Groundhog Day (1993 USA)

I think one of the smartest ideas here is that the setting, pure and simple: it could be anywhere but nowhere important. Of course, it is important for our character to get stuck in the middle of nowhere – then it wouldn’t come as such a curse to spend every day on a nice island or a big city. Here monotomy hits us hard. And here comes the life lesson: people in their 30s & 40s can easily get the metaphor, that ‘every day looks the same’. We work, sleep, eat, …. and what else? Something is missing, right? Maybe words that begin with L and H. [Read more…]

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The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde (1968 Canada/USA)

First broadcast on Canadian TV, this is a very strong production, and given that it’s shot on videotape with a period setting mounted on fog-bound studio sets, it all comes off very well indeed thanks to Trevor Williams’ excellent art direction. Horror great Dan Curtis produces here and also shares directing duties with Charles Jarrott. Composer Robert Colbert’s music is properly spooky too, alive with jabs of tense foreboding. But obviously, we’re all here for the mean and mighty Jack Palance, and he is very good as both Jekyll and Hyde. [Read more…]

The Island At The Top Of The World (1974 USA)

A fun and forgettable family adventure film that passes the time amiably enough. There’s nothing here that’s controversial, just one old-fashioned adventure after another, and thankfully it’s not as twee as I’d feared given its Disney pedigree. This is one of the better-regarded of the Disney studio’s live-action efforts, particularly among those made following Walt’s death. It’s a fantasy adventure on Jules Verne lines; actually, the film coincided with the somewhat similar (and equally good) The Land That Time Forgot (1975). [Read more…]

The Mask Of Cthulu (August Derleth)

One thing you can say about this August Derleth fellow is that he enjoys the frequent use of the word ‘conterminous’; and for that, I found his work rather endearing! ‘The Mask of Cthulhu’ is probably best enjoyed in small doses, since reading the whole collection in one voluminous bite reveals a distinct lack of variety in each fiendish tale of slumberous batrachian maleficence. These eldritch narratives, while stolid and well-written, do lack invention, and a modicum of dry wit would have added much to the murky proceedings. [Read more…]

The Lord of the Rings: The Twin Towers (2002 New Zealand/USA)

So the journey continued with ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.’ This review will assume you have seen the first film, ‘The Fellowship of the Ring.’ Which is fine because Peter Jackson, at the helm of this massive production, assumes you have seen it as well. Intelligently, Jackson does not begin with a redundant and unnecessary prologue. He dives right into what the filmmakers considered the hardest segment of the trilogy to make.  [Read more…]

Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun (1969 United Kingdom)

Intriguing sci-fi entry has enough going for it, that it deserves to be better known. Conceived and produced by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson of ‘Thunderbirds’ fame, it has a pace so slow that it’s not going to be to all tastes. But patient audience members should appreciate the excellent, colourful visuals and the vibrant cinematography. The special effects are pretty good & the music score is an enjoyable one. This flick provided what the audience of 1969 wanted: a detailed look on the astronauts, their training, preparation, the technical means available to them – make everything as realistic as possible. That was the thing to do, I suppose, if you wanted to entertain people who were witnessing the landing on the moon. [Read more…]

Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

George Lucas remade one of the finest works of film master Akira Kurosawa, the Western-themed “Hidden Fortress,” with one scene (the fight in the bar) stolen from Yojimbo. Therefore, Star Wars  has a bit of the jittery discomfort of characters trying to fit into a story that wasn’t quite made for them, like people with past life experiences that intrude into the present. Kurosawa’s hero is split not into two but three heroes in Star Wars (four if you include the princess, who has a more prominent role in Star Wars. It is frankly too bad that Star Wars later fell into the hands of Disney and JJ Abrams, becoming a tool solely for cashing in, and a line item on someone’s accounting ledger, but I guess that is probably the way the wafer crumbles in Hollywood. I simply choose to ignore the boring new films… [Read more…]

The First Men In The Moon ( H.G. Wells)

Oh, for the good old days when men believed that the moon was inhabited by “Selenites” who lived in deep caves underground! If your only knowledge of this book is the 1964 motion picture, this novel will surprise you. This is no romantic comedy, although there are humorous moments. H.G. Wells, in his The First Men in the Moon takes two Englishmen, the eccentric inventor Cavor, and the ne’er-do-well Bedford, to the moon in a spherical spaceship using an antigravity substance called Cavorite. Fortunately for these ill-prepared astronauts, the moon has plenty of oxygen, so they don’t need a spacesuit with breathing apparatus.  [Read more…]

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956 USA)

The Thing From Another World birthed the alien invader film, and the theme proved so popular it quickly became its own genre. Where most of these, especially The War of the Worlds, showed aliens arriving en masse in gigantic spaceships to obliterate humanity from the face of the Earth. The Thing From Another World and its ilk took the same basic idea and ran with it to more invasive places. And Invasion of the Body Snatchers is the finest example. At the time it was made, it was the most terrifying alien invader film to emerge. There are other worthy examples but few have unsettled audiences like this dark and eerie work. [Read more…]

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe (2005)

The Chronicles of Narnia is a film that couldn’t have been made in the 20th century effectively – it relies so heavily on special effects and digital tricks that even attempting to make it without all the digital trickery would have resulted in a B-film, regardless of its budget. With his experience as the special effects guy on several of the Batman films, director and producer Andrew Adamson did manage to put together one hell of a display. With all the visual do-goodery in place, and one of the best stories ever told to drive it forward, there wasn’t a lot to make the Witch and the Wardrobe fail… And of course, it doesn’t. [Read more…]

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