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The Ward (2010)
Not Carpenter's Strongest Film, but Still Worth It
8 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I am a huge fan of John Carpenter's work. I did an entire documentary on his films for my high school film class and gave a copy to the man himself at Fan Expo. Since then due to my newfound respect, I do often continue to purchase and watch films of his when I find them for low prices. I found The Ward alongside Assault on Precinct 13 for five dollars each in a small Canadian town you probably never heard of. The reviews I'd heard for The Ward weren't the greatest, but I decided to buy it anyway and judge for myself. I think it was worth it. Of course I do have some unusual tastes (for the record I hated Halloween, in my opinion that is Carpenter's absolute worst), but I rather liked it.

The story itself is actually rather compelling. The acting is quite good and there's even a twist at the end I can honestly say I never saw coming. Yes, technically what goes on in the end has happened in other movies before, but it is still handled remarkably well here and manages to cast the whole film in a new light in a similar style to films like The Usual Suspects, Shutter Island, or Angel Heart. There's also some genuinely good scares, including several that will make you jump.

The atmosphere is also quite impressive. A major recurring theme in Carpenter's films going all the way back to the beginning is a sense of being trapped in a claustrophobic environment against more than one can normally handle handle- Dark Star, Assault on Precinct 13, Escape From New York, The Thing, Prince of Darkness, among others. That idea returns here, with the protagonists in conflict both against the staff and the ghost that may or may not really exist. The ward itself is somewhat reminiscent of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest- I don't know if I want to call it realistic, as I don't know much about them myself, but there is a lot of thought put into the design.

As I've said before, it's not Carpenter's strongest film- if you'd like that I'd still suggest The Thing. However, if you want an interesting horror film or a modern horror film with some good scares that doesn't follow the same-old slasher formula like a lot of contemporary horror films seem to do, I'd definitely recommend taking a look. If you're a hardcore Carpenter fan like me, this is definitely a must-see.

For Carpenter's return to cinema, this wasn't too bad. Here's hoping he does more excellent movies in the near future.
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The Quick and the Dead (1987 TV Movie)
An Enjoyable and Exciting Western Story
8 April 2011
The story of The Quick and the Dead is very simple: a young married couple and their son accidentally anger a gang of bandits and they begin pursuit, then a mysterious drifter begins helping them out and protecting them from said gang. However it is still a well-written story that manages to keep you interested in what's happening.

The acting is decent enough. Sam Elliot is no Clint Eastwood but he does a good job as the stranger who befriends the young settlers who are heading West. Kate Capshaw, who you may remember as Willie Scott in Indiand Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Tom Conti also deliver some great performances as the young married couple who are travelling to the West with their son in the hopes of starting a new life.

The villains are also well-portrayed. Matt Clark manages to be intimidating as the leader of the bandits, but he manages to be a fairly complex character rather than just a cardboard-cutout villain. The rest of the gang does have their own inner-conflicts which they deal with over the course of the story.

I also thought the historical references were interesting. It is mentioned that the film takes place shortly after Custer's Last Stand, although the actual events have little bearing on the main plot beyond a very brief sub-plot which I'm not going to go into detail about.

Overall, this is a very entertaining and interesting film and I'd recommend it to any fan of Westerns.
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A Truly Unique Portrayal of the Horrors of War
21 March 2011
Apocalypse Now is a very unusual portrayal of the Vietnam War. It's not the most realistic interpretation of the conflict, and it is very surreal.

One problem that I frequently find with war films is that often, especially when showing intense battles, the plot can be difficult to follow. Another major issue is that, especially when there is a large cast, it can be hard to distinguish the main cast.

Neither of these problems are present in Apocalypse now. Despite it's surreal nature, the film's plot is actually reasonably straight forward and summed up in the trailer: Willard is ordered to find Colonel Kurtz and terminate his command, then takes a patrol boat with four other men up the Nung River o Kurtz's compound.

The majority of the main plot is confined to the patrol boat, dealing with various problems that the main cast encounters over the course of the journey.

The cast is actually pretty easy to tell apart. There are five main characters aboard the boat, and all of them have distinctive features which allow them to be recognized instantly.

The acting is also brilliant. Martin Sheen is great as Captain Willard, a soldier whose mind has been completely messed up by his experiences in the war. The rest of the main cast (including a really young Lawrence Fishbourne) does great as well, making them very easy to relate to.

