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Criteria: below ten titles, only counting films and TV films, and with less than two known works (that's why you won't be seeing Heather O'Rourke here, just an example).
It left me horrified in just how bad it was
Either the viewer punch himself or herself for watching this or they find a way to punch the makers of this for actually pulling such a strange stunt that never gives us the taste for horror, just thrilling ourselves with screaming and blurred images that doesn't reveal anything with a huge flashlight in the middle of the screen. I knew "Nightlight" was going to become a waste of time but time was mine to be wasted and no money was involved so...yep, only in it to see how bad or laughable it could get and to have a glimpse of Mitch Hewer (main reason actually). Alright, I was on a great track of watching just good or great films that I needed to get some sense of reality in seeing a bad movie for a change. It didn't prove me wrong but got a lot weirder than I thought.
Scott Beck and Bryan Woods are the writers and directors of this thing, a story that revolves about a young and restless group of full of vanity, full of smiles and despicable and unlikeable behavior (played by Shelby Young, Mitch Hewer, Chloe Bridges, Taylor Murphy and Carter Jenkins) going to a forest at night to play a game called "Nightlight" carrying flashlights and cameras (which tell the story, so here's another found footage horror flick) boring the audiences but having fun among themselves in this place where Ethan, another teen (Kyle Fain) friend of theirs, committed suicide some time ago. The game revolves around blindfolding a member of the group and ask them to find them in the deep forest, hide and seek but the thrills of nature, sounds, voices, strange things going on...until mystery takes place, folks disappear, tumbling and falling and screaming on and on. Theories: a killer on the loose? Nope. Dangerous animals? Maybe. Cluless and clumsy teens walking around without knowing where they step? Perhaps. The ghost of Ethan? Most definitely, they think.
90 something minutes that seemed to go on forever. The minute you thought "that's the ending" the image got back and kept going endlessly. And was I scared? Not one minute. Was I amused? One or two times. There was some funny bits (like the girl revealing her sexual fantasy with the Grinch) or some cute moments (Hewer seducing the shy girl who actually likes the guy but hates to admit it) but those bits and pieces can't form a whole in which we can say we enjoyed it. But we are tired of the found footage trend in horror, that goes back to 1980 (those who dared to watch the great "Cannibal Holocaust") to later become hip and better used in "The Blair Witch Project" and "Cloverfield" and after those fore-mentioned examples it went all downhill. Each similar film goes by each year and not only it's not scary, they're boring and uninteresting but it also lacks in holding a deeper importance, a relevance to life. Not to mention, most of what's made today it's just cheap, poorly filmed and nauseating. It's all about scream and shaking images. And we're talking about a motion picture, one that should be able to create and present images we can all see. Characters fell from the hill or something in "Nightlight" and it's just the camera showing a nasty tumble and we're like "What?". Above all, the worst trait (plot hole maybe, or people are just THAT unconcerned) is that the five guys split to play the game and when things start going wrong one or two get together, start asking about one of the friends, they don't find any or maybe find one, and later on they stop asking about the other friends - the audience knows they're dead but the characters don't so how come they stop looking or asking about them? Insert facepalm.
And the trivia says this film was shot in 2013 and for unknown reasons was not released until 2015. Unknown? The makers were embarrassed by it and tried to buried it as deep as they could but since money talks (the people who invest $ will want $ and more back, obviously) the creature was unleashed to the dismay of frightening audiences - terrified with the trashy quality of the movie and not for the horror moments displayed there.
Getting back to the initial remarks, my conclusion goes that I can't punch the filmmakers because they're far away from me and I'm not a violent person anyway. I take this moment to say they should be ashamed of themselves for putting this thing to the world. There goes millions of dollars that didn't produce anything good. As for punching myself, one minor slap on the face is just good enough. I'll go back to the better movie experiences. Going to this bad one made me learn. 2/10
It's Like Life (2004)
To be seen after the movie
Another bonus material from "The Accidental Tourist" along with Lawrence Kasdan's introduction for the movie. The great thing about this short is seeing Geena Davis, Kathleen Turner and Kasdan interview clips from 1988, promoting the movie. The flip side of this...they reveal too much about the film, so if you're about to watch it, skip the bonus material because it's not a behind the scenes kind of thing, it's just rambling about the story (the short concludes with movie's ending so what in the world were Warner Bros. thinking???).
