Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Coraline (Henry Selick, 2009) Review

I think it's an interesting point that I've not only already done a spot frame animated film but this is also the second one to be directed by Henry Selick...maybe he should stop being a freaky weirdo (sorry, sir). Now, A Nightmare Before Christmas is obviously a Halloween related film...and Christmas but more so Halloween. What does Coraline have to do with that or, failing that, is it the least bit scary...oh, you have no idea.

The Jones family recently moved into an old shared house old in the middle of nowhere. The daughter, Coraline (Dakota Fanning) feels ignored by her parents (Terri Hatcher and John Hodgman) and gets bored so she decides to explore their new home. Doing so, she finds a hidden passage that, obviously, she goes through. Coraline finds herself in a parallel world where everyone's eyes are replaced by buttons. She finds that in this world, her parents are much more attentive and treat her well. While this world seems all well and good, slowly the truth behind the other world is revealed and Coraline has to escape from her Other Mother.

Going in, I had no idea what to think think. Literally, no idea. Coming out...I can conclude that this is a pretty damn scary film. It worries me that this was targeted at kids considering some of the frightening imagery in this. Now, scary kids in films is fine in small doses like the pink elephants in Dumbo but, when it's a whole film of freaking imagery, I have to wonder if this is really a kids film. It proves to me that films like this are definitely scarier than any, so called, 'horror' film like Paranormal Activity can be (i.e. not scary in the slightest no matter how hard it tries). It doesn't rely on jump scares and simply uses imaginative characters and scenarios for raw horror.

Something I learnt about Coraline is that it was it was originally supposed to be a musical much like A Nightmare Before Christmas. Initially I didn't mind the change but considering that They Might Be Giants would be behind the soundtrack, I think we missed our chance for an excellent soundtrack (one short song is left in and it's great...and works in context). Since I can't think of a better segway, let's talk about the actors. Teri Hatcher does a great job as both mothers. She plays the real one as bored and uninterested however the Other Mother is played bi-polar with the calm and attentive side before switching to the cruel and terrifying performance. It's also good to see Dakota Fanning...put effort into a role. This and My Neighbour Totoro are the only films that I can think of where she does a good job. She just seems bored in other films but I guess I'll save that for other films.

Coraline is a well animated, good looking and genuinely scary film from stop fame mastermind Henry Selick. The voice actors do great jobs, especially Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher, and offers some imaginative scenarios and supporting characters. While I personally prefer A Nightmare Before Christmas mostly because I prefer the characters and designs, but I wouldn't argue with anyone that said Coraline is the stronger film...because it could possibly be. 

It looks good and is well animated, has great voice acting and is genuinely scary.

Friday, October 25, 2013

It (Tommy Lee Wallace, 1990) Review

Now it appears that I have been a bit too generous this month and haven't exactly review any bad films. Well I think it's time to change that and tackle a film that really SHOULD be scary but ends up being god damn hilarious. Sure, I'm freaked out by scary clowns and I haven't really seen a film that exploits peoples fear of clowns except this one so...let's take a look at It...great name for a film, by the way. (Yes, I know it is TECHNICALLY a mini-series but it can be viewed as one boringly long film).

In 1960, a group of high school outcasts realise that the town they live in is terrorised by a sadistic evil clown known as Pennywise (Tim Curry) who has been killing children with the brother of one of the kids being the most notable. They band together to take the clown down. 20 years later after the defeat of Pennywise, he is back and is now out for revenge against the now grown up group. It's now up to them to defeat the clown once and for all.

You may have noticed that the only character whose name and actor I mentioned is Pennywise. The reason for this is because everyone else in this film is unbelievably dull. The only kid character I remember well is Richie and that is only because he's played by Seth Green. This therefore means that, when someone dies, there is no sorrow to be had because I just don't care for them. However, where the main characters fall down, this only enhances Pennywise. Tim Curry is freaking hilarious. I'm not sure whether or not he is SUPPOSED to be funny but he really is. I'm sure fans of the Nostalgia Critic know which scene is one my mind at the moment ("Do you have Prince Albert in a can?") and props to the make-up guys because it is truly hard to tell that that is Tim Curry.

Tim Curry holds his film all together and would be god awful if it wasn't for him. The special effects are dreadful, the script is dire and the story is not very good. There is no explanation for where Pennywise came from or why he does what he does. Don't watch this film if you want're not getting any (seems to be a theme with Stephen King's works).

It is only worth a watch to watch Tim Curry mess around as an evil clown. That statement should be on the DVD cover considering that it's the only selling point. Everything is pretty dull. Not necessarily terrible (well, some things are terrible), just dull. Dull is the word that best describes this film/mini-series/whatever the hell it is. Not really worth a watch unless you want to see a hilarious role from Tim Curry

There is only one reason to watch this, Tim Curry.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984) Review

Continuing on with the nightmares (first there was a nightmare before Christmas, now there's a nightmare on Elm Street!) is our first proper HORROR film with blood and all the good stuff. Now I am aware that this film did spawn a big franchise consisting of many films but we're just dealing with the first one for now. I may review them at a later date but I've got to watch them first. Let's just take a look at A Nightmare on Elm Street.

