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Friday, September 30, 2011

Observe and Report (2009)

An anonymous flasher exposes himself to shoppers in the Forest Ridge Mall parking lot. The head of mall security, Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogen), makes it his mission to catch the flasher. He is helped by Charles (Jesse Plemons), Dennis (Michael Pena), and the Yuen twins (John Yuan and Matthew Yuan). Ronnie's dream girl, Brandi (Anna Faris) is flashed the next day, and she becomes hysterical. Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta) comes and takes over the situation, this makes Ronnie very angry. Ronnie decides to take the case into his own hands.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Labyrinth (1988)

Muppet puppeteer Jim Henson's second solo directional effort is his own distinct vision of a dream world that is visually stunning, but after awhile it becomes a mind-strainer that isn't nearly as mentally stimulating as it should be. Labyrinth is not a deep film, it is actually very innocent, it is the elaborate setting  that provides all of the depth. The plot is just a different take on the always popular theme of young children trying to leave their "terrible"  lives by escaping to a world of wonder and beauty. Sarah Williams (Jennifer Connelly) is a 15-years-old, she things the world is a harsh place so she lives in her own little world where she is a beautiful, beloved queen. Sarah hates he step-brother, Toby (Toby Froud), so to get rid of him she chants the sacred line "I wish the goblins would take you away...RIGHT NOW." And her wish is granded, Jareth King of the Goblins (David Bowie) takes Toby away and the only way she can get him back is if he solves the labyrinth and reaches his castle.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

If there is anything to remember John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China for, it is that this film caused Carpenter to finally return to doing independent films after his disappointing run in Hollywood. Escape from New York (1981) was his first big-budget project that also was one of his high points. I was disappointed by Escape from New York. While having Carpenter at his atmospheric best where he creates a fascinating,  and stunningly visionary, setting , as well as being successful and acquiring a dedicated following, it is plagued with a weak plot and sacrificing style well over any sort of substance. Then he moved on to his creature-feature,The Thing (1982), which is well directed, but gross-out visuals and his usual characterization problems caused problems. After The Thing, Carpenters originality disappeared and he resorted to glossy 80s-styled action flicks that have lost almost all of their appeal over the past two decades. With his obvious talents it is shocking to look back at how disappointing his time in Hollywood was. Now we have arrived at the film at hand that finally helped Carpenter come to his senses and return him to his ideal form.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

If you are a little kid, or one of those people who happen to be scared by clowns (everyone is a little freaked out by them)  than beware. What isn't terrifying about them? Those permanent smiles, masking make-up, weird outfits, and those god-forsaken laughs! I would never torture someone with having to endure the presence of a clown, but this film is an exception. Definitely worth a watch, Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a dumb-fun (with much emphasis on "dumb") ride that I enjoyed from start to finish. It (1990) -- the adaptation of Stephen King's horror novel of the same name --  is one of the only other well-known films that has tried out clowns for scares, but by taking a darker and more serious, and ultimately weaker and less entertaining, look at the creepiness of clowns. Killer Klowns is a mindless relief that has a blast with its outrageous idea, pure B-movie fun.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Harold and Maude (1971)

A young man named Harold Chasen (Bud Cort) hangs himself to the song "Don't Be Shy" by Cat Stevens, his mother (Vivian Pickles) walks in, looks at him, then goes about her business of making a phone call. Even as he gags and flails around she just continues her conversation as if nothing is happening. What a morbid opening, right? No. Somehow he lives and it cuts to his mother, Harold and two guests having dinner; Harold complains about having a sore throat but his mother is clueless as to why. And that is how Hal Ashby's cult classic Harold and Maude begins. Ashby would go on to make multiple Oscar-winning  films like Bound for Glory (1976) and Coming Home (1978) -- both films being a completely different tone from Harold and Maude. This being his second feature, Ashby was still making a name for himself with small budgets (1.2 million), lesser-known actors/actresses (Ruth Gordon being his biggest star), and virtually no experience. But like it often happens, great directors early films are their most original; Harold and Maude being a perfect example.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

A low-budget zombie flick that wasn't suppose to turn out to be anything, ended up being one the most revolutionary films in the horror genre. Night Of The Living Dead was a huge success, and is the film that made zombie films a respectable genre. As most horror films, Night Of The Living Dead was harshly criticised when originally released, but overtime has gained worldwide acclaim. George A. Romero dubut film was only the beginning of a lifelong career of zombie films. Night Of The Living Dead was the film that gained both Romero, and zombie films great popularity. Romero has spent the rest of his career making more Dead films, and making sure zombie films keep their popularity.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Monsters (2010)

Extreme dissapointment is what I felt when Monsters ended.One of the most unfortunately anti-climactic endings I have ever had to witness. This is just one big tease of a film. The premise is very interesting, full of tension and suspense. I have always been a bit of a sucker for sci-fi apocalyptic films, and I probably always will be. It's highly doubtful that I'm the only person who finds a film that just keeps you waiting for something major and shocking to happen, only to find out that there is barely anything of the sort. Most audiences going to see films like this are expecting loud explosions, tons of violence, and a outrageous amount of "monsters" (at least a handful is needed). So it doesn't suprise me at all that Monsters earned barely 3.5 million dollars worldwide. Using subtlety to power an emotional relationship in hard times, but not utilizing its setting or tension well. Monsters gets an A+ for how interesting it is, but relationship studies and sci-fi dramas do not mix well.

