Category Archives: N

Nanny McPhee Returns

Nanny McPhee Returns (2010): United Kingdom/France/United States – directed by Susanna White

Rated PG by the MPAA – contains some crude humor, silliness

Not having seen Nanny McPhee, I knew little of what to expect from Nanny McPhee Returns.  I knew that Emma Thompson was heavily involved with the production (she wrote and executive produced, alongside starring), and that Maggie Gyllenhaal was starring, so was mildly hopeful.  Occasionally it pays off to be optimistic.

The film revolves around Isabel Green (Gyllenhaal) and her young family.  Her husband (Ewan MacGregor) is off fighting in World War II, and the English countryside is the safest place to raise children.  Her oldest is Norman (Asa Butterfield, already well established with roles in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Son of Rambow).  He’s followed by Megsie (Lil Woods), and then the littlest one, Vincent (Oscar Steer).

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Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Night of the Living Dead (1968): United States – directed by George Romero

Not rated by the MPAA – contains violence, some gore, brief partial nudity, some language, intense themes

Few films in the history of cinema have laid as complete a groundwork for an entire subsequent genre as George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.  His reimagining of the undead creatures known as zombies created the rules for countless films, novels, comic books, and video games, in addition to a number of sequels.  The Italians, in particular, reworked the formula in a variety of ways after the film’s sequel, Dawn of the Dead, made such a splash.

Such an impact is rather strange for such a small movie, one with no budget and a lack of any greater intentions.  Night of the Living Dead is a prime example of art being successful because of what audiences inferred rather than what the creators intended.  But, similar to how truly bad movies are enjoyable because the filmmakers believed they were good, Night of the Living Dead is effective because of how simple and unpretentious it is.

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A Nightmare on Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): United States – directed by Wes Craven

Rated R by the MPAA – contains violence, massive amounts of blood, sexual content, some nudity, language

A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the most successful horror franchises in history, starting during the slasher film’s heyday in the mid-1980’s and continuing through to the 2010 re-imagining of the original film.  It is understandable why Freddy Krueger has lasted for so many years; the concept of an unstoppable killer that strikes in dreams, when victims are most vulnerable, is compelling and horrifying.  It is unfortunate that even the first film in the series is not particularly great, though still a fair deal better than Friday the 13th’s initial entry.

One of the best aspects of A Nightmare on Elm Street is the simple story and setup.   There are a minimum of characters, and this is helpful even though it limits the number of deaths Freddy can cause.   But each of the three primary deaths is brutal, and two are particularly gruesome and horrific.

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Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge

Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge (2007): Japan – directed by Takuji Kitamura

Not rated by the MPAA – contains violence and a little blood

Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge is a rather charming romantic drama/coming-of-age film, gorgeously shot on some fabulous locations.  Young Yosuke (played by pretty-boy Hayato Ichihara) is a fairly typical high school kid.  He lives in a boarding school, goes to class, has a couple of close friends, and is fairly apathetic about life.  His coolest friend, Noto (Yôsuke Asari), dies in a motorcycle accident, leaving Yosuke confused about life.

He can never be as cool as Noto, a kid who runs the laps received as punishment for being tardy in double-time.  A kid so cool he can’t stand to see two rival gangs face off only to have their leaders apologize to one another, forcing him to take on both gangs simultaneously.  A kid so cool that he drives his motorcycle very fast, not caring whether there might be a car around the next corner.

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Ninja (2009): United States – directed by Isaac Florentine

Rated R by the MPAA – contains violence and some blood

It’s hard to believe that two movies with the word “ninja” in the title came out in the same year, and were both made in the same country.  Indeed, while Ninja Assassin [reviewed here] went over the top with CGI blood and absurd violence, Ninja feels a little more credible in terms of story and characters.  Granted, its primary ninja looks more like a cyborg assassin or Batman than a martial arts expert, but don’t let that detract from the experience.

Scott Adkins stars as Casey Bowman, an American who has grown up in a dojo his whole life.  I wasn’t familiar with Adkins either, but a quick glance at his filmography turns up small parts in blockbusters like X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Bourne Ultimatum, and the lesser-known Unleashed.

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Ninja Assassin

Ninja Assassin (2009): United States/Germany – directed by James McTeigue

Rated R by the MPAA – contains bad language and a ridiculous amount of CG blood

If the title of this movie interests you, I can almost guarantee you will enjoy the film to some extent.  If, however, the name of the movie leaves you cold you might want to stay away.  The title also appears rather redundant at first glance, but rest assured the filmmakers did not merely make an error in naming the film.

