Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fool's Views (9/12 – 9/18)

Back again so soon?

Well, as I said, I haven’t really been away, just preoccupied. With the October Horror Movie Challenge right around the corner (more on that in the next day or so) and the Greenbrier Valley Public Library opening its treasure troves to me, it was time to lean a little heavier on the civilian sector, especially since I wouldn’t be seeing its like again until November. However, fear not, true believers, because due to the unfailing dedication of the Kryptic Army and its followers, there were still fright flicks to be had...though it must be admitted, frightening they were not. (If you still have yet to indulge in the monthly pleasures that the Army has to offer, visit http://www.kitleyskrypt.com/army.htm today!)

Got a little romance, a little espionage, a little action, and a double dose of having-a-moment Ryan Gosling…and not even in double feature fashion. AND ALL FIRST TIME VIEWS!

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


Beast with a Million Eyes, The (1955)
(1st viewing) d. Kramarsky, David
Anyone hoping for a big rubber, mega-eyeballed monster is going to be sadly disappointed, as the “million eyes” belong to the beasts of the field and birds of the air, possessed by an extraterrestrial force to spy on humanity while it lays its plans for world domination. Despite this plot device, it’d be a bit of a stretch to say that Hitchcock borrowed the narrative, since the majority of the time is taken up with the five human characters squabbling amongst one another. Our final reel monster ends up being a creepy hand puppet with an eyeball double exposed over it for no real good reason (except to conceal the fact that it’s, oh, a hand puppet).

Evil Brain from Outer Space (1965) (1st viewing) d. Akasaka/Ishii/Misuwa
Very cheesy Japanese kiddie flick featuring a superhero in tights (Super…, er, Starman) battling against intergalactic interlopers bent on – what else? – world domination. The low-grade special effects do evoke a certain degree of nostalgia (characters leap from place to place via silly jump cuts), as do the elaborately costumed, if still distinctly humanoid, monsters. It’s kind of like a kaiju movie minus any giant monsters...which on second thought doesn’t sound all that great, does it?

Futurama: Beast with a Billion Backs (2008) (1st viewing) d. Avanzino, Peter
Having not seen any episodes of the Futurama TV show, I wasn’t aware of any backstory with any of the characters, but Simpsons creator Matt Groening’s specific brand of animated humor is present in spades. Snarky retorts fly, relationships blossom and characters die (and revive) with much speed and alacrity. The titular “Beast” is a tentacled blob creature, a randy little beast that stretches out its multitude of members, thereby achieving both mind control and sexual contact by plugging into the backs of the necks of Earth’s population. The amusing subplot concerning a malcontent robot looking to dominate his mortal creators only sweetens the deal.

Skeleton Crew (2009) (1st viewing) d. Lepola, Tommi/Molin, Tero
The tired old device of a independent film crew making a horror film only to find themselves in the middle of a horror film is trotted out yet again…with precious little new brought to the table. In a dilapidated Finnish mental hospital, the ghosts of psychotics past share company with old snuff film footage shot by a mad doctor known as “The Auteur.” Wouldn’t you know it, the young modern director becomes possessed by the evil spirits and starts picking off his crew one by one in “creative” fashion, spouting punchlines as he goes. Not terrible, but not terribly good either.

Drive (2011)
(1st viewing) d. Refn, Nicolas Winding
Confronting and confounding expectations at every turn, what could have been a cliché-riddled story about a criminal loner falling for a pretty girl becomes something wholly original. Ryan Gosling continues to stretch as an actor, dialing down his emotional reactions here to a near-whisper, and the rest of the cast is ready to play. Amazing soundtrack, surprisingly graphic bloodshed and wickedly unconventional action sequences are the tools in Refn’s case, winning him the Best Director award at Cannes.

Interpreter, The (2005) (1st viewing) d. Pollack, Sidney
Cagey political thriller starring the oh-so-fragile Nicole Kidman (seriously, where’s the scrappy chick from Dead Calm? Is she completely lost to us?) as a U.N. interpreter who may or may not have overheard an assassination plot. The oh-so-serious Sean Penn is the fed assigned to investigate and protect her. Well done, but not particularly stirring.

Jackie Chan's First Strike (1996) (1st viewing) d. Tong, Stanley
While heavier on the comedy and vehicle-based action sequences than his usual frenzied gymnastic balletics, Chan fans should still enjoy the hijinks of his bumbling but capable Police Story character chasing down a pair of hot potato nuclear detonators. Only one truly amazing fight sequence, but it’s a doozy.

Vantage Point (2008) (1st viewing) d. Travis, Pete
Utilizing a novel sliding timeline approach, as seen through the eyes of several different witnesses, an assassination plot is dissected and literally exploded over and over. Solid cast (Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Eduardo Noriega, William Hurt) and practical, long-take car chases elevate the proceedings substantially. Solid popcorn flick.

Notebook, The (2004)
(1st viewing) d. Cassavetes, Nick
Two very pretty and feisty young lovers from opposite sides of the tracks (Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams) laugh and scream and cry and break up and get back together. Flash forward 50 years and it’s the story that James Garner keeps telling his lady love Gena Rowlands in the hopes of bringing her back from the abyss. Deeply schmaltzy, but I can understand its appeal. Plus, the four leads are dynamite.

Savages, The (2007) (1st viewing) d. Jenkins, Tamara
When ill-tempered father Philip Bosco starts losing his grip (and writing on the wall with his feces), estranged son Philip Seymour Hoffman and daughter Laura Linney are called on to find a place for him, both to live and in their lives. Strangely mismarketed as a comedy (though there are numerous dark comic moments), this is a extremely well written and acted drama about disconnected people battling fate and biology.

Flawless (2007)
(1st viewing) d. Radford, Michael
Within her male-dominated diamond wholesaler corporation, Demi Moore finds herself intrigued by sly janitor Michael Caine’s proposition to make off with a thermos full of the precious stones. But she soon finds she’s in for much more than just a simple heist scheme. Clever plotting and solid turns by the ensemble make up for Moore’s wretched old age makeup during the bookend sequences.

Sleuth (2007) (1st viewing) d. Branagh, Kenneth
Sigh. The 1972 Laurence Olivier/Michael Caine original is one of my favorite films, and so it was with some reticence that I approached the remake, even with Caine returning to the fray to assay the “other” role opposite Jude Law. Unfortunately, thanks to Branagh’s in-your-face camera stylings and Harold Pinter’s ill-advised tweaking of Anthony Shaffer’s script, the whole thing loses its sense of delicious one-upsmanship devolving into an unpleasant and sour 90 minutes with two unpleasant and sour characters. Pass.

2011 totals to date: 369 films, 232 1st time views, 170 horror, 32 cinema

Jackie Chan movies: 6

Thriller – 4 episodes (Season 1)


  1. Indeed. I'm actually looking forward to seeing it again, though I doubt it will still be in theaters by the end of October, and I'm gonna be knee deep in horror until then. Even so, it'll be one to have on BluRay.