So after watching Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and hungering for more films with great tension, I tried to find more films like it. And I ended up finding an old TV movie called Steven Spielberg’s Duel. This film was a good choice because it was so great that I may consider it one of my favorite films by Spielberg. The plot concerns about a guy named David Mann, played by Dennis Weaver, who is on his way to an appointment out of his town. While on the road he runs into an old tanker truck that is kind of messing around with him. However while driving some more he realizes that the truck driver has some serious road rage and is probably trying to kill him. So it’s up to him to try to survive. This film is a very engaging movie with heart-pounding tension. Mostly because of Spielberg’s camerawork and direction. The script is by Richard Matheson who also wrote the novels I Am Legend and The Shrinking Man which both were turned into movies. Matheson was inspired by a real life event where he was driving by a crazy truck driver on the highway. Originally published in a Playboy Magazine [no joke] the story was picked up by Universal Studios. Spielberg immediately picked up the project and thus the film Duel was born. Like I said earlier this was originally a TV movie that was gonna premier on ABC’s Movie of the Week special. However the film was so well done that I forgot that it even was a TV movie. In fact it was shown in theaters overseas. Dennis Weaver did a great job portraying David Mann. He really felt like he was actually worried for his life and not a person acting as a character. The other character everyone remembers is the truck. Spielberg worked hard to make the truck look like some kind of monster. In a mini documentary on the DVD I got called A Conversation with Steven Spielberg gave more details on how he choose the truck. He thought the tanker had a face like how the windows are the eyes, the front end is a huge snout, and the grill and front bumper is the mouth. Plus they used makeup as well to make it look like a horrid creature like the Wolfman or a Mummy. Spielberg wanted the truck look like a veteran of road murders by making it look scruffy and giving it oil marks. Plus you never see the truck driver’s face. Sure you see his boots or his hands sometimes and in you kind of get a glimpse of the stunt man, Carey Loftin’s face however you never get a clear look at his face. I’ve never felt so nervous in a movie ever. In the climax David is trying to get up a hill and his car is over-heating and starts to slow down with the truck close behind. That one scene is very nerve-racking. Or how about another scene where he stops in a diner and realizes that the truck driver may be in the diner with him. Scenes like that make this film interesting. But like every movie it’s not flawless. For some reason David still feels the need to get to this appointment even though this maniac has been trying to kill him and still is stalking him all the way. At that point I would’ve turned around and gone home instead of constantly putting my life on the line. Also how come David has to stop a couple times to get gas when the big truck still pushes forward. I assume that a truck that’s going over 50 miles an hour and is hauling a heavy tank would burn a lot fuel. Or maybe he has a bunch of gas in his tanker and there’s a secret line pumping it into his truck all the time. But despite those flaws the film still holds up. I enjoy chase movies like the Mad Max films and this was a great one for the books. I highly recommend this movie to everyone reading this review right now.
I’ve returned and am ready for another review. Last night I saw Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and it was pretty good. The film was very well executed and had moments of great tension, good effects, and an amazing score. For those who have seen the trailers for this movie you can probably tell it’s about the struggles British and French forces had to go through at Dunkirk during WW2. There are about three separate stories about the ground forces, the air force, and the citizens trying to go help save them. This film is full of great tension practically thanks to Hans Zimmer’s fantastic score. It helps scenes become more intense which is basically the film’s saving grace. Because most of the film is trying to tell all these stories in such a cluttered way. Sure the stories are very intriguing but would be a whole lot better if they were separate from the same movie. Yeah they’re pretty out of order. It has the exact same tone throughout the film which kind of makes it structureless. Another thing that bothered me was the PG-13 rating. Not that there’s anything wrong with a film having a PG-13 rating, in fact I often just ignore a movie’s rating because of how backwards the MPAA is, but if you’re going to do a war movie that involves violence and people dying than you should be more realistic than doing it in a cookie-cutter, for the kiddies kind of way. This film isn’t even geared towards kids so why do you have to dumb it down. Who honestly believes that if a bomb falls on a person only dirt will come up and not a limb or a single drop of blood? I hate it how studios feel they have to this nowadays. So just saying if you’re going to show acts of violence in your war movie than go for an R. However the film is beautifully shot, great acting, and actual practical effects instead of relying heavily on CG all the time. That’s always a plus in recent seeing how practical effects is rarely used anymore in films. My favorite story by far was the air force stuff with Tom Hardy. Not only was it the most intense and realistic scenes in the movie but was also very interesting. Overall this film is another great movie that Nolan can put under his belt. If you like smart and intriguing WW2 movies, this is for you.
