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G Griffiths (Liverpool, Merseyside United Kingdom)

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Halloween (25th Anniversary Edition) [DVD]
Halloween (25th Anniversary Edition) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Donald Pleasence
Offered by WorldCinema
Price: 9.99

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic, manipulative low budget horror..., 26 Nov 2003
The film opens on halloween, 1963, where a six year-old boy by the name of Michael Myers murders his older sister Judith. He is put away in a mental institute, and fifteen years later breaks out on October 30th. He returns to his home town of Haddonfield, with his doctor Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) in pursuit, and there begins a reign of terror as he stalks teenage babysitters on Halloween night, killing them off one by one. Babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) knows little as her friends are killed off around her, and its not long until it is her time to die...
Made on a miniscule budget, shot in approximately a month, and using no name actors, John Carpenter and Debra Hill created a memorable horror film, brimming with atmosphere and horror. Michael Myers is truly a horror icon - he never speaks, he doesn't even rush, and he is faceless - literally. He is a nameless evil, of mass strength, and a person with no moral code. John Carpenter is an inventive director, and his earlier works such as 'Dark Star'and 'Assault on Precinct 13' show he is a good director who can really tell a story. Perhaps he reached his peak with his 1982 remake of 'The Thing', a brilliant example of Carpenters talents as a storyteller.
With 'Halloween', Carpenter did not frown at the low budget, but did the best he could, and as a result was creative. He does create a claustrophobic atmosphere, and emphasises the terror of the characters well. The film is filled with homages - particularly to Hitchcock's 'Psycho' - the murderous 'rape', the name of Pleasence's character, the fact that Jamie Lee Curtis is Janet Leigh's daughter, and a few others that are thrown in here and there. The opening is certainly memorable - a long POV shot that puts us in the murderers shoes and sheds light on his motives. According to Debra Hill, the opening is a reference to Orson Welles' brilliant 'Touch of Evil' - even though 'Halloweens' opening contains a small amount of unnoticable cuts. The tension builds well in the story, as we follow Loomis, the hunter, and the babysitters, the hunted. This parallel between the two - how they are so close yet so far builds to the tension. The last twenty minutes - notably the 'chase' - is so well timed that we are caught up in the movies atmosphere and excitement and do not notice the evident flaws, or choose to accept them - which is debatable.
Carpenter was forced to be creative with the low budget, (as it seems that bigger budgets make him a less competent filmmaker when we address his more recent works - 'The Ghosts of Mars' - although Carpenter reached a balance with 'The Thing'), but he was also restricted. All the behind the scenes stories of having to paint leaves brown and reuse them, sleeping nad living in vans, et cetera, do show that the budget was low, but Carpenters problem is with the script, particularly the last half, and also the most exciting segments. When one actually watches the film, scene by scene - we note the pacing yes, but the story seems to take a backseat to the filmmaking. Loomis somehow sees the Myers car, which was miles off before, the earlier transition from day to night, the way Michael can squeeze into the smallest places unnoticed and unheard (the Doyles window toward the end), and the way the story gives way to convenience. In the scheme of the plot, the fast-paced ending offers a contrast to the melodic, slow-pacing of the story, it has been all build-up and this is the climax. Carpenter could either see no way of ending the story quickly or was pushed for time, but it is here his creativity as a writer is with-held slightly, and all focus is given to the scenes. However, one could criticise Carpenter or applaud him for disguising these flaws, and I prefer the latter, as it does show his skill behind the camera. Carpenter used this same effect for his earlier 1976 movie 'Assault on Precinct 13' - and whilst plausibility is still debatable, the characters are more lucky than finding themselves convenient. Certainly, I myself never noticed these flaws towards the end, and admit fully that I was caught up in the excitement and tension, and there is enough cinematic skill on display here to applaud Carpenter, and hail this film as an achievement.
One of the Carpenters achievements here is his manipulative use of offscreen space and sound. With Haddonfield Carpenter has created a universe where characters can only see where they look, the cannot hear (unless the plot serves them too) - the sound perspective is manipulated well by Carpenter, adding much effect to the film, and the genre as a whole. The scene when Laurie is walking, then looks behind her, then turns and bumps into the Sheriff is a prime example. She did not see him approach, she did not hear him when she turned around, and so he just appeared, all adding to the cinematic effect. It is this manipulation that allows Carpenter to put the characters in danger and allow us to call out 'he's behind you' - other examples would be when Michael approaches Laurie after the 'Judith Myers grave' sequence - we can hear him breathing - she cannot, and when an apparantly dead Michael sits up silently behind Laurie.
This, and other cinematic effects, are reason enough to enjoy the film, and look past its flaws. The film - with debatable debt to 'Black Christmas' (1974) - would have been a failure in the hands of a less skilled filmmaker, but Carpenter and Hill both had the skill to handle the project to the best of their abilities, resulting in a memorable film.


