Picture Day 1

Here is a snapshot of part of my personal movie collection, in case some of you wondered, which you probably didn't. But here it is anyway.
The movie immediately above "Hot Fuzz" is a double feature set of "Kelly's Heroes" (1970) and "Where Eagles Dare" (1968). Both are WW2 movies that star/co-star Clint Eastwood. Immediately above that case is the slot where "Kung Fu Hustle" (2004) usually sits. It's not there because I've been watching it this afternoon. Finally, the movie at the very top of the photo isn't "Se7en" (1995) but "The Magnificent Seven" (1960).

The Thursday List, Episode 5 (Early Edition)

"Soylent Green" (1973)
Usually ecological disaster movies are crap. They're preachy and irritating and weakly written. "Soylent Green" isn't one of those. It's the ecological disaster movie all the others are trying to be. It's solidly written and directed, and it features the final and quite moving film performance of the legendary Edward G. Robinson. The worst thing about the film, aside from Charlton Heston's mediocre performance for the first half of the film, is that it's so dreadfully 1970s, with the fashions and the language. And if that's the worst part of the film, that's doing pretty good. This film's a classic for good reason. Recommended.

"Dead Again" (1991)
"Dead Again" is a neo-noir psychological thriller and one of my favorite movies. It stars Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Andy Garcia, and Sir Derek Jacobi and is a veritable master class in film direction, screenwriting, and performance. It's gorgeously shot and features scenes both in color and in black and white while the plot develops and the action moves back and forth between the 1940s and the 1990s. It's a tight, lean story, very engaging, and should have you quite rapt until the very end. Highly recommended.

"The Mangler" (1995)
Robert Englund and Ted Levine in a horror movie based on a Stephen King short story and directed by Tobe Hooper. Holy cow! This should be pretty good. Except that "The Mangler" is a laundry folding machine... that gets possessed a demon... and terrorizes the people at the laundry service, while a detective (Levine) tries to investigate and the owner (Englund) tries to find it new victims. Holy crap. Now it seems like it should blow. To be fair, it's an all around very competently made film. It's just clunkily written, but more than that it just doesn't work as a story. I've not read the short story, though. I'll wager it worked a lot better there. The movie blows. Avoid.


In an alternate universe, Superman and Jimmy Olsen police the undead.

Working class werewolves. Hip, sleazy vampires. Nebbishy zombies and one really angry one. An old guy with a pretty daughter gets murdered most foul, and a comedy sidekick gets murdered but gets better... ish. Oh, and the most vile and hideous of Hell's creatures ever to have walked the earth but then get trapped in an artifact is on track for being brought back for a command performance. Hilarity ensues.

"Dylan Dog: Dead of Night" (2011)
directed by Kevin Munroe
written by Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer
starring Brandon Routh, Sam Huntington, Anita Briem, Taye Diggs, and Peter Stormare

How is it?
As I know I say a lot about movies, even if you haven't seen this movie you've seen this movie. It's not bad. It's not good. It's... competent... ish. Allow me to explain.

The Players
Again, as I know I say a lot in reviews, the cast does well with the material they were given, mostly. After three viewings in as many days I still can figure out Brandon Routh's performance as Dylan Dog. His performance comes across uneven, often a bit wooden. Some scenes work well enough while others don't seem to quite gel, and I can't figure out if it's because of him, the writing, possibly the director, or all three of the above. It was distracting for me as a viewer. Anita Briem as Elizabeth runs into the same problem, though to a lesser extent. Sam Huntington steals the show as Marcus. The comedy sidekick often does to a degree, but frankly, when he is on-screen he dominates. He was helped by having probably the best-written main role in the entire film. Still, he does breathe some extra life into the movie, which is good. Peter Stormare and Taye Diggs play the werewolf and vampire heavyweights, respectively. Stormare has the least screen time but of course gives his character, Gabriel, all he's got, while Taye Diggs is on-screen a fair deal more but doesn't much bring anything unique or interesting to Vargas, the vampire boss.

