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"I have just the room for you!"
The set up for this story immediately reminded me of the 1959 Vincent Price horror classic, "House on Haunted Hill". That one also had seven characters isolated in a spooky old mansion, but they were there by invitation and choice, with the prospect of a ten thousand dollar payoff if they survived the night. In the story here, it's a bus driver and his six passengers that wind up stranded on a blocked off mountain road, and directed to a nearby castle to seek shelter for the evening. I loved the Satan stand-in of the character portrayed by Daniel Emilfork; he had that just right, perfect look as a creepy but demonic force to be wary of. I didn't pick up on it myself, but the seven folks off the bus were supposed to represent the seven deadly sins, although it wasn't much of a stretch to figure out the driver for gluttony. All of them seemingly met their demise in a manner befitting their lifestyle, I say seemingly because they all get a second chance before the film's twist conclusion. The translated title for this Italian flick is "The Devil's Nightmare", but if you go along for this ride, the devil really had nothing to worry about. He seemed happy as a clam.
Blood Sabbath (1972)
"Do you know how somebody would go about losing a soul?"
Waylaid by four naked women in the middle of the woods, David (Anthony Geary) opts to get up and run away! Why??!! Only one of the many questions you'll have watching this flick that bypasses soft porn territory and goes straight for the gusto with full frontal nudity in scene after scene, to the point where you almost get tired of it after a while. David's a returned Vietnam vet who's occasional flashback episodes mirror what's happening on screen, but present day reality isn't anywhere near as traumatic. Or maybe it is, having to battle a Witch Queen named Alotta (Dyane Thorne) for the love of a water nymph who he can't be with unless he loses his soul. I will say that Susan Damante as the pond denizen Yyala was the main bright spot in the picture for this viewer, simply gorgeous in her white gown and long blonde hair. Beyond that though, it's an exercise in patience getting to the finale, which leaves a question mark of it's own when David stabs the Witch Queen who leaves no trace of blood. Don't even bother trying to figure it out.
The Manster (1959)
"Something strange has been happening to me lately..."
Working upon the assumption that two heads are better than one, directors George Breakston and Kenneth Crane crafted a neat little gem here that's a throwback to all those great horror flicks of the Forties, but without such luminaries as Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney or Atwill. This one came out in 1959, which for me remains a prolific year in the annals of horror, with such great titles as "House on Haunted Hill", "The Killer Shrews", "The Bat" and "The Giant Gila Monster". I can rattle off those titles with ease because when I catch a memorable flick from 1959, I automatically make a mental note of it. So now, "The Manster" makes that vaunted list!
Now before I get too effusive, this thing does wind up getting pretty silly once reporter Larry Danforth (Peter Dyneley) gets injected with some evolutionary serum concocted by Japanese scientist Robert Suzuki (Satoshi Nakamura). At first you wonder what's going on with Danforth's transformation into a beast, because the film's intro shows a creature resembling an abominable snowman or a Bigfoot, but Larry starts developing an eye for trouble with a hairy hand that seems to have a will of it's own. By the time Larry's changeover is complete, he goes full circle with a split personality that defies credibility and merely serves to throw the viewer into a fit of hilarity.
I don't know, there must have been something in the water in that glorious year of 1959 for all these cool movies to be made. A few more that come to mind are "The Return of The Fly", "The Wasp Woman" and "The Tingler". Seen 'em all, for better or worse, making '59 one of my best years in movie history!
Vendetta dal futuro (1986)
"I guess you're wondering if I'm a man."
This starts out reasonably well, but when the bionic bikers arrive to take out cyborg Paco Queruak (Daniel Greene) it descends into silliness. From there, it's bring on the bazookas and laser weapons to turn this thing into an extravaganza of weapon fire and explosions. It wouldn't have been so bad if the screen writers explained how Paco's circuitry couldn't possibly have been damaged by taking direct machine gun fire to the chest, or survive getting waterlogged while completely submerged. Well, I guess you're not supposed to think about stuff like that, which inadvertently winds up making me think about stuff like that. As an old time pro wrestling fan, I got a kick out of those photos on the wall of Linda's (Janet Agren) establishment; you had to be quick though, to pick out Bruno Sammartino and Terry Funk, most likely matinee idols for the likes of Raul Morales (George Eastman) and his arm wrestling buddy Anatoly Blanco (Darwyn Swalve). That rattlesnake gimmick was pretty interesting but didn't get very far. As the viewer, one might have been forewarned about getting too involved with this flick, because right there at the very beginning you had this poster of a man pointing with the words 'You Have No Future'. It turned out to be a pretty accurate description of the story.
