Nosferatu (1922)

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It’s always tricky reviewing really old movies, like Le Voyage Dans la Lun, or The Great Train Robbery, or later stuff like The General and in this case Nosferatu. As they are at this point over or almost a hundred years old, and are rather dated nowadays.

But does that stop them from being good?

Especially considering films like Nosferatu, and Le Voyage Dans la Lun laid the very foundations that The Godfather and The Phantom Menace would later stand on. I think Nosferatu is better constructed than say Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but it isn’t as easily watchable, hence the conundrum.

But let’s get onto it and see.

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ALIEN (2003 Special Edition)

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Well, now that the Oilers are out of the playoffs i can get back to work.

And considering Alien: Covenant is only a week or so away i figured it would be good to use the opportunity to re-watch and review the Alien series in preparation for it.

Naturally we start with the first of the series; I would say i was about 11-12 when i watched Alien for the first time, and to my shame my initial reaction was that of disappointment. The fact that the film only had one of them and was a horror film through and through left me in the dust, i wanted to see dozens of the things machine-gunned down by tough space marines, i wanted loud bangs and set pieces, i wanted Aliens.

Later on in my teens I purchased the excellent special editions of both Alien and Aliens sometime in 2005, and of course watched Aliens to death (which i had already done with a VHS copy of the extended cut, much to my sister’s irritation) but it wasn’t until Halloween of that year when i found myself alone that i decided to watch the director’s cut of Alien by myself.

All i can say is that it is amazing what a bit of a shift in perspective and context can do to a viewing experience. I was absolutely blown away by that viewing, i was creeped out, i was thrilled, and i was most certainly intrigued by what i had seen far more than what my young mind was capable of appreciating when i had first seen it.

Once again it’s been 12 years since that night, and i was curious as to whether the film would hold up to yet another drastic change in perspective…

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I’m not a fan of Live Action Trailers…

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This has been a topic that i’ve had rattling around in my head for a little while now; in fact it has been something that i thought i might write about since i saw DOOM‘s live action trailer:

I think it’s well-known that i love DOOM, all things DOOM in fact. And i didn’t think it was possible for me to be turned off by an advertisement for DOOM. But holy shit that trailer almost did the trick.

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Apocalypse Now Redux

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I watched this years ago. I was probably 12 or 13 and probably too early to be able to make any sense of it really, i remember the imagery, the insanity, Brando mumbling something about “the horror”, and how that guy loved the smell of napalm in the morning. That’s this movie’s greatest strength really, how some part of it will linger with anyone who watches it.

Its had to have been almost 10 years since i last saw it fully, and i was curious to see how i would take it now. So in it went and here we are.

 

THE STORY

Adapting the story of Heart of Darkness, we follow Captain Ben Willard as he takes a boat up a river that leads all the way up through the insanity of Vietnam War to kill Colonel Kurtz. A man who has indeed seen the heart of darkness, and has never looked back.

 

THE GOOD

Segments like the opening of the film showing how Willard spends his nights and Kurtz’s assassination are testaments to how much power there can be to a well done montage. The images of Martin Sheen slowing slipping off the map have been seared into my mind since the first time i watched Apocalypse Now. Indeed the entire film is a triumph of atmosphere, as it is so relentlessly oppressive that its no wonder that almost everyone in the film can be considered crazy.

Memorable performances abound as well, with the aforementioned Sheen giving certainly one of his most memorable performances. Supporting players Robert Duvall and Albert Hall are also solid in their respective roles with the former lending a sense of overwhelming detachment to the surrounding violence, and the latter being the only real sane person in the entire rotten situation.

 

THE BAD

The film’s atmosphere is so incredibly well done it manages to almost mask how plodding and disjointed the actual story of the film is. I find that after the helicopter attack, the film’s structure devolves into a series of increasingly depraved episodes emphasising how the act of war brings out the absolute worse in people, that are only connected to one another by the river that runs through it all. While the narrative structure itself lends to the creation and maintaining of the tone of the film, it does make it almost a chore to sit through.

