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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Galaxy Quest (1999): Closet Space

Galaxy Quest (Dean Parisot, 1999)

[originally posted 27Dec1999]

photo credit: IMDB

“To infinity and… wait, wrong movie, sorry.”

Tip one: never, ever go to a PG-rated film at 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon. I got spoiled by having empty theaters for the last few movies I went to. I haven’t seen a theatre this full since Sleepy Hollow. At least the subject matter was more appropriate this time.
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Road Train (2010): Precious Cargo

Road Train (Dean Francis, 2010)

 

photo credit: Lightning Entertainment

All you can eat!

Man, Road Train, released in America as Road Kill, is getting savaged on the Internet. It has a 3.8 rating on IMDb as I write this (Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t have enough reactions, either critically or from the public, to form an opinion yet), and the reviews and comment board are full of bile. [Note: between the writing of this review and the publishing of it, I have discovered the Syfy Channel repackaged this as a Syfy Original Movie; suddenly a lot of the above makes a lot more sense.] Now, I grant you, I am coming into this movie as an existing fan of both Sophie Lowe (The Clinic) and Xavier Samuel (The Loved Ones), so I was kind of partial to the movie before I even hit play (and noting on IMDB that Samuel was also in Eclipse clarifies a lot of things about the movie’s chilly reception), and you know what? Now that I’ve finished it, I still don’t see the problem. It’s certainly not the most original movie in the world, though most of these demon-car flicks put one traveler up against the Satanic vehicle (The Appointment, Duel, and the third segment of Nightmares all come to mind) while this one puts a quartet of friends up against the possessed Road Train (in America, you probably know the Road Train as a triple-decker or stacked semi—it’s where one cab is hauling two or three semi trailers) in question, and once you realized what other flick it’s crossed the Duel conventions with, it becomes predictable enough. But solid acting, excellent cinematography, and a better-than-average script powered this one right on through the night.

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Any Given Sunday (1999): When We Were Kings

Any Given Sunday (Oliver Stone, 1999)

[originally posted 27Dec1999]

photo credit: Wikipedia

Give thanks there are no conspiracy theories in this movie.

Forget the well-written script, forget the acting, forget Oliver Stone’s best direction work in years, forget an almost-perfect ensemble cast, forget gorgeous (if overdone) cinematography, forget perfect sound. Well, don’t forget it, I guess, because we’ll come back to it, but put it in the back of your head for a while. The true star of Any Given Sunday is the incredible choreography. A good deal of this movie takes place on the gridiron itself as twenty-two men pound each other into submission every Sunday. Bones strain and crack, blood flows, muscles and ligaments tear, and it’s all captured oh so lovingly on film. It’s difficult to watch for a non-football fan like myself (don’t know any football fans who have seen it yet, so can’t comment), but even while flinching at the sound of a body hitting the ground after being battered by two even bigger bodies in midair, it’s still visually stunning. Just the football scenes alone would be enough to lift this movie to above-average status.

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Wu Qingyuan (The Go Master) (2006): Check and Mate

Wu Qingyuan (The Go Master) (Zhuangzhuang Tian, 2006)

 

photo credit: tinvanonline.com

Clack.

There are touches of Yasujiro Ozu in the way Zhuangzhuang Tian sets up a number of his shots in this film, and that can never be a bad thing; Ozu, one of Japan’s masters of slow film, knew how to take the most rudimentary scene and make it into something exquisite, and any director who tries to follow in those footsteps is probably going to end up with something better than he otherwise would have. On the other hand, if you’ve read any random half-dozen of my movie reviews, you are probably well aware that 99% of the time, when I use the phrase “very pretty” to describe a movie, it’s in the pejorative. A movie can be very beautiful indeed, but when the filmmaker also intends that movie to have substance (unlike, for example, Brakhage’s exquisite “Window Water Baby Moving”, which is just meant to be beautiful), he can make a film as pretty as he wants, but if he misses the mark with his substance, the movie will end up feeling off. And such is the case with Wu Qingyuan, which is a very pretty thing indeed, but also a very flawed one.

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Desert Island Disc Day 2C: Way, Way West, East/Midwest Subdivisions

Day 2C: Way, Way West, Round 2

Day 2C Start

How we got here:
Day 1C, East Subdivision
Day 1C, Midwest Subdivision

Spoiler alert: here is where things start getting really tough. You can see it beginning in the east subdivision…

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Occupant (2012): Demonic Possession is Nine-Tenths of Property Law

Occupant (Henry Miller, 2011)

 

photo credit: bzfilm.com

“No, I DIDN’T order seven pizzas. And if I did, do you really think I’d put the anchovies ON THE SIDE?”

