Sunday, October 28, 2012

3 shrt prgrphs: The Catechism Cataclysm

2011, Todd Rohal -- netflix

This is an odd, odd little movie.  I'm not certain what the point is.  I definitely didn't know what a "catechism" is before watching the movie, and now, having read numerous explanations, I'm not entirely certain I understand how it's applied.  So either the film is deeper or more shallow than I thought.  But, truth told, I haven't thought about it all that much, except in appreciation of the oddity it is.

The film stars Eastbound and Down's Steve Little as a far-too-old-to-be-so-wide-eyed-and-naive priest, Father William Smoorster, whose teachings to his local congregation are less than imbued with the holy spirit.  He's told to take a week off, during which he reconnects with his sister's former high-school boyfriend, Robbie Shoemaker (Robert Longstreet), a man whom he's idolized deeply for decades.  The haggard Robbie seems perplexed by their reunion, obviously overwhelmed by the hyper, cheerful and unsullied personality before him.  Father William goes on and on about Robbie's shorts stories and his awesome metal band, presuming Robbie to have the superstar life fitting his adulation, and seems completely unable to hear the actual truth.  Suckered in by his energy and perhaps a little lonely himself, Robbie agrees to take a canoe trip with Father William, where, naturally, things go south.

Along the way Robbie, upon request, tells William a few stories, each of which are actually quite clever and entertaining, but their vague resolutions leave William wanting more concrete answers.  The film opens with a death metal, flames-and-pentagrams infused opening title sequence, leaving one to expect an in-your-face horror of some kind, and the entire canoe trip, up to the point where they realize they're lost, has this sensation lording over it.  After they get lost, and the truth gets laid on the line, the intensity ratchets up, but doesn't pay off quite as expected.  What ultimately occurs is best left unspoiled, but suffice it to say, it's totally random, exceedingly odd and, depending on your perspective, delightfully oblique, or confusing, pointless and inane.  I fall in the former camp, so, truth told, I kind of love this movie.  Both Little and Longstreet are fantastic, and definitely bring something special to each of their roles.  An buddy-less buddy comedy, a horror-less horror, and just plain weird lost-in-the-woods adventure, I smell a cult favourite in the making, one that's likely to take a long time, even in the internet age, to catch on, but there's definitely something here to come back to and keep enjoying.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Other Guys

2010, Adam McKay -- netflix

 I'm a Will Ferrell fan.  I'm not a fanatic, so I don't rush out to see everything he does, but I acknowledge how talented a comedian and performer he is and have never turned my nose up to seeing one of his pictures.  He's got a gift, whether innate or carefully crafted, he's able to generate physical, cerebral, base and absurd comedy on a whim.  He's not a broad comedian like Jim Carrey, or as goofball as Adam Sandler, or as vulgar as Eddie Murphy (in his heyday), or as arch as Bill Murray, but he's capable of all these kinds of comedy, making him a much more adaptable comedian than almost every huge comedy star from the past.  Truly though, his biggest successes come when he's in control, especially in his pictures with Adam McKay.

With McKay he created Anchorman, Talladega Nights and Step Brothers (as well as the revolutionary Funny or Die web-channel), funny often brilliant comedies that encourage the performers to improvise, leaving as much funny stuff on the cutting room floor as in the film.  The Other Guys, however, is a much different picture, surprisingly so, and perhaps a necessary one to show what McKay and Ferrell are capable of.  The Other Guys is a full-on homage to the buddy cop action-comedies of the 1980s.  One would expect a rather pointed skewering of the genre out of McKay and Ferrell, but they keep it fairly broad, and limit it to the set-up.

As with most old-school buddy cop comedies, the hero of the picture tend to be the wild card, the off-the-book type constantly butting heads with the chief, but getting results.  He's usually partnered with the straight-laced guy who follows him dutifully as he goes off the books, providing a minimal effort to reign him in.  In The Other Guys, the buddy cops are both wild cards, and all I really need to tell you is they're played by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson, and you know what to expect.  The difference is, the chief loves them, as do the press and everyone in the precinct.  They're rock-star cops, seemingly impervious to harm, able to accomplish any feat, or so they think, right up to their shockingly hilarious end.

Mark Whalberg's Terry Hoitz is a disgraced cop, or rather an embarrassed one, put on desk duty after an unfortunate discharge of his weapon.  With the city's heroes having fallen, he sees an opportunity to step up and take their place.  Unfortunately, he's partnered with Ferrell's Allen Gamble, the most straight-laced of straight-shooters, a guy who's more than happy to be a desk cop, file reports, and be the subject of other's practical jokes.  Hoitz and Gamble stumble on a seemingly innocent clerical error, but as they follow up on it, the innocuous balloons out into the biggest police case in New York history, which they tackle with an incremental amount of gusto.

The Other Guys doesn't play it completely straight, as it's funnier than, say a Lethal Weapon or a 48 Hours, but unlike so many genre comedies today, it's not completely spinning the subgenre on its head at every turn.  It invests in its characters, and far more than most McKay/Ferrell pictures, the comedy is largely scripted in, deriving from the characters and situation rather than through improv.  It delivers on the action, which is limited to being as over-the-top as most 80's action pics, not pushing it any further.

The film is a product of the post-bailout financial crisis, and while it doesn't lay heavy on the commentary, nor is it exceptionally relevant in-the-moment watching it, it yields a remarkable end credits sequence that's potent, informative, and not at all out of place.

Whalberg, not one of my favourite performers, puts in a good turn here, a cop full of bravado without much to back it up.  It's a role with surprising range that shapes up nicely against Ferrell's reigned in, buttoned-down performance.   All told, it's a solid, constantly entertaining picture.  While I'm looking forward to the Anchorman sequel/reunion, I hope that McKay and Ferrell have more straightforward vehicles like this in their reservoir as well.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Parts 1 and 2)

David Yates, 2010/2011 -- blu-ray

The tail end of the Harry Potter series (by which I guess I mean the latter half) greatly benefitted by having David Yates as director.  It's not necessarily the man's skill -- though I'm impressed by his eye as well as his panache with shadows, and his rather mature focus -- but instead the consistency of vision.  I guess were it not for his skill, the vision would be for shit, but he truly thrust Harry Potter, his compatriots, and consequently the audience headlong into adulthood. 

The previous Potter film, Half-Blood Prince, was by far the most intriguing of the films to date, if not necessarily the story itself, then most certainly in tone and allusion.  Half-Blood Prince was, in essence, a two and a half hour warm-up for the Deathly Hallows, itself a mammoth four and a half hours in total.  The singular focus of Yates definitely brought the sixth and seven acts together as a unified whole, and for a time it was rather glorious.

