Tag Archives: 1998 movies

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998) Review

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Halloween H20

Time: 86 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode
Adam Arkin as Will Brennan
Michelle Williams as Molly Cartwell
Adam Hann-Byrd as Charlie Deveraux
Jodi Lyn O’Keefe as Sarah Wainthrope
Janet Leigh as Norma Watson
Josh Hartnett as John Tate
LL Cool J as Ronald “Ronny” Jones
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jimmy Howell
Director: Steve Miner

After escaping serial killer Michael Myers’ attacks, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) relocates to California and adopts a new identity. However, years later, Michael returns to finish what he started.

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Despite how the original Halloween movie from 1978 is widely regarded as a classic, the reception of the sequels have generally ranged from mixed to negative. With that said, I heard that H20: 20 Years Later is one of the better movies in the series (despite having the worst title of the whole series, and that’s considering that the next entry being called Resurrection). After seeing the 6th Halloween movie, I was definitely interested to see what direction they would take it next. I can say that at the very least, they took it in a different direction, some of it works, some of it really doesn’t.

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Something to note is that H20 basically erases Halloween 4-6 and instead follows on from Halloween 2. That means no Cult of Thorn business, so that’s already a plus. Not only that, but they are also bringing back Halloween lead character Laurie Strode, along with actress Jamie Lee Curtis to reprise her role. Both changes are very welcome in this movie. We see how despite 20 years later, the events of the first two movies have still had a long lasting effect on Laurie. H20 explores Laurie’s PTSD from her encounter, and storywise it was probably the strongest aspect of the movie. The movie does open relatively well, reintroducing audiences to Laurie with her new life (she has a son named John), and her trauma. However you notice that the pacing is really slow, especially with the second act. It takes too long to kick off, you’re basically just watching Laurie and other characters interact. The first act is one thing as it is setting the scene for the whole movie, but the second act just focuses on John and his group of friends who have decide to sneak away from a field trip to have a double date at the school. It’s not interesting like the Laurie-centric narratives are, and feels really out of place. In fact, the movie does feels a little loose with its plot, and it really could’ve been much tighter. I actually checked the time, and it’s around an hour into the movie before things actually start getting real and Michael Myers begins doing a lot of killing. Keep in mind that the movie is less than 90 minutes long. With that said, the third act and the overall climax is really the star of the whole movie. It’s very satisfying, and without getting into the ending, would’ve been a great and fitting way to end the series (and then they made another follow up for some reason).

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Storywise, H20 does feel like fan service more than an eager or ambitious follow-up, but I guess that’s not a terrible thing. One new change was that it’s the first Halloween movie (at least of the ones featuring Michael Myers) that doesn’t take place in Haddonfield, instead being set in California. Not only does it make sense from a plot perspective (Laurie would logically move out of Haddonfield after what happened), but it also gave the movie a distinct look and feel. The setting for much of the movie is a school campus, and while it does set you at this location well, it’s not really creepy at all. Something to note is that the movie is clearly influenced by Scream, which came out in the mid 90s. Kevin Williamson wrote Scream, and then Miramax had him do a treatment for what would become the H20 script. He only has a producer’s credit, but his fingerprints are all over this. It doesn’t feel like a Halloween movie at all. With that said, considering the last 3 movies felt like they were on repeat, maybe a change in style and approach is what it needed. The end result is a mixed bag, however. It does feel painfully 90s, dating the movie painfully. H20 even feels older than Carpenter’s original film, which was pretty much timeless. There’s humour in it, some of it hits, some of it misses. There are references to the original (they flat out quote the original sometimes), and references to popular horror movies at the time, including Scream. While it does make itself distinct from the other movies, it just doesn’t work all that well. The tension and atmosphere just isn’t there, and even Halloweens 4-6 felt more creepy, even if they were worse movies.

