Archive for September, 2008


Pay It Forward

September 29, 2008

d. Sean Ellis

Despite the clunky voice-over narration that emulates Fight Club’s style (even cribbing the protagonist’s insomnia) and despite the seams showing from padding the original short film to feature length, I enjoyed the story of night-shift employee Ben Willis finding love again while pursuing his dream of being a painter. This enjoyment rests mainly in the developing relationship between Ben and fellow employee Sharon (the beautiful Emilia Fox who looks like Sarah Polly), a relationship further developed in the feature vs. the short.

In pursuit of his artistic dream, Ben develops time-stopping abilities and uses it to undress the female clientele of the supermarket in which he works (in order to sketch them, yeah — that’s the ticket!). This magic realism almost doesn’t work because the explanation is hardly satisfying, and it strays a little too close to being creepy, but it’s for Arts sake, people! Full-frontal female nudity is beautiful!

The ability to stop time is used for better dramatic effect as the narrative develops and the relationship between Sharon and Ben grows. Ultimately, it is the filmic literal of the metaphor of time stopping in a shared moment that points towards the future as opposed to figuratively stopping time by living in the past.

The cinematography is incredible; colors are vivid and crisp; and camera movement underscores the emotion. The few things that I found less successful was the balance between the goofy Sainsbury employee bits (especially the “Kung-Fu” character) and the relationship drama, which I found more interesting and emotionally rich. The goofy bits just felt like bits from other movies (Trainspotting mainly (there’s even a football game halfway through the flick)), though I did appreciate that they kept the film from being monotone.

In any case, Cashback has its rewards and is a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I give it 2 3/4 stars out of 5.

Next up, I should have Ridley Scott’s Matchstick Men.


Bay of Boredom

September 26, 2008

d. Mario Bava

Avoid this lame movie. Despite an interesting first five minutes, this Italian giallo suffers from what all other Italian giallo suffers from — mood and style over coherency, substance and emotional connection. It is interesting to note that the style of gory killings — predating the slasher genre by a few years — and the setting contribute to a loose parallel to Friday the 13th.

Next up should be the UK film, Cashback.


My Bloody Monday

September 25, 2008

On Monday, September 22nd I got to see My Bloody Valentine perform live for the 1st time at the Roseland Ballroom. It wasn’t their first time, but rather mine. It only took 17 years.

Needless to say, it was a really good show. The last song, “You Made Me Realise”, overwhelmed me. Their feedback loop sustained and grew and grew until the building and the very air shook. I kept wondering if they would hit the resonant frequency of the building’s foundations and we would be buried under a pile of rubble. It was an intense sensory overload. I could even feel the vibrations crawling down my throat every time I opened my mouth. Thank goodness for earplugs. During minute 8 of their 15 minute jet-engine explosion, I dared remove one just to get a taste. All I heard was WHHOOOORRSSSHSHSSSHHHH.

Anyway, some pics:

Shoe-gazers Unite

Shoe-gazers Unite

Erik Watches My Bloody Valentine

Erik Watches My Bloody Valentine

Janine, Tim and Lorraine Can't Believe It's Happening

Janine, Tim and Lorraine Can’t Believe It’s Happening

They Really Exist!

They Really Exist!


Day Watch, watchable.

September 25, 2008

Day Watch
d. Timur Bekmambetov

This movie fares better than it’s predecessor, Night Watch, if not for storytelling but for pure bug-nuts visual flair. The last 15 minutes are a chaotic mess narrative-wise, but there are a ton of “Holy Shit!” moments that carried me through the end credits.

Aah! I still have no idea what's going on, but it's more bearable!

Aah! I still have no idea what’s going on, but it’s more bearable!

The flick starts off promising enough with the tale of Tamerlane and the deus ex machina Chalk of Fate. But once we shoot back to the present and catch up with many characters from the first film, you pretty much have to throw your hands up in the air and stop trying to follow the narrative thread because it is frayed, ya dig?

Hmm, let me see if I can recount them all… In addition to Yegor, Anton’s son who was touted as “The Great One” who’ll tip the balance in the Day Watch/Night Watch war, we discover that Anton’s current rookie/intern is also a “Great One”. Yep. There can be more than one “Great One”. Yeahbuhwha!?

And then for some reason Anton has to retrieve Yegor’s hat from an evidence locker in the basement of the Night Watch HQ. Huh? This will prevent war? What!?

And, just as in the first film, people’s powers are undefined and limitless. So everyone is able to pull out a convenient “save” power in the nick of time. For example, Boris, the leader of the Night Watch, is somehow able to swap the minds of Anton and Olga with the idea that this would somehow protect Anton from being picked up by The Inquisition who want him for a murder he didn’t commit. What!!