Suspiria (1977)

 Stylization at its finest, Suspiria is a horror film with all the right stuff to live on forever. But will it? Well as a recent viewer watching this film thirty-four years later I can say that it doesn't feel like the classic is was formerly considered as, but Suspiria hasn't lost very much of its flair or effect.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Shock Corridor (1963)

Shock Corridor is one of those ironic cases where an older film is hurt by just how new it was when initially released. Released in 1963. Samuel Fuller produced, directed, and wrote the film which allowed him to have complete creative freedom -- he takes full advantage of that freedom. There is not a consistent plot to cling to, causing it to be a headache to follow. But what Fuller achieves that still remains fresh, and powerfully unsettling nearly 40 years later is how he portrays insanity and how it is created.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (La Passion De Jeanne D'Arc) (1928)

Rating: 4/4

Never has someone's face stirred up such emotions in me like Renee Maria Falconetti's painful portrayal of Joan of Arc. The film is based on the the records of her trial and depicts that last day of her life. The Passion of Joan of Arc is one of the few silent films that would not gain at all from the addition of sound. While various silent films-- most notably Nosferatu: The Symphony of Horror-- have been remade with great success with sound, no such attempt has been made for this film, and rightfully so. Such emotion takes you breath away, when the tears run down Joan's face it will tear you apart inside. Set mostly either inside a courtroom, Joan's prison cell, or in a torture chamber there is not much moving around or vast sets in which the film is set. Passion uses only the essentials: powerful performances, informative, and powerful dialogue-cards, expressive direction, and breathtaking passion.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990)

Rating: 3.5/4

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a overwhelming film that keeps a constant sick feeling in your stomach; that is what we are suppose to feel when watching someone get murdered. Very, very, loosely based on the absurd confessional by Henry Lee Lucas -- admittedly falsified by Lucas himself; Lucas claims to have murdered 600 people, nearly one a week, from 1975-1983. It doesn't glamorize its title character's exploits or personality. We are not meant to hate Henry (Michael Rooker); the right emotions are fear with brief hints of sympathy. This here is a perfect film to spend a shoe-string budget on -- its budget was $110,000 -- it does not require any flashy stylization and A-list stars would take attention away from its powerful intentions. As the unwilling audience we are forced to see a side to the world and human nature that is usually ignored, and, or shied away from. This film is not "entertaining" and if you are a Slasher fan, well, you can just pass up on this because you are likely not going to appreciate something that doesn't use violence to exploit.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Red State (2011)

Rating: 2.5/4

Kevin Smith does something new, to him, with Red State, moving away from his dialogue and character driven comedies. He calls this film a horror, and for about 30 minutes it kinda is, but Smith's fast-paced direction and inability to create scares quickly ends that dream. I always admire when directors toy around with other genres and Smith is a director with talents that could work well with exploration. This film is a start; some good qualities, daringness always gets bonus points, and his direction in his first serious toned project works decently with plenty of violence with contained gore. If Smith continues to explore genres like he does with this film, I see him finally finding an idea that will show him, and us, talents that he doesn't even know he possesses.

Starship Troopers (1997)

Rating: 3/4

Starship Troopers is Paul Verhoeven's attempt at a sci-fi epic. A entire new world is created with a presentation similar to Star Wars, but lacking the visionary expertise; Verhoeven creates a world of war that is visually stunning but inhabited by idiots who have a passionate love for mass violence. I would criticize the script's dialogue -- written by Edward Neumeier who surprisingly did the much more impressive script for RoboCop (1987) --  if it didn't fit well with the plot make specifically for simpletons, but it does and I found its cheesy-ness to be bitterly entertaining. Compared to Verhoeven's brilliant, humanistic sci-fi classic, RoboCop , Starship Troopers falls short in all categories, but its entertainment value is sky high.

