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Casted_Runes
Mr Karswell
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Ahavati said:Being a history buff and bible college graduate, I definitely wouldn't want to see this one, then. It would probably just piss me off.

Another great contribution, CR.


lol You’re definitely overqualified. That would be like watching a disaster movie with a scientist

Ahavati
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Casted_Runes said:

lol You’re definitely overqualified. That would be like watching a disaster movie with a scientist



Casted_Runes
Mr Karswell
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I just saw Late Night with the Devil and it was pretty good. Presented as a documentary that leads into a restored broadcast spliced with behind-the-scenes footage, it tells the story of a 1977 late show programme on Halloween night, hosted by recently widowed media persona Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchian).

To restore his ailing programme, the slick and handsome Delroy draws on the arcane rituals of his buddies at Bohemian Grove (a real-life social club for rich men that’s been subject to Freemason-esque conspiracy theories), bringing on to the show a parapsychologist (Laura Gordon) and her charge (Ingrid Torelli), the sole survivor of a cult, who claims to be in touch with a demon…

The “Satanic panic” subgenre is one that I enjoy but have mixed feelings about… ethically. The genre refers to a moral panic in American history, specifically the 1980s, where anxieties about child molesters hiding in positions of power - doctors, teachers, daycare operators - were expressed as a religious pushback against “Satanists”.

There were literal children’s books warning what signs to look for when you think that your child might be being abused by devil-worshippers. This led to some atrocious miscarriages of justice and went on to inspire the oppression - including hate crimes - of youth movements, like goths, and such non-traditional religious practices as Wicca.

I try hard to not judge the audience when watching a movie since it’s almost always a mistake. If someone leaves an action film and gets into a punch-up, that’s down to their stupidity and lack of impulse control, not the product.

But in the case of Satanic panic films, I do get uncomfortably aware that it’s playing in part to the type of people who appear in Borat movies talking about how Hillary Clinton is a witch, and walk into busy pizza restaurants with guns demanding to know where the Bohemian Grove sex slaves are. It’s not the film’s fault that they’re coo coo bananas, but it’s in the back of my mind anyway.

My favourite character in Late Night was the James Randi stand-in, Carmichael the Conjurer (Ian Bliss), a skeptic and philanthropic debunker of mediums. (The film satirically refers to Randi’s famous encounter with spoon-bending charlatan Uri Gellar on The Tonight Show.)

Carmichael is depicted as condescending and arrogant, and I do like the last cynical joke about Randi’s famous offer of a huge pay-check to anyone who can prove their mediumship. Yet he’s right, isn’t he? In anything like the real world, he’d be the least cynical and most righteous person in that room. When he says that he feels responsible for the sanity and safety of the “possessed” girl, I believe him.

Late Night with the Devil is an occasionally creepy and pretty much always engaging example of the “found footage” style. It’s easily one of the best of that style, though that’s not saying much. The ‘70s are well-evoked and Dastmalchian is nigh on perfect in his depiction of that very era-specific type of host: he captures that slimy masculine charm that’s filled with rank ambition and assumptions, the slick arrogance that positions itself as the unquestionable, heteronormative ideal.

Looking back at male presenters from this era, it’s remarkable how unlikeable many are from a modern perspective. For every Michael Parkinson and Terry Wogan, who managed to seem at least tolerant, there are those that constantly sneer at anyone not like them (‘Can you believe this guy?’ they seem to be saying to the audience, ‘Wearing eyeliner and calling himself Ziggy Stardust? What a freak!’) and getting too close to any woman or girl on their set.

I do think that there remains a story to be told in the horror genre about this world. Late Night with the Devil is a fun and even thrilling, at times, reflection on familiar themes. But imagine a “restored broadcast” where the possessed child may well just be a victim of exploitation by greedy and predatory adults.

