Category Archives: 2008

DVD Review: Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet (2008)

I first came across Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet when I was surfing online with the computer volume on full blast and a banner ad started screaming so loud that I had to shut down the page.  But at least it got my attention.  The next time I saw the ad I watched the whole thing and it seemed intriguing enough.  Naked ghost woman who hacks people to death sounded like an idea as good as any slasher movie out there, so why not?

As it turned out, I probably should have listened to the warnings.  Blood Night makes other straight-to-DVD movies seem like big screen feature blockbusters.  There’s nothing horrifically wrong with the film, but there’s also nothing to make it worth watching.

I thought I would learn something about the real Mary Hatchet story (if there is one), but as I understand it, the film is a mash up of a number of Long Island legends.  It has a cookie cutter plot and progression, complete with awful dialogue and acting (the only name I recognised was Nate Dushku, the brother of Eliza).  Worst of all, it wasn’t even scary.  Not even the ‘boo’ scares were effective.  The excessive blood and gore actually had the opposite effect, making the film campy and less frightening.

To me, Blood Night is the type of movie that may possibly be enjoyed by a group of drunk teenagers at a party — because you don’t really need to focus, the supposed scares induce laughter, and there is lots of nudity involved.  For everyone else, don’t waste your time.

1 star out of 5

Movie Review: Let the Right One In (2008)

[Just looking through my movie reviews, I noticed that I inexplicably left out one of the best films I saw when I was over in the UK last year.  The film is a little old now to be reviewing it as a new film, so I’m going to review it as a ‘classic’.]

Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in) is a 2008 Swedish film that was released to much critical acclaim, won a bunch of awards, and has attracted a cult following.  I am usually somewhat wary of such foreign films because they do tend to get over-hyped, but thankfully, this one is entirely worthy of the praise.

Without giving too much away, Let the Right One In tells the story of Oskar, a bullied young boy living in the suburbs of Stockholm in 1982, and Eli, a mysterious, pale young girl who moves in next door with her father.  The film is an unconventional horror-romance – where the horror is genuinely creepy and frightening, and the romance is heartfelt and strangely, sweet.

Directed by Tomas Alfredson and based on the best-selling book by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let the Right One In is freakishly atmospheric.  It must be a combination of setting the film in the beautiful,  icy-cold Swedish winter and the finely-paced direction of Alfredson, who shows you just enough blood and gore to get your heart racing without making it seem gratuitous.

Many have said that Let the Right One In is Sweden’s answer to Twilight – well, that’s a bit of an insult to the former.  Don’t get me wrong, I quite like Twilight, but Let the Right One In one of those rare horror gems capable of lingering in your mind even years down the track.  There are numerous scenes in the film (and one in particular) where the imagery has been etched onto my brain forever.

4.5 stars out of 5!

[PS: Sadly, the film is being remade by Hollywood as ‘Let Me In’.  It will be directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) and the setting will be moved to a small New Mexico townOskar will be renamed Owen and will be played by Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road).  I sincerely hope it will be good.]

Oscars/Golden Globes Film Reviews Part III

I’ve done it.  I finally managed to watch all the Oscar/Golden Globe nominated films I could possibly get to before the Oscar ceremony on Sunday!

Here’s the third instalment of my short Flixter film reviews and possibly the best of the lot!  The first instalment can be found here (Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon, The Wrestler, The Reader, Vicki Cristina Barcelona, In Bruges, Pineapple Express, Burn After Reading, Tropic Thunder, Changeling, Mamma Mia, The Dark Knight and Kung Fu Panda) and the second here (WALL-E and Gran Torino).

Again, ratings are out of 5 stars.

rachel-getting-married1Rachel Getting Married (3.5 stars)

Years of suppressed family emotions explode around a family wedding. Well-written script with some clever dialogue and witty interactions, even though this type of drama would not be everyone’s cup of tea. A remarkable performance by Anne Hathway (I didn’t know she could act this well) and a solid supporting cast. Not all of it worked but enough of it did.

 

doubt1Doubt (3.5 stars)

Extraordinary performances all round (Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman as always, but Amy Adams really stole the show as the doubting nun), but it was an obvious play adaptation with lots and lots of talking. The characters were extremely well defined, though I couldn’t help but feel there was a certain clunkiness in the way things panned out. Not to take away too much from this film because it tackles many of the themes very cleverly through subtle actions and explosive dialogue.  Doubt is indeed an apt title for this film.

 

milkMilk (4 stars)

True story about the first openly gay public official in America.  Pretty incredible movie and a ridiculously superb performance by Sean Penn. It was entertaining, informative, frightening and enlightening all at the same time. Hard to believe it was only 30 years ago that this happened in our world. I particularly liked the ending where they showed the real life counterparts of the actors.

 

revolutionary-roadRevolutionary Road (4 stars)

It’s hard to know where to begin with a movie that explores the essence of life, love, marriage, children, work, dreams, hopes and reality. It is so rare to see such a brutal, honest, emotional portrayal of suburban and married life, no matter what era. Granted, some people won’t get it for one reason or another, but those that do will find a story that will resonate with them for a long time. All performances are outstanding – I know Kate Winslet has gotten all the attention for this role and The Reader, but Leonardo DiCaprio is really her equal in this film, and it’s a shame he didn’t get the same recognition. Michael Shannon was also brilliant and stole every scene he was in.

