Sunday, November 29, 2009

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Well I guess I'm still feeling the effects of the Harry Potter exhibition, since while home for Thanksgiving break I found myself watching three more of the movies with some overly-enthusiastic friends. Based on my least favorite of the books, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets details the events of Harry's second year at the wizarding school of Hogwarts. After a cat, a ghost, and several students are found magically petrified throughout the school, it's determined that the mysterious Chamber of Secrets has been opened, causing panic among both children and adults because the last time this happened, a young student died due to some unknown beast's attacks. Harry suspects his natural enemy Draco Malfoy, but he needs the help of best friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) to find the true culprit. Quidditch, a sabotage-happy house elf, and the bumbling egomaniac Professor Lockheart (Kenneth Branagh) fill up the rest of his spare time.

This continues many of the traditions laid down in the first film, with exaggerated performances and detailed but uninspired visuals. It's all a little bland, but still watchable and appropriately magical and British. The kids are a bit more comfortable with themselves, but not wholly convincing as actors. It stays pretty close to the book but since I think this is the lamest one (not bad, just eh), that doesn't mean much to me. This installment is possibly the height of Harry and Ron's collective stupidity, since they spend most of the climactic parts without Hermione to tell them what to do.

I feel Columbus's approach is heavy on certain aspects of the book's story but too light on character relationships, which help make the books so enjoyable. I guess in general I just don't have much else to say about this movie. It's likable enough, but fairly mediocre. It's got a flying car and giant spiders and a haunted toilet (nice to see you, Shirley Henderson!) and we get to briefly see The Burrow, one of my favorite fictional dwellings. You know, whatever.

3/5

My original art for Harry Potter is for sale.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Boksuneun Naui Geot (Sympathy for Mr Vengeance) (2002)

I'm working my way through Park Chan-Wook's "Revenge Trilogy" after being wowed by Oldboy a few months ago. Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, the first in the series, tells two connected revenge tales that can only end in tragedy. Ryu (Shin Ha-kyun), a young green-haired deaf man, is desperate to save his dying sister (Lim J-Eun) by finding her a kidney transplant. He tries to buy one off of black market organ dealers, but wakes up with his money gone and a surgical cut into his side (don't worry, it seems they didn't take anything too important).

His anarchist friend Cha Yeong-mi (Bae Du-na) suggests kidnapping his old employer's young daughter and claiming a ransom to pay for an operation, but the plan goes awry and they instead end up with Yu-sun (Han Bo-bae), the daughter of his boss's friend, Park Dong-jin (Song Kang-ho). When his sister finds out about the kidnapping, she kills herself in disappointment and a devastated Ryu seeks vengeance on the organ dealers who took his money. Meanwhile Park hunts down his daughter's kidnappers for his own revenge.

While of course packed with interesting visuals, an engaging story, and a bit of the old ultra-violence, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance is too ambiguous in its plot structure to be as enjoyable as it should be. The female characters aren't identified and I spent a good chunk of the beginning thinking Cha Yeong-mi was Ryu's sister and wondering who that long-haired woman was in the background. I wasn't sure exactly how Park was connected to Ryu either, thinking he was his former boss (as opposed to his boss's friend). The story moves rather abruptly from scene to scene, which seems characteristic of Park Chan-wook's style (though I'm definitely no expert), and this heightens certain plot ambiguities. I understood the basic story, but found myself with a few quizzical "wait, what?" moments.

Aside from that, this movie is pretty rad. Song "New Favorite Actor" Kang-ho is awesome in the transformative role of Park, who shifts from compliant businessman to grief-stricken father to violent killer with a surprising degree of humanity. I dug Shin Ha-kyun as Ryu as well, and he's helped convince me that maybe dying my hair green would be ok (it's the only color I've never tried, because what if it looks like a vegetable?). There are some great, bloody action moments but nothing too extreme or exploitative. Because both of the central characters are sympathetic, the story is given more tension and uncertainty, as viewers know both men can't win.

4/5

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Save the Last Dance (2001)

To contribute to the guilty romantic comedies series in which my housemate and I have been indulging (see the first two), she suggested Save the Last Dance, which I'd never seen, somehow. After her mother dies in a car accident en route to her ballet audition for Juliard, Sara (Julia Stiles) moves from her small town in Illinois to live with her deadbeat father (Terry Kinney) in Chicago. She attends a high school with a predominantly black population, and is quickly befriended by the awesome Chenille (Kerry Washington) and her brother Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas), who take her out clubbing. Seeing her lack of moves, Derek begins personally instructing her to dance hip hop, which of course leads to a romantic relationship.

The other students are not supportive of the couple, with the girls thinking Sara is a white girl out to steal one of the only good black boys at school (Derek is highly motivated and plans to become a doctor when he gets into Georgetown), and the boys believing that she is distracting him from his friends (he has a criminal past and is on the verge of being drawn back into that world by one of his asshole best friends). They endeavor to stay together despite these obstacles, while Sara decides to audition for Juliard again with Derek's help in choreographing a modern dance number.

Julia Stiles is so naturally likable, probably due to her down-to-earth and realistic demeanor, and she does a really good job here as the unmotivated, grief-stricken Sara. I enjoyed Sean Patrick Thomas' and Kerry Washington's performances a lot as well. All of the characters are more layered and subtle than I would usually expect, aided by the more dramatic tone of the film in general (I had assumed this was a more light-hearted "dance movie"). The effects of racism are explored in more nuanced terms, with the idea of the black community self-enforcing a kind of isolation from white people, and both sides feeling out of place or even traitorous in mixed relationships. It's a certain mode of thinking among different ethnicities, and shows the back and forth prejudices between these two groups.

There are a lot of montages, most involving awesome dance numbers, and a fair amount of corniness. But Save the Last Dance is very cute and easy to watch, with a very likable cast and a straightforward look at teenage life in a poorer area of Chicago that tries not to venture into stereotypes (with some success). Definitely a guilty pleasure kind of movie, but not bad. Also, some interesting fashion choices.

