Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Invasion


The Invasion
Directed by: Oliver Hiershbiegel (& James McTiegue uncredited)
USA/Australia, 2007
Sci-Fi / Horror, 99min
Distributed by: Warner Video

Story:
Psychiatrist Carol Bennell [Nicole Kidman] has for the last year been divorced from her husband Tucker [Jeremy Northam], who decided to pursue his political career over his family, finds her self and son, Oliver, in the middle of an alien invasion with a political twist. After a terrible space shuttle accident a strange organism has been found that has the citizens all railed up. But pretty soon the government is proclaiming that there is no threat, and that they are prepared for this “alien invasion” But the alien spores are taking over the population, and even one of Bennell’s patients, is complaining that her husband isn’t her husband. After several strange incidents she starts to investigate the alien invasion with her boyfriend Ben [Daniel Craig], just to learn that the invasion is much closer to home than she ever could have guessed. Now her main objective is to stay awake and keep one step ahead of the “new” inhabitants of earth who want to take over mankind. Don’t fall asleep!


Me:
Honestly, was this necessary? Did we really need a new take on a movie that was first made during the Hollywood coldwar/communism blacklisting scare in 1956 by Don Siegel, updated and remade to splendor by Phillip Kaufman in 1978 and then again updated decently by Abel Ferrara in 1993. But, still, You can’t out do Kaufman’s fantastic version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, you just can’t! So why even try? Ok yeah, so I’ll give credit to David Kajaganich for his modernized political twist on the original Jack Finney novel, but still it’s just a dead movie. We know where it is going from frame one, and there are NO surprises at all. If you have a great story set up where the aliens have come to earth to create global peace, which they more or less succeed with by the movie climax, then why do you pull a 180 and totally fuck up a story that was going somewhere? If you wanted to surprise me whey the hell didn’t you just have the government crash the “Secret Lab” stomp them out and then have Nicole Kidman be completely zonked (as she is in that last part) so that she agrees to join Daniel Craig and the other “pseudo humans” in their new state. Then they all kill her child as there is no room in the “New” world for immune non-receptacle people. Then end it all with world peace and a race that is totally in agreement with everything. That would have fucked the minds of your audience big time. They sacrificed everything to become a united race. Kidman sacrificed her kid for global peace. That would have made an impact. And that would have been more acceptable. Because if the government wanted us to get with the programme, they would make us. They would turn us all to “pod persons” if they thought that was for the best. Not the incredibly insulting ending where the scientists save her at the very last second and cure the world… …only to have wars, murders, global conflicts back on the daily agenda. And then that ridiculous “happy family” ending where Daniel Craig is back to normal and Kidman gives him a “still not sure if I trust you anymore” looks (which isn’t much different from any of her other “looks” in the movie) just rips a hole in any credibility that this stinker ever had to start with. Now this isn’t all because of the director Oliver Hirshbiegel and Kajaganich, so let’s not point any fingers here. But if we where to point fingers, stick it in the direction of producer Joel Silver. As he found the supposedly two hour original cut boring and intellectual, he brought in the Wachowski Brothers [Yeah as in Matrix, se where I’m going! Part one rocks, then it all just goes down hill] to re-write the script and later still James McTiegue [remember that guy who fucked up Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta] to re-shoot shit. Like that Molotov throwing during the car chase bit. If anything ever felt out of place then that is the school book example. So according to internet rumours all that remains of the original vision is bits and pieces here and there…