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Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie Strode, it’s so great to see her come back in the role that really started off her career. She does some amazing work here, and considering how underserviced and passive the character was in her previous appearance on screen with Halloween 2, it’s nice to see her have such an active role in the third act. She covers a lot of ground as Laurie goes from being an in-hiding over protective mom, to a full blown badass at the end. She really adds a lot of credibility and is easily one of the best parts of the movie. I wouldn’t say the other characters are great, but having more experienced actors on board definitely makes a difference especially when compared to some of the other Halloween sequels, and they had more chemistry together. Josh Hartnett is solid as Laurie’s son John, but is saddled with some bad material throughout most of the movie. With that said, he really works well in his scenes with Jamie Lee Curtis, their dynamic feels real and believable. If they focused more on those two in the movie, I think it would’ve worked better but they have probably 10 minutes of screentime together and John is forgotten for much of the rest of the second half of the film. Michelle Williams is also here in an early role for her, Janet Leigh also makes an appearance, even if it seems to be mainly to be meta with her being Jamie Lee Curtis’s mother, and to make some Psycho references. There’s also an early appearance from a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the opening sequence.

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H20 is directed by Steve Milner, and you can definitely that he was influenced by Scream on a visual level. The 90s influence also clearly carried over to this movie. On a visual level, it just looked a bit wrong to me. Now I’ve only had glimpses of Dawson’s Creek, but for much of the movie, H20 looks like a horror themed episode of Dawson’s Creek, from the look of the movie to the production design. The movie does well at setting you in this location of a school, especially with the long takes. However, it’s nonetheless just a school, it doesn’t feel creepy, claustrophobic or anything like that. I mentioned earlier that there isn’t much of a tense atmosphere, and again H20 is one of the least scary movies of the entire series. There isn’t much atmosphere at all honestly, with not much tension even in the third act. Michael Myers doesn’t feel very scary, and much of that has to do with the mask, or masks to be precise. There are 4 masks used over the whole filming of the movie (largely with reshoots), including one shot where they used CGI because the real mask wasn’t ready in time for the scene. The only version of the mask I liked in the movie was in the opening sequence where they used the mask from Halloween 6, but it wasn’t used much more because some people thought that audiences would be confused with that mask being from a different Halloween movie. Most of the kills are pretty forgettable except for one in the third act. Speaking of the third act, I did like how much of it was filmed, even if it wasn’t very scary. The score does have some moments but a lot of the time it doesn’t sound anything like a Halloween movie. This time they got John Ottoman to compose. He steered away from the synth heavy aesthetic that Carpenter and Howarth used in the early days of the franchise, and instead went for a fully orchestrated symphonic score that sounded more like Danny Elfman than John Carpenter. It feels very out of place and is among my least favourite scores in the series. It only really works when it actually plays the classic Halloween theme. Also, this movie has a Creed song playing over the end credits. I don’t know why.

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Halloween H20: 20 Years Later is a mixed bag of a movie, I think I would’ve liked it more if I saw it in the 90s. It is a movie that should have been way better than it actually is. The script has some missteps, and its new directions aren’t fully fleshed out, some of its influences holds the film back, and other aspects like the score and the mask have issues. With that said, there’s some good in here too. Jamie Lee Curtis is great, I liked the direction they took Laurie, Miner has some solid direction at times, and the third act, especially the ending, was satisfying. If you like any of the Halloween movies, I do think H20 is worth checking out, despite its many issues.

Wide Awake (1998) Review

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Wide Awake

Time: 88 minutes
Cast:
Denis Leary as Mr. Beal
Dana Delany as Mrs. Beal
Joseph Cross as Joshua A. Beal
Rosie O’Donnell as Sister Terry
Timothy Reifsnyder as Dave O’Hara
Robert Loggia as Grandpa Beal
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

A fifth grader (Joseph Cross) goes on a search for God after his grandfather (Robert Loggia) dies. Along the way he gets into tons of trouble at Waldron Academy an all-boys school.

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Most people first learned about M. Night Shyamalan upon the release of The Sixth Sense, which became an instant hit and the point where his career took off. What most people don’t know is that The Sixth Sense wasn’t his directorial debut but rather his third movie, having made two prior movies that not many people heard of with Praying with Anger and Wide Awake. Both are pretty hard to gain access to, but I managed to watch the latter. Being overshadowed by later films aside, there’s also a good reason why Wide Awake is not really heard of. Despite being made in 1995 (and written in 1991), Harvey Weinstein basically buried the film’s release with the distribution, and was not released until 1998 (1 year before The Sixth Sense was released). Honestly I wasn’t expecting much based off the premise, although I was interested to see how Shyamalan started before his first hit. The movie wasn’t actually that bad, although I wouldn’t call the movie good either.

