Friday, December 13, 2013
Better in many way than the co feature Haunted Strangler, this boasts a super performance from Christopher Lee. The problem is that this is tough going when viewed close to the Haunted Strangler since in some ways its more of the same (which isn't too far off since the films were made somewhat back to back). Watching them back to back, as one is prone to do with double feature sets I found my attention wandering, which is very unfair because this is a good movie.
Heavily censored upon initial release this is a dark and cold film where everyone appears to be on the make or damaged in someway. (The cut material is included as an extra in the Criterion set; which also has an excellent commentary).
I really do like the movie, I only wish I had watched it spaced days apart from its co feature not minutes.
|Why pictures will not work with this show-one of the most magical moments of the year reduced of epic quality|
This is theater magic of the highest order and a must see--assuming you already have tickets or can score them some how since apparently the whole run is sold out.
Three quick notes-
The music is amazing and if anyone knows if it's available please let me know. It's the sort of thing that just transports you somewhere magical.
If you ever wanted to know how good Willem Dafoe is this is the thing to see. I never realized he was this good. Wow and Wow and Wow. (If they ever want to cast the Joker in a Batman movie and have him payed like Cab Calloway sign up Dafoe)
If you have cheap seats you're much better off than the expensive ones. Because of the staging which fills the performance space if you're too close you won't see it all with the composition of the images being completely lost. Trust me on this cheaper-ie high up, is better.
Now that you know go see something truly amazing by going down to the Park Avenue Armory.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
I am at a loss to explain much of anything connected to Here Comes the Devil. Much of the film doesn’t make sense. The film has a weird moment early on that kind of shows that things were not right to start with which under cuts what follows. There are huge gaps in logic and reason. Mostly it’s the sort of thing that makes you wonder why this was bouncing around the festival circuit for the last year before getting a big roll out.
The story involves a family which goes to on an outing. While the parents wait in their car the kids go off to explore a large rocky hill. When the kids fail to come back the father goes to find them but can't find them. By the time the police arrive its too late and too dark to search. However in the morning the kids are back and all is right with the world. Except it’s not. There is something wrong with the kids, or so it seems and as the parents look into things it transpires that the hill is shunned by the locals because that’s where spirits take over people and use their bodies as shells to inhabit.
That sounds scary and disturbing, and it is occasionally. There is one of the nastiest murders I’ve seen on screen, behavior is frequently wrong and the soundtrack is full of discordant sounds and aural triggers that set us on edge (like Gaspar Noe did in Irreversible). But at the same time the film doesn’t make sense even internally, characters do stupid things (a police officer trying to get into a house is oblivious that the person he is waiting for has just driven up next to him) and the film signals that all is wrong with the kids before anything happens by having them walk up the hill hand in hand like lovers thus killing any later shock that the “demon” children are getting it on.
Mostly the film is very silly for all of the wrong reasons. There is cheapness to much of the film that harkens back to the horror films of the late 70’s and early 80’s independent horror films. It’s the same locations, it’s the same shots. Many events are talked about but not shown. We get lots of close ups of the distraught parents contemplating the terrible situation they now find themselves in. And we get weird turns of plot that make no sense- for example the parents leave their kids with a family friend while they go out one night. When they return the friend is gone, a pair of shredded panties is on the couch and the kids are asleep. They are bothered by it but just let it go despite a call to their friend not being answered. There’s more that doesn’t make sense, and as the film goes on revealing more and more the film’s internal structure completely falls apart as things are revealed to make even less sense.
The film does get a few things right. The sex and implications of sex are very steamy. The lesbian sex scene that opens the film is hotter than those in Blue is the Warmest Color. The murder and it’s fall out are very well done. Some of the unease that the film generates in fits and starts is pretty cool. Largely though the film misses more than hits. I was laughing out loud through much of the film.
Speaking of sex, I do have to say that the film is one of the most anti-sex films I’ve seen in years. All of the nattiness happens around some sort of sex or implication of sex, the film begins with two women having sex; the trouble all begins when the parents have sex instead of going with their kids; The dark cave on the hill resembles a vagina; there is a question of menstruation; and we learn that there was incest even before the film starts. Clearly sex brings doom and violence.
