Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tim Burton's Dark Shadows (2012)
My beloved Collinwood. What have they done to you?

Hesher





You know, I kind of looked at Hesher as a primal scream towards life. Mundane Life. Lives dealing with loss. Lives dealing with bullying. Lives dealing with the throngs of aging. Lives dealing with hurt. Lives dealing agony. Lives dealing with miscommunication. 
****
Tim Burton's Dark Shadows (2012)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Tim Burton's Dark Shadows (2012)


Babblings of The Host and Hanna




The Host (2013)

My wife and I were on our way home from seeing The Host (2013), and I mentioned Hanna (2011) because we were getting HBO & Cinemax this week free on DirecTv. I happened to think and said to her that I thought the star of The Host looked awfully similar to the blond child highly-trained assassin in Hanna. And whatta ya know, it is the same actress, Saoirse Ronan. Beautiful girl, Saoirse, and she has a cinematic, highly photogenic beauty that, when magnified, is even more captivating on the theatrical screen. Funnily enough, we got home, I sat down and sure enough, Hanna is on Cinemax.




The Host was exactly as I suspected it would be while Hanna wasn’t. Not sure why both films are being mentioned here, besides Ronan’s connection, but just the same, Hanna was so European, and so atypical of those “trained assassins with an objective”, as if directed by Tom Tykwer. I always felt Hanna had designs not to be boxed into such limited space as “just another variation of Jason Bourne”, looking to have its own identity outside the confines so we see her involved with a Bohemian family, traveling about, bonding with the highly glamorous daughter, finding a fascination with the deeply philosophical, and personable mother (who graduated from Cambridge and doesn’t wear make-up because she wants to be open completely without interference from plastic surgery), and open and opinionated woman.  There’s a definite energy in the fighting and violence, the way the camera captures human motion and onscreen combat. What I found interesting about Hanna was how it doesn’t ever seem to locate itself to a location by name. It could be Morocco or Berlin, maybe even Arizona, but the film isn’t so concerned about putting a title to any specific place. I like this. Cate Blanchett and her “droogs” (they are very much like a gang right out of A Clockwork Orange, especially the blonde, often-whistling Tom Hollander, who has a very Alex DeLarge moment with a steel pipe, his white garb smeared with blood) eliminate anyone who has close contact with Hanna; I think it is even obvious that the family (with Jason Flemyng and Olivia Williams) are also victims just for spending time with Hanna. I guess they are considered collateral damage. Even more impressive is the rundown amusement park, owned by a peculiar eccentric named Mr. Grimm (with a wolf’s face tunnel that is an awesome image brought to screen; put to particularly good use when Blanchett appears from the darkness out of its mouth) that closes the film. I enjoyed the fight where Soairse gets the best of her “father”, played by Bana, but the ending sequence doesn’t quite match the first hour or so that preceded it. Bana takes care of Blanchett’s posse, but isn’t able to finish the job of Cate because she’s behind him with a gun. It wouldn’t be right, though, for Bana to end her; that’s Soairse’s job.







As much as I would love to specifically discuss Hanna, this was about a blog entry designated for The Host. The Host is targeting the Twilight demographic in every obvious way. Aliens in the form of a brightly lit species that come to Earth in oval metallic “eggs” are surgically “implanted” into a slit in behind the necks of human beings. Humans are in essence host organisms for these aliens to “bond”. Humans don’t completely fold their tent and allow the species to have total control…or at least not the stronger humans who are too stubborn to just “go into the other room”. Saoirse is Melanie, a member of the human resistance, who fight to keep from our race being totally overcome by aliens. When “the wanderer”, an alien later named by the very welcome presence of William Hurt (who is an absolute pro that brings so much to the film in quality name value) as Uncle Jebediah, Wanda (short for Wanderer, get it?). The wanderer might be a female species, and within the host body of the resistant will of Melanie, she will help her host body find Melanie’s brother, Jamie (Chandler Canterbury), and lover, Jared (Max Irons). Diane Krueger is a “seeker”, part of a group who set out to find the humans yet turned into hosts. She is motivated to stop the resistance, and later it is determined because she herself has a host willing to fight her through the mind’s will to survive despite the alien’s control. While Melanie continues to torment Wanda (her voice is used to tell us what she is saying to Wanda in the mind), and the two form an eventual friendship within the same human host body. Melanie is forever devoted to Jared, but Wanda falls in love with Ian (Jake Abel), one of the human survivors holed up with Jeb’s human resistance group in the cavernous regions located in the desert (I read that New Mexico, along with Louisiana, was an extensive location filmed). My favorite part of the film was New Mexico wide screen, so eye-popping and awe-inspiring. And the filmmakers know how beautiful and full of awe this location is because we get plenty of large scale compositions of it. Jeb even has a certain place in one of the caverns that, through mirrors built at its top, is set up to harvest wheat. The whole green movement loud and clear even here. Well, the film is built around—yep, couldn’t you guess?—a love triangle (of sorts, of course, perhaps this should be labeled a quadrangle) develops where Wanda desires Ian, whereas Melanie longs for Jared. So you have these dual minds within one host body, one desiring Ian, the other desiring Jared. I couldn’t have cared less for any of that, but that is what aims for the demographic, so The Host will probably score with those with such heart for romance and love’s conquer of all bullshit. Like Beautiful Creatures before it just released recently, The Host is designed in the hopes of conquering that hotbed of profit that is adult women and teen girls. I have no problem with this as they deserve their types of entertainment just like the horror fan that I am and my kindred do. My wife turned 39 and wanted to see The Host. I love her and so that is where we went. I got the grandiose vistas of New Mexico, she got the love story. It all ends nice and tidy with a ribbon/bow. I came home and watched Hanna again. All is well with the world. By the way, did anyone else think that Blanchett’s CIA agent had a look similar to Clarice Starling of Silence of the Lambs? That said, I thought she was hot, besides the fact that she was an unemotional, "tie up the loose ends" killer agent.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Puppet Master III



