Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Psycho (1960) (Not Rated)

Psycho (1960) (Not Rated)
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin

Daughter Says:

I'm about as big a fan of Hitchcock's films as I am of Quentin Tarantino films. I think he is a brilliant film director, and Psycho really proves me right. He knows how to control his audience. I love it so much. He can make you feel happy one minute and nervous the next. It's great.

I won't give too much away but Hitchcock really does have the magic touch. Like for example, when the main character is being followed by the police officer. The intensity was so nerve-wracking. Was she going to be found out? Would the cop try to pull her over? Was she going to be arrested? All these questions were swarming through my mind every second of the scene. That isn't the only part that does that to me, but I won't give any more away.

I've heard many people consider this movie to be a horror film, but compared to all the other horror films this movie doesn't stand a chance. There is no goriness in this movie at all. Hitchcock kept his film very clean. So if I have to classify this film it would be more of a thriller/suspense/mystery. But it is definitely not a horror film. I still really enjoy watching this movie even if it doesn't scare me all that much.

I also really enjoy watching the cinematography, because like I said before, Hitchcock isn't gory in his movie. He gives you the basics and he lets your brain do the rest.

I seriously recommend this movie to anyone who wants to try Hitchcock's style of directing or if you're looking for a good mystery. This is definitely the movie for you. Psycho brings the mystery of an old worn down motel and the suspense of stealing to life. That's why Hitchcock's Psycho deserves this rating.

Rating for Psycho: *****.

Daddy Says:

I agree with my daughter in that compared to other horror films, Psycho is probably in the mild category. But for its time, I'm sure this was considered to be an incredibly shocking film. And the shower scene to this day continues to be one of the most terrifying 45 seconds of film to have to sit through.

I actually did a dissertation on Psycho back in college in one of my media courses. I don't claim to be an expert on the film, but I did watch it many, many times to see what I could discover as to how Hitchcock manipulates the audience. And boy does he. We know right away that Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is the main character. We see her and her boyfriend Sam enjoying a lunchtime tryst in a hotel. He complains that he doesn't have the money to support her properly, that their life together would be no fun, only hard work. Later back at the office, a wealthy investor flirts with her, and gives her $40,000 dollars in cash which her boss tells her to drop off at the bank before the weekend. Who wouldn't be tempted by a quick and easy getaway in such a situation? And so, we are drawn in along with Marion. We hear her thoughts on what other people will say about her when they find out what she's done. We feel the terror when her boss crosses the street in front of her car as she's leaving town. We feel her nervousness when the police officer sticks his face in her car window, filling the frame yet hiding behind his sunglasses, questioning her about why she's sleeping on the side of the road.

And then she meets Norman Bates. The name has become part of our vocabulary, but back then he was an unknown. Just a quirky young man with some mommy issues and a hobby of stuffing birds. He seems kind, but is quick to take offense when someone questions his mother. I appreciate my daughter trying to keep from spoiling anything for you, but it's hard to imagine that even if you haven't seen this classic film that you've somehow missed what happens next. With about 90 cuts in only 45 seconds, Marion is brutally murdered a little less than halfway through the film. This was unheard of at the time, and I can't think of another film that has had the guts to kill off it's main character in the middle of the film. Up until this point, Marion was our audience surrogate, the character we identified with. Now who are we supposed to identify with?

The answer is obvious at once: Norman Bates. He is shocked when he sees what his mother has done and cleans up after her. When he pushes the car with Marion's body in it into the swamp and it stops sinking with part of the car still sticking out, we feel the suspense from Norman's point of view, wondering what'll we do now? And when the car resumes its slow sinking into the swamp, the audience feels the same relief that Norman feels. We want that car to disappear and take all of its horror down with it.

And when people start showing up to investigate Marion's disappearance, we still identify with Norman and want him to get away with it. Right up until the point... well, if by some chance you've still somehow avoided seeing this absolutely incredible film, what are you waiting for? This is one of the best movies ever made. Stop what you're doing and go watch it immediately.

