Secret Window – Rating 3 out of 5

Secret Window – Rating 3 out of 5

“Johnny Depp gets high off another acting challenge in this tricky adaptation of a Stephen King yarn. Although the mood is too sinister to allow for the mischief of his Pirates of the Caribbean turn, Depp still manages to embroider his role here with plenty of quirky business. He plays a writer, depressed and nearly divorced, who’s stuck in an isolated cabin (shades of The Shining) when a stranger (John Turturro) arrives, accusing him of plagiarism. Writer-director David Koepp (Stir of Echoes) does his best to make the rickety material compelling–he gets the maximum out of the cabin set, for instance–but the problems inherent in the King story eventually win out. The climactic scenes are particularly unpleasant, especially in contrast to the cleverness of Depp’s performance. A Philip Glass score adds class, but this one ultimately feels like a disappointment.”

There is plenty to like about this movie and the main part is Johnny Depp. He plays a writer who is on the verge of divorce and gets away from it all to try and work on his next great work. He seems to be having some trouble finding his muse since he spends plenty of time sleeping on the couch.

Depp plays the part of the disheveled and disorganized writer quite well. But as he shuns showering as he communes with nature he gets a strange visitor who claims Mr. Rainey (Depp) has stolen his story. He wants payback for having his story ideas taken away and used for profit. Rainey denies the claim and shrugs off the visits. Soon, Mr. Shooter becomes more forceful with his demands and explains he will get to the truth and expose Rainey. Rainey says he can prove the story is his and tries to dig up an old magazine with the original story.

Evil deeds begin to happen as Shooter tries to force Rainey to confess, dog’s die, people around him die and his divorce really goes off the rails.

Johnny Depp does a great job of being creepy. Like I said, perhaps the lack of showering enhances the image. The movie is a little quirky and has some plot holes, but if you play along it’s a fun movie. There is no great mystery to be solved here or some deep meaning to undercover, everything is pretty straight forward.

There blood and gore are kept pretty light which is good since we are dealing with a psychological thriller. It works pretty well and it’s a fun little yarn. The ending is a little overly cheesy but you go with what you have.

Not a bad adaptation from Stephen King, but since this is one of at least three movies about writer’s stuck in isolation (The Shining, 1408 and this, it might be time to pick a new theme. We all get it, don’t go out into the middle of nowhere and write a novel, that’s how people get hurt…)

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Disturbia – Rating 3 out of 5

Disturbia – Rating 3 out of 5

“Alfred Hitchcock fans may experience déjà vu upon exposure to this voyeuristic thriller. That’s because director DJ Caruso (The Salton Sea) and co-writer Carl Ellsworth (Red Eye) use Rear Window as a jumping-off point before cherry-picking from more recent scare fare, like The Blair Witch Project. In the prologue, 17-year-old Kale (Shia LaBeouf, Holes) loses his beloved father to a car crash. A year passes, and he’s still on edge. When a teacher makes a careless remark about his dad, Kale punches him out, and is sentenced to house arrest. After his mom (Carrie-Anne Moss, Memento) takes away his Xbox and iTunes privileges, the suburban slacker spies on his neighbors to pass the time. In the process, he develops a crush on Ashley (Sarah Roemer, The Grudge 2), the hot girl next door, and becomes convinced that another, the soft-spoken Mr. Turner (David Morse, The Green Mile), is a serial killer. With the help of the flirtatious Ashley, practical joke-playing pal Ronnie (Aaron Yoo), and an array of high-tech gadgets, like cell-phone cameras and digital camcorders, Kale sets out to solve a major case without leaving his yard (a feat that would prove more challenging for a less affluent sleuth). In the end, it’s pretty familiar stuff, but there are plenty of scares once Turner realizes he’s being watched, and rising star LaBeouf, who next appears in Michael Bay’s Transformers, makes for an engaging leading man–despite his character’s propensity for slugging Spanish instructors.”

Interesting premise and some promising make this a pretty decent late night movie to watch. Actually the best part of the movie is the comic antics of Ronnie (Aaron Yoo). He adds some comedic life that balances the completely unnecessary and overdone relationship Kale develops with Ashley. The relationship angle is fine, but the way it’s done slows down the movie. Considering she is never becomes the damsel in distress it seems a little much.

Things really do pick up once Mr. Turner gets on the scene. David Morse does a great job of playing the misleading neighbor who seems to be just one step ahead of everyone.

It’s not really a thriller since we know Mr. Turner is guilty the whole way through. Not too much tension is built up since the movie follows a pretty predictable pattern. It would have been a better angle to try and build Kale up to be paranoid by being cooped up in the house all the time and seeing things that really aren’t there. There is a small amount of this, but it could have made the movie much more entertaining for Kale to be the only one who sees the danger.

It’s an entertaining movie with some plenty of creeps coming from Mr. Turner as he acts perfectly calm and rational and has an explanation for everything Kale has seen. He doesn’t get rattled and keeps his wits about him. The final “showdown” isn’t too bad and has a few jumps in store.

Overall not a bad movie, certainly nothing to keep you up at night, but still fun.

