Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Feast (2005)

I actually don't remember who screamed better...

Genre: Horror Comedy Thriller

Starring: Balthazar Getty (Shadow Hours; Lost Highway), Duane Whitaker (The Devil's Rejects; Pulp Fiction)

Directed By: John Gulager's Directorial Debut

Overview: On a regular night at a regular dive of a bar, regular folks end up dealing with some most irregular monsters hungry for their flesh.

Acting: Henry Rollins as a motivational speaker is cute. No, he's not a good actor, but at least not taking himself seriously. That's the order of the day in this one. We have all these archetypal characters, like the old drunk woman, the young upstart, the hardened bartender, the bearded trucker and of course the ditsy big-breasted blonde. It's cute. In fact, so cute it works.

Rating: 8

Cinematography: Fish-eye lenses, rapid-paced editing and fast too-close shots making it hard to understand what's trying to come through the door make for an exciting thrill ride and pays homage to Sam Raimi's style used in the Evil Dead Series. Pretty fun and gory too!
Rating: 8

Script: The writing isn't all that memorable but at least it's not stupid (a tragic flaw of the action-horror comedy), with Slither as the exception proving the rule. There are however some lines that are pure gold, like the conversation the young upstart Getty has with the old drunk lady, asking her what's going on, insisting that she must know something, because she's old, and old people know about these sorts of things, you know legends and such. Hilarious.
Rating: 7

Plot: Here we have a story of some lazy Middle-America small town hicks dealing with a mix of Night of The Living Dead and Alien all at the same time. Aliens (it would seem) are trying to get in cause they're hungry. The bar patrons and staff are trying to make it through the night, barricade the three floors, and try not to get raped before they get eaten...yeah you heard me.
Rating: 8

Mood: Any film that introduces an alien monster by having it barge in and face-fuck a caribou head, shit that's special. Any film that follows up with monster on monster sex, then graphic birth, then even more graphic monster rape, my God I thought I was in Hentai heaven. It's crazy. Just crazy. Funny kitchy crazy.
Rating: 8

If you think that's a filthy facial, you'd better reconsider watching this, HOO SISTER.

Overall Rating: 78% (I'll Take Seconds!)

Aftertaste: Yeah, it's treacherous to pop in a movie when you're having a Halloween party. Is it going to fly? Should it just be background? Should such a party film have a silly Sam Raimi taste to it, or should it be far more classically serious?

Vote silly. People who aren't sitting comfortably do better with laughs that let them move around a little.

Saw III (2006)

Yum Yum Yum!

Genre: Crime Horror Thriller

Starring: Tobin Bell (Saw; The Quick and the Dead), Shawnee Smith (The Blob)

Directed By: Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II)

Overview: In this third instalment of the Saw series, we're still up to the same old tricks and traps, all while our sickly Jigsaw tries to impart his wisdom upon his protégé.

Acting: Say what you will about the directors that guide Horror films... or let me say it for you. Yeah, they tend to leak deep into the melodramatic, but when you play a psycho stressed to the max, or a victim stressed even more, it's bound to happen. having said that, Tobin Bell is amazing. Honestly. As a sick and calm stoic man his character is consistent, and his performance is the one worth paying attention to. Supporting roles played by Angus Macfadyen and Shawnee Smith are also really well done. My God, it's like they had a budget!
Rating: 8

Cinematography: We open with traps, we have different traps throughout and the traps are these heavy industrial monstrosities of exquisite medieval engineering. Nice. The location is a grungy underground warehouse / slaughterhouse. Sweet. There's a scene where someone is tied down while rotting, maggot covered pigs are ground to a paste and splashed all over him. Beautiful. The piece de resistance? A fully graphic two-minute-long brain operation with the best soundwork you'll ever hear. Awesome.
Rating: 9

Script: Wait, is this actually well written? It's got to be full of plot holes and inhuman reactions to fantastical situations, right? I mean whenever people come up with awesome visuals in a horror setting, it's always terribly written. What do you mean this is different? There's funny moments on purpose? There's motivations explained and almost poetically so? Bulsh. They paid you to say that.
Rating: 8

Plot: There's two plots. One is the fun traps that our man below is subjected to, a test of forgiveness, Jigsaw's way of bringing forth healing waters to a man's tortured soul, isn't that nice? The other is Amanda by Jigsaw's death bed, holding a doctor hostage to keep the sick sicko alive long enough to see this last test to its end. You know, that's enough for me. Simply told, the only down side would have to be all the constant flashbacks to the original Saw. Great ending by the way.
Rating: 8

Mood: Shot in the typical highly stylized cold blue grainy way used in such films as The Machinist, Lucid, and Fight Club, they played it pretty safe in the looks department, using these proven techniques. However, barring Michael Jackson's Thriller, I like my music videos to be around four minutes long. Why editors thought that I couldn't sit still long enough to see a shot longer than 15 seconds, I don't know, but for all the opportunities there were to have beautifully paced moments of monologues full of wisdom and motive, being distracted by the MTV garbage they fed me killed it just a little too much. It hurt my eyes!
Rating: 8

You know what they say, cold hands warm heart!

Overall Rating: 82% (See-Saw!)

Aftertaste: The best film of the Saw series, this one seems like a final chapter. Of course when we're talking horror movies, who knows. I mean anyone can go be a copycat right? For once in my life, I'll say how glad I am that there's a sequel and I hope that the sequels keep coming. Now all you people out there who tell me that I'm too forgiving of the horror genre can go cram it with walnuts, get your own site. If you like up-close, long-lasting original gore, this has what you're looking for. It's cool, it's gross, and it's pretty artsy too even.