Or else aforementioned undefined powers function as a means to show off special effects or unmotivated kewl shots. Like a car driving up the side of a building. Actually, that was kind of cool.

It really isn’t until the final act where the film feels most cohesive and suddenly the action ratchets up to apocalyptic levels. It really is pretty awesome when Yegor unleashes his yo-yo spores which pretty much destroy all of Russia. Though it feels like part of a different genre movie (a disaster porn flick) it is still impressive to witness. And the final twist at the end (thanks deus ex machina Chalk of Fate!) is pretty neat as it revisits the inciting incident from the first film. I am a sucker for time travel, tho this technically wouldn’t be considered as such.

So in summation, not a great narrative film, often confused, loud and without substance or emotional weight, it looks great and throws so many crazy ideas on the wall that the ones that stick are impressive. If this is the second in a trilogy, I wonder where it will go from here (and whether it will be called Dusk Watch or Afternoon Watch). Any one want to make a bet?


G.I. Joe Wave 9 Major Bludd — Same Figure, New Card

September 22, 2008

Any collector following the new G.I. Joe line will salivate knowing that wave 9 has just been released at retail (this of course will soon be replaced by salivating for wave 10 due out in the next couple of weeks).

In the case assortment that includes some of the best sculpts and more interesting/colorful characters (Barbecue, Snow Serpent and B.A.T., anyone?), one will find the re-issue of two figures that were difficult to find the first time around: Major Bludd and Sgt. Flash.

While it’s cool that these guys are being re-released for those who weren’t able to find them before, there’s another reason for those who already have the figures to plunk $7.99 down for another copy. Or another reason to drive completists absolutely bug-nuts.

The original release came under the 25th Anniversary logo, but now that the year has passed, a new emblem has replaced the 25th emblem in the upper right-hand corner of the card. These new emblems change depending on the source of the character — either sourced from the tv show, a sub-line faction (such as Tiger Force), or the comic among others.

Other minor differences include a lack of foil packaging, a different explosion on the background of the character art, and a new placement of the “Cobra Enemy” logo.

Being the kind of collector who usually buys one to keep MOC and one to open, I’m glad to finally get a Major Bludd that I can pull out of the packaging and set up on my shelf to collect dust. Yeah, nerdy, maybe sad, but I think it’s cool nevertheless.


The Wright Stuff

September 22, 2008

d. Tibor Takács

Ah, Jenny Wright. I wish we could have more movies with you in it. Arguably the best thing of the horror pic I, Madman, it’s unfortunate that this appears to be her only leading role where she carries the film, though we’ll always have her performances in Near Dark, The World According to Garp and The Wall.

Wishing The Movie Were Better

Wishing For Better Roles

The movie crosses familiar territory with Jenny Wright as a used bookseller who experiences murders that eerily mirror the events in the novels she is reading. The plot of fiction becoming reality has been seen before and recycled most recently in The Number 23, and in both cases it comes off a little tired despite some flourishes here and there. Here the culprit is a crazed writer who died but has come back to life through Jenny’s discovery of his novels. For some reason he has sliced many of his facial features off and kills people in order to replace his missing parts as well as impress Jenny’s character. Perhaps candy and flowers are too cliche.

While the plot seems overly familiar and stale, many of the secondary characters are actually quite interesting. Jenny’s boyfriend, a police investigator, manages to pull off the tough job of remaining sympathetic despite his denial of Jenny’s claims about the murderer which usually comes off as a convenient plot contrivance in which no one believes or listens to the protagonist. The only character who suffers from the film’s plot limitations is the murderer. It is implied that the writer may have used alchemy to imbue his spirit into the fiction, but it is never explored beyond “he was crazy.” It is also taken for granted the flimsy reasons for the writer’s motivation to slice people up.

The only other bright spot in this film, besides Jenny Wright, is the cinematography. There is one shot in particular that impressed me. Towards the end when the writer/murderer is pushed out a window, he explodes into a thousand pages blown away in the wind. Very cool visual. If only the rest of the film displayed this imagination.

I just found out that the actor who played the “Madman” of the title was none other than Randall William Cook; not only did he act in this film, but did the special effects. He is most notable for having recently worked on The Lord of the Rings trilogy! 


Night Watch, Hardly Watch

September 21, 2008

d. Timur Bekmambetov

Night Watch, the Russian horror/fantasy sfx extravaganza, is one of those movies that is all thunder and no rain. Lotsa noise, little substance. It moves from stunning visual to stunning visual, connected by the thinnest thread of a plot and really poor dialogue with no emotional pay-off.