In this hypothetical film, there are no unquestionably supernatural theatrics and you don’t really see behind the scenes, except glimpses through the gaps between walls (which would justify why the footage exists; Late Night has that problem, endemic to mockumentaries, where there’s no reason why cameras would be trained on a lot of the conversations).

A lot of the tension would come not from whether or not a demon is in the room so much as why the host keeps getting uncomfortably close to the girl, sharing looks with the audience as if daring them to say something. Meanwhile, the girl’s carer is glimpsed saying something to a producer close by a camera that happens to pick it up. ‘I don’t like it’ she says. ‘That’s just his way’ the producer replies.

And then the seance happens and the girl in a fugue state starts saying weird and suggestive things. Things about men surrounding her at night and a cruel woman forcing her to do things. Things that make the assembled personalities uncomfortable. ‘What’s going on here?’ says the Randi character to the host. In the end you’re left to wonder: was there a presence in the room, or did we just witness a troubled child being exploited for entertainment? Or both?

I don’t know, maybe that movie would only be interesting to me.

Rating: 3/4

more reviews at ijustsaw.art.blog

Casted_Runes
Mr Karswell
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I just saw Love Lies Bleeding and it was really good. A lesbian romance crossed with a crime drama and set in the 1980s, it stars Kristen Stewart as a mulleted gym clerk, Lou, whose father, Lou Sr (Ed Harris), is a dangerous criminal in the Nevada desert. One day a young woman called Jackie (Katy O'Brian) rolls into town with dreams of building up her body mass so that she can go to Las Vegas and win a contest.

Lou and Jackie fall for one another, but complications arise when JJ (Dave Franco), Lou Sr’s employee and his daughter Beth’s (Jena Malone) abusive, philandering husband, puts Beth in the hospital. High on steroids, Jackie sees Lou’s pain for her sister and does something there’s no coming back from…

Initially, I asked myself why this story needed to be set in the 1980s, if it was just for the score and the picturesque fashions (like Jackie’s shell suit). But this is a story of its chosen period. Domestic abuse is still a pressing issue, of course, but how it’s dealt with here is very much attached to a bygone age. (One would hope.)

Beth won’t press charges, so the police won’t take an interest (especially since a lot of them are in Lou Sr’s pocket), and her father’s approach is to have a talk with JJ. Meanwhile, Lou Sr’s own wife has been “gone” for years. This is very much a paternalistic, “father knows best” world where girls are raised to be seen and enjoyed and raise the children, but certainly not heard.

Meanwhile, men do the important work and feel constantly entitled to women’s time, space, and bodies. The unspoken subtext about Jackie (or “Jack”, as Lou calls her) is that she became obsessed with bodybuilding as a way to defend herself against men. In one scene a bodybuilder punches her in the face simply for reacting badly when he calls her friend a slur and puts his hands on Jack without permission.

The performances are really good. Franco does a grand job of playing a man who’s slime in human form, while Stewart conveys aching fragility and survivalism as Lou. Her nervous energy creates a character that plays off well against O’Brian’s equally wounded recluse. The story twists and turns pleasantly and has some moments of surrealistic filmmaking that lend it a magical realist air.

Rating: 3/4

more reviews at ijustsaw.art.blog

Ahavati
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OMG!! Ed Harris is one of my FAVORITE actors, EVER! And Kristen Stewart is extremely versatile in the roles she plays. I must see this movie! Thank you! <3

Casted_Runes
Mr Karswell
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So I just saw Da Strange Peeps: Chatper Wun, and surprise surprise, it was a colossal mound of turd. Full disclosure: I’m not really the person to review this movie because I hate the Strangers franchise and concept. The first film, written and directed by then-newbie Bryan Bertino in 2008, was in his words loosely based on a series of break-ins in his hometown as well as, of course, the real-life Manson Family murders. But it was just an excuse to tell a story with no story and characters that have no character. The plot was that a couple (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman), dithering about whether they should marry, spend the night at an isolated cabin when three killers - a man and two women - in babyface masks show up to terrorise them. The central tease comes down to a simple dialogue exchange: “Why are you doing this?” a victim asks. “Because you were home” one of the killers replies.

