Every Horror Movie Purist Should “See” ‘I Saw What You Did’

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

Hollywood’s horror genre has come a long way from what it once was and not for the better either.  It seems like every other horror flick churned out by Hollywood today is either an overly dark and violent movie centered on demons and the like or it is an equally violent (and gory) slasher flick.  That wasn’t so much the case in Hollywood’s golden age.  It was wholly possible for studios in that age to make horror flicks—regardless of their specific subgenre—without being so dark, bloody, and violent.  Alfred Hitchcock’s classic slasher flick Psycho is proof of this as is the 1963 nightmare-inducing ghost story The Haunting and Allied Artists’ 1959 fright fest House on Haunted Hill.  All three of these movies are examples of what once made horror such a great genre.  They are also examples, when set against their newer counterparts, of just how far the genre has fallen from its pedestal.  The comparison is stark to say the very least.  Earlier this year Scream Factory, Shout! Factory’s horror division released another example of what once made Hollywood’s horror realm so great when it released the classic slasher flick I Saw What You Did on Blu-ray.  This 1965 flick from William Castle Productions (which was also behind House on Haunted Hill) and Universal Pictures is a must have for any horror fan looking to escape the glut of cookie cutter slasher flicks and ghost stories currently being churned out by Hollywood’s Big Six studios.  That is due in no small part to the movie’s story.  That will be discussed shortly.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note in its presentation as its story.  Last but hardly least of note in the movie’s presentation is its general lack of blood, gore, and violence.  This element rounds out the movie’s most important elements and is no less important than the movie’s story or the work of the movie’s cast.  Keeping that in mind, each element does its own part to make this movie an entertaining work of horror.  Altogether they make this movie another must see for any horror purist.

Universal Pictures’ 1965 slasher flick I Saw What You Did is a must see for any horror movie purist.  That is because like so many horror flicks of its age it is the antithesis of everything that Hollywood’s horror genre has become.  That is clear in examining the story at the center of the movie.  The story centers on the antics of teenagers Libby Mannering (Andi Garrett—The Wild Wild West, Black Sheep Squadron) and Kit Austin (Sarah Lane—The Virginian, The Trial of Billy Jack, Billy Jack Goes To Washington) and the eventual terror that comes as a result of what they think are harmless phone pranks.  The pair’s prank calls end up having a rather far-reaching effect, causing (indirectly) the murder of Judith  Marek (Joyce Meadows—The Brain From Planet Arous, Two Faces West, The Girl in Lovers Lane) by her husband Steve (John Ireland—Spartacus, All The King’s Men, Red River).  Libby calls Steve’s number, pretending to be another woman, which leads Judith to confront Steve while he’s showering.  What’s interesting is that when Judith goes to confront Steve, she notices that their bathroom is a shambles.  It is clear that Steve’s intent was to murder Judith regardless and make it look like someone else did it.  But her confrontation leads Steve to murder her in the shower and then get rid of the body.  When Libby calls back later, she tells Steve, “I saw what you did and I know who you are,” he thinks that she is serious, which leads to even more tension.  What’s really interesting in all of that tension is that in adapting author Ursula Curtiss’ novel Out of the Dark to cinematic form, writer William P. McGivern unknowingly included a story element that is wholly relevant today.  The element in question involves the young, naïve Libby actually going to meet Steve because she thinks he actually wants to meet her, not knowing that he is a murderer.  This is an issue that the world faces even more today than ever before due to the advent of online messaging services, chat rooms, etc.  Who would have thought a story crafted more than fifty years ago would have such a relevant element within its script?  This revelation makes the movie’s story all the more believable, and in turn engaging.  Of course the movie becomes somewhat cheesy in its final act.  That aside, the rest of the story will still keep audiences on the edge of their seats.  That being the case, the story in whole shows just how important it is to the movie’s overall presentation.  It is just one of the elements that make the movie such an entertaining work of horror.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note as its story in examining what makes the movie a must see for horror purists.