Aah! What the hell is going on this movie?!

Aah! What the hell is going on this movie?!

From what I gathered, the Night Watch are the good-guys, servants of light in a millennia-old battle against the Day Watch, the bad-guys most of whom are vampires. The plot has the Night Watch seeking out a kid, who according to prophecy, will choose a faction, forever tipping the balance in that faction’s favor. There is also a subplot about a cursed person, the Vortex, whose connection to the main event I am fuzzy on.

I am mostly fuzzy on this movie because after about ten minutes, I grew bored with the film. I have a tough time following characters with ill-defined supernatural powers and with films that showcase the effects more than the characters. The film wants to be The Matrix in terms of scope, philosophy and action set-pieces, but it all barely hangs together.

That being said, the film looks great and the special effects are well done, but if I’m singing the sets and not the songs, well… you know. So after this confused mess, we’ll see if it improves with Day Watch. But next up, I should have I, Madman.


Fringe Is Frayed

September 18, 2008

I wanted to like Fringe, the new Fox series from JJ Abrams and “the writers of The Transformers”, and the pilot episode starts out with an amazing/horrifying airplane scene that I haven’t seen since… uh, well since Lost. But after that it’s all one cliche and anti-climax after another. My tip-off should’ve been “the writers of The Transformers.”

There are some good ideas, and some strong direction; but they are outweighed by lots of expository dialogue, poor character motivation and inconsistency and hokey pseudo-science.

As for the cast, Anna Torv is pretty enough — she looks like the love child of Cate Blanchett and Naomi Watts (and, no surprise, a quick look on IMDB reveals she is Australian too) — but then she is limited to two looks: the pouty look meant to invoke serious thought, and the pouty look meant to invoke sadness. Joshua Jackson’s character waffles between skeptic and M.I.T. level genius (minus any endearing eccentricities), and as the layman’s entry into this world of “fringe” science (i.e. bullshit) it means he gets to spout a lot of exposition and repeats what another character just said. John Noble gets the meat of the good lines as the mentally unstable scientist/father of Joshua, but he also gets the most scrutiny for being the Hollywood version of insane in that he is lucid enough at the most convenient times to move the plot forward.

And what is up with those really awful title cards? They don’t work. Are they part of the pattern? Or distracting “Hey look at my CGI skills” irritations?

Now I like science fiction/horror, and X-Files got it right more than wrong, but two episodes into Fringe and it doesn’t look good. Maybe the overarching mythology, I mean pattern, will be better viewed when the 1st season dvd box is out rather than having to wait. For now it’s a wait and see. Hopefully, the series finds its legs sooner than later.


I Can See Those Fighter Planes pt.2

September 15, 2008

As promised, here are a few pictures of the Target exclusive Conquest X-30 and Cobra Rattler jets.

Conquest X-30

Lt. Slip Stream

Cobra Rattler

Wild Weasel


“You Know the Matter with You, Noxie? You’re too soft.”

September 15, 2008

d. Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger

From the familiar opening of the Production of the Archers logo to the closing credits, this film is on a confident track with amazing performances and storytelling. The movie, set in London 1943, tells the story of an explosives expert overcoming his inner demons (alcoholism, a missing leg) in order to prove his worth and potency.

Sammy, played by David Farrar (Black Narcissus), is wounded both physically and mentally; he is aided in his struggle by Susan (played by the gorgeous Kathleen Byron (also from Black Narcissus)) who supports him despite his self-loathing and lashing out. If anything the movie is all about Sammy defusing bombs, literal and metaphorical, in his life.

Stand-out scenes include the test-firing of a howitzer, The Reeves Gun, at Stone Henge (they would never be able to shoot such a scene nowadays); a totally bananas alcohol-craving induced hallucination where Sammy is literally cornered by a giant bottle of Highlander whiskey; a tense bar scene where Sammy, off the wagon, calls out the bartender (with the above quote) while shoving glasses off the counter, and the even more tense final scene where Sammy has to keep his wits while defusing a bomb.

What’s lovely to behold are the period costumes of English military dress and hairstyles of the 40s. Everyone looks amazing. If there were anything wrong with this film is that despite it taking place in 1943, practically the peak of the war where Germany is bombing hell out of England, there is little sense of this danger or urgency dramatized. As the title suggests, it all seems to take place in a small back room corner of the war, where the drama is no less urgent or tense.

Overall, an excellent film in the Powell & Pressburger filmography. Up there with The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus. I definitely will be adding more of their films to my Netflix queue.

Next up I should have either I, Madman with Jenny Wright (Near Dark, The Wall), or the Russian films, Nightwatch and Daywatch.