3.5/5

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Virgin Suicides (1999)

After reading about the only other two women with Best Director Oscar nominations, I realized how little I knew about Sofia Coppola, and that I had been putting off The Virgin Suicides for (literally) forever. So I watched it. The film centers around five mysterious, angelic sisters whose overprotective parents (James Woods and Kathleen Turner) enforce strict rules, but whose story is told from the point of view of a group of boys obsessed with them. Their allure arises from their seeming purity and mystery, and their lives are pieced together through different interactions the boys have with them. Cecilia (Hanna Hall), the youngest, commits suicide at age 13, provoking questions about the family's dynamic. When Lux (Kirsten Dunst), the second youngest at 14, catches the eye of their high school's main stud Trip (Josh Hartnett), she and her sisters are let out into a normal social event for the first time: the homecoming dance, after which events escalate to cause greater tragedies for the family.

While peppered with a series of seemingly mundane conversations and events, The Virgin Suicides does a marvelous job exposing the underbelly of the overly moral middle-class suburban home, propelled by religious fervor and antiquated views of sex. Because we see most of the girls' lives through these fascinated peeping toms' eyes, we are able to draw our own conclusions about the source of the sisters' suicidal urges. Their mother's tyranny and paranoia are wonderfully portrayed by Kathleen Turner, and Kirsten Dunst is fairly compelling as the loose and enigmatic Lux, who loses herself in sex after everything else is taken from her.

This movie is beautifully filmed, with a lot of quiet, thoughtful shots of their decidedly average town or exaggerated "virginal" aspects of the sisters. The script is smart, not allowing everything to be explained or elaborated, but trusting the audience to put the pieces together just as the narrator and his friends have to. It's a little too sparse or ambiguous sometimes, which keeps it from making a bolder statement, but overall it's still engaging and well-made, with good performances and a cool soundtrack from Air. An impressive first full-length feature from Sofia Coppola.

4/5

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mah Nakorn (Citizen Dog) (2004)

After reading about its Amelie-esque qualities, I immediately wanted to check out Citizen Dog from Thai director Wisit Sasanatieng, an adaptation of a book by his wife, Koynuch. Shy country boy Pod (Mahasamut Boonyaruk) moves to Bangkok despite his grandmother's insistence that he'll grow a tail. After losing his finger (and eventually finding it again on coworker Yhod's [Sawatong Palakawong Na Autthaya] hand) at his job at a sardine factory, he starts working as a security guard in an office building. He's instantly smitten with the obsessive-compulsive cleaning woman Jin (Saengthong Gate-Uthong), who spends most of her time buried in a mysterious book written in a language she can't read.

He gradually becomes closer to her, but she is oddly cold toward any of his romantic advances, mainly due to her obsession with finding a way to translate her book. She briefly spots a man with the novel, and becomes consumed with figuring out who he is, eventually convincing herself that he's an environmental activist who was killed at a recent demonstration. While Jin commits herself to saving the planet in his honor, Pod has some adventures as a taxi driver and tentatively tries to save Jin from her increasingly unhealthy new life.

The story itself is strange and often nonsensical, layered with various surrealistic aspects and ambiguous reasoning. The audience is welcomed into this fanciful, saturated world full of little inexplicable happenings and colorful details. It's pretty great. While sometimes Citizen Dog can lose itself in its own fantasy, I didn't mind because I myself was so drawn in. It's imaginative and truly beautiful to watch, with vibrancy and innovation captured in each shot.

Mahasamut Boonyaruk should win an award for Most Adorable Actor for his performance as the withdrawn Pod. He doesn't speak much (the film is heavily, and often comedically, narrated by an unseen party), but his longing and frustrations are made so palpable through his wide-eyed, earnest expressions that I spent the entire movie wanting to give this guy a hug. Sigh. Saengthong Gate-Uthong is pretty likable as well, giving Jin a touch of quirk but not overdoing it. Also, I am always won over by a person who likes to straighten up and make sure everything is facing the same way.

Between the dead-eyed opening musical sequence, the sweeping urban views and bold color palette, the unapologetic fantastical aspects, zombie motorcyclist, talking teddy bear, and hopeful love story, Citizen Dog is an extremely enjoyable movie, engaging in both its visuals and characters. Reminiscent of Amelie, definitely, but distinctive in its own way.

4.5/5

Extremely entertaining opening- this song keeps getting caught in my head, but I can't actually sing the words.


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Sunday, November 22, 2009

(Untitled) (2009)

A comedy about contemporary art? My goodness, that is an exciting prospect. (Untitled) stars Adam Goldberg as misunderstood sound artist Adrian Jacobs, whose bizarre atonal music alienates his peers. His brother Josh (Eion Bailey) is an artist as well, painting friendly, unassuming abstract works of the type generally hung in hospitals, hotels, and office buildings. Josh is dating the standoffish but passionate gallery owner Madeleine Gray (Marley Shelton), who sells his work out of the back room and shows controversial, up-and-coming artists like the Damien Hirst-ish Ray Barko (Vinnie Jones) in her show space.

She becomes intrigued by Adrian and his off-kilter music, and they start sleeping together. She also gets him a commission with wealthy and clueless geek millionaire Porter Canby (Zak Orth), who's been purchasing whatever expensive contemporary art he finds to build a collection and make himself look cultured. As Adrian and his collaborators work on the new composition, his bass clarinet player (Lucy Punch) is clumsily romanced by Porter. As Josh becomes frustrated with Madeleine's continuing refusals to exhibit his work in her gallery, he may also begin to catch on to her relationship with his brother.

Ok so right away I will state that I am quite sure this movie will not appeal to a large audience. It centers on a niche subject and a lot of the comedy or interesting dialogue comes out of a certain awareness of that subject. That being said, I am thrilled to see a movie that is almost completely about art- its process, its concepts, its controversies, and its effects on both artists and appreciators. I don't think I've ever seen anything like that before- art-related movies are usually more about an artist's life or focusing on something other than fine arts (theater, film, music, etc). Almost every conversation deals with art in some way, humorously but also honestly. I enjoyed listening to Madeleine's opinions about the artists she dealt with; yes, she's a little overzealous, but she obviously is knowledgeable, thoughtful, and truly passionate about the work she shows.

Much of the comedy comes from the ludicrousness of various art works (Adrian's experimental, un-enjoyable sound stylings, Ray Barko's cheeky taxidermied figures, "Monroe"'s ultra-minimalist found objects) and the artists' personalities (Barko's seething egotism, Monroe's social awkwardness, Josh's persistent "vision"). It's fun to see these sorts of exaggerated art styles and figures blown out of proportion, ripping away layers of pretension to reveal the silliness underneath. At the same time, issues facing today's working artists and their means of expression are discussed intelligently. Even though I didn't like his work, I wanted Adrian to succeed because he believed in it so much. And even though it was bullshit, I could see the Duchampian aspects of Monroe's everyday post-it notes and thumbtacks stuck to the wall. There were a lot of "but is it art?" undertones.