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The premise of Wide Awake does sound like a premise of a lifetime movie about religion, and much of the actual movie feels like that. With that said, the premise did have potential, it could’ve been about exploring grief from perspective of a child. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really do anything interesting. The movie consists of the main kid trying to speak with God, having doubts and then something makes him believe again. Most of the time the movie is spent at the catholic school and at his home with occasional flashbacks of him hanging out with his grandfather. The themes were heavy handed with no subtlety at all. Not that every movie needs to feature their themes in a subtle way but for this topic it needed to be handled with a degree of nuance. However this is a movie where the main character literally Googles “Who’s God?”. The subject matter is presented clumsily and overly sentimental, with a whole lot of cheese. It never reaches a level of profoundness. The journey of the lead character’s search for God and answers isn’t particularly interesting. Spoiler alert, it pretty much ends up with “God works in mysterious ways”. It’s a very bland movie with very little surprises, and the characters and writing feel rather fake. The writing for the children especially doesn’t actually feel like what children that age would do or say. Despite aiming to be touching and moving, ultimately it feels rather hollow and doesn’t really leave any impact. Even the attempts at humour fall flat. Despite how bland the story was, in some ways I found the movie weirdly interesting in some of the odd choices it made. It especially felt odd that this 10 year old kid is having this desire to find God, so it was somewhat intriguing at first to see what they would do next. However by the time it reached the third act, I wasn’t into it any more. One way it does feel like a Shyamalan film is a twist at the end, which was certainly a weird choice to make that really didn’t add anything to the movie.

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The acting is nothing special, it’s functional and not bad, but nothing really worth mentioning. Generally, the acting of the children was surprisingly okay for the most part, the writing for them however is weird because some of these 10 year olds speak with so much self-awareness that it’s unbelievable. Joseph Cross does relatively well in his part of the lead character. Nothing much to say about the adult actors, I will say that despite Rosie O’Donnell being on the cover art of the film, her character of a baseball loving nun basically doesn’t have much involvement with the plot.

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As I said earlier, M. Night Shyamalan directs Wide Awake, and there is basically no hint of Shyamalan from this one movie. He’s definitely still learning as a filmmaker and it does have some technical missteps. There is so much voiceover throughout, with the main character constantly giving internal exposition about the past and his feelings. It can get overbearing and annoying really quickly. The cutesy and quirky score can get a little annoying too. On the whole though it is competently made, some shots are nicely composed, and I wouldn’t say it’s a badly directed movie.

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Honestly the most interesting part of the movie is the fact that M. Night Shyamalan made it at all. That is probably what kept me somewhat patiently staying with this movie, without his name attached I probably would’ve given up on it earlier on. That aside, it’s a very mediocre yet harmless Hallmark movie that’s quite forgettable. I would actually put this as one of Shyamalan’s worst movies, though keep in mind I only dislike a few of his movies. Wide Awake is honestly not worth checking out unless you’re interested in seeing how he started as a filmmaker.

The Truman Show (1998) Review

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The Truman Show

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Low level offensive language
Cast:
Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank
Laura Linney as Hannah Gill
Ed Harris as Christof
Natascha McElhone as Sylvia
Holland Taylor as Alanis Montclair
Director: Peter Weir

An insurance salesman (Jim Carrey) is oblivious of the fact that his entire life is a TV show and his family members are mere actors. As he starts noticing things and uncovers the truth, he decides to escape.

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The Truman Show is known as a classic and for very good reason. I remembered watching it a while ago just hearing about its concept and knowing that Jim Carrey was in the lead role, and I liked it. More recently on a rewatch though, I loved it even more. It’s a smart, funny and entertaining satire, and strong on the writing, directing and acting fronts.

