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When Do We Eat? (2005)
Great Film Falls Down at Very End.
I loved the film, as did so many others. The film is a great depiction of a Seder attended by a moderately dysfunctional family. The premise of psychedelic enlightenment bringing peace among a contention group is far from outlandish. The director should have played the theme right out to the end.
It's one major shortcoming, in fact, is the tacked on final scene that essentially negates the entire premise of the movie. The director's commentary indicates that the scene was not in the original draft. They should have used that original draft. This was a cop out, a pulled punch. Otherwise this would be worth an 8 or 9 star rating.
Dreams in the Witch House -- A Very Worthwhile Effort!
As a long time appreciator of Lovecraft's work, I would simply like to thank Mr. Gordon for his effort. Dreams in the Witch House remains one of my favorite Lovecraft tales. Mr. Gordon has done a commendable job with respect to this piece. I have often wondered what would be involved in rendering Lovecraft's better tales for the screen without botching the job totally. Here Mr. Gordon demonstrates what can be done on a limited budget with a short Lovecraftian story.
All told, it's a shame someone doesn't hand him carte blanche to try his hand at one of Lovecraft's more ambitious works. Wouldn't if be fine to see a respectable rendition of something like "At the Mountains of Madness" or "The Rats in the Walls"? As for my personal favorite, "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward," it's been done (Vincent Price, et al, qv) but wouldn't it be nice to see it done right and without so much of the tongue-in-cheek?
One of the Worse Films Recently!
I'm sorry. I've seen some really bad horror flicks in my time, but this one just about took the cake. Bad acting, bad monsters, lousy plot. I hope the investors lost their shirts. This was such a waste of time. There are so many decent horror & suspense stories waiting to be filmed, why bother with this crap? I don't know, and really wouldn't care but for having wasted the time on it.
BTW, this comes from someone who truly appreciates a good horror film. Hoew did the history of film-making in this genre ever degenerate into this? Give me old Hammer films, or modern ones like Alien (1,2,3,4) any time. Give me a low-budget Lovecraft rip (e.g. Dagon). Even give me Attack of the Killer Tomatoes or a Troma flick. This Feast had no redeeming virtues, might better have been called "Famine."
The U.S. vs. John Lennon (2006)
A John Lennon Retrospective -- He Gave Peace a Chance
One of the younger reviewers commented:
"I couldn't help but compare the era and social climate around this movie to what we are experiencing today. I am disturbed and disappointed. Why is it that it seemed as if there were loads more people being active in what they believed back in those days. I understand that it was a different time, and many in the world were just learning to use their voices... Perhaps we feel that we just don't know enough about a subject to get behind it and speak out? ... Perhaps large protests are just being overlooked because we as viewers or the media is over it... I am just wondering why I haven't done more. Why does it seem as if people today (not just my "generation" or my "community") are fearful or apathetic towards fighting for what they think is right? I don't want to preach or be dramatic here - I'm not telling you to view things my/their/our/its/his/her way. I'm just saying, I can't imagine that we've gone through life without seeing some sort of injustice - there has to be something you've seen that you think is wrong... why not say something about it? Is being charitable enough anymore? Awareness is key. Why is there this silence amongst us?"
Perhaps I'm being too simplistic, but I've often thought as a survivor of the Viet-Nam era, that the main reason we haven't seen protests of the magnitude depicted in The US vs John Lennon in recent times is simply the absence of the draft. Plenty of people again object to the war situation, but without the threat of involuntary servitude there simply is no critical mass. The fear of self, friends, and family being rounded up and shot proved great motivation to get people out in the streets back then. The censorship of the media imposed since Viet-Nam (embedded journalists, qv) has also helped still the voices.
So at the very least, this film has helped present an historical perspective all but absent in the present day. Viet-Nam so divided the country that the divisions remain today. Yet that war is curiously neglected in our educational curricula.
Beyond that is revealed a portrait of John Lennon, artist and young man. Lennon, the single one of the Four who strove at great personal cost to better the world with far more than silly love songs is revealed here in a montage of film and stills that conveys far more than the press of the time was able or wiling to.
