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Monday, December 14, 2009

Invictus (2009) - Drama

Invictus (2009) - The story of how Nelson Mandela embraced the South African Rugby team in their quest for the 1995 World Cup Championship. Clint Eastwood directed this story of how this great leader took the mostly white supported S.A. Springboks team, and made them a national focal point in South African reconciliation. Morgan Freeman plays Mandela as a wise patriarch teaching the youngsters around him in the art of forgiveness. Matt Damon is Francois Pienaar the captain of the team who is called on by Mandela to lead the underdog team through the competition. Damon's role seemed not particularly important in the movie, I mean I see how we are suppose to see his change of opinion of Mandela, but there is so little interaction between the two that it was hard to see this internal change take place. I think there could have been more overt racism on the team and it would have helped this task, instead we have complaining about doing rugby clinics and resistance to learning the new national anthem and that is it. In fact even the most racist character, Peinaar's father really pulled it insulting punches. It was like the movie was very conscious not to be a movie about racism.
Writer Anthony Peckham gives us a standard sports story of the Springboks fighting through and winning the 1995 Rugby World cup, but the slim screenplay whether cut later or designed this way barely focuses on the journey of the team but more on the strategy of Mandela. The team's story is the secondary story and is regulated to some fine slow motion rugby play and of course the big win against the heavily favored New Zealand team. I understand this decision and truly appreciate Mandela as a leader. As it was so well pointed out in expository dialog, the idea was not to take away the white minorities team but to embrace them as a majority. Mandela saw supporting the minority as vitally important in holding the country together in the post Apartheid world.

What I liked about this movie is the focus on Mandela, the man is a great leader in our time and the movie shows this. Through this story we see his greatness, how he is thinking in a different way than many people in his country and it really carries a wisdom, earned through 27 years as a political prisoner. The Rugby scenes were well done and you get a sense at what the game is about.

On the other side I was put off at times by the sappy music. It was a bit much. There was to be a parallel story between the teams journey and Mandela's agenda but I think it ended up being more about the man and less about the team. There were several places where I wondered whether things were cut. Mandela gives Pienaar the poem Invictus and tells him about how it helped him in his years in prison, then Pienaar talks about how on the bus to the games the guys are in their heads and then they play a song or something to get ready for the coming battle. It felt like they were leading us to a reading of the poem before the big game but nothing ever materialized. There were some scenes that touched upon Mandela's family conflict but they were just brushes with his family through his relationship with his daughter. His estranged wife was mentioned but not included and there was no follow through on the theme. I am not sure there are any Oscars in this film, but it has good entertainment value.

Overall the movie was entertaining and pleasing to watch. Spoiler South Africa did win the Rugby World Cup in 1995 and Mandela did indeed embrace the team. The story told here is decent if not fully realized. Go see for yourself.

Rating (7.5)

Invictus



Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may beFor my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Taken (2008) - Thiller

Taken (2008) - This Liam Neeson vehicle barrels forward at a breakneck pace without thought of whether or not it makes sense or not. It doesn't but that was not enough for me to poo poo this flick. It is an action movie and as such has to just get me onto the edge of my seat and then keep me there for a while. It accomplished that and so even though police are nonexistent in France, and this agent can act with impunity I was into the story. Neeson is a retired CIA operative who reluctantly allows his daughter from his failed marriage, to go off to France with a friend. Very quickly, approximately 3 hours after arriving the girls are abducted and sold into sex slavery. Neeson gets hot on the trail and tracks down and kills many people in the taught plot that leads to saving his daughter before she loses her virginity. This is it! Mostly the action is good and Neeson pulls off being the competent and dangerous agent. Maggie Grace is ridiculous pretending to be his 17 year old daughter. So obviously in her mid twenties I just do not accept the casting decision. There is no one bad guy which really is a shortcoming of the movie. It would have been more interesting to have a single evil bastard for Neeson to get in the end. Writer Luc Besson wrote one of my alltime favorite movies, "Leon, the Professional" but here things are more quick hit and the character development although present is really in the way. Overall though I was on the ride and it past the simple test of action movie.
Rating (5.7)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Pink Floyd The Wall (1982) Musical

Pink Floyd The Wall (1982) - I went to see this movie on the big screen for the first time in over 30 years as part of a Pink Floyd night. Local Boston area rock radio station WAAF 107.3 sponsored a night of music and movies. First my sister and I went to see the Pink Floyd tribute band "The Machine" and then a midnight showing of the movie. I had never been to a tribute band concert and found myself very excited going in. The event was held in Foxboro MA at the Showcase Live restaurant, concert hall. We arrived early enough to get dinner seating and I have to say the food and service were good. It is also a benefit to have dinner there because then you have a place to sit if you choose to during the concert. Even the VIP booths were affordable. So after a good meal we were ready for some Floyd music. The band has a following and the place was not packed but pretty full. We listened as the band stuck to mostly "The Wall", "Dark Side of the Moon", and "Wish You Were Here". I found myself not enjoying it as much I I thought I would. I have seen Pink Floyd a few times and am a really big fan of the music. I thought I could just get into the songs and let myself forget it was not the real band playing them. Unfortunately I don't think the tribute band is for me. I was turned off by the slightly different sound of the instruments, the difference in voices, how the bass player was a bit too quick for some tunes, in all the whole thing did not feel Pink Floyd. This is probably just me, in fact everyone seemed to be having a good time in the room. I found myself not even wanting to look at the band, I was not there after all to see them. So I have mixed emotions about the band, they are all competent musicians but the cover experience just did not work for me.
The movie on the other hand was great to see on the big screen. A collage of images, animation, music and acting power through the story of Mr. Pink Floyd (Bob Geldof ) in his nervous breakdown and how he was raised added to this point in his history. Written by Floyd bassist Roger Waters it explores a mans life, from the fatherless child, overly criticized student, and popular musician who can't hold his marriage together, finally to drug abusing mental case. The album is brilliant and Director Alan Parker has created a long music video to go with it. The animation in a bit over done and on the nose, and the bouncing storyline does not always flow but my love for the music pulls me past these flaws into a state of blissful sounds and images.
Rating (6.3)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Red Cliff (Chi bi) (2008) - Drama

Red Cliff (Chi bi) (2008) - Written by John Woo and a host of others and directed by Woo, this historical story looks at the battle of Red Cliff. In this battle a smaller force defeated the ambitions of Prime Minister Cao Cao (Fengyi Zhang) of the Eastern Han dynasty during the Three Kingdoms era of China around 208 AD. In this battle the imperial army want to crush the southern warlords Sun Quan (Chen Chang) and Liu Bei (Yong You)and bring total control to the emperor who is controlled by Cao Cao. The Prime minister brings his massive fleet down river and the movie shows how the smaller southern army is able to win the battle. Done with flair and personality, Woo creates a cadre of characters who shine in this film. The southern warlords each have distinct personalities to play against the ruthlessness of the northern Prime Minister. Through there friendships individual skills are united to defeat the invading force. The final battle is a wonder to watch and Woo is an artist at this form of action. There is a secondary story of the wife of Sun Quan (Wei Zhao) and how the Prime minister loved her from the moment he saw her many years earlier that plays a part in his demise. Visually and musically this film hits all the right notes. I would have enjoyed a bit more character development for some of the secondary characters but see how this could have taken away from the primary story. I watched this with a couple people who are not real fans of this kind of movie but both came away saying they really enjoyed it. If you can read subtitles that at times were fast, you will enjoy this war epic.
Rating (7.2)

