Hugo is Martin Scorsese's love letter to cinema. It's a gorgeous film set in 1930s Paris and centers on a young orphan boy who lives secretly inside a train station.
Before dying his father taught him how to mend clocks and he spends his time tinkering with intricate mechanisms and mechanics. He meets a girl and together they try to unlock a mystery to a secret past. What they discover is a world of pure magic... a lost history of cinema. This is a film made with love. In between making films Scorsese invests his time finding and restoring lost classics and so Hugo is obviously very personal to him. The legendary filmmaker of old featured in the film is Georges Méliès, portrayed wonderfully by Ben Kingsley. Having studied film myself I knew all about his career and have seen many of his silent flicks at various cinema screenings... the retelling of his career is handled affectionately and faithfully. Obviously a necessary level of liberty and fantasy is put into his story but it is nonetheless an educational and fascinating lesson in film history. All of the players are wonderful and the film's aesthetic is classic. Filmed in 3D it avoids the gimmickry and uses the medium as a strength. There are no cheap FX and the story comes first. Hugo plays like a cross between Cinema Paradiso and Amalie. A flawless movie going experience.
When I was a kid I used to trawl through my local video store in Lower Plenty, looking at all of the wonderful covers and renting weird and wonderful movies that only I gave a shit about. Troll 2 is a movie that left an imprint in my head. It confused me. I had seen the first movie and it made sense to me... but part two was a real oddity. The impression it left me with was of a nonsensical mess. There weren't any trolls in the movie (they're Goblins) and there was NO connection with the first movie at all. The acting was deplorable and the make up was hilarious. But as terrible as it was, I remember watching it many times and I don't really know why. Turns out I wasn't alone. The lead actor in the movie was a 12 year old kid named Michael Stephenson. Now almost 20 years later he has directed this wonderfully reminiscent documentary, Best Worst Movie, celebrating Troll 2 and capturing it's resurgence as a cult phenomenon. All of the original cast appear on camera to talk about the movie as well as it's narcissistic Italian director Claudio Fragasso who completely misunderstands the global ridicule and sincerely believes he made a masterpiece. LOL There's no denying there's a magic to Troll 2. If you've seen it then you probably enjoyed it because of how bad it is. Like a classic Ed Wood movie, it is snowballing into a classic in itself. Best Worst Movie is a nod to film geeks around the world. Those real fanboy types who revel in the abnormal and applaud the awfulness. I'm proud to be one of these people (remember my Troma sessions anyone?) and I want to everyone to see Best Worst Movie so that maybe they too can get in on this trashy movie love-fest... sadly I'll probably remain a loner when it comes to this shit. LOL. Best Worst Movie... WIN! if you've never seen Troll 2, do yourself a favour and YouTube "Troll 2 Oh My God". Priceless!
With such a solid tv series behind it, the chances of The Inbetweeners movie exheeding expectations was unlikely. It's not that good. Now graduated, the 4 lads embark on a Greek holiday with the intention of banging every single woman. Of course they arrive to a cesspool hotel (Revenge of the Nerds 2 anyone?), end up in rank nightclubs and are oblivious to any actual female attention they attract. It's pretty standard stuff and as can be expected, its vulgar. I do admit to a few absolute laugh out loud moments (the dance sequence, priceless) but they're really few and far between. Performances are great but it's a wafer thin movie that would have served much better as a 1 hour tv special. Watching it reminded me of Kevin & Perry Go Large and it suffers the same fate. It's a shame too and hopefully they can recognise where they went wrong and turn out a belter of a sequel!
