Monthly Archives: January 2014

#253 Midnight Cowboy

(1969, John Schlesinger)

“I ain’t a for real cowboy but I am one helluva stud!”

Cowboy? Oh great, another Western, just what I don’t want to watch. Wait, no, this name sounds familiar somehow. Hang on, is this the movie that made Nilsson’s version of “Everybody’s Talkin’” famous? I love that song! And it’s not a Western, it’s about a failed male gigolo living in New York? Well, that changes everything!

Midnight Cowboy stars Jon Voight as Joe Buck, a young Texan man who moves to New York to fulfil his dream of becoming a male prostitute catering to rich women. If that sounds like an odd dream to have, the movie shares details of his past that suggest he may have developed a slightly skewed view of sexual relationships. Failing to sell himself successfully, he ends up meeting a sickly man named Enrico Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman), who steadily becomes his friend.

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#252 Pinocchio

(1940, Ben Sharpsteen & Hamilton Luske)

“Prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish, and someday, you will be a real boy.”

I’ve covered a lot of Disney movies, it seems, although in actual fact very few movies from Disney’s Animated Canon are on the 1001 Movies You Must See list. In fact, I believe this may be the last one we’ll see. Disappointed that many of your favourites weren’t included? So am I, but there you go.

Pinocchio, as you may know, is the story of a puppet made by the eccentric Geppetto, brought to life by the Blue Fairy and accompanied by the quirky Jiminy Cricket. Pinocchio must learn to be brave and kind and other positive character traits in order to become a real boy and not be taken in by tricksters and turned into a donkey, and mustn’t tell lies otherwise his nose will grow to enormous proportions. Someone gets eaten by a whale too. It’s a weird story.

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#251 The Adventures Of Robin Hood

(1938, Michael Curtiz & William Keighley)

“It’s injustice I hate, not the Normans”

Robin Hood is a great British legend, putting the city of Nottingham on the map before it became the mugging capital of Europe. Many interpretations of the Robin Hood legend have been committed to film over the years, from Russell Crowe’s moody portrayal to the glitzy Hollywood sheen of Prince Of Thieves to Disney’s 1950s anthropomorphic adventure.

But only one of these made it onto the Movies You Must See list – the original movie that cemented Errol Flynn’s star status, The Adventures Of Robin Hood.

The movie follows the basic structure of the Robin Hood legend. King Richard The Lionheart is busy fighting off the Assassin Order in the Crusades, leading his evil brother Prince John to claim the throne in his absence. The Earl of Loxley, a man named Robin (Flynn), doesn’t take kindly to John’s crippling taxes on the Saxon people and vows to fight back, forming a team of bandits in the forest to lead a revolution against the false king, while simultaneously trying to get into the britches of the fair Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland).

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#250 Frenzy

(1972, Alfred Hitchcock)

“You’re my type of woman”

Everyone knows Alfred Hitchcock did a lot of work in Hollywood, since many of his biggest films were made there, all concerning American things and set in America. But people tend to forget that Hitchcock started out in British cinema, and ultimately ended up returning to Britain shortly before his death. Frenzy is one of the movies made during this later period, but is it as good as any of his more well-known works?

In glorious London, a serial killer is on the loose, raping women and then strangling them to death with neckties. When Brenda Blaney (Barbara Leigh-Hunt), the manager of a successful dating agency, is murdered, circumstantial evidence places her ex-husband, Richard (Jon Finch) under suspicion. However, the movie makes it incredibly clear that the murderer is his friend, local market trader Robert Rusk (Barry Foster), while Richard goes on the run.

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#249 The Host

(2006, Bong Joon-ho)

It is lurking behind you

I seem to have a good relationship with Korean cinema. So far I’ve enjoyed 100% of the movies that I’ve seen that came out of South Korea. Admittedly, that’s been exactly two movies so far, but that’s still a good track record. Will The Host keep up this record or will it break that streak?

Thankfully unrelated to the Stephanie Meyer novel of the same name, The Host starts with an American scientist dumping formaldehyde into the Han River. Six years later, a sleepy and somewhat slow-witted man named Park Gang-du (Song Kang-ho) is working on his father’s snack bar when a strange creature emerges from the river and causes chaos. His daughter, Hyun-seo (Go Ah-Sung), is captured by the creature, leading everyone to believe her to be dead.