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Road (2009) Drama

The Road (2009) - SPOILER ALERT! THIS MAY HAVE INFORMATION YOU MAY NOT WANT TO KNOW>>>> Joe Penhall very loyally adapted the Cormac McCarthy novel about a father and son travelling south through post apocalyptic America. Directed by John Hillcoat and starring Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee as the Man and Boy. Hillcoat directed the 2005 brutal but fine film "The Proposition" and does a fine job here where it is a challenging story with limited character interactions. In the story we are ten or so years past some catastrophe that has killed all plants and thus all animals on the planet earth. Man is vanishing as well, scavenging for missed cans of food, bodies of bugs and at times other humans. The Man and the Boy head south to escape the ever colder winters of the north. A good deal of what they were about in the book we also see here, a shopping cart of what goods they have, is pushed along abandon roads every closer to there first destination the coast. The deal with the anxiety of roving bands of cannibals and the threat every other desperate soul presents them on the road. This is far from an uplifting story but is is an honest one. When the shit really hits the fan what kind of a human being will you be. Will you be the good guy, resist the hunger and starve before preying on your fellow man; Or will you take the survival of the fittest route? The Man is trying to prepare the Boy to be one of the good people. His story arc is about teaching the Boy that someone has to carry the torch of humanity even when things look bleakest. Viggo does an excellent job in this film, capturing the struggle between wanting to prepare the Boy as he knows he is dying. But also struggling with the desire to stop being so human in these the hardest of times trying to do what was right but not always being correct in his actions. The Boy has his own arc, the reminder to the Man that he is getting close to not being one of the good people. That kindness is not rented but paid for with self sacrifice. He during the story becomes more independent and ready for his future challenges. He is the witness for the Man's fallibility, starting as a cared for child and progressing to a capable survivor. During the trip we see the eating of humans by humans the keeping of people as food stuffs. In this world every encounter with another person can be dangerous, each house you want to search could hold deadly danger. It is because there is love that the Man can bring the Boy through this world and hopefully help him be the next wave of humanity. They did some things I really liked with this story. They increased through flashbacks the story of the Man's wife played by Charlize Theron as she decides instead of surviving in the world to kill herself. The passages in the book were fleeting but here she is a full character exploring the idea that not everyone will fight for survival. He is really haunted by her memory and struggles to let go. I actually like that they changed a couple smaller but significant things. In the book the Man is sick from the beginning of the story and I think you really know what will become of him early on. In the film the writer reveals the sickness more slowly, I think adding to the tragedy of it. Also in the book later on there is the pregnant lady with two guys, who eat the newborn baby. Here in the film that scene is not present. This seems the way to go to me. Besides the obvious grossness of it, it is later in the book and we have at this point in the movie already visited cannibalism. We get the idea of what is happening and it does not need more verification. I loved the landscapes they found for filming, destroyed houses of a post Katrina New Orleans, to the barren wastes of Mount Saint Helen and the Rust belt in Pennsylvania the film captures the poverty of the end of the world that McCarthy is so good at writing about. The neding is just like the book and I was glad for that. This is a tough story and not everyone will enjoy it, but I have to say I did.
Rating (8.1)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tormented (2009) Horror

Tormented (2009) - This British horror film could have been J-horror, a vengeful ghost kills the cool kids at a boarding school who tormented him in life. Justine (Tuppence Middleton) is the girl of poor Darren Mullet's (Calvin Dean) affection, overweight and unliked Mullet is relentlessly picked on and Justine never even notices him. When he commits suicide she can't even remember who he is. Her friends and his tormentors go on being the cool kids at the school and it seems his memory will soon be forgotten. But some things can not be forgiven that easily. Mullet , in ghost form starts killing his former bullies one at a time. What will Justine be able to do to not be one of the victims? Who will notice that the sudden deaths of these prize students seems strange? The basic plotting of this tales was very passable even with the very steriotyped set of characters. The ending was better than I expected and the kills were unique enough for this type of horror movie. So give first time writer Stephen Prentice some credit for not sticking with the most abvious choice in direction. Still in the end I think a lot of poeple will want more depth and subtext, the whole bullies get their due is far from original and the side story of Justine leaving her original group of friends to get in with the cool kids was barely touched. This movie is not poor but could have been so much more.
Rating (5.0)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pirate Radio (2009) Comedy

Pirate Radio (2009) - Written and directed by Richard Curtis. It is 1967 and England has banned rock and roll radio, setting up our story of a pirate radio ship off the coast. Carl (Tom Sturridge)arrives on the boat after being dismissed from his all boy boarding school to find a place on the boat with his Godfather and ship owner Quentin (Bill Nighy). His entire story arc consists of losing his virginity and figuring out who on the boat is his father. Surrounding Carl on this journey is a quirky group of DJs each a distinct personality. Philip Seymour Hoffman is The Count, and rival to Gavin (Rhys Ifans) the hotshot American DJ brought on to increase advertising. Their competition is fulfilled through a game of chicken on the ship mast that was inevitable. Playing the heavies in the movie are Kenneth Branagh as Sir Alistair Dormandy the goverment head looking for a way to close down the pirate radio stations, and Jack Davenport as Twatt his henchman doing the actual work. They finally look like they have the answer outlawing the stations and are going to close the ship but can't find it. The ship after illegally broadcasting decides to move. Problem is the ship hits something and sinks leading to the wonderful Titanic style sinking scenes. Left out in the ocean sinking the mayday out the last bit of drama is will they be saved.
In general this is a light hearted story the dramas are small and personal. The audience I was in was mostly people in there 50s through 70s and they just loved it movie with laughter at the right times and smiles all around at the end. Particularly they seemed to enjoy there was a character named Twatt, each time his name was mentions there were giggles around the theater. I found the film passable throw away entertainment but at times I was really annoyed at the movie making. Twatt being one of the things such a easy play for cheap laughs. Then there were the different character pieces like eating the cookies, that were so cute and contrived that they did not feel genuine. If I was to really get down to what I did not like about this film it is that it was too obvious in its emotional manipulations, all movies through character and story attempt to create an emotional response but here it was too out front. When we get to the end and you learn the government is not coming to save the crew as the boat sinks, there is no doubt what they are setting you up for. When the Count and Gavin are on the mast there is no doubt what they will do. When the Count continues to spin records as the ship goes down there is no doubt what will happen to him. When it is proposed that Carl's Dad might be Quinten we know it can't be, and since we know most all the other characters from there spotlight time you should be able to guess who it is. Each piece is so perfectly written and played that it is obvious and thus not really very enjoyable. Still I think I can be a bit jaded at times and most people in the theater really seemed to like this film. I will chalk it up to being that this is just not my kind of movie. What was enjoyable for me was the music in the film, Jimi Hendrix, The Kinks, Procol Harem, Dusty Springfield, The Who, just so many great songs on this sound track.
Rating (6.0)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Amores Perros (2000) Drama

