The Ward (2010) [review]

By the time this film came out, I was more than a little eager to see a new John Carpenter film. As a director of films, it had been nine years since his previous film, and approximately four/five years since he’d directed a couple of episode for TV. So, I was hoping that this would be his comeback to the big screen.

While this is very nicely directed by John Carpenter, the script is a little obvious and old hat by the time this came out, the ideas here had already been done many times, and we knew what was going to happen along the way when it came to who would die and how. The characters seemed to be going through the motions of bumping into every trope known, and therefore we don’t really feel any attachment or fear for them.

The scares… are only mildly scary, we can see that John Carpenter tried to do his best with his style of slowly building up the tension, but it seems that those editing the film were trying to make a film which was short and to the point, which leaves us with a film that doesn’t let the audience enjoy the atmosphere or the characters which could have been so much more.

It feels as if the company held a little too much control and wanted to get to what they thought were the scares, blood and gore. This, for me, has never been Carpenter’s style, his films have always felt to me that he likes to take his time in showing us something more than blood and gore. But those with the money felt that the modern audience should have a much more fast passed and shock value with this film. Therefore, this feels as if it was taken out of the hands of the artists and put together by the business men. This may explain why John Carpenter has only done a couple of shorts since this was released.

This is not a terrible film, there is some tension, but it is much less than we may expect, the characters we are siding with, are a little hard to connect with, but in the setting in which they are trapped, this may be understandable. We’re never sure of where we stand with them, which does leave us wanting to get to know them a little better. The idea of knowing less does not work well in this film, in the way that it did in John Carpenter’s “Halloween”. The writers seemed to think that withholding information about the characters would make them more interesting, causing us to wonder about them, but, when we do find out anything, it is barely worth knowing and we don’t really find ourselves caring.

But saying all of this, it is still worth checking out, there is some enjoyment to be had here, even if you do know what is going to happen to who, and why.

Dark Shadows (2012) [review]

First I have to say that I have never seen the TV series or films which this is based upon and therefore I cannot compare this to any of those. This is possibly why I enjoyed this as much as I did and still do on repeat viewings.

Originally I watched this due to the fact that I am a fan of Tim Burton and have enjoyed the majority of his films… this being one of the films which I can say I Still enjoy, even if I enjoy it a little less than some of his other films… not to say that this is a bad film. This is fun while it does not take itself too seriously, and has fun with the characters and story. A story with does feel like in is acknowledging it’s source material… as odd as that may seem, coming from a person who has never seen any other incarnation of “Dark Shadows”. There is a joy to this which feels as if you do not need to have seen any incarnation up to the point of seeing this film. Although I’m sure there are hints to its origins (not only the general idea of the film, but some plot points). It did not spoil my enjoyment of this film.

There is the great look to this film which is obviously Tim Burton’s style, something which I have always enjoyed about his work, not only visually, but there is the quirkiness of the characters that seem to have an outsider feel to them… something which Tim Burton seems to give us without apologising. Actually there is no reason for him to, as the characters Burton has given us over the years seem to be more interesting for being themselves and not needing to conform to the norm. As some of them are outsiders for no fault of their own.

In the case of this film, certain characters are pushed into being an outsider by a curse put upon them, due to another character’s jealousy and bitterness. This film playfully takes us on a journey which we enjoy for the way in which is deals with the situation at hand. There are moments when I could have done with a little more depth to the characters and story, but then again, this story does not depend on such things… Maybe presuming that we may have already seen some of the back stories in the already mentioned other versions of what we have here. Or, if we enjoyed the film enough, we would check out that which preceded this.

I enjoyed this film for the fun that it is, the humour is not laugh out loud, but it will make you smile and chuckle at moments. The songs which we hear are joy to hear, even if they feel a little on the nose to remind us which decade the majority of this is set. The Alice Cooper cameo is a nice touch to the film, one which does not outstay its welcome.

Children of the Damned (1964) [review]

Do not let the fact that this is a sequel put you in the mindset that it is a lesser film than the original. This is a rare occasion which we find a follow up just as entertaining and thought provoking as the previous film.

