Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Population 436 (2006)

"Welcome to Rockwell Falls. Population 436" is the tagline that seems announcing a scary movie. What we have here is another indie, relatively old, that shows its age maybe even a bit more than what it is. Technically is a horror, practically that scary movie announcement is not much more than an announcement. Not that I would have a problem with that, but the movie is pretty ... dry, I can't find another better word for it. The story goes like this - we have a guy working for the Census Bureau, who has an assignment to Rockwell Falls = middle of nowhere, where he's initially welcomed with sheer hostility that turns around in just a few hours. Around meaning up to the point of being greeted by everybody on the street. Of course that it doesn't need much more to the guy to figure out that something's fishy, especially given that nobody wants to explain him why the records show 436 as a constant population number for the last 100 years or so. You'll get the answer in the movie. What I can say more is that the plot is pretty original for a horror. Unfortunately it's messed by some scenes that lose lots of credibility (including a romance that brings you to the eye-rolling state again & again & again...).

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Monday, November 20, 2017

Session 9 (2001)

Old movie - short entry: "Session 9" is an example of a horror movie in the real sense of a horror, not the typical action disguised as a horror = lots of blood, screams and a stupid subject. It's not exactly "It Follows", but I think that in the last two and a half years I didn't see anything else that transpired such a tense feeling as I've got here. The movie was shot in a place that seems to actually be a former closed asylum left to decay, Danvers State Asylum, a building that I guess beats any other in a top of creepy/haunted places I've seen in a movie. And yes, that counts also the Overlook Hotel in Shining... The story starts relatively simple - a crew of 5 men working as a team of cleaning/decontamination for asbestos constructions is contracted to take care of the mentioned building. As a detail, the team leader offers an apparently impossible time of a week for getting the job done to secure the contract. Things go obviously bad ... and again obviously we have something bad in the building. The action follows a sort of classic development, day by day, which is one of the aspects that seem to lose its sense since we only get to Friday (well, seems I gave a spoiler...). What's nice is that each character is really carefully constructed, the script exploiting very well the more or less obvious personal fears. That's actually so well done that (again...) I reached the conclusion that I probably got too old for psychological horrors, the everyday life stress is enough. What's not that nice is that the movie, an indie, feels a bit unpolished leaving a lot to the viewer to figure out. Including that "something bad" from above, at least partially - although the fact that we don't have a solid clarification contributes on making the movie more real, and implicitly more scary. But, enough spoilers :) ...

Rating: 3 out of 5

Sunday, November 12, 2017

10 years of blog & Stargate: Atlantis

I have already a few good minutes of staring at a blank page with no idea of what to write at 10 years of blog (well, 7 for the English version). I'm a bit puzzled how I didn't close it yet. I recently found out that Romania seems to be the EU country with the least cinemas per capita. But since I never really cared of earning something from my blog probably doesn't matter that much. I'd really not turn this anniversary entry into a political one and also I already see rising the depressing potential of it, so let's just move swiftly to the movie subject...

Why "Stargate: Atlantis"? First of all, there are several moments during a year's time when I typically try my best to find a movie that really deserves recommending = close to the holidays and the current day. So I tried to "save" "Toni Erdmann" for the current occasion based on ratings, awards, etc., but after watching it I decided that it doesn't deserve the effort of writing an entry (especially the one of today). So, I was left without a subject... I got to "Atlantis" because it was the most convenient. Despite the fact that it ended quite a while ago, for me is just running now = I re-started watching season 2 this summer from where I left it in... 2007, I guess? (we're anyway at the "10 years" step).

In any case I don't have much to say, because there is too much to say. For who didn't have any contact with the "Stargate" universe, here's the basic premise: a bunch of star gates spread throughout the universe and connected by holes + the travel between them. For more context watch the movie - "Stargate" (1994) - probably one of the few good films of Roland Emmerich (I counted two) & you can follow up with "Stargate SG1". "Atlantis" is a spin-off where Earth settles an operations base in the city that gives the name of the series - a remnant of a long gone civilization (the Ancients) highly advanced, but extinct from the galaxy after a conflict with "the wraith", some sort of alien vampires (no blood and teeth, but having more scary looks). Well, through the seasons you get also to meet other enemies but as I said.. it would be too much to tell.