Too bad William Hurt was absent...but Kathleen Turner saves it by mentioning about their working relationship not only in "The Accidental Tourist" but also in "Body Heat" many years earlier (also under the guide of Kasdan) where they also played a couple. It's just one those pairings that work brilliantly in whatever genre they appear on. More to be said? No. Watch it but after the movie. It's good. 6/10
Kasdan talks about "The Accidental Tourist"
I have never understood much the concept of the DVD bonus material they call "Introduction by the director" or something on the lines of that since it's a lot better they present a making of material or audio commentary for the movie. However, I actually enjoyed this one for "The Accidental Tourist" mostly because writer/director Lawrence Kasdan is the one doing it and he's someone I've hardly ever seen speaking about his movies. And from what I've gathered here he's the real article, very genuine about he thinks not only about movies but life in general (there's a moment he actually quotes something from another masterpiece of his "Grand Canyon", which was made a few after "The Accidental Tourist").
Not gonna waste your time sharing the man's experiences on why he related so much with the movie, this is something you have to see for yourself. But I liked how that 1988 movie end up being one of the highest peaks in his career to the point where fans all over the world at one point expressed their opinions to Kasdan - personally or writing it - about how that movie was a positive influence in their lives. I've seen it in different times in life and there's always something new hidden or overlooked there that makes it more effective, relevant and enjoyable.
It's a nice and poignant introduction, specially for those who never seen the movie (William Hurt, Kathleen Turner and Geena Davis as the main cast, check it out). Though eloquent and positive with words, Kasdan appears a little off, somewhat distant. I'd like to believe that it was just his way of being, contrary to many other directors who always look enthusiastic of being interviewed for promotional materials like this. But nope...you can sense that all the negative reaction and vibes he got from "Dreamcatcher" released the year before this short, has taken its toll on the man who took a sabbatical period from movies before his quiet return in "Darling Companion" (2012). Please, return to directing Larry. We need a contemporary view of life and relationships like you extraordinarily showed to us, not only in "The Accidental Tourist" and "Grand Canyon" but also "The Big Chill" and "Mumford". 8/10
The Bathroom Mirror (2008)
Fine but lacks with deeper involvement
A supernatural force takes over a young man's bathroom, the title says it's all about the mirror but I think it's more than just that. All we know is that the man can't have a peaceful moment in that apartment without seeing strange visions and lights flashing on and off, closing with the strange presence of...usual plot twist device that always comes in horror films.
Steve Schmidt's "The Bathroom Mirror" owes its qualities more to its perfect selection of environment, the atmosphere surrounding it and the casting of Juan Carlos Arreaga as his star (the man is easy on the eyes, I must say, just on his boxers) than to actually presenting a frightening and tense story. It goes on too quickly and by the time we get the huge shift in the narrative, it's nothing but empty. To me, horror can only fulfill my enjoyment if the drama behind it is/was good. So, I had to use my imagination in order to liking it more than I did. Because we wonder. What goes on in this man's life that his only worries are the weird things happening in his home? He doesn't speak to anyone, doesn't answer the phone, or in the words of a great poetry "If you're so very good-looking why do you sleep alone tonight?". Instead, he watches "Nosferatu" on TV and then the worst comes. Well I wonder...
