Sunday, December 28, 2008

Welcome to the Jungle (2007; John Hensleigh)

Excuse me if I find it a bit hard to swallow that the same man who helped write Armageddon and Jumanji decided his best career move would be to make a horror mockumentary about cannibals. One last thing, yes, this movie really is a mix of two classic mockumentarys you should be thinking of. If you really can't name both of them, shame on you. I will give you a little bit longer to get some guesses before I give it away...


Two young couples (yeah, that's right, can you guess it yet?) head into the jungle to try and find proof of Michael Rockefeller's survival so they can make it rich. Bad happens.

Alright, the break is over. At first, this film comes off as only an updated, milder form of Cannibal Holocaust (Dubbed Mockumentary #1 for you guessing folk). However, once you crack it open and start watching it, you will quickly learn that it uses a very Blair Witch formula for developing the characters and the tension. (Yes, Blair Witch is Mockumentary #2. You can leave your score in the comment section).

However, it feels that Hensleigh got too caught up in trying to develop each part that he forgot to tie them all together. This leads to a very choppy experience where the pacing and atmosphere drastically change from one piece to another. We start with the Blair Witch feel of watching our main kids be silly so we can bond with them and what have you. We then are brought into our kill zone (the wilderness for all three). Tension dwells in the group and fighting occurs, which is supposed to help add to the helplessness of the situation. After the tension and fighting, bad happens.

You see, where the Blair Witch Project set all of these steps up and blended them into one cohesive, believable web, Welcome to the Jungle just leaves out the bridges between. We go from parties directly to walking through the forest. We are then treated to ten or so minutes of nonstop fighting. The traveling and fighting really aren't mixed together at all. After we watch nothing but fighting we are immediately thrown into the bad happening and then the film is over.

I will say, however, that not all in this is bad. All of the characters come off as credible and are acted very well. Also, the #1 part of this film is actually executed almost perfectly. The cannibals are portrayed brilliantly and some of the kills, while very #1, are still very effective. So even despite the film's poor attempt at reaching for #2, the fact that it nailed #1 so perfectly near the end made the questionable beginning surprisingly tolerable and rescued the film from being a failure.

Score: 3/5

Notes: Is that Mikey screaming for help? Or is it Josh...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Incident at Loch Ness (2004; Zak Penn)

I am a total sucker for mockumentarys, I am very aware of it. I just love the potential of it all and the almost endless new doors that it can open. So on that note...

Two men with a digital camera choose to start a documentary filming the life and ideas of Werner Herzog at the same time he was planning on filming a documentry of his own about how fake the Loch Ness monster is. They all head out to Scotland for Herzog's film and things start to fall apart within the crew and Herzog's reality.

First off, this movie gets points for centering around Werner Herzog. I personally like to believe that when Zak Penn decided to try to make this mockumentary, he knew that people would never approve of having to watch him on film for that long. In order to compensate, he chose to switch the main director in the movie to Herzog. As an extra insurance policy, he also chose to make sure he came off as a complete idiot compared to Herzog. Whether or not he knows how close his fake personality represents his competence as a writer is a different story, however. Maybe even the story for his next screenplay ;).

Anyway, what mocumentarys come down to are the immersion. Do you feel like this is a real documentary? With this film the answer is a resounding "sometimes". When certain parts of the film hit, it can be very obvious that they took thought in setting the shots. That in return kills the feeling of spontaneity that these sort of films are supposed to possess. However, that is only some of the time, leaving the majority of the experience in the green. So to leave this review brief so I can write my next one, I will lend this film a...

Score: 3/5

Notes: Jeff Goldblum, Bikini Model

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Prestige (2006; Christopher Nolan)

"Now you're looking for the secret. But you won’t find it because of course, you're not really looking. You don't really want to work it out. You want to be fooled."

The Prestige, the film I believe to be Nolan's greatest achievement to date (despite the several million people who would disagree with me) is finally being reviewed on my site. How exciting.

Two up start magicians have a bumpy beginning and spend the rest of their lives trying to one up each other. The sheer determination of both of them brings their competition to life threatening proportions as both of the men refuse to back down. To put it briefly, it is a story of unparalleled determination.

Nolan's expertise in story telling and presentation are at their peak as he transforms a very entertaining book into the perfect screen adaptation. He makes exactly the right changes to make the book's tale fit.

As for his presentation; it is spot on. His camera feels perfectly balanced with it's colors and zooms. The music is constructed perfectly for the era we are being shown, yet still feels so wonderful on our ears.

The original tale told on paper is filled with twists and turns that are almost completely unexpected, however the film kicks it up a notch, burying you with hints and clues without you being the slightest bit aware. That toppled upon one of the most gripping realities once you finally grasp it all makes this film worthy of a...

Score: 4.5/5

Notes: Better Than The Dark Knight

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Hype in Cinema

This will be a very brief entry, at least for now, as it is late and I want to go to bed. I wanted to pay a little attention to hype's roll in the success of certain films. Specifically "God's gift to cinema" The Dark Knight.

