Tag: #FilmReview

Reviewing: Anastasia (1997)

In honor of its Broadway musical adaptation, I thought I’d sit down and watch what many consider to be a standard of the animated library, 1997’s Anastasia. I was interested in the story, which is loosely based on the legend of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, who was thought to have been executed with her family at the hands of Bolshevik troops, though in reality she managed to escape execution. The film takes a different approach, showing that a vengeful sorcerer named Grigori Rasputin (voiced here by Christopher Lloyd) sold his soul for an unholy reliquary, allowing him to place a curse on Anastasia’s family: this incites the Russian Revolution. Anastasia and her grandmother, the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna manage to escape, though only Marie is able to make it onto a moving train, leaving Anastasia in the crowd. For someone who’s only seen this once, it’s best if you don’t know anything about the plot before going in, as it makes the true events all the more though-provoking. A few pieces of character development aside, Anastasia is a film that shouldn’t be missed.

Reviewing: An American Werewolf in London (1981)

One of the original posters for "An American Werewolf in London".

Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

It’s a great time to be a horror fan, if these last few years have been any kind of indication. From the Paranormal Activity movies to recent breakouts like It Follows and Get Out, the horror genre has reignited the interests of filmmakers and  moviegoers alike. For this week’s post, I thought I’d treat myself to one of the more famous films in this genre, John Landis’s An American Werewolf in London.

If the name John Landis sounds familiar, then you’re not alone. He’s been the director for several hit comedies, like Nation Lampoon’s Animal House, The Blues Brothers, and Trading Places. Now you’re probably getting curious: how could a director known for comedies suddenly transition to a straight-up horror film? To be fair, American Werewolf has its fair share of funny moments (more so than the average horror film), but nonetheless manages to be terrifying all the same.

The film's two main characters: Jack (Griffin Dunne, left) and David (David Naughton, right).

Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

The film follows two young Americans, David Kessler (David Naughton, right) and Jack Freeman (Griffin Dunne, left) who are backpacking through England. While they are briefly stopped at a pub called The Slaughtered Lamb, they are warned by the townsfolk to stick close to the road, “beware the moors” (referring to the North York Moors, which is not far from where the men are traveling), and also to “beware the full moon.” As with most horror movies, the men unintentionally forget to heed this advice, and are attacked by large animal, resulting in David being injured and Jack being killed. As David wakes up in a London hospital, he is visited by the decaying spirit of Jack, who tells his friend that they were attacked by a lycanthrope (otherwise known as a werewolf). By the next full moon, David himself will become a werewolf.

As I mentioned, American Werewolf is a funny film. It may be odd that a horror film can be both funny and scary, but this film pulls off the combination of these tones beautifully. Just because it is funny doesn’t make it a spoof, as there are genuine, dangerous stakes to this story. The effects used to transform David into the werewolf are frightening and impressive, even by today’s standards, holding its own against the CGI of today’s films. If you’re looking for an introduction to the horror genre that manages to thrill you, in addition to making you laugh quite a bit, An American Werewolf in London is for you.

 

 

 

David (David Naughton) transforming into the werewolf.Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Reviewing: La La Land (2016)

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in "La La Land".

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment. 

One commercial for La La Land contains a review that says something along the lines of “They don’t make movies like this anymore.” And I agree: it’s been years since we’ve seen an original musical on the big screen. Not that anyone hasn’t tried, but it would be very hard to earn a studio’s trust in order to ensure the license to make one. Damien Chazelle, he of 2014’s exhilarating jazz-infused thriller Whiplash, was able to earn a studio’s trust thanks to the glowing reviews and multiple award wins of his first feature. And La La Land certainly is something, with impressive choreography, catchy songs, and excellent turns from stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. It’s just that I was expecting a bit more, a longer connective thread that tied the movie together, which is muddled slightly by too many montage sequences. La La Land is one hell of an experience, but one I hoped to mine a little more out of.