Monday, May 08, 2006

Monsters: Slither, Gamera 3, Silent Hill

Matt and I went to Silent Hill after failing to spend a bunch of money in Cambridge SoundWorks - I had a coupon, but they didn't have the Sony DVR that was hooked up to a TV in the demo room for sale, and they wouldn't allow a coupon to be used on a Creative MP3 player. And that wound up being a sort of unsatisfying experience, as well.

I've generally stopped participating in the "that's it, I'm not going to theaters any more" on the HTF because it's kind of hopeless. The folks who complain on those threads either have much thinner skins than me, are looking to justify the money they spent on their home systems, or just live in less pleasant places to go out for a movie. I still figure that it's a pretty good value for money, but sometimes even my patience is tested.

Silent Hill was just filled with people apparently unable to just sit down and watch a movie and respect that the other people in the theater did not come to listen to them. I've got no problem with laughing, gasping, applauding, or even the rare comment that just comes out because, hey, it can't be held in. But keeping up a running commentary that I can hear four rows in front of you is not cool, and the miscreant to our left... If you say "this sucks, I'm leaving", do the lot of us a favor and actually do so.

At least it was during an awful movie. Even more annoying was the just plain sparse attendance for Slither, a thoroughly enjoyable horror with comedy that completely tanked at the box office despite a likable cast, working both the scary and the funny well, and some cool effects. It got crushed under Ice Age 2 and deserved much, much better.

As to Gamera 3... It actually stands alone pretty well - I haven't seen any previous Gamera movies, though I may seek the others out. Not a great movie, and it sort of bites off more than it can chew, but it's better to see a movie aspire to something big and not quite make it than go overboard on something small.

Speaking of which... Next week's Eye-Opener at the Brattle is Mutual Appreciation, which will likely drive me nuts if director Andrew Bujalski's last film, Funny Ha Ha is any indication. Bujalski is also appearing with the film tomorrow night at the Harvard Film Archive; it's not clear whether or not he'll be at the Brattle Sunday morning.

Not like I'd have the stones to ask why he opts to waste people's time by chronicling the mundane, anyway. I talk big online but in a genuine Q&A...


* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 1 April 2006 at the AMC Fenway #9 (First-run)

At some point during the pre-production of Slither, I imagine James Gunn getting lost walking through the Universal office building. He's supposed to get someone from Rogue Pictures to sign off on his micro-budgeted direct to video horror movie. But, instead, he winds up with the main studio guys, who see his paperwork and absently sign off on it, since it looks legit. Suddenly, he's got a whole bunch of extra money and a decent cast, and he decides to make the most of it.

The story is standard B-movie stuff: Meteor falls to Earth near a small southern town. A couple people off in the woods get killed, and the little slugs that emerge from it wind up inside a local (Michael Rooker), who starts acting weird. Well, weirder; anyone with a name like Grant Grant is going to be unusual to start with. Soon, people and livestock are disappearing, and local sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) is on the case, along with mayor Jack MacReady(Gregg Henry), the wife of the possessed man, Starla Grant (Elizabeth Banks), whom Bill has had a crush on since elementary school. They track Grant to the woods behind the Strutemyer farm, where they realize that their problems are decidedly not of this Earth.

Read the rest at HBS.

Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (Gamera 3: Iris Kakusei)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 28 April 2006 at the Harvard Film Archive (Modern Japanese Film)

Shusuke Kaneko realizes something that a lot of other kaiju directors often ignore: Giant monsters kill. And not just other giant monsters, either - those buildings they knock over on their way to fight other monsters are occupied. Where most movies portray a kaiju rampage as mostly a tragedy to historic preservationists and insurance companies (but a boon to the Japanese construction industry!), a skyscraper-sized flying turtle plowing through the city is going to leave widows and orphans.

Such is the message at the beginning of the movie, where pretty scientist Mayumi Nagamine (Shinobu Nakayama) is investigating a Gyaos attack in a remote Micronesian village. Gamera had foiled the Gyaos four years earlier, destroying a good deal of Tokyo in the process - with the fatalities including (then) eight-year-old Ayana's mother and father. Now living with cousins in the country, Ayana (Ai Maeda) doesn't have much patience for those who say Gamera is their friend. As it would happen, her classmate Tatsunari Moribe (Yuu Koyama) has been given the responsibility to guard a rocky egg by his grandfather. No worries - this egg hasn't done anything in centuries; no-one can move it. Except, apparently, Ayana. It hatches, Ayana names it "Iris" after her cat that Gamera killed, and they bond over their mutual dislike of the giant turtle. Those who don't anticipate a Gamera-Iris smackdown clearly entered the theater without noting the name of the movie.

Read the rest at HBS.

Silent Hill

* ¾ (out of four)
Seen 29 April 2006 at AMC Boston Common #1 (First-run)

At the turn of the century, a French filmmaker named Christophe Gans made one of the best action/adventure films in recent memory, The Brotherhood of the Wolf. Since that time, he's been attached to other promising-sounding projects, but they all seemed to get stuck in development hell somewhere along the line. His name being attached to the Silent Hill movie was a surprise, but one which perhaps said good things about a film derived from a video game than rather than bad things about his career. The good news is, that turned out to be the case. The bad news is, it's not nearly enough.

Gans is a talented director, and he and his crew throw some great, creepy visuals up on screen. He's good at using special effects, he can stage a heck of an action scene, and he's not bad at building tension at all. When the movie finally got to its big ending set piece, it kicked into pretty high gear, delivering a whole raft of nasty/fun gross-out bits and a suitably cataclysmic finale. I'd be pretty willing to absolve him of blame for all the parts that aren't up to snuff - not reasonable, I know, but I loved Brotherhood so much - except that the thing could probably stand to lose twenty minutes, and his name did pop up when the writing credits appeared on screen. Sure, Roger Avary is credited with the screenplay, but screwing things up this bad takes a team effort.

Read the rest at HBS.

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