The Thirsty Dead (1974)
"Would you cut out that ridiculous mumbo-jumbo!"
Your first hint that this might be an awful flick comes right at the opening, when it's revealed that "The Thirsty Dead" is being brought to you by the International Amusement Corporation. Can you say oxymoron?
As I was watching this, I had to wonder why the four kidnapped women brought to the tropical jungle outpost of Baru (John Considine) and Ranu (Tani Guthrie) never really got all that concerned about getting back to where they were abducted from. Perhaps they were mesmerized by Baru's eclectic looking outfit, reminiscent of what those classy aliens would wear on the original Star Trek TV series. The 'thirsty dead' concept might have held some resonance if this was even remotely scary, but even when the scantily clad abductees were forced to recline on those rock slabs for the ritual blood-letting ceremony, they didn't seem all that worked up about it. Those flashing upraised knives would have been all the hint I needed that this little adventure was going south.
With a seventy five percent survival rate (one of the four original abductees didn't make it), the glamour gals make their escape, but don't ask me why Baru decided to jump ship on the death cult. Without his daily dose of blood potion he withered up and met his end with a stabbing sensation to the chest. I tell you what though, the guy riding by in his jeep probably felt like the luckiest guy in the Philippines to pick up three babes in bikinis. Some guys have all the luck.
They Saved Hitler's Brain (1968)
"Can you tell us what this is all about, and how you fit into this little rat race?"
I think I must have suffered a bout of attention deficit disorder while watching this, but thankfully I'm OK now. Along with a case of minor hearing loss, this film was almost impossible to follow. Characters that looked like they were among the principal cast wound up getting killed, and others just seemed to come and go at random. Holding on long enough to identify a favorite scene, it finally arrived when a couple of thugs engaged in a car chase started out in daylight, while the poor sap they were chasing wound up crashing in the dark. When the bad guys arrived on the scene, it was day time again! Oddly, this wasn't the first time I ever ran across a situation like this. It happens somewhat regularly in old time B Westerns and I came across the same thing one time in an episode of "One Step Beyond". Come to think of it, this picture was a couple steps beyond anyone's normal comprehension. But you know, there are some films just by dint of their title that you really have to see what they're all about, like say "Snakes on a Plane" or "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter". So I tuned in, checked out the head of Adolf Hitler in a bell jar, and managed to grind it out to the finale when Adolf started to feel the heat, I imagine, just like the first time around.
The Werewolf of Washington (1973)
"Are you really real?
The first question you have to ask yourself is - why is Dean Stockwell even in this thing? And he's the title character no less! However as bad as this is, there are some parts that are downright hysterical, like the bowling alley scene with the President (Biff McGuire). That had Saturday Night Live written all over it! And the lapdog bit with the lab technician, Dr. Kiss (Michael Dunn). You have to wonder if the film makers were attempting to make the goofiest picture possible. It would certainly seems so, how about Jack Whittier (Stockwell) chained up in that chair to prevent another wolfman spree. If you noticed, nothing ever came of that scene, it transitioned right into something else altogether. And speaking of transitions, I really got a kick out of Stockwell's facial contortions whenever he was about to turn into a werewolf. That special effect wasn't much improved over the Lon Chaney original all the way back to 1941. Nevertheless, you can have a real good time with this flick for all the nonsense going on, and for observant viewers, the folks who made this in 1973 threw in an obvious dig at the the then current administration with a quick shot of Jack Whittier walking right past the Watergate Hotel!
The Dungeon of Harrow (1962)
"I find it impossible to concentrate on the matter at hand."
My summary line was spoken by The Count (William McNulty) to Aaron Fallon (Russ Harvey), or was it the other way around? In a case of life imitating art, I wasn't able to concentrate on this film long enough to get it straight. By the looks of other reviews for the picture here on IMDb, it doesn't look like I'm in the minority.
