Cinema Digest 2013 – Weeks 3 and 4

Playing catch-up for missing last week’s digest. It’s been a rough couple weeks with some family issues coming up rather suddenly but I should be back to my regular schedule now. On Wednesday, I’ll be revealing my favorite fifteen films of 2012.

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A Haunted House (2013)
SmartAss - 1781.NEF

There comes a point in any comedy like this where you actually start to feel sorry for the people around you who are laughing. Perhaps they really don’t know that a five minute gag about flatulence isn’t actually that funny. Maybe they aren’t aware that this portrayal of a gay character is highly offensive. It’s possible that they haven’t been exposed to jokes that aren’t run into the ground again and again. Is it plausible that this is the first comedy they’ve ever been exposed to? That’s the only explanation I can come up with for the laughter I heard echoing about me in this clearly unfunny movie.

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Sleep Tight (2011)
sleeptight

Jaume Balagueró, one half of the duo that gave us the incredible [rec] and [rec]2, takes a step away from the dark supernatural and gives us a story of dark humanity. Like the two [rec] movies, Sleep Tight too takes place in an apartment building in Barcelona, but our main character is a man who can only be happy by making others miserable. He also happens to be the apartment concierge, giving him access to the homes of all these people. The film is disturbing both in the lengths the man goes to and because we’re seeing everything from this guy’s perspective. With this, Balagueró again establishes that he is a force to be reckoned with in the horror scene. After watching this film, you may never trust your apartment manager ever again.

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Mama (2013)
Mama

Mama owes much of its success to the great performances by the two little girls (Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse) who do a terrific job. They do incredibly well with the material and hold much of the story together. Half of the rest of its success comes from Jessica Chastain who is nearly unrecognizable but does great work, lending her acting chops to the film. And then there’s the other half of the rest of its success which goes to director Andrés Muschietti who creates a creepy atmosphere and more than a few flat out frightening moments.

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Alps (2011)
Alps

A few years ago, a movie named Dogtooth came out of Greece and confounded many. I quite enjoyed the film for its unusual story and style. Now, director Giorgos Lanthimos is back with another idiosyncratic film where a group of people offer themselves as substitutes of the recently deceased to help their families move on. This one I did not enjoy quite so much. In Dogtooth, we’re thrown into a strange world where we slowly learn the rules of this world. We’re similarly dropped into a strange world here, but we never learn anything more about these people or how it all works. The film just kind of is and thus neither great nor bad. A great big, “meh” was had at the end.

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The Last Stand (2013)
the last stand

Arnold Schwarzenegger is back! Well, sort of. While he’s got top billing here, it’s sort of only half his movie. Too much time is spent away from Mr. Universe and with the FBI. Fortunately, when the film is focused on Arnie and his merry band of small-town misfits, it’s a ton of fun. Kim Ji-woon lends his unique and energetic filmmaking style to the proceedings and the action benefits greatly from his direction. Unfortunately, the action doesn’t really get kicking until the film is over halfway done but when it does get going, it kicks all kinds of ass. And it’s hard to beat Peter Stormare in crazy, fun mode.

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Citadel (2012)
citadel

This is the third film of 2012 to prominently feature an apartment tower after The Raid and Dredd 3D and while Citadel isn’t bad, it’s a far lesser film than either of those two. But perhaps it’s unfair to compare the three. Elijah Wood Aneurin Barnard is a young man left alone with an infant child and extreme agoraphobia after his wife is attacked by hooded, demon children. When his baby is kidnapped by the demon kids, he must face his fears in order to rescue her. Barnard does a fine job but the film itself leaves much to be desired. True, it’s got a few tense scenes but it meanders too long and the climax is decidedly lackluster. If you must see one apartment tower film from 2012, you’re better off seeing either of the other ones.

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John Dies at the End (2013)
John-Dies-at-the-End

There were several points during this film where I thought, “I have no idea of what’s happening, but I love what’s happening.” This comic horror film is a bit difficult to adequately describe. The basic gist is that there’s a drug called “Soy Sauce” that gives those who take it telepathy and an ability to see into the future. And those are just the side effects. When a young man accidentally takes the drug, his world is flipped upside down and inside out and several other directions all at once. It’s hilarious and scary and bonkers and unlike anything you’ve seen before. This will surely achieve cult status in the coming years.

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Gangster Squad (2013)
gangster-squad

We shouldn’t blame director Ruben Fleischer for this. The blame lies mostly with the script by Will Beall who simply cobbled together other gangster/noir films into one but without bothering to write real characters. There are character arcs and themes present in the movie but not a single one of them are ever carried through to completion. The film is entertaining at times and most of the actors do the best they can with the weak material, but it’s just not enough to make the film worth your $10 bucks.

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