Killer monkeys?

Monkey Shines

Image by ProfessorMortis via Flickr

If you haven’t seen Monkey Shines (1988), then you definitely need to. This George A. Romero film is hilarious. It was a box office flop, mainly due to Orion Pictures re-cutting it in studio against Romero’s wishes. But ultimately, what do you expect of a film about a killer monkey?

It’s one of those films that is so bad that it’s good. It tells the tale of a quadriplegic man whose best friend gives him a pet monkey to take care of him. The specially trained monkey also happens to be a lab experiment, injected with all manner of things to increase its intellect. The bond between the wheelchair bound master, and super clever monkey, means they share a telepathic connection. The monkey can feel all of its master’s resentment to people whom have wronged him….and monkey has the power to do something about it.

Below is a sketch I did today:

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I killed your partner, so The Tournament begins

After watching The Tournament(2009) I am left mostly unaffected. But the film wasn’t trying to be emotionally powerful, so I suppose this near impartiality is acceptable.

It’s what you expect an average gun-slinging assassin movie to be; without any of the awesomeness the Kill Bill movies had, but with a prompt pacing, vendettas, and a slight twist. Despite being predictable, and not exceeding any expectations, it was nicely cast, acceptably made, and there were no drastic errors.

DON’T watch if you’re looking for something stylistically new, emotionally/intellectually engaging, or rivetting enough to hold you on the edge of your seat.

DO watch if you appreciate guns, lots of them, and explosions. Also if you’re familiar with The Vampire Diaries, you would be pleased to know that Ian Somerhalder plays an assassin called Miles Slade. I do genuinely think he’s a really good actor, and of course Kelly Hu and Robert Carlyle are great.

Erm dude, where’s your skin? Cabin Fever 2 and American Movie

American Movie

Image via Wikipedia

Cabin Fever 2 was just what I expected; boring, amateur, and dragged on too long. That having been said, the animation/cartoon snippets in the title sequence and at the end were very good. I also liked the gore, and enjoy seeing bratty High School teens die (who doesn’t?).

The best part by far was Mark Borchardt as Herman the cab driver. At first I thought I was going mad imagining that it was him, but no it’s definitely Borchardt from American Movie (you have to see it if you haven’t already, truly one of the most hilarious films).

In Cabin Fever 2 he just basically plays himself, he is such a character in reality. “Dude” being the most heavily used word in his vocabulary. He belongs in way more movies, don’t you think?

You think Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is just hype?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

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I deliberately resisted reading the whole book before watching; I read enough chapters to love the book, but avoid clouding my judgement of the film. I was hoping for another Swedish gem, something I could enjoy as much as I loved Let The Right One In (not the remake).

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (“Män som hatar kvinnor“), was directed by Niels Arden Oplev and based on Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. I loved the story telling within the film, the tale itself is irresistible, as is the heroine Lisbeth Salander (played by Noomi Rapace). But again that is mainly credit to the book, not necessarily the filmmakers.

I admit the film was atmospheric, held my attention, and the story seduced me. But some chunks of the tale felt like they were included only to appease the book’s fans. For example, we probably didn’t need such routine intervals of Lisbeth’s past. Her past is vital of course, it grants context, but so much of it added nothing to the plot, and felt like it was there just to break the pacing between sub-plot and main-plot.

We could have instead been teased with briefer hints and flashes to her past. But I suppose they wanted to find a balance between her tortured past and tortured present. It felt too prescribed, too calculative, trying too hard to force us to see everything of what she is, rather than letting us interpret. I suppose I found it mildly patronising.

I was not offended by the more graphic scenes, which I won’t reveal as I don’t like spoilers. I actually liked the fact that she was portrayed as a strong, independent female. Her dynamic with the journalist Mikael Blomkvist (played by Michael Nyqvist) was effective, and there wasn’t anything startling wrong with the film. It just wasn’t everything I had hoped for.

I should refer back to the film I mentioned before. Hoyte Van Hoytema was responsible for the cinematography in Let the Right One In, his style is subtle but irresistible. Whereas The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, despite not being poorly filmed, certainly had no distinctive style or anything visually new to offer.

I think The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is living proof that the books are always better than the film. But I am glad they made it into a film, because it means more people are encouraged to read the books, which I have found to be excellent. I would recommend watching this film, but don’t do so if you’re expecting something groundbreaking or revolutionary.

Eat shit? The Human Centipede

Promotional poster for The Human Centipede (Fi...

Image via Wikipedia

One of my best friends, Marie, stayed over this week and watched The Human Centipede (directed by
Tom Six) with me.