This one is pretty dismal, a good indicator being that toy ship that went down in the storm to open the main story. It reminded me of all those Toho monster flicks from back in the day. Come to think of it, this was made back in the day too, but without the camp appeal of a Godzilla or Rodan. Given the situation Mr. Fallon found himself in as a prisoner of the Count, he didn't seem to have much of a sense of urgency to improve it. Take note of the scene in which the servant Mantis (Maurice Harris) battles the Captain (Lee Morgan) to the death, he just stands there next to the Count casually watching. It would have been a perfect opportunity to cold cock the Count and make a break for it, but the scripters had other plans I guess.
For fans of absolute dreck, you might want to take this one in to see if it makes your Top Ten Worst list. Oddly, it doesn't make mine as I've seen some awful doozies over the years. But it makes a valiant attempt in both the boring and totally unnecessary departments. To add insult to injury, Fallon discovers at the end of the story that he's doomed as a leper victim on the island after making a clean get away from the Count with the gal (Michelle Buquor) who helped him. The guy just couldn't catch a break.
El espanto surge de la tumba (1973)
"You will pay, for I shall be back. I'll be back!"
Somehow that summary line spoken by Alaric de Marnac (Paul Naschy) doesn't quite carry the resonance that it had when uttered by Arnold in "The Terminator". Nor unfortunately does the story, which when all is said and done, seemed like a good excuse to put a host of good looking women in short skirts, flimsy nightgowns and skimpy underwear. You probably wouldn't expect that from a title like "Horror Rises From the Tomb" but it's there alright. The aforementioned Alaric opens the story in the Fifteenth Century by casting a curse on the descendants of authorities putting him to death for witchcraft, and it's a quick jump to the Seventies that finds his severed head reunited with his body to exact his revenge. This might not have been too bad if done effectively, but the film suffers from poor editing with one disjointed scene after another challenging story continuity. As a result, movies like this always seem much longer than their actual run time because of the patience required to sit through them. Why do I do it? Well, as I write this, the country is in the grip of the corona virus outbreak, and with no cable or local library access, I'm delving into pictures that are part of video collections that I've avoided in the past. If there's a time and a place for everything, I guess this is it. I can't believe how many more clunkers there are in the stack I'm looking at.
Double Exposure (1982)
"Sometimes I dare death, try and catch me."
The movie keeps you guessing the relationship between Adrian Wilde's (Michael Callan) nightmares and the murders occurring on the streets of Los Angeles, and it doesn't clear up all that quickly as the corpses pile up. All the clues point to him being the killer but a quick reversal at the end of the story reveals the twist, and not a very satisfying one to my mind; it seemed like a cheap way out. I was astonished to see that gruesome 'snake in the bag, over the head trick', not so much as a murder tactic, but because I'd seen it once before in a low budget 1970 Western, "Cry Blood, Apache". Can't believe it's been used more than once, which suggests that there might be at least one more flick out there using the same idea. Astonished also that this film had a run time of only a little over an hour and a half, as it seemed to drag on twice as long, especially with all the filler scenes with the various supporting actors. My favorite in a very limited role was Robert Tessier as the bald headed bartender, looking mean as hell but never getting a chance to unload. His best moment in a picture had to be when he banged his head into a locker room wall in the 1974 version of "The Longest Yard". I think I'll go and watch that one again.
The Corpse (1971)
"I'm not bloody interested in what you should say."
I saw this film under the title "Crucible of Horror". To be clear, a crucible does make it's appearance in the early going when Jane Eastwood (Sharon Gurney) mixes some sort of potion, then it's never to be seen again. Like many reviewers on this board, I too sensed a similarity to the 1955 French film "Diabolique". However that picture was a masterful story of suspense that kept you on the edge of your seat for a final resolution. Here, when the dead Walter Eastwood (Michael Gough) turns up near the end of the story, you wind up scratching your head as to what you just watched for almost an hour and a half. Was it a dream, or a hallucination on the part of wife Edith Eastwood (Yvonne Mitchell)? There were certainly enough nightmarish sequences as part of Edith's reveries to suggest some sort of tragic outcome. Instead, the tragic outcome is that director Victors Ritelis didn't really provide one. Nevertheless the film did inspire a humorous moment to my mind, strictly as a matter of timing for catching the picture. With all the hand washing Walter Eastwood did, you would think he was trying to avoid the corona virus.
