Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Clear Lake, WI (2009)
Don't blink--or you won't detect the REAL killer
CLEAR LAKE, WI is one of those low-budget movies which actually would have benefited from the Hollywood scourge of "too many chefs" which plagues many big-budget flicks. Specifically, the absence of top-notch film editors and script supervisors from the crew of a movie like CLEAR LAKE sometimes allows the primary plot twist to get lost in the shuffle. Maybe the twist is ADDED in post-production, through a patchwork of throwaway material better LEFT on the cutting room floor. Maybe the twist was left for the last day or two of filming by rookie writers\directors who didn't know any better--not realizing that their project inevitably would fall three or four days behind the shooting schedule, leaving little or no time to actually put the pivotal scene of their story on film. CLEAR LAKE seemingly suffers from this syndrome, as the identity of the real killer for the plot's first set of murders is revealed by Michael Madsen's imprisoned bogus "Reverend" character in a postscript line of dialog captured on a hand- held a year after principle filming wrapped (according to the DVD featurettes). Bottom line: the best to be hoped for from this CLEAR LAKE is that it will become Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's OWN PRIVATE ELBA after he's recalled later this year (i.e., an island of exile for a deposed emperor).
Cold Storage (2009)
Dating tips from western North Carolina
This movie is less about being a horror splatter-fest, and more along the lines of "How to become a zombie bride." (In fact, the one person viewers KNOW is "really quite sincerely dead" by the end is the victim of the opening, Hedwig-induced car crash.) Otherwise, writer\director Tony Elwood provides a level of horror genre restraint almost on par with thriller classics from yesteryear, say Hitchcock's PSYCHO. Nick Searcy, as necromancing groom Clive Mercer, shows that he's ready to step into the Anthony Perkins role (hotelier Norman Bates) when the next PSYCHO remake is made. Particularly intriguing are Clive's dental hygiene habits. Brett Gentile nearly matches Searcy in his portrayal of Clive's nemesis, the even coarser Luther Spoole. While Jeffrey Pillars' caricature of a Southern sheriff is strictly by the book of Hollywood stereotypes, and Matt Keeslar joins Joelle Carter in being fairly bland as the clueless outsiders on the search for a missing loved one in the back country, bit players such as John W. Love, Jr. (Jerome), Rebecca Koon (Jewell), and Gina Stewart (Rhonda) shine in their parts with a light that often eludes even the leads in low-budget, little-seen horror flicks such as COLD STORAGE. Perhaps the producers' most questionable decision is to use Matthew Stewart's lament "Take Me" as the closing credits song, with lyrics such as "I'm prepared to prostitute my name; all I ask is 15 minutes' fame." Most of the people connected to this movie seemed to have a very opposite attitude; this is NOT Paris Hilton's HOUSE OF WAX remake (though it probably cost 100 times less).
The Hanged Man (2007)
Disturbing mishmash gives Southern Gothic Slop a bad name
First of all, this is one of those poorly written movies which would force any attentive watcher to fill in about half the plot with their own brain power, the missing connections are so great. Now, if you buy this DVD from the final close-out scrap barrel for a dime, with the intention of dangling it unviewed as part of your custom mobile for the nursery, perhaps there's no harm done. There should be little risk that the bad acting, silly twists, crappy special effects, poor continuity, miserable direction, and general reign of boredom can drip from the laser tracks into your baby's brain. (The idea that this disk, attractively shiny on one side, at least, actually COULD contaminate a little one by mere proximity is actually much LESS dumb than half the leaps of logic foisted upon the virtually nonexistent audience by the makers of THE HANGED MAN.) I tried to picture the intended audience for this flick, but I drew a blank until I thought of Zombies. Aaaah! Zombies!! I visualized 100 brain-eaters strapped securely into the ergonomic seats at the local multiplex, and tried to picture how they would react to THE HANGED MAN. I think maybe half would drool all over themselves, and the other half would fall asleep! That's why I rated THE HANGED MAN 5 of 10.
Charlie Valentine (2009)
With a dad like this . . .
