Weekend Retrospective - Ecstacy of Gold

PERFECT SCORE - THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966)

"When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk"

In the past I gave some consideration to whether this should be give the honour of being the best ever Western. At one time I could easily have given that title to Leone's own Once Upon a Time in the West. But over repeated viewings this just held up better for a variety of reasons. It was the most purely entertaining, the most engaging, it had a certain tone and a certain character to it all which was never quite replicated anywhere else. So I was forced to reconsider... maybe this is the best. With more thought it eventually made it into the perfect score list.

The previous two films in the so called "dollars trilogy" are watchable, but very hit and miss in terms of overall quality and consistency. Revisiting them recently the flaws are more evident and they certainly aren't nearly as fun as the third instalment, despite the similarities in many places. The music is still good and they have their own memorable set pieces and characters. Clint is iconic in the poncho and they have the same kind of style at times. But they aren't paced as well, and they certainly don't have this much personality. They're just practice runs all building up this one, where every comes together.

He's tall, blonde, he smokes a cigar, and he's a pig!
 

Retrospective - Prepare to meet Kali

INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984)

While it's not without a few problems, I feel that this is a greatly underappreciated entry in the original Indiana Jones trilogy. Even by its own director. I mean sure it has notable flaws. Some even dare to suggest it's worse than the ill-guided forth instalment that I promised not to bring up again. But their kind of course needs a good slap in the face for blasphemy. Some enjoy Temple as much as the others, or even consider it to be the greatest Indy adventure, though there will always complaints that come up regarding two elements which seem to be given far too much attention, as I will discuss.

But this is an example of how to do a sequel right; where prior success with a previous release allowed for a lot of freedom. Since Raiders was a hit they had no reason to rehash it, so a huge amount of creativity was poured into the follow up in terms of both set pieces and fantasy visuals, and in that department it is unmatched.


Scorecard

MARCH 


FILM OF THE MONTH: Barry Lyndon ☆☆☆☆
2001: A Space Odyssey ☆☆☆☆
A Clockwork Orange ☆☆☆☆
Aliens ☆☆☆☆
Arrival ☆☆☆☆
Dr. Strangelove ☆☆☆☆
Full Metal Jacket ☆☆☆☆
X2 ☆☆☆☆
Slaughterhouse-Five ☆☆☆☆
The Shining ☆☆☆☆
Logan ☆☆☆☆

Review Roundup - Darmok and Jalad

ARRIVAL (2016)

In a time when Star Trek has been reduced to nonsensical action schlock, it's nice to see something that seems to have been made using real science fiction ideas to tell a proper story. Once struggling through opposing ideals and communication problems to solve a crisis would have been prime material for the series to cover, but today it's been left to a smaller scale, far smaller budget release like this to do something truly interesting. It's visually cold, it looks sterile and bleak. But under the grey and uninviting surface there are strong character moments, engaging emotional hooks, and one or two central concepts that have real weight to them. It also adds a new genre to the filmography of Denis Villeneuve, signalling a promising future for his upcoming sci-fi endeavours.


Retrospective - Crystal Balls

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008)

Revisiting this was never going to be pretty so I apologise in advance. Nearly a decade later I barely remember the film in question. Instead there's just a mental block covering over the let down of what could, and should have been. A vague feeling of frustration, denial... and boredom. It took so long to make. Surely that means all the best ideas have been used to create it I told myself. It's got to be good because they took some time and care. To bring back an icon like this takes some effort right? As it turned out the opposite was true. Nobody really cared or even tried. I have to temper my thoughts, after all this is following up a classic series containing the greatest film of all time. I've been through worse. But I suppose I just need to get this one off my chest. Going back to see if things look any better with a few years just makes the flaws much more apparent.