Amores Perros (2000) - This is really quite a brilliant movie, heartbreaking certainly but so well done by director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. It is the interconnecting stories of love and betrayal and as the title suggests that "Loves a Bitch". Gael Garcis Bernal is Octavio, in love with his Brother Ramiro's wife Susana (Vanessa Bauche). He uses his brothers dog in the fight ring in order to earn the money so they can run away together. Ramiro (Marco Perez) is a store clerk and night time store robber is risking everything looking for the big score that will help him escape his life also. Octavio's passion for Susana seems to encourage her into a sexual relationship but it seems she is not 100% into this but is into the tenderness he brings to it. When a rival dog fighter shoots Octavio's dog he attacks man and then ends up in a car chase running for his life. This ends in a car accident leaving Octavios friend dead and him in the hospital. Ramiro going for the big score is killed in an attempted bank robbery. Susana now is presented with the choice to leave with Octavio or remain in her life a widow.
Daniel (Alvaro Guerrero) is a magazine executive who is having an affair with beautiful model Valeria (Goya Toledo). He gets the courage up to leave his wife and move in with her. Her car is struck by Octavio's and is broken up badly. One leg is completely shattered leaving her in a wheelchair with instruction not to put weight on the leg. Her little dog gets into a hole in the floor and does not come out. She is in a panic about it, and it seems there is no way to reach the dog. Daniel feels the stress of the relationship being the one Valeria needs to rely on. He feels helpless to save the dog they hear crying regularly. She when alone in the apartment hears the dog and re injures her leg. While she is back at the hospital Daniel manages to get the dog. Valeria loses her leg ending her modelling career and Daniel seems ready to go back to his wife.
Maru (Lourdes Echevarria) is a hitman who travels around with a bunch of stray dogs. He is hired to kill Gaustavo's half brother and business partner. While scoping the crime he sees the car accident that Octavio and Valeria are in and takes the wounded dog back to his place and nurses it back into health. Maru's story is that he was a professor who became a revolutionary. He spent 20 years in prison and secretly watches his daughter who thinks he is dead. When her step father dies his desire to see her increases. When the nursed back to health fighting dog kills his group of strays he seems to hit a critical point and instead of straight up doing his hit he creates a confrontation between the two brothers.
In the end this is a powerful movie about how love challenges people, whether a love that is forbidden, or trying, or lost. How we all struggle for the connection and how difficult it can be.
Rating(8.5)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Saam gaang (Three Extremes II) (2002) Horror

Saam gaang (2002) Remarkably this film came out a full two years before the wonderful Three Extremes. This mix of Chinese, Japanese and Korean stories is a decent enough collection of three horror stories but it is far from extreme. The first segment "Going Home" is the tale of a mans guilt and the journey of his dead wife's spirit making its way home. Very predictable but reasonably executed. Segment two "Memories" was a story of a cop moving into a run down apartment only to lose his son, be held captive by a neighbor who is trying to revive the body of his three years dead wife through Chinese herb medicine. It is a strange tale with a good twist although the story of the son is incomplete and wasted because of it. The last was "The Wheel" a story about the souls of puppets being tied to there creators and the agonizing consequences for anyone who would interfere with that relationship. This one was a bit all over the place building in several poorly set up relationships and a Oh it was a premonition loop that really did not need to be there.
Overall this is a movie I can liked but it was far from challenging material which is sort of what you would expect with something so titled.
Rating(6.0)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Paranormal Activity (2007) Horror

Paranormal Activity (2007) - After all the hype I finally got out to see this film, or should I say lost footage of someones home movies? Starring Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat the story is about a young couple experiencing paranormal activity. We see through Micah filming the progressively more frightening and violent haunting of Katie. Slowly, ever so slowly we move from quiet to loud noises, from banging doors to footprints ( I think velociraptor tracks). Then finally to the big twist. The big behind the scenes story of this movie is Oren Peli made it for very little money. Then the request a film marketing campaign for it. Well designed it unfortunately made the build up too much for this little mostly boring film to live up to. Seriously now let me ask you this question...If you are being haunted don't you invite every friend you have over to be with you? Do you really just stay with your spouse alone as things get worse and worse? I did not particularly enjoy this film, but it was a decent outing for its small budget. If you are a person who believes in hauntings, then there is something here that will probably scare you.
Rating (6.0)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trick 'r Treat (2008) Horror

Trick 'r Treat (2008) - This really terrific little movie was the high point of my Halloween. Wonderfully interwoven tales all take place on Halloween night on a quiet street. Veteran actor Dylan Baker is a school principal who likes to take and kill children while showing his little boy how it is done. Leslie Bibb is a party pooper who blows her Jack-o-lantern out too soon and pays the price. Brian Cox is Mr. Kreeg, former school bus driver who after escaping a demonic Halloween creature finds that the past can not be avoided forever. Five preteens get more than they expect when pulling a prank near the old quarry. Finally scooping guys for a party on Halloween night is just the start for four hot young women. This movie does a great job at weaving the stories together seamlessly. with character from the different pieces interacting and crossing paths. Great look and feel with very creepy music when appropriate. Acting was exceptional and the stories interesting.
Rating (7.7)

Drag Me to Hell (2009) Horror

Drag Me to Hell (2009) - I missed this one in the theaters and after hearing many good things about it decided it was a must on DVD. I was not disappointed. Sam Raimi famed director of "The Quick and the Dead" and "For The Love of the Game" takes a stab at horror. Well okay, besides directing the "Spiderman" movies he did do a couple small horror films, "The Evil Dead" and "Army of Darkness" but we all know Bruce Campbell carried him in those. Anyway this one is a somewhat predictable story with some great and gross scenes of bodily fluid exchanges. Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is a bank officer who is plugging away trying to get a promotion. When an old gypsy comes for a loan extension she denies it to impress her boss. Unfortunately for her the gypsy curses her coat button, so that the coat will never match anything she wears. No wait, she will be tormented by a demon who will then come and drag her to hell. Christine over the few days of the story is indeed tormented and works hard with a psychic to try to figure a way out of the curse. After much torment and fluid grossness she finds she can give the button back to the now dead gypsy, so she proceeds to dig the women up. Only problem with this solution was as soon as the papers fell in the car, I knew the ending, shit! I hate when that happens, it may be that I see way too many of these movies but I knew exactly what was going to happen from that point. I really enjoyed the film, the creepy old gypsy (Lorna Raver) was great and the main character has a well defined story arc. The gore and gag factor was wonderfully high. The music is pitch perfect and visually it is a beautifully filmed movie. So the rating...
Rating (7.9)

