Niles: Do we really have to use so many musicians?
Frasier: For the sound I want, yes.
Niles: Whatever happened to the concept of "less is more"?
Frasier: Ah, but if less is more, just think of how much more "more" will be.
Frasier, ep 7x13 "They're Playing Our Song"
This unfortunate logic is the driving force behind Paramount's decision to create sequel to last year's viral hit, Paranormal Activity. To recap, it's a cinéma vérité faux documentary presented as "found footage". A couple use a single camcorder to record unexplained phenomena in their house, from sounds to moving objects. It was a record-breaking hit, given the $15,000 budget and 7 day shoot schedule. The viral marketing campaign to have people vote for their town to get a screening turned into one of the biggest Internet/cinema collaborations ever.
Now, one year later, the studio that brought you that gem brings you another - without the creative team behind the original. Oren Peli, director of the original, never intended to make a sequel, but agreed to help produce the film.
In this "prequel/sequel" (it takes place before, during and after the original), the San Diego PD once again thanks the family of the deceased for publishing this lost footage, this time involving Katie's younger sister Kristi, who is a new mom. When Kristi and Dan bring home their newborn baby, they - along with Dan's teen daughter Ali - find their new home in shambles. Traumatized, they install a multi-camera security system in the house to monitor everything. How convenient! With that, the family begins to notice that it was not burglars that terrorize them, but a... paranormal entity! Naturally, the activity increases and culminates with picking up right after the original's ending.
What gives this film "more" than the original is exactly that - more everything. We go from a single camera to multi-camera. Two people to three people, a baby (they're not people) and a dog (also not people). More night montages. More moving objects. MOAR PARANORMAL ACTIVITY! What you should know is that if less is more, more is way too much. PA2 ramps up everything to the extreme to the point where it's comical. To be fair,
While I found that some Hollywood folks enjoyed the construction of the film, they couldn't avoid the inevitable audience reaction: hysteria. Somehow, this franchise has garnered the audience participation frequently attributed to Rocky Horror Picture Show, with people randomly providing commentary. For a movie that was advertised using footage of the audience freaking out, something went downhill with just one sequel.
Once again I'm taking the opportunity to revisit a personal favorite, a visual storytelling masterpiece, Neil Gaiman's Mirrormask.
The narrative follows Helena, the daughter of a couple that owns and performs in a traveling circus. Understandably, their lifestyle isn't quite normal, leaving Helena ironically wishing she could escape and run away to real life, which wouldn't be able to handle her. Despite her desire to experience "real life", she lives out her fantasies in her art collage spanning her wall. She has created an entire city of flying fish, domestic sphinxes and talking boot people.
When her mother falls ill, following an argument akin to Obi-Wan joking that Anakin will "be the death of [him]", Helena finds herself in her own dreamland, escaping the troubles and worries that go with family and responsibility, but entering a world with much of the same. She is mistaken for "the Princess", the daughter of the evil Queen who used the Mirrormask to trick the good King and Queen, then escaped to Helena's world, leaving her native world in discord. Helena must fight her way through the good and evil forces, find the Mirrormask and return everything to its rightful place. Seems simple enough, except when the conflicting forces are part of your own psyche.
Now, not all the credit goes to Neil Gaiman. This heavily visual film is actually directed by and adapted from the illustrations of Dave McKean, who often provides the art for Gaiman's work. I should note that it's actually a Jim Henson production, which definitely fits it in to the Dark Crystal and Labyrinth genre. The photography and cinematography are mesmerizing, albeit dark in brightness and often hard to see in a well lit environment. You can't be distracted during this movie. Watching it in the indy theater back at school, it was a beautiful, immersive experience. Unfortunately, watching it at home, trying to extract the audio/video quality of the Blu-ray out of my 24" HDTV and 2.0 speaker configuration while the lights were on and I was doing laundry, left me missing out on much of the film's beauty. Sure, it was mostly my fault, but I really need the equipment to appreciate Mirromask again.
The one caveat I would give is that the pace and editing leave the story rather rushed. It's quite possibly because it's just "how the English do things", but American audiences might feel the lack of transition between scenes and even acts. It's not terrible, but given how short the film is and how fast it can feel, I would vote for an extended version that adds on another half hour, just to flesh out the pace and give us more to digest.
I won't lie and say this isn't basically just a retelling of The Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland, but it's definitely got a more contemporary tone. Instead of a girl who is just bored with her mundane life who wants to escape to something more fantastic, Helena leads a life that is too unstable for her wishes and somehow slips into a world even more bizarre. She's joined by the masked Valentine, who is a self-proclaimed very important man, although he commands very little respect in others. He's Helena's Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow wrapped into one, a jovial Irish juggler whose only wish is to be appreciated. He's confident in his character, as "Valentines never apologize". He definitely adds the momentum necessary to push Helena through her adventure, but there's still very little to him as a person, just his character.
I can't forget to mention Josephine Cronholm's spellbinding cover of Burt Bacharach's "Close to You" that involves a mechanical-doll dressing room, powered by an authentically uneven wind-up motor that affects the tempo of the music. It's wonderfully soothing and deserves more of a presence throughout the film, which is mostly scored with Jazz saxophone and bass.
Much like the related stories mentioned, it's all metaphor and allegory. Unlike typical Disney featuers that star a female protagonist who sufers from "damsel in distress" issues, Helena is a strong and capable young woman. Not that I know anything about female adolescence, but I'd say this is a good companion to that demographic, but there's plenty for everyone to enjoy. Lastly, this is the only film I've ever watched that literally ends on a "LOL WUT" moment. Bravo.
My name is Robert Anhalt and what you are about to read is real. I recently sat down to watch the "biopic" on alien abductions, The Fourth Kind.