Mr. And Mrs. Smith (1941)

Hitchcock! Hitchcock! Hitchcock!

No, it's actually not the original of the Pitt / Jolie film, much to my surprise!

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Starring: Carole Lombard (To Be or Not to Be; My Man Godfrey), Robert Montgomery (They Were Expendable; Free And Easy)

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (Frenzy, The Birds)

Overview: When a young couple discover that they aren't actually married due to a technicality, Mr. Smith chases after his once-wife while she decides to start courting again.

Acting: I don't like Robert Montgomery. I don't hate him, he's good, but his pretty little smug-face was a pleasure to see fade to black. As for Carole Lombard, it's clear that she has a lot of spunk as a woman, because she doesn't look like she's acting as she prances around like some haughty bitch. Nothing I like to see more than humans completely disrespecting each other and thinking it's funny.
Rating: 6

Cinematography: Typical rote cinematography that made me focus even more attention on the plot. Ugh.
Rating: 6

Script: I will admit that there were a couple of scenes that were entire scenes comprised of hilarious set-ups ending in even funnier conclusions. By a couple, I mean two. Sadly that's not enough to keep me from wondering why I was wasting my time.
Rating: 7

Plot: When you begin a film with me hating the female character because she's such a nag that she makes up relationship rules like "we can't leave the bedroom until our fight is resolved", that's not a good start. When you end it quickly and clumsilly just to have an ending, that makes it even worse. I hated this clunky-ass story.
Rating: 5

Mood: I am going to do all I can to stay true to the genre. Romantic Comedy is all about the screwball, all about the suspension of disbelief. You have to let so much (SO MUCH!) slide to allow the premise to keep chugging along. If you like Romantic Comedies though, you'll STILL find this clumsy, because generations later what must have been funny isn't anymore. The words may be amusing, but the situational stuff, nope.
Rating: 7

I so wish they'd have been spies instead of just "not married"

Overall Rating: 64% (As Forgettable As The Joneses)

Aftertaste: Yes there is a HUGE difference between Comedy Romance and Romantic Comedy. One I can appreciate, the other sucks eggs. This was a frikken awkward accident that should have been directed by someone else. Hitchcock should have been given respect enough to do something important besides this fluffy drivel. Who am I to judge, I haven't even read Hitchcock Truffaut yet. Hell maybe he was dying to do garbage after his success with Rebecca.

Yeah right. Turns out the actress convinced him to direct it. My biggest problem with Hitchcock right now is that integrity didn't seem to fit into his career path. Had he put his foot down and focussed on making films worthy of his vision, I'd be a much bigger fan.

Foreign Correspondant (1940)

Hitchcock! Hitchcock! Hitchcock!

Now that's a killer serious in building his portfolio!

Genre: Adventure Drama Romance Thriller

Starring: Joel McCrae (Sullivan's Travels; The Palm Beach Story), Laraine Day

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (Secret Agent; Blackmail)

Overview: An American reporter is sent to Europe to get the real story about the impending war. What he finds is a conspiracy that runs so deep that he may not live to see the end.

Acting: I don't know how to break it to you. I've seen better. I think the writing makes the acting conducive to the type of acting that is in the style of too much American bravado and British smugness at the same time. I actually wonder if Hitch was making a comment on those countries or on stereotypes in general. The acting's fine, but it could have been less melodramatic, even for the Forties.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: Well we've got some genuine gold here, and worthy of high praise. The scene above and below is one of the best of the whole film, gorgeous in its visual presentation and almost as exciting as the climactic ending. In this Hitchcock doesn't create as much mood with light as he does with montage and editing, proving that he's either getting more comfortable with other aspects of film, or he's getting access to highly creative professionals. Either way, great sets, great look, great job.
Rating: 8

Script: With a story like this, it's surprising that someone could go off and harm it with words. Well as soon as you add lovey-dovey talk and cock-swinging nationalism, is seems to get the point of noticeably harming the film. This, sadly was the case here, but only to the point of being nothing more than average.
Rating: 7

Plot: A fantastic tale with a completely unnecessary romantic sub-plot. A run of the mill reporter is sent to get an interview out of someone who doesn't do interviews, then one thing leads to another, and our hero is ever on the heels of a story that's on his heels out to kill him. That's awesome. The end it great, the middle is cool, but the dame shouldn't even have been there.
Rating: 8

Hitchcock manages to do just a hint of film noir while rooting himself in a dramatic mystery. What disappoints me most about this films is that he's still thick in the muck of 'necessary romance'. I know it's the way films were made back then, but it's still painful to watch people soil a perfectly great and intense story simply because they all need a love story. I wonder why personal survival isn't enough to keep people engrossed. Why the need for protecting a new love interest has to be constantly present is as many films as possible must be a generational thing, because it's beyond me.
Rating: 8

Super awesome umbrella scene!

Overall Rating: 76% (All Too Common)

Aftertaste: My biggest overall problem with Alfred Hitchcock has to be his insistence of the use of either the love triangle or the new love interest that needs protection. So many of his films include not women in danger but women who end up in danger because the man they met is involved in intrigue. It is without a doubt the biggest killer of enjoyment, simply because it seems so out of place in these sorts of films. Ugh. The Forties.

Rebecca (1940)

Hitchcock! Hitchcock! Hitchcock!

You know, I'm really starting to love cheezy publicity photos...

