Brian’s Review – “Knowing” (2009) (Re-edited)

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What’s it About?

M.I.T. professor John Koestler links a mysterious list of numbers from a time capsule to past and future disasters and sets out to prevent the ultimate catastrophe.

Knowing”

Directed by Alex Proyas

7 out of 10

By Brian

I was pleasantly surprised by this film. I’ve wanted to see it for a while simply because it was directed by Alex Proyas (The Crow and Dark City) and it had an interesting synopsis for the plot. What would you do if you suddenly found out that the world was ending and you knew exactly when it was going to happen?

That it the tie that binds this film together and kept me interested during its two hour running time. This isn’t the kind of film you want to think too hard about. There’s a lot of implausible story choices.

I did wonder how Nicolas Cage found out the world was going to end so easily. The movie goes to great lengths to explain how he figures out the series of numbers contained within the paper from the time capsule and how they correlate to real world events. But, when it comes to the biggest surprise, the end of the world, he simply hops on his iMac and….POOF!..He knows the answer!

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Also, other than his great performance in Leaving Las Vegas, Nicolas Cage’s acting tends to be hammy and too dramatized. Knowing is no exception. His demeanor sometimes doesn’t even fit the scenes he’s in. However, he is excellent at resembling a horse and drinking alcohol while looking “concerned.” One last problem before I move on to the good stuff is the special effects. It’s a tale of two movies here because the end of the world stuff looks incredible.

Waves of explosions fills the sky and you see the Earth turn to rubble. But, in earlier scenes involving large scale accidents (plane and train, I won’t divulge more), it looks really fake and obviously CGI. The best special effects are ones that you don’t notice.

The film itself has a great visual look to it. It’s dark without coming across as dreary and the cinematography by Simon Duggan is one of the films’ stronger attributes. Also, Director Alex Proyas creates a great sense of suspense without having to resort to cheap cliches.

We are drawn in by the sheer enormity of end times and can feel it inching closer as the film progresses. I will admit that the end may turn some viewers off because of how it can feel detached from the rest of the movie, but, just keep in mind that it’s science fiction…not science.

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5 Awesome “Behind The Scenes” Pics: Gallery Two

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Yep. 5 More!

Hey, gang! Here is Vic’s Movie Den’s second gallery of very cool “Behind the Scenes” pics. (Not to be confused with my “On The Set” posts) They are scanned pics from various movie books that I own and / or borrow from the library.

Others are those I come across on the internet, to share with you all. I hope you enjoy them and I look forward to doing more of these in the near future. Thanks!

Vic

Where Chewbacca's from, boob grabs are considered a sign of peace.

Where Chewbacca’s from, boob grabs are considered a sign of peace.

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“Hmm. Taco Bell or Burger King?”

"You get to have a cigarette break and I can't even go pee?"

“You get to have a cigarette break and I can’t even go pee?”

The late great Jim Henson with Kermit on the set of "The Muppet Show"

The late great Jim Henson with Kermit on the set of “The Muppet Show”

Luc Beeson with Natalie Portman and Jean Reno on the set of "Leon: The Professional"

Luc Beeson with Natalie Portman and Jean Reno on the set of “Leon: The Professional”

Bonus Pics Below!

"Bruce!" ... nuff said!

“Bruce!” … nuff said!

Director George Lucas next to the iconic "Star Destroyer" from "Star Wars"

Director George Lucas next to the iconic “Star Destroyer” from “Star Wars”

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Hope you enjoyed the pictures, everyone. There will be another gallery coming shortly. Stay tuned!

 

Brian’s Review – “Scanners” (1981)

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What’s it About?

A scientist sends a man with extraordinary psychic powers to hunt others like him.

“Scanners”

Directed by  David Cronenberg

8 out of 10

By Brian

What if there were 237 people on Earth that had such tremendous psychic abilities that they could not only control others’ minds but they could inflict bodily harm and death? That’s the premise behind the terrific horror film that launched the career of the great David Cronenberg. I’ve always been an admirer of his work because he’s a man that likes to take chances and makes films that are truly a singular vision.