On Elm Street, a group of teenagers are being tormented in their dreams by a clawed assailant known as Fred Krueger (Robert Englund). When Krueger kills one of them in their dream, they die in real life meaning that one teen, Nancy Thompson  (Heather Langenkamp), is left to battle Kruger in the dreamworld and bring him to the real world. There is also a mystery surrounding Krueger's origins and what Nancy's mother (Ronee Blakley) knows about him. 

I couldn't really continue without pointing out that, yes, this is Johnny Depp's first ever acting role. With that out of the way, one thing that I love about this film, and considering that it's a horror film it definitely benefits from this, is that I had absolutely no idea what direction this film was going. There are a lot of fake outs and hope spots that work in the films favour but, that being said, maybe it relies a bit too heavily on that. There isn't as much suspense as their could be and I feel that showing Freddy more would've worked. I know the best horror films keep the monster off screen or a majority of the film like Alien or Jaws but that's because their silent killers. Freddy relies on black comedy which isn't shown off as often as it could be.

While on the topic of Freddy Krueger, Robert Englund basically IS Freddy. 'Nuff said. I also enjoyed Heather Lagenkamp's performance as she managed to convey Nancy's character arc and development that came with surprisingly complex story. Even more so, the ending is............interesting. It is definitely up to interpretation and it's interesting to learn that the director himself hated it...and I can see why. It definitely kills the mood and left me with an awkward feeling.

All in all, A Nightmare on Elm Street does it's job of making a good horror film. While I feel that Freddy should've been explored more and that he needed more attention, the acting is good for the most part and the effects are effective (I guess that's why their called effects...) and I had no idea where the film was going. That's always a plus with horror films. I guess the biggest flaw is that it is very very 80s...VERY 80s....

It has many flaws however it makes up for these flaws with good acting and genuinely good horror.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Beetlejuice (Tim Burton, 1988) Review

I'm quite concerned that a lot of the films I went over to review next were directed by Tim Burton which reminds me how messed up in the head he is. While I'm sure I'll get down to watching proper horror films like A Nightmare On Elm Street and Halloween so that I can review them but...I haven't watched them yet so lets have one more comedic horror film before diving into the proper horror. Let's take a look at Beetlejuice.

When married couple Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) are killed in a car accident, they return to their home and learn that they are now ghosts. The problem is that a new family is planning on moving into their home while Adam and Barbara fail at scaring them out since it only makes them want to stay more. The couple decide to call for the help of Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), a "bio-exorcist", who has more plans than just helping them.

This is definitely one of the Tim Burton films that I would call a classic. Michael Keaton kills it as the eponymous spirit and steals the show from everyone else. That's not to say that everyone else is terrible. In fact, far from it. Catherine O'Hara and Jeffrey Jones are very memorable as the obnoxious couple that are moving in with the dinner scene being the highlight of the film (I can see the fans of the film chuckling now) which leads me onto the comedy. This is a great example of balancing creepy imagery with great comedy that doesn't date itself.

Unique is the word I would use to describe this film...and a lot of other Tim Burton films but this one is the most unique. I think insane might be a better word based on the writing, humour and make-up (Michael Keaton is unrecognisable!). It's clear that Burton had strong creative control in this film which will probably determine what you're opinion on the film is seeing as there are some people that aren't fond of Tim Burton and his...craziness.

Beetlejuice knows how to balance comedy and creepy imagery perfectly with memorable acting from the likes of Michael Keaton who steals the show. There are some great scenes and some generally creepy moments to fulfill the horror aspect of the film. It's not perfect but there is even good stuff to be worth a recommendation, especially if you're a fan of Tim Burton's other films.

A perfect balance of comedy and creepy imagery with great acting and memorable scenes.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Selick, 1993) Review

So you could probably argue that this is a Christmas film but, let's face it, you'll remember more Halloween imagery which means that I count this as a Halloween film (the name of the first song is 'This is Halloween'). Despite being directed by Henry Selick, I guess Tim Burton had creative control so that means that we have to take a look at Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas...I'm not calling it's like saying J.K.Rowling's Harry Potter and the Something Something...ok.

In a world composed of Halloween elements creatively called Halloweentown, the town is finished celebrating the holiday of Halloween (I'm probably going to say that word a lot) and the king of Halloween, Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon), grows tired of the same thing year after year and goes off to search for something new. He returns having learnt about the holiday of Christmas and wishes to take over the holiday and do it himself. Rag doll creation Sally (Cathrine O'Hara) foresees a disaster at Christmas and tries to warn Jack but he doesn't heed her warning.

I have very fond memories of this film and enjoyed it a lot...however having watched it recently, I can actually see some of the flaws it has. The biggest flaw is that it is far too short. Now it's kind of hard to create a very long stop frame film and I praised The Cat Returns despite its length however while The Cat Returns was well paced, this is not. There are a lot of things not explained and it feels like there are scenes missing (and the deleted scenes on the DVD didn't help). It just goes a bit too quickly (heck, the villain Oogie Boogie (Ken Page) only appears in three scenes!).

