“The illusionist”: Tati nostalgia

“The illusionist” – (2010, UK/France, 80 minutes – rated PG)

Note: this review contains spoilers.
Adapted from an original script written by Jacques Tati in 1956, “the illusionist” retains all the charms from Sylvain Chomet’s previous animated film “the triplettes of Belleville”.

Watch the trailer here:

The illusionist” is a very different kind of film though, partly because it is semi-autobiographical, but mainly perhaps because of the controversy as to which of Tati’s daughters the script was dedicated. Tati had a daughter out of wedlock during WWII with an Austrian dancer named Herta Schiel. Pressured by his sister, Tati abandoned mother and child, and went on to start a family with Micheline Winter, with whom he had a second daughter, Sophie, and a son named Pierre.
Each side lays claim to Tati’s original intent. Did he write out of sorrow and guilt for abandoning Helga Marie, or regret at having missed much of Sophie’s childhood while on the road?

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“I saw the devil” – (2010, South Korea, 141 minutes – NR)

School bus driver Kyung-Chul (Min-Sik Choi) has a nice little toy affixed to the rear view mirror of his van: plastic angel wings which light up in cool blue. It’s cute looking and probably helps put the young women and girls he picks up at ease.
Yellow school van and little blue wings.

Choi as serial killer Kyung

But Kyung is a serial killer who brings his victims back to his lair to carve them up after raping them. He then provides a cannibalistic associate of his with their meat to consume.

Watch the trailer here:

One snowy night in the countryside, Kyung drives up to a station wagon stopped by the side of the road with a flat tire.

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Midnight Movie Madness: “Black Death” 2010

“Black death” – (2010), UK/Germany, 97 minutes – rated R)

In 1348, the plague known as ‘black death’ is cutting wide and deep through the populations of Europe and has reached England with a vengeance. Some men have taken to question God, while others blame Him outright, forcing the Catholic Church to take drastic measures to assert itself.

Watch the trailer here:

Those communities not yet affected by the disease come under suspicion of witchcraft and emissaries are sent to investigate and return proof to the religious authorities.

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“Doghouse”: with “friends” like these…

“Doghouse” – (2009, UK, 89 minutes – NR)

Bloke is being divorced by his wife, so his mates, who all have ‘spousal’ issues of their own, decide to take him on a wild weekend in the village of Moodley, where women outnumber men by four to one.
They’re all hoping for some Hoo-Hoo-Hee-Haa, wa-hey-hey sexy times I guess.
As our heroes are about to find out, the women of the village have been turned into demonic, zombie-like mutants with cannibalistic tendencies by a military experiment gone very wrong.

Watch the trailer here:

Marooned in the village with the last survivor of the military team, our gang will try its best to survive in creative and funny ways. Such as putting a severed head in a radio controlled truck for the zombirds to chase after, or filling a squirt gun with flammable fuel for the RC truck and spraying a zombird with it (a one time use, but hey…).

Matt (Lee Ingleby) preps his fiery squirt gun

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“The last winter” – (2006, USA/Iceland, 101 minutes – NR)

Ed Pollack (Ron Perlman) has a tough job: he flies back to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska from the US on a mission. The small party he has waiting for him at their base camp will be tasked with laying the ground work for a new pipeline.

Ron Perlman as Ed Pollack

Matters are complicated by the presence of James Hoffman (James LeGros), a concession from the oil company KIK to political interests and environmentalists.

James LeGros as James Hoffman is watching the skies

Hoffman has observed and documented fluctuating temperatures preventing any notion of building a road as the ground would be too soft, and has a theory about strange behavior and visions affecting group members: Hoffman believes that climate change causes sour gas, a mixture of natural gas and hydrogen sulfide, to seep from the ground.

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Midnight Movie Madness: “Evil Aliens”, bloody close encounters

“Evil Aliens” – (2005, UK, 93 minutes – rated R)

On an island off the coast of Wales, Cat Williams (Jennifer Evans) and her boyfriend are making sexy times in a field when they are abducted by aliens. On the aliens’ ship, the boyfriend gets a most gruesome anal drilling before getting killed, while Cat is implanted with a baby alien and released.
To put it in perspective, Eric Cartman had it real easy by comparison.

Watch the trailer here:

A week later, tabloid TV reporter Michelle Fox (Emily Booth) sells her editor on the idea of doing a report on Cat’s story for Weird Worlde, their “reality” show investigating yetis, aliens and other tabloid fodder.

Michelle Fox and Jack Campbell

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Midnight Movie Madness: “isolation” or why every farm should have a cat

“Isolation” – (2005, UK/Ireland, 95 minutes – NR)

Irish farmer Dan Reilly (John Lynch) has fallen on hard times and agreed to let an obscure biotech concern conduct fertility experiments on his cows.
The idea is to speed up the maturation process while simultaneously increasing the animals’ fertility. The research is conducted by a non-too-friendly scientist named John (Marcel Iures), assisted by local vet Orla (Essie Davis).

Marcel Iures as “John”

Dan, the farmer, doesn’t quite understand the science behind the program and probably wouldn’t care if he actually saw the money he was promised. But both he and the vet, Orla, have yet to see some dough.

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Heroes and villains, super and not but funny all the same…

In Marvel’s “Captain America: the first avenger” released this July, Steve Rogers is a weakling who never gives up his dream of joining the Army and go fight Nazis, despite the bullying and poor medical reviews. His character’s trajectory is pretty much told in the trailer: Rogers volunteers for a secret Army program to enhance his strength and reflexes by placing him in a waffle-maker and bombarding him with rays.

Watch Captain America’s trailer here:

Voila, instant super-soldier, ready to kick nemesis Red Skull und his minions in the keister.
A little over 40 years ago, another super hero was making less waves, off screen at least. Written and directed by American expat William Klein, “Mr. Freedom” is an interesting satire and counter-point to “Captain America”, which Klein made in his adopted country of France.
Uh-oh, you’re already sensing where this is going…

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Midnight Movie Madness: bleak future and killer bots

“Screamers” – (1995, USA/Canada/Japan, 108 minutes – rated R)

On a mining colony called Sirius 6B in the late 21st century, the survivors of two warring factions may have to join forces to survive a new threat: self-replicating weapons evolving of their own accord since being “fielded” by one side. “Screamers” are scavenging robots produced in underground factories for the alliance, burrowing just below the surface until they launch themselves at their prey, their razor sharp blades whirring at a painfully high pitch sounding like a scream. Scary and gory stuff.

Watch the trailer here:

They then slice their target to pieces and drag the gruesome remains below ground.

Variety one

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Midnight Movie Madness: “Phase IV”

“Phase IV” – (1974, USA, 93 minutes – rated PG)

The DVD version of Saul Bass’ only feature length film is missing 9 minutes, cut by producers. The cuts were mostly at the end of the movie, surreal images and sequences they probably figured would turn audiences off.
And perhaps they were right, although in the end “Phase IV” was not a commercial success and as a result, Bass did not make another feature film.

Some of these images can be seen in the trailer below:

Phase IV” belongs to a certain pantheon of sci-fi and horror films, films which some would qualify as visionary, cerebral and other adjectives reserved for “2001: a space odyssey”, “Farenheit 451”, “Solaris” and “THX 1138” to name a few.
Not all of “Phase IV” is satisfying or even readily attainable, in other words. What it has are some of the most chilling images and sequences and a script which takes the audience seriously: contrary to much of the poster art, “Phase IV” is no exploitation movie.

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