Movie Review: CRAWL

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

CrawlMoviePoster.jpg

In 2006, High Tension director Alexandre Aja released the remake of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes. It was easily one of the better post The Ring/Platinum Dunes remakes that was actually better than the original: replacing the exploitation pure original with a complete commentary on American culture. Though he’s largely been known for less than interesting films after with the remake of Mirrors and the pretty bad Piranha 3D (Horns being the only film of high quality since), he returns in full swing with a Sam Raimi produced original horror: the alligator creature feature Crawl.

I had a lot of fun with this movie, it feels like a culmination in Raimi taking elements from his Evil Dead remake, Don’t Breathe and applying them to a premise that feels designs to replicate 2016’s The Shallows. The result not being a masterpiece or beating the all time crocodilian horror classic Rogue, but a worthy entry into the sub-genre alongside Alligator, Lake Placid and Primeval.

One point of curiosity was how there were no reviews out before I saw it. Generally critics are allowed to see and release film reviews a week or few days early. But when a studio doesn’t: it means either they’re worried about negative press and won’t allow early screenings (bad press in of itself) or don’t care. Luckily it’s the latter as Crawl is a lean, mean, alligator fueled machine.

The premise has swimmer Haley (Kaya Scodelario from Moon, Clash of the Titans of Pirates of the Caribbean 5) attempting to recuse her father Dave (Barry Pepper from Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile and 25th Hour) from a hurricane in Florida (this was filmed in Bulgaria). The plot is contained, simple and has the usual monster/creature film ideal of the danger allowing characters to overcome their demons and grow. It’s very solid stuff with Aja’s direction feeling very much akin to how Fede Alvarez handled Don’t Breathe-elevating through near Hitchcockian film techniques. The execution and tension of the horror works well with giving the audience sometimes more or less information than the characters for perfect affect. The cinematography by Maxime Alexandre is top notch: bringing back all their skills from High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes, Maniac, Annabelle Creation and Shazam! The score is also really good at amping up the tension, feeling very akin to Rogue too. The production team also did a great job with the main house and practical effects making me believe the environment is real and even the mostly CGI alligators work well.

Now to the stars of the film: the gators. While Pepper and Scodelario do great work as the leads with emotional beats, the animals are why I came to see. Now I’m aware of the main issue with many killer animal films is that they’ve this underlying concept that “man must kill beast to grow”, which I’ve always disliked even though I love the films. Truth be told, I’ve preferred most films being about the animals killing people than the other way around. I know in reality sharks and crocodilians don’t deserve to die and aren’t ravenous human munchers (though the do reason the alligator hostility decently in this film). I love sharks and crocodilians and are aware Alligators are amongst the most passive of the genus. So yes, I enjoy the film with them as the ravenous monsters-doesn’t mean I want them to die in real life.

That being said, the scares, kills, gore and depiction of the animals are amazing. The film makes them CGI, but act as realistically as possible: slow and clumsy on land, agile ambush predators in the water. The kills and sequences around them are the pure brutal money shots that show why this film is rated high than most in its genre would be. Only a few instances like a gator not bursting out of the water irked me, seeing as how that’s a crocodilian’s primary attack method. There was only ever one other bothersome moment that’s a minor plot hole. This films pretty much pays off every element it introduces…but one magically disappears and an older one is used in its place instead. Granted, even if it was there-the following sequence would’ve rendered it pointless too. It’s just the only major nitpick.

I say if you’re a horror/monster fan aching for something good after stuff like Annabelle comes home, or you’ve been waiting years for another good killer crocodilian film-just go see this.

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DISNEY REMAKES: HOW I’D MAKE THEM AND WITH WHO

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

So Disney’s remake of Aladdin was successful at over 800 Million. With The Lion King, a Maleficent sequel, Mulan, 100 Dalmatians and The Little Mermaid gearing up-I thought I’d take a look at other Disney animations not fully slated to be remade and how I’d make them.

1. THE BLACK CAULDRON
The Black Cauldron poster.jpg
A film that almost killed Disney back in the day due to an executive shift, over budget production and it not being Disney’s typical output-I doubt Disney will remake it. But I think it could make a good remake in live action and with modern visual effects.

Primary notes of change: (Please note I’ve no idea of how the books work)
-Explore more of the kingdom and world during the story (Even the way King Arthur: Legend of the Sword did this would be handy)
-Give the Horned King more motivation, character and origin
-Lose a few subplots like the fairies.
-Main change however would be for the lead character to be Princess Eilonwy.

Reason being is that Taran is a really boring protagonist, Eilonwy feels like she has more interesting things going on as a Princess of another kingdom and would give us a different perspective allowing for my agency on here part. I’d also make it a darker film consistently and have it tonally similar to the Pirates of the Caribbean films or even King Arthur Legend of the Sword.

Cast:
Princess Eilonwy: Sofia Boutella
The Horned King: Andy Serkis
Taran: Louis Ashbourne Serkis
Gurgi: John Mulaney
Creeper: Kevin Hart
Fflewddur: Sting
3 Witches: Helen Mirren, Viola Davis, Melissa McCarthy

Auteur/Aesthetic input: those dragons are getting a lot my mileage and importance, most monster stuff and some epic army battles.

 

2. ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE
The expedition crew stand together as a mysterious woman is floating in the background, surrounded by stone effigies and emitting brilliant white beams of light from a crystal necklace.
This cult favorite from the directors of Beauty and the Beast and Hunchback of Notre Dame was also a box office failure, but one of my personal favourites of Disney as the adventure story it is. It also suits live action very well, easily fitting alongside franchises like Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean

Primary changes:
-More background into the Atlantean past, their wars and technology
-Change the time period for a Cold War backdrop
-Get to Atlantis a bit faster and have the final climax remain there
-Main change is having the themes of war, technology and history repeating itself in reflecting the Atlantean’s war and the Cold War.

Reason for the theme/time change is because it gives the Atlanteans hiding their technology more weight, the Cold War element would mean there can be a successful double cross (especially if you, like me thought Helga would make a great Russian double agent).

Cast:
Milo: Tom Holland
Kida: Letita Wright
Rourke: Ron Perlman
Whitmore: Patrick Stewart
Mole: Patton Oswalt
Helga: Elizabeth Olsen
Vinny: Ethan Hawke
Audrey: Dafne Keen
Sweet: Idris Elba
King of Atlantis: James Earl Jones
Cookie: Rain Wilson
Packard: Judi Dench

Auteur/Aesthetic input: The Leviathan fight will be a “T-Rex Paddock Attack” level of set piece with suspense and action-plus changing the Leviathan to a giant robot shark for fun. The giants at the end of the film would be more than shields, but I’m still keeping every gorgeous and mood piece moment intact.  

 

3. TREASURE PLANET
Treasure Planet poster.jpg
One of Disney’s biggest box office flops from the men behind The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, Princess and the Frog and Moana they’ve been planning since before The Little Mermaid. Treasure Planet is a fan favourite with a strong post 9/11 and Iraq War theme about people growing up in a world where parents might’ve stopped being around, along with being a fun and inventive sci-fi re-imagining of the classic novel.

