Tag Archives: 1979

Stalker (1979) Review

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Stalker

Time: 162 Minutes
Cast:
Alexander Kaidanovsky as the Stalker
Anatoly Solonitsyn as the Writer
Alisa Freindlich as the Stalker’s wife
Nikolai Grinko as the Professor
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky

In an unnamed country at an unspecified time, there is a fiercely protected post-apocalyptic wasteland known as The Zone. An illegal guide (Aleksandr Kajdanovsky), whose mutant child suggests unspeakable horrors within The Zone, leads a writer (Anatoliy Solonitsyn) and a scientist (Nikolay Grinko) into the heart of the devastation in search of a mythical place known only as The Room. Anyone who enters The Room will supposedly have any of his earthly desires immediately fulfilled.

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I had heard about Stalker for a while. I knew it was a famous film from a director called Andrei Tarkovsky (whose films I hadn’t watched yet), it was Russian, it’s quite long, and it was in the sci-fi genre. After seeing that Stalker has been celebrated as a fantastic movie by many, I wanted to check it out. While I wouldn’t try to pretend that I understand everything about the film, I think it is amazing.

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Writing a review for Stalker is very difficult. First off all, it’s really complex and hard to describe. Second of all, it’s very much something that you will have to experience for yourself as each person can get different things out of it. Essentially, Stalker is about a man with no purpose guiding two other men, who are trying to find purpose, towards a post-apocalyptic wasteland known as The Zone to fulfil their desires. While it does sound very straightforward, there’s an endless amount of things in this movie that can intended as metaphors, and definitely source for analysis. It is very deep, intelligent and thought provoking, and takes you on a philosophical and psychological journey. The film takes quite a steady and solemn approach to its existential questions, with the characters’ frustrations and doubts being conveyed through some beautifully written dialogue, and monologues. I also loved the dialogues between the three characters, and there’s a lot of talking. They talk about a lot, especially philosophy, faith, fear, the purpose of existence, life and the meaning of it all. The dialogue is thought provoking and deep, and very relevant to the themes and events that unfold. It presents some themes that are intriguing and thought provoking, some of the standouts being the disconnect between what we want vs what reality will let us have. Stalker definitely takes its time to unravel, at 160 minutes long and with a very steady pace. While I think this won’t work for everyone, I was surprisingly finding it gripping and I wasn’t distracted or bored.

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The performances are great, as are the writing of these characters. These three characters involved are quite different – the Stalker, the Writer, and the Professor, played by Alexander Kaidanovsky, Anatoly Solonitsyn and Nikolai Grinko respectively. Each character desires something, which is why they travel into The Zone. Even though these characters make this journey, what they think they want is far from what they really desire. It was quite compelling watching these three talk, again the dialogue between them is intriguing and thought provoking.

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This is the first movie I’ve seen from Andrei Tarkovsky, and already I want to watch more of his films because his work here is fantastic. Stalker transports you to an alien world without the use of alien visuals with the help of its non-invasive cinematography, editing, and score. First of all, the film is gorgeous. It is hypnotising to watch, the visuals are both beautiful and haunting, and the camera movement was meticulous. The film presents a dystopian post industrial vision of Russia. All the colour is washed out initially, and when the film enters The Zone, everything becomes luscious and vibrant. The visual storytelling is also excellently done. The score is quite haunting and helps convey the desolate tone of the film. Everything comes together to give such an atmospheric and ambient feel throughout.

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Stalker is a film that I know that I will need to watch again to fully understand but I’m still willing to go ahead and call it a masterpiece like others have. It’s definitely not for everyone, it is slow and ponderous, and it asks a lot from the audience in terms of endurance and investment. However, I just found myself wrapped up in the experience. This is my first Tarkovsky film and I’m looking forward to checking out more from him.

Moonraker (1977) Review

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Moonraker

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Roger Moore as James Bond
Lois Chiles as Holly Goodhead
Michael Lonsdale as Hugo Drax
Richard Kiel as Jaws
Corinne Cléry as Corinne Dufour
Director: Lewis Gilbert

After a space shuttle which has been loaned to the United Kingdom is hijacked, James Bond (Roger Moore) is asked to step in and get to the root of the problem.

