Badlands


Viewed – 25 May 2019. Blu-ray

When I heard this 1973 drama was getting a release on the UK division of The Criterion Collection, for a film I had always wanted to see in its entirety – I jumped at the chance. Loosely based on the true story of the state-to-state murder spree of Charles Starkweather and his 14 year old girlfriend Caril Anne Fugate … this changes the names and certain incidents to explore an unconventional love story between Martin Sheen’s Kit and Sissy Spacek’s Holly as they go on the run across the badlands of Montana.

Director Terence Malick, a celebrated auteur delivers an atmospheric, particularly artsy drama that’s never quite as exciting or eventful as it’s premise suggests, going more for a love letter to the American wilderness, some rather gorgeous vistas and an exploration of young love with the backdrop of gradually increasing violence. Spacek narrates like a love sick school kid and her reactions to Kit’s murderous ways are naive and dismissive, which creates a bit of a weird vibe. The influences this later had on movies like True Romance and Natural Born Killers are obvious, but its not quite as entertaining as those movies and is more a movie of ‘it’s time’ and should probably be appreciated as such.

Sheen & Spacek are both very watchable and Sheen has probably never been more iconic what with his James Dean swagger. The movie also has an enjoyably whimsical atmosphere, which I suppose gives the whole thing its own identity. Worth a watch then, but for me hardly essential.

The Criterion Collection once again delivers. The movie whilst often rather soft focus has had the full 4k restoration treatment, and looks great, showcasing the movies naturalistic photography well. The soundtrack whilst only in uncompressed mono is clear and effective-enough. Extras although nearly all archive are plentiful with a 42 minute making of, interviews and an episode of American Justice exploring the real-life crimes of Charles Starkweather. There’s also detailed booklet included, boasting an essay by filmmaker Michael Almereyda. No audio commentary is a bit of a shame but this is otherwise solid treatment for a cult favourite that’s fascinating and enjoyable but not quite the ‘classic’ it’s often celebrated as.

Verdict:

(the movie) 3 /5

(the Blu-ray) 4 /5

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Carrie


Viewed – 09 January 2017  Blu-ray

I have memories of this 1976 horror classic as being really unsettling and disturbing, and recall catching it on TV a long time ago, back when I was first discovering horror.  Based on the Stephen King book of the same name, incidentally the famed author’s debut – this tells the simple story of an outcast school girl, bullied by other students and living in the shadow of a controlling, deeply religious mother.  However Carrie hides a secret, the fact she can movie objects with her mind, and sometimes experiences such power manifesting when she’s at her most troubled.

CarrieBrian DePalma’s movie is mostly a teen drama; an exploration of youth and peer pressure from woman’s perspective.  To this extent it’s a very feminist movie with strong themes of puberty, menstruation and womanhood.  It’s also of that glut of religion themed horrors that over-flowed from the 70s, like The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby even if it’s never quite as gritty or unsettling as those two.  Add in elements of exploitation movies and schlocky-horror of the time and quite a cocktail we have.  Sissy Spacek as the title character is mesmerizing and iconic, but then again so is Piper Laurie as her nutty mother who gets all the best lines and is probably the real creep factor of the show.  Add to this decent runs from Amy Irving, a bitchy Nancy Allen (Dressed to Kill, RoboCop) and a memorable John Travolta and this ticks all the boxes.

Piper LaurieI didn’t find it anywhere near as scary as I remembered, and it’s occasional light, almost comedic moments sit uneasy with the horror.  This is however a movie where DePalma shows his true colours, with a mostly haunting, dream-like atmosphere throughout, leading to a stunning, still show-stopping finally that sent equal amounts of shivers and relish through me as Carrie takes her vengeance.  For me it remains one of the most heart-stopping moments in cinema history.  With this movie DePalma brings together all the techniques he’d honed in the earlier years.  It’s as showy and eye-catching as you may expect from the director but also surprisingly touching and sweet, which you may not expect considering the movie’s legacy.  It’s also a lot better than any carbon copy remake.

Arrow Video Limited EditionI managed to pick up the limited edition version of the Arrow Video blu-ray and well, what can I say?  The packaging firstly is stellar, housed in a nice slip case that has a 40 page booklet, art cards and a poster.  Also, the movie is in great shape.  The 4K restored image is vibrant and detailed despite an intentionally soft-focus look, and sound is also excellent with clear dialogue and an especially thumping soundtrack when the prom (from hell) occurs.  We get soundtracks in both the original 2.0 stereo as well as very good 5.1 DTS Master Audio.  Add to this the disk itself being filled with extras, with a brand new audio commentary from two film critics that is both funny and fascinating, and a wealth of features comprising of interviews, behind the scenes footage, location footage and explorations of all the various version of Carrie that have been made, from remakes to a musical(?).  The absence of both King or to a lesser extent Travolta is disappointing, however this is a small niggle for what is mostly an exhaustive and epic release.

