Friday, March 24, 2017

A Movie for Every Year


This has been a thing going around lately: Make a list of your favorite movie for every year of your life. Lord knows I love joining shit, especially Internet fads, so I thought I'd try it out. There weren't any other attached rules or anything, at least, not that I saw. I assume it's not required to have seen that particular movie within that particular year, just pick one movie per year. You probably shouldn't lie about your age either.

I mostly based my choices off of pure love and enjoyment, with "re-watchability" as the secondary factor. This obviously resulted in certain types of films coming up over and over, but then, that's the point, right? Pick your favorites. One interesting thing I noticed while making this list was that a lot of the "great" films of that particular year, upon reconsideration, just have not aged all that well. Many of them now seem dated and overwrought, formulaic in that insincere award-driven kind of way. Some of them, for all of their supposed greatness, I couldn't imagine ever sitting down and re-watching them again. 

So, here we go...

Some years, the choice was glaringly obvious. Other years, there were almost zero good choices, which led to a couple of weird picks. And in still other years--I'm looking at you '81, '84, and '14--were surprisingly difficult, because there were so many good choices. Honestly, being forced to choose between Predator and Robocop? That's just cruel. Anyway... Make a list of your favorite movie for every year of your life.

This is mine...

A MOVIE FOR EVERY YEAR

1974. Chinatown
1975. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
1976. The Outlaw Josie Wales
1977. Star Wars
1978. Dawn of the Dead
1979. The Warriors
1980. The Empire Strikes Back
1981. Raiders of the Lost Ark 
1982. Conan the Barbarian
1983. The Return of the Jedi
1984. Terminator 
1985. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
1986. Aliens
1987. Predator 
1988. Die Hard
1989. Say Anything
1990. Goodfellas
1991. Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey
1992. The Last of the Mohicans
1993. Dazed and Confused
1994. Pulp Fiction
1995. 12 Monkeys
1996. Trainspotting
1997. Jackie Brown
1998. The Big Lebowski
1999. Being John Malkovitch
2000. Battle Royale
2001. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
2002. City of God
2003. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
2004. Shaun of the Dead
2005. Munich
2006. Children of Men
2007. No Country for Old Men
2008. Iron Man
2009. Watchmen
2010. True Grit
2011. Drive
2012. The Avengers
2013. Blue Ruin
2014. Guardians of the Galaxy
2015. Mad Max: Fury Road
2016. Green Room
2017. So far… Get Out? Logan?

And there you have it,
Jon

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Blackcoat's Daughter







Today's film is called The Blackcoat's Daughter.

I keep saying I'm not a big horror fan, but I've noticed that I do seem to be posting a lot of horror stuff lately. Maybe I'm a medium horror fan. To be fair, a lot of the stuff I have posted crosses over into my regular interests, so maybe it's not the horror that attracts me. It does seem like there's been a lot more apocalyptic survival horror lately, not to mention some good zombie stuff, and a few strong social critique laden films too. Must be the world we find ourselves living in now...

Anyway, that's usually my deal with horror. The genre doesn't really do it for me, unless it merges with something else. Usually. But that's not the case this time.

At least, as far as I can tell. From what I've seen so far, The Blackcoat's Daughter seems like it's a more traditional horror film. There appears to be a big house with creaky floors and dark hallways and a weird basement that you probably shouldn't go down into. There might be some sort of malevolent force involved. Maybe its a ghost, maybe it's the devil, or maybe it's just puberty. There's a drawerful of potentially bloody knives.

Like I said... traditional.

I don't know Oz Perkins' work. He's had a lot of background roles as an actor in a lot of things--some of them very high profile--and all of which I have zero memory of him being in. It looks like it's only recently that he's started writing/directing his own stuff, and that mostly looks like low budget slasher/ghost type horror, so no big surprise at my lack of familiarity. So, I can't tell you if it's any good or not. His cast this time is interesting though... Emma Roberts, Lucy Boynton, and Kiernan Shipka... They're all very talented. Emma Roberts is Hollywood nepotism defined, but she seems like she might be actually talented. Nerve wasn't exactly great--it kind of shits the bed at the end--but she has potential. I guess it's just a question of her finding the right part. Lucy Boynton, on the other hand, she was fantastic in Sing Street, so I'm ready to see more of her. And everyone loves Kiernan Shipka, right? Especially in a film like this. It'll be nice to see little Sally Draper finally become the crazy murderer we all assumed she was going to be. Seriously though, I wonder how you pronounce her name?

