Archive for Acting

Hide and Seek

Posted in Entertainment, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2016 by urbannight

notebookI seem to write all my non-move topics in my car while driving.  I then get to a computer or a notebook and I can’t remember very much about it.  It figures.  I had a lot to say about Hillary and Trump and the strangest election I’ve seen in my 46 years.  But then it made me too depressed so I ended up avoiding that topic.

I was trying to get a bunch of boxes out of my way yesterday so I re-watched a bunch of movies.  One was Hide and Seek with Robert Di Nero and Dakota Fanning.  Their acting is brilliant.  You almost never see a child actor/actress who can perform to the level of the great performers and she did so the first time she was placed in front of a camera.  Or so it seems.  Talk about precocious.  I heard a reporter talk about her as if the Twilight movies are what made her famous and I wanted to slap the reporter silly.  Okay, the reporter was very young.  But that doesn’t excuse her for not knowing that Dakota Fanning was great long before she took part in the Twilight movies.


A Young Dakota Fanning

It is interesting re-watching this movie once you know the twist.  Dakota Fanning’s performance, which was great to begin with, becomes even more nuanced.  The writing on this film isn’t brilliant.  And it is very easy to figure out the so called ‘twist’ early on.  One, Dakota is to tiny to have killed an adult.  Two, all the flash backs are happening to her father and are of an event at which she was not present.  Three, her strange reactions when talking to her father about Charlie.

This story is that a shrink’s wife killed herself and his daughter is blaming him and acting out and she creates an imaginary friend who is responsible for all the bad things that she is doing.  ‘Charlie’ goes from fun to scary very quickly.  We actually never see the ‘fun’ Charlie and just have to the daughter’s words for it.  The attempt to make it look like the neighbor grieving over his daughter’s death might be Charlie was a very clumsy attempt.  and therefore one I was unable to buy into so I figured out who Charlie was fairly quickly.  Although, like I said before, it could have been Dakota’s excellent acting against De Niro may have been what gave it away.

I own this DVD and I’ve watched it 3 times now.  This would not be a film that one could watch this many times if anyone else played these two parts.  De Niro and Fanning really carry this film and make a predictable film turn into an entertaining movie.

Ring of Fire, HAHAHAHAHA, Sorry.

Posted in Entertainment, Movies, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2015 by urbannight

This little disaster movie must be made for t.v. because it is a two-part movie.  The human drama was pretty good in most places, a bit melodramatic in others.  The writing for most of it wasn’t bad.  The science is pretty awful.

An oil company is secretly using a new laser drilling system to drill over twice as deep as they are legally allowed.  They are after what they think is a pocket of oil.  The geologist who signed off on it, but only at the legal depth, is aware of the target but had identified it is compressed magma.  Which it turns out to be.  The volcanic structure of the area is a caldera type volcano with a number of towns that had been built-in the caldera.

This is part of the ring of fire and they expect it to trigger an extinction level event.  In fact, they keep talking about and counting down to one massive event happening all around the entire tectonic/volcanic area called the Ring of Fire.  This is a massive area going around in a circle on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

At least they are having some of the initial events related to this having occurred around five months before.  But this one break through into the magma chamber has destabilized the entire Ring in a matter of hours and they are expecting the entire ring to start erupting all at one time in under a day.

Now, when I was in college and minoring in Geology, there was a theory that something could set off the Ring of Fire.  But not in the way depicted in this movie.  It would take something very massive and if it triggered any part of the ring it would only  be certain parts.  That might trigger other sections.  By trigger it was only in the sense that it would increase the tectonic and/or volcanic (although both are intrinsically related) activity in the area which might be enough to trigger eruptions or might not be.

Theoretically, something might possibly be able to trigger the ring in stages and it might cause eruptions, eventually, in stages, but nothing that would go off all at one time or that could trigger a mass extinction event.

7:00 Movie Hour – Phantoms

Posted in Entertainment, Movies and Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2013 by urbannight

For a week now, I’ve sat down and watched a movie every night at 7:00. Mostly science fiction, horror films. Which means mostly bad sci-fi.

