Archive for September, 2012

Screen cap from Rian Johnson’s futuristic thriller “Looper” one of the creative films of 2012.

by Sam Juliano

October 1st.  Time does march on.  Seems like summer just ended yesterday.  Now it’s time to visit our local pumpkin patch, dust off our horror movie shelves and start thinking ‘sweater’ when we leave the house for work.  If you live in the right areas, it’s a time when Mother Nature sports her prettiest clothes, and Jack Frost starts to spread his own kind of seasonal greetings.  The Major League baseball season has only days to go and both New York Yankee and Baltimore Orioles fans are beside themselves with the tension that comes with a deadlocked pennant race.  Football has it’s own kind of problem these days with the men in the stripes, but it appears a settlement is imminent.  The presidental election is a little over  a month away, and for the first time Wonders in the Dark will take a stand publicly and urge its American readers to cast their votes for President Obama and Democrat candidates in statewide races and for congressional seats on November 6th.  It’s no secret that the membership at this place is liberal, and even our European kin have no use for GOP policies and challenger Mitt Romney.  I’ll leave the rest for the comment section if such a dialogue should come about, but otherwise there will be more commentary as we get closer to Election Day.

At Exodus 8:2 Jaimie Grijalba ‘s 100 day ‘horror countdown’ continues in force and is the product of remarkable resilience.     Dee Dee continues to report new signatures in the ongoing ‘John Garfield Challenge’ venture that is aimed at convincing DVD and blu-ray production companies to honor the great American actor with a box set of his most seminal works.  The trio of Dee Dee, Lori Moore and Barbara LaMotta have secured written approval from fans all over the world, many of whom have penned glowing testimonials to the cinematic icon.  The regularly updated report page can be acessed on the sidebar under Garfield’s photo.   Dee Dee has reported as of Sunday that  a total of 403 signatures have been collected to date!  On last week’s MMD several of our regulars reported watching some Garfield features, no doubt inspired by all the attention being showered on the actor as of late. (more…)


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by Allan Fish

1958 already.  Only 54 more weeks to go…

Best Picture Vertigo, US (16 votes)

Best Director Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo (13 votes)

Best Short Free Radicals, UK, Lenny Lye (5 votes)

Best Actor James Stewart, Vertigo (12 votes)

Best Actress Kim Novak, Vertigo (5 votes)

Best Supp Actor Dean Martin, Some Came Running (8 votes)

Best Supp Actress Wendy Hiller, Separate Tables (5 votes)

Best Cinematography Russell Metty, Touch of Evil (7 votes)

Best Score Bernard Herrmann, Vertigo (15 votes)

and my choices…


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by Jaime Grijalba

a.k.a. Resident Evil: Damnation

(Japan, 101 min)

The theme has been chasing me and I do think that, maybe, this is a sign of sorts. It is the third time this year that I’ve been in the position of writing this column and talking about a film that is a videogame adaptation, and this is the second animation and, may I link the original piece here, where I talk about the definitions and divisions inside the sub-genre, and I shall link to a recent installment in my usual wednesday pieces (even if Bob Clark graciously ceded his spot this week for my piece on an anime film once again, as he has kindly done a large number of times and I can’t be thankful enough) where I talk about the issues of videogames in general as narrative experiences when talking about a too faithful film based on a succesful japanese series, here. Now, let’s keep talking about videogame movies, just a tiny bit, so that there’s not much else to say and if I ever encounter another videogame adaptation that I have to cover for this series of essays/reviews I’ve been doing, I can just jump straight ahead to the jist of the thing itself, instead of meandering around doing technical and thematical discussion that maybe no one is actually interested about. So, as I said in previous essays, there are a singular kind of films that bear the label ‘based on videogames’ where the only thing that they do is continue the story and the canon of the original games, a product usually done for and with the fans in mind, as it thrives on the reference to events and characters of the videogame franchise but not in the way that a live-action film would, but as in what continuity would think about regarding the destiny of the main characters and how it all pieces together the plot threads of the previous, and most important, the following games (as the movie is usually one of the vehicles of promotion for the forthcoming game in the series). For example, there’s the classic and much maligned ‘Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children’, that has some neat CG animation from Japan and manages to tell its own story, continuing and featuring new characters, and even I, not a particular fan of the original PlayStation game, I like the movie for what it is and because of the spectacle that brings in the final act, as well, of course, thanks to the references done to the game to make it appealing to the fans. So here comes along another CG animated film that follows characters and situations from the ‘Resident Evil’ game series, that manages to put its own story forward and at the same time pleasing the fans, how perfect is it? Well, let’s just see… (more…)

