Documentary Review: Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2010)

Release Date: May 13th, 2011
Directed by: Craig McCall
Music by: Mark Sayer-Wade

Modus Operandi Films, UK Film Council, National Lottery, 86 Minutes

Review:

I was glad to find this documentary streaming on FilmStruck, a service which every film lover should already be subscribed to.

I have known of Jack Cardiff and his contributions to movies for years but never have I seen anything that talks about the man and really analyzes the great work he did behind the camera for decades.

He was a master of color, of style and became one of the most sought after cinematographers in motion picture history. He was an auteur in the same vein as the greatest directors who have their own distinct styles.

This documentary is done in a general biography style but it spends a lot of time focusing on all the important and trendsetting films that Cardiff was a part of. It also gave me some films that I had to add to my “must see” list.

The coolest thing about Cameraman is that it interviews Cardiff and lets him speak about his work and his experiences. It also showcases directors, actors and other artists who worked with or were influenced by Jack Cardiff.

For those truly interested in filmmaking, film history and film culture, this is a documentary that is definitely worth your time. It is well produced, finely presented and paints a glorious picture of the man’s contribution to the art that he loved.

Film Review: Lunopolis (2010)

Release Date: February 12th, 2010
Directed by: Matthew Avant
Written by: Matthew Avant
Cast: Matthew Avant, Hal Maynor IV, Dave Potter

Media Savant, 97 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2014.

This was a movie that I really wanted to like. Now while I think the fake documentary shtick has more than ran its course, especially where low-budget horror films are concerned, this movie featured time travel, a secret society, weird moon mysticism and some intense creepiness. The pros seemed to outweigh the cons, as I went into this film eager to see what was weaved together.

The first third or so of this movie was pretty entertaining. These guys stumble upon some weird cabin floating in the middle of the bayou. They go inside, it is freaky as hell and they find some tiny hidden elevator. They go beneath the bayou and find a scary dark room with some sort of weird mechanical device. Some creepy shit happens and they then take the device and escape as they are being pursued by some unseen enemy.

The machine is some weird time travel device that one wears as a backpack. They also get this mysterious green gem. One thing leads to another and these guys are hunted and harassed by odd characters.

They go on to talk a lot, interview other people that talk a lot and that is about it until the end of the movie.

The film started out with some promise but fell flat and really didn’t seem to know where it was going. The end was a pretty massive disappointment after what was established in the first act.

This movie isn’t a waste of time but it also isn’t a very good use of time. Other than the really cool first half hour, it is a completely forgettable film.

Film Review: The ‘Hatchet’ Trilogy (2006-2013)

*written in 2015.

I never watched Hatchet or any of its sequels until this past weekend. I heard good things and they star Kane Hodder (the longest running actor to play Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th films) as the monster Victor Crowley. These films also star a plethora of other horror icons. The series grabs actors from the A Nightmare On Elm Street, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Candyman and Gremlins franchises. I’m sure I’m leaving some out as well.

Let me analyze each film in this trilogy separately.

Hatchet (2006):

Release Date: April 27th, 2006 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Directed by: Adam Green
Written by: Adam Green
Music by: Andy Garfield
Cast: Joel Moore, Tamara Feldman, Deon Richmond, Mercedes McNab, Parry Shen, Joel Murray, Joleigh Fioreavanti, Richard Riehle, Patrika Darbo, Joshua Leonard, Tony Todd, Robert Englund, Kane Hodder

ArieScope Pictures, Radioaktive Film, High Seas Entertainment, Anchor Bay Entertainment, 93 Minutes

Review:

“But you only shot him once, right? Maybe you gotta shoot him more times. Like four- or six- maybe you gotta shoot him six times?” – Shawn

The first film is enjoyable. Although these movies are supposed to be homages to the great slasher films of the 80s, they feel more like homages to the late sequels of those films. What I mean, is that this movie plays like the fifth film in a slasher franchise, where plot doesn’t matter and things are just violent, insane and way more over the top than normal.

Hatchet follows a group of people on a haunted bayou boat tour outside of New Orleans. The boat crashes, the people are stranded and our brutal beast of a killer literally rips them apart.

While this is considered part of the slasher sub-genre of horror and Victor Crowley is seen as a slasher, he tends to rip off arms and pull people’s heads apart, as opposed to stabbing people with knives or using machetes. Granted, he does use some tools here and there, but he has the tendency to mutilate his victims with his bare hands.

The film is more campy than scary. It is more like splatter porn than a mysterious slasher film that builds suspense. Instead of characters hiding from a knife-wielding psycho and trying to survive the night with cunning and stealth, we have people running from a mindless berserker that wants to fertilize the woods with hundreds of gallons of blood. There really is no suspense, just intense insanity once the monster shows up.

The ending is horrible, by the way. The film just cuts off. But it isn’t so bad, if you immediately watch the second film, which starts right where this one ends.

