Cinema Reservoir
Breaking Cinematic Opinion and Observation

More Capsule Reviews!

DISTRICT 9 – Not exactly a film of subtlety yet ridiculously entertaining and leaps and bounds better than that other movie about aliens getting evicted from their homes.  Part mockumentary, part bloody science fiction the film follows Wickus Van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley) as he leads a military force into “District 9” (alien refugee camp) to serve eviction notices.  The first half hour is actually a comedy and seems to mimic a Christopher Guest movie, as fake talking heads discuss the situation leading to the eviction process.  These aliens, which they mockingly call Prawns, have really worn out their welcome after twenty years.  They aren’t the cute aliens we’ve seen in E.T. nor are they like the noble Navi’ from Avatar, they really do look like shrimp.  They are pretty dumb, don’t have nice manners, and are always eating catfood and chopping up pigs….. I won’t even go into their reproductive rituals.  This is one aspect that really stood out to me… the decision to make the aliens as unlikable to the audience as they are to the people in the film.  A lesser movie would have tried to create an emotional bond between us and the innocent stranded aliens, but this film makes the situation ugly from every angle.  The lightheartedness of the first half of the film quickly gives way to the brutal and gory as the film progresses and both prawn and human body parts begin exploding.  Nice uses of:  Alien abortion, self amputation, advanced weaponry gone berserk, Swine projectiles, alien/human prostitution, and finally.. the best disembowelment scene since Day of the Dead. 5 out of 5 stars.

DRAG ME TO HELL The best satanic film of the year finds Sam Raimi doing what Sam Raimi does best… making us laugh and recoil in horror at the same time.   The plot finds a meager loan clerk denying a gypsy woman an extension on her mortgage.  Well.. that turns out to be the first of a series of bad ideas this clerk (played by Allison Loehman) makes.  The second is letting that old gypsy take a button off her blouse and use it to put a  curse on her.  From that point forward she learns all about gypsy justice, which involves having the devil torment her for three days before literally dragging her to hell.  Highlights include:  Ridiculously campy titles, psychotic zoom, anything disgusting that will fit into Allison Loehman’s mouth, embalming fluid vomitus, arterial spray from nasal passages, zombie goats, stapler jujitsu, ruler jujitsu, rotting denture jujitsu, possessed diner table center pieces, and perhaps the pis de resistance…. kitten sacrifice accompanied by unexpected kitten regurgitation.  4 out of 5 shrieking hell hounds.

DAMAGES (the third season so far) This is one of the most fantastic shows I have ever seen.  For those of you who haven’t seen any season of this excellent series:  it follows Patty Hewes (Glen Close) – a high profile lawyer who seeks the titular monetary damages from super rich bastards who have screwed millions out of people.  This season finds Hewes searching for the hidden fortune of a Bernie Madoff style banker.  The real standouts this season are his wife (played by Lilly Tomlin) and their faithful lawyer (an unsettling Martin Short).  This may seem like odd casting, but for us devout Damages fans, we know that Damages has an odd tendency to cast comic actors in deranged roles (see season 1 villain Ted Danson or season 2’s psychotic assassin played by Daryl Hammond).  So Tomlin and Martin are in good company this season as they hide the fortune their patriarch stashed away for them and poison anyone who threatens to shake their status quo.  The real brilliance, of course, is that our heroine – Patty Hewes – is not without her psychotic side too.  Indeed… she’s had as many people killed as her defendants have yet gotten away with it every time.  HIGHLIGHTS this season include (SO FAR):  3 dead bodies (2 poisoned, 1 stabbed THEN drowned), a car crash with a phantom driver, multiple nightmares involving bloody feet and bloody marinara sauce AND a horse (not in that order, unfortunately), dysfunctional family with multiple secret bastard children, tear soaked sleeves of Lilly Tomlin, and the ONLY downside to this season…. Tragic absence of talk show host/dear Hewes friend GRETTA VAN SUSTEREN, yet with two episodes left I’m not going to count her out just yet.  UPDATE:  7 dead bodies (two poisoned, one stabbed, one drowned, one beaten/shot to death, and two gangland style executions.  I can’t tell you who’s who out of the mix, that might spoil things for those of you who haven’t seen the finale yet.

SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD (2009) George Romero has zombies on the brain, who knew? Well this is the 6th film in his zombie catalog and I would have to rank it somewhere in the middle, the best being “Dawn of the Dead” and the worst being “Land of the Dead”.  The premise of “Survival” one goes thusly:  there’s an island off the coast of Connecticut (I think) where everyone speaks with Irish accents and the two most powerful people on the island, a Mr. Patrick O’Flynn and a Mr. Seamus Muldoon, disagree on how to handle the ever-worsening zombie holocaust.  O’Flynn wants to kill any zombie that he sees, while Muldoon wants to keep them around “Just in case” there’s a cure…. I could never figure out if he thought there was going to be a cure for “throat ripped out” but that’s really neither here nor there. Anyway, Muldoon has more guns, so he kicks O’Flynn out, but months later O’Flynn returns with a bunch of National Guard members and an androgynous guy in the hopes of reclaiming the island.  The biggest problem I have with this zombie outing is that it isn’t really attempting to be scary, at least I hope it isn’t.  Most of it takes place in the light of day, so there’s no real opportunity for anything to come out of nowhere.  There aren’t any scenes of cities overrun, there aren’t any severely marred zombies to excite the imagination… in fact, this film probably has the least bloody premise of them all.  There’s even a zombie that spends her time riding  her favorite horse all over the island.  Still the movie is very very watchable and does add up to something in the end, which is more than I can say for Romero’s previous two films.  Nice uses of:  Pitchfork impalement, white zombie slavery, zombie rodeo with lasso and hogties, redneck zombie hunters, Old family rivalries, cantankerous old men, Lake-O-Zombies, and wild wild west style stand-offs.  200 undead bodies.  2 1/2 stars.

CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010) Being such a huge fan of the original Ray Harryhausen “Clash” I just had to see the remake.  I have to say that I wasn’t entirely disappointed.  The plot is basically identical to the original, Perseus (Sam Worthington) must save the beautiful Princess Andromeda from a gruesome sacrifice to the Kraken, a multi-tentacled Titan called forth by the gods due to a foolish boast that Andromeda was more beautiful than any god.  So, Perseus goes on a perilous mission to capture Medusa’s head so that he can turn the Kraken to stone.  In the interest of ‘legitimate’ film criticism, I’ll say this:  When you remake a movie, especially an action/fantasy film, one of the main reasons is to update the special effects.  Usually this would be an easy feat, except it’s remaking a film that was only made for it’s special effects.  So it has some significant shoes to fill… and in general it doesn’t fill them very well.  The only scene I would say is better than in the original is the climactic fight between Perseus and the Kraken, as there wasn’t that much of a fight put up in the original… He basically just shows up riding Pegasus and aims Medusa’s head toward the Kraken, as he tries to wave him away.  Anyway… a decent mind numbing action film, but it sorely lacks the care and craft that Ray Harryhausen imbued the original with.  NICE USES OF: Super strong Calibos, Bubo cameo,   impressive harpie/Pegasus/Perseus battle, giant scorpions with stinger impalements, crazy citizen who warns everyone not to anger the Gods, Medusa scene with decapitation.


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