Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Always Watching

Initially meant for the weekly thread to come Sunday...

**

Always Watching (2015) was a found footage movie that truthfully left me just kind of underwhelmed, with no passion or inspiration urging any sort of advanced critique, which I kind of felt belonged in a small paragraph in the current weekly review thread I've been producing for Sundays. From what I gather the Slender Man is the reasoning behind the faceless entity that leaves marks on his victims, eventually influencing them to kill others through a type of dark will. A camera operator, a news journalist, and their producer all embark on an article about a family seemingly lost, with video footage recorded from a cam showing a figure in suit with no face, and they themselves are eventually targeted. Marks on them as well, with no matter how far they try to escape doing no good. All the recordings become distorted and affected by the specter’s appearances, which start with the cameraman (Chris Marquette; Freddy vs. Jason (2003)), eventually reaching the journalist (hot redhead Alexandra Breckinridge) and her lover producer (Jake McDorman). Marquette is also infatuated with Breckinridge which causes quite a bit of tension. He had been stalking her, justifying it by telling Breckenridge he was worried about her abusing Percocet. The love triangle aside, footage of a family that is besieged by evil eventually sheds light on just how dangerous Slender Man is, perpetrating the three leads as well. The footage of old and new, no matter the advance in technology, Slender Man invades, and seemingly nothing can prevent the insidious actions of Slender Man.

Not as exciting or as compelling as my premise might lead you to believe. A bit on the dull side, there just isn’t much energy involved. The jerks and jolts of recording equipment under the effects of Slender Man and his victims starting to grow weary as their lives suffer as he preys on them serve as expected found footage results. The house of the family besieged by Slender Man is creepy, left behind as if they had just vanished in the middle of an active day. Slender Man isn't too shabby a figment that comes and goes. If only the leads were more interesting. Oh and Marquette loves his dog, but Slender Man ultimately doesn't.

Closely tied to a webseries, I read...






Sunday, February 26, 2017

No Caption Needed - JLC


Movie Week in Review 2/19 - 2/26

Sunday found me watching a movie that truly proved how impossibly bored I was. Just on when I turned on the Telly, Mad Money (2008) features the always watchable Diane Keaton as a suburban wife desperate to pay the debt accumulated in her family, in disarray since hubby Ted Danson was "downsized" from a company he worked for decades. This actually happened to my stepdad so I felt for Danson. It can happen just like that. Job gone. Working as janitorial labor at a federal facility where "old currency is obliterated for fresh bills to replace them", she sets in motion with two other employees (Queen Latifa and Katie Holmes) a well orchestrated skimming operation, destroying required amounts and escaping with *a little on the side*. Stephen Root is always stealing scenes he's in. He is a character actor thief that cracks you up with just an expression or character quirk. As the eyes of the corporation, with all the cops and security detail seemingly under his watchful eye, the three ladies are sure to be very careful not to stir suspicion from Root. Latifa is a single mom with two boys she takes great care in raising responsibly. She runs the money shredding machine. She's hard working and focused on her boys being the best they could be. Which kind of makes her agreeing to Keaton's robbery a bit disconcerting for a comedy. That dichotomy isn't necessarily a great interest in the comedy which is designed to celebrate women suckering the Feds and Root who works for the government. Even a security guard who works for the facility becomes complicit because he's in love with Latifa. Holmes is a lovable ditz with a dimbulb man working at a meat plant, wanting to travel places, her job to push money carts around. The film decides to show those involved interviewed by Feds. So you know they get caught. Keaton proves to be formidable. But she gets greedy and the girls continue daily to collect the old bills and hide them at their homes. But even as the Feds comes calling Keaton is confident and defiant. Oddly the ending would have you believe concealing extra cash is worth applauding! Christopher McDonald has a small part as a tax attorney neighbor.

