Movie Review: The MACHINIST

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MECHANISTFilmax Group
2004
R

“I know who you are… I know who you are… I know who you are… I know who you are.”

Trevor Reznik hasn’t been able to sleep for a year now. He’s gaunt, seeing things, and has been suffering both mental and physical breakdowns in his personal life. Visions of a man in black driving a convertible he used to own, and various glimpses of a past memory start surfacing into his perception of the real world. Is he going mad, or is something or someone playing with his mind like a bear plays with a beached salmon?

I got to say, Christian Bale is fast becoming one of my favorite actors. With standout roles in movies like American Psycho, Equilibrium, and the recent kick-ass Batman Begins, he’s proven to be very versatile in his roles. Here, he lost a lot of weight to achieve a gaunt, haunted visage that works with his character. You believe that he really hasn’t slept for a year, and this is taking a toll on him physically and mentally. Really played the part well without overdoing it. The movie itself does well with a well-worn subject- Disassociation Identity Disorder- and although you pretty much guess what’s going on within the first fifteen minutes, the plotting keeps you guessing nonetheless. The Mechanist is a really well-done trip down the path of a man’s gradual spiral into insanity, with the editing, sets and film styles working well to keep me off-balance. Loved that fun house ride scene. Well worth the rental and recommended by Uncle NecRo…

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Movie Review: The OMEN

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OMEN7620th Century Fox
1976
R

“The child is dead. He breathed for a moment. Then he breathed no more. The child is dead. Dead. The child is dead.”

American Ambassador Thorn is beginning to suspect his young, rosy-cheeked cherub of a son is the Devil incarnate. He has a serious aversion to churches, people connected to the boy seems to be dying mysteriously- his first nanny (she won’t be doing that party trick twice), a priest…oh, yeah, and he ran his mother off the second floor landing with his tricycle. Kinda wonder what his terrible twos were like. That’s to say nothing of that new nanny who has a serious Evil Twin of Mary Poppins vibe. Now Ambassador Thorn seeks the truth…but will he survive? Er, no…

It took me a bit to muster up the courage to finally watch this Antichrist: The Early Years classic. Not so much because I thought I’d be scared; more because I was daunted by the “horror classic” prestige.

I must say, I was impressed with how well this movie held up. The shocks and twists were very effective, with the choral soundtrack adding a heavy dose of dread to the atmosphere. The movie wisely held back on the effects. This is one I recommend viewing in widescreen on DVD. Excellent choice for a classics night…

Movie Review: LOST SOULS

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LOST SOULSNew Line Cinema
2000
R

“God will forgive me. The transformation is near.”

A young, devout Catholic woman who was once on the receiving end of an exorcist (Winona Rider in perhaps her whiniest performance yet) helps out a group of the Vatican’s finest in searching for the whereabouts of the Antichrist. Yes, The Antichrist. Seems they found him, living in a posh yet tasteful loft apartment. Only he doesn’t know he’s the Antichrist. Or something. So they all walk around, find some weird stuff, walk around some more, Winona whines about some stuff, they stumble upon a cult led by the guy’s mother, and then Winona shoots Mr. Would-Be Antichrist in the head. Roll credits…

Wow, this movie sucked. I mean, it sucked. As in, sucked so hard no light could escape its surface. As in sucked the life out of my bloated soul. It sucked. You get the idea?

Listen, I wanted to like this movie. Lost Souls was slick. So much so that it was all the movie was- an exercise in needless overindulgent artsy film stylings, full of multi-angled close-ups and slow-mo, with more atmosphere than a German existentialist flick. It just plodded along, the story consisting of the characters discussing, “He’s the Antichrist!” “Wait, no, maybe he’s not the Antichrist.” “Um, he could be the Antichrist…” “No, no, he’s the Antichrist!” Gah. When I saw this movie in the theater, the room was packed. When the credits rolled after the anticlimax that was the ending, several people booed. Mind you, I was leading in with the booing. It deserved it. Pass this one up…please, I beg you…

Movie Review: LOST BOYS: The Tribe

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lostboysthetribeWarner Premiere
2008
R

“Your sister’s a suck monkey.”