This was supposedly enough to make everyone in the naughty ‘00s fill their pantaloons. (One hilarious bit of contemporary marketing sees an interviewer try to convince Tyler and Speedman that he needed to call friends for moral support once the film was over, but then the bit goes too far and it seems like they’re discouraging people from spending their money on the product, so Speedman suddenly panics and starts backtracking.) Here’s the thing, though: while plenty of scary killers on the big screen have had “no motive”, they have had context. Michael Myers of Halloween (1978) didn’t have a reason to kill, however, we know that he was a little boy who killed his big sister and then after many years of being institutionalised escaped to stalk other young women.

By contrast, what do we know about the Strangers? That they don’t have a motive. Also, they wear masks, two porcelain Betty Boop-type things for the women, sackcloth like Jason’s mask in Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) for the guy. Also, they engage in obnoxious cat-and-mouse games that seem to be more for the audience than the characters and frequently make them seem supernatural, which they’re not, so… plot hole.

The details that Bertino did add to the original film seem to contradict each other as well. The Strangers say that they’re attacking the couple because they happened to be home, implying that they’re thrill killers. Later, however, they say to each other that next time it’ll be “easier”, implying that their motive is pathological or maybe even spiritual. Making them reluctant killers. So which is it? Who knows? Certainly not Bryan Bertino.

The franchise represents one of the laziest approaches to horror, where you’re not even telling a story, just presenting some basic elements with the least development possible. I guess I do sort of admire Bertino’s chutzpah in making millions from a screenplay that anyone could write. The romance writer Jacqueline Susann wrote her first drafts on yellow paper, before adding motive and character to successive drafts on different-coloured paper. The Strangers feels like it was only ever written on yellow paper.

The Strangers: Chapter 1 is really just a loose remake of the original, to a point where all of the same beats are there, so by reviewing the 2008 film I’ve pretty much covered this one as well. Though it markets itself as a prequel in the title and promises to show you how the Strangers “began”, it’s clearly a rehash intended to capitalise off David Gordon Green’s Halloween reboots (two more “chapters” are planned; hopefully they go the way of Green’s plans for sequels to his terrible Exorcist film). Renny Harlin directs in his hackiest “paycheck, please” mode, while two writers without Wikipedia pages are credited with the “screenplay”, which I put in quotation marks because it’s hardly their work.

The only real difference is that this time the film adds some elements that hint at an actual story and motivations. Here there’s a prologue where a guy who we later find out was a wanted criminal is chased by the Strangers. After that, we see an honestly kind of offensive bit of text about how many violent crimes happen in America (as if the non-events of this movie resemble real tragedy in any way).

Following this, the Tyler and Speedman stand-ins Maya (Madelaine Petsch) and Ryan (Froy Gutierrez) arrive “somewhere in Oregon”, where locals treat them with vague hostility before directing them to an Airbnb for the night while some greasy rednecks fix their car. Cue a lot of nothing until the Strangers show up, at which point we see a lot more nothing, but with running and mild violence. (This is the tamest 15-rated horror film I’ve seen in a while.)

The added story stuff is reminiscent of something like The Woods Are Dark by Richard Laymon, a 1981 novel about a rural California town that’s in league with a cannibal race to whom they feed tourists. Harlin doesn’t bother to expand on anything, however. Presumably, he’s saving the actual plot for the sequels, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t, since this franchise has already spun three films out of absolutely nothing.

Rating: 0.5/4

more reviews at ijustsaw.art.blog

Ahavati
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Thank you for posting. I have had absolutely ZERO desire to watch any of those films.

Casted_Runes
Mr Karswell
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Ahavati said:Thank you for posting. I have had absolutely ZERO desire to watch any of those films.

