“You can’t trust cinema” – Straub

Costa brings his In Vanda’s Room minimalist shooting style into the editing room where Straub and Huillet are working on Sicilia!. I thought it sounded like a bore, but liked it a lot, surely more than Vanda itself. Guess I was interested in the process of it, and in rethinking Sicilia and learning about the filmmakers – the documentary aspect more than Costa’s aesthetic work, though seeing something so similar in look to Vanda made me reconsider Costa’s style too. So, a lot to think about, though I’m not sure about it being “maybe the best movie ever made about making movies” (Senses of Cinema possibly quoting Thom Andersen).

Huillet (below) is the quiet one, doing her work while Straub showboats and pontificates, talks about destroying truth, calls a matching shot “the most idiotic thing in filmmaking,” and quotes favorite films of his (of theirs). They take their editing job very seriously – Costa says they completed five cuts a day. They stop to screen and introduce some films, including The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach, for a meager group of students, part of the deal they made to get free editing time at a university. Seems to be a documentary made for and by people who need no introduction to these filmmakers; an advanced course in their methods and personality. Funny that Costa points out his own sound design in this doc as “completely fake, anti-Straubian.”

More choice Straub quotes:

“Some people have the impression – because we reject verisimilitude and TV-style cinema, Dallas and all that shit, and even Woody Allen and Cassavetes, etc., that there is no psychology in our films. But that’s not true. All this is psychology. There is no psychology in terms of the performance of the actor because there is a dramatic abstraction that goes deeper than so-called verisimilitude. But it’s there, in between the shots, in the very montage and in the way the shots are linked to each other, it is extremely subtle psychology.”

“When you make films, you try not to say stupid things. You work hard to avoid them. You destroy cliches, go back, correct, abandon or add things. And then, in real life, you do talk nonsense. You end up destroying some of the work you do and the films you made.

“You cannot expect form before the idea.”
“First there is the idea. Then there is the matter and then the form. And there is nothing you can do about that. Nobody can change that!”

Great cinematographer William Lubtchansky died this month. I mostly know his Jacques Rivette movies (plus a Varda short and The Regular Lovers), so here’s another side of his work: something by “the Straubs,” the first one of their films I’ve enjoyed watching after a couple false starts.

A dude (credited as “the son” but I believe named Silvestro) talks with an orange seller about meals. A man on the train complains about the poor. Yelling, always yelling! Everyone is yelling. He’s on a trip, stops to have conversations with people he meets (appropriately, this is based on a book called Conversations in Sicily) which sound like recitations. It wasn’t until I rewatched some scenes from this within Costa’s documentary that I appreciated the recitations, their strange cadence – the first time I was just reading the subtitles, following the conversation, but apparently there’s more to it than the words being spoken. More on the fate of Sicilians, and some over-my-head philosophy. The sound sometimes disappears.

The shots at the end of each segment are getting longer. Oooh, a pan! The same one twice! A long pan across a landscape and back, repeated twice, and I don’t understand. Silvestro lands at his mom’s house, listens to her talk about when he was a kid, what they did and what they ate (snails), then about his grandfather, “a great socialist.” She puts down his father and her husband – I wasn’t sure if she remarried and she’s cutting down two men, or if it was just the one – for his/their weakness. Anyway, the man goes outside and meets an awesome knife sharpener. One of them declares “the world is beautiful!” and the movie ends as they face each other listing off beautiful things.

Some official synopsis says that Silvestro “comes face to face with reality, corruption, and treachery, that differ from his memories as a child with a mother lost between abstract fury and an awareness of his incapacity to comprehend the human condition.” I don’t get how the movie is communist, or even whether it’s supposed to be. I liked the style, though, and the length and pacing, the unconventional-seeming editing choices (although in the doc they act like there’s only one way to edit a movie correctly, that it’s obvious, as they struggle for hours to choose the exact frame on which to cut).

NY Times calls it “austere and pretentiously minimalistic”:

Here, at odd moments, it pans slowly back and forth across a particular setting as if to emphasize the filmmakers’ blank emotional and editorial slate. For in the Straub-Huillet esthetic, truth is to supposed to be revealed as much through accident, inference and subtext as through what is actually said.