The sequel to the 1987 cult hit The Lost Boys takes us to the shady surf city of Luna Bay, California, where vampires quickly dispatch anyone who crosses their path. Into this dark world arrive Chris Emerson and his younger sister, Nicole. Having just lost their parents in a car accident, the siblings move in with their eccentric Aunt Jillian and become new prey for the locals way of life. When Nicole unwittingly falls for a local vampire, Chris must locate and destroy the gangs lifeline before his sisters transformation is complete; to do this Chris finds himself relying on the expertise of none other than Edgar Frog…

We waited 20 years for this? Seriously? Twenty years of advancements in effects and camera shooting, not to mention time to expand on the whole Lost Boys mythos since the original film came out, and this is what we’re given? My my my…somebody’s got some ‘splainin’ to do…

What we got with Lost Boys: The Tribe is a perfect example of a potentially great sequel to a classic post-modern vampire movie failing miserably to be anything more than just a lame rehash of the original, only flashier. We got the same premise, the same plot and identical settings. Heck, there’s even a Sutherland as the head vamp guy. The only thing keeping this from being a full-on remake is Cory Feldman reprising his role as the grown-up Edgar Frog, with tiny hints at the fate of some of his former comrade’s. Thing is, Cory just rehashes a lot of his same dialog from the original, and with that same annoying gravely voice he used then, too.

The acting is wooden, the story is week, and the plot is boring as all get-out. There is no mystery. There is no seen-it-coming-but-it’s-still-cool subtle plot twist. The supporting vampire cast is just annoying. The editing is a tad sloppy at times, and the camera work leaves something to be desired.

There is a very brief, “blink and you’ll miss him” cameo of the Sax Man, here now all fat and pathetic. I can think of no better metaphor to use for this bloated and misguided sequel. Do yourself a favor- stick with the original flick, and pass this one up…

Movie Review: The LOST BOYS

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LOST BOYSWarner Bros. Pictures
1987
R

“Second shelf is mine. That’s where I keep my root beers and my double-thick Oreo cookies. Nobody touches the second shelf but me.”

Recently divorced Lucy has packed up her sons Michael and Sam and moved to their eccentric (and curiously unnamed) Grandpa’s rustic home outside of the fictional California town of Santa Carla. The local population seems to be dominated by a neo-hippie culture (you know…”peace, love, and brotherhood, brought to you by Pepsi!”), and soon the boys find themselves meandering among the boardwalk society, making less-than-savory new friends- Michael with a gang of leather-clad, mullet-sporting vampires, and Sam with a couple of young comic shop owners who make the vampires look downright normal. Need I say, wackiness ensues?

Say what thou wilt, I consider The Lost Boys a classic of the vampire genre. It’s perhaps the strongest one of the great (and by “great” I mean volume, not quality) “modernizing” of the vampire mythos in movies, where the Nosferatu in question is less a throwback to the elaborate evening wear-sporting, thick Romanian accent-speaking fang faces of classic Dracula, and adopting the style and substance of the modern culture. In this case, the wacky “what the hell was I thinking wearing that?!?” 80s. Joel “I Ruined The Batman Franchise” Schumacher brought to the screen a true marriage of style and substance, bringing an MTV sensibility to the film without bogging it down with being more style than substance. Unlike today, where it seems that directors are more interested in creating two-hour musical montages with product placements above the actual story.

When this movie came out, all the actors were virtual unknowns at the time. That includes the Two Coreys (as in Haim and Feldman), who would both go on to find lucrative careers as the Entertainment Channel’s True Hollywood Story of the Month subjects. All give top-notch performances here (Feldman is a riot as one of the Frog brothers, and Barnard Hughes owned as Grandpa), with the possible exception of Corey Haim…he’s just damn annoying as the preppy “metrosexual before it was cool” younger brother. As the leader of the vampire gang, Kiefer Sutherland gives a very good performance, equal parts sinister and tough-guy cool. And I’ll be blunt- Jamie Gertz as Star can rip out my blackened heart and gnaw on it any time. She’s hot without being a skin exhibitionist, I like that…

Let me take a moment to discuss the soundtrack. Seems like nowadays movies are built around the hot soundtrack, but when this came out, the songs were just as important as the story, setting the tone of the movie. It starts off with one of my favorite songs, “Cry Little Sister”, which is equally beautiful and haunting. Something about the child chorus, I guess. The remake of The Doors’ “People Are Strange” is really good as well.

Let’s see, what I didn’t like about the film…well, there’s the obvious problem with dating, although The Lost Boys doesn’t scream “EIGHTIES!!!” nearly as bad as some of the contemporary horror flicks of the time…like, say, Fright Night. I don’t know what it was with bands at the time thinking that they could have a saxophone player and still be considered a heavy rock band, but that muscle-bound guy in the Mr. T starter kit singing and blowing on his sax I found damn funny. And did I mention how annoyed I was with Corey Haim’s character? Honestly, I always dream up alternate endings for this movie, my favorite being, after Grandpa rides in, and everyone’s standing around with that “did we just witness this?” look on their faces, a large cow falls out of the sky, squishing Haim dead. No reason. Deaths involving cows are funny. Cows are funny, period. Just watch Kung Pow and Top Secret some night, and you’ll get my point. But I digress…

Anyway, if you haven’t seen this movie for whatever reason, I urge you to check it out.

