Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Review – Carnival of Souls

This odd little picture from 1962 should serve as at least some inspiration for indy film-makers everywhere. Herk Harvey manages to make a not-too-bad movie with minimal resources, something that was a lot harder to do in the early 60s than it is now. Sure, the picture has rough spots. The script is weak. The acting is strictly amateur hour. Even the dimmest audience member must surely see the final turn of the screw coming almost from the beginning of the picture. But some of the defects add to the impact. For example, Candace Hilligoss (as Mary, our protagonist) looks so much like a 60s-era department story mannequin that it’s actually a little surprising every time she talks. In some roles that would be off-putting to say the least. But here it adds to the general sense of disorientation that the director is trying to convey. An abandoned amusement park in Salt Lake City serves as the location for a lot of the key action, and the weirdness of these visuals is almost enough to make the whole movie worthwhile all by itself. I should also admit that I like this picture at least in part because some scenes were shot in Lawrence, Kan., a town where I lived for several years. Thus I got a kick out of the whole “so that’s what that looked like back in ‘62” thing, an experience other audience members might not share. Still, overall this is a solid piece of work considering the era and the budget. Mildly amusing

Friday, May 19, 2006

Review – The Day Mars Invaded Earth

Imagine Invasion of the Body Snatchers reworked as one of the bad episodes of The Twilight Zone and then stretched to more than three times its natural length. Judging by appearances, the producers of this little treasure rented (or otherwise wrangled access to) a deserted mansion out in the Hollywood hills somewhere. Then, armed with somewhere around 20 minutes’ worth of script, they created nearly 80 minutes’ worth of movie by having the characters wander aimlessly around the grounds. If you’re trying to see every humans-replaced-by-alien-look-alikes movie ever made, then sooner or later you’re going to have to sit through this. Otherwise it’s completely missable. VSee if desperate

Saturday, May 6, 2006

Review – The Brothers Grimm

The movie dreadful. This is the exact opposite of what we’ve come to expect from Terry Gilliam. There’s almost no plot at all here, the story consisting almost exclusively of fairy tale sub-references and sight gags. And even these elements frequently don’t work on their own, let alone as part of a larger production. The acting was terrible; why oh why did Matt Damon feel the need to adopt a highly-ineffective English accent in order to play a German character? And don’t even get me started on the animal cruelty. Even the theme is unnecessary. As ever, Gilliam makes a valid point about the importance of imagination. But this is a subject he’s explored to much better effect in other productions ranging from Time Bandits down to Baron Munchausen. Because I was in a fairly good mood when I wrote this, the movie managed to escape a “skip” rating. But just barely. See if desperate