Saturday, May 05, 2012

What I Watched In April

I got out to the theater a few times in April and really had a blast. Well- except for succumbing to my intense curiosity, ignoring the bad reviews and paying my two bucks to see GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGENACE. What the Hell was I thinking? I was thinking that there was no way the guys behind the CRANK films could make a film so terrible that it wouldn't be at least entertaining on a trashy level. No way. Damn, but I was wrong. This is the dullest piece of crap I've suffered through theatrically in years. Nothing in the film works from the lame apocalyptic story through the crappy characters and even the stupid visuals. There are no- I repeat-NO good ideas in this film. I should not be bored when a guy with a flaming skull is killing people on a giant screen in front of me. Even just typing that I out I can't understand how the filmmakers accomplished this feat. Equal parts tiresome and stupid this is a film that should be skipped by even the most curious. Please learn from my mistake.

THE HUNGER GAMES was a pretty good film but nothing I haven't seen before and often better. I'm a sucker for post-apocalyptic tales and the world of this story is well presented in a believable fashion even if I'd have liked more attention paid to certain ideas that are too quickly rushed by. I've heard some people complaining that the film wastes too much of the running time setting things up. They seem to want to get to the action portion of the tale as soon as possible with little regard for anything else. I find that strange since I found the set up to be far more compelling than the various fights in the third act for several reasons. First, the film sloppily makes Katniss the obvious winner before things even begin by showing her archery skills but no one else's abilities. This drains any real tension from the action because it is clear she will win. There should have been some attempt at misdirection to give us the idea that she might not come out on top or might even be wounded in some horrible way so that some suspense could be generated. As it stands the outcome is a given, more or less, with only the thrill of the 'how' to keep us interested. Unfortunately the director seems to have listened to a group of idiots because the actions scenes are often edited as if an epileptic got drunk and spasmed on the footage during working hours. Once again people- if I can't tell what is happening then what is the point of the scene? Hold the camera steady and have the actors do things in front of it. Then edit the shots together so that we can follow the movements and events as the characters struggle with each other. Simple, no?

In better news, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is a fantastic exercise in horror filmmaking that plays with, subverts and twists expectations so deftly that I often found myself slack-jawed with amazement. I think I smiled more while watching this film than I have in a long time. Made by lovers of the genre who use their understanding of its tropes to give you exactly what you want and expect without insulting your intelligence, this is the kind of movie fans hope for but rarely get. Joss Whedon and his collaborators should be praised for getting this extremely fun film made and (finally) out into theaters. If more horror cinema was as funny, smart, exciting and aware as this fans would have much less to bitch about. Go out and see it as soon as possible and don't give away its surprises. Let your friends discover the shocks for themselves. 

FANFARE FOR A DEATH SCENE (1964)- 4 (padded TV pilot from the makers of the Outer Limits)
THE BLOOD ROSE (1969)- 6  (languidly paced but interesting French horror film)
GHOST RIDER:SPIRIT OF VENGENCE (2012)- 2 (hyper-stylized mess)
SEDDOK, L'EREDE DI SATANA (1960) - 7 (full length cut of ATOM AGE VAMPIRE proves to be very good)
HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS (1970)- 6 (overly compacted retelling of the TV series is still entertaining)
CUT-THROATS NINE (1972) - 8 (rewatch)
HUMONGOUS (1982)- 5 (well directed but only OK stalking monster film)
BEYOND ATLANTIS (1973)- 4 (Corman produced/Eddie Romero directed island adventure)
THE HUNGER GAMES (2012) - 7 (shaky-cam damns its action scenes)
THE MAZE (1953)- 6 (fun Old Dark House mystery) (rewatch)
RAMMBOCK: BERLIN UNDEAD (2010)- 6 (short German zombie film)
CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)- 9 (a blast of dark, creepy fun)
NAKED MADRID (1979)- 5
ALIEN TORNADO (2012) - 3 (awful SyFy movie)
GOR (1987)- 2 (terrible barbarian film adapted from the John Norman novels)
A LOTUS FOR MISS QUON (1967)- 5 (muddled drama set in Southeast Asia

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