The Haunting (1999) Halloween Advent

Rating 12
Length 2h05
Release 24.9.1999
Director Jan de Bont
About Dr Marrow enlists Theo, Luke and Nell for a study of sleep disorders at the Hill House. As soon as the terrifying truth about the mansion is revealed, everyone is found fighting for their lives.
Moon: no moon sighting
Where to Watch: Netflix
Trailer:

Trick

  • The CGI has not aged well. 1999 was a time in which CGI had become common place, but the work wasn’t given the money it really required to get it up to the standards set by Jurassic Park. The result is something that is added to, rather than blended into the film’s environment.
  • Nell being a relation of someone in the house was poorly executed. Something shouldn’t come from left field like this does. While the ‘Welcome home Elenore’ hints at a connection, everyone is dismissing it as a prank. What was needed was some more hints so it didn’t feel like a last minute addition to the story.
  • There’s a real lack of a body count and it doesn’t gel with what is presented. It gives the film a messy feel. Which can be explained when you discover that Spielberg took over editing duties from the director.
  • As previously mentioned, this film is messy. Its a plot that lacks any smooth transition from act to act. The finished piece is more like a jigsaw puzzle missing half of its parts.

Treat

  • The set design of the house is stunning. Every inch of the building and sets are beautiful and meticulously created. The scale of the glasshouse and the pond really must have been amazing on a big screen.
  • Catherine Zeta Jones’ Theo is bi-sexual. It was possible the first time I’d see that sort of representation and it was certainly the first time I’d seen a character’s sexuality mentioned without it being directly connected to the plot.
  • Liam Neeson and Owen Wilson are brilliant. In a pre-Taken role, this was possibly the first thing I remember seeing him in outside of Phantom Menace. I know he was in things, it just wasn’t stuff I’d seen or remembered him in.
    Baby faced Owen Wilson perhaps isn’t someone you would automatically think of for a horror movie, but he holds his own and certainly seems to enjoy being a part of the film.

Final Thoughts

It’s one of those films I don’t really like, but I rewatch in the hope something has changed. It never does.

The Mummy (1999) Halloween Advent

Rating 12
Length 2h4
Release 25.6.2012
Director Stephen Sommers
About Adventurer Rick O’Connell and Egyptologist Evelyn, along with a bunch of archaeologists, inadvertently wake up an evil mummy during an archaeological excavation at the ancient city of Hamunaptra.
Moon: full moon at around 20 minutes
Where to Watch: Own copy on DVD, but the franchise is currently available on Now Cinema
Trailer:

Trick

  • The CGI in some places has not aged well. Particularly when it involves actors interacting with the ‘cursed’ sand and some forms of the Mummy.
  • For me personally, its about 30 minutes too long, especially when you consider its at least over the hour mark before the Mummy is discovered and the curse is invoked. I would perhaps remove our first introduction to Rick.

Treat

  • Brendan Fraser is perfect as Rick O’Connell. Not only does he have the persona of characters portrayed by Harrison Ford, he holds much more charm. Something that’s akin to older action stars like Errol Flynn.
    This is not his breakout role, but it really is the first to break away from his typecast performance of an air-brain fish out of water, seen best in California Man, Air Heads and George of the Jungle. I can imagine this was a risk, but I’m so glad they gave him this chance.
  • Oded Fehr is an absolute joy to have in this film. He provides the wonderful narration at the beginning and is able to provide a perfect blend of serious and comic that never spills over into ham. My absolute favourite moment is what I can only describe as his impression of a dog hanging its head out of a car. The utter joy on his face upon flying is a delight.
  • Omid Djalili is a welcome, yet completely forgotten, addition the cast. As a man of Persian ancestry, he is a face you will be familiar with in many a film like this, including playing Sallah in the Indiana Jones franchise.
    There’s something comforting about Djalili being in this film. Its a confidence of the performance that, for me, only comes with British acting.
  • The story is really good. I’d completely forgot how much I enjoyed this adventure and I think its largely to do with how Evelyn is presented in the film. She’s not a damsel, but a female trying to fight against the gender issues of her time. While I’m not a fan of Rachel Weisz, she is really well cast here.
  • The script is really clever. There’s a moment in which the second team looking for the treasure and their expert declares ‘A woman. What does she know?’ for the scene to cut to Evie explaining the structure of their findings to her group.
  • The horror and comedy elements are perfectly balanced to provide a watchable family horror.

