Monthly Archives: February 2012

Vic’s Classic’s – Robert Wise’s “The Haunting” (1963)

Three people are recruited by a paranormal investigator to help uncover the secrets of Hill House, a mansion overwhelmed by spirits of its former residents in this classic horror flick based on The Haunting of Hill House, a novel by Shirley Jackson. As the guests delve deeper into the home’s past, they are seduced further into its sinister web. Julie Harris, Ronald Adam, Claire Bloom, Lois Maxwell and Russ Tamblyn star.

Victor – 9 out of 10


The dark and cavernous Hill House, in Robert Wise’s brilliant film, The Haunting, is a brooding, beastly menace. It is a character all on it’s own. It is a living, breathing horror that completely devours the protagonists in this nerve tingling classic horror film.

Based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Robert Wise’s film actually improves on the actual source material. Wise made a very smart decision to have the large Hill mansion come alive in an evil and bleak way.

The film stars Julie Harris as a repressed and suffering woman named Eleanor, who is called to Hill House to participate in an experiment by Richard Johnson who plays Dr Markway. She accepts and is immediately pulled in by the history and dark nature of the House. There she meets others who were invited. One being Claire Bloom who plays the worldly and free spirited psychic, Theodora. The woman bond but not so much at first. There is a repressed sexual tension between them that Wise hints at. Meanwhile when they have all gathered and get settled in by the lanky and spooky Mrs Dudley its from that point onwards that we become involved and immersed in the wicked spell of the house.

Dr Markway proceeds to tell them the history of the house and all of the deaths and suicides that have occurred. He hopes to provoke responses from those gathered. One being a nephew of the current owner of Hill House played by Russ Tamblyn (West Side Story). In the prologue of the film there is a brilliant introduction to the many bizarre happenings that involved the Crane family.

It is in this history that we become witnesses to terror. As the film moves along and unfolds, our protagonists are subjected to the whims of Hill House. Here is where Robert Wise and Cinematographer Davis Boulton really shine. There are deep shadows, unsettling angles and stark and soft focus within shots of the hallways, stairs and rooms of the house. The interior of the house is forbidding and alive. Wise, using his actors remarkably, uses sounds, light and shadow to provoke fear from them. Particularly in the bedroom sequence where Eleanor and Theo are trying to console each other as a loud, evil presence proceeds to scare them and approaches their door. It is what we do not see that scares and unnerves us. Wise makes sure of this.

Make no mistakes, this is a horror film and it does frighten and holds up very well to this day. There is the dread that permeates the very walls of the house and Bloom and Harris excel at showing us their very frightful and vulnerable sides. They cower, yell, scream and unravel during the Haunting. We indeed find out what the real mystery is but not before being subjected to a fearful experience in fantastic black and white photography that completely chills us to the bone.

This film is a marvel to behold. It is creepy. It is classy and elegant. It is well acted and very terrifying. I hold it in very high regard. The score by Humphrey Searle is chilling and effective. The screenplay by Nelson Gidding is pitch perfect capturing and excelling upon the source material wonderfully. I cannot recommend this film any higher. It has a simple and horrific set up and menacing execution. Not since “The Innocents” before it has a film about a very haunted House been this beautifully done. One of Robert Wise’s best films and he has done films in just about every genre. Enjoy!

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Brian’s Review – “The Artist” Nominated Best Picture!

The Artist

Rating: 7 out of 10

It’s a shame this movie is getting hyped up beyond belief because it’s a fairly standard romantic comedy that has an interesting gimmick. If you haven’t heard by now, “The Artist” is an almost 100% silent film. There’s a couple scenes where we hear the actors but it’s very brief. About 95% is just the film score, beautiful black and white cinematography, and title cards. The actors are forced to trump up their emotions because of the lack of audio just like in the old days. Every single one of them does a terrific job, particularly Jean Dujardin as George Valetin. He’s really the only character that is forced to go through any metamorphosis through the story. All of the other principal characters are the same from beginning to end. But, Dujardin must act out the heights of fame and his fall from grace without uttering a word. I give him a great deal of credit for pulling it off. In the old days, this was a standard practice and hardly a novelty. But, to do it over 80 years after the Jazz Singer graced cinemas and ushered in the era of talking pictures is a great feat and I won’t take that away from “The Artist.” Another positive is the note perfect film score that runs the entire duration of the movie by Ludovic Bource. The music is joyous, sad, romantic, and beautiful. I’d be shocked if it didn’t win an Academy Award because of the dependence a silent film has on its score to tell the story and set the mood.