Honorable mention goes to Dan Braverman as Big Al, the zombie parts shop owner. He owned that scene. I wish Big Al had been in more of the movie. A small role, yes, but solid and memorable.

Behind the Camera
It never sounds good when the first compliment someone gives a movie is that it was lit and shot well. So of course this isn't the best start possible for this section of the review. But it's true. A good deal of director Kevin Munroe's experience has been in animation, production design, and art, and so "Dylan Dog: Dead of Night" has good visuals. Its production design, art direction, lighting, and photography are very good. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in the previous section, some of the performances are uneven, a problem which can be at least partly attributed to him. Part of the blame also rests with the script.

While the story and its details are interesting as concepts, the comedy works a lot more than the serious, especially the semi-noir narrations, which, like quite a lot of Dylan's dialogue, are rather stilted and seem to try a bit too hard to be (sort of) gritty. The structure of the whole thing flows, but it never quite seems to fire on all cylinders, except for the comedy sidekick stuff, which includes most of the zombies. It's almost as if  screenwriters Donnelly and Oppenheimer really wanted to write another movie while writing this one.

The Verdict
Despite this movie never quite coming together... and despite it being formulaic... and despite Routh's lead performance being uneven... I get an attitude from the movie that I genuinely appreciate. Truth be told, I bottom line this movie as "technically competent but not impressive" and "not bland but certainly average". But I like it. I like it more than I know I should. (Maybe I've got the generous holiday spirit early.)

"Dylan Dog: Dead of Night" really isn't anything to write home about, but it's probably good for movie night with some friends. You can laugh and have a good time watching it or ripping it apart, depending on your tastes. I'm sure there's a drinking game just waiting to be created for it as well. Recommended... ish.


Coming soon...

I will be traveling much of this next week and will not be posting Thursday through Monday. So next week's Thursday List will be The Tuesday List, and I aim to get a bona fide review of a film up this weekend.

Also, I am pondering expanding the scope of this blog, possibly to include articles on directors, actors, studios, writers, and film history. I won't make the decision until the start of 2012, but I thought I'd mention it, in case any readers had any thoughts, comments, or suggestions.

That's it for now. See you this weekend.


The Thursday List, Episode 4

"In The Loop" (2009)
It's the buildup to the Iraq invasion like you've never seen it before but might've imagined it if you were really cynical. The British cast are from the hit BBC show "The Thick of It", and the American cast includes james Gandolfini, David Rasche, and Mimi Kennedy. It's a rapid-fire, expletive and insult filled, cross-cultural political riot, and Peter Capaldi steals the show as the foul-mouthed No. 10 Downing Street director of communications, Malcolm Tucker. This movie is one for your collections, folks. Highly recommended.

"Drag Me To Hell" (2009)
Sam Raimi knows how to make a roller coaster horror movie, just what to do and when to do it, and he's done so many times before, which is kind of the problem. While you haven't exactly seen this movie before, you've seen this movie before. It's a fun watch and has some good jolts, both typical of Raimi's films, but it's unfortunately rather heavy on formula. So it winds up just kind of average. A decent choice for movie night with friends or to watch via streaming.

"Brutal Massacre: A Comedy" (2007)
This movie is one based on actual events and people, just not events that took place on just one shoot, and it's really, really fun to watch. It's shot as a documentary about not a B-grade but a C-grade horror movie "auteur", Harry Penderecki, who get's one last shot to make his masterpiece. It's funny, dumb, crazy, silly, and while some scenes feel like they go on a bit long... it does all come together. I put it on the high side of average, which is to say it's better than most. Recommended.


The Thursday List, Episode 3

"Bunraku" (2010)

To put it simply, this is a visually striking, highly stylized live-action semi-noir four-color comic Samurai/Old West Good-versus-Evil fable. A lot of time, money, and talent on several levels went into making this film, and truth be told, you see every last bit of it. Some have claimed it was too long-winded and convoluted. I found it quite easy to follow and highly entertaining. I rented it on a whim because it was 99 cents, and now I'm going to buy it on Blu-Ray for my collection. Highly recommended.

