31 May 2015

May Monster Madness 2015: Dario Argento's "PHENOMENA"

Just like last year and the year before, Annie Walls, Emma [Little Gothic Horrors] and Ked [Something wicKED This Way Comes] once again host the mad-tastic "MAY MONSTER MADNESS" Blogfest.


This year's theme is brought to you by... erm, moi! And this time, it's all about insects, monster insects, insect plagues, insect infestations and what not.

As always, lazy me remains oh-so-uncreative and delivers just another review *yawn* but hey: it's a superlong review about a damn great flick by Italian Horror-Maestro Dario Argento, and it's a movie that is packed to the brim with shitloads of insects. It will crawl under your skin, I promise :-) Enjoy!

PHENOMENA

Alternate Titles:
Creepers / Dario Argento's Phenomena

Italy, 1985
Director: Dario Argento

9/10








Although Italian horror-legend Dario Argento has written and/or directed more than 40 feature films in his 45-year-career, the age-old discussion about what is his greatest movie always revolves around the same two movies: "Suspiria" and "Profondo Rosso". They're unarguably landmark masterpieces and obviously two of the greatest European horror films ever made, but I always thought the discussion lacked at least one more movie which may not be better than the above-mentioned ones, but which is obviously Argento's wackiest, most inventive, most bizarre and definitely his most surprising work to date: "Phenomena", a stunning slasher-fairytale-hybrid following young girl Jennifer, who has is able to telepathically communicate with insects, getting sent to an exclusive boarding school in a part of Switzerland that is often referred to as the "Swiss Transylvania", where she involuntarily teams up with a wheelchair-bound entomologist and helps solving a string of brutal murders...


Admit: it sounds fun, right? And, well, it actually is fun! Instead of creating yet another mere Giallo film, Argento mixed up well-trodden Giallo trademarks (maniac killer, whodunit plot, close-ups of murder weapons...) with his life-long love for animals ("I love all of them. Cats, dogs, fishes and insects. Every single species."), Fulci-esque gore, supernatural fantasy, telepathy and coming-of-age, outsiderdom, ending up with a movie that feels more like a fairytale than your average 70s/80s Italo-horror, and possesses a unique tone that surprisingly feels a tad childish, but in a good way. As in most of Argento's films, logic is sparse and the storyline is abstruse, but apart from that, "Phenomena" is so original and creative, it stands out of his filmography AND of European horror per se. No wonder that Argento frequently cites this as his favorite among all of his works.

From the breathtaking opening in the Swiss alps (which is definitely one of the most suspesneful scenes Argento has ever done) to uncanny dream sequences with rooms full of mirrors, a "Poltergeist"-like pool filled with dead bodies and body parts, and a fucking crazy ending including deformed childs, knife-wielding monkeys, swarms of flies, fire, water and blood, "Phenomena" is one helluva wild ride that has to be seen to be believed. As crazy and weird as it all may be, there's no doubt that this was made by a gifted and talented filmmaker at the height of his creativity. It's fantastically directed and paced, some scenes are super-fast, some are rather slow, but it all fits together perfectly, and at no time it's boring or tedious, even with a runtime of 100 minutes!


Next to the above-mentioned highlights, there are other remarkable scenes and things, like rotten, maggot-infested heads and bodies, a laser-pointer-controlled Chimpanzee, a firefly leading the main character to the killer's glove, seeing the world though the eyes of a bug (bug-o-vision), as well as countless close-ups of all kinds of insects (see below!) and lots of actually pretty interesting knowledge about the Great Sarcophagus fly (a.k.a flesh fly) and its larvae.

In terms of technical aspects, there is also nothing to argue with. Gobsmackingly beautiful cinematograhy and absolutely excellent steadicam work by Romano Albani ("Troll", "TerrorVision"), top-notch editing by regular Argento-collaborator Franco Fraticelli ("Profondo Rosso", "Suspiria", "Tenebrae"...), gorgeous production & costume design, ace art direction, and as always, a near-perfect musical score by Claudio Simonetti and his Goblins + some weird, yet highly effective usage of heavy metal music by Iron Maiden ("Flash of the Blades")
or Motörhead ("Locomotive").


