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Frankly My Dear...

    Frankly My Dear...

    Movie Preview: ‘The Devil Inside’

    Posted: 20 Oct 2011 04:45 AM PDT

    The first thought I had when I watched this trailer, attached to “Paranormal Activity 3,” is “Why do horror movies LIE to us so much?”
    Seriously, it’s one thing to posit a theory on how JFK died or who “really” wrote Shakespeare’s plays. But horror movies, in particular, are operating in a “Believe it or not, and WE say believe it because it’s true” mode.
    This trailer starts with an “actual 911 call,” that sounds nothing like a 911 call. Acted. Arch. Theatrical. Poorly written.
    Too many Exorcism movies pitch themselves as “true,” as if the Catholic church’s superstitions and rituals are some dark secret that most of the world doesn’t have access to. Alien possession movies are advertised with Milla Jovovich proclaiming the “truth” of “what you’re about to see. “Found footage” movies all try to copy the “Blair Witch” viral marketing, “We REALLY found this footage, it’s REAL,” game.
    “Paranormal Activity 3″ has a trailer that includes more shots that aren’t actually in the movie than those included.
    Anyway, this early 2012 movie looks scary enough. And not remotely “true.”

    River Phoenix makes his comeback? ‘Dark Blood’ to be finished, released

    Posted: 20 Oct 2011 04:25 AM PDT

    The apocalyptic thriller “Dark Blood,” the film River Phoenix was working on when he died, suddenly, from a drug-induced seizure/heart attack in front of The Viper Room, was never finished. But now, the director, George Sluizer, has announced plans to finish it up, maybe using Joaquin Phoenix to do some voice-over work to tie up loose ends.

    Sluizer did “The Vanishing,” both the Dutch and the Hollywood versions, and hasn’t worked in Hollywood since “Dark Blood” shut down. He’s 79, now.

    Phoenix was one of Hollywood’s brightest young talents when he died, at age 23. He had an Oscar nomination under his belt, some prestige pictures and an indie film or two. He also had a reputation for being chemically altered far more than was safe. I only met him twice, and he was pretty wired both times.

    Maybe Sluizer can talk Joaquin into doing this, with the younger Phoenix trying to restart his own career and all. But as reluctant as Joaquin has been to talk about his brother over the years, I see this as a hard sell, all the way around.

    Weekend reviews: ‘Paranormal,’ scary enough, ‘Margin Call,’ more than marginal

    Posted: 20 Oct 2011 04:03 AM PDT

    “Paranormal Activity 3″ is, by any measure, more of the same — more “found video,” more frights at surveillance footage that reveals ghostly goings on surrounding a couple of S. Cal. sisters. It’s a prequel, and it’ll make a bundle. Moviegoers who will turn up their noses at anything that says “remake” will show up to see grits-warmed-over sequels and prequels by the million, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it, other than insist their remake is actually a “prequel.” (See “The Thing.” Actually, don’t.)

    In any event, it’s got a few frights — the cheap jolts are better than the chilling ones, in most cases. The acting is marginally better. The victims are little girls. There are more laughs and it looks more cinematic. Mixed-to-positive reviews for this one.

    “Margin Call” is Zachary Quinto’s first movie as a producer and star. Which a cynic might say has at least a little something to do with his decision to come out of the closet just as it is about to reach theaters. The movie is too  smart and even-handed on its subject — how the Wall Street meltdown might have happened, the mindset of those in a brokerage firm that sees its plight as “It’s us or them” when the crisis hits — to attract a broad audience. But a very good cast takes us down this road, with Oscar winners Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons, along with Paul Bettany, Stanley Tucci, Demi Moore, Simon Baker and…Zachary Quinto as the young math whiz who sounds the alarm. Very good reviews overall for this one.

    “The Mighty Macs” is a wholesome, funny and historically and culturally fascinating sports drama about how tiny Immaculata College came to advance the cause of women’s athletics and women’s rights through its dominant women’s basketball team in the 1970s.

    I liked it better than some, but I went for the message. I have daughters. And I like Carla Gugino.