Zombi 2 (1979)

Rating: 1.5/4

Opening  with a splendid shot of New York Harbor with an abandoned boat being searched by two patrolmen; one is killed by a zombie, the other kills the zombie. At that point no matter what I have heard about the film can keep me from getting excited; I had this sudden rush of hope that at least a portion of the film would take place in the always fascinating New York City. But I was wrong, what a shocker. Right after that satisfying start the film becomes distasteful, situational camp.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

Kiss Me Deadly is Robert Aldrich's violent, twisted journey through a murky world of noir. Opening with beautiful Christina (Cloris Leachman's debut) desperately running for her life and running Mark Hammer (Ralph Meeker) off the road. Once the legendary backwards credits that are powered by Leachman's erotic panting arrive we already have been given a taste of the twisted pleasures that will come with the rest of the film. Hammer and Christina's brief time together ends up becoming the film's driving force; her brief presence -- Leachman gets not more than 10 minutes of screen-time -- is climaxed by the infamous "torture scene" where the camera watches as Christina's legs flail around with a sadistic calmness. Aldrich does not shy away from violence when it was still viewed as taboo by most critics and audiences which lead to the film banning struggles, but its daring use of a glorious supply of gruesome, corrupted characters with our hero Mr. Hammer, a private eye whose methods launch a full-fledged attack on taste, being the most jaded of all.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

Rating: 3.5/4

Leave it to Werner Herzog's animalistic direction style to bring out the acting performance that Nicolas Cage has always had brewing inside of him. Cage has shown us multiple times that he has acting talent -- Leaving Las Vegas (1995) and Bringing Out The Dead (1999) are two films where he is at his finest -- but he seems to sacrifice his talent to appear in more commercial films, and when he decides to take a risk his choices of work are usually lousy. So, seeing him in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, where he is able to calm down and be as outrageous as possible is to see him finally shine again.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Boy and His Dog (1974)

Rating: 2/4

My opinions are extremely torn for L.Q. Jones' film, A Boy and His Dog, which is based on the award winning story of the same by Harlan Ellison. Starting with shots of many -- or it could have just been many different angles of one -- nuclear explosions and telling us that it is set in 2024 after the conclusion of World War IV. The world is now a barren wasteland with females nearly nonexistent and men have become desperate savages.Vic (Don Johnson) and Blood (played by Tiger and voiced by Tim McIntire) are the two title roles and they are out guides through the barren desert that is now America. John Arthur Morrill does a splendid job with the dystopian atmosphere, he even works the claustrophobic set-areas well also. Vic is 18 and his only goal is to get "laid;" Blood's age is not determined, he is experienced and has knowledge of the past which causes him to be more cautious although he does have dreams of a fairytale-like place he calls "Over The Hill." It is their chemistry that is the deepest, warmest, most tortured, and most consistent presences in the film. When they are separated about 3/4 in, the film quickly loses its strength and that is when the faltering begins.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

Rating: 2/4

Before Alfred Hitchcock was dubbed the "master of suspense" and before he became considered arguably the greatest director to ever live, he was a young director exploring his style. That is exactly what he does with The Man Who Knew Too Much; it being his first major critical success since he had moved to "talkies" in 1930, we really get to see his talents before they fully matured. Time has not been the kindest to this film; the quality is in need of some restoration. It was a must-see when released, but quickly faded due to his future successes and now takes the very back seat to his later classics. Working with some of the Hitchcock essentials that would bring him so much success and admiration; wealthy, naive people forced to make tough decisions and confront the darker-sides of life, hidden criminal organizations, mistaken identities, assassination plots, and a well-paced shootout.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Clerks (1994)

Rating: 3/4

Kevin Smith's debut film is one the great examples of how wonderfully original films from the American Indie Film Movement of the 90s could be. Shot in black-and-white -- not for artistic reasons, but for the sole purpose of lowering the film's cost. Clerks follows Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran), a convenient store manager, and his friend Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson), who works in the video-store. Both men have no drive or direction, all-in-all there is nothing interesting about them, at all. By somehow making us care for these two characters who bring so little to the table says a lot about Kevin Smith's talent at creating characters who get our affection through relating to us in such simple ways.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Win Win (2011)

Rating: 3/4

Win Win is a wonderful film that doesn't cover any new ground. Telling a story of simple people with simple problems -- simple in the movie world. Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is an attorney who is struggling to keep his firm running, he has a loving wife (Amy Ryan) and two daughters. In a desperate attempt to help his family's financial situation, Mike takes up being the guardian of one of his older, wealthy clients (Burt Young), who also happens to be suffering from dementia. What Mike doesn't expect is for his client's grandson (Alex Shaffer) to literally show up on his doorstep. At first, Mike tries to send the boy back, but after letting him stay and realizing the boy's wrestling talents he sees this as an opportunity to bring some direction into his life. With Mike being the local high school's wrestling coach he brings Kyle, who happens to be a wrestling prodigy, onto his team who hasn't won a match in years.