Hatchet II (2010):

Release Date: August 26th, 2010 (Frightfest)
Directed by: Adam Green
Written by: Adam Green
Music by: Andy Garfield
Cast: Kane Hodder, Danielle Harris, Tony Todd, Parry Shen, Tom Holland, R. A. Mihailoff, AJ Bowen, Alexis Peters, Ed Ackerman, David Foy, Colton Dunn, Rick McCallum

Dark Sky Films, ArieScope Pictures, 85 Minutes

Review:

“Come on, you hatchet-faced fuck!” – Bob

The second film is more of the same. It also continues into the next day following part one. Also, the main girl is suspiciously different looking. Oh, she’s now a different actress – Danielle Harris from Halloween 4 and 5, to be exact.

The sole survivor of the first movie, the new actress playing the old actress, returns to New Orleans to get answers regarding Victor Crowley. She then immediately heads out with a clueless posse to hunt him down because why the fuck not?

This one gets more insane than the first installment and is a lot bloodier and ridiculous. There isn’t a whole lot more to add really.

Same movie; ante upped.

Hatchet III (2013):

Release Date: June 14th, 2013
Directed by: B.J. McDonnell
Written by: Adam Green
Music by: Scott Glasgow
Cast: Kane Hodder, Danielle Harris, Caroline Williams, Zach Galligan, Robert Diago DoQui, Derek Mears, Cody Blue Snider, Rileah Vanderbilt, Sean Whalen, Jason Trost, Diane Ayala Goldner

Dark Sky Films, ArieScope Pictures, 82 Minutes

Review:

“I’ve seen some crazy shit, man. I was working on an Asian male; head severed off, uh, leg cut off below the knee. I’m telling you, man… He looked kinda like you, man.” – Randy

Like its predecessor, this one starts immediately where the last film ended. Basically, these three films happen over the course of three consecutive nights.

There is more splatter, more horror icon cameos but we are essentially just watching a single four and a half hour film instead of three separate movies.

Like the other films, this one ends somewhat open ended. I can only assume there will be a fourth chapter in the future.

These aren’t great movies but they are worth a watch and an entertaining way to kill a few hours. I don’t know how driven I will be to ever watch them again but I would check out another sequel. But I doubt that I would ride this out for ten films like Friday the 13th.

Film Review: Devil (2010)

Also known as: The Night Chronicles: Devil
Release Date: September 17th, 2010
Directed by: John Erick Dowdle
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan, Brian Nelson
Music by: Fernando Velaquez
Cast: Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green, Geoffrey Arend, Bojana Novakovic, Jenny O’Hara, Bokeem Woodbine, Jacob Vargas

Media Rights Capital, The Night Chronicles, Universal Pictures, 80 Minutes

Review:

“When he’s near, everything goes wrong. Toast falls jelly-side down, children hit tables, and people get hurt.” – Ramirez

After seeing Split, I have been pretty enthusiastic about the comeback of M. Night Shyamalan. So I figured that I’d revisit some of his works. While this isn’t directed by Shyamalan, it was his story and his production. I didn’t want to see it at the time of its release due to Shyamalan being in the midst of a horrible string of films that probably should have ruined his career. But what the hell, this was only 80 minutes and I figured I’d give it a shot.

The picture is a mixed bag. It isn’t shocking and it is pretty predictable but it isn’t as bad as the films Shyamalan was doing himself around this time, such as The Happening and The Last Airbender.

The acting was mediocre, the cinematography wasn’t very inspiring and the score was ineffective. While it might seem like I’m trashing the film, I still found it entertaining enough to fill its meager 80 minutes.

However, some of it was still a bit too dragged out. Really, the film could have been just as effective at 60 minutes, honestly. That just makes me question why this had to be a feature film though. Couldn’t this have fit better as a television episode in a horror anthology? There just isn’t enough to justify this story being a feature film. It seems like an idea that was interesting but was lacking in deeper thought and follow through from a writing standpoint.

It was also pretty hokey and cheesy, especially in regards to the Latino security guard who kept citing spooky tales his grandmother told him about the Devil. And truthfully, there is so much more that could have been explored regarding the Devil and the character’s motivation.

Devil is not a waste of time but it certainly is not a must-see picture, far from it. I didn’t hate it and I wasn’t annoyed by it. It just sort of exists in a state of limbo. Nothing was particularly bad and nothing was particularly good.

TV Review: Terriers (2010)

Original Run: September 8th, 2010 – December 1st, 2010
Created by: Ted Griffin
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Robert Duncan
Cast: Donal Logue, Michael Raymond-James, Laura Allen, Kimberly Quinn, Jamie Denbo, Rockmond Dunbar

MiddKid Productions, Rickshaw Productions, Fox 21, 20th Century Fox, 13 Episodes, 45 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*originally written in 2014.

Terriers was on for only one season during 2010. When it aired on FX, I never saw it. In fact, despite the fact that it starred two guys that I really like, I didn’t even know about its existence until recently.

I read a blog somewhere that talked about the best shows available on Netflix that you could binge watch in one sitting. Terriers topped that list and once I saw that it starred Donal Logue (Grounded For Life, Blade, Gotham) and Michael Raymond-James (best known as Rene Lenier from the first season of True Blood), I had to check it out.

