A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Director: Chuck Russell. Cast: Heather LangenkampCraig WassonPatricia Arquette, Robert Englund, Ken Sagoes

By 1987 Freddy had become a household name and people flocked to see him (well, horror fans at least). After the disappointment of the previous instalment (Which still made lots of money), the producers thought it was wise to bring back Wes Craven who come up with this story. They also hired Frank Darabont as a screenwriter (the man behind who would direct “The Shawshank Redemption” 12 years later, the Green Mile in 1999 and eventually became the creator of the hit series “the Walking dead”) and went back to some of the characters from the original film (Nancy and her dad). They also added to the mix a whole array of young actors, including Patricia Arquette in her first screen role and Laurence Fishburne.The moments where the kids are all interacting together in the dreams are definitely some of the highlights in the film and in fact this is probably the best the series will ever be (it’s all downhill from now): the story is rather clever, different but with enough call-backs to the original mythology and after the betrayal of part 2, at least most of the “rules of the game” are restored (i.e. people only get killed in the dreams and Freddy doesn’t walk among real people).

It’s by no means a masterpiece and it just about gets away with it reaching my 3-stars mark. There are plenty of ropey scenes here and there (the stop motion skeleton towards the end is just bad, just to mention one), but the film does have some inventive moments too, mainly centred around the various dream sequences where the special effects are used to maximum effect, especially considering the very low budget: the scenes where one of the kids being dragged like a marionette from his own tendons by a giant Freddy is actually very effective.By now Freddy’s lost some of the mystique and that dark side which was so terrifying from the original. Even though he has already started coming up with a couple of silly one-liners (“Welcome to prime time, bitch!” he says before smashing a victim’s face into a tv screen) we’re not quite there at the completely outrageous levels of clown from the later sequels.The ending comes so abruptly that it really looks like they had run out of money (or ideas) and thought “oh well, let’s end it!”.

Just like I’m about to do with this review.


Hook (1991) ⭐️⭐️⭐️ if you’re a kid ⭐️⭐️

Director: Steven Spielberg Cast: Dustin HoffmanRobin WilliamsJulia Roberts, Bob Hoskins, Maggie Smith, Caroline Goodall, Charlie Korsmo

You know what I am like. Even under torture I will not say anything bad about Spielberg, but we’ve got to be honest about it: “Hook” is not very good and it is certainly one of the misfires in his filmography. I even had the guts to joke with him about it when I met him back in 2015 and I told him that I was bias I was about his films and that “I even liked Hook” , which made the whole auditorium witnessing our conversation )and Tom Hanks) break into a big laugh… Clearly I wasn’t alone in thinking that this was pretty weak film.

It is one of those examples where everything is so over-produced and turned up to 11 that it just overwhelmed everything else. And so, despite the huge sets, the stellar cast, the massive budget somehow Spielberg forgot how to make it feel magical. Even the flying sequence to Neverland and the transformation into Peter Pan felt flat to me, and that’s despite John Williams’ rousing score (though even the good old Williams has one of his worst cues in this film: that terrible 80s/early 90s track over the scenes with Robin WIlliams as a businessman in the beginning).

Hook is chaotic, loud, not funny enough or slapstick enough to be a good comedy, not adventurous enough to be a good action flick. It’s a puerile film where adults roll their eyes… Spielberg himself always lamented that it should have made it into a musical, he didn’t have confidence in the script and the more insecure he felt about it, the bigger and more colourful the sets became, which probably explains why the film feels so bloated in every way (even in its running time: an interminable 144 minutes).

One of the many problems of the film is (bizarrely) its cast: Dustin Hoffman looks like he’s in a school pantomime, overacting his socks off but never really bringing any sense of menace to the part. Also for a film called “Hook” he’s actually very little on screen too (that is clearly a problem with the script).Julia Roberts seems to belong to another film altogether and clearly acting alone in front of blue screens made her feel even more of an outcast. But the biggest mistake of all for me was to cast Robin Williams and not let him go wild as Robin Williams used to do and not use any of his comedic skills and timings. In fact here Spielberg actually uses him just as he would use any other actor: a complete waste of his talent.

