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The Reconciler (2014)
Two people wake up to find themselves locked in an abandoned warehouse with no memory of how they got there. They are prisoners, but why? That premise sounds like something you would expect in a horror movie like "Saw," not a faith-based drama, but that's precisely the story here. In "The Reconciler," an unseen puppet master who traps people and forces them to reconcile their differences. Or die.
I am a fan of faith-based films, but I must admit that I grow tired of the steady diet of "pastors- with-a-crisis-of-faith" dramas. I want faith-based films to embrace all genres and tackle all sorts of subjects. Therefore, I applaud the filmmakers for taking a chance on a film that the more stodgy members of the audience might reject. I hope they don't. This film, directed with panache by Shawn Justice, and featuring some nice performances, particularly by the Steel twins, is well-worth a look.
The Basement (2014)
Good End Times Film
A disparate group of people seek shelter in the basement of a church after an event which appears to be the Rapture occurs. I have seen quite a few faith-based End Times films. Personally, I feel the genre has been played out, but this film, directed by Cynthia L. Leon and Gary Voelker, found some new wrinkles as it let issues within the church like racism, unforgiveness and hypocrisy play out. There is a edgy honesty to the script that I found refreshing for a faith-based film. The Rapture itself was handled very well considering the budget. The film also features some good performances, particularly from Patrick Vann who plays a young skeptic who knows more about faith than the so-called Christians who find themselves left behind. I look forward to seeing more films from Ms. Leon and Mr. Voelker.
It Follows (2014)
It Follows -- pretty well for a while
A young woman finds herself being followed by a slow moving but unstopping supernatural entity after having sex with a young man she hardly knows. After making her a target through sexual intercourse, the young man explains the rules: The entity will follow you, and eventually kill you when it reaches you, if you don't pass it on by having sex with someone else. It is a creepy premise that starts off very well. The cinematography and music are moody and atmospheric. Sadly, after such a good start, the movie falls apart in the second half. It's as if the filmmakers didn't know how to end the film. Still, it was well worth watching. I look forward to seeing another film from the director.
The Prince (2014)
Jason Patric goes all Liam Neeson when his daughter disappears in this disappointing rip-off of "Taken" with a little "John Wick" thrown in for good measure. I enjoy a modestly budgeted shoot-'em-up every now and then but I found this one sad. The action, obviously, wasn't as good as the action in "Taken" or "John Wick," and I accepted that. Big action needs a big budget. What hurt here was the flat and somewhat incoherent script. A better script would have solved most of this film's problem -- aside from the casting. I felt bad for Bruce Willis and John Cusack. Have their careers fallen to the point that they would take substandard supporting roles like this just for a paycheck? It is particularly sad because, no offense to Jason Patric, I think Willis or Cusack would have brought more panache to the lead role. I suppose the producers couldn't afford them for the entire shoot....
Geez. Where to start? I guess with a plot summary. Here goes. A woman, in the midst of a breakup with her lesbian lover, gets drunk and drugged at a party and finds herself date- raped by a man who gives her the worst, yet ultimately unexplained, STD in history.
To me, the big question is why I watched it all the way through.
It is incredibly heavy-handed in its safe sex posturing. It's practically an after school special -- with excessive gore. I didn't buy the relationships, but, mostly, I didn't buy the doctor. No doctor would let a woman with those symptoms leave his office the first time without sending her to the ER. On her second visit, the doctor would have locked her in the examination office and waited for the CDC to show up. Also, her mother or her friends would have physically dragged her to the hospital. Also, no restaurant owner would allow a waitress with "pink eye" prepare food or wait tables.
Overall, too, I couldn't help but feel that the writer/director was expressing some deep-seated fear of female sexuality.
Didn't like it.
House Hunting (2013)
Good Premise/Poor Execution
A strange supernatural barrier prevents two house-hunting families from leaving the estate of a house they visited. Whenever they try to leave, they always find themselves back at the front door. This is certainly a good premise for a horror movie. It would be ideal for an episode of The Twilight Zone, but Rod Sterling would have properly milked the implications of the premise. The two families, which seethe with tensions and secrets, seem to accept to readily their imprisonment. They don't bother to explore the most basic questions. Why specifically are they trapped in the house? Do they have any links to the place or each other? More importantly, they also have a survivor from a previous imprisonment with them. Although she had been rendered mute by the removal of her tongue, she is intelligent and certainly able to communicate, but they don't even bother to ask her questions for the most part. Still, the film manages to convey some tension and suspense. It also benefits from some good performances. However, it falls apart completely at the end. Near the end we discover that at least one member of each family had some connection to the family that originally lived in the house. Unfortunately, that ruins the film because it ends with two more families being drawn into the building. Did both of those families also wrong the original occupants? What about the two families that we trapped in the house prior to the start of this film. Did they also wrong the original occupants? It doesn't make sense that all of those people have a personal connection to the spirits in the house.