The Straubs seem to be insulting me for liking this movie more than their others… from an interview:

JMS: Yes, one of the main reason Sicilia worked, is that the bourgeoisie likes to have a protagonist with an initatic journey, and preferably to find back his/her mother, etc. That’s why Bach worked. One can’t change the vices of the bourgeoisie…
Int: So Bourgeoise needs a hero?
JMS: A hero, I don’t know, but they need to hook up on something…
DH: they abhor liberty, for themselves and for others…

Fuck liberty.

Senses of Cinema lays it all out:

Straub-Huillet eschew dubbing in favour of direct sound, to the extent that background noises and even the static noise caused by wind rustling on a microphone are kept in their integrity, and the original sound of each individual image is retained. This, of course, has a huge impact on editing, as cuts cannot be made arbitrarily, but have to defer to the exigencies of the sound: Straub-Huillet will thus linger on an empty space in order to capture the fading footsteps of a character exiting the scene. Similarly, they reject all manipulation of the image in post-production (colour-matching, etc.).

Equally notorious is what in French criticism has come to be known as the “Plan straubien” (“Straubian shot”), which can roughly be defined as a pan or tracking shot of a landscape lasting up to several minutes in duration. While these shots have greatly contributed to the notion of Straub-films as boring and unwatchable, they are crucial for Straub-Huillet’s “pedagogic” project of “teaching people how to see and hear”.

Their position as authors is attenuated by the fact that their films are almost exclusively taken from pre-existing texts – whether literary, dramatic, musical or essayistic. Indeed, only a few lines of dialogue in their entire corpus are their own invention. As Youssef Ishaghpour notes, however, their films are best seen not as adaptations, but as “documentaries of a special type: on works”

Senses also says that “the texture and sensuality of their films mean that they still demand to be seen on actual film stock, in an actual cinema.” Too bad for me, I guess.

Yes, we celebrated the receipt of a Netflix Streaming disc for our Wii by spontaneously watching a Goldie Hawn movie. I thought it’d be a Jonathan Demme movie, but it turned out not to be – Demme has disowned this version. As he told The Guardian: “It turned out very poorly, yeah. We did a film and I hope that very few people here have seen it!”

In this, the Goldie version (Demme’s cut was reportedly available on bootleg VHS in the 80’s, but seems impossible to find now), Hawn goes off to work at the airplane factory when hubby Ed Harris goes to war to fight the dirty Japs who bombed the harbor. Hawn teams up, eventually and reluctantly, with rebel girl Hazel (Christine Lahti of Housekeeping, Running On Empty) and rebel boy Kurt Russell (lately of The Thing). Their friendship and her new self-sufficiency lead Goldie to redefine herself as a person. Then somehow she ends up back at home with hubby Ed, Kurt reading a wistfully-voiceovered note from Goldie as he rides away to tour with his new band.

Apparently it used to be more of an ensemble piece than a Goldie showcase, so side characters like coworker Holly Hunter (in what would’ve been her first major role if it had stayed major) and Fred Ward (as Hazel’s complicatedly sleazy ex) had beefier parts. Even in its diminished state, though, Katy and I liked it quite a bit.

Demme to The Guardian:

We had this hard-nosed feminist, all women together thing, and Kurt Russell was supposed to be a bastard, and suddenly all these scenes were being rewritten, and I found myself in a very awkward position because I had to co-operate with these new scenes. I actually had to shoot them, otherwise I would have been in violation of my contract, and so in order to protect the movie that I thought we were making I had to shoot these very bad scenes.

Demme doesn’t finger Robert Towne as the emergency rewriter, though he’s strongly rumored to be the one. Towne had once written Chinatown, but having just done the craptastic Deal of the Century he owed the studio a favor. Demme goes on to tell the story of how Ed Harris saved Stop Making Sense, for which we should all be forever grateful.

“Happy birthday, baby.
Come on, let’s start over.”

