July 26, 2010

A Very Harried Sequel

 Cast photo from "A Very Potter Sequel"

I admire these guys a lot. After putting together a brilliantly crafted musical based on the Harry Potter novels in 2009, there was nothing left for a sequel, or so it seemed -- a fact playfully pointed out by Lucius Malfoy during the opening number of said sequel.

Although this second go-around is far too talky and there's a lot of unnecessary reliance on potty humor -- literally -- there's a lot to like here. The cast's vocals, when the songs finally arrive, are superior to the originals, specifically, the duet between Sirius Black and Harry Potter in front of the Mirror of Erised. Plus, the choreographed Quidditch match is a real hoot.

It's not ready for Broadway, by any means, but certainly well worth the watch and considering how quickly it all came together... full OWLs to Darren Criss and company.

July 21, 2010

Inception Introspection Sans Spoilers

I was among the many millions of people who ventured out the local multiplex this past weekend to take in Christopher Nolan's latest film, and I was not in the least bit disappointed. 

The acting is top-notch -- not a single weak link in the entire cast -- and the story has as many layers to peel back as the dream state that it uses as its playground.  It does get a little tedious during the  Bond-esque tundra battle, especially since it's nigh on impossible to keep track of which character is which when they're all dressed up like eskimos... but you know a movie has worked when the final scene elicits an audible reaction from the theater. 

The big "unanswered questions" of the film pertain to whether or not the whole story is or is not a dream, if so, who is actually doing the dreaming, and how can any of us tell the difference between what we believe to be reality and something that simply isn't. The fact that watercooler debate and  message boards are still running rampant with "I'm right... No, I'm right" discussion simply proves one thing... Christopher Nolan pulled off his own inception.

He's planted the idea that you could possibly figure out a "correct" interpretation of the film, and doggone if some people aren't going to see the movie over and over and obsess over every little detail until they are sure they have it all figured out. Then they're going to try and convince all of those who simply don't see it that way to see it that way, and will hear no other argument to sway them from their own point of view.

If that doesn't sound like a planted idea growing into a virus, then I don't know what does. Well played, Nolan. You've spun your top well.

July 15, 2010

Remake a Rec

I recently saw the Spanish horror film [REC] directed by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza. It's a movie that follows in the footsteps of Blair Witch and Cloverfield, that of the "found footage" genre where the audience's point of view is that of a video camera.

I must admit I was not expecting much, but it turned out to be an amazing film. The fact it was not in English - though subtitled, I do not habla - added to the aura of confusion for me. The characters, though mostly there to be "monster fodder" each had personalities without feeling like stereotypes. The guy I called "Senor Furley" was a particularly entertaining performance to watch.

Beyond that, the film had an artistic flair to it, and there's one particular shot down a spiral staircase that is both horrifying and at the same time, dare I say, beautiful. It was unlike any horror film I have ever seen, even though the story and plot were nothing too far removed from your standard zombie film.

Of course, Hollywood can't leave a good thing alone and decided to make it's own version of the same exact film. Not exactly shot-for-shot, but certainly beat-for-beat.

Unfortunately, it simply doesn't work. The production value is too slick, removing any of the "realistic feel" of the movie. Not only that, but whereas you're rooting for the young reporter in [REC], in Quarantine, you end up identifying only with the cameraman, played by Steve Harris from The Practice.

That's a testament to his acting ability, as he spends most of the film off-screen, behind the camera. However, it also speaks to a complete misfire on the part of the creative team that simply didn't get it and made a film about a raging contagion far too sterile to be interesting. 

Especially comical to me was near the end of Quarantine, where, as in [REC],  the  remaining survivors discover a tape recorder. In [REC], that allows new information to be imparted that provides context for what we've seen so far in the film. In Quarantine, it doesn't work. Literally. The tape recorder doesn't work, making it's discovery completely pointless, and only there because it existed in the original.

Do yourself a favor, seek out [REC] as well as its innovative sequel and leave the American version where it belongs - isolated from the rest of the world and kept under wraps.

July 7, 2010

Dial 9 For Murder

Won't get fooled again?

Session 9 is actually a pretty decent psychological thriller which may or may not have supernatural overtones - that's a debate you'll be sure to have once the film reaches its conclusion. 

I have to admit, I was not expecting much, especially given the inclusion of the one and only David Caruso in the cast, but he was surprisingly effective in the role of the second-in-command of an asbestos clean-up crew who get more than they bargained for in a job needed to be finished in a hurry at an abandoned mental institution.

Unfair as it may be, though, there is one scene in particular involving Caruso and a pair of sunglasses that took me right out of the movie, waiting for The Who to kick in. Not exactly the feeling of dread the director likely had in mind at that crucial moment in the film, I'm sure...

July 2, 2010

Something Spooky This Way Comes

 Anybody seen the powder?

I love horror movies, and I'm finally getting a chance to catch up on a huge -- read, nearly a decade -- backlog of titles. Thanks to the internet, I was able to check in this week with the low budget hit, "Paranormal Activity" and here's what I think...

Love the conceit of the super-fast time code to speed along the night to the "good parts" and absolutely commend the film-makers on the framing of the bedroom door and hallway, which simply begs the observer to create context out of the shadows.

Totally bought the acting -- it's harder to make "fake" casual dialogue seem real than you think, and the haunted couple totally pulled it off. 

What I hated? The boyfriend was so unlikable that I would sooner believe in demons living in the attic than I would the fact that she stayed with him throughout the entire movie. And, without spoiling the finale, let's just say that not a single one of the three endings that you might have witnessed, depending on the version you watched is really any good.

Still, given the budget and the self-promotion that it took to make this indie effort a hit complete with it's own sequel (trailer below), I have to applaud the effort... if not the entire package.