Showing posts from 2018

10 Rillington Place (1971)

There are many movies and TV shows that glamorize serial killers as evil geniuses that weave complex webs and stay one step ahead of the law for years as the body count piles up.  The truth is more along the lines of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer than it is The Silence of the Lambs.  There are some undoubtedly reaching supervillain status, but the average killer relies on a combination of being able to hide behind a respectable facade and police incompetence.  A bit of isolation, usually in a place where police don't want to be, doesn't hurt.

John Christie was certainly no genius.  He was, in fact, a violent thug with a penchant for prostitutes (their usual services, not murdering them, although one of his later victims did work in the profession) who managed to somehow keep many of his baser instincts hidden for awhile after being released from prison, but for some unknown reason finding a new hobby in murder as World War II raged on and the bombs dropped on London.  He…

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

Sam Raimi has had quite a journey, from pounding the pavement to make and promote The Evil Dead, to making two excellent Spiderman films and then, finally, to the point of making a Disney film.  For Raimi, it is definitely a success story, and proof that hard work and perseverance can occasionally get you somewhere, even in Hollywood.

Still, he has had his ups and downs.  Along with two great Spiderman films came Spiderman 3, and such vanity projects as For the Love of the Game.  Through it all, everything he has done, whether successful or not, felt like the works of an individual that really cared for the craft of filmmaking and wanted to make the best movie he could.  Unfortunately, with Oz the Great and Powerful, it feels for once that he is merely coasting through.  It's probably no surprise that the next thing he did after this is return to the universe that introduced him to the world.

Oscar Diggs (James Franco), also known as Oz the Great and Powerful, is a shabby, womani…

Total Recall (2012)

I hate to call the current spate of remakes a trend.  In truth, Hollywood has been remaking films since its Golden Age.  I would say in most cases these days they are just unnecessary.  I think a bigger problem that someone like me has is that it makes me feel a bit old when I start complaining.  "Why remake Total Recall?  That's a movie I saw in the theater.  As an adult even!  Heck, the movie is only twenty-two... um... shut up, kid!"

Yes, twenty-two years between the original and the remake is not that much.  There were three versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde within that same time period from, the first only 11 years after the original.  Looking back at that time, it brings up more of a point about current remakes.  The 1931 remake was a sound picture, while the original, as great as it is, was silent.  The 1941 version may seem unnecessary, but it feels more like a modern film than the 1931 version simply because the art of making movies had changed that much with…

Queen of Blood (1966)

Roger Corman was known to spare no expense when producing movies.  And by that, I mean that if any of his up-and-coming filmmakers asked him to spare a dime, it was doubtful they would receive a nickel.  Despite making a number of great movies, Corman always looked at it as a business venture rather than an artistic one.  He just happened to be pretty good at both ends.

American International, the company that he worked with almost exclusively in the 1950s and 1960s, managed to acquire the rights to some highly-regarded Soviet science fiction movies made at the time.  Soviet films were never known to be high-budget affairs themselves unless whoever was in charge decided they had to try and trump some American blockbuster, but the films they purchased had some of the best special effects of anything coming out at the time. 

Of course, just releasing these films as intended during the Cold War era was not going to fly, as they contained their share of anti-American propaganda.  Instead…

Planet of the Vampires (1965)

Mario Bava was a pioneer in many genres, but largely in horror and giallo.  It is understandable why he usually worked, with some exceptions, within those genres.  Even if you were Federico Fellini, your budget was still largely what you could scrape together and heavily dependent on the success of your other films.  It may seem like Italy has churned out a massive amount of movies since their industry recovered after World War II, but the truth is many of them depended on ambition and ingenuity much more than cash. 

Science fiction, typically, is something that you need a little bit of the filthy lucre sitting around to do successfully.  While some of the best moments in horror films can be achieved by what you decide not to show (or what you have to do to hide a dodgy effect), science fiction by its very nature involves showing.  That's why we end up with a range of success over the years.  For every stop-motion saucer animated by Ray Harryhausen, you end up with a flying turke…

Logan (2017)

In recent years we have been inundated with the origin stories of superheroes, over and over.  Often, in the cases of Batman and Spiderman, we have endured the same story numerous times as the series seems to get rebooted about every couple years or so.  Unless you are Thor or Deadpool, though, your superpowers do not ultimately make you immortal.  So, what happens when it's time for the hero to meet their end?

Wolverine, for all intents and purposes, was thought to be immortal, as he was given an adamantium endoskeleton and superior healing abilities.  Unlike the other mutants of the X-Men, he was manufactured, largely to be the first in a line of supersoldiers.  Still, immortality is a very difficult thing to achieve, and even Logan himself must succumb to the side-effects of what was done to him.

In 2029, Logan (Hugh Jackman) is slowly dying from being poisoned from the very substance that made him the unstoppable weapon he originally was.  He drives a limousine, earning just …

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017)

Another year, another clutch of special effects extravaganzas from Marvel and Disney.  And, typically, movie after movie introducing new characters and following the time-warn origin formula.  Such is assembly-line film making and, although a number of Marvel movies stand out, the method in which they are made is starting to wear thin on the audience.

In fact, it was wearing thin back when the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie came out in 2014.  That's what suddenly made that movie so special: it didn't take itself seriously, waste its time on complicated backstory to give it an edge or overwhelm the film with unneeded cameos.  It was a rollicking sci-fi fantasy adventure comedy with great music and a cast that worked well together, even if two of them were CGI characters. 

Of course it is ridiculous to expect the same thing to happen twice.  Either the sequel was going to feel a little like it was trying too hard to be the first movie or it was going to try to build on it.…