Last night I watched a fairly bad film with a lot of big names. Phantoms is a 1998 adaptation of a Dean Koontz book. I’m wondering if they managed to get all these big names because Steven King adaptations have gone over pretty well.
Peter O’Toole does a fantastic job as Dr. Timothy Flyte, a man who got drummed out of academia because of an outlandish theory on missing civilizations that turns out to be exactly what is happening in this tiny Colorado town. He now writes bizarre stories for a sensationalist news rag for the paycheck.

Joanna Going is the local doctor who brings her sister to town to stay with her. She is an actress who seemed vaguely familiar. Looking her up, she has had an erratic film career from the early 1990’s until now, often going a year or two between films. 1998 was her busiest year in which she did 3 films.

Rose McGowan is the younger sister and plays a typical Rose McGowan character.

Liev Schreiber (Sabertooth in X-Men Origins: Wolverine) played the deputy sheriff, who has every indication of being a really creepy guy before he gets killed and becomes an extension of the monster.

Ben Affleck is the Sheriff.

The best performances seem to come from O’Toole and Schreiver. McGowan and Affleck give their typical performances. I don’t know much about Going but her performance was rather indifferent.

The special effects were reasonably well done. But the writing wasn’t the best. The opening scene was really weak. The story was so whittled down that the film seemed like it was made based on an outline what never had the details filled in.

The monster kills and eats people but absorbs their knowledge. The people, not knowing what it is, think it is a demon or satan. As a result, after killing a church full of people, the monster thinks that is what it is. It decides it needs a gospel of its own. One of the visitors to the town like to read a cheap news rag filed with fantastical stories. This person had read the theories put forth by Dr. Timothy Flyte. The result was that the monster lays a sort of trap to get him to the town. Flyte is its ‘chosen’ witness to write its gospel and make people worship it.

One of the problems is that it kills the deputy and later takes on that form. When it does so, it talks normally through the deputy. But when it kills other and takes their form, it just opens the mouth and words come out. Not normal speaking where you move the jaws and tongue and lips. Why can it talk normal one way but not the other?

The special effects, sound and film editing were all better than 100 Million BC that I watched the night before. But the story was more poorly developed. On the other hand, the transitions and resolution were all written and directed better in Phantoms. The Phantom also had slightly better acting, the best part being where Peter O’Toole taunts the monster into revealing the main portion of its body so they can try to poison it. Scheiber also had a good part where some people are talking about monsters and aliens in a bar and an officer a few seat down laughs. They want to know what’s so funny and the deputy says, “Do you want to see something?” So a part of the creature did survive after all.

So if you like B-Horror or B-SciFi, you may or may not want to give this movie a view. The decapitated heads and hands are not that well done, but the rest of the effects are good. The film does a pretty good job of building suspense. Nothing is too gory but it may make you jump. Acting is 6 of one, half a dozen of the other. If you like Peter O’Toole in general, you may want to give it a view.

B-Movie Saturday on Monday

Posted in Entertainment, Movies and Theatre, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 4, 2012 by urbannight

Since I had some boxes to go through, I thought I would watch some of the bad movies on my Netflix Queue.  Why would I put bad movies in my Queue?  Easy, I’ve been known to enjoy the occasional B-movie (more than occasional if I’m honest).  Most of the early science fiction and horror films were B-movies.  If you want to appreciate a film genre, you really have to watch the old stuff as well.  If you appreciate film and film history then every film has something to say. 

Perhaps the once exception is “The Room”.  Even that has value.  It tells a person that if you can’t get a theatre to perform your play, and you can’t get a publisher to take the book, and you can’t get anyone to do the film, there is a REASON.  So save your time and DON’T raise the money to make the movie yourself.   Even Zardos has more value.  (I’m maybe one of five people on Earth that actually likes the film despite massive issues with it.)

I started off with ‘The Spellcaster’.  This 1992 movie looked like it was filmed in 1986.  It was very dated to the 80’s.  The cast was pretty much a no-name collection of actors with limited skill.  The writing was awful.  The dialogue left much to be desired.  The best acting came from Adam Ant, who played Diablo, and Richard Blade, who played Rex, the VJ.  (Video Jockey for those not old enough to remember the short lived term) 

The type of movie has been done many times.  Lock a bunch of people in a huge house and give them 24 hours to do something and earn a million dollars.  In this case it was literally find a check for a million dollars.  You have one host and one out of control non-playing character.  In this case, a drunken rock star and a host from the rock TV station filming the contest.  Oh, and camera crew, which is easy to forget as they are the equivalent to red shirts.