The point is, I'm interested...

Here's the synopsis: Two girls must battle a mysterious evil force when they get left behind at their boarding school over winter break.

Sparse, but interesting. Let's watch...



That's a good trailer.

It was creepy. It liked the look. I liked the tone. What else is there to say? That was well done. Maybe I'll see if I can listen to the song that was playing, to see if there's any plot clues in it. It didn't look overtly supernatural, at least not beyond the oppressive malevolence of the setting. There was a mention of Satan, sure, and it might be used in that classic "oops, turns out the urban legend is real" kind of way, but maybe not. This felt more grounded. We shall see, of course, I could be wrong, but I'm betting that, when it comes to who's ultimately responsible for the inevitable bloodshed... I think Sally Draper just quits pretending and finally starts cutting some motherfuckers up.

I'm looking forward to this.

The Blackcoat's Daughter opens March 31st, 2017.

Jon



Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lasiurus






I'm generally not a huge horror fan. I don't avoid it or anything. It's just the genre isn't really my cup of tea. Despite this, when I do watch it, one sure way to get me interested is for the setting be apocalyptic in some way.

So today, we have Lasiurus.

The writer/director is Marcus Alqueres. I don't know his stuff, of course, but like most short film writer/directors, he seems to have done a lot of visual effects work. Also, Alqueres apparently has some kind of deal with Sony at the moment due to one of his older shorts called The Flying Man. I've seen The Flying Man, and it definitely looked good, but its main problem was a pretty common one when it comes to short films... there's too much "potential", and not enough "delivery".  I don't want to knock the effort or anything, there was some definite talent involved, the film was well done, and obviously with very little money too, I just wish thee guys would tell a full story in their short films, instead of making what amounts to a vague teaser for a franchise that will probably never happen.

So, right from the start, I'm a little unsure about Lasiurus. Just in setting up this post, I see a lot of potential red flags popping up in a lot of the usual places. The first red flag comes from the fact that I read a press release about Lasiurus that said this short film is supposed to feature a story/world that is intended to be explored more in a feature length narrative, so... that's a bummer.

The synopsis for Lasiurus reads simply: What if you are the last one to know? 

This is the next big red flag, of course. Here we have a synopsis that is underwritten and not intriguing at all. It feels like there was no effort put into it at all. So, the question becomes... why is there no effort? Do they just not care? Or is there actually no story at all? Hands down, this is a shit synopsis, but while either option is problematic, the latter is definitely worse than the former. And that's not to say that the synopsis doesn't raise any questions, just that it doesn't do it in the good way. "Last one to know" what? I assume it means "what if you were the last one to know the apocalypse was happening" but the only way I know that is because I read it in an article about the short. If I had just been scrolling through short films, I would've barely stopped for it.

Bottom line? Synopses matter, put some effort into that shit...


It's hard to get behind a really dumb protagonist.

You could probably make the argument that he's just oblivious, maybe, not dumb, but he's so oblivious that it just strains credulity. I hate to be the guy who questions the timeline of a bat-demon apocalypse, was this the neatest and quickest and quietest apocalypse ever? This question may seem nitpicky, but it's also an indication of the film's main problem...

Like The Flying Man, Lasiurus looks good, but the story is non-existent.

There's almost nothing here, narrative-wise. After watching it, I have all the questions possible as to what was going on, and the film answers pretty much none of them. It doesn't even try to. Granted, the stated purpose of the film is to pitch a feature length project, but what have you really got here? A vague vampire/zombie apocalypse with bats? Does that really need a pitch? It's kind of like saying: "I want to make a movie where a lady meets an unlikely guy, and at first they don't seem like a good match, but guess what? ...They are." Who's wowed by that? "It's a monster movie. Full stop." Why would anyone need this short film to sell the concept?