Rating for Psycho: *****.

Evil Dead II (1987) (Not Rated)

Evil Dead II (1987) (Not Rated)
Directed by Sam Raimi
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley

Daughter Says:

After watching The Evil Dead, I was pretty sure nothing could be any worse. Boy, was I proven wrong. I couldn't believe that a movie so gross could be funny, but once again I was wrong. Less of a horror film and more of a comedy, Evil Dead II kept me laughing.

I thought the first Evil Dead had too much horror for that long of a movie, but when you add comedy to the horror it makes it less exhausting to watch. After awhile your energy just wears our and you get tired of being scared. That's how it was watching The Evil Dead. But Evil Dead II had breaks in it where you just have to laugh at such a bizarre movie.

I thought Bruce Campbell did such a great job at acting. Especially when it comes to the scene where his hand is possessed. I didn't realize just how talented he was until this movie. You'll know what I mean when you see the movie for yourself.

Even with all the comedy in this movie it still can be classified as a horror film, because there were still scenes that made me cringe or gag. For example, at one point there's a zombie in the house and they are trying to fight it off. That's when one of its eyes pops out of its head and falls into one of the screaming girls' mouth. And you won't believe it but she accidentally swallowed it (How gross, right?). I won't give too much away, but some parts really got to me.

I really liked this movie, but if it wasn't for the funny parts in this film, I think it would be a disaster. I think that the movie would have been too long, too gory, and too much to take at once. I must say this movie did tick me off, kind of like the last one. This movie had no ending what so ever, and I hate cliffhangers. This seems like a reoccurring theme with the Evil Dead movies. Of course, I haven't seen the third movie yet, so I can't really judge thus far. Other than that one problem, I liked this one better than the last one because of the above reasons. That's why Evil Dead II deserves this rating.

Rating for Evil Dead II: *****.

Daddy Says:

Director Sam Raimi returns with a sequel (and partial remake) to his surprise hit The Evil Dead. Bruce Campbell returns to the role of Ash, showing his wonderful gift for physical comedy this time around. You'll know you're watching a different kind of horror movie when after only six minutes into the film, Ash has already killed, dismembered and is burying his girlfriend in the woods (and he's the hero!). Don't worry, she'll be back to dance a waltz in the moonlight using her own head as a dance partner. It's that kind of film.

Raimi takes all the camera tricks and low budget special effects he used in the last go-around and cranks them up to eleven in the sequel. Any fan of his Spider-man movies will want to check these early films out to see where all the manic energy originated from. That scene in Spider-man 2 with Doc Ock on the operating table where his arms come to life and take out the medical staff? This is the film that popped into my head while I was watching that scene.

Bruce Campbell does a wonderful scene acting with his own possessed hand. The hand is given it's own sound effects and essentially becomes a separate entity even though still attached to Ash. Some of what happens seems like a horror-version of a Three Stooges skit, with Ash's hand hitting him over the head with whatever it can find, uh, at hand. And when it does finally become a separate entity, the scene only becomes that much funnier.

Sam Raimi's budget for this film was about ten times the amount he spent on the first film and it shows. It still has all the manic energy of the first Evil Dead, but this time around it looks a lot better in quality, and he's able to do some things he couldn't have attempted on a much smaller film. Evil Dead II is a great horror/comedy film and it shouldn't be missed.

Rating for Evil Dead II: *****.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Evil Dead (1981) (R)

The Evil Dead (1981) (R)
Directed by Sam Raimi
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Betsy Baker, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor

Daddy Says:

...that his daughter watched this without him when he wasn't home and he's still miffed about it. I watched it several years ago, but rather than review it again without having seen it recently, I'll just say that it's a great low-budget horror film. A great example of early Sam Raimi showing off camera tricks he would reuse in his later big-budget Spider-man movies. Not to be missed.

