Movie Diary 2018 by pahaK

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I will watch Ulzana's Raid (1972) shortly, I love westerns and for some reason I missed that one. Thank you for the heads up.

Ravenous (1999) r

I Saw Ravenous when it was new and had it ranked as good but not great film.

Concept of Ravenous is great - gaining the strength of consumed men taken literally. Unfortunately the script itself is terrible and direction / cinematography isn't that much better. Result is a clumsy mix of comedy and horror with one trait caricature characters and many scenes that lack any sort of logic or even continuity.

Actors are capable and save what they can. Effects are also rather good and so are the settings. With the films premise and great cast this should have been really good but now it's mostly wasted potential.


Vampyr (1932) n

Technically rather clumsy vampire movie with some interesting visuals and decent atmosphere. It's apparent that this was initially planned as a silent film as it has all of their flaws and doesn't really use any advantages of sound film. Acting all the way is mediocre at best and the dubbing (all the sounds actually) is horrendous.

I'm pretty sure this film has one of the most useless protagonists ever. All Gray does is wander around aimlessly looking lost and the few times he does something it looks more like a child attempting to help an adult (like near the end when he helps the servant to open the vampire's grave). Because of him the whole script becomes senseless - there's absolutely no reason for him to get involved in anything. And why does the lord of the manor give Gray the book when his servant was perfectly capable of dealing with the vampire on his own?

The washed out look was nice but at times the end result was really poor quality picture. Lots of visually impressive scenes had nothing to do with the plot. Story moved awkwardly and with no logic at all (old lord clearly knew what was going on but instead of dealing with the problem with his servant he gives the key to solve things to complete stranger who, in the end, has almost no role in fixing anything).

I tend to side with the contemporary critics and say the movie wasn't good. Potential was there and the director had the visual side in hand but writing is just way too bad. Still there was some charm to it so despite all of this ranting I'm going to give it...

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) n

Another old one. This time we have a silent film that succeeds in its storytelling and while as a silent film it is, in my opinion, inherently flawed it manages to tell a coherent and naturally flowing story. Script is generally good and there's even some attempt for character development that's usually the greatest weakness of silent films (for obvious reasons, in my opinion).

The thing The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is famous for is its sets which are mostly painted on paper (or canvas?). They look really good and give whole movie a dreamlike and twisted look (camera work is kind of too crisp though, something more fuzzy like in Vampyr above could have been very effective here). Acting is mostly quite composed for silent film with the exception of Caligari himself.

This is definitely among the better silent films I've seen. While its innovative (and cheap!) sets are its most memorable achievement it is also a good movie.

The Last House on the Left (1972) n

Remember when I said that I wasn't Wes Craven fan? His debut isn't going to change that but it did manage to surprise me though...

The Last House on the Left is about as amateurish as possible. Script is stupid and the whole chain of events feels extremely forced, characters (especially Weasel and the cops) are absurdly comical, dialogue is totally out of place, there's no cinematography to speak of, there's no tension or atmosphere (unless you count second-hand embarrassment) and so on. Perhaps only good thing in the whole movie was the song The Road Leads to Nowhere.

The Last House on the Left just has got to be the worst movie with any kind of status as a classic. This was outrageously bad even for a Wes Craven movie.

The Seventh Seal (1957) r

While searching witch killing scenes for baker's dozen I stumbled upon this Bergman's classic (I didn't even remember it had a scene where witch is put to pyre) and felt the urge to rewatch it.

For me The Seventh Seal is a movie about the conflict between a need to believe in something and reason that says there's nothing to believe in. How people waste their lives searching for something that would give their lives a meaning. Max von Sydow's knight has practically lost his faith during the ten years he spent on a crusade but refuses to admit it.

Writing and dialogue are superb. Even though I've been an atheist all my life I find psychological side of religion interesting and I think this movie is spot on. There's no real plot besides the existential question but everyone has their part to play in it. Acting is little too theatrical except for von Sydow and Bibi Anderson who are great.

Cinematography is solid all the way but the film isn't about fancy visuals. Black and white imagery is beautiful. Soundtrack is merely OK but it works. There really isn't anything badly wrong in this. I think I need to watch more Bergman.

