Friday, October 24, 2008

Review – The End of St. Petersburg

This film – Pudovkin’s take on the October Revolution – would make an interesting companion piece to Eisenstein’s October, assuming one could endure two over-edited Soviet silent movies in one sitting. My favorite part about this picture was that it was less grandiose than most other cinema treatments of the Russian Revolution (October, Doctor Zhivago and Reds in particular). The plot focuses on a peasant who comes to the city seeking work only to find himself caught up in the turmoil of the times. Before the end, he’s suffered just about every ill experienced by the lower classes: starvation, homelessness, labor riots, military service in World War One, and so on. Though the production is plagued with Soviet propaganda clich├ęs such as the Honest Workers versus the Greedy Capitalists, it still manages at least a little genuine human interest. Mildly amusing

Review – Earth

This may be a classic of Soviet propaganda film-making from the late silent era, but beyond that it’s mostly just weird. The bare bones of a plot is about a collective farming champion murdered by a selfish landowner. Throw in an atheist funeral, a grieving wife thrashing around naked, some powerful tractor obsession, and a motivational speech about the glories of Communist aircraft, and you’ve got some idea of just how odd this picture is. So while it’s a brilliant piece of cinema as graphic art, it leaves something to be desired in the talking-the-peasants-into-giving-up-their-land department. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Review – The Curse of the Living Corpse

This crappy old horror movie is a lesson in how awkward foreshadowing can ruin a production. Assemble a gaggle of greedy relatives at the reading of a millionaire’s will. The will states that the relatives have to take special precautions to make sure the ol’ guy isn’t buried alive. If they fail to perform their duties, he’s going to kill them using whatever they fear most (fire, drowning, etc.). So right away the audience knows 1. the guy was buried alive, and 2. he’s going to kill them using whatever they fear most. The only remedy for the ensuing tedium is to pull a twist out of left field at the end of the picture, a cure that’s almost worse than the disease itself. This experience is noteworthy as an early appearance by a very young Roy Scheider and not much else. See if desperate

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Review – Diary of the Dead

What a dreadful disappointment. The first two entries in George Romero’s “Dead” series are genre classics, and the last two – though not quite as good – are at least entertaining. This one, however, is almost nothing but Cloverfield except with zombies. Romero is a more talented director than the boneheads that made Cloverfield, but that just makes his mindless preaching about media addiction all the more annoying. See if desperate

Review – The Cry

The first La Llorona movie I tried to watch was so terrible I had to shut it off. So I went into this with a fair amount of trepidation. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the experience. The horror here is masterfully understated, relying on creepy editing and spooky voice-overs rather than tons of gore. The script is good. The acting is good. Of course the nature of the legend requires that children be the targets of the evil spirit’s wrath, so that element – however essential to the plot – is upsetting. But overall this is one of the better genre movies I’ve seen in awhile. Worth seeing

Review - The Fall

I was rooting for this picture most of the way through. It was an interesting blend of a bracket about a man in a hospital who tells stories to an injured child and the stories themselves. The visuals were rich and colorful, artistic enough to keep things interesting even when the plot got slow. But then with around half an hour to go it was like the film-makers decided we were all having too much fun and started pouring ice-cold water on our heads for the rest of the running time. The storyteller begins making his story tragic to the point where it’s an act of unwarranted cruelty against the girl he’s telling it to. If it had ended before it took that particular twist, it would have been a much, much better movie. See if desperate

Review – Dolores Claiborne

I liked this better than I thought I would. That’s at least in part because Stephen King novels usually make such lousy movies that even a tolerable production turns out to be a treat. I must also admit that the source novel isn’t exactly one of my favorites; I like King better when he sticks to simple scares rather than exploiting serious issues such as sexual abuse of a minor. Thus my expectations were sufficiently low to make this seem like a good movie just because it didn’t suck. Kathy Bates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, David Strathairn and Christopher Plummer all do solid jobs in their roles. The highly-filtered cinematography gets overworked in spots, but otherwise the production values are quite good as well. If only other King movies could have focused so strongly on character and spent less time relying on the booga-booga shot. Mildly amusing

Friday, October 10, 2008

Review – The Bible Tells Me So

This documentary examines Christian and Jewish attitudes about homosexuality. The main focus is on how religious families react when their children come out of the closet. Reactions range from parents who accept and even advocate down to others who reject (including one woman who came to acceptance only after her rejected daughter committed suicide). The movie also examines various interpretations of scriptural references to homosexuality. I suspect that this might make good viewing for folks who find themselves torn between the love of their kids and the values they’ve learned from a church. Mildly amusing