Friday, September 19, 2014

Pictures from the Terry Gilliam/Lucas Hedges press conference for Zero Theorem September 18

Director Terry Gilliam and actor Lucas Hedges sat down with 11 members of the press to talk about Zero Theorem, life and film making yesterday afternoon.
The whole thing ran about 35 minutes and was one of the best press conferences I've attended. I have to applaud the people who put it together since they got the right people in the room to ask the right questions.There was no ass kissing just great questions and answers.
The topics included not only the film but filmmaking, Don Quixote (which he said is "fluid" again after an email two days ago), the world, dinner with Chistoph Waltz, Romanian moonshine and some other things I can't remember.(I'm putting this post together late at night and I'm beat). Actually the really cool thing is that Lucas Hedges is quite the raconteur himself and has a great simpatico with Gilliam to the point I would love to see Hedges interview Gilliam.

I know I should give you more details, and I will, just as soon as I decide whether or not to transcribe the conference or whether to just post the audio since the sound quality isn't bad. Until then I wanted to post some pictures to prove that Gilliam really does exist.

Lastly I want to say that despite prepping for an interview for the two months since I saw Zero Theorem I didn't ask any questions. Not because I didn't have them, rather I had prepped hoping for a long conversation with Gilliam about the philosophy of the film and himself and I would have needed time to have a discussion not ask a question or two. (Mr Gillam, if you see this and want to do an interview like that please feel free to contact me,)

And with that I leave you until I can find sometime to sort out the audio, which, as I said is really good.

Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts (2011)

From Patrick Meaney the director of Grant Morrison Talking With Gods comes Warren Ellis Captured Ghosts a look at the comic legend (and not the Australian musician).

Several interviews with the chain smoking Ellis are intercut with interviews with friends, fans and colleagues as he talks about his life, career and fascination with the future. It’s a film that’s a celebration of the man and his work for fans and perhaps, possibly maybe a way to pique the interest in non-fans.

Several degrees better than the Morrison film which was too scattershot to add up to much, Captured Ghosts is a wonderful 80 minutes with a curmudgeon who seems to know more than we do and who has a wonderful ability to fold phrases for maximum effect. One of the joys of the film, aside to simply listening to Ellis talk is watching his reaction to what the other talking heads say about him. The sequence where he’s called a teddy bear had me roaring with laughter

A film more for fans than the casual viewer Captured Ghosts assumes that you know the work of Ellis to some degree. While this allows for talk to happen relatively free explanation, it also will leave many people scratching their heads. Yes I know Transmetropolian but if I didn’t know it I wouldn’t have any idea what everyone was walking about; likewise Authority, Planetary or some of his more recent work. We get a sentence or two of explanation, maybe, before we get a detailed discussion of things that don’t fully make sense if we haven’t read the work. Its not fatal, but it makes what should have been one of the best films on comics and their creator and makes it only good.

I suspect the problem is with director Meaney who now has mangled portraits of two of comics greatest writers (Morrison and Ellis) by being too close and too in love with his subjects with the result that he made a film for a select few and not for everyone. Documentaries such as this should work for everyone not just the fan, one need only see recent films such as the ones on Jeffrey Catherine Jones or Steve Rude to see what great comics docs can and should be.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the film, hell I could listen to Elllis talk all night, but at the same time this isn’t a film I could show my non-comic fan friends and have them understand why Ellis matters. Yea it might make the curious but it won’t be like other better films where they went out and bought books by the subjects of the films.

A must see for fans, all others need not apply

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Fantastic Fest 2014 Primer

Fantastic Fest starts today and runs for the next week.  I've been told its a great festival and I've considered going but it always conflicts with the New York Film Festival and that's home to me.

Looking over the list of films at Fantastic Fest I realized that we've seen a good number of films. In the hope that we can direct you to some good stuff I've put together a primer of the stuff we've seen. I've linked to anything we've reviewed already and I've given a quick comment for those that the reviews are waiting to post.

