Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mr. Nobody

Overlong and suffering from a tedious love story, Mr. Nobody is a beautifully shot science fiction film. Recounting the tale of the last mortal in a future world that has achieved quasi-immortality, Mr. Nobody explores the concepts of the butterfly effect and chaos theory. Enigmatic and convoluted, the storyline hops around in time and through different possibilities, and the special effects are well-done and convincing. The science fiction aspects of the film are quite interesting, but the various love stories are dull.

Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind

TV producer by day, alleged CIA operative by night, Chuck Barris created some of the most infamous television ever produced; The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, The $1.98 Beauty Pageant, and his masterpiece, The Gong Show. Chuck Barris' autobiography is brought to the screen by Steven Soderbergh, Charlie Kaufman, and in a remarkable debut as director, George Clooney, who effectively recreates the dadaesque chaos of Barris' life in the seventies.

Sam Rockwell gives a powerhouse performance as Barris, with all his awkward nervous tics in place. Julia Roberts plays against type as a dangerous assassin, and Brad Pitt and Matt Damon make cameos as Dating Game contestants. The most telling moment is the final scene with Barris himself, appearing as a man who still seems to struggle with insecurity even after creating and achieving so much in his career.


A journalism student gets a scoop about a serial killer from the Great Beyond in this dull, awkward comedy from Woody Allen. Stagey, cliched, and abruptly edited, Scoop is at its best when Hugh Jackman and Scarlett Johnasson are on screen. Scoop grinds to a mortifying halt whenever Woody is on camera. Scoop has a cheap, amateurish look, a clunky, laugh-free screenplay, and fails in comparison to Allen's comedic heyday.

Wow, even the trailer is cringeworthy. Let's watch a trailer for one of Woody's good films to clear our palates of that monstrosity.

Ah, much better.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Cuban Fury

Shawn Of The Dead's Nick Frost stars in this derivative but mildly humorous story of a former salsa dancing champion. Featuring mix tapes, flat Fanta, and some great salsa music, Nick Frost is charming and bumbling as usual, and he's best in this film when ever-so-slightly tackling the subject of bullying. Chris O'Dowd is irritating as Frost's friend/nemesis, and Rashida Jones is woefully underused. Cuban Fury isn't up to the standards of the Cornetto Trilogy, but you could do worse as far as romantic comedies go.

Mirage Men

The men allegedly responsible for the spread of disinformation regarding UFOs is investigated in this dry, boring documentary. Featuring shots of desert mountains, chain link fences surrounding secretive air force bases, dusty roads, and talking heads recounting tales of cattle mutilation amidst unflattering closeups of terrible hotel furnishings, Mirage Men is best left to the UFO aficionado.

Big Boys Gone Bananas

A documentarian attempts to shed light on the story of allegedly poisoned banana farmers and becomes the target of a multi-national corporation in this chilling film. Gripping and terrifying, Big Boys Gone Bananas shows the lengths a huge food producer will go to to protect its brand, including threats, surveillance, and suppression of a film-maker's First Amendment rights. I was fascinated by how the US media is less than suspicious about massive corporations, while the rest of the world views them with distrust. I guess it ultimately shows who wields the power at US media outlets, and it's the advertisers.

The House At The End Of Time

A woman is imprisoned in her labyrinthine castle after she's accused of murdering her family in this Venezuelan mystery. I easily guessed the twist in this film, but I still managed to enjoy it. The candle-lit house is nicely art-directed, with its peeling paint, Escher-like stairs, and stony basement. But the movie is marred by unconvincing wigs and makeup, excessive jump scares, needlessly locked doors, and a sentimental ending. The House At The End Of Time is more familial drama than horror film, but I probably wouldn't stop you from watching it.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Black Moon

Louis Malle directs this avant-garde film where a young woman stumbles upon some surreal happenings during a war between the sexes at a remote estate. Featuring badgers, millipedes, talking animals, and armed women in gas masks, Black Moon is a tedious post-Nouvelle Vague Alice In Wonderland. Beautifully shot, it's impenetrable, precious, and tries its best to shock, but at 100 minutes it stumbles around a little too long and bores. The lead actress runs from one scene to another, Joe Dallesandro manages to actually act and keep his pants on, and this viewer wonders what it's all about.

