Free Movie Friday: We Are Now (2015)

Usually when I’ve had cause to post  free movie it’s been an older film in the public domain. Well in the YouTube age, that is not always necessarily the case.

I had the distinct pleasure of attending the premiere of this film in the summer – as I know the two young filmmakers who masterminded this venture. As many who have gone to events to support their friends you can know the trepidation this is joined with. Not only was I, and many of those in attendance, pleasantly surprised by its acumen, especially when you consider it being a shoestring budgeted, tightly-scheduled, skeleton-crewed, amateur venture. However, we were impressed overall without taking those things into account.

Anyway, without further ado enjoy We Are Now!

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Rewind Review: Orphan

Orphan promises, at least conceptually and in the trailer, to be a potential classic of the genre but unfortunately this film was marketed much too well for its own good. However, one would not expect it to be one of the dumbest, lousiest and most asinine films of any kind to be foisted upon the American public this year.

The film starts awkwardly both in acting and dialogue and to top it off in a clumsily handled dream sequence, and at this point it’s hard and uncompelling to start with a dream just for one truly unsettling image of a blood-soaked crying baby. Just because Fellini did and could start a film in a dream sequence doesn’t mean we all should. After all we’re not all Fellini are we?

Okay, perhaps even invoking Fellini’s name in this instance is blasphemous, however, it was to illustrate the apex of what they were trying to accomplish as compared to this lame-brained, stilted mess they presented. Bad is one thing but dumb is another and that comes next. So the dream reveals that the baby is stillborn, a lot of set up for one bit of back-story. Hence, let’s adopt. Their trip to the orphanage starts with Sarsgård delivering two awkwardly written “Snow Orphan” jokes about a snowman. It was just the beginning of a terribly odd, unconvincing, portrayal of this character in writing and performance.

Orphan (2009, Warner Bros.)

The sound mix on scare attempts and screams was just too loud and ineffectual and created near humor. The film also decides to incorporate clichés starting with Esther singing “That’s The Story of Love,” in a droll attempt at irony that only makes the film more annoying not just because the singing is flat but because it is delivered in Esther’s subtle yet annoying Russian accent – it’s also only vaguely Slavic until identified, which is also somewhat inaccurate as Eastern European accents are by no means interchangeable; this is more about writing and directing than acting. Fuhrman was consistent with it at least but the accent was worse than stereotypes because it’s milquetoast.

In bad movies even simple lines go wrong like when the Nun informs the couple Esther’s parents died in a fire, their response “A fire?” Yes, a fire. It happens – you watch the news.

It would be wondrous if horror films didn’t feel the need to include gratuitous sexual content. I emphasize gratuitous. This is not about prudery, but common sense. A couple with three kids all in Elementary school, by my best guess, would not canoodle about their kitchen pornographically so that they could get caught. Yet in the world of this movie they do and were caught. Didn’t see that coming. The conversation about “Mommy-Daddy Time” in the kitchen leads us to our first hint at the twist, unfortunately hindsight doesn’t make that conversation or the coital scene any better or any more logical so these little hints are better referred to as “clues,” in quotes, because they don’t really standout as brilliant touches after the twist.

Orphan (2009, Warner Bros.)

Now we come to the cliché of horror film characters just being too plain dumb to deserve to live and for your edification not enough of the people in this film that should die do. The body count I believe is just three. The parents are a little too slow to catch on. The mother (Vera Farmiga) goes from not suspecting a thing to suddenly having theories as to exactly what Esther’s problem is before taking her to a shrink, the shrink whose character is so dumb and is portrayed so annoyingly we won’t even discuss her except to point out the fact that movie psychologists should not be portrayed as dumb and useless because they’re not necessarily perceived that way and an incredibly brilliant psychologist is a tremendous weapon in a film and has been wielded well by many. The mother’s arc, however, is better than the father’s who is the worst horror cliché there is to the very end: The Doubter.

