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Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Patriot (2000): Braveheart vs. Redcoat, with Expected Results

The Patriot (Roland Emmerich, 2000)

[originally posted 4Apr2001]

Mel Gibson is so dominant in this poster it might as well be called "Mel Gibson and... well, a few other people."

At least he didn’t call it The Last Temptation of Washington.
photo credit: Wikipedia

I’m not sure why I’m mildly surprised this movie wasn’t nearly as good as Braveheart. After all, Roland Emmerich was the brain behind such wondrous projects as Godzilla (1998) and Universal Soldier. Hoo boy. That said, it’s quite amazing that the thing manages to come off as well as it does. The main reason it does is Jason Isaacs, who plays William Tavington, the sleazy British colonel who serves as Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson)’s nemesis. (Did Isaacs look familiar to you? He delivered the immortal “C minus” line in Armageddon—one of the few lines in that movie that made it worth watching.)
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Spiders (2000): Eight Legs of Dumb

Spiders (Gary Jones, 2000)

[originally posted 4Apr2001]

A number of generic bodies cocooned adorn the film's poster.

You just kind of expect Don Ameche to pop up, don’t you?
photo credit: horror101withdrac.blogspot.com

Gary Jones, the man who gave us the inimitably bad Mosquitoes and various episodes of Hercules and Xena, is back with yet another movie about big bugs with bad special effects. My local vidshack had this as a two-day rental, something usually reserved for popular films (to keep them on the shelves, natch), which led me to the illusion that it might actually be a worthwhile movie. More fool me.
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Bereavement (2010): Challenge Rejected

Bereavement (Stevan Mena, 2010)

 

Alexandra Daddario is menaced by something down the hall on the movie poster.

Don’t Look in the…Wait, What Part of the Country Am I in Again?
photo credit: Wikipedia

Bereavement is a prequel to Mena’s 2004 Malevolence. In my review of that one, which I saw about four years ago, I hypothesized that it was the middle film in a projected trilogy, though I no longer remember what led me to that belief. I also, despite the film’s many shortcomings (upon reflection, the two stars I gave it seem overly generous), posited that maybe it would make more sense once Bereavement came out. I have now seen Bereavement—very unusually for me, I am typing these opening sentences while the end credits of the movie are rolling, rather than letting it sit for a few days to see if my feelings about it change—and I can confidently say that the answer to the question I posted four years ago is “no”. While it is obvious that Mena learned from a number of the mistakes made with Malevolence, he’s still got a long, long way to go.

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Mona Lisa (1986): Driver’s Remorse

[bloody hell, things got a little crazy at Goat Central last night, so there’s some catch-up to be played. Apologies!]

Mona Lisa (Neil Jordan, 1986)

 

Cathy Tyson's image dominates one of Bob Hoskins in the lower left-hand corner on the movie poster.

The sisters are doin’ it for themselves.
photo credit: Wikipedia

I watched Mona Lisa towards the end of December, after I had set the first draft of my Best I Saw list for 2013. When I was finished, I immediately went to that list and had to rearrange it. Neil Jordan took the British gangster film (and he was serious about making sure people knew it was a British gangster film, to the point of casting the British gangster film stalwart, Bob Hoskins, the Ray Winstone of the eighties), added some of that Neil Jordan magic that few people recognized that early in his career (Mona Lisa was Jordan’s third feature), and came up with something that simultaneously revelled in being a British gangster film and something that was also totally new. I’m not sure there is such a thing as the definitive British gangster film, and if it does exist, I’m certain it happened well before 1986. Besides, Mona Lisa breaks far too many molds to be a definitive anything… and yet, somehow, it is, a quick, genre-bending, exceptionally intelligent piece of work.

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The Way of the Gun (2000): Don’t Rely on No One Else

The Way of the Gun (Christopher McQuarrie, 2000)

[originally posted 5Apr2001]

Ryan Phillippe and Benicio del Toro dominate the film's poster.

A fine cast, utterly wasted.
photo credit: imfdb.com

The Way of the Gun gets my vote for “most boring action film of 2000” by a pretty wide margin. McQuarrie, who wrote one of the finest mysteries ever filmed (The Usual Suspects), takes his own turn at the directorial helm here, and let’s hope he learned from the many mistakes he made in his debut.
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Blithe Spirit (1945): Shriek Encounter

Blithe Spirit (David Lean, 1945)

Kay Hammond reclines on the poster with a come-hither look surrounded by stills from the film on the poster.