Changes:
-More action scenes/intensity to the scenes.
-Jim’s father would’ve died going to fight Pirates to fit the war takes parents theme and Jim have more of a grudge of Pirates to overcome.
-BEN The robot is completely removed, more presence of Captain Flint
-While I’m not sure about this change, I’ve thought what if Jim was genderbent? Just because the theme is not gender based and universal

Cast:
Jim: Wyatt Russel (If genderbent as Jane: Matilda Lutz)
Silver: Michael Sheen
Dr Doppler: David Tennant
Cpt. Amelia: Tilda Swinton
Sarah (Jim’s Mother): Sally Field
Mr Arrow: Dave Bautista
Scroop: Lance Henriksen
Cpt. Flint: Michael Shannon

Auteur/Aesthetic input: I wont’ make any changes to the established rules, environment. I will however 100% give into the idea of space/sea monsters and have the Treasure Planet in question be like The Mysterious island with dangerous beasts. Plus I want more ship on ship battles.

 

4. HERCULES
Hercules (1997 film) poster.jpg
While not an absolute bomb, Hercules was mostly a favourite among people who grew up with it. Mostly I think Lindsay Ellis’s video on it explains the main problem with its structural “want vs give” dynamic.

Changes:
-Hades is aware of Hercules from the start and doesn’t view him as a concern in the training montage, until Hercules easily beats his monsters-eventually using Megara as the successful tool in his belt.
-Hercules develops into a kind of jerk in the training montage thanks to Phil (because Phil’s idolisation of heroes and glory is toxic and he has to learn that) with Hercules softening around Megara. Fully completing the intended arc of learning what it means to be a true hero by the end.
-The final climax with the Titans is way more elaborate and longer.

Cast:
-Hercules: Chris Pratt
-Megara: Selma Hayek
-Hades: Armie Hammer
-Phil: Peter Dinklage
-Zeus: Christoph Waltz
-Hera: CCH Pounder
-Pain: Nicolas Cage
-Panic: Tom Kenny

Auteur/Aesthetic input: By this point anyone who knows me or even from reading this can tell I love my monsters. So the Hydra scene and Titans will get more love and attention. I might even have The Gods turn into kaiju themselves for some Evangelion style action.

 

5. THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME
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One of the moodiest, most mature of Disney animated films-this is a classic to me. Remaking this would be very difficult.

Changes:
-Only one real change on my mind in making the ending have the tragic weight of the original novel. Only Phoebus would be alive to honor the memory of his best friend Quasimodo and his love Esmerelda in the message of justice and to not judge a book by its cover.

Cast:
Quasimodo: Ben Whishaw 
Esmerelda: Mila Kunis 
Frollo: Michael Keaton 
Phoebus: Chris Evans 
Clopin: Oscar Isaac 
3 Gargoyles: John C Reily, Karl Urban, Queen Latifah 

Auteur/Aesthetic input: The original’s style I want to keep mostly intact (Especially Hellfire) but primarily draw more hellish imagery, gothic architecture, add some more of the French anti-inclusive background like borders and borrow heavily from classic cinema movements like French New Wave and Giallo films.

Movie Review: ALADDIN 2019 “Does Less with More”

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Aladdin (Official 2019 Film Poster).png

It’s fine…but only fine.

DISNEY’S REMAKE TREND
Disney’s current remake trend so far has largely just been “Hey, you liked this movie we made that you saw as a child-pay us to experience it again or have fond memories of it”. The trend has lead to mostly average watches like The Jungle Book and Cinderella, and some outright bad films like Beauty and the Beast, Alice in Wonderland and Dumbo. I will say the best of the remakes is easily Maleficent (of which we’re getting a sequel this year) because it did something so largely different and original compared to the film it remakes. My main issue with the remakes is that they either try to “fix” perfectly good movies like Beauty and the Beast or re-tell a fairly interesting story as a more basic set-up like Pete’s Dragon, as opposed to finding entirely new ideas for them (again, except Maleficent).

ALADDIN AS A WHOLE NEW THING
Aladdin ends up being one of the average watches, a movie that sometimes hits a few solid notes of the original and a few of its own-but largely feels somewhat forgettable, even as I write this 90 minutes having seen it. It pretty much feels like a 2 hour long “Remember the original you love so much?” advertisement. Or maybe a better analogy would be a miniature Will Smith Genie dancing on top of you DVD/Blu-Ray of Aladdin and getting his little footprints on the cover. Yeah, there’s a little bit more new and it feels like it’s lightly ruining a good film, but you just love the original more.

PERFORMANCES
Speaking of Will Smith, he was largely getting the most flack for replacing the iconic and late Robin Williams as the Genie and his blue CGI effect not being the most convincing. I’ll say the same thing I said about Alita’s eyes-it stops being a problem when you get into it. His performance is largely his own and different from the 1992 version, playing more as a life coach than the jolly giant of the original. He’s one of the better parts of the film, even if half of his highly animated movements don’t work and feel like poor imitations of the original’s (though some new visual gags do work). Aladdin in the film is…well he’s kind of the poster boy for the film in that he’s fine. Not terrible, not great-does really well in the stretch around A Whole New World…but does less with more opportunity. Some of the supporting players are fine: Hakim the main guard needed more screen time and Jasmine’s handmaiden Dalia is hilarious: a great addition. But Naomi Scott as Jasmine is the MVP on the acting side and the one true improvement in the film. Jasmine was my first childhood animated crush and she’s great in the original, but Naomi Scott’s version is more empowering (with a really great original song of her own) and holds just as many qualities I treasured in the original. I seriously hope Naomi gets bigger and better roles: Pakistani Ms Marvel, Poison Ivy or even a female James Bond would be great roles for her. But the weakest performance in the film is Jafar, from trailer one…he looked without menace or intimidation-which is 100% what happens in the film. On the script, Jafar is interesting as he’s an ex-thief like Aladdin and wants to make a militarised border state (I’ll get back to that)…but he’s one of the weakest looking villains in recent memory. I almost wish Benedict Cumberbatch or Tom Hiddleston had the role (and you could just making another parallel with the character) as the original Jafar was truly menacing. Abu and Iago have less screen time and personality (though it’s not all gone) and Carpet has a bit more too him.

QUICK ALLEGORICAL ASIDE
And before I go further, Jafar and Jasmine have a rather blatant Trump V.S Hillary allegory going…although there’s nothing clever done or even said with it. It just kind of says “Trump’s a prick…Hillary should’ve won”…and that’s all. Personally I now prefer the idea of Jafar as a Westerner who loves Agrabah and would like to use an old feud to rule it…because then it’s a Hitler allegory and that’s just as blatant-but with a bit more to say.

PACING
The most notable element of this film (which pretty much follows the original film with tiny variations) is the pacing differences. In the first 5 minutes of 1992’s Aladdin, we’ve had our intro and been introduced to Jafar and the Cave of Wonders (which isn’t as fascinating as the original) and Aladdin is still a minute away from introduction. In this film, Aladdin and Jasmine have met by the 5 minute mark (in the original-it took 17 minutes). Now you might think this is better pacing…but it’s not. 1992 Aladdin is 90 minutes, this one is 2 hours. This is because despite rushing various parts…they drag some others on top of their additions. It also takes away mood and atmosphere from some scenes (making some entire sequences and rather important plot points in the original, screenwriting coincidences in this version). I’m not saying the film needed to be shorter, but do more with its runtime than pad out to the next homage.