William P. McGivern’s cinematic adaptation of Ursula Curtiss’ novel Out of the Dark is an important part of the presentation of I Saw What You Did.  That is because it is by and large, a thriller that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats.  It manages to do so even without the use of any overt violence and bloodshed.  That is not to say that there is no violence or bloodshed.  It is there.  Don’t mistake that.  But it is kept to an extreme minimum since censors at the time didn’t allow but so much of said elements.  It shows that horror can be enjoyable even without blood, gore, or overt violence.  Of course the movie’s story is just one of the most important elements to examine in McGivern’s adaptation of Curtiss’ novel.  The work of the movie’s cast in interpreting McGivern’s script is just as important to examine here as his story.  Garrett and Lane are completely entertaining as lead stars Libby and Kit.  The pair makes audiences shake their heads in disbelief at Libby and Kit.  That is because the actresses fully embrace the girls’ lack of forethought in their actions.  While teens today might not make prank calls for their own fun that lack of foresight, teens today still act just as thoughtlessly even if in different ways.  And it gets them into their own share of trouble, too.  On the other end of the spectrum John Ireland is just as entertaining to watch as the villainous Steve Marak.  Steve’s actions might not seem all that believable on the surface.  But anyone that has ever watched an episode of 48 Hours or Dateline knows that what he did is in fact rather commonplace in real life crimes.  He does such an impressive job in presenting Steve’s paranoia about having been seen.  That is especially considering that only two people saw what he was doing over the course of the movie.  Each of the movie’s other cast members do their own part in adding to the movie’s enjoyment.  But it is really the trio noted here that most shines through.  Their work in interpreting their parts (and McGivern’s script) is just as important to the movie’s presentation as McGivern’s own work.  It still is not the last remaining element to note in examining what makes this classic slasher flick so surprisingly entertaining.  The general lack of overt violence and bloodshed, as slightly mentioned earlier, plays a part in the movie’s presentation that is just as important to note as the movie’s story and the work of the movie’s cast.

The story at the center of I Saw What You Did and the work of the movie’s cast are both important in examining what makes this classic slasher flick so entertaining.  Each element plays its own part in making it a movie that any horror purist should see as has already been noted.  They are not the only elements that make the movie so surprisingly enjoyable either.  The movie’s general lack of blood, gore, and overt violence is just as important to note in examining the movie’s presentation as its story and the work of its cast.  There is some blood and violence incorporated into the movie.  But most of it comes when Steve Marak murders his wife and his mistress.  Even when he does this, the bloodshed is virtually nothing when compared to most of the slasher flicks that are available to audiences today.  Rather it is more comparable to the bloodshed used in the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960).  Given that is the result of standards set by censors and the MPAA at that time.  But it is a good thing.  That is because it forced McGivern (as with every other writer at the time) to actually rely on story more so than on the violence factor (I.E. quality versus quantity).  It is a standard to which this critic personally wishes horror movies would return.  McGivern did an admirable job in focusing on the movie’s quality.  He showed that a story can stand on its own literary merits even in a horror setting without having to rely on blood, gore, and violence.  It really serves as a model for today’s horror screen writers.  It shows that a horror movie can be fun without being overly violent, bloody, gory or even nightmare-inducing.  Keeping this in mind, it rounds out the movie’s most important elements.  Together with McGivern’s work and that of the movie’s cast all three elements join together to make the movie in whole a surprisingly fun ride for any horror movie purist.