I rewatched Killer Joe (2011). I have already written a review so I'll refrain from a novel. McConaughey is just boss as the dominating presence of the title, Juno Temple a revelation as a slow-witted but sweet-faced child-woman, Thomas Haden Church as a boozing, easily duped dad, Emile Hersch as a oft- gambling loser under pressure from loan shark to get him his cash, and Gina Gershon as the stepmom with a lay on the side who initiated the "kill mom for her money" insurance hit that draws Killer Joe, cop for Dallas Police Department by day, hitman on the side. Although most notorious for the fellatio with chicken leg scene, which I had a hard time watching on a second time just the same as the first, Temple being drawn into the middle of the Joe and the family's turmoil when the policy pays to an outside party is equally as discomforting. McConaughey, as expected, is incredible but Temple becomes a star here. Hersch is quite a worm, with his fate a product of his own making. The kids turning out as they do is no surprise considering the adults in their world. That balance of cool and psychotic makes McConaughey terrifying and electric. Gershon deserves credit for withstanding an obviously difficult role. Friedkin, not shockingly, really brings to life this bottom-feeding white trash atmosphere, and his cast are game for anything. Location Friedkin uses further symbolizes his maverick independent directorial nature.

The Land Before Time (1993) I remember distinctively as a kid mainly for it being the *other* dino movie out, as Jurassic Park was the blockbuster taking the theaters by storm. I thought it was cute, and my son was completely enthralled. Great score and the animation by Bluth brought the prehistoric era to life, emphasizing the Earth's *restructuring itself*, separating the kid dinosaurs from their parents, forcing the little creatures to journey to The Great Valley, something similar to The Land of Milk and Honey in the Bible. You guessed it: they make it to their destination. The drawing of the dino kids and their voicework certainly should appeal to the kids. Similarly on Sunday my kids wanted to watch Beethoven (1992), another popular kiddie movie I seen in the theater when I was a child. But we settled on Beethoven's Second as I had to DVR the first one. It provided the popular St Bernard with a mate and puppies, as Debi Mazar and Chris Penn are doggie exploiters getting humiliated by them while Charles Groden grimaces a lot at the prospects of taking care of more than one Beethoven. The plot also has them away from the city and suburbia, off on vacation to a nice lodging near a lake. Favorite scene might be when Beethoven pulls apart a two story cabin with the front of it falling into a lake! Truthfully the sequel is fun for dog lovers while the first followed Groden's conditioning to having Beethoven around despite its mischief and tendency to leave his family house in a mess.

Supercross (2005) is basically a motocross commercial. It has Vogel and Howey as brothers working as pool cleaners trying to make it big in dirt bike racing. Both find hot girlfriends (Cameron Richardson and Sophia Bush respectively) while trying to make it big. Richardson, smokin hot, is the rider daughter of Robert Patrick (given little to do which sucked) while Bush is a wealthy law school student. Early Channing Tatum part has him as the star of the racing team (headed by Robert Carradine) Howey is told to block for, held back from winning on his own. Vogel is the reckless, irresponsible younger pretty boy rider, more talented than Howey but too hotheaded and confrontational. While Howey continues to do his role, Vogel works independently earning a ride with Patrick's privateer team. Eventually Vogel is injured while protecting Howey, and Howey is rejected by his team because he is deemed a threat to Tatum. The track and bike stunt work is first rate and excitingly photographed. The plot is cliche and devoid of surprise. Cast with a bunch of handsome performers who would later find their places in television mostly, but the movie was a flop. I do remember seeing some commercials for the film upon its release. On a lazy Saturday it isn't a total waste.