Rating for The Evil Dead: *****.

Daughter Says:

I say I will never watch a movie that comes out of a creepy looking box, but here I was watching The Evil Dead. That is one gross, scary movie. I love the guy who plays Ash. He plays Sam in Burn Notice and I find him so funny. But I had no idea he could ever be in a scary movie.

There are so many things to cover when it comes to this movie. I think I'll just start at the beginning and go through it in order. (I'm sorry if I ruin anything for you, but maybe it's for your own good in this case)

The beginning of the movie wasn't too bad. A car driving on a twisty road and we're watching it through the trees (sort of like we're the monster), then the car comes to a scary rickety bridge. Not too bad, a little foreshadowing actually. We all know that in a scary movie if there is a rickety bridge you have to pass over to get in and out, you know there is no way that bridge is going to make it. But I'll just skip to where it starts getting bad. So the four people in the car accidentally release the evil dead. Guess who they went after first? The loser sister who's a loner and a freak of nature. So when she says she didn't draw the creepy picture of a book with a face or there is a monster in the basement, no one believed her. That was until the basement door blasted open and they sent down the only two guys they had down there in the dark.

Nothing was down there but the same book the loser sister (did not) draw. There also was a tape recorder that had the magic words that brought the evil dead to life. Sometimes I wonder about people and the use of the mind. Well, the evil dead soon draws out the loser sister into the middle of the woods where the trees are really perverted and rude. They end up raping her. It's crazy and really stupid. There is no need for that scene whatsoever. Well, the movie just goes downhill from there.

I enjoyed watching the main character go through some gross scenes. At one point, he ends up in the basement and the room begins to bleed. Well the pipes are on the basement ceiling and they are leaking blood. Ash looks up and the pipe breaks covering him completely with blood. It is gagging and hilarious, because his mouth was open when it happened.

But at the same time, I think this movie went a little to the extreme. There were many things I would have done differently or cut out completely. For example, I would have taken out the freaky psychedellic scene after the basement scene. The floor was the ceiling and the mirrors weren't mirrors and such. It was really weird. Plus you know how I feel about the rape scene. I also found the ending really gross and makes me sick to my stomach when Ash "stops" the evil. I will give this movie credit for that. This movie was really gross. They did a great job at that. I don't know if that was what they aimed for but it worked.

There are tons of negative parts to this movie and if that's the point of a scary movie then they deserve the rating I have given them.

Rating for The Evil Dead: ****.

Night of the Living Dead (1968) (R)

Night of the Living Dead (1968) (R)
Directed by George Romero
Starring: Judith O'Dea, Duane Jones, Keith Wayne, Karl Hardman

Daddy Says:

Back from the dead, it's a new movie review from The Daddy/Daughter Movie Project. Let's just say we've been a little busy in our lives, but hopefully we'll be back to posting regular reviews for a while.

Halloween has come and gone, and while it was here we watched a few scary movies to get in the right frame of mind. One of the ones I was able to talk my daughter into watching was this classic, the very first Dead movie from director George Romero, Night of the Living Dead. Take a look at that date next to the title above and try to realize that this movie is over forty years old. Amazing that it's held up as well as it has, but I think a lot of that credit has to be given to Romero. Even with as little money as he had to work with, he knew he was onto something good here.

After the opening scene in a cemetery, where the first "ghoul" as their sometimes referred to appears (the word "zombie" is never mentioned), most of the film takes place in and around a single farmhouse. I'm sure this was done for budgetary reasons, but the end result is that we feel as trapped inside this house by the zombies as the characters do. When an especially brash character shows up midway through the siege, the tension is ratcheted up even more because now the attacks are now coming from within and without.

The acting isn't the best in the world, and I almost wish it were a little less stagy, but Duane Jones does a great job in the role of Ben. While there isn't any direct racism in the film, you can sense the tension among some of the characters having to deal with a black man being in charge. I was only three years old when this film debuted, so I really can't speak to the mindset of the times, but from what I know this must have been groundbreaking material.

