I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a Roger Deakins film that isn’t beautiful to look at!
The trend of me watching a lot of movies continues,
Grave Encounters (2011, Colin Minihan & Stuart Ortiz, Canada) ***
An interesting premise can take a horror movie a long way, just look at Grave Encounters. This is a very flawed movie, but its premise is intriguing and in the end helps make the film highly enjoyable. Grave Encounters is a bare bones found footage horror film, but it manages to ride the line between horror and comedy quite well. The characters aren’t people we become invested in per se, but I found myself interested in where they went just as much as I was laughing at the turning of the tables they were enduring. Th ending is a touch too vague and I could have done with a few more tense moments. But, Grave Encounters is a fresh horror film that does interesting things with the found footage genre and the idea of ghost hunters.
Jarhead (2005, Same Mendes, Germany/United States Of America) ***
At times too broad and on the nose, at other times powerfully realistic and visually striking. Jarhead is a film that is compelling while at the same time seeking to turn its audience away. War is stupid, and its soldiers are even more idiotic appears to be the main message of Jarhead. But, that’s not truly the message, it’s unfortunate that the repellent characters so far outweigh the compelling characters that the films more earnest messages are lost in the shuffle. Something not lost in the shuffle whatsoever is the brilliant cinematography of Roger Deakins. The scenes near the end that show an oil field ablaze left my jaw on the floor. Alas, that can’t be said for Jarhead as whole, it’s good but mightily flawed.
Shrink (2009, Jonas Pate, United States Of America) **
A strong performance from Kevin Spacey is watered down by an indie film that wants to be indie too damn hard. The characters all connect at the end of the film in a highly contrived manner, and the many story lines the film brings up feel half finished and more like window dressing than a whole house. But, Mr. Spacey delivers the goods throughout, doing his darnedest to overcome how much of an indie darling Shrink wants to be. His performance is hurt, broken, haggard, and real. Mr. Spacey’s performance is everything the rest of the picture is not.
Buffalo ’66 (1998, Vincent Gallo, United States Of America) ***
A man bares his soul for all to see and the result is a fascinating if muddied watch. There’s something about Vincent Gallo as a human being that is off putting. I know that’s an extreme statement, but his mere presence causes my skin to crawl a little, and that makes his performance in Buffalo’ 66 all the better. His character is meant to make the skin crawl. Watching a man who is so impotent try to find his way was fascinating. The same can be said for Christina Ricci’s performance, as she is mesmerizing in the way she is able to grab the attention of the camera and refuse to let go. The directorial style of Mr. Gallo is just as abrasive and awkward as his on screen performance. But, for all the fascination I had with Buffalo ’66 I still found myself feeling at a distance from the film. Mr. Gallo opened himself up to the public, but some of what he gave the public was too messy and blurry to have actual substance. But what Mr. Gallo gave the audience was fascinating, always fascinating.
Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark (2010, Troy Nixey, Australia Mexico/United States Of America) ***
Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark is a simple horror movie, and it is because of its simplicity that the movie so much fun. This isn’t a movie that will leave hardcore horror fans drooling, but it is a horror film that serves as a great entry point into the world of horror. The suspense is well constructed, the sets are beautiful, and the actors all hit their marks. It is obvious in parts, and it moves perhaps a bit too briskly, but Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark is a well made horror film that looks great and is tense when it matters most.
Absentia (2011, Mike Flanagan, United States Of America) **1/2
If it weren’t for the fact that at too many points I could see the puppeteers pulling the strings behind the scenes Absentia would have been more than a decent movie. The premise of the film is interesting, and the pace of the film is so caustic as to create a dread like pallor over all the proceedings. But, in so many instances the actors are so obviously acting that I was pulled out of the world Mike Flanagan was trying to create. Of particular note was Justin Gordon’s gum chomping Detective Lonergan, a character so over acted that he went beyond goofy, and unbelievable, and into the realm of extremely annoying. There’s also a lack of impact to the story, but that’s an aspect of the film that doesn’t hurt it terribly. Absentia is an interesting mood piece that is held back by the visiility of the puppeteers behind the scenes.
Nothing that blew me away this week, but a handful of pretty good films made for a good week. Jarhead takes home movie of the week honors based on its beautiful visuals alone. There’s also the fact that it is a better movie than all the other movies I watched this week, but let’s keep the focus on those visuals I say. Until next week, watch more movies!