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Friday, Oct 10, 2014
Dracula Untold is terrible. It should be subtitled Dracula Unnecessary.

Who knew? Who knew that Count Dracula was, at one time, a pretty decent guy. A bit morose and damaged from a stint as a child soldier for a marauding Turk, but as an adult, a nobleman with a kind heart, a compassionate manner, and a devotion to his people. Yes, Prince Vlad was a good person, plagued by a kingdom filled with whiners, but still able to rise above the rabble to do what’s right to maintain his 15th century sovereignty.

Doesn’t quite jive with your memories of the “monster”, does it? That’s because Universal is being run by a bunch of jealous desk jockeys who’ve taken one look at what Disney and Marvel have created via their vast superhero universes and phases and have shouted strongly “Yes, please!” And why not? The House of Mouse and its billion dollar acquisition have seen their bottom line increase as many zeroes, if not more, based on such a plan. Besides, if they can make Maleficent a misunderstood moneymaker, why not the former Prince of Darkness?

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Thursday, Oct 9, 2014
Even the most dedicated follower of fear hasn't seen every horror movie made. Here are ten you need to catch up with, if you haven't already.

So, you’re a horror fan. A dedicated follower of dread. You’ve seen all the classics and suffered through hundreds of hackneyed wannabes. Whenever October roles around and the studios start thinking about scares, you head over to your favorite fright-oriented website and read up on all the potential paranormal activity to take place. You eagerly anticipate a date at the local Cineplex, or more times than not, an epic streaming across several VOD platforms.

Usually you’re disappointed. Sometimes, you’re rewarded. And even after all that, after numerous revisits to a certain cabin in the woods or a haunted ‘70s-era farmhouse, you’re still not satisfied. You want more, and not just the junk that Tinseltown thinks is frightening (like sudden shocks in front of a surveillance camera).

Tagged as: horror films
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Wednesday, Oct 8, 2014
Gunfight at Red Sands is the best Spaghetti Western I have seen that was made before Sergio Leone's genre defining Fistful of Dollars.

Featuring Ennio Morricone’s first western score, Gunfight at Red Sands (1963) is the best Spaghetti Western I have seen that was made before—and therefore not influenced by—Sergio Leone’s genre defining Fistfull of Dollars (1964). Much like its opening and closing song, “A Gringo Like Me,” which Morricone composed for the all-American folk singer Peter Tevis, the film works within the boring boundaries established by early American westerns while embracing the creative conventions developed by Spaghetti Westerns. 

Here are some examples of how Gunfight at Red Sands manages to walk what is essentially a barbed-wire fence separating the two western sub-genres: there’s the predictable American do-gooder of a lead in Gringo (Richard Harrison), but there’s also the emotionally complex and morally conflicted Mexican mistress in Maria (Mikaela); it’s set in the typical Hollywood Wild West town populated by a bunch of on-looking innocents, but the town is bordering Mexico and has the colorless backdrop of the spanish Almeria desert; the entertaining fistfights are straight-out of the excessively choreographed early American westerns, but the final showdown has the tension that became the garlic bread of Spaghetti Westerns and it consequently provides a satisfying, sauce-soaking conclusion.

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Tuesday, Oct 7, 2014
This film may have picked up some sentimental value over the past 70 years, but it hasn't picked up much else during that time.

This film is a pleasant piece of wartime Americana that, like some of its characters, literally goes overboard. When it came out in 1946, after the war was over, it was past its sentimental sell-by date, which is why the opening announces that it takes place “a long, long time ago, way back in 1943”. It was already being nostalgic, but audiences who’d lived through the war were flocking to see The Best Years of Our Lives, which had something sensible to say. Now available on demand from Fox Cinema Archives, Wake Up and Dream comes across as a warm Technicolor slice of marmalade spread on thick.

John Payne plays Jeff, a gosh-gee farmer who’s tongue-tied around the spectacular Jenny (June Haver), a blonde and busty waitress at the local diner. He enlists in the navy and sends his somber little sister Nella (Connie Marshall, working in Margaret O’Brien mode) and her dog Tipsy (looking like Toto) to relatives, then promptly gets declared missing in action. With far-fetched reasons and an unclear sense of geography (exact locations were hush-hush in wartime anyway), Jenny and Nella go off with an old simpleton called Henry Peckett (Clem Bevans), who built a sailboat in the backyard and spends much time puffing philosophically about children and the power of belief.

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Monday, Oct 6, 2014
This tale of two love stories intertwining in an English row house is excellent in all aspects.

Enchantment was a rare achievement in 1948, and today this type of delicate, intelligent, yet utterly pie-eyed romance is as dead as Betamax. So are you if this picture doesn’t prime your heartbeat. An excellent print is now available on demand from Warner Archive with no extras except the trailer.

Two love stories, which might in a mystical sense be the same love story, are intertwined within the same English row house as the film slips backwards and forwards in time. One is the Victorian story of a callow yet likeable military officer, Sir Roland Dane (David Niven), and the orphan girl called Lark (Teresa Wright) raised as a semi-adopted sister. We know from the beginning, as we see the retired General Dane living with his sad memories during WWII, that their romance broke apart, and it had something to do with the Roland’s proper, insinuating, hostile sister Selina (Jayne Meadows), who, among other motives, is jealous of her brother.

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