Beginning in December 2005 with my history of apes in film essay “Gorilla of Your Dreams” (the substantially update and revised version appears in The Apes of Wrath), I regularly contributed to Moving Pictures Magazine. First in the print incarnation and then for primarily the website. I contributed reviews and essays for the last three years of the publications existence. Following the June 2011 demise of both the print and website editions, all of the digital work for MPM disappeared into the ether. In the coming months (years?), I plan on reposting many of my reviews and articles.
I noticed that Green Lantern is currently showing on HBO. Let this review serve as warning.
Beginning in December 2005 with my history of apes in film essay “Gorilla of Your Dreams” (the substantially update and revised version appears in The Apes of Wrath), I regularly contributed to Moving Pictures Magazine. First in the print incarnation and then for primarily the website. I contributed reviews and essays for the last three years of the publications existence. Following the June 2011 demise of both the print and website editions, all of the digital work for MPM disappeared into the ether. In the coming months (years?), I plan on reposting many of my reviews and article.
This time I’m dusting off my review of The Oxford Murders, a fairly obscure mathematical murder mystery, based on the book Crímenes imperceptibles by Guillermo Martínez. It is available for streaming via Netflix. Continue reading →
WITH BEAUTIFUL FULL-COLOR ILLUSTRATIONS THROUGHOUT
From one of the most original and imaginative American cartoonists at work today comes a collection of graphic narratives on the subjects of urban planning, product design, and architecture—a surrealist handbook for the rebuilding of society in the twenty-first century.
Ben Katchor, a master at twisting mundane commodities into surreal objects of social significance, now takes on the many ways our property influences and reflects cultural values. Here are window-ledge pillows designed expressly for people-watching and a forest of artificial trees for sufferers of hay fever. The Brotherhood of Immaculate Consumption deals with the matter of products that outlive their owners; a school of dance is based upon the choreographic motion of paying with cash; high-visibility construction vests are marketed to lonely people as a method of getting noticed. With cutting wit Katchor reveals a world similar to our own—lives are defined by possessions, consumerism is a kind of spirituality—but also slightly, fabulously askew. Frequently and brilliantly bizarre, and always mesmerizing, Hand-Drying in America ensures that you will never look at a building, a bar of soap, or an ATM the same way. Continue reading →
Back in his native Austin, Texas, for a special dual screening of his original 1974 movie and the just-released Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D at the popular Alamo Drafthouse, Hooper lauded the new incarnation. “Producer Carl Mazzocone has been working on it for about three years, studying why the original film works, by breaking conventions, not doing it as the Hollywood version.” Unlike many of the previous Chainsaw attempts, this iteration, which serves as a direct sequel to the first, managed to remain true to the original concept and characters. Plus, according to Hooper, the “extraordinarily good 3D” actually turned him into a fan. “It’s so different than the 1950s kind of 3D. This has such depth.”
“One of the reasons I got into films was this terrible movie Goodbye Charlie. Tony Curtis gets changed into a dog.” Hooper further explains, “There was one moment that I kinda left my body. It’s hard to explain, but I was mesmerized. It was just one strange moment. Why in the hell did I feel that? If I could take those two seconds and extend that. Have an audience interact in such a way that they will kind of go into that world. If there was a way I could make that last like five minutes, 10 minutes, or even most of the film. I’m still working on that. Though I have pulled it off a couple of times.”
Hooper disagrees with the assessment of some that violent movies are the root cause of recent atrocities such as the Newtown shootings. “Videogames, perhaps. I was into videogames for a while. And things that look like a person do become targets. And their head explodes. I just don’t think a horror movie is gonna draw any copycats. Certainly not someone running around with a chainsaw. Unless it’s a gag.”
One of the finest James Bond installments, 2006′s magnificent Casino Royale infused an air of realism rarely seen in the previous films. Daniel Craig’s expert portrayal of the neophyte agent hearkened back to the dark, less humorous visage of Fleming’s novels. Picking up immediately after the conclusion of Royale, the disappointing Quantum of Solace paled in comparison to its predecessor, derailing much of the hoped-for future promise of the series. In the franchise’s 50th year, Craig returns for his third outing in Skyfall, a picture that successfully returns to the excitement and quality of Casino Royale.
The first trailer for the feature film Christmas with the Dead premiered on You Tube last night. Based on the Joe R. Lansdale short story of the same name and executive produced by Lansdale, his ownself, Dead chronicles Calvin (Damian Maffei) efforts to celebrate Christmas despite being the only human left following a zombie Apocalypse.
