Mini-Review Round-Up March 2012

I had quite a review drought to end 2011 so I think the remedy for this kind of post would be to have the post be cumulative monthly. Therefore, after each qualifying film a short write-up will be added to the monthly post. The mini-reviews will be used to discuss Netflix and other home video screenings. Theatrical releases, regardless of how they are seen whether in an auditorium or on VOD, will get full reviews.

For a guide to what scores mean go here.

The Snowtown Murders

Lucas Pittaway and Bob Adriaens in The Snowtown Murders (IFC Films)

Note: Potential spoiler below. The ending is discussed but not in detail.

Next to nothing in this film works, that’s just the sad fact. I will discuss them with as much brevity as humanly possible and brevity would’ve helped this film. Typically when I’m discussing pace it refers to certain scenes and shots being truncated and rendered more quickly to allow the totality of the film to flow better in this film the first issue you have is that there are scenes of little to no narrative necessity or consequence that not only are allowed to occur but at times repeat themselves (see the bull sessions about stomping out pedophiles).

Characters are very poorly introduced and the population of the tale is too large. Some of the struggles of this film can be attributed to attempting to remain true to the real-life story upon which its based but not excused. A huge cadre combined with indirectly acquired information and at times implied incidents is not an easy road map to success. The protagonist in the tale is a bit too passive such that it would’ve almost been better told from a different perspective especially since it became clear who the perpetrator would be though the film took a while to formally announce it. The score designed to be grating ends up being just annoying. The film also seems to show where it ought not and have restraint where it ought not. This tact adds importance to the MacGuffin and exacerbates the delusional vigilante angle that’s really just a cover for psychosis. Granted that’s important to convey but once demonstrated that needn’t be reinforced.

The film despite all its massive flaws still keeps on a decent trajectory in terms of narrative build but then meanders irrevocably when it should be building towards some sort of concrete conclusion but instead decides it’s shown us enough horrors such that it’s decided enough is enough and rather than finding an artistic way to convey the deserved downfall of these people they’ll just give us the information in cards. This is information I could’ve acquired in a web search but I’d have preferred to have seen it now that my time’s already been wasted. Finish the job! Give me the epilogue visually. It’s not quite the slap in the face that the end of The Devil Inside is but considering the start this one had the totality may have been worse.

Furthermore, as if that wasn’t bad enough, I really needed convincing in this film and I didn’t get anything to sway me. I thought of This is England while watching this film which has perhaps an even more vile ‘charismatic antagonist’ but both in writing and performance is far more believable as someone who would be followed perhaps even against one’s will. It seems that things occur and are shown here just because they actually happened and no thought was given to narrative propriety and almost seems deliberately sensationalistic at times and never interesting.

2/10

Amador

Magaly Solier and Celso Bugallo in Amador (Film Movement)

In last month’s post I wrote at length about the Film Movement Film of the Month Club so you can read that to get more insight on it. This film as opposed to the prior I have no ambivalence about whatsoever it is absolutely beautiful and brilliant, there’s an effortless grace and artistry to it all that permeates every frame. There are some astoundingly good cuts in thematic terms and a visual language throughout. Themes weave in and out of the story and never really leave, they illuminate a small truth that is part of a larger whole. All this aside with a perfect ending would be enough but then you have the performance of Magaly Solier. It is the first great performance by a female lead that I saw all year, it is captivating, layered and nuanced. Both in her expression and delivery she carries the film. A film which would’ve been good without all its craft is lifted to greatness by it. The premise is simple; a woman in need of work is hired to take care of a bedridden, dying old man. He dies as does her source of income, with the family away she tries to maintain the illusion that he’s alive. It’s a story that’s also a little more light and humorous than one might expect. There’s drama to be sure but it’s not as dour as all that. It truly is a great film and likely to be amongst my favorites of the year.

10/10

The Announcement

Magic Johnson (ESPN Films)

Last year there was a rash of ESPN films such that they all kind of canceled each other out in my year end awards, though they are usually very good. Now they are more sporadic and this one gets to standout. While I admit that these docs where I experienced the event as a spectator spark my interest more this one is more important and more meaningful than that bit of trivia. I, like America, was in the infancy of my understanding what HIV and AIDS were when Magic Johnson announced he was positive. Being a well-reared child I never fell into any erroneous or ignorant notions about how it spread but I still really understood little. This documentary frames the backdrop to Johnson’s announcement very well, and leaves it as a backdrop. It, surprisingly to me, involves Johnson as narrator and main interview subject. He is as candid as he needs to be and makes important points about how we must remain vigilant about prevention. I learned or was reminded of much and I was more moved by this film than any in the series so far. It is well worth watching.

