Sorority Row – Review

“There are worse ways to spend an hour and forty minutes.  Unfortunately for Sorority Row, there are also better ones.”

Stewart Hendler’s Sorority Row harkens back to (better) slasher movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream, and makes as much sense as either though both of those movies at least had a bit of innovation going for them, and while the snark of Sorority Row is always welcome, it’s not enough of a differentiator to elevate the movie.

Though things begin interestingly enough, when the members of Phi Theta sorority pull a particularly mean-spirited prank on the brother of one of their members that ends in a very real death.

Soon the girls are being bumped off one by one, seemingly by the person who was the victim of their prank gone awry (mostly in visually interesting, though practically impossible, ways). Sounds familiar?  It should because it’s a plot device that been used every since Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, mainly because when it works, you don’t see any of the many moving parts that need to be in sync for it to work.

Which Sorority Row, for the most part, doesn’t.

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A Single Man – Review

A Single Man movie poster

“Shiny, happy plastic people in tragic circumstances.”

Tom Ford’s A Single Man isn’t a horror or fantasy film, but it might as well be, as far as depicting relationships between humans goes.  George (Peter Firth) is a British expatriate, teaching at a college in California.  His world is seemingly perfect till the death of his lover, Jim (Matthew Goode) in an auto accident changes everything.

For a movie about a man who’s love is torn from him so suddenly, this is a remarkably chaste movie, which is important to note because there’s barely anything even remotely passionate about their relationship, which is a problem when that’s what underlies everything that happens in the movie.

I can understand why two actors might not want to give a more nuanced portrayal of two people in love, but British films (such as the far superior Weekend, also on Netflix) typically aren’t afraid to depict people being intimate–and I don’t necessarily mean in a sexual context.  George and Jim may occupy the same space at any given time, but they never feel as if they’re together.

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Da Sweet Blood of Jesus – Review

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus movie poster

“Entertaining, in that singularly unique Spike Lee way.”

Spike Lee is a fascinating director, for better or for worse.  By which I mean, the trip isn’t always the most leisurely, though if you’re prescient enough to see where he’s trying to take you, you find yourself the better for it.

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, the movie that he financed via Kickstarter, is no different.  One of the first things you notice, besides the initially stilted-sounding dialog, is how oddly paced the movie is.  It’s not that it’s rushed, but Lee doesn’t spend much time on details that at first seem relatively small, though typically end up defining characters in ways that add to their three-dimen-sionality.  A prime example of this tendency is Dr. Hess Green’s (Stephen Tyrone Williams) journey into vampirism (via being stabbed by an Ashanti sacrificial knife, which is nothing if not novel).

What’s interesting is that Green was arguably a vampire long before he began to actually ingest blood.  He lives in a tony home on Martha’s Vineyard, purchased from money his grandparents earned as the founders of the first black brokerage firm, while as a vampire he makes regular trips into the poorer sections of New York, to sate his hunger for blood, be it blood banks or single mothers.

It’s a fascinating dichotomy that I wish that the movie had spent more time on.

In fact, considering that Lee barely touches on the life of his main character, imagine how those not-quite-so main characters fare?  Not too good, though to have the audacity to name a character ‘Ganga Hightower,’ (Zaraah Abrahams) almost, but not quite, makes up for it.

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Dark Summer – Review

Dark Summer

“”Dark Summer” Isn’t The Season Horror Fans Are Waiting For (Though It’s Still Better Than “Ouija”).”

Watching Dark Summer you can tell that the filmmakers thought that they were onto something special, and I can understand why.

The movie has some beautiful cinematography and is shot and edited in a manner designed to heighten atmosphere and tension.

Keir Gilchrist plays Aaron, who when the movie begins is under house arrest for stalking a classmate.  He receives moral support from his best friends, Kevin (Maestro Harrell) and Abby (Stella Maeve), who may be better than he deserves.

An already difficult situation is made worse when the girl he’s accused of stalking kills herself.

Stokes (Peter Stomare) has the job of ensuring that Aaron doesn’t leave his house and always wears his monitoring anklet.

Stomare is always awesome, though we don’t see much of him (and I get it.  His was only a supporting role, though Peter Stomare so elevates everything he turns up in that it’s a shame that he didn’t get more screen time).