Jennifer Connelly (Oscar for "A Beautiful Mind" in 2002) delivers a fabulous performance in one of her very first roles (at the age of 15!) as immensely strong female character, probably the strongest one in all of Argento's movies. Similarly awesome is the great Donald Pleasance in, what I'd call, the best 'Italian Job' in his entire career (before he wasted his talent on crap like "Paganini Horror" or "Nosferatu in Venice"). More great acting by Daria Nicolodi (ex-wife of Argento), Federica Mastroianni (niece of Marcello Mastroianni) or Dalila Di Lazzaro, as well as a mini-performance by Michele Soavi who later became one of the most impressive Italian genre-directors of all time with his 4 masterpieces "Stage Fright", "The Church", "The Sect" and "Dellamorte Dellamore"
(a.k.a "Cemetery Man").


"Phenomena" is a true phenomenon of a horror film, an original, spectacular and visually stunning piece of Italo-Horror-art, not to be missed!

Wiki ~ Imdb

30 May 2015

Lexa Cain's Summer Vacation Blog-Hop: Maynard's beloved FILMCASINO

My blog buddy a.k.a Egyptian horror author Lexa Cain did it again: a blog-hop about one's favorite places. Last time, it was all about "Dream Destinations". This time, it's about "Your Favorite Summer Vacation Spot".


"Is your favorite vacation spot a sunny beach, a bright city, or a secluded cabin? A romantic getaway or a place you loved as a child? We want to see it and know why it's your favorite!"

Okay, my favorite Summer Vacation Spot isn't exactly the typical choice for a relaxing holiday (hell, my holidays aren't even relaxing...), and since I visit it every year mostly in May and in September, it's not even a real "summer" vacation either, but - even though I love the sun, the sea, the beach - my favorite, let's say, 'Favorite Holiday Vacation Spot' is...

The "FILMCASINO, VIENNA",
located in the beautiful district of Margareten.
[ www.filmcasino.at | wikipedia.org/wiki/Margareten ]


In its current form, the FILMCASINO exists since 1989, but at that place, there have been other movie theaters before. It all started in 1911 under the name "KINEMATOGRAPHENTHEATER"(=Cinematographers Theater) which was changed in 1919 to the "MARGARETNER BÜRGERKINO" (=Civic cinema of Margareten).

After being 'aryanized' in 1938, and after the whole building was almost destroyed in 1946 (due to war damages), there wasn't much hope for another cinema in Margareten - until 1954 when architect Albrecht F. Hrzan redesigned it completely, and gave it (now called "Filmcasino") a new coat of whitewash in the zeitgeist of classic 1950s architecture.


The Filmcasino had to close sometime in the 70s and stood empty until 1989 when it was revived by the 'VHS Polycollege Margareten", slightly renovated by two Viennese architects (Elsa Prochazka & Silvin Seelich) and finally re-opened on Sept 21, 1989. Since then, it is Vienna's coolest-looking and most avantgarde movie theater, specializing in showing films off the mainstream and holding all kinds of filmfestivals.

I first visited the Filmcasino in September 2011 when the second /Slash Filmfestival took place. I instantly fell in love with this marvellous place with the mirrored ceiling in the foyer, all the lovely wood panelings, the super-cool sofas, the magnificent neon sign, and, of course, the absolutely wonderful cinema hall with stylish red curtains and 254 pretty comfy seats, here where I've seen hundreds and hundreds of films. Since 2011, I've visited the Filmcasino many, many times, watching several non-Multiplex films like "Beasts of the Southern Wild" or "Medianeras", several /Slash-related mini-events like the Austrian premieres of "Maniac" or "Sinister", and of course the /Slash Filmfestival and the /Slash 1/2 Mini-Festival (formerly: /Slashing Europe).