In other words, it is a milder rip-off of House on Haunted Hill and everyone who dies comes back.  The special effects were very good for the time.  Only one or two didn’t really pull it off.  Sets were pretty nice but the camera-work was uninspired.  Given the bad acting and bad dialogue, the reason this movie works is because it IS very campy and cheesy.  Isn’t strange how we can forgive a bad movie once it presents itself as ‘campy’?  We now expect it to be bad and can enjoy said badness in all it’s glory.  Overly cliched characters that are so exagerated that they move away from archtypes into characitures.  Still, it was a fun hour and a half.

Then I moved on to “The Tomb”, 1986.  This one did not have the dated look of most 1980’s films.  It looked much more contemporary.  But the opening scene made no sense.  The character seemed like Kurt Russell trying to play a very badly done Indiana Jones.  Only Kurt Russell can do more with a bad part than this guy did.

The tomb robber wakes up an Egyptian princess/priestess/sorceress or whatever she was supposed to be.  I had problems with the idea that your average tomb robber wouldn’t know who Bast was.  After all, in order to find buyers for things, and to steal the things buyers might want, you have to have some knowledge of the subject. 

It ended up being so boring and the special effects so bad that I gave up entirely and moved on to a different film.

Next up was the black and white film, The Maze, from 1953.  Netflix gave this a low rating for me.  But I actually liked it.  I’m pretty good about viewing films within the context of the time they were filmed.  It is vital for a movie like this.  If you can’t set aside what you know now it will be hard to suspend disbelief.  It is interesting to note that this was film for 3D.  I couldn’t watch it as 3D on Netflix but according to my research into it, it was very well done.  Modern 3D ads very little to the films and I prefer to go to 2D showings.

The spooky ancestral home and family secrets putting the leading lady in danger was a long time staple of films already.  It might explain the tired feeling of the lead actor, Richard Carlson.  It is interesting to not that he was once a big name in old science fiction/horror films. The cinematography and special effects were very good for the time and make the film worth watching for any student of films despite the performances of both the leads which fluctuate between wooden and forced.  The butler is well worth watching as well. 

The basis of this film is the now disproven theory of phylogeny which argues that the human embryo goes through all the stated of evolution when in the womb.  Children with webbing between toes or tails were thought to prove this.  While this does happen it does not mean that a baby can be born as an amphibian.  But this was considered a viable theory at the time which turns the ending into a tragedy rather than a horror. 

Several things are never really explained.  Why do all the heirs die young and seem to age quickly after inheriting?  What is the ‘monster’s’ issue with women that no heir ever marries?  If he has no problem killing women, why was he so afraid of the leading lady that he flees to his rooms and jumps out a window rather than attacking her? 

But the movie is still a pleasant diversion and rather good despite the evidence that the subject was becoming a tired and old one in Hollywood.  I can easily recommend it.

I followed it up with a much more recent film.  “The Thing Below (2004).”  If you go to IMDB you will see that the highlighted review says that it is a rehash of Alien.  Clearly, that reviewer was not familiar with the background on this film.  Long ago in 1938, a short novel was written called Who Goes There, it is set in the Arctic where the air force finds a spacecraft.  The monster itself is plant based. 

This short work has produced a number of movies.  The first movie, the Thing From Another World (1951) was usually just called The Thing. It retains the air force and the space craft and plant based monster. 

In 1982, the first remake was done and simply titled The Thing and was moved to the Antarctic, the Air Force connection was removed, and the basis and origin of the monster never explained.  While it was supposedly not intended to be a remake, it is said to follow the events of original book more closely than the previous movie did.  (I probably should read the actual novella one of these days.) 

