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Tag Archives: two-stars

The Lucky Little Labrador Goes to School (2012): …but not for characterization

C. J. Smiles, The Lucky Little Labrador Goes to School (Happily Books, 2012)

lucky

That diploma and a quarter… won’t even get you a bus ride anymore. photo credit: my copy

One of the cardinal rules of children’s book writing is to not talk down to your audience. Not only does it show a disrespect for them, but you’d be surprised at how well kids can see through that sort of thing. Smiles’ book has an example that is both more abstract and more subtle than usual, which kind of makes me want to grudgingly admire it while still running it down. In this case, it’s a character; Kevin’s mother is as two-dimensional as they come, nerve-wrackingly shrill until that one moment of revelation when all the sudden her personality changes completely. Ever seen that happen in real life? Nope, me neither. And we don’t do any service to kids telling them it happens, any more than we do service to adults when that sort of thing happens in bad TV shows and movies. The underlying story is a decent one, but the devil, as usual, is in the details. **

The Forest (2016): The Girl Was Never There, It’s Always the Same

The Forest (Jason Zada, 2016)

The top half of Natalie Dormer's face disintegrates into a number of hangman's nooses on the film's poster.

No matter the quality of the movie, this poster is a minor work of genius. photo credit: film-book.com

The first thing you should know about The Forest is that Aokigahara Forest is absolutely a real place, the mythology surrounding it as depicted in the movie is spot-on, and it has been used as the basis of a number of Asian films (most notably for western viewers, Forest of Death, Danny Pang’s 2007 solo jaunt–though Pang relocated the forest to Thailand for the sake of his story). That may help this movie’s effectiveness for you. And to be fair to The Forest, it is a competently-made thriller with a couple of really good jump shots. However, there are a few things about the movie that left me, no pun intended, hanging.

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Capsule Reviews, November 2014

Only late enough that December’s capsule reviews are coming next Monday…
[update 25Nov2014: and this should have been posted yesterday, but WordPress seems to be having problems with graphics uploads for some reason. I will get there, honest…]

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After the Dark (2013): Before the Robots

After the Dark (John Huddles, 2013)

The cast stand in the foreground, a mushroom cloud behind them, on the movie poster.

The Day After.
photo credit: movies.yahoo.com

After the Dark (also released under the title The Philosophers), John Huddles’ first film in a decade and a half, starts out with an intriguing, sobering, and rather terrifying premise. Zimit (Exorcist: The Beginning‘s James D’Arcy) is a philosophy teacher at an Indonesian school containing some of the world’s best and brightest students. It’s the last day of his class’ senior year, and he’s not going to let them go without one last exercise. There are twenty students in the class, and Zimit makes twenty-one. A nuclear disaster has occurred, and they are within range of a bunker that can sustain ten people for one year, enough time for the radiation level on the planet to subside enough for it to become habitable again. Given a random distribution of talents (the students pick slips of paper from a box describing their professions), an exercise in pragmatism: who gets to go into the bunker? Who lives and who dies?

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Insomnia (2002): …Is Sometimes Its Own Cure

Insomnia (Christopher Nolan, 2002)

[originally posted 3Dec2002]

Robin Williams and Al Pacino take up most of the movie poster, with a small nod to the original poster at the top.

One-Hour Photo meets The Devil’s Advocate in the gripping exploration of two actors whose careers had gone well off the rails.
photo credit: flickfacts.com

I hate to think it’s true, but having now seen Chris Nolan’s other two films, Following and Insomnia, I’m starting to think Memento—one of the finest films ever made—was a one-shot deal.

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Gone (2007): And Yes, Forgotten

Gone (Ryan Ledwidge, 2007)

A wide-angle shot of our three roadtrippers graces the movie poster.

The horizon: as empty as this film.
photo credit: bryininberlin.blogspot.com

I continue to lack an understanding of why this film has ever been, much less continues to be, compared to Wolf Creek. The two films don’t even reside in the same genre of film, much less the same subgenre. Gone is an attempt at a cerebral thriller, far more in line with the various attempts to adapt the Ripley novels than a Wolf Creek-style gore film. The comparisons are sure to create unreasonable expectations in the minds of potential viewers; I can tell you this from personal experience. Not that I would have found the movie good had I known what I was getting into anyway; that just added an extra level of disappointment.

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Abenteuerliches Herz (2002): Gotos =/= Kalanda

Allerseelen, Abenteuerliches Herz (Aorta, 2002)

[originally posted 22Nov2002]

A phallic rock stands before a stone tablet on the album cover.

Where the demons dwell. Where the banshees live, and they do live well.
photo credit: deluidspreker.de

It pains me to write this…

Allerseelen first caught my attention seven years ago with the brilliant “Santa Sangre,” a contribution to the Im Blutfeuer compilation (Cthulhu, 1995). I picked up Ultra!’s comp, The Nitha Fields, based on the strength of it, and the two Allerseelen songs on it (“Alle Lust will Ewigkeit” and “Traumlied”) were similarly brilliant. So I acquired their latest album, Abenteuerlichers Herz (Adventurous Heart). And it is painful.

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