Cinema Digest 2013 – Week 2

Rabies (2010)
rabies

One day, in the forests of Israel, four groups of people, some good and some bad, all converge on one another. These different people weave in and out of each other’s stories and affect each other’s lives. This being a movie where stuff has to happen, things don’t go very well for any of them. You might think from the title that it’s a play on the zombie genre or maybe an Israeli remake of Cujo but neither is the case. Think instead of what rabies does to your canine friend: madness. Rage. This is a film about rage and what it can do to people. Also, it’s simply a pretty great film, notable for being Israel’s first horror film. If this is what we can expect from them, then I say keep ’em coming. The tension is brought on early and continues throughout. Meanwhile, the editing between all these groups of people is nothing short of incredible. In lesser hands, this could have been an absolute mess. Fortunately, the writers/directors are competent people and know just how to play all these stories to maximum effect. One critic described it as “The Coen Brothers version of a slasher movie” and I whole-heartedly agree. Being a huge horror fan, it’s harder for gore in films to get a reaction out of me and this movie isn’t gore heavy at all but there was one moment where I audibly reacted and nearly turned away. Well done, sirs. Well done.

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She Beast (1966)
the-she-beast

In the 1700s, people really didn’t take kindly to witches and in this movie it’s easy to see why. In a Romanian village, the people pursue and eventually capture a witch who has been murdering people with her witchery. They take the witch, who looks like a burn victim that tripped into a swamp, and repeatedly dip her into a lake which somehow kills her but not before she curses them all. 200 years later, a British woman falls into the lake and the witch emerges to take her vengeance on the village. While she’s busy killing people, the British woman’s husband meets up with Count Von Helsing to defeat the witch and get his wife back. It’s all very silly.

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
theperksofbeingawallflower

Do you ever think back to High School and reminisce about how great it was? I don’t. High School wasn’t a particularly memorable time for me. It wasn’t bad, just… normal I guess. This film is very nostalgic for days of yore. Almost detrimentally so. I’m not saying the writer’s youth wasn’t like this but the whole thing has an air of fabricated nostalgia. The characters are too “hip” and interesting and pseudo philosophical to actually be real. They’re also very close to being annoyingly hipster but that bullet manages to get dodged (barely). All that said, I enjoyed the film for the most part and the bulk of the credit goes to actor Ezra Miller in his role as one of the main character’s friends. He is consistently both funny and heartfelt and I felt had the strongest, most touching story. There are some pretty consistent laughs until the third act where it gets jarringly dark. Fortunately, Logan Lerman steps up (finally) and pulls us through. In the end though, it’s merely a good film that doesn’t add much to the countless “coming of age” stories we’ve seen before.

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Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
zero-dark-thirty

I came out of Zero Dark Thirty on a high from the final 25 minutes which are fantastic. I was completely thrilled and on the edge of my seat because it was so intense. It was so great that I completely forgot about how uninterested I was steadily getting for the first two hours. The film never actually got to the point of boring me but it’s hard to really latch onto anything when your main character is so hollow. We see that over the course of the movie (and a largely unfelt span of 10 years), Jessica Chastain‘s Maya becomes a strong, obsessively driven person but we never know the why or the how. It just happens. This is largely because we never see her doing anything but her job. Outside of this, she has no personality. It also appears to not take a firm stance on anything and wants to ask challenging questions but without actually being challenging or provocative on its own. In the end, it’s telling that the best parts of the movie are in those (relatively) few minutes where Jessica Chastain is absent.

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The Pact (2012)
the pact

Horror movies and ghost stories in particular are very hit-or-miss with the scales usually balanced to the “miss” side. Fortunately though, every once in a while there comes a film that can actually unsettle and frighten even the most hardened horror fan. This one’s got the goods. With an obviously modest budget, Nicholas McCarthy directs his first feature with skill, building tension and playing with your imagination in just the right ways. It’s also one of the few modern horror movies that doesn’t use our fancy new technology in stupid ways. The Pact is a tight, scary little movie and it deserves far more attention than it’s gotten.

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Holy Motors (2012)
holymotors

I don’t understand Holy Motors. Much of the film just doesn’t make any sense to me and yet, weirdly, I kind of love it. Weirder still I kind of love it because it doesn’t make sense to me. There are movies that confuse and infuriate with their lack of clarity. Then there are movies like this where part of its charm and maybe even its purpose is to not make sense the first time around. I feel like this is a film that I could watch again and again, slowly peeling back the layers without ever getting to the core and loving it more and more every time a layer is peeled. I saw it just last night and I already can’t wait to see it again. I will see it again because I feel like the film both deserves and demands it.

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