The Nazis, in 1941 Berlin, take a particular interest in the animation fluid that brings Toulon's marionettes to life, but when they are responsible for the death of the master puppeteer's wife, there'll be hell to pay.
***½

Tuesday, March 26, 2013






I had finished Puppet Master III and was putting together my review for it when this was just too good not to highlight. Corny, yes, but I love it.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Bates Motel - Nice Town You Picked, Norma



Just off the top. I'll add pics later.



There’s this one particular scene, late in the episode, which pretty much solidifies why I think Farmiga is absolutely perfect in this show and will be so compelling for the duration of Bates Motel. I think it is a brilliant piece of acting. Max Theriot’s character shows up on Norma’s doorstep, having called her in the previous episode. I was indifferent towards him when he first turns up in the episode, but when we get to the brilliant piece of acting from Farmiga, I knew he would add a unique spin to the formula involving Mama and Son Bates. Max Theriot is Norma’s other son, Dylan Bates. He’s a bad dude the moment you see him. I thought to myself, one word, when he pops up for the first time on screen, “Trouble.” But you know, there’s something to him. He’s not just some troublemaker who wants to cause nonstop misery. He seems to be on a certain mission (besides his being broke and no place else to go…) to rescue Norman from Norma (he seems to enjoy calling her by her name and she seems infuriatingly annoyed by it each time). Towards the end, Dylan is listening to a record player and “chillin’” when she disrupts his late night relaxation in the living room. Prior to this encounter, Norma arrives home from attending a “woodcutters festival” to find Norman’s face bruised after a violent scuffle (that was certainly one-sided) with Dylan. Dylan has labeled Norma’s name (number) on his cell “Whore” and it enrages Norman. How dare Dylan even remotely consider her a Whore. Norman is so incensed that he picks up a meat tenderizer and attempts to bash Dylan’s head in with it. I’ll tell you, for a brief moment, I thought Dylan was in deep shit. Dylan couldn’t possibly exit this picture just yet, though. But it does say that Norman will defend his mother’s honor even if he doesn’t realize she’s not exactly the model of moral turpitude he so covets in his heart. When Norma demands Dylan leave the house because of how toxic he is, the young man lays out a not-so-subtle blackmail. Dylan provokes a response, let me tell you. The response is what I thought was brilliant. Dylan mentions how Norman’s pops, Sam, might not have died as it seemed, and he hints that he could just mention to the authorities how it wasn’t exactly a household of affection and warmth. Norma soaks it in (I mean she literally shows us the impact Dylan has on her with those choice words of warning), contemplates for about a few seconds (she takes a deep breath and I thought you could see her allowing his words of threatening to gain merit), and then tells him to not listen to the music so loud. I thought it was brilliant because you don’t get a heated exchange (they have them, sure, plenty of back and forth animosity and verbal strikes at each other) between the two, but what Dylan proposes is viable and realistic. Her character knows he could crumble all she is starting to build for her and Norman. It is so brief, but I think what an actress of Farmiga’s caliber can do so many other less capable actresses couldn’t with lines and lines of dialogue.

