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A brilliant gorefest! A great tribute to Eurotrash horror! A philosophical social satire!
Watching Sandik (aka THE CHEST) introduced me to the unique vision of Can Evrenol. The references and the style used in this film clearly show that Evrenol is in great command of the language of cinema from exploitation horror. But rather than simply giving us a taste of gore (and, believe me, it is a brilliant gorefest!), Evrenol instead displays the bloodshed in front of a very strong curtain of social satire: The foundations of family, as the strong haven that we have been pre-conditioned to completely rely on, are shaken to the grave under the shock and awe of what is inside THE CHEST! A true masterpiece! What is inside the Chest? .... Watch and find out.
The Station Agent (2003)
During the main titles sequence, a montage of vinnets about how a dwarf's life is so complicated because he is center of attention and at the same time he's too short to be noticed, I already found myself in a plot based on acting out what it is destined to. A film with a dwarf, apparently, must showcase the challenges he must go through during life. Well, why not stick a montage explaining this during the main title sequence? Nice, but I already lost any hint of respect for originality at this point.
Along the way some interesting characters come in, but the sincerity of their conflicts are left at a Cuban guy, developed as if only to provide comic relief and become the anti-thesis of a dwarf: he who looks like a man but acts like a kid (while the dwarf looks like a kid but acts like a man), who claims he can't stand his sick dad. While a woman who has relationship problems due to her tragic past, becomes woven in as if only to be able to justify some of her weak-founded comments later in the film.
The actors are good. But the characters written only feel like dentures: from a distance they look pretty and interesting, but you can take them out and place them in a water glass over nite. That's how disposable they are. I congratulate the filmmaker for receiving awards, but seeing the film makes me question the jury, or the quality of the other competing films. Because nothing about this film, that it won the awards for, stands out as being innovative and original enough. But let's not forget other crew's accomplishments: The cinematography was a success. Works great and no flaws. The music score by Stephen Trask is the right idea: Acoustic guitar, harmonica, percussion, but is very amateurly handled. The spotting is poorly done (where music begins, and ends). But that's what happens when a songwriter ends up scoring the film. Overall, a simply forgettable film.
One of my favorite films at the Seattle international film festival (SIFF2003), and I had the chance to see it again during a brief run. I agree with the positive comments by other readers. A true cinematic gem, told in a folkloric tragedy. But there's this one scene that i absolutely love because it's a tribute to early german expressionist cinema. The way it is shot and edited, is what excellent cinema survives on. I know that sounds very vague, but that's how speechless the scene leaves me. Ok here it is: This is a possible spoiler so don't read on if you don't want to know the plot:
During one murder scene: it is night. THe victim is in the outside bathroom (small cabin) and the killer approaches. He has a white goose under his armpit. The victim sees the killer thru the square window on the door.
1)The face of the killer approaches (POV of victim) 2) CUT TO: goose flapping winds while shrieking in the air 3) CUT TO: THe face of victim steps back and disapears into the darkness of the cabin 4) CUT TO: killer enters cabin and the cabin shakes while we hear grunts and moans and while farm equipment that were leaning against the cabin fall to the ground.
I mean, this is stuff that is very simple but once constructed it looks amazing and cinematic. And there are plenty of scenes like this. I think this is a marvelous accomplishment. Congrats to the filmmaker.
In This World (2002)
In search for the promised lands
Those of us who live in so-called "western" and "civilized" cities always enjoy imagining the nostalgia of getting away from it all, owning a small hut in the mountains, living off of nature's gifts: veggies from the back yard, and meat from the farmhouse. Well, then there are those who live in those places that seem oh so nostalgic to us, and can't wait to get away from it all. They face the realities of rural life that so many of us day-dreamers tend not to include in our imaginings. And it also becomes hard for us to comprehend what is it about our stress-filled lives that these people want, that they would put their lives in danger and risk everything for entering another country and be part of that life. Then we realize the ignorant and arrogant lives we've been living: The luxury of taking survival for granted.
Films like "In this world" show us the journey taken in search for the promised lands. And we realize that the struggle for survival is common in every part of the world; it simply takes a different shape or form. The refugee's life becomes a story of adaption, rather than reaching a resolution. The idea of getting away from it all turns into realizing the lack of the void: that the frame of mind is what dictates what we want to get away from. Because it is so easy to find something to want to get away from, anywhere we live. Winterbottom's film captures these issues in almost documented reality of two brothers in search for the promised lands. It's almost as obvious of a reality right infront of us, as real and un-noticed as the image of the main titles super-imposed on a paint-peeling wall.