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The Truman Show already has a great concept of a man who doesn’t know that his entire life is actually a TV show and everyone in his life are actors. The idea is executed brilliantly too, managing to be both entertaining and deep, with a perfect blend and balance of both comedy and drama. It is paces itself excellently over its hour and 40 minute runtime, and unravels and de-constructs Truman’s world in a meticulous and gradual way, even though you know pretty early on what’s really happening. The screenplay is original, enjoyable and is surprisingly thought provoking, offering some clever insights on the human experience and raising questions. It’s a deep and thought provoking film that is still light hearted at times. It’s a perfect mix of so many themes, obviously the likes of reality television, media and the public’s obsession with celebrities are here, but even topics including meaning of life, the reality of choice and existentialism can be seen here. In many ways, The Truman Show was ahead of its time, the topics it touches upon still resonate strongly in today’s society and it seems more relevant than ever. As someone who had a second viewing on this movie, I can confirm that it is even better on repeat viewings as I got more from the deeper meanings and themes beyond its plot.

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The acting from everyone is great but the highlights are really two performances. Jim Carrey plays lead character Truman, and this movie cements how good of an actor he is. Stepping aside from his typecast roles, Carrey surprises with a dense, dramatic and well-balanced performance that is truly heartwarming, he’s quirky and optimistic but still very much human, especially with his reactions to certain revelations in the movie. Ed Harris plays Christof, the show’s creator, and he does well in a nuanced performance. Christof cares about Truman in a way, but at the same time wants to keep the show going, and Harris is great at portraying both sides of him.

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Peter Weir directs this movie, and overall he does a great job with it. The production design is nothing short of amazing as the entire city in Truman’s world gives off a feeling of being artificial like a television set, while still having a certain realism to it. It’s also well shot, with the cinematography also makes great use of camera angles by capturing the events from different point of views. The editing keeps the drama flowing smoothly, and music also makes its presence felt from time to time.

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Whether you place it in the category of comedy, sci-fi, drama or all of them at once, The Truman Show is a great film. It’s an entertaining and funny, yet heartfelt take on the absurdity of reality television and human nature, and is equally effective as a meditation on the various themes it deals with. If you haven’t already, definitely check out The Truman Show as soon as you can, it’s definitely worth it.

Blade (1998) Review

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Blade

Time: 120 minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Wesley Snipes as Eric Brooks/Blade
N’Bushe Wright as Dr. Karen Jenson
Stephen Dorff as Deacon Frost
Kris Kristofferson as Abraham Whistler
Donal Logue as Quinn
Director: Stephen Norrington

Blade (Wesley Snipes), who is part-vampire and part-mortal, becomes a vampire hunter to protect human beings. He prevents vampires from taking control over the human race.

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Blade was a hit back in 1998 but it’s been somewhat forgotten in recent years among all the numerous amounts of comic book movies released the past decade. It was the first R rated comic book movie, the first comic book movie to have an African American lead, and also led the way for some of the other comic book movies to follow like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. It also helped make audiences to take comic book movies more seriously after some other comic book movies like Batman and Robin did make them out to be a bit of a joke. Rewatching Blade now, it surprisingly mostly holds up and is a lot of fun.

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Blade is 2 hours long and from beginning to end I was entertained immensely. The opening in an underground vampire nightclub was the perfect beginning for this movie as it really set the tone for the rest of the movie. Blade does somewhat take things seriously, and there is a dark atmosphere, and at the same time it’s also got a very cheesy tone, with silly dialogue and multiple dumb moments which were also fun in their own rights. It blends the two elements effectively. It is also an action horror hybrid and delivers on both sides of that. The worldbuilding was very strong, establishing many concepts, groups and characters without giving annoying info dumps. The story is decent enough but does get a little convoluted with a number of subplots happening at the same time. Blade’s story also doesn’t have many surprises, and in the second half it does have a typical world ending plot. There are some cliches for sure, especially when it comes to both fantasy and comic book stories. As it approaches the third act it’s particularly a very typical climax, but I was still entertained watching it.

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Most of the cast are good in their parts. Wesley Snipes is pitch perfect in the role of Blade. He’s got a great screen presence and vibe around him, really selling the lines (including the really cheesy one liners), and even the way he moves and poses is great. He definitely knows what kind of movie he’s in, and he owns it from start to finish. Kris Kristofferson and N’Bushe Wright both work playing allies to Blade. The weakest link is Stephen Doriff, who is rather weak as the villain Deacon Frost. He’s not bad by any means and he definitely plays up the role, but it’s just hard to take him seriously as a threat.