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By Bob Clark

Of the scant collection of American indie filmmakers to rise in the mid-to-late 90’s and remain active into the next decade or more, Wes Anderson probably ranks as one of the most influential of cinematic voices, and in a way that in many ways reaches far beyond the realm of mere moviemaking. Since his 1996 debut Bottle Rocket, he’s steadily developed his own particular and immediately identifiable set of creative mannerisms, juggling both the visual aesthetics of the medium and all manner of idiosyncratic narrative and music choices that make his directorial voice both uniquely his and at the same time easily to imitate, if not quite outright copy. Channel surf for a long enough time on American television and you’re bound to find at least half a dozen commercials airing that take their cues from his particular brand of hipster-chic vision– carefully composed shots of bright primaries and long tableaux, unusual characters and situations that comment on their theatricality, and retro song cues just obscure enough to make you feel cool for recognizing them, if only in the broad strokes. Anderson has directed his fair share of these commercials himself, but even beyond his hand you can see advertisers flocking to pattern their campaigns after his distinctive blend of filmmaking, caught somewhere between the French New Wave and Charles Schultz.

In the same way it’s easy to see his influence over the better part of a new generation of filmmakers working a particular kind of indie/studio character pieces straining to make quirky-character pieces just marketable enough for mainstream art-house audiences, but devoid of anything in the way of actual substance– more commercialized than actual commercials themselves, somehow. For all the waves of imitators, however, Anderson’s been able to keep practicing his style in a way that’s genuine, even for the ways in which it’s become all too easy to commodify, and over the years he’s been able to better hone his craft and up his scale in each succeeding project. Depending on how much of that heavily controlled voice you can stand, he may have reached his zenith or passed it on any number of his more recent films– The Royal Tenenbaums is probably where his branded style reached the mainstream to audiences and marketing teams alike, and since then critics have probably complained the least about Fantastic Mr. Fox and Moonrise Kingdom, where the medium of animation and subsequently the cast of children help cushion the sometimes suffocating artificiality of his diorama-filmmaking. If you wanted to look at his style, though, and try to decode why it is the way it is and where it comes from, you could do a lot worse than watching the sophomore effort of Rushmore again, and not bother to read between the lines.


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by Allan Fish

(UK 1995 301m) DVD1/2

Austen fever

p  Sue Birtwistle  d  Simon Langton  w  Andrew Davies  novel  Jane Austen  ph  John Kenway  ed  Peter Coulson  m  Carl Davis (including “Voi Che Sapéte” from “The Marriage of Figaro” by W.A.Mozart)  art  Gerry Scott, Marjorie Pratt, Mark Kebby, John Collins  cos  Dinah Collin

Jennifer Ehle (Elizabeth Bennet), Colin Firth (Fitzwilliam Darcy), Alison Steadman (Mrs Fanny Bennet), Benjamin Whitrow (Mr Bennet), David Bamber (William Collins), Barbara Leigh-Hunt (Lady Catherine de Bourgh), Susannah Harker (Jane Bennet), Crispin Bonham Carter (Charles Bingley), Anna Chancellor (Caroline Bingley), Lucy Scott (Charlotte Lucas), Adrian Lukis (George Wickham), Julia Sawalha (Lydia Bennet), Lucy Briers (Mary Bennet), Polly Maberly (Kitty Bennet), Christopher Benjamin (Sir William Lucas), Joanna David (Mrs Gardiner), Tim Wylton (Edward Gardiner), Anthony Calf (Col.Fitzwilliam), Nadia Chambers (Anne de Bourgh), Emilia Fox (Georgiana Darcy), Lucy Robinson (Mrs Louisa Hurst), Rupert Vansittart (Mr Hurst), Lynn Farleigh (Mrs Phillips), Lucy Davis (Maria Lucas), Paul Moriarty (Col.Forster), Harriet Eastcott (Mrs Jenkinson), Tom Ward (Lt.Chamberlayne), Sarah Legg (Hannah),

In the mid-nineties, Jane Austen was plat du jour.  The BBC had made Persuasion for TV and the need for such refined fare was so great it was released in the cinema in the States.  Ang Lee and Emma Thompson combined to bring us a richly entertaining version of Sense and Sensibility which cemented the stardom of Kate Winslet and gave Hugh Laurie one of the great vignettes of modern times.  Gwyneth Paltrow showed her comfort with everything Anglofied by perfectly capturing Austen’s most popular heroine, Emma.  (I also mirthfully recall a titbit quoted by Sarah Michelle Gellar in Empire magazine about how someone she knew remarked how Emma had been a complete rip-off of Amy Heckerling’s Clueless; I completely share her horror.)  Pride of place, however, if you forgive the pun, must go to the Andrew Davies scripted six-part version of Pride and Prejudice screened in the autumn of 1995. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1984 83m) DVD1/2

