Tuesday, 31 October 2017

American Werewolf in Paris (5 Stars)

I often argue with film critics about their evaluation of a film. That's normal. I know more than the so-called experts who sit in their offices getting paid to write about films that they watch for free. Don't tell me I only say that because I'm jealous. It's true, I am jealous of people in that position, but I'd still think they were wrong in their judgements if I were one of them. I'd be a rebel. That's probably why nobody has ever rung me up and offered me a job.

What makes me uncomfortable is when I argue with my fellow film fans about the quality of a film. I don't mean when there are differing opinions about a film and I take one side against the other. What I mean is when I praise a film and nobody agrees with me. This is such a film. Ever since I first saw it in the cinema I've loved it and spoken positively of it, but I haven't found a single person who agrees with me. Not one. On the other hand, nobody that I've spoken to has been able to give me constructive arguments to explain why they think it's bad. All that my friends say to me is either "It's rubbish" or "I watched it years ago and didn't like it".

Some reviewers call it a sequel to "American Werewolf in London", but that's not correct. It shares none of the original film's characters, although it copies a lot of the visual images. I consider it to be a parody, not a sequel. "American Werewolf in London" was a parody itself, so "American Werewolf in Paris" is a parody of a parody. Is that the problem? Is that why my fellow film fans don't get it?

"American Werewolf in London" is considered to be a cult film (whatever that means), which could also be a problem. My friends went to the cinema thinking it's somehow blasphemy to make a sequel or new version of a film they love so much, so they didn't give it a chance.

Let me state briefly what I like so much about "American Werewolf in Paris". If I get and constructive criticism I'll go into it in detail the next time I watch it.

I like the exaggerated gothic element of the opening scene.

Julie Delpy's acting is superb.

The contrast of the superficial American teenagers to the serious French community is amusing.

I love the blasphemous elements of the scene in the church. This is also aptly gothic in character.

Do you like "American Werewolf in Paris"? If so, please leave me a comment so that I know I'm not the only one. If not, please leave a comment and explain your reasons.

Order from Amazon.com
Order from Amazon.co.uk
Order from Amazon.de

I still know what you did last summer (5 Stars)

A 7% rating on Rotten Tomatoes? You have to be kidding me! How did that happen? The film critics whose reviews are used for the aggregate on the RT site need to be fired, or at the least they have to be reeducated by spending a year talking to real film fans. The public got it right. It was a huge box office success, just like the original film.

According to Wikipedia, "I still know what you did last summer" has obtained a cult following. I still haven't been able to find a suitable definition of "cult" when referring to films. I really need to discuss the subject with my friends. I don't feel capable of creating a definition myself. I have an intuitive feeling of what's a cult film and what isn't, but I can't say why. Please leave a comment if you have a suggestion.

All I can say with certainty is that this is a fantastic film, one of the best horror films ever made.

Order from Amazon.com
Order from Amazon.co.uk
Order from Amazon.de

Monday, 30 October 2017

Possession (4 Stars)

There have been so many films about a person being possessed by a spirit over the years, but can a possession be benevolent? "Possession", a remake of a Korean film, attempts to answer this question.

Jess, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, is a defence attorney who lives in a small town near San Francisco. (I tried to figure out where by looking at the scenery, but the film was actually shot in Canada). She defends a man called Roman accused of violent assault. He's sentenced to 60 days in prison followed by three years probation, during which he's not allowed to leave California. But Jess isn't just a lawyer, she's a woman. During the trial she meets and falls in love with Roman's older brother Ryan and marries him six months later.

The marriage itself is happy. Ryan is a sensitive, romantic artist who works as a sculptor. That isn't enough to pay the bills, but Jess's salary is enough for them. There's only one shadow over their relationship. Ryan has agreed to let Roman live with him during his probation period. Roman is short-tempered and has frequent violent outbursts.

The two brothers get into a car accident because of Roman's reckless driving. They're both left in a coma. After a few weeks Roman wakes up, and he claims to be Ryan. Despite the proof -- he has Ryan's memories and his personality has now become gentle -- Jess believes it's a trick, and she suffers greatly having to share a house with him while he declares his love for her.

Interestingly, the film was originally made closely following the plot of the Korean original, but when it was finished it was decided that the story wouldn't work in America, so the last 30 minutes of the film were rewritten and refilmed, completely changing the film's outcome. The Blu-ray disc contains the original ending, so you can decide for yourself which is better.

"Possession" was plagued with problems that were nothing to do with the film itself. It was due to be released in 2007. Trailers were shown in cinemas, but the film was never shown. The studio that made the film, Yari Film Group, went into bankruptcy before the film could be released, and their assets were seized. It looked like the original tapes were destined to be left on a shelf and forgotten, but two years later 20th Century Fox bought the film for a bargain price. Big studios think differently to independent studios, and Fox considered it too risky to release "Possession" theatrically because Sarah Michelle Gellar has too little box office pulling power. In 2010 it was finally released on DVD and Blu-ray.