The actual story is pretty empty, with not much really happening except for the half-hearted love triangle, Adrian's job experiences, and Madeleine's gallery troubles. What it lacks in plot, it makes up for with great dialogue and visual gags, and an excellent cast. I dig Marley Shelton and Adam Goldberg a lot, and found Zak Orth pathetically hilarious. Lucy Punch is adorable and probably the most likable, but isn't in it enough (also her character plays bass clarinet, an instrument I totally play. Rad). As someone very interested in art (both its cultural implications and the act of making it), I found (Untitled) to be uniquely charming. I don't think you need to be any kind of art connoisseur to enjoy it (it's pretty funny either way), but I know that I probably liked it more than most people because of my personal connection to its subject.

4/5

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thelma & Louise (1991)

Seeing how much I enjoy movies about ladies and movies about road trips, I figured the rare combination of those two would be perfect for me. In Thelma & Louise, the eponymous duo are best friends attempting a temporary escape from their boring lives and significant others for a weekend at a friend's cabin. Housewife Thelma (Geena Davis) has been suffering her controlling, condescending husband (Christopher McDonald) for years, and is ready to really let herself go and allow herself to have fun for the first time since they got married. Louise (Susan Sarandon) is a tough waitress with a devoted boyfriend (Michael Madsen), who has some unexplained emotional trauma in her history.

On the way to the cabin, they stop at a dive bar and after having too much to drink, Thelma is raped by Harlan, a smooth-talking local, in the parking lot. Louise finds them and shoots him with Thelma's "just in case" gun after he insults them both. Knowing he's dead, they flee the scene. Though Thelma wants to go to the cops, Louise is convinced that they won't believe their story (since everyone saw her dancing with him in the bar). She decides to escape to Mexico, and Thelma tags along, unwilling to abandon her friend and certainly not looking forward to a warm welcome from her husband if she returns. As they drive further southwest, they find themselves forced to break the law several more times, and the cops are soon on their trail, led by Hal (Harvey Keitel), a detective who sympathizes with the women's plight.

This is a pretty good movie about ladies, with two great female leads (especially Sarandon) and a slight pro-lesbian, anti-men undercurrent, which is unexpected in a mainstream film. The story is interesting, but slow-moving, and I guess I expected something with more bang and excitement. The dramatic elements are very good though, and that slow build-up to the iconic climax works well; I was pretty emotional by the end. But the beginning could have been cut down by about 20-30 minutes.

The performances are excellent, of course, with lots of southern accents and moody conversations. Apparently Sarandon worked a lot with Scott to develop her character more, and it really shows: Louise is convincingly real and complex. Both of the main characters are well-developed without histrionics or involved backstories; we understand their motivations and personalities through more subtle and ambiguous hints or reactions. I'm glad Callie Khouri won the Oscar for her screenplay.

Besides its initially slow pacing, I was also a little thrown off by how Thelma was affected after being violently sexually harassed. I definitely can't attest to what that is like, and I know everyone reacts differently, but I just found it hard to imagine wanting to be touched in a sexual way just a few days afterward. But I guess it related to how easily she felt comfortable with the man in question, and how little pleasant sexual experience she'd had after only sleeping with her awful husband. It's a tough issue to deal with, and it wasn't really the main focus of the film, but it just seemed that the script handled it a little strangely. It didn't feel fully resolved.

Otherwise, Thelma & Louise is an engaging and dramatic road movie centering on the important strength and power arising out of a female friendship. It could have been better, but it's still really good.

4/5

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)

I saw the Harry Potter exhibition at Boston's Museum of Science this weekend, and afterward all my mom, grandma, and I wanted to do was hang out and watch the movies. We sat down for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, which I hadn't seen for years, and I found myself able to be both more critical as well as more impressed at how good-looking everyone grew up to be. The story follows the first book of JK Rowling's fantasy series, in which Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), an orphan living with his abusive aunt and uncle, discovers he's a wizard on his eleventh birthday. He attends Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and learns that he's "The Boy Who Lived" through (and mysteriously ended) the vicious dark wizard Voldemort's killing spree ten years ago.

At school he meets the affable Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), who suffers from an inferiority complex following the wake of his five older brothers, and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), a nosy but good-hearted know-it-all. Amidst taking classes and learning more about the magical world, together they must stop a half-alive, weakened Voldemort from claiming a stone that grants eternal life, hidden in Hogwarts' impressively complex chambers. Also, he becomes the star of the Quidditch team, and buddies up to Headmaster Dumbledore (Richard Harris). Etc.

If you haven't read the books, that's cool, but I guess this wouldn't mean much to you. If you're only getting the story from the movies, I'd recommend giving the books a try, since things are explained a lot better and the story is given more time to unfold. Chris Columbus has been panned for this movie and its sequel, but looking now at the really considerable feat he had to accomplish, I'd go easier on him. Sure, this movie isn't spectacular, and a lot of the book is left out, but that happens. The subsequent directors had something to work with- a jumping off point. Columbus created a believable world whose visuals correspond very well to the text, and hits most of the major plot points. I think in his effort to please fans he and screenwriter Steve Kloves included too much, but I guess that's more forgivable than leaving too much out. There's a constant influx of characters and references that are manageable if you've read the books, but don't make it a good movie.

The major downside that stuck out to me was actually the acting, which hadn't seemed such a big thing before. It's lucky that Rupert Grint is pretty talented, because he is the only one of the main three who is at all believable, and even he gets over the top sometimes. Emma Watson, who is great in the later movies, over-enunciates every line, making her sound like a 6-year-old, which is too bad because usually I find Hermione's no-nonsense, intelligent approach refreshing (Harry and Ron are just so dumb). Daniel Radcliffe is generally boring. A lot of the kids' lines and conversations feel forced, which takes away from the overall effect. Some of the plot's pacing is off, too.