Barton Fink [VHS] [1991]
Barton Fink [VHS] [1991]
VHS
Offered by funkybunnie
Price: 2.19

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre, intruiging dark comedy from the Coen Brothers..., 28 Mar 2003
Barton Fink is a left-wing playwright in the 1940s. After the success of his play, Fink is called to Hollywood where he starts to write a wrestling picture for a production company. Having moved into a dank, dingy hotel Fink finds he has writers block, and spirals deeper and deeper into.... into what? The Coen Brother's 1991 horror-comedy 'Barton Fink' - winner of the Palm d'Or - is a very surreal look at a man who sells his soul to Hollywood and has the Devil to pay (literally!). Whilst suffering writers block, Barton turns to his good-humoured neighbour Charlie Meadows and a novelist who turns out to be the opposite of what he thought...
This is quite possibly the least accessible of the Coen's films - the plot (what there is of it) takes it's time to play out, and takes a turn for the really surreal towards the end when the plot turns into some sort of murder-mystery with what could quite possibly be a supernatural twist... What does happen to Barton? Does he delve deeper into is own psyche? Find something pure about the hollowness of Hollywood? Did he actually wake up from when he passed out on the toilet? Whether the final third of the movie is reality is debatable - I think it is... 'Barton Fink' is many things - a look at Hollywood, a character study, a bizarre horror movie, a fable - it is a multi-layered story. However, one thing it certainly can be catagorised as is an accomplished piece of filmmaking that rewards repeated viewings. This will not be to everyones tastes - the Coen's certainly aren't - but if you do like the Coen's and want to see their most 'out-there' movie, this is it. Artistic, haunting, mesmerising... this is why the Coens are quite rightly called the most creative people in cinema at the moment.


After Hours [VHS] [1985]
After Hours [VHS] [1985]
VHS

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly underrated, 2 Nov 2002
This is one of Martin Scorsese's underrated and underappreciated movies, about Paul, a quiet computer programmer who goes out on a date with a girl he meets in a coffee shop, only for the date to turn into an endless night of lunacy. As he is forced to wander the streets, Paul witnesses the different lives of the residents of New York - a bizarre artist, a neuroic Monkees fan, a couple of thieves, and an irritating ice cream-van owner being a handful of the characters. He is an outsider peering in, much like when he sees a couple making love through a window, and witnesses a murder through another. Paul becomes strangled by the city - everywhere he turns he runs into trouble.
The script is piled up with quirky confrontations, conversations, and bizarre events. The script works well, with all the events interconnecting perfectly. It is also very witty, with numerous lines of dialogue resulting in a smirk, or laughter. Martin Scorsese's direction is brilliant - he sets up the suffocating tension, the comedy, and craziness with perfect stride. This is one of his - or perhaps his - most surreal movies; the first thirty minutes leaving the viewer unsure, yet in perfectly good hands. We're watching a man trapped, a man stuck in a city with a pulse - much like Travis Bickle in 'Taxi Driver'. With it's lesser known status, this will prove to be more of a gem than a classic - as it's a pleasently surprising movie, compelling and highly watchable.