Cathy's Curse (1977)
"Cathy..., are you gonna tell me what went on here?"
To really appreciate this film after the fact, you really have to read through some of the reviews for it posted here on IMDb. Fans of this type of celluloid trash will convince you that watching the picture is one of the most productive things you can do with your valuable time. "Cathy's Curse" just barely misses making my all time Top Ten list of worst movies ever, but not because it didn't try. Others have explained what the story is all about, so no need for me to rehash it. But to give you an idea how poorly made this picture is, I'll recount my favorite scene. It's when the old geezer of a butler Paul (Roy Witham) finds that he's locked out of a room in the Gimble mansion and tries to force his way in. The first time he puts his shoulder into the door, it opens just fine, but seeing as how it had to be a more difficult task, he pulls the door shut and tries again! Definitely a scene to rewind and watch again and again. As for the title character Cathy - cute kid, foul mouth. Actress Randi Allen has nothing on Linda Blair. My viewing copy came out of one of those DVD four-packs with minimal standards that featured a prominent greenish cast for it's entirety. The set was titled 'Beyond the Grave', and if you're lucky enough to find it, this flick is sandwiched in between "Beast of the Yellow Night" and "Crypt of the Living Dead". Have fun!
The Rainmaker (1997)
"There's nothing more thrilling than nailing an insurance company!"
When you consider what freshly minted attorney Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon) accomplished taking on a mega-insurance company and it's coterie of hired gunslinger lawyers, the story isn't very believable, but it works on screen due to the talents of multiple players. Danny DeVito is particularly effective as a street smart para lawyer, a term I never heard before but it seemed to fit his role in the story. The thing is, you expected him to be a sleaze ball throughout the picture, but he surprises when the chips are down with an occasional spark of humanity.
Besides the main plot of an insurance company failing to provide for the family of a doomed leukemia patient, there's a side story involving Damon's character protecting a young woman from an abusive husband. I'd have to say that Rudy Baylor's close quarters battle with Cliff Riker (Andrew Shue) would qualify for one of my Top 10 Movie Western brawls of all time if set in a different genre. One of the best and most destructive I've ever seen on screen.
Given his more conservative political views, I was surprised a bit to see Jon Voight cast as the sleazy corporate attorney Leo F. Drummond, surprised I guess that he would take on such a role. But after all, it is only a movie role, and his presence adds solidity to the story. What I thought the screen writers could have done a better job with was Drummond's closing argument on the case, which called for fairness by not awarding an exorbitant judgment to the plaintiff. Because that's all he had, I wasn't surprised that the jury came in with a significant punitive damage decision.
Coming as late as I did to this film, Matt Damon struck me as exceedingly young, but it's over two decades since the film came out (as I write this). If you missed out like I did when it was current, you'll do yourself a service to take this one in as both a human interest story and compelling courtroom drama. Even the minor players contribute exceptionally well in this finely crafted story based on the John Grisham novel.
Our Place in the Universe
Up until about the fourteenth century, man's understanding of the world around him advanced very slowly, with centuries passing by before the next advance in critical thinking took place. Following the Renaissance however, it's almost as if new discoveries took place at breakneck speed that only took a few decades at a time. This episode of 'Ancient Skies' begins with the 1577 passing of the Great Comet, which because it actually crossed the path of Venus's orbit, shattered the concept of crystalline spheres encasing the heavens and the planets. In 1609, Johannes Kepler published his 'New Laws of Planetary Motion' which theorized that planets move in ellipses, and not circular orbits.
Considered perhaps the greatest scientist of all time, Sir Isaac Newton needed a theory to prove that gravity worked the same everywhere in the universe, and was fortunate to observe a comet in 1680/1681 that he was able to conclude was orbiting the sun. Other scientists added their contributions as the decades passed, but even Albert Einstein was of the belief that the universe was finite. It was the work of a Catholic priest, George Lemaitre. who recalculated Einstein's equations to determine that the universe was not static, but was actually expanding! How do we know this? The episode provides a fascinating explanation! Hint - you can thank Edwin Hubble and his powerful new telescope.