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Blade is directed by Stephen Norrington, who did quite a good job. The movie is full of style, which really helped the movie work as well as it did. The visuals are slick for a late 90s flick. A big standout part of the movie are the martial arts fight scenes which still hold up today. The choreography is great, and almost Hong Kong inspired. Much of the action are captured in wide shots, so we can see all the fighting on screen, without any annoying zoom ins or close ups. We get to see how great the stunts are. As previously mentioned, this movie is R rated, and there’s a lot of blood (as there should be in a Blade movie). The movie really benefited from this rating, and it allowed the filmmakers a lot more freedom without any restrictions. There may be a Blade movie in development by the MCU, but I don’t see how it’s possible to do a non R rated version of it as a movie. A lot of the effects are a little dated to say the least (especially in the climax), but you can look past it. The music accompanying the movie is well fitting, with a lot of breakbeats and techno riffs that goes well with the face paced vibe of the action scenes. It is definitely a very 90s movie, with the lead character in all black leather and sunglasses, the exaggerated fighting sound effects, the visual effects and soundtrack, but I guess that’s part of its charm.

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Blade is a really fun action and horror hybrid comic book movie that mostly holds up. Stephen Norrington’s direction makes the movie really entertaining, the script is gloriously cheesy and entertaining, and Wesley Snipes is outstanding as Blade. About that new Blade movie in the MCU, I love the idea of Mahershala Ali as Blade. However I’m not sure if a Blade movie in the MCU would reach its fullest potential. Nonetheless, I’m still excited for it. If you haven’t seen the 1998 Blade yet, I highly recommend checking it out, it really was ahead of its time.

Rushmore (1998) Review

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Rushmore

Time: 93 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains low level offensive language
Cast:
Jason Schwartzman as Max Fischer
Bill Murray as Herman Blume
Olivia Williams as Rosemary Cross
Seymour Cassel as Bert Fischer
Brian Cox as Dr. Nelson Guggenheim
Mason Gamble as Dirk Calloway
Director: Wes Anderson

Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), a student at Rushmore Academy, excels at everything except academics. He meets and falls in love with a teacher, Ms Cross (Olivia Williams), but later discovers that his mentor (Bill Murray) is also in love with her.

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I’ve heard about Rushmore for a while, all I knew about it was that Wes Anderson directed it (one of his earlier movies), Bill Murray was in it, and it was meant to be great. Having watched Bottle Rocket a day earlier, I found that movie to be a pretty good start for Anderson as a director, even though it performed poorly at the box office. However, his second film with Rushmore is definitely a step above his previous movie, which was really great all round.

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Rushmore is a coming of age movie, sometimes they can be hit or miss for me, but this film really worked for me, and this probably ranks among my favourites of the subgenre. The writing is truly great, and the script has been finely tuned to near perfection, with some exceptional dialogue. The movie is very funny and entertaining, yet it’s more deeper than it initially appears, even emotionally resonant. It’s also got a good range when it comes to its tone, with it bouncing between being comedic, pessimistic, hopeful, sad, and more, and it is all balanced quite well, never feeling like a mess at all. Like with Bottle Rocket, Anderson focuses his attention more onto his eccentric characters instead of the visual style, and it does work to some great effect here. The characters are particularly a shining point in the movie, quirky but quite endearing and memorable. At an hour and half long, Rushmore is paced extremely well, with never a dull moment.

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The cast are all great on their parts. Jason Schwartzmann shines incredibly well in the lead role of Max Fischer, and he portrayed this character pretty much perfectly, couldn’t have imagined anyone else in the role. Bill Murray was also a highlight, giving probably one of his best performances, and that’s saying a lot. Having seen him in some of his other major roles, by comparison he was rather quiet and understated here, he was fantastic. The pairing of Schwartzman and Murray was particularly great, and they contrast each other perfectly. This movie would start a long running collaboration between Murray and Wes Anderson, where he would be appearing in every single one of his movies from that point forward. Olivia Williams was also great in her part. Other cast members including Brian Cox play their parts well.

