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, February 12, 2015

Review: An Affair to Remember


Prominent celebrity playboy Cary Grant and singer Deborah Kerr meet on a luxury liner and despite both being in relationships with other people back home, they find themselves hopelessly drawn to one another. As the ship is about to dock, they make a promise to one another that if after 6 months they still can’t get over one another, they will reunite at the top of the Empire State Building. One of them shows up, but although dearly wanting to, circumstance prevents the other from meeting the deadline, leaving the other heartbroken. Will our protagonists ever reunite? Cathleen Nesbitt plays Grant’s elderly grandmother, who takes a liking to Kerr when the duo make a stop to see her in French, mid-voyage. Richard Denning plays Kerr’s Bill Pullman…er…tedious spouse.

 

The inspiration for the finale to “Sleepless in Seattle”, this 1957 romance from writer/director Leo McCarey (“Duck Soup”, “The Awful Truth”, “Going My Way”) is founded on a story that frankly isn’t very romantic, and it is far lesser than “Sleepless”. It’s not nearly as bad as “A Touch of Class”, but as you probably know by now, whilst I don’t remotely judge anyone for falling in love with someone else whilst in a relationship, I also don’t find the concept fitting for a romantic film specifically. I just don’t, no not even in “From Here to Eternity” (That beach scene is excellent, but if you watch the film, it’s not nearly as ‘romantic’ as you remember and wasn’t meant to be). “Sleepless in Seattle” (which ultimately is a very different film) pretty much avoided that pitfall, but this film steps right in it.

 

The opening stretch on the cruise ship is pretty poor, to be honest. Don’t want anyone on board gossiping about your affair, Mr. Grant? Then don’t fucking have one, OK? The heart wants what it wants, but it just isn’t entertaining romantic movie fodder to me. Casting the rather caddish Cary Grant as one half of the romantic duo is at least offset by the casting of the more prim and proper Deborah Kerr as his love match, I’ll give the film that. It also has one thing over “A Touch of Class” and that is the fact that these two are very clearly in love with one another, whereas George Segal and Glenda Jackson spent the whole film yelling at each other, seemingly pointlessly. The fact that they clearly belong together helps a great deal. I also thought Cathleen Nesbitt stole the film right out from underneath the two stars in a wonderful supporting role.

 

Another asset to the film is the absolutely wonderful, Oscar-nominated colour cinematography by Milton Krasner (“All About Eve”, “Home From the Hill”, “How the West Was Won”). It’s so incredibly beautiful to look at, even if the film itself doesn’t seem to deserve such beauty. There’s one great shot of Kerr on one half of the screen and a reflection of the Empire State Building on a window for the other half of the screen. That was masterfully done. The film’s subplot concerning all the gossip, media attention and Grant’s celebrity status is most unhelpful and clunkily done (it’s too comedic in an otherwise dramatic film), and the whole thing moves at a glacier pace.

 

And when they finally get ashore, things take a decided turn for the (even) worse as we see Kerr is meant to be an English nightclub singer in Boston singing Irish songs. Fucking what? She has a lovely voice (or was it Marni Nixon?), but it just doesn’t seem like something the refined Ms. Kerr would ever do. **** SPOILER WARNING **** Things completely implode when Kerr goes to meet up with Grant and suddenly seems to lose her mind. We don’t get the transition or set-up to this medical issue, and even if we did it’d be moronic. After this, she somehow gets a job teaching music to kids. Like all lunatics, right? At least she’s more believable as a kids’ music teacher, though. But it’s all so incredibly confusingly done that I had no idea if she had an illness or disability or if she was dying or not. It’s horribly written (NB: I’ve subsequently read that she was struck by a car and paralysed. But A) I don’t recall seeing that, and B) She acts completely insane, not disabled. So even if I missed something, it plays out bizarrely **** END SPOILER **** That said, the final scene itself is actually really, really moving in spite of everything before it, and the best thing in this otherwise forgettable and very, very strange film.

 

Romantic classic? Hardly, and not a very good film anyway. Terrible, cheesy Vic Damone title song and irritating pink cursive titles deserve a dishonourable mention. A remake of McCarey’s own “Love Affair” from 1939, I’d stick to “Sleepless in Seattle”, or preferably “When Harry Met Sally”.

