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Non-Review Review: Evil Dead (2013)

Evil Dead does has a bit of a quirky charm to it, serving as perhaps the best-made horror throwback I’ve seen in quite some time, much more effective than most of the recent splurge of exorcism movies. As far as competent execution of classic horror movie tropes go, complete with the sense of “something gruesome’s gonna happen” dread and a healthy amount of gore, Evil Dead succeeds admirably. There are some issues in the final act, but Evil Dead checks all the necessary boxes, and does so with a minimum amount of fuss or pretension, which makes it a surprising enjoyable watch for those looking to enjoy a good old-fashioned video nasty.

That said, it can’t help but feel a little awkward, through no fault of its own. Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead was a genre classic which worked in a large part because it eschewed all but the most basic tropes of horror storytelling, refusing to dress a video nasty in anything too fancy. The movie came to embody a particular subgenre of horror, and it wore its grotesqueness on its sleeve. Last year, Cabin in the Woods offered a fitting follow-up, a capstone to that approach to horror. As such, through no fault of its own, this version of Evil Dead feels like it arrived a little late.

Down the rabbit hole...

Down the rabbit hole…

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Non-Review Review: The Thing (2011)

The reflexive reaction to a film like the 2011 version of The Thing is one of scepticism. There’s something very strange about seeing a movie that had been relatively unloved on initial release garnering the remake/prequel treatment, an attempt to cash in on its cult success by turning it into a franchise. And, to be fair, a lot of that cynicism is justified by The Thing. There are times when it seems like – despite the obvious affection for the original horror master piece held by the writers and the director – that nobody really has any idea why John Carpenter’s The Thing has become such an iconic piece of cinematic horror.

There are some nice touches here, and it seems like director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. is genuine in his love of the classic body horror. Unfortunately, it feels like the finished product is more the result of mechanical number-crunching than honest enthusiasm.

All fired up...

All fired up…

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Watch! Marvin the Martian in “Yule Be Sorry”

This was apparently posted two months ago, but I’m only seeing it now. Plus, you know, it’s Christmas themed.

Director Alex Zamm uploaded test footage for a Marvin the Martian film, and you can see the clip below. Blending CGI versions of classic cartoon characters and live action is always a risky venture (given that it produces things like Alvin & The Chipmunks and The Smurfs), and I’ll concede that I am a little wary of the child actor (and character) in the below short. I’m not sure I’d rush out to see a movie featuring “Marvin the Martian and a kid.” However, I also have a fondness for Marvin the Martian as a character and it’s great to see the little guy up and about in some form or another. He doesn’t need a sidekick kid. Or to be reduced to the sidekick of a kid.

Still, the test footage isn’t about the script, although his characterisation is quite decent. It’s about the ability to render the character in the real world, and I think Marvin looks fantastic. Then again, I’ve always loved his design. All the movie would need would be the right script, as unlikely as that would seem to be. The fact that Zamm felt comfortable sharing this means the project is probably dead. While I’m not sure I’d love to see this short extended to a feature-length film, it would be great to see Marvin on the big screen and the short demonstrates that we have the technology.

Warner Brothers seem to have stopped producing those new Looney Tunes shorts that we saw last year, and it’s a bit of a shame – while the CGI might take some getting used to, it was great to have those characters back in some shape or form. Anyway, take a look and let me know what you think. I can’t seem to embed it, so click the picture below of the link here.

marvin

 

Non-Review Review: Life of Pi

Life of Pi is visually stunning. It is an amazing accomplishment. I’ll be the first to admit that I am skeptical of 3D, but in the hands of the right director – Martin Scorsese, James Cameron and, now, Ang Lee – it is a fascinating storytelling tool. The computer-generated imagery is magical, as are the compositions and scene transitions. There’s no doubt that Ang Lee is a superb craftsman. Indeed, the visual majesty of the film is enough to make you dismiss some of the lighter narrative elements, accepting some of the incongruities as expressions of “magical realism” or simply a function of allegorical storytelling. It’s not the densest, or the most insightful, story you will see, but it’s well-told.

Unfortunately, then you reach the end, and Life of Pi tries to get considerably smarter than it actually is. It pulls a clumsy narrative trick that leaves the audience feeling a bit disoriented and more than a little manipulated. Life of Pi finds itself torn between trying to be a beautiful allegorical story of survival and a deeper commentary on the stories that we tell. Forcing one undermines the other. While Life of Pi might convince you that a boy and a tiger can share a lifeboat, the two competing aspects of Life of Pi sink the story.

Not quite a glowing recommendation...

Not quite a glowing recommendation…

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On Second Thought: Alien Resurrection (Special Edition)

To celebrate the release of Prometheus in the United States this week, we’ll be taking a look at the other movies in the Alien franchise.

So this is Earth, huh?

This is Earth.

– Call and Ripley try not to sound too disappointed…

I am not the biggest fan of Alien: Resurrection. I think it is, to be frank, a mess of a film – the result of a director and a writer who seem a very poor fit for one another, with Jeunet’s macabre design aesthetic at odds with Whedon’s sardonic irony. It would take a fairly radical reworking of the film to solve that fair fundamental tonal dissonance… and the Special Edition is not that much of a reworking. Indeed, Jeunet himself has gone of record stating that his own definitive version the film was the original theatrical cut. He introduces the Special Edition on the superb anthology collection with that confession, “The special edition version you are about to watch is not the director’s cut, because the director’s cut is the version you watched in theatres in 1997.”

So it’s no surprise that while the Special Edition does add a bit more shading, nuance and complexity to the film, it doesn’t salvage it.

Not quite what the doctor ordered…

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Non-Review Review: Wild Bill

Wild Bill is the charming directorial debut from veteran character actor Dexter Fletcher. The established actor, who has worked on projects as diverse as Band of Brothers, Press Gang and The Three Musketeers, also wrote the screenplay for this slightly quirky British domestic drama, which sees an absentee father fostering an emotional connection with his abandoned kids. It’s a fairly conventional plot, and Fletcher doesn’t cram too many surprises in there, but the movie is wry enough and has a thinly-cynical exterior that makes the pill easy enough to follow. It’s not  quite a masterpiece, but it’s engaging and diverting enough to leave a pleasant impression.

Wild at heart...

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Non-Review Review: Saving the Titanic

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012.

Saving the Titanic is an interesting blend of documentary and drama, exploring the efforts of the engineers onboard the ill-fated ship, fighting to keep her afloat and alight just a little bit longer. The narration from Liam Cunningham suggests that the selfless bravery of those working in the bowels of the ship allowed her to survive more than an hour and a half longer than she should have. While the docu-drama never really reconciles the two approaches it takes to events – creating the impression that it should have opted for a “one or the other” style of approach – it is a fascinating look at one of the most important events of the twentieth century.

It's a dirty job...

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