The worst (best) part was Dr Heiter, played by Dieter Laser. He was truly creepy looking, and his acting made you feel like perhaps he was this scary in reality too. The film was about his being a surgeon; he used to separate conjoined twins, but then becomes fixated with joining living things.

Naturally, this leads to his ideal of a human centipede, connected by sewing their mouths to each others butts, so that they share one digestive track. Implausible in the long-term, and hilarious, so I was glad when one of the three victims died from infection. That was the most medically accurate part.

The film was not scary, but hilarious. I just couldn’t stop laughing at what idiots the characters are. One of the two female leads had the chance to escape, but hides instead of smashing the window to escape straight away. And the Japanese guy, played by Akihiro Kitamura, who is also a captive, actually stabs Dr Heiter with a scalpel, but only in the foot and leg. He goes crazy and bites him, but instead of using his chance to kill the crazy Doctor, or knock him unconscious at least, he chooses to just attempt to run away (difficult with two girls surgically attached).

I had no real sympathy for the characters because their survival instincts were poor, I like it when characters truly try their best and are beaten down, but these three were mainly moronic and therefore deserved it. The very few chances they had to escape they wasted completely.

As ridiculous as this film was, it’s worth watching because it’s one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a long time, and wasn’t too badly shot.

The Collector, watching alone in the dark :(

About to watch it, then will fill in a review here.

Dear John, sob stories don’t ensure a great movie

Cover of "Dear John (Limited Edition Blu-...

Cover via Amazon

Despite my reluctance, I just watched Dear John (2010), directed by Lasse Hallström. This is because my friend Katie insisted.

It’s not entirely fair for me to slate the filmmakers just because I did not enjoy it at all. My lack of enjoyment came mainly from the fact that I’m not a stereotypical girl who falls for the lead male every time, or dreams of that kind of thing. I have everything I need in that department. I do like films about love, but they must have something more to offer.

So, aside from getting people to relate to the smushy love scenes, what else does this film have to offer?

Well, my favourite aspect was John’s father, played by Richard Jenkins. He has always had an affinity to play loner roles, and fatherly ones. Six Feet Under, the Television series which ran from 2001-2005, is a good example, with his role as Nathaniel Fisher.

I loved his fragility, it evoked more feeling from me than Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried‘s love scenes ever did. His coin collection made a great metaphor throughout the film, and was like another character.

Sympathy tactics are not enough to make a great movie for me though, it did not change the fact that the film was predictable, relatively shallow, and did not fully convince me. Despite all-round acceptable performances, Richard Jenkins was the only fully convincing part.

Multiple personalities and Shelter

Shelter (2009 film)

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[contains mild spoilers]

It’s nearly 4am and I can honestly say I haven’t been this spooked by a film in a long time. I just watched Shelter (2010), directed by Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein. And written by Michael Cooney.

Julianne Moore, whom I adore, plays a forensic psychiatrist whose patient (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) has multiple personality disorder…or so she thinks.

The fact that each of his multiple ‘personalities’ are that of actual murder victims, causes her to question herself. An inward battle between science and religion reigns as she tears through experimentation and research, finding nothing that makes sense to her.

What starts out as a psychological thriller becomes supernatural horror, which was quite interesting as it works as both. Some people complained about the ‘switch’, but in actuality there was no transition needed; it was always evident that this was more than just a man with multiple identities. Maybe some people are just a little slow in the brain tank. The filmmakers even showed the supernatural darkness very early on in the plot, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind other than Julianne Moore herself.

I was impressed with Jonathan Rhys Meyers’s handling of the multiple roles, especially when he had to behave as a little girl crying after her wounded mother. He had the hardest task of balancing the many characters that made his part.

The film had a subtle style which never intruded on the plot; every voice over or scene transition was smooth, and the music haunting in all the places it needed to be. I did wonder why only the spine was fully changed when each of Meyers’s identities switched, whereas everything else was left the same, but I guess that doesn’t need to be explained. The convenient thing about supernatural genres is that they minimise the need to explain what is synonymously unexplainable, or without reason.

8/10 is a very fair rating I think. But I wonder if maybe I was only so jumpy during because I am sleep deprived, and alone in a cold dark house.

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Cannibals and Snowboarders

Today I watched Scarce (2008), directed by Jesse T. Cook and John Geddes, a film about a group of snowboarders on vacation. During a snow storm they are forced to seek refuge, but little did they know they are safer out in the storm. The people who grant them refuge are cannibals, surviving on what they ‘hunt’ throughout the winter.

