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Posts from — January 2012

Great Scenes – THE PERFECT CRIME

We on the isle have already espoused our love for underrated Spanish director Álex de la Iglesia (here), and we will probably go on doing so as long as he continues making his particular brand of dark comedy (why isn’t The Last Circus available on DVD yet? the target=”_blank”>trailer‘s great!) A master at using great opening scenes to hook his viewers, de la Iglesia’s 2004 outing, El Crimen Ferpecto (The Perfect Crime) employs a quirky prologue to introduce its hero Rafael (Guillermo Toledo) – a shallow, womanizing department store clerk with a consuming ambition for becoming store manager. The quintessential big fish in a little pond, Rafael is evil incarnate – a slimy salesman we universally recognize and detest – the materialistic id in all of us – and watching his fall is what makes the rest of the film so enjoyable. But none of it would work if we didn’t like him, so despite being a rather despicable character we immediately identify with him – thanks to the near-mythical reverence this other, even more despicable douchebag (Carolo Ruiz) attributes him. Genius.

[admin warning: there is some T&A in this clip. NSFW!]

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January 30, 2012   No Comments

Great Scenes – CAPRICORN ONE

The climactic helicopter vs. cropduster chase from Capricorn One (1977, Peter Hyams) is pure 1970’s Hollywood thriller GOLD. James Brolin plays an astronaut on the run in the desert after escaping from a remote studio lot where he has been coerced (by funding-desperate NASA bigwig Hal Holbrook) into faking a manned Martian landing for television. Upon realization that they can never be seen alive again, the 3 reluctant actors (including Sam Waterston and OJ Simpson) dramatically flee (in a scene that rivals this one for pure huckstery suspense) into the desert and are slowly picked off one by one by the ultimate symbol of shadow government: a pair of Black Helicopters. Meanwhile, intrepid schlub reporter Elliot Gould has been sniffing around the case, and if not for a couple of clumsy attempts on his life, he might not have sunk his teeth in so deeply and gone and rented a cropduster to canvas the desert for evidence. If I had to pin down the one single shot that sells the film beyond its plethora of narrative conveniences, it is the look on Brolin’s face immediately after jumping out of the gas station window and encountering a damn biplane taxiing in front of him, Gould frantically waving “come on.” Brolin has a decision to make – follow Gould? The choice isn’t as easy as it seems — they’ve never met, after all! He pounds pavement with his last desperate ounce of strength towards one of the most nail-biting climaxes of the entire decade. Sure, the chase goes on for one loop and three dives beyond plausibility, but it’s got Telly Savalas in it! And Jerry Goldsmith’s score certainly doesn’t hurt matters. In an era of cynical post-Watergate and post-JFK paranoid thrillers, Capricorn One’s optimistic “bust the conspiracy” conclusion is utterly unbelievable but also utterly crowd-pleasing. It is popcorn ecstasy.

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January 23, 2012   1 Comment

Monster Mayhem In Manhattan – CLOVERFIELD

Found footage films can be a pain in the ass: “shaky cam gives me a headache,” or “I get sick” being some common complaints made with regards to these types of films. And while Cloverfield (2008) isn’t exactly innocent of these charges, at a brisk 85 minutes (including credits) it’s a more than bearable experience that manages to outdo some monstrous expectations thanks to some good-old-fashioned storytelling. At movie’s outset an ominous governmental warning prefaces something truly unexpected: sweet n’ tender home video of two lovers – Rob (Michael Stahl-David) and Beth (Odette Annable) – deciding to take a romantic Coney Island (R.I.P.) trip together. But the narrative soon shifts, as the tape garbles and skips to surprise party preparations – turns out Rob is off to Japan and his friends have borrowed the camera, inadvertently recording over Rob’s “special moments” footage. This “tape skip” device – which soon skips back to Rob and Beth on a subway to Coney before taking us back to the party – continues throughout the film, and is one of the clever narrative elements that helps director Matt Reeves transcend other similar movies. Because just when we’re wondering whether we’ve inadvertently stepped into some mumblecore youngsters-with-problems-no-one-gives-a-shit-about involving our P.O.V. counterpart Hud (T.J. Miller, named after Bill Paxton‘s Aliens character) and his crush on Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) or Beth’s dramatic arrival to the party with another guy (OMFinG!), the true hero of the picture makes its appearance. BLAM! An explosion rattles everyone out of their pity-party and onto the streets, where a loud roar followed by the Statue of Liberty‘s head crashing through the city streets signals the beginning of the nightmare we were promised: A giant monster loose in Manhattan, hideous sacs inflating and deflating on its head, limbs too thin for its frame, looking like a Salvador Dalí-meets-H.P. Lovecraft concoction set loose on our planet. While we genre-lovin’ fanboys would love to study its features closely, we’re forced to run to survive, thanks to our first-person vantage point. But we get enough of a glimpse to register some definite horror, in the form of dog-sized parasites dropping to the ground, as dangerous as the hulking leviathan what spawned them suckers. The clever thing about Cloverfield is that the creatures themselves are a force of nature: they could’ve been a storm (like THE Storm – coming 2012), an impending nuclear attack (a’la Miracle Mile) or even zombies! Doesn’t matter – any freak event that puts loved ones in extreme peril and causes everyone to scatter like chickens with heads cut off. That’s what makes it so awesome – it’s essentially all about that target=”_blank”>”RUN!” feeling. I mean, for my money Spain’s [Rec] and [Rec] ² are the cream of the found-footage crop, but like the behemoths that roam its narrative streets, Cloverfield isn’t too far behind.

[Oh yeah – keep watching the credits and you’ll be treated to target=”_blank”>one of the greatest pieces of film score from Michael Giacchino – ‘Roar.’  It’ll make you feel like Monster Island’s throwing a party, after which they’re comin’ to kill us all!]

 

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January 19, 2012   No Comments

Great Scenes – BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN

Before Empire Strikes Back, before Aliens, before Evil Dead II, here is the original “better than” sequel, which mines the source material for what is essential and pushes the magic a step further. Bride of Frankenstein (1935) is not only superior to the original but it is also the culmination of James Whale‘s singular sardonic surrealism. This is the film that marks him as the forefather of quirky horror and delectable strangeness. Take this scene in which Doctor Pretorius (played with fervor by Ernest Thesiger) charms Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive) into joining forces on a new experiment – a scene chock-full of fantastic dialogue, jarring expressionistic sets, and eye-popping (for the time) special effects, way ahead of its time in tone, subject, and wit, presaging a future full of fictional mad scientists and very real clone technology. A key scene in a fascinating movie whose wraparound story begins with Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester, who also plays the Bride) and which continues to self-reflexively play with the themes of creation throughout. Ballerinas in bottles, kings and popes the playthings of a twisted madman: of Gods and Monsters indeed!

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January 9, 2012   No Comments

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