The son wanted to watch Cinderella (2015) and I surmised that Cate Blanchett is certainly a major reason to watch it. No doubt Branaugh knows how to bring a fairy tale to life lavishly, and Disney has the money to pay him. But you get nothing here the 1950 animated Disney film doesn't offer. Lily James is a beauty. The effects for her entourage to get her to the ball and how they return to their previous animal forms, along with the pumpkin carriage are a highlight. Studio Ghibli's Secret World of Arriety (2010) is a new love for my son and I. It has a breezy pace and feel to it, a sense of comfort in its storytelling, stunning development and presentation of little people (the size of insects) in a huge human world and how they survive, and how not all human beings are dangerous as evidenced by the sick boy preparing for a heart surgery but some are (the maid who wants to prove to others the little people exist). The size differential is a significant visual dynamo in animation. Nothing all that extraordinary in the story but as a work of beauty in animation it is fantastic....Never a surprise considering it was Ghibli. How a human boy and courageous borrower girl help each other save Arriety's mom is a memorable highlight.

Quarantine



Coming from a big fan of the Spanish ∆trapped in building, unable to get out∆ [•REC] movies, by the very talented filmmakers, Balaguero and Plaza, I was a bit miffed like other folks about Hollywood remaking yet another hit cult horror film that received a lot of buzz. This one, Quarantine (2008), isn't too shabby, though. It follows the general outline of its inspiration and it's structure is similar. •Through the eyes of the camera• is the approach such a standard now in the found footage genre, and Jennifer Carpenter is the lead we follow throughout. She's this news journalist with cameraman doing a story on city firemen, accompanying one truck outfit to a distress call in an apartment complex.



I always seem to preface these movies by saying: yes, the cam goes through the ringer. Lighting, especially towards the end, and the camera’s eye glimpses what is in front of it than more than any capturing of mise-en-scène. This isn’t about visual stimuli. It isn’t about methodical slow burn. This is edited to be immediate. Sure there is more time in the firehouse than what is shown. But the editing does seem to indicate those kinds of cuts to chop out the mundane. Carpenter is all smiles, full of charm and appeal, obviously beaming that personality that cries for a potential anchor position eventually. These pieces are to get her towards that goal. Well, I think it is safe to say that goes to shit. Jay Hernandez is the “lead fireman” (Jonathan Schaech doesn’t quite make it, to put it mildly), hero for a majority (at least he’s responsible for Carpenter and her camera operator remaining safe until the very end when he’s removed from the picture) of the time, who, along with cop Columbus Short, tries to protect those in an apartment complex and fight away the eventual onslaught of rabid “rabies” infected tenants, modeled, it seems, from those blood and flesh thirsty “zombies” from 28 Days Later. I think the film’s claustrophobia—its python-squeezing, unrelenting tightening of places to run—is a major asset in its favor. I think the ever-worsening situation as the virus usurps the innocent until only two remain, thanks in no small part to the quarantine by those outside of the complex who won’t allow anyone to leave/escape, is successfully presented…there’s no reason to think anyone is making it out of that building alive. Carpenter, so enthusiastic and full of spirit, is hyperventilating and wrought with anxiety and terror by film’s end. Her horror is well established by the direction in the film…the diverse collection of tenants eventually wind up scattering infected flesh-eaters, in full pursuit of anything living and breathing. That would be Carpenter and Steve Harris looking down the serpentine stair well as the viral dead growl (their flesh shades of gray), rushing towards those uninfected. Good cast with the likes of Greg Germann (as a vet trying to doctor humans infected), Denis O’Hare as this troublesome tenant who is unruly and at odds with Short, Rade Šerbedžija as a Serbian tenant offering escape routes always undermined by the SWAT posted at every one of them, Bernard White as a doc selling drugs out of his apartment, Dania Ramirez and Elaine Kagan as female tenants in the building, and Marin Hinkle as the mom soon bitten by her infected daughter. Those uninfected split apart by chaos caused by the rabid dead leads to the whole apartment complex infested. The virus’ reason for existing in the complex gets answered when Carpenter and Harris find themselves at the very top of the building, intruding upon the responsible party’s lair…this final area of the building Carpenter and Harris can run into as the rest of the space is cut off from them. The final image of Carpenter dragged away into the darkness (something repeated since in Found Footage) was given away in commercials for the film! So the impact of it was muted.

