Sunday, April 06, 2014


I'm going to be so annoyed in a few weeks, when The Machine doesn't make any sort of appearance in Boston at all even though Jinn did. I bring up The Machine because I loved it at Fantasia last year, but there are plenty of interesting genre movies made every year that don't get any sort of visible theatrical release that it's incredibly frustrating to see something this bad sneak in on a week where all the major studios were avoiding Captain America. I'm guessing it was probably four-walled, but even if that's the case, you'd have to think there were better movies vying to rent a few screens.

There was only one other person in the theater for the opening-night screening, but we got an interesting selection of trailers. I sometimes think that multiplexes just don't know what to do when they wind up with something out of the ordinary booked there; I'll see trailers for stuff that came and went months ago, or for things that I strongly suspect they have no intention of booking, or which are just wildly inappropriate. Or maybe they are just things that could probably use a boost from being attached to something more high-profile. Consider this group.

* The Hornet's Nest, a documentary on embedded war photographers in Afghanistan. It's got "Real War, Real Heroes" lines, as well as the obligatory "we're defending freedom even for those who don't think we should be there" bits, which are kind of icky on their own (especially "real war", like this is an appealing thing), but when you consider that this is a movie dealing with middle-eastern mythology, is something about Americans in Afghanistan really the right pairing? Admittedly, I thought that before seeing how thoroughly Jinn tried to erase any mention of all things Muslim.

* From the Rough - Looks like a forgettable sports movie... Wait, is that Michael Clarke Duncan? Isn't he...? Yep, passed away a year and a half ago. A little more digging on IMDB reveals that this thing was shot in 2010. Wow.

* Walking with the Enemy. This one looks like a garden-variety bad movie, but IMDB says this one was shot in 2009. It looks somewhat polished, so maybe it's just been in post-production for a long time, but every once in a while you just get a painful lesson on what sort of limbo a movie can fall into.

* Under the Skin has been getting a ton of good reviews, and the trailer actually looks pretty intriguing, though I get the idea that it doesn't reveal one single bit of information about the movie.

* Locke comes from the same studio as Under the Skin, and it's got a similar slick look that draws the audience in without giving away a whole lot about the movie. Given that it stars Tom Hardy rather than Scarlet Johansson, I strongly suspect it's not getting anywhere near Regal Fenway.

On the other end of the movie, it had one of the more prolonged "after the climax" extensions I've seen in a movie that was not desperately trying to make feature length: A "one year later" bit, the main credits, a mid-credits scene, a very slow end closing roll with effects behind it, and then a post-credits scene that seemed to be shot entirely in slow motion for very little payoff. I stuck around, because I paid for the whole movie, but boy, was that a bad idea.


* ¼ (out of four)
Seen 4 April 2014 in Regal Fenway #6 (first-run, DCP)

This is a terrible little supernatural thriller, one of the more clumsily-executed movies I've seen at a mainstream multiplex in some time. It's bad enough that one really doesn't need to get into how timid it is in order to be properly disappointed in it, but that timidity is part of what makes it so frustrating: There's the opportunity to make a different flavor of horror movie here, and filmmaker Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad runs from it.

The film starts with a flashback to India in 1901, where a man chasing after a jinni is told that it will return and kill his descendants. Jump forward to present day Ann Arbor, and it looks as though the last of those is Shawn Walker (Dominic Rains), born Sian Amin but adopted after his birth parents perished in a fire. He receives a mysterious message that may connect with the creepy things going on around himself and his wife Jasmine (Serinda Swan), eventually being told by the mysterious Gabriel (Ray Park) and Father Westhoff (William Atherton) that the ones responsible are a particularly nasty segment of jinn.

The jinn, we are told, are the third creation of God, made from fire as man was sculpted from clay and angels from light. What is not mentioned is that they are primarily pre-Islamic Arabic folklore that was integrated into Muslim beliefs; indeed, the story of the jinn is introduced via lines implying that they come from the Judeo-Christian tradition. It's understandable that Ahmad would go this route from a commercial standpoint, and there's actually something laudable about how he tries to emphasize the common ground between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, even if it is done in some fairly awkward ways. Just erasing the provenance of these creatures to substitute a familiar Catholic priest and never actually giving any indication of Shawn's beliefs doesn't do this attempt at inclusiveness any favors, and as much as I'm seldom going to argue that we need more religion in our pop culture, this isn't the way to go about minimizing it.

Full review at EFC

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