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Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Joyful Slog


2012

This is a music documentary looking at some of Ireland's DIY bands and culture over the last twenty years or so. It is a Dublin Community Television production and was made by the Community Of Independents collective that works with the channel. Featuring live footage and audio of various Irish artists as well as insightful interviews with some of the people that have been involved in the growth of this scene.



A Joyful Slog from DCTV on Vimeo.

The Last Ice Merchant Documentary Short




2012
Directed by Sandy Patch

Taken from the films website

Twice a week for over half a century, Baltazar Ushca has hiked up the slopes of Mount Chimborazo, the tallest mountain in Ecuador, to harvest glacial ice that covers the highest altitudes of this dormant volcano. In the past, up to forty ice merchants made the journey up the mountain to mine the ice; today, however, Baltazar works alone. Even his brothers, Gregorio and Juan, both raised as ice merchants, have retired from the mountain to find more steady work.

The Last Ice Merchant tells a story of cultural change and indigenous lifestyle through the perspectives of three brothers who have dealt with change in different ways. I wanted to portray the characters as the dignified people that they are and to show the very human story of their circumstances — to make a movie that would portray the indigenous community positively for both an outside audience, and also for the community itself.

I was first introduced to Baltazar by my good friend Rodrigo Donoso (who would later produce the movie). As a tour guide and a local, Rodrigo has known Baltazar and his family for over 20 years. I was immediately both captivated and impressed with Baltazar. It was hard to believe that a man 67 years old and no taller than 5 feet trekked up a mountain alone, in rain, sleet, snow and shine, just for the ice. When I met Baltazar’s brothers and talked to his family, I found a depth to the story that I felt could resonate beyond this small community.


The Last Ice Merchant (El Ăšltimo Hielero) from Sandy Patch on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

John Wick episode of War Machine Vs War Horse or lets talk about dogs




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

The Town That Dreaded Sundown



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. 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.


Ivan's Childhood





1962
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.

Day of the Dead full film and review



1985
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.




Hard Candy full film and review




2005
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.