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Desolation Angels (1995)
An independent treat
A drama, a comedy?. There's a bit of both in this film. It starts out quite seriously, but as it goes on, the filmmakers appear to be commenting on and making fun of a certain macho attitude that is all too prevalent in our society. The plot is simple: a guy's girl is supposedly raped by his best pal, and each side's account of what transpired is entirely different, so we can't accept either as the final truth. But that's not what's important here: the main plot line is the escalating feud between the two friends and how they immaturely try to solve their differences: with violence, of course. This is when the film turns hilarious, as all the vengeful plotting goes totally out of whack. Despite its one-note premise, the film is never boring, it's realistically acted and scripted and it leaves us questioning the wrongheaded social attitudes that are passed from one generation to another and it does so while keeping us entertained. Highly recommended.
I'm surprised this film got such a critical beating, it certainly didn't deserve it. I always thought the public looked down on sequels because they are usually more of the same, but it seems that's what they were expecting with this one and since it isn't, they were disappointed. Instead, it's an interesting meditation on the Blair Witch phenomenon, and its possible effect on a group of fans who venture into the Maryland woods to get a feel of the place where the original movie was filmed and to indulge in some of their fantasies involving the fictitious witch. What transpires is a descent into an apparent nightmare from which they can't seem to wake up. It's a horror film that works on a purely psychological level and it counts on the audience's intelligence to put the pieces together and give the story closure - the film itself doesn't - and it's all nicely and efficiently realized. Good photography is one of this film's assets, another one is the tight, tense direction. This must be the first time that a sequel (although only in name) has been shunned because it dared to be different from the original, and it's unfortunate. The public is fickle indeed.
Tale of Two Sisters (1989)
Tale of two bitches
This is the kind of movie that gives independent filmmaking a bad name. An amateurish, pretentious mess mixing angsty drama a la Bergman and surrealistic imagery a la Fellini (my apologies to the masters for mentioning them here). We are asked to sit through 90 minutes of two uninteresting, very nasty sisters talking their heads off about their unhappy childhood caused by their very creepy, comic book parents. Every recrimination cliche is thrown in, and the surreal asides do absolutely nothing but bring needless and meaningless visual chaos to the film. The film just sort of expires at the end, having run completely out of gas. A true endurance test.
La mariée était en noir (1968)
Interesting take on Hitchcock territory, although it lacks the suspense and capacity to involve the viewer as The Master's films always did. The true wonder here is Jeanne Moreau, as cool as a cucumber, going about her revenge business with clockwork accuracy, exuding class and talent equivalent to five of today's stars. Bernard Herrman's passionate score seems slightly out of place against the film's emotional detachment, and most of the time things fall just a little bit too perfectly in place, but overall, this is a satisfying film, of interest to genre fans.
An aging stripper (Tan'e McClure) comes into a $2 million inheritance and seizes the opportunity to leave the business and resume her previous "normal" life. What she finds is a reluctant ex-boyfriend who resents her tainted past and a young aspiring stripper on her way to Vegas. The interaction among these characters forms the bulk of the film, and it's mostly fascinating to watch. Some extended softcore sex scenes are thrown in for good measure, but they don't detract from the script's worthiness and the thoughtful direction. At times, the existentialist nature of the story and its presentation reminded me of a Bergman film, and the Death Valley locations are used to excellent effect, to convey the characters' inner turmoil (shades of Erich Von Stroheim's "Greed"). All around, an independent film I can strongly recommend.
Like, high art, dude!
I didn't know who Basquiat was when I saw this. At first, I thought the film was a take off on the New York art scene and the main character a joke a la Peter Sellers in "Being There". However, as the film went on, I realized I was wrong, which made this reverential piece a bit of a hilarious experience, considering the adulation that Basquiat's childish doodling elicits from everyone around him. This film may unintentionally shed some light into some of the reasons for our popular culture's increasingly sad state of affairs. Kudos to David Bowie for his right-on-the-mark portrayal of Andy Warhol, just about the only bright spot in this wrong-headed film.
I actually thought I was in for something interesting during the first few minutes of this film, the section I'll call "the prologue". It was atmospheric and strange enough to hold some promise. Unfortunately, I kept waiting for something to happen for the rest of the movie, and very little does, except for the last 10 minutes when I finally learned what the title really means, and that I had been had, big time. This isn't scary, suspenseful or even erotic as the trailer suggested, the only positive thing I can say about it is that it's well photographed. I certainly expected more from the director of Tourist Trap and the original Puppet Master. Netherworld is an infuriating disappointment.
Loud, obnoxious western "comedy", about two estranged brothers who get reunited after receiving an inheritance. One of them is a womanizer who wants to use his money to build a whorehouse, the other a self-righteous priest. Forced comedy ensues after both run into assorted characters and situations. Unsuccessful attempt to capture the effortless zaniness of Terence Hill's Trinity movies, this film seems to go on forever, getting louder and more irritating (everyone mugs too much here) as it goes along. See it only if you are a Richard Harrison fan (he's quite good, regardless) or a Western junkie.