. . . who needs enemies? The focus of THE H!TMAN DIARIES, Charlie Valentine (played by Raymond J. Barry) is supposed to be such a charming mobster that no one realizes that the old cliché, "I kill everything I touch" (which he actually paraphrases at this story's close), literally sums up his life. Charlie is a magic one-trick pony, meaning he never learns from his mistakes, and tries to pull off the same tired old scheme of ripping off mob bagmen time after time. The crews he assembles to help him are more the 1960s equivalent of "F TROOP" than "OCEAN'S ELEVEN" of the Dean Martin era. Charlie's haphazardly sketched out ploys are a perfect match to the bumbling idiots he recruits to carry them out. Charlie's magic touch is that his entire gang always gets rubbed out while he himself makes a clean escape in his mob heist target's most distinctive automobile. To call this nonsense implausible is probably being too charitable. When Charlie recruits his only child (who is obviously on the super-slow side) into his circle of doom in the second half of DIARIES, this flick slips from being merely annoying to becoming a mean-spirited wallow in bathos. I'd hate to be writer\director Jesse V. Johnson's dad.
Coffin Rock (2009)
Australia apparently has no humane society . . .
. . . since filmmakers can get away with peppering this FICTIONAL story with such graphic civilized world no-nos as having a man with anger management issues swinging a poor little baby kangaroo against his wall until its brains are jelly, and biting a large fish in half. Maybe Aussies view this as some sort of macho survival-of-the-fittest BS, but it's clear to any educated person that the ill-fated fish and doomed marsupial each had more brain power than COFFIN ROCK's wretched main human character (Evan, played by Sam Parsonson, who is obviously one "-son" short of a hat trick). TAXI DRIVER's Travis Bickle is about as much of a loser as you'll see on American film, and even HE can come up with unforgettable succinct tag-lines (such as, "You talking' to ME?!). However, perhaps U.S. film goers are spoiled. Maybe down under you can point the camera at the sun on an overcast day, and folks will watch the footage patiently for 90 minutes, hoping for something to happen. COFFIN ROCK is one of those totally predictable anti-thrillers, where you can see every tiny twist of the plot coming from a mile off. It is distinguished only by the nearly unprecedented and totally gratuitous animal slaughter, a clear throwback to yester-century.
Dark Woods (2010)
It's all a daymare--do not take it so literally
Henry (John Muscarnero) has a wife Susan (Tracy Coogan) who is terminally ill with some sort of cancer. By the end of DARK WOODS she dies. There's a popular expression in American, "we're not out of the woods yet." Henry's mind is muddled with all sorts of imaginary nonsense while his wife is dying. None of this would make any sense to the thinking viewer if taken LITERALLY, but apparently some people could not decipher director Michael Escobedo's subtlety. Mr. Escobedo tried to clue in the clueless right from the start, with a quotation from Dante's DIVINE COMEDY which makes it clear Henry's "dark woods" constitutes all the crap churned up in his id by his wife's impending demise. One must feel SORRY for viewers who somehow overlooked this quotation, and think any filmmaker would expect them to believe an American sheriff would place an abused teenage girl into the keeping of a young guy with a comatose wife to care for in a wilderness cabin for days on end. How many sheriffs could there be without an extra bedroom of their own (Henry's imagined cabin had just one bed)? Everyone else Henry talks to here is likely imaginary as well, except Susan. This obviously is not the most entertaining movie ever, but watching it should not be as hard as understanding an unsubtitled film in a language you don't speak!