Wait a minute… you’re telling me that you’re NOT intrigued by 90 minutes of zero characterisation and hardly any plot? Aha… I thought better of ye…

Ahavati
Tyrant of Words
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Casted_Runes said:

Wait a minute… you’re telling me that you’re NOT intrigued by 90 minutes of zero characterisation and hardly any plot? Aha… I thought better of ye…


I know, I know. . .

Casted_Runes
Mr Karswell
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I just saw Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga and it was good. It’s certainly better than any of the recent Star Wars “sagas”. A prequel to 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, it tells the story of that film’s female lead, Furiosa, who in this one begins as a little girl in the Green Place of Many Mothers, one of the last places in the postapocalyptic Australian outback - referred to as the wastelands - where green things grow and nature’s gifts are in abundance. One day she’s kidnapped by members of a biker gang who take her to their leader, Dementus (Chris Hemsworth), part false prophet, part tinpot dictator, part motorcycle gangster and warlord.

Following the death of her mother, Furiosa ends up in the Citadel, a strange medieval community carved out of rock formations where Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme) and his inner circle rule from the apex, controlling the water. Joe purchases Furiosa in a deal with Dementus where the latter gets to rule “Gastown”, a fuel refinery, and from there Furiosa begins her quest back home, growing into a young woman played by Anya Taylor-Joy.

It goes without saying that the action and chase scenes coupled with the world-building are first-class. Director George Miller’s rasion d’être in his Mad Max films has always been these elements, of course. The narrative is punctuated by chases that are brilliantly staged and scored, an oil rig’s klaxon in particular used to great effect in stirring excitement. As the Mad Max films have gone on they’ve moved further and further into fantasy. The original 1979 film was set in a world in decline, while the latter entries are very much post the old world order, with feudalism and tribal states having succeeded modernity in the wastelands.

Easily the best thing about the film, though, is Chris Hemsworth as Dementus. This is the performance of his career thus far, and although he’s been good elsewhere, I didn’t realise he was capable of the vivid work that he does here. The character roars and stomps about like Herod while displaying a Falstaffian garrulity. By turns camp, disturbing, and tragic, the last remaining vestige of his soul symbolised by a teddy bear chained to his apparel that once belonged to his “little ones”, Dementus is the standout in the wastelands. He holds your attention like nothing else when he’s on screen, even through the big prosthetic nose that Hemsworth wears. He’s a figure out of classic literature, almost.

Furiosa is unfortunately, then, the least interesting character in the film, despite being the protagonist for whom it is named. The script is trying to position her as the “Mad Max” figure this time, almost mute and taciturn, but as much as Anya Taylor-Joy does her best it doesn’t work because the character doesn’t have the mythic heft of either Mel Gibson’s or Tom Hardy’s Maxes. 1981’s The Road Warrior ends with the line, “That was the last we ever saw of him. He lives now, only in my memories...” Max was enigmatic and complicated, a noirish loner crossed with an errant knight. Furiosa in this film just doesn’t have that mysteriousness, that legendary feeling.

Partly it’s because the film has a bad case of prequelitis, as most prequels do, especially in our current glut of them. We see Furiosa from early childhood, so there’s no mystery about her, nothing to wonder on when it comes to discerning her trauma. Mad Max: Fury Road, as I recall, handled this beautifully with Hardy’s Max’s trauma only hinted at with the image of a little girl disappearing under a truck. Since this film is essentially a biography of Furiosa, it needed to have her talk a lot more or find some way for her to establish herself as an actual person, to hint at moral complexity, yet it feels reluctant to give her any depth or even vulnerability.

Genre films at the moment seem to do this thing where they’re afraid to give heroines actual character lest it conflict with making them “relatable”. Call it Captain Marvel (2019) syndrome, where the writers are more concerned with making her a #GirlBoss than a complex persona. Say what you like about older movies, but Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor felt like human beings, heroic yet flawed.