Town Called Panic The Christmas Log
Automata- excellent science fiction film about a future where mankind is dying and robots are rising. Its way better than you might think (A review is coming October 6)
Bugsy Malone- classic Alan Parker music with an infectious score from Paul Williams. I can't say enough good about.
Death Wish 3- Charles Bronson kicks ass. What more do you need to know?
Force Majeure - What happens in a family in the aftermath of an avalanche. A great family drama (A review is coming right before it's theatrical release)
Horns- Daniel Radcliffe is a man accused of murder who grows horns. A great adult fable/thriller (A review will appear before it's Halloween release)
In Order of Disappearance
KungFu Elliot
Man from Reno
Man in the Orange Jacket
Ninja 3: The Domination- crazy horror martial arts mix as a young woman is possessed by a dead ninja. Get popcorn
No Man's Land
Unicorn Blood
Voice Thief
Whispers Behind the Walls

Go see something

For details and tickets go here.

Art and Craft opens tomorrow

Art and Craft a great documentary we saw at Tribeca opens tomorrow in theaters.

Here's what I had to say back at Tribeca

Portrait of artist and art forger Mark Landis who has been gifting museums and institutions around the country with works of art from the great masters- all recreated by himself. He doesn't tell them they are fakes, he just tells them they have been gifted with a great treasure. The fact that no money has changed hands has kept him out of jail, however it has pissed off museum curators everywhere. It's a fact that has become an obsession with Matthew Leininger an ex-museum employee who wants to make sure that Landis doesn't manage to pass on any more of his fakes

Amusing portrait of an artistic scoundrel is a scary wake-up call for art museums everywhere. I've heard all sorts of stories about the amount of forged paintings in museums. I know its something no one wants to talk about on the record, but a film like Arts and Crafts may force the matter out into the open. I mean if all it takes is a copier, some paint and some coffee there maybe way more fakes out there than we can ever possibly conceive.

I like this movie a lot. Its an amazing and amusing tale that I kind of sort of had heard of before seeing the film (Landis's name was familiar) but I didn't really know. Its a story that had me smiling from ear to ear even as it had me wondering about the art world. As Landis repeatedly says you have to do your due diligence which apparently very few people actually do. Perhaps now they will.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Vyer Films is releasing films worth your time

Before the New York Film festival over whelms Unseen Films I need to take time out and put something on your radar. We’ll be doing a longer piece once NYFF ends but this is too good a thing that it really can’t wait.

A few weeks back we at Unseen were made aware of Vyer Films, a subscription service that presents some of the best films from around the world for one low price. To be honest when I got the email about Vyer I was unsure if we really needed another film distribution service, but I followed the link and I went to Vyer’s site and I noodled around and came back impressed. This really is a great service for anyone looking for good films from around the world.

The secret to Vyer’s success is the service is curated. They pick and choose the films that they want to share. You don’t have a company that is picking up a whole slate of films, regardless of quality and dumping them all on an unsuspecting public. Instead the programmers at Vyer pick and choose what they think are the best films and put it out there for you to see. This may not result in as a vast a selection as you might find at say Netflix or Amazon, but it assures you that you’re not going to get a bad film, or one that leaves you scratching your head wondering why they chose to release it.

There’s more to say, and more to tell you and once the New York Film Festival is done we’ll be running a longer piece on Vyer. For now put Vyer on your radar, vist their site and look around. Better yet why not take the time and watch a couple of movies since they have a two week free offer.

More details and the list of films can be found at the Vyer Films site which can be found here.

And check back in a couple of weeks for more on Vyer Films.

And remember two weeks free....

A few words on Swim Little Fish Swim (2013) a film you don't want to let get away

Lilias, the daughter of a well to do French painter runs out on her boyfriend and crashes in the home of a couple, Mary and Leeward, and their young daughter, Rainbow. Leeward fancies himself a musical artist but his wife, a nurse has other ideas. Things begin to crack thanks to intrusion of Lilias forcing everyone to look at the balance between reality and their dreams.