From the series it should go on with a longer length. Involving drama (but you have to imagine a little), but unmoved with its thrills. Still a thumbs up for me. 6/10
Screen Test: Lou Reed (Coke) (1966)
Warhol. Lou Reed. And Coke. Better than many of the company's intended commercials released in the years to come
A Warhol experiment just like many others from his earliest years by capturing simple acts in continuous long shots. This one, a screen test with Lou Reed holding a Coca-Cola bottle and drinking its content through the whole video, sometimes holding the bottle next to his face, almost as if promoting the brand. I don't think Coca was aware of the video, or even asked Warhol to make a promotional clip for them but let's face it, it was a nice way to sell the product. Even though while behind the dark shades and barely showing any detectable reaction, Mr. Lou Reed seemed to express a genuine liking for the drink, there's something to be admired with his appearance, a truly bad boy who knows how to appreciate simple acts of life, getting the taste of Coke. Ten times better than many of the planned commercials released by that company.
Andy Warhol made many of this screen test experiments with other artists (Nico, Edie Sedgwick, Dennis Hopper, etc.), possibly to present them in a different way we visualize them in their other medias, to gather a unique and different essence of the individual. While I absolutely adored the man's take with unknown figures such as "Eat" or "Blow Job", which were a lot longer than this 4 minutes clip, I don't felt it much compelling or of complete relevance.
Works as a testament of time, from a fascinating cultural period where you could get away with something simple like this unintended promotional video. 7/10
Springsteen. De Palma. And that lucky girl. Simply awesome
A Bruce Springsteen clip directed by Brian De Palma. Why do I need to say more? You should be watching this right now, specially if you're a fan of the boss or just curious in seeing how the creator of "Carrie" and "Scarface" can manage with a 1980's video clip. But I gotta follow the rules and try to come up with ideas about it. "Dancing on the Dark" has nothing infinitely special like many videos from that era, I admit. However, there's a whole magic to it that makes it interesting. After all, there's Mr. Springsteen and the E. Street Band performing on stage one of their greatest hits, the crowd is enthusiastic but...it's not a real show, it's staged cause it comes with a twist, a twist that resonated better and with more effort now instead of 1984.
Besides the song, the highlight of the video is when Bruce takes a pretty girl from the audience to join him on a dance. And the girls back then went like "Awww, lucky girl" or "That should have been me". Cut to years later and that girl got hugely famous and her very first step to that successful career started here dancing with Bruce and directed by De Palma. And that was Courteney Cox, light years from "Friends" and the "Scream" franchise. The camera simply loved her, from the moment there's this close-up with her and a friend, and she's all excited but shy, thinking she won't be the one picked by Bruce, and then the universe makes it all happen. They were perfect on stage, in tune. It's just one those special moments that you need to see and wonder about the life turns, or how Mr. De Palma actually succeed it with a "minor" project creating one of the most iconic moments of the 1980's and of course, just chill and enjoy "Dancing in the Dark", cause it's just a beautiful song. 9/10
El SMS (2015)
The cutest thing ever
From the series "major company embracing diversity" while showing some support to the LGBT community and widening perspectives to audiences, consumers and future consumers (even though, they'll lose some on the way...I've seen this happening and it's just ridiculous). The company taking the stance here is Coca Cola with this short film/commercial - not sure if some TV channel ever managed to show it because it's 8 minutes long - that presents two friends with a dilemma.
Better go back a little: a group of friends, in their pre-adolescent years, goes to the house of one of the guys from the group to play video game. The owner (A) and this other boy (B) are at the center of our focus. While they're "fighting" in the gaming universe, B keeps teasing A about his lack of decision in asking a girl out and things like that. Throughout their discussion and gaming, B's cellphone keeps receiving constant messages to which he doesn't even bother to look at. A moment of distraction from B and a moment of curiosity from A reveals what's was all about - not going without an attentive look to another member of the group who happened to keep texting some minutes earlier. Not gonna spoil the fun but careful readers already know what's at stake here and even the outcome (one thing is sure, it's hilarious yet it hits on the nerves).
