Thursday, June 30, 2016

Movie Review - "Finding Dory" (2016)

Finding_Dory

The main reason I found "Finding Nemo" to be so enduring is due to the simple story of a character on a journey to save his son and the vast wondrous world that he discovers along the way, a world that he was so often afraid to go out and explore. He met a vast range of characters along the way that all stood out and all of them left an impression on us, from the sharks that wanted to make friends with fish instead of eat them, to the surfer-dude turtles, to the pelican that always had his massive nose in other people's business.

But perhaps the most memorable character from "Finding Nemo" was the forgettable blue tang Dory. For me, the only reason that character worked was because of the superb voice talent of Ellen DeGeneres, who gave us an always optimistic and hopeful character to work off of Albert Brooks' cynical and calculating Marlin. The pair worked perfectly for that film and made each other better than they would have been alone.

So it made sense that Dory would eventually get her own movie (especially with DeGeneres constantly bugging Pixar about making a sequel on her talk show), and giving us "Finding Dory." While this is a film that wasn't necessary to the story of the first film, it is a welcomed addition to the Pixar family thanks to improved visuals and touching and effective story.

Set one year after the events of "Finding Nemo," Dory (DeGeneres) suddenly has lost-lost memories about her parents and immediately sets out to go find them in California, with her friends Marlin (Brooks) and his son Nemo tagging along to help her. Along the way, they meet several new friends, including a reserved and shady octopus (Ed O'Neill), a near-sighted whale shark (Kaitlin Olson) and a beluga whale that doesn't know how to use its echolocation (Ty Burrell).

dory

I have mixed feelings about the story of "Finding Dory." On the one hand, the story is copy-and-paste from the first film, minus the adventure of watching Marlin and Dory reach their destination. On the other hand, the film is still very clever about how Dory is able to remember all of this. Little bits of foreshadowing are thrown in throughout the film, like how Dory is able to remember that Octopus' have three hearts and Sigourney Weaver voicing the PA system for the marine habitat that Dory and crew must infiltrate.

The story is clever in what it chooses to show the audience, but somewhat lazy in feeling like a copy of "Finding Nemo."

And while the film does a small amount of memorable new characters, "Finding Dory" lacks the amount of variety the first movie had. We got to spend more time observing the many fish that inhabit the ocean floors than we did with Marlin looking for his son "Finding Nemo," and the ocean was just as much a character as anyone else in that film. But here, we get to know Ed O'Neill's grumpy octopus (though we don't really know why he's so grumpy, other than he doesn't like people), and a bit about the whale shark and the beluga whale, but they're more comic relief than anything else.

findingdory

That's another aspect that is sadly missing from this film - Dory's comic relief.

Oh sure, DeGeneres still gets some good lines in there every once in a while, but because she is the focal point of this journey to find her long-lost parents, she has to constantly be on the look-out for clues and signs leading her mom and dad. This means that she doesn't get much time to be her usual funny self. We still end up getting a decent amount of comedy, but it's from other characters like Marlin and the octopus, and their cynical outlook tends to make the comedy feel a bit off.

That being said, the animation is even more breath-taking than it was in the last film. The vast range of colors on display here is incredible and even something as simple as the way the sun reflects and refracts off the ocean is taken into account. Each character stands out even more than now, and even blue fish so put brilliantly in the vastness of the ocean. Pixar truly has outdone themselves with the animation on this one.

Overall, I did enjoy "Finding Dory" even if it doesn't hold a candle to "Finding Nemo." We still get to see the beautiful part of ocean and what lurks in its terrifying depths, there are plenty of new and interesting characters, and the story is both intelligent and touching in its approach to Dory remembering her parents. At times it is simple, but other times it tries harder than it needs to. Then there are those moments where everything comes together effortlessly, like many of the scenes between Dory and the octopus, that are such a joy to watch.