We see that we all are a refugee, running away from something, only to realize that we end up chasing a dream we will be running away from again later.
I saw the american -cut- version. Too bad, because i missed the two notorious scenes that people have been talking about. Still it was a very well made film. It takes its time and manages to built tension and cinematic progression. I was really impressed with the musical score, but only to realize that the version i saw used pre-existing music from a film called "kingdom of spiders". It was orchestral (quite an unusual sound for Italian horror) and took me by surprise. The story has a wonderful creepy feel to it, nice use of a Greek "ghost town" and traditionally creepy scenes (like the use of catacombs with human bones). Very impressive, but i still want to see the 2 notorious scenes i missed because of lousy censorship rules, or editing. Whichever caused me to miss out on Massaccesi's (aka D'amato)original vision.
Night of the Scarecrow (1995)
Well, "hay" there
The special effects and make-up are well done. The plot is standard. Characters are really fun, especially the priest. But the main girl and guy were a bit of a bore. As if cast only for their looks (which is usual, but at least look for a bit more, right?) The Scarecrow is funny and entertaining. He could've easily become one of those horror film characters like Leprechaun, or PumkinHead, or Jack Frost. But not exciting enough to become a Jason, or Freddy. Not much to say except i enjoyed it, rather than getting just plain bored.
Luther the Geek (1989)
I'd chose either over this film. This film has been in my "must see" list for a while because people talked about it being "disturbing" and also the VHS box contains lots and lots of quotes from people saying how "amazing" it is, or how "as close as you can get to texas chainsaw massacre" and lines like that. But, sorry folks, I was disappointed big time. The idea is interesting, but the script is SO underdeveloped that each character becomes a mistaken creation of evolution and people do indeed to the dumbest films in the film.
That, in turn, takes away any credibility that the plot may have otherwise had. I couldn't believe how unnecessarily loooooong some "where is he, let's find him" sequences were. A few gory moments to please the gore fan, but they are so few that by the time we get to them there's no point. If Luther's a geek, then the filmmakers must really be down on the food chain.
Witchboard is a well written, well acted, and well directed film. It's fun, it's light hearted, and it's perfect family entertainment. Everyone, grab a Ouija board and call over some spirits. No Ouija board? No worries. Go to your nearby video rental and rent Witchboard instead. But don't watch it alone. Not because it's too scary, but simply because it's quite fun and it doesn't require a lot of your attention so some buddies to chat with would be a good idea. You know how some films try to have this sub-plot idea going, to enhance the main story and characters? Well this one has one of those too and it's quite well written i must say. Characters are believable, some are funnier than others, and the acting is convincing. Some of the effects are very nostalgic, particularly to those who love horror films from the 80's.
The Bad Seed (1956)
This film was surprisingly unsettling for its time and its subject matter. We've seen lots of films where the lil' one goes bad (the good son, etc...) but this one is quite cinematic i must say. The highlight for me was composer Alex North's score. Beautifully Eerie would be the word to describe it. North's scores have predominantly used contemporary harmonies and dissonances. This is another great example of his superb style. Too bad we couldn't see 2001: a space odyssey, with his original score. Back to the Bad Seed: The lil' girls acting may seem over the top sometimes. Today she could've been diagnosed with Tourrett's syndrome or maybe overdosed on ADHD pills. But then she was just a nice little girl with a little temper every now and then. One other minor fault is the explanations about the nurtureful qualities of psychological behavior, to help the audience understand what's going on. Everyone remember "Psycho"? How we are told by the police what multiple personality disorder is? Remember how unnecessary that line feels today? Well, the Bad Seed has some of that as well. But overall it was quite a delight, and an examination of the anti-thesis of the happy american family.
