Short Takes: April & May 2019

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New month, new reviews!

Bob, Cody, Tony, and Kim all watch far too many movies and TV shows, read too many books, meddle with the time-space continuum just too many times to be safe any longer, and conduct just one too many mad science experiments just for funzies.

Welcome to Short Takes! Allowing us to post shorter reviews to media we consume without having to make a video or write a lengthy take. As short and sweet as “No.” to whatever we feel like putting down. New or old, good or bad, this is the space to jot down on anything we watch. Thus, these are more like immediate thoughts rather than longer more thought into it pieces.

This should be updated just about daily as best we can, possibly multiple times a day, so keep it bookmarked and see what we’re up to.

Want more? December Short TakesJanuary!February! March! Bob’s 200 Short Reviews 2018 Retrospective!

May 16th – Whew boy, time flies. Holy shit, can’t believe I’ve not updated this in a MONTH. Freakin’ Crypticon, Cody’s wedding, and life!  Here’s to keeping up on things

Rust Creek

2019; Horror/Drama; Written by Julie Lipson, story by Stu Pollard; Directed by Jen McGowan; Starring Hermoine Corfield, Denise Dal Vera, Jeremy Glazer; R; 108 minutes; First time watch; from Netflix DVD; Review by Bob

Sawyer is a college student who just scored a great interview in DC. Too bad she must drive through West Virginia to get there. Since this is a movie, driving through WV will lead to trouble. The trouble is a set of meth dealers who first try to kidnap, then kill the young woman when she fights back from their violence. Thus, begins a cat-and-mouse game of her the hillbillies.

But don’t go yet! I know, I know, you’ve seen that set up done before, in Wrong TurnCarnage Park, and countless other films. Rust Creek uses the familiar set up to move into another sort of familiar story – the small down sheriff run drug operation that goes to shit story. I’m of two minds. I appreciate this not being a “woman in peril” movie for the full run time, the second part of the story pushes Sawyer into the background for a story of men. The actual meth maker rescues and befriends her – keeping the violent men of the operation at bay. This allows Sawyer to take the time to sit back and smell the roses in between meth cooks, for we are told she’s busy busy busy all the time.

Rust Creek is a good enough film, moving through with ease due to solid performances for stock characters in a mixture of two standard plots. It doesn’t really ramp up into something bigger in either set-up. You wont’ feel strong emotion, but neither will you be bored.


Disneynature’s Penguins

2019; Documentary; Narrated by Ed Helms; Written by David Fowler; Directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jeff Wilson. G; 1h16 minutes. First time watch, viewed theatrically.

In the 10 years of Disneynature presenting a new animal documentary on EarthDay, I’m sad to say I’ve only seen three: Monkey Kingdom, African Cats (which I watched a few days after Penguins, expect its own write up soon)  and Penguins. I need to fill in the rest. I always love seeing slices of nature and animal life in any documentary.

Penguins is cute, cute, cute. That is to be expected and a lot of the charm is banking on the cuteness. In the documentary, we see a penguin named Steve as he woos and mates with a female and raises two chicks with her. The writing and narration make Steve out to be a loveable, clutzy, and a little bit of a social outcast. Of course, we’re putting human emotions on a bird, but I’m fine with it. The other entries in the series do as well, and these are made to help children appreciate nature and these added characters help the kids identify with the animals. I’m curious if the Steve and family we see throughout the film are really the same penguins the whole time or if a narrative was made from a handful as they do look alike and Steve doesn’t really have any distinguishing characteristics.

The Antartic plains are gorgeous to look at with their bright white snowfields, the seas the penguins fish in, and the other animals (and penguins) our hero set come across. Damn, I’m sure I could smell the seals. Whew.