The acting, lets talk about the acting. It’s possibly the worst I’ve seen in a long time, and I’ve sat through some really bad movies in my life time. Kidman can’t act. Period. She can’t act. Just name ONE movie where she is believable (apart from Gus Van Sant’s To Die For and you can’t say Kubrik’s Eyes Wide Shut, because you just think that she acted in that because she got her clothes off.) There’s something about her that just doesn’t work for me. She always looks the same, what ever she is supposed to be playing. Her “Oh, this psycho just tried to kill my husband and I on our honeymoon in the middle of nowhere” “Oh I’m Batman’s Girlfriend!”, “Oh, My sister and I are witches!”, “Oh I’m a ghost!”, “Oh, I’m Virginia Woolf and I’ve got a really bug nose!” faces are all the same she might as well be saying “Oh, I’m Nicole Kidman and you have to give me a shit load of cash so that I can look like this!” because there’s nothing there. She is a Stepford Wife. Daniel Craig! What is he doing in this movie? He was fucking brilliant in Layer Cake, but here it almost as if he says “you know what I’m Bond and I don’t have to bring anything to this movie any more!” (Because he did in fact get the Bond Gig during the shooting of this flick) Jeffrey Wright, that guy owned me since bringing Jean Michel Basquiat to life in Julian Schnabel’s amazing Basquiat biopic, and I just love him to death in Jarmush’s Broken Flowers, but here… A scientist who sneers, doesn’t believe in what he’s saying and might as well just be reading lines right out of a paper (which he in a way is doing), and not to mention Jeremy Northam, who other wise is amazing in authority figure roles. They just come off as completely uninterested in the story, which clashes hard with the behind the scenes footage where they all praise the plot and story… Strange stuff indeed. Perhaps they where exchanged for pod people?

Could it be that the director out of his league? It certainly feels like it, but at the same time you have to remember that Hirshbeigel directed the magnificent Bruno Ganz in the fantastic Der Untergang [The Downfall: Hitler and the End of the Third Reich], Ganz one of the biggest stars in Germany and that movie all takes place in a bunker, but still has you wanting more after the three hour extended cut is over. And not to forget that really interesting Das Experiment that all takes place inside a temporary prison where the experiment explores how far people will go in the roles of Jailer and inmate. Really impressive stuff, but Invasion… It never really reclaims the posture that it tries so desperately too build in the setting up of characters and plot, it just falls flat like a pancake from the sky. A movie plays along the line of “don’t fall asleep, or they will get you!” is just ironic, because this movie really puts the audience to sleep!

Finally the positive things about this stinker, and once again I have to go back to that script by Kajaganich. Using the pharmaceutical metaphors where we load our selves up on so much shit that even the “aliens” can’t see who’s who is brilliant and makes for good commentary on the quick fixes that mankind take today. Also the political statement that we wouldn’t let world peace happen is also very well scripted. Director Oliver Hirshbiegel needs a pat on the back because the camera work is what makes this film watch able, along side that original idea. Suggestions to DVD companies, if you ever re-release this turkey, make sure that there’s a Score only audio option. Those suggestive angles and rapid edits of Hirshbiegel’s together with John Ottman’s post-modern other world score are all you need to make this thing fly. Or even better put the director and screenwriter’s vision back together and let the audience decide.

Image:
1.78:1 [16:9 anamorphic widescreen]

Audio:
English Language, Dolby Digital 5.1 with Optional English, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese subtitles.

Extras:
We’ve Been Snatched Before: Invasion In media History Documentary, 3 Featurettes; The Invasion: A New Story, The Invasion: On The Set and The Invasion: Snatched, Trailers for other Warner titles


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Puzzle


Puzzle
Original Title: L’uomo Senza Memoria
Directed by: Duccio Tessari
Italy, 1974
Giallo, 92 min.
Distributed by NjutaFilms.

Story:
In London a tricky problem is presented to Edward [Luc Merenda], who has just recovered from a serious car accident. He can’t remember who he is. This is especially troublesome for him as people from his past start turning up and demanding that he “gives back the money” he owes them. He learns that his passport claiming he is Peter Smith is a fake and his real name is in fact Edward. The trail leads him to Italy where his wife Sara [Senta Berger] still unaware that he’s still alive has started putting together the shatters of her life since he went missing in London some years ago. After an awkward reuniting Sara decides to give the “dirty rotten bastard” a second chance. Edward is remorseful to learn that he was a “dirty rotten bastard”, but he has really lost his memory and needs her to give him a chance so that he can get back on track. Then George [Bruno Corazzari] shows up outside their door. George claims to be a mate of Edwards, and if Edward doesn’t return the drugs and money he was holding onto when he went missing George will kill him and then their common boss will kill George. Edward has to start putting together the pieces of his puzzle in rapid progression now, because there are lives at stake.


