Tag Archives: WWII

The Others: A Childhood Nightmare

I have a great respect for Spanish directors and their films. J.A. Bayona and The Orphanage, Guillermo del Toro and Pan’s Labryinth, Jaume Balaguero/Paco Plaza and REC (U.S. version – Quarantine). And now I can say Alejandro Amenabar and The Others. This film has a chilling take on demons/poltergeists/ghosts and the like. Set back in a time period where ghosts would have been an issue (WWII), this movie artfully uses fog as an extension of ghosts and beings that are not of this world. Transported through this fog, we find an ethereal feel and place where ghosts would most likely dwell.

But I was afraid to watch this movie for a long time. Do you wanna know why?

That is exactly why. The last few seconds of that trailer frightened me back when I was 11. And I know I was a young ‘un, but this movie chilled me somehow. I hadn’t seen that many horror movies and I was naive in the horror department in general. That young girl’s voice and ancient figure beneath the veil haunted my dreams for years. And now, I sat down and forced myself to watch it. Conquering fears and writing blogs. I should mark that off my bucket list.

The Others is a story about a secluded English family and their hardships without a father figure during the end of WWII. Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) is a strict and God fearing mother who feels it is necessary for her children to strictly follow the word of God. But there’s a problem. Her children cannot be exposed to natural light. (If that’s a real disease… didn’t check.) Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley) are

They’re like cute vampires. They can’t see light.

two sick children who have no hopes of seeing the outside world. But the otherworld has come to them. In the form of haunting ghosts.

With a new cleaning and housekeeping staff hired, Grace hopes to make things easier on the children with such a trying lifestyle. Bertha Mills (Fionnulla Flanagan) runs the house with her mute charge, Lydia (Elaine Cassidy), and the elderly garden keeper, Mr. Tuttle (Eric Sykes). With strange occurrences and Anne constantly seeing a young boy and old woman, Grace fears for her own children and wishes her husband were back and knew what to do.

A desperate mother.

What I found interesting that characterizes this movie is a sense/loss of innocence. The children are quite ignorant and innocent in their knowledge of the outside world, especially during a time of war. Their mother’s faith doesn’t waiver while their own teachings are questioned by themselves at all times. This movie seems to question God at the same time that it affirms ghosts and another plane of existence. The whole movie itself is an early 2000’s examination of religion and whether or not it is a viable means of explanation. It prodded it (to an exhausted point I found to be too overzealous) and wouldn’t leave it alone, even at the end.

Nicole Kidman gives a very mean and zealous performance as the mother in this film, a character who would do anything to protect her children from a heathen and sinful world. She escalates at quite a nice and even pace into hysteria (as I’m sure was intended) and leaves you questioning her merit and faith by the end. I also enjoyed Christopher Eccleston (the crazed military leader in 28 Days Later) and his role as the crestfallen husband returned from war. His haunting performance toned the film in a very depressing way that

Haunts. My. Dreams.

characterized a lot of soldier’s feelings after WWII. He wasn’t in it for much, but it was just enough. And Fionnula Flanagan was a fantastic caring/aloof housekeeper who comes off as creepy and nurturing at the same time.

I know you’re there…

After all was said and done in the film, and a lot was, I was overall impressed with the movie. It was done in a very minimal way with one location and a very haunting house. Old style houses like the one in the film from the early 1900’s (or earlier, I wasn’t sure) give me the creeps. The old pictures, the old furniture and dusty feel always have given me the creeps, just knowing someone had to have died in the house. That’s another thing. I really enjoyed the mention of photographing the dead and how that used to be a common practice in order to capture the soul of the person so they may live on. The overall old feel and simplistic nature of horror in the film came from a very human place. Dying and the afterlife, ghosts and hauntings in old houses in something we all are unsure about. And something we can’t explain. Very well done for a Spanish film with no Spanish spoken. 7.7 out of 10.

Jesus is always over your shoulder.

