Posts Tagged ‘Movie Reviews’

HIGH LIFE is not an easy film.  Here’s the way the Indiana University Cinema put it:  In Claire Denis’ highly anticipated science-fiction film, Monte and his baby daughter are the last survivors of a damned and dangerous mission to deep space.  The crew — death-row inmates led by a doctor with sinister motives — has vanished.  As the mystery of what happened onboard the ship is unraveled, father and daughter must rely on each other to survive as they hurtle toward the oblivion of a black hole.  Contains mature content, including sexual violence.

For me, I enjoyed it, dark as it might be for science fiction, but then when have I been put off by “dark.”  However between non-linear time and a disjointed scene structure, I’d have to see it a few times more to really get a handle on it.  But as a film (to quote the docent as best I remember) “draw[ing] strong visceral and emotional reactions,” and one “to think about afterward,” it worked.

Beyond that as one Amazon reviewer put it, to say anything much about the plot, other than it begins with a spaceman’s talking with a baby, would risk multiple spoilers.  So here is a closing of other reviews from Wikipedia:  David Ehrlich of INDIEWIRE gave the film an A- grade, saying it owed more to SOLARIS than STAR WARS and describing it as “a pensive and profound study of human life on the brink of the apocalypse.”  Jessica Kiang of VARIETY called it “extraordinary, difficult, hypnotic, and repulsive”. Charles Bramesco of the GUARDIAN gave the film 5 stars out of 5, saying Denis had reconfigured the genre’s “familiar components to create a startlingly fresh engagement with the question of what it means to be human.”  Steve MacFarlane of SLANT MAGAZINE wrote:  “The film asks down-and-dirty questions about what really resides beneath thousands of years of human progress, a savage and haunting antidote to the high-minded idealism of movies like Christopher Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR and Ridley Scott’s THE MARTIAN.”

HIGH LIFE will be re-screened Friday (tonight) after which the Cinema will go dark for renovations during the summer, then resume (I believe) in late August.


As the Indiana University Cinema docent put it, this “Caturday” afternoon feature was to “celebrate the joy of the internet cat video.”  Also noted, of what might be (sort of) the feature’s sponsor, “[o]ne of the internet’s most famous felines, Lil Bub, lives right here in Bloomington” (Lil Bub, however, would be unable to attend herself).  More formally put by the IU Cinema’s printed blurb:  CatVideoFest is a compilation reel of the latest and best cat videos culled from countless hours of unique submissions and sourced animations, music videos, and, of course, classic Internet powerhouses.  CatVideoFest is a joyous communal experience, only available in theaters, and is committed to raising awareness and money for cats in need around the world.  A percentage of the proceeds from this event will directly support Lil BUB’s Big FUND for the ASPCA, which benefits special needs pets nationwide.

And so it was for a good cause too, CatVideoFest being an annual compilation (quoting the Fest’s own website) . . . raising awareness and money for cats in need around the world.  A percentage of the proceeds from each event go to local animal shelters and/or animal welfare organizations.  Thus the idea that local presenters can aim the funding to whatever they feel is the most pressing need.  The 70-minute-reel of cat videos is family-friendly and can be enjoyed by anyone.  The wide demographic appeal allows for it to be shown in virtually any type of setting — from museums to theaters to outdoor festivals and beyond.  This flexibility means there are almost no limits to where CatVideoFest can go!

Thus about an hour and a half of weekend afternoon fun (my favorite was the piece about the man who rescued a kitten on the highway, but when he got home could no longer find it in his car — it had to be there, but was also not there!  With the help of a mechanic it was ultimately retrieved from inside the automobile’s engine compartment, and thusly adopted is now named “Schrodinger”), and also a chance to be a do-gooder, which isn’t bad.  But also while doing a little research before the movie, I discovered (courtesy of Le Grande Cinema) that CatVideoFest is founded by filmmaker Will Braden, creator of YouTube sensation Henri, le Chat Noir, and curator of the popular Internet Cat Video Festival.