Final Grade: B-

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Mini-Review - "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (1942)

yankee

It really is a treat to watch movies through Turner Classic Movies, because you often get to learn something about an older film that you would have never known any other way. In this case, by watching "Yankee Doodle Dandy" on TCM, I got to learn the real George M. Cohan had three wives, none of which were named Mary, the name of Cohan's one wife in the movie.

One might expect me to hate the movie for that. That "Yankee Doodle Dandy" changes what happened to suits the needs of the movie. Actually, I think it gives the film character. For as much as "Yankee Doodle Dandy" wants to realistic, this is a fantasy, similar to films like "It's A Wonderful Life" that take every-day people and put them in extraordinary situations that we would never see in life.

George Cohan's wife being okay with her song being used in a play without her getting any credit whatsoever? That would never happen. The president sitting down with George Cohan for two hours in the Oval Office, during the middle of World War II, to talk about his life and then hand him the Congressional Medal Of Honor for singing and dancing? Sure, that is completely plausible.

"Yankee Doodle Dandy" is a fantasy, and there's nothing wrong with that. The film changes so many aspects of George Cohan's life to suit its narrative needs and adds scenes that never happened to Cohan. Keep in mind, this film came out in the midst of World War II, in fact shortly after Pearl Harbor, when the country needed a reminder that the little guy can make a big difference in the world. That if we set our minds to it, we can make the most impossible of tasks seem right within our grasps.

Overall, I loved "Yankee Doodle Dandy" for James Cagney's performance, which is always full of energy and a constant desire to keep the show going. This is a man who gave everything to the stage because it was the best and most honest way to portray ones' self, in front of thousands of anonymous people. It's also a testament to the American spirit - a Irish boy, raised to believe in his country, who used little more than his wits, body and will to become not just a man, but an icon.

Final Grade: A-

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Mini-Review - "Five Graves To Cario" (1943)

Five_Graves_to_Cairo_1943_film_poster

As the second film directed by Billy Wilder, this is one where we see Wilder start to nail down his darker and more puzzle-like structure to his films, but not so much that it does anything spectacular, outside of Erich Von Stroheim performance.


"Five Graves To Cairo" is a spy-thriller written and directed by Wilder, about a British officer that is stranded in a hotel just outside of Cairo during World War II, while a group of Nazis overtake the hotel and plan to use it as a base of operations in the area. The Nazis are being led by real-life German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel (Von Stroheim), and while the Englishman planned to hide in the hotel, posing as a waiter, he quickly finds out the dead man he is posing as was formerly an agent for the Nazis to gather information. The solider decides to use this to his advantage to get close to Rommel and assassinate him when no one is looking.


The story is sufficient, if a bit contrived at times, especially with the reveal of how Rommel was able to make his way across the African desert without running out of supplies. Part of the plan is ingenious and well-thought out, but another part is so specific that it raises a lot of questions about why Rommel knew exactly where he was going.


But the best part was certainly Von Stroheim, who stole the picture every time he was on-screen. The man commanded authority and seemed to have everything planned out years in advance. While everyone else in the movie was learning where they needed to go, Von Stroheim had already made it there and was enjoying a nice cool drink. There is one scene where Rommel has gathered the leaders of the military groups he has captured for dinner, and he allows these men to play 20 questions with him, where Rommel is honest and truthful about his answers and respects the intelligence of these men, yet he still is able to tell them nothing. By the time their questions are up, these men are now more confused than ever before.


Overall, "Five Graves To Cairo" is fine, helmed by a man who is still learning his craft, but it does give us some great scenes with Erich Von Stroheim as he pulls of being both respectable and menacing at the same time.


Final Grade: B-

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Mini-Review - "The Running Man" (1987)

runningman


I'd like you to watch this video for me. This has many of Arnold Schwarzenegger's best quotes and one-liners throughout his many films, most of the best ones coming from films in the 1980s (and "Batman and Robin"). A large portion of those quotes come from this movie, "The Running Man."
 