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The Others (2001) – Ranking 4 out of 5

The Others (2001) – Ranking 4 out of 5

A welcome throwback to the spooky traditions of Jack Clayton’s The Innocents and Robert Wise’s The Haunting, Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others favors atmosphere, sound, and suggestion over flashy special effects. Set in 1945 on a fog-enshrouded island off the British coast, the film begins with a scream as Grace (Nicole Kidman) awakens from some unspoken horror, perhaps arising from her religiously overprotective concern for her young children, Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley). The children are hypersensitive to light and have lived in a musty manor with curtains and shutters perpetually drawn. With Grace’s husband presumably lost at war, this ominous setting perfectly accommodates a sense of dreaded expectation, escalating when three strangers arrive in response to Grace’s yet-unposted request for domestic help. Led by housekeeper Mrs. Mills (Fionnula Flanagan), this mysterious trio is as closely tied to the house’s history as Grace’s family is–as are the past occupants seen posthumously posed in a long-forgotten photo album.

With her justly acclaimed performance, Kidman maintains an emotional intensity that fuels the film’s supernatural underpinnings. And while Amenábar’s pacing is deliberately slow, it befits the tone of penetrating anxiety, leading to a twist that extends the story’s reach from beyond the grave. Amenábar unveiled a similarly effective twist in his Spanish thriller Open Your Eyes (remade by Cameron Crowe as Vanilla Sky), but where that film drew debate, The Others is finely crafted to provoke well-earned goose bumps and chills down the spine.

If you’re only a fan of the slasher horror flicks (Saw, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th) then this movie isn’t for you. However if you also like to indulge in atmospheric movies like The Sixth Sense or The Exorcism of Emily Rose then there is plenty to love in this movie.

Slow, dark and suspenseful, The Others slowly moves along building a story of a mother’s attempt to maintain her family on her own during the war. Her children are hypersensitive to light so the curtains must be drawn at all time keeping everything hidden in the dark.

Three strangers come to help take care of the house and the children, but they seem to know a lot more than they tell. They arrive before the request for servants help is even posted.

As we move along we get the sense that the pressure of losing her husband and taking care of the children on her own may be stressing mom to the breaking point. The children clue us in with “It’s happening again” or “What if she does it again” kind of phrases that lead us to believe mom may be starting to lose her grip. We can certainly see the tension building as she becomes increasingly short and terse with the children and the staff.

By the end we’re not sure who we should be afraid of. Has mom begun to lose her sanity? Have the new arrivals something sinister in mind to perhaps take over the house for themselves? Did they do something to the previous owners since they know so much about them?

The end of the movies presents a unique twist, but makes the movie all the more intriguing. The ending cinches the movie as one you need to see a second time to pick up all the clues. It’s a gloomy an atmospheric movie that has great acting, wonderful fog covered scenes and takes you on a slow journey of suspense. No gore, no blood, no crazed villains with chainsaws, just a dark and mysterious tale worth watching.

The Others – $12.49

Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (1994) – Rating 4 out of 5

Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (1994) – Rating 4 out of 5

“He didn’t give me a name…”

Shocking, gruesome, cruel and sad and perhaps the best rendition of the classic tale I have ever seen. Directed by Branagh and starring Robert De Niro and Helena Bonham Carter we get a more comprehensive look at Dr. Frankenstein and his creation.

Frankenstein’s mother dies during childbirth while he is a late teen. Of course he wonders why life can’t be prolonged. Following in his father’s footsteps he goes off to university to become a doctor. Unlike the diabolical Frankenstein we see in the early black and white films this Frankenstein simply starts off as a curious student who wonders about the body and how to preserve life. He meets a professor (John Cleese) who also shares his interest and has made startling progress. The professor warms him of the dangers of his pursuit and tells him he has come “too close” to creating life…

After his mentor is killed during a cholera outbreak Frankenstein is determined to prevent death. He breaks into the professor lab and pours over his notes. He uncovers his mistakes and believes he has the answer.

He experiments prove successful and soon he has created his own life, although it’s nothing like he’d hope. His creation is a grotesque piecemeal of parts that have been brutally sewn together. Frankenstein fears his own creation and runs away.

The monster flees and is met with the same harsh treatment everywhere he goes. Victor abandons his experiments in order to live his life with his soon to be bride. But the monster returns after learning of how he was created and how he is a “defect” and an “abomination”. He curses revenge against Frankenstein and seeks him out.

Frankenstein has a showdown with the creature and is given a stern and philosophical talking to by his creation. His want is simple, to have a companion like himself. He will then disappear and never been seen from again. Victor can’t bring himself to repeat the experiment and so the monster vows vengeance.

The movie is shocking in its portrayal but that adds depth to the film. Frankenstein starts off naïve and innocent and just wishes to help people and through the deaths he suffered slips into madness to try and bring his loved ones back from the death. Many of the scenes are unnerving and brutal – the death of the mother during birth, Victor cutting up the bodies, the hanging for the wrongful death and the stitches that cover the monsters body. And the movies wild climax with Elizabeth being used to force Frankenstein to restart his experiments and leading them all to damnation.

Much more intense than previous attempts this film ranks a must see for the “classics” genre. This is a true hack and slash film, but it’s excellent late night viewing. Definitely worth seeing.


Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein – $5.99

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