Saturday, June 25, 2005

Review – Don't Look Now

“Don’t Watch Ever” might have been better advice. This Nicholas Roeg supernatural thriller is one of those productions that would be really creepy if it was actually happening to you, but just watching it happen to fictional characters in a movie is merely dull. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie play the parents of a little blonde girl who starts apparently appearing here and there in Venice despite having died some time earlier. Roeg manages to conjure an interesting visual here and there, but they’re no match for the weak script and wooden acting. The sex scene between the leads is especially horrific, easily qualifying as the least stimulating set of visuals since the horny hairy humpin’ hippies that grace the pages of The Joy of Sex. “Don’t look now” is some seriously good advice for that scene! Perhaps by 1973 standards this was an eerie bit of psychological horror, but now it rarely rises above boring. See if desperate

Friday, June 24, 2005

Review – Come and See

This is a hard movie to watch for a handful of reasons. It’s grim and depressing, though of course that’s exactly what you’d expect from a brutally accurate depiction of Nazi atrocities on the Eastern Front in 1943. Occasionally the flow falls victim to Socialist art school conceits. And why are Russian movies so hard on the cows? I think this is a tradition that dates back to Eisenstein’s Strike. No SPCA in the Soviet Union in 1985, I guess. But if you can get past the rough spots, this is an important production. When 30 million people die, someone ought to make a movie about it. And overall this one’s quite good. The nightmare of the village destruction sequence easily rivals anything from Hollywood holocaust movies. Worth seeing

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Review – Assault on Precinct 13 (2004)

At least this didn’t turn out quite as bad as some other recent remakes. However, that’s at least in part because if you’re remaking The Manchurian Candidate you’ve got some serious living up to do. Redoing a mediocre offering from early in John Carpenter’s career, on the other hand, imposes less of a burden. Some of the new twists this time around actually help the plot. For example, in the original the attack by a gang took place in Los Angeles in clear weather. It’s easier to understand why nobody comes to the aid of a besieged police station in Detroit in the middle of a blinding snowstorm when the attacking forces turn out to be crooked cops (sorry about the minor spoiler, but it’s revealed early in the movie as well, not to mention on the DVD box). The acting is uneven, ranging from good work from Lawrence Fishburne to standard stuff from John Leguizamo to sub-par posturing from Ja Rule. Production values are good, and the story keeps moving fairly well. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Review – The Boogeyman

Ever since the first Halloween I’ve been waiting for KC and the Sunshine Band to show up on the soundtrack of a movie about the Boogeyman. Skunked again, I’m afraid. But that’s about all I’m afraid of in this tedious borefest about a guy still battling the childhood nightmare that snatched his father 15 years earlier. The filmmakers rely almost exclusively on those bone-jarring assaults of jump cuts that tear by at five or six frames per. The technique has been used to good effect elsewhere, but here there’s little in the way of plot or character to back it up. Compare this to that childhood classic, “The Golden Arm.” The arm works because it’s worked into a story and because the shock is only used once. Watching this movie was a little like spending 90 minutes being grabbed and having “You’ve got it!” shouted in my ear over and over. It gets old after awhile, especially with nothing else there to keep it interesting. See if desperate

Review – Batman Begins

Yeah, eventually. But he sure takes his time doing it. For the longest stretch at the beginning this movie does one of my least favorite tricks: ping-ponging back and forth between three or four different time frames. As much as I dislike this trick in general, my hat’s off for the effort to show not only the murders that first turned young Bruce Wayne against crime but also the trials and training that eventually turned him into a superhero. Once it settles down into a single stream, the plot becomes more of a straightforward good guys vs. bad guys story. This is also one of those productions that features a gaggle of big-name celebrities in supporting roles. But the best part for my money was that Batman was – at least in places – actually scary. This is the first, last and only Caped Crusader that ever left me believing that criminals would be afraid of him. I kinda hope they make a series out of this (when’s the last time you heard me say that about a movie?), but if they do I hope it doesn’t go downhill like the Tim Burton set did. Worth seeing

Review – Alone in the Dark (2005)

In the dark we may be, but alone we ain’t. We’re in here with quite the collection, including Pitch Black, Aliens, X Files, The Relic, The Keep, The Tingler … yes that’s right, The Tingler. Just think what a bargain it is to be able to see little Cliff’s Notes chunks of these and several other pictures all for the price of a single video rental. Everyone involved mails in their performances, even Tara Reid (proud recipient of the Denise Richards Nuclear Physicist award for her role as an archaeologist). The script and direction are weak, and the effects are one step (if that) above PlayStation graphics. Someday someone is going to make a really solid archaeology-based horror movie. Sadly, we’re apparently going to have to wait at least a little longer. At least this wasn’t as bad as the last video-game-based effort from Uwe “House of the Dead” Boll. Maybe next they’ll turn him loose on Frogger. See if desperate

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Review – The Cockettes

Ah, what a magical time the late sixties and early seventies must have been in San Francisco. So magical, indeed, that apparently a number of the interviewees in this documentary don’t seem to remember things all that well. But that doesn’t stop this from being an interesting look at the birth, development and death of the Cockettes. To call the troupe a drag show would be selling it way short, as there was a measure of art and also some famous faces (Alan Ginsberg, Divine, Sylvester) making guest appearances along the way. I was surprised at how well-documented even the early days of the show turned out to be. Especially in the age before consumer video, it’s rare to find something this off-the-wall that has such an extensive visual record. And the footage sure helps, because watching what these folks were doing back in the day is a lot more interesting than listening to them reminisce about it now. If you’ve an interest in the subject or its setting, by all means give this movie a look. Mildly amusing

Friday, June 10, 2005

Review – Darkness

In the wake of The Ring I guess Hollywood has decided to let international directors run riot in the realm of the mid-budget ghost story. Trouble is, there’s more scary in the first ten minutes of The Ring (which itself wasn’t exactly a great paragon of the horror arts) than in the whole running time of this stinker. Indeed, the movie’s half over before anything happens that even appears to have been intended to be frightening, and even then it’s more annoying than anything else. What decent plot elements it picks up along the way are almost entirely “borrowed” from other movies such as The Amityville Horror. It picks up a teeny bit close to the end, but overall … well, one of the occult images associated with our family’s evil-possessed house is the ouroboros. Somehow the image of something biting itself in the ass is all too apt. See if desperate

Review – Days of Heaven

The visuals are the star of this Terrence Malik production. Richard Gere, Brooke Adams and Sam Shepard – all young in 1978 – turn in average performances. The passage from Genesis upon which this is loosely based is only ten verses long, and though things are fleshed out a bit with some soap opera twists and turns there still isn’t much of a story to speak of. The dialogue and narrative are also oddly cut, the plot spinning out in fits and starts. However, the look and feel are something else. The open plains of Texas in the late 19-teens give Malick plenty of opportunities to work with cinematography and art direction to produce something that, however dull, is very visually impressive. Mildly amusing

Review – Blade Trinity

Third verse, same as the first. New tricks this time around include a gaggle of gizmos ranging from anti-vampire viruses to iPods. Beyond product placement, however, this is more of that old, familiar, comic book plot and dialogue. If you liked the first two, odds are this one will have the same effect. If you didn’t like them, why are you still bothering with these things? Mildly amusing