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After Bottle Rocket, Wes Anderson has definitely advanced as a filmmaker since that point. He’s definitely more confident in his direction here and starting really forming his own style. From the unique aesthetic, the transitions, the use of colours, the montages, and the soundtrack, all of it works greatly. At this point of his career he hasn’t reached the style that’s present in most of his later movies, he’s still evolving and honing it, and as I said earlier, there’s still more focus on the characters than the style. Another thing I can say is that it is unique while never feeling overbearing, and so if you want to get into some of Wes Anderson’s movies but worried that his more recent movies just won’t work for you because of his style being so different than what you’re used to, Rushmore would be a perfect place to start with his filmography. Back to that soundtrack, all of it was great, and each song choice was perfect.

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Rushmore is funny, sentimental, and very well written and directed by Wes Anderson. It’s quite entertaining and is greatly acted, particularly by Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray. It is definitely worth watching for sure if you haven’t checked it out already, and I get the feeling I’m going to revisit this movie a number of times.

Dark City (1998) Review

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Dark City

Time: 100 minutes (Director’s Cut: 111 Minutes)
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Rufus Sewell as John Murdoch
William Hurt as Inspector Frank Bumstead
Kiefer Sutherland as Dr. Daniel P. Schreber
Jennifer Connelly as Emma Murdoch/Anna
Richard O’Brien as Mr. Hand
Ian Richardson as Mr. Book
Director: Alex Proyas

John (Rufus Sewell) awakens in a hotel with no memory and learns that he is wanted for a series of murders. While seeking answers, he discovers a group of aliens called the Strangers who are controlling the city.

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I heard a bit about Dark City, the main thing I knew of it was that it was a sci-fi movie that was quite similar to The Matrix, and in fact came out a year earlier. It didn’t do well with critics or at the box office upon its release but has since become a cult classic. I went in not really knowing what to expect but I ended up loving it. There are some roughness to it for sure, but it just really appealed to me, and I found it to be a unique, engaging and visually stunning sci-fi film.

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I should mention that I watched the director’s cut of Dark City, and I highly recommend seeing this version of the movie. I’ve heard that the director’s cut fleshes things out a lot more compared to the theatrical, and having seen the former, I definitely say to watch this version. The director’s cut also doesn’t have an introduction explaining the setting and world that the movie takes place in, and that really added a lot to the experience as you (like main character John) are trying to piece together and figure out what is happening. Therefore, I highly recommend going into this movie knowing as little as possible, it makes the experience a lot more enjoyable. As that, Dark City has an intriguing plot with a great atmosphere, it is a mix of sci-fi, mystery and film noir, and that combination is guaranteed to have my attention. The mystery itself is very interesting and I found myself wrapped up with the main character as he tried to find out what was happening in this strange world he woke up in. In terms of criticisms, the characters aren’t all that great or interesting, they serve their part in the movie but that’s sort of it. It didn’t bother me too much however, I was invested enough in the plot.

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As I said earlier, the characters aren’t all that interesting, but the actors elevates them with their performances. Rufus Sewell is in the lead role and he does very well, even if his character is sort of a blank slate, with him not remembering anything and essentially serving as our entry into this strange world. The supporting cast also work on their parts, including Jennifer Connelly and William Hurt. Kiefer Sutherland is also in this, and I think this is one of his best performances, one of his most unique and different roles for sure. Additionally, there’s the villains of the movie known as The Strangers, who are effectively menacing and sinister yet intriguing characters.

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The direction by Alex Proyas is spectacular, I really liked The Crow but I’m pretty sure this is my favourite film from him. I love the style, it is visually stunning and very much noir influenced, especially with the lighting and colour pallet. The setting is so great, it’s always dark and shadowy, and while the world is familiar, it always feels off and rather alien. There is so much attention to detail, especially with the environments and production designs. Now some of the CGI don’t hold up all that well (especially with the climax in the third act) but you can accept that with it being a 1998 movie. The rest of the effects surprisingly hold up quite well. The score by Trevor Jones I thought was also effective and fitted the tone of the movie perfectly.

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Dark City is a fantastic, atmospheric and engaging sci-fi noir, that’s directed excellently, and acted incredibly well. On top of that, this movie also appealed a lot to me stylistically and thematically, and I have a strong feeling that this is going to quickly become one of my favourite movies. I highly recommend that you check it out (preferably the director’s cut) as soon as you can, you won’t be disappointed.