Rock solid, if a tad quirky look at the tightrope walked by free spirits and artists in the world. The film examines the perilous path that those who create and are driven by their passions walk and the difficulty faced by those who not only love them but also wish they would get a grip on reality. Its a struggle I wrestled with for years, that family members I know are still struggling with as are many friends. At what point do we continue to chase and at what point do we chuck it all?

I don't have an answer.

A good film with some good performances, some nice songs and a real sense of the struggle Swim Little Fish Swim is one of those small scale gems that Unseen was set up to highlight. Its a small film, that despite several appearances at festivals and in theaters around the world is very much in the danger of not finding it's audience. I say this because I mentioned to several people I saw this and they seemed to think it was going to be a quirky inde comedy. It's not, its something deeper, richer and daring enough to end it in such away that you'll be talking about it over drinks afterward.

Seriously this is one to track down, especially if you're sick to death of big budgeted Hollywood crap.

The film opens Friday, September 19 in New York City (Cinema Village) and on VOD (iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Instant Video & VUDU). The film will then roll out in several cities in the weeks that follow.

Do yourself a favor and mark it on you calendars or must see lists.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Nick Cave in 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH starts tomorrow at the Film Forum in NYC

Opening tomorrow is 20,000 Days on Earth a melding of fiction, documentary and concert film focusing on singer Nick Cave. The film is being released in connection with a tour by Cave which will have Cave appearing at screenings and performing. This Saturday there will be a special screening at New York’s Town Hall which will conclude with a Q&A following the film. The Q&A is going to be streamed around the world. (Details can be found here)

When the film played at this year’s New Directors New Films Hubert, Unseen’s resident Cave expert took a look.

I may be one of the few Nick Cave fans who doesn't particularly enjoy 20,000 Days on Earth. On its surface, I should enjoy this film by directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard since it's beautifully lensed and combines a number of elements I like: it's about music, it's about myth-making, it's about creative impulses, it's about its own construction, it's about the persona/person split, it's about songwriting and prose writing, it's about Nick Cave. And yet watching it, I felt alternating moments of hot and cold, getting hooked by some scenes while feeling distanced by others; in other words, I don't like the album 20,000 Days on Earth, but boy does it have some great tracks on it.

The film blends fiction and reality as it chronicles the 20,000th day in the life of Nick Cave, the legendary frontman of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and the earlier spastic post-punk outfit The Birthday Party. (It's multiple days on earth, not just in-real-life given the time required for production, but even in the-reality-of-the-film since Forsyth and Pollard use concert footage, studio footage, and rehearsal footage as flashbacks.) Nick Cave is both character and caricature; this is a profile about Nick Cave and the idea of Nick Cave. As David Foster Wallace wrote about John McCain in the piece “Up, Simba” (aka the book McCain's Promise), “profile” is a pretty good word for this: “one side, exterior, split and diffracted by so many lenses there's way more than one man to see.” There's the idea of the rock star life and also the guy in the studio who has to record the music, there's the serious writer at his typewriter and the pizza-lovin' family man with his pizza-lovin' kids, there's the thoughtful artist engaged in essential solitude and the demigod who pulls all attention to his being on the stage; and there's the interior life of Nick Cave (both person and persona) expressed in voiceover, covering his thoughts on the writing process, counterpoints in songcraft and lyrics, and the creation of fictional worlds and fictional people to populate them. The second shot in the entire film seems to encapsulate this notion of the multi-faceted individual: it's a recreation of a shot from The Man Who Fell to Earth in which David Bowie (on the note of the person/persona split) looks at himself in various bathroom mirrors.