Because I like the story so much and appreciate the level of detail, I find Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone pretty enjoyable. It's definitely not the best, and it's not as imaginative and bold as some of its successors (Azkaban, mainly), but it does a decent job setting up the characters and story for later. And it begins the tradition of casting awesome British actors in small roles, like John Hurt as Ollivander and John Cleese as Nearly Headless Nick... and, obviously, the perfectly slow-paced delivery of Alan Rickman as Severus Snape.

3.5/5

My original art for Harry Potter is for sale.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

I guess this movie is based on a true story. Huh. After his wife leaves him, small-town journalist Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) decides to go to Iraq to report from the front, with the hope he'll prove himself more manly and useful. He ends up crossing the border into the country with Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), a former member of a covert psychic branch of the US military. As they travel, he expounds upon various members and practices of the group for Bob's new story.

This "New Earth Army" was founded by Bill Django (Jeff Bridges), a soldier who became a hippie when investigating New Age-y cultures. He helps develop the men's psychic abilities so they can locate missing persons and fight effectively, hoping that their techniques will eventually bring long-lasting peace. After the devious but gifted Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey) joins their ranks, the group's dynamic is shifted and eventually, the project is terminated. Now Bob finds himself caught up in Lyn's dangerous mission, which is somehow connected to New Earth.

The Men Who Stare at Goats is a bit disjointed, comprised of two separate stories that aren't equally interesting, and aren't very well spliced together. I really like all of the flashback sequences, full of kooky characters and short comedic scenes. They're creative, well-written, and well-cast. Plus, George Clooney looks adorable with 70's shaggy hair. The present-day segments just aren't as engaging. We see Lyn and his story through Bob's perspective, and Bob just isn't that interesting of a guy. He isn't given much of a personality, and he doesn't really affect the story that much. Also, Ewan McGregor should have just stuck to a British accent, which he can actually do- Jon Ronson, the guy who wrote the book, is from the UK anyway.

Because of its great cast and off-kilter plot, this movie is pretty enjoyable overall. It's just a bit uneven in its storytelling, and doesn't take full advantage of its unique premise. I still had a fun time, though.

3.5/5

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)

Next up in our "fluffy romantic comedies" marathon was Bridget Jones's Diary, because we love England, Colin Firth, and Jane Austen. Bridget (Renée Zellweger) is a thirtysomething "singleton" who works for a London publishing house. At Christmas, her pushy mother (Gemma Jones) introduces her to standoffish lawyer Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), who rejects her rudely. By the start of the new year, Bridget is determined to quit smoking, quit drinking, lose some weight, and find a decent boyfriend, keeping a diary to monitor her commitment to these changes.

Going against her better judgment, she starts sleeping with her rakish, snide boss Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), but they keep running into Mark, who seems against their relationship after a previous break in friendship with Daniel. Eventually she realizes that Daniel isn't good for her, and amidst her parents' separation, Bridget leaves him and publishing and becomes a television reporter, recognizing the need to be more independent. Meanwhile, she begins to see Mark around more often and questions her initial judgment of him.

I guess I am generally a fan of classic British texts adapted into modern comedies. Helen Fielding has loosely translated some of Eliza's, Darcy's, and Wickham's qualities into Bridget, Mark, and Daniel, but fitted into a contemporary cultural mode. Eliza's wilder aspects (ie taking long walks unescorted- shocking), quick judgments, and lesser romantic desirability become Bridget's wackiness, tendency to speak without thinking, and slightly plumper frame (even though she looks pretty normal to me... unless I am a "fat" person too). Wickham's earnest lying and easy charm become Daniel's over-confidence and sarcastic wit. Darcy's pretty much the same. I think it's a really interesting adaptation, as Fielding injected a lot of her own modern ideas while still keeping the gist of the original.

Despite frequently bemoaning her "singleton" status, Bridget is a pretty likable, relatable character. Zellweger competently makes her comedic, but realistic and sympathetic. Usually I'm not a huge fan of her, but I think she is definitely at her best here. It's an unglamorous role but she commits herself to it completely. Grant and Firth are equally enjoyable, with the former oozing asshole suavity and the latter playing it slightly awkward but inescapably adorable. Jim Broadbent and Gemma Jones are sweet as Bridget's parents, and I'm glad their story is elaborated upon more than it is in Pride and Prejudice, in which they're more caricatures. I loved Bridget's friends (it's always so nice to see Shirley Henderson) as well, who aren't there too much but seem to light up the room when they are.

The script is quite funny if often ludicrous, the cast is swell, and the main character champions the cause of the "average" middle-class working woman. It's a little overly-silly and frivolous, but the running commentary from Bridget throughout keeps it all entertaining and grounded. Main drawbacks: the soundtrack sucks (extremely cliche and boring), and we never see Colin Firth with his shirt off. Oh well. Still a pretty good time, though!

4/5

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Rape of Europa (2006)

When Hitler came to power, he sought to reclaim truly "Germanic" art, as well as masterpieces of previous centuries, for an elaborate museum in his hometown of Linzt. He called upon experts to compile lists of desirable art works held in European museums, and dedicated his military forces to looting these pieces when they invaded major cities. After claiming for themselves many works owned by prominent Jewish families (declared "ownerless" after they were sent to ghettos or camps), the Nazis also stole from various Austrian, Polish, Russian, and Italian museums while some institutions- most notably, the Louvre- did their best to empty out their treasures for storage in discreet countryside locations.

When the Americans entered the war, they faced the task of protecting fragile monuments that became part of the battlefield in Italy, so they hired consultants to go to the front and examine the damages to important structures and in some cases, work on restoring them. These so-called "Monuments Men" also recovered hundreds of stolen artworks, found in caves and abandoned buildings around Italy and Germany, in storage until the Nazis won the war and began establishing their empire as a grandiose culture center. Unfortunately, many artworks are still missing, either still in hiding or in the possession of private collectors, some of whom probably don't know that the pieces are stolen. Today, art historians are working to reclaim these works, but many may never be found.

Probably this has been made apparent, but I am pretty passionate about art and art history. Along with movies, they're like my favorite thing. I'm also very interested in German history and the WWII time period. Basically, The Rape of Europa is a captivating combination of things I like learning about. There's a wide range of interviews, from a Jewish woman trying to reclaim Klimt's painting of her aunt that was taken by Nazis, to a woman whose curator parents guarded the Mona Lisa at a private estate during the war, to a Monuments Man who discovered Hitler's secrete cache of masterpieces in a deep underground tunnel.

