INSANE (2010) – Amazon Prime Streaming VOD Movie Review

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INSANE- A 2010 film by directors Anders Jacobsson & Tomas Sandquist, INSANE makes the most of its single location setting, wringing for the most part passioned performances from its nubile young actresses and quirky actors and marrying that to some effective and creepy camera work and one of the more demented boogie men since Hitchcock’s Norman Bates.

However I have no interest in seeing women butchered, I’m not a slasher fan, I’m a mystery/thriller fan… so around the 2nd butchered girl, I’m losing interest in this film. I want to fast forward to the comeuppance of the villain. But thankfully the pattern breaks slightly with the third girl which keeps me watching to the end.

Unfortunately it is a distasteful ending, to a distasteful movie. The movie is better directed and performed than most slashers, unfortunately it succumbs to the slasher rule of super-powered killer, and moronic brain dead victims. This movie goes so far as to try to make the bad guy ‘relate-able’ by given him the worn back-story, ‘I was traumatized as a child’. As if that is ever an excuse for being a detestable adult yourself.

I despise these movies where the slasher is made the hero, some franchise character; which is why I was never a fan of the Halloween or Friday the 13th Films, The first Halloween is great, but they should have stopped there.

Another failing of INSANE is its over reliance on gore. I think the filmmaker is very effective at creating a creepy atmosphere, and effective stalk and chase scenes, but I feel this all goes out the window when he needs to play to the bloodhounds by giving us ever more egregious examples of the destroyed human form.

As someone who thinks the human form is beautiful and a work of art and a fragile achievement, I don’t relate to seeing people destroyed or dead rather than alive. That’s not the draw of a roller coaster, mangled bodies and twisted piles of steel after a crash; the draw of a roller-coaster is the chase, and the momentum, and the perilous high of the unknown and slightly out of control. And that’s the same draw of a good thriller/horror movie.

People remember the shower scene in PSYCHO because it’s a beautifully photographed, masterfully directed moment of madness, redeemed from mundaneness by surreal, stylistic direction. We watch films to see the work of filmmakers, and throwing blood and guts at the screen does not a filmmaker make.

There is nothing in INSANE, while definitely inspired by PSYCHO, that will be remembered as vividly or hauntingly as PSYCHO.

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However INSANE has moments of style and perspective that try to elevate it from the usual brain-dead slasher flick but these moments get aborted with the distasteful gore scenes. And the ending is more of this copycat ode to murderers as supermen killers that get away with it.

That concept, ‘villains winning’, never appealed to me. Never will. I know life is filled with examples of villains winning, however art should be better than that. I was raised to believe in Justice, and at the very least Crime and Punishment.

I was raised to believe in Heroes, people who are there to rescue maidens from dragons, which why for me Michael Mann’s MANHUNTER is a far superior movie to Demme’s SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, and why I have nothing but distaste for the HANNIBAL tv show.

I think the things we glorify as a society are the things we become. I’ve always believed in glorifying heroes, however in our DEXTER, SHIELD, HANNIBAL, BATES MOTEL, VIKINGS generation we get the opposite of that. And don’t get me started on VIKINGS(they went around murdering, torturing, raping, and stealing, largely from unarmed villages and settlements, yet now we have a show that darts completely around this to portray Vikings as sensitive, women’s lib supporting, misunderstood mariners. Mendacity. The effing Vikings made the Nazis look benign, yet we have a TV show glorifying and whitewashing them).

INSANE is part of that cinema geared to the morality of monsters, and that is its greatest weakness. INSANE has moments of true creativity, but by the end it is in strict formula territory.

By the end of INSANE I wasn’t better for watching it, and if the thing you spend over an hour of your life watching doesn’t in someway elate or enrich you, than what the hell is the point.

Summation [and possible spoilers]: A good cast and some effective camera work, let down by a derivative script and moronic ending. Less concern with making a super powered franchise character and more concern with making a good film would have served this movie well. Yeah when we get the upper-hand over a murdering maniac is the time to worry about our relationship. Really? It is brain dead lapses like this that ultimately makes this a waste rather than a winner. Grade: D.

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Where are they Now: As of this writing the directors have not done another movie. Of the cast, David Lenneman (Fred in the Swedish series REAL HUMANS), Alida Morberg, and Lars Bethke have had sporadic bit parts since, with most of the cast doing nothing since.

Streaming Movie of the Day : Paul D. Hannah’s THE LAST LETTER [2013]

Streaming Movie of the Day : Paul D. Hannah’s THE LAST LETTER [2013]

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The film initially showed promise. A solid cast, well photographed, passionately performed, but unfortunately it’s sabotaged by a script and character actions that are insultingly stupid. I could choose a more elegant word, but stupid and idiotic and nonsensical sums up the problems with this script.