10/10

Mini-Review Round-Up January 2012

I had quite a review drought to end 2011 so I think the remedy for this kind of post would be to have the post be cumulative monthly. Therefore, after each qualifying film a short write-up will be added to the monthly post. The mini-reviews will be used to discuss Netflix and other home video screenings. Theatrical releases, regardless of how they are seen whether in an auditorium or on VOD, will get full reviews.

For a guide to what scores mean go here.

Film Socialisme

Mathias Domahidy in Film Socialisme (Kino Lorber)

It would be far too facile for me to sit here and offer you some kind of borderline sophism for or against Godard’s Film Socialisme. What the film seems to be is a tangential expounding of some concepts set forth in In Praise of Love with fewer constraints imposed by anything resembling a traditional plot. Perhaps what is most bothersome about the film, that I can quantify definitively as bothersome, is that the purposeful introduction of technical gaffes such as distorted audio, pseudo-poetic fragmented subtitles, pixelated video, in essence clouds an already opaque concept. However, the opacity is not the frustration but rather the willful misdirection.

Godard clearly has something (many things) he wants to say with the film and because I know some French and I was aware I’d need to pick up pieces as I went I got some of it, however, the method of telling was always likely to be indirect, therefore, his not-so-subliminal commentary on modern filmmaking technology muddles much more important sociological, historical and political points he’s making. What the film struck me as was a free form essay wherein the printer didn’t get everything on the page. However, maybe it’s due to these very frustrations that one might go back to it. To be certain I wouldn’t have mulled the film over as much if it were not for these obstacles. Non-traditional structure and technique are certainly not that new, neither are the ideas put forth but the way they’re put forth are a bit unique. While imperfect maybe they were most apropos.

After viewing the film it was next to impossible to score it. Prior to writing this I was prepared to give it a failing grade, however, it is its very lack of convention combined with its lack of a traditional storyline that makes it more compelling and more worthy of revisiting than the aforementioned In Praise of Love.

6/10

11/11/11

Hayden Byerly and Azurelia Scheppers in 11/11/11 (The Asylum)

This is a film that was completely unknown to me until it landed on Netflix recently. While it wasn’t very well distributed either I did manage to seek out and find Darren Lynn Bousman’s synonymous film last year. This film does benefit from the fact that it’s less oblique and let’s face it cutesy about its prophecy. However, what it lacks in pretentions it makes up for with overly transparent redundancies. However, I do have to hand it to this film for choosing to keep the proper thing clandestine and having a successful climactic sequence and a satisfying albeit somewhat confounding final twist and a good one before that. The success of the third act isn’t enough to make it good or something I’d recommend to a general audience but it’s worth a watch for open-minded genre fans for sure.

4/10

Cold War on Ice: Summit Series ’72

Cold War on Ice: Summit Series 72 (NBC Sports Network)

To accompany the launch of its new 24-hour sports network, which coincided with the conclusion of the NHL’s Winter Classic, NBC Sports Network also decided to debut a documentary about the Summit Series from 1972. It was a series of 8 “exhibition” hockey games between the Soviet Union’s vaunted team (a team that had won 10 consecutive world titles and four out of the prior five Olympic Gold Medals) versus a selection of Canada’s best and brightest (with very few exceptions) from the NHL. The importance of the series in the annals of hockey history is known to fans but is quickly illustrated to even the most lay of fan furthermore the piece really becomes about the series, it is in essence a sports film but it does a great job going back and forth between on-the-ice action and discussion and the off-the-ice intrigue of the series. While there is much interview footage it does a great job of letting the subjects tell the story and standing aside. Perhaps the most difficult thing this film tries to do, it accomplishes and that is to convey the gravity and the magnitude that this series of games carried for the Canadian people 40 years ago. Recently, ESPN has set the bar for televised long-form sports documentaries in the US. Here most if not all those 30 for 30 specials are surpassed. If NBC Sports Network continues to find compelling subject matter like this and convey it as well as they did they’ll be a bonafide contender in the sports documentary game.

