Dave’s Cinema Digest 2012 – Week 46

The Possession (2012)

After a recently divorced man (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) buys his daughter a mysterious box covered in Hebrew inscriptions at a yard sale, disturbing things start happening. She becomes irritable, lashing out at those around her, and becomes strangely attached to the box. It soon becomes clear that the box, or maybe something inside the box, is taking control of the girl.

Hurray. Yet another female getting possessed by a malevolent spirit. Haven’t had enough of those. Are demons sexist or what? I’m mostly being sarcastic. The film isn’t really bad, it just doesn’t have that much beyond the Jewish aspect to set itself apart. Even the Jewish exorcism isn’t all that different from the many exorcisms we’ve seen before and the title is about as generic and uninteresting as you can get. At least there’s no body contortions or speaking in Latin. There are really good actors here with Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick playing the estranged parents of two girls, one of which is having some serious spiritual problems. The girl to be possessed (Natasha Calis), who is at least as young if not younger than Linda Blair in The Exorcist, does very well with the big range of emotion that it required of the role. There is at least one scene that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and the whole film is solidly directed. It’s too bad that they have to work with such a derivative, uninspired script but it may be worth a viewing if you aren’t tired of this particular subgenre just yet.

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The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)

Pirate Captain (yes, that’s his name) is living the life on the high seas. He’s got a motley crew, a creaky ship, and his loyal parrot dodo. Only among his fellow pirates, he’s not very well respected. Often the butt of jokes, Pirate Captain and his crew seem to have no luck in acquiring precious booty or even a decent reward on his wanted poster. With the Pirate of the Year award coming up, Pirate Captain is determined to win and achieve the fame and respect he craves and so sails off on an adventure.

Where do I begin? As with all of Peter Lord‘s stop motion productions, the animation is really great and every frame is filled with immense detail and hilarious jokes. There are often multiple jokes going on all at once which will make any repeat viewings a treat. The humor works in both the snappy, really funny dialogue and the clever, equally funny visual gags. One sight gag in particular sent me into a fit of giggling that lasted long after the moment had passed and three to five more jokes had flown by. A lot of the jokes here will go over the heads of most kids such as a few sly references to movies like FitzcarraldoBrazil, and The Elephant Man. The characters are also a lot of fun to watch and the voice actors and animators imbue every character with life and energy. The best thing about the film is that it isn’t afraid to be ridiculously silly for the purpose of making a joke and that silliness is infectious. Just sit back and enjoy because this film is a ton of silly fun.

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The Collector (2009)

Arkin has a problem (besides his name). His wife owes debts. For what? Who knows and who cares (the screenwriters sure don’t). Now he needs to find a way to earn enough money very quickly for his wife to pay her unspecified debt so he decides to rob the house of the rich people he’s doing construction for. He knows they’re going on vacation so it should be an easy job. Once he gets into the house however, he discovers that he’s not the only intruder. A sadistic, masked psychopath has abducted the family and set up traps all around the house and now Arkin must fight his way out of the house and decide whether or not he’ll try to save the very family he came to rob.

It’s an intriguing premise to be sure and it’s got a really cool looking villain but the film quickly becomes bathed in that now familiar sickly green color correction and it makes a right turn into torture-town. There are so many implausibilities that to name just a few of them would take far too much time/energy/space so I’ll just highlight one of them; The psychopath already has the family captured and restrained in the basement, he doesn’t know that this robber is coming or even in the house for most of the movie, but for some reason he still sets up a shit ton of elaborate killer traps in practically every room of the house. Why set up all these traps? And just think of how much time and effort it would take dragging all this stuff from his vehicle to the house never mind setting them up. Actually it all makes sense when you learn that the writers of this film have written the last four Saw movies and intended this one to be a prequel. The studio didn’t want it so they basically changed a couple things and voila! The Collector.

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Hollow Man (2000)

An H. G. Wells‘ classic gets its gritty reboot thanks to director Paul Verhoeven. In this version of the tale, Kevin Bacon plays the egomaniacal leader of a team of scientists developing an invisibility serum. They’ve perfected the invisible part but are having trouble getting their test animals back to normal. Pushy higher-ups with a ticking clock forces Bacon to test the serum on himself but when they can’t un-invisible him, he starts going a little crazy.