In Scanners, he creates a world where normal people are nothing but pawns in a game between the movement of the gifted psychics who want to control the world and an opposing group that has recruited a scanner of their own to stop them.

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The cat and mouse game between the opposing scanners is the real meat and potatoes of the story and will have you on the edge of your seat throughout this fast paced trip. The performances are nothing to write home about save for Michael Ironside who makes a truly formidable foe to our protagonist (played by Stephen Lack capably but not memorably). The real star here is the direction by Cronenberg and the ground breaking makeup effects that were way ahead of their time.

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If you’ve never heard of the famous “head exploding scene” until now, you’ll be shocked at just how convincing it is even by today’s movie magic standards. It brings me back to a time in films before computers did all the work and in many ways effects were more convincing because they had real world believability. They took up actual space on the set and the actors were given a chance to see what they’re reacting to versus an empty green screen.

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The camera-work throughout is excellent. Mood is put front and center. This is a dark world filled with desperate people that have clear goals. The mere fact that this film has such a devoted cult following after its release over 30 years ago should give you an idea of its impact. I must warn you that this is a very violent film and if you have a weak stomach, it’s not for you. But, if you like a dark twisted tale with a great plot hook, rent and enjoy!

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My Busy Summer or “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Buy a House”

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Hey, everyone! Vic here to announce that I will be taking a bit of a break from posting new reviews for the rest of the summer and quite possibly most of the fall. My family’s summer has been very busy with various outdoor activities like picnics, trips, cook-outs and visits to beaches along Lake Ontario.

As many who live here, in Rochester or Western New York already know, the summers are short and if you don’t take advantage of the great weather, you’ll blink and it will already be October. Like we say here: “Rochester has 2 Seasons. Winter and Construction.”

The other, even more exciting reason, would be that my wife and I are house hunting, and what all of you home owners already know, is that it is a grueling, tiring, exhaustive process but with the greatest reward in the end. After we decide on a home, the move and settling in will be taking up most of my time.

So, in the meantime, I will be doing some other types of posts to fill in a bit. I may re-edit some older reviews, do some Top 5 or 10 lists, whip up some On The Set or Behind the Scenes posts or have some of my great contributors help out during my hiatus.

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My sincerest thanks to everyone who drops by on a regular basis to like my posts, leave comments and feedback as well as sharing and re-tweeting on social media. I cannot stress enough how grateful and appreciative I am for the support and interaction. You are all the best followers, readers, and blogger brothers and sisters that a normal everyday shmoe like me and my small modest blog could ever have. I will keep you all posted and updated on any new movie reviews that are on the way.

Once things settle down, I will have drafts ready to post for some of the following movies:

Rob the Mob

Jodorowsky’s Dune

Snowpiercer

In Fear

Dom Hemingway

Life Itself

Sparks

Bad Words

They Came Together

Doc of the Dead

Wolf Creek 2

Moby Dick

Cuban Fury

Joy Ride

Cold Prey II

Anna

In The Blood

Joe

The Rocket

Vinyl

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and more!

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So stay tuned, please stay in touch and thanks so very much for stopping by ‘The Den!

All the Best,

Victor

 

 

Vic’s Classics – “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” (1948) (Re-Edited)

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Hey, gang! Vic here with another re-edited and re-vamped review from a while back. This review was originally part of a Blog-a-thon from 2012 started by Andy from “Andy Watches Movies.” I have been wanting to come back to it for some time now and the opportunity has presented itself for me to fix it up a bit and re-post a fresher and newer review. Hope you like it and don’t miss out on the all new images in the gallery below!

Thanks and Enjoy, everyone!

- Vic

What’s it About?

Two hapless freight handlers find themselves encountering Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolf Man.

Directed by Charles Barton

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein”

By Vic

Rating – 10 out of 10

“A & CMF”  is hands down one of my favorite Horror Comedies. Right up there with John Landis’ An American Werewolf  in London, Tremors and Shaun of the Dead.  The insanely popular status that this movie has garnered over the years is definitely warranted. It is witty, funny and yes even scary. It is the razor sharp template to follow if you want to get a horror / comedy done right. The best quality besides the impeccable timing of Abbott and Costello is the fact that that Director Charles Barton and writer Robert Lees treat the Universal Monsters with amazing respect and genuine admiration.

