‘Mine Games’ Review

Mine Games movie poster

“”Mine Games” Is A Well-Done Thriller That Doesn’t Overstay It’s Welcome.”

Mind Games is a pretty savory bit of murder and seemingly random violence that from the start drops hints designed to lead you in one direction, while the narrative heads in another.

It’s a pretty clever movie in other ways as well.  For instance, one character is a apparently grabbed by someone in an abandoned mine, or was she?  Whomever it was left bloody fingernails across her ankle, seemingly no one else can see them.

The weird happenings continue to pile up one one after another, till there can be only one answer, no matter how unlikely or impossible that answer happens to be.

If I were to compare Mind Games to any other film it would be Cabin In The Woods, though I am not implying that that it’s as entertaining as that film, because it isn’t.  It’s not nearly as fantastical, though it has a few surprises up its sleeve.  It’s also well-cast, and like that film, revolves around a group of young people that are visiting a cabin in the woods that belongs to one of their relatives.

Though the characters don’t feel disposable, they’re also not quite as fleshed out as I would have liked because I have seen the movie twice, but I still can’t tell you anyone’s names, though to be fair that may have more to do with most of the actors being unfamiliar to me than anything else.

Though I recognized one–he wasn’t a big name, but at least was visually familiar; while another was a dead ringer for Shawn Ashmore, though I am pretty sure it wasn’t him.

As I said, it’s not quite the thrill ride that Cabin In The Woods is, but it’s also not as self aware as that movie was as well, which is a good thing.

Mine Games is currently showing on Netflix.

‘Pride’ Review

Pride movie poster

“”Pride” Is A Prime Example Of Why The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) Has Outgrew Its Usefulness.”

It’s normal, as humans, to try to define the world around us in as concise a manner as possible.  And it makes sense because when we were evolving as a species there were probably many instances where there just wasn’t time to go into a 50-word description about how that other tribe of proto-humans from the far side of the mountain were somehow different than we were.

That being said, a problem simplification brings is that it sacrifices nuance at the altar of  efficiency, often doing a disservice to whatever it is that that’s being described.  I mention this because Matthew Warchus’ Pride will probably be labeled as a gay movie–and while that’s not exactly inaccurate–it doesn’t tell the whole story, because in many ways the movie is about all of us, no matter how we define ourselves sexually.

It revolves around a gay rights organization headed by Mark (Ben Schnetzer) who decides to raise funds to support striking coalminers in Wales.  Both groups are vilified, and despite the miners virtually starving they were at first reluctant to accept support from a group that was openly gay.

So there’s the conflict between those that hold more traditional beliefs, versus those that were more progressive though what the movie didn’t spend nearly enough time exploring the fact that events were unfolding just when AIDS was just beginning to cut a devastating swath through the Gay community; yet Mark’s organization still chose to assist the mineworkers.

It may not have been as clear-cut as that, but the movie does create that impression.

Pride is also very monochromatic, though it’s hard to tell if that’s an accurate reflection of the history, or just the tendency of filmmakers to exclude people of color.  That being said, some do appear in crowd, club and parade scenes, and that’s about it.

Overall, Pride is an entertaining, and at times inspirational, movie that should be seen by as many people as possible because it’s less about sexuality than being true to yourself and people helping people, very often those on the face of it you hold nothing in common, other than a shared humanity.

And if that’s not something to be celebrated, then nothing is.

By the way, I just learned that Pride is rated R, which leaves me a bit baffled.   It’s a relatively tame movie–and while I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it’s been “Disneyfied“–there’s cursing, and suggestions of some Gay subcultures–there’s nothing that would offend anyone that’s the least bit respectful of the right of other people to live as they choose.

I also may be ranting a bit here, but Pride is based on the lives of real people, so why it is IMDB and CBS Films (one of the companies that produced the film) failed to include the last names of the characters is a bit beyond understanding.

‘Annabelle’ Review

Annabelle movie poster

“”Annabelle” has so much potential, most of which it doesn’t live up to.”

I have seen some God-awful, cringe-worthy movies, which John Leonetti‘s Annabelle thankfully isn’t; though it is in a way worse because it had the potential to be so much more than it ended up being, which is a passable horror movie; a trifle that you almost instantly forget upon learning the theater (which is mainly due to the movie’s tendency to play it safe, when daring was called for).