I don't know if it's because I re-started watching "Atlantis" somewhere at the beginning of the summer and it helped moving my mind from some problems that were beyond the standard stress level, but the best description I can give is that "it grows on you". Initially I found the writing in some episodes from season 2 to be a bit silly. Besides that you also have a visible difference of how the TV production level changed in the last 10 years. But slowly the quality of the scripts grew and it became that type of series that works perfectly from time to time to disconnect your brain: relatively short episodes (~40 minutes) + a set of characters that become familiar + typically without extreme emotional impact (although there are a couple episodes that are a strong exception) + quite enough humor for an action SciFi. As a conclusion, I would risk comparing "Atlantis" with "MASH" from a very personal point of view, obviously keeping the proportions (or more precisely the subliminal in "Atlantis" vs the direct approach in "Mash") = in both of them an episode is pretty much the right dose to make you take things more lightly in life ;)

Monday, November 6, 2017

Revolver (2005)

Old movie, short entry: "Revolver" is a movie by Guy Ritchie that I missed when was originally released, and which I reminded of after watching "King Arthur". The action is set in Ritchie's favorite context = a local mob story (wherever that might be), although here we're dealing with something quite different from the more known "Snatch", "Lock, Stock...." and even quite apart from "Sherlock Holmes". Jake Green (Jason Statham) gets out of jail after 7 years of solitary confinement due to a gang boss, Dorothy Macha (Ray Liotta). With no delay he tries to even up with him assembling a scheme of squeezing money out of some of the gang members. The story is highly-elaborated and you'll get pieces of it as the movie progresses. Although things are moving relatively smoothly up to half of it, the part that drags it down is what's happening after when the action takes a bizarre turn, which probably rivals with "Night Watch" from the previous entry. We're moving from a thriller to a sort of psychoanalysis set between a "Fight Club" and "The Usual Suspects". It's probably a movie that requires more than one watch to get everything from the scenes that are out of normal. All this won't be a problem if 1) the subject wouldn't get so tangled that an explanation you get for something contradicts something else 2) you wouldn't see an ending twist coming from a mile away and 3) (subjectively) the movie wouldn't appear to be more pretentious than it is. Anyway, it's not a film to completely ignore, at least for side stuff as probably the only movie where I've seen Jason Statham acting a scene that could earn a nomination for a "best actor award".

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Monday, October 30, 2017

Night Watch (2004)

Without any connection to the seasonal holidays, I somehow finally managed to see "Night Watch", the first part of a Russian "trilogy" (that's what the poster says) that as far as I know stopped eventually after two movies. The film is directed by Timur Bekmambetov, more known after some visits to Hollywood for "Wanted", "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" and the latest "Ben Hur". Actually it seems these came after the success he had with this production, which for me is part of very narrow niche of movies that don't make much sense, but somehow managed to keep me watching till the end.

There's a story that puts the light and darkness forces in conflict since ages, having momentarily a sort of truce with some not very clear rules (there's nothing very clear in this movie). We have some human agents on the light side who can see other invisible agents who, again it's not very clear if they're human or not, but in brief they are responsible with enforcing this order. Anton, a guy recruited by the good side, gets involved in a rescue operation for a plane heading towards a potential crash over Moscow, unless a curse on a blonde woman living in a tower doesn't get removed. Meanwhile, Anton should also take care that his son who is not his son doesn't become food for vampires. If all this summary seems already between too entangled and semi-absurd, trust me is way clearer than the way the action unfolds in the movie. We have a sort of surrealism a la "Fisher King" by Gilliam combined with a tint of "apocalypse is coming" that looks like a mix between "End of Days", "Omen" and "Warlock II: The Armageddon" (maybe the latter is too obscure, but has its place on this list).

The movie is very good on visuals and audio. Considering how well the end of the world touch is blended into what's a normal evening in Moscow, I think you can forgive the way too obvious Nescafe advertising. No pun intended, probably that's what kept me awake to see it until the end. Even so, I have some doubts I'll have the patience also for "Day Watch" (the second part) that should bring closure.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5