The movie does not parody or pander regarding our beloved monsters In this case – Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolf Man. Yep, the whole gang is here and what a fun and hilarious ride it is. It is hands down a very nostalgic piece of movie perfection for me.  Eventually A & C would go on to team up with Jekyll and Hyde, The Mummy and even the Invisible Man (Another one of my faves). For now though we get not just one monster but 3 in this one.

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 Chick (to Wilbur) – “Answer the bell! Answer the phone!”

Wilbur – “Which one do you want me to answer first?”

Chick – “Both of ‘em!”

The boys, in this film Bud is Chick and Lou is Wilbur, are baggage clerks at a Railway Station in Florida. Wilbur receives a phone call from none other than Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr) from “The Wolf Man” Talbot tells Wilbur that he is a man named McDougal and tries to warn Wilbur that a shipment due to arrive to them for “McDougal’s House of Horrors” contains the actual bodies of Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and the Frankenstein Monster (Glenn Strange) and that they should alert the authorities. Wilbur is convinced that he is being crank called and doesn’t believe him.

Soon enough, Talbot watches as the full moon breaks through the clouds and he begins to transform. Wilbur overhears the change and brilliantly responds to The Wolf Man’s growling by saying:  “You’re awful silly to call me all the way from London just to have your dog talk to me.” Just epic. After this early scene the film solidifies itself into displaying an insane amount of humor and witty repartee. Lou gives this performance of Wilbur his all. He is never better than he is here.

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The real McDougal shows up and is pretty angry as he gets impatient with Wilbur and his goofing around -

Wilbur – “Well that’s gonna cost you overtime because I’m a union man and I work only sixteen hours a day.”

McDougal –  “A union man only works eight hours a day. “
Wilbur – “I belong to two unions!”

More awesome repartee and it continues throughout the whole movie. As the story progresses the boys deliver the shipment to McDougal’s HOH. Wilbur, already frightened, suspects that something is wrong.  We are then introduced to Dracula as he wakes up and tries to revive the Frankenstein monster. Wilbur of course sees all of this and can’t get Chick to see what he has seen in time. Chick never believes him. Drac and The Monster escape unnoticed. McDougal arrives and he and his insurance agent after finding the crates empty accuse the boys of stealing his prized exhibitions.

Dr Sandra Mornay (The beautiful Leonore Aubert) plays Wilbur’s girlfriend and she receives Dracula and the Monster at her creepy island castle. It seems that she and Dracula are planing to follow Dr. Frankenstein’s notebook and have Wilbur’s brain inserted into the Monster’s. Sandra is just using Wilbur for this very purpose.

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Without doing a huge recap, I just want to go into why this movie rocks to no end!

- There is a very cool animation opening credit scene!

- There is an epic animated transformation scene where Drac turns into a bat and vice versa.

- Glenn Strange as the Monster gets to speak! “Yes, Master.”

- Bud Abbott is really incredible here. I can’t give Lou all the credit. His turn as “Chick” is spot on and even though he plays the straight man to Lou he gets in a funny part here and there like when he pretends to be hypnotized by Wilbur. Great stuff.

- The film looks great in black and white. No other way to watch these great monsters. It sports some great cinematography and some great sets and effects.

- Lugosi and Chaney give great performances. Chaney is sympathetically crazed here and Lugosi is very suave and menacing in his last turn as Dracula. He is way more charming here than in the 1931 film.

- Charles Barton keeps the pace fast and furious always giving the actors a ton of room to improvise.

- There is a surprisingly shocking scene where Frankenstein’s Monster literally tosses Sandra out of a window to her death below on the Castle rocks. Just as brutal as when Karloff dispatches the small girl in the first film.

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Finally the last act of the movie is INSANE! There are crazy face off’s between Dracula, Frankenstein and the boys as they try to escape the lab and the castle but not before they suffer through some great physical comedy. There are walls that revolve (a classic device in these horror films), a great lab scene that has The Wolf Man and Dracula fighting each other resulting in Dracula turning into a bat to try and flee but not before The Wolf Man grabs him and dives out a high castle window. It’s a classic sequence that is quite successful in being entertaining and suspenseful at the same time.