Other than that, there aren't that many huge flaws. The songs are VERY memorable and catchy with my favourites being Jack's Lament, The Oogie-Boogie Song and Poor Jack which come from the mind of Danny Elfman and are accompanied by great vocals (Danny Elfman and Ken Page do excellent jobs). The songs in this musical do their job of conveying how the character is feeling and/or moving the story along. The character designs are just wonderful, Jack especially has a fascinating design that only gets better by using some very impressive stop frame effects.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of the greats in stop-frame animation and, while the pacing needs work which does take it down a few notches, it can still be considered a classic that I put on every Halloween...or Christmas...or both. The music is brilliant, the look is perfect for stop frame, the sets are well crafted and the characters are memorable, well designed and well voiced. If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favour and stick it on this Halloween.

The pacing is a big issue because it feels like scenes are missing or things just aren't explained, however the stop frame is very impressive, the music is brilliant, the voice acting is great and the characters are memorable and likable and is a great Halloween film.

But was Chris Sarandon needed seeing as Jack sings more than he speaks?

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Invisible Man (James Whale, 1933) Review

So it only hit me that it was October...well, I knew it was October but I've only just got into the spirit of it as it's the month of Halloween! That means that we can dig into some scary films...that's exactly why I picked one that wasn't scary...sorry. It only seemed appropriate to start with a classic Universal horror film and I decided to pick my favourite monster (harsh seeing as he's still human, I guess). Let's take a look at The Invisible Man.

A scientist named Griffin (Claude Rains) develops an experiment that allows him to become invisible, however this is permanent. Not only that, but the experiment also starts affecting his brain and he slowly turns insane resulting in him using his power to terrorise the local town and terrify the citizens. The police are called in to deal with the situation however they are dealing with an enemy that they can't see.

The reason that Griffin is my favourite of the Universal horror icons is because he is a much more likable character. Not likable in an emotional sense but in the sense that it is clear that, while he is insane, he is enjoying himself and is more of a prankster...sure he goes a bit far but the performance of Claude Rains brings some light-heartedness to the role. However, Claude Rains is the only memorable star. I can't remember a single other character except for Flora (Gloria Stuart). Rains makes this film.

There isn't really much for the plot however it's simple and therefore a nice, easy flick to put on. The ending may leave you a bit depressed but it's all good fun while it long as you're on Griffin's side. Amazingly, the effects still hold up. The scene where Griffin removes his bandages to reveal nothing there is pretty chilling and still amazingly well done. Later scenes such as him skipping in nothing but his trousers or his footsteps appearing in the snow still look good, especially considering the time this film was made. 

The Invisible Man is my personal favourite of the classic Universal horror films but it doesn't necessarily mean it's the best. To be honest, it's pretty simple. You could argue that it holds up well enough with a likable yet sadistic protagonist...antagonist...prantagonist (I'm coining that word now) with some effects that still look good now. The plot is simple but it's a good film to stick on this Halloween  It's not perfect but it's a good film to see at least once. 

While the plot is simple and Griffin is the only memorable character, the effects still hold up and it gets the tone right with a likable monster.

and yes, the Invisible Man is my favourite character in Hotel Transylvania.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Flight (Robert Zemeckis, 2012) Review

Why is it that everything I've been watching has plane catastrophes recently?! First I watched this movie, which focuses on the repercussions of the averted disaster, then I saw an episode of An Idiot Abroad and now I've been re watching Breaking Bad (nothing will fill that empty void in my heart) so I thought it would only be far to catch up on this movie...considering I've had it in draft form for ages in the hopes I would see it in the cinema...which didn't happen.

William 'Whip' Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is an alcoholic, drug addicted pilot who manages to stop a potentially catastrophic crash with an unbelievable maneuver that could not be simulated. He is hailed a hero while recovering in hospital where he meets Nicole (Kelly Reilly), a recovering heroin addict. All goes well until blood tests reveal that he had alcohol while flying the plane. He works with Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood) and lawyer Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle) to try and prove his innocence. 

It is notable that Denzel Washington was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Whip and I can say that he definitely deserves it as, while Whip isn't exactly a likable person, you do get invested in his turmoils that ultimately leads to a bittersweet ending (I wasn't sure what do think!). Co-stars like Bruce Greenwood and Don Cheadle also do a good job of offering support to Denzel Washington's performance. The peak of the film is the opening plane scene (not to say the rest of the film is bad, I'm just saying that this scene is amazing). The visuals are excellent and it really captures the feel of flight...or lack of.

However, Kelly Reilly's character is almost pointless and has no reason being in this film. Her plot goes nowhere and, while you could argue that it affects Whip's life, it doesn't show it well. The second act of the film is also lacking in comparison to the opening and last acts (the last act is especially gripping). Ultimately, it falls a little short in the middle but is sandwich in between acts that more than make up for it.

Flight definitely proves Denzel Washington's acting ability is great along side an excellent supporting cast with a gripping opening and ending. While it does drag in the middle, it picks up immensely. The opening scene with the plane is more than worth the price of admittance. So not HIGHLY recommend but recommend nonetheless.

While it dags in the middle, it picks up with great opening and ending acts and acting.