On the negative side there’s one element that can’t be ignored: story. This is really basic stuff here. An actor has it all, loses it all, falls in love, and gets it back. I’ve seen the rise and fall story so many times that it’s not lost on me how unoriginal it is just because it’s wrapped in a fuzzy nostalgic package. I have no doubt this will win best picture at the Academy Awards simply because it’s an homage to the very institution that is casting the ballots. I don’t want anyone who’s reading this to think I didn’t enjoy the film because I did. I just want to temper your expectations. It’s not even close to the best picture this year (My pick is Moneyball). But, it is a charming film and when it ends, most people will have a smile on their face.

A Movie Bros. Exclusive! Our Oscar Picks!

It’s that time of the year, readers! Thanks for hanging in there with us. Here are our Oscar Picks for 2011. It wasn’t easy but here goes. Enjoy!

Matt Volke –

Best Picture: “The Artist”

Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Actress: Viola Davis, The Help

Supp. Actress: Berenice Bejo, The Artist

Supp. Actor: Max Von Sydow, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”

Director: Michael Hazanavicius, The Artist

Animated film: Rango

Brian Volke –

Picture: “The Artist”

Director: Micheal Hazanaviciusthe “The Artist”

Actor: Jean Dujardin “The Artist”

Actress: Meryl Streep “The Iron Lady”

Supporting actor:  Christopher Plummer “Beginners”

Supporting actress: Octavia Spencer “The Help”

Animated film: “Rango”

Victor De Leon –

Best Picture: “The Artist”

Actor: Gary Oldman, “Tinker Tinker Soldier Spy”

Actress: Viola Davis, “The Help”

Supp. Actress: Berenice Bejo, “The Artist”

Supp. Actor: Nick Nolte, “Warrior”

Director: Martin Scorcese, “Hugo”

Animated film: “Rango”

Tune in Sunday, February 26th 2012 and see who comes the closest! See you then at the Oscars!

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter to Kevin Smith

An Open Letter to Kevin Smith

Dear Kevin Smith,

As a former fan of yours that enjoyed a couple of your films, I am inclined to write this letter. I’m not interested in dodging the main subject: You are not a good writer and you’re an even worse director. The problem is that because of your sycophantic followers and your lame public speaking events that you somehow think are standup comedy, you’ve tricked yourself into thinking that you’re relevant. I’m here to tell you that you haven’t been relevant in nearly 20 years.

I will never forget the first time I saw Clerks. It made me laugh, it kept me endlessly interested, and it even had a very touching relationship between two “going nowhere” 20-somethings. I was actually naïve enough to think that maybe my generation had a new voice. Maybe we had finally found a director who could relate to us in the way that Woody Allen related to his generation’s human relationships back in the 70’s and 80’s. So, I waited for your second film with baited breath wondering what brilliance could come from you after you’d been given a real budget and professional crew. So, what did we get? Mallrats. Really? Your idea of a follow-up was to take the same “2 buddies” approach, place it in a mall, and add the most unfunny slapstick bullshit ever. The great jokes in Clerks centered on every day situations being overblown and populated with great characters. Mallrats was filled with unlikeable trash assholes that couldn’t act and spoke in run-on sentences. Several “great” jokes included you dressing up as Batman and flying across a line to crash into a woman’s dressing room, a bully who likes to rape women in the butt, and Michael Rooker eating pretzels that had been shoved up someone’s ass and then throwing them up. Really? That’s your follow up to one of the great low budget films of all time? I couldn’t tell if you made that film out of sheer pressure to strike while the iron was hot and producers were offering you a job or if you had no good ideas after Clerks. You’d like to think that it has been more appreciated over time after its complete box office failure. But, no. It sucked then it sucks now. Let’s not even forget about the horrid performances all the way around. Jason Lee and Ben Affleck are the one only ones who get free passes off this turd. Everyone else is horrendous, particularly Jeremy London who has less than zero talent. I’ve heard you criticize him publicly but you’re the director. If you didn’t like it, you should have fired him before you stamped your name on that piece of shit.

