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REVIEW: Grease

June 21, 2016 Leave a comment
GreaseDirected by: Randal Kleiser
Produced by: Robert Stigwood, Allan Carr
Written by: Allan Carr, Bronte Woodard
Edited by: John F. Burnett, Robert Pergament
Cinematography by: Bill Butler
Music by: Michael Gibson
Songs by: Jim Jacobs, Warren Casey, John Farrar, Barry Gibb (theme)
Starring: John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing, Jeff Conaway, Didi Conn, Barry Pearl, Michael Tucci, Kelly Ward, Jamie Donnelly, Dinah Manoff, Eddie Deezen, Susan Buckner, Eve Arden, Dody Goodman, Sid Caesar, Alice Ghostley, Edd Byrnes, Sha-Na-Na
Based on the stage musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
Year: 1978

 

I never liked this movie growing up, and before recently, it had been years since I actually gave it another shot, mostly because it’s been a very long while since any of my family members foisted it upon me. However, after now seeing it for the first time since I first saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show in full, I think I finally understand why people like Grease now, too. Some of you may think these two films are polar opposites of each other, but they’re really more like peers, both being quirky, campy 1970s musicals, complete with subversive, sexual subject matter. Yes, Grease really is kind of subversive, albeit in a much less obvious way than Rocky Horror. The original stage production was, in fact, a noticeably raunchier depiction of 1950s youth culture, purposely contrary to the idealization and sanitization of the era that prevailed in the public consciousness. It’s actually kind of baffling that there’s a high school production version of this. How bowdlerized would that end up being? Read more…

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REVIEW: The Bishop’s Wife

December 11, 2015 2 comments
The Bishop's WifeDirected by: Henry Koster
Produced by: Samuel Goldwyn
Written by: Leonardo Bercovici, Robert E. Sherwood, Billy Wilder (uncredited), Charles Brackett (uncredited)
Edited by: Monica Collingwood
Cinematography by: Gregg Toland
Music by: Hugo Freidhofer
Starring: Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven, Monty Woolley, James Gleason, Gladys Cooper, Elsa Lanchester, Sara Haden, Karolyn Grimes
Based on the novel by Robert Nathan
Year: 1947

 

[Some spoilers ahead!]

 

Cary Grant really could sell movies. Want proof? This film did not live up to expectations when it was first released in the U.S. under its normal title, as it was presumed to be too religious (Go figure, America – we weren’t all enamored with religious movies, even back then!), but when the studio had posters’ reflected title changed to Cary and the Bishop’s Wife, ticket sales reportedly jumped by 25%. The film would go on to be nominated for a few Oscars, including Best Sound, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Music Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, and Best Picture. It only won in the Best Sound category, but the nominations are still quite impressive. And, when I did a Google search for “Best Christmas Films” this year and pretty much every year past, The Bishop’s Wife was always up there alongside some of the greatest and even some of my favorites. Having reviewed most of those, however, this year, I figured, was The Bishop’s Wife’s year, particularly since I’ve been meaning to review some older films, anyway. Into the Netflix DVD queue it went! Would it be worth it? Read more…

REVIEW: The Santa Clause

December 4, 2015 3 comments
The Santa ClauseDirected by: John Pasquin
Produced by: Robert Newmyer, Brian Reilly, Jeffrey Silver
Written by: Leo Benvenuti, Steve Rudnick, Karey Kirkpatrick
Edited by: Larry Bock
Cinematography by: Walt Lloyd
Music by: Michael Convertino
Starring: Tim Allen, Eric Lloyd, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson, David Krumholtz, Paige Tamada, Peter Boyle, Kenny Vadas, Chris Benson
Year: 1994

 

It occurred to me while watching The Santa Clause that the film, thematically, has a surprising amount in common with another holiday classic (albeit a film dealing with a far more tedious holiday than Christmas) that was released just the year prior: Groundhog Day. No, really, think about it. Both films center upon a self-centered jerk who alienates those he would otherwise get along with and even grow to love if only he would give into the spirit of the holiday. Both films also feature comedians who were incredibly popular at the time the movies were made. And both films feature some kind of inexplicable supernatural/magical device which is foisted upon them, to their comedic chagrin, throughout their daily lives until they get the lessons right and embrace it. Both films obviously differ quite a bit in terms of their respective target audiences (though there is a surprising amount of adult humor in Disney’s film that will supposedly go over the kids’ heads), but, as with most holiday films, both are also about the importance of not becoming jaded with life and use their holidays as metaphors. Read more…

REVIEW: Ghostbusters (1984)

October 30, 2015 5 comments
Ghostbusters (1984)Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Produced by: Ivan Reitman
Written by: Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis
Edited by: David E. Blewitt, Sheldno Kahn
Cinematography by: László Kovács
Music by: Elmer Bernstein, Ray Parker, Jr. (theme)
Starring: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Sigourney Weaver, Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, William Atherton, David Margulies, Slavita Jovan, Paddi Edwards (voice)
Year: 1984

