Day 309 – V for Vendetta

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Movie Title: V for Vendetta

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 2 hr. 12 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Stephie and J.R.

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

V for Vendetta is a political action thriller and love story based on the graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore. Moore, as his typically crotchety self, did not approve of the film. I disagree with Moore and I believe it is a truly important film that has a message that is even more apt now than at the time of its release.

V for Vendetta is the story of the terrorist V. V (Hugo Weaving) is a man of mystery that has been harmed by the hands of a fascist government. Great Britain has experienced a period of war, disease, and trauma. During this time Adam Sutler (John Hurt) became high chancellor of Great Britain. He now exercises total control over the island of Great Britain. V is determined to fulfill the mission of Guy Fawkes and destroy the British Parliament building. Evey (Natalie Portman) is roped into V’s plot when he rescues her from rape at the hands of the police. V conducts a variety of terrorist activities and assassinations building up to November the 5th when he hopes to inspire a mass uprising against the government.

All of this boils down to a variety of personal relationships. Evey and V’s relationships deepen as they spend more time together while Evey simultaneously ruins lives. This is paired with the story of Inspector Finch (Stephen Rea) who conducts investigations into V’s motives by studying what happened at a detention facility called Larkhill. These relationships become more abstract as they get closer to the point of power. The performances are great. Hugo Weaving is extremely emotive for someone who never shows their face. Natalie Portman demonstrates range down the stretch run of the film. Stephen Rea and Rupert Graves are exceptional as the lead investigators in the terrorism case. Stephen Fry has a touching minor role and the late John Hurt is exceptional in what is essentially a reprisal of his role in 1984.

Verdict:

V for Vendetta is a great story. It is beautifully shot. It has great characters and a timely story. It also has rousing action and a lot of suspense. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)

Day 308 – The Exterminating Angel

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Remember these?

Movie Title: The Exterminating Angel

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

Rated: Not Rated

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

The Exterminating Angel is a masterpiece from the original David Lynch, Luis Bunuel. Bunuel’s plot is heavily influenced by Jean-Paul Sartre’s play No Exit which is one of my favorite plays. After attending an opera, a rich man invites his friends back to his mansion for a sumptuous meal to close out the evening. The party goes well into the night and the servants flee like rats from a burning building. When the party reaches its crescendo in the wee hours of the morning the guests find that an unknown supernatural force is presenting them from leaving and preventing others from entering the building.

There is a lot of surrealist elements in the movie and a lot of Christ imagery. There are herds of lambs that live in and around the mansion. There are frequent promises of religious observation should they be saved from their plight. In the end, religion does not save them. The interactions between the cast are great especially as the togetherness drives them further and further into savagery and desperation.

Verdict:

As Sartre would have said, hell is other people. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: V for Vendetta (2005)

Day 305 & Day 306 & Day 307 – Brotherhood of the Wolf & Unfriended: Dark Web & Solaris (1971)

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Movie Title: Brotherhood of the Wolf

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 2 hr. 22 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

I originally saw this movie in high school and I have wanted to watch it again for a long time. I remembered liking it, but was light on the details. It lived up to the place it had in my memory.

Brotherhood of the Wolf is a genre bending fantasy set in the prelude to the French Revolution. Gregoire de Fronsac and his Native American companion Mani are sent from Versailles to a rural province of France with the purpose of investigating attacks on the local populace. The creature is described as wolf-like, but with monstrous proportions. It is many times the size of a normal wolf and has sharp ridges along its back. Fronsac is a qualified naturalist with combat experience in New France. While searching for the beast Fronsac finds a love interest, cavorts with prostitutes, and dabbles in mysticism all while irritating many of the locals who claim he will never catch the beast. And he doesn’t. Not at first, anyway.

The story is plodding, but multi-layered. It is part political brinksmanship, unconventional martial arts fantasy (a la Crouching Tiger, Hdden Dragon,) and part love story. All three elements balance out the plot well. Vincent Cassel makes one of his early film debuts in this movie in a delightfully twisted role. The creature is delightfully twisted though the special effects have not held up well since 2001. Despite the course of the story it is told from a frame narrative with the ultimate irony that the titular brotherhood pretty much gets its way in the end.