By the time the film's third act begins, with the zombies attacking relentlessly, the scares seldom let up. The scene with the little girl in the basement is the height of the horror. In case you've missed this classic film somehow in the last forty years, I won't describe it further, but suffice to say the scene is almost as hard to watch as the shower scene in Psycho was the first time I saw it.

My daughter didn't care for the ending to the film, but I believe it's one of the most perfect endings a film has ever had. It seems to come out of left-field, but on retrospect it's really the absolute best ending it could have. Sometimes a horror film needs a horrifying ending to make it feel right.

Rating for Night of the Living Dead: *****.

Daughter Says:

Night of the Living Dead is not a really gruesome horror film. Filmed the old fashioned way give this movie a creepier mood to it than movies now a day. Even though there was terrible acting and really bad lighting, it doesn't stop this film from being scary.

I love the makeup in this movie. Some of the zombies were terrifying to look at. I was really grossed out by the zombies after two of the characters were blown up. It was disgusting to watch them eat the people. I really lost my appetite after that scene.

Another really creepy part was when the little girl turned into a zombie. You know it's coming because the zombies bit the girl, but I didn't expect what came afterward.

I thought this movie was brilliant when it came to some things. It's pretty cool to think that a movie that old can give you the creeps. You also have to give credit where credits due in the fact that the director spent hardly any money on this movie. Night of the Living Dead is pretty horrifying for a low budget film.

But I disagree when it comes to saying it's the scariest movie ever. True, at points the movie can be very nerve-wracking. When the zombies are almost about to break into the house I was screaming for the main character to run. But when you put the whole movie together, I don't find it that scary.

But in the end, Dad was right: this was a good movie. I enjoyed watching it. I just hated the ending. It was outrageous! I won't tell you straight out what it was, just in case you want to see it. But it really ticked me off. How could they just end a movie like that? It's a scandal, but I want to see Dawn of the Dead now. It sounds pretty interesting.

I'm still surprised that Dad actually got me to watch this movie. I saw the little joke movie called "Night of the Living Bread" and that scared me, but he talked me into it and now I'm going to have to talk you into watching it. Even with semi-bad acting, gross and disturbing parts, and an outrageous ending, it was still a good movie. So check it out.

Rating for Night of the Living Dead: ****.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Back-up Plan (2010) (PG-13)

The Back-up Plan (2010) (PG-13)
Directed by Alan Poul
Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Alex O'Loughlin, Eric Christian Olsen, Anthony Anderson

Daddy Says:

Sigh. I should have learned my lesson by now; I should just stay out of the room when my wife and daughter want to watch a "romantic comedy". The quotes are intentional, because I see neither romance or comedy when I watch movies in this genre. These films all seem alike to me, but that's just my opinion, yours may vary.

I give credit to Jennifer Lopez for trying her best to be charming. And Alex O'Loughlin makes for a perfectly good, um, guy, I guess. Kudos for them for trying to do the best with the material their given. But really, how many times does a couple have to "meet cute" (this time it's a taxi they both get into in a pouring rainstorm), agree to go on a date, fall in love, then a complication comes up that causes them to break up (this time it's the fact that she's gotten herself artificially inseminated on the day they met; will he still want her now that she's pregnant?), then realize what a mistake it was to break up and then they get back together again just in time for the credits to roll (usually featuring outtakes that are funnier than any of the so-called comedy during the actual film)? It's such a standard formula for today's "romantic comedies" that it bores me to tears.

But whether I'm bored or not by films such as these is irrelevant. What bothers me the most about The Back-up Plan is that this film was written by a woman (Kate Angelo, one of the writers for TV's Will & Grace which was much better than this), and yet this film is patronizing to women, in particular single mothers. Think about the large number of single mothers, and mothers-to-be, who are attending a support group. Every one of them is portrayed as either a hippie, a militant, or plain old weirdo. One of them invites the entire support group to witness her child's birth, in a kiddie swimming pool, while she makes animal noises during labor. And we're supposed to laugh at this. There's even a poop joke thrown in.