The Hearse (1980)
Shoot the Piano Player
I found this title in my search for good quality horror films. This one, obviously, qualifies into the "haunted house" genre where the scare factor is more in-direct. But there was a problem. This movie isn't good. I hate to say that, because i strive to find positive attributes in every film i see, but this film simply is badly made. How more contrived can a haunted house script be? The film begins with a woman realizing she needs to spend time alone because she's been having "difficult times" (so we can later explain why she thinks she must be crazy when she sees things), then the big house inherited from her dead aunt (low angle shots here, with blue lights behind dead trees, a la Amityville horror) and a bunch of bad acting locals who act unkind to this lady almost as if just because the script calls for it. But here's the biggest fault: The musical score. Sorry Mr. Webster Lewis, but your score took away any possible strength this film could have had. Not only have they re-used the the same 3 cues through out the film (which i can understand to some degree, considering recording costs) but each cue within itself is bad. They begin with this short piano lick which, everytime you hear it, you're supposed to realize that "something ain't right here". It becomes tiring, it becomes overpowering. In other cues you hear this Jaws' theme-like piano motif pounding away which is supposed to build the tension, but give me a break guys. And next time hire a composer who knows that writing original film music is more than trying to create suspense by using diminished chords or pounding low piano keys. By the time this film was over i couldn't figure out how or why it ended up on my "must see" list for interesting horror films. And the director should stick to his editing career instead (looks like, from his filmography, he's been more successful at that). And that's not a surprise, after seeing this bad film.
This film (along with Motel Hell) stands out amongst the many cannibal themed films I've seen, ranging from Cannibal Holocaust to Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The reason being mainly the talented crew. The director's vision saves this from being just a usual man-eats-man film into something much more original and complicated. The performance of Anthony Wong (who won an award for this part) adds so much. Cinematography works well especially for capturing the pleasant balance between red warm blood over cold floor tiles illuminated with blue tints from the fluorescent lights. Humor is there as well, especially with the police squad who are a bunch of embecils. They try to touch upon the status of the woman in their society when the female cop is either too "tomboy" or too "slutty" with the way she chooses to dress. No in-betweens. Although issues such as feminism may be pushing the depths of this film a bit too deep, with the courageous portrayal of the events and the nice work of crew and some cast, and the visceral imagery that would satisfy any gorehound, this film comes as a refreshing appetizer that makes us asking for seconds.
two minutes to midnite
It's very impressive and ambitious for Jose Mojica Marins to get this project done when he had only 15 cans of negative film stock to start with, 2 of which got stolen leaving him only 13, and not having a main actor so having to play the part himself. Most of locations were indoor sets, except for one outdoor location. Although it may seem like the lack of planning and abrupt decisions could have affected the outcome, it in fact did not. This film has some great work, starting from Jose's performance with his monologues and single take unedited continuous scenes, all the way through the very impressive set and production design and special effects. They actually manually glued glitter on the negative to get that cheap effect of halo around the spirits. I always give credit to people who are willing to get things done no matter what the budget or circumstances. Several hair raising moments make me think that this film must have been really scary for it's time 40 years ago. Overall, this is a brilliant film that is very cinematic and relies on traditional but very effective tricks of the trade to make it work.
Almost like a "the seventh seal" for horror films.
Être et avoir (2002)
Since everybody comments on how beautiful this film is, which I absolutely agree it is, I might as well comment on some technical details i noticed. I love documentaries. Voyeurism comes with loving cinema (or is it the other way around?) and what better way to satisfy this urge than watching a documentary about real people, right? With the advent of digital technology there are many docs being made with digital video. And every once in a while it is a blessing to be able to see a documentary shot on film, and on good old nostalgic 16mm. Not only does it bring back memories of documentaries from the pre-DV era, but also it warms up the screen and makes the characters more personable. The editing is marvelous here. The attention to continuity of sound worked and gives us a nicely flowing picture. Most children are shot at eye level, bringing us viewers face to face with them; rather than seeing childrens heads from above: the adult angle. The patience of the teacher is inspiring. The moments of kids with their families remind us of education as a collective community effort. And prizeful moments like the fear of a kid's first day at school, or fights between two kids, are beautifully documented events that most of us probably have been through in our school years. The almost cinema-verite approach avoids the monotonous talking-head approach that many other documentaries like to use. Overall this film is very inspiring, and pleasing. And kids are always going to be cute, and the filmmakers use that as one of their strengths.
quest for pa
I read that this was the first feature length film from Chad (meaning, fully financed, with most cast/crew from Chad). So it is worth seeing just for that, to honor the filmmakers who, amidst all endeavours of making a film in a country that lacks resources for local cinema, were able to get things done. But one thing that struck me the most, technically, was the lighting in this film. Using layered structures of fore and backgrounds, for instance a character would be in the foreground sitting in a dark room by the window. He would appear as a dark silhouette, surrounded by a dark room, but in the back ground we see the view from outside the window. They obviously set their light exposures to outside to get the effect, but it is noticeable because of it being used several times. This and many other conscious decisions comment on the abilities of the filmmakers and their wilingness to employ the tricks of the trade, even if local cinema in Chad is very new.