In an odd way there is coldness to this film, not to say that it is off putting, maybe it is the fact that this is set in a big city rather than a small village, and the characters are less warm towards each other. These characters only know each other because they have been brought together due to the situation, rather than being part of a community who already knew each other before hand.

When it comes to mothers and their child in this film, we’re not given much time with the parent, and therefore we feel very little for the mother. The one family member we do get to spend any significant time with is a aunt who, whiling being a caring type, is not; obviously a parent and does not have the bond with any of the children.

This film also does not give us time to see the children from birth, but, from school going age. All schools being tested for any children who may be gifted, which lead those looking, finding children similar to those in the first film. This of course does not let us see the children grow and developed, throwing us in at the deep end with the characters that discover them.

This film nicely builds on that which the first film offered us, what we thought we knew and understood of the children. We already have our thoughts and theories on what we may think of this group of children, therefore, this film deals with the deceit, greed, religion, politics and the idea that governments would rather have the wealth of war than peace; than people and countries connecting with one another; learning and appreciating what the other has to offer.  Those in government do not seem to be able to understand what they are dealing with or cannot look beyond their own selfish ways.

The children; when asked what they want answer with the simplest of ideas, maybe the most obvious but wisest… of not knowing what they want. The children do not care which country they are from, what colour, class, and sex or sexuality of the other children. They simply treat each other with respect … Something which those studying and wanting to control or deal with them, cannot and do not seem to comprehend.

Village of the Damned (1960) [review]

What we have here is a masterpiece that at times feels low key while having the weight of the world upon it shoulders… the idea of the unknown, the fear and all the different theories of how to deal with what has thrust itself up what seems like a small country village.

The unexplained moment in which the people of a small part of England find themselves unconscious and the aftermath of discovering that many of the local women are pregnant, which just so happened that they became so on the same day.

This is a perfect example of how a film can build the tension with very little violence and what we do see, is more to do with suggestion and the viewer’s imagination than what is shown on screen in some brutality fashion. The emotion and intention of the action of moments is the style of this film. The relationships between the village people, their neighbours, husbands and wives and their children who we’re offered the chance to consider who or what they are … if they’re alien on their fathers’ side or if human evolution has jumped thousands and millions of years ahead of itself.

This film’s characters have their opinions on what is happening, but ultimately the film allows the audience to come to their own thoughts and theories, giving us the chance us come to our own conclusion. All the while we consider the consequences of which character is in the right or how much we side with any one person.

What makes this film enthralling is that is set in a village, away from the big city and therefore it would take time for anybody with any major weaponry to get there, leaving it up to the locals to deal with the situation. Going back and forth on who and what is to be dealt with.

Being a film released in 1960, there is still the feeling of 1950s England, a certain stiff upper lip of that decade; of a country with the Second World War not being such a distant memory. Maybe even fuelling the nerves of what could possibly be going on.

Like any good sci-fi, this asks the questions of what it is to be human; nothing is ever black and white, even if we would like to think so. We see how different people react to the situation, to the children; to the people who have known each other for years. Proving there is never one way or attitude.

Mr. Mom (1983) [review]

This is an early John Hughes script which already hinted at so much of what we loved about his storytelling, although this does suffer from not being in the right hands; the producers and director, which for me, didn’t quite fit the script. But saying that, there is so much to love about this film, in that it comments on the very familiar areas of our lives, in the lack of jobs and finding work can be harder to find than it should be… plus money is a little tight for the majority of the everyday people. Then, there are those in the work place who can be two faced and will stab you in the back at any and every chance they get.

It also looks at what takes to bring up a family when there seems to be no hope in sight. Jack (Michael Keaton) finding himself trying to figure out what it is he’s supposed to do when looking after his and his wife’s children. Realizing how much goes into everyday life at home, to the point where he finds himself not sure of himself any more.

Like many of John Hughes’ scripts, this is a look at people and what they go through when put in a situation they would rather not be in. In this case, Jack being fired, looking for work when there is very little work going around and therefore becoming depressed. Although, this film takes a more light hearted look at the situation; offering us moments which we can all recognise andasociate with.

