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Unbreakable (2000)
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan  ·  Rating: 10 of 10
10 of 10

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Unbreakable DVD

Summary: Subtle and powerful

Shyamalan had a great motion picture debut with 'The Sixth Sense', and obviously, there's got to be some pressure after such a film to make another one just like it - in terms of quality, not content. That's only natural, and sometimes the later work suffers from that if it's too similar to the first; which - partly - is a problem 'Unbreakable' has. The same director, the same lead actor, the same composer, a similar atmosphere and a plot also dealing with the paranormal. Maybe it would have been easier to do something completely different. Maybe. Yet somehow, the film takes these premises and succeeds in being something of its own - treating the above mentioned preconditions as a strength, not an obstacle, and also adding some new elements.

You may get the impression, somehow, that 'Unbreakable' is somewhat artsy, and that may be true. But this is made better by the introduction of the comic book premise - both concepts, art and comic, or comics as art, making the pressure bearable. And once you realize this is a comic film, the artsy approach can even be refreshing - creating a new twist for an old genre.

Willis is as strong as ever, stronger always when he plays a more subtle and less violent guy, and Jackson is refreshingly different from his usual characters. While the movie sometimes seems to drag along a bit, it gives us some interesting perspectives and pictures, and an ending where nothing like that was supposed to happen. Shyamalan seems to like that. And with the rather average-quality movie output of 2000 with not that many highlights, this one definitely belongs amongst the top 10 movies of its year - with films like that, Shyamalan should become one of the most respected filmmakers of his time. Can't wait to see his next piece.

January 4th/7th, 2001

IMDb/Urban Legend

Urban Legend (1998)
Directed by Jamie Blanks  ·  Rating: 6 of 10
6 of 10

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Urban Legend DVD

Summary: Solid

This one is a nice little horror flic; nothing really extraordinary. The thing most obvious in the press reviews of the movie was the comparison made with 'Scream', saying that this one would fit into the category started with the latter mentioned film. But I would not agree totally; what I could agree to is that this is again teenie horror, but that's it. Contrary to 'Scream', 'Urban Legend' is indeed a horror film, less of a comedy. A small amount of comedic elements can be found, but that's imperative for a dark story to contain at least in the beginning some cheering elements; it's just a matter of contrast.

But overall, this is a horror picture - and it follows the tradition of 'Halloween' to a certain extent, while not necessarily keeping up with that one. But it does one thing right: Unlike 'Halloween V' , we get to know the persons who have to die - thus a more emotional level is created which enables the horror to work in the first place. In that respect, the film works very well. Also I was quite impressed with one little detail: The picture from the beginning, the rain falling down on the wet asphalt, showing up again at the end of the showdown - I like such a kind of closure.

But then, there are also some weak points. The movie has its moments, such as the kind of telling the audience (or the part of it which doesn't know about it) something about urban legends; also it contains some kind of a theme of living with past sin. But it is a plain horror movie, lacking the extraordinariness and pace and desperation of 'Halloween'. So it might be solid work, and it is nice to watch it, if you like horror movies at least. But then, that's even more than I expected. Also, the young cast is getting some support from actors like Brad Dourif (he was uncredited, what a surprise seeing him in the movie!), John Neville and Robert Englund; and that's always a pleasure, something which was missing with 'Scream'.

February 16th, 1999

IMDb/Urban Legends

Urban Legends (2000)
Directed by John Ottman  ·  Rating: 5 of 10
5 of 10

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Urban Legends DVD

Summary: Solid, yet too contrived

No movie can really be judged on its own, it is inevitably linked to its era, to other movies of its time. Some years ago, a movie like 'Urban Legends' may have seemed original and exciting, yet put into its place, i.e., in the aftermath of the 'Scream' series and after its own direct predecessor, this is just nothing new, really. It is a little horror flick in which lots of beautiful young people die, some get to live, the killer's identity being revealed at the end, his/her identity being rather surprising, some funny characters serving as comic relief et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. We know the concept. It has become lame, very much lame indeed.

It takes a serious amount of energy and experience and creativity to turn such a concept into a fresh and exciting and intelligent film, something mastered by 'Blair Witch 2'. However, the director of 'Urban Legends' is John Ottman, a brilliant composer, amongst other things. Yet this is his directional debut, and he possibly chose the wrong concept as a start. You see he's trying, he's trying very hard to get this done - and the result is solid, indeed. But some surprising twists and some beautiful shots alone cannot save this, which is sad, for his soundtrack is great, also the looks of the movie, and the idea to do it at a film academy.

'Urban Legend', the predecessor, wasn't a bad film - it just wasn't great. Yet it had something its sequel doesn't have: Actors like Brad Dourif and John Neville, and the freshness of the idea of murders based upon urban legends. Part two adds nothing to that, nothing at all, so it has to remain a rip-off, not a bad one, but an unnecessary one. The result is a film which has little thrills and scares, as we all know the scheme. Perhaps in the future, Ottman should do something else to prove his faculties - this movie is simply a lost cause.

January 7th, 2001

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