Scream Factory’s recent re-issue of I Saw What You Did is a surprisingly fun ride for any true horror movie purist.  That is because it shows that it is possible for horror flicks to be fun without being overly violent and sexualized.  That is evident most prominently in the movie’s story, written by William P. McGivern.  The story relies more on its literary elements than its actual visual content to keep audiences entertained and engaged.  The movie’s cast is just as notable in its work in front of the camera.  Garrett, Lane, and Ireland are completely believable in their respective roles and in turn envelope audiences in the story.  The story’s general lack of blood, gore, violence, and sexual content is Just as important to note here as the story itself and the work of the movie’s cast.  It brings everything full circle and shows together with the previously noted elements that it is possible for a horror flick to be entertaining without being questionable in its content.  All things considered the recent re-issue of this classic horror flick proves to be a surprisingly enjoyable ride for any true horror movie purist.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/film/film-horror/i-saw-what-you-did.  More information on this and other titles from Scream Factory is available online now at:

 

 

 

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Twitter: http://twitter.com/scream_factory

 

 

 

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Virgil Films To Release New ‘Back To The Future’ Documentary Next Month

Courtesy: Virgil Films

Courtesy: Virgil Films

Universal’s Back To The Future trilogy is one of the most famous and beloved franchises in Hollywood’s history.  More than thirty years after the trilogy’s first film debuted, the BTTF franchise is still beloved among audiences of all ages.  It has been released and re-issued on home video and digital platforms more than once, and even spawned a short-lived animated series, which itself finally received the home video treatment for the first time ever in 2015.  Some audiences have even tried to recreate the series’ iconic time traveling auto, a Delorean as part of their fandom.  One would think that with the popularity of the franchise, and the iconic car at the center of the series, that the car would always have its own special place in the halls of Hollywood’s auto history.  Sadly that wasn’t originally the case.  And in Virgil Films’ new documentary OUTATIME: Saving The Delorean Time Machine, audiences will discover the story of the “timeless” car and the efforts to save it for themselves.

OUTATIME: Saving The Delorean Time Machine will be released on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital platforms Tuesday, July 19th.  It follows the efforts by Universal Studios and Back To The Future co-creator and producer Bob Gale to bring Doc Brown’s (Christopher Lloyd) famed four-wheeled time machine back to its one-time glory.  Directed by Steve Concotelli, the documentary is presented in the vein of Top Gear, Counting Cars, and American Chopper.  It  includes full-length commentary by Concotelli and Joe Walser, who headed up the Delorean’s restoration as a special bonus feature along with deleted scenes, footage from the documentary’s world premiere, a restoration photo gallery, and much more.  Audiences can order OUTATIME: Saving The Delorean Time Machine now via Amazon.  More information on this and other titles from Virgil Films is available online now at:

 

 

Website: http://www.virgilfilmsent.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/VirgilFilms

Twitter: http://twitter.com/virgilfilms

 

 

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The Legend Of The Lone Ranger Is A Rare Reboot That’s Actually Worth Watching

Courtesy:  Timeless Media Group

Courtesy: Timeless Media Group

The Lone Ranger is one of the most iconic figures in film and television history.  For decades the masked stranger has maintained a special place in the hearts and minds of children and adults alike.  Of course some incarnations of The Lone Ranger have been more memorable than others and vice versa.  One of his least memorable outings was Disney’s lackluster 2013 offering starring Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp.  That movie was a bitter disappointment.  Luckily it has proven to be one of very few takes on The Lone Ranger that have ever been turned out since the masked stranger first took to the radio waves way back in 1948.  One of the better installments to ever be released was the 1952 classic The Legend of the Lone Ranger.  It starred Clayton Moore as the masked stranger and was released, ironically, the same year that Moore was replaced by John Hart.  In 1981 that movie was rebooted with Klinton Spilsbury in the starring role.  The movie was re-issued on Blu-ray late in 2015 by Timeless Media Group.  While it largely follows the same premise as the movie’s 1952 installment it is still a rare reboot that is worth the watch, especially being a Lone Ranger flick.  The central reason for its success is its writing. That will be discussed shortly.  Another important element of this movie is the movie’s special effects.  This will be discussed later.  Last but hardly least of note in this movie is the work of the movie’s cast.  All things considered the 1981 reboot of The Legend of the Lone Ranger proves to be a reboot that is actually worth watching and a movie that any Western fan will enjoy.

