Twin Peaks – The Return: Hour Eight

NOTE TO READERSThese weekly posts are meant to recap what happened (SPOILERS AHEAD) and provide conversation starters for fans to comment and share theories. Do not read if you have not watched this week’s hour(s) yet.

“We lived above a convenience store.”

David Lynch and Mark Frost have broken the television.

Like some living, breathing, electrified nightmare, Hour Eight starts with Ray shooting Mr. Cooper, who is then visited upon by the most startling set of engine oil-scorched ghosts whose otherworldly movements and nefarious shamanism bring him back to life.

Flashback to 1945 and a nuclear test site, where Lynch then employs cinematographer extraordinaire Peter Deming to slo-mo pan in on a burgeoning mushroom cloud before going deep inside it to the atom-splitting core. It’s a completely mesmerizing mosaic of meditative horror that could only be done on film (or is this digital, well, you get my drift…it’s purely and wholly cinematic) that seems like the rebirth (or afterbirth) of the artistic medium, though somewhat reminiscent of those fantastic sequences from the close of Kubrick’s 2001 and the middle of Malick’s Tree of Life. The fifteen minute sequence, despite its quasi-eerie familiarity, is completely beyond words and comprehension, and pardon the lame cliché, it will blow your mind. Continue reading

In Space No One Can See You Roll Your Eyes

I mean c’mon now, is this gonna happen every dang time, Ridley Scott?

(And for those worried about spoilers, here, the following simplified synopsis could apply to any number of films in the franchise or ripoffs thereof, so it’s not really giving anything away.)

A spaceship gets a distress call. They unwisely follow it to an uncharted planet and trace it to a spooky crashed ship. Some folks get mauled to death / infected / etc… by some weaponized parasitic aliens. A few brave souls escape back to their ship in orbit. Ooops, something got on board. Bang! Some lady blows it out an air hatch. Dun dun dun…but she better not rest so easily…

I felt like Kristen Wiig’s Aunt Linda the Film Critic character from SNL for most of Alien: Covenant’s two hours…exasperated and rolling my eyes. Continue reading

The Cabin in the Woods

1, 2, 3, 4, 5 - who do you think is gonna survive?

There’s an interesting moment about twenty minutes into Drew Goddard’s debut film, The Cabin in the Woods (co-scripted by Joss Whedon) where an inanely bad CGI bird comes gliding down into the open space outside a mountain tunnel and crashes into some kind of invisible electrified grid imprisoning any living thing that travels through the tunnel.  As if the weirdly mundane pre-credit sequence featuring Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford wasn’t enough to clue viewers in…this moment reminds us that something conspiratorially massive is afoot.  Is this “snarky and attractive college kids are about to get stalked and killed in the woods” flick really just some sadistic reality show?  Is it all just an overly elaborate set-up for a modern-day spin on yee olde human sacrifice game? 

But the bad CGI bird hitting the electrified grid is deliberately misleading because it doesn’t prepare you at all for Goddard’s gleefully bonkers denoument…a rollicking special-effects laden and gore-strewn twenty minutes of balls-to-the-walls horror show fun.  I don’t know how else to describe it but to say it’s as if the “Imaginationland” episodes of South Park went live-action meta-horror.  The whole thing is wonderfully paced to lull you into thinking it’s going through the genre motions only to defy every expectation you have of a modern horror film. Continue reading

Red State

I do not come in peace.

“People do strange things when they believe they’re entitled, but they do the strangest things when they just plain believe.”

As a man best know for his blue comedies and ear for hipster geek dialogue, nobody would’ve ever accused writer/director Kevin Smith of profundity.  Over the years Smith has been at his best when he’s fiercely independent (Clerks, Clerks II, Chasing Amy) or when he’s courting controversy (Dogma).  The rest of his cannon has been fairly forgettable.  Yet here with Red State, an independent and doggedly controversial film that has escaped mainstream release and instead premiered on-demand (after a few key one-off preview screening events), Smith has performed one of the strangest about-faces in modern film.  It’s a mish-mash of genres – part psychological thriller, part horror film, part satire – and though unnervingly uneven, by many measures its Smith’s most accomplished film.  And best of all – love it or hate it – it’s a film worth talking about. Continue reading

Have You Been Eaten by a Piranha?

