Wednesday, December 07, 2011

What I Watched In November

I only got out to the theater twice in November but each tip was rewarding. APOLLO 18 turned out to be much better than the derisive bitching I had read online lead me to believe it would be. The reaction of the angry petulant fanboy seems the only critical response I’ve been able to find with the words ‘boring’ and ‘stupid’ being the main descriptors tossed around. I found the film to be neither of these things and indeed, to be tense, fascinating and creepy. I can understand disliking the ‘found footage’ types of movies that is coming back into vogue with the success of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise’s huge box office take but the form has never bothered me and this film really worked for me.

The second trip out was for Soderbergh’s intriguing CONTAGION. This is a film that will not play well for a casual film fan as it tells its story in an almost documentary style giving you information in a mostly detached way that requires the viewer to kind of lean into the tale being told. Character traits are communicated subtly, plot points are given without dramatic underlining and the horror of the situation grows slowly until the size of the danger seems overwhelming. This is a well acted, well scripted and deliberately paced adult story about a worldwide pandemic. Its straightforward way of relating its story is one of its most effective elements. This is the way it would probably happen and that is one of the scariest things about it.

Now that I’ve caught up with BREAKING POINT (1976) on DVD I’ve seen all of director Bob Clark’s work from his period for greatness. Say what you wish about the movies he produced from the 90s until his unfortunate death in 2007 but from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s Clark made some of the best entertainments available in multiplexes. That he worked in multiple genres during this fertile period and still maintained a high level of quality shows how good a filmmaker he was regardless of what you might think of individual movies. Anyone who can make DEATH DREAM, BLACK CHRISTMAS, MURDER BY DECREE, PORKY’S and A CHRISTMAS STORY clearly knows how to craft a screen story for the intended effect. BREAKING POINT demonstrated that Clark also could make an action/revenge film in the mold of DEATH WISH without succumbing to either outright copying or cloying simplification to more easily manipulate the audience. The hard choices are laid out as very difficult and even after the cathartic violence that climaxes the film there is still the lingering doubt that this action will end the threat that hangs over the main character’s family. Although the movie boasts a strong cast I was disappointed that Robert Culp’s cop character didn’t have more to do but that is my only real complaint.

APOLLO 18 (2011)- 7 (pretty clever ‘found footage film)
THE FRENCHMAN’S GARDEN (1978)- 8 (rewatch)
THE GAMMA PEOPLE (1956)- 6 (fun Cold War/mad scientist tale from John Gilling)
THE DEADLY INTRUDER (1985)- 2 (miserable, boring slasher)
THE HELLFIRE CLUB (1961)- 8 (excellent swashbuckler)
THE DRAGON MURDER CASE (1934)- 6 (fun Philo Vance mystery)
VACATION OF TERROR (1989)- 4 (low budget Mexican POLTERGIEST rip-off)
SUCK (2009)- 7 (fun musical, vampire comedy)
THE NEST (1988)- 6 (rewatch)
PONTYPOOL (2008) - 9 (rewatch)
ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1933)- 9 (rewatch on Blu-Ray)
MINOTAUR (2005)- 4 (retelling of the legend falls flat)
THE HORDE (2009)- 7 (French zombie/crime film)
YOR, THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE (1983)- 7 (rewatch)
CONTAGION (2011)- 7 (well done, documentary style drama)
GIALLO IN VENICE (1979)- 5 (incredibly sleazy but dumb mystery)
MYSTERY HOUSE (1938)- 6 (fun, short, locked room mystery)
DEVIL (2010)- 6 (pretty good mystery/horror tale)
TROLLHUNTER (2010)- 8 (a blast!)
TEENAGE MONSTER (1958)- 4 (not good but what other juvenile delinquent, horror western is better?) (rewatch)
SLEEPWALKERS (1992)- 2 (rewatch) (so bad its almost MST3K good)
BREAKING POINT (1976)- 7 (Bob Clark makes a man against the mob film)


Richard of DM said...

Somehow I missed Breaking Point while I was gathering 1976 movies for my theme this month. Thanks, duder! I am adding it to the queue.

Rod Barnett said...

I think you'll enjoy BREAKING POINT. it's an intelligent film and delivers the goods as well.