His first full length effort, Terry Lee Lankford directed Christmas with the Dead from the screenplay by Joe’s son and accomplished journalist Keith Lansdale. Completing this Lansdale family affair, daughter Kasey, the blonde at the beginning of the trailer, and son-in-law Adam Coats play prominent roles in the movie. An internationally acclaimed singer, Kasey also provides much of the movie soundtrack.
Made for less than a reported $1.5 million in conjunction with Stephen F. Austin University, Christmas with the Dead was shot entirely in Lansdale’s hometown of Nacogdoches, TX.
A well-crafted, ingeniously plotted time travel thriller, Timecrimes made its WORLD premiere at the Festival last night. Not only that, director Nacho Vigalondo had literally just finished the final cut one week before. Previously nominated for an Oscar for the 2003 short film “7:35 de la mañana”, Vigalondo beautifully shot his first feature on a tiny budget. Like all great time travel stories, Timecrimes lures you with red herrings and misdirection. The film lags a bit in the second act as it falls into stereotypical plotting, but is redeemed with a fantastic third act and superior acting throughout.
The conversation with Vigalondo after the film– he was in attendance- was entertaining. Vigalondo, whose English is self-admittingly not that good, provided several purposefully humorous and insightful moments.
Someone in the audience asked a complex time travel question which Vigalondo could not understand in English. Another patron translated it into Spanish. The director shook his head. “I don’t even understand the question in my native tongue. Next.”
When discussing the overall morality theme of the movie: “[When a cheating man is caught with his mistress by his wife], the only way to save the marriage is to kill the girlfriend.”
On how he raised the funds for his first feature: “I’m the only one in the world to use an Oscar [nomination] to make a time travel movie.”
Starring renowned Hong Kong actor and director Donnie Yen as a no nonsense Dirty Harry-type cop in pre-Chinese takeover Hong Kong, Flash Point offers the perfect combination of cop drama and martial art combat. As the film begins, Inspector Jun Ma (Yen), known for his violent treatment of suspects, is demoted to being charge of the police music division. When Ma’s undercover partner encounters problems with the Viet mob, Ma doesn’t let a little thing like a demotion stand in his way. At a slim 88 minutes, Flash Point thrives on character development and well placed action scenes. The climatic battle between Yen and the collection of bad guys is mind boggling.
Let The Bullets Fly quickly establishes the picture’s exquisite tone from the opening sequence. A lone train car–steam spewing from it spout—being pulled by a team of horses along railroad tracks. After gunshots are exchanges, events quickly lead to an exaggerated comedic train derailment in the finest Chinese movie slapstick fashion. With 1920s China as the backdrop, screen legends Chow Yun Fat and Jiang Wen (who also directs and wrote the screenplay) deliver virtuoso performances as the power hungry, greedy gangster and the Robin Hood style bandit, respectively. The thinly veiled pro-Chinese Revolution story abounds with fun fight scenes, intriguing interactions, and as the title promises, abundant gunplay, all wrapped within the epic feel of a Sergio Leone western.
The balls-to-walls Korean crime drama The Yellow Sea electrifies with creative bloody combat using a machete, kitchen knives, and even a dog leg, intense chase sequences, and a riveting story. Cab driver Gu-nam, living in Yanji City, a Chinese region between North Korea and Russia dominated mostly by Joseonjok (Chinese citizens of Korean ancestry), goes deeply into debt to send his wife to Korea for work. After not hearing from her in six month, he fears she has left him. When largely due to his gambling problem, Gu-nam begins missing repayments to local thugs, he accepts an opportunity from powerful crime boss Myung-ga to wipe the slate clean. He must journey to South Korea and kill a man! While there, Gu-nam searches for his wife. Things goes horribly wrong and Gu-nam must escape the police and gangsters. The Yellow Sea is sure to thrill even the most jaded crime film fan.
Despite an interesting premise, The Corridor delivered a mediocre horror experience with a scant few shocks. After spending several years in a mental institution following the death of his unbalanced mother, Tyler invites four childhood friends to the family cabin in the Canadian wilderness for a wake. After scattering his mother’s ashes, Tyler begins to have visions of a room in the forest surrounded by shimmering walls. In an attempt to prove he’s not insane, Tyler shares his experience with his friends. This time the it appears as a long corridor. Soon after the men start acting strangely then eventually psychotic even homicidal. The performances ranged from average to of the film, nothing memorable. While not a terrible script, it exhibits nothing particularly original or exemplary. The boring film feels very much like a first movie, full of potential that ultimately fails in its boredom.
