Monday, February 8, 2010

Fool's Views (1/18 – 2/7)

Hey kids,

Due to out of town work obligations (thank you Detroit Auto Show and Winter X-Games), I was not able to watch much at all for the last couple weeks of January. However, upon my return to the not-so-sunny climes of Chicago, I managed to nibble down a dozen flicks, including QT's inspiration for his now-Oscar nominated flick, two other statuette nominees, as well as all four films in the AIRPORT series, Adam Green's new film, and three Masters of Horror eps of wildly varying quality.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth - we'll make sure you get some change back. Enjoy!

Frozen (2010) (1st viewing) d. Green, Adam
Avowed horror geek and convention fave director Adam Green (Hatchet) hits the slopes with a mighty slim, Open Water-like premise: What would happen if you were trapped aboard a deserted ski lift? With such location-specific limitations in place, the only means by which to sustain a feature length running time are through character empathy/identification and worthy dialogue. Sadly, neither of these elements are in evidence – the three immature and thinly drawn twentysomethings that we’re stuck with are annoying on multiple levels, nattering and squabbling about irrelevances while failing to attempt intelligent solutions to their dilemma. Green does add a few nasty touches (hungry wolves circling below, gooey frostbite sequences), but it’s unlikely to affect the skiing trade on any significant level. Green’s most enjoyable touches are naming one of his characters after fellow fanboy, Wrong Turn 2 director Joe Lynch, and a cameo by Kane Hodder.

Masters of Horror: The Black Cat (2006) (1st viewing) d. Gordon, Stuart
One of the finest episodes of the scattershot series, director Gordon and co-writer Dennis Paoli combine forces with their old Re-Animator cohort Jeffrey Combs in a Poe adaptation that combines elements from the haunted author’s life with those of the classic short story. The results are a well-drawn narrative that ably generates sympathy for its main character who is shown to be a boozy, tormented rogue deeply in love with his sickly bride, whose worsening condition only feeds his alcohol-infused madness. In spite of some rather uninspired and unconvincing gore by Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger (your CGI sucks, guys – stick with the latex), there is a lot to like here and Combs turns in one of his best performances in years.

Masters of Horror: Pro-Life (2006) d. Carpenter, John
It’s hard to know where to start in lambasting this turkey, a far, far cry from Carpenter’s intriguing if not entirely successful effort from Season One, Cigarette Burns. With ear-splittingly ham-fisted dialogue, characters that contradict themselves every few minutes and a demon from hell (played by Jason Voorhees-to-be Derek Mears) that looks pretty cool until it starts to move around, revealing its guy-in-a-suit limitations, this is pretty much a train wreck from start to finish. Politics aside, this is clumsy and amateur-hour stuff, with Ron Perlman sleepwalking through his role as a vengeful man of god.

Masters of Horror: We All Scream for Ice Cream (2007) (1st viewing) d. Holland, Tom
Starting off with a not-bad if well-worn premise (a group of former childhood adult chums being bumped off by malevolent forces brought about by a decades-ago mishap), the proceedings sadly devolve into substandard ghost fare due to the rather silly fate of the victims and William Forsythe’s not nearly scary enough clown antagonist. While the novelty treat (get it?) of seeing grown men reduced to puddles of viscous multicolored goo has its charms, it’s not going to keep anyone up nights. One can see how John Farris’ original short story might have worked on the page, but never quite succeeds in three dimensions.

Crazy Heart (2009) (1st viewing) d. Cooper, Scott
Yep, you can give Jeff Bridges the Oscar. Side note: One of the songwriters (who also plays one of Bad Blake’s backup band members) is named Ryan Bingham, which just happens to be George Clooney’s character’s name in the likewise nominated Up in the Air. Doesn’t mean a darn thing, but it’s interesting trivia for us credit-scanning movie geeks out there.

Eddie Izzard: Glorious (1997) (1st viewing) d. Richardson, Peter
That crossdressing little English fella sure is funny. Concert film that touches on, among other things, Noah’s flood, getting in fights, and evil giraffes.

Heroic Trio, The (1993) (1st viewing) d. To, Johnnie
Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung and Anita Mui: a wife-fu dim sum combo made in Hong Kong fantasy heaven.

Precious (2009) (1st viewing) d. Daniels, Lee
I fully expected Daniels film “based on the novel Push by Sapphire” to be hard-hitting and emotionally resonant, but I was pleasantly surprised by just how cinematically satisfying it is as well. One of the few Best Picture nominees I’ve seen thus far that I don’t have issues with, major or minor. Just a really solid, worthwhile movie.

Inglorious Bastards, The (1978)
(1st viewing) d. Castellari, Enzo G.
Inglourious Basterds (2009) (2nd viewing) d. Tarantino, Quentin
Italy’s spin on The Dirty Dozen starring Bo Svenson and Fred “the Hammer” Williamson is wildly entertaining, with plenty of quippy banter and blowing Nazis up and away, and never pretends to be anything other than straight-up escapist entertainment. On the other hand, Tarantino’s flick veers so close to greatness that it’s particularly jarring when his anachronistic directorial touches call attention to themselves. One can argue that that’s his style and he’s been doing it all along, but my counter is while fits with most of his previous oeuvre, not so much here. Again, I like the film a lot, but couldn’t love it as a result.

Airport (1970) (2nd viewing) d. Seaton, George
Aiport 1975 (1974) (1st viewing) d. Smight, Jack
Airport ’77 (1977) (1st viewing) d. Jameson, Jerry
Concorde: Airport ’79, The (1979) (1st viewing) d. Rich, David Lowell
Watching these classic disaster flicks in order, it’s interesting to note that the first film was actually nominated for Best Picture, and in spite of its loony soap opera machinations and relationships, the viewer actually gets caught up in the main plotline of Van Heflin’s severely depressed would-be bomber planning to blow himself to pieces in order to for long-suffering wife Maureen Stapleton to collect the insurance. Supporting Actress Oscar winner Helen Hayes is a hoot as senior citizen stowaway as well. However, the series takes an unqualified tailspin into campsville with its very next offering, where lazy-eyed stewardess Karen Black ends up piloting a jetliner with main squeeze Charlton Heston coaching her from the ground with instructive transmissions, each one ending with “baby.” Believe it or not, the “Airport meets The Poseidon Adventure” plot device of Airport ’77 is actually more plausible overall, and the acting and script more convincing, with pilot Jack Lemmon and designer Darren McGavin leading the charge. However, the final hoorah is a doozey, with George Kennedy (the only actor to appear in all four films) piloting the supersonic jet alongside Alain Delon, flying upside down and all around in order to avoid baddie Robert Wagner’s evil missiles. All in all, a slice of cinema history accented by some mighty ripe cheese.

2010 Totals to date: 33 films, 30 1st time views, 11 horrors, 6 cinema

Monty Python’s Flying Circus – 7 episodes (14 total for 2010)
Californication – 1 episode


1 comment:

  1. I've actually had a pretty good couple of weeks, horror-wise. Watched The Driller Killer and Humanoids from the Deep for the first time this past Saturday, as well as a late-night screening of Blacula (2nd viewing). And last weekend I caught up with Baghead and Let the Right One In, both of which were quite chilling in their own ways.

    Was less enthralled with Howling III: The Marsupials and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, which I watched for last month's full moon, but I will say that the latter was much better than I was expecting it to be. In fact, I would go so far as to call it the best of the series.

    Next up for me: Chan-wook Park's Thirst. And before the week is out I should have Crazy Heart and The Wolfman under my belt as well. Go, Wolfman!