31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 23 [Top 250 Friday] – #192: Diabolique (1955)

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Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

Cast: Simone Signoret, Vera Clouzot, Paul Meurisse, Charles Vanel

Screenplay: Henri-Georges Clouzot, Jerome Geronimi

116 mins. Not Rated.

IMDb Top 250: #192 (as of 10/23/2015)

 

I saw Diabolique last night. I wasn’t entirely impressed. Let me explain.

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Diabolique is the story of two women, Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret, Room at the Top, The Army of Shadows) and Christina Delassalle (Vera Clouzot, The Wages of Fear, The Truth), who conspire to murder Christina’s husband, the cruel Michel (Paul Meurisse, Le Deuxieme, Lunch on the Grass). After they commit the crime, Michel’s body goes missing and the two women are thrown into a chilling conspiracy of deceit.

I thought the visuals of the film were fine. The actors capably perform in the film. I really enjoyed Vera Clouzot in particular. There are some great aspects of this film.

One big failure of this film, though, is the pace. I’m not one of those people who discredits older black-and-white features for problems of aging, but this one kind of bored me a bit.

Now the ending itself was pretty sweet. I still felt somewhat underwhelmed by it, but I feel like that could be because I heard about it before I saw it.

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Diabolique isn’t for everyone. It is definitely a slow burn, and I just wasn’t really feeling it. I hope you will feel differently, but for me, it just didn’t do it.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

[Top 250 Friday] #58: The Shining (1980)

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Director: Stanley Kubrick

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers, Danny Lloyd

Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson

146 mins. Rated R.

iMDB Top 250: #58 (as of 6/12/2015)

 

In today’s visit to the iMDB Top 250, we take a look at The Shining, from director Stanley Kubrick (A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket).

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Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson, The Departed, How Do You Know) has just been hired to care after The Overlook Hotel during the offseason of the winter alongside his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall, Annie Hall, The 4th Floor) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd). Danny meets the hotel chef, Dick Halloran (Scatman Crothers, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Aristocats), who teaches him about an ability they both share called the Shining. As Danny encounters some of the ghostly apparitions of The Overlook, father Jack sinks deeper and deeper into madness as cabin fever takes him over.

I’m not a fan of Danny Lloyd, but the rest of the cast performs admirably and very well in the film, thanks to Kubrick’s unwavering ability to get the best out of his performers, whatever means necessary. His relationship with Shelley Duvall turned an okay performance into a good one, but it was through an entire movie shoot of ridicule and fighting.

Kubrick gives this film some truly incredible cinematography. He has some of the most impressive shots and lighting I’ve seen in a film, due to his imperfect perfectionism. Because of this, The Shining has been and will be forever analyzed.

I love this film, but I hate this adaptation. So did Stephen King, who wrote the incredible novel that the film is based on. I think the book was better and I would love to see a straight adaptation one day, but the film is pretty incredible nonetheless.

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There are so many great pieces about this film that fit so well together. It is truly the high point of an already terrific career. Stanley Kubrick has made a list of notable films, but his abilities to direct what is essentially a horror film prove his prowess among the greats.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more iMDB Top 250, click here.

 

[Happy 30th Birthday!] [Top 250 Friday] #51: Back to the Future (1985)

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Director: Robert Zemeckis

Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover

Screenplay: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale

116 mins. Rated PG.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Song “The Power of Love”

iMDB Top 250: #44 (as of 03/04/2016)

 

Director Robert Zemeckis (Cast Away, Flight) is one of my all-time favorite directors. Back to the Future is one of my all-time favorite films. I could watch it as well as both sequels over and over again until the end of time, but when I was really young, it was just the third film that I was addicted to. I must’ve watched our old VHS tape a thousand times. I ruined that tape. It wasn’t until my teen years that I understood and fell in love with the original film.

Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox, TV’s Family Ties, Annie) is a slacker, a young man addicted to a dream of musical stardom. Those around him attribute his failings on his strange friendship with Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), an equally floundering individual who has potential but hasn’t invented anything of significance. But when Doc invited Marty to see his ultimate new experiment, a time machine in the body of a DeLorean, Marty ends up on an adventure through time as he tries to avoid creating a paradox while also trying to get back to the future!

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Zemeckis turned an incredible screenplay with Bob Gale into an incredibly crafted film about more than just time travel. The true path of the film centers on Marty’s inability to connect to his parents, Lorraine (Lea Thompson, TV’s Caroline in the City, Left Behind) and George (Crispin Glover, Alice in Wonderland, Open Season 3), until he meets them as teenagers in 1955. His completed film is perfect in every way, but it took some time to actually get there.

