2016 is coming to a close and I have watched 21 films in my Uncharted Cinema Project. Nowhere near the 52 that I wanted to. But I have come to realize that is okay. There are lots of films out there and I was feeling too constrained to watch and review films I might not have been interested in.
I just watched another Winterbottom/Coogan film which I found a little too slight for my tastes. I think Winterbottom has proven he can make interesting films. But “interesting” doesn’t always mean “good”. I hope this one is both!
Masque of the Red Death manages to mix B-movie Hammer horror camp with gorgeous production design. Shot in widescreen and vivid colors by Nicholas Roeg, it’s period piece that belies it’s low budget.
The film opens on Rosie Perez (the titular Perdita) lying on a luxurious white bed while a jaguar prowls over her, pulling the sheet down with it’s mouth to reveal her naked body.
Closely Watched Trains is unconcerned about story. Instead, it focuses on the small moments that make up the big picture. The humor found in everyday life. The people and what motivates them to perform deeds big and small.
Right off the bat I’m going to say that there has never been a more devastating war film than Come and See. It was produced to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Soviet victory against the Nazi’s in World War II. To call that a victory brings to mind images of smiles and cheers and flag-waving, but as this film makes perfectly clear, it was anything but that.
This film does not age well. It’s take on oriental mysticism is out-dated and the effects are obviously behind the times.
Normally, I’m always willing to give a film a pass on things like that, even going as far as to say I find them charming, but this one didn’t work for me.
This has a great setup. The film opens on death row. A well-spoken regal young man (Dennis Price) is in a cell writing his memoirs. It’s nearing the time of his execution for the crime of murder.
How did he get to this point? And why is he taking it so matter-of-factly? It was a long road that got him to that point, and the film starts from the beginning.
This film is a product of it’s time. A time when the Hayes code was on it’s way out and studios were churning out titillating cheapos to take advantage of audience’s new-found predilections.
It checks all the boxes: humor, sex, name-recognition, and to top it off, Goldfinger had come out the year before. I guess the studio didn’t think much else was needed.
Beyond the Black Rainbow opens with a vintage 70’s film strip. An advertisement for a cult-like wellness center, Arboria, that promises to deliver members true happiness.
Oh, how wrong they were. For the characters, and, unfortunately, for the viewer as well. This film is a slog. Its visual aesthetic is a claustrophobic second-rate Kubrick clone and its soundtrack is composed of the same brain-numbing repetitive sounds.
This film is anchored by the tension between two opposing genres. The first is a romance between has-been writer Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart) and his neighbor Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame). The second is a murder of a young coat-check girl which may or may not have been committed by Dixon.
Well, I was right about one thing. Scotland, PA stinks of an independent film of the time period. But that isn’t a bad thing! This updated Shakespeare tale tells the story of MacBeth but sets it in a small-town restaurant in the 70’s.
Hidden is a high-concept horror film about a family in a fallout shelter hiding away from a mysterious danger on the surface.
I won’t give anything away because the script holds back information in order to keep the audience in the dark about what is going on. That part of the film works well. The cast is game and does their best to carry a sparse script.
Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is lacking in any sense of escalation, which is ultimately it’s downfall. Stephen Tyrone Williams plays Dr. Hess, an expert on ancient African culture.
Early on in the film we hear about the a civilization that became addicted to blood and eventually self-destructed because there wasn’t enough fresh blood to go around.
The Warped Ones is a film full of jazz and anarchy. Akira and Masaru are two juvenile delinquents who, recently released from the detention center, go on a rampage through the city. Their attitude is starkly at odds with the rest of Japanese society, and shows how some of the youth might have felt at the time.
The opening shot of Eyes of Laura Mars is the POV of a murderer. It’s reminiscent of the opening shot of Halloween (released less than 3 months later), which makes sense because this one is also written by John Carpenter. But instead of revealing the murdered immediately, this time the mystery of who the murderer is takes up most of the film.
Streets tells the story of a young prostitute Dawn (Christina Applegate), who is on the run from a crooked cop. While escaping, she crosses paths with semi-runaway Si (David Mendenhall), another teenager. They stay together for a bit and grow closer to one another as the cop (Eb Lottimer) continues to track them down.
Nope! This is poorly made on nearly every level. The film opens on Stubby Preston, a professional gambler played by Fabio Testi. He arrives at a small town to try to make some money, but instead was intercepted by the sheriff and thrown in jail. Whilst there, he meets the other three main characters: young pregnant prostitute Bunny (Lynne Frederick), drunk Clem (Michael J. Pollard), and a black undertaker named Bud (Harry Baird).
What we Do in the Shadows is the latest comedic take on the vampire genre. This one is played as a mockumentary following a quartet of vampires living together in a flat in New Zealand.
Well, it turns out The Great Magician is very similar to the Detective Dee series. If you liked those, you would like this. And the inverse, in my case, is also true. I found it strange how similar they were because, as far as I could tell, the films don’t share any creative talent. Maybe movies like this are just the style of popular cinema produced in the Hollywood of China and Hong Kong? (Often referred to as Chinawood. No, I’m not making this stuff up, folks!)
A boring and bland every-man accountant, played well by Daniel Auteuil, loses his job in a big firm. The reason? Well, he’s just so unremarkable and they need to let go of someone so he is chosen.