 

Ghostbusters is yet another one of those cultural milestone films that I managed to somehow deprive myself from seeing for an unreasonable amount of time, particularly as someone who is really into movies. In my defense, this was largely due to the fact that I grew up in an unreasonably fundamentalist Christian environment for the early part of my life, and so films like Ghostbusters, which dealt with the supernatural without clearly making it so that everything that was happening was demonic and didn’t remind you how much you needed Jesus to save you from hell were more often than not declared to be welcoming mats for demons to enter your life. No, I’m not kidding. Luckily, we got out of that environment and are (a bit) more sane now, but I continued to avoid the film because… well, mostly it was because I just never got around to it. Eventually this became a bit more like resentment, though. At some point, it seemed like everyone was obsessed with Ghostbusters again, even from those who weren’t kids or even born yet at the time this movie came out, and you couldn’t talk about movies or reference ghosts without someone throwing out some kind of Ghostbusters reference and then talking about how brilliant the movie was. It was very annoying. This became another one of those movies that I was sick of before I even saw it. Read more…

REVIEW: The Babadook

October 17, 2015 3 comments
The BabadookDirected by: Jennifer Kent
Produced by: Kristina Ceyton, Kristian Moliere
Written by: Jennifer Kent
Edited by: Simon Njoo
Cinematography by: Radek Ladczuk
Music by: Jed Kurzel
Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney, Barbara West, Benjamin Winspear
Based on the short film Monster by Jennifer Kent
Year: 2014

 

It takes a lot to scare me these days when it comes to movies. Sure, some might have a lot of high tension, and others may exploit our squeamish tendencies through excessive, torturous gore (amongst other things), but when it comes to genuine terror, I can’t recall many movies that genuinely get under my skin and terrify me. The Babadook, an independent Australian film that came out of nowhere and almost immediately became a cult classic thanks to word of mouth marketing, is undoubtedly one of the most unnerving, scariest movies that I’ve seen in quite some time, from any era – and I recently saw The Exorcist for the first time. Read more…

REVIEW: Paranormal Activity

October 10, 2015 2 comments
Paranormal ActivityDirected by: Oren Peli
Produced by: Oren Peli, Jason Blum
Written by: Oren Peli
Edited by: Oren Peli
Cinematography by: Oren Peli
Starring: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs, Amber Armstrong, Ashley Palmer
Year: 2007/2009

 

It’s kind of obligatory to address this issue when reviewing this film, so I’ll just get it over with – It could easily be said that found footage has worn out its welcome, particularly since it hardly seems like filmmakers care that much about actually conforming to the handheld style beyond characters addressing the camera and someone in the movie supposedly holding the camera, even though it makes absolutely no sense for them to continue filming, particularly at the angles they hold the camera (Hello, The Visit…). I wouldn’t exactly refute the claim that found footage itself has gotten tiresome, but it’s not exactly because the style is necessarily overdone – it’s that it is too often being done poorly, oftentimes just as a gimmick. However, a few films still manage to use the style to their advantage and actually do it well. Chronicle comes to mind as being a fairly decent one. I still love Cloverfield, complaints about motion sickness be damned. And the anthology film V/H/S 2 managed to one-up its mediocre predecessor with some truly entertaining and effectively terrifying short subjects within the format. But even these owe a great debt to Paranormal Activity, the film that reignited the found footage craze after a virtual post-Blair Witch lull. Read more…

REVIEW: The Exorcist

October 6, 2015 5 comments
The ExorcistDirected by: William Friedkin
Produced by: William Peter Blatty
Screenplay by: William Peter Blatty
Edited by: Jordan Leondopoulos, Evan Lottman, Norman Gay
Cinematography by: Owen Roizman
Music by: Various; Theme by Mike Oldfield
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair, Lee J. Cobb, Mercedes McCambridge, Kitty Winn, Jack MacGowran, Father William O’Malley, Vasiliki Maliaros
Based on the novel by William Peter Blatty
Year: 1973

 

The Exorcist is yet another movie on my list of movies that I don’t know how I managed to not watch until recently. Unlike, say, The Godfather (put your pitchforks down, I saw them all years ago, but still after a while) or Braveheart, however, the reasons for not seeing it wasn’t simply because I was tired of hearing people talk about how great it was, but rather due to the fact that the subject matter and reputation The Exorcist had for being one of the most terrifying horror films of all time really freaked me out. As some of you may know, I was never really a horror film fan in the first place until I started writing this blog and forced myself to watch films from the genre for the month of October, and while this was partly because I thought less of the genre than I should have, I’d be lying if there was some part of me that was genuinely terrified of certain movies – and chief among them was The Exorcist.

Read more…

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