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After rewatching The Spy Who Loved Me, I was starting to feel good about the Roger Moore era of James Bond. The next film for me to revisit was Moonraker, which is known as the movie where Bond goes to space. This was definitely a move to capitalise off the success of Star Wars. Originally they were going to make For Your Eyes Only, but after the success of Star Wars, they decided to do Moonraker. Moonraker has been given the bad reputation given that it is the “James Bond goes to outer space movie”, and has been criticised as going into self parody. However I surprisingly enjoyed it quite a lot.

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After how good The Spy Who Loved Me was, its not too surprising that Moonraker is not quite at that level. Still there’s a lot of fun to be had here. Much of the movie is standard investigation spy stuff on Earth. Its definitely not one of the strongest Bond plots, but there’s entertainment to be had here. The story is pretty outlandish and silly given that the selling point of the film is James Bond going into space. However its worth knowing going in that he doesn’t go into space until the third act, so you do have to reign in expectations for that. I do like that there’s a fair amount of absurdity before it even gets to space. It does lean more into the humour compared to even The Spy Who Loved Me, but it’s not overblown like The Man with the Golden Gun. It is self aware, and there’s still plenty of one liners, with Q’s final line at the end of the movie being the standout. It only crosses the line of being ‘too much’ a couple times, like when Bond’s gondola drives onto land, there’s a moment where it cuts to a pigeon and its edited to make it look like its doing a double take. When James Bond finally goes into space it is satisfying, as it becomes something of a B-rate Star Wars movie. As far as issues go, the pacing for the first half is a little slow at times, and not a huge amount happens (even though I was still on board with what was happening). Also despite the cheesy tone, there is the odd scene which feels out of place. The one that springs to mind is a scene where the villain Hugo Drax sicks his dogs on a woman to kill her, while it is subtle and doesn’t show much with it (given that it’s PG), it feels particularly dark and haunting for this movie. It’s a very effective scene but it somehow feels a little too dark given that this is the same movie where Bond goes to space.

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Roger Moore once again delivers as James Bond, charismatic and entertaining, and carries much of the movie. Also, in a way he grounds the movie with his passive self awareness, along with his reactions to the absurd things that happen. The Bond girl is this movie is Holly Goodhead played by Lois Chiles, despite the name she’s rather forgettable, but she plays her part well. Michael Lonsdale plays the villain named Hugo Drax. In a way Drax is a variation on Karl Stromberg from The Spy Who Loved Me, down to his plan. Drax’s plan is to poison the Earth’s population to create a new civilisation in space and develop a master race, it’s like Stromberg’s plan but in space. Ultimately it’s the performance that makes it work. He plays everything and delivers all his lines completely straight like he has no idea what movie he’s in, even the absurd and hilarious lines. While that should make him dull to watch, this straight approach somehow makes him come around to being entertaining and genuinely solid as a Bond villain. There’s also the return of Richard Kiel as Jaws as the henchman, and he’s a great physical threat as always.

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Lewis Gilbert returns as director after the last Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, and he does some solid work here once again. The cinematography is stunning, making use of great locations, and the set design is amazing, especially in the scenes in space. There’s some fun and over the top action scenes that are well done and entertaining with terrific stunts. A lot of the space stuff doesn’t feel like Bond but it’s a blast, there’s even a laser fight. The visual effects work are good, and the composed score from John Barry is solid as expected.

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Moonraker is not one of the best James Bond movies by any means, but it is quite enjoyable for what it is. The performances are solid with Moore as Bond to the villains as played by Lonsdale and Kiel, and I liked the cheesy and campy nature of it all. It’s certainly not without its issues including an occasionally dragging pacing, but I definitely don’t consider it one of the worst entries in the Bond franchise.

The Brood (1979) Review

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The Brood

Time: 92 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Oliver Reed as Dr. Hal Raglan
Samantha Eggar as Nola Carveth
Art Hindle as Frank Carveth
Director: David Cronenberg

A mad doctor (Oliver Reed) tries psychoplasmic therapy on a raging woman (Samantha Eggar) soon to be a mother.

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I really knew nothing about The Brood going in except that it was another horror movie from David Cronenberg and it was meant to be quite good. It is great as to be expected, very well made, and was one of the more unsettling horror movies from Cronenberg, while also managing to be quite surprising.