Movie is very patient. That is a generous way to describe it, but I see no reason to be mean to the movie. The movie means no harm. Is it mumblecore? Is that word meaningful anymore? It’s certainly better than Mutual Appreciation, but it’s one of those movies about underachieving twentysomethings with no plans.

Rodolfo Cano (Gerardo Naranjo, above, director of I’m Gonna Explode), lives in a boat where he dodges his ex-girlfriend every day, gets a letter from the government welcoming him to the army, but he doesn’t remember joining the army. Shows up at the recruitment meeting and finds another Rodolfo Cano (Azazel “son of Ken” Jacobs, below).

So Gerardo follows Azazel home, meets Az’s girlfriend (Sara Diaz, below doing some old-timey dancing in the kitchen in the movie’s most famous scene, if indeed it has any famous scenes) and hangs out with her for a while. She visits his boat. Az starts fights in bars. A Gang of Four song plays. Suddenly there’s another character, but I didn’t notice when he appeared. Finally, Army day comes, Az is passed out (and still never told his girlfriend he joined), Gerardo jumps on the bus in his place. The story isn’t too convincing but the overall tone of the movie is much happier than it sounds from any plot description, a comedy without ever straining to feel comedic. I’m hearing Jacobs’ latest feature Momma’s Man is even better – must watch sometime.

Another head-clearing crap horror movie in between Pedro Costa movies. As hyped as this movie has been lately, it didn’t transcend the tag “another crap horror etc,” mainly because it played out the cliche-filled trailer without adding any centipede-based innovation. We’re left with “madman kidnaps, tortures young people, until stopped.” From that standpoint, the crap-looking Adrien Brody clonus horror Splice might end up being the more original movie.

Vacationing girls’ car breaks down – at night – in the middle of nowhere – in the rain – walk until they find a house, but it is the wrong house. Maybe Six is purposely setting up a cliche plot just to shatter expectations with his cra-a-azy centipede concept, but even if you hadn’t seen the trailer, you know you are watching a movie called The Human Centipede, so there is no need for the cliches. I think he just wrote it in a hurry.

A girl tries to escape, is punished by becoming the center segment, eww. Dude who only speaks Japanese (what was he doing in rural Germany?) is the head. Once the girls are in place, they never do anything again besides make noise and follow the Japanese guy as he tries to escape. Cops finally show up with warrant, get shot by madman, who himself gets definitively killed (but what about the sequel?), rear girl drops from infection and malnutrition and front guy kills himself, leaving the center girl unable to go anywhere. Ha ha, center girl! It’s not ironic or a deserved fate, and she’ll be found soon anyway since two cops with search warrants just disappeared at the house. The scientist (who is a fun actor, the main reason the movie doesn’t drag) is obsessed with splicing things for no apparent reason (I kept thinking of the Brando scientist in South Park and his monkeys with many asses), and doesn’t do anything with his Centipede besides, seriously, trying to get it to fetch the newspaper.

Filmmaking is quite good for a horror movie, but nothing to brag about. Really the greatest things are that the movie exists (a la Snakes on a Plane), that the cinematographer is named Goof de Koning and lead actor named Dieter Laser, and that the director might get around to doing something interesting in the sequel. Then again, those hopes didn’t pan out for Rob Zombie’s Halloween sequel, so I’ll wait for reviews.

Susana (1951)

Big, obvious drama with overbearing music and vaguely supernatural elements. Not as excitingly Bunuelian as I would’ve liked, but way better than Gran Casino.

Susana (Rosita Quintana, who was still acting in 2005, if IMDB is to be believed) is locked in solitary at the sanitarium for misbehaving, in the company of rats and an awesomely fake-looking rubber bat; begs God for mercy and the jail bars come loose. Not as impressive as in The Rapture, but it’ll do. She crashes at the first place she finds, a peaceful ranch, and gets herself in with the family to wreak havoc from within.

