer's interest. By the time you get to Roy Scheider unpeeling the woman skin he's wearing, you've probably got used to that kind of stuff happening. Peter Weller plays a writer/exterminator/fugitive having bad trips on "Bug powder Dust", "Black Meat Powder" and "Mugwump Jism".  The croaky voice Peter Boretski's does for all the creatures is the creepiest thing.

I remember actually watching this back in 1991 and thinking it was the weirdest thing I'd ever seen.  In the end, I can't say I exactly liked it, but I did like that it existed.
 

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Il Orfanato (The Orphanage 2007)
Oh, now this is supernatural horror done really well.  To be honest, it’s as much a drama as a horror film as a suspense/mystery.  I just watched Insidious recently, which this shares a lot in common with, but Il Orfanato adds a lot more originality to the mix, and is made with a lot more craft.  I appreciated the extra time taken to make me care about this family and want to see good things happen for this couple in the beginning.  I loved the gorgeous shots of the Spanish coast and the amazing old architecture.  I liked that almost every hint dropped early in the movie becomes relevant later, but that very few of them are obvious until that moment.  There was really a lot of time taken to get this film tweaked just right, and the only sore point to me was that the kid playing Simon really did come across as pretty bratty a lot of the time.  The whole film kind of seems like an indictment of so-called “free range” parenting, but I’m not nurturing enough to think that little s**ts don’t have it coming.  lol
 
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
an interesting movie!  I saw this classic for the first time this Halloween, and it’s such an odd film.  The tone is kind of all-over-the-place between horror and suspense and black humor and earnest romance.  It’s got an honesty to it that holds it all together though, despite some less-than-stellar acting.  I won’t say that the special effects all hold up at this point (almost 40 years later!) but they’re still pretty fascinating.  There are some really interesting choices here too, for instance, about showing the pain of a werewolf transformation, or the kind of juxtaposition of these foppish Londoners as prey and this rambunctious American as predator.  (Make of that what you will.)  I don’t know as I’d say that this is a ‘must-watch’ at this point, but there’s certainly enough interesting stuff here to warrant a modern remake (if they really invested enough to make it look good).
 

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The Shallows (2016)

shallows-ban.jpg


I like survival movies - All is Lost, United 93, Buried... I haven't seen 127 Hours, but I want to. I don't, however, like Jaws - sure, the first half (tourist town social satire) is pretty good, but the second half, in which the shark becomes an evil, obsessed predator that attacks a freakin' fishing boat, is too silly and unrealistic to be endured. Perhaps The Shallows is more credible?

Sadly, no. This shark is also nonsensically fixated on a particular human, in spite of a nearby dead whale in the water as well as several other kills it scores over the flick's brief run. What's more, the third act action finale is an eye-rolling cartoon. As others have stated, there's some fan editing potential in trimming unnecessary exposition and a lame coda, but for nautical danger, I'll stick with In the Heart of the Sea, thanks... even if it lacks Blake Lively in a wetsuit, which is altogether too rare a feature of contemporary cinema.

Grade: C
 

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Gaslight (1940)
This British original is a shade better than the 1944 Hollywood remake. Anton Walbrook (one of my all-time favourite actors) is far superior to Charles Boyer. Walbrook brings that same intoxicating mix of charm, seduction and tyrannical menace that he exudes in 1948's 'The Red Shoes'. On the other hand, Diana Wynyard is no match for Ingrid Bergman in the later MGM version. The young detective played by Joseph Cotten in the US film is fine but the mischievous old pipe-smoking retired Policeman 'B.G. Rough' in the original is so damn good. I wish Frank Pettingell had gone on to play him in a series of amateur sleuth movies. I'm glad MGM were unsuccessful in their attempt to have all materials of this film destroyed, so I can enjoy it in a nice BFI 2K transfer today. Fans of Psychological Alfred Hitchcock murder-mysteries will find much to enjoy in Thorold Dickinson's movie.