This goes up to eleven

p  Karen Murphy  d  Rob Reiner  w/m/ly  Christopher Guest, Rob Reiner, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer  ph  Peter Smokler  ed  Robert Leighton  art  Dryan Jones

Christopher Guest (Nigel Tufnel), Michael McKean (David St Hubbins), Harry Shearer (Derek Smalls), Rob Reiner (Marty DiBergi), R.J.Parnell (Mick Shrimpton), David Kaff (Viv Savage), Tony Hendra (Ian Faith), Bruno Kirby (Tommy Pischeda), Fran Drescher (Bobbi Flekman), Anjelica Huston, Ed Begley Jnr, Billy Crystal, Patrick MacNee,

Rob Reiner’s spoof rockumentary of an ageing British rock band on tour in the US at the twilight of their careers truly was one of the most original films of its decade.  Here was a film that finally, deservedly attacked and made fun of that most pretentious of musical art forms, the heavy metal rock band, in this case the fictitious Spinal Tap, one of England’s loudest bands behind such ‘classic’ albums as Intravenus de Milo, Shark Sandwich and The Gospel According to Spinal Tap, the latter prompting one reviewer to say that if God rested on one day why did he not rest the day he made Spinal Tap?  Thank God he didn’t, because the world would be a far less funny place without them.

Spinal Tap, a British rock group founded in the mid sixties, consists of three core members, guitarist and singer David St Hubbins, lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel and bass guitarist Derek Smalls.  They are legends in their own imagination, feted through the known world for such songs as ‘Hell Hole’ and ‘Big Bottom’.  Commercial director Marty DiBergi – who on first hearing them was “knocked out by their exuberance, their raw power and their punctuality” – records the behind the scenes happenings and gigs and interviews the band members as they embark on their first US tour in six years.  (more…)

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63. Stardust Memories

by John Greco

When I saw Stardust Memories for the first time back in 1980 (Baronet Theater in Manhattan) I was completely lost as to what Woody Allen was doing. Filled with Fellini like imagery, bizarre inhabitants straight out of Diane Arbus and seemingly resentful, bitter attacks on his fans. I found the film, to say the least, hard to swallow. I wasn’t and am not one of those folks who keep wishing Woody would trek back to his ‘funny’ early films. I actually relished his celluloid journey, his growth from dubbing a cheesy Japanese spy flick with completely new dialogue turning it into “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?’ through his early visually clumsy, but oh so funny, films like Take The Money and Run and Bananas to his classic Annie Hall and on to the Bergman like Interiors and the homage to his home town in Manhattan. Woody always seemed to be expanding his artistic horizons. At the time of its original release, I chalked up Stardust Memories as a failure, hell everyone is entitled to a failure now and then, right?

Now, let me just say here, I watch many of Woody’s film all the time, over and over, true some more than others, I have lost count on how many times I have seen Manhattan, Bananas, Sleeper, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Annie Hall,  Hannah and Her Sisters, Broadway Danny Rose and so on. His films are like old friends with whom you gladly sit, have a drink, and reminisce about those days gone by. The one film I never went back to was “Stardust Memories.” Frankly, until I watched it for the first time in years, just a few months ago, I remembered little about it except for the feeling of confusion I had and a why bother attitude about taking a second look. One day I found a copy at a local library and for no particular reason decided to give it another shot. All I can say is hallelujah brother! I have been seen the light and have been converted! (more…)

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by Jaime Grijalba.

As I said in the earlier edition, I will review in one paragraph all those asian films of 2012 that are not as writing-enducing as others that I’ve covered in the past editions of this half-monthly column, and as I say that I must say that I have a lot of films to cover, but I’ll divide it by two, so you’ll have this second and a third edition in two weeks time covering a total of eight films in capsule reviews of a paragraph or whatever I can come up with, so without further ado, let’s dive right into the industry of films.

Bao dao shuang xiong (2012)