Verdict:

(the movie)  4 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5

Carrie


Viewed – 15 April 2014  online rental

It’s difficult to really say what we as movie lovers actually want from a remake.  In my opinion they have usually only worked when the source material is ropey or lacking in the first place, with some exceptions of course.  So now we come to what was possibly one of my most dreaded rehashes.  First mistake – remake a bonafide classic of the genre, Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s debut novel.  Second mistake – the casting of pretty starlet Chloe Grace Moretz, something I have ranted about here on this very blog.

Carrie

But brushing such fears aside, what is it actually like?  Well let’s back track a little and tell you what we have here.  Moretz plays lonely, bullied high school kid Carrie White, who lives in the shadow of her god-fearing, domineering mother (Julianne Moore) and pretty much tries to go unnoticed … until that is she gets her period in the school showers and becomes a cruel laughing stock to everyone who witnesses it.  But hey, Prom Night is on the horizon, so things can only get better … right?

Let’s just say straight away, I was wrong about Chloe Grace Moretz.  She is actually surprisingly convincing as the outcast Carrie, something I didn’t see coming and hey I’ll admit when I am wrong.  She portrays the iconic role previously played by Sissy Spacek very well indeed, and even seems to have grown somewhat as an actress in the process.  The second slam dunk is Julianne Moore – absolutely perfect as Carrie’s demented bible-quoting mother, and does the impossible by equalling the performance of the excellent Piper Laurie – possibly the true highlight of the original.  The rest of the cast aren’t quite so interesting; we get the token popular girl who grows a conscience, the bully who basically is like every other bitch in such movies, and the do-gooder gym teacher … all not adding much.  Director Kimberly Pierce however is clearly well-traversed in De Palma’s movie and this is basically a very close never-really-daring-to-try-anything-new sort of remake – although when the original pretty much hit all the right notes, that can be (mostly) forgiven.

Some bits are drawn out (the car sequence…), there’s too much CGI and the final prom bit fails to go for the jugular … oh and sorry Chloe you don’t look scary covered in blood.  Yet this was still better than I expected.  Worth a look.

Verdict:  3 /5

Everything right and wrong about Chloe Grace Moretz


chloe_moretz_14-wide

Now before you think this is going to be some sort of character assassination post … I personally am a fan of this talented young actress.  I thought she stole the show in the movie Kick-Ass, a role that deservedly launched her to stardom.  Yet the next thing I saw her in was a remake of the excellent Swedish vampire flick ‘Let The Right One In’.

chloe-moretz-let-me-in_edited  lina leanderson

Now the problem I have with such role choices she seems to be making (or her agent is) is that following a relatively daring turn in Kick-Ass the logical next step is to turn to horror roles?  Erm, why?  In the original movie they chose a pale, gothic looking actress in the form of Lina Leandersson (right) and it was perfect.  Why was Moretz wrong for the remake?  She’s too cute and pretty to believably come off as a vampire that’s hundreds of years old!  No I say!  That and many other mistakes the questionable retitled ‘Let Me In’ made.  Yet for some reason her agent (or herself) repeated this casting error with the recent remake of ‘Carrie’.

carrie

I haven’t actually seen this movie although I plan to, but again she’s replacing an actress (Sissy Spacek – right) who was cast for her plain, wall-flower look, and again Moretz is too pretty for the role!  This is meant to be a bullied, picked on character … and I imagine Moretz would be fairly popular in school!   I may be wrong about this but it made me immediately doubt the credibility of the performance and the subsequent reviews seem to support my theory.

Now look at her in a movie like Hugo, perfect … quirky, cute and likable – even returning to Kick-Ass 2 will undoubtedly work I’d imagine (another one of my to-watch movies).  So I sincerely hope that in the future Chloe Grace Moretz starts going after roles that suit her look and style, not dark horror roles better suited to dark, gothic actresses … perhaps its cool she has such diverse career opportunities, and she has the talent, is funny, charming and deserves to do well … just perhaps leave the remakes alone unless you’re really right for the character, huh?