Drive-In Horror Show (2009) Horror

Drive-In Horror Show (2009) - The first of my full slate of Halloween viewings, this local horror film was a collection of stories tied together with the antics of a ghoulish host. It is the post Apocalypse and the dead still go to the drive in; of course they are going to see horror stories. Written by Greg Ansin and Michael Neel and directed by Neel this was a fairly well put together feature. Five tales connected with the Drive-in skits. I really appreciate someone getting a movie made, there is so much effort needed that it is always a marvel that small independent film gets made. I may get these stories out of order but hopefully I won't forget any. The first "Pig" we have the aftermath of a college party and a young man wakes in a bathtub, clued to the tub. A college prank? No it appears he drugged a young woman and raped her and now she is going to get her revenge. He pleads and pleads for release, offering money and apologizing, but some crimes can not be forgiven as he soon finds out. This was one of the weaker stories and there was little tension, the editing too obviously showed the water level inconsistently. The gore effect as he ripped his feet off the tub was great.
The weakest of the stories though was the last, 'The Watcher" where for young adults go camping and shooting in the mountains only to be hunted and eaten by a cannibal. It had Jenna Morasca from winner of Survivor:Amazon and Ethan Zohn also from Survivor in one of the roles as Cherry. Unfortunately everything they did was stupid and there was really nothing to the story. Note if you are walking through the woods with bright lights on at night the last thing you have to worry about is being quiet.
"Fall Apart" was a cerebral story of a doctor who contracts a disease that rots his body. This one had some wonderful visuals although the story itself was just okay in my opinion. I would think a doctor would know to immediately head to the hospital instead of self treating.
My two favorite both had to do with kids. The first "The Closet" was a story about a boy in a horrible family who loved his sister but did not seem to care for him. A monster in his closet solves the lack of love issues by eating each family member in turn. The great turn, although not realistic of the kid then realizing he can not live with the hassles of life was cute in its way.
My favorite was "The Meat Man" a smartly written piece where a couple of kids think their father is the "Meat Man" killer. The writing in this one is wonderful as characters each take the same facts but craft very different stories.
The connecting Drive In theme was cute but I am not sure it really added anything to the film. It was a bit goofy a real throwback to the Creepshow movies. Each movie finished with a downer though, there was not a positive outcome in the bunch. I take it that it was intentional and certainly the best horror is unpredictable, but I think this was a bit predictable and I wished for a surprise ending in at least one of the pieces.
Over all the production values were low budget but hey this was a local film so you can't take too much away from it for that. Three of the stories were good to fair. We had a great atmosphere at the theater, STUDIO CINEMA 76 Trapelo Rd Belmont MA. The film makers and some of the actors were in the house, we had a costume contest and it was good fun even though it was freaking cold in the theater.
Rating (5.0)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Capitalism: A Love Story (2009) Documentary

Capitalism: A Love Story (2009)- Michael Moore is a fine filmmaker, he knows how to draw a story and make a point. He is far from the "Cinema Verite" style documentary film makers ascribe to and instead is forceful with elaborate antics to get his points across. He is not a traditionalist when it comes to form, Moore does document what he sees going on and does this pointedly in Capitalism :A Love Story. Starting with a comparison to the pre-collapse Roman empire with the current United States, he points out the excesses of then to the conditions of now in a humorous cross cutting ploy that starts his film off in chosen direction. Seeing the United States as country drunk on power and collapsing from the inside with corruption.
Moore tries to tap into the popularist anger that comes with the collapse of our economy and focuses on some of the more underhanded as well as over the top schemes companies in this country are pulling. He show the connecting lines between the top politicians who write financial regulations to the very banks they are supposed to be regulating. He looks at how the people put in charge of running our economy are the very same who caused the meltdown we are still suffering through (Robert Rubin, Henry Paulsen, Lawrence Summers, Timothy Geithner). These Goldman Sach's former leaders are now administering the economy and Goldman's is benefiting more than most.
Although Moore doesn't make the connection we can see how Niomi Kline's theory of Shock Doctrine may be at work. Looking particularly bad is Senator Chris Dodd democrat of CT, after receiving sweet deals $1,175,133 on loans from the very banks, Countrywide he helped.
The movie looks at companies in our free market economy have so corrupted the system that it can no longer be trusted. Like the companies that without letting their employees know take out life insurance policies on them. They call the policies "Dead Peasants" policies. Unfortunately the company is the beneficiary not the family of the employee. Moore names companies and shows the opinions of surviving family members when they learn the companies profited from the death of their loved ones. Walmart in particular looks bad in this section with many of the deceased employees families not being able to afford burial while Walmart collects secret insurance money.
Another example of how privatizing harms us at a Pennsylvania detention center that paid off judges to send kids to it. The judges took hundreds of thousands of dollars and sent kids to detention for minor offenses.
At his best Moore paints the plight of the average man caught up in a system he has no control over. There are interviews with regular folk to show just this. He explores how after we save industry from itself with tax dollars how cold and heartless it can be to regular Americans. Moore does rely on antics that take away some of the seriousness of his subject. He tries to do citizen arrest on Wall St. He tapes off the area with crime scene tape. He does a bit with Jesus(from movie clips) disagreeing with capitalism. They are distraction he does not really need in this film.
Rating(7.7)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Paranormal Activity (2009) - Marketing strategy

Paranormal Activity (2009) - No this is not a review. This is one of the smartest marketing campaigns I have seen in recent years. The movie must be decent of this would have died out very quickly. Paramount Pictures goes with a limited release but says if you vote for it, it can come to your area. The buzz has built and the movie grossed half a million in midnight showings in a very limited release. Now it will expand to 40 cities and the campaign is a success BUT I have to say I am getting annoyed with the "Is it in your city?, No! then Vote." approach. It feels manipulative. If your movie is so good then just release it and be done. Let it stand on its merits. I don't want to hear that crap about you can't afford it. It has enough buzz that Paramount Pictures could release it nation wide. Why don't they? Because they are playing us to create a buzz for their movie, to maximize what it can gross. They are trying out a new model where they try to slow burn a movie into a success. Currently you get a few weekends and then movies stop grossing much. Hell most horror movies only get a few weeks in theaters and then they are gone. Here they are trying a different approach. This though, is the thing, backlash can be an ugly thing. People don't mind the underground word of mouth but when they find out it is the studio spreading the word they will turn on the film. I am already in the camp that I don't want to campaign to see a movie. I am paying to see movies, Am I going to work to get to my area and then get to see it free? No! Paramount gets us to do the selling and then charges us to see the movie, what is with that? So if Paramount is as smart as they seem they will quickly end this campaign.