The first act of the Deathly Hallows find Harry, Hermoine and Ron on the run as the nefarious forces of Voldemort seek Harry's death.  Equally, they're on a quest to find the Hoarcruxes, the enchanted objects each containing a piece of Voldemort's soul, and perhaps the only path to his ultimate destruction.  The globe-wide journey the trio take leads to the most beautiful moments of the series.  Like Han, Leia and Luke before them, it's really an anti-love triangle, as it's so evident that the hero is so wrapped up in his quest that it's impossible for him to acknowledge romance as an option.  An yet, the tension exists here, far more palpably than in Lucas' trilogy.  In particular the tent sequences, so extremely intimate and were this not a movie still intended for mature children, there would have been some definite knocking of wands going on.  The sexual tension, which circles around all three ways, was shocking but a reminder that the kids have grown up, though not all the way.

The Deathly Hallows part 1 features a remarkable adventure, and with Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint all grown up both as people and as actors, they're up to the challenge of being the focal point of the picture.  The Potter series has been littered with tremendous supporting actors, a necessity given the inexperience of the young cast in the first picture, and the awkwardness of puberty and teenage years that followed.  Finally they're ready to be the absolute center of the fantasy and it's a palpable difference, having them carry the film on their own.  Part 1 would be a brilliant movie, a fantastic feather in the cap of the series but the fact of the matter is it's incomplete.  It ends awkwardly, mid-story, something every filmgoer was painfully aware of in advance as it was broadcast globally that the seventh book would be divided into two films, starting a dumbass trend for every kids book series to follow I'm sure.

While Part 1 used the extra time to allow the characters and moments to breathe in a manner which none of the other pictures had the luxury, it turned out to be a reward.  But its reward was Part 2's curse, as the "sequel" never stopped feeling overlong and drawn out.  At two hours it's a trudge, especially with the 40-minute sustained action sequence.  While it was exceptionally well handled and orchestrated by Yates, it could have had 20 minutes cut and the brutally padded lead into it could have equally been reduced to half an hour.  There truly was not enough material left in the novel to justify the 2-hour picture that resulted.

My initial reaction to the split of the seventh novel was that it was a complete and utter cash-grab on the studio's part.  After watching Part 1, I actually entertained the idea that there was artistic merit to the division.   Whist viewing Part 2, I actually started to tense, and feel (if only mildly) a sense of rage at the duping of the audience and the bilking of their money.  Part 1 is a two and a half-act production.  Part 2 is barely one act and a coda.

Credit to Yates for trying (as no doubt it wasn't his idea to break the Deathly Hallows up) as he attempts to give both the audience and the studio what they want out of the second part, but he just doesn't have enough to make it work.  The biggest shame is Yates could have made the Deathly Hallows a tight 3.5 hour Return of the King triumph, and yet the series goes out like a deflated balloon.

Young Adult

2011, Jason Reitman -- netflix

I couldn't get the image of Patton Oswalt's horrifically bent penis out of my mind for weeks after seeing this movie.  Oh, we don't ever see it in the film, but Oswalt plays Matt Freehauf -- a character who was the victim of extreme bullying in high school, resulting in a brutal beat down that has left him permanently scarred and crippled -- with such commitment, such conviction, and such humanity that the nightmare that is his cock, as graphically described in the film, remains a part of my nightmares.

I've been a huge fan of Oswalt as a stand-up comedian for well over half a decade, and have been rooting for him as an actor since he left King of Queens behind him.  He's a gifted comedian, but as an actor the kind of roles he plays here in Young Adult and his starring turn in Big Fan prove that equally he's a gifted actor.  While he can handle comedic roles, he handles the dept of damaged people with both ease and understanding.  It's in large part that he's playing roles that suit him... dark, depressed, dry... but at the same time he's not the typical sadsack schlub, he's much richer than that.  These kinds of dark comedies allow Oswalt to expose his raw nerves, eliciting smiles, sympathy and perhaps a little scorn.  Matt Freehauf isn't a dyed in the wool crank, but he's on his way, and Oswalt show a character who has put up many walls, but isn't finished barricading himself in yet.

I should note that Oswalt's Freehauf isn't the star of the film.  He's the primary supporting character, but it's a showcase role for a character actor.  He doesn't necessarily upstage Charlize Theron, a gifted actress with infinite tricks in her bag, but he matches her in every scene and, for this film at least, steps up on screen as her equal.  Theron's Mavis Gary is a downright nasty human being.  She what the popular princesses in high school turn into when they're left unchecked and unchallenged.  She's achieved success, to a degree, but it's on the wane, about to crash like her marriage did.  Depressed and suffering from writers block when she receives a photo of her high school boyfriend's newborn daughter, she sets out to her home town to rescue him and/or reclaim him.

Mavis' worldview is completely self-centered, but to the point of being blind any true awareness of herself.  Her depressive state is so foreign to her, she's completely unaware of the condition she's found herself in.  She meets Freehauf and the two exchange cantankerous barbs, seemingly sensing that neither could inflict more damage upon them then they already do themselves, they form an unexpected camaraderie.

As Mavis' misguided ploy to steal Buddy away from his wife an child accelerates, Mavis gets further and further away from self awareness, until she crashes headlong into it.  Truly facing herself for the first time, understanding how others see her, how she presents herself, she hangs on the precipice of change, of growth.  Diablo Cody delivers in both Mavis and Freehauf two characters, flipsides of the same coin of depression (just one of many different types of two-faced coins), one who seemingly has everything going for them but can't make anything work, the other who seeming has nothing going for them and makes next to no effort to try to make it work.  They're richly textured creations, who, in certain lights, are not great people, but there's equally enough insight into their character, and enough compassion from both director Reitman and the performances to not only follow them for 90 minutes, but hope for them that things will get better.

Of course, it seems Reitman likes to veer in the opposite direction at the last minute, denying the usual happy endings -- certainly in his previous effort Up In The Air in which Vera Farmiga turns into the world's biggest C-word out of the blue and crushes George Clooney, a left-field turn that literally destroyed the movie for me -- and here he does it again, though not to the same damaging degree, as Mavis faces self-awareness and self-consciousness for the first time, only to be talked down off the decent human being ledge.  It's not a badly written scene but it takes a rich and rewarding character redemption arc and undoes it with the cartoon-like subtlety of an anvil.  As I note, it doesn't ruin the entire picture, but it's a blunt ending where it needs a little softness.
david's take

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Days of Halloween Redux: Dance of the Dead

2008, Gregg Bishop -- Netflix

Zombies seem to have two places in movies, one is as a terrifying unrelenting force and the other is as a comedic antagonist not the least terrifying.  You can probably break it down to the zombies that ask to eat your brains and those that don't do much other than moan while they rip you to pieces.  Strangely enough, the brain eaters also seem to generally get created by toxic waste, normally a green oozing stuff that comes from labs or nuclear facilities, while the moaners normally don't have much of an explanation, while ambiguous viruses are commonly used.

