Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Berberian Sound Studio (2012)
A giallo twist on "Barton Fink," derailed by geekiness
Analog audio nerds and Fangoria contributing editors will love it, but for everybody else the surrealistic-horror-to-comedy balance is out of whack. Instead of being darkly amusing it's more often awkwardly dark -- with all their scrupulous attention to period detail and vintage equipment they should've sought some input on pacing and editing. The concept depends on a bunch of stereotypical Italians, specifically Italian exploitation movie folks, who straddle the line between fearsome and ridiculous, in a culture clash with the nebbishy unnerved Brit they've brought on to their diabolical mission. The trouble is that the protagonist just isn't comically fluent, so that even the rare bits of humor make him seem disturbing instead of disturbed. He's hilariously awkward when stabbing into fresh produce to make sound effects but dissonant for the purpose of obvious jokes such as the mundane letters he's shown reading from his mother. Nevertheless I was enjoying the first 60 minutes or so, before they went film school and gave up the ironic detachment for a psychedelic collage project (for that I could've just watched the real thing from Mario Bava or Dario Argento instead). Rather than restraining itself to the flavor of the genre this one wanders too deep into homage.
Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)
Cheesy 3D gimmicks with cheesier PC clichés
As a native Californian I've noted the tendency in one of our few remaining industries -- i.e. unoriginal "reboots" of movies that were way better left alone -- to unceasingly mock hayseed cowboy-hatted melanin-deficient Texans (occasionally, as in today's lesson, indicating them as the Root Of All Evil); but the conceptual choice here to bash on a stereotyped Deep-South-plus-Wild-West region standing in for the 28th state is a bizarre twist on the paradigm of the franchise, which had typically involved unwitting semi-sophisticated Austinites (or equivalent) captured by straightforward rural savages, no caricatured hero/villain template required. Probably it'll come as no surprise they've inverted that basic relationship: the bad guy isn't really bad, just misunderstood, or victimized by hicks, or by outsourcing, or something. That's our Leatherface, the gentle giant... Isn't it swell the final girl makes peace with him? Mere water under the bridge that he chopped up her (lesser) male friend; kidnapped her trashy two-timing female frenemy for slaughter; and essentially (via van destruction) killed her significant other Trey Songz, who despite questionable driving decisions, the only nice guy in the movie, unless the ineffectual wimpy Sheriff "Hooper" is counted. Paltry highlights from this cash-in include a crass but funny homage to the freezer gag in the original, and the intermittent attempted shirt-wearing of Alexandra Daddario who's got more jiggles than a bowl of Lake Jackson gelatin -- turns out they do grow everything bigger out there
The Border (2008)
Hilariously bad Canuck imitation of 24
Since I enjoyed/found amusing "Canadian NYPD Blue" (aka "Da Vinci's Inquest" which the ABC-Disney affiliates play in the middle of the night) I thought I'd give this a try -- what a howler. Can't really say if the actors playing these stressed-out customs agents are to blame when their lines invariably sound like "CSI"/"Criminal Minds" Mad Libs. Every male in the cast spends the whole show on macho posturing with copious pretend-threatening of non-scary hoodlums' lives (exception being the token computer geek whose braggadocio manifests somewhat differently) though the most absurd role by far is the butt-kicking British spy babe. A few characters who aren't government employees are just really dull instead. This being a Toronto setting bureaucratic turf warfare is the #1 plot staple, because apparently these agencies are just too uniformly competitive and efficient for their own good, unlike every other government. Another recurring theme/cliché I picked up is that Mounties are feared + respected worldwide for their elite training and tactical prowess, lol
Gimmicky, underdeveloped in places, overall overloaded-but-diverting
B+ concept; C for execution; a solid B on entertainment value. It's hardly some sleeper classic waiting to be discovered, merely a nifty spin on the new cinema-verite wave the "Paranormal Activity" franchise has inflicted upon us. Those aggrieved folks who've taken to the Internets to complain about motion sickness and the unsteady photography, now a dozen-plus years after the Blair Witch bonanza, are mostly revealing their own naivete or stupidity; likewise the wannabe intellectual deploying his or her wide vocabulary in the cause of calling these characters "sexist" "d-bag" "bros" etc.--have you never seen a horror movie before? This would not make the Top 5,000 list of most misogynistic slasher/splatter/stalker/Satanist/vampire/party-clown films; but seeing it in the context of an amateur recording sure puts that behavior in a different light, doesn't it...
The prime flaw of VHS lies with the frame plot, which is difficult to get into, harder to follow, and at the end of the day just not a very good cover to furnish an excuse for a bunch of high-concept experimental horror shorts. These "lost footage" chapters of the film are reliably enjoyable in sequence despite having nothing, at all, to do with each other. Generally I felt they worked better as black comedy than suspense-thriller pieces, with the common flavor of cynical humor which was subtle in some, more overt in others (on the patented Goldilocks scale the first tape is just right). The Camp Crystal Lake parody segment directed by Glenn McQuaid is neither scary nor coherent, yet manages to stay weirdly compelling for all of its brief run. It's a bit like that with each of these "analog" micro-tales and leaves you hoping for someone with more narrative vision & other resources to pick up where VHS leaves off.
