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#62 - The Blob
Chuck Russell, 1988

A small town is upset by the arrival of a strange entity that consumes every living thing in its path.

The '80s did seem like the ideal time to remake horror movies from the '50s - the effects had improved significantly enough and the passage of time had weeded out the less interesting premises in the process while the shifting of cinematic norms allowed for greater expressions. Unfortunately, The Blob doesn't end up on the same level as something like The Thing or even The Fly, but it's not without its moments. The effects work for the titular blob is impressive enough, mixing animation with practical effects with good results; the former are entertaining in a cheesy way but the latter are genuinely impressive. Unfortunately, it's anchored to a very by-the-numbers monster movie plot. Familiar characters abound - there's the rebellious kid from the wrong side of the tracks who secretly has a heart of gold, the clean-cut girl next door, law enforcement figures that are either perfectly understanding or frustratingly obstructive, a scientist who knows the secrets of the monster, etc. The actors all turn in decent enough performances for this kind of movie, in any case. It doesn't offer much in the way of serious scares, though - you're kind of aware that you're watching a film with an ultimately silly premise, but the filmmakers don't seem quite that aware, no matter what kind of jokes they make (such as having the blob infiltrate a movie theatre full of people watching...a generic slasher movie). Not particularly essential, even if the effects work is good.

I really just want you all angry and confused the whole time.

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#63 - Death Wish 3
Michael Winner, 1985

After coming back to New York to find his friend murdered by a local street gang, an old man resolves to start defending himself and his newfound neighbours against the incredibly vicious locals.

I already gave the original Death Wish some serious guff for being an incredibly dull take on the vigilante sub-genre, but I still felt like watching the sequels because they managed to play up the vigilante angle and result in films that were apparently of low quality but also of high entertainment value (a view backed up by Mark Hartley's Electric Boogaloo, which featured the Death Wish sequels as part of its off-kilter reverence for Cannon Films). Death Wish 3 is supposedly the "best" of these sequels because it goes into some weird territory that grants it a cult status all its own, so naturally I had to see it.

There is plenty of ridiculous stuff on offer here. By this point, Charles Bronson is in his mid-sixties yet here he is still capable of fighting off an army street thugs who are at least half his age (as well as have a trite romantic sub-plot with a public defender who is also half his age). The street gang, distinguished by red-and-black paint on their foreheads, come across as being so cartoonish that they make the gangs from The Warriors look down-to-earth. The gang leader is noteworthy for having what I guess would be considered a reverse mohawk where his head is shaved right down the middle. Despite guns not being allowed in New York, Bronson is able to get a gun (and, eventually, a rocket launcher) mailed to him from out of town without any consequence. They even go into unnecessary detail explaining that one victim of the gang didn't get murdered by the gang but died because of a broken arm. The background score is composed by Jimmy Page. Yes, the same Jimmy Page who wrote some of the most beloved guitar anthems ever ended up producing a horribly generic synthesiser score for this film because of reasons I can't begin to comprehend on my own. The list goes on, really.

Unfortunately, despite this film developing a considerable so-bad-it's-good reputation, the end result isn't all that entertaining. I still tend to side-eye these kind of films that go a little too far in trying to titillate audiences by having instances of gratuitous nudity occur during scenes involving rape or sexual assault. The film also takes a long time building up to any kind of truly entertaining action - at least half the film is Bronson puttering around meeting new characters. Even when he does get around to fighting or killing people it's still not too impressive - he shoots them or he stabs them or he quite simply just punches them. It ultimately takes the film's climax, where the neighbourhood becomes wrapped in a war between the gang, the cops and the residents, for the film to live up to its ludicrously violent potential. Until then, be content with having Bronson do things like mourn his dead friend or make new friends in between performing the kind of violence that's not exactly novel for '80s action movies. Also, having the gang be nasty. Still worth a shot if you're into bad action movies, though.

As I've said before, I'm grateful for this film for, if nothing else, meaning that I had a Deathwish 3 game for my Spectrum.
5-time MoFo Award winner.

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#64 - The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
John Ford, 1962

An ageing senator gives a journalist an account of his most famous deed - the killing of a notorious outlaw.

From what I've seen, John Ford is a solid Western director and I'd already appreciated the work John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart did in The Shootist. Unfortunately, I did read enough about the film to know about the film's big twist, namely that

WARNING: "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" spoilers below
it is actually Wayne's character that shoots Liberty Valance, not Stewart's character.