During the /Slash Filmfestival in September (11 days, more than 40 films), I stay for about 11-13 days in Vienna and spend most of the time in my beloved Filmcasino. There's not that much time for strolling around in other areas, so when I'm strolling, it's always in the district of Margareten, which is probably one of Vienna's loveliest areas, due to many, many cool streets, excellent little restaurants, pubs and ice cream parlours, super-nice little parks and other cool stuff. I've done the 6-7 minute walk from the metro station "Pilgramgasse" to the Filmcasino so often, I'm 99% sure I could do it with my eyes closed :-)

Is there anything else to say? Oh yeah! During my "Filmcasino holidays", I didn't just got the chance to see shitloads of great films, no, I also met a couple of awesome peeps that I can call my friends now - and last year, I met a super-cool girl there who is now my girlfriend :-) As you can see, spending your holidays in a movie theatre... no, is not just about fun and entertainment, it's also about friendship, love and happiness ^_^





Hope you enjoyed my little blog-hop contribution. Teehee! :-)



 "My Favorite Summer Vacation Spot" Blog Hop is sponsored by
Summer Reads that Thrill & Chill!

For the Linky list of blog hoppers and Book Giveaways,
go to the Co-host blogs:



28 May 2015

"THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS" (Chilling 20 Movies Pack, #6) + LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1986) and LITTLE SHOP (1991)

THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS

German Titles:
Kleiner Laden voller Schrecken

USA, 1960
Director: Roger Corman
Charles B. Griffith (uncredited), Mel Welles (uncredited)

7/10







"The Little Shop of Horrors" is far from being Roger Corman's best or funniest film (that's probably "A Bucket of Blood"), but it's definitely his most unique, most original film. Shot in 2 days and 1 night(!!) on a budget of only about $30.000, Corman tells the story of klutzy simpleton Seymour Krelboyne who crossbreeds a Venus Flytrap with a Butterwort plant (a.k.a Pinguicula) and creates a carnivorous monster-plant (called "Audrey Jr.") who is able to talk and constantly demands to be fed with human flesh ("Feed me! FEEEED MEEE!").


It's a silly but siperbly amusing and pretty charming flick with lots of quirky and hilariously over-the-top characters, an interesting mix of Jewish and Black humor, and some wonderfully cheesy special effects. When she's small, Audrey Jr. actually looks rather meh. The bigger she grows, the stupider she looks. And when she's fully grown, she looks more like an oversized Hamburger. Nevertheless, her constant begging for food (voice by screenwriter Charles B. Griffiths) and the movements of her mouth made me giggle a lot.

The cast is top-notch. Lots of Corman-regulars, all delivering superb performances. Mel Welles as stingy florist Gravis Mushnick ("Don't work me about money. I've got to get drunk, now!"), the great Dick Miller as passionate flower-eater ("I'm just crazy about Kosher flowers."), Jack Nicholson in one of his very first roles as insane hardcore-masochist ("The man had cancer, tuberculosis, leprosy, and a touch of the grippe. I decided to operate."), the super-sweet Jackie Joseph, the crazy Myrtle Vail and Leola Wendorff.


The only thing I didn't like was main actor Jonathan Haze. His performance was way too annoying for my taste and I hardly couldn't stand his ongoing "Oh, boy!" babbling. Other than that, "Little Shop of Horrors" is great fun!

Wiki ~ Imdb





LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS

German Title:
Der kleine Horrorladen

USA, 1986
Director: Frank Oz

4/10 (theatrical cut)
6/10 (director's cut)







Forgive me. I've never been a musical-fan, that's why I never really liked the 1986 version of "Little Shop Of Horrors", not exactly a remake of Roger Corman's classic, but rather an adaptation of an off-broadway musical based on
the 1960 original.