Michael J. Fox so well embodies a 1980s teenage like Marty McFly that it’s almost impossible to see the character played by anyone. His performance is perfect casting, but his hiring didn’t happen smoothly. Fox had to pass on the role due to his heightened role on Family Ties, so Zemeckis hired actor Eric Stoltz. Stoltz was a method actor and did his best with the role, but he just wasn’t working out actor several weeks of trying. By that time, Fox’s commitment to Family Ties had been able to free him up, so he replaced Stoltz and the rest is history. Apparently, other future big names like Johnny Depp also tested for the role, but he wasn’t very memorable.

There were other problems with the cast. Crispin Glover hadn’t been as infamous a performer as he was later known for. The actor, who famously went…how do I put it…batshit as his career derailed into minutiae, got so nervous while performing some lines that he had to mouth the lines and fix them in post-production. His performance as George McFly, a loser who doesn’t think himself worthy of his future wife’s love.

The rest of the cast worked perfectly. Christopher Lloyd gives the best performance of his career as Doc, Lea Thompson as Marty’s mother who unknowingly has the hots for him in 1955, and of course Thomas F. Wilson as the legendary bully Biff, who improvised many of his most famous lines like “make like a tree and get out of here.”

Perhaps the most well-known character in the film is the time machine itself. It is so wonderfully 80s that it helped define an entire generation of moviegoers. They used three DeLoreans in production (ironically more DeLoreans than were actually sold).

The set design in the film is very important. The production needed to find dual sets that displayed how things change between 1955 and 1985, yet also how things stay the same. In fact, they used actual set pieces from the 1959 original pilot for The Twilight Zone to emulate 1955 Hill Valley.

The score from Alan Silvestri is so grandiose and well-complementing with Huey Lewis and the News’ Oscar-nominated songs that it turns what could be construed as a relatively simple coming-of-age story into a cosmic cool tale of sci-fi that raises the stakes of the adventure. Huey Lewis himself cameos early in the film as the judge of Marty’s band. In fact, music plays such a big part in placing scenes within a particular time period as well as the characters. In fact, when Marty is performing “Johnny B. Goode” later in the film, he emulates the best current musicians like The Who (kicking over the speaker), AC/DC (playing on his back on the floor), Chuck Berry (hopping on one leg across the stage), and Jimi Hendrix/Eddie Van Halen (with the emphasized guitar solo).

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Back to the Future is a classic film that has ages so perfectly. The film is virtually flawless and each time I watch it, I discover something new (it took me so long to catch the Twin Pines Mall reference that Marty butterfly-effects after traveling to 1955). It helped launch one of the most recognizable and beloved franchises in film history and remains a film that other filmmakers only aspire to reach. I recommend it to teens today who haven’t seen it as a part of popular culture. Hell, I recommend it to everyone.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Top 250 Friday] 12) Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

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Director: Irvin Kershner

Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Frank Oz

Screenplay: Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan

124 mins. Rated PG for sci-fi action violence.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Sound
  • Academy Award Winner: Special Achievement Award (for visual effects)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Art Direction
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Score

iMDB Top 250: #12 (as of 6/3/2015)

 

On the very short list of the Best Sequels of All Time, The Empire Strikes Back is pretty darn close to the top. Director Irvin Kershner (RoboCop 2, Never Say Never Again) brought not just the best installment in the Star Wars franchise, but also an amazing science fiction epic.

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It has been three years since Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, TV’s Regular Show, Kingsman: The Secret Service) and the Rebels destroyed the Death Star. While Luke heads to the Dagobah System to train with the Jedi Master Yoda (Frank Oz, TV’s The Muppet Show, Zathura), Han Solo (Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Age of Adaline) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher, When Harry Met Sally, Maps to the Stars) evade the malicious Empire while trying to find somewhere to hide out when they come across Cloud City and Han’s old friend, Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams, Batman, Barry Munday).

Kershner presents Empire as a dark continuation of the Star Wars Saga. Luke is challenged in his furthering of his Jedi abilities with Frank Oz puppeting the creature Yoda in a great performance of the little green Jedi Master (there was even a campaign to win Oz the coveted Oscar for an acting role), while Han and Leia are tested in their abilities to trust, both one another and those close to them as they carefully avoid detection by the enemy. New to the series, Billy Dee Williams handles his role capably and intermingles into the cast with ease.

The film is beautifully shot and looks just as nice now as it did 35 years ago. Ben Burtt displayed some great new sound effects for this film, setting a new standard for sci-fi while setting itself above the rest. The film is also perfectly paced. I could watch it ten times in a row and it would still flow well.

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Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back is the best film in the series (and also the only one not written by George Lucas). It proves that some films can best their predecessor. The film, now 35, is still an amazing piece of cinema.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, click here.

For my review of George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, click here.

For my review of George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, click here.

For my review of George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, click here.