Saturday, December 24, 2011

Fool's Views (12/12 – 12/18)

My friends,

It was a great week for movie watching, although the circumstances were less than ideal (monster head cold accompanied by a wicked 3-day migraine). As a result, I was pretty much immobilized and remaindered to the couch, but the Netflix and public library gods were there to comfort me with their celluloid balm. As you can see, my TV-remote fingers transported me across continents to experience a multitude of worthy foreign nightmares, as well as a dip into the De Palma Pool.

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday weekend – may your gatherings of family and friends be rich and plentiful. The greatest gifts are still the ones that come for free/cheap: a friendly word, a warm embrace, a surprise phone call, a random act of kindness… I feel incredibly blessed to be allowed to live this life, surrounded by friends and fiends both corporeal and virtual. Thank you for sharing your time and comments with me over yet another blogging year – it’s a pleasure to know that someone’s actually out there reading these blithering and blithe missives.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll be sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!

HORROR (INTERNATIONAL WEEK):

Dream Home (2010)
(1st viewing) d. Pang, Ho-Cheung (Hong Kong)
Awesome Hong Kong body count flick revolving around a young lady bent on acquiring a ocean-view apartment, even if it means taking out half of the complex’s residents. This midnight-black comedy delivers the goods for slasher fans, in that there are nearly a dozen applause-worthy kill gags. Well executed and worth your time.



Eclipse, The (2009) (1st viewing) d. McPherson, Conor (Ireland)
Grieving widower Ciarin Hinds begins seeing creepy visions in his house the same weekend as the local literary festival where he has been tasked with driving visiting authors Iben Hjejle and Adian Quinn (wonderfully smarmy & narcissistic). While more a “drama with occasional ghosting,” the lived-in performances and attention to character/situation allow the scares to sing all the more when they do arrive. Patient viewers will be handsomely rewarded.



Last Circus, The (2010) (1st viewing) d. de la Iglesia, Alex (Spain)
A transient circus during the Spanish Civil War (lorded over by sadistic clown Antonio de la Torre) is the setting for the latest from Spanish wunderkind de la Igesia. Returning to his unfettered horror days (Day of the Beast), the visionary writer/director delivers naïve “sad clown” Carlos Areces into the mix, and when smokin’ aerial artist Carolina Bang takes a liking to him, the stage is set for set-pieces muchas violentas. Safe to say that viewers will encounter scenarios and sights that they’ve never seen before, all delivered with de la Iglesias’ reliably gymnastic cinematography and unhinged energy.



Mutants (2009) (1st viewing) d. Morlet, David (France)
Despite the reductiveness of the comparison, this smaller scaled version of 28 Days Later set in the wintry French wilderness will not disappoint fans of Danny Boyle’s apocalyptic smash. Holding up in a deserted hospital, a couple (Hélène de Fougerolles, Francis Renaud) must do battle with carnivorous infected as well as marauding bands of fellow survivors in the wake of a mysterious viral plague. (For my money, the excellent makeup effects, intelligent script and superb performances make this a superior companion piece to 28DL than its official, dumbed-down sequel.)



Nude for Satan (1974) (1st viewing) d. Batzella, Luigi (Italy)
Seriously one of the more bizarre ghost stories I’ve ever run across. While there is definitely truth in advertising (nudity and Satanists abound), trying to piece together a coherent narrative is an exercise in insanity. As near as I can figure, two strangers who get into a car accident meet in an afterlife set in a haunted mansion where they alternately know who each other are and/or don’t, while cackling caped figures wander about seducing and bargaining for souls. Strangely compelling within its cheap production values and overwrought dubbed thesping. Gotta love those Italians!




CIVILIAN:



Facing Ali (2009)
(1st viewing) d. McCormack, Pete
10 of Muhummad Ali’s opponents tell stories of The Greatest and their respective bouts, providing great insight into the legendary fighter, themselves and the mystique of the sport of boxing. Fascinating stuff.

Fall, The (2006) (1st viewing) d. Singh, Tarsem
Though I missed Immortals in the cinema due to bad planning, I was lucky enough to pick up Singh’s previous visual splendorfest, shamefully ignored by mainstream viewers. Not puzzling that it failed to register at the box office, considering the challenges of marketing a fantasy pick with decidedly adult themes, but the story is told with clear lines and the eye-popping optical tapestry weaved for viewers’ benefit is stunning. Highly recommended, and deserving of a much wider awareness.

Hustle & Flow (2005) (1st viewing) d. Brewer, Craig
A drama about a pimp with a midlife crisis? Yes, and with an electrifying central performance by Terrence Howard as a flesh pusher who harbors an adolescent dream of being a hip-hop superstar, it works like a charm. I’m not a big enough fan to say how worthwhile the original rap songs created in Howard’s basement studio are, but the fact that “Whoop that Trick” and “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” were on my lips the next day must say something.

I Love You, Man (2009) (1st viewing) d. Hamburg, John
Groom-to-be Paul Rudd discovers he has no male friends; in setting out to recruit himself a wedding party, he falls into a “bro-mance” with goofy single guy Jason Segel. Realistic not in the least, but still breezily likeable and entertaining. I’ll confess I don’t understand all the love for Rudd, who's as lightweight as they come, but Segel’s lunky good guy charm picks up the slack.

Murder by Death (1976) (2nd viewing) d. Moore, Robert
“All right, we'll take turns. You look over the first dead, naked body that we find and I'll look over the second.” All-star comedy cast (Peter Falk, David Niven, Elsa Lanchester, James Coco, Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, Eileen Brennan, Maggie Smith, Truman Capote, Nancy Walker…and a very young James Cromwell) shines in Neil Simon’s homage/send-up of the great murder mysteries of stage and page.

Troy (2004) (1st viewing) d. Peterson, Wolfgang
Gorgeous but empty, this epic scale version of the classic Greek tale wants to be another Gladiator so badly it hurts. Peterson, who usually excels in grounding his performers, seems to have gotten caught up in the production design CGI bells and whistles, leaving his posturing Hollywood cast (Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Brian Cox, Orlando Bloom and Peter O’Toole) to strut, sneer and smite without an ounce of integrity.





DE PALMA HAT TRICK:
Fury, The (1978)
(3rd viewing)d. De Palma, Brian
Kirk Douglas glowers magnificently as telekinetic Andrew Stevens’ dad, endeavoring to save his offspring from the clutches of evil John Cassavetes. With Amy Irving playing another “sensitive” that Douglas recruits to assist him in his quest, it’s puzzling that De Palma would choose to revisit the Carrie playbook so soon, but with Rick Baker’s splattery effects enlivening the proceedings, I’m not complaining.

Blow Out (1981) (2nd viewing) d. De Palma, Brian
Speaking of Carrie, the writer/director reunites two more of his earlier success’ cast members for this riff on Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up, with John Travolta’s movie sound man believing he may have captured an incriminating piece of aural evidence in a politician’s murder, and Nancy Allen’s childlike prostitute a pawn in the conspiracy. Superbly accomplished melodrama met with mixed reviews in its initial release, but has come to be considered one of De Palma’s finest efforts.

Carlito's Way (1993) (2nd viewing) d. De Palma, Brian
Al Pacino followed up his bombastic Oscar-winning hoo-ah performance from Scent of a Woman with more of the same, not quite reaching the explosive heights of the last teaming with his Scarface director. De Palma resurrected his scrapped Untouchables train sequence (which became the superior Odessa Steps-inspired finale) here – unfortunately, we weren’t missing much.

2011 totals to date: 605 films, 378 1st time views, 346 horror, 50 cinema

BOOKS:

Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee
Reel Terror, edited by Sebastian Wolfe

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