The Doubter is always the worst character, especially when very involved in the story for this reason: we as an audience are cognizant of the fact we are seeing a horror film so we immediately believe “Something’s wrong with Esther,” or whatever the given doubted fact is, so the slower the characters are to believe it the more annoyed we are apt to become. A great example of an unobtrusive doubter is in Halloween. The Doubter in that film, the Carpenter version, the original, is the Sheriff, Lori never doubts longer than is logical and at one point is lying to Tommy for his own good in her mind as she is doubting her safety. The Sheriff is such a minor character that him trying to thwart Loomis’s efforts at hunting down Myers never gets irritating because Michael and Lori are front and center for a bulk of the film. In Orphan The Doubter was in the family and all too present.

There are also these past incidents that creep up that would make a suspicious mind jump quicker such as some kid she used to go to school with “accidentally stabbed themselves” with a pair of scissors and the house fire that killed her parents was arson. Accidentally stabbing yourself with a pair of scissors, the way that’s phrased, makes it as transparent as saying someone “accidentally” hit themselves in the back of the head with a claw hammer. It’s ludicrous.

Orphan (2009, Warner Bros.)

One of the few nice touches was that a picture of the orphanage Esther drew glows in the dark to reveal a fire and deaths. This is quickly negated by having her plaster the walls with drawings and making a glow-in-the-dark pornographic mural, which makes it twice as bad as if the execution of the first drawing was off. The only other highlights are also counteracted by the terrible story but are worth mentioning. In horror film standards Vera Farmiga is very good in this for what’s worth. It would’ve been easier to appreciate her if her character wasn’t a dunce, that shackled her and Skarsgard in quite a few ways. On the other hand Jimmy Bennett’s character always hates Esther and about midway through you want him to take a hatchet to the whole family but unfortunately he doesn’t. He survives and the boy better known as the Young James T. Kirk does get more screen time here and thankfully, for his own sake, is hospitalized but alive in the third act.
Another case of dumbness: Esther gets mom really annoyed, mom twists her arm. Later Esther sticks her arm in a vise in order to break it. Dad believes mom did it. Really? Did you watch mom? Is it possible? I guess. Improbable? Yes. Yet the vise would leave some sort of marks, correct?

Another one: It is discovered Esther stayed at some clinic in Estonia. How? Her picture was online. On an asylum’s webpage? “Look at our crazies”? Why would an inmate’s photo be online? These are just some examples of the excessive demands on our suspension of disbelief that we as an audience are asked to accept. When one is not entertained or scared one can’t forgive such obviously flawed logic.
There actually is more, however, let us cut to the chase. The twist. I’ll give it to them for gambling but here are the problems there: first, the movie was already horrible or not in everyone’s mind so the twist either elevates it or makes it much worse. Even looking back at the scenes that did somewhat set the table like Esther trying to seduce her adopted father it didn’t work on any level. That scene was portrayed callously because the director mishandled it and had it played too innocent by Fuhrman and too passively drunk by Skarsgård, who only really told her off on her second or third attempt. The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things had a very similar style of scene but a much different situation and it was handled so much better. It was disturbing, repugnant, powerful and heartbreaking all at the same time and yet you couldn’t not watch it.

Orphan (2009, Warner Bros.)

Also, the twist is sort of an anti-climax. Is that the kind of modus operandi that makes you say “Brilliant, it practically writes itself?” No, it’s too convoluted. What purpose does that serve really? Is it shocking? Could be. It could also be humorous. As much as it was mocked later for being such a catch phrase no one laughed when they heard “I see dead people.”

A lot of people saw this movie coming out and thought of The Good Son. Well, surprise! It’s not. It’s worse, so much so. If you want The Good Son go rent it, I already have it. Skip this, I wish I did.

1/10

Review: Bloody Knuckles

Bloody Knuckles is the kind of movie where pulling together a coherent review from the seamless insanity it is will prove quite difficult. However, I will do my best to convey to you all just how fantastic this film is.