Luckily there are some Spielbergian touches here and there which eventually make it all just about worthwhile: the mystery of the kidnapping of the kids at the start is well played, all kids are all particularly good (confirming Spielberg as one of the best at casting and directing children), some of the camera movements and the blocking of the actors are obviously beautifully choreographed as you would expect.

All the money spent is certainly on the screen and the sets and special effects are quite something…. so much so that it all went out control. Having said all that, I don’t think I know a single child under 12 who doesn’t love this movie.

My 8 years old son seemed to enjoy it, if his loud comments and shouts at the screen are anything to go by.

Hard to believe that only 2 years after this both Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List would come and the director’s reputation as one of the best at his game would be restored and this would be slowly brushed under the carpet.

Finding Nemo

Finding Nemo ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Directors: Andrew StantonLee Unkrich. Cast: Albert BrooksEllen DeGeneresAlexander Gould 

Back in 2003 hardly any animated movie looked as good as Finding Nemo. Fast forward 18 years, this is not only one of those timeless favourite among families, but it’s also still as lush and vibrant as it was. From a story point of view, after starting with a real bang, an unexpected and moving sequence (quite a shock for young kids out there… and probably something of a trademark in the Pixar Universe) the film then moves to introduce its audience to the beautiful world under the sea: the colourful seascapes and the fish, the meticulous details (almost too many to be contained inside a screen, so much so that it becomes almost slightly chaotic), the incredible underwater lighting are all a marvel to watch and they still have the power to impress.

The middle section of the film is probably the weakest (though I am aware that criticising this film feels a bit of a blasphemy), as we move through a series of rather episodic sequences, some more successful than others and most of which rather redundant (Let’s be honest, the shark meeting for example is not as funny as it thinks it is and the bit with the monster in black depths comes and go without many consequences). However once “dad Marvin” gets to Sidney in his search for Nemo and the action kicks in, the film opens up to an exciting third act, with edge-of-your-seat thrills, chases, humour and twists aplenty.

Overall this is an enchanting film, full of lovely characters (probably a bit too many which does harm a little bit their characterisations), beautifully saturated visuals, and lots of heart in true Disney fashion. Though, as you might have gathered, this is not one of my Pixar (or Disney) favourites, it’s hard to dislike it and even harder to criticise it, mainly because it does so many things right. In years to come kids will still be watching Finding Nemo (probably even more than those who go back and watch Snow White) and they will still fall in love with it… and rightly so!

On DisneyPlus.

The Silence Of The Lambs – 20th Anniversary

The Silence Of The Lamb (1991)

(30th Anniversary Review)

Dir: Jonathan Demme With: Jodie FosterAnthony HopkinsScott Glenn

Yes, it has been 30 years since Antony Hopkins appeared for the first time as Dr Hannibal Lecter on Valentine’s day (not your typical date movie, is it?).

Back in 1991 it defied expectations by winning the “Big 5” Oscars (and a year after its release too!!), best film, director, screenplay, leading actor and actress: it was only the third film in movie history to do so (after it happened one night and One flew over the cuckoos’nest) and even more groundbreaking, it was the first horror/thriller to win for best film. 

30 years later, “The Silence of the Lambs” is still a preposterous film, camp as hell, absurdly over the top in its premise and its execution and yet it holds a place in American Movie History as a ‘modern classic’.

With Hannibal (incidentally a character that appears for only 16 minutes in the film) Hopkins became a star (yes, I know…  he was “good” well before this, but oly few really knew him from Elephant Man for example) and created an icon, which lived on throughout (or despite) its three sequels: Hannibal, Red Dragon (which in fact this is both a prequel and a remake of Micheal Mann’s Manhunter) and the very forgettable Hannibal Rising (another prequel, Hopkins-free). And that’s without mentioning the recent TV Series (dark as hell… and probably too weird to survive past 3 season… though I quite liked it). 