That being said, there are a few problems with Dark Summer that get in the way of it being the movie it could be.

One of which is that it isn’t particularly scary, which is odd because it’s pretty atmospheric.  It’s also really well-acted.  Typically actors sleepwalk through these types of movies, but everyone in this instance is really present.  In fact the entire cast makes the situation feel realistic enough that despite being patently silly, you roll with it.

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Transformers: Age of Extinction – Review

“What Kind Of Cars Are Those?  They’re  So Scary.”

I didn’t make up that quote, by the way, it’s an actual line from the movie, which is problematic because NO ONE talks like that, particularly when there’re being chased by a bunch of assassins.   Though the thing is, the actor who uttered the line, T.J. Miller, is always interesting, so I was able to let it go (though clearly not forget).

Though one of the many the problems is that what happens when really stupid events occur and the actors aren’t particularly interesting?  Or even worse, when stupid things happen when the actors aren’t even human?

Well, that’s pretty much the story of the Transformers films:  Lots of clearly expensive CGI spending way too much time in an attempt to justify its very existence.

And that’s not to say that there aren’t decent flesh and blood actors in the movie.  Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer and Mark Wahlberg all have some pretty impressive performances–in much better movies–under their belts, though there’s so little asked of them here–other than to show up and go through the motions–that you can’t take anything seriously.

Which is a problem when you’re dealing with a bunch of films that are fantastical by design; there’s nothing to ground them.

Joshua Joyce

In case you forgot that Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) was inspired by Steve Jobs…

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I Ain’t Afraid Of No Ghosts–Because They Don’t Exist

I just finished watching Lluís Quilez’s Out Of The Dark, currently on Netlix, and it’s a bit middling, though hardly the worse movie I’ve seen.

It revolves around a family who moves to Columbia, and are haunted by ghosts.

Though not particularly effective, I found it interesting for another reason:  The ghosts come about because the owner of a paper mill, Jordan (Stephen Rea) dumped some mercury into the water–I assumed that it’s either the by-product of producing paper or somehow used in the process–so the justifiably pissed-off ghosts chose to haunt his children and cap things off by kidnapping their daughter, Hannah (Pixie–Yes, according to IMDB that’s her real name–Davies) .

Earlier I read a story from The New York Times earlier today about a slave ship that crashed on reefs just outside of South Africa.  The ship was on the way to Maranhão, Brazil with a cargo of 400-500 slaves.  When the ship crashed, the crew escaped.

The slaves chained in the hold, being but cargo, died bound together like cords of wood.

And as horrific as that must have been for the people who perished aboard that ship, that’s hardly the worse thing we as humans have done to one another, not by a long shot.

That being the case, why aren’t there more ghosts?  There should literally be disembodied spirits everywhere you turn.  People have been on the earth for awhile–so shouldn’t we be literally tripping over them?

And sure, not everyone would be perceptive enough to pick up on them, but being that there are over 7 billion people in the world today, if only a small percentage of those individuals are sensitive to such things wouldn’t that means millions of people should be like that guy from The Sixth Sense?

And yet ghosts, like their sci-fi brethren, UFO’s, are pretty selective whom they appear to (it helps if you don’t happen to have a camera, though speaking of which, now that virtually everyone has cell phones I expect alien abductions to fall precipitously) which is why it all sounds like so much hokum.

Carrie (2013) – Review

“Kimberly Peirce’s Carrie, As Far As Remaks Goes, Isn’t Terribly Necessary, Though It’s Worth Seeing Anyway.”

For the longest time I’ve avoided watching Kimberly Peirce‘s remake of Brian DePalma’s Carrie because I just didn’t see the point, especially since from what I had seen from the trailers it wasn’t saying anything that the original didn’t.

And for the most part, I was right–and also wrong.

I’ll explain what I mean.  Pierce’s remake modernizes the material in a way that you’ll never get from DePalma’s movie–for instance characters use cell phones as well as the Internet–but there’s a very good reason for that:  Cell phones didn’t exist and I suspect that Internet didn’t either, at least not in the form that we know it today.

It’s also worth mentioning that the original movie might feel almost quaint (and to be honest, a bit dated) to a contemporary audience that’s grown up in the age of touch screen phones and the wireless interlinking of devices.

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