    “The Three Musketeers” is being kept from American critics. Not British critics (where it has already opened), not Aussie critics (Ditto). A few of them succumbed to its charms. Most say it sucks, with a British Empire accent.

    “Johnny English Reborn ” is also taking a pounding.

    Aaron Eckhart is Beach Boy Dennis Wilson in ‘The Drummer’

    Posted: 20 Oct 2011 03:43 AM PDT

    Brian Wilson got most of the ink, being the tortured genius and all.

    Carl Wilson had the sweet falsetto voice and died too young.

    But Dennis Wilson, the drummer, was the real surfer in The Beach Boys, the guy who got around, dating Christine McVie from Fleetwood Mac,marrying many times — often to people who had connections to other musicians. He carried on with the Charles Manson Family. Drug addict, sometime actor, solo artist, free spirit. Complicated.

    He also died too young, drowning in 1983.

    Aaron Eckhart is set to play Wilson in a movie titled “The Drummer.” He’s learned to play the drums for the part. Could he already surf? A very good actor who resembles the character he’s playing, this has some potential.

    Movie Review: Paranormal Activity 3

    Posted: 19 Oct 2011 08:15 PM PDT

    The bottom line on any horror picture is clear cut and simple.

    How many times does it raise the hair on the back of your neck?

    How often do you jump?

    And how much fretting do you do about where you kept that night light you put away years ago?

    “Paranormal Activity 3″ manages a couple of  hair-raising moments, a couple of legitimate jolts and some funny cheap ones. It was directed by the fellows who did that semi-legit documentary “Catfish,” so it’s more cinematic. Jump cuts and the occasional almost-movie-like arresting camera angle intrudes on the “found footage” this time — old VHS home movies from our pursued-by-demons sisters, Katie and Kristi,  scenes from their childhood and their first brush with ghosts.

    But this “Paranormal” doesn’t tamper with the formula that worked in the first two films. It lacks the “money” moments that those films delivered and ends with a finale that is downright conventional. “Paranormal” reveals itself for what it has become, the “Saw” of found video thrillers.

    Katie (Katie Featherston) drops off some tapes with her sister (Sprague Graydon), and the sister’s house is trashed by the mere presence of VHS in a non-digital home. We’re taken back to the videotaped world of the girls’ childhood — 1988–  when sexy mom (Lauren Bittner) was shacking up with Dennis, the videographer (Christopher Nicholas Smith). Young Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) has an imaginary friend. When Dennis spies a shape outlined in the dust of a video taken during an earthquake, he rigs the house with cameras and starts to see the things that are going bump in the day. And night.

    You know the drill, lots of “What was THAT?” and “Weird,” footage of lights swinging without a breeze, shadows, and sheets rising on their own. A consumer tip here — a great deal of what’s in the trailers to “Paranormal 3″ isn’t in the movie. So if you were thinking of suing over “Drive” being false-advertising, wait’ll your lawyer sees this.

    The novelty here is that children are menaced. And their babysitter. Co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman find a lot more laughs in this situation, tossing in Randy (Dustin Ingram) as the slacker assistant videographer. They do well with the lulling us into complacency with the endless shots of nothing, or what looks like nothing, happening. They have a harder time maintaining the point of view shots, with Dennis obsessively shooting everything.They even have to address the simple physics of that. Where would he find the time to watch those hours of video? And the dialogue is banal to the point of “too real to be entertaining.”

    But the kids, despite the absurdity of them sleeping through the night after having supernatural encounters, , are on the money — right down to the sibling teasing.

    “Only babies have imaginary friends.”

    Don’t think I’d be taunting the kid sister with that one, Katie. Not when the imaginary friend can shake the whole house if he’s irked.

    MPAA Rating: R, for some violence, brief sexuality and drug use.

    Cast: Katie Featherston, Chloe Csengery, Sprague Grayden, Jessica Tyler Brown and Lauren Bittner

    Credits: Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, written by Christopher B. Landon based on characters created by Oren Peli. A Paramount Pictures release.