 

Rating: C

Monday, February 9, 2015

Review: Flowers in the Attic (2014)


When the husband of Corinne Foxworth-Dollanganger (Heather Graham) suddenly dies in a car accident, leaving her to look after four kids (Teen siblings Kiernan Shipka and Mason Dye, plus two young twins), she feels she has no alternative except to plead with her estranged parents. However, to do this the kids must stay solely locked in the bedroom or up in the attic of her wealthy parents’ estate, whilst Corinne attempts to get into the good graces of her elderly father, who is unaware of the kids’ existence. Strict, domineering grandmother (Ellen Burstyn) knows very well of their existence, and for some reason seems repulsed by them and overly concerned with their closeness. Just what have these kids walked into, and why is their mother OK with them being confined to the attic and harshly mistreated by their grandmother? And why are Shipka and Dye getting funny feelings for each other in their pants all of a sudden? Eeewww.

 

I hear this 2014 TV movie from director Deborah Chow and writer Kayla Alpert is somewhat closer to the V.C. Andrews novel than was the 1987 version that everyone outside of my family seems to hate. Well, I’ve never read the books, and I think this adaptation is a total botch-job, either that or the original source material itself mustn’t lend itself well to film adaptation. Alpert in my opinion has botched the whole thing here by making the ‘real’ villain of the piece completely obvious from the start (almost the first scene), which means that the character of the grandmother played by a tired and wheezy Ellen Burstyn (not her finest hour) has been rendered ineffectual…and strangely butch. I was really disappointed with Burstyn’s half-hearted performance, but it’s actually not really her fault. Part of what I liked about the 1987 version, in addition to the perfectly cast Louise Fletcher, was that the grandmother was so incredibly strict, harsh, and frankly frightening (in a camp way), that the film’s true villain isn’t quite as easy to spot. I don’t know if that was the point of the Andrews text or not, but I liked it. Here we don’t get that, the grandmother is just a tired old crank, who frankly, was right all along, albeit violently misguided in approach. She needs to have her corns attended to, a nice cup of tea, and a lie down. The character has been completely diminished to the point where in the subsequent story “Petals on the Wind”, it feels rather redundant and repetitive. The whole thing plays like Alpert read “Petals on the Wind” first, and writes this adaptation with that one in mind (And yet rendering that film redundant and repetitive, as I said).

 

I also found it seriously irritating that the poisoning aspect of the film gets short shrift here. It’s barely even touched on, and the kids look way too healthy for way too long. Even if you don’t find problems elsewhere in the film, surely fans of the book must at least take issue with that one. Especially when cuddly ‘ol granny tells the kids the doughnuts are from their mother and don’t eat them. Fuck me. How is that not botching the whole damn thing? (She even tells them twice, because apparently these kids were dropped on their heads as babies!).

 

On the positive side of things, the incest angle is played up considerably over the 1987 version, and if that’s what you want to see, you’ll get as much of it as a TV movie will allow. It’s certainly a pretty important part of the story (I have family members who have read the books), and the film earns points for not shying away from it, even if like everything else in the film, they telegraph it too early. The performance by Kiernan Shipka as the eldest daughter is certainly an improvement over Kristy Swanson in the 1987 version, too. Hell, I think Heather Graham is much better as the mother than Victoria Tennant was in 1987. It’s a convincing performance, it’s not her damn fault how her character has been written. In fact, I think Graham (who is in her mid-40s, but still looks in her late 20s. Wow!) was rather well-cast. But that’s it for niceties I’m afraid.

 

The whole thing was rendered ineffectual and useless to me by just how completely transparently it plays out. It really is unfortunate, because the basic story is campy, creepy Gothic fun. This just isn’t good enough. It’s a nicely gloomy, ominous-looking film but you might as well just read the books instead.

 

Rating: D

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Review: Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan


Lord Jack Clayton (Paul Geoffrey) and his pregnant wife find themselves shipwrecked somewhere along the African coast. After the baby is born, Clayton and his wife are set upon and killed by apes. The apes find the baby and remarkably raise it as one of their own. Decades later, now a young man (played by Christophe Lambert) comes across a Belgian explorer (Sir Ian Holm), who is injured. The young man nurses the explorer back to health, and in turn the explorer teaches him basic English. The explorer eventually deduces that this man is in fact John Clayton, the heir to the 6th Earl of Greystoke (Sir Ralph Richardson, in his final film role), and vows to take him back to Edwardian Scotland to take his rightful place at the family estate. It is here that John (or Tarzan if you prefer, though the characters never utter the name) meets and falls for Jane Porter (Andie MacDowell, by way of Glenn Close), a ward of the Earl’s. But he also becomes restless, caught unhappily between two worlds, especially the phony ‘civilised’ world that may be even more savage than the jungle. James Fox plays the pompous fop Lord Esker, who has designs on Jane himself, Nigel Davenport is a burly big game hunter, Richard Griffiths plays the shipwrecked boat captain, and David Suchet plays a bartender.