Genre: Mystery Drama Romance Thriller

Starring: Laurence Olivier (Wuthering Heights, Hamlet), Joan Fontaine (Letter Of An Unknown Woman, Suspicion)

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (The 39 Steps, The Man Who Knew Too Much)

Overview: A young and naive girl marries a millionaire. When she moves into his huge mansion, she finds the memories and influence of Maxim's first wife all too strong.

Acting: When I first saw Joan Fontain's face I cringed at the thought that this would turn out as terrible as Letter Of An Unknown Woman, but she's fantastic. As for SIR Laurence Olivier, if you doubt a man's presence in a film, see any of his works. I'll admit there's a touch of the melodramatic, but that's a clear sign of the times. My favorite role has to be the character of Mrs. Danvers, the head servant of the household. Chillingly great!
Rating: 8

Cinematography: Think Hitchcockian lighting and this might be the first film that comes to mind. In this one he isn't all about the vivid expressionistic style so much as he's about reinforcing how that terrific mansion is a symbolic prison. Every large and gorgeous sunlit room is streaked with the shadows of window panes, which normally would just make a scene look realistic and masterfully lit, but the way it enhances the mood is just fantastic. Every interior scene of that estate is fantastic. Hitchcock makes it a living, breathing character.
Rating: 9

Script: Filled with dialogue that spark the mind and delve deeply into the mire that is a haunted past, this film is brilliantly written. When Mrs. Davers speaks, her informative and soothing words burn a deep scar at the same time into our meek bride. When we touch the open nerve that is Maxim's pain of his deceased wife, we know there's more that need be told. Every line is meticulously calculated to invite curiosity while still revealing so much about the characters involved. Fantastic.
Rating: 9

Plot: I had a slight issue with the big secret at the end and the subsequent reactions, but overall the story was incredibly involving. We begin with a whirlwind romance that becomes more and more marred by a dark past. When our favorite wife is brought into this new society filled with such challenges as living in the shadow of a better woman who has truly insinuated herself in every room of the house, that's a lot of story to tell. The magic is that that ain't even the half of it. You wait when the secret comes out. It's multi-layered awesome.
Rating: 9

Mood: The thing that bothered me most of all was the era of it. We're constantly reminded of know how deeply rooted we are in 1940 and all the little suspensions of disbelief add up fairly quickly. A scene where the couple walks past some trees is just the actors on a treadmill in front of a projected screen, same as the driving scenes, same as that gaze from atop the cliff. Here and there are some moments of technical weakness that I not only couldn't shake, but outright laughed. Though these mood-killing moments are few and far between, the comment is there to state how it disappointed an otherwise incredibly engrossing and thrilling tale. I know I'll see this again one day. It's great.
Rating: 8

Is it me or is he totally checking out her dirty pillows?

Overall Rating: 86% (Right Back At Ya!)

Aftertaste: What a relief. When I was starting to falter, wavering in the thought that perhaps Hitchcock actually WASN'T the genius I expected him to be, right when I wondered why he does romance and love triangles more than thriller, he goes and makes this. more than anything this film has taught me how important producers are to a film. No matter how smart the director or the crew, without devoted producers, a story just can't be properly told. Seems like they were more of a hindrance than an aid in Hitch's darker years. Looks like that's over.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The 'Ninja Factor' Has A Sophisticated Champion In The Vampire Film (October 2006 Vampire Blog-A-Thon)

Welcome to the Vampire Blog-A-Thon!

Let me talk to you about an interesting phenomenon that occurs in film, and how it relates to those that are vampiric. First, to explain what this 'Ninja Factor'
is exactly...

Simply put it works like this: Our hero (who is a ninja), whenever facing ninjatic foes is of slightly greater strength than the combined strength of all those he faces in a given scene. This means that whether he faces seven bad dudes, 88 crazy assassins, or just one expert Ninjitsu Master, our heroic ninja takes about the same time to defeat them all. It's pretty simple. Whether it's five or fifty they all eat it in around five minutes. Many of you know this unwritten film rule already.

Now to bring in the 'Vampire Factor', the Ninja Film's close relative.

In vampire films, the first thing that must be explained is 'by which physiological rules do these vampires (un)live?'

1.) How tough are they? Does sunlight kill outright or merely weaken? Does the cross have to be blessed or do you simply need to take your fingers and make a plus out of them? And what about silver, garlic, running water and stakes?

2.) How powerful or old are they? Do we go classic Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) with the full gamete of shadowplay, transformation into bats and mist, animal control and holding psychic sway over humans, or are we confined to the tamer heightened strength and mild telepathy present in The Hunger (1983)?

3.) How evil is the Vampire? Are we talking Anne Rice's touch of evil with a healthy dose of guilt or are we talking Lost Boys (1987) fun-filled malignance, or is it all-out senseless starving monsters out of Carpenter's 1998 Vampires?

Already, rather than simply showing how venerable a given foe is by engaging in battle, we have clues that will let us know how difficult these night-stalking foes are, a more cerebral look at relative strength than simply: "Look there's six of them!"

4.) The final, and most important question in determining 'Vampire Factor' is really the only one that determines relative strength, with the 'Ninja Factor' prevalent at its core. How quickly does this bunch breed? Is there a long and drawn-out romance, a full-out embrace and painful turning? Or is it simply, "Ow, a vampire bit me and I'm infected too!" *Hungry Hungry*, or are we talking classic 'kill the vampire nest's progenitor at the end and everyone's fixed'?

You see, breeding rate of vampires is directly related to their strength, so if they spread their infection like bunnies, turns out they're probably of the soft-chested, quickly-killed variety, as tragically proven in From Dusk Till Dawn (1996).