Sea…Sex…and Blood…in 3D.  And you thought this would be a good idea to bring your seven-year old son to see this?  Yup, that’s right, America…some genius brought his kid in to see Piranha 3D on a Tuesday night.  And get this…he didn’t walk out of the theater until the Eli Roth lead wet t-shirt contest about half way through after we already witnessed some gnarly fish attacks and two babes do an underwater ballet in the buff.  At least the father finally realized his idiocy…but, man…that seven year-old must have had the time of his life up until that moment.  I imagine the father was recently divorced, and he had the kid for the last week of summer and thought, hey, I saw that Piranha movie when I was a kid, and I loved it and turned out just fine!  What a great opportunity to bond with junior!  Ah, the best laid plans of clueless parents…

But, I digress.  Sacre bleu, Alexandre Aja…what in Elizabeth Shue have you gotten into here?  Continue reading

A Review of Tim Burton’s “Sweeney Todd”

Grim Musical OJ’s the Audience, 22 December 2007
7/10

Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

Tim Burton’s gleefully macabre adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s musical smash hit “Sweeney Todd” is the strangest holiday season Oscar bait to come out of Hollywood…well, ever. I’ll be the first to admit I am not a fan of film musicals as they are inherently loud and full of paper-thin characters singing and dancing their way through horribly obvious and clichéd plots. However, every so often one comes along that I thoroughly enjoy, like “Chicago” with its hot-blooded dames committing cold-blooded murder during the roaring ’20’s. Here, bloody revenge is the topic, and Victorian London the setting. The stage was set for a bizarre juxtaposition of seemingly disparate genres: the over-the-top operetta and the over-the-top horror film. On both levels, “Sweeney Todd” delights and horrifies in equal measure.

The film starts awkwardly with foggy CGI set designs and off-key singing covering a clunky exposition about a barber wrongly imprisoned (for, well, I never caught why) and looking for revenge against the judge who drove his wife to suicide (allegedly) and kidnapped his daughter. The film moves slowly until Sacha Baron Cohen (“Borat”) shows up with a gin-swilling moppet in tow (Ed Sanders as Toby, the best singing orphan this side of “Oliver!”) adding a sense of color, humor, and heart to the film’s bleeding core. Once the killings start, the set designs and gore seem to take on a life of their own as Burton paints his vision on screen with the rare wanton abandon of an auteur with final cut.

It would be unfair for me to judge the music and the songs (they were adequately lively in my humble opinion), but the acting was far better than I expected. Johnny Depp was perfectly off-kilter in the lead role. His lack of expression during the “By the Sea” fantasy sequence was priceless. Meanwhile, Helena Bonham Carter performed her third successful evolution as an actress. She was once the darling of the Merchant/Ivory costume drama, then the cult star of “Fight Club”, and now the Cockney-accented comic relief in the darkest movie musical ever made. I thought her facial expressions and timing where especially spot-on. I can’t think of another actress who has such distinct groups of rabid fans. Alan Rickman is effectively creepy in the villain role, while the two young stars playing the whatever-the-heck-his-name-is-pretty-boy and Johanna were appropriately annoying and dewy-eyed.

While the film goes through the requisite motions of an operetta, it succumbs to a fantastically grim and fitting conclusion that ultimately won over the audience. With more dark psychologically rich subtexts and better acting then you come to expect from a film musical, “Sweeney Todd” OJ’s its audience with cartoonish gore and spirited song and dance. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s bloody good fun.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database:

http://imdb.com/title/tt0408236/usercomments-86

A Review of “I Am Legend”

I Am Legend is based on the novel by Richard Matheson.  It has been adapted twice before for film under different titles: The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price and The Omega Man with Charlton Heston.  This latest version is directed by Francis Lawrence.

 CAPTION: Quick, dog, look cool.  People will love us.

I Am Overrated, 15 December 2007
5/10
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

*** This comment may contain spoilers ***

“I Am Legend,” an inexplicable remake of the Charlton Heston minor classic “The Omega Man”, posits itself as another mass-marketed star vehicle for the always likable Will Smith. Here the mega-star who can do no wrong plays the last man on earth (SPOILER: HE’S NOT!) after a nasty virus wipes out the world population and leaves behind some infected sourpusses in the vein of “28 Days Later”. This movie has all the key ingredients for a Will Smith box office behemoth (which no doubt it will be), but fails to engage on any higher level.

