In Kilmography on August 10, 2013 at 6:51 pm
by Matt Smith
Red Planet might be the least interesting movie ever made about a mechanic and a ship’s captain hooking up. And it takes place IN SPACE. Shot and released at the nadir of Val Kilmer’s star power in 2000, Red Planet is about a crew sent to Mars in the near future to determine what has befallen their terraforming operation. Upon arrival, everything goes wrong, and not just for the characters in the narrative. No, once they all get to the red planet, the story meanders, too much happens, and the film falls apart. And yes, we are told via flashbacks that Kilmer and the ship’s captain, played by Carrie Ann Moss, are sort-of kind-of in love.
Ugh. We’ll come back to this, I promise…
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In Film, Reviews on August 10, 2013 at 12:14 am
By Eric Plaag
Full Disclosure: Matt and Eric often see the same movies but rarely post separate reviews of the same film for the site, unless the film is the topic of a special TheSplitScreen discussion. But this one stuck with Eric, and even though Matt has already posted his review, Eric felt compelled to write his own, too. For the record, Eric did not read Matt’s review prior to writing his own, to avoid being influenced by Matt’s thoughts.
One of the most frightening scenes I have ever seen in a paranormal film was the moment in Poltergeist (1982) when all chaos has begun to break out in the house and young Robbie Freeling goes looking for the vanished clown doll that usually resides at the end of his bed. As Robbie gingerly peeks under the bed for the clown he despises and fears, the audience prays along with Robbie that nothing will be there. And indeed, nothing is there. The audience also knows, though—as Robbie does with a sinking look of dread—that the clown will instead be behind him, ready to pounce. It doesn’t matter that we anticipate this outcome; it still scares us out of our pants.
I reference this moment because The Conjuring, from director James Wan and screenwriters Chad and Carey Hayes, is filled with moments like these, and I’m glad for it. They are never cheap. They are never bland retreads of jump scares we have seen a thousand times before in lesser paranormal films. They are inventive and smart and logical and expertly executed. And if you’ve ever actually been haunted by something in your home, you know that this is the steroids version of exactly how things go down. Contrast this narrative with the absurdities and excesses we see in any of the renditions of Paranormal Activity or their many imitators, and you’ll understand the difference.
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In Film, Reviews on July 29, 2013 at 2:02 pm
by Matt Smith
The Bangkok of Only God Forgives is a typically cinematic one, replete with whorehouses, karaoke lounges and Muay Thai boxing. The exotic exploitation of the locale and overt orientalism on display is, in other words, exactly what we might expect from a foreigner shooting a film there. And for whatever reason, it never seems outright exploitive other than the fact that the film is about just that. With a half-thought-out thesis about the value of life in Bangkok, a city of skin trades seemingly by default, and the many reasons Westerners are so fascinated by the place, Refn fully indulges in the cinematic tropes and visions that have haunted visitors to the East (and certainly the films made about the East by filmmakers in the West).
Sure, we could all sit around and think about the film as a meaningless expose of nothing at all. As a frame of reference, the Thailand of Only God Forgives is exactly that of The Hangover Part II. Both films traffic and attempt to profit from similar seedy aspects of the Bangkok underbelly. Both are lit like up like a whorehouse, with the constant artificial neon lighting searing absolutely unreal color schemes into our retinas. Each of the films are primarily concerned with the violence of the city in different ways, the illicit prostitution and blood-letting constantly pulling people apart at the seams.
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