When a song hits you, it hits you in ways that sometimes go beyond language, which is what happened at times with 20,000 Days on Earth. Seeing Nick Cave on stage commanding a crowd is great, with his little pomp and little strut, the badass persona in full effect. The same goes for a performance of “Higgs Boson Blues” with the rest of the Bad Seeds, in which something that feels organic and intuitive unfolds on screen as Cave prompts sudden surges in volume and intensity from his fellow musicians. Even chunks of Cave's narration early on when he's talking about his creative process hold an intriguing power to them, like when he's punching away at his typewriter and describing his method of storytelling, which serves as a kind of meta-commentary on the way the film presents its material.

The coldest parts of 20,000 Days on Earth are the ones that feel the most calculated. On his 20,000th day, Nick Cave drives to his therapist, who's actually a music journalist rather than a therapist. What Cave talks about is fascinating (an enduring early sexual memory, his dad), yet the presentation is less like therapy and more like an interview. Add to that the adoring smile on therapist's face, as if he's less a helper and more of a fan or hanger-on, and that whole section of the film feels like unintentional hagiography. The same goes for a trip to the fictional Nick Cave Archive, which is like a library special collection for the oddments of his career. It's a funny idea for a bit, but then it becomes hagiographic in a way I found grating, self-satisfied, and even self-absorbed (i.e., the Malkovich-in-his-own-head moment from Being John Malkovich). I'm pretty sure it was meant to be more amusing and playful. And then Nick Cave's voiceover becomes overbearing, stating the obvious or pretentious or overwrought rather than the profound; worse, it often states too much when the film says far more and says it much better without the text. This is particularly true of a sequence that closes the film. The experience of the music and the imagery is far more meaningful than the closing words (or any closing words).

I think my aversion to part of the film has a lot to do with what feels intuitive vs. what feels calculated. In her review of Carlos Saura's The Garden of Delights, Pauline Kael noted a distinction between “instinctive Surrealists” and “academic Surrealists.” Instinctive Surrealists present images from “the hidden and unadmitted” whereas academic Surrealists present images that are “impeccably planned to be 'surreal.'” Kael adds: “When [Saura] brings a pig into a house, it's not something dirty being released from the unconscious, it's an emblem and an homage. We are not shocked by Saura's academic surrealism, we 'appreciate' it.” In 20,000 Days on Earth, there seems to be an intuitive hybridity and an academic hybridity. I'm on fire for the intuitive hybridity (i.e., the scenes that are artificial but feel real) and icy about the academic hybridity (i.e., the scenes that are calculated and feel calculated through and through).

There are two sequences that exemplify this intuitive/academic split, and they're both about the same topic: Nina Simone's stage persona/stage presence. On the academic side, Nick Cave tells his fawning therapist about Nina Simone on stage. What he says is interesting, but how it's presented made me less intrigued. On the intuitive side, Nick Cave is having lunch with bandmate Warren Ellis, and Ellis describes exactly what Cave talked about. This scene with Ellis comes after the scene with the therapist, but even knowing the story, it feels more alive here, more organic, more like an intuitive bit of hybridity that reveals some essential and as-yet unseen facet of Nick Cave via Warren Ellis via a story about Nina Simone. Ellis then goes on to talk about Jerry Lee Lewis taking the stage, and the enthusiasm by both Ellis and Cave are barely contained. We watch them not like a studio audience, not like obvious cinematic voyeurs, but like flies on the wall or people who happened to pass by the kitchen and hung around the doorway because what we heard was fascinating. This is all such a jarring counterpoint to the staid and prim nature of the therapy scene.

I can appreciate what was attempted in those scenes of carefully planned artifice, and yet appreciation is not necessarily the same as enjoyment. It's me comprehending the thought process behind a conscious decision. But in lots of art, especially music and writing and film, it's the intuitive, spontaneous moments that grab me most--and which 20,000 Days on Earth does have--because they exist outside of being merely comprehended.

The Zero Theorem (2013)

The latest film from Terry Gilliam is a mess. Its a film with a fair start, a great middle and a WTF "you didn't know how to end this ending".