Here’s the recipe:

1. Will Smith playing Will Smith: No other movie star can be such an egotistical show-off and get away with it as well as Will Smith does. No matter how many times we see him do his funny little bits, show off his buff bod, or watch him stretch his acting muscle with an unnecessary emotional breakdown scene, the audience still loves him. He carries “I Am Legend” and makes it watchable even when he starts doing a “Shrek” impersonation (don’t ask) or carries on conversations with mannequins (think Tom Hanks and Wilson the volleyball from “Cast Away”).

2. A futuristic setting: The set designers do a fantastic job here with a post-apocalyptic New York tableau that is expansive and eerie and will leave you wondering, “How in blue blazes did they film that?” Sadly, the special effects team and creature designers didn’t do a complimentary job. The zombie/vampire/whatever-the-heck-they-are monsters look like something from a second rate video game circa 1999. Given the PG-13 rating, they are only allowed a moderate amount of fun. Gore hounds and horror buffs will be greatly disappointed. Sci-fi fans will also be angered that after a decent set-up, the film devolves into a preachy messianic family-friendly death-fetish film.

3. A kick-ass dog: Remember how everyone rooted for that dog from “Independence Day?” Well, this German Sheperd named Sam puts that dog to shame. However, you know there’s a problem when the dog becomes the most dynamic and sympathetic character in a film. I won’t carelessly give away what happens to Sam in any explicit detail, but suffice it to say, when two non-characters named Anna and Ethan show up in the film’s final moments, you’ll be wishing Sam was there to keep it real.

“I Am Legend” offers nothing new but is diverting enough as a matinée. In its depiction of a man and a dog in a post-apocalyptic city, it scores as populist entertainment. As a monster movie, it’s a joke. As some sort of end-of-the-world message film, it’s abhorrent. But with Will Smith headlining, expect it to be the biggest hit of the holiday season.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database:

http://imdb.com/title/tt0480249/usercomments-126

A Review of David Slade’s “30 Days of Night”

Best Vampire Movie in Over a Decade, 23 October 2007
8/10
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

As night begins to fall for a thirty day spell over a small Alaskan outpost village, a motley crew of vampires comes waltzing in for a feast in David Slade’s adaptation of the graphic novel, “30 Days of Night.” Ever since “Interview with the Vampire” vampires have been depicted in films as something hip, cool, and sexy. Recently the idea of becoming a vampire is like making a fashion statement or becoming a Scientologist. In “30 Days of Night” the vampires are nameless, cunning, animal-like bloodsuckers and far from mindless zombies (which have been more popular of late). Finally, vampires are restored to film as monsters to be feared and not as some sympathetic and alluring subculture.

 

The film grabs you from its opening shot of a man walking through a desolate snow covered landscape away from an ominous boat docked in the ice and never lets go. Director Slade wisely avoids many of the seizure-inducing trappings of recent horror films. Sure, there are the prerequisite quick-cuts in the intimate scenes of carnage, but there are also haunting wide-angled shots and one expertly staged bird’s-eye-view crane shot when the vampires first begin dragging people out of their houses into the street. While successfully adapting some of the great imagery from the graphic novel, Slade is fully aware that this is still a film and shies away from CGI and overly-stylized lighting and effects that would detract from the sense of realism necessary in a far-fetched horror film such as this.

Slade also makes good use of his cast. Danny Huston is perfectly creepy as the vampires’ leader. Josh Hartnett, who is typically miscast and emotionless, actually fits well the role of a wooden Sheriff of a remote Alaskan town. Ben Foster, who always overacts, is used effectively here in a bit role as an over-the-top Reinfield-like character who ushers the vampires’ arrival in town. Melissa George is pretty and sympathetic as Hartnett’s estranged wife. Like many serious horror films of recent memory (“Dawn of the Dead” or “The Descent”) the film attempts some character development that is often “emo” but never overplays its hand.

Aside from being better directed and better acted than your run-of-the-mill horror flick, “30 Days of Night” is also fantastically gory. Decaptation aficionados will especially rejoice. Refreshing, too, is the way it takes its gore and action dead seriously. There are no silly one-liners or graphic sight gags. The characters are deeply affected by what they witness and what they have to do to survive. This is pure horror, and it’s relentless.

Yes, there are some missteps with the film’s pacing and some huge leaps of logic in the amount of time that passes between events. However, for the shear originality of its central conceit, the intensity of the gore, and the haunting quality of many of its signature shots, David Slade’s “30 Days of Night” is the most exhilarating horror film since Danny Boyle’s original “28 Days Later” and the best vampire film since Francis Ford Coppola delivered “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” back in 1992.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database:

http://imdb.com/title/tt0389722/usercomments-107