The film opens with footage from his 1971 appearance at the John Sinclair Freedom Rally at Crisler Area in Ann Arbor, Michigan. As a former UM Ann Arbor Student I particularly appreciate how the producers of the film illustrate the pivotal nature of that event. At the time the event seemed like a big deal locally, but one that was lost amongst the din of social commotion. As close as I was geographically, I didn't realize then just how influential Lennon's (or Sinclair's) involvement was in the successful movement to end the war.
I suggest that any student (young or older) of how that peace movement progressed back then should see this film. Serious students should see it more than once. In addition to the collection of seldom seen film footage, there is a very fine sound track. See the film on the big screen if you can. I'll put my order in for the DVD as soon as it can be had, but the big screen, hi-fi version rocks.
An Interesting Recap of Deliverance
A fun romp in the woods, even if obviously derivative of the 1972 classic Deliverance with just a hint of the recent sitcoms "The Office" (choose your version -- US or UK). The boss man is yours, ours, but finally mined. Civilized folks who just happen to work for a major munitions manufacturing concern travel deep into uncharted backwater woods. This time around the scene is in Hungaria or somewhere thereabouts. There our heroes encounter uncivilized savages, and of course, their own respective hearts of darkness. This time it's not Georgia (USA) hillbillies, but crazed war vets (Georgians maybe?) from the former eastern bloc.
Does anyone squeal like a pig? Watch and see! There is one cute scene towards the end in which the high tech weaponry fails to get the heroes out of a bind, but apparently brings down a commercial aircraft. Decent cinematography, decent though predictable character development.
Dagon is a Worthy Effort
I am an old Lovecraft fan from way back. Usually I'm disappointed with film efforts that attempt to translate his work to video. How odd that an author with such historical influence and so many derivatives should seldom be done justice.
So, it was with considerable pleasure that I became acquainted with the present effort, Dagon. I'm a hard but fair grader. I give it seven stars. This is all the more impressive since it was obviously done independently and on a slim budget that would shame a major studio effort by contrast.
Dagon is well worth a viewing or three.
Buck Rogers (1939)
Buck - N - Buddy
Buck Rogers as rendered in this serial is a far cry from the comic strip. Somehow, the producers & director managed to create what amounts to a pale shadow of the original strip. The sets used in the 1939 Buck Rogers series are painfully and obviously recycled from the prior Flash Gordon series. Not only that, but some of the film sequences seem to be recycled shamelessly (e.g. the sequences of the underground subways).
For anyone who wonders about the genesis of the homo-erotic themes of Batman, though, look no further! Buck and Buddy do seem to be the prototypes of the now common comic book stereotypes. I am not certain whether this was intentional or not. Possibly the director merely had in mind an appeal to the pre-adolescent social constructs of a bygone age? Buddy still looks like he's the "boy wonder" of this series, though, while the Buck Rogers films date back to 1934 or so, several years before the Batman debut (1939). There must be a master's thesis waiting to be written here.
Hard Candy (2005)
Incredible Fairy Tale
This film was well made, but IMO fell down in one important aspect: that is, the anti-heroine (Haley) is portrayed as a 14 year old who is apparently capable of pulling of a kidnap-murder that would have put a mafioso to shame. Sure, the film is well crafted in most respects. The plot would have been plausible if Haley had been cast as a 16- or 17- year old. But then the pedophile bit wouldn't have plucked at the audience heartstrings as well. Sorry, but a 14-year old just doesn't have the life experience to pull off a crime of this sort without leaving a trail of evidence behind. Sure, there are kids that age vicious enough to do this sort of thing; but vicious enough and smart enough and well-educated enough to pull this off successfully at 14 is not credible.
The film has its moments. The faux-castration scene is very well done. The Achilles' Heel though is just that it would take someone just a bit older to pull it off. A 14 year old just wouldn't have it together enough to cover her tracks like that. Sixteen or seventeen would have been more credible; it just wouldn't have had such potential to get the audience worked up over the pedophilia angle.
Then there was the scene with the little vixen hacking the combination to the safe. Lacks credibility from a couple of standpoints at least. Not only does she guess the digital combo (he having graciously provided it in easily hacked form) but he has some dubiously allegedly incriminating photo in there? In this day and age any such memento would be digital & encrypted and not left for some prying eye to scope out in real time hard copy.
Not only that, but in the end, wouldn't anyone have killed the little criminal (Haley) given the chance (which he was)? Why would anyone let that little punk walk away from the scene? The film would have been more interesting and a bit more credible had he taken her with him.