Portrait of a ...
Two things stand out in this film: Set design and Cinematography. Each indoor room and the stories that unfold within are like viniettes. They look like individual oil paintings. The experience of viewing the film is like walking thru a gallery. You stop in front of each picture and the images start moving, the story takes off. Use of directional lighting add to the oil-painting effect, similar to directional light from candle sources in those old paintings. Polish cinema continues to bring out innovative cinema.
Brain Dead (1990)
Butterfly dreams of being a man
The great Taoist master Chuang Tzu once dreamt that he was a butterfly fluttering here and there. In the dream he had no awareness of his individuality as a person. He was only a butterfly. Suddenly, he awoke and found himself laying there, a person once again. But then he thought to himself, "Was I before a man who dreamt about being a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly who dreams about being a man?"
This quote is being used in the film and clearly illustrates the basis of the brilliant screenplay. The claustrophobia of not knowing reality from imagined reality is very real in this film. Earlier acts by Bill Pullman, and Bill Paxton make for a real viewing pleasure. But the real star of the film is Bud Cort (Harold, from the film Harold and Maude). Set designs and lighting make for a fine surreal experience. This movie is a great one with a fine story, fine actors, fine cinematography, special-fx and direction. The music sounds like synths left over from the 80's. But that adds to the B-effect of the film. Highly recommended.
On a list of summer blockbusters, most of them comic-book inspired, comes a movie like Ang Lee's "The Hulk" and restores our faith in cinema, heals wounds inflicted from watching other pointless waste of capital.
The almost archetypal characters, with their human imperfections, turn this film into a Greek tragedy. Human emotions, from the earliest documents thru history, haven't changed. Conflict turns on coping mechanisms; coping can manifest itself in forms of suppression, repression, or denial; and these manifestations result in anger, rage; which, in turn, materializes in un-controlled behaviour. Successfully characterizing the human nature in all of us, "The Hulk" adds to it other human themes of fraternal rivalry (almost to the point of involving the infamous Oedipus character), man's quest in conquering nature, man's awakening from superstition and fear-based religions and rituals, topping it all off with the probably most instinctual behaviour called "GREED", not to mention "THE POWER OF LOVE". The strength of this film, with its character oriented plot outline, is taken further into realms of successful cinema by Ang Lee's visual style involving split screen, dissolve connections, and really impressive visual effects. Long time collaboration between director Ang Lee, and composer Michael Danna had to end here after executives didn't like what Danna did. So, Danny Elfman comes in and scores the film. He does, however, retain some original ideas from Danna's approach (such as the "Mother Theme" which is sung by Natacha Atlas, and played on an Armenian duduk). Ang Lee was interested in retaining a lot of middle eastern and indian musical influences (especially obvious when the military are out in the desert) which Elfman didn't have a problem with either. Although, I must say, it does sound a bit awkward hearing ethnic music when the army is in some desert. Just when you think they're in Iraq, you see the ice cream shop and realize that this is good old Americana for you. Cinematography uses some interesting approaches, to the point where during the slightest shades of green in a scene with Bruce you get worried that he is turning into that uncontrolable monster one more time. The lighting on the CGI-created Hulk is very impressive and realistic (often a quality that, when incorrect, causes CGI creatures to look shiny and un-realistic). Performances are well done. It's surprising how Eric Bana almost looks like Christopher Reeves in some side-profile shots (especially with the nose). Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this well made film. And in all the latest comic book superhero films "The Hulk" is my favorite.
Le peuple migrateur (2001)
Birds fly, they migrate in search of food, they become prey to other birds, they try to protect their new-born from falling prey to other birds, they become prey to hunters and other creatures, they fall victim to man's creations from industrialization, and the leftovers continue to fly. All so nice, if it weren't for that lousy title song about "birds flying hi, in the sky, up in the clouds". Have you ever seen "Silent Running" about this guy in space who is trying to save the last forest in a spaceship that is bound to get destroyed? Remember the Joan Baez song there about how lovely trees and flowers are? Imagine watching a film set in outer space, and then hearing the acoustic-guitar Joan Baez song. That's exactly how the title song for "Winged Migration" makes you feel. If you can get past that, the rest of Bruno Nicolais' music is beautiful, as it was in "MicroCosmos". A bird documentary doesn't get more up-close-and-personal than this.