    Running time: 1:24

    David Lynch is still stranger than you could ever HOPE to be

    Posted: 19 Oct 2011 12:21 PM PDT

    Here’s a “music video” of David Lynch’s new album.
    It’s a novel peek at an artist at work. Kind of wish he was still making movies, instead of trumpeting the virtues of transcendental meditation, dabbling in music or whatever.
    But I lost interest in the movies after “The Straight Story,” and bailed out on him altogether after “Inland Empire.”
    Still the weirdest Eagle Scout I know.

    Orlando Film Festival begins today!

    Posted: 19 Oct 2011 11:30 AM PDT

    The fifth installment of the Orlando Film Festival kicks off tonight.
    Their big selling point? Parties, and free movies, now through Sunday at the Plaza Cinema Cafe.

    Not crazy about the opening night film. But Bronson Pinchot from that movie (“Virgin Alexander”) will be here, so vaya con Bronson, say I.
    I’ve seen a dozen or so titles, which I’ve reviewed/previewed here and there.
    I’d suggest “Marathon Boy,” the locally made “Subprime,”"Ay Lav Yu” (from Turkey), “YERT” and the indie comedy “The Pill.”

    Here are a couple more to watch for.

    “La Hora Cero” (The Zero Hour) is a gonzo, over-caffeinated gangster picture from Venezuela. A young gang member from the barrio has been wounded, as has his very pregnant girlfriend. But their mad dash to the local clinic or a nearby hospital could be in vain. The country’s doctors are going on strike, shutting down some emergency rooms, handing out aspirins and little else in the others. They want better wages and working conditions, and after this movie, you kind of see their point.

    The people cry, the people scream, the people freak out and riot. “I hope that mob gives you what you deserve,” an angry patient spits at the nurse who brushes her off.

    But the wounded Parca and his ultra-thuggish pal Buitre aren’t going to be blown off. In a breathless hour and a half, they race, punch, shoot and kidnap their way across the city, bringing the bloody streets into whatever clinic or emergency room they show up in. It’s a pitiless picture, but a visceral movie going experience. In Spanish with English subtitles.

    Showing: Thursday night at 7:15, Saturday night at 7:50

    Filmmaker Rosa Karo’s “The Italian Key” is a gorgeous travelogue in search of a better written, better-acted ghost story/mystery to place in front of it. She takes us to a small Italian village where a nearly disinherited ward of a wealthy man who has just died takes up residence in his run-down villa. She meets a ghost and a deaf-mute local hunk, hangs out with the local girls, who have the worst Italian accents this side of Pizza Hut, and through flashbacks that take us to India, she learns bits and pieces of her mysterious family history.

    There’s the handsome Indian neighbor, that neighbor’s crippled friend, all very convenient as everybody has to find somebody to fall in love with in romantic fable. It’s a bit ditzy, but the scenery will have you daydreaming a better movie in your head all the way through it.

    Showing: Thursday at 1:30, Friday at 5.

    Movie Preview: The Woman in Black

    Posted: 19 Oct 2011 08:59 AM PDT

    The new trailer to this February ghost story does a better job of selling the chills.

    But can Daniel Radcliffe sell a spooky period piece to the Potter public? I’d like to think so, as “The Woman in Black” looks old-school creepy. He’s become a pretty good actor, in the bargain.

    So why do I keep having these Taylor Lautner/”Abduction” and Robert Pattinson/”Water for Elephants” flashbacks?

    Movie Review: Margin Call

    Posted: 19 Oct 2011 06:42 AM PDT

    Maybe it went down something like this.

    The day begins with the march of the downsizers — those “consultants” hired by big businesses to come in and do the dirty work of laying people off. Maybe one of the guys they cut (Stanley Tucci) is in charge of “risk management,” and maybe he’s been working on something. If he’s a loyal soldier, and somebody dependent on his severance check clearing, he alerts an underling (Zachary Quinto).

    And that young guy does the math. They’re “exposed,” in a big way. And “once this gets going in the wrong direction,” their 107 year old firm, Wall Street and the world’s economy will tumble off a cliff. How that firm, its leaders and its foot soldiers react to this nightmare scenario is the subject of the superb Wall Street thriller “Margin Call.” Over the course of hours, fateful decisions will be made, employees will face moral and ethical choices and all of it will have to happen in utmost secrecy.

