Berberian Sound Studio

2012 movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A sound technician works on an Italian horror movie that, according to the director, isn't a horror movie. Shenanigans ensue!

I loved the pace of this movie, a pace I'd probably describe as tedious. This is the sort of movie that could really test one's mental health, and for that reason, among other reasons, it's definitely not for everybody. Credit daring editing and the expected use of sound for some of those other reasons, but those are also the parts that gripped me, creating this foreboding tone. It's the same feeling that you get when you're a young child who's been dared to walk inside a supposedly-haunted house and you've made it all the way to the front porch and are just kind of standing around. This movie immerses you in sounds, pulling back the curtain to show, albeit in what I suspect is a slightly-exaggerated way, how movie sound magic is created. It's Italian horror magicians revealing the secrets of their tricks. Accompanying those sounds are quick shots of vegetable abuse.

This movie irritated my wife which may have earned it a bonus point. For large chunks of the movie, it's just creepy noises and women screaming. Apparently, somebody who is trying to sleep doesn't want to hear that.

Here's Toby Jones, actor:

He's like the anti-Clooney. I'm not sure anybody with a head shaped like that should even be allowed to act. He looks more like he should be an IT guy or something. I immediately recognized him (because I'm a guy who runs a highly successful movie blog) from a memorable Doctor Who episode (oh, it's because I'm a geek), but I've apparently seen him in more than that. He's worked with Muppets, Captain America, and Katniss. I've seen him as Karl Rove and Smee and heard him as Dobby the house elf. I think my favorite bit of Toby Jones trivia is that he played Truman Capote and Alfred Hitchcock the same years that more famous actors played the same figures in more notable movies. I like Jones a lot here, and I like the character in the same why I like Barton Fink in that meta experience. Both are characters barely able to even react, seemingly lost in a purgatorial haze or something. Jones doesn't have a lot to do, but he looks natural as he demonstrates his character's genius with sound.

This isn't a movie I'd recommend to a lot of people despite my high rating. I'm sure it would frustrate most people, especially if they're watching it while trying to sleep.


2014 found footage horror movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A guy with a video camera is hired to chronicle a few hours in the life of a loner who says he has cancer and a limited amount of time to leave something behind for his unborn child.

It's interesting what you can do with a camera, a pair of actors, and a fragment of an idea. This is a little unnerving, but I also thought it was kind of funny. I'm not even sure if it was intentionally funny or not, but Mark Duplass is hard to take seriously as a dramatic actor because I've only seen him in comedic roles. Part of me wanted to assume that this is a sequel to the television series The League and assume that he slaughtered and ate the rest of the characters before this movie's story picks up.

Side note: This has two credited actors, but somebody had to do the female voice heard during a telephone conversation. Was that Duplass's real-life spouse Katie Aselton? The prospect arouses.

Duplass gives this delirious and wacky performance. His character is tough enough to figure out although you really know something is wrong from his very first appearance. I think it's the wide eyes. His best moment in this is one where he somehow manages to scare himself.

The other guy--Patrick Brice--isn't as convincing or natural in front of the camera. It gets a little in the way of the found footage verisimilitude. The use of that genre works for the most part although, as always, you have to suspend your disbelief a little with what you get to see and what you aren't seeing. Like, how does everything that ends up in the finished product something that matters without any editing whatsoever? I mean, sure it's a film that was edited in our reality, but in the movie's reality, it's supposed to be more of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get scenario, right?

You have to wonder if 50% of the budget for this movie went in buying the "Peachfuzz" mask. If that was indeed purchased at a 99 cent store, it was worth it just for the shot of Duplass against a door while wearing that mask.

This is clearly one of those movies that some people will like and others will hate. It's really nothing special and adds nothing to the horror or found footage or psychological thriller genres, but it's got a humor that I like and is just different enough to keep my attention for a little over an hour and fifteen minutes.

The Woman in Black

2012 horror movie

Rating: 12/20

Plot: A former wizard travels to the middle of nowhere to look at a creepy house and makes a new friend.