 

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Hellbound: Hellraiser 2

Round 2

Pinhead is back for another romp in the hellish world of pain and pleasure in Hellbound: Hellraiser 2. I have to wonder where the issue of pleasure comes in though, because it just seems like a lot of pain and screaming without any of the fetish of sadomasochism. Maybe that’s the moral of the story. Sadomasochism really isn’t for anyone. In any case, let’s jump right into the continuance of the first film, as told by Kirsty.

The movie opens on a scene of Pinhead (Doug Bradley) as his normal, WWII self. Discovering the evils of the box in his bunker, I found it was a great opener to delve into the world of the killer, and find out that Pinhead isn’t really the worst guy in the world after all. He was transformed by the puzzle box, becoming the evil person he is in Hellraiser 2. Or so we’re led to believe. Fast forward to a short period after the first film and we’re back with Kirsty (Ashley Laurence). I give Miss Laurence a lot of props for coming back to a series that, at the time, may not have been received all that well. Whether it was for the money who she saw promise in the series, I congratulate her effort in playing the female antagonist in this film.

That can't be pleasant...

So Kirsty is in a mental asylum. I know you’re thinking, “Hey, was the last movie all a part of her delusion? What a cop out.” But no, that’s not it at all. All of the events of the last film happened. Frank killed Kirsty’s dad and wore his skin. Who, accidentally, killed Julia and allowed her to be sucked into a mattress of the Cenobite’s design. And after all Hell(raiser) breaks loose, Kirsty somehow escapes and is now confined to aforementioned asylum. The detectives don’t believe it when they question her and decide to leave her there. Immediately, Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham) seizes this opportunity to examine her, because, as we discover, there’s more to Dr. Channard’s interest than we may know…

Look! Frank can spell!

But then a whole lot of redonkulous events goes down. Julia (Claire Higgins) is reanimated from the mattress by a writhing, bleeding lunatic. She proceeds to relentlessly eat Channard’s face (in the sexual manner) and suck the lives out of a few men, Mummy style (I’m glad this idea always comes back in these movies). The Hellverse is opened and Pinhead and the gang are once again allowed into our world. But, and here’s the twist, Kirsty and this catatonic puzzle solving girl, Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) follow Channard and Julia into Hell to bring the fight to the Devil’s door. Well, not necessarily the devil, but something similar.

I don’t want to spoil too much, but it’s worth watching at least up to the second in the series. (I’m up to number 5.) A lot is explained in 4 (Bloodline) although it may be considered the worst in the series. I just enjoyed finding out about

Julia, back with a bloody vengeance.

the Lament Configuration box and its origins in history. Pinhead becomes a better fleshed out villain than a lot of horror series give credit to their slayers. (The only exception to that rule is Freddy Kreuger, maybe Mike Meyers.) We learn about the man behind the pins and begin the road to sympathy, something most people don’t like to see in sadomasochistic serial killers.

As far as this movie doing justice to the first one, I would say it came about 3/4 of the way and then petered out towards the end. The ending itself is kind of a buzz kill to the rest of the series, but don’t worry, it’s not over for Pinhead and Chatterbox anytime soon. It still has all the gore and claymation animatronics you’re looking for in this groundbreaking series. It lays a basis for the series and doesn’t beat a dead horse with its plot. It picks up where it left off with no complaints. I was happier with the acting in this film and I felt the amateur returners to this film hit their stride and knew what was expected of them. I was a bit disappointed in the haunted house feeling that Hell had, or, the MC Escher style the art exuded(shout-out to Max for that one), but it’s all the past. The movie came to do what it did and did it with no fuss. Can’t fault it for that. So I’ll give Hellraiser 2 a solid 6.5 out of 10. And I hope you’re all looking forward to my Hellraiser 3 review.

Ahhhh yes, Dr. Channard...