Final Thoughts

Still a joy to watch and something I will always put on around this time of year, if not closer to Christmas.

Double Jeopardy (1999) Film Review

Rating 15
Length 1h45
Release 28.1.2000
Director Bruce Bereford
About A woman arrested for her husband’s murder is sentenced to six years imprisonment. After her release, she sets out to find her son and the truth about the murder as she suspects foul play.
Moon: no moon sighting
Where to Watch: Netflix
Trailer:

The Good

  • I’ve seen the trailer for this film about a million times, so to say that this film surprised me was a bit of an understatement. I’ve always thought that Tommy Lee Jones was the husband and the ferry car crash was how he ‘died’. There’s just something quite nice about being thrown off from the get go.
  • I really like Ashley Judd in this. Judd makes for a really sympathetic and strong leading lady.
  • Bruce Greenwood. He improves literally anything he’s in and I really do like that I’ve now seen him play a nasty role. He wears it well.

The Bad

  • The evolution of time isn’t very well structured. I know we get the cake, but I think I’d have liked a little more. Even something simple as removing the highlights from her hair.
  • I don’t get why there’s the insistence that her boy, Matty, doesn’t go to her parents when it’s the first person she goes to when she flees custody.
  • There’s a few other plot holes that I can’t think of right now, but because it’s not as fast paced as similar thrillers, they’re a little more obvious.

The Ugly

  • How laws work. The whole premise hangs on a law that the film interprets wrongly. Like, its a glaring flaw. There’s also this idea that her child is kidnapped. Yes, she’s given custody over, but is it not a little suspect?
  • This suffers with a similar fate at What Lies Beneath in the respect that the trailer and blurb reveal the ‘faked death’, while the film plays it as a reveal. It makes that opening scene heavy and hard work. In a film that’s not got much time to play with, it really didn’t need to spend that long building up to the ‘crime’. I guess there’s an attempt here to not be The Fugitive. However, the result is that the film loses some of its suspense. Netflix doesn’t help matters by having the reveal scene as it’s preview.

Final Thoughts

An enjoyable, if not heavily flawed, entry into the crime thriller that was popular in the 90s. It’s something I’d love to see a return of. Perhaps without the need to ignore the blatant plot holes.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

Rating PG
Length 2h16
Release 15.7.1999
Director George Lucas
About Jedi Knights Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi set out to stop the Trade Federation from invading Naboo. While travelling, they come across a gifted boy, Anakin, and learn that the Sith have returned.
Moon: Full moon during the funeral scene
Where to Watch: Disney Plus
Trailer:


The Good

  • On the most part, the cast Lucas put together for this was incredible. From the pitch perfect Ewan McGregor to the recall of people from the original trilogy. This is the best of the prequels and its largely to do with the adult cast and how they are able to work with the woeful dialogue.
  • John Williams is on form with this score. From the reworking of Vader’s march into Anikin’s theme to Maul’s suite that orchestrates that final battle between the Jedi and Sith.
  • Liam Neeson. Ah, how I avoid his films now. Yet, this is the film that sparked my love for the Irish actor. There’s a gravitas he brings to the film that’s akin to what Alec Guinness presented in A New Hope.
  • Short and sweet, but I love the presence of Samuel L Jackson. I can imagine it was something he loved to get and the little we saw allowed the viewers to wish for more.

The Bad

  • Jake Llyod really had a tough job with the script he was dealt. I’m pretty certain there wasn’t a kid out there that could have handled it better. That said, he’s fucking annoying from the get go. The less said about the “are you an Angel?” bullshit towards the handmaiden who will go on to father his children the better.
  • The CGI was hard to watch this time. And probably the last time I watched it too. Even considering when it was made, I feel it was a poor job. A lot of the ships, creatures and backgrounds look more like they’d be at home in an animated film. It’s a shame, because the original trilogy was created with practical effects and they work so much better.