LESS WITH MORE
Unfortunately this is mostly as “Same as before, just not as good and more” case. Jafar only has one truly “ooo I hate that guy moment” (that contradicts his character and just feels like trying to copy the original), scenes of wonder and tension are rendered less so thanks to staging and action scenes not being as fluid and the scope/scale of the original’s is lost in almost every sense (With most of the sets and costumes never really making you think this is real).  Plus Genie’s rules get a bit of the Beauty and the Beast remake treatment in that they try to make it rather strict…but it just gets in the way of the drama and tension. And yes it copies the “Be yourself” message of the original…but it comes off a little bit weaker.

ALTERNATE PERSPECTIVE
I feel like Disney should’ve just made this film ENTIRELY about Jasmine. She’s the best character, the best acted, the one upgraded from the original-why not have her at the beginning sneaking around and seeing Jafar’s plans, meeting Aladdin from her perspective and giving her the main driving force. Hell, I’d make it so she ends up getting the Genie (Whom I might’ve cast a woman for in this role and have a Shantae homage). I just think it might’ve been better and allowed another female director (Preferably Kathryn Bigelow of The Hurt Locker or Lexi Alexander of Punisher Warzone) to take this project because Guy Ritchie doesn’t seem to be here.

IS GUY RITCHIE HERE?
Oh yeah…it’s a Guy Ritchie film…and the least stylistic of his works. I know people have somewhat gotten annoyed of his style in how he shoots/edits/structures a film, but there’s an energy in that that makes somewhat messy films like Revolver or Man from Uncle somewhat entertaining and like he’s trying. Here, his energy that would make the One Jump Ahead song really great is rendered rather stunted. Maybe it’s because Disney told him to calm down, or some CGI heavy scenes made him have to be restrained, maybe he wasn’t the best choice for a musical, or maybe he just wanted to try this. About the most interesting his filmmaking gets it a fairly elaborate edited one shot early in the film and about two scenes where he does his cut away from the main thing schtick. It honestly makes his voice rather quiet and relying more on his effects team as this is cinematographer Alan Stewart’s first major film in this position and he feels a little lagging in energy, but does create some great visuals in conjunction with the effects team and production design departments. Honestly, I know this will sound weird as I did a giant dissection on why it didn’t completely work…but I prefer Ritchie’s King Arthur film as it was a big bloated mess trying lots of new things. Hell, Aladdin might’ve been better if Ritchie was able to make it his usual crime comedy spin.

WHY NOT BORROW FROM THE STAGE SHOW? OR THE ORIGINAL TALE?
Most of this Aladdin feels like a stage show…which makes sense as Aladdin has been a popular one for years. I saw one in Brisbane recently and it was pretty good. Two changes I liked for the stage was establishing Jafar got his powers and information from a Snake God (awesome) and Aladdin had a street gang he was friends with instead of Abu (which added to the “Be Yourself” theme and allowed for multiple handmaidens to flirt with). Honestly, I don’t know WHY they didn’t copy this stuff as it adds more cool stuff, lets Guy Ritchie do his thing more and I KNOW they borrow the Genie’s human form and clothing from the show-so it’s silly to not have borrowed more. Hell, Disney could’ve tapped into the original Aladdin’s Chinese connection (As it took place in the Middle East and China) and have Aladdin played by a Chinese actor and get Disney more clout with the Chinese market they’re so keen to please. Instead the only new influence appears to be Bollywood…which doesn’t make that much sense as Aladdin is an Arabian/Chinese tale…not Indian, the cultures might be somewhat regionally close…but it’d be like saying Hinduism and Islam are similar faiths or Mayan and Aztec culture is the same. It either feels like Disney might try to get into the Indian market with this or Western filmmakers are making mistakes again. I’m not of Indian or Arabian descent (Though I do have Chinese ancestry if you can believe) so it’s not my place to say if it’s appropriative, but I wouldn’t argue if that was the case.

I HAD FUN
I wasn’t angry in this movie like I was with Beauty and the Beast, or bored like Pete’s Dragon. It’s about the same as The Jungle Book in that I enjoyed myself. Smith and Scott were great actors, the songs were fun (especially Jasmine’s new one), A Whole New World was the best part and just as magical as the original, Dalia (played by Nasim Pedrad) got the biggest laughs from me, a new dance sequence was a lot of fun, the effects were mostly great, the stunt and dance choreography/performers were excellent, the music (especially orchestral side) was great in even the adaptations and I just had fun with it. I’d recommend seeing it with someone who either really wants to see it, or who you know will love it. It’s fun, but when we talk about Aladdin-everyone will still think of the original and this will be less known than the 3rd animated film.

DISNEY’S BRAND GENIUS
I actually think Disney doesn’t care if you love or hate this film…because you’re still going to love Disney. If you love this film…then you’ll buy the soundtrack, the merch and see Disney’s next remakes while buying and watching the original Aladdin films. If you hated it…you’ll still watch and buy the originals if you haven’t seen them in a while, try to compare the trailer to the film and just talk about how great the original is. Disney wins, no matter what…unless everyone doesn’t go to see this film. And that’s not happened, it’s a big budget Disney film based on one of their most popular films with a popular actor and is coming out after people already saw/didn’t see Detective Pikachu and mature films like John Wick 3 and Brightburn are out. It’s probably the nostalgia trip and family audiences who’ll see this…I’m just hoping Godzilla: King of the Monsters will do well at the end of the month.

 

A CONTEMPLATIVE RETROSPECT ON 3 OF TYRONE BRUINSMA’S RECENT WORKS

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

So I kind of felt like getting a bunch of stuff out of my system of late regarding my work. For 3 years I’ve felt like I’ve not produced enough content, mostly failing to get stuff made and writing stuff I’ve not publish yet. But in recent months thanks to wonderful people, I feel like I’ll get my first mini-renaissance and I wanted to discuss the last truly good 3 things I published in hope I’ll be making more work soon.

And no these aren’t reviews, they’re just me giving introspection to my own work, but please check them out.

1. ROSE THE MYSTERIOUS ART PROFESSOR [Audio Drama – Writer]

This is by far the most popular/most viewed piece of media I’ve created, even though I’ll acknowledge that’s entirely off the back of its creator/voice actress Willow Wisteria who allowed me to write this for her (Thank you Willow). At time of writing, the video currently has over 120K views (which makes me happy) and reading all the comments about what I did script wise makes me happy. See, I liked doing this audio drama (or ASMR video) because I got to express a rather strange dream I had in tangible terms, give into a bit of populace wish fulfilment…and pull a horror twist because I’m not above The Twilight Zone. I had fun writing it, I was ecstatic that its been doing well, largely has a positive reception and Willow enjoyed making it herself. It’s probably the most recent production I’m most proud of and I owe it entirely to Willow for perfectly voicing the character. It’s kind of fun to use limited features in storytelling that still executes your strengths.

