Cinematic Feature Survey: 2018

by Robert Buchanan
  1. Favorites
  2. Eximious
  3. Good
  4. Mediocre
  5. Appalling

Favorites

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)

Written and directed by John Cassavetes
Produced by Al Ruban, Phil Burton
Starring Ben Gazzara, Timothy Carey, Seymour Cassel, Robert Phillips, Morgan Woodward, John Kullers, Al Ruban, Azizi Johari, Virginia Carrington, Meade Roberts, Alice Friedland, Donna Gordon, Haji, Carol Warren, Kathalina Veniero, Yvette Morris, Jack Ackerman, David Rowlands, Trisha Pelham, Sonny Aprile, Gene Darcy, Vincent Barbi, Val Avery, Elizabeth Deering, Soto Joe Hugh

"The great function of conflict is that it arouses consciousness."

--James MacGregor Burns

Synopsis

Almost as soon as he's liquidated a pricey debt incurred while gambling, the cordial, debonair presenter and proprietor of a burlesque club (Gazzara) stakes a cumulative $23K on losing hands. The mobsters (Woodward, Cassel, Phillips, Kullers) to whom it's owed expect his arrears paid in full only by the prompt assassination of a bookmaker (Hugh), but they never expected their cool, compassionate debtor to be so tough, canny, or unlucky.

Script

Crime dramas don't come much more reflective or humane than Cassavetes's condemnation of ruinous rats, here opposed to a protagonist who's as magnanimous as formidable. Conundra consequent of vice and ungenerosity are anatomized in toto, untainted by the delusion that nobility absolves. American cinema's first fully independent auteur here plies Kuosawa's burden: the moral man straining in an immoral world.

Direction

In intimate close-ups or at immobile, tracking and panning distances, we spy every expressive and gestural shading of Cassavetes's dramatis personae, captured as graphically as his sparing, impelling violence. Like Altman's contemporary output, this segues from dispassionate to personal observation without tonal incongruity or bathos.

Cinematography

Grainy gloom, glares of electric and solar sources, and both contrasting are lensed by Mitchell Breit and co-producer/co-star Al Ruban, who beautify bright, often gaudy hues.

Histrionics

Every lusty gust, desperate glance, loving stare, amiable assurance, indignant scowl or snarl, and smile radiant or hateful was felt as much as acted: Gazzara poured his essence into Cosmo Vitelli to vivify his director's charismatic self-conception. As a stripper in his employ who jealously adores him, Johari exudes as much discontent as nubility. Seething, hissing Carey is no less intense as an intimidating heavy who foists by force the unlikely hitman's unwanted felony. In a subtler approach, ordinarily avuncular Cassel insinuates more menace with a simple grin than most uttered threats. The club's flamboyant host (Roberts) and ecdysiasts (Johari, Carrington, Friedland, Gordon, Haji, Warren, Veniero) credibly incorporate seedy, working-class entertainers.

Score

Some melodic themes by Bo Harwood are heard within, and briefly outside Vitelli's club.

Highlights

Preparation for and execution of the titular hit are realistically riveting. Johari's jaundiced stripper attacks a waitress (Pelham) during her rehearsal. In the aftermath of his settlement, Vitelli eludes killers, confronts the mother (Carrington) of his favorite employee, then encourages his sulking staff with a deliberative dispensation of wisdom. What a week!

Conclusion

No single chef-d'oeuvre from Cassavetes's string during the '70s is readily selected as the best, but this would be a tenable pick.

Recommended for a double feature paired with California Split or Saint Jack.


Eximious

Revanche (2008)

Written and directed by Götz Spielmann
Produced by Sandra Bohle, Mathias Forberg, Götz Spielmann, Heinz Stussak, Thomas Feldkircher
Starring Johannes Krisch, Ursula Strauss, Irina Potapenko, Andreas Lust, Johannes Thanheiser, Hanno Pöschl

"Between grief and nothing I will take grief."

--William Faulkner, The Wild Palms

Synopsis

Ardent, amoral lovers hope to discharge her debt, realize his prospective enterprise, and eluctate from their employment as a whorehouse's enforcer (Krisch) and star hooker (Potapenko) by a bank heist, which proceeds swimmingly until her tender heart is stopped by one of a few rounds misaimed by a hapless policeman (Lust). The brokenhearted ex-con sublimates his crushing grief with rural toil at the farm of his elderly grandfather (Thanheiser), and soon discovers that his dulcinea's killer resides with his wife (Strauss) nearby.

Script

A redemptive tenor implied by its bisemic title is fulfilled in Spielmann's unadorned, fatalistic feature, in which impulsive and carnal phases of dolor, disgruntlement, dissatisfaction, and frustration are gracefully, naturally enacted, and neither muddled nor belied by any pronounced plethora.

Direction

Emphatic pans and seemingly simple still shots maximize every scene's dramatic import. Spielmann's style is spartan, but not minimalist, intimating forebodings and reverberations.

Histrionics

Alone and interacting, Krisch vehemently represents his felon's facets: frolicly erotic with and sympathetically solicitous for Potapenko's unsettled, traumatically battered inamorata; as taciturn as the aged widower who's revived by his grandson's subvention; inimically wounded in response to friendly visits by Strauss's housewife; simmering with tristesse and wrath against Lust's guilt, both men tortured by the same quietus to a climax comprehending a confrontational conversation. Attuned to their director's instinct for passionate predication, this cast's excellence obscures their script's formidable challenges.

Conclusion

Spielmann's objective observation of human nature relates moral themes with an austerity unmatched even by great contemporaries such as Farhadi or Kore-eda. Many dramas discourse on loss, sorrow, and remorse with the realistic reserve of his masterwork, but only a handful are so profoundly poignant.


Upstream Color (2013)

Written and directed by Shane Carruth
Produced by Shane Carruth, Casey Gooden, Ben LeClair, Meredith Burke, Toby Halbrooks, Scott Douglass, Brent Goodman
Starring Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth, Andrew Sensenig, Thiago Martins

Synopsis

From shoat to stream to orchid to larva unto man, an elusive parasite's life cycle in triplex stages is exploited by punctilious criminals (Sensenig, Martins) to defraud victims whose ingestion of it renders them supremely suggestible by dint of biochemical hypnosis. Two such dupes (Seimetz, Carruth) whose lives were so ruined clairvoyantly explore their traumatic repercussions together as they gradually realize what's befallen them, and unravel its mystery by tracing cycle to source.

Script

Primer's Gordian anachrony confounds comprehension during a first or second viewing, but here writer/producer/director/DP/cameraman/co-editor/composer/co-star Carruth masterfully balances oracularity and lucidity with direct yet disordered disclosure. He also nimbly juggles two balls so often fumbled by other authors of science fiction by inseparably mingling his story's personal and fantastic aspects.

Direction

For his painterly eye, Carruth's every slow zoom, brisk pan and still close-up is memorably picturesque. Striking shots from mundane, hydrous and subcutaneous settings graphically illustrate events best left unspoken.

Cinematography

Luminous photography that alternates between beautiful vividity and slight desaturation with a faint, milky haze catches the eye in every carefully framed shot. The organism's phases are pictured with actual and simulated microphotography. Carruth utilizes digital cameras with an expertise excelling that of many DPs who've far more experience with that nearly nascent technology.

Editing

Contemplative shots of this picture linger meaningfully, but during its procedural and ritualistic scenes, editorial rapidity effectively propels pace. To exemplify telegnostic nexus of empathy, action, and location, Carruth and co-editor David Lowery intricately cut hundreds of correspondent shots together with a rhythm that's as engaging as demonstrative. Much of Seimetz's and Carruth's conversational dialogue may initially seem haphazardly sequenced during lengthy montages, but it expresses their mutual fascination and frustration as they struggle to probe one another and determine whose memories are whose.

Histrionics

Carruth's all but playing himself, and his cast assume his sober, saturnine deportment. After a string of roles as battered and amatory characters in genre fare such as Bitter Feast, A Horrible Way to Die, The Off Hours, Silver Bullets, Autoerotic, You're Next, et cetera, Seimetz seems to effortlessly underplay her harrowed protagonist. How much of her quietly uneasy intimacy with Carruth was genuine at this early stage isn't publicly known, but their blossoming chemistry, with its enamored ebullitions, is essential to the cryptaesthetic sympathy that their lovers share.

Score

Sampled strings, piano, gong, and resonating, droning, arpeggiated, beeping, buzzing, warbling, echoed samples and synthesizers harmonize mesmerizingly in Carruth's music to amplify without ever diverting from his onscreen activity.

Highlights

Every stage of the vermicious organism's life is engrossingly depicted in speciously imaginative, often gruesome detail. Likewise, routines assigned to distract each hypnotized host, and the habitudes that they subsequently inspire, are ingeniously conceived. Lucid dreams of obverse scenes that transpire in austere offices and bathrooms include a revelational and retributive climax not to be forgotten.

Flaws

At 8:33, Martins faintly uptalks a line. How dismaying it is to hear a masterpiece momentarily marred by millennialism!

Conclusion

Would that more filmmakers understood their medium's power to convey by ephemeral images rather than graceless exposition, or trusted their audience's capacity for inference. Carruth's science fiction is truly sui generis: an elegant tale presenting simple, novel concepts in a complex idiom that's no less challenging for its accessibility. His retirement and troubles that have worsened in public view represent a great loss to an independent American cinema that needs its few finest talents more than ever. Even if the Texan auteur's second movie proves to be his last, it's perhaps the best of the 21st century to so penetratingly straddle convention and experiment.


The Witch: A New-England Folktale (2015)

Written and directed by Robert Eggers
Produced by Brian Campbell, Jay Van Hoy, Lars Knudsen, Jodi Redmond, Daniel Bekerman, Rodrigo Teixeira, Lourenço Sant'Anna, Sophie Mas, Michael Sackler, Julia Godzinskaya, Chris Columbus, Eleanor Columbus, Alex Sagalchik, Alexandra Johnes, Jonathan Bronfman, Thomas Benski, Lucas Ochoa, Joel Burch, Rosalie Chilelli, Lauren Haber, Mark Gingras, Ethan Lazar, Lon Molnar
Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Charlie, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson, Bathsheba Garnett, Sarah Stephens

"It is not actually a sign of spiritual eminence to be moral in the Puritan sense; it is simply a sign of docility, of lack of enterprise and originality, of cowardice."

--H. L. Mencken, Notes on Democracy

Synopsis

There was a farmstead by forest where a family relocated from their Puritan settlement for the galled initiative of its patriarch (Ineson), after his firstborn daughter (Taylor-Joy) was accused of witchery. Falling to hunger, pestilence and paranoia, madness from misfortunes, sorcery and sin, no one of their attrited party remained to bear testimony after they were by woods devoured before 1630 ended.

Script

A postscript inserted into this movie's end credits concedes derivation of folklore and historical reports adapted to its events and dialogue, but a true afflatus guided Eggers's percipient portrayal of the Puritan ethos, and of faunal happenings interpreted as Satanic signs and witchcraft. Harsh ironies are peppered for and underpin the self-fulfilling prophecy that drives his period piece, as how expectations of providence beget delusion, despair follows the uncertainty of salvation, iniquity's often an unintended accompaniment of righteous response, the neuroticism intrinsic to their Abrahamic faith renders these hardy settlers as psychically unfit to contend with imagined or veridic black magic as they are ill-equipped to farm or hunt in the wilds of the New World, and that sin in their belief is so comprehensively defined that frivolity is indistinguishable from atrocity.