As a side note, I spent YEARS trying to find the 1982 film.  I couldn’t remember the title.  I just remembered that I read a short story that matched the movie and I thought it might have been Kurt Russel or Michael Douglas.  I saw it on T.V. back in the day before people had VCR’s and movies were shown on T.V. instead.  This movie has been altered to fit your t.v. monitor, to fit the time block, and for nudity and violence.  The result is that when I finally tracked down the film, what I remembered and what the film was really like were two entirely different things.   It turned out to have WAY more violence in it that I expected.  In fact, I wonder how they stretched it out into a standard T.V. movie block based on the amount they would have had to cut out.

The Thing Below takes the story out of the Arctic and Antartica and moves it to a deep drilling platform in the ocean.  Otherwise, it is the same story.  A team working on a government project to find an alternative energy source instead finds a strange cavity in the earth.  A ship crashed in the distant past and an alien life form lived in the cavity until it was released by the scientists.  It takes on the form of people just like in the previous two versions. 

The movie itself wasn’t horrible.  Better than the low rating on IMDB.  But they did serious damage to it with the addition of the ‘porn star’ segment of the film.  That alone brought the entire film down and destroyed and validity the film could have otherwise had.  They could have used that additional time to fill out the other characters’ stories a bit better. 

As a strange side note, the monster actually looks more like the black, tentacled, alien from It Came From Outer Space.  Which is not a tie in to the original book as it is written by Ray Bradbury and the aliens are not dangerous.  They are just trying to repair their ship and occasionally take over the locals in order get things done as they could not blend into the human population.

There is also a 2011 remake of the 1982 version of The Thing.  I can’t say much about it since I never saw it and don’t plan on that happening.  At least not right anytime soon.  I don’t think it did well.

To top it off, there is going to be another 2013 film that seems to be tracing it’s roots back to the novella, sorta, in a very loose way.  It actually has the title that I always believe the first movie had, “The Thing from Outer Space”.   It is a spoof.  Intended as a comedy, the shape-shifting alien crashes in a British suburb and start to eat people.  The poster says:  Spore It’s Hungry.  Which seems to indicate it is going back to the plant based alien.   I can’t find out a lot of information on this so I don’t actually know it is part of the same chain of movies.  But as all of them were titled, ‘The Thing’ something or other, it leads me to think it might be. 

Wow, I didn’t mean to go so far into the history of one string of movies. 

I followed this up with the movie The Digital Man.  I had trouble getting into the beginning of this film and kept wandering in and out of the room.  Oddly enough, I kept going back to the computer to do more research on The Maze.   The first half is just a bit slow.  There is a terrorist attack.  Nothing is working.  A captain decides to use an experimental robot to end the attack. It works.  People above him are pissed.  Turns out, some uppity up, officer was behind it.  The malfunctioning or hijacked Digital Man was actually following his programming all along. 

The team sent after him is a mixed team of Humans and Cyborgs.  Because, in the past, the two didn’t work well together, these cyborgs were programmed with histories and to believe they were human.  As a result, the team worked great together.  At least up until they discover the first cyborg among them.  Then they started questing who is human and who is not.  Oddly enough, despite them question each other’s humanity, the team still is able to work and function very well together despite the fact that 3 of the 5 person team dies.   Once you get to the part of the movie in which this team is going after the Digital Man, it is picks up and is pretty good.  

By the time I reached the end, I had the oddest feeling I may have seen this film.  Bits and pieces felt like I knew them and other parts were totally unfamiliar to me.  I didn’t discuss much about this movie.  I guess because I started to focus on the story.  I feel like they were trying to do with a Human vs. Cybernetics story that got sidetracked by the action film.   At one part of the film, the Digital Man was described as having fully integrated systems.  It gave the impression that this was what they were trying for with the Cyborgs but the Cyborgs had to much independence and to much ‘humanity’ where as the Digital Man was much more robotic in nature, tied to performing his programming, and much more computer than man.  But everyone likes an action film and the action sort of ‘took over’.  

Production values seemed a little low.  Much of it was in a desert, that saves some money.  Many of the interior scenes seemed fairly close quarters, so  minimal sets were seen.  Props and body armor seemed a little on the cheap side.   The overall feeling is that they were working with a very limited budget.

I might have watched another movie, but I was getting tired of that and decided it was time to play some Star Wars, The Old Republic.