Monthly Archives: October 2012
This is my favourite still of Myers from the entire series. It’s taken from the closing scenes to Halloween 2 (1981) and Michael has just been shot by Jamie Lee….and is about to be ‘blown up’ by Donald Pleasence. Don’t worry though, Michael naturally doesn’t let that stop him and is back for more in Halloween 4 (1988).
Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), an ex-US special forces solider and now a convicted felon, must save the US president (Donald Pleasence) who has crashed in New York city. This is a bigger problem that it first appears because Manhatten island is now one giant prison and the prisoners have taken the president hostage.
A bleak but vividly imagined adventure movie that evidences Carpenter’s despairing vision of the future. Not as far from Ridley Scott’s quintessential “Blade Runner” (1982) as you might expect – at least in terms of atmospherics.
At its heart this is a b-movie western. In “Assault on Precinct 13” (1976), Carpenter took the Western and set it in gang-ridden 1970s Los Angeles; in this movie, Carpenter once again takes the themes of the Western but this time transposes them onto the not-so-distant future: “Escape from New York” (1981) has a desperate hostage situation; a disparate gang of outlaws and a decidedly acid-tongued (anti-) hero.
Cinematograher (and Carpenter-regular) Dean Cundey’s minimalist use of lighting means that this one of the darkest pictures you’re likely to see in the action-thriller genre; and as ever, Carpenter’s pulsating synthesizer provides the fitting score to what is, surprisingly, a rather slow-paced movie.
In essence, “Escape from New York” is a comic-book tale. Yet, Carpenter’s skills behind the camera manage to make a serious and compelling urban nightmare. Plissken’s nihilism towards the ‘heroes’ populating the world outside the island prison rips any light-heartedness from the proceedings. The genuine good guys are to be found within, not outside, the prison city’s walls.
Kurt Russell is electric in a role which in retrospect seems tailor-made for him. Harry Dean Stanton and Adrienne Barbeau give under-stated but perfect support as prisoners blessed with some degree of morality. The bit-parts of Donald Pleasance, Lee Van Cleef and Ernest Borgnine finish off what is really a stellar-cast.
Don’t expect a happy ending and Carpenter pulls no punches in keeping with the tradition of sentimentality.
Deservedly, now a cult classic, the moody “Escape from New York” (1981) is perhaps Carpenter’s coolest movie. In his career, this film could perhaps be best-described as the director’s brooding yet smouldering teen-idol.
Hotdog rating: 8/10
With the release of Skyfall imminent I’ve been trawling through its 22 predecessors and attempting to boil James Bond down to just one scene. What moment best defines this cinematic icon?
I suppose the obvious answer would be Sean Connery’s entrance in Dr No, where during a game of baccarat at the upmarket gamblers den Le Cercle at Les Ambassadeurs he responds to his saucy opponent’s introduction as “Trench, Sylvia Trench” with the immortal riposte that would serve as Bond’s calling card for the movies to come.
It’s as cool as an entrance could be and is rightly remembered as one of cinema’s great moments (especially being that it is capped with the Monty Norman orchestrated theme), but the real substance of the Bond character comes later.
What is that? Isn’t it about coolness and sex appeal? If so his introduction has it in spades. But for me, what makes the character is his machismo (especially as epitomised by Connery) and his potential for severe brutality.
So it is that I plump for a moment of ruthless violence. Having survived an attempt on his life via a tarantula, which gets smacked with a shoe (the first of countless fiendish, but ultimately useless attempts to assassinate MI6’s finest) Bond sets a trap for villainous henchman Professor Dent, who opens the door to his hotel room at night and fires repeatedly at Bond’s bed.
The camera angle holds Connery in the frame all along, such that the viewer is in no doubt as to his survival: the suspense lies elsewhere. Realising that Bond is not in the bed, Dent attempts one last shot. As it fails to go off he is met with the ultimate retort: “That’s a Smith and Wesson and you’ve had your six.” (Even better in Connery’s Scotch burr). Knowing that he’s up against an unarmed man, surely Bond has already won. But no he shoots him in cold blood hitting him a second time for good measure.
And ultimately that’s the point of the scene: to establish that Bond is a cold bastard who you battle with at your own peril. It also created the modern action hero. Where would Arnie, Stallone and Willis have got to without uttering a wisecrack or two in killing a bad guy.
Connery himself dispatched many more villains (followed by many more witticisms). Roger Moore later got to drop the bald muscle man Sandor from a roof with a flick of his tie in The Spy Who Loved Me (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLcXO8eCPV8); Pierce Brosnan didn’t let the sexy pout of Sophie Marceau save her from catching a bullet; and Daniel Craig’s introduction in Casino Royale involves something approximating to murder.