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The Brood is at its core is a movie about divorce, it’s basically David Cronenberg’s response to Kramer vs Kramer. It’s also worth noting that Cronenberg was writing the movie while undergoing a messy custody battle, and let’s just say that it really shows in this movie. Knowing that when watching The Brood does make it feel more personal and honest. Trauma and abuse are also prominent themes involved with this movie. There are some readings of the movie that does see the movie as being a bit misogynistic (especially with regard to the character of the wife), and while I might see where those people coming from, especially when looking at the movie on the surface level, I think it’s a little deeper than that, though I can’t fully explain why in this review. The tone of the movie is quite serious, some of what happens in the movie could’ve easily fallen into being camp, but Cronenberg keeps it pretty serious. It is definitely more focused on character drama than horror. The Brood pretty short at just over 90 minutes long, and with regard to the plot, I guess you could call it a slow burn. The first two thirds are actually fairly slow and uneventful, playing more like a family drama than a full on horror movie (a horror movie made by David Cronenberg no less). However, I was pretty interested in the story, and the movie flew by for me because of how frantic it feels at times. Without revealing too much, the finale is pretty insane, almost serving as a reminder that this movie was made by Cronenberg. Also in terms of notable scenes in this movie, there’s also a particular scene just before the third act which was effectively freaky and disturbing.

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The cast all play their parts well. Art Hindle plays the main character of Hal. He’s decent enough on his part but does feel like a blank slate more than an actual character. He feels a little out of place, but maybe it’s because it’s really the other two main performances that stood out in the movie. Samantha Eggar is great in her role as Nola, the ex-wife of Hal. Her performance could’ve been over the top but she and Cronenberg managed to create the right performance for this complicated character. Oliver Reed is fittingly subtle and understated, yet effectively creepy in his scenes as a therapist who is treating Nola using ‘unconventional’ methods.

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David Cronenberg directs The Brood very well. It’s greatly shot, with some very memorable images that really stick with you. It does have some body horror (not a big shock, this is a Cronenberg horror movie after all), and those parts were very well handled, with some great effects, especially in the crazy final act. The monsters in the movie (not explaining the context beyond that) are fittingly unsettling when on screen. The practical effects are good, though it’s not quite as spectacular as some of Cronenberg’s other body horror work like The Fly or Videodrome. Howard Shore composed the score and it was great and fit the tone well. It’s also worth noting that this is the first movie score he worked on, and it’s quite impressive. It really helped convey the amount of atmospheric dread as well as the urgency. Like with the story, the direction is relatively restrained and doesn’t go all out (until the third act at least).

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The Brood is a greatly written and directed horror movie. While the body horror was quite good, it was the story, characters and themes that had me so invested in everything that was happening. I wouldn’t personally recommend it as a first film from Cronenberg, but it is worth watching for sure, especially if you like horror.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) Review

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast:
William Shatner as James T. Kirk
Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock
DeForest Kelley as Leonard McCoy
James Doohan as Montgomery Scott
Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekov
Nichelle Nichols as Uhura
George Takei as Hikaru Sulu
Persis Khambatta as Ilia
Stephen Collins as Willard Decker
Director: Robert Wise

The Federation calls on Adm. James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and the crew of the Starship Enterprise to contain an immense nimbused object that’s on a crash course with Earth. After investigating, the crew discovers that the alien cloud harbors artificial intelligence with an ominous primary directive. Crisis strikes when a probe dispatched by the energy cloud attacks the crew, abducting navigator Lt. Ilia (Persis Khambatta). An android look-alike containing her memories shows up soon after.

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Star Trek had been going on for a while, with the original television show starting in 1966. Over a decade later, in 1979, Star Trek took its first attempt at a live action movie… unfortunately it really didn’t go all that great. While it had some pretty visuals for its time, it doesn’t have much else to offer.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture is 2 hours and 12 minutes long and it definitely felt it. The movie really feels like a lot of padding, everything took too long with countless sequences of just nothing happening, focussing on ships going places. For instance, Kirk and Scotty, from the moment they first see the ship, it takes at least 4 minutes for them to actually arrive on it, and nothing really happens within this 4 minutes. And there are at least a couple more of these 3 to 4 minute long unending sequences of ships going in a certain direction and absolutely nothing happening. Without these drawn out sequences, the movie must’ve been more like 1 hour and 30 minutes long. The story itself isn’t handled all that great either. There are aspects that definitely had potential but the end result is actually quite boring and uninteresting. By the time the plot actually really kicks in and things actually start happening, it’s way too late for us to care.