Based on Jo Nesbø’s bestselling book, the taut, intelligent Headhunters reveals the secret art thief identity of successful corporate headhunter Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie). Initially just a well crafted caper film, unexpected plot twists morph the story into something completely different yet equally fascinating, culminating in a creative, surprising, and satisfying conclusion. Hennie delivers a pitch perfect performance, perhaps the best of the festival, as the unlikable lead, replete with inferiority complexes and disgusting displays of arrogance. Director Morten Tyldum superior handling of scene and action produces a top flight, edge-of-your-seat thriller. Ripe for a remake, see Headhunters before the inferior American remake hits theaters.
An extrapolation of the hit Danish TV series of the same name, the riotous comedy Klown follows two longtime friends (Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen reprising their roles as exaggerated versions of themselves from the show) on a canoe trip to an exclusive one-night-a-year brothel for a “Tour De Pussy.” Before the debauchery begins, Frank accidentally learns his longtime girlfriend is pregnant. Fearing he is not father material, she contemplates getting an abortion. In a misguided attempt to prove her wrong, Frank kidnaps her 11 year old nephew, forcing him along on the journey. Chaos ensues. A raunchy film along the lines of The Hangover, Klown offered many laugh-out-loud scenes expertly combined with bittersweet, incisive moments.
It’s a bit early for this years films to show up streaming, but if history is any guide, some of best will eventually be there.
*As always with streaming movies, things may change at a moment's notice. YMMV*
Considered the stimulus for the now-unique brand of Australian outback horror, the long figured lost movie Wake in Fright (1971) reemerges in a new 35mm print courtesy of the National Film and Sound Archives of Australia. While traveling to Sydney for a holiday with his girlfriend, reluctant schoolteacher John Grant (Gary Bond) stops for a night in the small mining community of Bundanyabba, or “the Yabba.” After losing all his money in a penny-tossing competition, he falls victim to the town’s “aggressive hospitality,” effectively stranding him there. A trio of local good ‘ol boys, who enjoy drinking, brawlin’, and kangaroo hunting, look after Grant. The new friends feature a young, bombastic Jack Thompson, in one of his earliest movie roles, and the always reliable Donald Pleasence as a sex-obsessed doctor. Grant’s vacation quickly descends into madness as alcohol, debauchery, and even cruelty consume him. Living up to its reputation, the excellent Wake in Fright deftly outlines how quickly a man can lose his identity and reason.
With the aide of homicide cop Pete (Ron Perlman), crime scene photographer Aiden (the likeable Josh Lawson) haunts the streets of Detroit, looking for images. Immersion within the darkness of society leads the downtrodden Aiden to experience perverse revenge fantasies. Despite his behavior, Aiden stumbles into an affair with his neighbor, the relationship rebounding Virginia (Emma Lung). Aiden attempts to hold on to his tenuous relationship even while his fantasies slide over into reality. First time feature director Charles de Lauzirika expertly manages the interplay between the real and not real by crashing the fourth world and crafting creative tonal shifts. The script (by de Lauzirika from a story by Robert Lawton) interjects clever humor within the fast paced tale. A Walter Mitty tale by way of Chuck Palahniuk, Crave promises a creative, entertaining thriller.
Directors Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson propel the childhood game of war to its logical extremes and beyond in the seemingly preposterous but amazingly good I Declare War. A group of 13 year olds congregate to play war in the woods. Fueled by their imaginations, they transform sticks into guns and water balloons into grenades to engage in combat. A tactical genius, PK wins every contest. Perhaps his only weakness are his feelings for his best friend Kwon. Wanting to torture him for information and to trap the legendary leader, the ruthless General Skinner kidnaps Kwon. The neophyte commander underestimates the lengths that PK will do to rescue his friend. The diverse cast includes a priest, a bully and a mysterious girl. Lapeyre (who also penned the screenplay) and Wilson deliver a magnificent and sincere portrait of war intertwined with teenage angst and fantasies.
Fantastic Fest, the largest genre film festival in the U.S., specializing in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and just plain fantastic movies from all around the world, started here in Austin on September 20. During the course of the eight day festival, I’m blogging about my cinema experiences.
Despite its interesting concept, the first directorial effort from Brandon Cronenberg, son of the legendary David, disappoints. Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) works for a clinic that injects fans with diseases of their favorite stars. Syd contracts a fatal designer virus that kills megastar Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon). In order to survive, Syd must discover its origins. Emotionally cold, the film features stark scenes punctuated with bright red blood and occasional action. Jones, almost always clad in white, successfully blends his bland character into the similar background. Though this exploration of the cult of celebrity toys with some interesting concepts, the film fails to shed new insights (or really any) on the fascination. While delivering some disturbing and even memorable imagery, Antiviral falls far short of its lofty promise.