In all, this is a fascinating series that puts in plain language the way mankind found it's way from a mythological understanding of the way the world worked, to one based on math and science, which over the centuries gave us a rational universe underlying all of it's mysteries. Some of it may be a little dry in the telling, but getting past that, you'll learn an awful lot that's compelling and easy enough to understand in layman's terms. As a side effect, it will even make you appreciate living in the present day to take advantage of centuries of accumulated knowledge.
Knives Out (2019)
"I feel the noose tightening..."
I knew right from the start I was going to like this picture. It had a jaunty opening setting the tone, and as the characters were introduced, you knew you were going to be in for a compelling, old style murder mystery on a par with "Murder on the Orient Express" (both versions). I'm surprised this wasn't one of the candidates for Best Picture since there was room for one more in the Oscar line up, it seems like an oversight.
The thing is though, you can't waver in your attention because you might miss something important, as there is a lot to take in with the multitude of Thrombey family members. My favorite here was probably Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) himself, even though he was the murder victim and not on screen very much. The only thing I couldn't fathom was Harlan slitting his own throat to protect Marta Cabrera from a murder charge. Can anyone picture themselves doing that? It made me shudder.
Switching gears from his James Bond persona, Daniel Craig is quite entertaining as private investigator Benoit Blanc. I'm not too convinced that a real live Blanc would have been able to put all the pieces together to solve the mystery of Harlan Thrombey's death, but seeing it all play out on screen was a hoot and a half. With a great cast portraying hungry, would be inheritance seekers, the stage is set for a provocative and fun filled murder mystery. You really ought to check it out.
Ancient Skies: Finding the Center (2019)
Finding the Center
This second installment in the "Ancient Skies" series chronicles the transition from mythology and religious based concepts of man's relationship to the heavens, to a more scientific approach developed over the centuries by a host of forward thinking scientists and philosophers. It was about 500 BC when Greek science determined that the Earth wasn't flat with the philosopher Eratosthanes coming close to calculating the correct circumference of the planet. The philosopher Ptolemy embarked on mapping the world and charting the heavens, while considering the Earth as the center of our universe with the moon and planets in circular motion around it. Ptolemy also believed in astrology, and felt that stars and planets in various alignments could impact and predict human life.
With the decline of the Roman Empire by the fifth century A.D., Europe entered the Dark Ages, and much of the work of prior centuries faded to oblivion, with Islamic culture picking up some of the slack by refining parts of Ptolemy's legacy. Christianity followed that up while adding God and Satan to the mix to explain man's relationship to the cosmos. With the coming of the fourteenth century Renaissance period, Polish scientist Nikola Copernicus discarded Ptolemy's model by placing the sun at the center of our universe. Soon, the invention of the telescope created a dramatic shift in man's understanding by extending the human senses. Perfecting the scientific instrument, Galileo Galilei came in conflict with the Roman Catholic Church by holding to the concept of the Earth revolving around the sun, contrary to the church's teaching.
With the completion of this episode, the series is now ready to enter the modern age with the advanced technology capable of exploring the farthest reaches of space. Those topics will be covered in the third and final chapter titled 'Our Place in the Universe'.
Ancient Skies: Gods and Monsters (2019)
Gods and Monsters
What's fascinating to me about this story is how ancient civilizations were able to make mathematical sense out of the movements of the sun, moon and constellations in the sky above, and apply those movements to the concept of time and seasons. Me, I look up at the night sky and the only thing I can pick out is the Big Dipper, and sometimes Venus on a clear night. This episode of the 'Ancient Skies' mini-series takes a look at how those civilizations of long ago came to view their relationship with the unknown, in many cases, what they viewed as the mythical gods that ruled their lives via clues derived from the heavens. Explored here are the Egyptians, Babylonians, Mayans and Greeks who used astronomy to build magnificent, celestially aligned monuments that are exceedingly precise in defining true North, South, East and West. It wasn't until the Greek scientist Thales, considered the first philosopher in the Western tradition, that a rational, scientific explanation was sought for the way natural phenomena occurred as opposed to supernatural or divine intervention. Via colorful graphics and stunning cinematography, this episode launches a compelling series that explores man's centuries long relationship with the sun, moon and stars in a way that both educates and entertains.