Please follow and support Willow
YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9M83ptOIL8vbto73sF7CMQ
TWITTER: @Willow_Wisteria

2. JEREMY NEALE – VIDEO [Music Video – Cinematographer]

This was a music video directed by the ever talented filmmaker Josiah McGarvie while I was in film school as our major assessment piece. Now pretty much full credits goes to Josiah, musician Jeremy Neale and the rest of the production team. Not gonna lie…I felt kind of perfunctory on this production as Josiah had everything planned out with Neale in production and post. The rest of the production crew handled props and needed elements; my main job was to make sure the camera was correct, the green screen was lit properly (because I’d shot previously on one and made mistakes so I could get it right for this one) and back up Josiah on his decisions. About the most I remember focusing on was the framing of the feet and agreeing with Josiah’s 4K output decision. I’m very happy with the project and I enjoyed working on it (although I wish I did more) and I think it’s a fun retro music video that we made fun with modern tech. Mostly this is probably the best quality product with my name attached in recent years, and the one where working under a good director taught me a lot. Thank you Josiah and Jeremy.

3. THE HERO [Short Animation – Writer]

Here’s another case of “This works so well because of someone else”, not because I’m self-deprecating…but because it’s true. Projects work because better people than me help make it (that’s how good work is done). Alien is great because it’s screenplay was visualised by Ridley Scott and H.R Geiger immensely well. In film, you hire people who know better than you-so they can do a better job in an area you aren’t best with (hence why David Fincher has never needed to write his own films outside of Alien 3). But all credit must be given to Dak n Jaxter the animator of this short  (which I originally pitched as a scene for a colleagues’ project that never went though) that seems a bit similar to that new Brightburn movie. I helped visualise this small idea in the context of a violent hero action beat from a somewhat found footage perspective, but Dak had the heavy effort of creating it all and did it superbly. You should look him up as my favourites of his are animations of the Let’s Drown Out webseries. Thank you Dak!

I’m still genuinely proud of these (as opposed to some of even earlier work that I had more input over-maybe that’s why) and I give gratitude to the people I worked with for teaching me, improving my work and giving me the drive to continue. With my upcoming slate in good hands, I feel confident my career can grow and I’m blessed to have people with me and supporting me.

Would love to hear your thoughts and I hope you enjoyed the works in question.

 

 

 

TOP 10 BEST FILMS OF 1980

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Honorable Mentions:
-Airplane!
-Alligator
-Any Which Way You Can
-Caddyshack
-Cannibal Holocaust
-The Changeling
-Flash Gordon
-The Fog
-Friday the 13th
-Humanoids from the Deep
-Inferno
-Private Benjamin
-Ordinary People
-Superman 2/Superman 2: The Richard Donner Cut

10. MANIAC
Maniac (1980).jpg
Trying to pick the number 10 horror spot on this list came down to a toss between Friday the 13th, Cannibal Holocaust and this. Do I give it to the memorable enough slasher turned horror franchise, thematically rich but rather nasty for no reason controversial masterpiece…or the psychologically nuanced one that actually holds up quite nicely. Maniac is the brain child of director William Lustig (Maniac Cop, Uncle Sam) and writer/actor Joe Spinell (The Godfather, Rocky, Taxi Driver) who plays the Maniac. The story follows the fairly complex deranged mind of a serial killer in New York in a story that never fully makes him sympathetic, but it does humanise him in a way this little exploitation slasher didn’t have to.  The closest comparison is if Leatherface and Ralph Fiennes’s Francis from Red Dragon (The original book being released a year after this film) were trying to make it work in New York. The film works as a trashy slasher, a tense horror film (with the bathroom scene the stand out), a psychological character piece with Spinell really giving it his all and Lustig shooting the hell out of it. The film was fairly controversial and polarising at the time, though today I think it would be held in higher regards as it had the cult notoriety for a very impressive 2013 remake with Elijah Wood. Unfortunately Spinell died in 1989 tragically and he really is amazing as the set piece horror show here. I highly recommend this wonderful little film.

9. RAGING BULL
Raging Bull poster.jpg
Yeah yeah cinephiles this would be higher in your book-but I’m not a parrot who will just spit out copy pasted lists. Raging Bull is great, it’s a classic-I just don’t have the same level of commitment I do for this film as I do for other films (especially Scorsese ones). Speaking of Scorsese, did you know he thought this would be the last film he’d ever make because of how shocking it was? That’s like the producers telling Spielberg on Jaws that he’d never work in this town again. The dark biopic about boxer Jake LaMotta where Robert De Niro gives one of his best performances alongside Joe Pecsi (Goodfellas) and Cathy Moriarty (Kindergarten Cop). The editing by Thelma Schoonmaker (The Departed, Goodfellas, The Wolf of Wall Street) is brilliant. The black and white cinematography by Michael Chapman (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Taxi Driver, The Fugitive) is iconic. And the brutality of the ring juxtaposed the brutality at home is a great narrative theme. It’s just a film I wish there was more to.

8. THE BLUES BROTHERS
Movie poster with two of the main characters on the right-side of the image: They are both wearing black suits, hats, and sunglasses and facing forward. The man on the right is resting his arm on the shoulder of the man on the left. A police car is present on the left side of the image behind them. At the top of the image is the tagline, "They'll never get caught. They're on a mission from God." At the bottom of the poster is the title of the film, cast names, and production credits.
This is one of those “Childhood favourites I probably shouldn’t have watched as a child” films. The Blues Brothers stars legends John Belushi, Dan Akroyd, Carrie Fisher, James Brown, Ray Charles, John Candy (even Steven Spielberg cameos in this film) and more under John Landis (An American Werewolf in London) and is a riot of a film. It’s one of the funniest films that is the right balance between visceral comedy and rather subtle nuanced humor. The premise of two troublemaker musicians going on a mildly reckless “Mission from God” to get their band back together to get the money to save their orphanage is one that shouldn’t be this fun-but it is. From the amazing chases with practical stunts and destruction, to the great musical sequences and the brilliant chemistry between every character. It’s just a fun good time-plus giving Nazis some grief is really fun nowadays HAHA!

7. THE ELEPHANT MAN
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The story of The Elephant Man is one of those “Life is Stranger than Fiction” moments that was beautifully brought to life by uncredited producer Mel Brooks, director/writer David Lynch and the late great actor John Hurt. Lynch got this fairly unique project ins one of those great Hollywood stories of his own. After Eraserhead became a midnight movie hit, he met up with a friend of Mel Brooks and they recommended Lynch to Brooks (whose name was mostly kept off the film so people would not think was a comedy-but he was in charge). Brooks and other producers sat down to watch Eraserhead as they’d no idea who David Lynch was, so when they came out of the screening-Brooks ran up and hugged Lynch saying “You’re a mad man, I love you” and he was given the film. This is often regarded as Lynch’s most accessible film, being that it’s a period piece biographical drama with some surreal elements. The true story of John Merrick aka The Elephant Man is a tragic one that could’ve been a monster film, but Lynch treats his subject played by the amazing John Hurt (Alien, 1984) with respect. John Hurt’s performance is amazing: raw and powerful without devolving into Universal Monsters era cliché. Thankfully Hurt is bolstered by a great supporting cast including Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs) and Anne Bancroft (The Devils), along with the amazing make up effects by Christopher Rucker (Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, The Company of Wolves). Lynch’s unique and more restrained visuals and styles are brilliant shot by cinematographer Freddie Francis (Dune, Glory, Cape Fear and director of many Hammer Horror films) whose visuals capture a moody, but genuine feel in the amazing black and white film stock. The Elephant Man remains as Lynch’s most universal hit with audiences, critics and Oscar nominations (though it didn’t win any) so I highly recommend this to get into Lynch’s filmography.

