Layers of real life and movie history combine cleverly in this postmodern horror film, which just might be too knowing for its own good. But at least it's an unusual approach to the genre, offering a twisted retelling of a legend while aiming for some emotional resonance along with the usual violent nastiness. It's also directed with an unusually artful eye by first-time filmmaker Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.
It was a series of unsolved murders in a small town on the Texas-Arkansas border in 1946 that inspired the 1976 movie of the same name, which screens here annually on Halloween. But this year, the screening is accompanied by a copycat murder, which escalates into a full-on rampage. Everything seems to centre around Jami (Addison Timlin), a teenager whose boyfriend was the first victim. After her parents died, she was raised by her straight-talking grandmother (Veronica Cartwright), who continually urges her to take charge of her life. So with the local cops unable to solve the case, Jami teams up with the local library archive clerk Nick (Travis Tope) to get the whole history of these past events. Meanwhile, a Texas Ranger (Anthony Anderson) arrives to head up the official investigation.
Screenwriter Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa gleefully blends fact, fiction and the movies together into a heady mixture of horror movie cliches and shockingly realistic grisliness. In other words, this is both a fictional sequel and a playful true-life drama at the same time, which makes it feel eerily like the Scream franchise. Although this film never becomes a pastiche, and the characters are so likeable that we genuinely root for them to survive the killing spree. Timlin brings the right amount of plucky stubbornness to her role, even if it's unlikely that a witness-victim would be quite so gung-ho about doing her own police work. And there are nice turns from veterans like Cartwright, Ed Lautner (as a stubborn cop) and the late Edward Herrmann (as a nutty preacher) to add some weight.
Continue reading: The Town That Dreaded Sundown Review
Veronica Cartwright - Shots of a variety of stars as they attended a Screening Of Amazon's first Original Drama Series 'Bosch' which was held at the ArcLight Theater in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States - Tuesday 3rd February 2015
The finished product doesn't even particularly resemble V for Vendetta, which at least gave plenty of screen time over to stylish allegory; frankly, I'm not sure if there was much left to ruin here. McTeague and company may have called a redo on over half the film, as some reports claim, but that figure doesn't match with my own informal statistical data: well over 80 percent of The Invasion is pure (if slick) boilerplate. If Hirschbiegel was up to something smart or thought-provoking, Warner Brothers should have a whole other movie on its cutting-room floor.
Continue reading: The Invasion Review
As for the bad news, well, there really isn't any. Alien, first released in 1979 and in theaters right now, has stood the test of time remarkably well. The beautiful and ballsy Weaver is a heroine for all seasons, the movie is suspenseful in all the right spots and it plays beautifully on the big screen with big sound.
Continue reading: Alien Review
Politics have changed in the past 16 years - they had to have, right? - but the first thing that strikes you upon revisiting Tanner '88 today is how familiar this whole circus seems. Squint your eyes, change the names - throw in, say, a Dick Cheney and remove a Bob Dole or two - and the experience of watching Tanner '88 seems eerily close to watching current campaign coverage on CNN. In a clever, recently filmed introduction to the first episode (one of these new intros appears before each of the 11), Tanner remarks in a modern "interview" that the business of campaigning changed after that year. After '88, he says, "the curtain on [candidates'] private lives got pulled back... In '88 Johnny Carson might have done a couple of slightly risque jokes about Hart. But ten years later Jay Leno is doing six blowjob jokes a night on Clinton." Except that the candidate is make-believe, everything about this sentiment sounds authentic. Political campaigns did indeed move closer to show business; the only question is when?
Continue reading: Tanner '88 Review
Based on Tom Wolfe's novel (though heavily inspired by the truth), The Right Stuff follows the formative years of the space race, from 1947 to 1963, when it was us vs. the Russians. The film begins as we first punch through Mach 1 in experimental aircraft and ends with seventh and final Mercury astronaut blasting off.
Continue reading: The Right Stuff Review
Evie Decker (Lili Taylor) lives with her sedentary and semi-senile father (Tom Bower) in a modest house on an uneventful street (shot around Austin, Texas) and works in a demeaning job at a rundown amusement park. Her moment of magic comes when, on a radio interview, the voice of struggling musician Drumstrings Casey (the cheeky faced Guy Pearce) says things that the interviewer has no possibility of relating to but with which Evie is in perfect harmony. He has plucked the right chord on her heartstrings and she wastes no time getting down to see him perform at the roadhouse with her closest friend, Violet (Sara Rue).
Continue reading: A Slipping-Down Life Review
Writer-director Bill Condon has a talent for hitting just the right tone in his work. Whether he's paying stylistic homage to "Bride of Frankenstein" creator James Whale in "Gods and Monsters" or writing a screenplay for "Chicago" that re-envisioned the Broadway musical as a wannabe showgirl's uniquely cinematic daydream, Condon always finds a way to seamlessly marry the crux of his story to the strengths of his medium.
In "Kinsey," he legitimizes and revitalizes a rather tiresome narrative gimmick -- on-camera interviews with the characters. For a biopic about legendary sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, there could be no more apropos structure for the story. Kinsey himself interviewed thousands of Americans about their bedroom predilections in the 1940s and '50s to compile his groundbreaking, rather comprehensive and certainly controversial studies on the subject. So Condon opens the film in kind -- with a simple, head-on, black-and-white image of the bluntly matter-of-fact and obliviously awkward Professor Kinsey (Liam Neeson) being quizzed about his own background and sexual experience.
Composing the film around Kinsey's answers, Condon cues flashbacks of an upbringing under the fire-and-brimstone hand of a preacher father (John Lithgow), introduces the equally clinical-yet-passionate student who becomes his wife (Laura Linney), touches on the man's own pseudo-scientific dalliances and their promiscuous effect on his marriage, and sets the stage for the studies that helped launch the sexual revolution.
Continue reading: Kinsey Review
Technically speaking, "Scary Movie 2" is a real mess. The editing is pathetic, mostly because the script -- if you can call it that -- is just a series of unrelated horror movie japes put in almost random order and tied together by about two minutes of plot.
Characters disappear completely from the story without explanation and blatant continuity errors abound because some gags where left on the cutting room floor while the follow-up jokes were kept. In one scene a character is lying in a pool of blood, then a second later the blood is gone. Then it's back, then it's gone again, then it's back again. No attempt whatsoever is made to cover up this sloppy, choppy, rushed-into-production total lack of cohesion.
But comedically speaking, "Scary Movie 2" is an almost constant laugh riot of extreme gross-out humor and surprisingly limber lampoonery -- and this is coming from a guy who didn't think much of the first "Scary Movie" and was pretty irritated when the Wayans brothers (director Keenen Ivory and stars Shawn and Marlon) broke their promise not to make a sequel.
Continue reading: Scary Movie 2 Review
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