Sunday, October 30, 2005

Did You See Saw II?

The top 5 films at the movies this weekend were as follows:

(Stats courtesy of Box Office Mojo)

Saw II

2. The Legend of Zorro

3. Prime

4. Dreamer


It's no surprise that Saw II sliced and diced its way to the top of the chart. The horror sequel already had a leg up on the competition--It's opening coincided with Halloween. While I liked the the original as an inventive and fun scarefest, I wonder if the new film can be as good. I think I will wait for its release on DVD.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Do It Again Sam

The November 4th issue of Entertainment Weekly devotes its cover story to the upcomming film Jarhead. The movie, based on the best selling book by former Marine Anthony Swofford, chronicles his experiences in Saudi Arabia as U.S. troops waited for combat to begin for the Gulf War of '91. The article, by Steve Daly, is quite good and really makes me want to see this film. Director Sam Mendes has always taken on interesting material for his films. From the Oscar winning American Beauty, to the vastly underrated adaptation of Max Allen Collins' graphic comic book novel Road to Perdition, he is one filmmaker that knows what he's doing. What is going to make Jarhead a unique "war" film is that there are no real scenes showing millitary combat. The only other example that fits into that category, and does the same thing is the lukewarm but still watchable Tigerland from 2000.

... I'm really hoping thogh that Jarhead will be a better movie than that one was. Given the Mendes track record, I would say that the odds are in my favor, for that to be the case. Look for the film to open in theaters on Friday November 4th 2005.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Tricks And Treats

As Halloween fast approaches for yet another year, it's the perfect time for The Last Reel's first (short) BEST OF LIST, a list of films that focus on my favorites of a particular genre of movie (don't worry, there will be plenty WORST OF LISTs too in the days and weeks ahead). Watching these films is a great way to spend All Hallows Eve.

Halloween-Simple story, Great scares, Gave actress Jamie Lee Curtis her career, Put director John Carpenter on the map as well. Look for a great performance by the late great Donald Pleasence (1919-1995). Shot on a shoe string budget in a very short time--yet managed to become a classic.

Alien and its sequel Aliens-Director Ridley Scott got the ball rolling with a stark, sci-fi/horror mix that lulls you into a false sense of security...and then- Wham!-hits you right in the gut and doesn't let up till the end. Sigourney Weaver makes one heck of a heroine. Then director James Cameron took what came before and multiplied things by a factor of ten for the sequel. After watching it for the first time in theaters, all I could say was "I need a drink".

John Carpenter's The Thing-a remake of The Thing From Another World from 1951. This time Carpenter is given a bit more cah-ching to scare us...What matters here though is how uneasy the humans of the story will make you feel, as opposed to the monster itself. A horror film for the guys more than the gals.

Storm Of The Century-I know it's really a TV miniseries, but it plays like a feature film, complete with a baddie that will chill you to the bone. The best Stephen King film, not based on one of his books, but rather an original work.

The Exorcist- Still turns my head after all these years. Based on author William Peter Blatty's book of the same name and directed by William Friedken. Demonic possession has never been so much fun

There you have it. My top picks to scare you this Halloween. Agree? Disagree? I'll have more to say about the horror genre soon.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

For This Reason Above All...

Just about everyone has a favorite movie. Young or old, there's usually at least one film that you can't miss any time it shows up on broadcast TV or cable, and that is a part of your film library at home. For me though, that one movie is much more... not only did it help to solidify my excitement for the medium at the tender age of 10, it also helped to determine a path that I followed into adulthood. Superman The Movie has stayed with me since the first time I saw it at a local second run theater on a hot summer day,--August 23rd 1979, to be precise.

Directed by Richard Donner, the film, has it all.

The origin of The Man Of Steel has been told many times over the years in print and on screen. But few have had the size and scope of this film. The planet Krypton is doomed. In order for his infant son to survive, scientist Jor-El (Marlon Brando) sends him to Earth in a small star ship. Once on our world, he is found and raised by Jonathan (Glenn Ford) and Martha Kent (Phylis Thaxter). As a teenager, young Clark Kent (Jeff East), soon discovers that he has "powers beyond those of mortal men". Once the adult Clark (Christopher Reeve) moves to the city of Metropolis, he lands a job as a reporter at the Daily Planet, and Superman soon reveals himself to the world. This as the diabolical Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) hatches a plot that means the death of millions.

At its center, Reeve keeps things "real", and it's his performance as our hero that makes me "Believe A Man Can Fly", not the special effects. Donner takes nothing for granted in his direction. The film has some broadness to it, but it never gets out of hand, or too campy The movie has influenced filmmakers. Most noteworthy, of course, are Spider-Man director Sam Raimi, Batman Begins director Christopher Nolan and X-Men helmer Bryan Singer, who left that franchise, so that he could direct 2006's Superman Returns.

As for the DVD, I own the Creative Arts Deluxe Box Set, which features the same DVD that's available separately, or as part of Superman movies DVD collection. The Director's cut includes a 2001 digital transfer of the film and 8 minutes of added footage (seen first on network TV). The film looks great. The sound mix was altered a bit but isn't as bad as some have suggested. The audio commentary by Donner and "Creative Consultant" (writer) Tom Mankiewicz is really very good. Get the real inside scoop on the making of the film with 3 documentaries and 1 featurette on casting. The commentary and documentaries give viewers a good idea what it must have been like to make the movie-including the story behind Donner being fired by the producers-while making Superman II.

Other extras on this 2 sided disc also include a pair of deleted scenes, theatrical trailers, a vintage TV spot, an isolated music only track of composer John Williams' rousing score, along with a few alternate music cues, and some DVD-ROM only material. The box set also offers a collectible Senitype (film clip negative, with its corresponding film frame, a reprint of the original 20 page press campaign booklet, and a set of eight lobby card prints. Topping off the set is a 27x40 reprint of the original theatrical poster. The set comes with a folded poster that quite frankly, is a pretty silly idea, if you ask me. If you feel the same way I do, for a small shipping and handling fee, you can have a rolled version of the same poster sent to you that looks "Super" in a frame (sorry I couldn't resist).

Despite being made before the advent of CGI-Superman holds up, standing the test of time, while raising the bar for every film based on a comic book since its release in 1978.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Why Here ? Why Now?

The idea for The Last Reel came about after I had been writing movie product reviews for a major online retailer as a customer for years. Using a pen name, I had amassed quite a large number of them, along with some positive feedback. After my friend Joe had read a few, he suggested that I morph those posts into a blog about movies. At first, I resisted the idea of "going public" with my musings, because I don't consider myself a "writer" by any means. And writing a blog is different from posting product reviews. There's something to be said for being anonymous.
After mulling it over I nixed the idea...and then something happened between myself and the retailer--they told me that I broke one of their "rules" for posting. After discovering that I had inadvertently done just that, I rectified the issue as they requested, yet they still deleted my work anyway. And while I harbor no ill will at the retailer, (I still use their site) that was enough to lead me here, to the blogosphere.

Of course, I plan to post on the blog as often as I can--heck, my goal is daily--But I ask for some patience until I get into some sort of groove.