Take 3: Alphaville Review

For July’s Genre Grandeur, the theme is “French Film Noir”. Originally, I was going to review a film released within the Breen Code Era, as I’ve been participating in Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Clean Movie Month. But anytime I searched for a French film noir title that premiered between 1934 and 1954, the movie was either too expensive to purchase or unavailable to rent. So instead, I chose to review the 1965 film, Alphaville, as I was able to rent it. In my review of Alice in the Cities, I said that out of all the movies I’ve seen and/or reviewed that were created outside of North America, most of them came from Europe. The majority of these films were released from France. While researching Alphaville, I learned that the movie is labeled as a science fiction story. As someone who has seen both film noir and sci-fi movies, I was curious to see what a story with this specific genre combination would look like.

Since I saw a picture of the film’s poster on my television, I decided to take a screenshot of it. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Because I’ve seen a limited number of French films, I wasn’t familiar with these actors and actresses. However, I thought the acting performances in Alphaville were good! Eddie Constantine’s portrayal of Lemmy Caution reminded me of the performances I’ve seen from John Wayne. What I mean by this is Eddie presented his character with a tough and masculine exterior, but allowed emotion to break through that exterior. He also adopted a “no nonsense” attitude that worked for a story of this nature. Anna Karina also gave a performance that worked for this story! She incorporated a gentleness to her portrayal of Natacha von Braun. This can be heard through her soft-spoken voice and seen through her caring nature. Throughout her performance, Anna displayed emotions in a subtle way. In one scene, when Lemmy is being arrested, Natacha can be seen crying as silently as possible. Despite appearing in the film for less than five scenes, I liked watching Akim Tamiroff’s portrayal of Henri Dickson! The best part about it was how believable it was. A good example of this is any time Henri was experiencing a heart attack, as pain could be seen in his face.

The cinematography: There were some scenes in Alphaville that were shot in interesting ways! This was accomplished by applying various film-making techniques. When Lemmy was walking to a particular location, a continuous shot followed Lemmy to his destination. A perfect example can be found toward the beginning of the film, when Lemmy is being led toward his hotel room. For scene transitions, flashing lights were incorporated to signify a bridge between scenes. After Alphaville’s computer, Alpha 60, is finished explaining one of the city’s many beliefs, a neon sign of a math equation flashes until a scene involving Lemmy begins. Toward the end of the movie, some scenes were presented using an infrared light. This was to show a glitch in Alphaville’s technological system.

The film’s sci-fi world: When most people think of the science fiction genre, fantastical worlds with elaborate costumes, set designs, and makeup are usually what come to mind. For Alphaville, the creative team purposefully chose to film in real-life locations. This decision causes the titular city to appear grounded in reality. The science fiction elements of this story were woven into the behaviors of the citizens and the beliefs they hold. Using what they already had to create a science fiction narrative allowed the movie’s creative team to submit a film that goes against the genre’s norm.

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What I didn’t like about the film:

The film’s science fiction ideas: In a typical science fiction film, the sci-fi ideas are presented as understandable enough for the audience to know what’s happening on screen. This was unfortunately not the case for Alphaville. The ideas associated with this story were so high-concept and complex, that I found myself not understanding what the characters were talking about most of the time. It also doesn’t help that the characters fail to provide clearer explanations for these ideas. This feels like the creative team expected the audience to know what was being discussed before they saw the movie.

Lack of context: In my review of The Crow, I talked about how questions emerged without an answer or an elaboration being provided. This is the exact same mistake that the creative team behind Alphaville made. The majority of female characters in the 1965 picture can be seen with number tattoos. No context is given for why they have this type of tattoo or the meaning behind the tattoo itself. In one scene, Lemmy and Natacha are attending a gathering where people who disobey Alphaville’s beliefs are being punished. Natacha explains how there are more men than women who get punished at these gatherings. She never gives further explanation for why this is the case. Because of the lack of context, it adds to the story’s overarching confusion.

No sense of urgency: Film noir movies usually have a slower pace. This is done on purpose to flesh out the overall story. However, there is an underlying sense of urgency. While watching Alphaville, I could not detect any amount of urgency in the story. For most of the film, Lemmy could be seen in his hotel room, roaming around the city, or visiting the Alpha 60 headquarters on rare occasions. Even though he resolves the film’s conflict, this doesn’t happen until about the last twenty minutes.

