Sunday, September 11, 2005

Review - Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero

Technically this is an episode of Frontline, but it’s movie-length and certainly worthy of the title “documentary,” so I’m gonna go ahead and review it. Parts of this piece were fascinating, particularly the Sept. 11 footage that many other news outlets have shied away from showing (such as people jumping out of the upper floors of the World Trade Center). Some of the interviews also made for interesting viewing. If nothing else, the film-makers did a solid job of capturing a range of reactions to the tragedy. However, some of the discourse was more than a little weak. I was particularly disappointed by the section on the nature of evil. I thought surely some of the people who had stared such experiences directly in the face would have put at least some thought into the subject, perhaps finding a way to go beyond George Bush’s “Legion of Doom versus the Superfriends” approach to the question. Sadly, most of the subjects came up lacking. But overall this was an interesting if not always enlightening exploration of the interaction between tragedy and religious belief. Mildly amusing

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Review – A Comedy of Terrors

If this isn’t the all-time champion, it’s at least one of the most flagrant cases of movies that squander good casts. Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, and Basil Rathbone struggle with dialogue so bad it could make an audience get up and leave a dinner theater production. Even Rhubarb the Cat looks like he can’t wait for the director to call “cut” so he can rush back to his trailer, call his agent and scream his lungs out. I suppose this silliness is supposed to be vaguely reminiscent of Poe, but if Poe is fine, fresh French pastry then this is a Twinkie that rolled under a car seat two years ago and has been there ever since. Wish I’d skipped it

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Review – Death 4 Told

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen a low-budget horror movie I actually liked. And though this single effort doesn’t exactly revive my faith in the sub-genre as a whole, it at least stirred a little hope. As implied by the title, this is a set of four vignettes cleverly interwoven without benefit of a bracketing story. The second tale is more than a little mediocre, overshadowed even by the original short version that’s included in the DVD’s special features. However, the first story has the same disregard for complexity that made the Scary Stories series such fun to read. The third and fourth outings are clever enough without being too inspiring. To be sure the director makes plenty of rookie mistakes, especially in the editing process. However, my hat’s off to anyone who can take kisses-of-death like Margot Kidder and Tom Savini and still churn out a reasonably entertaining product. Mildly amusing

Saturday, September 3, 2005

Review – Alexander

Any further complaints from Arlen Specter and Jack Valenti about Oliver Stone playing fast and loose with history? Not this time around? Hmmm. Well, that’s okay. Departures from the historical record aren’t exactly the biggest problem here. That distinction belongs to the script, which is as intensely boring as it is poorly put together. The action bounces back and forth randomly in the time line, with an astounding amount of screen time devoted to go-nowhere speeches. The direction doesn’t help either, as Stone makes copious use of pace killers such as extended shots of Colin Ferrel and the rest of the cast gaping vacantly into space. Stir in a heap of animal violence and this one’s headed for the reject pile. However, the production was plenty expensive, with some of the money going for effects that work well enough (especially compared to the rest of the picture). See if desperate