Alternatively, in Interview With The Vampire (1994), where we only see a small vampiric community, though debatably the relative strength of these immortals is the toughest we've seen yet.

So remember kids, next time you see a movie where hunters are after just one vampire, you just know she'll be a tough mother. Consequently, should people face a countryside filled to the fangs with the undead, they'll be dropping like flies... you watch.

Now for those of you looking for actual reviews of actual films about actual vampires, well here are a few meaty selections of my own:

Anyone worthy of calling themselves a true fang fan will not be complete until they see the first best film on the subject. F.W. Murnau's 1922 classic silent Nosferatu is as much a haunting tale as a visual treat, a must see, not because it's a first, but because it's just that good.

At the exact opposite end of the spectrum, we have Ankle Biters (2002), the second worst movie I've ever seen. This is a film about midgets vampires with a plan to turn regular height people to their fold... you heard me right.

And finally, here's another little low-budge piece of work called Bloodsuckers (2005), or Sci-Fi Vampire Hunters in Space, if you prefer. You know for as bad as this was, watching it with friends made it all worth it.

Thanks for reading, and remember to return for (or even participate in) November 15th's Alfred Hitchcock Blog-A-Thon, hosted by... ME!

For a complete listing of all the ghouls participating in this frenzied film feast, visit our venerable host, Count Nathaniel in his infernal lair The Film Experience Blog!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Jamaica Inn (1939)

Hitchcock! Hitchcock! Hitchcock!

I dare you to find one stick of chronic in this hotel...

Genre: Period Adventure Crime Drama (UK)

Starring: Charles Laughton (The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939); The Paradine Case), Maureen O'Hara (Miracle on 34th Street; Rio Grande)

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (Marnie; Vertigo)

Overview: When a woman arrives to Jamaica Inn in hopes of starting a new life, she's quickly swallowed up in a den of cut-throat pirates.

Acting: This is the kind of film where all the main characters seemed to have gone just a tad overboard (pardon the pun), while the supporting cast all does an awesome job. Leslie Banks, the molten faced man in the middle of the picture below plays a strong man and a strong leader of curs. His first mate had a tremendous presence as well, all filthy clothed yet somehow endearing in that horrible molesting, murder and pillage kind of way. If it hadn't been for the almost-comic zeal of the stars this could have been spectacular.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: As period pieces go, I suppose it was nice to watch. What you'll appreciate most is the hard lighting that is Hitchcock's signature. This film is shot in a bleak, oppressive kind of way that enhances the mood tremendously, and the outfits of the grungy pirates I found added a certain element. It's clear that a lot went into the sets and all the different locations, so kudos there.
Rating: 8

Script: When speaking of the magistrate, there was a touch too much of the grand theatrical style I'm not so fond of, however the pirates and the wife of our head ruffian have these interesting telling moments that richly express their characters and their lot in life, really drawing you in. This isn't anything grand, but it's quite decent.
Rating: 7

Plot: The storytelling is a little odd. I guess the best way of putting it is to say awkward. We have a story where a woman's starting a new life in a new place and she quickly figures out about this den of curs and murderers. You'd think there would be tons of subterfuge and intrigue with dabs of suspense. Well it's all there but that ending just doesn't work. I gather Hitchcock again didn't have loads of creative control, because this was just a clunky story even though there was tons of promise.
Rating: 7

Mood: Our magistrate dons a rubber make-up head thing with the weirdest bushy eyebrows you've ever seen, slapstickily large. Every time he furrowed his brow I asked myself what on earth possessed the make-up department to think this was good or important. A period piece by Hitchcock is a rare thing and perhaps I should give him the benefit of the doubt, but for some reason, I just didn't buy it. As I told Girlfriend of Squish, "it's a good movie, just not a good movie for Hitchcock." Turns out it seems that this was one of Hitch's least favorite film productions ever.
Rating: 8

Stunning performances by the two men on the right make this film palpable.. otherwise I'd have had the pasties... yeah more ganga humour.

Overall Rating: 76% (Ja-Made It!)

Aftertaste: The point at which I realized this was Hitchcock's last film made in England was really when I watched Rebecca, which starts off in a huge budget, "Selznick productions presents" kind of way. It's clear to see how much a producer can influence a film. It's almost sick how obvious it is. Luckily for us, Hitchcock's Hollywood trek would lead us to some of the best films ever made... or so I'm told.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Young And Innocent (1937)

Hitchcock! Hitchcock! Hitchcock!

You need ask how he got so large...

Crime Drama Thriller (UK)

Starring: Nova Pilbeam (The Man Who Knew Too Much), Derrick De Marney (Things To Come)

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (Downhill; Under Capricorn)

Overview: Happenstance puts a young man as the prime suspect in the murder of a movie star. His only way out is to flee and find the proof that could clear him, all with the help of the police constable's daughter.