Well before halfway, the brain dead actions of everyone involved, and the complete unlike-ability of every one involved completely eradicates any interest in the movie or concern for the characters. And a movie where you have lost interest in all the characters is the definition of boring and a waste of time.

And it’s a shame because I do applaud Paul Hannah’s attempt to broaden the Black cinematic experience beyond the ghetto of dramas, comedies, relationship bashing, or Gospel/Christian/message movies they unfortunately tend to be relegated to.

Black themed films desperately need more action films and thrillers and horror movies and scifi and fantasy, however they need to be good. And unfortunately THE LAST LETTER isn’t. However with a better script (it would be hard to be worse) there’s potential for future Hannah thrillers to be better.

Grade: D-

Available to view this month on Netflix Streaming.

Television Review : CWs THE FLASH

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Two episodes in and I like but don’t love CW’s THE FLASH. The casting of the lead actor, CW going for a 20 something Kid-Flash like Flash, does not initially endear.

It reminds too much of DAWSON’S CREEK meets ‘insert-superhero-title-here’. That said, actor Grant Gustin does have some range, and I can see him growing into the role. Particularly the dynamic between Gustin as the young Barry Allen and Jesse L. Foster as Detective Joe West, his Foster Dad, is particularly good.

However that inventive relationship is married to one that doesn’t feel inventive at all, the relationship between Candice Patton as Iris West and her triangle between Grant Gustin as Barry Allen and Rick Cosnett as Detective Eddie Thawne. I am not a fan of there being a distinct lack of representation on Film or Television of male characters of color getting the girl. It’s a bit tired all these shows with Black actresses tossing themselves at White actors.

It would be different if these shows were offset by an equal number of shows and movies with actors of color getting the girl. Unfortunately there isn’t. It’s a telling and glaring discrepancy. In the absence of that parity, all this sameness of storytelling feels more like a programming/propaganda than storytelling. It seems more like Black Faces and White Messages.

It’s the reason shows like MARY JANE and ARROW (the only real standout CW show) work for me. They embrace a needed and neglected dynamic, of romance and sex being a purview of more than the White Male.


CW’s FLASH, if it was not engulfed by a sea of movies and tv shows selling the same dynamic to the same impressionable audience, would be easier show to enjoy on its own merits. However it’s only two episodes in and I’m hopeful the show grows beyond its sophomore ticks, to be something the equal of its sibling show… ARROW.

Art Book of the Day : FROM THE BLACK SEA THROUGH PERSIA AND INDIA by Edwin Lord Weeks

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Less an art book than a travelogue/diary and historical exploration of an at the time still largely mysterious region, FROM THE BLACK SEA THROUGH PERSIA AND INDIA is an 1890s scholarly work (done during a time of an earlier Afghanistan War)on that area between the lands of Nubia and Asia that today we call the Middle East, by one of the preeminent artists of the 19th century, Edwin Lord Weeks.

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I first became aware of his glorious oil paintings when visiting the Richmond Art Museum a couple years back. His HOUR OF PRAYER painting in person, is simply massive in scale, and cannot truly be appreciated except in person (when you stand in front and beneath the painting, it’s like you could walk into it), carrying as it does not just the seminal strokes of a realist at the height of his powers, but the weight of history and a moment of time, and region, and culture (all of which is under threat of going away) preserved here; hauntingly captured.

For more on my first exposure to Edwin Lord Weeks go here!

I have since seen several other Edwin Lord Weeks paintings in person, Weeks was a very prolific artist, and another standout is INTERIOR OF THE MOSQUE AT CORDOVA.

While not as large as HOUR OF PRAYER it is a gorgeous painting at any size, unlike HOUR OF PRAYER where pictures on the web don’t do it justice. Part of what makes HOUR OF PRAYER the award winner that it was, is the play of yourself against its vast spaces. There is an alchemy that happens when you see that picture in person, that is not reproducible on your computer screen. INTERIOR OF THE MOSQUE AT CORDOVA, in contrast, is a far more repeatable image. What you see on the web or in a book, is a good approximation of what you’ll see in person.

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Along with Virgil Finlay, Robert Duncanson, and Zdzislaw Beksinski; Edwin Lord Weeks quickly became one of those IT artists for me. A massive artistic talent whose work was largely unknown, or under appreciated to this day, and definitely still largely unheralded/uncollected in a comprehensive tome. He became an artist I set out to find books by and about.

Today’s selection is one of those books.

