Village of The Damned (March 27th, 2016)
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, and Mark Hamill
Discounting made for TV movies, there was only 2 John Carpenter movies I hadn’t seen before last week. The man is my favorite director and it was basically just a means of stretching things out a bit. I wanted to let some of them simmer and have at least one of his movies available to finally see for the first time. Although I will admit, a lot of this is due to my dislike of watching movies on any other format other than on blu ray. So Shout/Scream Factory has put out a previously unreleased on HD movie of his, the 1995 horror remake he made that is none too well received. And I get it. It’s a real rickety movie, with few of the strong horror beats that the man has utilized in the past. It’s well shot and has a good score, with a nicely dark ending to it. There’s a sinister tone, something he’s good at. But it lacks any sort of real scares in it. Almost doesn’t even feel like a horror movie, even if it has that form. Honestly, the weakest part of the movie for me is the casting of Reeve and Alley. Not that Reeve is particularly bad, but it’s just too hard for him to shed his good boy image to play the conflicted Dr at the center of this thing. Alley is just miscast, not able to sell the role of morally ambiguous government agent. The supporting crew does better work, feeling more of the place and selling the weight of the situation. The conflicted emotions at play and the sense of doom weighing on them. So while it doesn’t really do much as a horror movie, it’s a relatively entertaining sci fi flick. A bit rickety and feeling a tad choppy, but entertaining. Watching a small town deal with a sudden and mysterious event that leads to the mass birthing of alien children is kinda fun. It just lacks that special Carpenter thing he had, that sense you’ve never seen what he’s showing us before. That certain energy and originality he can bring to a situation. The last theatrical release of his I haven’t seen was released in the 90s, but I can assume that would be the worst of the decade. Although you take it out, this one is his worst. By a long shot. Which in the end, is not that bad.
Ace In The Hole (March 29th, 2016)
Director: Billy Wilder
Starring: Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Richard Benedict, and Bob Arthur
It’s nice to see that a distrust of the press was present back in the 50s. Things are a lot different now in terms of how information is distributed, but the basics of it are the same. People like a tragedy that they can relate to. People are blood sucking leeches that want to see a show where real life is on the line. And there is always gonna be room for shifty, amoral pieces of shit with no shame for how to get a story. Kirk Douglas is that amoral sack of shit in this 1951 version of the seemingly timeless cynical look at journalism. He’s a newspaper man who has bounced around from big city to big city, working at a big paper in each one but getting shitcanned for a variety of reasons that all boil down to him being a guileless asshole. So wandering into a B level paper in New Mexico, he gets himself a job to pass the time until a big story arrives to elevate him out of the minor leagues. And on the way to some podunk festival, the story arrives. A man is trapped in a cave, and Kirk is there to claim the story. And claim it he does. Cause while what he does isn’t necessarily falsifying a story, he aims it in a direction to get the most attention. He cons the sheriff into holding back other reporters so the story was his, saying he’ll help the man get reelected. He convinces the foreman in charge of rescuing the guy to take a much longer trek to do so. The wife of the man, a real sleazy broad, is on the way out of town when Kirk convinces her to play the scared wife to drum up more money for her roadside diner. Watching this heartless man essentially play the masses like a fiddle because he knows the checklist that gets the public frothy is fascinating. Because you can look at the things needed to get people crazy is essentially the same. Maybe a little more intense in the stories being told, but it all boils to melodrama. This is a fascinatingly cynical movie and I love it. Journalism is a fascinating subject for me and one I care about deeply, but it’s definitely ripe for corrupt shit like we see here. It’s almost like a precursor to Nightcrawler, except Kirk isn’t as deviously ingenious as Jake Gyllenhaal was in that flick. A natural progression, since Kirk loses and Jake doesn’t. And seeing how Kirk loses is fascinating in and of itself, since there’s a certain sense of ambiguity to the whole thing. Is he trying to go out doing the right thing, or is it a continued insistence on getting the big, sexy story to make waves? Is he making himself the story now that his plan has gotten waylaid? You don’t necessarily get an answer, but I lean towards the more cynical view of it. This is a great damn movie, filled to the brim with great characters and immaculate writing. Kirk Douglas is slowly becoming my favorite actor of that golden age of Old Hollywood. The dude is an amazing actor, and he’s honestly so much better than his son. It’s unfair. Taking a big pot shot at the dark and seedy nature that journalism can harbor, I loved this damn movie.
Take Shelter (March 30th, 2016)
Director: Jeff Nichols
Starring: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham, and Tova Stewart
Jeff Nichols. This guys got some talent. Bold statement, I know. But it’s true. Having seen half of his output (a dense 2/4 movies), it’s not some fluke. The man has a voice, a deep sense of self and an unwavering dedication to honesty. From the more realistic stories to the far out fantasy/sci fi stuff, this is a man who doesn’t pull punches. This movie is definitely from a strong storyteller, taking what coulda have been a dour experience about a man’s declining mental health/difficulty with dealing with a prophecy. But Nichols is coming from a deeply personal place, and he never lets it waver. The honesty and sense of life in the movie is palpable. It’s a tense movie, filled with doom. It makes the journey Michael Shannon goes through very relatable. And the ambiguity for 99% of the movie is handled perfectly, never tipping its hand in a particular direction. The relationships are believable, which makes the fracturing all the more wrenching. The thematic weight of the movie is great and personal, showing how fearing the unknown of the future can cripple us if we allow it. And that ending is just brilliantly done This isn’t gonna be for everyone, as it has a slower pace than most regular audience members are used too and is a bit darker than they’d like to deal with. Nichols direction is amazing and confident, real amazing stuff for a sophomore feature. The supporting cast is great, but this is Shannon’s movie. His handling of this mans descent is heartbreaking. It’s maybe the warmest Shannon has ever been. This is just a stunning movie and one that makes me immensely excited to see their newest collaboration, Midnight Special.