The Catechism Cataclysm (2011)
The Joke Is On The Audience
This film sat on my Netflix queue for a long time before I finally got around to watching it. Perhaps I should have waited longer. Then, perhaps, I would understand what it was all about. I know the film was supposed to be funny, but ultimately I think the joke was on me. In the film, an absurdly childish priest Father William, played by an unbelievably annoying Steve Little, is forced to take some time off by his superiors. He decides to contact his high school idol Robbie Shoemaker, played by Robert Longstreet, to take a little trip with him. Robbie agrees for no good reason. The two meander down a river on a raft purposelessly and seeming endlessly until you start praying for something, anything to happen. It does when two Japanese tourists and their black bodyguard show up. Sadly, what happens doesn't make any sense either. I have no idea what the filmmaker intended. Steve Little was simply too absurd for the film play as meaningful religious satire. I am giving the film three stars for the soundtrack. John R. Butler's sacrilegious ditty, Hand of the Almighty, is almost worth the price of admission.
Below Zero (1930)
Below Zero - An amiable comedy
Laurel and Hardy play two street musicians whose success seems limited by the snowy weather, their choice of material (In The Good Old Summertime), and location, i.e., playing in front of a school for the deaf. Their luck changes when they find a cash-filled wallet, but changes for worse again when they invite the local cop out to dinner with them only to discover that it was his wallet!
This film is not one of their classics, but is an amusing film. Laurel and Hardy display their normal interplay. The supporting cast of regulars is excellent. The film simply doesn't build to true comic hilarity -- despite ending with one of their odd "grotesque" gags. It simply finds an amiable pace and tempo and stays with it which is more than good enough for me.
Worth a look.
The Dilemma (2011)
The Dilemma -- What To Do When You're Movie Isn't Funny?
Vince Vaughn and Kevin James are best friends and business partners trying to enjoy a perfectly happy bromance until Vaughn catches James' wife having an affair. What to do? I was actually kind of upbeat about this film when I first heard about it. The plot had potential. The actors were good. More importantly, it seemed to be right in the wheelhouse of the good, old Ron Howard, the man who directed "Night Shift," "Cocoon," and "Splash." You know, back before he became an "important" filmmaker.
I wanted to see this film in the movies, but it disappeared too fast for me to see it there. That should have told me all I needed to know. It just didn't work. Howard just never found the balance between the comedy and the drama. Interestingly, most of the comedy was left in the hands of Vaughn rather than James. Vaughn has been struggling of late and, I hate to say it, getting a little too long in the tooth to keep playing this character over and over again. None of his comic set pieces worked. James, on the other hand, is a fine comic actor, but was given too much of the drama and he doesn't have the acting chops for it.
I was really disappointed. Had this story been shot in 1936 at Paramount, it probably would have been a great screwball comedy. It probably would have been a fun, mainstream "racy" sex farce in the 1960s. One thing is certain. Now was not the time for this story -- at least with these people involved.
Come back, Ron. I miss you.
Brats -- L&H's first talkie classic
Stan and Ollie try to spend quiet evening at home while the wives are out but find their quiet constantly interrupted by their children, also played by Stan and Ollie, who are definitely chips off the old Blockheads.
It is obvious that a great deal of time and money was lavished on this short, as evidenced by all of the over-sized props and furnishings constructed to create the illusion of the boys as, well, boys. It also seems as if more attention was given to the photography of this short as well. Technically, across the board, it was there best sound short to date.
There is essentially no real plot -- only a series of Stan and Ollie's adult diversions being interrupted by younger Stan and Ollie's childish antics. The gags, for the most part, consist of the simple slapstick at which Laurel & Hardy excelled, but the novelty of the situation gives it a fresh perspective. The humor also builds toward a large, climactic gag.
A novelty, yes, but a classic. A must see for people interested in the team.