10/10

The Innkeepers

Sara Paxton and Pat Healy in The Innkeepers (Magnet Releasing)

The Innkeepers is Ti West’s sophomore effort, following on the heels of The House of the Devil and it tells the tale of a pair of hotel employees left to their own devices in a haunted, rundown hotel on its closing weekend. They do some further paranormal investigating and get far more than they gambled for. While I can categorically say I like this film more than I liked The House of the Devil, especially upon second viewing, it still battles some of the same issues that film does. There are great performances by Sara Paxton, Pat Healy and Kelly McGillis which take this film up a notch above the prior by itself but as well as the film builds atmosphere and tension the incremental ratcheting up of incidents develops a bit too methodically to be as effective as possible. It has its occasional jolt but the ending leaves you wanting some. Leaving some details unexplained is fine but there’s a bit too much restraint throughout to have such a subtle payoff work ideally. Again, I stress that I enjoyed the film, West is clearly talented and I enjoy watching his films and seeing what he’s doing but at the moment his films play almost like the opening acts of Carpenter’s work. If he escalates and concludes a movie like Carpenter can he has classics waiting to happen in him. With that in mind I conclude by saying that I do anticipate highly seeing what he is capable of in a horror anthology where his running time is limited as V/H/S is one of the hot properties coming out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

7/10

Mini-Review Round-Up #5

This is something I’m going to do periodically. Basically, I will employ many means to qualify films for the BAM Awards be it either seeing the film theatrically acquiring a DVD either through purchase or on Netflix. This could lead to an influx of several new titles being seen in a short span of time which would be difficult to write full reviews for. At least this way the film gets some of its deserved attention and you get some notion of my thoughts on them.

If you have questions or comments feel free to respond. I always get back.

As always please refer to My Rating Scale for an indication of what the scores mean and if you’re curious where these films might make a dent in my personal awards please check my BAM Considerations.

The Beaver

Riley Thomas Stewart and Mel Gibson in The Beaver (Summit)

One of the quirkiest films I’ve seen this year. It’s a bit inconsistent towards the latter half of the second act but overall it’s effective and all the laughs about the situation are intended. Mel Gibson does a fantastic job in this film. It’s perhaps Foster’s best directorial turn but not her strongest story. The tightness of the cast, few ancillary characters, helps this film connect.

7/10

Super

Ellen Paige and Rainn Wilson in Super (IFC Midnight)

A truly odd little film that can’t escape comparisons to Kick-Ass. While it never does metamorphose fully into a superhero film (and that’s fine) its quirk never really clicks as well as it should and the resolution (meaning the denouement not the climax) is a bit unsatisfying. A very good performance by Rainn Wilson but the film could’ve been much better.

6/10

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine in Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (Magnet)

This is one of the few true horror/comedy films because of the very simple and ingenious use of perception and knowledge. We know everything that’s going on therefore we can laugh despite how horrific it is that Tucker and Dale and the college kids never understand one another. It also works like horror film with a classic and funny backstory. It’s truly a treat that ought to be seen by fans of both genres.

10/10

Red State

James Parks in Red State (SModcast Pictures)

I’m sorry but I just do not understand all the vitriol about Kevin Smith. You can say what you like about his P.T. Barnum act with taking this film on the road and the rest of it but I think this is solid stuff and very different than all his prior works. It has a horror aspect, occasional laughs, political overtones and some darn solid acting from James Parks, Kyle Gallner and Michael Angarano. Most of them being involved plus hockey makes Hit Somebody something to look forward to indeed.

9/10

Bereavement

Brett Rickaby in Bereavement (Crimson Films/Anchor Bay)

It’s hard to know where to start (or to stop) talking about Bereavement. It is quite simply a symphony of horror. Though I take back nothing I said about Insidious or Hatchet on Twitter this is the most blown away by a horror film that I’ve been since I first saw Frailty. Spencer List’s dialogueless but significant role in this film is strong enough to make me reconsider my Creepiest Kids in Supporting Roles list. For Stevan Mena as an auteur this is a true tour-de-force as he directs, writes and scores this film brilliantly. It’s one of the deepest casts in a horror film I’ve seen in a long time and one of the few I’ve seen after reaching my Age of Cynicism regarding horror were nothing feels safe or sacred.

10/10

Mini-Review Round-Up #4

This is something I’m going to do periodically. Basically, I will employ many means to qualify films for the BAM Awards be it either seeing the film theatrically acquiring a DVD either through purchase or on Netflix. This could lead to an influx of several new titles being seen in a short span of time which would be difficult to write full reviews for. At least this way the film gets some of its deserved attention and you get some notion of my thoughts on them.

