Tag Archives: movies

Cinema Saturday, 11/14/20

A look at the movies I watched during the week.

The Penitent Man

Year: 2010
Runtime: 1h 32m
Rated: Not Rated

Director: Nicholas Gyeney

Writers: Nicholas Gyeney, Trevor Tillman

Stars: Lance Henriksen, Lathrop Walker, Andrew Keegan

“Humankind had acquired all the information it could ever desire, and it was maddening.”

Initial: I came across this movie while looking at Lance Henricksen’s credits during my Horror A-to-Z watch-athons; bookmarked it because it wasn’t horror.

Production Notes: According to IMDB, from concept to completion, The Penitent Man took only five months to produce.

What Did I Think: (may contain spoliers)
The Penitent Man is a time travel movie written almost exclusively in dialogues between the characters played by Henriksen/Lathrop or Lathrop/Keegan.

The plot isn’t particularly twisty; if you’re paying attention at all, you know exactly where the movie is going. This means that it’s not a frustrating exercise in obfuscation which is often a trap for time travel movies (*cough* Primer *cough*). The Penitent Man is more like a kinda clever short story concept that writer/director Nicholas Gyeney had the self-control to NOT pad out.

For a movie of people talking, I didn’t find it slow. Part of that is due to the actor’s performances, of course, but credit also needs to go to director Gyeney, cinematographer Michael Boydstun, and editor Jacob Bearchum. The movie keeps moving despite its subjects being stationary.

If you’re in the US, you can watch The Penitent Man for free on Tubi.


That’s if for this week. November is finally slowing down, so maybe a couple movies in the next edition of Cinema Saturday. Oh, and if you want to follow me on Letterboxd, I’m knabity.

{Movies} Shirley Jackson, Hail, Caesar! & Dead Don’t Die

We Have Always Lived in the Castle (2018)

In the realm of Shirley Jackson adaptations Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House television series and Stacie Passon’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle are on opposite ends of the fidelity spectrum. The Haunting of Hill House is sort of Jackson-flavored. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, but I feel bad for TV watchers who may have picked up the book after watching the Netflix series expecting to find the modern-day Crains.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, on the other hand, suffers somewhat by being faithful to the source material. The novel is very much from Merricat’s point of view and she’s an unreliable narrator. That’s hard to pull off in film. As viewers, we don’t quite feel Merricat’s dread and distrust of the world; the plot ends up feeling a little flat. That’s unfortunate because everything else about this movie is more than I could want in an adaptation of one of my favorite books. The world is lush and dreamy. Taissa Farmiga is a perfect Merricat, and I’ve missed Crispin Glover’s off-kilterness.

Hail, Caesar! (2016)

A friend I play ultimate frisbee with has been on me to watch the Coen Brother’s Hail, Caesar! since, well, 2016. At league finals this Saturday, I can report that I’ve finally seen it. Alas, I don’t think I like it as much as he does. There are parts that I definitely found enjoyable. George Clooney should do more comedies and we should bring back musicals with dancing male leads just for Channing Tatum. Josh Brolin is an actor I enjoy in nearly every role aside from the ones that involve an overage of CGI. I almost can’t believe that he’s the same actor who played Llewelyn Moss in No Country for Old Men (2006) or that the Coen Brothers are the same directors behind both of those movies. I get that Hail, Caesar! is a love letter to 50s Hollywood, but the pretty set pieces get in the way of the plot. The trailer above makes it seem much more put together than it is.

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

The 30 Day Horror Movie Challenge proved me a liar. I don’t hate zombie movies. But for me to really like a zombie movie, it has to have something a little special about it. Jim Jarmusch puts a surprising number of horror and B-movie nods into The Dead Don’t Die. He does seem to care about the genre and playing with the genre tropes. In the spirit of George Romero’s zombie fare, the movie tries really hard to be socially conscious. It has an out-standing cast. But if it’s a horror comedy (and maybe it isn’t), it sort of forgets, aside from a few moments, to be horrific or comedic.

Mini Reviews, Vol. 7 ~ What I’ve Been Watching Edition

MiniReviews

Oscar Standouts from Last Year

alt textThe Big Short (2016)
Director: Adam McKay
Writers: Charles Randolph (screenplay), Adam McKay (screenplay), Michael Lewis (book)
Stars: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt

Winner for best adapted screenplay, based on the book by Michael Lewis. How do you make a movie about financiers and the mid-2000’s housing bubble? 1.) Pick some characters and tell their stories. The four leads in The Big Short are all great. 2.) Don’t fear the occasional educational digression. (That link? NSFW due to a little language.)

Spotlight (2015)
Director: Tom McCarthy
Writers: Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy
Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams

Based on the true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the molestation scandal within the Catholic church, this movie was obvious Oscar bait. It won best picture and best original screenplay. It is a solidly written and acted movie, fairly compelling, but I thought The Big Short was probably more inventive in its storytelling.