Acting: Every Hitchcock film I see, I realize more and more than Hitch does the best he can with what he gets. I don't know who was responsible for his casting, but for as much as the players are well-placed and well-rehearsed, there's just always something missing from making their performances grand in my scale (literally). Again we have some well-meaning actors directed just right, but I wouldn't say that Young And Innocent got the casting it deserved.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: I can't say I liked the scenes with little models instead of crane shots, or those scenes where people ran towards a projection screen, like something out of the 80s. It's the price of watching film of the thirties I guess, but Hitch didn't leave us with much eye candy besides that. Filmed ever so simply, we have a straight-told tale sans high-art, except for the dramatic scene at the end.
Rating: 7

Script: I don't recall anything spectacular in this realm either. Sometimes films resonate with deep characterization or poetic displays, or staccato escalations of emotion. This was just a man claiming his innocence and a woman trying to help him. If you watched this on mute, you'd know what's going on. I can't say I'm moved by that sort of film... call me a poet.
Rating: 7

Plot: As I watched I knew this would become a predictable tale of an innocent man trying to clear his name, all while falling in love with the woman he must alternately trust and perhaps even intimidate. I didn't think it would be more than a rote film telling a dramatic yet oft-told tale. Image my surprise when everything changes at the end, with one of Hitchcock's best set ups and endings I've seen yet. I very much enjoyed seeing a character who can't conceal his guilt very well.
Rating: 8

Mood: The entrancement of this film was compromised by several factors. A band in blackface still stings, no matter how much of a tribute to vaudeville it is. Bumbling police officers add a comic element that strained this film rather than aiding it. It's alright to make fun of cops as long as the humour is blatant, or the scene demands it, but doing it just to prove a point about the director's hatred only serves to stretch our suspension of disbelief too far, not cool.
Rating: 7

"I have a serious question for you dear... has Alfred Hitchcock been eating you?"

Overall Rating: 72% (Naive Even...)

Aftertaste: Is it possible that Alfred Hitchcock isn't going to be in my Top 5 directors list?! There's liking films by one director and there's being truly moved and loving their works. I know I speak early, not even having gone through half a man's works, but 19 movies in, I think I have a pretty good idea where I stand. It's official. I'm not a fan of Hitchcock's early works. I'll start off with a fresh slate when I watch Rebecca, a place I think marks his rise into constant classicdom.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Hitchcock! Hitchcock! Hitchcock!

NO I see her! She's right there... IN THE MIDDLE!

Genre: Mystery Thriller Drama (UK)

Starring: Margaret Lockwood (Night Train to Munich; The Man In Grey) Michael Redgrave (The Dam Busters; The Way To The Stars)

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (Rear Window; I Confess)

Overview: *POOF!*

Acting: Fantastic. Everyone is so focussed in their self that the story allows itself to unfold in such a way that you realize that selfishness is an integral theme to this film. If the performances weren't so comically self-centered, this could have easily fallen apart. By now we all should know how professional Hitchcock is in this department. I'm not surprised.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: I would say there's only a couple sights worth mentioning. When our prying lady investigator gets bopped over the head, there's this interesting dizzying kaleidoscopic effect, even if it's simple to do. The other fun thing to watch was the freight car with everyone's cluttered luggage, the magic equipment and that cute little calf. I'm glad the story itself was as engrossing as it was since the visuals weren't the reason for coming out. Criterion might have made a gorgeous print, but what they cleaned up wasn't the genius I expected from this man.
Rating: 7

Script: This is what this film is all about. Without a fantastic script, this movie wouldn't be on must see lists or on IMDB's top 250 films list. This story is intricate enough, simple enough and funny enough to keep one entertained, and the wit is top-notch. I thought it started off a little too slow for my liking, but when the mystery starts it's a good one to follow and try to figure out.
Rating: 8

Plot: The story really begins, yet all too slowly, when our little adventuress learns that her travelling companion is nowhere to be found. She starts asking around and one thing escalates to another and the premise quickly becomes, "did I imagine all of this?" The best part is that if you think about it you can solve a lot, but the story changes enough as you go along that even if you figure everything out, there's still an exciting story unfolding too. My big problem with this was the ultra-abrupt ending, much like The 39 Steps did. I guess if you make a blockbuster, you might as well end the next blockbuster the same way...hell, it's a classic, who am I to judge?
Oh right, my site.
Rating: 8

Mood: Ultimately I was disappointed. When I saw Treasure Of The Sierra Madre or Onibaba, I knew I was watching a movie that was worth seeing, and perhaps hopefully even something I'd really like, but I held no great expectation. This was the opposite. I expected to find something gorgeous and great, full of intrigue and mystery. Not so much. Yes, it's a classic film, but the beginning was far too slow to suck me in, and the end too stunted to draw me out.
Rating: 8

Hubba Hubba, she makes things appear, if you know what I mean...

Overall Rating: 78% (???)

Aftertaste: So I've come to a conclusion about what Hitchcock's mastery was in his early days. It's obvious that he's big on directing the actors as well as possible because the roles are always really well done, but more than anything he's big on lighting, German Expressionistically so...

Oh and I was the one who found Hitchcock's cameo in this one. That made me happy. He was walking along and doing this funny goofy neck thing...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sabotage (1936)

Hitchcock! Hitchcock! Hitchcock!

... and sometimes posters just suck

Genre: Drama Thriller (UK)

Starring: Sylvia Sydney (Blood On The Sun; You Only Live Once), Oskar Homolka (War And Peace; A Farewell To Arms)

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (Lifeboat; Rope)

Overview: An undercover detective follows a suspicious man and his wife, whom he suspects play a part in recent acts of London terrorism.

Acting: Personally, I thought Sylvia was a little weak, in character and in casting choice. Maybe it's because the other version has such a strong woman in it. The role of the detective also seemed a little strange, but that may have been the script more than the performance. In fact the only really good roles where were those of the shady characters, the husband and his malignant ilk.