Verdict:

It is a fun, genre bending, movie. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)

 

Movie Title: Unfriended: Dark Web

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Stephie

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Unfriended: Dark Web recycles the same premise of Unfriended, but invents an entirely new story without retaining the supernatural spirit from the original. Matias (Colin Woodell) is having a rough go of it. He is broke, his deaf girlfriend is falling out of love with him, and he has just made a very big mistake. Matias has acquired a new computer. At first he tells everyone that he bought it on Craig’s List and that it has some strange stuff on it, but it soon comes out that he stole the laptop from a local coffeehouse.

It is quickly discovered that the laptop belongs to a member of a mysterious group called Charon that creates and sells extremely high priced snuff films. They are expensive because they are real. As if that is not terrible enough, Matias discovers that the killer is watching him have a group chat with his friends and argument with his girlfriend over the internet. The owner of the computer is in Amaya’s (Stephanie Nogueras) home threatening her life in exchange for the computer. What follows is implausible, yet very entertaining, extortion as Matias and his would be assassin spar with each other through a screen.

Verdict:

It has a great twist that makes the already far fetched movie even more so, but if you just enjoy it for what it is it is highly enjoyable. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Solaris (1971)

 

Movie Title: Solaris (1971)

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 2 hr. 47 min.

Rated: PG

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Last month, I watch Solaris (2002) starring George Clooney which captured part of Stanislaw Lem’s vision of the planet called Solaris. It tended to focus solely on the relationship between the two main characters. The Soviet version directed by acclaimed director Andrei Tarkovsky does a much better job of capturing Lem’s imaginative world.

Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) is a psychologist being sent to determine why all the residents of a space station are out of their gourd. When he arrives he discovers that his close friend Dr. Gabaryin has killed himself and that the other two scientists on the station Snaut and Sartorius are behaving strangely. The planet is mystifying and generates strange cloud structures as well as strange attempts to communicate. This includes sending a version of Khari (Natalya Bondarchuk) to visit Kelvin. Khari is Kelvin’s ex-wife who has been dead for nearly a decade. What follows is a tormented relationship as Kelvin falls in love with a neutrino based life form imitating his wife. He is determined to stay with her and protect her from the scientists. At the same time, he realizes that it is all an illusion generated from the planet. He has a scientific mission to conduct and making contact with the planet is his highest priority. But, he can not reconcile his two desires.

The planet comes to dominate the people more and more as they devise ways to try and understand it. This is much more true to Lem’s vision which focused on both the relationship as well as the exploration. The ending is pure gold.

Verdict:

Solaris is a great story, but this is the superior version on film. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: The Exterminating Angel (1962)

October Summary

October 1st: The Death of Stalin (2018)
October 2nd: Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
October 3rd: War Horse (2011)
October 4th: Ringu (1998)
October 5th: High Tension (2003)
October 6th: Candyman (1992)
October 7th: Pet Sematary (1989)
October 8th: Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell (MST3K) (1988)
October 9th: Black Swan (2010)
October 10th: Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)
October 11th: Re-Animator (1985)
October 12th: The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
October 13th: You’re Next (2011)
October 14th: Creepshow 2 (1987)
October 15th: The Host (2006)
October 16th: Trouble Every Day (2001)
October 17th Videodrome (1983)
October 18th: The Kid (1921)
October 19th: The Night of the Hunter (1955)
October 20th: Halloween (2018)
October 21st: Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)
October 22nd: Solaris (2002)
October 23rd: The Forest (2016)
October 24th: In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
October 25th: Scream 2 (1997)
October 26th: Scream 3 (2000)
October 27th: Scream 4 (2011)
October 28th: Venom (2018)
October 29th: Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
October 30th: Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)
October 31st: Funny Games (1997)

The Best of October: Black Swan (2010) & Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)

Black Swan is a surrealist masterpiece that walks the line between reality and insanity with a fine tightrope and it has great performances to boot. Ouija: Origin of Evil is a great period horror movie that does a lot of unexpected things.

