Saturday Double Feature: Suicide Squad (2016) And…

ssp01Hey! It’s Saturday. That means it’s time to pair up another couple of films for a Saturday Double Feature.

I’m cheating a little bit this week, since today’s feature movie has already finished it’s theatrical run, but since it’s just come out on disk in the past few weeks, I’m declaring it recent enough to qualify.

One of last year’s most anticipated movies among genre fans, and also one of the biggest disappointments was Warner Brothers’ Suicide Squad. This was hopefully going to be the movie that, after the bleakness of both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman brought some light and fun to the DC comics movie universe. The cast looked good, the trailers gave some hope, and then…

And then the movie finally arrived.

Sigh…

No, it wasn’t as dark as its predecessors. As a matter of fact it had some pretty good moments. Instead it committed an even worse sin.

It was, overall, boring.

Yeah, I’m not sure how you take a premise like this and turn it into the kind of slog that we got (a problem that is not ameliorated in any way by the extended cut). Actually, I take that back, I do know how – you do what they did with this movie – instead of taking the Deadpool route and simply embracing the ridiculousness of the premise and going completely over the top with it, you try to fit it into the “real world” where it just doesn’t belong.

Anyway, here’s the trailer:

So in thinking about this movie and its premise – take a bunch of thieves, murderers, etc. and give them a chance to – perhaps not redeem themselves, but at least do some good and perhaps shorten their sentences, it occurred to me that there was one movie that would fit alongside Squad pretty well as part of a double bill – 1967’s World War II -set feature, The Dirty Dozen which starred Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, Telly Savalas, Robert Webber, and Donald Sutherland as a team of criminally misfit soldiers sent on a mission from which few, if any of them, were expected to return.

Take a look:

Okay, so that’s my pick for a double feature pairing with Suicide Squad. What do you think? Got a better or different idea of something to go along with it? If so, let me know in the comments below or over on the DurnMoose Facebook page.

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Paranoia Can Be Quite Invasive – A Quickie Review of 1978’s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

bs1I feel as though I should start this with a bit of full disclosure. I am a huge fan of the 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It’s one that has ranked extremely high on my personal all-time favorites list ever since I first saw it back when I was a teenager. So I’ve always had a bit of a snobbish attitude towards this remake. It’s one that I’ve always been rather dismissive of in that too easy to adopt “There’s no way the remake could be anywhere near as good as the original” way that, while not inevitable, certainly comes as part of the baggage anytime one approaches a remake of one of one’s favorite movies. As a matter of fact, I’m fairly sure that this was not a first time view of this version. I know I’ve at least watched parts of it before, but this time around I decided I’d try to view it completely separately, and try to judge it on its own merits. Was I successful? Well, I don’t think there’s any way I could completely dismiss my previous experience with the title, but let’s just say I did my best.

So how did this version of Invasion come out? Pretty darned well, actually.

bs3Of course, I’ve long been a fan of both Mr. Nimoy and his lead in this, Donald Sutherland, and with Jeff Goldblum along for the ride, well, I figured at least I wouldn’t be bored. What I didn’t expect was a movie that actually managed to update the themes of the original, while at the same time expanding upon them and bringing in just the right amount of late 70s paranoia, along with using the newer special effects techniques available at the time to give the movie a fresh gloss without it feeling overblown or simply an exercise in “See how much better we can do this now?’.

bs4Actually, I realized fairly quickly, that though I certainly could have continued my attempt to “forget” the ’56 version while watching this, that didn’t necessarily fit with the creator’s intent. As a matter of fact, in many ways, this version could be considered as much a sequel to the original as a remake. First, there is the early-on appearance by the star of the ’56 version, Kevin McCarthy, reprising his role from the earlier take, thus directly connecting the two. Also, since this Invasion is taking place in the much larger city of San Francisco, it’s easy to see it as an expansion upon the other – kind of a “what happens next” as the action – along with the pods – moves from the smaller, more encapsulated town of Santa Mira to the big city. Yet at the same time, those little bits of allusion, along with a few other points, don’t really require one to have seen the earlier version, as this film stands very well on its own as a nicely paced sci-fi thriller.

bs2Overall, I found this a very entertaining watch, and while I don’t see any way that this version will ever take the place of the original in my heart, I can easily see why it has been so solidly embraced, and why, especially for those who are younger or who encounter this one first, it would be their Invasion of choice.

