Wednesday, December 12, 2012

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Friday, February 24, 2012

2012 Viewing Journal #11

"The Woman in Black"

After a strong two thirds, this Hammer Studios film flails (and fails) badly, falling victim to serious third act contrivances which work to end the film, but to end it poorly. I'm not talking about (only) the final minutes, which were fine, but rather the plot mechanisms that led up to the resolution.

Overall, though, a strong, spooky, Gothic film that I'd probably recommend.

"The Human Centipede 2"

Strange reaction to this one. First off, I kinda loved it. It's a professionally produced, well acted, ridiculously funny and audacious piece of filmmaking. It's ludicrous in concept, explicit in execution and 'fuck you' in message. Filmmaker Tom Six boldly stated that he was going to go nuts-out on this sequel and stick it to the first movie haters who cried foul at some of the off screen violence. He certainly did.

Secondly, after watching an interview with Tom Six on the Blu-ray, I realized what an idiot the guy is. Whatever satirical or thematic credit I gave to him was washed away when hearing him speak. He's simply one of those guys you see at horror movie conventions producing nun-rape/shot-on-video movies for shock's sake. He just has financial backers.

Still. Pretty fun stuff. But, please, read up on it before you go taking my recommendation. It's very sick stuff.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

2012 Viewing Journal #10


One of my FB Friends posted a status update regarding this 'divisive' Slamdance entry, which has apparently been a hot topic of some kind in the indie horror movie circuit. As a card carrying member of that circuit, I was deeply embarrassed to have never even heard of it. My kneejerk was hate it based on the title alone, but I love and trust Mattsuzaka, so I knew it had to have some worth.

'Yellowbrickroad' concerns a small group of book researchers traveling a forest trail with a deep, dark past. They want to know what happened to the last group that mysteriously made this pilgrimage - an entire town that subsequently disappeared.

While I suspected a 'found footage' film, especially based on the fact that a video camera plays a rather large role, this is fortunately a straight narrative. And a beautifully executed one at that. The budget was clearly low, and with a few exceptions, the setting is... the woods. Brilliant for a low budget feature. There's also only five or six principal roles, all of which are more or less well developed. The strength of this film, though, is clearly the tone. And it is goddamn creepy.

The central mystery is evocatively realized, with a supporting soundtrack that is chilling. There are also a few moments of genuine dread that slow boil to a point of almost 'pause-to-recover'-worthy. Great stuff here. Highly recommended.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

2012 Viewing Journal #9

"Safe House"

Denzel's performance saves this flick from being horribly awful, but even so, it's still pretty awful. Dependent on a series of ridiculously contrived moments in order to forward the narrative, 'Safe House' ends up being just a sad exercise in poor storytelling. And if that isn't bad enough, Ryan Reynolds breaks down in tears so often, he challenges Tobey Maguire in 'Spider-Man 3' as the biggest cry baby protagonist in recent memory.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

2012 Viewing Journal #8


'Chronicle' has much going for it, enough to warrant a strong recommendation for me. The performances work, the story is clever, the effects are fabulous and the narrative arc is terrific. The narrative structure, however, is a clear mess. And it nearly sinks the movie.

As a 'found footage' film, it simply breaks under the rules of the genre. The filmmakers paint themselves into corners at several points, and even venture into pure stupidity to sneak a first person camera perspective into scenes. The rest of the pros ultimately unseat this one con, and 'Chronicle' ends up being a pretty cool little movie. I only hope the eventual sequel either drops the 'found footage' conceit or figures out how to strengthen the logic of their choices.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

2012 Viewing Journal #7

"The Experiment"

A remake of a German film of the same name, and based on a real life experiment where volunteers take the roles of prisoners and guards in a simulated jail setting, this Adrien Brody/Forest Whitaker vehicle is conceptually sharp, but seeing it's based on a number of previous ideas, there's gotta be more than just that to carry its narrative. And while the performances are what you'd expect with the pedigree, it's just a rote thriller trying to arrive at a resolution to tie up the plot. I really liked the original film, this one, not so much.

"Wonder Woman: 2011 TV Pilot"

Now this, I don't get. Word on the street about this unaired one hour WB show was that it was bloody awful. Unwatchable dreck. The network hated it and based on the black market leaks of the :42 minute pilot episode, the fan base hated it as well. And I don't get it.

The concept makes solid sense. Wonder Woman's personas - her superhero presence, her public image, and her secret identity - all work quite well. Her relationships with the her employees (she runs a Tony Stark-like empire of some kind), and the police also feel plenty developed. Performances are fine, action is cool and most importantly... the costume works! She's wearing it for a reason.

I, for one, thought the producers did a fine job with this and based on some of the unwatchable dreck I've seen come out of pilot season.... I just don't get it.

2012 Viewing Journal #6

"The Grey"

Liam Neeson can be pretty badass, and while I certainly dig him in this new Joe Carnahan flick, I'd hesitate calling 'The Grey' a particularly good movie. It has moments, plenty of them in fact, and tonally, it's certainly consistent, which is to say, dire. But its narrative push errs on the side of inevitability, which can be tough to pull off.

It's greatest strength is the natural element in which we find our characters. I'm not sure I remember a more damning exterior environment then the bleak wilderness portrayed in the film, however, I'm also not sure I've ever doubted the effect such an environment had on human bodies. While I'm admittedly basing my opinion on other movies (Steven Seagal's 'On Deadly Ground', one of them), I just can't believe these fellows would have survived a night in this Alaskan locale. What do I know, though? I just found myself comparing Liam Neeson's beard-ice to that if Kurt Russell in 'The Thing', and it doesn't come close to competing.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

2012 Viewing Journal #6


I was introduced to 'Intruder', a little 1989 horror flick written and directed by Sam Raimi acolyte Scott Spiegel, by way of a dupey, grey market VHS tape of the workprint, a holy grail of sorts at the time, because of the movie's innovatively gory murder set pieces, including grue cut by the MPAA in the general release tape.

This release, by Synapse Films, includes that VHS sourced cut, as well as a new digitally remastered version of the true director's cut. Such a great release of a terrific indie treat.


With the exception of a ill conceived split screen training montage, I found Gavin O'Connor's 'Warrior' to be a near flawless movie. With the genius of giving us TWO contenders for whom to root, 'Warrior' tells the story of a broken family which can only be repaired by brute force. Moreso than even 'Rocky', it creates relationships that feel genuine - between brothers and their father, between husband and wife and most successfully, between brother and brother.

After a series of satisfying narrative conclusions, fight climaxes and empathetic resolutions, the 2 hour and 20 minute movie left me exhausted, physically and emotionally.

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