The film is the story of  Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) a computer programmer working for Mancorp a huge corporation that is into everything. Leth is a weird collection of ticks and thought patterns who hates to be out among people. He wants desperately to work from home since he is expecting a call that will tell him the meaning of his life. Eventually his wish is granted when he is assigned to come up with the Zero Theorem which will prove that life has no meaning...

I love roughly 90% of this film. I could argue that in many ways it's Terry Gilliam's best film. the trouble is the beginning and the ending.

The problem with the film is that it plays like Gilliam trying to ape a Gilliam movie. Its weird and strange and completely out there. Watching the early part of the film I stopped watching the film and just listened to the dialog. What can I say it's a brilliant script and had Gilliam not amped everything up to silliness the film would without a doubt played even better.

Additionally certain touches, say some of the nonsense at the party with the tablets and pretend smoking are going to date the film almost instantly. Once you get away from that, the cyberpunk or steam punk-esqueness of the designs makes it timeless.

The other problem with the film is the end, where did it come from? No really where did it come from? From the point of the illness onward the film feels less organic and more controlled as if on some level they knew where they wanted to go but didn't know how to get there. Actually what it feels like is they are thrashing about unsure of how to end it. In the process the film throws away the allegory which had been working nicely, creates a confrontation that to my mind makes no sense and ends with a replay of bits of Brazil. It doesn't work at all, if for no other reason than it throws away the previous 100 minutes of the film.

Thankfully the film has those 100 minutes during which the film is wonderfully alive with characters and ideas. I loved the long middle section to death and I was frequently moved to laugh, smile and cry by a script that makes you really ponder life and it's meaning.

I wanted to grab Gilliam and shake him when the film and ask him why he didn't end it in the way that seemed to make the most sense (which I can't tell you). Actually what I want to know is why he went for the largely down beat ending when the previous sections of the film alluded to something more up.  Actually its not why the down beat ending- but why the down beat ending that way?

As the credits rolled I just shook my head and thought of a paraphrase of a line from Casablanca "At least we'll always have the stuff before it went off the rails". To me that's enough.

Despite the flaws I think this is a must see. There is an Oscar worthy performance from Waltz and more ideas then ten major American films this year.

(Look for a report on a press conference with Terry Gilliam some time after Thursday)

ARCHAEOLOGY OF A WOMAN Digs Fertile But Uneven Ground

ARCHAEOLOGY OF A WOMAN, from director Sharon Greytak concerns an elderly woman named Margaret (Sally Kirkland) whose mind is set upon by severe dementia. Normally this would be a harrowing enough premise. However, Margaret also has a past marked by unclear but ominous undertakings. Our introduction to Margaret shows her hobbling restlessly about a supermarket parking lot. She beseeches a police officer for help finding her car with seeming sincerity, yet her interaction with him feels offputtingly like an attempt at seduction.  After a fruitless search for her vehicle, she is driven to her home where her automobile awaits. Margaret’s reaction is inscrutable. Is she legitimately confused or was this some kind of carefully constructed ploy? And if so, to what end did it serve?

Perhaps intentionally, the parking lot incident leads to Margaret's somewhat estranged daughter, Kate, showing up to help. Here another plot and theme is explored, as Kate, a successful chef brokering a deal to become a big time restaurateur, is faced with a choice of looking after her mother or remaining focused on her career path.  Hints suggest that the relationship between mother and daughter has been a more than a little rocky path, making her commitment to being by her mother’s side a difficult decision to come to terms with. Margaret's abrasive demeanor suggests this all the more.

Throughout ARCHAEOLOGY, Margaret appears torn between her deteriorating mental state and a conniving countenance, which seems to be have been adapted as a form of second nature survival instinct. Which force is in control is constantly in question: Is Margaret's lapses into bewilderment feeding a compulsive drive to manipulate those around her, or are her mental slips a tool that serves her self preservation, guarding against the uncovering of a nasty truth?

