This is a blog which primarily gives some attention to movies that I find were overlooked (for whatever reason) or are simply underrated. I also comment on other, mainly movie-related issues as well. I welcome any suggestions for films to be added to this distinguished list.

One word of warning: The films listed below contain spoilers, so caution during reading is required.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Sleeping Soul (2012)

"Things are starting to get better, starting to look up. Except for the nightmares."
-Grace James.

One of the nice things about this blog is that it gives me the chance to meet some interesting people. One such person has been Shawn Burkett, a writer and director whom I left my card with at the Horror Hound Convention in Indianapolis last November. He asked me to review two of his films, one of which is this one.
This was a spooky film which reminded me of The Others (2001) and also had elements of Roman Polanski’s movie Repulsion (1965). Ayse Howard did a great job as Grace, a woman who is still coping with the loss of her fiance after a year and has basically confined herself to her apartment.
Perhaps the moment which really made me uneasy was when the webcam was on, attempting to capture something suspicious while Grace was sleeping during the night, and the kitchen was empty (at least for a little while) because just seeing nothing makes the viewer nervous that something is going to happen.
The ending certainly got a ‘WTF?’ reaction from me, but I’d say that it was appropriate for this story.
Shawn's music for this film was also nice.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

More Underrated Movie Lines

Here now is another entry with movie lines from well-known films which I don't hear quoted as often as I think they should be.

1. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935):
Along with The Godfather Part II (1974) and Aliens (1986), this is one sequel which I agree with the consensus as being arguably better than its predecessor. Interestingly, I don't hear as many lines being quoted from this film as I do from Frankenstein (1931). One such line is when Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger) shows Frankenstein (Colin Clive) his homunculi (miniature people). Upon introducing the one which resembles a devil, Pretorius asks:
"He bears a strong resemblance to me, don't you think? Or do I flatter myself?"
I must also point out how the character does not freak out when he finally encounters the Monster (Boris Karloff). Naturally, we know that it is due to his plans to create a mate for him, but the fact that, due perhaps to his own unusual persona, Pretorius instantly treats the Monster with more respect than other people makes his demise at the film's end somewhat sad.

2. Goldfinger (1964):
Yes, Skyfall (2012) was entertaining, but this film, the third James Bond movie, remains the high-water mark of the Bond series, both artistically and culturally.
The most famous line is Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) telling Bond (Sean Connery) he expects him to die as 007 is pinned down by an approaching laser beam and asks Goldfinger if he expects him to talk.
But Bond talks him out of killing him and is eventually taken to Goldfinger's horse ranch in Kentucky. Upon arriving, Goldfinger greets him and refers to a passing horse asking Bond:
"Lovely animal, isn't she?"
To which Bond replies:
"Certainly better bred than the owner."
Needless to say, Sir Sean's ability to deliver nice lines with such aplomb was something both Daniel Craig's and Timothy Dalton's Bonds could have really used.

3. Star Wars (1977):
Like The Princess Bride, this movie has many lines which had been ingrained into pop culture. So, like the aforementioned Rob Reiner film, maybe it was inevitable that one line got lost in the shuffle.
For me, that line comes after our heroes escape the Death Star and fight off some TIE Fighters. Han Solo (Harrison Ford) then tells Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher):
"Not a bad bit of rescuing, huh? You know, sometimes I amaze even myself."
The Princess replies with:
"That doesn't sound too hard."
I'd say that many subsequent movie romances end up falling flat on their face because nice, unforced dialogue such as this has become more the exception than the norm.