In the text I was reading, that event was presented in such a way that I thought it was a foregone conclusion, but no, it's supposed to be a surprise. Even leaving that aside, this is a serviceable but not amazing Western that has enough shades of revisionism to make it interesting. Stewart and Wayne still play to their strengths - the former has his usual mix of good-hearted candor and marble-mouthed nerviness, while the latter peppers his trademark drawl and swagger with just enough cynicism to make it tolerable. There's a collection of good character actors on hand - Edmond O'Brien is either amusing or irritating as the local paper writer and town drunk, while Vera Miles does well as the token female character who is more or less limited to being a foil/love interest for both Stewart and Wayne. The stand-out of the bunch is the inimitable Lee Marvin as the titular outlaw, conveying enough menace to overcome his rather archetypal Western villain.

It's a good premise and all, but I find the execution fairly lacking. It does sort of run out of steam after its climatic reveal, which is a shame because a lot of its dramatic weight comes with the fallout of such an action. The film is generally solid but I guess it feels a bit by-the-numbers when it's not being an interesting take on Western mythology.

28 days...6 hours...42 minutes...12 seconds
#55 - Ghostbusters
Ivan Reitman, 1984

Unfortunately, I just struggle to find it funny.

The jokes don't do anything for me either. Whether it's the goonish physical comedy involving the team's encounters with ghosts or the rapid-fire verbal wordplay, nothing about this film even makes me chuckle anymore.

"Shh, you smell something?"

Gets me every time.
"A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Why, sometimes in life, it's the only weapon we have."

Suspect's Reviews

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#65 - Stalag 17
Billy Wilder, 1952

In a German P.O.W. camp during World War II, the inmates of one of the barracks suspect that one of their number is an informant working for the Germans.

If there's one part of Stalag 17 that I reckon doesn't work, it's some of the comedic elements - chiefly, the odd-couple duo of the wise-cracking Shapiro and his dopey pal Animal, especially as they get into the sort of antics that wouldn't seem out of place on Hogan's Heroes (such as one scene where they pretend to be painting a road as an excuse to sneak into a part of the camp designated for female prisoners, to say nothing of a scene where Animal mistakes Shapiro for Betty Grable). Not even having an extremely affable supervising sergeant named Schulz for the prisoners to bounce off against helps much. The concept of making a film about P.O.W.s even remotely comedic, even in 1952, was a bold move no matter what and, though it doesn't always pay off, doesn't make this a bad film by any means. The "whodunit" plot guarantees there's at least some tension, especially when the main suspect, William Holden's duplicitous black marketeer, is so obviously guilty that you just know it's a matter of time before it's revealed to be anyone else. Being based on a play means there's bound to be a tight plot going on (distracting comic elements notwithstanding) and it helps that the ensemble on display can carry the material brilliantly. Though it does resolve itself in a fairly predictable manner, it is still a very well-done film and definitely recommended.

I think I'd give it at least a box less, but the comedic bits really hurt my enjoyment of the film. I'd do the same with The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, too, as that's usually the score I give decent/competant films which I've not enjoyed. Which should also let you know how much I dislike Kubrick.

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Yeah, well, I guess the comedic moments are ignorable enough for the most part that I can enjoy the rest, but cutting them out would definitely result in a leaner and better film. I guess if you were making a World War II movie in the 1950s you had to have at least some levity to stop it being too harsh for audiences.

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#66 - Blow
Ted Demme, 2001

Based on the true story of George Jung, who becomes one of the biggest cocaine dealers in history during the 1970s.

It does seem like a bit of a cop-out from a critical standpoint to base one's negative assessment of a work on how derivative it is of older and better pieces, but Blow really is that kind of film. I don't even have to specify exactly which true-crime biopic I'm thinking of, do I? Well, you can ask me later if you're not sure, anyway. In the meantime, Blow is sporadically interesting but it's considerably flawed. At its best, it's way too familiar and at its worst it's kind of a mess. Johnny Depp may recycle a lot of his usual acting quirks in playing the drugged-up Jung, whose motivations at least manage to avoid being reprehensible; he becomes a drug lord out of the desire to be a wealthy provider as well as a responsible family man like his impoverished father (Ray Liotta) and there is some small tragedy in just how many friends and family members he loses over the course of the film as his drug empire fluctuates. Unfortunately, the fact that the bulk of the characters fade in and out of the film without much in the way of development is a strike against the film, no matter how true to the story it might have been. It doesn't help that out of the few characters that stick around for the whole film, most of them aren't well-developed anyway. Penelope Cruz initially seems like she would have been a good foil to Depp's craziness but here she becomes too cartoonishly unsympathetic to be a remotely good character. Liotta is decent enough as Jung's disapproving yet understanding father, but having Rachel Griffiths play his extremely disappointed and double-crossing mother doesn't work, especially since Griffiths is clearly around the same age as Depp (I did the research and apparently she's even younger than he is). Even having notorious kingpin Pablo Escobar (Cliff Curtis) pop up briefly does little to make an impression.

