It’s with a heavy heart that we hear of the passing of one of the screen’s brightest and funniest stars in Cloris Leachman : for me her more memorable roles came with playing the likes of Ruth in The Last Picture Show for which she won the Academy Award, the hilarious Maw Maw in Raising Hope, her scene stealing film debut in Kiss Me Deadly, Madame Defarge in History of the World, Part I and of course my personal favorite Frau Blücher in Young Frankenstein : Cloris had a wonderful and varied career including eight Primetime Emmy Awards from 22 nominations, making her the most nominated awarded actress in Emmy history : she will be sorely missed down here, but up there a party is about to begin….
A filmmaker seeks solace from her down spiraling career in a remote New York lake house, hoping to find some good old fashioned inspiration : It’s only fitting in the strangest of years that we should have one of the strangest of movies : BLACK BEAR is certainly that, mixed with it’s weird and mind bending plot Lawrence Michael Levine’s film is incredibly frustrating, thought provoking and full of the most unlikeable characters in a movie this year, but somehow Levine pulls it off Albeit with the help of it’s stunning location and engaging cast including Christopher Abbott’s Gabe, Sarah Gadon’s Blair both of whom are annoyingly bodacious in that first segment, to say their relationship is stormy is putting it mildly and last but not least Aubrey Plaza who plays the lead role of Allison, along with Ingrid Goes West and Safety Not Guaranteed this is Aubrey Plaza at her captivating, irresistible best, especially in the movies second half where she finds herself as the lead actress, a bit of a diva in a feature film being directed by Gabe : Black Bear is one of those rare movies that I don’t quite understand what went on, although I’m guessing it went something along the lines of a washed up artist who is struggling to find work decides to take a break in remote Long Lake New York to reinvent herself and hopefully find some inspiration so in the movie Levine shows us what’s actually manifesting in Allison’s mind and how certain things may have played out…. it’s only my interpretation of the goings on in Black Bear but nevertheless the movie certainly scores extra points for the performance level and it’s intriguing narrative, as days later I still find myself thinking of what went on in that lake house and what happened to Allison and that big Black Bear ★★★★
Number 6 of My Top 31 Horror Movies : The crew of the spacecraft, Nostromo, intercepts a distress signal from a planet and set’s out to investigate : although Ridley Scott’s ALIEN is not the best film in the franchise (that in my opinion goes to it’s sequel Aliens) it’s certainly the scariest : filmed on a budget of approximately $12 million and released in 1979 the film was a big hit at the box office, launching Sigourney Weaver’s career whilst setting up a successful franchise : in crafting one of the scariest sci-fi horror movies of all time Ridley Scott turned to Swiss Artist H.R. Giger to assist with the film’s creature design, the Swiss ultimately helped create the face-hugger, chestburster, space jockey & more and was part of the special effects team that won the Oscar for visual design : Alien is full of atmosphere and the jumps come thick & fast, take the chestburster scene (one of the most iconic talked about scenes in movie history), WOW that scene, my god, I nearly jumped through the roof…. and those scenes with Dallas tracking down the Alien inside the belly of the ship, crawling through a labyrinth of air ducts armed with only with a flamethrower, you feel claustrophobic & you find yourself biting your nails as Dallas the hunter becomes the hunted (talk about tension)….. and how about when science officer Ash decides to go batshit crazy and attempts to suffocate one of the crew with a newspaper….. let’s be honest I could fill a telephone directory with so many memorable moments throughout the film that will not only scare you half to death with Scott’s injection of suspense & sheer cruelty but will also make your jaw drop in amazement with how visually beautiful the film looks, those magnificent sets in Alien are something to behold : and let’s not forget Jerry Goldsmith’s sensational score, it’s both creepy yet beautiful & Dan O’Bannon’s imaginative story without which we’d have no movie, his concept is sublime : overall Alien is an astonishing 2hrs of scifi horror that will make you want to scream….. but remember, In space no can hear you scream ★★★★★