Weren’t Oscar Contenders in Any Year

Black Sea (2014)
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Writer: Dennis Kelly (screenplay)
Stars: Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn

A submarine captain gathers a crew to plunder Nazi gold from a lost WWII sub. Man, this story, an undersea heist, had so much potential. Alas, this movie is the opposite of competence porn. From the very beginning, dumb decisions are made. The rest of the movie’s narrative is watching those dumb decisions play out.

Green Room (2015)
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Writer: Jeremy Saulnier
Stars: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, oh, and Patrick Stewart

I’ll admit, this is probably my favorite of these four films. A punk band ends up witnessing a crime at backwoods neo-Nazi club. This is pretty much a straight-up non-supernatural horror flick, but it’s well written and really well shot. A good deal of the film takes place in the club’s green room, a locale that is infinitely more claustrophobic than Black Sea’s submarines.

Review ~ As You Wish

Cover via Goodreads

As You Wish by Cary Elwes & Joe Layden

The Princess Bride has been a family favorite for close to three decades. Ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 Greatest Love Stories and by the Writers Guild of America as one of the top 100 screenplays of all time, The Princess Bride will continue to resonate with audiences for years to come.

Cary Elwes was inspired to share his memories and give fans an unprecedented look into the creation of the film while participating in the twenty-fifth anniversary cast reunion. In As You Wish he has created an enchanting experience; in addition to never-before seen photos and interviews with his fellow cast mates, there are plenty of set secrets, backstage stories, and answers to lingering questions about off-screen romances that have plagued fans for years! (via Goodreads)

I love behind-the-scenes stories. I’m a fan of DVD extras and making-of documentaries. I’ve read all of William Goldman’s books about screenwriting and movie making. (He’s the writer and screenwriter of The Princess Bride, if you didn’t know.) But most of all, I really enjoy it when the people involved have actual love and enthusiasm for the work they’ve done. To me, that’s so much better than ugly, gossipy stories.

As You Wish is all about the love. If Cary Elwes has any regrets about forever being Westley (at least a little), he’s keeping that under his black pirate mask. Not that it was an easy shoot. Between rainy rural England and grueling sword-fight training sessions, it was not a piece of cake. But it’s all about who you’re in a situation with and the many cast comments attest that it wasn’t only Elwes who felt Princess Bride magic. In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that the movie would have been anything but a hit, but the production almost didn’t happen and the movie was only moderately successful. Thank goodness for cable TV and the home video revolution for bringing it to its eventual audience.

I listened to this as an audio book, read by Elwes, but including recordings by many of the cast, director Rob Reiner, and producers Andy Scheinman and Norman Lear. So, no never-seen-before photos for me, but instead Elwes dulcet tones telling me stories.

Publishing info, my copy: audio, Simon & Schuster, Oct 14, 2014
Acquired: Tempe OverDrive Digital Collection
Genre: Nonfiction, memoir

#RIPX ~ Peril in SPAAACE!

ripnineperilscreen

In Space No One Can Hear You Scream

That, of course, is the tagline of the movie that kicked off one of the scariest, most suspense-driven science fiction franchises of all time: Alien. In horror, isolation and the unknown are prevalent themes; ones that can be explored well in science fiction.

To bring this around to my RIPX celebration, here are a few perilous sci-fi offerings that I’ve enjoyed lately.

Aliens3: The Novelization by Alan Dean Foster

I don’t listen to too many audio books, but I wanted add some RIPX spice into my life while I did silly things like dishes and laundry. This is the novelization of the oft-maligned third Alien movie. Personally, I think the movie is pretty okay, directed by one of my favorites, David Fincher (Se7en, Gone Girl). The story adapted by Alan Dean Foster isn’t half-bad either. The slam-dunk factor here is the narrator, Lance Henriksen. Henriksen is known for his many genre rolls as a character actor, including Bishop in Aliens and Aliens3.

Ghost Ships

The sea-faring age had ghost ships, vessels that had met strange and mysterious ends and continued to sail without a crew and brought doom in their wake. Space-faring science fiction has often taken that concept and blended it with the horror theme of meddling with forces beyond human understanding.

Event Horizon (1997)

A rescue ship is sent to investigate the Event Horizon, a space vessel that had disappeared seven years prior. Event Horizon, unbeknownst to the general public, had been fitted with an experimental gravity drive that creates an artificial black hole in order to interdimensionally travel long distances in space. The rescue party finds an empty ship. The last video log graphically depicts the insanity of the previous crew. Is the Event Horizon haunted? Or has is breached dimensions better left unknown?

This is a pretty tense film. Featuring Sam Niell (Jurassic Park), Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix), the acting is solid and so is the direction by Paul W. Anderson. It isn’t for the faint of heart though. Some of the most disturbing footage is only flashed for a few seconds, which leaves plenty of room for your mind to fill in the gaps.