Universal Pictures’ 1981 reboot of the 1952 film Legend of the Lone Ranger is a reboot that is actually worth watching.  That is in comparison to other rare reboots of the day and to all of the endless reboots being churned out by Hollywood’s “Big Six” today.  The main reason for that is the movie writing.  This includes both the movie’s central story and the story’s smaller elements such as its special effects and violence.  The movie’s central story sticks in large part to the plot presented in the 1952 original.  It is basically an origin story that starts at the Lone Ranger’s childhood and is taken from the first three episodes of the original Lone Ranger TV series.  The movie runs roughly an hour and forty minutes.  And the first half of that time is spent telling the Lone Ranger’s back story while the second half follows his search for the villainous Butch Cavendish.  What’s important about the whole of the story is that even with such clear separation, the movie’s writing team didn’t overdo either end of the story.  Just enough time is spent explaining what led John Reid to become the Lone Ranger in the first half of the movie.  The story’s progression in its second half is just as surprising.  Cavendish’s plot to kidnap the President and hold him hostage is laid right out rather than having a bunch of time wasted building up to its reveal.  In the same vein, the writers use just as little time sending Reid on his hunt for Cavendish.  In neither case does the story feel rushed either.  This means that the story is that much easier to follow.  Simply put both the first and second half are so expertly balanced in terms of their pacing and their general storytelling that the presentation in whole will keep viewers wholly entertained and engaged from beginning to end.  It is just one aspect of this movie that makes it well worth the watch.  The movie’s special effects are to be taken into consideration, too.

The Legend of The Lone Ranger’s writing team is to be applauded for their work on this takeoff of the 1952 original.  This is saying plenty considering the problems usually faced by scripts crafted by multiple writers.  The script is well balanced both in terms of its pacing and its general progression.  These two aspects alone are just part of what makes The Legend of the Lone Ranger a rare reboot worth watching.  The movie’s special effects are just as important to note here as the movie’s script.  This is especially in comparison to so many of today’s overly violent, special effects laden action flicks.  The gunfights are big in scale.  But they never feel overpowering unlike similar scenes churned out in today’s action flicks.  What’s more the amount of blood shed pales in comparison.  It is kept to an extreme minimum, again by comparison to today’s action flicks.  This is so important to note because it shows how much action movies have de-evolved since this movie’s release and even its predecessor.  It’s really a powerful statement.  The explosions that are used in the movie’s third act are just as notable.  They are only used in that act and nowhere else in the story.  To add to that, the explosions that are used are not the overly loud, speaker shaking explosions that are used way too much in Hollywood’s current era.  More simply put they are part of the story rather than the star of the story unlike with those used in movies by Michael Bay and Zack Snyder.  Because they are used so responsibly they make the movie in whole even more entertaining.  When they are set against the movie’s equally well-executed story the two elements combine to show even more why Universal’s reboot of The Legend of the Lone Ranger is a diamond in the rough in the world of reboots.

The writing behind Universal’s reboot of The Legend of the Lone Ranger and its special effects are both key elements in the movie’s success.  While both elements are important in their own right they are not the movie’s only key elements.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note.  Christopher Lloyd is surprisingly impressive as the devious Butch Cavendish.  It would have been easy for Lloyd to throw back to the days of the original Lone Ranger TV and radio series, going well over the top.  But he opted not to go that route.  Instead he portrayed Cavendish as something of a cerebral criminal, calm and collected but not overly proud of himself at the same time.  Klinton Spilsbury and Michael Horse are just as impressive as John Reid/The Lone Ranger and Tonto respectively.  They handled their roles with professionalism equal to that of Lloyd.  They balanced the serious nature of their characters with just enough charm and ham to make both characters fun to watch.  When Spilsbury and Lloyd face off in the story’s final minutes, Spilsbury delivers an applause worthy performance as he contemplates Cavendish’s fate.  It is a small moment, but an important moment nonetheless.  It was one of those scenes that made Spilsbury believable as the iconic character.  That is not to say that Lloyd and Horse were not believable in their respective roles; Quite the opposite in fact.  They are just as believable.  Their interpretation of their characters and the movie’s scripts rounds out the movie’s most important elements and shows once and for all why this movie, while a reboot, is still well worth the watch.