Most of the other actors have very brief roles, and you won't see much of them, but they are still very memorable. The most famous is Robert Duvall's appearance as Lt. Colonel Bill Kilgore, an air cavalry officer who takes a bit too much pleasure out of the war, playing 'Ride of the Valkyries' while attacking a village and then having his men surf in the middle of the battle.

Also notable is Marlon Brando as Colonel Kurtz, the insane officer whom Willard is sent to kill. His first scene is probably his best, in which both Kurtz and Willard are only partially visible in the dim light.

Other supporting actors include Harrison Ford's brief appearance as Colonel Lucas, the officer who assigns Willard his mission; and Dennis Hopper as an annoying photojournalist who admires Kurtz. Both manage to put on great performances.

Overall, Apocalypse Now is a very unusual and brilliant portrayal of the Vietnam War. It is very effective in illustrating the insanity that took place, and if you interested in war films, you will definitely have to check it out.
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True Grit (2010)
A Great Western Classic
2 January 2011
When I first the trailer for this film, and I learned that it drew inspiration from a John Wayne classic and starred Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon, I got excited. When I saw this in the theatre, I can honestly say I was not disappointed.

The acting is excellent. Hailee Steinfeld does a brilliant portrayal of the main character, Mattie Ross, a 14-year-old girl who is determined to punish Tom Chaney, the man responsible for killing her father. Jeff Bridges (Iron Man) delivers a great performance as Rooster Cogburn, a tough, whiskey-drinking U.S. Marshall. Matt Damon (Saving Private Ryan) provides a decent portrayal of LaBoeuf, a Texas ranger who is also in pursuit of Tom Chaney, but for different reasons.

The story is very well written. It is largely character-driven, as much of the plot deals with the relationship between the three main characters. There are a number of conflicts that develop between the main cast, particularly between Rooster Cogburn and LaBoeuf. There are also plenty of action scenes that take place throughout the film.

Overall, True Grit is a very well-done film and I'd definitely recommend seeing it
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Air Force One (1997)
An Intense, Suspenseful, Action-Packed Thriller
13 November 2010
Air Force One is an impressive film. It has a plot that at first glance could be interpreted as the set-up for a cheesy action movie, but in fact it actually works pretty well.

The plot centres around the American President, played by Harrison Ford (Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Blade Runner). His plane, Air Force One, is hijacked by a group of terrorists, led by Gary Oldman (Harry Potter).

Both Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman deliver some great performances. Gary Oldman is very terrifying as the leader of a group of terrorists, a tough, nasty man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, as shown by his method of persuasion: until the Government gives in to their demands, he will hold everyone aboard hostage and execute one of them every thirty minutes.

Harrison Ford also delivers a fine performance as the President of the United States, a former soldier who finds himself trying to save everyone aboard the plane.

The plot is very well-written. Most of the story takes place on an airplane, and as a result it has that strange claustrophobic element that is common in submarine movies.

Overall this is a very good film, and I'd definitely recommend this film to anyone who enjoys suspenseful thrillers, or any fans of Harrison Ford.
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A Truly Emotional Film
6 November 2010
The Green Mile is a brilliant movie with an excellent cast and a well-written plot.

The film has a large cast consisting of many big-name actors, most notably Tom Hanks, who delivers an excellent performance.

The cast actually includes two actors who also appeared in other films with Tom Hanks: Barry Pepper, who was also in Saving Private Ryan, and Gary Sinise, who was in Forrest Gump and Apollo 13. However, Gary Sinise has a much smaller role in this film than he did in Forrest Gump or Apollo 13, you don't see much more than a few minutes of him.

The rest of the cast also includes some notable actors, including Graham Greene, who you might remember as Edgar the Explosives Expert on the Red Green Show, stars as one of the prisoners. Sam Rockwell, who recently starred in Moon, plays an insane inmate who several times has to get put in the restraining room. He doesn't have a major role, but Harry Dean Stanton, who you might remember from Alien, stars as another prisoner who is used when the guards have to practice their electric chair sessions.

The main cast consists of Tom Hanks, who you probably know from a number of great movies, Barry Pepper, who you may remember from Saving Private Ryan, David Morse, who had a supporting role in Contact, and Jeffrey DeMunn, all of whom provide excellent performances. Micheal Clarke Duncan does a wonderful performance as John Coffey (like the drink, only not spelled that way), a man accused of killing two children, and is in fact truly a kind man with an unusual gift of healing.

