Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Descent

2005 British horror flick by Neil Marshall about a group of girls who are very fit and have a common interest in all things thrilling. They rock climb together, they ride rapids, they base jump and so on. Well, after one particular rafting trip, something awful happens and the group starts growing apart and seeking less and less thrills. So the one American in the group has an idea to head to the states and attempt to be the first to explore a wicked deep cave in the Appalachian south. That way they get out of England for a bit, clear their heads and get the thrill seeking train back on the tracks. Get back on the horse and all that. Well, they do, and they do go down into this cave and that's when it becomes a horror movie. Let me tell you, I love horror. I grew up on the stuff. That said, this movie was scary as hell. The cave just gets smaller and smaller and one by one their lanterns and headlamps run out of batteries. The space around the viewer slowly tightens bit by bit. The filmmakers use the camera very very well too, as it really feels like you're getting claustrophobic. And man is it ever dark. They also certainly rely on the novel idea of being trapped underground to enhance the fear factor. Imagine, you are miles under earth and have no idea how to get out. And we're not talking about great expansive caverns and structures like in a Journey to the Center of the Earth or an Alien vs Predator. The actors in this movie are literally crawling half th time. Sheesh. It was awesome. I don't wanna say much more, because if you're into having your pants scared off, then you should just rent it. It does turn pretty gorey there at the end, so if that's not your bag you may want to consider that, but overall this is just classic thriller stuff and I totally recommend it to anyone who loves a good fright now and then.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Clip o' the Week

Shoot to Kill

This 1988 thriller was Sidney Poitier's first screen acting gig in 11 years. Wait, I shouldn't lead with that, because your mind is likely to head straight to high level dramatic arts and if so, you took a wrong turn. Let me, instead begin by telling you, this 1988 thriller stars Sidney Poitier, but also Tom Berenger, Kirstie Alley, Clancy Brown (the creepy bad guy from the first Highlander and the voice of Mr. Krabs) and Andrew Robinson (the creepy dad from Hellraiser) and it's all directed by Roger Spottiswoode, who brought us such slices of cinematic heaven as Turner & Hooch and Tomorrow Never Dies (yes, the Bond movie with Teri Hatcher as the Bond girl, you know you saw it). That probably gives you a better picture of just what this movie watching experience will be like. As a boy growing up in the 80's, I loved action movies. You have a "good guy" chasing a "bad guy" through some sort of wilderness, toss in a pretty girl and a heavy dose of big action and terrible comedy and I was in. Brown plays a felon on the run trying to make it to Canada. He decides to go through the woods of northern Washington state to get there and kidnaps a guide (played by Kirstie Alley) (yeah, you heard me) to get him there. Poitier is an FBI agent from the city with a personal interest because this guy caused him grief earlier in San Fran, while Berenger is a borderline mountain man and Alley's boyfriend. And so it begins. As you may well guess, these two "good guys" are from totally different worlds and can't stand each other, but, and I don't want to give it away for you too much, end up being fast friends in the end. This movie is predictable, poorly written, terribly acted and generally awful and I recommend it to all of you wholeheartedly.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

El Aura

Esteban is sick of his boring life. He's a taxidermist whose wife has just left him and his only real friend annoys the crap out of him. To make matters worse he goes on a hunting trip to get away from it all and accidentally kills someone. There are two things about Esteban that are unique: he's epileptic and he has a photographic memory. The hunter he killed was standing next to a shack in the woods. Esteban checked the shack and discovered the victim was deep in the planning phase of an armored truck heist. And so we find Esteban at a turning point. Does he do the normal thing and run to the police about the accidental death? Or does he keep it a secret, use his photographic memory and do something, finally, exciting in his life and attempt to pull off the heist himself. Well, there wouldn't be much of a movie if he picked the former and he does not. This 2005 Argentinian drama by director Fabian Bielinsky was only his second feature but it is very well executed. The pacing is great and his choice of shot sequences is really fantastic. In fact, the visuals look like those orchestrated by a master directer. They really are fantastic. The story is engaging as well and the performances seemed very natural, even the secondary characters that only momentarily appear, some of whom aren't even named. The only complaint I have is that the reliance on violence seemed to confuse the message. I understand, and like, the idea of a story about a guy who wants to do something daring to break up the monotony of his pretty sad life, but I find it hard to sympathize with someone who causes unnecessary death in furtherance of his personal identity crisis. Take the tipping point for example. Why did Bielinsky find it necessary for him to kill the guy. Couldn't he have just stumbled upon the shack? He has a photographic memory, he really only needed to read all the plans. Hell, it may have even made the scene more tense, since there would be the chance that the guy could walk in at any moment. Other innocent people die in the furtherance of the plan too. If they were necessary I would buy it, but the point of the film, for me, was that this guy was trying to get a little excitement and grow some balls. People just don't have to die for you to do that and tell a good story. This was the only thing that detracted from the story for me. Outside of this, everything about this movie is interesting, fresh and engaging.

Worth Watching

Saturday, June 6, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You

Yeah, I saw it and may I take this opportunity to aid you in avoiding doing the same. This 2009 flick by Ken Kwapis proves once again that the guy should stick to television. I don't know what it is, when he does movies they're sappy, borderline sexist drivel like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but when he does TV it's usually great stuff, having directing episodes of The Office, Malcolm in the Middle, Freaks and Geeks, ER, and on and on. I wonder if some kinds of formats just simply work better for certain types of artists. Well, either way, he definitely swung and missed on this one. This movie profiles numerous males and females who are trying to figure out the complicated labyrinth of dating and marriage. The problem is that it seems that all of these 30-somethings are either jerks or idiots. In fact, it seems the message of this movie itself is that the vast majority of guys are secretly assholes and the vast majority of women in America are really just gullible, petty, stupid girls. I for one found this message offensive. What 30ish woman sits by the phone for days on end pacing around wondering if a guy she went on one, very short dinner date with will call? I hope this type of woman is the exception, but the movie makes her out to be the rule. All the women seem obsessed with finding a man and the movie makes this seem like what all women should be obsessed with and the ultimate goal in life for you ladies is finally getting married. It's junk if you ask me. Not only that, but the women are all totally clueless, as though they are just these sweet, naiive things that walk around hoping some guy will fall in love with them and ask them to marry them that day. There's literally a scene in the movie where one woman is explaining to the others that it's actually ok for the girl to call the guy. Duh. And the women in that scene are all successful individuals. Their depiction of gay males is also nothing more than a string of stereotypes and shallow characters. I'm not kidding, all of the gay men act like Carter from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and the few that are named are named Mary. Seriously, is this 1960? This movie is sexist crap and I recommend you rent something else if you're on the fence about seeing this one. Unless, of course, you're a boy obsessed 12-year-old trapped in a 33-year-old's body and want a movie to come along that you can really can relate to.