It’s stunning how subtle and delicate “45 Years” introduces itself, only to end on such a heavy and gut wrenching final scene that leaves you with the weight of questions and uneasy answers. From beginning to end, director Andrew Haigh confronts many of life’s very difficult problems, including how easy it is for a relationship approaching a century, can be dismantled in only a week. Haigh almost seems to count down to the final day where couple Kate and Geoff celebrates their four and a half decades together as a married couple. Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling are stellar as a seemingly mundane husband and wife whose life is changed one day with a letter that arrives for Geoff.
Christophe Gans offers up a richly realized and absolutely beautiful vision of “Beauty and the Beast” that embraces the dark side and fantasy of the original story. While yes, Belle begins to fall In love with the Beast, and is even enticed by him, it’s also thanks his aggression and insistence on influencing her Stockholm syndrome. Belle does eventually find the beauty of living with the beast, in that she’s able to roam his massive castle and is capable of finding secrets and fun corners within it. She even plays hide and seek with dog like creatures that find a fascination with Belle. Gans’ direction is superb and absolutely mesmerizing, I can not stress that enough. Many of his wide shots, and pans are magnificent and he knows how to make the beast both enigmatic and terrifying. There’s even a marvelous moment where the Beast is looking out on to an invading army from his perch, resembling Lon Chaney from “Phantom of the Opera.”
1949’s “Mighty Joe Young” is almost a parallel universe retelling of “King Kong” except with half the menace and a lot more innocence. Rather than an overgrown ape being exposed to the cruelty of humanity dying for a woman, we’re given an equally touching tale of an overgrown ape and his loyal female caretaker. With beautiful and often fluid stop motion by Ray Harryhausen, “Mighty Joe Young” tells the story of a girl named Jill Young who decides to buy a baby ape from a pair of traders. Anxious to prove to her father she can manage a pet, years later her pet Joe transforms in to a fiercely protective overgrown ape who isn’t very kind of poachers and hunters. When hunters Max and Gregg go to Africa to catch animals to use for their show, Joe Young appears attempting to break the animals free and begins fighting off the intruders.
This is the classic love story of a man and a woman falling in lover under weird circumstances. And a pair of apes that also fall in love under odd circumstances. And their heart transplant that bonds them. Okay, so this isn’t a classic love story, but it is the premise for easily the silliest “King Kong” movie ever made. In a movie that was sort of kind of made to be a spoor, but also meant to be taken very seriously, “King Kong Lives” is kind of the movie that killed King Kong until 2005, and proved that this concept was never meant to go beyond the one and done tale of his experience with Fay Wray on the Empire State Building.
It’s really hard to stack up to the original “Mighty Joe Young” which itself was kind of a simpler take on the giant ape tale. While the original remains untouched, it’s really hard not to enjoy the 1998 remake by Disney and director Ron Underwood. While it can occasionally be silly, it’s still a strong new take on the original film with a great cast, great direction and still very good special effects. This new version from director Ron Underwood strays from the original which was kind of a “King Kong” riff, and transforms it more in to a tale of a woman who watches over a humongous ape named Joe. The writers aim to tackle themes about poaching and wildlife preservation within the fun adventure tale, and most times it allows for an engaging tale of friendship and love.
It’s shocking how well 1981’s “My Bloody Valentine” holds up. While it is a holiday themed slasher film that would end up becoming one of many, it can be placed in a league of its own for how creepy, eerie, and tense it still is. Sure you can argue that George Mihalka’s film is a bit rough around the edges. In one scene when character Hollis discovers a young couple impaled on top of each other, in a quick edit, you can see the actress breathing. But that doesn’t stop “My Bloody Valentine” from turning in to a very tightly written and engaging horror film about a psychotic miner who really hates Valentine’s Day. Mihalka’s film transforms in to a slick amalgam of “Friday the 13th” and “The Town that Dreaded Sundown,” where our maniac Harry Warden is created after the result of gross negligence.
Courtesy of Undercrank Productions, “Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers” starring Douglas Fairbanks garners a brand new DVD restoration. With a new score by Ben Model (along with new color tinting digital restoration, and stabilization), and with restoration by Karl Malkames, “The Three Musketeers” can be appreciated in a new edition and new vision. One of the many iterations of the classic action tale, “The Three Musketeers” stars film icon Douglas Fairbanks as the noble swordsman D’ Artagnan a young man who goes to Paris to become an ally to three of the best swordsmen alive. They are, of course, Athos as played by Leon Bary, Porthos as played by George Siegmann, and Aramis as played by Eugene Pallette.
Easily one of the best films of 2016, Kelly Freman Craig’s “The Edge of Seventeen” is a wonderful drama comedy teeming with engaging characters and compelling human dilemmas all of which garner a sense of sheer sadness. Not since “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” have I seen a drama comedy evoke the themes of John Hughes so beautifully. Too often when directors and writers try to invoke Hughes, they forget the key element to their narrative that the main protagonists can be and often are as flawed and selfish as the supporting characters and antagonists. The same can be said for “The Edge of Seventeen” where Hailee Steinfeld is incredibly adorable and compelling as Nadine Franklin. From the moment we meet her, Nadine is her own worst enemy, she’s someone who is always doubting herself and on the verge of a break down.