Now Watching : Netflix’s DAREDEVIL and WRONG TURN AT TAHOE!

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The Entire 1st season of Netflix’s first Marvel Studios series DAREDEVIL has  dropped, and one episode in and it feels like… it feels like faith rewarded. From the first frame to the last, the show is pitch perfect.

From the direction, to the writing, to the performances, to the action. Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, the Man without Fear is revelatory.  Charlie Cox in that first scene, with the speech in the confessional about his father, and letting the Devil loose, he defines the damaged nature of the protagonists, and this world. The initial costume is perfectly fine, a work in progress. I really hope Netflix will offer this up on Blu-Ray with commentary and features. It clearly deserves it.

Episode 2 here I come.

 

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Cuba Gooding Jr, has made his share of questionable movies. That said, in the largely direct to video world that has become the domain of most actors, in the last decade or so he has made some gems. WRONG TURN AT TAHOE is one of those gems, and following my first episode of DAREDEVIL, I find the film a nice counterpoint to the Netflix series. Cube giving a wonderfully poised and understated performance… yet full of menace. A great film from beginning to end.

Strongly recommended. Grade: B+

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THE SHOUT (1978) – Expressionist 70s Horror at its Best!

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THE SHOUT (1978) – THE SHOUT is a type of horror film that the 70s managed to produce arguably better than any other decade (save perhaps our current streaming generation, the share bulk of content at our fingertips allows for a diverse range of content and experimentation). The eerie existential tale of foreboding; tales of protagonists beset from seemingly all sides by nameless and unnameable dreads that live disturbingly close to the fragile facade of our normal lives.

A culmination of sorts of the filmic movements before it (namely Expressionism, often called German Expressionism, and Film Noir) and the new dynamism of the conflicted post war, post age of Aquarius 70s; 70s Expressionist horror grafting the fatalism of Film Noir to Expressionism’s use of exaggeration and distortion to illicit an emotional response, to create a horror that was more about broader questions of what lives beyond the borders of the accepted, and the illusions… of control.

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Films like DON’T LOOK NOW, IMAGES, THE ABOMINABLE DOCTOR PHIBES, AND SOON THE DARKNESS, THE DUNWICH HORROR, LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, LET’S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH, MAGIC, OBSESSION, PHANTASM, DEEP RED, THE SENTINEL, SUSPIRIA, ERASERHEAD, SHORT NIGHT OF GLASS DOLLS, GANJA & HESS, NEITHER THE SEA NOR THE SAND are marked by extreme directorial flourishes, bordering on surrealism, creating worlds of emotive rather than accepted reality.

THE SHOUT, features a stellar cast of burgeoning British Stars, among them Alan Bates, Susannah York, John Hurt and Tim Curry, all brilliantly directed by the legendary filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski. His only film in the horror genre, THE SHOUT much like IMAGES (directed by another great, serious filmmaker Robert Altman), manages to be not just a great genre film, but one of the best films of Skolimowski’s lauded career.

Not the typical Horror movie, the best horror of the 70s resists and transcends easy classifications, and trite genre labels. Indeed THE SHOUT would be as justified in the drama or fantasy or art film designation as any other, but somehow horror seems to sum up best the creeping unease that these types of 70s films in general, and THE SHOUT in particular, provide.

This is horror not of the slasher or torture porn fodder that unfortunately passes too-often for horror in the 21st century, but something more… imaginative. While the 70s had its own knife wielding maniacs, that was often played as a facet of the horror, rather than the horror in total. The horror that the 70s dealt in was rather a call back to the existential roots of cinema, horror, and arguably humanity, the MR James and Wakefield definitions of horror… the horror, with questions that endure.

Jerzy Skolimowski’s THE SHOUT is a film that rewards repeat viewings. See it for yourself courtesy of Amazon Prime, or get the DVD here: The Shout [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2 Import – United Kingdom ] or Blu-Ray here: The Shout (1978) [ NON-USA FORMAT, Blu-Ray, Reg.B Import – United Kingdom ]

Grade: B+.


Streaming VOD Movie of the Day : UNDER THE SKIN

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Cinema if we are lucky should feel new, feel different, feel visionary, and feel just a little bit strange and brilliant. Jonathan Glazer’s UNDER THE SKIN feels all these things and more.