Susana with ranch-hand Jesus: Víctor Manuel Mendoza, who went on to appear in some Hollywood westerns:

Felicia the maid doesn’t trust Susana from the start (her line, about the storm outside, “it seems there’s a demon loose out there” comes right as Susana’s face appears in the window), but Susana seduces all the men in the house: Jesus, Don Guadelupe (Fernando Soler, star of El Gran Calavera and Daughter of Deceit around the same time) and bookish son Alberto. Actually it doesn’t seem like she seduces Jesus, it more seems that he’s a slimy rapist stalker, but I’ll take the movie’s word for it. Dona Carmen, the woman of the house, eventually realizes what’s going on and joins the maid in trying to eject the interloper – but is it too late? Another rainstorm scene where S. brushes her hair in the window in silhouette while all three men watch her from different positions. Susana confronts Dona Carmen and says if Guadelupe is forced to choose, he’ll choose Susana. Jesus is kicked out of the house: one less rival for Don Guad’s affection. Finally the cops catch up with Susana and take her away, Jesus is hired back, and Don Guad’s prize horse, which had been sick since the initial storm, miraculously recovers.

Susana and Alberto hide in the well:

Very decent acting and cinematography (Jose Ortiz Ramos, who later shot the classics Brainiac: Baron of Terror and Samson vs. the Vampire Women). Bunuel likes to shoot Susana’s legs, incl. one weird scene where Jesus breaks the eggs she’s holding and they run all down her legs.

NY Times: “Though the movie means to be steamy, Bunuel is apparently more amused than shocked by Susana’s brazen ambition and the no-nonsense way she goes about her conquests. Toward the end, when the traffic in and out of Susana’s bedroom is fairly heavy, the movie has the manner of a grandly operatic farce.”

Deleuze says some quizzical shit about “the intrinsic qualities of the possible object.” I don’t know what that means, but three different sites I checked called this Bunuel’s worst movie (or his “most unspectacular” or “fairly insignificant”) – have they never seen Gran Casino?

Ensayo de un crimen (Rehearsal for a Crime), or,
The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (1955)

It’s the Mexican Revolution! Little Archibaldo’s mother acts like it’s a huge inconvenience that her theater date has been canceled because the revolution has arrived in town. Archie, alone with the nanny, wishes upon a music box for the nanny’s death and she’s immediately killed by a stray bullet through the window. Years later a grown Archie (Wuthering Heights star Ernesto Alonso) is threatening nuns with a razor when one runs down the hall and falls down an open elevator shaft. The movie carries on like this, Archie indirectly causing people’s deaths or not causing them at all, and thinking he’s got some unholy power via the magic music box, which he reacquires as an adult, buying it out from under a cute girl.

Archibaldo in triplicate with his killer razor:

Lavinia glimpsed through a wall of flame:

The cute girl, Lavinia (Miroslava, who killed herself before the movie was released) becomes wealthy Archibaldo’s full-time fascination. He buys a mannequin made in her image (she models for artists) and poses it around his house, then watches it melt in his kiln (he’s a part-time sculptor) when she angers him. Having taken his revenge on the fake Lavinia, he proposes to pretty young innocent Carlotta – but she has been seeing a guy named Alejandro. Archie’s revenge-fantasies kick in again (shades of fellow murder-comedy Unfaithfully Yours) and he dreams of shooting the cheating woman dead in their marital bed after the wedding… but Alejandro shows up to the wedding and shoots her instead.

Cut to framing-device authority figure (was it a psychiatrist or an officer of the law?) who says he can’t lock Archie up for dreaming people dead. Archie seems bummed that he isn’t believed to have done anything wrong, but runs into Lavinia, the girl who survived his wrath, and walks happily away with her.

Legs of the nanny:

Leg of the dummy (Tristana, anyone):

I wasn’t expecting a lot after Susana, but this was excellent. V. Canby in the NY Times agrees. “The sight of the boring, but very pretty, governess lying dead on the carpet, her skirts in a tangle around her upper thighs, makes a lasting impression on the boy, who thereafter goes through life confusing love, death and sexuality. … Archibaldo is a very polite, considerate and wise nut, aware of almost everything except that he is the inevitable (in Buñuel’s view) product of religious and sexual repression.”