"El SMS" is perfect for what it tries to accomplish. As a matter of creating conscience to all the topics they wanted to present (friendship, differences, or as they say "How far would go to protect a friend's secret?") and also in selling the product. For the conscience part, the movie surely creates a more colorful view of what being a gay teen is but a view that not only is necessary and hopeful but one that, if not truly real now, it might be in years to come to many realities all over the world. But I guess you can is already happening. In the brand sell department, Coca was far more wiser in using a vehicle such as that to present to audiences than many of their other product-placements used in countless films (specially the late 1980's when they owned Columbia Pictures, a time where that drink was mandatory in many of their hits "Blind Date" or miss "Leonard - Part 6"). But here in this short, they used it correctly, with interest, drama and energy. 5 minutes in and you wonder where's the product and what's its importance? Then it gets you in a truly effective way.
Not sure if the film was presented as a commercial and to what places was broadcast. All I know is that it was spoken in Portuguese (surprise!) despite being made in U.S. and written/directed by Dustin Lance Black ("Milk" script) - the one who really brought me to this. But it's still there on the internet for everyone to see and make their minds about it. I find it lovely, relevant, full of grace and with impressive acting by the kids Raphael Thomé, Pedro Loques and the uncredited third actor who holds a great importance in the story. This is like the cutest thing ever and I have to recognize that. 10/10
Oliver's Mind (2010)
With the traits and touches of "Psycho", "Halloween" and "Donnie Darko", the claustrophobic and suspenseful "Oliver's Mind" follows a schizophrenic teenager who refuses to take his meds thinking he can cope with things without them, but what comes on the news isn't much helpful with reports about a killer on the loose right on his neighborhood. The teen in question is Oliver (James Edwards), who lives with his caring mother (Renee Gelbard Haubner), always protective of the boy and the one who has to deal with his visions and uncontrolled episodes, taken to a far extreme with what he saw on TV. Oliver snaps for real when he senses that the mysterious killer is closer than he thought and now is up to him to warn his mom about the dangers they face. You probably know what comes next.
Creators Matthew Rosenbaum and Jacob Friedman surely made a thrilling project, filled with suspense and a certain dose of humor (which, actually, should be completely removed from the story, it looked way too forced). They know how to build tension and confusion, and make you care for the characters, something extremely hard to find these days. However, the B-movie quality doesn't help the project in any way. It feels cheap, almost amateurish. And the digital video looked odd, without much quality. You can make film about simple (or weird) things, but the trick is try to not look too simplistic and for the plenty of references found here (and I think they're quite obvious to catch), one could mix all that and develop something beyond a conventional slasher/ psychological thriller film.
No harm was done, it's filled with good qualities and there's a nice conclusion to it as well. And it stays with you for some time. Maybe it was just me, trying to imagine a more detailed and longer film with layers and layers and complicated plot twists. That could and should happen. 7/10
Tierra y pan (2008)
The more you look, the deeper it gets
Desolation and misery in the objective way most people tend to watch or try to avoid seeing is the way director Carlos Armella presents his poetic and sensitive short film "Tierra Y Pan" ("Land and Bread"). A suttle camera movement (as the director calls it) whose frames at first involves a restless dog tied to a fence, but the more the camera slowly moves, we get a different focus on another big story taking place with that first image in the background still calling our attention.
A desert space, a small shack on the left side, the dog's still there barking and moving to the presence of a kid, then a pregnant woman, than a man, a doctor, all through the afternoon. At first, the setting seems a different era, from a relatively distant past but then we see a pickup truck and another conception is formed in our minds. Armella presents a classic technique where the more backwards we go, the more we realize how the context can be changed and be truly presented. The picture as a whole can only be formed when we move backwards, at a certain distance, while the story progresses forward. And then everything changes drastically.
It's not like a short film can be easily spoiled but I preferred to talk more about the way everything unfolded than to reveal about the what and why the story is important...despite the film having a certain topic to cover with all the transitions going on. The technique was brilliantly presented, an amazing cinematographic work that really takes you to that place for a brief moment, no dialogues, with the sound treatment focusing on what's happening all around: the barks, the movements, and the most important of all...the sound of the wind. Chilling.