Direction

Eggers amenaged his first feature with a veteran's virtuosity and no needless flourishes. Painterly static shots inspired by Renaissant and Baroque portraiture and still lifes example the refinement of his manner, which is handsomely actualized by Craig Lathrop's agricultural production design.

Cinematography

By daylight, moonlight feigned, and candlelight supplemented, Jarin Blaschke imaged scenes in 1.66 : 1 to display sylvestrian immensity and indoor confinement, a method equiparable to those of Tarkovsky and Teshigahara for their retention of the Academy ratio well after the latter's industry had roundly adopted widescreen formats. Many daily exteriors are grayed by grading to convey New England's overcast weather, in contrast to the lambency of rooms lit by flames.

Editing

Only a few operative abruptnesses call attention to Louise Ford's improminently polished cut.

Histrionics

Taylor-Joy's is this picture's fair face, delicately radiating by broad Celtic eyes and cupid's bow a vulnerability shared but unsurpassed by her co-stars. Reaffirming their reputations for versatility, gravelly Ineson and shrill Dickie counterpoise his forbearing stoicism against her mounting hysteria in expression of the same fatal desperation. Nearly everyone here -- including young Scrimshaw as a doubting, then hexed younger brother, and bratty little twins Grainger and Dawson -- performs plausibly in King's English with prodigious vim. Sable, sportive billy goat Charlie is the most natural of them all, his steady stare implying the subtlest maleficence.

Score

Pendereckian strings and Ligetan chorus as horrific disharmony are nothing novel, but Mark Korven's distinctly selected nyckelharpa, waterphone, hurdy gurdy, and jouhikko sound dissonantly with viols and cello for his eerily angular score.

Flaws

Candles weren't affordable in such abundance to impoverished, colonial families. Formal "you" and informal "thou" are uttered carelessly for each other.

Conclusion

Antipathetic, archetypal Puritans and witches have peopled tiresome, lowbrow filmic fayre athwart the Atlantic, but Eggers's rigorously researched, powerfully played tragedy chills to the bone with admirable rarety and ambiguity, focused on the failings of piety before grue indelible.


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Good

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Gregory's Girl (1980)

Written and directed by Bill Forsyth
Produced by Davina Belling, Clive Parsons
Starring John Gordon Sinclair, Robert Buchanan, Graham Thompson, Billy Greenlees, Dee Hepburn, Jake D'Arcy, Clare Grogan, Alan Love, Caroline Guthrie, Carol Macartney, Douglas Sannachan, Allison Forster, Chic Murray, John Bett, Alex Norton, Dave Anderson

Synopsis

His unrequited crush on his secondary school's sportive star striker (Hepburn) prepossesses a zanily ungainly student (Sinclair) who's more girl-crazy than his eccentric friends (Buchanan, Greenlees, Thompson), but too clueless to find romance without help from his sagacious sister (Forster) and female peers (Guthrie, Macartney, Grogan), who've a clearer perspective than he of his prospects.

Script

Quirks of characters and consequences constitute most of Forsyth's affable humor throughout his gentle yet earthy charmer, which is slimly plotted but so entertaining that most won't mind or notice.

Direction

Forsyth sets his shots with commonplace skill, but draws eye and attention with panning and tracking shots, as one oscillating to follow Sinclair and Forster revolving on a playground's carousel.

Cinematography

Rich and restrained colors mesh through Michael Coulter's lenses, even during a few fuzzy shots.

Editing

Most of John Gow's splices are inconspicuously sensible, but some conversations are overcut to insinuate a certain dubiety regarding Forsyth's blocking.

Histrionics

As goofy, gawky, gangly Gregory, naturalistically twitchy Sinclair secured a funny footnote in the annals of British cinema. Dully pretty Hepburn, toothily exuberant Buchanan and sardonic Greenlees are fun foils to their lovable leading man. Murray understatedly steals a couple of scenes when his stern headmaster indulges cibarious and pianistic passions.

Score

Colin Tully's saxy, reedy instrumentation is typical of MOR in the '70s and '80s, and his upbeat music is of a sort that most probably prefer to Muzak when waiting on hold.

Highlights

A contrast between precocious, enterprising preteens (such as Forster's junior sibling) and the oversexed, excitable teenagers who they jeer produces some hilarious incidents. Anecdotes of his sexual adventures are recounted by a young window washer (Sannachan) to admiring upperclassmen. Buchanan repeatedly, ridiculously fails to chat with schoolmates of the opposite sex by reciting revolting factoids.

Flaws

Only a few half-flubbed lines and excessively edited scenes are noticeable.

Conclusion

Forsyth's popular comedic classic is satisfyingly silly and sentimental, a sweetly simple fiction of awkward adolescence in all its bubbly, breathless glory. Scotland's rightly renowned for its provincial humor and proud of movies like this, in which it's enjoyably exhibited.


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Spectre (1977)

Directed by Clive Donner
Written by Gene Roddenberry, Samuel A. Peeples
Produced by Gordon Scott, Danny Steinmann, Gene Roddenberry
Starring Robert Culp, Gig Young, John Hurt, Ann Bell, Gordon Jackson, James Villiers, Majel Barrett, Jenny Runacre, Angela Grant

Synopsis

Wealth and clout accrue preternaturally to a debauched financier (Villiers), whose distressed sister (Bell) commissions an accomplished criminologist and occultist (Culp) to investigate whether her sibling's success transcends nature. Reunited with a bibulous physician (Young), the supercilious spiritist jets tempestuously to England to hazard traps, enticements and demonomagy, and verify what's been released upon the estate of his suspect's renovated abbey.

Script

Of his numerous pilots that failed to father a televised series in the '70s, this is undoubtedly the best penned and produced by Roddenberry antedating the theatrical resurgence of Star Trek. Their intent to hitch a ride on Kolchak's coattails moved he and Peeples to present mythologic and thaumaturgic fantasy as criminal procedural, which works well for anyone who's inclined to brook or relish his theurgic, often lecherous situations. Their story's brisk as exhibition of its Holmesian protagonist's interdisciplinary expertise and snappy chaff chirped with its Watsonian deuteragonist, which is never misplaced....even if it all leads to another showdown with another rubbery, biped lizard.

Histrionics

With steely, flamboyant aplomb did Culp throw himself into his conceited mystic, and he's as magnetic when exchanging persiflage with Young (or, for that matter, everyone else) as when spouting incantations or flourishingly performing other apotropaic rituals. His skeptic foil isn't at all dwarfed, as Young handily holds his own despite some boozy moments that necessitated an attribution of alcoholism to his character at the 13th hour. Hurt's in characteristically fine form as a gifted, genial junior brother to imperious Villiers and dowdy Bell, as is invariably reliable Jackson playing a chief inspector whose own enquiry creeps miles behind that of his civilian colleagues. Roddenberry's spousal mainstay Barrett remotely rounds out this cast in the part of Culp's magical maid. This production would be nothing of note without a cast who brought to it a sophisticated charisma, even in the course of its silliest kitsch.

Conclusion

It might've been the gloriously campy series that revived Culp's career as a leading man, but instead this dated curio was relegated to a few unnoticed telecasts. Nonetheless, it's required viewing for fans of the chinny Scotach, Young, Hurt, Jackson, or Roddenberry -- especially come Halloween.


Super Dark Times (2017)

Directed by Kevin Phillips
Written by Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski
Produced by Edward Parks, Richard Peete, Jett Steiger, Traci Carlson, Rachel Ward, Lana Kim, Keith Marlin, Andrew Banks, Niraj Bhatia, Dan Burks, Ben Collins, William Hall, Cameron Lamb, Luke Piotrowski
Starring Owen Campbell, Charlie Tahan, Elizabeth Cappuccino, Amy Hargreaves, Max Talisman, Sawyer Barth, Adea Lennox, Ethan Botwick, Philip H. Ashley, Anni Krueger, Justin Rose, Kortnee Simmons, Samantha Jones, Hayden Oliver, Dario Saraceno

Synopsis

A squabble proximal to bladed horseplay occasions the bloody manslaughter of a hyperactive, obnoxious teenager (Talisman) at the foible of a stainless steel katana, which is secreted near his body in the forest where he took his final running steps. Their friendship is uncoupled for an understood pact of secrecy, but the sorrow and stress sustained by one sensitive witness (Campbell) is alien to the unstable culprit (Tahan) whose pathology is unleashed by his crime and disaffection.

Script

If you were born between '77 and '83, and raised in a small, sleepy town, you probably skipped school to play pranks and hang out, attended a party where supposedly everyone partook, and toed every other line that you knew you shouldn't cross, unless you did. Maybe you read about it on the second or third page of the local weekly, or it happened three or four houses down -- unless you saw it yourself. Anyone who was a middle-class adolescent in the '90s will recognize themselves, friends, or acquaintances in Collins's and Piotrowski's verisimilous characters, whose edgy pretensions and bawdy badinage both bare and beshroud hormonal maelstroms of concupiscence, insecurity, resentment, and frustration. That zeitgeist eradiates crepuscular from their ethopoetic temperaments and treatment of their pivotal accident.

Direction

Directorial debuts seldom show such acumen for atmosphere or stylistic dash as inform Phillips's every establishing landscape, fevered close-up, and solitary figure.

Cinematography

In silhouette and shadow, DP Eli Born beautified every frame with misty vividness and lifelike contrast rare to digital cinematography.

Editing

It's conspicuous in consummation of interstitial and recollective montages comprising shots spanning split-seconds, but Ed Yonaitis's edit also exactly rotates subjects to subtly stress suggestions spoken and silent.

Histrionics

Without the tired crutches of gaping maw or squirrelly sputter, goggling Campbell convincingly evinces his innocent's conflict, sweat, and quiet adoration for a cute classmate (Cappuccino). He's exceeded by Tahan, whose twitchy, seethingly petulant volatility uncannily incarnates emerging, monstrous madness with a wholly human face.

Score

Panic and calamity are aurally amplified by Ben Frost's pitched, minimalist tones, noise, and percussion.

Highlights

Most of the first act is farced by hysterical confabulation between Campbell, Tahan, and Talisman. Conversely, Campbell's and Cappuccino's chemistry as inchoate sweethearts brightens the glow of their tender affections. Post-traumatic anxieties, guilt, and amatorial propensions symbolically immingle in surreal nightmares dreamt by the haunted schoolboy. Tahan fixates in his every shot as sarcastic delinquent, then furtive creep, as unsettling for his mercurial miens and perturbing peculiarities as for the unpredictability of a psychotic who's excited to know what he'll do.

Flaws

Hargreaves would satisfy in her relaxed, warm-hearted part as Campbell's single mom, but that she neither looks nor sounds like any Boomer who ever kept a nest.

Conclusion

Furnished by costume designer Stephani Lewis and set dressers Katie Lobel, Evan Schafer, and Joseph Visconti with an understatement as believable as its players, this townish crime drama succeeds as both a portrait of death's psychological tolls and a household snapshot of the United States' supremely luxurious sociocultural hangover.