However, Gang-du receives a phone call while under a quarantine ordered by the US Army, seemingly from Hyun-seo. He decides to break out of quarantine and find his daughter with the assistance of his father, Hee-Bong (Byun Hee-Bong), his medal-winning archer sister, Nam-joo (Bae Doona), and his alcoholic brother, Nam-il (Park Hae-il).

At its heart, The Host is a monster movie, putting an unsuspecting populace face to face with a terrible monster that terrorises their livelihood. But aside from that, it’s also a black comedy mixed in with political commentary. It’s also not quite as good as The Good, The Bad, The Weird or Oldboy.

But it’s a close one. There are issues with The Host, but many of them are fairly minor. I did have a bit of an issue with how early the monster is shown, something that seemed to take a great sense of mystery out of the movie. I like my movie monsters to be gradually revealed over time, but this one cropped up straight away and in broad daylight. It felt a little disappointing to see it so clearly so soon.

I also felt the anti-American political commentary was a little heavy-handed. Pretty much every action performed by an American within the plot was horrendously callous and destructive, and the movie seemed to go to great lengths to make the Westerners look absolutely awful across the board. There’s even an American doctor portrayed with cross-eyes just to make him look stupid. It does get a little tiring quite often.

The movie can also feel a little meandering at times, leaping from event to event as it tries to cram a bunch of ideas in. There were times when I felt a little bit lost and wanted the movie to pace itself a little better.

However, these issues failed to get in the way of making the movie highly entertaining. The movie is loaded with comedy throughout the whole thing, largely through the slow-witted protagonist, drunk brother and hesitant sister (who, it must be said, ultimately turns out to be a pretty badass archer). Just like other Korean movies I’ve reviewed on here, comedy turns up in unlikely places, and quite often you’ll find yourself bouncing between horrified and amused without warning.

The monster effects are also pretty phenomenal. The designers chose to keep the monster as close to a mutated fish creature as possible, and it actually feels like a plausible creature when it’s not doing crazy acrobatics. But even then, the acrobatics are exciting to watch, and pretty scary at times. It’s easy to forgive seeing the monster so much when it looks this good.

The Host also manages to be tense and exciting even despite the lack of mystery over the monster. It does this by cleverly matching up the mystery of what the creature actually does with the horrific actions of the Americans, with the release of an unpleasant chemical agent onto the populace being one of the more uncomfortable parts of the movie, in a good way.

All in all, The Host is flawed, but still manages to keep up a 100% approval rating for Korean cinema in my eyes, and that’s what really matters here.

Starring Song Kang-Ho, Byun Hee-Bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doona & Go Ah-Sung
Written by Baek Chul-hyun & Bong Joon-Ho
Produced by Choi Yong-bae
Music by Lee Byung-Woo
Cinematography by Kim Hyung-Ku
Edited by Kim Sun-Min

Favourite Scene: Nam-joo making up for her earlier hesitance by shooting a flaming arrow right in the creature’s face? Yes!
Scene That Bugged Me: Did we really need the cross-eyed scientist?

Watch it if: You’re a fan of Korean cinema and/or monster movies
Avoid it if: You’re bored of anti-American messages

#248 Gaslight

(1944, George Cukor)

“How can a madwoman help her husband?”

I love me a good noir thriller. Spooky mystery and tense atmosphere is an easy way for a film to win me over. And so, I gleefully look back to a movie from the classic era of film noir starring classic actress Ingrid Bergman, Gaslight, the remake of a British movie released only 4 years before.

World-famous opera singer Alice Alquist has been murdered, and her murderer has escaped before he could find her jewels, as he was interrupted by Alice’s daughter, Paula. A few years later, Paula (Ingrid Bergman), studying singing in Italy, where she meets a man named Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer).

Gregory convinces Paula to move back into the inherited home owned by Alice, but when they move in, strange things start happening. Things begin disappearing or moving around the house, footsteps are heard in the sealed attic and the gaslight lamps begin to fade at mysterious times. Is Paula going mad or is there something sinister afoot?

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