Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Autopsy Of Jane Doe

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

Runtime: 86 minutes

Directed by: Andre Ovredal

Starring: Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Ophelia Lovibond, Michael McElhatton, Olwen Catherine Kelly

From: Several UK companies

This is a horror film that's gotten a lot of praise as of late, so I rented it last night. I say it is worthy of the attention. I explain why below: 

I feel it's important to start off this review with a warning: if you decide to rent the film from Amazon, try your best not to read the plot description they have provided for the film. Regrettably, it's a situation where it reveals too much about the movie. What a rotten thing to do for all the people who haven't seen the motion picture yet, which will be “most people.”

On Letterboxd and elsewhere I saw a lot of praise for this picture. I figured it was worth spending a few extra bucks to rent it and stream it right away. Thankfully this was a good decision on my part. As I've seen said elsewhere, various low-budget horror films of the past 5 or so years are relegated to VOD and yet (apparently) atrocious “masterpieces” like Incarnate and The Bye Bye Man get wide releases... what a shame. I imagine horror would have a better reputation if it was the other way around.

I know better and unlike Amazon I'll be vague in the plot description and won't let any big plot points slip: Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch are not only father and son, but both are coroners. They receive a Jane Doe for autopsy; Jane and John Doe are the official designations by law enforcement for suspects or corpses which at the time have an unknown identity. Odd things start to happen as they do the autopsy, and I'll leave it at that.

I can say that I never wanted to be a coroner; it's not the type of job for me. Cutting open corpses like that, no thank you. I am glad that the actual autopsy stuff was to the point and did not revel in being over the top gross. Cox and Hirsch made for a nice team. Aside from the good performances, they were a nice father and son who weren't cliché; they had their disagreements but it wasn't the “I hate you, dad!” or overdramtic silliness you get too often in movies. In addition, I should mention that Olwen Catherine Kelly does a swell job as the corpse Jane Doe. That is not a backhanded compliment, by the way.

I saw director Andre Ovredal's previous movie Trollhunter and that was an enjoyable found footage movie. This is definitely different. The setting is naturally creepy as it is and with what happens, it becomes pretty terrifying. There are effective scares throughout, even though it is a tale of two different halves and I understand those who did not like the second half as much, what the source of everything is, or the ending. I am not sure myself if the movie quite stuck the landing as well as it should have. Even if it didn't, I still say that this is worthy of having the attention of all horror fans, and they should at least give it a shot. By all accounts, this deserves people's attention more than laughable dreck like The Bye Bye Man does.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Jason Lives: Friday the 13th: Part 6

Jason Lives: Friday the 13th: Part 6 (1986)

Runtime: 86 minutes

Directed by: Tom McLoughlin

Starring: Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen, Kerry Noonan, Renee Jones

From: Paramount

It's been a few years since I had reviewed a Jason movie for this page; I spent last year revisiting the first five movies for Letterboxd and this was the perfect time for me to finally seeing this installment; it's been a long time. As you'll read below, this is among the best in the franchise if not the best:

What better movie to talk about on Friday the 13th than one with Jason Voorhees; I rewatched the first five last year and the fifth movie was seen by me late last August so this was the perfect time to get that started again. I hadn't seen this in a long time and shame on me as this is a pretty entertaining film.

We all know this is where “Zombie Jason” began and this is the third & final appearance of the Tommy Jarvis character. Tommy and Horshack from Welcome Back, Kotter accidentally revive Jason a la Frankenstein's monster (i.e. lightning) and Jason heads back to Camp Crystal Lake, while Jarvis unsuccessfully tries to convince Sheriff Michael Garris (a nice reference for the horror fans) of what's about to happen.

The movie is nicely directed by Tom McLoughlin and an asset is how this installment has more humor than usual. It's not always hilarious and some of it is odd (this is the only media that has both a Jean-Paul Sartre reference and the word “farthead”) but it is a step above the comedy we usually get in the franchise. It is self-referential without being overly annoying about it, which I feel is a problem in too many movies these days. You know what sort of movie this is after seeing the opening titles, which actually rip off the James Bond opening titles. It is cool that there aren't too many camp counselors we have to follow so there's a good balance between following them & the kids at camp and the storyline where Tommy and the sheriff's daughter Megan tries to stop Jason.

I do have to mention that “the disbelieving adult” trope in movies isn't one of my favorite by any means. More often than not it's dumb and lazy. Here, I had little problem with it. I was glad that Sheriff Michael Garris wasn't cartoony evil or a buffoon. I probably would also have trouble believing a psychologically damaged Tommy Jarvis if out of nowhere he proclaims that a dead murderer is suddenly alive again; it's easy to understand how Tommy would look like he finally snapped from what he saw Vorhees do years ago. Sure, the sheriff is an overprotective father and a bit of a hothead but otherwise... I was glad he was not a crappy caricature like we got too often in the horror genre.

