The Last Ten Minutes vol. 13: First-Person Camera Edition

Men In Black 2 (2002, Barry Sonnenfeld)

Hey, I never saw this, always wanted to, but heard it was bad. Just the thing The Last Ten Minutes was invented for. The two mismatched partners are joined by Rosario Dawson with nuclear jewelry and pursued by Evil Lara Flynn Boyle till she’s eaten by a subway monster. Jones tells Dawson she’s the fifth element, Smith is attacked by shockingly subpar effects. Did you know there was a part 3? Neither did I.

[Rec] 3: Genesis (2012, Paco Plaza)

Previously watched [Rec] 1 and remake-sequel (remaquel?) Quarantine 2. Can’t find [Rec] 2 on netflix because their search is ridiculous, so let’s pick up here. Loving couple is trapped in kitchen by encroaching zombies until loudspeaker bible recitation stops them. Dude has a sword, which actually seems like a smart zombie weapon. Girl is bitten by an elderly fellow (bad hearing, immune to loudspeaker), guy cuts off her arm but he’s stupid and slow, and they both die. From one of the directors of the first one, but not shot first-person, so the title doesn’t make sense anymore. The girl was in Ramin Bahrani’s Man Push Cart.

[Rec] 4: Apocalypse (2014, Jaume Balagueró)

Oh, this is from the other director of the first one, and looks a lot worse. Stars Angela from parts 1 & 2. A guy with bad hair helps Angela kill zombie monkeys with a boat motor. Why does the bad guy have a snake-tongue? A boat explodes!

The Interview (2014, Goldberg & Rogen)

Those two guys are trying to escape N. Korea. Cue the loud action scenes. Katy Perry soundtracks the fiery death of President Randall Park (Danny Chung in Veep), then we get an anticlimactic escape from the country. One of the directors wrote for Da Ali G Show.

Horns (2013, Alexandre Aja)

The one where Harry Potter is a demon, from the director of the great Hills Have Eyes Remake. Dang, no horns, Harry must’ve had them cut off already (a la Hellboy?). His brother (Joe Anderson of Across the Universe) is sad, so Harry goes walkies with Max Minghella, and there are guns, and wow, Harry sprouts wings then turns into a full flaming demon and has homicidal maniac Max brutalized by snakes. I think Harry’s dead girlfriend is alive again but I stopped watching because my roomie locked his keys in his car. Is this Wolf Parade over the ending?

The Sacrament (2013, Ti West)

Sorry Ti, but after two-and-a-quarter disappointments you join Aja in Last Ten Minutes purgatory. Joe Swanberg in death cult compound is running from gunmen, everyone is dying, and it’s shot first-person a la [Rec] 1. Isn’t this the same plot as one of the V/H/S/2 segments from the same year, which West and Swanberg were also heavily involved with? Joe semi-rescues AJ Bowen (of every Adam Wingard movie) with the shakiest shaky-cam I’ve ever witnessed. Ends with unnecessary solemn title cards. Boo.

Maniac (2012, Franck Khalfoun)

Fuuuck, this is also shot first-person – and out-of-focus, no less. Co-written by Alexandre Aja. Khalfoun made P2 and acted in Aja’s Haute Tension – they’re as close as the West-Swanberg-Wingard crew. I think Elijah Wood kidnaps Nora Arnezeder then she stabs him with a mannequin arm and runs him over. Then she dies, so he marries a mannequin. Most of these movies are very bad, but this one looks unusually, especially, very very bad.

The Conspiracy (2012, Christopher MacBride)

Grainy first-person pinhole camera with blurred-out faces. Why do all these movies hate cinema? Dude wakes up in the ritual sacrifice room, then is chased through the dark woods while wearing an animal head. Finally a series of talking heads dismiss whatever conspiracy theory the hunted/murdered cameraman presumably uncovered. MacBride has made no other movies and hopefully it’ll stay that way.

Automata (2014, Gabe Ibáñez)

It’s balding trenchcoat dudes with shotguns vs. slow, clunky robots. The robots are talking wise, getting themselves shot, when a fully bald Antonio Banderas arrives. His plan of action is poor but he still kills two guys and the third is dispatched by a Short Circuit lizard. Weird/nice to see a robot-future movie where some of the robots (not the lizard) are actual props, not people or digital effects.

I, Frankenstein (2014, Stuart Beattie)

From the trailer this looked like epic nonsense, but it’s actually more coherent than most of the others I just watched. Bill Nighy! The final battle: Frankenstein Eckhart vs. angels, gargoyles, a merman, lots of fire, men in suits, poor digital effects and Bill Nighy! Meanwhile there’s a bunch of computer progress bars and “access denied” messages. Progress bars are always a great source of tension in movies, eh? A massive Matrix-like chamber full of bodies begins to self-destruct. Eckhart (is he the monster or the doctor?) defeats demon-Nighy, saves some lady from a fiery apocalypse and collapsing castle. Beattie wrote the Pirates of the Carribean movies (and Collateral), his cowriter was an actor in Men In Black 2.