So when you have two horror masterpieces under your belt that are critically praised and want to make another one? Possibly make it the most epic and awesome entree in the series?? Not exactly. Don’t get me wrong, the film is great but not as great as the fun Dawn of the Dead or as risk-taking as Night of the Living Dead. Originally the script that George A Romero wrote was so big and epic that Tom Savini [Romero’s buddy and mater of special effects] described it as the Ben Hur of zombie movies. But thanks to budget cuts to final project isn’t as epic as it was planned. But hey, what’s the plot? Seven years after the last movie, the zombie crisis has gotten so huge that the remaining humans have to flee underground. A group of humans, led by Joseph Rhodes, try to survive in a missile silo. One of these humans is Sarah. She constantly has to put up with crap and dreams of getting out of there. And a bunch of gore and tension ensues. The main things that everyone remembers are the main characters and gore. Sarah is the first good female lead in the Living Dead movies. You see all the crap she has to deal with on a daily basis and root for her all the way. There’s a crazy scientist appropriately nicknamed Dr. Frankenstein who is experimenting with the captured zombies and ends up trying to teach a zombie named Bub to be civilized. But the one everyone remembers is the devious Joseph Rhodes. He is so evil, so conniving, and so over-the-top that you just love to hate. But let’s talk about the gorey highlights. A tradition that’s been happening in these movies is that with each installment the gore gets bigger. And the gore master Tom Savini relishes the effects in this movie. There’s the shovel kill where a guy slices a zombie’s head in half with a shovel. Another one is where a guy is getting his head torn off his body and his vocal chords are getting stretched out that his yell turns into a hellish shriek. It sounds like speeding up of a cassette tape. But the goriest kill gets to the one who deserves it the most, Rhodes. He gets cornered by a group of zombies. They tear open his stomach and rip off his torso. Apparently they lost power on set and the cow meat they used rotted and smelled. So both the actor and character were going through hell at the same time. Plus the effects for the zombies have gotten better and the moans they make are a little creepy. But the film has its disadvantages as well. There’s some humor in this film but it’s not as good as the last film. The soundtrack fits this film’s dark tone but it’s not as good as the films last film’s soundtrack. One thing I forgot to mention in my Dawn of the Dead review is that the soundtrack was done by an Italian rock band called Goblin. Catchy as hell you should listen to it at some point. Some of the characters aren’t as memorable or enjoyable as the characters from the last films. But this film is still great. Upon its release in 1985 it was panned by fans and critics alike and had competition with other zombie flicks like Re-animator and Return of the Living Dead. But overtime has gotten more attention and is considered another masterpiece and got a crappy remake. Following this film would be 2005’s Land of the Dead, 2007’s Diary of the Dead, and 2009’s Survival of the Dead which were all lackluster compared to the first three. But what lives on, lives on. The Living Dead Series is truly a masterpiece. We can all thank none other than George A Romero.
We live in an era of Hollywood reboots. Most are pretty crappy but once in a while you’ll get something good. And the new 2010s Planet of the Apes Trilogy is one of them. The recent installment, War of the Planet of the Apes, is a really good movie. The effects, plot, and acting [mostly] are good. The main things I like about this movie are the CG effects. I’m always going to prefer practical more than CG but this film’s effects are fantastic. It seems that the effects in these movies have gradually gotten better in each one. There were several times where I thought the ape characters were actually there, which is quite an achievement for CGI. The other thing I like is Andy Serkis’s performance as Caesar. He has played the character great in the past two films but this is definitely the peak of his performance. You’re are always on his side and root for him all the way. Plus Woody Harrelson’s was good as the evil general who imprisons all the apes and uses them as slave labor to build a wall [not making a certain reference] to prepare for an upcoming attack from another army. There’s also a plot point that there’s this disease that takes away humanity’s speech and gives them a primitive mind. One of these infected humans is a little girl named Nova. I kind of don’t like this character. When the apes come across her they kill her dad and she doesn’t get upset, however in another when an ape dies she starts to tear up. I guess the film was hinting that she had a bad relation with her father but if you’re not gonna explain it then it’s a distracting flaw. The one scene that pisses me off is when she just walks in to the villain’s big hideout and feeds all the slaved apes. Where are all the guards when this is happening. You could probably say that because she’s a human they wouldn’t attack her but she’s feeding the apes and Caesar tells her if they see her they’ll kill her. So there you go. Also there’s this comic relief named Bad Ape who’s not horrendous but is kind of annoying. In one scene he held at gun point and “Okay, I Bad Ape” and the audience cackles. Overall is the film as good as the original 1968 Planet of the Apes, no, but is it better as its sequels, yes [speaking of which I’ll probably get to those at some point]. I know people who wouldn’t be in to this movie but if you liked the past two then you’ll definitely love this one.