Whores' Glory (2011)

Written and directed by Michael Glawogger
Produced by Alfred Deutsch, Erich Lackner, Peter Wirthensohn, Thomas Pridnig, Pepe Danquart, Mirjam Quinte, Anne Even, Klaus Hipfl, Chris Lowenstein

Synopsis

In daily exhibitions that are at least as compartmentalized as their lives, flashy doxies of an orderly bordello in Bangkok christened The Fishtank are presented in a vitreous booth, and selected by assigned numbers. No such civility or organization can be found in Faridpur's sickeningly shabby City of Joy, where bawds brutish and benevolent wrangle reluctant and embittered cocottes patronized mostly by mannered, working-class men. In contrast to this impoverishment, The Zone in Reynosa -- where ribalds cruise suites to browse flirty filles de joie -- seems almost paradisical, but sex there is as strictly transactional as it is comprehensive, notwithstanding some of its harlots' fantastically morbid, syncretic prayers.

Direction

Sweepingly wide and overhead exteriors as well as panoramic interiors immersively introduce these settings, preparing viewers for interviews that elicited funny, grisly, lustful, piteous accounts of meretricious comedy and tragedy. Glawogger's veracious views are painstakingly positioned, but tinged with subjectivity, as when rueful and immiserated interviewees are shot at distances emphasizing their isolation or desolation, or when the perfunctory vigor of Mexican acokoinonia is unmistakably framed in close medium shots.

Cinematography

Even squalid scenes benefit from Wolfgang Thaler's high contrast and saturation.

Music

Whether one can enjoy or at all tolerate admittedly apropos songs by PJ Harvey or CocoRosie will determine how one adjudges this movie's soundtrack.

Highlights

Before their shifts begin, Thai trulls pray at shrines for good fortune, and are then titivated by make-up artists and hairstylists. They dine, shop, and ironically overspend on bar boys at host clubs together during their off-hours, discussing prospects of second jobs, how an inexhaustible glut of hustlers has diminished profits, and why Malaysian, African and Indian johns are so detestable. Barking dogs copulate shamelessly by The Fishtank's entrance; within, a politic attendant refuses to haggle with an elderly customer.
A natty barber who frequents the City of Joy explicates its sociosexual necessity.
Two carloads of raunchy Mexican buddies fixated on anal sodomy prate on preferred prostitutes and perversions. In no less detail, an erstwhile cyprian dilates her numerous techniques. Another tells of an unreciprocally enamored client's misfortune.

Lowlights

An oily American tourist dallies doltishly with one of The Fishtank's toothier tarts.
Over the cost of a young wench that she's delivered, a procurer chaffers with a madam. Elsewhere, an obnoxious trollop touts herself to the annoyance of peers and passersby. Most tragic of these tramps is one fat, aging, and harried by her brothel's landlord for failing to pay what she can no longer earn.
With casual candor, a Mestiza moll relates how pimps allure or coerce guileless villagers into prostitution. Two others descant their relationships with Lady Death while smoking crack.

Flaws

Transitionary wipes between segments are as bathetically stupid as miffing musical selections that detract rather than complement.

Conclusion

Produced late in Glawogger's life and career, his penetrative, comparative exposure of whoredom in undeveloped and developing societies graphically uncovers the rankest repercussions of sex sold for sport, succor, and survival. Unfortunately, either he or his producers were convinced that its music had to be as trashy as his worst subjects.


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Mediocre

Born of Fire (1987)

Directed by Jamil Dehlavi
Written by Jamil Dehlavi, Rafiq Abdullah
Produced by Jamil Dehlavi, Thérèse Pickard. Stewart Richards
Starring Peter Firth, Suzan Crowley, Stefan Kalipha, Nabil Shaban, Orla Pederson

Synopsis

Unusual solar prominences and a volcanic eruption presage a clash of elements invoked by musical magic. In the wake of his mother's death, a virtuoso flutist (Firth) finds amative solace with an astronomer (Crowley) who's correlated these omens before they meet in Turkey, where he's guided by a muezzin (Kalipha) and aided by a fearful stigmatic (Shaban) to repugn a polymorphous, pyrogenous demon (Pederson) who designs to devastate Earth by empyrosis. Can his woodwind's hydrokinetic apotropaism extinguish the root of an impendent global conflagration?

Script

Barely plotted and profuse with portents, Dehlavi's and Abdullah's story is one of too few to properly portray west Asian folklore in modernity. At its most effective, dreamy flashbacks foreshadow and interpenetrate present drama with cyclic implications. Much of Abdullah's dialogue is footling, thrice bathetic; Kalipha is granted the best of it in poetic monitions.

Direction

Fine framing by Dehlavi of picturesque prospects atmospherically exploits his stunning settings: an opulent English recital hall, Lucullan domiciliary interiors, ruggedly grand Turkish mountains, caverns, cascades, Roman ruins, ancient and abandoned mosques and churches, and the famed travertine pools in the hills of Pamukkale. He leaves his performers to their own devices, seldom prioritizing them above absorbing locational and faunal imagery.

Cinematography

Vibrancies of a feeding mosquito, creeping lizard, slithering snake, weltering lava, waters turquoise in travertine terraces, and more are preserved in sightly contrast by DP Bruce McGowan.

Histrionics

At this point a practiced expresser of glowering disconcertion and determination, Firth was well-cast as the protagonal lead. His carnal chemistry with Crowley is fleetingly intense, but her tremendous screen presence and steady delivery don't always offset her hammy visages. Forbidding djinn and mournful lusus naturae are personated with speechless vehemence by Pederson and Shaban. Kalipha grimly grounds his scenes in contrast to his co-stars' dynamism.

Score

Thrumming basslines, Turkish twangs, soprano shrieks, and hisses against deep drones by Colin Towns melodically and cacophonously complement Dehlavi's visuals. Firth feigns performance of mellisonant standards by Poulenc, Debussy, and Mayer played by James Galway.

Conclusion

Long dismissed as an exotic curiosity, Dehlavi's quasi-surrealistic spiritual fantasy marked by Muslim piety and a dash of horror deserves reappraisal, if only for its unique beauty. From concert hall to Cotton Castles, its sorcerous intrigues are strangely semihypnotic, relaxing, and refreshing. Those willing to ignore a few misdeliveries, a meandering narrative, some low-grade SFX, and Firth's faux facial hair (when playing his soloist's father) may enjoy its agrestic Orientality.


Cam (2018)

Directed by Daniel Goldhaber
Written by Isa Mazzei, Daniel Goldhaber, Isabelle Link-Levy
Produced by Christa Boarini, Greg Gilreath, Adam Hendricks, John H. Lang, Isabelle Link-Levy, Daniel Garber, Floris Bauer, Michael Joe, Isa Mazzei, Couper Samuelson, Beatriz Sequeira
Starring Madeline Brewer, Melora Walters, Devin Druid, Patch Darragh, Michael Dempsey, Flora Diaz, Samantha Robinson, Imani Hakim, Quei Tann, Jessica Parker Kennedy

Synopsis

In an alternate dimension where mods and admins don't exist, a camgirl (Brewer) obsessed with her status on a livestreaming site performs salacious and shocking stunts less for profit than popularity, both solo and in association with friendly peers (Diaz, Tann, et aliae), until her account and online identity are usurped by a doppelganger whose allurement and resulting rank exceed her own.

Script

To their credit, quondam cammer Mazzei with co-scripters Goldhaber and Link-Levy schemed some succulent scenarios to beset her protagonist by depicting reciprocal exploitation and ineludible deceits peculiar to sexualized parasociality with a frankness unseen in most genre pictures about slutty streamers. Viewers of this parable might be reasonably expected to suspend their disbelief when either her flirty fille or identical impostor are neither suspended nor banned for public lewdness and self-abuse both simulated and substantial, or to overlook the question of possible malversation and its legal consequences in her favor. Alas, Mazzei's treatment of her themes is vainly observational, opting for smutty spectacle over insight. A rider in Brewer's contract provisioning her discretion regarding nudity in concordance with her comfort in any given scene may have been an effective conducement to a more involved performance, but it exudes the pissant puritanism preserved in corporate Anglo-feminism, and it's a concession meditated to distract attention from what is ultimately a cynically manipulative production.

Direction

His slow zooms, and encircling and tracking shots probably penetrate his target demographic for desired reactions, but Goldhaber's techniques are as bromidically nondescript as those seen in anything else churned out for streaming consumption.

Editing

More accreditation is due to Daniel Garber for his engrossing editorial expedition, meticulously made to hasten rate and optimize impacts.

Histrionics

Shapely yet witchly Brewer tackles her emotionally exhausting lead role with elan, physically repellent Darragh and Dempsey are aptly cast as two subscribers who she's unfortunate to meet, and Walters welcomely ballasts a few scenes as Brewer's mother....but everyone is flagrantly acting in compliance with overwrought Millennial norms. Robinson's so cartoonish as a cruel online rival that she reminds all watching of these characters' uniform shallowness.

Score

Like Garber's editing, the soothing synth pads and percussive crescendos of Gavin Brivik's largely sequenced, sampled, and synthesized score impart more impression than Goldhaber's direction.

Conclusion

To the usual critical credulity, this was tacitly touted by Mazzei and Goldhaber as something transcending the habitual techno-thriller. If you believe that blather, you might miss a movie that occupyingly shoulders the weight of their pretensions.


Crimes of the Future (1970)

Written, produced, and directed by David Cronenberg
Starring Ronald Mlodzik, Jon Lidolt, Tania Zolty, Paul Mulholland, Jack Messinger, Iain Ewing, William Haslam, Raymond Woodley, Stefan Czernecki, Rafe Macpherson, Willem Poolman, Don Owen, Udo Kasemets, Bruce Martin, Brian Linehan, Leland Richard, Stephen Zeifman, Norman Snider, William Wine, Kaspars Dzeguze, Sheldon Cohen, George Gibbins, Aus von Blicke

Synopsis

Humanity depopulates in anomic, semifuturistic 1997 for a gynocidal epidemic effected by toxic cosmetics. His interns frolic in their ruinate dermatological clinic as its dour director (Mlodzik) pines for his wacko, presumably deceased mentor and predecessor, and occupies metaphysical positions at satiric corporations, institutes, and foundations before consorting with a pedophilic sect therefrom, who purpose to induce premature puberty in and fertilize an abducted gamine (Zolty) to perpetuate the species.

Script

Its protagonist's fey, flatulent narration exposits wordless activity of Cronenberg's abstrusely aberrant second feature, which thematically anticipates his future movies as overtly as Stereo before it. Fixating for some and flat for others, it's undeniably as challenging as repugnant in its exploratory degeneracy.

Direction/cinematography/editing

On the postmodern premises of Massey College at the University of Toronto, and the newly opened, neobrutalist Ontario Science Centre, Cronenberg shot, then cut this in cointense color and contrast with a notable professionality that betokens his later mastery. Its languor reflects that of the moping, adventuresome teledermatologist, and among punctuating wickednesses soothes as sleazy counterbalance.

Histrionics

Present in Cronenberg's early pictures through Rabid, Mlodzik communicates with creepily cool countenance as much about his depraved dermatologist as the ambagious voice-over. His castmates were recruited from Cronenberg's circle (Woodley was then the filmmaker's brother-in-law; Lidolt designed the movie's titles), and they're all sufficiently strange (if scarcely acting) as maniacs, mutants and murderers.

Soundtrack

As in Stereo, noises are substituted for music, and the loudest blare during those futurable felonies. Some of these are recognizable as aqueous dissonance or birdsong.

Conclusion

Limited resources, a strepitent film camera, and its auteur's idiosyncrasies necessitated the experimental style of his early pictures, which are as esoteric as one could expect. If nothing else, they're a speculative window into immorality unique to the impartially amoral.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Stereo, The Brood, Coma, or Beyond the Black Rainbow.