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My overall impression:

I like participating in Movierob’s Genre Grandeur blogathon because it gives me an opportunity to see films that I may not have watched otherwise. This is certainly the case for this month’s selection, Alphaville. A combination of sci-fi and film noir was something I hadn’t seen before. But I found it to be an interesting contribution to both genres. The world presented in this story is not always found in sci-fi narratives. Bringing a newer idea to the table is what basing the world in a more realistic setting did. Cinematography was also a highlight of this project. It gave the film’s creative team a chance to experiment with different film-making techniques. However, the overall story was just ok. This was caused by confusing science fiction ideas and a lack of context. The majority of content from this story flew over my head, as I didn’t understand what the characters were talking about most of the time. I was frustrated by the overall project because I wasn’t able to grasp the concepts within Alphaville.

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

Have you seen any French film noirs? Are there any movies from this specific genre you’d like to see me review? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The Top 10 Worst Movies I saw in 2019

Another year, another annual Top 10 article! In 2018, I published my list of The Top 10 Best Movies I Saw in 2018 first. This time around, I’ll be publishing my worst of the year list instead! For me, 2019 has been a better year for movies, as I saw far more good films than bad. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t see any movies I wasn’t a fan of. Similar to last year’s post, this list will be based on movies that I personally saw, as well as my own opinion. Also, this list is not meant to be mean-spirited or negative toward anyone’s opinions/cinematic preferences. Now, let’s begin by bringing up the Dishonorable Mentions!

Our Christmas Love Song, My One and Only, Over the Moon in Love, Hart to Hart: Secrets of the Heart, A Very Country Wedding, Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows, Nightmare Best Friend, Last Vermont Christmas, Always and Forever Christmas (I only watched half of it before turning it off), and Christmas in Louisiana (I ended up watching less than half of it before changing the channel)

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Setting up 2019 image created by Freepik at freepik.com. https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/new-year-2019-background_3590600.htm’>Designed by Freepik. https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik. Image found at freepik.com.

10. After the Storm

Sadly, we start this list with an UP Network release. I was hoping any movie from this network didn’t have to end up on my list. But this movie is placed lower on the list than last year’s entry, Christmas on Holly Lane. So, I guess that’s a step in the right direction! Now, back to talking about After the Storm. What made me want to watch this movie is the discussion of natural disasters and their aftermath. In family-friendly, made-for-TV movies, this specific topic is rarely featured in the story. Unfortunately, this film’s narrative placed more emphasis on the romance than the titular storm and its aftermath. Another major issue I had with this movie was the questionable decisions the male and female protagonist make within the film. While these decisions were not necessarily bad, they were also given questionable explanations. I wasn’t able to stay invested in the protagonists and their relationship because of this creative decision.

9. A Feeling of Home

Texas is one of the states that isn’t always featured in a Hallmark movie. This part of the film made me want to give this project a chance. But, similar to After the Storm, the story placed more focus on the romance than in the conflict. There were some editing errors within this film that were painfully obvious. It also doesn’t help that the weakest acting performance came from the lead actress. Watching the female protagonist desperately trying to win over her father’s attention was, actually, quite sad. This made her appear weaker than the majority of female protagonists from Hallmark Channel. I have to ask: who greenlit this script when they knew it was this weak?

8. Christmas at Graceland: Home for the Holidays

In 2018, I saw and really liked Christmas at Graceland. While I thought Wedding at Graceland was ok, it’s the third film in this trilogy that I find to be the worst out of the three. There were a number of plot points in this movie that didn’t make any sense. Why would the female protagonist give her nieces only one small snowglobe but the male protagonist’s children an elaborate and large advent calendar? Also, for a movie set in Graceland, the famous location ends up being a glorified extra by having less than three appearances on screen. Because of this, it makes the story feel like it didn’t need to take place in Graceland. The movie made me wish Christmas at Graceland had never received any sequels.

7. Christmas Scavenger Hunt

The idea of a Christmas themed scavenger hunt is something that had never been shown in a Hallmark production prior to 2019. So, I was somewhat optimistic about this particular movie. Sadly, the potential this film had was wasted on a poorly written script. All of the scavenger hunt clues were way too easy to solve. There was no sense of urgency throughout the film, as well as two separate moments where the male and female protagonist came across as selfish. Not only was the lead actress’s performance weak, but so was the on-screen chemistry between the lead actor and actress. Like other films on this list, questions arose within the story that distracted me from enjoying the movie. One of these questions was why the female protagonist didn’t make her boyfriend take off his expensive tie before baking. All of these missteps added up to a movie that was less entertaining that it could have been.