6. THE BIG RED ONE
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In the current pantheon of classic war films there’s: Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, Saving Private Ryan, The Hurt Locker and a few other easily regarded ones. This however is one of those critically acclaimed war epics that’s been somewhat forgotten by cinema. From legendary director/writer Samuel Fuller whose career spans from 1936 to 1994 until his death in 1997, this film is one of the best examples of a war film that recognises wars are not just singular fights-but events that can continually inform and effect people’s lives. There’s a very deep discussion on the nature of war, violence and murder (and yes the Reconstruction is the superior version) that most war films don’t play with or as nuanced-while this makes it an upfront discussion. Visually astounding and epic for its relatively small budget-the film is a showcase in cinema as art and limitations as creativity. Starring legends like Lee Marvin (The Dirty Dozen), Mark Hamill (Star Wars) and Robert Carradine (Revenge of the Nerds)-the film also serves as an acting showcase that easily outpaces many modern war tales. I highly recommend you try and find this as it serves as one of the best underrated classic films.

5. HEAVEN’S GATE
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Heaven’s Gate is one of the craziest production stories and tragedies in Hollywood. Fresh off his odd success with The Deer Hunter, writer/director Michael Cimino (Cimino already having written Silent Running and Magnum Force) was offered to make anything he wanted and so he set out to make his grant Western epic…and it failed. Heaven’s Gate is still remembered as one of the greatest financial and critical failings of all time in cinema. Its budget was ballooned, Cimino made insane demands and wait times (To the point actor John Hurt left the production to do Elephant Man in London and came back with plenty of time for his role) and everything from injured horses, to waiting for clouds to moving buildings apart were done for this film. The film had an insane runtime even with extraneous editing of over 1 million feet of film, the studio was worried, critics and bad press swarmed it. The result was a box office flop, critically mauled film that killed its studio and the big auteur director system in Hollywood. Cimino would be badly scarred from this: his name run through the mud as a crazy director, he’d direct 4 more films to complete failure (Bar the cult status from Year of the Dragon) and would pass away in 2016.

However, Heaven’s Gate went over a mass-reappraisal. Even though people immediately tried to say Cimino’s Deer Hunter sucked when this came out, Cimino and his films were appreciated by many great filmmakers and collaborators, making his 2016 death one of immense tragedy. Heaven’s Gate is one of the great western epics, sporting a large cast (most notably John Hurt, Jeff Bridges and Christopher Walken), has some incredible visuals thanks to cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (Deliverance, The Long Goodbye, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Deer Hunter, Blow Out, The Ghost and the Darkness), and some great scenes of comedy, drama, tension, action and humanity. The story and theme is what I find the strongest, being the story is about Americans hiring people to kill immigrants…can’t imagine why that might not have a potent story. It feels very much like an inverse sister film to Richard Donner’s Superman 2 years earlier. Superman: The Movie was virtually a positive story about fictional immigration in America with Superman as an example of positive immigration ideals, while Heaven’s Gate is the opposite. It’s a tragic reality of America’s adverse hatred towards immigrants that’s been there in history…and still is there today. Yes it might be a slog, but it’s an impactful epic that resonates so much-that I can’t help but love it.

4. KAGEMUSHA: THE SHADOW WARRIOR
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So…have you seen the trailer for this?

Because this is basically that…without the wuxia techniques, without Yimou Zhang’s auteur aesthetics and set in Japan. I actually looked around and couldn’t find any root inspiration for this idea of “Great lord needing a doppelganger” in Asian culture so I’d love to know how both came into existence. This was of course an Akira Kurosawa samurai film set during Japan’s Jidaigeki era in history (much like Kurosawa’s own Throne of Blood and Ran) and is AWESOME! A visually gorgeous piece of old fashioned filmmaking in the 80’s that proves to be an epic character drama. The Japanese performances are great, the visuals and war scenes top notch and its nuances surpass most other war stories. While I’ll always consider Ran Kurosawa’s masterpiece, this is still great.

3. ALTERED STATES
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Here’s one of my favourite horror films, one that’s very underrated and which you might only have seen mentioned if you saw Watchmojo’s video on Top 10 Body Horror films…because I can’t find it anymore. It’s a strange body horror experience with psychedelic images directed by Ken Russel (Director of the Oscar Winning Women in Love and the ultra-controversial The Devils), written by Paddy Chayefsky (Writer of Network, adapting his own novel), shot by Jordan Cronenweth (Director of Photography on Blade Runner), edited by Stuart Baird (editor of Superman, Lethal Weapon, Demolition Man, Casino Royale, Skyfall and director of Executive Decision) and stars William Hurt (A History of Violence, Vantage Point, Captain America: Civil War)…and it’s AWESOME! It’s pretty much the classic “Frankenstein experiments on himself” wherein a guy is try to relive past lives/experiences and ends up having the ability to revert to prior evolutionary stages. It’s wonderfully crafted, scary enough with a point and just this insane horror experience you absolutely should seek out.

2. STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
. This poster shows a montage of scenes from the movie. Dominating the background is the dark visage of Darth Vader; in the foreground, Luke Skywalker sits astride a tauntaun; Han Solo and Princess Leia gaze at each other while in a romantic embrace; Chewbacca, R 2-D 2, and C-3PO round out the montage.
Yeah, no surprise that this winds up on here. Often considered the best Star Wars film, one of the best sequels in film history and one of the best films/pieces of media ever made. I…don’t argue. The Empire Strikes Back is both a classic genre/mythological story and action film; while also being a subtly subversive take that continues the first Star Wars film’s basic yet mildly subversive take on classic fiction.

Actually, I want to pause because context needs to be made. Everyone’s still very divisive over The Last Jedi, even though The Last Jedi is just as subversive as The Empire Strikes Back. What’s the difference? Everyone grew up on The Empire Strikes back, so its subversions are seen as tradition. Whereas thanks to nostalgia, the internet providing weirdos with a platform and all schools of thought now being projected onto a film-The Last Jedi got treated as “disrespectful” while it was just doing a Dark Knight Returns or Logan. If The Empire Strike Back came out in the same environment, it likely would’ve been blasted for not having tons of action in the middle, Luke abandoning his training, his teacher being this funny little Muppet, the Vader twist and there being no real victory. Just wanted to put perspective and context for people who still think The Last Jedi is somehow the worst film ever or even the worst Star Wars.