 
That should give you an idea of what movie you're in for - Lots of cheesy one-liners from Arnold, set in a dystopian future envisioned by the 1980s, with all the flashy neon colors and rummaging through the streets that you would expect.
As such, its difficult to take this movie seriously. "The Running Man" wants to give you a look at a future where the government uses television to keep us under control, and one where we watch people fight to the death for our amusement. But then almost all Arnold's lines are laughably corny that I am unsure what they movie is going for.
The best part of the movie was certainly the host of the Running Man game show, Damon Killian, played by Richard Dawson, one of the first hosts for "Family Feud" and a number of game shows from the 1960s and 1970s. He maintains his usual charisma from those shows, where he wasn't afraid to question the audiences' intelligence, but we also get an added level of absurdity when we find out how vulgar and diabolical he is, not afraid to fire people who run into him in the hallway and blackmailing others to do his will.
Overall, "The Running Man" stands out-do to Richard Dawson's performance and having so many quotable moments for Arnold. Outside of that, this is a standard 1980s dystopian future sci-fi movies, like "Escape From New York," and doesn't do too much to stand out from that.
Final Grade: C

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Rotten Tomatoes And Its Influence

rottentomatoes

Recently, I've noticed a pattern developing in movie blockbusters. In the past couple years, movies like "The Brothers Grimsby," "Hardcore Henry," "Rachet & Clank," "Demolition," "Aloha," "In The Heart Of The Sea" and "The Last Witch Hunter" all under-performed at the box office, while films like "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens," "Zootopia," "Inside Out," "Deadpool" and "Captain America: Civil War" have made far more at the box office than anyone expected, especially films like "Zootopia" which has made over $336 million in the United States, $993 million worldwide.

Normally, films like "Hardcore Henry" or "The Brothers Grismby" would have been number one at the box office on their opening weekends, due to gimmicky filmmaking concepts and lots of ultra violence, or well established actors in leading roles like Sasha Barha Cohen. Sometimes it can be associated with poor timing, like in the case of "In The Heart Of The Sea" coming out so close to "Star Wars," but even then the numbers were still poor, grossing less than $35 million on its opening weekend.

There could be a number reasons why this is happening, but I have noticed a correlation between the failure of smaller blockbusters and the success of others - Rotten Tomatoes.

To give you an idea, here are some of the scores of these recent box office flops - "Hardcore Henry" now holds a 48%, "In The Heart Of The Sea" has 42%, "Aloha" maintains a 20% and "Demoliton" comes in at 50%. All considered flops and failures by Rotten Tomatoes standards.

Now here is some of the scores for recent successes - "Star Wars" still has 92%, "Inside Out" and "Zootopia" both bolsters a 98%, and even "Deadpool" holds strong at 83%.

Based off of this information, if a blockbuster scores better on Rotten Tomatoes, then it is more likely to succeed at the box office, no matter what time of year it comes out. And the opposite also seems to be true as well - the lower a film scores on Rotten Tomatoes, the less likely it will do well at the box office.

xmenandalice

Take one of the most recent weekends for example, which saw the release of two blockbusters - "X-Men: Apocalypse" and "Alice Through The Looking Glass." Both come from franchises that have previously proven to be financially successful and have some pretty big name stars, including Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and Johnny Depp. Yet it was the mutant based action film that far exceeded the numbers of the adaptation of Lewis Carroll's work, with "X-Men: Apocalypse" bringing in $65.8 million and "Alice" only managing $26.9 million. It should also be noted the recent "X-Men" movie holds a 48% on Rotten Tomatoes, while "Alice" has a 29%.

Not very great scores for either film, but both are new and everyone has seemingly already seen "Captain America: Civil War" and those who were interested in "The Angry Birds Movie" has went to it already, those two were the best options for Memorial Day weekend.

But once again, the higher rated film on Rotten Tomatoes outgrossed the lower rated one.

