Monthly Archives: December 2011

the ultimate winner of 2011

Despite the fact that is was made nearly 70 years ago, I have to say, that “The Ox-Bow Incident” (1943)  is my personal favourite movie that I have seen this year. why? you may ask….well, because the film brings together the hitchcockian “wrong man” plot-line with the worst trait in any human – revenge. A film which, although old, still has a lot to say about the world we live in; and manages at the same time to be damn entertaining. Plus, it has Henry Fonda and Anthony Quinn in brilliant roles. see it.

the lynch-mob gather ominously next to the hanging tree

Advertisements

hotdog’s pick of 2011

As another year draws to a close, what’s the best movie I have seen in 2011? It’s a tough one but here are the contenders:

The Great Silence (1968)

The Beyond (1981)

Doubt (2008)

The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

of the new releases I have seen in the cinema, I would say that nothing beats Inception –  the pick of the 2010 crop. however, I did thoroughly enjoy the new sherlock holmes movie….overall though, 2011 has been a bit of a poor year for new releases in my book.

hotdog’s Xmas haul…….

I always come out of the other side of christmas with a bounty of dvds.

Here’s what Santa filled my stocking with this year…..

Rio Lobo (1970), Fear in the Night (1972), Fade to Black (1980), Deathship (1980), Rio Bravo (1959), Frightmare (1974), The James Stewart Western Collection, Curtains (1983), The House of the Devil (2009)

reviews in due-course…………….

 

Just pure class: The epic conclusion to “The Wild Bunch” (1969)

 

I love the look in Holden’s eyes at the beginning. This is the famous final shoot-out of Sam Peckinpah’s bloody western “The Wild Bunch” (1969). The cast is unbelievable…..and this scene is just  iconic. They do NOT make films like this anymore….and that includes you Tarantino.

3 reasons why I love John Carpenter’s films

John Carpenter, you may have fallen by the way-side throughout the 1990s and 2000s but the films you made before your collapse from greatness were astounding.  Here’s why I love your earlier films:

1. The settings of  Carpenter movies often involve isolated locations where a group of people are over-taken by a ‘siege mentality’. ( The Fog, Halloween, Prince of Darkness, Assault on Precinct 13, The Thing). The characterisations of these people is brilliant and the dialogue extremely conversational rather than the usual high-brow rubbish you get in more critically-acclaimed films ; Carpenter is a story-teller of realism, making movies like little comic books with all your mates in starring roles.

2. Carpenter’s self-penned scores – often using synthesizers –  are truly amazing. (particularly Prince of Darkness, Halloween and The Fog).

3.  The lighting – when has Carpenter ever made a ‘bright movie’ ? The minimalist lighting effects are his hallmark and add depth to so many of his films. They also provide the classic backdrop for his ‘cheap scares’ when something just pops out of these shadows accompanied by a shrill musical note, only to disappear back into darkness seconds later.

spaghetti gunslingers montage

I came across this earlier on youtube. It’s great.

I particularly love Django’s scene……yet my personal favourite gunslinger is still Colonel Mortimer – played by Lee Van Cleef – in “For a Few Dollars More”.

Perhaps we will get something similar to “Freddy VS Jason” one day>? and what a treat that would be.

Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist (2005)

Synopsis:

Father Merrin, suffering from a crisis of faith, leads an archaeological dig in post-world war 2 Africa. Merrin and his team uncover a buried church and thereafter a number of strange things begin to happen. Merrin  encounters the demon, Pazuzu for the first time and he must perform an exorcism to rid a crippled-boy from the evil spirit.

Review:

The first thing that struck me about this film was how beautifully shot it looks on the screen.  Director Paul Schrader manages to make the movie look and feel like 1940s colonial Africa. Each shot seems painstakingly considered, not a reel is wasted, from the snow-clad opening scene in Nazi-occupied Holland to the illuminating sequences set in Africa at night-time.

There isn’t a lot of gore in this picture and shocks are extremely rare , the emphasis here is on psychological drama. It’s a film which is about Merrin’s long-running doubts surrounding his faith rather than some ancient evil trapped beneath the African plains. Stellen Skarsgard’s performance as Merrin is a subdued master-stroke and I think he really comes across well as a younger version of Max Von Sydow’s  character in the 1973 original. Gabriel Mann gives support as the young, inexperienced priest with a zeal for spreading the christian message – even when no-one wants to hear it. The inclusion of the British army is interesting and Julian Wadham is cracking at playing the well-intentioned but increasingly fragile Major Granville.

Am in "Curse of the Mummy"?...I thought I was in "Exorcist 4"?