Daniel Radcliffe wears an expression on his face for the duration of this movie that makes it seem like he's surprised to be in a movie with this many horror cliches. Loud noises accompany jump scares, characters move to reveal things lurking in backgrounds, auxiliary characters freak out over the arrival of a newcomer, the protagonist makes more than a few questionable decisions, etc. It's not a surprise that this is a Hammer Films production because it's pretty old school.

I'm not sure if there was a mystery here, but if there was, I figured things out well in advance. I'm guessing things were supposed to be as straightforward as they seemed.

If you're just looking for some scares, this will likely suffice. Where it doesn't succeed in creating characters you care about or telling a good story, it makes up for it in making you piss in your pants. There's one great lengthy sequence where they just make poor Harry Potter wander around the sufficiently creepy house and have scary things happening. When this movie isn't interested in advancing any plot, it succeeds well enough.

The ending is really silly, but it should appease any Christians upset by any of this witch stuff.

Ex Machina

2015 sci-fi nightmare

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A frequently-inebriated genius makes himself a robot with a rockin' bod and then invites over a computer nerd to see if he gets horny. He does!

One of my favorite things about this movie is the visual contrast between this cold ultra-modern house that Oscar Isaac's character lives and works in and the natural setting that encompasses it, perpetually lingering on the fringes. I wonder if I'm the only person who's seen this who found the trees both beautiful and menacing.

This Domhnall Gleeson fellow has become ubiquitous. He's like a dorky everyman--an everydork. And I don't mean that in a negative way. Here, he's likable with just the right mix of perviness and sketchiness, and as good as Oscar Isaac is as a brutish sort-of villain and as rockin' as that robot's figure is, it's really Gleeson who makes the story work.

This is one of those quietly lurking science fiction movies, the kind that feed a little bit on paranoia. And since only intelligent people are ever truly paranoid, it might appeal more to smart people more than people like me. I think my favorite sci-fi movies are the ones where humans use science to kill themselves. If this movie is an example of that, than this is probably a spoiler.

This is moody. It's more polished than Beyond the Black Rainbow, THX 1138, or Under the Skin, but it's got a similar tone. It's darkly mysterious and lightly suspenseful, and it worms its way into your fissures.

I might have liked this movie more if I understood its point. Narratively, it works, and I liked the sparseness with the characters and setting. Isaac gets some great lines, including some poetic waxing about Dan Aykroyd getting a blow job from a ghost. Alicia Vikander is fetching, and there's a wonderful and intelligent reverse-stripping sequence that's just about as arousing as any forward-stripping sequence I've ever seen. If this is a movie that tests whether the viewer would have sex with a robot, it gets a definitive yes from me. Of course, I probably would have had sex with a robot even before seeing this movie though.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

2014 Iranian vampire movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Doesn't the title make is self explanatory?

I wasn't thrilled about watching yet another vampire movie, but this is not your traditional vampire movie. Maybe it's because I just saw Jarmusch's venture into the vampire genre, but this reminded me of a Jarmusch movie. It could have just been the black and white and pace talking, but this was somewhere in between his first few movies and the current stuff he's doing.

The star of this movie is the cinematography. Pause this pretty much anywhere along the way and you'll likely have something you can hang on the wall. The black and white is often stunning, fuzzy in just the right places and striking in others. It enhances the mood in this mysterious "Bad City," a place with apparently about 7 people living in it. The story has a lot to do with loneliness, and the way it's shot intensifies that loneliness. I just loved scenes with the "girl" lurking in the background. It's really beautifully shot, and first-time (feature film) director Ana Lily Amirpour's vision is impressive.

My favorite scene is almost a non-sequitur, a scene with a transvestite dancing in a decrepit setting with a black balloon. I watched this late, and I was tired and could have missed something. But I don't recall this character being in any of the movie's other scenes. Good stuff though.

I'm assuming this has a feminist message. You've got a woman with all this power in an area of the world where women aren't regarded as powerful. I'm not sure why she needs to skateboard exactly though.