Number 7 of My Top 31 Horror Movies : A wealthy socialite pursues a potential boyfriend to a small town on the coast that slowly takes a turn for the bizarre when birds of all kinds begin to attack the town folk : the film premiered in 1963 and for me THE BIRDS is the jewel in Alfred Hitchcock’s crown of suspense, imagery and pure dread, from it’s story which is loosely based on a short by Daphne du Maurier, the confidence, beauty & fear of it’s star Tippi Hedren, it’s breathtaking backdrop of Bodega Bay and the way Hitchcock builds up the story, slowly allowing you to know a little about each of the characters before the chaos rains down and The Birds attack which is utterly frightening to watch : there’s also very little music during the movie which also adds greatly to it’s atmosphere, just the screeching, scratching and calling of The Birds : although they lacked the chemistry the leads in the majority of Hitchcock movies had I did feel Rod Taylor was a fabulous leading man and gives a strong protect what I love at all cost performance alongside Hedren and the scenes at the bird shop between the two are fun to watch, there’s also a great Jessica Tandy performance who catches the eye in a supporting role, playing the distressed and over protective mother and a young Veronica Cartwright and the terrific Suzanne Pleshette both fleshing out the cast and doing fine jobs in their respective roles : The Birds has so many great scenes but I really love that moment around 85mins in when Hedren’s character finds herself stranded in a phone box and watches in panic, spinning around almost hypnotized in terror as The Birds cause mayhem around her, the gas station and cars lit on fire and people running for their lives, it’s perfect and not only one of the most chilling moments in the movie but possible the best shot also : there are certain horror movies that I revisit that could be placed higher on my list and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds is certainly one of them, I can only imagine how shocked the audiences must have been back in the 60s when it was released : it’s a well structured, ALARMING ride into FEAR and a Hitchcock MASTERPIECE that deserves it’s place amongst the Greatest Movies of all time ★★★★★
Number 14 of My Top 31 Horror Movies : After moving into an apartment with her husband, Rosemary begins to hear and dream strange things, and she starts to suspect her perculiar neighbors are up to no good : I’ve watched Rosemary’s Baby dozens of times down the years and I’m still as disturbed by it’s general foreboding as I was when I first watched it back in the late 80’s, with it’s narrative ranging from pregnancy, satanism to demonic rape it’s a movie that slowly and subtly builds, chipping away at your nerve ends until it’s shocking finale : there are times during the movie when William Fraker’s photography makes me feel slightly claustrophobic especially the early scenes in the lift and apartment block, the close-up scenes of the sensational Mia Farrow and work behind the camera throughout really adds to it’s feeling of nauseating unease : I love the suspense and sheer drama of the phone box scene (which I believe was done in one take) and the discovery at the film’s finale but there’s no question when Rosemary passes out after eating Minnie’s chocolate mousse only to wake find scratches on her body with her husband admitting to having sex with her whilst she was unconcious to be the most terrifying, pulse racing scene of all : so if your expecting a blood curdling, jump a minute horror film then think again, Rosemary’s Baby is a mess with your head, psychological masterpiece that will lure you in and unsettle even the most hardened of minds, it’s been 52yrs since it’s release and it still kick’s like a newborn ★★★★★
Number 16 of My Top 31 Horror Movies : A group of people barricade themselves in an old farmhouse to remain safe from a bloodthirsty, flesh-eating breed of monster who are ravaging the United States. : “They’re coming to get you, Barbra!…” : There’s good zombie films and then there’s George A Romero’s 1968 ghoulfest NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD : crafted in black & white with a runtime of 96mins this slice of horror is pure suspense, alongside a towering performance full of energy & style by New Yorker Duane Jones & scares that would make most of today’s horror films blush Night of the Living Dead is high calibre filmmaking, by a director at his most raw & potent best : I recently rewatched the restored Criterion edition and was reminded (like I am every year) on how creepy the movie holds up, from it’s unique appearance, how fiendishly evil the undead look to the films unsettling graveyard and old farmhouse shot’s with it’s black-and-white filming only adding extra spice to the unnerving viewing experience : Judith O’Dea’s Barbra is terrific, the way she shows us her character’s shock after loosing her brother in the cemetary attack and the terror she’s overcome with is quite chilling : I love the scene in the movie which sees Harry coming up from the basement and arguing with Ben on why they should all be barricaded in down below, Hardman & Jones have the floor mostly to themselves and it’s all quite riverting, Tom & Judy’s ill fated trip to collect some gas from the barn is also one my movie highlights, from it’s chaotic build up, big explosion to the aftermath of Harry locking Ben out of the house to be breathtaking : since it’s release Night of the Living Dead has spawned a zombie franchise and countless other immitations but for me Romero’s original beats all others hands down and is still a spine-chilling masterpiece ★★★★★