The Mountain (2018)
"Are you a Radiance Seeker?"
Dull as dish water this one is, and for what could have been a fascinating topic. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but Jeff Goldblum looked incredibly old in the picture. Checking his stats here on IMDb, he's almost seventy, which I didn't realize, so that explains that observation. I couldn't help thinking that his character, Dr. Wallace Fiennes, was both unethical and irresponsible in the way he carried on with his social life, reveling in a drunken stupor on more than one occasion as he rode the circuit with would be assistant Andy (Tye Sheridan). As for Andy, his off-putting countenance was typified by a mostly catatonic stare most of the time that bordered on creepy. Following his berserk outburst at the asylum, I fully expected Andy to wind up on a table for one of the good doctor's controversial procedures. It looked like lobotomy and electroshock were his stock in trade with a decided effort to avoid getting with the times in regard to more modern treatments. Come to think of it, Susan's father (Denis Levant) looked like he could have used a good procedure himself. I'm not sure how the picture's ending resolved anything for Susan (Hannah Gross) or Andy, finding themselves in the middle of a snow covered forest with no options at their disposal. Personally, it didn't feel to me as if they were 'Home, Home on the Range'. For a much better film dealing with mental illness during the era of the Forties and Fifties, I would recommend taking a look at 1948's "The Snake Pit".
Kuang shou (2017)
"I'm doing my job. You can't stop me."
Unusual and very colorful stylized filming opens this story with all out visceral action right from the start. Chang Hao-dong (Jin Zhang) you might say is a renegade cop of sorts; accused of manslaughter of a fellow officer, but acquitted upon lack of evidence. Butting heads constantly with his boss (Derek Tsang), Chang is determined to get to the bottom of a gold smuggling operation in the middle of Hong Kong harbor. I wouldn't know why, but Jin Zhang's character is alternately referred to as Chang as well as Sai-gau, primarily by his cop partner A-de (Yue Wu). About to retire from the force the very next day, A-de is coerced to join Chang on one last case, which will ultimately prove his undoing.
Unusual as well are some of the set pieces for this picture. There's an extended underwater fight scene, and a fierce typhoon that under ordinary circumstances would have rendered all the principals unable to pursue their individual quests. The typhoon action is particularly well staged and it's a credit to director Jonathan Li's expertise to display the storm as real as one could expect. The martial arts action gets to be fairly intense, though it's apparent that villain Jiang is intentionally positioned as unequal to the film's lead. Their final underwater showdown is almost a bit underwhelming, as it winds up a contest of who can hold their breath the longest. Personally, I don't know which was more terrifying - the life and death struggle between the two protagonists, or the sight of Chang throwing all those gold bars overboard.
The Curse of la Llorona (2019)
"We are facing an evil that has no bounds."
When I was about nine or ten years old, "The House on Haunted Hill" was the first horror movie I ever saw and it gave me the heebie-jeebies for about a week. Watching it today of course, it's more hokey than scary. I'm not saying the case will be the same with this film, but if you've seen your fair share of horror flicks over the years, "La Llorona" probably won't make you jump as often or very high, given the nature of the Weeping Woman and her occasional appearances. Even so, it's probably not a suitable picture for young kids like the ones in the story, who in real life if it happened, would be scared out of their wits. La Llorona herself (Marisol Ramirez) has a demonically gruesome appearance, and impressionable youngsters would definitely lose a few nights of sleep coming in contact with her. My favorite character here was the exorcist 'curandero', Rafael (Raymond Cruz), who had a solid, and even sometimes humorous temperament in dealing with the Weeping Woman, as in his admission that he was using the entire family as bait to draw out the demon. Ultimately, dispatching the evil entity didn't seem all that difficult provided one had the right tools, in this case, some anti-venom from the sanctified tears of La Llorona, and a crucifix fashioned from the bark of a fire tree. Apply at will and there you have it - 'Ta-da!'
"...what the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve."