Furious 7

2015 action sequel / soap opera for boys

Rating: 15/20

Plot: The brother of the guy our heroes put in a coma in the last movie wants revenge.

I didn't want to waste a lot of time on a plot synopsis because I want to obsess over a single glorious moment in this movie filled with glorious moments. Everything The Rock does in this movie is awesome, every line just deliriously silly. But there's one moment--"Daddy's got to go to work."--where The Rock has earned a special right. The guy could kill everybody in my family, and I'd still respect him because of that one scene. It's followed by scenes that show us that his character--and perhaps The Rock himself--is indestructible. And indestructible video game character.

The members of Vin Diesel's family who happen to still be alive are back, and there's an attractive new addition played by Nathalie Emmanuel. I'd assume this is Paul Walker's swan song unless they want to just to go with a full-CGI Brian for the 8th installment of this out-of-control franchise, the film I already titled Fast 8 Furious: Infinite Drift. They give him a touching--well, as touching as something as macho as this franchise can be--send-off. The new character played by Kurt Russell is cool, and Statham delivers as the villain. And yes, I'm going to focus on the characters because even though this is really about bringing nonstop action and adrenaline, the characters really do matter. They've grown into such a lovable ragtag bunch by this point, and as cartoony as all of this is, the characters still have a little room to grow and become something close to actual human beings.

Of course, this is really all about the action. And there's plenty of that. I'm excited to see what they're going to throw at us in the 8th movie because it seems as if they've reached the epitome of ridiculousness in this 7th one. Parachuting cars, cars flying from one skyscraper to another, bone-crunching fisticuffs, characters surviving things that no human being would survive. It's mesmerizingly off the wall with this artistic bravado. Furious 7 is the type of movie where you go 0 to 60 in about 3 seconds, and when you look at the drive as if to say, "Maybe you want to take it easy; there's a lot of movie left to go," the driver answers, "Oh, don't worry about it because this movie goes all the way to 600, bitch!" And honestly, I'm fine with a movie calling me a bitch just like I'm fine with The Rock killing my entire family.

Are the special effects perfect? No, and some of what they do with Paul Walker is very nearly inappropriate. You're not asked to suspend disbelief as much as you are asked to tie up your disbelief, throw it in the trunk of your car, and drive to drop it across state lines for a couple hours. You have to accept that these characters are living in a big macho sexualized Looney Tune world with characters all trying to out-comic-book each other while somehow the rest of the world doesn't seem to even notice. And there are times when this has the intelligences of one of those car magazines with scantily-clad women draped across hot rod hoods. But none of the imperfections matter. You find me another movie that so effortlessly can draw my testicles into my throat.

Rubber Duck, we're seeing Fast and the Furiouses 8-25 opening night from now on. Just assume it's happening. You'll have to put up with my giggling though.

Bad Movie Club: The Dragon Lives Again

1977 Brucesploitation flick

Bad Movie Rating: 4/5 (Libby: no rating; Fred: 4/5; Josh: 3/5; Tami: 4/5; Jeremy: no rating; Ozzy: no rating; Kristen: didn't start?)

Rating: 7/20

Plot: I already wrote about this movie right here.

It was Libby's birthday, and she wanted to watch some kung-fu. I think she fell asleep halfway through it.

An imposter Bruce Lee, Popeye, the one-armed swordsman, Zatoichi, Clint's Man with No Name, the Godfather, Dracula, a bunch of mummies, the Exorcist. You might be thinking that there's no way this movie could possibly work. And you'd be right! This is really stupid!

Time Travel Movie Fest: Project Almanac

2014 time travel movie

Rating: 9/20

Plot: Teens stumble upon a time travel device, get the thing working, and try to take advantage of their newfound powers. It goes about as well as you'd expect if you've ever seen another time travel movie. 

This movie is idiotic. 

I have to start with the style. Anybody who's read much of this blog knows that I like the found-footage genre. I've got no problems with it at all, and I might be one of the few cinephiles who doesn't think it's overused. This, however, is a mess, and none of the visual trickery--jittery shots, glitchiness, etc. And I'm not sure if there's something I missed because I'm not as smart as the teenage audience this movie was written for or if it was something the creators of this mess missed, but how many cameras were there supposed to be? And if the answer is "more than one," how does that even work? This was probably the messiest found footage movie I've ever seen. 