Zero For Conduct

Boys stage a revolution against beans in this experimental short film. Dying of tuberculosis at the age of 29 in 1934, Jean Vigo leaves behind one full length feature and 3 short films, but posthumously influenced the French New Wave. Zero For Conduct features an astonishing, iconic scene as the boys raise banners and stage a riotous parade in slo-mo through the feather-strewn dorm in nightshirts. Simultaneously experimental and naturalistic, it's a sublime short film.

A Page Of Madness

Difficult to follow, A Page Of Madness is a silent, avant-garde Japanese film that was presumed lost for 45 years. Missing approximately a third of its length and having no narration or intertitles, the story of a janitor who works at the asylum where his wife is a patient jumps around amidst startling and disorienting scenes of inmates dancing, running, and being restrained. Featuring dramatic, Expressionistic camera angles, multiple exposures, and various editing and photographic effects, the overall film is disturbing, quite beautiful, but impenetrable.

What Is Cinema?

An examination of the history of film with a focus on experimental and avant-garde films, I found myself more interested in the films discussed than the actual film itself. Academy Award winner Chuck Workman beautifully edits together brief clips and interviews, but I became distracted by What Is Cinema? and found myself looking up directors on Wikipedia instead. Educational but dry, What Is Cinema? focuses on many lesser known films, and encouraged me to search them out.

Meshes Of The Afternoon

I recently watched the documentary What Is Cinema?, which examines the history of film, particularly concentrating on experimental film. While I was underwhelmed by What Is Cinema?, it did give me more films to check out. First up is Maya Deren's remarkable short film, Meshes Of The Afternoon. Foreboding and lyrical, Deren's POV camerawork follows a woman who seems to be haunted by a figure cloaked in black with a mirrored face. Dreamlike and surreal in the classical sense, Meshes Of The Afternoon features Freudian imagery of flowers, keys, knives, and staircases in a disorienting, mysterious film.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


A warrior from the Ming Dynasty is defrosted in this Donnie Yen action film. Thrilling, expensive, and incredibly cheesy, Iceman features spectacular stunts, thrilling acrobatics, impressive martial arts, and beautiful scenes of Hong Kong, but these moments are bogged down in a convoluted plot that drags in the middle. It's almost as though the film-makers attempted to American Blockbuster-ize a Shaw Brothers period film. During an impressive battle sequence where a cast of hundreds on horseback are engulfed in an avalanche, someone jumps on an awkwardly CGI'd shield and cheezily snowboards. Then someone rambles on about a Golden Wheel Of Time that's powered by Shiva's lingam, a crap-filled toilet explodes, and there's a scooter/Lamborghini/horse chase on a bridge. Meh.

Killer Mermaid

Insufferable douches meet their end at the hands of a mermaid who lives in a well in this tedious Serbian horror film. Lovely scenery and images of a foreboding fort are marred by unconvincing boogieing and dodgy accents as a fun-loving group investigates an 'abandoned military base' while wearing Frederick's Of Hollywood-style swimwear, and it takes nearly an hour for the mermaid to put them out of our misery, and by 'put them out of our misery' I really mean 'wallow on the ground looking either seductive or a little nauseous as some other guy walks around and puts a giant hook through the cast's necks'. Featuring human chum in a bathtub, shaky cam, and a glaring Franco Nero, Killer Mermaid bores when it isn't eliciting unintentional snickers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


The warrior Hun is awakened in this dreadful Asylum film. After some LOL-worthy narration and a totally necessary Asylum helicopter scene, some warriors unconvincingly push over some villagers, and then there's some stock snake footage. A two-star general gets irrationally angry because a recently excavated archaeological find is dirty, then Attila comes back to life after ingesting some poorly computer animated blood. Then Attila runs, fights some guys, then runs some more. Then Attila runs, fights some guys, then runs some more. Then Attila runs, fights some guys, then runs some more. Then Attila runs, fights some guys, then runs some more. Meanwhile he searches for a staff that supposedly belonged to Moses, I suppose, but it looks like an oversized skull Pez dispenser that been spray painted with some gold spray paint, and it wouldn't be out of place on the discount shelf at a Halloween superstore. Then Attila runs, fights some guys, and then runs some more. After about a month of really bad movie, some stuff explodes and it finally ends.