Overall a pointless film with a very slow start, but the effects were cool, especially because it was on a low budget. I mean, of course I only watched it for the blood; I wouldn’t sit down and watch a film with that premise if I were looking for an intellectually challenging experience.

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The Idiots

The Idiots

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Shorter review here: Click

‘The Idiots’ is a film directed by Lars Von Trier in 1998, it was made in compliance with the Dogme ’95 Manifesto; an avant-garde filmmaking movement started in 1995, and was his first film. ‘The Idiot’s’ focuses upon the tale of a group of people who feign mental disabilities in pursuit of their ‘inner idiot’, their ‘spassing out’ is an attempt to release their inhibitions.

The film was deemed shocking, despite many disability groups approving of the film and agreeing that it exposed underlying social prejudices against disability. Micro-elements contributed to the shocking effect which this film induced upon some audiences. Realism was used to suspend the audiences sense of disbelief, such was achieved through sound, which was mainly diegetic. The dialogue seems real, unrehearsed and alike to everyday conversation but for the content of the conversations between characters. In making the dialogue believable, and in casting the characters to be believable, the film seems more real, thereby engaging the audience attention, forcing them to relate to it, and therefore the shock value is inevitably heightened.
Editing is a significant element with regards to the shocking impact of the film. For example: jump cuts; a character was being interviewed, their family were present then they disappear in the next shot. The lack of chronological ordering in the film does not however cause it to be nonsensical, the tale of ‘The Idiots’ is told like it happened in the past, and the present in the film is shown with the interviews of each of the groups former members, the cross-cuts between the past and present (the interviews) grants tantalising insights into the characters and the events of the tale, before the tale is fully told, which holds audience attention and assists the flow of the narrative.
My personal interpretation of the film is that it aims to educate the audience about society’s general view and attitude towards disabled people. The female main character begins oblivious to the groups intentions and ways (like the audience) and as she is led into their world so is the audience. The film seems to be about seeking deeper meanings, and sharing different perspectives, whether it be sharing the perspectives of someone completely healthy, someone disabled, someone inside the group or outside of it. I think that initially the main character acts as a representation of the ignorance of a lot of people to disability, and is a tool within the film to educate the audience. The film does not seem to hold bias as to a certain perspective, but rather it is explorative of different perspectives, whether they be shown through conflict between the characters, or contrast between general society and the group.
The characters struggles, emotions and lessons are ways of evoking similar feelings from the audience; for example the scene where one of the group pretending to be disables cries after they meet people with genuine disabilities, she cries from guilt and gain of a deeper understanding. The characters force themselves to understand societies prejudices and perspectives of disability by directly experiencing it, for example in the scene where one of the males in the group are assisted to urinate by a male stranger, the humility and potentially condescending aspects.
With regards to mise-en-scene, the shots which are held for a long time at various points create an uncomfortable atmosphere, and the fact that the camera is handheld, and also that the shots are inclusive of great detail (including that of nudity and penetrative sexual activity), add to the shock. This is because they do not romanticise, glamorise or sensationalise any events of aspects including disability. The camera movements and angles grant a raw and honest feel to the film, which leads me to believe that this film bows mainly to the category of visual and graphic shock, as well as the ideological shock of questioning morals, and challenging society’s perspective.
The only romanticism that the film seems to possess lies within the character’s initially naive portrayals of how they view disabled people to be, particularly when they use it to their advantage in the first scene; they deliberately ‘spass out’ to get chucked out of a restaurant and not have to pay.
There seemed a subtle hint of role reversal in the pub scene, where one of the males in the group was ‘spassing’ and stared unabashedly at a physically healthy man because he had a lot of tattoos on each arm, this hinted at the fact that a lot of people stare at disabled people, as they are a ‘social minority’, and I felt that the director made this decision to symbolise equality, to question whether our perspectives of minorities give us the right to hold prejudices.
Generally I would say that adult audiences ranging from young adult to above middle-aged would watch this, not merely because of censorship, but because it tackles a broad subject, and indeed a broad society, therefore potentially snatching the curiosity of many ages of people. However most people are shocked by this film, and many of them are offended by its content, or its violation of implicit textual construct between viewer and film.
I was not shocked or offended by the film, because I am open-minded and accustomed to films that are conventionally deemed shocking, but also because I thought that the film was intelligent, and I looked past what would moralistically be seen as shocking and wrong in order to gauge deeper meaning from it.

Note: I wrote this a long time ago back when I was a film student.