The premise is pretty simple, Logue plays an ex-alcoholic/ex-detective that teams up with an ex-thief to be P.I.’s in southern California. The formula is straightforward but with these two guys leading this show, we’ve got one of the best buddy crime shows I’ve ever seen. It’s witty, it’s lovable and it has this sort of magical quality that causes the show to grow more endearing as one progresses through the episodes.

Terriers was hurt by bad marketing and possibly a bad name and thus, it was the lowest rated show in FX history. In fact, even if the ratings doubled, it would have still been the lowest rated show. That’s unfortunate, and it led to it being canceled after one season. I get the business side of things but I feel like this show could’ve picked up steam, had more people been exposed to it. I hope that in years to come, as all 13 episodes are on Netflix, that it builds a sort of cult following.

In the end, I really wish there were more than 13 episodes because just when I fell in love with the show, it was over.

Film Review: A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)

Release Date: April 27th, 2010 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Samuel Bayer
Written by: Wesley Strick, Eric Heisserer
Based on: characters created by Wes Craven
Music by: Steve Jablonsky
Cast: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz

New Line Cinema, Platinum Dunes, Warner Bros., 95 Minutes

Review:

This film has been out for seven years and I really didn’t want to see it. I’m a massive fan of the original film and some of its sequels. More importantly, I am a bigger fan of Robert Englund and how he has played the character of Freddy Krueger over his 19-year and 8 film span. Englund was Freddy and Freddy was Englund.

However, if you absolutely had to recast the role, which they didn’t have to, Jackie Earle Haley isn’t a bad choice. The thing is, this was a role doomed for failure because it belonged to Robert Englund.

The character had also become increasingly more funny and campy, as the original series pumped out yearly installments. While Haley’s Krueger has a good one-liner or two, it just doesn’t have the impact and hilarity of Englund’s infamous one-liners. But that isn’t Haley’s fault. This was just a stupid film, that similarly to the Friday the 13th remake, a year prior, didn’t really understand the magic behind its predecessors.

The film is horribly acted, completely lacks suspense and has no originality. This remake steals all the cool shit from the original 1984 film and does it all over again with shitty CGI and unimaginative execution. Watch the original film’s scene where Freddy starts to come through the bedroom wall and then watch that same scene in this 2010 version. One is terrifying and feels real, the other feels like an unfinished cutting room floor scene of the Sandman from Spider-Man 3.

Kate Mara’s always depressing sister plays Nancy and completely lacks everything that made Heater Langenkamp great in that role. The kid who plays the Johnny Depp role is useless and pointless, Black Canary form Arrow essentially plays Tina from the original but they changed her name. Her death scene also treads the exact same water as the original but does it poorly and doesn’t add in anything new.

Also, Freddy, in this film, is a straight up child rapist. While that was implied in the sixth film (Freddy’s Dead) of the original film series, I never really accepted that after it took six films to make that point. Plus, Freddy’s Dead was mostly atrocious and added a bunch of crap to the mythos that didn’t need to be there, ala Jason Goes To Hell.

This movie is garbage. It brings nothing new to the table and it’s execution and creativity don’t even come close to the original Wes Craven directed masterpiece. Pretty sad, considering this film had a much larger budget to work with and the future of the franchise was riding on it being successful.

In the seven years since, there has not been a sequel and talk about Elm Street is nonexistent. Granted, it will eventually get rebooted again. I just hope that the next attempt isn’t soulless crap like this was.

Documentary Review: If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise (2010)

Release Date: August 23rd, 2010
Directed by: Spike Lee
Music by: Terence Blanchard

40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, 255 Minutes

if_god_is_willing_and_da_creek_dont_riseReview:

If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise is a sequel to Spike Lee’s earlier documentary When the Levees Broke – A Requiem in Four Acts. I reviewed the original film series already.

In this documentary series, Spike Lee returns to New Orleans five years later, after he shot his first documentary, which chronicled the effects of Hurricane Katrina. This film acts as a follow up and shows us were a lot of the people from the original film series are at, after some time has passed. It also examines the British Petroleum Oil Spill, which happened close to New Orleans just before this documentary started filming.

Where it shows how far people have come post-Katrina and how far they still have to go, it emphasizes the impact of another disaster – this one not of nature but of man’s environmental carelessness. The film justifiably magnifies the plight of the people of New Orleans, who felt abandoned by their country, their government and now in a bigger sense, the world.

Like the previous film series, Spike Lee takes a step back as interviewer and director and just lets the people in this film talk: telling their story from their point of view. There really is no spin or hidden agenda other than letting the people of New Orleans discuss these issues and their problems while displaying the good, the bad and the ugly but most importantly, the kinship between many of those suffering together.

These two sister series of films are some of Spike Lee’s finest work. And being a New Orleans Saints fan, I really enjoyed the prologue that showcased the Saints winning Super Bowl XLIV and the impact it had on the community.