Cape Fear Box Set [1961 and 1991] [DVD] [1962]
Cape Fear Box Set [1961 and 1991] [DVD] [1962]
Dvd ~ Gregory Peck
Offered by cult_stores_ltd
Price: 19.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Two efficient thrillers, 31 Oct 2002
Cape Fear (1962) sees Gregoy Peck's lawyer Sam Bowden and his family taunted by the creepy Max Cady, a sex offending criminal who wants revenge on Bowden, after Bowden posed as a witness against Cady. However, not only does Cady harrass the Bowden family, he does it infuiratingly within the law, not leaving an opening for an arrest. Bowden decides that he has to take the law into his own hands, and stop Cady once and for all. This is a classic movie, and whilst not the greatest thriller of all time, still a gem. This plays in a low key tone, feeling much like a B movie - the stark black and white photography really captures the mood. Robert Mitchum's squinty eyed villain is mystrious, cruel, deadly - the way he taunts Bowden, his straight-up, almost misoginistic view of women, his squinted eyes, all add up. There is a genuine sense of dread in Bowden's perfect family, his happy wife his young, innocent daughter, and he - the squeaky-clean lawyer - all feel the pressure. However, there is speculation within the family, as they are too perfect. Well written, well directed and well acted thriller, pretty low key; this movie takes it's time to build up the tension.
Martin Scorsese's 1991 remake is a completey different interpretation of the story - here Cady is a Southern, hillbilly-like, Bible-spurtin' psycho, who stalks (again within the limits) Sam Bowden's just as corrupt family. Here, Bowden isn't squeaky clean - he was Cady's lawyer, and there had played dirty, he had cheated on his wife, he is completely opposing to Peck's earlier incarnation. This is a much more vibrant and visually striking film, using a visual style which would be taken to a much further extreme by Oliver Stone in his 'Natural Born Killers'. This is Scorsese's attempt at a psychological thriller, and proved to be his most succesful film financially. This feels like a comic book strip, the villain feels indestructable, near immortal (emhasised in the bizarre ending) - the colour scheme is excessive, the violence is gratuitous, yet watchable. However, it is the last fifeen minutes that knock this movie down slightly - it is still fitting, yes, just felt different, cut off. Martin Scorsese is an amazing director - my personal favourite - a man who can't really make bad films, and even his lesser are still easily watachable.
Two good thrillers, of two different era's and moods, yet sill both enjoyable, and highly watchable.


On the Waterfront [DVD] (1954)
On the Waterfront [DVD] (1954)
Dvd ~ Marlon Brando

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is why Brando's considered one of the best, 27 Oct 2002
'On The Waterfront' is a story about Terry Malloy, an ex-prizefighter who now works for gangsters on the docks. However, after being part of a murder, Malloy starts to feel guilty, yet his loyalty prevents his conscience from seeking penance. Through out the movie, Malloy is torn by his morals, particularly when he meets the sister of the murdered man.
Based on true events, the film paints a glum picture of working-class life, by shooting on location and in grimy black and white. Marlon Brando has gained phenomenal recognition for this role, and rightly so, offering one of the greatest performances in movie history - the torn and confused Terry Malloy - and yes, that famous scene - "I coulda been a contender." Rod Steiger is also brilliant as Malloy's brother Charley, who's deep underworld connections resulted in Malloy's present state. This movie deserves all the hype that surrounds it, as it is a genuinely classic, smart movie.
A brilliant morality tale, the "story of the redemption of Terry Malloy" is an astounding depiction of life and conscience, a man facing his personal demons and need to do the right thing. Despite the last two minutes of the movie (which went for a fairly misplaced up-beat feel), this is a must watch, must own, intelligent, thought-provoking classic.


Hard Boiled [DVD]
Hard Boiled [DVD]
Dvd ~ Chow Yun-Fat
Offered by actionrecords
Price: 8.00