The Worst of October: The Host (2006) & Trouble Every Day (2001)

The Host was billed as a great monster movie, but it is utterly disappointing from an acting, plot, and story point of view. It was very frustrating. Trouble Every Day is pointless intellectual masturbation about how we consume each other in relationships. It is t-e-r-r-i-b-l-e.

Day 303 & Day 304 – Dracula: Dead and Loving It & Funny Games (1997)

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Movie Title: Dracula: Dead and Loving It

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 28 min.

Rated: PG-13

Who did I watch with?: Stephie

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Dracula: Dead and Loving It is a Leslie Nielsen and Mel Brooks collaboration that is more snooze than laughs. Dracula (Leslie Nielsen) acquires a new familiar in Transylvania and then books passage to England to find himself a new bride. The movie parodies many elements from the classic Dracula stories, but does not do so in any way that is funny. The humor is lame and tired. There are two exceptionally good moments when one character is staked through the heart and when the familiar is pursued in order to find Dracula. The rest of the movie is a snooze. Nielsen was capable of better and so is Mel Brooks.

Verdict:

This was the movie in which Brooks checked out from directing and I can understand why. Skip it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Funny Games (1997)

 

Movie Title: Funny Games (1997)

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 48 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Stephie

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

This review contains spoilers.

Funny Games is a pointless meditation on voyeurism and violence that became tedious at times with its silly late game twist. Paul and Peter are two psychotic young men bent on tormenting wealthy families in a German lake district. They have already killed the neighbors and they will likely kill again. Paul makes frequent references to how things are supposed to go in a typical horror thriller while Peter breaks the fourth wall repeatedly. The story is bare bones. They torment the family and it is clear from early in the movie that they do not have a chance.

Once that is clear the movie drags on inanely as Peter and Paul invent stupid games for the family to play. They hurt them no matter what. The family is frustrating because they do practically nothing to try and ensure their survival. It is pathetic. People make bad decisions in horror movies, but these people make practically no decisions. They sit around and wait to be killed. The twist of resetting the film is also pointless as it was already immediately apparent that they would not survive the movie. At the end, there is a scene where they discuss physics of multiple universes which is perhaps to imply that the events of the movie are not real.

Verdict:

The movie seems to be a meditation on individual consumption of violence, but that makes the plot rather pointless. At about the hour and fifteen minute mark I began to wonder what the point was and realized there was none. Great. Skip it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)

Day 302 – Only Lovers Left Alive

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Movie Title: Only Lovers Left Alive

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 2 hr. 3 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Only Lovers Left Alive is a vampire drama with an excellent cast. Adam (Tom Hiddleston) is a manic depressive loaner musician. He collects antique guitars while living in a seemingly abandoned house that stores his belongings. He is estranged from his long time wife Eve played by Tilda Swinton until they reconnect. All of them need to quench their thirst for blood, but must do so in the civilized manner of modern times. The blood sends them into a stupor much like heroin and the lack of thrill gathered from the consumption of blood has long since passed. Adam exploits a doctor at a local hospital while Tilda’s hook up is 16th century poet Christopher Marlowe played by the late John Hurt. Adam’s musical career is managed by Ian (Anton Yelchin) who gets him guitars, keeps people away, and brings him strange exotic requests including a bullet made out of hardwood. Then Eve’s sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) shows up and interrupts their idyllic lives.

Adam’s apartment is sensuous with grime. In some ways it reminded me of Midnight in Paris with its longing for perceived better times. The characters in this movie are looking back at times they remember as better and with despair toward the future. The sound track is jangling and the plot is slow. It often fails to capture the imagination as Hiddleston and Swinton play droll characters that make immortality seem rather more taxing than I think it would be.

Verdict:

It is an interesting character study that can be taxing to get through at times. Take it or leave it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)

Day 301 – Venom

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Movie Title: Venom

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 52 min.