Wall Street (1987)
I seem to always hear how "accurate" and "realistic" this movie is in regard to the late 1980s and the finance sector, typically from people who've never looked at the business section of their local paper once. That shouldn't determine how entertaining the film is, and doesn't (if you put it on in the background while doing something else). I'd seen it twice before and after catching a cable TV showing a decade later was surprised at the creaky screenplay and acting. Michael Douglas's entire performance is good enough for his own highlight reel but everyone else in it just left me groaning, even Charlie Sheen's dad as the blue-collar old-fashioned salt-of-the-earth stock character. Rather than a piercing glimpse into the world of the high rollers the supposedly brilliant writing here unfolds more like a dumbed-down adaptation Liars' Poker sans the humor. Sample genius: beginning with "1985" flashed importantly across the screen, a few minutes before John C. McGinley sarcastically comments on the Challenger disaster (then again, this is Oliver Stone, who very well may believe that random bond traders in Manhattan all possessed early inside information about faulty O-rings).
Låt den rätte komma in (2008)
Not a "fun" horror movie by any stretch--this is more of a feel-bad heartbreaker not for the whole family. Haven't seen the U.S. remake and indeed can't think of any American film with such a range from sad to strange to disturbing, or sometimes all three at once. The setting is an especially bleak corner of 1980s Sweden, putting you into the appropriate dismal mood before much screen time has elapsed; the infrequent bits of comic relief nearly seem accidental. Dialogue is very slight and there were a few nagging points never filled in. On the other hand it has so many unpleasant plot turns already that not everybody can digest them in one sitting (I couldn't, and had to go for a quixotic pause after around 40 minutes in).
The only big false note to me was the build-up to the penultimate, semi-absurd scene before the closing shot, because a) enough horrible things have happened by now, one begins to feel they're laying it on a bit thick; and b) it ends up contradicting a fundamental of the female lead established quite powerfully in the beginning: namely, that she's a weak, tragic outcast--akin to Oskar in a superficial sense-- instead of a traditional movie-monster vampire. Still, the whole performance by Lina Leandersson is the phenomenal quality of this production, simultaneously frightening and pitiable, and seemingly so self-tormented (Alfredson deserves a lot of credit for not surrendering to a simplistic resolution of that question). Considering the screen actresses who go their entire careers without a role this distinctive I can only imagine her typecasting quandary now. I would be remiss not to also mention Elif Ceylan here, who provided the character's eerie, threatening voice that's profoundly creepy no matter which languages you understand. If you make it to the end of this one you'll certainly never be able to forget young Elli.
Pet Sematary (1989)
The cat came back
Despite having one of the sillier premises you'll find among Stephen King's folk-macabre/"bizarre Americana" tales, this movie is a lot more fun than the standard horror fare, probably because it cleaves to an obvious but coherent story arc with a clear underlying theme. The primitive FX and spates of careless writing & acting don't undermine the viewing experience; even with major plot turns I could see from a mile off, I still felt the need to watch it unfold. Plus you've got Fred Gwynne, the Ramones, and a nice cameo from the literary genius himself halfway through. In my mind the only grating aspect here was the overused trope of the clairvoyant little girl. Can't imagine how they'll handle things in the hypothetical remake by Guillermo del Toro (!) but whatever its flaws, this one at least moves along briskly and keeps it simple.
Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)
Barely-there plot meets overheated paranoia
For a psych thriller this one's not very deeply plotted. It's "atmospheric," yet not quite "moody"/sentimental, which means it occasionally dances over the line into dullness n' torpor. The cult- escapee premise needs work--judging from the interest in Elizabeth Smart (likely antecedent to this film) this story has many elements of a compelling drama reflecting broader social themes. However MMMM never gets beyond the morally ambiguous territory of weird folks pursuing a weird agenda. For me the eeriest part was all the actors resembling other actors who they are, in fact, not. (Hollywood exhibits the will to homogeneity? The hell you say!)
But it's really more than just the obvious case of the lead: after a few scenes with the older sister character I'm thinking, "Wow, this role is quite a departure for Kristen Wiig..."
Minority Report (2002)
Showing its age
Saw this in the original theatrical run and was impressed at the time. It exceeded my hopes for an adaptation of one of Philip K. Dick's best stories. Flash forward 10 years and I wonder what I ever saw in it (the film, that is). Visually it holds up, though the CGI segments are looking shabby already. Action scenes are well paced, plot nuances are treated deftly. Some of the supporting roles are badly miscast--I laughed out loud at the abrupt appearance of Mike "Mind of the Married Man" Binder--but Peter Stormare and Jason Antoon were both great and Max von Sydow probably carries the film.
Still the preponderance of bad easily obscures the good. The clever bits are more or less forgettable, while Spielberg's knack for clichés and remarkably immature sense of humor stink up the film (like when the robot spiders canvass the apartment building, or when Cruise chomps down on some spoiled food, etc. etc.) Then there are the pervasive cornball Spielbergisms--anybody who remembers Close Encounters, Hook, Jurassic Park, and the rest knows what I mean. The primordial will to schmaltz is always right below the surface, even during his most imaginative and skillful storytelling. I think the worst might be when the precog is narrating to Cruise and his sickly-looking waif/wife about their kid going off to college and falling in love, blah blah blah (this unbearable moment of fake drama is soon shattered in a preposterous shift).
With the last 20 minutes the movie degenerates rapidly. In retrospect, an oddly mediocre effort!
Feels like purgatory
Technically competent yet unexpectedly boring vanity project. I loved Clerks but had skipped this when it came out because the premise seemed overly cute. In an idle moment this weekend I started it up and couldn't get through more than a few scenes at a time without stopping to check basketball scores or get back to some much-needed house cleaning, which was still less of a chore than lengthy bouts of plot exposition dialogue between the Alan Rickman character and the preternaturally dull Linda Fiorentino.
If a precocious Matt Damon explaining some trivial point of Roman Catholic legalism at a mall or an airport or whatever sounds cool, then this may be right up your alley. Plus there are tacked-on scenes of violence and various celebrity cameos. This could have been a good comic book.