Annabelle is a prequel to The Conjuring, and you can see and feel that movie’s DNA all over the place, like a violent crime scene minutes before the arrival of a forensics team.  It’s not a bad thing, though it may have something to do with Annabelle never really feeling like its own movie, instead seemingly content to exist in the shadow of the latter.

Which is a pity because there’s a scene toward the end of the movie–if it had been allowed to play out–would have been like a punch to the solar plexus, and resulted in significantly elevating the material.

Though instead we get an ending that some might consider a bit of a cop-out, where a character sacrifices themselves for people they barely knew (which could have worked if the character in question were better fleshed out).

Another problem was that atmosphere was sacrificed at the altar of the  jump scare, which killed any change the movie had at building terror on the slow burn; the best kind.

Another smaller issue was that the doll was ghastly looking long before any demonic possession took place, which made it an odd choice for the film makers to use.  The possessed doll was supposed to have been a Raggedy Ann, which I think theatrically would have worked better just because it looks innocent and generic, as opposed to a toy that could have been assembled by the Devil himself.

I mentioned earlier that the movie relied on jump scares, which movies tend to do when they don’t have enough atmosphere to hold them together.  It’s a pity because there’s a terrifying movie somewhere in Annabelle waiting to get out.

I know this because you can see hints of its presence all over the place, just before they’re snuffed out, stillborn.

 

‘The Equalizer’ Review

The Equalizer movie poster

“Having OCD Was Probably Never So Awesome.”

Boyhood ran for 2 hours and 45 minutes, and after awhile it felt as if Richard Linklater had it in for me because what started out as an interesting theatrical experiment devolved into a bizarre and inhumane form of punishment.

By way of comparison, Antoine Fuqua’s The Equalizer ran for an hour and half, yet felt significantly shorter.

Now, to be fair, no people are killed in Boyhood–though there should have been at least one death, especially during what I like to call the ‘chainsaw blade scene’–but the violence in The Equalizer more often than not happened to people that deserved it, so it came off as cathartic, as opposed to gratuitous (which isn’t to say that there wasn’t a lot of it).

In fact, it’s odd to see a movie where the audience is actively rooting for someone to kill someone else, which wasn’t uncommon (at least at the showing I caught).

Part of what made Denzel Washington’s portrayal of Robert McCall so interesting is that the character has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which means that he’s developed quite a few repetitive behaviors and rituals, the point being that his condition was what made him such an efficient killer.

I have read reviews that compared this tendency to that of Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbach) in the BBC’s Sherlock, though it’s not a valid comparison because in the case of Sherlock you’re watching a representation of a mental process Holmes is going through to arrive at a certain conclusion, while in the case of McCall you’re looking at him plot the motion of what physical action he’s about to commit to.

The Equalizer, based upon a CBS television series that aired in 1985, starring Edward Woodward, moves briskly and almost feels like a guilty pleasure of sorts, which isn’t a bad thing.

 

 

‘Fetching Cody’ Review

Fetching Cody

“Fetching Cody Is An Unconventional Story About How Far One Man Is Willing To Go For Love.”

I tend to enjoy movies about time travel, which I have to admit that I like because I find it interesting the way filmmakers often try to fudge the (theoretical) science.  I have also come to notice that there are roughly two type of time travel movie:  The first, exemplified by films like Deja Vu, try to explain how time travel is possible within the framework of the movie.  And sure, more often than not the explanation is little more than techno-babble, but it tends to be interesting.

And there’s the second type, which could care less–if at all–about how time travel works and instead uses the premise to examine the lives of the characters within the movie, which is the type that takes place in Fetching Cody.

And it works because the two main characters, Art Frankel (Jay Baruchel) and Cody Wesson (Sarah Lind), are interesting enough that you just roll with their situation, despite its outrageousness.

It works on another level as well, which is that for awhile you’re not sure that what Art sees is actually happening or caused by overuse of the various pharmaceuticals he’s ingested.  For awhile this gives the movie an edginess similar to Terry Gilliam‘s The Fisher King, which Fetching Cody could perhaps be called a spiritual cousin to.  

Art and Cody are doing the best they can, which like too many of us isn’t good enough because they’re barely able to keep their heads above water.  Art is for the most part homeless, hasn’t found a pill he wasn’t willing to try and isn’t above hustling to make ends meet.  Cody is similar, though she seems to be into even harder drugs, which is her undoing when she takes something she can’t handle, and falls into a coma.