La Vita e Bella: Life is Beautiful

This movie has been a personal favorite of mine. It’s touching and heartwarming nature, despite the context and parts of the film, have made it a classic since the day it came out (December of 1997 to be exact). Pulling off the feeling of being filmed at the time of the content’s occurrance, this atypical film about the Holocaust and its effect on a recently formed and loving family reshapes just exactly what the years of WWII were. And I would argue, for the purpose of this film at least, that despite all the death and destruction, there was an underlying element of hope.

There are two halves to this movie. Sorta like Hostel. Not one parts boobs and one part blood (not to degrade this film to a horror movie, as good as that horror movie may have been for the genre). This particular movie is one part love and whimsy and one part survival and protection. Directed, written, and starring who I would consider to be the

Greatest family of all time? Yes.

greatest foreign actor of all time, Roberto Benigni, comes a movie that holds within it just what it means to be a decent human being in a time of great struggle. Begnini plays Guido Orefice, a peasantly and pleasantly kind and funny man out to make his way in Italy. He finds love, adventure, and the courage to do for his son what I imagine would be the hardest thing on Earth.

Ahhhh, true love of the silver screen.

Let’s start with the beginning of the movie to keep it light. Guido comes to meet this beautiful girl while travelling with his friend. This brings about one of the greatest lines of all time. “Buongiorno Principessa!” Upon every time that Guido runs into the love of his life Dora (Nicoletta Braschi, his actual wife) he utters this phrase, surprising her and sweeping her off her feet with love. Eventually, through his slapstick-like antics, he goes out of his way to encounter Dora and steal her from the stiff and businesslike man who has been arranged to marry her.

A wonderful duo.

I have to say that I love these opening scenes in this movie. With the first 50 minutes of the film comes some of the best crafted scenes of chance and happenstance that I’ve seen in any similarly styled movie. Convincing an Italian government man to eat what someone else didn’t want, attending the school in which Dora works by impersonating that man, and mesmerising Dora with all the things that happen on their romantic date in the rain is just straight out of the older films of the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. By even evoking this style comes a sort of magic you wouldn’t expect from a movie of the 90’s.

And then comes the turn. Happily married, Guido, Dora, and their small

A father who will do anything for his son.

wonderful child Giosue (Joshua, performed by Giorgio Cantarini) live happily in a fantastic old mansion of Guido’s uncle’s. In the rising regime of the Italians comes Mussolini and his sympathies and alliances with Hitler. What does that mean exactly? That means the persecution of Jews. Guido, a Jew himself is hauled off one day with Giosue and his uncle. Being the person that he is and the fun and laughable father that every child would need at Giosue’s age, Guido comes up with the idea to shield his son from what is actually going on around him in the Italian Axis Nazi camp.

The ultimate sacrifice.

Throughout the second half of the movie, there is still humor. There is still love felt between Dora and Guido and the son they have raised. But there is a looming danger of death around any corner. Giosue must hide at all times from the German guards in order to avoid the gas chambers that eliminate the young and elderly. Guido must perform hard labor in the yards with next to no food, water, or rest. And yet, every day Guido comes to find some way to describe their experience in this concentration camp as a game. A game, that, if won, will bring the winner a tank. Through every loving action of his father, Giosue comes to realize, as an adult we never actually see, that his father made the ultimate sacrifice in order to save him and his mother.

This is wonderful to know. Life truly is beautiful.

With a heartbreakingly sad scene towards the end, you still see Guido shining until the very end. Guido and Giosue are never in pain, never upset, never crying or despairing over their situation. Despite what every viewer of this movie knows about the Holocaust and what could happen to any of these characters, you have this hope for them that they will make it out. And, if not, you realize just how amazing of a dad that Guido truly is. If I had to give him a level of Dad Points for this film, he would set the high for it. Let’s see:

In the course of this film he:

1. Finds love and creates a child.

2. Cares for that child so deeply that he will do anything in order to make his son’s life better and despair free.

3. Sacrifices his life in order to save his son’s and his wife’s.

4. His son remembers the sacrifice his father gave and is forever indebted to him.

5. Guido as a dad was just to legit to quit.

You bring together all of these elements and you have a Dad that gives a million and one percent. For sure. And, told in one of the most amazingly

Buongiorno Principessa!

heartfelt and romantic ways possible for any film of this genre, and you have made a classic ahead of its time. I am in love with this film. Its title truly does justice to what the aim of this film was. Life is Beautiful. So appreciate it while you have it and know that with the love and life you put into it, great things can come of it. 10 out of 10.