A lot of different stories are told about various heroes who fought to protect art in the face of danger. There were employees of the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad, who shoveled out incoming snow and picked away accumulating ice after the windows had been broken in, even as they were starving to death. One woman (whose name I forget, damn it), who worked at a German museum that Nazis used to store stolen art, secretly cataloged all of the works coming in and where they were sent, so that they could be reclaimed later on.

I find this kind of stuff fascinating, and heartbreaking. Seeing the galleries of the Louvre lined with empty frames, or the marring of a Da Vinci painting with a soldier's boot print, or the haphazard storage of Raphaels and Manets in a dirty cave: all of this was enough to make me cry, because I am that affected by it. I never knew the extent of Nazi looting, or the great number of works still missing. Usually when art and Hitler are mentioned, it's either focusing on the Degenerate Art Exhibition, or his initial desire to be a professional artist himself.

The main failing of The Rape of Europa is that it's so packed with information, it feels a little all over the place. There's so much to tell about this subject- whom it affected, problems it spawned, how it was dealt with at the time, and the vastness of its scope. While I found everything incredibly interesting, I couldn't help but wish that certain things had been elaborated or just made more of a focus. It's based on the book of the same name by Lynn Nicholas, which I am dying to read so I can get more details on the many issues addressed in the film version. Otherwise, it's an intriguing documentary for anyone interested in art, Germany, history, WWII, or a good story.

4.5/5

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

My housemate and I have recently admitted our deep-seated guilty love of all things romantic comedy. I am well aware of their many stereotypical and often sexist problems, but I can't help it: sometimes I just really like to stop thinking for two hours while I watch a light-hearted romance with good-looking people. So, we've composed a list of guilty pleasure rom-coms to work our way through this semester, and 10 Things I Hate About You is the first we tackled. Adapted from Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, the story is moved to a Seattle high school, to which the naive but good-hearted Cameron (Joseph-Gordon Levitt) has just transferred. He's instantly smitten by beautiful sophomore Bianca (Larisa Oleynik), but is crushed when his new friend Michael (David Krumholz) reveals that she's not allowed to date until after graduation.

When Bianca starts receiving the attentions of senior hotshot Joey (Andrew Keegan), her paranoid father (Larry Miller) makes a new rule: she can date, when her socially avoidant, brashly progressive older sister Kat (Julia Stiles) does. Bianca, Cameron, and Michael hatch a scheme to pay Patrick (Heath Ledger), the most badass guy in school, to date Kat, letting Joey be the backer as he assumes he'll be the one to end up with Bianca. Kat is initially antagonistic towards Patrick's advances, but eventually the two soften up around one another and it seems they're actually a perfect match. Of course, there's always a fear she'll find out about the arrangement. Meanwhile, Bianca must choose between Joey and Cameron.

I've never read the play (I've just seen its musical counterpart Kiss Me, Kate), but from what I gather from the basic premise of "man subjugates rebellious lady through psychological torment until she becomes a good wife", it sounds pretty awful. However, I think 10 Things I Hate About You did a fairly nice job bringing the characters and basic concepts of the play into a more egalitarian, modern setting. Kat isn't some unlikable, unpredictable or violent "shrew". I think she is pretty awesome. She listens to underground lady music (Bikini Kill and The Raincoats, hello?) and speaks up for her beliefs and likes feminism, and despite her tough, know-it-all outer shell she is shown to be a complex, emotionally fragile young woman. In turn, Patrick is charming and generally respectful, even if he comes on too strong sometimes. And even if he thinks he can buy his way to forgiveness.

The Bianca-Cameron storyline is weaker, mainly because Bianca is not given much character development. She's not very intelligent, and she's not very interesting. I want to like Cameron because he's adorable, but then I keep questioning just what he sees in Bianca. There's an excellent supporting cast though, from Allison Janney's erotic-fiction-author guidance counselor to Larry Miller's high-strung single father, to the "sarcastic best friend" figures portrayed by Susan May Pratt and David Krumholz.

The music is excellent, the fashions are egregiously 90's (belly shirts! platform sandals! GLORY BE!), and the script is generally pretty darned sharp. There are a lot of teen-comedy cliches, but they're handled well; the funny dialogue and respect for the characters elevates the film from its more stereotypical cousins, and I liked the frequent Shakespeare references. It's sad that the writing team of Kirsten Smith and Karen McCullah Lutz have gone on to make The House Bunny and The Ugly Truth in more recent years. Also, I dig the appearances from Letters to Cleo and Save Ferris (one of my favorite bands in high school). All in all, an enjoyable movie!

4/5

"Cruel to be Kind"- Letters to Cleo
"I Know"- Save Ferris

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)

Despite the disappointment of the first Mad Max, I was ready to give the second one a chance. These movies have to be famous for a reason, right? Set in a dystopian Australia that's fleshed out better than the first film (there's a severe oil shortage which leads to a destructive world war), Mad Max 2 begins some time later. After his family is killed by a vicious gang and he blows them up with his car or whatever, Max (Mel Gibson) has become the "Road Warrior", which basically means he drives around looking for fuel and beating up bad guys. From an eccentric and initially antagonistic Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence), he hears of a well-fortified community working on an oil well, and the two venture there in the hopes of procuring a small store of gasoline. When a brutal gang threatens to destroy the desperate community, Max steps in to help them transport their oil to safety. There's lots of driving and fighting and yelling in the process.

This movie is pretty good, especially in comparison to the kind-of-boring, poorly-structured first installment. Max is a manly, leather-bound figure whose terseness enhances his mythological aspects. I liked the addition of the Gyro Captain character and the dog, though the other supporting people are kind of annoying. They all just yell at each other a lot. The villain is creepy but rarely present, and the second-in-command villain is wearing assless chaps the whole time, which disturbs his credibility but adds some laughs.

Mad Max 2 is a bit campy, it's fun, the set-up is fairly simple but not stupid, and I dig the large amount of explosions and driving. The costumes are cool and imaginative, and the desolate landscape is appropriately apocalyptic. It's just pure entertainment, really.