Zombieland (2009) - Comedy / (Horredy)

Zombieland (2009) - A fun romp through a post apocalyptic world of Zombies. Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) has his rule for surviving in the US of Zombieland and we are treated to a crash course early in the film. He is making his way back to Columbus when he accepts a ride from Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) who is surviving and in search of Twinkies. The two men are scammed a couple times by Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) who are heading to an amusement park they have fond memories of. The four travel together and survival adventures and bonding ensue . There is a hilarious cameo by Bill Murray being himself. When the girls split off to do the amusement park the lights and noise attract all the local undead and the girls are in real trouble. Columbus and Tallahassee come to save then in the action filled finally.
This was fun. A story about people coming together and being a family when all around them has gone to hell. When survival dictates that being alone is better, but being human means joining and connecting what do you do? This movie is about that struggle. The light approach to the film making worked to set the tone as light and comedic but with that feel good story underneath. Splattering the camera with blood, having the rules appear on the screen and the voice over all work in the playful approach this film takes. Harrelson must have had the Tallahassee role written for him. He was perfect for it. Emma Stone was competent as survivalist and just sexy enough to pull off her role. Eisenburg was good as the guy with the rules of survival the goofy guy to Harrelson's quirky straight man.

I looked around the theater and saw the laughter at the right times and the smiles the rest of the time. I really think this movie pulled off what it was trying to do.

Rating (8.1)

Grace (20009) - horror

Grace (2009) - New Age mom to be Madeline (Jordan Ladd) loses her baby in utero after an accident that kills her husband. She decides to finish the pregnancy instead of having a medical intervention. The still born is delivered by her former lover and now doctor and midwife Patricia (Samantha Ferris). It is a surprise when the baby comes back to life and seems to be perfectly healthy. Madeline retreats to her home protective of her child. Mother in law Vivian (Gabrielle Rose) struggles with the loss of her son and plots to get the child away from what she sees in a hippie daughter in law. It is the last part of her son in this world and she will have it. When madekine realizes that her baby did not come back to life without issue things get a bit difficult. She must deal with the strange aroma of the child and how it is attracting flies, but that is the least of her problems. Instead of breast milk the baby craves blood and Mom is hard pressed to provide enough of her own. What is a mother to do?
The selling of the new age women to old school mother in-law is a bit over the top, but is sets up the Vivian character well. My wife wondered aloud why a new mother would not take a child to the doctor? Besides the set up of being over protective there was little explanation of this. New agers may believe in alternative medicine but they are far from being anti doctor. Jordan Ladd was not the most convincing of characters and paled in the scenes with Gabrielle Rose who was very good in the grieving mother role. Still when we got to the part where the stress of supplying food for the child grew, Ladd seemed more believable. Samantha Ferris was good, she sold the former relationship and her inability to move on from it. The movie was a bit slow in the middle and the ending was a bit to campy for the earlier dark tone of the film.
Rating (5.3)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Deadgirl (2008) - Horror

Deadgirl (2008) - This movie is not what you would expect. Two high school boys find a girl who can't die chained to a slab in an old abandoned mental hospital. The boys were obviously poorly cast, with each looking way past high school age. Ricky (Shiloh Fernandez) is 24 and J.T. (Noah Segan) is 26, of course this is a common Hollywood issue. Once the boys find the nude woman (Jenny Spain) instead of calling the police like any sane person would do, J.T. pushes for a free sex slave arrangement. The rest of the movie for the most part is J.T. fucking the dead girl and Ricky struggling with the immorality of it. To create tension we learn that J.T. has experimented killing her, but she comes back to life. Ricky has a second and third plot line in the girl at school he likes and her dickhead Boyfriend, and his shitty home life. Another friend is brought in by J.T. so he does not have to rape alone creating the risk of discovery. Mostly this movies is boring, at least to me. I found the dead girl parts repulsive and the rest unoriginal. The climax builds as others learn of the dead girl and we learn her bite is going to make the bitten like her. She starts to rot, I am not really sure why, she was locked rot free in the room for years but maybe it is a side effect of being repeatedly harmed and raped. J.T. wants to take a giant step and continue his rape fest and Ricky wants it all to end, how will it turn out?
Rating (3.7)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Los Cronocrimenes (Time Crimes) (2007) - Sci-Fi / Thriller

Cronocrimenes (Time Crimes) (2007) - A man accidentally ends up traveling back in time an hour. Realizing that events that lead him there must happen the same way they did for him; Hector (Karra Elejalde) sets about trying to recreate the circumstance for his passed self. The consequences of his action are far greater than he expects as he struggle to make things right.
Writer/Director Nacho Vigalondo does a fine job with the design of this film. This smart time travel feature holds up well in a genre that easily muddles the time space continuum. Keeping the story small but only revealing the needed information has created a taught and exciting film. Is Hector is faced with a horrible decision, or do the time travel limits and rules make his crime forgivable? Is he a selfish man or just completing what has already happened?
Vigalondo is working on a English version of this film slated for 2011. I think it is not necessary since the dubbed version from Spain is quite well done. If you like time travel and thrilling stories this is the movie for you.
Rating (8.5)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Repulsion (1965) - Thiller

Repulsion (1965) - Roman Polanski's first film in England stars Catherine Deneurve as Carole a sexually repressed young women who suffers a breakdown when her older sister leaves her alone for a weekend. This fall from functioning adult to crazy woman is a good work. Polanski' use of simple effects and Deneurve's small mannerisms show the slow slippage of Carole's mind. At first you see her seemingly disconnected at her job as a manicurist. Her sister (Yvonne Ferneaux) Helen’s boyfriend, Michael (Ian Hendry), sets the mood saying “She’s a bit strung up, isn’t she?". We see the stress of life working on Carole, repulsion to being touched, auditory hallucinations on the street, and a need to clean herself. We realize that this is a woman just holding on to reality. When Helen and Michael head off leaving her alone she quickly deteriorates, with consequences on men who come in contact with her. The pleasant apartment is fortified creating a claustrophobic cave. Carole hallucinates being attacked in her bed. The use of no sound in these instances really works at reinforcing the isolation Carole is feeling. Carole may have been quietly mad in the apartment without horrid consequences if not a suitor Colin (John Fraser) shown up, if not the Landlord (Patrick Wymark) needed to get the rent. After the damage is done and the sister returns home we have this great juxtaposition of the apartment being full of curious neighbors, these people who did not even notice Carole now fill the apartment to see what has happened. This commentary on how we live private lives until things go tragically wrong is a nice point to leave this film.
Rating (8.1)

Monday, September 7, 2009

[Rec] (2007) - Horror

[Rec] (2007) - The inspiration for Quarantine (2008) rated here as 5.0 this is a slightly better version of a somewhat scary movie. Angela (Manuela Velasco) is a young reporter doing a piece on firefighters on night shift. When a call comes in they go to a house and find and film as the firefighters and police are attacked by a screaming women. Things get worse when the authorities seal everyone in the apartment building without explanation. Later it is revealed that the dog who went to the vet before the movie was carrying a new form of maybe rabies that caused it to attack and infect other animal. Knowing the contagion started in the building everyone was sealed up tight.Biting and killing fallow this as new infected attack the remaining survivors until at the end the last two find the source of the infection.
The reporter style of this film works to an extent but like in Quarantine, I wondered why the camera man didn't just refuse to keep shooting. Sure they have to document for their future lawsuits but eh. It was better in that all the sexist additions of the American version were not really part of this one. The end was very good and I enjoyed it fine.
Rating (6.0)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Red Mist (2008) - Horror