The best reason to watch is two fold though. Watching these great monsters in a battle royale of sorts and having the opportunity to watch A & C do their thing here. Great dialog, great timing,  great chases and excellently staged comedy and slapstick. Yep, Wilbur gets a few slaps across the face here and there. Now everyone knows why I get Nostalgic for this great Horror / Comedy!

Enjoy the image gallery below!

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Brian’s Review – “A Good Day To Die Hard” (2013)

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What’s it About?

John McClane travels to Russia to help out his seemingly wayward son, Jack, only to discover that Jack is a CIA operative working undercover

A Good Day to Die Hard

Directed by John Moore

2 out of 10

By Brian

John McClane, played by Bruce Willis (Pulp Fiction, Red 2), travels to Russia to help out his seemingly wayward son, Jack, only to discover that Jack, played by Jai Courtney (I, Frankenstein), is a CIA operative working to prevent a nuclear-weapons heist, causing the father and son to team up against underworld forces. Bruce Willis ought to be ashamed of himself for having the audacity of inflicting this piece of shit on the public and then having the nerve to call it a Die Hard film.

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This is as bad a cash grab I’ve seen from an actor in recent memory. All of the charm and fun from the earlier entries in the series feels like a distant memory and they’re replaced with an experience here that feels cold, boring, distant, incomprehensible, and ugly. Why in the hell did Bruce Willis even make this? He’s certainly not hard up for cash after being one of the top paid actors for the last quarter century. The mind boggles.

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So, why do a sequel to a beloved series that isn’t of very high quality? I’m not here to try to convince anyone that Die Hard is high art or anything but they were slam bam action films that were pure fun and contained a realistic hero in un-relenting and un-realistic situations. The John McClane character is among the most beloved off all time in the action genre and easily Bruce Willis’s most iconic screen role to date.

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This film shows a complete disrespect for the earlier work and Willis himself is largely to blame. My criticism are as follows:

  1. There’s no discernable story here. If there’s no story then the audience has zero reason to care.
  2. As with #1, there’s no characters that are remotely interesting…including John McClane!!! If you don’t care about the characters, you don’t care when they’re in danger and therefore there’s no suspense.
  3. This film is photographed horribly. The entire thing is way too dark and smothered in dark blues and smeary reds. It creates problems as a viewer because when you mix that with the shaky cam effect, it makes an already impossible film to follow even murkier.
  4. Bruce Willis acts old and tired. He puts no effort in to create any dramatic weight and looks utterly bored.
  5. John Moore is a schlock director. Did anyone see Max Payne? I rest my case.
  6. You won’t have any clue what’s going on from one scene to the next. There’s no flow. I was confused and yet too bored to put in any effort to figure it out.
  7. The villain sucks. He has no back-story and very few lines.
  8. There’s double crosses by characters who have almost no screen time. If I don’t even know who these people are, why would I care if someone betrayed someone else?

I could go on and on but I’ll end with this. This isn’t just the worst Die Hard film but my pick as the worst film of 2013.

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5 Awesome “Behind The Scenes” Pics: Gallery One

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Hi gang! Here is Vic’s Movie Den’s first gallery of Awesome “Behind the Scenes” pics. (Not to be confused with my “On The Set” posts) They are scanned pics from various movie books that I own and / or borrow from the library and some that I come across on the internet, to share with you. I hope you enjoy them and I look forward to doing more of these in the near future. Thanks!

- Vic

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The Scroll from “The Empire Strikes Back” being filmed

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R2-D2 gets a tune up / “Star Wars”

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Stay Puft Marshmallow Man on the miniature street set of “Ghostbusters”

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Robert Shaw and Bruce (aka The Great White Turd) between takes on the set of “Jaws”

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The late and great Stan Winston supervises last minute tests on the Queen while on the set of “Aliens”

Hope you enjoyed the pictures, everyone. There will be another gallery coming shortly. Stay tuned!

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