Jailbreak (2017) n

Jailbreak is kinda like a Cambodian version of The Raid that takes place in a prison instead of a tenement house. I never understood the hype around The Raid and Jailbreak fares even worse.

Script is ridiculously bad (prison guards are lost in their own prison, characters' ability to understand Khmer or English changes from scene to scene, etc.) and most decisions made make no sense. Acting is mostly wooden but there are no real characters at all so it's not that big of a deal. I also hated the Cambodian(?) hip hop music.

What is deal breaking though is the bad quality of action scenes - most of the time there's no feeling of real impact, number of opponents is inversely proportional to how much punishment they can take, all "duels" follow the same mold (first the hero is getting severely beaten, then he suddenly makes couple of poses and proceeds to beat the bad guy with ease) and most of the actors don't seem believable during the fights (especially the gang leader lady).

Boring and silly martial arts action with mediocre to bad fights. Not worth the time.

Recommended movies: Chocolate, Ong-bak and Re: Born.

Blacker Than the Night (1975) n

Very slow ghost movie from Mexico. It caught my interest because of the director who's also responsible for magnificent Poison for the Fairies and pretty good IMDb rating didn't hurt either.

A young woman inherits a big, old house from her aunt and moves there with three female friends. All of these women are really annoying and superficial brats. With the house also came a cat that the heiress is supposed to take care of but her friends seem to be cat haters and aunt's beloved feline ends up dead. What follows is John Wick of ghost stories.

Films is really slow - yeah, I already mentioned it but it's slow enough to mention twice. Most of the film is about showing how annoying these women are and how annoying their boyfriends and ex-husbands are (actually everyone is annoying except maybe the servant). I suppose the director just hated the upper class (class battle as a theme is present in Poison for the Fairies as well).

Horror elements are rather average. Acting is OK. Script is decent but but movie could easily have been 15-20 minutes shorter without losing anything. Technically there is nothing fancy, just standard professional cinematography and soundtrack (some ghostly voices are pretty good).

Not bad but disappointing ghost story.

Jeremiah Johnson (1972) n

I had quite high expectations for this and seeing that Milius was one of the writers surely raised them even more. Sadly the film didn't deliver. I didn't like how the movie didn't seem to know what it was trying to be: a survival story in the wilderness, lighthearted family western with comedic side characters, serious portrayal of the natives, misanthropic rant where all men mean trouble or heroic fantasy of legendary mountain man. End result was a mess.

Redford was pretty good as Johnson. Utah (I think) looked awesome but cinematography wasn't anything special, not bad by any means but just normal. I didn't like the songs that were clearly written for the film and hated the 2+ minutes musical foreplay for the film - why would anyone think that was a good idea?

Best part of the film was from Jeremiah marrying Swan to finding the settler caravan; pretty much the only long section of the film it remained stylistically consistent. Action sequences during the final part of the film were terrible.

oh you made me cry. just 2/5 (:
You can call it the art of fighting without fighting.

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976) R

A rewatch of one of my recent favorites. I first saw this about two years ago so rather recent find for me.

A story of a young girl, Rynn, who wants to be in charge of her own life in a world that doesn't give much credit to kids. Her apparently bohemian poet father has died recently but together they made arrangements for Rynn to be able to live on her own for at least the next three years. But things get little more complicated.

In order to protect her way of life she's already killed her mother who left Rynn with her father years ago and stumbled back to her life after he died. Intrusive landlady and her adult son who's into young girls cause things to get little out of hand.

The film is about individualism and the limits of protecting one's personal space and freedom. It ponders these questions through a 13-year-old girl who in many ways behaves more adultlike than surrounding adults but is refused the respect of a proper individual because of her age.

Writing is generally superb. Film is mostly shot in Rynn's house where different people visit her with few outside shots so cinematography is little limited but supports the mood very well. Characters are great and despite everything Rynn is very likable. Acting is very solid all the way: Jodie Foster was already such a great actress at 13 and Martin Sheen does brilliant job as a sleazy man who just wants to get into Jodie's pants.

Rewatch solidified this as one of my favorites. I don't care if Jodie Foster disagrees but in my opinion this is the best movie she's been in.