Kirkland's performance keeps us captivated by the questions…for a while. She holds nothing back, writhing beneath her character’s skin in an unsettling performance. Although she is able to capture the essence of Margaret's anguished restlessness, the character lacks development. This is due in large part to an unravelling story that undermines its bigger ideas. Instead of becoming elucidated, the events of the past that are at first chips away only become murkier and more difficult to discern. A case could be made that this matches Margaret‘s increasingly distorted perception of reality. However, it shouldn’t come at the cost of frustrating viewing. While maintaining an aura of mystery is often sufficient to drive a story’s message home, here it comes across as dissatisfying. After the time invested in the unevenly navigated story, an explanation feels deserved, hard earned even.

This brings up the tone. At times, especially as details begin spiraling into obscurity, a more stylized shading is called for. Perhaps a lurid or psychedelic coloring, something suggestive of the tale’s more outlandish turns. While the soundtrack moves in this direction, creeping in with repetitive nerve-wracking echoes of horror, the visuals almost always play very close to real. Recognizable settings like Grand Central Station, or the interior of a nursing home, feel pedestrian. It’s hard to bridge this with the decidedly fantastical elements added into the narrative. Likewise, it is a bold yet in the end disjointed attempt to join a sober account of mental illness with a more mischievous head trip.

Still there are interesting themes touched upon that are worth considering, even if underdeveloped as the result of a flawed telling. Shades of  Margaret‘s past indiscretions and Kate’s increasingly risky behavior suggests that mothers and daughters may share deep rooted bonds, traits and habits being passed on and superseding common sense or a desire to break away from unhealthy influences. The film is at its best when providing a simple, unflinching look at dementia’s debilitating effects.

ARCHAEOLOGY OF A WOMAN is being screened at City Cinema Village East on second avenue through Thursday September 18. See a trailer for the film below the break.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tusk (2014)

Okay- before I start let me just say if you don't want to know anything about the plot or the big star in makeup then let me give you a capsule review:

Tusk would be one of the best horror films from the last five years if only Kevin Smith had either eliminated the humor or blended it. As it now stands its a film that doesn't know if it's funny or scary.

Okay-now that that is over let me say from the point on I'm going to spill the beans, so if you don't want to know stop reading- if you do want to know keep reading....
Howard Howe one the great screen villains of all time

The plot of Tusk has Wallace(Justin Long), the obnoxious shock jock host of the Not See Party podcast going to Canada to interview a guy named The Kill Bill Kid because he chopped off his own leg with a katana. Arriving at the kids funeral he realizes he’s out of luck. Wanting to go home but desperate for a tory he lucks into a flier in a men’s room offering a room for rent and plenty of stories in a far off town. Wallace jumps at the chance and drives off into the Canadian night to find the man with the stories. Arriving at the home of Howard Howe (Michael Parks) Wallace is soon spellbound by the man’s stories; that is until the Mickey Finn in the tea kicks in and he’s face down on the floor. When he wakes up, groggy and missing a leg. Wallace instantly realizes he’s in deep shit and that something dark is afoot. Eventually Wallace manages to call his friends and they head off to Canada in the hope of finding a rescue.

A wildly uneven mix of horror and comedy Kevin Smith has made a film that should have been one of the best horror films of the last five or ten years but his inability, or unwillingness, to blend the humor and the horror makes for jarring experience. The sad thing is that the jokes are largely funny, but on such radically differing plain as the horror that it’s almost as if you’re watching two different films mashed together.

I think the problem with the humor and horror not blending comes from the fact that the horror is from the hand of a mature assured master of cinema while much of the comedy is from a drunken frat boy lowest. While this is in keeping with Long’s dickhead lead character the film really should have toned it down once Wallace gets into trouble, instead it adds in a bumbling detective, which pushes the film into Pink Panther territory.

