Monday, January 3, 2011

Fool's Views (11/29 – 12/19)

Howdy folks,

In this installment, the holidays kick into full swing (as you can see, all three horror flicks are seasonally appropriate…plus a certain Will Ferrell flick), and AC starts streaming Netflix in earnest (6 of the civilian features were courtesy of the Little Red Envelope minus the Envelope). It’s a little scary, because with this kind of accessibility, it’s a lot like having TV again. And that’s a dangerous thing. We’ll see how this turns out – as you might have already guessed, I have little enough resistance to the mighty cathode ray as it is.

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


Rare Exports (2010)
(1st viewing) d. Helander, Jelmari
Awesomely dark fantasy film (from Finland!) about the origins and resurrection of that not-so-jolly old Christmas elf from within the bowels of the frozen Finnish tundra. I was recently introduced to Helander’s short films on YouTube about domesticating wild Santa Clauses, not realizing that RE was a feature-length follow up/prequel to those shorts. Great cast and some impressive special effects for what I can only assume was a relatively small budget. Deserves to become the next big holiday counterprogramming cult hit.

Screams of a Winter Night (1979) (1st viewing) d. Wilson, James L.
Slow paced, but intensely atmospheric low budget effort that manages to spin a well-worn premise (group of fun-loving young adults head off for an enjoyable weekend at a cabin in the woods which takes a turn for the sinister) into a bizarre anthology piece. The group takes turns telling scary stories, each succeeding story heightening the sense of dread, until the walls literally come down around them. Director Wilson’s conceit of having his (uneven) ensemble play roles in both the wraparound and the individual stories themselves is a novel and intriguing one.

Wind Chill (2007) (1st viewing) d. Jacobs, Gregory
When two college students carpool home for the Christmas holidays, they find themselves caught up in a haunted stretch of asphalt where the ghost of a sadistic lawman (slumming Hal Hartley regular Martin Donovan) runs people off the road. The plot starts off promising, though it sorta peters out toward the end. But the film’s biggest problem is that our two main characters are thoroughly unlikeable from the get-go, especially Emily Blunt’s snotty brainy beyotch. Chick woulda been booted from the AC-mobile about 5 minutes into that road trip, shared gas money or no. Inexplicably exec-produced by George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh.

Elf (2003)
(1st viewing) d. Favreau, Jon
Wow. A Will Ferrell comedy that actually made me laugh. Chalk it up to its legitimate (if fanciful) plotline and flawless supporting cast (James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, Zooey Deschanel, Peter Dinklage). Merry Christmas, indeed.

Jackass: The Movie (2002) (2nd viewing) d. Tremaine, Jeff
Can’t decide if it’s the wasabi up the nose, the golf cart jumping, the roaming gong, the party boys or the bungee wedgie…but I love this flick. I don’t want to, but I do.

9 Songs (2004) (1st viewing) d. Winterbottom, Michael
Mostly successful cinematic experiment wherein a couple’s May-December romance is highlighted through scattered scenes of their relationship, loosely chaptered by the nine musical concerts they attend in London. However, much of its notoriety springs from the fact that the duo is shown having full-on intercourse and a lot of it. In fact, probably around 50% of the film’s running time captures them pre/mid/post coital, but that’s as it should be, since much of this young couple’s attraction to one another is sexual in nature. Provocative in the best way.

Rolling Stones: Stones in Exile (2010) (1st viewing) d. Kijack, Stephen
Escaping Great Britain’s tax laws, the greatest rock n’ roll band in the world finds themselves in the basement of Keith Richards’ country home in 1971, recording one of their greatest albums. And you are there. What’s really hard to believe is that they are still here to talk about it.

Surviving Desire (1991) (1st viewing) d. Hartley, Hal
Gorgeous little gem of a movie (barely an hour long), observing university student Mary B. Ward and part-time literature instructor Martin Donovan as they drift in and out and in love…all viewed through Hartley’s inimitable voice and gaze. Quirky and bizarre, but never off-putting.

Taking of Pelham 123, The (2009) (1st viewing) d. Scott, Tony
In this remake of the 1974 action/drama (itself based on John Godey’s novel of the same name), Denzel Washington stars as a NYC subway dispatcher who finds himself fatefully entangled in loose cannon terrorist John Travolta’s plot to hold the city hostage. Scott keeps things hopping in his hyperkinetic way, but Travolta’s cackling villain is so cartoony and over-the-top, spewing F-bombs like rice at a wedding, that he ultimately becomes tiresome and toothless. The needlessly violent ending metes out “Hollywood” justice, i.e. unrealistic and unsatisfying. On the plus side, James Gandolfini clearly enjoys himself in his role as the Big Apple’s mayor.

Backwoods, The (2006)
(1st viewing) d. Serra, Koldo
Dead Man's Shoes (2004) (1st viewing) d. Meadows, Shane
First became aware of this talented British actor (known to U.S. audiences from Jim Sheridan’s In America) earlier this year when he assayed the lead role in the middle film of the Red Riding trilogy, a soft-spoken, steely-spined police investigator on the trail of the Yorkshire Ripper. He squares off nicely as the beta to Gary Oldman’s alpha dog in Backwoods, a violent “city folk vs. the country locals” thriller set in 1970s Spain. However, it is his performance in Dead Man’s Shoes that really turned my head – as an Army veteran bent on revenge against the local thugs who brutally abused his mentally disabled brother, Considine is by turns captivating, terrifying and devastating. (He and director Meadows also co-wrote the script.) Looks like I’m a fan.

2010 Totals to date: 340 films, 226 1st time views, 233 horrors, 38 cinema

Twilight Zone – 13 episodes (156 total for 2010, series complete)


  1. I'm glad you got to see Rare Exports. I have no idea how it came to be playing in Bloomington, but I'm grateful that it did.

  2. I was stunned when I saw it show up on your Live Journal review. Thought, "Wow, how did they get it before we did?" (I saw it at a sneak preview courtesy of Ain't It Cool News, two weeks before it officially opened at the Music Box in Chicago.)

  3. I'm prepared to call it a Christmas miracle.