4.0 out of 5 stars John Woo's over-the-top action classic, 27 Oct 2002
This review is from: Hard Boiled [DVD] (DVD)
'Hard Boiled' is a an action classic. The plot is pleasently on-the-edge, the characters deep and unsure, the action pleasingly over-the-top. Cop Tequila (Chow Yun Fat) feels the pangs of guilt after unknowingly killing an undercover cop, and losing his own partner in a blood-spurting police raid. He makes it his objective to catch Tony, an assassin working for two opposing gangs, and the killer of his partner. However, as Tequila gets closer to Tony, he uncovers a much more secret tale of betrayal.
John Woo's final film before being shipped off to Hollywood (Tequila even asks his partner whether he has considered emigrating), is a big, loud, violent adventure, playing on all of Woo's themes: Characters struggling with guilt, the philosophy that the gun is an extension of the fist, crazed action, and underlyng religious symbolism (every time he kills a man, Tony makes an origami crane, the equivalent of lighting a candle). The plot is something out of a comic book, two warring gangs, fighting experts, vengeance, etc.
This is quite probably Woo's most violent film, with over 200 deaths on screen, all filmed with the impressive elegance Woo masterfully achieves. Characters dodge numerous bullets, defy death, conduct near-impossible stunts, take bullet woulds like a verbal insult... yet it all works. The hospital scenes, towards the end, are a barrage of mass destruction and violence.
Amid the violence what we have here are the characters - maybe the themes are expressed better in Woo's earlier 'The Killer', yes, but that doesn't take away the joy of the movie. The camera often freezes on a characters face, and we realise, that's what we're watching, not the action, but the characters. A great movie, highly rewatchable and enjoyable, and certainly one of the best of the genre.


Heat [DVD] [1995]
Heat [DVD] [1995]
Dvd ~ Al Pacino
Offered by MusicnMedia
Price: 3.75

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent crime thriller, 14 Oct 2002
This review is from: Heat [DVD] [1995] (DVD)
Brilliant director Michael Mann's 1995 cops and robbers classic is not merely a highlight of the genre, but one of the best. Doing for the crime genre what 'Unfogiven' done for the western genre, Mann pits two brillinatly astute men against each other - one a criminal mastermind, the other a police officer on his trail. De Niro plays the thief, Pacino the cop. Two of the greatest actors pitted against each other - they, like their characters, are the best in their proffesion. This is a brilliant, character driven plot, keeping the viewer permanently on the edge of his or her seat.
Michael Mann had originally written the script during the early 1980s (earlier possibly), and had wanted to get it made into a movie with intentions to produce the movie. After his television work, and movies such as 'Thief' (with themes that will be later used in 'Heat') and 'The Keep', Mann went on to make what may arguably be his masterpiece, 'the 1986 thriller, 'Manhunter'. 'Thief' and 'Manhunter' both have themes adn ideas that will later be present in 'Heat', such as the similarity between the hunter and his prey, and a thief trying to escape his socially outcast state. Luckily, Mann decided to direct 'Heat', and was able to show off his great stylistic style, and brilliant pacing. With a brilliant colour scheme, elegant pacing, exciting action, deep character studies, Mann has sketched a brilliant, thrilling crime film, that races to a stunning, cold ending.


A Fistful Of Dollars [1964] [DVD] [1967]
A Fistful Of Dollars [1964] [DVD] [1967]
Dvd ~ Clint Eastwood
Offered by MusicnMedia
Price: 3.90

1 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Classic and influential western, 12 Oct 2002
Sergio Leone's reworking of Akira Kurosowa's magnificent 'Yojimbo' is a highly influential piece of filmmaking, and certainly a classic on many levels. The plot revolves around a nameless loner who drifts into a town that homes two warring families. After wiping out four members of one side, the quick-handed drifter then wangles a devious plot to work for both families, getting twice as much money, but as a result twice as much danger.
Leone, a great director, films with style and a quick pace. The violence is fast, furious, and intense - highly stylised, with not as much blood as you first think, but still a fair amount present. Clint Eastwood gives an iconic performance, ever-present, even when not on camera. His squinted eyes, poncho, cigar, all add up to a cruel, unexplained man that's just in it for the money. Leone chose wisely in Eastwood, plucking him ripe from TV shows (but only after Charles Bronson turned the role down). On reflection, it would be impossible to see anyone else in the role, which is possbly Eastwood's best performance (although I'd argue the toss when it comes to 'Dirty Harry' and 'Unforgiven').
The movie is a bit shakey now, but only just, as it does hold up well. Leone's stylish, well-planned camera angles work wonders, making the movie even more effective. This is the birth of the 'spagetthi western', much immitated, but it would never be eclipsed until Leone's own masterpiece, 'Once Upon A Time In The West'. This is a great movie, and part of an excellent trilogy But on comparison with the follow ups ('For A Few Dollars More', and 'The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly'), this is the lesser of the three. But still a classic.