The 1981 reboot of The Legend of The Lone Ranger is a rarity of a work.  That is because while it is a reboot, it is a reboot worth watching.  This is thanks in part to the movie’s expertly balanced writing and pacing,  The movie holds a solid steady pace from beginning to end.  It balances just as well the story’s setup and its central story present in the script’s second act.  The special effects utilized in this movie were used sparingly and respectably in comparison to so many action flicks in today’s era of action flicks.  The work of the movie’s cast in interpreting their characters and the story’s script adds that much ore enjoyment to the movie.  It rounds out the movie’s most notable elements.  Their work couples with the work of the writers and that of the special effects department and makes this movie a rare reboot that is actually worth watching.  It is available now on Blu-ray in stores and online and can be ordered direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/film/action-adventure/the-legend-of-the-lone-ranger.  More information on this and other titles from Timeless Media Group is available online now at:

 

 

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Children, Families Won Big In 2015 With So Many New DVD, BD Offerings For Families

Young audiences were given quite a number of new offerings this year on DVD and Blu-ray. Between the standalone discs and box sets, there was quite a bit of material from which children and their parents had to choose this year. Having already covered the best of the year’s box sets for kids, it is time now for Phil’s Picks to turn its attention to the best of this year’s new standalone DVDs and BDs for children and families. Kindie rock act Josh and the Jamtones released its long-awaited DVD Bear Hunt: The Movie early this year. And that DVD was well worth the wait, too. Its original presentation and story, and extra music videos made it an instand shoe-in for this year’s list of the year’s best new DVDs and Blu-rays for kids and families. Lionsgate’s new claymation movie Shaun The Sheep: The Movie is also on the list. That movie surprised with its largely family friendly story and the heart therein. PBS and Shout! Factory Kids each got in the act with new Reading Rainbow DVDs and DVDs from Discovery Family’s former series The Adventures of Chuck and Friends. Shout! Factory Kids’ Transformers Rescue Bots DVDs are each in this list, too along with other titles. That in mind, it’s time to stop rambling. Presented for your consideration dear readers, is Phil’s Picks list of 2015 Top 10 New Family DVDs/BDs. As always, the Top 10 titles make up the main body of the list while the bottom five each receive honorable mention.

PHIL’S PICKS 2015 TOP 10 NEW FAMILY DVDs/BDs

1. TURKEY HOLLOW

2. SHAUN THE SHEEP: THE MOVIE

3. JOSH AND THE JAMTONES–BEAR HUNT: THE MOVIE

4. READING RAINBOW: IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE

5. READING RAINBOW: ANIMAL CAFE

6. THE ADVENTURES OF CHUCK & FRIENDS: REV YOUR ENGINE

7. THE ADVENTURES OF CHUCK & FRIENDS: DAY AT THE RACES

8. DANIEL TIGER’S NEIGHBORHOOD: BIG BROTHER DANIEL

9. TRANSFORMERS RESCUE BOTS: DINO BOTS

10. TRANSFORMERS RESCUE BOTS: RETURN OF THE HEROES

11. TRANSFORMERS RESCUE BOTS: JURASSIC ADVENTURE

12. CURIOUS GEORGE: SEASON 8

13. SUPER WHY: CINDERELLA AND OTHER FAIRYTALE ADVENTURES

14. WORDWORLD: BIRTHDAY PARTY

15. LETTER FACTORY ADVENTURES: AMAZING WORD EXPLORERS

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Shout! Factory Announces Release Date For The Shadow Re-Issue

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

The Shadow is one of the most famed crime fighters of all time.  He is the original caped crusader.  His adventures amazed radio audiences long before Batman came along.  Sadly, after Batman and his fellow comic book superhero friends came along, The Shadow seemed to be pushed aside.  But in 1994, the world was re-introduced to The Shadow thanks to Universal Pictures.  Two decades after The Shadow was introduced to a new generation of audiences, he is bring introduced to yet another new generation of fans thanks to a partnership between Universal Pictures and Shout! Factory.