Caroline Butler (Teri Garr) finding work faster than she and Jack expected and being great at the her job. Caroline finds herself in moments in which we see her boss be a little more hands on with her than he should. All the while Jack becomes friendly with the neighbourhood women who seem to have very little to do with their days, some of who seem be a little too interest in Jack.

All of which makes a comedy that is enjoyable and feels very early 1980s, while trying to say something, but not wanting to slap the audience hard in the face, presuming that we are smart enough to notice and have our own thoughts and feeling on the matter, all while entertaining us .

While Jack and Caroline’s children may seem mature for their age, it is grand to see them outsmarting the adults in certain situations.

Betsy’s Wedding (1990) [review]

Alan Alda made a great comedy here, in which he created characters in a situation that so many of us have been involved. This does not necessarily have that much to do with the wedding itself, but the build up and the two families involved.

From Betsy’s (Molly Ringwald) and Jake Lovell (Dylan Walsh) who are to be married, we see them completely in love, to considering if they are doing the right thing, to trying to please all the members of their families. Then there are the family members who are more than willing to get themselves involved in the arrangements, without any consideration for what the couple really want for their wedding day.

This nicely shows the differences between the two families, their views on each other and individual ideals for not only the wedding, but the world in general. Betsy’s family being a more down to earth, hard working family compared to Jake’s who are more conservative and wealthier. To the point where they seem a little less involved in what is going on in the world… Almost as if the world is there for their entertainment.

Eddie Hopper’s (Alan Alda) has become a little ambitious in his work and has bitten of more than he can chew, involving himself with his brother in law Oscar Henner (Joe Pesci), who is in business with Georgie (Burt Young)… who Eddie and Oscar cannot say no to. This leads to Connie Hopper (Ally Sheedy) finding herself  getting to know Stevie Dee (Anthony Lapaglia) which due to their jobs is a joy to watch as the two go back and forth.

The relationship between Gloria Henner and Oscar is entertaining to watch as neither is truly happy with their marriage and therefore more is going on than either would like to admit… at least to each other.

All of this is done nicely, watching the relationships become entangled as tensions build as moments become more and more difficult. But, the film does it with such humour.  We see the characters react and endure, showing that life has to be worked at, and we don’t always have the perfect moments which look so effortless from the outside.

We enjoy the moments we find ourselves with these characters which is a great way to spend an hour and a half. So, if you get the chance, check this out and enjoy what is on offer.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) [review]

This is a pure joy to watch as we not only have Ferris himself go through all we wished we could at that age. There is also Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck) and Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara) who come along for the ride. Although, I do see them just as much a perfect part of what we enjoy here. The three of them are a great trio and there is a perfect dynamic between them. Although, there are moments which it feels Ferris comes across as a user when it comes to Cameron. There is a monologue to camera in which Ferris realises that after leaving school, the pair will probably find themselves no longer in each other’s company, that it may not be the strongest of friendships after all.

Ferris being the kind of person willing to take chances and take his closest friends with him, showing them there is more to life than has been preached to them by older generations… by those who have been jaded by what their lives have become.

Jeanie Bueller (Jennifer Grey) is the perfect jealous sister who finds it hard to let go of the idea that her brother is excellent at getting away with so much. Throughout the day she tries to prove that he is not as perfect as people think he is. Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) is great, knowing that Ferris is up to something, and therefore goes out of his way to prove what he knows.

When it comes to John Hughes films, especially his 1980s work, he managed to write teen films in ways which were relatable and did not treat the character or audience as some kind of creature that anybody over the age of twenty one must look down upon.

The film very nicely takes us through a day in the lives of those involved, with many gloriously funny moments, touching moments and ideas of what we should not lose as we grow up. Sad to say that life can take the joy out of us if we let it. This is a perfect reminder that we can take life too seriously and we should try to enjoy our lives when we can, do not take it all for granted and take a day off and enjoy yourself. It’s not as much hard work as we’ve let ourselves believe… at least not all the time.

So, if you get the chance, take a look at this film, remind yourself of its brilliance and let it jog your memory of your younger days,  let it rub off on you, behave like the rules should be at least bent.