The Ugly

  • Jar. Jar. Binks. Jesus, I hate saying this, knowing how much the hate for the character has impacted upon the health of Ahmed Best. However, Binks, to look at is cute. He’s this trilogy’s Ewoks. Until he opened his mouth. Again, I doubt this is on Best. This will be the workings of the man-child that is Lucas. Binks ruins the film with his inflections and random commentary.
  • “Always two there are, no more, no less. A master and an apprentice.” What utter bullshit is this?! It’s pissed me off more this time because it proves that Kathleen Kennedy was talking out of her arse when she claims that Sidious was in play even in The Force Awakens.

Final Thoughts

Its flawed. At the time, I thought these were the worst thing that happened to Star Wars. I wish I was right about that.

The Matrix (1999) Film Review

Rating 15
Length 2h16
Release 11.6.1999
Director Lana and Lilly Wachowski
About Thomas Anderson, a computer programmer, is led to fight an underground war against powerful computers who have constructed his entire reality with a system called the Matrix.
Where to Watch: Netflix/ Amazon Prime
Trailer:


First Thoughts

I bought into this franchise. I had the leather coat that hit the floor. I vaguely remember someone lending me the video and by the time the sequels came out, there was a group of us who made seeing it an event.
This was probably the first film since Jurassic Park that had GCI that truly amazed me and I certainly watched it a fair few times. Until the sequels came out that is.


I know this film is from 1999, but if you haven’t watched recently, or never seen it; beware, spoilers ahead.


The Good

  • “Mister Anderson”. Hugo Weaving really gave us a bad guy to loath, didn’t he? It was because of being in this, that I was excited to see him in Lord of the Rings. Even now, he steals every scene he’s in and scares the absolute crap out of me.
  • Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss to me come as a package. I love both of them in this and I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing their parts. Lets face it, it is as much their film as it is Reeves and his saviour Neo.
  • It is high concept. This film walked, so that movies like Inception could run. However, it is a film that can be enjoyed without exploring the deep, philosophical, meaning behind the concept.
  • The effects, while showing their age, are still incredible. The colour saturation as a marker of which world you’re watching still works and gives an added touch.

The Bad

  • Reading around the casting, I discovered the Wachowski Sisters intended for Switch to be played by two different actors; an androgynous female for the real world and a male counterpart for the Matrix. Given the Sister’s journey in their personal lives, I can’t help but think this was an important aspect and I’m saddened they didn’t get to see that play out.
  • Joe Pantoliano. I think this is a case of casting so good, it undermines the plot. There’s never any doubt that Pantoliano’s Cypher is the leak of the unit. However, it’s played like a rug pull and I wish it wasn’t because I hate being treated like I’m stupid.

The Ugly

  • Come on, you knew it was coming. Keanu Reeves should not be Neo. Sorry, but while he ‘looks’ the part, he does not win me over as a) A tech geek or b) A prophetic saviour. (Also, was hacking that new that you could get away with a handle like Neo? WTF? make it today and he’s be NEO_be@st_1985)
    I get that he’s the reluctant hero, one that we’d latter see butchered on screen in the first few Harry Potter movies, and an everyman. But this performance is not only lacklustre, its lifeless. This is an actor who has been around a fair bit and can do way better than the ‘dead behind the eyes’ look we get from him here. Hell, you could have put Kristen Stewart in the role and she would have done a better job.
    Now, I’m not certain who could have replaced him at the time. The often quoted wanted man was Will Smith, but that would not have worked, and I’m not certain Brad Pitt or Leo DiCaprio could have handled it either. The only name I’ve seen mentioned that has piqued my interest is Nic Cage. However, I’m sure two actors known for bat shit crazy roles (Fishburne being the other) working together would be some sort of Hollywood no no.
    I know it’s the unusual opinion, and I hate that I’m criticising someone as lovely as Keanu Reeves, but it feels like he’s not really there.
  • The score really hasn’t aged well and feels very “generic action score number 3”. I love the use of songs, both at the beginning and during the credits. I almost wish they’d pulled a Cursed Child and repurposed a Rage Against the Machine album, removed the lyrics and sampled it to fit the film. Would have been much more in keeping and less derivative.

Final Thoughts

It’s aged well and long enough has passed for it to feel nostalgic. Not sure I can bring myself to watch the other two movies. I remember not liking them at the time, but I have only ever seen each one once.