Sunday, December 21, 2014

Recouperating Recommendations :: What I've Been Watching While I Was Away, and You Can, Too! (Minus the Gall Bladder Attack and Removal 'Natch).

I honestly plowed into Mimesis (2011) thinking it was that Sid Haig 3D remake of Night of the Living Dead (2006). What I got instead was a group of horror convention attendees being lured to a party in the middle of nowhere, where they are drugged and eventually wake up to find themselves in different and yet familiar clothes and surroundings -- all of them surrogates for the characters of the original NotLD; and just like those characters, are soon surrounded by murderous, flesh-eating ghouls. In all honestly, the film that follows isn't that bad it just plays its hand too early when any kind of preternatural explanation is quickly chucked out the window for something a little more conventional when our players find themselves living out and trying to survive an ersatz snuff film disguised as a horror classic. (Our first clue that something different is going on is when the first bitten victim doesn't turn when he passes.) The villain's motivations are rock stupid but typical psychological B.S. for this kind of direct to video nonsense. Still, didn't hate it. If that has to do with the quality of the film or its surprise content due to some idiot thinking he was gonna watch something else, well, your guess is as good as mine.

Some horrific -- and I mean HORRIFIC -- tonal inconsistencies kinda scuttle some genuine chemistry between Hammer and Depp in The Lone Ranger (2013). (Frankly, the horse stole the whole movie.) The comedy bits play better, especially when they're dead-panning, but the plot is concerned with nothing but sensory overload -- though the FX are fairly top notch. And yet, I can't say I hated this. It made me laugh, on purpose, more than once, and, dammit, when we reach the climax and the sh*t gathers itself and hits the fan one more time and the William Tell Overture kicked in, well, the movie had me. Thankfully, all genre films aren't as nostalgic for the 1990s. Might have been better served as a full blown comedy. Maybe. Not as horrible as I'd heard, so, there ya Hi-Yo go.

In The 'Burbs (1989) Joe Dante brings us some mass psychosis in the suburbs when a conglomeration of cul de sac households grow suspicious of their quirky new neighbors. And as the circumstantial evidence of murder next door continues to pile up, these amateur sleuths cum urban commandos are bound and determined to get the evidence they need, property damage be damned. Spoilers Ahoy! I actually preferred the first climax of this flick when our hero, Tom Hanks, after blowing himself up, declares that he and his fellow snoops are the real menace on the block. Of course, the film cops out, they were just digging for bodies in the wrong place, and the creepy neighbors were, indeed, the true villains. *pfeh* Still, lots to enjoy as Dante's signature brand of mayhem and veneer stripping of social norms are all present and accounted for.

Finally caught up with Chronicle (2012). Dug it quite a bit. Top-notch F/X and razor sharp execution overcompensates for some rote After School Special subplots with a slightly disturbing revenge / wish-fulfillment fantasy taint. What it reminded me of most is a true life case from a few years ago where three or four DoucheBro's film themselves driving around at night and paint-balling random strangers and laughing their asses off at this felonious assault -- until they got caught, on their own film. Found footage angle both detracts and enhances but it definitely has me anxious to see director Trank's take on the Fantastic Four.

Coming on the heels of The Monster that Challenged the World and The Vampire (1957), I fear my expectations were a bit too elevated for Grammercy Pictures' The Return of Dracula (1958). It's not terrible by any stretch but it lacks a certain tangible 'something' those other two pics had that gave them an elevating edge over their like-minded brethren. And yet, the last five minutes, from the brief splash of color to the villain's gruesome demise at the bottom of the mine shaft definitely puts this one in the win column. Just not resoundingly.

Beautifully shot, yes, but the plot of The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (1962), where a flaky new bride is being squeezed out the by the ghost of the old, is so well worn the seams are starting to show. A few twists and tweaks stitch things together well enough (a sprinkle of medical deviancy here, a smattering of the necrophilia there) and the cast manages to hold things together quite admirable through the slow burn of the first two acts, rewarding the audience with a truly fantastic phantasmagorical finale. And in all honestly, Barbara Steele has never been more bewitching as far as I'm concerned. Nothing you probably haven't seen but well worth a retread.