Me:
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it until time stands still, there’s nothing as entertaining as a good Old Italian Giallo. I’ll fight to the death to declare that there are NO bad Gialli, the scale goes from great ones and lesser good ones, bad is not part of the genre. Duccio Tessari’s L’uomo senza memoria is one of those Giallo that could have been so much more, but if you can stay with it through out the fist half the second half really takes off and it manages to redeem any tediousness that it may have caused in the set up. Luc Merenda walks around in confusion, always the hard ass, dishing out sarcastic comments and uses his fists over his mind as he tries to puzzle his life back together. But unfortunately he never quite manages to persuade me that he’s really confused, more just his regular old Detective mimicry as he tries to figure stuff out. Austrian Import Senta Berger pulls this off like a charm. She fits the midlife wife who is desperately trying to put her life together again with the help of neighbour kid Luca [Duilio Cruciani] and Doctor Reinhardt [Umberto Orsini] as she flirts her way through her crisis. The dramatic tightening of the noose half way through as the pieces start to fall together and the original plan to smuggle drugs out of Italy is exposed really good and presents a great example of Giallo at it’s better state. It’s also a tightly woven movie as all the plot plants get paid off towards the conclusion, Little Luca’s constant photographing of Sara, the chainsaw the gardener keeps forgetting to put away, that disgusting little dog, all subtly planted just to comeback and deliver new pieces of information, who the mysterious woman is, where the drugs are etc., as the movie moves towards a truly grizzly climax.


Duccio, with several successful Peplum & Spaghetti Westerns to his credit only ventured into Giallo territory a few rare times, Puzzle being one of them. Not quite as known as his previous attempt The Bloodstained Butterfly, but on the other hand the story here has been scripted by Giallo Script Maestro Ernesto Gastaldi which almost always guarantees placing the movie in the upper half of that above mentioned scale. Staying true to most Gialli, the who dunnit toying with the audience is there, but also by stepping away from the common Gialli traits of sex, murder and assassins in black gloves Gastaldi and Tessari flip this one over and instead focus on the characters, the amnesia and the actual mystery of what goes where, who know what and who is who. As mentioned previously if you just stay put during those first forty minutes the second half is a great piece of Giallo frenzy with double crossing mates, backstabbing foes, and also when the gorgeous Swede Anita Strindberg makes her entrance into the film, although she’s definitely underused this time around. Its brilliant how they really use the amnesia to create empathy for Edward, and also how as his vicious background as a henchman comes crawling back to him in flashes every time there is a violent encounter. And once again the genre proves that you can’t trust anyone in a Giallo, because when you least expect it the tables can and will be turned and friends prove to be foes. Is George going to stick up for his old mate and turn sides, is Sara’s best friend and suitor Reinhardt going to turn against her, is Sara even who she says she is, how much does Edward really remember or will it even be the little Luca who is going to be the mastermind behind the fiendish dope plan? Those are the questions that you face when watching this excellent movie.

Image:
Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1

Audio:
Italian or English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0, Optional Swedish, Danish, Finnish and Norwegian Subtitles

Extras:
Original Trailer for Puzzle, Trailers for other NjutaFilms/AWE titles [Cannibal Ferox, Mountain of the Cannibal God, Cannibal Holocaust, Eaten Alive, City of the Living Dead and Beyond] Slideshow, Duccio Tessari filmography.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Capital dos Mortos



A Capital dos Mortos
Directed by: Tiago Belotti,
Brazil, 2008

Horror / Zombies, 87min
Distruibuted by Vortex Films


Story:
After a quick set up that takes place in 1883, a Turin priest explains the rules of the zombie pestilence to haunt the world in the coming centuries we cut to modern day Brazil. Two chicks check out the sights, get snoggy and suck some face, just in time for the first zombie attack washes over them. From here the story follows four friends Lucas, André, Pamela, and Christopher as they try their damnedest to stay ahead of the zombies eating their way through the country.