 

Although I still somewhat favour the 1999 Disney animated “Tarzan”, this 1984 film from director Hugh Hudson (“Chariots of Fire”) is a well-mounted and interesting version of the Edgar Rice Burroughs classic, especially the first three quarters. For a film that in the first half gives us a mute Christophe Lambert and some fake apes…it’s remarkably entertaining. You don’t want it to leave the jungle, even though you know a posthumously Oscar-nominated Sir Ralph Richardson will be excellent company.

 

You can tell right away that Rick Baker has been called upon to create some fake primates, but as overrated as I think he often is, his work here still looks pretty darn good for 1984. It’s not up to the standard he showed in 2001’s “Planet of the Apes” or 1988’s “Gorillas in the Mist”, but it’s far enough removed from his idiotic work in 1976’s “King Kong” to get the job done and earn him an Oscar nomination. One shot of a dead baby monkey in particular is really disturbing, and it’s not like you could use real apes in this film. I think that’s why I feel the story works best in animation.

 

Like the Disney version, this one can’t help but venture into Kipling territory a tad, but that’s fine, the animals in this are quite fun. It’s a stunning-looking film with the beautiful jungle scenery captured by cinematographers John Alcott (“A Clockwork Orange”, “The Shining”, “The Beastmaster”) and an uncredited David Watkin (“The Three Musketeers”, “Robin and Marian”), a particular highlight for me. It’s a truly handsomely mounted film. The film also features an excellent, Basil Poledouris-esque score by John Scott (“Wake in Fright”, “Newsfront”, “Sexy Beast”).

 

It’s amazing how interesting and entertaining the dialogue-free moments are here. But that doesn’t mean the film fails once the talking starts. I wish Nigel Davenport’s brutal, moustachioed hunter stuck around a bit longer, but Ian Holm’s seemingly Poirot-inspired, Belgian character is a good one for him (It’s rather ironic to see future Poirot actor David Suchet appear briefly as a bartender). Veteran scene-stealer Sir Ralph Richardson is, as always, pitch-perfect as Lord Greystoke (aside from a bizarre and extremely regrettable final scene), and if you’re gonna have someone play a stereotypical James Fox fop character, you may as well get Fox himself to play it. For some reason, the way he says the words ‘jungle man’ in his posh voice always crack me up. As for the title role, for all the crap French-accented (yet American-born) Christophe Lambert has gotten over the years, he does remarkably well under impossible circumstances here, though I do wish he grew a beard for the role. I found it particularly amusing that a French-accented Belgian was in charge of teaching Tarzan to speak English, perhaps as a way to account for Tarzan’s peculiarly French pronunciation of English.

 

The one dud piece of casting is obviously and unquestionably Andie MacDowell in her film debut, doing the best Glenn Close impersonation I’ve ever heard. In all seriousness, full credit goes to MacDowell for forging a career after this unflattering debut, and she’s not quite Jessica Lange in “King Kong” bad, but not even Glenn Close’s voice can help MacDowell act much here. And we’re talking about a film that already has Christophe Lambert. I don’t think I’ve ever heard another case of a famous actress dubbing the voice of another famous actress, but it just goes to show how thoroughly Southern-fried inappropriate MacDowell’s voice likely seemed to the director. It’s a blemish on what is otherwise a rock-solid film, possibly even a neglected one to some extent these days. But there’s no doubt that the best scenes in the film are in the jungle, not to mention that these are the most faithful scenes to the original literary source.

 

The screenplay is by Michael Austin (“The Shout”, writer-director of “Princess Caraboo”) and Robert Towne (“The Last Detail”, “Chinatown”, “Personal Best”), the latter rather idiotically using the pseudonym of his pet dog for God knows what alcohol-related reason. The screenplay ended up being nominated for an Oscar, making Towne look like an even bigger tool.

 

Rating: B-