4. Halloween II (1981):
No, this film does not hold a candle to Halloween (1978), but as one of my colleagues noted in her review of the film, it does deserve some credit for its nice camerawork and, perhaps even more importantly, reuniting almost all of the same people who worked on the first film (on both sides of the camera).
While the film should be faulted for both its Star Wars-esque revelation of the relationship between Michael Myers and Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and for giving us the darkest and most understaffed hospital in movie history, it is still entertaining thanks mainly to Donald Pleasance who, in the midst of this nonsense, gives us a wonderful reprisal of Dr. Sam Loomis, who relentlessly hunts Michael down in order to stop his reign of terror.
The film begins where its predecessor ends when Loomis saves Laurie's life by shooting Michael off the balcony of the two-story house where she was babysitting. When Loomis realizes Michael's body is gone, he goes outside to investigate. A neighbor then comes out asking what the commotion is about. When Loomis tells him to call the police, the neighbor says he's been trick-or-treated to death already. To which Loomis replies:
"You don't know what death is!"
It's a pity a stronger film wasn't built around this great line.

5. Total Recall (1990):
This film is unique in Arnold Schwarzenegger's filmography for me because, while he still has action moments, he displays more vulnerability than he had previously. The Philip K. Dick short story the film is adapted from (titled "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale") certainly doesn't have a protagonist resembling Arnold. But the actor brought the necessary pathos required for the role of a man who is searching for his own identity. Hence, this film, while it certainly has action, proved to me that Arnold could be more than just a one-liner action star.
While Arnold's line "Consider that a divorce" became famous, there is a line from the villainous Vilos Cohaagen (Ronny Cox) when he confronts Quaid (Schwarzenegger) at the film's climax which I found hilarious.
"In 30 seconds, you'll be dead, and I'll blow this place up and be home in time for corn flakes!"
Maybe it's the way Cox delivers the line, but I just didn't expect the guy who played Dick Jones in Robocop (1987) to say a line that would crack me up.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Breakdown (1997)

"You better pray she's still alive!"
-Jeff Taylor

This past Christmas was more hectic for me than usual because my wife and I were also moving into a new place. As I'm sure everyone who has changed residence can say, moving can be quite hectic. But, when it's done, most of us have the luxury of reflecting that it was just a matter of getting things done, one at a time.

In contrast, the couple in the film Breakdown have to go through something a lot more nerve-wracking than moving.

Jeff and Amy Taylor (Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan) are traveling from Boston to San Diego in their Jeep Grand Cherokee when the vehicle breaks down in the middle of the desert.

Red Barr (J.T. Walsh), a trucker, stops by and offers assistance. He agrees to take Amy to a nearby diner to call a tow truck while Jeff elects to stay behind and watch the car.

While he's waiting, Jeff realizes that the wires in the car were deliberately tampered with. He promptly reconnects them and heads to the diner, only to find out that no one there has seen Amy.

Jeff manages to track down Red, who claims that he never laid eyes on Jeff. Even the police don't prove much help when they search Red's truck and find no signs of Amy.

But a mechanic named Billy (Jack Noseworthy) informs Jeff that he saw a lady matching Amy's description being taken into another truck at another location. Shortly after arriving there, Jeff is ambushed by Red, Billy, and trucker Earl (M.C. Gainey), whom Jeff had an argument with when he and Amy made an earlier stop at a gas station.

They give Jeff the ultimatum of giving them the thousands of dollars they think he has in his bank account or, as Earl puts it, "well, you can just keep your fucking money, Jeff, and I'll keep your wife. And I'll mail you pieces of her from time to time."

The remainder of the film has Jeff intensely attempting to outmaneuver the trio before finally getting the upperhand and retrieving Amy, which, in turn, leads to the climatic showdown with Red.

I've always felt that Russell was one of our most underrated actors, and this film reinforces that notion. He's a perfect, likeable everyman here, and Quinlan matches him, which makes it very easy to root for this couple.

The late, great character actor Walsh is also terrific as a seemingly Good Samaritan who turns out to be Jeff and Amy's worst nightmare.

The movie, which has echoes of Duel (1971) and a dash of Deliverance (1972), perfectly captures a scenario we all hope and pray we never have to experience.

Jonathan Mostow, the movie's director and co-writer, would go on to make U-571 (2000) and (although I didn't like it much) Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003).