Dance of the Dead is a much loved indie flick of the comedic type.  Yep, right down to the oozing green stuff, these guys are not so much terrifying as they are a vehicle for a bunch of townsfolk to be converted into antagonists for the heroic teens.  This is Mary Sue land where geeky kids rise above their pariah status to save (what's left of) the town. The local steaming nuclear plant is oozing its green residue into the water supply and the effect waits until the night of the big prom to take hold.  Strangely enough its not so much that the ooze affects the people drinking the water, as it does wake up the dead in the local graveyard (literally being spring-boarded back to life) which in turn infect the rest of the town. But the movie was not so much concerned with logic or continuity as it was laughs and low budget monster effects.

I said much loved, and a Google of the movie will reveal that is ran through all the horror film fests before getting some tiny LA theatre release and then straight to DVD.  It seemed to have been loved at them, but I will say that in having attended a lot of those fests, they are pretty forgiving.  The horror fests are often as much about having a good time as they are showing good movies.  So entertaining will make up for schlock.  This fit that bill, being mildly amusing, decently shot and with OK acting.  Its more about the fun of making a zombie movie than it is about adding a serious entry into the genre.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Days of Halloween Redux: Creep

2004, Christopher Smith (Triangle, Black Death) -- download

I am not sure why but this season's collection was not all  that good. I want to suggest it is because last year we were able to collect the best of a wide range of movies from the past decade or so. Basically, if we heard it was good, we had downloaded it.  This season, with most of those that came out this year already seen and not able to afford as many cinema movies as we would like, the downloads and Netflix pickings were slim.  Most of what we have watched has been just OK at best; very few were good.  Unfortunately this goes into the "just OK" category.

Franka Potente plays a London party girl, no real background is given but she is shallow and focused on herself.  In just the few interactions she has with the people around her, as she tries to get to a party where George Clooney might make an appearance, we learn she is pretty much a dick.  We don't have much sympathy when she falls asleep, after having one too mini bottles of vodka in the tube, and wakes up in an empty subway car.  She soon finds herself trapped in the subway system with someone or something that is killing people.

I rather liked Smith's Triangle, a time travel slasher movie on a boat.  But this cannibal in the sewers movie just lacked... well, most things.  It had many chances to excel but never really chose them and was pretty much without any distinctive character.  The monster, who we will call Craig, is well designed and something about him rung as extremely familiar.  But other than the Elephant Man,  I have not been able to place it... him... whatever.  He screams like a bat, sniffs the air like a dog and doesn't seem to mind the open sores and infection he must be suffering from living in the sewers.  And he eats rats and people.

Potente's Kate waffles between capable & courageous and scared witless.  If she gains anything from us, it is a grudging respect as she desires to rise above her own self concern and help those trapped down there with her.  But the story arc doesn't really use this growing redemption. It is just one of multitude of meh in this movie. Incidental characters play even a lesser role.  Nothing really contributes to anything and I ended up bored.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Days of Halloween Redux: The Devil Inside

2012, William Brent Bell -- Netflix

I was raised Catholic so I think fear of The Devil and possession is buried deep inside my DNA.  I remember my mother liking scary movies but actually being nervous about religiously scary movies.  Being mostly atheist these days (is that like being a little pregnant?) I cannot say the idea of it scares me anymore but I still like the genre cliches -- Church coverups of "actual" possessions, the difference between possession and just being batshit insane, demons always know your secrets, etc.  But more often I am left asking the same questions.  What are the motivations of the demon?  How does it further the Devil's agenda to be locked away inside one person for 25 years? If you can blow a door off the hinges, why are you still locked up? If I was performing an exorcism, and it became apparent the eyes rolling and change of timbre voice meant demon-inside, I would first ask, "So, what is the point  of all this?!?!  What are you hoping to accomplish?"

So, another possession another shaky cam movie done all faux documentary style.  Maria Rossi is locked away in an Italian insane asylum (seriously, who approves an international medical transfer?!?!) because during the investigation of her possession, she murdered three people.  Coverup!  Seriously, if she actually possessed then don't cover it up with false stories, just call in Sam and Dean and exorcise that motherfucker.  Anywayz, years later daughter Isabella and her camera crew friends come to Italy to investigate. They get mixed up with some priests taking the local Vatican community college course on possession and exorcism.  Not such a good idea to cover up the existence of possession while running a course on it.  They find that Mrs Rossi is not insane afterall and she doesn't have just one demon inside her, but mooooore.

Normally I don't mind if a movie follows the tropes and cliches of its genre.  Its not like the people in the movie watched all the other movies in the genre and knew what and what not to do.  But this movie strings together all the expected scares and shocking scenes with nonsensical dialogue and plot.  Why?  Who cares?  WTF ? These are common questions I had while watching.  And remember my reaction to the abrupt ending in The Valdemar Legacy ?  Well, I don't care if that movie was a Spanish box office success -- that is not a good movie ending model !!!!  Boom, crash, movie ends.  No conclusion.  P.S. The creepy old lady on the Netfilix "box art" ?  A blind nun --- that's it, nothing whatsoever to do with the plot.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Days of Halloween Redux: After.Life

2009, Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo -- download

This movie had been on my mind since Ebert reviewed it way back.  I liked how he reviewed it with the question of Anna's life of death status being truly mystifying.  You see, this is a movie where an undertaker has a special relationship with the dead.  He chats with them and consoles them as he lays them to rest. But when we see Anna (Christina Ricci) on his slab, all pale and goth-corpse like as I imagine Ricci naturally is, she argues with him, trying to convince Deacon (Liam Neeson) that she is alive.  At first, he is understanding explaining to her that, like all the dead, she is confused but will come to accept her death, later.  But as she tries and tries to convince him, he becomes agitated.  The dead are always whining, always complaining, always trying to bargain with him for one more day.  Too bad they were not that interested when they were alive, he counters.

Horor movies with a "is it happening or is it not" premise are usually easy to figure out.  There is normally one key plot piece that, should we catch it, lays out the "it is not" thread for us to see.  I have always caught those early on but normally play along, questioning myself until the reveal.  In this movie, I was completely unsure of myself through its entirety.  There was plenty of evidence that Anna is in fact alive, a captive to a psycho who buries people alive.  But there was also that straight forward acceptance of her being dead, that all the supporting cast went along with.  Is it so easy to convince the world that someone is past away?  As the movie passes, we might actually becomes as convinced of her death as Anna was, but with a little light of possible escape.