Away from Furiosa herself, the plotting of Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga can be extremely ropey. Once Furiosa finds herself in the Citadel and placed among Joe’s harem she escapes and disguises herself as a boy, while apparently no one bothers to check where she is or questions why there’s now a new, oddly androgynous young boy is among them. Nor do her new colleagues in the Citadel’s community of mechanics notice her developing body, even though they sleep in the same room on bunks. The film has a scene where she pees in a jar and is caught by someone who asks why she does this (since as “one of the guys” she should be okay with going anywhere), in answer to which she shrugs. Uh-huh.

I was also annoyed that the only reason Furiosa wasn’t saved as a child was because her mother took mercy on a woman in Dementus’ camp. As if a hardened warrior hellbent on saving her child - and even more importantly in a larger sense, protecting the Green Place from destruction - would fall for “I’m a mother too”. Even if she didn’t want to kill her, she could have bound and gagged her. It doesn’t make the woman a #GirlBoss to make her weak and gullible.

Despite these problems, the film is never boring and frequently a lot of fun in the detailed world and action that it depicts. Since it’s divided into chapters I like to think of it as short stories from the same world as opposed to a direct follow-up to Fury Road. Despite the aforementioned plot point, the first chapter with Furiosa as a little girl is fantastic, strange and exciting and emotional. Chris Hemsworth is superlative throughout, his feudal wars with Immortan Joe - himself an engaging and intelligent warlord character - so good I wish it was the focus of the film. This Mad Max saga is definitely worth watching despite its creaks and groans.

Rating: 3/4

more reviews at ijustsaw.art.blog

Ahavati
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Okay now I MUST see this. I was actually going to overlook it. Thanks! Always love your reviews.

Casted_Runes
Mr Karswell
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I just saw The Dead Don’t Hurt, a western written, directed, composed by, and starring Viggo Mortensen, and it was the dullest, most poorly constructed piece of loose grouting that I’ve seen in a cinema for… a while. 0/4. I rarely give a film a zero score because my rule normally is that if I can get through it in one sitting without pauses due to the quality, it’s worth half a star, however bad. I gave The Exorcist: Believer 0.5, and that one made a travesty of my favourite movie. I gave The Strangers: Chapter 1 a 0.5, and that’s a film where nothing happens. I’m going rogue here for a couple of reasons, one being that I would have walked out if I hadn’t had a mate with me, although to be fair I said that about Believer.

There were a lot of walkouts in my screening of The Dead Don’t Hurt, which was a special mystery screening for cinema cardholders. Two young lads walked out in about 5 minutes, perhaps anticipating that they wouldn’t enjoy what seemed to be a slow-moving, artsy western. At any rate, those boys were prescient, and I salute them. The cinema’s social media is getting piles of negative comments about this movie, and I’m right there with them. That 83% of 30 critics polled on Rotten Tomatoes is proof enough for me that the critical establishment has confused “pretentious” and “confusing” with “artful” and “difficult”.

I normally defend critics and am probably guilty of dismissing popular taste in quite a snobbish way. Here, though, I genuinely don’t understand how professional critics can look at this incoherent script with its mediocre direction and monotone score and limp, unfinished characterisation and conclude as the Tomato meter does: "A solid step forward for Viggo Mortensen as a director, The Dead Don't Hurt offers viewers a comfortably old-fashioned Western with a satisfying, character-driven story." That’s insane. And an insult to old-fashioned Westerns. Watch True Grit (either version). Watch Unforgiven. Watch The Quick and the Dead, even. They’re all incalculably better dramatic works on the level of basic craft alone.

The plot of The Dead Don’t Hurt charts a romance between Danish immigrant Holger Olsen (Mortensen), who in the 1860s is the sheriff of a small saloon town, and Franco-Canadian flower seller Vivienne Le Coudy (Vicky Krieps). The town is run by corrupt landowner Alfred Jeffries (Garret Dillahunt) and his son Weston (Solly McLeod), whose paths will violently intersect with the couple’s.