6. Christmas Camp

When I first heard of this movie, I was excited to see a Christmas themed camp brought to life for the first time in a Hallmark film. I had reviewed this movie for Drew’s Movie Review’s Christmas in July Blogathon. Upon my first and only viewing of the film, I learned that the camp itself was nothing more than an afterthought. What this movie excels at is having a pointless plot and tradition shaming characters whose Christmas doesn’t look or sound “traditional”. Despite the fact this a Hallmark film, these things don’t make it feel like a Hallmark film. If anything, it makes me wonder why the network would greenlight this movie at all? Hallmark has been known for creating a variety of Christmas products to celebrate a multitude of Christmas traditions. With Christmas Camp, it makes the network seem inconsistent with their message.

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5. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Back in October, I gave this film a second chance for The Second Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn Blogathon. Looking back on it, I realize that was probably a mistake. Unfunny humor is the movie’s biggest flaw. Yes, I know that comedy is a very subjective thing. But if a comedic film barely makes me laugh, then it hasn’t done its job well. Other problems in this movie include the run-time and a weak story. There were elements that could have enhanced the project, such as commentary about greed and the power of money. But these things were swept under the rug for the sake of hosting a popularity contest instead of a movie production.

4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

This was the first movie I saw in 2019 and boy was it a disappointment. All of the humor was so forced, that I found myself not laughing at any of the jokes. The film’s plot was tedious, which made the movie itself feel longer than its run-time. I also found a few plot-holes within this film. One of them was so large and obvious, that it made me question the existence of the movie’s narrative. While I liked the acting performances and the special effects (both practical and CGI), there were more negatives to the film than positives. This could have been something quirky and fun. Unfortunately, the movie was missing those two important ingredients.

3. A Cheerful Christmas

This is not only the worst Christmas movie I saw in 2019, it’s also the worst Hallmark movie I saw in 2019. It doesn’t help when the lead actress ends up over-acting or when at least one of the actors clearly can’t carry a British accent. But it also doesn’t help when the story is poorly written. This movie made me ask more questions than I had planned to. One question was about the female protagonist’s ability to keep her job after all the business-related blunders she makes. I know that fictional stories require their audience to suspend a certain amount of disbelief. But this movie tried to make me suspend all my disbelief, making me feel uncheerful. While I appreciate the movie’s attempt to avoid a large number of “royal movie” clichés, it wasn’t enough to save the project. In my opinion, it felt like the film’s creative team put so much emphasis on making a pointless, family-friendly, Christmas remake of Pretty Woman, that they forgot how to make a good movie.

2. Ace of Hearts

I’m all for helping smaller, family-friendly films get the “standing ovation” they might deserve. However, for a movie to achieve a “standing ovation”, it needs to be good. Ace of Hearts, unfortunately, fails to meet that criteria. The majority of the acting performances are poor and the pacing is very slow. But the worst offense this movie commits is bad writing. This story had so many plot-holes and inconsistencies, that it was exhausting instead of enjoyable. When the protagonist’s daughter convinces her friend that the reason why her family’s dog is trying to get home is to get back at the film’s villain because it’s his “unfinished business” (she comes to this conclusion after seeing the title of a video game), that’s when you know you’ve come across a bad script. As if that weren’t bad enough, this movie is, apparently, based on a true story. If my true story were handled this poorly, I would be offended and embarrassed.

1. A Page of Madness

A Page of Madness is a silent film from Japan, for those of you who are not familiar with this title. I appreciate the director’s efforts to preserve this movie, especially since, according to Ben Mankiewicz from Turner Classic Movies, the majority of Japanese films created before 1945 are either partially or completely lost. I also understand what the director was trying to do with the project. But just because I’m a grateful and understanding movie blogger, that doesn’t mean I liked the final product. This movie has a plethora of problems that would make this list longer than it already is. So, I’ll share two reasons why A Page of Madness is the worst film I saw in 2019. The first is how it has no plot, narrative, or story. It just contains a premise that goes nowhere. The second is how, in reality, this movie is an artistic experiment masquerading as a film. Personally, I found this to be dishonest and manipulative. At two separate moments, I wanted to fall asleep and turn the movie off. This is one of those times where I wish I would have listened to my instincts.