Creep 2 (2017)

Directed by Patrick Brice
Written by Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
Produced by Carolyn Craddock, Jason Blum, Josh Braun, Christopher Donlon, Mark Duplass, Mel Eslyn
Starring Mark Duplass, Desiree Akhavan

Synopsis

Another day, another night, another hire, another murder....right? Her serial exposing the lonely men behind craigslist personals is an unmitigated flop on YouTube, so a frustrated, exploitative videographer (Akhavan) leaps at the opportunity to interview an oddball (Duplass) mired in a midlife crisis, who professes to be a serial killer. He's thus far her only riveting subject; unlike his anterior victims, she's unflinching and provocative. Who's luring who?

Script

The first video was a microbudgeted marvel: cunningly contrived, well-acted, disquieting and hilarious with disregard to any distinction between horror and comedy, and possibly the only good movie that Blumhouse has ever produced. Brice and Duplass are deservedly praised for developing this sequel from a variant perspective that generates a few instances of silent and suggested suspense, and almost as many laughs, but this time the scares are stingy. Choice characterizations can't sustain a script that loses momentum during the movie's final fifteen minutes.

Direction

As before, all shots are either stationary or hand-held by the spontaneous stars, to whom Brice's direction is largely overshadowed and subordinated.

Cinematography

Akhavan and Brice keep glare or shade from spoiling any shots.

Editing

Concatenating and condensing cuts are as adroitly effectuated by Christopher Donlon here as in the preceding pic.

Histrionics

Tensions and a commoving congeniality between its headliners form the nucleus of this production, interplayed by Duplass and Akhavan in outstanding, unnerving verisimilitude. Ever a comedic actor, Duplass inhabits his self-obsessed, homicidal lunatic with the ebullient enticement, dread despondence and manic outbursts that made his character unforgettable. Not merely a foil behind the camera, Akhavan renders her documentarian manqué's desperation, ambition, doubt and fear just as believably, and with teeth -- this could just as well be titled Creeps.

Score

Spanning not five minutes, two percussive, synthesized tracks by Julian Wass are as listenable as anything he's recorded for the Duplass brothers' other projects.

Highlights

Nearly half of the runtime consists of Duplass's spoken exposition; this wouldn't work, but his locution of these monologues mesmerize, as does the contrast of his wolfish insinuations and effusive ingratiation. Akhavan counters him with a tough skepticism that's never inordinately bitchy or self-conscious.

Flaws

First blood spilt during an otherwise fun prologue is observably digital. After an hour of discussion and misdirection, a protracted, uninspired anticlimax at Donlon's only bad splice fordoes the story, and isn't redeemed by a clever end.

Conclusion

Nobody reasonably expected this to match its predecessor (which loses much of its power after it's first seen), but Brice and Duplass couldn't land that last punch, or replicate the affright that made it great. As a result, this is that most disappointing of mediocrities that falls short of the considerable talent invested. Remakes, ripoffs and unimaginative franchises for bottom-feeders are Blumhouse's lifeblood, but we expect more from these two. Feel free to blame Jason Blum.


Devil in the Flesh 2 (A.K.A. Teacher's Pet) (2000)

Directed by Marcus Spiegel
Written by Richard Brandes
Produced by Betsy Mackey, Richard Brandes, Alicia Reilly Larson, Robert E. Baruc, Marc Forby
Starring Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, Jsu Garcia, Katherine Kendall, Jeanette Brox, Christiana Frank, Todd Robert Anderson, Bill Gratton, Sarah Lancaster, Rel Hunt, Todd McKee, Alex McArthur, Wendy Worthington

Synopsis

Within a week, a pretty mental patient and aspiring poet (O'Keefe) murders a sadistically perverted nurse (Worthington) and the psychiatrist (McArthur) with whom she was obsessed, escapes from her psychiatric hospital, assumes the identity of a rich, dead collegian (Lancaster) who she resembles, flouts and outfoxes her dorm's dictatorial, prematurely frumpy housemother (Frank), befriends and beautifies her nerdy roommate (Brox), seduces a studly professor (Garcia) of creative writing, undermines his unlikable fiancée (Kendall), and excels in his class by penning passionate poetry. Can the local sheriff (Gratton) and his dimwitted deputy and son (Anderson) apprehend this overachiever?

Script

With his former co-producer Kurt Anderson and a quartet of screenwriters, producer/second assistant director/author Brandes is credited for the previous picture's story. He reputedly wrote this goofier, glossier subsequence alone as camp invested with improved, precipitate plotting and snappier dialogue.

Direction & cinematography

Only a few ostentatiously skillful close-ups (some of which are in deep focus) draw attention to Spiegel's otherwise ordinary oversight and M. David Mullen's toasty photography.

Histrionics

Brandes reserved all of his best insults, retorts, witticisms and felonies for strutting, orally contorting O'Keefe, who hits her marks a step over the top with hysterically hammy panache. While Rose McGowan played a high school senior as a blithe vicenarian slow to slay, O'Keefe's bouncy, butcherly bedlamite seems like a freshman of high school, not college. Among others, remarkably handsome Garcia and gawky Brox (a poor girl's Clea DuVall) are fair foils who embody their archetypes as palatably as their castmates. Alex McArthur's cameo corresponds to his unwilling objet du désir in the first movie.

Score

For a quarter-century, Steve Gurevitch's music has primarily supplied tonal emphasis, as here. Some of his programmed percussion occupies.

Highlights

O'Keefe nails all of her rejoinders as amusively as she seethes spitting demented invective. Moments after this lovely, lovelorn lunatic screams, "Where the hell is my Prince Charming?!," Lancaster's spoiled brat accidentally kills herself with priceless inelegance.

Flaws

Not two minutes prior to her untimely demise, Lancaster spies coitus between disgusting hicks. Evidently superhuman hearing empowers O'Keefe to surveil her unwitting inamorato.

Conclusion

Its sex, criminalities, and gallows humor outshines that of this melodrama's predecessor, and it was destined, sanitized, and almost too good for telecast via Lifetime.


5x2 (2004)

Directed by François Ozon
Written by François Ozon, Emmanuèle Bernheim
Produced by Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier, Philippe Dugay
Starring Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Stéphane Freiss, Françoise Fabian, Michael Lonsdale, Géraldine Pailhas, Antoine Chappey, Marc Ruchmann, Jason Tavassoli, Yannis Belkacem

Synopsis

In counter-chronology, a quintet of momentous episodes scratch the surface of a failed marriage's bitter divorce, advoutry confessed and concealed, triste parturition, rapturous wedding and its racy reception, and transitional inception at a waterside Italian resort.

Script

As usual, Ozon's superficiality is betrayed by his lascivious emphases, but his tendentious portrayal of this movie's two-dimensional characters and their respective turpitudes is especially galling. In the most blatantly partial example, a longsuffering wife (Bruni-Tedeschi) quietly endures chagrin while her husband (Freiss) narrates his participation in an orgy to his brother (Chappey) and his boyfriend (Ruchmann); on their wedding night, her fling with a handsome American (Tavassoli) is treated as an erotically condonable caprice. Ozon weirdly, habitually abstracts to denigrate heterosexuality, but his worst misdeed here is to peddle nullity as arcana. Discordant from the tenderness with which he treats his son and wife, Freiss's cullion is elsewise unaccountably desperate, abusive, petty, remiss, and craven in contrived contradistinction to his better half. No causation can be clearly charged to his quasi-rape contiguous to the finalization of their divorce, anguished absence during his son's birth, or wanton harassment of his wife. His demonization of straight men demonstrates this filmmaker's inability to concoct substance behind semblance of obscenity, much less dredge insights therein. By the pen and lens of a Rohmer, Aurel, Blier or Téchiné, such a quintipartite narrative would yield fruit of a sort that he hasn't the depth or humanity to pick.

Direction

None of the reprehension above pertains to Ozon's perfectly professional direction, whereby his handsome cast is framed in potent foci that don't detract from palpable ambiences in ordinary and idyllic settings. That doltish gimmickry that impairs his sequent efforts was years forthcoming, as were innumerable posts to fora by fans who agonize to extenuate or rationalize it.

Cinematography

As for other movies by Ozon and Olivier Assayas, Yorick Le Saux here works his verve for high contrast abounding in pitch blacks, and coordination of cool and brilliant colors.

Editing

Her contributions are smoothly unnoticeable until Monica Coleman's abrupt cuts powerfully, proximately communicate intervallic omissions.

Histrionics

Not one false note vitiates rigorous performances by Bruni-Tedeschi, Freiss and most of their co-stars, who commit to their parts with a subtle mimesis that indues verisimility even to Ozon's weakest codswallop. Coarsely compulsive Fabian and Lonsdale are almost wasted playing the spatting parents of Bruni-Tedeschi's wife and mother. Tavassoli's painfully stiff delivery is the sole exception to this concerted merit.

Score

Like the aforementioned acting, two moving, lushly orchestrated themes courtesy of Philippe Rombi are too good for this picture, as are other musical selections by Paolo Conte, Bobby Solo, Wilma Goich, Luigi Tenco, Nico Fidenco and Gino Paoli that predominate on its soundrack.

Highlights

Nicely registered reactions between lines may be the best reason to view this. A beautifully conclusive wide shot of the Mediterranean offing from a Sardinian strand fades to black upon sundown, patefying how this Parisian shoots with a grace that he can't write.

Flaws

Aside from Ozon's cheap characterizations and vacuous foundation, both Chappey's and Ruchmann's, and Lonsdale's and Fabian's pairs are more intriguing than the protagonistic spouses.

Conclusion

This is what Téchiné, Pialat, Breillat, or the Dardenne brothers would've produced were they as shallow as Michael Bay. Ozon wears his influences on his sleeve, but his well-crafted ersatz is immediately discernable from a complete story about complete people.

Instead, watch We Won't Grow Old Together.


The Frontier (2015)

Directed by Oren Shai
Written by Oren Shai, Webb Wilcoxen
Produced by Dana Lustig, Mark Smirnoff, Tal Fiala, Elric Kane, Stephen Harrison, Moshe Barkat, Pirchia Rechter, Dari Shai, Haim Slutzky, Dustin Cook
Starring Jocelin Donahue, Kelly Lynch, A.J. Bowen, Jamie Harris, Izabella Miko, Jim Beaver, Liam Aiken

Synopsis

She's yet to put enough miles between herself and a homicide in Flagstaff when a drifter (Donahue) stops at a rundown diner and motel for a meal and overnight lodging, only to find that its proprietress (Lynch) and patrons (Harris, Miko, Beaver, Aiken) are soon to be recipients of over $1.7M in cash laundered from a recent heist. Their mercenary commonalities and continual visits by an obtrusive policeman (Bowen) complicate her designs on the money and a clean escape.

Script

Motivations are stultified and their promising story's second act is bogged by Shai's and Wilcoxen's drippy, dispensable exposition, which temporarily reduces a hard-boiled crime thriller to a cheap costume drama. Had so much background been alluded rather than dilated, and the plot enhanced with twice as many twists, they would've written a winner.

Direction

His conduct is slick if unambitious: Shai shoots action and dramatics with equal facility, and prudently interposes between both direful, often speechless close-ups and slow zooms, mostly of Donahue.

Cinematography

If at all, Jay Keitel may be known to viewers of independent cinema as Amy Seimetz's preferred DP. Diurnal scenes are gorgeously enriched though his lucent lenses, but by night, he's manifestly affected by a nyctophobia plaguing so many in his trade. No harvest moon's as fulgent as this movie's nocturnal lighting.