The Last 15 (2007)
The Kirkland family personify one of America's more popular political parties (there's no accounting for some people's tastes). Big chunks of the ceiling keep falling on their heads all through this 18-minute short, but they pretty much ignore this--like perverse reverse Chicken Littles--because they cannot be bothered with such down-to-earth concerns as maintaining infrastructure. More important than evacuating their crumbling apartment is the vicious game of musical money they play; every family member is trying to weasel cash out of the others for their own pet concerns. Those family members who have not inherited gobs of gold on silver spoons apparently believe the only other way to earn money in this world is to steal it. (No one suggests a reasonable solution like collecting a family tax from the more affluent relatives, because members of the Kirkland's party have "taken the pledge.") This short has two endings. In the first, realistic, climax, the family's youngest and poorest member perishes (which anyone with a brain in their head saw coming from a mile away). But members of the Kirkland party live in a state of constant denial (there's actual You Tube footage of 25 or 30 of them passing a little girl by after she's fatally injured by a speeding limo). So director Antonio Campos brings his allegorical savaging of the GOP to a close by showing the more affluent, surviving Kirklands mass-hynotizing themselves to believe that young David Kirkland is still alive; that their crass obliviousness toward their posterity did not lop off the most promising branch of their future from its rotted roots.
AFTERSCHOOL deserves a "detention"
AFTERSCHOOL is a raw movie, and not in a good way. Unlike ELEPHANT or THE LIFE BEFORE HER EYES or even ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, this offering from Connecticut does a very poor job of building tension toward a cathartic climax. Instead, it allows a promising premise of an underclassman's video class assignment inadvertently capturing a moment of drama on campus to dissipate, petering out through a collage of implausible plot points, poor characterizations, and limp dialog. AFTERSCHOOL is raw as in raw eggs, and who likes those, except ROCKY and other such masochists? Perhaps this movie could be taken as a "morning after" pill; an antidote to the over-sexed, all-powerful Van Wilders and Stiflers of the Wild Bunch school of campus film-making. But with the two main characters a high school sophomore and freshman at a boarding school, what drugs and sexual misbehavior happens here (such as a nonchalant stroll to nearby a campus dale overlooked by upper floor school windows for a muddy consensual double-deflowering in broad daylight) seem beyond the pale for even these pampered yidiots. (Of course, there WAS that related item of Alaskan high school news a while back . . . )
A critic named "Mercy"?!! C'mon, now!
I suppose there may be a few less likely names for a book critic than "Mercy," (Miss Illiterate Fool comes to mind), but surely there cannot be many. I do not think the New York Times would have a food column by-lined "Al L. Yucky." If the best guy for the job WAS actually named that, they would have him write his offerings under a more suitable pseudonym, such as "Pierre Frenchman" or something. It's hard not to imagine tons of texts from publishers/authors/publicity hacks arriving with every novel's proof exam copies sent to Mercy's employer along the lines of "Please have Mercy on me." As a long-time veteran of the book business, I cannot recall any critics going by the handle of "Mercy;" obviously, any that were born that way saw fit to update before breaking into the critiquing game. Furthermore, most asthmatics who are subject to dropping down dead from the least little attack wear their inhalers on lanyards, with back-ups in their pockets. That way, if a purse-snatching brings on an attack, it's not an automatic death sentence. If your car keys were the only thing keeping you alive for the next five minutes, would you be constantly losing or forgetting them?
Not fluff, and no one chokes to death on a bottle cap
Voters and message boarders dissing this movie no doubt want A)a happy ending, or B)inbred southern Gothic genre pulp along the lines of TEXA$ CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Unfortunately for them, Tennessee Williams--who wrote the screenplay for THE LOSS OF A TEARDROP DIAMOND--did not write stories with "happy endings." That is, unless the viewer is one of those sanctimonious self-deluded see-no-evil "silent majority" types who believes Blanche is better off relying on "the kindness of strangers" about to lobotomize her in the nuthouse at the close of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. As for southern Gothic pulp fiction, Williams himself was doomed to choke to death on a bottle cap, so why need he make up anything MORE implausible to give sensationalists some jollies? THE LOSS OF A TEARDROP DIAMOND has plenty of pathos to go around, without resorting to voodoo curses or hermaphrodite fortune tellers. Bryce Dallas Howard as Fisher does not need to eat any crappy pies from THE HELP in order to engage the sympathy of any right-minded viewers in her quest for as much normalcy as she can muster. By the movie's close Chris Evans as Jimmy manages to swallow his pride to join her in at least partially escaping the sins of their fathers.