Something I noticed about the actors in the original Star Trek movies is that the quality of their performances usually depends on the level of the quality of the movie, mostly due to the writing of the characters. For example, William Shatner’s Captain Kirk makes a lot of bad decisions and really doesn’t give you a sense that he’s any good at being a captain (at least in this movie). Early in the movie, Kirk takes command of a ship which he is completely unexperienced with commanding over someone who was much more experienced, things didn’t go so great, especially when his actions led to the deaths of 2 people. There is also some forced romantic subplot between the characters played by. Persis Khambatta and Stephen Collins that we don’t really care about. I guess on the whole the acting was fine enough but not enough to really add anything to the overall movie.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture does have some impressive visuals for the late 70s, however they don’t really hold up today. It honestly feels like the effects overshadowed the rest of the movie. As I said earlier, there is way too many drawn out sequences focussed on ships and nothing ultimately happening. It’s like they tried to make a Star Trek movie like 2001: A Spacey Odyssey and it really didn’t fit at all.

For the first live action film version of Star Trek, this movie really was a disappointment. There’s honestly not a lot to say about Star Trek: The Motion Picture, it kind of looks good, you don’t care about the rest of it and it’s way too slow and drawn out. If you are an old school Star Trek fan you may like it. It’s not the worst thing ever, but it isn’t by any means even close to being one of Star Trek’s high points in terms of films.

Alien (1979)

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Alien

Time: 117 mins
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and offensive language
Cast:
Sigourney Weaver as Ripley
Tom Skerritt as Dallas
Veronica Cartwright as Lambert
Harry Dean Stanton as Brett
John Hurt as Kane
Ian Holm as Ash
Director: Ridley Scott

A commercial crew aboard the deep space towing vessel, Nostromo is on its way home when they pick an SOS warning from a distant planet. What they don’t know is that the SOS warning is not like any other ordinary warning call. After picking up the signal, the crew realize that they are not alone on the spaceship when an alien stowaways on the cargo ship.

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The pacing of this movie is slow at first. The first half an hour or so is build up for the rest of the movie, which is absolutely perfect because it manages to create a very tense atmosphere. Alien is one of the best examples of how to create atmosphere in a movie, you take the pacing slower and let it build the atmosphere build up over time. This film also manages to give a feeling of claustrophobia and vulnerability that is present throughout the entire film.

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One reason that the alien is scary is because unless you’ve seen the other movies, you don’t know how this alien works and what it can do. The alien looks different every time we see it, and leaves us wondering what it would look like every time it’s on screen. If there is one thing that the alien represents, it’s the unknown. Like other well-made horror movies it doesn’t give all the answers to the creature that stalks the characters, all the viewer can do is watch. It’s quite a while before the alien gets seen or even mentioned. When it does, it only appears on screen every so often but that’s what made it scarier than if it was frequently popping up. The film’s scares don’t come from jump scares alone, it takes advantage of its atmosphere and uses it to help its scares. This led to one of the biggest scares I’ve ever seen in a movie. I won’t tell which scene it is or any of the other scares; in case you haven’t seen it. Like Psycho, many of the scenes are so easy to spoil it’s best to watch those moments yourself without prior knowledge. Another thing great about this movie is the fact that it doesn’t have action that could’ve ruined the amount of tension. Granted, James Cameron’s sequel manages to balance it out nicely but Alien succeeds in the type of movie it’s aiming to be: a haunted house in space.

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The actors still do a good job reacting to everything that happens despite the fact that they aren’t anything special. When you go to a horror movie you aren’t looking for great acting but fortunately the actors here to a much better job than most actors in most horror movies. While you don’t get to learn much about the characters, again, most horror movies aren’t about the people. We are with these characters for the whole movies so they needed to feel real enough, which they do.

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The alien is always a presence in this movie, even when it’s not on screen. This is due to many things, the camera work, the lighting, the sound design and the score. The score by Jerry Goldsmith in particular gives the movie an eerie vibe. The sound design should also be commended for managing to convey a feeling of emptiness. The camera’s tone is quite bleak and dark. The lighting in this movie in some parts is quite dark, leading viewers to wonder if the alien is on screen or not. All of those film techniques results in the film have a very creepy vibe.

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Although I still personally prefer Aliens over this movie, I will say is that Alien is scarier than its great sequel. Even though Aliens has a lot of action, don’t go into this movie expecting that same thing. It’s a slow, horror movie that builds atmosphere, and actually is a great example of how to create suspense, scares, atmosphere and an overall good horror film.