Friday, April 28, 2017

THE BLACK ROOM



PICK A GENRE

Film Review by Fiore 


For your weekend review, let’s reference at THE BLACK ROOM.  It opens on Friday, and is also available on Video On Demand (VOD) and Pay Per View TV (PPV).  It is a crooked arrow that misses its mark, suffering from a severe case of identity crisis.  THE BLACK ROOM is a horror film, a comedy and an exercise in soft porn all rolled into one.  It never grasps one genre by the balls, so to speak, and as such, is unsuccessful in all of them.  

Paul and Jennifer Hemdale buy their first house together, despite being a middle-aged couple.  These two should never have left the renters’ life.  On the first day of their occupation, every utility in the house breaks down.  There are several rooms which are locked, and the couple does not have the keys to unlock them.  These are items most people know to remedy before the move-in date. The opening reels play like an instructional video on how not to buy real estate.

Of course, the problems with the house emanate from an evil spirit.  This one is a sex crazed incubus who seems intent on bringing orgasms to everyone in the world (could you consider that world peace?) and create an infant incubus in the process.

As the house’s utilities sputter, the incubus feeds off the repairmen.  It like a roach motel for handymen; they check in, but don’t check out.  This is a strong anti-utility repairman theme, suggesting Writer/Director Rolfe Kanefsky recently experienced unsatisfactory home repairs in his personal life.  I’m sure we can all identify.

THE BLACK ROOM opens with a scene some twenty years back, which explains how the incubus came to abide in the house.  The opening sequence promises erotic horror, with clever special effects on a young girl’s seduction.  From the opening sequence, THE BLACK ROOM loses its reason d’etre.

Natasha Henstridge plays Jenny.  Henstridge is no stranger to erotic films, but it appears her MAXIMUM RISK and SPECIES days are long behind her.  Nearly everyone is nude at some point in THE BLACK ROOM except her.  It is admittedly disappointing, as she is still an alluring woman.
 
Paul is played by Lin Shaye.  He appears ready to be the demon foil, until he is possessed by the incubus. At this point, Shaye mimics Bruce Campbell in actions and expressions.  The ploy is obvious, and takes away most of the film’s horror aspects.  Double entendres fill the dialogue, and THE BLACK ROOM slips into appalling parody.  Starring with Henstridge and Shaye are Dominique Swain, Lukas Hassel, James Duval and Auggie Duke.

1.1        KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:

1.      THE OPENING FURNACE SEQUENCE
2.      KAREN’S FREUDIAN DEMISE



Like so many independent films today, THE BLACK ROOM delivers an unconventional moral, blaming women for the release of evil into the world, or in this case, the house.  Kanefsky, realizing his film was adrift, attempts to bring back the horror element with graphic SFX, including a cellar room which becomes a living womb.  However, when you have a death by Freudian reverse fellatio, and an ejaculating washing machine (yes, you read that correctly), it’s difficult to take any of this seriously.

Let’s take a look at the report card for THE BLACK ROOM:


1.2       ACTING = C

1.3       CINEMATOGRAPHY = C

1.4      SOUND/MUSIC = C

1.5       EDITING = B

1.6      LIGHTING = C

1.7       SCIPRT = F

1.8      SFX = D

1.9      ACTION = C






If THE BLACK ROOM focused on one genre, it would be a better film.  In trying to cover three styles, it flubs each, making the endeavor largely forgettable.  The film’s conclusion is reminiscent of many early Chinese films; the ending sequence bears no logic from the previous action and conflict.  The movie should be viewed at home with a plethora of good friends, and adult beverages.  Prepare to laugh and scream at the screen.



Tuesday, April 25, 2017

THE BERLIN SYNDROME



NO EMPATHY FOR BIMBO

Film Review by Fiore 


Now that he is dead, it is very chic in film schools to belittle Syd Field and the three-act screenplay.  The more progressive instructors and mindless students deviate from his model, however, the more alarmingly uneventful the films are.

One of Field’s first tenants was the importance of grabbing the viewer within the first ten pages of script.  This is equal to the first ten minutes of the film.  This is done in two fashions; either with an action sequence, or the introduction of an interesting character.  THE BERLIN SYNDROME, a new thriller from Director Cate Shortland, attempts the latter and fails miserably.  The character introduced is not empathetic and certainly not one any audience would care about.   She is introduced not in the first ten pages, but rather the first 34 pages.  It’s far too long to wait for someone uninteresting. 

The script is based on a book of the same name, written by Melanie Joosten.  Screenwriter Shaun Grant uses over a half-hour of film time to establish the film’s main conflict.  That’s a grueling half hour of plodding storyline before anything becomes remotely interesting.
To keep the viewer amused for those thirty minutes, Grant attempts to introduce a fascinating character; but instead, presents a loose morals tramp who will only have empathy from the whores on Seventh Avenue.

