Thursday, May 19, 2011

Stuff I've Seen

Reviews based on a 5 item rating.

A lot of what determines our likes and dislikes has to do with time and timing; where we were in life when we were exposed to a particular film. Still, I’d like to think the preeminent works of John Carpenter sustain eminence years after their initial release. The piercing terror of Halloween, the paranoia of The Thing, the poetic beauty of The Fog all hold true upon repeat viewings.

I had hoped that The Ward would mark Carpenter’s return to form. That the maverick who introduced us to the slasher formula with Halloween, took on the Reagan administration with They Live, reworked a number of Hawks antecedents in Assault on Precinct 13 was back to creating master works worthy of praise. Alas, such is not the case. The Ward is not a return to greatness, nor is it Carpenter’s comeback film. The pulsing sound scape, ominous tracking shots, meticulous blocking of action indicative of Carpenter’s early films is absent here. Instead we’re presented with a script that is riddled with lapses in situational logic and void of horror and uninspired direction. Carpenter is capable of so much more.

Yes that's a half-a-Shutter Island rating.

You are either going to be blown away by the Chauvet cave paintings or you’re not. Werner Herzog’s documentary about a recently discovered cave in southern France would have made for a nice 45-minute TV special. Instead, we are repeatedly subjected to the same series of ancient abstract designs for a near hour-and-a-half.

I admire Herzog, his willingness to allow his camera to linger on his subjects, to hold on a piece of footage or interview that would have been scrapped by most documentary filmmakers. And his recent fascination with reptilian creatures is amusing. Still, he has a tendency to lead viewers like children by the hand through his works, describing in explicit detail what we can see and interpret on our own.

There are theological and mythological questions raised by the movie that aren’t fully explored and that is a disappointment. Still, its journey of discovery is moving, the paintings mesmerizing and the personal connection to the artists captivating. Well worth the three stalagtite rating.

The best killer tire on a rampage movie I’ve seen.

The influence of David Lynch is lacking in subtlety. Not nearly as clever or funny as it thinks it is, and the inventiveness of the piece becomes old hat after a stint, but, this one-joke interlude is surprisingly entertaining. At a mere 82 minutes (ten of which are devoted to credits), this screwy concoction of slasher film conventions and self-referential humor feels a bit long. Even so, it contains enough wit and originality to warrant much post-viewing discussion.

Best line in the film: “[The tire’s] been reincarnated as a tricycle.”