Number 19 of My Top 31 Horror Movies : After switching his child at birth in an Italian Hospital, an American ambassador & his wife start to suspect that the child they are raising could actually be the Antichrist : From the nanny hanging herself in dramatic style at a child’s party, Father Brennan being impaled by a lightning rod from the church roof, the vicious attack by the rottweilers in the cemetery, Lee Remick’s window plunge to Warner’s decapitation THE OMEN has a darkness about it that scared the hell out of me growing up and still does today : I love horror and films that deal with the supernatural and the Devil and they don’t come much better than Richard Donnor’s The Omen, an eerie, slow building low budget chiller that spawned four sequels, a remake and won the great Jerry Goldsmith his first & only Oscar after 18 nominations for original score : my favorite scene in the movie is when Thorn played by Gregory Peck discovers the 666 on his son’s head and is then subsequently attacked by the nanny, the whole scene packs a punch from it’s suspense to the ferocious attack : if you’ve never seen The Omen the film comes highly recommended, it’s not only a creepy bone chilling movie experience but with a cast that includes Peck, Remick and Warner it would be crazy to ignore : SUPERB ★★★★★
Number 24 of My Top 31 Horror Movies : When five friends arrive at a remote cabin in the woods for a little vacation, little do they expect the horrors that await them : I have rewatched Drew Goddard’s THE CABIN IN THE WOODS several times since the big screen back in 2011 and each & every time I have found something new to smile about : from Goddard & Whedon’s FRESH, FUNNY & ORIGINAL script to that bizzare feeling your watching two movies wrapped up in one it’s almost like an R rated Twilight Zone episode, it just keeps getting better and better, so much so that it recently made My Top 20 Movies of the Decade : The Cabin in the Woods is so far removed from their work together on Buffy the Vampire Slayer it’s actually insane to think it’s from the same team, but when it sinks in and you’ve watched it a few time the penny drops and you realise HELL YEAH this has their stamp it’s just on a different level, a more sadistic, crueler and blood splattered level : The Cabin in the Woods has so many horror layers and each time you peel one away the next is scarier, first you get the old garage attendent who’s creepy as fuck and at this point I would have turned for home, then it’s the cabin with it’s remote location, double sided mirrors and a goddam cellar and then the monsters start to come out to play, one by one each scarier and more violent than the next… well you get the picture….. it’s brilliant : the film is just everything you’d want from a horror movie, it’s scary, sexy and relentless, I mean watching Jules make out with the wolf is just…..wtf just happened have I been smoking some of Marty’s drugs or what?, the pair of Amy Acker & Fran Kranz add so much greatness and nostalgia to each scene their part of, the way the story arc twists and turns like a Rubik Cube is utterly bonkers and not since Wes Craven gave us Scream have I seen a better horror lead than Kristen Connolly, she’s fearless, gorgeous, takes no shit and she just owns her character : WHAT A MOVIE !! ★★★★★
Number 27 of My Top 31 Horror Movies : Whilst at the local zoo an American man falls for a Serbian illustrator, who fears that she will turn into a cat person if they are intimate together : Scary movies come in all guises and Jacques Tourneur’s RKO masterpiece CAT PEOPLE is one of the many examples, that you don’t necessarily have to see the horror coming to be petrified of it’s existence : I’ve always be a huge fan of producer Val Lewton and his stable of great horror movies for RKO pictures, films such as I Walked with a Zombie, Ghost Ship, Isle of the Dead, The Leopard Man and of course Cat People and it’s sequel The Curse of the Cat People made use of great light, shadows and rolling fog combined with the Golden Age maestro Roy Webb and his unbeatable spine-chilling scores : Cat People was filmed in 18 Days and for me is the finest example of that era, a terrific horror with some unsettling scenes to drool over, or in my case hide from : two such scenes involve the wonderful Jane Randolph and her character Alice, the first sees her leaving a cafe and being followed by Simone Simon‘s Irena, the sound of both of their footsteps and the sparsely lit pavement that Alice follows sets the scene in RKO atmospheric tradition, she’s panicking & constantly looking over her shoulder and then she then starts to run as if something is chasing her, terrified, out of breathe…. this moment in the film is giddy perfection, suspense of the highest order and so typical of it’s time that I will never get bored of watching : in the second scene we find a Alice alone in her hotel complex going for a swim in the basement’s pool when she’s startled by a young cat and a scary shadowy outline that overhangs the stairwell, before we know it Alice is alone and in the centre of the swimming pool, the camera-work is sensational during this scene circling the pool as the shadows illuminate & drip off the walls on all sides as the sound of a wild cat echoes around the pool, then Alice starts to scream…. for me it’s the movies highlight and it’s most unsettling moment too and executed with heart stopping precision : I loved revisiting Cat People on the restored Criterion edition, it truly is a horror masterpiece ★★★★½