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World poster
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World poster created by Casey Productions and United Artists. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:It%27s_a_Mad,_Mad,_Mad,_Mad_World_(1963)_theatrical_poster.jpg

What are your thoughts on my list? Which is your worst film of 2019? Leave your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

 

Take 3: Return from Witch Mountain Review + 40 Follower Thank You

Back in early November, I received 40 followers on 18 Cinema Lane! As I mentioned in my Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List post, I’ve been busy doing blog related things. I apologize that this thank you review is being published much later than expected. But, anyways, back to the review itself. Like I’ve done with my other thank you reviews, it is time for me to talk about a film that was released 40 years ago (in 1978). Because Return from Witch Mountain just so happened to be on my DVR, I decided to pick that movie for this review. Since this was my first time seeing this particular film, I coordinated a double feature with both Escape to Witch Mountain and Return from Witch Mountain. I really enjoyed the first movie, as it was intriguing and memorable. So, after I saw Escape to Witch Mountain, I was definitely looking forward to watching the continuation of Tony and Tia’s story. Was the sequel just as memorable as its predecessor? Join me on this journey through this review to find out!

Return from Witch Mountain poster
Return from Witch Mountain poster created by Buena Vista Distribution and Walt Disney Productions. © Disney•Pixar. All rights reserved. Image found at http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/24411/Return-From-Witch-Mountain/#.

Things I liked about this film:

  • The acting: I really liked this cast! Everyone was so talented, bringing a sense of believability to the portrayal of their characters. I liked that Ike Eisenmann and Kim Richards reprised their roles of Tony and Tia because their performances were a highlight in both Escape to Witch Mountain and Return from Witch Mountain! Ike and Kim not only provided versatility to their roles, but they also added a good amount of likability to their characters. I really liked Tony and Tia, as characters, because they seemed like intuitive children and good people. Everything I just said helped me, as an audience member, stay invested in Tony and Tia’s story.

 

  • The film’s setting: Whenever characters in a children’s/family movie or television show take a vacation to California (specifically the Los Angeles area), the portrayal of the trip is, more often than not, glamorized (for example, the characters take a trip to Hollywood and/or get involved in the movie-making aspect of the city). In Return from Witch Mountain, however, the portrayal of the Pasadena/Los Angeles area appeared well-rounded. While the film shows tourist/ “glamourous” aspects of the city, such as the Rose Bowl Stadium and a museum, other parts of the area are showcased in the film’s narrative. For instance, a run-down house that serves as a secret hiding place represents a not-so-glamourous side to that particular area. Within the movie, a plutonium plant is also featured, giving the audience an idea of the types of businesses that can reside within that area.

 

  • The story: While there are a few similarities between the narratives of Escape to Witch Mountain and Return from Witch Mountain, I feel that the story in the sequel expanded upon Tony and Tia’s story from the first movie. Return from Witch Mountain explores the idea of what happens when twins are separated and the differences of how their powers can be used. The acting performances and screen-writing helped these ideas flourish to the best of their ability. When watching this film, I was surprised by some of the other ideas expressed within this story, such as the importance of education and what exactly it means to be “tough”. While these ideas were not fully explored, I still thought they added something special to the overall story.

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What I didn’t like about the film:

  • The editing: In Return from Witch Mountain, there were a few scenes that seemed to end a little too quickly. I feel this was a result of the film’s editing. However, this problem was improved upon from the first movie, where the editing made a certain amount of scenes feel too short.

 

  • Scenes lasting a little too long: There were some scenes in Return from Witch Mountain that, in time length, were a little too long. An example of this is the museum robbery scene, where the events associated with it seemed to be stretched out. To me, the length of these scenes were the result of satisfying the film’s run-time. Either the movie itself should have been a bit shorter or these scenes should have been reduced in, about, half.

 

  • The villains: While the actors portraying the villains did a really good job with the acting material they were given, I thought the villains themselves were a bit on the sillier side. Because of this, I, as an audience member, didn’t get a strong sense that Tony and Tia were danger until the film’s climax. I also thought that the ideologies and beliefs of the villains were more unsettling than the villains themselves. This was very different from Escape to Witch Mountain, where the secrecy surrounding the villains added to the fear and concern for Tony and Tia.

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My overall impression:

To start, I just want to say thank you to all of my 40 followers! If it weren’t for you, I probably would have never seen Return from Witch Mountain or its predecessor. But, I’m glad I checked this movie out because I really enjoyed it! Return from Witch Mountain is not only a good movie, it’s also a good sequel, expanding the overall story and improving upon flaws from Escape to Witch Mountain. As I think more about both movies, I realized that they would be a great way to introduce someone to the science-fiction genre. I feel this way because while this is a science-fiction story, it was light on the science-fiction elements. Because I also received 45 followers last month, I will publish my thank you review for a 1973 released film very soon. Whichever film I end up picking, I will be so excited to share it with all of my readers and followers!

 

 

Overall score: 8.1 out of 10

 

 

Have you seen either of these two films? What is your favorite live-action Disney movie? Please let me know in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen