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Monday, January 31, 2011

Salute Your Shorts: Enter the Dark

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Taking what has become the standard for easy to make, cheap, effective micro budget horror films, Enter the Dark is one of many entries into the horror genre by filmmakers who have collectively discovered the great potential with what The Blair Witch Project did back in 1999. Now, 1999 is a long time ago in retrospect, and yet, since that time, the handheld genre has done no less than grow exponentially. Be it with meager short films such as Enter the Dark, new takes on the zombie and exorcism genres with REC and, the more recent, The Last Exorcism, or the big budget attempts by studios with the likes of Cloverfield, the handheld verite style has proven it has immense staying power. A staying power that is only impacted greater with something like Paranormal Activity coming along and makes a major splash, spawns a successful Hollywood sequel, thus only furthering the influence on the future filmmakers of the world.

One of the most common angles of this genre, specifically for the ones of little to no budget, is the haunted house – or, trapped in a house for whatever reason - story. I really don't need to dwell on why that is because it's not difficult to figure out why, but what is more important is how. As in, how well can one do with limited means, time and support. Enter the Dark takes a simplistic idea, a man that has been plagued by a haunting in his home and has enlisted his skeptical friend to help him find some proof so he can hopefully figure out a way to stop it. It's as basic as you can get, but what writer/director/producer/editor/pole dancer Todd Miró does with this film is what gives it the right legs to show that this style of cinema will be viable for quite some time. So long as there's talent involved, naturally.

Coming in at just over 17-minutes, Enter the Dark jumps right in with its two characters, Charles and Rob (played respectfully by, Charles Yoakum and Rob Sandusky), who are instantly relatable. Their well-crafted dialogue is sufficient to what you would hear from real life, middle-aged friends, with little jokes and ribbings that come flowing as if these characters have known each other for years. The rapport between both Charles and Bob is a great way to keep a typical horror situation interesting but, more importantly, it also sets things up in a light way so that when the scares do happen, they are better apt to catch the viewer off guard. It's the distract you with this hand, while giving you the gut punch with the other, technique.

On a technical level, Enter the Dark looks quite good and that might be where it actually stands out the most. Both characters spend much of their time in complete darkness, with only the light from a flashlight and camcorder to guide them through the hallways and bedrooms of the house. With that limited source of light comes plenty of engulfing darkness, and the blacks are as sharp as a Hanzo blade. There is little to no grain and the intense contrasting light-to-dark only seems to mirror the promise made by the film's title. While a few of the more ghostly sounds used are a bit hokey (save for the very creepy use of a certain children's toy), the overall sound design is strong and handled in a way where it is often difficult to make out exactly what you are hearing.

In many ways, Enter the Dark reminded me of an 80's anthology television show, not unlike Tales From the Darkside, or Monsters, for example. It's that basic formula of early character development, then a few odd occurrences happen to create tension, and lastly, the finale hits with a twist that is jump worthy and satisfying, in a slightly silly way. It's quick, fun and a bit spooky and, as promised, watching Enter the Dark in the dark makes it all the more effective.


If you too would like to Enter the Dark (oh yeah, I said it), you can head-on over to IndieFlix to check out the film by either purchasing a 30-day stream for $1.95, or picking up the DVD for $5.95. You can also check out the film's official website for more info and behind the scenes shenanigans.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Some longwinded thoughts on SyFy's Face Off

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Last evening the SyFy channel premiered the new original series, Face Off, a reality competition show where 12 professional makeup effects artists compete for a grand prize of $100,000, a year's supply of makeup and, most importantly, bragging rights. I had the chance to check out the premier episode after hearing about it - from the lady that tolerates me - only a few hours before its 10:00 PM air time. I had heard the title of the show a few times before, but I wasn't aware of its content up until that point. More so, if it didn't star Cage and Travolta, how was I supposed to care, right? Either way, being a horror fan that grew up in a time when makeup FX artists where hailed, I was very excited so see how Face Off would play out.

Much like nearly every reality competition TV show out there, from Top Chef and Project Runway, to my favorite, Scream Queens, Face Off's contestants are asked to face-off (I know) against one another in a sort of quick-fire challenge, where they have to create something on the fly and under the gun (not Tim Gunn), with the hopes that either one of them can win immunity from being sent home at the show's end. This is followed by a main challenge, which is much larger in scale and, at least in the first episode, teams up two artists, both of whom have to bring their A-game, or worry about being sent home by a panel of surprisingly noteworthy judges. As I said, it's just like every other show on the market, but what sets it apart is, of course, the subject matter.

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As I mentioned (more than once), I grew up in a time when Savini was a god, KNB was to be reckoned with and Steve Johnson was banging Linnea Quigley. Special effects artist were like rock stars for the horror community and, with the advent of CGI, that has deteriorated quite a bit over the years. It looks like the contestants will be challenged in all aspects of the form, including CGI, at one point or another, but the core of this show is creating art using foam-rubber, latex and paint. Highlighting this aspect of filmmaking is a wonderful idea, and this reality competition format plays perfectly to the form.

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It may be far from original, but many shows that follow this same formula are very successful, and a big part of that is people like to see others create. Creativity and adaptability are key, and it's fun to watch people do those things in a competitive fashion and either succeed by making something amazing, or fail miserably when they create something completely awful. An art form such as practical makeup effects fits like O.J.'s glove couldn't, and I believe a show like this does great things by shining the spotlight on this style of artistry, as well as serving a hearty meal for us horror fiends to chew on every week. And based off the first episode, which showcased some mighty fine creature work, there will be some incredible things to look forward to.

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I'll give credit to SyFy, mostly because they get shit-on a lot for some of their better-known attributes, namely SyFy movies, but those have obviously proven to be successful for the channel, so how can you really blame them. Even if it's not breaking down any walls of originality, at least SyFy tries to put out entertainment that caters to people like us that, in turn, translates to ratings. They often seem to have trouble getting the formula down right, it seems. I think Face Off might just have the right mixture of what we want, well, at least me, as a horror audience, as well as something that could grab the more casual viewer who is simply curious as to what so-and-so will create next.     

On a slightly related side note, doesn't Mega Python vs. Gateroid look awesome?! Finally, Tiffany and Debs in a picture together!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Guest Spot on the Hump!

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Some time back I was asked by America's sweetheart, T.L. Bugg, master of disaster and the main-man behind The Lightning Bug's Lair, to write a guest post for his Alfred Hitchcock specific segment, Hitch on the Hump. This is a segment that Bugg has been doing on and off again for quite some time, so for him to ask me to take part is quite the honor. Even more so, it gave me a reason to delve into some Hitchcock, and seeing as I was lucky enough to check out Rear Window on the big screen just a few weeks back, my film of choice came pretty easily. So head on over to The Lair, read about my thoughts on Rear Window, as well as my experience seeing it in the cinema, and be sure to check out all the other goodies the Bugg has to offer! I heard he has lots of speed and dildos, and we all love speed and dildos, right?!

Click Da Link!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Punky BOOster

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And no, that's not a misspelled Punky Boobster joke, though, it did cross my mind as a tit…I mean title. The reason for the Boo in Brewster is due to a traumatic episode of the beloved kids television show titled, The Perils of Punky. This season two, two-part episode aired in 1985, which would put me at the tender age of…1+1=2 5x4=…about 8-years-old. Now, why would I post a commercial free two part episode of Punky Brewster on Chuck Norris Ate My Baby you ask? Well, that would have to do with the extremely surreal and frightening events that developed within this horrifying story-line.

What starts off as a normal and fun filled camping trip, Punky, Allen, Cherie, Brandon the dog and that bitch Margeaux (way to spell your name, grub), run into something far worse than mosquitos on this trip to hell. Having a lot more to fear than wiping with leaves, Punky and the crew find themselves in a cave that is haunted by an old Indian curse (so litter they best not), that would want to harm Punky and her pals. As would be expected, there are no adults around - once again showing that Henry is too old, senile and unfit to take care of a child. Unless he was giving Cherie's grandma, Betty, some much needed cream in her coffee. Then I could forgive him, I suppose – so it's up to the kids and the power o' Punky to save the day!  

There is a whole lot of video to watch here, so I wouldn't expect you to sit through it all, unless you might actually want to. You can skip right to the third portion (starting around 2:08), better known as the meat and taters of this creepy kids classic. It's totally worth it.

 

 

Pretty damned frightening for a kids TV show, don't ya think? I have always had a strong memory of The Perils of Punky due to the fact that it did scare me quite a bit as a child, especially Allen's fucked up head and his nicotine stained teeth. I also remember my mother coming into the living room as I was watching the episode's finale and after only a few seconds she said: "This is a kids show?!" Like she was all pissed that it was so intense and said it with a slight tone like she might make me stop watching it at any moment. Thanks to chloroform, she didn't.

Sure, there is the possibility that it was a little much for kids, with the trippy effects, the screaming giant spider, Allen's and Cherie's freaky heads, and the H.P. Lovecraft by way of Sparkle Motion inspired creature that tells Punky that he is going to kill her. But there's nothing wrong with a 'little much' for a kid as that little much was a small factor in who I would become as an adult film fan. It was a little much, sure, but more importantly, it was enough to stick around in my horror loving mind since I was too young to think about Punky as a sex toy.  

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Taint: Independently Filthy

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In a world that has been overtaken by well-endowed, rabid men - with an appetite for crushing in the heads of any female they come across - it's up to Phil O'Ginny (Drew Bolduc) and his female road companion, Misandra (Colleen Walsh), to try to stop the cock-crazed apocalypse that has fallen upon them. That's right. Cock-crazed. Within the first five minutes of The Taint, I was subjected to a close-up shot of some girl's boobies, an old man with shit hanging (and eventually dropping) out of his ass and a dude with a plump pecker spewing Peter North worthy loads like it's no ones business. I cannot honestly say I was too thrilled by this opening (though, I didn't mind the boobies) and immediately went into a mode where I knew I was going to hate what I was watching.

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Going over-the-top is a tricky thing (unless you're Sly, naturally), and a huge problem with many films that do so fail because the only thing they have going for them are their over-the-top elements. And to be honest, being outrageous is not a good basis for quality entertainment - unless you can back it up with something that can actually entertain me. So as I'm sitting back, already waiting for the short 70-minute film to end, I was subjected to a movie that goes well out of its way to alienate, disgust and piss off its viewer. Now, I'm not one to feel any of those emotions with a movie like this, instead, I will simply roll my eyes and wish I were watching something better. However, as the film moved on, and throughout the copious amount of lowball sleaze, I found myself slowly being swayed to the dark side of, The Taint.

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So, as I said, after the opening scene I was ready to say fuck off to this film. Once that's in my head, it takes a lot to bring me back around again, but The Taint did, and it did so by doing one important thing right. It's funny. In fact, it's funny enough to, over the course of its quick runtime, make me even enjoy the outrageous aspects of the movie. But being outlandish isn't what makes The Taint funny. It's the writing - specifically the dialogue - that had me giggling with politically incorrect glee. Lines like: "Damn you! She was so hot!" is blared out by O'Ginny just after he sees his girlfriend's head get bashed in. Or a hysterical impromptu speech O'Ginny makes about his ability to cock-block a group of gang rape hungry men led by his gym teacher (Cody Crenshaw).

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The Taint almost feels like a series of long sketch comedy scenes that all connect to either a character in the film or the apocalyp-dick situation they are in. And even if these vignettes all share a great sense of humor, they are also filled with more than enough pure filth that I'm sure will completely offend most viewers. For example, an abortion by hanger is only allowed if the hanger used is washed with antibacterial soap first. Sick? Sure, but it's too darkly funny for someone like me not to be able to appreciate it. And of course there are plenty of gruesomely outrageous gore effects, most of which come from heads being smashed open in a variety of ways, as well as the infected having their cock heads shot off (head shots, if you will).

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Drew Bolduc (who plays the film's lead, O'Ginny) and Dan Nelson share much of The Taint's thick load, with the two co-directing, producing and each taking on various important tasks to make the film cum to life. Despite my initial reaction to The Taint, they put together a movie that I believe can only play as it is to get the results it does. The humor is brash, disgusting and offensive, but it's smartly written and executed effectively, which is more than I can say for what passes for mainstream comedy nowadays. The Taint ain't for everyone. In fact, it's not even really for me, but that is a testament to the comedic elements found within the pile of cocks, cum, tits and grue.

The Taint is available through the film's official website where you can purchase either a copy of the DVD, download an HD digital copy of the film or get your grove on and check out the great 80s-censtric original OST.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

CNAMB's Worst Films of 2010

Unless there were to be some miraculous act of *choose your own religious icon*, with any best of the year film list, unfortunately, comes a worst of the year list. Last year I had but two films to name (thankfully), and technically that would be the same with this year, too. Nevertheless, there were also a few movies that stood out for, well, not standing out at all. Those movies that weren't horrendous or worst of the year worthy, but failed to deliver anything but a one time watch and shrug-filled forget. I'll get those out of the way first.

The Most Mediocre of 2010  

(from *cough-cough* best to worst )

The Book of Eli

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Some interesting ideas flooded a film that was frankly, not all that interesting. A few cool action set pieces, some decent acting but, in the end, I just didn't care much about anything that was going on. And as much as I enjoy seeing Mila Kunis on screen, I find it hard to believe that in a land where everyone has jacked-up teeth, that she, who was born well after the apocalypse happened, had them shits looking like a white strip commercial. Her stylish post-apocalyptic inspired get-up wasn't any easier to chew on, either.  

The Crazies

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With what started out as a strong kind of sort of infection film, The Crazies quickly went from interesting and tension filled, to clichéd and quite boring by the second half. There were a few great moments, but overall it wreaked of familiarity and apparently wasn't worth my memory's time as - outside of a few scenes and the always enjoyable Timothy Olyphant - I can remember very little about the film. Lots of promise and it came close to being decent but, ultimately, the ball was dropped somewhere along the line.

The Wolfman

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Loved the atmosphere. Loved the way that the titular beast looked. Loved the classic gothic setting. Loved the gory bits. So what the hell happened with The Wolfman? Well, let's start with it being far too long and far too uninteresting. The unnecessarily complicated plot seemed to be going by way of the kitchen sink theory, and the pacing was so out of whack that I had no idea where I even was in the story. To make things worse, the dialogue was utterly laughable. I can see where this one had so many pre-release issues, and it shows in the final product. A series of cool scenes filled in with way too many boring ones, driven by the biggest casting mistake a studio could have ever made, does not result in a good film.

Legion

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Sure, it's not a very good film in the least, and I do have it on my most mediocre list, but I actually didn't mind watching Legion too much. I had shit expectations and it only slightly surpassed them by at least having a few cool angel fight scenes towards the film's end (but there really should have been more of that). Still, I cannot believe that a movie can be - in this day in age with critics abound – as fucking clichéd as Legion was. The characters were as awful as it gets, ranging from a rich snotty women, a slutty chick, a doubting hero, and right on down to the fucking black guy that listens to loud rap, smokes weed and carries a gun. Whatever.

……………………………………………………………………

Okay, now that the whatever films of 2010 are out of the way, let's move on to the meat and taters of this here post: The worst films of 2010. As with last year, I only have two films, thankfully, and while this list is littered with two films that made me groan, they are a slight improvement over the films that made my two-film list last year. Alright, let's get on with it, shall we?   

The Worst Films of 2010

(once again, from *cough-cough* best to worst)

The Road

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I just don't know what it is about The Road that peeved me off so much, well I do, but I am not sure why my unimpressed feeling slowly became a complete feeling of despise for the film over time. It looked great, it captured an apocalyptic setting that needed to be captured, Aragorn was solid, as always, and this generation's Lance Henriksen, Garret Dillahunt, even makes an appearance. What's not to like? Well, let's start with Kodi Smit-McPhee, who's character, Boy, was quite awful and just plain annoying from start to finish. His dialogue constantly drove me up the wall, and how could any kid grow up in the apocalypse and not begin to form some sense of balls? I know he's a kid, but this is a survival situation that would sort of force anyone to learn to instinctively toughen up, and quickly, too.

That little jerk-off aside, what really chapped my ass the most about The Road was the complete lack of emotion that was to be found. This is a movie where everything is based on emotion, but there is none built at all. It's as if the filmmakers were simply expecting people to fall for it because it was such a sappy situation. Father, son, the apocalypse, WAHH! Sorry, bro. You have to earn my emotions, not instantly receive them with cheap ploys and crying men who couldn't even keep their clothes on half the time. See, now I'm just getting more pissed even thinking about this fucking movie. Skip The Road and watch Winter's Bone instead. It does everything that The Road couldn't, and Dillahunt's in that too.    

The Road Review

 

  Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever

Nothing quite says disappointing like having your first 2010 film, which also just so happened to be a birthday gift that I had on my wish list, be a complete pile of overhyped shit. Not that Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever – the sequel to one of my favorite horror films of the last decade – received this insane praise all around, but the reception was certainly warmer than anyone expected and enough to give me fair hope for a fun time. All the elements were there: Good special effects, decent art design and a certain sense of 80's familiarity that is always welcome in a film of its type, when done right, of course. 

So what makes Spring Fever make me wish I had yellow fever? First of all, it's not at all funny. The humor falls completely flat and a part of that has to do with the lack of properly conveyed quirkiness, something that attributed greatly to the success of Roth's original film. Even with the moments that are there to solely gross out in a humorous, over-the-top fashion, never did so in a way that garnered any sort of reaction out of me. But where Spring Fever pooped the hardest is it was not at all entertaining. In fact, I would go as far as to call it boring. And boring is something that is unforgivable. Mix that in with obnoxiously poor sound design and that way shoehorned in ending, and you have my least favorite movie of the year.

Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever Review

Now, while I am starting to feel a little bad about calling some kid a jerk-off that probably doesn't deserve it (why do I have to have a conscience?), you can clearly see that some films can truly bring out quite a stir of emotions for films fans. Just writing about movies like this gets me all riled-up and now I want to hear what films snapped your banana off at the wrong spot in 2010?

Paracinema Is So Slutty

DVD CASE.epsIf you're in the mood for a filthy good laugh (well, I hope you would laugh, or at least that's the goal), head on over to Paracinema and take a peak at my review for the Tinto Brass directed, Erotic masterpiece, Monamour! Seriously, reading my review will be like living and breathing the film, and you can do it in an 1/8 the time it would take you to actually watch it. Plus, the chances for STDs would go down by at least 73% by reading it. Plus, plus, there are pictures of almost naked people!! And we all know how much you perverts love a good naked person in your everyday lives, so go on, get your fine little ass over there, okay?

CLICK DA LINK!!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

CNAMB's Best Films of 2010

The big problem with doing these end of year lists is that I simply have not seen nearly every film that I wanted to see in 2010 (but I sure am trying to). It's just not possible for me to do so, but regardless, I'm comfortable in saying that I have seen many wonderful movies this past year. In fact, I've seen more than enough to make a list that I am completely happy with from top to bottom. If I watch three or four more films and find them to be best of the year material, I would simply add them to this list as opposed to removing a movie to make room for something else. And that's where I shall segue into how I'm doing this thing. As far as my picks go, I'm not doing a numerical list of 1-10, instead, I have what I consider my favorite movies of the year, in alphabetical order. Simple enough.

 

Amer

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Touted as a Neo-Giallo, Amer is a film that I knew would be highly stylized, but I had no idea just how incredibly that style would be handled by co-writer/directors, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani. Amer takes the intricacies of the Italian Giallo film and displays a character's evolution using these tactics, but in a way unlike any Giallo film has really done. It's a movie that comes with very little dialogue or narrative, but the camera work, sound design, set design, editing and music are what drive a women's fantastical flowering (that's a creepy way to put it, right?). Amer is not the type of film everyone will enjoy. In fact, many will hate it, calling it pretentious. But that's a part of what makes art art, and that is exactly what Amer is. Art. Sometimes that can be a bit alienating to people. 

Amer Review

 

Best Worst Movie

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My heart is, quite simply, fond of Troll 2, and finally getting to see the much anticipated documentary, Best Worst Movie, was like having that fondness coming together full circle. What makes Best Worst such a solid documentary is the fact that director (and Troll 2 star) Michael Paul Stephenson did much more than explore the odd impact that the film has had on so many random people. The cult of Troll 2 is the jumping off point for the film, but the events that unfold very much focus on fame and the positive and negative ways that it can affect someone's life. It's a film that shows the difference in people's varying perspective in what we individually consider entertainment. It's a film about happiness, sadness, fear of rejection and redemption. If you enjoy Troll 2, this a must, but seeing Troll 2 is not a must to enjoy Best Worst Movie. And that quite honestly says it all right there.

 

Exit Through the Gift Shop

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First of all, being a fan of graffiti and street art for many years, I simply enjoyed this film on the level of watching the "street artists" do their thing, as well as seeing the pieces themselves. But where Exit Through the Gift Shop makes me sit back and take notice most, is just how perfectly it exposes the average consumer for being so easily swayed. With the rise in popularity with this form of "vandalism" in the mainstream over the years, what Banksy - the film's director and prolific street artist - did, was take the piss right out of it all. Basically making the art form almost null and void as a marketing tool. Anti-cool, even. It's a commentary about the value of what is considered art, which is essentially something that is irrelevant within the confines of subjectivity. It's the cinematic equivalent of blinding people with a clear plastic bag, which is exactly what makes it so smart and such an enjoyable watch.

 

Frozen

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I had been pretty high on Adam Green (he's coated in THC. I know, weird, right?) after being greatly surprised by his co-directorial effort with 2007's psych-thriller, Spiral, a film that showed he was a filmmaker that could craft serious thought provoking horror, as well as a mindless gorefest. Falling on the former side of the equation, Frozen is a film that places its characters in a situation where options outside of death aren't exactly abound. One of Frozen's strengths comes from Green taking a one-note, basic premise and being able to keep the pacing tight, fast and the overall feeling very tense. Also, the characters themselves were wonderfully written, with a true attention to realistic human emotion. Something that is missed in far too many horror films graced with a youthful cast.

Frozen Review  

 

Inception

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I don't think the conditions in which I viewed Christopher Nolan's Inception were the best for a movie of its magnitude. My lady and I actually went and saw it at the drive-in, which I believe may be the exact opposite of an IMAX, and still - while not being able to even make out the first five or ten minutes and sitting in the sweltering heat - I walked away (well, drove away, to be precise) knowing that I had seen something incredible. Most will call it a smart and complicated film, but I believe it to be very simple idea wise but complicated in its execution. Inception overloads the viewer with a massive amount of information all at once, specifically in that last hour, and that's where the movie shows its smarts. Beside the great acting, special effects, action set pieces, you get the drift, Nolan pieced together three different vignettes with the dream levels, and keeps them linked, coherent and nicely balanced while being completely different from one another on an aesthetic and narrative level. To be able to pull all of this off, and make it look fabulous, is truly the brain power behind Inception.

 

The Last Exorcism

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In what is certainly my most divisive pick amongst horror fans, The Last Exorcism has a lot of elements that worked in drastically both directions for those who saw it. It's handheld, it's done in a mockumentary style that focuses on a specific character, and it has a bat shit crazy and completely off base ending. It is all of these things that, for me, made The Last Exorcism work as a refreshingly solid horror film. Spending time with the wonderfully written Cotton character gives the viewer time to get to know him, and serves as a great way to give him a little more value than the average protagonist. By time the horror elements come into play, there is some investment, which also carries over quite well to the other characters, namely the exorcist recipient, Nell, who is played fantastically by Ashley Bell. The verity styled camera work is effective and tense when needed and the it never feels as if it's being forced. Most importantly, while I think the ending is ridiculous, I cannot help but love it for just how out there it is. It, as well as House of the Devil, have endings that just go for it, which is something that was more of a staple in horror films from the 70's.

 

The Town

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I was very surprised with how much I enjoyed 2007's fantastic crime drama, Gone Baby Gone, so when I started seeing trailers for Affleck's sophomore effort, The Town, I instantly knew that it was a must see. Granted, being a born and raised Masshole plays a part in that, and I simply love this sort of new wave of Boston based crime cinema that has become prevalent over the past five plus years. What I found to be the core strength of The Town is the focus throughout, and until the finale, is kept solely on the conflict found within Doug MacRay, not the struggle between him and his surrounding characters. Which is exactly where I thought the film would have gone with its seemingly predictable, but still great, first half. The acting is incredible all around, with another prize worthy performance from Jeremy Renner, and Affleck does a fantastic job playing both sides of the camera. But all of that aside, having a heist scene and eventual shootout set in, as Fergus 'Fergie' Colm describes it, the cathedral of Boston, is such an awesome payoff!

 

True Grit

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Outside of being a film filled with some of the year's best performances, the Coen brothers' True Grit takes a refreshingly classic look at the western film and does so perfectly. It's a slow riding character driven drama that keeps from going too far with its action, which means a lot in a time when the average moviegoer has little to no patience. Where I believe this film soared highest is with its independently motivated female character, Mattie Ross, who (despite being played by a criminally non-marquee sharing Hailee Steinfeld) is clearly the star of the show and most certainly the character that the title True Grit stems from. The western film is often a boys club, but here is a film where it's a strong and intelligent young woman who stands out for being just that, strong and intelligent.

Winter's Grit: These Boots Are Made For Walking

 

Undisputed III: Redemption

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Sure, it seems crazy to have a third entry in a franchise where I have yet to even see the second film. Even more crazy is seeing a film like Undisputed III: Redemption on any best of the year list. Crazy as it sounds, I absolutely loved this film and I did so because it is quite frankly the baddest mother fucking movie of the year. And when I say baddest, I mean it in the Michael Jackson way. This film has some of the best action choreography I have seen in years. It's fresh, hard hitting and filled with an individual style. Director Isaac Florentine crafts his incredible fight scenes with a mixture of slow-down to normal speed and a multitude of angles and camera movement that all come together cohesively, as well as brilliantly. But what really gets me doing push-ups is Redemption truly captures everything that one can love about the 80's action film. This is Bloodsport for a new generation. In a year where The Expendables promised a return to the lost art of the American action movie, and came pretty close to delivering it, it's Undisputed III: Redemption that truly delivered the all mighty punch that the genre needs most.   

 

Winter’s Bone

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Every so often there is that rare film that comes out and just hits hard with a realistic subtlety that's as jarring as it is fascinating. A long and hard look into the lives of people we don't know but, in some ways, can relate to or at least understand due to the always lingering struggle known as life. Debra Granik's Winter's Bone sits silently with all the windows open so every little breath of this dark, broken and often saddening world can be taken in to its fullest. The characters that fill in the the story are all struggling in some way, and how they deal with it is what determines the path in which they are heading or have already gone. It's a dark place where many find themselves, trapped by drugs and violence, but it is the tenacity of one young woman that shines a light of hope for the ones that mean the most. The innocents. The young children that cannot fend for themselves and deserve nothing more that just a simple chance to live at least a decent life. What Jennifer Lawrence's character, Ree, brings is a woman that will fight tooth and nail to protect that innocence, because she still has hope, but more importantly, she has strength.

Winter's Grit: These Boots Are Made For Walking

 

 

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I also wanted to give a quick shout out to a few documentaries that weren't necessarily the types of documentaries that can fit in on a film list, but I still feel that I should mention them both. Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape and Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, both of which are wonderful looks into a specific piece of cult cinema history that I really and truly enjoyed. Specifically with Never Sleep Again, which was a doc I had been burning to see forever, and boy was it far from a disappointment.

Quick Honorable mentions

Burning Bright - Cropsey - Ip Man - Lake Mungo - Raging Phoenix - Splice - The Social Network – Shutter Island

And that's that's a wrap. I've gone on long enough now, but I would be more than ecstatic if you all shared your thoughts about my list and whatever films made your 2010 all the better. Thanks for sticking around, and I hope to see you on the other side!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Totally Tubular Trailers

It's been like FOREVER since I last did a Totally Tubular Trailers, or, as the kids call it, TTT, which is not to be confused with KFC, Boyz II Men, ABC, BBD: the East Coast family. You know, just to be clear. Anyway, I have here some wonderful trailers to share with you all, some of which I've had sitting in this saved draft for far too long and a few more that have come out recently and are what I would like to call, dope.

battlelosangeles

Starting things off on an apocalyptic note is the trailer for Battle: Los Angeles. Set in the present day, the film focuses on an alien invasion/battle through the eyes of a group of military personnel. Now, there have been so many shitty alien invasion films (I'm looking at you, ID4) that I am very skeptical about most films of the genre. And with Jonathan Liebesman at the helm, the director behind such dreck as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and Darkness Falls, things aren't any more promising. Nevertheless, this is an awesome trailer, and as well worn and often disappointing as this genre type is, Battle looks like it might actually deliver the goods. Plus, that title is bad-ass, and I fully expect some Frank Black to be fit in somewhere in the film.

 

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While we're on the subject of the apocalypse, might as well go post with the trailer for Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro's (yep, that's a mouthful), Beyond the Grave. Made in Brazil, Beyond the Grave is a good verses evil tale focusing on a police officer who is on the hunt for a possessed serial killer. The trailer is very interesting and appears to be a western influenced road film with a mixture of fantasy, revenge, horror, and of course, there are zombies. Cool trailer, and I specifically dig the music quite a bit.

 

 

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confessions

Speaking of great music, our last trailer for the evening, Tetsuya Nakashima's Confessions, looks like a film that will deliver all those things we love about dark and twisted Japanese cinema with a touch of quirkiness. Confessions is a revenge film about a teacher that has lost her daughter due to the actions of her classmates. Being a teacher, the grieving mother concocts a plan to take revenge on those students that were responsible for her daughter's death. And I would gander that insanity ensues. Confessions looks darkly humorous, and there's sure to be some mean-spirited and taboo situations with the whole teacher seeking revenge on school children thing. And that, dear reader, is a recipe for success. 

That does it for now, but I do hope to do these a little more than I have been, if not for the pure fact that trailers are always fun to discover and watch. Hope you found something interesting you haven't seen before! Until next time…

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Amer: Sexual-eye-zed

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You often hear the term style over substance thrown around within the verbal and written persuasions of cinema speak by genre fans. I feel like that statement is a bit tricky. In my opinion, substance can mean many things when pertaining to cinema and that term is, at times, almost used as a descriptive crutch. This really comes into play with co-directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani's Amer, a French language Belgian film that takes much of its stylistic influence from the earlier works of Dario Argento (among other Italian influences), who WAS a director often cited as the definition of style over substance.

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amer

Outside of the Argento influence, Amer is a heavy nod or, better yet, a love letter to the Italian Giallo film, a style of cinema that is known for its specific traits. Sexuality, fashion, mystery, violence, John Saxon possibly wearing a funny hat and, most notably, style. Of course, with this did come many films that would showcase bad acting, nonsensical plots and lame attempts at misdirection with red herrings. This would be where the whole style over substance thing comes in to play. Nevertheless, even when the films weren't filled with "substance," what the genre did more often than not was to tantalize the viewer. Whether it be with beautiful women, intricate sound design, amazing scores and a visual pallet that would often keep the viewer biting the tip of their thumb.

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Amer captures all of these attributes (as well as a bit of the 3 B's - boobs, blood and black gloves) and carries them up a few levels, however, the film is far from a typical Giallo. It avoids a distinct narrative to show the journey of a woman throughout the span of her lifetime. Told in a vignette fashion, Amer's sole focus is Ana (played by three actresses: Cassandra Forêt as young Ana, Charlotte Eugène Guibeaud as teen Ana and Marie Bos as adult Ana), who is shown during three key stages in her life. Ana is a female that is intrigued by the world that surrounds her. Living under an oppressive mother, she is forced to live in what seems to be a fantasy world. A place where curiosity mixes with sexuality and fear.

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Amer doesn't follow an actual story line so much as it creates a series of moments for Ana. Moments that are so intricate and pronounced, that it's difficult not to be swept up in them. Ana's journey is told through incredible editing and camerawork, with a seductive sound design that will do no less than draw one into each little moment even further. Sounds of doors creaking, the scuffing of a bare foot on a wood floor, the stretching of a leather belt. It's all there to bring the viewer in at full attention. Amer is an exercise in pure unadulterated style and the way in which it is put together is simply masterful. The use of gels, perspective, editing and points of illusion, all of which are draped over a set design filled with a tangible worn-out texture.

amer (5)

Within the bookends of what has tones of a horror film - outside of the tense and eerie (and very psychedelic) first act and the few brief moments of intense brutality at the end - Amer does much more than try to scare its audience. Amer is a movie about a girl that is quietly fascinated and curious about, among other things, sexuality. In many ways, Ana is sensual creature without even having to try and that is much like the film itself. Amer is, quite frankly, the sexiest movie I have ever seen, and it's done so all with technique as there is little to no nudity or sex. It's created with little touches, slight movements from the wind teasingly being flirtatious with a skirt, or a piece of hair breaching Ana's overly succulent lips. This is a film that seduces the viewer as even the tiniest of detail is driven by a sense of arousal. It's film foreplay that dances with the excitement that can come from both sex and fear.

amer (3)

Many will not enjoy Amer for its style over substance appearance, but sometimes substance is something that has to be worked for by the viewer, not served up for easy consumption. As an exercise in art-house experimental cinema that is meant to engage its audience with both a visual and audio assault, Amer will certainly alienate many filmgoers. If you love Gialli, then you will certainly enjoy the nod to the genre with how the film is crafted as well as the wonderful score compiled of songs that will ring familiar to Giallo fans. If you have an intense love for style and technique, this is a film that will bring you into the story using those attributes in a way unlike any other. If you have patience and don't mind being asked to fondle through subtext, you will enjoy the ponder that comes with Amer.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Salute Your Shorts: Smoke (AKA Dym)

smoke
Written and directed by Grzegorz Cisiecki, Smoke is a 2008 Polish made short film budgeted somewhere around twenty three hundred U.S. dollars. Described as: "The story of the person who became the captive of surrealistic madness," Smoke has a short synopsis, but with that comes a film that runs at just a hair above 7 minutes. However, quite a bit happens in that 7 minutes, but none of it forms to serve any real purpose toward a proper narrative. Even if it almost appears that the film progresses as if it could be unfolding to something, it plays out more like a dream (or a nightmare), more than anything.

What the description also promises is surrealistic madness, which is only added to by avoiding a specific plot. In fact, even without anything to grasp onto narratively, Cisiecki comes at his film with what is an artistic eye that's focused enough to captivate the viewer. The film is, quite frankly, very impressive technically and looks nothing short of professionally done. From the Dawid Rymar Cinematography and the solid score by Rashid Brocca and Aleksandr Poroch, to the nice color pallet that holds throughout the equally attractive art design, Smoke is visually eye enticing.     

