Dave’s Cinema Digest 2012 – Week 42

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Premium Rush (2012)

In Premium Rush‘s opening narration, Joseph Gordon-Levitt tells us that lots of people hate bicyclists. He then spends the rest of the film demonstrating exactly why everybody hates them. Fortunately, the rest of the film is also a lot fun (get used to that word because I’m going to be using it a lot). Somehow, this movie makes bicycling look exciting and dangerous. The script is tight and funny, the action well filmed and performed, and the characters are fun to watch. Jo-Go-Lev brings his acting chops and sly grin to the project while Michael Shannon brings his usual crazy and you can tell he’s having a hell of a lot of fun with it. You’ll have a hell of a lot of fun too if you’re able to just sit back and relax for an hour-and-a-half.

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The Crimes of Stephen Hawke (1936)

If you were director George King in the 1930’s and you needed a villain for your latest melodrama, you looked no further than Tod Slaughter. Come on! How fantastic is that name? Slaughter always played the villain in these films but he was also the star. Sometimes he was out-and-out evil and other times, like in this film, he plays a well liked person who has a dark and sinister secret life. This one starts out with an odd prelude in a radio studio where two guys sing a song, a butcher has a humorous talk with the announcer, and then Tod Slaughter himself comes in for an interview where he begins telling the story that we see for the rest of the film. Here, Slaughter plays a gentle money lender who is leading a double-life as notorious serial killer, “The Spine Breaker”. There’s much of the usual melodrama with a young woman and the two suitors who fight over her but it’s all done effectively and you can’t beat an early scene where Slaughter, well, slaughters an obnoxious little kid.

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Ruby (1977)

After The Exorcist came out in 1973, there was a gaggle of possession films coming out like Beyond the DoorThe AntichristAmityville II: The Possession, and of course, Ruby. Unlike certain knock-offs though, the possession angle here is very minimal and almost inconsequential. The film takes place in a 1950’s drive-in where Ruby employs members of the mob gang that betrayed and shot her lover a number of years ago. Now, decades later, members of the gang are being killed off in mysterious and grisly ways. Is it Ruby’s lover wreaking vengeance on the ones who betrayed him? Yeah, it’s pretty clear that’s what it is. Director Curtis Harrington gives the film a few nice macabre touches and Piper Laurie goes full crazy as the title character but like most 1970’s Exorcist cash-ins, it isn’t all that good.

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Lawless (2012)

This is a perfect example of trying to tell too much story with not enough time. There are so many characters vying for screen time and development that nobody really feels necessary to the plot. Or maybe it’s that there isn’t much of a plot to begin with. Characters disappear for long stretches of time, there’s no sense of build, progression or even passage of time. As we were walking out of the theater, my friend mentioned that it would have been much better as a miniseries and I have to agree. Tom Hardy is the saving grace of this movie and manages to be a charismatic and intimidating fellow even though over half his dialogue is incoherent muttering. It looks nice and there are many fine actors here but Lawless ultimately fails to do them justice.

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A Cat in Paris (2010)

Horror movies may be my bread and butter but I hold a special place in my heart for animated films. Especially such a uniquely and exquisitely animated film such as this one. A girl who has been mute since her father was killed owns a cat who happens to live a double life as a kindly burglar’s assistant. One night, she follows the cat and accidentally becomes the target of dangerous criminals. Both the script and the animation is funny and actually has more to say than you’d expect. It’s whimsical, light on it’s feet, and beautiful.

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Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)

I’ve been a rather vocal defender of the Paranormal Activity series. Even though I wasn’t very impressed by the second one, I really liked the first and third entries. Hell, those two movies actually managed to scare me to the point where I still get willies thinking about certain sequences. Here we have number four and boy what a disappointment this was. All the cleverness and scary-as-hell moments in PA3 are completely absent from this one. There was never really a “good” reason for people to be filming themselves in the first three but here, there’s simply no reason at all. Being mostly absent of scares, a lot of this just feels like preparation for Paranormal Activity 5. In a genre often maligned for being lazy, this may just be the laziest film of them all.

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The Thing from Another World (1951)

The world of cinema was positively lousy with alien invasion films in the 50’s. Many of these were just plain awful but every once in a while, a gem would rise. This is one of them. If you’ve seen John Carpenter‘s 1982 remake, the story will sound familiar. An arctic research team uncovers an alien ship frozen in the ice and digs up an alien life-form inside a block of ice. The ice block unfreezes and the men must defend themselves against a (literally) bloodthirsty creature. While not as good as The Thing, this one still packs a hell of a punch. There’s a great ensemble cast, a lot of nail-biting tension, and perhaps the best full body burn in movie history. Even if you’re a huge fan of the remake, you’ll find a lot to like in this one.

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