Harbinger Down (2015) n

Ripping off Carpenter's The Thing shouldn't be such a bad thing but this one fails on every account: garbage script, cliched and annoying characters, bad acting (even Henriksen looked bored) and really ****ty CGI. Wasted about 40 minutes on this before I understood what stop button is there for.

Cemetery Man (1994) r

I didn't really like this one but it does fail with a style. Cemetery Man (what a stupid English title, I much prefer Dellamorte Dellamore) is a mix of comedy and horror with some arthouse thrown in as well. At times it works, at times it doesn't.

In a small town cemetery the dead come back and the caretaker needs to put them back to rest, this time for good. He falls in love with a widow, his dimwitted assistant falls in love with mayor's daughter (and wants to marry her rotting head), people die and everything is so damn weird. If there is a coherent plot behind everything, I did miss it.

Visually the film is also a hit and a miss. Soavi, a protegee of Dario Argento, is technically solid but he's often trying too much with his fancy visuals and many shots feel forced. Settings are great though but the result is a messy combination of Argento, Fulci and Gilliam. Acting is mostly alright. Most of the characters are exaggeratedly weird so there's another bow to Gilliam / Monty Python. Soundtrack was probably quite bland as I don't remember anything about it.

Ambitious film that boldly fails on many levels. There are some good laughs, some great shots, nice twisted atmosphere and, most importantly, some uniqueness. Barely OK movie but I respect Soavi for trying.

Action Jackson (1988) r

I have a soft spot for 80s action movies but sadly so many of them are just bad. Action Jackson isn't an exception.

Carl Weathers plays a super cop who's been stripped of his rank and gun due to, err, police brutality. There's a silly plot involving a coup in union, almost ninja-like assassins, psychopathic car brand owner, ****, tons of profanity, muscled men, clumsy fights, some blood and too many forced one liners - you know, the usual stuff of the 80s.

I think that I'm in minority but I'd like if even action films had good scripts and real characters. Action Jackson doesn't have either. Acting is wooden, action is bad and some of the cliches are just too much (like how the villain explains his plans to Jackson before leaving him to be killed by his henchmen).

On the plus side bad guys are killed, some of the jokes are funny and we get to see **** of both Sharon Stone and Vanity. Very, very far from the best (or even good) 80s actions.

Wait Until Dark (1967) n

Watched this for the HoF16.

First of all this was based on a play and it really showed. I don't usually like when plays are just filmed without bothering to adapt them properly for different media. I can see how this could work on stage but for the screen it would have needed more extensive rewriting.

Story didn't seem to make much sense. First of all the amount of heroin in the doll is way too small for the massive operation to reclaim it. Second why does Roat even involve the duo? He's already killed one person and could easily force what ever information he needs from Susy but instead brings in two more people he doesn't trust.

Hepburn is great as Susy. Her portrayal of blindness feels rather convincing. The evil trio is a bit too theatrical to my tastes. Husband is fine but Oscar nomination for supporting actor seems exaggeration. Gloria was OK (but whoever chose her glasses deserves a beating - no wonder she was picked up at school with those).

I liked the beginning and how the airport scene flowed without dialogue. After that the film became just filmed theater. It bothered my how at times Susy couldn't sense three men in the apartment and a moment later she notices how two visitors were wearing the same shoes (there were few other similar issues). That horroresque leap at the end didn't fit the tone of the film, otherwise the ending was rather good.

Not my type of film but could perhaps enjoy it on stage.

Exorcism (1975) r

Just another Spanish B-horror starring Paul Naschy. All I remembered from my first viewing was that I didn't like it much but considering it's been over 30 years that doesn't mean much.

Exorcism is like a clumsy combination of giallo and The Exorcist (it almost feels like they had a giallo script but they decided to make The Exorcist rip-off while shooting). Story makes very little sense and characters leap to conclusions without thought or hesitation. In real euro trash spirit there plenty of female nudity too.

Naschy is his usual self and acting in general is surprisingly good (unfortunately the dialogue isn't). Cinematography is decent and clearly inspired by Italian giallo. There aren't much effects before the very end so no bloody murders or gore in general. Huge plus for the eyes of possessed Leila which look really nice.

