Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Dark Half

#5 - The Dark Half

(Spoilers in both Summary and Review)


Based on a Stephen King book, this movie stars Academy Award Winning actor, Timothy Hutton, and delves into the dark and twisted mystery of an author's pseudonym being brought to life and trying to kill everything that the author cares for. It is…The Dark Half.


I was on a big Timothy Hutton kick a while back, and came across this movie and decided to watch it on YouTube in parts.  I was floored by the strength of Hutton’s acting, but I was also grossly intrigued by the story line that had been created by Stephen King.  This is one of the more obscure Stephen King stories, unlike The Shining, the Shawshank Redemption, or Secret Window, all of which had all-star casts, and yet I find The Dark Half to be the most intriguing of any of King’s stories. Instead of outright horror, there is a fascinating philosophical and psychological aspect to this story. Every writer out there, including myself, has always secretly wondered what it would be like if one of our characters came to life, and this movie shows us how an aspect of that might come to pass and the possible negative repercussions that come with it. Instead of a character, however, it is this writer's pseudonym/alter ego that comes to life.

Interestingly enough, Hutton has not only been in this Stephen King film, but he was also in Secret Window as one of the antagonist characters.  Though the two movies were made 11 years apart, The Dark Half in 1993 and Secret Window in 2004, they still have the same psychological thrill to them that isn’t found in many other movies, and the same style of sudden twists, though The Dark Half is a tad more on the horror and fantasy side of the spectrum.

(above) Secret Window (below) The Dark Half

This movie isn’t filled with color or an amazing soundtrack, or classically beautiful actors…instead, it has a bland color wash, right when fall is fading but it’s not quite winter, and it fills the viewer with the sensation that something is coming.  Something cold, something dark... something that doesn’t quite belong.

From an artist's perspective(mine), this movie is a definite ten in using the color and music to give the viewer a feeling of unease and a vague sense of foreshadowing, that something is going to happen and it is not going to be good. All of these aspects, combined with the brilliant acting of Hutton, portrays a dark and uneasy terror that slowly grows throughout the movie.

The whole idea of an alter ego taking form and trying to become a person on their own is fascinating and frightening at the same time and I'm impressed with how it was portrayed in this film. Though gruesome at times and uncomfortable, I still couldn't help but be impressed by Hutton's portrayal of both characters, which makes this particularly unique. Hutton doesn't just play the author, but also plays the author's alter ego coming to life, so we are given a shining example of Hutton's acting ability and how versatile he truly is.

Excellent movie, though dark and morbid it may be, and now on my list of hidden gems in the horror/thriller genre. It hasn't been given nearly enough of the attention that it deserves, and now I want nothing more than to read the book myself.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Prophecy

#4 - The Prophecy

 (Spoilers in both Summary and Review)

SUMMARY (courtesy of IMDB, edited by Elise)

The angel Gabriel comes to Earth to collect a soul which will end the stalemated war in Heaven, and only a former priest [now turned cop] and a little girl can stop him.


This movie is incredibly unconventional, and goes off into that strange world of dark theology.  However, there is something about it that is compelling in my mind.  With an all-star cast including Eric Stoltz, Christopher Walken, Elias Koteas, Virginia Madsen, and a special guest star of Viggo Mortensen at the end, I was pulled into an intriguing and fascinating movie about a second war in Heaven that had not yet ended and was still being played out on Earth using certain people as pawns.

Rated R for its’ graphic nature at times, I was still compelled to see it a second time recently, and found myself trying to look at it from an artist’s perspective, and I found something rather fascinating about it.  Though it was made in the early nineties, it had the feel of a movie that was made much more recently.  The only thing that showed its origins were the graphics used, which were obviously early nineties.

The most fascinating aspect of this movie was the casting.  Christopher Walken is known for portraying villains and slippery types of characters, so in this movie one would expect him to portray a demon, or at least an evil angel...but he portrays Gabriel, one of the most holy of angels.  In an unexpected twist of artistry, Walken portrays Gabriel as being someone who wants to be noticed by God once more because he feels he’s being passed over.  With his hair dyed black and dressed in a long black trench coat, he becomes a figure that we are scared to see because of the strange stark contrast of his pale skin with his hair.  It is obvious that he is a being not of this earth, and I must applaud the leading artistic directors of this movie for taking the risk in portraying Gabriel in such a way.


