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Archive for December, 2009

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…. has a new, effective poster. 

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What’s so interesting, and admirable, about Paramount Vantage’s unfairly-dumped-into-oblivion (limited theatrical release on September 4; forgotten about by the following day), now liberated on DVD, Carriers, is how it deserves so many tired parallels yet manages to subvert them all. Yes, it’s close in tone to The Ruins, and, sure, not unlike the structure of Zombieland. You could even toss some comparisons to The Road in for extended measure and not be overzealous. They’re all earned. But with that degree of “It’s like….” descriptions, it’d be easy for a film to buckle under the pressure and come across as a perfunctory trash-header. Carriers, written and directed by rookie brothers Alex and David Pastor, somehow rises to the occasion, and the end result is mute, personal and, despite its obvious shortcomings, rather satisfying. Continued after the jump: (more…)

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Sometimes I want to smack myself. Clench my fingers into a tight knot and shoot the fist upward into my jaw. All while saying, “What took you so long?”

One of those times was two nights ago, when, after work, I strolled my way over to a local AMC theater to catch the Coen Brothers‘ latest, A Serious Man. For those who don’t frequent acclaimed film blogs and critics circles (meaning the vast majority), A Serious Man has been nonexistent, riddled to a small pocket of major city screens. If you do visit the cinema-forward websites that I’m all over on a daily basis, though, you’ll currently see this one placing rather high on most heads’ Best of 2009 lists. It’s Joel and Ethan Coen, so naturally it’s praised in the highest of ways, and typically their two-sided name would have been enough to have me immediately  slurping down flat Diet Coke and overpriced popcorn. Something about A Serious Man hadn’t clicked with me, though. The excitement wasn’t there. Anticipation was vacant. The problem is, I’m still not sure why. Literally a week before the film’s trailer premiered online, I’d once again devoured Blood Simple and Miller’s Crossing; resisting the latest picture from the fellas responsible for those two gems should never happen, right? 

The fact that I’ve finally seen A Serious Man and I’m quite the fan proves that my indifference was indeed foolish. We all go a little mad sometimes. Yours truly included. While most critics are claiming this to be the best film of the Coens’ career, I’m nowhere near as exclamatory; however, that doesn’t mean it’ll simply come and go in my head. In fact, the film’s lasting power in my thoughts is exactly why I dig it so much. Sitting there in the scarcely-populated AMC theater, I absorbed the film with quiet attentiveness, but never outright verve. A few chuckles here and there, but mostly casual entertainment. But then the morbidly poetic final shot came, and I was pretty floored. Initially, in a “What the hell was that? Are you kidding?” way, but then, no more than 20 minutes later, the last image stained itself in my brain. I couldn’t shake it. And that’s when I totally got it. I was right there with the Coens. It’s a alternately profound, ironic and fearless place to be.

Not the film's final shot, but those who've seen A SERIOUS MAN should understand.

The film’s closer tops their fury-causing, heavily debated No Country for Old Men ending, in my eyes. It’s just as maddening at first, but then equally as esoteric and poignant upon closer inspection. Much like as A Serious Man as a whole. 

Continued after the jump: (more…)

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If I ever catch myself downplaying horror sequels in the near future, I’ll be sure to remember The Exorcist III, and to then promptly quit the negativity. Written and directed by William Peter Blatty, the author of the original The Exorcist novel, The Exorcist III (1990) continues the first film’s story, only it’s 15 years later. The focus is on stone-faced, often sarcastic lawman Bill Kinderman (here played by the ever-imposing George C. Scott) and his efforts to pin down a killer that soaks his/her murders in a religuous foundation, and is mysteriously connected to the little McNeil girl’s nightmare.

Blatty, whose directing resume is all too slim, stages a handful of tense, damn chilly sequences; his M.O. for effective horror is a patient one, bent on sudden shock. There’s hardly a telegraphed scare in the entire film. The first lung-hitter is set in a confessional booth, and simply uses an unseen person’s gravely voice-from-Hell to signal the creeps. Near the film’s end, an oversize scissor and an unsuspecting teenager are Blatty’s key ingredients for a similar triumph. (There’s also a bizarre dream sequence complete with cameos from both Fabio and Patrick Ewing…. your guess is as good as mine). The crown jewel within The Exorcist III, though, is tonight’s Scene of Mine, and it’s a whopper. The entire sequence is actually nearly two minutes longer than what Youtube allows for here, so just imagine the quiet anticipation felt here amplified. I won’t say any more, in fear of spoiling anything; it’s such a blink-and-you’ll miss it image, but lord is it a slam dunk.

If you, like a high-school-aged me, were once obsessed with the forgotten horror video game Clock Tower, this scene should hit especially hard. Scene after the jump: (more…)

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There’s no need to get on the “Foreign films get the shaft here in the states” soapbox; it’s already overcrowded with passionate overseas-horror lovers. In the case of 2007’s exceptional [REC], though, I’ll make an exception. Mainly because that heartstopper of a quasi-zombie flick, co-directed by Spain’s Jaume Balaguero´and Paco Plaza, is the quintessential big screen picture, a film that’s perfect for in-theater consumption. Shot in the same handheld camera style as Cloverfield, [REC] is actually superior to that J.J. Abrams-backed creature feature, which itself loses steam when watched on a television. The straight-to-DVD release of [REC] here in America was a huge bummer, frankly; it robbed me of the Loews experience I desired. I had to settle for the unnecessary, but at least well-done, remake, Quarantine. But, that wasn’t the same. Quarantine is rather solid, but still a carbon copy of the real Spanish deal. 

So imagine my delight when I discovered that [REC] 2 was to make U.S. impact during the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s “Spanish Cinema NOW” festival. Knowing that it’ll only get another to-DVD unveiling here sometime next year, missing the sequel’s run in the great Walter Reade Theater was no option. And I’m glad to report that [REC] 2 didn’t disappoint. I’ve organized my thoughts into a review-thing over at Critics Notebook. Give it a peek, will ya? 

Review Link: Critics Notebook: [REC] 2 (2009)

Tomorrow I’ll be back with a [REC] 2 related tribute to a forgotten slice of Italian zombie-movie-cheese, Burial Ground. I, for one, can’t wait. [REC] 2 trailer, after the jump:

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