Number 28 of My Top 31 Horror Movies : A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further : the second movie on my list directed by James Wan and originally titled The Further Insidious is like the twisted twin sister of Poltergeist a film that has supernatural & astral dimension elements thrown together with a scary looking psychic played by horror veteran Lin Shaye, and a delightful pair of paranormal investigators who come together to help the Lambert family in their hour of need : Insidious was written by Leigh Whannell who also stars as Specs in the movie and took just over three weeks to film, the budget was an incredible $1.5 million and has since spawned a franchise including two further movies making a shit load of dollars in the process : Insidious is my favorite James Wan horror movie, the last quarter of which is haunting and unforgettable, we get to see Patrick Wilson’s Josh travelling into the Astral Plane to look for his son and hopefully bring him home, it’s pace slowly builds as Josh is seen creeping around the house inspecting the ghostly figures around him, some of which are quite distubing, then without warning and to a deafening screaching crescendo the film picks up pace and literally all hell breaks loose : the sound in the movie is unusual and quite eerie and the lighting helps give the film it’s atmosphere, there’s also the wonderful gift of Barbra Hershey in a small yet pivotal role (I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of Barbara later on my list) : overall Insidious is genius story-telling, a legitimate horror gem that has a great twist during it’s final act and will scare you half to death: you may want to stay around after the credits too ★★★★½
It was tough but here it goes : Christopher Nolan’s Top 8 Movies in order : (1) MEMENTO : 2000 : Nolan’s least pretentious movie, was shot for $9 million in less than a month, it’s story is exciting, fresh & edge of the seat and to this day it’s the filmmaker’s finest achievment with great turns by Guy Pearce & Joe Pantoliano : (2) THE PRESTIGE : 2006 : a hidden gem that I like to annually revisit & then think about for days after : Christian Bale & Hugh Jackman are immense as is Rebecca Hall who gives a stella turn playing Borden’s wife, from the sets, sound & story the film’s pure magic : (3) INCEPTION : 2010 : It’s been 10yrs and I still find myself marvelling at the effects, the rotating sets & Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s gravity fight scene which is so awesome to watch : breathtaking cinema built around a beautiful love story : (4) INTERSTELLAR : 2014 : Nolan’s ambitious scifi thriller blew me away whilst tugging at my heart strings from start to finish, the scene of Coops as he watches the clips from back home are tough, that enthralling docking sequence & the enormity of the tidal wave scenes are stunning : Hoytema’s work on this is quite simply wow : (5) THE DARK KNIGHT RISES : 2012 : Darkness rains down on Gotham & I for one loved the chaos & the ride Nolan brings to this trilogy ending masterpiece : in Tom Hardy’s Bane Batman has met his most demented nemesis & that delicious Talia twist in it’s finale gave the franchise the explosive ending it deserved : (6) INSOMNIA : 2002 : showcases the masterclass that is Al Pacino, his performance captures every essence of Will Dormer and it’s up there amongst the actors best work : Of course Wally Pfister’s DP and his canvas of British Columbia doesn’t help either – a tense, character driven remake that still holds up well today : (7) BATMAN BEGINS : 2005 : has sheer depth, towering action scenes, Liam Neeson & Cillian Murphy’s villainous pair, Michael BLOODY Caine, a cameo by Lucy Russell & of course Nolan’s ace in the pack Christian Bale who’s easily the “best actor” that’s played our Caped Crusader : (8) THE DARK KNIGHT : 2008 : Heath Ledger’s Joker waddling out of the hospital dressed in nurse atire as it explodes is one of many highlights from Nolan’s stupendous action packed sequel : lots of love here for Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent & Batman’s custom made bike is craaazy good too !! (also worth mentioning that I really enjoyed Dunkirk, Following and of course Nolan’s latest Tenet)
As you can tell from this movie blog or my social media feed I was born a Cinephile, I have this passion for all things film : I watch, collect and talk about the movies, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly things that I’m passionate about : My love stretches to every genre, from the western to scifi, from the 30s to modern day, Cagney to DiCaprio, Foster to Hepburn, Movies are my crush, my excitement and I’m at my happiest surrounded by them : Last year someone posted a question “What is your Mount Rushmore of Film Directors?” I know we all have different views on this and that’s more than fine, but for me the four filmmakers and their respective filmographies that have consistently made me tick, given me the goosebumps & excelled in their work are Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Quentin Tarantino & Martin Scorsese what’s yours?
The GREAT actor IAN HOLM has died aged 88 – what a wonderful, versatile performer Ian was – his roles such as Ash in ALIEN, Sam in CHARIOTS OF FIRE and Bilbo Baggins in THE LORD OF THE RINGS are all memorable, some are disturbing but all are pure cinema – he is an incredible actor to watch and truly one of the great actors of our time RIP