Wednesday, October 22, 2014
In this episode of War Machine vs. War Horse, the dog dies. This also is the premise for Keanu Reeves to go on a rampage of revenge in the new release JOHN WICK, as do we against cinema that portrays this act that is known to produce tears the world over. The two dog hating films we take to task are 2009's HACHI and 2012's FRANKENWEENIE. Thankfully the former has the very handsome Richard Gere, and the latter is a visual feast of a film even without the beauty of Gere.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Directed By Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Remakes are a tricky thing to pull off. Do you honor the original? Update it and make it feel modern? How do you find that element that you think could have been improved upon and expand it? We all have examples of remakes that work and others that utterly fail. The latest incarnation of The Town That Dreaded Sundown falls somewhere in between. Its in no way a failure but I'm not really sure how well it works.
The 2014 film exists in a world where the original 1975 film also exists. The inhabitants of a small Texas/Arkansas border town watch the original film annually and on the night of the annual screening killings that resemble the "Moonlight Murders" start up again. We are 37 years removed from the 1976 film and 65 years removed from the real events that inspired it. Is this a copycat murderer or has the boogeyman returned to Teaxarkana? It might sound somewhat convoluted but the film pulls off its complicated exposition quite well.
The first half of the film feels creative and fresh despite being both a remake and a sequel. This is mostly accomplished with inventive camera work that reminded me of early Sam Rami work. That's the main problem with this film. It set its own bar way too high. My expectations were pretty low considering I never really cared for the original. As the film started to reveal itself I became invested and thought I might be in for something really unique. The first act made me believe in the film the second act reinforced those beliefs and the third act pulled out the rug from under the whole film.
Overall I had a pretty good time with the movie but it had so much wasted potential that I was fairly annoyed at the same time. There was a great movie in there. I have no idea what happened to it but something went wrong along the way. It always disappointing when a film feels like it runs out of steam in the final act. I was really pulling for this movie but it lost its momentum and couldn't keep up the high standard it set for itself in the first act. You need to capture the audience in the first reel but don't blow your whole wad in doing so.
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon has shown an impressive visual sense that belongs on the big screen. The Town That Dreads Sundown is frustrating because it could have been great but I am happy that it introduced us to this young director. He has a ton of potential and I'm excited to see whatever he works on next.
Directed By Andrei Tarkovsky
Starring Nikolay Burlyaev, Valentin Zubkov and Evgeniy Zharikov |
It's the middle of WWII in Russia. Orphaned pre-teen Ivan Bondarev does reconnaissance work for the military. He is able to get through small cracks where adults could not, both because of his small physical size and the fact that no one would suspect a boy of doing such work. Despite his tough exterior, he often dreams about happy situations with his mother, who, along with his sister, was exterminated in a concentration camp. Those dreams usually end violently. After Ivan obtains some information concerning an advancing German troop, his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Gryaznov, wants to send him to military school as he believes the offensive is no place for a boy. Ivan vows to run away and join the partisans in their work if he is sent away. After an attempt to run away, Ivan is allowed to stay and continue his reconnaissance work during the offensive. Ivan's stay is not the only one questioned, but also Masha's, a female medical officer who some believe is not mentally or physically strong enough to endure the horrors of the front lines of war, while others romantically yearn for her. Regardless, Ivan's colleagues and superiors, many who view him as a son, openly ponder his life post-war, that is if he and they make it out alive.
This is one of those films that could sit on your shelf for a year before you get around to watching it. You've undoubtedly heard that this is a great film but the task of watching seems like well, a task. So you put off your homework and drop out of the class and forget why you signed up for it in the first place. If its because you want to see one of the most impressive frist time features since Citizen Kane, then remember that at some point you wanted to experience great films. You knew that going to the movies could be more than whatever Marvel film we are up to know. You knew this and you wanted to expand your cinematic mind. So take it off the shelf and watch it. Just as your body cannot sustain itself for very long or at the very least very effectively on a steady diet of sugar your mind also needs nourishment. Asparagus can be plenty tasty its just not as sexy as Coco-Crispies. Yes, in my 37 year old mind Coco-Crispies is a sexy food.
Without further interruption here is some asparagus for your mind.
Directed by George A Romero
Starring Lori Cardille, Joseph Pilato and Richard Liberty
Most people seem to go with Night of the Living Dead, some go with Dawn of the Dead but very few go with my personal favorite in Romero's of the Dead films, Day of the Dead. All three films have satirical elements that elevate them above the splatter fests that they are often reduced to, but this one has a trump card... Goblin. They provide the driving synth soundtrack to the film that gives it an other worldly quality that never really allows you to feel comfortable. Best known for there work with Dario Argento Goblin had a short but impressive career scoring some of the most iconic horror films of the 70's and 80's.