The Shadow (Collector’s Edition) will be released on Blu-ray Tuesday, February 25th.  The movie, starring Alec Baldwin (The Hunt for Red October, 30 Rock) in the starring role, tells the story of how The Shadow came to be.  It co-stars Penelope Ann Miller (The Artist, Awakenings, Kindergarten Cop), Peter Boyle (Young Frankenstein, The Santa Clause, Everybody Loves Raymond), Sir Ian McKellan (XMen, X2 XMen United, X3 The Last Stand), and many others.

More information on this and other upcoming releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

MST3K XXVI Offers Audiences Offers More Movie History, Laughs

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K as it will henceforth be known) has always been considered largely a cult hit among audiences.  If that is the case, then it’s something of a surprise that to this day, it is still such a massive hit among not just its original audiences, but a whole new generation of audiences.  That is thanks to the good people at Shout! Factory.  And thanks to those same people, fans of this timeless show have yet another brand new volume of so bad they’re good b-movies to enjoy along with Joel, Mike, Tom Servo, and Crow T. Robot.

Everything that’s been said about this show has already been said twenty-five times over and then some.  But it would be impossible to go into this latest set of episodes without reminding audiences that this show is just one part of what used to make Syfy (then SciFi Channel) so great. As already noted, the movies presented in this classic cult show are so bad that they’re good.  Though, it’s great to see many of Universal’s classic monster and sci-fi movies resurrected here.  They’re just part of the show’s success.  And this latest set also includes another of those classic Universal movies in the form of The Mole People.  This movie features actor Alan Napier, who many might recognize as Alfred Pennyworth from the classic Batman TV series.  It’s one of those movies that fans of Svengoolie would definitely have on his show on Me-TV on Saturday nights.  The movie itself takes the heroes into the interior of the Earth, where they discover an ancient civilization of people who worship the goddess Ishtar.  But they aren’t the only ones that the heroes have to face.  The mole people are there, too.  And they are a danger to everyone.  The movie itself is pretty campy on the surface.  That’s not bad.  But the bonus “Making of” feature included with this movie really makes it worth the watch.  It is a bonus in every way.  It discusses the deeper, more social take on the movie.  Those interviewed in the feature discuss how the white guards flogging the darker mole people who “came from below” was a commentary on the America’s racist past.  Speaking of racist views, it’s interesting to learn that scenes involving a man and woman from different ethnic backgrounds being together were edited out by censors, since this was released in the 1950’s.  These are just a couple examples of what make this “making of” feature a true bonus and why it makes this movie even more of an interesting addition to this latest set.  It’s one more example also of the impact of bonus features on a movie.

The Mole People is just one of the movies in this set featuring an underground world.  The absolutely campy 1988 movie, Alien From L.A. also takes place in a world just beneath the Earth’s surface.  It stars a then very young Kathy Ireland.  Ireland was actually in her mid-twenties at the time that this movie—which was also her very first ever feature film–was filmed, though she was playing the role of a teen.  Ireland stumbles into the underground world when she sets out to find her lot archaeologist father (played here by Richard Haines).  In the process, Wanda (Ireland) is transformed from a plain, whiny, high pitched girl to a beautiful supermodel style figure.  And during her time in the underground world, she uncovers an evil government plot to keep the people of the world to know about the surface world.  As campy as the movie is, the interview with director Albert Pyun raises an interesting note.  Pyun notes in his interview that part of his intent in the movie was examining the feeling of what was a young girl having the feeling of an adult being trapped in a girl’s body, thus the transformation.  Just as interesting to note in his interview is that he admits that he had never seen Mystery Science Theater 3000 before the show’s heads announced that this movie would be featured.  Pyun also discusses plenty of other matters centered on the movie.  But audiences can check out all of that for themselves when they pick up the brand new box set for themselves.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/216588.