The American Friend (1977, Wim Wenders)

Felt like a good time to watch this since I’d recently seen Purple Noon, and The American Friend is more or less a sequel. I don’t know how things worked in the book series, but besides some art forgery at the beginning, I’d easily believe that they’re unrelated and Dennis Hopper’s character just happens to be named Tom Ripley.

Movie connection #2: Joe vs. the Volcano. Bruno Ganz, who’s the real star of the film over Ripley/Hopper, is sick and short on money, but it turns out his doctor is exaggerating Bruno’s health problems so he’ll be desperate enough to accept a mission as assassin. This despite the fact that Bruno works in a frame shop and is not normally a killer (naturally, the working title was Framed).

Bruno, making it literal:

Movie connection #3: Barton Fink. Bruno takes an instant dislike to Hopper at a (fraudulent) art auction at the beginning, refuses to shake his hand. At the end, Hopper confesses this is why Hopper put Bruno through it all, the doomed medical prognosis and three murders.

Movie connection #4: Rushmore, via the Kinks song “Nothing In This World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ’bout That Girl”.

Cool movie, with real suspense to the spy/murder proceedings, and a visual theme of magic lanterns and other illusions. Terrific lighting, color and cinematography (by Robby Müller, natch), as far as I could tell on my DVD copy. And of course it features both Nicholas Ray (as Hopper’s painter of fakes) and Samuel Fuller (as head target “The American”, eventually thrown down stone stairs).

Ray:

Fuller:

Hopper:

Can’t say I fully understood Ripley’s involvement in the whole plot, nor why Bruno has to die at the end (Wenders loves when everyone dies at the end). Ebert says it’s not important. Dave Kehr says that’s the whole idea: “The plot, laid out baldly, gives only a thin impression of the film itself. For one thing, Wenders has systematically eliminated most of the purely expository scenes (purposefully, after shooting them). … We already know the story, having seen its variations in a hundred films.”

Film Quarterly says it cost more than Wenders’s previous five films combined. Won best editing and direction in Germany and played at Cannes along with 3 Women, The Duellists and Padre Padrone.

Hopper’s follow-up to Apocalypse Now, which wouldn’t be released for two more years. Bruno was between The Marquise of O and Nosferatu. As his wife: Lisa Kreuzer of Radio On and Alice in the Cities. Gerard Blain (star of Chabrol’s Les Cousins and Le Beau Serge) is the guy who gives Bruno his assignment, and Lou Castel (star of Fists in the Pocket and Beware of a Holy Whore) is his driver/overseer. Semi-remade a couple times, once with Malkovich as Ripley and once with Barry Pepper.

Before Trilogy (Richard Linklater)

We watched these on Mondays (“Before Mondays”) in January.

Before Sunrise (1995)

Celine and Jesse meet on a train, talk for a while, and he convinces her to disembark in Vienna and spend the day with him before his flight out. They ride the trains and buses, go record shopping, visit a cemetery, church and carnival (feat. The Third Man ferris wheel), talk to fortune teller, poet and theater guys, hang out in bars, cafes and plazas then end up in the park with a bottle of wine. Next morning at the train station, plans to meet again in six months. Standard, unadorned romance-movie setup. Nothing new here. But so, so perfect in the dialogue and details. Linklater won best director in Berlin.

Before Sunset (2004)

Carefully maintained real-time structure – only about one edit where I felt time might’ve elapsed, and then no more than a minute. It also shuts out all side characters once the main couple meets again at Jesse’s book event (right after readers succeed in getting him to admit that the girl he’s written about really exists). Conversation starts with reminiscing and explaining why they didn’t meet six months after last time, gradually turns more personal, revealing their dissatisfaction with current relationships, leading to one of my favorite-ever movie endings: Jesse, who parted with Celine last time to catch a plane, not making that mistake again.

Before Midnight (2013)

No more happy reunions – they’ve been together since the last movie and now have twin girls. Jesse is concerned about his son growing up with his mom a continent away and feels out Celine on the idea of moving there, which sparks a massive, movie-length argument that felt almost too real for Katy to handle. At least they’re in a new country, at the end of a writing retreat in Greece, but there’s little time for sightseeing. The first section of the movie has them in conversation with friends (including Athina Rachel Tsangari), a nice way of bouncing our main couple’s middle-aged ideas on love and romance off other couples of different ages.