The compelling Final Member introduces Sigurdur “Siggi” Hjartarson and his Icelandic Phallological Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of mammalian penises. Siggi’s collection lacks one thing: a human penis. Meeting the “legal limit” requirement, two men offer to help: 95-year-old Páll Arason, a legendary Icelandic explorer and philanderer who wants his well-traveled member preserved after his death; and Tom, an eccentric American who dubs his manhood “Elmo” and is eager to donate while he is still around to view it. Co-directors Jonah Bekhor and Zack Math treat the potentially humorous subject with class and style. The compelling documentary delivers with intriguing sub-stories, fascinating information, and a tension-filled race to be the first human phallus in museum.
Seventeen years since his disastrous big screen appearance, the iconic Judge Dredd returns in the surprisingly good Dredd 3D. This time the movie features a modest budget and focuses on the characters rather than a big name superstar. Karl Urban masterfully portrays the dour. helmet-headed Dredd, successfully submerging himself in the role. Olivia Kirdby excels as the rookie Judge Anderson. Though the film displays some noticable flaws, the smartly simple Alex Garland script keeps the action and the story moving. Essentially a buddy film with elements of Training Day, Robocop, and Die Hard tossed in, Dredd 3D delivers a quality actioneer.
Fantastic Fest, the largest genre film festival in the U.S., specializing in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and just plain fantastic movies from all around the world, starts here in Austin on September 20. During the course of the eight day festival, I’m blogging about my cinema experiences.
Fantastic Fest, the largest genre film festival in the U.S., specializing in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and just plain fantastic movies from all around the world, starts here in Austin in just two days! Over the next several days, I’m previewing the movies I plan on seeing and blogging about over the course of the week long festival.
Li Xianje is a video game-loving slacker, who coasts through life at his own pace, thanks to a rare condition known as Temporal Dilation Disorder. TDD causes time to pass more slowly than for everybody else – minutes feel like days, a day like an entire lifetime. It proves a lonely existence until he meets the beautiful Wang Qian, who shares his affliction. However, when a tragic car accident snatches her away, Li will do whatever it takes to be reunited with the woman he loves. Perhaps a mysterious video game is the answer – a game rumoured to hold the secret to time travel. If he can beat the game, he might just be able to save Wang Qian.
Adapted from a hit animated short that appeared online in 2009, director Li Yang teams up with TV ad man Frant Gwo to expand his unique, frenetic vision into a feature-length blend of live action, hand drawn animation, epic CGI landscapes, crude cut-outs and East-meets-West pop culture iconography. Jaycee Chan, son of martial arts legend Jackie Chan, stars as bewildered, heart-broken “Devotion Lee”, who must become the kind of ass-kicking name-taking hero he’s only experienced in video games, if he is to succeed in his mission.
The result is a wholly unique and exhilarating experience, a gorgeous visual odyssey packed with comedy and adventure, that remains, at its core, a beautifully touching quest for love played out with the unabashed romanticism only Asian Cinema can get away with. At a time when China is spewing out nothing but nationalistic period dramas and crass consumerist rom-coms, LEE’S ADVENTURE proves fantasy, sci-fi and imagination are still alive and kicking in the Mainland. (James Marsh)
While it is very tempting to refer to Eron Sheean’s ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY as a sci-fi thriller, that would simply not be accurate. Because while it is very much a fictional story that revolves around science, the science in this film – shot on location at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics – is all as real as can be. Call it a scientific thriller, if you will, with all of the science grounded in reality.
THE DIVIDE screenwriter Sheean makes his feature directing debut following a string of acclaimed shorts with ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY, the story of geneticist Dr Geoff Burton obsessively struggling to find a cure for the rare genetic ailment that killed his infant son years before. Though brilliant, his obsessions and often unorthodox working methods have left Burton’s career in a shambles, forcing him to relocate to Germany to continue his work.
It seems a promising move at first, a well equipped lab with a sympathetic administration and a former student in a key position, but Burton is soon swept up into a web of deceit and jealousy when he discovers that his former student may have found the solution he has searched for – and another researcher may be stealing it.