The film also has a well written story and good cinematography. One thing I really like about this film's plot is it is mostly from the point of view of the guards, something we don't normally see.

Overall, I'd definitely recommend watching this film, it contains what is probably one of the best portrayals by Tom Hanks, as well as a great cast and a great story.
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Yellow Sky (1948)
A Fairly Decent Film with a Good Cast and Good Plot
11 October 2010
Yellow Sky is a great Western with a Decent cast and a good plot. The film stars Gregory Peck as Stretch, the leader of a group of bank robbers. With him in his group is Richard Widmark, and a few other famous actors, including a young Harry Morgan (Colonel Potter From M*A*S*H).

After a bank heist goes horribly wrong, the group finds themselves in a small ghost town, where they meet an old prospector and his granddaughter, Mike, played by Anne Baxter, who as described in the trailer "lives like a man, fights like a tigress, but responds to a kiss like a woman".

A large portion of the plot focuses on Gregory Peck's relationship with Mike, as well as his relationship with the rest of the group, with whom he begins to have arguments with once one of his men, Dude (Richard Widmark), begins to suspect the presence of gold.

The plot is very well written, and the characters are well developed. If you are a fan of westerns, or Gregory Peck, I would definitely recommend seeing this film.
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A True Classic that Really Captures the Horrors and casualties of War
26 September 2010
According to many people, Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan is one of the best war films ever made. They are absolutely correct. This film won several Oscars and it deserved them.

Saving Private Ryan is a perfect example of a film that accurately captures the horrors of war.

The film opens with an impressive recreation of the battle on Omaha Beach. The scene wastes no time in showing us just how horrifying and chaotic the battle really was.

The rest of the plot focuses on the search for Private James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon), a young paratrooper who landed somewhere behind enemy lines. He has three brothers who were all killed in action, and the military decides he should get sent home. Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) is chosen to lead the search for the young private.

The film is simply brilliant. The acting's excellent,the story is well written, and it manages to brilliantly depict how horrifying and tragic war can be.
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Titanic (1997)
An Incredible Cinematic Masterpiece
7 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Ever since I saw Avatar, I began to develop a strong respect for James Cameron, so when I found out he was the genius behind the cinematic legend that is "Titanic", I got excited.

The film is really well written. I love the way it is told in flashback.

It begins with a group of present-day treasure hunters exploring the wreckage of the Titanic (which results in some brilliant underwater footage). They find an old safe that's completely empty save for a drawing of a woman. An elderly woman suddenly phones them and says she's the woman in the picture. She then tells the divers and her granddaughter the main plot of the film.

One thing that I really like as well about the flashback format is the editing. Each time the film always shifts between the past or present via a match cut, such as a video of the wreckage of the Titanic in the present day changing into the Titanic before it left in 1912 or a close-up shot of ýoung Rose's eye to the eye of the elderly Rose in the present.

The characters are all really well developed. I love how the film manages to blend some of the real historical figures (I.E. the crew of the Titanic) with fictional characters (I.E. Rose, Jack) and yet it is still incredibly believable, as if this really was a true story. The story is largely focused on the relationship between Rose and Jack, but the film constantly manages to develop other characters. Even the present-day characters are really well developed.

The story is very well written, and I love the way how it changes in tone throughout. The film starts off exciting, with many people excited, yet still manages to portray Rose in a somewhat sympathetic role. A large portion of it is the romance between Jack and Rose, but the film manages to have some dramatic scenes, with a large sub-plot of the story being the conflict between Rose and the rest of her upper-class family. The film even manages to include a bit of humour here and there, but doesn't take it too far. However everything changes near the end, when we have the iceberg, and all of a sudden the film becomes very dark and tragic.

The climax is very impressive. It takes place once the Titanic hits the iceberg. At this point, the film manages to successfully shift focus between different people. It manages to focus on the protagonists, but also manages to focus on the chaos and tension as the ship sinks and the crew struggle to keep order and get the passengers off safely. It brilliantly manages to capture the tragedy and horror of the disaster.

Overall this movie is a cinematic masterpiece and one that you definitely should see if you haven't already.
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