Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fool's Views (8/29 – 9/11)

Howdy, friends,

Got a little distracted over the past month, what with getting the show on its feet, getting myself into fighting shape, and finding the inspiration to sit myself down again in front of the computer at the end of the long day (as opposed to, say, the telly). Hence the delay in posting the Views, but Views there have been. Granted, there was also a goodly bunch of classic television consumed, but we managed not only to get to the cinema once or twice, as well as taking in a number of “been meaning to see that for a while now” flicks, and some bona-fide “research.”

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


Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)
(1st viewing) d. Nixey, Troy
The creepy 1973 made-for-television original, starring Kim Darby and Jim Hutton, apparently lodged in the mind of a young Guillermo del Toro and who can blame him? With pint-sized creatures living in the depths of an old mansion’s basement, this is the kind of bedtime story that haunts our childhood dreams and so it’s no surprise that when the Mexican monster kid decided to revive the tale (serving as both screenwriter and producer here), he would make his protagonist a little girl. While the screenplay itself is heavy on backstory and light on realistic human behavior (if ever there was a house the tenants should figure to get out of, it’s this one), the production design is incredibly handsome with worthy CG-rendered antagonists swarming over their victims. Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce aren’t required to do much as the blinkered parents, and the film never really earns its R-rating, but in the pantheon of recent remakes, it’s one of the better efforts.

Predator 2 (1990) (2nd viewing) d. Hopkins, Stephen
While the 1987 original was a crown jewel in the testosterone-fueled action heyday, the follow-up feels more like a straight-to-video blow-‘em-up extravaganza, with every urban decay cliché trotted out in the first 15 minutes (bad 80s lighting, drug lords, feisty cops, interfering feds, gang members with bandanas, big explosions, uzi gun battles, gratuitous female nudity) with the mandibled menace from beyond the stars dropped into the middle of it all. Danny Glover bellows, Gary Busey barks, and elegance is eschewed in favor of firepower. That said, it’s schlocky fun for fans, but whereas it took the Alien series four films to devolve, here it only took two.

Shrooms (2007) (1st viewing) d. Breathnach, Paddy
In spite of its so-so title, this Irish indie trifle starts off with a lot more potential than one might have guessed. Two young American couples head over to Shamrock country to meet up with a college friend and partake in some hallucinogenic fungi, with unforeseen results. Sadly, in spite of some impressive atmospherics and not-bad acting, the storyline fails to pull its disparate elements together (mentally deficient hillbillies, ancient curses, unreliable narrators), leaving us with a spectacularly unoriginal resolution that is as obvious as it is uninspired. That said, I’m definitely curious to see more of what Breathnach has to offer, as he seems to know his way around both a camera and a spooky story.

Zombieland (2009) (2nd viewing) d. Fleischer, Ruben
The success of this comic version of the zombie apocalypse illustrates just how thoroughly the cinematic undead gut munchers have permeated pop culture, since there no longer exists a need to explain how or why the plague has come – we just take it for granted and move on to the head shots. Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson make a terrific odd couple of survivalists, nicely paired with Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin as sisters bound for a SoCal amusement park. More action and mayhem than its elder Brit zom-com-rom brother Shaun of the Dead, though I personally prefer that film’s sly wit and geeky energy. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Breed Apart, A (1984)
(1st viewing) d. Mora, Philippe
This yarn about a Vietnam vet turned mountain recluse and self-appointed guardian of an endangered species of bald eagle is like a case study in not knowing how to control and/or use your actors wisely. For instance, you’ve got Rutger Hauer in his post-Blade Runner glory as the wackjob, but he’s such a bipolar head case that we never really get a bead on him. Powers Boothe is brought in as the heavy, hired to steal the eagle eggs, but he turns into Hauer’s buddy and passive rival for old maid Kathleen Turner’s affection. (Yes, Mora has Turner – in between Romancing the Stone and Crimes of Passion gigs – playing a love/sex-starved single mom. Puh-leeeeease.) Paul Wheeler’s script is riddled with clichés and the characters are so slimly drawn, that without the performers’ estimable presence, they would all blow away in the wind.

Hot Rock, The (1972)
(1st viewing) d. Yates, Peter
Perhaps it’s because of his million-dollar smile and sunny blonde hair, but I think most audiences think of Robert Redford as a heroic good guy, forgetting the myriad of S.O.B. roles the guy has assayed. Here he’s an ex-con recently released from prison who immediately finds himself planning a diamond heist with grinning brother-in-law George Segal. It’s no laugh riot, but an enjoyably light-hearted what-else-could-go-wrong affair, with wisecracks and safecracks galore.

Little Children (2006) (1st viewing) d. Field, Todd
An extremely well mounted adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s novel, with stay-at-home parents Patrick Wilson and Kate Winslet falling into an affair with each other against the backdrop of Jackie Earle Haley’s child molester character’s release from jail. Two things: 1) rarely has a film been so mismarketed (a poster of a smiling Winslet and Wilson like some generic rom-com??) and 2) that passenger seat car scene with Haley? Whoa. WHOA.


Romeo & Juliet (1968)
(2nd viewing) d. Zeffirelli, Franco

Romeo + Juliet (1996) (2nd viewing) d. Luhrman, Baz

Being that I was getting ready to start rehearsals for Shakespeare’s classic star-crossed lovers tale, it seemed like a good time to revisit the two major film versions and see what there was to see, especially since it had been 25 and 15 years since I had seen them, respectively. Zeffirelli’s period mounting is still an astounding achievement, well-deserving of its numerous Oscar nods. The performances by Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey still hum with genuine passion and purity of youth, their words and intentions clear as crystal from their first eye-opening encounter to the tearstained ending. Nary a wrong note is struck from the supporting cast either, and the adaptation is swift and direct as a blade. On the other hand, knowing the play a little better than I did when I initially saw it in '96, Luhrman’s extraordinary reimagining succeeds wildly as an adaptation-translation-concept (with due credit to co-screenwriter Craig Pearce as well). I still have a few quibbles with some of his liberties (such as the final scene with R&J in the church), but in the same breath I totally admire his audacity and strength of vision. Not wild about Paul Sorvino's wild accent as Capulet nor John Leguizamo's vocal posturing as Tybalt, but other than that, the performances are all strong across the board, with a pre-Titanic Leonardo di Caprio and post-My So-Called Life Clare Danes in the title roles. But Baz is definitely the star of the show.

2011 totals to date: 357 films, 220 1st time views, 166 horror, 31 cinema


Alfred Hitchcock Presents – 39 episodes (Season 1)
League of Gentlemen, The – 12 episodes (Series 1 and 2)


  1. I agree with your thoughts on Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. I enjoyed it but wasn't blown away. Still a good effort. Shrooms...I had hopes for this but saw the ending a country mile off. Nice update as usual Aaron

  2. Yeah, the whole thing felt a little too removed, too fantastical to be genuinely scary. I was genuinely puzzled by the lack of gore and/or nastiness - you'd think if del Toro wanted an R rating, he'd earn it. And if he wasn't going to earn it, then why not make it a good PG13 (which is pretty much what it was).

    Again, I really thought SHROOMS had potential, but it just started going off the rails into pedestrian territory and couldn't recover itself. Too bad, too.