Retrospective - Ape Escape

KING KONG ESCAPES (1967)

Somewhere out there, you can find a movie box set that includes the original stop motion classic King Kong. It comes packaged with several other tenuously linked features including the butchered US edit of King Kong vs Godzilla and the ape versus robot madness that is King Kong Escapes. I have to wonder why, did someone include them just for laughs? Did someone working for the distributor actually think these made enough sense as sequels? Maybe both are true; at least I certainly like to think so.

In any rate, once upon a time this oddball bundle led to me what was one of my first viewings in this genre; an entry in the wave of films which followed 1954's original Gojira. This particular monster mash is still entertaining now, and it has since become a firm favourite of mine amongst the many rubber suit creature movies which have been produced over the decades. It's a shame Toho didn't keep the rights long enough to make more of these, instead opting to use other monsters along the way whether it makes sense or not. I would have certainly liked a few more instalments which feature their take on Kong.

What could possibly go wrong?

Review Roundup - One Last Time

LOGAN (2017)


For whatever reason, the X-Men series on screen has had a wildly oscillating tone when you consider the last 17 years of releases. The films erratically move from laughably bad CGI to sombre deaths and concentration camp memories, sometimes in the same story. This time around the title provides a clue of what they are aiming for; much like other comic book adventures in recent years that deemed it necessary to swap out the colours and camp, they've dropped the usual superhero alias for a more serious moniker. If the number of years since the initial Bryan Singer outing introduced us to Hugh Jackman's Wolverine makes you feel ancient, then this is a movie which will certainly magnify that feeling. Like the tone the quality also varies within the franchise, but fortunately this one hits a high point... while being a depressing and down beat affair. If you thought the changes between his first and second solo outing made quite a difference, then this takes things to new extremes -- while maintaining a few staple ingredients, for better or worse.

Scorecard

FEBRUARY


FILM OF THE MONTH: The Time Machine ☆☆☆☆
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ☆☆☆☆
Hard Eight ☆☆☆☆
Inception ☆☆☆☆
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade ☆☆☆☆
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ☆☆☆☆
Inglourious Basterds ☆☆☆☆
Jurassic Park ☆☆☆☆
Return of the Jedi ☆☆☆☆
Rise of the Planet of the Apes ☆☆☆☆

HFC Review - Papier-mâché Menace

THE NEON DEAD (2015)


The title of this movie throws up a lot of warning signs, whether it’s the zombie fatigue of non stop flesh eater stories in modern day mainstream media, or the quirky technology angle which highlights that this will be a wacky comedy. Both ideas are pretty exhausting to even think about. I’m pretty sure the name isn’t an attempt to have it confused with a certain Danish film maker’s psychological horror release from this year. But they did previously call it Invasion of the Undead so I can’t be certain. Fortunately the makers are a little less cynical than someone as jaded as me, and they have a few interesting ideas up their sleeves to lend this all a certain likeable quality. This is a film about home made monster masks, sword duels and grinning creatures with flashing eyes and torch light smiles. Let’s take a look into how this all fills out as an actual feature.

>>READ MORE

Retrospective - Top. Men.

PERFECT SCORE: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)

"South America, 1936" 

With that subtitle, something small and innocuous, begins the greatest adventure ever filmed. It has to be one of the best openings on film, a slow atmospheric build up that hides the lead character in the shadows waiting to show his face, and his abilities. Following a sinister trek through the rainforest our hero makes his entrance with the crack of a whip. The no nonsense approach shows us what we need to know; Indiana Jones is revealed through actions and not words.


Review Roundup - Skux Life

HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE (2016)

I'm the first to admit it but the kind of stories that really push my buttons usually involve a lot of horrifying technofear spectacle and gruesome blood letting. My all time favourite ends with a Gestapo agent's face melting on screen after all. But sometimes the best movies come from unexpected places, and real warmth and humanity also work their magic on my black heart when done effectively. This New Zealand production from the makers of quirky mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows offers a similar amount of oddball characters and offbeat laughs, but also allows for a huge amount of surprisingly excellent character drama that goes well beyond silly gags. While still including plenty of them of course.