There seems to be a curse on Sarah Michelle Gellar. In the late 1990's and early 2000's she seemed destined to big fame. Her breakthrough was the title role in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", which is still considered to be her signature role. She was also successful in "Cruel Intentions" (1999) and the Scooby Doo films (2002 and 2004). Since then she's practically disappeared. Eight films in 13 years isn't a lot for someone tipped to become an A-List actress. What's gone wrong with her career?

Partly it's been her choice of films. She's tried to get away from horror films by appearing in intellectual thrillers like "The Return" and "The Air I breathe". There's nothing wrong with that in itself. Other big Hollywood stars like Jesse Eisenberg make intellectual thrillers. The trouble is that films like that don't usually make much money. It's okay for a big star to occasionally take a risk with films like that in between his blockbusters, but for someone struggling to establish herself it's a bad choice of genre. Sarah really ought to get herself a recurring role in a big budget franchise, but I fear it's too late. The studio bosses, who are more interested in money than artistic quality, just look at the average box office takings from Sarah's last few films, and it's not enough to impress them. She's not bankable.

Another problem is Sarah Michelle Gellar's clean image. She's a good girl who never gets into scandals. She's been married to the actor Freddie Prinze Jr for 15 years, and there hasn't even been a hint of an affair all this time. In today's shallow society actors need scandals to get ahead. No scandal means no news. The general public has lost interest in Sarah. That's sad but true.

Sarah is now 40, and her career has sunk to providing the voices for animated films and video games. She's doing the jobs that 20-year-olds do when they're trying to make a start in acting. She has too much talent to be in this position, but I fear she might remain in this rut for the rest of her life.

Order from Amazon.com
Order from Amazon.co.uk
Order from Amazon.de

Sunday, 29 October 2017

I know what you did last summer (5 Stars)

Four friends have just completed their last year of school. They have their whole lives ahead of them. First college, then marriage. Julie, Helen, Ray and Barry. Julie and Helen are best friends. Ray is Julie's boyfriend, Barry is Helen's boyfriend. The couples are inseparable, and the four friends are inseparable.

July 4th 1996 is a big day for the friends. Helen wins the local beauty contest and becomes the Southport Croaker Queen. After a beach party Julie and Ray have sex for the first time. Helen wants to keep Barry waiting, but she promises him that after college they will marry and have three children. The naivety of young love is so beautiful.

But one thing ruins the day and shatters their dreams. On the way home they run over a fisherman crossing the street. Rather than go to the police and risk jeopardising their futures they decide to dump his dead body in the sea. What harm can it do? He's already dead. Just as they're about to get rid of him he wakes up, but in their panic they throw him off the wharf anyway. It's no longer a road accident, they've committed a murder. The four friends swear that they will never tell anyone what happened, so they can continue with their lives as planned.

But murder changes everything. Nobody can remain the same after ending a person's life. We see the four friends reunite a year later, July 3rd 1997. The two relationships have broken up. Only Julie made it to college, while the other three have remained in Southport. None of them speak to one another any more, not even the three who live in the same town. Broken dreams and four shattered lives. The only reason they have for meeting again is a letter sent by someone claiming to have seen what happened 366 days earlier:

"I know what you did last summer".

This is a brilliant film, whatever the critics say. Once more they've proved themselves incapable of understanding what the public wants to see. It was a huge box office hit.

Most people compare it with "Scream", which was released a year earlier. Some horror fans prefer one, some the other. For me it's difficult to decide. I find "I know what you did last summer" slightly more enjoyable, even though I acknowledge that "Scream" is technically superior. Both are teen slasher films, i.e. films about a serial killer who targets teenagers primarily, though not shying away from collateral damage. The difference is in the tone of the films in between the killings. "Scream" is bright and light-hearted, whereas "I know what you did last summer" has a dark, morbid atmosphere from the very first scene, and not even the July 4th festivities can lift the feeling of doom.

Do you think that beauty contests are superficial, sexist trash? I do. They seem so artificial to me. Beauty contests put female beauty on display while avoiding female sexuality. The girls in the contests seem to tick all the boxes in the current beauty norms without actually looking desirable. It's a very bland beauty. In America it can be considered a religious beauty. It's the sort of beauty that good Christians can enjoy on Saturday evening without feeling guilty the next morning in church.

Having said that, I still like the girl in the middle.

Order from Amazon.com
Order from Amazon.co.uk
Order from Amazon.de

Scream 3 (5 Stars)

Public health warning: Cigarettes kill more people than masked serial killers.

Order from Amazon.com
Order from Amazon.co.uk

Saturday, 28 October 2017