Raging Bull: My Story
Raging Bull: My Story
by La Motta
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and entertaining read, 10 Oct 2002
This review is from: Raging Bull: My Story (Paperback)
Jake La Motta (along with Joseph Carter) writes his autobiography, detailing his violent life, from his childood of gambling, fighting, stealing, and murder, to his life in the ring, his struggle to become champ, his run-ins with the mafia, and to his eventual retirement, where he faces his inner demons.
What is so surprising about the novel is how it is written.... the atttention to detail, the use of language and words. This does not feel like an auobiography written by a punch-drunk boxer, but a story told with great skill and warmth. There is a fond rememberance of his childhood, but La Motta doesn't disguise the fact he was an evil, violent person, and in some cases, yes, he does try to explai why he did such actions, but I got the feeling he has just accepted what he had done was bad. Of course, La Motta's story has been transformed to the big screen by such talents as Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro (quite possibly their best fim), but their adaptation, if truth be told, is not an accurate loo at La Motta's life. They have only used La Motta's autobiography to tell a tale - and admittedly a great one. Events have been altered, some made up, some non-existent, but it's all for purpose. Fans of boxing and fans of the movie should definately read this, if only to make comparison's to Scorsese's masterpiece. Also, for an interesting read, pick up 'Raging Bull II: Continuing the story of Jake La Motta', an interesting read that carries on where the original left off, and goes into the making of the movie from La Motta's point of view.Either way, a fabulous read, often shocking, violent, and cruel, but also very funny, humerous in many parts.


The Two Jakes [DVD] [1991]
The Two Jakes [DVD] [1991]
Dvd ~ Jack Nicholson

37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Underrated and underappreciated follow-up, 9 Oct 2002
This review is from: The Two Jakes [DVD] [1991] (DVD)
Jack Nicholson stars in this sequel to Roman Polanksi's 1974 classic 'Chinatown'. Unlike most sequels, this not only carries on the plot, but develops the lives of the characters. Initially, writer Robert Towne wrote 'Chinatown' and 'The Two Jakes' as part of a trilogy, however, after the ending of 'Chinatown (originally 'happy' in the script), Towne seemed to turn away from the movie. In the 1980s Nicholson and Towne teamed up to make this sequel, but Towne abandoned the projected in 1985, and Nicholson finished it off himself.
It's L.A. again, but this time after the war. J.J. Gittes is older, fatter, but still as intelligent. The past haunts him, and he passes his days on at a time. He still works on adulterous marriage cases, which leads him to meet Jake (played by the magnificent Harvey Keitel) a salesman who knows his wife is having an affair and itends to catch her in the act and get a recording. However, the night doesn't go as planned, and shots are fired. Gittes now has to unravel a mystery that he's in the middle of, with not only his career on the line, but his life.
The movie does have a complex plot, much like the original, and the story does call back on the previous film for numerous reasons. Jack Nicholson directed this film with great style, and the cinematography gleams with class and oozes respectability. The movie does look beautiful, capturing the landscape and mood perfectly. What does stand out in this movie is the comedy. It isn't a full-blown comedy, but it is laced with dark humour, which works well.
A third movie would be warmly welcomed, but whether that will happen, I fear, is doubtfull. To see the story of J.J. Gittes reignited would be wonderfull, because 'The Two Jakes' was one of the better detective films. The plot is given to you in pieces, and like all good detective thrillers keeps you on your toes. This does refer back to it's predecessor, and does rely on it, and surely isn't as good as it, but it's a great movie, which offers top performances and comes to a satisfying conclusion. However, despite it's reliance on 'Chinatown', it is a different movie. It's a noir movie, yes, but one of later years, of an old detective that probably just wants to put his feet up and a nap.
This movie is often criticised, and in many circles hated. However, I cannot understand why, as this is a very honest and enjoyable movie. It was panned on its release, and fans of the original still disown it. I found it to be a great continuation of the original, and definately a must watch for any fans of the original.


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