A fairly effective found-footage fright-fest where a family of five camp up in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, namely near a famous mound where strange lights are seen in the sky, where folks tend to mysteriously disappear whenever those lights start popping off. Three guesses on what happens next in Alien Abduction (2014)? Now, the reason for the constant filming is the camera belongs to the youngest member, who suffers from autism, and it works as some form of therapy. (Works for me.) Kudos to the cast of unknowns who overachieve on a plot that we all know by heart. Also, a nice twist in that the backwoods bumpkin encountered isn't an additional threat but an asset as they try to get off the mountain and are picked off, one by one. And as it unfolded, I do think the filmmakers blew a golden opportunity to convey the reasons the belligerent E.T.'s kept finding them, no matter how well they hid, or how far they ran, was by tracking the electronics of the ever present camera.

Bogarted my way through all six-episode of this Hulu original series and laughed my ass off. (I'd show you a picture but that'd just be weird.) The Wrong Mans (2013) boils down to a poke in the eye of Fox's 24 and the Beeb's own MI-5 done as a British comedy of manners and errors with the ferocity of an Edgar Wright crash-cut as two office drones are accidentally drawn into a kidnapping plot and several over-lapping webs of conspiracy with a local land baron and the Russian mob, making things infinitely worse while trying to do the right thing. Kudos to Mathew Baynton and James Corden as our blundering heroes who fall down this particular rabbit hole. Haven't laughed that hard, that consistently in a good long while. Hope they do a another season.

Here, Canadian Saturday morning animation stalwarts Nelvana stretch their legs with a fairly ambitious and hideously infectious feature-length, post-apocalyptic rock 'n' roll fable about a legendary rocker, who lost his edge and turned to the dark side, needing to find the perfect voice to open a portal to hell and summon a demon in his lust for infamy. And find it he does with the lead singer of a fledgling band, whose band-mates spend the rest of Rock and Rule (1983) trying to rescue her from the bad guy's clutches. Visually stunning in spots and extremely sloppy in others, the film is definitely influenced by the work of Ralph Bakshi in motion and character designs by Don Bluth (-- the latter influence almost to the point of distraction.) Still, good tunes (Lou Reed, Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop, Cheap Trick), and a great villain, and a definite visual flair puts this one in the win column for me.

Oh, children, boys and girls, gather around and hear my tale. A tale of something wonderful I did not know existed or had forgotten (more likely). Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus for there exists a movie where John Wayne and Sir Richard Attenborough get mixed up in a knock down, drag-out saloon brawl and punch each other in the face while "Aquarius" blares on the jukebox (after the piano is destroyed, 'natch.) Let the sunshine in, indeed. See, after looking fairly uncomfortable and completely out of place in McQ (1974), Wayne appears a lot more at ease with the change of scenery in this fish out of water tale -- well, more like a 500lbs sturgeon, but, yeah. Anyhoo, in Brannigan (1974) Wayne plays a Chicago cop sent to London with extradition papers for a baddie played by John Vernon. Things get complicated when said baddie is kidnapped by another faction out from under the nose of Scotland Yard's finest, Attenborough. Things get even more complicated from there with a few botched ransom drops, a hilarious car chase, several assassination attempts, and that aforementioned pub brawl. Along for the ride are Mel Ferrer as a slimy lawyer and the adorable Judy Geeson as Wayne's personal liaison, who had expendable dead-meat stamped on her forehead; but I love how Brannigan basically says "Not in my movie, Pilgrim" and derails this tired cliché. So much fun. Wish it had spawned a franchise with Wayne and Attenborough teaming up again and again to solve more crimes and keep right on punching each other in the face again and again.

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