This story’s basic elements are as old as the genre itself. Rich man and his psychotic son run a small town ragged, the sheriff’s wife is assaulted by the son, and so the sheriff takes revenge. This basic plot has been used in millions of books, films, and TV shows. Yet Mortensen somehow manages to so poorly communicate it that I spent most of the film not understanding what happened to various characters, why some seem to reappear after they’ve been killed, why certain decisions are made, who some people even are, and so on.

The problem is that Mortensen has decided to tell this story in a non-linear style, and hoo boy, he is NOT Quentin Tarantino. By chopping up events he so badly confuses things that you have to reverse-engineer the plot to make it make sense. He starts with a dying woman, a burial, and a shootout at a saloon followed by an unjust trial that leads to an innocent nonverbal man being hung. (Who later shows up in a saloon, just dandy. Search me.) Fine. We expect this to be the plot of the film from here on out.

However, the script then follows Sheriff Olsen as he seems to travel to San Francisco to conduct an inane affair with an inane Frenchwoman, Vivienne, who’s independently spirited for her time. Meanwhile, the son that we see he has and the daughter we see that she has (in parallel scenes where they were together before what I thought was Vivienne’s husband left) completely disappear.

The woman’s daughter appears periodically but only in semi-fantasy scenes afterwards, where she interacts with a knight on horseback in the woods. Again, search me. (Based on context, the knight is probably actually Joan of Arc, if that helps?) Looking back, I think I know who the daughter and her parents whom we see actually were, and by rearranging events, I can work out why the sheriff’s son seems to disappear, but I can hardly enjoy a plot that I’m still struggling to grasp once the film is over.

And this isn’t a David Lynch film where that’s the point. At a really, really basic level of shot composition and arrangement of scenes, it just doesn’t work. There’s no communication between past and present to guide you in parsing the two. Based on how the story was presented, at one point it seems like the sheriff took his maybe 5-year-old son to fight the Civil War with him, leaving me to assume that the poor kid’s buried in a Yankee grave somewhere when he disappears from the narrative and no one mentions him.

I’m sorry, but you really have to hold that 83% of critics’ feet to the fire here. I’ve not seen a clearer case of the emperor having no clothes since I don’t know when. It’s almost on a par with an art prank that occurred some years ago in the UK, where an elephant’s random daubings were passed off as intentional painting, and oblivious critics fawned over it.

Even without the terrible craftsmanship, the film is just plain bad. Vivienne is a shallow piece of characterisation who only exists to be feisty for her time and then pay the ultimate price for it. Mortensen’s Holger Olsen traipses about in a Rod Stewart ‘do and ‘70s gay porn moustache trying and failing to give his own writing personality. Dillahunt gives the best performance as a property developer who would fit right into a better film, maybe even have some complexity, a la Gene Hackman in Unforgiven. British actor Solly McLeod scowls a lot and gives the film more effort than it deserves. Otherwise, though, the dead don’t hurt, but I did while watching it.

Rating: 0/4

more reviews at ijustsaw.art.blog

Ahavati
Tyrant of Words
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Damn. I hate to read this because I am a Mortensen fan. Thanks for posting.

Casted_Runes
Mr Karswell
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Ahavati said:Damn. I hate to read this because I am a Mortensen fan. Thanks for posting.

Me too, he’s a great actor. Maybe you’ll get from this something that was over my head, but for me it was just a generic Western utterly hamstrung by its narrative construction.

Ahavati
Tyrant of Words
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Joined 11th Apr 2015
Forum Posts: 15088

Casted_Runes said:

Me too, he’s a great actor. Maybe you’ll get from this something that was over my head, but for me it was just a generic Western utterly hamstrung by its narrative construction.


I'm not sure I want to brave it despite how much I like Mortensen. Your reviews are typically spot on.

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