I know le chat Henri (see picture above, a mostly black cat much like Triana* but not quite that black), which is to say I’m acquainted with some of his own videos, one of which — the seventh, having to do with an incompetent cat-sitter while his real “caretakers” were on a vacation — was also a part of this year’s 2019 CatFest, and I recommend him to those who might not be.  One can find links in the footnotes in his Wikipedia entry or, for starters, Henri having retired from public life in 2018, one can find his final (eleventh), farewell video “Oh, revoir” by pressing here.

*The Goth Cat Triana was also unable to attend, but received a petting (plus her supper) when I got home.  One wonders though, should they ever meet, how she, a Goth, would get along with the older, Sartrean existentialist Henri.

It’s seventeen movies in all, or at least the characters of the mothers who star as “The Baddest, Raddest Moms of Horror” by Jacob Trussell, et al., on FILMSCHOOLREJECTS.COM, as brought to us courtesy of this week’s THISISHORROR.CO.UK.  The films range from THE OTHERS to HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, from CUJO to CHILD’S PLAY, THE BROOD to BRAINDEAD (a.k.a. DEAD ALIVE), and that last one alone gives this new list some heft.  From Mama to mother! to the oft-forgotten Mom, no two horror movie matriarchs are born alike.  Some may be cannibalistic like in Bob Balaban’s cult masterpiece PARENTS or classically psycho like Kathleen Turner in John Waters’ SERIAL MOM, but we love them all the same.  For this list curated by your very own Boo Crew, Rob Hunter, Meg Shields, Kieran Fisher, Anna Swanson, Chris Coffel, Valerie Ettenhofer, Brad Gullickson and myself are bringing you a selection of not just the baddest but the raddest movie moms that genre cinema has blessed us with.  And if we can take this opportunity to remind you: did you remember to call your mother?  So we’re a week late for Mothers Day, perhaps, but there’s still time to make it up with a mini film festival of female parents by, yes, pressing here.

Yes, on a sunny, warm, lovely afternoon what should I come upon but another dark list, this one from THE-LINE-UP.COM, by Jessica Ferri, “Fright Night:  9 of the Best Recent Horror Movies You May Have Missed,” with subtitle, “[t]hese underrated horror flicks still haunt our nightmares.”  Or, letting Ms. Ferri speak for herself:  We all love a great gory horror flick, but sometimes it’s the movies that don’t fit into the straightforward square-peg genre that wiggle their way under your skin and stick with you for days, months, even years.  In the particular case of this list, these somewhat unnoticed horror movies have stuck with us in the last decade.
These nine movies might not be your typical fright fest fare, but they’re certainly guaranteed to make you think:  Did I lock the door?  After you finish checking for any ghouls or unwanted visitors in your home, definitely sit down, grab a friend, and watch some of these gory gems from the early 2010s that we’re still recovering from in 2019.  
I won’t comment myself, except to note a few of the titles, some of which I’ve seen and enjoyed, a few others that at least I’ve heard of and may want to check out farther.  Like 2015’s THE WITCH, for instance, or (I’m sure I have this one, but seem to have mislaid it) the giallo-ish BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO.  Or — and this one was fun — WE ARE WHAT WE ARE, or REGRESSION, or, by Guillormo del Toro no less, 2013’s MAMA with Jessica Chastain.  Or to see for yourself with four more films added, and all with links for ordering for oneself, press here and, perhaps, if one should in your collection already to add a chill to a night in mid May.

Psychological horror films are not only designed to terrify audiences, but also play with their minds.  Unlike other horror films, these scares don’t rely on jumps and gore alone.  Instead, they take audiences on a mind-trip that can be much scarier.  So if you’re looking to have your brain messed with, here are the best psychological horror films.  Thus Colin McCormick begins “The 10 Best Psychological Movies That Will Mess With Your Brain” on SCREENRANT.COM.  And not are all without monsters either as noted right off with IT FOLLOWS and, later, the 2014 Stoker(R) best screenplay winner THE BABADOOK (cf. for my review of the latter, January 23 2015).