So this is the third Lars von Trier film I've seen following 2000's "Dancer in the Dark" and 2003's "Dogville". Both pictures are pretty dense but ultimately have a story to tell and are quite compelling given the chance. "Antichrist" on the other hand, comes across as nothing less than sick, perverse and depraved, and those are some of the better adjectives I could find for it. It starts out well enough, focusing on a troubled couple who lose their young child in a home accident that could have been prevented, and it bothered me that 'She' (Charlotte Gainsbourg), in a thoughtful moment stated to 'He' (Willem Dafoe), that she should have warned him about Nic's (Storm Acheche Sahlstrøm) ability to climb out of the crib on his own. If so, then why leave the apartment window open as a harbinger of potential disaster? Later on in a bit of a flashback scene, there's even a hint that She might have watched complacently as Nic made his way to the window during a love making session with He, and did nothing to stop him. You would have to watch the film again to catch that nuance.
There's apparently a lot of symbolism in the picture, but I couldn't decipher any of it. A battered fox attempting to give birth, a deer under similar circumstances running in the woods, and a raucous crow all make their appearances from time to time, evoking some sort of primal urgency to get back to nature. I was intrigued by the use of subliminal suggestion during She's scenes running through the forest, along with that 'melting into the green' to overcome her grief over the loss of a child.
But where it all comes crashing down for me was in the third chapter titled 'Despair'. So much of it didn't pass the credibility test for this viewer, bordering on the excess violence of all those slash and gore flicks that have found a certain resonance for modern day viewers. The idea that He wouldn't wake up from having his leg drilled into was totally unconvincing, and forget about hobbling his way around the woods with that thirty pound cement wheel attached; the pain would have rendered anyone else unconscious. Under the circumstances, I couldn't blame Dafoe's character for choking out his wife, but gosh, it was all just too sick to comprehend. Von Trier earns no points from me for being flagrantly voyeuristic.
As for my summary line, it was spoken by He while applying a therapeutic technique to his wife. I came across it in a book once dealing with positive mental attitude, and was surprised to hear it quoted virtually verbatim. It's attributable to self help author Napoleon Hill, who actually stated it as - "Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve." That was the only positive experience I was able to take away from the picture.
Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001)
""If you let me, I'll be so real for you."
If you consider it a strictly sc-fi film , "AI" is fairly passable; it has great cinematography, stunning visuals and a compelling look at the potential future of robotics. Where it goes off the rails is when it comes time to wrap up David's (Haley Joel Osment) quest to find his mother and become a real boy. The business with the future robots, disguised to look like advanced Whitley Strieber aliens, did provide a reasonable way for David to accomplish his mission, but I had a hard time getting past the idea that his mecha body could stand the ravages of salt water exposure over a period of two thousand years. For me, that wasn't consistent with the damage done to his mechanical workings when he chowed down on all that spinach dining with his adoptive 'parents' and brother Martin (Jake Thomas). Same thing when he fell into the swimming pool with Martin, though on a smaller scale. You can't really have it both ways and I find some movies do that more than I would like and expect.
The movie does make you think though about the future of robots and how realistically human they might become, the female mecha introduced by Professor Hobby (William Hurt) early in the story attested to that. That was a neat piece of filming. A future war between robots and humans was given some resonance in the 'Flesh Fair' sequences, and it brought me back to all those 'Magnus, Robot Fighter' comics I read as a kid. And I couldn't help making a comparison between Dr. Know (voiced by Robin Williams) and Professor Marvel in "The Wizard of Oz", you know, the man behind the curtain. What's even more obvious in terms of an homage is the Pinocchio/Blue Fairy portion of the story. All that gave the picture somewhat of a surreal quality that's a hallmark of cool sci-fi.
Overall I thought it was a decent movie, but would have preferred more consistency in theme and presentation. The dynamic between David and his human mother Monica was excellently depicted, but it did offer a singular distraction. The actress Frances O'Connor who portrayed Monica Swinton looked so similar to a young Mary Tyler Moore that I couldn't think of anyone else in the scenes she appeared in.
The Angriest Man in Brooklyn (2014)
"When I say, 'stay calm', I...mean...calm!"