I wonder what is going on with this Polish director? After her short Pâté did well at SunDance and a few other festivals, Hollywood obviously sought her out for this flick.  This is the opposite of what I have been complaining about lately, where Hollywood grabs a notable foreign director and attaches them to a vehicle of Hollywood's making, not one of their own.  This Wojtowicz-Vosloo's own script so I assume she had much control on the set.  This is what Hollywood should always do -- draw the next crop of directors from the entire world.  Unfortunately, it was not much of a box office or critical success and she has been quiet, if the Internet says anything, since.  Too bad, for this was a nice little movie that kept my jaded self guessing.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Days of Halloween Redux: Dark Shadows

2012, Tim Burton -- download

I admit it, I was not interested in seeing this movie when I first saw the trailers.  Oh, I am a Tim Burton and even a remote Dark Shadows fan but the idea of turning the 60s vampire soap opera into a spoof of 70s pop culture annoyed me.  Lo and behold, the movie actually follows the basic plot of the introduction of Barnabus Collins in the original series -- Barnabus is released from his coffin and returns to his family estate to rebuild. So, Burton is somewhat faithful in plot, but I highly doubt he is faithful in tone.

Barnabus Collins is the vampire, all pale skinned and long taloned, made so by the curse of a witch he spurned.  Despite that he has been playing around with the help, like all good wealthy land owners, he is in love with Josette.  Alas, the help turns out to be a witch and beguiles Josette into walking off a cliff.  Barnabus dives off to join her in death, but arises as a vampire. The villagers, possibly with socks on their heads but definitely with pitchforks and torches, banish him to a coffin buried deep in the earth.

Now, its the 60s and we see the once wealthy Collins are on rough times.  With the accidental release of Barnabus, by a crew of highway workers, they are saddled with not only teaching him how things are in the "modern age" but also dealing more directly with the competition, who turns out to be none other than the witch. Barnabus must deal with her while trying to resurrect his family's fortune and dealing with the uncanny resemblance the new governess has to his lost Josette. Barnabus is not only a fish out of water, a fish in another era, he also has less than savoury predilections.  I am sure nobody was going to miss those dirty hippies.  But he cares for his family and has a stash of hidden gold to assist them.  I love the ludicrous concept that a vampire is trying to raise the fortunes of a fish cannery.

This movie was just lovely to view, so rich in background and tone.  It actually carries along much better than Burton's last blockbuster, Alice in Wonderland, not truly relying on the "wooooo 1760s must now deal with the late 1960s" kitsch but really drawing on the soap opera for the plot, albeit a little more ostentatious than the dreary 60s show did.  That is, until the final act when things just seem to "lets grab EVERYTHING from the soap opera" and loses it entirely. Ghosts, vampires, witches and ... werewolfs?!?! But still, it ... looks ... spectacular.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Days of Halloween Redux: The Pact

2012, Nicholas McCarthy -- download

This is the movie I have been waiting for Big Hollywood to make -- the first movie where you get to see haunted Google Streetview.  We all know how haunting those blurred faces of people can look but I am surprised nobody has found any ghost pics in them.  OK this movie is not big hollywood at all; its a refreshing movie from a director who has only done shorts before.  It feels very indie and that lends itself to the tone very well.

Mrs. Barlow has passed away and left her small California house to her daughters.  Nicole, single mom and recovering addict, has grudgingly shown up to take care of things while Annie, the tough waif, refuses to even come to the house.   Its a house haunted by a nasty past, probably abuse or worse.  But Nicole's disappearance brings Annie, along with cousin Liz and Nicole's daughter Eva.  A night in the house is forced.  The night does not end well with Liz disappearing and an unseen presence assaulting Annie, before she escapes with Eva.

In houses haunted by memories there are always rooms that are particularly potent.  In this house, it is the closet at the end of the hall, a sometimes innocuous cubby hole, at other times of the night, a place where light refuses to enter.  It is up to Annie to explore the closet, her family's past and her own sense of responsibility.  Yes, the skeletons in the closet metaphor is purposefully blatant.

The aforementioned Streetview ghost?  Its there; a very "real" ghost in this movie but she is not so much the point.  She, like Creek the grizzled skeptical cop (Casper Van Dien not camping it up), is incidental and story carrying but not the focus.  In tight, economic story telling we get a chilling story of how dark someone's past can really be. McCarthy is new to this, which leads to an uneven path but it all does wind its way to a satisfying conclusion.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Days of Halloween Redux: The Valdemar Legacy

2010, José Luis Alemán -- download

La herencia Valdemar was a strange little flick.  It starts with the impression it wants to be the Spanish The Woman in Black having an expert on all things old travel to an old Victorian mansion in the middle of nowhere seeking an appraisal of its worth.  Her predecessor never completed the job and she has been promised a hefty bonus if she does his work for him, and quickly!  Seriously, real estate listings for such houses should have Haunted House noted.  She quickly arrives, finds some strangeness and then is attacked by a shambling figure in rags.  She barely escapes and is rescued by Creepy Groundskeeper.

The next act has a mysterious figure on a train interviewing a fixer, someone hired by the (real estate?) company to find out why their employees keep on disappearing.  That Creepy Old Man hiring the investigator has a Cthulhu headed walking stick does not bode well.  The tale he tells of the house and its inhabitants is not your expected evil people did evil things and opened the wrong gate kind of story; not completely.  The Valdemars were decent people, who ran it as an orphanage, but also like to dupe silly people out of money via their "talk to the spirits" act.  So, yes, suddenly we have plot elements from The Orphanage and The Awakening.  But seriously, we are supposed to like this kind, benevolent couple because they take care of orphans.

But wait, that's not all !!  Almost immediately they are debunked (as mediums; they are still kindly to orphans) and Mr. Valdemar is tossed in jail.  And who comes to his rescue?  None other than Aleister Crowley himself !  Even though Valdemar has been faking his connections to the dead, Crowley seems convinced the man knows something.  So he gets Valdemar freed and sets up a real spiritual encounter with some odd guests: Lizzie Borden, Bram Stoker, Belle Gunnes and an unknown fourth.  OK, I didn't know about Gunnes infamy as a serial killer either but the truly unheard nature of the fourth does not bode well for him.  Crowley opens rift into Hell (or at least The Other Side) and accidentally releases something nasty that kills Unknown Fourth and then escapes to animate a nearby dead body.  Handy there was a fleshy dead body nearby.

We have some more stuff about the ghoul (yes, the guy in rags from earlier) eating a bunch of people, the house catching on fire-not-its-not-on-fire-anymore and Mrs Valdemar sacrificing her own soul so her husband, who yes just participated in releasing a ghoul who was probably employed by Cthulhu, can live.  And thus ends the incredibly long anecdote about why the house is not a nice place.  And possibly a hint to the investigator he will be up against a ghoul?  If creepy guy with the cane knew all of this, why is he sending assessors to the house?  By design?  If so, then why send the investigator with fore-knowledge?

