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REVIEW: Music of the Heart – In memory of Wes Craven

September 5, 2015 1 comment
Music of the HeartDirected by: Wes Craven
Produced by: Susan Kaplan, Marianne Maddalena, Allan Miller, Walter Scheuer
Written by: Pamela Gray
Edited by: Gregg Featherman, Patrick Lussier
Cinematography by: Peter Deming
Music by: Mason Daring (score), Diane Warren (theme)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett, Gloria Estefan, Aidan Quinn, Cloris Leachman, Jane Leeves, Jean-Luke Figueroa, Olga Merediz, Kieran Culkin, Charlie Hofheimer, Rosalyn Coleman, Michael Angarano, Josh Pais, Henry Dinhofer, Justin “DJ” Spaulding
Based on a true story and inspired by the 1995 documentary Small Wonders by Allan Miller
Year: 1999

 

Wes Craven was in many ways my gateway to appreciating horror. Though I had seen and enjoyed horror films prior to anything he had made, Craven was the one who enabled me to dig further into the classic slasher movies that most people think of when they discuss the genre. When I first decided to dedicate the month of October to horror films, three of the first movies I reviewed were Wes Craven-directed: The Last House on the Left, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. During that time, my unfavorable review of the first Elm Street film actually caught the attention of a group from pretty much the fan site for the series, and this encouraged me to review a few more of the films, including the Craven-produced Dream Warriors and the aforementioned New Nightmare, both of which I actually enjoyed more than the first.

Before even this, however, there was Scream, the film that both celebrated and satirized the genre Craven had helped form. Now, I actually saw the third film in the series first at a sleepover back in 7th or 8th grade, and even though it’s considered the weakest of the series, and though I had no familiarity with the characters to have much context for what was going on, I actually had a good time with it, and I subsequently sought out the rest of the films at the time and enjoyed those even more! During my time as a horror genre-hater, the Scream series remained my one exception whenever horror movies came up as a topic of conversation, as they were more fun than truly terrifying to me. It soon became apparent, however, that I really should see the movies that Scream was deconstructing, and so this actually put the pressure on me to finally give films like the Elm Street movies, Friday the 13th, Halloween, and even The Cabin in the Woods their fair chance. I didn’t always like them, but the process itself has been enjoyable, and I feel like the pressure has certainly given me a new perspective and appreciation for the genre as a whole.

Sadly, Wes Craven suddenly passed away this week after a quiet battle with brain cancer, and I actually felt a pretty great sense of personal loss when I heard the news. I’ve still yet to see other famous films of his like People Under the Stairs and The Hills Have Eyes, but Craven had unbeknownst to me actually cemented himself in my mind as a filmmaker I still greatly appreciated, if only because of his indirect encouragement to branch out in my movie habits. Craven will always be remembered for his work in the horror genre, but instead of reviewing one of those famous horror films, I figured I’d do something a bit different and honor the guy by reviewing his own foray into unfamiliar territory, the often forgotten Music of the Heart, a sentimental based-on-a-true-story drama that has been sitting in my Netflix instant viewing queue for quite a while ever since I randomly glanced at the name “Wes Craven” being tied to a film that had Meryl Streep, Angela Basset, and Gloria Estefan in the film’s poster. Read more…

REVIEW: The Rocky Horror Picture Show

October 16, 2013 2 comments
The Rocky Horror Picture ShowDirected by: Jim Sharman
Produced by: Michael White
Written by: Jim Sharman, Richard O’Brien (screenplay)
Edited by: Graeme Clifford
Cinematography by: Peter Suschitzky
Music by: Richard O’Brien, Richard Hartley
Starring: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell, Jonathan Adams, Peter Hinwood, Charles Gray, Meat Loaf
Based on the play The Rocky Horror Show by Richard O’Brien
Year: 1975

 

Fans of this cult classic, I’m going to right here and now preemptively keep you from committing some kind of serious crime while also saving my own neck: If you unconditionally, unabashedly love this movie, do not read any further than this paragraph. I know there are fans out there who just absolutely adore this movie, and, to that I say, “Good for you.” I’m not going to begrudge your relationship and affection for the film. That being said, if you’re the kind of person who sends death threats and such to people you disagree with, do us both a favor and please stop reading now. Read more…

Review: “Hot Fuzz”

June 28, 2013 2 comments
Hot FuzzDirected by: Edgar Wright
Produced by: Nira Park, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner
Written by: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg
Edited by: Chris Dickens
Cinematography by: Jess Hall
Music by: David Arnold
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Paddy Considine, Rafe Spall, Kevin Eldon, Olivia Colman, Karl Johnson, Bill Bailey, Martin Freeman, Steve Coogan, Bill Nighy
Year: 2007

 

(Review is very mildly spoilery, though you’d have to be a dolt not to catch on quickly or guess what’s going to happen. You’ve been warned, regardless!)

