Well, I saw a lot of films this week. I was off work on Wednesday and Thursday, so got the chance to watch (and rewatch) quite a few films that I'd been saving for a rainy day for some time now. As there are so many films to get through, I'll try and keep it concise.
Fright Night (1985)
A pretty decent mix of horror and comedy. An average American kid discovers that his flamboyant new neighbour may be a vampire, and decides to investigate with the help of his girlfriend, and a washed up former horror movie star played by Roddy McDowall. I'm not sure this really succeeds as a horror (I wasn't really scared), or a comedy (I chuckled a few times, but that's it), but this was still a likeable movie. Apparently, there's a remake coming out this year (starring Colin Farrell as the vampire), which might be worth seeing.
Funny People (2009)
This was also a mix of genres - this time comedy and drama. Adam Sandler plays a bored movie star who sold out long ago to play the lead in a series of puerile comedies (can't have been too much of a stretch for Sandler, then). His life is turned upside down when he discovers he may have a terminal illness, and he takes his put upon personal assistant (Seth Rogen) on a journey to try and track down the girl that got away (Leslie Mann). I largely enjoyed the first half of this film, which focusses on Seth Rogen's life as an aspiring stand up comedian, and features some funny moments whenever Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzmann are on screen. Unfortunately, half way through, when the attention switches to the love story, I really lost interest - Sandler's character is really obnoxious, and I didn't care whether or not he'd get back together with Leslie Mann. If they'd just focussed on the lives of young comedians, this could have been up there with the 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. As it is, it's far too long and only sporadically amusing.
I watched this one due to my interest in Stanley Kubrick, rather than out of any love for swords and sandals epics. To be honest, I don't really have much interest in those movies, and have to confess I've never watched Ben Hur or Cleopatra and don't have any plans to do so. I guess my attention span these days is too short to sit through a movie for over three hours unless I'm really enjoying it. On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised with Spartacus. Although there aren't really any touches which would identify the movie as being directed by Kubrick, the movie is well paced and maintained my interest throughout. It also boasts an excellent cast (including Kirk Douglas, Peter Ustinov, Laurence Olivier, Tony Curtis and Jean Simmons); Ustinov was especially good as the scheming head of the gladiator school.
The Secret of My Success (1987)
A very '80s comedy, starring Michael J Fox as an ambitious young college graduate who arrives in New York City looking for work, but finds it tricky to get a foothold on the job market. After he's given a job by his uncle in the mail room of a large corporation, he decides to pose as a high flying executive to impress a female coworker with the hair of Princess Di... This one didn't leave too much of an impression on me - I saw it on Wednesday, and I'm struggling to remember to much about it. It's got a few funny moments and Michael J Fox is as charming as ever, but it's merely adequate as a comedy.
The Descent (2005)
A pretty effective little horror movie, in which a group of potholers go 'off piste' to a previously unmapped series of caves in the Appalachian mountains, and find that they are not alone underground. The tension is skillfully built up by director Neil Marshall, as the trip gradually turns from an exciting expedition to a terrifying ordeal. Marshall also sensibly refrains from introducing the monsters until the second half of the picture. I did like the look of the subterranean creatures - they're both grotesque and suprisingly plausible as humans who have evolved to live without light. This one features a good twist ending too.
Total Recall (1990)
I bought this movie when I was searching for a third DVD to complete a '3 for £10' deal. I'm glad I did, too - it was even better than I remembered. Paul Verhoeven creates a very believable alternate future world, in which the solar system has been colonised (though the computer and TV displays look a little dated). Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a regular Joe who tires of his dull life married to Sharon Stone (!) and is drawn to adventure on Mars - so visits Total Recall - an agency which offers you the chance of implanting the memories of a trip of a lifetime; Arnie chooses the life of a secret agent inflitrating rebels on Mars. The film poses interesting questions about whether the story is real, or whether it's all in Arnie's head, and is also highly entertaining as an action movie, complete with one or two signature one liners from the Governator. "Consider that a divorce!"
Well, that takes us as far as Wednesday, and it's already getting a little late. I shall return to post reviews on the following movies tomorrow:
Birdemic: Shock and Terror