With the tale over we go back to the assessor who was being chased by ghoul but who was saved by Creepy Groundskeeper #1.  Creepy Groundskeeper #2 now has her chained to a bed and she is trying to understand what is going on and then... then, well, then the movie fucking ends !!!  What the fucking fuck ?!?  And now a message from our sponsor where we tell you about the sequel.

Oh go fuck yourself José Luis Alemán.

Yeah, a well-shot and decently acted movie seems to be trying to jam every ghost and evil cliche into one film completely shoots itself in the foot by trying to be a two-parter.  That was annoying when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows did it but they had a good reason.  And we knew about it going in.  Alemán can keep his second movie and go straight to the Old Ones.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Days of Halloween Redux: The Innkeepers

2011, Ti West -- download

Last year we watched The House of the Devil, a retro feeling indie horror movie that I actually loved more in retrospect than in actual watching.  It was something about the setup.  The setup of most horror movies is what most call "the boring part".  This is the part lacking in scares, where we set the characters, location and tone in place.  All too often it is enhanced via fake-out background music or creepy angles that make you believe you have moved from the setup into the actual scare. But a good setup gets you to care for the characters and actually like it as a movie, instead of just a chance to frighten you.

The Innkeepers has a great setup and does a brilliant job of blending from the setup through to the scare.  Things just fade into creepy almost immediately and seamlessly.  It is the last weekend for the Yankee Pedlar Inn, a classic old hotel with a history of haunting.  Claire and Luke are assigned to the graveyard shift for this final weekend, which is good because they run a website about the hauntings at the hotel.  The two are uncomfortable, nervous people. Luke is more than a bit of nerd and Claire is a recent college dropout and more than a bit interested in being connected to something.  She seems to have latched onto Luke's ghost hunting and later latches onto a washed up actress who comes to the hotel, while in town for a psychic convention.  And when ghostly things begin to happen, we see she really isn't cut out for those kinds of encounters.

Neither is Luke.  When the ghostly return of Madeline, a woman who hung herself in a room upstairs, becomes evident, Luke runs.  Was he here to actually find ghosts or just trying to impress Claire with his website?  It is as if the actual hauntings have interrupted the last chance he has to actually connect with flighty Claire.  Cowardly or not, he does return, to get Claire, not actually attend the job post he just abandoned. Things have escalated and actress-medium Ms. Reese-Jones has convinced Claire that she has to leave the hotel... NOW.  Oh wait, there is that old man in the room where Madeline hung herself, the guy who just wanted to spend one last night in the room where he had his honeymoon.  Don't go upstairs Claire and definitely don't go... downstairs.

I can honestly say I find this movie a good movie whether or not its ghostly cliches are familiar or not.  It has an old feel to it but is definitely set in today.  And unlike many movies with a 70s feel, it did not annoy the hell out of me with an empty focus on vacuous characterizations.  I am looking forward to this time next year when I hopefully will be watching West's new movie?  Maybe next year I will call this Nights of Halloween which suddenly became obvious.

Monday, October 8, 2012

3 shrt pgrphs: Premium Rush

2012, David Koepp -- in theatre

Remember back in the '80's when filmmakers and studios would try and capitalize on whatever extreme sporting trend was popular at the time - rollerskating, breakdancing, surfing, BMXing, motocross racing, skateboarding, rollerblading - by making a typically bad movie that tried to plumb the depths of the sport's subculture while infusing the script with as many cliches as possible.  I guess it's not limited only to the '80's, but it was certainly at its most prominent and most fromage-iest at that time.  Hell, Top Gun is the kingpin of the genre.  Looking back on any of those films and the nostalgia wafts off of them.  They weren't particularly good then either, but over the years, as the masses have come to embrace irony, one can see that in their badness, there is much entertainment to be had.  Premium Rush is ironic filmmaking in peak form.

David Koepp is known more for his scriptwriting than his directing, though this is far from his debut or most prominent effort.  Here he explores the subculture of bike couriers, specifically New York bike couriers who seem to be equal parts thrill jockeys and death courtiers.  He gets into the head of Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a law school dropout who is addicted to pedaling his fixed-wheel around the city 10 hours a day.  One day he accepts a package from an acquaintance only to find a very determined cop hot in pursuit.  The cop, one Bobby Monday (played with a delightful mania), is deep in dept with the Chinese mafia, and they've tipped him off to a score, Wilee's delivery, that will clean his slate. 

It's a cat-and-mouse game throughout the streets of New York, that's not altogether suspenseful, but instead bordering intentional silliness and a winking surreality, not far off from a Road Runner cartoon.  The script and dialogue teeter on purposefully awkward, but, from the balance of Gordon-Levitt's sincerity and Shannon's Al Pacino-esque scenery chewing, it winds up being quite enjoyable, even though there's little that punchy or keen about it.  The "future sight" that Wilee has, where time slows down and he predicts the outcome of multiple courses of actions until he hits the write one, is deliciously cheesy, a ridiculous yet wonderful conceit.  Premium Rush is in most respects a terrible movie... a trite story, rough performances from the majority of the supporting cast, and that whole '80's-style superficial look at a subculture nailed to a "T", but it's delivered with such zeal, so unapologetically that one can't help but be entertained by it all.

3 shrt pgrphs: Puss In Boots

2011, Chris Miller -- netflix

In Toasty's review not so long ago he mentioned that this Puss In Boots doesn't even remotely attempt to adhere to its literary roots.  Beyond the name it abandons all sense of the original fable... I guess... I've never actually read it.  I have little appreciation for the Shrek movies, which always play fast and loose with fairy tales, fables and myths, which can make for great fun, but it hoses any of that fun down with incessant jokes about bodily functions and general humor sophistication level of a twelve year old.  I wasn't expecting much better of a spin off of the series, but I was actually quite pleasantly surprised to find Puss avoided potty comedy almost altogether.

The film opens, quite surprisingly, with Puss in full-on lothario mode, attempting to sneak out in the morning after an overnight cuddle with a lady cat, only to get caught and chased down by the cat's owner and have to make a daring escape, titular boots in hand.  I was a little concerned, given the rather overt sexual innuendo of the opening minute of the film, whether I should be letting my three-year-old watch it, but thankfully that was about as explicit as it got.  The film loops Puss together with his orphanage pal Humpty Dumpty, squares them off against Jack and Jill, and finds him a love interest in Jack and Jill's pet, Kitty Softpaws (an odd nod to the Bond series with that one).  The Macguffin of the film, which doesn't present itself until past the half-way mark, is the goose that lays the golden egg, looping the Jack and the Beanstalk into the tale.