Next up after that failure was to return to your low budget roots and make Chasing Amy. While a step up from Mallrats, it still contained more of the crap dialogue from Mallrats that made it so nauseating. The worst offender is your take off of Jaws where Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams share stories of eating pussy. It flies so far away from any type of real conversations that it sounds fake and contrived. There really aren’t any jokes in this film. All of the humor comes from Jason Lee uttering the word “gay” and “faggot” every 3 seconds. So, without any jokes, what are we left with? A shitty romantic comedy that doesn’t work. And why doesn’t it work? First, the acting is terrible. Joey Lauren Adams has easily the most annoying voice I’ve ever heard. Anytime she raises her voice she sounds like Minnie Mouse with a head cold. I discovered she used to be your ex-girlfriend and easily figured out why she got the role. The other main problem is the story. Clerks was something that people could relate to. There are a lot of us that have worked in customer service wondering if we had any direction in our lives. But, I doubt many of us were friends with a beautiful lesbian who turned straight because they fell in love with me while dodging a sexual past where she slept with half the town and their best friend is secretly gay, in love with me, and hates my lesbian friend girlfriend. I’d say that time has taken care of Chasing Amy. It has been completely forgotten.

All of the films after this have gotten progressively worse and worse. Dogma was a complete disaster. It contained your classic run-on sentence dialogue only this time it was from Catholic Catechism. Wow! Let’s tackle the great issue of how God and people relate by having a huge rubber shit monster mixed with scenes of violence involving angels murdering people. Oh, and somehow you even manged to crowbar yourself into a starring role. After that, it was Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back. It was more unfunny slapstick mixed with movie references from all the pig shit you made before it. There’s even a reference to the great chocolate covered pretzels from Mallrats.

The shit films continued. Next up was Jersey Girl. It was a feeble attempt to break out of your boring View Askew universe by making a PG-13 romantic comedy that was so ungodly boring that it actually hurt the rise of a friend of yours in Ben Affleck. He was probably at his fame peak at the time and you managed to knock him down a peg. Despite an A-list star, you managed to lose money on a film with a modest $35 million budget. He has luckily learned his lesson and hasn’t starred in a film for you since.

You must have panicked after moving away from the View Askew crap because your next outing was Clerks II. I’ll even admit that I was interested in this project simply because of my love for the original. But, you managed to fuck up the one thing you did right in the first one. It doesn’t matter what you talk about as long as you don’t show it! You started with Chasing Amy by showing black and white “flashbacks” while people told gross stories. But, here you actually show it all. I’ll be here to tell you that a man having sex with a donkey is not funny. It’s even less funny when it’s the big comedic finale of your fucking film and it goes on for an eternity.

Your last three movies are the most pitiful of your already embarrassing career. “Zak and Miri Make a Porno” is one of the most unfunny comedies I’ve ever seen. It’s a pathetic take on a moronically stupid premise. Like Clerks II, your big finale was also unfunny and boring. This time we get to see Jason Mewes’ cock. And, yes, that’s the joke. We see him naked…..yeesh. Talk about creatively bankrupt. It’s your worst film and one of the worst I’ve ever seen by anyone.

The last two are typically horrid. Cop Out was so bad that Bruce Willis didn’t want to promote it and you responded in your typically attention whoring way by calling him a fucking dick. For someone who’s never had a big box office hit, pissing off one of Hollywood’s biggest stars isn’t the smartest move.

Lastly, you made Red State. It’s embarrassing. It isn’t scary, contains not one shred of believability(something great horror films have), and has a villian that I can’t even comprehend what he’s saying. I wasn’t surprised either that despite being a horror flick, you still managed to have a scene with teenagers making fun of each other for being gay.

All of your films since Clerks are a waste of the audience’s time. Not only is the dialogue hokey and unrealistic within any comedic frame but your ability as a director is less than limited. You frame everything like it’s a TV show. 2-shot, 1-shot- 3-shot- 2-shot, 1-shot. Your camera is almost always static and your pacing is awful. That would be acceptable if it wasn’t for the bad actors you choose film after film. The ones that are good are always better when they work with someone else. Ben Affleck’s career should give you an idea. He has been plenty nice enough to work with you, even after he became a star. He did that despite the fact that he’s better than you at every aspect of the film business. He’s obviously a better actor but he also blows you away as a writer. That was reenforced by the fact that he has an Academy Award for penning Good Will Hunting. Then, he got behind the camera and made The Town and Gone Baby Gone. Both of these are films of real vision. That’s something that none of your flicks have ever had.