    “These people,” Quinto’s math whiz Seth mutters and the outside world, “walking around with absolutely no idea of what’s about to happen.”

    “Margin Call” isn’t a sermon, it’s a dissection, an all-star big-name top-to-bottom/bottom-to-top analysis of the sorts of people and the kind of mindsets that brought the world to its dire financial state today. The casting is spot on. Paul Bettany is the free-spending role model of what employees at this place aspire to be — greedy, self-interested, driving an Aston Martin. Kevin Spacey is the seemingly heartless boss whose callousness masks inner pain.

    “Now they’re gone,” he says of the laid off. “They’re not to be thought of again.”

    But they’ve got to find the man who was onto this (Tucci). And he can’t or won’t be found. Midnight meetings hurl layers of management (Demi Moore and Simon Baker, and eventually Jeremy Irons) at a problem they don’t quite understand. That’s one of the great lessons of writer-director J.C. Chandor’s debut feature film. There are smart people on Wall Street. But they’re as rare there as anyplace else.

    “Be first. Be smarter. Or cheat,” is the motto of their fearless leader (Irons).

    The movie plays like a funeral dirge for finance, a generally humorless account filled with details — Bettany’s incessant Nicorette chewing, Spacey’s “bad day” becoming worse by the hour, Moore’s “toldya so” falling on deaf ears.

    This compelling-acted film explains, better than any soundbite, why people have taken to the streets, “occupying” centers of finance. If their rage is unfocused, “Margin Call” suggests, that’s with good reason. There are no real heroes or villains here, just human beings with human failings making BIG human mistakes.

    MPAA Rating:R for language.

    Cast: Kevin Spacey, Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore, Jeremy Irons, Paul Bettany, Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker

    Credits: Written and directed by J.C. Chandor. A Roadside Attractions release. Running time: 1:45

    ‘Elephant in the Living Room,’ the movie that predicted the Zanesville, Ohio big cat escape

    Posted: 19 Oct 2011 06:41 AM PDT

    The terrible news out of Ohio this week about a “preserve” where a collection of big cats and other predators were kept and have now escaped, forcing cops and wildlife officials to hunt and kill them and generally terrorizing the area near Zanesville, seems oddly predestined.

    There have been movies about this practice, the trade in dangerous, exotic pets that leads to the need for such preserves (some of these farms have a righteous intent, and are merely there to care for animals whose thoughtless owners can no longer care for them). The first I remember was “The Tiger Next Door.”

    Back in March, the documentary “The Elephant in the Living Room” pretty much predicted this disaster. It profiled the folks running these “preserves,” the collectors/hoarders who love love LOVE their wild carnivores, and are pretty much incapable of seeing the danger, the thin margin for error they’re keeping these beasts under, the immorality and stupidity of their “hobby.”

    Worst of all, they can’t see the future, when accident, ill health (a shocking number of them are on some form of disability) or finances won’t allow them to keep a great beast in a tiny cage any longer.
    Not sure what happened in Zanesville, but the movie nailed both the sort of thing that would happen — wild, meat eaters on the run, a dead owner — and where — Ohio, which has some of the most lax laws in the nation when it comes to this practice.
    The film follows a wildlife officer named Harrison for much of its length, and he gets the last word. From my review — “These stories, as Harrison points out, never have a happy ending. An Ohio emergency room doctor who does charity work in Africa explodes that "THEY have the sense not to keep cobras as pets, or have lions in their yard." And Harrison, in the film's sternest indictment, profiles the typical owner of a predator — on disability of some sort, filling a void in their lives and incapable of thinking past "How much is that tiger in the window?" and seeing the tragedy of keeping a huge wild animal in a tiny cage or the danger they're putting themselves and others in.

    “The very people keeping this cruel and dangerous trade alive are the last folks you want responsible for that thing with claws and/or fangs living next door.”

    Michael Webber’s film is eerily prophetic, and if the legislatures in Ohio and other states where these practices are widespread have any sense, they’ll rent it and take appropriate action. The people who crave these critters are too often the last ones you’d want to be responsible for them.