Me:
I probably wouldn't have ever heard about this flick if it wasn't for a mate at work who asked "Have you seen that Brazillian Zombie movie yet?" A few days later he'd gotten the disc himself and told me to check it out. It's a rather decent home made zombie flick from Brazil that could easily loose a few sequences to keep the pace and coherence more at bay. The movie has some problems when it comes to which foot it wants to stand on Shaun of the Dead funny or Dawn of the Dead nihilism. So the movie mixes and blends genre traits with in jokes, references and homage’s to loads of other zombie movies, and at one point there's even a great cameo by the legendary Coffin Joe [José Mojicas Marins] The effects are of varied quality, some zombies just look plain stupid but some actually work, the gore part is also Ok, but suffers from what director Belitto has seen previously instead of creating something new. But the CG gunshot to head FX and the shaky DV camera work great for the movie really creating that “fake documentary” atmosphere to the film. The acting isn’t the best, but the Lucas [Gustavo Serrante] and Christoper [Yan klier] characters are decent enough and work in such an entertaining way that you want to know how the shit is going to hit the fan. Several other characters are also highlighted and introduced only to be discarded a few minutes later, which is a shame because they only damage the film by making it fragmented and tedious. I’m sure that the entire brief Tatiana line is only there because she was the only one who agreed to get her kit off for the cameras. The Jôsefer character who first murders his mother and then when he first escapes the zombies, damages his leg, so with his bloodied body and limp the zombies believe that he’s one of them. It is an amusing little line, especially as his line ends abruptly in humorous encounter with a very dark twist.

Once again it’s fun to watch an apocalyptic vision of zombie infested hell, and this one even shuts the book leaving no questions at the end, even though that answer is a dark and fatal one, it’s served up with one last punch line.

In the whole A Capital dos Mortos is an inspiring and impressive piece of independent filmmaking, and even though Belotti fails somewhat in certain areas there are enough impressive parts to make the a cineaste curious to what he’ll get up to next. At least he made in imprint with this debut feature.


Image:
Shot on DV framed as 16X9 Widescreen

Audio:
2.0 Stereo (RCA Sound System), Portuguese language with optional Spanish, Portuguese and English.

Extras:
The movie comes packed in a two disc edition where the second disc is packed with extras:
Interviews with cast and crew, a ton of shorts on Effect special, Making of and Written errors. Deleted Scenes, Alternative Cast, a short on the Music - Boys and Girls of the Rock and Roll



The DVD can be obtained for next to nothing from the official site http://www.acapitaldosmortos.com.br/index.php

Lips of Blood


Lips of Blood
Original Title: Lèvres de sang
Directed by: Jean Rollin, France, 1975
Horror / EuroGoth / Eroticism, 71min.
Distributed by: NjutaFilms
[Redemption / Another World Entertainment]

Story:
Suave upper-class mover Frédéric [Jean-Loup Phillipe] sees a poster on the wall at a party and finds himself remembering one special night from his childhood when he spent a night in the ruins of an abandoned castle with a strange girl [Annie Briand]. Suddenly he realizes that she’s the only women he has ever loved and sets about tracking down the castle ruins so that he might be reunited with this long lost love…


Me:
What first promises to be just another movie in the vain that I remember Rollin’s movies to be; slow-paced crap acting with a few French chicks running around wearing nothing but see through curtains (cause that’s what their ever so see-through dresses look like, the curtains at my summer house) strange weird imagery and a equally surreal soundtrack to accompany the far fetched plot actually gets under my skin and proves to be something of a quite tender love story… …if you want to twist it that far. And I do, I do want to enjoy this movie and I do want to go away from it saying that there’s more to it than meets the eye. The love story is the one that I chose to take with me after the end credits finish rolling. Because it's that love story that pushes Frédéric on, his modus operandi, to find that girl he fell in love with all those years ago. And it's also within that theme that some of the most beautiful imagery of the film is found. So setting the movie up with all the trademarks, a quick vampire burial, or more hiding the coffins away and strategically placing crucifixes to keep them there than a burial, the camera focuses on Frédéric who obviously is still pampered by his mom [Nathalie Perrey] because he still lives as home we will eventually learn and he acts as her little errand boy during the party. That’s the same party where he starts his investigation into that strange castle ruin that haunts his childhood memories.