Technically well done and acted Spanish horror that suffers from really stupid script.

Recommended movies: The Werewolf and the Yeti is my favorite Naschy but I haven't seen many.

Don't Torture a Duckling (1972) n

I loved Fulci's Gates of Hell trilogy so it's about time to see something else by him.

Weirdly named Don't Torture a Duckling is a giallo where children are being murdered in a backwards village in southern Italy. It doesn't portray an idyllic rural image but paints the world in darker tones where people are killed because of superstition, where sex both obsesses and terrifies and where even children are often cruel and driven by base desires. It isn't very upbeat film.

Unlike Fulci's zombie films Don't Torture a Duckling does have a coherent story. It's little predictable but otherwise well written. Script isn't modern Hollywood clockwork but things flow forward on their own natural and sluggish pace. Cinematography is vintage Fulci and there are multiple great scenes. Especially the "witch's" death scene is brilliant. Soundtrack is good but not great (song during/after the credits is really nice though).

Weakest part of the film is acting which is highlighted by terrible dubbing (and I even watched with Italian audio). Other than that the pacing is little off and the film drags at times.

Visually great giallo with solid but predictable plot and, at best, mediocre acting. Despite mostly praising the film the score isn't higher due to fact that I was checking the timer few times.

EDIT: Raised the rating from 3.5 to 4 popcorn.

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969) n

Another one for the HoF16. I have a vague recollection that I've heard the film's name before but knew nothing about it.

This is a difficult film for me to review. I liked its nihilism and its portrayal of humanity. I loved the ending and how it linked the introduction to the rest of the movie. But on the other hand, at least for me, the film hasn't aged well - dance marathon is reality television for the people of great depression and I've had my share of both reality television (that share was very small) and satires about it. Yes, the show is partially scripted and its purpose is to give the audience something to feel, something to hide the emptiness and suffering in their own lives. It's obvious and I don't feel like hearing it for the hundredth time. And yeah, at 1969 Pollack was most likely comparing the marathon itself to life but at 2018 it doesn't really make a big difference before the end.

I was often bored when watching this. I understand why some things were done (like keeping all characters shallow, showing long and tedious shots of the derby, etc.) but I don't like it when the message is emphasized at the expense of the film as a whole. Life sucks and then you die but the film could still be more entertaining.

Acting was adequate, there was zero depth on the characters and actors were just playing shells visible for the rest of the world. Soundtrack was what you'd expect a 1930s dance marathon to sound like. Cinematography was clinical, almost dull (derbies looked silly and the ending was pretty much the only beautifully shot scene in the whole film - on purpose, I suspect).

Boring buildup in a setting that doesn't interest me in the slightest that leads to very nice ending (the end itself is worth one popcorn for me).

Deep Red (1975) n

Lets continue with classic giallo, this time by Argento.

Compared to my previous giallo, Don't Torture a Duckling, Deep Red is much lighter and contains many comedic scenes (mainly between the two protagonists). It's story isn't as tight either and the ending left me with "that's it?" feeling. Once the murderer is revealed it makes earlier scenes feel unfitting.

As usual with Argento cinematography is top notch: lots of great compositions, extreme close ups, colors and weird camera movements. At times its almost too over the top for a movie like this but most of the time it's awesome. Soundtrack is also guaranteed Goblin quality, it's so refreshingly different when compared to American slashers.

Acting was pretty good this time. Two leads had decent chemistry and dealt fine with the excessive time script allowed for their romance and bickering. Rest of the cast was quite solid too. And Nicoletta Elmi is, again, mischievously adorable in her small role (so sad she decided to give up acting and become a doctor instead).

I think the film could have been shortened quite a bit. Over two hours felt a bit excessive for the story and there certainly were some filler scenes. There was some gore but this isn't particularly bloody giallo.

Visually great but too long and unconvincingly written giallo with solid acting and terrific soundtrack.

So hard to give these numbers. Don't Torture a Duckling was clearly better but I still felt that 3 was too low for this. So I ended up raising Duckling to 4 so I could give this 3.5.