Sunday, October 25, 2015

Ten Statements About....CRIMSON PEAK (2015)

"Hello.  I am your designated scenery chewer for this
"Ghosts are real.  This much I know."

1) Mia Wasikowska’s Edith does not work as a heroine.  She is set up as a self-reliant, progressive and clever woman only to--almost literally at the flip of a switch--become a weak-kneed softie for the duration of the film.  We’re supposed to think it’s because of her feelings for Tom Hiddleston’s Thomas...except that she is resistant to him with no hint of her weakness for a stretch of the first act.

2) ...of course, it might be because Wasikowska and Hiddleston have no chemistry whatsoever, which especially makes Thomas’ story arc nonsensical.  We don’t believe in his change of heart because we have no faith in his feelings for Edith.

3) This film is way too long, and is rife with scenes that could be cut, especially in the first act.  I suspect the story would flow much better if it lost fifteen minutes to a half hour.
"I know we have no chemistry, but the script demands it, so..."

4) Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that the ghosts that are supposed to be a major crux of the film...don’t do anything essential to the plot.  They’re incidental to the point where you could cut them out whole and, with very slight re-jiggering, still have a movie.  This might have worked better, given that the ghosts’ presence in the film makes Edith come off as rather dim.

5) In a film where so many of the principles underplay their roles. you gotta give Jessica Chastain credit for so vigorously biting into the scenery.  She’s wound so tightly that your eyes are drawn to her even when she’s in the background.

6) I’m with Ian Loring and Mark Foster on this--Guillermo del Toro has it in for faces.  Even butterfly faces get mangled in this movie.
Mia doesn't want to look at the reviews inside that bucket...

7) Seeing and enjoying Burn Gorman in a small but pivotal role makes me come to the conclusion that it was the writing on Torchwood that made me hate his character and not him. Or that del Toro knows how to use him.

8) Given that del Toro’s script he collaborated on with Matthew Robbins was trying to re-create a 19th century Gothic, I wonder if they should have dispensed with any supernatual aspect whatsoever and focused on the madness and machinations that the film wants to revel in.

9) What was the point of the scene where Charlie Hunnam’s doctor shares his passion of spirit photography with Edith?  It never comes into play again.  But then, for a character who shows up in the third act simply so Edith has someone to walk into the snowstorm with, it’s not surprising he has little in the way of characterization.

10) Even though I didn’t care for the ghosts’ presence in the film, I do appreciate the look of them, especially the way you can see flashes of the ghost’s human forms when light hits them.

Overall...a vast disappointment from del Toro which suffers from a lack of chemistry between its two leads and a script that doesn’t know what it wants to accomplish.

This time I went to the UA Midway, the first time I had been there for close to two decades.  It’s the last theater standing in the main shopping district of Forest Hills, which once played host to five in walking distance of each other.  The staff was uncommonly friendly, but the projectionist screwed up the tracking for the dreaded Firstlook.  When this was brought to the staff’s attention, we were informed that the picture will stabilize at the time the feature started.  Horror films dominated the trailers with the exception of The Night Before, which focused on one character barfing in a church.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Ten Statements About....SSSSSSS (1973)

"I'm your boyfriend now, Christine...."
“You are a real and a bona fide genius. First one I ever met."
“It's rare to be appreciated for one's failures."

1) What makes this film effective for much of its running time is the understated performance by Strother Martin.  We know this man is a mad scientist from frame one, and yet he’s so mild and laid back that you almost forget how sinister his intentions are....

2) least until that third act (get used to this phrase).  Once we hit that last twenty minutes or so, the actors start behaving irrationally.  It’s almost as if the script is hurrying the actions along because they know their time is up.

3) Wow...Reb Brown was broad even in his youth.  At least he dies without screaming his character’s name.

4) The use of real reptiles throughout the film does give the movie a creepy feel.  Although the creepiest thing in the movie aren’t the snakes but the mongoose Strother keeps around for....whatever.
This is a snake drinking booze.  Your arguments are
no longer valid.

