Tag Archive | 6.5

105- Parents [6.5]

In this bizarre and very black comedy set in 1950s suburbia, Michael Laemle comes to suspect that his conventional parents have a little secret which they have kept from him.

Parents shares some commonalities with the Spielberg Anberlin films of the 1980s, but takes the view of how a child looks at his or her parents to a very dark place. Director Bob Balaban occasionally hits the audience over the head with operatic horror flourishes, but Parents is still memorable and disturbing.

Though it takes place in ’50s suburbia, Parents could’ve worked in virtually any decade. Some of the ironies and disparities between the concept of idyllic suburbia and the realities of the lives within those cookie cutter homes is front and center, but I don’t think the film needs to be viewed as a period piece in order for that concept to work. In fact, if any movie that I’ve seen in recent memory is ripe for a remake, it’d likely be this. Parents hasn’t aged particularly well, and though that’s not enough precedent to revisit the material, it’s still something I’d like to see someone take another stab at.

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93- Fish Story [6.5]

A rare single by an obscure rock band makes a strange voyage through time in this witty and original science fiction tale.

Fish Story is an odd movie that, until the last few minutes, seems to not be coherently structured. It is then that director Yoshihiro Nakamura makes me want to re-watch the film over again to have a better appreciation for Fish Story. I really like the emphasis he places on the power of music, but was even more impressed by how well he melded science fiction into the narrative. Fish Story isn’t for everyone (I grew a little restless towards the end) but is an interesting example of how to upend a viewer’s expectations for how a movie can be laid out over three acts.

92- Into the Abyss [6.5]

In his fascinating exploration of a triple homicide case in Conroe, Texas, master filmmaker Werner Herzog probes the human psyche to explore why people kill-and why a state kills. In intimate conversations with those involved, including 28-year-old death row inmate Michael Perry.

Each time I view a documentary, I carry a bit of suspicion with me. Regardless of the topic, a talented filmmaker can easily manipulate you in any number of ways, and I believe it’s worth being aware of when getting swept into one of these films. With that in mind, I was thoroughly impressed with how Werner Herzog largely lets you draw your own conclusions in Into the Abyss.

Having over forty years of documentary-making experience under his belt, Herzog opts to explore capital punishment by showing the facts of one particular crime case, as well as all the people surrounding it. Law officers, families of victims, and the criminals themselves explain how a series of murders went down and the rippling effects the events had on their lives. For a large part of Into the Abyss, capital punishment isn’t directly discussed (though we know at least one of the inmates will die of lethal injection in eight days from them being filmed) but the question of as to whether or not it’s right looms over the entire film.

Into the Abyss is not necessarily an enjoyable experience, nor one you’d likely watch again; however, it’s worth a viewing for how it gets you to think of a difficult subject in a non-manipulative fashion.

57- Eyes Without A Face [6.5]

A plastic surgeon becomes obsessed with making things right after his daughter Christiane’s face is terribly disfigured in a car accident that he caused. Overcome with guilt, Dr. Genessier and his vicious nurse concoct a plan to give Christiane her face back by kidnapping young girls and removing their faces– and then grafting them onto Christiane’s.

I was pleasantly surprised how effective this fifty-year-old horror film was. Without the benefits of being able to pause and rewind scenes (as well as watch at home) to notice the makeup and effects in certain shots, it must have been pretty frightening to see some of the more graphic scenes in Eyes Without A Face. The theme by Maurice Jarre is so similar to Luciano Michelini’s for Curb Your Enthusiasm that I couldn’t help but be taken out of the movie every now and then. Regardless, this slow but entertaining, fairty tale-esque dark film makes me glad to have my own face.

40- The Last Station [6.5]

A historical drama that illustrates Russian author Leo Tolstoy’s struggle to balance fame and wealth with his commitment to a life devoid of material things.

At times a bit too melodramatic for my taste, The Last Station is nevertheless a well-acted story about Leo Tolstoy’s last days. The highlights on the acting front are Christopher Plummer as the renowned writer and Helen Miren as his wife, Sofya. The Last Station is most interesting when dealing with the ideas of the author’s works and how it affects the people around him, including himself. I’m still grappling, though, with the decision to have all the actor’s speak in English accents as opposed to Russian.

38- The Killer Inside Me [6.5]

Based on the novel by legendary pulp writer Jim Thompson, it’s the story of handsome, charming, unassuming small town sheriff’s deputy Lou Ford.

Casey Affleck superbly played a quiet man with an obsession in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Working in similar territory in the brutally violent The Killer Inside Me, he once again proves himself to be a very capable actor. With a voice that barely rises above a whisper, Affleck’s Lou Ford is quite frightening. Jessica Alba, on the other hand, continues to lessen the impact of every movie she appears in.

Despite having not read the 1952 novel the film is based on, I believe that the film sinks under the weight of its source material. There are wonderfully written scenes (some of which are absolutely horrifying to watch), but The Killer Inside Me may have fared better with more editing. Even still, it’s good enough to have me interested in reading the novel to see how the film fares in comparison.

13- Animal Kingdom [6.5]

Welcome to the terrifying Melbourne crime underworld, where tensions are on the brink of exploding between felons and renegade cops – the Wild West played out on the city’s streets in broad daylight. The Cody brothers, a gang of armed robbers, are in the process of initiating their teenage nephew Joshua ‘J’ into their frightening world after the death of his mother and under the watchful eye of his matriarchal grandmother, Smurf, a modern-day Ma Barker.

Animal Kingdom piles on one layer of fucked up after another. From the films depressing open scene, all the way to its conclusion, you won’t find yourself smiling at any point of this Australian drama. There’s a few shocking scenes that will keep you on your feet in spite of the films slow pace. The only noticeable flaw of the film is Guy Pearce’s laughable mustache.