In the end, Lasiurus is well shot, but it doesn't give you much to hold onto.

Jon

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Voyager







Today's short film is called Voyager.

This is a Stop-Motion short film from SUPAMONKS STUDIO. They're French, something I have come to be able to identify when watching short films, and here's what they have to say about themselves: We are an animation studio based in the Paris Area. Formed in 2007, our varied and rapidly expanding portfolio includes animated commercials, short films and work for the gaming industry. Above all we love beautiful images and telling stories. Always committed to improving what we do, we aim to deliver industry-leading products that our clients are happy with. 

They seem nice. And it looks like they're putting out good looking work too. I will say that I'm a little leery of this one. French animation, especially of the short film variety, tends to focus on the aesthetics, rather than the narrative, and the stylized look of the stop-motion makes me think that's what we're going to end up getting here.

Not that that's a bad thing necessarily, I'm just more of a narrative guy.

Here's the synopsis: Sent in 1977, the Voyager Golden Record was intended to introduce Humanity to possible beings in outer space. But centuries later, Voyager is back on Earth...

Let's watch...



The Stop-Motion in this film looks amazing. It really looked great.

But... ah, big surprise, but... what the fuck was going on here? A young cyborg girl in a dead city, a city that she may be the only inhabitant of, who seems to spend most of her day either looking for food and keeping the power grid running. At least, she did, until the day the Voyager probe crash/lands in the middle of the city, apparently unharmed, and then some old music and images off of its famous Gold Record in order to... inspire her to... remove her cyborg parts? Maybe? But she still had a leg underneath the cyborg leg? And then she left the dead city for the country? Or was it a metaphor? Did the beauty of the old, lost world drive her to let herself power down and thus, die? Is she leaving the city for the country, or heaven?

Is it deep? Is it simple? Or is it just half-baked?

It's hard to tell, because it gets a little muddled and vague at the end, and the fact that it never really shows us what really happens with the cyborg leg is a really odd Directorial decision. I mean,  that's your climax, right? Maybe? I'm not sure, because I couldn't tell what was going on, or why the red light blinking off turned out to do nothing to her.

But, like I suspected above, maybe the point of the project is just the technique, and the beauty of it. Maybe there's a simpler metaphor of... leaving behind the demands of modern life for the simplicity of nature...? I don't know. Maybe all of that is true, AND it's also half-baked. In the end, while I appreciate the artistry and skill needed to create something like this, these types of short films are a bit like hallmark cards for me, there's a nice sentiment, but very little  in the way of content.

Enjoyable, but half-baked.

Jon

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Belko Experiment











I've always been a fan of James Gunn.

He's responsible for Slither, for Super, and for the re-imagining of Dawn of the Dead (a major personal favorite), among many others, not the least of which are both of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, which I'm sure you'll recall... I'm a bit of a fan. His work is funny and smart and silly and dirty and bloody as hell, all the things you need for a good time at the movies, and, at least according to the trailer, all the things you'll find in today's film: The Belko Experiment.

I'm not familiar with Greg McLean's work. He's the Director. He's done a lot of horror stuff from the look of it, and I think I remember people saying that they liked the Wolf Creek stuff, so maybe he's good. Personally, I would assume he's pretty good, as Gunn seems to work with good people. Plus, he made this after coming off the Guardians of the Galaxy win, so it's not like he didn't have options.

It doesn't really matter, either way, I'm a fan of Gunn's work, so I'm interested in this.

Here's the synopsis: In a twisted social experiment, 80 Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogotá, Colombia and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company's intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed.

Sounds good to me. Plus, thanks to this synopsis, the fact that it's set in another country goes a long way towards smoothing over the one concern I had with the idea, and that was that this thing appears to be happening in apparent isolation, or at least with the Government's cooperation, and I couldn't see that quite working in America, although now we're in Trump's Amerikkka, so maybe it's a moot point... Whatever. Either way, I'm good.

Also, this may be complete nonsense, because I don't know if the two films are similar in any way or not, but the synopsis and tone really put me in mind of the movie Cabin in the Woods, and that's always a good thing...