Of course, this isn't always the case. There have been times where a lower rated film on Rotten Tomatoes outgrosses the higher one, with the biggest recent example being "Pitch Perfect 2" out-performing "Mad Max: Fury Road" on its opening weekend, even though the film many critics said was the best film of 2015 was nearly 20% ahead of the Anna Kendrick/Rebel Wilson sequel. This is by no means a perfect system, but then again there have been plenty of terribly rated films in the past that were box office juggernauts (I'm looking at you, any film directed by Michael Bay).

So, how is this happening? In the past, people have researched which film they will see over the weekend from home, but are unsure of how they'll like the film and are taking a risk by possibly going to see a movie they won't enjoy. But now we have smart phones that we have with us all the time. We can go to the movie theaters without deciding what to see in advanced, and pick which movie sounds the best while driving over using our phones.

For people who are undecided on which movie to see, they might turn to Rotten Tomatoes, where they can not only read what other people have said about the movie, from both critics and normal people sharing their thoughts, but they can also see those thoughts summarized into a nice little percentage that can be compared with other movies. And it seems we are now at the point where audiences are more likely to go to the highest rated new blockbuster.

chinese-audience-watching-a-3d-movie

Let's say that you wanted to go to the movies this last weekend, and you weren't a die-hard fan of the X-Men or the works of Lewis Carroll, but you had already seen "Captain America: Civil War" and "The Jungle Book." Would you wing it and randomly pick one of the two new films and hope that you picked the better one, or would you look up how both films are scoring online and go with the movie that is doing better?

I say this because it is similar to my routine of checking out the newest films, although I will do it more often than most other people because I'm obsessed with cinema. Usually every Friday, I will see how each of the newest blockbusters are scoring on Rotten Tomatoes to see if there are any films worth going to see. Because sometimes I won't be interested in seeing a blockbuster based on the trailer and info I've been given about the film, but it will score well on Rotten Tomatoes, like "Zootopia," and I'll be convinced to go see it in theaters.

I can guarantee you that I'm not the only movie-goer that does this. It is safe to say that Rotten Tomatoes has not only changed how we critique films, but also how well a film does at the box office.

7trwihFwf5Ex

Do you think the reason "Terminator: Genisys" never got number one at the box office during its time in theaters was because of competition? Possibly, but another big contributing factor was its low 26% on Rotten Tomatoes. By that point, films like "Jurassic World" and "Inside Out" had been in theaters for a while, so "Genisys" shouldn't have had much in the way of competition. Yet it got fifth on its opening weekend, losing to "Inside Out," "Jurassic World," "Ted 2" and "Max." Not "Mad Max: Fury Road," just "Max," about a dog that was in the army.

We live in a world now where the newest Arnold Schwarzenegger film can be outgrossed by the "American Sniper" of dog movies.

So, with Rotten Tomatoes seemingly having a big influence on how well movies do at the box office, the question is whether this is a good thing or a bad thing? I believe it is a little bit of both.
The bad thing Rotten Tomatoes influence is that it can over-hype some of the newest films. Take "Zootopia" for example, with its 98% and overglowing reviews. It is amazing that an animated film can be enjoyable to watch for so many people. But then step back a bit and think what that 98% means. Rotten Tomatoes is saying that "Zootopia" is a better film to watch than any film with a lower score than it.

And here is a list of movies that have a lower score than "Zootopia" - "Pulp Fiction," "Forrest Gump," "Fargo," "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," "Jurassic Park," "The Exorcist," "Die Hard," "The Hunt For Red October" and every single Indiana Jones movie.

zootopia1

Now I'm not saying "Zootopia" was a bad experience, but a better film than "Fargo" and "Raiders Of The Lost Ark"? Not even close. It seems like people got so excited about the unique animation and setting that they forgot its just a simple buddy-cop movie.