Rating: 8

Cinematography: Here is the lighting that has inspired hundreds of directors, the lighting Hitchcock has made his own. This is all about stark shadows synonymous with Noir. What I found interesting was that the film itself isn't filled with artistic montages or intricate sets and camera set ups, it's just a pure mood-setting look, simple yet so effective.
Rating: 8

Script: Every line spoken by the husband was gold. The words of the odd little shop owner: terrific. The baddies are all creepy-cool. As it was with the acting, the dialogue suffered most when it was the happy righteous people talking their common blather. My favorite conversations are the ones that serve to make things worse, explanations used to bury characters in their own mire of filth.
Rating: 8

Plot: Ridiculously similar to Conrad's The Secret Agent, I though it couldn't be a coincidence. After some fact-checking, I discovered 'Written by Joseph Conrad'. Go fig. Well it's a modern day retelling of that story, yet completely different, less cerebral than the 1996 version but with far more mystery and suspense, thanks to linear editing. I can't say I appreciated the personal stake the detective brought to the story, but the climax stayed true to my expectation, yet with enough difference to keep it from ending exactly the same way.
Rating: 8

Mood: The score, the lighting and the mystery are perfectly honed in this. This is tremendously cliché Noir, in the best sense of the word. My only complaint would be the policing side of things, especially that too personally involved detective. If Hitchcock wasn't so bent on making the police look like a bunch of knobs this could have been far more immersive. It's a shame that a film has to suffer just to appeal to the paradigm of its director.
Rating: 8

"As a matter of fact I DIDN'T know the word came from jamming wooden clogs in gears! You sold me!"

Overall Rating: 80% (Sets Off A Few Sparks)

Aftertaste: Well consistently the quality of this director's works improves year by year. It also proves that pumping out film after film in rapid succession doesn't necessarily make you learn a business more quickly. If what I envision of hitchcock is correct, I suspect he's still got a few production reigns that are preventing him from making his ideal visions. Onward and upward!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Secret Agent (1936)

Hitchcock! Hitchcock! Hitchcock!

Aww... hugging 'the other man', isn't that nice!

Genre: Mystery Thriller Drama Romance (UK)

Starring: John Gielgud (Around The World In Eighty Days;The Elephant Man), Peter Lorry (The Man Who Knew Too Much; Arsenic And Old Lace)

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (Spellbound; Notorious)

Overview: Before the start of the First World War, a British novelist is made spy and teamed up with a woman, their cover as man and wife. Their mission is to uncover and assassinate a German agent.

Acting: I got this feeling like Hitch didn't really care all that much about properly directing the players for this one. Perhaps it's yet again my own distain for the foppish British theatrics that happen from time to time. Either way, it's nice to see Peter Lorry again, and though I was usually less than impressed, I very much enjoyed the microcosmic perspective of the wife, played by Madeleine Carroll.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: The thing about movies made in this era is after you've seen one wardrobe, you've seen 'em all. Whenever there's a social scene, it's always flamboyant dresses and tuxedos, so it's not that impressive. The suspense scenes seemed less than engrossing, and though there was the occasional beauty for the eye, be they dramatic crashes or slowly-stalking assassinations, there was just something missing.
Rating: 7

Script: You know, when you come into possession of a Chinese box set of forty of Hitchcock's films, maybe you should expect that from time to time the sound quality isn't going to be that great. The script didn't seem to be anything all that special, but I will note one great scenes where man and wife are dancing, and discussing a killing. The woman is all about the thrill of spydom and the excitement of risking it all. Her false husband quickly reminds her that the grim task he needs to embark on is anything but glorious. The moralising, the guilt, the doubt, these are things that make the writing decent.
Rating: 7

Plot: I get the strange suspicion that Hitchcock may not have had all the power he wanted to wield when making this film. It seemed far too tightly reigned. I could be wrong of course. Hitch could simply have been on a lull, but a story about a man turned spy and trying to find the bad guy then whack him should be so boring, the intrigue scenes should have been longer, the end should have been less Deux Ex Machina, and the final dénouement seemed all too contrived.

Rating: 6

Mood: It's interesting how old habits die hard. We have this film that followed on the heels of the insanely popular The 39 Steps, and it's almost like Hitch took a vacation for his hard work. It had a mildly odd romantic side to it, and though a serious film, we have this weird, short little Peter Lorry wandering around as some sort of kicking boy. I'm surprised he didn't get instantly and forever pigeon-holed as the dorky comic relief. Yeah, not quite the hit in the atmosphere department.
Rating: 6

No wonder the star was pissed off at with role, even the publicity photos have the wife-chasing bachelor instead of him!

Overall Rating: 66% (Don't Rush to Find Ze Microfeelm)

Aftertaste: I'm having so much trouble finding Hitchcock in his films that I've given up. I've only seen him once in Blackmail. It makes me cry.

Well holy jumpin'. Wanna know why I couldn't find him in this? It's cause he's not there. Turns out he didn't cameo in all his films. Imagine searching for Waldo for hours when you realize you're reading Tintin. God.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The 39 Steps (1935)

Hitchcock! Hitchcock! Hitchcock!

Believe be if there'd have been 40, it would have been a CRAAAAZY long movie.

Genre: Comedy Drama Mystery Thriller (UK)

Starring: Robert Donat (Goodbye, Mr. Chips; Knight Without Armour) Madeleine Carroll (Secret Agent, The Prisoner of Zenda)

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (Blackmail, The Pleasure Garden)

Overview: When a mysterious woman claiming to be a spy asks for help, our hero finds himself caught up in quite a bind of espionage, manhunts and sticky situations.