Dolphin Tale is a re-hash of Free Willy. Both feature mammals in distress (at an aquarium) and young boys who form bonds with the creatures. All of the regular hallmarks there and the movie's destination is obvious. But they're not negatives... both movies are based on true stories and so beneath all of the sappy Hollywood drivel there is a decent story at play. Dolphin Tale is a heartwarming story about a young dolphin who is found beached and tangled in fishing nets. His tail has lost circulation and is amputated. The movie then follows the rehabilitation as a prosthetic doctor (Morgan Freeman) develops a series of replacement tails. It is a heart warming movie and perfect for kids. What adds to the "true" part of the story is a final credits montage of footage of the real story. It features real home videos captured by the rescue team and shows the dolphin's progress from its rescue to it's prosthesis. It's quite beautiful and a worthy watch when you're looking for a lift.
80s movies are such a huge comfort for me. They're like reminiscing about the 'good ol' days'. Down And Out In Beverly Hills is a movie I remember my parents renting on VHS when it was a new release. I sat up and watched it with them and while I didn't really comprehend the story, there were certain images that stuck with me. I've watched it a few times over the years and again just now. It a fun movie. A homeless bum, Jerry (Nick Nolte), attempts suicide in the backyard pool of a Beverly Hills millionaire couple (Richard Dreyfus & Bette Midler). He is rescued by Dreyfus and given a room in the house. It's then a case of two worlds colliding with a series of comical situations which eventually turn into something more tender. Nick Nolte is great and Richard Dreyfus is excellent as always. I love him! To this day whenever I think of Nick Nolte I immediately picture him eating dog food out of a doggy bowl. hehehe. Down And Out In Beverly Hills brings back some good memories.
Audrey Rose was poorly received when it was first released. It came at a time when films like The Exorcist, The Omen and Carrie were dominating theatre screens. It was considered a poor clone back then but now time has served it well and 35 years later the film sets itself apart from the others. It's a much gentler film than the other ones but it maintains a creepy aura that offers a few decent chills. The story is about an 11 year old girl who suffers severe night terrors. Meanwhile a strange man (Anthony Hopkins) seems to be following the girl. He eventually comes forward claiming that the girl is in fact his own daughter reincarnated. The film explores a split personality as a tortured soul of a 5 year old girl overcomes an 11 year old through a series of violent night terrors. It seems that the little girl's moment of death is relived during sleep. The imagery is creepy and some scenes foreshadow that Japanese style made famous in Ringu and Grudge. A good portion of the film also takes place in a court room and I couldn't help but think this served as some kind of inspiration for The Exorcism Of Emily Rose. Hopkins is great and Susan Swift is affective as the tormented daughter. I'm glad I revisited Audrey Rose... when distanced from those other "possession" movies of the 70s, it's an engaging psychological thriller that stands up well with age.
During the 70s and 80s Stephen King wrote several novels under a pseudonym, Richard Bachman. It was sort of a social experiment testing whether it was his celerity or talent which sold books. He was eventually ousted by a bookworm and used the opportunity to fess up and then publicly kill Bachman. "Cancer of the pseudonym" was the cause of death.... in response to all of this King wrote his novel, The Dark Half. The film adaptation is directed by horror maestro George Romero and stars Timothy Hutton. Its the story of an author, Thad Beaumont, who is forced to kill his alter ego when a reader discovers his secret and tries to blackmail him. Straight after this publicity stunt a series of murders occur. Thad's inner dark half is George Stark and he threatens to keep killing until more novels are written under his name. Stephen King's work can get deeply psychological and this is a great example. In terms of King's horror adaptations, this rates up with The Shining and Carrie. Its a well crafted mind-fuck full of potent imagery and graphic violence. Romero brings the story to life with a nightmarish vision that blurs reality with psychosis. Timothy Hutton is fantastic and relishes the due roles. High praise for this movie!