Walking out of the film a couple walking behind myself and Peter Gutierrez commented that the film was the worst film she had ever seen. Peter told her that if this was the worst film she ever seen she was very lucky. She was taken aback at the thought there were worse films than this. Both Peter and I assured her there were. Certainly while the film isn’t good, it isn’t the worst. Rather it’s a film to watch with drunk friends and make fun of. I can’t imagine actually watching this and getting scared, then again I’m still shocked that that this film is getting a theatrical release, so I’m guessing someone likes the film, though I can’t imagine who that might be
The film is what happens when at a dinner party with friends and family, Vincent announces to the assembled group what the name of his soon to be delivered baby boy is going to be. The group is horrified and the resulting arguments lay waste to everyone in the room as good natured banter and kidding turns more serious as the name acts as a trigger for spewing venom..
Very much a kin to Yasmina Reza's funny play God of Carnage which Roman Polanski turned into the weak Carnage with Jody Foster, the film is the peeling back of civility and emotions as a prelude to dinner. While there are similarities in basic story, What's in a Name is infinitely better than the Polanski film.
I really like the film a great deal and laughed all through. It is an absolute delight for anyone who likes well written witty exchanges. However I'm finding I can't really review the film except to say go see it for one simple reason- the dialog comes along so fast and furious. While I know I got everything said, I was too busy reading the subtitles to fully engage with the film- this isn't a problem as such- hell it means I have a great excuse to see the film again (and I will several more times) , it just means that having only had one pass on the film I can't full write up the film because I know I didn't grasp everything- or more importantly laugh near as much as I should have.
My advice is simply go see the film and enjoy yourself.
The film opens tomorrow in select theaters including New York's Cinema Village and it also is available at iTunes and VOD. To get it at iTunes go here.
Well made and well acted little thriller is on okay film to have on in the background. Recently released by Criterion as part of a 4 film set its an okay time killer best watched late at night. To be certain Karloff is wonderful to watch, especially in the scene where he finds the important piece of evidence which proves him right and also slides him into madness. However the mover isn't anything special and can be a bit dull (too much music), however the Criterion commentary is excellent and the real reason to pick this up.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
|Peter Travers interviews David O Russell|
Before the movie Peter Travers of Rolling Stone came out and did a brief intro. We then saw the movie which was followed by a Q&A with the director of American Hustle David O Russell.
The film itself is very good and very funny. Based on the ABSCAM scandal from the late 70's the film tells the story of Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) who along with Amy Adam's Sydney Prosser get caught by FBI man Bradley Cooper running a scam. They cut a deal to help catch some low level crooks but soon it balloons into catching politicians and mobsters.
The film is not the straight truth but based upon what happened since director Russell rejiggered the film to concentrate on the characters and not so much on the events. The events are what put everyone into orbit around each other.
I'm not going to do a full review. Yes it's a good film, yes you should see it. Yes you will like it but the film is going to be in the running for the Oscars and is going to get a huge push and anything I might say isn't going to make a difference.
I do want to say a couple of quick things about the film:
First look for Jennifer Lawrence to be in the running for another Oscar. I didn't recognize her, despite knowing the role she plays. Yea she's that good.
The use of music in the film is incredible. I love that several time Russell uses what seems to be the perfect 70's song as background- only to have things flip the audience as we see the characters singing along.
There are several sequences that are near perfectly realized set pieces- most notably the music ones- however there are several others- just don't ask me what they are I stopped taking notes after a while.
Seriously this is a film you'll want to run out and see.
After the screening we got the Q&A.
I'm going to take a pass on reviewing the event as something needing to be reviewed. There were problems, the lights blew, the Skype connection to Seattle went and at a certain point David O Russell refused to use the microphone despite being told that was working as far as the broadcast was going. While we in New York heard him I have no idea how this played elsewhere. It was a great talk marred by some glitches
As an idea the idea of interactive Q&As with audiences around the country is cool, especially when you can get some like David O Russell to talk (What I could hear was good), however since so much went wrong today it's unfair to say more than I'm hopeful that they'll get the bugs out and make a go of it. In all honesty I'm impressed enough that when the series returns Tuesday January 21st with At Middleton I'm going to go to my local theater to see it when it all works right.
For details on theaters and films go to www.nyfilmcriticsseries.com, follow them on twitter @nyfilmcritics
For more pictures from inside the theater check our Tumblr page
Okay for those who don’t know The Blob is about what happens when a meteor falls to earth. When the meteor is poked with a stick , a jelly like being crawls out of the rock and attaches it to the man poking it. The blob then begins devouring him, and anyone who gets in the way. Almost 30 year old Steve McQueen plays a local “kid” who’s always in trouble with the law, but who is still liked. He keeps running into the mess the blob leaves behind but no one will believe him or his friends. By the time that anyone believes him the blob has grown to monstrous proportions.
It’s a creepy film.