So when you have a horror masterpiece that is praised by critics and is changing the face of the horror genre? Make an even bigger and better movie ten years later with 1978’s Dawn of the Dead. I love this movie! It has everything from scares, laughs, likable characters, and social commentary. With no survivors from the last film and the zombie virus on the rise, humanity is struggling to subdue the world issue. Stuff immediately is plunged into chaos when a news station is going crazy and a SWAT team tries to bust criminals when they’re attacked by zombies. Four people, Peter, Roger, Francine, and Fly-boy, try to escape to Canada in a helicopter when they have to stop for fuel. After another zombie attack they eventually come across a mall. They decide to hide out there until they find a way to get north. This film is a complete masterpiece. At this point horror movies were cheap, sleazy, trashy movies. Though once in a while you’d get a great one like The Exorcist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or John Carpenter’s Halloween most of 70s horror was bottom of the barrel crap. But this film was amazing. So let’s talk about what is great about this movie. The gore and effects have certainly gotten better from last time. With the master of gore, Tom Savini, doing the effects you know you’re in for something. Savini also plays the memorable character of a violent, machete wielding, leader of a motorcycle gang that wants to take over the mall from our main characters. This film is very realistic because if a zombie apocalypse were to happen, more than one group of people would want to hide in there. There is also a scene at an abandoned gas station when Peter gets attacked by two zombie children. Something that bothers me is that in other horror movies where people a killed left and right, nothing bad happens to children. Which is bull because in real life kids would be just a vulnerable as adults. But lets talk about the characters. My favorite is Peter, played by Ken Foree, who’s so tough that when he’s out of bullets he just kicks the zombies away. He also delivers the film’s tagline “When there is no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the earth.” Also Roger who’s hilarious and say the line “We got this man, we got this by the ass!” The motorcycle gang also cracks me up. These guys break in the mall and start rioting. When our heroes start firing at them, one guy goes up to this other guy and says “What are doing fooling around when someones shooting at us?”, he’s just so restrained too. The one character that I don’t care about really is the female lead Francine. Though she’s not as bad as Barbara from the last movie she’s still flat and useless. There’s this one scene where Fly-boy [her boyfriend I may add] is being attacked by a zombie and she just stands there. Doesn’t help, run, or do anything about that zombie that was coming at her. It would have made more sense if she was getting attacked too but nope. And in this other scene where they’re trying to block the entrance so no more zombies come in the mall and she’s supposed to guard them from zombie attacks, she screws up again. Everyone knows that you need to destroy a zombie’s brain in order to kill it. However she doesn’t [even though she has a sniper-rifle] and Roger gets bitten and later has to be killed. I know you’d probably say she probably didn’t know but according to this movie the zombie rise is getting bigger and bigger everyday and everyone should probably know at this point because of the media’s exposure of zombies. But hey that’s enough of that. The Living Dead movies may be dark and grim, which the film is at times, but when they get to the mall it’s fun and entertaining. Just the thought of having a whole mall to yourself is inviting of fun ideas. Our characters take advantage of it by playing arcade games, going ice-skating, and fooling around the place. The main characters aren’t dumb, they’re smart, which us audience like them more. This is awesome and I would go as far as to say Dawn of the Dead is my favorite horror movie by for and I have George A Romero to thank for it. You don’t have to be in the Halloween spirit to watch this flick. It’s dark yet fun. Night of the Living Dead may have started it all, but Dawn of the Dead is the zombie movie by far! Oh and if you want my thoughts on the Zack Snyder remake, it sucks so bad.