Near the end of the movie, we have a special guest star of Viggo Mortensen.  He portrays some fallen angel, of that we are sure, but this fallen angel saves the world from falling into inevitable chaos by taking the soul that belongs to him that Gabriel is trying to release…and we then realize who he is: Lucifer.  Mortensen brings a certain artistry to portraying the most villainous villain that can ever be portrayed, and I honestly think that he should have gotten an award for the brief part that he played in this movie.  He is beautiful, cunning, artful in using his words, and just when we start to think that he’s not so bad, our minds forgetting who he is, he slips back into his true purpose and tries to drag down our surviving characters with him, but of course is not successful.

 All in all, I would give this movie a ten out of ten, simply because of how they portray each individual character in relation to the whole.  There is a unique feel about this movie, however dark it may be at times, that seems to me to be a completely original portrayal of angels and unique perspective on theology.



Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Brokeback Mountain

#3 - Brokeback Mountain

SUMMARY (skip if you don't want spoilers)

Two cowboys, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, spend a summer together in a job up on Brokeback Mountain and end up in a physical relationship that spans for the rest of their life, always returning back to Brokeback Mountain, until life starts to get in the way of the two of them being able to see each other and things begin to be uncomfortably strange.


This movie was one that, I’ll admit, I avoided watching for many years because of the jokes that were made about it.  I had created a pre-conceived notion created in my mind before I’d even seen the movie, but it was quickly erased as I watched the opening sequence and immediately picked up on the true mood of the movie.  There is a silence about the movie throughout, but when there is music, it is of a singular theme that resonates with the relationship of the two men.

When the men’s relationship is contrasted with their relationships with their female significant others, you can see the emotional disconnect that shows how strong the men’s relationship truly is.  I was amazed by the passion that Jake Gyllenhall and Heath Ledger bring to their roles, and how believable it was.  They are both heterosexual, but they performed so brilliantly and so convincingly, that I found myself rooting for their relationship throughout and resenting their relationships with their wives.

The stunning vistas combined with the solidarity of the two characters truly pulled at my heart strings, and made me understand why this movie won three Academy Awards.  The acting is amazing, and I barely noticed the fact that Anne Hathaway was in the movie.  I only noticed Ledger and Gyllenhall, and their amazing chemistry and the wonderful angst that they portrayed in the roles of Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist.

I would highly recommend this movie, but a warning…it has a seventies-style ending.  However, this movie has made it into my top-ten favorite love stories and will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


#2 - TAPS


SUMMARY (Skip if you don’t want Spoilers)

Based on the 1979 novel Father Sky, by Devery Freeman.

A famous military academy is about to be shut down and turned into condominiums.  And one student, Brian Moreland, will not let it go without a fight.  After having their General taken in by the police on an accidental shooting on the campus that resulted in a death, Moreland resolves to do right by the man that he admires and respects.  In an attempt to keep the school, he rallies the younger students to him and they take Bunker Hill Academy under siege and lock it down from those who would bow to the wishes of their supposedly esteemed leaders.

George C. Scott, Timothy Hutton, Sean Penn, and Tom Cruise star in this movie about fighting for what you believe in, no matter the cost, no matter the sacrifice.


As I watched this, I couldn’t help but be amazed, once more, by the amazing acting talent of Timothy Hutton.  Though Sean Penn and Tom Cruise co-star, both of them lack the natural grace and subtle, powerful confidence that Hutton portrays in his role as their senior officer, and it makes him appear as though he is more of a seasoned veteran than they are, and instead more on the same level as George C. Scott. (see Below for picture of Hutton and Scott)


This movie was one of those wonderful harmonies of actors, director, script, and story.  Along with George C. Scott, who portrays the commanding officer, we are given a true gem of amazing talents from many different people.   There is a special determination in it, and I could feel my heart joining with the young men who were defending their school.  The silent strength of Hutton’s portrayal of Brian Moreland is on par with Scott’s character of Brigadier General Harlan Bache, and got him nominated for a Golden Globe, which I feel he should have won. (not that I’m biased or anything)

Throughout the movie, I was able to see the stark difference between Moreland and the rest of the cadets.  They are all following Moreland and looking to him to pull him through, but as an audience we are shown the other side of this leader, one that is vulnerable, but through that we are able to more fully able to understand his strength and his belief that what he is doing is right.