Firstly, I try to avoid like the plague hyperbolic superlatives upon first viewing a film that I may lament later. Yet there are two such thoughts that came to mind with regards to this one that with further reflection seem to prove to be more and more true. Firstly, it is the best satirical horror/comedy since The Stuff (1985), and in a more unique feat it’s the best film featuring an anthropomorphic severed hand I’ve ever seen.

Bloody Knuckles tells the story of an underground comic book artist, Travis (Adam Boys), who believes no one deserves to be untouched if they’re fit for satirizing. After lampooning a local crime boss, Leonard Fong (Kasey Ryne Mazak). He is then targeted, and has his right hand amputated forcibly. Depressed he thinks he will never draw again until he gets an unexpected visit from his hand!

Bloody Knuckles (2014, Artsploitation Films_

The teaser of the film sets it up beautifully and my word the song choice for the opening title sequence is inspired (I will not spoil it). It’s a song that works twice as well if you know it but still fits regardless.

Next there is through the course of this film one friend who cam to mind who I would recommend it to (and did), and one person I would want to screen it for (and I hope to).

In terms of humor it is quite funny. It’s Silly, vulgar, and with a message not unlike Kevin Smith’s films. I nearly laughed through the last scene based on one joke alone.

Bloody Knuckles (2014, Artsploitation Films)

Yet even with all the irreverence to be found in the title it is also a tautly structured gem. The horror and superhero elements on point; circles closing, left, right, and center. Not only that but with silly gags the temptation to go off on a tangent can be huge. This film does not do that instead it features well thought out, useful, illuminating subplots.

Bloody Knuckles has to be considered among the best of the year, and it likely to make quite a bit of noise at the annual BAM Awards. It’s a brisk rollicking good time that doesn’t play it safe and is all the more hilarious, thought-provoking, and intriguing because of it.

10/10

Music Video Monday: I Wanna Fly by Trevor Moran

In an example of the Effect of YouTube Trevor Moran rose to notoriety mostly for his Apple Store dances at first. Then a few years later his brief run on X Factor (USA) broadened his audience. Since then he’s been releasing music in a most 21st Century way (mainly singles).

I don’t know if it’s ever been logged but Moran is now likely the first singer to come out of the closet via a music video. You can see it here:

And if that was too subtle, or if you still had questions, he addresses it humorously and honestly here:

Rewind Review – Resident Evil 3D: Afterlife

Resident Evil 3D: Afterlife is likely to go down as one of, if not the worst film of this year. Whereas I was able to point out in Step Up 3 what could’ve been of more emphasis to make it a better more enjoyable film with this one I am at a loss. For the sake of full disclosure I am not one who unabashedly hates this series. I have seen all the installments and the ones previous while teetering in the land of mediocrity (scoring 5/10, 6/10 and 5/10 respectively) none of them lead me to believe this was in the cards.

As has been typical in the series acting took a holiday, however, given a decent amount of action a coherent plot and a story with a satisfying resolution this would be no issue. However, this film insisted on there being a lot of acting. It was a film where our protagonist Alice (Milla Jovovich) was alone a great deal and talked to herself quite a bit along with doing a bit of voice over. Not only that but there is a great deal of exposition done about the characters she meets each of whom has more annoying traits than the other which are carried out with varying degrees of ineptitude. Even in some very bad films there’s usually an actor you can single out and say about them “So-and-so is better than that.” That’s not the case of this movie no one rises above the material and makes an indelible impression due to the virtuosity of their acting ability.

There is at the beginning very minimal exposition which could leave those not ensconced in the mythos of this series a little loss but things do eventually clear up and you’ll realize there is truly nothing truly significant is going on. It’s almost incomprehensible to imagine how stakes which are so high on paper can be made futile through the execution of the script and the film.