I don't know why, but I just hate movies where the actors spontaneously break out in song. It's annoying. It takes me out of the movie. "Little Shop of Horrors" could have been a delightful horror-comedy without any musical numbers, but alas, it's a musical and poor me has to deal with that.


Okay, the cast is simply awesome and nearly everyone delivers a top-notch performance (aside from Ellen Greene... no wait... aside from Ellen Greene's VOICE which is so fucking unnerving - though, I loved her in "Léon"!): there's the wonderful Rick Moranis as simpleton Seymour (thousand times better than Jonathan Haze in the original), a hilarious Steve Martin as super sadistic rock'n'roll-dentist, an equally hilarious Bill Murray as root-canal-obsessed masochist, a highly amusing John Candy as silly discjockey and James Belushi (theatrical version) or John Dooley (director's cut) as fun marketing executive.

Extraterrestrial flytrap-monster "Audrey II" looks awesome (stunning creature design by Lyle Conway) - but omg, how I hated its voice which was actually provided by Four-Tops-frontman Levi Stubbs, a great singer but horribly unnerving as Audrey. The songs are mostly cheesy 80s bubblegum-pop, ranging from okay ("Skid Row","Dentist!") to aaaaahh-fucking-ear-cancer ("Feed me!",
"Suddenly Seymour")
.


The ending of the original theatrical cut is lame and underwhelming (electrocution, explosion, happy end), while the original ending a.k.a director's cut ending (rewritten and reshot after receiving a strong negative reception from test audiences, finally restored in 2012 - read about it on Wiki) is far, far better. Greene gets eaten. Moranis gets eaten. Millions of Audrey IIs taking over the world, destroying cities, eating people. No happy end. Yay!

Still, despite all the fun, this was extremely tough for me to sit through. I'm not the right audience for musicals, so I just shut up now.

Wiki ~ Imdb



LITTLE SHOP
(animated series -
1 season, 13 episodes)

German Title:
Der kleine Horrorladen

France / USA, 1991
Created by: Jean Chalopin
Directed by: Karen Peterson

7/10


Anyone remembers this? Damn, even I almost forgot about it, though this was actually a really fun series. Jean Chalopin, the creator of brilliant kids stuff like "Inspector Gadget" or "Heathcliff & The Catillac Cats", turned Corman's and Oz' "Little Shop of Horrors" films into a cute and entertaining animation series aimed at kids and teens, following a teenage boy working in a flower shop, keeping a Venus Flytrap called Junior as his pet.

I think I've seen it in the mid 90s on some German TV channel (I guess it was RTL) every Saturday noon. The horror elements were turned down for children, which totally didn't matter to me. At that time I've already seen and disliked Oz' version, and to my surprise, I enjoyed the series much, much more which, as far as I remember, was pretty well-made and diverting. Not surprising: director Karen Peterson was responsible for other fun series like "Transformers" (1985-1986), "Fraggle Rock" (1987) or "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" (1990-1991).


Unfortunately, it was never released on VHS or DVD, and so far, I couldn't find the entire season on the internet. Strongly hope that someone will release it all in some kind of way in the near/far future. Fingers crossed!

Wiki ~ Imdb

27 May 2015

ALIEN ABDUCTION (2014)

ALIEN ABDUCTION

Working Title:
The Morris Family Abduction

German Title:
Brown Mountain - Alien Abduction

USA, 2014
Director: Matty Beckerman

4/10





I already talked about the troubles with recent alien-abduction-themed movies in my "The Encounter" review, so I don't wanna talk about it again :-P Fact is: "Alien Abduction" [not to be confused with the 1998 made-for-TV movie of the same name] is just another unoriginal cliché-fest about people getting abducted by non-creepy-looking extraterrestrials, all filmed found-footage-style *yawn*


To be fair, Matty Beckerman's debut feature isn't exactly bad, and he himself isn't a hack. He's just not as talented as he probably believes he is. You can easily see that he tried to be at least a bit creative, creating a story expanding on an old North-Carolina-based legend about mysterious lights in the sky, focusing on semi-believable characters, delivering a good deal of suspense and action.