I do have to say that the Wallace character is too loud and too obnoxious to really care about. Yea, we feel for his plight, but the cruelty of of his jokes, treatment of his girlfriend and piss poor attitude takes the edge off our feeling for him once the bad stuff starts to happen. He kind of deserves what he’s getting, no matter how horrible it is. What makes it worse I have the feeling that Smith turns up the volume when Wallace is talking making him even more overbearing. It also doesn't  help that he is so badly written compared to anyone else. He genuinely speaks like drunken frat boy with his mind in the sewer and an inability to stop talking even when other people are talking.

I like some of the humor and I think that if Smith wanted to turn Johnnie Depp’s bumbling detective into a new Pink Pather, I’m all for it, just so long as he makes comedies and not horror films.

As to the horror-

Despite what Kevin Smith may or may not have said Tusk is an uncredited remake of the film Ssssss from the 1970’s. While there are variations, it’s structure is exactly that of the earlier film with Strother Martin and Dirk Benedict as house keeper and boarder. In that film we have crazy doctor Martin taking his assistant and turning him into a cobra. If it’s not  a conscious remake, it at the very least has unconscious steals with the animal rescues/side show being the most glaring.

Beginning with the appearance of a truly great villain in Michael Parks’ Howard Howe Smith has crafted a slowly building horror film. Park’s performance is key to everything and if he wasn’t as good as he is the film would never have worked. Parks raconteur Howe sucks us in with his erudite musings, quotations and tales of the sea. He’s so charming that we almost want to trade places with Wallace to hear more of his stories. He is the definition of delicious evil to the point where it’s both shocking and not when he gets off his motorized scooter and smacks Wallace at dinner. We knew it was coming, and yet are shocked by it.

Equally shocking is what Howe does to Wallace. While we never full see what Howe does to Wallace to turn him into a walrus, the little bits coupled with the anatomical drawing is enough. Equally horrifying is the suit he’s fit into, which is a nightmarish mess of flesh and skin from other people, including faces. I just don’t want to know, more so after wee an earlier failed attempt at the bottom of the pool.

There is a darkly damaged psychology running rampant through all of the scenes and had we been forced to stay there either watching Wallace trying to deal with his new body or with Howe and his disturbed world view, we would have staggered out into the day light and wandered into traffic because its so horribly abnormal. I would like to think the jokes are the result of director Smith not wanting to dwell in that complete darkness lest it devour his soul. Personally I wish he would have stayed since there seem to be some truly dark wonders living there.

The Fleetwood Mac song which is heard in an instrumental riff when Wallace arrives at Howe’s house and in its full glory during the final confrontations is used to creepy effect. I will not be able to hear the song ever again without seeing the climatic images from the film in my head.

If you take the horror sequences on their own Smith has created a masterpiece and quite probably his best film. These sequences show a maturity and and command of cinema that was lacking in most of his output. The horror sequences are things that are just gloriously constructed and I want to see them again just to watch the craft. This is a beautifully made horror film.

I love the horror of this film. I just wish it wasn’t wrecked by the clash with the humor.

Reservations aside this is a must see for anyone who likes great horror and who can put up with some annoying humor.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Nightcap 9/14/14 Cats, positive reviews,short pieces, Help REEL get financed, and Randi's links

We have six cats. I should know better then to give you cat videos but the cats have insisted and said they would stop stealing my clothes and waking me up at 3am if I did.
I know I piss some of you off with the fact that I’m so positive about some of the films I review. I know the fact that most of the reviews here are positive make some of you crazy. Largely the ones who are getting crazy are coming in for our festival or new release coverage and don’t realize that the website was set up to highlight good films. I can’t help if you don’t like the fact that we try to point out good films, that’s what we do, the festival and new release stuff is ultimately extra…

But you have to realize that a lot of work goes into even getting the few good films we write up. I can’t speak for anyone else but I go through a lot of movies that never make Unseen. Last weekend for example I went through at least 30 films. I watched Boyhood, four of Sinister Cinema’s Drive in Double features, two other thrillers from Sinister plus I went through a stack of 20 DVDs that I had picked up in dump bins. The way I went through the dump bin films was to start them and watch it until I had a feeling that the film just wasn’t going anywhere then I popped the DVD out and put in the next one. I did not make it through most of the dump films and I don’t think any of them, well maybe one…or two… will ever get mentioned here (one is a so bad it’s going into our Thanksgiving turkey wrap up). Basically I saw about 30 films and 5 are going to end up reported on.