Day of the Dead follows a group of survivors held up in an underground military facility located off the coast of what I assume is Florida. Very few of the characters in this film are believable but something about them is intriguing. I love the setting of the film and the anti-war theme of the film. At times the film feels like it is drawing from The Stanford experiment and others feel like nothing else that I've ever seen.
The makeup effects in this film completely outshine the work done in Romero's earlier zombie films. I think this is the first film that Greg Nicoterro worked on. I could be completely wrong about this point and while it would be easy enough to look up that bit of information I'm positive that he has a cameo in the film so its safe to assume he worked on the practical effects as well. If you've seen The Walking Dead you've seen his work and say what you will about that show the zombies consistently look great in it.
This was also the last Of The Dead film before CGI. I know this makes me sound like a grumpy old man but CG blood looks silly to me. They haven't quite figured it out yet. I understand that it keeps production costs down but it pulls me out of the film.
Some of the best acting in the film comes from Sherman Howard playing Bub. It must be difficult to perform beneath all the makeup but Howard pulls it off. He gives a tragic performance that garnishes sympathy unlike any other performance in the film. He is in a way this films Gollum.
Day of the Dead is currently streaming on Netflix but I have it embeded below thanks to the fine folks over at Hulu.
Directed By David Slade
Starring Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page
David Slade's film takes a clear stance on pedophilia, its bad don't do it, or else. Jeff (Patrick Wilson) is an attractive photographer who likes to spend his time in internet chat rooms looking for young girls. If you've seen the To Catch A Predator episodes of Dateline you know how many men like Jeff are out there. After striking up a friendship with Hayley (Ellen Page) she agrees to meet him at a coffee shop. A few minutes into the couples date (I guess that's the right word) Jeff makes it clear that he is uncomfortable in the cafe and would like to continue their meeting at his house.
This film is a revenge tale that is both bloody as hell and brilliantly acted. A rare combination. Most films as intense as this one tend to ignore the acting in favor of focusing on effects and gags. While it feels very cinematic (camera work, editing) it also feels like a play. I mean that in the best possible way. The film is driven by dialogue and performance. It mostly takes place in one location but in no way comes across as stagey.
To go any further with the plot details would give too much away. While this film was a success back in 2005 when it was released, it feels like a forgotten film. It could be that Ellen Page followed up this film with Juno and well, we all remember Juno. It could also be the subject matter. Pedophilia is an icky subject. Not one that people like to revisit. While this film wrestles with a dark subject it does so in a subtle manor. The violence is brutal but the writing and performances ground the film in a way that few other horror films do.
This is not the kind of horror film that makes a great date movie. You won't jump and hold your partner closer as the film reveals itself. In fact this might be the anti-date movie. With that being said I still highly recommend it. The film is currently streaming on Hulu and I have an embeded copy below.
Saturday, October 18, 2014
Directed By Francois Truffaut
Starring Jean-Pierre Leaud and Albert Remy
This could easily be one of the most potent films about youth that I have ever seen. Supposedly based on Truffaut's own personal experiences, this is the story of a troubled young man who was never really given a chance. We are shown a trouble maker whose home life is terrible. Its not just the poverty but the lack of warmth and bleakness that fills our protagonists life that makes his at home experience so grim. When he acts out and runs head first into a life of crime we never hold him to task, instead we are left feeling empathy and understand why he makes the decisions he makes.
Nothing in this film feels unnecessary or dispensable every shot is essential and pulls us in further. Unlike many films today this movie is tight and lean. We are shown a young man who is an after thought to most of the people in his life. While some people border on kind, it is readily apparent that no one in the film is overly attached to this young man.
As we enter the second or third generation of latch key kids in our culture this film feels completely relevant over 50 years after its initial release. That is one of the marks of a truly great film. How it stands up to the test of time. Styles change, hair cuts and pants come in vogue (I wanted so badly to type en vogue) and go the way of the dodo but the truth will always be relevant. When a film speaks honestly about the human condition, the other things become window dressing, superfluous and easy to ignore. Not that this film doesn't look and sound great. This is a beautiful film that everyone should see.
This is not some obtuse masterpiece that is impossible to watch and you feel like you are supposed to enjoy it. No, this is an incredibly watchable film that I for one am a better person for having seen. I can't imagine many films that I would put in a satellite and send off to aliens so they might have a better understanding of what it means to be human, but this one is certainly one of them. Did that last sentence make any sense? Oh well, I just finished my second IPA of the night and I'm feeling pretty loose... so, fuck it, I'm leaving it in. This has gotten far too meta.
While this film is certainly soaked with sadness it also contains moments of joy that feel as real as anything else in the film. These moments are in no way saccharine or unearned. Like every other beat of this film these moments are justified and never feel out of place. Its never like the tag at the end of the local news where we see a squirrel on water skis.
You can watch the entire film below thanks to the fine folks over at Criterion.
Directed By Mark Christopher Covino