Heartbroken, Art flounders till he learns that one of his homeless friends has found a time machine that looks suspiciously like a recliner festooned with Christmas lights.

But the thing is, it actually works, but Art uses it not to improve his own life–which could use some enhancing–but instead to find a way to save Cody, no matter the cost.

David Ray’s movie is a fascinating study about the lengths one man is willing to go for the woman that he loves.

Fetching Cody is currently playing on Netflix.

‘The Colony’ Review

The Colony movie poster

“Lawrence Fishburne Is The Best Thing In A Feature You Probably Already Seen In Other Movies.” 

I have been wanting to see The Colony every since I saw its trailer on YouTube four or five months ago, so naturally I was jazzed to learn that it’s on Netflix.  It takes place in an indeterminate future, where we have built huge machines to control the weather (it should go without saying that if it’s isn’t broke, don’t fix it).  Naturally (and somewhat obviously), this scheme goes awry, and the Earth is plunged into an seemingly unending Ice Age.

And if that weren’t bad enough, for some reason people are more susceptible to ailments like the flu, which Colony 7 lacked the medicines to treat.  What the movie doesn’t seem to understand is that the flu is viral, which means that antibiotics have no effect (which is typically why doctors recommend bed rest and lots of fluids).

That being said, in 1918 the Spanish flu literally killed somewhere in the ballpark of 50 million, which included a lot of young and otherwise healthy people.  What made it so unusual is that it caused a person’s immune system to go into overdrive, which mean that–ironically–the healthier you are, and the stronger your immune system, the greater the likelihood that it would kill you while, young children and older people, with weaker immune systems were more likely to recover.

Besides, it’s not unknown for viruses to mutate, so it’s certainly possible that a new variant of the flu could have arisen.

In any case, they’re short of food, personnel, and (with reason) virtually paranoid about illness, so when they receive an SOS from Colony 5,  a neighboring settlement–which isn’t to imply that it’s, geographically speaking, all that close– need aid, their leader, Briggs (Laurence Fishburne) forms a three-man a team to investigate, despite the misgivings of Mason (Bill Paxton).

Which in hindsight wasn’t a good move because Mason makes it fairly obvious that he wants to take over.  His job was to “take care” of the people who were sick, which normally started with isolating them for a period of time.  If they got better, then all was good, though if they didn’t they would get the option of either leaving–almost certainly a death sentence–or a bullet–definitely a death sentence.

Mason streamlined the entire process:  If they’re coughing, he’s shooting.

There’s a subplot involving a distant colony that has gotten one of the weather control machines that dot the landscape like abstract art, working,  so they’re able to push back the ice and snow.

Though they don’t have any seeds, which makes the fact they can reach soil, but have nothing to plant, a bit of a catch-22.

But Colony 7 does, but can’t reach the soil because of the ice.  The movie dangles the possibility of locating this ice-free Roanoke, but does little with it (though there’s an implication that it’s not quite what it seems).

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‘After The Dark’ Review

 

After The Dark

After The Dark Is A Visually Beautiful Movie, Undermined By Needless Pretense.”

I actually saw John Huddles’  After The Dark four or five months ago before it turned up on Netflix, and it bothered me then, and it continues to do so (though it’s taken me awhile to understand why).

Though I think I finally figured it out:  After The Dark tries too hard to be seem significant and important, when it actually isn’t.

The movie revolves around a multi-ethnic Philosophy class in Jakarta, Indonesia and the logic tests led by their teacher.

When you’re exploring ideas of the mind, it’s particularly useful to not fill your class with, in most instances, remarkably attractive men and women.  To a fault all the students in this class are beautiful, which movies typically do when they have very little to actually say about anything.

And the ending…let’s go into it for a moment.  Things are played relatively straight, till that time, where the movie takes a detour into The Twilight Zone.  It’s not a bad thing, though it has the unfortunate effect of potentially undermining much of what came before, because you’re not quite sure of what’s real, and what isn’t.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t mind a good mind-fuck every now and then, though what I am not a fan of is uncertainty.

Another problem I found with the movie is its underlying premise.  As I mentioned earlier, the entire movies is composed of a series of thought experiments, done to elicit a particular response from the students.

Yet throughout the movie you have people interfering in the thought exercises of others, adding variables they shouldn’t be able to.

That being said, After The Dark isn’t a bad film, it’s beautifully shot and filled with lots of attractive people, but it’s really odd because despite have seen it (twice) I still have no idea what it’s doing or trying to say.