Spectre (2015) (Sam Mendes)
If I had to rank the Daniel Craig Bond films, Spectre would be third, with Quantum of Solace in fourth. A critic said Sam Smith’s Bond theme is “good enough, but not a classic”, and that’s exactly how I would assess the new film. Entertaining and with exciting moments, yet everything feels just a bit watered-down compared to Skyfall (2012), the emotions, the jokes, the villain, the dialogue, everything is just not as strong as what Skyfall delivered. The only thing that was at the same level as Skyfall was the cinematography. Even though the surveillance plot idea was a relevant one in this day and age, Christoph Waltz as the villain disappointed, and his dialogue was uninspired.
Spectre steals aspects from past Bond adventures, and in most cases I felt what it was stealing from had more charm. I was surprised Monica Bellucci’s character is merely a cameo. Spectre is a good time while it lasts, yet by paying so much homage, the new film is a pastiche, and lacks a strong personality of its own. Daniel Craig is convincing in the action scenes, but the action and stunts were more distinctive this year in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, which was perhaps the best Bond movie of 2015.
45 Years (2015) (Andrew Haigh)
A film that has things to say about relationships, which I won’t spoil here. We follow a couple in the week leading up to their 45th wedding anniversary. Skeletons in the closet are revealed and this changes things. The wife played by Charlotte Rampling gives arguably the best performance of her career and is in most of the scenes. Yet if I had to be critical the storytelling was heavy-handed in how often the filmmakers remind us of the conflict at hand. Many scenes are variations of the same message, and it could have been a bit more balanced with a greater focus on the husband. The last 10 minutes are far more subtle and ambiguous than what comes before, A film that is very realistic, very British, and I empathized with what was happening. I even teared up at one point. The cinema I saw it in was packed with over 50s who I would say are the target audience. 45 Years makes us reflect on our own life and how we interact with our close ones. How much do we hold back and is it a good or bad thing to do so?
Sicario (2015) (Denis Villeneuve)
Think I’m in the minority as I was a bit underwhelmed. Thriller about war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico. Emily Blunt is convincing, her eyes show the fear of new situations. Benicio Del Toro is mysterious and interesting as Alejandro and you want to learn about his past. The memorable scenes have to do with violence or torture. Has a few exciting scenes such as the opening and by the border, but is too slow-paced and dull for a thriller. I was often bored by a story with so little substance and hardly any characterization. A lot of scenes could have been shortened without losing anything, for example the aerial shots.
Enemy, Prisoners, and Incendies were interesting outings by the director, but Sicario is an overrated movie with nothing new to say. Worse yet the cops in the car scene appear to enjoy torturing the captive, Josh Brolin smiling. You could say the movie is deliberately unpleasant due to the subject matter, but I guess it just wasn’t for me. Perhaps a film I need to rewatch to connect with. There’s a twist near the end that explains what came before. Benicio Del Toro’s quotable dialogue and performance is what I’ll remember.
My Own Private Idaho (1991) (Gus Van Sant)
An early Keanu Reeves film I had heard of but never seen until now. About street hustlers. Has some visual tricky that surprises, such as the magazine covers that suddenly start talking, and the barn that crashes to the ground when a character has an orgasm. It’s also the only film I’ve seen that deals with the condition narcolepsy, which River Phoenix’s character suffers from. Unfortunately a lot of the dialogue was mumbled and difficult to hear.
The story, despite comparable to Shakespeare, was for the first hour quite dull. The search for his family members, and whether the two guys were lovers or friends, were the aspects that seemed to drive the story forward.
The last 20 minutes were the most emotionally involving, quite a powerful and sad turn the movie took. Slightly saved by the ending, the first hour lacked urgency.
They Live (1988) (John Carpenter)
The acting is cheesy, but you kind of forgive it for that, because it was made in the 80s. I love the ideas that were put into the story, that the US government is the implied villain and treating its citizens with disdain. Contains a fun fight scene at about the hour mark and the pulsating soundtrack was perfect for the mood of the film. Even though you could question if the main character is worthy of our empathy, considering his actions in the bank. At that point he had very little knowledge of the situation so his behavior seemed foolhardy.
The Thing (1982) (John Carpenter)
Rewatch. I liked it more on second viewing, yet I still think it’s overrated. The special effects are great, but the story is very similar to Alien (1979). Many rate it higher out of nostalgia, I’m of the opinion the plot is clichéd.
The Norwegians are hunting an infected dog in the opening scene on Antarctica, and yet the US crew are too dumb to see that the dog might be a threat and decide to bring back a corpse from the Norwegian camp.
For me, the scariest scene is about 80 minutes into the movie when they test the blood and the guys are tied up, and unable to escape.
Favorite quote: “Maybe we’ll just warm things up a bit around here…”
Rabid (1977) (David Cronenberg)
Starts promisingly, the opening 15 minutes had me hooked. Soon turns into a simplistic epidemic horror movie that goes from one kill to the next, with little to no character development. Which is a pity because plastic surgery gone wrong and its consequences is a great idea. The movie is only surprising during the first kill. The lead played by model Marilyn Chambers kind of reminded me of Natasha Henstridge’s seductive character in Species (1995).
My favorite scene was in the train, when the commuters couldn’t get out, and was similar to a claustrophobic scene I mention above in my mini-review of The Thing.
Having to use your wipers to clear off blood from the windshield is certainly unpleasant for the driver. The director would only get better from here. Perhaps my appreciation of the film will grow a bit once I read about the subtext.
The Howling (1981) (Joe Dante)
The opening when she goes into the adult video store and sits in the booth was the best scene. The Howling will forever be compared to An American Werewolf in London (1981), and it does feel like a less memorable werewolf movie. I’m not a big fan of jump scares and there’s quite a few. The writers take a jab at self-help books.
Horror movies reviewed (part 3)
Middlemarch (1994) (BBC TV Mini-Series)
A captivating retelling of the classic British period drama written by George Eliot. The actors do the material justice, especially Juliet Aubrey as Dorothea and Douglas Hodge as doctor Lydgate were the stand-outs. A big cast, but handled in a way so I was able to follow the story and cared what would become of all the townspeople. Obviously certain aspects of the story are somewhat dated now as it was written in 1874, but there are dilemmas which you can mirror yourself in even today. The setting is believable and the classical soundtrack fits well.
What do you think about these films? As always, comments are welcome