In honor of George A Romero I give review on his magnum opus, Night of the Living Dead. The history of horror was changed forever when this film came out on October 1, 1968. It was something new and fresh and critics and audiences seemed to love it. So what’s the plot to this masterpiece of cinema. One day a woman named Barbara and her brother, Johnny, are paying respects in a graveyard when a zombie attacks them. Barbara runs for her life while Johnny stays behind to fend off the zombie. Barbara takes shelter in an abandoned house and also meets up with the pragmatic Ben, the untrustworthy Harry, and four other expendable characters. They group up to try to survive an attack of flesh-eating zombies. With only a budget of $114,000, this film created a lot of scares and a good amount of box office money. Though the film is made very well there are some flaws that are noticeable. For example, the female lead, Barbara, is way to annoying and doesn’t do anything but scream and whine all the time. I know that she worries about her brother but Jesus is she annoying! Plus a lot of are other group members are pretty dumb. Besides Ben the rest of them are just plain stupid. There’s this young couple who while try to fill up a truck with gas so they can escape in this one scene, accidentally lit the the truck on fire. instead of leaving it behind they get into the truck and while trying to drive away, the truck explodes and they die. Class act! Or how about this other couple who’s child gets bitten by a zombie and instead of immediately taking her to a doctor [you know with the supposed disease floating around and such] decide to bring her along without medical attention and hope for the best. I know scientists say that biting is the most ineffective way to spread disease but you can at least try to see. Plus there’s some lighting issues as well like when it’s supposed to be nighttime yet they didn’t film the scene at night and it’s so obvious that they filmed it at day. When I first saw that scene I thought it was dawn yet in the next shot it’s clearly night. But still the film has its advantages as well. The lead male, Ben, is a very smart character and does his best to fend off the zombies. Up till the point where he points how stupid everyone else is. Also there’s Harry who the film portrays as a complete asshole most of the time. The main thing everyone remembers about this movie is the risks it took. Now if this film was distributed by any big Hollywood corporation at the time it would have an all white cast with pretty tame violence. However director Romero was a risk taker by making the lead a black man and morally superior to the people around him plus gore. Besides the british Hammer Dracula movies, most films back then didn’t have any graphic violence. However this film had it and had a scene where it shows a swarm of zombies feeding of off intestines and other organs. Also the black and white really cements this films dark and foreboding tone. That’s why when Tom Savini tried to remake this in 1990 it just didn’t work. It was in color and it just repeated everything that happened in this movie. Overall this film is great. It was something new at the time and is still remembered as a horror classic. It may not have invented zombies but it was film to feature them for a while before its sequel came out in 1978. Stay tuned for that one.
If you thought Alien was great, just wait till you get to the sequel, Aliens. This is one of the few movie sequels to actually be better than the first one. Sure it kinda takes a little scariness that the first one had and dialed it down but on levels of enjoyment, this one is superior. So what’s the plot? We start out with Ripley, who is the only survivor of the last crew, who is found 57 years later in hyper-sleep. She tells everyone about the Xenomorph that killed her crew but everyone is hesitant to believe her claims. That is until signal is lost of a colony on the same planet the Face-Hugger was found. So she’s recruited to the Marines and joined by other characters. They arrive on the planet to discover that seems to be empty of human life. They explore more of the place and discover a little girl named Newt and dozens of Xenomorphs. Have of the crew gets killed and it’s up to the last of the Marines to survive and wipe the Xenomorph race clean. Where the first film was a slasher thriller this one is a war movie with guns, grenades, flamethrowers, acid, and lots of blood. Not to mention an amazing production design. Instead of Ridley Scott, James Cameron [most famous for making Titanic and the Terminator movies] is in the director’s chair this time. Besides a few green-screens the effects, models, and sets look spectacular in this movie. Not to mention the Xenomorphs. Since this film has a higher budget than the last one the Xenomorphs got an update making them look bigger, badder, and scarier. And like a I said there are more than one of them here, including a queen Xenomorph that is half the size the size of King Kong. But what about the human characters? Sigourney Weaver is back as Ellen Ripley and is more tough and determined to kill all Xenomorphs. There is also Michael Biehn as Cpl. Dwayne Hucks who becomes Ripley’s closest allie. Another android named Bishop played by Lance Henriksen. Pvt. Vasquez who is more tougher than the men around her. Paul Reiser as the sleazy Carter Burke who wears a flannel shirt on the battlefield. But my favorite of all is Bill Paxton’s Pvt. Hudson. This guy is just so hilarious to watch that never want to see him die. In fact the characters are so great that you don’t see them as typical buffet for the Xenomorphs you grow attached to them to the point where you don’t want to see them die at all. This one of my favorite movies of all time and for good reason. The effects are great, the sets are great, the characters are great, the story is great, it’s just an all around great movie. To the point where I like it better than the first one. I definitely recommend seeing this one sometime soon.