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Top 10 Major Motion Pictures Of 2012

Top 10 Movies of 2012

 

Courtesy:  Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

1.  The Artist:  While it originally made its debut overseas in 2011, it wasn’t until January 20th of this year that The Artist actually made its nationwide debut in theaters across the U.S.  Before then, only the lucky few at the big festivals got to see it.  That being the case, it should be considered a 2012 release.  So what makes it 2012’s best?  So much could be said.  At a time when so much of what Hollywood churns out is prequels, sequels, and remakes, this story—distributed by Sony Pictures—went the total opposite.  How simple and ingenious is it to make a silent film in a movie of major flash-bang-boom films?  Because the movie’s only sound is its music, viewers are forced to watch.  And the cast was force to really put on its best possible performance, rather than rely on everything else that most movies use to distract audiences from poor performances.  The music is quite enjoyable, too.  And of course, the general cinematography is just as impressive.  It all combines to make for a movie that any movie lover should see at least once.

Mirror Mirror BD2.  Mirror, Mirror:  Some of you might shake your heads at this pick.  But the reality is that this is really a fun and family friendly movie.  Both boys and girls will enjoy it as will parents.  While young Lily Collins (the daughter of superstar Phil Collins) is billed as the lead star here, it’s the dwarves who are really the story’s stars.  Their antics make for more than their share of laughs.  Though watching Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer—The Lone Ranger) put under the evil queen’s puppy love spell is pretty funny, too.  It’s obvious that this spoof of the classic fairy tale was aimed both at boys and girls.  With its mix of wit and charm, it will always be one of the best takes on the old Snow White story.

Courtesy:  Disney Studios

Courtesy: Disney Studios

3.  The Odd Life of Timothy Green:  This is another truly enjoyable family movie.  The general story is one to which any parent can relate and will enjoy because of that.  Though the concept of what happens with Timothy might be a little bit tough to discuss with younger viewers.  The beautiful backdrop adds even more warmth to the story.  And the cast’s acting makes suspension of disbelief so easy.  Sure it’s sappy, emotional, and all that jazz.  But that can be forgiven as it’s such an original and heartwarming story.       

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

4.  Skyfall:  This is where things begin to get a little bit touchy.  Skyfall is by far the best Bond flick to come along in a very long time.  That’s not to say that the previous two were bad.  But this one brought back memories of the old school James Bond that everybody knows.  It’s got the gadgets and the humor and none of the melodrama that weighed down the previous two Bond flicks.  The only downside to the movie is that it tends to drag in the final act.  Other than that, it is a nice return to form for the Bond franchise and gives hope for any future Bond films….that is at least if Christopher Nolan doesn’t get his hands on the franchise.

Courtesy:  Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Video

Courtesy: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Video

5.  The Avengers:  The Avengers was a very nice way to cap off the build-up created by Marvel Studios with the recent bevy of comic book based movies.  It had great special effects.  Its story was simple and solid.  And the shooting was equally impressive.  Considering all the action going on, audiences weren’t left feeling dizzy to the point of wanting to walk out (or in the case of home release, just turn it off).  But like so many ensemble cast movies, it suffered from a common problem.  That problem was the movie’s run time.  Most of the characters in The Avengers had already been introduced through their own separate movies.  So there was no reason to re-introduce them all over again this time.  A lot of that extra time could have been spared.  Hopefully those involved have learned from that and will present viewers with a shorter movie in the second of the Avengers movies.

