June 25, 2011

Devil (2010)

I woke up at 1:30 AM with insomnia and clicked on the TV to find Devil, a film produced and based on a story, but not directed, by M. Night Shyamalan. Despite an interesting beginning this one won't bring him back to the fold (so to speak) but that said, once the movie ended and the bedroom was dark again, I swear every creak was whispering Beelzebub (a word NOT used in the movie). I couldn't tell if it was the movie or the time of night so I'll let you decide.

June 21, 2011

When Time Ran Out (1980)

When Time Ran Out was supposed to be the cherry on the 70s disaster film cake of Irwin Allen - despite its release in 1980. That date was a harbinger for this leaden volcano-explodes-and-people-escape-lava epic, which has a mixed bag of well paid actors (William Holden, Jacqueline Bisset, Edward Albert, Red Buttons, Valentina Cortese, Veronica Hamel, Alex Karras and Allen's wife, Sheila) running away from lava that, as pointed out early in the story, ...moves slowly enough to give us time so don't rush. The pacing never picks up so I would be remiss to not note the most interesting thing about this movie: actor Paul Newman used his salary to bankroll Newman's Own, a self-sustaining business which continues to contribute millions of dollars to charity even after his death.

June 19, 2011

Super 8 (2011)

Super 8 is the best Steven Speilberg movie ever made made by J.J. Abrams. Without going into detail, consider it a dark E.T. with all the humor and sweetness in tact. The acting (including Elle Fanning, Ron Eldard, Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler and Gabriel Basso - the latter also of The Big C for fans of that particular series) is superb, the effects spectacular and the soundtrack of late 70s tunes keeps you bopping. Take your best bell bottoms and feathered hair to the one BIG screen left in your town (the only screen on which to see this one) and DON'T leave before the credits begin.

June 18, 2011

Zuckerbaby (1985)

Zuckerbaby (Sugarbaby) is a slight, quiet story about over-the-top persistence and determination. Directed and written by Percy Adlon (before his English language breakout Bagdad Cafe (Out of Rosenheim), the film is quirky, hot and appealing despite a color scheme and roving camera work which might seem annoying or pretentious to some. I, though, went with it and was gleefully rewarded especially by Marianne Sägebrecht (also in Bagdad Cafe) who breaks all taboos with a raw and honest performance as the overweight mortician's assistant who decides to woo the slim, blond subway conductor (Eisi Gulp).

This film is not available on DVD but I have an AVI file if interested.

June 16, 2011

Sons of Perdition (2010)

The only outcome of religious fundamentalism is control of the masses and Sons of Perdition, a documentary about teens who will not be controlled, is an interesting watch. It illustrates the true horror behind the fictitious Big Love compound and the patriarchal rule behind the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It's not the most absorbing film but my heart goes out to these sons (and daughters) trying to make for themselves a better life.

June 15, 2011

Hostel: Part II (2007)

Part one (the beginning) of Hostel: Part II is mundane while part two, at least, brings a few surprises to the denouement. I liked seeing Heather Matarazzo in a horror film as well as Bijou Phillips, Roger Bart (of Broadway and The Midnight Meat Train) and Jordan Ladd (in a small yet non-pivotal role) but ultimately, the whole thing seemed like it was done before; like in part 1. Watch it while folding laundry as it doesn't really demand your full attention to get what's going on.

June 13, 2011

For The Boys (1991)

Bette Midler might be playing Bette Midler in For The Boys, the fictional story of USO entertainers Dixie Leonard and Eddie Sparks, but she nails it (as the former) and deservedly received an Academy Award nomination for her work. She sounds great in the many enjoyable musical sequences that pepper the story (using standards covering the film's fifty year span) and is supported by a fine cast (including James Caan as Sparks, George Segal, Melissa Manchester, Patrick O'Neal, Norman Fell and Dori Brenner). The movie is long and the make-up used to age the two stars is not the most realistic but I did find it to be absorbing and more than the sum of these parts.

June 11, 2011

Bridesmaids (2011)

Bridesmaids is laugh-out-loud funny, down-in-the-(literal)-gutter raunchy and sweet as a wedding cake. It's quite the combination put together by co-writer/lead Kristen Wiig with tremendous help from Maya Rudolph (who is always always phenomenal), Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper and Jill Clayburgh (in her last film appearance). There's more depth here than one might guess from the trailer and it all works beautifully together.

June 8, 2011

MacGruber (2010)

I decided to watch MacGruber for one reason: Kristen Wiig. Wiig is fun to watch and here she took a slight characterization and made it her own. Whenever she was off-screen though I sat stone-faced and wondered how a movie can be so humorless, and its implication that gay sex was a punishment was just distasteful.

June 7, 2011

The Group (1966)

It's easy to see how The Group was controversial in its day (touching on domestic violence, suicide, insanity and lesbianism) but it has not aged well. The group of college chums (portrayed by a stellar cast of Candice Bergen, Joan Hackett, Elizabeth Hartman, Shirley Knight, Joanna Pettet and Jessica Walter) are a bunch of idiot women, despite their educations, for whom I felt no affinity. And I've seen much better films by director Sidney Lumet.

June 6, 2011

Låt den rätte komma in (2008)

The Swedish film Låt den rätte komma in (Let The Right One In) tells what might happen to Bella and Edward (of Twilight fame) if their vampiric roles were reversed and they were about five years younger. Unlike that film though, Tomas Alfredson has directed a dark, fascinating story (set in 1982 Sweden) with incredible acting from the two preteen leads, Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson. It's not a fast-moving (or particularly bloody) horror film but it grabs you with its sympathetic characters, compelling cinematography, and the surprise inclusion of Försonade, a 1968 recording from future ABBA member, Agnetha Fältskog.

June 5, 2011

The Birds (1963)

There are so many incredibly composed and terrifying images in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds that it makes you wonder, if he could pull this off fifty years ago - why do today's filmmakers need computers for films far less memorable? The famed auteur (who can be seen in the film's first scene walking two dogs) has assembled a first-rate cast (Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette, Veronica Cartwright) that brings to life this tense story of birds attacking a small Northern California town with old school effects, no music and no ending (sic). This is a scary film (you can feel the birds as they are shown pecking at each victim) - one of Hitchcock's best and with his legacy that's saying a lot.

June 3, 2011

Mr. Deeds (2002)

Any charm that Mr. Deeds musters is directly related to the Frank Capra original Mr. Deeds Goes To Town. Although both earn their pay by acting, Adam Sandler is no Gary Cooper and Winona Ryder is no Jean Arthur. Do yourself a favor and watch the 1936 classic instead; you'll be pixilated.

June 1, 2011

The Descent: Part 2 (2009)

Neil Marshall was the executive producer on The Descent: Part 2 which (like this review) picks up right after The Descent (depending on which of the two endings you saw). Although this story about the rescuers who enter the cave system to find the original spelunkers often strains credulity and mires in some broad characterizations, it is still claustrophobic and pretty scary. Krysten Cummings and Anna Skellern (new to the story) deserve special recognition for outstanding acting but anymore information than that would ruin the unexpected.