The first half hour is actually quite terrific: a superb build-up, many tense and gripping scenes, a few good jump scares and splendid use of some creepy old tunnel. The characters are solid, the camera work is neat and the explanation of why all the events get filmed is actually pretty clever (autistic kid who is basically communicating to the world via his video camera). Oh, there's also a cute owl making a "The-Fourth-Kind"-like appearance!


Sadly, after the first half hour, "Alien Abduction" starts to drag and drag, due to too many slow and super-tedious scenes, too many boring and totally uninteresting dialogue sequences, and various highly predictable alien attacks. No more suspense or tension, hardly anything eerie or scary. The quality of acting varies noticeably from decent to god-awful, the few special effects look really shabby and the half-assed we-didn't-even-try-to-be-original ending is so frustratingly bland, you beg for some aliens to arrive and take you with them.

Watchable, but... damn, it could have been sooo much better...

26 May 2015

Donnie Darko, Richard Kelly and Me, Part 10: Alec's Thoughts on "THE BOX" (2009) and "BUTTON, BUTTON" (1986)

[Part 10 of a not-exactly-weekly 12-part blog series about Donnie Darko, S. Darko and the works of Richard Kelly]
Part 1 - "Donnie Darko"
Part 2 - "Donnie Darko: Director's Cut"
Part 3 - "Cindy's Thoughts on Donnie Darko"
Part 4 - "Eric's Pros & Cons of Living in Middlesex"
Part 5 - "Donnie Darko: Deleted Scenes vs. Director's Cut"
Part 6 - "S. Sarko: A Donnie Darko Tale"
Part 7 - "Donnie Darko vs. S. Darko"
Part 8 - "Southland Tales"
Part 9 - "The Box"

Guest Post by Alec 'Mondo Bizarro' Pridgen: 
"The Box" (2009) + "Button, Button" (1986)" 
  (plus some bonus-rambling from Maynard)

Sorry, Richard. I have nothing against Richard Kelly, but, well, he seems to be a one-film wonder. That one film is, obviously, 'Donnie Darko'. What has followed that film has been, well, not good. It took years to get his next 'magnum opus' made. That film: 'Southland Tales'. It was supposedly designed as a 9-Part tale involving 6 comics and three films. Pretty big, huh? He got 2 comics and one film. Not so big, it seems. More importantly, the final product released didn't do well, leading to some serious confidence issues with the studio.

What happened next? Well, much like M. Night Shyamalan, he was given a 'safe' project. In M. Night's case, it was 'The Last Airbender'. In Kelly's case, it was an adaptation of a story called 'Button, Button' by the late Richard Matheson. Sorry, Mr. Matheson. In the same year, we also get 'S. Darko', an embarrassing 'sequel' with only one returning Cast Member. Could this be worse? Well, it's not good.  It has some good elements and probably is a good story. If you could take the good parts on their own, it would be an easy recommendation. As it is, it's got a lot of problems. To see some of them, read on...


A mysterious man drops a box off at a house owned by 'Cyclops' and one of 'Charlie's Angels.' The box is a casing for a button that may/may not
do something weird.

Just to note: 'The Box' is an odd title for this film. Why not 'The Button'?
Is it any more silly than 'The Box'?


Cameron Diaz is a Teacher with a messed-up foot, while James Marsden in a NASA Scientist who fails to qualify as an Astronaut. It's here we see one of the film's problems...

The reveal of Diaz's foot would have more impact if we actually knew her, as opposed to having it occur in the first ten minutes. With as much time as they dick around in the Second Act, they had to rush this part?


The box's owner (Frank Langella) arrives on cue. Him and his partial-face explain that if they push the button, someone they don't know will die and they will get $1 Million (do your own Dr. Evil voice as you read this).