He tracks down the photographer who shot the photo, but she wont’ tell him anything about it as “someone” has paid her good money to keep it a secret. Anyhow she falls for his boyish charm and promises to let him know if he meets her at the aquarium at midnight. On his way to the rendezvous, he goes to see a movie, Rollin's 1970 La Vampire Nue, only to be distracted by the spirit of the girl he longs for. He sets after her and soon finds himself in a strange cemetery where he inside a tomb finds a secret passage leading down to the crypt we saw at the beginning of the movie. Due to his innocent curiosity he obviously opens one of the caskets releasing the vampires upon the world. (Again Rollin uses his stock actors, Phillipe, Perrey, the two twins Catherine and Marie-Pierre Castel among others). In a panic he flees only to bump into a woman on a bridge who claims to be the girl he's looking for... and even though he doesn't believe her, he follows her back to her flat. After confronting her with the fact that he understands that she's not the girl he's looking for and that someone obviously has paid her to claim she is, the woman runs out into the dark night... Only to be cornered by the vampires.


Frédéric continues his search and heads off to the aquarium, but as he enters, a strange dude leaves… at midnight… so it comes as no shock when Frederic finds the photographer killed does it? He races after the bloke and there's a wonderful chase in the Parisian Metro before he starts seeing visions of the girl again, who mouths the words Je’ taime, which only furthers his drive. It’s at this point that he figures out that his mother isn’t telling him everything because he doesn’t recall the great childhood memories she always told him about. Neither does he believe her when she claims that he never went missing. Enraged with his mother he storms out of their house only to be restrained by guards outside who take him to the Parisian looney bin. But fret not, because pretty soon the twin vampires are there and disguised as nurses they free him and chomp down on the psychiatric wanting to “cure” Frédéric. He continues his quest while at the same time the female vampires bite their way through his antagonists, and every now and then he sees the girl of his dreams lead him on. Eventually he finds the location of the castle and returns there, only to learn that the girl in fact was/is Jennifer, a vampire that stalked the area setting forth an army of terrifying she-bats that terrorized the small rural town. His mother was part of the posse that finally put an end to the rein of terror and now demands that Frédéric does what is right and end the vampire once again while the villagers, or at least that’s how I interpreted the three blokes driving stakes though the bare chests of the other four fanged chicks in curtains, killed off the others. Obviously he doesn’t and fools them all by tossing the decapitated head of a religious statue that watches over Jennifer’s coffin into the big fiery bonfire in the castle courtyard. Satisfied with the results the vampire killers and Frédéric’s mom all leave, as Frédéric takes one last walk around the ruins… …only to meet up with the still very alive Jennifer. They spend a few days together while they celebrate their love and finally he gives her the greatest gift of all as he lets her set her fangs in his neck. Together they step into her casket and sail away from the beach to start a new life of their own together for all eternity. Great climax indeed, and at times the movie almost plays like a Giallo with sexy vampires thrown in for good measure.


Jean-Loup Phillipe who holds the lead in the film also wrote the screenplay together with Rollin, and that’s possibly why his character is so likable. If you’re going to play him you might as well make him likable. And he is likable, probably because the quest for love is one of the noblest quests you can set out on, and everybody wants our heroic underdog to find his love or at least set the record right while trying.

It’s been years since I actually sat through a Rollin movie, not to many of them have made an eternal impression apart from a few, so finally picking up some of his films on DVD and revisiting them is possibly going to turn out to be a pleasant re-acquaintance with the good old Jean Rollin, because Lips of Blood impressed me in many more ways than it might have all those years ago when I started exploring the exploitation genres. Great stuff from a great golden age of European genre cinema.

Image:
Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1

Audio:
French Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0, Optional Swedish, Danish, Finnish and Norwegian Subtitles

Extras:
Trailers for Requiem for a Vampire, Shiver of the Vampires, The Living Dead Girl, Night of the Hunted, Demoniacs and a decent three minute slide show of images from the film.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

recap...

Oh bloody hell... Has it been THAT long since I wrote an entry?

I've been working like a mad doctor to animate the CONSTRUCTING HORROR site, and we have finally after two years of crypt raiding, limb stitching, and thunder striking brought that amazing project into the world.

"IT'S ALIVE!"

It's now filled with interviews, articles and in depth reviews of loads of movies. So check it out if you want to get your creative juices flowing. But don't worry, this site will still be dedicated to the trashier, sleazier, mindless violence, sex and gore movies that won't be figuring on the Constructor site.

While that other project has really taken a load of my time, and this poor old blog has fallen into some kind of slow death...

...but the best thing with the dead is that they sometimes come back!

Just like this blog.