Back to this film, Empire Strikes Back just works like gangbusters. Its opening act on Hoth presents us with one of the best sci-fi battles in a franchise that made them, some new cool Jedi stuff, great characters and amazing visuals. Then the 2nd act is a fun chase intercut with Luke training with Yoda wherein George Lucas shows his hippie spiritualism. And the 3rd act having the best lightsaber battle of the series (Yes more then Phantom Menace, Rogue One or Last Jedi). It’s just a great film with ever growing characters, a fascinating universe explored the right amount, the visuals and effects are astonishing, amazing score and the action scenes are great. George himself did not direct this film, instead that went to the late filmmaker/lecturer Irvin Kershner. Unfortunately The Empire Strikes Back would be Kershner’s main claim to fame as his other somewhat notable works were Eyes of Laura Mars, Never Say Never Again and Robocop 2. Everything else is history though, the film just works on all cylinders and if you’ve somehow not seen it-just go watch it now.

1. THE SHINING
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Yes, I pick the Stanley Kubrick horror masterpiece. About as shocking as when an Avengers movie makes money. While not well received at the time and Stephen King hates it to this day-it’s a cultural masterpiece for a reason. The brilliant direction and cinematography, outstanding performances (especially Jack Nicolson), founding of horror staples, intense score, and perfect tension and horror are all why we love this film…or is it?

See Stephen King’s distaste for this film and Kubrick’s really subtle sub-textual storytelling have lead to many examinations of the film (Including a really terrible “documentary essay” film called Room 237). Now while some will claim “Oh this film is Kubrick saying he made the Moon Landing footage” (If you’re a conspiracy theorist who ignores science, logic and history), the more accurate examinations are of how past horrors effect the modern day. The film has plenty of references to Native Americans (to the point they were slaughtered and the film sets the hotel on a Native American burial ground), Nazi/Roman imperial eagles, the murder of the prior family and even a character who angrily refers to the African American cook in the film as the N-word. So it’s a fairly basic idea…what does this have to do with the story and why it’s so horrifying to the point Stephen King would hate it. Spoilers, but here we go.

In Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining…there are no ghosts. Sounds really weird as Stephen King’s book fully says there are and this film is considered a classic haunting/ghost story, but there’s no ghosts. The film is a psychological horror about a family with past traumas being forced into a claustrophobic environments literally founded on past horrors eventually going mad. What’s the past trauma? Well, if you believe certain interpretations and factor into King’s book and his hatred of this film…Jack Torrance sexually abused Danny. Yes. That’s the really horrifying truth. The Shining is about a family who experienced this horrible thing, now forced to be together and driving them crazy. The few instances that draw on this is how severe the trauma is to the point Danny has this imaginary friend (because all the supernatural elements aren’t real) and sees horrifying visions. Jack’s story about “grabbing his arm” feels likes he’s playing it down (because why would you tell the real version to someone?) and the creepy delivery of “I wouldn’t touch a hair on his little head” starts to bring it close. Now what exactly did Jack do to Danny? Well in the 3rd act, when Wendy is running around she sees a man in a bear costume seemingly get up from giving a man fellatio. This is such a strange and out of place event…until we remember there’s a scene where Danny is right next to a giant teddy bear. Implication? In a fit of drunken rage or stupor…Jack forced his son Danny to perform fellatio and Wendy saw them…but she herself has repressed it-hence her actions in the film. The film is essentially about this family dealing with a repressed and horrible trauma, with the Overlook hotel’s dark past and claustrophobic environment the perfect catalyst to set off the horror.

See how that’s a LOT scarier than ghosts just messing with people? But why would King hate this? Well: Kubrick removed the explicit ghosts and actually made Jack a much darker character. In King’s book and miniseries adaptation, Jack truly loves Danny. This one makes Jack a real monster and his eventual spiral an eventuality, rather than chance for redemption. I know the sympathetic father who loves his son in death is touching…but the truly dark and warped hidden story is preferred. It makes me wonder how the upcoming Doctor Sleep starring Ewan McGregor (The Phantom Menace, Christopher Robin) and directed/written by Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Gerald’s Game) will play out. Will they make it a subtle sequel to the original Shining (which came back thanks to Ready Player One) and have its supernatural elements be metaphors for Danny’s trauma? Or just make it a pure adaptation of the book due to the success of 2017’s It?

Who knows, but I hope my examination of the film explains why I think this is the best film of 1980, one of the best horror films of all time, why Stanley Kubrick is a master filmmaker and a film you absolutely must see.

Movie Review – AVENGERS: ENDGAME (SPOILER-FREE)

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

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After 11 years, 21 movies and around 20 Billion dollars at the box office later-Avengers Endgame arrives as the 22nd MCU film to follow up the monster hit Infinity War. And…it’s freaking awesome.

I’ll admit, Infinity War became my favourite MCU film largely thanks to the meshing of the better elements of the series, a complete story told unto itself, amazing actions scenes, wonderful characterisations, fantastic effects and Josh Brolin’s Thanos as the best villain of the series with the best arc. So I was hyped for Endgame (even before it had a name) because following up that ending was going to be fun. But, I was hesitant with how Marvel and the Russo Brothers would follow such a near perfect film. The trailers weren’t showing that much while Infinity War showed more, it had a 3 hour run time and was rumoured to feature a key element I liked, but wasn’t that crazy one-so I held reservations in case. But, I’m here to tell you that Avengers: Endgame might just be my new favourite film of the MCU and the best film so far this year.

In the most barebones, vague outline: The Avengers try to fix was Thanos has done and set out to do it. I don’t want to give away the specific means because no trailer spoiled it and only speculative reporting was correct. If you know, you know. If you don’t, I won’t tell. Needless to say: I think the story and the plot earned their 3 hour runtime largely due to the characters. See Marvel’s great weapon with the MCU is how they have characters interact and how the actors play them. Everyone does an amazing job in terms of emotional range, banter with each other and their own arcs. Heavyweights this time are Chris Evans as Captain America, Robert Downey Jnr as Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye and Karen Gillan as Nebula especially with their arcs. Not saying anyone else is bad, just that it’s like comparing an A student to an A+ student. Thanos himself however was my main concern as Infinity War was entirely based around him, his arc and conflict. He’s not the centerpiece role here as much as the big bad guy again, he’s great-but his Infinity War portrayal was the better version. I will say this one last thing on the plot, the means of which the Avengers attempt to fix everything invites the usual swarm of nitpicking reviewers who will question every possible thing…all while forgetting that characters, story intent etc. So while I’m not saying the movie is dumb, I’m saying the filmmakers handle it as best they can and that it shouldn’t get in the way of the big picture. If you show up to this film with the intent of pulling a CinemaSins…stop.

In terms of its production quality, Endgame is pretty much the pinnacle of Marvel’s craftmanship. Their immense and amazing teams from directing, screenwriting, production design, music, sound, editing, visual effects, costume, make up-EVERYTHING is amazing and everyone who worked on this movie deserves the appropriate credit. You all did SO well.

But now onto the stuff I really want to talk about: this movie is a fan service smorgasbord. If you’ve jumped on board the MCU train at all, something will make you happen. Cameos galore, call backs and unresolved threads are completed and emotional beats land with a royal slam. It’s just great stuff in a story that develops with the right conflicts at the right times, with the right people. The movie makes you laugh, makes you cry, makes you FEEL and I have to admit-when the big 3 act showdown was about to kick off…I cried. Speaking off that final big battle (because we all know that’s how it was gonna go down) remember about a decade ago when movies of this scale ended in the most epic of showdowns? Avatar, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises etc would all try to end with the biggest fight? Lately, those haven’t happened as blockbuster films end on more personal final battles. Well this ending does the balance between the do and I loved it.