5) Not surprisingly, there is a romance between Dirk Benedict’s David and Heather Menzies’ Christine that doesn’t work.  There’s no organicness their coupling, and seems to be there because, well, the script requires the two to make like a couple.

6) Bernard Kowalski does something very effective when Benedict starts changing.  Instead of solely shooting the actor from behind (although there is some of that), Kowalski does show him from a slight distance so that we know something’ about him.   This creates a sense of unease that culminates in a great shock cut.

7) I don’t think the film needed the deaths-by-snake in the late second and third acts.  They contribute to the disintegration of Martin’s performance, and seems to be there solely to give the viewer some violence to keep them engaged.

"You haven't thought of a coherent ending? Nooooooooo!"
8) There are some really disquieting make-up effects in this film, beginning with the ‘shedding’ and carrying through to the appearance of the monstrous characters least until the third act, where we learn what Strother Martin’s real intentions are.  And speaking of that third act...

9) What. The. Hell. was that ending all about?  No, really, the last ten minutes makes so little sense it almost serves to tear down the hour and a half that came before it.  And you’re telling me that Christine could recognize what Dick has become instantly?

10) Why do they make such a big deal about this rare Amazonian snake--Christine mentions it a couple of time, goes to the shipping station and waits for its arrival--when there’s no pay off to this aspect?

Overall... until the third act just wrecks everything, this is a very low-key, creepy at times, little mad scientist throwback.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ten Statements About....TREMORS (1989)

"I smell BACON!"
1) This film knows one of the great secrets of making an effective creature feature--Keep It Simple.  The script sets up the situation, doesn’t dwell on such unnecessary things as back stories and rationales for its creature and just goes.   And knowing the momentum and tension has to keep ratcheting up makes it easier for us to get caught up.

2) There’s a great chemistry between Kevin Bacon’s Val and Fred Ward’s Earl, and that helps to give the film a gravitas and forward movement it might not otherwise have.  Nowhere does these two give us much in the way of their history, but we still know what we need to know about these two from their banter and rapport that we can identify with.

3) I find it highly amusing that this film uses bad reception as a rationale for not getting help long before such an explanation was needed due to cell phones.

Just another NRA Saturday Night....
4) Another benefit from the film’s plot being so simple is that it allows us time for character moments with everyone in the cast so that no one, not even Michael Gross’ and Reba McIntire’s survivalist couple comes off as a cardboard cliche.

5) It’s a breath of fresh air that Finn Carter’s resident scientist doesn’t have knowledge of all sciences.  She does give us insight into the creatures’ nature, but only the insight specific to her specialized knowledge.  And speaking of that scientist....

6) I thoroughly don’t buy the romance between Carter and Bacon.  The script gives us absolutely no hint of an attraction at any time, and just drops the coming together as a coda of the story.  It also doesn’t help that Bacon has more chemistry with Ward than he does with Carter....

7) I will always applaud a film that has faith in practical effects.  In this case, said practical effects gives the monsters a weight and sense of life that I can’t see them having with CGI.

8) I’m pleased that the final resolution of the monster problem is one that the residents of Perfection could come up with by themselves.  There’s no macguffin, no scientific hocus pocus, just a bunch of
people with a knowledge of their land and a couple of homemade explosives.

9) Being just a shade over ninety minutes helps this film immeasurably.  It’s just long enough for the script to give us some dimension to its characters and give us a couple of creepy portents before the monsters come and it becomes a bit of a thrill ride.  Once we get the creepy crawlies (literally!), it’s hyperfocused on the plot at hand.
"I've heard of blockages before, but..."

10) I don’t know if the film’s country western soundtrack works.  Sure, the dissonance between old timey cowboy songs with being swallowed by a monster works in one scene, but the other songs seem obtrusive, especially the closing credit ditty, which seems there solely to let Reba sing something. effective, entertaining creature feature that does what it says on the tin, buoyed further by some good chemistry by its leads and an excellent, well-designed and grimy monster.