Red Mist (2008) - Also called Freakdog this movie is a tales of a group of medical students who through there cruelty put a fellow med school student into a coma. Feeling guilty our lead Catherine (Arielle Kebbel) attempts a radical unproven treatment on him (Kenneth - Andrew Lee Potts) but instead of bring him back she opened the door for him to travel out of his body, take over others and commit revenge killings. The characters are pretty standard, with each for this or that reason willing to let Kenneth go into the coma instead of seeking immediate care for him. All promising doctors to be there is too much at stake to have this weirdo go from being the brunt of a joke to the reason they are kicked out of medical school. So Kenneth seeks his revenge and Catherine is slow in picking up on that is going on. Finally she does and the movie rushes to a climax.
The acting was better than some of the "pretty people" acting we got in The Final Destination. Still there was scant development of anyone except Kenneth and Catherine but still I need to give it a pass on that because it was not really needed. The mood of the movie was good even if the scares were not really there. Arielle Kebbel was decent in the lead as the guilty student trying to make things right. Potts was good as the strange traumatized victim. He had some back story I wish could have been developed more. It was interesting but the story was not used to the fullest. Overall a decent little story.
Rating (5.9)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Final Destination 3D (2009) Horror

The Final Destination 3D (2009) - So here we are at the 3D version of the Final Destination series of films. Each of these movies are basically the same, someone in a group has a horrible vivid vision of death and destruction just before it happens and saves a group from death. Then death tracks them down one by one, the only thing that can save them is if they see the signs and avoid the individual destruction also. Not as easy as you might think. In this case the accident is at a car track and not all those saved are friends. Also our lead has individual premonitions as well as the initial saving one. What makes these movies are the little things that add up to the incident that causes the death. The formula is tried and true in this 3D version of the franchise. There is nothing particularly new in this film, but that's okay it is not why I was there. I was there for the 3D ride and the gross deaths and the movie delivers. I always want more effects but this one used the 3D well and I was satisfied.
Rating (5.3)

Monday, August 31, 2009

One Eyed Monster (2008) Horror/Comedy

One Eyed Monster (2008) - Oh what people think up! While snowed in at a cabin in the woods the crew of an adult movie is terrorized by an alien from outer space. Starring Ron Jeremy's dick, Amber Benson and Charles Napier and this piece of crap is funny in some ways but can not overcome the just horrible plot. The alien enters Ron Jeremy and then detaches from him, leaving him dead, using his penis as a way to try to breed. WhyBecause aliens have seen all the porn beamed across the airwaves for years and have seen Jeremy as the biggest reproducer of us all. The dick then goes about killing anyone who messes with it and trying to mate as much as possible. There are lots of serious line about how to stop the dick. The group realizes that getting the dick to cum will leave it vulnerable to an axe, so they devise a plan and attempt to execute it.
Rating (3.5)

Feast II : Sloppy Seconds (2008) Horror

Feast II : Sloppy Seconds (2008) - The monsters from the first movie are on the move and a new group of humans are trying to survive. Defined by their teeth and insatiable appetites for blood and sex the monsters are out in the day, descending on a small southwestern town. Biker Queen arrives at the bar from the first movie Feast (2005) looking for her sister Harley Mom (Same actress Diane Ayala Goldner) She only finds the bartender who tells her her sister was used as bait by Hot Wheels and now she wants revenge. Heading to a small town to find him with Bartender (Clu Gulager) tied to her bike she arrives after the town has been attacked by the monsters. Looking for a place to hold up, they run into several survivors and soon the group is hold up trying to think of a way into the jail, the place they see as the most secure building in town. In this mix is stories of survival, Honey Pie (Jenny Wade) is back and still trying to stay alive. Hobo is the uncle of Hot Wheels and won't let anyone in the police station. Several biker chicks, a love triangle and a couple key making small people all fight for survival.
This movie is a mess artistically with a weird dream sequence, a baby flying through the air in slow motion, cat fucking and the strangest, most gross out alien dissection I have ever seen. Unlike the first movie it lacked the frantic pace and thus was not as pure. Instead it was a mixed mess of bit thrown together but not quite making a whole.
Rating (3.6)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

La Terza Madre (Mother of Tears) (2007) Horror

La Terza Madre (Mother of Tears) (2007) - The third in the series of The Mothers movies by Dario Argento, starring his lovely daughter Asia. In this installment an ancient urn is found and when opened releases an evil that is to bring about the fall of Rome. Violent acts increase and witches from around the world begin to arrive in Rome to perform the rituals to complete the fall. Sarah (Asia Argento) who inherited the power to stop the events from her mother finds herself the heroine. She is pursued by the evil followers and in the catacombs beneath Rome battles for good.
The movie written by five writers is poorly put together with clumsy exposition throughout. Our lead stumbles through the movie inevitably moving towards the climax with few proactive actions. This happens to her and then that happens to her and then the climax happens to her and then it ends with the ridiculous and silly laughing scene. The Police in the movie are an after thought and to some extent so is the plot. The lead detective shows up at the end to save Sarah but has barely been in the movie to that point.

The music as with many of Dario Argento's movies is over done but bearable. The gore scenes are exceptionally gross and I see that as a positive in what overall is a not great film.
Rating (4.9)

Surveillance (2008) Thriller

Surveillance (2008) - Jennifer Lynch, daughter of David Lynch directs this thrilling story of a couple killers in small town America. Bill Pullman and Julie Ormond star as a couple of FBI agents tracking coming to the police station in Nowhere America looking for details about the killers. Through the stories of witnesses the killings are shown. The crooked cop(Kent Harper) tells of how his deceased partner came to die. A junkie Bobbi (Pell James) tells of the attack from the position of her and her boyfriend (Also a victim). Little girl and very insightful Stephanie(Ryan Sompkins) shares how her family died at the hands of the murderers. Most of the conflict is through the FBI, Local tension and the witnesses telling their stories but not wanting to share all the details for various reasons. This is a "big twist" movie and in general I think the director did a decent job not revealing too much too early. I figured it out about ten minutes before it was revealed, but consider myself an astute film watcher. I wonder if others had an easier time in getting it. Overall the movie was a bit slowly paced and some of the characters were very unlikable, but the stories were interesting enough to hold my attention. The gruesome parts were just that and the killers were not developed enough to make them iconic. I think what was missing were the motivation of the killers. They just did what they did but there is no back story of how they reached this point, no reasons why they behave the way they do.
Rating (6.5)

Monday, August 17, 2009

School Killer (2001) Horror

School Killer (2001) - The story of six teenagers who attempt to spent the night at an old and apparently haunted school. Like his father did 30 or so years before Ramon (Carlos Fuentes) brings his friends to the closed down private school for adventure but only finds horror and death. Trying to solve the mystery of what happened to his father Alex and his friends may save these teen from a similar fate. Early in the film the characters referenced A nightmare on Elm street and one of the Scream movies in talking about how they are not as stupid as the teens in those films, hmmmmm...