The show, for me, is so captivating due to how it lays out subtle hints and clues as to potential character arcs on the horizon. We learn in conversations between Norma and Deputy Shelby (Mike Vogel; what I thought in the first episode is further developed here in regards to his character and Norma having a fling with each other) that the sheriff was good childhood friends with Summers. The sheriff once again is an asshole to Norma, but at least we now know why he’s so off-putting towards her. He mentions when approaching her door with questions about a meeting she had with Summers that she had stolen the property out from under him at a foreclosure sale. We saw what Summers was capable of when he raped Norma in the previous episode, and how he trashed her; not to mention, the way he exploded with all that rage and bitching upon their very first meeting in what was once his yard to Norma. So if Summers is this way—to keep such sorry company—what does that say about the sheriff? He does tell Norma that she doesn’t want him for an enemy. They find Summers truck and the search for him is on. This wasn’t just some story that was to flee all because he took a powder once the show no longer needed him. His death isn’t just about to fade into the forgotten. His body will probably surface eventually; when it does, what will the sheriff be like then?

The writers use Vogel as kind of a voice of the town. There’s known corruption (we later see marijuana growers, who speak Spanish…) in White Pine Bay. The logging was stopped “by the tree huggers” and so illegal activity (drugs) keeps the town alive. Soon Dylan will get involved with those who traffic drugs. Will Norma and Norman be able to avoid those Dylan gets heavily involved with?

There’s a man burned damn near alive, Bradley’s father, who “owns a warehouse”, crashing his car and nearly hitting Norman in the process. Bradley’s “boyfriend” (I guess that is what he is; he gives Norman the cold shoulder when he brings a flower for Bradley) tells Norman he’ll see she gets his flower delivered in person to the hospital. I guess we can figure after watching the episode complete that his warehouse has drug trafficking involved. Late in the episode, a man is burning, hanging upside down, a possible warning sign that all is not well in White Pine Bay. Vogel’s Shelby speaks for the writers in that this town will do what it takes to survive. Shelby indeed admits to Norma that the police department knowingly looks the other way, allowing criminal activity to continue. Not in so blunt terms, but he says enough to convince Norma (and us) that because of the absence of log cutting, a strong economic source for the town, there has to be money made and that those “fancy European cars” and nice suburban homes were bought and paid for somehow.

Another character arc emphasized in Emma with her cystic fibrosis and fixation on the bondage book Norman finds in the hotel room he was pulling carpet, with drawings of women to be used as sex slaves, a murder, a shed, and a burial. This was how Norman and Emma find themselves running through the woods from Spanish machine-gun toting marijuana security. There’s an awkward, really uncomfortable scene where Emma comes over to meet with Norman in preparing a partnership poem for their language arts class. Norma wonders about Emma’s condition, even asking her about the life expectancy! Even Dylan is taken aback by such nerve. I think Norma even glimmers and nearly smirks when Emma says, 27. It is a peek into the less civilized Norma. As is White Pine Bay, Norma has iniquity. Sam’s fate, the bondage art book, marijuana, burned bodies, plenty of darkness exists. Within the episode, there’s a tender moment where Emma kisses Norman, and he’s giddy about it. It is that one moment within such a really dark episode, and the writers and direction certainly wants us to see sympathize with Emma and embrace her. With so much darkness, a little light isn’t bad, is it?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Invisible



The Chronicles of Benjamin Knight

A mad scientist wants radioactive crystals located in the lab of a wheel-chair scientist, his scientist lover, and their colleague who is plagued by invisibility caused by radiation.
**½

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Trancers II



 The Return of Jack Deth

It came to my mind as I was watching the sequel to Trancers that you can have the lowest of budgets, not be able to afford the effects and such you would love to have available to accompany a grand vision in script, and must unfortunately deal with the lack of funds at your disposal the best ways possible, but if the film has a cast with a genuine chemistry and some really fun characters that are reasonably developed, it can work wonders.
***

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Bates Motel - First You Dream, Then You Die




 The Bates Motel

 I just wanted to throw some quick thoughts up here since the show’s pilot was on my mind since I have advertised it on my blog, considering I’m such a fan of Hitchcock’s Psycho and the subsequent films thereafter.

I really, really love the casting of Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates. I will loyally follow this series as long as she’s in the picture; I thought she was damn good. I didn’t think the scene with the rape from the former owner of the land, house, and motel was necessary. It was, for cable television not premium, pretty potently awful, but her reaction to it all, Farmiga excels. She is obviously shaken, but because she’s such a fierce character, so forward-thinking, the rape scene at least shows how Norma can respond to a crisis of severe magnitude.