going beyond traditional narrative
Director Mikhail Brashinsky won the "New Director's Showcase" award at the Seattle International Film Festival, 2003, for this film. The jury that awarded him the prize called it "A striking directorial debut that abandons traditional narrative structure in favor of provocative aesthetics and inventive storytelling." Out of the 80 films I saw at that festival, this film was one of my favorites. In a realm of cinema where the struggle that filmmakers face, of trying to fit a story into a flowing narrative, this film goes beyond the conventions and gives us refreshing cinema with all its human rawness. Shot on Sony DVcam 100, and utilizing exactly 1101 shot set ups, fit into 77 minutes of film time, we witness what a five minute encounter can lead a person into. One minute we start learning more about our main character, until the next minute we completely change main characters and are left in a new story. Hi-contrast lighting and imagery add to the edginess of the characters' mental realm. Very nice use of out-of-focus fotography, used as creating layers within the image. The role that out-of-focus shots take in this film are similar to how silence functions within music. The soundtrack utilizes a mix of sound effects, thus taking the concept of a melodic film score a big step further and insists on re-defining what film music should be. It is very rare that cinema gets more refreshing than this. Former film critic Mikhail Brashinsky showed me a side of Russian cinema that i never knew existed. Thanks to this film, the 29th annual Seattle International Film Festival was a rewarding experience.
El ángel exterminador (1962)
I don't have much to say about this film, except that it is brilliant. Check out Limonov's comments, he's done a great job talking about this film. 10/10.
Dr. Giggles (1992)
What a delight! A very impressive movie by a bunch of very creative film makers. The script was great (especially the doc's one-liners were hilarious), the directing was magnificent, the art direction was great (especially the scenes in the Doc's house and basement), Larry Drake did a great job, and (last, but not least) an awesome music score by composer Brian May that pays tribute to classic B&W horror films.
The main titles sequence was creative and well done. The SFX complemented the film nicely. And what was so nice is that this film gets right to the point, you don't have to wait for 30-40 minutes for the action and fun to begin. I was surprised at the number of people that rated this film 1 because it really deserves to be talked about and rated much better.
Kiliç Aslan (1975)
Gloves of power
Hilarious film, I had a great time watching it. The star (Cuneyt Arkin, sometimes credited as Steve Arkin) is a popular actor from Turkey. He has played in lots of tough-guy roles, epic-sword films, and romances. It was fun to see him with an international cast and some real lousy looking pair of gloves. If I remember it was also dubbed in English which made things even more funnier. (kinda like seeing John Wayne speak Turkish).
301, 302 (1995)
This film is such a delight. This was the first Korean film I watched. The second one to follow was "Gojitmal" (Lies). If you've seen these two films then you would understand what I mean when I say "Korean cinema is Weird!". But ofcourse that changed after I continued watching other Korean films. But back to 301, 302: A very well written and directed film. Pay attention to the lighting and set decor as it really adds to the story. I enjoyed this film very much and it really helped me because I was trying to lose some weight around that time and after seeing this film I did not have to worry about my appetite anymore. I highly recommend seeing it. The director did another great film called "Push Push" which I also highly recommend.
April Fool's Day (1986)
Your fly is down
A great effort on a low budget from Director Fred Walton (who did the infamous "When a stranger calls"). He did a great job. The film was edited very wisely making certain scenes much more effective. A Grade A composer (Charles Bernstein) for a low budget film is surprising and Bernstein's score complements the film oh so nicely. Also pay attention to the art director's work especially for the scenes in the basement and the attic. Some actors were pretty lame while some others were pretty good. A very fun horror flick.
Yi yi (2000)
Life in its Subtleties
A movie that is true and honest to its audience, Yi yi captures you in your seat for 3 hours, and then stays with you for many more. Watching a movie on a big screen we get used to seeing larger than life images and situations. This movie brings all those back down to a level where you can relate to. So much is going on in this film, yet the presentation is so subtle that the 3 hours is barely enough to see what exactly is unfolding infront of your eyes. The characters are NOT representations of certain archetypes defined by a character phrase. Instead, they are as simple on the outside and as complex on the inside as you and I. Snippets of yesterdays memories, todays hopes and tomorrows expectations arise and we eventually see a fact that we have been ignoring for years: That our eyes are on the front of our heads therefore we can only be seeing half the truth and whatever happens behind us remains unknown. This will make more sense after you see the film... A one and a two and a ... Gimme a break, gimme a break... Break me another piece of that Yi Yi Bar...