…and so we reach the final quarter, and with the last three months, some gems appeared and a few not so gem-like…. enjoy.
October – December
October started off with the enjoyable but underwhelming Scream 4 that considering the long gap between that and the last movie, delivered clever ideas, but not much new. Revisiting the Star Wars saga continued with four of the six movies being viewed and reviewed, which was exhaustive to say the least, but very memorable … and documentary-style sci-fi drama Monsters impressed with great performances and a very convincing atmosphere.
Drive Angry was a fun road-movie come horror actioner, with a great Nicolas Cage and a sexy-as-hell Amber Heard. Not a bad way to start off November. Justine Timberlake made for a credible action hero in sci-fi thriller In Time, and Spanish chiller Julia’s Eyes delivered tension, good performances and brilliantly executed scares. It was great to view The Lion King again, in pin-sharp Blu-ray, and also a second viewing of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds proved it to be a better movie than I had originally realised. The Strangers however was disappointing and predictable, and really, the premise was done better in French horror Ils (aka Them).
December kicked off with David Lynch’s classic Blue Velvet, a creepy and erotic masterpiece. It was good to see Terry Gilliam back on form with The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus, which proved he’s lost none of his bonkers brilliance. And although I usually avoid remakes, The Thing showed that revisiting a classic and throwing in a few new ideas and a good cast, can make it work. On Christmas Eve I checked out the much hyped Super 8 which despite aiming for 80s family movie nostalgia, just felt old-fashioned and lacking in its own identity.
So, now you must be asking yourself, with all these movies in mind, what will make the final Top Ten. Well, you will just have to wait until later today. Happy New Year!!
- Terry Gilliam: ‘I’m not sure I’ll direct again’ (digitalspy.co.uk)
- 2011 a look back – part three (themoviereport.net)
- Top 15 Movies I Didn’t See in 2011 Because They Looked Terrible (geektyrant.com)
Viewed – 18 December 2011 Blu-ray
At one time, the name John Carpenter was a seal of quality. During the late seventies and much of the eighties, the acclaimed director was responsible for some of the most enjoyable and well-crafted movies out there, including gems like Halloween, The Thing, Escape From New York and Big Trouble In Little China. I’ll even add the much underrated In The Mouth Of Madness to that list. Seriously, he barely put a foot wrong. Then with the dawn of the nineties, his output began to get much less critical and commercial acclaim … and ever since, the director has struggled to get his mojo back.
So this recent directorial outing caught my eye, and has been hyped in some quarters as Carpenter’s big come back. Telling the tale of Kristen (the increasingly likable Amber Heard), who following the burning down of a house, is committed to a psychiatric hospital. There she meets a group of girls all with their own problems. Yet along with the oppressive nurses, orderlies and a nice but creepy doctor, there is a malevolent spirit lurking in the corridors, who begins to kill off the girls one by one.
This is very clichéd material, but is shot with a degree of style and foreboding atmosphere. Carpenter still knows how to crank up the tension and deliver some well timed jump-scares, but with a female, living-dead villain and personality-free characters this offers very little that hasn’t been done before – and better. The movie does improve during the closing moments and offers up some good ideas, but by then it feels like the director or scriptwriter suddenly realised how unimaginative their movie was, and quickly tacked on a ‘look how clever we are’ ending – which in fact, isn’t all that clever, and I’m sure has been done before.
On its own merits, its entertaining and at a mere 88 minutes, doesn’t exactly out-stay it’s welcome. But for a movie by John Carpenter, this is woefully inadequate and painfully formulaic. He used to be ‘the man’. Now it’s obvious, he’s become just another has-been. Very sad.
Verdict: 2.5 /5
- DVD Review: John Carpenter’s The Ward (filmophilia.com)
- John Carpenter’s ‘The Ward’ Fails to Live Up to the Horror Legend’s Legacy (selfproclaimedmegalomaniac.wordpress.com)
- At Last, The Thing Gets Its Prequel (wired.com)
Viewed – 06 November 2011 Blu-ray
As has often been said, Nicolas Cage seems to take any movie role that’s given to him. The former Oscar-winning actor now seems very happy as a for hire genre actor, more often than not in the kind of movies that would normally go straight to DVD if it wasn’t for his name. This is one such movie … but not one you should pass by too quickly.
Viewed – 15 November 2008 DVD
There really isn’t a great deal to say about this one, it has very little to recommend it over similar stalk ‘n’ slash horrors cramming DVD rental shelves, has a no-name cast and has turned up with very little (positive) word of mouth. Yet I’m a sucker for horror movies with pretty teens running through fields in their undies screaming for help that never comes. So what’s this one all about?
Mandy Lane (pretty but personality-free Amber Heard) is the focal point of every hormonal teenage boys affections in high school, but this virginal sweetie never seems that interested, or maybe she’s just plane shy, and too innocent to let herself be corrupted by the local jock-doosh-bag. Soon though she’s invited away by some friends to a Ranch in (you guessed it) the middle of nowhere, and before you can say ‘I know what you did last summer’ there’s a nutcase stalking them and picking these sex-mad teens off one by one. Now of course, this would normally have me grinning from ear to ear – but this movie just lacked ‘oomph’, had no real decent kills, very little tension, and the bad guy is revealed way to early.
Saying that, we do get a very interesting ending that almost saves this film from bargain-basement hell…but I’m afraid, this was too little too late. To put it simply, I have seen a dozen movies do the concept better than this.
Verdict: 2 /5