Batman Returns (1992, Tim Burton)

The best Christmas movie we could find on netflix at the time. Katy had never seen this, did not know the joys of a flipper-fisted Danny DeVito and leather-suited Michelle Pfeiffer and fright-wigged Christopher Walken and Burton’s light-and-shadows pop-color photography and Elfman’s huge soaring music all stealing Micheal Keaton’s own superhero film out from under him. Batman has an undeveloped love interest in Pfeiffer, some last-minute heroism (diverting DeVito’s city-destroying rocket penguins into the zoo), obligatory Batman/Bruce identity crisis, but no major personality or emotion or story developments. And that’s fine with me – Batman movies could’ve gone on forever like this.

Totally missed noticing Paul Reubens as Penguin’s father, damn. Doug Jones (Abe Sapien in Hellboy) played a clown, and Jan Hooks (just-deceased SNL actress) Penguin’s mayoral campaign handler. Happy to see Michael “Tanner ’88” Murphy as the mayor and the great Vincent Schiavelli as Penguin’s monkey man.

Also watched the first 15 minutes of the first Burton Batman movie. Forgot that Jack Palance plays the crime boss who sends Nicholson into the Joker-backstory factory. Billy Dee Williams plays Harvey Dent, who does not get two-faced in this one.

Return to Salem’s Lot (1987, Larry Cohen)

As Nathan Rabin might say, this film is quite poor.

But look who co-stars:

It opens, as all respectable horror films do, with a tribal ritual sacrifice. Maverick tough guy journalist Michael Moriarty (star of Q: The Winged Serpent) is called back to the States and saddled with his neglected son Jeremy. They head to the country where Mike has inherited a family home in a town full of vampires led by Judge Andrew Duggan (Merrill’s Marauders). Jeremy falls in with the vampires, is sweet on a very young Tara Reid (Bunny Lebowski). The movie’s specific vampire mythology seems unclear, especially where it concerns Jeremy and Tara, even though the Judge tries to explain it to us. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention cuz I was wondering where the blue rubber-mask demon had gone, when Sam Fuller would appear, and what was going on with Moriarty. Mostly he and the movie seem resigned to their crappiness, the straightforward genre plot, but occasionally there’s a spark of life, some Cohen attitude in the dialogue, some fire out of Mike.

Finally, Fuller arrives as a nazi hunter turned game vampire killer. The two guys pretty quickly and easily start slaughtering the townsfolk, killing bunches as they sleep before getting cornered. Fuller fakes suicide – I wouldn’t have advised laying bloody and prone in a room full of vampires, but it seems to work out for him. The kid awakens from his pre-vamp haze and stakes the judge with an American flag.

Bunny:

Shooting the judge in the head does not work:

Catching Fire (2013, Francis Lawrence)

Lawrence (who made Water For Elephants and the music video for Gone Till November) turns in a much better Hunger Games movie than the last guy did. This movie will, of course, be best remembered for bringing together both mid-2000’s Truman Capotes: Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toby Jones. New additions to the movie’s revolutionary team include Jeffrey Wright (also in Only Lovers Left Alive this year) and Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman).

Machete Kills (2013, Robert Rodriguez)

Psychotically entertaining, probably endlessly rewatchable, continuing adventures of Danny Trejo. Machete’s old friend Jessica Alba is killed early on by a Mexican-wrestler-masked Mel Gibson, so he takes a revenge job from President Charlie Sheen, tracked by a killer called El Cameleon (who is disguised as Walton Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr, Lady Gaga and Antonio Banderas before being dispatched by rednecks). Machete’s handler Amber Heard turns bad. He captures schizo Demian Bichir, who kills his own daughter Vanessa Hudgens, earning wrath of her mother, brothel mistress Sofia Vergara. Finally eyepatched Michelle Rodrigues shows up with bomb expert Tom Savini (a reformed villain from the last movie). Also, William Sadler is an immigrant-hating sheriff, and Marko Zaror plays ass-kicking clones. All this, plus teasers for Machete Kills Again… In Space.

The Last Ten Minutes vol. 11

The Last Ten Minutes vol. 11: SHOCKtober Sequels and Remakes edition

The first – and possibly last, since the advertisements are pissing me off, Hulu Plus edition of The Last Ten Minutes.

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984, Charles Sellier)

I’ve watched Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation, the bonkers slimy Brian Yuzna movie, more than once, and you see Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out! mentioned on auteurist film sites for being directed by Monte Hellman, but what of the first two? Who cares about them?

Cops are shooting priests dressed as Santa! Are priests supposed to dress as Santa? A lone Mustache Cop has a long, dull, keyboard-scored stalk around the grounds of an orphanage until he’s killed by an axe-swinging santa yelling “punish!” The surprisingly fresh-faced young Santa is finally shot down by a new cop whilst threatening the head nun, then the movie immediately sets up dead Santa’s younger brother as a possible sequel-villain. Head nun went on to play Jean-Claude Van Damme’s mom in Universal Soldier.

Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (1987, Lee Harry)

More cops and orphanages, and another young insane fella in a Santa suit (as the last movie plainly predicted, it’s the other Santa’s little brother) is stalking the same elder nun (now featuring bad facial-burn makeup) before getting shot down by cops – the only difference between the two movies being that this time the head nun gets beheaded. Perhaps the killer’s tendency to raise his eyebrows with each word delivery, bringing to mind an axe-wielding Groucho Marx, is why he didn’t get any more starring roles. Of the six credited writers, one is also a sound mixer who worked on Million Dollar Hotel. That’s the most distinguished IMDB-linked career move I can come up with.

Check out the nun’s apartment number:

Maniac Cop 2 (1990, William Lustig)

Maniac Cop breaks into prison, presumably for revenge of some sort, and Michael Lerner (Barton Fink’s boss the following year) gets on a loudspeaker to talk him down. There is a fight scene with a bunch of different guys who are all on fire, which I think automatically makes this better than the first movie, culminating with Clarence Williams (Prince’s dad in Purple Rain) getting thrown through a thick prison wall like it was made of cardboard. Robert Davi (a Goonies baddie) gives the movie’s eulogy before the token sequel-setup-scare. I never saw Bruce Campbell. Lustig, writer Larry Cohen and MC Robert Z’Dar stuck around for the whole trilogy. Hulu needs to pay up for part three.

Scanners 2: The New Order (1991, Christian Duguay)

A guy gets scanners’d down a hallway, then a sneering long-dark-haired scanner scans a dude who is blonde and wearing a jean jacket, so is presumably our hero. Psychic battles are great for cheap movies since you just need actors to lurch their heads at each other and tremble a bit. Buncha bald scanners in a Minority Report chamber form a scanner-circle around the dark-haired guy and he ends up all melty, then the boss of the whole operation has his head scanned into Elephant Man shapes right in front of the media. Duguay later made Screamers, which I rather liked, and lead scanner David Hewlett starred in Cube.

Scanners 3: The Takeover (1991, Christian Duguay)

Oooh, now you can scan through television signals, and a pink-lipstick woman is trying to conquer civilization. Our hero Alex scans his way into the TV studio, killing one dude via revolving door, but stylish supervillain Helena has an anti-scanner flashlight. The two of them gamely twitch heads at each other until the villainess electrocutes herself, apocalyptically transmitting her consciousness into the TV camera Lawnmower-Man-style.

April Fool’s Day (2008, Altieri & Flores)

Scout T-C (star of Rob Zombie’s Halloween movies) has a gun, is mad, shoots a dude and extracts confession from Desiree, then a buncha talky backstory reveals that it was all a hoax and the dude is alive, but then Des gets her head blown off by a “prop” gun. So far nobody who’s died in this movie has stayed dead, so what’s next? Oh, nothing.

Hulu sent me to something called Crackle for this one, renewing my sequel-watching possibilities, and now without commercials! Why do I pay for the service that has ads, while this one appears to be free?

Hostel Part 3 (2011, Scott Spiegel)

A cleaver cuts a guy’s head clean in half in one blow, but takes six chops and some sawing to get through an arm – inconsistent? An unconscious man is killed via severe-tire-damage spikes. Tire guy cooly escapes the compound while cleaver guy gets blown up behind him, but cleaver guy lives to take bloody revenge. The writer also did The Butterfly Effect 2 and I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, while Spiegel cowrote Evil Dead 2 and directed From Dusk Till Dawn 2.

Clive Barker’s The Plague (2006, Hal Masonberg)

Not a sequel or remake but I’m a sucker for Clive Barker’s the anything, and saw this on the list. Slow-walking sad-eyed children approach an attractive young couple, so he tells her to sit down thinking happy thoughts while he vanishes with the zombie kids. Final shot reveals the head spooky zombie kid has a paperback of The Grapes of Wrath?? Are we sure this was a horror movie? The director also worked on Demonic Toys.

Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis (2005, Ellory Elkayem)

Hmm, the zombies are talking and there’s a cenobite with a circular-saw arm. Swat team with a tank and unarmed hospital-patient zombie squad arrive at the same time – guess who wins? Media coverup follows.

Return of the Living Dead 5: Rave to the Grave (2005, Ellory Elkayem)

From a gun-toting viking to strobe-lit clown-wigged zombies, I like the halloween-costume zombie warfare montages. Then everyone is killed by army helicopters. The director of both of these also made horror/comedy Eight Legged Freaks and the writers did Gingerdead Man 2.