I'm going to wind up saying the same thing about Robin Williams here as I did when I reviewed the film "Boulevard", which also came out in 2014, the same year he died. Based on his role in both films, one has to wonder what his tortured mind must have been going through by the time he ended his life. Because here, Henry Altmann (Williams) is full of rage since the death of his son Peter two years prior. His marriage is just about bust, and his other son Tommy (Hamish Linklater) pursued his own career path as a dance instructor instead of joining the Altmann law practice. Even the friends he expected to show up for his 'going away' party never came around, and the only one who did (Richard Kind), made it all about himself over Henry's stealing a high school girl friend, which he didn't even remember. Now you might wonder if people really hold grudges over that sort of thing for five decades or so, but I experienced the same behavior by fellow classmates at a fiftieth reunion a couple years ago, and I can attest that at least that particular scene shouldn't be dismissed as improbable.
Now to say the premise of this story goes beyond a stretch is probably the most favorable thing I can say about it. In a frustrated moment of blind rage herself, Dr. Sharon Gill (Mila Kunis) blurts out that Henry has only ninety minutes to live due to a brain aneurysm that's about to burst. How anyone could accept a diagnosis like that is beyond my comprehension, but for the purpose of the picture you have to go with it. Attempting to reconcile the dysfunctional life he's had with his family for the past two years, Henry goes on a whirlwind mission to patch things up with his wife (Melissa Leo) and son Tommy. Had this been a straight comedy, some of the situations that occur in the film would have worked a lot better, like the revenge seeking taxi cab driver. As it is, you have to groan your way through some of the more inane scenes.
Regarding "Boulevard", one of the things that worked in it's favor was the absence of a virtually obligatory sex scene in a modern movie, but here, director Phil Alden Robinson opted to go with that flashback of Dr. Gill recalling a tryst with a senior doctor in one of the hospital rooms where they worked. For me, it brought down the tone of the movie and caused me to wonder why Mila Kunis would ever have agreed to film such a scene. It made her look trashy, and considering the fact that she was a resident doctor, it demonstrated a total lack of propriety and professionalism, not to mention a low opinion of herself.
The Divine Plan (2019)
"They were working in the realm of the human spirit."
The story line for this documentary here on IMDb states that it 'remains the least-known story of the twentieth century....an unlikely pair who combine deep faith with political acumen and high-octane star power'. However if you lived thorough and were aware of political and historical events of the 1980's, you could not have missed the positioning of President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II on the world stage. So that bit of hyperbole isn't very well stated. What the documentary does put into perspective is the fact that both men were the victims of assassination attempts within six weeks of each other in 1981, and both survived with a confidence in a divine power to pull them through with a recognition that together, they could bring about the fall of Communism and quite possibly, the Soviet Union. Both were oddly qualified for their roles having originally been actors, while realizing that they could play a prominent role in defining humanity's quest for freedom and dignity within their respective spheres of influence. The documentary also takes a look at other prominent leaders of the era that supported this mission, notably Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of England, Lech Walesa of the Polish Solidarity movement, and quite unexpectedly, Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union. It's a fascinating look at a time in human events that forces and situations converged to reshape the world, while recognizing that the struggle for freedom and dignity for all is a constant one.
What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
"When you are a vampire, you become very sexy."
I've watched and reviewed a little over two dozen vampire flicks here on IMDb, and as a testament to how well received this one is by vampire fans, the only other movies that rate higher are "Nosferatu" and "Let the Right One In". Speaking of which, the character Petyr (Ben Fransham) in this one is a pretty straight knockoff of Nosferatu from the 1922 silent film. To call it a parody might be somewhat of a misnomer, the picture skewers everything from vampires to zombies, werewolves and anything remotely resembling the undead, and does it in hilarious fashion. The thing is, the picture doesn't feel like it's trying to be a comedy, but the zany situations and clever writing make you laugh even if you don't want to. There's also a fair amount of sleight of hand going on, as with Vladislav's (Jemaine Clement) horrific depiction of his archnemesis, The Beast. And then, when we finally meet The Beast (Elena Stejko), you have to kick yourself for falling for the set up. It's all cleverly done and quite entertaining, so even if you're not a vampire fan, this one might get you to change your mind.