My bone of contention comes from Ed Helms narration. He’s a little all over the place with his tone and delivery. I found it often grating and forced with (okay this isn’t on him) awkward and odd transitions – he’s working a line and the infliction changes with a cut or the subject changes. I fully admit, this happens to me a great deal for my own videos and narrations, but I’m new to editing and working in my movie room when when I have a few minutes, not professional editors. Just feels a little sloppy.

Penguins is just as one expects it to be, and that’s a-okay. It’s cute and fun, even with narration hiccups.  B+

88 Minutes

2007, Thiller (using loosely); Written by Gary Scott Thompson; Directed by Jon Avnet; Starring Al Pachino, Alicia Witt, LeeLee Sobeiski, Neal MacDonaugh. 108 minutes (yes, not 88…), R; First time watch; DVD. Reviewed by Bob

You just had a threatening run in with an unknown individual. Then you receive a phone call stating you have 88 minutes to live. You see, today is the execution date for a man you put away for multiple murders based on flimsy evidence (btw, you’re not a cop – but a hired forensics expert), man who has threatened you in the nine years he’s been in jail.  What do you do? If you’re Al Pacino in this languid “thriller,” you shrug it off and teach a class. And even when the threat is deemed credible, you still slouch and slow walk your way through the unraveling of the “mystery.”  It’s a mystery only in that the movie thinks it is, with leering looks at so so so so many red herrings and “clues”. Too bad the end result is exceedingly obvious, and it gets tiring making every. little. thing. into a question mark of involvement.

I don’t hide my love of awful, trashy, but entertaining thrillers. This is top-tier entertainingly bad thrillers so I had a great time at the ridiculous this and it’s ilk get to – see also this year’s Serenity. (The Intruder fell short. Boo. Review soon). It’s astounding I had such a great time, bearing that Al Pacino is not as gleefully over the top as he can be, but sleepily working his way through. Maybe that is why it worked/failed as well at it did. Pacino failing to give any sense of urgency as everyone else freaks out around him is a sight. Considering half the time he’s half-yelling orders into a cell phone, it’s a surprise.

An example of the ridiculous; Pacino offers a cabbie 100 dollars to drive the cab as he works his way across Seattle (the film hits the Seattle setting check marks – an office facing the Space Needle from an impossible angle, one scene in Pioneer Square, everything else in Vancouver). It’s not to take the cab for the day, just to drive it. At regular speeds. With the cabbie sitting awkwardly in the back, slightly out of focus. See also Pacino’s weirdly specific memories of things he couldn’t see. Pacino stopping cars to see people’s hands, and yelling at MacDonaugh’s killer on CNN.

I had fun with dumb. Oooh-AHH! (since Pacino didn’t do it, I’ll have to)

4th  (yes the last set in March was 21st… we be busy…)

The Legend of Hell House

1973; Horror; written by Richard Matheson from his novel; Directored by John Hough; Starring Roddy McDowell, Michael Gough, Pamela Franklin; PG; 95 minutes; Third Viewing. From his own DVD collection; Review by Bob.

The other, often forgotten, of the similarly titled haunted house stories/movies after The Haunting of Hill House and The House on Haunted Hill – so much so I kept messing up its title when Kim and I talked paranormal movies on the Podcast. Been a bit since I’ve seen it, so checking it out again; especially since I’ll be on a panel about Haunting Movies at Crypticon in May.

It’s too bad this one is often glossed over, for it deserves your attention. It’s claustrophobic, often intense, and rather shocking. The set up is similiar to The Haunting, a bunch of paranormal touched people go into a lush haunted mansion to study the malevelvent ghosts. Where The Haunting revels in brooding, off-screen terror; The Legend of Hell House is very direct. There are in your face horror moments and a great mystery to solve. Hough keeps his camera tight on the characters, using a great deal of extreme close up two-shots. We never feel safe, always on guard. The haunting takes many forms – throwing objects, possessions, etc and all are very well done. I’m not going to spoil how it unfolds but is often very surprising and unchoreographed. Matheson is always a fantastic writer and master storyteller and Hell House is no exception.




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