Production design

Worn postwar furnishings and appliances salvaged and fabricated for Taylor Jean's and Steve Morden's set design, Yasmine Abraham's perfectly selected and lightly distressed costumery, hairstyling courtesy of Emilio Uribe, and every other artifact of Lindsey Moran's production design -- driver's licenses, matchbooks, photographs, suitcases, purses, bottles, mugs and more -- replicate the mass-produced fashions of the '70s. Irrespective of budget, few pictures set during this era look so verisimilar, largely because the aforementioned grasp its grime.

Histrionics

Hers could be the face and presence in a thousand last known photos of doomed and endangered beauties circa '72-'84, so the niche that Donahue's occupied since The House of the Devil is scarcely shared. She makes the best of her sly miss with chilly charm, unostentatiously easy expressivity, and a sensitivity which may convince your amygdala that she's really rolling with so many punches. By contrast, indie regular Bowen (her assailant in House) has defied typecasting in a sweep of roles to varied results; here, he looks a southwestern part that he plays well, but his inauthenticity's betrayed by a gentle voice. Harris enlivens most of his scenes as a friendly fop in his father's footsteps, but Miko doesn't flesh his bleached, bubbleheaded wife with such gratification. Perhaps the worst personation of Lynch's career can be witnessed here, as she gratuitously overacts her every single line, mien and motion. Beaver's brutish career criminal and Aiken's antsy abettor are shallow figures energetically realized by their seasoned character actors.

Score

At its barest instrumentation in a minor key -- guitar, horns, underlying strings -- Ali Helnwein's score is resonant of its place and period. It turns mushy with the inclusion of flutes, then musty when electric guitars and staccato strings are employed.

Highlights

Donahue's pitch- and picture-perfect in every scene, whether evincing trauma and trouble, or trading pleasantries with Harris.

Nadir

Pick one:

  1. The movie's midpoint slows to crawl through tawdry tales of woe involving Jack Warner worsened by Lynch's awful acting.
  2. In a regressive episode immediate to bloody gunplay, Lynch's bygone starlet recites lines from an unrealized production à la Norma Desmond to embarrass everyone watching.

Conclusion

If this were as good as it looks or as exciting as its promotional campaign implied, it would probably be some sort of cult classic by now. Regrettably, too much is said and too little done in an expertly staged but underwhelming production.


Harlequin: Another Woman (1994)

Directed by Alan Smythe
Written by Margot Dalton, Jim Henshaw, Lee Langley, Lyle Slack
Produced by Ian McDougall, Jean Desormeaux, Jim Henshaw, Caird Urquhart
Starring Justine Bateman, Peter Outerbridge, Amy Stewart, Jackie Richardson, Kenneth Welsh, James Purcell, Elizabeth Lennie, Diana Belshaw, Meg Hogarth

Synopsis

Retrograde amnesia comes of concussion inflicted by thuggish muggers to suppress the memories and clear the choler of a rancorous restaurateur (Bateman), whose re-emergent geniality affords her an opportunity to rectify spoiled kinships with her handsome husband (Outerbridge) and teenage sister-in-law (Stewart). However, she's stalked by a greasy acquaintance (Purcell) who in murderous malice targets her marriage.

Script

Dalton's drama is typical of Harlquin's formulaic fare, and translates well to these 92 minutes. Cozily romantic locales and circumstances, and the divulgence of a tragic secret, supplement her slightly skimpy story.

Direction

The professionally undistinguished direction of (pseudonymous?) Smythe is as unsurprising as unobjectionable.

Cinematography

Excepting some dreamt cutbacks uglified by selective decolorization in post-production, the bland warmth of Michael Storey's photography becomes Smythe's adequate composition.

Editing

Withal, Pia Di Ciaula cut this to a measured pace in an accordingly conventional manner.

Histrionics

Ordinarily obnoxiously oafish in Family Ties and dreck like The Night We Never Met, Bateman actually radiates a hesitant amenity as the amiable amnesiac, despite her plodding gait. Outerbridge has buttoned-down charm to spare, which largely offsets the leads' lack of steam. Among the satisfactorily subsidiary players, Welsh is avuncularly appealing as Bateman's suave psychiatrist.

Score

Emotive, synthesized strings, smooth jazz and portentous tones are all comprised to be liminally heard in David Blamires's score.

Highlights

Her gradual recovery, recollections, reconciliations, and romance in Bateman's severally palatial and rustic houses are ingratiating.

Flaws

Amatorian scenes of Bateman's and Outerbridge's spouses set early in their relationship star a couple who bear no resemblance to them. Two assaults are presented in blurrily unsightly slow motion.

Conclusion

Anyone familiar with Harlequin's lightweight novels or televised features knows what to expect from any of either: lovers live happily ever after, but their trip is more important than its inevitable destination. Mike Nichols's and J.J. Abrams's situationally similar, unbearably saccharine Regarding Henry was produced on a tenfold budget a few years prior, but it's laughably inferior to this modest trifle.


Home Invasion (2012)

Directed by Doug Campbell
Written by Michal Shipman, Ken Sanders, Christine Conradt, Doug Campbell
Produced by David Japka, Robert Ballo, Ken Sanders, Douglas Howell, Tosca Musk, Christine Conradt, Timothy O. Johnson
Starring Lisa Sheridan, Haylie Duff, Jason Brooks, C. Thomas Howell, Kyla Dang, Al Sapienza, Barbara Niven, Taymour Ghazi, Jason Stuart

Synopsis

In the commission of a botched burglary, a career criminal (Ghazi) is greased by the restaurateur (Sheridan) whose home he's invaded. His partner (Howell) is afterward walloped and left for dead in the wild by the deceased's girlfriend (Duff), who then locates her burglarious beau's killer, joins her support group, and exacts revenge by assault, arson, contamination of pine nut salad dressing, and swimming lessons for her target's lubberly foster daughter (Dang).

Script

Shipman's and Sanders's story is formulaically fabricated to sequentially press every relevant button in the psyches of the alcoholic housewives, careerists, and cashiers of dollar stores addicted to Lifetime's crime dramas. It's a notch above most of its type simply because it's less silly, notwithstanding the spoken surplusage of Conradt's and Campbell's screenplay. Naturally, this is all but a fantasy: intraracial crime committed by white Americans rarely involves breaking and entering.

Direction

Probably the most successful director in the stable of Johnson/Shadowland, Campbell heads this as procedurally as he has his hits in series such as ...at 17 and Stalked By My Doctor. Expect nothing approaching experimentation or innovation from his workmanlike manner, and he'll never disappoint you.

Histrionics

More often the victim than villainess in televised and direct-to-video productions, pouty Duff can twist her smile sweet to sinful at the drop of a hat, but she's too cute to convince as a verisimilitudinous vehicle of vengeance. Good old C. Thomas chews his scenery as spicily as ever in his limited time onscreen, which is a treat for some nostalgists, who might notice that he's at least 10 years too old for his role. He's almost as entertaining when Stuart's fruity chef peckishly reproves his crew. Everyone else is as unremarkably able as their director. Sheridan bears a striking similitude to Margot Kidder in her youth, but she hasn't her personality, or personality disorders.

Score

This reviewer is all but sure that most or all of Michael Burns's and Steve Gurevitch's percussion, pianism and syntheszised synthpads are algorithmically generated.

Highlights

Spoiler: C. Thomas's hapless lout resorts to squatting, survivalism, and subsistence on dog food through the first and second acts, yet he's smoked straightaway early in the third by Duff's schemer. A quick, requisite catfight between Sheridan and Duff precedes a sanguinary ending.

Flaws

Fulsome flashbacks and moronically explanatory dialogue are provided for viewers whose attention spans are so deficient, they could almost be diagnosed with anterograde amnesia. After trekking through miles of wilderness, C. Thomas's pristinely white sneakers are clearly brand-new.

Conclusion

Neither will these trespasses view themselves, nor those boxes of plonk drink themselves. Enjoy, ladies.


The Overnight (2015)

Written and directed by Patrick Brice
Produced by Naomi Scott, Maya Ferrara, Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass, Adam Scott
Starring Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, Judith Godrèche, R.J. Hermes, Max Moritt

Synopsis

A budding friendship between their sons (Hermes, Moritt) introduces a married pair (Scott, Schilling) anxiously resettled in Los Angeles to another (Schwartzman, Godrèche) warm, wealthy and weird who invite the transplants to their home. After their kids are abed, the commonplace couple discover just how bizarrely talented, generous and uninhibited their hosts are, and they're paradoxically pushed to party beyond their zones of comfort, and into new ones.

Script

Penned from the perspective of Scott's and Schilling's spouses, Brice's story is among the most benignly bawdy you're likely to see, sweet in intention if too Rabelaisian for some viewers. For everyone else, his raveling, disrobing revelations underscored by gamey tiffs and coquetry are flurryingly fun.

Direction

As evidenced in Creep and Creep 2, Brice skillfully supervises his productions on tight budgets and schedules, helming this one over the course of 12 days (and nights), largely at Adam Carolla's ritzy house. His workmanship is respectably transparent in service to his cast.

Cinematography

Photic balance and colorful splashes amid otherwise muted tones distinguish John Guleserian's camerawork.

Editing

Christopher Donlon times alternations of shots with conversational flow, if twice or thrice too often.

Histrionics

Schwartzman's eccentric entrepreneur (who would've been a fit role for either of the co-producing Duplass brothers) is easy to overplay, but his effervescence is kept in confident check. As protean as any thalian thespian working, Scott interprets his insecure husband as an interchangeably restless and relaxed complement to Schilling's adoring wife, who betrays little lusts and ruffles with droll niceties. Now an old hand as an inveterate flirt, Godrèche tempers her sensuality with a warmth shared by her co-stars.

Score

As in other projects by the Duplasses, Julian Wass has a perkily synthesized tune for nearly every tone.

Highlights

Brice's highlights are surprises that would be undone by explication, one of which is foretokened by an acrylically painted motif and some of the movie's posters.

Flaws

Scott and Schilling seem stiltedly self-conscious in their second scene together.

Conclusion

If most bagatelles were written and acted this well, many of us would never leave our couches.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.


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Synopsis

Script

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Cinematography

Editing

Histrionics

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Highlights

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Conclusion

Recommended for a double feature paired with .


Appalling

The Children (1980)

Directed by Max Kalmanowicz
Written by Carlton J. Albright, Edward Terry
Produced by Carlton J. Albright, Max Kalmanowicz, Edward Terry
Starring Gil Rogers, Martin Shakar, Gale Garnett, Shannon Bolin, Joy Glaccum, Tracy Griswold, Jessie Abrams, Jeptha Evans, Clara Evans, Sarah Albright, Nathanael Albright, Julie Carrier, Michelle La Mothe, Edward Terry, Peter Maloney, Rita Montone, John P. Codiglia, Martin Brennan, June Berry, Suzanne Barnes

Synopsis

Symptoms suffered by schoolchildren (Evans siblings, Albright siblings, Carrier) who've been zombified by radioactive smoke fumed from a nuclear power plant include lethargy, periorbital dark circles, blackened fingernails, homicidomania, and a deadly touch. When these juvenile undead terrorize a tidy town in New England's countryside, a sociable sheriff (Rogers) and a whiny wimp (Shakar) trace a trail of scorched corpses.

Script

As in so many other B-movies, the heroes of Albright's and Terry's dragging story could twig and resolve their disaster if they'd average IQs. They don't, so 40 minutes of plot is extended to 93 that are largely dilatory, containing scant surprises and no suspense.