If you have questions or comments feel free to respond. I always get back.

As always please refer to My Rating Scale for an indication of what the scores mean and if you’re curious where these films might make a dent in my personal awards please check my BAM Considerations.

The Inheritance

Rochelle Aytes in The Inheritance (Duly Noted)

A family reunion in the country quickly becomes something more insidious.

I use the word quickly above almost for the lack of a better word. There’s nothing quick about The Inheritance, it all takes far too long to unravel, too many things are played close to the vest and by the time secrets are spilled and the true intention starts to come out it’s too late to salvage it. The idea is interesting: it’s a generational tale going back to slavery and mixing in voodoo aspects, however, all the information finally flows in a barrage and then you get bad effects towards the end and truly anticlimactic escape. It all could’ve gone somewhere very interesting but never gets its momentum going.

3/10

Stake Land

Connor Paolo in Stake Land (IFC Films)

A post-apocalyptic world wherein vampires rule and it’s kill or be killed.

There is a lot going for this film from cinematography to score to a well-delivered, at times poetic, at times humorous narration by the lead Connor Paolo. Where Stake Land struggles some is in its pace. There are some potentially rather huge situations glossed over and a lot of time is dedicated to roaming the abandoned countryside. There is also a lot of great acting in this film. While it is recommended viewing it’s also nowhere near as good as it could’ve been.

7/10

Dream Home

Josie Ho in Dream Home (IFC Films)

A woman will do anything to get her dream home.

This is almost like two different movies entirely. I get how they connect but while I appreciate the bit of time traveling done by the narrative in the beginning, and the subtext at the end in the nice simple button, but I really just could not get into this one. The film goes out of its way to explain why this means so much to her and thus we identify but it all seems so superficial. It is rather suspenseful, the kills are great but it ends up feeling a bit vacuous. It almost would’ve been better if the film tried its hand at subtext more and didn’t get so cutesy with the whodunit. Instead, we eventually get all the pieces, put them in place and say “So what?” Sometimes I’d rather be confused and intrigued at times than lucid and unimpressed.

5/10

The Reef

Adrienne Pickering in The Reef (Image Entertainment)

It’s a shark attack movie.

Not to disparage it in the synopsis section but that’s what it is. It’s one in the Open Water mold and while the performances are good a very believable the film takes the concept of slow burn a bit too far such that it burns out. It becomes completely and totally uninteresting and after a while downright boring. There’s only so much of people treading water, or even swimming, that you can take before it becomes mind-numbing shark or no shark. The score does nothing to heighten the tension and there’s really no drama to the whole affair. I will grant that it’s more realistic than most of the goofy shark movies as of late and more interesting but it still doesn’t make it good.

4/10

Fright Flick

Allyn Carrell in Fright Flick (Breaking Glass Pictures)

The story is that of a series of murders on a film set.

One of the first problem this film runs into is that it’s about a cheesy low budget horror movie. It starts with a film-within-a-film and you’re thinking “Wow, is it going to be this terrible throughout?” The good news is no it’s not; the bad news is it doesn’t get much better. The gore effects are really strong, when the chips are down some of the performances are decent but the characters are pathetic and so are some of the performances at times, only some are consistently annoying throughout. A lot of the inconsistency stems from the direction just upload it on instant and watch the in-credits scene and you’ll see the confusion that plagues this film. The standout performances are those of Chad Allen and Allyn Carrell.

3/10

Mini-Review Round-Up #3

This is something I’m going to do periodically. Basically, I will employ many means to qualify films for the BAM Awards be it either seeing the film theatrically acquiring a DVD either through purchase or on Netflix. This could lead to an influx of several new titles being seen in a short span of time which would be difficult to write full reviews for. At least this way the film gets some of its deserved attention and you get some notion of my thoughts on them.

If you have questions or comments feel free to respond. I always get back.

As always please refer to My Rating Scale for an indication of what the scores mean and if you’re curious where these films might make a dent in my personal awards please check my BAM Considerations.

The Ward

John Carpenter’s latest film goes inside a pysch ward and tries to unravel why its newest inmate is there.

There are portions of this film which are tremendously effective and as a whole I think this is a very good film. The tension builds and is maintained throughout mostly thanks to the very good cast that is assembled in this film. This is so rare in a horror film that it truly is a sight to behold. The film also incorporates a twist which is not wholly inorganic and does elevate the film and answers a few of the elusive questions it had posed throughout.