Glazer’s UNDER THE SKIN feels both dangerous and humane, a rare combination that when found in harmony, we call haunting. It’s helped immensely in that it is a film about desire that has the central canvas the stunning face and form of Scarlett Johanson, one of the most desirable women, given a performance you can not take your eyes away from, as a predator consumed by the things she preys upon. A seductress of humanity, seduced by the human condition.

A film that you can watch for free courtesy of Amazon Prime, but screams to be viewed in the highest quality format possible, screams to be owned on Blu-ray/DVD. Grade: It’s largely a movie of pauses and waiting and the mystery, and how well you enjoy this movie will depend on how satisfied you are by those three things. In no way a fun movie, and not one that I see being big for repeat viewings, I do find it a unique and recommended viewing experience. Grade: B/B+.

Movie of the Day : THE ARROYO (2014)

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THE ARROYO (2014)- It took a couple attempts for me to make it through this one, I’m glad I did. While the beginning may not quite grab you (both the title and the description of it is a bit ambiguous if you come across it like I did on Amazon Prime), I would urge you to stick with it. Writer, Producer, and first time Director Jeremy Boreing has created a film that starts humbly and builds into something that is not only worthy of your time… but will demand it.

The Western is an oft eulogized genre, yet for all these premature burials, yet does it rise. The West and the western is as much a state of mind as a locale, and it lives deep and long in Boreing’s THE ARROYO.

If you are a fan of television’s LONGMIRE or film’s NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MAN you’ll find yourself in welcome company with the ARROYO’s Jim Weatherford, played with a laconic grace by Kenny Maines; but make no mistake Boreing’s THE ARROYO is very much its own animal, exploring darker questions of the lawlessness at our borders and perhaps the culpability of the American political process, and the measure of courage.

A riveting watch, and strongly recommended. This is one I want to purchase the Blu-Ray for, with director’s commentary. And that’s the compliment of a great film, that despite getting to see it for free (courtesy of Amazon Prime) you are still inspired to own it on Blu-Ray!

Give it a watch, you may feel the same.

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.

Currently Watching : THE MACHINE (2013) – NetFlix Streaming VOD Movie of the Day!

 

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THE MACHINE – Directed by Caradog James, is a definitely worth a look scifi thriller, however if you have the slightest familiarity with the Science Fiction genre you are clearly aware the film is breaking no new ground.

Indeed much of it, is you marveling at the stupidity of supposedly brilliant scientists (a stupidity that unfortunately is not relegated to fiction), that open seemingly obvious Pandora’s Boxes of moral and spiritual and existential chaos.  Humanity has enough trouble being humane to other humans, much less the storm of confusion and conflict and potential horror and abuse, that will spiral up around the  very concept of potentially conscious beings that are built or grown, rather than born in the traditional sense.

It is a door that Mary Shelley saw two hundred years ago we were not ready to walk through, and humanity for all its technological leaps, has become no more emotionally or morally responsibly since. Indeed it can be argued that as our technological marvels increase, our humanity decreases. That humans increasingly become drones, in a world were we have relegated the marvelous to our creations.

So THE MACHINE touches on all of this, but it’s a well worn topic, and the movie often feels plodding and redundant rather than an innovative new take on the dwindling of the human spirit. So again worth a look, but ultimately pretty forgettable.

Far more satisfying takes on the subject would be Whales’ BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN or Ridley Scott’s BLADE RUNNER or the enigmatic, but brilliant UPSTREAM COLOR. The latter is also available courtesy of Streaming.

Grade: B-.

 

Now Showing: Netflix Streaming On-Demand Film of the Day — THE ROBBER (Der Rauber)

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I wouldn’t agree with the quote on the above poster by an overly excited VILLAGE VOICE reviewer, this is more an intense case study/drama… rather than a white knuckled thrill ride; however it is an extremely tight and engaging case study/drama.

Plumbing the actions of a particular robber, the film never tries to explain those actions, but is satisfied in the unfolding of them, and in that way the main character of Johann Rettenberger (played almost wordlessly, and very impressively by Andreas Lust) remains an enigma and his actions inexplicable… to the end.

Director Benjamin Heisenberg, has crafted a fascinating and easily re-watchable puzzle of a film. The puzzle being the vagaries of the human heart. Strongly Recommended. B+.

You can view on streaming here (while it lasts), and when ready to own the movie you can get the Bluray here:

The Robber [Blu-ray]