All of a sudden, we all started to love the bad guy, or at least we loved hating him: we loved the fact that he ate the despicable Dr Chilton at the end film (“I have an old friend for dinner”, is probably one of the most classic final lines of any film, up there with “Nobody’s perfect” in Some Like It Hot), we loved those over the top lines of dialogue, those chilling looks, his refined taste, his Southern English accent… And somehow we (or at least I) just wanted him to get away, despite the fact that we know he’s not just bad… but he likes to eat his victims. 

This is certainly nothing new, Hitchcock had done it  30 years earlier in Psycho, but arguably this is the film that started off the whole trend of “serial killers” with whom we identify, the whole puzzle solving murder mysteries and the mixture of dark horror and funny one liners. Surely without Silence of the lambs and its Hannibal the Cannibal character, there would have been no Se7en by David Fincher, possibly no Dexter on TV and probably not even Jigsaw from the Saw franchise…  And God knows how many others.

However what keeps this film anchored to the ground, despite the absurd (but obviously very effective) performance by Anthony Hopkins, is a combination of a very controlled and calculated direction by Jonathan Demme and the presence of Jodie Forster, who somehow counterbalances the campness of her screen partner.

Jonathan Demme, uses every little (subtle and non-subtle) trick in the book to suck in his viewers and bring them as close possible to the screen. He films the most intimate dialogue sequences between Hannibal and Clarice in extreme close ups, and has them delivering their lines straight to camera, as if they were confessing their inner secrets directly to us. As he does so, he drops the level of any other sound away from the central conversation, he kills the music and as as he slowly zooms in closer and closer into their faces, he very subtly pushes the bars of the prison cells that separate them away from each other until they actually disappear at the edge of frames, thus bringing the two characters even closer to each other.

It’s very effective trick and it works wonderfully!

He even uses the powerful the editing in order to deceive us to believe one thing instead of another. That famous sequence where we are lead to believe that the police is about to break into killer’s house and save the day, only to reveal that in fact they’re all in the wrong place: a trick have been copied over and over again in countless movies and TV CSI-like shows (and even the great 24) ever since, but never worked as well as they did here: it is an incredibly manipulative but just as accomplished moment.

Watching it tonight, I find so many clichés of the genre in it, but  only because most films that came after copied so many of its elements. If the film has aged a bit it’s just because everything that came afterwards drew something from it. It may not be a perfect film and it’s very debatable whether it did merit all those Oscars, but it definitely deserves its cult status and its place in history for paving the way for a new genre of thrillers and many brainer and more stylish horrors film. 


Check out the review of another modern Classic:

Back to the Future (1985)

The Sandlot

The Sandlot ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Director: David Mickey Evans. Cast: Art LaFleurTom GuiryMike Vitar Patrick Renna, Chauncey Leopardi.

1993 was a pretty good year in movies, with things like “Jurassic Park”, “Schindler’s List”, “The Fugitive”, “Groundhog Day”, “In the Name of the Father”, “In the Line of Fire”, Falling down, Philadelphia, “True Romance”, “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” and who knows how many others… So you will forgive me if “The Sandlot” had completely escaped me. So much so that I don’t think I even remember it being released. Possibly the idea about kids playing baseball would not have appealed much to me at that time anyway (and on paper it still doesn’t today).But I’m happy I finally got around to see it and even happier I was able to do it with Giovanni, because this is actually the perfect kids movie.The 60s summery settings gives it that ‘Stand by Me’ vibe, which I adore so much (obviously not as profound and emotional as that one, but hardly anything is in my book) and the group of kids feels straight out of stories like “It” or even “The Goonies”, just as nerdy and likeable (Incidentally, the cast here is spot on!).”The Sandlot” might not break any barriers for originality and it’s certainly miles away from being a perfect film, but it’s immensely enjoyable in a superficial sort of way, completely harmless and throughoully charming.

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