Carlotta in her final moments:

The story annoys me in the same way as My Fair Lady (also by Cukor), setting up a woman as horrid and annoying, then having a smart white guy fix her and, inevitably, fall in love with her. While My Fair Lady still succeeds because of wonderful filmmaking and Audrey Hepburn, Born Yesterday succeeds entirely because of Judy Holliday. She’s hilarious, and I couldn’t get enough of her – no wonder she won an oscar. I’d forgotten that I also loved her in Adam’s Rib (also by Cukor, jeez) from the year before.

William Holden, whom I never seem to recognize even though I’ve seen him in Sabrina and Sunset Blvd., is a smartypants do-gooder reporter hired by boisterous, arrogant rich dude Broderick Crawford (good to see him out of the dark, depressing roles of Scandal Sheet and Human Desire). Holliday is Crawford’s dumb broad who gets too smart for her own good.

IMDB says the film was rehearsed like a play, in front of a live audience – wonderful idea. The story builds to a predictable conclusion, the intrepid reporter taking down the corrupt businessman and his in-pocket congressmen, escaping with the previously-ignorant woman who has become an avid reader. Before the plot machine kicks in, it’s a bunch of fun.

Gangster revenge flick, featuring:

– one of those hilariously drawn-out hero death scenes, in which after being shot he manages to stagger a few blocks down the street in order to die in the alley where his old man was killed
– an extremely low-security gangster operation which, despite having a stranglehold on the city, seems to consist of four bosses and maybe six underlings
– a hard but charismatic mother-figure in the vein of Moe from Pickup on South Street
– a hit-man who puts on his dad’s heavy plastic sunglasses whenever he kills someone
– big broad facial expressions and poster-ready obvious compositions that make you want to smack yourself in the head, like the one below in which Cuddles is telling Tolly that she wants to get married and have babies
– just a mountain of serious powerful awesomeness

Young Tolly gets punched in the eye by another kid for not sharing the loot he stole from a drunk, giving him the scar over his eyebrow that lets us know he will grow into Cliff Robertson (Three Days of the Condor, lately Peter Parker’s murdered grandpa in Raimi’s Spider-man series). He runs to Sandy’s place and sees some gangsters beating a dude to death in silhouette – the dude is Tolly’s dad! T. identified local gangster Vic Farrar as one of the shadows, but doesn’t rat to investigating agent Driscoll (Larry Gates, whose final film was Leonard Part 6, but held more distinguished roles in Invasion of the Body Snatchers and In the Heat of the Night). It is new year’s eve and the boy’s father has been killed, so the soundtrack plays a slow, minor-key version of “Auld Lang Syne” – greatness!

That’s Tolly’s dad in the middle:

Sandy with Driscoll, after the killing:

Thirteen years later, three of the four shadows are running the most powerful crime organization in the city: Gela (below left: Paul Dubov of Shock Corridor, Verboten) the “dope king”, Smith (center: Allan Gruener) on labor and Gunther (right: Gerald Milton of China Gate, Forty Guns) on prostitution (didn’t think I’d hear the phrase “the recruitment of schoolgirls into the ranks of prostitution” in a 1961 movie) under big (literally big) boss Connors (Robert Ernhardt of 3:10 to Yuma). And Driscoll is the main prosecutor trying to bring them down.

Tolly is still a thief, now with a long police record, but somehow he turned out unusually smart. In prison he gets himself close to Vic in the sick ward and coerces a confession. Now Tolly’s just gotta get out of prison (no jailbreaks; it’s a short sentence) and murder the most notorious crooks in town.

Back outside, he accidentally runs into the gang’s hitman Gus (Richard Rust of Comanche Station), a ruthless killer who’s inadvertently hilarious with his sunglasses ritual. Tolly saves a girl named Cuddles (Dolores Dorn), and hides her away while he gets in good with the baddies by voluntarily giving back the drugs he’d stolen off Gus.