Direction

Kalmanowicz helmed this with slightly more skill than that observed in the usual fodder for double bills at drive-ins.

Cinematography

Some scenes are dingily defaced due to substandard stock or storage, but Barry Abrams's photography is otherwise as vibrantly attractive here as it was coterminously in Friday the 13th.

Editing

Perhaps Nikki Wessling wasn't judicious to apply a magnifying glass and paper guillotine in lieu of a flatbed editor.

Histrionics

Rogers is likably wild-eyed in his authoritatively folksy lead role. As hammy Shakar's gaumless, expectant wife, Garnett voices her idiocy with lumpen intonation. Glaccum, La Mothe and Montone are easy on the eyes, but only flirt and die horribly. Neither is much comic relief rendered by goatish, deputized local yokels played by co-producer and co-screenwriter Terry, and Maloney, a prolifically versatile ancillary who wasn't above slumming in low-budget fluff between prominent roles in classics like A Little Romance, Breaking Away, and The Thing. Those titular kids (two of whom are the offspring of producer/screenwriter Albright) seemed to be enjoying themselves. Brennan reportedly dealt copious cocaine to the cast and crew, which clarifies his fruitily catty connection to Montone's heedless hussy, and quite a lot else.

Score

Equally synthesized and orchestral, Harry Manfredini's score isn't as memorable as that composed concurrently (again!) for Friday the 13th, and encompasses his perennial plagiarization of Bernard Herrmann's music (specifically, themes and cues from Psycho.)

Highlights

In the third act, several malevolent tykes are shot at point blank range and dismembered. That's the most you can expect from this movie: minors assaulted with firearms and killed with an o-wakizashi.

Flaws

Until and after the abovementioned child abuse occurs, this is boring and unfunny. An unspeakably lame, final "shock" can be foreseen at least an hour in advance.

Conclusion

Death and pablum are easy. Craft and parenting are hard.


Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1992)

Directed by David Price
Written by A. L. Katz, Gilbert Adler
Produced by Scott A. Stone, David G. Stanley, Bill Froehlich, Lawrence Mortorff
Starring Terence Knox, Paul Scherrer, Ryan Bollman, Christie Clark, Rosalind Allen, Ned Romero, Ed Grady, John Bennes, Wallace Merck, Joe Inscoe, Kellie Bennett, Robert C. Treveiler, Leon Pridgen, Marty Terry, Ted Travelstead, Sean Bridgers, Aubrey Dollar, Kristy Angell, David Hains

Synopsis

Mass murder in an agrarian, Nebraskan town that was clearly committed by a syncretic cult composed of minors attracts the professional attention of a tabloid's lunky reporter (Knox), who investigates several succeeding deaths and other local intrigues in a nearby community where the unmistakably sinister kids have been transferred and welcomed by its obtuse residents. His snottily hostile teenage son (Scherrer) accompanies him to pad the duration of this garbage by romancing a fetching blond townie (Clark).

Script

Genre hacks Katz and Adler contemporaneously co-scripted episodes of Freddy's Nightmares and Tales from the Crypt, but their screenplay for this sequel to the middling adaptation of Stephen King's short story doesn't even meet the low standards of those series. Amorous interludes, messy invultuation, and an underplot concerning environmental crime were interjected into their rehash of King's physitheistic creeper because they haven't the imagination to elaborate on his concepts or craft a compelling story. Every character is a stock archetype or rural stereotype who utter shopworn, schmaltzy dialogue suited to diurnal soap operas. Very little is so mortifying as coddled boomers raised in an immanently neurotic Abrahamic faith who slavishly satirize the toothless faithful of another.

Direction

His zooms and crane shots are the most wearyingly routine images in Price's dull presentation. He couldn't even execute the movie's sole jump scare competently.

Cinematography

Notwithstanding noctilucence that's absurdly overlit, Levie Isaacks's colorful photography is easy on the eyes, and one of this movie's few assets.

Editing

Persistently poor comic timing should be imputed to Price and his cast, but Barry Zetlin cut the prosaic footage at his disposal as well as anyone could expect.

Histrionics

Most of these actors either woodenly recite or gnaw the very fabric of spacetime to enact Katz's and Adler's simplistic characters. Clark and Allen are tolerable, but haven't much to do other than posture prettily and shriek when imperiled.

Score

Daniel Licht's assemblage of choral and orchestral clichés serves the same function as ambient music without any soothing effect. His minatory variation of London Bridge is Falling Down sung by brats is exquisitely abashing.

Flaws

Every tritely slain victim could easily escape if they'd a survival instinct or average IQ. Purblind provincials unwittingly waiting to die aren't terribly interesting either. Dismal digital effects that have aged horribly are twice implemented. Sweaty sex shammed by Allen and pudgily misshapen Knox is starkly sickening, even more vile than the coitus between Joe Don Baker and Linda Evans in Mitchell. Demonic possession and talentlessness cause Bollman's heresiarch to speak with a peculiarly peeving cadence.

Conclusion

This is the very lowest grade of sequel: unfunny, vapid, gutless, hokey, tired, tedious trash contextualized in a faintly subversive pretense. Avoid it.


Contamination (A.K.A. Alien Contamination) (1980)

Directed by Luigi Cozzi
Written by Luigi Cozzi, Erich Tomek
Produced by Claudio Mancini, Ugo Valenti, Karl Spiehs
Starring Louise Marleau, Marino Masé, Ian McCulloch, Siegfried Rauch, Gisela Hahn, Carlo De Mejo, Carlo Monni, Mike Morris, Brigitte Wagner

Synopsis

Intercepted en route to New York City, a freighter contains a crew of corses, and gooey, thermoreactive eggs filled with bacterial silicon that induces the internal explosion of any organism it splatters. They're tracked by the colonel (Marleau) of a clandestine governmental agency to a Colombian coffee plantation and exporter, where she's headed with a police detective (Masé) and former astronaut (McCulloch) to exterminate their source.

Script

Apparently enthralled by Alien, Cozzi (ill-)conceived his first draft of this script as a sequel to the classic horror, then revised it in accordance with budgetary limitations. This schlocky, successful ride on those long coattails is less irksome for its derivation than his insufferably immature trio, who are as emotionally incontinent as addled adolescents.

Direction

Besides some excessive close-ups and zooms thereto, Cozzi's direction is fair. He's credited once again under his preposterous pseudonym, Lewis Coates.

Cinematography

Giuseppe Pinori's photography is similarly satisfactory.

Editing

Perhaps once or twice a smidge too sudden, neither can any other complaint be lodged against Nino Baragli's theatrical cut.

Histrionics

As simply scripted, everyone plays their puerile parts broadly or blandly, but only the leads rankle. Late Masé's spunk is gratingly unfunny, McCulloch's querulousness miffingly melodramatic. Marleau has all the allure and presence of a dead fish; Cozzi wrote her part for luscious Caroline Munro, which is why everyone's so taken with this frump.

Score

Some quirky riffs by Goblin are expectedly catchy, though hardly their best work.

Highlights

Opening aerial shots of NYC focusing on the Chrysler Building, World Trade Towers and Statue of Liberty are directly arresting. In slow motion, fulminations of eggs, then polluted people entertain. A climactic confrontation with the picture's final boss, a massive, slimy, cyclopic extraterrestrial, and his thrall (Rauch) is gruesomely goofy to behold.

Flaws

Who can fathom the measure of Marleau's colonel?! She's sanctioned to command strike forces domestically, but not abroad. The stipulations by which she performs her mission furnish incentive, but make no sense. Her hunt for the alien scourge is intrepid until she's locked in a bathroom with one of its eggs, whereupon she panics like a halfwit rather than forcing open its visibly flimsy door. In one inexplicable scene, Masé avows his enduring affection and yearning for Marleau, but they've known each other for three days. When he finally stops whining and seizes the day, McCulloch's hero is a relief from his annoying allies.

Conclusion

It's not scary in the slightest, but this Italo-German production is too irritating to view without an expert riff.

Instead, watch Lily C.A.T..


Desecrated (2015)

Directed by Rob Garcia
Written by Cecil Chambers
Produced by Cecil Chambers, E. Dylan Costa, Chris Nassif, John Atterberry, John Boggs
Starring Gonzalo Menendez, Haylie Duff, Gib Gerard, Paul James, Heather Sossaman, Michael Ironside, Wilmer Calderon, Vera Rosada, Jack Rain, Kayla Shaughnessy, Mary LeGault

Synopsis

Six dumb collegianers (Duff, Gerard, James, Sossaman, Calderon, Rosada) cavort at an isolated summer house during spring break, and by trespassing on his home aggravate its domineering groundskeeper (Menendez), an insane ex-Marine who deviously dispatches them with a purpose and a plan.

Script

Little occurs in this story until its third act, and its ratio of discussion to action is proximately 10:1, which might be excusable if that predominant class wasn't brainless banter and iterated confusion. Co-producer Chambers recycles devices established in classic thrillers sans a spark of suspense.

Direction

Fortunately, a good script wasn't squandered on Garcia's sloppy, amateurish direction.

Cinematography

Whether accomplished DP and FX specialist Bruce Logan contributed to this flick for charity or necessity is unknown to this reviewer, but his splendent (days for) nights are almost as artificially unattractive as scenes darkened by drab tinctures, for which he's responsible as its DI colorist.

Editing

Neither am I aware if co-producer E. Dylan Costa, Robert A. Ferretti, or both were ripped on stimulants when they feverishly butchered Garcia's footage, or if they did so to conceal even more of its shortcomings. Their ASL is 2 seconds.

Histrionics

Overlooking one fluffed line, the lesser Duff sister is a passable leading lady. Menendez treats his villainy with brio, as would reliable old Ironside were he accorded a meatier part. As one of those raunchy, obnoxious stoners who infest fraternities and later middle management, Calderon's portentously pestilent. Everyone else verbally treads water until dead.

Score

Joe Faraci's chintzy score is redolent of those heard in features broadcast from Lifetime's limitless landfill.

Highlights

Some mild amusement's to be had when Menendez upbraids and menaces these vexing vacationers. Scenery's satisfyingly nibbled by Ironside in the role of Duff's dad, who isn't evil enough to provide sufficient grist for the grizzled Canadian's mill.

Flaws

Even including its superfluous backstory, this half-hour of plot makes a mingy 70+ minutes. Thirty-one minutes after Menendez's outdoorsman informs James's pseudo-nerd that he hosts hikes and hunts, the latter discovers this from online advertisements and testimonials. Only Menendez and Ironside don't play certifiable clots.

Conclusion

This offal insults one's intelligence as much as studio-grade chum. If you can view it freely, mellow Ironside's worth watching during his 10 minutes onscreen, shot to satisfy financiers unfamiliar with Duff.

Instead, watch Deliverance or Cabin Fever.


Devil in the Flesh (1998)

Directed by Steve Cohen
Written by Kurt Anderson, Richard Brandes, Michael Michaud, Kelly Carlin, Robert McCall, Steve Cohen
Produced by Kurt Anderson, Richard Brandes, Marc Forby, Alicia Reilly Larson, Betsy Mackey, Robert E. Baruc, John Fremes
Starring Rose McGowan, Alex McArthur, Peg Shirley, Phil Morris, Robert Silver, J.C. Brandy, Sherrie Rose, Ryan Bittle, Julia Nickson, Krissy Carlson, Schultz, Wendy Robie, Philip Boyd, Milton James

Synopsis

Logophilic police detectives (Morris, Silver) conduct an inquirendo into a possible arson that killed her mother and teacher while a sultry student (McGowan) chafes at residency with her abusive, overbearing, fundamentalist grandmother (Shirley), and attendance at a new high school where her crush on a handsome teacher (McArthur) turns erotomaniacal. Corpses accrue.