Strange light when there is no electricity quickly leads to the classic, have sex and die scene. Soon there is running and screaming and a car that has flats and does not start. The tired going back into the creepy dark building, then more running and dying. The mystery was a bit interesting and seeing Paul Naschy as the evil security guard was cool. Overall though this is pretty standard stuff and for all their talk of knowing horror movies the characters in this one made the same mistakes.

The movie looks dark, and the sound and music was a bit grating.

Rating (3.8)

District 9 (2009) Sci-Fi

District 9 (2009) -Director and cowriter Neill Blommkamp has a winner on his hands. It has been a long time since I have seen a movie that was so enjoyable. I am a science fiction fan and District 9 delivers. After their spaceship become stranded hovering above Johannesburg South Africa. A million desperate aliens, are stranded for twenty years in a refugee camp called district 9. Prawns as they are called live in poverty scavenging trash in the wastes of the district. Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is a government functionary in charge of moving more than a million alien refugees from their camp in district nine to a new facility 200 miles away is the protagonist. He comes across as both a competent civil servant and unaware dupe. (Elisa and I did have a conversation about how in the know Wikus actually is. They needed to make him sympathetic while still showing that he disregarded the aliens as much as anyone else.) He an everyone else seems racist towards the aliens. The callous nature of the approach to moving them re enforces the relationship. They are not human nor are they seen as equal or intelligent. A very interesting juxtaposition considering that their technology is so much more advance than ours. In fact there are governments and multinational corporations searching for a way to use the weapons from the aliens. Unfortunately they are bio engineered and only the aliens can use them. Shot in a style of gathered video it could have been slicker but I do think that the found footage approach did not take too much away from the story.
The rest of the plot centers around Wikus and what happens to him while moving the aliens. He finds a cylinder of black liquid and when it accidentally sprays him things start to change for him. I do not want to give away any more of the plot. Go see this movie!
I will say though, that the tension and action of this film grows from that point on. It transforms into a very good action film and is a great ride.
Rating (9.0)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Pontypool (2008) Horror/Thriller

Pontypool (2008) - Grant Mazzy(Stephen McHattie) is a has been shock jock trying to make a come back in a tiny town in Ontario. On this morning all hell breaks loose as a virus that lives in words spreads through the town causing the infected to kill and then commit suicide. How will he , producer Sydney (Lisa Houle)and technician Laurel Ann (Georgina Reilly) figure out the virus and inform the airwaves of how to beat it.
This movie is a slow burn, taking its time in an attempt to gain the momentum needed to make its plot leap. I am not sure that it really pulled it off. From reporting the crowds at a local doctors office to the crowds showing up, not much happens. I have to say I was not sold at this point. The solution was "retahded"(A Boston term meaning stupid).

The camera work was totally stationary on this small set movie, with no camera movement at all just cuts to different shots. The acting was okay and the concept not horrible. The execution of the solution needed more fleshing out. We have the story get bigger and bigger but then there is a 4 minute sequence where they figure out the virus and counteract it. It was way too easy. The action in the movie consisted of infected whacking themselves against hard thing. Oh and "Kill is Kiss."

Rating (4.8)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Tres días (2008) - (Three Days) Drama

Tres días (2008) - Listed on the cable as Before the Fall I think the translation should be "Three Days", This is a drama disguised as a Science Fiction movie; Or at least that is what you would think from the description. We Join Alejandro (Ale)(Victor Clavijo) on the day he learns that a meteor is going to hit the earth in three days. Governments have already tried the Armageddon and Deep Impact ways to stop it but they have failed. So now the governments of the world are telling the populous that the party is over. Ale is apathetic in general and this news only makes him more so. With him is his mother "The Widow"(Marilo Munoz) who brings him back to reality by immediately thinking of her grandchildren. She goes rushing off to another family members home through the chaos of the streets in the small Spanish city. Ale wants to say "fuck it" but it is his mother and he is compelled to follow her as already discord is everywhere. They make it to the family home as the last member is committing the suicide that goes with murder suicide. So sad. Rosa sees from the TV that the prisons are being taken over by inmates. This is where things get interesting. She use to have two sons and one helped stop Lucio (Eduardo Fernandez), a serial killer of children. The son dying as he did. The killer sent to prison for life, 20 years earlier is now sure to escape. He promised on his arrest to get the family of the young man who got him captured. Now Rosa thinks about the kids of her dead son out at the country house. She convinces Ale to drive her to see that they are alright. She is sure that Lucio is on his way there.
When they arrive through the fleeing masses to the isolated country house all seems fine except the parents who went into town never came back. The children not having a working TV do not know the end of the world is coming. Rosa against Ale's reluctance decides not to tell the children. The tension then builds as Lucio heads to the house, Rosa struggles to keep the news from the children and Ale does not know whether he should continue to contribute to the charade.
Lucio arrives and it is here I will stop relaying the plot. It is tension filled with action and worth every minute.
What is this movie about though? What would you do in the same position? Ale was ready to just give out and live his last few days on earth quietly at home. He instead though showed that family prevails for him and is compelled into action. Later he is confronted with the emotions of figuring out if he is strong enough to defend the children and if he can be as brave as his brother was. Rosa, reacts immediately for protection of family, even though in three days it won't matter. She is a true character with no doubt in her beliefs. Lucio even though he knows there is no future spend his final days stalking the family. His mental illness determining for him that what was started 20 years before must be completed. Is there a fight worth fighting and dying if there is no future? That is essentially the question this film asks us.
This movie was quiet in the first half with at times really over the top music. The second half is exciting thrilling.
Rating (8.3)