Rated: PG-13

Who did I watch with?: Stephie

Where did I watch it?: Regal Stadium 12 – Swansea, MA

Review:

Venom is a great comic book movie that allows Tom Hardy to chew the scenery and opens up a potential path forward without Spider-Man for Sony’s Marvel movies. Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) is a dark side equivalent of Elon Musk. Instead of smoking weed with Joe Rogan, he is retrieving aliens from a space asteroid and conducting human experiments in an attempt to alter the genetic makeup of humanity. Not cool. After sending up a mission to retrieve the aliens the space ship burns up on re-entry and a symbiote is let loose in the wild where it raises some hell.

Meanwhile, the specimens that are returned are inserted into homeless people to see if Drake can find a match that will be compatible with the symbiote’s DNA. One of his scientists gets in touch with Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) with the information. Eddie is more than a little jaded. He believes Carlton Drake ruined his life single-handed though he had something to do with it. Eventually, he comes around and checks out the tip which leads to his infection by Venom. Brock slowly builds a strong connection with the symbiote who conducts an inner monologue with Brock that is simultaneously disturbing and hilarious. Eddie struggles with his new found companion and that sets the plot for most of the movie until Venom realizes that more than one of his compatriots survived the return to Earth.

The design of Venom is great and definitely helps with the action segments. The humor was unexpected and I was very happy that they didn’t choose to go an extremely dark and gritty route with the movie. Venom is a dark character, but he can also be a lot of fun.

The one complaint I have about the movie is its editing and creation of the final cut. In a perfect world Venom would be rated R. The violence in the movie was not filmed to be implied or comical. This leads to some choppy editing and some seriously bad continuity at certain points in the movie. It was clearly intended to be more graphic, but was cut to make a more audience friendly cut. Hopefully, this will make it possible to produce a Venom 2. Normally, I am very opposed to director’s cuts. If it was really that good you would have left it in the movie. In this case, I understand the reason for the cuts and I can only hope there will be a director’s cut released. The post-credit scenes set up a promising future for a potential Venom franchise. Fingers crossed.

Verdict:

Venom is a delightful movie for any fan of our beloved anti-hero and anyone that hated tap dancing Toby Maguire in Spider-Man 3. Venom is redeemed. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Day 299 & Day 300 – Scream 3 & Scream 4

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Movie Title: Scream 3

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 56 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Scream 3 reintroduces Ghostface and creates a trilogy around the character of Sidney Prescott. The core group of players around Sidney all return to the silver screen. Liev Schreiber returns as the short lived Cotton Weary, Courteney Cox returns as a less vicious Gale Weathers, and David Arquette returns as the bumbling Dewey. They even manage to reintroduce Jamie Kennedy as his previous character despite the fact that his character is dead. It definitely adds a nice touch to the movie.

By creating a trilogy Scream 3 decides it is going to defy the rules that defined the previous movies in the series and it does. Ghostface is repeatedly shot, but never injured. He has superhuman endurance. There are many ridiculous plot points and a lot of great cameos. Roger Corman the godfather of schlock horror, Lance Henriksen, Jenny McCarthy, Patrick Warburton, Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, and Carrie Fisher all have small roles that really knit the movie together.

The plot is practically irrelevant. Someone has donned the Ghostface mask again and has decided to kill Sidney Prescott on the set of Stab 3. In order to create their own twisted fantasy, the current killer has decided to kill the members of the cast in the same order they were killed off in the script. Sidney has withdrawn into isolation, so Ghostface uses the set to draw her out with great effectiveness. An inept police department tries to intervene, but to practically no avail. Ultimately there is a huge reveal that ties the film up. It is same old, same old, but the movie still has some meta charm in it.

Verdict:

Scream 3 is definitely the weakest in the series, but it is still a good time if you don’t take it too seriously. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Scream 4 (2011)

 

Movie Title: Scream 4

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 51 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Scream 4 returns the core cast of the Scream movies to the silver screen eleven years after Scream 3. All the major plays return in their familiar roles which boils down to Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette returning. It also introduces a lot of new players to the Scream series including Lucy Hale, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell, Emma Roberts, and Aimee Teegarden. They pull off their roles as teenage fodder well.

Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has renewed herself. She no longer feels like a victim. She has started a career as an author and is on a book tour with a stop in Woodsboro where she intends to visit family and old friends. She is staying with an aunt and getting to know her teenage cousin whom she barely knows. This is fine until some of her cousins friends start winding up dead with all signs pointing toward Sidney being the murderer. There is an overzealous deputy of Sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette) that gets in the way while Riley’s wife Gale Weathers-Riley (Coureney Cox) tries to infiltrate a local horror movie scene to try and solve the murders. The three primary characters frequently take a backseat to nonsense teen drama that is not particularly interesting to watch though it is certainly visually appealing.

Scream 4 introduces social media into the Scream universe and this is by far the least interesting element of the movie. It leads to Gale Weathers-Riley running around frantically placing webcams, it leads to some of the main characters in the movie vapidly recording everything around them, and rampant tedium. The teen drama is lame and the core cast of characters do not get enough screen time. This is balanced off with some creative kills that were a lot of fun. I also particularly liked the killer reveal and the concept of Scream 4 being a remake with the new rules that go with it.

Verdict:

It is a nice continuation of the series. If you have seen the others and liked them. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Venom (2018)

Day 298 – Scream 2

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Movie Title: Scream 2

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 2 hr.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Scream 2 is the very meta sequel to the original Scream. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is in college now when a copy cat emerges attempting to replicate the original murders. It returns several cast members from the original movie and weaves a multilayered web. Courteney Cox, David Arquette, and Jamie Kennedy return in the same respective roles as the original movie. They act as an investigative team trying to solve the mystery of who the killers are complete with some romantic tension.

There are also several new faces arriving to join the festivities. Sarah Michelle Geller stars as a sorority sister that is an early victim of Ghostface. Jerry O’Connell has a feature role as Sidney’s primary love interest. There are also several well know actors appearing in minor roles including a very young Joshua Jackson and Timothy Olyphant.

The movie works very well with its own internal parody. The movie features a movie about the events of the original movie called Stab. The film within the film features Jada Pinkett Smith, Heather Graham, and Luke Wilson in leading roles and it is great to watch for its few short segments. Liev Schreiber returns as the same character from the original movie. His sole interest is to get Sidney on the air with a major talk show host, so that he can get some publicity. It also builds on its rules about horror movies from the first movie and adds rules about sequels that make the movie more ridiculous. In many ways I would argue Scream 2 is the superior movie to the original because of these elements.

Verdict:

The body count is higher. The plot is more ridiculous. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Scream 3 (2000)

Day 297 – In the Mouth of Madness

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Movie Title: In the Mouth of Madness

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

John Trent (Sam Neill) is an insurance investigator with a special talent for seeking out frauds. He has been hired to look into the disappearance of Sutter Cane. Sutter Cane is the world’s greatest horror novelist and he is well overdue on delivery for his latest novel. He is also a combination of H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King. The novel’s publisher has filed for damages to their brand that will cost the insurance company millions. Trent is supposed to resolve the situation by figuring out what kind of publicity stunt the publisher is up too.

Trent gets a lead on Cane’s possible location from studying his book covers that when examined indicate that the fictional town of Hobb’s End referenced repeatedly by Trent is located in New Hampshire. He also starts to have horrible dreams that move into the daylight. Trent and Linda Styles (Julie Carmen) an employee of the publishing house go to try and find Cane. They drive through the night and mysteriously end up in the town of Hobb’s End by crossing a mystical covered bridge.

Upon arriving in the town they realize that they are now inside a story from the disturbed mind of Sutter Cane. Neill is great as the skeptical leading man that slowly loses his marbles. Jurgen Prochnow and Charlton Heston are great in their minor roles. Frances Bay also has a small turn as the local inn keeper. It also features a very young Hayden Christensen in a small role.

Verdict:

It is a surreal movie with sterling performances. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Scream 2 (1997)