“With the permission from the War Department to visit Central Asia came an urgent telegram from the American legation at St. Petersburg, advising us not to go on account of the cholera which, after devastating Meshed, had left Persia and invaded the Russian provinces. We were then leaving for Constantinople by the Camboge, and finding that she would not proceed to Batoum, by reason of quarantine we were again forced to change our route. This time we elected to follow the old caravan from Trebizond on the Black Sea, to Tabreez, through the mountains of Kurdistan, that country of indefinite boundaries.

In short, there was no other route left open to us; we must either turn back, or, setting our face forward, head straight for the Persian frontier, five hundred miles away, and we decided to go on.”
—-Lord Edwin Weeks, from the preface to FROM THE BLACK SEA THROUGH PERSIA AND INDIA.

Being in the public domain there are numerous variations of this work online. The quality is all a bit less than stellar, as largely it looks to be photocopies of photocopies, and the pencil drawings/sketches that accompanies the words, all a bit muted… still there is enough there to get the brilliance, and you can flip to any page, read a paragraph and be entranced by Weeks’ evident love and romance for the region.

So until a proper tome dedicated to Lord Edwin Weeks is done, for reasons both historical and cultural this 462 page book, to any fan of the work of Weeks, is a must own.

Get your copy here:

From the Black Sea through Persia and India

Nineteenth-Century American Painting: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection

And American Gallery offers a great look at Weeks’ paintings here.


Movie of the Day [Streaming and Blu-Ray] : 3 DAYS TO KILL

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3 DAYS TO KILL – With over 50 movies under his belt, Kevin Costner continues to mature into a better and better actor. Deftly and pulse-poundingly directed by McG from  a Luc Besson script, 3 DAYS TO KILL is simply a joy from its impressive opening credit sequence to its close.

A great and surprisingly smart and humanistic action-thriller, Costner is compelling as Renner, a man who has grown tired in the killing, and his understated performance is picture perfect, and is but one of an across the board great cast. Add to that vibrant cinematography and an ebullient score, and you have the kind of emotionally rich action movie that Pekinpah  would have made, and that’s high praise indeed.

Catch it free on streaming, then buy the Blu-Ray for the commentary and special features. It’s that good. Grade: A-.

 

REASONS TO GET THE BLURAY: “watched this film on an excellent Blu ray transfer. It comes in a 1080p resolution and a 2.37:1 aspect ratio. Beautifully detailed – check out the gracefully aging Costner face – and provides some terrific panoramic shots of Paris. Colors are excellent. Great picture. The audio is excellent as well. The primary track is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. It works great, especially in the numerous action sequences including the requisite car chase, several gun battles and some close up fighting. Dialog is clear and well positioned. Subtitles are available in Spanish, English and English SDH. Extras include a making-of short, a profile on director McG, a piece featuring a real CIA operative and a trailer. There are 2 options as well as to which feature to watch. The theatrical version and an extended version (5 minutes longer).”–Amazon.com review

 

This is a really beautifully shot film, and depending on time of day or bandwidth issues, that can be lost when viewing via streaming. Which is why I say streaming is a try before you buy medium. When you determine this is a movie you’re going to come back to, that’s when you want to purchase the Blu-Ray.

3 Days to Kill [Blu-ray]

Home Improvement and arguably Life Improvement tip of the Day : Light


As we get older it’s amazing the revelations we, if not learn, finally accept and integrate into our lives. Such as staying away from high Fructose corn syrup and modified corn starch/MSG. What you didn’t get the memo? :).

Yesterday after decades on this planet, I finally switched from regular bright light or warm light light bulbs, the kind that I guess make up 99% of the type of lights most people are living or working under in America, to full spectrum/daylight light bulbs.

Great Caesar’s Ghost!!! What the heck was I waiting for??? There is a negligible price difference and the quality of the light is noticeably easier.

What do I mean by easier? There’s always the sense in the human condition that we are fighting things, ourselves, others, nature, the tools we use to do our job, even the chairs we use or the lights that keep us from the dark.

There was always a bit of strain or glare or if not discomfort, at least awareness of otherness in the artificial light you use when the sun goes down. Artificial is the word, however I accepted it as a given, and compensated with brighter bulbs or angled reading lamps, etc.

Yesterday when I stuck those 5000 and 6500 kelvin bulbs in my floor standing lamps, what I felt when I turned them on, is the tension I always keep around my eyes in preparation for the coming of the light, I felt that tension let go.

I was prepared for something to fight against, the human condition, and instead this light flowed over me like a breeze, like a hand, and the light in my house and I… were no longer at war.