La ronde de l'amour (1985)
Waste of celluloid
This film is essentially about a bunch of people having sexual relations around the globe (L.A., N.Y., France, Hong-Kong), in mostly unusual places (bathroom, furniture store, airplane cockpit, the FAA should hear about this!), etc. It's all nicely photographed and awfully acted, but what I find depressing about it is that the movie seems to be saying that all men think with their genitals and all women are whores. In other words, it reduces human beings to their bare essentials, regardless of their often sophisticated exterior. This bomb may have been released in 1989, but movie billboards that appear in one sequence firmly place it in 1984.
Good indie flick
Interestingly shot (on video) production, that starts off as a crime caper, then turns into a haunted house gore fest. I liked the creepy, atmospheric photography, which was accomplished with very little lighting, and the intriguing, although confusing premise, that appears to want to say something about facing (and embracing) your own demons. Whatever. It's a good independent effort, and I applaud the ingenuity behind it. Recommended for dedicated horror fans.
Passport to Paris (1999)
A good case for family planning
Two obnoxious, spoiled rotten, trampy 13 year old twin sisters go vacationing in Paris, their impossibly "cute" adventures are the center of this G-rated puke fest, insulting everybody's intelligence (and the French) along the way. And what is Matt McCoy doing in this mess?. Parents take note: this is NOT the way your kids are supposed to be raised. Depressing.
The Man Next Door (1996)
A good premise ruined by overblown melodramatics and acting (with the exception of Michael Ontkean, who plays the rapist with much dignity). I know the movie is in trouble, when the only character I can sympathize with is the bad guy!. This is a good story that deserved a more sober, less sensationalized treatment.
Jessica: A Ghost Story (1992)
This production was shot entirely on videotape in 1991, and it features a good if standard plot about a woman who comes back from the dead after being brutally murdered. The photography is richly atmospheric, and that is the movie's best asset. The images have a beautiful film-like quality and it features several genuine chills. However, the direction and acting are amateurish and this detracts from the overall effect. Still, it's worth a look.
Knight Moves (1992)
OK story, but...
The film had some suspenseful moments (the finale most of all), but I found the script, acting and direction rather mediocre. Even normally good actors like Tom Skerritt and Diane Lane give awkward performances, and Christopher Lambert's overwrought line delivery is often hilarious.
**POSSIBLE SPOILER** The movie even pulls out the ultimate cliche: thunder and lightning during the critical climax and a killer with a "mommy" complex. Give me a break!. A for trying, C for the results.
The Frighteners (1996)
Anybody for a serious remake?
I've never been one to think of horror and comedy to be two genres that blend very well. This film is no exception. It plays more like a Disney movie gone seriously haywire.
The humor is sophomoric and the slapstick tiresome after almost two hours. There is a very good horror story here that begs for an entirely different, serious treatment. Don't get me wrong, it's all very competently directed and acted, and the special effects are tops, it's just not satisfying as a whole because the wacky treatment ruins any believability the premise might have had. An interesting misfire from Peter Jackson, whose Heavenly Creatures I consider a modern classic.
Ripper Man (1995)
Dubious acting, direction and a tired story (about a killer on the loose) make for very lackluster viewing. Veteran actor Timothy Bottoms turns in an embarrassing over the top performance as the ripper - his hypnosis scenes and final monologue are unintentionally funny - and due to the cardboard nature of the characters, I couldn't care about any of them, including the "good" guys. Mike Norris is actually a better actor than his father Chuck, but he'll need better vehicles than this if his career is to prosper. As time killers go, this rates rather low. 3 out of 10.
Even though this is a good film (I gave it a 7), it's hard to find any likeable characters in it, and except for the kid, there's almost no one to root for in this story. I'm not sure if the film is asking sympathy for the mother (which it seemed to, at times) or trying to present all the facts and let the viewers make up their minds. What I'm sure of is that the people at both ends of the story were equally reprehensible and mentally unbalanced (both are into religion, take note). The mob mentality during the trial is disturbing, and it shows that sometimes in our blind search for justice, we may become as terrifying as the criminal himself.
My Best Friend's Wedding (1997)
Julia Roberts saves the day
I'm not a Julia Roberts fan, but I must say she's the one saving grace in this otherwise unimaginative and often tiresome comedy, which puts everyone to sing when it runs out of interesting ideas. Dermot Mulroney must be the most boring leading man in recent memory and Rupert Everett is largely wasted, dropping in when things threaten to get too predictable. Go check out a Doris Day/Rock Hudson comedy instead!.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Ghostly deja vu
I do agree this is a good film, with good acting, direction, photography and script. However, anybody who's familiar with the 1962 cult film Carnival Of Souls will immediately pick up on what's going on with The Sixth Sense story. I knew what was coming after the first half hour of the movie. But nevertheless, I enjoyed the film because it manages to be intelligent and compassionate while at the same time giving us a few good scares, without recurring to cheap shocks. I recommend it, and after you see it, check out Carnival Of Souls, and you'll be equally pleasantly surprised.
Hotel de Love (1996)
It tested my patience
An interesting story completely spoiled by one ridiculous scene after another, with dialogue and acting to match. I love Australian movies, so I wasn't expecting to encounter such a stinker. Whatever humanity there is in the story is constantly spoiled by the characters' embarrassing actions and reactions, which are supposed to be funny. For a really good and witty Australian comedy, watch Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert instead.