 

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Still catching up on my creepy movies from Halloween... 
Frankenstein (1931)
Guys, do you know more than the broad strokes of this movie?  I can only imagine what audiences thought in 1931, but watching it today: I was shocked to realize this is not a good movie!  It takes Mary Shelley’s poignant meditation on the barrier between life and death and honestly makes a mockery of it.
 
A lot of attention is given to elements that weren’t in the original story, like the grotesque caricature of Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant Fritz, who is cruel and hateful seemingly just as a plot device.  For like no reason, Fritz is insistent on trying to beat the monster with a flaming torch and a whip, so the Doctor decides to go upstairs and read a book.  Then when the Monster kills Fritz and is vengeful towards the Doctor, he acts surprised like “how could this all go so wrong!?”
 
The trappings of modern horror movies are all here… continuity errors, logic errors in the plot (e.g. why is the Doctor surprised to find the hanged man has a broken neck?), unbelievable acting, and some bad special effects.  But the worst problem is they try to take the story and turn it into another British tale of drama in the aristocracy.  Because after you’ve brought the dead to life, you really need to take time off to plan your wedding.
 
There are 2 standout scenes however.  The “It’s alive!” scene is actually pretty compelling, and also when the Monster (who we’ve seen kill people quite easily) approaches a little girl by a lake.  There’s also a nice bit of photography with the burning windmill at the end framed up on the hill.  But the events leading up to the ending are so stupid and contrived as to be insulting to the audience. 

Just go read the book by Mary Shelley and just watch Boris Karloff’s scene with the girl by the lake on Youtube.  

Night of the Hunter (1955)
{The trailer gives too much away in my opinion...this video is better and shows some amazing shots...}

Another classic, this one has some real magic to it.  Yes, given the era it was made in, it's pretty stagey in some places.  You have to make allowances for several scenes of characters delivering speeches out towards the audience as if we were watching a play.  And tonally, it's very uneven.  But there are good stretches with some really haunting cinematography, and Robert Mitchum's iconic performance really anchors this thing.

I was surprised to find this was the first and last film directed by veteran actor Charles Laughton.  Apparently it was a troubled production, with botched marketing, and was panned on release.  So Laughton decided never to direct again, which is a real shame.  This is far from a perfect film, and I think it has a couple of false endings, but it showed the beginning of a great directing career.  It was also the 2nd-to-last film for the main child actor, Billy Chapin, who was a lot more interesting than most 11-year-olds I've seen in films.  Of course, he later got into drugs and alcohol, as so many child stars do.

I'd love to see this remade, possibly framed in a different time period, with the script fleshed out more in the beginning and ended sooner.  It's well worth a watch.
 

TM2YC

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^ There is a making of with hours of extra takes, if you fancied doing a fanedit.

The official BFI 38th best British film ever...

The Commitments (1991)
Director Alan Parker takes us into the brief rise and fall of a Dublin soul band, the recruiting, rehearsals, bad first gig, the gig where it all clicks etc. The live music is some of the best I've seen in a film, singer Andrew Strong has a raw soul voice to rival the greats. Off stage, the band argue viciously and comically, spewing every swear word under the sun at each other with venom. There isn't much actual plot but who cares when you're watching talents like this, with a big smile on your face.


 

mnkykungfu

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TM2YC said:
^ There is a making of with hours of extra takes, if you fancied doing a fanedit.

The official BFI 38th best British film ever...

I would have to be very passionate about it to put in that time and effort, which I'm not.  It's a fascinating film as it is, but I'd rather see a professional remake than try to fanedit it.  The way Hollywood goes, I'm surprised they haven't done it yet.

I don't put much stock in critics' lists, btw.  They always skew too artsy and like to fashion themselves quite smart after the fact.  I have great respect for films which can repeatedly capture an audience and move them, more so than ones which indulge the director and a dedicated group of cinephiles.  In fancier days, they probably would've called me a Philistine.
 

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I don't put much stock in critics' lists, btw.  They always skew too artsy and like to fashion themselves quite smart after the fact.

I find them a great way to discover films but yes they are often too pretentious.