While the zombies in the film (or whatever you want to call them) aren't original (or their cause, quite frankly), the adrenaline rush of the attempts to quell the viral outbreak and then the fleeing the danger pursuing those not yet infected, the dread that builds due to the quarantine and infected count rising, the rapid attacks of the infected giving our heroes little time to defend themselves, and the intensity of the impending doom that seems all-encompassing provide Quarantine with enough positives to not feel like this was a total waste of time. Sure you could say [•REC] and its sequels offer horror fans so much more, but at least I think Quarantine compensates for its "thievery" by maintaining a pace that lags little, giving us a presentation that ratchets up the nightmarish shocks and unyielding hell that perpetrates without fail our heroes until there's no one left.


** ½

Thursday, February 23, 2017

True Blood...


In reference to the second and third episodes of the first season, "Mine" and "Escape from Dragon House".

It was rather clear in the very first episode that all that sexual tension and desire between Sookie and Bill would continue to build and build until there was the payoff. As "The First Taste" concluded, Sookie encountered three vampires from Bill's past, all embracing feeding from humans without worry of consequences...consequences he warns them of. The luscious waitress, sexpot Dawn (Lynn Collins), a playful and promiscuous frequent lover of Jason's, gets tired of his vampire racism and how he views her for being with one of them. She shoots a gun in her home multiple times to scare him out...this not long after a bit of rough sex where Jason took the identity of a home invading intruder. A neighbor hears them fighting and sees Jason engaging in verbal sparring with Dawn, tired of his insults. This will be the last night she's seen alive. Sookie finds her strangled on her bed which cliffhangs "Mine." Jason felt he should apologize, and his ego was bruised when his dick went limp imaging her with that vampire. Lafayette is known for offering his body to older guys (in "Escape from Dragon House", a white state senator is leaving from an encounter as Tara looks on!), and he also has earned a rep for dealing out of his home. Jason wants something to help with his limp dick, Lafayette offers him some V (vampire blood), and eventually Sheriff Dearborne (William Sanderson) and detective Andy (Chris Bauer) will be questioning him. Jason arrives the morning Sookie found Dawn with flowers hoping to patch things up. Loaded in a police car, a bottle of V in his pocket, Jason decides to gulp it all so this won't be attached to him. It causes "enlarged eggplant dick", and Tara will come to his rescue, asking the sheriff and Andy if they Mirandized him. Tara will need to help Jason get his dick drained. Yes, that is an actual subplot for the second and third episodes.

Sookie is all kinds of conflicted in regards to Bill. She wants him, but he's a vampire. Her life could be in danger just because of an association with him. The locals, that are human, offer racist/xenophobic thoughts Sookie consumes at Marlottes, listening to them at the wishes of Gran, hoping Jason will be vindicated. Those thoughts are jarring, prejudicial, nasty, and often sexist. But despite all the town's evidence of disapproval, Sookie decides she'd choose Bill. But the whole "she's mine" comes about when Sookie arrives with a referral for an electrician willing to work at night at his home. The "three" (Bill says they are a hive who stay together and commit all forms of wickedness) are at his home, full of threatening talk with their fangs extended, rife with bravado and blather, eyeing to take a bite out of Sookie. To keep her unharmed, Bill tells the three she's his mortal, to back them off. Sookie isn't exactly thrilled to be considered a slave to someone, whether it is human or vampire. She learns of a vampire bar from Bill called Fangtasia (yeah, Bill mentions how vampires used to love puns "back in the day"), and knowing that both local women (Maudette and Dawn) were visitors there, she decides that is the place to ask around for answers. Bill will be her "date".