The Black Hole (1979)

I’m going to admit it right now, this film might only be scary to me, and five year old me at that. The Black Hole was released in 1979 by Walt Disney Productions. I was a big Star Wars fan at the time (a fan of any science fiction, really) and my grandpa thought to to see it would be a perfect outing. (Grandpa and I went to see pretty much every Disney release/rerelease.) While it included a couple of cute, anthropomorphized robots, it was also Disney’s first PG release. I ended up having a few nightmares about the scary, anthropomorphized robot that ends up in “hell” with its creator on the other side of the black hole… (This didn’t stop me from owning a read-and-play record/book combination that I’m sure drove my parents up the wall as much as I played it.) On rewatch, the ending is still a little discomfiting.

Neil deGrasse Tyson has called The Black Hole the least scientifically accurate movie ever, but I wonder if he’s taking into account that it was made in 1979. It does have the distinction of having the longest computer generated sequence ever (up until that time) included in its opening titles.

R.I.P. IX Update #3 ~ More Peril on the Screen

ripnineperilscreen
Check out more R.I.P. IX Reviews

Gone Girl has been pretty big at the box office this October. I haven’t seen it yet, but I did inadvertently watch two movies with Gone Girl connections:
Zodiac_Hollywood
Zodiac (2007) is one of my Top 10 favorite movies. Top 5 depending on the week. Zodiac is about the less-than-successful investigation of the eponymous serial killer in 1970s San Francisco. It mostly involves police and newspaper men talking to each other about what information they do not have. Despite this–or maybe in light of the helplessness of the characters–there are some wonderfully tense and menacing scenes in Zodiac. It’s also visually beautiful.  Connection: director David Fincher.

Hollywoodland (2006) – Call me crazy, but I like Ben Affleck. I’ve liked him ever since I saw Chasing Amy. Here, Affleck puts in a really nice performance as George Reeves, the man who played Superman in the 1950s. Reeves died mysteriously, and Hollywoodland offers a few theories about his death against the backdrop of a down-on-his-luck private detective played by Adrian Brody. Connection: Ben Affleck.

(Did you know that Ben Affleck has won every Oscar he’s been nominated for? The number is two and neither have been for acting.)

R.I.P. IX Update #1 ~ Perils on the Screen

ripnineperilscreen
Check out more R.I.P. IX Reviews or Join the Perilous Fun!

True Detective 2014 Intertitle.jpg

Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

True Detective (2014, TV series) – starring Matthew McConaughey & Woody Harrelson. In general, I appreciate this trend toward limited run series, like True Detective and American Horror Story. (Some might call them mini-series, but that has a different connotation.) When there isn’t pressure to keep a story going for multiple seasons (in some cases seemingly indefinitely), writers can write cohesive stories with definite archs. Even if they’re only a meager eight episodes long…  SPOILER AHEAD! — After hearing so much about True Detective‘s nod to Robert W. Chambers and his King in Yellow stories, I was a little surprised that there was no supernatural twist to the show. I was expecting it, but I wasn’t disappointed when it didn’t come. I’m fine with the mundane. –END SPOILER  And in retrospect, I’m also surprised at how reserved the gore was. Hannibal? Much more shocking in its visceral gore. In all, good performances, good characters, and well-made. When I first saw trailers for True Detective, I was excited and it didn’t disappoint.

Invisibleghost.jpg

Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

Invisible Ghost (1941) – starring Bela Lugosi. This is a schlocky piece with a somewhat silly premise but a few good moments of creepiness. Lugosi plays Mr. Kessler, a–widower? cuckolded husband? I’m not sure now–, who believes that his wife will one day return. Unbeknownst to him, after his wife was involved in a car accident, his gardener has been keeping her in the basement. When Kessler sees his wife, he’s sent into a homicidal fugue and no one is safe. There are just so many weird overtones to this movie. Lugosi dines with his “wife” on the anniversary of her death, but everyone shrugs it off with a “poor old guy” attitude. Then there’s the gardener benevolently keeping the injured wife semi-captive and the fiance of Kessler’s daughter being executed for the first murder. In R-rated modern hands, this could be a very different movie.

Only Lovers Left Alive poster.jpg

Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

 

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) – starring Tilda Swinton & Tom Hiddleston. In my corner of the internet, I had seen many gifs from this movie. The look of Only Lovers Left Alive *is* gorgeous. The music is also pretty good and Tilda Swinton is captivating as usual. Who else would you cast as a contented vampire?  Unfortunately, this movie strikes me as over-indulgent. Nothing much happens. There is really no tension. Adam (Hiddleston) and Eve (Swinton) have an novel way of existing after hundred of years, but there’s just nothing there aside from Hiddleston being eye-rollingly emo. John Hurt is the other bright spot playing Kit Marlowe.