Coming on to the demon itself. If you are expecting a re-run of Reagan’s possession from the original, you’re in for a shock. The demonic possession in this movie does not disfigure the boy but cures him of his numerous afflictions, turning him into what looked to me like   some sort of child-messiah (I’m thinking Indian Jones here…). Pazazu is not the foul-mouthed incarnation of Friedkin’s original but is a sophisticated entity who taunts Merrin by making him relive the events which have broken his once strongly-held beliefs. In this way, the demon in “Dominion” is more terrifying than the obscenity who graced our screen in “The Exorcist” (1973). The film-makers thankfully knew that no-one is frightened of an ugly demon shouting “Your mother sucks cocks in hell” anymore.

On the script, this is a sober picture with no humorous let-up whatsoever but it’s a film which doesn’t require or need the usual tongue-in-cheek laughs of the horror genre – it’s a thinking man’s film.The score of the picture is interesting – it’s not particularly polished – but very effective and I quite liked it.

Overall, “Dominion” is an intelligent, atmospheric  film which is well-shot with some intriguing character performances. Yet, it does lack what I call a “bite factor”. You are always expecting something big to happen but it doesn’t – and even the final exorcism scene is rather tame. You may remember that in the original movie it is said that Merrin’s exorcism in Africa “nearly killed him”; well, in this picture, Merrin doesn’t really get that worked up at all – he just seems to go through the motions of reading a few bible passages. Another big drawback is the frankly ridiculous inclusion of some woeful CGI effects – I mean who needs to see CGI cattle eating hyenas…..apparently, these were included post-production on a shoe-string budget for some bizarre reason.

Nevertheless, the film sits well as a companion piece to the both “The Exorcist” (1973) and “The Exorcist 3” (1990). This really should have been Exorcist 2, whose own Africa-setting was just crazily incomprehensible –  and it’s a pity audiences had to wait 30 years to see such a vision realised.

I’d recommend this to every horror fan.

hotdog rating: 7/10

Hitchcock cameo list

A list of the classic director’s cameos can be found here:

http://www.filmsite.org/hitchcockcameos.html

Personally, I love the “I Confess” cameo – a great shot.

 

Apt Pupil (1998)

Synopsis:

A high school student (Brand Renfro) suspects his elderly neighbour (Ian McKellen) of being a nazi war criminal. A curious relationship develops between the two before all-round chaos ensues.

Review:

Adapted from a short story by Stephen King, this looks and feels like a made-for-TV movie.  The plot is remarkably simple and appeals to all of us who want to know exactly what drives men to do the most depraved things.

Renfro is barely out of short-trousers but approaches his role brilliantly and gives a very mature performance. McKellen wallows in his character’s many layers and is unnervingly convincing as “Mr Denker”. Much of the film takes place at McKellen’s kitchen table where, sipping neat whiskey,  he tells Renfro everything about the mechanized killing of the nazi-holocaust. The script carries the film and some of the dialogue between Renfro and McKellen is ingenious. When an upset Renfro screams at McKellen “go fuck yourself!”, a half-cut McKellen laughs back “Oh, my dear boy, don’t you see, we are fucking each other?”.  As the relationship develops, it is McKellen who blackmails Renfro into studying hard for his finals – a bizarre reversal of roles. Their relationship is not to last however and there is a fantastic set-piece, shot in the hospital, where a fellow elderly patient – with a characteristic serial number on his arm –  identifies the ailing McKellen lying in the bed next door as the monster he really is.

Other stand-out scenes include an electrifying sequence in which McKellen is forced to dress-up in his old SS uniform, march and salute the Fuhrer. Initially, McKelln reluctantly follows his instructions – cursing Renfro’s character for his childish games – but soon enough, becomes caught in a nostalgic trance and refuses to stop marching whilst becoming increasingly rabid in his barking nazi salue. A memorable moment indeed. There’s also a nasty scene in which McKellen puts a cat in the oven….

The supporting cast is packed with notable actors – including David Schwimmer as a high-school counsellor; Joshua Jackson as Renfro’s best mate  and James Karen as Renfro’s grandfather. Schwimmer though is disappointing and gives a half-hearted performance – can he do serious roles?

The only thing I would say against the movie is that it is rather predictable – there is no real mystery here like  in director Bryan Singer’s tour-de-force “The Usual Suspects” – and at over 110 minutes is probably about 20 mins too long.

This film isn’t for everyone, but I found it thoroughly entertaining with McKellen really driving a an unsettling jolt through my body everytime he staggered on-screen.

hotdog rating:7.5/10

Is that what you thought when you served food from his GRAVE !

one of my all time favourite movie scenes. Jimmy Stewart has reluctantly just opened the wooden chest to find the body….and has to confront the two killers who have so twisted his own ideas; this is the riveting finale to Hitchcock’s most under-rated picture “Rope” (1948).