January 2013 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)

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Very little nightvision hereAndrew DISLIKE BannerEvery October, the Paranormal Activity series lurches back into theaters with all the creativity of a record scratch repeating the same tired beats as the last year.  The first one was an event film driven more by a marketing campaign that showed a bunch of easily scared people jumping out of their seats.  Now the series has grown increasingly bloated under its own success and has an unnecessary mythology.  If the tagline is to be believed what we've seen over the last three years has led to this moment - another retread of the exact same scares with the only differing aspect being the run-time.

Please tell me if you are reading this review and felt any kind of dread watching the film.  Not of the existential "Why am I wasting my time watching this?" variety but more the kind of fear the film intends to manufacture.  In Paranormal Activity 3 the scares were downgraded to dust bending over a figure and a light-bulb exploding.  For this fourth lap around things fall and that's about it.  Aside from the now standard demon rampage to close out the film, gravity is the ultimate evil.


Seven Psychopaths (2012)

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That's about enough out of youAndrew INDIFFERENCE BannerThe danger in confusing clever with patronizing is that the distinction is very small and once the former crosses into the latter the damage to any film is potentially fatal.  Martin McDonagh’s last film, the brilliant In Bruges, straddled this line perfectly.  It’s characters and dialogue seemed a bit too at home with the post-Tarantino world of pop-culture gangsters of the ‘90s but was anchored by a true sense of melancholy and awe of Bruges.  Moments that would have seemed over-the-top were instead infused with a deep empathy no matter how ridiculous they were.

Seven Psychopaths crosses the line far too often in its attempts at being clever.  Many artists have suffered to deliver a sophomore effort to an initial success and McDonagh toys with that directly.  Colin Farrell is a clear stand in for McDongah right down to his moniker Monty.  He’s having trouble writing his latest screenplay, also titled Seven Psychopaths for your meta convenience, and can’t seem to get over his writer’s block no matter how much booze he intakes and how many crazy stories he pilfers.

Marty somehow finds himself embroiled in a too-stuffed plot involving gangsters, a dognapping ring, various double-crosses, and the way fantasy and reality blend together in the creative process.  I’m not familiar with McDonagh’s work in the theater, but this meta-awareness game is not his forte.  In Bruges worked by telling a great story, Seven Psychopaths is weaker by focusing primarily on the performances and leaving the rest of the sporadically connected pieces to falter or flourish on their own.


Wilder: One, Two, Three (1961)

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MacNamara (James Cagney) is a managing director for Coca Cola in West Berlin in 1961, just before the Wall is put up. When Scarlett (Pamela Tiffin), the daughter of his boss, comes to West Berlin, MacNamara has to look after her, but this turns out to be a difficult task. After MacNamara has found out that Scarlett is seeing an East German communist named Otto (Horst Buchholz), he goes to extreme lengths trying to conceal this from the girl's father in order to save his job

One Two Three 1961 Ryan COMMENTARY w/ Rating
One, Two, Three is the best Mel Brooks movie that Mel Brooks didn't make. This is not an insult to this film or Billy Wilder because there are few people that I love more than Mel Brooks firing on all cylinders. One, Two, Three is a movie that doesn't stop from the beginning to the end thanks to the manic performance of James Cagney. This movie's pace makes Some Like It Hot look like a leisurely stroll.

Is the movie as funny as Some Like It Hot or some other Wilder comedies? Not really but the movie has given you 4 more jokes before you realize the first one wasn't funny so it isn't as noticeable. This is a film that fights a war of attrition with the audience because only 1 out of every 5 jokes are funny but there has to be over 100 lines/gags/jokes in the film that Wilder and Diamond threw at the audience to see what would stick. I enjoyed the film but I wouldn't put it near the top of Wilder's library but it definitely keeps your interest.

The first thing I want to ask you Danny is, do you think this movie and the themes of the Cold War was ahead of its time? There are stories that mention how popular this film was after the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany, did Wilder make it 30 years too early?


Out There (2012)

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Now here's this selfish fella.Andrew LIKE Banner Why is it that most of the events always happen to good or innocent people?  Sure, there's a hint of audience identification involved because if we hate the protagonists we're not going to care too much if they live or die.  In the moments where that has happened I've heard more laughter than chills course through the audience.  There are exceptions, but evil in horror is mostly something that happens to people instead of it brought about by their own actions.  One of the interesting things about Out There, a short film from Randal Plunkett, is that there are many signs throughout the film that Robert (Conor Marren) may be a right bastard to everyone outside of his own perception.  This doesn't lessen the chill of the situation he happens into, but leaves more intriguing questions about what we expect from the fates of protagonists in horror films.

Since Michael Bay and the Paranormal series have gotten their hooks into the genre it seems most of what I watch is either of the shaky-cam and endless screaming variety, or contains camerawork so still and scares so cheesy that they elicit yawns versus a gitter or two.  Out There is a lean and very effective 15 minutes of horror more interested in being equal parts beautiful and scary.  It's a horror short confident enough in its scares to run entirely in the daytime instead of relying on jumps from the night.

Robert must be one of those people who feels the world is out to get him, because when we first see him he wakes up dazed and bleeding in an environment molded as an antagonist.  The trees are sharpened and pointed toward his body, the buildings he finds are decayed but still aligned like razors, and when he finally finds a standing structure its clear the decorator does not want him to stay.  All the while an atonal hum plays in the background and even when Robert flashes back to what seem to be happier times with his girlfriend Jane (Emma Eliza Regan) the constant buzz plays subtle havoc with the romantic tunes.


Akira Kurosawa: Rhapsody in August (1991)

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1Kyle Commentary BannerUpfront disclaimer: As it progresses, Rhapsody in August proves to be a bit more capable than it at first seems. That's not especially strong praise. Here is a movie that starts off so bad, so shockingly hackneyed and uneven, that I never in a hundred million years would have guessed in the first third or so that it was directed by Akira Kurosawa. The story involves four children staying with their elderly grandmother for the summer, who discovers by letter that one of her older brothers—we learn she had 7 siblings—who moved to Hawaii and applied for dual-citizenship early in his life is dying, and would like to see her one last time. She isn't sure that he is who he says he is, which introduces a small plot diversion while she tries to verify his identity—this is interesting, considering that the letter was sent by one of her own children, who went to Hawaii for, as I gathered, the express purpose of seeing said relative.

No matter—the point of the film's early scenes seem rather to be establishing the four children as insufferably fake inventions of a writer who's only ever encountered kids via educational programing on PBS, all of whom serve to illustrate in broad strokes the gap between and essential connection of older generations to contemporary ones, particularly in relation to how they perceive and are affected by the dropping of the atomic bomb. This is an inherently interesting topic, and Kurosawa does damn near everything he can at first to alienate us from it.

We're off to the races with an early scene where the children openly ridicule their loving grandmother's cooking and then congratulate themselves deliriously afterwards (because somehow this will enable them to go to Hawaii for the summer, or something), which is followed by a sudden visit to Nagasaki—they having learned that their grandfather died in the dropping of the atomic bomb— in a scene so overwrought and forced it feels like a brief documentary made exclusively for use in middle school social studies classes. This is film-making on a Lifetime Movie level—I'd say it at times elevates itself to that of after-school special, but the mournful opera droning on in the background as they tour historical landmarks in the city pushes it toward the former. The children return home and have a conversation that a university professor seems to have written for them about contemporary generations' inability to fully understand the effects of the atomic bombings during WWII, and then grandma scares everybody to bed with a story of a double suicide in the mountains.