Anyway, there are memorable kills (if not exactly the best in the franchise), the score from Harry Manfredini was typically solid, and there are some bitchin' Alice Cooper songs... the movie's a lot of fun and if it's not the best in the series it's one of the best.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Days of Heaven

Days of Heaven (1978)

Runtime: 94 minutes

Directed by: Terrence Malick

Starring: Richard Gere, Brook Adams, Sam Shephard, Linda Manz, Robert J. Wilkie

From: Paramount

I don't love this movie like many do; however, I am glad I saw it. Read why below:

I saw this movie late last night on Turner Classic Movies; I actually had never seen this before and I figured it would be a wise idea to see an HD version of it. I was definitely correct there. As everyone else has remarked, the cinematography is beautiful. Filming a lot of it after the sun set but before it became dark gave it a unique look; both Nestor Almendros and Haskell Wexler did an excellent job with that. I have no idea who filmed what but I certainly feel bad for Almendros... during filming he suffered the brutally ironic curse of starting to lose his sight; having to use Polaroid photos and a magnifying glass to try and compose shots... wow.

As for the plot, I can see how there was a lot of improvisation going on and how things were so disjointed from a difficult shoot that Malick had to use the narration from the Linda character to try and tie things together. Linda Manz (the Anna Kendrick of her generation), I otherwise have no complaints about her performance, except that she uses a rather strange accent; if it's supposed to be “a Chicago accent”, I can say as someone who grew up in the northern part of Illinois, I never heard anyone sound like her. As she's also the narrator... it wasn't a deal-breaker to me. I just thought it was odd, that's all. Anyhow, the story of how a guy, his young sister, and his girlfriend end up in Texas in the years before World War I and how a scheme to marry a sick rich man so his money can be inherited goes awry... while things are kept at arm's length, I was never bored and was always engaged.

The film doesn't exactly have a smooth narrative and the narration doesn't always fix that, yet the movie manages to be compelling nonetheless. I don't love the movie like many do (I'll presume that those people love it because of its flaws and how the story is told in a different way) but I can still give it high marks.The difficulty of this production is likely why Malick didn't make anything else until 1998; I can't explain why he only now became prolific late in life, but Lord knows he's not the only talented director to be at least a little weird.

Anyhow, this movie should be watched by everyone due to its visuals (and also quite good musical score from Morricone), and you can make up your own mind concerning the story's effectiveness. I can say that the use of locusts here was better and more terrifying than in Exorcist II: The Heretic...

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Green Slime

The Green Slime (1968)

Runtime: 90 minutes

Directed by: Kinji Fukasaku

Starring: Robert Horton, Richard Jaeckel, Luciana Paluzzi, Bud Widom, Robert Dunham

From: Both MGM and Toei

While I had seen some clips of the movie before, me finishing watching this minutes ago when it played on Turner Classic Movies was the first time I had ever viewed it from beginning to end. Oh, I should clarify that for years now I've known of the AWESOME theme song, from Richard Delvecchio. Hearing that groovy tune in the movie certainly made me happy.

The plot: to quote a fellow Letterboxd user, the first act of this is basically the plot of Armageddon. Thankfully, this movie is far better than that pile of crap Michael Bay picture. It could also be argued that this was an inspiration for Alien, which is definitely far better than this film. Anyhow, some astronauts blow up an asteroid because it's headed straight to Earth. The astronauts unknowingly bring back the titular green slime to a space station; soon, there are plenty of one-eyed tentacle monsters running around, although thankfully this doesn't turn into a hentai...

The movie overall is pretty goofy yet I found it pretty charming. I enjoyed its kitschy 60's sci-fi stylings, along with all the miniatures; it allowed me to put up with the cliché “astronauts feuding with each other” storyline; after all, the story overall isn't terribly original, and it also has 60's sexism involving the lovely Luciana Paluzzi. When it's people dressed in goofy suits running about which dispense electricity, I won't take things too seriously.

To think that this is a co-production between MGM and Toei, with a (mainly) Japanese director and crew and filmed in Japan but otherwise it's all American... plus the director being Kinji Fukasaku (who went on to such things as co-director of Tora, Tora, Tora, various Battles Without Honor and Humanity movies, and of course the beloved Battle Royale), all of it is a real trip, and that's why I found it to be enjoyable despite all its faults.

Monday, January 9, 2017

In The Mood For Love

In the Mood for Love (Faa Yeung Nin Wa) (2000)

Runtime: 98 minutes

Directed by: Wong Kar-Wai

Starring: Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Siu Ping Lam, Rebecca Pan, Lai Chen

From: Several different Chinese companies

Yep, I finally saw a beloved movie, and it does deserve its high reputation. See why by reading below:

I realize this may be shocking on a site like Letterboxd, but not only had I never seen this movie before I watched it real late last night on Turner Classic Movies, this was my first Wong Kar-Wai period. As I've heard so many strong things about this motion picture, it seemed like something I should see.

A serious reserved drama set in early 1960's Hong Kong where a man and woman (both leading monotonous lives) meet and befriend each other and they realize they share another, more unfortunate connection with each other...... it doesn't sound like something typically in my wheelhouse (and it isn't) but it's greatly compelling the entire time-nuanced the whole way-and with deft skill from Kar-Wai, you're always interested in seeing how Chow and Su get to know each other through plenty of short but succinct scenes. You feel bad for them when they realize the unfortunate situation they are both in, and you wonder what the relationship between those two will evolve to.