The fact I’m saying I saw 30 films this weekend may seem like a lot, and on most levels it is, but at the same time I’m one of those psychos who is constantly watching films, with the exception being when I pause for friends or to watch sports. While I’m reporting on all the good films I’ve seen, what I’m not doing is telling you about the even bigger pile of crap that I waded through to find the good stuff.

Somewhere with all this talk of good films and bad films I find that I have to apologize for what has been the shortening of my pieces. Somewhere over the last year my pieces have been shortening up. Part of it has been due to the fact that I was raiding some of my pieces from other places to fill the film of the day slots, but some of it has been due to my simply writing shorter pieces.

Most of the short pieces of recent vintage have been as part of our coverage of festivals and new releases and are the result of seeing too much and just trying to say what I have to say before I move on to the next thing. That’s not entirely fair to some of the films which could have benefited from longer discussions, but at the same time I don’t think I would say that any of the short pieces were too short. Everyone that I read over recently said what I wanted it to. The added discussion would have been nice but wasn’t necessary.

Call it economy of words.

Truthfully I want to write longer pieces, but what I write is in reaction to a film. I can’t spew needlessly. I need to find a way to say something. And I post what I have to say. It’s just lately what I have to say doesn’t seem to be very wordy. I’m not going to worry until I start to post reviews that simply say “it’s Okay”. Besides there are a couple reviews coming up, including one vitriolic piece that make up for recent short comings.
Tomorrow we officially start with press screenings for the New York Film Festival. I have no idea how many films we'll see, but we've got at least a bakers dozen already cued and ready to go. We've got tickets for another 15 public screenings plus plans to see a ton of the press screenings so we should have you covered for most of the films...

...but I'm getting a head of myself by a week or two. Keep reading because we'll have a ton of stuff on the festival coming.
Time is running down on REEL. Please give so the film will be finished and Alec won't feel me to the pirhanas in the Central Park Zoo... For more information go to the Kickstarter page.

And Now Randi's Links
Films stuck in development hell
What Boyhood forgets about the magic of childhood
Awesome Hotels
From Rupert Pupkin Speaks: a great list of under appreciated action films
Documentary on Dungeons and Dragons turns into a legal battle

(This week’s films have been changed up-because of a heavy influx of new releases I’ve rescheduled what I had scheduled and instead I’m going for a week of new releases and perhaps something special with Terry Gilliam. Next weekend I have some silent serials scheduled before we ease into our coverage of the New York Film Festival which begins the on the 26th.)

The Spy Catcher (1960)

Another film rescued by Sinister Cinema from complete obscurity is a small scale independent (I think) French film about trying to protect some atomic secrets.

The film has a secret agent taking the place of an atomic researcher who has just come upon a new discovery. Replacing the professor on a flight that is brought down by sabotage, the agent moves onto the professors house which is occupied by the professor's unhappy wife, his giddy sister in law and a houseful of new servants.

 A very good opening and an exciting ending bookend lots of talk in the professors home as we have to try and figure out who's good and who's bad. The talky bits are interesting but once things heat up in the final half hour with a chase through the Paris night and an extended fight in the Paris Metro you realize how static things had become.

For me this is a really cool little footnote film. Far from both the best and the worst films you'll ever see this is a neat little thriller which has some killer sequences and a great sense of place. The opening sequences set everything up nicely and the final chase and battle in the subway take up to places I have never run a cross in films. This is another one of the small scale gems that Unseen Films was started to highlight. Anyone who wants to see something different and should either purchase this from Sinister Cinema or get it from Amazon streaming service.