Script

Their residual capitalization on the sleeper's success of Poison Ivy and its sequels (themselves variations on Fatal Attraction's scenario) isn't without wit, but Anderson and Brandes should've held their four screenwriters to one standard of black humor, and weeded this flick's shooting script of some badly barbed lines.

Editing

Michael Thibault's final cut would be unexceptionable but for excessive and successive dissolves, and some intolerably interpolated whoosh cuts, none of which evoke fond nostalgia for the '90s.

Histrionics

Her bitchy chill was honed for years in compulsive trash like The Doom Generation and Lewis & Clark & George, and McGowan's as fetchingly flirty here as in any of her other vehicles, if less interesting than certain co-stars. Morris and Silver play their cross-quizzing inspectors with pleasantly understated comic timing, and Faheyish McArthur emanates charisma as the object of her sensual seductress. Oddly, not too much of this this devil's flesh is on display, despite McGowan's penchant for onscreen nudity. Sherrie Rose is instead twice in the buff during sexy scenes with McArthur, and while her figure is easy on the eyes, the absence of McGowan's gymnomania may have disappointed purchasers of this video.

Score

From their first of many collaborations, Michael Burns's and Steve Gurevitch's music tugs the ear, unlike the tones-by-numbers that they've since been turning out for scores of Lifetime's features.

Highlights

Darling schnauzer Schultz charms as the pet of Shirley's loathsome beldame. Whether this satisfies is largely incident to its audience's sexual orientation; McGowan was so stunning in her prime that she's sure to transfix anyone tending to the slightest interest in the fairer sex.

Flaws

Painfully lame quips during and after several homicides (two of which are frankly justifiable) aren't meliorated by McGowan's cutesy delivery.

Conclusion

For McGowan's longsuffering, remaining fans -- who might've noticed that she's only half this crazy in reality -- this is essential viewing. Addicts of Johnson/Shadowland's sordid crime dramas may deplore this as extreme, but it's likely a touch too tame for aficionados of erotic thrillers.


Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill! (2006)

Written and directed by Chad Ferrin
Produced by John Santos, Trent Haaga, Giuseppe Asaro, C.W. Ferrin
Starring Timothy Muskatell, Charlotte Marie, Ricardo Gray, Granny, David Z. Stamp, Jose I. Lopez, Marina Blumenthal, Amy Szychowski, Kele Ward, Trent Haaga, Ernesto Redarta

Synopsis

While working her nursing night shift, a sonsie single mother (Marie) intrusts her retarded, adolescent son (Gray) to the care of her boyfriend, a sordidly psychotic career criminal (Muskatell) who invites a bloated, crippled drug dealer (Stamp) and a pair of putrid prostitutes (Szychowski, Ward) to party at her residence. Neither they nor other lurking malfeasants (Lopez, Blumenthal, Redarta) are safe from a stealthy, resourceful murderer who's observing Easter behind a leporine mask.

Script

With repulsive prolongations and domestic disputes, Troma alumnus Ferrin stretches 25 minutes of story to occupy 90 minutes of running time forming his trashy, inane, admittedly fun farcical horror, which piques a lot of laughs but no scares for anyone beyond their pubertal years. Its comic crudity is as stupidly amusing as one could hope for.

Direction

His claustrophobic close-ups, zooms, full-figure and drifting shots (no few of which shamelessly blazon busty Marie's considerable cleavage) are all framed with calculated carelessness, but Ferrin has a knack for capturing his players' most unflatteringly, goofily humorous angles.

Cinematography

Most of this flick's interiors are lit like begrimed bedrooms from which camgirls stream, and the lurid hues clothing Giuseppe Asaro's shiteo beseem its sleazy cheese.

Editing

Jahad Ferif hacked Ferrin's footage together with occasional flair, though this reviewer can't readily tell how many of his overzealous cuts are imputable to ineptitude or imitation of B-schlock.

Histrionics

In adherence to Ferrin's style, everyone onscreen overplays their one-dimensional roles by yards over the top to some risible effect. As the fat, flagitious felon, Muskatell seems lucky to swagger and fume through the movie without suffering cardiac arrest. Only Granny, a plumply precious rabbit cast as the pet of Gray's peevish peabrain, performs naturally.

Score

Synthesized noodlings and tacky, often funky prog rock courtesy of Goblinishly epigonic duo The Giallos Flame is crummily fun, like most else here.

Highlights

Marie's buxom mother alternates between indulgence and violent discipline while voicing minced oaths; the piggish pervert portrayed by Stamp is gleefully aroused by a chance to prey on a mentally disabled teenager; every exchange and murder is in some way funny.

Flaws

True to his roots, Ferrin created a video that's as embarrassingly edgy and intensely ugly as it is legitimately laughable. Every shot is shoddy, and all presagements patent. One predictable twist is explained with a fatuous flashback.

Conclusion

This is less like exploitation movies from the '70s than how Xers and early Millennials would like to remember them. If you've an appetite for raunch and gore, and absolutely nothing better to do, it's a tickling way to pass 1.5 of your overtly disposable hours.


Gregory's Two Girls (1999)

Written and directed by Bill Forsyth
Produced by Alan J. Wands, Christopher Young
Starring John Gordon Sinclair, Carly McKinnon, Dougray Scott, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Martin Schwab, Rebel, John Murtagh, Kevin Anderson, Fiona Bell, Hugh McCue, Alexander Morton, Dawn Steele, Gary Lewis, Matt Costello, Jane Stabler, Anne Marie Timoney

Synopsis

Nineteen years later, once-lovable Gregory occasionally teaches English at his secondary school to charges exasperated by his ceaseless sociopolitical bromides, parrots leftist fallacies and half-truths propagated by the likes of Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, fantasizes pruriently about an unpleasantly pretty pupil (McKinnon) while evading the advances of a comelier coworker (Kennedy) who inexplicably adores him, consorts with a human rights activist (Schwab) of importuningly indeterminate provenance, investigates a past schoolmate and womanizing industrialist (Scott) whose company manufactures and donates electronics in concern of two students' allegations that it's constructing torturous apparati, and makes an arrant ass of himself during every waking minute.

Script

They aren't deliberately hinting at its commercial failure when daft defenders of Forsyth's fortunately final feature correctly argue that it isn't a lucrative retread of its antecessor; such a revisitation might've rekindled its humor or attractiveness, which are here absent. Instead, this vexatiously vapid, ill-imagined sequel reinvents him as a sententious twit who imbibes and regurgitates adulterated, post-Marxist contentions, and never so agonizingly as in dopey discussion with his obnoxious, hypocritical, culturally condescending, American brother-in-law (Anderson). Consistently unfunny scenes garrulously drag on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on without any mitigation, certainly not from depressing references to Forsyth's hit from 1980. His audience is supposed to like an impressionable man-child whose infatuation with a thick, testy teenager leads him to forgo first a toward opportunity, then his livelihood, and ruin his life by commiting unlawful entry, trespassing, grand larceny, and coastal pollution, based on an accusation derived from inconclusive evidence.

Histrionics

As a kid, Sinclair was irrepressibly ingratiating; in his adultness, jerky, mincing, yammering, undersexed, gormless Gregory is a chore to watch, though decidedly more tolerable than McKinnon, whose schoolgirl's single dimension is represented with the empty empathy, sneering sarcasm, and callous fatuity that forms her personality. Only skeezy Scott and canine tagalong Rebel are at all personable.
WARNING: to observe Sinclair's simulated sexuality is to risk overwhelming, possibly emetic nausea.

Score

Michael Gibbs composed his score in abidance with the utmost treacly conventions.

Conclusion

That titular Two disrupts what might've been memorable annomination, and it's spoilage suited to Forsyth's confusedly lightweight incroachment into Ken Loach's territory. If he still wrote as well as he directed at this late date, his godawful last hurrah would be unrecognizable, if it ever existed at all.

Instead, watch if.... or Gregory's Girl (again).


Let's Be Evil (2016)

Directed by Martin Owen
Written by Jonathan Willis, Martin Owen, Elizabeth Morris
Produced by Nicki Perkins, Elizabeth Morris, Martin Owen, Weena Wijitkhuankhan, Matt Williams, Harry Willis, Jonathan Willis, Tom Willis, Mario Tafur, Martin Barnes, David Bostock, Vincent Bull, Mark Clenshaw, John Cruse, Pratima Desai, Dave Ellor, Chris Furness, John Harrison, Mike Harrison, Michael Holmes, Trevor Howard, Simon James, Robin Kayser, Jonathan Kendall, Mike Norris, Bill Roberts, David Ronaldson, Amandeep Sandhu, Brandon Smith, Alan Thompson, Carl Welham, Dave Yeates, Laura Yeates
Starring Elizabeth Morris, Kara Tointon, Elliot James Langridge, Isabelle Allen, Natasha Moore, Jamie Bernadette

Synopsis

Three Californian attendants (Morris, Tointon, Langridge) of juvenile prodigies are escorted by a personalized, interactive program (Moore/Bernadette) in an underground level where the entrusted tykes are subjected to exhaustive educational evaluation and lucubration. When these small children revolt, nobody present has the sense or mettle to chasten them.

Script

Exceptionally stupid titles often forecast exceptionally stupid stories, so you've been doubly warned. Willis's "original concept" contained a favorable germ dissipated in Owen's and Morris's heinous screenplay. Anyone equipped with flashlights and corporal punishment could squash straightway their silly sedition, but these hellions (and the storyline) rely on adults who childishly panic during emergencies without conferring or compassing -- an honest, bothersome depiction of Americans and Britons. "Are you really that stupid?" asks an insurgent gamine of Morris's minder, as might you during the anteceding hour. Occasionally turgid dialogue unintentionally miswritten in English vernacular is sprinkled with artificial Americanisms. Half of what occurs makes no sense until a conclusive revelation defies prevision by virtue of its lazily fabricated inanity.

Direction

Shot primarily from perspectives of computerized glasses worn by the custodians, Owen's unsuspenseful devices are as overworked as antiquated farm tools.

Histrionics

Morris emotes with all the passion of bound timber, while Tointon and Langridge nigglingly nip scenery with American accents as audibly inauthentic as their lines. A prefatory interview designating the dehumanization of globalized capitalist imperatives is so abominably acted by Brooke Johnston and James McNeill that's it's sure to be savored by schlockmongers.

Flaws

Conclusion

A few spineless simpletons couldn't babysit a dozen chairborne, prepubescent nerds.

Instead, watch Miri (from Star Trek's first season), Logan's Run, or Beyond the Black Rainbow.


Raw Nerve (1991)

Directed by David A. Prior
Written by David A. Prior, Lawrence L. Simeone, Jason Coleman
Produced by Ruta K. Aras, Robert Willoughby, David Winters, Marc Winters
Starring Ted Prior, Sandahl Bergman, Jan-Michael Vincent, Glenn Ford, Randall 'Tex' Cobb, Traci Lords, Red West, Graham Timbes, Jerry Douglas Simms, Yvonne Stancil, Doris Hearn, Trevor Hale, Brian J. Scott, Jim Aycock, Donna Willard, Mary Willard

Synopsis

Bankings of dirt tracks aren't easily navigated by a troubled stock-car racer (Prior) while he sustains lancinate headaches that accompany presumably clairvoyant visions of a serial killer's murders. His slovenly uncle and mechanic (Cobb), and a news reporter (Bergman) whose bed he shares afford him more credence than a police detective (Vincent) and his superordinate captain (Ford).