Only when the crew reaches their destination does the plot seem to pick up again, but this only leads into my pick for the film’s biggest failure; the anticlimactic reveal of Colonel Kurtz. Throughout the entire film Kurtz hangs over the production like a shadow, and he’s built up to indeed be the heart of darkness himself. Sheen’s voice overs examining the life of this man manage to tell us everything about Kurtz and yet reveal nothing. The growing horrors of the river only intensify the desire to know what indeed led Kurtz to throw his life away and live in the jungle.

After hours of waiting and hours of magnificent atmosphere, we are treated to an incredible disappointment. Kurtz is revealed to be a grossly overweight Marlon Brando babbling inconsequential nonsense and hiding in the shadows trying to act the boogie man. I can’t even put my thumb on what went wrong or how to fix things. Kurtz is swathed in the shadows but for some reason all sense of mystery is gone the moment he talks. His most interesting scene where he describes the mutilation of village children comes far too late to stop the disappointment of how underwhelming he is. I find no grand sense universal hopelessness or ambiguity from Kurtz, to me he’s just a guy who saw too much crazy and went crazy himself.

In fact that can be said about the entire production itself, there’s no ambiguity in its message. Almost everyone in the film can be considered crazy or detached, Lance one of the gunners on the boat goes crazy for no reason (other than that he is a surfer from California), explosive violence is always on verge of breaking out, and the insanity of war is hammered home with all the subtlety and impact of a rail gun.

This single minded and bull dogged approach leaves no room for me to contemplate any other moral from the film. There’s nothing here in the film other than screaming that war is awful, and particularly that the Vietnam War was bat shit crazy. I suppose to people who lived through the Vietnam War this is perhaps precisely why the film is heralded as a masterpiece. To someone like me however, who is completely and totally removed from that war it just makes me bored.

 

THE UGLY

I’m honestly torn as to what my final thoughts are about Apocalypse Now. Taken as an example of how the language of cinema can be used to thoroughly unsettle and impact a viewer there is almost no better example. Indeed the film is a masterpiece of horror and insanity. But its failures are so large in my mind that i simply can’t give it the rating that its tone alone would deserve.

So i won’t.

Film Review: FRIDAY THE 13th PT. 1-3 and FRIDAY THE 13th (2009)

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A few things have happened to me in the past couple of months, chiefly that I moved into a new place, and school is starting to require my full attention this late into the semester, as a result i’ve come dangerously close to not knowing what other films to write reviews about.

I mean i look at my shelf and i have tons of them (including that pile of samurai films…) but i think i just have too much choice, i have no intention of giving up writing reviews i just get into a thought loop of: “i suppose i could write something, or i could play NFS:Hot Pursuit instead”…

i guess it will take a bit of effort to get back into a regular rhythm and as such i’ve decided to review a few movies that are as far away from what I’ve been putting up here as possible.

To be honest the first time i watched a Friday the 13th movie in full would have to be when i caught a marathon of them on spike about 10 years ago (i managed to watch the end of #3 all the way until the beginning of 6 until i figured i had better things to do with my time) but even as a child i’ve always known about the idea of Jason Voorhees, and his hockey mask killing sprees. Which is odd considering their level of violence, and the fact that i had never seen any of his movies until the age of 16 or so.

I’m not going to review each of these films individually as what i like and what i don’t like are going to be similar throughout all of them (with the exception of the remake). So this is more of a summary of the good/bad/ugly of them all.

 

THE STORY

Bad times await anyone stupid enough to camp out at Crystal Lake (and there are a lot of them…) as the seemingly unkillable Jason Voorhees stalks the area and delivers the best type of eviction notices…

 

THE GOOD

I think the triumph of these movies would have to be Jason Voorhees himself, i mean they have managed to make a character that is so iconic and memorable simply on the basis that he doesn’t do anything other than kill people, generally with something sharp and with a surprising amount precision. It’s so odd that i end up rooting for Voorhees and that the only reason people watch this stuff is to see how he decides to kill however many people are lined up for him.