Let's watch.



Relatable, amirite?

So, yeah, there's a definite Battle Royale feel going on here, but that's understandable. That particular set-up is a good formula for human drama: Take a bunch of ordinary people, lock them in some place, and tell them they all have to kill each other in order to survive. Will they comply? Will they resist? Who will be the first to take that big step? Who will hold onto their humanity? Who will live? Who will die? You get multiple layers of tension as the characters all respond in different ways, and no matter what, eventually... you get a bunch of carnage too. And like I said, that's really all you need in a good movie, right?

The Belko Experiment opens this Friday, on March 17, 2017.

Ready,
Jon


Friday, February 24, 2017

T2 Trainspotting







Trainspotting is a film by Danny Boyle, and it was based off the novel by Irvine Welsh. It also might be the first "indie" film that I ever looked forward to.

Not that Miramax was ever all that "indie", but whatever, that was the 90s...

Anyway, I came to Reservoir Dogs late, so I wasn't really aware of Pulp Fiction as a Tarantino film for very long before it came out. I hardly noticed it at all. In fact, I remember fast-forwarding through the trailer on a VHS copy of Dazed and Confused. This type of stuff just wasn't really on my radar at the time. I had the same pre-release lack of awareness/indifference for such 90s classics as Slacker, El Mariachi, Clerks, Welcome to the Dollhouse, Kids, Swingers, Dead Man, Hard Eight, Do the Right Thing, blah, blah, blah, on and on. I was a fan of all of them eventually, and I saw them all as soon as I could after hearing about them, and they all went on to help establish some of my earliest thoughts about film, but still... I wasn't hyped up to see any of them. 

But when it came to Trainspotting... that was different. I must have watched that first trailer from the Projection booth at Colony Square (which is now some weird Drafthouse knock-off) a million times. For me, it looked new and different and exciting and weird, and most people seemed really turned off by it. I was hooked. It was a mature film, but a total rebel too. It had things to say, and yet didn't seem to give a fuck either. These were my impressions at the time. I went out and got the book immediately. I even read it, (most of it) and like everyone else, discovered that it made a lot more sense if you read it out loud in a Scottish accent. I was all in. I was ready. I couldn't wait.

And it totally delivered, too. I still love that film.

Trainspotting wasn't just good, it was one of the main films that sent me winging off into other related movies. Trainspotting was kind of the springboard that led me to giving a shit about writers, directors, cinematographers, the whole craft of film-making itself. It was the Star Wars of my Second Great Movie Love Awakening.

Now, here comes the sequel, and with it, a sense of ill-advised foreboding. Some of it is due to the 20 year gap, but a lot of it is due to the fact they seem to be pretty adamant about calling the film...


...which seems like a terrible idea. They have to know about the Arnold Schwarzenegger one, right? They have to. Is that even legal? It can't be legal, at least creatively. You can't just co-opt a famous title like that. Either way, I refuse to call it "T2", because that's dumb. 

I'm just going to keep calling it: Trainspotting 2.

Now, normally, this would be the part in the blog post where I would list the myriad reasons why a sequel for a film like this is a really bad idea, most of which would be due to the 20 year gap since the original. But I've seen the trailer, and I gotta tell you, folks, it's kind of awesome, so... nevermind.

Here's the synopsis: After 20 years abroad, Mark Renton returns to Scotland and reunites with his old friends Sick Boy, Spud, and Begbie.

Nobody puts any effort into synopses anymore, I guess...


Often times when it comes to these decades-delayed sequels, the nostalgia factor and the call-backs and the homages can overwhelm the story, if there's any story to begin with--I'm looking at you, Force Awakens--and while, yes, technically I haven't seen this film yet... it looks like they've managed to achieve a good balance. 

The energy is the same. The look and tone seems similar. It looks wild and fun. But there seems to be a feeling of resignation too, a sadness and a world-weariness, an acceptance of inevitable change and a lament for what could've been. It seems to be interested in exploring the ideas of how you can't really go home again, but you try anyway, and how, even though it's all different, nothing ever really changes there but the seasons. I like the sound of all of that. I also like how the story looks like it's going to pick up where the last one left off. Sins of the past, the cast-off husks of our old lives, going home again, I like how it looks like all of this is wrapped up together. Maybe. Who knows, I haven't seen it yet. We'll have to wait and see.