Will they push the button?
Will they not push the button?

They do.

I suppose that this is a Spoiler, but would there really be a movie if they didn't?


It's here that things fall apart.

You see, not content to just make the film a 'Morality Play' and have them live with the possible consequences of their 'greed,' the film turns into a bizarre, conspiracy tale. This...is what you wanted your movie to be? Look, you're hurting Brita!


 So yeah, it's a tale of conspiracies and tests for humanity. This is all so...ugh


 Save me from this pretentious bullshit, Santa! It's only September,
but get off your ass...please.


Government conspiracies! NSA misdeeds!
People meeting at night in front of Warehouses!

This is what you get from The Box. Were you expecting a character study in Greed vs. Morality? Screw that noise!


I won't SPOIL the Ending, but I will say that it's similar enough to the 1980's Twilight Zone version, only over-complicated and silly like Kelly seems to do to everything.

Seriously, read Matheson's original story (or at least a summary). THAT is a good Twist Ending. This...has many problems. The End.


Everything about this shows what could have been. Seriously, how hard is this? Just for comparison: the 1980's Version of the tale. Done in the 1-Hour Format, the 'Button, Button' segment of the Episode runs around 20 minutes long. The WHOLE thing is built around the Button and whether or not to press it. Aside from the changed Ending (which this one uses somewhat anyhow), that's how you do it! Instead, Matheson constructed an elaborate and silly reasoning for the Button itself. This ruins what the focus of the story should be entirely.

On top of that, it's full of either holes or just plain confusing things. You get Water Doors, mysteriously-caused ailments and all sorts of convenient things. So much of this is not based on chance and what choices you make - it's rigged in favor of the house. Other than literally forcing you to push the Button, the people/forces behind it just plain cheat. The whole thing is just rigged in their favor and it really takes a bite out of the 'moral choices' behind the whole thing. Speaking of bad things, did we need a sub-plot involving Diaz's foot and a mold being made for it. Furthermore, did her disfigurement add anything to the story? Hell, did Langella's? In summary, there's a great story - 'Button, Button' - buried in this convoluted mess. Even a replacement Donnie Darko couldn't help this one.






The Twilight Zone, Episode 20b Season 1
"BUTTON, BUTTON"

German Title:
Nur ein Knopfdruck

USA, 1986
Director: Peter Medak 




When I reviewed 'The Box', I learned that the same Story (originally published in 1970) already appeared on 'The Twilight Zone' during its 1980 Revival. I decided to check it out too and found more than I was looking for.


Our young couple (Brad Davis and Mare Winningham) are living in a not-so-nice neighborhood and working way too hard for it. They need a break! Maybe this mysterious Box will be the answer...

A mysterious man (Basil Hoffman, who would appear in 'The Box') shows up and explains the rules: If you push the button, someone you don't know will die. As a result, you will get $200,000. Can they do it? Is it worth it to get the money?


Can they live with the guilt? Can they do it? Yes, yes they can.  

The next day, the man arrives with the money and takes the Box. It sure was easy! However, he tells them that the Box will be re-programmed and that they will get the same deal. The next people: someone they don't even know. Dun dun dun!


Damn, this is so much better! I should note that this version of the Story does change the ending (which is why Matheson's Teleplay is Credited under a Pseudonym) and isn't 'perfect.' With that said, it has none of the alien crap, the weird water portals and the mysterious man having a giant hole in his cheek! I don't hate 'The Box', but it is not nearly as good of a version of this story. In fairness, this Segment is about 20 minutes, while the film is around 90 minutes. Obviously you have to do some things differently. You can't do 90 minutes of people getting the box/button, deciding what to do and just dealing with direct consequences of it, can you? We just saw 90 odd minutes of Robert Redford stuck on a boat and not saying a word, so why not?

