Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review – Coming to America

Remember when Eddie Murphy was famous for something besides voicing a talking donkey? Remember when Arsenio Hall could command a major role and Samuel L. Jackson did no better than a walk-on as a guy robbing a fast food joint? Remember when John Landis could still find work? Then perhaps you’ll remember this movie for something other than the huge lawsuit that trailed in its wake. This tale of an African prince who comes to New York to escape an arranged marriage isn’t bad. It’s just unmemorable. Mildly amusing

Friday, April 19, 2013

Review – The Dark Sleep

Putting “sleep” in a movie title is just begging for a host of obvious insults, but here I’d feel bad about taking such cheap shots at such a defenseless production. H.P. Lovecraft’s “Dreams in the Witch House” may be buried somewhere under this vast pile of amateur hour antics. But for the most part this movie is an uneven blend of “at least you tried” special effects and writing more appropriate for skits performed in the multipurpose room of a dorm. See if desperate

Review – The Bay

To the extent I’m able, I’ve sworn off found footage movies. But with Barry Levinson in the director’s chair, this entry seemed like it might stand a chance. Levinson occasionally trips over the format, sneaking narrative filmmaking in here and there. I would also have preferred a more linear chronology. When the movie whips back and forth between subplots, editing scenes out of order doesn’t exactly make the story easier to follow. However, the nasty little mutant parasites more than make up for the technical defects. And sadly the premise – pollution of Chesapeake Bay turns harmless sea life into a dangerous plague – is all too plausible. Worth seeing

Review – Dark Feed

I’m greatly puzzled by one element of this picture: the puppy survives to the end. When a horrible horror movie introduces a cute animal of any kind, the poor creature’s part is almost universally guaranteed to end badly. Mind, I’m not complaining. Indeed, the decision saved the production from earning a lower rating. It just struck me as odd, particularly as the rest of the show was an intensely predictable tale of evil befalling a crew shooting a bad horror movie in a haunted insane asylum. See if desperate

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Review – The Adventures of Mark Twain

When I was a kid, Will Vinton’s Oscar-winning animated short, “Closed Mondays,” inspired me to spend some time playing around with animation using clay. Unfortunately, the quirky cleverness that functions well in shorts doesn’t translate particularly well to feature length productions. Vinton is still able to do some impressive stuff with clay, achieving fascinating effects that today’s computer-generated productions would never even consider. And in several spots it’s put to excellent use, particularly in the chilling version of “The Mysterious Stranger” (a segment cut from some prints for being too potentially upsetting for children). However, some of Vinton’s technique is ineffective. He’s especially bad with leg movement. And the production’s sense of self-conscious whimsey was dated in 1985, let alone now. Overall, however, this works as animated art and homage to the title character. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Abandoned – Storage 24

Dear bad British horror movie producers: thanks for getting the dog death out of the way in the first ten minutes. You saved me from sitting through the remaining 80.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Review – A Dangerous Method

Pretty tame by David Cronenberg’s standards, this is a fairly straightforward account of the birth of psychoanalysis. Naturally Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Jung (Michael Fassbender) feature prominently, as does Sabina Spielrein (Keira Kinightley). As is typical with such productions, Spielrein is here commemorated more for her kinky affair with Jung (and its effect on Jung’s relationship with Freud) than for her own valuable contributions to the field. Otherwise, however, this was a reasonably entertaining bit of historical drama. Worth seeing

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Review – The Awakening (2011)

More than a century after the first publication of “The Turn of the Screw,” Henry James continues to work his evil, dull-as-dishwater influence on English ghost stories. The description’s mention of a ghost hunter prompted me to pass this picture at first, but then I found myself curious to see how one of the great staples of the “found footage” sub-genre might play in an actual, narrative movie set decades before the birth of camcorders. Though I found the spiritualist-debunking protagonist initially intriguing, the production swiftly sunk under the weight of its own ponderous plot. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Review – The Factory

In this mid-budget slasher flick the trick is that the killer doesn’t kidnap prostitutes just to kill them. Instead he chains them up in his basement and forces them to breed with him. Though the title implies that he’s doing this for money, his only apparent interest is in having a lot of babies around. Beyond the baby thing, this is a run-of-the-mill genre piece with the usual cast of characters, pseudo-suspense and ludicrous plot twists. See if desperate