The characters are annoyingly stupid. Honestly, they're probably like the average teenager. Their dialogue tries to fool us into thinking they're as clever as teenagers on television sitcoms, but they say "dude" way too much for any adult to take them seriously. And at least one of them is supposed to brilliant. That protagonist could pronounce science-y words, but other than that, I couldn't buy it. 

This story is also poorly paced. They spend so much time showing the characters putting the time machine together, then there's a toy car stuck in a wall, then a dog, then a solid ten minutes where they're using time travel to their advantage, then about fifteen minutes of Lollapalooza, then something that's supposed to pass for dramatic, then a little more time at Lollapalooza, then the part of the movie that should be the real conflict, and then the part of the movie you knew was going to happen, and then the end. This was a time travel movie that had me checking the time over and over. 

I'd love to talk with the people who made this movie and have them explain how any of these pieces actually fit together. I really don't think they do. This is about as perforated as a story can be. 

Lollapalooza's still around? 


2013 sci-fi morality tale

Rating: 13/20

Plot: A guy finds a synthesizer tone that hypnotizes people. He toys with his new neighbors before developing loftier goals.

This tone flatlines for a long time before disintegrating into a jokey thought experiment, but the performances are all good and there's a subtle darkish comedy that works. Director Antonio Tublen also did the cool synthesizer score. The issue is that there are more tangents than there are settings. This takes place entirely in the main character's home, and you might think that would give everything a focus. Instead, you've got ghost wives, moral dilemmas, rival synth guys, police activity. It's a mess, but it's a really quiet mess. There's enough going for this that would make me almost recommend it to anybody who enjoys light sci-fi, but I don't think this is a movie I'm ever likely to think about again. In fact, I actually watched it a while ago and forgot to write about it.

What's the deal with all the eggs, by the way? Is there symbolism I'm missing or something?

Bad Movie Club: Fatal Deviation

1998 Irish kung-fu movie

Bad Movie Rating: 3/5 (Jeremy: no rating; Fred: 4/5; Libby: 4/5; Josh: 4/5; Tami: no rating)

Rating: 5/20

Plot: If I can remember the 4 or 5 kung-fu movies I've seen with almost identical plots, I'll let you know.

"You killed my son. Now, I'm going to kill you just like I killed your father."
"You killed my father. Now, I'm going to kill you just like I killed your son."

That dialogue might sound even worse with the Irish accents. That's right--we're watching an Irish kung-fu here. If there's an Irish kung-fu movie out there, you can guess that one of us--not me this time--is going to uncover the thing. It's a straight-to-video release starring some cat named James P. Bennett. Bennett's got legitimate kung-fu skills. I mean, you get to see a lot of tedious scenes with the guy training--protecting himself from a chubby monkish Gandalfian old kung-fu master cliche armed with a pair of sticks, kicking near a fire, Van-Damme-ing himself on a pair of ottomans, abusing trees. Bennett also wrote this, probably to get girls to notice him or have people buy him beers. And he was the assistant director. And cinematographer. And the producer. And part of the casting department. For the most part, it's all pretty straight. The bad-movie stand-out scenes involve a ridiculous motorcycle stunt where our hero shows off both his balance and his shooting skills and a shoot-'em-up raid on the bad guy compound (read: a trailer) at the end. Most of the issues with this movie involve a storyline that seems opposed to going anywhere that previous movies haven't gone before and awful pacing. Some scenes, especially a cheap-looking tournament that appears to take place in a church and never really matters all that much for our plot, seem to go on forever. And I'm not sure which is more disturbing--the yucky soundtrack or this:

As far as I can remember, this wasn't even a character in the movie. There's just a random scene where he climbs into that bathtub and then flees once the action begins.

We were lucky to learn about the dangers of romantic picnics though.

And no, I have no idea why this movie is called Fatal Deviation.