My recommendation? Watch them both. Enjoy them both. And whichever way your own tastes fall after having done so, just remember: Don’t fall asleep. Plus, you might just want to keep an eye on that guy or gal next to you. After all, they may not turn out to be quite what they seem.

Top 250 Tuesday #138 – Don’t Look Now (1973)

Continuing to wend my way through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Greatest Movies of All Time. This week, it’s #138 on the list,  Nicolas Roegs Don’t Look Now. For a longer introduction to this series and a look at the full list, just click here. And if you want a heads-up on what I’ll be watching for next week in case you want to watch along, just head on over to the Facebook page or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are also in the sidebar) where I’ll generally be posting that info later in the day.

dln1Okay, so when I first noticed the title Don’t Look Now on the list, I’ll admit my initial reaction was something along the lines of “Really? Surely this is some other movie that I’m not aware of, and not this rather obscure little creeper from 1973.” I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s obvious to those who are long time readers of this blog that I have a special affinity for flicks from the late 1960s and early 70s, and I do love me some Donald Sutherland, but not only was it on the list, but it was ranked higher than what is considered one of the definitive horror films of the period, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (#196, reviewed here) and the the movie that almost invariably makes all the Top Horror Film lists, 1980’s The Shining (#156 which I haven’t written up yet, but will eventually get to)? That can’t be right, can it? But yep. there it was.

So, since I was looking for a little bit of lighter fair this week, and since it was right there streaming on Netflix, I decided now was as good a time as any to see what was up. And what I found was surprising.

dln6Actually, now it seems like the biggest surprise is that this movie somehow managed to stay off my radar for so long. I mean, just looking at the names involved – the screenplay was adapted from a short story by Daphne du Maurier, whose works provided the inspiration for three Alfred Hitchcock films: Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, and The Birds, and as I’ve already mentioned, it was directed by Nicholas Roeg, who not only also during the same period  directed such intriguing films as Walkabout and The Man Who Fell To Earth, but had earlier served as cinematographer on a number of movies such as The Masque of the Red Death, Doctor Zhivago, Fahrenheit 451,, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Plus, alongside the aforementioned Donald Sutherland, the film also stars Julie Chrisite who was not only at her most lovely during this period, but was making some truly good and well-acclaimed films herself.

That’s the background, then, but what about the movie itself?

dln3There’s a certain vibe to thriller/suspense movies of the 70s that I’m not sure I can describe, but that seems unique to that particular time period, and Don’t Look Now is a perfect example of that type of film. This is not a film that could have been made, say, in the 40s or 50s, and even if it were to be remade today, it simply would not be the same. Like many of the movies of the time it was experimenting and questioning, trying to push many boundaries, and yet with a certain restraint that not only keeps it from going too far but also, in its own way serves to heighten the tension that is felt not only in the plot itself, but between the lead characters of John and Laura Baxter, played by Sutherland and Christie.

Okay, perhaps I should back up just a bit. The film opens with John and Laura, along with their children Christine and John Jr. living in England. We see John and Julie working inside their house while the children play outside. Suddenly John, for seemingly no reason, rushes from the house to look for the children, but he arrives too late to save Christine, who has accidentally fallen into a creek near the house from drowning.

dln2Some undetermined amount of time later, the Baxters, minus John Jr., who has been sent to a boarding school, are living in Venice, where John has taken a job restoring an ancient church. One day while they are dining, they notice a pair of sisters at a table near to where they are dining. One of the sisters gets something in her eye, and when Laura follows them into the ladies room to see if she can help remove it, the other sister, who not only turns out to be blind but claims to be psychic, tells Laura the she has been contacted by the spirit of Christine and that she is alright and happy. The sisters then leave the restaurant, and Laura, returning to the table begins to tell John about the women, but suddenly collapses.