Nowadays, it seems that getting attention and spouting your mouth off appear to be your only talents. You got told you were too fat to sit in a plane. Most people would take that as a hint that maybe it’s time to put down the cheesecake. But, you got excited that you actually got some press for something other than your films sucking and you took to twitter! Between that and your gloried press junkets that you actually charge your fans for, you’re rolling in the “me time.” How can you in good conscience charge people to come and ask questions so that you can then insult their personal appearance? It’s not stand-up comedy. It’s the pathetic end to a career that should have ended almost 20 years ago. I used to hold out hope that you’d eventually turn it around and make another film that the audience would be proud to pay to see. But, it has been proven time and time again that you were always a one trick pony who’s true talent is convincing people that you have talent.

Sincerely,

A former fan,

Brian Volke

TheMovieBros.com

Brian’s Review – “Knowing”

Brian –


Rating: 7 out of 10

I was pleasantly surprised by this film. I’ve wanted to see it for a while simply because it was directed by Alex Proyas (The Crow and Dark City) and it had an interesting synopsis for the plot. What would you do if you suddenly found out that the world was ending and you knew exactly when it was going to happen? That it the tie that binds this film together and kept me interested during its two hour running time. This isn’t the kind of film you want to think too hard about. There’s a lot of implausible story choices. I did wonder how Nicolas Cage found out the world was going to end so easily. The movie goes to great lengths to explain how he figures out the series of numbers contained within the paper from the time capsule and how they correlate to real world events. But, when it comes to the biggest surprise, the end of the world, he simply hops on his iMac and….POOF!..He knows the answer!

Also, other than his great performance in Leaving Las Vegas, Nicolas Cage’s acting tends to be hammy and too dramatized. Knowing is no exception. His demeanor sometimes doesn’t even fit the scenes he’s in. However, he is excellent at resembling a horse and drinking alcohol while looking “concerned.” One last problem before I move on to the good stuff is the special effects. It’s a tale of two movies here because the end of the world stuff looks incredible. Waves of explosions fills the sky and you see the Earth turn to rubble. But, in earlier scenes involving large scale accidents (plane and train, I won’t divulge more), it looks really fake and obviously CGI. The best special effects are ones that you don’t notice.

The film itself has a great visual look to it. It’s dark without coming across as dreary and the cinematography by Simon Duggan is one of the films’ stronger attributes. Also, Director Alex Proyas creates a great sense of suspense without having to resort to cheap cliches. We are drawn in by the sheer enormity of end times and can feel it inching closer as the film progresses. I will admit that the end may turn some viewers off because of how it can feel detached from the rest of the movie, but, just keep in mind that it’s science fiction…not science.

Top 5 Best Martin Scorcese Films

Brian Volke –


This is easily the hardest list I’ve ever made. I was going to take the easy way out and make it a top 10 but thought, hell, let’s make it challenging and go for a top 5.

Here we go:

  1. The King of Comedy:

If you’ve never seen this movie, make some room in your schedule. This is a film that is so far ahead of its time in showing the relationship between obsessed fans and the stars they follow. Deniro is typically brilliant as Rupert Pupkin, the deranged follower of Jerry Lewis’ talk show host character. The delusions that he acts out while living in his mother’s basement are both hilarious and disturbing. Sandra Bernhard, as his accomplice, is also amazing and steals every scene she’s in. Look for the scene where Deniro and Bernhard show up to Lewis’ vacation home. It’s probably the most uncomfortable scene in movie history.

4. The Departed:

One of the best films of the last decade. The Departed is a fantastic look at the ins and outs of the Boston underground from both the side of the criminals and the men trying to put them behind bars. This is faced paced film making at its best. The ensemble cast is terrific all around but this is the film that took Dicaprio from being the boyish love interest from Titanic to a full fledged actor capable of being one of the best of his generation. Scorsese is the true star though creating a sense of suspense right from the onset that never lets up. You’ll be on the edge of your seat.