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010, Screen Gems)

For at least two-thirds of the film they are in a building which is surrounded by countless zombies and never have the undead been more ineffectual. You hardly ever see them except at a distance until they breach the building. They should be omnipresent we should be able to hear them rattling the fence and moaning en masse into the night but instead everyone is so terribly blasé about it you forget they exist. They fear their fellow man much more, which is all well and good in theory but none of them seem to pose a true threat that we the audience see the threats are only perceived by characters.

The characters, for the most part, are short-hand stereotypes of different types of celebrity and occupation and few have any real dimension and based on the display we get it is unlikely any of these players could convey it if they did have depth.

Another trick of the tale that we are forced to sit through which only belies the laziness and lack of imagination trying to mask itself as cleverness is a few cases of amnesia about.

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010, Screen Gems)

Bad is one thing but bad and predictable is a whole other can of worms. Much of the journey is to try to find this mystical safe haven referred to as Arcadia. At first it is thought to be a town in Alaska then it turns out to be a boat where there is supposedly no infection. It should be rather obvious from Alice’s landing in Alaska that the search for this haven is like Ishmael chasing Moby Dick and sure enough it is.

There is not a redeeming quality to be had in this film at all. The effects are passable and the 3D is fine, however, seeing CG that doesn’t induce laughter and 3D that doesn’t make one’s eyes hurt shouldn’t be a positive it should be a given. This film was shot in 3D so it should look good in 3D. Not an accomplishment, that would be like complimenting a Director of Photography for having proper exposure on all his shots. That’s what’s supposed to happen.

As mentioned before this is one of the worst films of the year and one of the biggest wastes of time to boot.

1/10

Review: Little Glory

Little Glory is a coming of age tale, wherein the two leads are forced to come to grips with their family’s state, and taking on adult responsibilities far too soon for the both of them. What proceeds is part custody battle, part intrafamilial strife.

Little Glory gets a move on quite quickly. The inciting incident wherein Shawn (Cameron Bright) and Julie (Isabella Blake-Thomas) are orphaned comes early and is dramatically portrayed in a highly cinematic way.

The film starts off with a rather overt, in-your-face conflict between drunken father and son, and then proceeds to tell more nuanced ones wherein information is strategically withheld, internal conflicts that are mostly unspoken, and revelatory discussions between brother and sister. The emotion of the piece is easily accessible and highly engaging.

IsabellaBlakeThomas

Much of that is underscored in a not-too-overt scoring by Michelino Bisceglia who lays the groundwork without force-feeding emotion. The reactions expected from the audience will come from the parameters of the narrative and how well we are lead to identify with the plights of the characters.

Cameron Bright, who was BAM Award nominee as a young actor, most recently seen in Twilight series, is perfectly cast in this film as the seemingly gruff slacker whose tough façade belies a sensitive soul underneath.

It’s not too often that a film feels the need to have a special “introducing” title to call attention to a gifted young performer in their first significant film participation. However, Isabella Blake-Thomas definitely earns this distinction.

CameronBright-HannahMurray

What this film ultimately is, is a maturation rather than a traditional coming of age. What I mean by this is that there is a coming to grips, an acceptance of the reality of their situation that must be dealt with rather than a universal platitude, or a commonplace trip through a struggle to newfound peace.

You may be one who thinks a film set in Michigan, shot in Canada, produced by France and Belgium (among other countries) that waited four years to get its North American release on DVD may not have much to offer, but you’d be selling this film short.

Little Glory has the narrative bones of a film in the week that may appear to just be disposable. However, there is an earnestness to be found within, and a universality that allowed this story to be transplanted across the Atlantic from where it was originally set. It is surely a film that’s worth looking out for and giving a shot.

31 Days of Tales From the Crypt S:06 E:03

Hey all, my contribution to the 31 Days of Tales from the Crypt Blogathon is up! Check it out as well as some of the other fine selections on Channel Superhero. Enjoy!