So I’ve picked my favorite of these already, but other contenders include 2017’s GET OUT, as perhaps the most recent, as well as by-now-classics ROSEMARY’S BABY and THE SHINING.  And five more, yes, which to see for yourself you must press here.  The thing is that while there may be visceral horror as well, once in a while it’s nice to see something that’s aimed at one’s brain (and not just by zombies attempting to eat it!).

Or at least sometimes their stories do as blogger Carrie Ann Golden points out in “10 Films Based on Short Stories, on A WRITER & HER SENTIMENTAL MUSE, who asks [a]re all movies produced from screenplays only?  Her answer:  Nope. Many have been inspired by novels.  Think Harry Potter and Twilight.  But, did you know that there are a large number inspired by short stories?  She then proceeds to list ten as examples, starting with two that may be obvious, SLEEPY HOLLOW and THE BIRDS, followed by some that might less quickly come to mind like THE CANDYMAN (based on a series of stories by Clive Barker) or DARK WATER, SCREAMERS, and THE THING, with titles that differ from those of the original stories.  If interested one may press here, or simply take heart that there may be more to short story writing than occasional one dollar (or one cent) royalties.

But also an extra! Scroll down beyond the tenth movie title, beyond the article itself, and one of two links to other blog topics includes an interview, going back all the way to November 14 2016, of . . . me (see also post on the same date, below).  Herewith, for the curious, added to comments on characterization and theme are two questions on a then not-quite-yet-published work in progress, TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH.

An interest of mine is the study of artists other than writers, how they are inspired, how they translate experience into art.  On occasion this vice is fed by the Indiana University Cinema in collaboration with IU’s Eskenazi Museum of Art in a series of films about artists preceded by lectures at the museum.  An example last fall about Van Gogh featured the movie LOVING VINCENT (cf. September 9 2018); yesterday’s double-header for spring coupled an opening talk by Asian Art curator Judy Stubbs, including slides from the Museum’s collection, with the 2015 anime MISS HOKUSAI.

To quote the IU Cinema catalog:  This award-winning Japanese animated film, based on a historical manga series by Hinako Sugiura, tells the story of Katsushika Oi (ca. 1800-ca. 1866), an artist who worked in the shadow of her famous father — the great ukiyo-e print designer Katsushika Hokusai.  In addition to exploring issues of familiar relationships, gender roles, and the mystical power of art, the film depicts life in 19th-century Edo and alludes to some of Hokusai’s famous images, such as “The Great Wave.”  The movie itself, which begins in the year 1814 when Oi would have been about fourteen years old, is a series of fictionalized vignettes, often, as the blurb says, showing echoes of some of Hokusai’s paintings — as well as a few by Oi herself who learned from her father as well as assisting him — but to me the main interest was in a more general sense of what art should mean.  Thus scenes were included of the daughter taking a younger sister blind from birth under her wing, verbally “showing” her things they experience together, but also sometimes harsh criticisms of lesser artists by Hokusai and others, including even Oi whose paintings of women (e.g. “Beauty Viewing Cherry Blossoms at Night” shown below) were claimed to lack appropriate sensuality.

But then Hokusai, as perhaps too many artists, seems to have been a lousy father (the younger sister, in the movie, lived with her mother apart from her father who barely acknowledged her), Oi’s name itself — the name she used in signing her paintings — can be translated roughly as “Hey You!” with the suggestion that that’s how her father usually addressed her.  Nevertheless in real life Oi, who was married briefly, came back to her father and stayed with him until his death in 1849 at about the age of ninety.

But again the main interest for me is about art, and the artist whose works included the print series THIRTY-SIX VIEWS OF MOUNT FUJI in the early 1830s (when he would have been just over 70 years old), who wrote shortly afterward:  From the age of six, I had a passion for copying the form of things and since the age of fifty I have published many drawings, yet of all I drew by my seventieth year there is nothing worth taking into account.  At seventy-three years I partly understood the structure of animals, birds, insects and fishes, and the life of grasses and plants.  And so, at eighty-six I shall progress further; at ninety I shall even further penetrate their secret meaning, and by one hundred I shall perhaps truly have reached the level of the marvelous and divine.  When I am one hundred and ten, each dot, each line will possess a life of its own. (Wikipedia)  And so the movie, while not quite quoting that, did end with the words Hokusai presumably said on his deathbed:  “If only Heaven will give me just another ten years . . .   Just another five more years, then I could become a real painter.”