Gus, about to do some murderin’:

Fuller is fully engaged with this one, packing more than enough intense action into his revenge tale. Gus runs over a little girl, the corrupt police chief is taken away by Driscoll and the gang is turned against itself – all accompanied by newspaper headlines, of course. It has its talky, overexplainy moments, filling us in on how organized crime works so we can better appreciate its danger and root for our anti-hero as he racks up dead bodies and dirty deeds. Ultimately, Tolly can’t get away clean with the girl, so he catches a bullet after drowning Connors in his own gigantic pool. Fuller makes this ending sounds like his own idea, and not a studio-imposed production-code move, since he writes: “My final shot closes in tight on Tolly’s clenched fist, dying proof of a life filled with hate and frustration.” The studio did cut his proposed opening about a prostitute union organizer getting her head blown off, but he sounds very pleased with the way the picture turned out.

The guy who shoots Tolly at the end is Neyle Morrow, who acted in more Fuller films than anyone – at least 14 of them!

“My lead’s anarchistic attitude owes a debt to Jean Genet… whose writings were deeply rebellious against society and its conventions. … For Genet, moral concepts are absurd.”

“I wanted to go beyond classical gangster movies like Public Enemy and Scarface to talk about alienation and corruption, inspired more by Greek drama.”

“I wanted to show how gangsters are no longer thugs but respectable, tax-paying executives.”

W.W. Dixon in Senses of Cinema:
“The idea of organised crime as a business was a novelty when Fuller made the film, but as the events of the past half-century have made manifestly clear, this is precisely how the underworld operates, hiding in plain sight under a cloak of false respectability.”

“[Tolly’s] only real opposition comes from Gus, the mob’s enforcer, who is a solid professional ready to kill anyone, even a little girl, to do his boss’s bidding. But as V. F. Perkins astutely noted, Gus, who dons dark shades before each “hit”, is simply a working stiff, devoid of personal involvement; it is Tolly who is the real psychopath of the film. And yet, Fuller seems to argue, it takes a psychotic personality devoid of even a shred of humanity to bring down an operation so venal, so utterly rotten that only inhuman force can destroy it; Tolly is the avenging angel for not only his father, but for society as well. The government man, Driscoll, never really questions Tolly’s tactics or motives; if this is what it takes, then so be it.”

Between “My Year of Flops” and “I Watched This On Purpose,” the AV Club watches a bunch of known-to-be-bad movies and reports back on the experience. I also have an unhealthy urge to watch stupid movies, but I don’t have the kind of free time they’ve got. I just want to know if I’m missing out on anything, and if the movie’s got a built-up mystery, what’s the big twist at the end. And now, thanks to netflix streaming, I can watch any part of any bad movie instantly. So here’s a rundown on the last ten minutes of…

Delgo (2008, Adler & Maurer)
Our hero Freddie Prinze Jr. is inspired by princess Jennifer Love Hewitt to go fight the evil queen. Animation really is as bad as they said, does not look like something that should be in a theater in 2008. I looked for Avatar parallels – got the enchanted forest, peace-loving fairy inhabitants (not cat-people at all) who ride dragons, and the cliche-and-catchprase-littered dialogue. Chris Kattan (ugh) rallies all the planet’s species to attack evil there at the end, also an Avatar plot point. Oooh, Delgo uses the Force. Isn’t the Force trademarked? J.L. Hewitt kills evil stepmother Anne Bancroft (I’m sorry this was your final film, Anne Bancroft) and peace is brought unto the land. Full of corny-ass jokes and hot, forbidden interspecies love.

Pandorum (2009, Christian Alvart)
A bearded Dennis Quaid seems possessed by some supernatural sci-fi evil. This is way more talky than Event Horizon. Ben Foster (X-Men 3, Northfork), I assume, is experiencing some kinda psychological special effects. Oh they are not in space, but underwater – that’s the big revelation, allowed a couple seconds of floaty luminescent peace before it’s back to punching Dennis Quaid. He fights some girl who is not Carrie-Anne Moss. Now is Ben possessed by the ancient evil? Wait, nevermind, a crack in the hull. Oh, the evil is some kind of cat beast. Catmen from Pandorum – more Avatar references? Ben and the girl surface. Happy ending? I can’t tell. Director Alvart is a German making it big in Hollywood with writer Travis Milloy, who once wrote a Jason Schwartzman movie that nobody saw.