August 32nd on Earth (1998) Review

Time: 88 Minutes
Cast:
Pascale Bussières as Simone
Alexis Martin as Phillippe
Director: Denis Villeneuve

Young Simone (Pascale Bussières) is involved in a near fatal car crash, and as she questions her mortality, she also decides to have a baby. Her candidate for a father is her best friend Phillipe (Alexis Martin) who happens to be seeing someone. He agrees, as long as they conceive in Salt Lake City, in the desert. The trip teaches many lessons about love, solitude, and self-discovery.

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With Denis Villeneuve being one of my all time favourite filmmakers, I’ve been meaning to watch all of his movies. This meant checking out not only Polytechnique and Incendies, but also his very early movies with August 32nd on Earth and Maelstrom. Finding a way to watch this movie was not easy, his first two movies are very obscure and most people think that Polytechnique was his first. Although it’s very clearly Villeneuve’s worst movie, it was still decent enough and I was glad that I watched it.

Out of all his movies, August 32nd On Earth is the least Denis Villeneuve-like film. The opening car crash scene is the closest that the movie gets to his other movies. Outside of that, it’s mostly a dramedy romance movie, most shocking of all however is that it’s not that dark (which is not typical of his movies). In that sense, you have to really view this movie for what it is. For what it is, it’s actually written pretty well, with the dialogue between the two leads being the highlight, which gives the actors a lot to work with. With that said, it’s not exactly riveting and it takes a good while for things to happen. I think it was a good 30 minutes into the movie before I started to really get into the movie. It’s at about an hour and 30 minutes long, which was probably the right length of the movie considering the slow pacing and minimal story.

There aren’t many actors to speak of when it comes to this movie. Pascale Bussières and Alexis Martin are the leads and share good chemistry that really drives and carries the movie. They are basically the centre of the whole movie and it requires the two of them to be great, otherwise this movie really wouldn’t work that well.

August 32nd on Earth is very clearly Denis Villeneuve’s first movie, his direction here really feels like someone who is making his filmmaking debut. It’s a little rough in places, for example the editing, music and cinematography is pretty standard. With that said, on its own it is actually pretty well directed for a first film. It’s competent enough and doesn’t feel amateurish at all. It doesn’t necessarily have a particular style, however he’s just starting out, by Polytechnique he had developed a strong filmmaking style. I guess the locations after the first third taking place in the desert felt authentic and worked best for this story, despite the randomness of its part in the context of said story.

August 32nd On Earth is a decent romance movie, that’s directed and acted well enough to make the movie entertaining. It isn’t anything special and it’s not necessarily a movie that you must seek out. If you are a fan of Denis Villeneuve however, you probably want to watch this one, just to see how his movies have evolved.

 

Following (1998) Review

Time: 69 Minutes
Cast:
Jeremy Theobald as The Young Man
Alex Haw as Cobb
Lucy Russell as The Blonde
John Nolan as The Policeman
Director: Christopher Nolan

A young writer living in London follows people in the hope of using their lives in his novels, but the hobby becomes an obsession and he soon finds himself going further than intended.

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Although Memento was the movie that marked Christopher Nolan as a director to watch, Following was actually his first film. I’ve seen all of Nolan’s other films and as I’m a big fan of his, I decided go out to look for it. While it’s not great, you can still see glimpses of his talent shine in through, and it’s a decent first movie from him. However, I probably wouldn’t recommend it to people unless they are big fans of Nolan.

Following is a neo noir movie, with a mystery plot with many twists and turns. It’s not really anything that you haven’t seen before, but it’s got an intriguing enough plot to keep you interested throughout. It’s not nearly as intriguing and riveting as his other movies, but the simplicity of the movie towards its benefit. Following is quite a short movie, at 70 minutes long, which was honestly the perfect length for this plot and movie.

There isn’t much to say about the cast, there was really only 3 of them who were noteworthy, with Jeremy Theobald as the lead and Alex Haw and Lucy Russell as the supporting actors. They weren’t anything great and are overall just sort of serviceable. They are probably the weakest part of the movie honestly, but they play their roles okay enough for what was required of them.

This is Christopher Nolan’s first movie and the budget is only $6,000, and you can feel it throughout. The film is shot in black and white and on 16mm film stock, the locations are limited, the lighting was natural due to the inability to afford professional lighting equipment, and as previously mentioned, the runtime is really short. Christopher Nolan still is clearly finding his way at this point, he really only started to succeed after making Memento. As a first time student film however, Following is still a pretty well directed movie. Even the black and white colour was fitting for the movie, giving it a much more noire look to it, which is fitting given the tone and genre of the film. Even with the limitations that he has filming this, he still manages to add quite a lot to the movie with his solid direction.

Following honestly wasn’t a particularly special movie on its own. It’s low budget, the cast is amateurish, the plot is pretty familiar to that of other noire and mystery movies and all that, however Nolan still does some pretty good work here all things considering. I’d say that if you are a big Christopher Nolan fan, it’s worth seeking out this movie. It’s only just over an hour long so if you’re curious, definitely check it out at least.

Psycho (1998) Review

Time: 105 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates
Anne Heche as Marion Crane
Julianne Moore as Lila Crane
Viggo Mortensen as Sam Loomis
William H. Macy as Milton Arbogast
Director: Gus van Sant

Marion Crane (Anne Heche) steals a lot of cash from a man whom her boss is in business with. On the way to see her boyfriend (Viggo Mortensen), she stops off by an old motel, run by the odd Norman Bates (Vince Vaughn). She is murdered in the shower. Her sister (Julianne Moore), boyfriend, and a private investigator (William H. Macy) try to find out where she is, while we learn more about Norman Bates.

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Remakes of movies generally are a bad idea, remakes of classics are often a terrible idea. There really was no reason to remake Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, it was such an iconic film that changed film forever. With that said, when it comes to remakes, if they can find a way to make some change to make it stand out from the original, it could be something. I think one of the worst sins for a remake to do is to stay too close to the original, so that there was no point for said remake to happen in the first place. Gus van Sant’s Psycho did something worse however, it wasn’t just too close to the original, it was literally a shot by shot remake. Aside from some two good performances, this remake really has nothing to offer that the original didn’t already have.

This movie literally a shot by shot remake by Psycho. If you’ve seen the original, there’s nothing interesting you’ll find here. The only difference is that its done much more poorly. Honestly there’s really nothing to say about the writing, the structure and scene order is the same, the dialogue is the same, the characters are the same, it does absolutely nothing new with the material. Even a different portrayal on some of the characters would’ve been somewhat interesting but nothing like that is present.

Vince Vaughn despite most of his performances, is a talented actor and I respect him for going against type but he really didn’t work here as Norman Bates. While he certainly pulls off being crazy, there is no subtlety to his performance at all and just becomes laughable, especially when compared to Anthony Perkins’s performance in the original. Anne Heche plays Marion Crane and she’s not that great, to be fair to her all the direction she’s given is to pretty much just act like Janet Leigh in the original Psycho, so I don’t blame her or really anyone who acted in this movie. The best part about this movie is Julianne Moore and Viggo Mortensen, they were actually quite good in their roles, maybe even slightly better than the actors in the original. Other performances from actors like William H. Macy were fine but really nothing special.

Gus van Sant is a talented director but none of his talents shown in his other films are apparent here. Again, the entire film is just a recreation of the original movie and there’s nothing that great. It feels like a bunch of film students tried to recreate the original movie in colour instead of an established director. The original had some degree of tension, there is no tension whatsoever here. The recreations of some sequences like the shower killing sequence can be absolutely laughable at times because of how poorly done they were. The shower scene was particularly weird because during it, it was cutting to random things like clouds. Another thing worth noting is that this movie is in colour, this really took away from the tension. Ironically for the major issue of the movie being the lack of new creative decisions, the distinct changes from the original actually works against the remake.

There’s really no point in watching the remake of Psycho. The original is much better and the remake is pretty much just the original, just done poorly. Sometimes there can be some unintentional comedy with how poorly the recreations can be, and Viggo Mortensen and Julianne Moore were actually quite good in their roles (maybe even slightly better than the original) but that’s it. I guess if you’re curious enough check it out but you should watch the superior original film first, then again I don’t exactly know why you would want to watch the remake afterwards.