I’m personally a little conflicted on whether or not this or Infinity War is the superior film as Infinity War was itself a complete arc and Thanos was a great lead character, but Endgame gives the stronger emotional resonance with a stronger last act and the heroes that have been the center of this story get the spotlight.

I’ll just end with this. When we all lost Stan Lee, the world cried. The man’s works had touched us all in someway or another. I think with this is film, I wanted to say that whether people stay or go-the stories and emotions they left with us will last with us and beyond that. That’s what I came out of the theatre feeling. So I give this film my highest recommendation.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy the movie.

 

TOP 10 BEST FILMS OF 1981

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Honorable Mentions:
-Chariots of Fire
-Clash of the Titans
-Dragonslayer
-Escape from New York
-For Your Eyes Only
-The Fox and the Hound
-Gallipoli
-Halloween 2
-Inseminoid
-The Omen 3
-On Golden Pond
-Reds
-Scanners
-Time Bandits

10. THE HOWLING
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The second solo directorial effort by Joe Dante (Twilight Zone: The Movie, Gremlins, Amazon Women on the Moon, The Burbs, Looney Toons, Back in Action) after he did Roger Corman’s Piranha is one of the best werewolf films of all time. It’s a genuinely scary werewolf film that’s paced well, goes between tense horror and exploitation b-movie levels perfectly. Dee Wallace (ET, Cujo) gives a great performance as the lead with the rest of the cast doing well. Dante’s direction is perfect for the two tones the film snakes between thanks to writers Terence H Winkless (Director of The Nest) and John Sayles (Piranha, Alligator, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Passion Fish, Lone Star) with a tone that goes between Taxi Driver and Jaws. But ultimately a werewolf film needs to be judged by its monster and the werewolves/werewolf effects are amazing. They’re expertly shot and characterized within the world and have effects done by the master Rob Bottin (Piranha, The Thing, Legend, Total Recall, Se7en, Mission Impossible, Mimic, Fight Club) whose werewolf effects are 2nd only to the classic American Werewolf in London. Horror/Werewolf buffs must see this.

9. MY BLOODY VALENTINE
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This slasher is one of the best underrated ones of the era. Specifically in regards to the fixed re-release when the less than stellar 3D remake came out in 2009. My Bloody Valentine is a slasher that works and works wonders: a great set up, really phenomenal execution when you break it down and the right mix of horror, tragedy and fun. While its creative team didn’t go on to make anything more of note, this film just works like gangbusters. Its use of tension, visuals and kills are extremely inventive and add up to a gory fun time. Its original release had a lot of the gore cut out, but a new version released on DVD cuts back in all the gore and its amazing. And for those considering the 3D remake, don’t. It’s only somewhat good with the 3D, but it lacks a lot of the charm and do cliché changes to the story. I cannot recommend this more. Plus for all you  Valentine’s Day haters-here’s a killer you can relate to.

8. STRIPES
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You know there was that Family Guy joke about how long it takes this movie to get to the army. Watching the extended cut (2 hours) it only take about 20 minutes to get there, because we’re building the 2 main characters…like a proper comedy would. This is the thing that bothers me, people claim “oh the 80’s were the best” and then complain about their less frenetic pacing, character development and focus on cultural background. Stripes is funny, really funny thanks to director Ivan Reitman (Meatballs, Ghostbusters, Twins) and its stellar cast including Bill Murray (Groundhog Day), Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters), John Candy (Uncle Buck), Sean Young (Blade Runner), PJ Soles (The Devil’s Rejects) and Warren Oates (The Wild Bunch). The film’s human and humorous tone runs throughout and its characterisations are why I love this so much. Bill Murray as the main heartthrob scoundrel is rather endearing and better than some of the other 80’s comedy heroes. The rest of the cast add so much, even the characters not designed to be endearing, funny or that important. My personal favourite scenes are with the failing Captain (especially the mortar range), when the main duo go AWOL, the mud wrestling scene and the resonant underdog sequence. Although even small bits of them marching or guys flirting is great, plus the main theme and music in general by Elmer Bernstein (Animal House, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Magnificent Seven, The Ten Commandments, The Great Escape, Ghostbusters, The Black Cauldron) is near phenomenal. It’s a classic for a reason so check it out if you’ve not seen it in a while or haven’t.

7. THE EVIL DEAD
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This classic indie horror masterpiece has been discussed at length by the horror community. Between its near Lovecraftian horror background, slapstick era Three Stooges style of comedy, practical effects and Bruce Campbell’s Ash as an icon of horror/action hero cinema. Sam Raimi’s (along with many other’s) vision and passion makes The Evil Dead one of those horror films whose minor flaws are overlooked because the raw product works so well. A mix of terrifyingly and horrific scenes combined with an old school comedic self awareness that ultimately renders the film as the horror icon it is. The legacy of Evil Dead is so strong that despite the mild controversy (which made it a box office success) it ultimately made Raimi a director of many successes of Darkman, The Evil Dead franchise, the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy, his stylistic revival in Drag Me To Hell, his classic film love envisioned with Oz: the Great and the Powerful, and his production efforts on the likes of Don’t Breathe and Crawl. His raw talent and effort combined with a game cast and production team make this and all his other endeavours work. Every cinephile has seen this, so if you’ve not-now’s your chance.

Further Viewing:

6. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON
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Without much competition, the best Werewolf movie of all time. Created by John Landis (director of Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Spies Like Us, Coming to America, Michael Jackson’s Thriller and whose ass of a son the industry should throw away) the film was considered simultaneously too funny and too scary for either genres by those involved. The film works as a horror film, a horror comedy, a fish out of water scenario and a fun monster movie. The opening act I think is really great, the characters work wonders and the various story developments and scares are perfectly well done. But of course this movie has one of the best werewolves and werewolf transformation scenes in history. The effects were handled by Rick baker who had a hand in everything from The Exorcist, Star Wars, Videodrome, Wolf, Ed Wood, Men in Black, Hellboy, Tropic Thunder, The Wolfman and Maleficent and they hold up so well today it’s a testament to practical effects. We also have another amazing score by Elmer Bernstein of Stripes and some truly amazing cinematography by Robert Paynter (The Mechanic, Superman 2, Little Shop of Horrors). The film holds it place in cinema as a horror classic for a reason and easily the best horror film of 1981.