Friday, February 6, 2015

America Unearthed/Shaun Ryder On UFOs

I still have about a dozen reviews that I haven't finished yet. I've been somewhat busy illustrating my next book, which may or may not be called Stabford Deathrage Goes To Hell: High School Reunion, and by 'illustrating' I mean 'poorly scribbling', so I haven't had time to finish those reviews, and by 'busy illustrating my next book', I really mean 'watching conspiracy television programs on Netflix'. I don't have time to watch TV, and people often try to convince me to watch some new program, but that eats into my movie watching which I already don't have time for. Therefore, I decided to watch America Unearthed, which is a show about a forensic geologist who investigates the history of the United States by looking at rocks. It's just awful, so of course I watched every episode. Scott Wolter travels around the country checking out slabs of rock someone carved symbols into and believing every single one is authentic, and meanwhile I'm scrambling to check Wikipedia to see if these things are real or phony. Mr. Wolter never saw a conspiracy theory he didn't like, so he's an awful lot like an Agent Mulder for rocks. Wolter really, really, really wants to believe.

Speaking of rocks, I watched a couple of episodes of the British docu-series Shaun Ryder On UFOs.

Shaun Ryder (5' 8") was the lead vocalist for the band Happy Mondays.

Although once compared by Factory Records owner Tony Wilson to the poet W. B. Yeats, Ryder was somewhat unflatteringly portrayed in the film 24 Hour Party People.

Due to his infamous reputation, I tuned in to Shaun Ryder On UFOs merely to see if Ryder would either smoke crack or pull a gun on someone. Surprisingly enough, Ryder was relatively well-spoken, charming, and a little more skeptical than Scott Wolter.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Dracula, Spanish Version

Featuring racier nightgowns, more cleavage, and more sexual tension than the Bela Lugosi version of Bram Stoker's vampire tale, the spanish version of Dracula is anecdotally seen as a better film than Tod Browning's, but I'm not 100% convinced. For instance, this scene features an affable, smiling, neighborly Dracula in lead actor Carlos Villarias.

He plays Dracula as a warm, earthy, wide-eyed killer, but still seems as though he is a human-like being. Compare the same scene with Lugosi.

Here Browning imparts the scene with a hesitant tension, as Dwight Fry warily greets his host. A ghoulish Lugosi plays a game with Fry, luring him into his web, as inhuman as the phony spider climbing the wall.

I was going to post more clips, contrasting and comparing various scenes from these two films, but honestly, I'm sick of it. Here's a music video by Bauhaus:

Ha! You probably thought I was going to post that other video by Bauhaus. Yeah, I didn't, because I'm sick of that, too. It seemed like back in the early 80's whenever I entered a nightclub, they always played that song. Maybe it was because I was dressed in black and looked a little like a vampire, but I'm not sure. Like I always say, if you remember the 80s, you probably didn't do it right.

Anyway, the scene as Villarias rises from his coffin obscured by smoke was a good one and might be better than its English counterpart. Conversely, the Spanish version doesn't quite top the English version when the mad, cackling Renfield is revealed as the cargo hold is opened, played in a scenery-chewing performance by Dwight Fry in the original. Still, the Spanish version of Dracula seems a bit more modern than the Tod Browning version. Either film is better than any vampire film where someone sparkles.

Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?

Linguist Noam Chomsky is interviewed by director Michel Gondry in this quirky, dry, and academic documentary. Michel Gondry's hand drawn animations add levity to some big brained concepts, such as the epistemology of The Ship Of Theseus, and the evolutionary Great Leap Forward of modern humans from 50,000 years ago. I was intrigued by Chomsky's quip that scientists have to be willing to be puzzled by simple things, which I often am, and the brief examination of the 'occult forces' of attraction and repulsion, and there isn't a word in that part of the sentence that I dislike.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Scuba divers are attacked and dismembered by what appears to be dead and/or plastic barracudas being held just slightly off camera in this derivative horror film. After the crew is reflected in the passenger side window of a nefarious Dodge, lots of movie happens. It's not very good and/or interesting. Suddenly, a golden retriever finds a severed human head, and several people are fascinated by a beach filled with fish chunks. The movie continues for what seems like forever, then it ends. Klaus Schulze's ominous electronic score livens up a dreary film, but only briefly.