Tower Heist is far-fetched, ridiculous and entirely implausible... and it's heaps fun! Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick and Casey Affleck headline a strong cast and Brett Ratner again proves to be an accomplished comedy-action director. The story is simple; a group of people fall victim to a billionaire's fraudulent ponzi scheme and plot a revenge heist to rob him of millions. Completely inexperienced they enlist the help of a street thief (Murphy) to hatch a plan which involves evading FBI agents, a hi-tech security system and a hidden safe. It's stupid stuff but the movie is well aware of it's own absurdity. It plays out like Oceans 11 meets The Pink Panther and the laughs are plenty. If you go into this with low expectations than you are sure to come away from it well amused and entertained. The highlight for me was Eddie Murphy's performance. This is a real return to form as he channels his 20 year old self from movies like 48 Hours and Beverly Hills Cop. He is on fire and delivers easily his best performance in a very long time. My fingers are crossed that it's a resurrection of his adult-career. Director Brett Ratner has been attached to the on-and-off production of Beverly Hills Cop 4 and if Tower Heist serves as a warm up, I am confident he can serve up the goods. This is heaps fun.
'Redemption' opens with the most stupid voice over. The American civil war has just ended and the unknown voice is of a man still filled with anger. He prats on about the seasons all blending into each other and it is immediately clear that this is a movie written by a low-rent, self absorbed try hard... tempted to turn it off, I persisted for longer because the cinematography was seemingly good. Sadly within a few more minutes the photography diminished into Mini-DV quality with all of the characters looking like those tacky tourist park reenactment performers... I love films about the civil war. It's a captivating moment in history which has been represented well on film over the years. I got as far as 25 minutes into Redemption before I turned it off. Herein lies the end of this review.
I can't explain why I persist with the Wrong Turn movies. The first was a great little take on the redneck/backwoods genre. I guess I'm a glutton for punishment. My excitement was quickly trampled with part 2 and again with part 3. Talk about terrible, tacky and low grade sequels... so why did I bother with number 4? I guess there's a faint hope that it will come full circle again... the good news is that Wrong Turn 4 is easily the best of the sequels. Cinematically it is a return to the theatrical look of the first movie. The story is a prequel (these are grinding on me) and takes place in an abandoned mental asylum which is hidden in the Virginian wilderness. The movie's prelude shows that Three Fingers and his family from previous movies were patients who escaped and slaughtered the staff. Cut to 2003 and a group of snowboarders find themselves stuck at the asylum during a blizzard... and the usual carnage begins. It's packed with gore but there's nothing more to it. Its pretty shit... LOL. The winter setting is a welcome change to the series but that can't save it alone. Part 5 is in production and some fucked up thing in me will watch it. And it's going to suck!
It occurred to me that I haven't reviewed Richard Stanley's 1990 film Hardware. Considering that it is amongst my top 10 favourite films of all time I figure it deserves a nod. Set in a post apocalyptic world it's about a decrepit and broken down android that's retrieved from a scrapheap and restored, unaware of it's history. The robot comes alive with a preselected objective to kill and engages on a mission to slaughter. If you're a genre fan you will get a kick out of Hardware. Its a gritty, hardcore and ultra violent descent into an insane universe blending science fiction with horror... Hollywood director Stephen Norrington (Blade) tried to replicate it in 94 with his movie 'Death Machine' but its pretty damn average and so Stanley's Hardware is affectively a one of the kind movie. Dylan McDermott leads the film with support from Iggy Pop, Lemmy and Carl McCoy.
Those of you who actually read my reviews will know that I am generous with my praise of films... but that said, I rarely consider a film to be perfect. I have just watched one such film; The Return. This Russian film tells the story of two brothers who were raised by their mother. After a 10 year absence their father returns from out of the blue and takes them away on a short holiday. The boys don't know where they are going and are apprehensive of this stranger who has just entered their lives. He is strict and merciless and puts the two sons to the ultimate test. Isolated in the wilderness the three of them hardly communicate and live off the bare necessities. This is a haunting and stark moviegoing experience. So much is left unsaid and frustration plays an overwhelming part in the journey. I imagine a lot of viewers will hate it though but I won't mention why. Cinematically its beautiful. Every shot is perfectly framed and gentle pans slowly sweep across the landscapes. The tone is grey, wet and dreary adding a sombre mood to an already gloomy story. It's superbly acted and adding a sad note to a beautiful film is that fact that the actor who played the eldest brother drowned only days after finishing the film. He never got to see it finished. His performance is elevated.