The story is a mess of fable mash-ups and net new characterization, none of which flow well into one another, and by the time the giant goose starts wrecking the town the film has jumped genres over a half-dozen times, from swashbuckling to adventure to western to, as David pointed out, kaiju.  The Desperado reunion of Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayak as Puss and Kitty is quite charming, and their fiery latin romance is the centerpiece of the film.  The same really can't be said for the rest of the adventure.  Though Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris make for a curious and amusing Jack and Jill, their contention with Puss and company never works well.  At the same time, Puss' relationship with his estranged "orphanage brother" Humpty Dumpty is unappealing, if mainly because the character design for Humpty is so unsettling and ugly.  The animation overall is pretty great, with the nuanced cat characteristics (like how Puss drinks his shooters of milk) the most amusing element of the film.  More palatable than the Shrek series, but still not quite up to snuff with best stories CGI has had to offer.

3 shrt pgrphs: The Swell Season

2011, d. Nick August-Perna, Chris Dapkins, Carlo Mirabella-Davis -- netflix

The 2007 indie film Once became a mainstream phenomenon initially through intensive word of mouth, followed by an Oscar nomination, which begat a powerful onstage performance of Falling Slowly at the Academy Awards ceremony, and, ultimately an win for Best Original Song.  The duo of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová took to the stage, and after receiving their statues from a plastic-y looking John Travolta, Hansard delivering a gracious and emotional thank-you a bewildered Irglová stepped forward only to find the mic had been cut off and the Oscar band played up.  A short while later, Oscar host Jon Stewart brought Irglová back out to deliver her speech, an Oscar-history highlight to be sur.  It was a memorable evening and the following day the Once soundtrack became a bestseller.  I would even hazard a guess that more people bought the album than saw the film.

 If you've seen the film, or listened to the album, or even if you've only heard the one song, it's evident that Hansard and Irglová make an incredible musical duo, and while the story of their meeting and partnership in Once was fictional, there is a real story behind it.  The Swell Season follows the pair as their band (ahem, The Swell Season) tours intensively following their massive break through.  It's revealed early on that Hansard and Irglová had a romance that dissolved but their connection remained strong.  The film introduces Hansard's small-town Irish family, his mother bursting with pride (and a heaping helping of common sense), and his staunch alcoholic father, an ex-champion boxer who gave it up to be a family man.  We meet Irglová's family as well, but in general their Czech disposition seems reserved and there's not much face time with them.

Irglová was only 19 when she won an Oscar, while Hansard was 18 years her senior, so the two have completely different reactions to their sudden fame.  Hansard, having many years before achieved some success as a cast member in The Commitments, felt that his success was his reward, though equally aware that it is fleeting, and fell into a somewhat depressive funk.  Irglová meanwhile rallies against the sudden success, even in her young age she understands the dangers of fame and certainly doesn't court it.  The tour in the film is heated but the art does win out in the end.  Even at 88 minutes the film is overlong, and somewhat repetitive, but does provide interesting insight into artistic success and an emotional connection to the real people behind the band, the film, and the Oscar ceremony.  Really, it would be great at half the length as a bonus feature on the Once DVD.  As is, a must only for big fans of the film or the band.

Days of Halloween Redux: Night of the Demons

2009, Adam Gierasch -- download

This is a remake of the 1988 demon summoning movie, one whose cover you have probably seen on all your mom & pop video store shelves in an age past.  If I think hard enough, it was probably one that my brother brought home that I snubbed my nose at.  I was not fond of the shtick of horror movies where monsters ran around killing the half-dressed, all horny teenager set, and yet I have seen so many.  But definitely there is an entire crowd that appreciates the nostalgic contribution this one (and its two sequels) had to the horror movie canon, for the remake is truly a labor of love.

Short plot description? New Orleans Halloween party set in a house where it was said a demon summoning went wrong and the hostess hung herself rather than be possessed by the summoned.  Here we are decades later and the local party girl has rented the empty place for her Halloween night event.  And to the party, she has invited the big boobed bimbos who are to be our main characters.  And their boyfriends and a few incidental characters.  They find the corpses of the afore mentioned demon summoners and through typical accident, start the summoning all over again.

Its actually somewhat a cute movie, wearing its homage and the heritage of its makers on its sleeve.  The movie is by the people you see at all the horror cons, the collection of 20sumthins and 30sumthins who love scream queens, splashing blood and monster makeup.  One of the stars cut her teeth on Freedy vs Jason while a background actor (Linnea Quigley) is from the original, while Edward Furlong is sad and tired looking and almost playing his real age.  The demons are over the top, top-of-their-class makeup effects and the protagonists actually respond in somewhat logical manners.  This is not good horror but definitely worth a Halloween movie night marathon.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Days of Halloween Redux: Aparecidos

2007, Paco Cabezas -- download

Desaparecidos or the "forcibly disappeared" were the victims of Argentina's "Dirty War" in the 70s and 80s.  Not really a war,  the government dealt with dissidents through abduction, torture, murder and ultimately, the denial they had even done anything.  People were just ... gone.  The history of it haunts the survivors to even this day.

Pablo and Malena arrive from Spain to take care of their father's last days, and his estate.  He lies decrepit in a bed attached to machines leaving the two siblings to both sign the order to turn off.  Malena hates her father and wants him gone while Pablo barely knew his father and wouldn't mind spending some time getting to know the man.  They decide to take a road trip in their father's car to the house of their childhood in Buenos Aires.  But their father's legacy haunts their trip changing its purpose completely.

This is a strange little movie, a ghost story with hints of time travel but more about the sense of responsibility for the crimes of family.  Their dad was not a nice man, in fact their dad was basically the  model antagonist of many horror movies, a psychotic torturer of men, women and children. As Pablo learns more and more of what his father was capable of, via the repeated playback of events 20 years past, by ghosts of his victims, he desires to change things.  If he can interact with the ghosts maybe he can influence them to not ... well, die again.  No, it could never be that easy and all it really does is put them on their father's radar.

What I liked about this movie was that it dispensed with most tropes of ghost movies.  The dead were not aware they were dead and the siblings blood connection must have allowed the direct contact they had with the ghosts.  Pablo could carry the doomed little girl but he could not save her.  And if their father was still lying on his death bed, how could he be haunting his children? The only failing in the movie was a murky motivation by all the spirits involved. Did the spirits of the wronged only seek recognition?  Perhaps the same of the wrong doer?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Days of Halloween Redux: Bajo la Sal

2008, Mario Muñoz -- download

Bajo la Sal or Under the Salt was out first, but probably not last, mistake of this season.  Not because it wasn't a very good movie (that actually doesn't a mistake make) but because it was more a crime thriller than a horror or Halloween related movie.  It had some very creepy elements but for the most part it was a cop hunts spree killer movie, albeit a pretty decent one.

