Amoeblog

District 9 Movie Review

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 16, 2009 08:53pm | Post a Comment


I will admit, I was very wary of seeing District 9 for a variety of reasons. For one, my exposure to South African films had led me to the conclusion that the South African film industry is the worst in Africa. Armed with relatively large budgets, South African films seemed technically solid but at best, soulless and at worst, odious. On a continent where countries like Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali make amazing, artistic and entertaining films with a uniquely African voice, why would I want to see another glossy piece of crap from what seems like an ersatz Hollywood? Critical Assignment was one long and comically awful Guinness ad, Boesman and Lena an unwatchable minstrel show, Stander stultifying bland, Wooden Camera a ponderous examination of racial politics, and The Gods Must Be Crazy (I & II) ponderously racist. When Tsotsi was praised by the Academy, I wrote it off without giving it a chance. Only Richard Stanley's Hardware and Dust Devil did much for me. Also, I find South African accents (and all non-rhotic accents) rather unpleasant.

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The Strangers

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 4, 2008 01:56pm | Post a Comment



The other night I went to see The Strangers with my favorite person, Ngoc Nguyen. The film begins with a caveat, "The horrifying events that took place in the Hoyt family's vacation home at 1801 Clark Road on February 11, 2005, are still not entirely known." We are also told that the film is "inspired by actual events." Those inspirational events most likely included watching Helter Skelter and maybe Fatal Vision. But the "based on actual events" gimmick is a tried and true one; and one indicative of The Stranger's formula-following strengths and weaknesses.



Is there anything scarier than hippies?


One guy went to the trouble of mapping the address given in the film and many others have taken the opening claim as truth. I'll try to help by adding that I heard the cry of a Great Horned Owl at several points and I've included this handy map of their range so that we can narrow it down further.

      

Retribution 叫 sakebi (2006) dir. by 黒沢 清 Kurosawa Kiyoshi -- Touching From a Distance

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 2, 2008 09:33pm | Post a Comment
 

A grizzled police detective named Yoshioka investigates a murder in a muddy waterfront in Tokyo. The victim, although drowned in a puddle, has lungs full of saltwater. As Yoshioka investigates, all of the clues all seem to point to the him.  In the process, he grows more unhinged and defensive whilst troublingly remaining unable to write himself off as a suspect. His violent, murky memories seem to implicate him as well, and he suffers from insomnia and possible hallucinations.


Soon afterward, more killings occur with the same under similar circumstances. Yet they're easily explained and, in doing so, fail to exonerate Yoshioka in the first case. Kurosawa uses twists and turns not merely to keep the audience guessing about the true nature of the crime, but also to take the viewer somewhere unexpected-- into a feeling of loneliness and a state of guilt about ignoring the plight of others because of our collective societal embrace of insensitivity and deliberate emotional isolation.


Although the cover of Lion's Gate's DVD suggests that the film is merely another "scary hair" ghost story (and in some ways it is), it's mainly an atmospheric mood piece that has more in common with Antonioni and his ilk than horror directors. The title, Sakebi, literally means "Scream," which makes a lot more sense than the English translation of "Retribution," which seems chosen to mislead potential viewers into more false expectations. Anyone expecting horrifying vengeful ghosts will likely be disappointed by the glacially paced and contemplative film, although there are (mostly startling) moments of horror.

Ninas Mal (Charm School) 2007 - Mexico

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 24, 2008 09:23pm | Post a Comment

 


Niñas Mal tells the story of a spoiled fresa named Adela whose single father is running for political office. As far as self-centered Adela is concerned, daddy never makes enough time for her, so she continually rebels... meaning she gets tattoos, body piercings and probably listens to punk. She's seen as a detriment to her father's political career so he sends her off to a prestigious boarding school which promises to turn her into a model daughter. Of course, Adela has other ideas; she butts heads with her suffering teacher and tries to disrupt the experience for everyone.

Niñas Mal is basically almost identical to any American tween movie except that there' s more teen sex and gratuitous nudity. Poor-little-rich-girl Adela is a completely superficial rebel-- extremely obnoxious and unconcerned with anyone but the conventionally hunky gardener at her school. Her classmates are broadly drawn stereotypes-- the bitch, the lesbian, the braniac and the ditz.  She thinks she's got it all figured out but... you know where it's going. 

Of course, Adela's pranks and obnoxiousness never amount to an actual rejection of her privileged status, they're merely bratty.  Her father remains her suffering safety net.  If you've seen teen novelas like Rebelde or Clase 406 where being punk is merely another brand of conformity that involves hair-dye, then you know what to expect from this film.  Fight for what you believe in, kids.  Parents just don't understand.  Basically the message of the film amounts to nothing more than empty slogans and false sympathy designed to appeal to a young, eager, self-important and undiscriminating audience. The film is a harmless nothingness redecorated to appeal to children who don't know any better or care. If you're not part of the PG-13 set, it's best to skip this one.

Backwoods (Bosque de sombras) 2006 Spanish-English-French co-production

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 14, 2008 07:46pm | Post a Comment


BackWoods is set in 1978 and depicts two English couples on vacation in a remote community in Navarre/Nafarroa, Spain. The locals have bad style, are ugly and probably smell bad. They're also suspicious of and rude to the well-meaning and rather annoying city slickers. When you see Gary Oldman's character loading a shotgun you can see clearly all the way to the credits. If a gun shows up in a movie, it's never just to look at.

At first the film treats us to a bit of heavy-handed character development. Oldman's character, Paul, is a know-it-all and yet strangely likeable due to Oldman's considerable charisma. Paddy Considine as Norman is whiney and unsympathetic.  Paul's wife, played by Virginie Ledoyen, is extremely unpleasant and nonsensical (women!) and Aitana Sanchez-Gijon as Oldman's wife is pretty unmemorable. They all bicker and snipe constantly till you're begging the locals to kick their spoiled asses already. One morning, Paul takes Norman on a hunting trip into the beautiful countryside. Norman is too soft to shoot a bunny. Paul says something like, "There's two kinds of things in this word: the hunters and the hunted." Deep. Things take an obvious turn when the two discover a girl with crab hands (Helpful Heloise, what's the proper name for this deformity -ed.) chained up in a shack. They do the sensible thing and abscond with her. When the backward, angered villagers catch on, it's Norman who will have to find his inner hardman if he's going to survive. Did you see that one coming? You did? Good.

If this all sounds terribly familiar and predictable, it's (of course) because it is. The film makes no efforts to disguise its exceedingly well-worn story and debt to its inspirations. It's content to get by on the adequateness of the cast and crew and by the story's sticking to tried-and-tested formula. I reckon it's set in the '70s simply because it's a particularly '70s genre. There are exactly zero surprises to be experienced. When one of the country folk attempts to rape a character, my reaction was, "I was wondering when the leering, greasy one was going to do that!" Because, you know, people in the country just sit around all year round just picking their rotten teeth... waiting for vacationing dudes and their womenfolk so that they can get their rape on.

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