My 10 year old step son is starting to discover horror films. Of course at that age he is impressionable and so it's been a careful ease into various films. Vampires and Werewolves are of particular interest (thanks to Buffy) to him and he's completely fascinated by the rules and mythos of these creatures. So tonight we sat down and watched Silver Bullet. This Stephen King adaptation is, IMO, one of the great werewolf movies made. It rates highly alongside American Werewolf In London and The Howling. The fascinating thing about Silver Bullet is that the film is told through the eyes of a 10 year old boy. The narrative plays out very much like a family film that's been injected with potent doses of grown up stuff. The violence is brief but intense. Most of the killings are suggested and little is shown on the screen. I was unsure how my son would react to the intensity of this movie but he certainly showed me. Not only did he lap it up, but he also approached it really maturely. He understood the implications and even pinned who the killer was before a lot of adults would have. It's probably as extreme as I am willing to go with him in terms of movies but the satisfying thing is watching him process it all. He fully comprehends the fantasy of it and embraces the fun. He also uses his fears creatively. IF he has nightmares he wakes up and writes them down as ideas for stories he writes. Bring on the teenage years when we can really start getting into the super fun stuff!! hehehehe. Silver Bullet rules!
You can tell from recent reviews that I am exploring a heap of Disney's forgotten gems... and I have just watched something remarkable.
I have held movies like K2 and Touching The Void as benchmarks in mountaineering films but I recently discovered the 1959 Disney film 'Third Man On The Mountain' and it rests firmly on the mantle. Set in Switzerland during the Golden Age Of Alpinism it's the story of a 18 year old boy, Rudi, who aspires to concur the region's most notorious and treacherous mountain, The Citadel. His father died sixteen years earlier attempting to climb it and no man dared step foot on it again. Considered to be cursed by locals, Rudi is forbidden to climb it, however with the encouragement of a famous mountaineer he sets out to defy all critics. This is really an incredible film... consider that it was made in 1959, the climbing scenes are some of the most spectacular ever filmed. Shot on location (mostly) these climbers defeat gravity with nothing but a coil of rope. This film defies logic and given its year of production, it puts the other aforementioned MODERN films to shame. The cinematography is spectacular and every scene on the mountain is breathtaking. This is what cinema is all about. Excitement and adventure at its best and a timeless classic that should be seen by all.
Some trivia for you too. Disneyand's "Matterhorn" was inspired by this film. =)
"Follow Me, Boys!" is a Disney film which managed to evade me. I have just watched it for the first time and it's movies like this that are the very reason why I love cinema so much. This is an absolutely fantastic flick. I have always loved Frederick MacMurray and his films such as The Egg & I, Double Indemnity and Dive Bomber have been staple favourites for a long time. Having now seen Follow Me Boys it's clear that we have a new contender. He is just so good. He plays a travelling jazz musician on tour who decides to pack it all in for the quiet life. Arriving in a small town he soon finds himself volunteering to be a scout leader to help keep the rowdy kids off the street. His commitment soon becomes a lifestyle and before he knows it the whole town respects and idolises him. His wife is played by Vera Miles who is not only dead-set gorgeous in the film but she is also amazing. It's probably one of her most understated performances. If you catch this some time, pay attention to her subtle expressions. This was also Kurt Russell's first Disney contract film at the age of 13 and he is also solid and affective. Watching this also struck me with it's similarities to Mr Holland's Opus (or rather the other way around). A VERY similar formula with almost all the same hallmarks.
"Follow Me, Boys!" is a loving salute to the Boy Scouts of America that's impossible to resist. It certainly kept me smiling for it's entire 130 minute length. Well worth the purchase!