First You Dream, Then You Die opens with Norman finding his father’s dead body. Not overly explained, but it seems as if he might have committed suicide. That, or Norma killed him. This is up for debate. She doesn’t seem that bothered at all that he’s dead and is more comforting to Norman instead of shocked into her own traumatic weeping over such a devastating event. It propels them into purchasing the motel, house on the hill, and land surrounding it. This first episode sets up the show and gives us a first indication as to how much overall control Norma has over her son. He is devoted to her but when he attempts to stray from the henhouse, Mama Chicken pitches a fit. He wants to “go study” with some teen girls from his school. She immediately responds by denying the girls (who are, for whatever reason, interested in Norman, coming to his house, wondering if he can “go study” with them) her son’s company. Norman does so behind her back, going with the girls to a party (he literally does believe they want him to study with them), and hangs out at the place where alarmingly so many teens are gathered in bunches, some dancing to the techno and neon, with plenty of the beer surfacing about. Bradley (Nicola Peltz) is the cute girl who really seems to dig Norman; she always interested in him, conversing with him. There’s another girl, dependent on an oxygen tank, who he later meets in school after vomiting in a school garbage can. She also has googly-eyes for Norman. I wasn’t expecting such female interest in a rather awkward misfit with Mommy issues. I have to say, I find it refreshing. He hasn’t even been a victim of bullying yet. That’s coming, I imagine.

Farmiga has that “hot milf” factor going for her, to use what many might consider a crude description. She is a very attractive woman and so I imagine we might see some romantic/lustful encounters with men passing through her life; if just for the tense dramatics that will result in terms of Norman’s inability to handle another man vying for his mama’s affections. I figure the deputy we see in this first episode will perhaps be her first suitor. Just going by the young man making out with her passionately in one of the previews for the show detailing various clips already happening or yet to come, it appears to be him. Young hunks are attracted to women of an older age if just because of their sexual experience. And Farmiga is certainly the kind of woman that would appeal to younger men.

I think, easily, that the best sequence of events is the murder and “clean-up” of evil, sadistic, raging hick, Summers (W Earl Brown), interrupted by the sheriff and his deputy (Nestor Carbonell & Mike Vogel), passing by because they see the lights on at the Bates Motel. A dead body in a certain bathroom (yes, that room) bathtub hidden by a shower curtain as the sheriff takes a leak (when Norma tells him the bathroom “is broke”, the sheriff tells her you just have the rattle the handle a little after you flush it) with Norma and Norman internally freaking out and trying to keep their cool with the deputy inside. The sound of urinating with Norma and Norman eyeing each other in acknowledgment that this situation is increasingly worrisome sets the sequence off.  

Interesting how distrusting the sheriff is, how he seems to be interrogating Norma at her own place of residence and business for no real reason, and there’s a tension there that I think adds a lot to the whole sequence. I don’t think anyone even considered she’d be caught, but it was more about seeing how Norma would get herself out of the fix. She does so impressively.






















You’re like a beautiful, deep still lake in the middle of an ugly world.

The cynic in me believes there’s a prank in place and these girls (and probably their popular beaus) are setting Norman up for a humiliating incident that will scar him against females in general for his life (besides his mother). I would like to think Bradley is sincere, but it’s an experience that girls as pretty as her (and her friends) typically lead guys like Norman (not the usual handsome jock or preppy dude, shallow and so into themselves and their status in high school) along only to leave them in a heap of humiliation, having to rise from the ashes of such treatment once adulthood hits and life outside school possibly (or maybe not) opens doors shut on certain “outside” teenagers. Freddie Highmore plays Norman, I thought, gullible and trusting, allowing the girls (I guess, I understand why he would; these girls showing an interest in him without Norman doing any work to gain their attention, a teenage young man would be hard-pressed not to enjoy it, even if he does so in a quiet ease) to influence him to have a ride in their car to school, and then later joining them on a trip to the aforementioned party. Bradley does seem into him; I still have a suspicion it is to embarrass him later.

Like I said, Farmiga is, to me, absolutely captivating anytime she’s on screen. We are treated to the domineering, me first, everybody else is not important Norma when Norman is inspired by a teacher (who seems a little touchy feely interested in Norman) to join the track team, brought after she had prepared a nice meal at supper for them. Norma gets so upset she loses her appetite, storming off, believing he should be more invested in helping her get the motel off the ground instead of worrying about school extracurricular activities. It is early into the process where she settles Norman into totally devoting mind, body, and soul to her. It is a process of destruction, though. We know the outcome, but with carte blanche (I’m guessing, to a certain degree…) given to those behind this show, I’m anxious to see where the writers take the characters. I guess we’ll see.







 






We see at the conclusion of this episode, someone attending to a chained girl with a hypodermic of drug, plenty of holes showing the proof that she has been held captive for some time. It is just a little seed planted to leave us curious as to what the hell this means. That hook; I'm such the fish, because the bait certainly left me intrigued.

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The Boogens - Intro

While I must admit that as a monster movie, The Boogens (1981) doesn’t quite measure up (its monsters aren’t particularly menacing ...