To reveal much more about the plot would be criminal so I'll leave it there. I'll just say that it's a beautiful movie in every way which has so many subtleties, it is something I'll revisit in the future for sure. The important thing is wondering how things would be if they were only slightly different, or if you arrived somewhere just minutes earlier. I certainly have wondered about such things throughout the years. Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, both were outstanding in those lead roles. Cheung was more than just a lovely figure which wore a bunch of dresses (usually colorful) although she was striking in those outfits.

It's a haunting movie about how a pair of characters react and manage a tragic situation for them and thankfully it's not the cliché nonsense you'd get in most movies and instead it's something more mature. This is definitely a motion picture best experienced in person rather than me trying to describe it; watching it for yourself you can understand its magnificence and why me giving it the highest possible rating is not an overreaction on my part.

Easy Come, Easy Go

Easy Come, Easy Go (1967)

Runtime: 95 minutes

Directed by: John Rich

Starring: Elvis, Dodie Marshall, Pat Priest, Pat Harrington, Jr., Frank McHugh

From: Paramount

The 8th was the birthday of Elvis, so watching a movie of his around this time was the natural thing to do. It was not great but I managed to be entertained nonetheless. See why below: 

It's been about 6 months since I've last seen an Elvis movie. I thought that Speedway was pretty aggravating so I decided to keep a break from that scene. However, today is the birthday of Elvis Presley, so what better thing to do last night than see one of his flicks last night so the review would go up today? This isn't the best movie that The King did but it certainly did give me some things to talk about.

The plot: Elvis is a frogman (i.e. a member of the Armed Forces who does scuba diving as part of the job) in the Navy who discovers what appears to be buried treasure. Once he's out of the Navy, he has a hell of a time trying to dive again due to circumstances. It's contrived and a goofy sitcom plot but boy are there some odd elements. I mean, the movie being a total square and making fun of such things as yoga (yes, really), “beatniks” and performance artists isn't the half of it. I imagine that Mr. Presley himself was seen as a “square” in 1967 and maybe not even the '68 Comeback Special could erase that from the mind of some youths.

Regrettably, Elvis does not do what I call KING-FU (his version of the martial arts) but at least he gets into a brawl with a real heel who is one of the obstacles to getting that treasure. There isn't too much else to say about the threadbare plot but at least I was able to laugh at a few things:

* The Captain Jack character. He's an old dude who acts like a sea captain... but he's afraid of water and he only played the part for a kids TV show. He comes off as a dottering old fool, to be honest.

* Elvis not only attempts to do yoga, he sings about it too! His duet with poor Elsa Lanchester known as Yoga Is As Yoga Does was likely the nadir of the careers for both. The songs in general are only acceptable, and that is you're being generous.

* My personal favorite highlight: Elvis has a nightclub owning pal known as Judd. Now, he plays the trumpet, knows some things about the sea... and while not outright said, is a pimp! How else am I suppose to interpret the scene early on where Elvis and a few Navy pals come into his club and Judd brings out a wheel for the men to spin which contains pictures of more than a dozen girls (w/ their measurements helpfully displayed on the pictures) and wherever the wheel lands, the dude gets the girl? Nevermind the gross sexism of it all, Judd is a pimp!

Overall, not the best Elvis movie I've seen but I've definitely ones that are worse/not as amusing to watch.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke (Mononoke-Hime) (1997)

Runtime: 134 minutes

Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki

Starring: A bunch of Japanese voice actors

From: Studio Ghibli

I saw this movie last night in a theatre and I am glad I got to see this for the first time in such a fashion. The movie is a classic, and not just of animated movies, but of all movies. I wax poetic about it below: 

Last month I had the opportunity to see Spirited Away on the big screen. I had the controversial opinion that it was not a movie I warmed up to. I was hoping things would be different when I watched this last night on the big screen, on the day that happened to be Miyazaki's 76th birthday. Well, people can put away their pitchforks and torches, as this is an excellent movie.

I thankfully went into this not knowing anything about the plot. I'll try to be vague here for those not familiar with this movie. We have a young hero (Ashitaka) who is cursed after a battle with a demon. He needs to go West to try and find a cure. From there he runs into a bunch of memorable and awesome characters, both human and otherwise. The story is mature and the characters aren't black and white; all are layered and you can understand all their viewpoints, whether or not you agree with them. In addition, what you may think early on, your opinion could flip-flop.

It's a story set in feudal Japan so you get such things as samurai, beautiful forests... and some graphic things that you expect to see in other samurai movies. This is definitely more violent than a typical Studio Ghibli picture. But alongside the typical feudal Japan stuff is various mystical creatures. Various themes are present (such as being anti-war and pro-environment) but they aren't hammered home in an obnoxious overbearing manner.

This is a magnificent movie that is not just a great animated picture; it's a great picture period. I understand the dubbed version has its issues with the voice cast but at least I got to see it subbed and that version can easily be watched. Watching this theatrically with the spectacular images in your face and the incredible score from Joe Hisaishi made this a great experience. This is something that I should watch multiple times in order to fully appreciate all its subtleties, but I say everyone should see this at least once.