The strength of this Segment lies in the realistic interaction of the two Leads and how their situation might lead them to strongly consider pushing it. After all, people die every day! They make you feel for them and how hard their struggle is. This stands in contrast to 'The Box', where one of them works for NASA and the other has a messed-up foot. That is far less relatable... to anyone except Richard Kelly, who just took those from his real-life parents. Seriously, Richard?!?


Maynard here! I fully agree with my buddy Alec. This little episode is so much better than "The Box". Directed by Peter Medak ("The Changeling", "Species II") from a teleplay by Richard Matheson himself (who eventually disapproved of the episode and demanded to be credited with the pseudonym 'Logan Swanson'), "Button, Button" is a terrific little suspense-fest that starts out a bit slow but quickly gets super-suspenseful, due to really intense pacing and strong, intriguing atmosphere. There's no unnecessary space-stuff or water-rubbish. It's about a slightly unlikable, yet charming poor couple, a mysterious man, the 'button unit' and the tricky question "to push or not to push". The acting is a bit mediocre, especially Brad Davis' odd performance, but the genius shocker-ending completely makes up for it. - 8/10


24 May 2015

Donnie Darko, Richard Kelly and Me, Part 9: "THE BOX" (2009)

[Part 9 of a not-exactly-weekly 12-part blog series about Donnie Darko, S. Darko and the works of Richard Kelly]
Part 1 - "Donnie Darko"
Part 2 - "Donnie Darko: Director's Cut"
Part 3 - "Cindy's Thoughts on Donnie Darko"
Part 4 - "Eric's Pros & Cons of Living in Middlesex"
Part 5 - "Donnie Darko: Deleted Scenes vs. Director's Cut"
Part 6 - "S. Sarko: A Donnie Darko Tale"
Part 7 - "Donnie Darko vs. S. Darko"
Part 8 - "Southland Tales"

THE BOX

German Title:

The Box - Du bist das Experiment

USA, 2009
Director: Richard Kelly

6,5/10








Richard Kelly's "Donnie Darko" follow-ups "Domino" (2005, written) and "Southland Tales" (2006, written & directed) both bombed so spectacularly,
I was convinced we wouldn't see any Kelly-flick for a very long time. However, he somehow was able to obtain some magical Shyamalan-powers and convince yet another filmstudio to give him money for yet another film. The result: "The Box", a highly weird mess of a film that bombed again, though it gladly turned out to be better than its predecessors.


"The Box" is the second film adaptation of Richard Matheson's short story "Button, Button" (which first was adapted as an episode of "Twilight Zone" in 1985). It's one of these films that actually start out really awesome and end up totally meh, in this case due to a fantastic first half, and a weak, confusing, messy and hugely disappointing second half. It's not a bad film, but it could have been so much better if done by a completely different director / screenwriter.

While the short story was more about mysteries and morality, Kelly took it to a completely different level and decided to let it take place in his bizarre Donnie-Darko/Southland-Tales universe. There's humans controlled by aliens, portals, space stuff, superpowers and, for whatever reason, lots of water. Kelly basically made the same mistake he already made in his director's cut of "Donnie Darko": turning an intriguing mystery-film into a mediocre kind of pulp fiction rubbish, by smearing clichéd science-fiction stuff all over it.


The first half is stylish and incredible suspenseful with lots of scary scenes, unsettling images and tons of gripping tension. I was intrigued, I was thrilled, I was fascinated. Then, the whole thing takes a u-turn, and suddenly nothing makes sense anymore. The fact that the movie is clearly too long (120 minutes!) doesn't help. The minute it stops making sense, it begins to drag and bore *yawn* and when we finally reach the climax, I already wasn't interested in the film anymore. Even worse: there are too many unanswered questions. What's with these water portals? What's with the giant light warehouse? What is the actual
purpose of the aliens? etc.

