Sunday, January 10, 2010

01-09-10: Following the Stagecoach to the Triumph of the Winchester House

FOLLOWING (1998) *****
D: Christopher Nolan.  S: Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw, Lucy Russell.

It's not often that a director's first feature turns out to be a gem and a sign of things to come.  

Following is about a man who follows people around just to observe where they go, what their routine is, purely innocent stuff.   That's until he takes it further.

That's all I say about it.   The film is a precursor to Memento in that it jumps around in time and the viewer must piece together the story.   Memento, the story was told in reverse order.  Following it is disjointed yet very coherent.

This great film warrants a second viewing only to see the pieces of the puzzle come together.

STAGECOACH (1939) ****
D: John Ford.  S: John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Thomas Mitchell.

This rousing western adventure follows a group of travelers on a stagecoach that is bound to enter dangerous territory. 

The characters are rich and memorable.  From the put upon stagecoach driver to the drunk doctor.  From the fugitive seeking revenge to the gambler.  

This film features one of the best action set pieces put on film, especially since this pre-dates Raiders of the Lost Ark.    The action takes place on, around and under the stagecoach as it's being pursued by the Apache.

Like many Ford films, it features breathtaking views of Monument Valley.

It's a fast paced adventure that's worth taking for a ride.

D: Leni Riefenstahl.

This is not only a very well made film but also a very effective piece of propaganda.

The film documents the Nuremberg Party Rally of 1934 and it has a cast of thousands.

I'm not sure who the film was made for.   Was it to rally the Homeland?  Was it an attempt to paint the Fuhrer in a different light? 

Hitler comes off as very charismatic and impassioned man.   It's not difficult to see how someone would come under his spell. 

It's a fascinating look at a one-sided view of one of the darkest chapters in human history.  

One thing this film did manage to do is make me want to visit Germany.  There are some truly stunning vistas and structures that I would love to see now and how they've changed.

As a film it is powerful.  As a propaganda piece it's deplorable.   But it's begs the question, in 1934 when this was released did they know then what we do now?

D: Mark Atkins.  S: Lira Kellerman, Michael Holmes, Patty Roberts.

There are two things that saved this film from a * star review.   It had some creepy moments and despite the fact that the denouement was clearly lifted from another film I thought it kinda worked.

Right at the start I thought I was in trouble.   The house was CGI.   Great!  Super low budget and they can't even afford a house to shoot in.  

The story follows a family who are looking to getaway and move into a secluded house in the woods.   Little do they know, this place is haunted. 

The reason for the haunting I thought was rather hokey.  Apparently it is loosely based on the myth that surrounds the real Winchester House.   The ghosts of the victims of Winchester rifles haunt that house, supposedly.   The film probably could have worked better if they dropped that and made it a simple haunting.

This film is far from original as you can see elements from Poltergeist, The Others and The Sixth Sense just to name a few.

It has a handful of effective moments but not enough to sit through the whole thing.

Consider it a nice try that ultimately failed.

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