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Home Video

6.  The Dark Knight Rises:  I am just as much a comic book fan as anyone else out there.  So it goes without saying that I was excited to see this movie.  It did a good job of wrapping up the trilogy.  The problem is that it did too much of a good job, as David Goyer and the Nolans tried too hard to cram everything into one movie.  Word is that this latest installment of the Batman franchise left many people checking their watches when it was in theaters.  It might have been better served to have been split up into at least one more movie because of everything added into the mix.  And having what seems to be a lack of commentary on the new home release, fans can only guess what the logic was in cramming so much into one story.  Much like The Avengers, the shooting and the special effects were great.  So it has that going for it.  But the writing was the story’s big problem.  Here’s to hoping that whoever takes over the Batman franchise next (whenever it’s re-launched) won’t make the same mistake as Christopher Nolan and company.

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

7.  Prometheus:  This semi-prequel to Ridley Scott’s hit Alien franchise was met with mixed reviews.  There seemed to be no gray area here.  Audiences either loved it or hated it.  Truth be told, it worked quite well as both a prequel and as its very own stand-alone movie.  Sure the special effects are different from those used in the original movies.  But times are different.  So viewers should take that into account.  And the shooting was just as impressive.  While it may not be as memorable as Scott’s previous works, at least audiences can agree that it’s better than the movies in the AvP franchise.

Courtesy:  Universal Pictures

Courtesy: Universal Pictures

8.  Les Miserables:  This latest reboot of Victor Hugo’s classic story of love and redemption in one of history’s darkest eras is not bad.  But it’s not great, either.  Audiences who know the stage play will thrill at how director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) and his staff of writers paid tribute to the stage play both in its writing and its shooting.  At the same time, Hooper tried so hard to pay tribute with his shooting style and the transitions that the whole movie felt dizzying to say the least.  The shooting and transitions felt like nothing more than a bunch of cuts from one shot to the next.  There was never a total sense of fluidity anywhere in the story.  It was almost as if despite staying true to the stage play, the script for this latest big screen adaptation was written by someone with ADHD.  Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway did a superior job with their performances.  But despite that, odds are that the movie will sadly be remembered more for its flawed shooting and transitions than for its award-worthy performances.  Nonetheless, it’s still a good movie for any fan of Les Miserables or for fans of musicals in general to see at least once.

Courtesy:  CBS Films/CBS Home Entertainment/UK Film Council/BBC Films/Lionsgate/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Films/CBS Home Entertainment/UK Film Council/BBC Films/Lionsgate/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

9.  Salmon Fishing in the YemenSalmon Fishing in the Yemen is without a doubt an original story.  It’s next to impossible to find anything like it out there or present.  But it suffers greatly from an identity crisis.  It doesn’t know whether it wants to be a drama, a romance, or a little bit of both.  It’s nice to see the simple message of something as simple as fishing being able to bring the world’s people together peacefully.  But it really seemed to let the romance factor get too much involved.  As a result, it got bogged down in itself.  Had it not had the romance subplot, it might have been better.

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

10. Arbitrage:  It was once noted that three factors more than any other are the causes of crime.  Those factors are:  money, power, and sex.  Arbitrage has all three of these.  It’s an interesting movie.  And it definitely wastes no time noting the latter of the trio of factors, as it lets audiences know that Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is having an affair with another woman.  And also, Miller’s boss has a very firm talk with him early on letting him know that he knows about the financial inaccuracies that he’s causing.  It doesn’t take long to know where this story goes.  It’s something of a tried and true story.  Add in this critic’s pet peeve of movies, the “whisper scenes” and it makes for a movie that as good as it is it could have been better.  For those wondering, the “whisper scene” is exactly as it sounds (bad pun there).  The “whisper scene” is one in which actors essentially whisper throughout the scene against overpowering music to make the scene more emotional and powerful.  But put against the sudden transition to normal volume scenes (and above normal volume scenes), it becomes rather annoying as one has to constantly change the volume on one’s TV as a result of that.  It’ll be interesting to see if it gets the Golden Globe for which it was nominated.

There you have it folks.  That is my personalist of the year’s ten best major motion pictures.  You are more than welcome to share whether you agree or disagree and what your top 10 list would look like.  2013’s already shaping up to be an interesting year.  As the movies start to come out, I’ll have reviews of them, too.  To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.