We are all well aware of the hype put around this film. Firstly, for people like me, Christopher Nolan has always come off as a very competent and powerful film director, even though his first entry into Gotham was less than stellar. Secondly, it is a film about Batman, which will always play well with the crowds (at least draw them in for some profits). Thirdly, and most important to this entry, the death of Heath Ledger. At the time, only the crew and his friends had any idea what his performance was like, and obviously they were going to say it was the most amazing thing to ever grace our vision since the Sistine Chapel.

This played perfectly into Nolan's hands as it gave his perfectly fine film the edge and publicity it needed to become truly huge. Obviously it could be argued that it would simply have been just as popular as Nolan's first entry if it hadn't been for the unfortunate death. That is the route I am going to take, but as I said, it is late so I am not going to do the arguing now.

The media obsession fueled by all of this helped shoot The Dark Knight into what VERY many people believe to be the single greatest film ever made. I hate to tell you people, but cinema does not start and stop with The Dark Knight. What drove me to point this out was I never got over the IMDb rush surrounding that movie. Fans, even before the movie came out, started voting The Dark Knight perfect 10 scores, and then to give it a little boost, they began voting the films that already had the top few spots scores of 1. This debacle actually worked, as The Dark Knight became the #1 movie of all time on IMDb's list for quite a while before other people caught on and balanced it back out (sort of).

The whole point of this really wasn't to say that The Dark Knight was a bad movie (I rather enjoyed it and would easily give it a score somewhere around 8). The point was to give that IMDb example to help show that people can be sort of... dumb, for lack of a better word. That movie was propelled into stardom by some form of mob mentality, but it will soon be replaced in most people's minds (most likely with the
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which will be the last movie featuring Heath Ledger). If you still believe that The Dark Knight deserves to be called the greatest movie ever made, then you should just wait a little longer and watch as it becomes forgotten in the waves of releases, where only the true pieces of art remain afloat.

Errata: I was on amazon the day after I made this entry, and pretty much any item is now linked to The Dark Knight. I found a box set containing the entire series of the Flintstones... and it was linked to The Dark Knight. This is getting out of hand.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Bloody Valentine (1981; George Mihalka)

Ah, yes, My Bloody Valentine. A classic slasher-esque film that has spawned everything from a group of pre-teen sounding boys moaning into microphones like little girls to a sequel that is rumored to come out sometime next year.

This film is one in well... six thousand or so slasher films that has a faceless weapon wielding killer who takes out obnoxious teenagers for the good of us all...


The regular rules to slashers apply here, such as the completely dull camera and the overacting (or just plain bad acting) teenagers that you want to get killed a little faster. However, simply because it is a slasher, we can completely overlook that because you know all of that, and in fact,
want all of that to happen in your slashers.

However, we must examine the film on other grounds. The sound effects are decent enough, and the kill scenes try too hard to be actually tense. The blood is in it's fair share of scenes, but not quite as heavy as I would have wanted. The adults are in their usual know-too-much-yet-do-too-little fashion. All in all, the movie just rounds up to be the safest, plainest, most generic slasher one could ask for. Is that bad? Not at all, but at the same time, it isn't great either. Spend your time watching the more well known and better crafted slasher films if that is really what you are after.

Score: 3/5
for slasher fans
Score: 4/5

Notes: Valentines, Pick Axe, Heart-Shaped Box

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

No Country for Old Men (2007; Joel & Ethan Coen)

Ed Tom Bell: Now that's aggravatin'.

Ed Tom Bell: *
points to a bottle of milk* Still sweatin'.
Wendell: Whoa, Sheriff! We just missed him! We gotta circulate this!

Ed Tom Bell: Well, okay. What do we circulate? Lookin' for a man who recently drunk milk?

In this Coen masterpiece, we are introduced to a well constructed, almost new age western (to use those terms lightly), where we follow Llewelyn Moss, a nobody, as he finds a satchel full of money from a drug deal gone bad. He tries his hardest to hold on to it all, even after a psychopath (carrying a mightily fun weapon) starts to close in on him to get the money for himself.

To make up for my absence, I thought I would add an extra long summary to better serve my reading audience. Except not really, it just seems long because most other movies I review can be summed up with a few words. Anyway, on to the actual reviewing.

To commemorate this review, I will start with... the soundtrack. Actually, as far as my memory can hold up, most of the movie was played through without any music at all. However, one thing that always struck me about this film that I can always love the Coen's for is their expertise with dialogue. It really feels like they captured the region's accents perfectly, and used it to help capture the mood from scene to scene.

Another aspect that was captured perfectly in this film was the intensity of everything happening on screen. Now this film is no horror of any sorts, but some of the events that unfold will leave you at the edge of your seat waiting to find out what is happening on the other side of the door. Most of the credit for that goes to Javier Bardem who plays the psychopath. Almost all of the scenes where he is forced to have conversations with other characters, you are never quite sure what is going through his head or how he is going to react.

One last performance to note would be that of the sheriff. By far the wisest character of them all, it almost seems he is reluctant to grasp on to the enormous chain of events that is unfolding around him. His deductive reasoning is amazing, and he tries to convince himself it is not sometimes simply just to give himself some sort of solace from the brutal truth. To prevent this review from growing to large, I will just touch on the camera by saying it is in solid form and fully competent.

After all of that, nothing negative really rings in my memory, so that would leave this piece of art at the comfortable score of...

Score: 5/5

Notes: Mother-in-Law, Chicken Crates, Mexico Border