The miracle of it all is how it never gets boring, i mean i saw him use a pitchfork, machete, axe, bow and arrow, to off people in similar settings and situations, but for some reason a smile just creeps over my face when some dumb character stumbles around in the dark, that iconic Ch-Ch-Ch music starts up for quite literally the 100th time in the movie, and the area is littered with a cornucopia of delightfully rusty and sharp objects for Mr. Voorhees to employ.

You could say that he is a force of nature; much like how when a storm shows up and it starts to rain, when Jason Voorhees shows up people die, and despite having seen and heard lightning and thunder a thousand times in my life time, it never gets boring just watching the storm unfold.

 

THE BAD

There are a lot of bad things going on with these movies:

dreadful writing

awful awful acting

low production values

telegraphed scares

repetitive narratives

stupid stupid characters

etc etc

I’m not going to go into detail with any of this stuff as honestly that’s almost the point of these films, but what i will touch on is the ridiculousness of trying to read anything into these movies.

To put it bluntly these films are garbage, they’re dreck, movies made with the lowest common denominator in mind, movies made for teenage boys to get a peek at naked breasts and sexual acts before the internet made it common place, movies made to be played in drive ins and go on in the background while people have sex in their cars, movies made to be watched while playing a drinking game, or played in the background of Halloween parties.

The film makers weren’t making a statement about anything while making this stuff, they just wanted to make money in the sleaziest way imaginable: Sex and Violence. Their relevance within pop culture is built only upon the strength of Jason Voorhees’ ability to dispense violence and that every installment has a group of good-looking people getting their freak nasty on.

While i find the study of tropes such as “the final girl” interesting, their presence doesn’t elevate these films from being the watchable trash that they are.

 

FRIDAY THE 13th (2009)

i hate Micheal Bay as much as the next filmy with pretentious tastes, but i have to be honest with myself and say that the movie his production company Platinum Dunes for the series is quite honestly the best the series has to offer (now keep in mind i haven’t seen them all and that could well change).

Being an amalgamation of the first 3 movies it quite literally has everything i love about it, and it improves upon the series in a number of ways; in the original series it takes 2 1/2 movies for Jason to get his hockey mask, and how he gets it is rather perfunctory and mundane given its importance to his overall image that has become as iconic as Kruger’s glove, or Myer’s mask. Whereas in the remake, he clearly has a moment of recognition when he lays eyes on the old antique. He likes the way it looks and ditches that stupid bag over his head for something much better.

It has all the other important aspects of a good Friday the 13th film, the kills are their usual fun to watch, the characters exist only for the sole purpose of providing meat for Jason’s grinder, he uses his machete often, and the Ch-Ch-Ch notes are used appropriately eye rolling though they may be.

And that is all it really needs to have, again these films are not “classics” because they are good movies in any sort of way, and in the remake we get a distillation and shuffling up that breathes a bit of new life into the series while at the same time paying homage. It truly is a “greatest hits” package.

 

THE UGLY

My honest recommendation to anyone who hasn’t watched an entry of the Friday series is to watch the remake, and then watch 4-10. I’m serious. It pains me to recommend anything with Bay’s name on it but quite honestly the first 3 movies are so repetitive of each other, and the fact that it takes 2 1/2 movies for the Jason we all know and love to make a full-fledged appearance (hockey mask + machete = Jason = awesome²) is painful to watch. Ratings and summaries for each are below:

 

Friday the 13th ** Stars out of Five

while it is still quite a violent film, its standing as a classic is based only upon the legacy of the series it created. It’s just boring, and as a result the faults inherent to the series really start to make themselves noticeable.

Friday the 13th Pt. II ** 1/2 out of Five

Improves on the original as it actually has Jason running around, but no machete and that stupid bag on his head cripples Jason’s presence, and Jason’s presence really is the only thing the series has going for it.

Friday the 13th Pt. III ** 1/2 out of Five

Jason finally gets his proper presentation, however the movie takes a long time to get going and its sluggish and predictable pacing drag the whole thing down.

Friday the 13th (2009) *** out of Five

Takes all of the best elements of the franchise and distills them into a slasher flick of honest to god fun.