Paquin wears a sun dress for the night that has that impressive bosom heaving, quite alluring and sensual. She always dresses as Sookie accentuating her young hot adult body. In our twenties, this is the time when most of us have bodies that are agreeable, where we feel in the most control and comfortable. Paquin is right there in a body she feels quite comfortable and sexy in. I think you can feel her in a great place with her body. Bill mentions that she carries the look of meat, desirable. Fangtasia is a bar where its owner, Eric (Alexander Skarsgård), rests on a throne not amused. As if he's deprived. He's just bored. Sookie he does spot after she asks this brooding bartender, Longshadow (Raoul Max Trujillo) questions about the two victims. Bill making her his (well, what he tells his kind) gets her off the immediate vamp bait list. Eric is certainly interested and Bill is quite uncomfortable.
----\
Oh, and Tara's deep devotion to Jason is given clarification when we are privy to a flashback that shows her as a little girl running from her nasty drunk mother, seeking refuge in his home, protected by his warning towards causing any problems. Tara's tumultuous relations with her mother stems from the ill effects of consistent alcoholism. We first meet the mother when Tara arrives home from a night spent with Sam. Tara encouraged Sam to take her up on an offer of sex considering neither had been active in a while. It was just sex. This wasn't an act of potential romance. The next day Tara lies to the police that Jason was with her, cleverly using the "we didn't tell anybody our relationship status due to prejudice" reasoning as a means to deceive. Poor Jason is just oblivious still to Tara's infatuation with him. He's always oblivious, though. For those who love lots of Jason, you get plenty in "Mine" as he agrees reluctantly to dance around in his undies (and a Barbara Bush mask!) for Lafayette's gay clientele.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Cabin Fever (2016)



I'm going to join the parade. This fucking movie should never have seen the greenlight. I liked Eli Roth's Cabin Fever (2002). Saw it at the theater and thought its dark humor and grisly viscera was rather entertaining and unsettling. It had a rather gnarly cast, too. But this remake has no reason to exist. None at all. With a few alterations, the screenplay co-written by Roth follows his film somewhat closely. The skeleton is essentially the same. Young adults who grew up together take a trip to a cabin. The nearby reservoir is infected with a flesh-eating virus. As each drinks from the water, they are infected. And it is a nasty infection, too. The body bleeds, peels, and rots. There is the usual screaming, bickering, and dying. A dog is infected and it gets its fill. The pretty blond is the first to be infected. She is put in the shack near the cabin. One scene has the blond's potential boyfriend fucking his friend's girlfriend as she rots away in the shack! And sure enough there's a return to the leg-shaving scene which includes, this time, the female victim walking out of the cabin bleeding from oozing wounds buck naked, agonizing, collapsing, and facing the rabid dog soon to eat her! Another scene has the blond's potential boyfriend trying to decapitate her with a shovel...unsuccessful, and her still pleading to end her, he decides to set her on fire instead!!! Her screams reach from beyond the the burning shack as he watches in tears! One of the group has an assault weapon which has plenty of ammunition in its magazines. It comes in handy. Three locals decide they will kill any of the group still alive to halt any potential spread of infection...one of them has a kid who just decides to bite one of the group on the hand saying, "Pancakes". What the fuck?

At the beginning, the gang seem excited about a trip that will allow them to release some school fatigue. They are quite looking forward to swimming, drinking, and sex. Just the chance to unwind and be free from the pressures of the future is what they're after. Then comes the onslaught of the infection. It all goes to pot quickly.

The film peddles its wares to a horror audience simply fucking tired of the genre spewing such shit to them. Tired, plain tired. Some gruesome effects aside, this has nothing--just absolutely nothing--I think fans of the 2002 film would truly care about. You get some female nudity and a little bit of sex, but nothing that will leave you titillated.

Many horror fans hate Eli Roth. And this remake doesn't help to cull such vitriol held against him. When they call him a narcissist, an egomaniac, garbage like this remake fuels those sentiments exponentially. None of the characters--except maybe the poor blond girl--come off exactly heroic. Or sympathetic. Or even tolerable. And as they die, no one will care. And that is unfortunate.

If it was even funny, it'd help a little. But it isn't. It retains some of the original film's script but it leaves out its personality. I am the first to admit that I liked Roth's The Green Inferno. I did. But he needs to reign in his ego. Because these days, his films aren't doing so well. As for the movie poster, even it mimics The Evil Dead (2013)! And what was with the kid wearing the bunny mask???