What I thought I was getting when I pulled up Occupant on Netflix Instant Streaming and what I actually got are two entirely different things. There are times when this is a bad thing. A terrible one, even. But Occupant is not one of those times—what was billed as your typical horror/thriller revolving around a young man basically squatting in a New York apartment in order to get valid tenancy (think Repulsion here, I was) ended up actually being a vicious—and very, very funny—satire about the absolute idiocy of New York City’s property values, not to mention its property laws, which are even stupider. I expected I would enjoy it; I certainly didn’t expect to love it. But at the end of the day, it found itself with a four-star rating, which as of now still automatically lands a movie on my list of the thousand best films of all time (so far, I have given 701 films four stars or better). Is it really that good? Yeah, I think it is.

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6 Souls (2010): When Rabbit Snickers

6 Souls (Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, 2010)

 

photo credit: Rotten Tomatoes

Insert standard Collective Soul joke here.

For about half its length, with one glaring exception noted below, 6 Souls (originally released under the title Shelter) is a very interesting supernatural thriller. Then screenwriter Michael Cooney (Identity) starts pulling in some weird theological arguments, and the movie gets kicked off-kilter, but it was probably still salvageable at that point. Then comes the climax, and it’s terrible, but not so terrible that it made me want to gouge my eyes out.

Then comes the denouement.

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Meta post, ignore at will

I got a day and a half behind, so I owe you two. They’ll be up by bedtime.

Tuesday, the vault will return. It’s probably smaller when I get rid of some of the formatting problems, but once I finished digging out the old reviews and cutting/pasting them into a single document, I ended up with nearly five hundred pages’ worth. I’ve probably got another entire year of double-posting on review dates to get through those. They go from late 1999, about six months before I started posting things at Amazon, through early 2002 (or 2003, memory is currently failing me). A lot of music reviews (both of releases and live shows, including one review a band liked so much it was featured on their website’s front page for close to a decade), plus the usual books and movies. It’s interesting to see both how much and how little my reviewing style has changed in fourteen years. Not that I won’t be tweaking. (There are a lot of capsule reviews that should probably be full reviews, so I’ll stick another couple of paragraphs on…)

But for now, on to the weekend’s reviews!

A Thousand Cuts (2012): Someone’s at the Door

A Thousand Cuts (Charles Evered, 2012)

 

photo credit: athousandcutsmovie.com

“Pass the salt please, dear?”

A Thousand Cuts suffers from what seems to me to be an increasing problem in Hollywood that appeared around the same time we started importing a slew of Asian horror films for the domestic market—that would be around 1998, when Ringu hit it so big. It got to the point where every genre flick that came over from Asia, whether it was on Tartan Asia Extreme, Bloody Disgusting, or any of the dozens of other distributors who have worked tirelessly to bring Asian cinema to our doorsteps (and for that I thank them, even if by this time we’re getting a dozen Grotesques for every Booth that comes down the line), was marketed as a horror movie. A lot of them weren’t, but when they got marketed as such, people went into them with certain expectations. If you sit down with Rampo Noir expecting to see yet another movie like The Grudge, you are bound to be sorely disappointed, even if Rampo Noir is a dozen times better than The Grudge AND all of its sequels and knockoffs combined. But the movies still rented like hotcakes…so American filmmakers started jumping on the bandwagon. “Is there any kind of supernatural element to this movie? Hey, we’ll call it a horror film!” The classic American example is William Friedkin’s brilliant talk-piece Bug, based on a Tracy Letts play. It flopped so badly in America that no one was willing to release it on DVD for years…and when it finally did come out for the American home video market, the movie was such a smash hit in other countries that it was still playing on the big screen all those years later. Why? Because it got marketed as what it is—an intelligent, cerebral talk-piece that has everything to do with the mental states of its two main characters rather than the sci-fi elements that got so played-up here. Bug isn’t a Michael Bay flick, but everyone went looking for one.

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Desert Island Disc, Day 2B: DC Red Tape, West/South Subdivisions

Day 2B: DC Red Tape, Round Two

Day 2B Start

How we got here:
Day 1B, West Subdivision
Day 1B, South Subdivision

In the west subdivision, we have…

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