Channel: Superhero

Good morning creeps and creepettes, Cryptkeeper Bubbawheat back for day 22 of our 31 Days of Tales From the Crypt. Today’s rodent is none other than Bernardo Villela who is The Movie Rat where he nibbles on all sorts of film, including plenty of foreign, indie, and documentary titles. Today, he takes a look at one of the episodes that I’m entirely unfamiliar with but sounds infinitely interesting, especially for me considering I have a penchant towards time loops, or might I say a time Whirlpool.

Episode Title: Whirlpool
Original Airdate: 10-31-94

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Mini-Review: Hospitalité

Hospitalité

Comedy just may be the most culturally specific genre of them all. In my experience, each culture has their own precepts it brings to comedy. Granted there are some things that are universally embraced as funny, but cinematic aesthetics, narrative constructs, and indigenous commonalities often color how these tropes are conveyed. Which is a very roundabout way of saying that certain films purported to be comedies have struck me with confusion, surprise, and consternation on occasion. American comedy being typically rather broad is rather accessible; British comedy being somewhat dry and witty I’ve always been drawn too and being Brazilian I have a grounding there in where the jokes are coming from.

Hospitalité is a Japanese film, which is quite funny at times simply because it relies almost wholly on situations, characters and the element of surprise to deliver its humor. Where it loses a bit of its steam is that it could use a bit of tightening up in length and towards the end. The power plays exhibited are necessary but perhaps a bit drawn out there too. In essence, the dramatic elements of the narrative are overplayed as there isn’t a lot of follow through.

You may find it more funny than I did, and to be fair there are effective dramatic elements and pieces of commentary being made, but as it is a situation that is seemingly simple and does follow the house-guest-from-hell mold rather there’s just a certain deliberateness and gravitas to it all that drains it a bit.

6/10

Mini-Review: I Killed My Mother

I Killed My Mother

At long last Xavier Dolan’s debut feature came to the US this year. While you can take your pick between either of his first two films, I preferred this one. As someone who does like to dabble in a bit of auteurist critique I would’ve preferred to have seen this film before Heartbeats. There is a bit of Dolan’s visual flair and editing sensibility on display, and a certain lack of orthodoxy in his approach, at least to start that tells and introspective, interesting tale of a combative mother-son relationship that avoid facile resolutions, or even conflicts; and furthermore doesn’t make either really in a hero mold but rather antagonistic to one another.

8/10

Review: No Más

No Más

I am glad I sought other reviews before sitting down to write this one. In doing so I discovered that the director of this film also directed Renee, which could still be the greatest 30 for 30 installment yet. And he has also covered boxing before. That gives me some perspective but still leaves me perplexed and greatly disappointed.

Firstly, there is a question of balance: whereas the most recent installment, which I will discuss below, even-handedly presents interpretations of the career of a controversial figure. This one becomes skewed down the line. Both fighters (Leonard and Duran) are introduced. However, after the infamous incident (wherein Duran quit during the rematch), and many theories are examined to no satisfactory conclusion; the film takes a few odd turns.

In one turn, Leonard (at least based on the way this story I knew the bare minimum about) comes off almost like a sore-winner who never faced any backlash for that fact. Almost like the antithesis of Mary Decker Slaney in terms of public perception.

This shift is a weird occurrence because the film, based on what footage they do have, is seeking a resolution and an answer. Yet, it becomes increasingly apparent that no new or publicly acceptable version of why Duran quit would surface. Despite that there they are face-to-face in a boxing ring in the present day, talking in a highly staged manner, and when Duran is giving at least a more detailed version of his truth than he ever told his audio is drowned out for Sugar Ray’s take on it and how he was able to (eventually) let it go.

I’m not saying I believe Duran’s story or questioning Leonard’s right to a vantage point, but in documentary terms starts to bang its head against the proverbial wall insisting on its interpretation of events being told.

At this point in the series a mediocre doc would be the worst 30 for 30, but this one sadly isn’t even good because of its insistence on seeking an absolute truth and its skewed narrative.

4/10