To paraphrase Moore’s Bond on antagonist Jaws: “His name is James Bond and he kills people.”
Some more recommendations for films to enjoy during the creepiest month of the year….
Salem’s Lot (1979)
Based on Stephen King’s novel, Tobe Hooper’s TV-movie benefits from a strong cast and a thick atmosphere. The first hour is a masterclass in building tension and eliciting fear.
Prince of Darkness (1987)
Carpenter traps a cross-section of society in an abandoned church with Satan’s father. Criminally under-rated and expertly directed, the film’s finale is out of this world. You’ll never look at a mirror in the same way again…..
Alice, Sweet Alice (1977)
Unsettling in content, this eerie slasher film is too often mistaken as a rip-off of the classic Don’t Look Now (1973). Far more brutal than that movie, switch off the lights and see if you can watch the raincoat-wearing killer scamper around the screen….
I almost declined the cinema invite last night. I was not in the mood to watch another film about teenagers and their problems. I went with low expectations, hoping for at best, some creative camera work, a reasonable score and maybe one or two thought provoking lines. Basically, I was expecting the Darjeeling Express with added Emma Watson and more teenage angst. I was wrong.
Set in the early nineties, Wallflower tells the story of Charlie (Logan Lerman). He starts high school depressed and friendless, counting down the days until he graduates. Predictably and early on in the film, he falls in with a crowd of misfits. Through his interactions with his new friends we learn more about Charlie’s depression and come to understand what it is he means about feeling sad and happy at once. He is happy to have made friends with Patrick (Ezra Millar) and Sam (Emma Watson) but he also struggles to cope with their unhappiness as he feels their troubles as if they were his own. This film is both very sad and very uplifting, an embodiment of the emotions battling within Charlie.
Lerman gives an understated performance of a shy, trouble ridden teenager, wrestling with a desire to save everyone he loves. Lerman’s portrayal really made me feel for Charlie and I found myself hoping nothing bad would happen to him. Of course smooth sailing does not often make for a good film.
I hate to sound gushing but the supporting cast are all equally brilliant. It’s easy to see how Charlie falls in love with Watson’s Sam, even though really we learn very little about her in the film. Watson does an excellent job playing Sam as both rebellious teen and social misfit. Ezma Miller playing Patrick “Nothing” is the standout performance in Wallfower. Every time he is on screen he steals the scene. His character is a bit like a more emotionally developed version of John Bender from the Breakfast Club, and I doubt I’m the only one making a comparison between the two movies.
I enjoyed Paul Rudd’s realism playing the inspirational teacher. Of course comedian turned inspirational teacher is not an uncommon career path, both Jack Black and Robin Williams have made that journey before. However with Rudd, there is no standing on desks shouting “Captain my Captain” or kidnapping an entire class of kids to take to a rock concert. Rudd is simply a teacher who notices a pupil and as Wallflower shows sometimes that is enough to make a difference. Although her time on screen is brief I feel the need to mention Joan Cusack who made what could have been a jolty ending to the film a smooth transition.
I want to say something bad about this film but nothing is coming to me. The sound track is great, as the characters keep telling us, they do have a good taste in music. There is no film that could not be improved without featuring more of The Smiths. Maybe it should have been more obvious it was the nineties, as I did wonder why everyone seemed to really like knitwear, but that is probably my own lack of cultural awareness. This film is undoubtedly one of the best films I have seen for a very long time, and really is something out of the ordinary.
JMD Rating: 9.4/10
Since it’s the Halloween season……
Here are some of Hotdog’s scariest movies. Just a selection of the films that have personally terrified me; I’ll keep posting more as we near the 31st.
Dead of Night (1945)
The classic British anthology contains two haunting stories which I have never forgotten. One concerns a mirror which can see into the future and the other is about a troubled ventriloquist. The nightmarish finale and circular plot only enhance the feeling of utter madness….
The Beyond (1981)
Fulci’s italo-splatter fest is not for the faint-hearted but it captures the feeling of sincere dread better than any other movie I can think of.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Freddy’s original appearance on the big screen is no comic caper. Indeed, the first hour is as adult and savvy as horror films come.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Despite the film’s title, this is no cheap exploitation movie. The raw and visceral terror that Hooper creates is painful to watch. For the uninitiated, there’s no gore but when a movie is this sodden with creeping unease, you just don’t need it.