I don't know about anyone else, but I know that this is definitely not a documentary and/or biopic. It's a completely fictional story about alien abductions, and not very good ones at that.
Mila Jovovich opens as herself and attempts to convince the audience that everything they are about to witness is either real or adaptations of real events. The entire film is a blend of known actors portraying roles and acting out what appears to be a narrative, with spliced in "real footage" from patient interviews and cop car cameras. The real footage adds captions, strange sound effects and even manufactured distortion to make it seem like something (extraterrestrial) is interfering with the recording. Dr. Abigail Tyler (Jovovich) interviews psychiatric patients who display symptoms of "alien abduction", the fourth kind of close encounters, while being part of the mystery herself. The patients recall vivid dreams, scream in horror and even channel alien voices under hypnosis - luckily on camera, otherwise we wouldn't believe it.
Where the movie really goes wrong is that it's not even a narrative. It's not a documentary. It's not a biopic. It's not even a fraction of these things. Writer/director Olatunde Osunsanmi must have had his own encounter with craziness to believe that this was a good idea. The whole thing occurs in Alaska, where no one is going to look up the so-called "documented" cases of alien encounters. The names were changed from the original victims, but making it Alaska inserts a futility that would not be felt if it was encounters in New York City.
Within the first third of the movie, one of Dr. Tyler's patients holds his family at gunpoint and commits murder/suicide, visualized with a mix of re-enactment, actual footage and Dr. Tyler's perspective, all in a 24-esque split screen. This unique, albeit confusing style, is never repeated in the movie, which makes it horribly inconsistent. It's downright difficult to call it a movie because it has no structure. At some point, Tyler pieces together that the alien language spoken by patients is actually ancient Sumerian, which hints at an alien presence on Earth 8,000 years ago. It's very Stargate in that it wants to imply an alien presence in ancient cultures, but does it at the level of a bad History-channel documentary.
I'm truly sorry that I actually watched this twice. It's an awful movie that has nothing going for it besides some slightly disturbing "real" interviews. This is not how you get people interested in close encounters again. If this is any attempt to garner attraction to this pseudo-science, much like ghost EVPs did after all those TV shows and movies, then Olatunde Osunsanmi should have taken either a cinematic or documentary approach, not both. It infringes on my enjoyment of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and will never see the light of day again. Good night, you piece of trash film.
This was on the Trailer Park a while back and I only recently got to see it. Two comedic geniuses collaborate to bring one of the year's most theatrical cinematic comedies, Whatever Works.
Whatever Works is brought to us by New York film staple Woody Allen, known for art house romantic comedies like Annie Hall and Manhattan, and stars Larry David of Curb Your Enthusiasm fame.
The film is the first person narrative of Boris Yelnikoff, a seemingly unemployed urban philosopher who teaches kids chess in his free time. Boris has had an underwhelming life and it's left him with a nihilistic outlook on life. His misanthropic attitude leaves him unenthused with his friends and lovers, so much so that he seeks intellectual camaraderie with the audience, breaking the fourth wall in the process. Perhaps it's just the nature of this Woody Allen "theater piece", or perhaps the ability to see us is because of his attempted suicide.
Boris is accidentally visited by a wayward young girl who left her home and family in the South to follow her dreams of living in the big city. While he finds the prospect of having company absolutely preposterous, he can't help but find some compassion and bring her in. As she settles in and begins looking for honest work, Boris begins to admit that he has an irrational, emotional attachment to her. They begin a relationship, but that's soon disrupted by typical Allen love triangles and unexpected character developments.
It's refreshing to see a Woody Allen film that doesn't involve him at all, but it's clear that Boris is yet another interpretation of himself. The April-May relationships and awkward love triangles are a beautiful thing of ShShakespeare, but Allen makes them an awkward thing that may make it difficult for general audiences who expect romantic comedies à la the Hughs Grant and Jackman. Don't let the geriatric protagonist fool you, it's for all audience ages, but this is mainly going to score with Woody Allen and Larry David fans.
I've been waiting to review this movie for almost a year and there are rarely times that I feel the restrictions of being an American audience, but it looks like it's finally time to take a look at Franklyn.
Franklyn is a UK film that apparently few have heard of, even though I originally saw the trailer on Apple.com. It's an extremely dichotic sci-fi / mumblecore drama that is hard to understand, thus hard to explain. Nothing really serves and an introduction to the plot, but you can immediately identify that at least some of the film occurs in London, following the separate lives of Emilia, Milo and Peter, as well as Jonathan Preest, a denizen of fictional Meanwhile City.
As good as I was hoping this film would be, the continuity leaves everything to be desired. I know it's multiple simultaneous stories like Crash, but many scenes are a few minutes long and cut to an unrelated scene. There's no transition, just hard cuts to completely unrelated content.
Meanwhile City appears to be straight out of Dark City, a large, dystopian version of Victorian England, with huge skyscrapers and a missing sun. It's not completely uncivilized, but there's no explanation of this fictional realm and how it ties into the real world. The mystery of it all comes together in the last half hour or so, when you start realizing that things aren't as cool as they appear.
At first glance, it seems that Jonathan Preest (Ryan Phillipe, the guy in the mask) is some sort of Batman vigilante; he even narrates like in a graphic novel. The mask and costume are actually quite catching, as it leaves everything up to body language. But he's completely unremarkable and doesn't appear to be very useful to the side of justice. It's a shame that the film was executed like a written story. I'd like to read a novelization of Franklyn, but this is just a jumbled mess.
Addressing one of the most important issues, I have no idea who or what Franklyn actually is. I don't think anyone actually speaks the name throughout the entire film. I take that back, someone reads a note and asks, "Who's Franklyn?" Well said. If this review is in any way useless and hard to read, imagine watching the film. I must have watched it at least three times and have no idea what else to say about it.