Acting: So much of what has come before was theatrical garbage, and suddenly it seems that Hitchcock, now with a decent amount of creative control, doesn't like that foppish crap all that much. This has fine roles and quality players, not like the actors of such terrible films as Number Seventeen. In fact I'd go as far as to say that these performances were just what I expected from our Master of Suspense, even though Peter Lorry wasn't in it.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: The editing was clearly planned by Hitch, with such already recognizable effects as a woman finding a dead body turning to face the camera and opening her mouth to shriek just as the high-pitched train whistle squeals, chugging out of a tunnel. Classic. In 1935 it was clear that leaps and bounds in camera technology were happening quickly, because there's nowhere near as much of the God-awful cropping problems as killed the mood in so many films, Hitchcock included. Visually it was fine. No there were no grand scenes, but you did get the occasional art-moment and action stunt.
Rating: 7

Script: The comedy is all wit. Scathing comments tossed back and forth escalate near the end when we have our hero forced to endure a situation with a dry pointed humour. As for the mystery itself, the script does a fine job of waiting for the right moment to spring it on you.
Rating: 8

Plot: A fantastically diverse three-act tale of a man agreeing to help a woman, then realizing he's in over his head, then right when you think things are looking up, they get about as bad as you could have imagined. The last act is one of these terrific 'can he keep running and keep his head' plots that you really can't predict. It's pretty intense.
Rating: 8

Mood: One thing I've noticed about early Hitchcock, is that when his films have a funny moment, somehow someone pegs it with the Comedy genre. That's a little retarded if you ask me. In this case though, the comedy factor was far more prevalent. What's nice is that it works, not this stupid light physical comedy as was attempted in the awkward Rich And Strange, or the completely unfunny so called 'Drama Comedy' Champagne. What truly sets this film apart is the richness of the Noir, while still not being overly serious. The suspense and the heartbeat-skipping escapes are truly what made this film a classic. Worth it.
Rating: 8

"Shhh!!! At this rate we'll be found by step 17!"

Overall Rating: 78% (Worth The Hike)

Aftertaste: Little less than a month left to study as many of his works as possible and I'll admit I'm a little behind. Have no fear, you can get a little introductory taste of the Alfred Hitchcock Blog-A-Thon before it begins by visiting Emma over at All About My Movies. Her entry only makes me realize how much I'm looking forward to see all his brilliant works! A factoid tidbit: this is the movie that made him great. Since this one, the producers gave him far more leeway to make movies he knew were good. Finally...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Science Of Sleep (2006)

Hmmm, risk being bitten by a creepy razor, or have 5 o'clock shadow...

Genre: Comedy Drama Fantasy Romance (France, Italy)

Gael García Bernal (Amorres Perros, The Motorcycle Diaries) Charlotte Gainsbourg (21 Grams; My Wife Is An Actress)

Directed By: Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Dave Chapelle's Block Party)

Overview: A man attempts to stay in control of his life, but finds himself living more in his dreams than in reality.

Acting: I'm sure all the other actors were quite pleased with their performances and Gondry's guiding hand, not to mention the great idea of casting Gael as the lead. The only strange thing is (and strange is so subjective for this film because we're not ever sure if anything was purposely done do be out of the scrutinous eye of continuity) that in the beginning Charlotte has some trouble with her English but half-way through she's this well-spoken British accented thing. I don't know why...
Rating: 8

Cinematography: Imagine my surprise when not only do I see everything I expected in the way of original visual effects and comedic stylings, but stop- motion too! It was fantastic. Not in the way that it was seamless and perfect, but in that low-budget cardboard way, but not cheap. You'll see how in-tune with the context it is (as it represents his mother's arts and crafts drawer). If you've watched many stop-motion films, you'll know that it's also very tributary to the stop-motion culture. Awesome look.
Rating: 9

Script: I liked trilingual side of it, with Spanish, English and French all thrown into the mix. As stories go it was simply told and hilarious, but the end goes in a direction I never would have gone as it makes it too unsympathetic to our hero. All those I was with disagreed with me, but I lost way too much respect for him. In the end everything happened as though what he said hadn't been said, so at least it didn't damage the plot too much.
Rating: 8

Plot: I think, though I'm not sure, that half the fun is trying to figure out when he's awake, but at the same time the dream moments are super obvious... (or are they?). It's basically a love story, but in that same non-girly way as Gondry did with Eternal Sunshine. Without the dream-essence, this would be a really bland and almost lame film, but plain old romantic comedies are garbage anyways. It takes a real smarty pants to turn it into a Comedy Romance, and Gondry did it again, and quite well, thank you.
Rating: 8

Mood: There is an awesome example here of how a passably fine film was made into a spectacular feature by purely adding elements that were completely unnecessary to the plot. We have interesting and fun inventions made by our hero and we see how he sees life all while realizing that he is trapped all too often in the tiring work that is sleeping. Without the stop-motion, the swimming through the air, the quirky inventions, this would have been just fine, but with all this creativity and original design, it becomes something really special.
Rating: 9

Canadians will cherish the most-likely unintentional resemblance to the 80s kids show, "The Friendly Giant"

Overall Rating: 84% (There's A Science To Art Too)

Aftertaste: It's nice when you see exactly what you expected in a good way, and I got just a little more, given my interest in stop-motion. Lesson learned: there's neat stuff you can do with the most common household items and instead of making it look cheap, it makes it look rustic cozy cool. Yeah you'll like this, it's fun.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

Hitchcock! Hitchcock! Hitchcock!

"In fact, should you take the square root of such a number and multiply it by the hypotenuse..."