Aside from that, it's business as usual. Jung builds himself up from nothing with lofty goals and can-do attitude, then goes through the highs and lows of being extremely involved in an international drug trade, before losing everything, then gaining some of it back, then losing it all again. A slight variation that seems promising, but ultimately fails to deliver. The slickness of the filmmaking does little to make this film pass by any quicker and the fact that Jung is humanised much more than the average crime-story protagonist doesn't make much of a positive difference to an extremely generic film - if anything, it might actually hinder the film.

I guess if you were making a World War II movie in the 1950s you had to have at least some levity to stop it being too harsh for audiences.
I think that's probably a modern way of lookiing at it. It's what we'd think now, but I don't think it's how it was then. Not here, anyway. Those people had lived through it, they didn't need protecting from the harsh realities of war. Though there are certainly differences between the UK and US when it comes to their war films of the 50's.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of my favourite Western's and I'd give it a popcorn more probably. I agree that I don't think the 'twist' is meant to be a surprise. I thought the whole thing was very well directed, and I enjoyed the conflict of personalities and politics between two fascinating characters.

I agree that Blow wasn't that good, although I don't think I disliked it as much as you. It just seemed boring and I lost my interest by about halfway, there didn't seem to be anything there, a reason for me to watch it.

Great reviews by the way, I need to start commenting more on what I've seen

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#67 - The Rum Diary
Bruce Robinson, 2011

In 1960 Puerto Rico, a journalist arrives to work on a newspaper but soon gets caught up in a number of dangerous situations during his tenure.s

For a long time, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has been one of my favourite books and Withnail and I has been one of my favourite films, so when Bruce Robinson was put on to direct a film adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's The Rum Diary, I was at once intrigued yet skeptical. It's hard not to think of Withnail and I as a directorial fluke, but then there was also the fact that they were bringing back Johnny Depp to play Thompson's fictitious alter-ego despite the fact that Thompson would have been in his early-twenties during the events of The Rum Diary while Depp is at least twice as old as that in this film. I still figured I should give it the benefit of the doubt.

The resulting film is ultimately rather flat. There are the odd concessions that feel like attempts to appease HST fans who came here expecting something similar to Fear and Loathing..., whether it's the inclusion of a swarthy Latino sidekick (Michael Rispoli) or a very brief hallucinogenic sequence that's not even freakish enough to be good and just comes across as a very unwelcome distraction. Aside from that, the narrative's too thin to be worthwhile. Depp's Thompson analogue is supposed to be a younger version that hasn't quite become the eccentric wild-man that people remember him as, but this has the effect of making him seem like he's sleepwalking through the role. Other roles aren't much better - his blandly free-spirited love interest (Amber Heard) and the smooth-talking businessman (Aaron Eckhart) help to make up a very boring love triangle that adds little to the main plot about some questionable land dealings on the part of Eckhart's character. Out of all the performers, Giovanni Ribisi is the one that stands out as a deranged reporter, but even so he's just the best of a bad situation in this context. Not even Richard Jenkins' turn as Depp's cynical boss manages to work well given the material.

Leaving aside the problems with acting and characterisation, this is still a pretty weak film. As much as I may like Withnail and I, I know that it's definitely not because of Robinson's direction - the same lack of a distinctive style defines The Rum Diary but without a decent script to build off it just exposes Robinson's extremely workmanlike directing abilities. Even if he did write the adaptation of Thompson's novel himself, the clever prose one could associate with him is almost completely absent. It might be worth watching once if you're a fan of Thompson's writing, but as a standalone film it leaves a lot to be desired.

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#68 - Predestination
Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig, 2014

An agent for an organisation that uses time travel to correct past catastrophes is sent back to stop a terrorist but is instead side-tracked by an author he meets while undercover.

