Archive for August, 2006

Sam Raimi “Haunted” by his past, others influenced

August 27, 2006

We all know that in cinema there are those directors who are strongly influenced by films they grew up on… strongly, Tarantino is one of the biggest ones. He’s not genre busting, he’s a melting pot of genres that are important to him as a person. And he deals with all of it well. I love his movies, probably because I also love the movies that influenced them. Images from Lady Snowblood and Kill Bill; the Villains looking over their victims.
lady snowblood villianskill bill villians

Brian DePalma is another. It’s obvious that his work is strongly influenced by Hitchcock, even when his films are less than mediocre.

evil dead 2But then there are those Director’s who’s visions are unique … or are they? If one searches around enough one can find examples of where influences have been drawn from. Let’s look at Sam Raimi; director of the wonderful “Spider-Man” films and the brilliant “A Simple Plan”. “Evil Dead 2” was one of the first films that affected me as a youngster. It was viscerally so exciting and created a tangible world for me that existed outside of my own. That was the same night I saw “Bladerunner” for the first time ever. It was a good night in my childhood; and the world of cinema opened up to me. But I digress… Sam Raimi’s style has always felt so authentic to me, so entirely different from anything else out there. Until I saw something the other night – a movie.

The Haunting PosterThe original “The Haunting” from 1963; Black and white film, directed by Robert Wise, rated G. And it felt at times like Raimi was directing it. The camera tilting back and forth as sounds from other sides of walls are heard, dutch angles on doorways and mounted heads of animals, cameras flying at the faces of potential victims. I was watching it thinking to myself, Raimi saw this when he was 10. He had to have! “The Haunting” is worth checking out for any of you die hard horror Raimi fans.

And look what a little hunting got me… the truth.

The Innocents

The Others
Another one to see is “The Innocents” which basically became “The Others”. It’s funny because within the movie “The Innocents” the spirits are referred to on several occasions as the Others. It’s quite an obvious update. Both films very creepy and a little melodramatic towards the end, but very different at the same time. There’s even something that draws on familiarity between the posters! (more…)

“Feast” after “Snake’s on a Plane”: what went wrong, what will be done right?

August 23, 2006




soap poster Everybody is trying to figure out what went wrong with “Snakes on a Plane”. But does anyone whose talking about it really care? All those reviewers who have another clever way to say they hated it – they don’t care. But I do care. I care what happens at my local cineplex. That’s where I go to enjoy myself and as a continually budding filmmaker learn, even from mistakes. And there were a lot of mistakes made with “Snakes”. And it wasn’t the title. The title is the best thing to have happened with the movie. It brought on board Sam Jackson (an actor of repute) and it garnered more attention than it would have with any other title… it was a great marketing technique because it got people to talk about it. But the public cannot live on movie titles alone. Nor as we’ve seen in recent years big name stars.

So what went wrong? Even the Head of Distribution at New Line, David Tuckerman, stated that he was “disappointed” by the box office returns, given the amount of Internet buzz for the movie

caduceus snakesAnd There was a lot of internet buzz, but that’s pretty much where the buzz stayed. I have no idea how many people went to the website and got caught up in the hoopla, but the “Snakes on a Plane” experience didn’t really take advantage of the medium. They didn’t create a true on-line experience, and I’ll come back to experience again later. There were comparisons made with the internet savvy team that did the marketing for “Blair Witch”. But the “Blair Witch” website brought more than 22million hits, because of the “is it real or not” scenario. But even more so, because the website was more haunting than the film itself. Now that creates an audience waiting to happen. SOAP got how many hits? Probably just as many as they would have without the aptly named title. (more…)

The Illusionist, a mesmerizing sleight of hand

August 20, 2006

“The Illusionist”



Starring: Paul Giamatti, Ed Norton, Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell

The two things that I truly remember from “The Illusionist” starring Ed Norton and Paul Giamatti is the haunting element of the film, and Paul Giamatti. In this tall tale we see the story of Eisenheim, played by Norton, through the eyes of Giamatti’s Police Official (the official name alludes me and I don’t notepad and pen like reviewers do) who is under the command of the tyrannical Rufus Sewell’s Crowned Prince who wants Eisenheim stopped because they want the same woman, a Duchess, played by Jessica Biel. Four main characters that are drawn into the world of illusion and magic tricks that far exceed the normal pick a card any card tricks. As audience members, we’re not fooled, these are all CGI created manipulations, but because the film is so skillfully directed, and Ed Norton so wonderfully charismatic, we buy into almost anything he does, even when we are given no explanation – only because – well, it’s magic. Why should the audience be given knowledge that none of the other characters have except for the magician. (It’s like not wanting to watch the behind the scenes clips on DVDs now days, leave some of it to the imagination, thank you.) Though at a certain point you have to believe that Eisenheim has more power than any simple mortal would have.

And that’s where the film draws it’s power from, you don’t know what Eisenheim is capable of. This is a slick and smart thriller/drama. Giamatti’s decisions as an actor continue to absolutely impress me. I’m astounded by his work, and range. The same with Sewell who I respected from the first time I saw “Dark City”. He has a way of making royalty respectable while remaining an absolute creep.

