Archive for the ‘Criminally Overlooked’ Category

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Keep watching the skies! Keep watch…oops, never mind: “The Thing”

September 17, 2009

200px-ThingPosterJohn Carpenter’s remake of 1951’s The Thing From Another World—abbreviated to simply The Thing (because, really, the whole “from another world” pretty much goes without saying)—was little loved upon release during the summer of 1982. Critics were understandably put off by its gore and violence and relentlessly pessimistic vantage point. After all, this was the summer of E.T.—a magical time when lovable, big-eyed aliens descended upon suburban California to fill the void left in a 10 year-old boy’s heart by the absence of his father. So, yeah, you can see that with your girlfriend or the John Carpenter flick that features a dude’s head separating from his body and sprouting spider legs and eyestalks and walking across the room. Hmmm…I wonder which one is more likely to lead to some action in the AMC Gremlin’s backseat…

It’s taken about a quarter of a century, but finally Carpenter’s version of the horror has finally found some modicum of respect.
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Criminally Overlooked: “Zodiac”

September 1, 2009

zodiacAmong the most criminally of the criminally overlooked is 2007s Zodiac by David Fincher. This is an epic, sprawling film that effortlessly crosses generational lines using the passport of unsettled, amorphous horror. It’s a film without a wasted shot or a mediocre performance. It should have swept the Oscars. It should have beaten down No Country for Old Men by revealing the Coen Brothers’ (and, to be fair, Cormac McCarthy’s) hipster-artist nihilism for the poserism it ultimately is. But that didn’t happen. I was one of the few who saw it and it’s barely remembered now. Today, I asked a hip, intelligent coworker if she’d seen it, and she replied, “No. Is it a TV series?” It was all I could do not to run down the hallway naked and screaming about the endtimes (admittedly, this packs less of punch around my office since I did it after I saw Transformers 2’s box office numbers).
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Criminally Overlooked: “The International”

June 7, 2009

200px-The_International_posterTom Tykwer’s The International was dumped into American movie theaters in the movie doldrums of February, billed as a dank, international thriller about a murderous bank, and released at time when the financial sector’s self-immolation had thrown us into the worst recession in living memory. No wonder people skipped it and saw My Bloody Valentine instead. It’s too bad, because The International has  a lot to recommend, not the least of which is its view of international finance which uses the dark arts of money and debt to grow fat. Just as The Dark Knight may one day be used a lesson of what America went through in the wake of 9/11, The International may one day serve as a useful autopsy of what brought us to this point in our financial history.
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It’s the End of the World As We Know It: “The Last Winter”

August 12, 2008

I was taken to task for my review of The Happening in the comments section by someone named (wait for it) “boogieboo” claiming that I completely missed the point of the movie—that the Earth would eventually fight back against the human infestation that was killing it—and that I was instead too hung up on trivial things like plot, acting, dialogue, etc. My response was that premise is only one element of a movie, and that when reviewing a movie you have to judge the whole thing, not just the idea behind it. Exhibit A in my case is Larry Fessenden’s The Last Winter. Fessenden’s movie is the film The Happening wanted to be (I know that sounds frightening, but trust me here). It also stands in stark contrast to Shyamalan’s film in how effectively and intelligently it makes the same point. Unlike The Happening, The Last Winter is genuinely creepy, contains excellent performances by B-list stars (who put Shyamalan’s A-listers to shame), smart dialogue, and most startlingly knows something about the environment! Boogieboo’s claims notwithstanding, The Happening’s pro-environment agenda inexplicably exists in a vacuum.
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Criminally Overlooked: “10 Items or Less”

January 9, 2008

Twenty years later it’s hard to remember that Morgan Freeman burst onto the cinematic scene by playing a brutal pimp in the movie Street Smarts. In an otherwise-unremarkable movie, Freeman was electrifying—gleefully malevolent with only a half-hidden streak of cruelty—and he handily stole the movie from erstwhile star Christopher Reeve (not a Herculean task, to be sure, but we can’t hold this against Freeman).

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One for the Work Wife: “Intacto”

December 5, 2007


Recently, I had lunch with my work wife Kassandra which ended—as our lunches often do—in her basement armory where I hold forth on some topic of art or politics or social trends while she cleans one of her weapons. It’s like our own little Algonquin round table, if the Algonquin hotel had been owned by Blackwater. On this particular occasion we happened to be discussing this very blog.

 

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Criminally Overlooked: “Session 9”

November 25, 2007

Session 9 creeped me out for most of its 90 minute runtime, and then, with the final line of dialogue, it terrified me so much that I had nightmares. I picked it up when it came to my local Blockbuster after a short, inglorious release, in the spring of 2002. I watched it while I wrote a paper on family annihilators for my Violent Crimes Investigation class I was taking at John Jay College. The nightmares so unnerved me that the next day I decided to call a friend, a Mormon, and possibly the sweetest person I’ve ever known. I told her about the movie and the nightmares. She said to me: “Okay, so you’re taking a class about violent crimes and you’re writing a paper about something called ‘family annihilators,’ and this movie scared you?”

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