8/10

Heartbeats

Heartbeats (2010, IFC Films)

Director Xavier Dolan’s sophomore effort about a love triangle where a young man is the prize for a gay man and his girlfriend is a rumination on unrequited love and love in general.

I can see why this didn’t get the fanfare that his first film, J’ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother), did but in it Dolan proves himself to be a flat-out artist. He not only acts in it but directs it with a steady hand. The only things that hold it back is a conceptual/intellectual disconnect with how the material is rendered but there is an absolute certainty to how he does things. The cinematography is brilliant and vibrant throughout; the framing precise, the edit is good. The use of slow-motion is at times inspired and his affinity to source music rivals Tarantino. It’s not the greatest script but it is perhaps the best treatment that script could’ve gotten.

7/10

The Suite Life Movie

The Suite Life Movie (2011, Disney Channel)

A funny and silly sci-fi tale wherein twin brothers face off against a mad scientist.

I believe in judging everything on what it is and what its goals are. Therefore, a DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie for the uninitiated) cannot be judged against Citizen Kane. Each are doing very disparate things. Another caveat for those who will point out that this is a TV movie I’ve allowed them to be eligible before both for the good and the bad in my awards (Note: Only winners are linked to) therefore I should try and see a few each year or bar them and essentially the aesthetics are the same, the commercial break on streaming merely turns into a fade to black and then fade in.

Having said all that this film really works for what it’s trying to do and I was surprised that I enjoyed it quite a bit. Both Cole and Dylan Sprouse, who are no strangers to film acting, have far more naturalistic interpretations of their characters in this film than they do in a typical episode of the show. The film also manages to be rather self-contained and doesn’t require one to be overly-familiar with the show to enjoy and appreciate what’s going on. The mad scientist involvement is one not seen much these days but can definitely still be employed to great affect.

It’s funny, silly and even gets emotional with a point to be made. I’m not saying it’ll be in the year end fray but I was pleasantly surprised by it as it is one of the most enjoyable DCOMs I’ve seen in some time.

10/10

Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure

Spinning off from the High School Musical series, Sharpay movies to New York to try and make it on Broadway.

As opposed to the DCOM above this one for the most part misses the mark entirely. The High School Musical craze has come and gone and this is a perfect example of going to the the well one time too many. Sharpay, of course, starts this adventure off as cartoonishly spoiled and through the course of it will transform into a person who does things for herself and is a real person and has real emotions. It’s just one of a list of things in this film that’s asking a bit too much to be believed. The shame of it is that Tisdale is charismatic when just playing someone closer to herself but she’s rarely allowed to do that. The outlandish, ridiculous and wrong also overshadow a humorous and engaging turn by Bradley Steven Perry better known from his role on Good Luck Charlie.

There are things to like about the film but there are many more that will annoy you to no end. Hopefully, this is the swan song for the franchise because it really is running on fumes now.

4/10

13 Assassins

A group of assassins join forces to kill an evil lord in 19th century Japan.

There is a lot that is technically impressive about 13 Assassins. The cinematography is very impressive, some of the acting is very strong a lot of the make-up work is good. Other things just fall terribly flat. There are a lot of characters introduced at the start such that the film even includes titles to tell you who they are and the overall plotting is slow to unfurl. It leaves you wanting and begging for the “heist scene” so you know what the endgame is. Then the battle just goes on practically forever, such that after a while I really was no longer interested in the outcome only that the movie would in fact, as rumors had it, end.

5/10

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

This is actually one of the first films I saw this year and after a little research I decided that I would include it for consideration in the 2011 BAM race.

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll is the story of punk rock icon Ian Drury over a long and tumultuous career.

This is a very unique and creative film and there are a lot of interesting narrative and directorial choices made throughout the course of it. Upon these decisions your opinion will hinge and they are totally open to interpretation some work, some don’t and some work with mixed results but at the very least there are chances taken in this film. What stands out most in the film are the performances of Andy Serkis and Bill Milner. Both are faced with enormous challenges in this film as actors and both succeed. Serkis has a massive arc to play and many different notes and Milner has to play his character from a youth and ages with him over many years quite impressively.

Aside from that it will introduce you, if you are unfamiliar with it as I was, to a lot of good music throughout.