I honestly don’t like giving away too much about a movie like this, because it would spoil the experience. I wish other reviewers felt the same. So I will leave you with this. When “The Illusionist” opens in your area, go see it. Then rent another great film about a magician told through the eyes of a Jewish strong man before WWII, called “Invincible” directed by Werner Herzog and starring the other great character actor Tim Roth. Then take the time to see the other magician film out soon enough starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale directed by Chris Nolan (Batman Begins). It should be just as impressive, but in other ways as the two “I” magic movies listed above.

Snakes on a Plane Reviewed: The Descent Experienced

August 19, 2006

*This blog includes the original end to “The Descent”.

I did a double feature today.

Here’s how it went.

First let me speak a little about “Snakes on a Plane”. I will say that I didn’t see it at the right time. I went to a 5:10 showing, before the masses that really wanted to see this film would show up. In some ways it was a mistake, because this film is about the communal experience; the joy of sharing, and laughing at parts in which you shouldn’t. But now my thoughts are unaffected by the adrenaline of a large crowd and hopefully my response more honest.

It was pure pleasure waiting for this film to open. The curiosity of what they would do with it, then the bits and pieces released here and there, and I don’t believe I ever saw a full length trailer. My friend did however say that on television they played the now (in)famous line quoted by Mr. Jackson himself, something about the mother’s of snakes getting off the plane. Even though I knew it was coming, I’m glad I didn’t see it without the build of the rest of the film. Did I say build? Yes, there is a build to the film. Slow, then really fast. (more…)

“Crash”, Mel and The Flaws in Racial “isms” or Reverse Racism – A Rant

August 17, 2006

I was a fan of the film “Crash”, but I also realize it was incredibly flawed. Some of the greatest movies made in my eyes are incredibly flawed; films in which the vision of the filmmaker becomes so self-contained that it loses some of the logic or reality and follows more of a poetically emotional path. A couple others for me are “Bladerunner” (my favorite of films), Shyamalan’s “The Village”, and “Lady in the Water”, and “The Life Aquatic: with Steve Zissou”. These films to me retain a certain beauty, a carefree attitude toward what is expected and should be accepted as art in film. There’s a greater level of ingenuity, and originality in these films – moments of humanity that cannot be achieved by the type of filmmaker who sticks so closely to the three act structure. Coppola and Kubrick are the two greatest achievers of this art form whose films are typically not flawed, though I feel “Full Metal Jacket” falls into the latter, and “Eyes Wide Shut” disappears into the ethereal of flawed filmmaking, but I’m getting away from the focus of this Blog: “Crash”.

Many believe “Crash” to be unrealistic in it’s depiction of racial warfare and racism. No one would act out that way in reality or be that vocal about it. They argue that the racism people struggle with is far more subtle and dangerous. The things we keep to ourselves. It’s far more dangerous for a political leader to hate African Americans to himself than it would be to hate them out loud. I understand that. It is a far more realistic a view of the world. Or is it? (more…)

The Japanese Noir of Takashi Miike

August 10, 2006

For years I’ve observed and enjoyed Japanese cinema. My love began with “Rashomon” – a tale of a thief who robs a a traveling couple, rapes the wife, and several of them end up dead. The events are retold after the events have occurred and not just through a single source but through several sources at a trial (they even go so far as to have a medium call upon one of the deceased – and the deceased speaks through her in a crackling voice that heightens the unease) but the twist is, we’re not hearing the trial as it happens either, instead we’re hearing it passed on as gossip between three lower class men. Each time the tale is retold from a different witness during the trial we wonder how much of it is true and how much of it has been unintentionally rearranged by the men. The complexity and simplicity of the film that played out in front of me struck a deep nerve, and immediately after viewing it, I took it to several friends and made them watch it. I believe I watched it four times that day. Then came “Seven Samurai” and “Stray Dog”. The films of Kurosawa embedded themselves in my subconscious.

Then the films of Ozu came into my life, “Tokyo Story” and “A Tale of Floating Weeds” are truly two of the most magnificent and emotional films I have ever seen without bringing sentimentality into it. Ozu tells stories with such a matter-of-factness that he doesn’t need to add any extra dramatic elements to the stories or characters or camera (which typically avoids movement and stays planted directly in front of the actors as if we were sitting in front of them listening intently) – these characters simply exist, and are that much more powerful for it.

Now a new Japanese Director has entered into my conscious as a truly visionary filmmaker. That Director is Takashi Miike. It began, as it did with most American audiences, with “Audition”, a film much like “Misery” only more gut wrenchingly painful to watch. Where Rob Riener captured the Stephen King essence of sudden bursts of brutal violence and horror mixed with that over the top silliness that King brings to his yarns, Miike gives us a much more subtle and nuanced build, one that as we become more enveloped by the film, leaves us feeling that much more unnerved, until the car-wreck of an ending, where it was more hard to look away than watch. Truly horrifying. (more…)