Movies about a policeman hunting down a criminal have a familiar feel to them, no matter where they are shot or placed.  But when they choose an interesting locale, say the salt flats in north west mexico, it adds a bit of something to the plot.  Santa Rosa de la Sal is a town where everything is related to the collection of the salt, an industry town far from the capital.  She's a rundown little place with a single diner, a single high school and a brothel on the edge of town that people don't acknowledge but everyone knows is there.   The local police chief needs to ask the capital for help when a crime happens that tasks his meager resources, but he doesn't often get the help he needs.  Therefore he welcomes Commander Trujillo as an answer to his prayers, for he has been dealing with the disappearance and deaths of a number of young women.

I like when the locale as as much a characters as the people and this movie gives us a great place, but unfortunately drops that almost immediately.  The small town sits in the background as Trujillo, a grizzled old cop in the midst of a scandal, does the usual investigating that his old friend the police chief seems incapable of.  Meanwhile, the highlight of the movie is actually the creepy son of the local coroner / undertaker.  He's a goth/emo kid who makes stop-motion slasher flicks with his home video camera.  He gets mixed up in the investigation when the girl he moons over is connected to the murders. But like the town's tenuous connection to the story, his predilections are also unfortunately barely used.  The story decides to play out as an understated murder mystery that is familiar, well told but not very compelling.  Shame, as it could have done more, with the salt flats and with the creepy kid.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Days of Halloween Redux: Below

2002, David Twohy (Pitch Black, A Perfect Getaway) -- download

Going into this movie, I swear I had seen it before.  Being a big fan of Pitch Black I am pretty convinced I would have seen the movie straight away but I cannot recall when or how I would have seen it.  It would have been here in Toronto but could have been on DVD years after.  Strange how such thoughts escape one, especially since I was again (???) pretty favourable about the flick.  Its a great ghost story inside a submarine during WWII starring a boatload (rimshot) of familiar faces and penned by Twohy and Darren Aronofsky... oh, and Lucas Sussman.  Its creepy, atmospheric and does a pretty good job with the imposed claustrophobia of a submarine, without making it the main focus.

A US submarine is on patrol in the Atlantic when ordered to pick up survivors, seen floating in the ocean by a spotter plane.  In the water we have a british sailor, another severely wounded sailor and a woman.  You must know how unlucky it was to have a woman onboard a submarine in WWII, especially Hollywood WWII so almost immediately a sense of distrust emerges about her arrival.  The fact that the severely wounded sailor is German, doesn't endear her to the crew or captain.  And then the spooky voices, shadowy figures and the occasional attack by a German ship begin to whittle down the crew count and the crew nerves.  Do we have a ghost or paranoia?  A ghost of course, but why the ghost is the better part of the plot.

Seriously though, it is the cast that makes this movie.  We have Bruce Greenwood as Capt Brice.  We have Nick Chinlund, scene as a thousand bad guys on TV, as the boat chief.  We have Dexter Fletcher who I loved in Band of Brothers and we have Holt McCallany, another bad guy from dozens of TV shows.  And hiding in there amongst the familiar TV cast and crew is the beard of Zach Galifianakis!  All these very capable character actors (and more!) get together with Olivia Williams (Six Sense, Dollhouse) and do a wonderfully creepy ghost revenge story that dispenses with the "x has to die because they are y" cliches and just has things move the plot along.  Rare.

P.S. I am still not sure if I had seen it before.  But I still feel like I did.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Days of Halloween Redux: Chernobyl Diaries

2012, Bradley Parker -- download

You would believe, from the trailers and from the fame of the screenwriter (Oran Peli of Paranormal Activity) that this was going to be a shaky handycam movie.  In fact, other than some brief moments at the beginning and some expected "use it to see in the dark" the movie is pretty much standard a normal shaky cam movie, a little rough around the steadycam edges on purpose... for effect.  Yeah, normally I am not that bothered by such camera work but its beginning to wear on me.  But you expect this from a Peli vehicle even if it was directed by a guy mostly known for his visual effects in other movies.

The plot is actually pretty compelling -- some young tourists come to Ukraine to see the brother of one.  He is a bit of a pain but fun to hang out with and proves it by suggesting they join his buddy Yuri for a tour of Chernobyl.  OK, not the reactor site itself, but at least the city on its edge, Pripyat.  It has been over 20 years since the disaster and the ambient radiation has lowered enough to allow a few hours of urban ruin exploration.  Of course, things don't go as planned.  There are boogey men in the abandoned buildings and you know how well shrieking tourists do under those conditions.

I honestly came at this movie with the assumption they had actually shot it in Pripyat.  Tours of the ruins are actually possible but unfortunately, the movie was not shot there.  Considering how disappointing  the rest of the movie is, this just clinches it for me.  The movie is a cliche of scary things in the dark, monsters that can see better in the dark than you can.  There are some tense scenes as our main characters wander the tunnels beneath the city but it ended almost as if the screenplay had understood the great premise but had no clue how to actually bring it all to a climax.  The most enthralling scenes are actually those through the eyes of the photographer documenting a fascinating ruin, like so many photobloggers have done.  But I suppose if I want that, I can actually go to a real gallery of such shots.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Days of Halloween Redux: Sector 7

2011, Ji-hoon Kim -- download

I was trying to consider how this movie could be so bad, yet generate even some positive press on the internet.  The only thing I could come up with is that it fits in the same place as those straight-to-SyFy-Channel movies, being intentionally bad or produced by directors so oblivious to their lack of skill, they don't hold anything back.  This is a monster movie obviously inspired by The Host, the brilliant Korean movie about a monster that appears after a toxic spill.  But that there is an environmental connection and there is a monster is where the comparison ends.  This isn't quaintly bad, its just plain terrible!

We are on an oil rig somewhere off the coast of South Korea where a crew of drillers is desperately trying to find oil and being constantly disappointed.  Its a motley crew with inexperienced youths, over zealous corporate types, typical seasoned roughnecks and an atypical geologist, beautiful and bold amongst all these tough men.  At least I think she was a geologist; I have to admit that any subtlety in language translation was lost in these utterly horrible subtitles where sometimes my brain had to do back flips to know what the translator meant.  This was chinatown-special caliber sub-titling.  But even that did not explain how terrible the movie was.

It was a grab bag of all monster movies that take place in dark, shadowy places as well as on the sea.  I saw misplaced elements inspired by The Abyss, Treat Williams' Deep Rising, the Alien franchise and of course, The Host.  It had a very loose, barely held together, plot about the oil riggers desperate to find oil and having to deal with a monster that rose from the sea bed.  Or did it?  Or was it created? I don't know.  There are a few scenes or so about a lab and broken jars and experiments on cute jellyfish that could also be the world's next fuel source.  But mostly it is about running away from a slimey alien monster that is part wounded sea lion, part The Host monster, part every other alien creature that seems built from the DNA of other creatures.  And yet, even when they get caught, most of the time its ever-regenerating tongue appendage just wraps around an ankle and swings them wildly about.  There are a few off camera deaths and even fewer on camera. The monster just doesn't seem that interested in eating them, despite its billion teeth.