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Descent (2005) Horror

The Descent (2005) - The year before this movie hit theaters in the USA my family and I were spending a couple weeks in Cuernavaca Mexico, at the Encuentros Spanish school, and living with a family when not in class. We were really tired of the nonstop Spanish and needed to find some way to hear English just for a little while, you can only watch so much TV in Spanish before tuning out. We decided to go to the big fancy mall in the city to see a film. In English with Spanish subtitles. While the girls went to see some romantic comedy or something I found the movie The Descent. I already knew the director Neil Marshall from his great Dog Soldiers so I was excited that I was going to get to see a new movie from him. It was just what I needed to see, a claustrophobic, exciting horror movie with lots of gore. I love this movie, I have seen it seven times now and enjoy it each time. Smartly paced with excellent scares it build to an exciting action filled climax and then leaves you thinking with a ending that does not explain everything completely. This being the international ending, which is different than the US ending.
After loosing her family in a car wreck Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) rejoins her female adventure group for a caving expedition in the Appalachian mountains. Sarah is still feeling the effects of the deaths of her husband and daughter is taking medication and having horrifying dreams. Juno (Natalie Mendoza) who secretly had an affair with Sarah's late husband, struggling with the guilt of it wants to organize a special trip to bring the group closer together. She without telling the group leads them to a cave that has never been explored before. Things go horribly wrong when the way they just past collapses leaving the group stuck under the mountain. As they attempt to find a passage out they realize they are not alone in the cave. Living in the system is a group of humanoid creatures evolved for living in the dark. The bat people stalk and start killing the party and very quickly the women are in a fight for their lives.
Spoilers: The ending in the US version of this film has the main character escaping from the caves and pulling over on the side of the road. She sees her friend Juno (dead at this point) sitting next to her and screams, the movie ends. This is the happy ending, Sarah escapes being the only survivor of the expedition.
In the international version after Sarah screams in the truck she wakes up still in the tunnels. You hear the sounds of the creatures and see her hallucinating her daughter blowing out a birthday cake. In this ending you are brought back to some of the exposition dialog, where the effects of darkness can be hallucinations, paranoia, etc. It could be that the women were trapped and then Sarah broke and killed all her friends and the creatures and all were just her minds way of dealing with the craziness. Or that there was indeed creatures and although she fought then off and sacrificed Juno to them that she never found the way out of the caves and it ends with her still trapped.
Either way this movie kicks ass and I loved it. Even after seeing it multiple times I still sit enthralled with this one.
Rating (9.0)

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Girlfriend Experience (2009) Drama

The Girlfriend Experience (2009) - Sasha Grey plays Chelsea, a high end call girl who tries to balance a relationship with Chris (Chris Santos) and look after her business. Written by David Levien and Brian Koppelman and directed by Steven Soderbergh it is a movie about intimacy and pretend intimacy and whether we can tell the difference. Do we need there to be a difference or is the act of seeming intimate equivalent to actual closeness? Chelsea played with very little affect is struggling with this question and I think Soderbergh sort of leaves it for the audience to decide at the end. There are a mix of relationships to look at here, a trainer to his clients, a call girl to her clients, the call girl to her boyfriend and the call girl to a client she hopes will be more. Shot in beautiful digital the movies is edited uniquely and I am not sure the best order. My personal reaction to the movie was that I didn't really care about the characters. I recognized the questions being posed but really don't connect to the world created to explore them. So I was left a bit flat, interested in the subject but not the story.
Rating (6.0)

Coffy (1973) Drama

Coffy (1973) - This is a "blaxploitation" vengeance film starring Pam Grier as a nurse, Coffy who pays back the Mother F$%^ers who hurt her little sister by selling her drugs. Coffy tries to balance her life as a nurse with her night time activities posing as a prostitute in order to get close enough to the drug traffickers to kill them. The story is pretty straight forward and Coffy has little trouble infiltrating the crime organization. Being an exploitation movie the script written by director Jack Hill does not try very hard to have more than one level. There are some common blaxpoitation lines about how society won't defend minorities so they have to do it themselves. It has the standard black man drug lord, King George (Robert DoQui) but naturally the guy really in charge is white. This is common for this brand of movie. The higher up is a mobster named Arturo Vitroni played by Allen Arbus, a great character actor who was in some of my favorite M.A.S.H. episodes as Major Sidney Freedman, an army psychiatrist. Also playing a thug is legendary horror actor Sid Haig. The film is straightforward and there is enough street justice to make it enjoyable, but as a film it leaves a lot to be desired.
Rating (5.4)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dead Snow (2009) Horror

Død snø (Dead Snow)(2009) - The opening shots of a girl, Sara (Ane Dahl Torp) running through the snow, with dark human shapes coming, and eventually capture her, for lunch. She owns the cabin that she is going to meet her friends at for a snowy spring break. She doesn't make it but her friends do, poor souls. Dead snow is about this group arriving and partying as they wait for their recently eaten hostess. While they are enjoying themselves a strange guy, The Wanderer(Bjorn Sunquist), comes by the cabin and gives us a premise for what will happen the rest of the movie. He tells the kids of the Nazi occupation during WWII. The soldiers were cruel and greedy. They stole the gold of the villagers and treated them poorly. When the war turned the village rose up and killed many of the soldiers. The Colonel escaped with their gold and some of his soldiers into the mountains and are rumored to still be there. Then the wanderer is off to find his own fate at the hands of the zombies. Why is it people always ask if there "Is somebody there?" when they are alone and hear a noise? In the cabin The Group finds the German gold in the floor and now we all know what is going to happen.
The next day Sara's boyfriend decides to head out on the snow mobile to look for her. He comes across the tent of the wanderer and realizes bad things are about. He continues looking for Sara instead of heading back to warn his friend, but does not get too far before falling through the snow into a snow cave.
From here on the movie gets better and better with the Zombies coming after the kids. The tension and action take step after step up, through the third act all the way until the final survivor realizes the way to obvious conclusion. Included is the death of some characters, splitting up when they shouldn't, fighting back and a snowmobile with mounted machine gun.
Now I really liked this movie but of course there are those hanging questions left that take off some points.
1. If the German Gold draws the Germans how did it get under the cabin and why wasn't Sara's family slaughtered by them years before?
2. Why was Sara killed? Did she prior to the start of the movie find the gold? If so why hike across the mountain to the cabin, she must have known the story of the Nazis?
3. Why did Sara boyfriend keep looking for her instead of getting back to warn friends and get help? The Wanderer was obviously murdered and help was needed instead of looking for a needle in a haystack.
Rating (7.7)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Run fatboy Run (2007) Drama / Comedy

Run Fatboy Run (2007) - How do you prove to the women you left at the alter that you have changed and should get a second chance? Train and run a marathon in three weeks. This is the basic premise as Dennis (Simon Pegg) tries to win back the heart of Libby (Thandie Newton) after leaving her pregnant on the alter seven years earlier. She has met a new guy Whit (Frank Azaria) who runs and through a bunch of comic scenes Dennis promises not only to run the marathon but to finish. First there is that whole smoking, drinking and not being in shape at all thing to deal with. Dennis's best friend Gordan (Dylan Moran) and neighbor Mr Goshdashtidar (Harish Patel) help him train and his landlady ups the stake by saying he can stay at his place even though he is behind on the rent if he does it. This movie is about upping the ante and Gordon does his part by making a bet on Dennis with his bookies for 5000 pounds at good odds. So the pressure is on for Dennis, save his place to live, save his friend from his bookies, and get the girl, but when whit becomes engaged to Libby he is going to give it up. Only the arrogance of Whit brings him back to the race. In the race Whit trips Dennis as the too struggle to beat each other in the first mile. they both go down. Whit is carted off to the hospital but Dennis gets up and continues the race on a badly sprained ankle. You can probably guess the rest as the local TV stations pick of the story of the lone injured runner trying to finish the race.
There was very little surprising about this movie and I have to say I was a bit bored by it at times. Dramedy is a tough sell and when it is this formula it is doubly tough.
Rating (6.0)