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The Last Day of August (2012)
Excellent debut feature film
Caught this film at the Gotham Film Festival. It tells the story the impact of a life altering car accident on four friends; an accident which has left the protagonist, Dan, a paraplegic. Seeming to have cut ties, Dan has fled NYC and escaped to his family's house upstate where he has eased into a new and less challenging day to day existence. When his friends arrive unexpectedly with plans to convince him to move home, they are all forced to deal with the fallout that the crash has had on ALL of their lives. While some of the new company Dan keeps may not be the best influences, others may turn out to be healthier and more important than he realized before, and more than his old friends would like to believe. I found this film to be a fresh look at a familiar subject (that being the after-effects of a traumatic event). The pace, the dialogue and acting are all very natural, and flow very well. There are moments of unexpected humor; this is not a "dark" film, considering the subject matter, and what I really like is that no one character is absolutely right or wrong. There are several subtle plot twists that keep you from judging certain characters and relationships. This is a debut feature film from the director and the writers, and very well done.
One Eyed King (2001)
OK story, Great Cast
OK, so it's no "State of Grace", so it's no "Departed". Let's suspend the need to compare it to other movies about the Irish mob, or what it's like in urban Irish-American neighborhoods. The story is a little scattered, and it's a little hard to believe that Helen spends so much time resenting Frankie and then just does a complete 360 and wants to be with him. What stands out here is the cast. Armand Assante and Chazz Palminteri, while maybe a little mis-cast, turn in some impressive performances. These actors make you forget they're not really Irish (even though their characters are supposed to be)because they're so good at what they do. William Baldwin certainly shows some versatility, Connie Britton (who you may remember from Brothers McMullen) really makes you believe her heartbreak, and maybe a surprise to some of you is the scene stealing performance from Jim Breuer, as the least tainted member of the "brotherhood" who's girlfriend gets pregnant. He ends up as a hysterical deer-in-the-headlights when confronted by her father and the parish priest.
This movie is at least worth a rental.
The Changeling (1980)
Original and inventive film, not your typical ghost story.
While on vacation, composer John Russell helplessly witnesses the death of his beloved wife and child. In an attempt to process his grief and start over, he takes a job offer across the country. He rents an immense mansion and starts work at the local university.
Things which at first seem typical of an old house start happening, noises, etc. But as these occurrences intensify into undeniably supernatural events, John finds himself pulled into a complex and terrifying mystery that he puts all the usual fears aside and purses the answers to relentlessly.
What struck me about this film is how really heartbreaking it is. You feel George C. Scott's devastation over and over again. His grief is so palpable that it seems this is the very reason that the spirit in the house connects with him. He is told by outsiders that the house "doesn't want" anyone to live there, but he alone is permitted to stay, and he is the one resident of this house that the spirit reaches out to because he is a man who would give anything in the world to have been able to save the ones he lost.
This is a classic, and by far superior to many films in this genre. An interesting side note is that the reel-to-reel recording of the séance is the earliest foray I've seen into what would now be EVP.
Playing with Mr. Greeley (1997)
Very Well Done Indie - May Contain Spoilers
A friend of mine owns this one on VHS. I saw it recently and was really impressed by the writing. It's a true indie so I didn't know any of the actors, but the story is great and I love the direction, particularly in the film's darkest moments.
I'm not challenging a prior reviewer's thoughts on some of the actors being "wooden", but I think that maybe they might have misinterpreted something. I believe this was probably deliberate, possibly to demonstrate the protagonist's boredom with his life.
The character of Mr. Greeley is anything but wooden. He's a feisty old codger, which is why you don't pity him when his life is suddenly being messed with.
I would love to see this one get a run on IFC or on the Sundance Channel.