"The Grand" (2007)

"The Grand" pokes fun at the colorful personalities of professional poker players and their tournament world. It's a very laid back, funny, good-natured film, which comes a good deal from the choices of actors, all of whom are quite good at guided improvisation, which is a euphemism for "not much in the way of a script". There are a few lags here and there, but its generally even. Woody Harrelson, Werner Herzog, Gabe Kaplan, and Dennis Farina kind of steal the show, but not by too much. It's a fun film that you don't have to think about but just relax and enjoy the laughs. Recommended.

"Night of the Demon" (1957)
Note to U.S. readers: "Night of the Demon" is an original U.K. production renamed "Curse of the Demon" by its American distributor for its stateside release.

"Curse of the Demon" (1958)

When I recommend a movie, that's one thing. When Martin Scorsese recommends a movie, it's another, much more impressive thing. He does. So it is. "Curse of the Demon" is a very effective horror film because it has a tight, lean script brought to life well by a talented cast and because it is absolutely dripping with atmosphere. The technical direction and cinematography are top-notch. Its production was more than a bit rocky, which makes it a bit more impressive that it all came together so well. It's a solid, effective, reasonably family-friendly horror film. Highly recommended.


Where did my "Attack the Block" review go?

I wrote it on the fly last night and posted it. Only now it is not here.

I wrote it in on the form, not in Word to cut-and-paste-and-post. So it's not saved anywhere.
Sorry, folks. I've to write it again.



Decision, decisions... again.

It's a three-way toss up once again for the next review. Our contestants are:

"Bunraku" (2010)... or "Attack the Block" (2011)... or "The Grand" (2007).

It's between a Old West/Samurai comic book fairy tale, ASBOs versus fiendish hunter-killer stuffed animal looking beasties from outer space, and a comedy with Woody Harrelson, Werner Herzog, Dennis Farina, and (*rawr*) Andrea Savage.

Damn tough call, this one. For serious.

It will be made, however.

Please tune in.


The Thursday List, Episode 2

Technically it's Friday, I know, but there've been hardware problems tonight. All fixed now, and so...

"Season of the Witch" (2011)

Two seemingly unstoppable warriors desert from the Crusades, head home, and get roped into transporting a teenage witch to a monastery for exorcism. Formulaic mediocrity ensues at what can only be described as quite casual speed. The only people in the thing seeming to have any fun or even pride in the project were Ron Perlman and Stephen Graham, and while they keep the thing from being wholly uninteresting and dull, they are no match for the unimpressiveness and yawn-inducing power Nicholas Cage, the rest of the cast, the script, and the direction. Not recommended.

"Paranormal Activity 3" (2011)

The third time's a charm, apparently. A youngish couple buys a house, and things start getting a little weird right away. Fortunately for us, dad's a wedding videographer, and viola! A movie franchise is born! It's a little slow to get moving, but unlike its predecessors it has atmosphere, keeps things interesting, and builds pretty solidly. They got it right (or right enough) on the third go. It has a few hiccups and things that make no sense, and you can see some things coming miles away. But it actually kind of works, all told. It's slightly better than average, and as such it is... Recommended.

"A Nightmare on Elm Street" (2011)

Boring and stupid. That's the problem with this remake, as it is with most remakes, really. Freddie isn't scary, and the teenagers are wholly unsympathetic. Even the camera and editing tricks used to try to bring the creepiness and rubber reality are standard fare. The rewrite of the storys background is just plain uninspired, as is the script itself. There's no atmosphere. Heck, there isn't even any acting or effort on the production side to do anything other than try to make it look cool. It's just another dull, boring, uninspired movie-by-the-numbers attempt at milking a cash cow. Not remotely recommended, not even for a laugh. (It's still better than "Neighbor", though.)