Upon recovering from her fainting spell, Laura seems to John to be a changed person. Not only has she seemingly recovered from her grief over the loss of their daughter, but she has become obsessed with spending more time with the two sisters, trying to get them to contact Christine again and to speak to her.

dln5From there, the movie takes a number of twists and turns in a plot that involves further exploration not only of the sister’s psychic powers but of  perhaps latent powers within John that are beginning to cause him to have visions of things that may or may not actually be happening, a serial killer who is loose in Venice, and a mysterious figure that John keeps seeing from the corner of his eye and may or may not be the resurrected figure of his dead daughter.

Throughout all of this, Roeg, with the assured assistance of his editor Graeme Clifford, continues to keep the viewer off balance by using a number of techniques, the most prominent of which is intercutting certain scenes with others, which under less skilled hands and eyes would certainly prove more of a distraction, but here serve to heighten the tension in some scenes or, as in the justly lauded and at the same time somewhat infamous lovemaking scene between Sutherland and Christie which is interspersed with shots of the couple getting ready for an evening out afterwards, to provide insight into both the closeness and the separation between the couple.

dln4Roeg also uses the city of Venice to great effect, highlighting and taking advantage of its uniqueness without making it seem as though the movie is continually shouting “Look! We’re in Venice!” as so many other movies shot in that location tend to do.

That is not to say that Don’t Look Now is a perfect film. Even after watching it, and even admitting the mastery that Roeg brings to the enterprise, I still find myself somewhat wondering about its high rank on the list. Without giving away the ending, I will simply say that when all the various threads do come together, it is with an abruptness that leaves the viewer with a certain feeling of “is that it”? Yes, there are definitely films that leave the viewer with a sense of ambiguity and a certain number of questions and do that effectively, but that’s not really the case here. Instead, in the end, the feeling is more akin to “okay, so what”? Even the final revelation, which I suppose is meant to be a shocking twist really, again for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on doesn’t have that sense of inevitability that might have benefited this film more, nor does it really provide any answers to the question of why these things have been happening. Thus, unlike a film such as Rosemary’s Baby (which didn’t even make the list) where the climax truly satisfies in a way that is so disturbing that it assuredly caused many a nightmare, Roeg’s film just doesn’t seem like one that will cause any sleepless nights.

Here’s a trailer:

 

 

Saturday Double Feature: The Lone Ranger (2013) and…

Saturday on the blog means Saturday Double Feature, right? Remember, the basic idea here is to take a movie that is out in theaters now, and pair it up with another movie from the 1980s or before.. Sometimes the connection will be obvious, and sometimes it’ll be a little less so, but that’s part of the fun.

I said when I was writing about The Lone Ranger a couple of days ago that if you took the title character and his “faithful companion” out of the flick. you might actually have a pretty good movie. What I didn’t mention at the time was that that movie has already been made. Okay, let’s start, as usual, with the trailer for the modern movie:

Now let’s take a look at the movie that I can’t help but think someone behind all of that really wanted to be remaking: from 1979, directed by Michael Crichton (who also adapted the screenplay from his book) and starring Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland, it’s The First Great Train Robbery (or, as it was known in the US, simply The Great Train Robbery)

Of course, there were plenty of other choices that could have been made that would have been more directly tied to the title character, but this one actually seems closer in spirit to what we wound up seeing than those do. So, shat do you think? Let me know in the comments below, along with any ideas you might have for other pairings with The Lone Ranger or for other upcoming movies you’d like to see “double featured”. Consider it, if you will, your chance to challenge me to come up with an interesting pair.

Until next time, Happy Viewing!