Ninja Assassin contains a plot, but any sort of coherence is secondary in this film.  The entire production is an excuse for slicing and dicing followed by copious amounts of CG blood.  To this end the movie succeeds admirably.

But there is a story, of sorts.  We are introduced to the idea that there are nine clans set up as ninja training centers.  They kidnap orphans and train them until they are well-toned, bloodied killing machines.  Then, as they have been doing for centuries, the clans offer their services to governments and wealthy individuals or groups.  The price of a man’s life remains constant: 100 pounds of gold.

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Network (1976): United States – directed by Sidney Lumet

Rated R by the MPAA – contains language, a small amount of sexual content, and brief violence

Network made a bit of a splash upon its initial release, gathering ten Oscar nominations and walking away with four.  It did not win Best Picture, but then neither did Taxi Driver or All the President’s Men, because Rocky walked away with the golden statuette.

The movie was applauded for its scathingly harsh attack on the state of television news in the mid 1970’s.  Its message is perhaps even more fitting now, in an age when reality TV and semi-real news shows dominate the airwaves.  In some ways it is quite chilling how accurate Network really is today.

The film revolves around several executives at the UBS network.  Max Schumacher (William Holden) is a seasoned director of the news hour.  Howard Beale (Peter Finch, winning the first posthumous Oscar ever awarded) is a long-time newsman, though his life and career have been going rather poorly as of late.  Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) is a young, ambitious programming director, while Frank Hackett (Robert Duvall in one of his rare bad-guy roles) is president of the corporation that recently purchased UBS.

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Night of Death

Night of Death (1980): France – directed by Raphaël Delpard

Not rated by the MPAA – contains some gore and some nudity.  Also creepy old people

Night of Death comes with a pretty nifty idea.  To begin with, it’s a French horror film from 1980, which is something in and of itself.  The general plot outline is also a bit creepy, seeming like it should make for a quality horror film.  Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out quite like it could have.

Isabelle Goguey stars as Martine, a young woman who has been out of work for some time.  When her fiance, Serge, (Michel Duchezeau) finds her a place at an old folks home she jumps at the opportunity.  She’s cute and young, and, with a good attitude, begins caring for the crazy old people.

It’s a good thing she’s so plucky, since the administrator of the home is rather unkind (and also a bit crazy) and the previous worker, another young, pretty girl, leaves after Martine’s first day.  And then there are some odd rules, such as for the first two months Martine is not allowed to leave the grounds; she doesn’t get a night off until she’s been there a while.

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Night of the Lepus

Night of the Lepus (1972): United States – directed by William F. Claxton

Rated PG by the MPAA – contains red paint and giant killer bunny rabbits

Take a good, long look at this amazing poster.  Pretty cool, isn’t it?  It’s got scary eyes peering at a little family from the darkness, coupled with a frightening tagline and description.  So take a stab, how many eyes do you think horror has?  And how many times will it strike?  Well, the answer to the first question is “two.”  The answer to the second question is (if you replace the word “terror” with the words “giant bunny rabbit”) many, many times.

You see, these are the types of things they don’t tell you in posters.  Seriously, would you go to see a movie about giant killer bunny rabbits?  Most likely not, and that’s why they can’t mention the rabbits.  If they did mention the rabbits, the only people who would show up would be those who are suckers for bad movies.  Well, I’m a sucker for bad movies.

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Night Nurse

Night Nurse (1931): United States – directed by William Wellman

Not rated by the MPAA – contains old-timey underwear and some off-screen violence

This movie sure couldn’t have been made two years later.  It’s one of the rare gems from the brief pre-Code period, when they made gritty gangster movies and other racy stuff.  Then Will Hayes got involved and nothing was ever the same again.

Night Nurse was directed by William Wellman, who also made the pre-Code gangster flick The Public Enemy with James Cagney and the highly respected Western The Ox-Box Incident with Henry Fonda.  Here he teams up with Barbara Stanwyck and Clark Gable (in a supporting role) to bring us a fairly good medical thriller.

Well, I’m not too sure if medical thriller is the best way to describe it.  It starts out as a drama/comedy when Laura Hart (Stanwyck) attempts to get a job as a nurse.  Since she hasn’t finished high school she is not allowed, but after bumping into the prestigious Dr. Bell (Charles Winniger) she is granted permission to begin the program.

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