Script

Their story's derivative of a couple classics, but Prior's, Simeone's, and Coleman's comedy inadvertently resides in its dialogue. Lines like, "We're leaving the country, and I'll explain on the plane, OK?" are funnier than their cockamamie chaff.

Direction

Few oeuvres reflect quantity over quality as that of the extraordinarily fertile Prior, whose clumsy composition persisted through his career. Half of his shots appear to be set by a director possessing a fraction of his experience.

Cinematography

So many B-pics from the mid-'80s through the early '90s are lensed in the barely blurred mode of DP Andrew Parke.

Editing

Tony Malanowski's acceptable assembly of Prior's reels is almost better than they deserve.

Histrionics

Prior plods hunkily through yet another of his big brother's many movies by hitting his marks, but only unveils his inner Corey Feldman during his last 10 minutes onscreen. Bleached, leggy venereal vector Lords gifts his sister with a flirtatious feistiness absent in her future overacting, but she hasn't the mannish magnetism of sinewy Bergman, who's an auntly agreeable love interest. That plentitude of personality somewhat compensates for stiff Vincent's permanent reliance on his screen presence. He's best cast as a menacing miscreant, so canine Cobb copes erratically with a misfitting role. Ford is top-billed for seniority and celebrity, and brings a cozily gruff gravitas to his penultimate performance that's pleasing, if misplaced.

Score

His orchestrations forebode with greater resonance than tracks that Greg Turner sounded with a Yamaha DX7.

Highlights

A decent car chase through Mobile concludes with the spectacular crash of a pickup truck from the top story of a parking garage, the legality of which would be unfeasible in most other American cities.

Flaws

Most of his cast can't act, and Prior directs as Korean women drive. Junkers striving in a motor rally during the first act are plainly proceeding at approximately 35 mph, probably because Prior didn't know how to film them at a competitive velocity. If you enjoy schlock of this strain, you won't mind. RiffTrax is no stranger to Prior's features, and may well tackle this; every tenth shot could qualify as one of MST3K's stingers.

Conclusion

This is recommended only for fans of its whilom A- and B-listers, or armchair riffers acquainted with Prior's violent filmography.

Instead, watch Eyes of Laura Mars.


The Rift: Dark Side of the Moon (2016)

Directed by Dejan Zecevic
Written by Dejan Zecevic, Dimitrije Vojnov, Milan Konjevic, Barry Keating
Produced by Marko Jocic, Milan Todorovic, Ken Foree, Peter Chung, T.J. Chung, Slobodan Cica, Goran Djikic, Slobodan Jocic, Ivan Pribicevic
Starring Katarina Cas, Ken Foree, Monte Markham, Dragan Micanovic, Denis Muric, Ratko Turcinovic, Miroljub Leso, Sonja Vukicevic

Synopsis

Two reactivated field agents (Cas, Foree), an ailing physicist (Markham), and a Serbian military attaché (Micanovic) are dispatched to recover data from the remains of a downed satellite in the countryside north of Belgrade; what they find instead are a hostile, elderly couple (Leso, Vukicevic) who've a roaming, resurrected son (Muric), and an astronaut who vanished during a lunar landing in 1976 in their cellar.

Script

Zecevic, Konjevic and Keating badly expanded the director's fascinating, science fictional ideas into a half-baked plot crammed with cretinous chatter, and prolonged by its characters' garrulity, tactical idiocies, and incapability to report key, immediate events -- the most exasperating and surest signs of hackery.

Direction

Aside from some clumsy, hand-held shots, Zecevic's supervision is no more objectionable than good.

Histrionics

Foree's career is all but defined by his engaging elevation of stock roles in B- to Z-movies, and he here endues his officious agent with more appeal than he's worth. He's her senior by nearly thirty years, but looks healthier than haggard Cas, who with Micanovic passably handles dumb dialogue. For his genteel, faintly porky formality, overproductive Markham's still fun to see. Deathless hack Mick Garris can't act in the slightest in a cameo where he delivers not ten lines with gross incompetence.

Music

It's as irritating as inapposite to any given scene when it's heard, but Nikola Jeremic's score is thankfully eclipsed by songs of varying quality by Omega, The Anix, Carved Souls, Real Life, Nik Turner, Leather Strip, Damon Edge, Nektar, Le Seul Element, Rick Wakeman, Brainticket, Chrome, Guru Freakout/Guru Guru (Grove Band), Het Droste Effect, Oranssi Pazuzu, and White Manna.

Highlights

See below.

Flaws

Lunary scenes are cutely rendered in CG fit for AAA cut scenes or one of George Lucas's prequels.

Conclusion

Had they hired a screenwriter who can actually tell a story rather than temporize, this movie's Serbian and South Korean producers might've made rather than wasted money.

Instead, watch Capricorn One or The Ninth Configuration.


Santa's Summer House/A Talking Cat!?! (2012/2013)

Directed by David DeCoteau
Written by Andrew Helm
Produced by Marco Colombo, Kathy Logan, Gregg Martin
Starring Cynthia Rothrock, Daniel Bernhardt, Christopher Mitchum, Gary Daniels, Kathy Long, Jessica Morris, Rachel Rosenstein, Elijah Adams, Yung Woo Hwang; Johnny Whitaker, Kristine DeBell, Justin Cone, Janis Valdez, Alison Sieke, Daniel Dannas, Squeaky, Eric Roberts

Synopsis

With Christmas magic in June, Kris Kringle routes a vanful of vacationists to quarter at Santa's Summer House, where St. Nick and his wife (Mitchum, Rothrock) minister miserable careerists (Daniels, Long) and their dweeby son (Adams), catering sisters (Morris, Rosenstein), and a prickish rocket scientist (Bernhardt), who patch and plant relational bonds as secret Santas. Subsequent shifts of A Talking Cat (Squeaky, vocalized by Roberts) introduce a lunky, retired programmer (Whitaker) and his timorously bookish son (Cone) to a caterer (DeBell), her ambitious daughter (Valdez), and aimless son (Dannas) as he counsels most of them.

Script

During his time here on Planet Earth, Helm has developed a rudimentary understanding of intraspecific human relationships and interactions, those interspecific with lower mammals, the English language, and technology in industrial societies. Alas, the limits of his knowledge are exposed by his characters' unaccountably abnormal disorientation, behavior, vernacular, and idioms thereof. As hashes of terrestrial fiction, these are terrible screenplays, but actual humans have written worse.

Direction

No living filmmaker so personifies quantity over quality as DeCoteau, a cloddish, tireless cheapjack of gore and homoeroticism who's currently churning out dreary domestic depravities for Lifetime. This pudgy perpetrator of pap perfunctorily forayed these family-friendly features: many shots simply dolly or zoom in, then out, those latter often jerkily. Even in scenes that are competently shot, his casts are clearly on their own when grappling with Helm's bewildering scripts.

Cinematography

By reducing its brightness, boosting its contrast, and bluing his video, DeCoteau produced the most unconvincing day for night simulated in post-production since that seen in Deliverance.

Histrionics

No combat happens in the Summer House, despite its occupancy of four martial artists. They owe little longevity to dramatic talent, so what can one expect from screen shellbacks Rothrock, Mitchum, Bernhardt, Whitaker, and DeBell when they're saddled with screenplays that read like poor translations of Soviet comedies spoofing American society? Fat feline Squeaky lazily upstages his bipedal peers. Roberts sounds plastered while literally phoning in his lines, but who can tell?

Score

He's lifted from better music for decades, so Harry Manfredini was prepared to quote classic Christmas songs for a score that would've been better suited to a studio's holiday comedy in the '80s than this barely-budgeted video. For Talking Cat, he composed the best tunes for a circus's clown act, theme park's ride, and animatronic mariachi that you've yet to hear from the preprogrammed song bank of a consumer-grade Casio keyboard.

Highlights

Fans of Roberts are sure to enjoy his specially slurring, swaggering anthropomorphism of Squeaky's vagrant quadruped. Every actor under 30 in these movies is quite attractive; one can only hope that Adams, Cone, and Dannas knew better than to fraternize alone with DeCoteau.

Flaws

Cloudy, sylvan, littoral, and residential B-roll (and especially establishing shots thereof) are glaringly recurrent in these pictures, constituting perhaps a fifth of both. A laser guiding Squeaky is thrice visible. DeBell's chef removes a baking pan filled with cheese balls from a hot oven with her bare hands less than a minute before its tangency scorches those of Whitaker's bumbler. An interminable croquet match at the Summer House drags on and on. Every scene contains some baffling incoherence or other.

Conclusion

Both of these videos are inoffensively horrendous, shot successively at a hideously furnished mansion where pornographic productions were staged. If you must watch these, do so with the commentaries of professional masochists.


Xtra Credit (2009)

Directed by Martin Jay Weiss
Written by Anthony Jaswinski
Produced by Brian Martinez, Erik Olson, Larry Levinson, Robert A. Halmi
Starring Micah Alberti, Marina Black, Pooch Hall, Melissa Ordway, Nina Siemaszko, John Littlefield, Garrison Koch, Mitch Pileggi, Dawn Olivieri

Synopsis

In neglect of his gorgeous, goodhearted girlfriend (Ordway), a boneheaded burglar reformed as a zookeeper and collegian is senselessly seduced by his professor of sociology (Black) shortly before he's framed for the murder of her husband (Pileggi).

Script

It's so timeworn that Jaswinski's script may as well be conglomerated, completed Mad Libs treating of erotic thrillers. Those few turns of his plot that can't be foretold are farcically ill-conceived, and its criminal machinations are exhaustively elucidated in numerous conversations and cutbacks, not one of which is necessary. His sexual situations play out like softcore porno. Our protagonist is unstable, unfaithful, unlikable, wantonly pugnacious, completely corruptible, and as thick as molasses. Only his sweetheart is at all gratifying.

Direction & editing

Weiss could've achieved mediocrity if his every single scene wasn't twofold to sixfold overshot, and attendantly overcut. Worse, Jennifer Jean Cacavas afflicted every transition and telephonic discourse with dopey wipes and split screens of double, triple, and quadruple juxtapositions to laborious and embarrassing effect.

Cinematography

Nobody would notice Todd Barron's stock photography if subwindows of those split screens weren't hideously colorized.

Histrionics

To be fair, this cast can't be faulted for their burdenous material. Lumberingly handsome Alberti doesn't quite seem mentally disabled, and Hall amuses occasionally as his gaudily garbed, rebarbative roommate. One can only wonder why charmless, leathery, nascently haggard Black was cast as a seductress, especially when her inferiority to adoring, adorable Ordway belies their cheater's impetus. Chunky Siemaszko hams risibly with smirks weirdly twisted, possibly symptomatic of palsy.

Score

Steven Burton's music by numbers is less chafing than that of DJsNeverEndingStory, which in turn is marginally more bearable than numerous cuts by negligible pussy rock bands.

Conclusion

Obviously, this is atrocious, if more watchable than the past decade's waves of woke programming. Bottom feeders never had so many options.


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Directed by
Written by
Produced by
Starring

Synopsis

Script

Direction

Cinematography

Editing

Histrionics

Score

Highlights

Flaws

Conclusion

Instead, watch .

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