Watch it and make your own conclusions. It's evident that there's a great relevance to life, specially the situations we tend to overlook or avoid, Makes you get a different perspective at the end of it all. 8/10
Remembering "Philadelphia" and its legacy
This review comes with a few months of delay. I could have sworn that I'd written something about it way back in time but checking the page again I've noticed there were no reviews on it, and I was like "What? Where's my thoughts on it?" Probably kept thinking so much about writing it that I might have forgotten. Anyway, here comes...with the best I can remember.
A decade after the release of "Philadelphia" cast and crew from that movie made this bonus material documentary for the movie in which they reveal the making of the movie and the impact it had on society back in 1993. We have Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Jonathan Demme, Antonio Banders and others sharing their experiences about what would become Hollywood's film landmark about AIDS, presented to a mainstream audience. We don't need to go back and say that this was THE movie that brought attention to the topic and the huge hit it was, awards and Oscars and such, even though there were other films about the topic made from 1980's and on ("Longtime Companion" was also nominated for an Oscar but who saw it besides the target audience?). Everyone involved discuss how controversial the ideas explored could have been - it deals with race issues, gay issues, AIDS, homophobia, family relations, legal process - and Hanks/Andrew Beckett story was taken from a real case that actually ended quite different from the movie (search for Geoffrey Bowers) and the deceased family even sued the film's producers from using plenty of Bowers events into the movie without giving him credit - the documentary doesn't discuss this, and the suit was resolved through a deal with the family.
I liked this movie in the way everybody seems honest about talking about the project, their expectations and motivations in going with the theme, hugely important to be dealt and to be presented to the mass audiences, still prejudiced and biased about HIV/AIDS and the people living with it, and the movie certainly brought the topic to the table of many families and people out there and it's a reference in a way - but 1993 gave us also two other films on the issue, "And the Band Played On" and the documentary "The Broadcast Tapes of Dr. Peter", great projects but under the radar of most people. Demme and company discuss matters of production, what they knew about the disease and who they knew who had it, they talk about many actors who had AIDS and had bit parts in the film and Ron Vawter's casting incident, one of the bravest fights ever taken by a director. Vawter was suffering from the disease and was cast in one important supporting role, he was a favorite actor of Demme - he starred in "The Silence of the Lambs". However, the studio was afraid of putting him in the movie in such notable role since they thought of him as a risk, he was insurable, could die at any moment to which Demme thought "Are we having this conversation about discrimination on a film that deals with this very same problem?" The director won the fight and now we all see Vawter playing one of the film "villains". I knew about this story before the documentary but it was nice to see Demme talking about it.
What I didn't know much and was quite surprised was the criticism after the movie's release. All positive reviews and such, as those behind the scenes flicks tend to go but they focused on the negative reaction they received from Larry Kramer - I read later on. A movie gets truly interesting when it focus on many different views and references. I have plenty of respect for Kramer for plenty of obvious reasons (being an anti-status quo in the gay community counts a heck of a lot) but I was disappointed with his negative review - I understand the criticism that "Philadelphia" is made to present a comfortable-for-straight view of gays, without display of affection and such (Demme talks about a deleted scene with Banderas and Hanks on bed having a small talk, scene cut from the final picture) and that particular story about discrimination and courtroom thing, but I don't dismiss Ron Nyswaner's script as being worthless or not valid. Considering the time, "Philadelphia" had to be presented that way to make people interested enough in seeing, and to find ways to dedicate themselves to the cause of AIDS as something that happened, was real and could be present among their families, friends, co-workers and all. A little bit of a positive and real portrayal of gays in the film would be enough in "Philadelphia" because dealing with 90% of homphobia spewed out of most of the characters was traumatizing and damaging enough to someone who saw this a kid. But sure, on the other hand, one may wonder: why on earth Hollywood couldn't thinking of adapting Kramer's genial play "The Normal Heart" into a film back then? We had to wait until 2014 when HBO moved on and made it - but they made the perfect film.
This ramble of opinions might have look sidetracked and not even close to my original thought review. But "People Like Us: Making Philadelphia" is something to be seen. Relevant, curious and filled with good and sad memories from the people involved. 9/10