The Alphabet Killer (2008, Rob Schmidt)
Tim Hutton (Ghost Writer, The Dark Half) must be the killer here. He’s trying to sedate Eliza Dushku, but she uses her Buffy moves to bust his face and escape. She tries to trap him in a way that would totally not work, but totally does, and dude escapes, gunshot in the foot, into the river. Is she raving incomprehensibly, or is the string music just up too loud? Later, in the hospital, Cary Elwes (I’ve not seen him since Saw) proclaims that this is all his fault (I’m willing to accept that). She never recovers and Hutton gets away, ouch. Schmidt made one of the more enjoyable Masters of Horror eps, and writer Tom Malloy did something called The Attic which looks even worse than this.

Righteous Kill (2008, Jon Avnet)
Pacino is gonna get shot by DeNiro! Or is DeNiro gonna get shot by Pacino? The editing is confusing and every shot is a close-up. Now there’s a showdown in an 80’s-movie factory, both of them with guns. I don’t know what they’re saying because Katy made me turn off the sound, but Pacino is pissed, and his hair isn’t as bad as it usually is, and Carla Gugino (Watchmen, Sin City) is hanging around. Nevermind all that, Pacino got totally shot to death by DeNiro! He gave a long speech I didn’t hear, then some shit happens, I wasn’t looking anymore. From the director of 88 Minutes (and Fried Green Tomatoes) and the writer of Inside Man.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009, Patrick Tatopoulos)
Sooo dark! I see werewolves, and some Lord of the Rings business, but it’s all so dark. The action is very actiony. HooRAY, Bill Nighy of Shaun of the Dead is the self-serious lead bad guy in a ridiculous costume. He shall face off against a pissed, bearded Michael Sheen, who screams “I loved her,” which means that Rhona Mitra (Doomsday) might be dead. Wait, Nighy is a vampire! He got sunlit then stabbed through the head by a righteous Sheen, which Katy did not appreciate seeing. Oh and Nighy is still alive in the twist ending here, as is Rhona Mitra. The director was a creature designer on the first two movies, never a good sign. Jesus, nine writers?

Lies and Illusions (2009, Tibor Takacs)
Christian Slater does his hammy always-talking thing in the backseat of a made-for-1991-TV-looking full-frame car chase. Sarah Ann Schultz is trapped after a huge crash, while Christa Campbell shoots at some baddies who are not Cuba Gooding Jr. The sound mix is awful, very Slater-heavy with crap music, but wait, CGJr showed up and shot Slater, which STILL didn’t shut him up. Sarah Ann Schultz sneaks onto Cuba’s airplane, and parachutes out leaving the plane to crash, in the most hilarious special effects attempt of 2009. Tibor, of course, made the excellent The Gate and less-excellent The Gate II back in the 80’s – doesn’t look like he’s doing so well now. From the writer of nothing, and cinematographer of Trapped Ashes (but given a Magnum P.I.-era TV videocamera).

Angels & Demons (2009, Ron Howard)
Tom Hanks discovers secret cameras taping the board room! He sees a very sinister Stellan Skarsgard (ha ha, he is always sinister) saying quizzical shit to an incredulous Ewan McGregor. Apparently Ewan spread illuminati rumors to stop SS from trying to find scientific proof of God? Or something, anyway Ewan frames SS and gets him shot in flashback, to the despair of all the cardinals reviewing security tapes with Hanks and some girl who is not Audrey Tautou. Later, a guy who might be Armin Mueller-Stahl presides as scary Germans tail a bruised Ewan until he sets himself on fire. The evidence is destroyed, and the crowd goes wild. Where does Jesus’s granddaughter fit into all this? From the writers of Zathura, Secret Window, Constantine and Deep Blue Sea, ouch.