I honestly could not tell whether the acting was bad or not, as the combination of astoundingly bad subtitles with typical overdone Korean melodrama left me in the dark.  But it would be hard to tell for the audience in Korea, I believe, as it is just so many random scenes strung together!  Motor cycles on the deck! Cute jellyfish things that sting people! Stings are just.... stings?!?! Skeet shooting!  Scientist doing experiments! Everything is in the dark!  Turn on the lights! Crush the monster! Light it on fire because its blood is fuel! Monster doesn't seem to mind being lit on fire! Uncle betrayal! Random loss of roughnecks! Captain betrayal!  Monster falls overboard, monsters is back onboard, monster dives overboard, monster is onboard!  Monster wanders hallways, monster hides under hallways, monster doesn't hide at all.  WTF is not strong enough TLA to elaborate on what was going on.

In the oil rig blows up (why does it have a self destruct?!?!?!) never having really discovered any oil, but at the end we are shown  many many oil rigs.  Not sure if it was because they needed oil rigs to capture cute pollywog glow fish new fuel source creatures or that there was oil there after all.  Again, did I miss something in the terrible subtitles?  I doubt it.  I highly doubt it.

P.S.S. To address the poster, "Who will survive?" Of course, its the person in the forefront.  D'Uhhhhh.  Besides, she is cute.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Days of Halloween Redux: ParaNorman

2012, Chris Butler, Sam Fell -- cinema

This is one of those animations that comes out of nowhere.  It is not by any of the bigger name computer animation companies nor is it based on any already existing for-kids properties.  And while it was not release near the end of October, it is close enough in genre to be considered for the second annual watching of Halloween related movies.  Oh did I mention it, I am doing that again.  This year, we are being a bit more lenient and not labeling it '31 Days of Horror', just 'Halloween'.  Will it include more?  Probably.  Will it include torture porn?  Not likely, but again some will blur the line of what we label as such.  Will it include comedy?  Probably more, thus beginning with this fun animation about a kid who really lives each day like it is Halloween.

Norman can see ghosts and everybody knows it.  They don't much like him for it.  he is the weird kid, but I have to say, he doesn't help the matter by being addicted to horror pop culture.  He has zombies all over the place, loves classic monster movies and his room is plastered with horror movie posters.  The seeing-ghosts concept almost seems to be a by-product of his obsessions.  Luckily, his ghosts are not i see dead people scary sort but more the arguing with his dead grandmother sort.  There lurks some dark family secret and, by the way, did we mention that this movie takes place in a quaint little town that celebrates the witch it once hung?  Ugly green skinned ladies with brooms and pointed hats make up most of the town's personality.

Norman's trouble is that this is all connected to his family secret -- that many in his family could see the dead and with that "gift" came the responsibility of dealing with the ghost of the hanged witch.  If she wasn't take care of, she would stir up green smokey trouble for the entire town.  Oh, and would cause the dead to rise as zombies.  His weird estranged uncle tries to convince Norman of the impending doom because he knows he is not long for this world and even after he passes on, he knows Norman can see him well enough to be convinced.  Thus Norman's fate is determined.

The rest of the movie is all about zombies running around being terrorized by the townsfolk while Norman tries to figure out how to settle down the ghost of the witch, once and for all time.  His family heritage of annually reading her a good night tale seems futile to Norman.  He wants it done for good.  Thus he finds out more about what happened to the witch, the regretful circumstances and how to finally settle her to a long night's rest.  And yes, I said the zombies are terrorized by the townsfolk.  They are in fact the folk who hung the witch and are cursed by her.  They really just need Norman's help but rednecks with shotguns who saw The Walking Dead isn't helping the matter.

This was a charming movie but surprisingly, with not as many laugh out loud guffaws as I hoped for.  It seemed like it was based on existing property, as many details were left to us to fill in, but it isn't.  So that only left sloppy editing.  The animation is stupendous, done in a fun quirky manner, bulging bellies and weird angles.  But it doesn't take advantage of more of what it advertized it self to be.  Norman loves zombies and monsters, but why is he afraid of the real thing?  His obsession and his ability to see real ghosts should allow him less fear than your average bear.  But no, he is just as afraid as the rest of the kids in movies like these.  That is, until he gets wrapped up in it.  Then the adventure rolls along as expected.  I was just expecting... more?

3 Short Paragraphs: Resident Evil: Retribution

2012, Paul WS Anderson (Event Horizon, AVP, DOA) -- cinema

Yes, this definitely joins my list of bad movies that I will probably watch again.  I must admit up front to being a fan of the series having again watched them all to catch up for this one.  Its funny because watching them again, I am always reminded how bad the acting and plots are, which I always seem to forget in the times between.  They are a zombie series based on video games but so very lacking in zombie staples.  These are video game zombies, where they become fodder for the sub-machine guns, as opposed to being slow moving terrifying antagonists for those incapable of defending themselves.  It also lends a little to my love for post-apocalypse, the third in the series ending the world and setting the stage for the rest -- a world that has been destroyed by both the monsters unleashed and the havoc the virus wreaks on the environment.  Not that the movies care about any of this, beyond the third.

In the last movie, we were all gathered on a ship off the coast of LA.  Alice just freed all the people stored inside the ship, who were emerging onto the deck, dazed and confused.  In the distance we can see a flock of attack Ospreys converging on the freighter.  This movie starts with quite the lovely reverse-film credit sequence that sums up how the last movie leads into this one.  You see, they could start the movie right at this sequence with her defending the newly released pawns and defeating the whirly bird armada.  But no, each movie now must begin with Alice naked-but-for-a-sheet-of-paper so we must rush through this early footage of her being defeated.   Her rescue of everyone in the last movie was all for naught.  Seriously, these movies are not about the human and zombie fodder, they are all about Milla / Alice.

So, again Alice is escaping an Umbrella underground facility dressed only in the Aeon Flux outfit (paper sheets don't stand up to gunfire) Umbrella gave her to wear.  This time there is a twist as  the facility is under water, not underground !!  Plot summary: fight way to surface through various staged environments representing Moscow, NYC, the suburbs from Dawn of the Dead and Tokyo.  Along the way she will meet other characters from the video games acted in astoundingly bad fashion as well as clones of characters from previous movies, good clones and bad clones, again acted oh so sweetly bad. With each movie, less sense is made, all condensing down into a handful of beautifully choreographed combat sequences.  Anderson does know how to craft a lovely gunfight scene and probably feels beholden to stitch some sort of loose plot together to hold the scenes.  Besides, I would probably watch Milla just play golf.