If you're headed out to the store to pick up this for the night, please, have your own back-up plan ready.

Rating for The Back-up Plan: *.

Daughter Says:

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie quite like The Back-up Plan. Most romantic comedies start out with a girl meeting a boy then they have a baby. But this movie totally did it out of order. The girl gets pregnant then meets the guy. It’s an odd way to do things, but I guess it could always happen.

Jennifer Lopez isn’t usually one of my favorite actresses. I don’t usually care for the movies she’s been in, but I guess I’ll have to make an exception for this one. I found her funny and cute in this movie. It was quite funny to see her wobble around with a pregnant tummy. Then there came her boyfriend. I found Alex O’Loughlin handsome and adorable. He just happened to choose the wrong chick to hit on. Together these two go through the new experience of being parents. It’s quite funny to watch.

Overall the story line was okay, but there were some funny parts. It kind of felt like it was set up for one joke, joke, and then set up for next joke all the way through the movie. But other than that, I found it predictable but adorable. Lopez and O’Loughlin made a cute couple on the screen that had some rough patches.

Even with all the not so great parts it was still a fun movie to watch. I think that if you are a fan of romantic comedies then this is the movie for you. It’s got everything it needs to be a favorite for that genre. Even though it’s not your average romance it just goes to show you that maybe waiting a little longer is the better choice than going to The Back-up Plan. So watch it if you dare.

Rating for The Back-up Plan: ***1/2.

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989) (PG)

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989) (PG)
Directed by Stephen Herek
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, George Carlin, Bernie Casey

Daddy Says:

Funny how a movie about time travel should seem like the film itself is stuck inside a time capsule. Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure screams "the 80's" with almost every frame of its ninety minute running time. From the soundtrack to the clothes to the dialogue, this film is a testament to everything that made the 80's the decade that it was.

Somebody in this family likes Keanu Reeves quite a bit, but it's not me. I'm not going to mention any names, but her review is posted right below mine and I'll bet includes the words "totally in love with him" in it. I'm watching it again to see if it holds up over twenty years later.

For the most part it does. Obviously, the film has dated a lot since it was made. But if you look at it as I mentioned above, as a time capsule of a decade, it's pretty easy to overlook the more glaringly dated parts. It's nice to see George Carlin in the film. He's nowhere near as funny as he is when he's doing his stand-up material, but he's still a likeable presence in this film. Keanu Reeves is playing the part of, well, Keanu Reeves. I'm not sure he's really capable of playing another role, but he plays himself well. I can't recall seeing Alex Winter, who plays Bill to Reeves' Ted, in another role, but he and Reeves have a good chemistry together.

As for the plot there's not a lot to say. I could gripe about the time travel inconsistencies and other problems which would have cropped up in a more serious film, but this isn't a serious film to begin with. When the future of civilization hinges on two less-than-intelligent rock-star-wannabes, the audience is obviously supposed to simply sit back, turn off their brains and enjoy the show. That's what I tried to do. And I enjoyed the show.

Rating for Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure: ****.

Daughter Says:

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a fun movie to watch. It’s something that you can’t really take seriously. I just enjoyed watching Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter run around kidnapping historical figureheads.

There really is no other way to describe this movie other than to say that it’s one of the best train wrecks ever since Back to the Future. Unlike the past movies we have reviewed, this is a movie where you can turn off your brain and just enjoy staring at the screen.

The effects were really cheesy. The acting was rather lame, but Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure will bring a smile to your face. It has funny jokes and hilarious situations, but nothing is ever taken seriously. Even when Bill and Ted are about to get their heads chopped off they still are messing around.