Movie Review: LORD OF ILLUSIONS

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LORD OF ILLUSIONSUnited International Pictures
1995
R

“I was born to murder the world.”

Back in the early 80s, a very dangerous and mystical cult leader named Nix was buried alive by a former cult member named Swann. Still trying to figure out what happened to that baboon, though. Thirteen years later, and Swann is a very successful magician…er, I mean illusionist, and all seems well that ends well…until those formerly associated with Swann start dying mysteriously and rumors about Nix’s resurrection start surfacing. Enter Detective Harry D’Amour, a P. I. with a specialty in the weird, mystical and unknown. After Swann’s apparent death, D’Amour journeys into the dark side of illusionists, and discovers there is a difference between illusion and magic…and nothing is at all what it seems…

Clive Barker. What I wouldn’t give to get inside that wonderfully dark and twisted mind of his. When it comes to horror / fantasy, Barker is definitely in a class all his own. I mean, it’s one thing to be tormented by nightmarish dreamscapes…it’s another thing entirely to bring those unique nightmares to vivid life without loosing any of the darkness in the translation. Very few I’ve found can do that…

Lord Of Illusions was adapted by Barker from his short story “The Last Illusion” from part six of his Books Of Blood series (later reprinted in the States as Cabal). As a matter of fact, Harry D’Amour is a recurring character in his other stories and novels, kind of like a supernatural noir detective. Here, in movie form, he’s played by Scott Bakula in an effectively subdued manner (once I managed to separate him from his Sam Becket character on Quantum Leap, he fit the part rather well, like an old strait jacket). Matter of fact, everyone here played their respective parts in a very subdued yet intense way, without hamming it up or going over the top. Even the cracked-out skinhead played it down a bit…and you just have to watch it to get what I’m meaning here…

Visually, Lord Of Illusions is a very dark and fascinating place. From the opening scenes in the cult flophouse (baboon!!!), to Swann’s illusionist show, to the final showdown with Nix and the brainwashed followers, the entire movie is full of Barker’s usual thematic explorations- flesh, sex, and death…okay, um, not much sex (which is odd, considering Barker’s style), but heavy doses of flesh and death, and the supernatural horrors taht lie beneath the surface.

There were some things about this movie that didn’t hold up well for me, though. Some of the special effects were a bit dated (as this was released in 1995, not really that big of a surprise), especially that scene involving what I referred to during the viewing as Floating Origami Grid Guy…again, you have to view it to understand what I’m getting at.

That said, I’d say Lord Of Illusions is a movie that takes a general horror premise and twists it into something different. In fact, that’s usually Barker’s MO. This thing got panned by critics when it came out, but don’t let that deter you from watching this movie. Check it out for a night of twisted, mind-bending fun…

Movie Review: The LANGOLIERS

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LANGOLIERSArtisan Entertainment
1995
PG-13

“I have an important meeting in Boston at nine O’clock! And I forbid you… From flying to some whistle-stop Maine airport! DO YOU HEAR ME?”

A handful of passengers on a Los Angeles-to-Boston redeye flight awaken to discover their plane passed through a tear in the fabric of the space/time continuum, and they’re the only survivors stuck in a time displacement exactly one minute behind actual reality. Cue the Twilight Zone theme. Now they have to find a way to gas up the airplane and fly back through the plot hole…er, tear, and get back to real time before the Langoliers- giant toothy Pac-man thingies that eat up used time- consume them along with the scenery. Oh, and the uptight businessman with their group has snapped and is trying to kill them all. That may present a problem…

As a novella in the Four Past Midnight collection, The Langoliers was a quick but satisfying tale. As a four-hour TV miniseries (three on home video), The Langoliers is an over bloated marathon of needless scenes, cheesy computer graphics, and way too much gum-flapping about the situation the characters were in. Although, I must admit, Bronson Pinchot’s unbalanced business exec was fun to watch. Nice to see he got work after the demise of Perfect Strangers. Otherwise, The Langoliers would have worked better adapted as an episode of Amazing Stories, or some other Twilight Zone knockoff…

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