I’ve decided to use the long weekend to watch a bunch of films I’ve been meaning to watch for some time now and post a brief review of them here.
Donnie Darko (Directors Cut):The mind-bending story of an emotionally unstable teen put in charge of saving the world with the aide of equally unstable people. I’ve seen the original cut countless times and loved it, despite not fully understanding certain elements, but I feel as though this version is superior in many ways:it cuts out my of the fluff surrounding the side characters and gives a clear image of the events occurring, which both works both for and against this version. I can’t say I like it more than the Theatrical Version before further viewings, but this variant also contains many of the things I loved about it and highlights certain characters, such as Jim Cunningham, better. The pacing is also faster in this variant, which again alters the film significantly while still allowing the waves of mystery to build up; a cinematic masterwork in all forms; 8/10.
The Manchurian Candidate (1962): Highly gripping story of a brainwashed military officer starring the legendary Frank Sinatra. Though the highly dated pacing and acting style can detract from the intensity of certain scenes, the writing and cinematography is top notch with multiple twists through-out the plot you will likely never have seen coming. Though I previously commented on the highly dated acting: Angela Lansbury’s villainous monologue as Mrs. Iselin is incredible and Khigh Dheigh’s performance as Dr Yen Lo is masterful despite his limited screen-time. A classic thriller with enough good to outweigh the bad; 7/10.
Solaris (1972): Russian classic of Science Fiction, a psychologist is deployed onto the space-station orbiting an alien planet to discover what causes every visitor to go insane. The first half is masterfully paced and serves to establish the future world inhabited by the characters without becoming overly expository or slowing the plots development. The characters are instantly memorable and, though having to read the subtitles notably reduces the impact, are portrayed very realistically and the entire set-up before Dr. Kris Kelvin, our protagonist, even arrives on the titular station.
The second half is noticeably worse however; with many of the likeable characters left on Earth, with their story arcs unconcluded, the initial suspense continues for a scene of two, as Kelvin explores the station and meets the mentally disturbed crew, but that plot arc goes dormant for much of the films remaining run-time to focus on the before unmentioned romantic sub-plot that, while eventually leading into the conclusion of the other plots, takes up far to much of the run-time and was in serious need of a shortening. I highly enjoyed the ending scenes however, they were very suspenseful and I was legitimately surprised by the ending.
The cinematography is generally good, if somewhat aping the style of Stanley Kubrick, but there are some minor errors in filming that can hurt the suspension of disbelief, the camera having a delayed panning effect in multiple cases. The special effects are very ahead of their time however and greatly boasted the films rewatch value. 7/10
Stalker (1979): Psychological Horror/Science Fiction about three men travelling to a dimension that makes wishes come true. Weird direction, though the transitions between colour and sepiotone are well done, and clearly made for very cheap but good writing and acting make up for it.
The plot is hard to follow and can seem pretentious in areas but it suits the atmosphere provided by the visuals well. Reading the book it’s loosely based off of ‘Roadside Picnic’ makes understanding the premise far easier. An odd but excellent experience. 8/10
The Stepford Wives: This film is highly influential and had an amazing concept, but I don’t think the influence really excuses the supremely dull pace the concept is introduced to the film. We open up with the same early scenes of mundanity the majority of Horror/Low Science Fiction use as a formula, it is not normal for these scene to last for the entire first half of the movie.
The final third of the film, after the main plot finally starts, is extremely good however and almost makes up for the extreme dullness of everything before hand. The scenes advance at a perfect pace and the rapid unravelling of the towns true nature will have you on the edge of your sheet. The slow pace returns for the final scene; but this time for good effect to lead into the fridge-horror of the final shot. 5/10