“Funny, but took a while to build up to the comedy.  Honestly, it could’ve been a lot more ridiculous in its humor, but it wasn’t bad.  Shaun still rocks, though.”

That’s the entirety of my 3-star Flixster/Rotten Tomatoes review, which I wrote years ago and recently rediscovered while preparing for this review. I remember the mindset that was informing this review. I had watched a few sneak peak clips back when IGN.com used to be my primary source for movie news, and those brief, minutes-long clips had set my expectations for the entirety of the film as being something more akin to Reno 911 in an English countryside than what the film actually turned out to be: a loving tribute to ridiculous buddy cop/crime films – as filtered through the English countryside. Read more…

Theatrical Review: “Skyfall”

November 13, 2012 1 comment
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Produced by: Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli
Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan
Cinematography by: Roger Deakins
Music by: Thomas Newman (score), Adele (title song)
Editing by: Stuard Baird, Kate Baird
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Bérénice Lim Marlohe, Ben Whishaw, Albert Finney
Based on the characters created by Ian Fleming
Year: 2012

 

One of the best things about Skyfall, Bond movie #23, is that, being released on the 50th anniversary of the film franchise means that it gets a bit of leeway for being a bit reverential towards its series legacy. Fans of the series from any era will find a few bits here and there to point at and go, “Hey, look!” A lot of franchises do this on their anniversaries, and the Bond franchise even went and did this ten years ago, when Die Another Day was released as not only the 20th Bond movie, but also on the somewhat less glamorous 40th anniversary of the film franchise.

Whereas that film felt more like an exploitation of the series history through a poorly assembled “Greatest Hits” compilation, however, Skyfall feels more like a reverential tribute that smartly takes these well known and celebrated elements (ridiculous stunts, expensive gadgetry, eccentric villains, and sweeping theme songs) and reworks them to fit into the new tone set in place by the reboot films, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. From the opening gambit onward, director Sam Mendes establishes this tone with a great mix of the old and new, as Bond is faced with not just physical struggles, but also emotional and personal struggles.

(Very mild spoilers ahead.) Read more…

Review: “Scream”

October 31, 2012 9 comments
Directed by: Wes Craven
Produced by: Cathy Konrad, Cary Woods
Written by: Kevin Williamson
Cinematography by: Mark Irwin
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Starring: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich, Jamie Kennedy, Drew Barrymore, Roger L. Jackson
Year: 1996

 

If there’s any one series of films that have possibly helped to turn me around on my disinterest in the horror genre, it would be the Scream series. Having first seen Scream 3 some time after its release to home video, I became unusually preoccupied by the concept of this meta-heavy horror series. Neither pure satire nor straight up scary movie, Scream appeals to both fans and non-fans of the genre by covering all the tropes, calling out, subverting, and embracing all their idiosyncrasies while referencing past works and still adhering to the genre by becoming a relentless horror film in its own right. Read more…

Special Review: “You’ve Got Mail”, My Favorite Nora Ephron Film

July 16, 2012 5 comments
Directed by: Nora Ephron
Produced by: Nora Ephron, Lauren Shuler Donner
Written by: Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron
Cinematography by: John Lindley
Music by: George Fenton
Starring: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Parker Posey, Jean Stapleton, Greg Kinnear, Steve Zahn, Heather Burns, Dave Chappelle
Based on the play Illatszertár (trans. “Parfumerie”) by Miklós László
Year: 1998

 

When I had heard that Nora Ephron passed away not too long ago on June 26, I knew that I had to do a tribute review for her. It’s not that I was a huge fan of her, her films, her plays, or even her widely acclaimed various writings. From my earliest memories of becoming a fan of films, Nora Ephron was among one of the earliest names in film credits that I recognized consistently outside the much more widely recognizable names like Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis. This was largely thanks in part to my mom, who was a fan of many of the films she did make, especially Sleepless in Seattle.

I originally planned on reviewing Sleepless in Seattle, in fact, which was Ephron’s second film as director and first widely acclaimed film. It also happened to be the only film of hers that I had in my library, and only then due to the fact that my mom had somehow managed to have two copies and so, you know, why not? But, though it is not at all a bad film, I must confess that my already limited affection for it has waned over the years, primarily thanks to the Meg Ryan character going completely unrecognized as an insane woman who seriously needs help. Needless to say, after re-watching it for the purposes of a review after not seeing it for several years, I felt as though I wasn’t doing the director justice in writing up a review of a film that I began to see as, well, enjoyable but quite mediocre.

Luckily, I found justification in buying up one of her other films — one that I genuinely love. At $9.99 on Amazon and featuring a DVD copy of the older film, The Shop Around the Corner, which also borrows its story from the same Miklós László’s stage play, You’ve Got Mail was a steal, and its purchase a cathartic experience for me. You see, as a guy, it was hard to admit it for a while but, yes, I genuinely have the whole guilty pleasure thing going on with this movie. Read more…

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