An icily precise thriller anchored by a subtle, nuanced performance from Michael Eklund (THE DIVIDE, THE DAY), with support from indie faves Karoline Herfurth (PERFUME, WE ARE THE NIGHT) and Tomas Lemarquis (NOI THE ALBINO), ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY offers up a surprisingly human take on science, a story ultimately more concerned with its characters than the tools they wield. It is a refreshing, yet challenging approach. (Todd Brown)
Santiago Fernandez is an aimless young man content with spending hours on the couch playing Grand Theft Auto and fantasizing about an exciting life of crime and gun fights. By night he DJs at a club owned by ruthless Argentinian kingpin Che Longana. One evening, Santiago finds himself trapped in a bathroom stall as Longana holds a secret meeting to make known his offer of $300 million pesos for the head of Machine Gun Woman, an ex-girlfriend turned hitwoman who has it out for him. When he is discovered eavesdropping on the conversation, Santiago’s only choice to avoid being executed is to lie, claim he knows Machine Gun Woman and offer to bring her in. When he is given 24 hours to make good on his claim, Santiago’s life turns into a violent video game of its own complete with missions, guns, sexy women and brutal violence.
BRING ME THE HEAD OF MACHINE GUN WOMAN is that latest film from Chile’s Ernesto Díaz Espinoza, a man who is no stranger to Fantastic Fest. His first three features (KILTRO, MIRAGEMAN and MANDRILL) have blown audiences away in years past and he also has a segment in this year’s THE ABCS OF DEATH. In a departure from his string of Marko Zaror actioners, Espinoza has crafted an incredibly entertaining exploitation film all centered around a beautiful Chilean goddess clad in small swaths of leather and, of course, machine guns. As Santiago tracks down the killer, he is thrust into a strange criminal underworld that frequently erupts in unexpected violence and when he comes face-to-face with her, all bets are off. Espinoza keeps BRING ME THE HEAD OF THE MACHINE GUN WOMAN fast and fun from sexy start to explosive finish. (Brian Kelley)
Chances are you’ve come across one in your lifetime. Your neighbor may be one. Your co-worker may be one. There could even be one in your family. Sometimes they operate alone and sometimes they involve their loved ones. The moment they wait for is over in what seems like the blink of an eye but there can be months of planning, designing and building leading up to a night of terror.
These people are home haunters.
The idyllic East Coast town of Fairhaven, MA is the home of several home haunters, individuals who are obsessed with turning their properties into elaborate and horrifying spectacles every Halloween. THE AMERICAN SCREAM follows three of them – a perfectionist IT professional whose wife and children help out with varying levels of enthusiasm, a friend inspired to create his own haunt, and a father and son duo- as they prepare for the big day. Their passion is immediately apparent and their methods are varied with some opting for obsessive attention to detail and others more concerned with overall effect. The common link between them all is an artistic genius bred from the love of scaring the pants off their friends and neighbors.
Director Michael Stephenson (BEST WORST MOVIE) has crafted another extraordinarily entertaining and heartwarming documentary with THE AMERICAN SCREAM. Despite bumps along the way in the days leading up to Halloween, the payoff captured is something truly special. In the end all the mishaps, slips, spills, scrapes and creative differences don’t matter. What really matters is the sense of pride a home haunter feels by bringing together his or her community to experience the product of months of hard work. That and the look of frozen terror on the faces of men, women and children alike. (Brian Kelley)
When a comet threatens to destroy their planet, the citizens of Hondo send General Trius (Nils d’Aulaire) to find a new planet on which they can live. After landing on Earth somewhere near Brooklyn, General Trius chooses to ignore his mission to eliminate the indigenous peoples after wandering into a megastore and hearing music for the first time. He assumes the name Bill and starts a family and one-man bluegrass act.
His peaceful life is disrupted when the Hondorians send a representative- a bumbling fool named Kevin (Jay Klaitz)- to Earth to assassinate General Trius and clear the way for an invasion. Bill finds it easy to subdue Kevin with music and the two form a band called Future Folk that becomes popular in New York bars. The problem is, though, the Hondorians have no intention of calling off their plan to eliminate mankind.
THE HISTORY FUTURE FOLK, the feature debut of directors John Mitchell and Jeremy Kipp Walker, is the impossibly charming and clever origin story of the real life “Acoustic Space Aliens” who have been perfecting their act for more than 6 years in the New York City area. For all of its sci-fi elements, at the heart of the film is the immediately lovable personality of Future Folk, whose songs are enormously catchy and lyrics are full of the wit on which the movie the built. The deep love d’Aulaire and Klaitz have for music is apparent in every scene and while watching their musical performances in the film one starts to believe that two guys with a banjo and a guitar (along with some fancy red spacesuits) really could save the world through sheer charisma. (Brian Kelley)