Every single time the tune of Taps was played, I felt my heart in my throat and my eyes swelling with unshed tears, which, at times, escaped.  There is a feeling of absolute dedication to honor throughout the film, interspersed with crass, military language as a dark, comedic relief.  As I watched it, I felt a new perspective emerge that I had never seen before.  I could literally feel the breaking of convictions, the wavering of Moreland’s doubt…the devastating sadness that overcame him.  This is a film that kept in tears almost constantly, but it was worth every moment.

There is a true lesson in this, one that seems to say to me, Do the honorable thing...but don’t forget who you’re doing it for.  It may say other things to other people, but the message to me is loud and clear, as well as being quite beautiful.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ordinary People

#1 - Ordinary People

SUMMARY (Skip if you don’t want Spoilers)

This is a movie directed by Robert Redford that is reminiscent of the 70’s with its ending, and has so much emotion in it that you can hardly breathe throughout the time that you’re watching it.  Starting off with a seemingly happy family, you are eventually pulled into their complicated webs of denial that are keeping the illusion intact that, yes, they are truly happy.

A death of a son is not something that is easily dealt with, but they seem to each handle it in their own way.  The father is trying to understand and help his son, the mother is attempting to control every single aspect of her life, while the son is slowly slipping into a dark depression.  His suicide attempt and hospitalization one month before is the only outward sign of his distress, but because of his seemingly easy transition back into regular daily life at home, the parents don’t push.  At least, the mother doesn’t.


As I watched this movie, I found myself moved by the fact that there is no soundtrack to the movie.  Only rarely do you hear the faint strains of a well-known classical piano piece in the background.

The portrayal of Conrad, the son, by actor Timothy Hutton, is a haunting one.  His facial expressions throughout are beautifully subtle and realistic of someone trying to deny themselves the release of their true feelings.  What is rather unique about this role is how Hutton portrays the emotions throughout the film…the truth is, it’s not entirely acting.

An intriguing history behind Hutton’s portrayal of the character has to do with the recent death of his father just before he received the role of Conrad.  Working with director Robert Redford, he was able to channel his anger and disjointed emotions into the emotions of the character of Conrad, his acting becoming, quite literally, therapy that he was being paid to take.  (click on LINK for full article and story)
In one rather intense scene, Conrad calls and meets his therapist (portrayed by Judd Hirsch) at two in the morning , (picture shown at TOP) where he then continues to have an emotional breakdown, which appears to me to be an actual emotional breakdown of Hutton himself, and not just his character.  There is an intensity to him that seems to be drawing from deep-seeded emotion and suffering, and it reaches through the screen and grabs at my heart, causing me to ache for him.  Whether the sympathy is for the character or the actor, I’m not entirely sure, but there is one thing I am sure of: it’s raw and it’s real.

 The entire movie reminds me very much of how the world deals with grief and emotion: denial.  We have therapists, but like the characters in the movie, we resent the idea that we need them.  Constantly being told by the world around us that we are in control of our lives and that we can do it on our own, we don’t like the idea of spilling our innermost thoughts to a stranger, but in the end it ultimately lets us realize, just like the movie shows, that there are no such thing as “ordinary people”.  Instead, there is only the illusion, and then the irrational hope that if we ignore things, the hard things, they will simply go away.  “Ordinary People” is a movie that shows that we are all simply struggling in our own ways to try and fit into this irrational idea of being “ordinary.”  Ordinary people…do they exist, or are they just an ideal that have been fabricated by the masses to have something to aspire to?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

WELCOME!! So excited to have you here!  I am a huge movie buff, but not for all those classics...but not for the newer stuff either.  I live in that in-between world of indie films and those hidden jems that are not as few and far between as one might think...

Welcome to my world...where movies collide with art and become masterpieces that either have your heart swelling with joy or breaking with sadness with the pure beauty of the harmony of actor, script, director, and story.

The first movie that I will review might be one that you recognize.  An Academy Award winning actor is in it...and got his Academy Award because of it.

WARNING! There will be movie spoilers ahead, but if you don't really care, then go ahead and leap in!