Genre: Adventure Drama Mystery Thriller (UK)

Starring: Leslie Banks (Jamaica Inn; The Most Dangerous Game), Peter Lorry (Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon)

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (The Lodger, The Wrong Man)

Overview: When a couple is brought into the fold of an assassination plot, the killers kidnap their daughter to keep them silent.

Acting: We have a huge name in Peter Lorry. He's this Hungarian-born dude who's voice became synonymous with lecherous malignance. As for his fedora, cigarette and his beady bulgy eyes, well that made sure that Film Noir would be his niche, so yeah, he's pretty effin' cool in this. As for the man who knew too much, his friend and his wife, we have exactly what I expected: a solid performance guided by a solid director.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: You might not recognize the Hitchcockian streak here, but if it's probably because you'd mistake all these haunting visuals as elements of the genre, this classic Film Noir style we all know and love. But if you think about it for a while, you might then ask yourself, "Why is Hitchcock known as the MASTER of suspense?" Well when you help invent it, you tend to be allowed to hold the scepter...
Rating: 8

Script: The most disappointing part of the film would have to be the dialogue. We have this great story where these two guys have to go off and risk their lives where saying nothing might have spoken volumes instead of such dialogue as the police begging to be let in on the secret, or meaningless banter between the villains. I think I have an idea as to what Hitchcock looked at first when he decided to remake this in '56. You watch...
Rating: 6

Plot: The story is fairly simple and full of intrigue. We start off with a dying man imploring the person nearest him to help them, giving them the keys to their hotel room. From there we learn about an assassination plot that would bring forth the Second World War in exactly the same way the First World War began. Those involved aren't able to bring in the cops for fear their daughter would be killed, so they set off to find the evildoers themselves. It's an interesting concept and there's some interesting finds along the way but the end falls apart when it takes us into a very unbelievable act of police bumbling and spectator rubbernecking.
Rating: 7

Mood: Speaking of which, let me know next time there's a full out shootout with dead people in the streets so I can go gawk at the whole thing. I told Girlfriend of Squish that it's a pretty good sign that you're living in a really boring town when the whole neighbourhood goes TOWARDS the gunshots to watch the trouble. I guess the only thing worse would have been the cops saying "nothing to see here! Move along!" At least it's Film Noir, and decent at that.
Rating: 7

"Pardon me Peter, but just because that's your name it doesn't give you the right to grab mine"

Overall Rating: 72% (Didn't Know Enough To Make A Great Film...)

Aftertaste: Here we go, all things Hitchcock in one nice package, Crime Thrillers combined with Mystery Suspense and you have a recipe for Film Noir worthy of being proud of. Sure it has its flaws but those fans out there who want to start a true study of 'Hitchcockian Hitchcock' can get away with calling this his first real 'creative control' film that began his trek through immortality.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Farmer's Wife (1928)

Hitchcock! Hitchcock! Hitchcock!

Hahah! Eyeballs are funny!

Genre: Silent Romantic Comedy Drama (UK)

Starring: Jameson Thomas, Lillian Hall-Davis (The Ring)

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (Lifeboat; Rebecca)

Overview: An aging farmer decides that he's going to get married. He compiles a list of suitable wives, then goes a knockin', door to door.

Acting: We have here a fine example of the directorial reigns that Hitchcock could muster up. Combined with that we have some severe characterization rich with the culture of the Silent Era film, slightly over-expressive, but comically so. If you want to see a Hitchcock oldie that also represents the better side of this decade's acting, this is pretty bang on. A quality performance by all.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: Why in God's name did anyone beg and plead for the talkie when the versatility of the silent film camera allowed for so much better? Alright enough of that... but why didn't they at least shoot PART of films without synch sound? Grr... Anyways, we have here a nice little rustic film with some quality scenes and it's well made and there you go.
Rating: 7

Script: And on top of everything else, it's actually FUNNY. I even laughed out loud on several occasions. You see, every time our farmer gets rejected, though polite it may be, he always takes it the wrong way and flips out on the ladies, insulting them as best he can before storming out. The way the characters are allows for comical scenarios too. No this wasn't full of laughs, but at least it was 'funny cute'.
Rating: 7

Plot: Predictable from the onset, we have a story about a guy who writes four names down on a piece of paper, and as soon as he leaves the house you just know this is going to end with all of them rejecting him until something climactic happens at the end and everything turns out peachy keen (or something). That something is just as predictable as anything, but maybe, just maybe the fact that this was released in 1928 makes this transparent plot completely original back then... yeah right.
Rating: 6

Mood: That's right, a romantic comedy by Alfred Hitchcock, and you know what, this is yet again proof that this man's earliest and decent works got noticed well enough that he got a job working for no-imagination producers, thinking he'd be better off. Well it almost cost him his career, a frightening thought. Now, as romantic comedies go, this is decent, though the musical score got usurped in my new fashion of playing what I like in the background while the film runs on mute. I'll tell you though, two hours and 10 minutes is way too long for this kind of story. Why this happens so often, I'll never know...
Rating: 6

Uh yeah, she actually IS as annoying as she looks, so uh... great casting...poor lady...

Overall Rating: 68% (Yeah, I'm Not Married To It Either...)

Aftertaste: Only Juno And The Paycock remains and I'm really not looking forward to that, but at the same time when people ask me "Why don't you just watch his good stuff?", I'm reminded of how impressed I was with the ending of The Pleasure Garden, or the montage work in Downhill. I never would have thought that those two films would be anywhere near as impressive as they were, and I was pleasantly surprised. This sort of devotion to a study of film may have its down side, but if I get just a few good original minutes out of something, it might just make a film worth my while.