It was Steve McQueen’s second or third credited big screen role. Prior to this film he had small un-credited roles in films and a growing body of TV work but after The Blob McQueen’s career was set and movie history was made. With this small scale little horror film a movie icon was created.
You don’t believe me?
Think about how the film would play if McQueen wasn’t in it. It wouldn’t work, or not work as well. McQueen instantly adds a seriousness to the proceedings that would never have been in the film otherwise. He plays it straight and the film is scary as a result.
Its scared the crap out of many kids I know. Sure the effects aren’t the best, but there is something about the slow moving herky jerky motion that works on the visceral level. It scared one guy I know so bad that he refused to make his first confession because he was told that the blob lived in the confessional. And it’s still scary even now. I dare you not to feel something when the blob first attaches itself to a victim. It’s played straight and it leaves you feeling uneasy.
If you want to know how important playing it seriously is, consider that the sequel Son of the Blob (or Return of the Blob) was written as a serious film and turned into a comedy by director Larry Hagman and the cast. The result is a film that only works and fits and starts. Its most memorable ones are the serious ones, such as Godfrey Cambridge engulfed by the blob while sitting on his recliner.
Actually you should just forget the sequel and see the original, which is out on DVD and Bluray from Criterion with lots of bells and whistles.
See it and never look at your peanut butter and jelly sandwich the same way again.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
The film follows a girl named Gili who uses sex, six acts of it, in order to move "up" the social ladder and fit in at anew school. What starts out willing quickly goes sideways as what was consensual becomes less so and the up becomes a downward spiral.
This is a dark and troubling film that is more than about teens and sex,rather it resonates with the sexual dynamic of men and women in all age groups. The film is an examination of how sex is used as an act of control by both sexes. In the film the first act is by Gili who thought she could turn it into getting a boy she liked and later by the well to do boys she ends up hanging with who end up using and abusing her. Its a pattern that plays out even in adults who should know better (trust me I know a few caught in the web). Ultimately sex and all the baggage it brings with it is just another way of keeping people in line or under control.
Seeing the film again, away from the weight of the films at Tribeca, I was surprised at how much better the film played. Actually it played so much darker and removed from the need to rush off to see another film right after it the darkness hung around me and made me feel like I needed to take a bath. I like it's no nonsense approach to saying this is the way things are... This male/female thing is really messed up.
On the other hand I find the film a tad off. By concentrating on the six acts we don't really get a larger context. The lack of context kind of reduces the men in the film to largely vile asses trying to score a little and dominate the only girl. Additionally without more context Gili can be seen as being much too passive even if her behavior is dead on target. (Gili's passivity wrecked the film for some viewers). Without a larger context the film swerves very close to being a polemic even if it isn't.
Do I like the film? I'm not sure that one can like the film. I don't mean that as a slap, rather as praise since what happens in the film is deeply troubling and the sort of thing that would give any thoughtful person much to consider. I am deeply bothered by the film and its forcing me to think a great deal about male/female relationships.
I don't know what to say beyond that. I don't know how to react. This is a film I need to discuss. This is one of those films that is best seen with other people simply because it provokes dialog. Its a film that will require long discussions- which you don't always get when you watch a film alone. This was one I really wish I could have seen in a room full of other people so we could have discussed it afterward.
If you want to see something that will trouble you and make you think I highly recommend the film.
The film is currently in limited theatrical release and is available on iTunes and on demand.
Filmed in England yet set in White Sands New Mexico this is a slow but decent little scifi thriller about an experiment that goes horribly wrong. Its the sort of thing you put on late at night to fall asleep to or laugh at or drift off in the ways that black and white movies of the period are prone to make you do.
Not one of my favorites I recently picked it up as part of a Criterion box set called Madmen and Monsters of four lesser films from the late 1950's packaged together with a host of typical extras. Why Criterion would choose these films was a bit beyond me until I realized that all of the films were made by the same producers and were the follow ups to Fiend Without a Face (the crawling brain film) which Criterion put out several years ago. The transfer and such is sterling and the commentary is very informative dealing with the film and the producers life as exploitation filmmakers and to be honest listening to it boosted my appreciation of the film.
Its a good way to see the film- though to be honest I'm still not convinced the film needed a Criterion edition-especially since its pricey set (which I got greatly reduced) will limit peoples exposure to the film.
Monday, December 9, 2013
Earlier today I saw American Hustle at the New York Film Critics Series at the AMC 25 in NYC. After the film Peter Travers interviewed the film's director David O Russell. A review is coming of the film but I've posted some pictures of what it was like in the theater, including a couple of Russell carrying on when the lights for the cameras blew out. The pictures can be found here.