Trainspotting 2 opens on 3/17/17.

Choosing to watch,
Jon


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Frankie






Full disclosure, I'm connected to Writer/Director Mike Pappa. I don't actually know him, or anything, but we have some mutual friends, and they are the main reason I know about his work. Also, I supported Pappa's kickstarter for his upcoming short, which is called A Crimson Man.

It looks pretty cool.


But we're not talking about A Crimson Man, not yet at least. Someday maybe. I think they're filming now, so soon-ish. Maybe. Whatever. Doesn't matter. Today we're talking about an earlier short film of Mike Pappa's called Frankie.

I'm curious about Frankie for two reasons.

The first reason is the obvious reason: The mutual friends Pappa and I share happen to really like his stuff, and since those mutual friends and I also overlap in tastes a lot, that makes me interested in checking these films out.

Understandable, right?

The second reason for my curiosity is probably more of a point of interest to me, but whatever, it's my blog... So, the picture of the man in the white short-sleeve button-up shirt looking back over his shoulder? The one with all of the festival awards at the bottom? The one that fronts the video at the bottom of this post? That picture is very familiar to me. It's familiar to me because I've seen it a lot. It feels like it has shown up on a lot of different geek/genre-centric websites over the past years/months/weeks/whatever, and most of the time, it's been accompanied by a pretty positive review. That level of exposure is pretty interesting. That level of acceptance is also interesting. Y'see, lots of things make the nerd-rounds, boys and girls, and lots of things do not, but when you're passed around a lot, that usually means there is something about the film that is at least somewhat interesting. Nerds don't agree on much, understand, so this is noteworthy. Basically, all of this together, coupled with the connection to the Creator adds up to... it's kind of weird that I haven't watched this thing before now.

In case you don't know... I watch short films.

In the end, it's probably only due to some weird combination of laziness and happenstance, because it should've happened by now. I mean, the film is about a pocket watch that controls time...

God knows I love me some Voyagers.

Here's the synopsis: When a watch repair man acquires an antique pocket watch that can control time, he decides to use it to achieve his dreams. His plans soon become sinister when he learns he isn't the only one with the knowledge of the pocket watch.

Let's watch...



That was great.

The lack of dialogue was an interesting choice. The film was more than expressive enough to convey the story and character motivations, so I honestly didn't notice at first, but it really worked. I appreciate the tight control on display here too. There obviously wasn't too much money behind the project, but that wasn't necessarily apparent in what you saw on screen. That's always impressive. There were a lot of small rooms and tight shots, but the film never felt restrained, at least not in any way that it wasn't supposed to. And I'm a big fan of the aesthetic. I love the mix of the Post-WWII industrial feel, the old tech, the paper crowded with scribbles, the kind of run-down industrial area, it all felt very timeless, and distinctly unreal. It was anywhere and nowhere, and all about a man outside of time. I loved that.

In general, everything here was really well done and looked good, so that's cool.

I really liked the pocket watch. It was a great idea and a great prop, and the time travel effects were simple and worked perfectly. I loved the sound effect too. I would've liked to have seen more of the watch in use, but that's the type of decision that leads to unfocused narratives, and that's a road that leads to ruin. So, less is more... smart.

Also, I'm always a big fan of the whole Twilight Zone/Monkey's Paw type of short films. The story type is pretty classic, sure, but that's because it works. Too many of these short film people think they're making the next Star Wars, or they're really just trying to pitch a movie or TV show, or they are simply incapable of paring down whatever their ridiculously overstuffed idea. Frankie was short and simple... or if not "simple", then straight to the point, at least. It was focused on its story, and yet still managed to pull off a nice little twist at the end. I liked that. I appreciate the smart writing. I appreciate the tight story-telling. And I appreciate the awareness of the short film's limitations, and how they worked with them, instead of fighting against them.

All in all, this was great. Very well done. Frankie was a good time.

Jon