4/5

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunset Blvd. (1950)

Excuse my cussing, but Holy Shit, Sunset Blvd is phenomenal. I can't believe it took me this long to see it, because if I had watched it years ago I could have seen it 20 times by now. Failing screenwriter Joe Gillis (Warren Holden) narrates the tale of the months leading up to his murder, during which he moves into the home of reclusive silent film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). After twenty years of retirement out of a repulsion towards talkies, she's planning a great return to film with a self-penned screenplay for Salome. It's long and amateur and very self-serving, but she's convinced she can re-unite with director Cecil B DeMille and incite the numerous fans still writing her letters.

She dominantly brings the money-strapped Joe into her grandiose estate (where only one other person lives- Max [Erich von Stroheim], her butler) to proofread her script, and he becomes a part of her extremely indulgent world. In her personal theater, they only watch her movies. Her walls are lined with photos of herself in her youth. She considers herself a true "star", and can't imagine being treated as anything else. Eventually her attachment to Joe becomes romantically clingy, and he is trapped out of fear she'll react drastically to his departure and hurt herself. When he develops feelings for aspiring writer Betty (Nancy Olson), it becomes harder and harder to maintain his life constructed around Norma.

This film is absolutely captivating- I was utterly enthralled for every minute of the story, especially whatever scenes featured Norma Desmond (which is most). Swanson is phenomenal, handling the role of the psychologically unsturdy but unflaggingly proud actress with respect, pathos, and just the right amount of histrionics. Holden keeps his own against her scene-stealing performance, maintaining an engaging narration and appealing self-awareness. I really enjoyed Erich von Stroheim as the mysterious and deadly devoted Max and Jack Webb as Joe's extremely likable friend, Artie.

The visuals are stunning, with excellent lighting and a lot of attention to how Norma is framed in her shots. The illustrious setting and impeccable costumes increase the aesthetic beauty. The plot is intriguing, with a lot of nods to real Hollywood figures and events, including several cool cameos. Though initially structured as a murder mystery, it's really an uncompromising character study. And even though Joe tells the story, this is really all about Norma, a fascinating woman who commands our attention, respect, and sympathy despite her flaws.

Sunset Blvd. is basically perfect, and (I assume) one of the best movies ever made. It's the kind of film I will definitely obsess over, letting it sink in slowly for several weeks. My goodness, what a good movie.

5/5

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Assassination of a High School President (2008)

A neo-noir about privileged high schoolers? Assassination of a High School President's set-up is appealing, but also impossible to watch and not compare to the near-perfect Brick. Aspiring young journalist and general dork Bobby Funke (Reece Thompson) is asked by the editor of the school paper (Melonie Diaz) to do an article on the class president, Paul Moore (Patrick Taylor), a popular basketball player and all-around achiever. When the completed SAT's are stolen from the main office, Funke is approached by his girlfriend, the "hottest girl in school who's also a good student"-type Francesca (Mischa Barton), to find them.

He begins to suspect Paul, as opposed to the usual gang of young criminal minds. Through sly investigating, he gets enough evidence to convince the principal (Bruce Willis) to search the president's locker, out of which, to everyone's surprise (including Paul's), the tests come pouring. Funke is on top of the school and on his way to a special summer program at Northwestern for such probing journalism. However, he soon begins to unearth a deep conspiracy within his seemingly average Catholic high school, and Paul Moore's crime is suddenly not as simple as it seems.

Generally, this film is pretty enjoyable. the script is good- I like the sardonic narration by Reece, and the story is interesting enough. It almost works as a noir parody, harping on the stereotypical elements like the untrustworthy femme fatale and constantly inner-monologuing male protagonist, while throwing in some good jokes. Willis is quite funny as the patriotic principal whose over-intensity simultaneously put me on edge and made me laugh. The story is decent- certain aspects are predictable but I didn't know how all of the various parts of the mystery would fit together. Because it's more of a comedy, the plot isn't as important anyway.

I get what this movie is trying to do, what with the film-noir elements and high school drama and Mischa Barton's boobs. It can be funny when kids talk or act like adults from the 1950's, it's interesting to move a typical mystery to a school setting, and everybody likes seeing hot actresses in Catholic school girl uniforms. I just couldn't get into it as much as Brick, which did it so much better (minus the boobs and uniforms), partially because it took itself seriously. And I couldn't help but compare the two. Also, it's a little character-heavy. Still, it's a cute movie with some cool cast members (I'd love to see Reece Thompson and Melonie Diaz in more movies) and a nice soundtrack.

3.5/5

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Hocus Pocus (1993)

Come Halloween time, my housemates and I were for some reason really in the mood for Hocus Pocus, which held fond memories for us of younger, carefree days. In the much-mythologized, colonial Salem, Massachusetts, the Sanderson sisters (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy) are sentenced to death for witchery after killing a little girl and presumably her older brother, Binx (Sean Murray). Flash forward to the mid-90's, and the town is Halloween-crazed and full of weird slang, bad haircuts, and flannel shirts. Teenager Max (Omri Katz- you know, from Eerie, Indiana) and his family have just moved there from California and he's having trouble adjusting to his new home, trying to play it cool despite his dorky little sister Dani (Thora Birch) always hanging around.

Joined by Dani and his crush Allison (Vinessa Shaw), Max playfully lights a special candle that brings back the Sanderson sisters, who have one night to woo children to their deaths so they can suck their lifeblood and gain eternal youth. The teens do their best to stop the slightly incompetent witches, who are thrown off by all this new-fangled technology. They find out Binx was actually turned into a talking cat, and is now able to help them defeat the Sandersons once and for all, thus gaining revenge for the death of his little sister.

This movie is a pretty good family-friendly comedy-horror, with a solid premise and nice cast. Midler, Parker, and Najimy are very silly and obviously having some fun with it, though the overacting becomes a bit grating after a while- I feel like they didn't know how else to handle a children's movie. There are some good jokes, some slightly creepy moments (to a kid, anyway), and decent effects. Also, I was excited to see an appearance by Doug Jones (you know, Abe Sapien, the Silver Surfer, the faun and eye monster in Pan's Labyrinth, etc) as a re-animated corpse.

For all its delightful 90's teen slang, frequent use of the word "virgin" (I don't think I knew what that meant when I first saw this movie), and over the top drama, Hocus Pocus seemed lacking, somehow. It's just not as fun or exciting as I remember. It's mostly the three teenage characters being incredibly stupid, and Binx walking around as the voice of reason no one listens to. It's funny to see people be so dumb, but also quite aggravating. Oh well. I guess this still serves its purpose as a cool Halloween film for kids, but it doesn't hold the same charm for someone in her 20's, even if I did once enjoy it, lo those many years ago. (That's a joke, you guys- I'm not all that old.)