Scorecard

JANUARY 


FILM OF THE MONTH: Hunt for the Wilderpeople ☆☆☆☆
Hot Fuzz ☆☆☆☆
I Live in Fear ☆☆☆☆
Captain America: Civil War ☆☆☆☆
Red Beard ☆☆☆☆
Star Wars ☆☆☆☆
Team America ☆☆☆☆
The Bad Sleep Well ☆☆☆☆
Thief ☆☆☆☆
Under the Shadow ☆☆☆☆
Up ☆☆☆☆

Review Roundup - Disco Nightmare

THE GREASY STRANGLER (2016)


There's no way to avoid saying it, this is a pretty weird release. Everything about it has been purposely chosen to feel odd or off the wall in some way, whether it's the gaudy pink outfits or the spoken rhythm of almost every character. Mixing comedy, horror and high levels of strange and grotesque imagery, the story of a father and son love triangle is surrounded by all kinds of slimy, disgusting moments. Of course this all takes place during the reign of a serial killer, the eponymous strangler. Is Brayden's dad Ronnie covering his naked body with grease before going out to murder people that have mildly annoyed him? The answer of course is yes. Does this joke have enough to sustain a feature length running time? Well, we'll see.

Review Roundup - The Cellar

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (2016)


There are some things here that shouldn't really work on the surface. A script repurposed to form a quasi-sequel to a found footage movie from 8 years ago is one of those things. So getting past the idea the name was slapped on to something to get people in cinemas is tricky, but the film we actually get is surprisingly entertaining in its own right. Instead of shaky infra red camera work and mysterious creatures, the story here is centred on far more human problems as a trio of people are trapped in a custom built shelter that may or may not be protecting them from a disaster above ground. It's more akin to Misery than you might be expecting, and personally a focus on people and small surroundings instead of visual effects is a far more interesting prospect than simply more destruction mayhem.

Review Roundup - Take Shelter

UNDER THE SHADOW (2016)


An Iranian take on The Exorcist might not sound like the most obvious idea for yet another '80s period horror feature, but somehow it all comes together in Babak Anvari's story of both man made and otherworldly disturbances. While the setting and some of the mythology take some getting used to, there is something slightly familiar about a potentially supernatural problem surrounding a young child as her parents have domestic problems which, at first, seem to be the real cause of the problem. This joint venture between UK-Qatar-Jordan production companies to make a Persian language chiller is a solid mixture of established ideas and intriguing new ones which adds a few added layers of war time subtext to make it complete.

Horror Bites - Maniac Mansion

PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961)


If there was ever such a thing as the quintessential Vincent Price horror, this is probably it - at least in terms of those with a period setting. Choosing just one no simple task of course, but this is certainly a high point. Building on what had been done in The House of Usher, this is another instalment in the Roger Corman series of Poe adaptations which use just some of the story ideas as a basis. There's another spooky mansion in the middle of nowhere, another mystery and another journey into madness which is quite what it seems at first.

HCF Review - Join Us

ASH VS EVIL DEAD - Season 2 (2016)


So in what seems like no time at all, the second season of this show has landed and a third is already scheduled. With the promise of more chainsaw related injuries, silly dialogue and monster mayhem, it’s a good time to be a deadite. By now everyone knows what to expect as they ride the line between the gruesome original movie and the more ridiculous moments from Army of Darkness. But can they keep up the momentum, or the shock factor for so long?

READ MORE >>

Scorecard

DECEMBER


FILM OF THE MONTH: Onibaba ☆☆☆☆
Police Story 2 ☆☆☆☆
Return of the Jedi ☆☆☆☆
Drunken Angel ☆☆☆☆
Forbidden Planet ☆☆☆☆
Back to the Future ☆☆☆☆
Star Trek IV ☆☆☆☆
Star Wars ☆☆☆☆
The Hateful 8 ☆☆☆☆