Monday, 2 May 2011

That was the week that was (25 April - 2 May)

Well, here we go with week three of my regular movie round up. I'm going to try and keep it brief this week, as: a) I've been off work all week and have seen quite a few movies, b) I'm not sure I'm adding too much in attempting to regurgitate the plots of the films I've seen so will try just to restrict my comments to my opinions of the films and c) a fair number of the movies I saw this week were Nightmare on Elm Street sequels, and I don't know if I have that much to say about each one individually. Also, I'm extending the week by one day, to cover the films that I saw on the Bank Holiday Monday (today).

Anyway, without further ado, here we go:

Meek's Cutoff (2011)

This was a slow paced modern Western, showing the realities of the hardships faced by settlers heading west on the Oregon trail. The Meek of the title is the only real 'cowboy' who features in the film, a smooth talking hustler who quite possibly has no idea of where he's taking the settlers, and may even be luring them to their doom. Until the ending, I was enjoying this film (though not as much as Wendy & Lucy by the same director), but when it ended in the most inconclusive fashion imaginable, I heard quite a few gasps of disappointment from other people in audience and I can see where those people were coming from. As we never see the beginning or end of the travellers' journey, it's possible the whole film is some kind of metaphor for being in purgatory or something, but it was still a bit frustrating to end on such a note.  Another gripe I had with the film was that it was shot in 4:3 format, meaning the Western vistas weren't quite as impressive as they would have been had it been shot in widescreen. Nevertheless, it features good performances from Michelle Williams and Paul Dano amongst others, and it was interesting to see a take on the American West showing the realities of everyday survival on the trail.

Rating: 6/10

Vice Versa (1988)

I saw this film on Friday last week, and three days later have largely forgotten it, which tells you something about either the film itself or my memory, I'm not sure. Anyway, this one features '80s superstars Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage as a father and son who are forced to endure some sort of body swap shenanigans after wishing to trade places in the presence of a mystical Buddhist MacGuffin. I'm probably being a bit harsh on this film - although it wasn't very memorable, it was enjoyable enough and fairly amusing and I do have a bit of a soft spot for body swap comedies. One point which does stick in my memory - Reinhold asking for Gray Poupon mustard in a restaurant. He was just lucky Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar weren't there to witness it.

Rating: 5/10

Lolita (1962)

From a very light and breezy movie to a film with a rather darker and seedier tone. I'm a big fan of a number of Kubrick's films, in particular The Shining, 2001 and Full Metal Jacket, (Kubrick movies I haven't seen now: Paths of Glory,  Barry Lyndon, Eyes Wide Shut) and was interested to see how he would adapt Nabakov's novel, which I have recently finished reading. Overall, I think he handled it well - it must have been difficult to get a film like this past the censors in the '60s, and the film retains the plot and subject matter of the book for the most part, though a number of the more controversial elements of the novel have been removed. I particularly liked Peter Sellers' over the top turn as Humbert Humbert's even more odious rival, Claire Quilty. (Sellers adopts a number of different accents and disguises as he tracks Humbert's movements, including a German psychiatrist who sounds very much like Dr Stangelove). However, moving the ending of the novel to the beginning of the film does remove a good deal of the suspense from the story.

Rating: 7/10

Iron Man 2 (2010)

I'd read a number of lukewarm to poor reviews of this film when I first came out, so I didn't go to see it in the cinema. However, I was pleasantly surprised after watching the movie - it's a very solid summer blockbuster with plenty of exciting battle sequences, lots of funny lines and some very amusingly hammy turns from the likes of Sam Rockwell and Mickey Rourke. I certainly wouldn't put it up there with the new Batman movies - it's clear throughout that this one is just being played for laughs, but it isn't too far away from the first Iron Man movie. There are a few problems - it's a little bit too long, which is chiefly down to two superfluous characters played by Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L Jackson. Neither Nick Fury or the Black Widow really add anything to the plot here, and both just seem to have been added to the mix so that they can be introduced ahead of the upcoming Avengers movie. If they'd have just focussed on the Downey Jr vs Rourke plotline, this could have been really good. Instead, it's fun, but just a little bit flabby.

Rating: 6/10

The Fog (1980)

A classic John Carpenter horror movie - not quite up there with Halloween or The Thing (in my opinion), but still really good. On paper, it sounds a little ridiculous - a fog containing the ghosts of vengeful mariners attacks a small coastal town in California which is celebrating its one hundred year anniversary. However, it manages to be genuinely scary at times. particularly those scenes where the ghostly pirates bang on the door late at night, and where the corpse of a dead sailor comes back to life. Carpenter expertly ratchets up the tension from early scenes where many car alarms and other inanimate objects suddenly come to life, to attacks on various townspeople and on to a final climactic battle in a church.  Great stuff.

Rating: 8/10

A Nightmare on Elm Street (Parts 2 - 7)

I recently purchased a complete box set of every ANOES movie, and as I was at a bit of a loose end for the last two days, I decided to take the opportunity to watch a bunch of Freddy Krueger movies back to back. (I saw the first one just a couple of months ago, so didn't think it was worth rewatching it). As I mentioned above, I'm not going to bother going into too much detail here - all of these films are based around basically the same premise - pizza faced child murderer Fred Krueger takes revenge on the adults of Smallwood, Ohio for burning him to death by going after their teenaged offspring in their dreams. However, some of these films execute that premise with a lot more panache than others - I think Parts 1 and 3 are genuinely good horror films, but Parts 2 and 5 are absolutely dire. I will go back and include some mini reviews of each episode in a day or so, but for the time being I have just ranked them from best to worst. [Postscript - I never got around to writing the reviews, but I have now added my score out of ten for each one.]

My rankings for the whole series (excluding Freddy vs Jason and the remake):

3: The Dream Warriors (8/10)
1: A Nightmare on Elm Street (the original) (7/10)
7: Wes Craven's New Nightmare (6/10)
4: The Dream Master (5/10)
6: Freddy's Dead (3/10)
2: Freddy's Revenge (3/10)
5: The Dream Child (2/10)

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