3. Raging Bull:

There’s a scene near the end of the film where we see Jake Lamotta (Deniro, in the best performance of his career) standing in front of a tiny crowd in a crappy bar telling lame jokes. He’s fat, old, and sad. It’s like seeing the long distant shadow of the star he once was and it’s what makes Raging Bull such a special film. He once had the world in the palm of his hands but he neither had the temperament nor the self confidence to realize that he was his own worst enemy. As a character piece, this is about as good as it gets. One of the great gems in cinema history.

2. Taxi Driver:

No film in the history of the cinema has been as capable at showing the world from a lunatic’s perspective than Taxi Driver. This is the story of Travis Bickle (Deniro, yet again) and every camera shot, narration, and story decision is to show how human ugliness can lead a man to lash out violently. The irony in the story is that Travis doesn’t realize that he is part of the same human darkness that he despises. This is one of the most gorgeously shot films ever. Cabs driving at night clouded in steam from the manholes, cameras always catching the action right from the eyes of Travis, and the journeys up and down the streets in the middle of the night are captured with such authenticity that you feel like you’re there. This is the film that put Scorsese on the map and all these years later, it has lost none of its power.

1. Goodfellas:

This was a hard pick because any of the top 3 could be sitting at the #1. But, the reason I picked Goodfellas is because this is about as close to a perfect film as I have ever seen. If you’ve never seen it, I can promise you that it is the fastest 2 ½ hours you will ever spend in front of your TV. It’s one of the rare movies that I have not one criticism of. Every single elements is flawless. The acting, directing, screenplay, and editing are absolutely amazing. It also has a pacing that is almost unmatched. This is a film that feels like a true journey. We start with Henry Hill as a young boy and watch him all the way through his life and the awful decisions he makes along the way. This isn’t just Scorsese’s best but it’s also one of the best films ever made.

Vic’s Top Five Marty Films –

5) Cape Fear

4) The Aviator

3) Casino

2) Raging Bull

1) Goodfellas

Brian’s Review – “Days Of Heaven”

Director Terrence Malick’s beautifully shot period piece, which won an Oscar for its cinematography, tells the story of Bill (Richard Gere), an early-1900s Chicago steel-mill worker who flees town after accidentally killing a man. In search of a better life, he moves his girlfriend Abby (Brooke Adams) and younger sister to the wheat fields of Texas. But they run into tragedy when a wealthy farmer (Sam Shepard) falls for Abby.

Brian – 3 out of 10
Have you ever been in a run down diner sipping a cup of coffee and you look over and see the most boring art piece on the wall? Sometimes it’s a picture of a crappy abstract design formulated on a computer. Other times it’s a shitty version of an expressionist piece that has been copied to death and you could swear you saw in several other diners but can’t remember which ones. Well, Days of Heaven is just like that shitty expressionist piece: somewhat pleasing at first, then quickly forgotten, and eventually completely obsolete but still hangs on the wall in some people’s minds. We are given several long sequences of an older America shot over the plains during “magic hour.” If you’re not familiar with the term “magic hour,” it refers to the the time of day when the sun is close to setting and the camera picks up the longer shadows and reddish hues. It gives a very warm picture and can be very effective in picking up a particular mood. It’s also quite beautiful. The majority of the beauty shots in Days of Heaven are shot during this period and have misplaced people’s opinions into thinking this is a work of art. Now, in terms of still photography, yes, this might be a work of art. But, as a cohesive plot that is designed to draw in an audience and give them an experience, it’s a complete failure. Have you noticed how I have yet to mention the story? Well, that’s because there is no fucking story!! You want the synopsis? Richard Gere kills a man, escapes, and gets in the middle of a romantic triangle via the backdrop of a bad diner painting. Why in the world anyone would want to watch this hunk of dung is beyond me. I dare any art house nerd to try to convince me that this is a good movie without mentioning the “purty pictures.” There’s long stretches of shitty dialogue where Richard Gere tries to find the best backdrop he can so that the cinematographer gets his shot. He mumbles crap that no one would ever say and then there’s more long shots of carriages meandering down the road, people working in the fields, and the sun setting.

I am telling you right now that despite its small 94 minute running time, you’ll feel like you just watched Titanic…..TWICE!!! Director Terrence Malick has a reputation for making slow films but this is unbearable. I can’t find myself recommending this to anyone. The story is weak, the acting is bad, and the flow is like frozen molasses. If staring at expressionist pictures is your idea of a good film, look at a painting the next time you’re in a rundown diner: it’s free!