Part of this could be due to when these films came out. All the films I just mentioned were released long before Rotten Tomatoes was ever around (with the exception of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" but we don't talk about that one), so people have had a longer time to think about these movies, as well as offer up contrary opinions. But with movies like "Zootopia" and "Inside Out," we haven't had nearly as much time to think of the negatives. We were so blown away by their creativity and imagination that we don't realize if the film will hold up years from now.

In other words, Rotten Tomatoes is focusing on the present and what people want now. If a movie was released a long time ago, it will naturally score a much lower rating. They're less concerned whether a film will be classic.

Personally, I don't listen to Rotten Tomatoes when it comes to classic films that is from 1995 or older, around the time the internet came into power. Reviews for those types of films tend to be either biased or far fewer. For example, one of my favorite guilty pleasures, "King Kong vs. Godzilla," only has a 33% on Rotten Tomatoes, with only 12 overall reviews. Whereas a current film like "Captain America: Civil War" has 310 reviews, giving it an overall score of 90%. Unless it's an undisputed classic, like "Citizen Kane" or "Casablanca" the further you go back in film history, the less you'll see of it on Rotten Tomatoes.

As for the benefits of Rotten Tomatoes influence, we now live in a world where film critics have a big say about which movies we go see. Critics have always had somewhat of an influence on what we watch, but only to those who search for critical analysis. To people who care about what the critics have to say about any particular movie. But with Rotten Tomatoes, the general film-going audience can get the idea of what critics are saying, whether they know it or not. Some people might only be interested in a movies' percentage, but they're also listening to what critics and others have said.

We can now finally listen to "The Critic" thanks to Rotten Tomatoes. "If the movie stinks, just don't go."

 
 

Overall, I'm more than happy to say that Rotten Tomatoes has changed the way people use film criticism. The whole point of critiquing a movie is not just to share your thoughts and opinions with others, but also to offer others with a better idea what films to watch and what to avoid. To give filmmakers, both current ones and aspiring ones, a better understanding of what it takes to make a film that resonates with audiences and will last beyond our lifetime. It is nice to see film criticism being taken as more than just angry typing and obsessed fans, but as a community full of passionate people who love what they do.

To see that community having an influence on what films people end up seeing is wonderful to witness.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Mini-Review - "The Crow" (1994)

the crow

Imagine "RoboCop" if it was all about metal and demonic powers instead of punk and technology. Your result would be "The Crow."

In this city, every Halloween is filled with fire, chaos and all-out rage. The police are helpless against the roaming street gangs who rule this town with a bloody fist. These normally common thugs feel like they can do whatever they want, including murder a defenseless man and then rape and murder his fiancée. But one year later, this man, Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) is resurrected by a strange crow, and is now set on getting revenge against the men who murdered him and his girlfriend.

Like with "RoboCop," the reason this film works is because of the somewhat dystopian future the film portrays and a solid performance from the lead actor.

This city of "The Crow" reminds me of Gotham from the Tim Burton Batman films, with lots of gothic architecture and a never-ending night. Half of the city seems to be burned out and the other half belongs in the junk yard, let alone be inhabitable. We see very little of the people living in this city, outside of the vermin that rule the streets and the cops that fail to stop them. These criminals have zero concern for others and live every day like it was their last, eating bullets and washing them down with copious amounts of booze.

And then we get our protagonist, Eric Draven. Brandon Lee, who was unfortunately killed before the film was completed, communicates with his eyes throughout most of the film, as he relives the pain and misery of losing his girlfriend all over again, only to be refilled with a purpose when he realizes the men who did all this are still alive. Yet there remains a quiet humanity to all of this, as Draven sends some time helping out a little girl that he and his fiancée looked out for and the cop (Ernie Hudson) that stayed with his girlfriend while she suffered in the hospital.

This is not a film for the faint-off-heart, but if you're looking for a dark, edgy and unforgiving gothic horror action film, then "The Crow" will not disappoint.

Final Grade: B+

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Mini-Review - "Topaz" (1969)

topaz

Okay, this the last Alfred Hitchcock film I'll review for a while, I promise.