7/10

Mini-Review Round-Up #2

This is something I’m going to do periodically. Basically, I will employ many means to qualify films for the BAM Awards be it either seeing the film theatrically acquiring a DVD either through purchase or on Netflix. This could lead to an influx of several new titles being seen in a short span of time which would be difficult to write full reviews for. At least this way the film gets some of its deserved attention and you get some notion of my thoughts on them.

If you have questions or comments feel free to respond. I always get back.

As always please refer to My Rating Scale for an indication of what the scores mean and if you’re curious where these films might make a dent in my personal awards please check my BAM Considerations.

The Films

Kaboom

Thomas Dekker in Kaboom (IFC Films)

This is a film by director Greg Araki that can only be described as one of the strangest I’ve yet seen and in both a good and a bad way. The story is a widening gyre that goes from very real and gritty to incredibly outlandish. It’s a movie that has me torn between opposite extremes whereas I love the audaciousness of it I cannot say I liked it because it just went too crazy. The film does feature a very strong performance by Thomas Dekker.

To try to synopsize the film is a slippery slope which would likely lead to me having to explain everything. It’s not a film for a mainstream audience. There’s adult content all throughout so that whole viewer discretion is advised spiel applies to this film on many levels.

5/10

The Way Back

Jim Sturgess in The Way Back (Newmarket Films)

This is a tale about a courageous escape from a Gulag in Siberia during the second World War.

This is a film by acclaimed director Peter Weir, which is certainly not among his best but it is a very interesting and well-wrought tale. The only part that feels rushed is the ending but there’s a creative montage there. The acting is very strong in the film from the likes of Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell and Saoirse Ronan. It’s a very human tale that’s shot beautifully.

7/10

On the Shoulders of Giants

The Harlem Rens in On the Shoulders of Giants (Union Productions)

A documentary about the best basketball team you never heard of: the Harlem Rens.

This film has a fascinating subject and some interviews who are able to shine a light on the story of a team who played in the days when professional basketball meant barnstorming, however, the scope of the tale isn’t focused enough and there is a lack of footage of team, which would allow the film to be more visually appealing. I liked learning about the team and there’s great information but it’s not a great film.

6/10

The Fab Five

Jimmy King, Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and Ray Jackson in The Fab Five (ESPN Films)

A feature-length documentary from ESPN Films that chronicles the five freshmen who changed the landscape of college basketball in the early 90s.

This is a very compelling (as most of ESPN Film’s recent works have been) look at Michigan’s blue chip recruiting class and the cultural and athletic sensation they were and the aftermath of their years in the game. This film garnered a lot of attention due to the controversial comments by Jalen Rose, one of the players and a producer of the film, about Duke. However, the film is bigger and more important than those polarizing comments. Rose’s decision to honestly portray his sentiments at the time and include them in the film are bravura filmmaking. The only part of the film that falls a little short is that the controversy that swirled about the program as the players left was never really foreshadowed and that may have made it more effective.

8/10

Bob Dylan: Revealed

Bob Dylan in Bob Dylan: Revealed (Music Video Distributors)

A documentary that tries to encompass a large part of Bob Dylan’s musical career.

This film is like an instructional on how not to construct a documentary. There’s little to no music in a film a bout a musician, interview subjects dominate entire portions of the film, there is insufficient editing of what they say, there is footage that’s described as we’re seeing it and the scope is gigantic. Ultimately, if the subject, Dylan, wasn’t as interesting as he is I’d have given this the lowest possible score but instead it gets by with a

2/10

I’ve been a little behind so there will be one or two more coming quite soon.

Mini-Review Round-Up #1

This is something I’m going to do periodically. Basically, I will employ many means to qualify films for the BAM Awards be it either seeing the film theatrically acquiring a DVD either through purchase or on Netflix. This could lead to an influx of several new titles being seen in a short span of time which would be difficult to write full reviews for. At least this way the film gets some of its deserved attention and you get some notion of my thoughts on them.

If you have questions or comments feel free to respond. I always get back.

As always please refer to My Rating Scale for an indication of what the scores indicate and if you’re curious where these films might make a dent in my personal awards please check my BAM Considerations.

The Films

The Human Resources Manager

Papil Panduru, Mark Ivanir, Noah Silver and Irina Petrescu in The Human Resources Manager (Film Movement)

This was a film I was fortunate enough to win from Film Movement in a Facebook contest. Film Movement is akin to a book-of-the-month club for films. They send you award-winning foreign/indies usually before they’re released and that you can’t find near you. If you want to get a sampling of their films they stream many of their titles. The discs include a short as well.