Blithe, lithe, it all works.
photo credit: moviepostershop.com

David Lean is one of those “all the pros are really in love with this guy” directors whose films I rarely seem to get round to watching. This confuses me somewhat, because when I do watch a Lean film, I find it immensely enjoyable; I’ve only seen two so far, but Lawrence of Arabia, as of this writing, is sitting at #121 on my all-time top 1000 list, and Blithe Spirit entered the list at #541. Both are phenomenal pictures. A stage performance of Blithe Spirit had just closed its run right across the street from where I work a couple of weeks before I sat down to watch the movie; by the time it was over, I was kicking myself for not having gone to see the play. That strikes me as the best recommendation I can give the silly, wonderful thing.

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The Flounder (1977): Truth in Advertising

Günter Grass, The Flounder (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977)

[originally posted 5Apr2001]

A flounder whispers into a man's ear on the book's cover.

“You wanna see the fillets? That’ll cost you extra…”
photo credit: sexualfables.com

I just couldn’t get through it. I can’t really put my finger on why, but there it is. The Flounder contains all the things I revere about Grass—a strong sense of history, scurrilous sense of humor, strong characters put into wonderfully unrealistic situations. But this novel, Grass’ weightiest (literally), never seems to come together in all the little ways that made similarly large tomes like The Tin Drum and Dog Years such wonderful reads.
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We Don’t Care About Music Anyway (2011): The Rituals of Decay

We Don’t Care About Music Anyway (Cedric Dupire and Gaspard Kuentz, 2011)

One of the bands (I do not know which) set up and performed for the film on a beach; this lobby card is a wide-angle shot of their equipment, with no humans in sight.

This may be my favorite lobby card of all time.
photo credit: simonhutchinson.com

I stopped watching We Don’t Care About Music Anyway halfway through to make an orgasmic post on facebook about how everyone I knew needed to go watch this movie right then and there, drop everything that they were doing and just go watch, subscribe to Netflix Instant if they didn’t already have it just so they could see this movie. I do not believe it is the best noise documentary I have ever seen (Tom Hovinbøle’s jaw-dropping Nor Noise is the other contender; both are must-see-immediately movies), but it’s nibbling at the edges. The reason for this is something I will go into detail about later, but a short summary for the tl;dr crowd: this is not documentary filmmaking the way you think it is; there are portions that are obviously staged. But there is a very studied feel to the movie’s artificiality that, I assume, was conceived in order to fit in with the performance footage (this makes sense given that much of noise performance is also studied artificiality; watching most noise kids who aren’t doing some sort of theatrics is ridiculously boring, and I should know, because I’m one of the boring ones), and that takes this movie from the level of “okay, this is a pretty good noise doc” to “whoa, stratosphere”. Though I will warn you there are those who are turned off by the artificiality. Don’t be that guy.

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X-Men (2000): Rise of the Franchise

X-Men (Bryan Singer, 2000)

[originally posted 27Mar2001]

The principal cast superimposed over the skyline of a metropolis on the original film poster.

With friends like these…
photo credit: Wikipedia

Singer is a genius, pure and simple. Anyone who could create something like The Usual Suspects has to be a genius. No two ways about it. And thus he was tabbed to do the long-awaited film version of the comic book X-Men. And to his credit, he did a wonderful job with what he was given.
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Occultic War (2005): It Only Gets Worse

Occultic War (MacCollins Chidebe, 2005)

Two of the film's principals adorn this cheapie movie poster that looks more like the cover of a vanity-published pulp novel.

On the other hand, that may be the best pimp hat I have ever seen.
photo credit: Youtube

I’m going to go into this review assuming that you have not, in fact, seen Occultic Battle, to which this is the sequel, because (a) if you’re reading this, you’re probably not in Nigeria or Ghana (none of my stats tell me I have ever received a single view from either country) and (b) if you’re not in one of those two countries, you are probably not nearly as immersed in the multi-billion-dollar-per-year Nollywood film industry as I am, because it has made very little mark outside Nigeria and Ghana. Much of the reason for this is that, despite Nollywood films being wildly popular in their own countries, in other places—where there are other film industries to compare against—everyone realizes that pretty much every film that has come out of Nollywood sucks. On the other hand, if you are a connoisseur of cheesy DTV American crap, Turkish exploitation films from the seventies, pinky violence (from Japan) or bomba (from Indonesia), or any other genre of film whose appeal is mainly that it is terrible, then Nollywood is going to be right up your alley. I am not sure I have ever encountered a better example of this conundrum than Occultic War, which takes the usual religious themes of Nollywood and crosses them with gangsta lifestyles and supernatural warfare and comes up with something that even Kirk Cameron, had he been involved in its making, would likely have disowned. Yes, I’m telling you this is even worse than the Omega Code movies.

...

SPOILER ALERT: the synopsis necessarily contains the major spoiler for the first film. If you are planning on watching them, etc.

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