Teresa Palmer plays Clare, an Australian photographer who arrives in Berlin for holiday, supposedly to photograph the city’s architecture.  Within her first moments in Berlin, it is apparent she is on a trim expedition.  She arrives at her hotel, only to crash a rooftop party.  She drinks herself into a smooth buzz and attempts to put the make on every guy in attendance.  Unfortunately for Clare, it is a couple’s party and she is unable to pry any guy from his gal.  She is left alone at the end of the evening, and is obviously peeved.  So peeved, she rises the next morning, flirts and seduces the first stud she sees, who is Andi, played by Max Riemelt.  Andi is deeply disturbed, and proceeds to abduct and hold Clare prisoner.  THE BERLIN SYNDROME details her attempts at escape from a man who falsely idolizes her.

Clare is a character of questionable moral fiber, who makes exceptionally bad decisions.  Since decisions have consequences, it is difficult to empathize with Clare.  This leaves THE BERLIN SYNDROME with no likable protagonist.  In fact, Riemelt does such a fine job playing Andi, there is more sympathy for his character, and he is a looney.

1.1        KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:

1.      THE SCREWDRIVER
2.      DADDY’S DEAD



Let’s take a look at the report card for THE BERLIN SYNDROME:

1.2       ACTING = C

1.3       CINEMATOGRAPHY = C

1.4      SOUND/MUSIC = C

1.5       EDITING = D

1.6      LIGHTING = D

1.7       SCRIPT = D

1.8      SFX = C

1.9      ACTION = D



Technically, there is nothing to salvage THE BERLIN SYNDROME.  It is shot in relatively poor light, giving a washed out look to the movie.  It seems this was not done as a mood setting cinematic ploy, but rather because there was no budget for post, and the original shooting crew did not compensate for the lack of budget.

THE BERLIN SYNDROME is entirely too long.  It is a relatively simple tale, easily told in ninety minutes, but too much of it is spent attempting to elicit empathy for a weak character.



The film is currently released in select cities, but Pittsburgh is not one of them.  You can, however, see it on Video On Demand (VOD).  It would be worth a view for psychology majors or feministas with a warped sense of the Woman Warrior Agenda.




Thursday, April 13, 2017

THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS



IT'S JUST SO RIDICULOUS

Film Review by Fiore 


Having laughed my way through episodes six and seven of THE FAST AND FURIOUS series, I entered the press screening with no high expectations of credibility in this action yarn.  Good thing.  THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS, is simply ridiculous.  At least there weren’t any tanks jumping across roadways on a cloverleaf.  But there was the furious crew battling a submarine on Russia’s frozen tundra, while the sub shot torpedoes, which danced nicely on the ice surface.  There were people flying, without benefit of capes, from airplane to airplane.  This could possibly be United’s next platform of customer service.  There was a hilarious body surfing scene involving the driver door of a neon orange Lamborghini through the Arctic Sea.  There was a really enjoyable gun-fu (combination of gun fighting and kung-fu) scene performed by Jason Statham, all the while carrying a baby. You will learn how to make your car a rocket ship with a Coke can (can you say product placement, boys and girls?  I knew you could.)  People are involved in epic crashes, and walk away after “shaking it off”.  Others are shot and stabbed and miraculously heal within minutes.  This must be one of the newer holistic medicine routines.

I am convinced any film rises a notch in entertainment value as soon as Jason Statham is added to the cast.  He has more screen persona and excitement than the other actors, including Dwayne Johnson.  Statham appeared in the teaser clip for Furious 6, and stole the show in Furious 7.  Smartly, Director F. Gary Gray brought him back in THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS.  His fight scenes are the film’s pinnacle, even better than the spectacularly staged car crashes.  His scenes with Johnson are worth the ticket price of this film alone.

Kurt Russell pops in as Mr. Nobody.  He constantly has a broad smile on his face, because he knows, even though the dialogue states the world is on the edge of nuclear war, none of this can be taken seriously.  He is constantly laughing his way through the film.
The same can be said of Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris.  Their sole purpose in THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS is to promulgate the myth of the black man’s sexual prowess.  Johnson can’t tell if he’s playing Hobbs or his character from G.I. JOE.  Oh, wait, I think they’re the same anyway.  In fact, everyone is having a great time with this film, except Vin Diesel.

Diesel parades through this movie as if he is Orson Wells in CITIZEN KANE.  He grimaces, grunts, groans and gnarls as if he’s having a bad bowel movement.  Perhaps he thought these painful facial expressions would allow people to take him as a serious actor.  Well, that’s not happening.  Somewhere in his psyche, I think Diesel feels he augments his sexual appeal if he is always gloomy.  It worked for McQueen, Dean and Brando, but truly they are in a different level of thespian existence.

THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS starts out in Cuba.  Why?  Because former Putz-in-Chief Barrack Hussein Obama recklessly reopened relations with the rogue nation, so this is a way to showcase Cuba as a great place to be, with a culture better than America.  I told you this movie was ridiculous.  Watching the opening ten minutes, you’ll come to realize all the women in Cuba can’t afford underwear.  It doesn’t matter if their butts hang out of their clothes, however, because the all look like Playboy models.  Wow.  Mommas don’t bring your daughters to this movie, or you will have wardrobe problems all through the summer!

While Dom Toretto is living large in a communist dictatorship, a mysterious woman, named Cipher, played by Charlize Theron, shows Dom one little video which causes him to betray America and his family.  Yes, once again, the annoying concept that family is not the traditional family unit we all know and love, but rather any close collection of friends you may have, is fostered in this diatribe as gospel. Just for the record, family is father, mother and children; not your workmates and drinking buddies.

So Toretto goes rogue, stealing EMP and nuclear devises for Cipher so she can rule the world.  Well, at least she’s better looking than Ernst Stavro Blofield.  Naturally, the only people who can bring Dom back to his senses and save the world are the members of the Furious crew.  Ah, but Mr. Nobody has a surprise!  To replace Toretto, he enlists Deckard Shaw (Statham).  Now the team must save the world, and bring Dom back to his senses all in ninety minutes.  Can they do it?  No, they can’t, because THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS goes on for over two hours.  By the time Cipher gives Toretto his third trial, you’ll start squirming in your seat, realizing writer Chris Morgan is just beating a dead horse.

Besides the aforementioned members of the team, Michelle Rodriguez returns as Letty; Nathalie Emmanuel plays Ramsey; Elsa Pataky is Elena and Scott Eastwood plays Eric Reisner, Mr. Nobody’s protégé.  There is also an uncredited cameo appearance by Helen Mirren.


1.1        KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:

1.      THE WRECKING BALL
2.      GUN-FU WITH THE BABY
3.      PRISON BREAK



Let’s jump back to screenwriter Chris Morgan for a moment.  There is a plot to THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS, but no one seems concerned with the plot.  It is delivered in short bursts, and relies on Easter eggs from other episodes.  Characters keep showing up at unexpected times from previous films; doesn’t matter if they died or not. In this instance, THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS plays a little like XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE.  I must admit I didn’t remember half of these people.  The Fast and Furious series is celluloid masturbation; once done, forget it.  Yet, there seems to be a theatre sub-culture who clings to these stories and characters as if they were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  

The majority of the screening audience was black; promotions were run through the local urban radio station.  As a group, these folks not only knew all the past characters, but yelled at the screen with the appropriate response when they appeared.  It must be a cultural thing; but it was quite entertaining.

One thing THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS does is take the record for cars crashed in a single movie.  For decades, that dubious honor went to THE BLUES BROTHERS, with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.  This one leaves the guys “on a mission from God” in the dust.  Credit picture car coordinator Dennis McCarthy for the auto carnage.

Behind the camera, many of the techs who brought style to Furious 7 are back, including: Director of Photography Stephen F. Windon, who does an amazing sequence during the prison break with fascinating camera angles; Production Designer Bill Brzeski, who will make you believe a sub can chase high performance vehicles over ice; Editors Christian Wagner and Paul Rubell, who together make the film 45 minutes longer than it should be; and composer Brian Tyler, whose selection for tunes during the end credits is so filled with edited lyrics, you’ll think the audio track is defective.



Let’s take a look at the report card for THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS.  Please remember to add the word ‘schlock’ after each grade:

1.2       ACTING = C

1.3       CINEMATOGRAPHY = A

1.4      SOUND/ MUSIC = C

1.5       EDITING = D

1.6      LIGHTING = C

1.7       SCRIPT = D

1.8      SFX = A

1.9      ACTION = A


Just to further demonstrate the ridiculousness of this movie; at one point an EMP is set off, not once, but twice.  We have a fun filled running argument in the family about EMPs.  It’s called the Jeep Theory.  THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS, does that argument one better.  Apparently, EMPs are selective.  They knock out all electrical items, except the cars of the Furious, and the submarine.  Some things work, others don’t; and everything is back and functional in a mere matter of minutes.  This adds more fuel to the Jeep Theory.  Sunday dinner should be epic. 

THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS is a fun movie, especially if you want to laugh out loud and scream at the screen.  If it were any further over the top, it would be a cartoon.  Rumor is, the next one is already in pre-production.