The Spierig brothers are a pair that I haven't quite got a strong opinion about. Undead may have been a star-making debut feature for the brothers, but for the most part I thought it was a pretty unremarkable attempt to make a low-budget zombie film that couldn't even be salvaged by the pair's attempt to fashion an Ash-like zombie-killing badass. Daybreakers was a fairly clever dystopian twist on the incredibly worn-out sub-genre of vampire horror, even if the end result was incredibly far from perfect. Predestination marks the duo's progression away from horror into full sci-fi, here invoking a rather familiar premise involving

Usually when a reviewer says that they don't want to divulge too many details about the plot of a film, it's so as to prevent the premature revelation of surprising developments in terms of both plot and characterisation. I also wish to refrain from doing that, at least not without spoiler tags, because of a completely different reason. Instead, I'll emphasis what this film does get right. For one thing, it looks very good. The award-winning cinematography on display is definitely a highlight and helps to stylishly convey a variety of different settings, whether it's spotless laboratories or grimy bars. Ethan Hawke is a generally decent actor and does his best as the somewhat generic protagonist, but one would argue that that's kind of the point. The real star of the show ends up being relative newcomer Sarah Snook, who gets a far more challenging and complicated role that once again would invoke spoilers if it involved going into details, but she disappears into the character so well that it was tough to recognise her at first.

Now, I'm going to put up spoiler tags and, while they don't actually spoil any events from the film, they involve discussing a certain implication on the part of the film that is virtually a spoiler so under the cut it goes...

WARNING: "Predestination" spoilers below
The main problem with Predestination, at least to me, is that it is waaaaay too predictable. Sure, there are various surprises that come about during the extended sequence where Snook's character explains their back-story, but these surprises only serve to set up one increasingly predictable second half in the process. I know that any time-travel film is going to have its fair share of logic gaps or mind-bending moments, but this film is fairly lacking in both and as a result its big twists manage the rather impressive paradox of being both farfetched yet easily foreseeable.

That rather significant problem aside, Predestination manages to be a decent enough little movie. It's definitely carried by Snook, who has enough talent and range to complete one very difficult character arc - too bad it's tied to a plot that starts off with some innovation but runs out of steam halfway through.

28 days...6 hours...42 minutes...12 seconds
It's when Venkler first goes to Dana's apartment. There's a little tinkle on the piano after he says "Shh, listen"

You're BOTH wrong and his name is Venkman, come on people!!! You are mixing his name with Spengler, played by the late Ramis.

It's in the beginning in the library. Ray says just before they meet the librarian ghost.

As for Predestination. As predictable as it was (and it was) it is still fresh in my mind. It's something new and I don't recall ever seeing something as twisted as it. You're bang on with Snook though.

It's in the beginning in the library. Ray says just before they meet the librarian ghost
Man, I could've sworn it was in the apartment, but now you've said it I can picture it in the library with the pile of books.

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#69 - The Wind Rises
Hayao Miyazaki, 2013

Loosely based on the true story of Jiro Horikoshi, a Japanese aeronauticaly engineer working to design planes in the aftermath of World War I.

Given that this is supposedly going to be Miyazaki's final film (not like he hasn't said that before, but this time it seems very believable), it makes sense that it focuses on a subject that Miyazaki has incorporated into many of his films: flying. Rather than create yet another fantastic realm full of imaginative visuals and magical creatures, Miyazaki opts instead to tell a down-to-earth story based in fact. Of course, he still gets the chance to provide his trademark fantasy elements through dream sequences (that may or may not be an actual shared consciousness, but the film is appropriately vague on this) where protagonist Jiro gets to meet one of his idols and see all sorts of amazing sights as a result. In addition to Jiro's aeronautical endeavours, he also courts heiress Naoko, in a sub-plot that definitely adds some much-needed heart to the A-plot, which can get a little bogged down in some fairly dry sequences about airplane design.

The realistic biopic angle that The Wind Rises takes can come across as a bit of a drag in ways that not even the various dream sequences can compensate for, but it's a small complaint as the animation is as fluid and striking as ever. As Miyazaki is wont to do, there is a dark undercurrent to what is superficially an inspiring story of following one's dreams. The post-World War I setting means there are references to the inevitability of World War II, while the romance sub-plot isn't exactly sunshine and rainbows either. Miyazaki's films never take severe dips in quality, though, and The Wind Rises is as good a final film as he could make.

A better film that has wind in the title is "When The Wind Blows".

Honeykid will back me up.