Serpico (1973)
Top-class biopic of NYPD whistle-blower Frank Serpico from Director Sidney Lumet. Coming off his star making turn in 'The Godfather', Al Pacino is at his prime (back when it wasn't all shouting). Filmed on location in the "mean streets" of New York, Lumet makes the city look like a crumbling, rat-infested toilet, as physically corrupt as the force that patrols it. Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis (discovered by Michael Powell) delivers a prominent and emotional score to rival the best of Ennio Morricone. 'Serpico' shows how being the one sane person in a world of madmen can make you lose your mind.

 

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Are there any good and accurate movie adaptations of Frankenstein?
 

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@"mnkykungfu" I feel about Dracula the way you feel about Frankenstein. I love the book, but have been dissapointed at the lack of any good attempt at adapting the excellent story held within the pages.

I feel the opposite to you on Frankenstein, however. I think the novel is overrated, and I much prefer the original universal horror film. I can see where you're coming from though, and everything you've highlighted as the film's strengths are what I would also consider to be it's best aspects.
 

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jrWHAG42 said:
Are there any good and accurate movie adaptations of Frankenstein?

The 3-hour-ish 1973 TV movie 'Frankenstein: The True Story' is the best IMO:



It's got the feel of a Hammer production but more in depth. The portrayal of the creature as very human, intelligent and sympathetic is great. Some bits are accurate, some not. I hope they do a blu-ray one day.
 

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I suppose I should've said "accurate and/or good". I don't think a movie adaptation necessarily has to be completely accurate to be good. But bonus points if it's both accurate and good for the most part. I'm explaining badly.

I'll definitely check this out though, thank you!
 

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TM2YC said:
I find them a great way to discover films but yes they are often too pretentious.

Totally.  Most of the reason I still listen to movie podcasts and check out lists is for discovery.
 
jrWHAG42 said:
Are there any good and accurate movie adaptations of Frankenstein?

Kenneth Branagh's '94 adaptation is typically considered to be the most accurate, so much so that the actual title of the film is Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.  This, despite that it did attempt to adapt elements from The Bride of Frankenstein, widely considered to be the best Frankenstein film.  However, the '94 film is not really that good....

There is a great quote on this from its screenwriter, Frank Darabont: "There's a weird doppelganger effect when I watch the movie. It's kind of like the movie I wrote, but not at all like the movie I wrote. It has no patience for subtlety. It has no patience for the quiet moments. It has no patience period. It's big and loud and blunt and rephrased by the director at every possible turn. Cumulatively, the effect was a totally different movie. I don't know why Branagh needed to make this big, loud film ... the material was subtle. Shelley's book was way out there in a lot of ways, but it's also very subtle. I don't know why it had to be this operatic attempt at filmmaking. Shelley's book is not operatic, it whispers at you a lot. The movie was a bad one. That was my Waterloo."

He nails the problem with the film.  On the other hand, Roger Ebert nails the positive: "I admired the scenes with De Niro [as the "Creature"] so much I'm tempted to give Mary Shelley's Frankenstein a favorable verdict. But it's a near miss. The Creature is on target, but the rest of the film is so frantic, so manic, it doesn't pause to be sure its effects are registered."

The film nails the nuance of the Monster/Creature in that he in some ways becomes a more fully-realized human than his creator.  They have a weird relationship, inextricable, the created mired in the failings of the creator.  It seems to be a commentary on God and Man, and also on the Writer and their Work.  But it works as pure fiction, as well.  DeNiro nails it, and I almost say it's worth watching just for him.
 
The Scribbling Man said:
@"mnkykungfu" I feel about Dracula the way you feel about Frankenstein. I love the book, but have been dissapointed at the lack of any good attempt at adapting the excellent story held within the pages.

I feel the opposite to you on Frankenstein, however. I think the novel is overrated, and I much prefer the original universal horror film. I can see where you're coming from though, and everything you've highlighted as the film's strengths are what I would also consider to be it's best aspects.

I have the great luxury of not having read the original novel, and so being of the right age and sentiment to enjoy Copolla's film (despite its shortcomings).  In fact, I tried to read the novel several times (at far too young an age) and just couldn't get very far in.  I found it incredibly dry and dusty, but I should give it another go now.
 
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