*

True Blood..




“Strange Love” mentions how humans are quite addicted to and willing to pay good money for vampire’s blood. Its properties provide humans with “heightened senses” and “heightened libido”. In “The First Taste” Sookie will learn of how that is quite accurate. As “Strange Love” closed, the first episode of True Blood’s first season, the sleazy hick couple, The Rattrays, is assaulting Sookie, in retaliation for halting their collection of vampire Bill Compton’s blood supply. And the assault was so severe, so vicious, Sookie would more than likely died. But Bill returns the favor. He emerges from the shadows and isn’t seen. Faster than a speeding bullet is Mr. Vampire. Anyway, the Rattrays are incapacitated with ease and Bill carries Sookie in his arms to the bank of a nearby lake. From there she is to feed from him and regain the life slipping from her body. And does she feed! Just gnawing away and guzzling that sweet, sweet nectar, Sookie heals in relatively short order. We get a chance to see flashbacks from when Sookie was a little girl hearing the thoughts of her worried mother, and even a teacher testing her. Vampires have the ability to hypnotize humans, called “glamour”. But when Bill tries it on Sookie with her urging, he realizes he can’t glamour her. It surprises him, obviously. You can subdue them for a bit and drink from them just enough to survive for a while longer. 

Dawn, a waitress Jason fucks regularly, has faint fangs on her thigh proving to him (a vampire racist) that she has also been a “fangbanger”. The show hinted at Tara being in love with Jason in “Strange Love”, and “The First Taste” further emphasizes that when the two of them have a moment together on Gran’s couch. Bill had visited Gran to tell her he’d attend the Civil War historical gathering with her town lady friends, with Sookie just crazy to see him again. You definitely see that Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer are mad hot for each other, and her face gets all lovey-dovey. Unlike the first episode, Bill isn’t as intense, more friendly and polite when meeting Gran. Jason is an ass with Gran having to tell him to mind his manners, and Tara is obviously suspicious of Bill. Sookie, though, owes him her life.

Going for a walk, the anticipation of Bill and Sookie’s first kiss gets its payoff. Sookie initiates it because she just can’t wait any longer but Bill must pull away as the urge to bite causes the fangs to come out. The chemistry is just off the charts between these two. Amazing how a show can introduce two folks and fireworks light up right on screen for us to experience.

Jason remains a walking male whore, but ironically Tara is like one of a short few he doesn’t even attempt to bed…and she is all the while ready to at any given notice if he would just try. Tara continues to mind the bar at Marlotte’s with Sam agreeing to let her just dress as she wants after an argument on sexualizing and objectifying his waitresses. Sam tells Sookie, her telepathy getting her fired from other jobs, she’ll always have employment at his bar. He’s just as crazy for her as she is for Bill. He challenges her to read his mind. She won’t. Reading the boss’ mind has done her no favors. Sam comments that it must be great to not have Bill’s thoughts crowding her mind. I think she’d actually like that.

Lois Smith is just adorable as Adele Stackhouse. Gran trusts Sookie and scolds Jason. They both hold great respect for her. She seems to earn it from Bill as well. I just hate when the show robs us of her over the long term. I remember thinking in the past just how unfair that was. She isn’t naïve or oblivious to what is going on outside her walls.

You don’t see a lot of vampires in the first or second episode. But you know that it is only a matter of time before those from Bill’s world meet (and possibly endanger) Sookie. Sookie is introduced to Bill’s abode and even might have someone available to add electricity to it. The final scene before leaving another cliffhanger introduces Sookie to some from Bill’s world.

Jason watches Maudette’s tape with the sheriff and his detective, learning that he didn’t kill her; that she pulled a sick trick on him leaving her believing he had strangled her was quite funny if repulsive. But it got Jason off the hook, with him retreating to the bosom of Dawn. Jason does that. Plenty of willing legs ready to spread for him.

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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 ...