3/5

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pontypool (2008)

Just in time for Halloween, I got to see the creatively terrifying Pontypool. Set in a basement radio station during a heavy snowstorm, the story examines how formerly-big-time talk radio personality Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie), his no-nonsense producer Sydney (Lisa Houle), and their young assistant/intern Laurel Ann (Georgina Reilly) cope during a slowly escalating, viral epidemic resembling a zombie outbreak. The day starts off slowly and (presumably) fairly normally, with Grant and Sydney at odds about how to present the news, and Ken Loney, stationed above the clouds in the "Sunshine Copter", calling in weather updates.

When Ken sees an unprompted riot erupting at a nearby doctor's office, Sydney and Laurel Ann scramble to find more information about the incident, which caused several casualties. Scattered reports from witnesses, many unintelligible, give images of an increasingly intense mob scene with cannibalistic tendencies. The three coworkers do their best to stick together and sort through the confusion, but each new development seems to seal their inescapable destruction.

God, this movie is great. It's horrifying not in its overt depictions of gore or proliferation of jump scares, but in the incredibly well-played tension that develops slowly around the characters through a brilliant combination of music, acting, and a tight script. While some of the outside horrors do make their way into the little self-imposed quarantine of the radio station, in general it's left to the three central figures to create the terror through their reactions. The scant descriptions of what's going on outside the building are enough to launch a series of scary scenes in anyone's head, and the characters' isolation and fear are real enough to seep out of the screen into the audience. I certainly assumed monsters were going to attack me that night. The cause of the disease, while not fully expanded upon, is imaginative and thought-provoking, and also stayed with me after the film was over.

I really, really enjoyed Pontypool: the whole film is so well-made and intelligently structured, with a unique take on the zombie outbreak story and some great performances. I went in not knowing too much about it, and I'd advise the same for anyone else. I tried not to give a lot away here, so if you plan on seeing it, don't look up any more information beforehand!

4.5/5

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Coco Avant Chanel (Coco Before Chanel) (2009)

My mother visited last weekend, and, citing that she hadn't seen a movie in theaters since Harry Potter, I thought a French film about fashion and romance might be a good mother-daughter outing. Coco Before Chanel traces the early life of the famous designer, played with fervor by Audrey Tatou. As children in the early 1900's, she and her sister Adrienne (Marie Gillain) were abandoned at an orphanage by their widowed father, and as adults the women had to make their own way working as seamstresses and club singers. When Adrienne is whisked away by a gentlemanly baron to be married, the determined Coco injects herself into the life and mansion of millionaire Balsan (Benoît Poelvoorde), who in his own entitled, manly way finds her unfeminine dress and independent habits unique and charming.

She doesn't like his demeaning ways or tendency to make her "perform" for his society friends, but she has no other place to stay. She develops an interest in hat-making after one of Balsan's friends, a stage actress named Emilienne (Emmanuelle Devos), requests one of her designs. She also begins tailoring men's clothes and altering women's clothes to fit her own loose, simple aesthetic and allow for free movement. She falls for Balsan's British friend "Boy" Capel (Alessandro Nivola), who encourages her to focus more on her designs, and she hopes that through them, she can gain independence.

Coco Chanel was a very interesting, controversial, and admirably self-sufficient woman, whose designs radically changed how women's fashion came to be viewed. While I knew this film would capture the years before she started her brand-name empire, I was hoping it would still have an attention on her design aesthetic and inspirations, perhaps including details about how she started her first shops and gained such an impressive clientele. Unfortunately, the script instead devotes most of the time to two dead-end, frustrating relationships. Boring. I really hated both of the male characters, and I could not understand why she would see either of them, especially Balsan, who remained condescending and disrespectful towards her throughout their relationship.

There is, of course, some focus on the fashion aspect: her unique ideas about un-binding, un-complicated clothing, which connect interestingly to her view of a freer, more open role for women in society. However, I never really felt any of her passion for it. A friend suggested she make hats, so she did, and they were popular, so she made more. There were some nods to her influences and innovations, such as the vertical stripes of sailors she passes on the beach or the use of jersey material, but most of it was done as a small detail within a scene, not the center of a conversation. The opening of her hat shop and beginning of her clothing designs are tacked on at the end, with little screen time devoted to how she lived or worked (we only know she was doing very well for herself). The passage of time was also very hard to gauge, with my mom and I trying to figure out based on the extras' fashions or if the war was mentioned. I found myself with a lot of questions about the logistics of Coco's life, but the story just kept showing me more of the relationship drama.

There are some really nice moments in Coco Before Chanel. I loved the lush cinematography of the French countryside, and Tatou's performance is strong and engaging. The conversations devoted to Coco's progressive view of gender roles and fashion are really interesting, but too often bogged down by her seemingly contradictory romances. I understand that the filmmakers were trying to create a portrait of a woman whose humble beginnings were shrouded by her illustrious later career, but I don't think they did the best job of really showing us how she got from point A to point B. There is, of course, some very pretty clothing though.

3/5

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Banlieue 13 (District B13) (2004)

After seeing Taken, I checked out Pierre Morel's other film District B13, which was highly recommended by my associate. Set in a not-so-distant future in which certain areas of Paris have been sealed off by the government so that their slums and gang violence won't affect the rest of the population, the story is a high-intensity revenge tale with some great characters. David Belle, the guy who helped invent parkour and looks like a French Dustin Hoffman, plays Leïto, a pacifistic, anti-drug gang leader who's stolen and disposed of a whole lot of heroin belonging to rival leader Taha (Bibi Naceri). Taha's followers take down Leito's men, but he escapes due to his awesome parkour skills."

They kidnap his sister Lola (Dany Verissimo) to lure him to their headquarters, but Leito just ends up in prison after the cops decide to pull out of the district all together. When Taha intercepts the transportation of a powerful bomb set to go off in 24 hours, Leito is busted out of jail by Damien (Cyril Raffaelli), a cop assigned to infiltrate District 13 and stop the explosion. Though initially at odds, the two men help each other save Lola from Taha, save the region from destruction, and kick a large number of asses in the process.