Not only did it have funny situations, but it also had “bogus” dialogue. Bill and Ted kept talking like they were high all the time. Which that makes sense, because it was around that time, but it was weird to listen to. It was like listening to old English in a movie about when America became a free country.

But if you are one of those types that love to watch a fun, cheesy movie this movie is for you. There really is no danger. The problems they face, in the movie, are solved really easily, and they also end up happily ever after. Exactly what everyone wants in train wreck, I guess.

Oh and by the way, Keanu Reeves in it. To be honest Alex Winter isn’t as funny or sweet as Keanu. He was also the only reason why I wanted to see this movie, and even he couldn’t save Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. I couldn’t take any of it seriously enough. This movie was seriously just a major train wreck that I probably won’t watch for a really long time.

Rating for Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: ***.

Se7en (1995) (R)

Se7en (1995) (R)
Directed by David Fincher
Starring: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey

Daddy Says:

Serial killers. The United States has created of them than any other country on the planet. It should sicken us, but it also fascinates us. We want to know what goes on in their heads that can make these deviant personalities do the atrocious things they do. Four years after The Silence of the Lambs introduced a wide audience to Hannibal Lector, along comes Se7en to bring us John Doe.

This film came out five years before CSI hit network television, giving us this kind of subject matter on a weekly basis. These days, many of us are desensitized to the violence that gets portrayed on the screen. It takes a lot to shock us. But back in 1995, this was about as shocking as it could be. It's still a great concept for a film: a serial killer uses the seven deadly sins as his inspiration for murders. Will the detectives assigned to the case stop him before he reaches his conclusion?

The detectives are played by the always reliable Morgan Freeman, and a young Brad Pitt, who's only leading role before this was in Interview with the Vampire the previous year. He hadn't yet become Brad Pitt the movie star, the guy who married Jennifer Aniston, then left her for Angelina Jolie. Here he's just a young actor out to prove he can hang with the best of them, and he succeeds admirably. Gwyneth Paltrow does her best with an underwritten part, but really she's just here so she can be a "part" of the surprise ending (pun intended). Kevin Spacey is incredible as John Doe. 1995 was a big year for him, with this part, and his even better role in The Usual Suspects, he has made quite a career playing interesting roles such as these.

The film slows down in the middle a bit, after we've learned along with the detectives what the killer's modus operandi is, we're just kind of waiting for the end. But what an ending it is. It's a rare film that can have the hero, the villain and even the audience all wishing for the same thing to happen. It's not often in the last two decades that you get a film with what could be called an "unhappy" ending, yet still walk out of the theater feeling completely satisfied by what happened. 

Rating for Se7en: ****1/4. 

Daughter Says:

Once again, we’ve decided to review a movie that I’ve already seen. I saw this movie when I was really young. To be honest I was too young to understand what Se7en was about. But after watching it again I’ve totally got what the story was about.

The whole story is just really interesting. It’s true that I have never seen anything quite like this. The villain was truly a madman. I still can’t believe that anyone would ever do that to anyone to prove a point. It’s just so wrong.

Not only was that wrong, but when I first saw this movie I was cheering for Pitt to shoot the guy. Now that I’ve seen it for the second time and I knew what was coming, my reaction was completely different. It seems everytime I watch this movie I get a different reaction. I do that with a lot of movies. Even though I know what’s coming I still plead for it not to happen, but I guess that’s what the movie wants you to do. I think my connection with Pitt’s character really helped the movie. I felt like I was trying to solve the mystery myself and nothing was more obvious to the viewers than to the characters in the film. I really liked that. I also went through the same emotions as the characters, which really helps me understand the stress of solving this case.

Se7en really reminded me of the original CSI, before Grisom left. I loved that show and, to me, this movie was a whole lot like this. So if you are a huge fan of mysteries or even criminal cases in general you’ll probably like this. Se7en is down right wrong, which makes it that much more interesting and amazing.

Rating for Se7en: *****.