Essentially, the film is a collage of beautiful imagery, which depending on your taste may or may not be a good thing. Despite being a bit too ambiguous, I enjoyed the short for how it was crafted, and I think that even without a traditional story there is some semblance of meaning there to grab onto. It's all right there in the film's title, Smoke, which is something that cannot be grasped and has no specific path in where it flows, which would be the case with this short film.

Take a look for yourself, and please, feel free to share your thoughts.
 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The 2010 Horror Box Office

2010horrorboxoffice2010 played out as a year where studios cashed in on the box office draw of the horror genre based off the previous year's numbers. There were quite a few horror films that made their way into theaters in 2009, and overall the numbers were not too bad as far as performance goes, which reflects greatly on 2010 where there were even more cinematic horror releases for moviegoers to choose from.

As was the case with 2009, the horror seemed to come in droves. With an overload of bloody releases coming in the months of August, September and October, the horror genre was once again competing with itself. Still, there were a few genre films that made an impact, however, the non-sequel/non-remake movie presence could have been better on the higher grossing end of the spectrum, but remakes weren't exactly the biggest splash this past year, either. Alright, lets take a loot at the (domestic) numbers and positions for the films that made an impact at the box office in 2010. 

twilightUnsurprisingly, at the number 4 spot, Twilight Saga: Eclipse simply pulled in straight cash, homey, with over 350 million bucks. As much as people will cry about it not being "their" type of horror, it's still a vampire story, which makes it something that shouldn't be ignored in this situation. The previous Twilight film also came in at number four in 2009 but made under 300 million at the box office, so it looks like the Saga will continue to grow, despite the discontent for it by so many.

shutterislandBalancing out the Twilight scales a little bit was Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island, which pulled in at a solid number 16 for 2010. Regardless of some genre fans debating its validity as a horror film, Shutter Island was able to scare up a nice chunk of change with 128 million dollars. This is something that reflects upon the fact that there is still an audience eager for something original and made with some sort of respect to their intelligence.     

In what I would have never expected, the number 34 film, Paranormal Activity 2, did very well at the box office with a gross of over 84 million dollars. I also never expected iparanormalactivity2t to be any good, either, but the general consensus with horror fans was that it was a solid sequel to a film that didn't really need a part two attached. Either way - no matter what the fans thought - even if the budget was much higher than that of the first film, it still made all that dough with a measly cost of 3 million bucks. So I think it's safe to say we can keep a look out for PA3 next October. You heard it hear first! Or probably somewhere else, but I'll just pretend like I broke the story.

Sleepwalking in at number 46, A Nightmare On Elm Street received harsh criticism from most horror fans and critics alike. I know it's that negative talk that has kept me from taking a chance and seeing the film yet (but it is inevitable), and I think that word of mouth spread to box office as the film only dreamt up a measly 63 million dollars. In comparison to its 35 million dollar production budget, it's a modest hit, sure, but I think the return of Freddy was expected to be a lot bigger than it was.  

After a long and difficult road to the big screen, The Wolfman won over more horror fans than I think most people would have ever expected. However, sitting not so pretty at thewolfmannumber 48, with an intake of 61 million dollars, the film didn't do so hot. Especially in comparison to an estimated budget of 150 MILLION BUCKS! Train wreck, indeed. Taking the 50th spot in 2010 was the never say die franchise, Resident Evil: Afterlife, which I think might still have a long afterlife with a 60 million dollar domestic run. Now, that doesn't sound great since it had a 60 million dollar budget, but with a worldwide gross of over 233 million bucks, it's a sure bet that Alice isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

The mostly welcome non-vs. Predators did modestly pulling in 62 million to nab the number 62 spot for the year, which isn't too bad when compared to the 40 million dollar budget the movie movie was made for. And with the predatorsaddition of a new dimension and the possibility of it being the final film in the franchise, Saw 3D came back from 2009's poor showing, bringing in almost 46 million dollars (more than double the 20 million dollar production cost) to take the 66 spot.

Hitting the final stretch at 72, The Last Exorcism showed a strong presence with a 41 million dollar intake. The film was budgeted at less than 2 million, so there's really nothing but upswing there for both the cash generated as well as for lower-budgeted horror. Box office intake-to-budget factored in for both the 74 and 75 spots, Legion and The Crazies. The former pulled in 40 million over its 26 million dollar budget, with the latter hitting just under 40 million with a budget of 20.

There were plenty of other theatrical horror films that came out in 2010, but they, unfortunately, did jack shit when it came to nabbing any sort of audience. When I did this look back in 2009, the (higher end) horror box office had seven original films, three sequels and only two remakes. In 2010, we had three original films, five sequels (Predators being a sequel, in my correct opinion *wink-wink*) and three remakes. I can't say if it looks much better than it did last year as the remakes all didn't do the greatest, but there were a handful of original films that couldn't even make the cut in 2010. Sequels, on the other hand, may have showed just why they will always be a part of our lives, which is okay with me. Kind of. It'll be interesting to see what 2011 brings us (more sequels), and hopefully what it does bring is a few quality horror films for us to look back on in a year from now.

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