You guys, this movie is so awesome. For real. It's one of the best action movies I've seen. The multiple chase scenes are incredibly fluid and thrilling, and the fights are interesting and very well-choreographed. The story takes about 10 minutes to get going, and then it never lets up. The characters are smooth and fun to watch, and the script fits some pretty funny dialogue within the fast-paced plot. The vaguely futuristic setting is really cool, and used to its full potential thanks to Belle's inventive urban maneuvering. Also: Belle is shirtless for like 95% of this movie. I am ok with that.

I was a little disappointed in the Lola character. She starts off as really badass and intriguing but then she barely has anything to do after her introduction. I know she's not a main role, but it seemed weird to make her so rad without giving her more action than "lady is kidnapped and force-fed heroin". Come on, Luc Besson, write a good female action role again!

Anyway, seriously, District B13 is amazing: action-packed and thrilling, with a good story and characters and innovative action scenes. See it if you like to have fun, ever.

4.5/5

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Art Break: The Daily Robot Poster Sale

Hey guys, I am pausing the movie conversations for a moment to advocate my boyfriend's website The Daily Robot. He is a fantastic artist and his specialty is drawing robots in a range of media. Last week he designed several posters, four of which are now for sale for the low low price of $10! If you're interested, here is his etsy store (supplies are mad low so hurry up). More images after the jump! Enjoy!





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Adventureland (2009)

I'm wrapping up the recent "movies I missed while abroad in Germany" posts with Adventureland. After graduating college, James (Jesse Eisenberg) learns that his parents won't be able to afford to send him to Columbia, where they're holding a spot for him as a journalism grad student. He gets a job at the local amusement park in an effort to save enough for tuition. While working there, he finds new friends in the likes of fellow Games employees Joel (Martin Starr) and Em (Kristen Stewart). His bosses (Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig) are pretty spacey, leaving most of the college-age kids to their own devices. James quickly falls for Em, who responds to his kind, unsure manner but holds herself back due to a secret affair. Their relationship develops tentatively amidst the backdrop of work-related drama, romantic liaisons, wise cracks, pot smoking, and cool 80's tunes.

Though advertised as "a hilarious comedy from the director of Superbad or whatever", really Adventureland is a bittersweet comedy/drama (dare I say... dramedy?) about an in-between time in the characters' lives. They aren't in school, but they aren't independent adults yet, either, and it's surely a scary situation. I can only imagine how I'll be coping with it 7 months, and indeed I think my nearness to post-college life made me more interested in the story, which is handled nicely with multiple interwoven arcs and kooky side characters. The conversations are realistic and relatable. I think Mottola balances the ups and downs of the story really well, eliciting a good amount of laughs while grounding everybody with familiar problems. My friend Nicole's comparison to Freaks and Geeks is definitely apt.

I guess I don't like Kristen Stewart that much. She is tolerable here, but I had trouble catching onto this wonderful quality she is meant to have, thereby warranting various characters' obsession with her. Her role is also weirdly written and not as well-rounded as it should have been. She is sort of all over the place. I dig the rest of the cast though, even though Martin Starr isn't in it enough. I think in general Adventureland is pretty good, but could be better. It's a nice depiction of struggling 20-somethings in a close-knit community and the happenings of an amusement park job, however I got the feeling the film wanted to say more than it actually did, and sort of lost its edge as it went on.

3.5/5

"Looking for a Kiss"- The New York Dolls
"Pale Blue Eyes"- The Velvet Underground

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Boston Horror Marathon: Dusk to Dawn, Pt II

As previously posted, the 'Thon started off strong with its first 3 films primarily focusing on the darker side of vampirism. It got a bit more upbeat with its next offering, The Lost Boys, but took a turn for the worse with its last two showcasing the sexier (but somehow more boring) side. It was getting into the wee hours of the morning though, so my lucidity might have been slightly off. Also, there weren't any more between-film activities or contests, and host J Cannibal retired for the evening, so it was less of an event and more a small collection of strangers watching movies on a big screen at 3 am.

The Lost Boys (1987) I hadn't seen this movie for years, but I was pretty into it in high school. Now I remember why: it's kind of awesome. A recently divorced mother and her teenage sons move into a new beach-side town, only to discover a gang of asshole punk-rock vampires frequently terrorize the place. Led by bad boy David (Kiefer Sutherland), they've got big hair and leather jackets and motorcycles, and a lot of attitude. They turn Michael (Jason Patric), the older brother, into a half-vampire and it's up to his little brother Corey Haim to find and kill the leader before it's too late! It's a lot of fun, with some cheesy one-liners and a decent story. There's a good soundtrack and a lot of endearing trappings of the decade. For example: Corey Feldman. 4/5

The Vampire Lovers (1970) This is one of those pseudo-sapphic erotic vampire movies from the 1970's, which I guess fall within the genre of exploitation films. It supposedly takes place in 1600's Germany, but the 70's hair styles, British accents, and advent of the zipper belie the setting. A vampire lady goes around the country, charming her way into rich people's homes and befriending their young daughters. She makes love to them (I think?) and sucks their blood, then they get sick and die and she moves on. A bunch of manly men catch on to her act and work together to stop her. Hurray. It's funny at parts because if its ridiculous anachronisms, overacting, and gratuitous breasts, but in general it's just pretty boring. The sex stuff is super tame and it's not scary at all. Oh well. 2/5

The Hunger (1983) When a movie starts off with the promise of goth vampires, dance-rock, lots of making out, and a Susan Sarandon/David Bowie team-up, I can't help but be excited. Unfortunately, it does not at all live up to its awesome opening. Catherine Deneuve is a centuries-old vampire who chooses specific companions for herself to be vampires too. After a while though their true ages catch up to them and they become gross living skellingtons. When David Bowie starts rapidly aging, she seduces Susan Sarandon, a doctor studying aging diseases who had wanted to help him. The film is not as stylish or dark as it thinks it is, and suffers from an over-dramatic script and severe lack of David Bowie. It's got a cool ending, though, and I like the cast. 3/5

Well, that wraps up the Boston Horror Marathon. It was a fun time, with an impressively varied film selection even if I didn't like them all. I was surprised there wasn't a bigger turnout, but maybe I'll just see what happens next year! Now I'm all geared up for the next 24-hour Sci-Fi event in February.

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