One of many exciting developments in the horror genre during the 2000s has been the emergence of so many films coming out of Ireland.  Rather than yet another ranking of the Leprechaun franchise (I’ll save you the trouble – ORIGINS is still the worst), this St. Patrick’s Day holiday seems like a good time to celebrate some of the really cool Irish horror films of the last 15 years.  So the feature began, “10 of the Best Irish Horror Films to Watch on St. Patrick’s Day (Or Any Other Day!)” by Patrick Bromley, on BLOODY-DISGUSTING.COM with a note that it had been originally published “one week ago” on hallow-2March 14.  So two days after that it has come to my attention and, as an antidote maybe to the aforementioned “Leprechaun” films (which the SYFY channel actually had on TV on Saint Patrick’s Day itself, but then no-one’s accused them of having taste), here are some Irish films that are good, listed chronologically from 2005 and BOY EATS GIRL to 2019’s THE HOLE IN THE GROUND.

I have to admit I haven’t seen most of these myself (the one pictured is somewhat in the middle, from 2015’s THE HALLOW, picked I confess in part because it’s green) but from the descriptions Bromley offers all of them seem at least worth a look.  For more (better late than never) press here.

This just struck me as interesting as an idea for future stories or, rather, an element of future stories:  what attractions might future amusement parks offer that differ from today’s?  Well as it happens, short film maker Till Nowak created such an idea, based on a fictional scientific experiment concerning the effects of thrill rides on human learning, and part of which apparently has been taken by some people to be true.  Hence it migrated to SNOPES.COM with a need for debunking in “Does This Video Show an Extreme Theme Park Thrill Ride?”

To quote the SNOPES article, of Nowak’s film:  [t]he film is narrated by “Dr. Nick Laslowicz” (as portrayed by Leslie Barany), who has picked up on a project to “study the effects of kindergarten rides on the learning curve of 4-year-old children” that has been extended to “building larger, stronger devices to examine the effects also on adults.”

Dr. Laslowicz leads the viewing audience through a succession of increasingly bizarre amusement rides conceived and created to further his study — including one lasting a whopping 14 hours on which, the researcher laments, “some people fell asleep and missed their stops and had another 14 hours, and you can imagine the problems that entailed.”

And the fun thing is, not only is the video in question shown, but the entire 6 minute and 35 second film can be seen for as well by pressing here, then scrolling down to the end of the SNOPES piece and THE CENTRIFUGE BRAIN PROJECT:  A SHORT FILM.  The original video comes about a minute before the end of the film.

Now the next question to ask: in that most of these still rely on gravity for their effects, what modifications can we make for amusement park rides for use in space?

How about it indeed!  Here’s another entry from THE-LINE-UP.COM, “20 Haunting Ghost Movies That Will Send Chills Down Your Spine” by Aliza Polkes, or, quoting the author, [s]pirits, poltergeists, otherworldly visitors:  Hollywood ghosts go by many different names.  Whether they’re possessing people, haunting houses, orphanages or schools, or just generally terrorizing those around them, these souls have a bone to pick with the living.  Inexplicable events, angry demons and psychological games are just some of the things these movies have to offer.  Additionally, there is something about having unforeseen forces terrorizing people in places we deem safe that is truly frightening.  And, yes, we have the “usual suspects,” PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, POLTERGEIST, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, but there are some good movies, even a bit off the beaten track, that are on the list too.  THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE, THE ORPHANAGE, THE OTHERS, THE INNOCENTS (1961), and even some that are just plain fun like William Castle’s THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959) — the original one with Vincent Price!
For more, press here.

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