X-Men: First Class

So I’d been planning to see this movie with my mom for some time. We’re big James McAvoy, and this movie quickly jumped to the top of our list. We thought, “Hey, James McAvoy. A new X-men movie that looks quite good? Definitely.” And he didn’t disappoint. And neither did anyone else in the film X-Men: First Class. I did expect to take the phrase “First Class” literally, but I was a bit mistaken. (I thought this movie would focus on the first young group that Charles Xavier took into the X-Men academy. Guess not.) But I wasn’t disappointed at all. This movie delivered. I would say it did, even more than the original trilogy.

So the plot of this movie is the origins of the X-men. I’m pretty sure it holds true to the comics, and I think this

The rivals unite.

was a big plus. (Maybe a few liberties were taken?) But, either way, this 1960’s set X-men classic follows the origins of Erik Lensherr/ Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). This is before Charles was given his wheelchair (explained) and so that’s why you see him puttering around on his own two legs. The hip, suave, young Xavier (a welcome change from Patrick Stewart’s stuffy portrayal of Professor X) has just become a Professor from Cambridge based on his work on human mutation. (Fitting right?) Parallel to this, Erik is on a rampage (using his harnessed powers) to destroy the German Nazis that imprisoned him during WWII and killing his mother. It was this pain that unleashed his powers as a young boy.

And it is through the power of the government that these two come together to team up for the only time in their lives. To stop an evil mutant of unspeakable power, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) these two must recruit other mutants across the world in order to prevent nuclear disaster. As you watch the movie, you find that, in fact, the X-Men were what prevented the Cuban Missile Crisis. And then, as expected, things fall apart for the duo, leading up nicely to the next movies made years ago.

It sent chills down my spine when he put that helmet on.

I’ve heard people didn’t like this movie. People gave this a bad review and I was surprised. I found this to be a decent movie that was respectable among X-men entertainment. So I found it hard to believe, with such a good cast and decent special effects, how this movie could even be viewed as a bomb. I mean, come on, James McAvoy (great actor) and one of my personal favorites, Michael Fassbender? You can’t get much better than that. Throw in a handfull of cameos (yes, a scene of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and Rebecca Romjin as a view of the older Mystique.) and great foreshadowing, and you have a great prequel.

I mean, I can’t say enough about the cast this film boasts. I have to say again, James McAvoy. Having another big action film under his belt, Wanted, he is perfectly comfortable as an action hero (although be it a passive one). Michael Fassbender. He is no newbie when it comes to action films. 300, Centurion, Inglorious Basterds. This guy has done some of the best action films of the decade. And he’s such a malicious character actor that when you see him as the villain, you can actually see the evil seething from him. Kevin Bacon. I haven’t seen him in a while and they hid it well in the trailers that he was in the movie. And as the villain? That was a shock. But still, he was quite devious. Combine that with Nicholas Holt as Beast (great job to say the least) and Jennifer Lawrence (academy award winner for Winter’s Bone.) among other X-Men, and you have a great cast.

Great group. Great cast. Great movie.

From the director Matthew Vaughn, director of some pretty badass action films, Layer Cake (personal favorite), Kick Ass, even Stardust was decent, you have to expect some good acting combined with great visual chemistry. There’s a great scene with Michael Fassbender absolutely destroying some Argentinian Nazi fools that brims with gorish action. This movie screams great summer film. If Stan Lee’s onboard (not just for the money, I hope) then it has to be good. His baby creation has come to life once again and it’s all good. 8.8 out of 10.