5. DAS BOOT
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There should be a mass re-appraisal of Wolfgang Petersen and Hollywood should bring him back for their biggest and best films. As the director behind blockbuster classics like: Troy, The Perfect Storm, Air Force One, Outbreak and The Neverending Story (who even made a Batman V Superman film and Paprika remake) we really should bring him back. But when you’ve got a career track record like that and your best film is Das Boot-I’m sure he’s proud. Das Boot is one of the best war films in history, probably the best Submarine film and an absolute masterwork of filmmaking. Das Boot follows World War 2 German submarine operators and their emotional struggle in this war. It’s an epic war drama that Hollywood wasn’t doing as much in favor of smaller war film like Platoon, but it’s full force here. The acting is impeccable, the visuals captured by Jost Vacano (Robocop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers) are astounding, but its the sound design that deserves the most praise. Das Boot’s sound design was pretty much all done in post due to the camera and sound gear making it impossible on set. Usually sound done entirely in post is done for animation, but to need it for live action and it being seamless is a testament to sound teams. It’s a marvel of film, an undisputed classic and something any film buff needs to see.

Further Viewing:

4. EXCALIBUR
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Excalibur is one of my favourite pieces of cinema on a purely visual level, feeling like the closest to a mature version of Legend-while also being my favourite piece of Arthurian legend on film. The film was handled by the divisive John Boorman (Good: Deliverance. Bad: Zardoz) and is one of the visually best films of the 80’s-rivalling Legend, Blade Runner, Manhunter, Akira and The Abyss. Most of that’s due to cinematographer Alex Thomson (Legend, Labyrinth, Leviathan, Alien 3, Cliffhanger, Demolition Man, Executive Decision, Hamlet) who was nominated for an Oscar for this film-crafting beautiful and atmospheric shots with lighting, angles to build a tone and mood perfectly. Seriously, I mostly love this film for its visuals and atmosphere as they carry this film immensely. It’s music by Trevor Jones (Thirteen Days, Cliffhanger, The Last of the Mohicans, Arachnophobia, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal) is hauntingly beautiful with an epic fantasy feel. Its story follows a darkened and matured version of the classic Arthurian tale and I appreciate it for that, with great supporting performances by Patrick Stewart (X-Men), Gabriel Byrne (Hereditary), Nicol Williamson (Spawn), Helen Mirren (Red) and Liam Neeson (Taken) even if our Arthur is kind of a bore. I just love this film so much, and it disappoints me I saw less interesting Arthurian films before discovering this one. You absolutley need to see this.

3. THIEF
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Ah, the feature directorial debut of one of my favourite directors-Michael Mann. Having success off his work on the Miami Vice tv series, Thief was a critically successful box office sleeper that nonetheless showed his talent. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (Pirates of the Caribbean) the film is one of the true 80’s heist films-with the post modern neo noir atmosphere matches with neon visuals and a synth-scape score to match. The closest modern equivalent is Drive as both films are neo-noir thrillers that lean as dramas about violent men trying to go clean, getting involved in a heist, a friend’s murder at a car place and the neo noir style. James Caan (The Godfather, Misery) plays the stunning lead in this film and he kills it as a morally grey and violent thief. The heist sequences in this film are great and showcase Mann’s talent for stylised realism that he’d continue to this day in filmmaking and execution of the story. The film just works like gangbusters in its acting, performances, narrative, themes, score, visuals and tense scenes of action and thievery. Considering Mann is most famous for Heat and Collateral-it’s not surprising this was his start.

2. INDIANA JONES AND THE RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
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Yes, the undeniable classic ends up here. Indiana Jones is a modern cultural touchstone. Taking the moulds like Allan Quartermain and James Bond, and making a modern hero by which all other adventurer characters are judged (Lara Croft, Nathan Drake, Rick O’Connell, Benjamin Franklin Gates etc). Steven Spielberg’s and George Lucas’s gambit to both restore a studio’s faith in Spielberg and for Spielberg to essentially make the James Bond film he was denied-the film was a fast and cheap production that…well if you’ve lived in pop-culture long enough (Sequels, Homages, Parodies, References) you know the results. It’s a critically acclaimed, fairly edgy fun blockbuster that is considered one of the greatest action films and films in general with a winning performance by Harrison Ford. The action is great, performances solid, visuals and tone match the fun and energy while having enough dark material to feel unique, the score is classic and has memorable moments from the opening, to the snake pit, to the chase in the city and the final memorable climax.

Now are there problems? Yeah, Indiana is kind of a colonialist graverobber that feels only he should have say over the place of artefacts and there’s the REALLY uncomfortable math/interview that pretty much proves Indiana pursued Marion Ravenwood before she was of age and the time behind it trying to blame her for it is…ew. It’s like the whole Back to the Future “Your mom is trying to bang you” note that is more uncomfortable the more you think about it and the further we get away from it.

Regardless, I think due to just how well the film was made and how it continues to be an influence, cultural touchstone and benchmark for action adventure stories (especially with how bad Kingdom of the Crystal Skull got lashed) I believe the film still works and will continue to be a classic in cinema forever.

1. BLOW OUT
The poster has a squeezed, black-and-white image of John Travolta screaming, with the tagline below reading "Murder has a sound all of its own".
So Blow Out was a seminal film for me. I’d been in college for about half a year and we were now watching films our teacher would put on for us. Now I had expectations for this film and afterwards vocalised my displeasure for some parts until my teacher gave me an epiphany as a filmmaker/audience member which was “recognise what the filmmaker was trying to say” and thus I was awoken to the art of auteur theory and birthed the next part of my mentality as a filmmaker.

Blow Out is a minor miracle of filmmaking, one of those technical achievements like Mission Impossible Fallout or Mad Max Fury Road, but on a small neo noir scale that would make Alfred Hitchcock blush in admiration, Brain De Palma was of course a massive Hitchcock fan and this was his best utilization of those techniques. As the director of Carrie, Scarface, The Untouchables and Mission Impossible-this is easily De Palma’s best film. Its cinematography by the late Vilmos Zsigmond (Deliverance, The Sugarland Express, Close Encounters of the Third King, The Deer Hunter, Heaven’s Gate, The Ghost and the Darkness) is nothing short of astounding in creating De Palma’s Hitchcockian intent flow with all his usual tricks (especially the split diopter shots). Its editing by Paul Hirsch (Star Wars, Carrie, Empire Strikes Back, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Falling Down, Mission Impossible, Lake Placid, Ray, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Warcraft) is near perfection. And massive credit must go to the entire sound team of this film: Randall Coleman, Lowell Mate, Michael Moyse, Dan Sable, James M Tanenbaum, Dick Vorisek, Tom Fleischman, Brian L McCarty and Carl Pagano because the sound work in this film is nothing short of the best sound in cinema.

The plot of the film is that John Travolta is a sound recordist on a low budget slasher (which has one of the best opening long takes in history) and while recording one night-hears a car crash, but believes that there was more to this “tire blow out”. It leads into a conspiracy that feels reminiscent of films like 3 Days of the Condor and All the President’s Men (commentating on the Watergate scandal) but in the end is a closer comparison to the neo-noir masterpiece Klute from a decade earlier. The film’s set piece moments are the moments where we follow John Travolta listening to the audio of that night as it happens, then the repeats-with the audio and visuals some of the best non dialogue storytelling you’ll ever see/hear. It’s somewhat similar to Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation in examining the art and importance of sound, however this one takes it to the extreme and has a haunting meta-textual and thematic resolution. The film ultimately subverts the conspiracy story proper for a more intimate story and while I initially disliked it, I realise that is why this film is amazing and truly the best film of 1981.