"Topaz" is slightly different from Hitchcock's other spy thrillers due to being inspired by the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, as well as a 1967 Cold War novel, about a French spy that gets mixed up in both American and Russian struggles throughout the world, including New York, Cuba and Paris.

But other than being loosely based on real world events, there really isn't much to "Topaz." This was a below-average Hitchcock experience, mostly because of the lack of energy and enthusiasm from the cast. With other thrillers, like "North By Northwest," we got a likable witty protagonist prone to break out the quips and one-liners, and seemed to love being involved in the spy world. But with "Topaz" our main character, André Devereaux (Frederick Stafford), is very stone-faced most of the film and seems pissed off that he has to get involved in all this.

I can't recall a single time I laughed during "Topaz," which is a shame considering how often Hitchcock used humor to lighten the mood in his other films.

There are also some scenes that are far longer than needed to be, especially when André heads down to Cuba and we spend more than 20 minutes after the resistance fighters, as well as their leader, whom André is sleeping with.

The best scene in the film is when André hires a supposed flower-arranger to pose as a magazine writer and talk to some Cuban leaders in town, all to take pictures of secret documents signed between Cuba and Russia, so they can be handed over to the U.S. government. The scene is mostly silent, aside from the constant noise from the Cuban supporters outside of their room. For the first part of the scene, the camera is distant and keeps our spy far away from us. We can't hear what he's saying and we know there are armed guards around every corner. This was the most suspenseful and well-shot sequence in the film.

Overall, "Topaz" was fine, nothing too extravagant from Hitchcock this time. There are some sequences that work well, but the acting is nothing special and there are several scenes that slow the film down. Watch this one once you've finished all the other Hitchcock thrillers to see what else he had to offer.

Final Grade: C+

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Mini-Review - "The Story Of G.I. Joe" (1945)

the story of gi joe

I'm writing this review only a few hours after watching "The Story Of G.I. Joe" and I cannot remember who any of the characters were outside of the two leading roles, mostly due to the actors who played those roles, Burgess Meredith and Robert Mitchum.

As I scroll through the IMDB page for this film, I read about characters like Steve Warnicki or Private Dondaro, and all I can think of is "Who?" None of these characters made a single impression on me, in fact very few of them had any character traits whatsoever. In a tale about an infantry unit in World War II and the correspondent who chronicles their tales, they spoke more as a group of men that gave more sass than weaponry.

Which is really a shame, since "The Story Of G.I. Joe" clearly wants you care about these characters and whether they live or die. But anytime a death occurs within the group, I racked my brain to figure out the name, face and one defining characteristic of that character, and normally came up with nothing. I never felt like I got to know any of these men, only that they were soldiers that wanted to return home, which is every character in a war movie.

Both Meredith and Mitchum have some great scenes though, and Meredith's narration throughout the film does add some spice to this otherwise bland war experience. He goes into flowery detail of what these men represent and their importance in a war, while Meredith speaks with a fiery passion about their sacrifice.

Overall, while "The Story Of G.I. Joe" had some good elements involving its two leading roles, there wasn't enough reason to connect to this infantry unit for me to care about their struggles. Now, if they had been attacked by Cobra Commander instead of the Nazis, that would have been something.

Final Grade: C

Friday, June 3, 2016

Mini-Review - "The Naked Spur" (1953)

Nakedspur

For as much as I love James Stewart, I have not seen many westerns he starred in. Part of this is due to Stewart being in so few westerns, at least early on in his career. But after World War II, Stewart broke free of his normal film roles of playing the kind-hearted every-man and took on some roles that changed his reputation. This would include his many leading roles in Alfred Hitchcock films like "Rear Window" and "Vertigo," as well as several westerns like "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" and "The Naked Spur."