 

benjamin-buttonThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button (4.5 stars)

A strange premise but an ultimately rewarding film. The make up and special effects are the best I’ve ever seen, both the ageing and the de-ageing stuff is just phenomenal. The film works not really as a running narrative but rather as a series of moments, like its tagline. I found it very captivating to go through the journey of life with this bizarre character, through his ups and downs, flaws and all. There are some minor problems and it is a tad too long, plus Brad Pitt wasn’t truly able to capture the nuances of the ageing process (he acted like the way he looked rather than the age he was) – however, I think when it’s all said and done this is one of the more memorable movies in recent years.

*     *     *

NB: Just a few words about my rating and review system.  First and foremost, they are taken directly from Flixter, so are always short.  I don’t like to discuss too much plot in my reviews because I think it ruins a movie.  Which is why (even though I can’t help but watch them) I generally dislike previews because they tend to give away too much by revealing the best bits and almost always contain spoilers.  I also hate long reviews that reveal too much plot (this happens a lot these days in reviews I read) – what’s the point of telling everyone what the entire film is about?  With my ratings, they are out of 5 and are entirely subjective, always decided on the spot based on gut instinct after viewing.  I never re-adjust a rating afterward and I don’t compare them to previous ratings – hence two films can have the same rating but I may think one is better than the other.  Also, I tend to find there is a significant difference between 2.5 stars (below average) and 3 stars (good) and 3.5 stars (pretty good) and 4 stars (excellent), more so than other half-star differences.

Lastly, the only 5 star film reviewed in these 3 posts is The Wrestler, which I think is the best film I’ve seen so far this year.  For the Best Picture Oscar nominees, The Reader and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button are tied with 4.5 stars, but I think the latter is the film I prefer.  Though it is a moot point anyway since Slumdog Millionaire is going to win!

Top 5 films of 2008!

I was just doing an online poll (www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/) of the top 5 movies of 2008.  The site provides a long list of films released in Australia in 2008 (which means some more recent films may not have made it – eg ALL of the best picture nominees for this year’s Oscars), from which users would first pick a shortlist.  And from that shortlist, the top 5 would be selected.

I was surprised.  2008 will always be remembered as the year Obama became president and the world economy went to hell.  But it also had some very decent films.  Very memorable ones.

So without further delay, here’s the 5 films I ended up with, in no particular order (drumroll please):

  • There Will Be Blood (5 stars)
  • Taken (4.5 stars)
  • The Dark Knight (4.5 stars)
  • Iron Man (4.5 stars)
  • Burn After Reading* (4.5 stars)

* I had picked Lust, Caution first, but switched at the last minute.  I suppose Lust, Caution was the better film, but I enjoyed Burn After Reading more, so there.

The results were totally unexpected.  There Will Be Blood was a classic, so that was a no-brainer.  I don’t usually rate action films that highly, but Taken was the best action film I had seen in a really long time.  I surprised myself by having 2 superhero movies in the list, but these (The Dark Knight and Iron Man) are undoubtedly 2 of the best superhero movies ever made.  Burn After Reading is the type of movie people either loved or hated, and I think to some extent it depends on the mood you’re in at the time of viewing.  I was in one of those moods, I guess, so I found it absolutely hilarious (though I may not get the same result on a second viewing).  Plus I’m a big fan of the Coen brothers and Fargo is one of my favourites of all-time, so there was also a little natural bias.

I should say that this is really more a list of my 5 favourite films of 2008 rather than necessarily the 5 best films.  Nevertheless…

What were your top 5?

Update: Golden Globe Film Reviews

I did a post not long ago reviewing the films that were nominated for the Golden Globes.  I guess I should now also be adding the Oscar nominated films to that list.

Since that post, I’ve seen a couple more: WALL-E and Gran Torino (the latter was not nominated at the Oscars though).  See the short reviews (from Flixter) below (ratings out of 5):

walleWALL-E (3.5 stars)

A very different animated film. I suppose it was well done, with amazing visuals (but nothing revoluntionary) and incredibly little dialogue, instead preferring to rely on the simplicity of the story, the cuteness of the characters and scattered humour to keep audiences interested. It also had a strong message about the environment and inactivity. But at the end of the day, it was still just another animated film. It certainly had its moments, but it’s going to take much much more for these types of films to seriously impress me (I should mention I’m not usually a big fan of animated films).

gran-torinoGran Torino (4.5 stars)

The story of an angry, racist, lonely old man and his relationship with his Hmong (Asian) neighbours. It was far from a perfect film – parts of it were stereotypical and heavy-handed, and some scenes lacked effectiveness. Nevertheless, it’s a film that moved me for one reason or another, and it’s a film that is likely to resonate with a lot of viewers long after the final scene. It touches on many important themes – life, death, family, loneliness, religion, racism, prejudice, redemption – and also presents the stark reality that a lot of youths are facing in America these days (and not necessarily just the minorities). In particular, I think it had just the right dosage of humour and the final resolution was also very well done.

I’ve still got plenty more to get through, including Milk, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Revolutionary Road, Doubt, Rachel Getting Married, Defiance – just to name a few.  I’m trying to get to them as soon as I can…

2009 Golden Globes Film Reviews

I love watching movies.  I also love writing.  So it’s only natural that I also like to review films.  So far I’ve got 431 reviews and 1202 movie ratings on Flixter, so that says a lot (and that’s just what I can remember).

With the Golden Globe winners announced yesterday, I thought it would be a good time to share a few short reviews on some of the movies I’ve seen that were nominated (taken straight from Flixter). It’s also a good way to give my blog some much needed padding in its baby stage.  I’ll add more if and when I see them (and there’s A LOT I still want to see).  Feel free to agree/berate my ratings, which by the way are out of 5.

Continue reading 2009 Golden Globes Film Reviews