Last night in Toronto, Canada on July 16, 2017, we lost a talented director named George Andrew Romero at the age of 77. He died in his sleep after an aggressive battle with lung cancer. For those who are unaware Romero was a director who is most famous for making the Living Dead Series. Have you ever wondered why zombies have become so mainstream this past decade? All because of him and his films. It all began with 1968’s Night of the Living Dead which was revolutionary in thriller genre. It was also different from other films at the time. It had gore and was one of the first films to ever have a black lead. It is considered a masterpiece among critics and horror fans alike. Cut ten years later to 1978 and Dawn of the Dead comes out and is another masterpiece. This series would continue until 2009’s Survival of the Dead. Films like 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, Planet Terror, and Return of the Living Dead all owe their existence to Romero. Besides the Living Dead Series Romero also made other films like Stephen King’s Creepshow. So as you can tell I am a big fan of his work and am sad of his recent death. In memory of him I’ll be reviewing the first three Living Dead movies Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead on Retro Reviews this week. Nothing else left to say but farewell, George A Romero.
RIP George A Romero
Welcome to a new part of my show where called Retro Reviews! I will review retro movies and TV shows that are either classics, cult-followings, or any memorable media from the past. Now my first review will be on 1979’s Alien.
Ridley Scott’s Alien was a very revolutionary film in the sci-fi, horror genre. I already kinda went over this breifly in my Childhood Trauma posts but I thought talk more about it as a Retro Review. The plot centers around a bunch of space-miners that end up discovering an unknown planet where alien life resides. While they explore a crashed spacecraft one of the miners, played by John Hurt [may he rest in piece], gets latched onto by an alien called a Face-Hugger. After some unsuccessful attempts to pry it off his face, he eventually wakes up with the Face-Hugger off and dead. But while eating another alien, that Face-Hugger left in him, bursts out of his stomach that would later be known as a Xenomorph. It grows in size and it’s up to the crew to make it out alive. This film is a masterpiece in its design, acting, cinematography, and scariness. While most of the characters are enjoyable, the one that everyone remembers is Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver. Though she’d later become a tough badass in the sequels, here she’s just trying to survive and is kinda scared of the Xenomorph. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t act well as Ripley. There’s also Ian Holm as Ash who’s secretly a robot and fooling the crew into picking up alien lifeforms. You kinda know something was up with him before the twist was revealed, especially in the director’s cut. Oh yeah by the way my Blu Ray comes with two versions of the film, the 1979 theatrical release and the 2003 directors cut. I’m rather torn on which one I prefer more. The directors cut does show more scenes explaining what happened to some of the Xenomorph’s victims but then again it kinda takes away from the whole mystery of what is the alien and what did it do to them. And what is good horror than the unknown. I can’t decide so you can see both and tell me in the comments below. But we can’t talk about this movie without bringing up the real star of the franchise, the Xenomorph. Taken from H R Giger’s notebook, the Xenomorh is the most iconic figure of the Alien Franchise and has been in 8 movies. Sure he’s not as scary because of exposure of media but I can understand why he scared audiences back in 1979. Hell I was scared of him as a 2nd grader. I can go on and on about how great this movie is but I’ll leave for you guys to see. It’s too bad that this is only two of great movies in the franchise including this and the second one, Aliens. By the way we’ll be getting to that one next.
Before I get to the review I’d like to go on a rant about movie goers. I went to go see this movie at an awesome theater called the Alamo Drafthouse. It is a cool place and I enjoy watching movies there. But today I sat in front of two obnoxious brats and their dumb father. They were so loud and constantly resisted the urge to turn around hit them. The only thing I want to say is that kids aren’t that bright and if you’re a parent please make sure that you’re young children aren’t annoying, especially at movie theaters. Anyway on with the review.
So there is another Spiderman movie out and it was eh. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t that great of a film either. Did I enjoy it, yeah, but were there moments that you didn’t enjoy, yep. Tom Holland was a good Spiderman but I will admit that he wasn’t as good as Andrew Garfield’s version. Michael Keaton was good as the villain, the Vulture, but his character wasn’t too developed enough. I mean he has an understandable motive but he was still not as great as Loki. Plus Robert Downey Jr is still great as Iron Man. But besides the three I just mentioned, the rest of the characters aren’t that interesting. Spiderman has a friend named Ned who basically serves as comic-relief. There is a bully who has nothing to do with anything. Aunt May was there and did barely anything. There’s another villain called the Shocker whose just there. Zendaya as a shallow, unfunny jerk. And finally the love-interest, not Mary Jane, not Gwen Stacey, but some chick named Liz. The actress who played was not bad or anything but she was so bland and forgettable that she has no impact on the film. I could go on and on about how bland the characters are but my hands are getting tired of typing. Also the movie completely trolls the audience by advertising itself as if Spiderman and Iron Man are to fight together never once do in the film. Overall the film has some okay humor, bland characters, and cool action scenes wrapped all together in a predictable plot full of teenage drama. I’d say wait till it comes out on home video if you’re curious.