Rating: The Good – 75.2 Genre: Drama, Science Fiction Duration: 87 mins Director: Richard Shenkman Stars: David Lee Smith, Tony Todd, John Billingsley
This low budget, low tech science fiction drama is built around an interesting premise: a close friend tells a group of friends, learned academics all, that he has been alive for 14,000 years. The Man From Earth unfolds in real time as the friends quiz him to decide whether he is mad or telling the truth.
The progression of the conversation from bemused inquiry to intense interrogation to angry accusation is fascinating and intuitively realised. The richly drawn and assorted characters behave in believable ways and at all times consistently with their personalities. The actors playing them are accomplished journeymen including the likes of Tony Todd, William Katt, and John Billingsley and all are great to watch in their roles. The character at the centre of it all, John, played wonderfully by David Lee Smith, is of course what the film hinges on and it’s a tour de force of scientific research and intellectual construction. The psychology and sociology as demonstrated and indeed described from the perspective of a man claiming to be 14,000 years old are faultless and insightfully conceived and combined with Smith’s intense performance, they make his story truly compelling. Even the anthropological, religious, and historical references and discussions seem on the mark and as John forensically puts it all together with the help of his friends, the audience is left riveted.
Despite relatively lean production values (e.g., lighting and sound), The Man From Earth reels you in and keeps a hold of you for the best part of 90 mins. Mark Hinton Stewart’s interesting score plays a strong role in this picking up in unpredictable ways during more intense points in the discussion while defaulting back to a more soulful melody during calmer moments. Through a combination of it, the acting, and the crafty dialogue, the film moves steadily towards a strong conclusion.
However, in taking the more difficult route and basing the premise on the trust of friends rather than some climactic demonstration of proof, the writer (Jerome Bixby of Star Trek fame) and director (Richard Shenkman) gave themselves a might task and in truth, it seems like they never quite figured out how to end this fascinating tale. As a result, the film tends to fizzle out in the closing scenes. That said, this is well worth a watch for sci-fi fans with a taste for something different (which should really be all sci-fi fans, right?).
Rating: The Good – 90.5 Genre: Horror Duration: 98 mins Director: Brian De Palma Stars: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving
Brian De Palma brings Stephen King’s horror classic to life with bags of wit and style in this seminal addition to the horror movie genre. From the very opening shot we see that De Palma’s innovative style and penchant for long slow tracking shots are perfectly suited to telling the story of a troubled high school girl who spends her days being bullied in school and her evenings being psychologically abused by her fanatically religious mother. A target for her classmates’ cruelty and a vessel for her mother’s self-delusions, Carrie is about to blow and given that she has recently discovered that she can move objects with her mind, neither is going to want to be around when she does.
Carrie is a case of inspired writing and screen adaptation (kudos Lawrence D. Cohen) being brought to life by a confident young director who was (along with others of his generation) both heavily influenced by the old maestros yet also changing the shape of modern cinema with bold new ideas and innovations. And Carrie is chock-full of both. This film glides along and shifts almost effortlessly in tone from seriously dark and creepy in places to whimsical, carefree, and downright fun in others (just check out that tux-buying scene). Pino Donaggio’s score helps hugely in the latter instances but really comes into its own when Carrie is using her powers.
Sissy Spacek is phenomenally good in the title role given that the two sides to her character’s personality were so disparate. William Katt’s always positive presence brings a ray of sunshine the party and Nancy Allen and John Travolta are excellent together as two of the twisted bullies. Of course Piper Laurie is just plain scary as Carrie’s mother and adds that final touch of class needed to elevate this masterpiece into the high echelons of great cinema.
Rating: The Good – 74.4 Genre: Drama Duration: 120 mins Director: John Milius Stars: Jan-Michael Vincent, William Katt, Gary Busey
One of the better coming of age dramas that follows a group of three men through the defining years of their young lives. Jan-Michael Vincent, William Katt, and Gary Busey are equally excellent (Vincent and Katt were accomplished surfers in real life – and it shows) as the friends who were bound by their love of surfing in their teenage years but who grew apart as those years passed. It’s a touching tale in many ways as personality, ambition, and era defining events such as the Vietnam War intersect to shift the dynamics and relationships. There’s a playfulness to the earlier scenes that echos that of American Graffiti but there’s also a somberness to the film centering on the notion of of times past and expressed poetically and quite beautifully in the interludes as the film jumps forward to another period in the mens’ lives. Bruce Surtees’ (son of the great Robert) beautifully captures the sea and surfing in a number of memorable sequences but John Milius is clever enough not to allow the film to be dominated by the action and instead he uses it as an emotional backdrop to the drama. This gives Big Wednesday a real sense of authenticity even in the more schmaltzy moments which serves to heighten the level of nostalgia that this film operates so successfully on.