Aside from all this negative stuff, there's still a lot to enjoy, especially the acting: James Marsden is simply terrific and builds a splendid chemistry with Cameron Diaz. Ok, her accent sounds a bit weird, but it's wonderful to see her in a darker, non-comedic role. Frank Langella deliver a super-eerie performance,
Holmes Osborne is great as always, and Celia Weston... well, I just have
a soft spot for her :)


The string score - composed by three members of "Arcade Fire" [Win Butler, Régine Chassagne & Owen Pallett] - is delightfully haunting and sets the mood perfectly. "Donnie Darko"-cinematographer Steven Poster proves again that he's an underrated genius, the set design is gorgeous and the editing is simply excellent. I also think that the CGI is fairly good. Not perfect, but believable enough not to piss me off. The water portals look ace and Langella's CG'd face
is pretty superb.

The movie's tagline "You are the Experiment" should have been changed to "This is an Experiment" because that's exactly what it is: an experiment.
Well, a failed experiment, but at least an interesting one.

Wiki ~ Imdb

21 May 2015

Donnie Darko, Richard Kelly and Me, Part 8: "SOUTHLAND TALES (2006)"

[Part 8 of a not-exactly-weekly 12-part blog series about Donnie Darko, S. Darko and the works of Richard Kelly]
Part 1 - "Donnie Darko"
Part 2 - "Donnie Darko: Director's Cut"
Part 3 - "Cindy's Thoughts on Donnie Darko"
Part 4 - "Eric's Pros & Cons of Living in Middlesex"
Part 5 - "Donnie Darko: Deleted Scenes vs. Director's Cut"
Part 6 - "S. Sarko: A Donnie Darko Tale"
Part 7 - "Donnie Darko vs. S. Darko"
Part 9 - "The Box"

SOUTHLAND TALES

USA / France / Germany, 2006
Director: Richard Kelly

5,5/10











 After the surprise success of "Donnie Darko", writer/director Richard Kelly could have done  everything, be it horror, sci-fi, action, drama, comedy, musical etc. Unfortunately, he decided to literally do everything at once and ended up with rolling every genre into one big fucking mess. Seriously, this movie is such a flabbergasting mess, it's absolutely inexplicable how this got green-lit in the first place. The movie made only about $375.000 against a budget of $17 million!

"Southland Tales" is basically 140 fucking minutes of various bizarre events leading to the world's end ("not with a whimper, but with a bang"), centered around an amnesiac action-movie star, a reality-TV porn actress, a police officer and his twin brother who works for a neo-Marxist group and
German firm who found a way to generate energy using seawater *phew*.
The whole thing is way, WAY too over-ambitious, way too over-exaggerated, way too over-the top, and sadly, it's the complete opposite of "Donnie Darko". It's obviously much too long (the original version that was shown in Cannes was even longer: 160 minutes!!), screenplay and plot are all over the place, the pacing is super-dull and Kelly's direction is just weird.


"Shenanigans: The Movie, or how Richard Kelly became Megalomanaic" would have been a much better fitting title...


Still, it's watchable because it's a completely unique, uber-crazy, never-seen-before mess. Is it good? No. Is it entertaining? Kinda, yes. The things
that I enjoyed:

- The Acting: Justin Timberlake as scarred Iraq war veteran, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as super-nervous and action star with amnesia, Sarah Michelle Gellar as porn star Krysta Now, Seann William Scott in a twin-brother double role, the mighty Zelda Rubinstein ("Poltergeist"), the uber-hot Bai Ling ("Crank 2") and Christopher Lambert ("Highlander").

- The Music: a fabulous score from Moby, plus many cool tunes from Radiohead ("Planet Telex"), Blur ("Tender") or Muse ("Blackout"), as well as a stunningly great performance of Rebekah Del Rio singing the National Anthem.

- A few stand-out scenes like the one with Justin Timberlake lip-singing The Killers' "All These Things That I've Done", the fascinating opening, the "humping cars" advertisement, or the explosive climax.


If you ever wanted to know how it would look like if David Lynch and Robert Altman remade "Postal", this is your chance! ;-)

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