Friday, May 18, 2012

Fool's Views (5/7 – 5/13)

Hey troops,

Not much exciting in the world of Dr. AC during the week in question, as it was mostly spent memorizing lines from The Great Monkey Rumpus (aka Inherit the Wind) and enjoying some long overdue fraternizing with friends. Even so, I was able to catch up with a smattering of under-the-radar offerings, ranging from Joe Dante’s abyss to Robin Hardy’s abysmal, from Canadian rocker docs to Big Apple munching Muppets. Hopefully, there’s something here for everyone, and if not, there’s always more goodies around the corner, so stay tuned – we’ll find your flavor.

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



Hole, The (2009) d. Dante, Joe (USA) (1st viewing)

After being relocated from NYC to a sleepy suburban burg by struggling single mom Teri Polo, sullen teenager Chris Massoglia and pesky little brother Lucas Gamble chance upon a padlocked trapdoor in their new basement, under which lies a mysterious bottomless abyss. Unfortunately, their discovery serves as the uncorking of an evil genie’s bottle, with their individual greatest fears appearing in shadowy but all-too-corporeal form around them. Alongside plucky (and cute) neighbor Haley Bennett and Bruce Dern (in full-on crusty codger mode), they endeavor to vanquish the dark forces, all in superb poke-yer-eye-out/whoa-I’m-falling 3D. Vacancy screenwriter Mark L. Smith’s sharp script skillfully captures the frustrations of uprooted youth as well as the intangibilities of waking nightmares, and Dante’s splendid onscreen ensemble and f/x teams weave a terrific chill-thrilling spell. In a day and age where solid offerings for juvenile horror fans are a woefully rare commodity, it only makes the current distribution hell that has befallen Gremlins director Dante’s latest effort all the more tragic and frustrating. Seriously, Spielberg, get in there and throw your old pal a Dreamworks release bone, wouldja?

Julia's Eyes (aka Los ojos de Julia) (2010) d. Morales, Guillem (Spain) (1st viewing)

An incredibly atmospheric Spanish horror flick (“presented” by Guillermo del Toro) that ultimately tacks on a few too many unnecessary red herrings and plot contrivances for its own good. Director/co-writer Morales presents a refreshingly original premise about a pair of twin sisters afflicted with a degenerative eye disease – both played by The Orphanage’s remarkable Belén Rueda – one of whom dies in a tragic suicide (or, just maybe, murder). The surviving sibling attempts to retrace her sister’s final days, only to find herself drawn into a web of secrets, lies and well, more murder. Suspenseful and well acted, it’s only in the third act where things got a little excessive for my tastes, with giallo-like camera machinations intended to obscure the killer’s identity resulting in an eventual Scooby Doo reveal that leaves the viewer asking, “What? Who? Why?” Things come a little back to center for the sentimental denouement, but only after an extended session of being off the rails. Worth seeing, but with reservations.

Wicker Tree, The (2010)  d. Hardy, Robin (UK) (1st viewing)

Seriously, I don’t even know where to start in trashing of Hardy’s long-muttered-about follow-up to his occult masterpiece, The Wicker Man. Reaching unimagined levels of face-palming idiocy, it may even trump the notoriously misguided Neil Labute/Nicolas Cage remake of 2006 – one of the more laughable horror efforts in the last 10 years – in sullying its predecessor’s good name. Even for those not familiar with the 1973 Christopher Lee vehicle (who pops here up in a pointless, fruitless cameo), the presumably mysterious set-up for the sequel is so mustache-twirling obvious that we know EXACTLY what’s going to happen within the first 10 minutes. Even worse, our Texan pair of fresh-scrubbed born-again hicks (Brittania Nicol, Henry Garrett) sent to save the lost heathen souls of Scotland are so dunderheaded and two-dimensional that they generate no sympathy AT ALL. What the original’s protagonist Edward Woodward had going was in spite of his bullheaded Christianity, he was attempting to solve a heinous kidnapping case and therefore commanded viewer alliance regardless of religious persuasion – here, we can’t wait to see these ministerial morons slapped on the barbie. In addition to the head-scratching use of “crow-cam,” Hardy also attempts to replicate the use of songs interwoven within the narrative fabric; a fascinating device in the ’73 film, but here only a clumsy gambit that settles for hokey hymns and laughable music videos from Nicol’s “scandalous” Faith Hill-like country-pop past. Honeysuckle Weeks shows up in the requisite slatternly top-popping role, but even the fetching (and fetchingly named) Welsh actress’ fine flesh can’t save the day. While undeniably handsomely mounted, this remains a failure of cosmic proportions.


Anvil: The Story of Anvil (2008) d. Gervasi, Sacha (Canada) (2nd viewing)

Amazing, hilarious and moving documentary about the greatest metal band that never made it. To call it a real-life This is Spinal Tap would be fairly accurate, but it’s both funnier and more heartfelt because it’s true.

Greenberg (2010) d. Baumbach, Noah (USA) (1st viewing)

The idiosyncratic writer/director of Margot at the Wedding attempts to serve up another caustic, comedic character study, and while he hits the discomfort buttons with aplomb, no empathy is generated for Ben Stiller’s sociopathic stalled-out musician-turned-carpenter. Even though I appreciated Stiller’s effective willingness to play against type, more than anything I just kept wishing the eternally winning Greta Gerwig had found herself in a more satisfying movie.


Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey (2011) d. Marks, Constance (USA) (1st viewing)
Muppets Take Manhattan, The (1984) d. Oz, Frank (USA) (1st viewing)

After watching Marks’ incredibly satisfying and insightful documentary on Kevin Clash, the creator and magic man behind Sesame Street’s most popular Muppet (who was also the first African-American member of Jim Henson’s illustrious band), I felt it was time to finally catch up with the long overlooked third feature film of the felt-and-foam federation. I’d never heard much “you gotta see this” buzz, a justified reputation since, while serviceable, it still falls far short of the charm and dazzle of either The Muppet Movie or The Great Muppet Caper. The celebrity cameos are infrequent and lackluster, and Juliana Donald as the most visible human character (Jenny, Kermit’s waitress pal and Miss Piggy’s imaginary rival) is simply terrible in her screen debut. Still, it’s good natured and enjoyable enough to pass the time, but I doubt I’ll be revisiting it anytime soon.

2012 Totals to date: 211 films, 182 1st time views, 111 horror, 67 cinema

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