But with "The Naked Spur" we get a far more haunting and vengeful performance out of Stewart than any other role I've seen from him, as he plays a rancher shortly after the Civil War, hunting down a wanted man from his home town for killing the sheriff. His performance here feels like a strange combination of Humphrey Bogart's character in "The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre" and John Wayne's role in "The Searchers." At times, he is consumed by a greed and paranoia, a need to go back to his prosperous way of living and nothing will stand in his way of getting that happiness, but then he'll snap and believe that what he's doing is simply out of revenge for the past yet disguise his vengeance as justice.

But as we learn throughout "The Naked Spur," in the old west, there is no such thing as "justice."

The normal wisdom and smile of Jimmy Stewart is missing from this role, and instead we're given a man who feels the world has wronged him and hunting down another man is the only way to fix it. Those normally calm and peaceful eyes become a piercing stare that you could see in pitch black darkness. There's a lost of innocence to "The Naked Spur" that makes James Stewart's performance far more captivating.

On top of that, the film has one of the best screenplays I've seen out of a western. The plot is basic enough - A group of mis-matched cowboys traverse a mountain pass to bring a criminal in to be hung. But the characters interacting with each other becomes a game of cat-and-mouse, as the killer uses his wits to turn these men against one another, all without ever firing a pistol. This villain, Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan) takes absolute delight in causing chaos and is probably taking all of his strength not to laugh when Stewart and the old prospector butt heads.

Overall, "The Naked Spur" is a one-of-a-kind western with a different yet enchanting performance from James Stewart. While the action is minimal, the suspense is high and the charming characters never let up.

Final Grade: A-

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Mini-Review - "Eyes Without A Face" (1960)

Eyes-Without-A-Face-Poster

I believe that what makes a B-movie is not the films' production values or the story, but the whether or not the movie chooses to take its subject matter seriously. For example, 1954's "Godzilla" is not a B-movie due to its strong connection to the Japanese people and putting their struggle and horror above the titular monster. But a film like "Plan 9 From Outer Space" is a B-movie because of stilted performances from actors who would probably burst into laughter if they read the plot out loud.

Just because a film contains a monster or ridiculous plot doesn't automatically make a B-movie. That would be if most of the film is played for laughs.

I bring this up because this French-Italian horror film, "Eyes Without A Face," has a similar plot to a movie I once saw on "Mystery Science Theater 3000," entitled "The Brain That Wouldn't Die." Both films are about a young woman being horribly disfigured or close to death due to the actions of a loved one in a car accident, and the loved one using their vast knowledge of medical science to keep them alive, but not for long. The loved one, in "Eyes Without A Face"'s case it would be her father, must resort to kidnapping young women who look like his daughter and perform a medical procedure to give his daughter that missing body part.

"The Brain That Wouldnt Die" is certainly a B-movie, but "Eyes Without A Face" is far from it.

Part of this is because "Eyes Without A Face" puts the horror on full display and does not shy away from the more grotesque imagery. We get to see the procedure of this man removing a young woman's face so that he can give it to his disfigured daughter. I wouldn't recommend this film to those who are squeamish, but this film tops "Psycho" for the amount of violence for 1960.

Then there's the father, Dr. Genessier (Pierre Brasseur), who is uncaring at times in the way he treats his victims, but has nothing but love and hope for his daughter to still live a happy life. He puts all the blame on himself and takes full responsibility for ruining her chance at happiness. Everything he does is for her. "The Brain The Wouldn't Die"'s lead doctor mostly does it to prove that science has no boundaries and can bring the dead back to life, and so he can be sleazy towards other women.

"Eyes Without A Face" takes its subject of a man taking extraordinary medical measures to save the woman he loves with all the seriousness that deserves, while not moving away from the horror of it as well. We see the mad scientist, but also man behind the mad. "The Brain That Wouldn't Die" doesn't seem to care about the subject matter and spends most of its time with the main character learing after other women and a head in a pan concocting a plan with a monster in the closet.

That is the difference between a B-horror movie and an A-horror movie.

Final Grade: B+