About This Blog

A place to find my reviews not featured on epinions.com or horror-asylum.com, as well as opinions and lists on everything from movies to TV to music. It's all about me! Send hate mail to vegie18th@hotmail.com or just leave a comment beneath the posts. Review grading system assumes C+ is somewhere in the vicinity of a Passing grade or minor fail.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review: My Cousin Rachel

Set in 19th Century England, Richard Burton plays a young man who has grown up idolising his guardian John Sutton (making the most of a brief role), who years later sends Burton letters indicating that his new wife Rachel (Olivia De Havilland- wonderfully ambiguous in a role Greta Garbo and Vivien Leigh thankfully turned down), whom he romanced in Italy, is trying to poison him. But upon meeting his ‘cousin’ Rachel back home (after the old man’s eventual death), he becomes intensely infatuated with her. Surely she can’t be a heartless gold-digging black widow? Ronald Squire is perfectly able, as wise counsel to Burton.

Brilliantly moody, expertly acted, 1952 Gothic melodrama from director Henry Koster (“Harvey”, “The Virgin Queen”) deserves to be just as well-known as (and in my view, moreso than) Hitchock’s overrated “Rebecca”, both being film versions of Daphne Du Maurier Gothic mysteries. This one’s got the superbly brooding and intense Burton, outstanding in his first Hollywood outing. It’s one of the most aching and intensely pained performances of his career and was deservingly nominated for an Oscar, though strangely for Supporting Actor...um, he plays the main frigging character! Plus there’s a terrifically layered (and uncharacteristic) performance by the always excellent De Havilland, who is entirely different from long-suffering cousin Melanie in “Gone With the Wind” (and who keeps you guessing about her character’s intentions from beginning to end- and maybe even afterwards!)..

Wonderfully evocative, Oscar-nominated B&W cinematography by Joseph LaShelle (“Laura”, “Marty”, “The Apartment”), this is a film to look out for, folks, particularly for fans of the stars (who unlike the stiff stars of “Rebecca”, actually make you care about their characters, the fiery Burton especially makes Larry Olivier seem like he was in a coma during “Rebecca”).

Rating: B+

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Review: Van Diemen’s Land

Taking a different approach to the true story of Alexander Pierce than the horror flick “Dying Breed”, this film is by and large a straight account of the so-called ‘cannibal convict’. Set in 1822 in winter, eight convicts including the quietly intense Pierce (Oscar Redding) and Robert Greenhill (Arthur Angel), escape a penal colony from what was then called Van Diemen’s Land (now known as Tasmania, Australia). The convicts (Irish, Scottish, and English among them) face both the increasingly and unrelentingly harsh conditions, the fear of recapture, and the onset of starvation. Needless to say, the men, desperate to survive at all costs, start to turn on each other, in ways you just don’t want to think about! Mmmmm, who’s hungry?

Unsettling 2009 true account from first-time feature-length film director Jonathan auf der Heide (who apparently previously delved into the subject in a short film) is certainly a very commendable and quite effective Australian film that is unlike any convict tale you’re likely to find. It’s also a helluva ordeal, one that many might not wish to endure. I can’t say I enjoyed watching this film, and the lack of strong characterisation or indeed likeable characters might keep one at a slight emotional distance from the characters. In fact, I found it a little hard to tell some of these rather unseemly people apart, except that one of them was a bit more chomp-happy than the rest. However, this film is still pretty hard to shake off afterwards, so on some level I must say it did work. It’s definitely a gruelling experience.

It’s also brilliantly shot by cinematographer Ellery Ryan (“Spotswood”), one of the better examples of a muted, grim-looking palette that I’ve seen, aided immeasurably by the Tasmanian bush scenery. It’s not a fun film, but if you can stomach it, I believe it’s quite an achievement. It’s certainly the most realistic depiction of cannibalism I’ve encountered in a film, despite not being overly gory. The screenplay is by the Tasmanian-born director along with star Redding, this is a harsh and harrowing film about what must’ve been a pretty harsh and harrowing time.

Rating: B-

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Review: Philadelphia

Hot-shot lawyer Tom Hanks is fired by his large firm apparently for a misplaced account. Hanks believes it is because his superiors found out that he has AIDS. He goes to Denzel Washington, an ambulance chaser who hates gays (which Hanks happens to be), but takes the case to sue the firm anyway. Jason Robards Jr. is the head honcho, a typical back-slapping, cigar-smoking type, and his partners are played by Robert Ridgely and Ron Vawter. Joanne Woodward is Hanks’ supportive mother, Antonio Banderas his partner, Mary Steenburgen the somewhat half-hearted opposing attorney (she looks uncomfortable in the role, and only partly because it suits the character if you ask me), Tracey Walter an insensitive librarian, Charles Napier a fair-minded judge, and Anna Deavere Smith has an amusing small turn as a sympathetic employee whose attire earns ire from the bigwigs, for being ‘too ethnic’.

Powerful and entertaining 1993 Jonathan Demme (“Silence of the Lambs”) mixture of AIDS awareness flick and courtroom drama, puts too little emphasis into Hanks’ supportive family, but scores in pretty much every other aspect. Oscar-winner Hanks is the key, with a deeply moving, quite down-to-earth characterisation. His presence alone likely contributed to people seeing this film, who might not otherwise, given the depressing and controversial subject matter. Washington meanwhile, acts as the mouthpiece for many people no doubt, and is also fine as the homophobic lawyer who nonetheless sees a wrong needing to be corrected. Great work by Robards, too (aside from one dopey speech in a flashback), and a pretty good cameo by Demme regular Roger Corman.

Earned the scorn of many critics for being too mainstream (and not focusing on the bond between Hanks and his lover Banderas), but it’s not made for them, perhaps not even made for me actually, it’s made for those not yet converted to this way of thinking- i.e. The homophobes, or those with an apathetic attitude towards the subject. Thus, it is still a very important film, and could not in my view, have worked any other way. That isn’t to say that it would or has worked, of course, homophobes might just skip the film altogether, I guess. It’s their loss, but if the film were any less mainstream, I doubt it would have an audience outside of snooty, toffee-nosed critics (namely the cynical ones who aren’t among this film’s fans, and there are quite a few, actually).

Soundtrack features two songs that open and close the film that are equally haunting; Bruce Springsteen’s Oscar-winning “Streets of Philadelphia”, and my personal favourite, Neil Young’s “Philadelphia” (which was beaten out for the gong by the more commercial, and therefore more often played, Springsteen number). I dare you not to shed a tear when that song starts up.

The screenplay is by Ron Nyswaner (“Gross Anatomy”, Gillian Armstrong’s “Mrs. Soffel”) is imperfect, but like the film overall, it does a disservice to criticise it too much for preaching to the choir. Do people really believe that homophobia and apathy towards AIDS sufferers is totally absent from the world in 2012, let alone back in 1993? What kind of moron pills are these people taking?

Rating: A