This is an Israeli film about an HR man who faces a bit of a firestorm after one of his employees has been killed in a car bombing and he through a bureaucratic mix-up was unaware of her employment status at the time. Much of the film deals with how he tries to make amends for it and then becomes a journey as he returns her to her native Romania and struggles to get her buried.

The story is rather well told and moves along at a good clip. There are some surprises in store. A lot of the acting is quite good, however, the character and performance of the journalist very annoying.

8/10

Brotherhood

Jon Foster and Trevor Morgan in Brotherhood (Phase 4 Films)

This is a film about a fraternity initiation ritual gone terribly wrong.

This is one that starts off very strangely but do stick with it. There are surprising and intriguing plot twists in store and in a situation that’s extremely tense throughout there’s some really great acting especially the performance by Trevor Morgan who has the talent to become a breakout star but just hasn’t had that one project yet.

I got this film from Netflix and actually watched it twice in two days. It’s the standout of the bunch.

10/10

Even the Rain

Juan Carlos Adiviri and Gael Garcia Bernal in Even the Rain (Vitagraph Films)

This is an interesting tale about a Spanish film about Columbus in the New World being shot in Bolivia during civil unrest regarding price gouging for public water.

The film-within-the-film does fade into the background but there is a fantastic moment of symbiosis. There are some fantastic performances in this film and when the most notable one isn’t by Gael Garcia Bernal you’ve got a pretty good film on your hands.

Political sentiment pervades this film in a way that are not detrimental to enjoying it but rather necessary.

9/10

I Saw the Devil

Byung-hun Lee in I Saw the Devil (Magnet Releasing)

This is a tale of a man who seeks to avenge his girlfriend’s death at the hands of a ruthless serial killer.

There is a lot to this film that is done well in terms of cinematic technique and in terms of structure as well, however, there is a moment when my suspension of disbelief explodes and it turned my opinion on its ear. That happens about one hour in and there’s 90 minutes of film to follow and my sympathies don’t change they dissipate entirely and I’m left just watching the carnage and at the end I’m supposed to feel gutted but I don’t. Sorry.

5/10

Black Death

Eddie Redmayne and Sean Bean in Black Death (Magnet Releasing)

This is a tale of knights in England during the outbreak of the Bubonic plague seeking a village in which the plague has not come yet and there are rumors of necromancy.

The time of the Black Death always has been and I believe always will be an era which is rife with story possibilities and has to this date been under utilized. This film not only features stellar performances but takes even-handed swipes at all religions and uses their precepts very astutely in building this tale. It’s very intelligently done.

9/10

Hobo with a Shotgun

Rutger Hauer in Hobo with a Shotgun (Magnet Releasing)

I can’t say it better than a newspaper headline in the film does: Hobo stops asking, demands change.

There’s a lot to love in this film and the first thing you have to realize going in is that it’s outlandish grindhouse to the nth degree. If that redundancy didn’t make it sink in nothing will. The dialogue is frequently absurd and well-delivered. The cinematography is fantastic and the images are brilliant and saturated. There’s just one major story element which just didn’t work for me at all but I’ll leave it at that. Standout performances by Rutger Hauer, Molly Dunsworth, Gregory Smith and Jeremy Akerman, who will always be Mr. Frawley from Pit Pony to me.

9/10

Trollhunter

Trollhunter (Magnet Releasing)

It’s a found-footage mockumentary about a group of college students who meet a real-life troll hunter and follow him on his exploits.

There are some very smart things and concepts in this film that are never fully realized. There’s a silly, short tag to the entire mess. At some point the pace just never picks and it galumphs along at an agonizingly slow rate and then no real payoff to boot. It’s hard to quantify this but it may have been the most boring cinematic experience I’ve had this year.

4/10

The Other Woman

Natalie Portman and Charlie Tahan in The Other Woman (IFC Films)

A young woman deals with the difficulty of the loss of a child, a relationship with her stepson and being newly married.

This is a film which is interesting structurally and gives Portman a chance to really shine. When I saw the trailer it smacked of Stepmom but what I was hoping for was a lack schmaltzy melodrama. I got that but it was replaced by a lot of armchair psychology. There are some surprises and also good performances by Scott Cohen, Charlie Tahan and Lisa Kudrow, who for the first time made me forget about Friends entirely until it was over. It just left me wanting a little but it was enjoyable.

7/10

So that’s the first round-up. I’ll try and get it up sooner next time maybe after five films if possible.