Friday, March 18, 2011

top 10 horror 2010 (Part 2)

What happens when a 90’s action star/martial artist/reserve deputy sheriff (Steven Segal) kills the family of a Federale dubbed Machete and attempts to set him on fire? Said Federale disappears for ten years only to resurface just in time to be hired by the recently resurrected Jeff Fahey to kill Congressional candidate Robert De Niro and squelch his anti-alien
aka anti-interloper
aka anti-foreigner
aka anti-refugee rantings. What’s Machete been doing for ten years? Your guess is as good as mine.

An amusing pastiche of an exploitation picture, MACHETE is every bit as violent, gory and gratuitous as you’d hope it to be. An entertaining achievement for Robert Rodriguez whose pictures have waxed and waned throughout his career.

Kudos to Maya Leal for pulling a phone from her holiest of holies and to Jessica Alba for spouting the line, “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.”

The opposite of kudos (jeers?) to Lindsay Lohan for using stand-in boobies in her nude scenes and to Alba for her customarily prudish starboard shower shot.

Affection showin’, intercourse havin’ aliens take over the world in Gareth Edwards low-budget sci-fi thriller MONSTERS starring Scoot McNairy as a cynical journalist who reluctantly agrees to escort his boss’ daughter through alien-riddled Mexico and runs into beings from outer space.

Edwards deserves props for creating an apocalyptic world on a miniscule budget. Though not devoid of flaws, the familiar narrative and stylistic photography make MONSTERS an impactful effort and an efficient entry in our DIY filmmaking culture.

Ho ho ho! Santa Clause is coming to town and he’s bringing with him an insatiable appetite for young children. This Finish fantasy film about bloodthirsty Kris Kringles taking over a Korvatunturi town is a trippy adventure that is at points absurd but always entertaining.

Director, Jalmari Helander, executes with grim humor and a terrific visual flare. A darkly fun lump of coal for your stocking in the tradition of Gremlins, RARE EXPORTS provides a macabre analysis of the symbolic figures behind our most popular holiday.

Q: When do ghosts usually appear ?
A: Just before someone screams !

Actually, in recent widower Michael Farr’s (Ciaran Hinds) world ghosts appear anytime, even before their soul is dead.

Not to be confused with the latest installment in the Twilight series, which I assume is scream worthy for totally different reasons, THE ECLIPSE is a character piece about the often tiresome routines of life. The ghosts are creepy when they pop up, but the true focus of the film is the romance between Michael and that chick that dumped John Cusack in High Fidelity and how she helps him to cope with the loss of his wife. The culminating scene is truly harrowing.

So Queen Amidala hopes to land the role of the duplicitous swan queen in her company’s latest production while duh, winning the affection of her cuckoo mommy and remaining F’ worthy in the eyes of the boys. Only she keeps getting distracted by that hot chick from That 70s Show – no not that one, the one that dated Macaulay Culkin for like eight years.

The movie is at points overly dramatic and a bit too self-important but it is surreal and visually effective and Natalie Portman does give a pretty brave performance. Director Darren Aronofsky draws you into to his character’s neurosis early on with distressing images of distorted faces on train platforms. But by the time her mother’s surrealist paintings begin coming to life, things get a bit goofy.

And the Wrestler comparisons are warranted – both films feature performers consumed by their art and culminate with the hero leaping to their death. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing though.

NOTE: There are a number of films that I have seen that are currently playing the festival circuit and have popped up on other lists of this type. I’ll save those titles for next year’s list – when they are more widely available.

I did not see Let Me In – I didn’t see the point.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Vanishing on 7th Street

If Brad Anderson's assured debut, Session 9, was spine-tingling
entertainment, then his latest effort, Vanishing on 7th Street, is
uninspired drudgery. As an admirer of his earlier works, I'm struggling to
find a single redeeming quality. Let's review:

Mid-aged film projectionist Paul (John Leguizamo) approaches the 19-year-old Venus working the concession stand. A dialogue ensues regarding the theater's current film lineup that ends with:

Nothing you'd like.

How would you know what I like? Maybe you should find out sometime. WINK WINK.

An exalted Paul retreats to his cubbyhole.


Detroit is plunged into darkness and a disparate group of people
(including Paul and physical therapist Rosemary) find themselves all

Do you think I have a shot?

Rosemary emits a puzzled look.

PAUL (cont'd.)
Not with you. I mean with anyone?

HOW ABOUT THE SEX GODDESS THAT EYE-RAPED YOU 10 MINUTES AGO. Did you forget about her? Is the audience supposed to have forgotten about her? What the F' is going on right?

Firstly, aside from the abovementioned dish, the only female in the picture is a disheveled ex-addict with bats in the belfry. There’s no sexy white female with whom Hayden Christensen can risk vanishing into the darkness to do the wild monkey dance.

Victims of the darkness leave behind piles of empty clothes. The unoccupied articles of dress feature more dynamic personalities than the survivors. Example:

Luke (Christensen) enters a lighted bar to find James (Jacob Latimore who receives the distinctive “and introducing” title in the opening credits). James opens fire on Luke with a shotgun. Luke responds by suggesting that the bar is not safe for either of them and that they should both flee ASAP. How does he determine this? He hasn’t explored the place. If he knew it was unsafe prior to entering then why did he enter? This is immediately followed by a comedic routine in which Luke threatens to leave James alone while tiptoeing to the door. They then proceed to remain at the bar for the remainder of the picture.

I think the name James is uttered at least one-hundred-fifty times throughout the movie.

Paul is so annoying I found myself rooting for his demise. When he was finally and anticlimactically dispatched, I felt my man-part twitch just a little.

The movie is devoid of style or flare. There is so little camera movement you’d swear you were watching a play. Anderson’s mastery of film language in Session 9 and The Machinist stimulated the nerve endings of viewers. His ineptitude here is truly unbelievable.

I guess the movie is a parable about the disintegration of Detroit and the effect of the city’s drug culture, but it doesn't work. It ends with the preposterous image of *SPOILER ALERT* two young children leaving the Motor City on horseback for, you guessed it, Chicago.