Since that revelation I’ve added 6500 Kelvin lights to my kitchen, helps the plants grow, and 5000 and 6500 Kelvin lights throughout the rest of the house. I keep one room with the standard artificial light, that I spent most of my life living, and working, and breathing under, I keep that room there to remember the fight, and in its contrast to the rest of the house, it reminds me to always appreciate… the end of fighting.

Most full spectrum lights you’ll find are CFL lights (Compact Fluorescent). Just about all of us now have CFL lights in our house, but very few of us have the full spectrum daylight bulbs. As I said, it in my estimation is a no-brainer regarding full spectrum light bulbs… they are must haves. The issue with CFL’s however is the one there has always been, they contain mercury. Mercury for an element that we rely on so much, it is one of the most toxic substances to human life.

And as a guy who has used CFLs for years, they tend to blow… a lot. I have never found CFL claims of longevity to be accurate in the real world. They blow faster than incandescent bulbs in my experience. And over years of use you’re going to end up breaking your share. And even if you do manage, not to eat mercury over the cost of usage, you still have the issue of disposal, which is a big one. Because of the mercury content you cannot just toss it in the trash, it has to be taken to your local hazardous materials site or recycling site for proper disposal.

So there’s a lot of issues that become part of the mix when dealing with CFLs.

Which makes this push to LED light bulbs (Light Emitting Diodes) quite understandable. Though I have yet to find an LED that will work in the 6500K range and even the ones that work in the 5000K range, while producing that easy relaxing light, there are issues with them not truly being full-range. And depending on the brand, they also have flickering issues.

So yeah, I can definitely understand CFLs becoming less and less popular because of their Mercury issues (I would think a mercury free CFL bulb shouldn’t be an impossibility, why manufacturers have not pursued that option is a mystery) however as of today there really is no great equal or replacement for them in the 6500K Kelvin range (particularly great for growing plants).

So for the time being I use a combination of CFL daylight lights (making sure to be careful with the CFLs and properly dispose of them)and LED daylight lights, and in my house they are a hit. The light is a more pleasant experience than the harsh light that we had before, and we are better for the switch.

You just might agree as well. Try some Daylight bulbs for yourself here (and when you find the 6500K version you like, stock up as they are getting VERY hard to find):

Cree Daylight Dimmable Led 75w Replacement Bulb. Uses Only 13.5 Watts Ba19

 

“Finding Truth is difficult and the road to it is rough” –Ibn Al-Zahid. SEEKERS OF THE TRUTH

Movie News: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is it worth seeing in 3D?


Marvel Studios 10th feature film, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, is breaking on American shores this weekend, and the decision people have to make is… ‘is it worth seeing in theaters and more specifically, is it worth seeing in 3D?’

Well, dealing with the broader questions first, whether or not you are a fan of the Marvel Movies, you really have to tip your cap to Kevin Feige and the whole Marvel Studios machine for really doing what seemed if not impossible, highly farfetched; namely creating a critically and commercially successful movie empire based on the shared universe approach of comic books.

It, in many ways, is the return of serial movies, the type popular in the 1930s and 1940s, but done on a massive scale, undreamed of by those low budget quickies of yesteryear.

And Marvel Studios films have managed to be not only popular, but entertaining, sometimes impressively so. I would list their movies from best to worst as:

AVENGERS
CAPTAIN AMERICA WINTER SOLDIER
CAPTAIN AMERICA
IRON MAN
HULK

IRON MAN 2
THOR
IRON MAN 3
THOR 2

And now their 10th film, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, is poised to carve out their place on the above list. I find myself largely uninterested in the film. Nothing about the premise, the characters, or the one trailer I’ve seen intrigues me at all. Add to that they have an unimpressive ‘Before the Window’ 3D rating from CINEMA BLEND, like all previous Marvel Movies, and it is no incentive to see this in 3D.

But what does stand out in opposition to all that disinterest is the director, James Gunn. James Gunn like many of the directors Marvel picks, lacks any pedigree in the action or blockbuster genre, but like other directors chosen, they have a personality to the films they have directed, and a way with actors and characters, they have glimmerings of potential.

I enjoyed James Gunn’s SLITHER and I do think Marvel Studios helmed by Kevin Feige have been nothing short of phenomenal in picking talent both in front of and behind the camera. For all the heat their choices engender prior to the film, their unconventional choices have proven movie after movie, to be great.

And it is hard to argue with great. I have no interest in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY as a concept or as characters, but I am interested in seeing James Gunn do a big, fun, space hopping action picture.

So verdict: I’ll catch GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY on a matinee, or 2nd run, without 3D

Hopes this helps anyone on the fence, and feel free to chime in with your opinions. ENJOY!