Right up front I’ll say that some of the effects in this movie are still quite good despite being twelve years old. Almost everything involving his mask (see above) looks great. Unfortunately, the rest of the effects don’t hold up so well. Putting effects aside, the film had opportunity to go interesting places and delve into some deep psychological themes. But this is Paul Verhoeven we’re talking about here. He’s more interested in violence and sex which there is surprisingly little of (for Verhoeven). So the whole thing feels more like Verhoeven-lite even though there’s a good amount of violence in the third act where it becomes a standard stalk-kill scenario. I know there are plenty of Verhoeven defenders out there and I buy most of their arguments, but I’m sure this is the one that they all sort of gloss over when it comes time to make their case.

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End of Watch (2012)

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña are police officers and best buds. They ride together through the streets of LA, taking down criminals and gangbangers and rescuing kids from burning buildings. That is when they’re not just driving around and talking about wives, girlfriends, their daily lives, ribbing each other, and whatnot. They’ve got a reputation on the force for being hotheaded and reckless but they get the job done. But when they start messing in the affairs of a local Mexican gang, they soon find themselves with a price on their heads.

It’s not mentioned in the trailer or in any of the promotional material that I’ve seen for the movie but the movie starts with the conceit that Gyllenhaal‘s character is filming himself and his partner on the job for a college course. The idea never really pays off and is often completely dropped or just forgotten. In fact, the very next scene after they establish the documentary premise, there are at least five different angles that are impossible for him to be filming. I would have been able to get over this if they hadn’t kept reminding me every ten minutes when someone mentions the camera. Even the gangs are filming themselves doing drive-by shootings for some reason. Speaking of the gangs, these are some of the most over-the-top, cartoonishly “gritty” villains ever in a cop movie. They carry ridiculously blinged-up weapons and one character drops F-bombs every other word to the point where you lose track of what he’s saying. The pacing in this film is incredibly slow at times and it doesn’t help that the main conflict doesn’t come up until the third act. Before then, they have got to be the luckiest (or unluckiest depending on how you look at it) cops. They always seem to find themselves in some crazy drug bust or criminal operation but the whole time you’re just waiting for something to happen beyond just the random adventures of an LA cop. The filmmakers are trying very hard to make it feel real but all these things just add layers and layers of unreality on top of it.

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American Gothic (1988)

Six youngish people (aged anywhere between 23 and 40, it’s hard to tell), intending to vacation in the pacific northwest are forced to land their plane on a small island when their plane starts to malfunction. It appears deserted but they soon find a house where a strange and more-than-likely crazy family lives. The family is headed by the super, old timey religious Pa and Ma who have three mentally-stunted adult children (one who appears to be almost as old as Pa and Ma). You can probably see where this is going. The youngsters start dying and the crazy family does crazy things.

This is a fairly paint-by-numbers kind of slasher film except for a few times where it throws in color #9 when it calls for #4. One of our protagonists has just gotten out of a mental hospital after her baby drowns in the bathtub while she talked on the phone. She’s still pretty messed up and her friends being killed off isn’t helping her mental state. This leads into an unexpected third act that, at least for a while, had me wondering where it would go from there. The rest of the movie is pretty goofy and entirely unscary. Next time you and your friends are looking for a good movie to watch after/while indulging in alcoholic libations, this will be a good choice. Oh, and the film has nothing at all to do with that famous painting.

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[REC]³ Genesis (2012)

It’s a happy day for Koldo and Clara. Today is their wedding day. Family and friends are gathered for the nuptials and the reception afterward. But wedded bliss becomes a fight for survival as an infection spreads quickly through the party, turning the guests into crazed, bloodthirsty zombies. Bride and groom are separated and have to make their way through a horde of the infected to find each other and get out of the party alive.

If you’ve seen the first two [REC] films, you’ll know that they are of the found footage genre. This one begins similarly and then transitions into a “regular” film. I won’t spoil how they do it, but I thought it was very clever. The tone also shifts from what you might be used to in the series but I don’t think it hurts the film. It’s different in many ways from the first two and I know some will hold it against this movie for doing that and I would encourage you to just go with it. You’ll have a better time that way. The shedding of the found footage style also allows the filmmakers to utilize great cinematography and deepen the characters so we care about them more. It also does a great job at balancing the humor and the action and some insane kills. I will admit that it’s not up to the same levels of genius and horror as the first two but I enjoyed [REC]³ a lot.

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