a.k.a. Double Trouble

director Hsun-Wei David Chang

Taiwan, China, 87 min

Many know and love the films where Jackie Chan stars, fights and sometimes even directs. His films are filled with some incredible stagey acts and crazy stunts, while also maintaining some kind of humour about it, making it the best slapstic humour from anywhere in the world for almost two decades, he was a modern Buster Keaton/Charlie Chaplin for those who wanted to see him in that way . Now it seems that his son, Jaycee Chan, has taken the crown from his own father to continue doing this amazing kind of films of great spectacle and big budgets from the asian land of the kung fu and martial arts. Now, I just wish that he had a better spotlight and a better director to make his films any good. This ‘Double Trouble’ focuses on two guys, one is a chinese policeman taking his vacation in Taiwan and the other is a museum guard from Taiwan that is protecting one of the most ancient and important surviving treasures of the chinese culture (for those in the know, most of the chinese ancient culture can only be found in Taiwan after Mao’s smart move to destroy everything that reminded them of the glourious days of the chinese empire). So, making it short and sweet, the ancient scroll is robbed, and it is the job for this guard to look for it, because he thinks he’s guilty. He finds himself tied to this free policeman, due to the fact that he is detained by the guard due to his involvement in the robbery (he inarvetedly helped the two girls who robbed the scroll). So, this action adventure may have been great and interesting if it were any political about the issues that are at hand (Taiwan and China have a harsh history), and instead it just wants to have nice car chases and coreographed fights, that may be fun, but when the focus is not so much on Jaycee all the time, the film looses its strenghts (those little that it had) and aims for a bigger scope and range of characters, that end up in over-acting and innecesary twists. Still, there are some good scenes and sequences, specially one involving two girls on motorcycles and a bus filled with turists. (Rating: ***)


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by Allan Fish

(UK 1937 84m) DVD2

Next train’s gone!

p  Edward Black  d  Marcel Varnel  w  Marriott Edgar, Val Guest, J.O.C.Orton  story  Frank Launder  ph  Arthur Crabtree  ed  R.E.Dearing, Alfred Roome  md  Louis Levy  art  Alex Vetchinsky

Will Hay (William Porter), Graham Moffatt (Albert), Moore Marriott (Jeremiah Harbottle), Dave O’Toole (Postman), Dennis Wyndham, Frederick Piper, Sebastian Smith, Agnes Laughlan, Percy Walsh,

There never was another like Stockton’s favourite son, Will Hay.  Anyone who isn’t British who may be reading this may think “Will Hay, wasn’t he that killjoy who took the sex out of the movies in the thirties.”  He’s barely mentioned in US film guides, his films only available there through special order through internet sites like Movies Unlimited.  Yet to the British film-viewing masses he’s part of the furniture, a comic genius in the pantheon, as essential and as relevant to his nation in as Jacques Tati in France.  Like Tati’s Monsieur Hulot, Hay is a bumbler, an incompetent, but with a tendency towards the dishonest, who is put into places of responsibility, abuses that responsibility, but somehow comes up smelling of roses.  In an age when so many think British comedy began with Monty Python, it’s nice to be able to remind certain folks that that’s only a later flowering of the tree.  The earliest saw many other comic highpoints, from the anarchy of the Crazy Gang to the less cinematic style of Sid Field.  Yet it’s Hay who worked best on film and who produced a string of minor British comedy classics, from which great things can be found in nearly all of them.  Many will cite his later The Ghost of St Michael’s and My Learned Friend, the latter of which is great in itself, but somehow Hay without his original cohorts, Graham Moffatt and Moore Marriott, is like the Carry Ons without Kenneth Williams and Sid James.  Though the wonderful Ask a Policeman, Convict 99 and Where’s That Fire? are all memorable, Oh Mr Porter! is his and the team’s masterpiece. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1970 57m) not onDVD

By Strauss

p  Ken Russell  d  Ken Russell  w  Ken Russell, Henry Reed  ph  Peter Hall  ed  Dave King  m  Richard Strauss  ch  Terry Gilbert  art  Derek Dodd  cos  Shirley Russell

Christopher Gable (Richard Strauss), Judith Paris (Pauline Strauss), Kenneth Colley (Hitler), Vladek Sheybal (Goebbels), James Mellor (Goering), Imogen Claire (Salome #1), Rita Webb (Salome #2), Sally Bryant (Life), Maggy Maxwell (Potiphar’s Wife),

His earlier musical fantasias on Elgar, Delius, Debussy et al all had their share of bashers, and even the success of his Women in Love just months before drew controversy for that nude wrestling scene between Alan Bates and Ollie Reed.  While shooting his infamous masterwork The Devils, Russell returned to Auntie Beeb for what would be the last time to make his last small screen composer fantasia on Richard Strauss.  There would be films on Liszt and Tchaikovsky to come, but vastly overblown misbegotten enterprises that are best left alone.  These pieces always worked better on the small screen, and his last, Dance of the Seven Veils, is undoubtedly the best.  Not that you’ll get many people to agree with me as so few people have seen it; locked away in the vaults of Shepherds Bush ever since that first screening, condemned in parliament and seeing Ken finally bid Auntie good night.  Even when they did show it, it was preceded by an announcement of typical solemnity, saying the film “has been described as a harsh and at times violent caricature of the life of the composer Richard Strauss.”  It cannot be argued that there’s something to offend everyone, and it’s easy to see just how much The Devils was dominating his mind at the time, but for delirious, rabidly offensive, laugh out loud madness, this cannot be beaten. (more…)

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